On the first day of Odo’s leave, Dax came. She'd arrived near mid-day, morning fresh and smiling. She had second duty shift, she'd explained, but was still on first shift hours and had been up early. She’d had an errand, so had stopped by to check on him. Odo knew contrivance when he heard it, and tried to get rid of her, as politely and as swiftly as he could. Naturally, Dax didn't listen. Not that Odo had expected her to. Dax simply pushed her way into his quarters, looking around as if she had a right to, and Odo found himself stuck with his very first visitor.
“No furniture yet?” she asked.
Odo folded his arms over his chest, not answering. Actually, he felt a little foolish, now that she pointed it out. He hadn't even thought about getting more furniture.
“It doesn't matter,” Dax smiled with a dismissive wave of her hand.
It was then Odo noticed she was carrying two PADDs, and he cursed himself for not catching it sooner. There was a time where he missed nothing about his surroundings, or the people in them. Were his powers of observation going to go with the rest of his abilities?
Dax made herself comfortable on his floor, setting the PADDS next to her, and folded her dancer's legs into the lotus position of Trill mediation. That pose concerned Odo. How long was Dax planning on staying? She patted a spot on the floor across from her. “Come sit with me, Odo.”
Odo hesitated. He had no wish to encourage her. Dax needed to go, but after all she’d done to help him on the Defiant, he found he couldn't summon his usual gruff rudeness to dismiss her, and indecision froze his feet, and his tongue.
His confusion must have shown, because Dax softened her gaze, and widened her smile. It made her perfect, symmetrical features even more perfect, and something flipped over in Odo's chest. He found he did want to sit with Dax after all, wanted to be closer to her. Maybe take her hand, or touch her cheek. Maybe trace the line of spots down her-
Odo shook his head, clearing it. Where had that come from? He'd never thought about Dax like that before. Damn this humanoid body, anyway.
“C’mon, Odo,” she said, reaching a hand to him. “This won't take long, I promise.”
Resolved, Odo eased himself down on the floor across from Dax, and waited patiently for her to have her say.
“Jadzia’s mother was a worrier,” Dax began. “She worried about everything, constantly. Everything that came out of her mouth was a litany of worry and woe, about me, my father, about my sister, about whether it would rain, and did she secure the house when she went to bed, and did we have enough milk on the table in case the food replicator somehow mysteriously went down while we were eating. Every moment of her life was spent worrying whether disaster was just around the corner. She rarely left the house, and when she did, it was nothing but torture for her. Though I never saw the outside world as the threat my mother did, I stayed home with her as much as I could. I wanted to make sure there was one less worry on her mind.
“My father, though, he was never home. Always at the lab, always making some excuse about working late. All those years, I believed him. I believed my father was working on big, important things, and it was my job to stay home with my mother and sister and make sure they were taken care of while he did this important work. Later, as I got older, I realized he was avoiding my mother, avoiding confronting her about the anxiety problem she didn't believe she had, and therefore wouldn't seek treatment for. Father didn't know how to cope, so he left his older daughter to do it for him.
“Naturally, all of this left me without friends. I grew up shy. Antisocial. Not quite sure what to make of the rest of the world. The only way I ever escaped was through books. I spent almost every moment I wasn't in school with my nose in a reader, taking myself to far-off lands, to worlds far different from my own, full of adventure and filled with excitement. My tastes in reading grew as I did, but of all the things I read, fairy tales were my favorite. They still are. There were beautiful princesses and wicked witches, handsome heroes and great deeds. There was romance and magic and strange creatures, and all sorts of things that kept me distracted. Always, I could escape reality in those stories and find a world of endless possibilities waiting for me. I'm certain that if it hadn't been for fairy tales, Jadzia Idris would have ended up in a lab, cataloging specimens somewhere, eye trained on a microscope slide all day, avoiding life just like her parents. I would never have had the sense of wonder, of curiosity it took to apply to the Initiate program. Fairy tales are why I decided to become joined.”
“Jadzia, why are you telling me all of this?” Odo asked.
“Because I remember some of what it was to be you, Odo. The Changeling you. After the Zhan’tara, the memories Curzon brought back to me made me think of those fairy tales from my childhood. Being a Changeling is magical, Odo, and beautiful. I think more than anyone on the station, I understand just how much the Founders have taken from you. I am so sorry, Odo, for what they’ve done. Truly.”
Odo didn’t reply, his eyes filling with tears. Prophets, how many times a day did humanoids do this? He would not cry, not this time, and certainly not in front of Dax. He turned away from her, pressing his fingers over his closed eyes, trying to stop the moisture that threatened to seep from under the lids, hiding his expression from his guest.
Dax looked away for a moment, waiting for Odo to collect himself. After a suitable pause, she picked up the PADDs she’d brought. “I brought you something that might help. On this PADD,” she said, holding one up, “is a collection of Trill fairy tales, all of my favorites, of course. I know Bajorans don't really have fairy tales, they have allegories, which is not quite the same thing, so the other PADD is Earth fairy tales, which I like almost as much as the Trill ones...By the way Odo, I've been meaning to ask. Why did the Founders make you Human? Why not Bajoran? Did they tell you?”
They had, of course. Odo knew precisely why, but it wasn't something he was ready to talk about. He looked down at his folded hands, and kept his silence.
“Well, I guess it doesn't matter,” Dax said, her smile sympathetic. She reached over and squeezed his arm. “No matter what form you're in, you're still you, and that’s what matters most.”
Dax rose gracefully from her place on the floor, and Odo followed, and they both made their way to his door. At the threshold, Dax turned back to him, and laid a hand on his shoulder. “Odo, don't let them take it from you. Don't let them take your sense of wonder, of adventure. There’s still magic in being what you are, beauty in simply being alive. Don't lock yourself away in here, away from everything else, and miss it.”
Odo managed a small smile. “I’ll do my best,” he said. “And thank you. For coming by.”
Dax gave Odo one of her famous heart-lit smiles. “You’re welcome,” she said, and turned to go. She swung quickly back around to add one last thing. “By the way,” she said, “there's a story in the Earth volume about a talking fish-girl. She gives up her life under the sea so she can stay with the one she loves. Let me know when you've read it. I found it...appropriate to your situation.”
“I will.” Odo replied, and watched her head off down the corridor.
After Jadzia was out of sight, Odo went back into his quarters, and picked up the PADDs. He had nothing better to do, so he curled himself into a corner of his empty living space, and began to read, though he was skeptical about reading children's stories. They were, after all, for children, but it was the least he could do, after all Dax had told him. Despite his doubts, Odo did loose himself, much like a young Jadzia, in worlds of endless possibilities and wonders beyond count, and forgot, for a time, to mourn his own fate.
When he did lift his head and emerge from fairy tale worlds, Odo ordered the rest of his furniture.