On the last night of his leave, after putting away the garments Garak had brought, and rearranging some other items in his quarters, Odo decided he would spend this final evening alone establishing a routine. Garak was right, he needed to stay on track, to maintain order, and it was very important to have a schedule, to acquire regular habits, if one was to maintain said order. Though his world-and his quarters- still felt completely out of order, Odo was now confident that it would not remain so.
After an evening meal, Odo had decided to keep at least one aspect of his former life, and enjoy a good book before closing the day. He went to his old standard, the Mike Hammer series. He was half way through and heavily entrenched in his favorite volume, “The Case of the Missing Hypello,” when his door chime, yet again, rang.
Odo pinched the bridge of his nose, and heaved an exasperated sigh. He really hoped this constant interruption wasn’t going to become part of his new routine. If so, he might have to move, to somewhere very far away, where ‘just dropping by’ was an impossibility. Breen, he figured, might be far enough. He set the PADD on a side table, and called for the Computer to open the door.
“Hello, Constable,” Captain Sisko greeted. “Caught you at a bad time?”
“Captain,” Odo replied, jumping up from his seat. “Not at all. Please, Come in, although, I’m not in uniform, let me go change and I-”
“At ease, Constable,” Sisko chuckled. “You weren't expecting me, and I’m not here on business. Pajamas will do fine for this conversation.”
Sisko moved into Odo’s quarters, and settled into the armchair next to Odo’s. The constable noted that Sisko had brought two frost-coated brown bottles with him…Oh, no….
Sisko gave him Odo one-sided grin. “Don’t worry, Odo. It’s just a couple of beers, Earth brewed. I met with the Chief this morning, and he told me he and the doctor had stopped by here last night. The look on his face told me the rest, a look I’ve seen on my own face a time or two, but we have a way of dealing with these things on Earth." Sisko popped the cap on one of the bottles, and offered it to a reluctant Odo. "Have a little hair of the dog that bit you.”
Odo balked at that, but took the bottle. He had no idea that dog hair was a component in Earth beer, a disturbing fact he’d rather he didn’t know, and he eyed the bottle more suspiciously than ever.
“It’s alright, Odo,” Sisko smiled, taking an exemplifying pull from his own bottle. “It won’t actually bite.”
Odo threw caution yet again to the wind, and took a drink. The bubbling, ice-cold brew went down easily. Not bad, actually. It had a pleasant taste he had no word for, but was somehow still very satisfying.
“So, Captain,” Odo said, easing back in his chair, “what can I do for you?”
Sisko leaned back in his seat as well, balancing his beer on a crossed leg. “Oh, nothing, Odo. This isn’t business, like I said. You’ll be back on the job soon enough, and I’ll have plenty for you to do then,” he grinned. Sisko took another long pull from his bottle, and turned it in his hand, studying the label. “Did I ever tell you about the first time I had a beer, Odo?”
“Not that I recall.”
“Well,” Sisko said, “you know about my Dad's restaurant, you've been there. By the way, I told Dad what happened, and he says to tell you any time you find yourself on Earth, you stop in and have yourself a meal. Anything you want, on the house. You made quite the impression on him when we were there, and honestly, I think he was a little excited that he could actually feed you now.”
Odo gave Sisko a level look. “I think we both know after what happened last time, I won’t be returning to Earth any time soon,” he said. “Meeting your father, and getting to spend an evening talking with him, was about the only positive thing I got out of that trip…Your father made an impression on me, too. He was very kind to me, even with what was happening on Earth, and it's something I don't usually encounter when people learn what I am... Or rather, what I was...You’ll thank him for me, though, for the offer?”
“Count on it, Odo,” Sisko smiled. “So…As I was saying, my first beer. Owning a restaurant, especially one that doesn’t use replicators, is hard work, for the whole family. Every day after school, us Sisko kids had the same routine. Homework. Dinner. Then dinner shift at the restaurant. And our day didn’t end with the last customer, oh no, sir, always plenty more to be done. My sister would be sent off with the night’s books, and me, my father sent outside with a bucket o’ somethin’, some water, and a scrub brush. Clams, potatoes, carrots, whatever needed washing for the next day's prep. I'd sit on the stoop and scrub until my hands ached, and when it was done, every night, my dad would come out and share a drink with me.
“Me, I always had a cold root beer, Sisko’s own home brew, of course. My dad had a regular beer, but none of that replicated stuff, no way. It was the real deal, brewed by a buddy of his down on First Street. He never drank more than one beer a night, but I remember Mama used to harass him about it anyway, saying drinkin’ wasn't good in any moderation. Dad would raise an eye at her, and say that not only was it good, it was essential to a working man's health to have a cold beer after a long, hard day.
“When I was about seventeen, on that same stoop, I told my dad that I’d be enlisting. He wasn’t happy about it. At all. We fought for weeks, until Mama intervened, sick of both of us, and told Dad to let me alone. I was old enough, she said, to know my own mind, and even if I was making the wrong choice, it was my choice to make.
“Dad and I calmed down then, more because we knew we’d catch hell from Mama if we didn’t, but we still weren’t talking. One night, after about three days of this, I was out on the stoop like usual, and I felt something cold bite my neck. I jumped like I’d been goosed. Dad had pulled that trick on me about a thousand times, with that cold root beer bottle, but I fell for it every time. I turned around to sass him, and take my root beer, but this time it wasn't a root beer. It was a real beer. I wasn’t old enough to drink, so I thought he made a mistake, and didn't take it, but he shoved it at me and sat down next to me on the stoop. My father didn't say a word. Just cracked his beer, took a long pull, and looked at me, waiting.... So, I did the same. And I tell you Odo, to this day, no beer has ever tasted better. I knew he was telling me he had accepted my decision, that he acknowledged that I was, as Mama said, old enough to make my own choices…”
Odo kept his silence, and took a more appreciative drink of his own beer, waiting for Sisko to continue.
“You know, Odo,” Sisko said, looking up at him, “for all the fancy classes and post-academy officer training I’ve had, I learned more about being a leader in those first seventeen years of my life from my parents, especially my dad, than I ever did from Starfleet.”
“I can see that,” Odo replied, “now that I’ve met him.”
“Mmm-hmm,” Sisko agreed. “People get me a whole lot better, once they’ve met my dad…I’m glad you got that chance, Odo, because I’m going to be asking some hard things of you in the next couple of weeks, things that I know, with all else you’ve been through, are going to seem especially difficult, and I need you to understand why. We’ve come up with a plan to do something about the Changeling infiltrator in the Klingon high command. A very risky plan. And I will be sending you on this mission.”
“I thought you said this visit wasn’t business,” Odo said, apprehension tightening the back of his neck.
“You’re right, Constable, I did say that,” Sisko replied. “We’ll save the details for tomorrow. For now, just know that I’m glad you’ll be back on the job, and if what I’ve decided sounds like I’m asking too much, remember that I have good reasons for choosing you for this mission…That’s one thing my parents always did for me, Odo. They believed in me, no matter what, and I’ve always tried to do that for my officers. It makes all the difference in the world to know that someone, somewhere in the universe, believes in you...”
Sisko drained the last of his beer, and stood. “Well, Constable, I’ll let you get back to it. Mission briefing’s at oh-nine hundred. Don't be late.” Smiling, the captain clapped Odo on the shoulder. “And finish up that beer. It’s no good if it gets warm.”
After Sisko left, Odo did finish his beer, and as he contemplated all Sisko had told him, he found his eyes drifting slowly closed. The beer had made him pleasantly sleepy, no sick spinning of the room this time. Hair of the dog, apparently, wasn't so bad. Odo dragged himself up from his seat, and on to bed, and did his best not think about risky missions in Klingon space, but it was no good. Worry over the mission was keeping him awake, despite the alcohol. Odo did his best to turn his thoughts instead to something more restful, to the hawk’s eye view of San Fransisco Bay, and to good conversation with good company on the back stoop of a New Orleans restaurant, and drifted off into a light, if uneasy, rest.