As it turned out, Odo waited for his wife in vain. Nerys hailed him close to the time she was supposed to be off shift, to inform him she wouldn’t be off shift, and had no idea when that might happen. Odo hid his disappointment from her, and accepted it. He’d really wanted to have that talk with Nerys that Dax had suggested, and get some of the many things on his mind settled before another busy day separated them. But, there was no help for it. Odo knew better than anyone that Nerys would’ve been home if she could’ve been. On the bright side, at least now he could get some rest.
Odo checked on his charge one last time, finding her still sound asleep on the sofa. She had rolled onto her back, her arms akimbo, one leg thrown off the edge. Odo moved her leg back onto the sofa, and tucked the blanket around her again. She stirred, and sucked in a deep breath, her eyes still closed. Odo smoothed her dark hair and watched over her for a bit, making sure she was still asleep. He didn’t want her to wake up and find him gone. If the child was going to continue to stay here, he really needed to teach her how to wake him out of a regeneration cycle, but with everything else going on, he hadn’t thought of it. Until now.
The girl slipped gently back into dreamland, her brow smooth and peaceful, so Odo returned to his room. He gratefully let his solid form go, pouring himself into his bucket, and slipped swiftly into sweet oblivion.
The next morning, at the appointed time, Odo’s cells stirred to waking. He bubbled around in his bucket for a moment, enjoying his last few minutes of formlessness, and readied his matrix for a shift. It was a little sluggish this morning, so Odo took the easy route and poured himself on the floor before starting his change. He gathered himself together and turned into DS9’s security chief, uniform and all. He turned immediately to the bed, expecting to find his wife still sleeping in it. She wasn’t. The covers were tossed back and rumpled, showing she had been there, but obviously she was already up.
The hum of the sonic shower clued Odo in as to where Nerys was. The fine idea popped into his head that he should go and join her. Smiling, he approached the bathroom door, but then hesitated. They had just enough time to share a quick moment together before he had to report for duty, but there had to be a reason Nerys was up before him, and besides, they were never quick when they were together. If he went in there, one thing would lead to another, and, knowing the appetites of his wife which he was always willing to indulge, yet another, and then he'd definitely be late.
With a regretful sigh, Odo turned away from the bathroom, doggedly resisting temptation. He distracted himself by making the bed. He smoothed one last wrinkle out of the covers, satisfied with his work, and then took a seat in a chair near the bed and waited.
A few minutes later, Kira walked out of the bathroom, wrapped in a short, white towel that barely graced the tops of her thighs. The hem shifted as her legs moved, giving him a stealthy peek. Odo again had to keep himself from going to her, his fingers positively itching to take that towel away from her. He gritted his teeth, and gripped tightly to the arms of the chair instead.
Kira did a small double take when she saw him, and gave him a full smile. “Good morning, husband.”
“Good morning, wife," Odo returned. "Why are you up so early? You couldn't have gotten much sleep.”
“I didn't,” Kira replied, smile fading. She leaned against the door frame and chewed her lower lip. “I have to report to Ops this morning, Odo. Captain’s orders.”
“Then what are we going to do with our girl? I can’t stay home with her today. I’ve got her kidnappers to convict.”
“It’s gonna have to be the childcare center. I’m sorry.”
Odo heaved a sigh and looked down at his folded hands. “Don’t apologize, Nerys. It’s my fault we’re in this situation.”
Kira gave her husband a knowing look, and sauntered across the bedroom. She smoothed her towel over her backside and perched on his knees. “Odo,” she gently admonished, “you have nothing to be sorry about. I’m the one who’s reneging on our deal, but orders are orders. Besides, it’s not like we’re leaving the station. If something happens, they’ll let us know.”
“I know…I just…worry.”
“You? Worry? Never,” she teased. “But if what you wanted to talk to me about last night was long term, this was going to come up eventually.”
Odo's eyes met hers, and he gave her a long, steady look. “And if I can’t find any relatives for the child, would you be willing to consider it? Long term?”
“I already have,” Kira replied. “Even though you and I haven’t seen much of each other the last few days, I think I can guess where your mind is at. But mine’s not so sure. This is a big deal, Odo. Look at how much it’s affected our lives already. And we both know our lives are never completely ours, given what we do. I’m not sure we’re the right people for this girl. Besides, you still haven’t explained why this child is the one, out of so many that want homes, and why you've had such a sudden change of heart. Until this week, I thought our positions on this were decided.”
Odo's hand slid up Kira's thigh, finding the swell of her hip under the towel. It rested comfortably there, but his expression grew pensive. “Well first things first, she’s not afraid of Changelings. Which is a plus.”
“True,” Kira conceded. “What else?”
Odo didn’t answer. Instead, he pressed his lips on Kira's bare shoulder, and then pulled her further into his lap. Kira shifted her body, snuggling in, resting her head on his shoulder. They stayed quiet for a time, Kira patiently waiting until her husband was ready to speak.
“She’s…She’s been through so much, Nerys,” he began. “I got some more of her past out of her last night, and it’s not pretty. She’s been tossed around the universe like she doesn’t matter. Yet she’s still…alive. She has spirit. She’s brave, and tough. She’s capable of overcoming her past, of having a life, of being loved, if she finds the right people to love her. She deserves all of that, as much as anyone does. You say you’re not sure we’re right for her, but she reminds me a great deal of both of us. After all, the universe has tossed us around quite a bit, but so far we’ve managed to survive, and be here together...in love.” Odo hugged Kira even tighter. “So, so much love, Nerys.”
“Prophets, Odo, you sure know how to turn a girl to mush.” She half-sniffled, half-laughed. “Though no one else would believe that if I told them.” She sat up and cupped his face in her hands. “You’ve sold me on your end, Odo, but I’m still not one hundred percent on mine. Give me a little more time to think…Okay?”
“Of course, Nerys,” he smiled.
Kira smiled back, and leaned in to kiss him. The Computer chirped, and she stopped short.
“The time is zero five hundred hours, thirty minutes.”
“Dammit," Kira groaned. " I have to finish getting dressed, or I’ll be late.”
“Dammit, indeed,” Odo agreed. “I’ll go wake our girl and give her the bad news.”
Kira stood up from Odo’s lap. “Raktijino and toast?” she prompted. She tossed her towel on the bed and scurried towards her closet.
“You got it,” Odo replied. He watched his wife's lush, full, and currently bare backside disappear into her closet, and really wished he could follow it. But duty called. Double dammit. He shot up from his seat and left the room before he could change his mind.
It turned out their girl was already up, too. Kira had closed their bedroom door before she bathed, and the girl was camped on the sofa, wide awake, facing it. Her blanket was wrapped over her head so that only her face peeked out. As usual, her thumb was in her mouth.
“Good morning, little one,” Odo greeted. “Are you ready for breakfast?”
The girl's violet eyes went wide, and she popped her thumb out of her mouth. She flew off the couch and made a beeline for the replicator. The blanket came, too, shrouded around her like a cloak and trailing the ground behind her. Odo winced as she tripped on the hem, but she caught herself before she fell. She made it to the replicator interface without further incident, and turned back to Odo, bouncing up and down impatiently.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Odo said, and helped her pick her breakfast.
Kira joined them a few moments later, dressed now except for her boots. She sipped her raktijino and dunked her mapa toast in it as she helped Odo explain their change of situation for the day. At first, their announcement was not well received. Upon hearing the news, the girl plunked her fork back in her bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, flinging sauce in the air, narrowly missing Kira's clean uniform. Then she crossed her arms over her chest, and pouted.
"Look, Odo," Kira quipped, "she's taking after you already."
Odo rolled his eyes at his wife, and turned his attention to the girl. "I'm sorry, but we have to leave you in the childcare center today. We don't have a choice. Nerys and I have to work, and no one else can stay here with you."
"Don't wanna," she said, still pouting.
"They'll have toys there," Odo said. "Like there were in Counselor Dax's office."
That got a slight response. Her eyes lit, but was she careful to keep her frown in place as she rearranged her spaghetti.
"How about this," Kira said. "If anything bad happens, or if you get too scared, you just have to ask one of the people at the center to call me and I'll come get you. We'll come back here instead." She tilted her eyes at Odo. "Or maybe you'll get to start your Ops training early. It depends on Captain Sisko's mood."
After a long pause to consider this offer, and after more marinara was used to decorate the dining table, the child reluctantly conceded.
"Okay," she said. "I'll try."
The girl had a few uncertain questions about being in childcare, which Kira and Odo readily answered, with the reassurance that one of the monitors in the center would help her call Ops if she needed anything. When everyone was in full agreement, Kira took the girl off to de-sauce and help her dress. When that was done, the three left their quarters and headed down the hall of the habitat ring and on to the turbo-lift.
At the turbo-lift junction, Kira and Odo paused. A brief conversation ensued about who would walk the girl to the childcare center, and later pick her up. The girl watched the debate going on over her head for a few moments, listening to both sides, and then, with an impatient huff, decided for herself. She took Kira’s hand and stomped her foot, once, ending the debate.
“Alright then, have it your way,” Odo teased her. He kissed Kira’s cheek. “I’ll see both of you later.”
“Hey! Me, too,” the girl said, tugging on his tunic.
“You, too, what?”
She turned her cheek, and pointed at it.
Kira laughed as Odo made a show being mock-exasperated by this demand, rolling his eyes and throwing his hands up to the ceiling. “Oh, well, fine,” he teased, “if you insist.” He took a knee, and kissed the girl's cheek exactly as instructed. “Be good,” he reminded her. “No biting. And remember, if you get too scared, ask to call Ops.”
“I won’t be scared. And I’ll be good.”
“I know you will,” Odo said, and tucked her hair behind her ear.
With a last round of goodbyes, the triad separated to face the day ahead of them.