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"My god," Bashir said as he examined Odo's medical readout. "They've completely repolarized your morphogenic matrix. Though I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. The Founders have proven themselves remarkably capable of defying science as we know it."

"Don't remind me," Odo muttered, eyes downcast.

Kira found that Odo's voice as a female sounded remarkably similar to that of hers as a male when it was growled from deep in her throat. Odo was sitting on an infirmary biobed, face angled down, arms braced against its edges and slender legs dangling off of it. She was completely uniformed as usual, her combadge back in working order, her back straight and her composure repaired. But Kira had known Odo long enough to see through the guise.

Kira herself paced anxiously off to the side, nervously chewing on her lower lip.

"Well, there's some good news," Bashir smiled. "It seems they haven't altered your temperament. You're still the same old constable."

"That's a relief," Odo grunted.

Bashir's smile evaporated. "I'm sure it'll take some getting used to," he said. "But the fact is, Constable, I don't know what I can possibly do for you. The Founders have done it again. This is an incredible feat of genetics!"

"Are you finished with me, Doctor?" Odo grated, raising her voice to a pitch that sounded distinctly more musical. It startled Kira a little, but she shoved down that little voice of fear.

Bashir sighed. "I suppose I am."

A distinctively deep voice suddenly spoke from the doorway. "Constable? What's going on?"

Kira glanced up and nodded to the captain in greeting. "Captain."

"Captain," Odo said in turn, but didn't turn around.

"Captain, come in," Bashir said. "It appears the Founders have exacted another punishment on Odo. Last time, they made him human. And now…"

Sisko walked into the infirmary and paused to absorb Odo's transformation. "I take it this isn't just a temporary change of shape."

"Believe me, Captain, I've tried looking like a male," Odo said. "It didn't work, or I wouldn't be in this ridiculous body right now." She paused and added quietly, "I'm no longer certain I want anything to change."

Kira whipped around to face Odo, stricken.

"I see," Sisko nodded. "Do you have any idea why they did this to you?"

"I have a very good idea," Odo said. She shot Kira a penetrating look.

Kira jumped in surprise. "Me?" she asked incredulously.

"Indeed," Odo nodded. She seemed to regain her stride now that she had an opportunity to focus on the problem objectively. She turned back to the captain, and Kira found herself missing that bright-eyed gaze. "Remember, Captain, the Founders want me to return home to them above all else. They don't care about Solid ways of living. As far as they're concerned, I belong with them, and they will do anything to bring me back."

"I'm afraid you've lost me," Sisko said. "How is this supposed to make you want to return to them?"

Odo grimaced. "I had the same thought, Captain. This only makes me want to stay as far away from them as possible. But they still believe that the only link I have to the Solids is Major Kira." Kira flinched at Odo's use of her title. "They thought that in making me female, I would no longer want a romantic relationship with her, and that I would return to them."

"I take it that's not going to happen," Sisko said.

"Not until there's drought on Ferenginar," Odo snorted.

"Odo," Kira said softly, before she could stop herself.

Odo looked up at her, but Odo's eyes held none of their usual tenderness. There was no sympathetic softening of her features or relaxing of her shoulders. If anything, she only tensed further upon seeing Kira.

"Were they right?" Kira asked. She knew it was dangerous territory, but she had to know.

Odo's eyes softened sadly. "About our relationship, you mean?"

Kira forced herself to nod. It was far too late to back out.

Odo stared at her for a long moment. Finally, she dropped her gaze. "Major, I don't know. I…I never expected this to happen. I just…I need some time."

"Odo," Kira said, stopping her. "I understand." She knew this was it. Odo wouldn't tell her so, but this was it. Their relationship was over. Whether or not Odo still loved her, Kira had no idea, but she wouldn't dare ask Odo now.

Kira started to leave the infirmary, but she turned around at the last second. "You can still call me Nerys, you know," she said. "My friends call me Nerys. It wouldn't mean anything."

"You know that it would, Major," Odo said.

Kira jerked a nod and that time, she left the infirmary. She plodded blindly across the promenade, her vision a haze of frustration. She understood, in a way—she remembered all too well her horror at being cosmetically altered to look like a Cardassian years ago, and how difficult the adjustment would have been if the change had been permanent. Kira was sure Odo was getting sick of her people altering her without her consent. She knew Odo was feeling betrayed.

Or was she?

It struck Kira that she didn't know. Oh, she was sure this would be difficult for Odo. There was no question there. What she didn't know was how this affected Odo's feelings for her people. For all she knew, the Founders had succeeded in weakening Odo's connection to the Solids. If Kira didn't act decisively, show her friend that she still belonged here, then she could lose Odo. For good, this time. No runabout could bring Odo back once her loyalties changed.

Kira entered the nearest turbolift and took it up to Ops with a determined set to her jaw.



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