Kira paced her quarters from end to end, passing by her prayer mandala every time. It sat there, mocking her, with each pass she made. Kira stopped at one end of her living room and delivered a frustrated punch to the wall. All she got out of it were bruised knuckles. She shook her hand out, wincing at the pain.
Five days. Almost a week had gone by since her argument with Odo, and still she couldn't make sense of it. Since that day, she'd barely seen Odo outside of duty. And even then, the constable had made sure that their encounters were brief. But avoidance couldn't keep Kira from seeing what Odo tried to hide. In the short time they had been together—and perhaps thanks to the years Kira had spent as Odo's friend before that—she had learned to read Odo's every expression, interpret her every gesture. Odo had often insisted that those mannerisms weren't his, that he had merely copied and learned them, but Kira knew better. Odo never said much, but she had a whole language just in the way she tilted her head.
And so Kira could see the fear and despair lurking just beneath Odo's professional exterior. She could even detect a trace of anger, so deeply buried she was surprised she'd managed to find it. Kira found herself wishing the constable would come to her to unload herself. An explosive Odo was safe; it meant she was confronting her rage and letting it flow, letting herself feel the emotion. A cold Odo was much more frightening, because Kira knew that what Odo didn't say, she internalized.
It wasn't fair. She came to Odo for everything. Everything! If she couldn't make up her mind about something, Odo was the one she spoke to, whether it was a matter of personal ethics or a command decision that would affect hundreds. Every problem, no matter how large or small, Odo solved for her. Or, that was, Odo helped Kira see where she was wrong and where she could be more objective.
But when Odo had a problem? When her life was turned upside down and she needed someone to right it? That someone was never Kira. Odo took her own problems upon herself to fix and very rarely came to Kira for advice. There had been times when Odo had sought comfort or solace with her, but Kira had almost never had a hand in her major decisions. Those, she made on her own.
Kira respected Odo's privacy. She always had. But why did she always have to be so damned—
The door chime interrupted Kira's thoughts. Kira swung around, prepared to fire the intruder with a full dose of Kira Nerys flames. "Who is it!"
"It's Dax," said an uncertain voice. "Can I come in?"
"Oh." Kira paused as a wave of uneasiness washed over her. Something told her the Trill wasn't here just to visit. "Come in."
Dax entered, hands behind her back. She stood as straight as usual, but she looked more troubled, more serious, than usual. "Kira," she said, "I've been meaning to talk to you."
Kira turned away, flapping her hands at her sides. "You've been talking to Odo, haven't you."
"Cut her some slack," Dax said. "What if you suddenly found yourself in a man's body?"
"Oh, and you're one to talk about shock and adjustment!" Kira said. "Exactly how many times have you switched genders?"
"It's not easy for Trills, you know," Dax said. "We're just trained to recognize it as a possibility. So when we're joined with the opposite gender…" She shrugged.
"I don't suppose you offered your wisdom to Odo," Kira snapped.
"I thought about it," Dax said. "But I thought it had better come from you."
"Me. Why me?" Kira demanded. "It's not like I understand what's going on!"
"Of course not," Dax said. "But you're Odo's friend, Nerys."
"I'm his girlfriend," Kira said. "Or, at least, I was—until he started pushing me away!"
"You think she's the one at fault," Dax said.
"He's the one who's not making any sense! I'm not even sure what side he's on now."
"You're afraid she'll leave you?" Dax asked.
"Well, can you blame me?" Kira asked. "This is Odo we're talking about, Jadzia. The same guy who practically sold the whole Alpha Quadrant to the Dominion the last time the Founders got to him."
Dax took a step closer. "Do you really believe she'll do that, Nerys? Everything has changed for her, but one thing is certain—she's still in love with you."
Kira shook her head. "No, he isn't. He tells me he is, but he isn't."
"What makes you think that?" Dax asked.
"Common sense." Kira shrugged. "Where I come from, Jadzia, if you're in love with someone, you try to be with them. Odo's not doing that. He's trying to make this work, trying to spare my feelings—but if he still loved me, he'd be trying to stay with me, not pushing me away."
"I wouldn't be so sure of that," Dax said. "Kahn never stopped loving me, even though she knew we couldn't be together…more than I did, at the time."
"That's different!" Kira said. "You're a Trill, Jadzia. That sort of thing is normal for you, but you have rules preventing you from getting back together."
"Exile for both symbionts," Dax said quietly.
"Exactly." Kira paused. "It's not like that for me. This isn't normal, I don't know how to handle it, and I don't think Odo does either—and to make matters worse, there's no rule saying we can't get back together. So I'm left wondering if he'll ever care for me again, wondering if I should keep pursuing this at all—wondering if we can survive this trial and still be friends…"
She dashed her hand angrily across her eyes. She was not going to cry. She was going to be the strong one for once. She was going to be the glue that held their relationship together.
Dax took a step closer. "You make it sound like it's her fault that she's confused."
"Well…" Kira threw up her arms in exasperation. "It's not as if I can read his mind! And he won't talk to me! He won't let me help! He could at least…I don't know, not try to shut me out!"
"Kira," Dax said, "you love Odo, don't you?"
"Of course I do!" Kira cried. "No matter what shape or form he—or she—is in! She's still Odo. At least to me."
"I wonder if that's the problem," Dax said carefully.
Kira blinked. "What? Of course not!"
"Nerys," Dax said, "listen to me. It's very noble of you to insist that nothing has changed. You'll still be here for her, even if her entire form is different. I'll bet you'd stay with her if she became locked into the form of a Tarkalean hawk, and Odo would have no problem with that." She paused. "But this time, Nerys, that isn't true. You have to realize that things have changed. What if you were locked into the form of a man?"
"I wouldn't be myself," Kira said.
"Exactly. You're asking Odo to hold onto something that simply isn't hers anymore," Dax said. "She's a woman now, Nerys. You can't make the demands you're making."
Kira found herself at a complete loss for words. Her mouth opened and closed several times before she spoke.
"I guess…it's just…I've never been loved like that, Jadzia. Not like he loved me. He…when he came into my life, he filled a hole in my heart that I hadn't even known existed. He showed me what it meant to be cared for, to have someone I could rely on…he was always there, Jadzia, never failing me. He…"
Dax frowned. "And now you think she's failing you."
"Well…" Kira sighed. "Not exactly. But it's like he's insisting on being miserable, on keeping our relationship in this state of suspension…and he won't talk to me! He won't let me be there for him!"
"As far as I'm aware, she's never been particularly open, even with you," Dax said. "Why would you expect her to open up to you now?"
"I don't know!" Kira cried. "Maybe because I can feel our relationship teetering on the edge of doom? The thing is, it's maddening—it doesn't have to be this way! I love him! He doesn't have to fear losing me! I've always had him as a friend…and now as a boyfriend…I just can't believe I should be expected to let go so easily. We only just got together, Jadzia! We've barely spent any time together! And now…"
"And whose fault is that?" Dax asked.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Think about it, Nerys." Dax took another step closer. "Who was it who procrastinated for months, even after you knew how Odo felt about you? Instead of trying to figure out, there and then, if you loved her back, you let it go. You waited. You stalled. You delayed. You did everything you could to hold her at bay, to make sure you got your sweet time to figure out how you felt."
"And with good reason," Kira said. "He told me he loved me, and then he let eight thousand people die. I didn't understand it."
"But still, you got over that," Dax said. "And it became an excuse. You accused your friend of something she'd never done, something that had only ever been true on another timeline, to justify the fact that you couldn't admit to your feelings for her."
"Sure, and I'm the only guilty party," Kira said. "Who was it who drove us into that infernal planet in the first place?"
"Don't place blame, Nerys," Dax said. "This isn't about me, and it isn't about the people of Gaia either. Ever since Odo told you how she felt about you, you've procrastinated. Why?"
Kira sighed. She sank down onto her couch, her mind spinning. Dax was right. She had procrastinated. But why?
"He's always been there for me," she said. "I guess I assumed he'd always be there."
Dax's face lent no trace of disappointment, but the admonition was in her voice. "And now that she's the one taking her sweet time with your relationship, you don't know what to make of it."
Kira nodded numbly. "I don't know what to do. I love him, Jadzia."
"Nerys." Dax sat down next to her and took Kira's hands in hers. "I advise you to go and talk to her. I'm sure it'll go well now that you know your own motivations. But the first step to showing that you care is to accept the fact that 'he' is a woman."
"I have accepted that!" Kira retorted.
"Then why is every pronoun out of your mouth a masculine word?" Dax asked.
"I—well—it's hard to adjust to!"
Dax nodded. "Consider, then, how hard it must be for Odo."
Kira fell silent.
"Listen to her, Kira," Dax said. "Be the friend I know you can be. And remember, friendship comes first. Love will come later."
"I already know I love him," Kira said. "Her, I mean."
"Then be her friend," Dax said. "It's the least you can do."
Kira sighed. Dax was right, as always. Completely and utterly right. "How are you so good at this?" she asked.
"Experience," Dax said. "But I've been wrong at times."
"Sure. Name one."
"The man I met on Meridian."
Kira frowned. "Granted. But you're usually right."
Dax's eyes danced. "And I'm right this time."
Kira sighed. "All right. I'll talk to her." She shook her head. "But I still don't think she'll listen."
Dax nodded in approval. "Good. All that matters is that you try. Then no one can blame you." She stood and headed for the door. "Good luck, Nerys."
Kira watched her go, now with a contemplative look on her face.