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Odo spent the night in her office, regenerating in her back closet just as she had before getting real quarters. It had been her routine for the past few days since her transformation. She wasn't quite ready to face the shape shifting paradise of her quarters, and she certainly wasn't ready to spend the night with Kira. And so, when she arched up out of her bucket and into humanoid form in the morning, determined this time to get the tone of Starfleet's mission report right, she was surprised to see Kira standing in the doorway.

"It's oh-eight-hundred," Kira said. "I hope I didn't bother you."

Caught in the undignified position between her bucket and her chair, Odo sat down awkwardly. She didn't answer the major.

Kira stepped closer and took a deep breath. She seemed about to say something before her eyes suddenly focused on something behind Odo's back. Odo turned. It was her old bucket.

After a moment, Kira looked back at her, a mixture of concern and hurt in her eyes. "You put the plant I gave you in your bucket."

"I retrieved my bucket for the purpose." Odo didn't look at Kira as she said it.

"Oh." Kira's eyes dropped down to the padd on her desk. She picked it up and scanned it for a moment. "Starfleet's mission report?"

"I can't quite hit the right tone," Odo said.

Kira tapped the padd idly against her other hand. "It's overdue."

"Better overdue than incomplete."

Kira sighed and set the padd back down on Odo's desk. "I haven't been much help, have I?"

Odo only dignified that with a grunt.

"Maybe we could work on it together," Kira suggested.

"Why?" Odo asked. "What could you add to it that I don't already know?"

"Well, maybe if we talked…"

"Major, I certainly don't want you to waste your time with Starfleet reports," Odo said. "I'm sure you have better things to do."

Kira sighed. "This isn't about Starfleet reports." She took a deep breath. "I owe you an apology."

For dismissing my fears? Odo wondered. For accusing me of trying to pull our relationship apart? For ignoring my feelings?

But she didn't say any of that out loud. Instead, she uttered a noncommittal, "Oh?"

"I've been unfair to you, and I'm sorry," Kira said. She gestured at the chair. Her chair. The one that suddenly wasn't hers anymore.

But Odo simply nodded, not in the mood for recrimination. It had been days since they'd last spoken outside of work, and besides, she was curious about what Kira had to say.

"Of course, Major," Odo said.

Kira sat down, but instead of leaning back and hooking a heel over the edge of Odo's desk like she used to, she sat as stiffly as a board. Her shoulders were slumped, her gaze locked somewhere near the floor. She suddenly looked more alone than ever. It was all Odo could do to resist moving over to the replicator to order her a raktajino—extra hot, double kava, as always. But now would be a bad time to wave the white flag.

"I was just…so focused on how I felt that I didn't bother to think about how you felt." Kira paused. "I couldn't understand how you could love me as much as you say you do, and still say you don't want to be with me."

Odo looked up at her. "You said you understood."

"And I did. Somewhat." Kira's eyes were suddenly glued to the tabletop. "I understood that you wanted time to yourself. You wanted me out of your face, and I didn't exactly give you that. I'm sorry." She paused. "I was just so angry with you. It seemed like you'd abandoned us. What I didn't understand was that my anger was selfish. You've been at my side for so long, Odo, I kind of started to take you for granted. I started thinking you would always be there, loving me, and I could have all the time I wanted. I didn't think your side would change."

"I'm sorry, Major."

"Don't you dare apologize," Kira said. "I'm the one at fault here." She looked down at the tabletop again.

Odo waited for her to continue. When she didn't, Odo said, "Go on."

Kira sighed. "This isn't fair to you, but…ever since you found your people, I've been afraid that one day, you'd decide you wanted to live with them instead. And I understood that. But I would have missed you. Prophets, I was so afraid to lose you."

Odo said nothing.

"I was afraid…" Kira looked down, stopped, and started again. "I was afraid they really had destroyed your connection to us this time. I guess I kind of lashed out, and you didn't deserve that. I wanted so badly to keep you here, with me…" She trailed off and shook her head. "Maybe they're right. Maybe you're better off with them. I don't deserve you."

"I could say that I don't deserve you," Odo said softly.

Kira stared at her. "What?"

"Kira, I don't know how I feel," Odo said. "Part of me still loves you, but most of me can't remember how. But I know that if I still knew which way was up and which way was down, everything you're saying right now…would only make me love you more."

Kira held her breath. "So you're saying?"

"I'm saying that I'm sorry we didn't get more time together," Odo said. Her lips quirked into a smile. "Ironic, isn't it? The moment you finally come to love me, I lose sight of my own feelings."

Kira managed a small laugh. "Ironic. But…I didn't come here to talk about us being together, Constable."

Odo gave Kira her full attention. "Oh?"

"I love you," Kira said. "But you loved me for years before I fell in love with you. I can do the same for you. I'll give you time, Constable. All the time you need." She paused. "Just promise me one thing."

"What's that?" Odo asked.

"Don't leave me out," Kira said. She leaned forward, over the desk, and took Odo's hand. "Let me be your friend. That's all I care about. We're strongest as a team, Odo."

A team. Such a simple request. They'd always been a team. For as long as Odo could remember, through good times and bad, no matter what the situation, Kira had validated her existence. Odo provided a rational, listening ear when Kira needed an anchor in the universe; Kira provided something for Odo to believe in during those times when the universe seemed to conspire against her. The foundation of their team lay in friendship. Love had come later.


Odo sighed. "I'm not sure if I believe you, Major. How can you possibly love what I've become?"

"Because love isn't just an emotion," Kira said. "It's a choice. You should know that, Odo. Prophets know how long you've put up with my temper and my obtuseness! Sometimes I wonder how you can possibly still love me, even after all the years of abuse I subjected you to without even knowing it! And yet you go on, slaving away every day for me. You're the one who listens to me ramble when everyone else is walking on eggshells. You're the one who's always made this relationship work. It didn't matter how much you wanted to be with your people, you still chose me. And you could have chosen them this time—I was so afraid you would—but you didn't. You always choose to love me." She paused. "Well, now it's my turn. I'm going to choose to love you, Odo. No matter what happens to you. No matter how much you change. You can stop loving me, you can never love me again, and I'll still choose to love you. I owe you that much."

Odo glanced down at their joined hands, then up into Kira's eyes. "Kira, what did I ever do to deserve you?"

Kira smiled. "If you don't know that yet, I don't think you ever will. But it doesn't matter. You're stuck with me."

Odo closed her eyes and leaned back in her chair, expelling days of tension in a single breath. "Nerys, have I ever told you that I love you?"

Kira shook her head. "None of that." She straightened in her chair. "Alright, when was that mission report due?"

It took Odo a moment to realize that Kira was talking about the padd that still rested on her desk. "Starfleet wanted it five days ago."

"Well, there was no way you could have made sense of it then." Kira picked up the padd and scanned it again, but this time Odo got the distinct impression that she was giving it her full attention. "How about we finish it now?"

Odo looked up to meet her eyes. "Together?"

"About time we did something as a team," Kira said. "It's been too long. This is as good a place to start as any."

Odo smiled. Really smiled. She couldn't remember the last time she'd smiled. Maybe the last time she'd successfully blackmailed Quark. Of course, that wasn't likely to happen anytime soon, not with him ogling her every chance he got. But this was different. This wasn't a smirk. It wasn't a weak upturn of the corners of her mouth. It was a real smile.

The foundation of their team had been friendship. Love had come later. And maybe, just maybe, it could come again.

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