Benjamin Sisko's P.O.V
"Bu looks very… human."
Benjamin Sisko truly, honestly, meant that. Bu, from the other side of the view screen to the Med-bay, looked like any other human female. Pretty, and pale, and particularly pleasant.
She had nails, and dimples, and curly, dark wild hair. She was soft, and green-eyed, and somehow, someway, the Changeling had even managed to add a rosy flush to her cheeks. She had, Sisko noticed, mimicked her clothing to a miniature replication of Odo's security uniform, though she had gone for a rather lovely shade of green, much like the green of her liquid state, rather than the lackluster beige. She was good, very good, at changing her shape, and very, very, very, human.
And Sisko had never been more worried. The implication was clear. Loud. Frightening. The Changeling before them now, Bu, looked very human. Not Bajoran. Not Romulan. Not Cardassian. Not Betazoid. Human.
According to Odo, sentient races were the hardest to copy. Even Odo had difficulty, hence his more smooth face. Yet, here Bu was, entirely human, and it could mean only one thing. She had to have been around humans, for a long, long, while, despite her obviously young age, to imitate them so well.
To be around humans, Bu needed to be-
Colonies. Earth had a few stellar colonies. They had plenty of stations. Perhaps she had been on one of them. Perhaps… Perhaps. The only way to really know the truth, Sisko concluded, was to actually speak to the Changeling.
Sisko turned from the examination window, into the small observation chamber, to his Chief Medical Officer Bashir and Kira Nerys. Behind him, Bu continued talking to Odo, the only one permitted in with her currently, and somewhere in the hallway, Sisko knew, Weyoun and Dukat were bowed together, strategizing.
"Has Bu said anything?"
Bashir shook his head.
"Not much. She seems rather… Enthralled with Odo presently. I think this is the first time she's met anyone like herself."
Nerys cut in.
"Odo seems pretty captivated with her too. It's kind of sweet, really, watching them together."
Sisko glanced back over his shoulder, out the window, just in time to see Odo morphing his hand. Bu watched and seemingly… Jiggled in delight, reaching her own hand out to show him she could mirror the bird he morphed into his palm. Odo smiled widely, almost looking proud, and nodded at something she said with a cocked head.
It was sweet, Sisko would admit.
It was sweet, and it would not last.
The security of this station was his top priority, and to keep Deep Space 9 safe, Sisko needed information. The Changeling had, after all, somehow bypassed their security protocols and crashed into the station, nearly collapsing one of the pylons. Least of all, they needed to know how she had managed to do that.
"Come, let's get this show on the road."
Bashir and Nerys nodded, and the trio left the observation room for the adjoining hallway. Sisko was proven right when he spotted Weyoun and Dukat already there, sharply pulling away from each other upon their entrance, swiftly slinking into the back of the group to bring up the rear.
There was no point in asking for them to wait outside. Weyoun would insist on his presence, insist in the only way Weyoun ever insisted; by showing there was no other alternative with a smile on his face, and really, presently, Sisko had no ground to deny him on.
When the small group entered the Med-bay, whatever Odo and the Changeling were talking about quickly died to silence as the younger Changeling came to stare at the newcomers. Unblinking. Watchful… Weary.
Prudently, Sisko stepped forward, closer to the Changeling.
"Hello, I am Captain Benjamin Sisko, Commander of Deep Space 9."
The Changeling observed him from her seat on the Med-bay bed, legs dangling over the edge, still, silent. Eventually, her gaze, which was somewhat piercing up close, a gaze that saw deep, flickered to his side. Peeking over, he saw Nerys by his flank. Ah.
With a wave of his hand, he slowly gestured to those around him.
"This is Kira Nerys, our Bajoran representative and Head of Security. This is Julien Bashir, our Chief Medical Officer and these are-"
Before he could introduce them, Weyoun was sliding forward, quite literally gliding in front of Sisko, and cutting over him. Sisko's hand flopped to his side, defeated and frustrated. How Dukat put up with the purple-eyed bast-
"I am Weyoun five. It is an honour to meet you."
Weyoun bowed low at the waist, nearly doubled in on himself, and the Changeling positively looked bewildered by it. Nevertheless, when Weyoun straightened out, the Changeling was smiling. Wide. Bright. Hot. Perfectly mimicked teeth all on show in a pretty little line.
Something weighty like dread dropped in Sisko's gut. She had not smiled for Sisko, or Nerys, or Bashir, but to the only Vorta in the room. A smile, being an action intended for a Changeling, as exhibiting solid emotion was not natural to them, which meant she wanted Weyoun to know she was happy to see him. That couldn't be a good omen, could it? However, any sudden caution Sisko felt evaporated when, finally, she spoke.
"You're the one who hummed tunes to me, aren't you? I remember your voice."
She was happy because she remembered him, and she was happy someone she remembered was here right now, and with that caution gone, fear came barrelling through Sisko. Why? Because, while her words may have calmed him, her voice could do only the opposite.
A very clear voice.
A voice with, unmistakably, a very prominent English accent.
Sisko was half dazed when Dukat, evidently feeling left out, pushed himself forward when no one offered to introduce him.
"Gul Dukat, Leader of the Cardassian Union."
The Changeling glanced to Odo, as if in reassurance, and at his soft nod, she slowly slid off her seat on the Med-bed and turned to face them all head on.
Yes. Definitely an English accent. The kind of English accent typically gained only by being on Earth, or at least, growing up with English parents. For a dreadful moment, Sisko thought it was the former. It was always, on Deep Space 9, the worst alternative.
A Changeling… On Earth.
The information this Changeling could know. The information she could give the Founders. The repercussions were severe and many, to many to count, notably as Sisko didn't know what this Changeling wanted, or what the hell she had been doing shooting out of the Bajoran wormhole in the first place.
"Do you have a name?"
At his question, she once again froze. Perhaps she was circumspect. Perhaps she was afraid. It was hard to tell with Odo's kind. They didn't display their emotions in a way Solids found exchangeable. If they didn't decisively display a mimicked response, it meant they didn't want you to know what was running through their head. Yet, she met his eye and held it.
"Bu… You all called me Bu. What does this mean?"
Nerys was the one to answer this question, gentle smile on her face, friendly and welcoming.
"It means life in my mother tongue Bajoran. Odo grew up around my people. He thought, without a name to work with, Bu… Fit."
She paused, soaking it in, and Sisko could see a tiny, almost invisible, wobble to her outline. Oddly, he thought that might mean she was… Happy? Seconds later, when she beamed a smile at Nerys, Sisko was once again proven correct that evening. Quickly she nodded, testing the name out on her own metamorphosed tongue.
"Bu… I like it. You can call me Bu."
Sisko broke away from the gathering, none too gently shouldering passed Weyoun to come to a towering stand before the Change-… Bu. She, to her credit, did not shy away. She simply looked up at him, head cocked, waiting. Nevertheless, Sisko did not miss the small step Odo took at her back to steal in closer.
"And can you tell me how you got aboard my station, Bu?"
Bu frowned deeply, and Sisko knew this facial movement was for his benefit, so he could know she was confused. At least she was considerate. Or, most likely, she knew how unsettling it was for Solids to converse with brick walls. Yes… She had spent quite a lot of time around humans to pick up the finer details of their behaviour and reactions.
Finer details she was going to give to the Founders and-
"The wobbly beings in the portal."
Bashir chuckled from behind him.
"The wobbly beings? What-"
Sisko and Nerys peered at each other at the same time, voice as one.
"The temporal aliens."
Glancing back to Bu, she nodded.
"I didn't mean to cause any damage. I didn't mean to scare anyone, or hurt anyone, I never would… I was trying to get to the orange sea. I… Don't know where it is, but I… I see it sometimes. I only wanted to go home."
Odo tugged in tight to her back, resting a hand on her shoulder, squeezing gently, Sisko could see, offering silent support, comfort, and most crucially, understanding.
"It is called the Great Link. Our kind, Changelings, when we reach a certain stage feel a pull to re-join our people there. It is our home, indeed."
Bu seemed to take a moment to soak it in before she continued.
"I was trying to get to the orange sea, the Great Link, and I went through the Veil."
Benjamin cocked an eyebrow.
Bu stepped closer to him, voice dropping, clear and crisp like snow fall.
"It's a… Structure where I am from. A natural portal of some kind. As old as records itself. I knew if I went through it, I would get to the Great Link. I don't know how I knew, but I knew it was just on the other side of the Veil. However, I think something went a bit… Wrong."
Benjamin dipped his chin.
"You ended up, instead, in the Celestial Temple"
Anew, she frowned, and Sisko, belatedly, realized this was her attempt at a silent prompt for him to explain better. Coughing into a tight fist, he clarified.
"With the wobbly aliens."
She lit up once more, a tiny-barely-there-waggle to her skin, but it was only momentary, fleeting, before she forced the sever frown back on.
"I don't remember much. It's all very hazy, but they were wearing my friends faces and… And they spoke, as one, but I… Something about a war, and balance, and… Good luck. They wished me good luck. I remember that but I… I can't remember much else."
Odo crossed the distance, coming to a protective stance at the young Changeling's side.
"It's alright. I'm sure it will come back to you in time."
This seemed to pacify Bu, or at least, erase some of her worry, as she ostensibly… Buzzed. And Sisko meant that physically, as if she had so much energy in her, the shell of a human face could not contain it. In fact, as she began to pace and talk, hands in movement, weaving between her words, Sisko realized just how very… Un-Changeling-y she was.
Changeling's were often remote, distant, still as stone. Like the seas, they appeared calm on the surface, but were deceptively raging beneath. Bu was something like a river, Sisko thought. Fast and winding, bubbling and sparkling, dipping about in curiosity and innocence.
"And then they, the… temporal aliens? They were firing me out of the portal full force, and everything was spinning out of control and suddenly, I saw stars and… I was in space! Actual Space! Then the next thing I knew, I was being hurled out and, bang, I woke up here, in the glass jar, and everyone's so strange and odd, and some of you have ridges on your nose or your head, and not human and…. And here you are!"
In a blink she span, facing Odo, grinning almost ear to ear.
"Just like me! I've never met anyone like me before."
Another blink, and she, and her suddenly boundless energy, was now directed at Sisko.
"And Odo said there's more of us! Changelings? The orange sea… It's us! There's a sea of us out there, a whole sea. Home. I finally get to go home."
Sisko would admit, in the way her voice warbled slightly on the decline of home, he felt a twinge of compassion plucking in his chest. He had grown up with a family of humans, on a planet of humans, in a quadrant of humans. His species were everywhere with him. Never, not once, had he been forced to look out and wander if, in the vastness of the sky, between the stars that shone, there could be anyone like him.
It must have been a very lonely life.
"If I may, Founder?"
Weyoun, of course, found this the perfect time to ingratiate himself with the Changeling. Amusingly, however, Bu did not realize he was speaking to her, did not so much as glance his way, until he stepped forward, catching her attention with movement.
"As a Vorta, and a dedicated representative of the Dominion-… Your home, it would be my privilege to take you to the Great Link."
If Sisko thought she had been buzzing before, he knew what true buzzing was now. It was if, in one promise, Weyoun had illuminated the sky for her in one blaze of sunrise. Whatever reservations she had, fear she held, caution she tasted as she had stuck to Odo's side, evaporated, as she dipped away, almost running to Weyoun.
Weyoun himself seemed… Different. Certainly, there was the usual afterglow of worshipful approval in the presence of his 'gods', but there was… Something lurking beneath that, Sisko thought. A tenderness, perhaps, at the Changeling's smile.
"You know where it is?"
Weyoun grinned, not that grin Sisko was so accustomed to, clever and deceptive and duplicitous, but soft and gentle.
"I do, and I can get you there as soon as we leave Deep Space 9."
Bu went to reply, the two, Vorta and Changeling, ostensibly tangled in their own little bubble, a bubble Sisko could not stop himself from popping prematurely.
"I am afraid I cannot allow this."
The two glanced his way, Bu blinking, Weyoun-
It did not stop Sisko.
"You're accent, it is English?"
Gingerly, she replied.
"Yes… I grew up in Surrey. Do you know of it? Have you visited Earth? It's a rather beautiful planet."
And the coin dropped in the room like a boulder on a house. Bu, Bu who looked so very human, and smiled so brightly, and seemed so receptive and sincere, was, in the end, despite what she appeared to be, a Changeling. Bu had grown up on Earth, she knew things, things no other Changeling could know, information she would pass, unintentionally or otherwise, to the Founders if she ever joined the Great Link.
Not only that, but, according to Bu, and Sisko was inclined to believe her, Earth had a structure somewhere, a structure called the Veil, that, possibly, lead right to the Bajoran wormhole or, the Federation forbid, Dominion territory. It was likely how she ended up on Earth to begin with. She knew where that structure was, and she could tell the Founders its location. The wormhole would become nothing, they would have a steppingstone right into the heart of Federation space if they ever discovered this 'Veil'.
To add salt on the already grievous wound, was the factor of the temporal aliens, or to the Bajorans, the Prophets. If they were involved, by the way Bu acted and spoke, in certain turns of phrases, Surrey, for instance, she was not of… This time. She was likely from somewhere deep in Earth's past.
Yet, despite this, her joining the Great Link could still be hazardous. Earth might have changed, advanced, grown, but humans, unfortunately, had not. Bu knew how to mimic them so well, she knew how their bodies worked… What weaknesses they had.
Weyoun turned to him slowly, smiling keenly, knowing perfectly well what Sisko already knew.
"And I am afraid, Commander, that you have no say. If the Founder wishes to leave, there is nothing you can do about it. I can tell you if you try, but once, to detain her here, within twelve hours this station will be nothing but rubble in the silence of space. You do not understand what you are poking here, Captain Sisko. Tread carefully."
And that was the catch, wasn't it? They let Bu leave, and she could pass on valuable information to a species one wrong move from declaring full out war on the Federation. They forced her to stay, and the Founders, by Weyoun's own impassioned behaviour, for whatever reason he had, would undoubtedly lead a full-scale assault on Deep Space 9.
Sisko's fist clenched at his side, the muscle in his jaw jumping-
Bu stepped away from Weyoun, smile long dead, still and silent and bright eyed.
"What do you mean rubble? Why would you attack this place? I-… No. I will not play any part in… in violence… I don't understand."
Sisko, slowly, turned to Odo.
"You didn't tell her."
Odo peered down to the floor between them, just as Bu glanced between the two.
"Tell me what? What's going on?"
"I was about to tell you when Captain Sisko arrived. Bu… There is much to our people you do not understand."
Strolling over to the command desk in the Med-bay, Sisko retrieved a data Padd from the draw, entering his code to load up the files he would need. Once on screen, he, deliberately, made his way back to Bu.
He held the Padd out to the Changeling.
"I only ask that you read these files before you leave."
Slowly, she took the data Padd from his grasp, and Odo lobbied in close to her side.
"I think we need some time alone."
Sisko, Nerys, and Bashir nodded, but Weyoun, in one last effort to connect with the Founder, pulled free a short transmit communications device, offering it to Bu.
"If you need anything at all, Founder, press this and I will come."
Bu took it too, and Sisko left her there, with Odo, in the Med-bay.
Kira Nerys P.O.V
Two work cycles later found Kira Nerys making her way to the Med-bay, checking up on the Changeling Bu and Odo. Sisko had given the two privacy to go over the files, and for Odo to fill in Bu on what the Founders, the Dominion, and their relationship with the Federation was.
Kira did not envy his job.
Not one little bit.
The effects of their talk was evident as soon as Kira walked into the Med-bay, to a very different sight to the one she had seen two shifts prior. There was no jiggles or chatter, no morphing and smiling, just a table and a very silent and still looking Bu staring out the port window beside her to the stars outside, data Padd before her, between an equally silent Odo.
She felt she was interrupting a funeral. Perhaps, in a way, she was. The funeral of a dream.
"I've come to watch Bu while you check in with Sisko, Odo. He requests an update on…"
On what Bu could possibly inform the Founders of, and what she had decided to do. Kira, however, did not say this. She said nothing, everyone in the room knew what she meant, speaking it seemed redundant. Redundant and a little insulting to the young Changeling staring out the window.
Odo hesitated in leaving, but Kira smiled gently.
"I'll keep a good eye on her. I promise."
Odo sharply nodded, and turned his attention to Bu.
"I'll be back shortly."
Bu only nodded in return, did not look his way, did not speak. Kira, idly, wondered what she saw out that window. Freedom or a prison? Maybe it was a bit of both, sweet with the sour, life's greatest pleasure.
Calmly, Kira passed Odo on his way out and took a seat at the table, beside Bu. The latter only spoke when Odo was long gone.
"I think I've time travelled. I thought I was in an alternate reality or… Somewhere far away or… I thought you were all aliens, but you're not, are you? Not all of you. Not Sisko or Bashir. They're human, and this, all this… This is the future. I time travelled."
That was, certainly, the main theory being bounced around the desk of the Heads of Deep Space 9. The involvement of the Prophets could only lead to such. However, even if Bu were a thousand years in the future from her original time, what she knew of Earth, what she knew of humans, could be detrimental in the wrong hands.
Those wrong hands belonging to the Founders.
Her own people…
"The Prophets are beings capable of such spatial manipulation. Perhaps you have."
Bu stewed it over, face sleek and blank.
"Humans in my time had only landed on the moon. Now look, they're here… Amongst the stars. How far we've all come."
There was a hint of delight and pride in her voice that Nerys could hear lingering in the air like the last note of a song. Nerys found herself smiling. Bu seemed to be a gentle sort, gentle like Odo, so far from what any Founder was like, the ones Nerys had met at least.
"Did you read the files?"
And that was positively the wrong thing to say. Nerys wouldn't have noticed the difference in Bu if she had not spent so many years, close years, with Odo, but she had, and she did. There was almost a kind of thickening to her, condensed and taut beneath the face of a human. If Bu was anything like Odo, Nerys suspected this meant she was upset.
"How far we've all come… And how exactly the same we are. I may not understanding what cloning, Ketracel-white, or… Or Romulans are, though Odo is trying to explain as best as he can, but I know war when I see it. That's what this is, isn't it? War? This Federation is at war with these Founders… With beings like me."
Nerys tried to reach across the table, to fold her hand over Bu's laying prone on the table, but she snapped the limb back before Nerys could make contact, finally turning to meet her eye. The only thing to speak was the truth.
"Not quite… Not yet."
Bu's chair scraped against the floor as she stood, staring down at Nerys.
"I know why my people are afraid of you. You solids can be vicious. Brutal. Barbaric and thirsty for blood. Sometimes you hurt things just because you can, because you think it's fun and makes you feel bigger than you are. You kill and maim and blow each other up. You are dangerous. I've seen it myself."
Bu didn't say it callously. There was no snide curl of the lip or keen glint in the eye. She spoke as if she was speaking of the weather, of the planets rotational orbit, of facts without bias. And Nerys had no place to argue. What she had said was true, and, undoubtedly, Bu had seen it all for herself.
Yet, Bu wasn't finished.
"But I have never met kinder people. You all live so fast, so hard, and enjoy every moment as if it's your last. You're loyal, and inspiring, and you are capable of magnificent things. Love, and hope, and dreams. You dream, and it's beautiful. So very beautiful. Sometimes, I wish I were a Solid… If only to try cotton-candy. Or to dream. Or to know what it's like not spending every waking moment trying, trying so hard, to hold onto a shape, any shape if only, for a moment or two, I can walk in your world and see your colours."
Nerys stood, voice strained and slightly wet.
However, Bu was on a roll now.
"You said we're not at war yet, right? Maybe if I go to the orange sea-… Maybe if I connect with the Great Link like Odo told me about, I can show them all the wonderful things and show them that fear isn't necessary… Not always. Maybe we can stop this before it even begins."
The truth was, the Founder's had already seen what wonderful things Bu described, and still, they feared Solids. Perhaps they were right to. They had, according to Odo, been persecuted across quadrants, slain and killed and hated simply for what they were, and Changelings, Nerys could attest herself from watching Odo, strived for order in the universe. Order and safety the Founder's thought they could obtain by overseeing every other species.
This was, in the end, hopeful thinking. They both knew it.
"No one, not even Sisko, will stop you from leaving if you wish to re-join your people. It's your choice. The commander only wanted you to know the circumstances."
Bu turned back to the window beside them.
"Are they really that bad? The Founders? My people? Do they really genetically… They have slave races?"
Slave races weren't really the right label, Nerys thought. The Vorta and Jem'Hadar wished to be there… Through genetical engineering to steal their free will and any doubt they may have about the Founders, or drugged them until they were dependant on the Founder's for survival. No, slave races didn't really cover it. Puppets did.
Nevertheless, Nerys did not know any of this first-hand. Only hearsay and stories passed along. Maybe it was true, they, no one, really knew all that much about Bu's race, just enough to have everyone worried. Still, there could be good to them, the Founders, good that had not been seen yet.
"I'm sure there's more to it. This is only what we know so far."
Nerys did not sound convincing, even to her own ears.
"I used to imagine meeting someone like me. I never imagined… This."
Bu was nice, sweet in an almost child-like way, innocent. Yes, Nerys thought. She had a touch of innocence to her, a hope, that permeated everything about her.
"You've met Odo, and as someone who has known him for a few years I can tell you he's nice. Sweet. He's a good… Friend. One of the best you can find."
From her reflection in the port window, Nerys could see Bu meet her eye, a smile blossoming on her face.
"He thinks so of you to. I can tell."
Nerys couldn't see the flush staining her cheeks in her dark hazy reflection, but she sure felt the burn of it heating her skin. Bu, however, seemingly got an idea as she span on her heel, wiggling at her corners and bends, a little jiggle to her sketch.
"Odo can come with me! If he's there when I join the Great Link, he can make sure I don't pass along anything problematic and-"
"Odo can't go."
Bu came to a stop, head cocking to the side like a Risian pup.
"Odo… Odo isn't allowed within the Great Link anymore. He was trying to protect a Solid and a Changeling… Died. The Founders have stripped him of his status. He's been banished. Even if Odo wanted to, he can't go."
Bu stood still for a long while.
No, was Nerys knee jerk reaction. No, he has me. Yet, that was a selfish thing to say, wasn't it? As if Nerys was all he would ever need, and deep down, Nerys knew what Bu was talking about. Odo was alone, ostracised from his kind, the only Changeling in this entire sector and…
And it must have been lonely. Nerys knew, no matter how hard she tried to connect with Odo, she could never fill that whole, she could never understand what it was to be fluid and not a solid. No one could.
As lonely as it must have been for Bu on Earth, so far away, so long ago.
Bu took Nerys's silence for the answer it was.
"To be alone in the world is a terrible thing. I know how that feels."
Nerys was sure she did. Nevertheless, right before her eyes, Bu… Changed. Her chin tilted, high, proud, and her shoulder's squared.
Sisko had been right, Bu was extremely good at mimicking human behaviour, for that was unquestionably determination.
"I've made my choice. Take me to your leader."
And the impressive image was somewhat broken as Bu smiled, looking expectantly at Nerys as if she had said something hilarious and was waiting for the punchline to hit.
Nerys couldn't find the joke, but she did nod, leading Bu out the Med-bay.
No One's P.O.V
"Our vessel is ready to leave whenever the Founder decides she wishes to go."
Captain Benjamin Sisko, sitting behind his desk in his Command office, finger's stapled together in thought, regarded Weyoun with a steely, dark look.
"She has not made that choice just yet, Weyoun."
Weyoun, in return of the glare, smiled blindingly, all congenial and agreeable.
"It is only a matter of time. Bu must return to the Great Link."
The last occupant of the room, Odo, watching from the corner, spoke for the first time since Weyoun had barged into the office during his report to Sisko.
"You seem very persistent on the matter she returns. Why?"
Odo, while still banished from the Great Link, was still a Changeling, a Founder, to the man before him, something Weyoun always reminded him of, and in so, Odo was the most likely to get a straight answer out of the typically misleading man.
"You saw her yourself, Foun-"
At Odo's rather intense glare, Weyoun swiftly changed tack.
"Odo. Bu is green, not orange, green, in her liquid state."
Sisko arched a brow high.
Weyoun sighed, but gave nothing else, until Odo pushed.
"Why is that important, Weyoun?"
Weyoun glanced to Sisko, obviously debating whether to give away the information he had in the presence of a human, even if it was by the command of a Founder, or whether to try and find his way out of any answer at all. The urge to answer Odo won, in the end.
"Founders procreate by a single splitting. It is a conscious decision of one Founder to split apart from a section of themselves to create a new consciousness. Sometimes…"
Odo stepped closer, away from the corner of the room.
Weyoun took a deep breath.
"Each Founder has a consciousness for themselves, and yet, the Great Link is another form of consciousness all together, one where each Founder is integrated. The Great Link, in theory is-"
"Its own individual."
Odo added. He knew that, of course, as, even if it had been but for a brief moment, he had felt that connection, been a part of that link, a voice in the bigger whole. Sisko, never having felt anything remotely like that, slid in.
"How does any of this impact why one Changeling is green?"
Weyoun shot a sharp glance Sisko's way. His diplomacy was, evidently, running thin.
"As I previously said Commander, if you would but listen, most Founders are born from a single split from one Founder. Most. Not all."
Skirting closer to Sisko's desk, Weyoun's voice dropped low, steady, relentless.
"There has been a few rare occasions, so very few and far between only the Founders know how many, that the Great Link itself has… Split."
Odo turned to face Sisko.
"That's why Bu is green. She's not just a separated piece of one Founder given her own consciousness, she's the product of the Great link itself, all Founders, in splitting to form-"
Weyoun straightened out, nodding.
"One being. One Founder. The fruit of the Great Link, in one soul. Bu is incredible precious to the Founders, and I don't think I need to explain the lengths The Founders will go to see her home again. She is their child. She is your child, Odo. She needs to go home, to safety."
Sisko stood from his desk.
"If she's so precious, what was she doing on Earth? Why send her out at all?"
Weyoun sneered at the taller man.
"Bu would not have been sent out. Not by the Founders. Those born from the Great Link, the last having happened long, long, long ago Captain, do not leave the Link until they are much older. Bu should not be here. She should not have been on Earth. The Founder's did not do this."
Weyoun's gaze rolled slickly over Sisko.
"It is funny, however, that you bring up Earth. Is it not ironic that the species we are currently in a rather contemptuous stalemate with is the same species whose home world Bu has been all this time? One might see a correlation there, Commander, and it is not pretty."
Sisko flushed hotly, affronted at the clear insinuation.
"You think we stole her?"
Weyoun shrugged, palms up.
"I think someone took her. The Founders would not have let her go so easily. And I know Earth has been investigating this Bajoran wormhole, have they not? In fact, Sisko, if your own reports are true, you've spoken to the temporal aliens yourself. Perhaps there's an alliance there, a pact maybe? We all heard Bu: time travel. Perhaps you haven't done it yet. Time is such a muddled mistress."
Sisko looked ready to burst.
"So now you are accusing us of a crime not yet committed? A crime not yet committed you are not sure will ever come? Do you hear yourself, Weyoun?"
Weyoun grinned, triumphant.
"It was just a theory, Captain. No need to get so worked up. If you cannot control yourself over this matter, perhaps it is best you excuse yourself from it. I am sure Odo and I can come to a satisfactory decision."
Sisko had walked headfirst into the trap. If he could not act diplomatically enough, Weyoun, without hesitation, would push for his discharge on the matter. With Sisko out of the equation, Weyoun would walk all over everyone else. Sisko knew, if this came to be, Weyoun would have Bu halfway to the Gamma quadrant by the end of the cycle.
No one did backhanded politics like Weyoun.
It was what he had been made for, after all.
However, before Sisko could do much, salvage what he could, perhaps wrap his hands around the Vorta's neck and twist, pointless in the end, the Founders would simply clone another one, Kira Nerys was entering the room.
"Captain, Bu is here to see you."
Sisko straightened out, tugging on the hem of his duty uniform.
"Send her in."
Bu came trailing in, still dressed in green, still pleasantly human-
She'd added a little Bajoran ridge to her nose this time. A small change, but an act that soothed something deep in Sisko and the fellow humans who saw her. She must have picked up how her human appearance unsettled the humans around her, and decided to rectify what she could.
"I've brought these back. I've read enough."
Coming close to his desk, Bu held out the data Padd he had given her. Taking the Padd, Sisko regarded her quietly.
"You are leaving?"
Bu shook her head.
"That's why I came here. I want to ask you something."
At his silence, Bu pressed on.
"Can I stay?"
"Stay? Here? Surely, Founder-"
"My name is Bu."
The tone was insistent, forthright and resolved. Yet, when she peered to Weyoun, she softened.
"My name is Bu, as yours is Weyoun. We're people with our own names, and If we are ever going to be friends, that is how it has to be. Not Founder and Vorta, or Human and Changeling, but Bu, and Weyoun, and Sisko and Odo. I'm not here to represent my entire race, it is unfair of any of you to try and make it so. I'm here as Bu, a Changeling who has gotten a little… Lost, who is asking, from one person with a name to another, if I can stay."
She, unlike Odo who had spent many an hour trying to convince the Vorta into calling him by name and failed, seemingly got through. Slowly, he dipped his chin.
Bu turned her attention back to Sisko.
"Kira Nerys said Odo can't return to the Great Link?"
"No, I cannot."
"You'll be alone here if I go? There's no other Changeling's aboard the station?"
Hesitantly, Odo concurred. Bu met Sisko's eye.
"Then I won't go. I grew up thinking I was alone in the universe. Something… Wrong. Something lost and alone and destined to die that way. It's a dreadful thing to feel, Captain Sisko. But then I saw Odo… And it was one of the best moments of my life, to realize I was wrong, I wasn't alone or lost or destined for seclusion. The Great Link can wait. I won't let anyone else, anyone else like me, feel that way. Not if I can help it."
Weyoun's head tilted.
"Don't you wish to see the rest of your people? I know they will want to meet you."
Weyoun wasn't trying to change her mind by reminding her what she was momentarily giving up, but he honestly seemed curious.
"Yes, I wish to meet them very much. More than I can say, but not at the cost of others. No one has said it, not out loud at least, but I'm guessing there's a danger in me going back to the Great Link? So, I'll wait. I'm good at waiting. And I won't stay here forever, only until this… War is over or has never begun. So, Captain…"
She smiled wildly.
"Can I stay with Odo?"
Sisko answered her bright smile with one of his own.
"It would be my pleasure."
Bu jiggled, and Odo strode closer.
"You do not have to do this, Bu."
"No, but I think I want to."
However, Bu clapped.
"I have just one more big favour to ask."
Sisko nodded, waiting. Bu turned to Weyoun.
"You said you know where The Great Link is? That you could take me there when I wanted to go?"
At Weyoun's nod, Bu, again, turned to Sisko, and shattered everything with a smile on her face.
"If Weyoun agrees, I want him to stay here too."
Sisko blinked at her, incredulous, sure he had heard wrong.
Bu wasn't perturbed by his sudden tongue-tied state.
"Weyoun knows where the Great Link is. After all this is sorted, he can take me there. Weyoun can get me home. He knows my people, knows them better than I do, he can tell me things and… I want Weyoun to stay, if he wants to, of course."
Weyoun smiled the largest Sisko had ever seen the man smile.
"I would be honoured, Bu, to be your guide."
Bu laughed, bright and clear like glass windchimes, and Sisko stuttered.
"Wait one moment-"
But Weyoun, the Weyoun who could walk circles around the Tal-Shiar and seem at home on the floor of a Cardassian governmental debate, was back at full work.
"It is a satisfactory compromise, Captain. Bu cannot be left unguarded, even under the watch of Odo, and the Founders will wish for her return. If I am here, If I am present with her, that in and off itself is a promise of her arrival home eventually, and an assurance of her safety. At the same time, you get to keep your secrets. Bu has, indeed, come up with the a tactful response to these circumstances, and I would remind you, she is trying to meet you halfway. It is only right if you give her the same courtesy."
Sisko's teeth ground together.
"And the Founders will agree to this? At having one of their top men playing babysitter? Aren't you meant to be on Cardassia, twisting Dukat's ear?"
Those in the room were not quite sure what indignant looked like on a Changeling, but the sudden… Drooping shift in Bu's features were, perhaps, a liquid version of it. Before Bu could blow, Weyoun spoke.
"Not a babysitter, as you call it. A guide. I can teach Bu of her people, teach her in a way you, nor Odo, can. I know the Founder's history as if it were my own. The Founders will see and appreciate this, and feel more inclined to agree if I am here to offer security. As for my… Work on Cardassia, another Vorta will fill my place readily."
Sisko, finally, conceded.
"I will need to converse with my superiors in Starfleet Command and the Bajoran government. They need to agree to this too."
"Then perhaps you should call. And, Captain, if I were you, I would insist. Think of the alternatives."
There were only two. Bu left, and she would take sensitive information with her, the location of this Veil only one piece, or, in trying to keep her there, the Founder's would attack. Weyoun had warned them of it himself. Bu was precious… Perhaps precious enough to finally strike out to regain her.
What a mess.
"Captain Sisko? Has a decision been reached yet?"
Sisko was in his office on the Command deck of Deep Space 9, and generally, Odo would not disturb him, especially without comm'ing through about his oncoming arrival, unless it was in an emergency. Yet, it had been a whole cycle since that meeting in Sisko's office, and still, neither Odo or Bu had heard word of the decision made.
Sisko, behind his desk once more, glanced up from his communications screen.
"I was actually on my way to come and see you and Bu in the Med-bay. I've just received a response from Starfleet Command. Both the Bajoran government and Starfleet have consented to the agreement."
Odo felt himself relax, though he had not thought he had been tense before. Jittery, in a sense. Sisko must have spotted the change in his posture, as the man smiled softly to his security officer.
"Bu can stay."
Smiling, to show Sisko he was grateful, Odo watched as Sisko's sagged back into his chair, pinching at the bridge of his nose.
"Along with two Vorta."
Odo's head slanted curiously.
"Two? Bu only asked for Weyoun."
Rolling his chair out from beneath the desk, Sisko took a sluggish march to the front, as if he was walking miles instead of footsteps, kicking back to lean against the table by his hip, arms crossing over his broad chest.
"According to Weyoun, who's playing mouthpiece for the Dominion in these talks, it's ordered by the Founders. Two Vorta, or Bu must go back… Or else. Should anything happen to Weyoun five, they need guaranteed confidence another Vorta would be present to help Bu so she isn't stranded alone for any given amount of time it would take them to send another Vorta."
Sardonically, tired, Sisko chuckled.
"It's almost like they don't trust us."
Odo nodded. Two Vorta, certainly, instead of one, was double the trouble, but he could understand the Founder's perspective. However, something was still puzzling him.
"I understand Bajor accepting, as they wish to remain a neutral party between the Federation and Dominion territories, and given the Prophets involvement with Bu's appearance here, they would want her to stay at this station that, ultimately, is still theirs. However, I must admit, Captain, I am surprised Starfleet has accepted this arrangement. Are they not worried Bu and the Vorta will spy?"
Sisko, plucking up the baseball resting on his desk, white worn yellow in patches and red thread becoming stretched with age, rolled the toy between his palms, bouncing between to places.
"It's not completely altruistic on Starfleet's part, Odo. You heard Weyoun yourself. For whatever reason, Bu is… Special. The Founders, Weyoun said, think of her as precious. With Bu present on this station, Starfleet feels a total invasion or assault on Deep Space 9 lead by the Dominion is less probable. The Founders, Starfleet believe, will not be willing to risk her life that way."
Odo glowered, dark and deep, directed right at Sisko so the Captain would know, without question, Odo was not pleased by this revelation.
"Starfleet are using her as a shield."
Sisko sighed, setting the baseball back down as he edged closer to his security officer.
"And because we do not know exactly what makes Bu special, only that she is birthed from this Great Link rather than a singular Changeling, Starfleet believes that by having her here, for however long, might diminish the Founders in some form, or at best impede them."
Odo understood the logic perfectly fine, and he might have agreed with it under different circumstances, as he felt his anger bubbling in the bottom of his being perfectly fine. Odo had heard Weyoun too, Bu was made from the Great Link. In part, she was made from him. All of his race, every last drop, in one small little Changeling.
"Lastly, with Bu here, and two Vorta, we have them under eye. Somewhere we can watch. Somewhere we can reach. Somewhere off the chessboard. Starfleet believes this could be… beneficial."
Odo considered Sisko, considered the dark circles lurking underneath his eyes, the crease of worry drawn at the corner of his lip. Solids were so easy to read, open for all the world to see, and yet, here, Odo could not see Sisko's motive, and this made him infinitely apprehensive.
"You say Starfleet, Captain, but what do you believe?"
"I'll be honest with you, Odo. I was weary in the beginning when Bu suggested it. This could all be a Dominion trap. A way to get spies on board to gather intel otherwise inaccessible to them. And then…"
Sisko met his eye, dark gaze gentle and diffused.
"Bu's very human. Young too. She can't be older than my Jake and… I do not believe there's any ill intent on her part. Additionally, she seems… Honest. Innocent in a way I haven't seen for a very long time. Who knows, down the line, if this works out, Bu could be our bridge to better understanding your people, and them understanding us, and perhaps we can finally start to make peace with one another. Either way, Bu will be safe here, Odo. You have my word."
"Yet, with the Vorta… I need you to watch them carefully. We know Weyoun. He must be up to something, yet this one that should be arriving in two cycles is an unknown. Keevan, Weyoun called him… I do not like that, Odo. I do not like not knowing who is going to be prowling around my station. I want security watching them like a hawk. Neither leave your surveillance, not for a second. Are we clear, Officer?"
Odo stood to attention.
"I am already on it, Captain. I should leave. Bu is waiting for me and the answer in the Med-bay."
With a swift nod in silent goodbye, Odo turned to leave, only to have a voice still his steps.
Odo glanced over his shoulder.
Sisko smiled, light and toothy, as a friend would smile to another, not a commanding officer to a subordinate.
"Good luck, I have a feeling you're going to need it on your paternal journey. Children are wonderful things, but remember Odo, I'm forty… And completely bald for a reason."
"Welcome Bu to Deep Space 9 for me."
Boo or Woo?
Next Chapter: Finally some Weyoun and Bu's P.O.V, and guess who's coming to Deep Space 9?...
A.N: So it's been a little while since last update, but to make up for the wait, instead of splitting this chapter up into little bits, I kept it as one whopping whole, nearly 10,000 and posted it. I hope this makes up, at least a little, for the weight. As for those asking, I am currently working on updating my other Star Trek Harry Potter Fanfictions, and so Signs of Snow, Dynasty, Underneath The Red Sun, and A Long Way Home are coming pretty soon, which I hope you are all looking forward to!
As always, thank you all so much for the favourites, follows, and those lovely, lovely reviews! I hope this chapter made you smile, and you liked even just a part of it. If you can, and you have a spare moment, don't forget to drop a review, and I will hopefully see you all very soon! Keep safe!