Author's note: After a six year hiatus, I'm trying my hand at Star Trek fanfiction again. This is a very rough draft, so all feedback is welcome...sought after, in fact. I'm also on the lookout for a beta reader, if anyone feels up to the task. Anyway, none of this, of course, belongs to me.

"Dixitque Deus: Fiat lux." Et facta est lux."

Not Quite Paradise

Seven months after leaving Deep Space Nine and rejoining his people, Odo was finding that while the Great Link was the closest thing to paradise in the galaxy, it was also--sometimes--just a bit boring. That made sense, of course. If paradise was perfect, then nothing outside of perfection happened. Unfortunately, perfection had the tendency to be…well, boring.

This had only begun to occur to him a few days ago, and when the rest of the Link quickly realized it, they were eager to make suggestions. He'd taken some of them--and admittedly, assuming the form of a Kurillian hawk, a bird that could fly to and dive from heights previously unheard of to Odo, had been exhilarating--but being a half-submerged rock in an algae-filled pond wasn't his idea of an amusing diversion.

At the moment, he was simply standing on the shore of the Link in his humanoid form, contemplating the past seven months. He'd spent much of that time teaching his people about the Alpha Quadrant and the civilizations there. They seemed to grasp much of what he told them, although they still harbored a mistrust of anything Solid. The most gratifying thing had been convincing them not to pursue a military campaign, at least not on the other side of the wormhole. They seemed to still have plans of future conquest in the Gamma Quadrant. And why not? All of the Dominion's administrative levels were still in place and they didn't seem to be faltering. Odo couldn't help worrying that he might be embroiled in another war sooner than he'd ever imagined. The Dominion was weakened now, most certainly, and truth be told, his people weren't having much of a hand in any of the day to day matters of it. It had been rare that a changeling had left the planet to manage anything, so presumably the Vorta were doing so. He doubted that they would do anything outside of stabilizing the government, though, and as such didn't pose a problem--for the time being.

And while his people understood that the Federation and her allies meant them no harm, the concept that he felt was truly important for their understanding of Solids was the concept of love. As simple as it had always seemed to everyone around him, and indeed, himself, it eluded his people. They knew of his feelings for Kira Nerys--they knew everything about him--but they couldn't fathom what those feelings meant. Love between two completely separate entities was simply incomprehensible to them.

Odo sighed very slightly at the thought of Kira, whom he hadn't seen or even heard word of in seven months. Of course, he hadn't had word of anything that went on in the Alpha Quadrant, but having no idea what Nerys was doing was especially painful. Not a day went by that he didn't think of her. Now, he wondered if she was happy--perhaps she even had a new lover. The thought saddened him, but the thought of her being alone and unhappy was even worse. At first, when he'd come to the Great Link, he'd dared to hope that the void her absence left him with would eventually vanish, but it hadn't, and at this point, he doubted it ever would. Another thing his people didn't understand.

"Odo?" a voice asked softly.

He turned around and faced the changeling standing behind him. "Yes?"

The changeling smiled at him. "We know you've been restless, Odo."

After a moment, he nodded. "You could say that. The Link is very different from my life in the Alpha Quadrant. I'm still getting used to it."

"Yes, I know," the changeling replied. "I came to ask you if you'd like to visit the Dominion's headquarters to check on the administration. Things need to be looked after now and then to make sure the Vorta are performing properly."

The changeling's remark about the Vorta left a sour feeling in Odo's throat. Another thing he hadn't been able to convince the Founders of was the worth of Solids, particularly their own underlings. He may not have been overly fond of Vorta, but he did think that they deserved to be treated as more than disposable animals. In spite of the distasteful comment--or perhaps because of it--the changeling's idea appealed to him. It was an opportunity to do something and learn about the Dominion at the same time. It was remarkable how little the Founders actually knew about the inner workings of their empire--they gave orders and expected them to be carried out, but they seemed to have no idea what was involved on the part of those receiving the orders. Well, he was curious. "When would you like me to leave?"

"Whenever you'd like."

Odo nodded slowly. "Then I'd like to go as soon as possible."

The other changeling returned the nod. "A Jem'Hadar ship will be here to transport you there within the hour."

"Thank you," Odo said.

"We want you to be happy here." With those words, the changeling turned and walked away, and within an hour, as promised, Odo was on a Jem'Hadar ship.

"Please make yourself comfortable, Founder," the Vorta supervisor said to him as she led him down a narrow corridor to his quarters. "And if you need anything, please don't hesitate to contact me."

"I won't," Odo replied. Having reached his door, the Vorta inclined her head and turned to leave, but he stopped her with, "It would make me more comfortable if you'd just call me Odo."

"Of course." The Vorta hesitated, then added, "Odo."

"What's your name?" he asked her curiously.

She appeared surprised at the question for a split second before the typical Vorta expressionless-ness reasserted itself. "Luaren," she replied. "I…believe we've met before."

Recognition dawned in Odo and he felt a stab of pain--she was the Vorta that Garak had killed when they'd captured the Jem'Hadar ship for the Cardassian resistance. "I'm sorry, he began, "I--"

"There's no need to apologize, Odo," Luaren said smoothly.

"I'd like to, though."

There was that brief moment of surprise again. "Please, I don't deserve an apology from a...from you."

From a god, she'd been about to say. She may have caught on to the fact that he didn't consider himself one, but he was sure he'd have to remind her the next time he spoke with her. Unsure of how to respond to her comment, Odo simply said, "Yes. Well, thank you, Luaren."

She bowed her head. "We'll be arriving at the station in approximately thirty-two hours. If you wish, you may come up to the bridge."

"I might do that," he replied.

With a final obeisance, she departed, leaving Odo alone to ponder what he would encounter at Dominion Headquarters and what he'd just encountered on this ship. He was surprised at how little the Vortas' behavior had changed since the last time he'd met one. Clearly, the defeat of the Founders hadn't altered their perception of them as gods--or had it? Luaren hadn't been overly worshipful, but then again, it was possible that the Founders had informed her of how he felt about being treated as a deity and commanded her to act accordingly. Her surprise at his asking her name had caught his attention, but that could very well be chalked up to the fact that the Founders had no interest in their devotees except as servants. Did the Vorta resent that? There was no indication that they did, but still… He looked forward to learning the answer to that question as well as about this empire that he was a part of when he reached its headquarters.