Seventh Season

Kira had been in Ops when she got the call. Worf had been short and to the point, like always. Odo was in cargo hold three and there seemed to be an issue over a certain container. He believed it required her attention. Kira fought down the urge to ask exactly what was in the contain and what exactly was the issue. If Worf had wanted to tell her over an open com channel than he would have.

The turbo lift ride to the cargo hold seemed abnormally long. Kira felt uneasy and she leaned from side to side. She had the exact same feeling when she had been in the resistance and awaiting the beginning of a mission. She wouldn't what was going on until she got there.

That had been in an hour ago and Kira had remained where she had stopped walking when she'd finally entered the cargo hold, just to the left of Odo's sitting form. The questionable clear container sat in his lap as he moved his hands over it's sides. The roaming gelatinous material inside of it seeming to respond to his every movement. Kira watched Odo's eyes dance as they had for the last hour.

"You know the last time I found one I sat with it for days," Odo started out of the blue.

"That's certainly understandable," Kira reasoned.

"And you would think, with all that time I would have done a better job, but we both know how that ended," Odo said as he laid the baby changeling down on the ground. Kira sighed. She had felt this coming. Odo, at the core of him, longed to find a balance between what he considered justice and a connection with his people. And his failure with the last baby changeling had left a deep scar on him.

"Where did the little fella come from anyway?" Kira asked as she pointed to the box and sat down next to Odo.

"It was confiscated off the ship of member of the Orion Syndicate. Apparently, the Syndicate is now trading with the Dominion, just our luck," he stated darkly. "And it's not a fella. Technically, he doesn't have a sex yet. Unlike you, we get to choose."

"Right. I have to admit, that doesn't sound any less complicated," Kira mused as she leaned against him.

"Believe me it's not. It took me a month to decide. I finally settled on the male form, because I thought my Cardassian captors would respect that form more than they would have a female."

"Well, luckily this little... tyke won't have to be hindered by such a situation."

"Kira..." he exhaled.

"You're not a solid anymore, like you were last time. There's no reason why you won't be able to guide this baby into being a well adjusted adult," Kira said as she identified the elephant in the room.

"I've been telling myself that for the past few hours and yet here I am, still sitting on this cold floor." Odo turned and looked at Kira, his eyes hurt and pleading. "What if me being a solid wasn't the problem last time? What if it was just... me?"

Kira stared into his eyes. "Well it seems to me you have a few choices: you can give it back to the Dominion, where it will learn to distress anyone that's not like him. You could hand it over to Starfleet medical or the hundreds of other labs that would literally kill to study a changeling. Or," Kira paused, "you could raise it yourself." Beside her, Odo shook shook his head quietly. "I may not be a parent myself, but I learned a lot about being one when I lived with the O'Briens. No parent is perfect. I think the key is to be there as best you can."

Odo grunted. He picked up the box and held it up. "I read a line in a detective novel that seems appropriate: you're stuck with me now." Kira smiled as she listened to him chuckle.

"And that's what matters."