It Must Have Loved You Too

By Laura Schiller

Based on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Copyright: Paramount

"I'm sorry I wasn't there, Odo," said Major Kira.

Odo felt the warmth of her hand on his back as they walked along the corridor. When she let go, the cold rushed in, but only for a moment as she linked arms with him instead. She needed the touch of a friend right now as much as he did. Station gossip be damned.

"You couldn't help it, Major," he reminded her gruffly. "You were waiting for the baby, after all."

She shook her head. "I just can't believe they wouldn't let me see you! I mean, I can," throwing up her free hand and rolling her eyes, "Overprotective as the O'Briens are. They insisted on keeping me 'relaxed', which means cooped up in my quarters like a broody hen. But I should have been there," her irritation fading to a quiet sympathy. "To help you with the … Changeling. However I could."

The Changeling. A stab of pain went through him at the memory of the little creature's death, only one day ago. Dr. Bashir standing there helplessly, Dr. Mora every bit as devastated as Odo himself. The baby's liquid form turning from gold to a sickly bluish green, falling through his cupped hands. Just gone, minutes after he'd been drinking champagne with Quark to celebrate its first attempt to shapeshift.

It had never had a gender, or even a name.

"I have misjudged Dr. Mora," he said – partly to deflect sympathy, as he did not like to accept it even from Kira, and partly because it was true.

"What do you mean?"

"He does see us as more than specimens."

"Of course he does." Kira's defiant tone made it clear that she would have considered the Bajoran scientist beyond all hope if he thought otherwise.

"Watching him interact with the baby … "

"Let me guess," said Kira. "He was like a proud grandfather."

Odo had never encouraged his crewmates' perception that Dr. Mora was his father figure, considering it far too sentimental for a scientist who had, if inadvertently (and under pressure from his Cardassian superiors) caused him a lot of pain in his mission to analyze and study the "unknown sample" in his lab. But the fact was that without Mora's prodding, Odo would still be an unknown sample, and after realizing that Odo was in fact sentient and able to communicate, the older man had been as kind and patient as he could be – had, in fact, come to love Odo like a son. His reaction to the baby Changeling had made it obvious – the little stories he'd told, the nostalgia in his eyes, and Odo's own feelings of walking in Mora's footsteps with the baby had all combined to show him the truth.

"A strict, ambitious, incredibly stubborn grandfather," Odo growled. "He insisted on putting the little one through the same experiments he did me, saying it would never learn without them. He was right, too. The day we first got it to hold the shape of a cylinder - "

Mora's shaky laugh and beaming smile came to mind as they'd both leaned over the baby. Perhaps someday, this Changeling will give you the satisfaction of saying 'thank you'. But it would never have the chance to say anything at all.

"A cylinder?"

"Yes. We were … very proud. And the next day, it actually tried to take my shape. It got the nose right," tapping the most prominent feature of his face, "But not much else. Still … that was the first time it ever took initiative to change. The only time."

He was still touched beyond words that the child had tried to reach out to him this way. All his talk, all his careful demonstrations of simple shapes and his descriptions of the station, must have really reached it after all. He was glad – or he might be, if he felt capable of being glad about anything at the moment – that unlike his own infancy, in the charge of a man who hadn't even known yet he was alive, this Changeling had known kindness before its death.

Kira looked as if she were trying not to smile, the same radiant smile she and the O'Briens wore when talking about their baby, the same smile Dr. Mora had worn, looking down at that tiny golden cylinder in its dish.

"It must have loved you too," she said, understanding so much more than what he had said out loud.

You've formed a connection with it, was Mora's cautious, scientific turn of phrase. In every drop of his liquid being, Odo knew they were both right.

"When it died in my hands, it somehow … integrated itself into my body. Dr. Mora couldn't explain. I returned to my natural form."

Just to prove it, and for the sheer satisfaction of shapeshifting again, he added a wide brown belt to his uniform. Nerys had teased him once about looking good in it, and as she spotted it now, the smile she had been holding back out of respect blossomed into a grin.

"Odo, that's wonderful!" A tear rolled down her cheek and she dashed it away, sniffing, still smiling. "A parting gift from your baby. I'm so glad … and so sorry."

"I know what you mean."

"Don't mind me crying. Stupid hormones."

"Now you're sounding more like yourself, Major."

He couldn't even tell if the sound she made was a sob, a laugh, or both. They walked in silence

"I was not there for you either," he said, remembering that while his own foster-child had been dying, his best friend had been in labor. "I am told giving birth is a trying ordeal for humanoids."

"Not Bajorans, don't worry. The biggest ordeal was for Miles and Edon – those two almost came to blows over who should stand closer to me, can you believe it?"

"Hrrmph!" Odo did believe it. Even the most sensible humanoid male tended to act like an idiot where "his" woman and/or child was concerned. Also, he'd never thought much of Shakaar Edon in the first place (not that he'd ever tell Kira that).

"Keiko and I had to shoo them out, or I would've climbed off my bed and bashed their heads together just to keep them quiet. We did call them back in when the baby came." She smiled again, softly, looking like a dewy rose at the memory. "It's a boy. Kirayoshi O'Brien. 2.7 kilos. Already grumbling just like his dad."

Odo remembered what she had told him before. I never wanted a baby. I agreed to this because the O'Briens needed my help. But now that it's over, all I want to do is hold him in my arms … and never let him go.

"You'll see him often," he pointed out, feeling slightly foolish as they both knew it wouldn't end her wish entirely. If anything, it might even make it worse – knowing that the child she had carried and given birth to would never really be hers. But Nerys nodded to him anyway, grateful for the words and the support they implied.

"There's a ceremony tomorrow," she said. "To … to formalize my giving up all claims to Yoshi and giving custody to his parents, in accordance with Bajoran law." She recited it as if the distant legal terms made it easier to think about. "The Record of Parturition. Will you come with me?"

"Of course." She didn't need to ask, he thought.

They had reached the doors to her quarters. She let go of his arm, which she had been holding all along, and looked up at him with eyes like midnight lakes, dark and shining.

"Odo … may I pray for your baby?"

She knew he was an agnostic; his lack of faith in the wormhole aliens she called Prophets had always been a point of lively debate between them. If she had asked to pray for him a month earlier, he would have snorted at her in an if-you-insist sort of way. Today, however, the idea of the baby Changeling – his baby – having an immortal soul to pray for was more beautiful than he would ever admit. How he wished it were true!

"Please do," he said.