Epilogue

"And thus Vatrick's killer dies before we can find out his motives," Dukat muses when Odo delivers his report. Blaming Lor Kelet for Vatrick's death might not be the most honest tactic, but it does mean nobody else will die for this particular murder. One day, Odo will find the true culprit, who now, believing himself or herself to be secure, might make mistakes. But not now. "How inconvenient."

"Is it?" Odo asks blankly. "Then maybe you should instruct your guards not to kill at the slightest provocation and aim to disarm first."

Dukat, sitting behind his desk this time, steeples his fingers.

"Do I detect sarcasm, Constable?"

"I am not yet familiar with all modes of audible conversation," Odo returns, and one of Dukat's eyeridges shoots upwards.

"Oh, I think you are. In any case, you will be the one doing the instructing. If I put you in charge of station security, that is. I must say, I hadn't expected you to let a Ferengi negotiate a salary for you, Odo. I do like a man who shows initiative and originality, but if I'm really supposed to pay you that much, I need to know you are committed to the job."

The affable manner Dukat has employed until now vanishes as if swept away by the wind. Instead, he's as harsh and unrelenting as the steel that made this station as he continues: "Are you?"

Is he? He could still leave. But the truth is that there is something in him that responds to the need to install order in chaos. To prevent not just murder, but all kind of anarchy. To punish crime, if it has been committed or planned. It gives him a satisfaction which was lacking not just in his time as a laboratory experiment but that drifting, searching time afterwards, as he was wandering between Bajorans and Cardassians, observing them and being regarded as a neutral oddity. Trying to find Vatrick's killer, even if he hasn't really succeeded, tracking down Lor Kelet, turning the tables of his attempted blackmail on him, all this is giving him purpose in a way nothing else has so far.

"I never do anything that I am not completely committed to," Odo replies, and apparently this is all the answer Dukat needs, because he nods, and then enters Odo's voice into the station data so Odo can fulfill his function. There will be access codes as well if Odo's work bears out his claim, he adds. Lastly, he names the exact salary Quark has demanded for Odo.

"You're aware the Ferengi is just trying to butter you up, I hope. He's practically running the black market here, and having the chief of security turn a blind eye to it…" Dukat shrugs expressively, and smiles, all benevolence once more.

Like you've been doing, Odo thinks. Out loud, he says: "I do not intend to be blind. To anyone's doings."

"This is going to be so entertaining," Dukat says and dismisses him.

After leaving Dukat's office, Odo finds people looking at him, noticing him, the way they didn't before. Not just with a look that says something is wrong about his face, but with a wariness that could indicate respect or loathing; he can't decide. Either way, he is seen. It's something to get used to.

Somehow, he ends up in the bar again. Well, his temporary and now permanent office is practically opposite it. The report of Lor Kelet's death seems to have brought Quark's customers back, and with them a noise level that is nearly deafening, but he can spot the Ferengi without trouble amongst all the people anyway. Quark notices him as well, and looks him up and down. There is neither wariness nor respect nor loathing in his gaze, just amusement and satisfaction.

"Thanks for kicking ass, Constable," he says cheerfully. "Thanks ever so. I'd offer a drink, but you told me you don't, plus it was still your fault anyway. How about a turn on the dabo wheel, though?"

"I have not the slightest intention of ever accepting any kind of favours from you, Quark," Odo says, just to make that clear. "And I don't play, either."

"We'll see about that," Quark says, unaware Odo has used the same phrase towards Lor Kelet. A coincidence, Odo thinks, but still isn't able to reply, and the fact Quark got the last word leaves him with the disquieting sensation that this will not be the last time. His future has started; he has no idea what it will lead to.