By Laura Schiller
Based on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Sky blue suits him, I can't help but notice as he walks into the room. He's as reserved and dignified as ever; I wonder if anyone besides me can tell how nervous he is. It's his posture and the way his eyes are darting around the room, like he's uncomfortable in his simulated skin. How funny. Who'd have thought of Mr. "You humanoids!" getting married, let alone suffering from wedding jitters? And to Lwaxana Troi of all people – I remember when just the sight of her would send him around the nearest corner! Not to be unkind to a pregnant single mother, but the way she used to flirt with him was insufferable. I guess she must have caught him somehow … unless it's his way of protecting her from that pompous Tavnian ex of hers. There he is now, dressed like an undertaker, yammering on about Odo's speech being unconvincing. That's right, Constable, give him your iciest glare and keep on going.
Why didn't he tell me he's getting married, no matter what his reasons are? Why did I have to hear it from Benjamin? Is this part of Odo's resolution to "keep to the essentials", like he's been doing for the past two months? Is our friendship nonessential to him? All those times I curled up with a raktajino in his office, helping him with the criminal activity reports, bending his ear about my love life or even confiding in him about the Occupation … all those things I've never told anyone else. Why couldn't he confide in me the same way?
Does he have any idea how much I miss him?
Oh, but by the Prophets, that has to be the most beautiful wedding vow I've ever heard. His voice … when have I ever heard him sound like that? And it's all true – it must be true. For a shapeshifter, Odo's always been a terrible actor.
Besides, I know exactly what he's talking about. I remember how two years ago, Odo and Troi were stuck in a turbolift together past his regeneration time. The repair team found him pooled in her lap. And last Gratitude Festival, when she found out his people were the Founders, she came to the station especially to comfort him. (Never mind the mess that caused.) Yes, Lwaxana Troi did accept Odo's differences without question, even when he was treating her like she had the Rigellian plague …
But the thing is, so did I.
I never saw him as a lab specimen, or a curiosity, or a Founder, or anything but Odo. I was the first to get to know him, not only as the best damn security officer in the quadrant, but as a wise, witty, caring individual … the best friend I've ever had.
I thought I was the one who stopped him feeling alone.
But of course it's Lwaxana. Of course he must see it that way, since he wants to marry her. And from the look in her eyes and the sound of her shaky voice, it's obvious how much she loves him.
"I declare that this woman is mine"? I know it's part of the Tavnian ceremony, but seriously?
"I now present to you … my beloved wife." Well, that's better.
They're holding hands and stepping off the podium. It's over. No kiss, unlike a Bajoran ceremony. Hugs all around – "Congratulations," I tell him, taking his hands, just as if we were still best friends and had been up all night gossiping. I'm so happy for him, really I am – it's wonderful that he's found someone to bring him joy and open up his world. It's just … I wish I knew why I suddenly feel like tossing back a bottle of Maraltian seev-ale and/or biting someone's head off. If Quark even comes near me at the reception, that's exactly what I'll do.
It's so lonely to watch a wedding without your partner. That must be it. I miss Edon … I'd better book a flight to Bajor as soon as possible.
My bridegroom is coolly elegant today, in a Tavnian velvet robe as blue as his eyes. It's not "real", of course, any more than the warm, steady hand he's using to help me up the bridal podium is "real". I lent him my own robe yesterday so he could practice duplicating it, from the texture to the shimmer of the cloth. When I asked him how come he can do velvet perfectly, but not a humanoid face, he just harrumphed. I suppose it's a good thing we're not staying married for good, or that habit would drive me crazy.
This will be my third wedding now. How old was I when I stood by the hearth of my family estate, when Mother linked my hand with Ian Troi's and forged our telepathic bond? All of us naked as the day we were born, in accordance with Betazoid tradition. So young, maybe too young. Thinking it would last forever.
Ian, imzadi, if you could see me now …walking into a marriage of convenience just to get out of one with an arrogant tyrant … in love with a man who sees me as a friend at best and a nuisance at worst … would you be disappointed? Or would you understand?
When Jeyal insisted on a Tavnian wedding, knowing how important my culture is to me, I should have seen it as a warning sign. It was Minister Campio all over again – me, compromising myself rather than being alone. He made such a lovely speech about my free, adventurous spirit – hah! Says the man who imprisoned me in our home just for wanting me to raise my own son. Since Tavnians are immune to Betazoid telepathy, I had to take every word at face value. Talk about a letdown. Jeyal, Campio, Daimon Togg, Jean-Luc Picard … Great Fire, why do I have such terrible taste in men?
For pity's sake, Jeyal, don't interrupt! I knew you were a wilful man, but this is ridiculous. If I'm satisfied with being called "as kind as I am beautiful", why shouldn't everyone else? Poor Odo simply hasn't got a gift for public speaking, even if he were doing this out of more than kindness –
"Lwaxana is not just any woman!"
Oh. Oh, my.
I take it back. Odo's a brilliant actor. The way he just growled at Jeyal was every inch the gallant lover defending his bride. When I think of the utter dismay on his face when he found me crying in his office last week, I could laugh if it weren't so heartbreaking.
Listen to you, you dear sweet man. You really do care for me as a friend, don't you? A shoulder to cry on … a lap to melt in … someone to play shapeshifting hide-and-seek with in your marvellous room. We've had fun together, haven't we?
I remember those hours in the turbolift with you. That is what you are talking about in your gentlemanly way, isn't it, when you say I helped you not to be ashamed of being different? You were so afraid to lose your shape, so … vulnerable. Like a child. I was fascinated with you from the moment you deduced who stole my necklace, but that was the moment I truly fell in love with you. You play the part of the cold Security Chief, guarding the station like a Tarkalian hawk, just as I've had to play the part of the regal, confident Daughter of the Fifth House. You and I, Odo, we hold our shapes even when we feel like melting into puddles. Except that we've both seen each other in a vulnerable state, and it's only brought us closer.
As friends, naturally.
He's facing away from me, with just the occasional backward glance, speaking to the guests. He's looking right at Major Kira – who is "involved" with First Minister Shakaar, as Odo told me with severe formality when I asked him if he still loves her. He never denied it.
"Marry me, Lwaxana … lead me into your light."
I'd give anything to read your thoughts right now. You sound so sincere. As I step down and take your hand, the suspenseful hush of the room bursts into joy. Only two people feel as bittersweet about this as I do: Jeyal, a blind spot in my mind, but with an obvious frown on his face … and Major Kira, whose sadness I can feel even through the blockade caused by my pregnancy. She's jealous of me, poor girl, and doesn't even know it. If I were younger, I wouldn't hesitate to inform her – but no matter what Deanna thinks, I have learned some discretion over the years.
Even the baby is catching on to my mixed feelings – calm down, little one, it's all right. It's not your fault your mother is a silly old woman with a knack for chasing the wrong men.
As Odo is surrounded by his crew's congratulations, Jeyal leads me aside to the viewport.
"I cherished you, Lwaxana," he tells me in an undertone. "You were … my most treasured posession."
He says this reproachfully, as if he can't believe this possession of his has suddenly acquired a mind of her own … but also tenderly, reminding me of our whirlwind courtship on Risa and those steamy nights in his hotel room. I've always liked dominant men in the bedroom – a pity they can't restrict their dominance to that location.
"Take care of our son," he says, finally admitting defeat. "And when he asks … speak well of me."
Oh, Jeyal. How can I hold a grudge after that? As we say goodbye, I'm so relieved to part with him on good terms – and to see one last glimpse of the understanding man I married – that I'm positively giddy for a moment.
"Are you all right?" Odo asks me softly, once we're alone in the room.
"We did it!" I exclaim. "He's really leaving! Odo, you were wonderful," I tell him, my hands on his shoulders. "Y'know, for a moment there, I really believed you wanted to marry me."
Keep it light. Keep it casual. Don't show him how much you longed for it to be real.
Odo's waxy features are as unreadable as his mind. Only his eyes show a glimmer of warmth, possibly pity. He looks down at me the way he did when I got so exhausted in his room, and he shifted into a blanket and pillow for me to sleep on.
I do love that dear, lonely, impossible, wonderful man. How I'm going to miss him!