DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of C. Zdroj and are copyright (c) 2003 by C. Zdroj. This story is Rated R.

Closets and Close Secrets
by C. Zdroj

Chronology Note: This story is set during the ST:DS9 episode "You Are Cordially Invited."

~~~~

I do not know if
it will kill us, it
might, but
for now it
just sits here
  --from "The Imaginary Tiger," by Arianna R. Georgi

~~~

"Nerys ... this is ridiculous!"

Kira ignored the outburst as she pulled Odo into the nearest available private space--which happened to be Jadzia's closet. She pulled the door shut, muffling if not entirely shutting out the noise of the party in the next room and temporarily plunging them both into darkness.

"Computer, lights," Kira called softly. She and Odo blinked at each other in surprise as they were suddenly able to see again--well enough, anyway, for Kira to spot a low, bare shelf and seat herself upon it, pulling Odo down beside her.

He regarded her with a mixture of outrage and disbelief. "And just what is this supposed to accomplish?"

"We need to talk," Kira repeated. "This is as good a place as any."

"This is a closet," he fumed.

"That's right, Constable. It's a closet--a bedroom closet--so if you don't want the party-goers to spot you coming out of Jadzia's boudoir all by yourself, you'll stay here for a while."

Odo scowled, but made no move to get up. Kira released his arm and took a swig of the drink she'd carried in with her, finishing off the glass. She wasn't sure exactly what was being served at Jadzia's party, but odds were that it was real alcohol, which was a good thing in her estimation. She realized that cornering Odo in a closet was bound to make her look a little crazy. So, she reasoned--if one could call it reasoning--she might as well be a little drunk, too.

At first he would not even look at her. He sat with his hands in his lap and his shoulders hunched. "So. Here we are. What shall we talk about, Major?"

The use of her title stung. He hadn't called her that for months.

"I just submitted a report to Captain Sisko," she informed him.. "A report on the Dominion's recently ended occupation of this station. A report which makes no mention of any contacts between you and other changelings."

"You needn't put yourself at risk to spare me--" Odo began, but stopped when he saw the cold fury in her gaze.

"You've been avoiding me for days, Constable. Don't you think that eventually someone is going to notice that you leave the room whenever I walk in? Dax already has."

"She would," said Odo sourly.

"I need an explanation, Odo," said Kira. "Not for the report. This is between you and me. Nothing you say will leave this closet--but I need to know exactly what happened between you and that Founder. And I need to know why."

Perhaps it was the hardness of her tone that irked him. He was accustomed to conduct interrogations, after all, rather than being subjected to them. His expression became stubborn and closed once again. "Perhaps it's occurred to you that sometimes I enjoy being with people who actually desire my company?"

It was an unsporting hit, and Kira, furious, hit back in kind. "Oh really. That's what this was about? You needing a little companionship--maybe a little changeling-fuck--and to hell with the people who are dying at the hands of the Dominion? That's what this was about?"

Odo bowed his head, clearly ashamed. "Of course not. It wasn't like that."

But Kira's anger hadn't yet run its course. "Really? Then you may need to explain to me what it was like. Maybe I should have tried to buy your cooperation with sex."

Odo looked at her with stunned eyes, wounded to the core. She knew she had gone too far. Damn that glass of whatever-it-was anyway.

"Is that what you believe that I wanted from you?" he asked, very softly.

"I don't know what you want. Sometimes I wonder if you do," she said grudgingly.

He just looked at her. There was pain in his eyes--also naked adoration that approached hunger. He didn't mean for it to be there, obvious, in his face, but she could see it plainly. He did want her, but it was in a way that had almost nothing to do with sex. A wild stab of insight found her, and she almost lost her voice with the power of it.

"Odo," she whispered. "Make me understand. I need to know. Please."

He looked down, his voice low and distant. "All my life I've had to pass myself off as one of you, always wondering who I really am." He was repeating something he'd said to her long ago, counting on her to remember the way that she'd trusted him then.

"You thought she could tell you that?"

"I suppose I did."

It occurred to her that she had never known an Odo who did not have a deep, secret shame about something--whether about his own body, or about his inability to resist the Founders and their Link.

"Odo," she said, her voice kinder now. "Other people don't decide who you are."

With an effort, she went on. "I know there wasn't time before. I know that you've been trying to spare both of us the embarrassment of talking about it. But this can't go on. We need to set things right between us. Maybe you can go on working this way, but I can't."

"I doubt that words will be enough to set things right, Nerys," he said.

"Maybe not, but they're a start."

"What do you want me to say?" he asked wearily. "What could I possibly tell you that you don't already know--that wouldn't sound like pure self-pity? I had expected to be relieved of duty by now. I can't offer you any excuse for my conduct, because there isn't one."

"Maybe not. But there are reasons for everything. I need those reasons, Odo. The real ones. I need to hear them from you."

She touched him now for the first time since she had dragged him down to sit, laying her hand on his wrist. He looked down at her fingers and then up again at her face in pure astonishment.

"I know what it's like to regret the past," she said. "I know what it is to want to blot out your own memories. I also know that some memories won't stay buried. Believe it or not, I learned that from you--from talking about my past while you listened. I didn't stop having nightmares about Va'atrick until you figured out that I was the one who murdered him. I kept the truth from you that time. I swore I never would again. We need to be honest with each other."

"Truth ..." Odo gave a soft little snort. "I used to think I knew what that was. Truth is complicated, Nerys--and usually not pleasant."

She smiled a little. "That never stopped us before."

She knew that her words had cornered him, and for a moment she almost regretted it.

When Odo spoke, his voice came out soft and low. "Truth ... was what I wanted ... from her. The truth about who and what I am. The Link was ... an opportunity to learn those things, at first."

He raised his eyes to hers. "Before I actually met them, I imagined that my people would be paragons of impartial justice, wiser and better than humanoids. When I found out what they truly were, those delusions were crushed. Then I thought that I could learn to be a shapeshifter without them."

Kira recalled his quarters--the ones he had taken immediately after their return from the Founders' homeworld; the many and varied objects he had collected to fill those rooms, a hopeful, perhaps naive experiment in trying to learn "what it really meant to be a shapeshifter."

"But being a changeling isn't about shapeshifting technique," Odo went on. "I never could quite shake the experience of that first link. It was so ... liberating it was almost like magic--especially for someone like me, who'd lived so long in isolation. That kind of intimacy--it can be intoxicating."

"You were right, Nerys," he said. "She found the perfect way to manipulate me." The self-loathing was evident in his voice. "She had to threaten your life before I was able to recover myself. If she hadn't made that threat, I don't know when--or if--I would have come back."

Kira put her hand on his shoulder, stopping the flow of his words. "The point is that you did. I should never have left you alone with her. I deserted you. I'm sorry about that."

Odo shook his head. "I'm not a child, Nerys."

"Compared to her? I wonder. She's probably centuries old ..."

"Older," Odo whispered, his voice strangely, eerily, reverential. "The Great Link ... is much older than even that ..." His tone made Kira uneasy. Yet she also knew this was exactly where their words needed to take them.

"Tell me about the Link," she said.

"The Link ..." Odo's voice was unsteady. "I meant it when I said it was paradise. When I was in it ... there was nothing else. No pain. No time. No separation. Do you know, the Founders don't even use names among themselves? They don't even distinguish themselves from each other. That was why what I did ... killing the other changeling aboard the Defiant ... was so inconceivable to them."

"Like the Link harming itself," Kira said, half to herself.

"Exactly."

"They didn't seem to have a problem with subjecting you to illness," she argued. "Or with putting you in a humanoid body."

Odo nodded, suddenly looking shrewd, his investigator's mind coming to the fore and piecing together the evidence. "I believe I frighten them," he said slowly, conjecturing. "They have no explanation for me. I don't ... fit into their conception of the universe. When I was in the Link ... with her, that picture of reality--the Founders' reality--was quite literally all I could see. It was as though ... I'd lost myself."

Kira shuddered, instinctively repulsed by the idea of sharing her own awareness with someone else, unable to grasp any possible pleasure or wonder in the idea of surrendering her individual self to a pool of shared consciousness. And yet, a little voice in the back of her mind prompted her: Isn't that exactly what happens during an orb-experience? The Prophets coming to briefly share your consciousness?

"Didn't that scare you?" she asked him.

"Yes. At first. In fact, recalling it scares me a little even now. At the time, though, it seemed quite natural." There was nothing defensive in his tone. He was stating a bald fact. Linking was something that changelings did.

The tiny space of the closet seemed truly too small to her now, for she felt a need to get up and pace. Instead she let her hand that was still on Odo's shoulder slide down now and clasp his hand. He looked at her uncertainly.

"I missed you, you know," she said. "I'd come to depend on you to see me through that time. And then it was like you were just ... gone."

"You felt betrayed, Nerys. You had every right to feel that way." Odo's voice was almost clinical in this assessment.

"Odo ... it wasn't me, was it? You didn't go to her ... because you were angry with me?"

He smiled ruefully. "You're asking if I was trying to make you jealous? No, Major--I don't think I had any hope of that."

Lightly as he spoke, there was something in this self-deprecation that made her wonder what he was leaving unsaid. So much between them had always been unsaid. At one time, it had seemed they didn't need to speak in words in order to communicate. But those days were long past. Kira knew, too, exactly what had created that distance between them: Odo's recognition of his own feelings for her, and his desire to keep them secret. Just before the Dominion's occupation of DS9, he had given up that secret almost unwillingly.

She thought about telling him that she had indeed been jealous--almost from the moment that the female changeling had come strolling into the security office to disrupt their conversation ... along with their relationship.

"Damar asked me if I was jealous," she said faintly, remembering.

"I understand you beat him to a bloody pulp," said Odo, approving.

"That was later," she told him, smiling now, relieved by the momentary change of subject. "And I didn't, really. I just bruised him a little."

"I'm sorry about Ziyal," he said quietly.

"So am I." Both of her hands tightened around his now. "I want to hang on to the friends I have left, Odo."

"So do I."

And yet, she knew he wanted more from her. He couldn't help it. She could feel that unnamed desire humming through his fingertips, could see it staring out of his eyes, and for a moment, she longed to put her arms around him, just as she had that morning after she and Shakaar--

No. Too much risk there. She might end up hurting him more, when what she really wanted to do was to take the pain and the shame out of his eyes. She knew that he would have to recover himself in his own time, on his own terms, as he always had. As both of them always had.

"About ... the captain and your ... report," Odo said at last. "You didn't need to ... keep my secret. You would be well within your authority to issue a me reprimand, at the very least. I would understand. And Starfleet might well have cause to appreciate the warning. They never have trusted me."

"Well I do," she said quietly. "That hasn't changed, Odo. Besides, if you'll recall, Constable, Starfleet wasn't in command of this station during the Dominion occupation. Technically, Bajor was allied to the Dominion at the time, and you became part of the station's ruling council with my full support and encouragement. Your personal business is your own, as far as I'm concerned."

"All the same--thank you."

She smiled again. "You're welcome."

He turned the conversation to the issue of Quark, a usual re-directing move on his part. She made no objection. They both needed to absorb what had happened, and so they now adopted their safe, familiar roles around each other. Kira listened as the gruff voice of The Constable re-emerged in Dax's closet, as they settled into their old postures and modes of conversation. He making sarcastic comments, she agreeing with ironic laughter. They weren't fleeing each other anymore, at least. For a time they were what they had always been: loyal comrades, frank and honest soldiers, fellow survivors who shared the same bleak sense of humor. There were other things, unspoken things, below that familiar surface--things that had nothing to do with the Great Link or the Dominion. Things that would not be spoken of today.

Kira wasn't sure what their friendship would look like when those things finally were spoken of, as she knew they must be.

Better, she thought, to leave them for tomorrow.


~30~


Author's Notes: This story was originally written for Mosca's free-verse challenge. She supplied a snippet of poetry (the quote that appears at the beginning of this piece), and the story was written as a "response" to the quotation. I'd been meaning to write an Odo/Kira "closet" story lo these many years, and that bit of verse seemed to lend itself especially well to my idea of how the closet scenario would have played out. Of course, many of my Odo-phile friends have pointed out to me that given the amount of time Odo and Kira were in that closet, this story could well have gone on for many more pages. Perhaps I will pick this conversation up again at a later date and explore it further--but I think this piece stands on its own nevertheless. Thanks to my friend Connie, for rescuing me from a huge, whopping continuity error, and to all the folks on the Rene Auberjonois Fanfic and Adult Fanfic Lists, for reminding me about the rich possibilities of this "unseen" moment in the DS9 canon. This story has also been published in issue eight of the fanzine Love and Justice (2004).