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) 2001 by C. Zdroj. This story is Rated NC-17.

The Creative Spark
by C. Zdroj


Chronology Notes: This story is based on the events of the ST:DS9 episode "Far Beyond the Stars." While not exactly an Odo/Kira story in the usual sense, it is based on the characters played by Rene Auberjonois and Nana Visitor in that very intriguing AU episode.

~~~

After the ambulance took Benny away, they were all left in a state of numbed shock. Kay's ears were still ringing with the sound of the siren and her mind with the bitter echoes of Benny's voice as she watched the flashing red lights fade into the distance. It was too much to wrap her mind around all at once. She felt herself besmirched with guilt and shame, even though she knew, intellectually, that she wasn't personally at fault for what had just happened. Somehow, though, she was implicated in Benny's breakdown. They all were. She walked back up the steps and into the office without really seeing anything.

A hand suddenly descended on her shoulder. She looked up into the apparently concerned eyes of her husband. "Kay?" Julius queried in that velvet British accent of his. "You all right?"

She shrugged his hand off. "I'll be fine."  Julius stiffened visibly at the rebuff, but Kay made no attempt
to soften the blow.

"Well then -- I'll see you later tonight. I need to meet with that agent from London."

"Sure," she said. The snide little voice in the back of her mind added, You do that.

He slipped past her to leave. The others in the staff room, if they had heard the exchange, did not remark on it. Uncomfortable silence had flooded the tiny work-area, and it was not difficult to hear the muffled sounds of raised voices coming from Douglas's office. Kay shot Albert a look. "What's going on?"

Albert shook his head dismissively. "Herb's at it again with Doug. You know how the two of them are. Bicker like an old married couple." His fair, open features colored as if he'd just inadvertently said something embarrassing. Kay allowed herself a small frown. Everyone in the office knew that her marriage to Julius was in trouble. Albert hurriedly assembled the last of his paperwork and stuffed it under one arm. On his way out past her, he patted her arm consolingly. "Don't worry -- I'm sure that Benny will be all right."

She nodded and managed a thin smile.

Douglas's secretary, Darlene, was on her way out as well. "Never a dull moment in this place, is there?" she said as she gathered her things. Kay noted that Darlene's hands were shaking. She was obviously in a hurry to leave, but valiantly trying to cover over her anxiety with humor.

"Guess not," said Kay, "Though I think a little boredom might be welcome here tomorrow."

"We can hope," said Darlene. Kay watched her slip out the door. In the silence that followed, the shouting in Douglas's office grew even louder.

"What do you mean there's no way? We owe it to him to do something. Surely even you can see that?"

With a tiny sigh, Kay decided it was time to break them up--again. Herb's heart was in the right place, she knew, but taking the bulldog approach with Douglas right now wasn't likely to yield any results. The bickering voices stopped abruptly as soon as she opened the door. Douglas, tall and stricken-looking, and Herb, flushed and embarrassed, both met her eyes guiltily before looking away -- like a couple of kids caught squabbling. "Am I interrupting something?" she queried.

"I was merely suggesting to our fearless leader here that we might find some way to publish Benny's story, but he --"

"I told you it wasn't practical," snapped Douglas, "You want the job of going to Stone and explaining this mess, then be my --"

Kay had moved forward across the room, and placed a hand on Douglas's arm, silencing him. "I think we should leave this discussion for later. Everybody's pretty upset right now. Besides -- we're the only ones left in the office."

Herb looked over at Kay, his gaze coming to rest on her hand where it was still poised on Doug's arm. He grinned wryly. "See if you can't talk some sense into him," he advised in his grumbling way, his eyes still looking daggers at the senior editor. He turned toward the door, muttering, "no one else can ..." on the way out.

For a long moment Douglas and Kay said nothing, waiting as they listened to Herb's footfalls recede and grow faint as he left the office.

Kay watched Doug's impassive profile for a few seconds. Despite what seemed a perpetually sour expression these days, and a prickly demeanor to almost everyone who met him, she knew well that there was a good deal more to Douglas Pabst than initially met the eye. There was a human being encased in that cynical demeanor, even though it wasn't always obvious.

She'd been watching his face when Doug announced to the entire staff that the latest issue of Incredible Tales had been pulped. They all knew that it had been on account of Benny's story -- specifically because Benny had chosen to make his central character a Negro. But Douglas had avoided mentioning this fact directly. He'd talked around it. Was it out of some old-fashioned sense of civility or propriety that he'd avoided the issue -- or something more personal -- a genuine desire not to wound Benny any more than was necessary? Or to soften the blow of having to fire him? Was it, perhaps, a touch of genuine guilt or a feeling of being responsible? Douglas Pabst, the hard-nosed workaday editor, would deny any suggestion of sentiment underlying his professional actions. He'd cultivated his no-nonsense demeanor over many years. But Kay knew there was more to what he'd done, and more to whatever he might be feeling now. But first she had to brace for his initial, and entirely predictable, response to her presence.

"There was no need to rescue me," he grated, "especially from Herb."

"How about from yourself?"

"Oh, please."

"Doug, I saw the way you looked when--"

"Do you think it was my fault?" he demanded, cutting her off.

"It," she knew, meant the whole situation involving Benny. Kay looked up at her editor. Behind the polished lenses of his glasses, the blue eyes were intent, deadly serious.

"Is that what Herb said?" she asked.

"No, but he might as well have."

"Doug --"

"I tried, Kay. You have no idea how --" He moved away from her and began to pace the room. After a few moments, he removed his glasses to rub tiredly between his brows, just above the bridge of his nose. "You ... none of you have any idea how difficult it was to explain -- to justify -- all of this to Stone. I'm the one who takes the heat for every editorial decision that happens here."

"Nobody blames you for what happened, Doug," she said quietly. It was a lame half-truth and she knew it, wincing as she heard herself say the words, and Douglas's sour expression told her he wasn't fooled by her sympathy.

"Trying to cheer me up won't work," he told her. "Besides, shouldn't you be headed home with Julius?" There was a faint hint of concern in his voice. 

"My husband has a business arrangement to attend to," said Kay sarcastically. "He's not coming home, not tonight, anyway."

"I see," said Douglas slowly. "Are things all right between the two of you?"

Now it was her turn to get angry. "Ask him," she replied tersely.

"I'll take that as a no."

"Don't start playing marriage counselor with me, Doug."

"I was just concerned. But then, I suppose you don't need that from me anymore, do you?"

The dig hurt, just as it was meant to, but Kay wasn't one to give up without a fight. "I don't object to your concern -- I object to you changing the subject." She sighed and covered her face with a hand. "Look -- can we start this conversation over?"

"Fine," said Douglas sarcastically, "You go first."

"Let's go get a coffee someplace--and talk. I mean really talk."

He met her gaze for a moment, evidently surprised, and then stared at the floor. "I have work that I should do," he offered, rather unconvincingly.

"It can wait," she said. "Besides, you're not in any shape to concentrate on it." Another moment ticked by without a response from Douglas. "Oh, come on, Doug," Kay pleaded, "Can't we call a truce? For now?" She saw him, almost imperceptibly, begin to give way. His shoulders became less rigid as she watched him.

"I'll buy," she offered, a teasing note creeping into her voice.

When he looked up at her again, his features had noticeably softened. A faint smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. "I'd be careful about giving your money away right now -- who knows where your next paycheck will come from?"

"I'll take the chance," she replied, smiling herself. "Let's go."

~~~~

The coffee shop wasn't crowded, and they were able to secure a table near a window, where they watched the crowds hurrying past. They were silent for some time, but after their coffee arrived, Kay stared into her cup only a moment or two before lowering her voice to ask, "So -- exactly what did Mr. Stone object to? He must have said."

Douglas sighed. "As if you didn't already know. As if everyone in the office didn't know. I should have realized how transparent that fact would be when I tried to explain. Benny was right. The issue was pulped because his story crossed the color-line."

"I'm sorry, Doug."

He looked away from her, no longer the tough and savvy editor, but a much more vulnerable and self-doubting man. He seemed smaller to her, thinner and tired. "So am I," he said after a moment. "Stone said couldn't believe that I'd let such a thing get by me. He threatened to replace me. Maybe I should've just quit, though that would hardly have saved Benny's job. God, what an ugly business." He put his head briefly into his hands, and Kay could see plainly that he was distressed. Watching him made her ache -- this was a side of Douglas that few people saw, but which she herself knew well. She reached across the table and covered his hand with her own. He looked up, startled, at the gesture.

His expression slowly changed as he took her hand, becoming one of those sharp, discerning gazes that he seemed able to turn on and off at will -- the type of look that she hadn't seen from him in quite some while. "What?" she asked, feeling like a schoolgirl who'd been caught with a cigarette. "What did I do now?"

"Things aren't all right, are they? With you and Julius, I mean. You're not happy. It's showing in your work."

"I could say the same thing about you," she countered. "How long has it been since you wrote anything? Not since your divorce was finalized, I'll bet."

"Fair enough," he sighed, "but I asked you first." There was a pause. Douglas, as both editor and friend, had never been one to pull his punches, and he didn't do so now. "Kay -- what's going on with the two of you?"

She sighed. "Not much, since you ask," she said, with open hostility in her tone. "We don't actually even write together these days. The joint byline has become a kind of formality. We're just editing each other now -- sometimes not even that."

"You never needed a writing partner, you know," he told her. "Your work was always good." He meant it. And he should know. He'd been reading her work longer than anyone else. One thing she'd always admired about Douglas was the fact that he respected ability no matter who it came from: male or female, black or white.

Warmed though she was, she avoided his gaze. "I think Julius is seeing someone else."

Douglas stared at her in disbelief.

"I can't prove it." She shrugged, trying to sound casual, "but I'm reasonably sure. It wouldn't be the first time."

"What are you going to do?" he demanded.

She looked up guiltily, stunned by his directness. "I ... don't know." She made her tone deliberately hard. "Live with it, have an affair -- who knows?" Flippantly as she spoke, it was obvious she was hurt. "Someone should have warned me years ago about men who consider the idea of monogamy quaint and old-fashioned. Oh wait, I seem to recall that you warned me about that."

"I was jealous," Douglas admitted. "I never really thought he'd ..." his voice trailed off. "Why didn't you tell me things were going so badly?"

"What -- and spoil my professional image?" Kay snorted. "Besides, I thought everyone had figured it out."

"You know what I mean ... We used to confide in each other."

"Yes. We used to." Kay sighed. "I'm sorry. I meant to cheer you up. I just -- today with what happened to Benny -- on top of everything else ... I guess I needed to talk to somebody myself."

Douglas said nothing for a moment. "Why don't you let me walk you home? It's getting dark."

~~~~

They walked slowly. There were few people about, and the cool evening air was somewhat calming.

"I don't expect you or anyone else to believe this," said Douglas, "but I really did want to see Benny's story published. I took some convincing, I know, and I'm no social do-gooder -- but that issue was as good as anything we've ever done. Damned shame to see everyone's work go to waste."

"Did you tell Mr. Stone that?"

"No, because my good friend Herbert is one hundred percent correct about one thing: I am a coward." He stopped on the sidewalk, as if waiting to hear the words come echoing back to him, but the night was still.

"It wasn't your fault. You tried."

Douglas gave a derisive snort. "I'm the editor. Of course it's my fault."

"No more yours than the rest of us," she said. "We're all to blame."

"What do you mean?" He sounded puzzled.

"I mean -- we never asked him about his life, did we? We didn't want to know about it. We all know that people like Benny get treated ... differently. Can't live in the same neighborhoods or go to the same schools. We wanted him to act just like one of us, so we could pretend that everything was fine and right with the world, even though we all know that it isn't. We should have seen this coming. I mean, we saw him every damned day, but none of us even knew who he was. And we never bothered to find out."

"We can't change the world, Kay. It is the way it is."

"You didn't always think that."

"Ah, you're recalling an idealistic young writing teacher who once told you to give voice to the story that's inside you and clamoring to get out. Unfortunately, that man no longer exists. I am now just what I look like -- a cynical old editor."

There was a brief silence. They started walking again. After a while, Kay asked, "Why do you work for a fiction magazine then?"

"Because it's better than cleaning toilets or stringing electric wire or balancing the books for someone's oil company. That's why."

"And that's all it is to you -- a job?"

Douglas did not answer.

They stopped abruptly when they realized they had reached a doorstep, but the wrong one. Without thinking, they had walked to his apartment building rather than hers. "This is what happens when you get old," Douglas muttered. "You can't even walk and think at the same time. Why don't you come up and I'll call you a cab?"

They ascended the stairs. Four flights up, Douglas took out his key and ushered her inside.

Kay looked around. "I can't believe I've never been here before," she said.

"Ah, yes," said Douglas wryly. "The bachelor flat -- abode of the carefree divorced man. I'm afraid it's a mess. Can I get you a drink?"

"Why not?"

He flicked on a light and she saw that he was right about the apartment. It was cramped and untidy and littered with books and papers. There were dirty dishes in the sink and piles of unwashed laundry tucked into odd places -- all the usual signs of someone unused to taking care of himself. Douglas went to a cabinet, opened a bottle of brandy and poured Kay a drink. She hunted for a place to sit on the cluttered sofa. Douglas moved a stack of books aside to make room for her, then handed her the brandy glass. Pouring a second glass for himself, he stood in a doorway sipping it. He looked at her earnestly.

"I really wish I could do something to just make this whole thing go away."

"Doug, it ..." She set the glass down and went to him, placed her hands on his shoulders, and for a wistful moment, ran the palm of her hand up and down one of the lapels of his jacket. "I wish it could have been different. I wish a lot of things were different."

The moment lingered, longer than it should have, so that when he leaned down and kissed her lips it didn't seem strange. It was an impulsive move -- one that he would never have dared just moments before. Kay put her hands behind his head and leaned into the embrace, pulling him closer.

Doug broke away from her, staring at the floor, suddenly abashed, his face flushed. Her arms were still around him. She felt him tremble slightly. "I can't do this ..." he said softly. "I'm sorry."

Instead of releasing him, she let her hands travel behind his shoulders, kissed his cheek and pressed her forehead against his. "It's my fault," she whispered. "I've been wanting to do this since I saw the look on your face this morning."

Doug set his drink down. In the silence of the apartment, they wrapped each other in a slow embrace. She stifled a quiet sob against the side of his neck, and then felt him gather her close. There was a moment of silent mutual comforting. What happened next seemed to flow out of both of them at the same time, as if they had suddenly fallen into synch with each other's unspoken thoughts. Her slim hands fell to loosening his tie at the same moment that his fingers began slowly and meticulously opening the buttons down the front of her blouse. The clothing fell away from both of them, along with the layers of professional detachment--her heavy woolen blouse and skirt crumpling into heaps on the floor next to his shirt and trousers. She kissed him again, gently removed his glasses and laid them on a nearby table next to the half-drained brandy glass, then ran her fingers through his graying hair, freeing it from the severely combed-back style until it almost looked soft around his weathered and angular features. He was much more attractive this way, she thought. Those eyes ... bedroom eyes, said a small voice in the back of her mind.

"You can't possibly want--" he whispered.  "Yes I do. I have for a long time," she said. Then she kissed him, pressing the length of her half-clothed body against his, so that her soft, small breasts were crushed against his chest. A subtle movement of his hands brushed the thin straps of her slip from her shoulders, and the plain sheath of silk fell away, disclosing her body.

They had managed to stumble into the bedroom in the interval, and Doug's hands moved carefully, reverently, over her bare shoulders as he looked at her. She held a finger over his lips, and there were no words as he pressed her down on the mattress and began to kiss her again.

Her hands traveled down his naked, vulnerable body, which was no longer young, but somehow the more interesting for that fact. Kay moved her hips, rubbing herself against him until she heard Douglas moan in frustration. Her own lack of shyness surprised her, for she guided his hands over her own body, encouraging his hesitant but increasingly eager touch. When her hand sought the erection between his thighs, it seemed an easy and natural gesture.

She kissed him and opened herself at last, easing him gently into her. Doug's hips thrust firmly, and she twisted on the bed as he filled her. Kay's soft little cry of pleasure echoed into the stillness. Then the only sounds within the tiny rooms were whispers and gasps and the rustle of sheets, mingled with the inarticulate little cries of pleasure and astonishment of those who have not made love in a very long time.

~~~

Later, Kay allowed herself to gaze at Douglas's sleeping features. The contours of his face were softer in sleep. Kay stroked his cheek with the back of her hand.

"Doug," she murmured, "Why did you start writing?"

"Hmmm?" he mumbled, coming awake slowly.

"I said, why did you start writing?"

"I don't remember. Escapism, I suppose."

"From reality, you mean?"

"I suppose."

"What made you like my writing?"

"The flawless grammar."

She moved, straddling his narrow hips and leaning down to him. "No, I mean really."

"Because I knew it would lead to this," he sighed.

"Tell me ..." she whispered, a wicked gleam coming into her eyes. She kissed him with maddening sensuousness, letting her tongue slip gently past his lips to make a thorough exploration of his mouth. She immediately felt the rest of his body react to the tease. Despite his fatigue from their first encounter, he revived quickly. She slid slowly down onto him, and was rewarded by a soft groan. She controlled the pace now, moving her hips with maddening slowness. His gasps became more audible after a time. There was something endearing about his sudden helplessness, and she began to kiss his neck as her hips continued in their deliberate rhythm. She watched his need and passion intensify as she moved over his body, until at last he strained against her.

Doug's climax, when it came, sounded like a drawn-out cry of pain. But Kay recognized prolonged sexual pleasure when she saw it, and was glad she could give him this, at least.

He drew her down to him and kissed her, passionately, gratefully. No one who knew Douglas as the editor of Incredible Tales would ever have guessed what a wonderful kisser he was.

"We should have done this long ago," she whispered.

Kay allowed her fingers to interlace with his. She did it meditatively, watching as their two hands joined each other.

"I think that shapeshifter has a thing for Major Kira," she said cryptically.

"What?" Douglas looked puzzled.

"In Benny's story--you know."

Recognition dawned on his face. Douglas appeared to think the statement over. "Odo didn't strike me as the romantic type," he said at last.

"I think he just needs some coaching."

"Hmmm ... well maybe ..." Douglas allowed.

"So why did you start writing?" Kay asked again. "You told me once, years ago."

He smiled. "Ah, back when I was posing as a literary sage. I believe my answer was something along the lines of: writing allows you to change the universe, even if only on paper. Satisfied?"

"Satisfied?" she teased.

His lips twisted into an ironic smile. "Perhaps I should rephrase that."

"No need. I'm very satisfied right now," said Kay, grinning lecherously.

Douglas raised an eyebrow. "With me or with my answer?"

Kay looked down into her lover's eyes. "Both," she said.


~the end?~                 


Author's Notes: Special thanks to my friend Gary, who came up with the notion that Douglas at one time may have been Kay's writing teacher, and was good enough to let me use that idea here. This story was originally published in the fanzine Fragments of Amber (2001) and was posted to ASCEM in June of 2003.