web space | free hosting | Web Hosting | Free Website Submission | shopping cart | php hosting

This novelization was written out of appreciation for the episode it was based on, and the series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. No infringement of any of Paramount's copyrights is intended.


His Way

Novelization by Tracy Hemenover
Based on the episode written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler


You're nobody 'til somebody loves you,
You're nobody 'til somebody cares...

The singer was a fairly handsome middle-aged human man with a trim build, neat gray hair, and a confident manner. He seemed to be perpetually smiling as he sang in a mellow, pleasant voice that conveyed a certain cheerful, worldly wisdom. He was spotlessly attired in a black coat with a white shirt showing in a narrow vee at the chest, and at the cuffs. At his neck was a piece of black cloth tied in a bow; peeking from the left breast pocket of his coat was a burgundy silk handkerchief. In his hand was a cylindrical device that sent the sound of his voice through a wire to a set of hidden amplifiers.

The man stood on a raised stage, in front of a group of similarly attired humans, all men, who were playing the accompanying music on various instruments. Behind them was a shining curtain with the name "Vic Fontaine" emblazoned across it.

You may be king, you may possess the world and its gold
But gold won't bring you happiness when you're growing old...

Julian Bashir nodded and mouthed the words. This was definitely one of the better ideas he had had, he thought. Basically a generous soul, he loved to share, and to watch as his friends found enjoyment in something that had given him pleasure.

Well, most of them. Worf stood frowning with obvious boredom beside his wife, who ignored him as she swayed slightly to the rhythm. When he finally noticed this, he appeared a little less bored, and spent the rest of the song watching her.

O'Brien, a sometime musician himself although his tastes ran more toward classical, nevertheless found his fingers tapping along. He flexed them to make them stop, but they began again as soon as he refocused on the music.

Next to Odo, Kira smiled at the rare spectacle of her changeling friend relaxing enough to begin to bob his head in time to the beat, with his usual neutral expression firmly in place throughout.

The world still is the same, you'll never change it
As sure as the stars shine above
You're nobody 'til somebody loves you,
So find yourself somebody,
Find yourself somebody,
So find yourself somebody to love.

The song ended, and the people sitting at the tables scattered through the darkened room applauded in appreciation. So did the six officers. The singer smiled amiably and impartially at everyone present.

"Thank you," he said. "Hey, it's been four hundred years, but that little number still works for me." The audience laughed, agreeing that it worked for them as well.

Julian turned to the others. "Isn't he terrific?"

Worf scowled. "I prefer Klingon opera." This earned him a playful cuff from Jadzia. He looked at her with a gleam that made Julian cough discreetly.

"Come on, I'll introduce you."

"To a hologram?" Kira queried. She had never been one to understand the attraction of holosuites or the need some people felt to treat characters as if they were...well, people.

Odo seemed to be of the same mind. "Doctor, is this really necessary?"

"Trust me, he's no ordinary hologram," Julian said. He led them over to meet the singer, who was stepping off the stage and beginning to head toward the bar, looking for all the worlds as if he could truly use a drink. "Vic! You were terrific."

Vic turned toward them, his smile returning. "Thanks, Doc." He shook hands with all of them.

"Great," O'Brien confirmed. "Wonderful."

"Very nice," Jadzia enthused, while Worf wisely said nothing.

Vic preened a little, straightening his tie. "I know what you're thinking. 'He has pretty sweet pipes for a lightbulb.'"

"Lightbulb?" Jadzia was unfamiliar with the term.

"That's what I am, right? A collection of photons and forcefields. You know, your basic heuristic, fully interactive hologram?" Vic seemed entirely matter-of-fact and rather placid about it.

O'Brien looked at Julian in surprise. "He knows he's a hologram?"

Julian nodded. "Felix designed him that way. He thought it would give him the right attitude for the era."

Vic flicked casually at his sleeves in a slightly self-deprecating manner. "If you're gonna work Vegas in the '60's, you better know the score. Otherwise, you're gonna look like a Clyde."

"Clyde?" Kira asked.

"A Harvey. You know."

They didn't. Kira and Odo looked blankly at each other.

"A square," Vic attempted. "You know what a square is, right?"

"It's one side of a cube," O'Brien ventured.

Vic chuckled slightly. "Well, I guess that answers my question." He looked at Bashir. "Where are your manners, Julian? Aren't you gonna introduce me to your entourage?"

"I am so sorry," Julian said. "Commanders Dax and Worf, this is Vic Fontaine."

Dax shook Vic's hand warmly, Worf with considerably less relish. Vic eyed them as he returned the little ritual.

"How long you kids been married?" he asked.

Dax's eyes widened in astonishment. So did Worf's, but he didn't look as pleased. "How did you know we were married?" he rumbled.

Vic shrugged a little. "When you sing in as many joints as I have, you become a student of the human heart." He looked at O'Brien. "Don't beat yourself up, pally. Just because you miss your wife doesn't mean you've gone blind."

O'Brien gave a guilty start; his mind had begun to wander as a pretty waitress, serving a nearby table, smiled at him. Embarrassed, he demanded, "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means, there are a lot of very attractive ladies in the room, and it's all right to look at them, as long as you don't touch." Vic sounded as if he understood entirely.

O'Brien managed a smile, and a somewhat uncomfortable laugh. "He's good," he said to Julian.

Vic chuckled again, then turned to Kira and Odo. "And as for you two..."

Kira's casual smile fell. Odo straightened to his full height, assuming a politely attentive expression. "Yes?" he asked.

Vic paused, uncertainty showing on his face for the first time, then shook his head. "Never mind. Forget I brought it up."

As Odo and Kira suddenly avoided looking at each other -- which none of the others noticed -- Vic addressed Julian, his suave manner returning as if someone had switched it back on. "You have time for another song?"

"Oh, no," Julian demurred. "We've gotta split, Vic."

The others looked askance at him, but Vic nodded and smiled. "Well, you know where to find me." They all had started to leave when Vic's voice stopped them. "By the way, this is a high-class joint. That means coat and ties for the gents, dresses for the ladies. You guys look like a trapeze act."

The officers looked at him in amazement, then down at their own uniforms -- which did seem to stand out in the era represented by this crowd. Dax and Julian chuckled.

"Catch you later, baby," Julian said with a smile, as they left the holosuite.

(-|-)

You're nobody 'til somebody loves you... Odo couldn't seem to get the words out of his mind as he trooped down the spiral staircase at Quark's, behind the other officers. He watched Kira's head before him as she descended the stairs, and repressed a sigh. Nobody...nothing...odo'ital. It was the same old story. One he had grown heartily sick of.

She knew about his feelings for her. She had for quite a while now. In a way, it was better than when he had loved her in secret, and in another way, it was worse. Obviously, she didn't return the emotion. If she had, wouldn't she have given some indication before now? Any indication? Would she have had that affair with the mirror image of her dead lover, Bareil, however brief that had been?

Not that he could blame her, after everything that had happened during the Dominion occupation of the station. He ought to count himself extremely lucky simply to have regained her friendship. The hours they had spent together in that closet, talking...just talking...were some of the best and worst he could recall in his life, and he wouldn't have traded them for anything. Since then, their relationship had been back on an amicable keel. But neither of them had ever again mentioned...the other thing.

What had that hologram been about to say to them?

Meanwhile, the others were bantering. "Come on, Julian," O'Brien accused. "You told him about Keiko."

"I didn't say a word!" Bashir protested, laughing, as everyone gathered in a group. "So, why don't we all meet here tomorrow night at twenty-one-hundred? We can listen to Vic's whole set, then maybe hit the casinos, play a little blackjack, roulette -- "

Dax lit up. "We'll be there. Right?" She looked at her husband eagerly.

"I still prefer Klingon operas," Worf grumped. Dax shoved at him fondly and smiled at the others.

"Well, count me out," Kira said. "I'm leaving for Bajor in the morning."

"Oh, that's right, I forgot! Say hi to Shakaar for me." Then, as Kira looked downwards in humorous exasperation, "Sorry. I forgot." Dax turned to the others. "Pretend you didn't hear that. She doesn't want anyone to know that she's visiting the First Minister."

Odo remained very, very silent at the mention of Kira's former lover.

Bashir smiled roguishly. "Business or pleasure?"

Kira looked at Dax in mock reproval. "See what you've started?" She turned and walked away.

"I said I was sorry..." Dax followed her, Worf trailing reluctantly in their wake.

Bashir went to join O'Brien at the bar, where the chief sat in front of two synthales. Obviously he had known Julian would be drinking with him. "So, what do you think?"

"About what?" O'Brien took a sip at his mug as Julian picked up his.

"About Vic. Clever, isn't he?"

"Too clever," Miles muttered.

Odo heard their conversation as he began to walk toward the door. Bashir's enthusiasm seemed entirely undampened. "I tell you, I owe the man, Miles. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be dating Ensign Walker."

Odo stopped.

"What are you talking about?"

"She turned down three dinner invitations. I talked to Vic, he gave me a few pointers, and -- voila."

Odo listened hard.

O'Brien looked at his younger friend as if he had grown another head. "Julian, are you telling me you discussed your love life with a hologram?"

"He's not an ordinary hologram, Miles. He knows about love. Life. Women!" Bashir took out a holo-datarod and handed it to Broik, who was behind the bar.

"Three things you know nothing about," O'Brien jabbed.

Julian looked at him. "Now that's a little unfair."

"Then why are you asking advice from a lightbulb?" The two of them moved off toward the dartboard.

As Odo watched Broik put the datarod in its case, a thought entered his mind. A ridiculous thought. One that he would never have entertained in a million years...if it weren't for the fact that there wasn't anything else he could think of to do about his situation.

He had, as the phrase went, nothing to lose.

(-|-)

There was another expedition to the holosuite to see Vic Fontaine scheduled for the next night. Odo declined the invitation this time. Kira had gone to Bajor, and somehow he didn't think that listening to songs about love was going to make him feel any better. He stayed in his office and busied himself with the endless reports that Starfleet was continually demanding -- trying not to think about what Kira might be doing right now with Shakaar.

"Odo!" It was Quark's voice. The Ferengi sounded exasperated. "I asked you a question."

Odo looked up to see his nemesis standing in front of his desk. Wonderful. All he needed. Yet...much as he hated to admit it, even privately, Quark was the one person on the station who knew him best. He had been the only one to recognize Odo's turmoil back when Kira had first gotten involved with Shakaar. He had also offered counsel, and it had actually helped somewhat; it had enabled him to function, at least. "Keeping to the essentials" had ultimately failed as a strategy, but that was Odo's own fault rather than Quark's -- he was the one who couldn't leave his feelings aside.

"I have a problem, Quark," he said, without preamble.

Quark blinked. He was used to such confessions -- being a bartender -- but not from Odo of all people. After a moment, he recovered, realizing what Odo probably meant: the only thing that could make Odo desperate enough to confide in him. "Kira again?"

"She's on Bajor, seeing Shakaar." Odo turned in his chair to face away from Quark.

"So I heard." There was a long pause. "I don't know why you're so surprised. What did you expect was going to happen?"

"I wasn't expecting anything."

"I see," Quark said. "How long has it been since Shakaar and Major Kira broke up?"

Odo shrugged. "I don't know -- about a year."

"It's been over a year," Quark corrected. "You've had plenty of time to -- arrange a merger with Kira. But in all that time, have you even tried to open negotiations? No."

Trust Quark to couch everything in Ferengi terminology. "It's...not that simple," Odo temporized, heartily regretting his impulse. Why was he doing this? Quark didn't understand, any more than anyone else did.

"Odo, the woman waited a year for you to make an offer. Any kind of offer." Quark's voice was a little louder; he had come closer. He actually did not sound completely unsympathetic. "Face it. You've had plenty of opportunities, and you've let them all slip away."

This had definitely been a mistake. "Who asked for your opinion?" Odo demanded crossly.

"You did. I came in here to talk about a missing shipment of groat clusters. You're the one who started talking about the major. You want my advice?"

"No."

Quark went on as if he hadn't heard. "Make it easy on both of us. Forget all about her."

Odo snorted bitterly. "Is that the best you can do?"

"I'd like to see someone do better."

"So would I."

Quark walked around the desk to stand beside Odo's chair. "You're not exactly the most loveable person in the galaxy. You're not even the most loveable person in this sector. Or on the station. Or even in this room." Odo issued another snort. "You're cold. Rigid. Remote." There was a pause, during which Odo had no response to that; Quark finally threw up his hands. "Can I leave now?"

"Please do." But as he heard Quark's footsteps retreating toward the door, Odo swiveled in his chair to face the Ferengi again. "Wait."

Quark stopped. "Odo. Make up your mind." His voice was almost gentle.

Odo sighed. This went against everything he valued, most especially his pride. But pride had done him little good. "I need a favor from you."

Quark waited, interested despite himself. It wasn't every day that Odo asked him for favors.

"It's -- about Dr. Bashir's new holosuite program..."

(-|-)

The evening had been a bust for Julian. Since Kira was off the station, Odo had given his regrets, and Miles had an emergency repair in Ops, he had modified his holosuite plans to a double-date with Dax, Worf, Ensign Walker, and himself. Then there was an accident in one of the docking bays. Fortunately, none of the injuries were life-threatening, but there were enough of them that he had had to cancel his plans. After the last patient had been treated, he had gone off to bed, but found it difficult to sleep. He gave up, got dressed again, and made his way down to Quark's.

The Ferengi looked up. "You're up late, Doctor."

"Yeah, I can't sleep. Feeling a bit tense, actually." Julian rotated his neck in an attempt to ease the ache.

"I've got just the thing," Quark said, as Julian had suspected he might. "One 'Warp Core Breach', coming up." He laid a cloth on the bar, and on it he set a huge round glass -- which almost looked like a goldfish bowl -- and put dry ice in the bottom. It began to send off clouds of itself. "A few sips of this, and you'll be relaxed for the next three days."

Julian peered at the concoction in some bemusement. "I'm not that tense, Quark." Quark began to pour some form of liquor into the bowl, er, glass. Julian was virtually certain he didn't want to know what it was. "Look, I think I'll just go up to the holosuite for a while and -- "

"Holosuite?"

"Yes, if you'll hand me my new program, I'll -- "

"Uh -- sorry, Doctor. All the holosuites are in use."

Julian was confused. "At this hour?"

Quark looked apologetic. "It's been that kind of a night. I'm afraid there won't be one available for the rest of the evening."

Disappointed, Julian sighed. "That's unfortunate. Maybe I'll go wake up Miles and play a little Tongo." Quark nodded eagerly, and Julian left the room after giving the ever-present Morn a friendly clap on the shoulder.

Quark watched him go. The things I do for you, Odo...

(-|-)

Odo had done his best to prepare. Unfortunately, the Cardassian database contained little to no information on 1960's Earth, its slang, mores, or current events. He was obliged to make what sense he could out of Vic's references as the hologram -- in an apparently rather chatty mood -- told him various anecdotes involving people, places, and things Odo had never heard of.

"I remember back in, it must have been '58. I was playing the Sands. One night Frank and Dean dropped by. We ended up taking over the blackjack tables. Between the three of us, we must have dropped fifteen big ones, and believe me, back then that wasn't chump change. So Frank goes over to the pit boss, what was his name..." Vic paused as if searching his memory. Odo saw the opportunity and jumped in.

"Look, Mr. Fontaine, I -- "

"Vic," the hologram corrected.

"Vic -- these stories are all very interesting, but I didn't come here to reminisce about your past." Odo forged ahead, determined not to lose his nerve. "Yesterday, when my friends and I were here, you -- seemed to know things."

Vic shrugged. "I been around the block a couple times."

"You seemed to know specific things -- for instance, Dax and Worf are married, the Chief misses his wife -- "

"You don't have to be an Einstein to clue into any of that," Vic said, taking a sip of his drink.

Odo decided not to be sidetracked by the question of what an Einstein was. "At one point, you were going to make an observation about Major Kira and myself."

Vic glanced at him. "I thought about it, but I didn't want to embarrass anyone -- you know, give away any secrets."

"Exactly what secrets are you talking about?"

"C'mon, do I really have to connect the dots? You're crazy about the broad, but you're afraid to do anything about it. And she -- well, you know."

"No," Odo said. "Go on."

"It's the oldest story in the book. She thinks of you as a friend."

Odo let out a wry snort. "I wouldn't call that a secret." Almost unconsciously, he began to toy with an odd little object consisting of a small sharp piece of wood and a bit of paper that unfolded into a circle. It was ironic, he thought, that Vic -- a hologram -- had managed to instinctively divine after a mere few moments' meeting what only a very few people had ever realized about him and Kira after much longer observation.

"But," Vic went on, "women have been known to change their minds. You just have to give them a reason."

Odo twirled the object in his fingers. "You make it sound so easy."

"That's because it's not that hard. The girl already likes you. That means you're halfway home."

Vic's words sounded encouraging, and yet... "She's aware of my feelings toward her, but the truth is, she prefers Shakaar."

"Who?"

"The First Minister of Bajor. He's a leader, a hero, a man with great charisma." Odo knew he paled against that kind of competition. Who wouldn't?

Vic looked at him impatiently. "I don't care if he's JFK. It's not the other guy you have to worry about. It's you."

Odo stared at him. "Me?"

"That's right." Vic gestured toward him. "For starters, you've got to lose this whole 'Nanook of the North' thing."

Odo was baffled. "I -- I don't understand."

"You've got about as much personality as an icicle," Vic told him, not unkindly. "Cool is one thing, but you're frozen solid."

Cold. Rigid. Remote. That was what Quark had always said.

"You think I have no emotions?" Odo almost whispered the words. "Believe me, I do. I just -- don't always show them."

"And therein lies the problem." Vic rose from the bar, with a pat on Odo's shoulder. "Come with me."

Odo watched as Vic picked up his black coat from a stool nearby and put it on. "Where to?"

"Look, pally, you wanna win the girl, we gotta thaw you out a little bit. You know, turn up the heat, get those emotions you claim to have bubbling to the surface." The coat in place, Vic smiled and spread his hands. "It's time to have some fun."

Odo rose as well, mystified as to how this pertained to his problem. "What does fun have to do with Major Kira?"

Vic looked at him. "I'll pretend I didn't hear that." Only then did Odo realize how his question could have been interpreted. But any disclaimers died on his lips as he saw Vic eyeing his security-brown uniform. "First, let's lose those threads. I mean, there's nothing like a tuxedo to make you feel like a million bucks." He smiled and straightened his tie.

Odo was rather proud that he managed to deduce Vic's meaning. This change, at least, was an easy one.

"You mean -- " He morphed his outer surface, the uniform smoothly and instantly becoming a black coat over a white shirt, complete with black bow tie, a perfect replica of Vic's outfit. " -- something like this?" He mimicked Vic's tie-straightening.

Vic watched with only mild surprise. He did "know the score", after all. He took the shapeshifting in stride, and smiled. "Very sharp," he approved as Odo fussed a little with his sleeves. "After you." He indicated the stage.

Odo began to move in that direction, but then stopped. "Uh, I don't sing."

"Glad to hear it," Vic said. "I don't need the competition." They stepped up onto the stage and around the large, black grand piano. "What I do need is someone to handle the black-and-whites. My piano player just threw ten sevens in a row at the craps table and took off for Reno."

"Ah," Odo said faintly. Apparently he was elected as the replacement.

Vic was gesturing him toward the piano bench. "So, have a seat, my friend. The crowd's getting restless."

Odo stopped on his way to the bench. "What crowd?"

Vic pointed across the front of the stage. "That one."

The room was abruptly full of people. And there were other band members on the stage. Odo blinked, and reluctantly sat. He winced a little when a spotlight focused on him. Another illuminated Vic, who picked up the cylinder and spoke into it, addressing the crowd.

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Vic Fontaine." The audience clapped in acknowledgement. "And tonight is gonna be a gas." He walked back toward Odo, holding the cylinder downwards so that the audience wouldn't be privy to their words. "Hit it, Nanook."

He was supposed to start playing, Odo realized. "No, I -- I don't play the piano."

"You wanna bet?" Vic pointed to the keyboard.

It suddenly came to life. Odo jumped back, startled, watching the keys rising and falling and producing a series of introductory notes as the other band members joined in with their instruments. The tune was breezy and jazzy. Odo looked at Vic, wondering how things had gotten so out of control.

"Stay with me, pally," Vic admonished.

"But, you don't need me," Odo protested. "The piano's doing all the work."

"That's not the point. Style, baby, style. You've got to sell it. Make 'em believe."

"Style..." Odo watched as Vic went back to the front of the stage. Pretend to play the piano? Him? But the music was playing. The light on him was so bright that he couldn't see past the front of the stage, but he knew that the audience's eyes were on him as well as Vic.

He moved his hands over the keyboard, trying to follow as the keys played themselves. Vic began to sing.

Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away
If you can use some exotic booze
There's a bar in far Bombay
Come fly with me, we'll fly, we'll fly away...

At first, Odo had an uncomfortable flash to the dreaded "parties" of his lab-rat days, when he was forced to demonstrate his shapeshifting abilities. But this was fundamentally different. The atmosphere was friendlier -- the other band members as well as Vic threw encouraging smiles his way. He was part of a group, a sensation foreign to him, but he liked it. A lot. He wasn't displaying himself as a sort of freak, but as someone with a skill that he could at least play at having.

Come fly with me, let's float down to Peru
In llama land, there's a one-man band
And he'll toot his flute for you
Come fly with me, we'll float down in the blue...

Playing -- that was the thing. Not shamming at playing music on this keyboard, but playing, as in "having fun" -- doing something for the enjoyment of it. That was what holosuites were for, wasn't it?

Odo found himself making a game of guessing which keys on the piano would play next, and trying to have his fingers on those keys at the right times. He had always rather liked Earth jazz, what he'd heard of it. He discovered he was imitating the movements, the head-bobs and gestures of a jazz piano player or two that he half-recalled having seen in some old footage.

Once I get you up there where the air is rarefied
We'll just glide, starry-eyed
Once I get you up there, I'll be holding you so near
You may hear angels cheer because we're together

By now Odo was feeling pretty damned good.

Vic had wandered into the audience as he sang, to flirt with a few of the women, then returned to the stage to share Odo's spotlight. He smiled and squeezed his shoulder, then moved back to the front of the stage.

Weather-wise, it's such a lovely day
You just say the words and we'll beat the birds
Down to Acapulco Bay
It's perfect for a flying honeymoon, they say
Come fly with me, we'll fly, we'll fly away...

Odo was practically soaring on the long note. He had even begun to mouth the words along with Vic.

Come fly with me, pack up, let's fly away!

Vic stopped singing as the band played the last notes. Odo intuited the final piano riff, and was on it, finishing with a flourish and basking in the applause, which seemed to go on and on. He fancied it was for him as much as it was for Vic.

Odo loved every second of it.

He spread his arms. "Cool!"

(-|-)

Later, in Vic's spacious hotel suite, Odo "played piano" on the wet-bar while Vic poured drinks. He only looked up when the hologram offered him a glass.

"Bottoms up."

"I don't drink," Odo said.

"Why am I not surprised? It's not real booze. You're in a holosuite, remember?" At that, Odo accepted the glass, and Vic took a sip of his own. "How'd you like being in the spotlight?"

Odo took the question literally. "Very bright."

"That's all you've got to say?"

"The lights kept me from seeing the audience," Odo explained. "I suppose that's why I wasn't nervous."

Vic smiled. "Nothing to be nervous about. You were too busy having fun."

Odo thought about it. "Ha. I suppose I was." He smiled and lifted his glass. Being in a holosuite had actually liberated him. He had expressed himself, without having to worry about ruining his dignified image. But then a thought occurred to him that made him stop, and put the glass down. He folded his arms, returning to his usual guarded pose. "I'm just -- grateful none of my friends saw me."

Vic looked at him in what might have passed for frustration. "There you go, tensing up again. Look at you! I mean, you're standing there like a statue. The only things you're gonna attract are pigeons." Odo gave him a puzzled look. "Sit down." Bemused, Odo did so, stiffly; Vic sat on a nearby stool, resting his elbow casually on the bar. "Relax. Take a couple of deep breaths. You do that, and everything you want will come to you."

"It's that simple," Odo said sarcastically.

"Try it. Go on."

Rather self-consciously at first, Odo did as Vic suggested. It did seem to make him feel a little better, in an odd way. He did as Vic had, and laid an elbow on the bar. For a minute or two both of them just sat and breathed. Then there was a knock on the door. "See?" Vic said, sounding pleased.

"Are you expecting someone?" Odo asked.

"Let's find out." Vic patted Odo's shoulder as he got up, went to the door, and opened it.

Two young women were standing there, each in an evening dress that showed a fair amount of curves. One of them was taller, with her blonde hair pinned up in a bun style; the other had long, loose brown hair.

"Surprise!" the blonde sang.

"Well, for crying out loud," Vic exclaimed, looking back at Odo. "What are you two lovely ladies doing here?"

The brown-haired one looked a little nonplussed, as Odo craned his neck in curiosity. "You invited us, remember?"

"Oh, that's right. Come on in." The two women did so, and Vic closed the door, smiling broadly as he called, "Odo, we've got company!"

The blonde (whose name, Odo would later learn, was Ginger) eyed him in sly delight as she leaned conspiratorially toward her companion. "Look, it's the piano player." She turned a vivacious smile in his direction. "We saw you perform tonight. Melissa thinks you're adorable."

Melissa came forward to stand beside Odo. He watched her, a little disconcerted by her intensely interested gaze. "Would you mind if I looked at your hands?" she asked, in a rather sensuous voice.

Now thoroughly at a loss, Odo looked at Vic for a clue.

"Show her your hands," Vic said, as if it were the only obvious thing to do.

Odo obliged, holding out his hands. Melissa inspected one, touching it lightly. "I knew it. They're so artistic."

Artistic? Odo stared at them as if he had never seen them before. He had taken some particular care in creating these hands, but artistic?

"You know, I once played on the same bill with Liberace. He has the sweetest dimples," Ginger gushed.

Melissa paid her friend no attention at all. "Are you classically trained?" she asked Odo.

Odo found his voice. "Actually, I -- " Vic caught his gaze, raising an eyebrow meaningfully. Odo changed what he was going to say. " -- Vic taught me everything I know."

"Is he a good student?" Melissa asked Vic with a smile.

"Head of his class," Vic confirmed.

Melissa gave Odo a smoldering look. "Maybe I can help you get your diploma."

The only other times Odo had been the object of such obvious female attraction had been in the company of Lwaxana Troi. It made him rather glad Melissa was only a hologram. Completely stymied as to what to say next, he looked helplessly at Vic, who came to the rescue.

"All right, ladies." Vic rubbed his hands together. "The night is young, and I have tables waiting for us at the Dunes."

Ginger gasped in excitement. "We're gonna see Shecky?!" She kissed Vic on the cheek in an apparent attempt to further express what she thought of the idea.

"Shecky!" Melissa appeared to approve of the arrangements as well.

"Shecky who?" Odo asked.

To his further confusion, the women seemed delighted at his admission of ignorance. Melissa turned to Vic. "You didn't tell me he had a sense of humor."

"He plays the piano and he's funny," Ginger opined. "Kind of like Victor Borge."

Valiantly, Odo tried again. "Who?"

Melissa stared raptly into his eyes. "I think I'm in love."

"After you, ladies," Vic said. The women went to the doorway and paused there, talking as they waited. Vic looked at Odo, seeming to notice his hesitation.

"Uh, I don't think -- "

"What are you worried about? Melissa's a very nice girl."

"Oh, I'm sure she is," Odo said hastily. "It's just...she's not Kira." It was the only explanation he could offer.

Vic rolled his eyes. "Tell me something. How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"

"I have no idea."

"Practice, practice, practice! Get it?"

"No," Odo confessed.

"Think of this evening as a trial run. Trust me, you're gonna do great."

(-|-)

"Shecky" turned out to be Shecky Greene, a comedian. Odo supposed he might have found the jokes quite humorous if he had understood more than a tenth of them. He ended up giving an occasional polite chuckle while he watched the other people in the room, as was his habit.

Shecky's show ended, to be followed by a singer. Vic and Ginger got up to dance, leaving Odo with Melissa at the table. "Is something wrong?" she asked.

Odo lowered his head. "No...I'm sorry. I don't seem to be very good company tonight."

"You're in love with someone, aren't you?" At his startled glance, she smiled with unexpected compassion. "It's all right. Vic told me. I know this evening's not for us, it's to help you get the girl you want. I think it's a very romantic thing you're doing. Trying to change for her."

"Is it?" Odo asked rather wistfully.

"Of course. She's very lucky, whoever she is."

Another song began.

The way you wear your hat
The way you sip your tea...

Melissa stood. "Can I have a dance, at least?" she asked.

Odo looked at the hand she was holding out. "I'm sorry, I -- don't know how to dance."

"I'll teach you, then. Just stay close."

It was a good night after all.

(-|-)

Sisko rubbed his eyes tiredly. The night had been another long and sleepless one for him. He looked up as Odo stepped into his office and handed him a PADD.

"Captain, here's the report on that smuggling ring you requested." Odo waited as Sisko began to read the PADD. "Should I forward the information to the Zevian authorities?"

"I'll let you know in a minute."

Silence descended in the office. Sisko studied the PADD. It seemed like another ordinary report, obviously written by Odo himself rather than a deputy; he could tell by the precise, rather ironic language the constable was wont to use. (And of course there was the name at the bottom.) At any rate, it was a welcome distraction.

Then he began hearing a sound. A voice. A low, rough voice. And it was...singing. Yes, there was a melody there, sort of. It sounded as if the person singing had never sung before in his life; also as if he couldn't quite remember the words of the verse.

He wasn't singing, but the only other person in the room was...Odo.

The stress must be getting to him. He had to be hearing things. Odo. Singing. The two concepts did not go together.

Sisko began to snap his fingers as he gradually identified the melody. A very old Earth song.

...no, no, they can't take that away from me...

Apparently Odo had finally come to a line he remembered the words to.

The way your smile just beams...

Odo abruptly stopped.

Sisko looked up at him, smiling. "Oh, don't stop on my account."

Odo looked genuinely puzzled. "Stop what?"

"You were singing," Sisko told him.

"I was singing?" Odo echoed, sounding astonished.

No, no, they can't take that away from me,

Sisko sang.

Odo blinked in surprise. "Heh. You're right. I was singing."

A moment later, he started again. Sisko joined in, snapping his fingers in rhythm.

We may never, never meet again
On the bumpy road to love...

It was the best Sisko had felt in some time.

(-|-)

"Quark! How's the work coming on those holosuites?"

"Sorry, Doctor. They're all still offline. Here, have a drink...That'll be two strips."

(-|-)

Dressed and headed for work in Ops, Dax pressed the control of the turbolift nearest her quarters in the habitat ring. The doors opened to reveal Bashir already on the lift.

"Julian."

"Morning," he said, as she stepped in and the door closed.

"Ops," Dax told the computer. The lift began moving. She glanced at Julian. "I wonder, should you ask Kira about Shakaar, or should I?"

"I'll let you do the honors," Julian said agreeably. "But you'll have to wait. She's staying on Bajor for two more days."

Dax raised an eyebrow. "She and Shakaar must be having a good time."

"That'd be my guess."

A thought struck Dax, and she lowered her brow in dismay. "Poor Odo."

Bashir looked at her, startled. "Odo? What's he got to do with it?"

Dax realized she had spoken aloud. "Oh. Not a thing...that's the problem."

He sighed. "All right, Jadzia. What do you know? Is it something about Odo and Kira?"

She relented. "Keep it to yourself?" He nodded. "Odo's been in love with Kira for years, Julian. She never knew, until Gaia. It was the other Odo, from the planet, who told her."

Julian was stunned. "My God."

"Exactly. They've never done anything about it -- Kira keeps saying neither she nor Odo are ready, though I wonder if Odo would agree with that. And now..."

"...Now she might be going back to Shakaar." Julian leaned his head back as the lift came to a stop. There were certain situations that made a man wince in brotherly sympathy when hearing of another man in such straits. Because many men went through the same thing at one time or another. Julian certainly had.

Much later, across the room at Quark's, he watched as Quark handed a holo-datarod to Odo, who took the rod and headed for the spiral stairs, toward the supposedly malfunctioning holosuites. A light suddenly dawned. Julian wasn't genetically enhanced for nothing, after all.

He supposed he ought to be angry. Unauthorized usage of his holoprogram, blah blah blah...but somehow the only thought in his mind right now was that he wished Odo the best of luck.

(-|-)

Odo had come to truly look forward to performing. It was exciting, leading a double life: stern constable by day, swinging jazz piano player by night. Sometimes it was hard to keep this secret side of him from slipping out while he was at work, as it had with Sisko. But when it did, he wasn't quite as disconcerted as he would have been before. He was thinking of learning to play piano for real. Wouldn't that shock everyone!

Tonight, though, he couldn't quite get his soul into the music. Kira was staying an extra two days on Bajor. With Shakaar.

The last notes of "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime" died away, and Vic grinned at the audience. "Thank you. Thank you for that kind applause. Keep clapping. There's a fly abuzz in the room and one of you's bound to nail him." A rimshot from the drummer punctuated the joke, and was met with laughter and more applause.

Odo didn't eat it up, so to speak, as he usually did. He wasn't aware of Vic's approach until he heard the hologram's voice beside him.

"Why the long face, buddy-boy?"

Vic had laid his mike aside. Odo was used to his language enough by now to know that Vic was asking him why he looked so depressed.

He sighed. "You still haven't told me what I'm supposed to do about Kira and Shakaar."

"Shakaar? Forget about that fink. I bet he doesn't look half as good in a tux as you."

Odo almost smiled at Vic's attempt to bolster his ego. "What difference does that make?"

"You been coming here every night for a week," Vic reminded him. "Have I steered you wrong?"

"No," Odo admitted.

"Trust your Uncle Vic." Vic gave him an almost paternal clap on the shoulder, picked up his mike, and returned to the front of the stage to address the audience.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have a very special surprise for you tonight. This babe doesn't raise your temperature, you better check the obituary column, 'cause chances are you're in it, pally." There was scattered laughter, but most of the audience was too interested in what came next to respond. "Let's have a nice warm round of applause for Miss Lola Chrystal!"

Amid the requested applause, Vic retreated from the suddenly darkened stage. After a moment, Odo saw a woman's hand, illuminated by a narrow-beam spotlight so that it appeared to be the only thing on the stage. The fingers snapped in rhythm, accompanied by a soft sax and a quiet bass line. Then the spotlight widened, and Odo could see her face.

It was Kira.

Never know how much I love you
Never know how much I care
When you put your arms around me
I get a fever that's so hard to bear

The tune was stealthy, insinuating, seductive. Her voice was silky and smoky as she trailed a finger down the neck of the bass, then around the edge of the cymbal.

"Remind you of anybody?" Vic asked softly at his elbow. Odo realized who the "surprise" had really been intended for. His mind went numb. How the hell had Vic gotten Kira's image? He was so astonished that he forgot to "play" -- not that anyone was looking at him anyway.

You give me fever, when you kiss me
Fever when you hold me tight
Fever! ...in the morning,
Fever all through the night.

It wasn't Kira, of course. Her name was Lola, a holographic 1960's chanteuse. And the fever she sang of was desire. A desire that was all-consuming in its intensity, an appetite that was never satisfied, a thirst never slaked.

She moved about the stage as she sang, flirting outrageously with the band members and the audience -- combining sinuous movements with sultry glances and smiles. She had them in the palm of her hand.

Everybody's got the fever
That is something you should know
Fever isn't such a new scene
Fever started long ago.

Suddenly, as she began the next verse, she came over toward the piano. Towards him. Odo watched in some bemusement as she walked her fingers around the curve of the piano top and moved around behind him. She slithered onto the bench between him and the crowd as she sang. He could feel the warmth radiating from her skin.

Sun lights up the daytime
Moon lights up the night
My eyes light up when you call my name
'Cause I know you're gonna treat me right

She stood, crossed behind him, then fixed her gaze on Odo. Now she seemed to be singing directly to him, making him part of the song. He was riveted as Lola slid on top of the piano, her eyes never leaving his face.

You give me fever, when you kiss me
Fever, if you live, you learn
Fever! ...'til you sizzle
What a lovely way to burn
What a lovely way to burn
What a lovely way to burn.

She draped herself dramatically over the piano, inches away from his face, as the music slunk to a close and the audience responded with wild applause.

When she sat up, she glanced back at Odo with an expression that was frankly inviting.

Applauding with the audience, Vic leaned close to Odo. "Don't look now, but I think she likes you."

Odo was too dazed to reply.

(-|-)

The top glass overflowed and trickled into the one below it, which in turn trickled to the one on the bottom of the stack. Vic called it a "champagne waterfall". Odo watched Lola as she picked up the top glass; then Vic and Odo each took one.

"A toast," Vic announced. "As Georgie Jessel once said: to whatever makes you happy." He and Lola clinked their glasses together, and with Odo's.

"My thoughts exactly," Lola said, looking at Odo significantly as she sipped.

Vic put his glass down on the bar and walked toward the bedroom. "I'm gonna turn in. You two lovebirds can live without me, I trust?"

"We'll manage," Lola said.

Odo watched as Vic -- whistling -- left them alone, and as Lola picked up a cigarette and lit it. He remembered having seen people doing that when he had once time-travelled to Earth; at one time many humans had had the inexplicable habit of using them to deliberately inhale carcinogens.

However, lecturing a hologram about unhealthy practices was the last thing on his mind. Especially with Kira -- er, Lola -- looking at him like that, as she exhaled a puff of smoke in his direction.

"You...have a beautiful voice," he said at last, for want of anything else to say.

She smiled. The look on her face was one that he would have given anything to see the real Kira direct toward him. She lifted one of his hands with her own and examined it. "And you," she said softly, "have beautiful hands."

"So I've been told," he said automatically.

She slowly guided the hand she held to her shoulder, and watched with a smile as, greatly daring, he brought his other hand up to place it lightly on her upper arm. "They feel good, too," she whispered enticingly.

"So do you." Caught up in the moment, he spoke to her as he had longed to speak to Kira. Softly, passionately. "I've been waiting to hold you like this for as long as I can remember."

"We just met tonight," she reminded him.

"I must have a short memory."

She smiled. "You're funny."

"Kind of like Victor Borge?"

"How'd you know?"

She tilted her head upward, her eyes closed, her lips pursed. This was the moment. Odo lowered his mouth toward hers...slowly...

...and stopped. Something didn't feel right about it. It was too...easy. After all, this was only a fantasy-Kira. Like Melissa, she had been programmed to respond positively to everything he said and did, to treat him as if he were the most desirable man she could ever have dreamed of. But the real Kira would never behave in such a way toward him.

Practice, practice, practice, Vic had told him. Yet what good would it do to "practice" on some...thing that looked like Kira but didn't act like her, didn't have her personality? Even if he ever did get into this kind of situation with her, it certainly wasn't going to progress in this fashion -- because aside from looks, Lola was as unlike Kira as he was unlike Quark.

He drew back. "I can't -- I can't do this."

Lola opened her eyes in surprise and disbelief. "Why not?"

"I'm sorry. It has nothing to do with you." Odo retreated from her and called toward the bedroom. "Vic!" Then, more insistently, "Vic!"

Vic appeared, coatless, his bow tie hanging loose around his collar. "What's wrong?"

"This isn't working," Odo told him.

"I thought you were getting along just fine."

"Of course we are. You programmed her to find me irresistible. I could read her a criminal activities report and she'd think it was poetry."

Vic gave every evidence of being perplexed. "You want me to reprogram her, make her play hard to get?"

"No," Odo tried to explain. "She's -- nothing like Kira."

"Who's Kira?" demanded Lola. Her cigarette was back in her hand, and she looked somewhat put out about the whole affair.

"Of course," Vic answered Odo. "She's not Kira. She's a hologram."

"A what?!" Lola sounded indignant.

"Sweetheart, please, stay out of this." Vic turned his attention back to Odo. "Do you know how difficult it was for me to get a holographic image of Major Kira? Lucky for you, Julian used her image in one of his spy programs. Though it did take me an hour to get rid of the Russian accent..."

Odo sighed. "Look, I appreciate what you've done for me, but I'm afraid it's all been in vain. I may be Romeo in the holosuite, but I know the first time I see the real Kira, I'll turn back into 'Nanook of the North'."

Vic tried to put a positive spin on it. "At least you're starting to talk the talk."

"I was hoping for a bit more than that." This had all been a colossal waste of time. Odo went to the door.

"Wait! Wait a minute, you can't give up now!"

Odo stopped and turned back toward him. "I'm sorry. But I'm tired of discussing my feelings with a hologram."

He left the suite.

Before the program was turned off, Lola walked up to Vic. "You're a hologram too?"

(-|-)

Odo did his best to stay busy over the next two days. He almost hoped for a nice convenient crime wave, but as fate would have it, the crooks weren't cooperating. Things were quiet, almost boring. He resorted to catching up on his reports for Starfleet, which had always been his least favorite activity.

As he left his office with the last report clutched in his hand, he heard her voice. "Odo!"

Kira was emerging from the crowd ahead and falling into step with him. She wore a red Bajoran meditation robe, and she was smiling, as if she were happy to see him. Of course she's happy to see you -- you're her _friend_. "Hello," she said.

"Major," he acknowledged. Nanook of the North, indeed.

"Anything interesting happen while I was gone?" Kira asked cheerfully. Was she deliberately trying to torture him?

"Interesting? No, no, nothing at all. As a matter of fact, it's been rather dull."

Kira's smile faded a little. "Sorry to hear that."

They both stopped walking. In the awkward silence, Odo looked everywhere but at her. "Well, I'd -- better get back to work," he said at last, and walked away, in the direction he'd come from.

Kira watched him go, puzzled and not a little disturbed. If he had needed to go that way, why had he been walking this way? Obviously he was upset about something. Something she had done? But she hadn't even been here for over a week.

She turned and went into Quark's, toward the holosuites. She didn't care for holosuites as a rule, preferring to visit places in reality rather than fantasy; but in this case, a holosuite was the only way to go where she wanted to go. The real Guedara caverns had been collapsed by the Cardassians during the Occupation, on the suspicion that there were rebels hiding there. So, this time she was making an exception.

Her time had already been booked with Quark, so she went directly upstairs to the designated suite, inserted her datarod, and entered. The caverns were dark, lit only by ces'anya candles, and smelled of incense. She knelt on the floor and raised her arms in the ancient posture.

And found her mind wandering. She must be more troubled by Odo's behavior toward her just now than she had thought; she couldn't seem to get him out of her mind long enough to achieve the right kind of mental state to contemplate the Prophets.

It had been happening a lot lately.

"Hey, dollface. You asleep?"

Kira turned around, astonished, at the sound of a voice. She saw a man there, a gray-haired human dressed in a black suit with a white shirt underneath. It looked like -- like that singer from Julian's program.

"How the hell did you get in here?" she demanded.

"I'm performing next door for Dax and Worf," he explained. "I'm between sets, so I transferred my matrix from that holosuite to this one. Now, I don't have much time -- "

"What do you want?" A hologram that could enter other programs, on its own initiative? Was such a thing possible?

"We have to talk."

"About what?"

He looked at her. "Odo. What else?"

"Odo?" she echoed, confused.

"Come on, Major, don't be coy," he chided. "We both know he's nuts about you."

Kira looked hard at him. "He told you that?"

Vic smiled. "He tells me everything. We've been spending a lot of time together."

Kira couldn't help but be skeptical. "Odo? Spending time in a holosuite?"

"And loving it," Vic affirmed.

She shook her head. "I'm sorry, that's just not the Odo I know."

He came closer, to crouch beside her. "Which tells you what? You don't know him as well as you think you do. He's not the same stick-in-the-mud any more. That cat can swing."

"Are we talking about the same Odo?"

"The one and only. But let me tell you, the only chick he wants to swing with is you."

Kira found it extremely difficult to follow Vic's language. "I take it that's a good thing?"

Vic smiled again. "It's love, baby. Nothing better than that."

She squinted at him. "How did you get in here, again?"

He gave her an impatient look. "Don't try to change the subject. We're talking about you and Odo."

"No," Kira said decisively. "That's what you're talking about. I'm trying to meditate." She raised her arms again, trusting that he would take the hint and go back where he belonged.

"And I don't mean to interrupt."

"Good. Then leave."

There was a pause, then he spoke again. "Talk about your cranky aliens. You two really are made for each other." Kira looked at him in consternation. He leaned closer to her. "Which is why you've got to come to the holosuite tonight."

"What for?"

"So you two can have dinner together."

"If Odo wants to have dinner with me, then why doesn't he ask me himself?"

"Because I'm asking you for him," Vic said. He gave her a charming smile. "And neither one of us will take no for an answer."

Kira was intrigued despite herself. She could hardly believe what came out of her mouth next.

"Well, then...I'd better say yes."

Vic beamed at her. "Crazy," he said.

(-|-)

Odo dutifully tried to read the communique from Starfleet, but he was finding it extremely difficult to concentrate. He couldn't blame it on Admiral Gilhooly's tedious writing style, either. He was beginning to think he was veering dangerously close to the state of mind he had been in when Kira and Shakaar had first gotten involved. And he couldn't afford that. Not again.

He leaned back in his chair, gazing at the ceiling, then laid the PADD aside in frustration.

"Odo? Can you hear me?"

Odo started at the sound of the voice issuing from the speaker in his desk. To say he was amazed when he recognized it would have been an understatement. "Vic?! What are you doing on the comm line?"

"I need to talk to you," Vic's voice said. "I want you to come to the holosuite tonight."

Odo asked the obvious question. "Why?"

"I've done a complete overhaul on the Lola hologram, or should I say the Kira hologram. I'm tellin' you, Odo, you're gonna think she's the real thing. She walks like Kira, she talks like Kira."

Odo was ashamed to find himself intrigued. Skeptical, but intrigued. "Really? How did you manage to accomplish that?"

"I don't have time to explain now," Vic evaded. "I'll see you tonight, nine o'clock. That's twenty-one hundred to you."

"I know."

"I'll see you then, pally."

(-|-)

They were alone in the holo-nightclub. Alone, that is, except for Vic and his musicians -- but from the moment she had entered the room, Kira had not been able to keep her eyes off the man standing opposite her.

It certainly looked like Odo. His face was as familiar to her as her own, and it looked the same as it ever did. But there was something...different about him, and it wasn't merely the clothes. It was as if he had assumed a whole new personality with the change from his uniform to the black suit and tie.

He looked handsome. That was the only way to describe it.

Vic was lighting the two candles in the flowered centerpiece on the elaborately-set table. "I believe you two know each other."

Do I? Kira thought. I wonder if I know him at all.

"You look lovely," Odo told her simply, his eyes taking her in.

Kira glanced down briefly at the red dress she wore. "Thank you," she said. "So do you."

"Mademoiselle." Vic indicated the table. As if in a dream, they moved over to it. Vic held out Kira's chair; she sat in it hesitantly, unused to that particular courtesy. "I'll be your server this evening. I'll try not to spill anything." The hologram smiled, then walked around the table to where a bottle of champagne waited in a small bucket. He opened the bottle. As he poured the champagne into the two glasses on the table, he went on, "To begin, a little Dom Perignon '55, and some oysters Rockefeller, to be followed by Caesar salad, Chateaubriand, and cherries jubilee."

Kira looked down at the odd-looking objects on the plate before her, then up at Odo. "This is all very interesting, but -- don't you feel a little silly being here in a holosuite?" She smiled, trying to dispel the surreal sensation.

Odo gave Vic a look that Kira couldn't quite fathom. Then he smiled slightly. "A bit."

"Let me know when you're ready for the salad," Vic said, and retreated when Odo nodded to him.

There was a slight, awkward pause, then Odo gestured toward their plates of food. "Bon appetit." As she looked questioningly at him, he explained, "It's French. An Earth language. It means, 'enjoy your meal.'"

"I didn't know you spoke French," Kira said.

"I don't," he admitted. "It's something I learned from Vic. French is...ze language of love." His voice briefly took on a different accent, which she supposed to be a French one.

He had said it: the word "love". Kira inexplicably felt her stomach jump, and took a sip of the champagne to quell it. "Vic's a fountain of information."

"He's certainly a man of many talents," Odo agreed. He leaned forward, his elbows on the table. "But, we're really not here to talk about Vic, are we?"

Kira put her glass down. "I'm certainly not," she acknowledged.

Odo picked up the champagne bottle and refreshed the level of champagne in her glass. "I always wondered what this would be like."

"The two of us having dinner together?" she asked.

"It's certainly not the way I pictured it would be."

She laughed a little. "It is a bit unusual."

He nodded solemnly, then looked at her plate. "Is something wrong? You haven't touched your food."

Kira looked down at it. "Um, no, it looks delicious...I'm not hungry. The truth is, I'm a little nervous," she confessed.

"You? Nervous?"

"A bit." She bit her lip. She might as well call this what it was. "It is our first date, right?"

"Right." Odo nodded. "Well, there's nothing wrong with being a little nervous. As long as it doesn't get in the way."

"Of what?"

"Of enjoying yourself."

That didn't sound like Odo. She picked up her glass again to take a sip. "I thought the only thing you enjoy is your work."

"How did you know that?" he asked, sounding startled.

Kira looked at him, puzzled. "You told me yourself."

For some reason, Odo glanced in the direction of the stage, and she heard him say something under his breath, something that sounded like, "Well done, Vic."

"Vic?" she asked.

He looked back at her. "Never mind." He leaned slightly against the table again. "I do enjoy my work. But I'm afraid I've used it as an excuse to avoid the rest of my life."

Kira was reminded of the other Odo she had known briefly, on Gaia. The one who had waited two hundred years, just to tell her how he felt about her and share her company for a little while. The one who was so open, so changed from the Odo she was familiar with. The Odo you know will change too, he had said. If you're patient with him.

"I know the feeling," she finally said, softly. How many times had she made herself too busy to listen, too busy to care or to notice little things like how her best friend really felt towards her?

I've got you under my skin
I've got you deep in the heart of me
So deep in my heart, you're really a part of me
I've got you under my skin...

It was Vic, singing, accompanied by the musicians. The tune was soft, simple, haunting.

Kira discovered that she was gazing deeply into Odo's eyes. They were so blue, and so full of emotion, that she wondered why anyone -- why she -- had ever thought of him as cold or unfeeling.

She found her voice. "That's a pretty song."

"It is, isn't it...You're sure you're not hungry?"

"I'm sure." She smiled. "What do we do now?"

Odo stood up, and held out a hand towards her. "Only one thing we can do." She looked at his hand. "Dance with me."

Another surprise in an evening full of surprises. "I'm not sure I know how to dance to this kind of music," she warned, in a rather weak attempt to allow him room to back down, even as she rose.

Gently, he took her hands and placed one on his shoulder, while holding the other in his.

"Just stay close," he said.

I'd sacrifice anything, come what may
For the sake of having you near

Kira discovered something else new about Odo. He really could dance. Was the Odo who disliked parties, who always stood in the corner and watched everyone else, really the same Odo who was now guiding her smoothly and confidently around the floor as if he had been doing it all his life?

In spite of the warning voice
That comes in the night, and repeats, and howls in my ear
Don't you know, you fool, you can't possibly win
Use your mentality, wake up to reality

She felt herself being spun outward, and caught by the grip Odo retained on her hand. And she found herself laughing in sheer delight.

Each time I do,
Just the thought of you makes me stop...

Odo paused with the music. She held her breath as he slowly brought her hand to rest against his chest -- where a humanoid heart would have resided.

He had finally made his move. There could be no more hiding, no more running away. It was time to decide.

In the space of time between one note and another, something changed forever.

...before I begin...

They resumed moving, and her heart resumed beating.

Because I've got you under my skin
I've got you under my skin
I've got you under my skin.

"I had no idea you could dance." Her mouth was dry.

"It's amazing what you can learn in a holosuite," he replied.

Yes, she thought, dazedly. Amazing. "I can't believe we're having our first date in a holosuite." She had to smile at the very idea. But all the same, she definitely wanted to do this again. And again. "I understand that you wouldn't be comfortable at Quark's, but I know one or two out-of-the-way restaurants on the station -- "

"I don't think that's possible," Odo said.

Kira gave him a puzzled look, and a smile. "Are you embarrassed at being seen with me?"

"No," he hastened to reassure her. "I meant, it would be difficult for you to leave the holosuite."

What was he talking about? "Why?"

He seemed reluctant to explain. "It's...complicated."

"Complicated to leave the holosuite? You make it sound like I'm a hologram."

"Aren't you?"

She stared at him. "Is that what you think?"

Vic had stepped off the stage. Odo appealed to him. "Maybe you'd better tell her."

"There's nothing to tell," Vic said. "I'm good, pally, but I'm not that good. You've been dancing with the real McCoy."

Odo looked at her, stunned. She looked at him, equally stunned. Then, they both looked at Vic.

"You tricked me," Odo accused.

"And me," Kira added.

"Hey, I brought you two lovebirds together," Vic said. "That was the whole idea, wasn't it?"

Odo turned to Kira again. The look in his eyes was beseeching, lost. She could see that he was absolutely mortified.

Helplessly, he began, "Nerys...Kira...Major..."

Each successive retreat into formality failed. Finally he held up his hands, as if to stop her from saying anything, and gave up even trying to explain. He left, walking like someone trying not to flee.

Kira looked back at Vic. He too held up his hands.

"Don't say it. Computer, end program."

Vic, the band, and the club vanished, leaving Kira alone in the bare holosuite.

(-|-)

Odo was in his office, but he couldn't even begin to pretend to work. He was too busy berating himself, unwillingly reliving the horrible moment when he'd realized that he had been romancing the real Kira. She would surely never forgive him, and he couldn't blame her. Using her image like some holo-floozy, to "practice" on!

The worst part was that he had felt so safe, believing her to be only a hologram. He had told her things, let her see parts of himself that he had never felt able to reveal before...simply in hopes of learning how to feel that free around her, how not to be continually worried that he was saying too much or showing too much. So that eventually he could do the same thing with Kira herself instead of her simulacrum. But now...

The sound of Vic's voice over the comm line was not a welcome one. "Odo? You there?"

"I have nothing to say to you."

"Look," Vic said. "I know you think I sold you down the river -- "

"You lied to me!"

"It was for your own good. It was time for you to stop playing around with holograms and start playing around with the real thing."

"You should have told me it was the real Kira."

"Would you have shown up if I had?"

Odo was silent. He didn't know if he would have shown up. But Vic hadn't given him the option.

"I don't hear an answer, pally," Vic said. "If you think about it, there's not much to be mad about. I saw the way she looked at you while the two of you were dancing. The lady digs you, big time."

"She digs Shakaar," Odo said savagely. "I can only imagine what she thinks of me. I kept insisting she was a hologram..." He shook his head, as if he could clear it of the memory of how idiotically he had behaved. Last night, and the entire week before.

"Odo, listen to me -- "

"No. I'm done listening to you. Computer, end transmission."

(-|-)

"Are you going to tell me what's wrong?" Dax asked as she and Kira walked together down the crowded Promenade.

Kira pulled herself back to the here and now. She had been light years away, a million thoughts and emotions chasing themselves through her mind. As they had done all night, so much that she could hardly sleep.

"Oh, there's nothing wrong," she said. She looked at Dax. "Have you ever had a moment of pure clarity? A moment where the truth seems to just leap up and grab you by the throat?"

Dax smiled sagely. "I bet this has something to do with your visit with Shakaar."

"This has nothing to do with Shakaar," Kira said impatiently. "Now tell me, have you ever had a moment like that?"

Dax shrugged. "One or two. But of course, that's over a span of seven lifetimes."

Kira stopped walking, facing her. "Only two moments of clarity in seven lifetimes?"

"Nerys, total clarity is a very rare thing."

"I guess so."

"And when it comes to you," Dax said, looking at her earnestly, obviously divining something of her dilemma, "it's important that you act on it." She took Kira's hands. "Because, believe me, doubt and confusion will take over before you know it."

Kira could never decide, afterwards, whether it was a quirk of chance or the will of the Prophets -- but they happened to have stopped just across the Promenade from the security office. And at that moment, Odo happened to walk out. Apparently without seeing them, he motioned a deputy over and handed him a PADD. And somehow, then and there, Kira Nerys made her choice.

She looked back at Dax. "You're absolutely right," she said. "Makes perfect sense."

Dax smiled. "Don't tell me you're having another moment of clarity."

"That's two in two days." Kira smiled back, happily.

Dax's eyes widened. "That's amazing."

Kira squeezed Dax's hands before she set off down the Promenade -- after Odo.

Just when she had fallen in love with him, she didn't know. It might have been last night, or she might have loved him all along. What mattered now was that she wasn't going to let him just walk away without a fight. Not now, not ever.

She firmly held doubt and confusion at bay by walking quickly, by calling after him. "Odo, wait!" He broke stride a little, but didn't slow down. She had to jog to catch up with him.

"Major, if you don't mind, I'd like to forget all about last night."

"I don't think that's a very good idea. We need to talk about what happened."

"Very well, we can meet at my office in an hour." Odo might as well have been making an appointment to talk about the criminal activities report. But there was a note of misery in his voice that she would never have noticed before.

"No," she said briskly. She would not let herself allow him to return their relationship to just business as usual. Not this time. "Let's discuss it over dinner."

"Dinner?"

"You can choose the restaurant. Anywhere but a holosuite."

"What about Shakaar? Do you think he'll approve?" Odo asked sarcastically.

That explained a lot. He'd thought she was getting back together with Shakaar. She stopped, near Quark's, and forced him to stop as well. "I don't care whether he approves or not! Shakaar and I are friends. That's all. Friends. The First Minister asked me to update him on the war with the Dominion. My visit was strictly business. Now, are we going to have dinner together or not?"

Odo barely seemed mollified. "And if we do, then what?"

"I don't know, maybe we could go dancing."

"And after that, I suppose you'll expect me to kiss you," he said accusingly.

"That's possible."

"Well, then, who needs dinner? Why don't I just get it over with and kiss you right now?" He was almost yelling at her.

"Well, why don't you?" she practically shouted back.

He suddenly grabbed her arms, pulled her close, and did exactly as she had suggested.

There were worlds of pent-up emotion in this kiss. On both sides. Their hands clutched tightly, convulsively at each other's arms. Their noses were pressed into each other's faces. It was long. Fierce.

And witnessed by at least fifty very interested Promenade patrons who stopped what they were doing to gawk at them. Quark smiled as he wiped a glass. Broik dropped a tray. Several hearts -- and similar organs of circulation -- either stopped or began beating faster.

Dax came around the corner just in time to witness the show, and stopped, raising an eyebrow. Would she ever have a story to tell...

When Odo and Kira finally broke apart, they still hadn't noticed their audience. They had eyes only for each other.

"You're right," Kira said breathlessly. "Who needs dinner?"

Odo did the only sensible thing, and kissed her again. She felt as if she were the one who would melt. Everything around them faded into an unimportant blur of colors, of softly murmuring voices. Until, slowly at first, then with gathering momentum, the entire Promenade began to applaud.

And somewhere in a holographic Las Vegas lounge, Vic Fontaine sang.

(-|-)

THE END


"You're Nobody 'til Somebody Loves You"
written and copyrighted by Larry Stock, Morgan Russ and James Cavanaugh

"Come Fly With Me"
written and copyrighted by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen

"They Can't Take That Away From Me"
written and copyrighted by George and Ira Gershwin

"Fever"
written and copyrighted by Peggy Lee

"I've Got You Under My Skin"
written and copyrighted by Cole Porter


Back to fanfic page

Back to Encyclopedia menu