The security precautions on Starbase 364 couldn't be faulted. Even after Kira had proven her identity and solidness three times, she wasn't allowed to talk to the Founder without the force field separating them at full strength. Kira felt vaguely satisfied by this; at least the Federation wasn't entirely bereft of its senses.
She still felt they should have killed the Changeling, though.
The creature wore the shape Kira had first seen her assume years ago, greeting Odo. It was a lie, of course, like everything else about her. Kira knew that this shapeshifter had successfully imitated Kira's own appearance; there was no reason to look as unfinished and unassuming as Odo had done. The thought of Odo was still an open wound, and normally she would never have considered rubbing salt into it by visiting the Founder. But there was one last thing she had to do for Odo.
Kira didn't waste any time with polite phrases.
"Odo has returned. The Great Link is cured," she said tersely and without introductions.
"Thank you, Colonel," the Founder replied in her low, serene voice. Her expression did not change. It had not since Odo had restored her to health, at least as far as Kira knew. There was something infinitely insulting about her calm. Kira thought of the millions who had died because of this creature and her ilk. Dukat during his entire time as Prefect of Bajor had not been responsible for so much death.
"Does it even bother you, at least some of you?" Kira asked abruptly. "Is there one shred of you which feels responsible for what you did? Just tell me that I didn't leave Odo with a bunch of genocidal maniacs."
The Founder inclined her head. "You did not leave him at all, Major," she replied quietly. "He left you."
It hurt, and it shouldn't have. She was wasting her time here. All this creature had ever known to do was to manipulate, murder and oppress. Kira turned on her heel, and headed for the first of many secured exits. She didn't get far.
"Nerys," said the Founder suddenly in an all too familiar voice, "I'm sorry."
Slowly, she turned around, staring in her own face, stunned as much by that as by the use of her name.
"No, you're not," Kira returned slowly. "You don't know what the word means. You're a murdering bitch, and all it got you is a nice comfortable Federation cell."
The Founder shook her head; it was unsettling to watch her, even more than it had been to watch the Intendant, who at least had carried herself in a completely different way.
"I'll never return to the Great Link," Kira' heard her own voice say tightly compressed as it was when she spoke of the dead, "and that is a worse fate than any of you can possibly imagine. But that is not what I am sorry for."
"What, then?" Kira snapped.
Ripples went through the Founder's figure; it grew larger, taller, and assumed a grey, masculine shape, until Kira found herself standing in front of Damar.
"For trying to make you the instrument of my death and deliverance," he murmured.
She froze. The worst thing was that this could be true. Both regarding the Changeling, and regarding Damar. She didn't quite understand why she cared. If someone had told her she would ever regret Damar's death a few months ago, let alone mourn for the man who had killed Ziyal, she'd have laughed in disbelief. But that had been a Kira who had not walked through the streets of a desolated Cardassia, with the all-too familiar stench of Cardassian bodies drowning out every other smell.
"I am done with dealing out death," Kira said tiredly, and turned away for the second time. There was silence behind her. Just before she went through the first barrier, she imagined she heard Odo's voice whisper:
"And so are we all."
But she could never be sure.