Raktajino. Strong as a Klingon, subtle as a Kelvetti diplomat. Kira Nerys savored the hot liquid as it rolled across her tongue, and waited for the jolt to hit her stomach and stimulate her nerves. Most important, she looked forward to the rush of stimulant that would enable her to stay on her feet in Ops for the length of her duty shift. Her life for the past two weeks had held many wonderful moments, but she had yet to fit in a good night's sleep.
She cast a surreptitious glance in a reflective panel nearby, and winced at her own reflection. Even with her makeup applied with a trowel, there was no way to miss the dark circles under her eyes.
Every day for the past two weeks she had promised herself, 'Only once tonight. We'll do it once, and then we'll go to sleep.' And every night that 'once' with her tender, sensual, ever-inventive lover had stretched out into hours of the most delicious love-making Kira had ever experienced. Even now her body, seemingly unmindful of its utterly exhausted state, flushed anticipatorily at the thought, and a radiant smile bloomed unbidden across the Bajoran major's face. Who would have thought it? she mused. Three weeks ago I couldn't see myself being involved with anyone for a long, long time. Now I'm in the middle of the hottest love affair of my entire life.
She thought a bit guiltily of her other lovers, her past relationships -- she had perhaps loved as much before, or perhaps even more -- the arbiters were still out on the emotional aspects of her current relationship. But judged strictly below the neck, she'd never had a lover like this one. If she survived it, the memories would, if nothing else, warm the cold winters' nights when she was long past doing the kind of things that preoccupied her now.
Kira looked up and out across the Promenade. She had started to have her morning raktajino in the Replimat, ever since the morning, three days before, when she had made the mistake of drinking it in bed, to be found by her lover half an hour later with the empty mug sitting on the floor beside her, and Kira's head buried in her pillow. He had worried, of course -- it wasn't due to undue urging on his part that Kira had spent entirely too much of her rest time rolling in the sheets instead. He was open to whatever she cared to suggest -- Kira knew without any doubt that had she suggested a night off, with lights out by twenty hundred hours, he would have agreed without a murmur. Unfortunately, he was also far too willing to exercise his creativity when encouraged to do so -- and he did it so well.
A flurry of people spilling from one of the turbolifts caught her eye -- Looks like a bunch of Federation types. The Lexington must have docked. In the midst of the crowd Kira detected a tall, slender form topped by a sleek, dark-haired head -- Dax is back, Kira realized happily. I guess she was able to finish her assignment faster than she thought.
More Federation gray moved through the crowd, and Kira saw Dr. Julian Bashir step through the crowd to meet his friend. Jadzia began to barrage the doctor with what no doubt were questions about events on the station and the state of her various friends' health and well-being. Then Kira stiffened. Bashir had turned in the direction of the Replimat and was nodding in her direction, an arch expression on his boyish face. He gave the Bajoran major a jaunty wave and strolled away, while Dax stared at Kira with sudden, bright-eyed interest.
Oh, no, here it comes. Kira braced herself as Dax made a beeline in her direction. Her friend paused at the replicator for only a moment, before she planted a raktajino mug of her own on Kira's table and sat down without waiting for an invitation.
"Welcome back, Jadzia," Kira said dryly. "Why don't you have a seat?"
Meanwhile, the mischief in Dax's eyes was slowly replaced by concern. "Nerys, what's wrong with you? You look awful!"
Here we go. "I'm been a little short of sleep the past few nights. Nothing an extra day off won't fix."
"Yeah, I heard you might be stinting yourself in the sleep department." Dax's blue eyes sparkled. "So, who is it?"
That's a switch. "You mean Bashir didn't tell you?" I guess Julian decided it was more fun to torment than to surprise.
"No, he just said you'd 'gotten an unexpected boost in the romance department,' and that I should ask you about it. So, who is it?"
"He shouldn't have told you that much," Kira said dryly. "Whatever happened to doctor-patient confidentiality?"
"What does doctor-patient confidentiality have to do with you having a new love interest?" Dax stared at Kira, obviously puzzled.
Kira winced as she realized the can of worms she had opened. "Nothing. Forget I said anything."
"You have a new lover who put you in the Infirmary? Kira, are you seeing a Klingon?"
"No, of course not."
"Well, there are several of them here on the station. There's no 'of course' about it."
"Dax, just because you --"
"Fine, he's not a Klingon. Or is it a she?"
Kira couldn't stop the dimples from crawling into her cheeks as she remembered a certain inventive turn that her and her lover's coupling had taken the night before. "It depends. How exactly do you define 'he' and 'she'?"
Dax gave Kira a long, hard stare. Then her mouth fell open.
"Nerys -- is it Odo?"
"What about Odo?" sounded a gruff voice behind Kira. She looked back over her shoulder to see that Security Chief Odo -- my lover, my wonderful shape-changing lover -- had stepped up quietly behind her, a dataPADD balanced in his long, slender hands. I think those hands have touched every inch of me that a hand could reach, Kira mused dreamily, and his mouth has, too. I think he knows the shape of my navel better than I do. I think he's counted the hairs on the back of my neck. Not to mention made them stand on end a time or two.
"Oh, nothing, I was just asking how you were." Dax met Odo's suspicious scowl with a look of wide-eyed innocence. "How are you, Odo?"
"Fine," Odo replied warily. "And you, Commander?"
"Just fine, thanks. Have you seen Worf?"
"I believe that Commander Worf is in Ops." Odo gestured his head in the direction of the station's center of operations.
"Well, then, I think I'll go let him know that I'm here." Dax got to her feet and picked up her half-empty mug. "Lunch, Nerys?"
Kira considered the state of her brain, and decided that it was in no condition to be picked. "Not today -- how about a drink before dinner instead? I was thinking about asking Sisko if I could take today off, and I'm not sure where I'll be at lunchtime."
"Okay, I'll see you at Quark's at nineteen hundred hours." Dax looked from Kira to Odo, and then back to Kira again with a knowing smile. "Have a great day off, Kira." She smiled and carried her mug down the Promenade, humming a little to herself as she went. Odo slipped into the chair the Trill had vacated, his blue eyes quizzical as they rested on Kira's face.
"So, what was she really asking about me?"
Kira smiled a little, and, after a moment's consideration, reached across the table to capture Odo's hand in hers. "She asked me if you were my new lover."
"She's only just arrived back on the station. How does she know that you have a new lover?"
"Bashir met her on the Promenade."
"Well, that explains it." Kira smiled as Odo lifted her hand in his, seeming to study it carefully. "Are you really taking the day off?"
"I thought I might." No, Kira, don't -- you need to rest, don't -- "Why don't you see if you can join me?"
"I have a few things I need to attend to in my office," came the automatic reply, "but after that I'd be happy to. Would you like to meet somewhere here on the Promenade or --"
"Why don't you just come by my quarters?"
"All right." Odo's hand tightened almost imperceptibly on Kira's, and then he stood and departed. Kira watched him fondly, that head-forward, purposeful walk of his, and then tapped her combadge.
If I go straight to my quarters, maybe I can take a nap first.
She's beautiful when she sleeps.
Odo had let himself into Kira's quarters with his security access code, a privilege he had undertaken only after repeated urging from Kira. "Why don't you just let yourself in?" she had asked him after the third night. On the sixth night, he had finally consented to do so.
The familiarity carried with it wonderful rewards -- once he had found Kira in the shower, and had slipped in to join her, finding the warmth and steam and gentle sonic pulses an almost overwhelming sensory experience when encountered in conjunction with the water-slicked landscape of his lover's naked skin. Another time he had caught her in the act of pulling a tunic over her head, so that her vision was obscured. On that occasion he had dared to slip up behind her and slide his hands up her torso -- he could still feel the startled leap of her heart, and the way that her nipples had tightened under his palms as she realized who he was. He had gone on to tie the silky tunic carefully around Kira's eyes, over her laughing protests, and had explored her unseeing body until he left her gasping and spent in what she jokingly called "a gelatinous state". She teased him about his shapeshifting now, even as she encouraged him to explore his liquid nature in their times together. It was more happiness than Odo had ever dreamed possible, and had he been a religious man, he would have sung his praises to the Prophets.
As it was, his only object of worship lay sprawled across her bed, snoring softly. All Bajorans snored, it went with the noses somehow, and Odo never failed to be entranced by the gentle snuffling sound that came from Kira, especially when it was accompanied by her snuggling deep into his substance as he released his shape around her. Not that he didn't also spend a lot of time in a gelatinous state around her while she was awake ... that was the greatest joy of all. The fact that Kira had accepted him the way he was, and seemed to delight in it.
Hoping not to disturb her, Odo sat down carefully on the edge of the bed. But Kira, child of the Occupation that she was, came immediately awake, her eyes wide and questioning for the split second it took her to realize it was Odo. Then she relaxed and stretched, her brown eyes lazy and amused.
"Haven't I met you here before?" she teased. She reached out and drew Odo down into her arms to kiss him with leisurely abandon. Finally she paused, and laid a gentle hand on the side of his face. "I had a nice time last night, Constable."
She always says that, Odo mused. I don't know if she's reassuring me or reminding herself. "So did I," he murmured, and pressed his lips against her forehead. Her skin felt wonderful there, soft and smooth and --
Coated. Odo moved his mouth thoughtfully back and forth, assessing the surface beneath it. Her skin is coated with something. What is it? A very fine powder, perhaps applied in a liquid base -- "Nerys, what's on your face?"
"There's something on your face -- I can feel it when I kiss you. What is it?"
"Oh, that." Kira's chuckle came as a delicious rush of warm air against Odo's cheek. "I'm wearing make-up today. I thought I looked tired." She stretched and knuckled her eyes. "It must feel grimy. I'm sorry."
"Lie still," Odo said softly. He raised his hands to her face, and let them go liquid where they touched her, spreading out over the delicate skin, collecting the particles of foreign matter while Kira watched him through widening eyes. Soon her eyes were the only part of her that remained visible, other than her flaring nostrils -- finally satisfied that he had absorbed the last of the offending material, Odo reshaped his hands so that they were cupped around Kira's face. "There," he whispered. "Beautiful."
"Mmm, that felt wonderful," Kira purred. "It was like you got right down into the pores."
"I did. Shouldn't I have?" Perhaps she doesn't like that. Perhaps it was too much. I --
"It's lovely. Just do it all over next time." Kira gave Odo a lazy smile, and tugged him down to the bed beside her. Her gaze grew serious as she looked at him, even while her hands ran enticingly over his chest and shoulders. "Don't worry, Odo. I'll tell you if I don't like something. And I won't throw you out of bed if you make a mistake."
Odo forced a smile, and began to touch Kira in turn -- the lines of her face, her hands, the soft skin where her uniform tunic dipped in front. He then slipped his hands into her hair and started to kiss her, drawing her close and pressing the whole length of his body against hers. Kira sighed happily and rubbed against him, letting her hands roam idly up and down his torso. She had apparently figured out that it didn't matter where she touched, that she could fondle him wherever it pleased her, and his body would receive the gesture like the most erotic of caresses. Suddenly Kira chuckled.
"Last night -- it would have been nice if I were a changeling."
"Why is that?" Odo asked softly. His fingers found the opening to her uniform tunic and began to peel it stealthily off of her body.
"I would have liked to make love to you. More -- aggressively."
"You mean because I was in a female form?" Odo chuckled.
"In my form, no less. I had no idea you could do that, Constable. It was -- very sensual and surprising."
"I couldn't before I made love to you. That's what helped me become familiar with the shape."
"Am I really still that firm? I thought that left when I carried Kirayoshi."
"You're still that firm." Odo finished ridding his lover of her tunic and started on her trousers. "You just have a very thin soft layer that I can't quite duplicate."
"It's called 'flab', Constable."
"It's called 'sensual', Major." As was the body that finally lay naked beneath him, his own erotic landscape to explore. Odo lifted Kira's hand, and nibbled at the delicate skin on the inside of her wrist. He began to work his way up to her elbow. "It's like fine, warm silk." He transferred his mouth to her torso, and began to run his tongue lightly along the curve of each rib.
"You're like fine, warm silk." Kira ran her hands gently through Odo's hair. "I sometimes just want to -- to plunge right inside you and swim."
Odo chuckled. "Lwaxana Troi said something like that once. When I told her I was a liquid -- she just smiled and said, 'I can swim!'"
"We should go swimming together sometime," Kira said lazily. "On Bajor."
On Bajor. Odo was unprepared for the sudden trembling that seized him and threatened to make him melt on the spot. "You want me to go to Bajor with you?"
"Sure, why not? Wouldn't you like that? I have some leave coming, and you do, too -- we could take a transport down, go to Dahkur, spend a few days -- I think it would be fun. We have that big strategic conference coming up with the Federation-Klingon joint task force, but after that we should be able to take the time. Week after next sound good?"
She expects to still be with me then. To Odo, every day that Kira extended their relationship was an unexpected and unwarranted miracle. "I'd like that," he said swiftly. "I'll ask Sisko for leave tomorrow."
"So will I." Kira smiled and stretched. "If I live that long. Oh, Constable, the things you do to me --"
He's so unsure of me. Kira considered the troubling thought as it penetrated the fog of passion that had started to cloud her mind. Every gesture, every look, every reference to tomorrow, it's like he can't believe it. Even now, when he's kissing his way from my ankle to my crotch.
Kira let out a throaty sigh as Odo achieved his objective, and reached down to spread the folds of her labia invitingly. For an activity with which she had been totally unfamiliar two weeks before, this was one she had found to have incredible appeal. I think he makes his tongue longer when he does this. Longer and a little more pointed. Kira let out a sharp moan as Odo found a certain spot and began to stimulate it rapidly. From then it was a matter of minutes before she burst into tears as she flew, soaring, to the heights of ecstasy.
Odo was there to catch her as she fell, turning liquid to slide up her body and then returning to solid at her side, his arms strong and sure around her. "Shh -- it's all right. It's all right."
Odo had nearly fled her quarters the first time she had started crying like that -- it had taken a rapid and extended explanation by Kira to convince him that crying was not necessarily a bad thing. Now, he seemed to be used to it. When she flew, Kira tended to fly gloriously. She screamed, she shrieked, and sometimes she wept. Sometimes her nose ran. Sometimes she started to cough. She didn't care which, and had finally persuaded Odo to feel the same. In all instances, she had taught him to hold her and murmur to her, and to bide his time until her passion subsided to a manageable level.
Speaking of manageable ... Kira sighed and pulled Odo's head close to hers, covering his mouth with a gentle kiss. "Odo, would you mind if we just lie here for a while? Maybe you can hold me while I sleep?"
"Are you tired?"
The question was so full of wonder and surprise that Kira nearly laughed. But she limited herself to a smile as she replied, "Well, you have been keeping me up nights, Constable."
"I'm sorry." Odo was instantly apologetic. "Perhaps I should go and let you get some rest."
"You can if you want to." Kira consciously softened her voice, hoping to make it utterly clear without quite saying so that Odo's suggestion would not be her first choice. "I was thinking that you could just lie here and hold me ... maybe regenerate. Whichever one of us gets up first can kiss the other awake."
Odo's blue eyes shone in response, a mirror of the passion that Kira could still feeling like a glowing coal in her heart. "I'll do that," he promised. A touch of mischief curved the corners of his mouth. "In every pore."
The erotic image was so intense that Kira wondered if anticipation wouldn't keep her awake, but her body for once overruled her restless mind. Next thing she knew, she was slowly drawn from slumber, not by countless kisses slowly working their way into her pores, but by the repeated <pong> of the door chime. Kira blinked tiredly. Odo had reshaped himself into solid form beside the bed, and stood looking toward the door uncertainly.
Kira tried to sit up, but abandoned the effort without a fight. "Get that, will you?" she mumbled, and fell back, chin first, against her pillow. She heard the soft <whoosh> of the bedroom door, and then a murmur of voices in the living area beyond. Next thing she knew quick footsteps came through the door, and a tall, slender figure launched itself at the bed.
"Nerys! I knew it!" Kira blinked and awkwardly wrapped her arms around the excited Jadzia Dax, who hugged her friend and kissed her loudly on the mouth. Then Dax rolled on her back and took in Odo with her twinkling gaze. "Odo, if you're good enough to put Kira out of commission, I think next host out I'll have to try you."
Odo looked completely abashed. Kira chuckled, sitting up cross-legged beside her friend. "You're terrible, Jadzia," she accused. "What would Worf say?"
"Worf volunteered for a double duty shift today, after he knew I was back." Dax scowled ferociously. "'But Jadzia,' he said, 'the Captain asked for volunteers so he could finish his presentation for the representatives of the High Council.' I said, 'Damn the High Council.' It went downhill from there." The Trill shook her head. "I don't know, Nerys. I love him, but he makes me crazy."
"Crazy isn't so bad." Kira smiled at Odo, who stood awkwardly at the foot of the bed. She patted the space beside her. "Have a seat, Constable. Dax won't mind."
Odo took his place on the very edge of the bed at Kira's side, his posture as prim as it might be at a Starfleet debriefing. I wonder if Odo will always come off like a tight-laced virgin? Kira wondered, amused and far from displeased. There was something very enticing about Odo's rigid stance when she got to see it melt down into a maelstrom of fluid, passionate changeling. She felt sorry for Dax, with her Klingon husband and his warrior's approach to making love -- a sudden irreverent thought made her blush. Between the two of us, Odo and I could ruin her for life. Thankfully, Dax didn't notice as the Trill babbled on happily.
"So, does this mean Quark has closed the pool? Or doesn't he know the specifics yet?"
"Pool?" Kira looked over at Odo, but her lover was just as bewildered as she was.
"Pool?" Odo asked curiously. "What pool? You mean like the manhunt pool?"
"You mean you know about that?" Dax chuckled, and Odo had the grace to look embarrassed. "Kind of like that -- Quark's been keeping a pool for -- oh, years now -- on when and how you and Kira would finally get together."
"He's what?" Kira yelped. She glared over at Odo, who sat with a look of long-suffering resignation on his face.
"Wonderful." Odo shook his head. "I shudder to think what he'll replace it with."
"Probably the wedding date -- or maybe your first baby, if you can figure out how to make one."
Kira stared at Dax, shocked, to be met by an unrepentant grin. The Trill slipped off of the bed to her feet, and announced:
"It doesn't look like you're ready to go out for a drink any time soon, Nerys. Let's try to catch lunch together tomorrow -- provided you're still able to walk, that is." Dax sauntered happily from the room. Kira finally dared to take a glance at Odo, who stared fixedly at nothing with wide, troubled eyes.
"You know Jadzia." Kira was pleased to hear that her voice sounded so normal. "Her life would lose its meaning if she couldn't meddle in someone else's."
Odo grunted his assent. He looked down and seemed to study a pattern in the floor, even while he reached to take the hand that Kira extended to him.
Kira tried again. "Just don't take her seriously. Prophets know, I don't!"
Odo's head snapped up for a moment, although he didn't meet her eyes. "Of course not. That would be silly, wouldn't it? To take her seriously."
Kira worried at the tight note in Odo's voice, and tried to tease him out of it. She forced a seductive note into her voice. "Come back here and take me instead."
Odo finally met her eyes, his gaze level and considering and -- Hard, Kira thought, with a nervous flutter to her stomach. Odo's always so gentle with me, I forget that he can look like that. She fought down the sudden impulse to hide her pudenda with her hand and fold her other arm across her chest like a threatened maiden. Instead Kira forced herself to hold out her arms in invitation. "Make love with me, Odo."
"I wish I could make love with you." The hoarse exclamation came from some unguessed at well of grief and untapped rage.
"What do you mean, Odo?"
"It's nothing." Odo shook his head. "Nothing important." His neat, economical movements were the same as always as he stood up beside the bed, and let his clothing vanish as he reshaped himself in the lean, muscular form Kira had come to appreciate so much during the past weeks. Only his eyes maintained a dark, driven look as he knelt on the bed and insinuated himself gently but firmly between her knees.
"What are you going to do?" Kira kept her tone level as she fought down the panic that came from nowhere to threaten her.
"I thought we might try this like we were both Bajorans -- in case you miss it." With a few perfunctory caresses to Kira's breasts and thighs, Odo thrust his facsimile of a penis inside her and began to pump away with tidy, vigorous efficiency. It was familiar, appallingly familiar, and Kira felt suddenly, viciously cheated, even as her body responded to the accustomed stimuli and she gasped out her matter-of-fact climax. Odo rolled off of her and lay staring at the ceiling while Kira fought unsuccessfully against the angry tears that began to stream down her cheeks.
"Why did you do that?!" Kira turned on her side and began to pound at her lover furiously with her fists. "Don't you ever do that to me again!"
"I thought that was what you're used to." Odo caught Kira's wrists in his hands and held her immobile. "Isn't it?"
"That's beside the point! Why would you want to make love to me that way? To show me that you can? Dammit, that's not what I want from you!"
"Then what do you want from me, Nerys?" Odo held Kira pinned against the bed, his eyes blue flame as he bit off the questions. "A razorcat? A vole? A Rafelian satyr? A green Orion slave girl? I want to be damned sure to give you what you want!"
Kira stared at Odo, and saw the anguish that warred with the anger in his eyes, pain so intense that her fear and anger vanished. He thinks this doesn't mean anything to me -- he thinks it's just sex. No wonder he's so upset -- Dax was talking about marriage, and I said not to take her seriously. Smart, Nerys. Now, fix it. Kira felt a remorseful flood of compassion -- compassion, and a deep sense of longing.
"I want you, Odo," she whispered. "That's all. I want you."
For a moment Kira thought that her lover was going to melt before her eyes. Instead Odo let out a wretched little moan and gathered Kira tightly in his arms. "I'm sorry, Nerys -- I don't know what came over me. Sweet Prophets, I'm sorry -- I love you. I love you so much --"
"It's all right, Odo." Kira pressed her lips gently to his, and reached up to stroke the tousled hair back from his forehead, knowing deep down in her gut how important it was that she never shrink. "I love you, too."
Odo went absolutely still in Kira's arms -- he didn't even pretend to breathe. Kira caught her lower lip in her teeth and studied her lover's frozen face. "What's wrong, Odo? Sweetheart, what is it?"
"You've never told me that before."
"What? That I love you?"
Odo gave a wordless nod. His eyes never blinked as he studied Kira's face.
"You didn't think I'd be carrying on with you the way I have these past few weeks unless I was in love with you, did you?" Even as she said it, Kira privately acknowledged the truth of her own words. In love. In love enough to care, and care deeply, that he always touch me out of tenderness, and with joy. "It wasn't what you just did -- it was how. I need -- when you make love to me, I need to see the joy in your face."
Odo looked at her, slow radiance beginning to glow from his eyes. "Do you see it now?" he whispered.
"I do --"
Then he was on her, inside her, golden wine against the thirst that was her skin, and Kira Nerys forgot to be tired as she took flight in her lover's liquid arms.