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"How do you bear it?" he had asked Dax once, the only other being on the planet who could possibly understand. At the time, Jadzia was already gone, and the new host was Mali. "Through your own deaths? Or do you stop loving them once they are dead?"

"Never," Mali had replied. "Some part of me will always be Audrid, crying out for her husband, or Curzon, morning for his murdered godson. But my life did not stop with them, Odo. If I did not continue, Jadzia would not never have let herself love Worf after Lenara had left her. Mali has friends whom I now love as well. It only becomes unbearable if you do not allow yourself to care again."

"I loved Kira," Odo had said. "I will never love anyone else."

"Yes, you will."

So many years had passed since these words were spoken. Dax was Yedrin now, and just before the miracle had happened that had given Kira back to him, Yedrin had pulled him aside and asked:

"It has been two centuries Odo. We have guarded and protected them together throughout this time. Surely, that is what counts, isn't it?"

He knew what Yedrin really wanted to know. But the difference between him and Dax remained the same, even after two hundred years. Dax allowed itself to change.

Odo never had.

Linking with his younger self only confirmed that. Dax might manage to care for everyone, for the mortals who had lived and died, who had trusted and cared for Odo and all the Daxes in return, who trusted them still. Dax might be ready to ensure history took its course and Kira died so they could live. But to Odo, feeling his centuries of longing echoed by the young one with the very same intensity, they were nothing. Not compared to Kira.

He had not seen another Changeling so long, and now he never would. A pity, for finally he could have told the Founders that he understood. Dax believed that sometimes, you had to kill one person so a population could be saved; Odo knew that sometimes, you had to kill a population, and nobody but the Founders would have been able to comprehend this, even if they did not approve of the one he was making this choice for.

Kira would live. Maybe if he had allowed himself to change, Odo could have learned how to exist without her.

But now he never would have to.