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I step through the door leading from the airlock onto the lower level of the Promenade and sweep my eyes over the various beings milling about. People are smiling and happy. It’s bright and full of life. 

Far different from the way it was when I left a few years ago at the end of the Cardassian occupation of Bajor. It's Deep Space Nine now. Not Terok Nor. 

I’d vowed never to set foot on this space station ever again.

Starfleet had other ideas and I was sent in to be the Communications Officer. Officially anyway. 

With a sigh I pull my bag further up over my shoulder and start making my way to Ops where I’d find Commander Sisko. 

On the outside people would probably believe that I’m indifferent to my surroundings, indifferent to the things that happened here. The time I spent on Terok Nor taught me how to hide my true feelings and a little over two years later I still hold my emotions close.

My superiors have described me as eerily Vulcan-like and unreadable, lacking in emotion. Starfleet Medical determined me fit for duty after a week of debriefing and counseling when I returned to my commission after I left Terok Nor. 

The truth is, I am far from indifferent to my surroundings. Every step I take threatens to pull me under a wave of emotions and memories I don’t want. I’m not normally an anxious person, but I still haven’t come to terms with everything that happened, the choices I had to make, or the consequences of those choices.  

“Tahna?”

The familiar voice brings a smile to my face and I turn to face an old friend. “Hello Odo.”

He looks both shocked and happy to see me as his blue eyes take in the Starfleet uniform and gold material covering my shoulders. “You returned to Starfleet?”

“I didn’t really have anywhere else to go now did I?” I absently touch my finger to the ridges on my nose, ridges I have agonized endlessly over possibly removing.

“No, I suppose not.” His hands shift behind his back and he drops his eyes. “Does Major Kira know you’re here?”

I shrug. “I have no idea. I’m to report to Commander Sisko tomorrow morning.”

The gruff humming sound Odo makes as he bobs his head is so familiar and comforting that it instantly calms my racing heart. “You’re early.”

“Of course I am.”

He smiles with a shake of his head. “Of course you are. Come to my office, I’ll check on your quarters assignment.”

My face goes blank as I push certain memories away and stare straight ahead as we walk. “Can it be on the other side of the habitat ring?”

Even though he will swear he doesn’t have a heart, out of my periphery I catch the look of compassion that crosses his face as he nods. “Of course, Tahna.”

Letting out the breath I don’t realize I'm holding I swallow back the trepidation that has been present since receiving my orders. I smile grimly as I look his way. “I dropped Tahna.”

“What?!”

“It’s Bajoran, Odo.”

He rolls his eyes as he makes his way into his office and I follow behind him. Fortunately, it was one of the few places I felt safe during the Occupation. 

I drop my bag in one of the chairs in front of his console and sit in the other as he drops down in his own. My head cranes around behind him looking for his pail. 

I’d spend hours in here talking to him while he was regenerating and I couldn’t sleep. Looking back it probably annoyed him to no end but he never complained. He also never said anything about the things I told him during those sleepless nights.

The sound of his voice brings me out of the memory and I return my focus to him. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“I asked what you’re calling yourself now.”

“Saren Oie.”

“Hmmmmm...Oie? Wasn’t that your father’s name?”

“Yes.” I study my nails while he works at his console, searching for my quarters assignment. “It made sense. I don’t know that his people had family names so I just chose to use the only name I ever knew him by as my surname.”

“So, Lieutenant Oie then?”

My fingers lift to the pips on my collar; I’d almost forgotten one was missing. A necessity for this particular assignment. Smiling I look up at Odo whose eyes are focused on my fingers. “Yes, but only when I’m on duty.” 

“Alright, Saren.” He hums and nods before his eyes returned to his console. “Well, it looks like you’re assigned to quarters next to mine. Which is on the other side of the habitat ring.”

“You have your own quarters now?” No wonder I couldn’t find his pail.

“A lot of things have changed since you’ve been gone.”

“It’s very different now, isn’t it?”

“Yes.” He hums again while his head bobs and he laces his fingers in front of him. “They are. I think you are as well.”

We stare at each other over the console for longer than I care to acknowledge. Finally, I close my eyes and roll my shoulders before looking back at him. “Of course I am, Odo.”

And suddenly, all I want to do is sleep. To crawl into my bed and forget everything that happened in the last few years. The only problem with that is if I do I’d forget the man in front of me as well and I definitely don’t want to forget him.

I just have to keep reminding myself this isn’t Terok Nor.