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“Benjamin,” Dax hisses. “Benjamin.” She flaps her hand at him, and Ben crosses the balcony to her side. “Look.”

Her voice has the urgency of an unimportant situation. He squints down at the promenade, and sees: Bashir and Garak studiously ignoring each other, Vanderweg in deep debate with a contingent of Bajoran scientists, a set of flirting Klingons– maybe?– and…

“He’s eating replicator pizza,” Dax says. “With a fork.”

Ben regards the ceiling, and then regards Odo, who is, in fact, trying to get the pizza to hold still with one hand as he twirls a string of cheese product off it. His expression, even from this distance, is the one he uses on Quark. “It’s his right to explore new experiences in his own time. You of all people should know that.”

“Oh, please,” Dax says. “You’re the one who said that pizza from this replicator was like eating a box of wet matches. I don’t care. But look at him. He’s so…” She stretches out a hand. “Determined.”

“How is he picking what to try next?”

“Alphabetical. Cardassian alphabet,” she says. “Last time I was here it was plomeek soup. I can’t wait for someone to explain to him that you can eat two things at once.”

“He’s developing preferences,” Ben says, trying to be reasonable. “He’s a systematic man. It makes sense for him to go about it… systematically.”

She grins at him. “Does it?”

“And it shows initiative,” he says. “Enthusiasm. The beginnings of taste.”

“Right,” she says.

“Is he putting sugar on it?”

“I knew this would make you crazy,” she says, with deep satisfaction. “No. Artificial sweetener.”

“That’s it,” he says. “I’m taking command.”


Odo’s midday shift begins a comfortable hour after Ben’s midday break, and Ben times his visit to its beginning, before a Dominion crisis can descend upon them, or at least before they can both become aware of it. “Come in, Commander,” Odo says, mistrust already coloring his eyes. “What’s that?”

“This?” Ben says, hefting the metal tray. “It’s my father’s. Earth restaurants use them to keep food warm. There’s a power pack on the bottom.”

“Oh,” Odo says. “What did the Dominion poison?“

“No, no, nothing. Not this time. I came by to invite you to dinner at 1800.” Ben watches the brief flash of panic in Odo’s eyes, and continues, blithely, “But as I was developing that plan of action, Major Kira reminded me that you have regular patrols at that hour, so…”

He sets the dish down in front of Odo and lifts the cover off. “Pan-fried krada legs on a bed of dark greens and rice,” Ben says. “With real garlic, and real pepper. And grilled moba, because down on Bajor, it’s spring.”

Odo hesitates, and then, with that odd unselfconsciousness, he bends over the plate and inhales as though he’s taking a steam bath. When he straightens up, he has his eyes closed.

“You have all the makings of a top-notch snob, Constable Odo,” Ben says. “I can’t stand to see them wasted on… replicator pizza.”

“A compliment from an expert,” Odo says, dryly. He’s got that almost-smile on. “Are you going to start feeding me up?”

“It’s a Sisko family tradition,” Ben says, companionably. “Wait till you try our tube grubs.”