A CHRISTMAS STORY
No Sexual Situations
With thanks and apologies to Paramount and Charles Dickens, and proceeding under the assumption that forgiveness is easier to ask than permission....
I wrote this story on Christmas Eve, after watching Bill Murray's "Scrooged" and Alistair Sims' "Scrooge" both in one day. It takes place after "Resurrection," and before the next new episode TPTB see fit to deliver to us, whatever that may be.
I do believe
LONDON TOWN ~ James Taylor
Odo patrolled in silence. His boot-shaped feet fell soundlessly on the deck. The changeling reflected that his after-hours patrols of the Promenade were among the few times he had ever come close to the peace he had begged the Foundress to give him. There had been other times ... Tuesday mornings he recalled.... But those memories brought no comfort, only regret.
And so Odo Ital patrolled in silence. The Promenade was peaceful; the odd coincidence in timing between the celebrations of the Bajoran Gratitude Festival and the Terran Christmas had cleared the common area of strollers and shoppers early in the evening. Now most of the station inhabitants were at home celebrating. Even Quark's was closed. The bartender had been invited to a Christmas party in Sisko's quarters, as Odo had been. Quark had accepted, Odo had not.
Odo patrolled in silence, satisfied that the crowded station was peaceful on the eve of these two holy days. He had worked double shifts for a week, freeing his deputies for holiday activities; part of his self-imposed penance for his shameful, if short-lived, dereliction of duty during the second Occupation. His resignation, already drafted and ready to submit, would complete Odo's sentence. The normally smooth features of the changeling's face were twisted into a scowl as he stalked the Promenade.
Odo halted in front of the Temple. He blinked in the orange light that flooded from the doorway, framing the silhouette of Vedek Ossan.
"Constable, may I have a word with you?"
"Of course, Vedek." Odo was surprised when the Vedek beckoned him up the steps and ushered him into the Temple itself. He looked back over his shoulder in curiosity. "Sir...."
But the Vedek continued to shoo him toward the altar of the Prophets' home until he stood before the Orb itself. Odo had never stood so close to an Orb before. He felt a strange, subtle vibration ... soothing, comforting, as the first moments of the Link had felt when the Foundress had taken his hands....
"What is it you wished to speak to me about, Vedek?" Odo asked, almost absently.
The Vedek noticed the changeling's distraction, and smiled. "Constable, have you ever had an Orb vision?"
Odo started, and focused his full attention on the Vedek. "I beg your pardon?"
The older man smiled again, and lay his hands on the metallic casing of the Prophets' gift. "Do you know which Orb this is?"
Odo did. "The Orb of Prophecy and Change."
"Do you wish to receive its guidance?"
Odo snorted, but the gruff bark of his reply could not hide a waver of wistfullness.
"I am not a child of the Prophets, Vedek."
"Are you not?"
"How do you know this?"
Odo snorted once more, and this time the gruffness was more genuine. "Do you ever answer a question without asking another one, Vedek?"
The Vedek seemed amused. His slender fingers released the latch and swung open the door to the Orb. "The Prophets never do, my child...."
Odo stalked stiffly from the Temple and headed for his quarters. He was shivering in agitation. Damn the Prophets! Who knew why the old Vedek had offered him an Orb vision? Odo had thought, for a moment, that the Prophets might extend their grace to a lost one who had sacrificed so much for their other children.
But all that the Orb had revealed was her face ... the face that Odo needed no mystical device to conjure and burn into his eyes and his thoughts. Odo had cared about Bajor before her, of course ... he had embraced the struggle for Bajor's freedom long before he ever met her. But Kira Nerys had moved him, for the first time, to balance justice against the letter of the law. She had become the focus of his growing belief less in justice than in right ... and then the focus of a love that had arisen unexpectedly from some deep place in the pagh Odo had always before doubted that he had.
But Odo had angered Kira, and disappointed her, and frightened her. And she had turned for love to a stranger, a thief who looked like her dead lover Vedek Bariel.
Odo dropped heavily into the chair behind his computer console, staring bleakly into the dark monitor. He glared at the reflection of his simulated eyes ... didn't anyone ever tell you you have bedroom eyes? ... and squeezed his own tightly shut.
When he opened them, he was looking into the face of Mora Pol.
Odo started ... but there, in the black glass before him, was a reflection not his own but of the man who had been assigned to study him, in those dark days of his life in the laboratories. He refocused his shape, paying special attention to the structure of his eyes, but still Mora's face was there.
Now the changeling's ears shifted, reforming subtly and yet still hearing a voice from someone his eyes impossibly insisted he was seeing. Odo felt dizzy ... he brought his hands to the console to steady himself and started as he knocked a dataPADD to the floor. A grimace that might have been a bitter smile pulled his thin lips taut as he bent to pick up the PADD. "A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens." A gift from Miles O'Brien, whose reading tastes rarely led Odo far afield from detective fare by 20th century Terran writers like Raymond Chandler and John D. McDonald. O'Brien had tried to explain the old Earth holiday of Christmas, with limited success. But Odo had finally accepted the book, beginning to read it the night before. Now, he wryly recalled the opening scenes and dismissed his "ghost" to weariness.
"Too tired...." he thought, laying the PADD on the console and losing his mime of solidity to slump into the golden tranquility of his natural form.
Liquid amber shivered violently as Odo's consciousness heard Mora Pol's voice speak to him again.
"Yes ... we are ... Mora Pol."
"Odo, you wear the chains that this Bajoran forged for you in your young life. You must cast them off, if you are to fulfill the prophecy."
"I ... don't understand."
"You will be visited by three ghosts. If you accept their guidance, you can help deliver Bajor into peace and happiness. This is your desire, and your destiny."
"I would do anything to stop this war, but I don't understand--"
"Expect the first ghost when the wormhole opens."
Mora's voice faded from Odo's mind, and the shapeshifter abandoned regeneration, gathering himself into a humanoid form and going to the window to gaze out into the darkness. He had not been recycling energy as efficiently of late, it was true ... he was run down and weary in spirit as well as body. But....
Outside the porthole, the wormhole flared into fiery bloom....
Lwaxanna stood before him.
"I am the ghost of your past, Odo Ital. Take my hand, and walk with me."
The image of the first being to ever truly love him reached out for Odo. Without hesitation, he stretched out his hand and linked with her.
Visions ran through his consciousness like blurred images in a power-starved holoprogram. Cold dark metal around him ... clear glass and harsh, bright lights ... beings who tormented him and watched with dispassionate interest as their machines caused him to ripple with pleasure or writhe in pain. The mines ... Gul Dukat. A ragged, red-haired waif of a woman who turned out to have bare steel behind her clear, earthen eyes. Three innocent men dead on the deckplates of the Second Level. Star Fleet officers, and his work on the station. Garak, and Quark, and O'Brien, and a feeling of community long desired but never before realized. And the waif transformed into a woman in uniform, smart and strong and committed, but who turned to him for guidance. Gaia.
*I have changed. And the Odo you know will change too. If ... you're patient with him.*
And then, the second Occupation. The Foundress had taken him, seduced him with empty promises of peace and stolen from him all hope. And Kira had turned away from him, taking instead the hand of a stranger and a thief who looked like her dead lover Bariel....
Odo shuddered in despair at what he saw.
"Odo, this is the past," Lwaxana's throaty voice vibrated through the desolate changeling; the warmth of her spirit seeped through him. "Remember what makes you sad, and what makes you strong...."
He shuddered as she wrapped her arms around him, clinging desperately to the comfort of her touch even as she faded, even as some part of him screamed, "She's a ghost ... she left you ... she's not real...."
Dark silence finally claimed the voice, and the vision of the being who looked like his wife.
The glare of the wormhole washed across his amber body, waking him again. Slowly Odo drew himself back into humanoid shape. Groggy with weariness, shock and the sorrow of the memories, Odo trembled uncontrollably as he leaned against the bulkhead. What is happening to me? he wondered vaguely. The Orb ....
"Dabo! You win, Odo! It's the Orb!" Quark chuckled at him. "The Orb of Prophecy and Change. I'm only your second ghost, and you've already got motion sickness, eh?"
Odo did feel nauseous as the Ferengi extended his hand and the changeling, too shaky to stand without help, was forced to accept it. "Why are you here, Quark?" He did his best to make his voice sound fierce, but the being only laughed heartily.
"I am the ghost of your present, Odo. Have you never seen the like of me?"
"Too frequently," Odo growled drily.
"I think not!" Quark chuckled again, and reached for Odo's arm. "Come along, Constable. For once, I'm going to put *you* away for your own good!"
Odo felt himself being tossed into a holding cell. The force field sprang up behind him, but power surges caused it to flicker, making it difficult to see clearly the scenes which were flashing across the screen of unsteady, glittering energy.... Molly O'Brien telling her parents with confidence that Mr. Odo would let Santa Claus into their quarters. Leeta and Rom dropping prayer scrolls into the flames at the Gratitude Festival rites. The senior staff crowded together in Benjamin Sisko's cabin to celebrate two holidays of hope, in spite of the war that hovered over them ... Dax watching the door with worried eyes for two missing crewmates. And Kira, sitting alone in her room, the tears streaking her cheeks revealing what her composed, stone-like face refused to....
"Why are you showing me this?"
"Because, Odo, it's time for *you* to take the burden off of *her.* 'The Odo you know will change too. If you're patient with him'," mimicked Quark. "You asked her not to give up on you, but you're giving up on her...."
"This is none of your business."
"Oh, yes, it is my business, Odo! I'm betting on you. If you fail to fulfill the prophecy, I lose on a scale I don't like to think about."
Odo shook his head ... irresistible weariness seemed to be washing over him once more. He could do nothing to help Kira ... she didn't want him to. "Quark," he managed to murmur, "watch out for her.... "
"Do it yourself, Constable," snapped Quark, not unkindly. "I'm not a holy ghost, I'm just playing one in your hallucination...."
Odo drifted into a deep, numbing unconsciousness.
The wormhole's flash illuminated a changeling still in humanoid form, huddled in a corner of the room, awaiting the inevitable. Odo was frightened and uncharacteristically without plan. He waited stoically for what would come next.
He hung his head when he saw Jadzia Dax step from the shadows.
"Odo. Rise, and walk with me."
"No." His voice was a harsh whisper.
But Jadzia's face was serene, her smile gentle as she stretched a slender hand toward him. Odo found himself reaching toward her, and felt his weariness fall away as he touched her fingertips with his own. Still, he hesitated.
"Come," she said softly, and led him to the porthole. The dark glass shimmered, and visions swept across it. The Foundress, her hand sweeping a broad gesture in front of a star map of the Alpha Quadrant, lines of Jem H'adar standing rank on rank before her. Jake standing head bowed with his father's crew as the capsule bearing Benjamin Sisko's body, swathed in the flags of the Federation and of Bajor, was launched from DS9 towards an orbit around his adopted planet. Quark's, empty and shuttered ... Morn, dead in a knife fight on the Promenade. A stark office, a huge desk, citations and medals on the walls ... a drawn and pale Nerys sitting stiffly behind it in a dress uniform. The bleakness in her face twisted something inside him until it hurt.
"Ghost, these things that you have shown me ... can they be changed?"
"They must be changed, if the prophecy is to be fulfilled."
"What prophecy?" Odo grated derisively. "What do the Prophets have to do with me? I'm not Bajoran. Bajorans have died, and come close to death, at my hands. I'm no child of the Prophets ... and I'm no child of the changelings, either. I'm odo ital...."
"No being is *nothing* in the eyes of the Prophets, Constable," Dax murmured gently. "Every being has a destiny. Without you, the people around you ... Kira, Quark, Sisko, and the others, even Dukat ... are merely drops of a great ocean, different and yet the same as the great link of your people. It is through you that they link in ways that can change the course of events ... ways that can fulfill a prophecy and bring peace to Bajor. But only if you remain strong enough to carry yourself and your friends through."
"But I've already failed them." Odo's voice was harsh with despair.
"I suppose now you're going to tell me that I shouldn't resign my commission."
Dax's grin was enigmatic, and the tone of her reply held a lilt of humor. "Actually, I wasn't going to say that at all. Is that what you think you should do?"
Odo growled low in his throat as he heard his own words to Kira, long ago, echoed back at him in Jadzia's voice.
"You will help Bajor, by helping Kira Nerys."
"I have nothing to offer her."
"You have much, Odo. Your strength, your integrity, and your love. And most of all, your patience. The same patience you asked of her."
Dax leaned forward and wrapped her arms around Odo, holding him close as she faded away. Exhausted, the changeling slumped to the floor in his molten form. As sleep claimed him, a memory drifted through his body. Nerys had asked him once, "Odo, do changelings dream?"
"Vividly," he had answered.
And vividly did Odo dream for the rest of that night, which on Bajor and Earth alike brought gratitude and joy to people's hearts....
Odo patrolled in silence, slipping deftly through the flow of the crowd. He absorbed the feeling of celebration that rose and broke around him like the wave of an unseen ocean, enveloping him in a sensation of happiness. They would not be celebrating in peace and security, Bajoran and Terran shoulder to shoulder with all the other travelers on the Promenade, without his efforts. He had made a difference. Odo enjoyed an unaccustomed moment of contentment, which dissipated instantly upon seeing her.
Kira, too, froze in mid-step when she saw Odo standing statue-like in the doorway of Quark's. She felt an old and familiar and maddening rush of feelings ... relief, security, trust ... love ... sweep irresistibly through her. Even after everything, Odo, she thought painfully. If only....
The set of her shoulders and the curve of her lips told Odo a great deal. He squared his shoulders and walked toward her
"I hope you are enjoying the festival, Kira," he said with polite warmth.
Her eyes were shadowed. "I suppose so.... I guess my heart just isn't in it this year."
"I think I understand." He smiled his rare small smile. Kira's eyes widened in surprise and wary pleasure at the sight. Odo, encouraged, ventured further.
"Kira ... I have been thinking...."
"The station is quite busy these days ... with Star Fleet using it as a base, and so many transients passing through because of the war...."
"I thought that it might be ... ah ... productive, to resume our Tuesday morning meetings." Odo smiled again.
"Oh." Kira looked at her boots, and then back at Odo.
"I think that's a very good idea, Constable," she replied quietly. And then, she smiled back at him. The fiery light of the wormhole that had delivered three ghosts to him never blinded Odo as that smile did.
"Major, would you allow me to buy you a raktajino at Quark's?"
"I'll let you buy me something stronger, Constable," Kira replied, her suddenly easy grin crinkling her nose.
Odo nodded. "Mauraltin seev-ale, then." He lifted his arm slightly, as if to escort Kira through the doors of the bar. Impulsively, she reached out and took his hand in hers.
Vedek Ossan watched from the Temple steps as the Major and the Constable walked into Quark's together. Their expressions were a perfect balance of hesitancy and happiness. The Ferengi barkeep threw a sly wink at the Vedek over Odo's shoulder as he greeted the couple. The old holy man smiled back with a secret pleasure all his own at the thought of the part that Quark was to play, all unknowing, in that which was to come....
Now I'm walking on your streets again
~ 30 ~