Thank you to Chris and Hy for the beta work.

Deep Space Nine-Year-Olds

AU Odo/Kira by Farfalla; rated PG
blueberrysnail @ yahoo . com

The after-school program was a place where the older kids in Roddenberry Elementary School could have a safe place to play, study, or socialize until their parents got off work around five or six in the afternoon. Mr. Sisko would sometimes help them with their homework, and usually there were fruit or chips to snack on since lunch was over three hours ago. If it was sunny, sometimes Ms. Opaka would take some of the kids outside to the playground to work off nervous energy.

Today, however, it was raining, and everybody was inside. Jadzia arrived later than usual, because she'd stayed after class to help clean up in the science lab. She hurried over to the table where Nerys was sitting and flopped down in a chair next to her, slinging her backpack into the neighboring seat. "Hey!"

"Hi, Jadzia." Nerys greeted her without looking up from the bits of plastic she was tinkering with. She was trying to fit two big clear pieces together. The paper printed with instructions was to one side of the pile of pieces. On the other side sat a large lump of blue Play-Dough.

Jadzia took a notebook out of her backpack and fished around for a pencil. She looked at the unassembled toy for a moment and then asked, "What's that?"

"It's a phaser," Nerys told her. "Once it's all put together, it'll be able to make different shooting sounds."

"Cool!" Jadzia was scribbling in the notebook.

"Want to help? There's a lot of these pieces."

"I kinda hafta start my homework," Jadzia said apologetically. "If I have it all done by the time I get picked up, I get to watch 3-2-1 Contact!"

"I like that show," said Nerys.

"Why do you have Play-Dough?" Jadzia asked. It didn't seem to have anything to do with phaser construction.

"That's her boyfriend," Miles called from across the table jeeringly. The television remote was in front of him in two pieces, surrounded by tiny screws. He poked at it.

"What?" Jadzia furrowed her brow.

Nerys glared at him angrily.

"Yeah," called Julian, running over from another part of the room. "Nerys has an imaginary boyfriend."

"He's not imaginary!" insisted Nerys. "Ow!" She'd hurt herself on the plastic, and shook her hand around for a moment.

"Yeah, right," called Julian. "What's his name?"

"Odo."

"That's not a real name! You made that up," said Miles.

"I did not! And you're gonna get in trouble for breaking that." Nerys pointed at the remote.

"I didn't break it," said Miles. "I know how to put it back together."

The two pieces of plastic in Nerys's hands finally slid together with a satisfying click. She fished around in her pile for the next component, sneaking a private smile at the blue Play-Dough.

"Nerys has an imaginary boyfriend because she can't get a real one," Julian announced to no one in particular.

"I can so! He's not always like that," Nerys retorted. "Sometimes he's like us. He can turn into different things."

"Really?" said Miles sarcastically, pretending to believe her. "Make him change."

"He doesn't like to do it just 'cause people say," said Nerys.

"What else can he turn into?" asked Jadzia, looking up from her homework. She didn't know if Nerys was telling the truth or not, but she was curious anyway. Even if it was just make-believe, it might be interesting. More interesting than long division, at any rate.

"He was a dolphin yesterday when we went swimming," said Nerys. "He let me ride him around the pool until he got tired."

"Cool!" Jadzia liked dolphins.

"That's crap," said Julian.

"You're not supposed to say that word," Jadzia admonished, peering around the room to make sure Mr. Sisko wasn't nearby.

"Hey, can I turn him into stuff?" Julian demanded, reaching across the table. He grabbed the blue lump before Nerys could stop him. "Let's make him into a poop!"

Miles giggled.

"Stop it!" Nerys shouted, scrambling across the table. But Julian was running away from the table and towards another group of kids. She shifted her course towards him. "Give it!"

"Give it!" Julian yelled back at her mockingly, rolling the Play-Dough into a thick tube.

"He doesn't like that!"

"It's just Play-Dough! Get a life!"

Kids from all over the room were watching them nervously. Fighting was, of course, not allowed...

Nerys caught up with Julian and flailed her fists at him, grabbing for the Play-Dough. He danced around, holding it above his head and out of her reach, snickering all the way. "I hate you!!" Nerys screamed, seeing stars. "I'm gonna kick your butt." And she knew she could, too.

She steeled her small, muscular body, gritted her teeth, and prepared to deck Julian in the gut.

Just then, the blue mass in Julian's hand began to glow and change color. "Ack!" he shouted with alarm, dropping it on the floor. It faded to yellow and then flesh-toned, and rapidly expanded. Before long, a boy with strange, hooded eyelids appeared on the carpet.

He stood up and dusted himself off. "Odo!" Nerys squealed, leaping on him sideways and hugging his shoulders. "You changed back!"

"I didn't want you to get in trouble for fighting," he explained. "Mr. Sisko might have kicked you out of the after-school program."

"Eek, thanks," said Nerys, biting her lip. "That would have sucked."

Julian stuck out a finger and poked his arm. "Whoa. How'd you do that?"

Odo shrugged shyly.

Miles and Jadzia had hurried over from their table. "Hey!" Jadzia smiled at the new kid.

"That was awesome!" Miles exclaimed.

"When I finish putting together my phaser, wanna play alien wars?" Nerys asked the group, happy that everything had worked out.

"Yeah!"