Dani carefully stepped over a large rock, placing her hand on a nearby tree for balance and support. A few more steps, and she was at a more level clearing. She looked up from the ground and witnessed one of the most beautiful sites she’d ever seen. Merely a few feet away was a massive waterfall that emptied into a crystal clear lagoon below. She turned to Dukat, who was coming up behind her.
“This is absolutely beautiful,” she told him.
“It’s one of my favorite places,” Dukat said. He was speaking of Cardassia IV, where he and Dani had been for the last two days. Six hours after their conversation on DS9, they had been on Dukat’s ship on their way away from the station. Now, they were reveling in the new-found freedom of finally being able to do what they wanted without any regard as to who may be watching or what might be said about them as a result. They were alone.
Dani turned back to the view of the waterfall. “Is there a name for it?” she asked.
Dukat replied with something in Cadassi that didn’t translate via the universal translator. “What was that?” Dani asked him. Dukat repeated himself, and Dani still didn’t understand it. She concluded that it was a word not programmed into the UT system. Dani repeated the word softly to herself.
“What does it mean?” she asked him.
“It means ‘endless fall’,” Dukat informed her.
“Endless fall?” Dani repeated.
“Yes. See how the water appears to fall through the surface of the water and continue falling down to the bottom of the lagoon?” Dukat pointed out to her.
Dani peered over into the lagoon as far as she could from her and Dukat’s vantage point. It did appear that the water broke the surface and continued falling.
“How is that possible?” Dani asked.
“No one really knows for sure,” Dukat replied. “There are many theories. One of the most popular is that it only occurs when an especially magnetic person is in the vicinity.” Dani’s eyes travelled away from the water and met Dukat’s. “I’m telling you the truth,” Dukat insisted.
Dani turned back to the waterfall, deciding to advance toward it. Dukat followed her, curiosity brewing concerning her intentions. He followed as she moved closer and closer to the water.
Standing near the water’s edge, Dani finally returned her gaze to Dukat and asked, “This stuff isn’t toxic or anything, is it?”
“You could drink it, if you wanted,” was Dukat’s reply.
Dani nodded, Dukat’s answer being enough permission for her. She sat down on a large boulder and removed the hiking boots and socks that she’d put on that morning. Placing them to the side, she tentatively dipped her right foot into the shallow pool of water. Like everything else Cardassian, it was quite warm for a natural water source – but not unbearably so. Satisfied that she wouldn’t be the victim of some type of temperature shock, she stepped into the water, planting both feet firmly on the smooth, stony bottom.
“What are you doing?” Dukat asked her.
“Wading,” Dani said.
“Plenty of reasons – it’s hot here, wading is fun, the water feels good. And perhaps the most valid reason of all: I was curious.”
“About what? Whether Cardassian water feels any different than Terran water?”
“I suppose. But not specifically.” Dani kicked at the water. “Haven’t you ever merely been curious about something for the sake of being curious. Like you just wanted to know more about something just for the sake of knowing? Like you didn’t always have this agenda to follow?”
“Truthfully – yes.”
This answer both surprised Dani but didn’t at the same time. She waited for Dukat to explain.
“There have been instances when I’ve wanted to find out more than was warranted about a subject,” Dukat said. “However, various factors, whether they be orders or time constraints, have seriously limited my ability to carry out basic research. That coupled with the fact that I am not a scientist.”
“You don’t have to be a scientist to be curious about things,” Dani said. She’d known, from her initial conversations with the man that there was more to him than the astute military officer he had always appeared to be. The man had a soul. And he’d shown it to her over the past few months.
Dani had been walking away from Dukat, her back to him, but now she turned back to him and began the process of unbuttoning her her white, button-down shirt. She began to cross the water to his current position. She shed the shirt and tossed it to the dry water’s edge, moving on to her khaki hiking shorts. She carefully stepped out of them and also tossed them to dry land. Next, she quickly discarded her undergarments, abandoning them on the rocks just ahead of her and approached Dukat in the nude.
“What are you doing?” Dukat asked Dani, his breath a little ragged.
“Exploring,” was Dani’s answer. She urged him to remove the pack he was carrying, which contained any items they might need for the day. He did so, allowing it to fall gently to the ground. Dani began to remove Dukat’s clothing, following the same process she’d used to discard her own clothes. Within a matter of minutes, he was in the same state as she. She took his hand and gently pulled him into the water with her. “I take it you don’t do this very often,” Dani speculated.
“No, I don’t,” Dukat said.
“Well, that makes two of us,” Dani said, kissing him. She led him toward the waterfall, where they walked through the falling curtains of water and ended up behind the water. Dukat marveled at the sight of a wet Dani. A thought came to him that made him chuckle.
“What?” Dani asked.
“I was just thinking,” Dukat began. “We’re probably the first to do this.”
“Why do you say that?”
“No Cardassian woman would ever do anything like this.”
Dani smiled and looked out at the view from behind the shimmering waterfall. It was an amazing sight. Everything looked like a water painting. Dukat turned to Dani and kissed her again deeply.
Dani looked up at the night sky from Cardassia IV. It was a clear night, and the stars were absolutely breathtaking. That was one of the reasons she’d wanted to join Starfleet, because she wanted to be up there, among the stars. Now, that dream might have slipped away. She looked down at her cup of red leaf tea, which Dukat had made using the old-fashioned method of boiling. It was good, as it had always been when it had been replicated, but she just wasn’t in the mood for it now. She’d taken a few sips, but not many more beyond that. Her eyes rose to the small fire they’d started. The flames danced back and forth, every now and then flickering because of a stray gust of wind.
“Tell me, Danielle-” Dukat began. Dani turned her body and saw that he was emerging from their little tent. He was carrying a bottle and two glasses. “Have you ever had kanaar before?” he asked her.
Dani’s mind immediately wandered back to the first time she’d had kanaar, back when she was at the Academy. It’d been the night her and her friends had gone camping after their first completed semester. “Yes,” Dani said answering Dukat’s question. “While I was at the Academy.”
“During some drinking escapade, no doubt,” Dukat said disdainfully, as he sat down beside Dani.
Dani looked at him disapprovingly. He was right, but why did he have to automatically jump to that conclusion first? “You’re right,” Dani conceded. “I had friends who would drink it right along with Romulan ale and Saurian brandy for the sole purpose of getting drunk.”
“And you?” Dukat asked.
“I rarely ever got drunk, if that’s what you mean. I wasn’t particularly fond of that hungover sensation that accompanied it the morning after.”
“So, you’ve never really…experienced kanaar before?”
“No. I didn’t know there was anything to experience.” Dani was still holding her cup of red leaf tea. She was about to take a drink of it, but Dukat stopped her.
He took her cup and handed her a glass of something, a clear liquid that resembled water. “What’s this?” Dani asked as she took a sip of the liquid that filled the volume of the glass. Her tongue immediately recoiled. The drink was desperately bitter.
“It cleanses the palate,” Dukat said, as he took a sip from the same glass as Dani. Dani figured that he must be used to the taste because he didn’t flinch as the liquid flowed over his tongue. “That way, the experience is more fulfilling.”
Dani kept wondering just what this experience Dukat kept mentioning was. A drink was a drink was a drink. And it was either good or bad. And from what she remembered, kanaar had been a very bad one.
“Close your eyes,” Dukat instructed.
Dani wanted to ask ‘why’, but didn’t. She sighed and closed her eyes anyway.
Dukat took her hand and placed a kanaar-filled glass in it. “Smell it,” Dukat said.
Dani lifted the glass to her nose and let the scent invade her nostrils. “Smells spicy,” she said.
“Good,” Dukat praised. He moved closer to Dani. “Now-drink.”
Her eyes still closed, Dani brought the glass to her lips and drank. Dani had tasted kanaar before, but it had never tasted like this before. Like Dukat said, Dani had never experienced kanaar before. It had a very distinct taste and caused a…peculiar feeling. The moment she swallowed, she felt an immediate sensation equivalent to what she would call a buzz. As the buzz wore off, it left a warm feeling throughout her body. She opened her eyes.
“What do you think?” Dukat asked. He took a drink from his own glass of kanaar.
“That’s amazing,” Dani said, looking down into the glass. “I’ve never tasted anything like it. I’ve had kanaar before, but why hasn’t it ever tasted like this before?”
“Your palate wasn’t pure then,” Dukat explained. “Tonight, it was. And you probably didn’t have high quality kanaar before.”
“Is drinking kanaar always such a ritual?” Dani asked, changing her sitting position slightly. One of her feet had started to fall asleep, so she moved it out from under her. In the process she inched a little closer to Dukat.
“Not for everyone. Some chug it like the common beer,” Dukat said with a disgusted grimace. “But they have no true appreciation for the beauty of a good bottle of kanaar.” He drank some more from his glass.
“You’re a man who appreciates beauty,” Dani observed.
“Yes. And as a result, people often take me and individuals like me for vain and shallow. We’re not.”
“I know,” Dani said. She was guilty of that herself, especially concerning Dukat. If she’d learned anything from him and from their relationship, it was that you really didn’t know someone until you actually talked to them and got to know them. Her skeptical side told her that even sitting down and getting to know someone didn’t guarantee you would get the truth, but it was better than making assumptions from afar.
She studied him. His appearance in the firelight was striking. The flames seemed to make his blue eyes dance even more than they normally did. Dani placed her hand on Dukat’s face and began to trace his ridges with her fingers. “You fascinate me,” she said. “I’m intrigued by you. I never know what you’re thinking or what you’re going to say next, yet, somehow, it’s like I know what you’re feeling.”
Dukat’s face inched closer to Dani’s, and he kissed her, long and thoroughly.
Dani realized after a while that she was still holding her glass of kanaar. She’d wanted to continue to drink it, but she didn’t think she needed it anymore. At least not for the buzz. Dukat was giving her enough of one with just his kiss. She was so far gone that she almost didn’t hear the phaser blasts sound in the distance. She pulled away from Dukat, startled. She looked at him, alarmed.
“I thought you said we’d be alone here?” she said.
“We’re supposed to be. No one ever comes here,” Dukat said, curiosity and anger brewing because some idiot playing with a phaser had interrupted his evening with Dani. “Unfortunately, I don’te own the planet and have no say over who comes and goes.” He listened to the sounds of the phaser blasts. They sounded like they were getting closer. He looked at Dani. He knew she had to be thinking along the same lines.
Jumping into action, Dukat stood stood and extinguished their small fire with some of their water. He realized it wasn’t a cure-all because the smoke from the extinction of the fire would still be an indicator of their location. But, he resolved, it was better than the light a fire emitted.
He sat back down beside Dani, and they both watched for any sign of anything coming from any direction. All of a sudden, as suddenly as they’d first been heard by the Cardassian and the human, the phaser fire ceased. Dani and Dukat looked at each other puzzled. Maybe it was over.
Before either of them had the chance to think anything else or do anything, a Klingon emerged from the darkness. Both Dani and Dukat, though obviously taken by surprise, stood slowly, cautiously, calmly, so as not to provoke the interloper. Dukat slowly positioned himself so that he was in between the warrior and Dani, and saw that another Klingon was approaching from the opposite direction of the first. He immediately realized the situation for what it was.
These two men were not a pair of innocent, lost travelers. Dukat did his best to completely block Dani from the men with his own body.
Dani appreciated the chivilrous gesture, but if they wanted any kind of chance of getting out of this alive, she would have to fight by his side. As they Klingons moved in on the couple, and it became more obvious that they would attack, Dani stepped out from behind Dukat. They looked at each other with mutual understanding and each turned to a Klingon.
The attack came swiftly, as expected with this particular foe, but Dani and Dukat each held their own. Dani took a hit to the face, but recovered from it quickly enough to deflect another blow and deliver one to the Klingon’s neck.
Dukat was having an even tougher time. His Klingon had a deadly batleth, and he was not shy with it. Dukat ducked out of the path of the swiping weapon. He grabbed the Klingon by the waist and rammed him into a nearby tree with as much force as he could muster. The act only served to momentarily stun the Klingon.
He quickly recovered and caught Dukat in the side with the handle of the batleth. Dukat fell to his knees. There was no blood, but it hurt like hell. Before the would-be assassin could deliver a final blow, Dukat punched him in the knee, causing the assailant to abandon the grip on the batleth for his painful knee.
Dukat took advantage of the situation and picked up the batleth.
Dani, growling, ran her Klingon into a tree, as well. The move, however, had less of an effect than Dukat’s move had. The Klingon whipped out a dagger, dug it into Dani’s side, and pulled it out. Dani looked down at the gaping wound, shocked that she had actually been stabbed, and touched it. When she brought her hand back, it was covered with blood. She looked at her attacker, who was now sneaking up behind Dukat. Dukat had just incapacitated his attacker. He hadn’t killed him; he’d only disabled him by knocking him unconscious with the batleth.
“Marac!” Dani cried out with her fleeing strength. She fell to her knees and grimaced as a wave of pain passed through her body.
Dukat turned in time to see the Klingon in a position to strike. Dukat swung the batleth at the attacker. The blade caught him in the side and was firmly planted there. The Klingon’s eyes went wide as the dagger slipped from his fingers. He grabbed for the batleth, but didn’t succeed before life left him and he collapsed on the ground.
Dukat turned to see that Dani had also collapsed on the ground, but she wasn’t dead. At least he hoped she wasn’t. He was at her side in an instant. He examined the wound. There was a lot of bleeding, and it looked bad. He felt for a pulse and was relieved to find one. It was weak but, nonetheless, present. He scooped her up into his arms, quickly, but carefully. While he wanted to get her out of here as soon as possible, their shuttle was a good distance away, and he
didn’t know if there were anymore attackers in the vicinity. He moved to retrieve his comm unit from the tent but soon came to realize that it was the little device currently in pieces on the ground. It must’ve been damaged during the fight. And he didn’t have a spare. Damn!
“Marac,” Dani said weakly into Dukat’s ear.
“I’m here,” Dukat said. “I’m right here.” Whatever he decided to do, he had to do it quickly. Danielle wasn’t going to last much longer. He would just have make is way to the shuttle, he decided, and deal with any Klingons he encountered when he encountered them. It was the only option. “Danielle,” he said. “Stay with me. We’re almost there.” He started to move as fast as he could, with what he assessed to be a broken rib or two, in the direction of the shuttle. After about a minute or so, he realized that he should stop and plug
Dani’s wound, as it was bleeding profusely. The very fact that he’d overlooked this one simple tactic reminded him of why he hadn’t been fit to be a field medic or emergency worker.
Dukat stopped and carefully laid Dani on the ground. He pulled up her shirt. Her very life was draining from her through this wound. He pulled off his white linen shirt and tied it snugly around Dani’s waist, making sure to position the large knot he’d formed over the stab wound. He felt once again for a pulse. It was weaker than it had been when he’d checked earlier. They had to get moving again.
He moved to pick her up but froze when three Klingons appeared. They appeared ready to attack, as the other two had. They were closing in on him, and there was nothing Dukat could do. He didn’t want to believe that this was the end, but it certainly looked that way. In one final attempt to protect Dani as much as he could, he covered her body with his, closed his eyes, and prepared for the death blow he knew was coming.
But instead of feeling the sharp bite of a batleth or dagger, he felt the familiar sensation of a transporter beam. Was this what death felt like? Being transported? It wasn’t as bad as he thought it’d be. When the tingling sensation had subsided, he opened his eyes and realized that he wasn’t dead. He’d been transported to a sickbay. But whose sickbay? At the moment, he didn’t care. He just wanted someone, anyone to help Dani.
When someone carelessly shoved Dukat out of the way to get access to Dani, instead of being angry, he was grateful that someone was finally helping her. He was at her side, and he looked scared as hell.
“What happened?” the doctor, a Cardassian, asked, as he walked around to the other side of Dani. He stood across from Dukat.
“We were attacked,” Dukat explained.
The doctor scanned Dani’s wound with a medical tricorder. “By whom?” he asked.
“Two Klingons,” Dukat replied. The doctor silently absorbed the fact while continuing to tend to Dani. Dukat looked on eagerly, wishing the doctor would reveal something about Dani’s condition.
The doctor looked down at his patient. She had various other minor injuries, such as bruises and scrapes, but he’d tend to those later. Right now, he had to get this woman’s life out of danger. He had managed to stop the bleeding. Now he had to close the wound and make sure infection didn’t ensue.
A medic approached Dukat, with the intention of treating him for his own injuries, but he wouldn’t have it. He had to be assured that Dani would be okay.
“She will be all right, won’t she, Doctor?” Dukat asked.
“She’ll be fine,” the doctor assured him. “She lost a lot of blood, and she’ll be a little weak for a few days, but yes, she will be just fine. Now, it’s your turn to be examined.” He passed the medical scanner over Dukat. “You have a mild concussion, two cracked ribs, a sprained wrist, and an array of minor contusions and lacerations.”
He snapped the tricorder shut. “You took quite a beating, as well. Come and lie down on the table.” Dukat looked at Dani and reluctantly followed the doctor to a bed.
The next morning, when Dani awoke, it took her a brief moment to remember what had happened the night before. She looked around the room. It didn’t look at all familiar. Where was she?
“Ma-” she began, but it turned into a cough.
The Cardassian doctor who’d treated her was standing across the room at a console. He turned around when he heard the cough and saw that his patient was awake. He walked over to her bedside.
“Marac,” Dani managed weakly. “Where is he? Is he alright?”
“He’s on the next bed over,” the doctor said. “He’s sleeping.”
“Yes. He suffered a mild concussion and a few broken ribs, but he’s fine. Would you like me to wake him for you?”
“No. Let him sleep.”
The doctor nodded. “My name is Dr. Sarat,” he said finally introducing himself. “You’re in the sickbay onboard a Cardassian science vessel.”
Dani was utterly confused. The last thing she remembered was being attacked by two big, burly Klingons, and now she was onboard a Cardassian ship? “What happened?” she asked.
Sarat proceeded to relay the story of her and Dukat’s rescue and arrival to the ship. “You’re going to be all right,” Sarat said reaching the conclusion of the tale. “You suffered a severe laceration to the abdomen, but I’ve repaired it. It doesn’t look like there will be any permanent damage, but you lost a lot of blood. I’d like to keep you in sickbay today for observation.”
Dani nodded. This was all a lot of information to digest. Someone had been trying to kill her and Dukat. Dani imagined there must be a lot of people who’d like to get their hands around his neck, but she never thought that they would actually try to kill him. That thought had never entered her mind.
Sarat decided that the time had come to let Dani be alone with her thoughts. “If you have any problems or questions, let me or any of the other medics around here know, and we’ll take care of you,” he said.
Dani, again, nodded. “Thank you, Doctor,” she said. Sarat gave her a little smile and left her.
The next morning, Dukat was at Dani’s bedside, holding her hand, watching her intently for any change in her condition, no matter how minute. Dr. Sarat had cleared him for release from sickbay earlier that morning, but Dukat was determined not to leave her alone if he could help it. It was his fault this had happened to her. She’d been injured trying to protect him. She’d almost died because of him.
The perpetrators of this crime would not go unpunished, Dukat resolved. He would personally see to it that those responsible would pay for what they’d done.
“How is she?”
Dukat whirled around in time to see a uniformed Cardassian enter. The rank insignia on his uniform indicated that he was a gul, probably the commander of this vessel. Out of respect, Dukat stood, as the man approached the bed. “She’s going to be fine,” Dukat said, answering the man’s inquiry.
“Good,” said the gul.
“Gul,” Dukat began. “I’d just like to extend my sincerest gratitude to you and the good members of your crew. You’ve saved our lives, and I don’t even want to imagine our fates had you not intervened.”
The gul seemed openly annoyed by Dukat and kept his eyes trained on the sleeping patient. “If you really want to know the truth of it,” the gul began, “the only reason I picked you up was because of the Starfleet officer. We have a treaty with the Federation, and I can’t have the problem of one of their officers being injured or killed on one Cardassia’s planets. If you’d been alone,” he raised his eyes to Dukat, “I doubt I would have even stopped. I would’ve been content
to have left you to your own devices with the Klingons.” He cast a final, softer glance in Dani’s direction before turning and walking out of the room.
Dukat looked at the closed doors, fuming. How had it come to this, that his position, his status among his own people, had become so low that they wouldn’t think twice about leaving him to die.
The groan that came from Dani’s direction broke into his thoughts. He returned his attention to her to find that she was stirring. He once again took her hand in his.
Dani opened her eyes and realized that Dukat was awake and he was sitting beside her bed holding her hand. “Marac,” she said.
“I’m here,” he said. “Do you need something?”
“No,” Dani said, shaking her head.
“I’m so sorry this happened to you,” Dukat apologized.
“It happened to you, too, Marac,” Dani reminded him.
“It happened because of me. It was an attempt on my life,” he said. “And it probably won’t be the last time,” Dukat said gravely. Dani looked at Dukat. The whole prospect scared her, but she knew he was probably right. “One day,” Dukat continued, “someone is going to succeed.”
Dani raised her hand to touch Dukat’s face. “Don’t think like that,” she said. “Please. Maybe this was an isolated incident.”
Dukat covered Dani’s hand with his own. This had been no isolated incident. Last night hadn’t been the first attempt on his life. People had been trying to kill him for years. On five different occassions, someone had tried to kill him.
But he didn’t want Dani to be bothered with all that at the moment. “Why don’t you get some rest?” he suggested. “You’ve got to get your strength back.”
To Dani, it seemed that Dukat had something on his mind, something heavy. But she was tired, and if he didn’t want to talk about it, she wouldn’t pursue it.
She closed her eyes and let the soothing motion of Dukat stroking her hair lull her to sleep.
The next day, Dani sat on the biobed in the Cardassian ship’s sickbay, waiting patiently as Sarat examined her, checking the progress of her healing wound.
“Could you lie down, please?” Sarat requested. Dani promptly reclined onto the biobed, as the doctor had asked. He was a nice, gentle man, something Dani hadn’t expected from a Cardassian. She concluded that kindness must be a trait inherent in all physicians – all those except for maybe Klingon doctors. She couldn’t quite equate gentleness with any Klingon.
The doctor examined the wound area, which had, only 48 hours ago, been a mess. Now, only a small scar existed where there had once been a bloody mess. And even that would go away after the final stages of treatment.
“Your wound is healing very nicely,” Sarat commented, passing a medical tricorder over the area. Dani smiled and glanced over at Dukat, who was standing off to the side, out of Sarat’s way.
Once Sarat was finished with the exam, he said, “You can sit up, now.” Dani rose to a sitting position on the bed. “I’m projecting a full recovery in a matter of days.”
“Really?” Dani asked. She hadn’t expected she would heal so soon.
“If you were an officer on this ship, I’d clear you for limited duty.”
“Wow,” Dani said. “Thanks.”
Sarat gave her a nod and a smile before leaving. Dukat walked over and joined Dani at the bed when the doctor left the room.
“I never guessed it would be such a quick recovery,” Dani said.
“You wouldn’t have to be going through any kind of recovery if it hadn’t been for me,” Dukat said, still very guilt-ridded.
Dani sighed. “Marac, we’ve been through this. This is not your fault.” She wanted to convince him of that fact, but she knew it was useless. He wasn’t going to subscribe to the notion, and they would only end up going in circles. “Let’s just try to put this behind us, and move on, okay?”
Dukat nodded. “As you wish,” he said. He picked up her hand and kissed it before bending down and kissing her lips. The kiss was interrupted by a heavy shudder caused by the impact of something on the ship.
Dukat broke from Dani as the lights dimmed and ship’s alarms began to sound. “We’ve been hit by something,” he said, stating the obvious. He helped Dani down from the bed just as the ship was rocked a second time by another impact. The couple was almost thrown to the deck, but Dukat quickly regained his balance and kept both himself and Dani from falling. “Come on,” he said, holding on to her hand and heading for the sickbay’s exit.
When the doors slid open, Dukat and Dani realized that their path was blocked by two Romulans with disruptors aimed directly at them.
“You will come with us, or face the consequences,” one Romulan said.
Dani and Dukat looked at each other. Some vacation this was turning out to be. First, someone had tried to kill them, now they were being abducted by Romulans.
How much worse could it get?
“Captain, we’ve got an incoming message from the Defiant.”
Captain Jean-Luc Picard turned in his seat on the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise to look at the officer who’d just spoken and then at Will Riker on his right. The Defiant? Perhaps it was just a greeting. “On screen,” Picard ordered.
Colonel Kira Nerys’s face filled the viewscreen. “Captain Picard,” she said.
“Colonel,” Picard greeted. “What can I do for you?”
“We have a situation,” Kira began. “And we could use your help.”
Picard looked at Will. The colonel looked gravely serious. Whatever was going on must be a matter of great importance, or she wouldn’t have enlisted the help of the Enterprise. He returned his gaze to the viewscreen. “Very well,” he said. “Beam over, and we shall discuss the situation.”
Dani refused to believe that there was no way out of this cell besides through the path currently blocked by the forcefield. She knelt in front of the cell’s entrance, studying the forcefield emitters.
Dukat lay on the meager cot in the dark cell they’d been placed in aboard a Romulan warbird. “I don’t mean to sound pessimistic,” he began, “but there is no way out of here.”
Dani stood, giving up on the forcefield. Dukat was right, even though she didn’t want to believe it. This cell was officially escape-proof. She walked over and sat sullenly on the cot. She had a heavy sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. She knew she was trouble, and she couldn’t think of a way out of it.
Dukat sat up and brought his feet to the deck. He placed his hands on her shoulders and told her, “Everything will be alright.”
Dani wanted to believe him, but at the moment, it sure didn’t look like everything would be fine.
“Believe me,” Dukat continued, “I’ve gotten out of worse situations than this.”
Dani turned and looked at up at him. His eyes had a calming effect, which she eagerly welcomed. “Why don’t we lie down? I don’t want you tiring yourself,” Dukat said.
Dani reclined with Dukat onto the bed. “I don’t understand what they could want with us,” Dani pondered aloud.
Dukat looked up at the ceiling as he thought of the real reason for their current state of captivity. The Romulans probably wanted Dukat, not Dani. “I wouldn’t worry about it,” he said. “There’s probably been some kind of mistake.” He was trying to convince Dani not to worry while he himself had every reason to worry. “All we have to do is bide our time, and opportunity shall present itself.”
Dani nestled herself closer to Dukat. He seemed so calm, and it was comforting to her. She let her body relax against him and closed her eyes. When she did that, it felt just like they were in his bed in his quarters on the station, when things weren’t perfect, but definitely preferable to now.
“I love you, Danielle,” Dukat said.
“I love you, too, Marac,” Dani said.
Dukat wished he could tell her that he never let anyone get to her, never let anyone touch her. But he couldn’t promise that. That had been proven when the Klingons had attacked them. He would do everything in his power to protect her, though. Her and Ziyal. And if he ever got the chance, he would have revenge against those who’d wronged them. Isn’t that what anyone would want? Isn’t that what Danielle would want?
“Danielle?” he said quietly. He looked down at her. She’d fallen asleep already.
‘She must be exhausted,’ Dukat thought. And understandably so. She’d been through a lot over the past few days. Being stabbed tended to take a lot out of a person.
He looked up at the ceiling. ‘Would she really want revenge?’ Dukat pondered. He looked down at the sleeping Dani again. She was such a caring, giving individual. She was good. Unlike him. He remembered that Kira had once referred to him as pure evil. Someone like himself would want revenge. But Danielle, he concluded, wouldn’t.
What the hell was she doing with him? She was possibly throwing away her career, her life as she knew. For him. By choice.
The streak of wetness he found on his cheek when he brought his hand up to it surprised him. When had that happened? He looked up at the ceiling. Was there a leak somewhere? It took a moment for him to register the fact that he was weeping. He hadn’t recognized the sensation, it’d been so long since it had happened to him. The last time had been when he’d found Naprem’s grave site and had been reunited with Ziyal. He’d known, for a while before finding it, that she was probably dead, but it’d been the closure associated with actually finding the grave, of knowing that she was gone, that had gotten to him.
Dukat looked down at Dani, yet again. All the pain he’d caused her by being a presence in her life – he would make it up to her. He didn’t know how, but he would.
The sound of a rifle butt making contact with a body was what awoke Dani from her slumber. She opened her eyes to the sight of Dukat curled into a ball, grimacing in apparent pain.
“Marac?” Dani said.
“Get up, now!” a Romulan guard barked. Dani looked up from Dukat and saw that two were in the cell with them.
Dukat had been in the process of sitting up when the guard hit him a second time with the gun, this time on the side of the face, drawing blood.
“Marac!” Dani screamed. She looked up at the guard. “What’s the matter with you?!”
“Quiet!” the guard ordered, moving to strike Dani with his bare hand. Dukat interjected, taking hold of the guard’s wrist.
“Leave her alone,” he rasped. “Don’t touch her.”
The guard shook free from Dukat’s grip. “On your feet!” he ordered the Cardassian. Dukat gained his composure and stood, wiping the corner of his mouth as he did so. He looked at his fingers. He was bleeding.
Dani moved to stand, but the other guard, training a disruptor on her, ordered her to be still where she was on the cot.
“Move,” the first guard ordered Dukat.
“No, wait – where are you going? Where are you taking him?” Dani asked frantically.
“It is none of your concern,” the second guard replied. He looked at Dukat. “Now, you – move!”
Marac Dukat looked at Dani before he complied with the Romulans’ order, then stared straight ahead as he carried it out. He cast one more glance in Dani’s direction when he reached the cell’s entrance, desiring just one final view of her beautiful features. Dukat knew he probably wouldn’t be seeing the inside of that cell again. He pulled himself up and stood tall, holding his head high. He wanted Dani’s final memory of him to be one of dignity. Finally he exited the cell marched forward at the guards’ urging.
Once the guards reactivated the cell’s forcefield, Dani was up and standing at it in an instant. She could still hear the sound of the guards’ and Dukat’s footfalls. They were still close. Suddenly, they stopped.
“Inside,” she heard one of the guard’s direct. A few more footfall’s followed. Then she heard the guard say something else. “Marac Dukat, you have been charged, tried, and convicted of high crimes and misdemeanors by the Romulan Star Empire,” Dani heard him say. “I hearby sentence you to death by firing squad.”
Dani took in a sharp breath. Death? Dani listened again. She heard the sound of disruptor fire, she couldn’t tell how many shots, and the distinctive sound of a body hitting the floor. And that’s when she lost it.
“Marac?” she said aloud. “Marac!” She touched the force field. It was secure. There was no way she was getting to him. The tears came freely and plentifully.
Dani called his name again. “Oh, my gods. Oh, my gods!” She touched the force field in vain, again. “No. Marac!” She slid down the wall, sobbing. “No.”
It was all so quick. Less than ten minutes ago, she’d been on that cot across the room, lying in his arms. And now he was dead. It didn’t make any sense.
The sound of more disruptor fire broke into Dani’s thoughts. She immediately got to her feet. “Get away from the entrance!” she heard someone yell. Dani quickly backed away from the force field. A small explosion disabled the field emitters and a figure dressed completely in black from head to toe entered. Even the face was covered, saving two little holes for the eyes. “Come on!” he said.
Dani hesitated a bit. Who was this, and where were they going to take her?
The man picked up on her hesitation. “I’m Starfleet,” he explained. “We’re getting you out of here. Now, come on.”
Dani glanced at the man’s rifle and realized that it was a Starfleet-issue weapon. She walked out of the cell and found another similarly dressed figure in the corridor.
Dani turned to the direction she’d seen Dukat and the Romulans walk. She wanted to go see for herself, make sure…
“This way,” the figure, a woman, who’d stood guard in the corridor said. She led her in the opposite direction from the way she wanted to go. Dani let the rescuers guide her down the corridor to an apparently predetermined point, but was constantly looking back down the corridor. Maybe, just maybe, she thought, he would come striding out of that cell in his usual, arrogant manner. If she could just see him do that, she knew everything would be okay. She looked, but he never came. He never came.
Once they stopped walking, the man pulled out a comm badge. He grabbed Dani’s hand and then opened a comm link. “Bring us in,” he said. Dani saw her surroundings disappear around her and be replaced by a transporter pad. She didn’t know what ship she was on, but she was happy to see that the transporter tech was wearing a Starfleet-issue uniform. Before she could even step off the platform, Julian Bashir was at her side, scanning her for injuries. She looked beyond Bashir at the opening transporter room doors. To her surprise, Captain Jean-Luc Picard entered with Captain Bunche. What was Captain Picard doing here?
Dani turned around to have a look at her rescuers. The woman pulled off her cap. It was Colonel Kira.
“Colonel?” Dani said. She looked to the other figure, who removed his cap next.
“Will,” Dani said, flabbergasted. The second rescuer had been Will Riker, and Dani was truly speechless. She hadn’t even recognized his voice. She was so confused at the moment. She didn’t know what to think. She didn’t want to think. She was tired of thinking.
“Let’s get you to sickbay,” Bashir said. He led her out of the transporter room.