Deliberation – 2. Third Time’s a Charm

“Q?” Dani called aloud. Just a moment ago, she’d been in her family’s Indiana home. Now, she was on Cardassia Prime? What was Q up to?

“What was that, my dear?” came a call from the bathroom.

Dani turned in the direction of the bathroom, intending to walk over, but when she took her first step, she immediately realized that something was different, something about her body. She looked down at herself. She was pregnant. Really pregnant.

Dukat appeared in the bathroom doorway, and Dani plopped down on the bed, speechless. “Darling, are you feeling well?” Dukat asked her, walking over in his robe. He sat down beside her. “Danielle?”

Dani stared at him, tears building in her eyes. He was alive again. Could it really be? How? She reached up and stroked his face. “I’m fine,” she told him.

“Are you sure?” he asked her. “You look like you’re about to burst into tears. What’s the matter?”

“Nothing. I’m fine.”

Dukat placed his hand on Dani’s swollen belly. “Is it time?” he asked.

“No, no,” Dani assured him. “I’m fine. I promise.” She covered his hand with hers.

“Maybe I should stay home today,” Dukat suggested. “I want to make sure you’re okay.”

“Marac, I’m fine. I think I just got up a little too quickly. I was a little light-headed for a moment. I’m okay. Okay? Go to the office. I’ll be alright. Besides, if anything happens, Rowat will be here.”

Dukat nodded. “You’re right, of course. I just want to make sure you’re going to be okay here.”

“I will be,” Dani said. “And if I’m not, you have my permission to gloat and hold it over my head for as long as you’d like.”

Dukat’s expression softened as the worry left his features. He kissed her and grinned. He stood and returned to the bathroom.

This was Dani’s dream-come-true. Dukat was alive again, and she was pregnant again with their child. “I don’t know what you did, Q,” Dani whispered, “but thank you.”

Xxx

There were so many choices. Dani marveled at all the different flavors of ice cream that the replicator had to offer. She was having a difficult time deciding between Rocky Road and Pralines ‘n Creme. She’d just have to get both, she concluded.

“Computer, one pint of Pralines’ n Creme and one pint of Rocky Road,” Dani requested from the replicator. “And two scoops of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream.” She watched anxiously while her order materialized. When it was all there waiting on a nice tray for her, she could hardly wait to dig in. She picked up the tray and waddled back over to the bed. She activated her bedside lamp and picked up a spoon. She didn’t know which one to start with first.

Beside her, Dukat moved. “What are you doing?” he asked sleepily.

“I had a sudden craving for ice cream,” Dani said.

“But it’s nearly four in the morning,” Dukat said, yawning. He propped himself up on his elbow and looked at the tray Dani had replicated. “You’re going to eat all that?”

“I couldn’t decide what I wanted,” Dani said a bit sheepishly.

Dukat pushed himself to a sitting position. “What did you do? Order the entire menu?”

“No … I forgot the sardines.”

“Sardines?” Dukat’s brows furrowed as he searched his memory. “Aren’t those small fish?”

“Yes! Will you get some from the replicator?”

“I don’t think it’s programmed.” Dukat lay down, shifting back to a sleeping position.

“But I really want some.”

Dukat closed his eyes. He knew where this was going, and he didn’t like it. Why couldn’t she just be happy with the ice cream and the thousands of other choices programmed into the replicator? “Darling, isn’t there anything else that you would like?”

“No. Right now I want sardines. Now.”

Dukat had been through eight pregnancies before. He knew the futility of trying to talk through this rationally, because there was no rationale this early in the morning. She was going to bug him until she got the damned sardines, so he might as well get up and be on his way.

“Okay, darling, I’ll go out and get them right now,” Dukat obliged and reluctantly forced his eyes open. He sat up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and placing them on the floor. Of all the days, she had to get a craving for sardines when both Melba and Rowat were away. If only this craving had come a few hours later, when Melba and Rowat would have returned. And she had to want something that no one could find on this side of the planet. Dukat would have to transport all the way to the other side of Prime to find these things.

He stood and wandered over to the closet, found some pants and a shirt, and pulled them on. He hoped this place that he was going to was open. If not, he would have to order them to open just for him. He would have to see about having someone sell these sardines closer to home.

Xxx

The foot rub that Dukat had given Dani before he’d left for work had been pure heaven for her swollen ankles. When he’d returned with her sardines, her feet had begun to ache, so he’d sacrificed more sleep and masssaged them. His hands had worked magic, and she wished that he could have stayed home from the office today. She felt like she was about to pop.

And then she started to. Dukat had been gone for a few hours already, and the lunch hour was approaching. Dani was on her way down stairs, headed for the dining room for lunch, when something inside her changed, and she knew what it was.

She walked into the kitchen, holding her belly and breathing a sigh of relief when she saw that Rowat was there. That meant she wouldn’t have to go anywhere else to find him. “Rowat,” she said to him.

Rowat was sitting at the table when Dani walked in. One look at her, and he knew immediately that something was wrong. “What is it?” he asked.

“I just had a contraction,” Dani told him. “I think it’s time.”

“Time?” Rowat repeated. “You mean time?” Dani nodded. Rowat sprang to his feet and was at Dani’s side immediately. He led her over to a chair and gently seated her. “Get us a transport,” Rowat directed Melba, who stood nearby.

“Yes, sir,” she said, disappearing into another room to take care of the transport.

Rowat turned his attention back to Dani. “How do you feel?” he asked her.

“I’m okay right now,” she said.

“Are you in any pain?” he asked.

“A little. But it’ll probably get worse.”

“We’ll have you to the hospital shortly,” Rowat informed her. “We would do a site-to-site transport, but they say it isn’t recommeded for pregnant women except in cases of extreme emergency.”

Dani nodded. “Sounds like you’ve been studying.”

“I wanted to be sure I’d be prepared in case something like this happened.”

“Ohhh, I think – I think something’s happening. I’m having a contraction. Ay, ow, ow, OW!”

“Here, take my hand,” Rowat offered. “Just breathe through it. Easy, now … there you go … breathe … that’s right. Good.”

Melba reappeared. “The transport is ready, sir,” she informed Rowat.

Rowat nodded. “Okay, Lieutenant, nice and slowly, we’re going to get up, walk outside, and get into the transport, okay?”

Dani nodded. “Where’s Marac?” she asked. “Somebody call him.”

“Don’t worry; we will. Right now, we have to see about getting you to the hospital. Okay, nice and easy. Put your weight on me to stand.”

Xxx

“Where’s Marac?” Dani asked again. She was in a delivery room at Capital Medical Facility, but the father of her child was no where to be seen. In his place was Rowat, who now stood beside her bed holding her hand. “Did something happen to him?” Dani continued, panic rising in her voice. “Why isn’t he here, yet? Hasn’t he commed?” Tears sprang to her eyes. Where was he? He wouldn’t miss this. Something must be wrong. Something must have happened.

“Don’t get upset,” Rowat said, trying to calm Dani while silently cursing Dukat. He’d always had great respect for the man, but his not being here to witness something this important was making Rowat question his beliefs about the man he so admired.

The grip on his hand tightened significantly, indicating to Rowat that Dani was experiencing another contraction. “You have got quite a grip there,” Rowat told Dani, offering an encouraging smile. “With strength like that, why do you need me around?” Dani seemed to smile, but it turned into a grimace as the contraction came full-on.

“Doctor, isn’t there something more you can give her for the pain?” Rowat asked.

Xxx

Dukat’s body was at the meeting, but his mind was miles away. He’d gotten the call over an hour ago that Dani had gone into labor. He didn’t want to be anywhere else but in that delivery room with her, but this damned meeting was something at which his presence was required. He couldn’t get out of it even if he were having the baby himself.

This waiting was unbearable. The doctor had informed them of the fact that Dani was probably going to have a difficult labor. He hated that she had to go through this without him.

The beeping from his comm unit brought Dukat back from his thoughts. Everyone at the conference table looked his way. “Dukat here. What is it?”

“Sir, there’s a message for you.”

“Tell them I’ll get back to them,” Dukat said.

“Sir, it’s urgent. It’s from the hospital.”

Dukat’s heart rate skyrocketed. “I’ll take it in my office.” He stood and looked at his colleagues. “Escuse me while I take this.”

When Dukat reached his office, he sat down behind his desk nervously. He’d had eight children. One would think he’d be used to this by now, but he wasn’t. He had felt the exact same way when each of his children had been born. He activated the monitor and Dr. Lurok’s face filled the screen.

“Legate Dukat,” he began, “it’s my pleasure and honor to inform you that you are the father of a brand new, healthy son.”

“A son … ”

“Should I tell the staff to make arrangements for your immediate arrival, sir?” Lurok asked.

“Tell them I’ll be there later tonight.”

The doctor hadn’t expected that response, but if that was what he wanted … “Yes, sir.”

“Doctor, how is Danielle?” Dukat asked.

“She’s fatigued, understandably,” Lurok began. “There was a time when I thought we would have to go in surgically, but fortunately it didn’t come to that. I expect her to make a full recovery.”

Dukat nodded regretfully. “Will you tell her that I’ll be there as soon as I can get away from the office.”

Lurok nodded. “I’ll tell her, sir.”

Xxx

Dani felt like hurling something across the room. She couldn’t believe he’d missed it. He’d missed it!

When Dukat did finally walk into the room, it was after 2300 hours. It took all the self-control that Dani could muster not to launch her water glass at him.

“Danielle?” Dukat said warily.

Dani looked at him, daggers in her dark eyes. “So, you couldn’t get away,” she said through a clenched jaw.

Dukat didn’t say anything at first. Then, “You have every right to feel the way you do,” he said.

“You’re damned right, I do,” Dani seethed. “You missed the birth of our child. Our child, Marac. And why? Because you couldn’t get away from a meeting?”

“Danielle, words can never express how sorry I am,” Dukat said.

“This was one of the most important days of our lives. That meeting was more important than our son’s birth?”

“You know me. You know that if there had been any way that I could have been here, I would have, but it’s a very sensitive, very complicated situation.”

“I know, I know,” Danielle said, visibly calmer. “I really don’t want to hear it right now. I’m too tired …” She looked over at him and saw the genuine concern in his eyes. She had told herself that she wouldn’t give in and forgive him so easily. She cursed herself for being so weak. “Would you like to see your son?” She knew the answer. The question had only been a matter of formality. She pressed the comm panel on her nightstand. “Nurse, could you bring my son in, please?”

Moments later, the room doors slid open, and a nurse entered with a wiggling little bundle in her arms. She walked over and carefully handed it to Dani. “Thank you,” Dani said, dismissing the nurse. Dani smiled down at the baby boy. “Hi there, little guy. How are you?” She turned her eyes on Dukat while she still spoke to the boy. “Are you ready to meet your daddy? He’s here – finally.”

Dukat walked over to the bed. “Say hello to your daddy,” Dani said, gently handing the boy over to his father, who seemed completely at ease with a baby in his arms. A man with as many children as he should be.

“Well, hello there,” Dukat said to the baby. “I’m your father.” Captivated, Dukat studied the child. There was no doubt about his Cardassian heritage, but his ridges and scales were less pronounced than a full-blooded Cardassian baby’s would be. And he stared up at Dukat with the most luminous brown eyes, courtesy of his mother. Dukat gently stroked the child’s forehead before looking over at Dani. “He’s amazing. He’s so beautiful.”

“I know,” Dani said. She smiled, watching them. The baby reached up and grasped one of Dukat’s gray fingers with his tiny hand, eliciting a small chuckle from the father. “Look at that grip,” he boasted, gazing down at his son. “He’s so perfect.”

A bright flash surrounded Dani, and her hospital room disappeared as it was replaced by the bedroom in Dukat’s house. She was holding her son and standing at his crib. Somehow, she knew that they’d just finished dinner and it was time for bed. Memories that she didn’t even know she had made their presence evident in her mind. She and Dukat had named the child Nathan Marac Janeway, and six months, she realized, had passed since his birth.

Dani gently placed little Nate in his crib. He was sound asleep after a very active dinner. She stared down at him, just happy to have him asleep. He could be so fussy at times, a trait Dani figured must come from his father.

Speaking of Dukat, Dani suspected that he should be home any minute, now. Dani glanced at the chronometer on the wall. 1930 hours. He should be walking in the door shortly. She looked over at Nate one last time to make sure he was okay before leaving the room. She yawned, walking into hers and Dukat’s bedroom. She hadn’t had the chance to read the day’s news reports, yet. Since Nate had arrived, she hadn’t had time to do much of anything. Reading the news had fallen to the bottom of the list, unfortunately. It was something that she’d tried to do almost religiously. She’d experienced what could happen if she didn’t keep up with the news on a regular basis. That could lead to … surprises, like when she’d read the news after weeks of neglecting to do so and discovered that Starfleet thought she was a hero for remaining in Cardassia, instead of the traitor she envisioned herself to be.

Since Nate had come into her life, though, she estimated that she probably hadn’t read any news reports in about three weeks. Before that, it had been nearly two months. And even in those rare instances that she had gotten the opportunity to check up on current events, she hadn’t been able to go in depth and had simply skimmed the headlines.

Dani sat down at the computer terminal and activated it. She accessed the news for the day, requesting that all the contents on the monitor appear in English. The first thing that appeared on the screen froze Dani. Initially, she thought it was a joke, but it couldn’t be; it was a legitimate news source. But her mind still couldn’t conceive what her eyes were seeing on the screen before her.

‘Legate Dukat to wed prominent socialite,’ was the headline. Dani’s watery eyes flittered down the screen as she read more of the article, which went on to discuss the engaged couple’s six month relationship and the plans for their impending wedding ceremony, which was to be ‘the social event of the year.’

“Danielle?”

Dani looked up from the screen at the sound of her name. Dukat was in the doorway. When he saw Dani’s face, the fresh tears that rimmed her eyes, he knew that she knew what he had come to tell her. He hadn’t wanted her to find out this way. It was so cruel. Why hadn’t he told her before now? But he couldn’t dwell on the possibilities that had passed him by. There was no time for that.

When he walked into the room, Dani stood. She felt completely humiliated, and despite her best efforts not to cry, she did. For each step Dukat took toward her, she took one back, away from him. Finally, she was against the wall, but he wasn’t even halfway across the room. Dukat crossed the remaining difference between himself and the computer terminal. Viewing its display, he cursed. He looked over at Dani, who looked like she was about to break down. “Danielle, I didn’t intend for you to find out like this.”

Dani couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Some small part of her had held onto the unlikely belief that perhaps it was a mistake. But here it was – the prime source, confirming the truth of it all.

Dukat spoke again. “Danielle, I’m sorry,” he told her. “I’m so sorry.”

“Six months?” Dani said, finally speaking.

“Please, my love, allow me to explain,” Dukat said.

“What is there to explain? You’re marrying another woman.”

“My dear, it isn’t what you think,” Dukat insisted. “It isn’t what it appears to be.”

“Then what is it?” Dani demanded. She was getting angry, now. She didn’t appreciate being patronized, and that is exactly what she felt Dukat was doing to her now. She walked over to the bed and sat.

Dukat followed. “I don’t love her, Danielle,” he said. “I love you.”

“Why are you marrying her?” Dani asked. As if answering her own question, she looked up at Dukat. “Is she pregnant?”

“No,” Dukat replied, apparently appalled by the prospect. “This is a move that is purely political in nature. It’s for my career. That’s all. A marriage of convenience.”

“It sure as hell isn’t convenient for me!” Dani sobbed.

“Oh, Danielle – I never wanted to hurt you. Never. You know that.” His words head no impact. Dani sobbed even harder, which is why he didn’t want to tell her the rest of the news that wasn’t in the the reports. “My love, I’m afraid there’s more,” he said.

Dani looked skyward. “Gods, what more could there be?” She looked at Dukat expectantly.

“You and Nate have to leave,” Dukat revealed.

“What?! No. No, I’ve – what?” Dani sputtered. “Why? I thought you said this was just a political move?”

“It’s simply necessary, my dear,” Dukat began to explain. “It wouldn’t be right for appearances if you remained after Rubula moved in.”

“Move in?” Dani didn’t understand. She didn’t understand how her world could be turned upside down in a matter of minutes when before it had been perfectly fine.

“Danielle, I love you,” Dukat insisted again. “You and Nate. Except for my other children, you’re the only ones.”

“How can I believe that?” Dani asked, on her feet again. “How can I believe anything you say anymore? You’re kicking me out!”

“No. I’m merely sending you to the house on Four. I’ve had it remodeled. It should be more than adequate for you, Nate, Rowat, and Melba.”

“You’re sending us away. Out of sight.”

“Danielle, that isn’t the way it is.”

“That’s what it looks like.”

Dukat sighed. “It’s just better. It will be better for everyone.”

“Even for your son?” Dani questioned.

“Especially for him.”

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