Dani sat frozen at the computer monitor absently watching the major event of the day unfold. She didn’t know why she was torturing herself like this, because that’s what it was – torture. There was no reason she had to sit there and watch the man she loved marry another woman. But, all the same, she couldn’t look away. It was all very much like watching an explosion. Dani didn’t want to look, but she couldn’t find it in herself to look away. She couldn’t manage to reach up and deactivate the computer terminal.
So, Rowat did it for her. When he did, Dani continued to stare at the dark screen blankly, until he spoke.
“There’s no need for you to watch that,” he said.
Dani looked down at her hands, folded in her lap. “I know.” She looked up at Rowat. “But I just had to see it for myself, to make sure it was real.”
Rowat wasn’t surprised by the tears that lingered in her eyes and on her face. He’d expected them. What he hadn’t expected were Dukat’s actions, which had caused Dani’s tears in the first place. How could a man he’d admired for years have done something like this? He’d chosen political gain over the woman he supposedly loved.
Rowat scolded himself for having such thoughts. He couldn’t be a hypocrite, which is what he was doing. He was guilty of exactly the crime for which he was criticizing Dukat. Yes, he’d chosen his work over his own wife. He could count on his fingers the number of nights he’d spent with his wife in the past year. Why? He’d been with another woman instead, the woman sitting in front of him now.
“I still don’t know what to think,” Dani said, standing. “After all the time we’ve spent together … He looked so happy, just now.”
“He’s a good actor,” Rowat said, immediately wishing that he hadn’t. The comment had been meant to comfort, but he realized just how bad it had sounded as soon as the words had left his mouth. “That didn’t come out as I intended,” Rowat said, answering the uncertain look Dani had given him. “I didn’t mean with you.”
Dani looked away from him and walked sullenly to the bed. “Do you know where they’re honeymooning?” she asked.
Rowat didn’t want to tell her, but she would find out sooner or later from the news vids. It would probably be better if she found out from him than from the press. “Risa,” he told her.
Dani nodded. “Oh,” she said meekly.
Rowat studied her. She looked as if she would break at any moment, and he wasn’t sure if there were anything he could do to prevent it. Maybe letting her get it all out would be best anyway. As far as he knew, she hadn’t really had any emotional releases since she’d initially learned of the news of the wedding. She’d been remarkably calm throughout the whole ordeal. For the sake of her emotional health, an outburst was probably warranted.
“Rowat?” Dani said.
“I want to be alone right now,” Dani told him.
Rowat didn’t want to leave her alone out of fear of what she might do to herself. He hoped she wasn’t one to take drastic measures, such as ending her own life, but in her present state, he just couldn’t be sure. Nevertheless, he acquiesced to her request for privacy. Nodding, he left her to the room and to herself. Once the door was closed solidly, he heard the muffled sound of soft sobbing, and he decided he wouldn’t stray too far from her bedroom until he knew with certainty that she would be alright.
Dukat downed another glass of kanar in a few large gulps. He’d never been one to guzzle kanar as if it were the common beer, but tonight was different. His usual way was to savor the experience, the flavor, the sensation of the beverage. Tonight, though, his only aim was inebriation. He was nearly finished with the bottle. He looked at it and, seeing enough for just half a glass, decided that he was drunk enough to go through with this.
“Oh, Marac … ” Rubula Dukat called from the bedroom.
Dukat glanced over his shoulder in the direction of the bedroom and then back down at the near empty bottle of kanar. He sighed and picked up the bottle, connecting its mouth with his and turning it up. Only when he was certain that every drop of the liquid in the bottle had passed through his lips and down his throat did he separate himself from the bottle and set it back on the table. “Coming,” he finally called to the bedroom before quietly adding, “My dear,” to end it. He stood and stumbled into the bedroom.
The new Mrs. Dukat was waiting for him, lounging across the bed invitingly. She couldn’t believe how incredibly lucky she was to have snagged the man standing in front of her. And the others had said he was as good as ‘taken’. She should have known that Dukat had only been using that Terran whore. ‘He’s really in love with me,’ Rubula thought, smiling seductively and doing her best to appear appealing to Dukat. She suspected she didn’t have to do much more than what she was doing at the moment. She was nude, after all. What was more irresistable to a man than a woman’s naked body?
Dukat stood at the foot of the bed, staring for a long moment. It was true that Rubula was quite fetching, but actually, the sight of her made him sick to his stomach. She wasn’t Dani. He closed his eyes, wishing the kanar would hurry up and get to his head. He should’ve opened up another bottle. He feared that he wasn’t going to be able to get the job done because he didn’t feel like he was drunk enough yet.
Finally, he opened his eyes and walked over to the bed, nearly tripping over his feet a few times. He unceremoniously pulled down his pants, not even bothering to remove them completely. He just left them around his ankles. He closed his eyes. This was going to be the first time he’d ever had to will himself into a state of excitement.
‘It’s Danielle,’ he told himself. ‘It’s Danielle on the bed.’ An image of Dani materialized in Dukat’s head, and in his mind’s eye, he could see her, on the bed in place of Rubula. He could see her.
Rubula smiled eagerly at the sight of Dukat’s evolving state. If only that Starfleet Terran could see her now, about to consumate her marriage to the next leader of the Cardassia. Rubula could imagine the woman now, in some shack or some slum with her bastared child who Rubula was sure did not belong to Dukat. It probably belonged to that guard who was always hanging around her. Where was her guard and her fancy lifestyle now? Rubula chuckled to herself, thinking that she had Janeway’s lifestyle now. She congratulated herself on her little witticism. The fact that her good fortune had come at Danielle Janeway’s expense was going to make what she was about to do so much sweeter.
Dukat fell into the bed and crawled to Rubula. He didn’t bother with kissing; he wanted this to be over with as quickly as possible. His face was buried in the pillow beneath Rubula’s head, and he kept his eyes closed. If he could just keep his mind on Dani, he would get through it.
Rubula was used to receiving a little more attention and affection from her partners, but she attributed Dukat’s lack of such to personal style. Maybe he just wasn’t the affectionate type. That would change, Rublua concluded.
After a little while, a sound besides periodic grunts escaped Dukat’s lips. He moaned. ‘Now we’re getting somewhere,’ Rubula thought.
“Oh, Danielle!” Dukat cried out. “Oh … oh … ” Breathing heavily, he rolled on to his back, leaving an appalled Rubula on her back. Had he just called out ‘Danielle’, she wondered. She knew the answer was yes, but she couldn’t believe it. She sat up and looked down at him.
“Marac?!” she exclaimed.
In response, Dukat groaned and rolled over onto his side, away from Rubula.
Dukat stared at himself in the bathroom mirror. His head was pounding. All he really wanted to do was crawl back into bed. But no, he couldn’t do that, now could he? He had to go be seen with the new wife for photo ops. Dukat scowled at the very idea.
He sighed and looked down at the sink. What was his life supposed to be now? What the hell had he done? Marrying this … leech in exchange for a better chance at being leader of Cardassia …
How could he do this to her, the woman who had given him a child just six months ago?
Dukat closed his eyes. He was going to have to get something for this headache. When he opened his eyes again, his thoughts were, again, on Danielle and Nate. This was all for the best, he convinced himself. With him as the head of Cardassia, he wouldn’t have anyone to answer to. He could get rid of Rubula, marry Danielle, and raise Nate in a real family setting. Hopefully with Nate, Dukat could avoid making the mistakes he’d made with Ziyal. It was that goal that was going to keep him going, Dukat decided. This was for them.
Dukat walked out onto the balcony where Rubula was. She was already at the table enjoying breakfast. Dukat took the seat opposite her and looked out at the view from their suite. It was beautiful. He only wished he weren’t sharing it with Rubula. He looked ruefully over at her.
She, in turn, looked over at him with a smile. “Goodmorning, Marac,” she said.
“Goodmorning,” Dukat said, managing a weak smile of his own. He resolved to at least be cordial with the woman. She was innocent in all this, after all. The only reason she was here at all was because it had been convenient. He wondered whether she was even aware of that fact or not.
When a server moved to place breakfast on the table for him, Dukat waved it away. The last thing he wanted to do was eat. Going to bed on a stomach full of kanar had not been a good idea.
“Is something wrong?” Rubula asked, observing Dukat’s behavior.
“I don’t have much of an appetite this morning,” Dukat told her.
“Are you well?”
Dukat looked at her for a moment before answering. No, he wasn’t well, not emotionally. But he insisted to her that he was, anyway. “I’m fine.”
“Good.” Rubula appeared to turn her attention back to her breakfast. She took a sip of her hot fish juice and then spoke again. “I thought the problem might have been all that kanar you had last night.” She gave a dismissive laugh. “You were quite tipsy, believe me. Did you know that you even called out somone else’s name last night? What a thought … ” Rubula didn’t want to let on that the incident had bothered her as much as it had. She hardly even wanted to acknowledge that she had noticed it. ‘He was drunk,’ Rubula told herself. ‘That’s all it was. Too much kanar.’
Dukat couldn’t take it anymore. He had to get away from this woman. He couldn’t stomach the thought of spending a whole week with Rubula. He stood.
Rubula looked up at him, a little surprised. “What are you doing?” she asked.
Dukat walked into the bedroom as if he hadn’t heard Rubula’s question. She followed him and watched as he pulled out his suitcase and began tossing his belongings in.
“Marac,” Rubula said, “where are you going?”
“Back to Cardassia,” he told her.
“Cardassia? But this is our honeymoon,” Rubula protested. “Why are you going back there?”
“I have business to attend to,” Dukat replied.
“But Marac, I don’t want to leave now,” Rubula whined.
Dukat shut the suitcase he’d just finished packing. “You may remain. Invite your friends, family, whatever you wish.” He turned to her. “But I must leave.”
Rubula stared at him, her disbelief plaguing her features. He only afforded her a momentary glance before picking up his case and turning to walk out of the room. Before he could make it to the door, Rubula spoke to him again. “It’s her, isn’t it?” she surmised. “You’re leaving so that you can go see that little Terran whore.”
Dukat stopped only momentarily before continuing on to the door. “You shouldn’t speak on matters about which you have no knowledge, Rubula,” he said. “I’m leaving because I have things that require my attention, and we’ll leave it at that.” As he approached the doors and they slid open, he turned to Rubula briefly, darting a look of warning in her direction. She should drop the subject before she gets her feelings hurt.
Dani awoke to sunlight streaming through her window and the sound of birds chirping merrily outside. It was a beautiful morning, but the grim reality of her situation made Dani feel as if it were the gloomiest and dreariest of days. The day before had been the absolute worst day of her life.
She sat up, rubbing her eyes and yawning. That’s when she noticed the appetizing aroma of food drifting underneath her nose. She couldn’t pinpoint what was cooking, but it smelled good, whatever it was, and it alerted her to the fact that she was hungry.
Dani looked at the time on the chronometer at her bedside table and saw that it was a little past 8 a.m. She swung her legs over the side of the bed, stood, and walked out of the room, grabbing her robe on the way.
She cleared the last of the stairs and walked over to the kitchen. She’d expected to find Melba at the stove, whipping up one of her wonderful meals. Instead, Rowat stood there, donning an apron and wielding a spatula in one hand. It was a sight that Dani had never expected to witness in a million years. She’d never had any inclination that the man even knew what a spatula was. Despite that, it was obvious that Rowat knew what he was doing. The delightful smell that permeated throughout the house was evidence of that.
“Goodmorning,” Dani said, making her presence known.
Rowat turned to her, and it took all of Dani’s will to keep from laughing. The sight of a Cardassian officer in full uniform plus an apron was a funny sight. She merely smiled.
“Goodmorning,” Rowat said.
Dani took a few steps into the room. “What’s that?” she asked, indicating what was cooking in the skillet.
“This is just a little something that I decided to prepare,” Rowat said, turning off the stove and picking the skillet up off the eye. What ever was cooking continued to sizzle. “Have a seat.” Rowat, continuously stirring the contents of the skillet, walked over to the breakfast table. Dani sat at the table in front of a plate that had already been set out for her.
“I didn’t know you cooked,” Dani said. She looked up at Rowat, who now stood beside her chair.
“Despite what impression most would give, not all of us have maids and cooks,” Rowat explained. He delivered the skillet’s contents onto Dani’s plate where it finally stopped sizzling.
“It looks kind of like an omelet,” Dani observed.
“It is … kind of,” Rowat said.
Dani picked up her fork, then hesitated. “It isn’t spicy, is it?”
“No,” Rowat assured her. “Try it. I’d like to know what you think.”
Dani regarded him momentarily before spearing some of the food with her fork. She blew on it a few times to cool it and guided it to her mouth. While she chewed, she looked at Rowat, who anxiously awaited her reaction. Dani nodded and swallowed. “It’s good. It could use a little pepper, though.”
Rowat snapped his fingers. “I knew there was something I forgot.” He walked over to one of the cabinets and returned with pepper, which he sprinkled over the food. “This was supposed to go in while it was cooking, but now will have to do,” he said. “Try it now.”
Dani tasted another bite and looked back up at Rowat. “It’s absolutely perfect,” she complimented.
Rowat almost smiled. “I’m glad you like it.” He walked over to the stove, where he replaced the skillet.
Dani’s eyes fell to the vase in the middle of the table, and for the first time, she noticed that the flowers that rested there looked different. “Something about this vase has changed,” she noted aloud.
“It’s the flowers,” Rowat said. “They’re fresh.” He returned to the table with a glass of orange juice, which he placed on the table beside Dani’s plate. He preferred a nice, hot fish juice anyday, but living with Janeway for the past year, the orange Terran drink had grown on him.
“I saw them outside, and I thought they would look nice in that vase,” Rowat continued, explaining the flowers’ presence. He looked down at Dani. “They brighten the room, don’t you think?” Rowat knew that none of his efforts were going to make Janeway truly happy, but perhaps they might make her day go a little easier.
Dani looked up at Rowat. “Thank you, Rowat. For everything. For the breakfast, the flowers. I mean it.”
The Cardassian’s features softened even more, and Dani was sure that she saw a smile, albeit, a small one. “Finish your breakfast,” he said.
The reflection of the sun on the surface of the lake that comprised the backyard of Dani’s little cottage created a sparkling effect in the orange light of the sunset. It was the same lake that Dani and Dukat had visited what seemed like an eternity ago. In actuality, it had only been a few years. As she looked out now, she could see the ‘endless fall’ on the other side of the lake. The water, as it had the first time she’d seen it, still appeared to fall right through the surface of the lake and continue all the way to the bottom.
Dani sighed. That time had been a different time, a time when all that had mattered was Dukat and she. Now she would be forced to share him with another woman and the rest of Cardassia. It was just going to be something that she would have to accept. This was the way it was going to be from now on. It had finally sunk in over the last few days.
But why? Why did she have to accept? Why settle? Hadn’t she learned in her life not to simply settle? Why do it now?
Because she loved Dukat? No. Sometimes love just wasn’t enough. At least not in this situation. There had to be more to it.
Maybe it was because of Nate, Dani contemplated. Yes, it was true that she wanted her son to grow up with both a mother and a father, but at what price? Her dignity? No – there was more.
Perhaps the trial of losing Dukat that first time and watching him die the second time had affected her more deeply than she’d initially thought. Yes. Now she was getting warm. How could she just up and leave after she’d been given an unprecedented third chance? How could she give it up after it had been what she’d most wanted? That was why she allowed herself to settle. That was what made this situation so different that she was willing to live as Dukat’s mistress hidden away on some sparsely populated planet.
“This view really is quite breath-taking,” Rowat commented, breaking into Dani’s dismal thoughts. His eyes roamed over the water’s glimmering, reflective surface.
“It is,” Dani replied. “You should bring your wife here some time.”
Rowat didn’t say anything. He was silent for a long moment. Then quietly, “My wife and I divorced. A few months ago.”
“Oh,” Dani said. If it had been physically possible for Dani to stuff her size 7 foot into her mouth, she would have at that point. “I’m sorry, Rowat. I didn’t know.”
“It’s all right. I knew it was going to happen sooner or later.” Rowat looked at Dani. “She said I wasn’t home enough, that I was away on the job too much. She was right.”
Dani looked down at the water. “I guess that means it was my fault, then.”
Rowat took a moment to consider the statement. He nodded. “Yes – but I don’t regret any of it.”
Dani looked at him again. Rowat’s wife had been a lucky woman. But then Dani reconsidered; she had been the lucky one.
The night sky wasn’t the only thing that greeted Dani and Rowat as they returned to the house. To both their surprise, Dukat was the one who opened the door to let them in.
“Sir?” Rowat said, puzzled.
“Hello, Rowat,” Dukat said. He shifted his gaze to Dani. “Hello.”
“Hi,” she said quite forcibly. She didn’t wait for him to move to the side before she entered. She simply pushed past him. Right now, Dukat was one of the last people in the universe that she wanted to see.
“How have things been?” Dukat asked, moving away from the door and following her to the living room.
Dani looked at him with disbelief. How did he think things had been?
“Things are well, sir,” Rowat chimed in, answering for Dani. He couldn’t believe that the man actually had the gall to come here and act as if everything were supposed to be fine.
“Wonderful,” Dukat said, this time without the exuberance that usually accompanied it. “Rowat, could you give us some privacy, please?”
“Of course, sir,” Rowat obliged. His eyes momentarily met Dani’s before he left the room.
“I thought you were on Risa, on your honeymoon?” Dani said to Dukat.
“I was, briefly,” Dukat said. “But I had to leave. I couldn’t stay there a moment longer.”
Neither said anything next. They just stood across the room from each other, each one staring at the other, wondering what was going through each other’s minds.
“Danielle – ” Dukat tried unsuccessfully. Dani started for the stairs
“What do you want?” Dani asked. She didn’t alter her course at all.
Dukat followed her. “We need to talk,” he said.”
“There’s nothing to talk about.” Dani began to climb the stairs.
“I beg to differ. I think there’s plenty to discuss. I need to explain things to you.” He cleared the stairs after Dani and followed her into the master bedroom.
“Fine then – talk,” Dani said. She crossed her arms and stood looking out the window. She had been so sure that she’d dealt with her feelings. She thought she’d taken care of it. Apparently, that was not the case.
Dukat walked over to her and tried to place his hands on her, but she shrugged away forcibly. “Please don’t touch me.”
Dukat, crestfallen, let his hands fall to his side. “Danielle – I love you.”
Dani turned to him, exasperated. “I know you do, Marac. Miraculously, I never doubted that throughout this whole ordeal. But this whole set-up makes no sense. You love me, but you’re willing to cast me off to the side while you marry some other woman? I don’t understand. I feel like Nate and I are in exile here, Marac.”
“Danielle, I don’t like doing this any more than you do. That woman I’m supposed to be married to … ” He lowered his voice before continuing. “I had to drink a full bottle of kanar the other night just to consummate the marriage.”
Dani threw her hands up. “I don’t want to hear about this.” She stepped around him, intending to walk out.
“Danielle, I was thinking of you the entire time,” Dukat persisted. “It was the only way I could make it through.”
“You are not hearing me. I don’t want to hear about your honeymoon night with your new … wife.”
“If I can get myself elected, become the supreme leader of Cardassia, that means that I’ll be able to do what I want. I can get rid of Rubula and have you and Nate at my side. I’ll be able to marry whomever I wish. But I can’t do that if I’m not married to a Cardassian woman to begin with.” He sighed. “You know how Cardassians are, Danielle. You know our conventions, our values. When the people go to vote on a leader, they want a family man. If I don’t have Rubula, it won’t happen.”
Dani surprised herself by seeing the logic in what Dukat was saying. She didn’t like it, but it was true. Dukat’s plan was probably the only way the two of them were going to see marriage, at least on Cardassia.
Dukat, sensing a new calm in Dani, tried to take her hand, but she snatched it away, still distancing herself from him. He was stunned.
“You still should have told me about all this from the start, Marac,” Dani said. “Instead, I had to read about it in the news.”
“I apologize for that,” Dukat said. “I admit, it wasn’t the most tactful way to approach the situation. But, my darling, my love – you must believe me when I say that I’m doing this for you and Nate.”
“I do believe you, Marac,” Dani said. “I just need some more time to think.”
Dukat was at a loss. What else could there possibly be to think about? He’d explained everything to her, and she even seemed to agree. Why did she need more time? “Think? About what?”
“Everything,” Dani said. “Everything.”
Dani looked through the living room window, watching Dukat with Nate in the front yard. Dukat was lying on his back on the lawn holding Nate in a standing position on his chest. The man had been on Cardassia IV for three days and hadn’t once mentioned his work or Rubula since that first night that he’d shown up. For the last few days, everything was like it had been before. It had been like nothing had changed between them.
Maybe, Dani thought, things hadn’t changed so dramatically. If Dukat’s plan worked, everything really would turn out for the best. Besides, Dani was impressed with Dukat. The entire time he’d been on Four, he’d slept in a separate room, at Dani’s request and hadn’t once complained. He seemed to be content just being there with her and Nate. That counted for something.
Dani found him in his room reading over something on the computer. The room was illuminated by only soft lamplight despite the darkness outside.
“You should use more light,” Dani said, announcing her presence. She abandoned the doorway and stepped into the room. “You’re going to strain your eyes.”
Dukat turned to her in his seat. “Cardassians see better in the dark than Terrans,” he said. “Eyestrain is rarely a concern of ours.” He watched Dani come closer to him. “I thought you’d gone to bed for the night?”
Dani shook her head. “Not yet. I was missing something.”
“You.” Dani couldn’t believe she was doing this, but she was giving Dukat another chance. She walked up to him and sat down on his lap, draping her arms about his neck. He regarded her in a surprised manner, eyebrows raised.
“Does this mean what I think it means?” Dukat asked her.
“It means that I never could stay angry at you for very long,” Dani replied. “I love you, Marac, and I want to see this through.” She looked deep into his eyes. “I trust you.” She stroked his jaw ridges and pulled him close for an embrace.
“Thank you, my love,” Dukat whispered to her before brushing his lips against hers. He stood, taking Dani with him in his arms, and walked out of the room, down the hall to the master bedroom. Gently, he laid her down on the bed. “You’re the one I should be married to,” he told her. Then he vowed, “I will be.”
“I’ll be back when I can,” Dukat told Dani the next morning. “I’ll try to make that a few days.” His bag was hanging on his shoulder, and he was at the door, ready to leave for Prime. He looked to Nate, perched in Dani’s arms. “I’ll see you in a little while, son.” He planted a kiss on the little boy’s mildly ridged forehead. Then he turned to the boy’s mother and kissed her soundly. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Dani said.
“I’ll see you soon.” He kissed her again quickly before turning and heading for the shuttle that was parked on the front lawn.
Rowat, who stood away, removed from the scene, could hardly believe what he was witnessing, what he had just witnessed between Janeway and Dukat. After all he had done to her … Love really did make people do things they wouldn’t normally do, things that weren’t always rational. Why should Janeway settle when she and that little one of hers deserved so much more?
When Dukat walked through the doors of his house on Prime, he was unexpectedly greeted by Rubula. She rushed over to him, threw her arms around him, and kissed him squarely on the lips.
Dukat reacted by gently pushing her away, an action which she didn’t seem to notice. She beamed up at him, even as he unfurled her arms from around his neck.
“Welcome home, darling,” Rubula gushed.
Dukat looked down at her with uncertainty. “Rubula – what are you doing here? Why aren’t you on Risa?”
“I decided to come back early. It wasn’t much of a honeymoon without my husband.”
“Why didn’t you take my suggestion, and invite some friends?” already past her and on his way to his office.
“I did.” Rubula followed him. “They stayed for a couple of days before we all decided to come back home.”
Now standing in his office, Dukat turned to her and nodded. “Oh. Well, if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.”
“You don’t want any dinner?” Rubula asked.
“No, I’ll replicate something a little later.” He walked over to his desk and sat down.
“Are you sure? Not even dessert?” Rubula asked suggestively.
Dukat regarded Rubula’s attempt at innuendo with annoyance. “No. I’m fine.”
Rubula attempted to mask her obvious disappointment. “Okay,” she said. “Well, I guess I’ll see you at bedtime, then.”
“Actually,” Dukat interjected, “I’ve decided to sleep in one of the other bedrooms. I’ll be sleeping there from now on.”
For the first time that night, Rubula visibly frowned. “Why?” she asked. “Is there something wrong with ours?”
“No, there’s nothing wrong with your room. I just prefer to sleep alone.”
Rubula nodded, albeit skeptically. She was sure that if that Starfleet woman were here, Dukat would have no problem sharing his bed. But Rubula refused to give up without a fight. She was determined to win over her husband and have what was rightfully hers.