Dukat walked through the central command offices with an extra bounce in his step. He was in a glorious mood after his night with Danielle. It was so wonderful to have her back in his life again. Now, if he could just convince Ziyal to come back to Prime, he’d have both of the women in his life by his side.
“You certainly are lively this morning.” Dorien Reyal commented to Dukat. The legate and prefect of the Eastern Hemisphere of Prime grinned and joined Dukat en route to their offices.
“That’s because I feel lively, Reyal,” Dukat told the other man, returning his grin.
Reyal’s grin grew. “Oh, I know – it’s your new little pet,” he said, knowingly. “The Starfleet one.”
Dukat’s smile faltered slightly. “She is not my pet. She’s a prisoner of Cardassia.”
“Then why is she staying at your home?”
“Reyal, you know as well as I do that there’s nothing against taking prisoners as house laborers,” Dukat reminded him innocently.
Reyal nodded skeptically. House labor. He knew what kind of labor this ‘prisoner’ would be doing, and he doubted that it would have anything to do with housework. “Of course,” he said to Dukat. “I don’t know how it could have slipped my mind.”
“You should really get your mind out of the gutter, Reyal,” Dukat suggested. He stopped walking, having reached the large doors of his office suite and gave his walking companion an admonishing look before entering.
He walked through the lobby, greeting his secretary, and into his large office.
Dani wasn’t exactly a mind reader, but one didn’t have to be to recognize the bitterness and contempt with which the Cardassians in Dukat’s household regarded Dani. Melba, with whom Dani had come into contact the night before at dinner, was genial enough, but she was the only one. The rest treated her as if she should be serving them. They had all been perfect at dinner and at breakfast, before Dukat had left for the office. The moment he left, though, was the moment the act disappeared.
The guards were the worst. That same morning, Dukat had introduced Dani to Rowat, the man who was to be her personal guard. He was shorter than Dukat but taller than Dani. He was stocky and stiff, overly serious, and had absolutely no personality. But he wasn’t offensive. Not like the others. There were about six others, and they all hated her, it seemed. They looked down their scaled noses at her and insulted her, both openly and behind her back. Some of them even had the gall to blatantly leer at her lustily. The attack that she’d endured at the prison was still fresh in her mind, and while she hoped Rowat would protect her in the event of such an attack, the truth was that she didn’t really know Rowat. Maybe his protection was all an act, too. It was pretty difficult to believe, at this point, that he would jump in front of a phaser blast to protect her.
Dani walked upstairs to her bedroom. She figured that it would probably be best to stay there until Dukat got home. She knew a word from him would fix this whole situation, but she refused to go whining to him because she couldn’t get along with his help. She’d only been there for a few days. They would get used to her, and she to them. Things would work themselves out.
Dani stood at the replicator in the bedroom. She had decided to take Dukat’s advice and have a look at the replicator and computer systems. What was this interesting thing that Dukat had wanted her to see?
She activated the keypad on the unit, wondering how she was going to read the names of the various foods. This was a Cardassian system, she remembered. It would make sense that the words would be written in Kardasi. The first interesting thing that happened, though, was that she saw English words instead of Kardasi symbols. What a surprise, indeed, and a pleasant one at that. Dukat must’ve had someone reconfigure the readout. Dani wondered if all the units in the house had been configured in the same manner.
She began to scroll through the endless items that the unit was capable of providing. She was instantly greeted with a list of Cardassian foods she had never tried or ever had the desire to try. She didn’t expect to find much of interest in there, which is why when ‘ice cream’ popped onto the screen, she was very much surprised.
“Ice cream?” she said aloud. That wasn’t a Cardassian dessert, Dani thought.
“Please specify a flavor,” the computer said.
“Nevermind, computer. Cancel request,” Dani instructed. She continued to scrolled through the list. There were scores of Cardassian dishes, but there were also dishes from other cultures interspersed throughout the listings.
How thoughtful of him, Dani thought, deactivating the keypad. She turned her attention to the computer console across the room. She walked over and activated the unit. Again, the language that appeared on the screen was English. Dani smiled openly, accessing the music files. What she found was a collection of Cardassian music … and an even larger collection of assorted music from other Alpha Quadrant races.
“Computer, list any entries by Terran musicians,” Dani requested. A large list of music by her favorite artists appeared on the screen. “Amazing … ” she muttered, scrolling through the list. This collection was practically a complete copy of the music she kept on her computer in her quarters. Now, how had he managed that?
Dukat sat at his desk and sipped a mug of red leaf tea, wondering if Dani had accessed the replicators or computer, yet. Ziyal had really been a big help to him with those music files he’d had uploaded to the system.
He scrolled through the morning papers of the day. He was dismayed to find that Hea Starr’s release and Danielle’s subsequent “capture” was still news after nearly a week. He was dismayed but not surprised. The Cardassian press,as well as the Terran press, had been bugging him about it the entire time.
His console beeped, indicating an incoming transmission, and Dukat rolled his eyes. “What perfect timing … ” He looked at the screen to see who was badgering him now, but the person trying to contact him wasn’t a news reporter, as he’d initially suspected. He placed his mug on his desk and leaned in a little closer to his computer monitor. Ben Sisko was trying to get in touch with him.
Dukat accessed the transmission. “Captain Sisko – I must admit, I am surprised to be hearing from you,” Dukat greeted. “To what do I owe this – ”
Sisko interrupted him before he could finish. “Let’s skip the fake civility, Dukat,” said Sisko, agitated.
“Why, Captain, you seem upset about something,” Dukat said. He knew exactly what was bothering the man. But there was no need to reveal that, was there?
“Dukat, I’m not in the mood for games,” Sisko said. “You’re damned right, I’m upset. And I think you know why. You’re have a Starfleet officer in your custody.”
“Captain, as I’ve repeatedly told your colleagues at Starfleet Command, I have no control over this matter,” Dukat insisted.
“That’s funny,” Sisko deadpanned. “You seemed to have plenty of control when you let Starr go. It looked like you were in command when you authorized the little exchange that resulted in Lt. Janeway’s capture.”
“Captain Sisko, need I remind you that the exchange was Danielle’s idea? It was only at her insistence that I allowed the exchange to be carried out.” Dukat leaned back in his chair, resting his elbows on the arms of the chair and steepling his fingers. “What would you have me do, Captain? Let open violators of Cardassian law simply go free?”
“Ah, ‘Danielle’ … ” Sisko repeated. “I’m sure having her on Prime is just an added perk to the whole situation?”
Dukat visibly bristled. “Are you implying something, Captain?”
“Your relationship with Lt. Janeway was no big secret, Dukat. It would be so easy to trade Starr for her, wouldn’t it?”
“The motives of this trade were purely political, I assure you,” Dukat lied.
“Okay,” Sisko acquiesced. “If that’s so, then what’s it going to take to get her back?”
“It isn’t so simple as negotiating, I’m afraid. Lt. Janeway and Commander Riker broke into a government facility. That’s a serious offense, Captain. The Federation is lucky that I allowed Riker to escape with Starr. I put my neck on the line by doing that.”
“Oh, that’s right. I forgot that I was dealing with the ever-gracious Dukat,” Sisko said sarcastically. “If you’re so merciful, why don’t you let Lt. Janeway return to Federation space?”
“I already told you – I can’t do that. I don’t have the authority.”
“Then you can be sure that this won’t be the last transmission you’ll be receiving from me about this.”
Dukat watched as Sisko ended the transmission. He reached for his mug of tea, troubled by Sisko’s words. The Starfleet captain was a clever man. Dukat didn’t put anything past the man anymore. He was planning something. He took a sip of his tea and grimaced. It had gone cold.
“Maybe we should’ve just stayed in for dinner,” Dani pondered aloud. She and Dukat were being shown to a table in one of the city’s most exclusive restaurants. He’d come home from work and suggested that they go out for dinner. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now Dani was having second thoughts. When she and Dukat had walked into the restaurant, all eyes had turned to them. The people didn’t stare with any kind of awe or admiration. They gawked and rolled their eyes in annoyance. Some even got up and left their tables, forgetting about the unfinished and undoubtedly expensive meals.
“Nonsense,” Dukat said, guiding her gently by the elbow. He seemed oblivious to all the attention he and Dani were receiving from the restaurants other patrons. “You’ve been at home for days. I thought it would be nice to get you out of the house for a change.”
Dani continued. “I’m not a very big fan of Cardassian fare.”
“Don’t worry, love, I’ll have the cook prepare anything you like,” Dukat told her.
“Here we are,” the host and owner announced, stopping at the table that was to be Dukat and his guest’s. He pulled out Dani’s chair and seated her.
“Thank you,” Dukat said.
“Let me be the first to tell you what an honor and a delight it is to have you dine with us tonight, Legate Dukat,” the host greeted.
“Well, this is one of my favorite establishments,” Dukat said. “We appreciate your warm welcome.”
“If you should require anything, please don’t hesitate to let me or any of my wait staff know,” the host said. He pulled a young man forward. “This is your waiter, Durell. He’ll be your server tonight. But of course, all of my staff is at your disposal.”
“Thank you,” Dukat said.
“Excuse me, won’t you? I have some business to attend to.” The host bowed to Dukat before walking away.
“What can I start you out with tonight, sir?” Durell asked Dukat, handing menus to him and Dani.
“Young man, didn’t your parents impart enough knowledge onto you to know that you should always give the lady the opportunity to order first?” Dukat asked, annoyed with the waiter’s apparent lack of manners.
The waiter’s face blanched at his error. “My apologies, sir.”
“Don’t apologize to me,” Dukat corrected him.
Durell turned to Dani. “My apologies … ma’am.” He absolutely hated having to humble himself before a Terran in this manner. “What can I get to drink for you, ma’am?”
“I’ll start with water, if that’s all right,” Dani said.
“Of course it’s all right,” said Dukat, eyeing the waiter unfavorably.
Durell nodded and turned to Dukat. “And for you, sir?”
“I’ll have the same,” Dukat answered. “And bring me your best bottle of kanaar.”
“Yes, sir. Right away, sir.” Durell left to go get their drinks.
Dani turned to Dukat. “You didn’t have to chastise him like that,” she said, opening her menu. “I’m sure it was just an honest mistake.”
“How else is he to correct his mistakes if no one informs him of them?” Dukat questioned. He looked through the menu, surveying the array of food options available.
The waiter returned quickly with a tray containing glasses, a pitcher of water, and a bottle of kanaar. He set the glasses on the table, followed by the kanaar. Just as he was reaching for the pitcher of water, it tipped over, its contents spilling down the front of Dani’s silver dress. She shrieked, shocked by the icy cold water, and darted to her feet.
Dukat, furious, stood. “You incompetent fool! Look what you’ve done!”
Dani looked from the enraged Dukat to Durell, who looked petrified. She walked over to Dukat. “Marac, please calm down.” She turned to the Durell. “I’m sorry.”
“No, don’t apologize to him,” Dukat sneered. He gently pushed Dani to the side as he stepped up to Durell, drawing himself to his full height and towering over the younger man in the process. “I will see to it, personally, that you never work in this city again. What kind of game do you think you’re trying to run here? Do you think I don’t know what you’re doing? You’ve got a lot to learn about respect, boy!”
“Marac, please,” Dani pleaded. She didn’t know why he was so upset. It had looked like an honest mistake to her.
The host rushed over to the table. “Legate Dukat, what is the problem here?”
Dukat turned to the man. “This idiot spilled water all over my wife!”
Wife? Dukat’s words caught Dani’s attention. She knew that he hadn’t realized what he had said. Dani looked around the restaurant. Everyone was looking at them, and the unbelieving looks that registered on their faces told Dani that they had heard what Dukat had said, as she had.
Dukat continued his rant at the restaurant’s owner. “I don’t know what kind of establishment you’re running, but I suggest that you investigate your potential employees more thoroughly before hiring them. If I find out that this incident was the result of some warped attitude or ideal among your service staff, I will have this place shut down. Do you understand me? Now, I would like a new waiter, I would like this one fired, and I want a new dress replicated for my guest. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, sir. Absolutely,” the host said. He moved off to carry out Dukat’s orders, pulling Durell with him.
Dukat picked up a napkin. Members of the wait staff stood near, watching. “Don’t just stand there,” Dukat chided. He indicated the soggy table. “Get this mess cleaned up.” He turned to Dani to begin a futile attempt to dry her dress. “I am so sorry about this,” he told her, dabbing the front of her dress. “This is an outrage. It’s absolutely unacceptable.”
“No, it’s okay. It’s only a little water,” Dani insisted.
Dukat looked at her. “You’re far too kind. But I’m not going to let some imbecile pour water all over you and get away with it.”
“Marac, it was an accident.”
Dukat wished he could be as forgiving and trusting as Dani, but he had a difficult time believing that what had happened was as innocent as it appeared. “My dear, I’ve dined here for years, and I’ve never witnessed such an ‘accident’ before.”
“I really must apologize again for tonight,” Dukat said after they had walked through the front entrance of his house. He turned to her and took her hands.
“Marac, you don’t have to keep apologizing,” Dani said. “I already told you – ”
“I know, I know, but I just wanted tonight to be special for you.”
“It was,” said Dani. “I had a good time.”
Dukat smiled. “I’m glad.” He bent down and kissed her.
“I’m going to go ahead and get ready for bed,” Dani informed him.
Rowat stepped into the room at this point. “Forgive me for interrupting, sir,” he said.
“What is it, Rowat?” Dukat asked, looking at the other man.
“There is a matter that requires your attention,” Rowat said.
Dukat turned back to Dani. “I will join you upstairs shortly,” he told her. Dani smiled at him before leaving the two men alone in the foyer.
Dukat turned to Rowat. “Yes, Rowat? What can I do for you?”
“It’s the house staff and the other guards, sir,” Rowat began. “They do not take kindly to Lt. Janeway’s presence here.”
“I’m well aware of that, however I have no control over someone else’s opinions about my … guest.” Dukat walked out of the foyer, and Rowat followed.
“I realize that, sir,” the shorter man said, “and believe me – I wouldn’t have come to you if it were merely a matter of their opinions. This goes beyond mere dislike. They aren’t doing their jobs.”
Dukat stopped walking outside his office. He turned to Rowat quizzically and indicated that he should enter the office. Dukat followed, closing the door behind him. “They aren’t doing their jobs?” he asked. “How do you mean?”
“The service staff won’t do anything Lt. Janeway asks,” Rowat began to explain. “Today, after you left, she had to do everything herself. I know it’s trivial, but it’s the principle of it all. They’re here to serve.”
“Yes, they are,” Dukat agreed. “I’ll have a talk with them. Is there anything else?”
“Yes, sir. The guards are incorrigible. They stare at her incessantly and constantly badger her. And all of them insult her, even to her face.” Rowat took a few steps toward his boss. “The house workers don’t present much of a serious situation. However, the guards do. I’m beginning to question whether they would do their duty to protect her to the best of their abilities should we come under attack.”
Dukat’s anger flared, but his features were calm. “This is disturbing,” he admitted. “It did seem like Danielle was a little … melancholy during dinner, but I just thought it was because of what had happened tonight.”
“Sir?” Rowat asked. What had happened tonight?
“Nevermind.” Dukat looked at Rowat. “Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Rowat. What puzzles me is why Danielle hasn’t come to me with this information. I realize it’s only been a day since she’s actually started to have regular contact with everyone, but it would seem like she would come to me for something so serious.”
That, Rowat didn’t have an answer for. Dukat continued. “Very well. I’ll take care of it, Rowat. Thank you.” Rowat nodded and left the office.
Dukat felt like throwing something. He wasn’t surprised at the treatment. He knew how intolerant his people could be. He loved Cardassia and her people, but their attitudes and behavior really grated on his nerves sometimes.
The very next morning, Dukat left for the city after finishing his breakfast, as usual. And once he was gone, the workers followed their routine as well. They wouldn’t clear the breakfast table, so Dani had to do it. One of the cooks intentionally broke a dish and told Dani to clean it up.
“I won’t clean up your messes,” Dani said defiantly.
“You’ll clean what we say clean, Terran,” another cook said. He pushed her, and she fell to the ground, her hands landing squarely on the broken glass. She cried out at the sharp pain in the palms of her hands. She sat back and looked down at her open palms. Two shards of glass were lodged in her left hand, and one was in her right. Narrow lines of blood trickled from the wounds.
“That’s right,” the first cook said. “Stay down there where you belong.”
Anger boiled up inside her. She stood and whirled around to the cook who had pushed her.
“What are you going to do?” the cook asked with a smirk.
Someone standing behind Dani spoke. “Awe, did the little Starfleet officer hurt herself?” he taunted.
Dani turned around. It was one of the guards who had spoken. In fact, three of them were standing in front of her. “No, she’s all right,” another guard said, looking extremely annoyed.
“She’s a little more than all right,” a third guard said, stepping closer to Dani than she would’ve liked. He had a smug grin on his face, and he was so close, she could feel his breath on her forehead. He continued. “Sometimes, I think that you’re actually quite attractive – for a Terran.” When he touched her hair, Dani instinctively pushed him away, ignoring the pain the movement caused in her hands.
The guard’s smile faded. “Then I remember – you’re nothing but Dukat’s filthy whore.” He grabbed her by the hair and painfully snapped her head back. She cried out. The guard whispered into her ear. “When he’s done with you, he’ll toss you back into that hell hole where he picked you up.” He raised his hand, and Dani closed her eyes and steeled herself for a blow.
All heads snapped to the direction of the kitchen entrance, where the exclamation had come from. Dukat was standing there with Rowat. They entered the room. The offending guard stood there, speechless, with a firm grasp still on Dani’s hair and his hand still in mid-air. Dukat walked up to him and grabbed the guard’s elevated wrist. The guard was taller than Dukat, but it obviously didn’t make any difference to him. “Release her, NOW,” Dukat ordered. The guard’s hand immediately fell from Dani’s hair.
“Where are your manners?” Dukat asked the man. “Don’t you know that this isn’t how you treat a lady?” The guard was classically speechless. Dukat, with a firm grip on the man’s wrist, glared at him. At the moment, he wanted nothing more than see this buffoon’s head on a platter, and he wanted to be the one who had the pleasure of personally removing it from his neck. And the others … Dukat looked around at the two cooks and the two remaining guards. They’d had the audacity to stand there, encouraging this kind of behavior.
Dukat turned back to the guard in front of him, tightening his grip on the man’s wrist. He spoke again. “Never set foot on my property again. If I see you anywhere near Lt. Janeway or my house again, I will kill you myself.” He dropped the guard’s hand. “And take your friends here with you. What I’ve said applies to them as well. I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in my household.”
The guards and the cooks began to file past Dukat out of the kitchen. Dukat laid his hand on the shoulder of the cook who had started the whole scene. “Before you leave, I want you to clean up all this glass,” Dukat told him. The cook nodded and turned, walking back into the kitchen.
Dukat walked over to Dani and picked up her injured hands, examining them. “Danielle, you should have come to me,” he said.
“I didn’t want to come whining to you about some minor issue,” Dani said.
“This is not minor!” Dukat said, upset. He was upset that Dani had been subjected to this kind of treatment in his own house, and he was upset that she hadn’t told him what was going on. He gently fingered glass in one of her wounds.
Dani winced. She didn’t understand how little pieces of glass could hurt so damn much.
“We’re going to have to get a doctor,” Dukat commented. He looked to Rowat, who, understanding the silent order, went into another room to call a physician. Looking at the glass and the blood in palms of Dani’s hands, Dukat, for the first time, questioned if Dani should be on Cardassia. What he had witnessed today had happened in his own house. How safe could she really be on Prime? He debated internally about whether or not to tell her about Starr’s version of her escape. Then again, maybe she already knew.
“Danielle, have you read any news today?” Dukat asked. “Or watched any news vids?”
“No, I haven’t gotten the chance, yet,” Dani replied. “Actually, I haven’t had the chance to read any news since I got here.”
If she knew, would that change things any for her, Dukat wondered. If she knew, would she want to go back?
The question left his mind as someone shimmered into existence beside them. It was a doctor by the name of Lurok. “Who needs attention?” he asked straightforwardly.
“She does,” Dukat said, pointing to her hands, which she held out for the doctor to examine.
“Those are some nasty cuts,” the doctor commented. He pulled out some instruments and began to get started on Dani’s hands. “Let’s see here …”