Dani woke up the next morning alone in her own room. That was the way she wanted it at the moment. She had replicated dinner and eaten alone before going to bed alone the night before. She woke up not feeling 100 percent like herself. Something felt different. It was probably knowing that there were people in the Federation who were still worried about her, who cared about her. They probably thought she was languishing as a laborer while she was actually on Cardassia living it up. It wasn’t a good feeling at all. She actually felt physically sick. She willed herself to a sitting position, though, hoping that her morning run would help her shake it off.
After getting dressed, she ventured downstairs to the kitchen and was relieved when she saw that Dukat was absent from the breakfast table. She didn’t feel like seeing him. She didn’t know if she would ever feel like seeing him again. She sat down, and Melba placed her customary breakfast before her on the table. Dani picked up her fork. The meal looked delicious, and she poked at it and ate a few bites, but she didn’t really have an appetite. She did finish off her orange juice, at least.
Rowat sat down across from her and wasted no time beginning his meal. He noticed that she wasn’t eating and regarded her a little peculiarly. “Is something wrong with your food?” he asked.
“No,” Dani said. “It’s fine.”
“Why aren’t you eating then?”
Dani sighed. “I just don’t have much of an appetite, okay?” It came out more harshly than she’d intended.
“Whatever you say, Lieutenant,” Rowat said. “Forgive me for prying.” He looked at her, studying her appearance. Her color looked a little different, paler, maybe. He wondered if she was feeling well. He knew that she and Dukat had had a falling out yesterday. That was probably the reason she was in such a sour mood. It was possible that her mood was affecting her appearance, as well. But if she insisted that everything was fine, everything was fine.
“Are you ready?” Dani asked.
“Yes. We can leave whenever you wish,” Rowat said.
A bead of sweat rolled down Dani’s damp forehead and into her eye. The salty fluid burned, but she had to keep going. She blinked a few times, and the minor burning sensation subsided.
Beside her, Rowat jogged seemingly effortlessly. He was a far cry from the person he’d been the first time they had run together. Back then, he’d been exhausted, bent over panting and gasping for air after only 20 minutes of running. Now, Dani watched him run with quick, confident strides. He had progressed nicely.
Today, the situation was reversed. Dani was the one who was having problems. Her vigor was diminished, and her usual rhythm was off. She wasn’t running at the level at which she usually ran. She was more sluggish than usual. It was evident by the way Rowat continually pulled ahead while Dani visibly lagged behind.
Rowat chalked Dani’s lack of energy up to the events of the previous day. He suspected that her mind just wasn’t on jogging or keeping up the pace. He slowed his pace so that she could more easily keep up. She surprised him by speaking.
“You know, Rowat,” Dani said between breaths, “I never thanked you … for yesterday.”
“What do you mean?” Rowat breathed.
“You saved my life,” Dani reminded him.
They jogged for a few moments with nothing but the sound of their breathing constantly breaking the silence. Then Rowat spoke again.
“I was just doing … my job,” he said.
“That’s all it was to you?” Dani asked. “Just your job?”
“Yes, Lieutenant,” Rowat said in his usual formal tone. “It is.”
Dani looked at Rowat unbelievingly. The man had nearly gotten his head shot off while trying to save her, and he’d reacted with little more than a blink. “You were only doing your job,” Dani repeated.
Rowat nodded. “Yes.”
Dani shook her head. “Forgive me if I have a little trouble seeing it that way.”
“Lieutenant, I was just – ”
“I know – your job.” Dani’s lungs felt like they were going to burst. She found she could no longer keep up a jog, even at the slower pace Rowat had set by slowing down. She slowed to a walk, an unsteady one at that.
Rowat unintentionally pulled ahead, but stopped and turned back to Dani. He walked back to where she was. “Lieutenant, are you all right?” he asked, panting.
Dani leaned over, resting her hands on her knees for support. After a moment, she stood upright, swaying a little as she did so. “I’m fine,” she lied. “I must be a little more tired than I initially thought.” Everything was spinning, and she felt like she was going to throw up. Her heart was beating in her ears.
“You don’t look fine,” Rowat said, his breathing slowing to normal, as his concern over Dani grew. “Come on; we’re going back to the house.”
“No,” Dani objected. “Let’s finish.” She took a step and felt like she’d stepped off a cliff. The only thing that kept her from going over was Rowat, who caught her.
“Oh, no you don’t,” he said, promptly picking her up. “You’re going back to the house. If I let anything happen to you, Dukat would have my head on a platter.”
“You’re just on a roll this week, aren’t you?” Dani joked before the world went black, and she went limp in Rowat’s arms.
Twenty minutes later, Rowat entered Dukat’s house with an unconscious Dani in his arms. “Melba!” Rowat called out. A few seconds later, the maid appeared in the foyer.
“Yes?” she said. When she saw Rowat holding Dani, her jaw dropped. “Rowat! What happened?”
Rowat headed for the stairs, Melba trailing him. “I don’t know,” he said. “She fainted during our run.” He reached the top of the stairs and made a beeline for Dukat’s bedroom. He gently laid Dani on Dukat’s bed. “Call Legate Dukat – and a doctor.” He stretched Dani’s legs out, removing her shoes and socks. Then he placed pillows under her head in an effort to make her as comfortable as possible.
Dukat arrived within minutes. He entered the bedroom in a rush and immediately gravitated toward the bed, where Dani, now conscious, still lay. He sat on the bed, studying her. The paleness of her complexion was the first thing he noticed.
Dani looked up at him. She still wanted to be mad at him, but he looked so scared, and she just didn’t have the energy right now. She felt better than she had earlier, but she was so tired. “You’re fast,” she said.
“I had them beam me directly here,” Dukat replied.
Dani gave a little nod and closed her eyes. She opened them again and looked back up at Dukat. He looked positively terrified. She reached up and stroked his face. He closed his eyes, reaching up and covering her outstretched hand with his, kissing her palm.
“Danielle,” he said, “you’re going to have to quit scaring me like this. This is the second day in a row I’ve nearly had a heart attack. I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”
“Sorry,” Dani said. “I’ll try to stretch the life-threatening emergencies out from now on.”
“My love,” Dukat said, stroking her face, “what happened?”
“Nothing,” Dani dismissed. “I just got a little dizzy. I probably just didn’t eat enough at breakfast.”
Lurok, who had treated Dani’s cuts from the confrontation with the house workers, entered with a medical scanner already in hand. He didn’t waste any time being cordial and went straight to work scanning Dani. Dukat stood and watched him intently, taking note of every expression that played across the other man’s face: first, curiosity; then, determination; then surprise, although it didn’t seem, at least to Dukat, to be of the bad variety.
“What is it?” he asked Lurok.
“I think you might want to talk about this is in private,” Lurok suggested.
One glance from Dukat conveyed an unspoken order to Rowat.
“Okay, everyone, let’s move it along,” Rowat instructed, herding the guards and servants who had entered out of the room.
Dukat turned back to the doctor once everyone was out and the door was shut. “Doctor, what’s wrong with her?”
“She’s pregnant,” Lurok replied promptly.
The world stopped for Dani when she heard the words. “Pregnant?” she repeated.
“Yes,” the doctor nodded.
“Pregnant?” Dukat asked.
“By one month and five days,” Lurok elaborated. Dukat sat back down on the bed, at a complete loss for words.
It was night now, and the doctor had long since left. It was actually quite late in the evening. The house was quiet and dark, the household at rest for the night.
Dani padded down the steps of the carpeted, spiraling staircase on bare feet. Upon reaching the bottom step, she noticed a weak light that gently broke into the darkness of the house emanating from somewhere. She followed it and was led to the source – Dukat’s office.
Dani stood, watching Dukat from the doorway for a time. He sat at his desk, his back turned to the soft white light that poured from his desk lamp, the only light that was on in the room. Dani couldn’t see his face, but she could tell by the positioning of his body that he was deep in thought. He leaned back into the chair, his head bent slightly forward and his elbows resting on the arms of the chair. His finger played around his lips absently, and despite the fact that he was gazing out the window behind his desk, Dani guessed that he wasn’t even paying attention to the view.
Dani picked a moment and decided to enter the room. She walked up behind Dukat’s chair and gently laid a hand on his shoulder. His head snapped to one side, and he swiveled in his chair and looked up at Dani, concern clouding his features.
“You should be in bed,” he said. “You shouldn’t be on your feet.”
“I’m fine,” Dani said softly.
Dukat glanced down and glimpsed Dani’s bare feet. “Danielle, you’re going to catch a cold. Look at you, walking around without anything on your feet.”
Dani smiled at his unwarranted state of worry. Dukat gave up and let a small smile creep across his lips. He reached out and took Dani’s hand.
“You should come to bed,” Dani suggested.
“I will in a moment. I just have … a lot on my mind,” he confided.
Dani stepped closer to Dukat’s chair. “Wanna talk about it?”
Dukat regarded her for a moment, as if considering telling her what he was thinking about. But he ultimately decided against it. “It’s nothing I would want you to trouble yourself with, my dear.” He returned his gaze once again to the window. How could he possibly tell her it was she who was at the core of his thoughts, his dilemmas?
When he looked at her again, he found her eyes on him. “It’s me, isn’t it?” she correctly guessed. Dukat didn’t say anything, but she continued. “It’s me. You’re worried about how this is going to affect your career, your life here.” There wasn’t the least bit of contempt or anger in her words. Just sadness. She was speaking of the unexpected turn events had taken, and she was right.
Dani figured that he was holding back his thoughts because he didn’t want to hurt her feelings. “It okay,” she said. “I know how you must feel.” She lowered herself onto Dukat’s knee. “You’ve been given this chance of a lifetime, a second chance, at what you’ve always wanted, and here I am.” It was she who stared out the large window, now. She looked at Dukat. “I’m well aware of what happened to you when you brought Ziyal back here to live with you. I know, from experience, what Cardassian society is like. I know the prevailing attitudes toward outsiders. But with that said, I can’t get rid of something that is a part of me, Marac. I won’t.”
Dukat had watched the weight of the situation manifest itself on Dani’s exotic features. He knew that she understood the situation completely, but there was no way he was going to have the mother of his child exhausting herself with worry over the matter.
“Darling, there’s no way I could ever advocate anything so drastic,” Dukat assured her. “This child is a part of me, too.” He reached up and touched her face, attempting to soothe her worries. It was evident that this had been on her mind all day, as it had been on his. “There’s no need to trouble yourself with any of this,” he told her. “All you need to do is stay healthy for our child. I’ll handle the rest.” He wrapped his arms around her, and she leaned into him. “I’ll figure something out,” he repeated quietly into her ear. What that something would be, he had no idea.