Sweetest Sin – 8. Fallen

Dani stared at her reflection in the full-length mirror mounted beside the closet. After nearly three months of pregnancy, she didn’t see much of a change in her appearance. Her figure had filled out a little, but much of her shape had remained the same, and she still fit into many of her clothes.

The major noticeable difference was in how she felt. Mornings were the worst. A few days after she’d found out about her condition, she’d begun to have terrible morning sickness. She hadn’t had a real breakfast in weeks. She just didn’t have the appetite. Every morning, it was the same thing without fail. She would wake up and, after a few moments of lying in bed, would be overcome by an overwhelming feeling of nausea. She would then rush to the bathroom and dive for the toilet bowl. It was miserable. She didn’t know how much more of this she could take. It was torture.

This morning had been different, oddly enough. Dani had experienced no sickness of any kind. She had even managed to finish a light breakfast. Maybe the morning sickness was wearing off. She was moving into the second trimester of her pregnancy. Perhaps, that had something to do with it.

When a sharp pain ripped through Dani’s mid-section, she reconsidered. But this didn’t feel like morning sickness or any other pain she’d ever experienced, pregnant or not. It scared her. What if something was wrong … She knew she had to get some help.

By the time she reached the bedroom door, another, more intense pain rocked her body. The pain was so unbearable, it sent her to her knees and made her cry out. She had to get to a comm unit, but she couldn’t move. There was so much pain, and none of it had subsided. She looked out into the hallway and realized that she wasn’t going to make it down the stairs. Oh, gods – what was she going to do?

Dani leaned back against the wall, her feet drawn to her chest in a meager attempt to lessen the pain in any way possible. She decided that she would have to resort to the most basic means of summoning help: screaming, which she did, despite the fact that it hurt like hell to do it. She took a deep breath. “Help!” she screamed. Rowat or Melba or somebody had to be around somewhere. “SOMEBODY, please – HELP ME!” she yelled.

Downstairs, Rowat was speaking with Melba about a recipe when he thought he heard something. He stopped talking. Melba took his silence as her cue to pick up the conversation.

“Shh!” Rowat instructed. Melba became silent, while Rowat listened. It sounded like someone was calling from upstairs. When he began to make his way up the stairs, the screams became clearer, and he recognized them as Dani’s. He quickened his pace, taking the stairs two at a time. When he reached the second floor, he realized that Dani was in the master bedroom. He entered and found her on the floor, sitting, almost lying, in a fetal position against the wall. His heart rate spiked.

“Guls … ” he muttered, rushing to kneel beside her. “Lieutenant?”

“Oh, gods, it hurts so bad,” Dani grimaced, as tears sprung to her eyes. Her arms were wrapped tightly around her midsection.

“What?” Rowat questioned. “What hurts?” She looked like she was in so much pain. But she didn’t get the chance to answer him because she cried out and leaned forward onto her knees.

Rowat activated his wrist unit. “Capital Medical Facility – this is Glinn Rowat at Legate Dukat’s residence. I have a medical emergency. Prepare to receive one Terran female. Lock onto our position and transport us immediately.” Rowat scooped Dani up and stood. She was pale, which he knew wasn’t a good sign for Terrans, and she had broken into a cold sweat, but she was still conscious. Seeing her in this state reminded him of the day she had fainted during one of their morning jogs. That had been the day the doctor had told her she would be expecting a child. He hoped that this didn’t t have anything to do with that, but in being truthful to himself, he knew that it probably did. “We’re going to the hospital,” Rowat told her. “Everything will be fine.” He looked at Melba. “Comm Dukat,” he instructed. The maid nodded obediently.

“Prepare for transport,” the hospital representative’s voice directed. A few seconds later, Rowat disappeared from the room in a gold sparkle of light with Dani in his arms.

They materialized in a medical emergency room. “Put her down right over here,” one of the doctors directed hastily. Dani soon realized that it was Lurok. If she didn’t feel like her insides were being ripped out, she would have made some smart-ass joke about how they should be on a first-name basis by now, they’d seen so much of each other in the past couple of months. Rowat did as he was instructed, gently laying Dani on a biobed.

“What happened?” Lurok asked Dani.

“I have this sharp pain in my stomach,” Dani explained. “It comes in waves and each wave is worse. Please – make it stop. There’s so much pain.”

Lurok instructed a nurse to inject Dani with a painkiller, which she did. He looked down at his new patient, who seemed to relax visibly after the hypospray. “That should make you more comfortable,” he told Dani. She nodded, feeling the effects of the powerful drug start to kick in.

A shimmering of light from the other side of the room caught the doctor’s attention. He turned in time to see Legate Dukat materialize. “Great guls … ” he managed, spying Dani on the biobed.

Dani noticed immediately when Dukat shimmered into existence. “Marac,” she moved to go to her, but the Lurok blocked his path. It was only then that Dukat first seemed to notice the very presence of the doctor.

“Legate Dukat, perhaps it would be better if you wait outside,” Lurok suggested, gently urging the taller man toward the door.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Dukat steamed. “What is going on here? What’s wrong with her?”

“If you would please wait outside, and let me do my job, I could find out,” Lurok said sternly.

Dukat blinked a few times, not wanting to go but realizing the truth and logic of what Lurok was saying. He nodded and cast a final glance at Dani before he and Rowat complied with the doctor’s request.


Rowat’s eyes followed Dukat’s feet back and forth across the waiting room floor. He’d been watching those feet for almost an hour.

“What is that damned doctor doing in there?” Dukat demanded of the air around him. “They should have gotten to the bottom of everything by now.” He’d come out into the waiting room, as the doctor had requested and had initially sat down, but he had been unable to sit for more than five minutes. Now he was pacing, and it was driving Rowat nuts.

Rowat was about to say something to Dukat about it when Lurok appeared. Rowat stood. Dukat, noticing the change in Rowat, turned to the direction of Rowat’s gaze.

“Doctor,” Dukat said, quickly moving in on the doctor, “How is my – how is she?”

“Legate Dukat, we should talk,” Lurok said. He looked at Rowat with a silent plea for privacy.

Rowat, who caught the silent request, nodded. He looked at Dukat. “I should check on things at the house.”

Dukat didn’t seem to notice that Rowat had even spoken. He only stared intently at Lurok, worried, scared, anxious. Rowat left the waiting room, giving Dukat and the doctor the privacy they needed.

“Doctor – please,” Dukat pleaded. He couldn’t take the suspense any longer. If this doctor didn’t tell him something about Dani’s condition right now, he was going to barge into that room, and no one was going to stop him..

“Legate, I think you should sit down,” Lurok suggested.

“I will not sit down!” Dukat said, raising his voice. “Now, you will tell me what is going on this instant, or I promise you there will be consequences!”

“Legate, there really is no easy way to tell you this,” Lurok began. “Your – Lt. Janeway was … ” This was so difficult to say. He hated having to break this sort of news. He struggled briefly to find the words. “Lt. Janeway is no longer pregnant, sir.”

“Wha … ” Dukat couldn’t have heard the man correctly. “What do you mean ‘no longer pregnant’?” Dukat boomed.

“She suffered a miscarriage,” Lurok elaborated. Dukat didn’t understand. How could she have miscarried? She was young, healthy. It didn’t make any sense. It felt like all the air had left his lungs. He cleared his throat, as he felt a lump rising in it. “Is she all right?”

“Yes. I expect her to make a full recovery.”

“Does she … know?”

“Yes, sir, she does.”

Dukat looked down at the floor. All the times he had been a father, and this was the first time he’d ever lost one of his children. “How did this happen?” he asked Lurok.

“Unfortunately, sir, these things do happen,” Lurok said. He knew the words would be of little comfort to a man in Dukat’s position. A man loses his child, even if it is unborn, and it leaves a pain like no other. “Why did it happen in this instance? I don’t know, yet,” he continued. “It could be anything. Stress, diet. It could be that your DNA and her DNA are not compatible. It could even be that Terran and Cardassian DNA are not readily compatible. The one thing I do know for sure is that I won’t know anything until I can run some tests. Maybe then I will know if this is an isolated problem or not.”

Dukat took a deep breath, internalizing everything Lurok was telling him. “May I see her?”

“Of course.” He led Dukat through a set of doors and down a short hallway. Dukat instantly recognized that this was not the same route he’d taken on the way from the emergency room.

“We’ve moved her to a private room,” Lurok informed him. “Here it is.” They entered the room he had singled out.

At the sound of the doors hissing open, Dani looked way from the window in time to see Dr. Lurok enter with Dukat. The two of them halted a few paces past the door.

“If either of you need me, just call,” he instructed before leaving the Dukat and Dani alone.

Dukat didn’t hesitate a moment more before he was at Dani’s bedside. When she reached out for him, he took her hand and carefully sat on the side of the bed.

“Marac,” was all that she said. It sounded small, weary, sad.

“My love,” Dukat said. He gently stroked her tear-streaked face. He opened his arms and readily received her when she came to him.


“I’m taking some time off,” Dukat told his executive assistant via visual comm link. He was sitting at the desk in his home office three days after Dani’s release from the hospital. “I’ll be away from the office for a few weeks at the very least, unless an emergency arises. And by emergency, I mean a real emergency, as in severely threatening. Otherwise, I do not wish to be bothered. Is that clear?”

The young man nodded. “I understand, sir. I’ll see to it that things are taken care of while you’re away.”

Dukat nodded. “Dukat out.” He cut the link. He’d been wanting to take some time off since Dani had arrived on Prime, but he hadn’t been able to find the time. If the events of the past few days had convinced him of anything, it was that the time to get away from work was now.

He swiveled his chair around so that he was facing the window. He had a perfect view of the back yard from where he was sitting. Dani was in the grass playing with Sherlock. Physically, she seemed to have recovered from her ordeal and actually had a smile on her face. Dukat was less sure of her emotional state, though. He sighed. They needed to get away from Prime for a little while. Maybe it was time for a trip.


Dukat scanned the room, sipping on his glass of wine. It wasn’t kanaar, but it had its merits.

He didn’t know why he had agreed to come to this luncheon anyway. The whole point of his vacation was to stay away from work. Instead, a week after he’d informed everyone that he was taking a leave, he was back on the social scene, fulfilling the social responsibilities of his position as Prefect of the Western Hemisphere of Cardassia Prime. This time, the event was being held in the lobby of the building that housed his office. After this, though, he was gone. There weren’t anymore of these functions scheduled for at least two weeks, and in only a week, he and Dani would be on a long-overdue vacation.

“Dukat, you’re going to get yourself into some serious trouble messing with that girl.”

The voice of the person who had addressed Dukat had a reprimanding tone that harbored a bit of a teasing quality behind it. There was only one Cardassian he’d known to talk like that. Dukat turned and saw exactly who he’d expected to see standing in front of him.

“Tulane,” he said. “I didn’t know you were coming.”

“Am I to understand it you don’t want me here?” Tulane asked, a gentle smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. He was an older man, older than Dukat, and rounder, too. His hair, which had probably once been jet black, as Dukat’s was, had long since gone gray, losing any hint of color. The lines on his face bore the experiences and wisdom of a lifetime, and his light eyes twinkled with a prophetic knowing.

“Of course I want you here,” Dukat said. “How could I not want my former mentor to take part in all this fun?” He deposited the wineglass he’d been holding on a passing waiter’s tray. “So, Tulane – how are things going for you?”

“Oh, fine, fine,” the older man said. “Things are simply splendid for you, I see.” He nodded toward Dani Janeway, who stood a good distance away among a group of women she’d become familiar with while attending other social events. They weren’t exactly friends, but they were cordial enough. Dukat’s gaze traveled to Dani, and she happened to look up at the moment and return his gaze. She looks like she’s having fun, Dukat joked silently. He watched her turn back to her group when someone addressed her.

“I presume you’re speaking of my guest,” Dukat said, returning his attention to Tulane.

“She’s going to be the death of you, you know,” Tulane prophesied.

“That’s a little on the dramatic, don’t you think?” Dukat said.

“No, not particularly.” All hint of joking or humor had left his face and his voice. He was dead serious now. “She’s a Starfleet officer being held prisoner here, Marac.”

“Only because she broke the law by breaking into a prison,” Dukat reminded him, matching his serious tone. I don’t have to tell you this, Tulane. You already know it.”

“You know she isn’t just any common prisoner,” Tulane said. The implications behind his words were unmistakable. “Or she wouldn’t be here among Cardassia’s finest.”

“I’m working on a new program for prisoners,” Dukat defended. “She’s my test subject.”

At this proclamation, Tulane merely smiled and stepped closer to Dukat. “Are you planning on eventually sharing a bed with all the prisoners on Cardassia?” he asked with a lowered voice.

Dukat eyed Tulane. It wasn’t a big secret that Dani and Dukat were more than simply host and guest, however they didn’t exactly make a habit of publicizing their relationship. Tulane had always known right where to hit to make his punches felt.

Tulane continued. “Marac, you have to know that this whole arrangement will never succeed.”

Dukat afforded a glance across the room to Dani, and then looked at Tulane. “I want to show you something,” he told him. “Come with me.”

Tulane followed Dukat out of the reception to the nearby lift. They got in and rode the car up to the fifteenth floor, where they exited, and Dukat led Tulane to his office. The younger man walked over to his desk and opened one of his drawers, while Tulane looked on with interest. Dukat pulled out a little box.

“What’s that?” Tulane asked. He walked over and joined Dukat at the desk. Dukat opened the box and showed it contents to Tulane. A large, glimmering stone encased in loop of pure latinum gleamed from the box. Dukat handed the box to Tulane. “Marac Dukat – does this mean what I think it means?” the old man asked.

“Only if you’re thinking what I’m thinking,” Dukat replied.

“You keep it here, in your office?” Tulane asked.

Dukat smiled. “Leaving it at home is not an option,” he said. “The woman gets into everything. She’d find it in an instant.”

Tulane studied the ring some more. “It certainly is beautiful. It must have cost a fortune.” He handed the ring back to Dukat.

“It wasn’t cheap,” Dukat conceded. His Ferengi contact had come through, surprisingly, and had gotten him a good deal. But even with the deal, the ring had probably cost more than many people’s yearly salaries. He looked down at the ring. “No matter how much it cost me, though, it still doesn’t feel like it’s enough.” He closed the box and replaced it in his drawer.

“When are you planning to ask this life-altering question?” Tulane inquired.

“Next week. I’ve got some time off, so we’ll have the opportunity to celebrate.”

Tulane regarded the other man curiously. “So, you’re serious about this?” The look on Dukat’s face left no questions in the as to the seriousness of the situation. “Marac,” Tulane said, “This is risky. Are you quite sure you want to do this?”

“She’s worth it,” Dukat replied before Tulane even had the chance to ask.

“You can’t truly believe that she’s going to stay here with you,” Tulane railed.”She’s here against her will. I don’t care what you think she feels for you she still has a life, a family, in the Federation.”

Dukat slowly approached Tulane, emphasizing the fact that he towered over the other man. “You know nothing of my relationship with her,” he said coolly, even though he was apparently seething. The man before him was a mentor and a friend, but who was he to show up after years and try to tell him what to do with his life? “Everything you think you know about us, forget it, because you don’t know anything at all.” He walked out of the office, leaving Tulane alone.

When Tulane rejoined the gathering downstairs, he saw that Dukat had rejoined his ‘guest’, Ms. Janeway. The man was smiling outside, but Tulane could see the remnants of their discussion still lingering behind his blue eyes. He watched Dukat and Janeway walk out of the room together, taking their leave of the reception.

Tulane didn’t care that Dukat was in love with her. She was Starfleet. She didn’t belong here. And he was sure this whole ‘guest/host’ situation didn’t bode too well with the Federation. Having Danielle Janeway on Cardassia was dangerous.


Dani put her earrings in her ears, and her ensemble was complete. It was the first time she was going to be wearing the royal blue gown that casually hugged her body. The dress was part of the collection that had been waiting for her when she’d first arrived on Prime over three months ago. It was hard to believe she had only been there for three months. So much had happened in that short period of time. It had felt like she’d been on Cardassia for forever.

Dani studied herself in one of the bedroom mirrors. Her eyes rose to the reflected image of her hair. She’d had a terrible time trying to figure out what to do with it. At first, she’d left it down and was content with leaving it like that. It didn’t look half-bad. But then, she realized that she didn’t like the way her hair seemed to hide her face, and wondered what it would look like if she put it up. So, she’d twisted it up into a style and realized that it would also work. However, her mind got to wondering again, and she was worried that maybe her neck would look too long with her hair up. After alternating back and forth between styles for fifteen minutes, she finally settled on the style that would leave her neck exposed. And then she was ready. She headed for the bedroom door.

She didn’t know why Dukat had insisted that they dress formally for dinner that night. He’d told her that they weren’t having guests over, and as far as she knew, they weren’t supposed to be celebrating any special occasion, unless one considered the start of a trip special. The next morning Dani and Dukat were leaving on a transport headed for Risa, which was definitely cause to celebrate considering all that had happened.

Dani paused at the top of the long staircase and saw that Dukat was waiting at the foot, dressed to the nines in a black suit. He turned and looked up at her, and she smiled. He was gorgeous, and he was hers, she thought giddily. She began to descend the sweeping staircase. When she reached the bottom, she and Dukat clasped hands.

“You look stunning, my love,” Dukat said.

“So do you,” Dani said, beaming at him. She walked with him into the dining room and stopped short. Ornate candelabras with real burning candles adorned the table. Freshly cut roses decorated the room. She turned to Dukat. “You did this?”

He answered by lifting her hand to his lips and kissing it. He led her to her seat at the table and seated her before walking around and taking his own seat.

“Marac, what is going on?” Dani finally asked. “I know there has got to be some reason for all of this. No one would go through the trouble of setting up all this for nothing.” She couldn’t believe Dukat had planned this simply because he felt like doing it. There was a reason behind it. There was always a reason for the things Dukat did.

“You’re right,” Dukat said. She was so sharp and attentive. It was one of the many things he loved so much about her. She was always calling him on things.

“There is a reason. A very good one, which you will find out shortly” Without any prompting, two servers emerged from the kitchen with platters of food. One server went to Dani, the other to Dukat. They delivered two elaborate meals, complete with glasses of water and kanaar, and left without a word, returning to their domain in the kitchen.

Plucking her napkin from the table and gently spreading it across her lap, she eyed Dukat with mock suspicion. “Marac … what is this? Did something extraordinary happen concerning your work?”

Spreading his own napkin over his lap, Dukat simply said, “No.”

“Did something bad happen?” Dani asked, resorting to the other extreme of the possible spectrum.

Dukat laughed. This was all very amusing. “No,” he said.

Dani was beside herself with curiosity. Why did he always have to be so damn mysterious? “What, then?” she asked, frustrated.

“In time, Danielle,” Dukat said, refusing to reveal any more than he wanted to. “Be patient.”

Dani sighed. She hated playing this game, but Dukat wasn’t giving anything up, so she had no choice. She picked up her glass of water and drank from it, resolved to wait until Dukat deemed it appropriate to enlighten her. He just had everything planned so perfectly, didn’t he?

So, when the door chime sounded, and Dani saw that Dukat hadn’t been expecting it to, her eyebrows shot up.

Dukat was annoyed at the interruption to an evening for which he had planned every detail. He could’ve let Melba get it, but he wanted to see for himself who was at the door. He wanted to be the one to personally tell whoever was at the door that they were a nuisance.

“I’ll take care of this,” he said, placing his napkin on the table and reluctantly rising from his seat. Before he left to go attend to the chiming door, he walked over to Dani. “I’m sorry about this. The evening was supposed to be flawless.”

Dani grinned and shook her head. “You can’t control everything, Marac.”

“I can try.” He bent down and kissed her in such a manner that she didn’t want to let him go. “I’ll be right back,” he assured her.

“You’d better. You have to tell me what all this is about.” Dani watched him walk out of the dining room.

Dukat marched straight through the living room to the foyer, where he opened the front door. The irritation that marred his features disappeared when he saw who was standing in his doorway.

“I told you that woman would be the death of you.”

In front of Dukat stood Tulane with hand phaser pointed directly at him.

“Tulane?” Dukat asked, understandably puzzled. This was supposed to be his friend, his confidant. What was he doing pointing a weapon at him? What had happened to the guards that were supposed to be patrolling the grounds? And who were the two masked figures who accompanied Tulane?

“You should have listened to me, Marac,” the older man said, stepping into the house, uninvited. “Now, it’s too late.”

Too late? Dukat questioned silently. For what? Aloud, he asked, “Tulane, what are you doing here? You’re interrupting a very important evening.” He was backing up as Tulane and his companions advanced into the house.

“Where is she?” Tulane demanded.

“Marac, who is it?” they all heard Dani call.

In the dining room, Dani wondered why Dukat hadn’t answered her. She stood and walked toward the living room, wondering if this was supposed to be her big surprise. The thought quickly fled her mind when she saw the scene currently unfolding in the living room. “Marac?” she said, alarm rising in her voice at the sight of the phaser pointed directly at Dukat.

“No, Danielle,” Dukat commanded. “Stay right there.”

Dani knew Dukat well enough to know that she should listen to him and do what she said. But she couldn’t do it. Not this time. Not when he was obviously in such imminent danger. She walked over to him anyway, and stood behind him.

“Marac, who are these people?” she asked.

“Lt. Janeway – there are a lot of people waiting for you back in the Federation,” Tulane told her.

Dani looked up at Dukat. This was a rescue attempt? Here she was again, she realized. Back in that dreaded situation again. A choice to be made between two very different lives. But the choice was already made. She found herself shaking her head. She wasn’t leaving him, not after all they had been through.

“Lieutenant, if you would please come with us,” Tulane urged.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Dani said defiantly. She slipped her hand into Dukat’s

“Lieutenant, these men are with Starfleet,” Tulane persisted. “They’re here to take you back to Federation space.”

Dani glanced at the masked figures, paying particular attention to their rifles. The did appear to be Starfleet-issue. But she couldn’t just go off with these people because they happened to have Starfleet weapons.

“Danielle, you must go with these men,” Dukat said. “For your own safety.”

Dani looked up at Dukat and shook her head again. “How can you say that? I’m not leaving you. I love you.”

Dukat placed his hands on Dani’s arms and looked deeply into her eyes. “I love you, too, Danielle, which is why you have to go with them. Please.” He saw that she looked like she was relenting and he nodded. He delivered a brief kiss to her lips. “It will be all right.”

Dukat turned his attention back to Tulane. “I’ve got something in my pocket,” he said, moving to reach into the side pocket of his jacket. “I’m just reaching for it. It isn’t a weapon.”

“Keep your hands where I can see them,” Tulane barked.

“It isn’t a weapon,” Dukat insisted. “But it’s something I must give her before she leaves.”

“Don’t move, Marac. I’m warning you.”

Dukat seemed to ignore Tulane, proceeding to reach into his pocket. He had to get this to her. What if he never saw her again? In one swift move, he turned to Dani and pulled something out of his pocket. But Dani never got the chance to see what it was, and Dukat didn’t get the chance to tell her. Dani heard a soft mechanical whine and saw Dukat’s face take on the most peculiar expression. He looked as if he couldn’t quite comprehend the situation, his brows knitted and his lips slightly parted.

“Marac?” Dani said, fighting to subdue the panic rising within her.

Dukat lost his balance and grasped at Dani. She caught him as best as she could, but he was two heavy, and they fell to the floor together, despite Dani doing her best to lower him gently. It was only then that she realized what had happened. She looked down at his chest where the fatal wound that was draining the life from him had landed. The tears instantly sprung to her eyes. She looked at him, his head resting in her lap. She leaned down and kissed him gently on the lips, knowing it would be the last time.

“This … this is it, my love,” Dukat said. “All the times people have tried to kill me … and now has to be the time they get it right.”

“Shh, don’t say that. We’ll get you to a hospital, and everything will be fine. Just like it was before,” Dani said, lying to herself more than anyone else.

“Tell Ziyal I’m sorry … for everything. I … ”

“I’ll tell her, but I suspect she already knows it all.”

Dukat closed his eyes briefly. He knew that. Ziyal was a survivor. If she could last years as a Breen prisoner … When he opened his eyes again, he could no longer see. “Danielle?”

“I’m here,” she said. “I’m right here.” She picked up his hand.

“Danielle, I love you,” Dukat managed. “You … you would have made … an excellent wife.”

“You would have made an even better husband,” Dani replied. “You could cook.” She saw him smile … and then she saw the light fade from his blue eyes. “Marac?” She touched his face. “Marac?” The panic she had been fighting surfaced. “Oh, gods,” her voice cracked. “No, no. Please. Please don’t leave me again.”

She looked up at Tulane and the two masked men, desperate. For what, she didn’t know. Dukat was gone, and she knew that, but she couldn’t just … “Help me,” she pleaded. “Please!” It was as if her cries fell on deaf ears. They all just stood there, like statues. When she realized they weren’t going to do anything, her anger flared. “You bastards!” She carefully eased his head out of her lap and onto the floor.

Her teary eyes wondered over to Dukat’s right hand, which still clutched the object he’d taken from his pocket. It lay there, as if presenting itself to her, a small black box. Dani picked it up, curious, and something told her that this had been the surprise Dukat had been planning.

Dani opened the little box and gasped. The tears began to flow freely again as she picked up the beautiful ring that was nestled in the box and looked at it. The puzzle of the night came together, and Dani realized what the purpose of it all was, why Dukat had wanted it so perfect. This ring coupled with Dukat’s final words made it all so clear, and it made it all hurt that much worse.

When Dani felt a hand gently tugging at her elbow, she pulled away. “Get the fuck away from me.”

“We have to leave. Without Dukat’s protection, they’ll tear you apart if you stay here.”

Dani looked up. One of the masked men was speaking to her. He had a deep, soothing voice. “I know it hurts,” he said. “But he’s gone. Nothing you say or do is going to bring him back. You still have a chance to save yourself. Please come with us. From what it sounded like, he would have wanted it that way.” It was the truth, hard and cold, and Dani realized it for what it was. She looked up into a pair of kind, blue eyes, and let the man help her up off the floor. He led her away from Dukat’s body, toward the foyer. Dani wanted to look back, one last time, but seeing him, what was left of him…

“Don’t look back,” the masked man advised. “It’ll make it all that much more difficult.”

Dani heeded the advice and instead looked down at the ring she now held in her hand as she was led from the house. The excited bark of a dog caught everyone’s attention, and Dani suddenly remembered. She turned to see Sherlock running toward her from the side of the house. She’d forgotten all about him. She quickly slipped the ring onto the finger for which she knew it was meant, and bent down to pick up the small dog. Once Sherlock was securely snuggled in his owner’s arms, Dani turned again and let herself be led toward the transport that was sitting on the lawn.

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