“I was summoned,” Jarol said, entering Dukat's office. Her ship was docked at Terok Nor, under repair and getting new crew replacements.
Dukat raised his head from a padd, put the device away and smiled.
“Jarol,” he rose and approached her, “it's good to see you,” he grabbed her arms amicably.
She smiled slightly, not sure what he wanted.
“Oh, I didn't ask you to come in business matters,” he explained, seeing her puzzlement. “Just wanted to ask how you were doing.”
She relaxed a bit.
“My ship was a little bit battered by the Federation, but otherwise I'm fine,” she replied.
He motioned toward a chair, inviting her to sit down. “Kanar?”
“How is Roumar? I read your reports, the crew appears to be good.”
“They're the best,” she said and she meant it.
“I'm sure they are,” he handed her a glass filled with thick beverage. “And you are the right person to command them.”
She wondered if it was the moment when he would collect his debt of appointing her as Roumar's Gul.
“I'm just trying to do my job the best I can,” she said.
“Oh, don't be so modest,” he smiled that smile she could never resist. Her suspicions dissolving. “You deserve the credit for all you've done.”
“So,” she took a sip; it was good kanar, “what is it you really
called me for?”
He laughed. “To talk.”
“Uhm,” she muttered, her tone clearly full of disbelief, but her face stretched in a smile. What was it about him that she couldn't resist, that she couldn't hate him, even after what he did to her... and to Corak?
He laughed again. “Oh, why are you so suspicious? We've been through so much together, I want to know how you are doing.”
“Uhm...” was he finishing for something?
He kept observing her for a moment.
“What?” she asked.
“You are so different from that young officer, who came here those years ago. You're a real soldier now,” he said.
She didn't know what to say, and he continued: “A mature woman, a powerful woman, desirable woman...” was he trying to seduce her? She wondered.
“Don't tell me you need my doubtful diplomatic skills again,” she said.
“I'm afraid I have to deal with diplomacy personally this time,” he sighed.
She wanted to ask him, she wanted to know, she wanted to tell him what she thought about his decision and about the Dominion, but she didn't dare. She knew he wasn't someone she could cross the line with; no matter how charming his smile was. She didn't want to follow Corak.
So they talked. He really didn't want anything specific from her, or it wasn't obvious to her yet.
She left his office in a good mood, stepped into ops and headed for the lift. She stepped into it, turned and noticed some of Cardassians were staring at her. They averted their eyes as soon as she turned.
?” Jarol asked, pointing, her voice high and full of incredulity.
She granted her officers shore leave for the time of repairs and used the opportunity to relax herself. Now she sat with Damar and Brenok at one of tables in Quark's Bar.
“Tora Ziyal,” Damar replied. “Don't you remember her?”
Jarol pulled her face. “Does she even close that mouth of hers? Or she always wears that stupid expression on her face?”
“Always,” Damar said, laughing. “But better don't ask Dukat that question.”
“I can't understand how he could have abandon all his children for this... this... this
!” she didn't manage to find an appropriate word, so just waved her hand toward the hybrid.
“He didn't exactly abandon them,” Damar noted.
“All right, let me rephrase that: I can't understand how come he could choose this over his children, wife, mother...”
Brenok shrugged. “I don't care for this wimp,” he said. “Barkeep, more kanar!” he raised his voice to be heard by Quark. “Was it like this when you served here before?” he asked, looking at Jarol.
“No, there weren't any Jem'Hadar here,” she said. “And Bajorans weren't this clean,” she added and looked around, “and they definitely weren't armed,” she finished.
“Odo says, Weyoun does,” Damar sneered.
“Now imagine, Damar,” Brenok looked at his old companion, “Bajor joins the Dominion...”
“... and we're all one happy family,” finished Jarol and all three of them burst into laughter.
Next day, apart from fighting a hangover, she spent on paperwork. Reading reports and preparing her own. She hated that part of her job and was glad she found time to deal with everything within one day. She also knew she deserved some prize for all that suffering over padds, so when she finally finished – much later that she expected – she headed for Quark's.
She entered the bar and looked around to see if any friendly faces were present. She spotted Brenok, so pushed her way between Jem'Hadar – not drinking, not chatting, only taking space Jem'Hadar – toward his table. He was in a middle of a heated discussion with others, but as soon as they spotted her, everyone fell silent.
“What?” she asked. They only looked at each other. “I'm not welcome?” she was just about to turn and leave, when Damar said: “Don't be ridiculous, sit down.”
“You can't order me, I outrank you,” she joked, taking a seat.
His eyes opened wider. “You're right! How did this happen?” and he laughed. The truth was Damar's rank of Glinn was in fact higher of her rank of Gul due to their functions in the Guard; and both Damar and Jarol knew that.
“Back on Groumall,” Brenok explained to the others at the table, whom Jarol didn't know, “Damar's rank was higher than Joral's.”
“Well, she had better chances for promotion,” one of them said. “She can offer Dukat something he can't.”
“Shut up!” Damar barked sharply. Jarol was surprised by his abrupt reaction. “If you want to spread these gossips, then go and spread them somewhere else,” he added.
Two soldiers got up, one stayed seated.
“What was that all about?” she asked.
“You don't want to know,” said the officer.
“And you are?” she asked.
“Oh, I heard about you!” she recalled the name. “You kicked some Klingon asses.”
He smiled. “Yes, I did.”
“So... why the big secret?” she asked, looking at all of them. No one said anything. “Come on!”
“Atira, leave it,” Damar said.
“But why?” She looked at Brenok, he just shook his head. “I could order you to tell me,” she threatened.
“Please, don't. Don't force me.”
She started to grow irritated. “Corat?”
They kept looking into each other eyes and he finally gave up. “Some people, jealous idiots, who are incapable, but very arrogant, claim that you are not a Gul commanding Roumar thanks to your skills. At least not tactical skills.”
“Oh. So what kind of skills do I owe my career?”
He stopped and looked at others at the table.
“Corat, you're driving me crazy. Spit it out!”
“They think you sleep with him and your career,” he waved, “is his gratitude.”
Her eyes opened wide. Her brain brought back that scene in Dukat's quarters aboard Groumall, every detail of it, his finger on her ridges. It scared her then and it crept her now. But then... that recent conversation... it was really nice...
She saw pure shock on Damar's face and realised her mixed inner thoughts must have been clear on her face.
“It's nonsense, of course,” she said. “Why would people say this? Because I was summoned to his office before yesterday?” suddenly the faces of officers in ops that day made sense.
“No, actually those gossips started a few years ago. I think it was when he took you to Groumall.”
“You mean people have been talking for years about it?” this time it was her, who was in shock. He just nodded. “Wonderful,” she muttered.
“I never believed a word,” he assured her.
“That's great, but many do, right?”
“Don't let it bother you. It's not a street market to exchange rumours.”
“Let's drink more kanar?” she asked in a voice full of hope, changing subject, but the whole notion bothered her and she knew it would keep bothering her for long time.
“Fantastic,” he smiled, raising his glass toward her. She smiled and sipped hers. She wondered how stupid and blind she had to be not to notice all of that... that... Ferengi gossiping...