They chatted for a while and Jarol was quite surprised that Terrans – or Andorians for that matter – could actually have quite highly developed conversation skills. The small talk was typical for Cardassians, who loved to talk, but she never had such an exchange of meaningless sentences with any Terran before. Usually she exchanged insults. Or threats.
The door behind her opened and someone entered. A blue collar uniform.
“Ah, doctor. We have guests,” the Captain said. “Gul Jarol and Glinn Brenok.”
“Nice to meet you two,” the doctor said. Both Cardassians nodded their greeting to him, while he took a chair and joined them at the table. “I'm doctor Kirkland”.
“I thought you were busy,” the Commander commented.
“Well, I've finished all my experiments, so I am free now. Hopefully for loooong time. Any left for me?” he asked, looking at half empty plates on the table.
“There's enough for everyone,” the Captain gestured to the middle of the table.
“Do you eat like this every morning?” Jarol asked.
“Yes,” said the Captain. “Although each time there is something different to eat and someone else to share it with. I like dining with all my senior staff.”
“Is it a Federation tradition?”
“No, not really. It's my tradition, something I've learnt from my Captain. You don't do it on your ships?”
“No, not really. The professional distance between a Gul and his subordinates is too big for such... fraternising. It would be inappropriate.”
“I see. But you have brought your first officer here.”
“Well,” she smiled. “First, it's a kind of official visit, and... Glinn Brenok actually is my friend.”
Andric smiled. “Wonderful! I'll drink to that!” he raised his mug with dark brown tea.
All raised their mugs and Brenok's hand clearly shook. He quickly put the mug back on the table, and everyone pretended they didn't see anything, although Jarol noticed the doctor was discretely observing Brenok's hand. The Glinn closed his eyes for a short moment, and then inclined his head to the left, stretching his right neck ridges. Jarol was sure he felt the pain that their medic insisted it didn't really exist. She wasn't so sure any more. Even if it was just in his mind, the matter had to be addressed.
“Is everything all right?” the Federation medic asked Brenok finally.
“Yes, yes, sir,” Brenok said.
“You seem to feel some discomfort.”
“It's the cold. We, Cardassians, are not happy to be in cold rooms.”
Cold. He had to deal with the Romulans in cold chambers. The first time he complained about his pain was after Romulans. Then that evening he wanted to spend on Cardassia, before they left to join the convoy. And now again – cold room, the pain is back. Jarol realised that before dealing with Romulans Brenok didn't have to spend any time in cold places – he was always safely – or unsafely – aboard his ship, surrounded by warm temperature.
The doctor seemed to accept the Glinn's answer, but still observed him unobtrusively. Well, it wasn't that unobtrucive, since Jarol noticed and she was sure Brenok's sharp eyes did too, but nothing more was spoken on the subject.
They finished the breakfast and the Captain led the Cardassians to his ready room.
“I will download all data we have,” he told Jarol. “I will ask my crew and freighters' crews if they would be willing to talk to you, but...”
“You, Cardassians, have a reputation if it comes to questioning and...”
“I understand,” she said, raising her hand. He really didn't need to finish. “You can assure them I would only ask questions. No real interrogations.”
“I will pass the information. I'm sure they would feel better if your questions were asked here, on the Aniki, instead of your warship.”
“That is acceptable. They can even have a security officer present in the room.”
“That should encourage them to cooperate,” the Captain grinned, handing her a Federation padd.
She took it.
“Thank you. We will now return to our ship. Please notify me if there is anyone willing to talk to me.”
“I'll send you a message.”
They returned to Roumar.
“How's your shoulder?” she asked Brenok as soon as they beamed back.
“Hurts,” he grunted.
“Go to the medic. Tell him to scan you and then scan you again.”
“He would just...”
“Tell him it's my order.”
Brenok nodded and headed for the infirmary.
Jarol returned to her office, but she wasn't thinking about the convoy and attackers. She was thinking about the Fed medic. All he needed was one glance and his eyes never left Brenok. He knew something was wrong. He seemed like wanting to ask a question, but didn't dare. She heard Federation medicine was on a higher level than Cardassian, but she never believed that. No one and nothing was better than Cardassian.
However now she wasn't so sure any more. Federation was more protective of their soldiers and their well being. They might put a lot more resources and time for medical research, so maybe their achievements were worth taking under consideration.
She didn't want to do it. She didn't want to show their Captain they had something – anything – better than Cardassians. But she had to put her pride away and hide it under her carpet. That's what they said in Nokar: hide your pride under your carpet and ask for help. Brenok was more important than her Cardassian pride.
She hailed the Captain.
“Gul Jarol, I understand this is important, but I had no time to ask anyone...” he started, but she raised her hand to politely interrupt.
“It's not about the attacks, Captain.”
“Oh, so what is it about?”
“Could I talk to your medic?”
“You mean doctor Kirkland?”
“It's a private matter. Medical.”
“Oh. I had no idea you had any private, medical matters with my doctor. Fine, I'll patch you through.”
His face was replaced by the Federation logo for a few seconds and then by elder doctor's face.
“Gul Jarol, what can I do for you?”
“It's about my aide,” she said.
“So this display during the breakfast wasn't coldness related?” she appreciated he didn't ask any non-relevant questions. It was difficult for her without that.
“No. We feel uncomfortable in cold rooms, but it doesn't cause pain.”
“Does he experience pain?”
“He claims he does. Our medic found nothing, he said it's an old wound and it's only in his brain, not really pain.”
“That scar on his neck...”
“A Klingon bat'leth.”
“Ouch. How long time ago?”
“Five years ago.”
“And no one found out what causes his pain yet?”
“Actually he didn't complain about any pains until recently. I think he feels pain after experiencing cold. That's only a guess, but matches my theory.”
“It might be important. But... I would have to examine him.”
“I'll send him to you at your earliest convenience.”
“I can take care of this any time.”
“Thank you, med... doctor.”
“My pleasure. I hope he is not a difficult patient. Please tell him to bring history of his treatment.”
Should she tell him Brenok was the most difficult person in the galaxy recently? No. She'd order Brenok to behave.
She contacted the Glinn and ordered him to report to the Federation doctor. Medic Taret didn't change his diagnose – it still was a phantom pain and nothing could be done about it – but she could hear in his tone of voice that he didn't like the idea of sending Brenok to the alien medic.
In a meantime Captain Andric sent her files, so she started studying them. Visual logs showed Hideki class attack ships, but none of them used any of known attack patterns during their attacks, which didn't prove they weren't Cardassians piloting them, but she suspected they weren't military trained pilots. The ships were equipped with dampening fields, which prevented scanning interiors of ships. She was half way through files, when she received a list – a short list – of Federation crewmen, who agreed to talk to her. She accepted a schedule of interviews, which Andric sent along with the list, and returned to files.
“Come,” she said upon hearing a chime.
The door parted and Brenok entered.
“How did it go?” she asked.
“The Fed medic scanned parts of my body I had no idea they existed,” he said. “He also asked for full and detailed information regarding my operation and treatment. All that is in the Military Hospital database,” he pulled his face.
“I see. I should have sufficient security clearance to retrieve that for you.”
“I hoped you'd say that. There is no way I could access them.”
Medical files of officers above rank of Gil were classified. Even officers, to whom files were relating to, had no access to them. Security precaution.
“I'll get my hands on those files and pass them to the Federation medic,” she promised.
“Thank you. Now, if you don't mind, I'll return to duty.”
She nodded and he left.
“Glinn! You're back!” the Flower Girl ran to him and threw her arms around his neck. He lowered his body a little, so that she could reach him easier.
“I told you I would be back,” he said, smiling.
“Yes, you did. You always keep your promises, don't you?”
How could she know? It was only second time they met.
However he knew he couldn't disappoint her, never ever. Even if she wouldn't know about his broken promises, he would.
“Did you do something important?” she let him go and looked at him straightening his body.
“Yes, I think I did,” he replied.
“Good. Sit with me today, all right?”
“All right,” he answered, but wasn't sure it was a good idea.
She led him to her seat. Where would she sit? He wondered. She pulled his hand down to force him to sit and so he did. Then she sat on his lap. He chuckled. She kept looking at him and then raised her hand to move away his hair and see his no-ear. He grabbed her hand to stop her, startling her a little.
“Don't,” he said softly.
“It doesn't look nice.”
“I was fighting an enemy.”
“Did you win?”
“Yes, I did. With help of my two best friends. Do you have friends?”
She nodded vigorously. And then she tried to touch his hair again and again he grabbed her hand, shaking his head slowly. She put her finger on top of his scar on the lower cheek ridge and traced it down until its end.
“Does it hurt?”
“No, the scar doesn't hurt,” he answered. It was the truth, this scar never bothered him.
The one that did was hidden under a thick, warm collar; he knew he would have to spend some time in this cold basement, so he put on sufficiently warm clothes.
It was actually the first time he entered the baby's room. He was unable to do it before. He didn't hate the baby, but wasn't sure he would manage to spend a moment with little Laran without thinking about his sweet Tasara.
The boy slept peacefully. His tiny, cute face wrinkled as he dreamt. Brenok pulled his hands toward the baby, but then pulled them back; he didn't want to wake him up. But he wanted to take him into his arms so badly... He gently put his hands under the little body and lifted the boy. Then he sat in a chair and cradled Laran in his arms.
Jarol was passing by the baby room, when she noticed Brenok inside. She stopped and then quietly stood in the opened door. She didn't want to disturb Brenok's first moment with Laran. She knew her friend avoided her son and she understood why. She was happy to see he was overcoming his pain and returning back to life.
Brenok started humming a lullaby and her eyes filled with tears.