He wasn’t sure if the thought of a dinner with Legate Jarol and her son terrified him or excited. She was a woman he admired for years; she was elegant and dignified, smart and brave and he would have to be blind not to see that she was also very beautiful. From the first moment he had seen her in Gul Daset’s office—his heart was doomed. However, she not only outranked him, she had been that kind of woman that a man like him had nothing to offer. He was so afraid to make a fool of himself in front of her that he hadn’t invited her for a traditional dinner while she had been aboard his ship. He was the gul and she was his guest, so there would be nothing strange in his invitation. But what would he say? What is she’d ask about something obvious and he wouldn’t know the answer? What if he would... His breathing stopped. What if she thought he was rude because he hadn’t invited her for the dinner?!
He sighed. He was rude, stupid, a coward and he didn’t know how come she even looked in his eyes when talking to him. She should look above his head.
He was nervous, he was beyond nervous. He stood in front of the door in a corridor and hoped no one, absolutely no one would be passing by to see him. It was too late to cancel it, wasn’t it? He couldn’t call and say that sudden, important matters stopped him, could he? It would work for this evening but tomorrow she’d go to her office and see that there was no emergency. Hell, she would know at once, because he was sure she’d offer to help with the crisis.
He took a breath and raised his hand to press the wallcomm. But he didn’t. His fingers stopped a centimetre from the big, oval button and he couldn’t make his arm move to complete the task.
Instead of pressing the button, his hand went higher and he smoothed his black hair. Then he took another breath and punched the comm unit in one sharp movement.
Too late to run!
The door opened and he saw young Demok smiling at him.
“Gul Toral, you’re right on time. Please, come in.”
The young man was an impressive person. Toral wasn’t sure if his achievements were a result of his mother’s high standards or he was just exceptional, but he liked this young Cardassian. Always friendly, polite and kind.
And then a forest nymph entered the room from an adjacent one.
She wore a green dress that perfectly matched her light grey skin. Her scales were so fair, so delicate. The blue chanth
was blue, but the pigmentation on her neck ridges borrowed the colour from her dress and appeared greenish. Her hair was made into a bun, uncovering her neck ridges and the back on her neck. He admired her long neck and slim line.
“Toral,” she gave him a smile he had never seen before. An off-duty smile.
“L—legate,” he nodded his greeting and just then realised that he did not come empty handed. He raised a box with sweets but wasn’t sure who he should give it to: Jarol or her son.
The nymph solved the problem, sliding above the floor toward him and taking the box.
“Where did you get them?” Her face brightened when she realised it was a box of Assurian chocolates that were very rare and very expensive.
At first he wanted to tell the truth and admit he had a few boxes saved but he changed his mind.
“That’s my little secret,” he replied.
She gave him a mischievous look but her lips were stretched in a smile.
, Toral thought to himself.
“Come in,” she invited him inside with a gesture. “Laran, could you please finish setting the table?”
“Of course, Mom.”
The young man moved toward the table in the middle of the room. There were a few dishes on it, but no plates yet. Toral sat on a chair to which Jarol directed him and looked around.
Jarols moved in barely several hours ago and there was still a little mess around, but in spite of that parts of the room had been already decorated. There was a big painting of a desert on one wall and another of Lakarian City visible in an adjacent room. She also had an interesting collection of white weapons. However, what drew most of his attention were books. One bookcase was full and there were still many volumes stacked on the floor without their permanent place, yet.
“You like books,” he stated and immediately regretted his words. Thank you, Gul Obvious, how observant you are
“I don’t have as much time to read as I’d like to, but yes, I like them in the old-fashioned form. Reading from a padd tires my eyes.”
He looked at her; he looked at her beautiful eyes. Gentle, warm eyes.
“Do you read?” she asked.
“Not as much as I should.” Because you’re an idiot and stupid
. “And my library is electronic,” he smiled apologetically.
“I suppose it’s easier when you move to a new house,” she said.
“Err...” he wasn’t sure how to respond.
“Permission to laugh, Toral,” she smiled softly.
He forced a small chuckle and she gave him an attentive look.
Great, now she knows he shits his pants.
Demok entered the room with plates and placed one in front of his mother and the other one in front of Toral.
“Where’s the third one?” Jarol asked her son.
“I just recalled that there is something I have to do, so please forgive me, but I won’t be able to join.”
“What could you have to do now
?” she was clearly surprised.
“Important matters, Mother,” he said, his tone of voice official.
She stared at him for a long moment and her eyes moved to Toral’s face only when Demok left the room.
“He’s up to something,” he whispered conspiratorially, leaning to the gul over the table.
But Toral’s head was full of one notion only—he would be all alone with Jarol. Just him and her. Face to face.
Wait a minute... He shot a suspicious glance at the door behind which Demok had disappeared. The young Cardassian reappeared a moment later, smiled to him and headed for the door to the corridor.
“I’ll be back in a few hours. Have fun,” he said and before any of them had a chance to say anything, he left the quarters.
Jarol stared at Toral with disbelief. “You know something,” she said. “I think he set us up!”
Toral didn’t know what to say. He agreed with her but he wondered if it was just Demok’s fantasy or he really knew something. Toral never talked to anyone about his admiration for the legate... No one except for Gul Brenok...who was a family friend...and who could have told Demok.
The gul didn’t know if he was mad at Brenok, or at Demok. Or both. But he knew he certainly would have a talk on the subject of privacy with the good gul.
And then his eyes lay on the pretty face of the woman opposite him and he wondered that maybe instead of killing Brenok he should thank him. Or thank him and then
“I’m afraid everything is replicated,” Jarol said.
“I’m used to replicated food. I can only hope that replicators on a station are better than on my ship.”
She chuckled. “Don’t count on it, they come from the same factory.”
“We need a new factory, then.”
They chatted. At first he was carefully choosing his words but with time, drunk with her charm, laughter and beauty, he started to relax.
They finished their evening sitting on a sofa, facing a huge oval window in the main room of her quarters and eating the chocolates that he had brought.
Toral knew one thing. He always admired her, liked her, feared her and supported her, but all he knew was a soldier. All he saw was an armour. Here, just at the other end of the sofa, on the other side of the half empty chocolate box that lay between them, with her legs tugged under her, in the green dress and with three rows of shapely scales on her neck ridges—his heart belonged to her. If he weren’t in love with her before this evening, he was now.
He still had one problem, though. What could he offer this forest nymph? What could he do to win her heart?
“I should be going,” he said quietly, although it was the last thing he wanted to do.
She smiled to him, grabbed the box of chocolates and moved it toward him. “One more to sweeten your way back to the warship.”
He grinned like a little boy and took two. She laughed.
When the door to her quarters closed behind him, he smiled to himself. He moved along the corridor and almost stumbled over something behind a curve.
“Demok?” he asked surprised, seeing the young Cardassian sitting on the floor.
“Uh-oh, I guess I chose the wrong corridor to hide,” Demok rose to his feet. “How was your date?”
Toral neared his face to Demok’s. “I should kill you,” he growled, squinting at the young man.
“My mom would never forgive you that, you know.”
Toral kept staring at the other man’s face and then smiled. Demok smiled back and the gul resumed his walk without any more word.
He was in a great mood.