“Not you too!” Jarol moaned, rolling her pretty eyes. He liked that her make up was limited only to dark grey lines, which added depth to her shapely eyes. No wild colours, no wild, heavy stuff on her eyelids or lips. Natural beauty.
They were in his hotel suite making plans for their evening, but before they got to that he wanted to start from the difficult conversation and be over with it.
“Maybe it would help you to throw out all that hurts you,” Toral suggested. “Try one time. If you hate it—fine, you don’t have to go there again.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“I’m not a specialist but they say that talking helps.”
“That’s what friends are for. I don’t need to pay anyone to listen to what hurts me!” She paused. “Do I?” she asked quietly after a moment.
Did he just tell her that she had no friends? Gul Moron! “You don’t,” he assured her. “You can always talk to me.” You certainly would make a better listener than advice giver. And next time think before babbling
, he chastised himself.
“I would scare you away.”
He smiled. “I don’t think so.”
“You don’t know my darkest secrets.”
“Perhaps, but I sincerely doubt there’s anything you could tell me that would change my feelings for you.”
“Wanna bet?” she teased him.
He turned his head left and right. “Which ear do you choose? This one, or this one?” She smiled. “Will you try?” he asked.
“Just one time.”
He sighed, got up and went to the kitchenette. He took something out from a cupboard, approached her and grabbed her nose, blocking her nostrils. She opened her mouth either to protest, or to breathe and he put a piece of chocolate inside.
“Now you will not talk but listen,” he said, lowering himself by her chair and looking up at her. “I will not talk about it ever again if you promise you will talk to me about everything that bothers you. Any time. Any place. Deal?” She nodded, chewing her chocolate. “Good.” He returned to his seat.
She put her hand on his head. “Hatinn, I’ve done terrible things in my life.”
“We all have our sins, no one is perfect.”
“I think...I think that you should know about them, but...”
He waited for her to continue, but since she didn’t he decided to encourage her. “But?” he prompted softly.
She didn’t reply for a long moment. “But I fear you’d leave,” she said eventually.
“Atira, I love you since five hundred fourteen.” He remembered every detail of that day less than one year after the Dominion War. “That’s over twenty years. It took you on the verge of death to push me to do something about it. There is nothing that could destroy what I feel.”
She laughed bitterly. “You would be surprised.”
“Did you kill someone?”
“In cold blood?”
“With your own hands?”
She laughed an unpleasant, bitter laughter. “Oh, I was too comfortable for that. I used someone else’s hands.”
“Did the dead one deserve it?”
“Absolutely. Both of them.”
“Do you regret?”
He silenced. “Why not?” he asked at length.
“One was a traitor and spied my crew for the Dominion. The other one was an evil man with too much power.”
He was puzzled. “So if you don’t regret, why does it bother you?”
“It bothers me because
I don’t regret.”
He pulled his chair to hers and sat, leaning close to her. “Atira, disposing of a traitor in wartime is not a cold-blood murder but a necessity. Sometimes a very unpleasant necessity, but such things have to be done. As for the other guy...” He smiled slightly. “You forget that Jotrel was leading the investigation. Who do you think he trusted enough to share his findings and think of a way of concealing all evidence?”
She looked at him. “Do you also think that Ahal was an unpleasant necessity?”
“Ahal was a bastard. I know for a fact that he worked close with the Dominion and never moved his little finger to help the rebellion. Never betrayed anyone, but I am sure he would if it served his purpose. He doesn’t deserve anyone’s tears.”
“But their blood is on my hands.”
“How much blood was on theirs?”
“What are your secrets?” she asked suddenly.
“Do you really want to make it a kind of shri’tal
She shook her head vigorously. “No.” She looked him in the eyes. “But I don’t want you to think that I hide things from you. You should know who I am.”
“Do you want me to share all my secrets, too?” he asked. Not that he had many and not that he minded, but being forced to such a cleansing was an uncomfortable thought.
“No,” she said softly, touching his cheek. “Only if you want to. If you don’t, you can keep all your secrets until shri’tal
He wasn’t sure if he should say something. Tell her that it’s too early? That today he is not ready for it, yet? Or that he didn’t want to? In spite of her words, she might expect him to share something, anything. What shall I do? What shall I do?
he thought in panic.
“What is our plan for today?” she asked him.
“I didn’t make any specific plans,” he answered, relieved that she changed the subject. “I wanted to ask what you wanted to do.”
“I don’t know... but...” An amused smile appeared on her face. “Did you know that we made news yesterday?”
“News?” He didn’t understand.
“The broadcast reported that former Legate Jarol and Gul Toral had a date.”
He straightened. “Ompfffff! Don’t they have better things to report?!” The last thing he wanted was to be spied by nosy so-called reporters.
She shrugged. “Why do you care? Does it bother you? Would you prefer to keep it secret?”
“No. But it’s none of their business.”
“People are curious. It’s not that anyone said anything bad about us. They just notice things. I suppose kissing on a public beach wasn’t exactly smart, if you wanted to make it a closely guarded secret,” she smiled.
“I don’t want to keep it secret. I just don’t think we need to be spied. Times of checking who’s seeing whom had ended over twenty years ago.” A thought that his privacy had been invaded upset him.
‘Maybe we should stay here tonight,” she suggested.
She didn’t mind their prying and he didn’t want to lock her in a room. Part of her recuperation plan was to spend as much time outdoor as possible. Soon she would return to a station without natural sunlight and fresh air. He was not going to deprive her of all that now just because he didn’t want his interest in her become public knowledge. Besides, it was already too late for that. “No. It’s a pretty day; it would be a shame to spend it indoors. Let’s give them more food for rumours.”
“That’s the spirit!” She rose from the chair. “How about a boat trip? We could rent a boat and go to see dor’kolat
“See?” He knew this sea was famous for presence of at least three different kinds of dor’kolat
, but he didn’t know there was a possibility to see one in its natural environment, unless in a nature park.
“There’s this tourist office that offers a ‘hunt a dor’kolat
’ trip. You rent a boat with a guide and then the guide takes you to a bay where you have a chance to see these animals. It would be only you and me, fresh air and maybe some interesting sea creatures to take a few holoimages of.”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” he grinned.
“Just let me change into someone more appropriate for a sea voyage,” she said and headed for the door. “Meet you downstairs in ten minutes?”
“I’ll be there.”
She left and Toral used the opportunity that she was between rooms to contact Brenok.
“No luck,” he said after the long-haired gul answered his comm. “She refused.”
“Thought so. Thanks for trying.
He signed off and sighed. Then, he packed a few things into a bag and went to the lobby to wait for his dream woman.
He knew she wasn’t perfect. He knew she had done some things in her life, things that she wasn’t proud of—but they both lived in times when it was so difficult to keep things simple and clean. He knew she was troubled. He knew that after the assassination attempt, the brain damage and the surgeries she had gone through she might not be the same person she used to be. He knew that knowing her better, that knowing the real her
and not the image of her he had created in his mind could change his perception of her. He was aware of all these things, but he also knew something else: he loved her and he the feeling was growing stronger with every day. He fell in love with some ideal, astonishingly beautiful nymph that lived on a pedestal and looked down on everyone. The better he knew her and the more time he spent with her, the more he knew that she wasn’t what he had thought. Each next day she seemed to be prettier than the previous one, but he knew she was no ideal and no perfect. However, he also knew now that she had a lot of warmth to offer, her choice of cute smiles seemed limitless and the touch of her gentle hands was sweet. She was not what he had thought she was—she was better than that and each new day strengthened his feelings for her.
For his heart it was too late to change anything. As for his mind—it wouldn’t want to change anything.
Lakat, Eheen, Cardassia Prime
Jarol stood in the opened door to her child’s old room and observed her son packing his things.
They had come to Lakat several days earlier. Both Jarol and Demok wanted to spend some time with his grandparents, Tiron Demok’s mother and father and Jarol’s father, who now lived with them in Demoks’ family house. Jarol had thought that she was quite lucky in life: she had a loving Dad, she had loving in-laws, she had a loving brother—as she considered Arenn her brother—and finally a loving...someone in Hatinn Toral’s person. They all had been taking care of her for whole this month, which was just coming to an end. The next day she was supposed to board her little ship and return to the station. Was she ready for that?
She knew the conversation that she was just about to have with her son would be all but simple.
“Laran,” she said. He stopped packing and looked at her. “There is something we have to talk about.”
He put his clothes away and sat next to the bag on the bed. “Yes, Mom?”
She entered the room and sat next to him. There was so around way about this, so she went straight to the point. “You will stay in Lakat.”
“You will stay here, in Lakat. You’re not going with me to Rayak Nor
. I’ll help you find another apprenticeship.”
He stood up and looked at her, putting his hands on his hips. “What? Why?”
“The station is too dangerous. I don’t want you there.” She wouldn’t make the same mistake, not again. Her children and space stations were not a good combination.
He shook his head. “No, Mom. I’m returning home with you.”
is your home.” She waved around her. “Besides, aren’t you happy that you wouldn’t have to work for Colissa?”
“She’s not so bad. Besides...” He scratched his cheek. “Mom, I am going home. With you. This—” Now he waved his hand around the room “—was my home for many, many years. But I have moved to Rayak Nor
with you and I’m not returning here.”
“Laran, that station is too dangerous.”
“Mother, I am an adult man and you can’t tell me what to do any longer.” He sounded determined.
She rose and touched his cheek. “You think you are such a grown-up. I am your mother, yes. That’s why I have to take care of you and protect you.”
He smiled gently. “I am a grown-up. You have been taking care of me for whole my life. It’s time to reverse the roles. Who will take care of you if I’m in Lakat?”
“Mom, I’m going with you. I’m going home. If you kick me out from your ship, I’ll follow you in another one. You can’t stop me.”
“That’s my final word.”
“After whom are you so stubborn?” she asked sighing.
“Hmmm,” he put his finger to his chin and looked up to the ceiling. “Let me think...My not-at-all-stubborn Mommy, perhaps?”
“I worry that something could happen to you.”
He looked at her with a...patronising smile. “Mom, something could happen to me anywhere. Stop worrying, we’re going home!”
“Home,” she repeated bitterly. Was that station really their home?
“Not that I didn’t enjoy our trip, but it’ll be nice to fall asleep in my own bed again.”
“Your bed was destroyed in the explosion.” This explosion that had been supposed to kill her.
bed, then! Even better!” She pulled him to her and hugged him. “I will take care of you, Mom. I promise.”
“I’m not that old, yet,” she muttered, but she smiled to herself. When did her little boy become her protector? Her father had been right when he had told her that she didn’t have a chance of convincing Laran to stay with his grandparents.