The duty roster brought me back to the bridge. One thing I could say for sure: mundane engineering work was as mundane on a Cardassian warship, as on a Federation starship. Only the text runs in all directions, instead of a clear, linear way. The Roumar
engineers say their way is more efficient, because it clearly shows the priority of information, but I find it chaotic. How do they know which line they have already read if the sentences go up, down, left and right? In Federation Standard you at least can clearly mark the point which you reached. Bookmark it. You can’t do that on a Cardassian display. Tavor had showed me a Cardassian fiction novel—it was even worse there! And poetry? It reminded me more of a painting than writing!
Tavor. He had changed. The last three weeks were so different. He became...sweet, caring, even overprotective. Not that he hadn’t been before, but now...now it was brought to an adorable extreme. When he spoke to me, his voice was soft—even when he argued and he picked arguments three times more often than before! I had asked Ma’Kan if it wasn’t his way to back out from what he had gotten himself into and at first she couldn’t understand what I meant, but then she’d told me that a Cardassian couple argued. Arguing showed their mutual interest in each other, their desire. She’d seemed a little shocked that Tavor and I...but she hadn’t commented it. And since no one else said anything, or even looked at me funny way, it was obvious she hadn’t told anyone about our conversation. One thing you could say about the Cardassians—at least some of them—they knew how to be discreet.
So here I was—back on the bridge. I had been posted at one of consoles in the back of the bridge, but I still could see Tavor at his post. His back, mostly, and sometimes his profile when he turned his head to talk to someone or to check something on the secondary console to his right.
His hair, swiping his neck when he turned his head. His broad shoulders and the uniform—the armour, as they called it—only strengthening the impression of a strong build. His neck ridges...I still was not allowed to touch them, so even more I wanted to do it. (I had noticed that he also hadn’t touched my neck.) The more I thought about them—was it becoming an obsession?—the more attractive they became. That sloping toward his shoulders, that soft line without hard bends like in humans or most of other species, that pattern of scales on the nape of his neck. I could stare at that triangle below his hairline for hours. And I did! Glinn Zamarran must have been very unsatisfied with my poor performance and constant loss of concentration. I didn’t dare to tell him, ‘I’m in love, sir, so get used to it,’ especially since Gul Jarol was on the bridge. Woman or not, she was a Cardassian, too, and I was sure she didn’t understand it either.
It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. Only Tavor. The slopes of his shoulders, his hands dancing on the console, his voice—that mattered. When I was sure no one would speak to me, I turned off my translator and listened to him speaking Cardassian. It was the most beautiful language in the galaxy; the words coming out from his mouth, with those inflections, sounds, growls and whistles. The Dragon Lady spoke so differently and so did Glinn Brenok. I had to admit that Brenok’s speech was more melodic, but it didn’t change the fact that Tavor’s manner of speaking was the dearest to me.
The day of admiring Tavor passed quickly. Somehow, I had no idea how, I managed to finish all my work before the shift ended and I could log out of the system with clear conscience. I waited for my replacement to take over the station, observing Tavor finishing his work. The night shift communication officer, Tari, came to the bridge and Tavor dutifully reported the end of his shift to Jarol. I followed his example and then headed for the door.
Tavor waited in the corridor. “I feel like playing a game of kotra
tonight,” he said.
“My or your place?” I asked as we were walking to the lift.
“Yours. We use your food rations this time.” He flashed his teeth at me.
“What? Did you ran out of yours after that party two nights ago?”
“How do you know about that?” He gave me a suspicious look.
“I think Aladar mentioned something...”
“Aladar wasn’t there.”
“No, Aladar was the host of another party on lower decks. He claimed his was better; there was more kanar and more happy guests.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Tavor muttered.
I raised my hands in a defensive move. “Only repeating what he said. You could invite me once, I could check for myself.”
He smiled. “Amrita, you wouldn’t be able to keep up with the others. You’d be drunk before we even started feeling the taste of kanar
I growled at him.
Two hours later I was staring at the kotra
board—a gift I had received from Ma’Kan—not believing my own eyes. I glanced at Tavor; he was sipping wine, which I had managed to purchase from a Ferengi merchant on Cardassia when the Roumar
had visited the Prime the last time, and he seemed completely oblivious of the situation on the board. Maybe wine from Earth was more intoxicating for a Cardassian than the heaviest sort of kanar
I moved a piece on the board, leaned back, took my glass of wine and looked at him. I tried my best not to let a triumphant smile crawl to my face but knew I hadn’t succeeded.
Tavor put away his glass, leaned forward to have a better look at the board, raised his hand to make another move and...froze. He scrutinised the board for a moment, glanced at me, at the board, at me...with his hand still in the air.
“I won!” I shouted. “I won! I won! I won!”
He frowned, squinting one eye at me. “Did you cheat?”
“Me?” I asked in an innocent voice. “How could I cheat! I don’t play well enough to chea—” I silenced, observing his tiny grin for a while. “Wait a minute...” Suspicion grew in my heart. “Wait a minute...you let
me win, didnch’ya?!”
He gave me an innocent look. “Who, me?”
I jumped at him, knocking over a few pieces on the board, sat on his lap and started to weakly pound his broad chest with my fists, taking extra care not to strike anywhere near the delicate chanth. Even with as little force as I put into my fake blows, it would hurt him if I hit the droplet on his chest.
He laughed. He spread his hands in the ‘I give up’ gesture and kept giggling.
I stopped. My first instinct was to throw my arms around his neck but I knew better than that by now, so I wrapped them around his waist.
I was madly in love.