The story takes place in 2400, but please keep in mind that I do not follow Treklit post-show continuity, so post-Dominion War Cardassia is not what you read about in the Trek books. Relevant information is included in the story and I hope it's sufficient without overwhelming the reader with additional background stuff.
Strong Enough Not To Regret
Amrita Kapoor looked out of the oval window. Rayak Nor was still a fairly new Cardassian station, but it was quite busy already: there were two Ferengi ships docked at upper pylons and one Federation vessel on a lower one—and that was only what she could see from her window. The Cardassian station was so huge that she could clearly see those pylons from her quarters in the habitat ring. She could also very clearly see the tactical ring, which was much wider than the habitat one and protectively surrounded it.
She moved away from the window and glanced at the chronometer. It was still over two hours before her husband, ‘Glinn Karama’ for everyone and ‘Tavor’ for her, would finish his shift aboard his warship, the Damar
, and over an hour before Sub-archon Demok would bring the kids back. Demok had taken her eight-year-old son, Tarin, and her fourteen-years-old daughter, Chumi, to his office to show them what an archon’s work looked like...and to help Tarin with maths. Amrita didn’t mind and was quite happy that her children would learn something about Cardassian justice system—the reformed one, not the mockery it used to be before the Dominion War which had ended twenty-five years earlier—from the inside.
The bell at the door startled her, because she wasn’t expecting anyone. She went to the door and opened it to see Captain Asu Ronus, the Federation liaison aboard the station.
“I have a surprise for you,” he said and moved aside.
She opened her mouth to ask what kind of surprise, but the surprise—in the number of two persons—moved into her view.
Mrs. Kapoor pulled her hands and without a word wrapped her arms around her daughter. She didn’t say anything and only started to sob loudly. Ronus withdrew quietly, giving the family some privacy.
Amrita held her mother, surprised at the white hair both her parents had...at their wrinkled faces...at how much they had changed. When was the last time she’d seen them? With a startle she realised that it had been over twenty years earlier.
“Please, come in,” she said, letting go of her mother. “Be careful,” she added, indicating the protruding threshold to her quarters.
“Big room,” her father said, looking around.
Didn’t he have anything else to say? she wondered, but then thought that maybe he didn’t know what to say. “I didn’t know you would be coming. No one told me,” she said, inviting them to sit down at a big dining table. “Would you like some tea?”
“Human tea?” her mother asked.
“Yes, Mum, real human tea...er...replicated.”
Mrs. Kapoor nodded. “That would be fine.”
“You are alone here.” It was a statement, not a question.
“Yes, Dad. My...family is not at home at the moment.”
Their last conversation had gone worse than bad. Her father had called her husband-to-be at that time many nasty names and...it was too painful to think about it all now.
Her mother pulled a hand toward the daughter. “Come here. Let’s me take a good look at you.” Amrita sat on a chair next to her mother and let her touch her greying hair. “You’re older.”
“And you look all the same, Mum.”
Mrs. Kapoor smiled. “Little liar. But I can live with this lie.”
“I...I heard you built this station. The Trill captain said so,” Her father added, meaning Captain Ronus.
Amrita looked at him. “Yes, Dad. I helped to design it and I helped to build it.”
She smiled. “It is. It’s the first line of defence against the Klingons, if they attack.”
“I see...” It was all he said.
“Tell me about you, baby,” her mother asked. “Tell me how is your life. Are you happy?”
Amrita smiled. “I am, Mum. I—”
“Do you sometimes miss home?” Mr. Kapoor asked, interrupting her.
His question was like a blunt knife into her heart. “What do you think, Dad? I haven’t seen you for twenty years. I wasn’t able to contact you for twenty years. I wasn’t able to visit home for twenty years.”
“I don’t know.” He shrugged. “You never tried to contact us.”
“Dad, the borders were sealed by the Cardassian government. I couldn’t contact you and...our last conversation didn’t encourage me to do that after the isolation came to an end, either.” Those horrible, terrible yelling insults...because it hadn’t been a conversation.
“The Cardassian government,” he snorted. “They locked you in here and didn’t let you go home!” He was getting angry. His wife put her hand on his.
“Dad...” Amrita said quietly. “Please...”
“Don’t you regret? Didn’t you ever regret leaving us all for some...some...” She prayed he wouldn’t say the “s” word, or she’d throw him out of her home. “Some...Cardassian!”
“Would it make it easier for you if he were human?” she barked.
“He is a stranger. Your family should be more important than a stranger, whatever his race!”
“That stranger is my husband now. He is
“What about us?” Mrs. Kapoor asked softly.
“I’d love to have you back, Mum. Now, that the isolation is over and we have a treaty, you can visit me and I can visit you. And we can talk on the comm.”
Her father stood up abruptly. “But you never called!”
She lowered her head. “I wasn’t sure you wanted me to.”
Her mother wrapped her arm around her daughter’s shoulder. “Of course, we would!”
“Did you ever think about what you’ve done to us? To our family? You had obligations and duties. What about Starfleet? Being in Starfleet had always been your dream and then they informed us that you’d resigned. And all for what?” He fumed. “Was it worth it? Tell me! Was it worth it?”
Amrita clenched her teeth and hands. She only wished he’d stop. “What do you want to hear?” she asked quietly.
“I want to hear that you thought about what you did to us. I want to hear that you realise you are our only daughter and you left us. I want to hear that you understand we worried about you and we even thought that Cardassians killed you. I want to hear that you didn’t betray Starfleet and everything you used to believe in. I want to hear that—”
“Stop, Dad, stop!”
“Did. You. Ever. Think. About. It!”
” Tears filled her eyes. She had never told anyone about that. She had never admitted that even to Tavor. But she was unable to count all those sleepless nights, when her thoughts had haunted her, asking questions and questioning everything she’d done and every decision she’d made. She had fallen in love and then she decided to stay on Cardassia. On Cardassia after a military coup. On Cardassia that sealed its borders and isolated itself from the rest of the quadrant for almost twenty years. Away from her home planet. Away from her family. Away from people she could trust. Among the dragons that spat fire. But she was so much in love that she didn’t see a lot of things. She didn’t consider them. She didn’t care about them. She only cared about her boyfriend and being with him. She was young and stupid and there had been many times when she asked herself if she’d undo it all if she could. And sometimes she gave an affirmative answer to those questions, which made her feel only worse and like a traitor—like a killer
. A murderer
Her father sat back in the chair. “Tell me,” he said calmly. “Would you like to turn back the time and make better decisions?”
She rose and went to a shelf. She took two photos from it and literally shoved them in her father’s face.
He harrumphed, took the photos from her hands and looked at them.
“Are you...” Amrita began. Her voice was shaking. “Are you asking me if I would like to turn back time and erase them
?” Her eyes filled with tears.
Her mother leaned over to see what was on the photos.
On one there was a teenage girl. She looked like Amrita when she had been a girl, but her face was graced with delicate Cardassian ridges. In the inverted droplet on her forehead was...a bindi
. It was of the same shape as the droplet, with a shiny gem inside. The girl was smiling.
On the other photo was a little, laughing boy. He was playing with a small Ferengi ship. Like the girl, his ridges were delicate and he had big eyes like his mother’s, but the rest of his facial features were different.
“What are their names?” the mother asked.
“Chumi and Tarin.”
The father looked at his daughter. “You gave the girl a Bengali name?”
“Why not? She’s my daughter!”
“And he allowed that?”
“He, if you mean Tavor, loved
She gave her parents some time to study both photos.
“Do you have more?” Mrs. Kapoor asked shyly.
“Actually, they’ll be back for dinner soon. You can meet them. If you want to.”
The mother’s—the grand
mother’s—eyes shone. “Yes, yes, I do!”
Amrita looked at her father. He reluctantly agreed, but she wasn’t sure if his resistance was only to keep his face, or for real. She couldn’t and wouldn’t believe he didn’t want to meet his grandchildren. “There’s one more thing...Tavor finishes his shift soon, too. If you don’t want to meet him, I’ll inform him to go to his friend’s quarters and not return home tonight.”
“No!” her mother protested. “I want to meet him too and I don’t want to keep the man away from his own home.”
Mr. Kapoor said nothing. Amrita decided to also invite Demok. He was not only a civilian, but also an adorable young man and she hoped he would help her father see Cardassians as something more than enemy soldiers from the most bloody war the Federation had ever fought.
“All right. We’ll have one more guest. I want to thank him for taking care of the kids this afternoon, so I’ll invite him to join us.”
“Who is he?”
“The station gul’s son. He’s going to be an archon...a judge,” she explained. “He’s really, really nice.”
Her father gave her an incredulous look. “You mean...he’s a son of someone who used to be in their Central Command?”
“Yes, Father,” she said officially. “I’d rather if you judged him for who he is and not whose son he is.”
Mr. Kapoor lowered his eyes to his hands. “Well...yes...well...” He didn’t say ‘you’re right’ in words, but she knew that was what his stammering meant.
“So, if you...um...sit down and relax, I’ll set the table and finish replicating the dinner.”
Her mother rose from the chair. “I’ll help you.”
“No, thank you, Mum. I’ll do it. Would you like some tea in the meantime?”
She replicated Ceylon tea, which she had programmed into the computer months earlier, and invited her parents to sit at a coffee table near a window. Then she brought a kettle with a warmer and two cups and poured the replicated tea into the kettle, which she placed on the warmer.
“That’s nice,” her mother commented.
“I like something with a touch of home, instead of cold, replicated and lacking personality mugs.” In time she kept herself from sharing how amusing was for her the smell of fish juice coming from such a tea cup.
The door opened and Tarin stormed into the room while Amrita was in the middle of placing plates on the dining table.
“Muuuuum!” he yelled. “She told me to—” He suddenly silenced, seeing two humans sitting at the coffee table. He put his hands on his hips and looked at Mr. Kapoor. “This is my dad’s favourite armchair,” he said with a comical—although he certainly thought it was threatening—facial expression. Amrita was surprised and glad at the same time to hear that her son used Federation Standard to address the humans.
Chumi entered the room, followed by Demok. She was all smiles and looked like having a big news to share with her mother, but upon seeing two unknown humans, she became wary. A moment later her facial expression change to a more curious one. She slowly approached them, observing them both. Mrs. Kapoor smiled at the girl and a small smile played on Mr. Kapoor’s mouth.
Chumi took a deep breath. “Are you...are...” She paused and then quickly said, “Are you my grandparents?” She spoke in Bengali.
“We are,” the elder man replied.
The girl rocked on her feet. “Can I...can I hug you?”
Her question was so unexpected and so full of hope that Mrs. Kapoor immediately got up and pulled her hands toward the girl. Amrita wiped the tears that suddenly filled her eyes.
Demok moved closer to her. “That’s a nice family reunion,” he said quietly.
Amrita only nodded, unable to speak, and listened to her daughter’s babbling how much she always wanted to have grandparents, and that all kids she knew had some grandparents, and she had only one grandmother, and she was happy to finally meet them...and her enthusiasm melted her grandfather’s heart completely.
“I’d like you to stay for dinner,” Amrita said, looking at the sub-archon.
“To thank you for taking care of them and teaching this naughty boy something useful.”
The young Cardassian grinned. “He did fine, don’t worry.” Tarin had some problems with maths, so Demok gave him a few review lessons before the boy returned to school for his next grade. “I’ll just let my mom know.”
Amrita called Tarin to help her set the table, leaving her daughter with her parents.
They already started eating when Tavor appeared in the door. His wife had told him about the unexpected guests, so he wasn’t surprised, but it was clear he felt unsure. He didn’t look like someone entering his own home, but like an uninvited and disliked guest.
Amrita had planned to arrange his seat as far from her father as possible to limit their direct contact, but it seemed that her dad her other plans.
“So, Mr. Karama, how was your day today?”
The question seemed neutral and like a genuine attempt to start a casual conversation, but Amrita didn’t trust her father. Not after calling Tavor with the ‘s’ word, regardless how long ago it had happened.
“Err...the usual. Scanning, analysing, more scanning. We keep en eye...or en ear...on the Klingons.”
“As I understand, you are the first officer now.”
Tavor looked at Amrita for help. “Yes, Dad,” she said. “He is. They call it ‘the gul’s aide’ here.”
“Whatever it’s called, it’s an important job.”
The Cardassian nodded. “It is, sir.”
Her father grunted and she wasn’t sure why. She glanced at her husband, trying to read his face and to see how he felt, but she realised his attention was on something completely else. He looked at his daughter, then at Demok and then back at his daughter. Intrigued what had caught his attention, Amrita observed the two, too. It didn’t take long to realise that while the young sub-archon wasn’t doing anything special, Chumi was. Amrita grinned inwardly—so, her daughter was in love with the young man. The girl’s first teenage love.
Suddenly, Tarin spilled his juice. “Oopsi,” he said in colloquial English.
“Ugh.” Chumi rolled her eyes. “Yeah, bring more shame to mum and dad.”
“Hey!” Tarin shouted.
“Behave.” Tavor didn’t say the word loud or threateningly, but the effect was immediate.
“Sorry, Daddy,” both kids replied in unison.
“Just clean it and continue eating.” And then he rose and went to bring his son another cup of juice.
Amrita observed her father, who was observing her husband. Tavor put the new cup next to his son’s plate and then kissed the top of the boy’s head. “Now you have to drink twice as much juice.”
“I didn’t want to waste food, Daddy. I’m sorry.”
Tavor was moving away to return to his seat, but hearing Tarin’s words, he returned and lowered himself next to the boy’s chair. “My little soldier, I am not angry,” he said softly, stroking the boy’s hair. “I know you didn’t do it on purpose and this is not that much juice to worry about the waste.”
The boy’s face brightened. “Will you watch cartoons with me tonight?” he asked.
“I will. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Home. Family. Happy. Amrita wouldn’t change it for even two worlds. Or for a million.
Her father didn’t say much for the remainder of the evening, but he didn’t seem disapproving of everything around him. He played with Tarin a little—the boy ‘taught’ him about his little models of ships from all over the Alpha Quadrant—and talked to Chumi about her favourite books and he seemed enjoying his time with the kids, but he didn’t look like someone who wanted to know Tavor better.
“I like that you gave your daughter a Bengali name,” Mrs. Kapoor said when she was helping Amrita clean the table.
Amrita only smiled. Tavor took the dirty plates from Mrs. Kapoor’s hands, startling her, because she hadn’t seen him behind her. Amrita was sure her mother worried that he had heard her and had taken offence.
“It’s a pretty name,” he said. “And with a beautiful meaning.”
“I don’t think that ‘river’ means so much on Cardassia. Not as much as to us...a certain river.”
He smiled. “Cardassia is a dry world. Everything full of water is precious. If we called her ‘Latinum’ it wouldn’t mean more than ‘River.’”
“I see...and...” She hesitated. “And you agreed to that?”
“It’s not a Cardassian name.”
“Half of this family isn’t Cardassian. And I like it that way.” He grinned and she smiled at him too.
Tavor kept his word and went to watch cartoons with Tarin in his room. Chumi joined them and after a short while so did Mrs. Kapoor. She’d told Amrita she wanted to spend as much time with her grandchildren—it was the first time she called them that—as possible before returning to Earth.
Amrita stayed in the family room with her father. They sipped tea.
“You asked me if I ever regretted staying on Cardassia,” she said quietly. He only nodded. “For me, this question also means if I regret having my two kids and my husband. And I cannot answer ‘yes’ to such a question. I cannot wish they were never born...it would be like killing them. What kind of mother would that make me?”
“We thought they held you against your will.” She knew by ‘they’ he meant ‘Cardassians.’ “We thought you were tortured. We thought they killed you. We tried to save you, but the Federation and Starfleet couldn’t get you out of there.”
“I didn’t need saving,” she said quietly.
“I know that now. I can see that. I’m not blind and not stupid; I saw how much you love your children and how much he
loves them and
you. I must admit that when we were coming here, I wanted to convince you to return home, but now I know it not only would be impossible, but also wrong.” He paused. “Do...do you think he would accept my apology? For behaving so hatefully when we talked the first time?”
So—he remembered every word, too.
“Yes, Dad, I am sure he will. He’s a really good man.”
Silence. But this time it wasn’t a heavy, uncomfortable silence.
They sipped their tea.
“I hope...I hope we can visit you here once in a while,” he said eventually.
“I hope I could bring the kids to see my home planet, too.”
He smiled. “Of course! Mum would be happy.”
She heard laughter coming from the other room. Her mother, her husband and her kids were in there...together...having a good time.
Whatever she had done wrong in her life, whatever mistakes and whatever stupid decisions, she was ready to live with them and never regret them, because what she had now was worth more than anything else. No regrets.