In a few universes, Kira hesitated a little longer before setting off the bomb in Meru’s and Dukat’s quarters, thus she heard the heartfelt, loving message of her father urging her mother to accept without guilt whatever kindness Dukat offered, and she saw her mother dissolve into tears at her father’s generosity, before she’d had a chance to do so. Kira slipped the explosive into a pocket, now unwilling to kill the two illicit lovers.
She had no way of knowing that the explosion was to have been the catalyst by which the Prophets would be signaled to retrieve her from the past, and that now she was stuck.
As the months went by, Kira grew increasingly despondent at her predicament. Her visits with Meru were her only diversion. She gained gradual insight into her mother as a person, which was valuable, because she had never really remembered her that well in the normal timeline. She grew fond of her way beyond expectation, even became used to seeing Dukat day after day, and eventually managed to mostly forgive and understand her mother’s sacrifice. But her depression and frustration only increased in all of the hours when she was not in Meru’s company. Plainly, her mother had become all that Kira’s life was. She had quarters near those of Dukat and Meru, so that she could be available whenever needed, but the rest of the time she sat inside of them with absolutely nothing to do. It was especially difficult for her when Dukat took Meru to Bajor or elsewhere; then Kira had whole days or even weeks in which to sit by herself and brood. The irony was not lost on her. Kira had never previously considered the Occupation as a time of boredom or inactivity, but that was exactly what it had become for her now. And the endless monotony was destroying her.
As the years went by, she was endlessly tormented with wondering why the Prophets had abandoned her here. She had discovered the truth of what she’d needed to find out, hadn’t she? What else was she supposed to do? In desperation, she’d risked wandering one day into the Bajoran sector. A very narrow escape taught her that she was now considered as much a collaborator as Meru, because she had not detonated the bomb that the resistance had given her; she would never be safe among her own people again. The realization devastated her. Up until then, Kira had at least held out hope that she might make other friends, might even meet a man and fall in love; her loneliness by now overwhelmed her. When even that possibility died a dramatically clear death, she felt helpless at how narrow her world had become. A new irony haunted her unmercifully as well: on Bajor, at this very moment, her younger, earlier self was growing up and becoming a successful member of the underground, while here, her adult self simply sat, and waited upon her usefulness to Meru, and thereby Dukat, in her function of helping to keep Meru happy. She herself was nothing, merely a tool for the convenience of the Cardassians. As she mulled upon that, yet another bitter irony assailed her: in her own time, Dukat had pursued her relentlessly. Now, he hardly ever even spared her a glance. It was a vivid testament to how far her mind had slipped, for her to realize that she was beginning to feel an irrational resentment at his unaccustomed indifference. At that realization, her mind reeled: was she indeed jealous of her own mother??? Ironic again, in the extreme: Dukat’s endless pursuit of her was what had driven her back into the past to begin with, because his anger at her rejection was what had caused him to tell her about Meru in the first place. And now, she was feeling definitely neglected and left out by his lack of attention. Kira began to realize that she had always found it so easy to take Dukat’s pursuit for granted due to its omnipresence, and therefore she had never really seriously considered accepting him. Now that he was unavailable, she even found herself wondering in her endless idle moments if she should have taken him up on it, and what an affair with him would have been like. In the other timeline, she had always told herself that a relationship with him was out of the question, simply because he was Cardassian; even worse, he was the former Prefect of Bajor. But now, unable to be in the presence of Bajorans, her tastes began to adapt to the inevitable, and she grew able to see how attractive he really was, if dangerously so. Then she thought back to the party, in which she and Meru had been dressed up, done up, and made up like fairytale princesses. Dukat had not given her a glance; he had already had his heart set on Meru from the very first moment that he saw her. Kira thought back to whom (or what) she had attracted at that party: a loathsome, slimy, drunken legate, who undoubtedly only desired her for a one-night-stand, unlike the perpetual love that Dukat offered Meru. In that, at least, the Prefect was honorable.
Finally, Kira simply had way too much time to think, and the self-destructive path down which she trod was ominously bottomless. Inevitably, Meru began to notice her friend’s despondency, and to become concerned for her. At first, Kira hastily declined to answer Meru’s worried inquiries, but as her misery weighed upon her, and as Meru became ever more insistent, she eventually lost her battle to hold back the tears, and carefully admitted that she was terribly lonely and bored when not with her friend, and that, except for her wonderful time with Meru, her life was nothing.
“You need a man, Luma!” Meru, of course, used the pseudonym which Kira herself had given.
“I know. But it’s impossible.” Kira told of her and Meru’s status among Bajorans as “collaborators.” It hurt bitterly to have to admit it. She was regarded as one of the people whom she had always detested.
Meru grew quite serious, and obviously chose her words very slowly and carefully. “I’m not surprised at that. You know, when Dukat and I first got together, and he realized that I wanted you for my companion, he asked me if you had developed a relationship with any of the Cardassian men at the party, and I said that you hadn’t, and that you’d been resistant in the extreme. He suggested that maybe you should try again, at the next party, but I begged him not to force that on you; I told him that you would be horrified, and that that, in turn, would upset me. So he dropped the issue. But now, I wonder if he wasn’t right in the first place. I should have seen it before, Luma: of course you shouldn’t have to just spend your whole life waiting for whenever I need you; you deserve a life of your own, too.”
Kira was instantly shaking her head, once again falling back into form, not even considering it. “No, no, I can’t do that.”
“But is it better to be miserable?”
“Yes. Yes, I think that it is.” Kira fought valiantly against tears that once more threatened to spill.
“What are you trying to prove, Luma? Are you trying to be some sort of martyr? Are you telling yourself that you’re hurting the Cardassians by not letting any of them have you? You’re not, you know. You’re only hurting yourself.”
Kira’s eyes welled with bitter resentment, again feeling irrationally unwanted. “Well then, so be it!”
“Honey, this isn’t healthy.”
“I don’t care!” Kira didn’t mean for it to come out as a whine, but it did.
Meru became truly alarmed. Insightfully, she correctly recognized the signs of someone headed dangerously toward suicide. “I’m going to talk to Dukat. Something needs to be done.”
“No!” Panicked, Kira grabbed her. “Don’t do that to me! You were right in what you told him at first. Besides, how many of the Cardassian men would treat a Bajoran woman the way that Dukat treats you?? He’s probably the only one! Most of them just want a brief fling, not a real relationship, and that would only make me worse! Did you see the slimy jerk that I attracted at that party??! Probably not! Dukat got you out of there so fast that night…!” Agonized, and fearing that she was saying too much, Kira broke off and dropped her face into her hands.
Meru held her and let her cry on her for a while, not at all sure of what else to do.
That evening, Dukat noticed that Meru was uncharacteristically pensive, and asked her what was wrong.
She sighed; she never could hide anything from him. “I’m worried about Luma.”
He frowned. “Is she causing problems for you again? You know, my dear, sometimes I think that you would be better off with a less troublesome companion.”
“Oh, no, no, it’s not like that!” she hastened. “In fact, she didn’t want to tell me what was bothering her; I’m sure that she was trying to spare me. But I could see lately that she’s more and more unhappy, so I pushed her to tell me.”
“Very well, what is troubling her this time?”
Briefly, and wording it delicately, Meru told of her friend’s distress, about her close call in the Bajoran sector, and of “Luma’s” reaction to the legate at the party.
He smiled. “I know which legate she means; I saw who dragged her into his lap at the party, and she’s basically right about him. Although, he has managed to remain with one woman for just the last few weeks now, but we’ll see. In any case, ironically, even he’s not available right now, even if she wanted him.” He thought for a moment, and then smiled again. “Leave it to me.”
Vaguely alarmed, she urged, “Whatever you’re thinking, please, we have to be subtle! She didn’t want me to tell you, and she was horrified at the thought that you might make her attend a party!”
“My dear. Trust me.”
“You know that I do!” Now she smiled as well.
The next afternoon, the two women studiously did not talk about the uncomfortable topic of the day before, partly because Kira was a bit more stable, having cried it out, and because this time they were not alone; Dukat was just in the next room, in his office, whereas yesterday he had been out attending a meeting. Instead, they spoke only of frivolous matters, and played a card game.
The door chime sounded, nothing unusual for the busy Prefect. Intent upon her next move in the game, Kira stared at her hand and did not even look up as the visitor entered.
That is, not until she heard his voice. “Hello, Meru,” he said cordially.
Kira’s head snapped up hard enough to sting her neck.
“Hello, Damar,” Meru answered politely, and went back to studying her own cards.
Kira’s heart tried to gallop right out of her chest. This was the first time that she’d encountered someone familiar from her own future; she was panicked wondering if his appearance at this time was just a coincidence, and she was desperately keeping her head down looking at her hand except for that very brief upward glance; she would be frantically scared and embarrassed if she’d given away her shock.
Dukat stuck his head out of his office, although he looked harried. “Oh! Damar! Right on time! But I’m sorry; I’m not. I’m afraid that I’m right in the middle of a comm….” He pointed in irritation back into his office.
“That’s all right; take your time. I know that the top boss is the busiest.”
“Thanks! Take a seat. I’m sure I’ll just be a moment.”
Damar sat. Was he studying her? Was he staring? If she raised her head enough to check, she would be doing so. Although, it seemed from her peripheral vision that he might be. But that could just be simple curiosity toward someone he hadn’t met. Kira’s pulse thundered in her ears. She worried that Damar and Meru might be able to see her hands shaking.
“Luma? Are you ever going to discard?”
“Hmmm??? Oh!! Sorry! You, uh, have me in a bit of a bind!” In more ways than one, she thought desperately. Her mind was numbed, and the cards were meaningless. Instantly deciding that appearances were far more important than the game, she randomly grabbed a card, and flipped it as casually as she could onto the table.
Meru grunted at it, frowned, and appeared completely absorbed in this new development. But did her reaction seem just a bit forced and artificial? Kira wondered, horribly self-consciously. Or maybe she was just reading something into Meru’s behavior, seeing it as exaggerated, because she knew that her own was just an act, and because she was highly suspicious of the timing of Damar’s arrival, and Dukat’s perhaps all-too-convenient delay.
Damar sighed and stretched, nearly making Kira jump; she covered her brief minor jolt by pushing a stray strand of hair back from her face.
“So, Meru, who’s your friend?” His tone was appropriately casual, indicating merely polite interest; if anything more complicated were afoot, Kira couldn’t detect it.
Meru exhibited – feigned, it seemed – a brief instant of distraction, and then said, “Oh! Sorry, yeah. Luma, Damar. Damar, Luma.” Her attention went right back to her cards. To Kira, Meru still appeared just a bit too nonchalant.
But now called upon, Kira had to force herself to meet his look directly. She could feel that she might appear a bit too wide-eyed, but other than that, she felt that she was performing her own casual role acceptably. And being wide-eyed, she told herself, couldn’t do anything worse than make her look receptive and friendly.
He must have liked something in what he saw, because he smiled, and his smile extended apparently genuinely into his sparkling blue eyes. Kira smiled back automatically; she found to her surprise that she wasn’t faking, and that she couldn’t help but do so. Then she worried that she might be overdoing it, and lowered her gaze demurely.
Presently, Dukat reappeared, and the two men vanished into his office.
“Meru!” Kira whispered. “What was that???”
“Hm?” Her friend favored her with an expression that still seemed too carefully blank, and Kira gave up, at least for a while.
But she already had her answer that evening.
Her own doorchime almost never buzzed, and her heart pounded as she went to answer it. She was so sure about who would be there, that she was able to maintain her composure more than she ever would have thought possible. But her heart nearly melted when she unwrapped the package that Damar had brought her.
“It’s the dress! The gown that I’d liked the best! The one that they let me choose when….”
“I know,” he said gently. “For the party. I realize that those parties aren’t the kindest way of meeting someone, and I hope that the dress doesn’t bring back bad memories. I knew that I was taking a calculated risk bringing it, but Meru told me how much you’d liked it, and that you had chosen that one right away, that evening.”
Kira knew that her eyes shone radiantly, and she found that she had to fight back tears. “It was…a lovely thing to do!” She bade him enter, and then surprised even herself by saying, “If…you would like to give me a moment to change….” She indicated the ordinary, brown knee-length dress she wore. “This old thing isn’t much, hardly appropriate for a guest, and….”
“I would be delighted! Take your time.”
Several months later, Dukat and Damar took Meru and Kira to Bajor, and she at last had her opportunity to visit the Bajoran Temple. Kira was now quite happy with Damar, and had therefore agonized over this decision, but she knew that she still needed to get back to her own time. As she gazed into the Orb, she was instantly and effortlessly transported back where she belonged.
For the first few times afterward that she saw the two men, she fretted over whether Damar would make the connection that Luma had been Kira, or for that matter, whether or not Dukat would realize it. Gradually, she began to relax as she saw no sign of it, and realized that, even if they suspected a strong resemblance, they must have concluded that it was quite impossible for her to have been the same girl.
What seemed at least a lifetime later, she slumped in Mila’s basement, barely noticing a sleeping Garak to her left, and a brooding Damar to her right. Presently, the latter seemed to come to a decision, which Kira assumed involved the next day’s plan of attack against the Dominion. So, she almost choked when he looked up at her and grinned, and said, “Well, Luma?”
Thunderstruck, she could only gape at him.
Almost mundanely conversationally, he said, “I’ve given up waiting for you to admit it. We easily might die tomorrow, and I don’t want to do so without talking about this.”
“How…? How long have you known???”
“Always.” Damar shrugged.
“Why…didn’t you say something??”
“Why didn’t you? I couldn’t at first, because I wasn’t certain of when you would go back in time. I sensed a convincing lack of recognition from you when we ‘first met’ aboard Dukat’s ship, the time that we hijacked that Klingon Bird-Of-Prey, so I knew that it had to be sometime after that that you would make the journey back to the Occupation. Then, I kept waiting for you to ‘recognize’ me, especially during our extended stay on the station with the Dominion. But you never seemed to be hit by the realization.” He sighed. “But now, I feel that I can no longer afford to wait to discuss it.”
Kira faltered. “I was…so embarrassed. And since you seemed not to know, I let it go.” Her tone turned to one of resentment. “But you hated me during the Dominion Occupation of DS9! You hardly had the attitude of a former lover! Even if I had returned to the past by then, your treatment of me certainly didn’t welcome any sort of intimate conversation!”
Damar nodded readily. “I was angry. I had grown sure that you must have gone back by that time, so that by then you must be aware that we’d had an affair in the past, and I’d grown tired of waiting for you to admit it. I didn’t hate you, but I couldn’t understand why you wouldn’t talk about it.”
She responded feebly, “Actually, I still hadn’t gone back yet by then. But by the time that I really finally did, we’d know each other so mundanely for so long that the occasion never seemed right to bring up the subject. It was easier to just never mention it.” Her excuse sounded lame, even to her. But then her eyes widened in alarm. “Did Dukat know???”
“Of course. He found it very amusing. But he was just as baffled as I, that you wouldn’t admit it. Since he also assumed that you’d gone back prior to the Dominion Occupation, he cleverly had me deliver that gown to you for Ziyal’s party, sure that the ironic parallel would startle you into giving yourself away once and for all. When it didn’t work, we began to realize that the time travel still hadn’t happened, for you.”
She gasped at the now obvious connection between the two gowns.
“Then, Dukat finally figured out that the only thing that could make you go back would be for him to tell you about Meru. Once he did so, we were certain that you must’ve made the trip.”
“But…!” Kira was still very confused. “You couldn’t have realized right away, back during the Cardassian Occupation of Bajor when we were lovers, that I’d come from the future, and then returned to it.”
“No,” he agreed matter-of-factly. “For a while, we assumed that you’d been killed on Bajor as a collaborator. But Dukat recognized you instantly, when he met you as first officer of DS9. He filled me in, so that I wouldn’t look startled when next I saw you.”
“You hid your feelings well,” she acknowledged grudgingly.
He quirked a smile. “Better than you or Meru did. During that card game, when Dukat set it up for us to meet, you two women were both so obvious! I thought that she was going to give the game away; she acted so artificial! And you…!!”
“What about me??”
He gave her a lop-sided grin. “Nobody throws away an ace in that game! I knew right then that you were paying attention only to me.”
Kira felt her face go crimson.
“And then Meru didn’t know what to do with the ace that you’d discarded, didn’t even notice that she should’ve snatched it up immediately!” Damar laughed heartily. “She was so concerned about you and me working out all right! Neither of you was paying a bit of attention to that game!”
Sheepishly, Kira looked away, and then her eyes fell on Garak, and widened in alarm. “Does Garak know???” she demanded in a hoarse whisper.
Damar began to shake his head.
“I do now.” He rolled over, raised his head, and grinned broadly at the pair.
“Ohhh!!!” Kira’s hand went to her chest in mortification.
Garak rose, still grinning knowingly. “I’m going upstairs to visit with Mila for a while. I’ll be gone at least an hour,” he emphasized pointedly, his eyes twinkling meaningfully.
Kira’s eyes met Damar’s, and both began to smile.
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