Damar and Selena trembled together for what felt like eternity; their worlds reduced to nothing more than the feel of the other in their arms. His knees threatened to buckle, but he summoned the final reserves of his strength so they both didn't fall in an undignified heap on the Arms room floor. Long, shapely legs were still wrapped tightly around his waist and her back was propped up against the wall.

His head felt like a lead weight buried in Selena's right shoulder and her soft, ebony hair tickled the scales on his forehead. Taking a deep, steadying breath, he inhaled the musky scent of her perfume

Somewhere on the fringes of his consciousness, the young Cardassian male registered the outside world and realized the urgency of pulling themselves together again before they had company. Unscheduled visits by commanding officers were commonplace in the military and meant to keep soldiers alert and disciplined.

Reluctantly, Damar drew his hands over her hips and lifted his head. Silent understanding passed between them as their eyes met and he gently helped set her back on her feet. The hand that had been tangled in his immaculately slicked back black hair brushed against the now swollen, thick scales on his neck, jerking a ragged gasp from their owner.

"Careful," he admonished playfully.

Selena bit her lip apologetically, but a hint of mischief sparked in her eyes and Damar reciprocated with a comforting smile. He realized that she had no way of knowing how sensitive the neck scales were, particularly during times of arousal.

"As much as I enjoy marathon lovemaking, I doubt we'd get away with it here. I'd… prefer not to be worked up again, accidentally or otherwise. At least not until tonight."

Damar watched with appreciation as his new lover tugged the stiff black skirt back into place and smoothed it out. Giving herself a quick once over and deciding she was presentable again, she began arranging her hair in a bun again and gave him a quick, cheeky grin as she hurried out to the desk.

He was grateful that she'd understood that they had to return to business as quickly as possible and hadn't lingered with him in the Arms room. It gave him a few moments to gather his thoughts and make himself presentable again as well.

He leaned against the wall that Selena's back had just been pressed up against and his head fell back with a thud. He swallowed hard and did up his pants, noting that his fading arousal was giving way to more complex and conflicting emotions.

He had let things with Selena move far too quickly in this program and he was concerned about the ripples it could have in the events to follow. Would she experience regret from yielding to their desires too soon and grind their burgeoning relationship to a halt, completely derailing the emotional sanctuary he'd hoped to re-experience with the holographic representation of her? Would she request a different assignment in order to avoid any further entanglement with him? Or would she remain as enraptured by him as he was with her?

He devoutly wished for the latter.

In the actual events of their pasts, they had not fully yielded to their mutual attraction for several days. His inexperience even with Cardassian women, much less alien women, had made him hesitant and socially clumsy with Selena early on. Fortunately, the commonality of struggling with each other's alien-ness fortified their resolve to bridge those differences and learn about each other.

And then there were the mind numbing, soul sucking betrayals by his friend and mentor, Gul Dukat that after almost thirty years had finally seen emerged from the dark depths of whatever treasure chest he stored them in.

Mixed… Conflicted…

Those were the words that immediately sprang to mind. The emotions themselves were harder to identify.

Dukat had deceived Damar. There was no getting around that or drawing a happy face on it. But he deceived Damar into thinking Selena and the twins had died.

But they weren't dead. They were alive. Breathtakingly, vibrantly, beautifully alive according to the files worth of pictures Selena had sent him by subspace.

An almost deliriously heady joy suffused Damar at the knowledge and a rare genuine smile spread over his face in the quiet confines of the Arms Room. He wanted desperately to meet them though he had no clue what he could possibly say if and when he did. For now though, it was more than he'd hoped for just to know that somewhere out there that the same hearts he once heard beating up a storm on a medical monitor were still beating away with a part of him inside them.

That was the joy. There was also resentment and a sense of betrayal.

Resentment that the man he'd trusted as a friend and mentor for so long had so casually and easily affected so much influence over that situation; that Dukat had not left his young charge to make a man's decisions. That he'd left Damar to suffer so much unwarranted grief and guilt. That he'd sent Damar to be "retrained" by the Obsidian Order to put his past with Selena behind him and hastily accept a Cardassian wife.

The grief and guilt remained, but the reasons for the emotions had changed. Now survivor's guilt had morphed into the heavy remorse of a father who had not been there for his family and the cruel knowledge that he would never get that time back with his children.

And the damnable misery of it all was that Damar had just handed Dukat the key to dismantling the minefield around the wormhole.

Even before he submitted his ideas to Gul Dukat, a sense of dread had settled in his stomach like a dead weight. He wanted to trust Dukat's judgment as he always had, but the alliance with the Dominion refused to sit right with him. If his ideas worked, the dismantling of the minefield could be like opening Pandora's Box as Selena had explained the concept to him once upon a time.

Damar's eyes squeezed shut and he buried his face in his hands, not wanting to face it yet.

I find out they're alive only to help get them killed when the Dominion comes through the wormhole.

He tried to remind himself that it was for Cardassia and to be of service to the state was the greatest accomplishment among his people. Deep down though, he couldn't shake the sense of dread or dismiss the threat he felt the Dominion was to his children and the Cardassian people.

For Cardassia…

The words sounded hollow.

W* W*W*W*

"Damar?!"

Lowering his hands from his face, Damar let his head fall in the direction of the familiar deep growl. The interruption annoyed him, but the other Cardassian's arrival reminded Damar that he was supposed to meet him at Quark's and was late. A drink sounded good though. Or a few…

"Rusot."

Sigol Rusot's dark brown eyes were wide with a horror and disbelief that deepened as he took in the familiar Arms room from long ago. And Damar's appearance…

Damar wanted to recoil from his longtime friend's intense stare, but there was nowhere to go and no way to conceal his darkened neck ridges that told Rusot exactly what had kept him. Had his intruder been anyone else, Damar might have felt embarrassment and shame course through him for being caught in the aftermath of a sexual interlude, but he and Rusot had been friends since childhood and early in their military careers had shared quarters. They were well acquainted with many aspects of each other's habits and personality. As it was, he was just irritated at the interruption.

"I can't believe what I'm seeing," Rusot growled lowly, jerking his head toward the doorway where he'd just passed the frozen hologram of Selena Lobos. "After all this time, I thought you'd finally laid that woman to rest in your heart and in the past where she belongs!"

Damar rolled his head back where it was before Rusot barged in and tilted it up toward the ceiling. His eyes squeezed shut in painful memory.

"No…," he murmured and drew in a deep breath and slowly let it out. "I played the game when Dukat sent me to be "retrained" by the Obsidian Order. It was difficult at first. I dislike games and I dislike having to pretend to be someone I'm not. Or pretend to believe something I don't. But it wasn't worth risking the safety of my parents and siblings when Selena was dead so I pretended to "come around" so they'd return me to my life. I went through the motions like a good Cardassian man. I found a wife of good family and had children and I never shirked my responsibilities again. But let Selena go? No…"

Rusot took a few steps toward Damar, his body taut with anger.

"Surely, Gul Dukat would grant you leave so you could be with your wife rather than release yourself on this silly re-creation of a woman that died decades ago! Damar, how can you be so enamored of that Human woman even in death that a hologram of her is preferable to being with your proper Cardassian wife?!"

"I never said it was. Dukat needs me here," Damar said plainly, offering no further explanation.

Rusot's words though reminded Damar of his guilt. Guilt seemed to be the most common theme in Damar's life. Guilt for being such an unpatriotic and undisciplined Cardassian to have fallen in love with a non Cardassian woman and abandoning his duties on a few occasions to spend more time with her. The Survivor's guilt he felt after being told that Selena and the twins had died. Guilt that he'd risked the wrath of the Obsidian Order on his family in retribution for his rebellious behavior. Guilt that he married to give the pretense that he was a better Cardassian than he had been. Guilt that even though he had some love for his wife it still couldn't hold a candle to the love he still bore Selena.

The truth was Damar didn't want to go home to his wife. Every time he looked in her eyes, he was reminded of what an awful fraud of a husband he was; and how she deserved to be loved more than he seemed capable of loving her.

He thought about trying to explain it to Rusot, but Rusot was the spit polished example of a proper Cardassian soldier and citizen and wouldn't be receptive to Damar's words. Rusot existed to serve Cardassia and could see no further than that. To attempt to befriend non Cardassians and understand their cultures was anathema to him. To consider that the state was not wise in all things was beyond his comprehension. Their friendship had quite literally been the only thing that had allowed Rusot to tolerate Damar's relationship with Selena and even that might have been partially motivated by a desire to prevent embarrassment to the state by revealing Damar's scandalous relationship.

"Selena is alive, Sigol," Damar said softly, calling his friend by his first name. Military service had gotten them in the habit of addressing each other by their last names so the use of Rusot's first was a signal to the other man than Damar was distressed.

Rusot simply stared at him in disbelief. "You can't be serious…"

"Oh, can't I?"

There was a long, tense moment of silence as both men pondered the ramifications of that. Rusot for the first time. Damar for about the thousandth since he learned of Dukat's deception.

"I think I need a drink…," Rusot said finally.

A rueful smile tugged at Damar's lips. He could use a few drinks actually.