Did anyone ever wonder just what exactly happened to Dukat and Ziyal on Cardassia? I know I did and the little bits we were given were just not enough to suit my curiosity. Hence the following story. Please let me know if it is good enough to continue.

Oh, and please don't sue. I don't own any of the characters; I'm just playing with them for awhile. Please direct all praise to me and all flames to the Fire Caves. Thank you.

Note ( ) around words indicates private thoughts

He drummed his fingers on the console, the only outlet he would allow the nervous energy that threatened to eat him alive. He glanced over at the girl by his side. She had obviously dressed very carefully this morning, putting on the very best thing in her still somewhat limited wardrobe. He made a mental note to remedy that once they were on planet. Even her hair had been very carefully arranged in a simple but very appealing traditional Cardassian style. All in all, the effect was quiet pretty. However, the nervous anxiety that was churning unseen through him was all too apparent in her delicate features and the tightly clenched hands in her lap. He tried to think of words to ease her anxiety but the truth was, he had none. He was aware of just how difficult this would be and while he would have liked to have been able to ease her mind with platitudes, he simply couldn't.

The captain of the Keldar Vok paged him then to tell him they were in orbit now. They were free to transport to the surface at any time.

Dukat took a deep breath and looked over at his daughter. She looked back at him and gave him a small smile.

"I'm ready whenever you are, Father," she said softly.

He couldn't help but be proud of her bravery. Standing, he turned and bowed, extravagantly offering her his arm. She gave a small laugh at his weak attempt at humor and stepped forward, wrapping her small hands around his arm. With that, they walked out of their quarters and toward the transporter room.

Ziyal stood frozen, staring at the regal looking woman before her. She wanted to melt into the floor, to disappear, to simply be anywhere but there. She couldn't look at her father. She was too afraid of what she might see on his face. Too afraid it might make her break down completely.

They were standing in the reception room of her grandmother's home. Her father's mother. They had had to wait for an hour before she had even condescended to see them. That should have given her a clue as to what might happen but she had steadfastly chosen to be optimistic. That optimism was rapidly melting into the floor in her place.

Disowned. The word rang stark and cold in her ears. There would be no warm reception here, no grandmotherly hug such as she had received as a child from her mother's mother. She longed suddenly for the safety of her mother's arms, for the warmth of her grandmother Tora's kiss. But those were memories now, both women long since consecrated to the Prophets. The woman staring at her so coldly now would never do such a thing. Not for her. She cringed at the memory of what this cold-eyed woman had just said to her father about her. Not to her. She wasn't even worthy of her notice. Instead, she had berated her father for bringing his illegitimate half-caste bastard back to their home. Was it not enough that his own father had had no compunctions about shaming the family, did he have to be like him in every respect? The harangue had continued. Ziyal could only watch as her father stood there, hands clasped behind his back, head down, as his mother continued to rain down her wrath upon him. She knew it would have been unthinkable for him to show such disrespect as to argue with her. Tradition demanded respect and her father was unbendingly traditional about some things. From where she stood she could see how tightly clenched his hands were and the stiff set to his shoulders. She wanted to cry for him, for herself, for the misery this mean woman was visiting on them, but she couldn't. She would be damned before she would allow this...creature such a victory over her. She was so concentrated on maintaining her dignity that it was a few moments before she realized that the old witch had finally left the room. She looked around at her father. He was still standing in the same spot, in the same position. She moved closer to his side. She could see that his eyes were closed and he was breathing quite heavily. She reached out and laid a tentative hand on his arm. He startled slightly and opened his eyes. Then he looked at her. He tried for a smile but didn't quite make it. Taking his arm in her own she said simply, "It's time to go."

Straightening his stance, he turned with her and, without another word, they exited the house.

It was all he could do to maintain his composure. He was absolutely livid but he didn't dare let it show. Not in front of this woman. His mother. Ha! Had there ever been a creature less worthy of the title it would have been difficult to find it. He had been dreading this interview, for Ziyal's sake as much as his own. He knew the woman and what her reaction was likely to be. He hadn't expected it though to be quite so...savage. And he truly had not expected her to disown him. He was her only son and as much as he hated her, he had been her only legal heir. It was a blow he had not been prepared for and it had rocked him, just as she had known it would.

He had wanted to say something in his own defense but he knew that if he said anything, his mother might turn her attentions to Ziyal and he knew he could not restrain himself if she were to start in on her. So far, Ziyal had wisely remained silent, drawing no attention to herself. He silently willed her to continue holding her peace, so that she would be spared the harshness of his mother's tongue.

He truly wondered if he had done the right thing in bringing her to Cardassia with him. Should he have left her at the station? Kira had not suggested it, not in so many words, had simply intimated that if he should decide to leave the girl there, she would make sure she was well taken care of. He had rather resented the implication at the time that he could not care for his own daughter, but perhaps the good major had been more perceptive than he had given her credit for. It would certainly have been a first for her, at least as far as he was concerned. It was a constant pain to him that she absolutely refused to acknowledge any attempt he made at reconciliation. He forcefully turned his thoughts away from her. He was under enough stress at the moment without willfully adding any more. Suddenly, he felt a hand on his arm. He jumped and looked around. Ziyal was standing beside him. It was only then that he realized they were now alone. He tried to reassure her that he was alright, but could feel that the effort fell flat. With that amazing insight of hers, she did not try to do or say anything, simply looked up at him and said it was time to go. He couldn't have agreed more.

Ziyal stood quietly within the doorway to the common room. Instead of going directly to his home in the city, they had taken up residence in a suite in a rather nice hotel not far from the city's Central District. Neither one being very hungry when they had returned from that disastrous meeting, Ziyal had chosen to make an early night of it, retiring to her room so that her father could have some time alone. However, try as she might, she could not go to sleep. She finally gave up the fight and got out of bed. Maybe if she got something nice and hot to drink from the replicator, it would calm her enough to sleep. Slipping on her robe, she padded softly down the short hallway, taking care to step quietly past her father's door. She knew from experience, he was a very light sleeper. Then she stopped abruptly just within the doorway to the common room. Her father was sitting at the table, a glass and a bottle of kanar in front of him. He seemed oblivious to everything around him. Ziyal slipped back into the shadow of the doorway, waiting to see what, if anything, he would do. He had his elbows propped on the table and his head propped in his hands. He looked so...defeated. Ziyal suddenly couldn't bear the sight of her father's dejection. Drink forgotten, she silently made her way back to her bed and crawled in. Hiding her face in the pillows, she let the tears that she had been holding back all day loose. She cried silently until her exhaustion overtook her and she fell into a deep sleep.

When she woke the next morning, she could tell it was later than usual. Wearily, she climbed out of the bed and headed for the replicator. She had gotten quite used to a cup of raktajino in the morning while she was on Deep Space Nine, usually shared with Major Kira. She sighed, suddenly missing her friend. She had been very surprised to learn from the major that she and her father were not...intimate. That in fact, the major considered her father to be an enemy. From the way her father spoke of and to the major, Ziyal had assumed they were at the very least, close friends. The information had disturbed her but since neither her father nor the major had shown any objections to the two women spending time together, Ziyal had held her peace. Scowling now at the replicator, she ordered the closest Cardassian equivalent to raktajino she could get. It was, in fact, rather a poor imitation, so as a backup she ordered a cup of tea as well. Taking these over to a large chair conveniently placed near the window, she curled up and tried to enjoy the view. Placing the tea on the side table, she held the karpa in both hands, and took a sip. It was just slightly too hot. She blew gently on it, like the major had shown her and took another sip. Much better.

She was just finishing her karpa and had started in on the tea when her father came back. Ziyal took one look at his face and was up immediately at his side, pulling him inside and pushing him gently onto the couch. He was pale, glassy-eyed and looked as if he had been hit by a runaway mine cart. Ziyal didn't know what to do for him so she sat down beside him and waited. She waited for what seemed forever before she decided to try and rouse him. She knew something was wrong, it was obvious. She just wondered if he would let her know what it was.

Dukat had woke early that morning, despite the amount of kanar he had drunk last night. The habits of a lifetime of discipline were not easy to relinquish, even if he did have the worst headache he'd suffered in years. He had looked in on Ziyal as he passed and had been relieved to note that she appeared to be sleeping peacefully. That was good. He had been afraid she might have trouble after yesterday's difficulties. The Gods knew, he certainly had. He sincerely hoped she would continue to sleep for a few more hours. He had a very important visit to make.

He stood at the entrance to his home and stared for a moment. So many memories. Yet, for all that this was his residence, the dwelling of his wife and his (legal) children, it had never really felt like HIS home. If truth be told, he felt more at home on Terok Nor than here. He had certainly spent more time there. He took a deep breath and, before he could think further, stepped to the door and entered quietly.

It was so quiet. He could hear his footsteps echoing down the hallway. Galena must have sent the children elsewhere because even this early in the day, there were usually two or three of them about, making noise and behaving as children and teenagers usually do. Truth be told, it unnerved him, this unnatural silence. He had the urge to want to shout out just to hear something other than deafening silence. He stopped and took a moment to compose himself. Sternly stamping down his discomfort, he went in search of his wife.

Not surprisingly, she was in the last place he looked. He had scoured the house looking for her but she was nowhere to be found. It was then he thought about the rooftop garden. He made his way up and found her, sitting on a bench underneath a fancy little pergola. She must have added it since I left.

He was almost upon her before she turned to look at him. Her expression caused him to stop in his tracks. Her face was utterly blank, totally emotionless. In all the time he had known her, all the time they had been married, he had never known her to be so unscrutable. She had always been so easy to read. But not now.

She continued to sit there, staring at him in utter silence. It finally became too much for him to stand.

"Galena, please, say something."

"What would you like me to say, Tebrel? I really don't know." She looked away, back over the view of the city.

She spoke abruptly, "I sent the children to stay with Ishara today. I had a feeling you would come."

It was a small relief to him that they really were alone. He had not wanted to discuss this with the children there. He wondered what, if anything, Galena had told their oldest daughter and her husband when she sent her brother and sisters to her. Suddenly, Galena turned back toward him.

"I want you to know, I have requested an annulment from the Council. They said they would inform me by the end of the week whether or not it would be approved."

Dukat's gray face went completely ashen at that. If the Council agreed to give her an annulment, then he would lose his children. Children not of age ALWAYS went with the mother and there was no requirement on her behalf to allow the father any access to the child or children in question. Surely Galena wouldn't be so vindictive as to leave him with no access to his own children?

As he looked at her now though, he couldn't be sure. The woman who had once been so easy to read was now blank, as imperturbable as one of the Obsidian Order. It worried him immeasurably and he carefully felt his way forward.

"I'm sorry, Galena. I did not do this to hurt you..."

She gave a short, sharp laugh and then looked at him with an odd gleam in her eyes. "You fool yourself, Tebrel, if you think you have any power to 'hurt' me. My only concern in this mess you have caused is to make sure MY children are not injured in any way by your thoughtlessness." She suddenly straightened her stance even more and looked him straight in the eyes.

"As far as I am concerned, from this moment forward, you are no longer my husband, regardless of what the Council may decide. I would appreciate it if you would keep your corrupting presence away from our children. However, should the Council rule in my favor, I will ENSURE that neither you nor your Bajoran bastard are allowed anywhere near my children. I will not have their lives and futures put in jeopardy because of you. I'm sure it won't be long before you manage to utterly hang yourself and your career and I must do everything I can to see to it that the children are spared any association with you. Do you understand?"

She was doing her duty as a conscientious Cardassian mother. She was ensuring the welfare of their children. He let the refrain repeat over and over in his head. It still didn't stop the words from lashing him mercilessly. They had never loved each other, but they had always held a certain mutual respect for one another and their respective abilities. There had been times he was even rather fond of her. Never had he thought of her as a particularly cruel woman. He shouldn't take this so personally...but he did. Oh, he did and it hurt dreadfully to think that she had not only lost her respect for him but actually thought that he would 'corrupt' their children just by being there. The insult went deep. He may not have been there as often as he should have, but he did care for his children, he loved every one of them. Everything he had ever done had been aimed at creating a better world for them and for all his people. Why could she not see that? Why could no one see that?

Galena sat in her carefully chosen position and watched the face of her husband as he absorbed everything she told him. She wondered idly if he even knew how very easy he was to read at times. She could always tell when something was truly affecting him because he was unable to hide it under his usual masks. He always had been ruled by his emotions. Such a pity, really. It was those traitorous emotions of his that had forced her hand this time. She had to cut her ties to him before he dragged them all down with him. She couldn't allow that. She had worked too hard to maintain her position in the Government and in Cardassian society to cast it all away on a husband that she could really only feel pity for now. When her mother-in-law had given her the news of his return and what he had brought back with him, she had been so angry, she could barely think. That he could do that to the children, to her, had been inconceivable. They were in a precarious enough situation as it was since he had aligned himself with the new government. And now this. She had stayed up all night, pacing the floor and trying to figure out how she could possibly salvage this impossible situation. She would have to act quickly and decisively, before the news of what he had done reached the ears of certain persons. She knew without a doubt, they would use this against him. And when he fell, so would they...unless she did something. And so, she had made her decision.

She sighed now, watching him absorb what she had said. She had know it would be a blow, but truthfully, what else could she do? And what else had he expected?

She felt vaguely sorry for him. Despite his faults, he had given her the children and she could at least be thankful for that...even if she did now have to banish him from them. It was for their good. He would eventually see. After all, hadn't his own mother been forced to make such a decision on behalf of her children? One day, he would understand and thank her for it.

Yes, she thought, It's sad. He could have been great, a true scion of Cardassia if he had only had more self-discipline.

She stood up. It was time to end this.

"I will be taking the children with me to the house in the outer province in three days. We will not be returning here for some time so you may feel free to move your residence here. However, I would prefer it if you had the good grace to stay away until then." She turned and started away, then stopped and looked back. He was still standing there, staring off into space, his normally healthy color transplanted by a sickly ashy hue. She again felt a grain of pity for this man she had once called husband. After all, he had always been kind to her. Turning back, she walked to his side and, taking his arm, lead his unresisting form over to the pergola seat she had just occupied. She pushed him slightly and he sat, still staring at a point she could not see.

"Please, Tebrel, sit here as long as you like. There will be no one to disturb you." Unsure of what else to say, she turned and slowly walked away.

He honestly had no idea how long he had sat there after she left and he had no memory of leaving or even how he got back to the hotel. What finally brought him back into focus was someone laying a small, cold hand to his cheek. He blinked and turned to find Ziyal looking up at him, asking him if he was alright. He looked down into the pale, concerned, terrified face of his youngest daughter. She was all he had now. His baby girl, the only child he had truly born of his heart. The only one of his children he had ever seen take her first steps and say her first words. The only one of his children who had been totally unreserved in her affection for him. Whether that was her own particular personality or a byproduct of her Bajoran heritage he didn't really know. All that he did know was that, at this moment, he greatly needed to feel it. Silently, he leaned over and wrapped his arm around her. She responded immediately by climbing into his lap and wrapping her arms around his waist. Resettling himself into a more comfortable position, he wrapped both arms around her and tucked her head neatly beneath his chin. Ah, this he remembered. As a child, she had often sat thus only now, she wasn't clamoring for a story and she was quite a bit heavier. In fact, he could feel his left leg, where she sat heaviest, starting to lose feeling. It didn't matter, he wasn't about to move.

Not for a while, at least.