A/N: I have to say, I was expecting more of a response from the last chapter. Maybe I've shocked and appalled you into silence. Oh, say it ain't so...
A/N Supplemental:This is it. Last one. I hope somebody out there has enjoyed reading this as much as I've enjoyed writing it. As always, do let me know your thoughts.
PART 21: UNFINISHED BUSINESS
There's blood on your hands
And I know it's mine
But I just need more time
– White Lies
Kira snapped awake at 0330, relying on her Resistance-learned ability to alarm her own body clock, and remembered. She had allowed herself to forget for a few short hours, wrapped in the long lean curve of sleeping Cardassian, that the other occupant of this punitively hard bed was an interstellar war criminal. She had forgotten how much of a betrayal it was to have his arm curled around her and his bony knees pressing into the backs of her legs and the mingle of their hair on the pillow, coppery silk and blue-black wire. They must not get caught like this. No-one could ever know. No one could know what he looked like all silent and serene, the angles and hollows of his face smoothed by sleep and one grey hand lying relaxed on the sheet next to hers. That was hers alone. A secret she could keep, a memory that wasn't seared into the Bajoran public consciousness by years of horror – just him and her in this one room on this one night. She shouldn't want it and she shouldn't have it, but it was too late for that. As she sat up, cursing the coldness of the air on her exposed skin, he mumbled in protest and groped blindly for her hand. She shook him off.
'Stop that, I have to go.'
'No you don't,' he said indistinctly. 'Don't leave yet.'
She looked down at the muddled heap of their clothing on the floor, his severe blacks and greys mixed with the soft pinks and browns of her own, her boots looking childishly small compared to his. There was something both sordid and touching about it which made her want, inexplicably, to cry; she shook her head fiercely and began to get dressed, hating the itchy, crumpled feel of yesterday's clothes next to her skin.
'You regret this, don't you?' Dukat asked her, leaning up on one elbow and dragging the covers around him, eyes still half-closed and voice husky from sleep. She shrugged. Part of her did, certainly. Part of her was disgusted that she'd given into him, or rather given into her own feelings about him despite all the things he'd done over the years. But another part – a less rational and more insistent part – wanted to crawl back into his arms and pull the covers over both their heads and stay there forever, blocking out the rest of the world in which she was a freedom fighter and he was a warlord, in which he was one side of the coin and he was the other, never the twain shall meet. She stood up quickly and crossed the room, turning her back on him and looking out at the stars, those same stars that had bathed their skins in silver last night, making the dreary little room beautiful – how small and pale and unforgiving they seemed now, in the cold light of morning when she was short of sleep and heavy of heart.
She didn't answer him. She didn't trust herself to speak. She didn't move as he came up behind her and held her too tightly. Even now, she didn't want him to know that this last half-hour felt far too much like the end of the world. Yes, she regretted what they'd done. She regretted ever feeling anything for him but hate. Hate was easy. Hate wouldn't miss him, hate wouldn't feel kicked in the teeth as she stood there and watched the shuttle leave, getting smaller and smaller, disappearing into those pale unforgiving stars. Hate wouldn't think about what he looked like asleep, vulnerable, curled up around her. No. She hated the things he'd done, but she could no longer hate the man he was. She let him hold her, allowing herself to enjoy it for a moment or two.
'I don't regret it for what it was,' she told him. 'But it hasn't made things any less complicated.'
'Do you remember when you said as long as I was in your life, you'd never have any peace?'
'Yeah, I remember that.'
'Is it still true now?'
He'd seen through her again; she did feel a strange, melancholy kind of peace standing with him like this in a cold room at an ungodly hour of the morning, knowing that it was the last time. The kind of peace a dying man feels when he accepts there is nothing more he can do, no more fighting, no more running, no more praying and cursing and trying to escape his fate.
'I don't know,' she said softly, unwilling to the last. The more she gave, the more it would hurt. He sighed, a gentle movement of his chest against her back, then he let her go. The air between them stiffened at once as she felt him snap his mask back on along with his clothes, the mask he wore like a shield, the mask she'd thought was his real face for so many years. Not a moment too soon, either; the door opened and two security personnel came in.
'Right, you, time to – oh, uh, good morning, Major,' stammered one, evidently surprised to find her here. She saw his eyes flick to the rumpled bed, the unmistakeable evidence of what had happened. She bit her lip and said nothing as the two of them approached Dukat, each taking one of his arms.
'There's no need for that, I'll come quietly,' he snapped, shaking them off. And he did; no mad dash for the door, no slinking or cowering or trudging along, either, but walking tall and straight and thin in only trousers and undershirt, without his armour. Kira walked behind them, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, left right left right, so she didn't have to think. The sight of Sisko and Odo by the airlock door tugged on heartstrings that were already stretched almost to breaking point. They could probably guess, but they'd never understand – well, Sisko never would, but Odo already did and that was almost worse. The shuttle was docked and waiting, two more Starfleet personnel standing either side of the access hatch with phasers in hand. Harsh yellow lights from inside the little ship pooled on the floor of the docking bay like home's open door gone wrong.
'The prisoner is ready for transport, sir,' one of the uniforms told Sisko.
'No he's not,' Kira interrupted, surprising even herself. She couldn't believe she hadn't thought of it before. Sisko frowned at her.
'And why would that be, Major?'
'What about Ziyal?'
'No, I don't want her to see this,' Dukat interjected. 'Just get it over with. Major, I trust you to take good care of her while I'm gone.'
I trust you. There it was, for everyone to hear. As if it wasn't obvious enough already. Odo didn't react, but she could tell that he'd heard and it had cut him to the quick. He knew.
'I will,' she managed. Dukat looked at her then, full force, blue eyes meeting brown. She had to resist the urge to go to him, to do something, anything but see him walk onto that shuttle and out of sight. He was trying to tell her something. She couldn't ask, he couldn't speak, but it was there.
'You make it sound like you'll be coming back, Dukat,' Sisko said dryly. Dukat shrugged, and there was that grin of his, that confident, tricksy grin that told you he had both sleeves full of aces. Kira let out a breath she didn't know she was holding.
'Who can say?' he answered with a shrug. 'Maybe your superiors at Starfleet Command will realise what you didn't, Sisko. I could have been very useful to you.'
Sisko didn't answer, just held out his hand for the prisoner transfer padd and stamped his thumb on the authorisation mark. The two uniforms from the ship stepped forwards and escorted Dukat up the ramp into the waiting vessel. At the top he turned and looked right at Kira.
'Take care... Iliana.'
As she stood there, open-mouthed, the door hissed shut and the ship eased out of the dock into the waiting stars.
Haha, not quite... those of you who paid attention to the last line will infer that a sequel is coming soon. Look out for it.