Authors' note: You asked, you received, don't yell at us.

Disclaimer: you know it just as well as we do, so we're not gonna bother.

Therapy session
by Gatekeeper and AnitaB

Dukat woke, his fingers clenching convulsively in the empty space that had held Kira's hand. His eyes opened sharply, pulled from his half-sleep by her absence. The tightness of the bandaging around his ribs reminded him not to move too quickly as he sat up and scanned the infirmary. Unfortunately, the only person nearby was Doctor Bashir working at the table. Hearing the soft gasp of pain, Bashir turned with an odd expression on his face.

"You're not supposed to be moving, Dukat." Bashir walked towards him with a hypospray in one hand. "Lay back down and I'll give you something for the pain."

"I don't want any drugs," Dukat growled, laying down with a look of irritation and disappointment. "When can I get out of here?"

Bashir, smiled and tapped the spray against his palm. "What's the hurry? She only left a few minutes ago. I'm sure she'll be back to check on you later." Bashir had arrived to check on his patients that morning to find Kira sleeping in a chair clutching Dukat's hand. Curious and shocked, he had woken her only to watch the embarrassment stain her cheeks and hear a hurried "Morning, Doctor." She had pulled her hand from Dukat's and, with a backwards glance, hurried out of the room.

Dukat glared up at the doctor, wondering how to respond, wondering how much he already knew, wondering why Kira had left. "I don't know what you mean. I just want to get out of your wonderful infirmary."

"Of course, I should have known you just wanted to get away from me. I mean, there's really no one on the station you really want to be around, is there?" The pointed barb was spoken without inflection as Bashir returned to his work on the computer. "Well, the more you rest the sooner you can leave, so I'll let you get back to sleep."

Dukat grumbled something inaudible and probably insulting before turning away from Bashir and staring at his hand longingly.

***

Dax spotted Kira sitting listlessly at Quark's, staring blindly into an untouched synthale.

"So, did you find out why Dukat was troubling you?" Dax asked bluntly.

Kira looked up at the sound of Dax's voice, startled and a little nervous.

"I think so...I don't know... What's wrong with me, Dax?" Kira blushed a little as her hands danced awkwardly. "I feel like I'm going insane, and it's all because I don't know what to do about him."

"By 'him' you mean Dukat."

"No, I don't mean Dukat. I mean Sisko, I'm pregnant with his child and he won't take my calls, he's got me really going nuts. Of course I mean Dukat. Who else has been acting completely out of character."

"You mean besides you." Dax stated calmly, sitting down at Kira's elbow.

"I don't get it, Dax. Last week I would have happily shot him and this morning I wake up next to his hospital bed hoping...." Kira's voice faded from a whisper into silence, unsure what to say. Her eyes closed so she didn't see the puzzled expression on Dax's face.

"Hoping....hoping what?" Dax asked softly.

"I guess hoping he'd wake up and smile at me like he did before. That he'd say my name that way again." Her face lost it's confusion for a moment to soften and a tiny smile crept its way onto her lips.

"And did he?"

"No, Bashir came in and woke me up and I ran away before anything else happened." She blushed suddenly at the thought of "anything else"

Unfortunately, the ever-aware Jadzia noticed. "And what exactly is 'anything else'?"

She was as red as her suit by now. She wanted to avoid the question, she really did. But there was no way she wanted Dax following her around like a vulture for the next several weeks.

"I kissed him." she blurted, then took a long swig of synthehol to avoid having to look at her companion.

Dax's burst of laughter quieted slightly as Kira's pained face glared at her over the rim of her glass. Every head in Quark's turned towards the pair at the bar.

"Shh, do you want everyone to know!!"

Dax's face shifted from amusement to shocked suspicion. "You're serious?"

Kira nodded morosely.

Dax's eyes widened further and she waved to Quark for a glass of synthehol. "Wow," she said simply. "It looks like I'd better get something to drink - I'm going to be here awhile."

Kira narrowed her eyes at her. "I was expecting something more of a reaction."

Dax blinked, accepting her glass with a nod. "I think I'm in shock."

Quark wandered over at that. "Jadzia shocked by something Kira did? This has got to be good." He leaned against the bulkhead, huge ears at attention.

Kira's look was near murder. "If you do not leave now, Quark, I promise I will hurt you badly enough to shock her all over again."

Quark huffed. "Well, if that's the way you feel about it," and stalked back to the bar, though his ears were still cocked suspiciously in Kira and Jadzia's direction.

Jadzia nodded her head indulgently, then turned back to the much more interesting matter before her. "Talk," she said simply, in a voice that had five lifetimes to get used to being obeyed.

Kira sighed, suddenly very tired with her emotions. "Well, there's not much to tell." She toyed with her glass, "My emotions were a wreck for several hours, then we kissed for awhile."

Jadzia's eyebrows raised. "Just how long is awhile?"

Kira blushed at the memory. Kira hated blushing, so there was another thing to be annoyed at Dukat about. "Not long," she said defensively. Then she admitted it. "About an....hour."

Great shock can cause strange reactions in people, particularly those with an unusual sense of humor. Jadzia's laugh at this news was loud and startling to the other patrons of Quark's. Every head turned to their table as she collapsed into helpless laughter, with Kira over her looking like she was trying hard to crawl under the table as she accused under her breath, "You're not helping."

Quark shrugged. He had always thought the crew were nuts.

***

Silky pale skin under his lips, fire caught between his fingers, her breathy murmur of his name just before his lips captured hers, the scratch of her uniform against the bare skin of his arms and the cloth of his bandages, all brought a near painful tightness to his chest as his heart swelled. She was here, finally in his arms where he'd always wanted her. He pulled her closer and deepened the kiss. Running her fingers down his neckridges, she pulled her mouth from his and trailed a line of kisses down his bare chest, breathlessly. He curled a finger under her chin, lifting her face to meet his smiling gaze. She smiled, leaning in towards him again....

Dukat's eyes flew open to the harsh light of station daytime, and he cursed under his breath. He didn't know, however, if it was because he had been tormenting himself by dreaming about her or the fact that he had been forced to stop.

Coming closer to full awareness, Dukat noticed Bashir standing over his bed with a dark grin and a tray of food. Dukat, naturally suspicious, glared at the doctor as if trying to read in his expression just how much he knew.

"Ready to wake up and eat, or were you enjoying that dream too much?" That remark, delivered without inflection, clearly expressed just how much Bashir was enjoying teasing the helpless and unable to escape victim.

Dukat struggled to a sitting position, gritting his teeth a little. "Just give me the food and find somewhere else to be." He growled to hide his embarrassment at the doctor's teasing.

Smiling even wider than before, Bashir set the tray in Dukat's lap and went back to work, for a while. As Dukat was eating, his mind wandered back along the last few days. The moment he'd realized that the Ghem Hadar might actually hit their target, and Kira Nerys had become that target, was the worst of his life. The thought of losing Nerys before telling her how he felt, before making her admit she cared for him had ripped an unwilling cry of anguish from his chest, her name. The pain that had seared his ribs was nothing compared to the very idea of a life without her. Collapsing into her arms, all he felt was relief. She hadn't been hurt.

"Something troubling you, Dukat?" Bashir's dry voice pulled Dukat out of his thoughts. "or would that be someone troubling you, an absent redhead perhaps?" Bashir laughed quietly at the disgruntled sounds from the bed-ridden Cardassian behind him. "Am I hitting a little too close to the mark?"

"What do you know about anything?" Dukat griped, setting aside the now empty plate.

"Hmm, what do I know? I know that you threw yourself in front of a rifle aimed at one red-headed Kira Nerys. I know that she acted very out of character afterward. Then I come in to see how you're doing to find both of you asleep with her clutching your hand. I know that the second she saw me she turned red (something I've never seen her do) before running out the room and that she hasn't been back since. Now that you know everything I know. How about you help me fill in the gaps? What happened last night?"

"She blushed?" Hope and worry fought for control over his features, then his face blanked as he realized how much that question, and the fact that he didn't answer Bashir's question, revealed.

Through his grin, Bashir said "I knew there was more between you two than you'd admit. Apparently she's not talking much either."

Dukat withdrew into thought She cares about me or I couldn't have affected her enough to blush. But she left me and hasn't been back after all that we shared. Dukat paused at the thought of all they'd shared, reliving the feel of her close to him. I can't let her go, I can't. But if I push too hard she'll run, she's already running from me. What should I do? Dukat looked up considering for a brief moment asking Bashir for advice. Then he came to his senses. It would be insanity to put himself and his growing relationship with Kira in Bashir's hands.

"I'd guess from the look on your face, Dukat, that I don't get to find out what happened last night." Dukat growled and Bashir grinned "But remember, I'm here if you want to talk about her or anything else. Doctor-patient confidentiality applies." Answered only by a stony silence, Bashir laughed and turned back to the counter to fill out paper work.

"Oh, while you're awake, I should check your bandages." Bashir said, "I mean, I am your doctor. I should keep an eye on your physical injuries as well as any mental or, say, emotional crises in your life right now." Dukat's continued silence didn't discourage Bashir in the slightest-- he was having too much fun. "You do want out of my infirmary, don't you?"

"Yes, I do want to leave. So just look at my ribs and give me your medical opinion." Dukat levered himself away from the raised head of the bed so Bashir could reach the bandages. As Bashir examined the fading scar along his back, Dukat came to a decision. Kira cared, but if she had time, she'd try to talk herself out of the relationship. He had to push her towards him before she could change her mind. But he couldn't do it stuck in this bed. Avoiding the infirmary was just too easy. "So when can I leave?"

"Well, your injury will be sufficiently healed by tomorrow, I'd say. But as for leaving, there's the matter of security ad criminal charges. You did lead a war party of Ghem Hadar soldiers onto the station with an attack in mind. Sisko and Odo have to decide what to do with you."

The idea of courting Kira Nerys from the inside of one of Odo's holding cells wasn't exactly what Dukat had in mind. She could avoid him there just as easily as in the infirmary. "So get Sisko down here. I'd like to find out where I'm going to end up next, a set of quarters or Odo's office."

"Whose quarters did you have in mind?" Bashir quipped before turning quickly to activate his comm-link.

"Bashir to Sisko."

"Sisko here."

"Our patient is awake, grumbling, and wants to speak with you."

"About what? I do have a station to run."

"His future on this station."

A short pause was followed by "Personal or legal?" The amusement in Sisko's voice couldn't have been heard more clearly if he'd actually been laughing right into the comm. Other more obvious laughter, however, could also be heard over the comm as well as an aggrieved "Captain!" from Kira.

Dukat's groan was cut short as his head popped up at the sound of her voice. He missed her already: her fire, her smell, her taste, her voice, and she'd been away from him for less than a day. He was falling for her, hard.

"I'll be there right away." Sisko chuckled. "Ops out."

***

"Sir! How could you do that?" Kira complained, looking just like an embarrassed kid. She had been blushing more in the last two days than in her entire life. Embarrassment had always turned to anger in her, and angry she was becoming. Sisko was a much more convenient target than the man that was really affecting her.

Sisko, still chuckling at the anger flashing in her eyes and the flush reddening her face, patted her on the shoulder. "Calm down, Kira, I'll give you a full report on his condition when I get back." He strode quickly to the turbolift before Kira could react, hoping to avoid the coming explosion.

As the lift doors closed Kira yelled. "This isn't funny, I mean it, Stop lau....."

***

"What should I do with you, Dukat?" Sisko settled himself into the chair next to the bed. "You lead Ghem Hadar onto my station with the plan to kill me - not something I'm inclined to be lenient about. But then you risk your life to save my second-in-command, an act worthy of some credit. How should I deal with the conflict you've put me in? Not to mention that the Cardassian government had declared that you acted against their orders and demand that you be handed over to them for disciplinary action."

"Against their orders?" Dukat laughed. "That attack was their price for my return to military leadership and restoring my name."

"Well, they're certainly not taking credit for your failure. You're a liability to them now." Sisko's tone changed from darkly accusing to indifferently curious. "Why did you stop them? The dominion and Cardassia would have been satisfied with Kira's death instead of mine, maybe even happier. She does have a tendency to make both of them angry."

"She does, doesn't she?" Dukat smile, "She has quite a temper." His face sobered, falling into a serious expression. "I couldn't let her die, no matter what I would have gotten out of it."

"Kira means that much to you? It's a little hard to believe that Gul Dukat -- tyrant of this sector -- gave up power for a Bajoran woman who has never given you any encouragement."

"She's worth it." The awe in Dukat's face shocked and comforted Sisko at the same time. Dukat's falling would make this decision easier, not that he'd let Dukat know that.

"Should I take that to mean your intentions towards my first officer are honorable?" Sisko put a light threat into his voice.

I'd like to at least have the opportunity to see what my intentions are, Captain. Knowing that was not the answer Sisko was looking for, Dukat said something equally heart-felt but more acceptable. "I will never hurt her again, if there is anything I can do to prevent it." His face stayed blank, a little afraid of Sisko's reaction. This man held Dukat's future in his hands. Sisko could send him away from Kira, that was a result Dukat hoped to avoid.

Sisko's expression stayed stern while he searched Dukat's face. "What happens if she doesn't share your feelings -- whatever they are?" The importance of this question could not be underestimated. Dukat's loyalty if Kira rejected him was vital knowledge. Sisko didn't want to deal with the wrath of the scorned on a galactic scale.

Dukat considered a life without Kira. He couldn't hurt her, couldn't fight against her anymore, couldn't play a part in her death. Whether she left him or not, he couldn't go back now.

"It doesn't matter whether she wants me or not, I cannot and will not fight in this war on any side that moves against hers. I won't be a part of anything that could hurt her, anything." Dukat paused, then looked Sisko straight in the eyes, "I would die for her."

"You nearly did." Sisko remarked, decided. He couldn't decide if he found this plunge into Dukat's soul touching or disturbing, but it didn't really matter. That was Kira's decision to make. "In that case we have a couple of options. If you want to maintain your ties to Cardassia, they can demand you be sent back. They don't seem happy with you so that probably isn't the best idea. You can defect, ask the federation for asylum and break all ties to Cardassia and the dominion. With your knowledge of war plans and defenses, you'll be useful to intelligence."

"Then I'll defect. Cardassia doesn't have anything I need anymore. It's all here. I can't go back. I wouldn't live through their displeasure, at least not long. Though they would enjoy the length of time I did survive, I wouldn't." Dukat winced as a twinge of pain struck his ribs. Smiling darkly he said, "Death would have been a relief when it finally came. I'll change sides -- I don't want to die right now. She's finally come close to me. I won't leave now." Disjointedly, Dukat tried to share his emotions with Sisko.

"Kira really means that much to you."

"She's everything, everything I've wanted and she's finally admitted she cares. I will not lose her now. I need her." Dukat's head popped up. Realizing that he didn't have any more pride to swallow for Sisko, he added, "You've seen her. How is she? Has she said anything?"

Sisko laughed. Dukat - calm and condescending through several wars, dozens of secret mission, the occupation of Bajor, and decades of death threats -- was thrown off-kilter by one woman, Kira Nerys. Sisko hadn't thought he'd have to be the go-between in a romantic relationship between these two. Standing with one over the dead body of the other seemed more likely.

"So, what do you want to know about Kira?"

***

"So, I've heard you've had an interesting week. Need to talk about anything?" Cassidy sat down next to a very emotional Kira.

"No, I don't want to talk about it. Did our dear captain send you to straighten out his officer?" The sarcasm dripping from Kira's voice matched the glare she shot at Cassidy.

"Would it make a difference? You should still talk. Everyone can see this thing with Dukat is affecting you."

"This thing with Dukat is certainly not affecting me." Yeah right, the man doesn't change anything in your life. He's just flipped your world upside down, that's all. It's nothing, really.

"Uh-huh, right. It's not Dukat then. A final victory over the dominion and Cardassia is what is throwing you off-balance. While the rest of the sector is celebrating the end of the war, you are sitting here in Quark's, drinking synthale alone."

"I'm celebrating with a drink. Perfectly normal." Celebrating! Try drowning your confusions - unsuccessfully

"Alone?" If looks could kill, Cassidy would be burned to a crisp by Kira's gaze. "Come on, Kira, it's better to talk about the things you're unsure of. I might be able to help."

Talk...unsurity...help. It sounded nice, but how could she tell her what was wrong? She was feeling things she shouldn't for a man she couldn't fall for. It was wrong, but it felt so right to have his arms around her, to hear him say her name. Crossing her arms against her stomach -- half in memory, half to look imposing, Kira lied, "There's nothing to talk about. I'm not unsure about anything."

The curve of Cassidy's eyebrow showed her disbelief. "Even Dukat? There's no confusion at all about him?" The eager to help tone and lack of humor in her voice almost broke Kira. Almost, but not quite.

"Dukat? Why would he have me confused. There's nothing to be confused about." Because I can't let anything happen with him. It was just temporary insanity. I'm not falling. Kira shook her head at the thought. If I can't even lie to myself, how am I going to get rid of her?

"So there's nothing between you two, no blooming romance?"

Does a makeout session count as blooming? Kira relentlessly crushed the thought and memory of his eyes and lips and hands caressing her. A small shudder, nearly suppressed, traced her spine. Cassidy, however, noticed.

"Romance! Are you nuts? There would never be anything romantic between him and me. How many horrible things has he done to me and Bajor?" Not that that matters anymore. He's different now.

"So is that the problem?"

"Is what the problem? What problem?" Kira snapped.

"Reconciling old history with new emotions. Is that why you're confused?"

Is it? Why do I feel so right in the arms of a tyrant? But is he still a tyrant? He almost died for me, but does that change who he was or who he is?

"There are no new emotions to reconcile. I told you, there's nothing between us. No blooming romance." Cassidy, fighting to keep the smile off her face, changed tactics.

"Then, that's probably for the best. It would make things awkward if you were one of the reasons why he's defecting to Starfleet."

"Defecting!?" The half exclamation, half question fell from unwilling lips, "From Cardassia? Why?"

"You'd have to ask him. He just told Ben that Cardassia didn't have anything he needed anymore, that is was all here. Just some food for thought." Cassidy, seeing that she'd gotten through to Kira, stood to leave. "Well, if you decide you need to talk, call me. We're all here if you need anything. Maybe more of us than you know." Kira barely registered the sound of Cassidy walking away.

He's defecting, maybe for me. He could be giving up everything...for me.. Suddenly her mood turned on itself. How could he do this to me! Making me his reason for defecting. I can't handle that kind of obligation and responsibility. What is he hoping to get out of defection? Me?! Her heart jumped against her ribs. Is he defecting to stay here... with me? For asylum on the station, near me, he's cutting all ties to Cardassia. He's been fighting for the Cardassian cause, to strengthen his people for so long. And he's giving up the fight...for me. Tears welled

up in her eyes and a smile trembled on her lips. Could he be any sweeter? Lord, there's got to be something wrong with me. I just called Dukat sweet. The irony forced her to laugh softly while still smiling and crying. I must be going crazy to let him affect me like this. Staring into her drink, she let the tears fall, unaware that Quark was watching her from across the bar with concern.

***

Odo sat at his desk watching Kira sip her raktajino and read the criminal activities report in her hand. He'd been worried about her. She hadn't been herself the last few days. In all the years he'd known Kira, he had never seen her so flustered. Dukat had really gotten under her skin, but Odo wondered when she'd admit it to anyone -- including herself and Dukat.

Poor Dukat. Odo laughed a little inside. He'd wanted Kira for a long time and now that he had gotten close to getting her, she got scared. No one did determination and denial better than Kira Nerys. Odo fully appreciated his best friend's strength of will and temper -- and Dukat obviously did as well. But now those traits could prevent something she needed -- Dukat in her life. Heaven knows why but the past few days had make the truth of that statement clear enough. The problem was how to make her admit that she needed him, admit that she cared about him and that he cared about her. How to make her see it.

"Should we be concerned about these muggings on the promenade? No one has identified the perp, but he seems to be getting more violent." Kira glanced up to see Odo staring at her strangely. "What?" When he continued to stare, she waved her hand in front of his eyes. "Odo? Are you still here?"

"Yes," he turned his eyes down. "Yes, I'm here."

"Are you okay? You seemed a little distracted for a minute."

"I'm fine, I was just thinking about you and Dukat." The concern dropped from her face as Kira pulled back, shocked. She looked away, eyes flicking around the room.

"I think we should get back to work. How do we catch this mugger?"

Odo leaned his elbows on the desk and focused his gaze on Kira's face. She refused to look at him, instead glancing at the datapad and the walls, fidgitting with her cup.

"I think you're trying to change the subject."

"Subject? What subject?" The anger in Kira's eyes could have ignited water, but Odo sat unaffected. "I don't remember any subject other than this criminal activities report we work on together every week. So how do we catch this mugger?" Every inch of Kira's body projected stubbornness, but Odo had dealt with her and her temper for years and was determined to make her talk.

"You're changing the subject. I'm talking about what's happening between you and Dukat."

"If we don't have station business to deal with, I have other work to do." She stood, walking towards the door a little too fast, panicked. Odo followed, rushing to beat her to the door.

"Kira!" Odo clamped a hand around Kira's wrist, jerking her back into his office. "Kira, I am your friend, your best friend, and I'm not letting you out of this office until you talk about it." He forcibly seated her in his chair, bracing his arms on the ends of the semi-circular desk. He had her trapped. "You can't hurt me and I'm just as stubborn as you are, so we are going to sit here calmly, as friends, and talk. Dukat has disturbed you, he got to you and now you're running from it. Why?"

She gritted her teeth, recognizing the facts. Odo would not give up. She'd have to talk sooner or later, the entire station seemed to be hunting for her. Temporarily beaten, she looked up at him. Seeing the closest thing to surrender he could get out of her, Odo moved to sit in the chair she had bolted from moments earlier.

"I'm listening, Kira, talk to me."

"I don't know what to say, Odo. It's all so completely irrational." Odo smiled slightly at the sight of Kira trapped behind his desk, clearly unhappy to be there.

"What's so confusing, Kira? You have feelings for Dukat, feelings you don't know how to deal with. I'm guessing you haven't talked to him about this, either."

"No, I haven't talked to Dukat. What would I say to him? 'Hi psychopath, I just found out I'm madly in love with you'. Um, no." She held herself stiffly in Odo's chair, unwilling as ever to give an emotional inch.

"Don't you think Dukat is just as confused as you are? How long ago did you leave him without a word of explanation?"

Kira crossed her arms against her chest. "Since early this morning," she said under her breath.

"Would it be safe to assume that whatever happened between you two scared you a little?"

"Yes, alright. It scared me a little. But that's over now."

"Is that why you left him that morning?"

"I don't know, Odo. It shouldn't feel so good, so right, to be with Dukat. Dukat, for goodness sake! Odo, I can't fall for Dukat. Think how long we've -- I've fought against him. He's attacked us dozens of times. How can I fall for the enemy?"

"Is he still your enemy? He risked himself to save your life. He defected from Cardassia so he wouldn't have to fight against you. Dukat clearly doesn't want to be your enemy anymore."

"Can I trust the change in him? He's been the enemy for so long."

"He's given up a lot for you: Cardassia, his name among his people, power, his military command, and almost his life. Do you want to trust the change? Loving someone is always a risk. Is what you feel for him worth the risk?" Odo searched her face for her answer when she finally lifted her head from her knees.

"I don't know, is it, Odo? Would you take the risk if you were me?"

"It doesn't matter if I would take the risk. The only thing that matters is the answer to this question: Do you want him? Do you want a relationship with him?"

Kira stood up from his chair and leaned toward Odo with an answer in her eyes. "Thank you, Odo. I think I know what to do." She gave him a short, quick hug and left the office before Odo could ask her exactly what it was she had decided.

***

Dammit, that had been embarrassing.

Dukat had no idea why he'd poured out his heart and soul to captain Sisko. Even madly in love, he wasn't prone to doing such things -- but then again, Kira was good at making him do thing he had never done before. Besides, there was always a chance that his honesty would help his case in the long run. Kira valued Sisko's good opinion highly. If Dukat had convinced the captain of his good intentions ...

Particularly since Kira herself seemed less convinced that they had something between them than ever before, a fact which he blamed the rest of the crew's infantile sense of humor. There was nothing funny about what they felt for one another -- nothing. And if he could just get her alone for a few minutes, he could make her see that.

"Well, I'm off to grab a bite to eat." Bashir appeared suddenly from whatever medical black hole he had been hiding in, and Dukat thanked the gods he no longer believed in that he hadn't been around during Sisko's interrogation. He might have had to kill him to keep him from laughing, and Dukat doubted Kira would appreciate it. "Do you want me to get you something, or is the thought of Kira enough to sustain you?"

Dukat just growled in response, a noise that once made subordinates fall all over themselves to obey. Bashir, however, just grinned. "Feeling a bit grumpy today, are we? Maybe I should send Kira over. I'm certain she'd make you feel better in no time." Another growl sent him out the door, laughing at his own brilliance.

A few moments later, footsteps returned. Since Dukat was no more pleased with Bashir now than when he left, he called out before he entered "What, Bashir? Have you decided that tormenting me is enough to sustain you?"

"Oh, more than enough, Dukat. You provide enough irony for ten men." Ah, so now it was Garak's turn to be the bearer of snide tidings.

Dukat knew he should have expected this. He and Garak had always felt animosity toward one another, and it seemed as though Ziyal had only pushed them farther apart. Yes, Garak would enjoy laughing at his situation.

"I know you feel the need to amuse yourself with me, Garak, but not right now." A vision of red hair suddenly swam in front of him, as it often had during the last few days. "I am planning."

"So I heard. You have decided you are in love with the Major. I am shocked she hasn't already accepted your offer of marriage yet."

Dukat had been unprepared for this avenue of attack, and therefore his response was a bit more hesitant than it might have been otherwise. "I ... haven't made that offer yet."

"But soon, right? You want to marry her quickly so you can carry her away somewhere."

That had been what Dukat was thinking, but he refused to give any ground. "Eventually ..."

Garak remained relentless, moving closer to the bed in his interrogation. "But that is your plan, correct?"

Pressed into a corner and unable to think of a lie that might not get him in trouble later with the woman he loved, Dukat nodded.

The smugness had just begun to appear in Garak's expression, though Dukat was distantly able to admire the fact that the tailor was doing a wonderful job of restraining it. Instead, Garak merely continued building up to something. "What are you planning on doing about the fact that the Major may not exactly be receptive to your plan. The entire station is aware of how upset she's been."

"That's only because this station is full of idiots. If I could just sit down and talk to her ..." He was stopped suddenly by a sharp rap up the side of his head and he realized with shock that it had been Garak that had hit him. His eyes narrowed in rage. "I should kill you for that."

"But you won't," Garak replied, unconcerned. "The Major wouldn't like it." For the first time during the visit, his mouth settled into something approximating a real smile. "And that's what's so amazing about this whole thing. You really do love her--It's not simply that your ego has convinced you that you should have her. You should be quite proud of this little spark of humanity you seem to have developed."

"And?" The man was obviously getting to a point. Maybe if Dukat would help him along to it, he would leave.

This time, it was Garak's turn to glare, but this time he pushed Dukat slightly instead of hitting him. How dare he manhandle him like that?

"You fool, you're not listening. You have a good thing in front of you, but if you continue to play high and mighty Gul, you'll lose it. The Major is not going to fall into your arms, no matter what you say. Her love must be nursed gently, like a child." Both minds unwillingly flashed to Ziyal. "You must be patient with the Major."

The sardonic grin suddenly reappeared. "Do you know what the word means, or should I go find a dictionary for you?"

"I'm fine, thanks." Dukat growled, but the tailor had given him something to think about. He was unwilling to lose Kira for any reason, even his pride. He looked over at Garak, eyes softening at the mere thought of her. "Really?"

Garak nodded. "Really." Then, satisfied he had made his point, he turned to go.

Suddenly suspicious, Dukat's voice stopped him at the door.

"Why are you helping me with this?"

Garak's smile was wicked. "Because, my dear Dukat, it would be horribly amusing to see you domesticated."

***

Sisko held a hand out to Dukat. "When Starfleet Intelligence is through with you, I think we can find you a place here."

Dammit, Dukat was moved. Love really did do terrible things to people. He held out his hand as well, however. "Thank you, Captain."

Suddenly, both men heard footsteps clanging along the walkway, and the redhead that had been haunting Dukat's thoughts for sometime appeared. "Dukat," she said simply, her voice seemingly emotionless.

"Nerys." Dukat's body was as stiff as his voice. He couldn't read her expression, and that scared him more than her anger would have.

"I'll leave the two of you alone." Sisko walked past Kira, turning for a moment. "Kira, I'll see you at the meeting tomorrow."

She managed an "uh-hmm," but Sisko would have expected the same response if he'd suggested a nude waltz around the promenade. Smiling, he left them, fully aware that Kira's eyes had never strayed from Dukat. This was going to be interesting, Sisko was almost sorry that he would miss it.

They were alone now, but then again, whenever Kira was nearby, the rest of the world seemed to vanish for Dukat anyway. "Nerys." The name came out more strangled the second time -- he knew he had said it before, but dammit, he was trying to be patient. Short of grabbing her, kissing her passionately and dragging her away with him, her name was about all he could manage. Self-restraint hung by a thread as he stepped toward her, watching to see if she'd run.

Kira watched him walk closer, torn between the urge to run into his arms or hide from what she was feeling. Silently, she waited, spine straight and shoulders square. Finally the silence became too much. "I heard you were leaving."

"Not for long, I'll be coming back." He stepped closer and lifted a hand to her, begging her to understand that he wasn't leaving her. That he wasn't running away from this thing between them. Damn patience! Dukat pulled Kira into his arms and tilted her face to his. "I'm coming back, and you'd better be here when I do." He ran the backs of his fingers down her cheek.

She pulled away, but only slightly. "I'll be here. But that doesn't mean ..."

Dukat cut her off with a smile that transformed his entire face. She'd be here. Still, he couldn't help but push. "For me?"

Kira's jaw clenched, but her eyes softened at the look on his face, and her tongue suddenly took on a life of its own. "For you."

To whatever underworld he would eventually go to for patience. From her, that was practically an admission of love. Unable to contain himself any longer, he caught her under the chin and pulled her lips to his. One hand buried itself in her hair, the other pulled her as close to him as possible, absorbing her into his soul until he could be with her again.

As Kira kissed him back with equal fervor (nobody could be expected to remain stalwart under an attack like this) the little voice in the back of her mind was almost silenced.

Except for one little comment. Wow.