The next morning was quite chilly and breezy, so when Aura returned from another dull breakfast seasoned with sneers from the servants, she looked around in her own kitchen. If it was stocked, or at least had a replicator, she wouldn't have to walk over there for their mutual annoyance when Vreenak wasn't home.

She walked into the kitchen and found the cooking area, utensils, pots, pans, cups and bowls. Now where was all the food? On one side of the kitchen there were two very large cabinet doors. That must be the pantry, she thought. But when she opened them, it turned out to be the fridge and freezer, which were empty. Hmmm. There was another set of double doors on the opposite side, so she checked it out.

Bingo! A huge walk-in pantry, and the shelves were filled with all sorts of non-perishable items. She also found a replicator in there, but from what the Senator told her a couple days ago she imagined the Romulans probably only used it in a pinch or for disposing of rubbish. No matter. Cooking the old fashioned way would be fun and keep her mind off her absent beau. Not that she missed him, he'd only been gone for a few hours.

She looked over the various items on the shelf. It was so orderly and inviting! It was practically asking her to cook something, but first she'd have to figure out what everything was.

Since she just ate, she decided to start Romulan Lesson II, then come back and translate some of the labels for practice.

Lesson II: Personal Pronouns. I – arhem. We – mnean. You – hwi. He – dii. She – rii. It – aei. They – lloan. . .

It wasn't long before she finished the second lesson, and the third. True, she was just beginning, but she had a knack for languages. She learned Italian in grade school picked up a little of the other Romance languages through her musical career. But those were all similar and comparatively easy. Romulan was totally alien, with an entirely different alphabet and syntax. It was going to take a lot more practice, but she'd show him. She'd figure it all out on her own. It's not like she had much else to do anyway.

Then she got an idea. She could only remember the first few syllables from what he said last night, but it was a start. "Computer, translate: Ar-im-sim-on-ay."

Exact match not found. Closest result: Arhem simhoni – I wait (for), I am waiting (for), I look forward (to).

Aha! The first piece of the puzzle. She couldn't remember the rest, but maybe if she asked the computer to translate some likely words they'd sound familiar. What else would a Romulan say to the woman he loves? "Computer, translate love." Love – (n) heis'he, (v) –jol.

"I love you." Jol-ao au. No, he didn't say that. "My love." E'lev.

"Darling." A'rhea. "My heart." Arh'caevra. "Your heart." Hw'caevra. Hmmm. She wasn't sure. What else?

"Beautiful." Ouye. "Dream." Isha. "Stars." Saeihr. "Moonlight." Ih'fvuras liorae. "Sleep well." Ehhai saithaes. She tried several more words, but none of them sounded familiar….

"Goodnight." Jolan tru (more closely translates as 'good day'). Yes, she was sure she'd heard that a few times before. So he was probably saying something like, "I look forward to seeing you tomorrow. Goodnight," with a few flourishes.

Ding! She got another idea: she'd hide the tablet in her pocket and have it record what he said next time. She did her best imitation of an evil laugh and said, "Just you wait, Merken Vreenak. You may be a lot older and wiser, but I'm much brighter than you think I am." Gosh, that sounded sneaky. Maybe she was picking up more than just the language.

Later that afternoon, she caught herself repeatedly glancing out the window toward the main house. She sighed. "I guess I'm just bored." She decided to put on some music. After setting up a play list she went back to the pantry and started deciphering the food labels, which proved to be rather fun.

She started with several jars of what looked like jam. There was a green one, an orange one, and a dark blue one. The blue one's label said Olso Lheit Aitia (olso fruit preserves). Oh good! It was jam afterall! She opened it and took a small taste. Whoa, it was strong. Tarter than a lemon. It seemed everything blue had a strong flavor, like that drink, cauliflower or whatever he called it. There was a whole shelf full of it across from her. "Kali-fal, that was it!"

A few hours later she decided to take a break from deciphering and go outside, bringing the tablet with her since it was still playing. She strolled down the paths at a leisurely pace, humming along with her favorite tunes and enjoying the scenery. When The Blue Danube came on her walk turned into a waltz, until she remembered that was the piece she had played at the concert, the first time she noticed him watching her… There she was, thinking about him again.

"Well, I am living on his property, so of course everything will remind me of him," she reasoned.

After dinner that evening, she gave the housekeeper a list of items that she wanted for her refrigerator. D'Tair gave her the customary sour look and asked why she wanted them. "Because I want to try some recipes."

The housekeeper eyed her suspiciously. "Were the meals not to your liking?"

"Oh no! They were perfectly delicious. I just like to do a little cooking now and then and it's been a little chilly outside lately, so when your master's gone I'd rather stay in and cook for myself. Hey, why don't you all take a few days off or something?"

Everyone dropped what they were doing and stared at her as though she'd grown a second head. But they sure as heck didn't argue, and after "Vreenak's woman" left they mused about her peculiar behavior for the rest of the night.


Meanwhile, at the Hall of State, Praetor Neral and the Romulan Senators were once again debating whether or not they should get involved in the war. Today's discussion was prompted by a report that the Federation alliance had lost yet another system: Benzar.

As the day wore on and every possible argument had been explored, it all boiled down to one thing: the bomb. It was an act of war, but who was responsible for it?

"The device appeared to be of Dominion origin," said Senator N'Var. "Isn't it most probable that someone on Soukara had planted it?"

"Yes, but we all know better than to rely on appearances alone," said Tal'aura.

"Is it possible that Captain Sisko was responsible?" ventured an aged senator.

"Yes. After all, he did somehow manage to obtain a genuine Cardassian data rod, and a Dominion-style explosive device would be far less difficult to come by," said Letant. Several others nodded in agreement.

"No," said Vreenak. "Sisko may be a liar, and a terrible one at that, but he doesn't have the guts to pull something that sinister. I studied the Captain very carefully when I was there. It was a struggle for him just to present the forgery, and that was only after he exhausted every other legitimate argument."

"I might also add that our investigators have found no evidence related to the bomb on Deep Space Nine," said Chairman Koval, who was also present. "As much as I dislike the Federation, the facts in this case would seem to rule them out."

"But why would the Dominion want Vreenak dead?" asked Tal'aura. "He's been their strongest proponent up until recently."

"And why bother with a non-agression treaty just to turn around and provoke us into attacking?" asked Pro Counsel Telak.

"They've already shown little respect for our borders," said Cretak. "They cut through our territory on a regular basis. It is a very real possibility that the Dominion will turn on us after they've conquered everyone else."

"I must admit that I too have become rather disenchanted with the Dominion since the bombing incident," said Vreenak, "but I would not go so far as to support an alliance with the Federation at this point."

"One thing is clear," said Letant. "More than one power is trying to pull us into the war, which is precisely why we should not get involved – yet." The majority of the Senate agreed and voted accordingly.

"Very well," said Praetor Neral. "Until we have more definitive proof, we will remain neutral. But Senator Cretak makes a good point: the Dominion's habit of cutting through Romulan territory shows contempt for our sovereignty, and will no longer be tolerated. Senator Vreenak, you will advise Weyoun of this decision immediately."


"Senator Vreenak!" said the ever cheerful Weyoun with his signature smile. "I didn't expect to hear from you so soon."

Or ever again, thought Vreenak, hiding his revulsion behind a smirk of his own.

"How are you doing?" asked the Vorta leader.

"Surviving," he ventured. If Weyoun understood the implication in that answer he didn't show it.

"Yes, the demands of state can be quite taxing, at times, can't they?" said Weyoun, shaking his head in a show of sympathy.

"Weyoun, the Senate has asked me to inform you that it has noticed the Dominion's frequent incursions through our territory and will no longer look kindly upon them."

Weyoun blinked and hesitated. "My dear Senator, I thought we had an agreement… Are you saying that our governments are no longer on friendly terms?"

"I'm saying that our friendship now depends on your respect for our borders, and any further shortcuts will be considered an intrusion and an affront. Do we understand one another?"

Weyoun narrowed his eyes, perceptibly annoyed by what he'd just heard. "Clearly."

"Good. Now if you'll excuse me, I must get back to other 'demands of state.'"


A reader and I were chatting about character theme songs the other day, and I decided that Senator Vreenak's theme is Every Breath You Take by the Police. We about died laughing later on when we realized that this song has a lot of lyrics that rhyme with "fake".