Siana was frustrated. She had missed a call from Cardassia Prime while working overtime in the lab. There was a video recording of her son Jivan wishing her happy birthday, waving and blowing kisses. He looked so handsome in his school uniform! She had been allowed to spend several days with him so she could see him off on his first day in a formal classroom away from home for any significant period of time. He clutched her hand so tightly, but when it was time for her to leave him and return to work off planet, she was the one that had a harder time letting go.

Kilana and Jivan's Cardassian grandparents had been very generous. She was allowed to visit him several times a year for several days at a time. Around his birthday, she was granted an entire week. Mother and son exchanged frequent transmission and she sent him many gifts. He was already five years old and Siana felt she had missed so much. She wished she could kiss him goodnight every day and not as some special treat dangled over her to motivate her to work harder!

Siana's anxiety was becoming unbearable. She was worried her sons' enthusiasm at seeing his mother was a show. What if his tears when he said farewell were feigned? What if he really felt she was nothing but a stranger? She was always loving and affectionate when she was with him, but was that really the Cardassian way? She had never been scolded by his grandparents or by Melset, Jivan's aunt. She knew their species loved their children greatly, but that love was supposed to be tempered with composure and discipline. Children needed to learn quickly how to be strong and independent.

Maybe its better his grandparents are rearing him and I am distant, she thought. I would spoil him and do everything wrong! I would lose my temper and shout at him, or worse, I would cry! I would embarrass myself and the entire family! But I miss my baby so much…

She swallowed some anti-anxiety meds and gulped down lavender tea, trying to shake off her doubt and depression. A new member was joining their staff today and she needed to welcome them. It was a chance to impress Kilana. She didn't know what exactly was supposed to satisfy the Vorta's conditions, but she strived to outperform whenever in her presence.

"Siana, our guest has arrived," she heard Kilana's voice at the door.

"I'm ready!"

As always, Jasper and Jack were on either side of the Vorta woman. Kilana smiled fondly at her.

"Siana, there is no need to wear something so professional looking! This new member is a Bajoran and a Vedek. It's customary to invite their sort to a more informal dinner, isn't it?"

"That depends. Which Vedek of the assembly is it?"

"Oh, I believe it was something like Vedek Laars."

Siana frowned, "Then you are probably right. I've heard that man is incredibly liberal."

"Oh, good!" Kilana exclaimed. "I prefer them that way. They are far less boring!"

"I personally like them boring and predictable. I can daydream while they preach. The liberal ones are more sneaky. They engage you enough in secular conversation that you fall into their traps. They end up wasting more of your time and then they feel smug about how clever and fun they were!"

"Change and let's go! No more complaining, Siana!"

She groaned and stepped into her bedroom. She put on a blue cocktail dress and followed Kilana to the terminal. The Vedek was dressed in robes that barely contained his belly. He had chubby cheeks, short legs, a round and shiny bald head, and a jolly smile to complete the package. He was also a hugger and soft and squishy. He moved to hug the Jem'Hadar, but Jasper and Jack glared.

"Which one of you is Siana and which is Kilana?" he asked, turning away from the soldiers but keeping his smile.

"I am Dr. Siana," she introduced herself, shaking his hand professionally instead of going for another hug.

"I'm Kilana!" the Vorta woman kissed his cheek, smearing her lipstick a little on his skin.

"I'm very happy to meet you ladies! What's for supper?"

They invited him to Kilana's quarters and dined on Bajoran cuisine. Laars insisted that they toast with spring wine. Siana hesitated.

"What's the matter with her?" he looked insulted. "Should I replicate kanar instead? Cardassians despise Bajoran vintage that much?"

Siana shot him a dark glance and Kilana explained quickly, "She was an addict, Vedek. She avoids all alcohol."

"Oh!" he immediately looked bashful. "In that case, I apologize for my words! I was out of line! Please forgive me, Siana?"

"I am not," Siana drank the wine in a single gulp, "a Cardassian!"

The Vedek looked more relieved the more she drank. She found herself relaxing and even laughing as the mood and conversation lightened. Kilana stared at Siana most of the meal, hiding great concern behind her Vorta smile.

When Siana returned to her quarters, she replicated another drink. Why not? Spring wine was very mild and she didn't feel drunk at all.