Jivan had not been to the station of Deep Space Nine since he was twelve years old, tagging along with his mother and his cousins and their parents. He was a man of twenty-five years now and traveled alone. His uniform was a standard Cardassian black jumpsuit and yet it was made out of nylon fabric material and was not the heavy padded uniform of a soldier. Jivan Damar had decided to pursue the path of a politician rather than a military path like his father Corat Damar.
He closed and opened his gloved fist as he waited for the security officer to check him in.
"Well, look who it is!" he heard a gruff voice say.
He looked up and exclaimed, "Kira Pohl?"
"Aye. No doubt my mother is expecting you. Did you inform everyone but me that you were coming?"
"I asked the Commander of the station to keep my arrival secret so it would be a surprise," Jivan replied. "I thought one of the lesser security officers would greet me. You look good, Pohl!"
The eldest of the Kira children glared at him from the security window. He was a couple years younger than Jivan and had inherited his father's stern expression and much of his looks. He would be handsome if not for that scowl. Jivan felt less than welcome.
"I prefer you call me-"
"Chief is fine. My father goes by that title."
"Will I get to see Kira Odo?"
"Later, perhaps. My sister is going to be quite excitable when she learns you are here."
"And where are the rest of the Kira and O'Brien clans?"
"Damar, I am going to process you first. Then I will escort you to your quarters. After all that, you may snoop around searching for friends and acquaintances. I hope you came here on important business and not simply for social interaction?"
"Of course, Chief!"
"Then place your palm upon this scanner so that I can get prints and answer my security questions."
Jivan peeled off his black glove from his dominant hand and pressed it to the scanner. Another officer was waving a device over his luggage. There were Jem'Hadar guarding the doors but he didn't recognize them. They were not of Que'la's brood. Pohl was very thorough and by the books.
When Jivan was finished going through the protocol, Pohl escorted him to the nearest elevator and to the more luxurious quarters on the station. Jivan's status as an ambassador was not yet confirmed but he was known on both Bajor and Cardassia. His family name preceded him.
"So where do you and Molly sleep?" he tried to make friendly conversation again.
"I don't give out that information."
"You have gotten grumpier with age, you know that?"
Pohl was not amused at the playful jab.
"So where are your siblings? I'd love to see Iliana as soon as possible."
"I'm sure you would!" Pohl's scowl deepened.
"Would you like to take a moment from your duties and have a drink with me?"
Jivan hadn't expected such a quick rejection, "Why not after your shift is over, then? Extend the invitation to the rest of the Kira clan!"
"I will pass it along."
"I will see you later, then?"
Security Chief Pohl left him to unpack. Sure enough, within a few minutes, there was a buzz at his door. He called for the visitor to step inside and both Kira Nerys and Kira Iliana greeted him eagerly. They were warm where Pohl had been chilly. Iliana threw her arms around him in a hug and Nerys had a gift for him.
"Why didn't you tell me you were coming?" Iliana slapped his shoulder immediately after the hug.
"I wanted to surprise you! Thanks for not spoiling it, Commander."
"You're welcome, Damar."
"Call me Jivan."
He noticed Iliana wore the uniform of a graduate of the Bajoran Academy. She had swept her red hair into a braid. She had graduated an officer and was allowed more liberal hair styles. She had her father's blue eyes and was twenty years old. Her mother wore Vedek robes. He wanted to throw his arms around Iliana and might have if Kira Nerys wasn't standing there. He was glad he was curtailing his impulse. If fate was kind he would have plenty of time on the station.
Jivan wrestled mentally with himself for a long time trying to decide if he should dress casually or dress to impress. He was going to be dining alone with Iliana. For the first time in all the years they had known each other, he was going to be semi-alone with her. They had spoken at length but over light years.
He had been on the station for over a week with the Kiras and the O'Briens but Iliana always had a relative or coworker at her side. Her brother Pohl liked to glower at him. Odo had shaken his hand. Taban, Yoshi, and Molly had joined him for drinks. He still hadn't told them about the lingering decision being made about his own future.
If he wore casual clothing he would put Iliana at ease but if he was too casual she might be insulted. If he wore something flashy he might distract her or repulse her. He gulped when he wondered what she might wear. A uniform would be her most likely choice but what if she wore a dress like that beautiful thing she had worn at her parents' wedding? He might not be able to function properly.
He finally settled on something between casual and professional dress. When he met Iliana at the replimat she was wearing an athletic outfit he had never seen before.
"These are my clothes for sparring in martial arts," she explained. "I just came from the holosuites."
"You still spar, eh?"
"Mostly with holograms, but I do."
"Maybe I could partner with you?"
She cracked a smile, "A real opponent would be a nice change."
He was relieved that she hadn't misinterpreted what he said. Some Bajorans at the nearest table had given him a sharp glance when he mentioned the word 'partner'. Iliana knew exactly what he had meant. She chewed her food, unfazed.
"Too bad my uncle doesn't run the tailor shop here anymore. He could make me a similar outfit."
"That would take him time and the computer simulates clothing just fine."
"Don't you spar with any of the Bajorans you attended the Bajoran Academy with?"
"Not in martial arts. Only Kirayoshi is familiar with the style."
"We can change that."
"Call me sensei, young grasshopper!"
"It means 'Master' in Japanese."
"Are you fluent in Earth languages?"
"Oh, no! I simply know the terms Yoshi and Molly have taught me. Learning Cardassian was hard enough and there are too many Earth languages to count!"
"Do you really speak Cardassian? You never told me that before!"
"I didn't want to embarrass myself and our conversations became far less frequent the last few years. I'm not complaining. It was bound to happen. We were both so busy."
He nodded at that and left unsaid that he had missed their exchanges more than she knew. She switched from Bajoran to Cardassian effortlessly.
"Learning the language was one of my elective options at the Academy."
"You are nailing it!" he smiled broadly and happily switched to his native tongue.
"Just like with the martial arts, I can only practice in the holosuites."
"Don't you get many of my people on the station?"
"Odd. I heard there's been Cardassian converts."
"The Vedek Assembly is still wary of Cardassians," she explained. "Vedek Navri in particular is often at odds with my mother about it. Returning our Orbs and artifacts was a step in the right directions, but still…"
Jivan had no combat training, believe it or not. He recalled trying sumo wrestling when they were all children and brought up the memory.
"I beat you that match, didn't I?" she tried to jog her memory.
"I think you did. You also threatened to slug Milo."
"How is Weyoun Jr?" she smirked.
"He hasn't found his way here to harass you?"
"Why would he do something like that?" she was confused.
"He had a terrible crush on you at the time."
Iliana waved a hand dismissively, "Oh, Jivan, that was so many years ago! We were kids! No boy maintains a little crush so long!"
Jivan's smile waned a bit, "I suppose that would be silly. Milo has become an artist."
"Isn't that something his father always wished he could be?"
"So I've heard. Since Milo was born and not cloned he can see plenty of colors on the spectrum."
"Then I'm happy for that ornery Vorta pup! What about Willow his sister?"
"She's an opera singer and a glamorous one at that."
"Wow! And how is your sister Zera?"
"She is attending school presently to become a teacher just like her father."
"You must be a proud big brother!"
"Of course I am."
Even though they were conversing amicably, to the Bajorans within earshot unfamiliar with Cardassian, the language sounded harsh, combative and downright abrasive to their senses. Jivan and Iliana paid them no mind. They were distracted with each other and resumed eating and talking. They eventually arranged a session in the holosuites.
After leaving the replimat, Jivan soon realized that several Bajoran men were following him. They were the same men that had been casting less than friendly looks while he chatted with Iliana. He realized he needed to flag down a security officer when they followed him down several floors, not bothering to be conspicuous.
It was too late. The men acted quickly, closing the distance and surrounding him like a pack. He did his best to remain calm neither showing alarm nor hostility. He counted eight of them. Cardassians were stronger than Bajorns but they outnumbered him. He instinctively tried to be diplomatic.
"May I help you?" he did his best to copy his Uncle Garak's smile.
"What are your intentions here, spoon head?"
The use of a racial slur was not encouraging.
"I am actually hoping to become the official ambassador to Bajor," he told them. "I want to improve the relations between our people."
The young men sniggered and were not swayed, "You should have stayed on your home planet. Stay away from Kira."
"I have no intention to pursue the Commander!" Jivan said with a touch of humor. "Plus she is taken and Constable Odo would throw me off the station."
"Don't play games! You know we were talking about their daughter Kira Iliana!"
Jivan's smile was gone in a flash and he couldn't help but get defensive, "Iliana is my friend!"
"Looked to us like you were cozying up to her."
"This is a misunderstanding," Jivan fought to keep anger out of his voice.
"You Cardassians just can't keep away from our women, can you?" his opponent accused. "Occupation or no Occupation, you feel entitled to help yourself, don't you?"
"I had nothing to do with it."
Jivan knew as soon as the words poured from his lips he was making a terrible mistake. No matter what he said, it would do more harm than good. He might have had nothing to do with the Occupation, just as he said. He had been born after it ended and closer to the Great Defeat. But he was a Cardassian and that was all the provocation these Bajorans needed.
They looked no older than him and had probably never been victimized by his people. No doubt their parents and grandparents would have told them all about their suffering, though. Sometimes the thirst for vengeance trickled down several generations or could never be sated. Racism and xenophobia would probably never truly be stamped out of the galaxy much as peace makers and ambassadors tried. His celebrity status was nothing but infamy on Bajor.
He suddenly despaired that he stood no chance of actually becoming ambassador to Bajor after all. The present moment was a rude awakening.
Blows came at him from all sides. Even with enormous pain tolerance, his race wasn't immune to hurt and injury. He made a split decision not to fight back. It went against his instinct. Cardassians were proud, unbent, and boasted they could never be broken. Well, he decided, his pride wouldn't be broken despite a bloodied and broken body. He sure hoped these men would feel somewhat satisfied once they were through with him.
No more than minute passed before a yell of righteous rage came from a young woman's throat. His heart surged at the sound.
"What the hell are you doing to my friend?" Iliana shouted.
"Friend?" only one of them stopped beating him to shout back at her. "What are you thinking? He's a Cardassian! We're trying to defend your honor! Can't you see a Cardassian man could never want anything more than sex from you?"
Her mouth dropped open in pure shock at that. Then she heard Jivan cry out in pain and her expression twisted into rage again. She slugged the nearest Bajoran so hard he fell to his knees nursing a bleeding nose. She used combat moves she had been taught at the Bajoran Academy and not the flashy but impractical martial arts she learned simply for fun on another. These young men were no soldiers, only bigoted civilians.
The others realized that Iliana had struck their friends and stopped attacking Jivan. He was coughing because one of them had managed to kick him so savagely in the ribs with a spurred boot he was actually having trouble breathing and no doubt would have countless bruises on his mix of skin and scales later.
"What's wrong with you, girl?" they turned to encircle her. "We're doing you a service! Why aren't you grateful? Why would you defend him?"
"Do you have any idea who he is?" she snarled.
"We don't care!"
"His father was Legate Damar! He's only the man that fought beside my mother and father in the Dominion War and helped SAVE ALL OUR LIVES!"
"Also the man that served Gul Dukat and murdered Tora Ziyal!"
"Do you know what Ziyal was?"
"Half Bajoran," they realized they were putting their foot in their mouths but were committed to their stance.
"And half Cardassian, you idiots!" Iliana roared. "My mother has every right to hate Cardassians but she doesn't! She named me after a Cardassian woman! How dense could you possibly be? I don't need you to defend my honor! Just because I'm a woman doesn't mean I can't defend myself! Get away from Jivan!"
She attacked again and had tapped her com badge so her brother and father had no doubt heard the entire exchange. Jivan was writhing in pain but still managed to grab the ankle of one of the Bajoran boys so he stumbled and couldn't pincer attack Iliana. She had incapacitated two but that still left five to deal with. In holoprograms, the super heroes could take on multiple enemies. In reality, anything more than one on one was dangerous and ill advised. No one was carrying weapons but there was still plenty of muscle, bone, and tooth and nail to go around.
The commotion alerted witnesses that stepped out of their quarters or work stations. A Jem'Hadar female with a spear charged into the Bajoran men. At the sight of her bone white scales they scattered. They didn't get far. Odo the Changeling and his security team had blocked all the doors leading off the floor and Jivan still stubbornly clutched his last attacker's ankle.
Iliana glared down at the Bajoran man and whispered, "Just so you know, I happen to like Cardassian men!"
She grabbed Jivan by the chin and kissed his lips. He was so shocked he almost forgot his pain. The Bajoran boy let out a cry of outrage, the witnesses gasped, and Odo and Pohl happened to be standing nearby.
Iliana glanced around, ready to fight some more, "What?"
"Iliana…" Pohl shook his head.
She realized her family members had witnessed the kiss and looked bashful. Odo sighed and turned to his deputy.
"Arrest the man there. We need a stretcher so we can get young Damar to Dr. Bashir-"
"Not now, Iliana. Later."
Dr. Bashir let Jivan know that the kick to his ribs had nearly ruptured his liver but he was going to make a full recovery in no time. Odo sent his deputy to get his full report of the assault. No doubt he was getting Iliana's account separately. He was assured that the Bojaran men were going to be prosecuted.
"Don't do that!"
"You mean you don't want to press charges?" Deputy Talpet was surprised.
"You don't understand that this could damage my chances."
"Your chances of what?" Kira Nerys entered the hospital room.
"Nerys!" Dr. Bashir scolded. "I can't have so many visitors at once!"
"You have all the information you need for now, don't you?" she turned to the deputy.
"Aye, Commander," he left the room.
Jivan mouthed at Julian, "Give me something?"
The doctor shook his head firmly at him.
"Answer my question, Jivan," Kira said gently.
"I came here hoping I would be announced the official ambassador to Bajor," he confessed to the Vedek and leader of the station. "If it gets out that I was attacked-"
"You were attacked without justifiable cause. If anything, this will help you," she reassured him. "You never laid a hand on those men except to help defend my daughter."
"Are you in pain?"
"I gave him pain medication, of course!" Julian butted in.
"I asked Jivan, thank you!" Kira said with mild annoyance.
"Cardassians don't like to show pain even if they feel it."
"I'm more embarrassed than hurt, trust me."
"I'm not surprised you were attacked. Odo will gloat that he was right all along to advise a personal guard for you."
"I wouldn't have accepted it," Jivan insisted. "I don't want this to cause a diplomatic incident!"
"I get it. What happens on this station stays on this station."
"That said, your attackers will be punished in some creative way. I'll leave that to my husband," Kira grinned.
"Maybe something humiliating so they won't repeat the infraction when they get back to Bajor?" Jivan suggested.
"By the way," Kira's tone changed slightly. "I heard that my daughter kissed you."
"I remember all those years ago on the station when your mother Siana and I caught the two of you pressing palms together."
Jivan wanted to cover himself entirely with the biobed's blanket. Dr. Julian Bashir couldn't help but look embarrassed for him in the corner of the room.
"I don't know what's going on between you and my daughter," Kira began in a very calm and collected voice. "I would have you know that if there was a romantic connection, I would not be unhappy and neither would Odo be."
Jivan let out an audible sigh of relief and Kira smiled. She squeezed his shoulder and he winced. There was internal bleeding under there. She smiled wider and her eyes glinted with a little mischief.
He wasn't alone for long. Iliana was escorted to the medical chambers. Jivan could hear her arguing with Bashir that she didn't need her wrists looked at.
"Iliana, your entire hand is tender to the touch! It's going to bruise!" Julian fussed.
"That's kind of inevitable with close quarters combat," she said sarcastically. "The person throwing the punches can injure themselves. I'm a soldier. I'll deal with it."
"That line is very tiresome, you know! Do you have any idea how many soldiers I have treated? Take your medicine!"
Jivan pretended to be asleep when Iliana was placed nearby. It was a cowardly move, but his mind was racing with so much pain and mixed emotions. He wanted her to get her treatment and confront her later. But Iliana wouldn't have it. She clutched the same shoulder her mother had and shook him a bit.
"Jivan, are you alright?"
He opened and eye and forced a smile, "The treacherous snake is just trying to sleep."
"I'm still angry that the security team and Katana intervened so quickly. I wanted to tear those men to shreds for you!"
"Iliana, you didn't have to do that."
"Of course I did! They hurt you!"
"They hurt me. And then you kissed me."
She caught his gaze and became silent.
"Why did you do that, Iliana? Did you do it just to piss off the Bajorans more?"
"I don't want to talk about it right now, Jivan."
"I need to know so don't walk away!"
Iliana couldn't look at him and said in one quick breath, "I've always had feelings for you, Jivan. I thought it was just a girlish crush that would fade. I've dated plenty of Bajoran boys at the Academy. The feeling was never the same and what I had for you kept getting stronger even though we'd ever met in person. We talked enough over the years I felt comfortable with you."
Jivan's heart was fluttering and the monitors showed it. Bashir only glanced at it for a second and paid it no mind. He knew what was going on.
"I'm sorry I kissed you," Iliana continued. "I shouldn't have done it. I did do it partially to piss that block head off."
"Iliana, I'm glad you did it. I just needed to know you actually wanted to do it for yourself."
"Really?" she looked at him again. "Do you mean-"
"I've felt the same way about you for a long time. I tried to date Cardassian girls like my mother insisted. I never made the connection with them I had with you."
They smiled at each other for a few moments and then Iliana raised a hand. Jivan pressed his own to hers. Julian sighed to himself with relief. They heard his breath and glared at him.
"Don't tell my uncle about this before I can!" Jivan snapped at him.
"Believe me, I wish I could leave the room, but I had to monitor you. Cardassians don't respond well to pain medication. I can't risk you breaking out into hives or having some other allergic reaction the moment I leave the room!" he snapped back.
"Iliana, I'm hoping to become the ambassador to Bajor. If that happens, I will likely take up permanent residence here," Jivan told her.
"I don't see why you wouldn't be granted that occupation," Bashir shrugged. "With your family name and your uncle pulling strings for you?"
"My uncle Garak wouldn't do something shady like that!" Jivan insisted.
Doctor Julian Bashir simply smiled in response to that.
"The Prophets probably had a hand in this," Iliana said.
"Are we going to have to fight Pohl on this sort of thing?"
"He's aloof and over protective but no racist. What about your family? Would they accept our relationship?"
"They will. My mother is mixed, you know that, and the Damar family has Kelani mingled within us. Its our genes demanding we replenish that Bajoran heritage."
"Genes or divine intervention. None of it matters. I want to court you, Jivan. Do you accept?"
He snickered, "I was supposed to ask that!"
"Is the answer a yes or no, then?"
"Wholeheartedly , yes."