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Chapter Notes: “The Reality of The Other Person Lies Not In What He Reveals To You, But What He Cannot Reveal To You.
Therefore, If You Would Understand Him, Listen Not To What He Says, But Rather To What He Does Not Say.”
-Khalil Gibran, "Sand and Foam"

The sand was burning hot beneath her brown feet as she raced down the dunes to the water’s edge. Akkad danced in the shallows among the reeds as the sun striped her skin with long shadows. Little silver fish copied her rhythm and swam alongside her as she waded deeper, the water up to her knees and the skirt of her clean white dress floating in the tide. Birds flew overhead singing their hymn to the rising sun as the woman greeted them with her carefree smile. She paused for a moment to absorb the full glory of the river that was sacred in her heart and the cradle of her childhood.

“Who are you?” A voice came from beneath the leaves. Akkad turned around and saw a scaly blue-green head rise from the shallows, a ridged back and winding tail trailed behind the crocodile as she floated nearer. All went quiet. There was no sound but the quiet churning of water beneath the beast’s tail. Akkad froze in terror; she was only a few feet from those menacing jaws built to crush bone.

As she opened her mouth to scream, Akkad’s eyelids fluttered open and she sat bolt upright from underneath the sheets.

These were not her quarters. It was too hot, too humid, and much too dark. Beads of sweat rolled down Akkad’s back and she gasped for breath. As she reoriented herself, she noticed the rattling breaths coming from beside her. Someone else was in bed with her. There was only the faint blue-green glow of the emergency lights to see by as Akkad reached out a hand and felt the sleeve of his soft nightclothes and the hardened flesh beneath.

Garak.

He must have been a light sleeper as his eyes drifted open at her touch. Akkad leaned down on her side propped up on an elbow. The pair regarded each other without speaking. Akkad had another chance to appreciate the bizarre series of events that had brought them to this moment, while the memory of her dreams faded into the background.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to do that. It’s stupid but I just woke up and forgot where I was again.” Akkad whispered at last. Garak reached a hand out to cup her face and run his thumb over her cheek.

“A plausible theory.” He smiled at her through his drowsy haze. “But have you considered the possibility that you’re still dreaming?”

“Then I must have a very limited imagination.” Akkad chuckled as she lowered her head back down to the pillow. His eyes followed her without blinking as his fingers trailed over her neck down to her shoulder.
“Still, if I had dreamed this, I’m not sure I’d ever want to wake up again.”

Akkad closed her eyes and felt the ghost of a touch settle on the back of her hand. She turned her palm upward and interwove her fingers with his. After a brief silence, she gripped tighter and snickered into the dark.

“Is that amusing, doctor?” Akkad opened her eyes again and met his curious gaze.

“No, no, it’s not about that at all, it isn’t important.”

“What?” Garak shifted closer and pulled her into his chest.

“It’s not worth explaining.”

“My dear, we have all night. Explain away.” Garak bent his neck down so his nose was buried in her raven curls.

“I just remembered something. It’s kind of ironic I guess, but well, it’s just that the last time I remember feeling the way I do now…” Akkad paused as butterflies took flight in her stomach, “Was the time I almost lost you.” She tried her best to keep her voice flat as the last few words left her. It seemed inappropriate to start gushing over her bedfellow when the two had only just begun the process of collapsing the barriers of polite discretion that had kept them at arms-length apart for years. There was no way possible however to make the raw emotion of her memories undetectable, especially not with the hyper-perceptive individual beside her.

“I remember, while I was lying there delirious in the infirmary, I saw something in your eyes I had never noticed before. Something unbelievably human and visceral. I must say it was quite touching, doctor.”

“Sometimes when I look at you, I can't shake this feeling that you're reading my mind," Akkad mumbled into his scaly chest.

“I hope I’m not. It’s certainty that takes all of the fun out of the game.” Garak purred into her ear. Akkad pulled her head back and brought herself to eye-level with him.

“Really now? I thought you had me figured out from the beginning.”

“On the contrary, my dear doctor. You have been and will continue to be a most intriguing challenge. A puzzle that could be solved with little intellectual effort would be most disappointing.” The corners of Akkad’s mouth turned upward without her much noticing it.

“Then I promise from now on that I will be as difficult as possible.”

“Good, good. Moments like this will be all the more precious for it.” He pulled her back in and lightly pressed his lips to her forehead and nuzzled closer still. Clearly, he was succumbing again to the lull of sleep.

I hope we’ll have many moments like this.

Akkad traced the edge of the spoon-shaped indentation in Garak’s collar with a fingertip. She could tell without looking that his eyelids were closing. His grip on her relaxed and his breathing became more regular. Akkad took in every detail of him in as she felt herself beginning to drift as well.

Her last thought came to her as she caught a glimpse of the set of tiny scars that crossed the back of her hand. She wondered briefly for the first time in years about what had ever happened to the hatchling crocodile who had bitten her as a child. He, or possibly she, had lost their mother because of her and some irrational part of Akkad’s still felt guilty from time to time.

A specter of a memory passed through the doctor’s conscience. It was her father wrapping bandages around the wound on his distraught daughter’s mangled hand while the girl was cradled in her mother’s lap.

“I know you meant well, but don’t ever believe even for a moment that you’re safe around them. God, one mistake is all it takes. How would your mother and I ever have forgiven ourselves?”

I guess you live and you learn, dad. That is, if you’re lucky.


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