571: Then and Now: Two

by Fleur Le Marc
continued from part one…
Soundtrack: Hymne a l'Amour,
written by Edith Piaf 
 (the Josh Groban rendition happens to be my favorite)

-=Takesian Plains, Bajor=-

Jariel pushed through the door leading from the kitchen to the small dining area, and found Fleur standing with her back toward him, in front of the sink.

She did not hear him approach over the sound of running water, a sound that she found blissfully beautiful after having gone without the convenience when she’d first gotten here.

She didn’t know how the people had managed to survive so long in the conditions that the storms, and the lack of concern of the authorities, had left them with.

She sang softly as she worked, unaware anyone was listening.

The sound of her singing- something that Camen did not remember ever having heard in this timeline, awakened a memory in him so strong it nearly knocked him off of his feet.

-=Flashback: Alternate Timeline=-

Having sent the last of her help home for the night, Fleur stood in the kitchen of her Patisserie and made sure that everything was spotless, in order, and ready for morning.

Outside in the dining room, Camen finished the last sip of his tea and sighed contentedly. He looked out of the window, tilting his head to see around the sign that read “fermé.”

This was the time of day he loved best, when the world went away and the beauty of the lights of Paris illuminated everything with a glow unlike anything he had ever seen anywhere else.

He could always tell when the day had gone well for Fleur before he even set foot in her kitchen to ask.

If the day had gone well, she would be singing.

Apparently today had gone very well, because he heard two things; the sound of the sweeping of a broom, and the enchanting melody of Hymne a l'Amour.

He picked up his cup and carried it into the kitchen with him. Not wanting to leave a speck of anything unwashed in her spotless workspace, he placed into the sanitizer and then approached her from behind.

She knew he was there and a smile crept across her face. She kept on singing softly, and sweeping until he gently took the broom from her hand, leaning it up against the wall.

“What am I to do now?” she asked with artificial sadness. “I have no broom, I cannot sweep.”

“You’ve worked hard enough for one day.” He leaned closer to her, releasing her hair from the roll it was fastened into at the back of her neck.

"For two days, actually," she replied, closing her eyes as his fingers combed the strands down over her shoulders. "I am doing something I never do because we have to go back to Bajor soon." Fleur turned around and smiled at him. "I took tomorrow off."

“You didn’t!” He picked her up, hugging her tightly and Fleur beamed.

“Oui. Tomorrow a whole day, just you and I. Start thinking what you would like to do with it, eh?” She unfastened her apron and tossed into the laundry bin.

“Anything,” Camen whispered, kissing her forehead softly. “Just as long as I’m with you.”

-=End Flashback=-

He stepped up behind her in a daze, fingers extended, halfway through the motion of reaching for the clip holding her hair at the nape of her neck before he realized where he was and stopped.

She turned around to check the counter one last time for stray cups, gasped in surprise, and stopped singing.

Embarrassed, she reached around him, snatched up a straggling coffee cup and put it into the sanitizer along with the others.

“I did not hear you come in.” She said flatly, trying to sound annoyed.

“I came to see if I could help clean up. I’m sorry if I startled you.”

“You have a way of doing that lately, Vedek Jariel. Showing up unannounced and startling me.” She started the machine, washed her hands and began to unfasten her apron.

“But as you see, the cleaning is done. There is no reason for you to delay your return to Altaan any longer.”

*No reason?* Jariel thought.

“Actually, I really wanted a cup of tea before I go. I was wondering, would it be too much trouble?”

Fleur was exhausted, sweaty, and only wanted the day to end.

As happy as part of her was to see him since he’d arrived, another part of her was reminded every time she did of things she didn’t want to think about.

Still, she had never said no to such a request from him…

Not until tonight.

“You know where the tea is, and the kettle,” she answered. “You can help yourself.” She removed her apron and hung it up on the back of the kitchen door. “Goodnight, Vedek Jariel.”

Camen stood in silence with his mouth hanging open until it was almost too late to catch her.

“Fleur, wait!”

She was so far away he had to hurry to overtake her.

“Wait for what exactly? Hm?”

The question was loaded, and Jariel knew it. He drew a deep breath and sighed. “We need to talk.”

“What is there to say?” She asked plaintively. “I believe that everything we need to talk about takes place on the building site, or in the course of making a meal for the people. Aside from that, there is nothing left to say.”

“You’re certain of that?”

"Quite certain, monsieur. You said everything quite clearly before I left the Alchemy.”

“Fleur,” He gestured with his eyes back toward the building. “Maybe you don’t have anything to say, but I do. Please.”

“I cannot. The baby,”

“Is spending the night with Prylar Delle. I already saw to that.”

*Premeditated conversation?* Fleur thought, her curiosity getting the better of her. * I’m going to regret this.*

“Fine. You want tea, I will make you tea.”

"No," Camen insisted, taking off ahead of her. "I will make tea for you."

Fleur followed him back into the kitchen.

“Have a seat, s'il vous plait.”

Again, the French took Fleur off guard. “Very well.”

She sat on a tall stool at the counter, and watched as he fussed over the kettle. “I am not a woman in the mood to, how do you say it, beat the shrub to death, Vedek Jariel,”

Jariel fought the urge to smile at the demise of another Standard metaphor mangled in the way only Le Marc could do it.

“No, you’re not, so if you have anything to say to me before I say what I have to say, then please. Say it.”

“All right I will. What the hell are you doing here?”

Jariel blinked in surprise. She really didn’t plan to waste any words tonight, did she? “I thought I was helping the community,” Camen hedged. “I thought I was helping you.”

“Ah! Helping me! Blessed be the Prophets! The Great Vedek Jariel Camen wants to help Fleur!” She began rapidly rambling in French so quickly that Jariel could not make out the words. “Have you not thought that perhaps the best way to ‘help me’ would be to leave me alone?”

Jariel was so stunned that he almost overfilled the teacup before him with scalding water. Somehow, the thought of ‘leaving her alone’ truly bothered him now.

“But I thought,”

“Did you see what I said to you, just as they were beaming me from the Alchemy?” Fleur asked softly. She stood up, taking the kettle from his hand and setting it down onto the cook top once again.

Camen nodded. She had said four words that had stayed with him every day since she’d gone.

“I said, ‘I won’t forget you’.” Fleur repeated the words anyway. “That is true. I will never forget the day I first saw you on the space station. I will never forget that I have waited, patiently, trying to be a good friend to you for years in the hopes that perhaps someday we might be something more.”
She walked away, folding her arms. “But do you know what I remember most about you, Jariel Camen?”

He shook his head, even though she couldn’t see it with her back turned to him.

“I remember that you have always only had room in your heart for one woman, and she is not me.”

She turned back toward him, her eyes again threatening tears. “You have fought with her before, but the outcome is always the same. In the end, it is she who holds your heart, high up and out of reach of anyone else’s reach.”

She let the words sink in, as Camen stood there trying to figure out how he was possibly going to explain to her what he needed to explain to her.

“So I am asking you, why are you here? Are there not other places on Bajor with people who need your help? Could you not just let me be, let me build a life here of my own without…” her voice broke. “Without reminding me of the life I cannot have?”

“Fleur, things are different this time,”

She laughed bitterly. “If only I had a slip of latinum for every time you seemed to think that you and she were finished.” She was the one shaking her head now. “It has never been so in the end. They say, the best way to predict future behavior is based on past behavior, eh? So I am predicting that it is only a matter of time until she wiggles her finger and you go running back to her.”

Camen was floored.

“Things are different. I am different. How can I explain to you what I’ve been through,” he left the tea and Fleur behind, and pushed through the swinging doors back out into the dimly lit dining room.

He took one of the upturned chairs from a tabletop and righted it, then slumped down into it. He rested his elbows on the table and held his head in his hands.

Fleur stood in the kitchen, staring out at him through the small window between rooms, and sighed.

He looked more than a little lost, and in need of someone to talk to. Could she risk losing her resolve by being that person and going after him?

She didn’t know, but she knew she couldn’t stand to see him this way.

She turned the stove off, turned out the light in the kitchen and followed him, overturning the second chair from the table and setting it beside him.

She lowered herself into it slowly and waited for him to speak.

“I came to Bajor to find out who I am. Who I really am.” He said softly. “Not who the Vedek is, or who the Ship’s Chaplain is. Who Jariel Camen is, all alone.”

This surprised Fleur. He had always seemed to be the most certain, grounded man she had ever known. What could have shaken him so to his foundation that he would doubt, at the age of nearly forty, that he knew who he was?

“Have you found him?” she asked gently.

“Parts of him, I think,” Jariel looked up at her, his eyes rimmed with red circles. “Parts of me I didn’t even know existed. Parts so buried beneath the will to survive and the desire to keep her safe that,” He shook his head in astonishment.

“Then one day I realized that the thing that I wanted was the very last thing in the Universe I really needed.”

Fleur Le Marc
Civilian Crew
USS Serendipity NCC-2012
Currently on Bajor