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Danielle Atarah, Kalina Zett | Partnership, Pt 2

Posted on 241803.13 @ 6:19pm by Danielle Atarah

Mission: Reconciliation & Reconstruction [Fleet Plot]
Location: Earth

“So,” Zett smiled after the waiters cleared their table from the main dish, replacing the utensils with precious little tea spoons for the dessert. Dani looked up at her and finished her glass of wine, smiling. “So?”

Zett cleared her throat, putting her palm on top of Dani’s, thinking a moment. Dani waited patiently, her eyes firmly on the Trill’s face. “So,” Zett repeated, and then took a breath. “I have something I need to run by you.”

“Okay,” Dani smiled, her eyes narrowing slightly. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, no, it’s just, you know,” the Trill stammered, and Dani’s eyes narrowed further, though her smile expanded lightly, part in amusement, and part in suspicion. It wasn’t often that she saw Zett so uncomfortable.

“What’s up, Z?”

The woman smiled back, patted Dani’s palm, and rotated her head to nod at the waiter at the door. The man nodded back gravely and turned into the kitchen doors. Dani blinked. “Geez, Z, you’re scaring me, what’s going on?”

“I need to run something by you. It’s business. I want you to look at this before… you know. Before action is taken.”

Dani’s eyes narrowed further, the clarifying statement obviously served to clarify exactly nothing.

“Business…” She noted, and then raised her eyebrows and blinked at the Trill, but before she could ask for more information, the kitchen doors opened and Smith walked in. He was carrying a briefcase. A locked briefcase.

Zett smiled at him with a nod and accepted the case, removing her palm from Dani’s to put the case squarely on the table, facing her. Dani stared at Smith, but the man’s face was impassive. She switched her gaze to Zett, but that was no help either.

“Thanks Aldus,” Zett muttered, and for a brief second, Dani spotted a small smile on his face, but it vanished so quickly, she wasn’t sure she didn’t imagine it. He nodded at the Trill, and then glanced at Dani, and this time she clearly noted the traces of his smile spreading at the edges of his lips, sending chills down her spine.

“Okay, seriously, you two, what the hell is going on here? You’re scaring me, both of you.”

“Don’t worry, Atarah,” Smith nodded seriously, though his eyes sparkled with something Dani couldn’t quite put her finger on, “this is not the kind of contract you think it is.”

“Funny,” Dani huffed a fake laugh and reached for her glass of wine, giving Zett a questioning look.

“I’ll pick it up in the morning,” Smith said to Zett, tapping the Trill on the shoulder as he strolled back towards the kitchen door, and nodded at Dani before leaving the two behind in the dark. The waiters followed, the kitchen door locking behind them. Dani watched, her eyes narrowing. Zett nodded absently and reached to unlatch the lock.

“We had to reform the legal entity of the organization, seeing as Cardello is not longer available,” Zett noted, business like, and Dani waited for whatever was the punchline.

“This seals the transformation,” she gestured at the briefcase, as if that was obvious, and took a breath, “I had to choose a new name, new corporate structure, register share holders… you know... legal business stuff.”

“Kal, how about you spit it out? I’ve never seen you so nervous about anything in the business as you are right now. You’re freaking me out.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever done this before,” The Trill muttered.

“There’s a first time for… everything?” Dani tried, confused, but her eyes softened at the sight of Zett’s eyes. There was something in there that Dani didn’t see very often, and even more notably, something Dani has never seen before in the Trill’s eyes when it came to business. Any business. The smaller woman leaned back in her chair, placed the glass of wine on the table, and gave the Trill a placating look. “Just tell me.”

“Okay.” Zett nodded, and her eyes shone through cracks that were forming in her usual emotional wall. “Okay, so, I… I realized something. While you were gone to help your friends, and… well, while you were gone,” She swallowed, and Dani waited, “I can’t continue the way we were doing things, Dee,” the cracks broke further, but the Trill was clearly trying to keep herself stoic. “We’ll have to have some changes. I…”

“Kal,” Dani whispered, leaning forward again to touch the woman’s palm. “What are you talking about?”

“You were away and I was alone, and I realized I can’t do this alone. I can’t… be who I was anymore,” it came out, finally, in a rush of words, and Dani’s heart climbed up to her throat as the woman continued speaking.

“We both did our own thing for almost fifteen years, Dani, separately, walking different parallel paths, planning for some future where we each had a place we fit in. I used to think I would climb up further into Cardello’s inner circle, perhaps even replace him one day, have my own deal going.”

“You did,” Dani pointed out, but Zett hushed her with a quick shake of her head. She wasn’t finished.

“You came back into the picture and we did this together. This… takeover, or transformation, or whatever you want to call it. You didn’t just join me, Dani, you and I did this together, complementing one another’s strengths, empowering each other… and when you were gone just now, and I had to rethink how we are moving forward I realized… we changed. You and I both, we… we changed each other. For the better,” she added, almost too quickly, and then shrugged, smiling. “I don’t see the world the way I used to before you came back, Dani. It’s different. It has darkness in it, yeah, and death and lies, but… it’s not as cold was it was. You made me change the way I see things, things I once thought were normal, things I thought had a straightforward solution. Things I thought were easy.”

Dani nodded, still listening. She was about to say she’s changed too, but the Trill didn’t allow much of a break in her speech. She continued, pulling out two PADDs from the briefcase.

“So, I realized, I can’t be the boss. I can’t do this whole lone-gunman-big-boss that Cardello was so attached to. I am not good at this on my own, Dani. I need you to be there. With me.”

“I am here,” Dani noted. “I told you, Z, I’m not going anywhere.”

“I… I don’t mean just being here, Dani.” She looked at the PADDs for a second, as if reconsidering whether she should hand them over, her eyes shining again, breaking more of that damn wall. “Just… here. This is the new businesses. Both exposed and discrete angles are represented, so,” she handed Dani the PADDs finally, and the former Engineer let go of her palm and picked them up, looking at them with raised eyebrows.

The first one was a layout of the new business name with its logo, corporate hierarchy, and controlling shares. The second held more confidential information, with a set of pictures laid out in an organizational chart, the more discreet business dealings masked with mundane titles that were obviously nothing but.

“Uh,” Dani managed, looking at the first PADD carefully, absorbing. The corporate structure featured not one, but two founder CEOs; Kalina Zett, and Danielle Atarah, equal in position and controlling shares. The discreet business structure was the same, with only slight modification to the actual responsibilities that match their individual talents.

Dani’s eyes narrowed a moment, her brain working to understand the meaning, her eyes glossing over the text and stopping on the stylistic modern logo at the top of the second PADD.
It was simple, clear, and styled only enough to make it look official. “Zetarah Corporation”

Dani’s lips curved upwards with a smile. “Kal, I…”

“I want us to be partners, Dani.” Zett was the one to reach an arm and touch Dani’s palm, “equal partners. Full… you know… together. Make it official.”

Dani looked up at her, the smile stuck, frozen, her eyes moist. This meant more than just business, and both of them knew it. Except there was one thing they apparently didn’t take into account, and that was how goddamn synchronized their feelings were.

“Can you hold that thought, Kal?” Dani muttered abruptly, putting the PADDs on the table. Zett startled, clearly not expecting this reaction, but Dani didn’t let that stop her. She pushed her chair back and rose, giving the Trill a ‘hold’ gesture, jumping like a kid who suddenly remembered their prize possession was in the backpack they left in class. “One second, I swear, just… just hold that thought, okay?”

And she jumped, almost running, towards the entrance, looking for the duffel bag that she carried with her when they landed. She opened it, sifted through for a moment, and huffed, triumphantly, grinning as she came back to the table to a dazed and confused Zett.

“I wanted to work a couple of kinks out before I give that to you, but, well,” Dani smirked, her eyes shining, as she gestured around, “it seems this is a pretty good time for it.”

“It?” Zett was the one to raise an eyebrow, her fingers running over the PADD protectively.

“This,” Dani smiled, and opened her little box. “See, I also thought about you when I was away. And how much I miss you being next to me, being my anchor, the little voice in my head… so, well, I mean, I was planning to give that to you later, like… when I organize something, but” it was Dani’s turn to blush, “I guess I could just steal your thunder.”

Zett stared.

Dani grinned.

“These are rings, Dani,” Zett’s voice was caught in her throat. Dani savored the moment, her eyes shining.

“Very observant of you, Kal.”

Zett reached, and then paused, her hand hovering mid-air, as if trying to decide if the beautiful metallic objects were safe to touch. “Are you asking me to--”

“No,” Dani smiled, and extended her arm further, “you asked me. This is my answer.”

“I didn’t ask…” The Trill recoiled, giving Dani a look that was full of panic. Dani grinned, a chuckle escaping her lungs. She gave it a moment and slid out of her chair again, slipping around the table to crouch next to the sitting woman in front of her.

“You asked me to be your partner,” she whispered, plucking one of the rings out and displaying it to Zett. “And I’m asking you to be mine.”

“I… well, I mean…”

In some level, the panic in the woman’s eyes was adorable, Dani thought. Whatever either of them thought or felt about systemic ceremonies or symbolic gestures, the meaning of the offer was clear. “What?” Dani pushed, her smile touching the wrinkles in her moist eyes, “your offer is only business?”

“I, well, no… I mean, e-everything is, in… in a way…”

Dani chuckled. “Kal, I was bouncing around space galavanting through the known galaxy championing my freedom around stern Admirals and ‘fleeters, and all I could think about was that I miss you,” she leaned closer to the woman in front of her, placing her palm on the Trill’s.

“You said it better than I planned to, Kal. I am not who I was before. I don’t run from my problems, I don’t pretend reality is different than it is, I know who I am, I know who you are, I know what you are to me, and I know what I want from this life. I don’t want to pretend we’re just here to do business together. I want us to be partners. Real partners. In business,” she casually tilted her head to the PADDs, and then lifted the ring again, “and always.”

Zett stared. Dani watched, expectantly, giving the woman the time she needed to break apart those walls she kept around her. They were already broken, it was only a matter of watching them crumble completely to the ether. The Trill stirred, tentatively, her eyes, still swimming with panic, still wet, finally starting to soften.

“These are communication rings,” Dani smiled again, venturing the help the woman take another moment to relax. “No matter where we are, or how far we are from one another, we can always find each other. We can always talk. Always be together. Like---”

“Partners,” Zett muttered, the panic melting out of her eyes, sliding down her cheeks.

“Partners,” Dani agreed, and slid the ring onto the woman’s finger. It fit perfectly, as Dani knew it would, the dark metal shimmering with the candlelight. Zett looked at it for a while, turning it over with her thumb, watching the pattern swirl, letting the pause break through the final barriers.

“Dani,” The Trill finally managed, through tears, and Dani nodded, fighting a lump in her own throat. “Yeah.”

The woman reached for the second ring in the box, lifting it as if it was valuable treasure. And it was. She took a breath, still trying, with utter futility, to hold back the tears that ran down her spotted neck, “I don’t think I ever knew,” she choked, coughed, recovered, “what this really feels like,” she finished, the fingers holding the ring shaking. Dani smiled, allowing the small object to wrap her finger, and reached her free hand to caress Zett’s hair, pulling her head forward, reaching until their foreheads touched.

They stayed quiet for a moment, foreheads connected, emotions flooding, Dani’s smile expanding, Zett’s throat working out the clump that slowly expanded there, their fingers crossing, intertwining, clinking the two rings together with a tiny spark that made them both laugh.

The laugh continued tentatively, quietly, letting out the last of any barriers that existed, and then got swallowed as their lips locked, sealing the merging of their souls yet again.

Except this time, for the first time... it was official.

-- To be continued --

Kalina Zett & Danielle Atarah
Founders and Partners,
Zetarah Corporation


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