On the one hand, Rissa felt bad for shutting Jawi out of his problems when she was obviously concerned that something was bothering him. On the other, though, he was glad she knew him well enough to know that he'd tell her when, or if, he was ready to. The problem just wouldn't make itself obvious even to him. At first, he honestly thought it thinking that Rem had a problem with him because of his age. That was settled after the talk with Micah. I can't still be going on about that, he thought as he got ready for bed. Nice guy--that Micah. Smart enough to get my oversensitive nose back into joint. Jawi was already in bed and, as he slipped under the covers next to her, Rissa felt her arms slip around him automatically. He took comfort in her presence but he wondered what he needed comforting for. As he eventually felt himself dropping off to sleep, Jawi's fingers brushed the scars on his arms. ~~~ The lash descended toward Theden's crumpled tiny body. Rissa stood with the other workers, all of them paralyzed by apathy and a healthy amount of fear. They were all tired and dirty. And hungry. The mine workers were supposed to get decent rations so that they could maximize output for Maroc and his crew of butchers and, therefore, the Cardassian Empire. The truth was that the Bajoran slaves were lucky if they got a single ration of food every other day or so. They all shared what they had, the adults giving more to the little ones as often as they could, but it wasn't enough. It was never enough. Theden stole a loaf of parlaf bread from Maroc himself and got caught. Maroc was going to make an example of the child. Rissa's eyes darted left and right. Nobody was going to do anything. They were going to stand there and let the bastard whip a hungry seven-year-old into submission. Probably to death, he thought bitterly. That kid won't be able to-- "NO!" Maroc's eyes narrowed even as his arm froze in midair. "Who spoke?" he hissed. "I did, you cowardly bastard." Even as he wondered what fool was speaking, Rissa realized that he was the fool. "He's just a child--a baby. And he's hungry. You can't beat a kid just because he's hungry." Maroc stared. This Bajoran was just as filthy and wretched looking as his peers but he was shaking with rage and not fear. Maroc laughed out loud. This one still had fight left in him. This was going to be fun. "And who are you, bold one?" he asked genially. The others backed away from Rissa. They'd all seen it before. Even the strongest of them could crack under the strain of Maroc's cruelty. The only thing a person could do was beg for the Prophets' mercy and to get away as quickly as possible. To be close was to make yourself a target, too. "Eislin Rissa." He looked to be about thirty Bajoran years old. Despite his ragged appearance, Maroc heard the man's strong voice and saw that the life hadn't gone out of his eyes. This is going to be a lot of fun, he thought. I haven't beaten the resistance out of one of the strong ones in a while. He chuckled out loud, telling himself that it was also going to set an example for the others. "Tell me something, Mr. Eislin. The theft needs to be punished. Are you going to take the punishment in the boy's place?" Maroc asked in a deceptively mild voice. "Yes." He was dragged in front of Maroc. The guards ripped his shirt away then shoved him to his knees. The last thing he saw before the lash fell was the maniacal grin on the Cardassian's face. The butcher's laughter echoed even as the lash bit into his back. He didn't know how long it went on. Didn't remember curling his body into a ball, covering his head with his arms, so that the blows fell somewhere other than his back. The blows eventually stopped, though. Maroc grudgingly gave Rissa some respect for not dying. He would let the animal live but the lesson was still learned. There was hardly a spot on the man that the lash hadn't laid open. He'd be a living example of what it meant to defy his rule. ~~~ During her time in the Maquis, Jawi learned to wake up very quickly. She was out of bed and pulling on her wrap before she realized that the screaming that woke her from a sound sleep was coming from her own bed. "Rissa!" She knelt quickly and shook his shoulder. "Rissa, wake up." Dazed brown eyes looked into her blue ones. It was the first time she could ever recall seeing such utter hatred in those eyes, eyes that usually shone with humor and kindness. Now they were haunted and full of pain. "I hate them, Jawi," he said in a choked sob as tears filled his eyes. "I hate those Cardassian bastards for everything." Jawi sat on the edge of the bed and took Rissa into her arms. He was shaking and covered with sweat. She smoothed back the hair from his forehead and rocked him gently. "You're here now, Rissa. You're here and they aren't. There are no Cardassians here," she whispered softly, over and over, until he fell asleep in her arms. Se held him a while longer, her own eyes tearing as she looked at the scars on his arms. "Those bastards..."