Two days later and the Pershing and her charge were only a day away from their destination. As the main chronometer sounded 2230 hours, most of ship was already asleep. Tigranian snuck away from a slumbering Laria and made his way to the main cargo hold.
The bay was deserted save row after row of crates, barrels, and containers stacked floor to ceiling. He snuck his way to a phaser locker on the aft bulkhead. He input a combination code and pulled it open. Inside were several orange tins of yIvjebol. He groaned.
"ghuy'cha', Katie, I know you needed a bribe but you could have left me a little more. This stuff isn't easy to get."
He grabbed some tobacco, secured the locker, and found an empty plastic bottle in the corner refuse bin. Tigranian pulled over a small cargo crate, took a seat and leaned against the wall.
"Computer," he said tapping the top of the tin with his right index finger. "Play, Tigranian Opera Playlist 2, Act 3, Scene 1."
The booming sounds of angry violins and French horns echoed off the walls of the cargo bay. Tigranian pulled open the tin, shoved a pinch of leaves in his lip, and leaned against the bulkhead. He closed his eyes and let the rush of nicotine and powerful music carry him off to a different place.
Outside in the corridor, Annabeth was returning from a late night workout in the gym. She was drenched in sweat and gripped a towel around her neck. However, she decided to take the opportunity to do a quick check of the aft compartments. The duty officer was supposed to conduct security checks of the cargo bays at two hour increments, but they had been failing the past couple of nights and she wanted to make sure her corrections were implemented.
As she approached the outer doors of the bay, she furrowed her brow as she heard familiar music:
"Zu Ortlindes Stute stell deinen Hengst:
mit meiner Grauen grast gern dein Brauner!"
Tigranian sat motionlessly with his eyes closed, bobbing his head to the melody. The music reached a crescendo
"Hojotoho! Hojotoho! Heiaha! Grimgerd' und Rossweisse! Sie reiten zu zwei."
"Computer, pause playback." The music immediately cut out and Tigranian jumped in surprise. He looked up to see Annabeth glaring at him with her hands on her hips. "You are so busted," she said cocking her head to one said.
"Hu'tegh! Number One!" Tigranian said grabbing his chest. "You nearly gave me a damned heart attack."
"You keep chewing on that shit and you'll have one sooner than you think," she said shaking her head judgmentally.
"You're not my mother and you're not my wife," Tigranian said sitting back down.
"No, I'm your first officer which means I'm worse than both combined. I should tell Laria so she can destroy you."
"You do, and I'll let Alex know about the collection of adult videos you keep on your encrypted personal drive."
"You wouldn't!" Annabeth said incensed.
"Mutually assured destruction, Number One."
He spit into the empty bottle and moved over to open up space on the crate next to him.
. Have a seat, Annabeth," he said tapping the crate.
"No," she said shaking her head. "I smell like an old gym sock and I need a shower."
"I don't give a shit," he said. "I could use some company right now." She acquiesced.
"Really, Dan? Wagner?" Annabeth said wiping her forehead with her towel.
"Wagner is one of the few human composers who must have had some Klingon blood in him. He speaks to me."
"Well, I guess the question is 'Why do you need him to speak to you so late at night alone in a cargo bay?"
"I couldn't sleep," he replied curtly.
"Talking with Doctor Yuvich not helping?" Annabeth asked concerned.
"Not yet," he said shaking his head and spitting again.
"I'm not even going to pretend to understand what you're going through," Annabeth said leaning back against the wall, "but give it time."
"I know and I will. If not for my sake, then for Laria's…" he paused.
"What do you mean?" he said nervously.
"I know you, Tigranian," she said looking at his face. "You want to say something, but you're afraid to let it out. So let it out. I even promise not to blackmail you with it."
He laughed nervously.
"Oh, Laria already knows," he said a bit ashamed.
"Dan, what is it?" she asked.
He sighed and looked deadly serious.
"I haven't been able to make love to my wife since I've been back, Annabeth. She claims it doesn't bother her, but I can see it in her eyes. It does."
"Dan," Annabeth replied softly. "You were kidnapped, tortured, and sexually assaulted. No one expects you to come back and shrug it off like nothing happened."
"But something did happen, Annabeth. There's a reason why I was listening to this particular piece of Wagner tonight."
Annabeth raised her eyebrows.
"And that is?"
Tigranian looked up at the ceiling.
"Can I tell you something in absolute confidence?"
"After I drank the tea during my ceremony, I spoke to Kahless face to face…"
Annabeth suddenly looked uncomfortable.
"Dan, if this is a conversation about faith, I'm not the girl to have it with."
"It doesn't matter whether you believe in an afterlife or not, Annabeth. He reminded me that he still would answer my prayers. I didn't' tell you this, but when I thought all hope was lost on Dacen, I prayed for him to send me his Valkyries to help me fight, and he did. He sent me Laria…and he sent me you."
Annabeth exhaled through her mouth and narrowed her eyes.
"I can't speak for Laria, Dan, but I'm no Valkyrie."
"That's where you're wrong, Number One."
"If you don't mind me asking, what does this have to do with you and Laria?"
"Because she deserves someone better than me," he said matter-of-factly. "I may have gotten my Honor back, but I'm still broken."
"We're all broken, Dan," Annabeth said looking at him again. "You can't see the worst the universe has to offer and walk away clean. Laria understands that and you need to as well."
He looked skeptical.
"Dan, do you know the words of the opera you were listening to? Die Stute stösst mir der Hengst. Der Recken Zwist entzweit noch die Rosse?"
"Just because you're German you're a scholar of opera, now?" he said sarcastically.
"I'm more than German, Dan. I'm Bavarian. They make us listen to Wagner in the womb."
"That explains a lot," he muttered.
"F*ck you," she said without missing a beat and got back to her point. "Wotan's Valkyries are on Earth collecting the souls of the fallen. Two dead warriors' hate is so strong for each other, that even after they're dead, they still have enough enmity to make the horses fight. They can't let go."
"They sound like honorable men."
"Dammit, Dan! You don't get it!" Annabeth said looking at him. "It's not meant as a compliment. They fail to recognize that the battle is over and they must move on."
He spit again.
"So you're saying I must let go of what happened?" he said a bit incensed.
"I'm saying that you must accept it or you'll let your hate destroy you."
He looked away and then chuckled.
"What?" Annabeth asked. He held up the orange tin in his hand and offered it to her.
"You ever try this?"
"That stuff is disgusting!"
"Oh, Hell No!" she said shaking her head.
"Stop being such a woman," Annabeth looked insulted.
"Are you being serious right now, Asshole?"
"Deathly serious, and you know I'm an asshole. Try it. It's a big brother's job to introduce his little sister to bad habits."
"You're a pretty shitty big brother, Dan," Annabeth said grabbing the tin.
"I know, I know."
"How do you do this?" Annabeth asked. Tigranian grabbed the can back from her and tapped it with an experienced hand.
"Now, open it and put a pinch in your lip."
"I'd rather you tell Alex about my porn," Annabeth said opening the lid. She slipped some leaves into her mouth and winced at that taste.
"God! You enjoy this!?"
"Don't spit it out yet," Tigranian said taking the can back. "Just give it a minute or so."
Suddenly, Annabeth relaxed a bit.
"There it is," he said deviously.
"I'm not spitting on the deck plates," she said trying to keep her slobber in her mouth. Tigranian held up the bottle and she hocked into it.
"That sounded good," Tigranian said. "You know, we've known each other for a while now, and I don't think you've ever told me about what happened at Janatris?"
Annabeth's eyes grew wide.
"That's a hell of thing to come out of nowhere!" she said surprised.
"It didn't come out of nowhere. It's one of the reasons I chose you as my first officer."
"You never told me that," she said grabbing the bottle from him and spitting again.
"I knew it was a sore subject. So, what happened?"
"You know what happened!"
"Yeah, but I want to hear from your perspective."
"Long story short, I got my captain arrested and sentenced to prison," Annabeth said as she dejectedly looked down at the ground.
"We got nothing but time tonight," he said regaining the confidence in his voice. Annabeth rubbed her eyes as she gave in.
"The Jackson's first officer had been killed in a skirmish with the Jem'Hadar the week before. I think Captain Terry blamed himself. He kept saying he waited too long to engage. That he should have fired first. In any case, I was the acting first officer until we could get a replacement onboard.
We were on a combat patrol keeping an eye on the Janatris Corridor. G2 thought that they the Jem'Hadar were using it to sneak skirmish ships into our rear logistical areas…"
"It was one of the few times they were right about anything…" Tigranian muttered.
"Are you gonna let me tell the damn story or not, Dan?"
"Sorry," he said holding up his hands.
"Well, we were holding in an ambush position in an asteroid cluster just inside the Federation border when a Cardassian heavy cruiser appeared. Captain Terry ordered us to open fire and we did."
"It must have been a hell of a fight. A Miranda refit taking on a Cardy ship of the line."
"It wasn't a fight, Dan. We hit them broadside with a full photon spread right in the port stabilizers. The ship lost attitude control almost immediately. They couldn't even bring their main battery to bear on us. They were losing life support, their structural integrity field was failing. The Gul in command signaled he wanted to surrender. However, Captain Terry wasn't interested in surrender. He wanted revenge."
"This is the part that caught my attention," Tigranian said turning to look at Annabeth's face. Annabeth took a deep breath.
"He ordered another full photon spread to destroy the ship. I ordered Tactical to belay. They weren't a threat to us. He had no right to just arbitrarily destroy them."
"What happened next?"
"Terry was furious," she said shaking her head. "He said that it wasn't my place to disagree with him on the bridge. That the enemy crew outnumbered ours two to one. That it wasn't feasible to take prisoners. He just got angrier and angrier."
"But you held your ground?" Tigranian asked. Annabeth nodded her head.
"I was the acting first officer. It was my job to make sure that the captain acted within the rules and regulations of interstellar law and the Federation. Finally, he ordered me relieved and confined to my quarters, but instead, I then ordered him relieved under Starfleet Order 28455."
"He was mentally unfit for command…"
"He wanted revenge for the death of his first officer. He hated the Dominion and had stopped viewing them as fellow sentient life. Luckily for everyone, the Chief of Security agreed with me and placed him into custody.
When we conducted a further scan of the vessel, we realized why they were so unprepared for contact. They were over fifty women and children in the hold of that ship. The Gul and his officers were trying to defect to the Federation."
"You saved all of their lives," he said approvingly.
Annabeth nodded again.
"The inquest sided with me and stated that I had acted in the best interest of Starfleet and the Federation. Captain Terry was court-martialed and sentenced to five years in the stockade. Why the hell are you bringing this up, Dan?"
"Because you put the best interest of the ship and its crew in front of your captain, Number One. I need you to remember that now. If I start failing in my obligations to the Pershing because of what happened to me…"
"Dan," she said suddenly grabbing his hand. "I failed the last time because I didn't see it until it was too late. I promise I will help you long before we get put in that situation. You are the finest officer I've ever served with."
"Thank you, Annabeth."
"You're welcome, Dan," she said grabbing the bottle and spitting again. He laughed.
"You're starting to like that stuff aren't you?"
"I can see the appeal. Tell you what, it'll be our little secret."
He wrapped his arm around her shoulder and squeezed her close.