Joined in Blood - Part I
by Sylva Dax ﾩJuly 2000, Revised January 2003
A/N: I originally wrote this story when I belonged to a Klingon gaming fleet. I, of course, do not own any recognizable characters from the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine series and novels. All other characters are my own creation, many based on the avatars of my former fleet comrades, including my own: Sylva Dax. Reviews are most welcome.
"Major," Commander H'ok struck his right fist to his chest, saluting one of the Klingon Empire's best battle masters, Major Avenger of the House of Montroq and captain of the Vengeance, as he and his chief of security materialized on the transporter platform of the Lightbearer. "Colonel Anathema and Major Ice Dragon are waiting in the tactical room."
"And Sylva?" the Klingon cyborg asked as he stepped off the transporter platform.
"She is still in the Captain's quarters," H'ok answered. "Doctor Barlow is there now."
"Understood," Avenger said, already heading in the direction of the captain's quarters. He stopped when his security chief moved to follow him. "No, Ghon. Go with H'ok and wait in the tactical room."
"Sir?" Ghon asked surprised, his dark face intense.
"I will handle it," Avenger answered him firmly before continuing on.
Avenger walked the corridors he'd walked many times with Captain Sevren Dax, the Trill with a Klingon heart. His hearts were heavy with grief knowing that he would never walk with his friend again. Soon, he joined Doctor Julian Barlow, the ship's robust, middle-aged Terran doctor, outside the closed doors to the captain's quarters.
"Avenger," Barlow greeted him in relief.
"She will not come out?" he asked, knowing the answer from the doctor's expression.
"She won't even answer me," Barlow growled in frustration. The last several days had been a nightmare as he vainly struggled to save his best friend. Once he realized that Sevren Dax, a joined Trill, would die, he valiantly tried unsuccessfully to keep the host body alive long enough for the ship to be repaired or for help to arrive. Dax, the slug-like, four-hundred year old Trill symbiont that lived within Sevren in an abdominal pouch cavity that was a natural part of Trill physiology, could not survive more than a few hours outside the host body except in stasis. Tragically, Barlow's stasis equipment was destroyed during the attack. Before Sevren, Dax shared the lives of nine previous hosts, retaining their memories from one host to the next. Desperate to save that part of his friend that still lived on, Barlow pursued his only viable option.
Twenty-five years ago Barlow accompanied Lieutenant Sevren Dax to the Klingon Empire. When the Federation Council decided to give the decommissioned Defiant as a gift to the newly appointed governor of the capitol city of Qo'noS, former-Starfleet officer Worf, Ambassador Alexander Rhozhenko, Worf's son, asked for Sevren Dax to be included in the delegation. Having fallen for Worf's granddaughter during his trip, the always passionate Dax wanted to stay. Once the aging Worf reconciled himself to a male Dax, he and Alexander used their influence with Starfleet to have Sevren Dax reassigned as Federation liaison to the Empire. Once his duty with Starfleet was over, Worf made Dax captain of the Lightbearer, formerly the Defiant. Having no obligations left in the Federation, Barlow decided to stay with his friend Dax in the Klingon Empire. He stood beside Sevren Dax as Dax once again entered the House of Martok by marrying J'hler. He delivered Dax and J'hler's daughter, Sylva, the first Klingon/Trill hybrid.
Avenger punched the door chime as Barlow explained, "She needs time to adjust. She's been through a lot these past few days. Her father's death-" Barlow paused to swallow his own grief. "It hit her hard. And now, with the transplant . . . We had no choice. Dax would have died along with Sevren if we'd waited. The symbiont couldn't survive without a new host. Sylva was the only possible host available."
Avenger punched the chime again when there was no answer. He looked at Barlow, his cybernetic eye gleaming. He pounded on the portal. "Have these doors switched to manual override. Now."
Now someone was pounding on her door. Sylva huddled in a corner. All she wanted was to be left alone. Alone? With all these memories crowding out her own thoughts! By Kahless! She might as well sail the Barge to Gre`thor.
The doors slowly parted. One cybernetic hand appeared through the crack. Avenger! Who else would dare invade the captain's quarters?
She stood up and faced the invader. "naDev vo' yghoS! Go away!" she spat at Avenger as he squeezed through the barely opened doors. The doors closed behind him, locking the doctor out.
"Look at you, cowering in his room," Avenger challenged as he advanced on her. To her credit, she did not retreat. "You are a disgrace to his memory."
"What do you know about it?" She glared up at her judge. "I am his memory! I am now Sylva Dax. Do you have any idea what that means? My father's memories are now my memories. And don't forget the nine others before him, including Great Grandfather's dead wife."
"Then you dishonor them all," Avenger declared. "His murderers roam free while you lick your wounds. The ship is repaired and the crew awaits orders." He grabbed her by her shoulders. "Your orders. Captain!" Disgusted by a desire to ease the pain in her eyes, Avenger pushed Sylva away. "Coward."
She attacked. Avenger met her assault, countering her every move with his own. He had been her teacher. He caught her arms and pinned them behind her back as she struggled. Fury and pain unleashed, Sylva slammed her spotted ridges into his chin. Avenger's head snapped back and he lost hold of her arms. While he was still off-balance, she plowed into his chest, sending them both crashing to the floor. Before she could get to her feet, Avenger was on her.
"Enough!" Avenger ordered. "I am not your enemy." He waited until she had calmed down before releasing her and getting to his feet.
Sylva Dax stood and smoothed down her shift. She hadn't had the heart to wear her warrior's armor since the transplant. She focussed her attention on Avenger.
"Avenger, why do you call me captain? H'ok is first officer. I am barely second."
"You are Dax," Avenger answered, his deep voice leaving no room for argument. "On my recommendation and with Worf's support, the Chancellor and General Rayvaun have agreed that Dax should continue as captain."
Letting Avenger's words sink in, Sylva did not speak. She was Dax. She shuddered at the thought before allowing the truth to take hold. Her entire countenance changing before Avenger's eyes, Sylva Dax said, "You are right, my friend. I am Dax, and the dogs responsible for that fact will pay."
Avenger's eye widened in surprise. Had her voice been lower, Sylva would have sounded exactly like Sevren Dax.
"Get dressed. We will wait for you in the tactical room," he said, satisfied.
The tactical room seemed crowded to Barlow, the only human, surrounded by five Klingon officers. Colonel Anathema, the highest ranking officer, lifted a tankard of warnog and swallowed the strong Klingon brew with satisfaction while he listened to H'ok.
H'ok repeated what he knew about the attack. He had been in the cargo bay preparing the cargo transporters for a possible emergency transport of the crew of the beleaguered freighter. Had he been on the bridge. . .
Barlow thought he'd gone deaf for a moment. All conversation stopped, the silence blending with the silence coming from the bridge through the opening doors as Sylva Dax entered the tactical room. A thigh length cloak flowed from her shoulders. She wore it with the same flair that Sevren Dax had worn it only days earlier. A shining mane of dark hair fell about her shoulders, partially hiding the Trill markings that started at her gently ridged forehead and traveled down the sides of her face and neck to disappear beneath her vest and provocatively cut breastplate. A short skirt revealed dark leggings that disappeared into knee-high boots. Her d'k'tang was sheathed at her hip.
Sylva Dax paused just inside the doorway as her mind tried to process the overlapping perceptions of Sylva and Sevren regarding each occupant of the room. Latching onto Sevren's memories, she moved forward.
Ghon, grandson of Toq of the IKS Gorkon and House of Lorgh, felt a chill sweep over him as he watched Dax. Had Sevren Dax taken possession of his daughter? She moved and spoke like her dead father. Unseen by anyone, his hands trembled behind his back where he stood observing the room. He wanted to seize her and order her to cease her charade.
Uneasy looks were exchanged around the table as Dax proceeded to answer Anathema's questions about the attack that had killed the Lightbearer's captain. It was obvious that her account came from the perspective of the captain's chair, not tactical where she'd been stationed.
Anathema took a generous swallow of the warnog. He'd forgotten it during Sylva Dax's accounting. "Enough," he ordered in a booming voice. "Sylva. . . Dax, Avenger and your great-grandfather think that this joining qualifies you to follow your father as captain. I had my doubts, but no more," he said, barely pausing before adding, "Captain Sylva Dax."
Avenger looked to Anathema who nodded. He then stood up and unscrolled a parchment. "Captain Sylva Dax, it is my honor and privilege to present this commission, by order of Chancellor Chadeech, to you, my former student. You are now a member of the Batlh Squad Militia, the Chancellor's own elite squad."
"H'ok, pour your new captain some of this excellent warnog," Anathema ordered.
Swallowing his disappointment, the first officer of the BSM Lightbearer poured the warnog and gave it to his new captain. He then saluted her. As first officer, the captaincy should have been his. From a lower house on the third largest planet in the Klingon Empire, H'ok had worked and fought his way up the ranks only to be repeatedly passed over for captaincy in favor of some pampered scion of a greater house. By Gre'thor! The things he could have accomplished with this ship and crew.
Raising his tankard high, Major Ice Dragon offered a toast. "May all your battles be glorious! For the Empire!" The others around the table echoed his words, lifting their tankards high before draining them.
"Your father had the heart of a warrior," Anathema told Sylva Dax as he prepared to return to his ship. "I am proud to have called him friend. His loss is felt by all. While the Vengeance escorts the Lightbearer back to Qo'noS for repairs, Ice Dragon and I will use the time find out what we can about the pirates."
"Those dogs will pay," Ice Dragon assured her.
"I know they will!" she agreed.
Avenger squeezed her shoulder with his natural hand, his cybernetic right arm at his side. "The Vengeance stands ready."
Dax nodded. "H'ok, prepare us to get under way."
"Yes, Captain," H'ok answered and exited the tactical room.
"Qapla!" Anathema and Ice Dragon said together after exchanging knowing looks with Avenger.
"Jules, walk with us to the transporter," Avenger suggested.
"Of course," Barlow readily agreed. He led Anathema and Ice Dragon through the sliding doors.
"Permission to speak privately with your security chief?" Sylva Dax asked, her attention already shifting from Avenger to Ghon.
"Permission granted," Avenger said, nodding at Ghon. "We will leave as soon as the Lightbearer is ready. Do not keep him too long from his duties. Qapla!" Avenger exited and the doors closed behind him.
Sylva moved to embrace Ghon but found her wrists seized in his unyielding grasp.
"Who are you?" Ghon growled.
"Who am I?" Sylva asked, stunned. She met his gaze. "You know who I am."
"Sevren Dax entered this room. Who are you now?"
"I am Sylva," she insisted.
"You may live in her body and speak with her lips but you are not my Sylva!" he bit out. "What did you and that Terran doctor do? Prey upon her grief and sense of duty? What manner of creature sacrifices its offspring for its own survival?"
"You know nothing!"
"I know that Sylva wanted nothing to do with this joining. Now I understand why." He shoved her away. "The sight of you disgusts me." He barely gave the doors time to open as he stormed out.
It took a moment before reaction took over. Like an enraged and wounded animal she howled.
The bridge crew of the Lightbearer paused briefly as Ghon stormed out of the tactical room and off the bridge. H'ok's presence kept them from openly speculating on what had transpired behind the closed doors. Instead, they continued to prepare the Lightbearer for its return home.
A few minutes later the doors to the tactical room opened once again. Captain Dax emerged. As one, the bridge crew cheered their new captain, having been informed by H'ok of the appointment.
Dax acknowledged her crew's congratulations with a nod and a toothy smile. Nobody noticed that the smile never reached her eyes. With the flair and bravado that endeared her Trill father to the nearly all Klingon crew he'd commanded, Dax claimed the captain's chair.
"H'ok, what is our status?" she asked immediately.
"Awaiting your orders, Captain," H'ok replied instantly.
"Signal the Vengeance. Best possible speed," she ordered.
"It must end!" the green visage on the monitor demanded.
G'kirk's face flushed a deeper shade of green. Few in the Orion syndicate dared to speak to him in such a manner. His ruthlessness and daring had earned him a fortune and a place at the head of one of the syndicate's fastest growing cartels. Malon, as the current syndicate overseer, was definitely one of those few.
"It will end. Very soon," G'kirk assured him. Even as they spoke, the cause of most of their recent setbacks was heading warp speed toward his coordinates. He had no regrets about sacrificing a member of his crew to the tender care of Klingon interrogators. She was coming. That was all that mattered. He needed to conclude this pleasant conversation so he could be on the bridge when she arrived.
Malon leaned forward to emphasize his next words. "You will be held accountable for any further losses suffered by the syndicate. Your recklessness stirred up the Klingons. That mad female leading the pack has made it clear that it is you she wants. Believe me, if you become too much of a liability, there are those who would think nothing of delivering you to her."
"Of that, I have little doubt," G'kirk replied gravely, having no trouble imagining his business rival, Gronk, doing just that.
". . . Under attack by unknown ship," said a staticky voice. "Repeat . . . is freighter . . . help us . . . attack by . . . ship."
"Don't listen to them!" Sylva shouted. "It is a trap!" This time Tobin Dax and Lela Dax restrained her.
And as he'd done countless times before, Sevren Dax, perching on the edge of the captain's chair, ordered Torias Dax to set an intercept course with the imperiled freighter at maximum warp.
Yet again, the battle-ready Lightbearer warped to the rescue, the crew studiously ignoring Sylva's protests. Joran Dax at tactical, impatiently waited to play his instruments of death against the unknown ship; Ezri Dax continued to monitor the freighter's increasingly desperate pleas for help; and Jadzia Dax never looked away from the long range scanners.
Dropping out of warp, the Lightbearer approached the damaged freighter which hung crookedly in space. Alone.
"Ship . . . your arrival . . . our rescue . . . " There was an obvious pause. "Help us! . . . damage to . . . core . . . explode . . . transport now!"
"Reading massive energy build up!" Jadzia Dax reported.
Sevren Dax didn't hesitate. Over Sylva's frantic protests, he ordered, "Lock onto life signs. Transporter ready. Lower shields."
"Raise shields!" Jadzia Dax cried a second too late as a concentrated, high-energy pulse slammed the Lightbearer. The bridge was engulfed in smoke as consoles exploded. Emony Dax and Audrid Dax appeared on the bridge and knelt beside the prone form of Sevren Dax as the smoke slowly cleared.
Audrid Dax shook her head after examining Sevren Dax and stood up. "We need a new host," she proclaimed.
To Sylva's horror, they were all staring at her. She shook her head.
"Surrender or die!" Curzon Dax told her.
" jeghbe` thlInganpu`," Sylva cried. "Klingons never surrender."
Shaking, Sylva Dax woke up abruptly. Once again, sleep was denied her. Still exhausted, she stopped by the refresher before heading back to the bridge. They would arrive at G'kirk's last known coordinates in a few hours.
As the vessel grew on the bridge's view screen, the damage became apparent. The hull had been breached. Gradually, tiny dots could be seen flitting around the breached section.
"No sign of other ships?"
"Should we make contact?" the comm officer asked.
"Maintain silence," the ship's captain ordered, turning to the ship's tactical officer. "Remain cloaked until we know who holds the ship.
The bridge crew attended to their duties in silence as they continued to close on the damaged vessel. Their captain sat still as a rock, eyes never leaving the view screen.
The science officer watched the scanners intently. "Reading bio signs now!"
"Klingon!" she shouted triumphantly.
The captain did not join the cheering crew as the science officer returned to the scanners. The captain waited.
"Reading one human and one Klingon/Trill hybrid."
"Open channels," Avenger ordered, feeling some of the tension leave his massive frame.
After reviewing the senior officers' reports and relaying his findings back to Qo'noS, Avenger met with Commander H'ok and Dr. Julian Barlow. "I have spoken with Worf. He agrees with you, doctor," Avenger informed Barlow, the Lightbearer's human doctor. "H'ok, you will take command of the ship and return home for repairs."
H'ok nodded. Command was officially his, finally. He had swallowed his disappointment when command of the ship went to Sylva, unable to deny the logic in Dax continuing as captain in the body of its new host, Sylva Dax. The transition started well and the crew eagerly followed their captain in her campaign against the Orion pirates. Once Sylva Dax discovered the name of the Orion responsible for the ruse that killed her father, her assaults were orchestrated to flush him out. Unfortunately, Sylva Dax became increasingly erratic in her behavior as the months dragged on. When the Orion they'd captured finally revealed G'kirk's location, she ordered the Lightbearer's helm officer to set course at maximum speed, refusing to wait for backup. Then her refusal to leave the area when G'kirk's other ships warped in, forced H'ok to take command and confine her to quarters. Had this been a traditional Klingon ship . . .
"And Sylva?" Jules asked. "She barely sleeps anymore."
"She goes to Trill."
"To Trill?" Sylva Dax cried in disbelief. "What of my blood oath? My ship and crew?" She closed the gap between them. "Avenger, we almost had him. His shields were buckling when those other ships warped in."
"Four ships," he growled. "It was a trap."
"Of course it was a trap!" Her eyes unusually bright beneath her gently ridged brow, she stared at him, not believing he'd felt it necessary to state the obvious. "All we needed were a few more minutes."
"A few more minutes and you would all be dead," Avenger threw the words at her. "I have seen H'ok's report."
"H'ok!" Sylva spat with fury. "G'kirk lives because of him."
"You live because of him. Because of him no more than nine warriors died," Avenger rumbled back. "H'ok did no less than Dax would have done. Your father never put personal glory before the good of his ship. Dax -"
"I am Dax! Remember?" she shouted. "Sevren died, but I live! The survival of the symbiont comes before all else. Ezri? Sylva? What do they matter? Dax lives!"
Avenger's eye widened in disbelief. "You wanted to die," he stated.
"Yes," she choked out and turned from him. "During the battle I realized that today was a good day to die. G'kirk would die and so would I."
"Dax, what of your crew?" Avenger asked, already knowing the answer.
A Klingon warrior did not cry before others. A sob escaped her, proof of how far she had descended. "The others, Avenger. They won't let me sleep. They keep trying to claim what's left of me. I've tried to hold on but each day I lose more of myself. I-I am going mad!" Another sob escaped. "Avenger, help me," she cried.
Awkwardly, Avenger wrapped his arms around her, being careful of the pressure exerted by his cybernetic right arm. What had they done to Sevren's child? In his desperation to save Dax and the legacy of all its hosts, Jules had prevailed over Sylva's long-established decision not to become a joined Trill by appealing to her love for her father and sense of familial duty. Then, he and Worf, in typical Klingon fashion, had decided that passing the mantle of her father's captaincy to Sylva Dax and allowing her to take point in the campaign of vengeance against his killers was the best way for her to come to grips with what had happened. It was too much to expect an untrained, newly joined Trill to handle, much less a Klingon/Trill hybrid who had succeeded her own father as the next host of the Trill symbiont.
"I am taking you to Trill."
The surviving crew of the Lightbearer bid their captain farewell and a speedy return. Though he would have preferred to accompany Sylva Dax to Trill, Jules had too many injured crewmen needing his attention on board the battered BSM Lightbearer. Since it was nearly impossible for him to keep his mobile Klingon patients in the medical bay once they were sufficiently patched up, he made the rounds of the ship, checking the recovery status of his patients at their posts.
To his relief, few crewmen faulted Dax with the outcome of the battle. In fact, many boasted of the victory they'd had over the Orion's ship which had been at least three times the Lightbearer's size. They laughed at the fact that such a large ship had been forced to call for help.
On board the Vengeance, Security Chief Ghon carried his gear into the temporary quarters he had been assigned. Sylva Dax had been given his quarters for the duration of the journey.
He had meant to be clear of his quarters by the time she arrived, but was not quick enough. The door opened and there she was with Maruk, first officer of the Vengeance and his friend, by her side.
"Ghon," she'd said in surprise.
Sevren's swagger was gone, he noted. "Captain Dax," Ghon said, acknowledging a superior officer and no more. She flinched, making him feel a twinge of guilt. Maruk's disapproving glare, however, angered him. "I must go." He brushed passed them and hurried in the direction of his temporary quarters.
In a few days, the Vengeance entered Federation space unchallenged. Ambassador Alexander Rozhenko had personally seen to it that his granddaughter's flight plans received priority clearance. Starfleet brass considered sending an honor guard to escort the ship to Trill but were finally convinced by the ambassador that his granddaughter would prefer to keep her journey to Trill as quiet as possible.
At Avenger's insistence, Sylva Dax ate her meals at the captain's table and joined her childhood friend, Maruk, during his daily workout. He feared that too much time alone would leave Dax prey to unhealthy brooding.
The noise in the mess hall would have deafened a Vulcan. The Klingons reveled in it. Avenger kept the captain's table lively, joking with his officers and trying at times to coax the quietest member at the table to join in. He was more successful when Ghon was not there.
When Ghon joined the table for meals, he joked and laughed with the others, boasting of his prowess in battle. He appeared oblivious to Sylva Dax's presence when, in truth, he was aware of little else.
He was at the table the night before the Vengeance was scheduled to reach Trill. Sylva endured the meal for as long as she could. The perpetual lack of adequate sleep robbed her of her natural vitality, making her efforts to respond to Avenger, pathetic at best. Ghon's presence tonight was more than she could deal with in her weary, vulnerable state.
"Avenger, I must go," she told him. She was out of her seat before he could respond.
"Dax, we will reach Trill tomorrow morning. Try to rest."
She nodded and left. Ghon watched her exit. He almost followed. It wasn't like him to avoid confrontation. Yet, he had done all he could to avoid one with Sylva. Throughout the trip he had watched her from a distance, whenever duty allowed. Everytime he'd found himself softening towards her, someone would refer to her as Dax. The anger would return.
"Chief, walk with me," Avenger ordered, leaving the table.
Ghon immediately complied and fell into step beside Avenger as they left the mess hall. The two warriors walked together in silence through the narrow corridors of the Vengeance for a few minutes. Ghon knew his commanding officer well enough to wait until he was ready to speak. In the meantime, he mentally reviewed the day's activities and security issues waiting to be addressed so that he could respond promptly to any of the Major's inquiries.
"Who do you punish?"
"Sir?" Ghon started, surprised by the question. "We have no prisoners."
"Dax or Sylva." Avenger stopped walking and faced his security chief. He focused his attention on him, his optical implant reading body temperature while the natural eye took in Ghon's outward countenance. "Which one are you trying to punish?"
Ghon opened his mouth to deny Avenger's words but could not. Instead, he recalled asking Sylva, soon after Maruk introduced them at the academy, if she would go to Trill to be joined like her father. She'd told him that she'd already been to Trill to please her father, taken all the medical and psych tests, learned all she'd wanted to know about being a joined Trill, and then adamantly decided that she would never play host to one of the slug-like creatures known as symbionts. She would not allow one to live vicariously through her before sharing her memories with its next host once she was dead.
"It was wrong," he insisted.
"It is done," Avenger countered. "It no longer matters if it was right or wrong. Sylva Dax lives as a joined being. You cannot punish one without punishing the other." Avenger closed what little space separated them. "I speak as Dax's friend, not your commanding officer. After the Romulans nearly killed me years ago, friends like Dax and Ice Dragon helped me build a new life to replace the one I can no longer remember. If you cannot be her mate, at least be a friend." Without another word, Avenger strode away.
"Jules, I'm in love," Sevren announced.
"Snap out of it! You're not Worf's type anymore."
"Worf? He'll always be special to me but I'm talking about J'hler."
"Come, Grandfather," J'hler invited as her husband presented the baby to Worf. "Meet the newest member of the House of Martok."
"Worf, I was right. Our child would have been beautiful," Jadzia sighed, holding the infant Sylva in her arms.
"Nay, husband," J'hler confronted Sevren. "You will not send our only child far away to a Trill school. Look at her. She is Klingon," she declared, pointing at an adolescent Sylva sparring with her father's 1st lieutenant, his cybernetic implants flashing in the sun.
Ezri stood her ground. "She is also Trill. She needs to know her full heritage. Jules tells me that she is capable of being a host. She deserves to be able to make an informed choice."
Audrid sighed, "I'm sorry, Mother, that Sylva has been so disruptive. J'hler and I are enroute to Trill now."
"What happened?" Sevren asked, alarmed and prepared to do battle. "What did they do to her?"
Ghon pointed in her direction. "They turned her into a monster!"
Sylva bolted out of bed.
Unable to sleep, he'd gone to Sylva's quarters only to find it empty. He knew he'd find her here. The holodeck rang with the clang of metal on metal. Primal cries erupted from disparate throats, Klingon and alien. Ghon's blood raced with the pounding of his hearts as he watched the magnificent fury cut down one holographic foe after another. As she clashed with a helmeted Breen soldier, a huge Orion male leaped from the shadows of some trees directly behind Sylva. Checking her swing, Sylva twisted and rolled out of the converging arcs of her two massive opponents. Unable to stop his forward momentum, the Orion fell onto the blade intended for Sylva. While the Breen shifted to free his blade, Sylva rolled to her feet just behind him, pivoted and drove her bat'leth across his torso, cleaving him in two.
As Sylva spun around, prepared to meet her next attacker, everything around her froze. Confused, she turned to find Ghon approaching her, bat'leth held loosely at his side. She charged, swinging with all her might.
"I am not a monster!" she shrieked. Fueled by the pain and rage that ate at her, she lashed out repeatedly.
Struggling against his own passions, Ghon defended himself. Once the intensity of her attack began to fade, Ghon went on the offensive, forcing Sylva back against a tree. He tore the bat'leth from her and flung it away. Ghon pinned Sylva against the tree with his body when she attempted to reclaim her weapon. Sylva struggled to dislodge the weight that crushed the breath from her breast. Confusion gripped her as Ghon's scent aroused passions that threatened to overtake the emotions that fueled her struggles. She pressed against him and lifted her face to meet his gaze. Closing her eyes, Sylva leaned into Ghon's neck, inhaling deeply. He tasted blood, her blood. Surprised, Ghon stared at the mark heﾒd just made above her jaw line. With considerable effort, he tore himself away.
"No!" Ghon commanded desperately as Sylva, predatory gleam in her eyes, prepared to launch herself at him. "I did not come here for that!"
Leaning against the tree, she said bitterly, "Oh, yes, I forgot. The sight of me disgusts you."
Ghon watched a drop of blood drip from her jaw into the valley revealed by the cut of her breastplate. He shuddered and took a steadying breath. Her scent nearly robbed him of his purpose.
"I would be your friend," he finally said.
"My friend," she said softly, "but not my mate." She pushed away from the tree so that she could face him squarely. "Perhaps you are right. I am not fit to be anyone's mate. What kind of creature am I? I have stolen my own child's life and made a mess of it. I would have sacrificed my ship and crew if H'ok hadn't stopped me just to make G'kirk pay for what his piracy has cost me."
"Sylva," Ghon said, not knowing what else to say.
"Sylva Dax," she corrected him. Deliberately, she drew the memories and mannerisms of Sevren Dax about her as she'd done months ago. "So, you would be my friend. Are you sure it will be safe enough for you?" Without another word, she left him on the holodeck.
Stunned, Ghon just watched her go. Safe enough? Definitely not! She had just called a Klingon warrior a coward to his face and walked away without looking back. She was not fit to be the mate of the faint of heart.
Was he faint of heart? He had never run from a foe in his life. When he'd realized the depth of his feelings for Sylva recently, he hadn't hesitated in declaring himself and, when he objected, breaking the nose of her escort to the opera the crews of the Vengeance and Lightbearer had attended. He smiled at the memory. The ensuing riot had turned a lackluster performance into a rousing success. He hadn't backed down as her father and great grandfather, living legends both, challenged his intentions and his well-earned reputation with women.
He was nobody's coward. Yet, how else did he explain his extreme reaction? Months ago, waiting with the others in the tactical room for Sylva Dax, he'd thought himself prepared to deal with the changes the joining would have made in her. Then it seemed that Sevren Dax entered the room wearing his daughter's body, driving home the fact that his lady warrior was no more. In her place walked a nearly immortal being that had already lived ten lifetimes over a span of four hundred or so years, as a man and as a woman. What use would such a being have for him, a 30-year old security officer before too long? Anger had masked his fear and, when the time came, he had gone on the offensive, rejecting the woman he was afraid would find him lacking.
Sylva Dax emerged from the refresher in a light shift prepared to spend the rest of a sleepless night reliving the scene on the holodeck. Somehow, Ghon's offer of friendship cut her as deeply as his initial rejection.
The door chime sounded. She was tempted to ignore it but decided that the fastest way to get rid of the intruder would be to answer the door.
"Nuqneh?" she called, making the customary Klingon greeting (What do you want?) more of a challenge than a greeting.
"It is Maruk," came the response.
"Come," she invited. She didn't need Ghon's friendship. She had Maruk and Avenger. They did not find her disgusting.
Maruk entered Sylva's quarters. He stopped just within the closing doors, taking in the tall supple form outlined by the thin shift. There was a strange look in her eyes.
"I was finally able to replicate my mother's sleeping tonic. I thought it might help you," he said, holding out a vial with a milky substance in it.
Without a word, Sylva took the vial and drank the contents straight down, grimacing at the bitter taste.
"It is as bitter as I remembered it," she said, putting the vial down.
Maruk grinned, starting to relax. "It was the taste that told me I had replicated it correctly, Milady."
"Maruk, you have called me 'Milady' since we were children. What can I do to get you to stop?" she practically purred.
Too late, he noticed the fresh bite mark on her jaw and knew he was on dangerous ground. He would disembowel Ghon for this! He tried to keep a light tone, "Now that you outrank me, nothing."
"Are you so sure?" she asked, closing the small gap between them.
"Sylva," he started, suddenly hoarse. "I will always be your friend."
"Everyone wants to be my friend tonight," she growled, pulling him into her embrace.
Leaving the holodeck behind, Ghon set his course for Sylva's quarters. Now that he finally knew his own mind, she must know it too. He needed to talk to her before she left the ship. Perhaps they could begin again.
When he arrived at her quarters, the one thing he was sure of was that she would not let him in. Without pausing, Ghon opened the security panel beside the door and punched in his security code. The doors opened with a satisfying whoosh and reason left him.
He spun Maruk out of Sylva's arms just as she pulled him close and slammed Maruk with all his considerable might in the face. Taken off guard, Maruk crashed to the floor. He was on his feet immediately, ready to bring down his attacker but Sylva was between them.
"Get out!" she snarled.
"And leave you with him?" Ghon countered. He looked at Maruk and sneered, "My friend."
Maruk struggled against his own head-butting instincts that demanded he destroy the rival for his mate. He shook his head to clear it. Sylva wasn't his mate. She had chosen his best friend, this same petaQ that was acting like a ravenous targ whose only meal was in the jaws of a rival.
"If I were not your friend, you would be dead right now or heading to a holding cell. What do you want here, Lieutenant?" Maruk grunted in satisfaction as his friend made an effort to calm down.
Ghon directed his response to Sylva who still stood between them, "We must talk."
"We have talked," she said. "Maruk, remove your security chief from my quarters or I will have his own men do it."
"Aye, Milady," Maruk answered. He laid a cautionary hand on Ghon's arm when he tried to follow Sylva who had once again turned her back and walked away.
She was so weary. Control was a gossamer thread unraveling. She would not break down before witnesses, especially not Ghon. There was a brief murmuring behind her before the doors opened. The doors closed and, as she'd done months ago, Sylva Dax surrendered to the pain and howled like a wounded animal. Her strength deserted her then. She tried to reach the bed but her legs would no longer support her. Before she could hit the floor, she was pulled back against a wall of solid muscle and held there by a corded band of titanium.
"Is a fool permitted to redeem himself?" Ghon asked.
His words rumbled along the ridges of her spine. A part of her wanted to make him bleed as he had made her these past few months but she was too weary.
"A fool can try," she answered, still leaning against him.
"We must talk," Ghon said, reminding himself of his purpose. "Come," he said, leading Sylva to the small couch sitting against the wall opposite the bed.
Sylva Dax allowed herself to be led to the couch and seated. She neither leaned toward him or moved away when Ghon joined her. She would allow him to make his excuses. What happened after that she was not certain.
Encouraged by Sylva's cooperation, Ghon did one of the hardest things a warrior could do: he swallowed his pride and admitted that he had reacted out of fear.
"I am not fool enough to believe that matters between us can ever be the same. Too much has happened," Ghon said finally.
"And I am still joined," Sylva Dax added bitterly. She was so tired. Her limbs had grown heavy as Ghon talked and her thoughts fuzzy. "I did not want to be," she whispered, her voice sounding far away to her own ears. "I wanted to take the Oath-to join with you." She was silent for a moment, staring unseeingly at the other side of the room.
In a voice he almost didn't recognize, she continued, "I could hear him. Pleading with her. I tried to stop him but Sevren's lips would not move. Ezri wasn't trained, you know. She never wanted to be joined yet she did it to save me. That is what he told her." Despite the chill that swept through him, Ghon did not withdraw as he listened.
"But Ezri was a Starfleet counselor raised in Trill society. She was not my child! Jules should have known. Not Sylva! Not my child! He should have let me die."
Ghon groaned at her words and pulled Sylva Dax into his arms. He held her as her body shook with silent sobs.
She was pinned down! Sylva's eyes flew open. Quickly, she took stock of her situation, ready to fight her way out. Her armor and d'k'tagh, along with the rest of her uniform, lay where she had discarded them after returning from the holodeck. Another uniform belonging to a much larger warrior lay neatly beside hers. Ghon. It was the weight of his arm across her back that held her in place on the bed. She still wore her shift.
She remembered sitting with him on the couch talking. He'd held her as she relived Dax's nightmare within Sevren's dying body and-. She must have . . .
"Maruk's sleeping tonic!" she thought aloud with such disgust that Ghon laughed against her hair. She twisted around to face him. "Don't laugh," she warned. "You stayed. Why?"
He did not hesitate in answering, "Because I would be your mate, Sylva Dax."
She pushed up onto her knees so that she could have a better look at the warrior sharing her bed for the first time. He was naked save for his loincloth. A confusing kaleidoscope of intimate moments of past hosts bombarded her then. Overwhelmed, she raised a hand as though to shield herself and cried, "No!"
For one brief moment, Ghon thought she had rejected him. Realizing she was in distress, he rose to his knees and held her close once more.
The unbidden images receded as Sylva Dax's focus shifted to the warmth surrounding her. Now, experiences not her own served to guide her as she explored the wall of brown flesh before her. Her eager assault sent them both tumbling to the floor in a tangle of bedclothes and limbs as his scent and the taste and smell of his blood pushed her over the edge. Shift and loincloth were lost as the two wrestled upon the floor between the wall and the bed.
"Nuqneh?" Sylva Dax roared, rearing up to glare at the intruder across the bed.
A surprised Avenger rushed forward when he saw blood on her face. "Are you hurt?" He'd heard the thud of a body hitting the floor through the closed doors after hitting the door chime for the second time. Concerned, he had used his security code to enter.
"No!" she gasped, trying to catch her breath. Ghon lay partially beneath her, gritting his teeth in frustration. "Stay back. I'm fine."
Avenger checked his forward motion, immediately understanding the situation. A wicked gleam appeared in his eye.
"I thought I told you to get some rest," he teased his friend. He should have talked to Ghon days ago, he thought, pleased.
Sylva Dax leaned closely against the side of the bed, using one bare arm for support. Ghon knelt beside her.
"I got plenty of rest thanks to Maruk," she said ruefully.
"Maruk?" Avenger asked, confused.
"Sleeping tonic," Ghon explained in disgust.
Avenger roared with laughter, now getting the full picture. He sobered quickly when he saw the murderous looks on the lovers' faces. For Dax's sake, he regretted his next words. "Well, we have just entered Trill space. I came to help you carry your things to the transporter room but I see I am not needed. Lieutenant, get Captain Dax to the transporter room without delay. I will meet you there." With that, he exited.
Ghon sighed, "It is for the best."
"How so?" Sylva asked, searching his face to see if he now regretted what had nearly happened between them.
Ghon pulled her into a tight embrace and whispered, "Our joining should be without restraint."
Memory flashed of Jadzia and Worf helping each other into sickbay after their first time and Julian's startled reaction. She couldn't arrive on Trill with bruises and barely mended bones. Sighing, Dax slipped from his arms.
"Yes, I agree. Help me get ready." Sylva quickly gathered the clothing she would wear and rushed towards the refresher.
"Sylva," Ghon said just as she was entering the refresher. "We will finish what we started when you return from Trill," he promised.
"I will still be Dax," she said as the door opened. She wanted to be sure that he understood that her being joined would not change. She was going to Trill to learn how to live as a joined Trill and how to cope with being joined to her father's symbiont.
Ghon strode onto the bridge and took his post after seeing Sylva Dax off. Avenger had said his good-byes to Sylva Dax first then left the two lovers alone in the transporter room to say their good-byes.
Sauntering innocently to Ghon's side, Maruk said in a mock whisper, "I believe your lip is bleeding."
"Yes," Ghon stated without explanation. He simply licked the blood from his lip as the ship's captain gave the order to break orbit.
"Set course for the Empire!"
The green slave girl ran from the chamber, escaping her master's foul temper. Pleasing him had become impossible since he'd returned to base, his ship heavily damaged and more than a fourth of his crew dead or badly injured. She barely avoided a collision with Tar'vod, G'kirk's second in command, as he headed in the direction from which she was fleeing.
Tar'vod bowed, not rising until G'kirk gave him permission to do so. "Repairs are on schedule," he reported.
"I did not call you here about the repairs," G'kirk snapped. "I want news of that she-demon!"
"According to our sources in Klingon-held territory, her ship returned to Qo'noS for repairs. Whether or not she was on it, is not known."
"Then find out. Let it be known that I will pay handsomely for information that puts her in my hands" G'kirk stood up and marched over to a table holding a carafe of Romulan ale. He brought it to his lips and swallowed deeply. Wiping his mouth with the sleeve of his robe, he turned back to Tar'vod. "I want Sylva Dax."
To Be Continued
A/N: I have merged chapters 1 and 2 into a single chapter in response to the reviews from chibinovachan and JaneScarlett, realizing that the original posting of chapter 1 was more an intro and did not allow the reader to get to know any of the characters enough to want to move on. I'd love to hear from you. Did I make the right decision to leave the story as is and simply merge the two chapters?