"Every man hides a secret pain. It must be exposed and reckoned with. It must be dragged from the darkness into the light. Share your pain, share your pain with me and gain strength from the sharing."
Sybok of Vulcan
"Good work, Scotty," Jim Kirk said as he and Spock materialized on the transporter platform. Whirling to face his first officer, Kirk's relief transmuted into anger. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't call Security, have you dragged into Sickbay and--"
"Jim," Spock interrupted gently.
"Three days of negotiations, three days! You knew how tenuous that agreement was. You insulted him. To a Klingon--"
"Jim!" Leonard McCoy moved out from his place behind the console next to Montgomery Scott to join Kirk and Spock as they left the transporter pads. "What happened?"
"I'll tell you what happened," Kirk snapped. "I'll tell you precisely what happened. My first officer here just erased three days work by refusing to respond to Korrd's farewell salute. All he had to do was respond. Hell, they know he's Vulcan; a simple nod would have sufficed. I saw the look on Korrd's face, Bones. We'll be lucky if he doesn't order Klaa to attack us right here over Nimbus Three!"
"Korrd's not gonna do that, Jim," McCoy argued. "Maybe he was insulted, but he's been around the block a few too many times to let somethin' like this stand in the way of peace."
"Now he wants to talk," Kirk interrupted Spock again, rubbing his temples as if to ward off a building headache. "Down on Nimbus when I needed him to talk, he was carved in Vulcan rubinite."
"I shall offer a complete apology to General Koord," Spock said. "I regret any inconvenience--"
"He stood there like he was in a trance, Bones," Kirk continued. "I had to drag him out of there, apologizing all the way."
McCoy frowned, reaching for his medical scanner.
"Doctor," Spock began.
"Shut up," McCoy ordered rudely as he ran the whirring scanner over the Vulcan. The doctor's color paled, and he looked up into the calm, brown eyes as if pleading for a denial of what he'd just read on his instrument. Spock returned his gaze and nodded his head.
"Dear God," McCoy whispered, stepping back to rest a weary hand on the transporter console. "Here we go again."
Kirk looked between Spock and McCoy, his anger fading into concern. "Bones, what are you--"
"Why didn't you tell us?" McCoy questioned.
"I did not think it was relevant," Spock responded. "Apparently, I miscalculated."
"Would you mind telling me what the hell you two are talking about?" Kirk demanded, exchanging a puzzled glance with Scott, who remained silent.
McCoy leaned over the console, cradling his head on folded arms, and began to laugh. All three of his companions stared at the unexpected display of emotion.
McCoy continued to laugh, genuine amusement overwhelming his desire to communicate an explanation. The sound of his laughter rose and fell, echoing in the small room until he finally raised his head, controlling the impulse to continue into hysteria. "Sorry...it just..." He looked at Spock and then chuckled. "Not as easy as you thought it was, huh?"
"It is proving an inconvenience," Spock agreed somewhat reluctantly.
"What's proving an inconvenience?" Kirk thundered, completely out of patience.
"Being the keeper of the katra," Spock said softly.
"Katra?" Kirk echoed. "Whose katra..." His voice trailed off as he recalled Sybok's last words to Spock, of the ritual touching of hands in the Vulcan way. Sybok knew he was going to die, just as Spock had known when he joined with McCoy. "Sybok's?"
Kirk sank heavily onto the transporter platform and heaved an exasperated sigh. It just hadn't been a good week.
Kirk waved Spock's apology aside as he rose to his feet again and strode to the intercom near the doorway. He hit the switch with a practiced flick of his thumb. The switch broke off and flew across the room. Kirk stared at the useless intercom for a moment before swearing under his breath.
"Jim, what are you gonna--"
Moving back to the transporter console, Kirk gingerly opened a line to the bridge. "Mister Chekov, plot a course for Vulcan. Commander Uhura, patch me through to General Koord on Nimbus Three."
McCoy grinned. "First we grovel, then we head to Vulcan?"
Kirk nodded, glaring at Spock. "It seems we have no alternative."
Spock arched a brow, and McCoy pointed an accusing finger at the Vulcan. "Serves you right for tryin' to keep it a secret. Once you make your apologies to Koord, I'm confinin' you to your quarters. God only knows what kind of aberrant behavior you could develop in your condition."
"I shall yield to your expertise in the matter," Spock retorted dryly.
Scott watched the three file out of the transporter room and shook his head as the doors closed behind their retreating figures. "It's a fine pot of haggis we've boiled now," he muttered.
Spock drew himself out of the light trance. It was useless. As long as he carried Sybok's katra, there would be this barrier to the deeper stages of meditation. He had anticipated that. What had come as something of a shock were the recollections, the memories which flowed over him in waves. His unexpected reunion with Sybok had evoked such strong mental images, remembrances he had thought forever lost due to the inexact refusion of his katra and body.
What played upon his subconscious now were not the dates and facts which had been fed to him by his tutors after the fal-tor-pan, but vivid, startlingly detailed memories of his youth. Until Sybok's appearance, there had been no catalyst for the flood of recollections, and now there was nothing to do, but experience them. Perhaps once he'd replayed them all, catalogued them all in the proper order, he would find peace.
Settling himself more comfortably onto his bunk, Spock searched his mind for the first time he had heard Sybok's name. The memory came immediately, as sharp and clear as the screen on the Enterprise's library computer. But instead of merely viewing the scene, Spock felt himself drawn into it, just as McCoy had been drawn into the re-enactment of his father's death.
He was in the kitchen with his mother, setting the table as she drew an aromatic casserole from her oven.
"I was hoping your father would be home in time to share this with us," she sighed as Spock laid out the cutlery on neatly folded napkins.
"That is illogical, Mother," Spock chided gently. "He is not due at the Space Central shuttle port for another hour, add to that point six seven hours transit time in the flitter--"
Amanda laughed, wagging a spoon at her young son. "You're sounding more like your father every day, Spock."
Spock felt a surge of pride which he immediately controlled, bobbing his head in a dutiful bow. "I am honored."
"Don't be so honored that you forget the knives, I'm afraid I left the balkra in the oven just a little--" Amanda's next words were cut short by a shrill beep from the study.
"Shall I get it for you Mother?"
"Please. I'll be right in."
Spock remembered not to run into the study, and moved sedately around his father's desk to hit the receive button on the BellComm.
The woman who appeared was not known to Spock, but nevertheless she seemed familiar. Thin lips compressed in what he fancied as disapproval as dark eyes bored into his. She was dressed in a simple robe, but her air was that of one born to rule.
"You have reached the residence of Ambassador Sarek," Spock intoned politely as he had been taught. "I am Spock, son of Sarek. How may I be of service?"
"I will speak with Sarek," the woman said, her words accented heavily with the vowels of the Old Tongue.
"I regret that my father is not at home," Spock replied, lowering his gaze respectfully, but glad of the excuse to do so. "My mother, Amanda--"
"I will speak with her." It was not a request, rather an order.
Amanda's hand fell on her son's shoulder as she stepped into camera range of the BellComm. "T'Sai," Amanda paused briefly. "To what do we owe the honor?"
Spock could feel the tension in his mother's body as she stood behind him. Her grip on his shoulder tightened, and he realized that she did not want him to leave.
"Send the child from the room," T'Sai demanded.
"Spock is no longer a child," Amanda replied, unable to keep a trace of motherly pride out of her voice. "He passed his kahs-wan last month. By Vulcan law he is an adult."
"Indeed," T'Sai's tone was doubtful. "Then, Spock is acting as head of the house in Sarek's absence?"
When Amanda hesitated, Spock nodded his head. "I speak for Sarek," he insisted, knowing instinctively that he must stand as a buffer between his mother and this woman.
"So be it," T'Sai said. "Tell Sarek that T'Rea is dead. She died by her own hand. I must know what is to be done with the child."
"Child?" Amanda queried, forgetting that Spock was speaking for Sarek.
T'Sai ignored Amanda, looking instead at Spock. "When is Sarek expected to return?"
"One point six seven hours," Spock responded. "What child, T'Sai?"
"Sybok, son of T'Rea and Sarek."
Spock somehow managed to keep his face expressionless, but he could only guess at the play of emotions across Amanda's. Her grip on his shoulder actually became painful.
"You must be mistaken," Amanda uttered softly. In spite of the extremity of the situation, Spock found himself admiring the control in his mother's voice.
"I realize Humans have an overwhelming tendency to deny that which cannot be denied," T'Sai said blandly. "However your denial does not alter the truth. Sybok is the son of Sarek by T'Rea, his bondmate."
"I am Sarek's bondmate," Amanda countered in a tone which tremored only slightly.
"You are his second bondmate. T'Rea was his first. She had lived here at Gol since the annulment of her bond to Sarek. It was here that she bore his son."
Spock could feel Amanda's rage at T'Sai, and could sense it as it settled into the pit of her stomach. For the first time since he took his kahs-wan, Spock reached through his mental shields to touch his mother's mind, projecting comfort even as he met the piercing gaze of the Kolinahr High Master.
"I shall give Sarek your message upon his return, T'Sai," Spock said softly. "Is there anything else you require?"
"Only Sarek's response...his immediate response."
"I will tell him."
T'Sai cut the connection.
Spock opened his eyes to see Leonard McCoy standing in the doorway to his cabin.
"Come in, Doctor. I was meditating."
"Both of you?" McCoy queried with a faint smirk.
Spock shifted slightly on his bunk and sighed. "Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I was lost in the past."
McCoy grinned and moved a chair to the foot of the Vulcan's bunk, sitting backwards in it and gripping the molded back. "Now, that I believe. Sybok?"
Spock nodded, steepling his fingers characteristically. "There was much I had forgotten. Much I...had thought forever lost."
"Are the memories yours or Sybok's?"
Spock looked surprised. "Mine. Sybok's katra is contained. There is no mingling of the minds."
McCoy arched a brow in a purposeful imitation of Spock. "Well, that's convenient."
Spock's lips twitched for a moment as he summoned control. "You have never been exceptionally open to telepathic contact."
"Don't change the subject," McCoy insisted. "Why didn't you tell Jim? Hell, why didn't you tell me? And please don't give me any bull about not havin' a common frame of reference."
Spock didn't answer for a moment, and when he did his voice was soft. "Not all memories are pleasant, Doctor."
McCoy sighed, thinking of what Kirk had gone through to reunite Spock's body and soul. "He gave up a lot, didn't he?"
Spock nodded, knowing instinctively that McCoy referred to Kirk rather than Sybok.
McCoy raked Spock with a frankly assessing stare and then rose from his seat. "I just came to tell you that Jim and I are goin' with you."
Spock looked up, surprised. "That is not necessary."
McCoy grinned. "The last time we went up those steps we went together." The doctor turned and headed for the door, pausing just as it opened. "This time isn't gonna be no different. I'm my brother's keeper too, you know."
Before Spock could respond, the door closed behind McCoy's retreating form.
T'Liba's expression was typically Vulcan as she sat between Sarek and Amanda in the Surak family's box in the plush auditorium of the Vulcan Science Academy. The music of T'Rall was among her favorites, and was being faultlessly performed, but tonight she found that she could not enjoy it. Her thoughts were jumbled. She sorely needed to meditate, but there had been no time to do so before the concert. Spock's subspace message had come just before Amanda and Sarek arrived to collect her.
Had it not been her duty to attend this performance, she would have pleaded an illness, anything to avoid going out in public when her mind was screaming at her to make order of chaos. But, as Assistant Curator of the Science Academy Museum, she was expected to attend all Academy functions. Therefore, such a deception would be unthinkable. Sarek was right; her impulsiveness was her greatest flaw, an unseemly characteristic for the wife of a son of the House of Surak.
But are you wife? she asked herself silently. Or are you that which you were intended to be? Spock has recalled the faces of others. What reason is there that he cannot remember you, T'Liba? A man does not forget a wife, but there is no logical reason to recall--
"--accompany me?" Sarek's voice broke into her thoughts, and T'Liba realized that the music had ceased. All around them individuals were heading for the foyer to honor the accomplishments of the musicians with food and drink. Vulcan concerts often lasted in excess of six hours, making a lengthy intermission necessary not just for the performers, but for the audience as well.
Amanda patted T'Liba's hand with motherly reassurance. "Go ahead, child. Keep Sarek company while he pays his respects. I'll have something brought to me here."
T'Liba inclined her head, not just to please Amanda, but because she was thirsty. Her mouth felt as dry as Vulcan's Forge.
Following Sarek down the short flight of steps to the wide aisle, T'Liba kept the respectful distance which modern custom dictated a youth of the house afford its head. Once in the foyer, the crowd made the distance impossible to maintain, and Sarek turned, gesturing that she remain at his side.
Sarek made the necessary rounds, speaking first to the musicians, and then formally greeting the heads of other houses. An usher brought them tall glasses of iced fruit juice, and when Sarek's duties were discharged, he guided T'Liba to a quiet alcove, his dark eyes searching her expression. "The news has unsettled you."
T'Liba lowered her gaze. "I did not intend for it to be visible."
"I think it is only visible to Amanda and myself," Sarek admonished softly. "And only to us because we know you so well."
"It is unseemly for a daughter of the House of..." T'Liba's voice trailed off as she fought for composure. "I...I do not know my place."
"Your place is where it has always been," Sarek reminded gently. "Consort to my son, heir to his properties, keeper of his estate. You are his t'hy'la."
T'Liba looked up at Sarek, the pain in her dark brown eyes speaking eloquently of the doubts she harbored in her heart. "He does not remember me."
"Patience, T'Liba-kam. Did he not send his message to you?"
"To the House of Spock," she amended. "Not to me."
Sarek sighed. "Spock has not yet arrived, and already you have decided that he will not remember you. You have always been impulsive, but in this instance it is imperative that you control your natural propensity to..." He paused, one of Amanda's idioms coming to mind. "...jump the gun," he finished solemnly, his Vulcan demeanor enhancing the subtle humor of his choice of words.
He saw no mirth in T'Liba's eyes, rather, she seemed not to be listening to him. "You are Spock's wife."
T'Liba flinched as if struck by a blow. "I am not a wife. I am that which I was intended to be."
Sarek felt an anger which he had thought long dead wash over him with incredible force. "You have turned dishonor into honor, and you have served my son, and our family as no other could do. In time, Spock will remember all that you have given him. He will remember what you have shared."
T'Liba inclined her head again, her voice barely a whisper. "You honor one who is unworthy."
Sarek looked down at the humble creature who stood before him and remembered the glimmer of joy he had read in her eyes when he returned from Earth with Spock's message to his mother: "Tell her I feel fine." Both he and Amanda had dared to hope that Spock's restored memories would include T'Liba, the young woman who had been given to the family as chattel and become the pride of the House of Surak. Now, he saw only tension in T'Liba's slender frame, and sensed her self-doubt, a residual effect of the years she had spent in T'Pring's shadow.
"In the House of Sindal you were viewed as unworthy," Sarek said firmly, moving close so she could not avert her gaze. "But, you are more than worthy as daughter of the House of Surak. When Spock comes, he will remind you of your worth, not just to him, but to us."
T'Liba and Sarek had never spoken openly of the circumstances which had made her part of his house, but even on the day she and Spock had become one, T'Liba had sensed Sarek's anger at Sofab. This was the first time she had considered that his anger might have been at least partially on her behalf. She could offer no words to adequately thank him for the confidence he had just expressed in her, but she must make some response or seem ungrateful.
"I seek only to serve."
"You have done that and more," Sarek responded smoothly.
T'Liba and Sarek stayed in the lobby until the usher announced that intermission was over. As they made their way back toward their seats, T'Liba remained preoccupied, thinking only of Spock's blank gaze as he had bid her farewell before returning to Earth. There had been no recognition, no remembrance of her as an individual. She was merely a name and a face to him, an unwanted specter of his past.
Still lost in thought, T'Liba climbed the stairs which led to her seat, inclining her head in response to Amanda's welcoming smile.
"Chattel!" A shrill cry pierced T'Liba's consciousness, and she froze in the act of taking her seat, recognizing the voice as one which had haunted her youth.
Below her and to her right, T'Pring rose from her seat in the box reserved for the House of Sindal and pointed an accusing finger directly at T'Liba. All other sounds were suddenly hushed, and the honor guards of the House of Surak moved quickly and silently, one to the aisle beside T'Pring, and another to T'Liba's and Amanda's left side, the deadly blades of their shirpa poised for use.
"You dare to precede the head of your house?" T'Pring challenged, her haughty tone matching the rigid indignation of her posture. "You are now as you have always been: unworthy even as chattel, thoughtless and ungrateful."
T'Liba stared incredulously down at her cousin, realizing too late that she had stepped ahead of Sarek, a breach of Vulcan etiquette. In the privacy of Sarek's home, it was not a custom that was followed, but here it could be considered as a sign of disrespect.
"You will beg forgiveness, chattel," T'Pring commanded. "You were a burden to my father, and now you burden the House of Surak with your disrespectful ways."
Sarek spoke from where he stood, one foot on the first of the steps which led to the family box. His voice, that which many offworlders knew only as the voice of Vulcan, was gentle with genuine paternal tolerance. "T'Liba-kam intended no disrespect, T'Pring. Therefore, none was taken."
T'Liba experienced a rush of gratitude not just for Sarek's diplomacy, but also for his public use of the diminutive suffix and the tone of his voice. Her gratitude mingled in her heart with a very old rage at T'Pring, who even now took every opportunity to humiliate her. Before T'Liba had been given to Spock as T'Pring's replacement, she had actually thought it her due to be treated in such a manner, but Sarek and Amanda regarded her as a part of the family, and honored her as a daughter born to the house.
"You are too forgiving, Sarek," T'Pring argued in the cold, clipped tones which T'Liba knew so well. "For years my father sought to teach this chattel her place. She must be dealt with harshly, or she will commit the offense again, bringing shame to your house just as she brought shame to ours."
"T'Liba has brought no shame--"
"I will see her punished!" T'Pring's haughty demand overrode Sarek's denial.
Amanda rose from her seat, fists clenched, her mouth open to defend the wife of her son against the woman who had spurned him.
"It is not your place to make such a demand, T'Pring," T'Liba blurted, laying a restraining hand on Lady Amanda's arm. The sound of her voice shocked even her, but she continued. "And you shall not address me again as chattel. I am wife to Spock, daughter of the House of Surak."
Now, the entire auditorium was completely silent, not a rustle or a whisper could be heard. The expression on T'Pring's face was a sight to behold. Never before had T'Liba dared to respond to the cruel taunts of her cousin. Moreover, since Sofab's death, T'Pring ruled as head of the House of Sindal. This conflict of wills was symbolic of the battle which had raged between these two houses for decades.
"How dare you speak to me in such a manner?" T'Pring queried when she had regained her ability to speak. She turned to Sarek. "I demand that this female be punished for her impertinence, and I--"
"Kroykah," Sarek's voice was not as loud as T'Pring's, but the force behind it was unmistakable. "The wife of my son has spoken. The matter is settled."
Sarek climbed the stairs deliberately, took his seat, and then inclined his head to indicate that Amanda and T'Liba sit as well. All over the auditorium individuals took their seats in silence until only T'Pring remained standing, her face flushing jade in a mixture of anger and embarrassment. Her consort, Stonn, who had remained silent throughout the entire confrontation, now rose from her side and urged her back into her seat, whispering in her ear as his glance shifted nervously to the armed guard.
Once the usual murmur of voices had recommenced, and the honor guards had returned to their original positions, T'Liba leaned toward Sarek, her voice a tremulous whisper. "I must beg forgiveness, noble father. My behavior--"
"The matter is settled..." Sarek interrupted, his voice once again gentle. T'Liba looked into the ambassador's eyes and saw a reflection of the satisfaction she had experienced at T'Pring's humiliation. "...my daughter."
Amanda's cool fingers brushed against T'Liba's, the clasp of the slender hand surprisingly strong. T'Liba felt her husband's mother's unshielded pride and satisfaction, along with a uniquely Human telepathic observation that could certainly not be translated into Vulcan.
T'Liba fought a smile.
"Honored guests," the conductor addressed his audience, completely unaware that no performance his orchestra could give would rival the scene which had just transpired. "Before we continue with the works of T'Rall, we shall honor the House of Surak with a Terran selection." He bowed slightly. "Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons,' dedicated to the gracious Lady Amanda, wife of Sarek."
T'Liba listened carefully to the first movement, frowning because it did not sound a bit familiar. She had heard music by this Terran composer before, on Amanda's audio tapes. As they commenced the second movement, Amanda leaned to brush her lips against T'Liba's ear.
"Good thing he announced it as Vivaldi, child," Amanda whispered in a voice calculated to be heard only by T'Liba. "Otherwise, I'd never have guessed."
This time T'Liba's battle to control a smile was ineffective.
Spock was seven years old again, sitting cross-legged on his bed, having just unsuccessfully attempted a deep trance. His parents were in the adjacent study, and his mother's voice rose, breaking the last remnants of his concentration.
"Of course I'm upset. Why didn't you tell me?"
Sarek's tones, although not as loud as Amanda's were still audible if Spock strained to catch his words.
"It was irrelevant."
"It was irrelevant that you were married to this woman for nearly thirty years? Irrelevant that she bore your child?"
"How can you sit there and say that?"
"Because it is the truth."
"I suppose thirty years from now Spock and I will be irrelevant, cast aside when you take wife number three?"
"You are becoming emotional, Wife."
"You're damned right I'm becoming emotional. You didn't have to stand here while T'Sai twisted the knife in the open wound. How do you imagine Spock felt, hearing it like that?"
"Spock is Vulcan; he will understand."
"Well, I'm not Vulcan, and if this is what being Vulcan is, then I'm damned glad I'm not! How could you lie to me; how could you?"
"I told no lie."
"You told no God damn truth either! Aunt Roberta told me not to marry you. She warned me--"
"Roberta Grayson has no bearing on this discussion, Amanda. We are discussing Sybok."
"We're discussing thirty years of your life!"
"If you are referring to the time I spent as consummated bondmate to T'Rea, then we are discussing thirty years, two months, five days and six point--"
"Spare me the decimals!" Amanda shouted. "You told me that I was your first wife!"
"I told you that I had no wife before you, and that was true. T'Rea's bond to me was annulled by the Council. By Vulcan law, we were never husband and wife."
"You can't annul a consummated marriage!"
"All Vulcan marriages are consummated, Amanda." Sarek's voice took on the patient lecturing tone he often used with Spock. "Divorce is...impractical. Annulment is uncommon, but it does occur."
"Thanks for the information."
"Perhaps we should discuss this when you are less emotional."
"We'll discuss it now!" Amanda's voice was sharp with barely controlled anger. "I want you to tell me everything, and I mean everything."
"Very well," Sarek's tone was resigned. "T'Rea was what you Humans would call a princess, the only child of her generation, descendant of an aristocratic clan which had survived from Pre-Reform times. Honor dictated that she bond with a male whose family line was equally as impressive. Since I was a son of the House of Surak, and we were born in the same season, we were bonded by our parents as children. We had no common interests, no desire to be together, and we shared nothing more than four cyclic matings. It was a bond of convenience, and she bore no children. After our fourth mating, she petitioned the Vulcan Council to dissolve our marriage so she could become a Kolinahr High Master. Since both the elders and I thought her barren, and since our liaison was purely a sexual one, there was no logical reason for me to oppose her petition. She did not desire to be tied to me, any more than I desired a bondmate who would not share my life.
"But, Sarek, she was your wife."
"She was my bondmate, Amanda. Chosen for me by my parents."
"What about Sybok?"
"T'Rea did not reveal to me or the Council that she was pregnant, and her word was accepted that no fertilization had occurred during our last mating. It was not until after the Council made its ruling that her condition became known. T'Rea's act was incomprehensible even to T'Sai. By dissolving her bond with me before Sybok's birth, she denied him his birthright, and brought such shame on her family that they renounced both her and the child. I had no say in the matter, for by Vulcan law, the child was hers alone.
"T'Sai said that T'Rea died by her own hand."
Sarek sighed. "She was given a choice, and she chose death just as she chose life, in defiance of all traditions."
"I don't understand."
"T'Rea was never comfortable with IDIC. She never fully embraced the teachings of Surak, so some were surprised when she sought to go to Gol."
"But T'Sai resents our union, resents the House of Surak," Amanda said slowly. "In their zest for the absolute state of non-emotion, the High Masters of Kolinahr have forgotten the other teachings of Surak, that the beauty of diversity is the beauty of life."
"Indeed," Sarek's voice was warm with approval. "But what T'Rea sought was as alien to T'Sai and the other High Masters as Kolinahr is to the House of Surak. She sought not just control over her own mind, but the power to control the minds of others."
"T'Rea was a heretic?" Amanda breathed.
"T'Rea was charged with the destruction of the mind of an adept; a crime which has not occurred since the age of reason. She had a choice...banishment from the planet or death. She chose death.
"Sybok has no one to claim him, but me," Sarek continued. "T'Rea's family has renounced him. If I do not claim him as my son, he must leave Vulcan."
"What are you going to do?"
"I shall claim him."
Amanda made no response.
"You are angry."
"Not at the child," Amanda qualified. "But I'm mad as hell at you for not telling me this a long time ago."
There was a long silence, and then Sarek's voice murmured so softly that Spock almost doubted the words.
"It was wrong of me to keep this from you."
"Sarek!" Amanda said, astonishment audible in her tone. "We've been married for ten years, and this is the first time I've ever heard you say that you were wrong."
"It is the first time I have been wrong. Will you forgive me?"
The son of Amanda and Sarek strained to hear more, but
there was no more to be heard.
Spock's reverie was interrupted by the sound of the door signal, and he rose from his bunk, stretching protesting muscles before calling out to his visitor.
Commander Uhura crossed the threshold carrying a tray of food. "I thought you might be hungry." She continued into the cabin, and set the tray down on the small table across from his bunk.
Spock cast a glance over the laden tray, and his lips twitched as he fought a smile. "I carry the katra of my brother, Commander, not his appetite."
Uhura smiled, relaxing. "I also thought you might like some company."
Spock nodded, pulling the chair McCoy had used back to the table, and gesturing for Uhura to take it. He sank into the other chair and inspected the food beneath the napkin, raising a brow in surprise. "Balkra?"
"Your favorite," Uhura murmured, as she filled the plates.
Spock looked up, his eyes thanking Uhura more eloquently than words could ever do. There was only one other person in his life who knew how to make this dish...no, there was another...he had forgotten...
"You remember that which others forget," Spock said softly.
"I remember things that are important," Uhura countered. "The things that stay in my mind are people things. I can tell you the captain's favorite color, what brand of rice wine Sulu likes best, the distinctive plaid of the Scott tartan..." She leaned forward and grinned. "I know enough about the crew of this ship to retire in luxury on extortion fees."
"That I do not doubt."
"But I didn't know about Sybok," Uhura added thoughtfully. "You never spoke of him, yet he was your brother."
"Sybok was my half-brother," Spock explained. "For ten years, he lived in my father's house. We shared...we shared everything brothers share."
"Then, something happened."
Spock nodded. "Sybok's choice to embrace emotion would have been tolerated had he not attempted to seduce other Vulcans into doing the same. Although the teachings of Surak provide for individuality, the passionate emotions which Sybok sought to experience were the same emotions which brought our planet to the brink of destruction. He also subscribed to a mythical explanation of creation which clashed with the logical data of our modern scientists. That, too, would have been forgiven had he not tried to teach it to his students as anything more than myth. Finally, he was given a choice, and he chose to leave Vulcan rather than abandon his belief in the value of emotion and his vision of Sha-ka-ree."
"A passionate man, a great dream," Uhura whispered, her dark eyes sparking with tears. "And Sarek?"
"Sarek, who had claimed him as son when his mother's family denied him, Sarek, father to us both, declared Sybok klee-fah-tu."
Uhura blinked. The term was familiar to her, she'd run across it years ago during her study of ancient Vulcan linguistics. "Klee-fah-tu. I think I understand, a son who doesn't exist can bring no dishonor on his family."
"Correct. When one is declared klee-fah-tu, all references to the individual are stricken from the records, and all members of the family are forbidden to speak his name."
"When you saw Sybok on the hostage tape, the captain said you looked as if you'd seen a ghost..."
Spock raised a brow. "I thought only Vulcans had hearing that acute."
"You were tapping into the comm channel, remember? I heard what you two were saying because you left the comlink open."
Spock nodded in understanding. "I was momentarily...distracted."
Uhura smiled. "That's one way of putting it. Anyway, you agreed with the captain. Did you think Sybok was dead?"
"Not precisely. However, seeing Sybok evoked memories which did not mesh with the biographical information provided by my Vulcan tutors after my death and refusion. Remember, Sybok's name had been stricken from the family records, therefore I was not told of his existence."
"You'd forgotten him?" Uhura queried in disbelief.
"Consciously," Spock qualified. "Once I saw his face, and heard his voice, I remembered. There have been many recollections not covered in my biography, many...memories which I regain only when the individual involved triggers the recollection."
Uhura smiled a little wistfully as she looked up from her plate. "Can you remember the best birthday present I ever received?"
Spock searched his mind for the information, wanting to return Uhura's thoughtfulness with a remembrance which would assure her she was not just a name on his biography.
"I assume, since you ask, the birthday present was one of which I had personal knowledge," Spock said, studying his fork.
"You did," Uhura's voice was guarded.
Spock looked up into sparkling eyes, his expression softening into something dangerously close to a smile. "I am not certain, but at the time you said it was the best--"
"The present?" Uhura prompted impatiently.
"A Vulcan harp. You were thirty-f--"
"I was twenty-nine," Uhura interrupted again with a mischievous grin. "And don't you dare tell anyone any different."
Spock's brow rose. "I do have access to your personnel file, Commander."
Uhura rose from her seat, moving around the table to drop an affectionate kiss on Spock's forehead. "And I have access to your Vulcan heart, Sugah. I'll keep your secrets if you'll keep mine."
Spock tilted his head to meet the Commander's gaze, reading the pleasure and affection in her warm, lovely eyes. It took all of his restraint not to return her teasing smile with one of his own. He compressed his lips into a thin line, feigning disapproval. "Extortion, Commander?"
Uhura laughed delightedly. "It's not like I didn't warn you."
Spock sat motionless in his cabin. In his thoughts, he was making not the journey to Vulcan, but a journey he had taken as a youth.
The flitter sped across the barren desert toward the red rocks of Gol. It had been a tense, silent ride from ShiKahr, and Spock searched his mind for some topic to ease the silence.
Glancing at his father's stern profile through downcast lashes, Spock quickly stifled the sigh that rose in his chest. Neither of his parents had spoken to him about T'Sai's call since Sarek's return, and he had not the temerity to question them. He knew from overhearing their conversation that Sarek was going to claim Sybok as his son, and this was disquieting to Spock. It was not that he was without compassion for the other son of Sarek, but his very existence had come as a shock. Spock wondered if Sybok, being a full-blooded Vulcan, might somehow become the son Sarek had always wanted Spock to be, displacing Spock as inadequate.
He looked out at the barren scenery, his eyes widening as the flitter glided to its destination. Spock had heard of Gol, of course. It was a self-contained community surrounded by volcanic mountains and a wind swept desert, but usually only those seeking to attain Kolinahr ventured this far past Vulcan's Forge.
Sarek landed the flitter in the flat courtyard of etched stone. Overhead, silhouetted against the setting sun, were terraced balconies carved into sheer red cliffs. Unlike the city of ShiKahr, Gol made no pretense of reclaiming land from the desert. Instead of a lush oasis, Gol was literally rock and sand, as elemental now as it had been in Pre-Reform days.
As Spock followed his father across the wind and sand blasted courtyard, he felt the incredible overwhelming silence of this place. T'Sai approached from the main entrance, more formidable in person, if that were possible. Two steps behind her came the other two Kolinahr High Masters, still subservient to T'Sai as their place in the processional indicated. Ten paces behind trailed four novices. All were garbed in the flowing, hooded robes unique to Gol.
Sarek stopped, allowing T'Sai and her entourage to draw close before raising his hand in the ancient salute. He offered no greeting.
"You have come for the child?" T'Sai queried coldly, returning Sarek's salute.
"My son," Sarek amended.
T'Sai's brow rose. "You claim him?"
Sarek met the piercing gaze. "I take exception to the manner in which his existence was made known to my wife and son, but I claim him nonetheless."
"I am not responsible for the emotionalism of your Human wife and offspring, Sarek," T'Sai responded, her tone condescending. "Your Human son made an inquiry, and I answered it. If you had not been absent I would, of course, have given the message myself."
"T'Pau gave me the Voice of Vulcan for my address to the Federation Council, T'Sai. Even here at Gol such things are known," Sarek paused for effect. "You knew when you called that I would not be there, just as you knew how disquieting it would be for Amanda to hear of T'Rea and Sybok from you."
"I do not concern myself with the emotions of others. I was merely performing a duty."
"I disagree," Sarek argued. "It was not part of your duty to involve Amanda and Spock. It was not logical...vengeful perhaps, but not logical."
T'Sai looked bored. "Vengeance is an emotion, Sarek."
"Let me rephrase, your act was calculated and cruel."
"My act was a duty, nothing more."
"Semantics, T'Sai," Sarek countered.
T'Sai blinked indifferently.
"Where is Sybok?" The ambassador asked.
T'Sai turned and gestured to a novice. "T'Danya will take you to him."
Spock and Sarek followed the robed figure through torch lit caverns. The silent novice glided purposely through maze-like connecting tunnels, led them up narrow winding steps, and through cavernous chambers. Finally she entered a small, dimly lit room. With a nod, T'Danya left them as soundlessly as she had come.
Sitting on a high stool, hunched over a stack of scrolls and ancient books was a slender youth. His head was cradled on folded arms and long, dark hair flowed over heaving shoulders. Spock glanced at Sarek in surprise.
"Sybok," Sarek's voice echoed against bare walls. The youth froze for a moment, then raised his head, wiping damp cheeks with the sleeve of his robe before turning to face his visitors. The expression was dutifully composed, only the dark eyes hinted at what appeared to Spock to be a mixture of grief and surprise.
Sybok's hand tremored slightly as he raised it in greeting. "Peace and long life, Sarek." The voice did not quaver; it was rich and vibrant.
Sarek met Sybok's gaze as the elder returned the salute, "Live long and prosper, my son."
For a moment Sybok was too stunned to speak, his mouth worked and when words finally came out they were a incredulous whisper. "You have claimed me?"
"It is my right."
"I...I did not expect..."
"This is Spock, also my son."
Spock moved to stand before Sybok, raising his hand to greet his half brother. "Peace and long life, Sybok, son of Sarek."
Sybok tore his gaze from Sarek to study Spock. He nodded, dark eyes warm with approval, as his expression softened. "Greetings, my brother."
"Collect your belongings," Sarek ordered. "I shall await you in the courtyard.
"May Spock assist me?"
Sarek looked between the youths, perhaps looking for some familial resemblance. "If he wishes. The decision is his."
Sybok turned back to Spock, the expectant smile in his eyes not quite reaching his lips.
"I shall assist, Father," Spock said, a sleek brow arching in response to Sybok's conspiratorial wink.
Unaware of the nonverbal exchange, Sarek was already proceeding from the room.
Carrying her mug of tea out into the garden, Amanda took a seat beside the fountain. The stars were brilliant only as stars of the wee morning hours could be, and she wondered idly how late it was.
Sarek had been meditating ever since they had returned from the concert and viewed the waiting subspace message on their BellComm. Spock's missive to his parents had been brief, but it contained one bit of information he'd omitted in the message T'Liba had played for them before they left for the concert; the reason for his return to Vulcan.
Pulling her robe more tightly about her, Amanda took a sip from the mug, savoring its warmth. It was hard to believe that Vulcan could be so hot during the day and so chilly at night. To Amanda, the contradictions of the planet seemed to be reflected in the creatures which inhabited it. She'd lived here nearly sixty years, but she still could not claim to understand why Vulcans could be so logical one moment and so damned illogical the next.
She smiled, picturing Sarek's denial of that accusation. Her smile deepened as she recalled an incident which had occurred years ago.
Sarek stood before his youngest son, his grim disapproval apparent in his thinly compressed lips. Sybok was at Amanda's side.
"...Sybex could have been seriously injured. When you passed your kahs-wan, you made a decision to follow the Vulcan way. I had hoped that you had outgrown such childish behavior, but apparently that is not the case. Perhaps the fault is mine for not punishing you more severely in the past. Practical jokes are intolerable enough when they are harmless, but if that bucket had fallen on Sybex, or worse, one of your classmates...a blow to the cranium from that height--"
"Father," Sybok began.
"--could have had serious consequences. If he had been looking up, it could have blinded him. There is no excuse for such..."
As concerned as Amanda was by Spock's behavior, a part of her fought a rising giggle. Sybex was the most insufferable Vulcan she had ever met. His disdain for Humans, and his opinions about the purity of the Vulcan race made him a poor choice as an instructor for Spock, but he was also, undeniably the best gymnastics teacher in ShiKahr. Sometimes, in his zeal to give his sons every advantage, Sarek overlooked the obvious.
Sarek was right, of course. It had been wrong of Spock to rig a bucket of plomeek soup over the old-fashioned door to Sybex's office. It was wrong, but it was also damned funny. Amanda forced the mental image out of her mind and put one hand over her mouth to hide the twitching of her lips. Beside her, Sybok shifted impatiently, and tried again to interrupt.
"Silence," Sarek ordered, not taking his eyes off Spock. "What your brother has done is indefensible. I am aware that Sybex has been a taskmaster. I am also aware that your performance in his class is less than satisfactory, Spock, but to seek vengeance in such a way--"
"Spock does not have the strength of the other boys," Sybok explained. "To compensate, he makes up for what he lacks in strength with clever technique. Instead of praising him for his ingenuity, Sybex insists that he learn the 'proper' method. He knows perfectly well that Spock can accomplish anything the rest of the boys can, even though his methods may be unorthodox. That, my father, grates on Sybex's preconceptions, so he persecutes Spock in the only way he can--"
This time it was not Sarek who silenced Sybok, but Spock. Not with a word, but with a glance. Amanda turned to take in Sybok's expression as he compressed his lips into a firm line and clasped his hands behind his back.
Sarek returned his attention to Spock, who had offered not a murmur in his own defense. Amanda found her amusement turning to anger. He was just a baby, really. On Earth, the pranks of a seven-year old would never be taken seriously. But this was not Earth, and her baby was now an adult by Vulcan law. He would be judged as an adult.
"...ingratitude for the many privileges we have provided for you. Since you show no appreciation for such privileges, there is no logic in allowing them to continue. I believe that you were planning to accompany your mother when she returns to Earth next month to visit her aunt."
Amanda opened her mouth to object, knowing how much Spock was looking forward to that trip. She had planned it specifically for him to see snow. Not only was Spock eagerly anticipating the journey, but so was Roberta. She hadn't seen Spock since he was a toddler.
Sybok's hand clasped her wrist and Amanda's objection died in her throat as she met his gaze. In the silence that followed, Sarek continued to recite his son's punishment.
"You will remain on Vulcan. Instead of taking a vacation, you shall take private instruction with Sybex, if he will consent to accept you as a pupil. Moreover, you will apologize to him publicly."
Spock's head was bent respectfully. No flicker of emotion crossed his features as he accepted the sentence. "Yes, Father."
"Since Amanda does not care to travel alone, and since Sybok's academic record is without a flaw, he shall accompany her to Mountain View in your place."
Now, Spock cast another glance at his brother. Amanda could not make out the silent message which flowed between them, but Sybok flinched back as if struck by a blow.
"No! I cannot allow you to--"
"Sybok!" Spock's voice was sharp.
"I will not let another take punishment for my crime!" Sybok blurted. "Father, why did the headmaster assume that the prank was Spock's doing? Why do you assume him guilty with no proof other than motive? Is it because of Spock's heritage? Sybex is a bigot, and he has tormented Spock in the guise of teaching him. He has humiliated Spock before the others because Amanda is not Vulcan. You, of all people, should know that Spock's heritage makes him no less a being, and you, of all people, should know that Spock would not seek vengeance in that manner."
"It is noble of you to take the blame for your brother's prank," Sarek began. "However, I do--"
"You don't believe that I did it? Why, because no Human blood flows through my veins? I put that bucket over the door. I did it on my own, and I did it for the satisfaction of seeing Sybex humiliated as he has humiliated Spock. Vengeance is not an emotion alien to Vulcans, honorable Father. Some suppress it better than others. I apologize for the shame I have brought to you by my actions, but I cannot truthfully say, if given a chance I would not do it again."
Spock was shaking his head. "Sybok, I told you that they would not believe it of you. I was willing to take your punishment."
"That is why I could not let you do so, Brother. You adhere more strongly to the ways of our ancestors than I. Indeed, you are a better Vulcan than Sybex claims to be because you can forgive him. I cannot." Sybok turned back to Sarek. "I offer myself to you for punishment."
Sarek looked from Sybok to Amanda, and then back to Spock. Heaving a sigh, he clasped his hands in the contemplative pose he used when meditating and surveyed his youngest son with a severely arched brow. "Spock...I have misjudged you. You did a noble thing."
"We shall discuss it further some other time. I wish now to speak privately with Sybok."
Amanda never knew what transpired in the study after she and Spock left the room. But Spock had gone with her to Earth as planned, and Sybok had unwittingly won her undying gratitude for refusing Spock's sacrifice as too great a gift. Never had two brothers been closer than Sybok and Spock.
She recalled the day Sybok left, of the muffled sobs she'd heard from Spock's room far into the night. She knew Spock had pleaded to go with Sybok, and was grateful for Sybok's reciprocation of his brother's selfless gift; his refusal to permit Spock to join him in exile. A tear streaked down her cheek as she thought of the miserable days which followed Sybok's departure, and the painful chain of events sparked by Sarek's refusal of Spock's plea to search for him.
Eventually, Spock had fled Vulcan too, resentful of the way his father had renounced Sybok, and dissatisfied with Sarek's insistence that he take Sybok's place in the diplomatic corps. Starfleet had become a haven for Spock, and now a Starfleet mission had united him again with his beloved brother. Spock was finally getting his wish, he was bringing Sybok home. Amanda knew that this would be difficult enough for Spock considering how close he and Sybok had once been, but the complication of Sybok's status would only serve to make a bad situation worse.
Spock's message indicated that he was seeking kr'alieu for Sybok, a ceremony unheard of for one declared klee-fah-tu. Without Sarek's permission, Spock would be unable to petition T'Lar for Sybok's entry into the Hall of Ancient Thought. Further, if Sarek rescinded his declaration, the High Masters of Kolinahr would challenge Spock's petition. It was very likely that Spock was coming all this way for nothing. Her heart ached for both the sons of Sarek, but it ached for Sarek most of all.
He came quietly from the study, the silver trim of his meditation robe glinting as he approached her. Scooting to one side on the smooth stone bench, Amanda tossed the final dregs of her tea into the fine Vulcan sand. Sarek sat beside her, and for a while nothing passed between them but companionable silence. Impulsively, Amanda reached out and took his hand, squeezing it gently. Their bond surged between them, and she expressed every doubt, every fear, even her motherly concern without uttering a sound.
Sarek nodded his head slowly. "I understand, Wife. In the past, I have misjudged Spock, and you wonder now if I have been too harsh in my judgement of--"
"I believe that at the time you did as you thought best, Sarek. You did what you did as much for Spock as for anyone, and only I know what it cost you to deny his plea for leniency."
Sarek sighed heavily. "Once again a decision must be made, Amanda. If I deny Spock's request this time--"
"You underestimate our son."
Sarek accepted the gentle jibe with a nod. "What Spock asks of me is illogical."
"A flaw of his heredity?" Amanda teased, squeezing her husband's hand again.
"So it would seem," Sarek responded with a sigh.
Spock ran his fingers expertly across the strands of his lyrette, the soft chords soothing the frown which crossed his brow. A Vulcan harp had seemed such an appropriate gift for Uhura, since it was the only instrument which could rival the sweet sound of her voice, but he could not take credit for the idea of giving a harp as a gift. That precedent had been set years before he enlisted in Starfleet. Now he remembered...the texture of the moment, the details. It was as if it had happened only moments ago. As he continued to play, nimble fingers picking out a familiar tune, he became lost again in the past.
"Tangaberries, globefruit..." Spock consulted his mother's handwritten list while Sybok roamed the narrow aisles of the fruit market in awe. "Here they are, Sybok. She didn't say how many of each, but globefruit are Father's favorite," Spock's attention was on his assigned task, merely performing a routine duty.
Sybok's eyes were wide with childish delight as he cast his eyes about him at the delicious selections. "So many, Brother," he breathed. "How can you choose?"
"Mother gave me a list," Spock replied patiently as he began selecting globefruit from the pile.
Sybok chuckled, the soft chuckle he used when there was danger of them being overheard. "You take me so literally, Spock-kam. At Gol, they took the joy out of food. They crushed it up and put it in earthen bowls to deny us the hedonistic pleasure of even having something to bite into."
"Crushed or whole, the nutritional content remains constant," Spock replied, discarding a less than perfect specimen.
"There was nothing they could do about the scent," Sybok continued as he took a globefruit and held it up, inhaling the fresh fragrance. "Fruit smells alive, Spock! Vibrant!"
Spock paused for a moment, turning to look at his brother in patient puzzlement. "It is fruit, Sybok."
Sybok's affectionate grin reappeared. Deft fingers snatched two more of the golden fruit, and he tossed them over his head. Spock stared in disbelief as Sybok juggled the fruit in complex patterns. "Alive..." Sybok whispered again when he finally saw a faint glimmer of childish wonder on the face of his seven-year old brother. "...and they wish to dance before they are eaten."
"How did you learn to do that?" Spock queried, trying to follow the path of all three projectiles at once and failing. "It's...fascinating!"
"I taught myself," Sybok replied with a flourish. The globefruit were just a trifle large for such a display and the third one slipped from his grasp, bouncing to the floor and rolling against Spock's sandal.
They both sank down to retrieve the errant fruit simultaneously as the proprietor came around the corner from the next aisle.
"Is there a problem?"
"My brother dropped this globefruit," Spock replied, ignoring Sybok's mischievous grin as he picked it up and added it to the bag.
"It's crushed," Sybok lamented playfully.
"We'll send it to T'Sai," Spock hissed, flushing slightly under the suspicious gaze of the proprietor.
Later as they ate their lunch at the foot of a fountain in Surak's square, Sybok leaned forward, his eyes sparking with curiosity.
"Tell me more about Earth."
"You haven't told me about Gol," Spock countered.
Sybok frowned petulantly. "Sand, rock, oppression...what is there to tell?"
"It is so peaceful there, so apart from everything else," Spock prompted, "so quiet, it fills the soul. Father says concentration is imperative when one wishes to achieve the highest levels of meditation, but my thoughts wander and I am often distracted. At Gol, there are no distractions."
"Distractions are a part of life," Sybok argued. "To spend an entire lifetime in contemplation denies the gift of our existence. Life must be lived; it must be experienced. Meditation was created to enhance life, not replace it."
"I do not seek to replace life with meditation."
"The devotees of Kolinahr do."
"They can't meditate every minute."
Sybok sighed. "They try. Why are you so curious about Gol?"
"The Kolinahr are the ultimate expression of logic. They master their emotions instead of their emotions mastering them. Look at how you can fool Father. He never knows what you're really thinking. What I think is usually written across my face like the pages of a book. Tell me how they do it, Sybok."
Sybok's expression became blank, emotionless. When he spoke again, his voice was a credible impersonation of the High Master. "We meditate. We seek to purge from our katras all emotion, all turmoil...all life. We are living death."
Spock was torn between admiration for Sybok's skill at mimicry, and the knowledge that it was not just disrespectful, but bordered on blasphemy. No matter what his personal opinion of T'Sai, it was irreverent to mock a Vulcan High Master. As Sybok's expression returned to its usual controlled brightness, Spock could not keep his lips from twitching just slightly in spite of his determination to control it.
Sybok grinned. "Ah, a chink in your Post-Reform armor! What would our venerable sire think if he knew you harbored ill will against the dragon lady herself?"
Spock lowered his gaze, and Sybok sobered. "I used to believe her cruelty was unintentional too, Spock-kam. Many of the Kolinahr see compassion as a weakness; after all, is it not a feeling? But T'Sai is different. She is like a le-matya stalking its prey, feeding not just on the body, but on the look of its victim as it draws a final searing breath. She experiences satisfaction when she wounds another. When she pronounced sentence on my mother I saw an emotion in her; jubilation.
Spock looked up, and saw the pain and grief reflected in Sybok's eyes, thinking of the way Amanda had clutched his shoulder in the study. How would he feel about T'Sai if she had forced Amanda to chose between exile and death? A chill ran along Spock's spine as he forced the thought from his mind. Amanda would never commit such a crime.
Seeming to follow Spock's train of thought, Sybok sighed heavily. "She did not do what they said she did, Spock-kam. And even if she had, what T'Sai has done in the name of logic has often been far worse. T'Sai could not silence my mother, nor could she deny the truth of her words, the purity of her vision."
Unwilling to comment on something of which he had no knowledge, Spock neatly folded the packet which had held their lunch and tucked it into the shopping bag. "I grieve with thee," he finally murmured.
Sybok's hand fell on his shoulder, and Spock looked up in surprise. The physical contact brought their minds together in a way that reminded Spock of Amanda. He felt a warm acceptance which flowed through him in pleasant ripples before Sybok pulled away. Spock had never felt such a sensation from a Vulcan before.
"We...we should return home," Spock stammered. "We have our music lessons this afternoon."
"There's time for a final stop," Sybok said, rising to his feet and shouldering the shopping bag. "We have one more purchase to make."
Spock found himself running to catch up with Sybok's long-legged stride as he weaved purposely through the crowd of shoppers. "But we have purchased everything on mother's list."
"Indeed," Sybok said with a cryptic smile. "This way."
Spock followed his brother through the shifting crowd to the far corner of the market square. Sybok paused before a shop which displayed exquisitely crafted musical instruments in all shapes and sizes, and turned to his younger brother, gesturing that he proceed him into the shop.
Spock stopped just beyond the threshold of the crowded shop, the sights and scents overwhelming his senses. One wall from ceiling to floor displayed harps, lyrettes and all manner of string instruments. The aroma of wood and varnish filled his nostrils, reminding him of his grandfather's harp. Sarek played it on occasion, but it was a family heirloom, and Spock was completely forbidden to play it. Whenever he was in the study, Spock's eyes would caress the graceful lines, admire the craftsmanship. The harp he and Sybok took their lessons on seemed as awkward and tuneless as a box with strings compared to Skon's harp, yet it was not his to play.
Sybok drew his brother to a row of harps which bore similarity to the forbidden harp in the study. "What do you think of this one?"
They examined them all, running amateur fingers along strings which Spock could fancy the muses themselves taking delight in. The shopkeeper watched them, nodding in approval as they handled with instruments with the proper respect, but making no comment as they discussed the virtues of each.
The one which had captured Sybok's interest had also captured Spock's. The finely grained asymmetrical surface glistened like brown satin; the tuning knobs glittered like pearls set in silver. The contoured base would rest comfortably against a thigh while the bridge curved gracefully upward into a flourish. Even without turning on the synthesizer, the music that wafted from its strings was full and resonant.
Sybok lifted it carefully from the stand and carried it to the shopkeeper. "How many credits for this one?"
Spock was puzzled. Until this moment, Sybok had shown little interest in music, even less in harps. Why he would spend such an amount on such a luxury Spock could not fathom.
"One hundred credits." The shopkeeper struck the balance from Sybok's account on the small credits card which Sybok gave him.
Spock's eyes widened. That amount of Sybok's inheritance had been allotted to him by Sarek to last the entire season, and he had just spent it on one purchase!
Sybok set the harp gently in the velvet-lined case and closed the lid. When they were back in the square, Sybok carrying his prize and Spock lugging the groceries, Spock could contain himself no longer.
"One hundred credits, Sybok!"
"A bargain," the older boy replied with a smile.
"But you spent all your credits!"
"Yes?" Sybok seemed to be missing the point.
"That was to last you all season."
"And what should I have spent it on?"
Spock didn't know how to respond. He'd never had an inheritance to spend. Sarek provided him with everything he needed.
"The credits gave no joy," Sybok said, as they reached a park bench partially shaded from the afternoon heat by a grove of trees. He sat on the bench and took the harp out of the case. "I've seen the looks you give Skon's harp, felt how much you've longed to play it. Can you put a price on that desire, Spock?"
Spock was staring at the harp, amazed at how much more beautiful it was here in the sunlight. "I do not know."
Sybok smiled, holding the harp out to his brother. "Play me a song."
Spock looked about them, eager to comply, but unsure of the propriety of playing in such a public place.
Spock gave in, sinking beside his brother and tuning the harp. It seemed to mold itself against him, anticipate his next stroke. He could hardly believe the lovely sounds it made could be evoked by his touch. He chose a simple melody, a Pre-Reform tune which he had always liked, and played it. When he was finished, he saw tears in Sybok's eyes.
"We...we really should be going home," Spock suggested, feeling awkward at Sybok's reaction and vaguely uneasy, as if he had done something forbidden or inappropriate.
"Yes," Sybok wiped a tear from his eye and held out the case for Spock to put away the harp.
When it was secure and the case closed, Spock bowed his head. "Thank you for allowing me to play your harp, Sybok-kam."
"The harp is not mine, Brother," Sybok pressed the case into Spock's hands. "I bought it for you."
Spock stared at Sybok, and when he finally spoke it was in an incredulous whisper. "For me?"
"I told you the credits brought no joy," Sybok responded also in a whisper, his expression lighting up with delight. "The harp brings joy to us both, in the playing for you and in the listening for me. Two joys for a hundred credits...a bargain, my brother. A bargain indeed."
Spock was still strumming his fingers thoughtfully across his harp when Commander Chekov arrived. Leaning the harp against his shoulder, Spock nodded in greeting, gesturing for Chekov to take a seat.
"I did not wish to intrude," Chekov said, handing him two computer disks. "I heard that you were confined to quarters and thought these might help pass the time."
Spock accepted the disks, turning them over in his hand to read the labels. "Vladimir Levitsky's latest research on immune failure. Is he still on Nova Rodina?"
"Where else?" Chekov responded with a faint smile. "Ludmilla is starting college next year. I believe she's going to follow in her father's footsteps."
Spock nodded. "I'm certain she will. I was unaware that you had kept in touch with them."
Chekov shrugged. "I visit Nova Rodina now and then. I usually stay with Vlad and Ludmilla while I'm there."
If Spock was surprised by that revelation, his expression did not betray it. "Although I have not seen Doctor Levitsky since our mission to his planet, I do try to keep apprised of his work. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and look forward to studying the tapes."
Chekov's polite nod was a mirror image of his mentor's. "Do you remember what you said to me after Katya died?"
Spock remembered the only casualty of Nova Rodina's landing party, a young ensign who had given her life to save theirs. He recollected a lovely face framed by copper colored hair...Katya? Ah, yes...Katharine Hunt, Katya only to Chekov. Now he recalled; Chekov and Hunt had been in love.
"I cannot recall the specific words," Spock said quietly. "You were grieving her sacrifice."
"You..." Chekov paused, swallowing. "You told me that her act was a gift of love, and asked me to accept the gift in the manner which it was given."
"Your pain," Spock's voice was soft with anger towards his brother. "The pain Sybok made you share, it was the pain of losing Ensign Hunt?"
Chekov looked surprised. "No, I grieved for Katya, but there was no guilt. The sacrifice was hers to make, and as you said, the gift was the gift of love. To feel guilt...that would have invalidated the gift."
Now Spock was confused. "I do not understand."
Chekov's eyes focused on the warp perspective out the portal as if searching for his answer in space. It was a long time before he spoke.
"It seems that every woman I love..." He sighed. "Death can be overcome. It is hard, but the pain does fade. Guilt...guilt is another thing."
"Jenkins," Spock said, remembering another of Chekov's unlucky choices. Lieutenant Denise Jenkins, who had turned out to be a Klingon agent. Chekov had killed her to keep her from killing Kirk. It had crossed Spock's mind before that Chekov had more than his share of gruesomely failed romances. It occurred to him now that the guilt Chekov had carried over Jenkins death would overshadow the loss of the others. The taking of any life was traumatic, but to destroy a woman one loves...he suddenly recalled the expression on James Kirk's face as he held McCoy back, allowing destiny to run its course on a New York City street.
"I killed her," Chekov whispered. "And until Sybok took away the guilt I could see only that I had taken her life."
Chekov relaxed, smiling. "I made a choice, a difficult decision, but it was the right one. Now the guilt is gone. I can live with it...I can remember without hurting."
"What Sybok did was wrong."
Chekov shrugged. "Perhaps. But he meant no harm, and he truly believed he was healing us of our pain."
"For his own purposes," Spock added. "He controlled you, made you obey his commands."
"He is gone," Chekov said softly. "And so is the pain. Sybok sacrificed himself to save us all. Like Katya, he gave the ultimate gift. If I had not known he was your brother, I would have guessed it."
Spock looked up, unsure of whether Chekov was teasing him or not. The gleam in the commander's eye told him that he was. Chekov's sense of humor had always been a little dark.
"Self-sacrifice does seem to be a family trait," Spock admitted slowly.
Chekov smiled wryly. "I believe that Sybok wanted very much for you to accept him. Now he is gone, and all that is left is his final gift. Have you accepted that gift in the spirit which it was given, Mister Spock?"
Spock raised a thoughtful brow at the excellent question, but made no other response.
"Good night, sir," Chekov turned and left the cabin.
It was a long time before Spock rose to put the harp away...even longer before he began undressing for bed. Chekov had spoken of gifts. In their youth, Sybok had given more than just material gifts, and he had given not just to Spock. Amanda, who had secretly dreaded Sybok's arrival in her household, had quickly grown fond of him in spite of her fear that he would replace her son in Sarek's affections. In Sybok, Amanda had seen what she longed to see in Spock, a reflection of her own uniquely Human sense of humor.
"'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves, And mome raths outgrabe.
"Beware the Jabberwock--"
The door chime interrupted Sybok's reading, and Amanda rose from the table in the study with a shake of her head. "A day without interruptions...I've yet to have one."
Spock looked up from his calculus homework. A part of his mind had been following the reading; Lewis Carroll was one of his favorites.
"Go ahead, Sybok," Amanda encouraged as she headed for the door to the entrance hall. "Don't stop on my account."
"I think I shall wait for your return, Lady Amanda," Sybok said, slipping a marker between the pages. "Perhaps Spock needs help with his homework."
Spock's denial died as he caught Sybok's glance. Lewis Carroll was Amanda's favorite also.
"Thank you, Sybok," Amanda's smile was genuine. "I hope this won't take long."
Leaving the door behind her ajar, Amanda went to greet her guest.
Spock was about to say something to Sybok when T'Pau's voice rang through the foyer and into the study.
"I will speak with Sarek."
"Sarek isn't here, T'Pau. He had a late appointment at the embassy."
"Is it true what I have heard, that for Sybok he seeks a bondmate from the House of Studan?"
"T'Ariz lost her bondmate in a traffic accident. She's Sybok's age, and her parents are willing--"
"The child comes from an inferior house. The son of Sarek should bond only with a--"
"But T'Ariz is perfect. Every other female Sybok's age has a bondmate. We are fortunate that she's available."
"Thee does not understand."
"I'm not ignorant of the political ramifications of Sarek's choice," Amanda said softly. "How could I be when the same concerns swayed his decision to bond my own son to the daughter of Sofab?"
"The House of Sindal is a powerful voice in the Council."
"A voice which seeks to ignore the truest of Surak's teachings," Amanda countered, her voice quavering with emotion. "Sarek chose T'Pring for Spock in a hope to unite two of Vulcan's most powerful clans. His choice to bond Sybok with the House of Studan will provide the House of Surak with a link to those less powerful. Sarek wants to unite Vulcan, and the surest way to do that is to set an example to the last of the aristocracy. The teachings of Surak--"
"Do not speak to me of Surak's teachings," T'Pau bristled. "Thee are an outworlder, parroting the words of your bondmate who is too young to understand that some ways are not to be questioned."
"If Sarek doesn't question them, who will? I know that you have never forgiven him for taking me as wife, but our marriage is a symbol of Vulcan's future."
"The Kolinahr claim it is a symbol of how far the House of Surak has come toward the brink of destruction. Thee speaks of Vulcan as if it were your birthright, but thou are a stranger to our ways."
"I live by your ways. Where I was born is irrelevant. My husband is Vulcan; my son is Vulcan. My heart claims Vulcan as home, and I have no wish to see Vulcan divided in the way Earth once was."
There was silence, and, in the study Spock and Sybok exchanged a glance of surprise. Sybok grinned. "Our Lady takes her sword in hand, my broth--"
Spock shushed Sybok's whisper as T'Pau spoke. "Thee seeks to change the ways of our people, brought down to us from the time of the beginning."
"Change is the only alternative to stagnation. Look at your beginning, T'Pau. It was every bit as barbaric as that of my ancestors. Look at the Kolinahr, look at the House of Sindal! They don't live in the present with bits of the past affecting them; they live in the past! I know you seek only the best for all of Vulcan. In spite of our differences, we share that desire."
"I believe that thee wants only the best for Vulcan as thou see it, but thy voice cannot be considered in this matter, Amanda."
"My voice is unimportant, T'Pau. It is the Voice of Vulcan to which you must answer."
"I will take my leave of thee," T'Pau responded coolly. "Tell Sarek I wish to speak with him."
"I will," Amanda sighed. "Live long and prosper."
"Peace and long life."
Amanda came back into the study, closing the double doors behind her, and then leaning heavily against them. She cast a glance at the two suddenly studious youths and could not suppress a grin. "Sybok, where were we?"
Sybok took the volume and opened it, removing the marker and laying it aside. He looked up at Amanda, the momentary glimpse of sympathy and admiration in his dark eyes surprising her before he lowered them to continue the reading.
"Beware the Jabberwock, my lady! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird and shun the frumious Bandersnatch!"
Sybok looked up from the book, breaking into a wide, innocent grin. Spock, who had glanced up sharply when Sybok altered the first line to address Amanda, now stared at his mother, awaiting her reaction.
Amanda's lips quivered, and then she smiled. Finally she threw her head back and laughed. Sybok's rich chuckle followed, and soon the both of them were leaning weakly over the table, unable to control their giggles. Spock regarded them both with a mixture of disbelief and astonishment, an unwilling smile coming to own his face almost of its own accord.
Amanda was holding her stomach, a tear sliding down her cheek as she gasped for air and summoned control. "I've...I've called T'Pau a number of names over the years, Sybok, but I've never thought of likening her to a bandersnatch!"
"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?" Sybok asked between chuckles.
"Not I," Amanda smiled. "But there is one who will."
Later that evening, Sarek returned home, greeting his wife with outstretched fingers and nodding to his sons as they took their places at the dinner table.
"I have spoken with T'Pau," he began without preamble once he had taken his seat at the head of the table. Amanda froze in the act of unfolding her napkin. "She has agreed with me that Sybok should bond with T'Ariz."
Sybok exchanged a triumphant glance with Amanda, while Spock fought to keep his expression neutral.
"And how was your day, wife?" Sarek queried.
"Frabjous, Sarek," Amanda said lightly. "Simply frabjous."
Sarek frowned, studying first his wife, and then his sons as if looking for an explanation. Amanda met his gaze openly and with a slight, expectant smile, both Sybok and Spock seemed to be taking new interest in their table settings.
Sarek seemed to consider asking for clarification, and then apparently decided it might be best not to pursue it. Once he launched into an account of a situation at the Embassy, Spock dared a glance at this brother, who, unseen by Sarek, winked first at Spock and then at Amanda.
"The warring clans killed the first of the negotiators sent. More volunteered; they in turn were also killed. But Surak's influence had spread throughout the nomadic camps, and soon the wisdom of his words was appreciated by even the most bloodthirsty of our ancestors. The Reformation took centuries to accomplish, a long and tedious process to draw Vulcan out of the darkness of barbarism and into the light of logic. Surak's death served as the catalyst for this wave of enlightenment, his teachings becoming the model for Vulcan society. Not only did Surak, father of all we hold to be true, bring peace to our planet, but he sacrificed his own life so that peace might continue."
A hand rose in the air and T'Liba stepped from behind the lectern and nodded at her pupil. "Mister Donner?"
"Being Human, I liken your Surak to Earth's Christ. There are many parallels. The way he lived his life, his commitment to peace, the nature of his sacrifice. The chronicles of Surak's life seem almost mythical. How much of what you teach is substantiated by evidence?"
"Vulcans do not teach myth, Mister Donner," T'Liba responded, opening the case she had brought with her to the lecture hall. Removing a large, leather-bound volume from within, she set it on the lectern. "There are written records of that time, some of which are housed in the Academy Museum. This," she rested one hand on the volume, "is the most treasured of those records, the personal journal of Surak himself. Within these ancient pages is the blueprint for our current civilization. More questions? Teress?"
A female Andorian rose from her seat. "Which of Surak'ss teachingss iss conssidered by modern sscholarss to be the mosst important?"
"An excellent question," T'Liba allowed herself a slight smile, "one which shall surely appear on your final test. The answer is that there are two opposing factions of modern Vulcan society. One believes that Surak's worship of logic is the sole key to self-understanding and enlightenment. The Kolinahr are the personification of that faction. Their pursuit of logic in its purest form results in a cleansing mastery. Most students, adepts and masters of Kolinahr choose a life apart from modern society, attempting to emulate as closely as possible the desert existence Surak and his followers embraced. Another school of thought contends that although logic must be a guiding force in everyday life, that the truest of Surak's teachings is his concept of IDIC."
"Which sschool of thought do you favor?" Teress asked.
"The lectern is not the place to promote personal preference, Teress," T'Liba's gentle tone took the sting out of her words. "Are there any further questions? Very well. Your final exam is next week. Please have your research material turned in prior to the exam. You are dismissed."
The offworlder students filed out of the small amphitheater, and T'Liba collected their assignment disks. Today a small group of students lingered about the lectern for a closer look at Surak's journal. The daughter of a Federation diplomat smiled brightly as T'Liba opened the fragile book to reveal the handwritten pages.
"You're not behind the lectern now, T'Liba. Which school of thought do you favor?"
A half a dozen young faces upturned in expectation as T'Liba lowered the journal gently back onto the protective leather binding. T'Liba liked and respected her offworlder students, enjoyed the challenge of teaching Vulcan history to beings who constantly questioned the dogma of her race. She found their curiosity appealing, their point of view refreshing, and their intellect surprising. Few Vulcan instructors taught Overview of Vulcan History for more than a semester. T'Liba had taught it for nearly a decade.
"Consider for a moment what you know of me," T'Liba said softly. "Surak taught that example is the greatest teacher of all."
"You believe in IDIC," Evan Briggs said, his voice ringing with conviction. Briggs, a young Human male, had decided early in the semester that T'Liba was the best discovery since Cochrane's warp drive. His crush on her did not inhibit his studies, rather it seemed to enhance his performance. T'Liba found his blind devotion amusing, since she was old enough to be his mother.
T'Liba inclined her head. "IDIC is our past, and it is also our future." Her gaze settled on her students; Terran, Andorian, Tellarite, children of a dozen colony worlds. Her class truly personified the melting pot of the Federation. "It is what ties this journal to Vulcan's seat on the Federation Council. Appreciation of diversity is the keystone for growth."
"Well spoken, child," Amanda Grayson said from the doorway. She entered the room accompanied by a tall, slender Vulcan female who wore a pale blue uniform, a ShiKahr Medical Center insignia glinting from her breast pocket.
"Lady Amanda, T'Ariz, greetings."
Amanda nodded her head.
"Greetings, T'Liba, greetings students of T'Liba," T'Ariz said. "Class is over, is it not?"
The students stared openly at the two women. Amanda Grayson was well-known on Vulcan as the wife of Ambassador Sarek. The vibrantly attractive woman at her side, however, was an enigma. T'Liba noted with amusement that Briggs seemed to be reconsidering his loyalties.
"Class is over, we were merely discussing Surak's journal."
"Your students are fortunate to have the opportunity to see such a priceless artifact," Amanda said with a tolerant smile. "T'Ariz and I had hoped to catch you before you returned to the Museum, there is a private matter to be discussed."
The students took the hint and left the room. Briggs brought up the rear with a final curious glance at the three woman who remained.
T'Liba waited till the door had closed behind him before speaking again. "You are looking refreshed, T'Ariz."
T'Ariz, intent upon the journal on the lectern, was reverently leafing through the beautifully inked pages.
"T'Ariz?" T'Liba repeated, exchanging a tolerant glance with Amanda.
T'Ariz's eyes were riveted to the slightly yellowing pages, her fingers trailing along the immaculate margins as she scanned the flowing Pre-Reform script.
"It is impressive," T'Liba said softly. "A reminder of all we once were."
"And the promise of what we may yet become," Amanda added. "T'Ariz?"
T'Ariz, who had seemed oblivious to Amanda and T'Liba as she examined the journal, now looked up, blinking. "Pardon, my lady, were you speaking to me?"
Amanda smiled. "T'Liba was saying that you looked refreshed. I must agree. I think perhaps the trip to DahhanaKahr made a nice vacation for you."
"The symposium schedule was light, but I found the presentations most beneficial. Also, it was gratifying to meet so many long distance colleagues in person."
Amanda smiled, leave it to a Vulcan to describe a weekend getaway as beneficial and gratifying.
"Was the weather in DahhanaKahr temperate?" T'Liba asked.
"Quite," T'Ariz said primly.
Amanda watched the formal exchange between T'Ariz and T'Liba, marveling at the Vulcan reserve which belied the close relationship between them. Listening to two Vulcans talk like this was a field study in an unspoken dialect. Words exchanged on a seemingly casual level hid a deeper divulgence of self. Only after years of exposure had she become aware of the nuances of such a conversation. Most Humans never comprehended it, hence the myth that Vulcans did not develop friendships.
T'Liba and T'Ariz stood here as claim to the contrary, if one were observant enough to see the signs. As daughters of the House of Surak, the only two of their generation, they had grown closer than most biological sisters. Their common backgrounds, what T'Pau would scathingly refer to as "being lowly born," had only intensified their close bond.
"We bring news from Spock, child," Amanda said softly, thinking of another sibling bond, and the reason she had brought T'Ariz with her.
"Proceed," T'Liba replied, her expression composed.
"Spock bears a katra," T'Ariz said. "He returns to Vulcan to seek kr'alieu for the one he brings with him."
"I see," T'Liba's calm response betrayed no outward sign of what she might be feeling, but Amanda could guess at her disappointment. She knew T'Liba had hoped Spock was returning because he had remembered her.
"Spock has asked Sarek to rescind his declaration of klee-fah-tu," Amanda said gently. "He bears the katra of one whose name I may not speak."
Now T'Liba's eyes widened as she met T'Ariz' steady gaze. "I grieve with thee."
T'Ariz inclined her head in acceptance of the ritual words of condolence.
"Does the head of my house request my presence to greet Spock?" T'Liba asked of Amanda.
"Sarek will leave the decision to you, child."
"I...I think perhaps it would be best that you and Sarek greet him alone," T'Liba said. "Spock may not wish to see me. If I await him in our home, the decision will be his, as is proper."
"Spock does not consider you--" Amanda's eyes were filled with a reflection of the anguish she sensed in the heart of the younger woman.
"T'Liba-kam, I must beg your indulgence," T'Ariz interrupted softly.
T'Liba nodded, eyes downcast.
"You have listened too long to the illogical rantings of one who speaks only from spite. T'Pring wishes to humiliate you to repay the slur your contentment casts upon her excuse for kal-i-fee."
"Her excuse for kal-i-fee was untruth. Spock's mind is every bit as powerful as Stonn's!" T'Liba responded impulsively, her posture stiffening as she defended her husband.
Amanda's lips twitched into a smile and even T'Ariz looked amused.
T'Liba flushed. "I was...imprecise. I have no personal knowledge of the power of Stonn's mind--"
"And I am certain you have no desire to obtain it," T'Ariz finished. "He is T'Pring's burden now, and I can think of no other more deserving."
"T'Ariz is right, T'Liba," Amanda insisted. "Only T'Pring sees you as chattel. In the eyes of all others, you are wife to my son."
"What others believe is unimportant," T'Liba responded, her voice tightly controlled. "I concern myself only with Spock's view of my status. He has called me wife, yet he has not petitioned the Council for my freedom."
"A formality," T'Ariz admonished. "A man does not allow chattel to manage his property. He does not--"
"A man does not forget a wife," T'Liba interrupted, her tone quietly decisive. "I am a stranger to my hus--to my master."
"He will remember you!" Amanda insisted. "But you must give him time."
"I shall give him eternity, my lady," T'Liba said softly. "Wife or chattel, I belong to him, and I will serve him. But until Spock frees me, I cannot claim to be his wife. I am bound by Vulcan law, brought down from the time of the beginning."
"Less than twenty-four hours ago, you declared yourself a daughter of the House of Surak before half the population of ShiKahr!" Amanda reminded impatiently. "Now you're calling yourself chattel?"
"I spoke impulsively at the concert," T'Liba said softly. "The claim was not mine to make. T'Pring was--"
"Don't you dare say she was right!" Amanda interrupted. "And don't you dare say my son sees you as chattel."
"I would not presume to speak for Spock, my lady. Even a wife would not do that."
Amanda exchanged an exasperated glance with T'Ariz, watching the younger woman's expression settle into stern disapproval. In spite of the fact that T'Ariz did not agree with T'Liba's logic, she made no further comment. Amanda recognized the stubborn tilt to her daughter-in-law's chin and also decided to let the matter drop. For now.
Spock awoke from a particularly vivid dream, sitting up abruptly in his bunk. The dream, one that had been recurring since his death and refusion, unsettled as always. In the past, he had simply meditated the peculiar uneasy sensation away, but he knew that would not be an option now. Until Sybok's katra could be put to rest, Spock could engage only the lightest of trances.
Methodically, he showered and dressed, planning out his day. He would view the research tapes Commander Chekov had given him, then he would...
Spock met his own gaze in the mirror, losing the train of thought as he sought to reconcile the contradictory images which swirled in his brain like the mist from San Francisco Bay. Three years ago, pon farr had come again. He had returned to Vulcan to be with T'Liba. T'Liba was his bondmate, his consort, the keeper of his property.
He remembered Amanda presenting her to him after his refusion. T'Liba was Commander Uhura's height, petite for a Vulcan. Her figure was pleasantly symmetrical, her pale olive skin flawless. He supposed that by Human standards she was attractive, perhaps even beautiful. Her thick black hair had been pulled back from her temple and twisted into a braid which trailed down her back. Beneath arched brows, T'Liba's dark eyes seemed perpetually downcast; her long lashes fanned her cheeks. The one time she had met his gaze, the intensity of it seared him like a phaser blast. At that moment he'd experienced a recollection of her, unclothed, curled seductively beside him in a large bed and whispering things Vulcans did not speak of openly. Before he could grasp the memory to examine it, another woman appeared in his thoughts. She, too, was naked, but her head was cushioned on a Starfleet field jacket. He remembered the feel of her beneath him, and how she had cried out when he...
He stared at his reflection, at the unspoken accusation in his own eyes. The dream which had haunted him all these months, was more real than a dream, he knew. No dream was that vivid, no forbidden fantasy could be so detailed.
In his dream he was engulfed with the blood fever. He burned with an illogical flame more elemental than Vulcan's Forge. In his dream he returned to Vulcan, to T'Liba. She was waiting for him. No servant greeted him at the door for she had sent them all away. The house which had always seemed so forbidding now welcomed him. He had taken the stairs, found her as he knew he would, in his bed. The first time was quick, not pleasurable, but necessary. Twice more he had taken her in succession, grateful for her eager responsiveness to his violent need. It was only later, after they had both rested that he experienced the strong urge to pleasure her. He reached out to stroke the curve of her back. She stretched and sighed, rolling into his arms, her face upturned to receive his kiss. T'Liba, consort, wife...t'hy'la.
But the dream did not end with memories of the leisurely passion which followed. Instead he found himself in a strange place, a cave which quaked in rhythm to the pulses of pain which ran through him. Taut with need again, he drew himself into a miserable ball and moaned. This time the woman came to him, her touch cool against his burning flesh. She spoke to him in calm, reassuring tones, stroked the robe from his body, removed her own clothing as he fumbled awkwardly. She guided him, encouraged him, and whispered his name over and over as he took her, the litany becoming a first a breathless gasp and then finally a cry of release.
"Saavik," he said, no longer able to meet his own gaze in the mirror. The woman who had eased his need in the cave was Lieutenant Saavik, his ward, the child he had rescued from Hellguard. Saavik, ward, daughter...t'hy'la? Spock closed his eyes, unwilling to accept what his mind was telling him. He cast about for something to distract his thoughts and found himself recalling a conversation with his brother, an exchange so innocent and bittersweet that it brought a half smile to his stern features.
"Does it feel different?" Spock asked, breaking a long silence.
He and Sybok were stretched on cushioned seats in the gazebo. It was pleasantly cool here. The drooping branches of a small grove of shade trees blocked out not just the afternoon sun, but the view of the house behind them as well.
The house was to have been Sarek's, separated from his parents home by an expansive courtyard and ornamental garden. Sarek, however, had never occupied the house, preferring to live in the home where he had been raised. No one but Amanda dared to accuse him of sentiment, since the house had been built as the home of an ambassador, and Sarek had taken on his father's duties as an ambassador after his death. The empty house, part of the family's estate, was used now only on rare occasions when there were more guests than Sarek's home could accommodate. To Spock, it had always seemed oppressively silent and lonely.
The gazebo, however had become a favorite refuge for the two brothers, more favored even than Amanda's garden. Spock often brought his harp here to play, and Sybok listened, sometimes for hours. When Spock's fingers cramped and could no longer work easily over the fine strings, they talked. It was here that they spoke of things often unspoken by adults; it was here that they shared the secrets and revelations of their young souls.
Sybok rolled over onto his stomach, propping his chin on folded arms as he considered his brother's question. "Yes," he responded thoughtfully. "I feel something. Not her thoughts, not now, but a thread of consciousness. It's difficult to describe, and rather distracting at first, but I'm getting used to it."
Spock sat up, crossing his legs beneath him. "What does it feel like, the bonding itself?" Spock knew what he was asking was considered private, only his growing anxiety over his own bonding and his security in Sybok's acceptance could prompt such a personal inquiry. Sybok had made it look so easy, but then, Sybok made everything look easy.
Sybok sighed. "I felt...it was strange, euphoric...no, more than that...it's...it's difficult to describe."
"Could you hear her thoughts?"
"No, it wasn't a telepathic conversation," Sybok frowned, concentrating. "More a union of our minds, a blending of our diversities. I could sense her, experience her. It was pleasant." He grinned. "Very pleasant. Rather like..." His voice trailed off as he studied the eager expression of his younger brother. "Pleasant." He finished lamely.
Now Spock frowned, his curiosity undaunted. "What were you about to say?"
"When you play your harp, what do you feel?"
"I do not understand. Music and bonding are two different things."
"Ah, but when you play, you look so happy, so contented. No one derives more pleasure from music than you, Brother."
"I suppose that it's because I like to play," Spock said slowly.
"That is a feeling," Sybok said. "Now, imagine multiplying that feeling--"
"By what number?"
"If you wish to be accurate--"
"You're missing the point! When T'Ariz and I bonded, for a moment I felt something similar to what you must feel when you play your harp."
"Similar, but not precisely," Spock said, shaking his head. "You are not telling me everything."
Sybok smiled affectionately. "I have been told that each bond is unique. What T'Ariz and I felt may not be what you and T'Pring will feel. Also, T'Ariz and I are older. I am seventeen, Brother. Ten years--"
"I ask only to prepare myself," Spock pleaded. "I...I fear failure."
Sybok raised up to echo Spock's position, legs crossed beneath him. "Why?"
Spock lowered his gaze. "I am only half-Vulcan. What if my mind is not strong enough to accomplish the bond?"
"That sounds like something T'Sai would say! Spock, you don't really believe that, do you?"
"I am what I am, Sybok. There are those who challenge my claim as a true Vulcan. I thought should I pass my kahs-wan that the matter would be settled, but I see now I still have much to prove."
"You have nothing to prove. You're more Vulcan than any Vulcan I know! Why, you're more Vulcan than I--"
"My mother is Human."
"A wonderful advantage," Sybok assured. "You should try to be more like her. Lady Amanda is a remarkable woman."
"That only makes it more difficult," Spock said, emotion creeping into his voice. "I honor both my parents, respect the cultures of both their worlds, but I have chosen to be Vulcan. I do not wish to fail."
"You will not fail. I have faith in you, Brother...faith you do not yet have in yourself."
"Then tell me what to expect. Tell me everything."
Sybok could not resist another smile. "You are persistent."
Spock waited patiently as Sybok searched for the words to explain.
"You may not sense it in T'Pring," he began. "But when I bonded with T'Ariz I felt her desire."
"Desire? A desire for what?"
"Haven't you ever...?" Sybok raked Spock with an appraising stare. The innocence he saw in his expression made him want to laugh and groan both at once. He settled for another sigh. "No, probably not."
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
Sybok opened his mouth and then closed it again. He shook his head bemusedly. "I...I cannot explain."
Sybok sighed again. "Sexual desire, Spock."
Spock's eyes widened and silence stretched between them. It was Spock who finally broke it.
"But T'Ariz is Vulcan!"
Sybok chuckled. "Did you think that only Human females...ah, I see that is precisely what you thought. That is the myth Vulcans would have Humans believe. If Vulcan females did not experience sexual desire, our race would have died out long ago."
"I did not know."
Sybok smiled tenderly. "Now you do, dear brother. Don't look so concerned. It is pleasant, very pleasant."
"If you say it is," Spock said slowly, but he did not look convinced.
"It is." Sybok chuckled again in spite of himself. "Take my word for it."
Spock's half smile faded at the sound of the door signal. Clasping his hands behind his back he turned to face the door.
Jim Kirk entered the room, pausing just inside, looking as if he would rather be straddling an intermix chamber. His eyes swept through the cabin coming to rest finally on the silent figure before him. "Doctor McCoy asked me to come see you."
Spock inclined his head, but said nothing.
Kirk stared for a moment and then his posture seemed to stiffen, his hands clenched into fists. "Actually, he ordered me to come see you."
Spock still made no response.
The Vulcan recognized Kirk's cold, even tones as a thin veil which covered rage. When Kirk was mad he ranted. When he was enraged he spoke quietly, icily.
"You are angry."
"You always did have a talent for understatement."
"Would you care to discuss--"
"I tell you what I'd care to discuss. I'd care to discuss why I'm always the last person in the universe to find out these well kept Vulcan secrets of yours."
"I did not intend--"
"The evidence, Mister Spock, is overwhelming. Hell, I shouldn't be surprised anymore. You've been pulling the same kind of shit for nearly twenty years now. Fact: you kidnapped Chris Pike and hijacked my ship to take him to Talos. I should have kicked your ass then, but I didn't. Fact: you almost died because you couldn't bring yourself to tell me about Vulcan biology, and then I almost died because you didn't tell me about the illogical marriage customs of a supposedly logical race. Fact: I found out who your parents were only after I'd made a fool of myself by asking you in front of your parents if you wanted to visit your parents. Fact: You went off to Gol without an explanation, without a word. Fact: You weren't back on the ship twenty-four hours before you were up to your old tricks, nerve pinching ensigns and risking your life to mind-meld with something you had no damn business mind-melding with. Fact: All these years you've had a brother, yet you never once breathed his name. Then you carry his soul around for nearly a week--"
With each "fact," Spock's right brow had canted higher. When it finally disappeared beneath his smooth bangs, the left brow followed. Never in his wildest dreams had Spock imagined that Kirk harbored such deep resentment over these matters. Kirk's quiet rage pierced him more deeply than the worst hysterical rant, because Spock knew that these charges went right to the heart of Kirk's soul.
"I'm not finished. The worst, the worst thing you ever did...you killed yourself. You went down to engineering and walked into that radiation chamber without a thought of how hard it would be for me to pick up the pieces. Damn it, Spock, you didn't even say goodbye."
"You would have stopped me."
"You're damned right I would have stopped you!" Kirk snapped, realizing even in his anger that Spock was sidetracking him. "But that's not the point. The point is that you keep things from me; you always have. I'm tired of hearing about the intimate details of your personal life only after they've aired on the Federation News Network."
Spock made no comment.
"What do you wish me to say?"
Kirk gritted his teeth. "For twenty years I've been fighting an uphill battle. I've made excuses for you every time you've shut me out, rationalized every one of your damnable unspoken truths. Bones used to call you a computer, and I used to argue with him. I used to take your side, but he was right. Look at yourself! You stand there, listening to me, no expression, no emotion, and no remorse for all the secrets you've kept in the name of privacy. I thereby conclude, Mister Spock, that you are indeed a computer."
The cruel twist of the old taunt hurt more deeply than Kirk could ever know. What hurt worse was the echo of his own mask of equanimity which Spock read in Kirk's carefully composed features. True, twenty years ago, Spock would have been pleased to be likened to a computer, but that time was long in the past, and Kirk knew better than anyone how it would slash through his defenses now. Spock had grown to value his Humanity, even as he had grown to crave the love and trust of his Human friends.
"Jim," Spock reached out one hand and then froze as he met Kirk's icy gaze. The mental barrier he sensed was as impassable as the invisible physical barrier which prevented touch as surely as a force field. Never before had Spock come up against such a barrier in Kirk. It blocked all access, and the only sensation which seeped through from within was...
Kirk drew back, hazel eyes glinting as he took in the impassive features of his dearest friend. His voice came out in a harsh, demanding whisper. "Do you feel anything? Anything at all right now?"
Spock let his hands drop to his side. "I feel your pain."
Kirk stared, standing as still as a statue for several moments before he whirled and left the room.
Spock sank onto his bunk, physically exhausted by the emotional turmoil he had sensed in Kirk. He was stretching his own mental ability to the limit to contain Sybok's katra, so there was no energy left in him to deal with Kirk's anger. The intensity of it had taken him by surprise.
He thought of the barrier he'd encountered, unheard of in a Human. He supposed that years of telepathic contact could give Kirk a rudimentary idea of how to erect a mental shield, but what he had just sensed was more than that. The only time he had felt anything like it... Spock closed his eyes as a wave of nausea washed over him. It had been so long ago. Best forgotten, he'd thought, but now he remembered.
"Spock, son of Sarek, son of Skon, last born of the House of Surak. By agreement of thy father, thee are to be bonded with T'Pring, child of Sofab, child of Sodrak. Thee shall take T'Pring as your consort, bestow upon her the privileges, the property and honor promised by thy father. T'Pring, child of Sofab, child of..."
T'Pau droned on, her captive audience deaf to the details she recited by rote. Representatives from the House of Sindal circled behind Spock, and Spock's own family stood behind T'Pring, symbolic of Pre-Reform times when young women were kidnapped from other clans to service the males. They were gathered in the courtyard of the House of Sindal to seal the union which had taken months of negotiations to arrange.
Spock could not bring himself to look again at T'Pring. The one glance he'd allowed himself had been unsettling. She was so composed, so regal, as if she were granting him the right to be her consort and not the other way around. His throat suddenly felt dry, and he met Sybok's gaze. His brother stood with T'Ariz, the empathy in his dark eyes speaking more loudly than words. The older boy nodded his head in encouragement, and Spock allowed himself to respond with a slight softening of his rigidly controlled expression.
T'Pring was now reciting her part of the bonding vow, each syllable crisply delineated from the rest. "Bound to thee by honor, bound to thee by thought. As it has been since the time of our beginning, so it is now. I, T'Pring, bind myself to Spock. Parted from me, but never parted, never and always touching and touched. When thy time comes, I will comfort thee."
Spock's response followed, his own voice sounding mechanical. T'Pau nodded her head, and he and T'Pring knelt before her, bowing as the matriarch's hands descended on their heads.
"Here now the House of Surak and the House of Sindal shall become one through thine union. In the fullness of time, thou shalt be drawn together.
Spock felt T'Pau probing gently and then sensed her withdrawal from his mind. Turning to face T'Pring, Spock's hands sought her neural sites to facilitate the bonding contact. Releasing his own shields, he braced himself for the flood of euphoria Sybok had described. Instead, he came up against a barrier, smooth and cold, a wall which seemed to stretch to infinity on either side.
He adjusted his fingers on her temple, fighting a nervous tremor as he wondered what was wrong. He had traveled on the periphery of several minds in his young life, come up against his father's privacy shields, but this was something different, something formidable.
The wall remained intact in spite of his best attempts to circumvent it. The chill from its surface radiated to his bones. He felt a wave of dizziness wash over him and fought to maintain his balance. T'Pring?
The psionic plea echoed against the wall, reverberating back to ring in his ears like savage laughter. He felt time passing and wondered how long it was supposed to take for him to accomplish the bonding. Something had gone horribly wrong. He was alone, completely alone; his shields were open but for some reason he could sense no part of her.
A familiar voice, the voice of T'Pau whispered so faintly he wondered at first if it were spoken or thought. "Perhaps the Human factor is inhibiting."
Frantically, Spock strained against the barrier, his fear of failure giving him strength. T'Pring! Now his cry was less a plea and more a demand for cooperation. He paused, gathering psionic power to make a final attempt when a presence soothed him. He heard a reassuring chuckle in his mind, bubbling like water from a fountain. Opening his eyes he saw Sybok's half smile and felt his loving acceptance. I have faith in you, Brother. Faith that you do not yet have in yourself. You will not fail.
Spock braced himself and hurled his mind against the barrier. His thoughts screamed with the pain the breaching of it brought. A white hot agony replaced the numbing cold and then suddenly he was in darkness. Raw, violent emotions bombarded him like physical blows; anger, resentment, hostility. The darkness enveloped him, and he was overwhelmed by a sensation as far removed from the acceptance he felt from Sybok as he could imagine. T'Pring?
Spock withdrew from T'Pring's mind hastily, so close to collapsing that even to breathe seemed an effort. He had accomplished the link, but the connecting thread which Sybok had described was a dull ache, the memory of the violent mind touch throbbing like an open wound. Snatching his hand from T'Pring's head, Spock fought a wave of nausea. His fingers smarted as if from a burn, and his heart pounded in labored protest of the powerful emotions he had absorbed and somehow controlled. Blinking in momentary confusion, he met T'Pring's icy, accusing gaze as she drew back from him. A torrent of questions stalled in his throat as he suppressed his anxiety and puzzlement to present a calm facade.
"It is accomplished," T'Pau announced. "They are one."
Spock awoke suddenly, his internal chronometer supplying the time he had spent in sleep even as he rose from his bunk. The door signal sounded a second time as he belted his robe about his waist.
Hikaru Sulu stood in the corridor, dressed in gym clothes, his aura of barely leashed energy that of a much younger man. "Doctor McCoy suggested I take you for a work-out."
Spock's brow arched as he gestured for Sulu to enter. "Indeed."
"I brushed up on my khy'lan while we were on Vulcan, but it's difficult to keep my edge without a partner. I thought we could work through a couple levels before breakfast."
"I thought I was confined to quarters."
Sulu grinned. "Afraid your student has improved enough to finally beat you?"
Spock took the bait. "Allow me a moment to change."
Khy'lan was a Vulcan art form which originated as battle training in Pre-Reform times. Over the centuries it gradually become a ritualized aerobic routine using lirpa to simulate combat. There were fourteen levels, or routines, ranging in complexity from simple to downright exhausting. Humans often described it as an interactive floor exercise, the gracefully choreographed movements evocative of a ballet without the music.
Sulu found an unoccupied gymnastics area while Spock obtained the heavy lirpa from an equipment locker. They warmed up with some gentle stretching and then took places opposite one another, holding the lirpa in the traditional manner.
"Why don't we start with level seven?" Sulu suggested. "I'm a little out of practice."
Simultaneously they bounced the padded ends of their weapons against the floor mats in three rhythmic strokes before the fluid dance began. Level seven's challenge was to match the moves of the partner to create a mirror image. Every step, each sweep of the weapon was to be duplicated simultaneously to create a perfect performance. Sulu took the lead and Spock followed, grateful at the relatively slow pace the commander set. They moved over the mats, the surrealistic unity of their movements belying the difficulty of the process. The ritualistic dance peaked in a graceful climax, Spock and Sulu bouncing the ends of the lirpa again before bowing respectfully to one another. Sulu was perspiring, and Spock was breathing hard.
"Want to try level ten?" Sulu asked, breaking into a grin.
"You have yet to defeat me at level ten," Spock said solemnly.
"For every thing there is a first time," Sulu teased.
This routine bore less resemblance to a dance and more to a true battle. Although they never touched one another, their lirpas met frequently with great force. Sulu was not giving slack now; his muscles strained as he flexed and extended, feinted and whirled. Spock met the commander's blows and returned them, but he realized that instead of holding back as he usually did with Humans, he was putting forth full effort.
Halfway through the routine, it became clear that Spock was fighting fatigue. Sulu let the pace lag, and they finished more slowly, the lirpa blows reduced to mere taps. The final attack was a sheer test of strength; the lirpa's locked together as each tried to force the other to the mat. Between competitive men--and most Starfleet officers were competitive--this attack determined the winner of the match. In the past when Sulu and Spock had played, Sulu always held his own against Spock's superior Vulcan physique, and the final attack had sometimes been close. Today, however, there was no pretense of equality. Spock sank to the mat, arms trembling with fatigue before Sulu broke his hold.
"Sir?" the concern in Sulu's tone overshadowed any pleasure he might have experienced at beating his teacher and mentor.
Spock sat, cross-legged on the mat. Rising to his feet seemed too much of an effort. "Congratulations, Commander. An excellent performance."
Sulu looked very uncomfortable and sank down beside the Vulcan. "Are...are you all right, sir?"
Spock nodded his head. "I am not the man I once was, Mister Sulu. My death and regeneration may have seemed miraculous, and indeed the mythic aspects of it do not escape me, but there were difficulties."
"Twenty-eight point four years, according to Doctor McCoy's scanners. Chronologically I am fifty two, but physically I am now six years older than my own mother."
"I...I didn't know."
"A small price to pay for a second chance at life," Spock said.
Sulu settled into a more comfortable position and sighed. "I suppose so. If I had known I wouldn't have--"
"That is precisely why I did not tell you." Spock stared at the discarded weapons. "As my mother is fond of saying, the only constant in the universe is change. Aging is one of the aspects of change which we must accept, for the only alternative to acceptance is denial."
"Did your mother ever say, 'You can never go home again?'" Sulu asked wistfully.
"I do not believe so," Spock's gaze lingered on Sulu's expression, the emotions which played across his angular features were difficult to catalogue.
"The idea is similar, kind of like going back to the neighborhood were you were born and it all looking so small. I think that, at least for Humans, the older we get, the more we want the familiar, the more we want to go home. The problem is that when we get there home is different, at least it's not what we remember."
"You speak of the Enterprise," Spock said knowingly. "Is NCC-1701-A as different from NCC-1701 as we perceive, or has the old Enterprise become mythic in our memories? It is Human nature to glorify the past."
"I've wondered the very same thing. I gave up my position on the Cooper to stay with Enterprise. A lot of people told me it was a bad career move, but it felt like the right decision so I stuck to it. I wanted it to be the way it was; I wanted to go home. Now I wonder if I made the wrong decision. Should I have stayed with the Cooper? Should I be applying for every executive position that comes along?"
Spock sighed. "The decisions of which you speak are purely subjective."
"I've always..." Sulu smiled sadly. "I was going to say that in the past I've always seemed to avoid making decisions. When I left the Cooper, that was one of the few times in my life that I made a stand. I guess I've always been kind of impulsive."
"That much is certain," Spock said, a glimmer in his dark eyes betraying it as a tease.
"I'll never live down my performance as D'artagnan, will I, sir?" Sulu chuckled. "You know, it's nice to talk about old times. But there's more to being on the Enterprise than that. What I can't explain to those who weren't a part of it, is the spirit of what we all shared. I've been on other ships, but the Enterprise will always be special."
"You must make the decision which will result in contentment," Spock said thoughtfully. "I believe you must follow your heart."
Sulu looked surprised. "I'm not sure what I expected you to say, but I know it wasn't that."
"The expected, Mister Sulu? I am not bound by the expectations of others."
"I guess I shouldn't be either, huh?"
Spock came very close to a smile. "I enjoyed our work-out, Commander. Shall we play again tomorrow?"
Alone in his cabin again, Spock thought of Sulu's dilemma. Choices of that magnitude were never easily made, and personal preference was always a difficult thing to justify to others.
"But I don't want to be an ambassador!" Sybok shouted impatiently. "All my life I've done what others have wanted me to do. At Gol, I lived as the others did. I sacrificed my individuality. I sacrificed my dreams, my aspirations. I saw what Gol did to my mother, Spock. I watched the Kolinahr break her spirit, deny her the truths she sought. I will not allow Sarek to--"
"The firstborn male of the House of Surak has always served the diplomatic corps, Sybok," Spock admonished gently. "Father is only asking of you what Skon asked of him. It need not be a lifetime commitment, nor would it restrict your theological studies. Serving as Father's aide--"
"He does not wish for me to remain an aide, and he disapproves of my theological studies. He wants me to become an ambassador; he wishes for me to take his place on the Federation Council, and I cannot do that. There is something more important to be done, something of greater significance."
"What could be more important than honoring your family?" Spock asked. "What greater duty than serving as our father requests?"
"It is easy for you to speak of service, Brother. You wish to pursue the career our sire has chosen for you. Two more years, and you will take your place as a student at the Science Academy. You have the questioning soul of a scientist, and because you are second born you will be allowed to indulge in a career which suits you. How different would you feel if Sarek were forcing you into an ill-fitting mold for the sake of tradition?"
The power of Sybok's resentment caught Spock unprepared, and he found himself considering the question emotionally. He would dislike serving in the diplomatic corps, but that was not the point.
Sybok was staring sightlessly ahead, seeming transfixed by an image only he could see. "I seek ultimate wisdom, my brother."
"A brief diplomatic mission will not interfere with your studies," Spock continued. "You did not want to accept a teaching position last year, but Father was right to insist that you do. Perhaps this time he is also--"
"Sarek knows only what he sees," Sybok said sadly. "He believes only in that which is substantiated by fact. He never understood my mother's desire for something more; he never accepted her claim that she had received a divine vision. T'Rea asked for answers to the questions of existence. She sought to commune with God himself." He paused, his countenance glowing with an innocent faith. "And before she died, she accomplished that goal."
Spock stared at this brother in surprise. Any suspicion that Sybok was teasing him faded as he beheld the reverent gleam in Sybok's dark eyes; that, and the knowledge that Sybok would never involve his mother in a practical joke. The older boy spoke of T'Rea often, and always with great respect and honor, but his devotion to her memory seemed almost obsessive to Spock.
Over the years, Spock had heard several versions of why T'Rea was given the choice of death or banishment. The common factor in all the stories was the charge that she had destroyed the mind of a youthful adept. Spock had heard Sybok's claim that his mother was innocent of the charge enough to question the truth of the official version, but he could not quite bring himself to believe that T'Sai had committed the act herself and then blamed it on T'Rea. This was the story Sybok clung to, and although Spock thought Sybok believed it, his own opinion on the matter was much less certain.
This revelation, however, was something entirely new. From which compartment of his vast mind Sybok had pulled this one, Spock could not guess. Sybok was his t'hy'la, closer to him than either of his parents, but at times like this he felt isolated from his brother, different in ways so elemental that he wondered if they were even speaking the same language.
"Ahhh," Sybok smiled. "I see, that like our sire, you believe only in that which can be experienced by the senses. Can you see the night wind as it ruffles your hair, my brother? If you cannot see the musician or his harp, does that diminish the sweet melody he plays? Have you ever smelled the sharp tang of a fire before seeing the smoke?"
"You speak of things which are sensed on one level and denied on another."
"What of T'Lar? She communes with the katras in the Hall of Ancient Thought. It is said that she has spoken to Surak himself. Do you doubt her claim?"
"T'Lar is a priestess, a mystic."
"As was my mother," Sybok countered. "She spoke to God and asked to look upon his face."
"The face of God cannot be seen by mortals," Spock said, remembering that T'Rea had also been charged with heresy. "She sought forbidden knowledge."
"Then why, my brother, did God give her a vision of the place where He awaits us? Why would He show us Sha-ka-ree if it exists only in myth, and why would He give the vision not just to T'Rea who was destined to die, but also to her son?"
"Sha-ka-ree is a myth," Spock admonished.
"Sha-ka-ree exists as surely as we exist, Spock. I have seen the place, a vision in my mind, the land, the sky, the mountains where God awaits those who believe." Sybok's dark eyes glittered with a feverish intensity and Spock dropped his gaze rather than accept the truth of what he saw there.
As if suddenly aware of Spock's discomfort, Sybok relaxed, chuckling softly. "I beg forgiveness, Brother. It was not my intention to disquiet you. If you wish, we will not speak of it again."
But they did speak of it again, and Spock had never been
able to silence the mental klaxons which rang each time Sybok spoke of Sha-ka-ree. It
wasn't until years later on the Enterprise that he had finally determined the source of
that unease. What he had seen in Sybok's eyes each time he discussed his vision was
something Vulcans feared more than death; insanity.
Leonard McCoy exited the turbolift onto an all too quiet bridge, appraising the occupants with the same inherent ability he used to assess a patient in his sickbay. Uhura swiveled in her chair to give him a welcoming smile, but he did not miss the worry in her eyes. Sulu's jaw was tense, and Chekov looked entirely too busy. Sitting in the eye of the silent storm was James T. Kirk, McCoy's captain, friend, and companion. Right now, however, he was also rapidly becoming a phenomenal pain in the ass.
Crossing the upper deck of the bridge, McCoy leaned casually against the rail and looked up at the main viewer. Being a physician, he tended to approach all problems like they were illnesses. He'd diagnosed Kirk back at Yosemite; their captain was suffering from an acute onset of unresolved grief. Funny, what Kirk had refused to let Sybok do was the very thing he needed most, and true to form, Kirk would deny it completely. He'd denied his pain, denied his guilt and grief for so many years that he'd grown accustomed to bearing the terrific burden alone. Perhaps he had become addicted to it. McCoy didn't condone what Sybok had done, but he understood the necessity of letting go of pain and guilt because he had experienced first hand the alternative, and knew how it poisoned the soul.
Kirk's current rage with Spock was only a symptom, as McCoy was sure Spock knew. The problem was that Kirk didn't know it. Somehow, McCoy was going to have to break through his friend's denial.
With an exaggerated sigh, and no divine inspiration he chanced a look back at Kirk and groaned inwardly. He knew that look. After twenty some-odd years, he had come to know the contours of that face better than the one he saw in the mirror every morning, and what he saw in it now was hardly comforting.
McCoy's tired blue eyes drifted automatically to the unmanned science station, the empty seat causing a resonance of the hollowness he'd known after the Genesis detonation. He knew Kirk had been to see Spock, and he also knew that the captain had stormed back out and hadn't returned since. Hell, I'm gettin' too damned old for this, he thought as he moved to have a private word with Kirk.
"Have you heard from Bob?" he asked quietly.
"Two hours ago," Kirk replied, twisting impatiently in an attempt to get comfortable in his seat. "For once Starfleet isn't giving me any static. The trip to Vulcan has been approved. We have orders to return to Earth once Spock's 'ambassadorial duties' have been fulfilled. Maybe we can finish our camping trip after all."
"Well, if you're plannin' on pickin' up where you left off, count me out."
Kirk frowned. "I don't understand, Bones."
"I'm talkin' about your pursuit of a untimely death at the base of a mountain," McCoy grumbled, "Or white-water raftin' without a lifejacket, or skydivin' without a parachute, or any other excitin' activity you may have planned. I know what you're doin', Jim, and I ain't gonna be a party to it."
"And what do you think I'm doing, Doctor?"
Kirk's tone and the use of McCoy's title warned him that he was treading on thin ice. McCoy allowed himself a slight grin. Maybe they were all more alike than any of them would dare admit. Provoking Kirk to anger in his present mood might not be as dramatic as free-climbing El Capitan, but it certainly took courage.
"Exorcism, Jim-boy," McCoy drawled softly. "And havin' been around the block a few times more than you, I can tell you it doesn't work." He paused thoughtfully, studying Kirk's expression. "Unless, of course, you do manage to kill yourself, but that's kinda drastic, don't you agree?"
"Now wait just one God damned--"
The rest of Kirk's response was cut short by the closing swish of the turbolift doors. Inside the lift, McCoy slumped against the wall and heaved a sigh. "Forward observation lounge."
The Enterprise was two days from Vulcan when Spock caught himself prowling his cabin like a caged le-matya. He finally admitted to himself that the confinement was proving an inconvenience. The ship was still manned with a skeleton crew and Spock was certain that Jim needed him on the...
Spock stopped mid-pace; his brow creased into a frown. The captain had made no further attempt to visit him since he'd walked out in anger three days ago. That was unusual. True, Jim Kirk had a hair trigger temper, but he had never been a man to hold onto anger for long periods of time. His passionate outbursts were usually followed quickly by a reflective, apologetic phase.
After all, Kirk was the same man who had expressed an honest bewilderment at an eighteen-year silence between father and son. A man who had often teased Spock for being stubborn, was now stubbornly refusing to mend the rift that widened between them. Spock was willing to admit that from a Human point of view, his own reluctance to share personal matters might be construed as a lack of trust. But that was merely Spock's way. Kirk should understand that by now. Perhaps he still did not fully appreciate the cultural boundaries which bound Spock as a Vulcan.
Releasing a heavy sigh, Spock shook his head. It seemed unlikely that an explanation at this time would be helpful. Apparently Kirk did not want explanations...nor did he seem to want Spock's companionship. Usually the Vulcan weathered Human fits of pique without undue emotional response, but right now a small part of him ached in a way that reminded him of another rejection.
"You cannot teach myth as fact," Sarek's voice rang with conviction, the rich tenor as close to betraying anger as Spock had heard it in years.
Spock's hand froze on the dial of the food processor as Sybok's response drifted from dining room.
"The tenured faculty of the Science Academy look upon anything unproven as myth."
"You tread on dangerous ground, my son. T'Leah and Sumek wish to relieve you of your teaching duties, and you--"
"They wish to silence me," Sybok interrupted. "Just as T'Sai sought to silence my mother."
"I have spoken before of the difficulties your lineage has created for you. T'Rea alienated even her own house before she died, and my beliefs, although conservative by your mother's standards, are sometimes thought to be in defiance of tradition. Sybok, our planet is poised on the brink of a monumental choice. In your lifetime, Vulcan will either grow as a full-fledged member of the Federation or stagnate in isolation. The House of Surak must inspire confidence to facilitate growth. It is a responsibility we all must bear, but you as my firstborn more than the rest. You cannot hope to be respected by our people if you persist in lecturing about fables instead of teaching the proven theories of anthropology."
"I don't care if people respect me or not," Sybok sulked. "And I don't care about T'Leah and Sumek. If they want to relieve me of my duties, let them!"
A long silence followed and Spock wrestled with his guilt about eavesdropping. He decided to make a noise to alert his father and brother to his presence, but before he could do so, Sarek spoke again.
"You cannot become a leader until you learn first to follow."
"Follow like a Terran sheep, my father?" Sybok cried. "If T'Leah and Sumek are so certain of their truths, why do they fear my questions? Why do they seek to silence my words if there is no truth in what I say? Would it not be better to allow me to speak and prove myself a heretic?"
"You will be declared a heretic if you do not correct the self-destructive course of your behavior. If you continue to spout nonsense from the lectern, they will remove you, not just from the Science Academy, but from all of Vulcan. There are those who would rejoice to see you banished."
"They would not banish me from my home for speaking of my beliefs!"
After a moment, Sarek responded softly. "Surak was killed for his beliefs, my son. And Vulcan today is not so different from then as the Kolinahr would have us believe. There has been proof of that enough, has there not?"
"My mother," Sybok's voice was almost a sob.
"Your mother," Sarek sighed. "In spite of all we profess to believe, there are those who will think less of you, the son of an accused heretic, just as there are many who judge Spock as tainted because of Amanda's blood and influence."
"And that is ridiculous! Spock is not influenced by Amanda. I have more influence on Spock than..." Sybok's voice trailed off and Spock strained to hear the whisper that followed. "This is not about my students at all. This is about Spock!"
"He has devoted his life to the pursuit of logic. He has proven himself to those with open minds and perseveres in the face of those who deny his claim as a true Vulcan, those who deny his accomplishments. You would do well to emulate his behavior."
"How ironic that your half-Human son is more Vulcan than the full-blooded Vulcan offspring who defies tradition and seeks to experience the emotions Spock rejects." Sybok's tone was bitterly sarcastic.
"Spock is impressionable; he looks up to you. It is your responsibility--"
"If I am such a danger, why do you not banish me now, and save the others the trouble?"
"You are not controlling your emotions, Sybok. I cannot discuss this with you if you persist in--"
Sybok burst unexpectedly into the kitchen, pausing in his headlong flight from the dining room to glare at Spock.
"Get an earful, Brother?" Sybok's eyes were flashing with unsuppressed rage.
"I did not intend--"
"I know you did not intend," Sybok snapped. "Eavesdropping is a Human behavior."
"Sybok," Spock began, but his brother had already turned his back and stormed from the room.
Spock bounded after Sybok, sprinting across the courtyard to catch up with his long-legged stride. "Sybok, wait!"
Sybok whirled around just as he reached the garden gate. "What do you want?"
Spock had seen Sybok angry before, but never had the anger been directed at him. The sharp question and the glower which accompanied it seemed so unlike his brother that for a moment Spock could not remember what he had been going to say.
"Father...Father shouldn't have said what he said, Sybok. How can he compare you to me? I am not a true Vulcan."
"If that," Sybok gestured toward the house, his hand shaking, "If that is what being Vulcan is, then neither am I."
Spock put his hand out to touch his brother, but Sybok flinched back, a single tear streaking down his face. "Don't touch me!"
"Leave me alone!" Sybok shouted. "Just leave me alone! I don't need you, I don't need your pity....I don't need anyone!"
Spock stared incredulously as Sybok stalked through the gate and slammed it shut behind him.
Spock sank wearily into a chair and steepled his fingers into a contemplative pose. Sybok and Jim Kirk were alike in many ways. Over the years Spock had often wondered at the power of the link which bound him to his captain. But the path he and James Kirk had trod for so many years was one which had once carried two lonely children, bound only by blood and mutual need. The path was not always easily traveled with another, but to travel it alone was unbearable. To ease that terrible loneliness, Spock had allowed Kirk to take Sybok's place.
Kirk, like Sybok, had his moods, and Spock found himself recalling the patient, almost tender expression his father would afford his mother when she lost her temper. Sarek never responded to Amanda's emotional outbursts, and she had only grown more angry in the face of her husband's equanimity. In their rage, Amanda and Jim Kirk seemed to forget that the Vulcan suppression of emotion does not preclude the feeling of it. Spock could dismiss Kirk's angry words; he could evoke mastery of the unavoidable and meditate away the unease. But the pain inflicted was real.
Wrapping a tu'ruth about her shoulders, T'Liba padded onto the balcony off the bedroom. Lifting her gaze to the glittering night sky, she filled her lungs with cool desert air and leaned against the smooth stone pillar which radiated lingering warmth from the midday sun. Tilting her head to seek out the distant stars of the Neutral Zone, she sighed. Spock would arrive tomorrow evening. Even now, his starship was hurtling closer to Vulcan at speeds that their ancestors had thought impossible.
She he recalled the day, eleven years ago, when Spock had taken her as his consort. She'd watched Sofab greet his guests in the courtyard, her slender body tense with a curious mixture of excitement and dread. T'Pau would come to the House of Sindal for only one reason, and the presence of Sarek and Spock eliminated any lingering doubt as to the purpose of the visit.
T'Liba had not seen T'Pau since Spock's bonding with T'Pring. She had aged, but the years had only strengthened the power of her personality. She stood now, flanked by Sarek and Spock, a force to be reckoned with.
"Compensation is required, Sofab. Thee has delayed long enough."
"You have no right to--" Sofab began.
"If necessary, I shall quote from the bonding agreement," Sarek interrupted, his voice taut with suppressed emotion. "However, you know the terms as well as I. If you resist, we are prepared to petition the council.
"Spock refused T'Pring after the kal-i-fee. He relinquished his claim."
"Spock was within his right to reject the offered chattel in favor of another," T'Pau countered. "It was your responsibility to provide an alternate."
"I will not submit to this--"
"Will you compound the dishonor your daughter has cast upon the House of Sindal by choosing the kal-i-fee?" Sarek queried. "Would you care to explain to Council why you defaulted on our bonding agreement, risking the life of my son?"
"Do not attempt to justify thy treachery, Sofab," T'Pau admonished. "A bride price was paid and you must provide compensation."
"Spock desires an alternate?"
"A suitable replacement," Sarek qualified.
"Very well," Sofab agreed. "T'Liba."
T'Liba entered the courtyard from the doorway of the lounge, her heart fluttering like a caged bird against her ribs. She kept her eyes downcast, bowing dutifully before Sofab and silently awaiting what was to come.
"Spock rejected chattel, therefore I offer chattel as a replacement to service his need," Sofab said. "T'Liba, daughter of T'Nia and Sodern.
T'Liba flushed at the dishonor her uncle cast upon her. Bad enough that Sofab treated her as a servant, but to offer her to Spock as chattel, and then only for the basest of needs!
T'Pau strode forward, "Sofab, thee cannot--"
"Spock will take her," Sarek overrode T'Pau's objection. "He will bond with her now."
"One does not bond with chattel!" Sofab protested, visibly astonished at Sarek's acceptance.
"You offered her as chattel," Spock said softly. "And once I accept her as mine, I may do as I wish with her."
"That is not what I--"
"Does thee withdraw the offer?"
Sofab's battle for control took a moment, but when he replied, there was no trace of emotion in his voice. "No."
"Then thy compensation is accepted. Come, child," T'Pau summoned T'Liba, who moved to stand before the matriarch at Spock's side. Spock knelt and T'Liba followed suit. T'Pau's hands settled on their foreheads, and for a moment T'Liba felt the powerful mind searching hers. When T'Pau's hands fell away, T'Liba sensed Sarek close behind her, and caught a glimpse of Sofab moving to stand behind Spock, his expression carefully devoid of any emotion.
T'Pau began the ritual with a recitation of the lineages, but T'Liba heard nothing over the clamoring of her own heart. Beside her, close enough for her to feel the heat of his body was Spock, a stranger. In a moment he would bond with her, link himself to her irrevocably and she could not catalogue the feelings which warred beneath her calm facade.
She recited the traditional bonding vow without faltering, her voice a bare whisper. Why was he doing this? Why would he bond with her when she was offered as chattel? Now Spock was speaking, his gentle tones piercing through her confusion as if in response to her unspoken question.
"Bound to thee by honor, bound to thee by thought. As it has been since the time of our beginning, so it is now. I, Spock, bind myself to T'Liba. Parted from me, yet never parted, never and always touching and touched. All that I have I shall give to thee for thou art my comfort and my life."
T'Liba had avoided looking at Spock until now, but his final words so startled her that she found herself turning to meet his gaze. The last line of the ancient vow was seldom used, the sweeping gift of all the male's property having been replaced in modern times by a pre-bonding agreement, the details which often took months to negotiate. By reinserting the final line of the vow, Spock had given her consort status, unheard of in this situation.
Sofab was gaping in astonishment and even T'Pau seemed at a loss for a moment. T'Liba stared into the warm, brown eyes which regarded her with practiced calm, and sensed the tension beneath his equanimity.
"In the fullness of time, thou shall be drawn together."
T'Liba reached out, her gesture mirroring Spock's. His hand contacted her temple a bare second before her fingers slipped beneath the silky fringe of hair. For a moment all she could sense was a wave of anxiety, a fear of some kind. She brushed lightly against his mental barriers, relaxing her own shields in passive invitation. Spock's shields quivered for a second, then faded as he drew her into his mind. They melded easily, and T'Liba found herself relaxing as she encountered his acceptance.
Just before he released her, she experienced a sensation of floating and a tingling euphoria that did not fade completely when they were no longer touching. There remained a connecting thread between them, an almost subconscious presence in her mind. She wondered if he could speak to her without words. She thought it possible, but he had not spoken, not once. Now there was only the resonance of his gentle invasion, a subtle reminder that from this day forward she would belong to him.
"I shall always belong to thee," T'Liba murmured, staring up at the night sky. Distance diminished the link between them, but when he was near she had always been able to feel his presence. Tonight she had been unable to sleep, knowing that he would soon be home. She wondered if he felt this restless longing that filled her, if perhaps it was an echo of what he was feeling.
Her lips twitched into a half smile as she caught sight of the constellation named for Natara, the Pre-Reform God of Water. Modern scholars denied that the stars in that cluster resembled a cascading fountain, but to T'Liba, the shimmering gems of the sky did resemble droplets of water.
One night, as Spock had stood with her here, she had confessed this to him and he had nodded in silent agreement. Spock never ridiculed her. Not once since the day he had brought her to into his home, had he treated her as anything but a cherished wife. Unlike Sofab, Spock respected T'Liba's work at the museum, and it was Spock who had urged her to take the teaching position at the Science Academy, pointing out her unique qualifications to teach offworlder students.
"What better way to live the principals of IDIC, my wife, than to share your valuable knowledge of our history with those youths who shall someday take it to other worlds? As a daughter of the House of Surak, you shall honor our past while striving to meet the future."
"Your father is pleased that I have accepted the offer, Spock. It reflects positively upon his own teachings."
Spock looked amused. "Do you think it coincidence that Sarek chose you as my wife?"
"Sarek did not--"
"You underestimate my father," Spock interrupted. "Sarek knew full well the options open to your uncle when he demanded compensation, and he went with one objective in mind."
T'Liba was unable to hide her astonishment. "Me?"
Spock nodded. "Would that all my father's choices on my behalf were so well made."
Before Spock's refusion, T'Liba had not questioned her place as his consort. Had Spock been less than satisfied, she would have sensed it through their link. Their relationship, although admittedly unusual by Human standards, was common among young Vulcan bondmates.
It was the Vulcan way for couples to come together for their time, and to be together when their duties permitted, but physical separation between cycles was more the rule than the exception. When careers and educational opportunities clashed, as they so often did, there was no emotionalization of the situation and a purely logical choice was made. Living apart was an accepted custom, whether the distance was in terms of kilometers or parsecs, the bonding link prevented permanent separation and made the temporary one easier to bear. Humans seemed to find the Vulcan way difficult to comprehend. This was ironic to the Vulcans, since Humans, for all their vocalization of closeness, tended to have short-term marriages rather than the life-long commitments Vulcans made.
Since Spock's refusion, however, T'Liba had been much less certain of her place. To look upon the face of her husband, one whom she had thought lost forever to her, and see only a vacant stare...T'Liba shivered, pulling the wrap more securely about her. They had reassured her his memory would return. Sarek had reported that Spock was more himself, choosing to resume career in Starfleet. It seemed that portion of his memory had revealed itself, but what of the life he had shared with T'Liba?
She tipped her face back, again studying the night sky as if in search of answers to her questions. Filling the sky to her right were Ny'one and T'Priah, the God and Goddess of fertility, two constellations which joined in mythical union, promising offspring to the inhabitants of a seemingly barren world.
In Pre-Reform times, when one out of every two children died before reaching adulthood, parents bonded their children to assure the continuation of familial lines. Now they were bonded for political reasons and convenience, although the old customs were still remembered. T'Liba's expression hardened as she recalled the custom which had bound Spock to one unworthy.
"I shall not submit to it!" T'Pring cried, her shrill voice quivering with haughty indignation. "He is a halfling, not a true Vulcan at all!"
"I cannot refuse Sarek's request, Daughter. The House of Surak is too powerful to--"
"The House of Sindal is just as powerful."
"There was a time when that was true, but the Council is not the same as it was when your grandfather ruled. Sarek is a clever man. He speaks of bringing Vulcan into the future, yet he uses the ancient customs to bind you to his son. We cannot refuse this bond without defying tradition, which is what he wishes for us to do."
"I shall someday rule as the head of my house, Father. It is unseemly of you to offer one of my status as a consort for a Human!" T'Pring spat the word as if it were a curse.
"It will be a bond in name only, child. You will not be asked to comfort one who does not burn. When the time comes for you to conceive an heir, the sire will be a true Vulcan, and the child will bear the name of our house, not the House of Surak. Meanwhile, you will be compensated lavishly for the offer of favors never claimed."
"But you shall bond me to him. I will be subservient to his will, Father!"
"He has no will," Sofab insisted. "He is a freak, something to be pitied. It is entirely possible that his mind is not strong enough to accomplish the bond."
T'Liba, confused by the condescending words of her uncle, waited in the hall outside the lounge for a break in the conversation. She had witnessed Spock weathering the taunts of Studek, a bully who called him Earther and worse. Spock had ignored the shrill cries, expression composed, as T'Liba sensed the anguish in his heart. His control seemed adequate then, admirable even in the face of the bitterly cruel words of his tormentor. Once in the market square, Spock had spoken to her briefly. T'Liba had been amazed at his humility, rare for one so highly born. He had not seemed freakish to her, exotically different, perhaps, but not freakish.
"I am not T'Liba, Father! She would welcome such an opportunity. Indeed, she would be flattered to be offered a bride price for her favors. But I am not some cast off, taking advantage of a generous relative. I am heir to the House of Sindal and I will not become the consort of one unfit to serve me!"
"Sarek would never accept T'Liba in your place, daughter. My sister's poor choice for a husband has cast her child among the lowly born."
"And you will be burdened with her upkeep until some low creature with no other to comfort him takes her to fill his need."
T'Liba bit her lip, feeling the sting of the spiteful words as if they had been spoken only moments ago. She lifted her chin in defiance as the night wind blew her unbound hair about her like an ebony cloud.
"You were right, my cousin. I was taken only to fill a need, but unlike you, I value that which has been given to me, and I shall not cast it aside in disfavor."
Retreating from the balcony, T'Liba returned to her bed, curling against Spock's pillow. She had slept alone for years, so it was illogical for her to miss his presence in their bed. But she had also been unable to sleep the night Spock returned to Earth after his pon farr. She remembered staying awake until the first light of dawn, inhaling the scent of him which clung to his pillow.
No scent of him lingered here now. It had been far too long. But tonight, as the constellation Natara glided across the night sky, T'Liba drifted to sleep, dreaming of pleasures she would know only with Spock.
Supine on his bunk, yet wide awake, Spock considered the difficult situation which awaited him on Vulcan. There was not just one obstacle to seeking the kr'alieu for Sybok, but several. His first task would be to ask Sarek to rescind his declaration of Sybok's status. If he failed at that level, there would be no hope of access to the Hall of Ancient Thought, and Sybok's katra would be lost forever.
Spock reflected upon Sarek's displeasure with Sybok's gradual divergence from the teachings of Surak. In spite of Sarek's repeated warnings, Sybok defied the authority of his elders and continued his quest for answers to fundamental questions of existence.
Later Spock could not say why he had found himself drawn toward the gazebo that night, but the pull was as strong as a powerful tractor beam. Brilliant stars illuminated the scene before him as he emerged from behind a tree. Sybok's voice rang in his ears as clearly as the meditation bells in Surak's square, and his brother's words dropped like lead weights in the pit of his stomach.
"As children we were taught to take emotion and stifle it. We were told that this was for the greater good, and we did not question the wisdom of our elders." Sybok paused, looking about at the youths which surrounded him. "I submit to you that there is another way, one Surak would have discovered himself, had he lived long enough, an alternative to the casting off of emotion which the Kolinahr advocate."
Sybok smiled, turning about with his palms outstretched as if to embrace his audience. "Today, as we have gone about our lives, each of us has felt some emotion for the briefest of instants before we suppressed that emotion in the name of logic. What I wish to explore with you now is the fullest sensation that emotion can bring. Once you experience the emotion without suppression, and learn to release it naturally, a new level of existence will be reached. It is not necessary for us to deny our feelings to preserve harmony."
Sybok held out a hand to one of his students, drawing the youth to his feet. "Sandol, may I have your thoughts?"
Sandol nodded, and Sybok's hands curved around the young man's head.
"This afternoon your bondmate T'Kli was walking with Sapril. Sapril, who has no bondmate, walks with T'Kli nearly every day, yet today you felt something as you watched them together."
"Yes," Sandol murmured.
"What did you feel?"
"I...I do not..."
"Tell me, Sandol. Tell me what you are feeling right now. Sapril is walking with T'Kli. She favors him with her undivided attention. What--"
"Jealousy!" Sandol breathed, flushing just slightly.
"Do not deny the feeling," Sybok ordered. "Let it wash over you, through you. Be as one with it."
"Yes." Sandol's expression was contorted with anger. "I feel it."
"Now let it go."
Sandol's face relaxed and he sagged weakly against Sybok, who supported him.
"Excellent! That is one brief example. Sandol did not suppress his emotion. He faced it, and he experienced it. By embracing our feelings, we come closer to ourselves, come closer to the force which unites all things. T'Dar, come."
A young woman which Spock recognized as one of Sybok's anthropology students rose from her seat and Sybok brushed his fingers against her temple. He immediately broke into a broad smile. "How delightful! Feel it, my child. Do not suppress this joy."
T'Dar's lips curved gradually into a smile and then soft laughter bubbled from between parted lips. "Yes, Sybok. Yes!"
"Allow it to fill you, heart and mind, T'Dar...no! Do not close yourself to it! Experience it for as long as you can."
T'Dar's smile faded, and she opened her eyes. "It is gone."
"With practice you shall be able to hold onto the feelings, experience them at will," Sybok assured.
When T'Dar had taken her seat, Sybok pulled another student to his feet. "Salar, what do you--" Sybok's expression crumpled as the youth's emotions hit his unshielded mind. "Oh!" Sybok doubled over, not breaking his hold on Salar, but in obvious pain. It was then that Spock realized what Sybok was feeling. Salar's mother had died less than a week before. Sybok had unwittingly tapped into his grief.
"Experience it," Sybok gasped. "Share it with me. There is too much for you to bear alone!" Sybok caught the boy by the shoulders and pulled him close. For several moments, they were locked together, and then Sybok cried out, an agonizing wail that pierced the night air like a phaser blast.
When Salar and Sybok both began to weep, Spock backed away, unwilling to witness the suffering his brother had evoked. In his distraction, Spock stumbled over the exposed roots of a tree and fell to the ground. From that accidental vantage point, he caught a glimpse of a lone figure running along the edge of the property away from the gazebo. It wasn't until the next day that he had made the connection.
Montgomery Scott peeked around the open door. "Am I interruptin' somethin', lad?"
"Only solitude, Mister Scott."
The engineer took the response as an invitation and entered the cabin, carrying a bottle of scotch. "Uhura told me about Sybok. I didna know, but now that I do, I thought I'd drop by to pay me respects."
Spock gestured for Scott to take a seat across from him at the small table where he sat. "It has occurred to me, Mister Scott, that my friends are performing something very similar to the first stage of the kr'alieu, or sharing of the katra of the departed. By Vulcan custom, the bearer of the katra is visited by friends and relatives of the deceased. The essence of that life force is then dispersed, each visitor taking away a small part of the whole to experience it and preserve it for the katra ceremony."
"Sounds like a custom that could be improved by a wee drop of scotch," Scott said. "Have ye ever been to a wake?"
"I have never had the privilege," Spock replied diplomatically. "But I find it interesting that Vulcans are trained as children to take part in the ritualized process of the kr'alieu, and you Humans seem to be doing it instinctively. Of course, since you and the rest of the crew are not telepaths, there is no true sharing of Sybok's katra.
"Humans donna need to be in a man's mind to know his soul, lad." Scott sank into the empty chair and concentrated on opening the bottle. "Have ye anythin' we can drink from?"
Hiding his bemusement, Spock obtained two glasses and placed them on the table. As Scott poured two generous portions of the amber liquid, Spock recalled his Mother's odd habit of taking food to a kr'alieu. It was an Earth custom, she had explained, to take food to the grieving family. Amanda always took balkra casserole, and although the Vulcans accepted her gesture politely, they didn't understand why she brought it. Sarek had explained to her that the logic behind the gift was as outdated as the custom, but Amanda stubbornly took her Human offering. Over the years, the Vulcan's grew to expect the Lady Amanda's food as a symbol of her sharing of their grief.
Just as the Vulcans knew better than to question Amanda's casserole, Spock did not think to refuse the glass of ethanol Scott offered him. This was obviously another Terran grieving ritual.
"For centuries, me family's toasted the dead with Dewar's Scotch," Scott began, blinking watery eyes. "The last time, not so long ago, was when I put me bonnie Peter to rest."
"He served well for one so young," Spock said. "His memory is a credit to your family."
Scott looked into his glass as if to catch a glimpse of the vibrant young man who had given his life in the performance of his duty. Raising the drink, he paused, searching for words. "To Sybok, then. And to family."
"To Sybok," Spock echoed. "And to Peter Preston. Their sacrifices will always be remembered."
Scott downed the contents of his glass with practiced ease, Spock, however, took only a polite sip. Scott refilled his glass and shook his head. "Uhura says that ye were forbidden to speak of yer brother, that yer father had cast him out."
"He declared Sybok klee-fah-tu," Spock agreed.
"Klee-fah-tu. Roughly translated, a person who is no longer a person."
"Shunnin'," Scott said softly, draining his glass again. "Aye, I understand. I've been shunned meself."
Taking Spock's faintly arched eyebrow as a request for details, Scott launched into his story. "Me sister, Glenna, married when she was just a lass. With our parents dead and me gone eleven months out of the year workin' ore freighters, I was relieved when she and Teague Preston signed a contract. They were married for five years, and had a little lass together, Jessie. But when the contract came up for renewal, Glenna wouldna sign.
"Ye see, Teague was a lot like me; happier between the stars than settlin' in one place, and Glenna said that was no kind of life for her and little Jessie. She wanted roots. So Teague and Glenna went their separate ways, and nine months later, Glenna had a son. She named him Peter, which means reliable, dependable as a rock, and she had her roots. Not long after Peter was born, she got word that Teague had died in space. He loved her to the end, Mister Spock, left her and the bairns well provided for, although he'd never even seen Peter.
"Well, the boy grew up without a man around, and I suppose that when his Uncle Scotty came home to visit, it was to be expected that he'd think me larger than life. I'd rattle on about the places I'd been, and he'd hang on every word, his eyes shinin' like stars themselves. Glenna saw it first, the wanderlust in the boy. He was his father's son, and even as a little lad, Glenna was hard pressed to keep him home. By the time he was twelve, he had only one dream...to be an engineer. He wanted Uncle Scotty's life, the life his father before him had led, and all Glenna's tears and dire warnings fell on deaf ears.
"I did me best to talk him out of it. I tried to tell him it was a hard way to live a life; no family, no real home, but the boy was determined to be an engineer. To ease Glenna's mind, I pulled every string I had to get him assigned to Enterprise..."
The engineer's voice trailed off, and a tear streaked down one cheek as he filled his glass again and downed the liquid fire in a single gulp.
"T'was just a little trainin' cruise, three weeks out and back. Not a real mission at all, just a boatload of children, as the captain said. I told Glenna he couldna have been safer in her own back yard. After all, it was the Enterprise, sir. Starfleet's finest with you in command. What could go wrong?"
Scott drank another glass of scotch before he spoke again, and Spock sat in silence, knowing that the question was a rhetorical one. Though the bottle between them was nearly empty, Spock's glass had remained untouched since the first sip.
The Vulcan recalled the fresh-faced young cadet as he had stood at stiff attention for Kirk's inspection, remembered the boy's fierce pride in his uncle's engines. Spock had seen the spirit of the old Enterprise shining in that bright countenance. Peter had had his entire life ahead of him, his youthful enthusiasm dimmed only in the shadow of death. Peter died defending the ship he loved, just as Spock had done.
"I knew Glenna would be angry," Scott continued, his brogue thickening. "I knew that in her grief she would lash out at me, and what explanation could I give? I had sworn to keep the lad safe and here I was bringin' him home in a stasis field. She didna even know who Khan was, and she cared less that Peter had saved others by givin' his life. Glenna and Jessie met me at the door, dry-eyed, cold. Glenna spoke not a word, Mister Spock. And she hasna since, not to me. I pleaded with her. I broke down in tears beggin' fer even a harsh word from her lips, but she wouldna speak. Shunned, that's what I am, set apart from the last of me kin by me failure to protect a lad who trusted me with his life."
The bottle was tipped to drain the last of the scotch. His glass was tossed back effortlessly before Scott threw it across the room to shatter against the bulkhead. He looked up at Spock, the self-recrimination in his eyes watering as unshed tears.
"Uhura said Sybok took her pain away. She said today she wished Sybok had gotten to me. Fancy her saying a thing like that! I think the lass knows more than I've told her, and I've told her plenty..." His voice trailed off and when he continued it was a bare whisper. "She's the one who'll always understand, Uhura is. She'd never shun me, never."
"Commander Uhura is a remarkable woman."
"She's a saint," Scott amended, staring in disbelief at the empty bottle. "Mister Spock, If I'd known you were gonna drink so much, I'd have brought another bottle."
"One was sufficient, Mister Scott," Spock said solemnly. "I appreciate your thoughtfulness, but it is late, and you have duty tomorrow. May I escort you to your cabin?"
"No need," Scott assured, rising to his feet and stumbling over the legs of his chair. "I kin make it meself."
Spock ignored the protest, taking the engineer by the arm and leading him from the room.
Leonard McCoy had been lost for hours in the past. For some reason he kept coming back to images of Jim Kirk, forcing grief aside to deal with some crisis or duty. At the time, it had seemed the thing to do. After all, a starship captain who allowed the death of a single man to paralyze him would not last long in the center seat. But McCoy had seen Kirk bury his anguish too deeply on too many occasions to believe that he had coped with it later.
Kirk had refused to face death, and now death was facing him. David Marcus' untimely demise had become a symbol of deaths McCoy had lost track of during the years, faces which no longer evoked a name, countless security men sent to their doom. There were women Kirk had lost or watched die; Nona, Marta, Rayna, Lori, and his own sister-in-law, Aurelan. Poor Leslie Thompson, crushed to powder before his eyes. And of course, Miramanee, Edith, and Talya. Miramanee died defending Kirk even as she carried his unborn child, Edith to correct a ripple in the sands of time, and Talya...McCoy closed his eyes. Talya had died in McCoy's arms, death becoming the only escape from the pain which racked her protesting body.
But Spock had been the worst. Kirk had seemed a shadow of himself after he'd lost Spock. He'd put it best himself: "I lost a brother once. I was lucky, I got him back."
McCoy pushed himself out of the comfortable chair and tore his gaze from the stars. Kirk called them family, yet he held himself aloof from their support. Sighing heavily, McCoy walked across the hardwood deck, his boots clicking loudly. He squared his sagging shoulders as he stepped into the night darkened corridor, heading for the one place where he might find an answer to his dilemma.
"His grades were the top of his class," Scotty slurred as Spock removed his boots and set them aside. "The lad knew the circuitry of his station like the back of his hand, he did."
"Sleep now," Spock urged gently, as the engineer curled into a ball on his bunk. The Vulcan covered Scott with the plaid blanket and dimmed the lights, standing by the door until Scott's respiration had slipped into rhythmic snores. Satisfied that he was no longer needed, Spock left the cabin.
"You can't leave now!" Spock admonished, blocking Sybok's path to the open case on his bed. "The Council hasn't even ruled! When Father returns--"
"When Father returns it shall be resolved," Sybok interrupted, stepping around his younger brother. "I will not burden Sarek with my defense."
"But it is no burden, Sybok!"
"To Sarek it is," Sybok responded, putting the last of his belongings into the case and closing it.
"That is not true. He will speak to the Council on your behalf. If you give your word that you will not do it again--"
Sybok whirled, dark eyes snapping. "I cannot! Don't you see? What you saw last night; that is who I am!"
"I know only that you are my brother. No judgement from the Council will ever change that."
Sybok's expression softened. "And I cannot tell you, Spock-kam, how much you have meant to me. When you came to Gol, I was alone. Before that I had only T'Rea. Now I shall be alone again." Sybok dark eyes filled suddenly with tears. "Did I ever tell you that they kept me from her at the end?"
Spock shook his head, uncomfortable as he always was when Sybok spoke of T'Rea.
"I was allowed only to speak to her through the door to her cell, but I was not..." Sybok choked back a sob. "I was not allowed to touch her. For two weeks they held her apart from me. I could feel her anguish, sense her need for my comfort, but I could do nothing. Then she was brought before the High Masters and given a choice. I knew she could not leave Vulcan. It was her home. She asked only for an opportunity to take her leave of me, to hold me in her arms one last time before she took her own life. T'Sai refused to permit it. She drew her last breath alone, Spock, the poison paralyzing her progressively until she no longer breathed. I tried to go to her, but the Kolinahr held me back. They locked me away until her katra fled her body. T'Sai herself took me to view the empty vessel which remained."
"In banishment we would have been together," Sybok whispered. "But that was not to be. She had foreseen her own death, and knew even before they charged her what was to come. She told me before she died that a time would come when I also would have to choose."
"The Council would never sentence you to death!" Spock was outraged by the comparison.
Sybok shook his head sadly. "You do not understand, Brother. For me to suppress emotions, to live as the council would have me live, to relinquish the vision of Sha-ka-ree, that would be a living death...just as banishment would have been death to T'Rea."
"But where will you go?"
Sybok shrugged. "I have not decided. There are so many possibilities. My destiny awaits, and if I do not find it, then it shall surely find me. Perhaps I will enlist in Starfleet. They seek the unknown just as I do."
"Then let me go with you!" Spock exclaimed.
"You must complete your studies here on Vulcan. You must stay."
"If you choose to go then so can I!" Spock insisted. "There is nothing for me here without you."
"No, I cannot be responsible for--"
"I shall take responsibility for myself!"
Sybok rested his hands on his brother's shoulders. "Spock, I am ten years older than you. I have completed my education. I will not allow you to sacrifice your future for me."
"Why not? I sacrificed my mother's love to be Vulcan! I sacrificed any will of my own to please our father. As long as I can remember I have attempted to please them both, and I tell you now it is an impossible task! Amanda cries secretly in her room because I cannot speak of my feelings for her, while Sarek pretends not to hear the whispers of those who call his younger son a freak."
"I know you think that Sarek does not care, but he does. His way is the Vulcan way, but he feels as deeply as your mother. In time you will understand." Sybok released him and retrieved the case. "Now I must go."
"You are leaving now?" Spock was incredulous.
"I must, beloved Brother." Impulsively Sybok bound him in an enveloping hug. In spite of his surprise, Spock allowed his mental shields to drop for a final mingling of minds. Sybok was the only individual who had ever accepted Spock just as he was, and that loving acceptance was paramount now in their link.
Sybok held Spock at arm's length to look at him one last time, tears streaking unashamedly down his cheeks. "Grieve not my absence, Spock-kam, for when the time is right you will find me again. Of that I have no doubt."
Entering his quarters, Spock paused, one brow arching in surprise. Leonard McCoy, flanked by two security guards, glared back at him.
"Where the hell have you been?"
"Mister Scott required my assistance. I was only out of my cabin for ten point five seven minutes."
McCoy rolled his eyes and affected his long suffering parental air. "You know, one of these days you're gonna actually do what I tell you to do...and the shock is gonna kill me."
"I think that is unlikely, Doctor."
One of the security guards shifted impatiently and McCoy shook his head. "Okay, you boys can go, but if you catch him out of his cabin without permission again, shoot to kill. Understood?"
One guard nearly smiled, another, obviously unfamiliar with McCoy, cast a puzzled glance at his partner.
"The doctor is attempting to make a joke, Ensign Perry," Spock said. "I am certain he means stun setting one."
McCoy would have smiled at the Vulcan's attempt at humor, but he was too shocked by Spock's gaunt appearance. He looked more exhausted than McCoy had felt after that refusion ritual. Skilled surgeon's hands plucked the empty bottle off the table, and twisted it label up before setting it down again. "Looks like you had a wake in here. Scotty okay?"
Spock shook his head. "He is still grieving for his nephew."
"He'll be grievin' in Sickbay tomorrow...with a hangover by the looks of things."
"I do not pretend to understand the Human predilection for the consumption of ethanol to 'drown one's sorrows,' Doctor. However, since you have indulged in such behavior yourself on numerous occasions I thought perhaps--"
"Which is no damned different than meditatin' until there isn't any emotion left to feel!" McCoy snapped, stung by Spock's comparison.
"I have never heard of an individual experiencing cephalalgia and nausea after meditation. The Vulcan way is cleansing; your Human substitute is self-inflicted poison."
"If meditation is so cleansin', then why do you look like Hell?"
"If you would be more specific--"
"I'd be willin' to wager that you haven't had a good night's sleep since we left Nimbus. Chris isn't here to keep track, so I can't prove it, but I'd risk a guess that you're not eatin' either."
"You told me to reduce my caloric intake after my last physical. As I recall, I was twenty kilograms over my desired--"
"I didn't say to starve yourself, God damn it! This isn't about weight, Spock. You're forgettin' how well I know you. You've done this before, missed sleep, been off your feed, it's a symptom of emotional..." McCoy's voice trailed off, eyes widening as a thought struck him. "You aren't...you aren't goin' into heat again, are you?"
Spock stared at McCoy in momentary disbelief, then to the doctor's absolute amazement, the Vulcan laughed. The sound, so reminiscent of Sybok's laughter, sent a chill along McCoy's spine. For a moment the brightly animated expression on Spock's face was that of his half brother. McCoy watched in horrified fascination as Spock regained his usual equanimity.
"I apologize, Doctor."
"That was Sybok! I...I thought you said there was no minglin' of the souls."
Spock sank onto his bunk with a weary sigh. "I am more fatigued than I realized. Apparently I underestimated the strain. Complete isolation of the katra is...unusual. It requires more energy--"
McCoy, still struggling uncomfortably with the memories Spock's outburst had evoked, shook his head. "I don't understand. You said that Sybok's katra was confined. Isn't that the usual case?"
Spock's countenance shifted into a new expression, one McCoy had rarely seen displayed so openly on those saturnine features, guilt.
"No. As to your question about my mating cycle, the answer is also no. Was there anything else?"
"I...I...uh..." McCoy stammered, deciding in light of this new situation not to burden Spock with Kirk's problems. He smiled weakly "Nothin' important. Anythin' I can do to help?"
"I think not." Now the almost-smile was all Spock's. "However, I appreciate your offer."
McCoy's eyes flickered with concern, remembering that out-of-phase feeling that accompanied alien control of one's own body. There'd been a point when he'd come to the conclusion that he'd gone insane, a horrible moment which he'd forgotten until now.
Frozen images played across his mind; waking up in Spock's cabin with the echo of his own words ringing like a specter's cry, being in a bar with an alien who spoke pidgin English, hearing hushed voices outside the electrified door to his psychiatric ward cell. There were too many things he still couldn't remember clearly. Unconsciously, he found himself backing toward the door. "I guess I'll be goin' then."
"Good night, Doctor."
"G'night, Spock. Pleasant dreams." McCoy fled the room, feeling like a coward, but unable to control the wild panic that filled him when he thought of that eerie laughter.
The solitary figure which remained on the bunk sighed again. "Unlikely."
Rousing herself from a light trance, T'Liba stretched, distorting the striped pattern of morning sunlight which infiltrated the shutters on the window of her sitting room. Curling easily into a relaxed position on the carpeted floor, she began devising a mental list of the duties she would complete before going into the museum this afternoon.
The servants were excellent, but by Vulcan custom they required direction, and there were some routine household functions which must be completed today, or delayed until after Spock returned to Earth. T'Liba had always made the administration of her husband's estate appear effortless, but in reality it was a full-time position in itself.
As if on cue, T'Hoit appeared in the open doorway. "There are two messages for you on the BellComm, My Lady. Sandrom wishes to speak with you at your convenience about the gardens, and T'Meer also desires an audience. The Lady Amanda's page delivered this package for you just now."
T'Liba rose from the floor, unfastening the top closures of her meditation robe. "Thank you, T'Hoit. Have T'Meer and Sandrom join me for tea. I will answer their questions then. I will take my messages now, and..." She took the bulky package from the housekeeper's arms and deposited it on a lounge chair. "After tea, I will accompany you on your inspection of the house."
"I have no doubt that the master will find everything in order."
"Neither do I," T'Liba agreed warmly. She dismissed the older woman with a nod, and closed the door after her.
The first message on the BellComm was from T'Ariz, her polite words hiding the concern which surged beneath the Vulcan facade. The second message was left by a colleague from the academy about the use of a lecture hall. T'Liba froze as a final image appeared before her on the screen. It took her a moment to realize that it was Spock's brief message of a week ago. The tape had been full and no new message had taped over it since. She stared at the dignified Starfleet officer, attempting to reconcile that face with the face of the one who had taken her as his consort. The image blanked as the message ended and T'Liba switched off the screen.
Turning to the package sent by Amanda, T'Liba opened it, the smell of globefruit wafting up through the shredded packing material. A half smile tremored on her lips. These were Spock's favorite, and difficult to obtain at this time of year. Amanda had sent them for Spock, her Human vote of confidence that her son would return to his consort.
Arranging the golden fruit in a decorative bowl, T'Liba set it on a low table, the sweet scent reminding her of a memorable morning three years ago.
Curled contentedly in the center of the disheveled bed, T'Liba stroked the strands of her ply'muth, humming an ancient tune. Her ebony hair spilled over her shoulder as she bent her head, straining to work her fingers over the broad bridge. The melody was a lovely one and she'd been practicing it for weeks, but the complexity of this one phrase continued to elude her.
Biting her lip she faltered, fingers arching awkwardly. She paused, flexing out an uncomfortable cramp before reapplying her fingertips to the still vibrating strings. A second attempt ended as abruptly as the first, and T'Liba expelled a pre-reform oath beneath her breath.
"That ply'muth is too much too large for you," Spock's voice broke what remained of her concentration, and she looked up. He stood in the doorway still dressed in his robe, carrying a tray of food. "You should purchase a smaller instrument."
"It is illogical," T'Liba agreed, "but as awkward as it is, I have grown accustomed to it."
Spock set the tray on the bedside table and joined her on the bed. "Try it again."
T'Liba complied, halting when her fingers could not span the bridge.
Spock shook his head. "It is not necessary to hold the note as long as you are attempting. Stretch to touch, and then release almost immediately."
His arms came around her, long-fingered hands covering hers as he demonstrated the technique. T'Liba relaxed against his warmth, the casual touch heightening their bond. She practiced the movements, following his directions until she could consistently perform the elusive fingering. His pride in her accomplishment washed through her, and beneath it she also sensed his desire.
The forefingers of his right hand brushed hers briefly, trailing a tantalizing path along the sensitive inner aspect of her arm. His left hand, which had been resting on her shoulder, now brushed the curtain of dark hair aside to reveal the slender column of her neck.
"Breakfast is growing cold," T'Liba murmured as Spock pressed his lips against the throbbing pulse of her carotid artery. "Should we not eat?"
"The tea..." Spock's fingers slipped beneath her silky gown to trace the outline of her collarbone. "...can be reheated, globefruit is just as pleasing at room temperature...and I shall order a fresh plate of kreyla from the processor."
T'Liba sighed, setting the ply'muth aside as Spock drew her back against him. "I thought you were hungry."
Spock's lips sought the tapered tip of her ear, nipping lightly at it before he responded in a soft growl. "I am."
Returning to the present, T'Liba removed her meditation robe and braided her long thick hair. Tonight Spock would return to Vulcan. Tonight she would know if he remembered her or not. Ready now to face the servants, she paused before the mirror, composing her expression. What she desired was unimportant. If Spock remembered her, she might again be his t'hy'la. If he did not, she would go on as before. So it had been since the time of the beginning, so it would be now. That was the Vulcan way.
Spock strode purposefully down the dormitory corridor, his face composed in the expressionless mask which hid a multitude of emotions. He had been here at Starfleet Academy for three weeks, and although Starfleet liked to consider itself a melting pot, Spock felt isolated and alone. He missed Sybok, he missed Amanda, and when he allowed himself to admit it, he missed Sarek also. Had he not been such a stubborn individual, he would have returned to Vulcan the first week.
Returning to his dorm room, Spock noticed the blinking message light on his BellComm before the door had swished shut behind him. He paused, toying with the study disks he carried, half afraid to play the tape. Crossing the small room slowly, he reached one finger out to hit the play button.
"Spock," Amanda's familiar voice caught at the Human part of him he had fought so long to suppress, manifesting itself as a wave of homesickness. He drank in the familiar sights of home, Amanda's garment, the partial view of his father's study behind her. He had been expecting Sarek, and his slender shoulders sagged with momentary relief.
"Your father came home last night. I didn't call him on Altair to tell him you'd gone because I'd hoped that you would change your mind. I guess I should have known that you wouldn't."
Spock stiffened as if for a blow as his mother continued, choosing her words carefully. "He was hurt by your behavior, Spock. Of course he wouldn't admit it, even to me, but I could see it in his eyes. I think he blames himself. First Sy--" Amanda bit her lip and glanced toward the door of the study. "I don't have much time, but I wanted you to hear this from me. Sarek has declared your brother klee-fah-tu."
The rest of the message was lost to Spock. He stared at his mother's image, deaf to her tearful entreaty for him to return to Vulcan. For some reason, his mind was filled with the memory of the time Sybok refused to allow him to take the blame for the prank he'd pulled on Sybex.
A hot tear trailed down one cheek before he dashed it impatiently aside. Sarek was now punishing Sybok for Spock's behavior. He would not dare declare Spock klee-fah-tu. That would alienate Amanda and shake to the foundation his people's belief in his support of IDIC. No, it would be politically unwise for Sarek to cast out his half-Human son, but it was perfectly logical for him to disown a son accused of heresy.
What better way to wound Spock than to strike a final blow to the one he held closest to his heart? In the eyes of Vulcan, Sybok was dead. Spock was forbidden now to even speak his brother's name. Spock reached out to blank the screen before him, fists clenching at his sides as Amanda's image faded to black.
"No more!" Spock whispered harshly. His hands pressed against the side of his head as if to drive out the painful memories. This was too much, too much to cope with in his present state. It was also too soon, he knew, after his own refusion for him to be bearing the katra of his brother. But the only alternative would have been to reject the final gift bestowed upon him. No, there had been no choice. Sybok had been banished from his home in life. If there was a way to return him in death, then Spock must seek it. Not just for Sybok's sake, but for his own. Spock knew now that if any part of Sybok were lost, it would be as losing a part of himself. They had been that close.
Spock prepared for bed, hoping the rest would strengthen his almost non-existent mental shields. In less than twelve hours he must face Sarek. Sybok's future depended upon Spock's plea on his behalf. He must summon the strength to achieve that goal, and beyond that moment he would not anticipate. There were other situations requiring his attention, but his duty to his brother must come first.
Forcing his taut body to relax against his bunk, Spock willed himself into slumber, losing his train of thought as he slipped into a vivid dream.
T'Liba's mind mingled freely with his even as their bodies entwined in lazy passion. Tomorrow he would leave her again to return to Earth, but today he would take his pleasure with her, savoring also the resonance of the pleasure his ministrations evoked in her.
She was small for a Vulcan, and at first he had feared injuring her with his fierce desire, but she had born his initial thirst for her without a whimper of discomfort. Now, as the intensity of his own burning need faded, he felt her desire as well. It had surprised him at first. He had, of course, sensed desire in Human females, but none in T'Pring. Thus, in spite of what Sybok had told him in his youth, he had assumed that Vulcan females had no such drives, a theory the past few days had disproved beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Moving slowly inside her, Spock felt the tension building. Strong but tiny hands gripped his shoulders as she arched up to meet his thrusts, a psionic plea filling his mind. Faster!
He complied immediately, aware of each muscle in her body as it tightened toward release. The rippling waves of her ecstasy washed over him, drawing him closer to his own fulfillment, but he maintained control, not breaking his rhythm as she shuddered beneath him.
Spock knew what that plea meant. After nearly a week of playing her body as he played his harp, he knew precisely what chords to pluck, which strings to set vibrating. Her fingernails dug deeply into the flesh of his shoulders as he accommodated her. His eyes started to flutter shut as he neared the precipice of his own orgasm, but something stopped him. As his body continued to strive toward a climax, a part of Spock realized that this was a dream. This had occurred nearly three years ago.
T'Liba was meeting his thrusts eagerly, and he could sense another climax building within her. This was not just any dream, but the dream. Each time it differed slightly, but the constant which bound these chimeras was the point which neared now. When Spock closed his eyes, T'Liba would disappear. Their bed would dissolve, and he would be in a cave which quaked and rumbled.
The plea of his consort ringing in his mind, Spock fixed his eyes fixed firmly on the familiar face. If he did not blink, if he did not close his eyes, the dream could not rule him.
Spock's body, unencumbered by the distracting thoughts, found its release. He luxuriated, not just in the electric surge which wound delightfully along his spine, but also in the resonance of T'Liba's pleasure. His eyes squeezed shut as control was overpowered by ecstasy.
Spock! The echoing voice in his mind was T'Liba's, but the body beneath him now was not the body of his wife. The hard rock floor where he knelt tremored and a chill wind blew across his naked back.
No! Spock sought the mental contact he shared with his wife, reaching out only to collide with a dark barrier that bound him in.
"Spock." The woman's voice was familiar, but it was not the voice of T'Liba.
Wife? A sick dread filled Spock as he forced himself to look, opening his eyes to a strange place, a dark cave and the woman beneath him--Saavik!
Spock pulled himself from the dream, sitting up in his bunk, heart fluttering in reaction before he willed it into a more even pace. He was breathing like a man who had just run a great distance, his muscles ached as if he had actually...
The door signal interrupted his unsettling thoughts. His first instinct was to ignore it, and allow whomever stood in the corridor to think him asleep.
"Spock?" After a brief pause, McCoy began banging on the door. "Spock, you okay?" Spock realized that in another moment the good doctor would probably enter his cabin without an invitation, possibly waking everyone in this section in the process.
"One moment, Doctor," Spock called, pulling on his robe and straightening the tousled covers to his bunk. With a shuddering sigh, Spock composed himself to greet his friend. "Come."
McCoy charged into the room wearing pajamas and a robe, his brows furrowed in a worried frown. "What the hell is goin' on in here?"
"I was sleeping, Doctor."
"Bullshit!" The physician snapped. "I heard voices!"
"What you heard was my response to a nocturnal disturbance."
McCoy blinked. "A nightmare?"
"I believe so. If I may ask, what were you doing in the corridor outside my cabin at this hour?"
"Couldn't sleep," McCoy muttered. "Too damn much on my mind. I was headin' for the observation room. The walls to my cabin have been closin' in on me lately."
Spock nearly smiled. "You as well?"
"Okay, okay, I can take a hint. Wanna come along?"
"I do not."
McCoy looked surprised. "Have I told you lately that you look terrible?"
"Indeed you have."
"What was your nightmare about, anyway, Sybok?"
"No, it was not about Sybok, Doctor." Spock moved to stand beside the door that led to the corridor. "It is very late."
"Early, actually," McCoy corrected, making no move to leave. "You worried about facing Sarek?"
"Vulcans do not worry."
"Then what's wrong with you?" McCoy glared at him, eyes narrowing speculatively. "If it isn't Sybok, what is it?"
Spock stiffened, growing impatient with McCoy's persistence. "I would rather not discuss it."
"You never want to discuss anythin', damn it! But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't. What's this all about?"
"Please leave me."
"Gladly!" McCoy snapped. "I wonder why I bother anymore! If you and Jim don't give a damn about yourselves, then why should I? Better off psychoanalyzing' Aldebaran shell mouths, at least they open up once every three years to eat!"
"Two point six years," Spock corrected just as McCoy stormed past him.
McCoy paused as the door swished open, turning to stare at Spock, amazed that the Vulcan could crack a joke now of all times. Maybe Sybok was loose in there after all! Concerned, McCoy reached out to brush his fingertips against Spock's hand. "Spock?"
Not expecting the impulsive contact, Spock flinched back a moment too late, an unshielded image burning itself into McCoy's mind. The physician reeled back against the doorway, closing his eyes as he fought the familiar wave of vertigo that accompanied telepathic contact.
"I was not anticipating your touch, Doctor."
"No God damned shields at all, huh?" McCoy sighed. "I should have guessed. As for what I just saw..."
"I do not wish to discuss it."
"That's just too damn bad," McCoy hissed, moving back into the cabin. "Cause we're gonna discuss it, and we're gonna straighten your Vulcan ass out right here and now. If I read that right just now, and I'll be the first to admit that I'm no expert in telepathic images, you've got a bad case of good old-fashioned guilt."
Spock managed a glare, but made no verbal response.
"And I'd be willin' to bet you don't even understand why, do you?"
"You are trespassing on deeply personal ground, Doctor."
"That's a laugh, considering what you did to me not so long ago," McCoy snapped. "Scrambled my brain like an egg in a fryin' pan!"
"That does not give you the right to--"
"It gives me every right, you stupid Vulcan! Did it ever occur to you that the reason I'm up pacing the corridors at three in the mornin' is because I'm pickin' up on your restlessness?"
A sharply canted brow gave McCoy his answer and he sank onto Spock's bunk with a tired sigh. "Saavik did what she had to do, Spock. Didn't you ever wonder how your body survived on Genesis? Did you suddenly forget about those cyclic urges you can't bring yourself to discuss unless someone is holdin' a phaser to your head?"
"I assumed that because my body had no sentience--"
"You're a scientist, Spock. You know that the Vulcan cycles are biological, not mental. Your body lived, and it was your body that Saavik kept alive."
"How do you know this?"
"Hell, Spock a two year old could have figured it out. It was written all over her face."
"I had no right to take--"
"You were up here," McCoy pointed to his own temple. "Remember? Or at least that's where your memories were stored. You didn't take a God damned thing. Saavik gave it."
Spock was silent.
"Do Vulcans have incest taboos?"
"Doctor," Spock's tone indicated that he was more than just slightly outraged by the question. "I do not see what that has to do with any--"
"Because blood and Vulcan familial ties notwithstanding, you saw Saavik as your child. Being a hybrid, you aren't plannin' on any of your own, and she fit the bill. You raised her, oversaw her education, took pride in her accomplishments--"
"Don't you dare deny it. I recognize parental pride when I see it, and I sure as Hell saw it in you! I thought you were gonna burst the snaps on your uniform jacket when she guided the Enterprise out of Spacedock. And then what happens? You wake up on a slab on Vulcan with half your marbles out of whack and everytime you see Saavik you get a picture that doesn't fit the screen. I should have thought of this a long time ago, but I've been just a tad preoccupied puttin' my own brain to rights."
Spock sighed, completely aware that now that the subject had been broached, there would be no avoiding it until McCoy was satisfied. "We are not discussing Human sexuality, Doctor. Vulcans do not engage in casual sex. With or without Lieutenant Saavik's consent, something very unique was violated, something a Vulcan female should only share with a bondmate."
McCoy looked disgusted. "You give yourself too much credit, Spock. Saavik had a bondmate. By what I would guess to be mutual agreement, they blocked their telepathic union while she kept you from dying. You certainly weren't the first, nor do I think she shared anything with your body other than good old-fashioned lust."
Spock closed his eyes against the crude words. "Lieutenant Saavik was never bonded, Doctor."
"She wasn't until after you died," McCoy countered. "It seems that she and David Marcus...well, personally I wouldn't have put odds on the possibility, but they say truth is stranger than fiction."
Spock had the good grace to look surprised. "I...I did not know."
"Guess I contained you better than I thought, then," McCoy joked. "But you did pick the damned worst times to surface, if you pardon me for sayin' it."
"Then there was no bond, no mental union," Spock said softly.
"T'Liba!" Spock's memories of his consort returned in a rush, unfettered by the haunting images of what he knew now to be Genesis.
"My wife," Spock's relief was visible. "I have been unable until now to remember her."
"T'Liba?" McCoy frowned, recalling the petite girl who had visited Sarek and Amanda during their stay at Vulcan. "That's your wife?"
"She was given to me as a replacement for T'Pring. She is my consort, keeper of my estate.
"A little young for you, isn't she?" McCoy frowned.
Spock looked genuinely amused. "We are...we were the same age, Doctor."
"That little girl is fifty-one Earth years old?"
"Fifty-one point four-six-eight to be precise," Spock replied pedantically, his expression relaxing until he looked a year or two younger himself. The confusion over Saavik had obviously been weighing heavily on him.
"Jesus, after all these years, you'd think I'd know better than to ask," McCoy grumbled, Spock's relief mirrored on his own craggy features. He yawned. "You know, I may just be able to sleep now. How about you?"
Spock suppressed the sympathetic urge to yawn also and nodded his head in agreement. "I think it highly likely, Doctor."
McCoy grinned. "No more nocturnal disturbances?"
Spock sighed. "Not if you return to your cabin."
"All right, all right. I get the message. See you in the mornin', Spock."
Spock watched until the doors closed behind McCoy, then removed his robe and returned to his bunk with a tired yawn.
"Damn!" McCoy muttered as he struggled with the fastening on the berry colored jacket. "And I thought our old dress uniforms were a bitch!" His temper was not a bit diluted by the fact that Spock had kept yet another secret from his Human friends. McCoy didn't relish the task of telling Jim about Spock's wife, but better he find out now than on Vulcan.
God, he was getting tired of playing nursemaid to these two! He paused in the corridor once the overlay was neatly in place, heaving a long-suffering sigh before he pushed the door signal to Kirk's cabin.
"Come," Kirk called, and McCoy stepped through the doorway into the captain's quarters. Kirk was at his desk, a pile of printouts threatening to avalanche into his lap. He didn't look up from the one he was reading to address McCoy. "Can I help you, Doctor?"
"Almost finished with that paperwork?" McCoy asked, noting with some unease that Kirk was not dressed to beam down to Vulcan.
"I won't be finished with this paperwork," Kirk said, finally meeting McCoy's gaze, "until Hell itself freezes over. Our good friends at Starfleet have seen to that."
McCoy smiled, but he didn't relax enough to lean against the wall behind him. "Do I detect a trace of latent paranoia, Captain?"
"Spare me the psychoanalysis, Bones."
"Fine. While we're down on Vulcan, I promise not to psychoanalyze you," McCoy's smile broadened. "Looks like I'll have my hands full enough with Spock. But you'd better get dressed, we're due in the transporter room in less than ten minutes."
Kirk sighed, pushed away from the desk, and stood up. "I'm not going."
"What?" McCoy had seen it coming, but he still managed to sound incredulous.
"You heard me. I'm not going. Please offer my apologies to Mister Spock, and his--"
"You're gonna have to offer your own damn apologies, Captain," McCoy interrupted, his voice trembling with indignant rage. "Cause I'm not about to do your dirty work for you!"
"I've had it, Jim! I've put up with all I'm puttin' up with from you! You've been sendin' the message loud and clear that you don't want me buttin' in on whatever's eatin' at you, and out of some misguided sense of friendship I've kept my distance. Up until now you've been hurtin' yourself worse than anyone else, and I decided that was punishment enough for bein' such a damn fool. But this time you've taken it over the line! So help me, Jim, if you refuse to stand by Spock now..." McCoy glowered, hesitating as he tried to think of a threat which would prompt action.
"Don't delude yourself, Doctor," Kirk responded bitterly. "Spock doesn't need me. He doesn't need anyone. He never has."
"How can you say that?"
"We were a replacement, Bones. You, me, Starfleet, the Enterprise. Spock used us to fill the gap Sybok left in his life."
"We were surrogates, substitutions--"
"Just like Starfleet became a surrogate family to me after my divorce? Just like the Enterprise substituted for the wife and children you never--"
"Apples and oranges, Doctor!"
"Fruit is fruit!" McCoy snapped. "You're talking like you're...why, you're jealous of Sybok!"
Kirk looked shocked. "That is completely--"
"Yeah! That's not all of this, but it's a damned good part of it. Now you listen to me and you listen good. Spock is your best God damned friend in the entire universe, and this is probably one of the most difficult things he's ever had to do. You should have seen him last night, Jim. He looked terrible, no mental shields, bone weary, damn near exhausted! He needs us. He needs our support right now and if you turn your back on him, you'll be throwin' away the best friend you ever had!"
Kirk looked surprised and concerned. He opened his mouth to make a response, but before he could speak McCoy continued.
"Correction, Captain, sir, the two best friends you ever had. Spock and I'll be in the transporter room in ten minutes. If you give a damn about either of us, you'll be there too."
McCoy pivoted and stomped from the cabin.
Halfway to the lift, McCoy stalled, remembering why he had gone to see Kirk in the first place. He started to go back and then shook his head, an unwilling grin lighting up his haggard features. "Serves you right to find out about Spock's wife the hard way, Jim-boy. Assumin' of course, that you end up goin'."
The ancient clock on the mantle chimed the half hour and Amanda drew on every Vulcan discipline she'd ever studied to keep from fidgeting. Sarek was in the study, supposedly meditating, but Amanda knew better. She could feel his tension through their link. Vulcans never get nervous, she thought with a fond smile. Nervousness was the state reserved for the Human mates of supposedly non-nervous Vulcan husbands.
Amanda rose from the sofa, wringing her hands as she moved to the window that overlooked the front courtyard. She was reminded of a night many years ago when the mantle clock had ticked off long seconds to another homecoming.
The Embassy flitter deposited him in the courtyard as Amanda watched from the window. He looked weary, she thought, but that could be from the trip. He had told her before he left the negotiations would be difficult. Sarek collected his luggage, and she could hear his voice as he exchanged a final word with his aide. Before the whirring sound of the ascending flitter faded into the night, he was standing before her in the dimly lit room. Setting his case and traveling cloak aside, he paused, the slightest flicker of surprise crossing his handsome features.
"Wife, I did not expect you to be waiting up."
Without a word, Amanda moved into his open arms, drawing comfort from his solid, familiar presence. He tensed, sensing her unease through their link and pulling back to meet her gaze.
"What has happened?"
"Sybok's gone. I tried to catch you on Altair, but you'd already started home." She paused, seeing Sarek's stricken look, her heart wrenching as it reminded her of Spock's. "Oh, Sarek, I'm so glad you're home!"
Her husband drew her closer, and calming images flowed into her mind. "Be at ease, Amanda. I am with you now."
"Spock wanted to go too, but Sybok wouldn't take him. He's been in his room for two days now. He won't eat, he won't--"
"Why did Sybok leave?"
"T'Ariz told me that Sybok had been relieved of his teaching duties, but I could tell there was more to it than that. I think Spock must know the whole--"
Sarek released Amanda. The tenderness he had just displayed with his Human wife was swept aside as he drew on the Vulcan parental mantle to greet his younger son. "Spock, the hour is late."
"Father, you must go to the council."
"They have charged Sybok with heresy. Rather than bring shame to you he has left Vulcan. We must find him, we must--"
"Were the charges untrue?"
Spock blinked. "Father?"
"You say he is accused of heresy. Are the charges true?"
"They...they said he was teaching some of his students to experience emotion."
"And was he?"
Spock lowered his head.
"Sybok has made a choice, Spock. You must accept it."
"He will return if you ask it!"
"But I shall not do that."
"I warned Sybok that his behavior was unacceptable, dangerously so. He knew the consequences of his actions, and like his mother, chose to ignore them. I take his departure from Vulcan as an admission of guilt, and accept this his final choice as a member of my house."
"Father, he would come back if--"
"Sybok is gone," Sarek interrupted in a tone which invited no further argument.
Spock glanced at Amanda, not as if looking for support, but perhaps just for the comfort of a sympathetic expression. He looked so forlorn, so completely vulnerable.
"Goodnight, Father," Spock said hoarsely. "Mother, goodnight."
Sarek halted Spock's retreat with his next words.
"Tomorrow you will notify the Academy of a change in your area of study. Instead of sciences, you will take classes to prepare for service in the diplomatic corps."
"Sarek!" Amanda's shocked whisper half died in her throat as she remembered that Spock had chosen the Vulcan way. No Human interference would be tolerated. She bit her lip and studied her young son as he fought for the composure which would never come naturally to him. Violent emotions flickered over his countenance briefly before he wrestled them into submission.
"Yes, sir...in the morning." The vulnerability she had sensed in Spock before was gone. It was replaced by a hollow anger that seemed to go right to his soul. Amanda longed to go to him, to comfort him, but she knew that he would reject her maternal advances.
Sarek nodded in curt dismissal. Spock returned to his room, and a moment later Sarek retreated soundlessly into his study, leaving Amanda frozen in the darkened living room, a single tear streaking down one cheek.
Amanda peered into the inky Vulcan night, shivering just slightly as she shook off the recollection. Thirty five years ago Spock had not understood Sarek's grief because he had been blinded by his own. He had seen his father's decision as harsh and unyielding. Tonight another decision would be made, and Amanda could only hope that this one would leave the fabric of her small world intact.
Three sparkling shafts of light illuminated the front courtyard and materialized into her son and his two closest friends. Amanda heaved a slight sigh of relief. At least the waiting was over.
Noticing a decided chill in the air, McCoy blinked, his eyes adjusting slowly to the dark Vulcan night, quite a difference from the well-lit transporter room on the Enterprise. The seasons had changed, he realized, suddenly grateful for the thick wool of his uniform jacket.
He recognized the building before him as D'H'riset, the home of Spock's parents. He'd spent a good part of his three month exile recuperating in this place. It was a stately horseshoe-shaped dwelling, the wings enclosing a central courtyard which held Amanda's rose garden and a multi-tiered fountain. Tonight the curved arches and rust colored masonry evoked a familiar surge in him not unlike the one he'd always experienced at the sight of a certain white frame dwelling in Atlanta. Golden light streamed from multi-paned windows, and smoke billowed from the stone chimney.
Amanda came from the house to greet them, wrapped in a silver shawl; her expression was warm and welcoming as always. Maternal eyes swept past her son's friends to settle on Spock, and McCoy saw Amanda's concern even as she sought to hide it. She, too, saw the fatigue etched in the lines of the Vulcan's face. Few Humans could sense the tenuous grasp Spock had on his mental shields, but Amanda's arms, which had been outstretched, fell to her side as she halted a few feet before her solemn son. Her heartfelt whisper sufficed for the physical embrace she dare not attempt. "Spock, welcome home."
"It is good to see you, Mother," Spock replied, his dark eyes betraying gratitude for her reserve. "You remember Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy."
"Of course she remembers us, Spock," McCoy teased, favoring Amanda with a conspiratorial wink, "Your the one who's gettin' senile."
"Doctor, Captain," Amanda nodded to each of them, her relieved chuckle almost making its way into her carefully modulated voice. "Won't you come inside?"
They were led into the house, boots clicking loudly on the tiled floor of the entryway. Amanda took them into the living room, the familiar decor was diverse as the family who occupied it. A fire crackled in the fireplace, taking the chill from the air. Terran and Vulcan literature filled the bookcase on the far wall, and a Vulcan harp leaned against the curved back of an antique oak rocking chair.
McCoy had spent many a pleasant and relaxing evening here during his three month refuge on Vulcan. Amanda was a charming hostess, and Sarek could be surprisingly congenial himself in the privacy of his own home. Tonight, however, there was a tension running through them all. Jim's still pissed at Spock, McCoy thought. And Spock's so damned exhausted, he looks like he could collapse at any minute. Poor Amanda, she may be playin' the gracious hostess, but she's worried sick.
McCoy was about to offer some comment, anything to break the awkward silence, when Sarek emerged from the study. He nodded politely to each of his guests in turn and then fixed his gaze on Spock.
"You bear the katra of one whose name may not be spoken."
It was uttered as a statement, almost a warning, but the lengthy pause which followed indicated it also to be a question. Here we go, McCoy thought. Lord help us.
"I ask that you rescind your declaration of klee-fah-tu, noble father," Spock's voice was barely a whisper. "I ask this not just on behalf of the katra I bear, but also for myself."
Sarek considered this for a moment and then inclined his head. "That is your right, my son. Are you willing to give me your thoughts so that I may make my decision knowing all there is to know?"
Sarek stood back, allowing Spock to precede him into the study. As the doors closed behind them, McCoy glanced at Amanda and noticed she was trembling.
"Where are my manners?" Amanda said, the physical tremor she tried to control finding its way into her voice. "I'm sure you could both do with a cup of tea."
Kirk opened his mouth to refuse but McCoy beat him to the draw, slipping into what the captain called his "southern gentleman mode" in an attempt to put Spock's mother at ease. "Tea sounds wonderful, Amanda. Would you like some help gettin' it?"
"No, I have it all set up. Make yourselves comfortable. I'll be back in a moment."
Amanda was barely out of earshot when Kirk gave in to the impatience he'd obviously been suppressing. "All right, Doctor, would you care to explain just what's going on here?"
McCoy sank into the sofa, cradling his head in his hands for a moment before he looked up at Kirk. "Do you mean you really don't know?"
"What was Spock talking about, what are he and Sarek doing in there?"
McCoy sighed. "I thought you understood, Jim. Sybok was cast out. Sarek didn't just disown him when he left Vulcan, he declared him--"
"Klee-fah-tu...'you are denied?'"
"Right. As far as the Vulcans are concerned, Sybok never existed."
"One whose name may not be spoken...that...that's why Spock never--"
"He was forbidden to even speak his name, Jim. Think about it for a second. It was the Vulcans who retrained Spock, fed him all his biographical data. You saw how blank he was about us at first. Hell, for a while we were just names and faces, but he really didn't know who we were. If the Vulcans had denied Sybok's existence, do you think they were goin' out of their way to tell Spock about him? I'm bettin' that until he saw that hostage tape, he'd forgotten Sybok completely."
Kirk sank into a chair and shook his head. "Is it just me, or is everything Vulcan incomprehensible?"
"Turn that around. Think what a time they must have tryin' to understand us. You know, all things considered, I think Spock's tolerated us pretty well all these years."
"Why, Bones! I never thought I'd live to hear you talk about Spock tolerating us!"
"I don't blame you for thinkin' you weren't gonna live, if your recent behavior's any indication. First climbin' up that damned mountain, then leadin' a strike force on Nimbus, then sendin' Spock and I up to the ship on Sha ka ree so you could take your chances with that--"
"We were talking about Spock, Doctor."
"And I'm so glad you came with him, gentlemen," Amanda said, returning to the room with a tray of tea. "This is going to be difficult for him...very difficult, in fact. But then, I'm sure he's explained it all to you both."
"To be honest..." Kirk began.
McCoy shot Kirk a warning glare. "Spock told us most of it, but he's been pretty preoccupied. You saw how tired he looked. It's been a strain."
"So soon after..." Amanda bit her lip. "He had no way of knowing what a risk he was asking Spock to take, did he?"
"Who?" Kirk asked in bewilderment.
"Damn it Jim," McCoy snapped. "Who do you think? Sybok." He paused a moment, turning back to Amanda, his tone softening as he continued. "I'm sure he didn't, Amanda."
Kirk looked thoughtfully towards the closed door to the study. "What happens if Sarek says no?"
Amanda froze, teapot in hand. "Then Spock must release the katra without the kr'alieu. Your journey will be for nothing."
"And all that he knew, all that he was...will be lost," Kirk whispered almost to himself.
"Surely Sarek will grant Spock's request. The alternative is--"
"The decision is in Spock, Captain. Sarek asked to meld with him for a reason. What he sees in Spock's mind will decide."
"Did Spock know that?"
Amanda sighed. "I don't know."
Darkness....too much darkness. He could endure that, but the silence reminded him of Gol. His first memories were of Gol and of a silence so profound that even the faint sighing of the night wind seemed a deafening intrusion.
He understood the need for containment. Spock was a Starfleet officer, his duties required complete concentration, but containment and absolute suppression were two completely different things. It would not cost Spock precious equanimity to allow him access to certain areas of his mind, yet he was trapped here, surrounded on all sides.
So, Sybok thought. This is death. It is certainly more like Gol than I ever could have imagined. He laughed at his own joke, but the hollow echo filled him with such sadness that he could not bear it. Suddenly he desired the comfort of another mind, the reassurance that something had not gone horribly awry.
There was no response, only the barrier which he had breached twice after great concentration, and then only for the briefest of moments. Perhaps this was his punishment, his purgatory. His search for ultimate knowledge had brought them all to the brink of destruction. What better penance than to exist for all time in a black void where all knowledge was denied. Would he eventually become like the creature which had awaited him beyond the barrier, so desperate for contact, any contact that he would destroy anything which stood in his way of making it?
Kirk had called him mad. If he had been a mad man then, surely he was mad now. And if he was not yet mad, how long until he was? How even to mark the time in this place?
For a moment he thought he sensed something, some change, perhaps a sound in the void. He strained to listen, strained to see. For what seemed like an eternity he waited for some sign that he was not alone and finally it came, distant mental voices which he could not fail to recognize.
His katra is strong. I have sensed only one other with such intensity...an unusual case; the bearer was Human.
It has been difficult to contain. Even in death the power of his mind is strong.
My son, what you propose is illogical. The Kolinahr will challenge your request.
That is their right. I have given you my thoughts. What is your decision?
He sacrificed himself to save you.
His sacrifice saved us all.
I will stand with you when you petition T'Lar. I will stand for you and I will stand for Sybok, sons of Sarek both.
Sybok laughed in mixture of delighted relief and genuine amusement. Sarek! Oh venerable sire! What a product of my travels I am to delight in the sound of your thoughts! He was on Vulcan! Spock had brought him home.
Leading Spock from the study, Sarek recalled the voice he'd heard just before he broke the meld with Spock. Even now it echoed in his thoughts, the delighted laughter of a son he had once renounced.
Sarek! Oh venerable sire!
There was no mistaking the source, and Sarek wondered at the power of the mind his youngest son held in check. Tonight they would go to request an audience with T'Lar. Spock had carried his burden far too long as it was.
Facing the waiting trio in the living room, Sarek first sought the eyes of his wife. Amanda, sensing his concern through their link, remained unsure enough to look worried. McCoy appeared anxious on Spock's behalf, and Kirk, the good captain, did not understand or like this, yet another Vulcan ritual. Too many reminders of the past? Yes, but not completely. There was always more to Kirk than one could read in his face.
"Sybok's katra must be put to rest in the Hall of Ancient Thought," Sarek announced. "Spock and I will go now to request an audience with T'Lar."
McCoy began to rise from his seat and Sarek, sensing his intent, shook his head. "No, Doctor. This Spock and I must do alone."
"Only two individuals may request audience, the head of the house and the bearer of the katra," Spock explained.
"But when Jim brought us to Seleya..."
"That was not the request for audience, but the audience itself," Sarek supplied. "Commander Uhura and I requested audience while you were on Genesis. I, as head of Spock's house, and Uhura as speaker for the bearer."
"Then you won't see T'Lar tonight?"
"We will see T'Lar when or if she summons us," Spock replied. "Your audience was unique, Doctor, as were the circumstances."
"So when T'Lar summons Spock, assuming she does, we can go with him?" McCoy asked.
"The choice is Spock's. Just as your crew were allowed to accompany you, Spock will be permitted to bring you and the captain with him to the temple if he so wishes."
"You are gonna let us come with you, aren't you, Spock?"
Spock turned to McCoy, a trace of genuine affection apparent in his eyes, although his expression remained bland. "I assure you, Doctor, that I would not think of going without you."
Amanda smiled brilliantly, reassured by Spock's gentle teasing of his old friend. Sarek glanced over at Kirk, who was frowning.
He did not interrupt her meditation, but she was aware of his presence outside her chamber for nearly an hour before she drew herself up through the lighter trances to full awareness of her environment. Rising from the stone slab floor, she folded her hands before her and turned to face her visitor.
"Sodrek, you have word from Seleya?"
The High Master entered the room. "Sarek has requested an audience with T'Lar. Spock carries the katra of his brother, one who is no longer denied."
"Has T'Lar granted them audience?"
"Not yet, but she must. The power of the Clan of Surak extends even to Seleya. Do you wish Sydron and I to prepare a challenge?"
"T'Lar will deny them. A heretic has no place in the Future-of-Vulcan-as-World."
"T'Lar did not deny Sarek's request for fal-tor-pan."
"T'Lar accomplished the refusion because she wished to do so. It was a test of her power. Do not mistake the priestess of Seleya for a pawn. If she were easily led, we would have led her long ago to add to our strength the power she wields with her adepts."
"Should I ask a representative from Clan Sindal to--"
"If challenge is given, Sodrek," T'Sai interrupted, "I shall offer it myself. Arrange transport to Seleya. You and Sydron will accompany me."
The High Master Sodrek, humble only before the Highest of Masters, backed out of her chamber.
T'Sai moved to the writing table and took her kh'yla to a long sheet of fli'plai, taking care with each flowing letter of the Pre-Reform script. Challenge would be given according to law, and the katra of the son of T'Rea would be denied just as T'Rea herself was denied. The Future-of-Vulcan-as-World would remain sacrosanct.
Pausing before the door to the balcony, T'Liba decided not to go out. The nights had turned so cold. Wandering restlessly about the large room, she tried not to think of Spock, but it was an impossible task.
He was on Vulcan; she could feel his presence, sense him nearby. She had waited all evening, listening for his footsteps. The night dragged toward morning and still he had not come. Only one conclusion could be made: he still did not remember her.
Sinking onto the bed, T'Liba curled bare toes beneath the hem of her scarlet robe and took her ply'muth in hand, her fingers automatically playing the tune she had mastered that morning three years ago.
She could not have said if she heard him, or sensed his arrival, but when she looked up he was standing in the doorway, an elegant stranger in Starfleet blue. She stopped playing, holding her breath as she waited for him to speak.
Spock came into the room, exhaustion sagging his posture. He looked so tired. Dark eyes swept over her, and his lips tremored in an almost smile before his gentle tones filled the distance between them.
"That ply'muth is much too large for you, my wife. Did I not suggest you replace it?"
T'Liba stood, two fingers raised to greet her husband. Spock closed the distance between them, extending his hand to return the traditional greeting. The ritual touch heightened their bond until it tingled like a warm fire, suffusing through fingertips to spread throughout both their bodies.
T'Liba met Spock's intent gaze, taking several moments to compose a response to his query. "It is illogical," she murmured, "but as awkward as it is, I have grown accustomed to it."
"Most illogical," Spock agreed. "Perhaps another lesson is in order to teach you the folly of an unsuitable match."
T'Liba allowed herself a slight smile. "It has been said I thrive on unsuitable matches. However, if you wish to give a lesson, I am willing as always to be your pupil."
"Indeed." Spock looked bemused, but he did not release her. Tired eyes scanned the familiar room, settling finally on T'Liba. "It is good to be home."
T'Liba nodded her head, drawing closer to his warmth. "It is good to have you home again...my husband."
The stage whisper was followed by a tapping sound which roused McCoy from a half doze. Sitting upright in the four poster bed, he caught the book he'd been reading before it fell to the floor. The tapping continued as McCoy threw back the covers and padded to the french doors which led to the courtyard. A rush of cold night air followed Kirk into the doctor's room, and McCoy quickly shut the door behind his captain.
"Are you out of your mind?" McCoy whispered, mindful of the acute auditory senses of their hosts. "What is it, three in the mornin'?"
"Nearly four," Kirk corrected. McCoy noticed that the captain was still in uniform.
"Shit! I must have dozed off. Sarek and Spock back yet?"
Kirk nodded. "They got in about a half hour ago."
"How'd Spock look?"
"I didn't see him. By the time I got out to the hall, they'd already gone to their rooms. Spock's light was out."
"Probably just collapsed in a heap," McCoy sighed. "I'm worried about him, Jim."
"I know, I'm worried about him, too."
McCoy arched a brow in a tolerable imitation of Spock. "Really?"
Kirk sat on the edge of McCoy's bed, leaning tiredly back against the post. "I guess I deserved that. While I was waiting for them to come back I thought about what you said tonight. You're right; I guess I was jealous of Sybok, maybe even a little jealous of you."
Kirk smiled. "Have you listened to yourself lately?"
"Well, I did carry his soul around for a while," McCoy rolled his eyes heavenward. "It was no picnic, Jim. Maybe that's why I feel so bad for Spock right now. I've been there myself, what he would call a common frame of reference."
"And you were right about him, Bones. He looks terrible. I had no idea."
"The quicker we get this thing resolved, the better."
"Did he...did he say anything about what I said to him in his cabin?"
"No, he didn't."
Kirk sighed. "I raked him over the coals for keeping secrets."
"If it's any consolation, I can tell you that's probably the least of his worries right now."
"I don't follow you."
"Amanda and I had a little chat after you went to your room. Seems that Sarek was just the first hurdle. Not only can T'Lar can still refuse to allow Sybok's katra entry into the Hall of Ancient Thought, but T'Sai, the highest master of Kolinahr, might try to throw a wrench in the works too."
"Why would she do that?"
"Sybok was a heretic, remember? T'Lar and T'Sai certainly do."
"That was over thirty years ago!"
"Vulcans have long memories. The positive side to this is that the Council never found Sybok guilty of heresy. He left before the charges were filed."
"So he's not a convicted heretic."
McCoy shrugged. "Sounds like hair splittin' to me, but then Vulcans seem to thrive on split hairs.
"Also, Amanda told me that the Kolinahr Masters have it in for the House of Surak in general, and Sybok in particular."
"That sounds pretty emotional to me."
McCoy grinned. "Haven't I been sayin' for years that Vulcans are just as emotional as--"
"Bones," Kirk interrupted, frowning. "What do you think Spock will do if T'Lar says no?"
"He'll have to let Sybok go."
"And if he doesn't?"
McCoy paled. "He has to, Jim. He can't go on like this; you saw how weak he is!"
Kirk stood up, unconsciously starting to pace. "I don't like this, Bones. I don't like it one bit."
"Hell, you don't like anythin' you can't control. It's gonna be a rough ride, but Spock's come through worse. We all have."
Kirk relaxed slightly. "I haven't been much help to him lately, have I?"
"I'm sure he understands."
Kirk shook his head impatiently. "It's not Spock, not really. It's me. I called him...I called him a computer, Bones."
"I didn't mean it. I know he feels things, feels them deeply, but sometimes when he stands there looking so damned calm--"
Kirk looked up into the soft blue gaze.
"You're tellin' the wrong person."
Kirk smiled sheepishly. "Right. Think he's asleep yet?"
McCoy shrugged as he crawled back beneath the covers. "Hell, you've woken him for lesser things. Do me a favor, though, use the inside door. I never thought I'd be saying this on Vulcan, but I'm freezin'!"
"Sign of old age, Bones," Kirk teased, ducking the pillow the good doctor lobbed his way. "Good night."
Kirk moved quietly down the hall and tapped at Spock's door before slipping into the warm dark room.
He found the light switch and inched it up just a tad, the faint light illuminating the neatly made bed. Spock was nowhere to be seen.
Putting out the light, Kirk retraced his steps, pausing before McCoy's door. The doctor's soft snores drifted into the hall, and Kirk smiled. Amanda must have put Spock in a different room this time. It doesn't make any sense, but there are plenty of guest rooms. The tension of the day hit him suddenly and he decided against looking any further and possibly awakening Sarek and Amanda. Besides, his own bed was starting to look pretty good right now. He shrugged and returned to his room.
The first scarlet light from 40 Eridani cast pale shadows across T'Liba's sleeping mate as she completed her morning meditation. Uncurling herself gracefully, she walked to the bed, sinking onto the silken coverlet. Never had she known Spock to sleep this late. Even during the exhausting first days of pon farr, he had always wakened before her.
Last night her only concern had been for herself, and selfishly she had rejoiced in his recognition. There had been little time for conversation as they rediscovered each other, but through their bond, T'Liba had gained some sense of the trial her husband faced.
Bearing a katra was never an easy thing. For Spock the difficulty was compounded by his recent refusion and the accelerated aging his body had withstood on Genesis. He was not the man who had come to her in need three years ago, nor was he the blank eyed individual who had returned from Seleya. This Spock was as unique, as different from his younger self as T'Liba was from the shy, awkward girl he had taken from the House of Sindal.
He was different, yes, but not unpleasing. His strength had diminished, but his gentle touch still stirred the flames of her desire. The lines of his face were etched more deeply than before, but the teasing gleam in his eye had not changed. His memories were intact, if in slight disarray, and the magnetic warmth of his acceptance remained the same.
She remembered the day he had accepted her in T'Pring's place, the euphoric sensation of joining with him and the velvet tones which had bestowed upon her the status of consort.
"All that I have I shall give to thee, for thou art my comfort and my life," she whispered, impulsively reciprocating the vow which Spock had uttered so freely eleven years ago. "Live long and prosper, my husband."
Spock shifted position, his arm closing around T'Liba's waist. She allowed herself to be drawn against him, meeting his gaze as he opened his eyes. "Peace and long life, my wife," he replied, bemused. "Are you greeting me or sending me on my way?"
"I greeted you last night," she reminded.
"I remember," Spock's eyes sparkled as he teased her. "If farewells are also as pleasant, I must contrive to leave you."
"You may leave," she agreed. "But a part of me will always be with you."
Spock sobered. "It was not always so, T'Liba."
T'Liba shook her head. "Unimportant." She had seen the images in his mind, understood now how his body had lived on Genesis. A Human wife might have felt jealousy for Saavik, but T'Liba experienced only gratitude.
Spock searched T'Liba's expression, wondering if the hollow ache he'd sensed in her last night had been a mental mirage, or if her anguish had been real. Her peripheral shields were down now, yet he felt no pain. Her eyes smiled back at him, underscoring the psionic invitation which filtered into his mind. The heat of her body radiated through the bedspread and Spock made no attempt to control his arousal.
Does my desire shock you, Husband?
Spock thought of Sybok describing his bond with T'Ariz, suddenly seeing the humor in his innocent query, "Desire for what?"
Indeed not, my wife. T'Liba heard a chuckle ripple through her mind as Spock slipped warm hands beneath her robe. I was adequately warned of the possibility.
"Mornin' lazybones," McCoy greeted his captain. The good doctor was sitting on a counter-height chair in Amanda's kitchen, his hands wrapped around a large mug of coffee. "We've been debatin' over whether to wake you up or not."
"Help yourself to coffee, Captain," Amanda's voiced floated out from the pantry.
"What smells so good?" Kirk queried as he poured a mug of coffee and joined McCoy at the counter.
"Waffles," McCoy sighed. "Non-synthesized waffles. Amanda Grayson's non-synthesized waffles..." McCoy paused dramatically, leaning forward to finish his critique in a conspiratorial whisper. "Better than pecan pie and hand-cranked ice cream, Jim-boy."
Kirk grinned, shaking his head. "That good?"
Amanda emerged from the pantry. "Would you care for some breakfast, Captain?"
Kirk inclined his head. "The waffles come highly recommended, if it's no trouble."
Amanda beamed. "No trouble at all. I enjoy cooking, real cooking. I don't bother much when it's just Sarek and me. Besides, Sarek has never been much for big breakfasts...How many can you eat?"
McCoy held up one finger.
"Two," Kirk said, sucking in his stomach and glaring at McCoy. "I'm walking to Commodore Harris's office, Bones. Surely I can hike off a waffle."
"Hike there and back," McCoy advised with true severity.
"See what I have to put up with?" Kirk griped, favoring Amanda with a charming smile. "We went camping, and Bones wouldn't even let me have a marshmallow for dessert."
"Marshmellon, Jim," McCoy reminded with a grin. "Poor Spock, he should have guessed the library files of his precious computer were just as faulty as the rest of that boat they stuck us with. It'll take him months to sift through all that data looking for stupid little mistakes like that."
Kirk chuckled and then affected his best put-upon pout. "I managed not to laugh out loud at him, didn't I, Bones? The least you could have done is let me have one little marshmellon!"
"Quit whinin', Jim. Spock burned them to a crisp."
Amanda laughed as she poured batter into the waffle iron. "It sounds like you three were having a good time, how on Earth did you get Spock to agree to it?"
McCoy grinned. "We shanghaied him, Amanda. Jim made up some crap about a new Starfleet regulation about using accrued shore-leave time..."
"He knew I was lying, but he couldn't prove it because the Starfleet regulation files of the ship's computer were in such a mess," Kirk added.
"The clincher was picking Yosemite, Jim. Even Spock couldn't resist Yosemite." McCoy chuckled. "It really brought out the latent boy scout in him, didn't it?"
Kirk nodded, taking a sip of coffee and then frowned. "Where is Spock?"
"I looked for him last night in his room, and he wasn't there."
"Spock went home last night, Captain," Amanda explained.
"Home? Back to the Enterprise?"
Amanda frowned. "No, he went--"
"Jim, I'd better tell you--"
"Home, Captain," Spock entered from the courtyard. He looked light-years younger than he had the night before. A Vulcan woman Kirk thought he recognized followed two paces behind. Spock gestured toward the red tile roof that was just visible over the top of Amanda's garden gate. "The dwelling you see through the window belongs to me."
"I didn't know you had any property on Vulcan," Kirk said. "It wasn't mentioned in your will."
"Not in my Terran will," Spock corrected. "Vulcan's have what is known as khy-la d'rew, or dispersement of property. After I was presumed dead, my Vulcan properties passed to my heir." Spock extended the forefingers of his right hand in invitation, and the silent woman at his side completed the gesture. "Captain, may I present T'Liba, my wife?"
"Heir?" McCoy echoed suspiciously, his eyes narrowing as he studied T'Liba. They'd assumed Spock was sterile since he was a hybrid, but it was difficult to be certain with the little they knew about Vulcan fertility cycles. Please, God, don't let there be a little Spock junior out in the courtyard, McCoy prayed. I'm not up to this, and I sure as hell know Jim isn't.
"Another secret, Spock?" Kirk queried coldly.
"I do not believe my marital status has been aired on the Federation News Network, Jim," Spock responded solemnly.
"Thank you for the timely update, Mister Spock." Kirk stood up, nodding politely to T'Liba. "I'm sure congratulations are long overdue, but allow me to--"
"Jim," McCoy's warning was lost as Kirk continued.
"--Offer an apology for my abysmal ignorance."
"I should have explained," Amanda said softly. "I just assumed that--"
"Captain," T'Liba began. "There is no need to--"
"Please excuse me," Kirk interrupted. "I have an appointment with Commodore Harris."
"You haven't had your breakfast, Jim," McCoy reminded.
"I just lost my appetite."
"Jim, I did not--" Spock began, but Kirk was already gone.
McCoy heaved a tired sigh as he watched Kirk stalk across the courtyard. "I should have told him last night."
"No, Doctor," Spock corrected. "I should have told him eleven years ago."
"I see your point, Sorex," Commodore Phillip Harris said, his softly persuasive tone as level as any Vulcan's. "We appreciate your concern with the activities of our people, but I'm not authorized to restrict--"
"The Port Authority referred me to you, Commodore," Sorex interrupted. "And I have been authorized by the Council to ask that you press military charges against the individuals in question unless..."
The ebony skinned Human gave his undivided attention to his Vulcan visitor, hands clasped thoughtfully before him, legs slightly spread to balance his tall, lean frame comfortably against the edge of his desk. His body language was neutral, neither defensive or aggressive. Saavik knew that his relaxed posture was no facade. Harris was not the least bit concerned or anxious, merely intent upon the problem at hand.
She watched in silent fascination as Harris calmed the ruffled feathers of the outworlder undersecretary, admiring his deft handling of what could prove to be a very difficult situation. Harris had been serving Starfleet as Vulcan liaison for twelve years. He knew Vulcans, he understood Vulcans, but most importantly, he liked and respected them.
"...will pay restitution, and the individuals involved will be denied shore-leave for the remainder of their ship's stay. Captain Banks expressed to me this morning his most sincere regret for the behavior of his junior officers and assures me it will not happen again." Harris paused for a moment and then inclined his head. "I appreciate your cooperation and understanding, Sorex."
Saavik fought a grin. Thanking Sorex in advance was a clever move. Surak himself had been renowned for using a similar ploy to shame the honor-obsessed Pre-Reform clan leaders into cooperation.
Sorex, aware that he was being manipulated, but respectful of the tactic Harris chose to emulate, made a final request. Harris smiled slightly, nodding his dark head to agree with the Sorex's stipulation. The crisis was resolved.
Once the undersecretary had been escorted from the Commodore's office, Harris studied his aide thoughtfully. "Learn anything?"
"You are a clever diplomat, Commodore," Saavik replied. "Sorex knew what you were doing, but it worked.
"Most Humans underestimate Vulcans, Saavik," Harris confided. "There aren't many manipulative conversational techniques an adult Vulcan can't recognize, so it's important to pick one he'll accept."
"You think like a Vulcan," Saavik said.
Harris smiled. "That's not what my wife tells me. She keeps comparing my mind to an unmade bed."
Saavik arched a brow. "An unmade bed?"
"That's not the Vulcan phrase, of course, but that's how I sensed it in her thoughts. Disheveled is probably a more accurate term, but it wouldn't have provoked the desired reaction in you would it?"
"You know, Saavik, I think she's afraid that Kimmie will take after her father and have a disorderly mind."
"T'Kim is very well-behaved," Saavik complemented, recalling herself as a child. Once, in uncharacteristic frustration, Spock had called her a filthy-mouthed little pickpocket, and the painful accuracy of his description had stung for weeks.
"Keeping that in mind," Harris said. "Would you be interested in baby-sitting again this week? T'Kai and I want to--"
The strident buzz of Harris's intercom interrupted him.
"Captain Kirk to see you, sir."
Harris looked at his chrono. "He's early, but send him in."
Saavik tried not to let surprise show in her face. As Harris shot her an appraising glance, she suspected that she had failed miserably.
"Didn't you know the Enterprise was in spacedock for repairs?"
"Got in last night, apparently she saw some action out on Nimbus III. Kirk pulled some strings to get a spacedock slip so his engineer could make repairs. I'm surprised you didn't--"
"Phillip, I know I'm early, but--" Jim Kirk's brisk stride halted abruptly as he caught sight of the officer who stood beside the commodore. "Saavik!"
Kirk smiled. "I didn't think about you being here. Phillip treating you okay?"
"What a question!" Harris scoffed, shaking Kirk's hand. "From what I hear she's safer with me than she would be with you."
"You know how rumors get started, Phil," Kirk shrugged. "Nimbus was just a routine diplomatic mission."
"And if you think I believe that, I have some ocean-front property in ShiKahr you might be interested in," Harris teased. "Saavik, would you excuse us?"
"Certainly, Commodore," Saavik willed her legs to carry her out of the room, her head swimming with unanswered questions.
"Spock will be accepting visitors here until T'Lar summons him," T'Liba explained as she ushered McCoy into the comfortable first floor living room of Spock's home. "The first stage of the kr'alieu is the katra-khynna or sharing of the katra. Each friend or relative to share our grief will take away a memory, a part of the whole. When the kr'alieu is held, all of these bits shall be united within the circle of mourners and only then is the katra deposited in the Hall of Ancient Thought."
"Kinda like a Human visitation, Spock?" McCoy queried, leaning over the back of the loveseat which faced the hearth.
Spock, who had been laying a fire while T'Liba took McCoy on a tour of the house and gardens, stood up, dusting a bit of ash from his meditation robe. "An apt comparison, Doctor. The Human ritual is more casual, and of course there is no telepathic contact--"
"In most cases," McCoy reminded, tapping his forehead as he broke into a wry grin.
Spock nodded. "I stand corrected."
"I thank you for the coherent explanation, Darlin'," McCoy bowed politely to Spock's wife. "Spock's woefully short on explanations. You ought to teach a class on Vulcan culture."
T'Liba's eyes sparkled. "I do."
"Three if one counts the administration of this estate," Spock added.
A bell chimed pleasantly and T'Liba excused herself to answer it. Spock set the poker aside and settled into a chair.
"Sure Jim and I won't be buttin' in?" McCoy asked, moving around the loveseat to sit down.
"Since I must remain here to greet our guests, T'Liba thought you would prefer to stay here as well," Spock said. "However, if you would be more comfortable with my parents--"
"I'm askin' if you'd be more comfortable with us at your parents," McCoy interrupted, keeping his voice low. "I mean, you haven't seen T'Liba for months. If you want privacy--"
"You will have your own room, Doctor."
"That's not what I meant and you know it!" McCoy said. "And don't you dare give me any bull about Vulcan biological cycles, either. I'm not just your doctor, I'm your friend too, and I've known you long enough to recognize sexual satisfaction when I see it."
Spock steepled his fingers and studied McCoy for a moment before replying. "You are entirely welcome to stay here as our guest for the remainder of our leave. I needn't remind you that Vulcans do not speak openly about marital relations."
McCoy grinned. "You don't have to, Spock, a blind man could see it at twenty paces! Don't you wanna know what I think of her?"
"I believe you will offer an opinion in any case," Spock sighed.
"I like her," McCoy said simply, kicking one boot up to rest casually on a low stool. "She's beautiful, intelligent, gracious, and I think she'd walk through fire for you."
Spock arched a brow. "She is my wife."
McCoy shook his head resignedly. "Right."
Vulcans don't loiter, Saavik reminded herself as she did just that in the corridor outside Commodore Harris' office. Luckily only half the staff in this wing of the Federation Embassy were Vulcan, so her odd behavior only drew a few disapproving stares.
She had told herself to return to her office to finish the reports which were due this afternoon, but found she could not. The perfect order of her day had been shattered by the appearance of one man.
Seeing Kirk had unsettled her, evoking bittersweet memories of David Marcus and the events leading up to his death. But even more painful now than the loss of David, was the memory of Spock greeting her formally on the bridge of the Klingon ship after his refusion. She remembered searching the dark eyes of her mentor for some flicker of recognition, but she had searched in vain. If Kirk was here, Spock must be here also.
Spock had shown Saavik kindness and respect when she was an illiterate, half-caste urchin. She had spent the last ten years of her life attempting to make him proud of her and now he could not remember her as an individual. Even on Hellguard Saavik had dreamed of one day going to Vulcan. As a child she had dared only to fantasize of visiting the desert planet, never picturing actually living here. Now she was a Starfleet officer, a competent professional, a Vulcan citizen. A far cry from the filthy-mouthed flea-ridden pickpocket who had hurled obscenities like daggers as Spock doggedly wrestled her into a sonic shower.
As grateful as she was for Commodore Harris's acceptance and approval, and the family claim Amanda and Sarek had given her, she sometimes experienced a vague sensation of longing for the companionship and guidance she had known only with Spock.
"I miss you," she whispered, biting her lip to control the tremor in her jaw. Combined with this longing for his recognition was a secret dread that if he did recognize her, he would somehow remember what she had done on Genesis--
The tentative voice interrupted her disquieting thoughts and she turned to face Captain Kirk. Hazel eyes swept her with the surety of the Enterprise's scanners. "You've lost a little weight."
"Three point six kilograms, sir."
Kirk broke into a grin. "So much for generalities. I was wondering, when do you eat lunch?"
"That depends upon the commodore's schedule."
"If the commodore's schedule permits, I'd like to take you to lunch today."
Saavik opened her mouth to refuse, but something in Kirk's expression stopped her.
"The last time we talked, you told me about David," he continued slowly. "It occurred to me just now that I've got a few things to tell you." He smiled sadly, his eyes suddenly misting. "Things I probably should have said to him."
"If you can't, I understand," Kirk added quickly, reminding Saavik so much of David that her throat ached. Suddenly her reluctance faded and she realized that she did want to have lunch with Kirk. It would be good to talk about David. Maybe they could even talk about Spock.
"Would thirteen hundred hours be convenient?"
Kirk smiled. "Any place special you'd like to eat?
"I have no preference."
"Is the food here at the embassy good?"
Saavik shrugged. "It is food."
Kirk laughed. "If you recommend it that highly, I'll give it a try."
So like David, Saavik thought, sensing the pain behind Kirk's lighthearted banter. "I believe you are teasing me, Captain."
Kirk winked. "I believe you're right, Lieutenant."
Settling his lean frame into the cushioned comfort of the sofa, McCoy heaved a sigh of relief. The influx of visitors had kept Spock and T'Liba occupied all morning and well into the afternoon. T'Liba's abilities as a hostess rivaled those of Amanda, and she had taken great care to introduce McCoy to each and every caller. Although those coming to pay their respects spent most of their time with Spock, the carefully composed faces and softly spoken introductions made McCoy vaguely uneasy. He chalked it up to worry about the audience which lay before them, and genuinely appreciated this, the first lull since the visitors started arriving this morning. Spock and T'Liba had gone for a walk in the garden and McCoy was enjoying a rare moment of solitude.
"Damn!" he muttered as the soft chime of the doorbell interrupted the melodic strains from the meditation tape he'd popped into the sound system. "Every Vulcan in ShiKahr's been here already. Don't tell me we missed one!"
He took his time getting to the door, but it didn't ring again. Vulcans aren't impatient, he reminded himself with a slight grin.
McCoy could not help but stare at the exotically beautiful woman who stood before him. She was six feet tall if she was an inch, slender and simply dressed in teal silk trousers and a matching mandarin jacket. Her olive complexion was flawless, the neatly coiled braids of her black hair gleaming in the late afternoon sunshine. As she extended her right hand, McCoy reached out automatically to shake it, then frowned. Vulcans don't shake hands.
The woman's eyes danced in lieu of a smile as she noted his confusion. "I'm accustomed to offworlders, Doctor. I'm an associate healer at ShiKahr Medical."
McCoy tried to picture this woman in a clinical setting and nearly failed. Most Physician's Associates he knew looked slightly rumpled and perpetually harried, this woman was neither. "I'm afraid I'm at a disadvantage, Ma'am," he drawled. "You seem to know me. Have we met?"
"I am T'Ariz, a daughter of the House of Surak. We met briefly several months ago--"
"After the refusion?" McCoy recalled very little about the first few days which followed what the Vulcans called fal-tor-pan. It was a blur of lexorin-fogged conversations with Jim, and long naps punctuated by periodical visitation from the Seleyan adepts. He'd slept through the trip back to ShiKahr, remembering now the steady stream of visitors which had filled Amanda and Sarek's home. That was why he'd felt so uneasy this morning, déjà vu.
"T'Ariz," he repeated with a smile. "Yes, I should have remembered. I wasn't quite myself."
"Oh, come in," McCoy suddenly realized that she was still standing outside. "Spock and T'Liba are in the garden. I can take you out if you'd like."
"Thank you, Doctor," T'Ariz stepped into the entryway. "But I would rather not disturb them. If you have no objections, I shall wait for them here."
McCoy ushered T'Ariz into the living room, watching in fascination as she helped herself to iced juice from the serving table. T'Ariz met his gaze intently, offering him a tall glass.
"Thank you," McCoy said, somehow feeling that their roles had reversed, and she was playing hostess to him.
T'Ariz nodded her head, again seeming to read his thoughts. "I am not truly a guest, Doctor. I am what Humans would call a member of the family."
"Of course. You said you were a daughter of the House of Surak. So how does that relationship translate into Terran terms?"
T'Ariz sighed, moving to the sofa to take a seat. "Terran family relationships are still an enigma to me; so many confusing titles; the relatives by contract who are no longer related. We Vulcans take a more--"
"Logical approach?" McCoy asked as he sat down.
T'Ariz seemed amused. "I was going to say more simplistic, but perhaps it is more logical also. I shall leave that decision to you. We do not differentiate relatives by bond from relatives by blood, therefore we experience less need for detailed titles which spell out the exact nature of the relationship."
"Which is why a Vulcan always looks surprised when a Human asks how he's related to someone," McCoy said.
"Correct, because we do not think of it in those terms. To answer your question, on Earth I would be Spock's sister-in-law because I was at one time bonded to his brother, Sybok."
"You were Sybok's..." McCoy paused, making a conscious attempt to keep his voice level. "You were bonded to Sybok?"
"Yes, it was an honor to the House of Studan that Sarek chose me as bondmate for his son, and I continue to honor Sarek and Amanda as parents. Sarek arranged for my education, and after my bond with Sybok was severed, he sought another bondmate for me. When Seth and I have children, they will be children of the House of Surak."
"Why not of the House of Studan, or the House of your husband?"
"Sarek has offered the clan title to my children, an honor for one as lowly born as I. To refuse that gift..." she frowned, as if unable to even speak of such an ungrateful choice... "would be unthinkable."
"I see," McCoy said slowly... "so Vulcan has a caste system."
"Vulcans are fiercely traditional," T'Ariz countered. "Sarek can explain the politics of it much better than I, just as T'Liba could give you the historical and cultural ramifications."
"You have great affection for them, don't you?" McCoy asked impulsively.
Rather than looking offended, T'Ariz seemed amused. "They are my family, Doctor."
Spoken like a true Vulcan, McCoy thought. "And Spock?"
"Also family," T'Ariz said, but McCoy could sense the guarding around those softly spoken words. It was a polite response, but an enigmatic one.
"I'm sure it's been difficult for T'Liba," McCoy prompted, "thinking Spock dead, then the refusion, then..." Should he reveal that he knew Spock had forgotten his wife?
"Then uncertainty about her status," T'Liba finished diplomatically.
"Spock said that T'Liba was given to him as a replacement. Is she a relative of T'Pring's?"
T'Ariz's eyes widened. "You know of T'Pring?"
"I attended what would have been their wedding," McCoy said. "And in my opinion, Spock certainly traded up when he married T'Liba."
This time McCoy was certain he saw a brief smile play across his companion's lips. "Forgive me, Doctor. I did not realize that you were family. Spock has granted you the rights of a brother."
McCoy raised a brow, "Just by invitin' me to his weddin'?"
"As I have explained, Vulcan relationships are difficult to translate into Terran equivalents. The reverse is also true. By Vulcan custom the male is attended by his brothers or nearest male cousins at koon-ut-kal-i-fee. If it is necessary for a friend to attend, that friend is given the status of a relative."
McCoy let out a low whistle. "No wonder T'Pau didn't look too happy about it. I take it she doesn't..."
McCoy's sentence trailed off as he noticed that T'Ariz was not listening to him. She was staring over his head, her lips hovered in the characteristic half smile of a Vulcan who is enjoying something immensely.
For a moment, T'Ariz continued to stare, and then she roused herself from the apparent trance.
"Are you okay?"
"Yes, that melody, I've never heard it before. It's very pleasant to the ear. Is it Terran?"
"I don't know," McCoy said, studying T'Ariz with renewed interest. Until she mentioned it, he'd forgotten that the tape was still playing. "Forgive me for making such a personal observation, but isn't it unusual for a Vulcan to...to..."
"Allow the mind to be distracted? Yes, it is most unusual. I've had that unfortunate tendency since I was a child. Certain...life experiences seem to have intensified it.
"Your bond with Sybok?"
"And my interaction with offworlders at the hospital."
"Does it bother you to talk about Sybok?"
"Why should it, Doctor?" T'Ariz seemed genuinely puzzled by McCoy's question.
"He's a part of your past, I thought maybe..."
"My memories of Sybok are my own, Doctor, but I assure you they are not disquieting."
"Well, I was just going to say that what you were doing just now, experiencing that music to the exclusion of our conversation, that seemed like something Sybok would do."
"An astute observation for one who knew him so briefly," T'Ariz said. "Yes, perhaps my bond with Sybok enhanced my appreciation of the things others seem to take for granted. Sybok saw beauty in so many things."
"He did," McCoy agreed, recalling Sybok's childish delight as he surveyed Sha-ka-ree. The land, the sky, just as I imagined it!
"And now his search for ultimate beauty has ended," T'Ariz said, her expression giving the emotionless words a bare tinge of regret.
"Maybe," McCoy said softly, "Or maybe it's just beginning."
Control. The afternoon sun curved a downward arc into the L-Langon mountains as Saavik's feet carried her automatically along the well tended path. You must control. He must not sense this fear in you. Saavik made a conscious effort not to slow her stride as she approached the front courtyard of Amanda and Sarek's home.
Once Captain Kirk had explained the reason for Spock's return to Vulcan, Saavik knew she must participate in the visitation. Amanda and Sarek had graciously granted her familial claim; to ignore this kr'alieu would be unthinkable. She was family, moreover, Spock was her mentor. No excuse could dilute the insult if she did not appear.
Control, she intoned again, making a vain attempt to slow the rapid throbbing of her heart. The mind touch shall be brief. He may not yet remember. But Kirk said Spock's memories had returned. The last time she had faced him, there had been no spark of recognition. Now the once vacant gaze would be as sharp at had been before his death.
She was not entirely certain she could even look into Spock's eyes, much less join with him to share the katra. A shiver ran along her spine in spite of the warm afternoon sun as she remembered the dizzying wave which had accompanied the inadvertent touching of Spock's katra while it had been in McCoy's body. Control!
"Saavik!" Amanda Grayson came round the side of the house bearing an armload of freshly cut roses from her garden. "How wonderful to see you, child!"
"Greetings, Lady Amanda," Saavik began, masking her unease in stilted formality. "I have come to participate in the kr'alieu. I request audience with the bearer of the katra."
Frowning, Amanda set the roses on a stone bench. "You're trembling...Saavik. What is it?"
Control, Saavik intoned to herself. Control.
Amanda put her hands on Saavik's shoulders. "You're pale as a ghost, what is it?"
"I have come to participate--"
"Nonsense!" Amanda snapped. "You're scared stiff!" The voice softened, taking on an undertone of reassurance. "Come on, child, tell me what's wrong."
Amanda tried to draw her towards the house, but Saavik was rooted to the spot. Amanda released her, knowing her Human frailty was no match for Saavik's strength. "If you've come to see Spock, he's not here."
Of course. He would be with T'Liba. How foolish to forget. "I beg forgiveness for the intrusion, My Lady." Saavik began backing away.
"Saavik, if you can't fool me, what makes you think you can fool Spock?"
Amanda's sharp words startled Saavik into meeting her gaze and she froze. For a split second, Amanda had sounded just like Roberta Grayson.
"Remember she raised me, too, child," Amanda said gently, shattering the myth that Humans couldn't read minds. "And if she were here right now, she'd tell you to spill it."
"Explain," Amanda clarified. "Tell me why you're radiating fear. It has something to do with Spock and the kr'alieu, doesn't it?"
Saavik nodded in humiliation, mortified at the tears which were blurring her vision.
Amanda sighed. "Aunt Roberta used to say there was no problem a good hot cup of tea wouldn't fix. Why don't you help me brew a pot while we talk this out?"
"Saavik," Amanda's blue eyes were wide with concern. "Is there anyone else you can talk to about this?"
"Then let me help," Amanda whispered. "Please, let me help."
This time Saavik allowed Amanda to lead her into the house.
"Thank you," Kirk accepted the tall glass of iced vegetable juice, took a sip of it and smiled at the hovering waitress. "Very good."
The Vulcan female nodded, disappearing as silently as she had come, leaving Kirk to his drink and the vague restlessness which had brought him here in the first place. After his lunch with Saavik, he'd wandered into this place thinking that it was a real bar. After all, it was in the tourist section. But the Vulcan influence pervaded; the drinks were non-intoxicating, the food strictly vegetarian, and the atmosphere was so serene he had an overwhelming urge to utter a loud scream just to break the stifling ambience.
Telling himself for the third time to pay the check and leave, he poked at the assorted tidbits which had been brought by the waitress. House special, he told himself, recognizing some of the marinated vegetables and fruits. Eat some to be polite, finish this virgin Bloody Mary and hit the road, Jim. You're stalling. He took another sip of the juice, forcing himself to relax as he studied the nearly deserted room. It was decorated in soft shades of blue which were repeated in the wall paper, the carpeting and the cloths that covered the tables. The color scheme was saved from monotony by subtle touches of silver here and there and the natural wood shutters at the windows.
Kirk felt more than just a little homesick for the sequestered, dimly lit booths of the Xanadu on Vega. Now the Xanadu was a place a man could get seriously wasted. Not that he really wanted to get drunk...but it sure beat all hell out of facing Spock again. He realized now that he'd been stalling all day. He couldn't go back to the ship without appearing rude, but neither did he want return to that familiar dwelling in ShiKahr.
You made a fool of yourself this morning, Jim. Not only were you rude to Spock, but you were rude to all of them. It's one thing to let off steam with Spock and Bones, and quite another to do it in front of Amanda and T'Liba. Amanda's never been anything but gracious and kind to you, and T'Liba... He had a sudden mental picture of Spock in his best lecturing stance, hands clasped behind his back, expression set and solemn.
"T'Liba, this is Jim, please disregard anything he says. He is my friend, but he is also an asshole."
Kirk swallowed the chuckle that rose to his lips, and tried to cover by clearing his throat. The waitress politely pretended not to notice. His half grin faded as he remembered the bland look Spock had given him when he made the introduction. It seemed to typify the casual disregard that Spock had for his feelings. Friends, real friends don't keeps those kind of secrets, he reminded himself as his grip on the glass tightened convulsively, much less brothers.
"I lost a brother once. I was lucky, I got him back." He'd uttered those words from the heart, but Spock had made no response.. He'd given no indication spoken or unspoken that the feeling was reciprocal. McCoy had once accused Kirk of anthropomorphizing Spock, of attributing a reflection of his own emotions upon the Vulcan to fill what he perceived as a void. Maybe he'd been right.
So, what are you going to do about it? Kirk asked himself as he finished the last of his drink. That was the problem that he'd been seeking the answer to all afternoon. Kirk sighed. What he needed to do was to talk to Spock calmly, try to explain how he felt without losing his cool in the face of Spock's equanimity. He needed to....share his pain? The thought was too close to the mark for Kirk to dwell upon it. Rather than examine that discomfort, Kirk rose from his seat, his anger and frustration resurfacing.
This is a farce, Jim. You're not doing Spock any good, and you're sure as hell not doing yourself any good. Go back to the ship and cool off.
Pausing at the front door to pay his tab, Kirk emerged into the afternoon sunshine and pulled out his communicator.
"Kirk to Enterprise."
"This is Scott, Captain."
Kirk felt better just anticipating the beam up. That heap up there might not be the old Enterprise, but she was still his ship and there was something to be said for the privileges of command. "Mister Scott, I'd like to--"
"I'm hopin' yer not wantin' to beam up, Captain," the engineer's voice was tinged with frustration. "The repairs are taking longer than I'd estimated...and the--"
"Transporters out again?" Kirk asked, trying to sound sympathetic. There was a burst of static, followed by a half-swallowed Gaelic curse. "Scotty?"
"Aye, I canna beam ye up, but I'll send a shuttlecraft, if ye give me yer coordinates. The damned scanners are--"
"Don't bother, Mister Scott," Kirk said easily. "Just continue with the repairs. Things are going slower than expected down here too, so there's no rush."
Kirk smiled at the thinly veiled concern he read in Scott's voice. "Mister Spock is doing fine, Scotty."
"I'll pass the word along, sir."
"Good," Kirk said softly, suddenly feeling very small. "Kirk out."
He looked the same, she thought as she navigated her way through the carefully arranged garden. He was standing at the foot of the stairs which lead to the gazebo, speaking to T'Liba, who stood on the top step. As Saavik watched, T'Liba leaned down to say something to her husband, one hand resting easily on his shoulder. Spock tilted his head up to respond, obviously unaware that Saavik was watching.
"Saavik," it was T'Liba who saw her first.
Spock made no haste in withdrawing from T'Liba, turning to greet their guest with his usual calm. "Lieutenant, welcome."
Spock's dark gaze caught Saavik and held her with the powerful ease of a tractor beam. He remembers, she thought, trying to swallow her panic. He remembers it all. Shame overwhelmed the joy she should have felt to see her mentor whole again, and images of what she had shared with his tortured body on Genesis played across her mind in spite of her efforts to keep them at bay.
"Sir," Saavik managed in a polite, but nearly inaudible voice. Amanda's reassurances had brought her this far, but Saavik wondered if Amanda had a full grasp of the details of her son's rescue from Genesis. Thankfully, Amanda had not pressed her for specifics, and while there were moments when Spock's mother had seemed cognizant of the situation, there were others when she seemed blithely unaware. It was all very well for Amanda to speak of her courage on Genesis and Spock's gratitude for her sacrifice, and quite another for Saavik to face Spock knowing that he knew.
This is what you wanted for him, Saavik, she told herself fiercely, recalling how she had hoped to find him like this when she and David had beamed down to Genesis. This is no trick, or cruel fantasy. This is truly Spock. He is alive, his memories are restored...all his memories... Saavik felt as if she were ten years old again, being taken to task for some offense. Her mouth went dry, her heart began to flutter. Control!
"Wife, I believe you have met Lieutenant Saavik," Spock said.
Saavik forced herself to avert her eyes from that intense, omnipotent gaze and nodded politely to Spock's consort. When she had first met T'Liba, she had been shocked and disbelieving. Spock had never once mentioned a wife, and although Saavik had often wondered how he had survived pon farr, meeting the perfectly logical personification of that need seemed somehow incongruent with the life Spock led at Starfleet. The flash of jealousy she had felt for T'Liba all those months ago was just an echo now, but Saavik colored slightly in angry humiliation at the remembered lapse of her Vulcan training.
"Yes, after the fal-tor-pan," T'Liba's voice was warm with what Saavik sensed as genuine welcome. "I am pleased to see you again, Saavik. Our lady Amanda speaks of you often."
Saavik could only stare at T'Liba. Spock's wife had to know what had occurred on Genesis. If this woman and Spock were bonded, and the look in T'Liba's eyes as she had addressed her husband left no doubt in Saavik's mind that it was a true bond, there could be no secrets between them.
"Husband, I will await you in the house," T'Liba continued, nodding to Saavik. "Saavik, you are welcome as always in our home."
After a brief ritual touching of her mate's extended fingers, T'Liba left Saavik alone with Spock. Saavik watched Spock's wife retreat, feeling like the worst kind of hypocrite. She didn't want to look at Spock, couldn't bring herself to meet his gaze again.
"How can she bear to be so kind to me?" Saavik blurted in a shameful whisper. She had not intended to speak her thoughts aloud, but once the silence had been breached, she continued. "How can she welcome me like that after what I have done?"
"What would you have her do, Saavik-kam?"
The use of the familiar title and the unexpected softness of Spock's voice caught Saavik by surprise, and she looked up, meeting the intent gaze of her mentor. Once again she saw recognition in those soft brown eyes, complete awareness of what had occurred on that dying world. But this time Saavik felt no censure, no disapproval. She sensed in Spock the same warmth and gratitude she had sensed in his consort.
"I--I do not know."
Spock clasped his hands behind his back, surveying Saavik for several moments before he spoke again.
"What is the first objective when stranded on a hostile planet, Lieutenant?"
Saavik blinked in surprise. "Sir?"
"Survival, Saavik-kam. Remember Command Decisions? If memory serves, I believe you received an A in that course."
"I did," Saavik whispered.
"And on Genesis you proved that the grade was an accurate evaluation of your ability. Life is a gift. The debt I owe you for this second opportunity cannot be easily repaid."
"That debt was paid in full the day you took me from Hellguard," Saavik argued quietly. "All that I am, I am because of you."
Spock tilted his head slightly to one side, looking amused. "Ple' ma tsu rashaya, Saavik-kam?"
Spock's ritual response to his ward's declaration was to return it in kind, "Ple' ma tsu rashaya" roughly translated into English as, "Cannot the same be said for me?"
Saavik looked surprised, and then thoughtful. Finally she clasped her hands behind her back to mirror Spock's parade rest, raising her head to meet the intent gaze of her mentor, her eyes unclouded by guilt or shame. "Perhaps it can."
Spock nodded his approval.
Kirk approached Spock's home with grave misgivings, wishing he had taken Scotty up on his offer to send a shuttlecraft. He hadn't a clue what he was going to say to Spock, and he wasn't entirely certain he wanted to face Bones and T'Liba right now either. He wasn't in the mood to be diplomatic, and he sure as hell wasn't up to any more domestic surprises. He'd gone first to Amanda and Sarek's. Amanda had explained that McCoy was with Spock and T'Liba, assuring him that he would be welcome to join his friends while they waited for T'Lar's summons.
How do I get into these messes? Kirk wondered as he took the curving walk that divided the well-manicured lawn. Spock's home was stately, the two-story pillars and open balconies reminding Kirk vaguely of an antebellum mansion. The sand colored masonry and red tile roof, so typically Vulcan, dispelled any further comparison, as did the exotic desert foliage in the ornamental garden. Before he could mount the steps which led to the front door, McCoy came around the corner of the house, trailed by Spock and Saavik.
"Jim!" McCoy's frown lifted for a split second and then it returned. "Where in hell have you been?"
Kirk met the curious stares of Spock and Saavik and shrugged. "I--I went for a walk."
"The last thing we need right now is to have to form a search party to find--" McCoy's disgruntled sputtering was cut short by T'Liba's appearance in the doorway. "Is Sarek on his way?" McCoy asked.
T'Liba inclined her head. "He will join us at Seleya, Doctor."
"Seleya..." Kirk echoed, suddenly understanding McCoy's displaced anger as he turned to face Spock.
Spock's posture stiffened, and he clasped his hands behind his back as he met Kirk's questioning gaze. "T'Lar has summoned me, Captain."
Kirk saw the guarding in Spock's eyes, noted for the first time the tension in that familiar soft voice. The title which Spock might have merely reverted to out of habit, hit Kirk like a blow.
"You comin', Jim?" McCoy prompted.
"Yes," Kirk said, not taking his eyes off Spock. "When do we leave?"
Pausing on the final step, one of what must be a thousand which led to the temple at the top of Mount Seleya, Leonard McCoy inhaled deeply, his lungs screaming for oxygen in the thin Vulcan atmosphere. The early evening sky still bore traces of 40 Eridani's glow on the far horizon and the cloudless canopy above them hovered between day and night as only a Vulcan sky could.
McCoy, bringing up the rear, raked an assessing gaze over his companions; T'Liba, Saavik and Sarek weren't even winded, Kirk was perspiring slightly in spite of the cooling breeze, and Spock...Spock bless him, had the good grace to be breathing a little harder than usual. Twenty-eight years is twenty-eight years,McCoy thought, studying his friend a little closer. He wasn't fooled for a moment by Spock's dutiful composure, he knew beneath it the Vulcan was close to complete exhaustion. Get this over with and you can sleep all the way back to Earth if you want, he promised with a sudden wave of affection.
Before them, encircling the massive dais, T'Lar's twelve adepts waited, poised like finely chiseled statues against the enormous stone altar. Vulcan vestal virgins, McCoy thought, quelling the urge to utter the alliterative phrase aloud. He swallowed the smile that quivered on his lips, sobering as less than fond memories of this place re-surfaced.
"Who is the keeper of the katra?"
"I am; McCoy, Leonard H., son of David."
McCoy shivered, pushing the recollection aside as they descended the steps which lead from the perimeter of the temple down to the circular dais. Sarek, who led their procession, paused at the foot of the steps and his companions formed a loose semicircle behind him with Spock in the middle. McCoy noticed that there were fewer guards than he remembered from last time, but each carried the wicked-looking shirpa. Like we're gonna make trouble at this late date, he thought sarcastically.
T'Lar stood in the center of the raised dais, the stone pallets he and Spock had rested on for the fal-tor-pan had been removed, otherwise it looked just the same as it had last time he was here.
The sound of a gong shattered the preternatural silence, and the adepts glided around the circumference of the dais, breaking into two single lines which fanned away from T'Lar, and down the steps of the dais. It occurred to McCoy that they were forming the Vulcan IDIC, the living triangle intersecting the circular dais.
"Here we go," McCoy muttered, looking past T'Liba who stood between him and Spock. Kirk and Saavik flanked the Vulcan on the other side, but everyone's attention was riveted on T'Lar.
"Sarek, child of Skon, child of Solkar," the priestess intoned in her accented singsong. "You have petitioned for an audience. What do you seek?"
"I request a kr'alieu for the katra of my son, Sybok," Sarek responded. "I wish to sponsor his entry into the Hall of Ancient Thought."
T'Lar arched one sleek brow up into the confines of her headdress, and when she spoke again, her voice was heavy with sarcastic admonishment. "Sybok...child of Sarek, child of Skon...denied twice in life by the House of his fathers?"
"The same, T'Lar," Sarek affirmed.
"You seek rest for a troubled katra, Sarek."
"It is a katra whose name was forbidden in Clan Surak for decades." A voice rang out from the rear of the temple..."the katra of a heretic."
McCoy turned his head as the highest master of Kolinahr approached the altar, trailed by an assortment of high masters, masters and novices. "What'd she do, bring the entire population of Gol?" he whispered to T'Liba.
Before T'Liba could respond, the gong sounded three times in quick succession. The deafening reverberations preventing any exchange below a shout. McCoy's ears were still ringing when T'Lar addressed the high master.
"T'Sai, you have interrupted Sarek's petition."
"I have come to challenge it," T'Sai said, as her party came to a halt abreast with Sarek's.
"That is your right," T'Lar agreed. "Present the challenge."
T'Sai took a scroll from the folds of her gown, unfurled it and began to chant. The words, probably High Vulcan, were gibberish to McCoy, except for an occasional string of proper names which he took to be a recitation of the various lineages involved. The high master continued for several minutes, and McCoy exchanged a worried look with T'Liba, who he noticed had inched just slightly toward Spock.
T'Sai's chant rose to a high pitch and then abruptly halted. An adept moved forward to take the scroll, and T'Sai handed it over.
"Sarek, challenge has been given," T'Lar said at length. "Will you answer the charges?"
Before Sarek could respond, Spock stepped forward. "I am the keeper of the katra, T'Lar. I wish to respond."
T'Lar cast a glance up at Spock and then her gaze settled again on Sarek. "Your son makes a request, Sarek."
"My son will speak for me, T'Lar. His words are my words."
Spock's soft voice rose and fell like the night wind, straining at times to reach the highest of the notes the ancient chant dictated of him. Once again, the words were alien to McCoy, but now that he was listening for them, he heard the family names as they were being sung. Spock's response took longer than T'Sai's challenge, but McCoy had no idea if that was good or bad. By the time Spock finished, he was almost whispering the words, fighting hoarse fatigue. His chant, like T'Sai's, seemed to end mid-note, and for a long time T'Lar said nothing.
He's going to collapse before this is over with, McCoy thought in sudden anger as Spock swayed visibly on his feet. He's just not up to it. T'Lar of all people should know that.
"Challenge has been given and response has been heard," T'Lar announced. "The decision, one which will affect Future-of-Vulcan-as-World shall not be made in haste. I must meditate upon it."
The gong sounded again and four bearers appeared, carrying a sedan chair. They took the steps up to the dais and set it before the priestess. T'Lar entered, gauzy curtains obscuring all but her silhouette within. Once the matriarch was settled into the sedan, the adepts filed out.
"Now what?" McCoy asked of T'Liba.
"We must wait, Doctor," Sarek responded. The ambassador, who had withdrawn from his position, was heading up the steps toward Spock. "Your response to T'Sai's challenge was worthy, my son," Sarek said softly. "Perhaps someday I shall bestow upon you the Voice of Vulcan, even as T'Pau has bestowed it upon me."
"You are the Voice of Vulcan, Father, and its conscience as well." Spock said softly as Sarek reached the step below him. He paused and met Kirk's gaze for a split second before continuing. "It is your first best destiny."
"Let us withdraw from the altar while T'Lar meditates," Sarek suggested. "You are fatigued."
Spock made no attempt to deny the obvious, allowing his father to lead him back up to the outer rim of the temple where stone benches offered a panoramic view of the desert below. Unashamedly sinking onto one of the benches, Spock closed his eyes and sighed heavily. Sarek sat beside his son, silently contemplating the night sky.
The rest of the group dispersed, Kirk pacing slowly along the stone path which led around the temple's perimeter, Saavik and T'Liba moving down opposite ends of the path for solitary contemplation. Rather than intrude on father and son, McCoy turned and strolled out along the path to join Kirk.
Outlined on the now dark horizon were the glittering lights which illuminated the oasis of ShiKahr. Curving to their left were the L-Langon Mountains, which stair-stepped from the foothills near ShiKahr up to the pinnacle here at Seleya. Spread out between the mountains and the shimmering city, there was only the great desert, black as a sea now in the moonless night.
"Do you think he's going to make it?" Kirk asked softly after they had shared the view in momentary silence.
"That depends on what else he has to do," McCoy responded. "I wouldn't have put odds on him getting through that damned chant, but he did it."
"He impressed Sarek," Kirk tilted his head toward the two sitting figures that were silhouetted against the golden torchlight which streamed from the temple. "I don't think that's easily done."
"Probably not," McCoy agreed. "What was that look Spock gave you when he was talking to Sarek about his destiny?"
Kirk smiled. "He was reminding me of a conversation we had once...one of the few times he openly called me his friend."
"He is your friend, Jim," McCoy said thoughtfully. "It's just not his way to talk about it."
Kirk sighed. "I think you're right, Bones. In fact, I know you're right, but sometimes he can be so--"
"Vulcan?" McCoy grinned. "Aren't we all at one time or another?"
"Maybe," Kirk allowed.
"Beautiful view," McCoy continued, raising his voice. T'Liba was returning along the path. "I'll bet there's a lot of history to this place, huh?"
"I was not going to disturb them, Doctor," T'Liba's soft voice bore a trace of amusement as she glanced back at Spock and Sarek. "Was your question purely a diversion, or do you truly wish to know the history of Seleya?"
"I don't know about Bones, but I'd like to hear it," Kirk replied with a slight smile.
Decided to accept her, huh? McCoy thought. Good.
"You gentlemen have, of course, heard of Surak?" T'Liba asked as she moved to join them.
"He led Vulcan out of their dark ages," Kirk said. "His teachings brought about the Great Reform."
T'Liba nodded as she looked out at the valley below. "For centuries the desert clans fought violent battles over the resources of our planet. Vulcans of that time were barbaric, Captain. Not only did the clans war with one another, but they fought even within their own families; bitter, violent feuds which ripped some of the ancient houses asunder."
"Earth had its parallels to that," McCoy said quietly. "I guess most every developing world does. Either they grow out of it, or they destroy themselves trying."
"Surak's way was one of peace," T'Liba continued. "It required suppression of the passions which led to violence. He was raised a nomad, a desert dweller, with no house to claim him as a son. With no clan affiliation, he was welcomed in most nomadic camps, working by day and speaking of his beliefs by the light of the campfires. Over a period of years he converted more and more Vulcans to his ideal, the only unity of their diversity, a belief in his teachings. At first, Surak and his followers were but a few voices of reason against the chaos of the clans."
"But that changed," Kirk said, perhaps remembering the image of Surak he had met on Excalbia. "Eventually they listened to him."
"Yes, Captain," T'Liba said. "Surak offered to act as arbiter in one of the most violent and longstanding clan wars. He sent word to both camps, volunteers in the name of peace, to ask that they negotiate rather than battle. The first volunteer's were tortured and killed. More went in their place, more died. On the eve of what might have been the bloodiest battles in the history of our planet, Surak and a handful of his men climbed this mountain, grieving the sacrifice of their friends. Upon reaching this spot, they meditated, suppressing their anger at the clansmen. Cleansed of his grief and rage, Surak rose to address both clans camped in the valley below us. The words he spoke that night, known now as the address from Seleya, averted a war and changed our world."
"He spoke from here?" McCoy whispered, visualizing the scarlet glow of encampment fires beneath them on the desert floor. "But how could they have heard him from here?"
T'Liba nearly smiled. "They were Vulcans, Doctor. Surak's address to the clans brought about the beginning of what we now call The Age of Reason. This mountain was named Seleya at Surak's request. In ancient Vulcan, Se'le'ya means peace and prosperity."
"Peace and prosperity," McCoy said, looking out at ShiKahr, the most peaceful city in the galaxy. "I'd say he made good on his word."
"Surak was a great individual, a man with a rare and pure vision," T'Liba said reverently. "But there are those who would have us forget the greatest of his teachings. There are those who believe that the purity of their logic can excuse petty bigotry and ethnocentricity."
"The Kolinahr," Kirk said.
"And those who share their politics," T'Liba clarified. "The Council is divided today, just as the clans of old were divided. What you have seen here tonight is less an attack upon Sybok and more a slur against those who petition on his behalf. The House of Surak is a symbol of Vulcan's future as part of the Federation. T'Sai and her followers would see our world stagnate and die rather than taint Vulcan with the ways of outworlders."
"But Spock studied with the Kolinahr for almost two years," Kirk said. "If they're really that bigoted against Humans why did they accept him as a student?"
"What better way to prove him inadequate than to allow him to study the discipline, but pronounce him unfit for mastery?" T'Liba asked softly. "I have colleagues at the Academy who display less discipline than Spock. Three of them have achieved Kolinahr mastery."
"You're saying it was all political?" Kirk asked.
"If Spock had achieved mastery it would have invalidated the fears of racial impurity. He would have proven the Kolinahr wrong, and strengthened Sarek's voice in the Vulcan Council. You have experienced the power and discipline of Spock's mind, Captain. Do you doubt his ability?
Kirk shook his head. "No, of course not."
"For someone who claims to have no emotion, T'Sai sure seems to be doin' a damned credible imitation of a few of the more nasty ones," McCoy added.
"So how does T'Lar fit into all this?" Kirk asked. "Where are her loyalties?"
T'Liba turned, looking down at the sedan chair in the center of the temple. "T'Lar is above the politics of the Council, Captain. As guardian of the temple, she has become a law unto herself, and all of Seleya is her domain. Without her permission, Sybok's katra will be denied entry into the Hall of Ancient Thought."
"She isn't a bigot, Jim," McCoy said, remembering the gentle probing into his mind. "She sees us as alien, but she respects the diversity."
T'Liba nodded. "T'Lar's only concern will be with Sybok."
"She's welcome to him," McCoy added. "I'm more worried about Spock."
T'Liba made no response, she didn't have to. McCoy saw his own worry mirrored in her eyes.
The sound of the gong drew their attention back to the temple.
"We must return," T'Liba said. "T'Lar has decided."
Once again, Sarek led the procession back into the bowl-shaped temple. Saavik and Kirk flanked a weary Spock while T'Liba and McCoy brought up the rear. Suddenly, T'Liba halted by McCoy's side, her eyes widening. Following her gaze he saw what had startled her, T'Pau had just entered the temple, standing silently in one of the arched entries to their left.
Before McCoy could comment on this development, T'Liba broke out of the slow-moving procession, going to kneel before the aged matriarch. T'Pau raised one hand to touch the brow of the child in what McCoy guessed to be a combination of a brief mind touch and a blessing. T'Liba's head tilted up to meet T'Pau's gaze, the admiration and respect in that silent glance more apparent than any verbal declaration of honor. Obviously, T'Liba's loyalty to Clan Surak extended not just to Sarek, but T'Pau as well.
T'Liba rejoined the procession, her expression placid. So many questions were throbbing in McCoy's brain that he found himself unable to formulate just one. Before he had time to sort out the scattered disarray of his thoughts, the procession came to a halt. T'Lar emerged from the sedan, allowing the bearers to depart the dais before she spoke. McCoy glanced down at T'Sai, noting the high master seemed more concerned with T'Pau than she was with the Priestess.
Tangle with T'Pau and you'll live to regret it, McCoy thought triumphantly.
"Before I pass judgment, are there any further petitions?" T'Lar asked. She too, had seen T'Pau at the back of the temple.
T'Sai cast a scathing glare at T'Lar and then turned to face T'Pau. "Speak now, T'Pau. Add your voice to the voice of your kinsman. Let the records show that you also sought to defile the Future-Of-Vulcan-As-World with the katra of a heretic."
Now all members of Sarek's party turned toward the back of the temple. T'Pau stood motionless in the archway for a moment, and then raised a satirical brow at the High Master. "Challenge has been offered, and response given, T'Sai. We stand on Seleya. T'Lar rules here."
McCoy had expected T'Pau to hold her own in the battle of wits, but the look on T'Sai's face told him that she had done more than that. T'Sai's arrogance was no match for T'Pau's sarcasm. Score one for the House of Surak, he thought with glee.
This final distraction aside, T'Lar extended her arms before her, hands outstretched toward the petitioners. "I, T'Lar, High Priestess of Seleya, Guardian of the Future-Of-Vulcan-As-World, have made my decision. The katra of Sybok, child of Sarek, child of Skon, is denied entry to the Hall of Ancient Thought."
McCoy was stunned. He saw the echo of his own shock and dismay in the expressions of his companions. All but Spock. Spock's only response to the verdict was a tightening of his jaw.
"No!" McCoy whispered, looking up to where T'Pau had been to find that the matriarch was no longer there. "That's not fair!"
"Silence, Doctor," Spock admonished in a tone so coldly controlled that McCoy doubted for a moment the voice was Spock's. "Do not interfere."
"T'Lar, what of the kr'alieu?" Sarek asked. "It has begun."
"Those carrying parts of the whole must release them," T'Lar responded evenly. "No Seleyan adept or student will administer a kr'alieu for Sybok."
McCoy heard the defeat in Sarek's tone, and looked up to see triumph flickering across T'Sai's face before it became emotionless again. No emotions, my ass, he thought. She's enjoyin' this!
The gong sounded again and the sedan chair carried T'Lar out of the temple. The petitioners stood in place, frozen, until T'Sai broke the tableau by moving across the curving steps to face Sarek.
"Even T'Pau knew your plea to be futile, Sarek," The high master taunted. "That is why she did not lend the power of her voice to your cause."
Sarek folded his hands in a prayer-like pose, regally aloof in his flowing robes as he replied. "My sister would never use her position as head of the Vulcan Council in an attempt to sway T'Lar's decision, T'Sai." He paused dramatically, allowing his gaze to run slowly over the ridiculous procession T'Sai had brought with her from Gol before continuing. "The House of Surak has no need for ostentatious displays."
Had McCoy not been so shocked by the revelation that T'Pau was Sarek's sister, he would have noticed the thinning of T'Sai's lips and the glare she afforded Sarek. "You have failed," T'Sai reminded. "Spock must release the katra of your son and his life force shall be denied just as T'Rea's was denied. Your wife and your son, Sarek...both condemned for their heresy. Who from Clan Surak will be next?"
Refusing to dignify T'Sai's spiteful words with a response, Sarek turned and retreated up the steps to rejoin his party. Together the small group climbed up and out of the temple.
"Two days," McCoy grumbled from where he was sitting on the loveseat before the hearth in Spock's living room. He glanced for the hundredth time at the locked door to the library and sighed. The door was stone block, six inches thick and four feet wide. A formidable barrier. "He's been in there for two days. What's he tryin' to do, commit slow suicide?"
"Some things are worse than death, Doctor," T'Ariz said softly.
McCoy blinked, taking a moment to see this from a Vulcan point of view. "You mean insanity, don't you?" he asked wearily.
"If he refuses to release the katra, that is what he will eventually face," T'Ariz agreed. "You have said that Spock has contained Sybok's katra completely. That takes enormous control."
"Once," McCoy said, suddenly feeling slightly nauseous. "Once, when Spock and I were talkin', Sybok seeped through..." He paled, recalling the eerie laughter which had come from Spock. "He said it would get more difficult as time went on. What if...what if he's already..."
"Spock is still Spock," T'Liba said from the doorway to the entrance hall. "I would know it if he were not."
"Then what's he tryin' to accomplish?" McCoy snapped irritably. No one had slept much these past two days. Sarek and Amanda had been hovering uncharacteristically, and although Saavik had gone to work each day, she had returned here in the evenings, keeping vigil with the rest of them. Even T'Ariz had spent the past two nights in one of the guest rooms upstairs. "I mean, it seems clear enough to me. Either he gives up Sybok's katra, or he ends up a permanent resident at the Federation Funny Farm."
"Crudely put, but accurate," T'Ariz agreed, raising a questioning gaze toward T'Liba.
"He seeks an alternative," T'Liba sighed. "Sybok was his t'hy'la. To condemn him to eternal oblivion..." her soft voice faltered as she studied T'Ariz, perhaps wondering how she would feel if burdened with the disposition of that precious soul.
"It's a Kobayashi Maru," McCoy muttered, then noticed the puzzled expressions of his companions.
"That's a no-win scenario, ladies," Jim Kirk said as he entered the room. "Please forgive Doctor McCoy, he has an unfortunate tendency to lapse into obscure Starfleet nomenclature."
McCoy rolled his eyes heavenward at Kirk's vain attempt to inject a little levity into the gathering. "Speakin' of Starfleet, is Harris gonna help us stall for time with Command?"
"Officially no," Kirk said, taking a seat by the fireplace. "But unofficially, if Starfleet wants to go by the rules, Phil Harris can stall with the best of them. Scotty's finally fixed all the bugs, and he's fine-tuning the transporter now. But if I ask him to, he'll swear on a stack of his technical journals that he needs another week to get Enterprise up to specs for the trip back to Earth. Between Phil's flair for tightrope diplomacy and Scotty's exaggerated repair log, I'd say we're in pretty good shape. Has Spock come out yet?"
"No," McCoy studied the polished finish to the heavy stone door, worry creasing his brow into deep furrows. "And he can't keep this up much longer, Jim. If he'd just let us help him--"
"It's Spock's decision, Bones," Kirk said briskly.
McCoy's temper snapped. Enough is enough already! "And if he decides to destroy his mind rather than release Sybok, are you just gonna stand by and watch him?"
"I can't watch through a locked door, Doctor," Kirk retorted.
"And that's what's eatin' you, isn't it?" McCoy continued, his temper escalating. "Spock shuttin' you out. You've been fit to be tied ever since Sarek dropped the bombshell that T'Pau is Spock's aunt. Well, Spock isn't the only one to keep secrets, Jim-boy."
"Secrets?" Kirk asked incredulously. "What secrets?"
"Gentlemen," T'Liba began. "This is not the place--"
"You're right, Jim," McCoy interrupted sarcastically, ignoring the warning in T'Liba's voice. "I forgot. You keep your secrets so damned well that you've even managed to fool yourself. Okay, so Spock has a hard time talkin' about his personal life. But that's the way he's always been, and he's apologized for the times he's hurt us by doing it. You, on the other hand, have such a high capacity for self-delusion that you go around hurtin', and hurtin' and can't admit even to yourself that you've done anythin' wrong!"
Kirk stared at McCoy in disbelief. "What are you talking about?"
"You've changed, Jim. Stop for just a second and listen to yourself. Not too long ago you risked your career, your ship, your very life on a chance to give Spock somethin' other than eternal oblivion. Now you're condemning Spock for doing the same with Sybok. He's all alone in there, you know."
"You're forgetting who locked the door, Doctor," Kirk replied, flushing as he rose from his seat and tugged sharply at the hem of his jacket. "It wasn't me."
McCoy's eyes blurred with tears as he surveyed his dear friend. "Are you sure about that, Jim?"
Kirk glared at McCoy for a moment, and then turned, walking stiffly through the open french door, out onto the courtyard.
Treading a tenuous path along the borders of a necessarily light trance, Spock dipped haphazardly into his newly restored memories looking for a solution to his painful dilemma. Disjointed bits of conversations bombarded him like stinging insects, each evoking a vivid memory of the life he had once shared with Sybok.
He heard his own voice, the voice of a child of seven, quavering in a monumental attempt at control. "What child, T'Sai?" And T'Sai's emotionless response, "Sybok, son of T'Rea and Sarek."
Now Sybok's voice filled his ears. "May Spock assist me?" There was a pause before Sarek's level tones answered. "The decision is his."
Another voice from the past, and another memory, "The harp is not mine, Brother. I bought it for you...I told you the credits brought no joy. The harp brings joy to us both, in the playing for you, and in the listening for me. Two joys for a hundred credits. A bargain, my brother...a bargain indeed."
"You will not fail. I have faith in you, Brother...faith you do not yet have in yourself."
With the next voice came a memory of a star-studded spring evening, and the vision of Sybok clutching a grieving Salar against him. "Experience it! Share it with me. There is too much for you to bear alone!"
Finally, Spock found the final memory, the one he had up until now left untouched.
"What have I done?" Sybok asked, turning away from the God creature in a mixture of horror and disbelief.
Sybok moved slowly past Kirk and McCoy toward Spock, his expressive eyes wide with a belated recognition of the evil he had unwittingly unleashed upon them all. "Spock!"
"This is my doing. This is my arrogance, my vanity!"
Spock grabbed Sybok by the shoulders in an attempt to shake him out of his guilty trance. "Sybok, we must find a way--"
"No!" Sybok interrupted, glancing toward Kirk and McCoy. "No, you must save yourselves. Forgive me, Brother. Forgive me." Sybok outstretched one hand in silent invitation, his eyes pleading with Spock to allow him the ultimate sacrifice, the same sacrifice Spock had made in the matter-antimatter reactor core on board the Enterprise...although Sybok could not have known it. Spock could have stopped him. He could have refused to accept the katra, but he did not. Instead he pressed his palm against Sybok's, accepting the legacy of his immortal soul. The physical touch sparked the bond between them. The link, once attenuated by time and distance, now surged into a momentarily brilliant sensation of love and acceptance. Sybok smiled, a visual echo of that psionic message, and then drew back, turning to face the God creature.
"Forgive me, Brother. Forgive me." Spock echoed Sybok's final words, a wave of guilt and remorse overwhelming him. He had been unnecessarily petty, closing a barrier about his brother's katra, and stubbornly continuing to refuse Sybok access to his thoughts even as he sensed Sybok's desperate plea for release from the stifling restraint.
He had denied Sybok the comfort of his assurances, denied himself the luxury of understanding his brother in a way he had once longed to understand him. He had thrown away this time, these precious days, and now there was so little time left to him.
"No," Spock croaked, drawing himself abruptly out of the trance and looking over his head as if to speak to Nome itself. "No! I shall not command him to oblivion!"
Exhaustion sagged Spock's defiant form, and he suddenly realized that afternoon had faded into evening. He was losing control, losing even the most simple disciplines. He stretched aching muscles in a vain attempt to ease the cramps which had turned his thighs to fire. Struggling weakly to rise from his knees, he pitched forward onto the carpeted floor, feeling what seemed to be a thousand pinpricks exploding in his leaden legs as darkness spiraled in.
In the living room adjacent, T'Liba had heard her husband's hoarse shout and the muffled thud which followed. She exchanged an alarmed glance with T'Ariz. Like McCoy, she had had enough.
"Doctor, are you carrying your phaser?" she asked impulsively, her speech sounding uncharacteristically pressured.
"Your phaser...did you bring one with you?"
"Don't carry one unless I have to," McCoy replied. "Why do you--"
"Can you request one from the ship?"
"I suppose I can, but--"
"Then do so," T'Ariz interrupted shortly as she joined T'Liba outside the locked door of the library. "Hurry!"
An incongruent sound roused Kirk from the brooding pace he'd been affecting in the garden. He looked toward the house. The noise too was familiar to be denied but--
"Federation phaser fire," Ambassador Sarek said as he approached from the path which led to his home. "Two bursts on full power, if I am not mistaken."
Kirk looked at Sarek, then back toward the house. "But how-"
"I suggest we make haste to investigate, Captain," Sarek interrupted.
Saavik, who had apparently just returned from the embassy, beat Kirk and Sarek to the living room, darting through the demolished door into the library, her phaser drawn and ready for defense. Kirk and Sarek followed a split second behind her, Kirk stumbling on the rubble in the doorway as they entered the room.
Inside the library, Spock was sprawled supine on the floor, his color a frightening shade of gray. McCoy knelt beside him, scanner in hand. T'Ariz, crouching on Spock's other side, readjusted a hypospray to administer an injection through the sleeve of Spock's meditation robe with a faint pneumatic hiss.
"Bones, what happened?"
"He collapsed," McCoy said tersely, pausing to consult his tricorder and then addressing T'Ariz. "Better give him another five cc's of lexorin."
As T'Ariz complied, McCoy turned to T'Liba, who was kneeling beside him. "Do you think you can convince him to eat somethin'? Cause if you can't, I may as well just beam him up to Sickbay right now and start force feedin' him."
T'Liba looked down at Spock, and Kirk realized with a start that Spock was conscious. "Husband, will you do as your friend wishes?"
Spock was too weak to verbalize a response, but T'Liba must have read capitulation in his eyes, because she nodded. "He will eat, Doctor."
"Then let's get him up to bed."
It was nearly midnight when McCoy left his sleeping patient in T'Ariz's capable hands, and stepped into the hall outside Spock and T'Liba's bedroom. The second floor had vaguely resembled Starfleet Central Receiving for a while, with Amanda and T'Liba bustling about, and the constant stream of medical supplies which Scotty had beamed down from the Enterprise. McCoy passed Saavik, who had been standing guard just outside the door as if she fully expected the room to be stormed at any minute by a horde of bloodthirsty Klingons.
"You ought to get some rest, Darlin'," he suggested with a parental smile.
"I am not tired," Saavik argued, standing her ground. "Vulcans do not require-"
McCoy waved her silent, his smile deepening as he remembered all the times Spock had pulled the exact same line when Jim Kirk's life hung in the balance. "If you want to stay," he paused, noting the child's stubbornly set jaw, "and you sure as Hell do, I'm not gonna argue with you about it."
Turning left at the head of the stairs, McCoy paused thoughtfully as he noticed the light which shone from beneath the door of T'Liba's sitting room. After a moment's hesitation, he continued on toward his room. McCoy stopped dead when he saw Kirk, who had evidently fallen asleep waiting for him. He was sitting in the hall, propped against the door to McCoy's room, his head lolling to one side as he snored softly. McCoy's smile hardened into a frown. Conspicuous by his absence tonight was Spock's best friend in the galaxy, James T. Kirk. The T. stood for "thick-headed."
McCoy shuffled up to the sleeping form, and unceremoniously kicked Kirk's hip with the toe of his boot. Kirk startled awake, his head popping into place with an audible snap of his cervical vertebrae. He blinked and looked up at McCoy, frowning.
"Bones, how's he doing?"
"He's not in quarantine, you know," McCoy said sarcastically as Kirk pulled himself to his feet. "It wouldn't have killed you to come see for yourself."
"I didn't think you'd let me in," Kirk said, running one hand over the unshaven bristle of his cheek. "How is he?"
"He's dyin'," McCoy said bluntly, ashamed of the brutal delivery the moment he saw a flash of pain in Kirk's eyes.
"He's tryin' to fight the inevitable, Jim," McCoy said, his voice softening. "He's refusing to let go of Sybok, and the strain is destroyin' him." McCoy closed his eyes and swayed as he recalled the creeping insanity of carrying another man's thoughts. Kirk caught his shoulder to keep him from falling, and McCoy opened his eyes, fighting vertigo and fatigue to sear Kirk with an accusing glare. "We can't talk him into lettin' Sybok go, Jim. We've all tried...Sarek, T'Liba, Amanda, even Saavik."
"Do you mean to tell me that he's willing to die rather than give Sybok up?"
"That's crazy! Sybok was--"
"Sybok was his t'hy'la, Jim." Again McCoy regretted the words as Kirk flinched back from them, releasing the grip on his shoulder. There's no painless way to do this, he told himself wearily, and time's running out.
"T'hy'la," Kirk echoed, perhaps recalling the first time Spock had used the word. "Brother...friend."
"That's why he can't give Sybok up, Jim," McCoy said softly, knowing Kirk would hate him for what he was about to say next. "He can't stand to be alone again."
Kirk stared as McCoy's meaning sank in, then he staggered back a step, his expression hardening into a mask of reserve that might indeed fool T'Pau herself, but it didn't fool McCoy for a moment.
"Goodnight, Doctor," Kirk said, his voice a bare whisper.
"G'night, Jim," McCoy said, opening the door to his room and pausing momentarily on the threshold. "Oh, and I wouldn't worry about stalling Starfleet. I doubt Spock will survive the night."
McCoy couldn't have turned back to withdraw that final, unnecessary twist of the knife even if he'd wanted to, because before the door had clicked shut on the corridor, silent tears were streaming down his face. He leaned against the closed door and squeezed his eyes shut, beating one clenched fist soundlessly against the heavy door. "I'm sorry, Jim," he whispered. "With God as my witness, I'm sorry."
Kirk stared at the closed door to McCoy's room for several minutes, the violent emotions those final words had evoked warring within him. What McCoy had said, was it true? Was Spock feeling abandoned by him? Kirk turned and braced himself against the banister that overlooked the entry hall below, replaying conversations, re-evaluating each exchange he'd had with Spock since his refusion.
"Oh God," Kirk whispered, sagging against the supporting rail. Now, for the first time he saw it all through Spock's eyes, realized that although he'd verbalized his friendship with Spock, he'd done a poor job of demonstrating it. Vulcans put more value on action than on words, which is why Spock had always preferred to express love by deed.
"Like walking into that intermix chamber, or taking the gunnery chair of that Bird of Prey," Kirk whispered. "Every time Spock has stood by me when I needed him most, he's been telling me how much he cares."
And you, Jim, have become very good at uttering tender words of devotion but damn lax about being there when Spock needs you. "I have shut him out," Kirk balled his hands into fists of frustration. "I've been so stupid!
"Whatever it takes, Spock....whatever you need from me, I'll give," he promised impulsively.
"Are you willing to share your pain?" T'Liba asked softly. Kirk whirled to see Spock's wife illuminated against the bright light that shone from her sitting room.
"What?" Kirk asked defensively, embarrassed that she had caught him talking out loud.
"You say you will give Spock what he needs," T'Liba said, moving across the hall to join him. "But you cannot heal him of his grief until you face the grief you have been carrying inside you all these years."
"I carry no--" The lie had come out reflexively, but Kirk bit it back, coloring slightly in T'Liba's unwavering gaze.
"You carry grief for not just the soul of one, but the souls of many," T'Liba said softly. "And the pain of that grief..." Her eyes fluttered shut in what seemed to be an attempt to maintain control. "I do not know how you have lived with it."
"What do you know of my grief?" Kirk questioned bluntly, preparing to walk away from her to go to Spock, go to his room, to any place where he would not have to face the truth of T'Liba's gentle accusations. "You don't know me."
The Vulcan woman smiled sadly, shaking her head. "All I know of you, I know from Spock."
"He would never talk to anyone about..." He suddenly thought of that New York City street, circa 1930, and the squeal of tires as their sound was overridden by a feminine scream. Returning to the present, he glared at T'Liba. "Spock would never tell you those things."
"He did not need to tell me," T'Liba assured. "They are in his mind."
Of course. T'Liba was Spock's bondmate. "You're speaking of things you can't possibly understand," Kirk denied with a wave of his hand. "What Spock and I have shared..."
"You have shared life," T'Liba interrupted. "But it is death you have been unable to share because you cannot share something you fear that profoundly. You shield it from Spock, and you shield it from yourself. But he has always sensed that portion of your soul which is not open to him. He has watched it grow and now your fear and grief have blocked him out completely."
"So," Kirk choked, unable to deny it any longer. "He won't let go of Sybok because..."
"Because, Jim, Sybok has become a surrogate for you."
The familiar use of his first name by a veritable stranger should have jarred him, but it didn't. Instead, Kirk felt T'Liba's love and acceptance of him. Feelings she could have for a man she barely knew because of her bond with Spock.
"I'm afraid," he whispered, mortified that the words had slipped from his mouth. James T. Kirk, hero, defender of the Federation, veteran of a hundred successful missions, afraid? Afraid of what?
"You fear abandonment," T'Liba whispered. "And if Spock dies you will be truly alone, even as he sees himself abandoned now.
Tears welled up in Kirk's eyes as he sensed the pain T'Liba was experiencing on Spock's behalf. Pain he himself had brought about by denying Spock so completely.
"Spock does not need your words, Jim."
Kirk stiffened at the admonishment, sharply spoken in comparison to the rest of T'Liba's words. Then he relaxed again as he met her gaze. The love and encouragement he'd sensed before was still there. Spock's love, he thought. His heart lifting for the first time in weeks. He nodded in agreement. "I'd like to be alone with him."
T'Liba nodded in understanding. "Come, I will speak to T'Ariz."
Kirk stood in the doorway, waiting impatiently as T'Liba convinced T'Ariz to leave Spock's side. When the two women retreated through the connecting door to T'Liba's sitting room, Kirk relaxed, moving slowly to the bed where Spock lay.
Although McCoy's medical expertise had restored some color to the gaunt face, Spock still looked pale. He was sleeping, his dark hair slightly tousled against the pillow, and as Kirk approached the supine Vulcan, he could not help but think how frail and vulnerable he appeared.
He was in Sickbay with Chapel and McCoy, the echo of Spock's laughter ringing in his ears as he listened to the Vulcan describe the interior of the V'ger orifice. The mind meld with V'ger had nearly killed Spock, but it had also given him the answer to the question he'd been unable to solve on the desert sands of Gol.
The Vulcan looked up from the diagnostic table where he lay and smiled, shaking his head at the irony of it. "Jim, I should have known." Exhaustion sagged Spock's features, and his eyes fluttered shut.
Ignoring McCoy's warning, Kirk gripped Spock by the shoulders and shook him. "Spock, what should you have known? What should you have known?"
Spock opened his eyes, lifting them to meet his captain's gaze. Kirk felt the warm clasp of the Vulcan's fingers, first on the tensed muscles of his upper arm, and then gripping his hand as if he had suddenly become Spock's lifeline.
"This simple feeling is beyond V'ger's comprehension."
Kirk smiled as a flood of love and affection suffused through him. Through the physical link he experienced a psionic reassurance that Spock had not put aside their friendship, nor would he now. As Kirk returned the firm clasp, he realized that this friendship, this love which he and Spock shared this was the answer for which Spock had been searching. He couldn't have found it at Gol after all, Kirk realized. He could only have found it here.
"This simple feeling," Kirk whispered, kneeling beside the sleeping Vulcan. "I guess it wasn't as simple as either of us thought."
Spock opened his eyes, the moment it took for him to locate Kirk at his side, proof positive that there was no time to lose. "Jim."
Kirk smiled, reaching down to clasp one of the Vulcan's hands between his own. "I'm here, Spock."
He could feel Spock tense against the contact, and attempt to draw his hand away. "No, you do not understand. My shields..."
"No shields," Kirk said softly, his grip on Spock's hand tightening as he pulled it up to clasp against the front of his uniform jacket. "No more shields, no more barriers...my friend." Kirk closed his eyes and pressed forward into Spock's unshielded mind.
He gasped at the sudden sensation of free fall, more terrifying than his plunge from El Capitan because now there was so much more at stake than his own mortality. He was hurtling through a vortex of whirling colors and sensations, tastes, smells, and sounds. Some he recognized, others were alien, but frustratingly familiar at the same time. He was in Spock's mind, he knew, but never had he experienced anything like this in a mind meld.
Gradually the falling sensation eased and then abruptly he found himself standing on a barren desert landscape which he took to be Vulcan. The sun was well past its zenith, fading toward the horizon. At first he thought himself alone, but then he heard voices behind him. He turned, his eyes widening.
"I cannot let you do this, Brother," Sybok cried, clasping Spock by the shoulders as his voice rose. "That was never my intention. Had I known, had I understood what had gone before--"
"I will not let you go, Sybok."
Kirk stared at the brothers, Sybok was a younger version of the Sybok who had died on Sha-ka-ree, but recognizable. He was dressed in a desert soft suit and traveling cloak. Spock was a composite of all the Spocks Kirk had known and more besides. He wore his black meditation robe, his expression set in what McCoy commonly refereed to as 'double-Vulcan'.
"This is killing you, Spock!" Sybok shouted. "I sacrificed my life so that you and your friends might live. How can I stand by now and allow you to throw your life away for nothing?"
"You left me behind once. I shall not allow you to do that again."
"You still don't understand, do you?" Sybok sighed. "T'Lar was right to refuse me. She knew, as you should know that my katra must not be bound to Seleya."
"I shall not commit you to oblivion." Spock replied stubbornly. "You would be alone, alone for all eternity. I cannot allow that."
Sybok smiled sadly. "You cannot prevent it, Spock-kam. It is the only way. I must go. I cannot ask you to share my exile now, any more than I could all those years ago."
"All those years ago, I let you go. I shall not make the same mistake again. I shall not release you."
Sybok opened his mouth to protest and caught sight of Kirk. "Ah, Captain, I am glad you're here. I cannot make him see reason."
Spock stepped out of Sybok's grasp and turned to face Kirk, his expression as blankly unemotional as it had been when he first returned from Gol. "You should not have come."
"Spock, I had to come. Sybok's right, you're dying."
"I will not send him away," Spock said coldly. "You must leave, Captain. You--"
"No!" Kirk interrupted. "No, I'm not leaving. I'm not going out of your mind until you listen to what I have to say."
Kirk glanced over at Sybok, but the Vulcan raised open palms before him in a helpless gesture and shrugged.
"Spock, I was wrong," Kirk began with a sigh. "I was wrong to shut you out. I've never been good at facing death, so every time someone I loved died, I pushed that grief aside. I continued with my mission, and my life. I'd deny it if I could, avoid it if I couldn't deny it. I stored that grief in a part of my mind and locked it away and told myself that someday I'd bring it out and face it..." Kirk paused, uncomfortable with the topic, and again he looked to Sybok. "But I never did face it. I just kept pushing more and more grief in there until finally it was terrifying to even think of opening that door, much less go in. And then...and then I lost you."
Kirk was near tears now, but Spock was unmoved. His hands were clasped behind his back, his expression composed and dutifully attentive, but there was no flicker of reaction to what Kirk was saying.
"It's too late, isn't it?" Kirk asked in a defeated tone. "I can explain, but it isn't going to make any difference."
"I have made my decision," Spock said, his voice flat. "I told you that you shouldn't have come."
"I'm not going to stand by and watch you throw your life away!" Kirk shouted, suddenly angry. "I didn't stop you last time. You never gave me the chance, but this time--"
"Captain," Sybok interrupted. "You are quite correct. It will do no good to explain."
"Spock, you've got to hear me!" Kirk continued, reaching out and grabbing his friend by the shoulders. "I can't face losing you again! I can't go through--"
"You must show him, Captain."
Kirk tore his gaze from Spock to stare at Sybok, suddenly remembering T'Liba's response to his apology. He does not need your words, Jim.
Kirk froze, hazel eyes suddenly lighting up with hope. "Yes?"
Sybok's gaze grew warm with approval and encouragement. "Show him, Captain. Show him what you cannot tell him. Make him understand."
Kirk watched as his friend pulled himself laboriously from the floor of the reactor chamber, forcing his tortured body into the proud military posture. Gloved hands tugged the scarlet uniform jacket into place, and the Vulcan turned to face his captain for the final time.
The flicker of hope which had filled Kirk's heart as Spock rose to his feet faded as he walked slowly toward the transparency. Scotty was right, he was already...
Kirk flinched as Spock collided with the wall that separated them. Dear God, he can't see! Spock bounced away from the transparent wall, unaware of Kirk's horrified gaze.
"The ship...out of danger?" Spock asked. The familiar voice had degenerated into a harsh whisper, and Kirk could only guess at the effort it was taking to force speech from that radiation seared throat.
"Yes," Kirk said, his voice coming out more loudly than he had anticipated. He tried to think of something else to say, some reassurance, but all he could do was stare at the superficial burns on the side of Spock's face. Maybe the damage could be still be repaired, maybe...
Spock shook his head as if he knew the course Kirk's thoughts were taking. "Don't grieve, Admiral. It is logical..." He paused, fighting for the strength to continue. "The needs of the many outweigh..."
"The needs of the few," Kirk supplied, filling in the rest of the axiom in an attempt to spare Spock the effort.
Spock nodded, "Or the one. I never took the Kobayashi Maru test until now. What do you think of my solution?"
"Spock." Kirk couldn't keep the despair out of his voice. There was so much he wanted to say, so much he had thought there would be time to say, but he couldn't verbalize any of it. All he could do was stand here helplessly and watch his best friend die.
Spock sank to the floor, and Kirk dropped down on his side of the transparency, cursing the way it separated them. If he could touch Spock, lend him some of his strength...
"I have been, and always shall be, your friend," Spock rasped. He tugged off one of the protective gloves and pressed his hand against the wall in the Vulcan salute. "Live long and prosper."
Kirk felt numb, cold to the marrow of his bones. He raised his hand to return the salute, still trying to think of something to say, but Spock was already slipping away.
"No!" Despair washed over Kirk as Spock collapsed, staring sightlessly ahead. Spock's final words rang in his ears and his own voice echoed into a mental shout. "No!"
"Each man hides a secret pain," The voice was Sybok's, and Kirk felt himself trapped in the tableau of Spock's death, that frigid numbness shattering into pain so profound that he drew his knees to his chest and began rocking back and forth, his eyes squeezed shut against the painful scene. "It must be exposed and reckoned with. It must be forced from the darkness and into the light. Share your pain. Share your pain with me and gain strength..." Sybok's voice rose, booming and echoed about Kirk, drowning out his desperate plea.
Decades of pain and guilt flowed like floodwaters from a broken damn. Kirk could feel it coursing from his body, experiencing each episode of loss as if it were only now occurring for the first time. Within seconds he witnessed the final moments of so many people he had loved, people he had sworn to cherish and protect; Edith, Miramanee, Aurelan, David... The guilt which followed seared like a flame, and then he experienced the dull, aching throb of grief. Kirk was still rocking back and forth, his breath coming in short, painful gasps as salt tears brimmed from his lashes and spilled down his cheeks. "Spock!"
"Gain strength, gain strength from the sharing, my friend." Kirk realized that he was enfolded in a Vulcan embrace. The arms which supported him were not Sybok's, but Spock's. The gentle, familiar voice which soothed him reassuringly was also Spock's. Kirk looked up through a blur of tears and saw that he and Spock were now alone on the barren landscape. Sybok had departed.
The doctor stood just slightly apart from the others, his restless gaze giving away the anxiety which had been building inside him since Sarek had first suggested this gathering. Spock navigated his way slowly through the small crowd of friends and relatives to approach McCoy. His intense gaze never wavering from the expressive Human features which were illuminated by flickering torchlight.
They stood on the carefully cultivated lawn of Spock's estate, the top floor and roof of the massive rubinite dwelling just barely visible through a grove of shade trees. Ten meters behind them was the gazebo. Sarek had suggested the ceremony as an alternative to the one denied by T'Lar, but it was Spock who had chosen this place, for this spot had always belonged to Sybok.
McCoy looked up as Spock joined him, his half-hearted smile a weak imitation of the smile Spock had come to know.
"You are disturbed by this," Spock said quietly. "I can sense your unease."
McCoy dropped his gaze, studying the toes of his boots. "Is it that obvious?"
"To me it is."
McCoy's smile now seemed less forced. "I guess that's the price we're both gonna pay for all the time you spent cooped up in my head." McCoy met Spock's concerned gaze, the blue eyes as bright and intense as the first time Spock had met the man.
"I don't give a flyin' damn if Mark Piper checked every inch of your skinny little body the very day he left!" McCoy ranted at his reluctant patient. "I'm the doctor on board this bucket now, and if you get hurt, I'm the one who's gonna have to patch you back together!" Thick brows knitted together in a frown of concentration as the Human physician studied the unusual K-factors on his monitor screen. "And to do that, I first gotta figure out how the Hell you're put together!"
Spock nodded his head, fighting a smile. "You have accomplished a lifelong goal, Doctor. You have finally figured out how I'm put together."
McCoy's smile faded into a puzzled frown as he studied Spock's poker face. "Is that supposed to be a joke?"
Spock swallowed the laugh that rose in his throat and arched one brow as if to say, "Who, me? Make a joke? Surely you are mistaken, Doctor."
The Vulcan saw McCoy's expression pale just slightly as Sarek and Amanda arrived, and began greeting some of the guests.
"Doctor," Spock began. "You do not have to participate."
McCoy continued staring toward the others, his gaze blanking for a moment as he remembered some half-forgotten experience. He poorly suppressed a shudder.
"In fact, under the circumstances I would prefer that you not participate," Spock continued. "Although Sarek will conduct the ceremony, as keeper of the katra, it is I who must initiate the psionic transfer. I am recovering quite adequately from my collapse, but the added strain of--"
"You don't have to make an excuse for me, Spock," McCoy interrupted with a sigh. "After all we've been through together lately, don't you think we ought to just say what we're really thinkin'?"
"If you prefer."
"The plain truth, and you know it, is that I'm scared."
"What do you fear?"
"What I've always feared when anyone messes with my mind," McCoy paused and smiled to soften his gruff tone. "I don't like it, Spock. It may be natural as hell for you, but it still makes me as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rockin' chairs. Would you be offended, would Sarek be offended if I just kinda stood to the side and watched?"
Now Spock allowed himself a slight smile as he nodded his head in agreement. "I would not have it any other way, Doctor."
McCoy's gaze sharpened, his eyes narrowing as if he suspected that Spock was making a joke at his expense, but then he saw the sincerity in Spock's eyes and relaxed. "Well, you got people waitin'. Better get on with it, don't you think?"
"An excellent suggestion, Doctor."
"On behalf of both my sons, I welcome you," Ambassador Sarek said, greeting Scott and Uhura with his usual formality.
Amanda cast a half tolerant, half impatient glance toward her Vulcan husband as she reached out to enfold Uhura in a warm embrace. "Nyota, it's so good to see you again!" She released Scott's companion and turned her attention to the engineer. "And Mister Scott, it's always a pleasure to see you."
Scott beamed at Spock's mother. He'd always liked Amanda. "It's a pleasure to see ye too, Lass. Have ye found the fountain of youth here on Vulcan? Ye look younger every time I see ye!"
Amanda smiled graciously, raising a brow at Sarek's slight frown. "That, my husband, was a flagrant compliment. Human males often employ them. Human females always appreciate them."
With his usual dignified patience, Sarek weathered the laughter of the Humans which surrounded him. Spock, who had been talking to McCoy joined his parents as the laughter died down, and met his father's gaze. An unspoken message seemed to pass between the two, and the Ambassador cleared his throat. "It is time to begin."
The gathered group immediately fell silent. Scott looked about at his crewmates and Spock's family, seeing the expectant expressions on their faces. They had all volunteered to join in this ceremony, the Humans, with only a vague notion of what it was about. They had come without reservation as soon as the captain had explained that Mister Spock needed their support. At first that was all they had needed to know, but now they listened carefully as Sarek explained it further.
"Traditionally Vulcans gather to give honor to their dead. As you all know, the katra, or spirit of the departed is preserved intact by a bearer..."
Scott glanced over at McCoy, who was keeping his distance from the rest of the group.
"...this, the final stage of the kr'alieu. We will all briefly share the katra of the departed, and then the bearer shall release it."
Sounds simple, Scott thought. The Vulcans were now interspersing themselves among the Humans. Scott found himself between Saavik and Amanda, taking their hands as the group spread into a large circle. Across from Scott, Chekov was flanked by T'Ariz and T'Liba, and Sulu was on Saavik's other side. To Scott's far left was Sarek, connecting Uhura and Kirk to complete the circle. Spock stood in the middle, looking strangely alien in his meditation robe.
Sarek began a Vulcan chant as the night wind rustled the leaves of the trees. Scott looked up at the familiar canopy of stars, marveling at their stark clarity. No moon to outshine them, he thought as Amanda and Saavik's grasps tightened simultaneously. Scott looked down at Spock, who was now kneeling in a meditative pose, and then over at McCoy, who stood several meters away. The doctor's eyes were wide, his posture stiff against the gusts of wind which whipped about the small group, and caused the torches from the gazebo to flicker and all but die.
Maybe not so simple, Scott amended, as his palms began to sweat in the amazingly powerful grasps of the two women. Something's happening, Scott thought, meeting Chekov's astonished gaze and realizing that he, too must be feeling this ripple of energy which seemed to draw the circle together and unite it.
We havenae moved, Scott denied, but for some reason they all seemed closer, so close that Scott could see his own reflection in Chekov's wide eyes. He studied the expressions on each and every face. The Humans looked startled and a little fearful, while the Vulcans all had the same look of intense concentration. Scott was reminded suddenly of his close brush on Argelius II, and Sybo, the empathic wife of Jaris who had conducted a seance to find the murderer in their midst.
This nightmarish memory increased the engineer's sense of unease, and he began to heartily wish he'd stayed on the ship. The sense of unity within the circle intensified, and Scott realized he could not back away from it now even if his life depended upon it. The clasped hands seemed to be fused by the vibrations which flowed between them.
Grounded, he thought, comparing the effect to an electrical shock. Until they turn the juice off, we arena goin' anywhere. Just then Scott noticed what seemed to be an aura about Spock, a soft green glow that was spreading outward. He blinked, disbelieving, but not only did the faint image remain, it seemed to glow brighter.
Scott watched, helpless as the aura spread to envelope the circle. His own words filled his mind, an echo of something he had once said to Spock, Humans donna need to be in a man's mind to know his soul, lad.The accent was right, as was the inflection, but the voice was not his. It was Sybok's. Scott felt the spirit of Spock's brother fill him, his panic fading as the voice soothed and comforted. Ye are a bonnie fine man, Montgomery Scott. Never doubt yer worth, lad. Never doubt yer worth.
Amanda felt Sybok suffuse through Scott's clasped hand, the katra of her departed step-son embracing her like a soft wind. The voice which filled her ears was a tender whisper, a gentle reminder of the love she had shown for her husband's young son. Beware the Jabberwock, my lady, the jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Amanda smiled through her tears.
Penda Nyota Uhura, sister and friend! Uhura startled at the vibrant voice which spoke in her mind. Sybok's Vulcan words required no translation, the meaning was crystal clear. He continued in Vulcan, his words as heartfelt as a lover's caress. Grieve not for the children never born, Nyota, for you have nurtured more lonely children than any other woman I have known. Nyota Uhura, sister, mother, friend...your love has touched so many. You are the heart of the brave silver lady, and will live forever in the hearts and minds of her crew.
Sarek felt the katra of his son wisp about him like a vine trailing up a trellis. Vibrant emotions filled him faster than he could catalogue or suppress them, and finally he ceased the attempt. Oh, venerable sire! Sybok teased, and then the laughing voice grew serious. I misjudged you, noble Father. I did not think you understood me, but perhaps you understood me best of all. You are a fine and honorable man, Sarek of Vulcan. And the honor has been mine to claim you as my sire. T'Rea awaits me, Father. I shall not be alone, and now neither will she.
Captain Kirk! Sybok boomed as he slipped into the mind of James Kirk. I, too shall call you t'hy'la now, brother to my brother. Watch over him as you have always done, and remember always to share your pain with him. He is willing, more than willing, and his love for you is boundless.
T'Liba felt Sybok before he spoke. The power of that unleashed mind reminding her of Spock. I leave to you the care of so many I have loved, Sybok said softly. We knew each other not in life, but in death I have come to know you so well. T'Liba-kam, you have given much and ask so little. Live long, oh daughter of the House of Surak, may you enjoy peace and prosperity always.
There will be love for you, Pavel Chekov, Sybok promised as his thoughts filled the mind of the navigator, love you could not have imagined as you grieved for the loves you have lost. Persevere, tovarich. Your time is yet to come.
T'Ariz tremored as the familiar force filled her mind, her body singing with the remembered sensations of their bonding. Ah, T'Ariz, Sybok sighed. My only great regret was leaving you behind. The severing of our bond... The words faded into a wave of intense emotion which left T'Ariz breathless, tears of joy brimming from her lashes. Never forget the beauty, T'Ariz. Never take it for granted as I once took you.
D'Artagnan! Sybok cried as he became one with the helmsman. Know that your choice is the right one. You can go home again, my friend. I am proof enough of that. You must understand that if you do not find your destiny, it will find you. That is the nature of Nome.
Saavik stiffened at the alien invasion, fighting to keep her expression composed. Ah, Saavik! I regret not having known you myself. Be secure in the knowledge that Spock loves you. He'll never say it, child, but the feeling is there. You have filled a void in his life that no other could fill. You, like me, will not require the confines of Seleya to find peace. There is someone waiting for you. Saavik closed her eyes to fight a sob, and for an instant she saw a fair haired young man beckoning to her from a sunlit meadow. In time, Saavik-kam, Sybok assured gently. In time.
Through Sybok, Spock had also been drawn into each mind, and he had experienced the reactions of his family and friends to Sybok's farewell. His brother's reassurance to Sarek had quelled some of Spock's doubts, but now he could feel Sybok's impatience to join the presence which waited, almost visible, just outside the circle.
I have always been a wanderer, Brother, Sybok reminded. And it occurs to me now that we are more alike than either of us would ever have believed in our youth.
Farewell, my brother, Spock said formally.
Sybok's laughter filled Spock's ears. Three decades among Humans and still a tight ass! Spock, will you never change?
Never, Spock agreed, finally breaking into an affectionate smile. Live long and prosper, Sybok, son of Sarek.
Peace and long life to you, Spock-kam.
The wind seemed to converge on Spock, curving up to form a whirlwind that scattered leaves and bits of sand, becoming a pillar into the sky. The rush of air roared in Spock's ears, and then was abruptly silent. The wind ceased, and for a moment all was still. Then a faint sound began vibrating at the extreme range of Spock's hearing. At first it was just a buzz, but gradually it became recognizable as words. The voice was Sybok's.
Can you see the night wind as it ruffles your hair, my brother? If you cannot see the musician or his harp, does that diminish the sweet melody he plays? Have you ever smelled the sharp tang of a fire before seeing the smoke?
"Sybok." Spock mouthed, his throat constricting about the word before he could speak it.
Grieve not my absence, Spock-kam. For when the time is right, you will find me again. Of that I have no doubt.
The voice faded, and Spock let out an audible sigh.
"It is done," Sarek said softly. "The katra has been released."
"Can we say the Reform was initiated by one specific event?" T'Liba asked of her students.
"Maybe not one event, but several," Evan Briggs answered thoughtfully. "It wasn't just Surak's address from Seleya, or the negotiations it sparked. I don't think even the tragedy of his death a few months later would have been powerful enough on its own. It was a combination of events."
T'Liba nodded in approval. "History is a chain of events, a study of cause and effect. Sentient beings, by the very nature of their sentience are constantly changing, always seeking the answers to their questions." A flash of color in the rear doorway distracted her just for a second, and she paused before reminding her students of their assignment for the next class. "When you return here tomorrow evening, this auditorium will become the nomadic tent where the fundamentals of modern Vulcan society were negotiated. We will break into two teams, or clans. You must know the opinions of your clan and be prepared to debate your point of view with those who oppose it."
"Who will be Surak?" Evan Briggs asked.
T'Liba glanced briefly at the three individuals who stood at the back of the auditorium, unseen by her students. "A special guest. Ambassador Sarek has agreed to mediate at our negotiations. After the re-enactment, he will answer any questions you may have about the evolution of Vulcan government. You are dismissed."
As the students left the auditorium, the three Starfleet officers moved to the lectern.
"Dom keyh sahla," T'Liba said. Although her voice was matter-of-fact, each of the three before her sensed the regret in her Vulcan-proper statement.
"Scotty's done everything he can do here on Vulcan," James Kirk said with an apologetic shake of his head. "We've run out of excuses."
"I did not expect to see you again," T'Liba said as she moved from around the lectern to join her guests. "My teaching schedule has not permitted--"
"Always the teacher." McCoy interrupted. "That's her first best destiny, isn't it Spock?"
"One of several." The Vulcan replied cryptically.
"We couldn't leave without saying goodbye--"
"After all, we are family, right?" McCoy interrupted Kirk with a crooked smile.
"Of course," T'Liba agreed warmly. "Doctor, it has been a genuine pleasure to--"
"That's no way to say goodbye to your brother-in-law!" McCoy teased, winking at Kirk as he stepped forward to clasp the petite woman in a quick hug. "Never did get to kiss the bride, come to think of it," he added, enjoying Spock's warning glare as he released her. "Take care, Darlin."
T'Liba was now looking at Kirk, as if uncertain of what he would do.
"Thank you," Kirk said softly, meeting her intent gaze. Gallantly, he took one of her hands, and lightly kissed the back of it. "Thank's for everything."
"You are welcome, Jim," she said, the familiar use of his first name taking the formality out of her words.
"Spock, are you just gonna stand there?" McCoy prompted after a moment. "We're supposed to be breakin' orbit in less than ten minutes.
"Ah, yes," Spock said, reaching into his jacket. "There is one small matter." He pulled out a small gilt edged scroll fastened with an emerald tie, and handed it to T'Liba.
With a puzzled glance at her husband, T'Liba unrolled the scroll and read the hand-written declaration that bore the seal of the Vulcan Council. She looked up at Spock, wondering how he had known. She had taken such care to keep it from him.
"What is it?" McCoy asked.
"It is a declaration from the Vulcan Council which clarifies her status," Spock explained.
T'Liba looked at her husband, who seemed to be waiting expectantly for a comment. By Vulcan law, she could at this moment, renounce her bond with him, since it was consummated while she was legally chattel. Surely he knew that she would not-- Suddenly, she remembered the diversity of expression of love. Vulcans expressed it by action, Humans by words. Spock had expressed his love for her by action just now. But he was half Human. Apparently the Human half of him wanted verbal confirmation of her choice.
"It is, Doctor," she said softly, never taking her eyes from Spock's face, "what you Humans would call a technicality. I will place it with the important papers of our house, Husband."
Spock outstretched the two fingers of his right hand, and T'Liba returned the gesture, her bond with Spock surging as she was compelled to meet the sable depths of his intent gaze. "Farewell, my wife."
"I shall await thee, Husband," she responded, falling back on an ancient parting vow.
Spock stepped back, flanked by Kirk and McCoy. It was Kirk who pulled out his communicator, and smiled his most charming smile before flipping it open. "Mister Scott, we have a campsite at Yosemite waiting. You may beam us up at any time."
"Now wait just a damned minute," McCoy growled. "No more mountain climbing! I'm not gonna stand around and wait for you to drop like a rock in high gravity--"
"No more mountain climbing," Kirk assured, looking at T'Liba for a moment before he twisted his head to grin at Spock. "You wanna break out the marshmellons and join us?"
Spock arched a brow, affecting the long-suffering air of a Vulcan who has lived the better part of his life among illogical, chaotic Humans as the transporter beam caught them and carried them away.
Long after the three columns of humming, sparkling light had faded, T'Liba stood alone in the deserted auditorium. Finally she gathered her belongings together and left the room.
Sarek stepped into the chill night air and inhaled deeply. He had accepted T'Liba's offer of hot tea before going out into the night again, and the remembered warmth of his son's hearth clung to him as he approached the flitter. The stars were glittering brilliantly overhead and he savored the cold, dry air, a refreshing contrast to the humidified, temperature controlled confines of the Federation Embassy or the auditorium where T'Liba's students had held their re-enactment tonight. He calculated the odds that Amanda would be waiting up, and concluded she would probably be asleep by now. With a final glance at the flitter, Sarek decided to walk home.
He pulled the front seam of his cloak shut, and struck out in a brisk pace along the gravel path, the crunching sound beneath his boots the only noise to break the late night stillness. He paused by the gazebo, remembering a day he had found Sybok and Spock here. He'd been drawn by the sound of Spock's harp and had stood, unobserved, listening to the melodies Spock had played, some with great skill, others haltingly because at the time he had only been eight-years old. Vulcans did not admit openly to sentiment, but Sarek occasionally allowed himself to think of those days, and experience what Amanda would call nostalgia.
Sarek stepped up onto the small platform floor of the hexagonal structure, one hand clasped tight about the supporting pillar, thinking of the two young sons he had raised, and wondering if he had done right by either of them.
Suddenly a gust of warm wind blew the chill from his cheek. He heard voices and turned, looking back toward the house, but the lawn remained empty. A soft feminine tone uttered a half-intelligible question, and it was answered by a hauntingly familiar baritone. Both voices chorused in musical laughter for a split second before the gusting wind carried it away.
For several moments, he stood, not even breathing as he strained to hear more. He was about to continue on his way when the direction of the wind turned, and he heard the female voice as clear as the meditation chimes in Surak's square.
Fathering a world is a far easier task than fathering a single child, Sarek.
"T'Rea?" Sarek's whisper was incredulous.
And rest assured you have accomplished both to the best of your ability, the baritone added. Live long, noble father. Live long and prosper.
Peace and long life, Sarek whispered numbly, to you both.
As Sarek finished speaking, the wind died and the night once again grew silent. Sarek stood, still as a statue, listening for a very long time, but the wind did not rise again, nor did the voices return. When the chill grew unbearable, he sighed and continued on his way.
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