November 16th 2297
"Hyperion to TSoral, please come in, Lieutenant TSoral!" Captain Uhuras voice only thinly concealed her annoyance and surprise. "Theres an incoming signal, woman. Put it on the mainviewer. And when were done with it, Id like to talk to you in the Ready Room." TSorals performance had been slipping for some time, but it had never reached this low of a level; the matter was one that concerned Uhura personally, as well as professionally. TSoral was a good friend, and the captain was becoming worried about her.
The Vulcan communications officer shook her head, as if she was coming out of a deep sleep or had been severely lost in thought. "Of course, Captain. I am sorry. I do not know what came over me." TSoral tapped the control surface in front of her.
On the mainviewer appeared the visage of another Vulcan.
Uhura stepped forward. "Admiral Sevral! My apologies for the length of time it took to respond to your signal; we were suffering a brief malfunction at the communications console." There was no need, she decided, to tell the flag officer that the problem had been between the chair and the control surface, especially since it was his sister. "To what do I owe the honor of your call?" An unheralded call from Starfleet brass usually was not good news.
"It appears that the communications issue was easily fixed. As odd as it may sound, Captain Uhura, I come on what Humans would call a social visit with one of your crew. Would you have two cabins available for guests, myself and my companions?"
Hiding her surprise as best she could, Uhura nodded. "Of course. How soon will you be docking?"
"Approximately one point three four hours, Captain. If I have the correct information, your shuttle bay should hold this private vessel quite comfortably."
"Excellent, Admiral. We will look forward to your arrival. Hyperion out." The connection broke. To the astonishment of all on the bridge, TSoral abandoned her post, all but running to the Ready Room. Uhura shook her head, utterly dumbfounded by TSorals uncharacteristic action. She was unsure, but the captain almost thought she saw tears on TSorals face as she ran. "What in space?"
Drevan looked over at Ingram. "So much for the theory that all females are in cahoots." He turned to the captain. "Id have thought youd have been the first to guess, Captain. Admittedly, in the female, its much less violent than in the malethats more or less the way it is with most sentient lifeforms, although there are a few, very interesting, exceptionsbut still fairly obvious, and Id have expected itd be more so to another female than to a male like me. Well, anyway, I thought so, and..."
Uhura turned to her chief science officer, interrupting. "Drevan, youre spouting drivel, did you know it? Make some sense. Preferably, concisely; I plan to talk to her when youre done."
"Okay, two words: pon farr."
As soon as the Andorian said it, Uhura realized that he was right, and that shed been a Tiberian bat for not seeing it. Memories of Spock and his difficulties, long years ago, bubbled up, only to be put aside. She got up, moving to the ready room. "Marsden, take the conn. Drevan, get ODoul up here; I dont think TSorals going to be much use for now." Quickly, she stepped into the ready room.
Looking out the window of Uhuras ready room down on the arboretum below, TSoral stood, her back to the captain. Before Uhura could speak, the Vulcan did. "I apologize for my inattentiveness at the communications console, Captain. I honestly do not know what is happening to me. I am having increasing trouble concentrating, and even the simplest of tasks are becoming difficult to do. As far as Sickbay is concerned, I show no signs of ill health or derangement of my brainyet I am not even able to meditate in my quarters. And I didnt call my brother, honestly, and I have no idea who did, or why, and Im not sure I can face him in my present disorganized state."
Reaching back to her own past, Uhura tried to remember how her mother had acted when Uhura had her first serious crush on someone. She wondered if there was as much as a single point of similarity between what an adolescent Human female experienced, under the circumstances, and what an adult Vulcan female would. On the whole, she decided, it probably didnt matter all that much; what TSoral needed was a friendly, understanding ear. The Bantu moved to her friends side. "TSoral, I know its hard, but youll get through it. If being a woman is at all similar between Humans and Vulcans, I dont suppose any of us understand it, when it happens."
TSoral turned to face the captain. Uhura saw that the womans face was wet with tears. The Vulcan stamped her foot, in what looked like anger, much as a petulant Human adolescent might. "How can anyone understand anything about this, when even I dont know whats happening to me? I cant even control my emotions anymore. Its just so, so..." Clearly the woman was at a total loss for words. "See? I cant even talk. Im scared, Captain. Whats happening to me?"
Without warning, TSoral threw herself on Uhura, burying her face in the womans shoulder, sobbing. Astonished by the act, Uhura reacted without thinking: she put her arms around the Vulcan, stroking her long, dark hair. "Its okay, honey. I get that way around Doctor MBenga a lot, especially when were alone together, which doesnt happen nearly as much as Id like." She hugged the Vulcan gently, still not sure what to make of the Vulcans utterly atypical behavior. "Sometimes a girl just needs a good cry, TSoral. Well at least we Human girls do, and I suppose that might cross species lines a little bit. Dont be ashamed. Dont worry about it; Ill take care of you, somehow. MBenga and Eletto will think of something to help you, Im confident of it. Come on; lets sit down."
Only half willingly, the Vulcan allowed herself to be led to a chair, sniffling. Uhura took the chair next to her, leaving an arm on the Vulcans shoulders. Uncharacteristically, TSoral didnt object. That clinches it, I guess, Uhura thought to herself. If the crying wasnt enough to prove it, the physical contact is. Theres no way shed tolerate this kind of physical contact if she wasnt pushing her way into pon farr. She gave her communications officer a moment or two to compose herself before speaking. "TSoral, can we speak woman-to-woman for a minute?"
"Of course, Captain."
"Were off the bridge, honey. Its Nyota, at least until were out of this room, okay?"
"As you wish, Nyota." There was no question that she wasnt exactly comfortable with the lack of formality.
"I think I know whats wrong with you. Ive seen this before in Vulcan males. Youre entering pon farr, and if thats anything like falling in love is for a Human female, well, its an interesting process, to say the least."
"That is not possible, Ca... Nyota. I am quite sure of that. I have no husband, you understand."
"I didnt think a spouse was necessary for pon farr."
The Vulcan shrugged. "It is not necessary to have a spouse for that to happen. It is because it cannot happen that I will never have a spouse. There is an ovarian problem, related to my visual disturbance; it is genetic. It also renders me sterile. I have shared this with Doctor Eletto, but no one else. Please do not tell others of this."
"Let it be our secret, then. Listen, why dont you let me take you to Sickbay? Maybe they can help."
"That will not be needed. They have already pronounced me free of disease, other than the ones they already know about. Doctor Eletto was very thorough. They could offer no help."
"Thats right; you mentioned that a couple of moments ago, didnt you? Then let me take you to your cabin. You need to try to ready yourself for your brothers arrival." Uhura stood, offering TSoral her hand. The Vulcan woman stood, taking it. "Best we not let the folks on the bridge catch us like this. Think of the rumors theyd start!"
TSoral squeezed the captains hand, then released it. "Youd have been a great help. Thank you for being a surrogate mother to me. I think youd have made a very good mother." The Vulcan was clearly regaining a semblance of control; Uhura was sure, however, that it was only a semblance.
The Bantu smiled, somewhat half heartedly. "Thanks. I never had the chance to be a real mother, you know, but for other reasons; I was sort of married to Starfleet."
One of the Vulcans eyebrows raised slightly. "Me, too, I suppose. But being married to Starfleet certainly would not trigger pon farr, Captain."
Before the Human could reply, the Vulcan was close enough to the door that it had opened. Uhura followed her. "I will be escorting TSoral to her quarters. Until I return, Marsden, you have the conn." She disappeared into the turbolift behind TSoral.
Doctor MBenga was hunched over a readout, wading through a morass of administrative details, thinking to himself that he was spending far too much time with administrative activities and far too little with hands-on medicine. When Eletto came around the corner, the chief medical officer looked up hopefully. "Ah, a break from the administrative garbage! Unless youre bringing me more, in which case, you can just get lost."
"Not administrative problems, just diagnostic issues. I think I know what this means, but I want to be sure. Youve got a lot more experience with Vulcan medicine than I do. Here, look."
MBenga took the offered mediscanner and studied it briefly, then snorted. "Run for the galactic rim, man. Thats incipient pon farr, no question about it. Seen it too many times. Just give thanks that its a female, Giac; on the whole, its a megaparsec less wretched. You dont even want to know what the males get like."
"Ive read Sorels Tractate on Vulcan Medicine, Keme." Eletto shrugged. "I guess thats what they get for over-controlling their emotions for that many years. When it breaks loose, it breaks everything in its path. Based on what Ive got on file from the medical record, however, this is going to be an unusually severe ponn farr for a female. How do we handle it?"
"Dont pretend to be any bigger of an idiot than you need to be, man. We need to get the poor woman to her husband, as quickly as possible. After the two are together a while, theyll settle back down. Seen it before, a hundred times." The Masai turned back to his readout. "Once the admiral gets on board, maybe you can see if someone will take the new warp shuttle to Vulcan, or wherever her husband is. Heard any scuttlebutt about who is coming with Admiral Sevral?"
"Oh, I already know, or at least I think I do. THira and Sorel."
MBenga turned to face Eletto, his usually calm appearance showing near panic. "Who?"
"TSorals parents, Sorel and THira. I asked Sevral to bring them when I asked him to come. Im willing to bet he did."
The chief medical officer pretended to clean one ear with a finger. "I must be having hearing trouble. I could swear you just said you asked an admiral to drop by on a social call, bringing his and TSorals parents, which includes her father, who is one of the most prestigious Vulcan physicians of all time, without even warning me. Please tell me Im not hearing you correctly."
"Wish I could, Keme, but I cant. TSorals going to need them all, badly, I think, especially her mother."
"Whats with her that her family needs to come running?" There was no mistaking the doctors consternation. "Youd think she was the one going into pon farr."
"A logical deduction, and an accurate one, Keme. And for an unmarried, unbetrothed Vulcan female, thats no trivial issue. Ive read and reread that section in the Tractate several times." Eletto sighed. "With all due respect, I thought we might need the help."
The two physicians locked eyes for a moment, then MBenga leapt out of his chair. "Marie! Weve got major dignitaries incoming, including Starfleet brass. Get Hardavs grubby carcass out of bed. I want him showered and shaved in five minutes. Weve got about an hour to get Sickbay into top form!" He looked at Eletto as he moved. "Ooooooh, am I going to get you for this. And Im going to get Uhura and Hardav to help. When this is over, you are going to suffer. Get to work, you crumb! Wed better be ready, or were all dead. Especially you."
Indri, somewhat uncomfortable in his dress uniform, guided the admirals personal Tai/ATai warp shuttle and sled to a gentle landing. Uhura, Drevan and MBenga walked out into the shuttle bay, Indri at their heels. The entrance to the Vulcan craft opened, a ramp extending to the deck. Sevral and his two guests exited. Drevan triggered the communicator to play the bosuns whistle.
Nodding to acknowledge the appropriate greeting, Sevral turned to Uhura. "Captain, allow me to extend my gratitude, and that of my parents, for your willingness to accommodate us on what was extremely short notice, particularly since we are here on personal business." There was no mistaking the fact that the admiral was well aware of TSorals absence.
Thankful that the admiral had made no comment on his sisters absence, Uhura smiled back. "In all honesty, Admiral, it is a pleasure to be able to entertain a little. I hope youll all be with us at least a couple of days; there will be a gala reception for you all, and Dietary is going to be terribly disappointed if you cant make it."
Sorel nodded sagely, taking control of the situation. "We will be more than pleased to remain long enough to join you in the reception. It would be illogical, as well as discourteous, to disappoint your staff." He turned to MBenga. "Baraka Keme MBenga. I remember you from your internship at ShiKahr. Your record with Starfleet has been quite acceptable, from your service aboard the Enterprise to serving as the Starfleet surgeon general to this posting aboard the Hyperion."
The Zulu-Masai half-breed bowed deeply. "Coming from one of your esteemed stature, such words are indeed great praise, Doctor. I am honored by your presence. I welcome you, your wife and son."
"Doctor, I desire deeply to speak with one of your staff, one Doctor Eletto. It was he who requested our arrival. Given that his request was most urgent, I would like to know why." The admiral turned to face the ships captain. "You will, I trust, forgive the implicit discourtesy, but under the circumstances, it appears to be my only logical course of action. I deduce that my daughters health and welfare may be at issue, a matter that must logically loom greatly in its importance."
"I quite understand, Admiral." Uhura turned, waving her hand toward the nearest turbolift. "I have some inkling of why you might have been summoned, but I believe it would be more logical for Doctors Eletto and Sorel to discuss it. Doctor MBenga?"
Silently, the chief medical officer led the threesome to the turbolift, escorting them to Sickbay.
In full dress uniform, Eletto stood, mediscanner in hand, obviously expecting them.
Sevral looked like he was about to speak, but was silenced by a gesture from his father. The Vulcan physician stared at Eletto for a moment before speaking. "Logic dictates that you have summoned us over a medical issue with TSoral. Since your request was urgent, I deduce that the issue is a dire one. I do not doubt your skills as a physician, Doctor, but I request the privilege of seeing the scans involved."
Eletto bowed slightly. "I would be honored to have you provide your opinion on the case, Doctor. I have read your Tractate, and I have the utmost respect for your remarkable skills in our field." He extended the mediscanner. "What I believe may be the most pertinent information is already displayed."
Taking the scanner, Sorel looked at it briefly. He turned to MBenga. "Doctor, if you would be kind enough to escort my wife to our daughters quarters?" He turned to THira. "Our daughter has need of a mothers wisdom, THira. Go to her."
The Vulcan woman nodded. It was clear that something had passed between the two, unknown to all others. "It is the most logical deduction." She disappeared with MBenga.
"My son, you must do due courtesy to the captain of this ship. If you would please see to that duty? There is need for me to speak with this physician in private. You need not fear for the long term welfare of your sister."
Sevral bowed. "Yes, my father." He made his way to the turbolift, disappearing into the door when it opened.
Sorel looked Eletto squarely in the face for a prolonged period of time. The Human returned the gaze without flinching. The Vulcan spoke first. "I have need of speaking with you in private, Doctor."
"Of course. Would you prefer an office here, or would you rather come to my quarters?"
The Vulcan physician showed a minor expression of surprise, quickly suppressed. "Since you offered your quarters, Doctor, I conjecture that you believe they might be the better place to proceed. If you will lead me to them?"
"Of course." Eletto led the Vulcan to the turbolift. He continued once they were inside. "As I am sure you have deduced, my quarters will afford us better privacy for this discussion. It is my belief that the privacy will be for your daughters benefit."
"I am grateful for your concern. Have you drawn a conclusion concerning her condition?"
Nodding, the Human led his companion out of the now opened turbolift door. "Of course I have, Sorel; otherwise, I would not have bothered you, THira and the admiral."
"I see." Sorel followed the Human through another door, waiting until the door closed before he continued. "I presume that you have reached the same conclusion that I have?
"Pon farr, of unusual severity, by now in medium development." The Human sat down, gesturing to the Vulcan to do likewise.
"I concur. It should be impossible, based on my knowledge of her personal status, her medical condition and Vulcan medicine." An uncomfortable quiet reigned, the Vulcan pointedly choosing to continue standing. "She has a rare disorder that renders her sterile, Doctor; under most circumstances, it should also render pon farr impossible."
"She made me aware of that. Thats why I wanted your confirmation on the diagnosis." Eletto felt like he was dancing in a minefield. He knew where Sorel had to be leading the conversation.
"Is there something new that you could share with me concerning my daughters status that might illuminate this situation?"
"As far as I know, your daughters honor remains intact, Doctor." Eletto let that sink in before continuing. "As does mine. I am aware that her being sterile renders her essentially unmarriageable in Vulcan culture, and of the significance of the problem where pon farr is concerned."
There was an almost imperceptible relaxing of Sorels posture; seeing it, Eletto allowed himself to relax as well. "I am glad to hear it. You understand that one of the commonest triggers of pon farr in women with her condition is an illicit sexual liaison, most often forcible or unwilling. Since the scan showed none of the endocrine tumors that occasionally trigger it, you must understand why I reached the tentative conclusion that I did. Since her letters home have been full of your being her student in Vulcan culture and language, it was most logical to think you were the most likely one. Unfortunately, this leaves her status unexplained."
Sorel walked across the cabin to Elettos desk, picking up the photograph of a woman. He turned it to Eletto. "Your wife, Doctor?"
"Yes, thats my Louise." Somehow, seeing the picture in the Vulcans hand and being asked about her caused him to be stricken by the reality of his wifes death more intensely than he had felt in long time. The Human averted his face from the Vulcans. "She died in an accident, years ago. The other pictures are my two sons, their wives and Daves son. Both women were pregnant, last I saw them."
"I perceive that the memory is a painful one for you. Forgive me. I did not know. How long has it been since you last saw them? Perhaps my son could arrange leave for you, when the children are due." Sorel made a point of sitting where it was obvious that he had seen the tears on the Humans face.
"That wont be possible, Sorel. Matt, my younger son, outlived Dave by a couple of years; Matt died a little more than a hundred and sixty years ago. As of last account, through their progeny, I have over ten thousand descendants." Eletto looked Sorel squarely in the face. "I was born in the year 2006, by Human reckoning, Sorel. I spent 235 years in suspended animation. The children Lynn and Adael carried are long since born, grown old and dead."
The Human shook his head. "Thats an irrelevancy. I beg your forgiveness for my emotional outburst, Sorel. It is not proper behavior in a Vulcans presence, especially not a being of your august stature."
"Your behavior was quite forgivable, Doctor, at least for a Human, especially in light of my implied accusation concerning your behavior, and I find the information quite relevant. It is precisely what I sought when I lifted the photograph. We still have no explanation for my daughters medical status. Can you offer any?"
"I can, Doctor." He closed his eyes for a moment, before continuing. "Talal-woo-hayan."
"Tahlal wu haan?"
"Yes. My Vulcan pronunciation remains poor, Im afraid."
"Few off Vulcan know of this, and even on Vulcan, not many know of it. How came you to know this thing, Doctor?"
"Some time back, one of our crew was kidnapped. We staged a clandestine operation to retrieve him; your daughter devised the whole thing, actually. It was a brilliant scheme, and successful to boot. To cut a long story short, she had to provide me with protection against a forced Vulcan mindmeld forcing me to reveal information that we needed to keep hidden. There was no other way to do it, and no one other than TSoral to do it."
Eletto looked briefly back at the picture of his deceased wife, then back at the Vulcan. "What she did was no more than was logically necessary, Sorel, believe me. Once the operation was concluded, the meld was terminated. Nothing else other than her teaching me the ways of your people has happened, other than duty on her part and on mine. My belief is that something she was exposed to in my mind may have triggered this present problem. Because of that, I feel intensely responsible for her continued welfare. As a fellow physician, you surely understand."
Sorels eyes strayed to the picture of Elettos long dead wife, then returned to the Humans face. "She would have had to seek deeply into the caverns of your katra to perform tahlal wu haan. There is no question that she would have touched and been touched by the memories of your relationship with your late wife. From your reaction when I picked up her picture, it is obvious that you had a very deep, very good relationship with your lifemate." The Vulcan concentrated briefly. "You are aware that I have some passing familiarity with the intricacies of the Human mind?"
"I understand that you spent very nearly two years in continuous meld with a Human physician to produce the translation of your Tractate. I would be deeply surprised if you didnt have a thorough understanding of a great deal of the Human psyche. If youre thinking that you want to meld with me to try to learn something that might help your daughter, Im willing. Frankly, I expected it. Thats why I thought that my quarters might be a better place to discuss this. Just let me get comfortable first." Eletto shifted himself slightly in his chair.
"Your Human colleague was of profound assistance when THira and I faced pon farr at an inconvenient time. Perhaps between what I learn and your assistance, TSorals pon farr can be minimized and perhaps delayed, if not satisfactorily resolved." Eletto said nothing. He relaxed, allowing his head to loll backward against the chair. Sorels hand touched the side of Elettos face. "My mind, Doctor Eletto, to your mind, and my thoughts to yours."
Unlike his first contact with the meld, Eletto found the tendrils of Sorels awareness to be less timid than his daughters had been; they were confident as they sought his center of awareness, almost as if they were on paths they had seen many times before, and had mapped out well. Within instants, he could sense Sorels consciousness.
My daughter performed well in tahlal wu haan. The barrier is powerful and well constructed.
The Human was somewhat surprised at how powerful Sorels presence was. Your daughter is a conscientious worker, Sorel.
I need past this. I will need your help. You must carry me through these walls, if you will.
Youre going to have to tell me what to do because Ive got no idea how to get you there, but Ill do whatever it takes.
Very few do. There are no words. I must show you.
Following Sorels instructions, Eletto helped the Vulcan bypass the barriers TSoral had set up. If it would be easier for you, you can send me to sleep now, Sorel. When you have learned what you need, awaken me. I wish to commune further, before the meld breaks. I have a thought about how to resolve this problem permanently, but it will need agreement from all four of you, particularly TSoral.
I see your thoughts. I will awaken you. Sleep, now.
MBenga led THira to her daughters quarters, pointing to the door. "Your daughter is in here, THira. Will you need me further?"
"Only if she will not allow me in, Doctor." The Vulcan moved to the door, triggering the annunciator.
The voice was almost unrecognizable. "Who is it?"
"It is I, my daughter, THira. May I come in?"
"Please, Mother. Please come in." MBenga took his cue and hurried off to the turbolift, leaving the two alone.
The door slid shut behind THira. Mother and daughter looked at each other. It was clear that TSoral had been in tears. She was holding her knees to her chest, rocking slightly, sitting on her bed. The elder woman sat near her daughter. "Tell me about it, my child."
"I dont know how to tell you, Mother. Nothing like this has ever happened to me in my whole life. It feels like my mind is disintegrating, and like my insides are all tied up in knots. Father said this couldnt happen to me, he was so sure it couldnt. What am I going to do, Mother? Its not like I have a husband to turn to, to relieve this."
"Youll do what you must, darling. Even for women, pon farr is not easy. I doubt that the equivalent in the females of other sentient species is much easier." As mothers have done to daughters across the millennia and across the lines of countless sentient species, THira gently stroked her daughters hair, but being a Vulcan, carefully avoided contact with her skin. "Sorel will find a way for you. Do not worry."
"Captain Uhura said almost the same thing to me, Mother." With her mothers presence, the younger woman relaxed a little. "Except that she didnt mention Father. She talked about Doctor Eletto and Doctor MBenga, but she said the same about them. She is a wise woman. When I was starting to find it hard to manage, she took me aside and talked to me like a mother, too. Mothers must be very much alike in Vulcans and Humans."
"Perhaps so, child, perhaps so. I have not known any Human mothers well enough to find out; it might be a very interesting study. I suspect there are aspects of motherhood that transcend time, space and most species. It is logical that it should be so." THira tilted her head to one side. "You are exhausted, my daughter. You must rest. Regulation Starfleet uniforms are hardly suitable for sleep. Let me help you prepare for bed, then tuck you in, as I used to do when you were a child."
Oddly, TSoral found the offer pleasing, indeed comforting. "I would like that, Mother." She retrieved her nightwear from a drawer, letting THira help her change, then slipping between the sheets on her bed. Tenderly, THira smoothed the coverings over her daughter. "Tell me of this Human, Eletto. What do you think he believes about your status?"
"I am sure he is very concerned, Mother. He is a very good doctor, almost as good as Father. He is also interested in Vulcanthe language, the history, Surak, everything." TSoral pulled her coverings tightly against her chin. "For a Human, he is remarkably controlled, and very intelligent."
Gently caressing her daughters hair, THira looked her daughter in the eyes. "Your father seemed to agree when he sent me to you, my child. Is there something I need to know about your relationship with him?"
"Not really, Mother, not that I havent already told you, anyway. He is very nice, but he is Human: somewhat excessive emotionally." It was clear that TSoral was becoming drowsy. "We havent done anything unchaste, if thats what youre thinking. Dont worry; hes a good man, very virtuous. For a Human, I mean. And there isnt any other to worry about."
"I was not worried, my child, at least about that." The elder Vulcan allowed herself a smile. "But it is good to know. Sleep, TSoral." She began to softly croon a Vulcan lullaby, her voice lulling her child into a peaceful, sound sleep. Before long, TSorals breathing became regular, and her mental signature clearly indicated she was deeply and peacefully asleep. THira touched her first two fingers against her daughters forehead, then silently left her to such dreams as might come.
There were days, Uhura concluded, when sanity was certainly not an asset, and she was completely certain that this was one of them. A valued crewmember incapacitated because she had gone into the Vulcan version of estrus, with the impromptu visit by her brother, who just happened to be an admiral, to say nothing of getting rooms ready for him and the parents that came along. Then she had had to play nursemaid to Admiral Sevral, showing him around the Hyperion as if he was a civilian, trying to find something useful to say to a being who probably had memorized the engineering diagrams of the ship.
When Sorel summoned his son to meet with him, she felt like someone had taken a small planet off her shoulders. She had returned to her quarters, her duty shift long since over, and tried to relax. That had been a total waste of time. Not even a long, hot bath had helped. She sighed. Worse yet, she had a real, hull-banging headache. For an instant, she toyed with putting her uniform back on and seeing who was in Sickbay, but before she could make up her mind, the annunciator chimed.
"Who is it?"
"Its me. Keme. May I come in?"
She didnt need told the name; she recognized the voice. "Gimme a sec, will you?" She threw a robe over herself, belting it loosely around her waist. "Come on in."
The chief medical officer entered the door, carrying a tray full of food. "And hows my favorite patient? Is our head hurting us, Captain?"
"Oh, man, you must read minds, Keme. Theres a little Klingon in there, trying to beat his way out of my skull with a really mean set of brass knuckles. You timed it perfectly. Wheres that medikit of yours?"
"You dont need drugs, woman; you need food. I checked the ships records. You barely ate breakfast, and you never got lunch or supper while you were playing the hostess with the mostest for that admiral." MBenga put the tray down, uncovering one plate. "Smell the aroma. Taste the flavor. Goodbye hunger headache."
Feeling sheepish, Uhura realized he was right; somehow, shed never gotten around to eating. The aroma of the plate full of food made her mouth water and her belly growl. She attacked the food with a vengeance. The doctor uncovered his own plate, joining her at a much more modest rate. "Oh, man, Keme, you are a genius." Between forks full, she leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "Youre absolutely wonderful."
He shrugged. "Just doing my job." He loaded his fork again, stopping while it was only halfway to his mouth, then putting it down again. For a moment, he watched the captain eating. "Nyota, theres something I need to say." He paused, briefly. "I love you. I mean it. Ive loved you from a distance for years, and never been able to say it."
The Bantu leaned over, kissing him. "Id sort of guessed that, the way youve been acting on the Hyperion, you know, but its wonderful to hear it. Have you any idea how long Ive wanted to hear that from you? And I love you, too. Honest."
"Probably almost as long as Ive wished to say it and hear it." Out of a pocket in his uniform, MBenga produced a thin golden band with two modest-sized diamonds. "Marry me, Nyota. Weve both been fools long enough, thinking the other one wasnt interested. I almost lost you in that ion storm, and that made me realize how important you really are to me. Please. We could retire, buy that bungalow on the beach and be happy for the rest of our lives. All you need to do is say yes."
One hand went to her mouth, and her eyes opened wide, staring at the ring MBenga held. "Keme, its beautiful. Where on Earth did you find it?"
"It was my mothers, and her mothers as well. Ive been carrying it with me for I cant remember how long, waiting for this moment. Will you marry me? Do I have to get on my knee before youll answer? If you want, Ill beg."
"Yes, yes, yes, yes. Ill marry you, Keme!" She leaned over, holding MBenga tightly, kissing him over and over. Uhura straightened up. MBenga slid the ring onto her finger, Uhura watching, savoring the moment. She held it up, admiring it. "It even fits. How on Earth did you do it?"
"Running Bears done a lot of jewelry over the years, or so he said. He just had to stretch it a little. Hes got all the tools; he even keeps a handful of plain rings of different sizes and metals all made up in advance, and mountings for stones and the like, so he can provide what people want quickly. The mans actually got a nice side business going; hes good."
The captains eyes locked with her mans, then dropped to the floor. "I guess its a matter of setting a date, isnt it."
"Why looking so sad, darling? Id have thought youd be as elated as I am."
"I just wish that Starfleet wasnt as negative as it is about officers marrying each other." She gently stroked his cheek. "If I thought I could find a way of managing it, Id marry you tomorrow, Keme, but Starfleet would have a fit. Neither of us really wants to retire. Well, I dont. Do you?"
Gently, MBenga caressed Uhuras cheek in return. "No, I dont really want to retire, but if thats what it takes for us to marry, Id do it in a heartbeat. Its going to be years before this mission is over, and I just cant bear to wait that long. Didnt you ever dream about this?"
Smiling contentedly, Uhura snuggled up against MBenga, letting him wrap his arm around her. "Oh, yes, Keme. Ever since I was a little girl, Ive dreamed about marrying some big, handsome lummox like you. When I was about twelve, I even drew a picture of me in my wedding dress; it was ivory colored, with puffy shoulders, and nearly skintight sleeves. Up on top, on the bodice, it had lots and lots of fancy stitching, kind of like lace, then it fell to the floor, almost. I thought it was just the most beautiful thing Id ever drawn, even though it was really sort of childishly done." She giggled at herself. "I never did get around to drawing in the groom, you know, but Ive treasured the picture for years and years. Its in my scrapbook, in the drawer. For years, Ive been tempted to draw you next to me, but Ive never quite had the nerve. I never told anyone else about that picture." She looked up. "Did you ever dream like that?"
"Well, I never dreamed of wearing a wedding dress, no." Uhura playfully punched him in the ribs. "Okay, okay, dont get mean on me yet." The Masai smiled tenderly, looking down at his fiancée. "I never really thought of what Id wear at the wedding or anything like that; I dont think most males do. All I ever dreamed about was looking at that special someone, and hearing her say shed marry me, in front of all the witnesses and everyone, then spending the rest of my life being her knight in shining armor." Uhura snuggled tighter, closing her eyes happily. "I guess thats silly, isnt it?"
"No, Keme, not to me." The captain looked up at her man. "It sounds beautiful, and very romantic." She paused for a moment. "We need to tell the crew, Doctor."
"I want to tell everyone, everywhere, Captain. Its a pity TSorals in such a state, or Id have her broadcast it on subspace."
Suddenly, Uhura sat up. "TSoral! How is she, Keme? Here I am, thinking just of myself, forgetting my crew."
Surprisingly, MBenga didnt find himself annoyed by her sudden, almost maternal interest in TSoral. More than anything, it was pleasing to him. "I talked to THira after shed been to see TSoral. THira is pretty impressed with you, woman, almost as impressed as I am. Dunno what you two women were doing in that ready room, but it did TSoral a load of good. Sorel thinks he may have her back at her usual station tomorrow, but he wasnt promising anything. They both made some very complimentary remarks about your having been, how did they put it? An excellent surrogate parent for their distressed daughter, something like that. Thats where I part company with the VulcansIm thinking of you more as a wife."
"Mmm... Wife. I like the sound of that." Uhura sighed. "Especially your wife. I just wish we could find a way to be married soon, and still stay on the Hyperion together." She shook her head. "If we could solve that, Keme, I really would marry you tomorrow, you know. Id even be willing to forgo that fancy ivory satin dress Ive always dreamed of." She lifted her hand, looking at the ring adorning her finger. She looked back at her beau. "And thats giving up a lot, buster."
Clearing her lap she stood up. "Its late, Keme. I dont want this moment to end, but we both have to be up and moving tomorrow, and with TSorals family on board, we have to be in top form. I dont know about you, but I need some sleep."
"Headache gone, my beloved, very practical, soon-to-be-my-wife, Captain?"
"Almost, soon-to-be-my-husband. Now scoot, or theyll cook up all sorts of gossip about us, and then well both really have headaches." The Bantu pulled her man to his feet, kissing him passionately. "Ive waited this long. Ill give you a month or two more to think up a way around this. If we cant, then maybe we will have to retire to marry." She looked at her hand again. "I think Ill see how long it takes the bridge crew to notice the ring before I tell everyone."
Hungrily, MBenga held her against himself, then reluctantly let her go. "Tell em however you like. As for me, finding a way to marry you as soon as I can will consume every moment I have. Once it gets around, itll probably consume a lot of the crew, for that matter. When he caught the man resizing your ring, Indri already started plotting with Running Bear on ways to circumvent the brass on this. Toss in a few otherslike Giac and Hardavalong with you and me, and its just a matter of time."
"Ill be ready, handsome. Now shoountil tomorrow." She looked at the ring again. "Ill be dreaming of you, as always."
Leaving demanded every scrap of professionalism and willpower MBenga had.
The alarm at TSorals bedside began chirping. Turning it off, TSoral toyed with going back to sleep. It had been a month or more since she had slept soundly, and the captain had implicitly given her permission to withdraw from her duties for a day or two. The sensual focus of pon farr, she decided, had minor, if illogical, points. The Vulcan rolled over, intent on sleeping a little longer.
Up and at it, Lieutenant TSoral. Captain Uhura will, I think, want you on the bridge very badly today. Pon farr is under control, for nowat least until Sorel and I find a more permanent solution that is acceptable to you.
The Vulcan shot upright in her bed. Doctor Eletto! What are you doing in my mind?
At the moment, Im handling your rather rampant sexuality, to be blunt. You no doubt recall the episode with your parents entering pon farr during the translation of the Tractate. Im doing the same thing, more or less. Your father put me into a meld with you, while you slept.
But youre male. I am female.
I had noticed. Last I heard, so is THira, unless there is some deep dark family secret among Vulcans that the rest of us dont know about. Eletto allowed himself the mental version of a chuckle. Your brother, your parents and I discussed this at some length, last night. I volunteered to do this for you, for the time being, anyway. We have discussed a possible long-term solution, but I need to talk to you about it face to face, tonight after duty shift. Please come to Sickbay when youre done on the bridge. I will await your arrival.
Suddenly, TSoral felt exposedand then, as swiftly, the embarrassment disappeared. How can you handle this? Why are you doing it? And what makes you think the captain would need me today, more than any other day?
To answer your questions in order: Im not sure how Im handling it myself. This isnt a piece of cake, believe me; there are profound differences between rampant sexuality in men and women, it seems. As to why, well, among other, far more significant reasons, because your being in pon farr is probably a result of your activities in tahlal wu haan with me. As for your last question, well, if you can be on the bridge five minutes without figuring it out why Uhura is dying to have you there, youre just not trying. Now shower and get to the bridge, or youre going to miss out on all the fun. Move it.
The confusion and emotional difficulty of pon farr was gone, TSoral realized, or very nearly so. Unsure what to make of Elettos cryptic remarks, the Vulcan hurriedly prepared herself for her days tasks, choosing to save time by skipping breakfast. Curiosity about why Uhura might need her was eating her up. In moments, she stepped out of the turbolift onto the bridge.
Uhura was facing away from the turbolift, talking to Drevan at Science Two, when TSoral arrived. Hearing the turbolift open, the captain turned to see who was arriving. "TSoral! Its good to see you back! How are you feel...I mean, how are you?"
"I am considerably better, Captain. Doctor Eletto and my father have managed to temporize the situation, at least. I believe I am able to resume my duties." As she moved to the communications console, she noticed the captains left hand, and the ring on her finger. "The ring is beautiful, Captain. I do not recall seeing it before."
The Bantus face lit up when the Vulcan mentioned the ring. It was obvious she had been waiting, hoping someone would notice it without her having to mention it herself. "You havent. I received it last night." She held her hand up, displaying the engagement ring to the Vulcan woman. "Apparently, its a family heirloom."
ODoul looked up from communications, then scuttled over as quickly as she could. "Its beautiful. Does it mean what I think it does?"
"It does. We havent figured out when yet."
"Doctor MBenga, Captain?" TSoral had no doubts, but she knew it was proper to ask.
"Yes, TSoral. Keme proposed last night, and I said yes." Even the men on the bridge were coming over to look at Uhuras hand and admire the ring. "Okay, folks, I appreciate the attention, but weve got a starship to maintain, and Im sure that the admiral wont be amused if we let the ship fall apart around us. Lets at least keep some of the posts manned while you look at my ring!"
The crew obeyed, but there was an undertone of excitement that remained. As TSoral moved to her console, she heard Elettos mental voice. Now you know! Wasnt it worth waiting for that revelation?
MBenga was busily reviewing Davids records from the night before when THira arrived. He looked up, and when he saw who had arrived, he stood. "Lady THira, welcome. I trust that I find you in good health. Your presence honors me."
"You are too kind, Doctor." The Vulcan womans composed presence seemed to dominate the room. "I come asking for information."
"What I know is yours for the asking, THira. I still remember your kindness to a certain intern many years ago, and still feel my debt to you deeply. I am eager to return your kindness as best I can." MBenga gestured toward a chair in a nearby consultation area. She sat, and the physician sat across from her. "How may I be of assistance?"
"Your captain spoke at length with my daughter yesterday. Her words were greatly appreciated by my daughter, and the wisdom they contained was most helpful to her. Her father and I wish to give her some token of our gratitude, something very significant that she would treasure as much as we treasure what she has done for TSoral. It was suggested to us by Doctor Eletto that you would be able to assist us."
"I believe that I know just the thing, Lady THira, although you might need to enlist the help of Nurse Webb in refining the details. There is, I believe, a scrapbook in her quarters with a picture she drew in it. It is a picture of her in a dress, made out of an ivory colored satin..."
As exhilarating as the day had been for her, with almost every being on the Hyperion making an excuse to arrive on the bridge to ogle the ring on her finger and to congratulate her on her engagement to MBenga, Uhura was glad to be off the bridge and heading toward her cabin. Seeing TSoral back on the bridge had been good, especially since shed been the first one to notice the ring. Given what the Vulcan had been enduring made her discovering the engagement ring even more special.
To Uhuras amazement, despite enjoying the limelight, she was exhausted. When MBenga had confessed that he was stuck in Sickbay for a few more hours, and unable to join her for dinner, the Bantu woman was actually relieved. Her agenda was simple: a light supper, a long, lazy bath and then rummaging in her limited wardrobe to find something other than her formal dress uniform to wear to the gala reception planned for the admiral and his parents. She stepped through the door to her cabin, trying to remember what there was in her small closet that MBenga hadnt seen her wearing a dozen times or more. There was that red leather thing from Bacchus; she hadnt had a chance to wear that, but she wasnt sure it would be suitable. There had been a couple of other things shed picked up there, but none seemed like they would do for a reception for an admiral and his parents. She turned to the closet the moment she entered the room.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a moderately large box on her bed, wrapped and sporting a large bow. Curiosity piqued, she shifted her attention to it, wondering who had managed to get into her cabin to leave it. There was a small envelope attached under the bow, with Uhuras name written on it in what looked like a feminine, but strong, hand. She opened it. The note inside was in the same hand:
"Thank you for being a surrogate mother to my child. Please accept this token of our gratitude. We would appreciate it if you would honor us by wearing it at the reception tomorrow. THira."
Relieved to be freed of the task of deciding what to wear, she opened the box, gasping in astonishment as she did. Snatching it out of the box and holding it against herself, she turned to the mirror. It was almost as if someone had seen the picture of herself in a wedding dress. Gently, almost reverently, she lay the dress on her bed. It even looked like it would be a perfect fit. Feeling almost like a school girl preparing for her first prom, she hurried into the shower, eager to see herself in the gift.
When TSoral stepped out of the turbolift into Sickbay, Eletto was standing in front of her, holding a basket. "Cmon. Lets do a picnic supper." The physician moved to keep the turbolift from disappearing. "No ones going to be in the Arboretum this evening, TSoral; well have it all to ourselves. Ill bet youve never been on a picnic before, have you?"
We are in mindmeld, Doctor, remember? There is no need to speak.
I know, TSoral. "There are some things I just need to say out loud, Lieutenant. Its a Human thing, I guess. Are you game?" Eletto stepped halfway into the door. "Dinners on me."
Somewhat confused, but willing to oblige, TSoral stepped into the turbolift. Moments later, Eletto was spreading out the cloth for the picnic, and laying out the food he had brought. When the Human finally sat down, the Vulcan joined him, not at all clear what to do next. "Help yourself, TSoral. Its all vegetables, fruits and such; no meat." Eletto took his own advice. Tentatively, at first, then enthusiastically, she joined him. "It is an unusual custom, this picnic, but a pleasing one. Is it something that Humans do often?"
"I guess it depends on the Human. Some people love picnics; others hate them. I used to do them a lot with Louise." He helped himself to more salad. "My kids hated them."
TSoral nodded, mildly surprised to hear Eletto speak his late wifes name without her perceiving a strong overtone of sorrow. "A matter of taste, I am sure. I find it strange, but very pleasant." She concentrated on her food for a moment. "Do you not find it strange, carrying the emotional surges of my pon farr?"
"Definitely strange." I am seeing maleness in a really different way, and its not wholly complimentary. What seems so natural and commonplace to me is so exotic and fascinating to you, and perhaps a little frightening. You certainly satisfied a lot of your curiosity during tahlal wu haan.
TSorals ears tinted a light shade of green. It seemed logical, at the time. The preparation for the procedure, you understand...
"I understand, TSoral. Im not upset over it. You were most professional, Im sure." Seeing that they were both done eating, the Human began putting things back in the hamper. "TSoral, you realize that what Im doing right now to help you cope isnt something I can do forever. This can only delay the inevitable, not prevent it. We need to discuss a long term solution."
"You spoke of it this morning, Doctor, and refused to provide further information. I am curious to know how Father felt this could be handled." The Vulcan averted her eyes from Eletto for a moment, then returned them to his face. There is only one solution of which I am aware, Doctor, and without a husband, it is not an honorable one.
"Sorel, THira, Sevral and I discussed this at some length, before your father put us into this meld. We feel there is a potentially acceptable solution that will resolve this without tarnishing your honor. However, it is a solution that you must be willing to accept." It almost seemed that the Human was unsure of himself, almost afraid to go on; he was fumbling in a pocket, nervously fingering its contents. "Being an admiral, your brother could do the ceremony. He even said hed do it tomorrow, if it was suitable to you. Your parents have given their permission. Its all up to you."
Despite her Vulcan training, TSorals face clearly registered puzzlement. "Naturally, Doctor. Since I would be the one undergoing the procedure, and I am a competent adult, the final decision must be mine. You have not yet told me what it is that you propose."
"I never was any good at this sort of thing. Louise always teased me about how ineptly I did it, and I know even less about how this is done among Vulcans. Im botching it up again."
"At least you are consistent; consistency is a virtue. I am surprised that you performed medical procedures on your wife, Doctor." One of TSorals eyebrows arched. "You still have not explained what you propose."
Flustered, Eletto produced a ring out of his pocket, blurting, "Marriage."
Do not be absurd. I am sterile, remember? No Vulcan male would accept a sterile mate.
Im not talking about you marrying some Vulcan male; Im talking about you marrying me. I have grandchildren and great grandchildren that were born, lived long lives and died before you were born. I do not need to worry about offspring. Realizing he had shifted to communicating in the mindmeld, Eletto shifted back to audible speech. He held the ring, between thumb and forefinger. "Ive carried this ring with me ever since I took it off Louises cold, dead hand, long before you were born, TSoral. I even had it on me in the hibernaculum, as I waited to be rescued, and Ive worn it almost continuously since. It was the ring I gave her when she agreed to marry me. I know Im probably not the kind of man a Vulcan woman would prefer; Im probably much too emotional, but, well, I..." His voice petered out. Im making a mess of this.
Then this is the more important reason for you to aid me? To be a good physician, giving his all to help a patient in need? The words carried a negative overtone.
No. We are in meld. Look for yourself, TSoral. Ever since Bacchus, Ive realized how empty Ive felt, how much Ive wanted someone to share my life with, like I did with my Louise. Ill never quit loving her, but I realized then that theres room in my heart to love again. To love you, aduna. Patiently, Eletto gave the Vulcan time to grasp what he was saying, then he continued. "Again, will you be my wife?"
TSoral held up her left hand, two fingers extended. "Yes, Mister Omo."
The Human touched his fingers to hers, in the traditional Vulcan sign of affection, smiling at TSoral using the nickname his Louise had once used. Then, he gently lowered her hand, slipping the ring on her finger. THira said you would wish to spend tonight and tomorrow in meditation with her, if you accepted. I have put you on medical leave for that period of time. Tomorrow, beloved.
Tomorrow. TSoral rose. For now, I must meditate. Swiftly, she moved to the turbolift.
Eletto sat in the Arboretum for a moment or two more, then did the same.
Uhura had to admit that the crew had done a magnificent job turning the dining area into a festive place. All but the barest minimum of personnel were away from their posts, reveling in the chance to enjoy each others company on the Federations tab. She also had to admit that she enjoyed MBengas reaction when he picked her up at her cabin and saw her in the new dress. With a little prodding, he confessed to having told THira and having scrounged in her scrapbook, but she forgave him easily. There was no mistaking the fact that she and MBenga were more the topic of discussion that the admiral and his parents.
For what must have been the tenth time, Uhura looked over the throng of people present, trying to find THira or Sorel, again unsuccessfully. She turned to MBenga. "Keme, either you need to check my eyes, or THira and Sorel arent here. Do you see them?"
"Nope, and that rather surprises me. TSorals conspicuous by her absence, too. I wonder if there has been a minor crisis with TSoral and her pon farr. Looks like Elettos missing, too; that almost clinches it." The Masais eye landed on Sevral. "Hey, theres the admiral. Why dont we ask him?"
Dragging Uhura along with him, MBenga made his way to the admiral. Sevral turned to them. "Captain, you are magnificent. My mother will be very pleased to see that the dress fits so well."
"Thank you, Admiral. Actually, I was looking for your parents, hoping to thank them for it. It was really far too extravagant, and it is really appreciated."
The Vulcan bowed slightly. "Sorel and THira will be here shortly, Captain. There was a minor issue to handle for my sister. When THira arrives, you can tell her yourself. From what I overhear, you and Doctor MBenga have some grand news of your own. I congratulate you both, and wish you well with your betrothal. Do you have a date chosen to be wed?"
"Not yet, Admiral." Uhura tried to keep her face unemotional. "There is an issue or two that we must resolve before we decide to set a date."
"Ah, of course." Sevral nodded sagely. "I deduce that you are agonizing over whether or not to retire then marry, to marry and announce your retirement immediately thereafter, or to wait the many long years until you have finished your time on the Hyperion, then marry."
"Well put, Admiral." It was MBengas voice. "Frankly, if I could find a way around Starfleets unwillingness to have officers married to each other, Id marry her on the spot." He looked over at his fiancée and captain. "Youre certainly looking beautiful enough to be the bride."
Uhura smiled demurely. "Flattery will get you nowhere, no matter how much its appreciated." She turned to the admiral. "But I have to admit, I agree with Doctor MBenga. If I could have found a way, Id have married him last night."
"I see. It seems to me that Starfleets stance discouraging marriages between crewmembers is illogical; we deny those who are protecting the freedoms of the citizens of the Federation one of the most pleasant benefits of the freedom they are there to protect. Starfleet Command has been struggling with this issue since Spock went into pon farr many years ago. The resolution of that issue, though perhaps disappointing to my cousin, spared Starfleet Command the necessity of addressing the marriage issue urgently."
To Uhuras surprise, she thought she saw a twinkle of merriment in the Vulcans eyes. "I believe I sense my parents and sister coming. Unquestionably, Doctor Eletto will be with them. I need to have a word with them before they enter the room. If you will excuse me?" Without waiting for permission, he made his way toward the other end of the room.
"At least hes on our side, Keme." The captain turned to watch Sevral. After a few moments of discussion with Sorel, the admiral called a crewman over, dispatching him with some instruction or other. As expected, Eletto turned up with TSoral and her parents. There was a quick interchange between the Human physician and the admiral, culminating in Eletto disappearing into the Arboretum for a moment or two, dragging a crewman with him.
Uhura shook her head. "Looks like there may be more trouble with TSoral and pon farr. Look at her, Keme. Ive never seen a Vulcan come that close to looking nervous." Eletto stepped out of the Arboretum, moving back to the Vulcans, staring at Uhura and MBenga, talking rapidly to Sevral.
"Werent you on the ship when Spock went into pon farr?"
"The whole time, Keme. Spock wasnt scared, remember? He was scary, almost vicious. We were all running scared, not Spock." As she spoke, the crewman returned to the room, slipping the admiral a small package. Uhura tried to steer MBenga over to a table full of refreshments, but the Masai stood his ground. "Hey, you. Im thirsty, and were engaged. Shouldnt you offer me some punch or something?"
Obligingly, but still watching the admiral, MBenga moved toward the punch table. "Nyota, something is afoot, and Im not sure what. Im beginning to think that I may be needed for medical reasons. Eletto, Sorel and Sevral keep looking at us and talking."
"If Sorel cant handle it, Baraka Keme MBenga, were sunk anyway. Come on." Before Uhura could get to the punch bowl, the Vulcan admiral suddenly moved to the entrance to the Arboretum. Out of the door, Indri and Running Bear came, both in Vulcan garb, Indri holding an almost coffin-shaped gong, a hammer hanging from its frame, and Running Bear carrying a frame of the same shape, in which rows of bells were suspended from thin metal bars around which Running Bear was managing to rotate them, making them ring. "What on Earth?"
MBengas eyes widened. "Nothing on Earth, sweet one. This is from Vulcan. The only time Ive ever seen what Indri and Running Bear are toting is during the culmination of pon farr. I think were in for something unusual."
Sevral stood next to the two engineers, calling loudly. "Gentlebeings, if I may have your attention, please!"
The room went silent, every eye turning to the Sevral. Sorel and THira moved, standing just behind their son. The admiral continued. "TSoral, come. Eletto, come." They obeyed. TSoral stood near Indri and the gong. Sorel unhooked the hammer, drawing it back, striking the gong a powerful blow, as Sevral continued. "Sister, it is time." She nodded. Sevral looked at Eletto, who walked over to Sorel, taking the hammer from him. Eletto drew back to strike the gong, watching TSoral.
"This is where TPring interrupted things, and jilted Spock," MBenga hissed. Uhura shushed him, watching.
Uninterrupted, Eletto struck the gong. MBenga, and the other Vulcans present, shouted in Vulcan. Confused, Uhura leaned over. "Would you mind explaining this to me? None of this makes sense at all. What on Earth is Sevral doing?"
The chief medical officer was spared explanations by the admiral. "By the customs and laws of the Vulcan people, these two are now wed. However, there are two races involved. Out of courtesy to the Humans present..."
The captain leaned to her beau, somewhat incredulous. "What did he just say?"
"That theyre married by Vulcan custom and law, Nyota. Now, hush."
"MBenga, Uhura. Come, stand beside your friends."
MBenga almost had to shake Uhura to get her to move. Swiftly, they obeyed, MBenga standing next to Eletto, Uhura next to TSoral.
"Doctor Eletto, what token do you offer TSoral as your pledge in matrimony?"
He fished a golden wedding band out of a pocket. "This ring." Eletto took TSorals left hand in his own, sliding the ring onto her finger, against the engagement ring.
"TSoral, what token do you offer to Doctor Eletto as your pledge in matrimony?"
"I offer this ring."
Uhura realized that the wedding band that Eletto had worn as long as she had known him was in TSorals hand, being placed on his temporarily bare finger.
Sevral nodded. "Gentlebeings, by the power vested in me by Starfleet Command, I now declare TSoral of Vulcan and Eletto of Earth to be husband and wife."
All present erupted in cheers as Eletto extended his index and great fingers, to be touched by TSorals in the Vulcan equivalent of a kiss. MBenga grabbed Elettos hand. "Giac, congratulations and best wishes."
Deciding to ignore Vulcan custom, Uhura hugged TSoral. "Im so happy for you, TSoral. Congratulations, best wishes, long life and prosperity." She moved toward THira, to thank her for the dress. Before she could say or do anything, she was interrupted.
"Gentlebeings!" Sevral almost had to shout to be heard. "If I may have your attention for just a little while longer?"
Eletto and TSoral separated, moving to either side of MBenga and Uhura. The admiral turned to face the two Humans. "You are both suspended from duty. I will assume responsibility for this ship, and my father will act as the chief medical officer in your sickbay."
MBenga opened his mouth, but was silenced by the Vulcan admiral holding up one hand.
"Doctor MBenga, did you mean what you said about Captain Uhura when you spoke to me a moment ago?"
Comprehension replaced anger on the Humans face. "Yes." The single word carried surprisingly deep meaning.
"Captain Uhura, do you stand by your remarks in that same conversation?"
She smiled. "I certainly do." She moved next to MBenga, turning to face the admiral. "Are you offering?"
Sevrals eyebrow lifted. "Turn around, Captain, and see what you think."
She turned. Behind her, on a serving table, two of the staff from Dietary were putting the finishing touches on a wedding cake, Ghassi fluttering around them supervising. There were two brides and two grooms standing on top of it: one of the brides was Vulcan, standing next to a light-skinned Human. The other bride and groom were dark skinned, the groom in Starfleet dress uniform, the bride in an ivory dress. She turned back to Sevral, to see a pair of gold wedding bands in his hand. "Your engineer, Running Bear, was kind enough to provide these, as his gift, if you wish to proceed. Sorel and I can give you three days before we have to leave and return you to duty. Lieutenant Commander Ghassi says youll have room service, so you can have some semblance of a honeymoon."
"Looks like youve thought of everything, Sevral. Keme, if youre still willing, lets do it."
MBenga took her hand, his grin showing his brilliantly white teeth. "Times wasting, Admiral."
Handing the appropriate rings to the two attendants, Sevral led Uhura and MBenga through the Human wedding vows. As the last ring was put in place, Sevral had all four beings turn to face the crew. "I now pronounce them husband and wife. You may now kiss your bride." MBenga turned to Uhura, holding her close. Sevral turned to Eletto. "Both of you."
TSoral met Eletto half way.
The captain snuggled against her chief medical officers side. "Worth the wait, Keme?"
"Mmm. Id hardly want to judge a pie on the first bite, but yes, beloved. Well worth the wait." He wrapped one arm around her, hugging her against himself. "Hows my brand-new bride?"
"Convinced youre a greedy boy." She giggled softly. "Im a little sore, but Im not surprised at that. More important, Im happy, Keme, very happy. Ive dreamed about this for a long, long time. And I even got the wedding gown Ive dreamed about since I was a little girl, on top of getting the man of my dreams. What more could I ask?"
"Someone to find a way for us to stay on the Hyperion together." MBenga rolled to face Uhura, gently rubbing his nose against hers. "But Sevral said hed take the helm for a few days. Weve got more important things to think about until then."
"Yes. Much more important, Husband." She pulled MBenga to her, kissing him intensely. "I intend to make up for a lot of lost time."
The cabin was almost totally dark; only the wan light of the lights on the devices in the room provided anything to see by. Human and Vulcan lay, arms wrapped around each other, both bodies and minds in contact.
I love you, Doctor Omo.
Coming from a Vulcan, that is beautiful to hear. In the meld, Eletto shared the physical sensations that his Vulcan bride did; it had been a strange experience, but one that was surprisingly pleasant. TSorals little play on the old nickname was almost as pleasant. I love you too, Mrs. Omo. I wish I could have spared you some of the grief you had, wrestling with pon farr and not knowing what you were enduring.
TSoral ran a finger around the top of Elettos ear. I wish I had known how you felt, Giac. You werent really interested in learning Vulcan, were you?
Not true! I was hoping I could learn enough to propose in Vulcan, to tell you how I felt in your native language. And think how much more time youll have to teach me now! He nuzzled her neck gently, not only enjoying performing the deed, but enjoying the fact that he shared her perception of it, and her enjoyment of his doing it. Among Humans, we say that the language of your childhood is your language of love.
For Vulcans, it is the meld, aduna. If you had asked, I could have saved you a lot of trouble.
Eletto sighed. If I had known you would consider it, I could have proposed a long time ago and saved us both a lot of trouble. Louise always said I was terrible about expressing my hearts contents.
You will have no trouble now. I can see directly. There was a brief pause before she continued. Is it different with a Vulcan?
Yes and no, my love, aduna. From the strictly physical side, not really; other than your ovaries being at the inguinal ring, the female anatomy is essentially identical; the male Human anatomy is nearly the same as the Vulcan, other than our testes being carried externally. But being in a meld, I felt what you felt, physicallythat was new. And very pleasant, I might add. I wonder if Louise, um... He was unable to finish the thought. Even in a mindmeld, there were limits, he realized, about what he could express. He hoped that his new wife could understand what he found he couldnt express in words.
I understand what you cannot say, my love. Im sure she did, Doctor Omo, very much. To a woman, it is more the heart behind it than the physical act, or so it seems to me. She surely saw what I see in your heart, Doctor Omo. It would make it a joy for her.
How goes it with pon farr, love?
Its going to take more than a single night to deal with that, Husband. Mentally, she allowed herself the equivalent of a gentle laugh. And dont worry. Vulcans may only go into pon farr about once in seven years, but that doesnt mean were disinterested the rest of the time. I promise that I will be interested often: your pleasure in our union was a most delightful thing to share. If Vulcan women knew about sharing the pleasure with Human men, I think they might never marry any other species.
Eletto gently caressed her hair. If I thought Vulcans could do it, Id accuse you of flattery; as it is, I appreciate the thought. If Human males knew about what I experienced tonight, we would clamor to marry Vulcan women, and not want our own kind. The physicians mind was quiet for a short time. That reinforces the point that were from different cultures and different species, aduna. There will be times when its not going to be easy. Even Louise and I had some tough times, over the years, despite the fact that we were devoted to each other. You have to expect well have some too.
We are very different people, Doctor Omo; it is logical to expect difficulties. I am a logical being, most of the time. You are, for a Human, most logical and emotionally controlled. We will weather our troubles, just as you and your first bride did, only better.
Just dont be offended if I call you Louise, especially when Im half awake or something, okay?
I will not be offended. Coming from you, knowing what I know about how deeply you loved her that would be great praise. Of course, you have already called me by that name, back when the seeds were inadvertently sown that grew into this night. She snuggled more tightly against her new husband. For now, let us not borrow trouble from tomorrow. Let us focus on tonights pleasure; after all, I am still in pon farr. Satisfy my raging hunger, Husband!
Eletto said nothing; there was no need for words.
The turbolift door opened onto the bridge. TSoral and Uhura exited together, TSorals face back to its usual, unreadable, emotionally controlled state. Uhura, however, was almost glowing. Reichard stood, allowing the captain to take the center seat, once again. "Welcome back, Captain. I trust your brief leave of absence has been to your tastes."
If anything, Uhuras smile widened. "You have no idea, young man, absolutely no idea how much it has been to my tastes. As good as it was, though, and it was very good, its definitely good to be back on the bridge with you all. Believe it or not, Ive missed you guys."
Drevan snorted. "I want MBengas opinion on that, Captain. With all due respect, I mean."
ODoul looked back from the helm. "Oh, knock it off, Drevan. Im sure she was thinking of us, last night. If nothing else, she would have been worrying about how much needling wed deliver."
"Good point." Marsden turned to Communications. "And it looks like our good Vulcan is back to her usual self. Hows TSoral this morning?"
"Yeah, Mole. Good tsee ya back, kid." Drevan grinned.
"It is good to be back, Snowdome. We are receiving an incoming message from Starfleet Command. It is in text. Captain?"
The starfield was replaced by the Starfleet official logo, which was followed by text:
After careful consideration, Starfleet Command has concluded that some of its regulations have inadvertantly discouraged Starfleet personnel from formal stable marital relationships. The following regulations are now promulgated to reverse this unfortunate situation, with the intent of allowing those members of Starfleet who desire to enjoy one of the basic freedoms that their ceaseless, selfless labors guarantee to others...
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