The first days of her freedom are a heady thing. Unexpectedly so. T'Pring had not anticipated the physiological impact of her life's obligation released.
It is not logical that she should feel lighter; Spock's decision has neither altered gravity nor the density of the air around her. There is no practical explanation for the sensation and yet it persists.
She is not a woman given to battling her emotions. She has studied logic like any other Vulcan woman, trained in the ancient arts as befitting her station, but control on matters of emotion has never been of particular difficulty. Such is the curiosity of the sensation, T'Pring finds herself almost preoccupied by the novelty of it.
For a time it even manages to eclipse the thrill that was her constant companion after the koon-ut-kal-if-fee.
Time, however, is no more generous with Vulcans than outworlders. T'Pring finds that the thrill of her freedom and the puzzle of that sensation is beginning to fade. It would not be so unfortunate a thing if not for the puzzle that waits beyond it.
A sensation of emptiness. Loss. Worse, even, than that is the vague dissatisfaction that settles upon her. Her studies at the Academy are her only solace. When she is at home, when she is with Stonn, she is not at rest. Their time together seems to only strengthen that dissatisfaction and T'Pring cannot begin to understand why.
There is no hiding it from him, of course. While she might modulate her behavior to disguise her unease, T'Pring knows this that this is only a temporary measure at best. The very first time they take to her bed, entwining mind and body as one, there will be no possible way to keep it from him. Stonn will see all and know all and, as such, T'Pring tells him.
"I do not understand," Stonn says, honest to a fault. He is a good man. A logical, intelligent man. He is everything she has always wanted and nothing that she did not. And still not enough. She can see the confusion in his eyes and, as she did not with Spock, she grieves the pain that she has caused him.
She touches her hand to his, letting a bit of what has confounded her become clear to him, and were she human she might have smiled when she says, "Neither do I."
A woman of high birth and education, T'Pring retreats into meditation and study after that. Her father is aged, elderly, and her mother lost many years before. There are matters of estate and business to attend to and she finds much to fill her hours while the mystery of her own heart occupies her thoughts.
Her father had thought Spock an excellent match and, logically, this was so. The House of Surak could bring influence and power to T'Pring's name and to that of her father's House. She had tried to accept this for many years, despite knowing it was not politics and power that she desired, failing only at the last.
She realizes, as she attends to her family's holdings and lands, that it was not just that. If it had been the matter of Spock's family and the role she would play in it, then Stonn would have been enough. He, too, is a good match; better, even, than Spock, and still, he is not enough.
"If it is not a matter of the right man," she murmurs, staring at the house accounts, seeing nothing of the figures before her, "then what is?"
It is not an answer which comes easily. In fact, it is not an answer which comes for many years.
After a time, she ceases her isolation. No one will ask what became of the marriage, the Rule of Silences has been invoked and no one will violate that, but she is aware of scrutiny.
She ignores it as best she can. Her studies await, a new crop of students with them, and she embraces both with anticipation. It is good. Different, but pleasing.
It is then that she meets Nyota.
Or, rather, it is then that Nyota contacts her.
The relationship between Starfleet and the Science Academy is a long one. Starfleet officers of all disciplines contact them with puzzles and problems to be solved. Amongst Nyota's duties is the maintenance of the Universal Translator and, indeed, the newly portable database that Spock designed.
It is that device which brings them together. Spock transmits the plans for the translator to the Academy.
It falls to T'Pring to review the code. For something so hastily assembled, the code is elegant despite its minor flaws. She spends weeks reviewing and learning the code before beginning to make refinements.
When she is ready, she transmits this to the Enterprise. Given their current position, it will be several days before they receive the message and, likely, several days more before she receives a response. That is expected. When the Enterprise is in appropriate range, as she anticipated, a return call is placed. What she did not anticipate, however, is that it is not Spock responds.
Lieutenant Uhura recognizes her name, she must, but the expression on the woman’s face is neutral, almost pleasant, giving no sign of the difficulty which passed between them. It has been some time, years even, but it is worth noting.
"T'sai T'Pring," she greets, inclining her head. "Forgive my interrupting your work, but we only just received your transmission yesterday and it took time to review your suggestions."
T'Pring inclines her head. "You are not interrupting. Might I ask if the suggestions were of use?"
"Tremendously," Uhura says, smiling. "It's why I was contacting you, as a matter of fact. The Enterprise's current mission is ending in a few months and I was hoping we might work together on a few of those suggestions."
While the call itself was unexpected, Uhura's proposal is doubly so. T'Pring regards the woman on her screen for some moments.
"I admit," she says, at last, "This is most unexpected."
"Because of Spock?" Uhura's voice softens, revealing her fondness for the man by the action.
T'Pring becomes aware that she is bracing herself. It is a disconcerting sensation to say the least. "Yes. Doubtless that you are aware of what went on between us."
A shadow of something passes over the lieutenant's face. Sadness, regret; it's difficult to judge. She is unused to human expressions and even a face as open as Lieutenant Uhura's is a challenge "He hasn't said anything. I know something happened with the captain and that the marriage didn't take place."
"And, thus, you are willing to work with me?"
With a small smile, Uhura nods. "Of course. Whatever happened, T'Pring, it is between you and Spock. I won't bring it into this."
"Then I accept." T'Pring inclines her head. "Transmit your full proposal and I will review it. However, if I might make a suggestion?"
"I'm all ears," Uhura's expression becomes, T'Pring suspects, amused. She has never understood the Human preoccupation with Vulcan ears, but accepts the teasing as an attempt to ease perceived tension.
"It will be difficult to work on this over subspace. Perhaps, upon completion of your mission, you might wish to travel to Vulcan? I believe Starfleet keeps officers quarters for such purposes?"
"It does," Uhura agrees. "I've already reserved some."
T'Pring raises her eyebrow again. "You anticipated my acceptance?"
This time there is no doubting Lieutenant Uhura's amusement. "I played a hunch."
It is difficult, as anticipated, to work on the code via subspace, but they manage. Over the time, their evening subspace discussions grow longer and Lieutenant Uhura becomes, merely, Nyota. The discussions become conversations over saya (T'Pring's brewed, Nyota's replicated) and somewhere in those conversations, she finds an answer she had forgotten she was searching for.
It is not a matter of the right man at all. It is the right woman.
Such unions are not unheard of on Vulcan, though rare, but T'Pring knows that is undoubtedly the truth. Her truth.
All the more complicated for the part where the dawn of her awareness brings with it another truth.
The distance of subspace becomes a solace as, for the first time in her memory, T'Pring struggles with her emotions.
Meditation does nothing to erase the desire for Nyota, nor does rationalizing. As much as she tells herself that it is mere infatuation, a coincidence of timing, the feelings stubbornly persist.
It is nothing like Spock or Stonn and T'Pring is at a loss as to what to do next.
Nyota arrives at the spaceport in civilian garb. It is an understatement of the highest order to call her beautiful.
And then she smiles.
It is an expression that, at this point, T'Pring has seen on her face dozens of times. She could state a precise number, but is disinclined to do so for none would compare.
The smile on Nyota's face is ethereal.
"At last," she says, holding up a hand in the traditional Vulcan greeting.
"Yes," T'Pring says, mirroring the gesture, "At last."
It is illogical to long for the past, but T'Pring does. She wishes for the days when she did not understand the truth, had not learned what sweet torture it is to feel this with no hope of reciprocation.
They work hours together each day and then T'Pring returns to the family estate, alone with her thoughts and the faint scent of Nyota's perfume clinging to her clothing.
And then, one day, she comes home to find Nyota sitting in the garden.
"A gift," T'Pring explains, touching the bush. "A gift from the Lady Amanda. She has been most kind in the years since." More than anyone would have any right to expect in such circumstances. Humans are a perplexing lot.
"He's happy," Nyota says, coming to stand beside her, "A mother can forgive a lot if her child is happy."
"He would not have been had we wed." It is not the most Vulcan of admissions, but she knows that is true for them both. They might have made a life together, but it would not even have been a fraction of what she feels at this moment. "It is not the Vulcan way." She thinks of the Lady Amanda and the Ambassador. "Or, perhaps, that is just what we tell ourselves."
"You wouldn't be the first ones," Nyota agrees. "It seems to be a universal trait."
"You did not come here to speak of Spock."
Speaking of Spock in this way would not make Nyota nervous and she is, indeed, nervous. Her pupils are wide, breath short, and moisture beads at her throat.
"No, I didn't," Nyota tips her head to one side and looks at her. The regard is intent and it is only the rigor of her upbringing that keeps T'Pring's expression even when she finally asks, "When were you going to tell me that you're in love with me?"
"I was not," T'Pring admits. "It--" she falls silent. "I find that I do not know what to do."
Nyota looks at the roses beside them. "Is this why you couldn't go through with it?"
"I would have said no at the time," T'Pring admits, the words slowly spoken. "Now, I believe so." She considers her next words carefully. "I tried to persuade myself to believe that my feelings for you were an outgrowth of that realization and, as such, were mere infatuation."
"Well?" Nyota sets a careful hand on T'Pring's sleeve, fingers so close to bare skin. "Are they?"
T'Pring has spoken many, many words in her life, but none ever required so much strength as the simple, soft, 'no' that is her answer.
"I apologize," she says, then, "I did not mean to inconvenience you. I can make a number of recommendations to replace me--"
Lips cut off her reasoned words. The gesture sends a burst of awareness through her. It is fuzzy, difficult to discern one thought from another, but it is unmistakably Nyota.
"A most peculiar gesture," T'Pring murmurs when they part, "but an appealing one."
Nyota smiles. "It has its upsides." She takes T'Pring's hands in hers and then laces their fingers together. "This was not what I came to Vulcan for," she laughs, "or maybe it was."
She squeezes T'Pring's hands fiercely for a Human, sending another wave of jumbled thoughts and images through her. It is a heady, heady thing, as much so as the kiss had been and she savors it.
"I don't know where this is going," Nyota says, bringing their joined hands up to her mouth. "I want to find out. I want to find out very much."
"Were I one to feel it, I would say this is already more than I could have hoped," T'Pring looks at their hands where they rest against Nyota's lips. She is not given to fanciful images, but she pictures them years down the road. "Whatever you are willing to give, Nyota, I await with much anticipation."
Freedom is none so heady as when it is shared and no less a mystery for it.