Chapter 1: Don't Look Now
Disclaimer: The Vulcan teens are the only ones I own...and no one really owns a teenager, do they?
"Don't look now," Nyota Uhura says, "but we are being watched."
Without missing a beat, Spock dips his spoon into his soup and says, "We have been under observation for the past 16.45 minutes."
He looks up at her and says, "If you were unaware, perhaps you should consider brushing up on your surveillance protocols."
Nyota's eyes crinkle slightly—she knows when she is being kidded—but she betrays no other emotion. She reaches for the small roll on her plate and breaks off a piece.
They are sitting across from each other at a table in the mess hall during a late afternoon lunch break. Only a few other crewmembers are present, and none of them are paying much attention to her and Spock.
Indeed, in the two months since the Enterprise began her official shakedown cruise, the crew have noticed and then pointedly ignored the fact that she and Spock are often together on their off hours. She hasn't heard much ship scuttlebutt about their relationship—not that they do anything publicly to attract attention aside from sharing a meal or an occasional visit to the recreation lounge.
That they come and go from each other's quarters is no one's business—or at least no one has made it their business to comment within hearing distance.
Today the observations in the mess hall are not from the Enterprise crew but from several of its passengers, a small group of Vulcan teenagers and their teacher, recently picked up from the remote outpost where they have been living and doing individual experiments.
The Vulcan education requirements have always included a large project in the final year of school—tracking seismic activity, for example, or conducting botanical surveys and preparing scholarly papers for a formal presentation as part of the entrance interview for the Vulcan Science Academy.
This group of twelve teens and their instructor had been off planet during the Vulcan genocide; they had elected to remain on the outpost until their research projects were completed—but now, two months later, they are headed to the Vulcan colony where three will rejoin their families and the others will be forced to either share housing with friends or they will have to petition the provisional government for a place to live.
Nyota knows all this because she and Spock have talked of it often—she is particularly concerned about the orphans with no one waiting for them on the colony. Since they beamed aboard yesterday she has watched them quietly-"You would not see it if they were distressed," Spock has assured her—but apparently they have been watching her, too.
"That tall boy," she says, breaking off another piece of her roll, "wants to say something."
"He is free to do so," Spock says, finishing his soup and putting his spoon in his bowl. "The captain did not restrict their movement on the ship."
"The captain didn't," Nyota says, lowering her voice, "but I don't think their teacher likes the idea."
Of medium height and slight of build, the Vulcan teacher is of indeterminate age—she might be 50, or more likely, twice that old, considering how slowly Vulcans age. Like the students, she wears heavy, unrevealing clothing and keeps her long hair pulled up away from her face. Up close, Nyota can see that her hair is flecked with gray and her face is creased with fine lines.
Nyota and Spock had both been in the transporter room when the Vulcans had beamed aboard—Dr. McCoy asked them to be available just in case some of the students were more comfortable speaking Vulcan than Standard—and Nyota had gotten the distinct impression that the teacher resented their presence.
After their beam up the teacher—T'Nara-was the first one off the transporter pad, her students standing silent, apparently waiting for her signal to move. Spock had stepped up then, his hands behind his back, and he had greeted her quietly. From behind him Nyota had watched closely.
T'Nara did not speak but nodded at Spock briefly. As if on cue, the students on the pad stepped forward and moved to the side of the room so that Scotty could beam the others aboard.
No one spoke.
When the second group had materialized on the pad, T'Nara turned and walked past Spock and Nyota towards the exit. Nyota considered rushing forward to show them where to go—surely they could not know their way around the ship already—but as she made to move, she felt a warm spark cross her forearm as Spock touched her. She stopped in her tracks and let the students pass.
That had been yesterday. She and Spock had followed them to the sickbay where they had undergone physicals and mental health reviews. Although all of the students appeared to be fluent in Standard, Nyota stayed behind to be available if anyone did need her.
From her chair in the corner of sickbay, Nyota thought that the teenagers looked tired—and unusual for Vulcans, their clothes and the few effects they carried were shopworn and tattered. They moved deliberately but slowly, their voices barely above a whisper. Perhaps in a day or so they would appreciate a conversation in their own language—or a guided tour. She made a mental note to run the idea by Spock later.
When she looks at them now in the mess hall, she feels abashed that she had imagined they would welcome some shallow distraction. Even to her unpracticed eye, they are grieving—and suffering the same peculiar sensation that Spock has been unable to articulate to her but which she senses when they are together in private.
Not just sorrow, or shock, or grief, but a feeling of being disoriented—as if Vulcan the planet had anchored them somehow, and now its loss has left the survivors in freefall.
As they finish their lunch Nyota looks at Spock's face closely and sees that he is tracking something with his eyes—the Vulcan teacher passes by their table with a student on the way out of the mess hall, and Nyota feels more than sees some chill come over Spock. She tries to meet his gaze but he looks down at his empty bowl instead.
"Would a conversation be an intrusion?" a female voice says from behind Nyota's left shoulder and she turns to see one of the teenagers standing politely as if at attention. Her eyes are unusual for a Vulcan—light green and large—but in every other way she looks like the other girls in her group, slender and lithe. The tall boy Nyota has noted before is standing beside her, and she says, "Please. Have a seat."
"I am expected on the bridge," Spock says, standing up, and Nyota darts a glance at him. They are on the same shift today—their lunch break has another 20 minutes to run—but she says, "I'll be there shortly, Commander."
A human would have answered, "don't rush," or "don't worry."
Spock turns and leaves without a word—Nyota doesn't expect anything else, though from time to time she reminds him that human niceties serve a purpose—"people work better if you acknowledge them in some way" she has said more than once.
She looks up as the Vulcan boy and girl move around the table and sit side-by-side facing her. The tall boy is very dark—his skin a shade lighter than her own, his eyes and hair black. Although his gaze is direct, Nyota has trouble reading his expression. The green-eyed girl, on the other hand, is unusually expressive—and more talkative.
"I am T'Sela," she says, " and this is Saril."
Nyota smiles at T'Sela's almost maternal attitude toward Saril. If he minds her speaking for him, however, he doesn't show it.
"I'm Lieutenant Uhura."
"We know," T'Sela says, and for a moment Nyota is taken aback. But of course, the students have access to the computers, and ship personnel are listed.
"Well," Nyota says, "what can I help you with?"
"In your work as communications officer," T'Sela says, "do you have occasion to research the language acquisition of newly sentient creatures such as the Torvok people of Anglis Encephi?"
Both T'Sela and Saril are looking at her seriously, as though the answer to this question is of grave importance. Nyota, however, recognizes their earnestness for what it is—intense Vulcan curiosity—and she laughs.
"I've only been communications officer for two months—we are technically on a shakedown patrol—a test flight—and our primary task is to test the capabilities of the ship, not do actual research."
Neither teenager changes expression, but Nyota has the impression that they are disappointed.
"But we will, of course, soon. You are interested in studying language acquisition?"
"That has been the area of my study until now, but I am more interested in speculative fiction and mythology, particularly of Terran origin."
"I didn't know," Nyota says, "that Vulcans were interested in fiction and mythology. I thought you preferred science, or math—"
T'Sela folds her hands in front of her on the table and says, "A common misperception."
Before Nyota can answer, Saril turns to T'Sela.
"It is not a misperception if it is generally true."
"But generally true is not the same as absolutely true."
"The Lieutanant did not appear to be speaking in absolutes but was offering an opinion-"
"Which I deemed uninformed," T'Sela says. "If you were speaking in generalities, my apologies," she says, looking at Nyota.
The back-and-forth between the two young people is so swift that Nyota is startled when T'Sela seems to be waiting for a response from her.
"Oh, uh, I meant no offense," Nyota says, and both Saril and T'Sela say in chorus, "None taken."
At that Nyota laughs, and the Vulcan teens watch her curiously.
"And what about you?" Nyota say, turning to the young girl. "What are you studying—or rather, what are you interested in?"
T'Sela answers promptly.
"My project was writing an algorithm that effectively predicts and tracks asteroids in the Beta Quadrant—the current program doesn't allow for expected drift. But my interest is in human psychology."
"Perhaps that is not the correct terminology in Standard? The study of human motivations, emotions, actions, behaviors?"
Nyota takes a sip of her water before answering.
"How interesting!" she says. "I had no idea Vulcans were so curious about humans—"
"We are curious about most things," T'Sela says, "but limiting our area of focus is logical."
"And how did you come to find humans so….fascinating?"
"Human history is known to us," T'Sela says, "but you are the first human I have spoken with at length. Since I have been aboard the Enterprise, I have found observing human behavior a worthwhile pursuit."
"So this is a recent interest?" Nyota says, smiling.
"She thinks you are not sincere," Saril says to T'Sela, and Nyota is disturbed that she has been so transparent.
"No, no," she says, extinguishing her smile. "I'm…delighted that you find humans worthy of study. I find Vulcans equally….fascinating."
T'Sela and Saril do not change expressions, but their posture shifts in an almost imperceptible way that Nyota interprets as a tacit acceptance of her apology.
"Do you know many Vulcans?" T'Sela asks suddenly, and Nyota shakes her head.
"Only a few," she says, thinking of Sarek and the other elders who had been rescued by the Enterprise after the loss of Vulcan.
"You and Commander Spock are bond mates?"
T'Sela's voice is matter of fact, her face guileless, but Nyota is startled.
"Why do you ask?" she says before she can stop herself.
"You are physically intimate with each other," Saril says, and then, as if to offer evidence, he adds, "I saw you. In the transporter room."
For a second Nyota frowns but then she remembers Spock's touch on her arm when the students had first arrived. Such an innocuous thing for one human to do to another—but suggestive coming from a Vulcan, of course.
She takes a breath and says, "No, we are not bond mates. Not the way you mean."
T'Sela tips her head and Nyota smiles, it is so like Spock's mannerism. The Vulcan teenager is about to speak when the teacher re-enters the room. Instantly T'Sela and Saril rise and move toward the group of students who are putting their trays away and gathering near the door.
Just before the group leaves the room, T'Sela and Saril both turn back and look at her. An invitation—she's sure they are disappointed to have their conversation—such as it was—cut short. She will have to find time to chat with them again before the ship drops them off at the transport relay in several days.
And then, because she is still looking in their direction, she sees the Vulcan teacher turn to her and say in strongly-accented Standard, "Please do not approach these students again."
A/N: Although Vulcan teenagers figure prominently in the story, it isn't a "kid" story. These teenagers, after all, have lost almost everything, and are being forced to adapt to a world they couldn't have imagined. I hope they feel believable--very Vulcan but with the extra curiosity of adolescents trying to navigate their way to adulthood. Spock and Nyota are on a journey of their own, as you shall see.
Comments and kudos are love!
Chapter 2: Directives
Disclaimer: I didn't create this universe, but I like playing in it.
Nyota is so surprised that for a moment she doesn't react.
"I…beg your pardon?" she finally says to the Vulcan teacher.
T'Nara leans forward a fraction and says again, "Please do not approach these students."
"But—" Nyota says, and T'Nara starts to turn to leave.
"If they approach you first," T'Nara says, looking pointedly at T'Sela and Saril, "you are to refrain from responding. You are not suitable for interactions with them."
And then she is out the door, the Vulcan teenagers moving single-file behind her.
Nyota's face is hot with embarrassment and anger—she looks quickly around the mess hall but no one is watching her. With relief she picks up her utensils and her plate and takes them to the cleaning bin.
The walk to the bridge lasts forever and then she is suddenly there, still rehearsing what she wishes she had said. Spock glances up when she walks from the turbolift—she sees him lift an eyebrow, an acknowledgment of her mood. If he can read her this well, she must be broadcasting for everyone to see. She tries to tamp down her fury and focus on several messages needing a response at her station.
For a time she is caught up in the intricacies of the work—Starfleet has sent a raft of new telemetry data for correlation, and Nyota is busy sorting it and sending it to the appropriate departments. She overhears a brief conversation between Spock and the captain but pays little attention to the content—instead, she spends the last of her shift listening to and decoding a garbled communication from a passing freighter.
When Lieutenant Anage-Nwoke taps her on the shoulder to signal the end of her shift, Nyota looks up in relief. Spock is busy at the science terminal and Nyota debates for a moment before leaving the bridge. Some time alone might be a good idea, she thinks—and she takes the turbolift to deck five and makes her way to her quarters.
What incredible arrogance, she thinks as she tugs her uniform off and pulls a soft tunic from a drawer. Unsuitable for interactions, she hears T'Nara saying. What did that mean? Why shouldn't she talk to the students? Because it would a waste of their time to talk to a human?
She sits on the bed and pulls off her boots roughly, dropping them on the floor. Is this what Spock has tried to tell her in the past, about Vulcan prejudice—Vulcan elitism?
She has a flash of a memory—clearly not her own—of a Vulcan teenager not much younger than T'Sela and Saril. "You have no place in this universe," she can hear the boy saying, and she feels the shame Spock felt, both when he heard the words and more recently, when he had shared this memory with her.
Her comm chimes softly from the top of her desk where she has placed it while getting dressed. A flashing light indicates a waiting message—Spock, no doubt, back in his quarters and wondering where she is.
But no—she thumbs the screen and reads: "Unsuitable is a relative term. 2200. Botanical gardens. Please."
For the first time since leaving the mess hall, Nyota smiles. So. Some things in the universe are constants. She rather likes the idea of rebellious Vulcan teenagers sneaking around and breaking rules.
On the other hand, Nyota has no interest in creating an incident that will annoy the Vulcan teacher. If Nyota meets with T'Sela and Saril after being cautioned not to, T'Nara may complain to the captain—and while she's sure that Kirk won't give a flip about upsetting some snooty Vulcan passenger, she doesn't want to embarrass Spock.
She feels a pang at her resolve—not speaking to the students feels wrong, even disloyal. For a moment she considers seeking out T'Nara and trying to reason with her—but that idea dies almost as swiftly as it is born. Reason with a Vulcan? Hard enough to do with one she knows well—she would have no luck with a stranger.
The only person who can help her know what to do is suddenly there—Spock palms the door open but stands outside, waiting for Nyota to wave him in.
"Do you prefer to be alone?" he asks as he steps inside her room, and Nyota shakes her head.
"Actually, I'm glad you are here."
She hands him her comm and he scans the message.
"I was told not to respond," she says, and then she tells Spock about T'Nara's actions in the mess hall. He says nothing but Nyota can hear that his breathing is measured and slow, a sign that he is struggling to control his anger.
"What did she mean," Nyota says, "about not being suitable? Is that a comment about my being human?"
For a moment Nyota thinks that Spock is not going to answer, but when he does, he speaks so softly that she has to strain to make out what he is saying.
"It is," he says, "a comment about my being human."
X X X X X X X X
If T'Nara is surprised to see Spock when she opens her cabin door, she does not show it.
"May I enter?"
Spock stands ramrod straight, one wrist clasped in the other behind his back. From her position in the doorway, T'Nara gives him an unblinking look.
"I do not wish it," she says.
Spock waits only a beat before continuing.
"Then I shall be forced to discuss personal and possibly private matters with you here in the corridor."
Finally T'Nara reacts. She steps back into the cabin and Spock follows her in, the door hissing shut behind him.
"Say your business," T'Nara says as she makes her way to the nearby chair. This is unexpected—that she chooses to sit in Spock's presence suggests that she is tired, or weak, or ill. He will have to re-evaluate her responses in light of this information.
"Are you in need of assistance?" he asks, and T'Nara gives him a stony stare as a reply.
"I am in need of quiet. Please come to your point."
"Very well. Earlier today you told a member of this crew that she was not to speak to your students. Explain."
Again Spock notices something unexpected. T'Nara's right hand trembles slightly as she reaches for the armrest. She looks up swiftly and sees him watching her.
"That you need an explanation speaks poorly of your logic," she says, and to his horror, Spock feels himself flush. He takes a moment to slow his heartbeat before saying, "Nevertheless, you must explain."
T'Nara shifts in her seat and puts her left hand on top of her right.
"Very well. As I told your crewmember, she is unsuitable for interactions with my students. As are you."
"That is an opinion, not an explanation."
"Commander," T'Nara says, "I have in my charge twelve students who have no future. Six months ago they had a future, but no more."
"That, too, is an opinion," Spock says, but T'Nara lifts her hand to silence him.
"They have no future," she repeats. "You think they have a future because you have one—on your starship with your companions, doing as you always intended. But these students have no choices—the Academy is lost, probably forever. The only thing these students face now is working for the colony—not even work they choose, but work that chooses them."
When she pauses Spock can hear T'Nara's breathing, slightly labored and wheezy.
"So, Commander, do not tell these students that Vulcans and humans have a future together, because they do not. If the Federation continues, it will continue without Vulcan. If we are to survive as a people, we have to look to ourselves."
Spock takes a step forward and shifts his hands to his side.
"If we are to survive as a people, we may have to broaden our vision of what we are," he says, and T'Nara puts her hands in her lap and sits back.
"And what might that be, Commander? Something less than we are now? An abomination such as yourself? You live as a human—making a mockery of Vulcan traditions. Taking a human for a bond mate, when our species faces extinction—and working for an organization that is a contradiction of the principles of Surak—this is why I say you are unsuitable. Do not encourage my students to follow your example. Stay away from them."
She looks to the side, a clear dismissal. For a moment Spock is silent, but then he says, "Your authority extends only to your students. You may not direct the actions of this crew. If they choose to speak to your students or to respond to their inquiries, they may do so at their discretion."
T'Nara's eyes flick up in what Spock notes with satisfaction is a hint of annoyance.
"Are you telling me this as a Vulcan, or as a human?"
Spock walks to the door and turns to say, "I am telling you this as the first officer of the Enterprise."
And with that, he leaves.
A/N: Thanks for the thumbs up with kudos and comments! They are much appreciated!
Chapter 3: Change of Plans
Disclaimer: Don't mind me. I'm just a stalker in this borrowed universe where I own nothing and profit from nothing.
"Spock," Jim Kirk says, the ghost of a smile curling the corner of his mouth, "I'm not sure I want to know—but what have you been doing to that poor Vulcan teacher?"
From across the table in the conference room, Bones McCoy pipes up.
"Yeah, what's going on?"
Spock looks at both men evenly and folds his hands in front of him.
"Please," the doctor says, leaning on one elbow, "even I can see that the woman has a problem with you. You have some sort of argument? A fight?"
Spock raises one eyebrow and makes no effort to hide his scorn. McCoy leans back and snorts.
"What did you do, Spock?" Kirk says, and Spock looks down and considers what to say. The captain's tone is lighthearted, joking, and Spock is suddenly unwilling to speak about something so painful and private to him.
"Captain," he says, "I assure you, I have done nothing to T'Nara."
Kirk's smile dims slightly and he shoves his PADD across the table.
"Then why is she issuing a formal complaint?"
This does surprise Spock, and he shifts in his chair. Appealing to a human authority seems out of character for a Vulcan in general and for T'Nara in particular.
He takes the PADD from the table and glances at the short message on the screen. From the corner of his eye he can tell that Kirk is watching him. When he looks up, Kirk says, "Explanation?"
Again Spock considers what to say. The captain and the doctor will not understand T'Nara's bias—indeed, he does not understand it himself. It is illogical—but not unprecedented. He thinks of the Vulcan schoolboys who regularly tormented him when he was young. They had learned their prejudices somewhere.
"T'Nara has….insisted….that I not speak to the students in her care. I resist that, and have told her so."
"And Lieutenant Uhura? Why does she mention her?"
Spock blinks and looks down at his hands. Divulging T'Nara's dislike of him is one thing. Admitting that Nyota is being targeted because of him is painful. He takes a breath and meets the captain's gaze.
"Two of the students have approached the lieutenant several times," Spock says. "T'Nara indicated that she believes I am…a negative influence on them. She opposes my service to Starfleet—she feels…she believes….that in light of what has happened, Vulcans should regroup on the colony and work to rebuild our people."
He can hear how halting he sounds, but he is unable to stop himself.
"Lieutenant Uhura has also been deemed…unsuitable."
Bones snorts again.
Immediately Spock feels a tendril of regret—he should not have spoken so freely—but Kirk says, "Bones," and McCoy leans away.
"So," the captain says, "she doesn't like you because you are here, on the Enterprise—instead of on the colony. Well, that's too bad. You aren't the only Vulcan not on the colony right now—"
"It is more than that," Spock says, deciding to, as the human saying goes, put all his cards on the table. "She objects to me because of what I am—"
"Jim," McCoy says loudly, "she's just an old-fashioned bigot."
"Yes," Kirk nods. "So I see. Well, that makes one decision much easier."
"We reach the transport relay in a couple of days. I've been ordered to make sure our Vulcan guests get from the relay station to the colony world safely. That ought to be a job you can do, Mr. Spock."
"What do you mean, Jim?" McCoy says. "Send Spock with those kids and their teacher on public transport?"
"We have to send someone," Kirk says, "since the Enterprise can't take them all the way. Spock seems like the logical choice, don't you think?"
Spock can tell that the captain is being humorous—his eyes are narrowed and he is smiling—but he isn't sure whether or not he is also being serious. Surely he isn't being asked to accompany T'Nara and the students to the Vulcan colony?
But apparently he is. McCoy says, "Better him than me, that's all I can say. Imagine me surrounded by all those Vulcans. Not that I'm a bigot, mind you. It's just that I can't imagine what we'd talk about."
"You'll have to think of something to talk about," Kirk says to the doctor, "because your orders came through this afternoon. You and a medical team are going to the colony to do some temporary support work-"
"Vulcan High Command special request. Their healers need some help—just not enough of them and the demand is high right now. You shouldn't be there too long."
McCoy is speechless—something Spock has rarely noted in the two months since they met.
"Captain," he says, "since a medical team is already traveling to the colony, my presence would be redundant."
Kirk sighs loudly and says, "Spock, you need to do this."
What an incongruous comment, but Spock says nothing more. Jim Kirk sometimes says things that on the surface are difficult to understand—but ultimately play out in a way that makes sense. Perhaps this is one of them.
X X X X X
The botanical gardens on the Enterprise are not yet complete—none of the trees are close to maturity, and the flowering plants are scattered and small—but Nyota loves walking here. Actual soil—and the humid smell of peat and moss—are a relief after the more mechanical tang and texture of the rest of the ship.
Three times now T'Sela and Saril have met her here to chat—both seeming to relish the meandering walks as much as the conversations that wander from topic to topic.
Often they ask questions about Earth—how its infrastructure varies from region to region, or why its climate is so unpredictable, for instance—but they also are curious about Nyota herself—the details of her childhood in Africa, her interest in music, her love for her work.
"Did you always want to work here?" T'Sela says, leaning to inspect a purple-stemmed bush. Saril leans down, too.
"On the Enterprise? No, not always. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a doctor. And then a singer. And for a short time I wanted to be an archaeologist. But since I've been at the Academy—yes, since then, I've wanted to work here."
"I would like to work here," T'Sela says, darting a glance at Saril. He cuts his dark eyes to her and then back to Nyota. A message? Nyota watches them more closely.
Saril stands up straight and walks forward a pace. T'Sela follows.
"Then you should consider studying at Starfleet Academy," Nyota says.
"That is not possible," T'Sela says. Nyota hears no sadness in the teenager's tone, yet something signals a resignation, or a weary acceptance.
"Why not, T'Sela?" Nyota asks. "You said…"
She pauses. She knows that T'Sela's parents were killed on Vulcan—T'Sela has shared that with her, and she is reluctant to mention anything that might cause the young girl pain.
T'Sela looks at her, waiting, and Nyota takes a breath.
"You said you had no family on the colony."
T'Sela shakes her head nominally, and without stopping to consider the impropriety, Nyota reaches her hand and grasps T'Sela's wrist.
"I'm sorry," she says, and then she amends, "I grieve with thee."
Saril steps next to T'Sela and Nyota lets go of her wrist.
"Lieutenant," he says, "are you familiar with the Terran legend of King Arthur?"
Nyota looks ahead at two crewmembers walking toward them on the path, and she steps to the side to let them pass. The Vulcan teenagers follow her example, watching the couple as they walk by. For a moment the only sound are their footfalls, and then Nyota says, "The once and future king. Right? From ancient Britain?"
"Exactly so," Saril says, and they step back onto the pathway and continue making their way to the far end of the arboretum.
"Why do you ask?"
Nyota can see that Saril is choosing his words carefully—indeed, he is always cautious when he speaks, but at this moment he is more deliberate than usual.
"I have observed that you have a proclivity for metaphorical references," Saril says, and Nyota is momentarily flustered. Where is this line of thinking going? She frowns slightly and glances at him.
His brow is furrowed and his head is canted to the side—is this typical body language for Vulcans? She smiles at Saril's resemblance to Spock in a similar thoughtful attitude.
She opens her mouth to speak but it is T'Sela who says, "Your line of reasoning is not sufficiently clear for a human, Saril. Look, she is confused."
At that Nyota laughs.
"T'Sela's right," she says, and Saril stops walking and turns to her.
"King Arthur was a revered leader of his people, and when he died, his epitaph was once and future king. That is why T'Sela cannot study at Starfleet Academy and accept a position aboard a starship."
"I don't follow you—"
"King Arthur was once a great king, and his people thought that he would return in the future. But his epitaph reminded them that for the time being, he was gone."
"Well, yes," Nyota says.
"Like Vulcan," Saril says. "We were once a great civilization, and we will be again. But right now-"
His voice trails off, and T'Sela adds, "We are needed. On the colony."
Nyota looks down, abashed for these two young people. Spock has told her of his conversations with T'Nara—her words about the students' lack of a future, words that ring all too true.
"I see," she says.
"My study of Terran legends has given me this metaphor," Saril says, and Nyota looks up and sees a hint of pride in his normally impassive face.
"It's a good one," she says, and he nods once and heads back toward the exit.
A/N: A tip of the hat to everyone who is reading! Two tips to everyone who taps out a comment or kudo!
Chapter 4: The Fall
Disclaimer: I do not own nor profit from these characters and their shenanigans.
Like most desert climates, Vulcan is cold when its sun goes down. Spock shivers slightly as the purple shadows of the nearby mountain range creep across the plain near his parents' home. He is sitting crossed-legged on the hard flagstone porch that juts from the back of the house—inside he knows that his father is reading in his study and his mother is working in the kitchen, debating what the family will eat for the evening meal.
Spock's eyes are closed, the better to focus on the sounds around him. Wheeling over the plain is a large predatory bird—a jagil or a va'khen—he would have to open his eyes to confirm which.
If he concentrates, he can hear the wind scouring the closest rock outcrop.
Closer by, a muffled footfall—his mother in the kitchen or his father moving from the study to join her to help prepare the meal.
He shivers again and speeds his heartrate by 5% to offset the drop in his core temperature. Still, he feels the cold, and his inability to center himself nags at the edge of his consciousness. A failure of control. He refocuses.
Nearby, the wind chimes his mother keeps on the porch begin jangling in the evening breeze. Perhaps the noise is what is so disconcerting. He has often chided his mother about her love of the sound of wind chimes—they are a needless distraction, their random tones are jarring—though they both know that his complaints are shams, that he enjoys the sounds as much as she does.
As he sits listening to the chimes, they become louder—the breeze must be picking up, though he does not feel it—and he hears his mother calling him from inside. Something about her voice is wrong—and the chiming becomes less musical and more mechanical, turning at last into the sound of the door signal in his quarters on the Enterprise.
Suddenly the cool evening evaporates as the lights of his cabin snap on and he hears Nyota speaking to someone at the door.
"T'Sela," she says, and the young Vulcan girl steps inside. Nyota turns to look at Spock—he stands up from the position where he had been meditating while she had slept. For a moment he is disoriented, and then the chimes, the chill, his name in the air have their explanation in his waking life. He takes off his meditation robe and reaches for his blue overshirt, slipping it on as the door shuts behind T'Sela.
Nyota exhales and darts out her hand, grabbing T'Sela by the forearm. Spock can see what has caused her alarm—an oozing gash across her palm that has stained T'Sela's sleeve dark green.
"What happened?" Nyota asks, the timbre of her voice broadcasting alarm.
"T'Nara fell in the observation deck. She broke a newspadd and I was cut picking it up."
"Is T'Nara injured?" Spock asks as Nyota ushers T'Sela to a chair. T'Sela makes a noncommittal motion with her head and shoulders. Spock feels a flash of annoyance at her imprecision, but before he can ask her to clarify, she looks up at him and seems to anticipate what he is about to say.
"I am uncertain," she says, and then she adds, "I was nearby when she fell, but I could not see the cause. She had difficulty rising, but she told us not to signal for help. She told us not to alert the…humans."
T'Sela blinks and says, "That is why I came here."
Nyota gives him a swift glance. She may be making a commentary about T'Nara's stubbornness, or she may be concerned that T'Sela has disobeyed her teacher and will suffer the consequences. Trying to guess her meaning is frustrating.
"Is T'Nara still on the observation deck? Is anyone with her?"
T'Sela pauses her motions and her eyes become slightly unfocused.
"She's still there," she says. "Tollock and Saril are with her."
Nyota opens a drawer beside the bed and pulls out a medi-kit.
"I'll take care of this," she says to Spock, pulling out the dermaplaster and reaching for T'Sela's arm. Without looking back he exits the room and starts down the corridor toward the observation deck. Near the turbolift is an intercom access and he slows long enough to press the call button to alert sickbay.
The observation deck is deserted except for the three Vulcans. T'Nara is sitting; Saril and a tall boy Spock has seen playing chess several times with Ensign Chekov are standing at her side. When Spock comes in, Saril's face relaxes a fraction. This explains T'Sela's willingness to defy an elder, then.
Despite its name, the observation deck has only a few actual "windows"—but it does have a bank of large viewscreens that mimic an opening to the outside of the ship. Although any image can be projected, most of the time the star field appears to scroll gently by.
New crewmembers have been known to become dizzy when standing near the viewscreens. Spock notes that T'Nara is sitting in a chair facing away from the image—perhaps her fall was the result of becoming disoriented.
She turns to look at him when he enters the room. Spock hears her speaking softly to the two boys who immediately straighten and walk past Spock toward the exit. Saril makes quick eye contact with Spock but says nothing.
"Medical assistance is coming," Spock says, walking towards T'Nara and shifting so that he stands in front of her.
"I require none."
T'Nara is paler than usual, and her clothes are rumpled. Spock tries to glimpse her hands but she has her fingers laced tightly in her lap.
"Nevertheless, the medical personnel aboard this ship are charged with the safety of the crew and passengers. You were reported to have fallen. That must be investigated."
"I do not wish it."
Spock takes a breath and says, "As I indicated, the medical personnel on this ship—"
"The medical personnel on this ship are of no use to me," T'Nara says, and then she adds, "as you should know. Humans are not sufficiently trained in the healing arts—"
"Our healers are highly-trained," Spock interrupts, immediately sorry that he has allowed himself to be provoked. T'Nara gives him a glance that shows that she is aware of his slip in control.
"We're here," someone calls from the doorway, and Spock sees Dr. McCoy and a powerfully-built dark man enter. Behind them are two more people—Christine Chapel and a male nurse Spock does not recognize.
McCoy leads the way to T'Nara and starts to reach out to her. Spock shifts his posture and moves fractionally closer to the Vulcan teacher, willing McCoy to understand the offense he is about to commit. His motions do catch the doctor's eye, but not with the intended result.
"Move out of the way, Spock," he scolds. "You're crowding me and Dr. M'Benga."
To Spock's surprise, the other doctor, M'Benga, pulls McCoy back and then steps quickly so that he is facing T'Nara directly.
"Teacher, are you injured?"
Dr. M'Benga's Vulcan is oddly accented but understandable. Spock watches T"Nara look at the doctor slowly and carefully before she answers.
"What do you know of Vulcan healing?" she says pointedly in Standard.
But it is McCoy who speaks up.
"Dr. M'Benga just finished an intership on a Vulcan ward. He's been assigned to the colony world to assist your healers. He would have been assigned to the Enterprise if Vulcan hadn't—"
Spock flicks his eyes at McCoy—and this time McCoy seems to understand the cue.
"—if Vulcan….hadn't needed him."
Because Spock is watching McCoy, he does not see the moment when Dr. M'Benga drops his shoulders and lowers his head in the familiar posture of Vulcan deference for an elder. He knows what the doctor has done, however, from T'Nara's response.
"You honor Vulcan traditions," she says, and then looking up at Spock, she adds, "unlike other members of this crew."
Dr. M'Benga does not look at Spock but Spock has the impression that he understands T'Nara's slight.
"Your health and well-being are my first concern," he says, motioning for T'Nara to follow him. She rests her hands on the armrest and pauses—Spock waits to see if he needs to help her rise—but then she pushes herself up and stands for a moment before taking a step forward.
McCoy steps behind her, his arms ready to catch her if she topples. Christine and the other nurse hover on either side, and Spock falls in last as they make their way to the turbolift at the end of the corridor.
T'Nara moves slowly but deliberately—once actually reaching out and touching Dr. M'Benga's arm with her fingertips to steady herself. When the turbolift doors open, Christine moves in first to lock them open, and then Dr. M'Benga and T'Nara walk in together.
Spock can hear the exertion in T'Nara's shallow breathing. She takes a deeper breath and closes her eyes as McCoy and the other nurse step into the turbolift, but she opens them again as Spock moves forward.
"You are unnecessary," she says, this time in Vulcan, and Spock stops in his tracks.
From the corner of his eye he can see Dr. M'Benga shift uneasily. McCoy, on the other hand, scolds Spock once more.
"Dammit, Spock," he says, "you're in the way again. Move! The door isn't going to close with you standing there."
T'Nara suddenly reaches out for Dr. M'Benga's arm and Spock comes to with a start, stepping backward and out of the door track. Even after the door slides shut and he can hear the turbolift speed away, he stands there, until a passing crewmember gives him an odd glance and he turns and heads toward the bridge.
A/N: Thanks to everyone who reads and sends kudos, comments, or recommends this to friends!
Chapter 5: Rewind
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine--though I enjoy their company.
The heat hits Nyota like a furnace blast when she palms open the door. For the past week--since the Enterprise took on the Vulcan teenagers and their teacher as passengers--Spock has ramped up the temperature of his cabin to an unbearable degree, a clear signal that he is stressed.
As a concession to her comfort, however, he has programmed the room sensors to adjust when she is present--and as soon as she walks into the empty cabin, she hears the chiller power up. Within a few minutes the room will be closer to 27C--still warm, but tolerable.
His shift today runs for another two hours, but Nyota has decided to wait for him here instead of in her own quarters. In the corridor she had passed T'Sela who told her that T'Nara will conduct an astrophysics lesson on the observation deck for a few interested students. Her manner had been more animated than during their last conversation which left Nyota dispirited and unhappy--part of her is hoping that Spock will contradict the teens' dire predictions about their own future. They are, after all, just kids--and kids sometimes misinterpret facts or confuse appearance and reality.
But a bigger part knows that these teenagers are not confused--that incredible pressures are being brought to bear on all Vulcans now, and this generation of young people has the most to lose in the scramble to create some sort of stability on the colony world.
She opens the top drawer of Spock's dresser and smiles at what she sees there--her sleeping clothes, neatly folded; a pair of tights rolled and tucked together; panties and bras sorted and stacked, and underneath them, a thin robe that she likes to lounge around in. Her drawers in her own cabin are a tousled mess--but Spock keeps her things here as tidy as his own.
She pulls out the sleeping clothes and sits heavily on the bed. If she puts them on now she may fall asleep, she is that tired. On the other hand, she knows she will wake up when Spock comes in, so she changes and pulls back the duvet, stretching out and picking up a newspadd from the bedside table.
During her shift she has kept a news insert running on one monitor; in particular she has followed the story about the Leiden bombing trial. For her it feels personal--she and Spock had been in Leiden when anti-alien terrorists had attacked an academic conference there--and now the leader of the group calling itself Earth United is on trial for organizing and planning that attack.
Since the bombing, the anti-alien factions have quieted somewhat--their protests are smaller and the media is more reluctant to cover them. After the Vulcan genocide Nyota had expected them to fade away completely--after all, their main complaint is that Earth is being overrun by non-humans, and they blame them for creating economic uncertainty by diverting resources to Federation partners.
Without Vulcan as a partner, the Federation may flounder--and although Vulcan has not formally pulled out of the alliance, no one would be surprised if they claim that their energies have to be spent exclusively on recovering and rebuilding efforts on the new colony world. Earth United has even encouraged their departure--cloaking their xenophobia as sympathy for the Vulcan sensibility.
Until recently Nyota was sure that disaffected Terrans were the problem--but since observing T"Nara, she isn't sure that Vulcans aren't as insular. Certainly T'Nara is--but whether or not she represents a majority position, Nyota doesn't know.
The news feeds from Vulcan suggest she isn't alone in her position, though Vulcans are more nuanced in their media, and parsing their meaning isn't always a simple matter.
She's aware that she is drifting off to sleep, the newspadd on her chest--and then what feels like only a minute later, Spock is there, lifting the padd and setting it on the nearby table and then brushing his fingers across her brow.
His touch on her face echoes the touch in her mind, and without opening her eyes she invites him in. Even as she feels him sliding into the bed beside her, she is more alert to his thoughts--the orderly, compact way he is even now making a change in tomorrow's maintenance rotation; his quiet recalculation of a fuel consumption report; his memory of overhearing a puzzling use of the word "beastie" by the engineer, Scott, to describe a malfunctioning fan in the port nacelle--and undergirding everything, a constant sorrow and longing for what he has lost, for what he does not want to think about.
"You can't avoid thinking about her forever," Nyota says without speaking.
But instead of images of his mother or Vulcan, Nyota is bombarded with his images of herself--lithe and brown and bright-eyed, her arms reaching for him when he cannot reach first--as she feels his forehead pressed to her own, his arms pulling her close.
With one hand he rolls her to her back and leans over her, bracing himself on his elbow, an urgency and passion in his motions belying his grief. She reaches up to press her palm to his cheek and he takes her hand in his own instead, flooding her with his desire--and then pausing for her, waiting for her to catch up with him, closing his eyes and bending down to kiss her, softly at first, and then, when she feels her face flush hard and hears her breaths becoming short and shallow, more insistent, until they both lose themselves in a place without words.
Later as she lies completely sated and warm, she senses him rising from the bed, and she curls up, giving herself to sleep.
When the door chimes several hours later, Nyota comes awake with a start. The cabin lights are dim but she can make out Spock sitting on the floor, his meditation robe draped around his shoulders. When the door chimes again and he doesn't stir, she calls out to him, and then she steps out of the bed and goes to the door herself.
"T'Sela," she says, and when the young Vulcan girl enters, Nyota catches sight of her blood-soaked sleeve.
"What happened?" she asks, and when T'Sela answers, Nyota hears the teenager's voice waver slightly. T'Sela is obviously rattled--and in pain--though she pretends a nonchalance when Spock addresses her.
That T'Sela has defied T'Nara's instructions and has sought out help is remarkable. When the young girl explains why--"She told us not to alert the humans"--Nyota looks at Spock. He told her about his first conversation with T'Nara when she had castigated him for his human heritage. Clearly T'Sela does not share her teacher's point of view. To her, Spock is as Vulcan as she is.
Nyota's immediate concern is stopping the bleeding on T'Sela's hand, and she busies herself with finding the appropriate medical supplies while Spock heads out to check on T'Nara in the observation deck. Once she cleans the cut she can tell that it is not particularly deep or long--a trip to sickbay is not warranted after all. The portable dermaplaster seals the edges of the cut and Nyota gently presses a plaster over the wound.
Throughout these ministrations T'Sela has been uncharacteristically quiet.
"Are you tired?" Nyota asks, and to her surprise, T'Sela blinks rapidly and slumps back into her chair. She shakes her head and cradles her injured hand in her other palm.
"When do we arrive at the transport relay?" she asks as Nyota replaces the dermaplaster in the kit bag and puts it back in the drawer. She hazards a glance at T'Sela--despite her denial, the Vulcan girl looks weary, or worried. No parents, Nyota thinks, and she's still just a kid.
"Well, we are scheduled to arrive in the next 30 hours or so--though I'm not sure your teacher will be ready to travel by then. I suppose we will have to wait and see if her fall was serious or not."
T'Sela says nothing, and Nyota says, "The trip from the relay station to the colony shouldn't be that long. You'll be there soon."
T'Sela does not move but Nyota gets the distinct impression that she wants to say something. She throws away the paper which had enclosed the wound plaster and pulls up the other chair so that she is facing T'Sela.
"A penny for your thoughts," Nyota says. Her words have the hoped for effect on the young girl. T'Sela brightens immediately at a puzzling idiom to solve.
"You are asking me to divulge aloud to you what I am thinking," she says, and Nyota laughs and says, "Yes. So spill the beans."
T'Sela sits up a fraction more and tilts her head.
"This means the same as the other?"
"Yes," Nyota says, laughing again.
"Saril will be interested," T'Sela says. "He has compiled many Terran idiomatic expressions in our time on the Enterprise. But I do not understand...what is a penny? And why do humans use legumes to describe their ruminations?"
"Oh, no you don't," Nyota says. "You can find out the origins of Terran idioms on your own time. I know that Vulcan tendency to avoid answering a question by asking a question."
"Very well," T'Sela says, flashing an unmistakably mischievous look. "I have been wondering why you are here, Lieutenant."
This is so far from what Nyota is expecting that for a moment she is flabbergasted.
"But...I told you," she says. "Ever since I was a cadet, I wanted to work as a communications officer on the Enterprise."
T'Sela is definitely warming to the conversation, Nyota sees. She is no longer favoring her cut hand, and she is leaning slightly forward in her chair.
"You misunderstand me," the young girl says. "This sort of misunderstanding is more common in speakers of Standard. The Vulcan language is more precise. In my studies on human psychology--"
T'Sela's recent enthusiasm for studying human behavior strikes Nyota as typical of teenagers with their quicksilver passions and changeable interests. She struggles not to smile.
"--I have read that some linguists still posit the idea that human thought is dependent on human language."
"Linguistic determinism," Nyota says. "It is a very old idea, and one that waxes and wanes in popularity." Nyota starts to say more about it to T'Sela, but the young girl continues.
"Affirmative," she says. "My meaning was unclear to you because in Standard the word here is imprecise."
"What do you mean?" Nyota says, and T'Sela says, "I asked why you are here, and you interpreted the word to mean on the Enterprise. I should have added a qualifier."
At this Nyota does smile--T'Sela reminds her of Spock when he is in "lecture mode"--and she says, "What qualifier should you have added?'
T'Sela shoots that same mischievous glance again and says, "Why are you here in Commander Spock's room?"
And before Nyota catches her breath enough to reply, T'Sela says, "You said you were not bonded. Yet you are here 78.4% of the time when you are not on duty or in the mess hall."
She looks down demurely and adds, "Though my observations have a 4% margin of error."
A/N: Thanks for continuing to read and for being so supportive!
Chapter 6: Conversations
Disclaimer: I borrowed these guys and made them do stuff. I don't own them at all.
"78.4%? Are you certain?" Nyota gives a little shake of her head at the young Vulcan girl whose cheeky observation about Nyota's free time has left her scrambling to respond. "Of course you are. But—you spend lots of time with your friends, too, don't you? I see you with Saril quite often."
"This is true," T'Sela says. "But Saril and I do not engage in sexual activities. You and Commander Spock—"
Nyota stands up from the chair facing T'Sela and moves quickly to the hot pot she keeps for tea. She busies herself with making tea for both of them and then carefully pours two cups.
"Does this line of questioning make you uncomfortable?" T'Sela asks, taking a sip of her tea. "I thought that humans did not mind discussions about their sexual relationships."
Nyota takes a sip, too, and considers how to answer.
"We don't mind too much," she says. "But I thought Vulcans did. Perhaps it would be better if we changed the topic."
There. That might work. She really doesn't want to share information with the Vulcan teen that might get back to T'Nara or might embarrass Spock in some way. But T'Sela seems unfazed.
"I have never understood the Vulcan hesitation to converse about sexuality. It seems…illogical to me."
Nyota smiles at the girl's choice of words. Actually, she realizes, she agrees. Perhaps she can have an authentic conversation without giving away anything too personal.
"My relationship with Commander Spock is private," she says, watching T'Sela closely. "Since he isn't here to confirm or deny anything I might say about it, it seems…illogical to discuss it."
T'Sela's eyes narrow slightly—she is clearly thinking over Nyota's line of reasoning. Nyota leans back in her chair and blows another sip of tea.
"If we limited our conversation to only things which could be verified, we would be unable to talk about any other people unless they were present," T'Sela says. "This would hamper our communication considerably."
She tilts her head a fraction—a triumphant look?—and Nyota laughs.
"Alright, alright, I give up. But I reserve the right to refuse to answer any particular questions."
T'Sela brightens and sits up.
"Agreed." She takes a sip of her own tea and seems to be considering how to proceed.
At last she says, "Since you and the Commander are not bonded, have you decided to live as humans? My studies in Terran psychology indicate that humans often cohabitate without any formal alliance. Is that your intention?"
This question catches Nyota off guard. Live as humans? She has never thought of what they are doing as a choice between being human and being Vulcan. Perhaps Vulcans see it differently?
If so, that might explain some of T'Nara's distaste.
"I'm not sure what you mean by living as humans," Nyota says. "Is that really so different than living as Vulcans?"
For the first time, T'Sela betrays a hint of hesitation when she answers.
"Many Vulcans are bonded as children. Unbonded Vulcans have the added stress of searching quickly for mates when….the time comes."
Nyota knows enough about Pon Farr to realize what T'Sela is not saying—and she doesn't want to press her, despite T'Sela's earlier teenager bravado about being able to speak without shame.
"And unbonded Vulcans--they don't cohabitate? The way humans do?"
T'Sela shifts her gaze beyond Nyota, obviously considering the question.
"It may be that some do and I am unaware," she says at last, "but I believe that only bonded couples live together—or spend 78.4% of their free time together."
At this she flicks her gaze back to Nyota.
X X X X X X X X X X X X
They almost never argue.
Spock has alluded to his discomfort as a child overhearing his parents "discussing" things—usually involving him—his mother's staccato voice, agitated and angry, his father's voice rumbling and quiet, though just as emotional.
They had never argued in front of him, waiting until he was outside or supposedly asleep in his room, but he could imagine too clearly what they looked like when they did, his mother's face, drawn and pinched, his father's brows furrowed, his eyes dark and his gaze flattening as Amanda's tone grew louder.
As a young boy he had more than once been fearful in the morning, sure that one of his parents had left in the night.
But his mother and father had always been in the kitchen when he arose, making the morning meal or sitting companionably together, one reading the feed from a newspadd to the other, the anger of the night gone like desert mist in the sunlight.
It had been very confusing.
And so he avoids arguing with Nyota—though he knows that this is not always wise. Surely other couples have set up a system of rules for negotiating differences that do not include angry rhetoric or emotional displays. When he has time he will research the subject—even he can tell that a conflict is brewing that will need to be addressed soon.
This, too, is confusing. After reporting to the captain about T'Nara's fall and subsequent trip to sickbay, Spock has returned to his quarters, only to find Nyota in a mood he does not recognize. Apparently T'Sela has stayed with her for some time, leaving only a few minutes ago.
Usually when they greet each other in private, Nyota initiates some sort of physical contact—a touch of her hand, a brush of her arm, and then a smile or a kiss before she steps back to survey him as if they had been parted for quite some time. He finds this ritual comforting and tender—indeed, she has assured him that she is not distressed that she must be the one to touch first—as long as he touches last.
Yet today she stays in the chair where she is sitting, her feet tucked on the cushion, her knees drawn up and her arms around them.
"How is T'Nara?" she says, and he moves to the computer at his desk, scrolls through several screens, and then answers.
"Sickbay reports that she has already left for her quarters."
"Weren't you just there?" Nyota asks, and Spock shakes his head slowly.
"T'Nara objected to my presence. I was on the bridge."
Nyota leans her chin to the top of her left knee and looks down. Spock taps the computer screen again and then sits in the chair behind the desk. She looks up briefly and for a moment Spock thinks that she is getting up to come to him. When she stays in her chair, he feels a hint of unease. She is upset about something—perhaps something to do with T'Sela?
He decides to test his theory.
"Were you able to attend to T'Sela's wound sufficiently?" he asks, and Nyota looks momentarily flustered.
"Her wound? Oh, the cut on her hand. Yes. It wasn't that bad after all. She's fine."
"Did something else….." He pauses to consider the appropriate verb. With another Vulcan he would have asked if something else needed discussion, or whether or not something needed an alternative solution—but he has learned that human moods are rarely based on logic.
"Did something else upset you?" he asks, half-expecting Nyota to object, but instead she starts to shake her head.
"No, not really—"
"Then are you too tired to share a meal?"
He stands and walks toward her, but still she doesn't rise. She has said that she is not upset, yet her actions indicate that she is distracted by something. This sort of dissonance—a contradiction between words and actions—was also characteristic of his mother at times. He feels another wave of uneasiness.
"Spock," Nyota says, finally looking up at him and reaching out her hand, "what exactly are we doing?"
He knows her well enough to recognize that she is not asking a literal question—but her meaning baffles him. He could, as he often does with the captain and the doctor, pretend ignorance and answer something like "we are deciding whether or not to eat" or "we are positioned 2.4 meters from each other in my cabin," but he doesn't want to waste her time. He tilts his head and waits for her to elaborate.
"What are we…to each other?" she says, and again he is confused. They are friends and lovers, companions much of the time, colleagues, co-workers, and superior officer and crew member when they are on duty. Why would she need to hear this from him?
"Nyota, I do not understand—"
She makes a quick impatient sound and then looks up, apologetic.
"I didn't mean to….I know I'm not being clear. It's just, where is this relationship going? Are we going to make anything official? Is this….the way it will always be?"
He steps close enough for her outstretched hand to meet his own. He feels her distress immediately, and he searches for the meaning behind it. She is unhappy—that much is clear—and he is the cause, though he cannot tease apart the reasons.
Why are you distressed? Even as he asks wordlessly in her mind, he beats back his own fear of what she will say.
I don't know, she replies, and he feels his heart beating so hard that it shakes his ribcage.
"What has happened?" he asks aloud, and Nyota pulls back her hand and breaks their mental link.
"Nothing's happened," she says. "It's just that…T'Nara isn't going to be the only Vulcan who disapproves of your choices. It might be easier if we—if you—"
She stops, her voice wavering, and Spock deliberately slows his breathing.
"'There's just so much that I don't know…about you."
Is that all? Spock feels a rush of relief. She is curious, then. He had misinterpreted her mood as something more ominous.
"And I, you," he says. She shakes her head.
"No, it's not that simple. For instance, I haven't asked you about so many things that matter to people like T'Nara, and your father. To other Vulcans. You've never said much about your bondmate—"
"We ended our bond the last time I was on Vulcan, as I told you," he says, again feeling nonplussed. He hasn't thought about T'Pring in months—that Nyota mentions her is a surprise.
"Why is this a concern?" he asks, and Nyota looks uncomfortable.
"Today, when T'Sela was here, she mentioned that she was bonded when she was a child—"
"No, I thought that, too. She says that Saril is t'hy'la but not more—that another boy, Tollock, and she will…be together…when the time comes."
Spock feels himself flush—even discussing someone else's bond status is frowned upon, much less alluding to Pon Farr this way. T'Sela's frankness with Nyota is astonishing.
Almost as if she can anticipate his thought, Nyota smiles ruefully and says, "T'Sela told me that she doesn't understand Vulcan reticence in talking about these matters."
Spock opens his mouth to speak—surely she is joking. Even humans honor certain traditions and taboos.
"And don't tell me that humans have topics they don't wish to discuss, either—like death, for instance."
Again she has anticipated what he would say—without benefit of a mind link. The side of his mouth quirks slightly.
"Don't give me that look," she scolds. "My point in bringing this up is that T'Sela asked me—and I think it is a fair question—why we aren't bonded. I know I don't understand everything—" Here Spock sees her dart him a glance. "But if Vulcans need to be bonded, shouldn't we consider it?"
She looks him in the eye then. A few times in his life he has stood at the precipice of decisions that he knew could not be reversed. Turning down his appointment to the Vulcan Science Academy was one. Accepting an appointment to Starfleet was another.
Disregarding rules about fraternizing and becoming intimate with Nyota was the largest decision of all. Surely she knows this—knows how important she is to him. Yet he isn't ready to think beyond the relationship they have now. Settling into life on the Enterprise has been neither easy nor comfortable—he isn't sure he would welcome yet another change.
It seems unlikely, but the Vulcan High Council could recall all Vulcan citizens to civil service—and then he would either have to leave Starfleet or renounce his Vulcan ties. If he and Nyota were bonded, what would that mean for her? Leaving the service with him, or accepting his outcast status?
His silence is hurting her—he sees it in her eyes—but he isn't able to say more.
She stands up and nods as if he has given her an answer.
Her comm chimes suddenly and Nyota picks it up from the desk and flicks the voice activation.
Dr. McCoy's voice sounds agitated.
"Where are you?" he says, and Spock sees her glance in his direction.
"I was just heading to my quarters," she says, and McCoy says, "Stop by sickbay before you do. I need to see you right away."
The comm clicks off and Nyota looks up.
"I better go," she says, and Spock feels an odd tightening in his sternum when she presses the exit button and walks into the corridor.
A/N: If you're out there reading, let me know! It's lonely in here!
Chapter 7: Sickbay
Disclaimer: I do not own nor profit from anyone or anything.
The main sickbay on deck six is one of the few places on the Enterprise that Nyota avoids. Not that she is phobic about germs or sick people—indeed, back home when she was a young teenager she had been a regular volunteer in the pediatric unit of the local hospital.
Nor is sickbay in and of itself unpleasant. It is bright and well-lit, full of interesting machinery and staffed with approachable nurses and technicians.
But whenever Nyota goes there since the destruction of Vulcan, her heart races and she breaks out in a sweat as soon as she walks through the door.
She knows why. Years ago it was called post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychologists in the 23rd century have shortened it to induced trauma. The name isn't important; the reason is critical.
She had watched a good friend die here, from radiation burns suffered when the baffle plates in the auxiliary engineering section disintegrated under the barrage of the Narada's phasers. Nathan's dying had been protracted and painful—and Nyota had sat beside him and watched helplessly as he suffered and then perished. They had been study partners in several classes her second and third years at the Academy—the kind of friend who was always willing to skip out late at night for a drink at a nearby pub or, more frequently, accompany Nyota and Gaila when they needed to go to the 24-hour bakery for fresh donuts.
When she steps into sickbay, she relives the hours when she hadn't moved from Nathan's bedside.
And she thinks about Gaila, disappearing into the gulf.
And the many other cadets she knows who died that day or soon after. Even now when she hears from classmates still at the Academy or deployed to other ships, they begin every conversation with a morbid but necessary ritual, listing their mutual friends and sorting out the living from the dead.
Her heart is racing as she peers into sickbay, looking for Dr. McCoy. He's standing across the room, talking to a handsome, dark man she has never seen before. She notices several other unfamiliar medical personnel, too. Odd. She thought she recognized everyone on the ship by now.
Before she has taken many steps forward, McCoy notices her and waves her over.
"Uhura, have you met Dr. M'Benga?"
The dark man smiles and holds out his hand.
"I don't believe I've had the pleasure," she says, slipping her hand in his.
"The pleasure is all mine," he says in heavily-accented Vulcan. Nyota looks up in surprise.
"M'Benga's headed to the Vulcan colony to do some support work with his team. Some of us—" McCoy says, nodding his head toward a group of medical technicians busy packing equipment—"are tagging along for a few days."
He adds sourly, "Special request—from the Vulcan High Council and our captain."
Nyota isn't sure how to respond, but before she can say anything, Dr. M'Benga says, "Captain Kirk said I could ask you to join us."
"Oh, no, I'm busy with—"
"I realize that a shakedown cruise is quite a challenge—and you are busy," he says swiftly, "but most of the people on my team do not speak Vulcan, and I understand that you do."
"Yes, but most Vulcans speak Standard so I don't think—"
Dr. M'Benga shifts his weight to his other foot and leans his face closer to her ear.
"It's not just the language. I've been told that you also understand Vulcan culture."
Nyota darts at glance at McCoy. She sees him watching her out of the corner of his eye—and turning away quickly when they make eye contact.
"Only a little," she says, irritated at last and ready to leave. A day ago she might have jumped at the chance to visit the Vulcan colony world. She knows that Spock is stressed about his assignment to escort T'Nara and her students there—and she would have enjoyed his company.
Now she isn't sure.
"A little would go a long way," Dr. M'Benga says. The intensity of his look makes her uncomfortable—and she feels annoyed at being made to feel guilty.
"Look," she says, "I'd like to help you, but the Vulcan teacher made it clear to me that she doesn't like my company. She told me to stay away from her students."
Dr. M'Benga stands upright, and Nyota prepares to leave. Before she can walk out, M'Benga adds, "I see. I certainly understand. Can you recommend anyone else in your department who speaks some Vulcan and might not mind working in the children's ward for a week? There's one group of infants who lost both parents and aren't doing well. The loss of both familial bonds at once have caused a type of trauma we haven't seen before in children so young—"
When Dr. M'Benga pauses, Nyota realizes that he is reacting to her facial expression.
"Children?" she says.
"Babies," he replies. "The healers don't have enough time to give them the attention they need. There's a group of social workers scheduled to arrive in a couple of weeks, but some of the babies have died recently. Of course, it could be from infection—there's been an outbreak—"
Nyota shakes her head, telling the doctor to stop talking.
"I'll go," she says.
Dr, M'Benga's expression softens and he reaches his hand to touch Nyota's arm.
"I'm sorry about T'Nara," he says. "She's just…scared."
At this Nyota bristles.
"That's no reason to forbid contact with her students."
"Perhaps not," Dr. M'Benga says, "but people in survival mode do funny things. Humans as well as Vulcans."
Nyota crosses her arms. She feels an instinctual liking for this man, but she doesn't want to be lectured by him.
"Besides," Dr. M'Benga says, "T'Nara's not well, and people do funny things when they are sick."
"That's still no excuse," Nyota says, and Dr. M'Benga says, "Not an excuse, but an explanation. Every single Vulcan is suffering in some way."
"I know that," Nyota says too quickly. She's embarrassed to sound rude, but she thinks of the many nights Spock has been unable to sleep, pulled away from rest by unwanted images of his mother disappearing into the dust. She thinks of Sarek, who rarely speaks of his loss but has immersed himself in the tonic of work.
But Dr. M'Benga doesn't seem to have noticed her rudeness. He stares into the middle distance and continues.
"It's really strange, but the Vulcan healers tell me that they have never seen this newest phenomenon before. Or at least not on this scale. Like T'Nara. Her bondmate died on Vulcan while she was away with her students on the research outpost. The shock has sent her out of remission."
"I'm sorry," Nyota says, uncrossing her arms, "but I don't understand."
Dr. M'Benga shifts his gaze so that he is looking at her directly.
"I thought you knew," he says. "T'Nara has a neurological disorder that causes her to progressively lose control of her motor functions, much like some human myelin sheath diseases. She's been in remission for years, she tells me. That's typical for Vulcans. A bondmate can serve as an adjunct physiology—and when she lost him, she lost that extra stability to her own nervous system."
Nyota opens her mouth to say something and then hesitates. She doesn't want to pry, but this is an image of T'Nara that does change her perception of her.
"But," she finally says, "if T'Nara's nervous system was able to function because she was bonded, then this means that bonded couples are almost…symbiotic. Doesn't it?"
Dr. M'Benga purses his lips and rocks on the balls of his feet.
"I'm not sure I'd call it a symbiosis," he says, "though right now I can't think of a better word. More to the point, most of the time deaths are not sudden and the bondmates have time to prepare. The surviving partner doesn't become unstable—not the way we are seeing now among survivors of the genocide."
Nyota nods softly, but inside she is reeling. The mind touch with Spock has always been intense—indeed, in the earlier days of their intimacy, she had from time to time been anxious about losing her sense of herself, of being swept up in his own thoughts and feelings. But they have come to an accord since then, Spock intentionally holding back when he feels her hesitation, and Nyota herself becoming bolder about exploring the corners of his imagination and memory.
But what Dr. M'Benga has been describing is something else again—something more central, more elemental, than the gentle, pleasant experience she has with Spock.
There is obviously much more to bonding than she had thought.
With a start she realizes that Dr. M'Benga is waiting for her to speak.
"Yes, well, I will make arrangements so I can go with your team."
She wonders briefly whether to stop by Spock's quarters and tell him. On one hand she is still upset with him—but she also needs time to process what Dr. M'Benga has told her. And if she and Spock are going to be traveling on a shuttle and working on the colony for the next week, so doesn't want to feel awkward around him.
"Thank you," Dr. M'Benga says. "I wouldn't have burdened you with T'Nara's private information if I didn't think it was necessary for her care."
"No," Nyota says, "of course not. I'll keep all you've said in confidence."
She turns and begins walking to the door, and Dr. M'Benga puts his hands behind his back and steps beside her.
"I appreciate that," he says. "Before you go, I need to tell you one more thing."
Nyota pauses at the exit. Dr. M'Benga stands and looks down, as if considering how to begin. Nyota feels a prickle of concern at his silence.
"You seem to have developed a rapport with some of the students," he says, and then he looks up. "Despite any prohibitions."
Nyota flushes and nods.
"T'Sela and Saril. They sort of adopted me."
She smiles but Dr. M'Benga looks serious. Nyota feels a sudden rush of concern, and she says, "Is everything alright with them?"
"I wish I knew," he says.
A/N: Arggh! Another twist in the road! Thanks for letting me know that you are still reading!
Chapter 8: The Station
Disclaimer: I do not own nor profit from these characters and their situations. Wish I did...
The transport station is dingy and sparsely staffed; that's a disappointment. Nyota had hoped to do a little shopping or show the Vulcan teenagers around while they wait for their shuttle. However, the only business establishment open in the transport plaza is a small newsstand selling sweets and drinks and subspace video time. To draw customers, it has a newsfeed scrolling across a monitor over the door—and that is the extent of any entertainment anywhere around.
The transport station is located on a mining planet more interesting for its large deposits of nickel and iron than for any tourist destinations. If it weren't strategically located near a shipping lane, no one but mining companies would ever come here.
As it is, most of the traffic consists of humans making short hops from Earth to the outer ring planets or connecting with deep space ships on their way to other quadrants.
If Nyota is disappointed, the Vulcan teens do not appear to be. T'Sela and Saril examine everything with great attention—though Nyota notices that they spend extra time standing near the newsfeed.
The Leiden bombing trial is still at the top of the news cycle—so Nyota turns her attention from watching TSela and Saril to watching the monitor above the door of the newsstand. The trial is in its third day at The Hague, long the site for the International Criminal Court. The group claiming responsibility for bombing the academic conference is mounting increasingly noisy protests in many large cities—calling themselves Earth United, they wave placards saying "Aliens Go Home" whenever the news cameras pass by.
Nyota turns around in her seat to see if Spock has transported down yet—she hopes he doesn't see the newscast. His own involvement during the bombing still makes her feel queasy when she thinks about it—how he had picked up an unexploded bomb and ferried it out of a crowded conference room, finding a safe place for it to detonate and almost killing himself in the process.
But she doesn't see him anywhere. In fact, most of the crew heading to the Vulcan colony have not yet beamed from the ship. They are coming down in stages—the Vulcan passengers first, and then the medical crew, and finally their escorts, Spock included.
While she waits she thinks about the evening before, how Spock had surprised her by showing up at her quarters. Usually they visit in his cabin—it is larger and more comfortably furnished—but he had told her when she opened her door that he wasn't staying, that he wanted only to check on her.
"I'm fine," she had said, stepping back from the door, watching him follow her inside. She had looked at him warily—and he had held himself apart while speaking.
"The captain informed me that you would be traveling with the medical team," he said, and she had nodded, unsmiling. "Do you need anything for the journey?"
She had shaken her head then, and he had started to go, stopping at the edge of the door and looking back at her.
"I am…glad…that you are coming," he said, and she nodded silently again.
And then he had gone on out into the corridor, the door hissing shut behind him.
They haven't spoken since, and part of her is dreading the moment when they have to. Another part of her is tired of their distance and wants to hurry over their differences. She's hurt that he won't commit to their future, but she understands why. He's grieving, she thinks. He needs time.
Bullshit, she scolds herself. We're all grieving.
T'Sela and Saril walk toward the set of plastiform chairs where Nyota sits watching the newsfeed. As usual, T'Sela is the first to speak, Saril standing slightly behind her.
"May we sit here with you?" T'Sela asks, and Nyota smiles and gestures to the empty seats beside her. T'Sela sits in the chair to her right; Saril sits beside T'Sela.
Ever since her conversation in the sickbay with Dr. M'Benga, Nyota has been mulling over what to do. At first when he had offered to tell her personal information about the teens, she had resisted, saying that she didn't want him to violate his professional code of conduct.
"You mustn't anthropomorphize Vulcans," Dr. M'Benga said. "They aren't human—and they would be the first to tell you that. Their ideas about medical privacy aren't the same as ours. For them, not divulging an important bit of medical information would be illogical, particularly if not doing so would lead to a negative outcome."
This helped explain why Dr. M'Benga had told her about T'Nara's neurological illness. Although Dr. M'Benga's tone had been kind, Nyota felt gently scolded for being so parochial.
Now she watches T'Sela and Saril and tries to see if their affection for each other is obvious. They spend much of their time together, certainly, but she has never seen them touch each other—and their conversations with each other are often clipped or contentious, at least to her ear. Perhaps the kind of give-and-take they consider conversation is affectionate.
Or sexual. For that is what concerns Dr. M'Benga. On the day after T'Nara's fall, both teenagers had approached him in sickbay and asked for contraceptives.
"How well do you know them?" he had asked Nyota later, and she had shrugged and answered, "How well can anyone know a Vulcan?"
At that Dr. M'Benga had raised an eyebrow and said, "Pretty well." Nyota had flushed—was he being clever with her? But he had continued, "Though the kids have only been on the ship—what—less than a week?"
She nodded and Dr. M'Benga said, "Has either one said anything to you about their future plans?"
Nyota frowned and said, "Just that they are both going to work on the colony. Neither one would choose that—they both have a real interest in Earth and humans. Saril has been reading lots of Earth literature—T'Sela is almost ready to practice psychiatry, she's read so much about human behavior."
She had looked up and smiled at her joke—but Dr. M'Benga simply nodded.
"But other than that?" he prompted. "Are they bonded to each other? Do they intend to be?"
Nyota shook her head.
In all his time working with Vulcans in the past, Dr. M'Benga couldn't recall another similar request from an unbonded couple, and he told Nyota so.
"They are courting disaster," he had warned her. "If they step outside of tradition—"
"But they're kids," Nyota had protested. "Surely they aren't the first Vulcan kids to have sex."
"Everything that can happen has happened, somewhere, sometime," he said. "But that doesn't mean that the adults are going to condone it. Or acknowledge it."
Nyota had felt a rush of impatience then.
"What do you want me to do about it?" she said. "I'm not their parent. I'm not even their teacher."
Dr. M'Benga had nodded and said, "That's true. But they look to you as a role model."
For a moment Nyota had not understand the implications of Dr. M'Benga's words—but suddenly the pieces had fallen into place.
"Wait a minute," she had said, breathlessly. "You're saying that…they are violating Vulcan norms because I…."
"Your relationship with Commander Spock is no secret."
He let the words lie there without looking at her. Nyota had swallowed and said, "I…don't want them to get in trouble. Or to do anything radical that will hurt their chances for the future."
And then she had looked up at the doctor and said, "But I'm not responsible for the choices they make."
"Of course not," he had said, affably. "But you are being watched."
At the time Dr. M'Benga's words had annoyed her—but sitting here in the transport station, she knows he's right. T'Sela and Saril watch her now, T'Sela's bright green eyes and Saril's black ones trained on her own.
"This news story is often repeated," T'Sela says, waving her hand toward the monitor over the newsstand. "Is this because the human limbic system is limited in how long information can be stored and retrieved?"
Before Nyota can speak, Saril joins in.
"Repetition in human literature does not seem to be related to memory," he says. "Parallel structures in poems, in particular, seem to be a stylistic choice."
"But poetry uses the written text as a memory aid," T'Sela says, turning in her seat to face Saril. "The consumers of newsfeeds rely on auditory inputs, which in humans is less accurate—"
And for the next few minutes Nyota sits back and listens as the two teenagers tease apart the issues of human memory and attention. She finds herself suddenly sad that they will not be able to continue their genuine interests—at least not as their major concerns. T'Sela will work on calibrating signal equipment; Saril will write crop rotation software.
Both have intimated that the work assigned to them is critical for the colony and therefore logical to pursue. Both have also suggested to Nyota that the work will be less than intellectually stimulating.
"You are inattentive today," T'Sela says, and Nyota comes to with a start.
"I guess so," she says with a note of apology in her voice. "I'm thinking about the trip ahead…what I need to do when we get there."
To her surprise, Nyota notices Saril leaning forward to speak. He almost never initiates conversation, preferring instead to be the careful watcher on the outside, occasionally joining in with an astute observation or an insightful question.
"Lieutenant," he says now, "is Ambassador Sarek still serving as an Elder on the High Council?"
Nyota blinks. Why would Saril need that sort of information? Unless, of course, he is planning to petition the Council for something.
"I believe so," she says, "though you can ask Commander Spock when he beams down. "
She notices Saril and T'Sela exchanging glances. Something in their expressions flickers—a signal between them? Apparently so. T'Sela leans toward Nyota and says, "Saril and I accept that we must give up our private interests for the good of the colony."
Nyota starts to nod but Saril interrupts with a slight motion of his hand.
"We do not accept that we must give up each other."
It is such an un-Vulcan-like statement—reminiscent of something Saril might have read in human literature—that for a moment Nyota is uncertain that she heard him correctly.
"But I thought—"
T'Sela pipes up.
"Our personalities and intellects are compatible; we share many of the same interests. The world we knew is gone—it is logical to begin new traditions. I have spoken with Tollock—" Here T'Sela looks up and Nyota nods to let her know that she remembers that Tollock is T'Sela's bondmate—"—and he agrees. We were bonded as children. It has never been a particularly strong bond, nor satisfying."
T'Sela darts another glance at Saril and Nyota knows for certain that the two are intimate. Her heart aches for a moment, torn between being happy for them and worried about the consequences they will surely face.
How does the High Council figure in their plans? She isn't sure how bonds are annulled—Spock has told her little about his own annulment, except that it required a Vulcan healer. Will any Vulcan healer agree to help T'Sela and Saril if doing so means flying in the face of ancient traditions?
Before she can ask, Nyota is distracted by the loud clanging of boxes being shifted by the medical personnel beaming onto the small station pad. McCoy and Dr M'Benga are there, and the technicians Nyota had seen in sick bay but had not recognized. M'Benga's support team, drawn from various medical centers on Earth.
She stands and walks toward them, intending to help shift the equipment off the pad and out of the way, when she sees a small group of men moving together toward the newsstand. Something about the way they are dressed alarms her—they are in miners' uniforms, but they wear them with the unfamiliarity of costumes on a stage. Their mannerisms, too, are twitchy and uneasy—not broad and loud like the other miners waiting in the station for transport.
Nyota steps to the side and flicks open her comm, snapping a picture of the group of men. Then she sends it to Spock, and as she expects, within a moment he buzzes her back.
"How many total?"
"Five, though there might be more outside the station. These just came in."
"Continue monitoring. The security detail will be there shortly."
She's being paranoid, she tells herself. After the bombing in Leiden—and now with the trial on the news—she's jumpy and hyper-vigilant. At least she hopes that's all.
From the corner of her eye she sees T'Sela and Saril rejoining the rest of the Vulcan students where they are sitting with T'Nara. The group of men walks towards them slowly, and Nyota tenses.
"Are you just going to stand there?" McCoy yells at her, and she turns to see him struggling to balance several large medical cases in his arms. She walks swiftly to him and takes the tottering one off the top.
As soon as she and McCoy step away from the transporter pad, Nyota hears a familiar humming and looks up to see Spock and two red-shirted security officers materializing. The men in miners' clothes look up, too, and stop their advance towards the Vulcans. Nyota keeps her eyes on Spock—he does not disguise his interest in the group as they turn and walk away.
"Any more outside?" he asks, and she shakes her head.
"I'm not sure. I haven't checked yet."
Spock motions with his hand and the security officers split up, each one heading to the transport station exits.
"It's probably nothing," Nyota says. Spock silently surveys the station, sweeping it with his gaze until the security officers return and report.
"No one outside at all," the older of the two officers says. "And no place to hide. There are no buildings or large vegetation anywhere around."
Spock flicks out his communicator and confers with the captain for several minutes. Nyota moves discreetly away and helps some of the medical personnel stack their equipment on a rolling dolly for storage on the shuttle.
When all of the equipment is loaded, she looks up at the same time that Spock closes his comm. They make eye contact—and she knows instantly that he is as concerned as she is.
She looks around for the group of men but doesn't see them anywhere. She feels a flash of alarm—and then relief. If they've left—
But then she hears shouting in the distance and the lights in the station flicker on and off once, twice, before finally going out, leaving everything in an eerie twilight.
A/N: The story about the bombing in Leiden is called "The Interview" and it's over on Fanfiction.net. If anyone's interested, I can bring it over here, too. Just give me a shout! It helps when I hear from you!
Chapter 9: Disruptions
Disclaimer: I do not profit from making up stuff about these characters.
In the gloom of the darkened station, Nyota sees figures rushing past like the dim silhouettes of ghosts. Suddenly, warm fingers press against her face, and she is flooded with images from Spock's mind. Hide this, he tells her wordlessly, pressing a small phaser in her hand. She sees herself slipping it into her boot—his visual suggestion—and she senses his concern for the Vulcan passengers.
They are probably targets, he thinks, and she lets him know that she has jumped to the same conclusion—somehow the men that she had alerted him to are connected to the Earth United movement. Are they looking for hostages? With the trial in the news, they might want to do something that dramatic.
In Spock's mind she feels rather than hears a piercing wail—and she knows what Spock knows, that the attackers have detonated a sonic disruptor. His fingers slip from her face and he tumbles forward—she reaches out and tries to break his fall. In the background she sees the Vulcan teens slumping in their chairs. Someone takes a hard fall backward, hitting a chair.
And then Nyota begins to feel the effects of the disruptor, too. At first it is like someone has put itching powder in her clothes, and then her shoulders rise on their own accord and she covers her ears with her palms. Even as she struggles to stay upright, she feels herself sliding forward, landing in a soft heap on her knees, and then tumbling forward as the world goes black.
X X X X X X X X X
Spock comes to before any of the others. His head aches horribly—an aftereffect of sonic disruption—but of more concern is his inability to move. He is sitting up but his hands are trussed behind his back, his feet and legs tied and pulled up close to his body. Another binding holds him upright against a pole or a column—he can't tell which in the dark.
The room feels close and stuffy, and with no windows at all, it is pitch black. The attackers have moved them, then. They might not even still be in the transport station, though Spock thinks it is unlikely that they have been moved far. This feels like a storage area—he smells the metallic oiliness of machinery, and the air handler has a low hum that suggests it was constructed for a large facility.
He tries to sense where Nyota is, but their bond is too tentative. If they were properly bonded—but he sets that thought aside and tests the cords on his wrists. They shift slightly when he puts pressure on them and he continues to tug and shift, tug and shift, hoping to work them loose enough to free his hands.
Nearby he hears a gasp and some rustling—people waking up. The first voices speak Vulcan—the teenagers, then. He asks if anyone is hurt—and he takes an informal roll call. Only T'Nara does not respond, though one of the students believes that she is in the room.
"Sir," a tired voice calls out. One of the security officers.
Slowly the medical crew come to—Dr. McCoy with some choice curses Spock has never heard before—and finally, finally, he hears Nyota's voice across the room. He lets out a breath he didn't realize he was holding.
"Where the hell are we?" someone shouts—one of the miners who had been waiting for transport off the planet. His companion shouts back, "What the fuck! Open up the door!"
Almost as if in response, a door does open and a light switches on. Spock winces at the sudden glare, and then his eyes adjust and he can see two heavily armed men standing just outside the doorway.
A third man steps into the room, a knife held in his right hand. Spock watches him closely—something in the man's position suggests that he is more nervous than threatening. He moves toward one of the miners and leans down, sawing through the rope around his hands. The miner—a big man in a worn uniform—flexes his arms and then unties his own feet. He starts to stand and the man with the knife moves back.
"Go easy," one of the armed men in the doorway says. "We don't need you. Get out now."
The miner looks around, apparently assessing how many others are in the room. Spock sees him catch a glimpse of another miner, and he twists his head toward him.
"My friend," he says to the armed man. "What about him?"
The armed man says nothing but motions with his rifle. The man with the knife steps over one of the medical technicians and cuts the binding on the other miner. He, too, stands up, shakily at first, and then the two miners walk past the men in the doorway.
Now the only people left in the room are the Vulcan passengers and Starfleet personnel. Spock calls out.
"Are you in charge?"
The man with the knife looks toward the armed man who had spoken earlier, and Spock focuses his attention on him.
"What is your purpose in detaining us?"
The armed man takes a step into the room and looks at Spock. He turns to the man still standing in the doorway and says something too softly for even Spock to make out.
Then the man with the knife moves toward McCoy and Dr. M'Benga, both tied with their backs to the same pole.
"You with him?" he asks, motioning toward Spock, and McCoy splutters.
"What kind of damn fool question is that? You know we are. I don't know what kind of game you're playing—"
"Shut up!" the man with the rifle yells. "Leave them."
At that the man with the knife steps back, and McCoy says, "We have children in here! Let them go! I don't know what you think you're doing—"
Before McCoy can finish, the other armed man moves forward quickly and swings the butt of his rifle across the side of McCoy's head.
"Everybody shut up!" the other man yells, and the lights go out again and the door slams behind the retreating attackers.
Spock strains against the bindings on his hands, now slick with sweat and blood. He can hear McCoy's ragged breathing and the quiet talk of the Vulcan students, obviously distressed.
"Nyota," he says once, quietly and urgently—and he waits to see if she has heard him.
"Yes?" she answers, and he says, "The phaser?"
"I have it."
"Can you reach it?"
She is quiet for 2.55 minutes, though he can hear her moving. At last she sighs and says, "No. The cuffs on my hands are too tight."
"Then we have to convince our captors to untie you."
"Good luck with that." The voice is McCoy's, groggy but lucid. Spock feels a measure of relief—at least the doctor isn't badly hurt.
"Lieutenant," Spock says, "if we can succeed in calling our attackers back, can you convince them that you are ill?"
"That shouldn't be hard," she says. "My head is splitting. And then? Use the phaser?"
Spock mentally runs the calculations. Nyota had reported only five attackers, and the security detail seemed to confirm that. If only one attacker comes to free her, the odds are 94.2% that she will be able to subdue him with a single phaser shot. If two appear together, the odds fall to less than 33% that she will be able to incapacitate them both without any injury to herself. If more than two appear, the odds are so negligible that she will escape injury that he does not calculate them.
"If you are able," he says, blocking his concern for her from his conscious thought. "Then contact the ship. They should still be in range for another hour. After that, they will be on the way to pick up supplies at Eris Four."
"And we will be on our own."
X X X X X X X X X
Getting the attackers to come back is easier than she had thought. Apparently someone is stationed outside the door—when she starts yelling, the door cracks open.
"I need help!" she calls, and the door opens more.
"What's wrong?" a man with a Klingon-style disruptor says. Nyota can see him clearly, backlit in the doorway.
"I'm sick. I need help."
The man flicks on the overhead lights and looks around. Nyota speaks up again—"I'm sick,"—and the man leers and tucks his pistol inside his jacket. Nyota glances at Spock—his face has a peculiar pallor and his eyes are narrowed and black—and then she looks up at her captor and mimes retching.
"Please help me," she says, and he leans forward and tugs on the rope binding her arms.
Nyota's heart is beating so hard that she can hear it in her ears. The man is tall and bulky, his red hair cut so short that she can see the skin of his skull. When he leans down to untie her, she smells something sharp on his breath. Alcohol? He is dressed in the same too-new miner outfit worn by the other attackers—terrorists, Nyota amends.
He pulls away the rope and grabs her arm roughly, jerking her to her feet. Nyota leans down and slides the rope from her legs and kicks her ankles free. Although her captor still has her by the arm, she bends away and reaches her hand down her boot, as if she is adjusting it. She feels the phaser meet her fingers and slides it up into her palm.
Her eyes lock on Spock's as she rises—and she sees him flick his gaze behind her before he bolts forward, startling both her and her captor.
The man holding Nyota's arm fires his disruptor once before Nyota fells him with a phaser blast. Even before he hits the ground, she turns and shoots at the doorway and the men who had caught Spock's attention earlier. They shut the door quickly, deflecting her shots, and she rushes the door and pushes against it. Too late. She hears the bolt drawing through the latch.
The man who had untied her is out cold—perhaps the other attackers will bargain for his release. She leans on one knee and feels his pulse in his neck—steady and strong. She looks up to check with Spock and takes a sharp breath. He is crumpled on the ground.
Chapter 10: Help Wanted
Disclaimer: I do not own nor profit from these characters and the situations they find themselves in.
Within a few minutes, everyone is untied—except for the man in the miner's uniform. The security officers have disarmed him and bound him—roughly, Nyota notices. One of the technicians has retrieved the medical kits where they were piled near the door—and Nyota wonders briefly what kind of terrorists would let them keep their supplies this way.
Inexperienced ones. That might be to Starfleet's advantage.
Or it might mean that the terrorists will make rookie mistakes and panic.
McCoy and Dr. M'Benga have isolated Spock in one corner of the room and are hovering over him with medical scanners. His breathing is slow and hoarse—though McCoy tells her that disruptor fire affects the lungs this way and he's not unduly alarmed yet. He's more concerned that the blast seems to have disturbed the normal electrical signals in his heart.
"We can fix everything else here," he mutters, "but I need to get him to the ship if he goes into cardiac arrest."
The ship might as well be a million miles away—indeed, Nyota thinks, it probably is. Her communicator plays nothing but static, even after she reprograms it to send a single homing beam. Either Spock was wrong about how long the Enterprise would be in orbit before leaving for Eris Four or they have been called away.
The Vulcan teacher is reclining against the far wall, her students sitting and standing nearby. Nyota catches T'Sela's eye and the young girl walks across the room to her.
"Are you okay?" Nyota asks, and T'Sela gives a curt nod.
"And Commander Spock?" T'Sela says, looking towards the corner.
Nyota leads the way to where the medical team is working. No one looks up, but she senses that McCoy is aware of her behind him. He hands a hypospray to the technician beside him, saying, "Hold off on this until we see how he reacts to the lower dose. He'll heal faster if he's not too drugged."
Then the doctor turns to her and says, "Can you reach him? Tell him what we are doing?"
For a moment Nyota isn't sure what McCoy means, but T'Sela leans forward and touches one finger to the back of Spock's hand. She straightens almost immediately and says, "He's looking for you."
McCoy and the technician move out of the way and Nyota sits beside Spock, lifting his hand and placing his fingers in her palm.
Immediately she feels the familiar tingle of contact—and then a massive weight presses on her chest and she is suffocating. She lets go of Spock's hand and doubles over, gasping for breath.
She hears Dr. M'Benga murmuring near her ear. What had he told her earlier, about Vulcans helping each other through a bond? Is this weight—this pressure—the result of the disruptor fire? Is this what Spock is feeling?
She closes her eyes and reaches for his hand once more. The crushing weight again, and the strangling need for air—and beyond that, Spock's awareness of her, and his alarm that she is being hurt.
And then Nyota feels a hot bracelet slip around her arm—and her mind is flooded with an image of a desert and the relief of breathing an atmosphere unburdened with moisture. Dimly she is aware that T'Sela is the source of the heat and the image—through her grip on Nyota's wrist.
She doesn't know how long they sit like that—Nyota holding Spock's hand and T'Sela touching her—but when Spock's breathing becomes less labored, less choked, she lets go of his fingers and leans back, exhausted. T'Sela releases her wrist and rocks back on her heels, looking like a green-eyed cat.
"Thank you," Nyota says to the young girl, and T'Sela tips her head to the side.
"In my study of human psychology, I've read various explanations for why humans put such a premium on words of gratitude. Do you yourself do it to insure future cooperation from the person being thanked, or do the words function merely as a ritualized social interaction?"
Despite her exhaustion, despite her desperate worry about Spock, despite the unreal chaos of the attack, Nyota closes her eyes and laughs. When she opens them again, she sees T'Sela staring at her with unmistakable concern.
"I'm okay," Nyota says, brushing her hand towards T'Sela but stopping short of touching her.
"Are you laughing," T'Sela says, "as a release of emotional tension?"
Her question makes Nyota laugh again, quietly, and she says, "Yes. Yes to everything. Yes to future cooperation, and yes to—what did you call it?"
"Ritualized social interaction."
"Yes—yes to that, and yes to emotional release."
She looks up then at T'Sela and sees what passes for, in Vulcans, as a smile—a quirked lip, an uplifted brow, a knowing glance.
Then Dr. M'Benga is there, reaching around her and holding his portable scanner over Spock.
"Good," he says. "The bleeding in his lungs has stopped."
The doctor looks around at T'Sela and gestures toward the group of Vulcans sitting together.
"Is anyone hurt?"
"Not from the attack," the young girl says, but she blinks once and adds, "though my teacher does appear to be in some distress."
Nyota watches as Dr. M'Benga stands up swiftly and approaches T'Nara. He glances back and Nyota realizes that he wants her to follow. She looks closely at Spock—he is unnaturally pale, his eyes are still closed, and his brow is furrowed as if he is in pain, but his breathing is calmer. Tiredly she stands and heads across the room. T'Sela rises silently and joins her.
T'Nara does not acknowledge her, but then Nyota didn't expect her to. Dr. M'Benga waves his handheld scanner over T'Nara and checks the readings, scans again and checks again—and then apparently satisfied, he palms his scanner and nods, first at T'Nara, and then at Nyota.
Is he trying to tell her something? Why did he want her to see his examination of T'Nara? So that she would know that all of the passengers are safe? Their safety is Spock's primary concern as they travel to the Vulcan colony. That's why he had included two security officers among the travelers. Does Dr. M'Benga want her to reassure Spock through her link with him? Will that help him somehow?
And then Nyota has a flash of gifted insight—the kind that has made her a stellar language student and an invaluable communications officer—the kind that feels like a series of tumblers falling into place and opening a sticky lock—and she knows why Dr. M'Benga wanted her close to T'Nara—or at least, she knows what to do now.
"We need you," Nyota says to the Vulcan teacher. T'Nara slowly turns her gaze and Nyota says, "We have to find out what the terrorists are planning. You can do that."
Nyota sees Saril moving closer, coming to stand beside T'Sela. Both turn in tandem to look at where the red-headed terrorist is lying on the floor, a security officer standing nearby.
T'Nara says nothing, and for a moment Nyota debates how to approach her. She plunges on.
"That man has information we need—that your students need—if we are going to get them out of here unharmed. He knows how many other terrorists there are, what kinds of weapons they have—"
"I will not help you."
T'Nara's voice is not loud but it is final. Nyota hears the Vulcan teacher take a deep breath and expel it slowly.
"But," Nyota says, "they could be planning to rush us—or use another sonic detonator. We have a phaser and a disruptor—that's all. The odds are against our being able to get out of here without serious injury unless we know—"
"I will not help you," T'Nara says, louder this time, and Nyota hears the room go silent. "It is unethical to impose a mind meld on an unwilling subject. That sort of …coercion may be acceptable to humans, but Vulcans renounced such violence millennia ago."
Nyota feels a rush of panic. The terrorists will regroup soon, and when they do they may be desperate. She looks at Saril and T'Sela—they are watching her carefully.
"It is also unethical to refuse aid," Nyota says, but T'Nara does not react. "Worse, it is illogical. Doing something unethical when it is necessary is…logical."
At this T'Nara does react—with what Nyota assumes is the Vulcan equivalent of a sneer.
"Do not speak of logic to me," T'Nara says. "Humans do not understand logic."
Nyota lets out the breath she is holding—the atmosphere in the room is electric, the silence oppressive. Speaking to this woman is maddening—she has to find a way to convince her to help.
"Humans may not," Nyota says quietly, "but Surak does. The needs of the many…."
She doesn't finish the quote—the one every human knows as well as every Vulcan. Instead, she crosses her arms and steps back so that she is next to Saril and T'Sela.
T'Nara does not move—and Nyota feels a heavy wave of disappointment.
"I will help you," Saril says suddenly, and both Nyota and T'Nara turn to him. "I can mind meld with him and find out the information we need."
As much as she wants T'Nara's help, Nyota isn't sure how she feels about asking for the same moral compromise from Saril. He's still a kid. If he suffers emotional harm because of it—
But before she can say anything to him, T'Nara pushes herself upright and says, "You will not. If anyone is to do this, it will be me."
A/N: Whatever ethical dilemma Vulcans may face concerning when and how to use mind melds, Spock (both in TOS and reboot) seems to have settled that issue for himself, perhaps because of his oath to Starfleet.
Thanks for letting me know you are out there!
Chapter 11: Waking
Disclaimer: Some of these characters are mine, but most of them are not. They don't seem to mind.
"Lieutenant," Dr. McCoy says to Nyota as he moves his scanner across the chest of the red-haired man sprawled near the door, "you did a number on this guy. He's still out."
From where she is sitting on the floor beside Spock, Nyota breathes out heavily.
"His own fault," she says without looking at the doctor, "for getting in the way of my phaser."
"I'm not complaining," McCoy says, turning off his scanner and moving to stand beside her. "It was a lot easier getting him to talk this way."
Both he and Nyota glance across the room to where T'Nara is sitting on a large wooden box, her back resting against the wall. Nyota feels a twinge of guilt that she quickly sets aside. The mind meld had been swift and seemingly painless—and valuable.
As she had assumed, the attackers—five of them—are members of Earth United, the anti-alien group that has claimed responsibility for the Leiden bombing. After they used their one sonic detonator, they moved their captives to a large storage room in the rear of the facility.
Initially they had intended to free all of the humans and keep the Vulcans as hostages, hoping to negotiate the release of their leader on trial in The Hague. Capturing Starfleet personnel, however, is a game changer that has thrown the attackers into a quandary.
On one hand, if the Federation is reluctant to be drawn into negotiations over a few Vulcan civilians, they will be more likely to cooperate to get Starfleet officers back.
On the other hand, if Starfleet is reluctant to use force to free the Vulcan civilians, they will not hesitate to use whatever necessary to recover their own people.
At least, that is the thinking of the attackers. Nyota grits her teeth in anger at their xenophobic assumptions.
She feels a spark skitter across her palm and she looks up. Spock's eyes flutter open, though his gaze is cloudy and unfocused.
"Dr. McCoy," she calls, and McCoy is by her side in a moment, his scanner in his hand.
"Spock," he says, but Spock doesn't respond. "Dr. M'Benga, do I need to—"
Dr. M'Benga moves around to Spock's side and peers at him intently.
"Hold off," he tells McCoy, and Nyota feels Spock's hand grip her own tightly. She can tell that he is trying to speak, and she leans her ear close to his face.
"The students?" he says.
She looks up at McCoy and exhales loudly.
"He's…." She struggles to put into words what Spock needs for her to say, what he is telling her through the timbre of his voice and the pressure of his touch. She feels how torn he is between needing to sink into a healing trance and the more pressing need to be fully conscious and in command.
She looks around at McCoy and M'Benga waiting patiently for her to speak, and from the corner of her eye she sees that T'Sela and Saril and even T'Nara are watching her.
"He's…better. But we have a lot to do to get ready."
"Here, help me get him up," Dr. McCoy says, and a medical technician stoops over and gingerly slips his arm under Spock's shoulder. With McCoy on the other side, they work in tandem until Spock is leaning upright against a makeshift pillow of backpacks and jackets.
Nyota can see how the effort tires him—but she also senses an urgency in his manner that puts her on guard.
"Have the attackers contacted us yet?" he says, his voice a thin wheeze, and she shakes her head.
"Nothing—not since I stunned their guy. He's not awake yet. Jamieson's watching him."
She waves her arm vaguely to where the younger security officer stands, the Klingon disruptor in his hand.
The other security guard is positioned by the door, holding Nyota's phaser. He makes eye contact when she looks in his direction—and Spock says, "Any communicators?"
"It's set to homing," Nyota says, handing her comm to Spock. With his thumb he presses against the tiny access panel on the back and exposes a small readout screen.
"The last time it recorded a signal from the ship was 13.44 hours ago. If the Enterprise keeps to schedule, it should be returning from the supply pick up in another 20 hours."
He pauses to take a shallow breath, and Nyota holds herself back from reaching to him—not that she thinks he would object, but she doesn't want to break his concentration.
"Wait to reset your communicator for two-way until an hour before their scheduled return," he says, and Nyota understands immediately what he is suggesting. This transport station has weekly arrivals and departures only—mostly ore freighters but transfer ships as well.
Unless the terrorists have alerted the media to the situation, no one knows about their capture—and the Enterprise will have no reason to stop here again as it passes through this shipping lane on its way back from Eris Four.
Unless something catches their attention.
Nyota's communicator—registered with an Enterprise ID number—will be like a lighthouse beacon.
Briefly Nyota fills Spock in on the other pieces of information T'Nara was able to discover, and he sits motionless, listening intently.
"They'll come for their man," Nyota says, and Spock closes his eyes for a moment before answering.
"The terrorists are more likely to change their tactics than their strategy."
"You mean that they will leave him here—with us—rather than give up the idea of taking hostages?"
Spock closes his eyes and for a moment Nyota wonders if he hears her. He blinks his eyes and takes a ragged breath. Clearly, talking is becoming difficult, and Nyota scoots closer and picks up his hand and presses it between her own.
As always she is infused with a warmth that she associates with his affection for her—and a kind of light-headedness that makes her feel giddy as she slides into his consciousness and feels him reaching back towards her.
His worry about the Vulcan passengers is foremost—the terrorists' plan to take them hostages informs every calculation he makes now.
The faces of the students and their teacher shift into several scenarios as Spock considers what the terrorists may do next. To maximize their use as hostages, the terrorists may try to broadcast images—and to do so they will have to open the door and remove the students.
The Starfleet officers could, in that situation, rush the door and either try to disarm the attackers or force them back. Either way, injuries are likely.
Or the attackers could try to remove them from the storage room by setting a controlled fire, or rigging another sonic disruptor, or sealing the room and shutting off the air.
Nyota feels Spock dismissing this possibility as unlikely—that the terrorists haven't already implemented it suggests they lack the technical skill to do so.
He is also surprised that the attackers have not communicated since Nyota convinced them to open the door earlier. This may indicate that they are waiting for instructions from another group—perhaps one higher in the Earth United hierarchy.
If that is the case, then the group may be orchestrating multiple attacks to coincide with the trial. That might explain why a relatively remote outpost—although one traveled by earth-going aliens—might have been targeted. Nyota's head spins suddenly with a rush of data as Spock considers the other possible targets and comes up with a list of two dozen.
She jumps when she hears a loud clanging outside the door. The closest security guard steps aside and trains the phaser forward.
Spock pulls back his hand and Nyota is alone again in her own head. She stands and looks across the room at the Vulcans—most are also watching the door, but T'Sela is looking at her. Nyota gives her a little nod of acknowledgement.
The clanging again—sharp and loud—and then Nyota realizes that the terrorists are connecting a digital speaker to the metal door. Sure enough, she hears a squawk of static and then a tinny voice begins to speak.
"Move away from the door or you will be harmed."
To her surprise, Nyota feels Spock to her side—tottering slightly, but standing up without support. He brushes her arm with his hand to stop himself from swaying as he calls out, "Open the door. You are in violation of Starfleet regulations determining the treatment of captives. I am willing to negotiate on your behalf to the authorities if you release us now without harm."
"Move away from the door," the voice calls again. Spock motions to the security officer and says, "Mr. Hill, step back."
Then he turns to Jamieson, the other security guard, and says, "Gentlemen, on my mark only—"
Dimly Nyota is aware that T'Nara and the Vulcan students have gathered behind her and the medical crew have grabbed their medical kits. Everyone is tensed, ready to leave the stuffy room—though Nyota knows that Spock is uncertain that they will be able to force or negotiate their way free.
"Move away from the door," the voice says once more, and Spock says, "The door is clear."
With another bang the bolt shimmies loudly and the door cracks open and stops. From her place beside Spock, Nyota can see one of the heavily-armed attackers, his phaser rifle pointed into the room.
Spock walks immediately to the crack in the doorway, his elbows bent and his hands held up palm out.
"Throw out your weapons," the attacker says, but Spock answers, "I am unarmed."
"What did you do to Arix?"
Spock looks back toward the red-headed attacker. He is awake—barely. Lt. Jamieson pulls him to his feet and stands waiting.
"We will return him to you after you allow the passengers to leave. I will remain to negotiate with the authorities on your behalf," Spock says, and Nyota feels a catch in her throat. This is the kind of sacrifice she has been trained as a Starfleet officer to make—but it is much harder to hear Spock offer it for himself.
The man outside the door seems to be considering Spock's offer. He presses a tab on his earpiece and speaks softly. Is he communicating to the other attackers—or, Nyota wonders, is he being instructed by someone off-planet on what to do next? That doesn't bode well. She instinctively braces herself.
The armed man says, "We agree to your terms. The aliens can leave if you stay."
Nyota feels a warm hand tap her shoulder and she turns to see T'Sela.
"Go," Nyota says to the young girl. "Help the others get out. We'll be okay."
She gives what she knows is a rueful smile and then she says, "Hurry, before they change their minds."
One of the smaller Vulcan girls is already at the door, the security officers standing on either side. T'Nara follows closely behind, and T'Sela joins the line as the door creaks open just enough to allow the students to begin to walk through.
A sound like thunder echoes down the hall as the door opens a fraction more, and the Vulcan students recoil. The armed man in the doorway lowers his rifle and aims toward them.
And then all hell breaks loose—Nyota hears Spock yelling and Lt. Hill leaps forward, simultaneously pulling the students out of the way and shoving the door partially closed. Lt. Jamieson holds the Klingon disruptor up and shoulders his way forward, shooting toward the armed attacker before doubling over, hit twice by rifle fire.
"No!" Nyota yells, but Jamieson collapses through the doorway into the hall.
Blasts of plasma energy ricochet into the room and Hill and Spock lean heavily into the door, shutting it as rifle fire hammers it. One of the Vulcan students nurses her bleeding arm and a medical technician pulls a pressure bandage from her kit. Nyota looks around frantically—T'Sela and Saril are unhurt, though both look rattled.
"What the hell was that all about!" McCoy says, but Spock ignores him.
"Lieutenant," he says to the remaining security officer, "give me the phaser."
Lt. Hill hands the phaser to Spock immediately.
"Station yourself by the door," Spock says, sitting heavily on the floor, cradling the phaser in his hand. "If you hear anyone attempting to open it, alert me immediately."
"What will you be doing, Sir?" Lt. Hill asks, and Spock flips open the phaser and says quietly, "Making a bomb."
A/N: On the morning before I wrote this chapter, I knew I had to decide whether or not poor Lt. Jamieson was going to bite the dust. It is Star Trek, after all, and one can't be too sentimental about red shirts (unless, of course, you're talking about Montgomery Scott).
I'm a pretty logical person, so naturally I decided to leave the fate of the red shirt to…fate. My commute to work is reasonably short, involving 4 stoplights. If I counted 20 red cars on my morning ride, I would have to off the red shirt.
To help the poor guy, I discounted weird red colors—no burgundy or maroon cars—and no trucks or SUVs. Just candy apple red cars—bright lipstick red cars—and if I could get to work without counting 20, the red shirt would beat the odds and survive.
He was a goner by the second light.
Chapter 12: Interlude
Disclaimer: I admit to spying on these characters, but they aren't mine and I don't profit from my spying and reporting.
Getting a phaser to overload isn't easy. The mechanical construction has several fail-safes designed to prevent anyone from doing what Spock is attempting—rigging the phaser to supercharge the circuits and detonate the power coils.
Even harder is timing the power overload so that there is a measure of delay from the time the safeties are removed to the build up in the coil—and the subsequent explosion. Without a time delay, the phaser is a suicide weapon, exploding as soon as it is activated.
When he takes the phaser apart, Spock notes that the power reserves are down by 20%-an indication of recent heavy use. No wonder the attacker Nyota stunned was unconscious so long—she must have hit him at point blank range. An image of her stepping toward the red-headed attacker and pressing the phaser into his abdomen flashes through his mind like a scene lit suddenly in a lightning storm—his last view before the disruptor fire had hit him.
How odd that he should feel a flush of nervousness now, after he knows that she survived the encounter unharmed.
He will have to consider the reason for his delayed reaction later.
The coupling between the circuitry and the coil is small and his fingers slip twice as he tries to disengage it. Spock straightens his hand and holds it up, watching the slight tremor he can't control—an artifact of the disruptor fire.
Nyota is sitting crossed-legged on the ground facing him. Along one wall the Vulcan students sit or lean; they have had nothing to eat or drink in hours, and in one corner they have set up a make-shift latrine from buckets they salvaged from among a pile of discarded trash.
If he can close his eyes for a moment, Spock thinks he might be able to stop the trembling in his hands. Instead, he takes a deep breath and struggles to focus on the phaser; again his fingers slide off the coupling.
Without a word, Nyota leans forward and takes the phaser from him, holding it tightly and teasing her fingers across the intricate wiring. She is leaning so closely to Spock that he feels a tendril of her hair tickling his face.
She bites her lip and tugs, and the coupling comes loose at last. She holds the phaser up for his inspection and he says quietly, "Pull out the refraction chip."
"Got it," Nyota says, and Spock closes his eyes and leans into her, their foreheads touching. He hears her shifting and feels her sliding closer until their crossed legs meet. She places the phaser beside him on the floor and takes both of his hands in hers.
A heavy wave of exhaustion washes over him then—something deep and dark pulling him down—and he fights to open his eyes but fails. He hears soft footfalls and the scrape of a shoe –but Nyota doesn't react and he relaxes, letting himself sink into nothingness.
X X X X X X X X X X X X
"Why are you altering this weapon?" "T'Sela asks, crouching down beside Nyota and Spock. Nyota lets go of Spock's hands and sits up. Spock leans back against the backpacks he has used as a makeshift pillow, his eyes closed, his breathing deep and even.
Saril sits, too, and Nyota is struck by how disheveled he appears, and how plaintive T'Sela sounds.
"We've rigged it to overload," Nyota says, yawning. "Hopefully we won't have to use it."
She is suddenly so weary that talking to the Vulcan teenagers is a chore.
"Explain," Saril says, and Nyota shrugs and says, "We can incapacitate all of the attackers with one blast this way."
She sees Saril and T'Sela exchange glances and she waits for the inevitable question. It comes soon enough.
"But that would require," Saril says, a definite furrow in his dark brows, "the user to destroy himself as well."
Nyota sighs and stretches her arms to her side.
"We tried to set up a delay." She slides around so that she is able to lie back with her head on the same pile of backpacks where Spock is resting.
"You better get some rest," she says. "We don't know when they will return."
T'Sela has an uncharacteristic frown on her face as she says, "And Commander Spock intends to go with them when they do—to negotiate our release?"
Nyota is too tired to note the moment when Saril takes T'Sela's fingers in his own—they may have been holding hands the entire time they had been talking to her. When she does notice, however, she can't help but smile.
"If the terrorists agree to it—then, yes, he will talk with them."
"And use the phaser?" T'Sela presses her question with an intensity that surprises Nyota.
"If he must," Nyota says.
"Even if it costs him his own life?"
Nyota reaches behind her and adjusts the lumpy backpack so that her head is more comfortable. She's really tired of talking but she doesn't want to be rude.
"T'Sela," she says, "Spock isn't trying to kill himself—he's going to be careful. But the phaser overload is tricky—I won't lie to you. We don't have any guarantees about what will happen."
T'Sela nods, and then she lets go of Saril's hand and gets up, walking back towards the side of the room where the other students are bedded down.
"Get some sleep," Nyota says, and Saril stands up and follows T'Sela.
Nyota watches them for a moment as they settle together and then she curls herself up slightly against the chill. She wants to move close enough to Spock to get warm, but she is afraid that if she touches him, he will wake.
She contorts herself a bit more on the hard floor and tries to get comfortable. As she turns over to her other side she sees the red-headed terrorist staring at her. She shivers, though not from the cold.
"Think you're special," he says when they make eye contact, and Nyota sits up. Her movement catches the attention of Dr. McCoy who is repacking supplies into a single carryall—Nyota sees him straighten and stand.
She says nothing to the man—not that she doesn't want to provoke him, but because she is afraid she can't control her voice enough to keep her scorn hidden. She is a Starfleet officer, after all, and her behavior is governed by a professionalism that is sometimes inconvenient.
Like now, when she wants to tell this man off.
"You think they care about you?" he says, pointing his chin toward the Vulcans across the room. His hands are tied behind his back and Nyota sees him swaying slightly as he twists back around. She feels a flash of fury but refrains from answering.
"They don't care about you, no matter how much you think they do," he says. "They tolerate us, that's all. With their superior attitude—just waiting for us to fail. Even now—they take our resources and give nothing back. Look at them. Empty, every one."
He snorts and adds, "Though I can see you're getting something back from at least one—"
"Shut up!" McCoy shouts, and Spock's eyes flutter open for a moment. McCoy looks down at him and waits a beat until Spock's eyes close again before he speaks.
"No one's interested in your opinion," McCoy says, acid in his voice, and the red-headed man laughs mirthlessly. Nyota crosses her arms across her chest and takes a deep breath.
"Well, you should be," he says. "You're not going to get out of here alive otherwise."
Now Nyota does speak up.
"What do you mean?"
The man flexes his arms against his restraints before he answers.
"Think they're worth dying for? If the Federation doesn't stop this joke of a trial, we're going to take you out and shoot you one by one until they do."
"You wouldn't dare," McCoy says, stepping closer. The red-headed man smirks.
"Watch us," he says.
Nyota hears a gentle rustle beside her and she knows that Spock is awake and listening. She looks across the room and picks out T'Sela and Saril from the group of Vulcans. They appear to be sleeping, lying beside each other. Good—she hopes they haven't heard any of the red-headed man's hate-filled comments.
But T'Nara may have. She sits on a wooden box, ramrod straight, like a watchful owl, her face in this direction. Someone has dimmed the room lights and Nyota can't make out T'Nara's features—but she's sure that if she could, she would see proof that Earth United is wrong, that Vulcans can feel hate as deeply as any human.
Chapter 13: Dark Night of the Soul
Disclaimer: I'm a spy, not an owner.
"Spock," Leonard McCoy says softly, but Spock doesn't open his eyes. Perhaps the doctor will go away if he thinks Spock is sleeping. That would be the logical course of action.
But the doctor proves once again that he is governed by his passions instead of his head. He raises his voice slightly and calls to Spock a second time.
Spock sits up from where he has been reclining against the pile of backpacks in the room where he and the other Starfleet crew have been imprisoned for the past two days. Most of the Vulcan students they are escorting to the new colony are sleeping, or at least are quiet and still.
However, Spock notices the gaze of the tall dark boy, Saril, sitting up with his knees drawn to his chest, his arms around his legs. T'Sela is asleep sitting beside him, her back against the wall, her head on his shoulder. Their easy familiarity with each other is astonishing—and Spock feels an odd mixture of uneasiness and pride in their willingness to challenge convention.
"We have to talk," McCoy says, leaning toward Spock and looking quickly at Nyota. She is curled up on the floor, asleep, her head resting on her tucked up hands.
Spock says nothing but waits for McCoy to continue. McCoy crouches down so that he is eye-to-eye with Spock and says, "You heard what they're planning to do."
This is a statement of fact—Spock did indeed hear the captured terrorist claim that Earth United is planning to execute their prisoners unless the trial in Leiden is stopped and their leader is freed—so he does not reply. McCoy, however, seems to be waiting for him to say something, though Spock cannot imagine what.
"Well, didn't you?" McCoy prompts, and Spock says, "You are aware that I heard them."
McCoy sighs loudly and dramatically and says, "So what are you going to do about it?"
Surely the doctor hasn't already forgotten the sabotaged phaser. Spock considers how to answer him.
"When the terrorists return, I will attempt to negotiate with them for our release. Failing that, I will detonate the phaser to neutralize as many of our captors as possible—"
"That's what I'm talking about," McCoy says, noticing Nyota beginning to stir. "You can't just blow yourself up—"
"Doctor," Spock says, aware of the weariness in his own voice, "that is not my intent. But since you bring up the possibility, we need to discuss what will happen in that eventuality. The Enterprise should be within hailing distance within the next two hours—assuming they kept to their schedule and are en route from Eris Four. Lt. Uhura will use her communicator to contact them—and under no circumstances should you allow the Vulcan passengers to be separated from our crew. The terrorists may have reinforcements on the way."
McCoy opens his mouth, presumably to protest, and Spock hurries on.
"In the event of my death, you will lead the crew and passengers to safety. That is your primary responsibility."
"Which is why," McCoy says, "I should be the one to talk to the terrorists. Give me that phaser."
This may be a joke, Spock thinks, though McCoy is not giving the normal human cues to indicate humor. Instead, McCoy reaches his hand out and says, "It's the logical thing to do, Spock. You are the only one who can guarantee that our passengers are safe. You need to remain here, with them."
As he looks at the doctor's face, Spock is struck by what a cipher this man is to him. The doctor can be infuriatingly emotional—even irrational—railing against situations that can't be changed and strangely sanguine about things that cause Spock hours of meditation.
Yet something in the doctor's gaze—something in his tone of voice—reassures Spock and gives him a measure of unexpected comfort.
McCoy's hand is still outstretched, waiting for the phaser, and Spock thinks about what he has told no one—that the odds are 93.7% that the mechanical delays will fail and the phaser will blow up as soon as it is activated. He glances at the doctor and imagines reaching to his face and touching his psi points, letting his katra slip across the distance between their minds.
Instead, he picks up the phaser from the floor beside him and closes both hands over it in his lap.
McCoy frowns at him; Spock keeps his face as impassive as possible.
In the far reaches of his consciousness, Spock senses a warmth that he knows is Nyota's mental signature. He looks down at her and sees her waking and opening her eyes. They are not touching, but he is aware of her in his mind—fascinating. If he survives the encounter with the terrorists, he will have to consider what this means. Perhaps their close emotional attachment has created some sort of bond—not a traditional one, but something new?
"I do appreciate your offer," Spock says as Nyota stretches and sits up. "But it is my decision, and my responsibility."
McCoy huffs and stands up, looking over his shoulder once as he goes back to the corner where Dr. M'Benga and the medical technicians are resting.
"What's going on?" Nyota says, sitting up, and Spock considers what to tell her. He does not want to cause her distress about the phaser and its probable outcome, but he also doesn't want to withhold information from her.
Once before he had faced this same dilemma—whether or not to offer the truth or cloak it in something more comforting. As he had stood on the transporter pad getting ready to beam onto the Narada, he had chosen the comforting lie, the way any human might have—"I will be back"—knowing the odds were that he and Jim Kirk would not return.
Only much later—after the lie had become the improbable truth and he had beamed back safely—did Spock let go of the guilt of telling it. He doesn't want to lie again.
He feels Nyota's surprise when he takes her hands in his—she is usually the one who initiates physical contact, and she is both pleased and slightly alarmed that he reaches for her now.
She starts to speak and he sends her a silent plea—"Watch"—and he feels her surprise again.
Her emotions color everything in her thoughts, like an oil rainbow on wet pavement—and as he always does, Spock allows himself to feel delight in her vision of the world, so unlike his own.
He leads her now into his own thoughts, arranged and orderly like mathematical equations, and shows her moments from their past together—the time they were caught in a rain storm outside his apartment in San Francisco and ended up in his bed later that night—their first sexual intimacy; a meal he had meticulously cooked for them but abandoned when other appetites proved stronger; the painful conversation they had had when he had briefly dallied with the idea of leaving Starfleet and joining the Vulcan colony.
"Why are you showing me this?" she asks in his mind, but he is impatient with words and shows her another image—the two of them standing facing each other in a neatly-raked sand yard, huge rune stones ringed around them, red stone hills in the distance, a hot wind blowing, the tinkle and chime of bells.
"Where—" she starts to ask, and he says to her again, "Watch."
He can sense that she understands at last, that this is not an image of what they have done—not like the other memories arranged neatly and filed away—but the chaotic and unpredictable future as he once wanted it to unfold.
"Vulcan," he says, and he tinges his thoughts with sadness as he pictures the place where couples in his clan touched each other, body and mind, and committed to a life together.
A place he had wanted to share with her some day.
Losing it has stayed his hand, kept him silent when Nyota asked about their future. Even now he is uncomfortable acknowledging how essential—indeed, how sacred—the actual place has been for millennia. Not a logical attachment, but a real one.
Nyota's sorrow is like a reverberating echo—and Spock is paradoxically comforted by it. To be understood—to have her see the future he had hoped for before the destruction of Vulcan threw everything into doubt—helps him resolve to show her everything else, including the cold calculation of what the next few hours will mean for him.
He lowers his remaining shields and shows her his near-certainty that the phaser timer delay will malfunction. He feels her horror, and he tries to send her the same sort of comfort that she offers him so often.
But she is not consoled. Rather, he feels her growing despair—and he thinks again about her anger before they left the Enterprise—her hurt that he could not set aside his grief and uncertainty to bond with her.
"If I return," he thinks, and he shows her the image of them again in the circle of stones—and he knows that she understands that this is as close to a declaration of love and promise as he can give.
A/N: Thanks to everyone for continuing to read this story! And thanks for the kudos and comments. You keep me going!
Chapter 14: Double Cross
Disclaimer: I watch and report. I do not own.
Until he is awakened by the static of the digital speaker re-engaging, Spock is unaware that he has slipped back to sleep. That's a surprise—he rarely sleeps so soundly that he isn't, at some level, also self-aware and alert to his surroundings.
The aftereffects of the disruptor fire, then. McCoy has been nagging him to rest to heal the lesions in his lungs—even threatened him with a hypo once—but Spock has resisted. Perhaps that was an error on his part.
The static is so loud that everyone else in the room also wakes up. Spock checks his internal clock—the Enterprise is too far out to hail with a communicator, though they should be in range within the hour. He looks at Nyota and she holds the communicator up.
"Fifty-seven minutes," he says, and she nods. He feels a strange mixture of relief and pride that they understand each other with such economy of words. When the time comes, she will switch the communicator from homing signal to two-way interface—and attempt to contact the ship.
The static briefly surges and Spock resists an impulse to cover his ears. Then a voice from the speaker hails them.
"As a show of good faith, we are allowing one person to leave. Move away from the door."
McCoy is on his feet instantly.
"Spock, don't be an idiot," he says, one hand outstretched, the other holding his medical carryall. "You know this is a trick. Give me the phaser."
Spock ignores him and turns to Nyota. Her breathing accelerates suddenly—her eyes widen and her face flushes. She reaches out her hands and he takes them in his own—an electricity jumps between them that startles him in its intensity.
Neither has time for words—what flows between them are the pure emotions of longing and regret. Her look never wavers from his and he has to be the first to turn away.
Behind him T'Sela and Saril move closer—and from the corner of his eye, Spock sees McCoy standing near the door.
The bolt clangs in the door casing and Spock fingers the phaser in his palm. The hinges squeal as a door opens slowly, and Spock steps forward.
He registers a motion to his left—McCoy setting his carryall down and pulling out a hypospray—and he raises his arm instinctively to fend him off.
"No, Doctor!" he says, grabbing McCoy's wrist and squeezing until the hypospray drops to the floor. "I do not have time to argue with you—"
And then to his astonishment, the edges of his vision darken, as if someone is pulling a velvet curtain across his view, and he feels himself falling forward.
X X X X X X X X X
As she rushes toward Spock, Nyota hears McCoy saying, "Thanks, kid. Hand me that phaser."
The lights are suddenly out and Nyota stumbles over something in the floor.
"Wait a minute!" McCoy yells, his silhouette moving darkly against the lit doorway.
Nyota stretches out her hands and feels her way forward. She brushes up against something soft and she runs her fingers over it. Spock's arm—crooked at an odd angle. She traces her way to his chest and puts her hands flat to check his breathing. Except for being unconscious, he seems unharmed.
She hears another loud slump close by and feels a rush of air as the door shuts again. One of the medical technicians flicks on the lights and Nyota squints at the chaos around her.
McCoy is prone on the floor, T'Sela and Saril standing over him. The other Vulcan students are on their feet—Dr. M'Benga is rummaging through his medikit for his scanner.
Nyota is disoriented only for a moment—and then she looks around to confirm her suspicions.
T'Nara is gone.
"Why did you do that?" Nyota asks as T'Sela and Saril walk toward her.
The Vulcan teens look as abashed as she has ever seen them. Instead of answering, they exchange glances with each other.
Finally T'Sela looks at Nyota and says, "It was necessary."
Dr. M'Benga stoops over Spock and checks him quickly with the scanner.
"He did not need this," he says, looking up at T'Sela and Saril. One of the medical technicians hands him a portable neurostimulator and he attaches the electrode to Spock's brow.
"He's going to feel extra lousy when he wakes up," Dr. M'Benga says. "You've got a lot of explaining to do. "
McCoy is already awake, peeling an electrode from his forehead and wincing as he sits up.
"Why the hell did you pinch me!" he says, and Nyota watches as T'Sela and Saril reach for each other's fingers.
"This isn't a game!" he says, rubbing his neck. "What was that all about?"
"T'Nara's gone," Nyota says. She hears the stimulator humming, and then Spock sighs deeply and sits up.
His voice is raspy when he speaks.
"Explain," he says to the two Vulcan teens standing nearby. T'Sela pulls herself rigidly upright and answers.
"T'Nara required assistance. We gave it."
To Nyota's eye, Spock looks exasperated. He takes a breath and says, "Specify."
"T'Nara knew of your plan to use the phaser," T'Sela says. "She did not wish for the risk of injury to be yours. She asked us to stop you if you tried to leave the room—I apologize. It was not our intention to use the nerve pinch—but we were uncertain that you would respond to reason alone."
"Damn kids—" McCoy says.
Spock rises shakily to his feet—Nyota watches him closely to see if he needs a hand—and he moves toward the door.
"T'Nara said we were not to open the door after her departure," Saril says, stepping between Spock and the door.
"Move aside," Spock says. "The phaser is unsafe for T'Nara—"
T'Sela moves beside Saril and says, "She was aware of that possibility."
Nyota sees Spock react—and unbidden, she remembers the first time T'Nara had spoken to her in the mess hall, warning her away from her students.
As infuriating as the woman could be, however, Nyota is distraught that she has put herself in danger now.
She pulls out the communicator and changes the settings—though Spock glances at her and she knows that the ship is still too far away to pick up her signal.
"Uhura to Enterprise, " she says, but as she expects, she hears no answer.
"Move aside," Spock says again, and Nyota looks up in time to see T'Sela and Saril back up to the door.
"Commander," Saril says, "we are unable to comply. T'Nara instructed us—"
"She may be killed if she attempts to engage the phaser," Spock says, and Saril hesitates. For a moment Nyota thinks he is going to move away from the door, but then she sees Spock shifting his posture slightly and she knows he is considering rushing forward.
Saril seems to anticipate this, too, and he says, "Commander, please respect her decision."
If Spock starts to say anything in response, Nyota doesn't hear it—the sound of an explosion rips through the station. Twisting metal and buckling conduits screech and moan as the floor continues to rock—and just before the lights flicker out for good, Nyota sees T'Sela close her eyes and fall heavily to the ground.
A/N: Thanks, everyone, for staying with me!
Chapter 15: On Board
Disclaimer: I make no money from playing around in this universe with these characters.
Nyota spends the first night back on the Enterprise alone.
After intense lobbying by both McCoy and Dr. M'Benga, Spock consents reluctantly to spend twelve hours in a hypobaric chamber so that his lungs can finally heal from the disruptor fire. When she leaves him in sickbay for the evening, Nyota debates whether or not to go to his cabin or hers—and in the end goes to her own quarters, reasoning that she will feel less lonely there.
But she is too restless to stay long. After being closed in a room on the transport station for two days, she feels claustrophobic and she heads out into the corridor.
She considers going back to sickbay, but Spock is unable to communicate while he is in the chamber and Nyota is afraid that if he knows she is waiting nearby, he will cut the treatment time short.
The mess hall is almost empty, and she sits for a few minutes nursing a cup of hot tea before dumping it out and going back into the corridor.
The bridge is out of the question—she hasn't been scheduled for a shift yet and she would be in the way—and Christine Chapel, a friend she can always count on to listen, is probably asleep by now.
Which is what I should be doing, she thinks as she waits for the turbolift.
When the lift arrives she is surprised to see T'Sela and Saril inside—and suddenly she knows where they are going, and where she needs to go as well.
She steps inside and they nod at her.
"The botanical gardens?" she asks, and they nod again.
The turbolift hums as it begins its ascent to deck seven. Nyota feels more than sees TSela's and Saril's gaze on her, and sure enough, when she turns to look, they are staring at her with the sort of contradictory impassive intensity that she often remarks in Spock.
"Are you okay?" she asks, and then she amends, "I mean, are you….feeling….well?"
She isn't certain if T'Sela and Saril will take offense at her commenting on their emotional well-being. Even Spock can be impatient with her if she tries to get him to acknowledge his feelings too quickly or too openly.
T'Sela, however, does not seem to mind. She tilts her head and says, "I am unsettled at present."
Saril says nothing, and after a moment Nyota realizes that he isn't going to. She says to T'Sela, "That's understandable. It's been an eventful few days."
That's an understatement, she thinks. The phaser explosion--T'Nara's death--the arrival of the Enterprise and with it the news that three other stations had been attacked by factions supporting Earth United--Nyota shifts uncomfortably and darts a glance at the teens.
The lift opens then and they exit, heading toward the botanical gardens at the end of the hall.
The ship corridors are always brightly lit, but the public spaces follow the alpha shift. Because it is "night" on the Enterprise, the gardens are bathed in artificial moonlight—the effect softening the foliage and making the familiar pathways exotic.
Nyota realizes that although she and the Vulcan teens have wandered around among the trees and flowers several times, they have never been here in this lighting. Both of the teenagers hold back at the doorway.
"You don't like it?" Nyota asks, stepping ahead of them.
Saril holds his palm up, letting the simulated moonlight fall across his hand.
"What is the meaning of this style of lighting?" he asks, and for the first time in days, Nyota laughs.
"It's moonlight," she says. "And don't tell me you don't know what moonlight is. In your reading of Earth legends, you must have come across references to mysterious things happening while the moon is full."
Saril steps into the room and T'Sela follows. Like him, she stretches out her hands and examines the pattern of light and shadow cast by a nearby tulip tree.
"How curious," she says. "Is this a reasonable facsimile of moonlight as it appears on Earth?"
Nyota laughs again and says, "Reasonable, yes, though you need to come to Earth to experience it for yourself."
T'Sela lowers her arms but does not reply, and Nyota scolds herself for reminding the young girl of a future out of her reach.
They walk in silence for a few moments and then T'Sela speaks again.
"Lieutenant, when we were on the transport station, I observed you and the Commander in frequent communication."
As she often does, T'Sela has surprised Nyota with a question that is not as random as it initially sounds. Clearly T'Sela and Saril are considering their own relationship and a future together—and for better or worse, Spock and Nyota have been role models for them. She sighs and waits for T'Sela to continue.
"You have said that you are not bonded, and yet the percentage of time that you communicated telepathically outweighed your spoken words."
This is surprising, and Nyota raises her eyebrows and says, "Really?" And then she adds playfully, "You were watching me so closely that you could measure it?'
"Affirmative," T'Sela says, and Saril nods in agreement.
"Oh!" Nyota says. "Well, I didn't realize that."
"Yes," T'Sela continues, "we were surprised, too. Is it possible," she says, lowering her voice as another crew member passes them on the pathway, "that you have been untruthful? That you and the Commander are, in fact, bonded?"
Nyota feels a flash of surprise and annoyance that she does not try to keep out of her voice.
"Of course not! I wouldn't lie to you—certainly not about something that important."
At that Saril turns to T'Sela and says, "As I surmised, the Commander's human heritage may account for their unusual interactions. This may not be relevant information for us."
"Wait a minute," Nyota says. "What are you talking about?"
"But their interactions do not conform to human patterns, either," T'Sela says to Saril. "Humans are generally psi null and must rely on the spoken word to communicate."
"Humans also have a full contingent of non-verbal communication cues," Saril says, and T'Sela shakes her head.
"Those augment verbalizations, not supplant them."
"I have observed humans exchanging information with non-verbal signals only," Saril says.
"They do have a limited repertoire of motions which replace verbalization, but they are unable to share abstractions this way—or even lengthy communications."
"Stop!" Nyota says, and the teens stop walking and turn to look at her.
"What are you talking about?" she asks, and T'Sela says, "Saril and I are considering asking to be formally bonded when we arrive at the colony."
"What does that have to do with—"
"If the High Council does not approve, we are exploring the possibility of life together unbonded—as you and the Commander are doing."
Nyota feels the wind rush out of her. Such a coupling flies in the face of Vulcan tradition—and may earn these young people enmity from those around them. She crosses her arms over her stomach and looks around for one of benches set off the path.
"Are you unwell?" T'Sela says, following Nyota to a clearing ringed by fragrant bushes. Nyota sits heavily on the small bench there and T'Sela and Saril stand in front of her.
"I'm…glad…that you are thinking about your future," Nyota says, choosing her words carefully. "But you have to consider the consequences—particularly since you are going to live on the colony. They may not…accept a different path—"
"Lieutenant," Saril says with a forcefulness she has never seen in him before, "Vulcan has a proud history and many traditions that have served us well. And we will continue."
He pauses for a moment and glances at T'Sela.
"But we may have to create new traditions—in light of our present circumstances."
"Once and future," Nyota says softly, remembering their earlier conversation here.
"Exactly," Saril says.
Nyota thinks about the image Spock had shown her of a circle of sand, the ancient stones surrounding them, and she feels again his sorrow at the loss of it.
But more than that, she feels his promise of finding—creating—a new place where they can speak their vows to each other. Perhaps that will happen when they arrive at the colony in a few days—now that the ship has been officially diverted from other duties and tasked with getting the students there as quickly as possible.
Or perhaps they will choose to wait until some of the hurt and loss are muted.
Either way, she is content.
"I don't know what you will choose," she says to the teenagers, standing up and leading the way back to the winding path, "but you should know that the Commander and I are not unbonded out of choice so much as circumstance right now. In the future--well, I hope that changes. I believe it will."
They reach the end of the arboretum and turn around to head back. All three are silent—even T'Sela, who often peppers Nyota with queries when they are together.
"It's late," Nyota says when they reach the door to the hallway. "I'm tired. We'll talk again before we reach the colony. Okay?"
T'Sela nods and touches Saril's elbow in a proprietary way, shepherding him gently ahead of her toward the lift. Nyota stays behind, stepping back into the darkened garden and looking up at the simulated moon, feeling at peace for the first time since returning to the ship.
X X X X X X X X X X X
Spock has never been a good patient, and this time is no different.
"Nothing strenuous," Dr. McCoy says as Nyota comes to sickbay at the end of Spock's scheduled confinement in the hypobaric chamber. Spock is sitting up on a medical exam table, clothed in black trousers and a black t-shirt, looking as irritated as he ever does.
"Uhura," McCoy calls, "I need your help. Don't let him do anything crazy for the next few days—nothing that gets his lungs working too hard. I don't want to open any of those lesions back up. And drink plenty of fluids—and take this every two hours."
He starts to hand a bottle to Spock but apparently changes his mind and hands it to Nyota instead. She takes it and smiles apologetically at Spock. Just humor him, she seems to say, and we'll get out of here faster.
Spock slides off the table and walks out of sickbay without looking back.
"Sorry!" Nyota calls over her shoulder to McCoy who huffs, "Ungrateful bastard—"
Without conferring, they head together to Spock's quarters. The last time she had been here, she had left angry, Nyota remembers. That time feels forever ago.
Spock palms the door open and then steps aside for her to enter, palming it shut immediately. Nyota starts toward the closest chair but feels Spock's arm reach around her waist, tugging her back to where he is standing.
She's surprised—but happily so. She lifts her arms and drapes them around his neck, and they lean together for a kiss.
She starts to pull back and Spock kisses her again, this time with more urgency, and she feels herself beginning to respond. She tightens her embrace and is suddenly off her feet, Spock's arms around her, lifting her.
He steps toward the bedroom and she says, teasing him, "Oh, no you don't! You heard Dr. McCoy! Nothing that gets your respiration rate up—you are still healing."
Spock stops in his tracks and lowers her back to the ground.
"Truthfully?" he says, his brow knitted. "You think I should desist?"
He looks so sincere that Nyota is caught off-guard—but perhaps he is right, that they should wait. If he needs more time—
Then she looks at him closely and hits her fist against his shoulder.
"You trickster!" she says, noting his quirked lip and raised brow.
And then his expression does become serious—and she feels a shiver of concern.
"What is it?" she says, reaching up to touch the side of his face.
He meets her eyes and does not look away. His fingers reach for her temple and she senses that he is waiting for permission.
"Go ahead," she says, and with his touch she feels the familiar dizziness of stretching out into his mind.
He leads her past the sorrow that has been present since the loss of Vulcan, past the empty place where he mourns his mother, and she sees a flicker of his connection to his father—like a nightlight in a dim hallway.
And then she sees herself as Spock sees her, as close as his own heartbeat, and as necessary.
I do not wish to be parted from you, he says in her mind, and she knows he is remembering their despair on the transport station when they thought they would be parted forever.
She closes her eyes and presses herself closer, the heat of his body washing over her and reminding her, as it always does, of his otherness—a difference she enjoys.
An image of a Vulcan woman wearing a healer's cloak drifts into her consciousness and she knows that this is the healer who presided at Spock's annulment from T'Pring almost a year ago. The odds are that she will be on Vulcan's colony world now—available if they want her to help them bond.
Yes, Nyota answers his unspoken question. If she's there.
Instantly she is flooded with such a feeling of delight and contentment that she catches her breath—her own emotions, certainly, but even more, his own.
And then just as suddenly, the feeling fades away and she opens her eyes. Spock has pulled his hand back and is stepping toward the desk and the computer link there.
"What are you doing?" she says with some exasperation, and Spock stops and gives her his attention.
"I am ascertaining the whereabouts of T'Quill—she is a frequent traveler to Earth and may not be available—"
Nyota closes the distance between them with two steps and slides her arms around his waist.
"A good idea," she says, smiling, "but terrible timing. You can look later—after I've had a chance to test your respiration rate."
A/N: Still reading? Let me know! One more chapter!
Chapter 16: Departures and Arrivals
Disclaimer: I make no money using these characters in my fanfiction—though reviews are a terrific form of payment!
As a concession to the humans attending, the place for the kal'telan is cooled seven degrees lower than normal. Even so, the room is warm but beautiful, a curved area of soaring glass and stone.
Nyota knows that her hearing is more acute than most humans—though it falls short of most Vulcans—so she is not surprised when she picks up Dr. McCoy's gentle grousing. He and Jim Kirk are standing slightly apart from the other guests, including Sarek and one of Spock's few surviving relatives, an elderly great-aunt.
"I feel like a roast turkey," McCoy says, sotto voce, to the young captain at his side. He tugs at the collar of his dress blues and grimaces for Jim's benefit, though Nyota sees him from the corner of her eye and has to stifle a laugh.
"The turkey part is right," Kirk says, and Spock gives a fractional glance that shuts them both up.
Nyota turns her attention to Spock. They are standing facing each other, she in a sand-colored tunic woven from an odd fiber that is both textured and silky—he in a black robe monogrammed with the family emblem.
To anyone else, Spock looks impassive, even detached, but Nyota recognizes an intensity in his gaze and a hitch in his breathing that belie his calm demeanor.
In the distance she hears the tinkle of bells—someone has been given the task of randomly shaking them to imitate the breezy wind-chimes that once were central to both kal'telan—bonding ceremonies—as well as wedding celebrations. There's a certain sadness that the bells are indoors—but the infrastructure on New Vulcan is relatively undeveloped, and families have not yet sorted out land ownership or the development of formal areas for koon-ut-kaliffee.
This building serves as the place for rituals in the meantime—though Nyota does not mind. Indeed, the atrium she and Spock are in is so airy and light that they might as well be outdoors.
The healer Nyota had seen in Spock's memory is there, her long curly hair cascading around her shoulders. She, too, is wearing a traditional robe, though hers is a dark green.
At some signal that Nyota does not see, T'Quill steps towards the couple and Spock takes Nyota's hands and kneels facing her. Nyota kneels with her knees almost touching Spock's, never letting go of his hands.
Unlike most of the times when they touch, she senses nothing from Spock—he has warned her of this, but it is still disconcerting, as if she has lost her sight or hearing.
His shields are up—and Nyota reflects with a start that this is the first time he has been completely silent to her—indeed, even in the early days of their mutual attraction, when he had been so careful not to reveal his growing and—yes, unwanted and problematic—attachment—she had always been aware at some level of his mind brushing hers. The quickest and lightest touch of a finger when she handed him a stylus, an accidental stroke with her elbow when she stepped back from an opening door and knocked into him, standing behind her—moments such as those had at first confused her, and then later, when she recognized their significance, excited her.
But now she senses nothing—he has spent the evening before in meditation just so she would not—and she thinks, as she often does, that the touch of his mind is what she needs and loves most—that human beings forced to live in their own worlds of thoughts and memories are living a lonely life in comparison.
Nyota sees T'Quill reaching towards her, and she closes her eyes and feels warm fingers at her temple—and nothing else. This, too, is surprising—T'Quill's mind is as partitioned from her as Spock's—though Nyota knows that strong telepaths such as healers are the least likely to intrude on someone else's mind.
Still, she feels nothing from her—at first.
Then a light breeze blows on the back of her neck, and sunlight warms her face. She experiments by shifting her toe slightly—and feels the gentle give of sand under her sandal. She keeps her eyes tightly closed to maintain the illusion that she is standing on Vulcan—and for the first time she feels a tendril of T'Quill's consciousness hovering at the edge of her own.
A rustle of garments and Nyota knows that T'Quill has reached her other hand to Spock. His hands tighten around hers and she almost protests—but then he loosens his grip and strokes her wrists with his thumbs.
Suddenly she is there—in the sandy circle of his family's clan place of koon-ut-kaliffee.
None of Spock's memories have ever been this clear—this realistic—for her, and she wonders idly if the clarity now is because of the intensity of his emotion or the way T'Quill's touch connects them.
She grins as she recognizes that these are his thoughts, not hers—and she reaches out with her mind to find him.
Not yet, she hears T'Quill say, and Nyota imagines herself standing steady and silent, still in the sandy circle, still holding Spock's hands.
At first she focuses on the breeze and the chimes—and then, as if from very far away, she hears voices. They are too far distant to make out the meaning of the words, but she knows what they are—the formal invitation to join minds, spoken in a Vulcan dialect so ancient that no other words from that era survive.
As the voices become louder she can make out the distinctive soft voice of the healer, and then Spock. The murmuring falls away and instead Nyota sees an image of herself in her red cadet's uniform, and she knows that this is his first memory of her.
The image shifts and slides into other images, all of herself—walking across the quad, sitting with an intense look on her face in the lecture hall, laughing with a friend as they exit the cafeteria.
She feels an unaccounted for heat in her cheeks and the images shift again—still of her, but in extreme close up—a strand of hair that has escaped from her ponytail and brushes across her cheek when she leans over her PADD, the tips of her fingers as she holds a cup of tea, the bend in her knee at the top of her boot.
With a start she realizes that these images—and the heat in her face—are Spock's memories and feelings of his growing interest in her. She catches a fleeting glance of him cross-legged in his dark apartment, meditating—and she sees a quick montage of his last trip home and hears echoes of his conversations with his mother.
And then the images stop and the breeze cooling her neck dies suddenly. The sandy circle shimmers like a mirage, and Nyota opens her eyes and looks into Spock's face.
His eyes are closed, his brow furrowed. He lets go of her hands and places his palms on his thighs.
Spock? Nyota isn't sure if she says this or T'Quill does. She leans forward slightly and places her hands on top of his—and is overwhelmed by sadness so palpable that for a moment she can think of nothing else.
The loss of his mother, the deaths of so many Vulcans, the destruction of his home….these griefs consume him in a way that takes her breath away. She is instantly abashed that he has hidden them from her—or not hidden them, exactly, but diminished them.
The anti-alien protests—and the Leiden trial—have kept his anger near the surface and weighed on him more than he has told her.
Nyota's impulse is to stroke his face and offer comfort, but T'Quill nudges her in another direction altogether.
Show us, Nyota hears, and without being told, she knows that it is her turn to share her memories of Spock.
She concentrates and tries to recall the first time she saw him. She must have seen him and known who he was before she ever took a class with him. As the only Vulcan instructor at the Academy, he would have been instantly recognizable.
She does recall hearing about him once she had signed up for his advanced phonology class—the warnings from her roommate, the tsking she had gotten from sympathetic cadets who had struggled with his classes. At breakfast, once, she had shared information about her upcoming schedule with a new acquaintance who had promptly looked at her askance and asked her if she were crazy.
From both Spock and T'Quill she feels a tickle of amusement. Surely Spock isn't unaware of his reputation on campus?
She thinks about the first time she was truly annoyed with him—not because of the low mark she received on her paper—but because of his seeming indifference to her dismay.
Her surprise when her language professor had suggested she apply as Spock's teaching assistant—something she would never have considered on her own—and her greater surprise when he had accepted her.
Being startled at his sudden presence in a room; her disquiet when he looked at her a beat too long; her nervousness turning to pleasure when they shared simple lunches or made tea during their scheduled breaks.
Her recognition that his friendship was important to her. Her shock later when she realized that she was falling in love.
At last she feels Spock's mind again touching hers—tentative at first, full of apology and sorrow—until T'Quill's mind joins them.
I have a gift for you, T'Quill says, and Nyota feels a flush of curiosity that is only partly her own.
She closes her eyes and once again is drawn into an image so clear that she feels she is there—this time in a small, chilly room in a damp, uncomfortable city. Nyota laughs inwardly at T'Quill's characterization of San Francisco—and she understands that this is T'Quill's own memory of a time years ago.
As if she were in control of a holovid camera, Nyota pans around the room. Amanda is there, and Sarek—young and noticeably affectionate with each other, their fingers touching. Amanda is laughing softly at something Sarek says, and Nyota looks back and forth from each one, seeing Spock in them both.
You helped them bond, Nyota says, and she feels T'Quill's delight in her quickness of insight.
As I will help you, she says.
It may not be possible, Spock says, and for the first time, Nyota is afraid. If I had better control—he adds.
Your bondmate will help you, T'Quill says. In this you are fortunate. As a human, she will not find your emotions so…troubling.
Something nebulous passes between Spock and T'Quill—an allusion to an earlier conversation, apparently. Nyota remembers Spock's relief after his last visit to Vulcan—when T'Quill had officiated at his annulment from T'Pring.
Spock has said little about the annulment or the reason for it—except that he and T'Pring were ill suited for each other. Had she objected to his emotions? Nyota is instantly furious on his behalf.
Do not concern yourself, T'Quill says, but Nyota is embarrassed that she has broadcast her thoughts this way.
This is how it will be, she hears Spock say. If you choose this, I will know your thoughts, and you will know mine.
T'Quill directs the next words to them both.
Consider well what you do.
Nyota thinks of the moment when Spock had told her, "I do not want to be parted from you;" and here they are now, making good on that promise. Does she still want it?
So many things are conspiring against them—the difficulty of dual careers in Starfleet, the growing anti-alien sentiment on Earth, their differences in heritage and culture that at times seem to outweigh their similarities.
She opens her eyes and sees that Spock is staring at her—his eyes so dilated that they are almost black. If she says that she does not choose this—that sharing their minds is more intimate than she desires—but she doesn't finish that thought.
I do not wish to be parted from you, she says, and her body is suffused with a heat and light that means he is overjoyed.
Nor I from you, he says.
X X X X X X X X X X
To no one's surprise, Leonard McCoy is the first to speak.
"Well, congratulations, you two," he says, grabbing Nyota's hand and pumping it. "Although I must say, that was the quietest wedding I've ever been to."
Nyota feels Spock preparing to speak but Sarek beats him to it.
"Not a wedding, doctor," he says in the voice of a patient professor, "but a bonding. Vulcans do not marry until they reach sexual maturity."
"But I thought—" McCoy begins, but Jim Kirk slaps his shoulder and says, "Bones, we need to be heading back to the ship."
McCoy, however, is not deterred.
"Uhura, would you please explain—"
Spock's discomfort twists her stomach. She smiles up at him and then turns to the doctor.
"When the shakedown cruise is over, we are going to have a wedding back home so my family can be there. We just took the opportunity now while we're here—"
She waves her arms to include the ritual room and the guests who are slowly departing. She feels a twinge of guilt for misdirecting the doctor—but it is true. She and Spock have decided to visit her family and have a wedding—mostly to reassure them that the relationship is authentic.
But they will not marry on New Vulcan until they need to. Whenever that is.
"Oh," McCoy says, still obviously confused. "That makes sense, I guess. You ready to head back?"
"The lieutenant and I have one more duty we need to attend to before we return to the Enterprise. We will meet you back there shortly."
Nyota sees Kirk's eyebrows go up—but he says nothing. Instead, he nods and hits McCoy again on the arm, and the two of them make their way to the exit.
X X X X X X X X X
For the past week the Enterprise has been in orbit around New Vulcan while McCoy and his medical team have coordinated their relief efforts with the Vulcan healers. Each night Nyota has returned to the ship distressed by what she has seen among the children in the hospital wards--most not speaking, some not eating, and all of them traumatized by the sudden loss of their parental bonds.
Spock has scheduled himself for double shifts since their arrival, partly, if he is honest with himself, so he is too busy and tired to feel much else.
The intense emotions of the day are exhausting, and Spock wants nothing more than to say his goodbyes to his father and great-aunt, beam up to the ship with Nyota, and spend time in private meditation.
Instead, he and Nyota make their way down the hallway from the soaring atrium to a smaller room: dark, windowless, stone.
T'Sela and Saril are already there.
The teenagers are standing side-by-side, their fingers interlocked. When Spock and Nyota enter, they look up and step back. Nyota's affection for them bubbles up, giving him pause. In many ways these two students remind him of himself at their age—uncertain of their place in the universe, with difficult choices facing them before they have had time to sort out who they are.
Spock feels a shadow of regret that he has not taken more care to get to know them—to counsel them in some way—but he consoles himself by thinking of Nyota's attentions to them.
He hears a rustle behind him and he turns to see T'Quill.
"You are the keeper of the katra?" she asks T'Sela, who nods and grips Saril's hand tightly.
"Then what T'Nara was, and what she is, are not lost," T'Quill says, and T'Sela nods again.
In the corner of his mind Spock senses Nyota's inquiry—and he shows her the katric ark on Vulcan as it was before the destruction. He feels her marveling at the large stone icons, the receptacles holding the katras of the departed lining the walls, the fire pit that is always lit.
Or was. Now this room must serve until a new ark is built.
T'Quill moves quickly and touches T'Sela's psi points. Already fairly still, T'Sela becomes absolutely motionless.
Then T'Quill lowers her hands and moves to a shelf where a small obsidian jar waits. She places her hands around the jar and closes her eyes.
And it is over.
Shock and disappointment that a person's essence—one's katra-is so slight, so brief—that it can be transferred this easily. And overarching all, the guilty relief that T'Nara's sacrifice means that he is still alive.
Does he feel these things, or does Nyota?
In time he knows they will sort out who is feeling what.
For now—he permits himself a deep sigh as he watches Nyota move towards the young Vulcans.
"She loved you, you know," she says, and Spock tilts his head and waits for one of the teens to dispute Nyota's choice of words.
But neither does. Perhaps the catastrophic changes they have already had to endure have made them more flexible than he was at their age.
"We did not always agree," Saril says, "but that does not mean that we did not respect her."
T'Nara had called Spock an abomination—had questioned his relationship with Nyota—indeed, had questioned his loyalty to anyone and anything.
Her insular attitude did not reflect the values represented by IDIC—she shunned him because he was a too-real example of infinite diversity in infinite combinations.
But he cannot deny that she was a teacher to the end—in ways both good and bad. Her prejudices may have been born of fear, but her sacrifice for them all showed her courage.
"Where are you going now?" Nyota asks, and T'Sela answers.
"We have requested housing and work assignments together. Because the High Council has approved our bonding, we have reason to believe that the relocation department will accommodate our request."
"And if they don't?" Nyota asks, and T'Sela shrugs—a habit she has learned from her time watching humans on the Enterprise.
"In that case," Saril says, "we may be coming to Earth after all."
A/N: And so this story ends. I hope you enjoyed it—not everyone is a fan of teenagers—though I have a soft spot for them (a good thing, since I teach high school in my real life!) If you enjoyed it, I appreciate your letting me know!