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The Parental Reconfiguration

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Science Camp was something Sinead had been looking forward to for months. For two weeks in the summer, she’d get to live on Jupiter Station and geek out, as her Dad called it, to her heart’s content. Dad encouraged her interests, and made sure she always got the best educational opportunities, but his haunted eyes sucked some of the joy out of learning. He’d smile and laugh, but when she did something extra geeky, the smile wouldn’t reach his eyes. Bones would see this, and distract them both with something sarcastic or unexpected, but Sinead still saw it.

When she heard about this camp, two weeks off-world with some of the greatest scientific minds teaching classes, she’d toned down the science stuff of it. Dad was worried enough about her off planet, without knowing it was all about the science that made him sad for no reason. She certainly didn’t tell him that they’d based the cabin assignments on scholastic aptitude, so the learning could continue long into the night. Sinead was really looking forward to making friends who she could geek out with.

With going to school in San Francisco, so close to the families of Starfleet, Sinead expected smarter people in her classes. Dad and Bones worked with Starfleet, so they had to live there, but Sinead secretly thought most of her classmates would wind up in red shirts if they made it into Starfleet, and she wasn’t talking about engineering. Would it be too much to expect a real friend? She knew lots of people, and was kind of popular, but she still felt like an outsider.

Her Padd lead her to her assigned cabin in the deciduous biodome, and Sinead held her hand in front of the receiver. If the receiver was slow to acknowledge her or open the door, she didn’t notice, too busy wondering if the greatest friend of her life was just inside the door. It opened at long last, and a figure stood from where it was storing a bag under their bed. The figure turned to greet her, but neither expected what they saw.

Sinead’s strange hair with the light roots that got darker to the ends was suddenly short, in some no-doubt practical bowl cut. This cut also let the pointed tips of her ears stick out, visibly announcing she wasn’t fully human. Her eyebrows had always slanted upwards, but not so bad that they didn’t fall into the human normal range. This bowl cut made them look even sharper and made her hazel eyes shine. It was as if she’d been forced into Vulcan attire, instead of her jeans and thermal shirts.

The strange mirror was the first to break the silence. “Fascinating.”

“You say that like it’s a complete sentence.” Sinead snapped back, before remembering how much trouble that temper got her into. “Sorry, I’m a little surprised.”

“That is an adequate response for coming across a doppelganger.”

“Have you heard of people meeting their doubles before?”

“Not outside of fictional literature, but I know of no other phenomenon that could explain this.”

“My name is Sinead Kirk, I’m from San Francisco, Earth.”

“I am T’Amanda, from London, England, Earth. My doctor calls me Tammy, or Tam, either is an acceptable nickname.”

Sinead couldn’t help the smile that spread across her face. For all this girl seemed a face-stealing Vulcan, Sinead felt they were kindred spirits. “It’s a great pleasure to meet you, Tam.”

Tam bit at her lip to stop a returning smile, and gestured to the cabin. “Since I was first to arrive, I took the bed with the most early morning light. Is this acceptable?”

“Absolutely! I’m not a morning person, so you can have all the morning light.” Sinead moved the bed nearest Tam, and flopped her duffle on it. She already planned on putting her head nearest Tam’s head, for those late night conversations. “So why do you live in London, instead of New Vulcan?”

“Father is the Vulcan Ambassador’s aide, and the Federation is headquartered in London since the attacks of Khan.”

“Right, something about rebuilding the blast sight. Dad doesn’t like to talk about that, but Bones says it’s so not all the Starfleet’s eggs are in one basket.”

“Clarify, please.”

Sinead looked up with a grin, and started explaining why all the eggs in one basket can go wrong. By the time she unpacked her bedroll and toiletries bag, she’s gone on to explain that Bones is the grouchy old uncle who’s not related by blood. Tam absorbed it all with a fascinated look, and they barely notice when their two new cabin mates arrive. There are awkward explanations about them not actually being twins and have never met before, and then somebody mentioned the genetics lab in camp. The roommates notice that Tam and Sinead have matching looks of hidden excitement as they wait for the chance to use it.

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Tam had insisted on getting permission for their little side project, though Sinead still looked for a way to sneak in after hours. Their genetics instructor, after sitting through the now standard declaration that they weren’t twins, had almost fallen over herself to let them use the equipment. Clearly, she wanted to know just what was going on here, though she did sneak away to an office off to the side while they waited on the results, to give them some privacy.

The first results had come out, and without a word Tam and Sinead had replicated the experiment. Now, as they sat and waited for the second analysis, they struggled to find words. It was strange to suddenly find you were twins, but there were other things their young minds couldn’t explain.

“Your father,” Tam started only to pause before continuing. “He did not have a sex change operation after your birth, did he?”

“No. He was born male. He’s kind of famous, and the pics in my history books look just as male as he is now. But, from the questions, I’m guessing your dad wasn’t our mom.”

“Negative. He is also famous, the first Vulcan-Human hybrid. Which only makes convergent evolution less likely of an explanation for our genetics.”

“Yeah, I don’t think it’s a coincidence either.” Sinead nodded along.

“Father encourages all my interests and helps me find answers to all my questions, except the few times I have asked about my mother.”

“Dad shuts down. His face doesn’t change but something in his eyes kind of breaks my heart. Bones is also our doctor, not just a grumpy uncle, and the one time I asked him? He looked like he was going to cry, but instead he got mad, got in a fight with Dad, and disappeared for two weeks.”

“You couldn’t hear what they were saying?” Tam shot up an eyebrow at this, probably wondering if her hearing was better than her twins’.

“No, they know all about my super hearing, so they learned how to fight quiet a long time ago.” Sinead said, still trying to teach her eyebrows to move on command.

“It is not super; we are well within normal Vulcan hearing parameters.”

“Hey, our genetics defy the laws of the universe; why can’t we be superheroes?”

Tam paused to consider Sinead’s words. “I find your logic to be sound.”

Sinead laughed, and Tam was smiling back before she knew it. This time, when the machine announced they were a match, there was excitement in their eyes.

When their genetics instructor put their data through some more advanced programs, to satisfy her own curiosity, she was disappointed. Her computer suddenly developed a nasty virus that managed to eat all the data about the kids before she could shut it down. That had to be a coincidence, right?

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After Sinead fell asleep that night, Tam settled into the floor to meditate. There were emotions she needed to sort through, but this situation also fascinated the problem solver in her. Leonard always claimed she couldn’t let anything alone, always with that soft look in his eye. Tam had often thought about asking to practice her mind techniques on Leonard, but resisted because he was human. She was still learning control of her mental abilities, and it was customary to only practice with people who volunteered and had experience.

Father was her primary teacher, and Grandfather occasionally would allow the mind touch. They were the only blood kin she had, but after hearing Sinead talk, Tam thought she could include Leonard as a member of her family; the grouchy uncle. Tam had learned that Father and Leonard had served together in Starfleet, but they did not like to talk of that time.

Once, she had asked Leonard about her mother, and he had only sighed and changed the subject, as if he’d already fought with Father over it. Whenever she had asked Father, he had told her it was a discussion for another time. Grandfather had told her to ask Father. Tam had to work hard to dispel her frustration from the circular system.

One time, after an annoying day at school, where she had been mocked for being a know-it-all ice-bitch, she had asked Father during a mind meld. Now, she reached for the memory of that encounter, purposely ignoring the shame she still felt for asking when she knew Father would be most vulnerable. When their minds were joined, and he was showing her how to disassociate memories from feelings, she had asked if he had done that to his memories of her mother.

There had been an image of silver, surrounding a man of gold; gold hair, gold shirt, and a deep sorrow. It was quickly blocked from her, showing that Father had tried but been unable to disassociate emotions from the memory of that man. What he had to do with her mother, Tam had not been able to determine since the meld. At that time, she had sent regret and contriteness over their link. Tam had never asked again, and related her questions in the melds to the task at hand.

Now though, Tam could consider her father from an outsider’s perspective. He was the Vulcan Ambassador’s Aide, allowing Grandfather to return to New Vulcan as he needed to. Nepotism had not influenced Grandfather’s decision, as it was Selek who suggested it when father retired from Starfleet. In Starfleet, Father had been an emanate scientist, the only being to ever decline admission into the prestigious Vulcan Science Academy. Father had doubted his abilities as an diplomate until Selek had assured him that he would be more productive than he knew. Her small family had all mourned Selek’s death, though no one would explain his connection to the family.

Selek’s name had not been included on the family biography Tam had been assigned at the school she attended for the children of planetary delegates. Father insisted that she attend the school, no matter how much she was bullied, as Leonard called it, for the social participation. He brought in tutors to keep up with her interested in learning, but would not let her be taught by private tutors only, because she would need to learn to deal with “emotionally driven” beings.

She had replied that she had Leonard for that, and Leonard had laughed heartily. Scotty had to explain the joke during her next excursion to his experimental engine laboratory in orbit around Venus. Scotty could not be distracted from his engines long enough to ask after her mother. Asking Sulu only caused him to switch between teaching her xenobotany and physical fitness.

Tam, and Sinead, had been born approximately four months after the end of their mission to space; Tam had done that math on her own. Most of the people Father associated with outside of work were from the Federation or his time in Starfleet. It had long been obvious that her mother was someone Father knew in Starfleet, where he was a scientist with the best possible laboratory facilities. Leonard was also an excellent doctor, and Sinead’s dad had always been male.

Tam was intrigued by the possibility that she was a result of a genetic experiment, but that did not explain why Sinead existed separately from her. Still, it presented a question that was sure to wake Sinead from her sleep induced fog. Sinead was not a morning person, but that was their greatest difference as far as Tam had found so far.

She was also enjoying Sinead’s company far more than she thought was acceptable. Even before the genetic test, Sinead’s bright mind had pushed Tam to think in new ways and try new things. Tam did not want to remove this feeling, so she eased out of her meditation without doing so. She went to sleep and woke with a small smile on her face.

When she woke, Tam knew she was the first to do so. She made ready for the day and read until the alarm went off. Her real question would probably wake Sinead up, but she did not want to ask in front of witnesses. Leonard had often told her that the emotional wellbeing of others must be considered. Father agreed with this assessment, though he only admitted it when Leonard had returned to his own home for the work week.

The others got up at the first alarm tone, Sinead demanding a snooze. Sinead lingered in bed, and slowly began moving as she did every morning. Their cabin-mates would leave them alone, until Sinead and Tam had to hurry or miss breakfast altogether. As they walked toward the cafeteria, Tam asked her half-asleep friend.

“Do you have a picture of your dad, preferably of him smiling?”

“Any computer search of his name will get you that.” Sinead muttered, sounding remarkably like Leonard at that moment.

“It would if you had told me his name. You only told me yours, and I do not know if you share his surname.”

“Right, sorry.” Sinead pulled out her padd, and quickly brought up a picture that had Tam stopping in her tracks. Sinead took a few more steps before noticing. “What is it?”

“My father was a famous scientist in Starfleet before retiring to be the Ambassador’s aide. It is where he met Doctor Leonard McCoy, the man standing next to you and your dad.”

“We’ve always called him Bones, I kind of forget he has a real name, but that’s it.” Sinead replied in a voice that was almost as emotionless as Tam’s. She was awake now, eyes locked on Tam’s face, as Tam spoke at the image.

“Leonard is an excellent doctor, famous in his own right for finding solutions to problems they encountered while in space. I have no doubt that him and my father could produce children in non-traditional methods if they so desired.”

“But why make two only to separate them?”

“In a mind meld, I saw an image of this man, your dad, after asking unexpectedly about my mother. Father experienced a wave of sorrow at the image I did not know he could feel.”

“What are you saying?” Sinead asked, but hurried along as if to answer her own question. “You think my Dad is our mom?”

“That is one hypothesis, but with an artificial womb it would not be necessary for either male to have carried us.”

“Bones knows everything, and he is more susceptible to emotional manipulation than Dad.”

Tam blinked up from the image to stare at her friend’s face. “Sinead, you said that like I would have.”

“Why not? Apparently I am you.” Sinead’s eyes narrowed, a look Tam had quickly learned meant Sinead was getting creative. “Or, I could easily be you.”

“Please clarify, without the rather evil looking grin you have on your face.”

Sinead laughed at that, far more exuberantly than Tam thought the comment warranted.

“It’s perfect. I’ll go back to London, pretend I’m you. You’ll get to meet Dad, get to know how great he is. We can get a fresh perspective, look for clues, try to find a way to convince Bones to tell us. We’ll be able to comm. each other, and make sure we stay in character.”

“You don’t think they would suspect?”

“Why would they? As far as they know, we don’t even know each other. We’ve even got the rest of the time here to learn all about each other, our lives at home, how we act.”

“The hair is something of a clue, Sinead.”

“Not if we steal an electric scalpel from the biology lab. Your, our Father won’t get mad if your hair looked different, would he?”

“He asks every time we go for haircuts if I would like to change it. This cut is common among Vulcans of all genders, as it is easy to care for while providing warmth in the cold and protection in the sun. However, he would understand if I wanted to change it to an expression of personal style.”

“Dad likes my hair long, or he did. He used to do fancy stuff with it, like braids and beehives. But he hasn’t done that in a while, so it’d serve him right for me to cut it short. I could go with the cut you got, but it just doesn’t do us any favors.”

“We have missed breakfast, but during lunch we can search for a style we both like.”

“Acceptable, sister.” Sinead replied in an emotionless mask that almost made Tam smile. They might be able to do this after all.

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Campers were either being picked up at Jupiter Station or returned to Earth in a series of timed shuttles. Kirk, S. was in the third wave of shuttles to Earth, Detroit Station. At least, that was what the paperwork said. After they’d cut their hair to matching pixie cuts, the staff had found themselves lucky that neither girl had brought enough clothes to dress their new sister in identical outfits. The staff had relied on the clothes to identify which girl they were talking to, so the girls made a habit of switching clothes randomly. It was easy to fool the staff, but they didn’t really know either girl.

As Sinead Kirk was called to exit the shuttle and into the arms of her guardian, the real test began. Leonard was waiting for her, and Tam’s normal preference for his company was pushed aside by a certain amount of concern for what was to come. Bones was waiting for Sinead, passing the biometric confirmation of his identity and proving he was legally able to pick up this minor. When he looked up at her with a face splitting grin, Tam gave in to the urge to grin back, as it was something Sinead was allowed to do.

“Hey, kiddo. You lose a bet?”

Tam was able to extrapolate from the way his eyes were on her hair that his words related to that, but she had made no wagers on it. Fortunately, the exiting coordinator was talking to Leonard, Bones, and Tam did not have to formulate a reply. Though, from the coordinator’s words, Tam estimated that her similarities to another girl at camp were about to be spoken about. As Bones knew about them both, he would quickly grasp what had happened, and the game would be up.

“Her and this other girl cut their hair, and went around confusing everybody.”

“Bones, why isn’t Dad picking me up?” Tam was concerned with how long it took her to formulate that sentence. Bones, instead of Leonard, isn’t, instead of anything more formal, Dad, not Father, picking up, instead of meeting.

Bones sighed, and reached a hand out to her. The coordinator smiled at them and moved to the next adult in line. Satisfied with that, Tam considered what Leonard was reaching out to her for. Handing over the duffle bag, Tam watched as Bones rolled his eyes. He did take the duffle, and then he took her hand.

The contact was unexpected, but once Tam had adjusted her mental shields, she found she liked it. He walked next to her this way, instead of her following behind as they made their way through the crowded station.

“Sorry kid,” Bones spoke has he looked at the signs posted around them. “Verbena had to borrow Jim, but he should be back for supper.”

“Oh,” Tam replied, aware of how disappointed she sounded. She knew Leonard; it was Dad that all this was for.

“I’ll try not to take that bummed out tone personally.” Bones smiled at her, even as he directed her into a quiet corridor. After a quick look around, he stopped and pulled out his communicator. “McCoy to Chekov.”

Tam recognized the communicator as Starfleet equipment, but didn’t think Bones was supposed to use it outside of official duties.

“Chekov here.”

“You know the drill, Pavel.”

“That I do.” Came the happy reply, and Bones rolled his eyes before shutting his communicator.

Tam wondered if this abuse of equipment was usual, as Sinead hadn’t spoken much about how she would get home, only that Dad was to meet her at the civilian controlled Detroit Station. Tam felt the tingle on her skin first, as if a sonic shower had slipped its safety protocols, and then in was inside of her. Transportation could go so wrong so easily that most civilians didn’t have access to the technology, so for the first time in her memory Tam was transported somewhere. They arrived in a clean entryway, with coats and boots next to a bench.

Bones walked away, not worried about the violation of regulations they had just performed, so Tam chose to follow him. All her life, though, Tam had heard Leonard complain about beaming, and space, so it was strange he’d have risked it to avoid a quick flight to San Francisco.

“I thought you hated beaming.” Tam spoke before she could convince herself not to ask.

“I do. Hate having my molecules scrambled across space, no telling where I left my spleen.” Bones confirmed this easily, but shrugged as he started up a staircase, Tam following closely. “But Uhura will be here in an hour, and I wasn’t about to make her reschedule so I could take a safe flitter back from Detroit.”

“We’re supposed to start on Klingon.” Tam felt she could add this, as Sinead had made a point to tell her about Uhura. She’d taught Sinead Vulcan, something Tam had learned from Father, and basic Romulan. After Sinead got back from camp, they were going to begin lessons in Klingon. Sinead also said she’d been able to ask Ntoya anything that she didn’t want to ask Dad, except about her mother.

“Here ya go, I’ve carried it far enough so I’ll leave it to you to unpack.” Bones shot her a look before tossing the duffel bag into a room.

“Thank you, Bones.” Tam offered, recognizing it was Sinead’s room from the description.

“Ohh, learned manners did we?” Bones teased, even as he headed back the way they’d come.

Tam pushed questions about Bones aside, as she only had an hour to match the house to the schematics Sinead had drawn up. Then she would meet Uhura, who even father had spoken about with reverence, as a skilled former colleague. Tam even felt that learning Klingon would be an added benefit of this exchange.

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Sinead trailed behind Spock diligently, making sure she was looking Vulcan and not looking around in amazement. She lived near Starfleet, and Dad got her into space regularly, but the United Federation of Planets London HQ, recently completed, was awesome. They’d worked hard to combine cutting-edge technology with comfort for all the species represented, plus a touch of English old-world charm. Sinead had heard Bones use that phrase, but it was only now that she understood it.

The fireplaces were holographic, but the smell of burning peat was added for ambiance. One window, on the same floor as Spock’s office, apparently changed color based on the temperature of the rain that gently touched it. Anti-grav worked on the staircases, so they could be climbed without effort, and the lifts were transparent aluminum. There were also more alien species here than in Starfleet, some Sinead didn’t even recognize as they stopped Spock to talk to him.

Dad had mentioned that some species had moral convictions against joining Starfleet, as it had become such a military organization. Dad also said he was fighting this from the inside, but he didn’t go into details. Even with Spock’s known association with Starfleet, people didn’t have a problem stopping him to talk. Sinead’s internal chronometer wasn’t very accurate, but she figured it’d taken them an hour to reach Spock’s office. Spock hadn’t even sat at his desk when another ambassador was knocking.

Sinead noticed a window seat with a padd sitting on it, and lacking any other instructions she made herself at home. Looking through the padd, Sinead wondered why all these people were talking to Spock, who was only the ambassador’s aide, and not the ambassador himself. Supper was brought in after a few hours, and Spock let his go cold as he talked with the Tellerite ambassador. It was dark when Spock shut down his terminal and stood. Sinead shot to her feet a little too fast for a proper Vulcan, and hoped Spock didn’t notice. He did notice, but his words weren’t chastising. He’d not had much to say since he picked her up at Jupiter Station. He’d been speaking with someone on the comm. even as he flew the craft back to Earth.

“I had planned on spending the day with you, discussing what you learned at science camp. Once again, I have found myself absorbed in my work to the exclusion of what is important; you. I apologize T’Amanda, and shall adjust my future behavior.”

The use of Tam’s name quickly killed the smile that was trying to break out at Spock’s words. Sinead hoped her emotionless mask stayed in place as she came up with a reply.

“I understand your actions and recognize the importance of your work. No offense is taken where none is meant.” Sinead almost smiled as she said that, glad Ntoya’s lessons in Surak’s teachings had finally come in handy. “Perhaps we can go home now?”

Home was a flat across the way, connected by several elevated walk-ways. But once they had entered the other building, nobody interrupted them. A sort of unspoken truce decided that official duties would not be discussed in the residential quarters. Tam’s bedroom was the last one down the hall, further from the main entrance of their flat.

Sinead recognized this as a security precaution, even if Tam hadn’t been thought to think of things that way. The longer it took a badly intentioned person to reach Tam, the longer Spock would have to stop them. Sinead had long since known this was why her room was in the center of Dad’s house. She wanted to know more about Father though, and not just his plans for taking care of his daughter. Sinead grasped at an idea before it was fully formed.

“Father, while I was at camp, I was remiss in my nightly meditations. Would you assist me in recovering my discipline by instructing my meditation tonight?”

“I believe that is a logical solution.” Spock agreed readily, only his left eyebrow quirking up. “Prepare for meditation and I will join you in fifteen minutes.”

Sinead turned toward her room to hide a smile, and started walking that way. She heard father turn into the sitting room, and curiosity got the better of her. As quietly as she was able, which was very quiet on the thick carpet, she went to the door to listen. Dad sometimes watched the news after sending her to bed, but Father was making a call. She only wished she could see until she heard the voice Father had called. The voice made her grin.

“Hey, hobgoblin.”

“Leonard, Tam has asked two questions I find strange.”

“If she’s finally asking about the Vulcan birds and bees, she’s overdue. Speaking of overdue … “

“Enough, you have made your position clear.” Spock talked over Bones, when interrupting people didn’t seem a very Vulcan thing to do. “I had to stop in the office and Tam asked why people talked to me instead of the ambassador. I explained that the ambassador was even busier than I, but the answer didn’t satisfy her.”

“Of course not; you’ve got smart genes.”

Sinead straightened at that, curious. She’d put such things down to Bones’ medical background, but now, knowing she had a twin, she wondered. Did Bones mean to compliment both girls instead of the one Spock had raised? If so, why? Was he needling them both about separating the kids? That did seem like something Bones would do.

“Spock, don’t give me that eyebrow.” A sigh, and Bones continued. “Everyone knows you are half-human, which, on paper, makes you more approachable than a full, stuck-up, snob of a Vulcan. After they talk to you, they find you to be a real person, instead of the ice sculpture your father is.”

“Aliens find me more approachable and relatable than Father. I shall consider this idea, though it does not take into consideration that if other species know I am half-human, then they also know Father took a human mate.”

“That doesn’t make him more approachable, simply because most people think it was an experiment of some sort. Not me, others. I know a Vulcan would never experiment on his offspring.”

Sinead’s eyebrows went up at that. Bones was definitely needling both her dads, probably had been since she was born. And yet they still allowed the man to interact with them. Why would they put up with him?

“The second question T’Amanda asked was if I would vocally lead her through her meditation tonight.”

“Did she finally learn to slack off like a good kid? And I’m not there to enjoy it.”

“Leonard, her reasoning was sound but it goes against her personality. She has been very disciplined and independent in her meditation since she asked an awkward question during the mind touch.”

“What question?”

“You are only asking because you like to pry, but she asked after her mother.”

“Ah.”

“Is that all you have to say?”

Sinead agreed with Spock, wanting Bones to explain more, maybe mention something that would prove the girls’ hypothesis.

“Spock, do we need to argue about the importance of telling the truth, again?”

“Negative.”

“I don’t know, this might be crazy, but maybe the kid just wants to spend time with you, you workaholic. This help meditating may be because she thinks she needs an excuse to ask you for attention.”

“I shall take that under advisement.”

Not wanting to get caught eavesdropping, Sinead crept back up the hallway. Grabbing her night clothes, she changed in the sonic shower. Tossing back some mouthwash, she skipped brushing her teeth to put her mediation robe on over her pajamas. Spitting the mouthwash, she managed to walk into the mediation room just as Spock exited his room in his meditation robes. She folded easily into the lotus position Tam had taught her, the loshiraq, the easiest part of the meditation routine she’d tried to impart.

It was a little easier to focus here, though, than at camp with other people around and the more exciting awareness of being in a polystyrene cabin in a biodome. Here there was only the smell of the incense, Earth sandalwood since anything Vulcan was rare and expensive. Spock sat beside her, without touching, kneeling instead of trying for the lotus, folded into the leshriq. He began to speak, his voice calming, melodious in the Vulcan words. Sinead listened, accepted what he said as truth, and allowed herself to do as he said.

Focusing on Spock, instead of focusing on not focusing, allowed her mind to wander, yet it remained focused. Sinead found her breathing easier, deeper, as things settled around her, in her. Out of nothing, she felt as if something snapped, but Spock’s voice led her away from worry, so she gave it no further thought.

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