"I'm sorry, sir," says Gaila, taking the vessel, gulping the water down. It's not enough to fully re-hydrate, to plump her skin back to firmness, but she feels less ill.
"What need is there to apologize for what is necessary?" asks Sarek. He looks puzzled by her statement, but then, he's looked puzzled by Gaila since she stepped off the shuttle behind Spock and Nyota.
Gaila takes a minute to organize her thoughts. She thinks of hierarchy in clan terms, branch and root and seed, but even on an Orion ship, her relationship to Sarek would be ambiguous. She offers a different truth instead. "It's a human custom, to apologize when one inconveniences another, even if one can't help the inconvenience."
"We are not human," he says.
She shrugs. "Humanity is what we have in common, Sir," she says.
He nods. "And yet, you are not here for a human purpose."
Gaila does not know what to say to that. That's the most direct statement he's made about the purpose of their vigil, and the closest he's come to asking why she's here. But Nyota had told her that Vulcans didn't talk about pon farr, went to elaborate, illogical extremes to avoid the topic. And Gaila's not good at implication and inference, not in Standard. "It is appropriate for me to be here, with them," she finally says.
Sarek rises and she thinks she may have offended him anyway. But then he fetches an instrument, a glass circle suspended from a plastic platform and arm. He does something she doesn't quite see, and produces a separate glass rod. "Before, this would have been metal and stone, from before The Time of Awakening." He streaks the rod around the circle, but it doesn't produce a smooth sound. The pealing skips rapidly, in a slightly uneven rhythm. "It is an…encouragement and a warning."
He offers her the instrument, and she takes it from him without letting her fingers brush his. She runs the rod around the circle, faster than Sarek did it. "It sounds like a—." She breaks off and runs the rod faster, until the rhythm matches the one she knows from sex.
"Dhahq-khaf-spol. The instrument is called a heartsong, yes." He takes a deep breath and his eyelids flicker just a second. "It is played faster still than that. We will slow on the second and third days, but on the first day, the rhythm is very fast."
When Spock emerges from the firepit, the house is dark and so is the sky. He does not know his way around, as he as never visited the settlement before. But he hears the dhahq-khaf-spol, and follows the sound, expecting to find his father. Instead he finds Gaila, and what appears to be a six liter water container, a plate of pok tar and another of batter-fried nuggets. "It is not necessary to continue the meditation," he says. "All is done and well done."
Gaila's hand stills, but her eyes don't focus right away. Her voice, when she speaks, is low and flat. "Where is she?"
"She sleeps," he says. "Where is my father?"
She sniffs noisily at him, but says nothing.
"In Standard?" he says.
She sniffs more emphatically and says, "I don't know where he is." She sits up then, appearing more alert. "I've been here for hours." She puts the dhahq-khaf-spol on the table. "He said you'd be hungry, that you would both be hungry." She stands and takes the plate of fried foods. "There's some things in storage for her—."
He has her forearm in his wrist, something he had not consciously decided.
"I thought you said it was done?" She tugs her arm and he lets go.
"I am lucid; I assumed that I had also regained my self control. My apologies."
She shoves the plate at him. "You need to eat, both of you. And she probably needs water. I'll get the rest of her food for you to take."
Nyota shrugs Spock's hands off. After three days cocooned in one another's minds, it is strange for him not to anticipate that the lukewarm water running down her back has changed from soothing to irritating. "Apologies," she says. "I'm just…," tired and sore and hot, she doesn't say. She doesn't say that she's tired of being touched, either. "Where's Gaila?"
Spock sits back on his haunches, loose, off-white shorts sagging softly between his spread thighs. He wrings out the cloth in the basin at her feet. "I saw her on a bench in a room I presume has been set aside for meditation, but that was 3.27 hours ago."
"If I leave the room, will it upset you?" she asks.
He takes a couple of deep breaths and releases a long sigh. "I believe that it will, but I do not believe I will attempt to impede your exit, nor attack anyone with whom you come in contact."
She blinks at him, shrugs. "Close enough."
It takes a little while to get out of the firepit. Gaila had the bag with her clothes and Spock seems to have forgotten to pack any shirts, and she just can't move very quickly. The past few days have been a real blur, but she's pretty sure they haven't included much in the way of food. She finally drapes a sheet from a storage chest about her person artistically and hopes for the best.
The sky is still dark, but the house lights are on when they emerge. She smells something cooking, and realizes that the fried vegetables and fresh fruit Spock had brought her were some hours ago.
Sarek and Gaila are in the kitchen. Sarek is talking, and Gaila is laughing, face flushed dark like collard greens.
Nyota does not know why Gaila is laughing, but she joins in the laughter anyway, in a gasping, halting way: chuckle, "ow!", chuckle, "ow!" Spock had her curled up in a way her stomach muscles weren't really prepared for, and she's sore.
Sarek turns to look at her and she has the impression that he's pleased. She wishes she had studied microexpressions, so she could tell what she saw to make her think that. "Greetings, new daughter," he says in Vulcan. Then in Standard: "Why do humans laugh when they have not experienced the source of humor directly?"
"Because laughing feels good," says Gaila. She puts down the knife and the vegetables she'd been holding, and turns to Nyota. "Hey. How are you?"
Nyota can see from the way she's holding her hands and arms—open, but not reaching—that Gaila wants to hug, but will wait until it's clear what Nyota needs from her. Nyota crosses the distance between them and wraps her arms around Gaila, presses their cheeks together. "Hey," she says back. "Hey."
Then Gaila swipes her chin across Nyota's cheeks, and Nyota can feel the pheremone spray wash across her face, which means that Gaila just pumped out a ridiculous level. "Hey! Why—?"
"You're naked," says Gaila repressively. "Completely unmarked. And you!"
Nyota looks back over her shoulder, sees Spock lurking in the door way. He has found a shirt from somewhere, one she doesn't recognize. Perhaps it's his father's?
"Come here," says Gaila, and she drinks a deep breath in, drawing air over tongue and teeth and an extremely sensitive chemical perceiving organ with no parallel in human or Vulcan anatomy. "You're just as bad. Come. Here."
Spock bends his head to let Gaila reach his cheeks for marking as well, and Nyota has a flash of Gaila, terrorizing small Vulcan children with open affection and biological secretions. It's a better vision than she would have expected.
Then Sarek makes a noise which Nyota doesn't understand, and she looks at him. He looks exactly like Spock does when he's been left to Leonard McCoy's tender mercies too long. "Sir?" she asks.
The silence stretches out while he formulates a question. His face shows nothing, but Nyota imagines he's trying to ask one that'll tell him what he wants to know without referencing emotions, pon farr, or pheremone marking. "S'chn T'gai Spock, how many daughters have you brought this house?"
"That has yet to be determined," says Spock.
Sarek's expression becomes chillier and more remote. "What issues remain to be resolved?"
"Gaila, before she became romantically committed to Uhura, and by extension me, intended to form the nucleus of a new Orion clan tree. We have been negotiating whether Uhura and I should join her clanseed, or she should become our graftwife. If we become clanseed, then there are no new daughters in our house. If she is graftwife, then you have two new daughters."
Sarek is quiet again, and Nyota watches him intently, to see if his face changes at all. It doesn't, but gradually, his posture changes, and his bearing loses some of its hauteur. "Gaila," he says, "is there any incentive I can provide, to convince you of the worthiness of our house?"
Nyota laughs again, because she felt Spock and Gaila relax under her hands at the exact same time.