Chapter 1: Prologue
Chakotay was bored.
That was not particularly unusual at middle-shift when nothing much was happening. He supposed he ought to work on requisition analyses, but sometimes it was easier just to daydream. Beside him, Janeway was busily signing reports and perusing a copy of something from B'Elanna that had too many words that ended in -ity or included "particle" for Chakotay to follow. B'Elanna and engines were something he preferred to count as part of the great mystery that lay at the heart of the universe. Perhaps Janeway was better for B'Elanna Torres than he. Chakotay had been the young woman's mentor, but he did not share much common ground with her. Janeway did. And to be honest, B'Elanna was in need of a strong mother-figure more than a strong father-figure. Chakotay was simultaneously glad and a tad jealous to see her relationship with Janeway progressing so well. He buried the jealousy under a proprietary pride at having helped bring them together.
"Captain." Harry Kim's voice broke over Chakotay's musings. Chakotay turned his head, still responding instinctually to the title despite over three years of hearing "Commander."
Janeway had glanced up as well. "Yes, Mr. Kim?"
"I'm receiving readings consonant with...a wormhole, captain."
Janeway stood up abruptly, joined him at his station. "Coordinates?" He gave them. She turned to the conn. "Mr. Paris, let's take a closer look."
The shift would not, it seemed, be boring after all. Chakotay sat up straighter in his chair.
As Voyager moved closer, the readings became clearer. The wormhole was about a day's trip sidewise of their course but appeared to be highly unstable. Nevertheless, Janeway seemed to think it worth investigating. One did not run across wormholes every day. So a course was laid in, and the day's shift ended for Chakotay with the promise of something interesting for tomorrow.
A comcall woke him in the middle of the night. "Janeway to Chakotay."
He sat up and rubbed a hand over his face, then fumbled for his com. He might have called for lights, but lights always abused his eyes before he woke up fully. "Chakotay here, captain."
"Commander, sorry to wake you, but I have interesting news. There appears to be a ship of some kind, caught in that wormhole. Can you come to the bridge?"
"I'm on my way."
Third shift had the bridge when he arrived. Janeway was bent over the ops station, together with Tuvok. Apparently, she had summoned him from sleep as well. Chakotay, who felt rumpled and cross, was annoyed to see the Vulcan so together. But what else would one expect from oh-so-proper Tuvok? The third-shift ops officer hovered. "You wanted me, captain?" Chakotay said to Janeway.
"Yes." She beckoned him over, her mind clearly on the console. She was pretty when she was vaguely distracted. "Take a look at these readings."
Dutifully he looked. They made no sense to him. "And?" he asked.
"The ship is showing an energy signature remarkably similar to a Federation type vessel," Tuvok replied, as if to a dullard.
Suppressing annoyance, Chakotay blinked and studied the readings more closely. "Yes," he muttered after a moment. "I do see."
Janeway tapped the screen and gave a frustrated little sigh. "But we're still too far out. I can't decide just what kind of ship this might be. Too small to be Starfleet, I think. We'll just have to wait." She began to pace, did not speak again. Chakotay spared a glance at Tuvok but Tuvok stood quiet, all drawn into himself in that peculiar way Vulcans had. Sighing, Chakotay gave up on sleep and went down to take his place in the secondary command chair.
A little over two hours later, the ops officer called Janeway back up to her station. "I have something clearer," she said. Almost leaping, Janeway joined her.
For a long time, Janeway did not speak. Then, in a soft voice, she said, "This is a Vulcan shuttle."
Every head on the bridge jerked around to look at her.
"They're sending out a distress call."
Chapter 2: I
It seemed that he had been turning his head for a century, turning his head to see if she was safe, if their baby was safe inside her.
Logic dictated that he keep his eyes on the console. Instinct and his heart told him otherwise. He could feel her fear like cold fingers on the back of his neck.
But he could not turn his head, could not seem to move his hands on the controls, could not even think. Outside the viewport, space roiled. The ship bucked, seemed to be twisting itself apart. In another few moments, the hull would split and the whole shuttle would explode. They would die. Spectacularly.
It was not being able to think that scared him most.
"Status report," Janeway said from the captain's chair.
"Forty-two minutes till we have visual contact, captain." Tuvok hesitated. "I will inform you when visual contact is possible."
Impatience was a human failing, Tuvok thought. One moved to act as quickly as possible but needless anticipation only disturbed the mind so that—when time for action did arrive—one reacted more slowly than one otherwise would. Dispassion led to clear thinking.
Janeway had twisted to look at him, amusement on her face. "Yes, Mr. Tuvok, I'm sure you will. But unlike you, I don't keep a clock inside my skull."
"Shall I inform you of the time in ten minute intervals?"
She grinned. "Thank you, Tuvok."
So Tuvok did as she asked, monitored his station, and allowed his mind to speculate on the unknown ship. Given its current predicament, how it had come to the Delta Quadrant seemed self-evident. But who would be on board? Vulcan-made equipment was frequently purchased by non-Vulcans because of its quality. His people might not have the high production-rate of humans, Tellarites, or Alpha Centaurians, but what they built, they built to be both efficient and durable. "Planned obsolescence" was not a Vulcan sin.
Nevertheless, odds were high that there would be Vulcans aboard the shuttle and the possibility aroused a disturbing excitement in him. Such an emotional state as "homesickness" was not something to which he wanted to admit, yet at a sublimated level, it was present. He missed T'Pel and his children with something akin to physical pain. He had a grandchild now—his first—whose mind he had never touched. By the time he returned home, that child would be grown, married, perhaps even with children of her own.
If he returned to the Alpha Quadrant. If he survived the year.
But there was another level to his homesickness. It might have been more manageable, were he not the sole Vulcan still alive aboard Voyager. There had been two others, a nurse and an engineer, with whom he had sometimes shared meals and conversation in his own tongue. The engineer had even spoken the native dialect of his region. Both were dead now and he missed their companionship. To hope that this unknown shuttle contained other Vulcans—who would then be stranded along with him far from their homes—was not only illogical, but selfish. Nevertheless, a part of him did hope for it. He asked pardon of their spirits.
More readings came in from the ship and wormhole before visual contact was made. Tuvok studied these. Although no scientist, if he understood Janeway correctly, the wormhole had not only caught and transported the vessel, it had created a bubble of time in which the vessel was held immobile, repeating the same five-second interval over and over. It was difficult to tell from the registry, but it seemed that the ship had been living these same five seconds for sixteen years.
"B'Elanna," Janeway spoke into her com, "is there a way to pierce the bubble without destroying the ship? Or can we at least beam any survivors aboard before it breaks apart?" It was evident that the little shuttle was under terrible stress, the bubble all that protected it from total destruction as the wormhole collapsed and expanded irregularly. They were not yet close enough to detect lifesigns. Or lack of them.
"I don't know, captain," came B'Elanna's voice. "I'm working on it."
"Captain," Tuvok said, "we now have visual contact and full scanner abilities." He checked the readings himself and added—before she could even ask—"There are two life signs ...no, there are three life-signs aboard the vessel." He glanced up. "One of them appears to be pre-natal."
"A pregnant woman," Janeway whispered, then spoke more forcefully, "Vulcan?"
"One reading is Vulcan, one human. The child...seems to be mostly Vulcan."
Janeway rose and walked up to join him. "They must be a couple."
"That would," Tuvok said, "be a logical deduction."
"Can you tell which is the mother?"
"We've got to get them out of there."
"Yes, captain." He refrained from pointing out that was obvious. He thought of his son and daughter-in-law and grandchild. It filled him with an uncharacteristic protectiveness towards this unknown pair and their unborn infant. As Janeway had said, they did indeed have "to get them out of there." He glanced up at the viewscreen and the tiny ship caught in a whirling mass of electrical color.
Janeway's com spoke again. "Captain, I think I have it."
Janeway tapped her badge. "Go ahead, Torres."
"It's simple enough. I can slice into the bubble and use the tractor to protect the ship until we can pull it out. If that doesn't work, we should still have a few seconds to beam them off. I'm reading only two people aboard."
"Three, B'Elanna." Tuvok noted Janeway's smile. "One of them is still inside its mother."
There was a moment's hesitation, then B'Elanna replied. "I'll get right on it. But captain—that shuttle has taken a pounding. I suggest that emergency medical be present."
"Of course," Janeway said.
It was actually another twenty minutes before they arrived at the wormhole and could begin rescue operations: plenty of time for Kes to gather supplies and be lectured by the doctor on the peculiarities of Vulcanoid physiology. As the doctor had asked for an open link to the bridge to keep tabs on the ship's status, Chakotay got an earful. To Janeway sitting in the seat beside him, he mouthed, "How does she put up with it?" Janeway covered a smile with her hand and did not reply.
When Voyager was in position and Torres was ready, Janeway called her. "Hop to it, Lieutenant. Those people have been in there sixteen years. That's a damn long pregnancy." The other women on the bridge chuckled.
"Beginning operations, captain." A bright green beam, piggy- backed on a larger white one, streaked out from Voyager towards the ship caught in the wormhole. When it reached their position, it appeared to bend—probably the effect of the time warp.
Then everything happened at once. The bubble burst open and the tractor locked onto the ship at the same instant the wormhole collapsed, sending out a ripple in space-time that kicked Voyager hard in the belly. The ship rocked. "B'Elanna!" Janeway shouted.
"We've got them, captain!"
He could think again. And his head finished turning towards his wife, seated beside him at the controls, knuckles white where she gripped the edge. She was terrified, but she was safe. He returned his attention to the console to discover where they were and what had happened.
The console exploded.
"We've got them, captain," Torres repeated, "but it looks bad in there. I'm reading three fires and a gas leak. I suggest we transport them directly to sickbay. I'll bring in the shuttle and see if it can be repaired. We need that shuttle."
"Acknowledged. Transporter room, emergency beam-out. Get those people to sickbay."
"Aye-aye, captain," came back.
Janeway stood and glanced down at Chakotay. "Commander, shall we go greet our guests?"
He rose to join her. "It would be my pleasure." Together, they headed for the turbolift.
"Captain." Janeway turned to where Tuvok stood at attention behind his console. "May I be permitted to accompany you?"
Chakotay noticed that he had not attempted to offer a 'logical' reason; Janeway would not have bought it, in any case.
"Of course, Tuvok. My apologies. I should have thought of that."
Tuvok joined them in the turbolift. "Did you, by any chance, recognize the registry?" Janeway asked him. "Do you know who's on that ship?"
"No, I did not. Voyager does not have a complete listing of the occupants of all privately-owned Vulcan vessels lost in the past sixteen years." This was offered dryly.
"No," Janeway said, "I suppose we don't. Just wondering."
The lift deposited them on the corridor leading to sickbay. They not-quite-ran to the doors, which swished open on chaos.
One doctor and one assistant were not enough for two critical patients. They had concentrated on the woman, who appeared to have gone into premature labor. She was shouting in fear and pain, half- curled around herself, holding a very-distended belly. Her ethnic background was indeterminable Mediterranean. Chakotay was not familiar enough with the peoples to tell.
The Vulcan male appeared to be in worse physical shape, his hands and forearms and part of his face and neck badly burnt. Yet he lay quiet, body shaking with the effort of controlling agony. He had raised his hands to keep them from touching anything. Green blood slimed bubbled skin. Chakotay could not begin to imagine the kind of pain he must be in. Beside Chakotay, Janeway sucked in breath. But the Vulcan's eyes were glued to the table which held his wife, his face stark and unguarded, betraying his fear. Kes moved from the woman to him, administering a hypo. "That should ease the pain," she said kindly. "And your wife and baby will be just fine."
"I don't believe this," Chakotay heard Janeway whisper beside him. Both he and Tuvok glanced at her; she was looking at the Vulcan. She took six steps forward into the room. At the same moment, the Vulcan turned. Recognition crossed his burned face. Janeway held his gaze a moment more, then spoke—emphatically—to Kes. "You must repair his hands."
"Kate," the Vulcan said, voice rasping. And he tried to form the Vulcan salute with burned fingers. There was something horrible and touching in that gesture of graciousness under such circumstances.
Biting her lips, Janeway raised her own hand and returned it. She did not speak. Chakotay could see tears glisten on her lashes.
Baffled, Chakotay shot a look at Tuvok, who had pulled in his chin and raised one eyebrow. "Do you know who he is?" Chakotay asked.
"Yes," Tuvok replied. "But I do not know how the captain knows him." Chakotay thought Tuvok looked positively vexed. And vaguely disapproving.
"Well, you're still one up on me. Who is he—and why the worry over his hands?"
"He is a concert pianist, commander. Even the least damage to his hands could destroy his career."
Chakotay looked back at the burned flesh, wondering if some things were beyond even modern medicine. Janeway had walked over to stand beside his bed and look down at him, a very strange expression on her face. Yet the Vulcan's eyes had returned to the young woman— calmed now—who was apparently his wife. That triangle of gazes told Chakotay a good deal. "So who is he?"
Beside Chakotay, Tuvok spoke. "His name is Sokar. Sokar ch'Spock ch'Sarek."
Chakotay's mouth dropped open.
Chapter 3: II
Tuvok crossed his arms, unsure quite what he felt about being destined to spend the next seventy years with this Vulcan, of them all. Nor had he missed Janeway's response, though he was equally unsure what to make of that. She must have met Sokar during her time at the Vulcan Science Academy. Tuvok knew she had spent three years there, but what contact would a young Starfleet science officer have had with a concert pianist, even one who happened to be Ambassador Spock's son?
Nevertheless, hospitality required Tuvok to greet one of his own people. He moved towards the bed. The doctor had begun work on Sokar's hands, leaving Kes to deal with Sokar's wife. "These are third-degree burns," he said, running a scanner over the skin, "with some damage to the underlying muscle. Nothing that can't be repaired, but you'll want to spend time exercising them after. Otherwise you could lose fine motor control."
"I do not think you will have to warn me twice, doctor." Sokar gave a faint smile. Tuvok breathed out softly and Sokar's eyes turned to him. "Ah—I fear I have offended my fellow Vulcan."
"You have a habit of that, Sokar," said the young woman on the other bed.
"As you inform me often enough." Then, to the rest of them, "This is my wife, Ioanna Traketellis." But Sokar had focused on Janeway. "Kathryn, you look...different."
"I look older, you mean."
"More than five years merits."
"I'm afraid it's been a little more than five years. It's been twenty-one." And she told him about the time bubble in the wormhole. Tuvok watched his face. At least he could control his expressions when he chose to.
By the time Janeway was done explaining both their situation and that of the Voyager, the doctor was finished tending Sokar's hands and face. Sokar did not say anything immediately, but flexed his fingers, studying them. "Adequate," he said, his gaze traveling to where Kes and his wife were walking through labor.
"Adequate!" the doctor burst out.
Sokar glanced back, gave the same faint smile. "Good doctor, it was not meant as an insult." Then without asking, he slid down from the table to join his wife, taking Kes' place. The doctor started to protest but Janeway stopped him.
"Give them some space, doctor." She watched them speak quietly together. "They have quite an adjustment to make." She drew herself together, the struggle visible on her face. "Well, gentlemen," she said to Tuvok and Chakotay, "I think we need to find quarters for our guests. Doctor"—She glanced back at the EMH—"How long do you estimate they'll be here?"
"Labor is difficult to predict. I am a hologram, not an oracle."
Kes had joined them. "She said this is her first, and she's only a little over eight months pregnant. It will be at least several more hours. She's nowhere near transition. But even after the baby is born, they should stay overnight."
"A premature hybrid child is at even greater risk," the doctor explained before anyone could ask.
"Eight months isn't that premature," Janeway said.
"The Vulcan period of gestation is usually ten of our months— nine point seven-two of yours," Tuvok told her.
The doctor nodded. "The baby will be six weeks early. Although," he added, "it seems to be healthy at the moment: a strong heartbeat. Yet precautions are always in order."
"By all means take them," Janeway replied, almost absently. She was watching Sokar and his wife talking, fingers pressed lightly together. He was supporting her, sharing the pain; Tuvok remembered the experience well enough. T'Pel had been strong but slight, and the strain of labor intense. By the third time, when their twins were born, they had mastered the process. But the first time had been frightening, the pain worse than either had anticipated. Nonetheless, holding his son at the end had seemed justification for everything. Tuvok thought again of that son and his own wife, and the child they would now have themselves.
"Well." Janeway's words broke into Tuvok's musing. "I need to get back to the bridge. Commander"—she touched Chakotay's arm—"I leave it to you to find them a cabin. I know we're cramped, but we can't put them in with someone else. Mr. Tuvok, I'll let you inform the commander of anything...special...that might be required. I have no idea what kind of arrangements to make for them. In the meantime, I'm sure the doctor can handle the situation. If any of you needs me, call." And, with a final glance at the pair on the far side of the room, she left.
"Was it my imagination," Chakotay said, "or did she seem in a hurry to get out of here?"
Kes gave a knowing smile and went to ready a bed, dragging the doctor after. Tuvok raised an eyebrow. "Speculation concerning her motivation was not part of our orders, commander."
Chuckling, Chakotay rubbed his chin. "I suppose not. But don't tell me you haven't done a little speculating yourself in the past fifteen minutes."
Tuvok was not about to admit that he had. "I believe it would be more productive to 'speculate' on where we should lodge Sokar and his wife."
Through their link, Sokar could feel another contraction coming. He tightened his grip on Ioanna's wrists, supporting her as she half- bent over herself. When it passed, she stood again and he put an arm around her to let her lean on him. Normally, he would never have made such a public gesture, but she needed it. "Be brave, my wife."
"Do I have a choice?" she snapped back, hand on her belly. Then she sighed. "Sorry. This isn't exactly what we had in mind, is it? What are we going to do?"
"At the moment, I believe we are going to have a baby."
"Goddammit! You know what I meant."
"There is nothing to do, Yanna. We are fortunate to be alive at all."
"We were sixteen years in that bubble? Skata! They must all think we're dead!"
"I'm glad I made you let me come with you."
"So am I," he said, and meant it. He did not think he would have dealt well with being separated from her. And pon farr had nothing to do with it. "Seventy years would have been a long wait to see my daughter."
Ioanna gripped her stomach again. He held her until it passed. "Seventy years? Good God."
"That's what Kathryn said. Or sixty-seven years, actually."
"How do you know her?"
"Sokar—don't. Just don't. You know 'who'."
"Jealousy does not become you, my wife."
"You're evading when you go formal on me."
He sighed. "I knew Kathryn five years ago—twenty-one of hers. She was on Vulcan, studying at the academy, a student of my father's. She sings well. My interest in her was musical. Hers in me was... somewhat more. When she discovered that I could not feel for her the way she wanted, she left Vulcan."
Ioanna nodded. "Now you show up on her ship with a Terran wife."
He glanced at her, wondering how much he should tell her about his relationship with Kathryn Janeway. "She was not a musician, Yanna. She could sing, but she did not understand what it means to live music. She lives for science, and Starfleet. I had...enough of that...with my parents. I was not about to marry it."
Ioanna just grinned. "So you married a hot-headed Greek, instead."
"A hot-headed Greek who writes extraordinary symphonies. And I believe my fellow Vulcan would term me 'hot-headed,' or at least overly demonstrative."
"By Vulcan standards, agapetos, you are. Just promise me you won't needle him too much. He's not your father."
Chapter 4: III
Despite the fact Voyager had been in the Delta Quadrant just a little over three years, only two babies had been born to crew members. It would take a little longer than that, Chakotay thought, for people to give up on getting home and start pairing. Most of the crew—especially those few who were married—still clung to the hope of returning to families. Chakotay could not blame them. But that meant Sokar's new baby was only the third infant Voyager had seen, and even if people had not yet given up on getting back to the Alpha Quadrant soon, they were not blind to the fact it might take two generations. Children were their future. Besides, Chakotay thought, people just liked babies. Maestro Traketellis and her newborn daughter were getting plenty of attention.
Except from Janeway. The captain had sent congratulations, but had not yet been to the see the infant, as far as Chakotay knew. In fact, she seemed to be doing her best to avoid Sokar and his wife. Chakotay wondered if she would come to the naming ceremony that night. It seemed that everyone else who was off-duty and could cram his or her body into Hanger One would be present. People were understandably curious about the son of Ambassador Spock. Voyager was, after all, a Starfleet vessel. Nevertheless, Chakotay got the impression Sokar would have preferred it had the crew not known his identity.
At least Sokar was not as cool as Spock had been. Chakotay had met the ambassador once, at a conference. Even Tuvok was warmer. But perhaps it had been the aegis of Living Legend which had set Spock apart and froze friendliness. In any case, Sokar had the charisma of his grandfather, Sarek. He seemed to genuinely like people—or he gave that impression as much as any Vulcan ever could. He even put up with Neelix.
"I'm going to have to find a different title for you," Neelix had informed him when he and his wife had first come to dinner in the cafeteria. "I can't call you Mr. Vulcan. You're not at all like the other one."
"I do have a name," Sokar had replied while his wife had tried to hide a grin behind her hand.
Appearing beside Neelix, Kes had said, "Neelix has made it his goal to get Mr. Tuvok to smile at least once. Neelix is Voyager's morale officer."
Sokar's eyebrow had gone up and Chakotay would have given a week's rations to have known what he was thinking. But he had only replied, "I do not believe getting Tuvok to smile will increase his morale. Rather the opposite."
"You smile," Neelix had protested. "A little."
"I am only part-Vulcan," Sokar had replied. "My grandmother was Terran."
"Ah!" Neelix had raised a wooden spoon in the air. "That explains it! Why you're so different, that is."
Sokar's wife had chuckled, accepting the cup of tea Kes handed her. "Neelix don't be simplistic. Is every Talaxian the same? Is every Ocampan? Then why should you assume all Vulcans are alike? I assure you, they're as individual as any other people." And she had given Neelix a dazzling smile at the same time the baby in the pouch on Sokar's chest had begun to cry. Setting down the tea, she had held out hands for their daughter. "She's hungry."
Sokar lifted her free and passed her to her mother. "Then I give her to you, as that is not something which nature has equipped me to remedy."
Sokar, Chakotay had thought, understood Indian humor.
Neelix had made shooing motions. "You two, go sit down! I'll bring out your meal personally!" Sokar had raised his eyebrow again, but just picked up his wife's tea and followed her to a table. A few minutes later, Neelix had arrived with their trays, then stayed to coo at the baby.
And that, Chakotay thought, had been a fair example of the general ship's reaction to Sokar and Maestro Traketellis—if a little more naive since Kes and Neelix had only ever met one Vulcan for comparison. Nevertheless, Neelix's confusion over Sokar was not wholly without justification, whatever Sokar's wife had implied. Sokar was NOT like any Vulcan Chakotay had ever met, and he had met enough to have a fair sample.
That evening after duty, Chakotay retired to his cabin to prepare for the ceremony. He hated dress uniform, but it seemed the fitting choice. When he was ready, he knocked on Janeway's door in case she had decided to attend, but he almost did not recognize the woman who stepped out into the hall. His jaw dropped. She had not dressed in uniform, but put on clothing of Vulcan cut and Vulcan silk, a pale grey-blue to match her eyes. "Commander," she said. At least her voice had not transformed.
At that moment, Tuvok's door swished open and the Vulcan joined them. He also wore his native dress, but Chakotay had expected that. From the look Tuvok gave Janeway, though, he was clearly as astonished as Chakotay. Instead of simply nodding to her, he offered the Vulcan salute. She returned it. "I've been to one of these before," she answered his unspoken question. "Before you and I ever met."
"So I...assumed," Tuvok replied.
Chakotay scratched his head. "I'm beginning to think I should go change."
Janeway smiled her usual smile and patted his arm. "No, commander. You look just fine. Now gentlemen—shall we?" With Tuvok on one side and Chakotay on the other, they headed for the turbolift.
Tuvok tried to observe Janeway without quite appearing to do so. He had seen her in Vulcan attire only once, when she had come to visit his family during a very brief overlay at Vulcan Space Central. "I got used to Vulcan clothes when I lived on Vulcan," she had explained when she had joined him in the transporter room that day. "I like them. Loose and cool. I'm off duty, and I'm not about to wear my uniform down there in that heat if I don't have to!"
The clothing had suited her, Tuvok had thought at the time; T'Pel had agreed. Not all humans looked natural in Vulcan robes. Now, seeing her in them again, he decided he had been right. But did she do this to honor Sokar, or to remind him of something in their past? Perhaps both. Humans rarely had a single motivation. Then again, neither did Vulcans, whatever they wanted to admit.
The hanger was full of people. Tuvok was mildly surprised and wondered if so many people would have attended a ceremony of his. Probably not. Tuvok's goal as security chief had not been to make himself popular. He protected Voyager and did it well, and Janeway trusted him. That was all which mattered to Tuvok.
Nevertheless—seeing the crowd- -he experienced a touch of...what? He had served this ship faithfully for seven years. Sokar and his wife had been here only eight days.
Upon Janeway's arrival with Tuvok and Chakotay, Sokar left his wife's side to come greet them. "May this be a day of good-memory," Janeway said formally. Sokar appeared to be struggling to conceal a smile and Tuvok bit back disapproval. He repeated Janeway's words, in Vulcan—a subtle reminder.
Chakotay had been watching, apparently at a loss. Now, he asked, "What are you going to name the baby?"
Tuvok stiffened. "Commander, it is considered impolite to inquire as to the name prior to the ceremony."
Sokar frowned slightly. "He didn't know, Tuvok. He was trying to be kind."
Tuvok's lips thinned. Could Sokar not act like a proper Vulcan even for a Vulcan ceremony? "And I was endeavoring to educate him regarding Vulcan custom," Tuvok replied.
"You were embarrassing him in public." Sokar spoke deliberately in Vulcan. Then he turned to Janeway. "Kate, I am...glad...you would come." And—with a final glare at Tuvok—he disappeared back into the crowd.
"He doesn't realize the universal translators are in the comm badges, does he?" Chakotay said, but his smile had an edge. Tuvok ignored it; Janeway just shook her head.
"I don't think he was trying to hide what he said, Chakotay. Sokar— Sokar plays by his own rules."
"Why, I do believe we might get along, then." Chakotay's smile had widened.
Janeway twisted slightly to look up at him. "You two probably would."
Sokar had mounted a small raised platform. Head covered, his wife stood a proper two steps behind, though she rarely conformed to either custom that Tuvok had seen. "This is," Sokar said to the crowd, "normally a clan ritual, but it seems this ship is to be our 'clan' for some time, so it is appropriate to share the ceremony with you. Once, in Vulcan's past, a child's life belonged to its father. When a child was born, it was brought to him and placed at his feet. If he took it up, the child was his. If he turned away, it was taken out into the desert and exposed. That time is thankfully long gone. Children are precious on Vulcan. We preserve this ceremony to remind us that our children are gifts, not property. Their care is a grave responsibility. Therefore, the child is no longer laid at the father's feet, but given into his arms."
He turned and his wife passed him their daughter. He held her much more easily, Tuvok thought, than he himself had held his son at this same ceremony sixty-five years ago. Sokar then raised the baby over his head and spoke in Vulcan: "This is flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood. I accept as sacred the charge to protect and guide her life. As token of that, I give her a name by which she will be known. Let her be called Cleopatra."
The hanger had been respectfully silent. Now it buzzed. Tuvok stood as if shot. Beside him, Janeway whispered, "Cleopatra?"
"'Glory of her father,'" Chakotay said. He was grinning fiercely.
"When did you learn Greek?" Janeway snapped back.
"I didn't. But I remember reading that somewhere. I rather admire old Cleopatra, Queen of de Nile."
"As do I," said a voice at Tuvok's elbow. He looked down to find Sokar's wife. "Are you shocked?" she asked him, dark Byzantine eyes twinkling. "It wasn't my idea, but you must admit Sokar's decision was logical. She is more human than Vulcan. And I did choose the name. What better? Cleopatra was the first Ptolemy to care about the people she ruled, or trouble to learn their language. And they loved her for it. Even after Actium, Alexandria would have rioted had she asked. She didn't, because she didn't want to see the Romans raze the city. She was the only one of Alexander's successors who was worthy of the name. Unlike the rest of that family, she really did rule two peoples under the crook and flail."
Tuvok met her eyes. "I sincerely hope," he said, "that your daughter comes to a better end than suicide by snakebite."
"But Tuvok," she replied, "didn't you know? The Egyptians believed that the bite of the asp made one a god." Grinning, she walked away.
"'Cleopatra,'" Janeway said again. "I wonder what Ambassador Spock is going to say?"
"No doubt Sokar made his decision wondering the same thing," Tuvok replied.
"And he chose something he knew his father wouldn't approve of."
Chapter 5: IV
I am not a piano tuner, Sokar thought, annoyed.
The piano which had been beamed from the cargo hold of their shuttle to their quarters had looked like one of the Broadwoods deaf Beethoven had played in his later years: broken strings as tangled as a thorn bush, hammers hanging uselessly. At first, Sokar had put a hand to his head in shock, wondering if it might be past repair. "I can't fix this," he had said, a little helplessly.
Ioanna had walked around it twice, plunked a few chords, so badly out of tune, they had both winced. "Well," she had said after a minute, "You fix it or you play an electronic keyboard for the next 70 years."
That had, of course, been all she had needed to say. She knew perfectly well how much he detested electronic keyboards. His father had never understood that. "Sampling creates an indistinguishable sound from an acoustic instrument, Sokar. I fail to see why you insist on transporting the Bosendorfer."
"It is not the same," Sokar had replied.
So he had spent the past week trying to repair his grand. It was tedious but at least exercised his weakened hands. In the meantime, a keyboard had been sufficient for practice: repetition of scales and arpeggios in contrary motion, just the fingers moving, wrists and arms straight until the muscles of his hands were strong once more. A pianist could not come to rely on elbows and shoulders. It was bad technique. The first day, he had overtaxed himself. Muscles had cramped. He had tried to conceal it from Ioanna until he had dropped a plate full of soup. She had spent the next half hour massaging life back into his fingers and calling him three kinds of fool in Greek.
That night, he had taken her into his own bed and held her in his arms. They did not usually sleep together. It was not Vulcan custom —not that he cared—but their different body temperatures made sharing a bed uncomfortable. He was freezing or she was sweating. Yet that first night, they had needed it. For a while, they had simply lain quiet, listening to the sounds of their daughter sleeping. "It's so strange," she had said, touching her deflated stomach, "to have her out there instead of in here. I'm not sure I'm ready yet."
He had not replied, just ran his hands through her hair. Finally, he had said, "How are you?" He did not mean about the baby.
"I don't know. Instant mother six weeks early would be enough. I'm not sure the rest has registered yet. We've spent so much time on the road, this feels like just another ship, another concert. It'll take a while. Maybe having the baby to worry about is a good thing."
"Perhaps," he had replied.
"How are you?"
She had leaned up on an elbow to study his face in the dark. "Really?"
"Really," he had said, wiping hair back from her face. "You are alive, she is alive, and I am alive. I am content."
Grinning, she had laid back on his shoulder. "And you have your piano."
"When I get it repaired."
"When" had been prophetic, he thought now, nearly throwing a wrench in very un-Vulcan frustration. Standing up and wiping greasy hands on a towel, he had muttered, "I am not a mechanic."
"And that's not an aircar," Ioanna said. "It's a piano. And it won't hurt you a bit to learn how one's put together. You might bang the life out of them less, my husband." She was sitting at the table, forehead in her hand, working on a piece. Sheet music lay scattered around her, or balled into discarded litter on the floor about her chair. She wrote by hand, with pen. He and his acoustic piano. She and her fountain pen. Musicians were notoriously conservative. Their daughter, he saw, was playing with a discarded wad of staff paper. An omen, Ioanna would have said. Sokar half-smiled to himself. Greeks and their omens. She had already put an evil-eye charm in Cleopatra's bed. "I know this is stupid," she had told him, "illogical, and superstitious, but don't you dare take it off the chain!" He had left it there. Five years had taught him not to argue with a Greek. He usually lost.
He started to turn back to the piano but the door buzzed. "Come in," he called. It swished open. A nervous Kathryn Janeway stood just outside, bright light from the hallway haloing her yellow hair. He decided he did not care for the bun.
My wife Ioanna looked up. Oh, her mouth said. Would you mind?, he asked.
Picking up Cleopatra, she pinched a foot so the baby started to cry. "She's hungry," Ioanna said, smiling at Kathryn. "I'd stay to chat, but I don't think you want your eardrums assaulted." And she disappeared into the bedroom, door closing on Cleopatra's cries. Sokar doubted Kathryn would be fooled, but it made a suitably polite excuse.
Kathryn's eyes had followed Ioanna; now they drifted to the piano in the room's center, broken strings and tools to one side. She picked up a bolt-tightener, looked at it, then laid it back down in line with the others. "So neat. You always were neat, Sokar."
"I fear it the influence of my culture, Kate." She winced at the sound of her name and he decided that had not been wise. "Would you prefer that I call you 'captain'? You did earn the title."
"No," she said. "I hear that from every other person on this ship. It's nice to talk to someone who remembers me before I was one, gives me a chance to take off the pips for a while, at least mentally. You understand?"
Smiling faintly, she said, "You would, of course." Then she squared her shoulders. "But I didn't come here to talk about the past. I have some unhappy news, Sokar. I wanted to tell you myself, not let you read it in updates." Digests of events in the past sixteen years which he and Ioanna had missed. He had read these the first night; Ioanna had been going through them more slowly.
"Something about my family?" It was the logical deduction. "I read the report concerning my father." Spock taking off on his own into Romulan space had not surprised his son in the least. It was something Jim Kirk would have done. When Kirk had died, Spock had apparently decided he had two roles to fill now. Or so Sarek had suggested once to Sokar. Compensation, Sarek had said, for not having been there.
"It's not about your father," Kathryn said. Her chin came up. "It's about Sarek. I'm sorry, Sokar. He...passed on...three years ago." And she told him about Sarek's illness. He barely heard her. In his side, his heart swelled, then settled down to a painful thumping. All his organs seemed to sink and her voice came to him from very far away. So this is grief, he thought with the part of his mind trained to analyze everything.
When her words ran out, she fell silent. He did not reply. "I am sorry, Sokar. I know you were close."
Close?, Sokar wanted to shout, He was my father! It was not strictly true but some truths went beyond the literal. Sarek had raised him, had cared for him and been there for him, had made him proud of his human heritage. "I failed with Spock," Sarek had said once. "My fault. But a wise man learns from his mistakes." Oh yes, Sarek had been a wise man. A good man. Sokar placed a hand on the edge of the window to steady himself. Cold metal. Focus on cold metal. Freeze the pain.
Janeway was still speaking. "I didn't want to tell you this immediately. It was enough adjustment—sixteen years lost and your home so far away. And a new baby."
He just nodded. He did not trust his voice yet. In the room beyond, Ioanna had felt something from him. She sent out a wordless question. Wait, he sent back.
He cleared his throat. "I...thank you. I would like to be alone."
"Of course." She turned to leave.
"Kate." She paused. "You don't have to avoid me quite so hard."
She just looked at him a moment. "You always were blunt, weren't you?" And she walked out.
The bedroom door opened. Ioanna stood in it. "What happened?"
She bit the back of her hand. "Sokar!"
Sokar leaned into the wall; his body shook. Ioanna came over to grip both his arms, then pull him against her. "He thought...." Sokar paused, closed his eyes and swallowed. "He would have thought me dead. He died thinking his House extinct."
"Well it's not," she whispered. "It's not."
Chapter 6: V
"You look like you just lost your best friend," Chakotay said, placing his supper tray on the table and straddling his seat.
Janeway twirled a spoon in what looked like pink mashed potatoes. "I just told Sokar about Sarek."
Chakotay paused with a forkful of rice halfway to his mouth. "Told him what about Sarek? Oh—yeah. Sarek died a few years ago, didn't he?"
"Don't read the news much, Commander?"
"Well, I have to confess I don't keep up on Vulcan politics, no."
"It was all over the Feeds."
"Which"—Chakotay waved the fork—"is why I remember it at all. I take it that Sokar didn't take it well?"
Janeway sighed and dropped her spoon. "How am I supposed to tell how a Vulcan takes anything?"
"I thought you knew this Vulcan pretty good." As soon as he said it, he knew it a mistake.
She narrowed her eyes at him. "Commander, I'll thank you not to speculate on my private life."
"Then tell me so I don't have to speculate."
Well, he thought, that was cheeky. But they had been through a lot together in the past three years. He felt he had a reasonable right to consider her a friend. If he sometimes mulled over the possibility of making it more, visions of the disaster that could be if it didn't work—and nowhere to request a transfer to—kept him from pursuing it. In any case, he preferred her friendship. So he said again, "Tell me."
She sighed and flopped back against her seat. "Not here."
"Then finish your pink potatoes and we'll go back to my cabin. I'll make some tea and we'll talk. You tell me about your old boyfriends and I'll tell you about my old girlfriends." He grinned.
"My 'boyfriend' he never was."
"Well," Chakotay said, "then I'll tell you about the gorgeous Navajo math teacher who gave me wet dreams in eighth grade."
She burst out laughing. He shoved a bite of rice in his mouth and tried to look innocent.
When they got back to his cabin, he put a kettle on the little burner he kept on a table. The first time she had seen it, she had said, "A real teapot?"
"Making tea is an art, captain," he had replied.
Now, she just plopped down on his couch and pulled one of his throws over her legs, fingers worrying at the fringe. "Your Navajo math teacher?" she prodded. So. She was going to insist that he begin this. She needed to talk but she had her pride.
"Nanibah Highwater was her name. Absolutely drop-dead gorgeous and smart as a whip. I made an 'A' in math that year. Unfortunately, she was married and the daughter of a chief. I brought her pretty prayer feathers. She told me I was cute. It made my week."
Janeway was laughing silently.
"But," he said, leaning over in his chair, "the worst crush I ever had was on my drill sergeant in Starfleet boot camp."
She sat up. "Your drill sergeant? You must be kidding!"
"Nope." The kettle was whistling. He paused to pour hot water over teabags in painted cups. He gave Otter to her. She needed some laughter. She swished the bag back and forth through steaming water.
"My drill sergeant," Chakotay said, hunting for the honey bear, "was an Indian—a Bengali Indian. She took shit from nobody and had the best legs I'd ever seen. I don't know what it is. I guess I have a thing for strong women. She made my life hell for four weeks and I fell madly in love with her. I did the stupidest adolescent stud things to impress her, which of course she saw right through. After I got out of boot camp, I went over to her office to ask her out. She patted my cheek and—get this—told me I was cute. That did not make my week."
Janeway was laughing so hard now, she was snorting. He grinned. Laughter was strong medicine.
When she finally calmed down enough to talk, she wiped her eyes and said, "Well, Sokar was neither my math teacher nor my drill sergeant." She glanced up. "You know I spent three years on Vulcan at the science academy?" He nodded. "That was when Spock was still teaching there, before he took the ambassadorial post. I had several classes with him, or what amounted to classes. The format of Vulcan education is different from Terran. They have mentors. He was my mentor for a year—my first year, no less. When I walked into his office for the first time, I must have been as white as a ghost. He asked me if I was ill! I stuttered for five minutes until he finally held out his arm and said, 'Cut me and I bleed the same as you. Ichor does not flow through my veins, ensign.' I was nineteen years old and no one had thought to tell me that the myth Vulcans don't joke is a myth.
"About two months after I arrived, I heard that Spock's son was going to be in Shi Kahr to give a concert. By that point, I'd managed to get past the gape and stammer stage with Spock, but I wanted to know more about him. He was too godlike for a greenhorn from the academy to harbor any feelings for beyond awe, but I was terribly curious, and I've always liked music. So I went to the concert.
"To this day, I've not heard a pianist to equal Sokar. My roommate—who I'd dragged along—called him a reincarnation of Liszt. I don't know if she was joking. I don't know that she wasn't right. It's odd enough to have a Vulcan concert pianist, but I really didn't expect him to play into the dirt every Terran I'd ever listened to. It was more than just technique. He had emotion in his playing. Fire, Chakotay. I was...blown away."
"Daddy was unattainable, so you fell for his son," Chakotay said.
She smiled ruefully. "I suppose I did. I became his most devoted fan. I collected every recording he'd ever made—not that many at twenty-six—and I attended every concert he gave when he was on Vulcan. It took me a year and a half, but I finally managed to get myself invited to his family house the same day he was there, so I could meet him. I didn't stammer and I found an excuse to tell him I could sing—then nearly fainted when he walked over to the piano, sat down, and asked me what I knew.
"After that, we started meeting now and then, when he wasn't touring, to make music. He seemed to enjoy it. Most of what he performed was classical, which I like well enough. But what I sang was jazz. That, I don't think he had much chance to play.
"I learned a lot about him, including the fact that he and his father weren't on speaking terms. I'm not sure I understand why. Vulcans aren't forthcoming about their private lives. Even Sokar. Maybe especially Sokar. He's lived his life inside a fishbowl. Son of Spock, grandson of Sarek, great-great-grandson of T'Pau. I wouldn't want to grow up like that."
She rose to pace, turned the little pottery cup in her hand. "I don't know why I actually thought there was something there. I read into it. Vulcans are not demonstrative people. Amanda Grayson once wrote, 'Becoming attuned to the art of understatement is the key to understanding Vulcans. One should pay as much attention to their silence as to their words, to their posture as to their gesture.' Or that's a close paraphrase of what she wrote. She also said, 'Of course the danger of hyperawareness lies in making mountains out of molehills. Sometimes a silence means no more than that they have nothing interesting to say.' One might add that kindness may mean no more than that they're being hospitable to a stranger. Hospitality is the great Vulcan virtue. Sokar was being nice. I thought he was in love with me." She took a sip of tea.
"But even now, I sometimes wonder if there wasn't something more at first, something that died because I didn't know the right food to feed it. There were certain looks, certain brushes of a hand on my arm.... I don't know if I read too much into them—exaggerated them— or if they were real. But they never bloomed into anything I could be sure of."
Sighing again, she sat back down, looked blankly at Otter on the side of her cup. "I grew impatient, decided to push things to the crux. When he returned to Vulcan from a long tour, I invited him to supper at my rooms. He agreed to come, but he was stiff, like he was consenting to a chore, not a meal. I found out why that afternoon. I went by the hall where he was to perform the next evening; he was trying out pianos. I wanted to ask him to arrive half-an-hour later than I'd first said. I entered through the back and could hear him on the stage—but he wasn't alone. I hid in the wings and watched. He was playing Mozart duets on one piano with a human woman. You're not supposed to play them on one piano, not when there are two sitting there. But they were playing on one, reaching under and over each other's arms to strike the keys. Sokar was almost laughing." Tears ran down Janeway's face as she remembered. "Everything I'd tried to read into his interaction with me was as bright as T'Kuht with her. I had him to dinner, of course. But I had my answer already."
"And the woman with whom he was playing...?"
"....is his wife, yes. I guess he met her on the very tour he'd just returned from."
Chakotay rose to fetch a kleenex, hand it to her. She blew her nose. "Dinner must have been hell," he said.
"It was. I made it hell for both of us. I was barely twenty- two, and had never been one to back down gracefully. So I asked him if he loved me. Of course he said 'no.' He tried to be kind; looking back, I see that. At the time, I was hurting, so I demanded to know if there was someone else. You don't ask a Vulcan a question like that. I did; I pressed. He finally told me the truth and I told him to get the hell out of my room. A month later, I left Vulcan."
It had not been the worst night of his life, but it had been close.
"You always were blunt," Kathryn had said to him. An hour ago, and five years ago. Or twenty-one years, actually. He had not wanted to hurt her but wants rarely figured into reality.
Sokar leaned back and cradled his sleeping daughter against his chest. At the back of his mind he could feel the flutter of her infant thoughts, half-formed, undisciplined. He sang softly to her: an old Vulcan folksong.
Ioanna had brought her to him, after Kathryn had left. Ioanna had brought her and laid her in his arms. An old man dead; a baby girl born. But Sarek was not really dead. He lived in Sokar's memories. Sokar would give those memories to his daughter.
The baby stirred against him, kicking, waking slowly. He watched her face until her eyes opened. Dark eyes. Byzantine eyes. Not blue like his. In coloring, she looked more Vulcan than he did: her mother's blood, oddly enough. He wondered what she might have looked like, had her mother been blonde and grey-eyed.
Kathryn, he thought. Kate. I didn't mean to hurt you, but we were not meant for one another. I'd had enough of Starfleet and starships. I wanted someone who lived in sound, like me. Not in the stars.
Ioanna came back into the sitting room. Without a word, she settled down beside him on the couch and pillowed her head on his shoulder. Humans were always touching. They strove to do with their bodies what they could not do with their minds. He glanced down at her: straight Greek nose but a complexion as dark as honey, hinting at the Turk to which she would never admit in her Cypriot heritage. His Aphrodite. He bent to press his mouth against black hair and remembered her rising from the waves.
"Sokar, you're drunk!" she had said. And he had been. He had been inarguably, splendidly drunk on red Macedonian wine and the smell of the Aegean sea. They had not been on Cyprus. They had been on Samothrace. Two nights before, he had played in Salonike and she had taken him to the museum to see the paraphernalia from the Royal Tombs at Vergina. "Philip's Tomb!" she had said proudly. "Arrhidaios' Tomb probably," he had replied. She had been insulted. "Next you'll be telling me the Macedonians weren't Greeks!" He had made the mistake of saying, "They weren't"—which had resulted in a four hour debate. Never argue politics with a Greek and expect to get away quickly, he had learned. They had not changed much in four-thousand years. Then again, they would have been much less interesting if they had.
But that night on Samothrace, they had not discussed politics. She had taken him to a restaurant by the sea, fed him black olives and red wine, then walked down to the ocean with him. Samothrace, isle of maenads, mystery rites, and hidden knowledge—everything irrational in the Greek soul. Samothrace was not Athens, not the abode of Athena, of wisdom and philosophy, of law, architecture and music. Logos. Reason. Attributes of Apollo, Bright-God. Apollo had a dark brother. Dionysus, god of madness and wine. Zoe. Life. He had met Dionysus that night on Samothrace. He had watched Ioanna strip by the wine- dark, night-dark sea and dive in. And he, heart lost, had followed.
"Sokar, you're drunk!" she had said, coming up from the waves. "You're going to drown yourself, you crazy Vulcan. You can't swim!"
"Marry me!" he had shouted back, grabbing hold of both her wrists. "Marry me, Ioanna Sophia!"
She had said yes.
So he had come back to Vulcan with a bondmate, without his virginity, and intoxicated by zoe. Dionysus had, of course, claimed the final jest.
Kathryn Janeway had asked him to dinner.
Chapter 7: VI
Tuvok paused outside the door and fingered the comm badges in his hand. Inside, he could hear a cascade of sound, notes rolling like thunder, falling like clear rain. Earth rain. Earth music. Romantic period, if Tuvok was not mistaken, though he was at a loss to name the composer. It was not an era of Western Earth music to which he paid attention. He found it undisciplined and overly expressive, opportunity to display, not for peace of soul. Bach. If Tuvok must listen to Earth music, he would prefer the mathematical precision of Bach to the limpid cloy of Chopin or pyrotechnics of Liszt.
But he was not much surprised to find Sokar playing the romantics.
Taking a breath and pulling back his shoulders, he pressed the buzzer. The music stopped. "Come," a voice said. Tuvok entered.
Sokar appeared to be alone with his daughter. The baby lay quietly in her crib, watching the world with curious eyes and sucking on a bottle. Sokar had stood, his hands behind his back. "Welcome."
"I brought these for you and your wife." Tuvok held out a comm badge to Sokar. "I must apologize for not having them made sooner." Sokar took the badge and, almost absently, attached it, pocketed the one for his wife. "When your daughter is older, she should be given one as well. It would allow us to pinpoint her position, in the event of an emergency. But for the time being"—he glanced back at the baby—"it would probably not be safe for her to wear one."
"No doubt it would end up in her mouth almost immediately," Sokar said. The observation had sounded straightforward, but Tuvok had the impression Sokar had not meant it so.
Humor from a human was difficult enough.
"I heard you playing," Tuvok said. "I may assume your hands are recovered?"
"As well as may be expected at this point." Sokar brushed one lightly over the brown wood of the Bosendorfer. "It will take time." He turned back, raised an eyebrow. "Was there another matter you wished to discuss with me, Tuvok?"
"There is. As I am sure you have noticed, the situation aboard Voyager is far from optimal, both in terms of supplies and personnel. We have been forced to utilize maquis as crewmen, and people must still perform double duty weekly to ensure that all posts are covered. Thought you and your wife did not ask to come aboard, without the assistance of Voyager, you—"
"—we would still be in the wormhole," Sokar interrupted. "Yes, Tuvok, I understand. It is only logical that we help alleviate the personnel problem. Yet as I doubt Voyager has much call for a concert pianist, you wish me to do something else."
"Indeed," Tuvok replied. "I am well aware that your family is known for skills in computer design and programming—"
"I am not my father, Tuvok." The words were as sharp as a s'harien blade. "My father specialized in advanced computer design. I did not. The captain knows far more about computers than I. She studied with him."
Tuvok was baffled. From several things Janeway had said, he had surmised that Sokar and his father differed on certain points of view. Or so he had chosen to read it. He realized now that he had greatly underrated the disagreement. It was not a matter of different opinions. Sokar did not like his father.
Tuvok knew Vulcan families did not necessarily get along any better than families on other worlds. They were usually more restrained in their private little wars, but they certainly had them. Yet Tuvok himself had never experienced such a thing. He had been close to his father, and had been close to his sons and daughter, as well. Quite simply, he loved his family. The kind of resentment- riddled antipathy he heard in Sokar's voice was beyond his experience. He could only speculate on its cause. Or perhaps he did not have to speculate much. Tuvok would not have wished to be born into Sokar's family. He had lived under the weight of simpler expectations.
Now, he opened his mouth to speak but before he could, Sokar breathed out and said, "My apologies. What I said was...uncalled for. Your assumption was logical. My response was not. I am of course willing to be of aid in whatever capacity I may. If you need a computer specialist, I do know something about computer design. However, I think you would find my mathematical skills of more value. My father was a scientist who dabbled in music; I am a musician who dabbles in mathematics. Most of what interests me is theoretical, but if Voyager needs a navigator, I would be a tolerable choice."
Tuvok nodded. "I am quite certain the captain will find a way to make use of that skill. And your wife? Is there something she can do?"
"I will speak with her."
Tuvok nodded again. "You understand," he said, "that because you have not undergone Starfleet training, you will need to study certain protocols before being permitted to don the uniform and serve on the bridge."
"I am quite familiar with Starfleet protocols, lieutenant—both when to keep them and when to break them. If you wish to test my knowledge, feel free to do so. But I will not wear the uniform: in red, gold, or blue. I am a civilian and will remain so."
It was clear Sokar did not view the matter as open to debate. Tuvok pressed his lips together. "I will relay your offer regarding navigation, and your conditions, to the captain."
"She will understand," Sokar said.
She will give you a reprimand. But Tuvok did not say that aloud. Sokar may have lived with heavy expectations because of his father, but he was also used to getting his way for the same reason. He needed the arrogance knocked out of him. Tuvok might have undertaken to do so himself, but did not think it would be nearly so effective.
At that moment, the infant began to scream. Sokar hurried over to fetch her from the crib. Her face was green with anger. "Tst, tst, tst," he said and rocked her, but she continued to protest. Loudly. Sokar looked frustrated. Tuvok was amused. "Sometimes she does this," Sokar said, "and I have no idea what she wants. I just gave her a bottle. She can't be hungry again."
Tuvok joined him by the crib and held out his hands. "May I?" Sokar handed her over. With the ease of long practice, Tuvok snatched up a towel from the crib edge and draped it over his shoulder, then burped her. When she had quieted, he gave her back to her bemused father. "I have four children," he said by way of explanation. "The last two were twins and had colic—at the same time. You will learn, Sokar. Babies are not difficult creatures. And they do grow up."
"But does that mean they become easier to manage?"
"No," Tuvok said, thinking of his second son, "but they do become...more interesting."
"I will keep that in mind."
Nodding shortly, Tuvok left.
"Sokar, sit down," Kathryn said, indicating a chair on the opposite side of the desk in her ready-room. It was the first time Sokar had been there; the first time he had been to the bridge at all; the first time he had spoken to her since she had told him that Sarek was dead. He glanced around himself briefly, noting details of decor, then settled into the chair.
"Tuvok tells me you offered to take a shift as navigator. I don't have to tell you how helpful that will be. I think you've seen we're stretched to the limit on shifts. Tuvok also said you're familiar with Starfleet protocols."
"I am. I reviewed them to be certain, as well as reviewed the ship's schematics. Do you wish to examine my knowledge to determine if it meets with your approval?"
She half-smiled and shook her head. "No. If you say you're familiar, I believe you. In a few minutes, I'll take you out to introduce you to the bridge crew, let Mr. Paris show you the con. But first there's a small matter we need to discuss. Your attire."
Sokar straightened. "My attire is suitable." He wore a dark jumpsuit which matched the flexibility of a uniform—but without markings.
Kathryn's face had hardened. "If you serve on my bridge, mister, you'll dress appropriately. You said you were familiar with Starfleet protocol. Isn't part of that protocol proper uniform?"
He gripped the arms of his chair. He could not believe she would push this. "I am a civilian, not an officer. You know why I refuse to wear the uniform, Kate."
"Yes. I also know we can't always get what we want." There was irony in that, Sokar thought. He wondered if she was enjoying it. She continued, "When I accepted Chakotay and the maquis, I insisted they wear Starfleet uniform to serve on a Starfleet vessel. Most of them are no more Starfleet than you are. Less, in fact. If I didn't make an exception for them, I can't make one for you. Surely you see the logic in that."
"Neither Kes nor Neelix wear uniforms," he pointed out.
"Nor will your wife, as her volunteered duties assist Kes. But if you serve on the bridge, you wear the uniform—or I put you somewhere else. Programming computers, perhaps?"
Furious and struggling to suppress it, Sokar stood up and walked away. "I had thought you knew me well enough to know a uniform is unnecessary, and to know why it would offend me to wear it."
"No," she said, "you thought you were still dealing with the twenty-two-year-old ensign who was madly in love with you. I'm forty- three, Sokar, I'm captain, and I have a significant other." She hesitated, then went on. "Seeing you again...was painful. But that whole mess was twenty-one years ago for me. I'm not the same girl who threw you out of her apartment and ran away from Vulcan. I'm older than you are, now. If you serve on this ship—and I do need your skills—I'll be your superior officer. You will not assume the past can intrude on the present. Do I make myself understood, Mr. Sokar?"
He turned. "Yes, captain."
She got up then and walked around her desk, held out a hand to him: a deliberate gesture. He took the hand. How strange to touch her again, but the essence he could sense was—as she had said— changed. She had grown deeper and more sure of herself than the laughing Kate he had known. A balance shifted somewhere; horizons turned to rest on a new perspective. She must have sensed it because she grinned at him. "I hope," she said, "that off-duty, you'll continue to call me Kate." Then she picked something up from her desk—a small bar—and handed it to him. "This is a field commission. Considering your hours in a pilot seat, and your age, I don't think it appropriate to make you an ensign. You'll be a lieutenant, junior- grade, same as Paris. Your uniform color will be gold."
Ioanna was in the cabin when he returned. He stalked over to the piano and began to play. It calmed his mind, helped him control his temper. His Vulcan temper. Unlike his father, he did not pretend emotions were automatically the fault of his human heritage. Vulcans had worse tempers than humans. Their tempers had nearly destroyed them before they had learned the discipline of logic. Now, Ioanna came up behind him to set hands on his shoulders. "Well?"
"The captain insists that I wear a uniform." He did not stop playing. She said nothing. After a moment, he took his hands away and fished the field commission pip out of a pocket, handed it over. "I did not want to do this."
She examined the little rectangle. "Life requires that we do a lot of things we don't want to." It sounded like an echo of Kathryn. Ioanna was not going to offer sympathy, he could see. She gave the bar back. "I think it'll be good for you."
What?, he almost shouted, swallowed it. "I fail to see how it will be 'good for me'."
"You hate Starfleet because your parents were more devoted to their careers than to you. Don't deny it"—she held up a hand before he could speak—"I know you far too well. And I can't say I blame you for your feelings; I blame Spock. The Federation may idolize him, but heros are difficult to live with at home. And good people do not always make good parents. Still, this...aversion you have is poisoning you, Sokar. It's not logical. And for once in my life, I have to agree that logic should prevail in this. Hating Starfleet is just a cover for what you can't face. You hate your father."
Her impromptu lecture speared him through the heart. When she was done, he rose from the bench and walked away, into their bedroom, locking the door behind.
Chapter 8: VII
Chakotay spotted Ioanna Traketellis seated by the far window in the mess hall. Chin in hand, she stared out at stars. Cleopatra was asleep in a carrier by the chair, her mother absently rocking it with a foot. Ioanna was a gorgeous woman, Chakotay thought. If he were younger and she was not married....
But she was married. And at the moment, he was more concerned by her long face than her Byzantine eyes. Neelix liked to style himself the morale officer, but over the past three years, Chakotay had been unofficially adopted as ship's chaplain. He walked over to mother and daughter. "Hi. Mind if I join you?" She pointed to a seat without looking at him. He watched her stair out the window. "Delta Quadrant Blues setting in?" he asked. Homesickness had been dubbed the Delta Quadrant Blues. Periodically, everyone went through a bout. It was a cyclic thing. Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries... all the minor events of daily life served to remind. Only a few like B'Elanna genuinely seemed not to care if they ever got back.
Now, Maestro Traketellis turned around in her seat and placed hands flat on the table. She had beautiful hands. Musician's hands.
Cut it out, Chakotay. She's married. He did not go for married women. It was not good for his health—especially not when the husband was a Vulcan. Sokar could put him through a bulkhead without trying. All for perfectly logical reasons, of course.
"I wasn't thinking about home," she said.
"Mind if I'm nosey and ask what's wrong?
"Playing ship's counselor, Commander?"
"Sometimes. I know how to keep my mouth shut."
"No talk-um, Indian?"
He grinned. "You might say that."
"What nation do you belong to? I meant to ask earlier."
"Officially, Potowatomi. Unofficially, Potowatomi, Wea, Crow, Hopi, Navajo, and a little Aztec. And you're not going to distract me."
She laughed, picked up the mug in front of her and took a sip, made a face. "I've never met a replicator yet that can make decent Greek coffee."
Shaking her head and smiling a little, she put down the mug. "Sokar is pouting. He does this sometimes. Shuts me out. Usually he just shuts me out of his head. This time, he went into the bedroom and locked the door. I guess I hit a bit too close to home—but your captain is right to make him wear the uniform, and not just for protocol. He gets absurd about Starfleet." She sighed. "I really shouldn't be talking about this."
Which meant she wanted to but felt guilty. "I told you, I'm a clam. And we all need someone to confide in. Sometimes it's easier to talk to a stranger."
Leaning back into her seat and looking off at a table full of noisy under-officers, she said, "Sokar and Spock don't get along."
"So I gathered."
"I can't be completely objective about it, Commander."
"Call me Chakotay."
"All right, Chakotay. I can't be objective about it because I've seen how much Spock's hurt Sokar. Casual criticism, lack of interest.... Did you know that, when Sokar was young and first performing, Spock came to only one concert? Sokar's mother is a bit better, but not much. In any case, the real split between Spock and Sokar didn't happen till Sarek married Perrin. Spock can't stand her. To be honest, neither can Sokar but he understood why Sarek needed to marry again, even if.... Well, what normally requires a Vulcan male to marry isn't active for them past a certain age. Spock expected his father to stay a widower when Amanda died. Instead, Sarek took a new wife inside five years. Spock can't forgive that, especially since she's young enough to be Spock's daughter. But Sokar says Sarek was too used to a wife, and a human wife, to be alone—even while he couldn't bear to have anyone who might be to him what Amanda was. So he married The Mouse. Spock sent his father a message from Earth saying he wouldn't attend the wedding or acknowledge his father's new bride. Sokar was fourteen. He took a ship all on his own to Earth, to confront Spock. What they said.... I've seen it in his memory but it's not mine to share. They haven't spoken since. At least Sarek talked to Spock after. But Sokar—he saw himself as Sarek's watch-sehlat. I think it bothers him, too, that he wasn't there at the end to help care for Sarek. Or that may be making him too human; I do misunderstand him at times. Vulcans have the ability to logic themselves out of unfair guilt. Healthy that."
She pushed the mug around as she spoke. "Anyway, Sokar's come to equate that damn uniform with his father. At least Janeway didn't assign him a blue one. He'd have gone through the roof. You don't want to see a furious Vulcan, Chakotay. For such a peaceful people, they can scare the hell out of you. Or maybe because they are such a peaceful people they scare. Vulcans ritualize life to tame the beast in the Vulcan soul."
Chakotay was having a hard time imagining a furious Vulcan. Even Sokar's occasional fleeting expressions seemed half-forced and Chakotay had wondered how a woman so full of life as the maestro could have fallen for a Vulcan, atypical or not. "So what did you say to him that made him lock the door?"
"I told him that wearing the uniform might be good for him, and hating Starfleet was just a cover—an illogical one—for hating his father."
"Ouch." Chakotay winced. "Maestro, a word of advice from a man who didn't always get along with his father either: love and hate aren't mutually exclusive."
"I know that. But Sokar needs to separate—" She stopped talking, looked up towards the door. Chakotay turned.
Sokar stood there. In uniform. He looked about the mess hall until he spotted his wife. She had risen. He walked over; in his wake, conversation dissipated. Chakotay felt like a trapped rabbit with the wolf approaching. Did Vulcans fighting with their wives make jealous assumptions? But Sokar ignored him. "See you later," he said to Ioanna. She did not hear; her eyes were locked with her husband's. How had Chakotay ever imagined that Sokar's emotions ran thin? Or that he himself would have stood a chance? Sokar raised two fingers. She touched them with her own. That simple gesture vibrated with as much feeling as if he had swept her up in his arms.
Chakotay disappeared through the door into the corridor.
As it turned out, having Sokar on the bridge—in uniform—was the wisest thing Janeway could have done to help her deal with the past, Chakotay thought. It put an old relationship on a new track. Janeway stopped hesitating around Sokar, stopped avoiding him, though she did still avoid his wife. Trouble was, Chakotay was not sure she was over him. She might not be responding to him like the girl she had been, but she was not over him. And—whatever doubts she had expressed to Chakotay—there had indeed been something between the two of them. Chakotay could see it as clearly in Sokar as in Janeway. Sokar had simply made a choice; a man could love two women at once, or at least, be attracted to two. Chakotay did not think there was much left for Sokar beyond memories but Janeway seemed to be falling in love with him all over again. For the first time in three years, Chakotay wished Mark was on Voyager.
Nor was Chakotay the only one who had noticed. Janeway wasn't obvious, and most of the bridge crew who did not know the story behind them failed to recognize it.
But Tuvok had. Chakotay would have bet a month's rations on it.
More, Tuvok was jealous.
So much for unemotional Vulcans. As Chakotay had watched Sokar and Tuvok, he came to realize how much of a masquerade Vulcan logic could be. At first, right after Sokar had taken his bridge post, there had been a brief blossoming of what could almost have been called friendship between the two men. On more than one occasion, Chakotay had seen Tuvok sitting with Sokar and Ioanna in the cafe, playing with their daughter or talking to them in Vulcan. Chakotay had hoped Tuvok had decided to "adopt" Sokar after all.
That had faded.
Now, Tuvok found excuse on excuse to critique Sokar's performance at the helm. Even Paris had remarked—under his breath—"What bug has he got up his butt?" Sokar had ignored Tuvok's criticism and Paris' remark both.
If the subtle aggression did not stop soon, Chakotay was going to have to deal with it. And he did not relish confronting Tuvok about inappropriate behavior.
A nasty speculation itched at the back of his brain. He could barely credit it, but it was becoming increasingly difficult not to. Was Tuvok in love with his captain? Married, four-times-a-father, oh- so-damn-proper Tuvok?
But a man could love two women at once.
Chapter 9: VIII
"Again at E, Harry. Try to make the arpeggios and skips more legato...and retard on the last beat—following the triplets—going into the final trill. We'll skip the piano solo and move directly to the next clarinet section—as marked on your score."
Kim nodded, licked the reed and raised the horn. He was a tolerable player, though he tongued notes far too heavily and tended to rush sixteenth-note runs. Mozart had written the concerto's first movement allegro but Kim wanted to take it presto. Sokar was not sure the ensign should be attempting Mozart in the first place; Mozart only encouraged someone without a steady tempo to rush. Sokar had decided that he would give Kim "Scene and Air" from LUISA DI MONTFORT next. It was a simpler piece but with a number of tempo changes which should force Harry to pay more attention to dynamic markings. Its lyricism might also move him past that heavy tonguing.
The cabin door whooshed open. Ioanna entered, Kes behind her. They were discussing the hydroponics garden but Kes broke off to come watch Kim play. It seemed to make the ensign nervous and he missed the runs in measures 179 and 180. Frustrated, he took the clarinet out of his mouth and shook his head. "Sorry."
Sokar turned on the bench; Ioanna was watching and listening, lips curved in a smile. "You've been at it long enough, Harry," she said. "Your ombiture won't take much more. You're going flat." She tapped her ear.
Kim sighed. Kes had left his side to approach the piano. Almost diffidently, she pressed a high E. "I wish I could play an instrument," she said.
Sokar exchanged a look with Ioanna, who nodded faintly. Normally, he did not take on beginners—he lacked patience—but if Ioanna thought he should.... "I would be willing to instruct you."
She glanced over. "You would?"
Something about her was very charming. "I would," he said.
"He's a tough teacher," Kim warned, half jesting.
"That's all right." Kes smiled at Kim, who appeared dazzled. Sokar had the impression most of the human males on the ship found Kes disturbingly attractive. In an objective way, he could see why, but he was mated, his interests fixed by that bond.
"Enough for today, Harry," he said. "Work on the sections I mentioned; we'll go over them again on Tuesday." Kim packed up, then ducked out after trading goodbye kisses with Ioanna. Sokar had never understood his wife's need to touch every person she liked, but he did find it amusing. He spoke then to Kes. "Do you wish to begin now?"
Her eyes lit. She turned to Ioanna. "Would you mind?"
"Mind?" Ioanna waved a hand towards the piano bench. "I'll always put music before gardening. We can discuss gardening later." Then she thought at Sokar, Be gentle with her. But I think you'll find she learns incredibly quickly. Even more quickly than Vulcans.
He could feel the humor behind that. Compensation, no doubt, for a much accelerated life-span.
"It is," Kes said aloud from where she had seated herself on his bench.
Sokar jerked his head around. There was a wicked look in Kes' eyes. "Ocampa are telepathic. I thought Tuvok would have told you that. He was my teacher in mental disciplines."
Drawing up a chair alongside the piano bench, Sokar took her hands and positioned them on the keys. "Your telepathy must be stronger than a Vulcan's. And this is middle-C." Ioanna had walked over to watch.
Kes eyed him sidewise. There was something a bit too obviously appraising in that glance. "Middle-C," she said and played it, listened. "You and Tuvok don't eat supper together any more, do you?" It was asked with perfect innocence and perfect calculation.
What should he say? "Tuvok...does not find my presence on the bridge congenial. I am uncertain as to why."
Kes flashed a glance at Ioanna, then back to the keyboard; Sokar could almost see her weighing words. Did she know something he did not? Little seemed to pass by Kes. "If you have information as to how I may have offended Tuvok, I would be grateful to hear it. You need not fear offending me. There is no offense where none is taken."
Kes glanced again at Ioanna and he realized it was not himself she feared offending. "Speak, Kes," Ioanna told her. "I think I already know what you're going to say."
Pulling her hands into her lap, Kes studied her fingers, frowning. "I don't want to embarrass you, Sokar, but I know there was once something between you and the captain." Now it was Sokar's turn to glance involuntarily at Ioanna. She was watching him; he would have to keep tight rein on any expression. She could read him far too well. "It isn't entirely past for her."
"The captain has told me that she is fairly seriously involved with someone else."
Kes nodded, still not looking at him. "But he's back in your home space. You're here. I think she's kept from allowing herself to make any new commitments because of him. But you're not exactly a new commitment. You're a...ghost...out of her past. The defenses she had against new commitment don't work with you. It's not that she would actually do anything; I think she understands the realities of the situation well enough. You're married and happily married." Sokar caught Ioanna grin at Kes' phrasing, but could not in good conscience deny it. He was happily married.
He raised an eyebrow. "Perhaps," he said, thoughtfully. "Yet this does not explain Tuvok."
Both Kes and Ioanna blinked at him as if he was a dullard, then turned to each other and broke out laughing. "I fail to see the humor in my statement," he said.
Ioanna spoke. "Sokar, Tuvok's jealous."
Sokar stood up so fast he knocked the chair over. "That is impossible!"
Tuvok had a wife of seventy years. Vulcans life-bonded. They did not commit adultery. They did not even think about committing adultery.
Or did they?
What do you really know, he asked himself, of what goes on in another man's mind? Sokar's marriage to Ioanna was not commensurable with a normal Vulcan bond. Spock had not bonded Sokar at seven, precisely because Spock's own bonding had turned out disastrous. So Sokar had been left to choose for himself. He doubted he had surprised anyone by marrying a human—and marrying for love. But most marriages were made for logical reasons. Usually, they worked; parents tried to chose with care. But they did not always work. What would his own father's life have been like, had he married T'Pring? Sokar would not have wanted her for a mother. Besides, if a Vulcan did commit an indiscretion, it was not something which would be discussed by either the offending party or the one offended. Shame would prevent it. Sokar thought again of Ioanna. What might he have done, had he been bonded when he had met her? Could he honestly say he would have felt nothing? She was the other half of his soul.
They were watching him, both of them: Ioanna with amusement—she could probably guess the direction of his thoughts—Kes with slight alarm. He squared his shoulders and righted the chair. "I will... consider your suggestion, but I find it highly unlikely."
"Perhaps I shouldn't have said—" Kes began.
"I requested that you do so. Now, let us return to your lesson."
When Kes finally left, Ioanna turned on him. "Just what did go on between you and the captain? I'm beginning to suspect you haven't told me everything, my husband." She was teasing him, but there was an edge to it.
Crossing to where she stood, he placed both hands against hers, pressed them palm-to-palm. "It does not matter," he said. "It's over." She looked doubtful. "It's over, Yanna. It was over the moment I met you." He held her gaze. After a moment, she leaned up on tip-toe to kiss him, as if marking him hers. He allowed it. He was hers, body and soul.
Sokar began to observe and the more he observed, the less he found himself able to doubt what Kes had told him. Yet he was unsure what to think. Perhaps Tuvok's jealousy stemmed from friendship with Kathryn? Yet if so, why be jealous of Sokar? Kate was not making any attempt to put Sokar in Tuvok's place as confidant and friend. She continued to share meals with Tuvok, consult with him, and rely on his advice. Sokar was no threat to Tuvok's position. Only if one took into account Kathryn's affective interest in Sokar did Tuvok's jealousy become intelligible.
Vulcans were not supposed to get jealous, much less sexually jealous. And Tuvok was married, as well. What was wrong with him?
But—as soon as Sokar put it to himself that way—he knew.
Chapter 10: IX
....Silky gold hair slipped through his fingers, spread out on a cover under T'Kuht's dim light, cover of its own over milk-white skin with a hint of pink beneath. Red blood. He sank his hand into gold and his body into her.....
Chest heaving, he rolled onto his side, his body still gripped by spasms. The sheet was damp with sweat and semen. How could he dream such a thing? Throwing off the blanket, he rose from bed and walked naked to his meditation mat. There, he knelt, pressing shaking hands together in ta'al.
"What are you doing up, staring at the stars? Cleo didn't wake did she? I thought she was sleeping through the night now."
Sokar turned from the window. "She is; I was thinking." Walking over to where she stood framed by light from their bedroom, he touched the olive skin of her cheek. So fair.
She caught his hand and pressed it to her lips, kissed the palm. "What's eating you?" she asked softly. "And don't tell me 'nothing'." She let his hand go.
He closed his fingers around her kiss. If anyone else had asked that question, he would have defended his privacy fiercely. But she already knew part of it, had held him through it, fragile human body stronger than he had ever thought it could be, meeting his fire with the coolness of her water world. Sea lady. Aphrodite of the foam. He had been so frightened, all his control stripped away. He liked to play at showing his feelings, but to have no choice had been the most terrifying event of his life. Add to that anxiety over what he might have done to her in his madness. But the ocean was deep and mighty, and Greeks had been sailing her for more than three thousand years. What was one Etesian gale? Pull down the sails and find a harbor. She had been his harbor.
Tuvok was looking for a harbor in the face of the storm.
"Pon farr," he said now, aloud.
She frowned. "What? You just went through that!"
"Not mine," he replied.
For a long time, she did not reply. "Poor man," she said finally. "What can we do?"
He shook his head and turned away from her, walked back to the window. "That," he said, "was what I was contemplating."
She came up behind him in the dark, slipped arms around his chest and laid her head in the hollow between his shoulder blades. "There are always options," she said, echoing something he had told her once.
"Rather limited ones, in this case."
She let him go. "We can't let him die. That's...inhuman!"
He turned. "We are not human, Yanna." Then he shook his head. "Actually, there are other possibilities, but he may prefer death to taking them."
She squared her shoulders. "Well, I've been through it before. I'll do what I have—"
"No!" The mere suggestion speared him with blood-green panic and sky-red rage. He grabbed her arms, nearly lifting her off the floor.
"Sokar! It's only logical."
"Logic has nothing to do with this!" he snapped, then forced himself release her arms. "You don't know what you're saying."
"Then tell me."
"There is a bond between us. If you tried to go to him now, it would raise the Challenge. Tuvok and I would battle over you—"
Abruptly, he shut his mouth. An idea had bloomed in the back of his head.
"What are you talking about?" she said. When he did not reply immediately, she hit his shoulder in frustration. "Don't you dare go to ice on me! Talk, damn you!"
He caught her wrist. "It can't be you," he said to himself. "I have to be able to think; I can't be pulled into this. Kate. She's at the center already."
Ioanna twisted her wrist in his grasp. "Explanations are nice. Mind providing one?"
He let her wrist go, gripped her shoulders instead and studied her face. "There is an aspect of pon farr about which I did not tell you. For us, it wasn't relevant. It's archaic, almost never used any longer. But sometimes—" He took a breath and licked his lips. The first time he had told her of pon farr, they had been on the flat roof of his family house in ShiKahr. He had asked her to marry him without her knowing about pon farr. That night, he had told her, then offered her a chance to back out before they were formally pledged on the morrow. It had been so difficult to speak, words stuttering out of him in embarrassed whispers. She had listened quietly, then grinned her wicked grin and replied, "Sounds like fun, actually." "I doubt you will think so when it arrives," he had responded, irritated. It was not something to make light of. Nor, when it had arrived, had she done so. She had finally understood, and had wept for what it had done to him. Salt and water: sea tears. Then she had taken him to herself, a harbor for his storm.
Having been through it with her now, words came easier. He told her what he was thinking. "But," he said when he was done, "I am not sure that I can...speak of this...to the captain."
"You want me to?"
He nodded. "But I will go with you."
"Sokar, this is dangerous."
"Yes." It was more dangerous than he had told her, in fact. "Yet I do not see another alternative—not one I think Tuvok would agree to."
Tuvok gave up on meditation finally, rose to his feet and returned to his bed. Meditation was doing him no good. Nothing could help him now. Nothing but a woman sixty seven years away.
That is not the whole truth, he told himself. His dreams had not been of T'Pel.
"You're the only one of us who won't be an old man when we get back," Janeway had said to him. But while he might have the longest lifespan, he h ad the shortest time left.
He walked over to a wooden box on his dresser, one of the few pieces of decor he kept. It had belonged to his brother. Opening it, he removed the hypo he had stored there, the hypo he had taken from the doctor's cabinet when he had realized his time was approaching. Enough ska'leth there to kill him three times over. He closed fingers around it like a talisman, then put it back.
Not yet. He had not yet reached that point, and was in no hurry to die. A way home could present itself unexpectedly tomorrow. One did not give up hope until there was no hope left.
Then he would do what he had to do to save T'Pel's life. He would not make their children orphans.
But what had driven him to dream of gold hair, not black?
Chapter 11: X
"Captain?" Ioanna spoke hesitantly into her comm badge. "This is Yanna Traketellis."
"Yes?" came back the reply.
"Sokar and I need to speak with you; it's urgent. But first, Sokar says there's a special file in your confidential logs. All captains who have Vulcans serving under them are given this file."
Tell her it should be marked Vulcan-Delta-M, for medical, Sokar sent.
"He says it's marked Vulcan Delta M. M for medical. Read that file, then call us back. We'll need to talk in private. You'll understand why when you've read it."
There was a long pause. "All right, maestro. But it will have to wait a few hours."
Ioanna looked at Sokar. A few hours would probably not matter much. He gave a gesture of frustrated assent. "All right," Ioanna said. "But not longer. This really is urgent, captain."
"Understood," Kathryn replied. "Janeway out."
"Now we wait," Ioanna said.
Ioanna tried to work—rather unsuccessfully—while Sokar steeled himself to practice. Kathryn had asked him to perform for the crew when his hands were sufficiently recovered and Ioanna had been writing a sonata for him. He played through the first movement. She finally gave up trying to work and came over to listen while Cleopatra nursed. "I fell in love with you the first time I heard you play," she said, "in Chicago. You were like an epiphany, like my music come alive."
He smiled faintly. When had he fallen in love with her? He thought it had probably been before they had ever met—the first time he had played one of her compositions. She had become an obsession, an obsession which had driven him to Earth to meet the composer who wrote this music which had touched his soul.
A comm badge went off. They both jumped. It was Sokar's; he tapped it. "Sokar."
"I'm in my ready-room," was all Janeway said.
They took Cleopatra to Kes to be watched, then went up to the bridge. In the turbolift, he touched Ioanna's hand briefly.
Janeway was waiting, her face taunt. "Tuvok, I presume?" she asked him. "Your wife is with you."
He just nodded.
"Why won't the holodeck work? The file says it won't but I don't understand why not. We're in the Delta Quadrant! I can't get him back to Vulcan in time!" Panic escaped for a moment, concealed by irritation.
Sokar looked to Ioanna. "It's not an easy thing for Vulcans to discuss, captain," Ioanna said. "I'll try to answer your questions. A hologram doesn't have a mind, and pon farr requires a mental link between partners. If a hologram would do"—she glanced at Sokar— "well, so would a hand, to put it bluntly." Sokar winced. "And pon farr wouldn't be deadly."
Kathryn paced around her desk. "So, no hologram. But let me ask this—forgive me, Sokar—but does the person have to be T'Pel? Could it be someone else?"
"I sincerely doubt he would agree to that," Sokar said. "I would die before I broke my bond with Yanna. I suspect he will choose to suicide."
Janeway met his eyes. "You're not Tuvok."
"The...option...you suggest is not the Vulcan way, Kate."
"Is that all you came here to tell me?" she snapped. "That I'm going to lose my security chief—and my friend—and there's not a damn thing I can do about it?"
He dropped his eyes. Ioanna spoke. "We have an idea, captain. Before Surak and the modern Vulcan pursuit of logic, Vulcans sometimes battled for their mates. Childhood betrothal is ancient, but the Challenge was a way the bride could get out of her parent's choice. When the man's pon farr drove the two of them to koon-ut-kalifee—the place of marriage—the woman had the option of choosing a champion— sometimes more than one—to meet her bondmate and fight for her. The fights sometimes went on for days. The woman belonged to the one still standing at the end, literally his chattel; she lost all her rights. That was meant to discourage use of the Challenge but it did offer her a way to escape marriage to a cruel partner."
"Or a way to marry someone she wanted," Kathryn added. Ioanna nodded. "But what does this have to do with Tuvok? He has a wife."
"If the bondmate survived, and if he could momentarily touch the mind of his opponent before he killed him, the adrenaline from the fight could throw him out of pon farr."
"Sex and death," Janeway muttered, sotto voce.
"Sokar thinks—if he simulated the circumstances of Challenge—he might be able to 'fool' Tuvok's body into going out of pon farr."
"What!" Janeway spun on Sokar. "You can't seriously be suggesting that you allow Tuvok to kill you!"
Sokar waved a hand. "Of course not."
"You think I'd have agreed to that?" Ioanna broke in. "I'd have knocked him over the head and tied him down first." Sokar suppressed a smile. She probably would have. She probably would do so now if she understood exactly how dangerous this plan was. He had made it sound safer deliberately. Yet the odds that he would survive were acceptable to him, and he saw no other option.
Kathryn crossed her arms. "I seem to be missing a connection somewhere."
"I only have to make Tuvok think he has killed me," Sokar explained. "It worked once before that I know of." He opened his mouth to continue but could not bring himself to. Ioanna took up the story for him.
"Spock's original bondmate called Challenge against him. She didn't want to be married to someone who was never there, and she had someone else in mind. The someone else was supposed to have fought Spock, but at the last minute, T'Pring chose Kirk as her champion so she wouldn't risk her...whatever he was."
"Her lover," Sokar said, bitterly. That had been part of the shame of the whole incident: T'Pring had taken a lover who was not her bondmate. Sokar hadn't gone to koon-ut-kalifee a virgin, either—but he had never been with anyone but the woman who had met him there. Anything else was inconceivable to him.
"Obviously Kirk didn't die," Janeway said now, somewhat dryly.
"He was given a drug that would make him appear dead to Spock. It worked. Spock went out of pon farr."
"Let me get this straight," Janeway said, seating herself behind her desk and leaning back in the chair. She pointed to Sokar. "You want to take this drug, pretend to challenge Tuvok and let him think he's killed you, in order to knock him out of pon farr? But I'm confused—if it takes a mind-touch to actually work, when he touches your mind won't he know you're not dying?"
That was the weak link in his plan. Sokar frowned and glanced down at his hands. "I don't know what will happen," he said. "Kirk didn't realize he had been given the drug, so when my father touched his mind for an instant, he read the panic of death. Yet it may be that the...state of plak tow...is so instinctual, the deception will work. I think it might."
"When a Vulcan argues with 'might' and doesn't quote me odds, it makes me nervous."
Sokar shrugged. "If it does not work, matters are simply back to where they began. We are trying to fool the irrational body...not Tuvok's rational mind."
"If a mindmeld is required, it seems they're linked together."
"To a point," Sokar admitted.
"Well, I believe I understand the basic theory—but a few of the details escape me. Just where do you plan to arrange this mock? The holodeck?"
"I do not believe that will be necessary," Sokar said.
"Then how can you simulate T'Pel?" she asked.
"We can't use T'Pel," Ioanna told her.
"Tuvok would never believe that I would challenge him for T'Pel," Sokar added.
Kathryn's eyebrows went up. "So who did you have in mind?"
She stood up abruptly. "I'm not married to Tuvok!"
Sokar glanced at Ioanna. "He's attached to you," Ioanna said. "Sokar explained that sometimes—if the male knows he can't reach his bondmate or wife—his interest will begin to swing to a possible partner who is present. It's the survival instinct. Most still choose to suicide, especially if they're married, but the shift is reflexive. Tuvok has fixated on you. That's how Sokar guessed what was wrong in the first place. Tuvok is reacting to Sokar as if he were a possible challenger. So if Sokar prepares the challenge right, Tuvok's instincts may take over."
Kathryn began to pace again. "This whole scheme is hobbled together with chewing gum," she said. "And if it works this time, it won't work next time, will it? What do we do then?"
"Humans have a saying, I believe: 'We will cross that bridge when we come to it'," Sokar said.
"I don't like it."
"I don't, either," Ioanna said. She thumbed at Sokar. "He insists."
"There is no other choice to which Tuvok would agree."
"What makes you think he'd agree to this?" Kathryn said. "You can't even ask him, if it's going to work."
"No, I can't."
She sighed, put a hand to her head. "I have to think about this, Sokar. It puts you at a terrible risk."
"If you refuse, Tuvok dies."
"And if I agree, it still may not work and he may still die—and you may die as well."
"Do you have a better idea?" Sokar asked.
"I have to think about it!" she replied.
He stood up. "Do not 'think about it' too long or Tuvok may decide to take his own life, and the question will be moot."
"He'd tell me first."
"I do not think he would, Kate. He might leave you an explanation, but he would not tell you first."
She stared back at him a long while. "Get out of here and let me think, then. I'll call you in an hour with my decision."
Chapter 12: XI
"Commander?" Chakotay looked up. Neelix stood at his side, an anxious Kes with him. "Do you know what's wrong with Mr. Vulcan?"
"He hasn't eaten in three days," Kes added, "and he's not his usual self. I'm worried."
Chakotay wiped his mouth with his napkin. Tuvok had not been his usual self for the past several months, but Chakotay was not going to say that here.
Kes sat down across from him, folded her hands on the tabletop. "I think there may be something seriously wrong. I tried to coax him to come in for a physical, but he...well, he practically yelled at me, commander."
"Tuvok?" Chakotay took a sip of tea. "You sure we're thinking of the same Vulcan? Thin, dark-skinned fellow—"
"Commander, please," she said. "Don't joke. I don't have the authority to make him take a physical, but if you could—"
"You want me to order him to sickbay?"
"All right, I'll talk to him tomorrow. He's already gone off duty for tonight."
Kes did not look entirely satisfied, but she nodded.
Tuvok had served his last shift; he knew himself no longer fit for duty on the bridge. He would inform the captain he was ill, then retire to his cabin. He had perhaps another day before matters reached a point he would be forced to take his life or do something wholly irrational and shaming.
His comm badge went off. "Janeway to Tuvok. Please report to my cabin."
He raised an eyebrow. Convenient. Though he hoped she would not ask a task of him that he would be unable to complete. Tuvok disliked loose ends. He had already prepared everything for a smooth transfer of power to his Second. Tomorrow, he would pack his personal effects for storage until they could be returned to T'Pel. He did not wish to leave anything for someone else to clean up after him.
He arrived outside Janeway's door but paused to wipe a trace of sweat from his upper lip before pressing the button. So. It had begun. He rang, then entered at her invitation, stopped just inside. She was sitting at the dinette near the replicator, mug in hand. A chair had been pushed out. "Sit down, Tuvok. Can I offer you something to drink?"
The mere thought made him physically ill and he had to struggle to hold back a reaction. "No, thank you." He took the seat. She looked troubled. "Is there a matter of security you wished to discuss with me?"
She just looked at him. He knew then that she knew. Breathing out softly, he leaned back in his seat. "Why didn't you tell me?" she asked. No reprimand, no recrimination. The question was enough.
"There would have been no point. There is nothing you can do, except engage in pointless bouts of anxiety and self-recrimination."
She slammed the mug down on the tabletop. Dark liquid sloshed over the side but she made no attempt to wipe it up. "You could have told me about this when we first got lost out here! If I'd known you were carrying a biological time-bomb, there are things I might have done differently!"
"That," he said, "is exactly what I meant. Needless self- recrimination. Captain, I have no complaints regarding your command decisions."
She got up and turned her back on him. "Not even when I didn't take the space-folder?"
"I did not quarrel with your decision, I simply did what you could not, what your role as Starfleet representative forbid you to do. Had you chosen to court-martial me, I would have accepted that. This ship can function without me more easily than it could without you."
She made a sound and put a hand over her eyes. He could not tell if it was laughter or tears. "You underestimate yourself badly, my friend." She turned then. Tears. They streaked her pale face. "I need you."
He had never dealt well with human grief; it killed him inside that he was the cause of this. "I am sorry," he said, because he did not know what else to say.
She leaned over the table right in front of him, her hands placed to either side of his on the surface. "Sorry isn't good enough, Tuvok. We both know you don't have to die. There is an alternative. And I am willing."
His impulse was to bolt before he did the unforgivable. He did not bolt, but he did stand up and move away from her. She was too close and his senses too heightened. "I cannot. I cannot betray T'Pel."
"Betray her! My God, Tuvok! Don't you think she'd rather have you alive than dead? Is she so selfish as to demand perfect fidelity or death? That doesn't sound like the T'Pel I know."
How could he reply to that? "It's not betrayal of the flesh I fear..."?
There were things here which she did not understand, things he had repressed, hidden even from himself. Though now and then, they had surfaced. He remembered being trapped on the holodeck, Janeway unconscious, all of them facing death. He had wanted to touch her at the end, lay his hand on her hair so she would not die alone—so he would not die alone. But the power of his desire had scared him more than the threat of non-existence. He had never quite made contact. And after, he had forced himself to forget. Again. All the times he had made himself forget, all the times he had reminded himself of his commitment to T'Pel.... What made it excruciating was the fact that, whatever he felt for Janeway, he did not love T'Pel less. It was not either-or, but both-and. He did not understand how this could be.
And he could not ignore it now. He could not freeze it and put it out of his mind, suppress it under the shiny lid of duty. Pon farr would not permit that. To agree to Janeway's proposal was not a matter of doing the necessary to stay alive. Had it been, he might have agreed; that would not have been a betrayal. But part of him wanted this far too much. That was betrayal.
"I cannot," he said now. "As my...friend, please understand. I have been married seventy years. Seventy years today. That is longer than you have been alive. It is easier to contemplate ending my own life than dissolving that bond."
She covered her face a moment with her hand, then drew it down to her mouth, bit the knuckles. Finally, she said, "I can't understand, Tuvok, but I will respect your choice. I'll also ask one thing. Before you do anything...drastic—tell me. If I'm your friend, you owe me that much. I think that's what hurt most. You wouldn't have given me a chance to say good-bye, would you?"
"I had thought it would be easier for you—"
"It would not have been easier!" she shouted. "Except for you. Easier for you not to have to tell me, not to have to deal with my undisciplined human emotions...." She bit back another sob. "But selfish as hell, Tuvok. I think this entire choice is selfish as hell."
"You do not understand."
"That's right! I don't! I said I'd respect your decision. I didn't say I'd agree with it." She paused, walked over to the window and looked out before turning back to face him. "I don't agree, but you are my friend. And—at the end—I'd like to be there to hold your hand. I don't know if Vulcans need that, but this human does."
He closed his eyes. "Vulcans...do not like to die alone," he admitted. Then he opened them again. "I will agree to tell you, if you will agree not to try to prevent me from doing what I must. I do not want to fight you, Kathryn."
"I promise I won't try to prevent you at the end. In the meantime, if there's anything I can do...."
"Actually, there is. I do not feel that I am fit for duty any longer. I ask to be relieved."
"Thank you." He came to attention for perhaps the last time. "Dismissed?"
"Dismissed, Mr. Tuvok."
Sokar's comm badge beeped. "Sokar here," he replied.
"I would like to see you and your wife in my quarters." Kathryn's voice. "I've made my decision."
Chapter 13: XII
"My mother was a theater actress," Kathryn said, "not me. I don't know how convincing I'm going to be."
"You need only convince for an instant," Sokar replied. "Tuvok will either respond as if Challenged, or ask me if I have lost my mind." Sokar caught her smile as she unpinned her hair. She was wearing a pink nightgown. "You must look as little like his captain as possible," he had told her earlier. "Duty must not distract him."
"Be careful," Ioanna said to Sokar now. She was hovering, nervous, fidgeting with the hypo. He took it from her and touched his fingers to hers, briefly. It calmed her somewhat.
Once he had been injected, he would have perhaps ten to fifteen minutes until he collapsed in a fair simulation of death. He just hoped he could hold off Tuvok that long. "I'm ready," he said and handed her the hypo. She injected him, then ducked into Kathryn's bedroom where she could watch without being seen.
Sokar turned to Kathryn, who gave a little, half-hearted grin. "What do you want me to do?"
"Kneel down, I think," he said, and took a handful of heavy blond hair in what he hoped looked like a threatening manner.
"Ouch! Not so hard!"
She tapped her comm badge, spoke into it breathlessly. "Janeway to Tuvok. Help! In my cabi—"
"...to Tuvok. Help! In my cabi—"
Tuvok stood abruptly, Starfleet training taking over even now. The captain's cabin was less than seven meters down the hall. He could be there in moments.
What he saw when he arrived stopped him in his tracks, then propelled him forward in a green rage.
Kes' words to Chakotay at supper had not left his mind. He kept circling back to them. Her worry had been genuine, and Kes did not worry for nothing, so Chakotay had decided he should visit Tuvok now, make the Vulcan go to sickbay tonight. The doctor would not care what hour Tuvok visited for a physical.
Chakotay turned the corner, headed towards the senior officer cabins, when he saw Tuvok literally erupt from his own cabin and dash across to Janeway's.
Chakotay broke into a run.
A crash of glass greeted his arrival; Tuvok had thrown Sokar into the coffee table in front of Janeway's couch. Hair in disarray, Janeway herself stood off to one side, biting her knuckles. Chakotay did not stop to think further. He had to get Tuvok off Sokar before Tuvok killed the kid.
"Chakotay—no!" he heard even as he grabbed Tuvok from behind, swung him free, and brought a fist into his chin. Tuvok rocked back, then roared defiance, grabbing Chakotay by the shoulders. His foot went out to catch Chakotay's heel and trip him. Chakotay saw it coming and pushed forward instead. They went over together, rolled, struck furniture.
Tuvok managed to pin Chakotay for an instant. The Vulcan looked half-wild. "Goddammit, Tuvok!" Chakotay yelled. "Snap out of it!" Behind him, he could still hear Janeway calling his name, trying to get his attention. He did not have time for that.
He managed to use his weight to lever them sideways. He just wanted to get Tuvok down long enough to knock some sense into him, find out what was going on here.
Someone grabbed Chakotay from behind and half-flung him away. Sokar. Bleeding green from nose and mouth, the kid looked barely able to stand. Tuvok knocked him aside effortlessly. Chakotay used that distraction to deliver a two-fisted blow to the side of Tuvok's head. It stunned Tuvok momentarily.
Then someone else had Chakotay. Janeway. She spun him around and he saw a fist coming at his jaw before he had time or wit to think to duck—
Blinking, only half-conscious, Sokar watched Janeway belt her first officer into oblivion to take him out of the fight. Sokar struggled to rise but found he could not. From the pain in his ankle, he suspected he had snapped the bone when he fell.
It did not matter. Tuvok had gone cold. He looked from Janeway—fist in her mouth—to Chakotay unconscious on the floor, to Sokar. "The Challenge?" he said quietly.
Sighing faintly, Sokar just nodded.
Tuvok tilted his head to the side. "I must assume the commander's presence was unplanned for. But I fail to understand the point. Surely you would not trade your life for mine? That is not logical."
Sokar blinked and struggled to stay awake. Ioanna had emerged from Kathryn's bedroom to kneel anxiously beside him. "I took a dimethylene compound. In another minute or two, it will make me comatose. I had thought—"
"You had thought you could convince me you were dead. Clever idea, but not a clever execution: an untrained civilian attempting to fight the chief of security? If I had longer to live, Sokar, I would give you self-defense classes. You should pursue them on your own, in any case."
Their failure, stated coolly, Sokar thought.
But he could feel himself slipping into unconsciousness. The last thing he heard was Janeway's voice. "All of you but Tuvok—out. Have Chakotay and Sokar beamed to sickbay."
When they were gone, Tuvok turned on Janeway. "You promised me you would not attempt to stop me."
"At the end, Tuvok. I said I would not attempt to stop you at the end. I didn't promise anything for the meantime."
He felt his lips thin. "Semantics."
"You've argued from them often enough." Her hands went up to her hair, pushed it back from her face. It was truly extraordinary hair. He would like....
He shook himself. "I must return to my cabin."
"I beg your pardon?"
She stepped over to look up at him. "Goddamn stubborn Vulcan. But I do believe I won the Challenge."
Tuvok felt an eyebrow tip. "I am still standing."
He had not been prepared. She tripped him easily; he landed hard. "Not anymore," she said. "Does that make you my chattel, Tuvok?"
Sheer astonishment kept him mute. She did not seem to think a response necessary. Her hand had gone up to untie the throat of her nightgown. Then she let it drop: a pink heap on the floor. He swallowed hard, could not quite believe what she was doing—what he was going to let her do.
Kneeling beside him, she reached for the clasp on his robes. He slid his hand into gold.
"Ow!" Chakotay sat up slowly, fingering his jaw. His little captain packed a punch. "What happened?"
Sokar sat on the edge of another bed. His face still pale but he looked mostly recovered, his cuts sealed. His wife sat beside him, wearing a half-on-edge look. "You were knocked out," Sokar said now.
"No kidding," Chakotay snapped. "That wasn't what I meant."
Kes came out of her office to lay a hand on Chakotay's shoulder. "I'm glad you're awake. How are you?"
"Feeling like I got mowed down by a freight train. What the hell got into Tuvok?"
Silence greeted him. Sokar had looked away; Kes was busily studying a readout. Ioanna sighed and climbed down from Sokar's diagnostic bed. "Commander, let's go for a walk."
Dark skin against pale. He spread the fingers of one hand over her belly. Then his vision swam and he had to close his eyes a moment.
It was over. T'Pel, I am sorry, he thought. Seventy years of marriage, over in an evening. Had it been so inconsequential? Where the old bond had been was only echo. A new bond lay rooted beside it.
He raised his head to look up at Kathryn's face. Her eyes were closed. She must have felt him watching her because she opened them, smiled a bit sadly. There seemed nothing to say. Or everything to say and he had no idea where to begin. Reaching out, she traced the line of his lips. "God forgive us, Tuvok."
"It is not god who must do the forgiving," he replied.
"Will she think you're dead?"
"No. The bond dissolved. It did not break."
"You mean she'll know what happened?"
"Yes." He rolled a little to the side. Kathryn's eyes had gone as dark as storm clouds. She reached out to touch his cheek; he did not pull away. To pull away would be the height of hypocrisy.
"When we get back," she said, "we'll talk to her together."
"She may not wish to 'talk.' But you are correct—we cannot avoid responsibility for what we have done."
"Tuvok—you would have died." She tried to brush his forehead but he caught her wrist and pressed their hands together, ran his fore and middle fingers along hers, then drew down her face to kiss.
"And that," he asked when he released her, "is just surviving?" She did not reply. "I cannot lie, Kathryn. I will not lie. There is somewhat more to it than mere survival. We both know that."
Tears glittered in her eyes. "We have what we have, Tuvok. We'll deal with T'Pel when we get home. In the meantime, I need you with me." She bent down again and just breathed against his mouth; her hair fell like a curtain, soft as Vulcan silk. He pulled her hips up to straddle his. "Sokar will be scandalized, won't he?" she asked, moving on him.
"Sokar is young still," he replied, "and not quite the rebel he thinks." It was becoming increasingly difficult to speak.
"Yes," she said, grinning, "he is young." Tuvok did not want to discuss Sokar. He moved his hand, just so. "Ah—" she said, then said nothing else coherent for a while.
Chapter 14: XIII
Sokar and Ioanna took Cleopatra back to their cabin when Kes released Sokar from sickbay. Sokar wondered if he should go talk to Tuvok, or to Janeway, but Ioanna dissuaded him. In fact, Ioanna seemed surprisingly unperturbed by the recent comedy of errors. Sokar himself was greatly disturbed. He did not deal well with failure, but failure on his part had never before cost a life. In his own mind, he went over again and again the unsuccessful challenge. How had he erred in his planning? Ioanna noticed his distraction. When the cabin door closed behind them, she said, "It wasn't your fault the commander picked that very moment to come see Tuvok. Sometimes things just...happen. Ta sumbebekota: things of chance. 'Fortune'— or in this case, misfortune—'is an accidental cause.'" She set Cleopatra in her playpen. The baby picked up a purple rattle and put it in her mouth, then took it out and shook it at her mother.
Irritated, Sokar turned away from them both and walked over to his piano, played a line of Scriabin. "Don't quote Aristotle at me, Yanna. A man is going to die because I erred."
"I told you," she said, leaving Cleopatra to come hit at him in exasperation—it was a wonder he did not have more bruises—"you didn't make a mistake except maybe in the ricketiness of the whole general plan. And anyway, I don't think Tuvok is going to die."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Call it a hunch. But he looked pretty calm to me, at the end."
"He had dropped out of plak tow."
"And do Vulcans normally just...drop out of plak tow...without dropping out of pon farr?"
He thought about that. "I don't know."
She shrugged and patted his cheek. "See Sokar—you don't know everything."
But he had the distinct impression she was also not telling him everything.
He started to sit down to play, to center himself and ease his mind, but her hand on his arm stopped him. "Come to bed."
"I am not tired," he replied.
"That wasn't what I meant, my husband." She glanced at their daughter. "Maybe we'll get more than ten minutes before she starts wailing."
Chakotay had the center seat. It was the end of third watch and the bridge crew for first was slowly trickling in: Kim and B'Elanna, arguing some point of theory. Chakotay hoped "-ities" would not be part of it. He needed coffee, not technobabble. Sokar arrived a little after, glanced shamefacedly towards Chakotay, who pretended nothing was amiss. Paris followed, yawning, smoothing his hair as if he had just got out of bed. With Paris, one could never tell, but the lieutenant was almost never late for duty. If anything, he arrived early. It was the sort of unexpected detail which stretched a person past stereotypes. Chakotay had assumed Tom Paris would have as much trouble with clock-time as Chakotay himself —but for different reasons. "You need a shave, lieutenant," he said as Paris passed the center seat.
Paris hesitated. "It wasn't an oversight, commander." Then he rubbed his chin, grinned a little. "At least I can grow one, Indian."
Chakotay leaned over in his seat to meet the young man's eyes. "It's not the bush on your face which makes a man, Paris."
"Most certainly not," Sokar added without looking at either one of them. Chakotay grinned. He'd never seen a Vulcan with a beard. Maybe they could not grow them either. Then again, he had rarely seen a Vulcan without that stupid square-banged cut, either. "Efficient," his second-year academy roommate had said when Chakotay had asked why they all wore it.
Now, Chakotay leaned back in the chair and checked the chronometer on the arm: 08:00. Where was Janeway? "Late" was not in her vocabulary. But she might have other things to attend to today.
A sudden sadness pressed on him; how could he joke about beards? He would have to find time to drop by and see Tuvok after—even if Tuvok did not want him there. Chakotay knew he should not feel guilty for ruining Sokar's plans—guilt was not "logical"—but he felt guilty nonetheless. And a little angry. He was first officer on this ship; Janeway should have told him what was up in the first place.
Your sense of your own importance feeling threatened, Chakotay?, he asked himself. He was about to win the final round in a three-year battle with Tuvok—and he didn't want the victory. They might not always agree, but he respected the Vulcan enormously. It was not fair that Tuvok had to die.
The lift doors swished open. Janeway. Chakotay stood to vacate her chair, then felt his jaw drop. Tuvok. Dressed in his usual uniform, looking his usual self. The Vulcan stepped out of the lift behind Janeway and went to his station without a word to anyone.
At least Chakotay was not the only one surprised. Sokar had spun in his seat, blue eyes following Tuvok's progress. And Paris was eyeing Sokar. Paris might have no idea what was afoot, but he was too smart not to guess there was something.
Tuvok noticed Sokar's look as well. "Is there a problem, Sokar ch'Spock?"
Sokar seemed unable to find anything to say. Chakotay decided to come to the boy's rescue. "How are you feeling, Tuvok?" he asked.
Tuvok eyed him appraisingly but Chakotay kept his Inscrutable Indian look on his face and just blinked back. Out of the corner of his eye, Chakotay could see Janeway take her chair, hand over her mouth to hide a grin. "I am 'feeling fine,' commander," Tuvok said. "How are you?"
Chuckling, Chakotay sat down in his own chair. "Fine, Tuvok. Just fine."
By this point, the rest of the first shift was utterly baffled. They kept looking from Sokar to Tuvok to Chakotay. Sokar worked his console as if nothing untoward had occurred. Paris shot him looks; he ignored them. Finally, Paris just leaned over to ask in a low voice, "What's up with Tuvok?"
Sokar checked readouts, glanced at the screen. "I believe the correct Terran response would be, 'None of your damn business.'"
Paris coughed and turned back to his own console. Beside him, Chakotay could see Janeway grin from ear to ear. Chakotay leaned over the small space between them. "What did happen with Tuvok?" he whispered.
"You heard Mr. Sokar, commander." And she would say nothing more.
Chakotay waited a little while longer, then finally gave up and rose to go eat dinner. "I'll see you later, captain."
She smiled up at him. "At the concert tonight, then."
"At the concert." Chakotay glanced towards Sokar. "You ready?"
Sokar twisted in his seat. "I have been 'ready' for three days, sir."
"I look forward to hearing you then," Chakotay said. Half- saluting Janeway, he exited the bridge.
At shift-end, when Janeway joined Tuvok in the turbolift and the doors had closed behind them, she leaned over and broke up laughing. He tipped an eyebrow. "Kathryn?"
"God—didn't you see their faces? Sokar looked at you like you were a ghost, Chakotay would kill to know what went on in my cabin last night, and Paris, Kim and B'Elanna would kill just to know what the hell is going on in the first place."
"And you find this amusing?"
He breathed out softly and turned his face forward. "I find it embarrassing." Would he never understand humans? Even this human?
She held up a hand. "Tuvok...."
He debated how to respond. She was not his wife, to demand that he attend. Technically, he was still married. And she still had Mark. But he did love her, and—as she had said last night—they had what they had. The rest could be sorted out later. There would be sixty seven years to do it in.
He raised his own hand and set it to hers. She smiled at him.
Chapter 15: Epilogue
"No one with a six-month old baby deserves to look that good."
Chakotay turned. It was Ensign Sen, standing with her husband. She was rocking back and forth on her feet, their year-old-son in her arms, her eyes glued jealously to the maestro—who did, indeed, look spectacular in black velvet.
Ioanna was talking with Harry Kim, trying to calm the boy's nerves before the concert. Kes was with her, holding the baby who was looking around with wide eyes, grinning around the fist in her mouth. Cleopatra was the happiest infant Chakotay had ever seen. A continual line of drool from mouth to shirt-front gave evidence to her constant smile and periodically, she would break into laughter for no apparent reason. Chakotay wondered what her father thought of that. But having never been around a Vulcan baby before, he had no idea whether they laughed like human infants or not—or at what age they stopped.
He made his way over. "Can I hold her?" he asked Kes.
Ioanna turned from Harry to him. "Chakotay, you can have her. I think I'm going to sell her to the highest bidder. She's absolutely driven me mad all day long!"
He raised Cleopatra over his head, towards the ceiling. She squealed with delight and kicked her pudgy legs. "This little thing driving mommy crazy?" he asked. "This sweet little thing?" Cleopatra laughed at him.
Ioanna rolled her eyes. "I need a babysitter."
Lowering the baby, Chakotay settled her on his hip. "Voyager came equipped with an emergency medical hologram, but not an emergency holographic nanny, I'm afraid. But maybe we could ask the doctor to do double-duty."
Kes spit punch through her nose. Startled, and finding herself in unfamiliar arms, Cleopatra began to howl fit to wake the dead. The gathered crowd in the cafeteria turned to look. "See what I mean?" her mother asked, exasperated, taking her from Chakotay.
"I'm losing my touch," Chakotay replied.
Ioanna walked off with the still-screaming baby, over to where Sokar was sitting patiently by his piano. "She's your daughter," he heard Ioanna say. Sokar took her and spoke to her, and she quieted down immediately.
"I believe he is learning," said a voice behind Chakotay.
He turned. "Good evening, Tuvok." The Vulcan nodded. Chakotay glanced past him. "Where's Janeway?"
"I assume the captain is on her way. She did not confide the details of her toilette to me, commander."
That, Chakotay was not about to touch with a ten-foot pole. Instead, he nodded to Sokar, Ioanna and their daughter. "They make a cute family."
But the captain's arrival saved Chakotay from having to respond. Janeway waved and spoke to people as she moved to the improvised stage. After conferring with Sokar, she clapped her hands to get the crowd's attention. "I guess that means sit down," Chakotay murmured, looking around for a chair. Tuvok followed him. They sat together near the back where they could see both performer and audience. "People-watching, Tuvok?" Chakotay asked.
When everyone had settled into seats or moved back against the rear wall, Janeway spoke. "When we rescued a certain shuttle six- months ago, I had no idea I'd be collecting entertainment for us for the trip back." She grinned. "We nabbed a pianist and a composer both. I'm not sure whether that makes them hostage performers or us a captive audience." A few people chuckled; she continued. "When I first heard Sokar play, what?"—she glanced over her shoulder at him— "it must have been almost twenty-five years ago now? In any case, I thought him the finest concert pianist I had ever had the privilege to hear. And I've heard nothing since to change my mind.
"Tonight, Sokar will be performing with...."
Janeway continued with her introduction, mentioning Harry's concerto, then explaining the sonata the maestro had composed in honor of her daughter's birth. Chakotay listened with half an ear. He was watching Tuvok, who had leaned forward to rest elbows on his knees, fingers steepled thoughtfully before his mouth. Tuvok—who normally kept his eyes busy watching everyone—was staring only at Janeway. Fixated. No expression crossed his face to betray him. None needed to. It was almost as if an invisible line connected the captain and her chief across the entire length of the cafeteria.
Chakotay sighed and leaned back, stretching out his legs under the seat in front of him. He should probably worry about breaches of protocol and all the other baggage that came with affairs between senior officers. But he didn't. He doubted the rest of the crew would even find out; Janeway and Tuvok would conduct themselves with perfect propriety. Tuvok was no more a new element in Janeway's life than Sokar. This was just an old relationship that had taken a step sideways. Chakotay could not even find it in himself to be especially jealous. In an odd way, Kathryn and Tuvok belonged together the same as Sokar and his Greek. But what Tuvok would say to his wife when he returned—if he returned—Chakotay did not want to guess.
A man could, indeed, love two women at once. But eventually, he had to choose.