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Degrees of Compatability

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The lights in the towers of the office buildings in Shi’Kahr were barely visible as Spock squinted into the distance. A tremor rippled through his body as he looked at the blood stains still visible on his hands. He had survived his kahs-wan, but at the cost of his pet sehlat. I-Chaya had died from the poisonous scratches it had received defending him against a le-matya attack. He had been unable to stem the flow of blood. He had stayed with her until the end.

He now sat on a rock contemplating what had driven him to take the test prematurely without his parents’ consent. Three months earlier, he had been in his biology class.

Master Stevik pointed at the image of the respiratory system of a new born baby. “New born babies are struck firmly on their backs to clear the air passage to the lungs. If the baby lets out a cry, it is a sign the passage is clear. If not other methods are used to clear any obstruction.”

Spock had raised his hand, anxious to get clarity. Master Stevik had nodded in his direction. “Is it customary for the baby to cry out? Is it not viewed as a lack of control?”

“I bet you screamed like a valit caught for dinner,” Spock heard Selon whisper behind him.

“A cry is expected. If there is no sound, there may be an obstruction, as I just indicated. We will learn later in this unit, at what age the mind is capable of initiating control over physical sensations.”

Spock felt a firm jab in his back, “You will never reach that age.”

The taunt from Selon barely registered, as in that moment Spock was elsewhere. His first memory was of the pain of being struck, the cry he emitted, and the feeling that had permeated his being from the attending Healer which he had since come to understand was disgust. He had always assumed the Healer’s disgust had been because he had cried out. Now, he realized the Healer’s reaction must have been to Spock’s very existence as a half-breed, the only one ever born on Vulcan.

He was certain Selon would hear his accelerated heart rate and breathing as the disturbing revelation clarified in his mind. All the looks and whispers he had endured since beginning his education eighteen months ago began to make sense. He had spent many fruitless hours in meditation trying to determine what he had done to cause his peers to taunt him or worse, ignore him completely. The lesson had made him realize, it had been no action on his part. They had judged him inferior merely because of his bloodline.

Spock shifted on the rock restlessly, his muscles tightening in his back, as he remembered the disturbing epiphany and his determination to prove them all wrong as he walked home that day. He had vowed to himself that he would spend the next three months preparing to take his kahs-wan as soon as possible after his seventh birthday. Such an achievement would prove conclusively to those that deemed him inferior because of his mixed heritage that he was equal to his Vulcan peers, if not superior by taking the test as soon as it was permitted.

Now as he sat contemplating his choices, he realized the price had been high, too high. I-Chaya, his only friend, was dead. He pushed the lump in his throat down, willing himself not to break down again, as he had done in the night, his tears and muffled cries absorbed into I-Chaya’s fur.

Spock clasped his hands together and allowed himself a sigh of frustration. What had been the point? Since his birth, he had been subjected to 137 tests, tests which compared him with Vulcan norms in areas such as strength, vision, hearing, telepathy and intelligence. The cumulative tests results to date had not concluded him to be sufficiently Vulcan; why had he thought passing the kahs-wan would be any different? Even this accomplishment would not satisfy those who saw him as deficient.

Spock inwardly castigated himself: he had failed his test of maturity in his own mind. He had behaved illogically and emotionally by rashly undertaking the test without his parents’ knowledge and approval.

He pushed himself off the rock with resolve. He would ask forgiveness of his parents for acting with such disrespect. As he walked back to Shi’Kahr, the dawning sun’s rays warm on his back, he wondered fleetingly whether they would be proud of his accomplishment—but pushed the thought aside: pride was an emotion.

 

kahs-wan – test of maturity

le-matya – omnivorous cat-like animal, has poisonous claws, green-white diamond pattern in its fur

sehlat – large bear-like animal with fangs, domesticated as a pet

valit – small rodent

Chapter Text

 

“There.” T’Mae declared after fixing the decorative hair comb at the crown of T’Pring’s head. “Now you are ready.”

Looking at her reflection in the mirror, T’Pring barely recognized the girl looking back: the simple silver dress her mother had worn to her koon’ul now falling from her own shoulders, her hair brushed to a high shine and tied up in a ponytail, the small touches of the traditional make-up her mother had insisted upon highlighting her eyes and cheek bones. She felt quite alien to herself and a little dizzy, unsure of what was to come. What would it be like, she wondered, to have another foreign presence in her mind? She welcomed the bonds shared with her family members. But what would this new link be like?

Since her seventh birthday T’Pring had begun speculating with her friends, T’Mek and Valk, about their impending koon’ul ceremonies.

Their conversation of last week floated into her mind. “Do you think Daator and I would be compatible?” T’Mek had asked. “He seems skilled on the lyre and I am doing well with my lessons on the ozh-svin-math. My sa-mekh spoke with his for quite some time after our concert performance.”  

“He might be suitable, but my ko-mekh says the different interests can be important in a match so that each has something to offer to the union. It would be nice to have something other than music to speak about. Spelik would be my ideal match. Each time we have met, we have talked for extended periods about a variety of topics.”

“I would prefer someone artistic rather than musical,” she had declared, remembering some of the sculptures in the garden at her cousin’s home. “Perhaps someone from the House of Telon. Many of their clan are skilled artists. There are a number of matches between our clans.”

At that time she had never anticipated it happening so quickly. Her cousins had been betrothed during their tenth year as had her mother.

T’Pring felt her mother’s hand on her shoulder and started.

“Mother, I do not believe I am ready.” The words tumbled forth, betraying further the nervousness that she felt as the time for the ceremony grew closer.

Her mother’s eyes creased sympathetically, an action which belied her words. “It is nevertheless what is to be. Come, T’Pring. It is logical to accept that which is inevitable.”

“Yes, Mother,” T’Pring murmured, anything but placated.

Watching as her mother turned towards the door, T’Pring felt the weight of her apprehension weighing like the stones of Seleya in the pit of her stomach.

“Why risk her future with such an unknown.”

“It is an honor to be aligned with such a clan.”

The whispered words of her parents’ overhead conversation earlier that month came back with haunting clarity.

“What is the rush, Sorel? Why not wait until they are both ten. We can learn more about him. Determine if he is even capable of forming a link.”

“What more will we know? He passed his kahs-wan, a mere 11 days after his seventh birthday. Sarek assured me the familial bond is operative. I reviewed his medical records.”

“It would not hurt to wait.”

“If we do not act, the opportunity for T’Pring will be lost. Sarek is determined to find a match within six months of his passing his maturity rite as is their clan’s custom. He is an acceptable match, T’Mae.”

“As you wish.”

T’Pring heard in her mind the hard, but conceding edge to her mother’s voice. She knows I am too young.

She’d only been informed at the evening meal the night before that today would be a day, not for school work, but for her betrothal. They were to travel to Shi’Kahr, the capital city of the province for the ceremony. T’Pring had always expected to be linked to someone who resided in her city, or a neighbouring one, not far, far away.

Who do we even know in Shi’Kahr? T’Pring pondered.

Her mother never travelled there. Is that why she is concerned, called him an “unknown”, does she not know the family? Perhaps my father knows the family through his business connections in Shi’Kahr, she reasoned.

Her mother’s initial resistance, combined with the unexpected destination was unsettling. T’Pring had longed to ask the name of the family, but held her tongue. T’Pring knew the traditions of her people, and she knew that custom dictated the parties be revealed for the first time at the ceremony, only after a successful link was established.

Her mother left the room, but then suddenly reappeared, putting her head around the doorframe.

“T’Pring, there is no reason for emotional disturbance. I have prepared you for what is to come. I believe you shall acquit yourself, and our family, well at the koon-ul, and at the tei van-kal. You shall bring honor to our clan with this match.”

The tei van-kal was an ancient tea ceremony; T’Pring imagined the pungent scent of the tea with which she and her mother had spent hours practicing in the last months. She knew all the correct gestures, the order in which to steep tea and serve it in little bowls, along with the traditional phrases for the koon-ul and tea ceremony. Recently, she’d also been schooled in not reacting to the sight of her mate and his family, something which made her wonder if he had or his parents had some kind of horrible physical defect. Neither of her friends had mentioned ever receiving such warnings from their mothers.

Her father’s voice called up the stairs. It was time to go. T’Pring dutifully rose, willing her body forward with a jerk, the tension momentarily freezing her limbs, as she followed her mother’s steps. She would accept the mate she was given: it was her duty.

***

Spock felt weighed down in his formal deep purple robes as he stood waiting for the ceremony which was to commence in 14 minutes at noon. Reddish orange monoliths circled the arena where they would be headed.

The final fitting for the robes had been a week ago and then they had been sent to have the embroidery completed. His father had brought the box into his room this morning. When Spock removed the lid, he had wanted to run his fingers over the gold lacing proclaiming him to be from the House of Surak in ancient Vulcan script, but had resisted knowing his father would have thought it a frivolous gesture. He had been pleased when his father had inspected his appearance with approval an hour ago, but now he only felt the weight of responsibility. He was thankful that the arms of the robe were purposefully long and wide for added grandeur as it allowed him to fiddle with the inside seam unnoticed. Outwardly he did his best to project calm. He wondered if he was doing any better than those he watched around him.

Spock observed his parents conversing with T’Pau, his grandmother, and matriarch of his clan. The tension between his parents was palpable, vibrating like a string on a lyre. Sarek stood ramrod straight and his normally stern visage seemed even more so at this moment. Even under the head-covering his mother wore to protect her from the sun, he could see that her face was drawn and tight. Who was he to judge their uncharacteristic display of the stress they were feeling? Spock had felt the tension building in his own body during the two months since he’d passed the kahs-wan, as he realized that one of the unforeseen consequences of his precipitous decision to undergo and then pass the maturity ritual was his father being immediately obligated to seek for him a future bondmate.

A rumble in the distance made him look to the sky. An aircar approached. His eyes were tracking the car when his peripheral vision made him aware of another movement. He glanced to his right. His grandmother was looking in his direction, her gaze as unreadable as ever. He never could discern what his grandmother’s reactions were to any event—or to him for that matter.

Did T’Pau fear that he would embarrass their House’s name today by being unable to form a bond? Or was she indifferent as the blame would rest with him or with Sarek for marrying a Human and producing a deficient son? Spock admitted to himself his lack of complete emotional control at this juncture, paralyzed as he was with the fear of disappointing his parents and being publicly humiliated. The odds of potential bond mates not being compatible was low, but nevertheless it occurred 3.7% of the time.

It was said there was no blame laid if that was the case. But he instinctively knew that if he and this girl were unable to form a link, it would be blamed on his half-breed nature, he would feel the shame of his failure, and there would be yet more talk about his inadequacies. Spock surmised that if this union was incompatible, his parents would have great difficulties in finding him another match. He had already overheard conversations in the night, his mother’s soft, muffled cries of anguish that made his stomach twist in knots. He knew some families had rejected him outright because of his tainted heritage. If he should fail today would any family agree to betroth their daughter with him? What further disharmony would he create in his parents’ marriage should he prove to be inadequate?

As the engine of the aircar stilled, Spock felt certain others would be able to hear the rapid beat of his heart. Although he knew he was not supposed to, he could not help watching as the girl, his future adun’a and her parents emerged from their aircar.

The light of Vulcan’s suns glinted prettily on the silver dress she wore as their eyes met momentarily. She gave him a quick nod then looked away. What did that mean? What would her reaction be when she saw his mother? Would she be disappointed to be linked with a half-breed? Would he be able to discern her disgust?

Stop this speculation, he commaned himself. I will know soon enough.

T’Pau welcomed the others, then walked in stately fashion to an ornately carved sedan that Spock imagined had been used for centuries in these proceedings. Spock knew the time for reflection was over when the four muscular Vulcan males lifted the sedan from the ground and the mekhu ceased to talk. His family fell into the first position behind the sedan as was the tradition, with his proposed wife-to-be and her parents following next, and finally two more Vulcan males bearing the bells which broke the silence as the parade set in motion to enter the arena through two of the granite monoliths.

The procession stopped in front of a slightly raised platform in the center of the arena encircled by the ancient stones. Here, T’Pau, Spock and his intended stepped up onto the platform while their parents remained standing in a semi-circle on the ground. T’Pau motioned for Spock and the girl to face her, kneeling on mats with portraits of Vulcan men and women in family life woven into the fabric. From where he was kneeling, Spock could see his father’s rigid gaze, her father’s proud visage, and both mothers with mixed emotions playing across their features, suggesting a desire for success counter-balanced with nervous reservation. Once they were in position, the bells went silent.

Spock’s mother pushed down her head covering to reveal her humanoid features. He dared not look directly at the girl beside him to see her reaction, but he heard her tiny gasp and accelerated respiration rate. Spock felt empathy for this fragile-looking girl: how awful for her to have to find out in this way about his mixed heritage. His mother smiled warmly at them both, offering encouragement with her eyes. Spock made an effort to consciously regulate his own breathing as he realized he too was breathing faster than normal. He did not want to betray his nervousness to all present.

Spock looked up as T’Pau raised her hands above her head. The sun had reached its zenith in the sky, and it seemed to him it stopped overhead as his matriarch reached for it.

“As it was in the time of the beginning, so it is now. Let us unite Spock S’chn T’gai and T’Pring V’dun so that they may be called to one another at the appointed time and place.”

Gnarled hands descended to hover like the claws of a great bird beside the children’s faces.

“I will know thy thoughts,” she intoned solemnly, her fingers locking onto their psi points. Spock and T’Pring nodded in unison their acquiescence. In contrast to his apprehension, T’Pau’s presence in his mind was light, barely touching. He could vaguely see T’Pring’s consciousness, silver like her dress, and the thread T’Pau was weaving between them, bridging their minds. It was as fine as silk, and pulsed faintly with white light as T’Pau’s presence withdrew. Spock opened his eyes to find T’Pau had removed her hands. Spock felt tentatively with his mind along the new and unfamiliar link, sensing the presence of T’Pring beside him and within him. Over time the thread would strengthen and become a firm rope linking him to T’Pring forever and allowing him open access to her thoughts, and her to him, unless either chose to shield. For now Spock could only lightly touch her mind. He nervously did and sensed surprise and curiosity about his mixed heritage. At least he did not sense disappointment or disgust as he had feared: he knew he did not want to be bound to someone who felt that way about him.

When T’Pau announced that the bonding was successful, they rose as expected, turned to their parents and bowed in unison. Since the koon’ul had succeeded, formal introductions followed. Spock was introduced to T’Pring’s parents, Sorel and T’Mae, and T’Pring to his parents, Ambassador Sarek and Amanda.

After the introductions, the procession again formed behind T’Pau. This time when Spock glanced to his right there was T’Pring, his ko-kugalsu, followed by both sets of parents and the bell bearers. As he walked he wondered what the future held for them. When they arrived at the aircars the families separated again to allow them to return to the Ambassador’s residence for the ritual tei van-kal.

***

T’Pring was thankful when the stress of executing the formalities of the tei van-kal were finally completed successfully and she and Spock were excused from the table. She had never in her life been in a home so large and she was eager to explore. Questions to ask Spock bubbled up within her. Her parents had impressed upon her during their short trip to the Ambassador’s residence that she was not to ask personal questions during the tei van-kal and to not stare at the Lady Amanda as she had done at the koon’ul. T’Pring was embarrassed by the rebuff; she had not meant to stare. She had simply never seen anyone with humanoid features up close and found her fair hair and complexion intriguing. She thought to herself that the Lady Amanda did not appear to be upset by the scrutiny, given the welcome she had extended. And when T’Pring found herself studying her over her cup of tea she had only given her a gentle smile. T’Pring thought her eyes seemed to twinkle with warmth. She wondered whether Spock’s eyes would be so expressive.

“Would you like to go outside to the courtyard and gardens?” Spock asked when they left the formal dining room.

She had simply nodded her agreement afraid her voice might betray her nervousness. Since the ceremony she had reached tentatively across the link a couple of times and sensed that Spock was just as apprehensive as herself, but she was not certain if she was interpreting what she sensed correctly. She knew the flavor of her parent’s thoughts, but this was different.

“Spock, what are these flowers? They have an interesting scent,” she asked, summoning up her courage to speak, as she bent to inspect one more closely.

“That is a rose. It is native to Earth.” He pointed to the stem. “Watch that you do not cut yourself on the thorns. That variety is known as a hybrid tea. There are many different varieties of roses here, and even more on Earth.” T’Pring listened in a slight daze as Spock went on to describe at length the other roses in the garden.

T’Pring suspected Spock’s wordy explanation was because he was nervous. She worried he would explain all the vegetables in the garden as well unless she thought of another question.

“Is your mother from Earth or was she raised on an Earth colony?” she broke in on his monologue, asking the question she had not dared to raise earlier and feeling a slight pulse of tension in their link.

“Earth.”

“Have you ever visited Earth?”

“No.” he said, shaking his head.

“Would you like to go to live amongst Humans? Do you have a desire to visit your mother’s relatives on Earth?” T’Pring sensed further tension along the link, which she immediately sought to placate. “I do not wish to make you uneasy.”

Instead of helping, her words seemed to intensify Spock’s distress. When she attempted to delve deeper along the link to determine how she had caused offense, his expression closed, and he turned away from her, shuttering the link they shared.

“Please do not attempt to sense my feelings.” The thin shoulders hunched. “Too many play that game with me, feigning an interest then turning against me or trying to provoke an emotional response. What is it that you really wish to know?”

“Spock, I do not wish to probe inappropriately.”

“Yet, you are curious,” he said stiffly.

“Are you not curious about me? We now share a link. You can sense me; I can sense you, if you allow it.” Experimentally, T’Pring signaled invitation across the link, inviting Spock to sense her curiosity and her wish to know him. But Spock’s shields remained tightly drawn.

“First there were questions from healers. Then teachers and students when I started school. The questions always start off innocuously. Experience has taught me that they are gauging whether my response is Vulcan enough or tainted in some inexplicable way by my dual heritage.”

T’Pring stared at Spock, taken aback by his words and the bitter tone in which they were uttered. Clearly his past experience with the curious had not gone well, but she could think of no better response than the truth.

“Meeting your mother made me wonder about where she was raised. I have never met an off-worlder. When you said she was from Earth, I thought you might be interested about the planet too and want to visit. If I have offended you, I seek forgiveness. I assure you, I meant no disrespect.”

Spock looked down at his sandals pensively. When he looked up again, although he had not lowered his internal guard, his expression had changed, softened. In that moment T’Pring saw Spock’s Human heritage, and it intrigued her.

“Yes, I would like to visit Earth,” he said quietly. “But not just Earth. I would like to explore other planets, other worlds. I have a telescope. Would you like to see it?”

Spock’s eyes lit up and shone with enthusiasm. T’Pring watched with awe at the change and it warmed her.

The telescope stood front and center in the courtyard, pointed at the sky. It was a cloudless night, and the atmospheric interference typical to the season on Vulcan was absent, making the conditions perfect for stargazing. Looking through the eyepiece, Spock showed T’Pring Sol, the star around which Earth revolved, and where the Lady Amanda had been born. Spock told her that Earth had five oceans, and explained when she asked that an ocean was a vast expanse of water. It was hard to imagine a planet with so much water. As Spock talked with enthusiasm about stars and planets and supernovae, T’Pring listened with interest, pleased to have made a positive connection, but wishing that he had felt safe enough to lower his shields. She hoped Spock would come to see her as someone he could trust.

***

“Why were you absent yesterday?” T’Mek asked when T’Pring emerged from her house for the morning walk to school.

“We could see that no one was home,” added Valk.

T’Pring looked shyly down before answering, “I went to Shi’Kahr and was betrothed.”

“What? So soon? To whom?” her friends exclaimed in unison.

“To Spock S’chn T’gai.”

The name meant nothing to her friends, but they repeated it nonetheless.

T’Mek’s eyes held curiosity. “What’s it like? Does it feel different than your familial bond?”

“It does not feel different to me. The link is weak, having just been formed yesterday, but I can sense it is there in the back of my mind.”

Valk was quiet and pensive. “In all our talks you never mentioned a possible link with someone in Shi’Kahr. Have some members of your clan moved there? Is he a distant relation?”

“No. His robes proclaimed him to be from the House of Surak.” T’Pring lifted her head proudly knowing they would appreciate her alliance with such a noble house. She saw a startled look in their eyes, swiftly concealed. T’Pring was surprised they had not asked for more details about Spock, but she was also relieved, because she had not yet gotten over the shock of the fact that he was part Human. Her friends seemed content to speculate about their own future matches on the walk to school.

When she sat with her friends at lunch, T’Petar one of the graduating students who supervised the lower level, asked the reason for her absence the prior day.

“I went to Shi’Kahr. I was betrothed to Spock S’chn T’gai.”

“The half-breed that is heir to the House of Surak,” stated T’Petar, her voice betraying her amazement and gathering the attention of some of other older students, who came over to hear the news.

T’Pring spoke automatically, “his robes indicated he was from the House of Surak,” as her mind recoiled at the shock of that news. Why did my parents fail to tell me he was heir? What will it be like to rule such a prestigious house? “My parents mentioned that the match would bring honor to our clan. I had not thought…”

“I am certain I would not want the honor of being betrothed to a half-breed. A mutation.”

The venom in T’Petar’s voice made T’Pring cringe.

Voices around her quickly explained to the less informed younger students that Spock’s mother was Human and father Vulcan. Some of the older students started to direct questions at her all at once.

“Did you see his mother?”

“Did she behave appropriately?”

“Did she seem emotional?”

She turned in one direction, “Yes, I met his mother,” and then another, “Yes. She did nothing out of the ordinary and followed our customs while I was there,” and then to another, “I noticed nothing unusual. She was pleasant.” T’Pring remembered the warm, understanding smile from Lady Amanda when she had gasped upon first seeing her. She did not want to explain to others how comforted she was that she had not looked upon her with disapproval as her own mother had in that moment.

She tried to focus her mind on eating her salad, berries and nuts, but could not manage to eat anything. Her hand simply clenched tighter around her fork, which remained on the table as she listened to the conversations around her.

“I was in the fifth level when he was born,” Vodar commented. “I did a presentation with T’Mun for my biology class. His father, was the Ambassador to Earth when he met Amanda Grayson, who was a teacher. The Human is his second wife.”

T’Mun’s voice added, “His first wife, T’Ling Letak died giving birth to their child. Spock has an older brother Sybok who has been disowned. I postulate that Sarek had to mate with the Human when his time came upon him while on Earth.”

T’Pring heard Stolen, an older student, object behind her. “That cannot be true. His second wife died only two years prior as a result of a complication during her pregnancy. The timing is not correct.”

Why would two years matter? T’Pring thought, as T’Mun responded, “Leaving Vulcan may change the cycle.”

Another older student voice whispered harshly. “Watch what you say. Some here are too young to know of what you speak.”

Vodar continued. “We postulated that Spock was a product of genetic engineering. Our presentation focused on the genetic differences between Humans and Vulcans and concluded that there were too many differences to be able to cross-breed successfully without medical intervention.”

“I disagree. Evidence exists of natural mutations in species with significant genetic differences,” T’Mun added.

“His family is well aware of the speculations and have not denied that genetic engineering was used,” countered Vodar.

“Neither have they confirmed,” T’Mun stated firmly. “Spock has his right to privacy.”

“The fact that he remains the only hybrid today suggests in either case the challenges of cross-breeding or that there is knowledge that this experiment was a failure.” T’Pring recognized the voice of Katan.

T’Pring felt her cheeks growing flushed as more students gathered to join the debate. An unfamiliar louder voice spoke out over the crowd.

“Regardless of how he was conceived, it is a disgrace that the line of the House of Surak has been diluted with human blood. I suspect it was hard to find anyone in the nobler houses willing to link their daughter to such a freak. That is likely why T’Pring secured the match.”

“Perhaps her father was paid in some way. A new contract for his importing business,” suggested Katan.

T’Pring was dismayed as she heard the general support that the position received by the graduating students. She tried to control the anger and embarrassment that assailed her. My father would not sell me like a sack of gespar in the market!

“I believe Surak would support the union, as it is a demonstration of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination. Perhaps Spock combines the best of both cultures.”

T’Pring felt a surge of happiness that Tuvek, one of the brighter students in the graduating class, had spoken out in support of Spock. However, she was dismayed that only one other student dared to speak out in agreement with Tuvek’s position.

T’Pring started to find it difficult to breathe and could not seem to focus as questions started to be directed at her again in rapid fashion. The younger students who had earlier been simply silently listening also joined in.

“Does he smell disgusting?”

“Does he look strange?”

“Does he have unusual thoughts?”

“Are his emotions overwhelming?”

She started to answer turning from one “No. He did not smell,” then to another, “There was nothing wrong with his appearance.” When she heard her friends, T’Mek and Valk, begin to speculate on whether his ears were round or pointed it became too much. T’Pring rose to her feet fumbling to put the remaining contents of her lunch into her bag, but gave up before accomplishing the task.

She turned before fleeing to ask in a trembling voice, “Why have none of you asked what Spock’s interests were or how he treated me? Is that all you care to know about him?” She pushed her way through the crowd of students, hurried to the bathroom and closed the door, her heart pounding in her side. She tried to slow her breathing to a normal rate. She needed to regain control.

How can Spock stand it? All the thoughtless questions—then she remembered with dismay that after asking about the roses, the next question she had asked was about visiting Earth. That was when he had raised his shields.

She slumped against the wall. Is this what Spock endures every day?

What would it be like to be thought of as someone who had tarnished the House of Surak for simply having a mother from Earth? To be labelled a scientific experiment. She thought how hard it must be for Spock to be judged deficient simply because of his mixed heritage. She resolved to resist that temptation. She would do her best to judge him by his actions and to support him against those who would do elsewise. She wished their link were stronger so she could communicate her support to him. But she was only dimly aware of his existence.

T’Pring heard the door to the bathroom open. Her fingers pressed against the wall, but relaxed as she heard the voices of T’Mek and Valk.

“T’Pring? Are you alright?” asked T’Mek quietly.

T’Pring pushed herself off the wall, squared her shoulders, and opened the door. “I just needed to get away from the questions.” She reached out to take her lunch bag from Valk. “Thank you for bringing this. I am relieved I do not have to go back to get it and answer more questions.”

“Master Tulon came over after you left in a hurry and Tuvek explained what had occurred. As Tuvek explained the discussion and the questions asked of you, many of us felt ashamed. Master Tulon made it clear that he did not approve of what occurred. I wish to ask forgiveness for speculating with T’Mek about whether Spock had round or pointed ears. Appearances are superficial.”

T’Pring smiled slightly at Valk. “You are forgiven. His ears are pointed. He looks just like all the boys here, other than he is slighter in build.” She paused bringing a picture of Spock into her mind, “He has lovely brown expressive eyes. He also has an interest in science and the stars.” It was nice to talk to her friends about Spock and she looked forward to them all talking about their betrotheds once her friends had gone through their own joining ceremony.

***

Spock glanced up from his desk when his mother entered his room. He reached out, “Thank you for the lemonade.”

His mother seated herself on the edge of his bed. “You never told me what you and T’Pring did after the tei van-kal?”

Spock wondered why she had not asked that day if she wanted to know, but gave up on speculation as he knew he likely would not be able to solve that riddle.

“I took her around the courtyard and gardens.” Spock watched his mother’s reaction as he sipped his lemonade. “I showed her my telescope and talked to her about space.” His mother’s open face seemed to be waiting for him to say more – but what? Is she concerned T’Pring rejected me, like the others, but does not want to ask? Spock wondered.

“She seems like a curious girl. Her eyes were darting everywhere. I got the sense she wanted to ask questions, but with the formality of the occasion she was holding herself back from speaking freely. Was she more talkative when removed from the watchful eyes of her parents?”

“Affirmative. She asked about where you were raised, whether I would like to visit Earth,” he said releasing a small sigh, one that he never would have let slip in the presence of his father, but he knew his mother would not judge. “It made me nervous. When T’Pring indicated she could sense my tension, I accused her of trying to trap me into admitting my emotions.” Spock took a sip of his lemonade. “However, I meditated on it later. I think I may have misjudged her. Her later actions revealed a genuine interest in Earth and my hobbies. I suppose it would be hard not to be curious in her position.”

His mother gave him a small smile. “Don’t be too hard on yourself,” she said gently. “Given your experiences it is understandable that you might be wary of others. Try and remember to keep an open mind about her. To have a successful match, you will need to learn to trust her.”

“No doubt father wished an early ceremony to prevent me being left in a position of embarrassment with no mate.” As soon as the words had left his lips Spock wished he could retract them. For it clearly revealed that he been listening in on conversations he was not meant to have heard. He swallowed hastily the remainder of his lemonade and looked into the empty glass avoiding his mother’s eyes. Out of the corner of his eye he’d seen her look up sharply at his remark.

His mother paused a moment, then rose slowly to cross the room and squeeze his shoulder.

“That is not true. Once you passed your kahs-wan he saw it as his duty to secure your match within six months as is the custom of his clan. If you were of a different clan, the arrangements may not have been made for years. He explained to me that joining early will allow you to get to know one another over the years ahead; you can communicate through your link, something he found beneficial with his first wife.”

Spock continued to continue look down, but his mother would have none of that and tipped his chin up, smiling slightly as she held his gaze. “As you may know already, I did not initially prefer an early joining ceremony as early betrothals are not a widespread custom on Earth anymore. I argued for the option of a later bonding, despite tradition. We discussed the possible advantages of waiting, but your father preferred the traditional path for your clan. I acquiesced because I believe it is advantageous to learn about each other before marriage and your father explained to me that you could initiate a p’pil’lay if you later do not feel compatible with T’Pring. But obviously talk of breaking the betrothal bond is premature at this time. You need to get to know T’Pring and now have the time to do so.”

Spock handed his mother his empty lemonade glass and watched as she left his room. Before continuing his studies he contemplated for a moment the words she had said, including the importance of learning about each other before marriage and the need for trust.

He wondered fleetingly if the decision he had made just this morning to shield himself from T’Pring was the correct one. He had meditated on the matter and thought it best to shield himself until he had better mastery over himself. In that way, he would not give T’Pring cause to regret her betrothal link to him. He did not want her to know of the many times he failed to maintain control and let his emotions rule when he was provoked. He knew he was already a disappointment to his father at those times. He did not want to disappoint his ko-kugalsu as well.

When I am older and have better control, then I will share more of myself with her, as then I will be someone with whom she could be proud to be linked. We will still have many years to build trust, he told himself, reaffirming his early decision. He then turned to resume his studies.

 

 adun’a – wife

gespar fruit that tastes tangy and piquant, grown in temperate zone of Kir Province

ko-kugalsu – fiancée (female)

ko-mekh – mother

koon’ul the joining ceremony

ozh-svin-math keyboard

p’pil’lay – breaking the betrothel bond / divorce

sa-mekh – father

tei van-kal – tea ceremony

mekhu parents

 

Chapter Text

“T’Pring, how can you be so interested in the benefits of mutations in the genetic code? Master Tulon has discussed evolution for 16 classes in succession. There must be something else to learn in biology,” complained T’Mek on their walk home.

“I can’t help it. I find it fascinating. Think about how beneficial it will be to those colonizing planets if we can design crops suited to the growing conditions and biosphere.”

“Tampering with the genetic code is not always beneficial. Remember the discussion we had about the Eugenics Wars on Earth when scientists tried to manipulate genes to create a better Human,” reminded Valk.

“Affirmative. I agree there should be some restraints. But I believe the benefits outweigh the risks, provided there are adequate controls.”

Valk stopped and turned to T’Pring. “Forgive me if this gives offence, but I am curious. Is Spock a product of genetic engineering?”

“I do not know.” T’Pring looked away, not because of the nature of the question, but to prevent further questioning regarding why she did not know the answer. It also allowed her to continue to conceal the pain caused by her sa-kugalsu with his unrelenting silence.

Why does Spock not trust me? Have I done something to cause him to act so?

Embarrassment had kept her from confiding in her friends that Spock kept his shields raised at all times. She wanted them to think she had open communication, just like they did with their betrothed, but the truth was they had only communicated once since their betrothal, and that had not been done using their link.

*

They had flown to Shi’Kahr for the closing celebration of the Gad-muf t’ tanaf. It was just after her 13th birthday. They had been invited as guests of the Ambassador. It was an honor as this was the 100th anniversary of the art festival. There was music, live performances and artistic displays. After greeting Ambassador Sarek and Lady Amanda with her parents she had been excused to explore. They had indicated that Spock was in the wing housing Federation contributions. She was headed towards the Andorian display when she spotted some individuals moving quickly away from someone on the ground. She had thought it odd that no one had stayed behind while the others went for help and moved down the hall to investigate. To her surprise, it was Spock who lay on the ground and was pushing himself up from a crouched position. She had recognized him from his school picture the prior year which his mother had sent.

“Have the others gone for assistance?” she had asked innocently.

“Negative.”

The certainty in his voice had made her pause. It was then she observed footprints on his tunic. “I should report this incident to security.”

He quickly rose to his feet. “Please do not. It will only make matters worse.”

“Has this happened before?”

He hesitated, then turned away, brushing the dust off his clothes.

“We should at least tell your parents.”

He turned back to her then with a tortured look. “It will only make my mother worry. Then I will see disappointment in my father’s eyes. I knew Spelmar had arrived. I should have known better than to venture into such a deserted area. However, I had wanted to see the display of musical instruments before more crowds arrived and foolishly—”

“It appeared as though they attacked you.”

“The Masters say it is my responsibility to avoid situations where confrontation may arise. My father has counselled the same.”

It was odd to hear Spock blaming himself for the attack. A thought quickly tumbled out. “Did you do something to provoke—”

“I exist,” he had said, a bitter edge to his voice.

Then she had understood. She chewed the inside of her cheek, wishing to make amends. “It is not necessary for you to deal with this alone. If you did not shield, I could offer—.”

“I must learn to deal with this myself,” he had said, his tone of voice decisive. Then, “I never did get to the display. Would you accompany me?”

She had wanted to push for him to trust her, but did not, aware that she had given him no reason. Only moments before she had suggested he might have provoked the attack.

The couple of hours they had spent together had been pleasant. Although she had felt the strain of trying to maintain the conversation. She surmised Spock spent much of his time alone as he never mentioned taking part in social activities with others, but based on her discussions she could tell he had a wide variety of interests that seemed to engage him. She had departed with her parents, and had not heard from him since, other than the brief message that was on her computer when she had arrived home that night. “I appreciated your silence.”

*

The quick touch of Valk’s hand on her shoulder brought her back to the present. “How is it possible that after six years you do not know?”

“I have never asked the question. He dislikes discussing… ahhhh!” T’Pring stumbled to the ground clutching the side of her head.

“Are you alright? What happened?” T’Mek knelt down beside her.

T’Pring pressed her fingers against the side of her head just behind her ear. “I felt a sudden stabbing pain here. It was momentarily over-whelming.”

“Is the pain still there? Are you able to walk, or should we get assistance?” T’Mek asked.

“No. It is gone now. Well, not gone exactly. Under control. I think it came from Spock. The pain seemed to emanate from where the link to him resides.” T’Pring stood up, brushing the dirt from her knees. A slight scrape oozing green blood visible.

“He should learn to control better; you could get injured,” said T’Mek in a dismissive manner as they resumed their walk home.

T’Pring felt her frustration flare. “You tell us all the time the things you sense from your sa-kugalsu. How is this any different?”

“Yes. But nothing my bondmate has projected has ever caused me to stumble. It must be that he lacks proper discipline in his controls.”

T’Pring was offended by T’Mek’s remark. She had heard the implied insult: that Spock lacked control because he was half Human. If she had shared the truth regarding how Spock had shielded her from his mind they would know how strong his controls were, and that there was nothing deficient with regard to his mind control. Now she simply wanted to make them understand.

After taking a moment to reassert her own control, she calmly confronted her friend. “T’Mek, you commented last week that you sensed Storel was upset over a grade he received in chemistry. Is that not correct?”

“Affirmative.”

“You did not comment that he lacked proper training in his controls at that time. You worried about whether he would get into the school he desired,” T’Pring challenged. “In the last seven years, nothing like this has ever happened previously. That such pain came through so intensely has me concerned that it is a serious injury and not a trivial matter such as a poor grade. Can you not understand that?”

Valk interjected. “I think T’Mek was just worried about your safety. She did not mean to disparage Spock’s controls. Did you?” She looked between the two girls, her expression clearly hoping for peace.

T’Pring could see the regret in T’Mek’s eyes as she bowed her head. “It was an inappropriate remark out of my concern for you. I admit I know nothing about Spock’s mind controls. I do hope everything is alright with Spock,” she said contritely as they arrived at T’Pring’s residence.

“So do I.” T’Pring nodded a good-bye and turned to enter her home. Her mother called out a welcome and T’Pring followed the voice to the kitchen where her mother was chopping vegetables for the evening meal.

As she entered the kitchen, her mother immediately put down her knife and hurried over.

“What has happened?” she asked, bending to inspect the abrasion on her knee. “We should clean this to avoid infection. Come to the bathroom.”

T’Pring allowed herself to be led. She was feeling unusually vulnerable. “Mother, I am not concerned about myself. This is trivial. It is Spock that I am concerned about. I stumbled when I felt pain across my link with him. Would it be acceptable to contact Spock’s family to determine if anything serious has happened to him?”

“Perhaps he just lacks proper control,” she said dismissively as she applied some anti-sceptic to the cut.

T’Pring slammed her hand down on the bathroom counter, jarring the water glass and soap dish.

“Why must everyone assume the fault is with Spock? I doubt you would make the same assumption if he wasn’t half Human.”

T’Mae looked at her in surprise and stood up, her eyebrows raised. T’Pring knew she’d crossed a line, but continued anyway. This needed to be said, and someone had to hear it.

“His controls are excellent. This is not typical. Even now I know something is not quite right. My connection to him is… off.” T’Pring did not know how to explain it. She tried anyway, her worry for Spock trumping embarrassment at revealing her lack of contact with Spock. “Normally I am aware of the link, though I cannot sense Spock’s thoughts because he shields them from me.”

T’Mae creased her brow, but T’Pring pushed forward quickly. “Now the link is brighter, but there is just a jumble of incoherent thoughts. Something is wrong.”

T’Mae regarded her speculatively for a moment.

“Alright. It is your betrothal bond. I believe you. Go and work on your homework.”

T’Pring went straight to her desk, hoping to avoid any discussion of her own shameful loss of control. She thought for a moment she had succeeded until her mother arrived at her bedroom door.

“While I understand your concern for your bondmate, your outburst bears reflection. I do not appreciate the disrespect you have showed. T’Pring, you must be mindful that in sharing a link with one who is half Human, his choices and behavior will reflect on you. This is regrettable, but inevitable. You would do well to minimize the cause others have for judgment; I say this out of concern for you as your mother. While I place a call to Spock’s mother, remain here and consider my words.”

A few minutes later she heard her mother on a communication link with Amanda, apologizing for the interruption, explaining that T’Pring was concerned about Spock’s welfare. Curiosity won out over diligent duty, and T’Pring crept down the hall, positioning herself so she could see Amanda on the video link while remaining out of view herself. Spock’s mother was clutching her hands together and talking in a firm, even tone, not the melodic one she remembered from their prior meeting. I was right, she thought to herself. She is clearly distressed.

“Spock refuses to say what happened, but the way the humerus bone was broken it could not have been an accident. And there were other injuries as well. He has two fractured ribs and the bruises on his back look like someone kicked him with the intent to injure,” Amanda said with anguish.

“Has this happened before?”

Yes, thought T’Pring, simultaneous with Amanada’s response.

“Yes T’Mae, but it has never been as bad as this. Things seem to have gotten worse since he started high school and his standing improved to first place. It appears that no one wants to see him excel,” Amanda sighed. “Except his parents.”

T’Pring could not let Amanda think Spock was without supporters. She had defended Spock today against her friends and family and would continue to do so in the future. She stepped into view of the screen and stated clearly, “I wish for Spock to excel.”

“T’Pring! Where are your manners? It is disgraceful to intrude on a private conversation, as you well know,” her mother scolded.

The smile on Amanda’s face suggested that she did not object to the interruption.

“Well, it pleases me to know that you are in Spock’s corner too, T’Pring.”

T’Pring walked closer to the monitor to stand directly behind her mother. “Is he alright now? I sensed a brief explosion of pain, then it seemed like he controlled it, but since then his thoughts have been jumbled. It is most concerning.”

“Thank you for asking. The doctor gave him some pain medication. As you know, he is too young to enter a healing trance, as he has not yet received all the proper training in such techniques. The medication may be interfering with his mental processes. I hope it is not too disconcerting for you.”

T’Pring shook her head. “I can manage it by shielding on my end.”

“If Spock were awake, he would want to apologize to you for the pain he caused unintentionally.”

“It was of no consequence. I asked my mother to contact you because I was concerned for Spock, not for any other reason.”

T’Pring watched Amanda glance behind her distractedly. “Sarek has just arrived. If you will forgive me, I need to update him on Spock’s status. Thank you for taking the time to call.”

Before Amanda terminated the link, T’Pring called out, “Please tell Spock I wish him well in his recovery.”  

T’Mae fixed T’Pring with a cold glare. “It is well that your instincts about Spock were correct; however, it does not excuse your behaviour.”

“What happened to Spock is not right,” she protested. This wasn’t something T’Pring was willing to let go.

“It is regrettable that he was injured. But perhaps he had an emotional outburst that provoked the attack. We do not know the facts.”

“Agreed. Why do you presume he is responsible? The Lady Amanda suggested otherwise.”

T’Mae’s lips thinned in displeasure. “She is his mother, T’Pring. I presume nothing. But I have not forgotten he is half Human. Nor have I forgotten that your reactions today have been extreme. You have rarely behaved in such an emotional manner. Do you think your link with Spock has impaired your own controls?”

“Negative. Being linked to Spock has made me aware from a peripheral vantage point of what he may have to endure. Students make inappropriate remarks to me about him and disparage our arrangement who have never met him.” T’Pring paused feeling her cheeks warm as she recalled some of the remarks she had to endure after the unit on Vulcan reproduction.

“Ko-mekh, I wonder whether these attacks are because other Vulcans are afraid to see him succeed. He may have reacted first, but that would not justify the injuries he sustained. From what his mother said, he was clearly outnumbered. He could simply have been restrained. It is not right.”

“We are agreed on that point T’Pring. However, that does not absolve you from your behaviour today. You shall return home immediately after school for the duration of the week and will not be allowed to socialize with your friends this weekend. I expect that you will devote additional time to meditation today, and that you will reflect on how you may better comport yourself in the future in a similar circumstance.”

T’Pring nodded to her mother. She was turning to leave when she continued speaking. “You stated early that Spock has kept his mind shielded from you. I could speak to your father. I am certain he would approach Sarek to speak with his son about the inappropriateness of such behaviour without cause.”

“Please do not. This is a private matter between us.” T’Pring quickly interjected, remembering Spock’s concern about being a disappointment to his father. In any case, Spock could not be made to trust her. I will earn his trust.

“You can consider this matter as well while you are in your room. Let me know if you change your mind.”

T’Pring turned and returned to her room frustrated. A week’s punishment for being right! Spock had been severely injured, not lacking in controls. She took a calming breath and remembered her mother had acknowledged this fact. Perhaps she should reflect on whether an alternative approach could have been equally as supportive to Spock, but less disrespectful to her mother.

 

***

Spock awoke to the relaxing sound of his mother discussing with his father the new species of rose she intended to introduce into her garden. He realized he was in his room and momentarily wondered why his parents were here, and what he was doing in bed at such at early hour of the evening. Then he remembered the attack and flinched. His eyes fluttered open.

“Are you thirsty, Spock?” His father’s voice was grave, his face unreadable, but Spock felt concern for his well-being through the link they shared.

Spock nodded and his father brought him a glass of water. “Thank you, sa-mekh.”

His mother reached out from her chair to touch his hand. He sensed her worry. “How is the pain, dear? The doctor left some medication, in case you need it.”

“It is manageable at the moment.”

“Your mother made some stew for dinner. Would you like something to eat?”

“Affirmative.” Spock replied. After Sarek left the room, he put his good arm around his mother’s shoulder to lever himself into a sitting position.

Amanda reseated herself then looked at Spock kindly. “T’Mae called. T’Pring was concerned for your welfare.”

“How did she kn…” Spock started to say, then paused, looking down before muttering quietly to himself, “our link.”

Amanda nodded. “She sensed your pain.”

Spock looked out his window, unable to meet his mother’s eyes. “No doubt she wanted to gloat about my inability to contain my emotions in a Vulcan-like manner,” he said, failing to keep the bitterness from his voice, despite the pause he had taken prior to responding, in an effort to control his feelings.

Spock felt his mother shaking his arm gently. “Look at me, Spock.” He turned and looked into her compassionate blue eyes. “That was not it at all. She was genuinely concerned. She came into the room as I spoke to T’Mae. She asked me to tell you she wished you well in your recovery.” Spock knew his mother believed what she said as he felt it through their contact; however, his mother was a trusting individual. He was not convinced of T’Pring’s sincerity. In his experience, he had yet to meet someone who did not gloat with superiority when he failed to maintain control. His mother simply did not understand what full Vulcans thought of him.

When Sarek returned with his dinner a few minutes later, Spock determined that he would divert the conversation away from the topic of T’Pring and her motivations. At least it was his left arm that was broken so he could feed himself. “When I awoke, I heard you telling father about a new rose you purchased?”

For a moment Spock thought his mother was not going to let their prior discussion drop. His head dropped at the thought of his father hearing that his controls had failed so miserably that T’Pring knew of his distress. But then Amanda sighed in acquiescence and began to extol the features of her latest acquisition. He ate his dinner quickly, dreading a return to the topic, then asked his parents to leave so he could rest. As he drifted off to sleep, he resolved to work further on his shields, thinking that he must not give T’Pring, or anyone else, another opportunity to see his weakness.

***

 

Spock sat on his meditation mat reflecting on his years in high school, now finished. He was proud of his accomplishments. Even his father had not found fault with his standing and his final grades. He had finished top of his class in both sciences and linguistics which would help him achieve his goal of admission to the Vulcan Science Academy. His telepathic skills were more powerful than many of his peers, and as such he had been allowed to take additional classes to enhance his knowledge of certain healing techniques. The techniques learned also allowed him to further improve his shielding.

The only real blemish was the episode with Velshun and the aftermath with T’Pring. The memory came back unbidden.

Spock closed his eyes. He found himself immediately back at the school, two days after the attack which had fractured three of his ribs, kneeling before the Masters. He was still healing, and the occasional twinge in his side reminded him of the need to be careful in this position. But Spock grit his teeth, determined to see this through. Sarek looked on impassively.

“Velshun stated you attacked him with an intent to injure. He indicated that in the fight that followed, when defending himself, you were slammed against a rock which caused your ribs to fracture and punctured your lung. Is this true?”

“Affirmative.” Spock forced himself to look at Masters Tupok, Balek and Stolkar individually.

“Do you offer any explanation for your attack?” Master Tupok asked.

Spock dipped his head, avoiding eye contact. “None that justifies my actions.”

Master Balek continued. “Velshun admitted in his account that prior to your physical attack on his person he had issued disparaging remarks about you and your parentage. I will not repeat those remarks today. When I discussed this with the other Masters, we all agreed that as you have matured, we have observed your ability to successfully ignore such remarks.” Master Balek paused, and as he did, Spock felt his eyes drawn to him. Master Balek was the only teacher he had that did not seem to resent his success and had actually complimented him (he still was not sure if it was a compliment) on his insatiable curiosity. It was Master Balek who had paired him with Velshun when he’d joined the school mid-semester, relieving him of having to work with Spelmar, who had been a tormentor from an early age. “I had thought you had found someone with an equal thirst for knowledge in Velshun. Is there nothing you wish to say in your defense?”

Spock thought for a moment that perhaps he could tell Master Balek. He might listen and understand, as he had seemed to sense his need for a companion – had seemed to intuitively understand how alone he felt. Only Master Balek had ever been available to him for extra time after class for further discussion. Only Master Balek had asked him questions that suggested an interest in him as a person. But then Master Stolkar cleared his throat, breaking Spock’s connection with Master Balek — he remembered the others present. He could not explain the humiliating truth to them: that he had lost control because he was hurt when Velshun rejected him, like all the rest. ‘Know the truth’ he had said. Velshun, whom he had thought was his first friend, was no more than a mirage in the Vulcan desert to one dying of thirst, joined in a game to humiliate him with Spelmar. They would not understand his pain: pain was an emotion, something he should be able to control. He wished Velshun had not come to the school. If he had not allowed himself to hope, then he would not feel this crushing despair.

Spock focused on Master Balek alone.“I can offer no further explanation. I apologize for my loss of control.” He shuddered a little as the Master’s lips turned down in a slight frown of disappointment, although his eyes remained soft.

“Upon your return, you will apologize to Velshun in front of the student assembly. You will also not be eligible to be deliver the Valedictorian speech at Graduation ceremonies even if you maintain your present academic standing, as your behaviour is not that which we wish others to emulate.” When Master Stolkar finished his proclamation, he turned abruptly and the others followed him out. The only sympathetic glance he had received was from Master Balek.

Sarek offered no assistance as he pushed off his knees to standing. The silence on the walk home confirmed to Spock the disappointment he must be to his father. His only words on arrival were that he should go to his room and meditate on his actions.

Moments later his mother came to his room, “T’Pring has called again asking for an update on your health. I promised that you would return her call this time when you returned.”

Spock went to his computer console and slowly sat in the chair taking care not to put pressure on his tightly wrapped ribs. He clicked on her contact information and was connected immediately.

The apparent look of concern on T’Pring’s face when the connection was opened was unexpected.

“How are you recovering Spock?”

“Adequately. I apologize for my lack of control upon the initial injury. It was the suddenness…”

T’Pring interrupted him. “You have no need to apologize Spock. The pain must have been excruciating. Who is the individual who did this to you? Is he being punished?” T’Pring’s eyes appeared to flash with anger.

“Velshun.” Spock found it painful to say his name and realized he had barely whispered it. He spoke louder, “No punishment is required. I attacked him. I simply lost the battle.”

“Velshun did nothing to provoke you?”

Spock felt T’Pring’s eyes boring into him. Had she sensed something despite his attempts at shielding. It was as though she knew he hurt inside – not just in his body.

“I did not say that. He issued verbal insults. Insults I have heard before…” Spock looked away from the computer screen. “Must you make me say it? I lost control and physically attacked him,” he ground out. “I am the one being punished. It is deserved.”

Eventually T’Pring’s silence caused Spock to look back at the computer screen. Her furrowed brow suggested she was contemplating what he had said. “I am not judging you. I presume you have heard these insults before. They were not unique.”

“Affirmative.”

“And those previous times you did not lose control.”

“Not for several years, at least.”

T’Pring gave a quick nod indicating understanding of that remark. “Then why now?”

When Spock glanced at T’Pring, he thought she projected support. But was it yet another illusion?

“I do not wish to discuss it.”

“I am trying to understand, Spock. How can I help you if I do not understand who you are? Let me in. Let me know the truth.”

Spock looked intently across the screen. Then suddenly he dropped his shields for a moment allowing a wave of his anguish and despair to pulse across their link. He watched as T’Pring gasped, before slamming his shields back in place. He then slowly annunciated each word of his response. “Understand this. You cannot help me. This is what I shield you from. I will not subject you to my emotional turmoil. It is mine to bear. I do not want my failure to control such emotions to be analyzed, dissected, observed. I want to be left alone.”

T’Pring recoiled back from the screen, as if slapped. But when he looked again, her gaze remained steadily on him. Spock could not decipher her look? Was it pity? Was it because of the emotions he unleashed on her with no warning or his harsh words?

Spock regretted that he had lashed out; she had not caused his pain. She had only offered assistance. It was Velshun that caused his pain. But Spock knew he could not afford to hope and trust another again. Spock had done that with Velshun. He thought him a friend. If a friend were to betray him so spectacularly, how much less could he risk sharing himself with T’Pring – what if she should turn from him – disgusted by his lack of control due to his unchecked emotions? What would she think of him if she knew he had physically lashed out in his despair when he realized he did not have a friend? That the anguish that raged within him was due to that fact. She could not possibly understand what it was like be alone always—to have no one who could be trusted.

“Forgive my actions and choice of words. They were uncalled for. But, I must deal with this myself.”

After a long pause, T’Pring replied, “I hope you feel differently in the future Spock. Perhaps with time you will appreciate that I want to assist you. But I accept it is your choice. Do you think this incident will interfere with your ability to gain admission to the Vulcan Science Academy?”

Spock heard the door to his room open and he removed himself from the past. He regretted that he had been so harsh with T’Pring, but it had been effective: she had kept her distance since that incident. Yet, his conscious troubled him. Although he had apologized, he knew it likely had not expunged his harsh words. Many hours of meditation had not resolved whether the course of action he followed was the correct one. What if he had revealed all? But, how could he have possibly explained his emotional outburst without losing the respect of his ko-kugalsu. It was better if he distanced himself from her while he mastered his emotions.

 

Gad-muf t’ tanaf – Festival of the Arts

ko-kugalsu - fiancee (female)

sa-kugalsu - fiancé (male)

 

Chapter Text

T’Pring approached the Ambassador’s residence and paused resting her hand on the black cast-iron gate. She remembered her nervous excitement twelve years ago as she had arrived with her parents at the large estate. She had not realized then that she was betrothed to the heir of the House of Surak and would one day reside in such a magnificent home. Spock had seemed anxious that day as well, but had opened up when he spoke of us his interest in science. She had hoped that they would grow to be friends before they were permanently joined, but Spock’s mind remained shuttered to her.

T’Pring released a small breath to calm her nerves as she pushed the gate open and walked down the sandstone path. I must get Spock to speak to me today, she thought. Perhaps it was wrong not to have reached out to him since the incident with Velshun 1.8 years ago; however, his message had been clear that he did not want to communicate. So she had ignored the two other brief instances when she had felt something across their link, not because she did not care about his well-being, but because any offering of care on her behalf seemed to drive him further away. But recently during her own meditation sessions she had sensed vaguely a persistent feeling of tension that he had not been able to block — much different from the short bursts of pain in the past. That feeling, combined with the news from T’Mek, had resolved her mind to seek an in-person meeting with her betrothed.

T’Pring was welcomed at the door by a servant who ushered her into the library. I hope this meeting will bring us closer together and not push us farther apart. She walked over to the window and looked out onto Amanda’s garden. The scent of the roses was a lasting memory.

Spock appeared a few moments later wearing a light brown meditation robe and sandals. He bowed in her direction. “Welcome. Would you care for some water?” he asked, meticulously following the traditional custom of offering visitors refreshment upon arrival during the heat of the day. While Spock’s words said welcome, his closed-off expression suggested he wished her anything but.

“No, thank you.” He is handsome, but uncommonly thin, T’Pring thought to herself. I wonder what he thinks of my appearance? She smoothed her hands self-consciously across her fitted green dress, trying to recollect how she’d planned to start this conversation, taking in his wary demeanor. “I am here because my friend T’Mek heard from her father, who is working currently at the Vulcan Science Academy, that you declined admission. I sense this must have been a difficult decision.” T’Pring was dismayed with herself that she had let it slip that she had sensed anything at all, knowing it was her own nervousness that caused the slip, but the damage was done: Spock visibly stiffened at her words. Knowing there was nothing to be gained by apologizing for sensing anything, she continued. “Is it true?”

“Affirmative.” Spock looked at her coldly behind a rigid mask.

Seeing Spock’s reticence to elaborate further, T’Pring pushed the conversation forward. “Please explain the logic of turning down such an offer. You are gifted in the study of science. When you last wrote you indicated that your goal was to attend the Vulcan Science Academy, and clearly you had such an intent, otherwise you would not have gone through the difficult entrance exams and interview process over the summer in order to gain admission. Did something occur which caused you to decline this offer? Is it this decision which has caused you stress or some other matter?”

“If the leakage of my emotions has disturbed you, accept my apology.”

When Spock attempted to turn away, T’Pring stepped in front of him to maintain visual contact. She knew she needed to read his body language, as he was too well shielded to know his mind. “I am not disturbed. Why do you presume that I am?”

Spock tilted his head slightly to the side as if in thought.

How can I make him understand that I have not come here to judge him?

“When my father was injured last year, it was difficult to contain my emotions. My fear.” T’Pring swallowed, as the memory of how she had struggled to contain her emotions can back to her. “You wrote the day after the accident asking if there was any matter causing me distress. It is the only time you initiated contact with me. I suspect it was because my emotions leaked through your shields.” She almost smiled when she saw his right eyebrow arch slightly. Clearly, he had felt something and reached out for that reason. He does care about me, at least a little.

While she should be ashamed that she had lost control, she actually was thrilled that she had finally connected in some way with Spock and that his reaction indicated he had specifically been reacting to what he had sensed. “As you know, Surak does not demand perfection in the suppression of emotional response. Did you judge me when I was less than perfect and transmitted my emotions through your shields?” she asked rhetorically. As she spoke, she watched Spock’s expression soften a little. Perhaps there was hope that she could make him trust her enough to share the truth. “I simply want to understand why you would decline an offer that you have strived your whole life to obtain. I remember the day we first met, the light that shone from your eyes when you began to speak of science and the stars. This decision could not have been easy to make. I know it is your life and you can decide your own career. But will you at least share what has prompted this decision?”

Spock nodded. “Perhaps we should take a seat as this may take some time.” Spock pointed to a couple of ornately carved chairs with a deep purple velour cushions placed in front of a stone hearth.

When they were seated and facing each other Spock began to speak. “I acknowledge that until very recently my goal has been to attend the Vulcan Science Academy. I applied with the full intent of accepting any invitation granted. However, as the interview process progressed I grew tired of explaining how I had overcome the handicap of my Human heritage through my secondary education. I wondered, not for the first time, whether there was some place where I could be accepted for who I am, without concern for what I am not. I am not certain you can understand . . .”

T’Pring sighed inwardly for Spock. Where was such a place to be found? He was unique. He had to face that fact. “You are half Human and half Vulcan. There are no others like you. Where can you turn, that you will not be judged for being different?”

“I believe I have found such a place. Or at least a place that offers me an opportunity for more acceptance than here. I have accepted admission into the academy at Star Fleet in the sciences program.”

T’Pring tried to suppress the expression of surprise that she knew fleetingly crossed her face, lest Spock think she did not think he could succeed at Star Fleet. The news was simply too unexpected not to give into the panic she felt for herself if Spock went away. T’Pring heard the slight tremor in her voice as she tried to continue the conversation. “Did it not occur to you to discuss this with me before making a decision?”

Spock’s look of amazement told T’Pring that he had not, even before he began to speak, “I had assumed since we are not in regular contact that you would be indifferent as to my residence, whether on Vulcan or on Earth. Our present level of communication would not be impacted.”

T’Pring could not help but reveal some of her frustration. “What makes you think I am satisfied with the current level of communication? If you did not shield from me always, you would know me better and would never have made such an erroneous assumption. I had hoped that now that we were older we could visit and learn more about each other.”

Spock clasped his hands and steepled his fingers. He closed his eyes for a moment and when he opened them again, she was surprised by the change. The steely coldness seemed to have vanished. “It was wrong of me to not have reached out to you. Perhaps I was unconsciously trying to avoid further objections to my leaving.”

T’Pring heard the weary sadness in Spock’s voice and suspected the news had not been well received by his parents. I’ll ask about that later, she thought, knowing she needed to understand what this meant for them first. “How long will you have to leave Vulcan to attend Star Fleet?”

“I will need to go to San Francisco, a city on Earth, for four years to train, as this is where the Star Fleet Academy is located. The first two years would be in residence. If I continue to be successful, the latter two years would be a combination of space exploration and time at Star Fleet Academy. After graduation from the four year program, I intend to apply for a scientific post on a ship engaged in exploratory missions.”

As Spock spoke, each of T’Pring’s hands curled around the carving on the chairs, trying to steady herself. What will this do to our link? Think of Spock, what this means to him, a chance to gain recognition and acceptance, she told herself. She wanted those things for him, too. A torrent of questions poured forth: “What assurances will Star Fleet make that your nutritional needs shall be met? Will you be allowed a room with appropriate temperature control or additional thermal clothing to keep you warm? Will you be allowed sufficient time to meditate?”

It was obvious from his reaction that Spock was surprised by her questions. “I confess,” he said contemplatively, “that I did not consider such matters as they were not instrumental to my decision making. Although Star Fleet is predominantly comprised of Humans, there are other species represented, as I am sure you are aware. I will not be the only one who is different. I assume there are policies promoting the comfort and well-being of all personnel within Star Fleet.”

Sensing in his patient response that Spock had relaxed somewhat, T’Pring dared to probe more personally, “Do you need this time on Earth amongst Humans?” she asked quietly, willing her betrothed to understand why she asked the question. Please don’t take offense.

Spock looked at her intently as the words left her lips. T’Pring returned his gaze with a steady calm. Surprisingly, she felt a glimmer of light in her mind. Spock had lowered his shields and reached out along their link. She welcomed him in as she knew her conscience was clear. The question had been asked because she cared about his mental and physical well-being. She would not judge him if he had a need to explore this half of his heritage more fully. All too soon the soft glimmer faded as Spock withdrew, leaving T’Pring disappointed and hurt that he had not invited her into his mind to share his thoughts.

Spock now rested his chin on his steepled fingers before answering her question in what appeared to be a thoughtful open manner. “I am not certain that being among Humans will help my mental well-being. In fact, I do have some concern that living among so many unshielded beings on Earth will be a challenge to my mental health; however, I know that I need to leave Vulcan for a time. I would like to be judged for my actions and accomplishments without qualifiers regarding my biology.”

How can I object to such a request? T’Pring felt anguish in the depths of her heart, torn between a desire to support her sa-kugalsu, but fearing his departure might hurt their own future bonding. Who among us does not want to be accepted for who we are? She thought back on the many times she had felt frustrated with her peers, with Spock’s peers, with all who had harshly judged him on their home world.

“Do you intend to adopt a Human lifestyle while on Earth?” T’Pring was both curious as well as fearful of his response. What if he returns radically different? At least she could understand him in some small measure currently.

“Negative. I intend to maintain my Vulcan heritage. My reasons for doing this are as stated.” T’Pring watched as Spock paused to gather himself before he continued after a slight pause. “I hope that I might be accepted as I am in Star Fleet.”

As Spock reiterated his hope, it reminded her of the day when he had spoken with rapture about his interest in science and the stars. However, she wondered if he was being too optimistic. “You believe Vulcans compare you to other Vulcans and find you are not Vulcan enough. Humans may compare you against other Humans and perhaps find you too Vulcan,” T’Pring cautioned.

“That may be the case. But at least I will have tried to find acceptance. If I stay on Vulcan…” Spock did not finish the thought as he dropped his hands onto his thighs and his head hung forward.

T’Pring wanted to shout, I accept you. But she knew it would not be enough. She leaned towards the downcast man beside her, and lightly and briefly touched a hand resting on his leg. “Spock, acceptance comes from within. You are unique. There is no model that you must follow. If you can accept yourself as you are, then you will find peace whether on Vulcan or on Earth.”

Spock turned up the corner of his mouth in an almost-smile as he looked up at her. “You sound like my mother.”

T’Pring felt her own eyes shining, a precious moment of connection. “The Lady Amanda is wise.”

That moment did not last long. T’Pring grew nervous again speculating about how long they would be separated and what this would mean to their link. “Once you graduate how long do you think you will be away?”

“I would strive to be posted to a Starship as their missions would offer me the best opportunity for scientific exploration in uncharted areas of the galaxy. Typically, such missions are 5 years in duration. I would anticipate participating in at least 3 to 4 such missions, although admittedly this depends on numerous factors beyond my control. Beyond that I have not contemplated seriously, although I believe my credentials at the point of resigning my commission would allow me to secure a research position on Vulcan, Earth or another planet.”

T’Pring quickly did the math in her head. Spock would graduate from Star Fleet in 2253. Assuming he found a position quickly, he would return to Vulcan between 2268 and 2273 between the age of 38 and 43. “What if your Time should come upon you when you are on a mission far from Vulcan?”

Spock flinched, but then recovered to answer precisely, “That is not possible. The earliest known on-set of pon farr is age 44.2 and for most it is between 45.5 and 48.5.”

T’Pring could not understand his certainty. She had studied genetics and knew when you mixed two different species together the outcome was not always certain. She signed inwardly thinking that Spock wishing to be seen as a full Vulcan did not change the facts that he was not. “Spock, you must realize normal conventions may not apply to you. I was curious and researched that Humans mature much earlier than Vulcans. Also, you will be off Vulcan, and the impact of the change in the environment and your diet will be unknown. You may mature earlier.” When Spock said nothing in reply she continued bluntly, “Is Star Fleet aware that there may be a biological imperative for your return?”

“Unknown to me. I have not personally made them aware. It is simply too early to discuss such matters,” he said crisply. Then softening his tone, “I did not wish to give Star Fleet any reason to change its mind about my admittance by positing something many years into the future. Since we are speculating about the impact of my hybrid nature, all I can say is that the battery of tests to which I have been subjected to up to the present suggest that I am developing within Vulcan parameters. Since we are speculating. There is also a chance I may never go through pon farr, or it will be less intense.”

T’Pring could not blame Spock for hoping that his Human heritage might prevent him from experiencing the madness of pon farr. She suspected all Vulcan males dreaded the mating urge stripping their logic from them. However, she thought he was being illogical in ignoring the possibility that his Human heritage could accelerate the on-set of pon farr. She leaned forward in her chair.

“Spock, you need to consider these things. What if you mature early and we do mate successfully? Would you return to raise our child with me or would you expect me to do it on my own and for how long? I believe the optimal condition for child rearing is to have two parents. What are your thoughts on this point?” T’Pring pressed.

Spock took a breath, then released a small sigh. He clasped his hands then paused before he held T’Pring’s gaze and replied quietly. “I had assumed that you were aware that as a hybrid, it is unlikely I will be able to sire a child. That you likely would need to use donor sperm to conceive. We could adopt if that is your preference.”

I know that. What made me say that? All I did was make him state something that reminds him of reasons I could find him deficient as a mate. T’Pring froze her face in position. She was well aware that they would likely need to use a sperm donor for her to conceive and had accepted that probability. She did not want to address that now. “I am aware of that fact. I … I just had never anticipated your telling me you were leaving.” Please let him understand that it was a loss of control that caused me to say those things, she thought.

“Will you answer my question?”

Spock tilted his head to the left for a moment, as though he might object, but in the end replied. “I believe a two parent household is the optimal arrangement to allow for different viewpoints; however, when circumstances warrant it, other suitable arrangements can be made. My father in his capacity as Ambassador travelled frequently during my upbringing.”

“But he was not permanently stationed on a ship light years away!” T’Pring looked down at her hands now clenched in her lap in embarrassment for her outburst. “I ask forgiveness. I admit I am finding it difficult to assimilate all of what this may mean to me in a logical manner without passion. I am behaving most shamefully.”

Spock remained quiet while she composed herself. When she looked up again, he was looking at her thoughtfully. His brown eyes somehow seemed to have softened further. “T’Pring, I ask forgiveness. I have been selfish and did not consider the broader implications.” He swallowed audibly and continued, “I confess, in particular, that this emotional desire for acceptance on my part, obfuscated my duty to consider what this might mean to you. But I do commit to you, that in the unlikely event that you conceive a child prior to my tour being completed, that we will decide together at that time the optimal course of action. Further, I will not make decisions which will impact the both of us without your involvement in the future. I have a duty to you which I take seriously.”

Spock’s words and the solemn way in which they were uttered calmed her. “I take my duty to you seriously as well. I want you to find the acceptance you seek. If leaving Vulcan is how you believe that can be achieved, I support that decision. I am satisfied with your promise that in the future you will speak with me prior to making important decisions.” With that said, T’Pring realized that she had little else to say to prolong her visit. Her heart felt as though a fist was squeezing it tightly as she made a request. “If you had not shielded yourself from me, today would not have been a surprise.”

Spock looked down.

Why can he not trust me with his thoughts? T’Pring thought forlornly. Yet she realized they had achieved some understanding of one another today. Perhaps with time he will come to trust me. “I should have reached out, even after you told me to stay away. I could have called or sent a communication, but let you keep me away. Do not shut me out completely. If you feel you cannot lower your shields, will you commit to communicate through other means to allow us to determine our future together?

“Affirmative. I will correspond periodically.”

T’Pring pushed herself to stand up and end the conversation and watched Spock rise as well. As she approached the door of the library, she turned, remembering his earlier sadness and her suspicion about the reason for it. “How are your parents taking the news about your decision to join Star Fleet?”

Spock squared his shoulders stiffly. “My father is not pleased. He has closed our familial bond. He has now left on a diplomatic meeting on Altair and will not return prior to my departure.” She watched as Spock clasped his hands behind his back before continuing. “My mother is saddened that I am leaving and that it has caused a rift with my father. She at least understands that it is necessary for me.”

T’Pring surmised the reaction of Sarek was probably what had caused the distress she felt through the bond. She was stunned that Sarek had taken such a drastic measure. Since Sybok was disowned, Spock was effectively his only son. As such Spock had a duty to his clan. It was likely Sarek believed Spock was not fulfilling his duty by leaving Vulcan; however, she did not understand how Sarek thought cutting off contact with Spock would change his mind. Was it a test of Spock’s resolve? If so, she knew Sarek would not be pleased with the result. T’Pring wondered if there was something she could do to help reconcile their differences before they both got entrenched in their positions. Spock could not afford to lose the limited support he had in his life. It was not healthy for a Vulcan to be without any mental contact.

“Did you explain to Sarek your rationale, the way you explained it to me?”

“Negative. Conversations with my father, even at the best of times, are… challenging. He objects to Star Fleet in principle because in addition to engaging in scientific exploration it is charged with defending Federation interests. Such defense does at time require the use of violence. He believes that it is my duty to use my skills to the benefit of Vulcan and not an institution that resorts to violence.”

“Does that not concern you as well?”

“It does. I spent considerable time meditating on whether if ordered to take a life I would be able to fulfill my duty and whether I would want to place myself in an environment where I or others would be required to do so. I do not know how I will react when faced with such violence, but I do know that if I am present, and see an opportunity to seek a solution in a non-violent manner I will speak my mind. I do believe Vulcan representation on the Federation council has had a positive impact in how disputes are resolved. I could perhaps have an influence on a smaller scale by providing a different perspective. I will evaluate while at the Academy whether different perspectives are accepted. My research to date suggests this is the case, which is what attracted me to Star Fleet over other scientific institutions off Vulcan.”

“If you had selected another institution perhaps your father would have been more accepting of your decision.”

“I do not believe so. It was not his only objection.”

T’Pring’s realized her eyes had widened with surprise.

“He believes I am behaving emotionally by leaving Vulcan. That I should face those that object to my existence and not hide like a k’karee.”

How could Sarek say such a thing? Such a taunt was used in the school yard when accusing another of cowardice.

“He also indicated that I behaved dishonorably and tarnished the name of our House by applying then turning down the offer of the Vulcan Science Academy.” When Spock turned his back T’Pring could see that the knuckles in Spock’s clasped hands had turned white from the pressure.

T’Pring was concerned. Saying that Spock was behaving dishonorably was a grave insult and blocking the parental bond was an extreme action. It was no wonder Spock had been stressed. “I could speak to Sarek on your behalf if you believe it might help. Another impartial voice supporting your decision might persuade him of its logic. If your skills benefit Star Fleet — that will be to the benefit of Vulcan.”

“Negative. My mother has tried.” Spock paused. “Perhaps as you say, if I succeed in my Star Fleet endeavors he will see that I can bring honor to the House of Surak. I seem to have been a disappointment to my father most of my life.”

T’Pring looked into Spock’s eyes and she saw a complex longing for approval. Sarek’s words and actions had clearly hurt Spock deeply. She started to reach out to touch his smooth cheek and assure him that he could find what he was looking for with her, but forced her hand to move into the ta’al, knowing it was expecting too much for her touch to be welcome. “Live long and prosper, Spock.”

“Peace and long life,” he replied. Spock opened the door and T’Pring began to walk down the sandstone path away from his home. As she approached the gate, she turned back to take a last look at her sa-kugalsu, heart pounding in her side. How can I let him go away? Who will return to me in 15 or 20 years?

***

T’Pring woke up disturbed. It took a moment to determine the cause. She realized that her connection with Spock was much weaker than in the past. The flicker of light in her mind was now barely that of a candle in an oxygen-deprived room. Spock must have left Vulcan and be on the way to Earth. She had not expected to notice such a drastic difference since Spock maintained his shields at all times. It was disturbing, because their minds would never get the chance to grow together if Spock remained apart for the extended period planned. Nevertheless, she recognized that Spock needed this time to accept himself and resolved to support him in his decision.

***

Spock sat in his room on the shuttle bound for Earth. He contemplated the departure which he had found surprisingly more difficult than he had expected. Throughout the day his mother had been busy in the kitchen making him a delicious farewell dinner of all his favourite foods. The house had been filled with spicy aromas. When she came to collect him for dinner, she had brought with her Sarek’s copy of The Teachings of Surak, given to him by his father and his father before him. The pages were yellowed and worn from use. Inside the front leather bound cover was a pressed red rose from her garden. She had offered the gift with trembling hands.

“Are you sure father will not be displeased to have me take such a treasure from Vulcan?” Spock ran his fingers over the inscription carved on the cover.

“No. Despite what you think, Sarek is proud of you, Spock. He is also proud of his Vulcan heritage and he wants you to remember it wherever you go. Sarek suggested this book as a gift before he left for Altair. Although you are going to Earth, this rose is to remind you of me and to remember the Earth garden that you helped me tend here each spring and summer. Have you packed a bit of Vulcan to take to Earth?”

“Negative. I will not need such reminders to facilitate memory recall. As you know I have an eidetic memory.”

“Nonsense,” was all Amanda said as she left the room, calling for him to come for dinner.

Dinner was quieter than usual with Sarek absent. When Sarek was gone, normally his mother filled the air with chit chat. When he was home, she followed the Vulcan custom of eating in silence until tea was served. Spock had found himself wishing she would speak to lighten the mood before he departed. Further, despite all his favourite foods to choose from, he found he had somehow lost his appetite, but did his best to consume a bit of everything to please her, knowing the effort she had expended on his behalf.

The tension lifted when his mother smiled and declared, “I have it”.

“Have what?” he had asked, perplexed.

He had then followed his mother from the kitchen table into the library where he had been made to retrieve an ancient pottery urn on a high shelf. It was about 30 cm in height, with a round body about 20 cm in diameter, covered with carvings of ancient Vulcan warriors. The narrow neck was closed with a wooden stopper. Once Spock passed the urn over to his mother, she led him outside. They walked through the rose garden and the vegetable beds to the gate that led to the desert. Once the gate was opened, she placed the urn on the ground, then kneeled to the ground motioning Spock to follow. He watched as she removed the stopper and began to scoop sand into the urn. Spock copied her, feeling the warmth of the sand, catching the sparkle of certain grains from reflected sunlight, as it flitted through his fingers. When he looked up again, he noticed that his mother had a slow trickle of tears running down her cheek and he felt a pang of remorse. He had never intended to cause his mother such pain.

She caught his eye. “Don’t worry Spock. I will be alright,” she said with a slight sniffle. “I am just being emotional, an emotional Human. It is quite typical in these circumstances. You must promise that you will write me periodically to tell me how you are doing.”

Spock remembered nodding, unable to form words. Until that moment, he had not thought how much he might miss his mother’s quiet presence and support. His mother had always been there for him. She had a strength of character that he admired.

When the urn was filled, Spock replaced the stopper, rose from the ground and deliberately reached his hand out to support his mother, lowering his shields, allowing himself to absorb her myriad of feelings. He realized he might not sense them again for a long time, and welcomed their intensity. She took the opportunity to give him a quick hug and peck on the cheek, then marched quickly ahead of him back to the house. Spock lingered for a few moments looking at the garden and his home and even venturing over to look through his telescope at Sol. It was a wistful feeling that overcame him. He wondered when he would look at the stars from the surface of Vulcan again. Then dismissing such emotional thoughts, he had followed Amanda inside, squeezed the urn into his bag, and brought his belongings downstairs.

They had shared some tea while waiting for the air shuttle which would take him to the transportation station for his shuttle departure. His mother had said she preferred to say her goodbyes at home so she wouldn’t make a spectacle of herself at the shuttle. When the moment came to say farewell, Spock had initially fallen back on custom, raising his hand in the ta’al. “Live long and prosper, mother.”

Amanda had raised her hand in return. “Peace and long life.” She had followed that with a less traditional wish: “I hope you find what you are looking for by leaving Vulcan.” Spock had then surprised himself as he found himself bending forward to give his mother a kiss on her forehead before exiting to the aircar. The last thing he had heard as he entered the aircar was her voice drifting softly on the breeze: “Remember, Sarek and I love you, Spock.”

That was 22.4 hours ago. Spock had already eaten meals on board the shuttle and slept for a period of time. When he had awoken, Spock had noticed that his link with T’Pring was significantly weaker. He imagined it would weaken further as the distance from Vulcan increased. This was not an alarming development; with a weakened link he would not need to expend as much energy shielding his emotions from T’Pring.

Spock admitted to himself that T’Pring had surprised him. The emotions he had projected on her, albeit briefly after the episode with Velshun, had not appeared to dissuade her from wanting to know his mind more completely. Further, in the recent light probe of her mind he had sensed acceptance. During his last meditation sessions before he had left Vulcan, he had contemplated whether he should cease his shielding efforts entirely. It was apparent she was open to him exploring more of his Human side while on Earth, if that is what he had desired, even though the thought made her slightly apprehensive. Perhaps she would not be as disturbed by his emotions as he imagined. Had he misjudged T’Pring?

Many questions had surfaced as he’d reflected on his last exchange with his ko-kugalsu during those meditation sessions: Should I have welcomed her into my mind, after I probed hers? How would she have reacted, when she realized I had not yet been able to resolve the pain from Sarek blocking our link – acceptance, shock, fright? Am I simply delaying the inevitable by shielding my Human emotions from her? Or am I developing better controls over my emotions, so that when I do share all of myself with her I will be more acceptable to her? How will I know when my controls are fully developed? What if she perceives my shielding as a rejection of her without cause (for she has done nothing but offer support)? Ultimately, he determined that he would continue to shield while he worked to continue to submerge his Human half to the extent possible, believing that this would offer the best chance of a success bonding when he lowered his shields to welcome her into his mind to see all of himself. Spock recognized it was prideful, but he wanted to reveal himself once he had mastery over his Human half, not while he was in midst of an internal struggle.

In any case it was apparent that distance had weakened their link, perhaps because it was not yet fully developed. This was fortunate since with minimal effort he could block T’Pring, enabling him to divert his energy to shielding out the Humans with whom he would be interacting. Amanda understood not to touch him unnecessarily, but living amongst Humans he understood there would be inadvertent contact that he would need to deal with on a regular basis. Spock had already experienced incidental contact on the shuttle — an Andorian that collided as he tried to make room to allow him to squeeze past to use the facilities and a sleeping Human child that insisted on using his leg as a pillow. He began to wonder if he had fully appreciated what living amongst Humans for an extended period would entail. Kaiidth. He would adapt.

 

kaiidth – what is, is

k’ka-ree – mottled blue-grey poisonous snake; found in the desert

ko-kugalsu - fiancee (female)

sa-kugalsu - fiancé (male)

Chapter Text

Spock stared at his computer screen for a long minute then looked away.

On this particular Sunday morning, Spock had come to the library to respond to the messages he had received before doing research for his warp theory class. He had not wanted to risk the wrath of his roommate by disturbing him.

Amanda and T’Pring had written asking about his first month at Star Fleet Academy, and updating him on matters on Vulcan. T’Pring had asked about his roommate and his courses of study. His mother had asked general questions about how he was settling in to his new environment on Earth.

Spock had quickly discovered that Darvin required significantly more sleep than himself, particularly on the weekends when Darvin was recovering from a party the night before. So he had left around 5am. His thermos filled with spiced tea sat next to the terminal. A pear and small tub of plain yogurt was tucked in his bag for breakfast later.

The library was quiet at this hour. Typically, five hours of uninterrupted study could be achieved on a Sunday morning before there was a significant influx of other students. From mid-morning to early afternoon he usually explored a part of San Francisco or simply walked in Golden Gate Park. Given the surprisingly mild weather, he intended the second activity. In the afternoon, he would return to meet Leila at the lab to further their biology study. T’Pring’s message would be easiest to respond to as it required a simple recitation of facts. He settled in front of the computer screen in the library and logged into his account.

To: T’Pring

Subject: Arrival at the Academy

I have settled into my residence. My roommate is an Earth-born native named Darvin McQueel. His field of study is mechanical engineering.

I have enrolled in a dual track of study: science and command. Some of the required courses include various branches of math, linguistics, astrophysics, duotronic computing, molecular biology, botany, analytical and physical chemistry, warp theory, psychology and leadership skills. Based on my entrance exam scores, I have been allowed to register in certain second year math, science and computer courses. Further, I have been granted laboratory rights for 25 hours a week, normally reserved for third or fourth year students, to perform research into time travel. One of my professors had been intrigued by a theoretical paper I submitted on the topic with my application.

Spock contemplated what he could ask T’Pring and settled on the same basic details she had requested from himself.

Congratulations on your acceptance into Teilbooth Institute. Please let me know what courses you are taking and whether you find the course material interesting. Are you living near campus or commuting from home? Do you know any of the students from your secondary education? Have you begun to socialize with any particular students?

Unsure of what else to ask, he typed his name, and moved on to the next task.

Amanda’s letter required more effort. It was easy enough to deal with questions about food and the climate, but describing his relationships with those he had met would be a challenge. He steepled his fingers together in thought.

To: Mother

Subject: ‘Settling In’ At the Academy

Thank you for your communication. I read recently on the newsfeeds the successful results of father’s latest mission.

Spock was concerned that in his absence Amanda would have less distractions than usual to keep her from worrying about Sarek excessively.

I hope that harvesting and canning produce kept your mind sufficiently occupied and free from worry until sa-mekh returned safely to Vulcan.

My shuttle ride from Vulcan to Earth was punctual and the transition into my residence went smoothly. I am located within walking distance of two vegetarian restaurants and a grocery store with an excellent selection of fresh organic produce. My weight has remained steady, so I can assure you that my caloric intake is sufficient.

He paused to sip his tea. It was truly remarkable how much better the start and end of his day felt, now that he had traditional Vulcan tea. No doubt his father would find such a view highly illogical.

I have also located a store that specializes in off-world teas, so I am now able to start and end the day with the flavours of Vulcan on my tongue.

I do find the weather in San Francisco cool, as you predicted, so I have formed the habit of wearing an extra layer of clothing to ‘keep the chill off’ as you kept saying when we accompanied sa-mekh to Voldar.

Spock remembered the layers of clothing his mother had insisted that he and Sarek put on for a walk on a glacier. He was certain the remembrance and that expression would brighten his mother’s face with a smile. She had always enjoyed his attempts to use colloquial Earth phrases. It was something he did especially for her.

I have also procured warm gloves, a hat, and a heavy coat in preparation for when the weather gets cooler. There is a dampness in the air because of the proximity to the ocean. I find the humidity the most challenging aspect to adjust to: my lungs always feel weighted with unwanted moisture.

Spock allowed himself a moment to think of the sands drifting outside his home, the dry hot heat and the light refracting off the sands. Soon after his arrival, one night he had been unable to resist temptation, and had removed the stopper from the urn his mother had made him bring. He had run the freed sand through his fingertips relishing the sensation. The touch of sand had helped him combat a melancholy urge that had befallen him, while an undefined sense of pleasure washed through him.

I anticipate with time that I will adjust to the sensation; however, I think I shall always prefer a hot, dry climate.

Spock knew his mother would be most interested to know about the people with whom he associated.

My roommate, Darvin McQueel, was born in Boston. His field of study is mechanical engineering. We have yet to discover a common area of interest.

I initially tried to engage him in discussions regarding engineering matters, since I assumed that was an area of mutual interest; however, Darvin indicated he did not want to ‘talk shop’ when outside of class. I find the concept that learning should occur only during specified periods of time odd; however, I have observed that a number of other students seem to take this approach. Darvin has attempted to initiate discussion with me regarding the achievements of various sports teams and the likely receptivity of female students to his advances; however, these conversations have not met with success. I was not familiar with the teams and I informed him that I had no basis to speculate on the perceptions of unknown females regarding his suitability as a sexual partner.

I attempted to watch a football game the other evening with Darvin as he had assured me I would enjoy it. After a few moments of observation, I informed Darvin that the force with which the men propelled themselves to collide, left them vulnerable to serious brain injury through concussion, and I did not see the point of risking permanent injury to move a ball across an arbitrary line in a field. I believe he did not appreciate my observations, nor my repeated questions regarding the rules of the game, so after 15 minutes, I excused myself. I think he viewed my departure as welcome. At present, I am simply trying to avoid confrontation with Darvin by minimizing my interactions with him.

I have also made the acquaintance of a number of fellow students through required group class assignments. Generally, these have been more successful as the group work is intellectually stimulating and we have a common goal to focus on. At times, I do struggle to interpret the dynamics of the exchanges that occur. For example, remarks that I perceive to be insults often result in laughter. I was told the concept is sarcasm and is meant to be a harmless form of humour. On some occasions it appears to me that the victim of the insults does not genuinely find the matter amusing, but is disguising the hurt that was caused in an attempt to ‘fit in’.

Spock did not understand how others derived pleasure from the misery of others.

I am not sure I will ever be able to master such exchanges, nor do I believe I would want to practice sufficiently to become competent in such a form of communication.

Spock contemplated what skills he had learned about communication that might be of value that he could share with his mother.

I have also been learning how and when to correct errors of a technical nature of those around me without giving offence. I have discovered that simply pointing out an error caused by an unsubstantiated assumption or miscalculation may not be the optimum approach. Another student informed me that most prefer such criticisms to be done in private when possible. While this has reduced my efficiency marginally, I have found the advice to have proven useful, as the individuals approached have seemed more receptive to listening to my views in private. In fact, two individuals have since reached out to seek my input on matters unrelated to the specific group project we were originally assigned. In both cases, the discussions were quite stimulating.

I do admit to you that I underestimated the challenges that living in a new culture would involve. I had mistakenly assumed that I understood how Humans would behave from my exposure to you. I have since learned that this was a fallacy. Human responses are less predictable than Vulcan ones. The experiences with fellow students are proving valuable in learning how to work with the varied personalities which I will need if I am to succeed in my future career in Star Fleet.  

Overall, Humans are somewhat similar to Vulcans: they do not readily accept that which is different. But the majority do not seem quite as predisposed to conclude that my differences represent a deficiency. As a result, similar to Vulcan, I spend most of my non-structured time on my own. Also contributing to this situation may be the fact that the two primary activities other students engage in when not in structured assignments are drinking alcohol and random sexual encounters, neither of which align with my sensibilities.

Spock contemplated what he had written. He knew his mother had hoped that he would form a friendship with someone while on Earth. While not eliminating the possibility, Spock doubted that this was a logical outcome. His background and expectations were simply too different to form a common ground on which to base such a friendship, he suspected. However, some of the working relationships he had formed during this first month were better than those he had had on Vulcan and that gave him confidence that the decision he had made to come to Earth was the correct one. No student on Vulcan had ever reached out to him for assistance. The fact that two of his peers had requested his assistance in his first month boded well for the future. He paused for a moment, contemplating how to frame his last reassurance.

Be at peace that I am satisfied with my decision.

***

“It would be nice to invite Spock home during his holiday break,” Amanda commented as Sarek sipped his tea and read at the kitchen table.

“Amanda, Spock has only been gone four months. The departure from Vulcan was his choice. He can explore Earth during the break,” Sarek replied, not lifting his eyes from the briefing material for his upcoming diplomatic mission. Amanda did not need to know that his eyes no longer saw the words on the page before him.

She gently nudged the hand that rested on the table holding Sarek’s PADD. “Let me reach out to Spock, to tell him he is welcome to come home over the holidays.” At her husband’s hesitant silence, she continued with more urgency: “If we don’t do this, this first year while he is away, he might feel unwelcome, and we may later regret that decision.”

Sarek took a contemplative sip of his tea. “I have an assignment on Argana II during that same time period which is scheduled to last six weeks. I had hoped that you would be able to accompany me. You are better able to interpret the body language of the participants than I during social interactions. Your insights are valuable to me during the more formal negotiations. However, if you feel it is important to stay at home, to have a visit with Spock, then please do so. I do accept that you may wish to continue your relationship with Spock, despite my disapproval of his career choice.”

“If you could ask him home, if would mean so much more. I fear he may not return if he believes you do not welcome him.”

“Negative. I have nothing further to say to him at this time. However, you may extend the invitation.”

Amanda pursed her lips tightly. How many more arguments was she to have with Sarek about Spock? She knew Sarek loved his son, but his actions, his judgments, his attitudes were harsh. He had not seen fit to share with her that he intended to shield his familial bond with Spock. It was just luck that she’d stopped by Spock’s room after his discussion with Sarek to see how he was doing. She’d seen the unguarded look of pain in Spock’s eyes, heard the anguish in his voice as he told her what had happened. Sarek hadn’t budged when she’d begged him to reverse his decision. Now they would be dependent on Star Fleet to know if something serious happened to Spock and they would have no way to know if he was adjusting to his new environment. Amanda knew Spock's pride would keep him from admitting any difficulties. She was still furious at her husband’s seeming inability to provide a reasonable, logical justification for cutting off the precious link to their son.

Amanda feared for her son and their relationship with him. She worried Spock would turn further away from his Human half believing the only way to earn Sarek’s approval, which she knew he yearned for, was to live as a Vulcan, excising his Human emotions. It could not be healthy to deny half of yourself. She also knew Sarek’s decision to shield their bond would make Spock resolve to stay away from Vulcan until invited by his father. Sarek would think him weak, if he returned simply to please her. She knew Spock’s need for approval from his father would take precedence over her needs. Her invitation alone would not suffice.

Amanda sighed. Her duty towards her husband needed to be her primary concern. She could not continue to create disharmony at home. Spock was gone. Sarek was here. Spock had made his choice. She would attempt to maintain a relationship with their son through correspondence for now. With time, perhaps Sarek would realize Spock was not about to come home with his tail between his legs, and would come to respect his decision.

“I don’t want to be away from you for such an extended period, either. It’s just that four months feels like a long time. I suppose I am merely indulging in sentiment in missing Spock. This will give Spock a chance to explore Earth. There is no reason why he can’t come home later.”

***

It was with relief Spock read his mother’s communication: Sarek and Amanda would be on Argana II during the semester break. At least he would not have to return to Vulcan and see the disapproval in his father’s eyes again regarding his career choice. It was convenient that Darvin had returned to his home on the east coast; Spock could work comfortably in his own room with the environmental controls set for Vulcan norm, and complete the final analysis of the results from the biology study he had been working on with Leila Kalomi. This was far preferable to a difficult journey to Vulcan.

***

T’Pring stared at the computer screen before her. It had been seven months since she had last received a communication from Spock in response to one of her own. Why does he never initiate contact? Is he so absorbed in his studies that he never gives me a thought? she wondered in frustration. To be fair, his responses were always courteous, answered all her questions, and he appeared interested in her field of study. It troubled her that their correspondence was always impersonal. Other than that one inquiry when her father had been injured, he had never asked a personal question. Am I partially to blame? I have been so afraid of offending him in some way, that I have never asked about personal matters or requested his point of view on anything of consequence. This must stop! If he won’t share his mind, at least I can ask him to share his perspectives.

To: Spock

Subject: Status Update

Spock, I hope your third year at the Star Fleet Academy will be fulfilling. I recall that you will get some practical experience in space this year. Please let me know what you think of the experience.

As you know, I have commenced my third year at Teilboth Institute. Thank you for sharing your views on the various areas of specialization and articles you recommended; they were quite informative.

T’Pring reflected that it was clear Spock did have an interest in her career. He had not only provided articles, but annotated them with personal remarks. He had also provided valuable suggestions regarding how to further investigate different career paths.

After much consideration I have decided to specialize within the field of microbiology on bacteriology and virology. As you suggested, I sought the advice of my instructors and reached out to some of the authors of interesting articles. I specifically considered fields that might be most beneficial if I were to leave Vulcan, knowing your interest in space exploration. They felt such specialized knowledge might be beneficial on new colonies.

T’Pring felt a small shudder pass through her body. She did not want to permanently leave Vulcan, but realized that Spock’s experience growing up might have tainted his perceptions.

Have you considered where you would like to live in the future? Would you prefer to live on Earth rather than Vulcan? Or does a new colony interest you?

She slumped a little in her seat. She did not want to dwell too much on it or she would feel melancholy.

Perhaps Spock would be interested in her new living arrangements.

My parents agreed with my request to live in Kir for my final two years. A shuttle operates around the clock to the campus 10 minutes away. My previous commute was 90 minutes. I am hopeful being closer to the laboratory facilities will help me to excel. Laboratory work is a more important element in my standing in my final two years. I am enjoying the additional independence, but it has been only one month, and I admit that I miss my parents’ guidance and support. I am anticipating, perhaps more than is logical, my return home next weekend for a visit.

T’Pring thought about how much she missed returning home each day to her mother who always had an interest in her day and the quiet sanctuary of her room. Also the time with both her parents each day as they drank their tea after the evening meal had always been when she sought advice or was given it, welcome or not; while she valued the views of her roommates, it was not the same. She considered asking Spock if he missed his parents, but thought he might suspect she was probing his emotions if she asked that question so she settled on another less risky question.

I know it is not a simple matter to return from Earth, but do you plan to visit? Do you miss Vulcan?

I am sharing accommodation with five other students. We are all in our third year. T’Pela and Balev are physics students. Tolek, Stonn and Asil are also microbiology students. I mentioned previously that Stonn is interested in my high school friend T’Pela as a possible bondmate. This will give them a chance to become better acquainted. T’Pela and Balev were already renting this location with some older students who had graduated, and were looking for new tenants so the timing was right. We often have interesting discussions around the kitchen table after dinner is completed while we enjoy our tea.

T’Pring thought of the various matters they had debated. While they often discussed ethical matters related to their fields of study in biology or physics, she wanted to engage Spock in a topic unrelated to science that might be of interest to him.

One night last week, we debated the following: What is the most appropriate age for koon’ul? Do you think the custom of the clans in the S’Lara Desert Region to select future bondmates in the 39thor 40thyear is more appropriate than linking after the kahs-wan between the age of 7 and 11, as is custom of both our clans, or the age of 25 as is the custom of the clans of the Vulcana Regar region? Stonn and T’Pela, both come from the S’Lara Desert Region, and thought they could be ready by the age of 25 to select a mate if required, but indicated they were relieved that they did not need to settle the matter yet. Are there different customs on Earth?

T’Pring stared at the screen a few moments longer, but realized she had nothing further to say so pressed send. Will Spock answer my questions? Will this prompt him to ask a personal question in return? She hoped it would: she knew so little of what he thought and genuinely wished for some insight.

***

Spock lifted his eyebrow in surprise. He’d returned in the late afternoon to find T’Pring’s communication in his inbox. She had reduced her communications to approximately once every six months. He regretted that he had not reached out to her; however, there was not been much to share about his life at the Academy. He went to class, completed laboratory work and studied. He did little else. What was there to report? This communication was different.

T’Pring had raised questions of interest to him. The last topic in particular was a matter to which he himself had devoted considerable thought, as he was surrounded by unbonded Earth Humans. Does she believe the joining her parents arranged for her at a young age was a mistake? Would she prefer the freedom to select another of her own choice? What would my life be, if my parents had not made an arrangement for me? One thing was certain if had not been linked with T’Pring: it would have been more difficult to leave Vulcan to join Star Fleet. How would I have found a suitable bondmate while on Earth or traversing the galaxy? He was grateful that T’Pring seemed genuinely interested in him and accommodative of his desires. However, he wondered if she was merely executing her part of the arrangement with honor as a daughter who had a duty to her clan, as he would execute his part, for his clan. He regretted for them both, that custom had taken away their choice. They were like puppets temporarily off stage waiting for biology to pull their strings to put them together at the appointed time and place.

Since Darvin would be gone for the entire evening at a baseball game Spock made himself comfortable. He raised the room temperature and changed into his meditation robe. After eating his vegetable stew, he brewed himself some tea. He had been contemplating T’Pring’s queries and the new personalized tone of her letter while he ate, and determined he would reply to her in an open manner before moving on to his studies.

To: T’Pring

Subject: Status Update

T’Pring you raised some intriguing questions in your correspondence which I will endeavor to answer honestly.

Spock suspected that T’Pring was missing her family more than her letter had indicated on the surface. He silently reflected on how lost he had felt, despite assurances to the contrary in his correspondence, when he first arrived on Earth. He had missed the rhythms of his household and the guidance his parents had provided. Is it my place to offer unsolicited advice? he wondered, but determined to forge ahead.

Before I respond directly to your queries, let me share that leaving home was a period of adjustment for me as well, and not just because I moved to Earth and into a new culture. Even now, if my comportment is not quite the Vulcan ideal, I picture the disapproving eyebrow-raise of my father and quite sympathetic smile of my mother, in my mind. Vulcan culture strongly enforces a duty to strive to bring honor to one’s house. When on one’s own, we are suddenly thrust in the role of determining what will add to or detract from that honor—of depending on our own sense of what is honorable. For myself, learning to trust my judgment in such matters, was one of the major challenges for me. This does not mean that I do not pause to consider what my parents would advise, but ultimately I must make the decision. Have faith in yourself. I have confidence, based on my limited observations to date, that you have good judgment regarding the honorable path.

Moving on to your specialization: I believe you will find the field of bacteriology and virology interesting and it will indeed be valuable to any new colony. However, I believe the research in such areas could likely almost be as effectively conducted on Vulcan as on a colony itself provided sufficient effort is made to simulate the environment.

As Spock read T’Pring’s letter again. He realized that she might have erroneously concluded that he would not want to live on Vulcan. He was proud of his Vulcan heritage.

Despite possible appearances to the contrary, I do not have a predisposition to live off Vulcan. The precepts of Vulcan ideology are sound and I would want our children to be grounded in such concepts. This would best be accomplished on Vulcan.

He wondered if he was over-stepping, assuming T’Pring wanted a child, if he proved infertile, as he suspected was likely. Would she prefer artificial insemination or adoption? Either option would allow her a fully Vulcan child. He was uncertain if that was his preference, but alsor realized it was not a matter to be determined at present, so continued his correspondence.

While my education on Earth is necessary to accomplish my goal of a position in Star Fleet, I do not currently desire to live here permanently, once my career in Star Fleet is terminated. Recognize that these are my views today. As you know, my experiences on Vulcan were not all positive and if there was a colony settled by individuals with ideological beliefs similar to my own, embracing the concept of IDIC in words and in deeds, I might be drawn to it. At this point, I am not aware of any such colony. We will need to make any decision jointly as to our future residence. Currently, rearing our family on Vulcan would be my preference. Is that your desire as well?

Spock sipped his tea and reflected on the fact that when he had left on the shuttle for Earth, he had not expected to be away so long. He had thought that his mother would have been able to persuade his father to extend an invitation to him. The fact that she had not was telling of Sarek’s continued disapproval. He recognized that his pride and fear of rejection, two emotions he should be able to control, would keep him from asking to be allowed to come home. It could be many years.

My current plans do not include a visit to Vulcan because the situation between my father and myself remains unchanged. My mother insists I am welcome, however, I have not received a communication from my father. As such, I have concluded this to be only her desire. Admittedly, I have not attempted to breach the silence by writing to him. I would not know what to say: I could not commit to a permanent return at this time. My path for the time being is set, and I hope one day he will see that it is an honorable one. Given the situation, I choose to stay away, although I worry it hurts my mother. She claims my reasons are invalid. I sense she is frustrated with both my father and myself.

I do miss Vulcan. I miss the quiet, the order and being confident regarding what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. There is still so much that confuses me about Earth customs and this makes day to day interactions with other students a challenge even in my third year here. I sometimes tire of shielding against emotion and surface thoughts that are transmitted through incidental contact. And although this may sound illogical, I miss looking at the night sky through my telescope surrounded by the dry heat of the desert with the scent of my mother’s roses in the air. Although I can see much further with the powerful telescopes here, which appeals to my scientific mind, the constellations never feel quite right from an Earth vantage point.

Your last question regarding clan customs is a matter I have contemplated while situated here on Earth as the cultures here operate quite differently. Admittedly these are the thoughts of an outsider. My education is not sufficient enough to let me speak as an authority. I am aware that many cultures on Earth practiced the custom of arranged marriages similar to Vulcan. The practice on Earth reduced over time, with it lasting the longest in countries with caste systems (similar to clans), where the “higher” castes were trying to avoid contamination with “lower” castes.

Spock considered, as he sipped his tea, his own identification as in some ways “untouchable” on Vulcan, because of his Human blood which tainted him in the eyes of many.

The royal ruling classes often had arranged marriages for similar purposes as on Vulcan, to build alliances and reduce conflict. When widespread conflicts reduced significantly on Earth, even the ruling classes were allowed to select more freely; however, not generally amongst the common class. Today, it is a widespread practice for individuals to make their own choice several years after they have become sexually mature.

A significant difference between Vulcans and Humans is that Humans have no biological imperative to find a mate at any point in their lives. In fact, approximately 1% of the adult human population is asexual.

Spock raised his right eyebrow as he remembered the curious classmate who had directly asked him whether he was asexual after observing he had no apparent interest in dating either male or female students. He had answered in the negative, then redirected their conversation to the research they had been assigned to complete.

To Humans, Vulcans may appear to be asexual. To them we appear to have no sexual desires. They do not appreciate that we are trained to control our desires.

Another important difference is that Humans do not require mental compatibility in their mates to form a relationship. Having said this, unions without some commonality beyond sexual appetite do not appear to succeed, based on my limited observation while here at the Academy and the reading I have done.

While searching for a mate, it is common among many cultures on Earth to engage in coitus with different partners. There is a general expectation of monogamy once two people are identified as a “couple”. Some open arrangements, similar to Vulcan, do exist, although they are distinctly less common in the research studies I have read. Some couples remain together for life and enter legal contracts to do so; others have no contract, but share accommodations, and others have shorter relationships along similar lines.

My observation is that the task of finding a suitable mate causes significant distractions amongst the academic population at Star Fleet. The process as a whole is not efficient, as there appears to be a lot of trial and error. I have observed one party pursued by another party that is unaware of their interest.

Spock placed his tea cup on the table then rested his chin on the tips of his steepled fingers. He briefly pondered whether he should share his own experience. Would T’Pring suspect that he had given signs that he was available? Although he shielded himself from her, he did not want her to believe it was because he had or intended to behave in a manner that would dishonor her. He would have to trust her to believe his account of what occurred. He picked up his cup, took a sip of his tea, and continued.

In fact, this has occurred to me. Eleven months ago, I was assigned to work on a biology project with an Earth female, Leila Kalomi. We worked well together and when another project requiring a partner was assigned, I approached her to determine if she would consider working with me again. Soon after my request, she began to sit regularly beside me in class. I presumed this was so we could plan our laboratory work in an expeditious manner. At Leila’s suggestion, we also met together to discuss the project over a meal or hot beverage. Although I had observed that only 27% of our time was actually spent discussing the project, I also knew that it was common practice to mix social activities and work from other group work, so I did not think it unusual. While we were at such meals, she would often turn the conversation in different directions, asking about my interests unrelated to our assigned task. I did not want to be rude and not answer her questions, which appeared to come from a genuine interest, and reciprocated in kind.

Spock paused on those words. He realized that other than his parents, Velshun (for a time) and T’Pring, no one had actually ever taken an interest in him before.

I confess it felt good to have someone to speak with who was interested in me, a rare occurrence in my life. I only became aware that she might have a sexual interest in me when she initiated physical contact. Initially it was a brush of her leg against mine when she sat in class, then a hand on my arm to direct me, but since I maintain my shields at all times, due to frequent inadvertent contact, I was not certain if I was misinterpreting these gestures as they were not overtly sexual.

Her intentions became fully clear when we were working in the laboratory late one evening. She had initiated contact a couple of times that evening already by placing her hand on my shoulder and brushing her fingers against mine when passing me a specimen plate. I had ignored her advances, not recognizing them conclusively as such. However, when the last of the other students left the room, as I was bent over the microscope looking at some slides, she surprised me by pressing her body against mine and resting her head on my shoulder. I immediately stood up and turned to face her. As I did, Leila stepped closer, placed her arms on my upper arms, stood on her toes, leaned in and gave me a kiss on the lips as is the custom on Earth. I immediately stepped back and she removed her arms.

Spock looked at his words knowing they were not the complete facts. He left out of his correspondence that he could have stepped back before she made contact, but he was curious how it would feel, having observed his parents and other Humans kissing. He had found the labial contact quite pleasurable. Is that because I am part Human and have more receptors in my mouth than other Vulcans? Does my father find it pleasurable or does he merely tolerate such activities because my mother finds it pleasurable? Spock was certain he had never observed Sarek initiating such contact. Does he do so in private? Spock ran the tip his tongue over his lips remembering the contact. Would T’Pring be offended if I wanted to kiss her in that manner as well as the traditional ozh’esta? He wanted that sensation again.

After pausing a while longer to remember the sensation the kiss on his lips created, he looked at his screen and continued to write.

Leila apologized for her actions and I accepted her apology, which appeared genuine. I do assume part of the blame, as I had not immediately asked her to stop contact, when I began to suspect her touches were deliberate. I indicated that I would be satisfied to continue to work with her as a partner, provided she understood that would be the extent of our involvement. Since that interaction, the physical contact has ceased, although at her suggestion we do still occasionally stop for tea and some non-productive exchange of information. Such interactions are necessary to maintain a productive partnership with any Human.

Spock began to review what he had written and realized he had failed to answer the question asked. He considered deleting what he had written regarding Leila, but then refrained from the urge as he felt he should disclose what had occurred. When he did share his mind with T’Pring, he did not want her to be unaware of this occurrence. He directed himself to logically answering the question that T’Pring had posed.

I believe that due to the biological imperative for Vulcans to have a bondmate that pre-arranged joining ceremonies prior to that need are logical, so that no one is left wanting when the need arises. Following the Earth custom would not be appropriate. My observations on Earth suggest waiting to the age of 39 or 40 is too delayed, as it results in decreased productivity in society as a whole, while time is wasted trying to find a mate. Also leaving the selection process so late might result in sub-optimal pairings because an individual might feel pressure to make a match, as the time would be drawing closer to their time of need. Such late matches might have made sense in the harsher climates of Vulcan, prior to modern advances, as early death was common. In this modern age it does not seem necessary to delay for such a length of time, as the key characteristics of individuals will be developed prior to that age.

Joining at a young age, as is the custom in both of our clans, seems to increase the chances of suboptimal pairings even more. It is premature to arrange a match when the interests of the individuals are not yet known. Society as a whole would be more likely to benefit if individuals are well-matched and supportive of each other, rather than at cross-purposes. If an individual does not feel that they can share their whole self with their life partner, then the bonding will not be optimal. Research indicates 10.7% of Vulcan couples, recognizing their partner is not fulfilled in the bonding, enter open arrangements to try and accommodate the different desires of their partners. It is a fact that 82.2% of such open arrangements are from couples that were betrothed at a young age. 14.3% from couples at a late age (perhaps due to the pressure of a rushed joining) and 3.5% from middle age. The over-whelming reason for such arrangements amongst early bonded couples is to accommodate a preferred sexual orientation. Had those individual been involved in the choice, rather than having it thrust open them by their parents, they likely would have selected differently in the first place. Clearly, in pre-Surak times there was a need for earlier pairings, as these were used to develop political alliances, particularly in the more densely populated areas and did assist in reducing conflict. However, those times have long since passed.

Overall, I believe the custom of the Vulcan Regar clans to enter arrangements at the age of 25 is optimal. The distractions of finding a mate would likely not impede early education significantly as Vulcans don’t begin to become sexually mature until their early 20s. By the age of 25 the interests of the individuals could be taken into better account to establish a successful match, including their sexual orientation. Further, by the 25th year most would have completed their education, and so career paths could more successfully align. By the age of 25, the wishes of the individual being joined would be paramount, rather than the interests of the parents. Finally, the facts about open arrangement support this position. If you have a different view, please articulate your rationale.

Spock wondered briefly what T’Pring would think of his response. It struck him, in that moment, that he had not met any individual he would have otherwise selected over T’Pring, however, he had not looked: he knew his duty.

His mind began to wonder. What if I had a free choice? Would I choose a female? He thought of the video that Darvin had on in their dorm room a month ago. He had come in late in the evening to find him masturbating to it. Two males engaged in sexual congress on a couch. He had felt his blood rush to his groin as an erection sprang to life. He retreated to the bathroom before Darvin noticed his arrival or his reaction to the video. He was surprised that the images had aroused him.

He had never responded before to visual stimulus. He had not even responded in such a manner when Leila had kissed him, although the touch was highly pleasurable. He was unsure what had exactly triggered the response that time.

Was is it the sexual pheromones in the air from Darvin’s activities? Was is it that Darvin was stroking himself in full view of Spock (albeit he was unaware of his presence)? Was it the sex of the couple on the screen?

The prior images he had seen in sex education class on Vulcan were all male/female and had not elicited any response; however, he was 14 at that time. Was it the combination of factors together with him becoming more sexually mature that had caused him to respond? Spock suddenly became aware that his musings had elicited the same response as when he saw the video the first time—a hardening and lengthening of his penis. He clenched his hands on his thighs, focused his mind to redirect his blood flow, and with an effort willed his budding erection away. Speculating about a male pairing was ridiculous. How had he become so distracted? He was linked to T’Pring.

He took a moment to relax himself and then re-focused his mind on ending his letter to T’Pring. He realized his conclusion that early betrothals were not optimal, might suggest to T’Pring that he was dissatisfied with his betrothal to her. This was not the case. In fact, contemplating the matter fully had made him come to realize that he was fortunate to have been paired with someone who seemed willing to try and understand his needs. Further, she had no more say in the betrothal than he. It would be illogical to hold her responsible for their bonding. They had both simply done their duty as commanded by their parents and would now continue to do so as adults. He did not want her to feel that he blamed her for their bonding or for her to think that he found their bonding distasteful.

Please recognize that my response is no reflection on your suitability as a future mate, but merely a theoretical discussion of the merits of the various customs on Earth and Vulcan. In considering this matter, I have recognized how fortunate I am that you were chosen for me. I am honored to be your sa-kugalsu. One day, I will feel comfortable, to let you see that in my mind. I regret that I am not yet willing to do so, but understand, the fault rests with me.

P.S. I have not yet started the practical experience aspect of my training. My first assignment is scheduled in two months for a three month rotation. I will write to you regarding the experience when it is completed.

***

T’Pring read Spock’s response with interest. She had asked personal questions and his responses appeared to be open and honest. He had even directed a couple of personal questions to her for the first time. She was pleased that he seemed open to the idea of eventually returning to Vulcan to live, although she recognized that he had not committed to return. He had acknowledged the importance of mutually agreeing on where they would live, which was satisfactory to her.

Although she intellectually understood that Humans were psi-null, she found it unsettling to realize that Humans would have no clue that they were pursuing someone who was committed to another. She did not consider Leila Kalomi a threat, as Spock would not have spoken so freely about her if she was. Nevertheless, the incident made T’Pring realize for the first time that others may pursue Spock, who knew nothing of her existence. In fact, the more she thought about it, the more likely she thought it to be that others would pursue him: he was intelligent, aesthetically pleasing, wealthy, and from a powerful clan. She reminded herself that there was no reason to believe Spock would behave dishonorably. He had not pursued Leila Kolami. He should have stopped her advances sooner, but he admitted his fault. I would rather that he tell me such matters, than keep them hidden, she thought.

What was more disturbing was his reason stated for selecting the age of 25 as the optimal age for koon’ul. While she actually agreed with his logic and had come to a similar conclusion for primarily the same reasons, one statement he made kept replaying in her mind: ‘if an individual does not feel that they can share their whole self with their life partner, then the bonding will not be optimal.’ T’Pring was keenly aware that Spock had shielded his thoughts constantly from her since their betrothal. He was not sharing his whole self. He even acknowledged that in his letter, accepting the blame, but that did nothing to alleviate her concern. She could not think of a way to get him to change from this pattern. Why is he so reticent to show himself to me? Is it simply that he fears my judgment about his Human half or is there something more that he is hiding from me? Is he even aware of what he is hiding? His honest response had put the seeds of doubt in her mind about their future bonding, despite his assurance that he was honored to be her sa-kugalsu. T’Pring knew she would not be satisfied until she had a better explanation from Spock, but she wanted to confront him in person. She knew written correspondence would not suffice for the conversation she wanted to have with him.

 

koon’ul – the joining ceremony

ozh’esta finger kiss

plak tow – blood fever

sa-kugalsu fiancé (male)

sa-mekh – father

Chapter Text

Spock walked across the stage to a round of applause. It was Graduation Day, and he was collecting his award for placing first overall in the science program. He had also placed first in both physics and computer science, achieving a rare A7 rating in computers. Having collected his award, he sat patiently waiting for the ceremony to end, and musing on his decision not to invite his parents. Had it been a Vulcan ceremony… But no. This was no Vulcan ceremony to mark accomplishments. This graduation was not from the Vulcan Science Academy, or any other venerable Vulcan institute of higher learning. Spock deemed it unlikely that Sarek would have travelled to Earth to see his son matriculate from an academy whose very existence he resisted.

“Are your parents coming?” Darvin had asked.

“It is illogical to travel such a distance to observe for thirty seconds an individual crossing a stage,” he had told him coldly, to prevent further discourse, for that is how Sarek would have responded to an invitation. 

Another graduate shook the hand of the Fleet Admiral, a huge grin beaming from her face as she received her certificate, with the obvious cheers of her supporters accompanying the flash of photographers capturing the moment. In some ways this was a graduation of another sort for himself, he reflected. Three years ago when he first arrived at Star Fleet Academy would he have had sufficient self-awareness to recognize that his reluctance to invite his parents was from a fear of rejection? He suspected his mother would have come for him, but she would have been forced to come alone. Too often I have been the source of friction between them, he thought, as the last graduate crossed the stage.

The applause died, and the Admiral concluded the ceremony. Spock sat a little while longer, wishing to avoid the hugs, hand-shaking and back slaps going on around him. He watched dozens of happy graduates reuniting with their families and loved ones, and waited for the hall to empty before returning alone to the dormitory.

Behind the closed door of his room it was quiet, the oppressive kind of silence that follows when a once busy space is vacated, the kind of silence that presses one into action. He sat at his console and composed a brief communication.

To: T’Pring

Subject: Graduation

As of today, I have graduated from Star Fleet Academy. I commenced interviewing for permanent postings in the sciences two weeks ago.    

I believe my academic standing will assist in this regard. I will update you with a longer communication when I know my placement.

Spock repeated the same communication to his mother. He had vacillated between deleting his comment on his academic standing to specifically stating his actual standing. He was aware that Amanda shared his communications with Sarek. Would Sarek believe his actual placing brought honor to the House of Surak or would he simply believe he was being prideful?  In the end, he left it unaltered. He believed the statement was factual.

 

*****

The next day Spock received two communications in reply. 

From T’Pring:

To: Spock

Subject: Graduation

Congratulations on your first step towards your dream of a career involving space exploration.  Will you be returning to Vulcan before taking a permanent position?

From his mother:

To: Spock

Subject: Graduation

Congratulations. It is every parent’s dream to see their child finish their education successfully and launch into a new adventure. Such a milestone is one to be commended. I had spoken to Sarek on several occasions during the past year regarding keeping his schedule free to allow us the time to celebrate with you this important step. Unfortunately, that opportunity has past.

Spock swallowed hard as he read the communication. Had both his parents planned to travel to Earth for his graduation? Had his fear of rejection, destroyed an opportunity to rebuild his relationship with his father? Sarek would view his not extending an invitation as a sign of disrespect, if he had planned to come. But had he? It was not clear in what his mother wrote. Amanda may have asked him to keep his schedule free, but she did not say he had agreed to do so. He wished he understood where he stood in his father’s eyes. Kaiidith. It was too late.

We would very much like to see you before you depart. Is there any chance you could come home to Vulcan for the end of the summer. Sarek will be leaving for his mission in the Dirranbandi sector soon, but will return in six weeks.

Did his Father truly wish to see him? Spock was certain his mother would be pleased were he to make a visit. Spock knew he did not wish to remain estranged; however, he wondered how he would be received. I could also visit T’Pring to reassure her of my commitment to her before I am posted. Even if father does not wish to see me, he thought, he would not begrudge his wife a short visit with her son. Perhaps such a visit would not be perceived by him as an emotional weakness, but an accommodation for Amanda. If Sarek had intended to come to his Graduation, this might allow him an opportunity to make amends for failing to extend an invitation to the ceremonies. 

*****

One week later Spock sent a communication to T’Pring, which he replicated in a separate communication for this mother. 

To: T’Pring

I have been accepted as an ensign in the science department on the Starship Enterprise under the command of Christopher Pike. While on board, I will be able to complete graduate studies in certain science programs. I am satisfied with this posting. A Starship was my preference. Christopher Pike is newly promoted to Captain. I believe with him, I will be judged fairly for my work without prejudice. I worked with Captain Pike, when he served as the Executive Officer under Captain Robert April, while I was completing my compulsory two years of experience training as a cadet. He seems content to let me be as I am. It was on his recommendation that I was promoted from cadet to ensign. The Enterprise is scheduled for departures in six days’ time.

Spock was surprised by surge of conflicting emotion he felt as he contemplated what he needed to say next. He was disappointed that he would not be able to visit Vulcan. It was disturbing how much he simply longed to sit in the courtyard of his home, watching the sunset over the L-langon Mountains. He had spent an inordinate amount of time contemplating how he would greet his parents, balancing his mother’s need for a sign of affection against his father’s sure disapproval if he allowed himself to display such an emotion. Trying to envisage a meeting with T’Pring also had absorbed his time. Spock was concerned about what she might ask of him in person and had meditated on the matter, knowing he had to make a decision about whether he was prepared to share his mind with her at this point. The offer to sail out with the Enterprise could hardly be refused. And yet, for all his misgivings and nervousness about returning to Vulcan, he knew the recipients of his correspondence would be disappointed without a personal farewell.

Unfortunately, the timing of this posting will not allow me sufficient time to return to Vulcan for a visit. Captain Pike, knowing I could not make a return trip to Vulcan in such a period of time, has authorized me to use Star Fleet communications to allow a farewell in a more personal manner than written correspondence. I will send details for a video call once I have made the arrangements.

*****

Spock sat down in front of the computer terminal at Star Fleet HQ, and carefully set his spiced tea out of sight of the viewer. He rolled his shoulders to relieve the tightness in them, schooling his features into a mask. He wished his relationship with Sarek was less fraught with tension. The communication officer notified him the connection with Vulcan had been established, and he clicked the link.

Looking into the monitor, he saw only Amanda. He was immediately disappointed at the absence of his father. But the surge of happiness, he felt upon seeing his mother’s countenance for the first time in four years more than compensated.

Spock noticed her hair was a little grayer and there a few more creases around her eyes, but overall she appeared to be in good health.

“Spock, it is so good to see you. Sarek could not be here. He had to move up his departure into the Dirranbandi sector two days ago unexpectedly.”

Spock allowed his lips to turn up ever so slightly in a small smile. It was worth it to see her joy. Just as well, he mused, that Sarek is not here to witness my emotional display. He wondered whether Sarek had ‘arranged’ to be called away early after he had notified them of the time of the scheduled video conference. Does he not wish to see me or was his departure truly unplanned? Given the perils of exploration, surely his father understood it could mean they would never see each other again. Sarek might have been able to use his power to delay departure. Illogical: he would not do so for a personal meeting. The silence between them was a source of regret, but he also did not want to appear weak before Sarek. He had reached out and Sarek was aware of this fact. Spock would wait on Sarek in the future to determine if he was willing to communicate with him.

“You are looking well. It is good to see you, mother.”

“Spock you have grown up so. I’d hardly recognize you.” Spock stayed silent recognizing that she did not mean that statement. “You have filled out quite a bit since you left home, although you still seem thin to me. Are you sure you are getting enough food to eat?”

Spock responded with practiced patience, and fondness; recognizing his mother would always be concerned for his well-being. “If I had not been receiving enough sustenance in the past four years, I would have long since perished.” His comment had the desired effect of making his mother laugh. “How have you and sa-mekh been keeping?”

“We have been well. Sarek’s work has required us to travel quite a bit. I enjoy visiting new worlds and meeting new people on his diplomatic missions. Obviously, I could not leave with him for this trip because I would have regretted not speaking to you. I also wanted to plant vegetables in the garden, so we will have something to harvest later in the summer. After that is done, I will rendezvous with him.” Spock nodded as she spoke, thinking about those times he had assisted her in the garden, turning soil and planting seeds, and how much his mother enjoyed having fresh produce. Spock realized he had lost focus and reapplied himself to listening.  “… There is nothing that really ties us to Vulcan with you gone, Spock. We are both so proud of you! Finishing first in both physics and computer science is quite an accomplishment. It is no wonder you were able to find a full-time assignment so quickly, and on a Starship too.”

Spock raised his eyebrow at the revelation. “How did you find out my ranking? I did not mention it. Sa-mekh, would think I was being prideful.”

“Spock, you have a right to state your accomplishments. Further, Sarek is proud of you. You know your father; he’s got contacts everywhere it seems – including Star Fleet HQ. He’s served on many Federation committees with Star Fleet brass. Let’s just say, he made it known early on, that he was interested in your progress, and his contacts came through. So we’ve been able to keep up with what you’ve been doing these four years. Your correspondence record is mediocre at best.” Spock felt a pang of guilt, and knew his mother was teasing him from the glint in her eyes. “It would have been ‘the pot calling the kettle black’ had Sarek accused you of being prideful. You would have thought he had taken those exams himself when he reported your standing to me. Despite appearances, he is aware that brilliant scientific minds exist outside of Vulcan and that you have excelled in the midst of such competition.”

Spock reflected on his mother’s words and his father’s actions. Why had Sarek obtained such reports? Did he have a genuine interest or was he merely ensuring he was not embarrassing the House of Surak with his performance? Was he proud of his standing? “I do regret that I did not invite you and father to Earth for the ceremonies. I had not meant to be disrespectful. I assumed he would not be interested in attending and did not want to create tension between the two of you.”

“It is alright, Spock. I know things are difficult between the two of you. Tell me about the Enterprise? Are there any other non-Humans on the ship?

Spock noted that his mother did not say that Sarek would have attended, but determined he would not investigate that matter and focused on her question. “The regular compliment of crew members on the Enterprise is 430, although at times there are slightly fewer due to transfers. Captain Pike told me I would be the first visibly alien person working on the ship and the first Vulcan not posted to the Intrepid. The First Officer, known as Number One, is Illyrian. However, physically her appearance is the same as a Human Woman. Number One told me if I had any difficulties understanding Human culture or felt uncomfortable about being ‘different’ that I should reach out to her to gain perspective.”

“That was considerate of her.”

“Yes, but unnecessary. I anticipate that four years on Earth has been adequate preparation for daily interactions with a Human crew. Also they failed to consider that I have been different my whole life.” Not Vulcan enough for Vulcan and too Vulcan for Humans, he had learned. “I have had more than enough experience to enable me to endure such interactions.”

Amanda’s forehead creased and the corners of her eyes crinkled. “I hope for more than simple endurance for you dear. Perhaps amongst the stars, you will find a friend, someone who will appreciate you for who you are. I imagine that those who serve on a Starship must have the same basic desire to explore the unknown. A common interest is a great way to start a friendship.”

Spock saw the hopeful twinkle in her eye and sought to bring his mother back to reality. “I will be satisfied if I can contribute to the efficient functioning of the Enterprise and can contribute scientific knowledge that can benefit others in the Federation.”

“Yes, that is all very noble. But sweetheart, what’s more important to me is your happiness. The Federation can take care of itself.”

Spock opened his mouth to object, but his mother raised her hand in the universal sign for stop.

“Don’t tell me about the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the one. You will always be my priority. It’s a mother’s prerogative to worry about her child. Please remember Number One’s offer Spock. You may find that it is more difficult dealing with Humans daily when you have no space to escape to on your own.”

Spock was surprised by his mother’s insight into his behavior, despite being psi-null, she had always been able to read him.

“Don’t raise your eyebrow in disbelief at me. I’ve read every line of your correspondence carefully, and I watched you grow up. I know you have avoided interactions with troublesome Humans through judicious use of the labs and the library, just like you did when you were young on Vulcan. Old habits die hard. But the Enterprise is much smaller than Star Fleet Academy and there may be fewer places to hide.”

Spock took a quick sip of his tea. “Very well, mother,” was all he said, knowing better than to debate with his mother his ability to have adequate working relationships with the crew, and his need or lack thereof for friends. He had managed to maintain his privacy during his training missions over the last two years. He was confident he could continue to do so.

Amanda smiled. “Have you scheduled a call with T’Pring?”

“Affirmative. It is two days from now.” 

“I ran into T’Pring and her mekhlar during the intermission at a music concert in Shi’ Kahr about a month ago. She told me she recently gained employed at Tchail Research. She seems very supportive of your career in Star Fleet. T’Pring mentioned she chose her specialization because she felt if you wanted to settle on another world being colonized it might be a valuable skillset. It seemed like she wanted to ask me questions about you, but was hesitant…” Spock observed his mother pause, almost nervously, then she set her shoulders and looked him in the eye. “Are you open with T’Pring about your goals and desires? I sense she is looking for … direction from you.”

Spock did not want to lie to his mother: neither did he want to reveal the truth. “We correspond. If she wishes to discuss something, we can do so during our call. I will do my best to answer her questions honestly.” Spock suspected he had not fooled his mother with his evasive response, as her eyes bore into him.

Finally she said, “I can only give you advice, Spock. Your future marriage will only work if you are honest and open with T’Pring. You need to learn to trust her. Please keep that in mind.”

“I will mother.”

His mother’s eyes misted up. “Be careful out there exploring the universe.”

“I will.” Spock raised his hand in the ta’al, “Live long and prosper, mother.”

His mother took a steadying breath then replied quietly, “Peace and long life, Spock.”

 

*****

 

T’Pring closed the door to her bedroom and placed her glass of water on her desk. She had a few moments before her call and moved to stand in front of her mirror to inspect her appearance. She adjusted her mauve dress and re-applied shimmering purple eye shadow which she hoped would enhance her appearance. As she fixed her hair, her mind contemplated her mixed reactions to Spock’s request for a video conference. She was pleased he had made the request. This was the first time since he had left Vulcan that he had initiated any communication. She didn’t count his brief communiqué informing her of his graduation.

She tried to dismiss her nervousness. It should not be this way between intended bond mates. She was uncertain what to expect in this face to face conversation, their first since he’d left for Earth. Although the nature of Spock’s correspondence had improved, asking personal thoughtful questions on occasion and showing some consideration of her, he still did not initiate correspondence nor engage in deep discussions.

Now is my opportunity to discuss why he continues to shield. Do I dare? She had wanted to raise the matter for a while, but it was not something to be discussed through the written word, with its ease of misunderstanding. How urgently she pressed the topic would depend on when he planned to return to Vulcan. He had plans when he left for Star Fleet, but had they changed? Finally, she knew the time had come to face him. She sat at her computer console, pressed the communication link Spock had sent her, and was connected to a Star Fleet officer who immediately directed her call.

T’Pring was surprised by the change in Spock. He has become a man. Although his body has filled in, he has retained his lithe figure, she thought, pleased. And he looks so handsome in his gold velour uniform, her mind added. But his face looks stern; he appears uncertain about whether he wants to be on this call.

“Greetings, T’Pring. You are looking well.”

His words at least are welcoming. His eyes are inscrutable.

“Greetings, Spock. It is pleasant to see you in your Star Fleet uniform for the first time. Although you have been off planet for 4 years pursuing your goal of a position on a Starship, it seems more real when I see you in your uniform.”

Spock quirked his right eyebrow at her comment.

“My mother informed me that congratulations are in order: you have obtained employment at Tchail Research.”

T’Pring nodded her head in acknowledgement. “Thank you. It is true.”

“I am surprised you did not write me about your posting. What is your position?” 

“I have only recently been hired as a research assistant. I thought I might surprise you with my job news if you returned to Vulcan after your graduation. I assumed the position 47 days ago. We are studying viruses in certain eco systems and the means to control them. Most of our research supports the United Federation of Planets.” 

“I am sure it will be rewarding work.” 

An awkward silence followed. T’Pring took a sip of her water as she waited. Why can’t he just talk to me? Finally her sa-kugalsu spoke again.

“I initiated this call because I thought you might have questions before I departed. I did not want to simply leave on my mission without giving you the opportunity for a face-to-face conversation. I did not wish to be as discourteous as when I enrolled in Star Fleet. I have grown up some, while away,” he said in a charming, self-depreciating manner which T’Pring decided to acknowledge with the tip of her head. “I recognize you may have preferred a visit on Vulcan; however, the posting occurred faster than I had anticipated. Initially I had planned to return home towards the end of the summer to visit with you and my parents.”

It was pleasing to hear that he had planned to visit her, but disappointing to know it would not happen. “You are correct, I would have preferred a face to face meeting. We have only met in person once since the koon-ul. Yet, I understand you could not decline such an opportunity. Kaiidith. I do appreciate you initiating this call. How long do you expect your posting on the Enterprise will last?”

“Five years for this initial posting.”

“During that time do you believe you will be able to visit Vulcan?”

“Negative, unless the duties of the Enterprise happen to require our presence on Vulcan. Typically, crew members are given shore leave, an opportunity to visit a planet, when the ship orbits certain planets for a longer duration.”

T’Pring sighed inwardly, disappointed with the answer. “And subsequent to your initial posting? Would you return to Vulcan prior to re-enlisting?”

“I do not believe I would return, if I were going to extend. Typically, if you are continuing your duties on the same ship you just continue on. As I mentioned when we first discussed this on Vulcan, my intent would be to extend at least twice and hopefully, a third time. This would give me the maximum time to pursue space exploration before my duties towards you and my family would compel me to return to Vulcan.”

T’Pring nodded. As she had feared, Spock’s plans had not altered. He did not speak of his duty to return home to her in a negative manner, and yet she wondered if he had the choice whether he would choose a different path. Does he desire to return to me or does he merely feel obligated to do so, she contemplated.  How can he desire to, when he does not know me? T’Pring realized Spock was giving her an intently puzzled look. She tried to compose her facial expression which she was certain betrayed her distress.

“Have I said something to disturb you? These plans are not new, yet you seem … troubled? Am I correct?”

T’Pring wondered if she dare speak of her concerns. Yet, if I cannot speak with my sa-kugalsu how will our bonding ever be a success? She had wanted to be in his physical presence for this discussion, but it not seemed any hope of seeing him in the flesh would be far in future. Too far. She glanced at Spock and noted that his eyes seemed to shine with concern for her. They truly were remarkably expressive. She decided to take her chance.

“Spock, I do not wish to be merely an obligation. But, how can I ever be anything but an obligation, if we do not know each other? You keep your mind shielded from mine, and you tell me that you hope to stay away until your well into your—our—fourth decade. I am concerned that we will have very little time before your first pon farr to know one another. I know you think it unlikely, but there is the possibility given you are half-Human that it could happen earlier than the normal range for Vulcans. I… I do not wish…” She fumbled for the words. It was difficult to express her fears, fears that she knew were irrational and that she should be able to contain, but none-the-less were present.

Spock’s stern face seemed to soften even further. He appeared to be truly listening to her. “Please continue. You may speak honestly, what is your concern?”

“I do not wish to engage in coitus with a stranger,” she stated quickly, forcing herself to look at Spock as she spoke those last words.

He nodded, then steepled his hands and touched his first two fingers against his lips, as if in thought. “I recognize that my shielding must be a concern. You feel you do not know me, as intimately as you would like.”

“Why do you do it?” The question left her lips before she could pull it back. Luckily, when she looked up his expression had not closed off, as in past conversations. He had not turned away from her this time. Perhaps he had indeed grown, not just physically, but as a person in his time away.

Spock spoke slowly and deliberately. “The fault is with me. There are two primary reasons that I can articulate and both of them are regrettably born of emotion, not logic. First: shame. Although my controls are much better than in my youth, at times my emotions still sometimes overwhelm me. I do not wish to be judged deficient by you. My own father has already rendered his verdict and I do not want to fail again. Secondly, for self-protection. I have felt the revulsion of others. It is a defense mechanism. I know as a Vulcan, I should be able to ignore such disgust, but I have failed, often miserably at times.” T’Pring noticed Spock shudder. He looked down for a moment, took a steadying breath and swallowed, then met her eyes again. “I had thought Velshun my friend. I invited him into my mind. I lowered my shields. Yet, my feelings disgusted him. He insulted me. I lashed out in pain. I lost all control. While we fought, our minds were linked. I knew his abhorrence to my being went to the depth of his soul.” 

T’Pring thought back to that time. She realized she had felt it too and never understood it. She had felt Spock’s wave of mental anguish at what was revealed to him, just prior to the physical pain. It had been so quick and fleeting, she had not even understood what had occurred. She felt anger at Velshun, for what he had done to Spock. She remembered that brief moment when he had lowered his shields and his yet uncontrolled anguish had poured across the link. It makes sense that he does not have faith in his own judgment regarding who to trust, she thought.

However, I am not Velshun. She clenched her teeth trying to control her frustration. Why does he not believe in me? “I am not others, Spock. I am your ko-kugalsu. I want to know all of you. And I want you to know me. You need to know that I will stand by you.” 

“Logically, I know I am being unfair to you. I know I have touched your mind twice and only sensed understandable surprise at our koon’ul and concern for my well-being before leaving for Earth. I did not sense revulsion. You have given me no reason to distrust you, yet, I fear…”

Spock hung his head and T’Pring felt compassion for him. Yet, he needed to understand her thoughts too. “We need to know each other better, Spock before being permanently bonded.”

“Your concern is a valid one. As you know the S’Lara Desert region clans wait until the 39th or 40th year for betrothal, so clearly they view that as sufficient time to get to know one another. If I promised that I would only serve three terms such that I returned to Vulcan in my 38th year, rather waiting to my 43rd year to return, and that I would open my mind to you at that time, would that ease your concerns?” 

T’Pring remained silent contemplating what Spock had suggested. Would it be enough? It worked for 27% of their planet. Spock had just offered to give up 5 years of space exploration to assuage her fears. But why couldn’t they simply begin using their link now? She looked in her lap at her clasped hands, not wanting to see his face, while she thought about his offer.

Then she became conscious of the fact that Spock had lowered his shields. The light that was Spock seemed to brighten beckoning her forth. He waited patiently until she reached out along the link to acknowledge his presence. She heard his thought. “Alternatively, you may explore fully my mind now to the extent you can from this distance. I know our link is not strong because of my shielding, but I believe you could discover what you seek. I accept that it is your right. You can see what my shame has kept hidden from you. I do not wish for you to doubt my commitment to making our future bonding a success. I offer you these choices.”

As much as T’Pring wanted to explore Spock’s mind which lay before her invitingly, like an uncharted solar system, she did not want to force him to reveal himself to her because of her own fears about pon farr and what it might entail to mate with a stranger. He had initiated this meeting and had clearly come prepared to be open and honest with her. He was willing to trust her. She needed to trust him. She took a breath, knowing with her decision, she was committing to wait 15 years to know Spock fully. “I am satisfied to wait until you return to Vulcan.”

Before he shielded again, Spock transmitted a final message. “Thank you. You have my oath that when I return to Vulcan nothing will remain hidden.”

T’Pring felt a great weight lifting from her shoulders. She believed him. She reached for her water glass to take a sip. When she looked up she saw a similar release of tension in Spock.

Peaceful silence remained for a while longer as they each assimilated the decision. Then Spock resumed their conversation with a lighter topic. “Have all your roommates also found permanent employment since graduation?”

“Affirmative. Tolek and Balev found employment in Shi’Kahr and have moved out. Stonn and T’Pela also work at Tchail Research in different departments. Asil is working at Breth Research.  We have determined that we four will continue to live together to share expenses.”

“That seems efficient. Is Stonn still interested in T’Pela as a bondmate?”

“He is, but she has other suitors. I get the sense that she prefers Stonn, so I am unclear why she continues to see others. Stonn seems content to wait for her decision.”

“There is no harm in taking the time to be certain.” After a pause, “Is there anything further you wish to discuss with me at this time?”

T’Pring considered prolonging the conversation, but knew she really had nothing left to say.  “Negative. I hope your space explorations bring you satisfaction. Please communicate periodically.” She lifted her hand in the sign of the ta’al. “Peace and long life to you.”

“Live, long and prosper” Spock responded in kind. A moment later the connection was terminated by Spock and T’Pring faced a blank screen. I hope I do not regret my decision to give Spock the 15 years he requested, she thought, as she closed her eyes. It will be a long time to wait to know his innermost thoughts.

 

mekhlar –parents

ko-kugalsu - fiancee (female)

ko-kugalsu - fiancé (male)

sa-mekh - father

 

 

Chapter Text

Spock had been on board the Enterprise three months working in the science department under Captain Pike. He found the scientific work he had been assigned interesting. He had also made some suggestions on how to improve certain modules of the star charting software to more efficiently map star sectors and that had been well received by Lieutenant Commander Matthews his supervisor.

However, he was keenly aware that he had not yet been assigned to accompany a landing party to the surface of a planet. When he was a cadet under Captain April he had understood his role was to support shipboard research, but he had expected that to change now that he had graduated from Star Fleet Academy. Number One had assured him it was just a matter of time, yet as the time lengthened, he could not help but wonder when that day would arrive.

Certain crew members had expressed doubts about his ability to fit in with a landing party. He had not meant to eavesdrop on the conversation between Lieutenant Lee Kelso and Lieutenant Brendan Marks in the mess hall, but sometimes Humans simply did not appreciate the acuity of his hearing. In any case, it was comforting that Lieutenant Kelso had been supportive of his inclusion. Spock recollected the conversation.

“I’m not saying he’s unqualified, Lee. The guy’s a walking computer. I just think he might not be a ‘good fit’ in a stressful situation. He’s an alien. He might not appreciate what his Human crew members are feeling in such a situation and understand how we might respond.”

“Brendan, remember not all individuals contribute in the same way: a variety of perspectives is often beneficial in solving a problem. Captain Pike and Number One are both leaders, but they have drastically different styles. We need to give Ensign Spock a chance and not come to premature conclusions. I imagine some calm logic might come in handy in a stressful situation.” After jabbing Lieutenant Marks in the side, he had then said, “Don’t you remember the excitement of being on your first landing party? I’m sure underneath Ensign Spock’s calm demeanor, he’s just as eager as the rest of us to prove himself, although he’d never admit it.”

Lieutenant Marks had laughed. “You’re probably right Lee. How do you suppose we’ll know he’s excited?”

“My guess is that he’ll probably have stayed up half the night doing research. We’ll have to listen to endless facts about the flora and fauna and who knows what else that brain of his would have retained.”

“He does seem to have an appetite for knowledge. I guess I never heard of a landing party that suffered from too much information. Maybe I should give the guy a break. Thanks for reminding me.” 

The positive aspect of the conversation was that Lieutenant Marks appeared willing to reserve judgment about his abilities. It was a welcome change from what he had experienced growing up on Vulcan. Spock vowed he would not give them any reason to doubt his abilities. He would be prepared when he finally got his chance so he would not let his crewmates down.

***

Spock was going over the checklist to ensure the shuttlecraft was appropriately provisioned for the mission. He would be accompanying Number One, Lieutenant Marks, Lieutenant Barlow, Ensign Spiva and Ensign Kelly. They were to survey Epsilon V to determine its stage of development. Periodic electric storms in the atmosphere meant that the use of the transporters was not preferred. They expected to be planet-side 72 hours.

Spock had questioned Number One the prior day about whether it was appropriate to bring two ensigns with no landing party experience on the same mission. She had taken the opportunity to remind him that four years ago on Alpha Deneb he had also been one of two ensigns on his first mission planet-side. It was his job, as a more seasoned member of the team, to help lead.

Spock inwardly cringed as he recalled his first assignments planet-side, his wonder at every new discovery and penchant for telling those around him all he knew. Lieutenant Kelso had been a good prognosticator. Since that time, he had worked to synthesize information such that his contributions would be relevant to his superiors, to avoid overloading them with details that they might not feel relevant.

None-the-less he knew he still needed to work on this skill.

Spock recollected a particularly insightful conversation he had with Number One after his first experience filling in as the Science Officer on the bridge when Lieutenant Commander Matthews was ill. He had approached her after he noted on several occasions when he tried to explain the basis for his hypothesis to the Captain, an apparent lack of focus.

“Does the Captain not wish to understand the support I have for a hypothesis drawn, so that he can challenge it?”

“Humans do not require support each time a position is stated. Captain Pike will ask for more information if desires it.”

“On what basis then, do they evaluate the veracity of a statement or claim?”

“Humans will often accept as fact a statement made by someone that they have established in their minds as trustworthy. This is different than Illyrians. We prefer to understand the support behind a statement each time regardless of the source of the statement.”

“Vulcans also prefer such an approach.”

“Consider, however, that not all situations allow for the time necessary for such a thorough understanding. Being on the bridge of the Enterprise is a unique setting. You are not in a classroom or in the labs having an academic debate with other scientists, you are providing information to the Captain so a decision can be made in an expeditious manner.”

Number One had made him appreciate that there was a logical need for brevity in certain situations. His mother’s intuition had been correct: Number One’s advice regarding Humans had proved valuable at times.

Spock’s attention was drawn back to the present as the shuttle was buffered by the atmosphere. Number One piloted the shuttlecraft to the surface of Epsilon V landing on a plateau in an elevated region that bordered a forested area. Readings from the Enterprise had established that the planet was Class M. It was circled by two moons. Approximately 40 percent of the surface was water. Volcanic and seismic activity was quite high on the planet. Gravity was 1.4 times that of Earth.

The crew disembarked the shuttle and quickly began to set up camp. In the forest region they were about to explore, even under the shade of trees, the day time temperatures averaged 41C and humidity levels averaged 91 percent. Spock observed that the effort of erecting the two sleeping tents and larger tent for field work had already caused his companions to begin to perspire heavily. I must ensure that my crewmates do not over-exert themselves in these conditions.

Number One flipped open her communicator, wiping her forehead with the sleeve of her uniform.

“Captain, Number One here, reporting landing party’s status, sir.”

“Excellent. Are you ready to begin scouting?”

“Yes, we’re about to begin exploration in two groups. I’ll be taking Lieutenant Barlow and Ensign Spiva to survey the river valley. Lieutenant Spock, Lieutenant Marks and Ensign Kelly will be headed the opposite direction to the gorge. We’ve agreed to rendezvous back at the base tents in 12 hours.”

Spock turned on his tricorder and his group headed out. He and Number One agreed they would check in with each other via communicator in 3 hours. He took the lead, Ensign Kelly, a botanist followed, and Lieutenant Marks, a geologist took up the rear. He estimated they would arrive at the gorge, which was at a higher elevation, just prior to the check in time.

“Remain within visual range at all times,” Spock instructed.

“Yes, sir.”

“Yes, Mr. Spock.”

Even before he turned his tricorder on to begin taking readings, Spock observed that the forest was brimming with life. Flying insects seemed insistent on disturbing his and his companion’s concentration through their frequent attempts to sample their blood. The floor of the forest showed evidence of decomposition and when he lifted the leaves he saw more insects aiding the process. He could also hear overhead smaller animals moving in the tree canopy.

After two hours, he paused at a stream and suggested a period of rest. His lungs had felt the strain of the high humidity and he knew his companions would feel the impact of the higher gravity and heat as well. When Ensign Kelly and Lieutenant Marks joined him in the shade, sitting on fallen tree logs, he noted that they both were perspiring heavily. He also observed that Ensign Kelly’s water bottle was surprisingly full. “Ensign Kelly, you do not appear to have consumed adequate liquids.”

The Ensign’s skin was already pink from exertion. She blushed a bright red under the scrutiny. “I may have been distracted by the surroundings, sir. I’ll do so now.”

“Heat stroke is a danger in this environment,” Spock gently reminded her. “Do you have any initial visual observations on the ecosystem?”

“The forest appears typical of rainforests on other Class M planets. Trees ranging from 60 to 90 meters absorbing nutrients with the help of the sun. There appears to be a healthy variety of flora and fauna. Overall, the forest seems healthy based on the state of decomposition of waste materials on the floor. I’ve collected enough specimens from the floor. I’m anxious to get to the tree canopy to gather more specimens there.”

Spock inwardly smiled at her enthusiasm. He had previously been satisfied with her work on board the ship, and hoped her first experience planet-side would be rewarding for her. He thought she could become a valuable member of his scientific team and he wanted to encourage her desire to explore. “Very well. We must continue our journey for another hour and then you will get your opportunity explore the canopy.”

Spock then turned to Lieutenant Marks who was leaning against a large tree and asked, “Any comments or concerns before we proceed?”

“No, Lieutenant Spock.”

“Let’s proceed then,” Spock said, as he rose from where he was sitting. “It would be best to reach our destination by 10 30 so we have sufficient time for exploration.”

They departed in the same order as before. As they progressed, Spock set a slightly slower pace as the climb was a bit more difficult due to the steeper elevation.

At 10 sharp, Spock contacted Number One, based on their pre-arranged check-in schedule. “We are proceeding more slowly than I anticipated on departure, due to the difficult terrain and my decision to take a slower pace after our break, to ensure no ill effects from the gravity and climate on my team.”

“What is your revised ETA?”

“I now estimate arrival at 10 43. We should still have sufficient time to complete our assigned tasks. Our team has observed a wide variety of flora and fauna.”

“We have seen some worn paths in the forest leading towards the river valley that may suggest evidence of animals behaving in a territorial manner; however, we were not close enough to inspect the tracks. We’re going to try and investigate further to determine if it was one larger animal or perhaps a pack of smaller animals. Please be cautious,” Number One advised.

When they arrived at their destination, Spock took a moment to appreciate the beauty around him. Ensign Kelly and Lieutenant Marks did the same. Spock always found it exhilarating to be on a new world, not previously explored. There was always the possibility of new discoveries: medicines to cure a disease, a new mineral with remarkable properties, intelligent new life forms to add to the diversity of the Federation.

“We will eat here by the gorge before we begin our tasks,” Spock indicated. As they consumed the rations and drank water, Spock re-confirmed with each of his subordinates their assignments. “Ensign Kelly you will focus on gathering specimens of flora and fauna from the canopy of the forest. Any questions?”

“No, sir.”

“Lieutenant Marks your primary focus should be to collect various rock specimens from the various strata of stone that lay exposed in the gorge. Also gather any insects and plant life you come in contact with at the various levels. Understood.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I will focus on gathering parasitic and microbial specimens from the tree barks and roots. We will reconvene here in 5 hours, to have rations and a rest before beginning our walk back. Contact me if you require any assistance. I will check in with you at 14 30.”

Ensign Kelly put on her climbing gear and began her ascent into the canopy. Lieutenant Marks donned his equipment, anchored himself to support at the top of the gorge and began to rappel down. 

Seventeen minutes prior to their departure time, Spock felt the earth tremble beneath his feet. Recognizing that they were experiencing seismic activity, having experienced such quakes on occasion when in San Francisco at the Academy, he pulled his communicator from his belt to alert his crewmates of the danger. “Ensign Kelly please descend from the tree tops immediately. The sway should be less severe closer to the ground.”

He then checked in with Lieutenant Marks. “Are you able to secure your position? We may experience another tremor.”

“My shoulder slammed against the rock face during the tremor. I think it is dislocated.  I will need assistance to--”

Spock lost his footing as the ground below his feet shifted more dramatically this time with a powerful second tremor. He then heard the crashing of stone as part of the gorge wall collapsed.

“Lieutenant Marks. Please respond,” he yelled into his communicator. Spock scrambled up to standing and ran towards the gorge. He quickly located where Lieutenant Marks had previously anchored himself. The area was now rubble further down the gorge. He contacted Ensign Kelly as he considered the best course of action. “I have lost contact with Lieutenant Marks. I am trying to ascertain his condition. Are you able to see my location?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Rendezvous with me as expeditiously as possible.”

“On my way,” Ensign Kelly responded promptly.

Spock recognized that his heart was beating at an elevated rate as he surveyed the rubble in the gorge and could not see the lieutenant.

“Lieutenant Marks,” he called three times loudly, but heard no response. His tricorder identified Lieutenant Marks’ life signs, but he was uncertain if he had sustained life-threatening injuries. 

He pulled out his communicator and contacted the Enterprise. “Lieutenant Spock here. Put me through to the Captain immediately?”

“What is it?” Captain Pike responded moments later.

Despite his sense of urgency, Spock forced himself to speak calmly. “Captain, Lieutenant Marks was rock climbing and fell into the gorge after seismic activity. I have been unable to contact him to ascertain his condition although I have located him on my tricorder. He had already reported a probable dislocated shoulder before I lost contact. I was wondering if atmospheric conditions would allow for his emergency beam out.”

Spock waited for a reply. “Not at this time. I suggest you contact Number One. She can lead her team over to you to assist. We’ll keep monitoring the electric storms to determine if we can risk using the transporters. Pike out.”

Spock turned as Ensign Kelly arrived. “The Enterprise cannot assist us at this time.” He began to descend into the gorge cautiously, motioning the Ensign to follow. “We need to ascertain Lieutenant Mark’s condition as quickly as possible. I am presuming he is unconscious as he has not responded to my attempts to contact him. I would like to be able to ascertain the severity of his injuries as quickly as possible.”

As they descended Spock contacted Number One to update her on the situation, while using his tricorder to pinpoint the distance and direction they needed to descend. 

He updated Ensign Kelly on the plan. “The other team is going to hike back to base camp to pick up additional medical supplies. However, it will be some time before they can arrive given they hiked in the opposite direction to us.”

Spock found it difficult to control his sense of frustration at their speed of descent, yet he knew caution was indicated as the rubble from the seismic event had not yet settled. He had Ensign Kelly’s welfare to also consider and needed to prevent additional injuries. It took 2.1 hours before they were able to reach him. Lieutenant Marks was unconscious and had sustained various fractures, but of more immediate concern to Spock were the internal injuries that registered on his tricorder, which he could not treat without additional equipment from the tent in the basecamp. Spock strengthened his shields and felt the Lieutenant’s skin: cool and clammy for a Human, a sign of shock. He administered from his emergency medi-kit a hypo to stabilize his condition.

Spock stood, tucked his medi-kit away, and clasped his hands behind his back. He did his best to project a calm he did not feel as he turned towards Ensign Kelly who had faded into the background. It is my responsibility to direct her towards a useful task, he thought.

“Ensign Kelly, it will be dark before Number One can arrive with assistance. The tricorder does not register any spinal damage. After I treat his fractures, I will commence building a brace to move him. Please find a clearing to set up camp and start a fire. Although the temperature does not drop significantly in the evening, I would like to keep the Lieutenant warm and the fire may act as deterrent to predatory wildlife,” he directed.

“Yes sir,” she replied, and hurried off.

Spock scouted the area and quickly found some branches he used as splints to temporarily set the fractured radius and tibia on Lieutenant Marks’ right arm and leg. Spock then searched for larger tree branches and vine to assemble together a makeshift stretcher to allow transport of Lieutenant Marks. The physical activity had been a welcome relief to the stress of the situation and during it he had worked to control the anxiety he felt about what to do if the Lieutenant’s condition worsened. 

Spock heard Ensign Kelly returning through the brush 42 minutes later. “Lieutenant Spock, I have set up a lean-to and gathered what is necessary to start a campfire. The site is about 700 meters from here.”

“Excellent work, Ensign. Please assist me in moving Lieutenant Marks onto this sled.” With her assistance they carefully maneuvered Lieutenant Marks into position. Together they picked up their load and soon Lieutenant Marks was relocated under the lean-to with his feet elevated to assist with blood circulation.

“Ensign Kelly, start the fire, while I update Number One and the Captain on the condition of Lieutenant Marks.”

A crackling fire was soon heard. “Captain Pike indicated it may be 3 more hours before he may be able to beam out Lieutenant Marks based on the severity of the electrical storms the Enterprise is tracking. Number One estimates her party is an hour from reaching the gorge and then they will begin their descent. Ensign Kelly, please take this opportunity to eat some provisions. I may need you to stand watch when the sun sets in 36 minutes. ”

Spock turned to look at Lieutenant Marks who was starting to regain consciousness and in pain. The limited medication provided earlier was wearing off. His pupils were quite dilated and his skin seemed even paler than previously. When Spock ran the tricorder over him it registered his elevated pulse.

Spock started when the Lieutenant gasped out through clenched teeth a few moments later, “I’m not doing too well. Am I, sir?”

He was chagrined by his lack of control. He composed his featured and forced himself to look directly at the Lieutenant. “You have sustained various fractures. But of more immediate concern is your internal injuries.” He lifted his hand to hover over Lieutenant Marks’ abdomen.

“May I?” he asked. When the lieutenant nodded his permission to touch, Spock strengthened his shields, then pushed down the blanket and lifted his shirt to examine his midsection. He could see it was becoming distended and when he touched and applied a slight pressure with his fingertips Lieutenant Marks gasped in pain. Spock quickly ceased his probing and pulled down his shirt. 

Spock contemplated what could be done. I could offer to use a Vulcan mind technique to block the pain, he thought. However that would contradict the advice I have been given by the Captain and other senior officers to keep my telepathic skills hidden.

Spock shifted on the log he was seated on glancing again at the Lieutenant. He admitted to himself that he was not sure he wanted to subject himself to the thoughts of Lieutenant Marks, trying a procedure that might not even work, on a Human.  Lieutenant Marks had expressed concerns about his ‘alien’ nature before, but that was several years ago he reminded himself. They had worked together on several missions successfully. Perhaps now that they had served together for a time – he has less concern about my differences. What though if that is not the case? Would the mention of such a proceed cause Lieutenant Marks more stress? Would he trust that I would not invade his mind?

Spock took several slow breaths. He forced calm into his mind that had been on the verge of letting his emotions take over. He would consider a meld later if he could not identify another alternative. After some reflection, he determined diversionary tactics were in order and stepped out of the lean-to to address Ensign Kelly.

“Ensign, Lieutenant Marks has regained consciousness and is in considerable pain. It will be beneficial to engage him in discussion so that he has something to focus on other than the pain.” Spock paused for a moment, cognizant of his deficiencies in interpersonal skills. He determined that it was in the best interest of the Lieutenant that he ask for help. “I am not skilled in the art of ‘small talk’ as Human’s put it. I could use your assistance.” 

“I thought you wanted me to stand watch once the sun set?” Ensign Kelly asked.

“I have reconsidered and believe this takes precedence. I will take a quick survey of the area to determine whether there is any obvious dangers present then will join you. Please do your best to keep Lieutenant Marks engaged in conversation to distract him from his difficulties.” Spock proceeded to climb up some of the rubble. When he looked back a few moments later, he observed Ensign Kelly in the shelter with Lieutenant Marks. As he climbed, he considered his short-coming as a leader. His team needed more from him than scientific knowledge. Ensign Kelly is doing my job because I lack the skills necessary to carry out a non-work related conversation for an extended period of time.

As he climbed he came across a worn path, similar to what Number One had described seeing. When he inspected it he noted numerous mid-sized hoofed footprints from what appeared to be a quadruped. His tricorder was registering life-forms 550 meters away so he followed the path to the next elevation and observed it descended into a plain in which a herd of what could best be described as sheep grazed. No other similar life-sized form registered on his tricorder within a 5 kilometer radius so he determined that he should return to camp as there appeared to be no large predators in the vicinity which could pose a danger. As he returned to the lean-to Spock made two resolutions. First, I will do my best to distract Lieutenant Marks from his pain participating fully in whatever conversation Ensign Kelly initiates. Second, if his condition worsens significantly, I will overcome my fear of what I might see in Lieutenant Marks’ mind and seek permission to divulge my telepathic abilities and offer a mind meld to help ease his pain.

When he returned Ensign Kelly was engaging Lieutenant Marks in a discussion about his favourite home-cooked meal and what made it special. Spock joined the group silently and listened. When she was done, Ensign Kelly turned to him, “Brendan already told me about a wonderful golden curry his mother made for special occasions. Do you have something to share?”

“Lieutenant Spock is a very private individual. He does not speak—”

Spock forced himself to talk before Lieutenant Mark’s finishing excusing him from the conversation. “It is quite alright Lieutenant. I would like to participate.” Spock registered the surprised look on the Lieutenant’s face. He swallowed and forced himself to meet both their eyes as he commenced his tale. “My favourite home-cooked meal is lashki soup. While the flavor is exceptional, that is not what makes it special to me, it is the method of preparation. For most meals, my mother did all the work. However, for this soup she expected both my father and I to assist in the preparation. Normally, we began in the late afternoon to prepare the vegetables. Some of the vegetables had hard shells that first were soaked to all their removal and others simply needed to be peeled. After preparing the vegetables, my father and I would dig out a fire pit to roast the vegetables while my mother prepared a flavored broth for the soup from the peels and other herbs and spices. She would also cook a flatbread. As we waited for the vegetables to roast, my mother would often bring a cool drink outside and my father would describe the various species he had met in his travels. My father is an Ambassador. His tales of the worlds he had seen were what inspired my interest in places beyond Vulcan. After the vegetables had roasted sufficiently, we would strain the broth, then blend the roasted vegetables into it. The soup would be left to simmer another hour to meld the flavors. While the soup finished, we often would return outside. As a child, I often spent that time showing my parents what I had discovered using my telescope. When the soup was ready, we would return inside to eat it with the freshly cooked bread. The house would be wonderfully scented with the aromas of the day long cooking.”

“That’s quite a story, sir. It makes you seem almost Human,” commented Lieutenant Marks.

Spock cocked an eyebrow, as Ensign Kelly exclaimed “Brendan!”

“It wasn’t meant as an insult,” Lieutenant Marks quickly amended. His fist clenched as his jaw clenched tightly. After a momentary pause, he continued. “Your story simply made me realize that growing up on Vulcan isn’t that different than anywhere else. Family is important to all of us. I’m glad you shared it with us.”

“Indeed. It was satisfying to speak of it. I had not thought about that for quite some time.” Spock realized it was the truth. And it had not been that difficult to share a piece of himself. “What should we discuss next Ensign Kelly?” he asked, while he contemplated whether he would ever again be welcome to dine in his family home.

Spock was impressed with Ensign Kelly’s ability to find topic after topic to engage Lieutenant Marks. The discussions did have the desired effect of distracting Lieutenant Marks from his discomfort although periodically a grimace or slight gasp made it evident that he continued to suffer. Eventually Number One’s team arrived with additional medical supplies. They had a bone knitter to heal the fractures and additional pain medication; however, the internal bleeding remained an issue.

Spock was considering whether the time had come to reach out to the Captain to suggest discussing with Lieutenant Marks the possibility of trying a deeper meld. Spock was uncertain whether he would be able direct his mind to repair the internal damage, but without treatment the prognosis was not good. However, the decision became unnecessary when Captain Pike contacted Number One to advise that there had been a brief clearing in the electrical storm. Lieutenant Marks was able to be beamed back aboard the Enterprise to get appropriate medical treatment.

The next day Spock completed his report on the flora and fauna of Epsilon V. He reflected that the planet showed the typical development of a Class-M planet at stage four of Star Fleet’s ten point scale. He commended Ensign Kelly’s performance in a stressful situation on her first away mission. What was not included in his report was his personal reflections on his need to interact with the crew more and improve his communication abilities and his mixed feelings on whether maintaining silence about his telepathic abilities was the optimal decision.

 

Chapter Text

Spock opened his eyes and stared at the firepot. For the past 19 days he had meditated about the events on Epsilon V. He had not yet determined a path forward. He knew he needed better communication skills. Each day he had left his quarters determined to behave differently. Yet every evening as he reflected back on his day, he knew it was no different than the days that preceded it: he had not spoken unless he was spoken to or needed to direct someone in a scientific task. His mind remained in turmoil about the soundness of the Captain’s directive to not divulge his telepathic skills.

He straightened his back, fixed his seated pose and closed his eyes to regain focus.

I need a third party perspective. Interpersonal skills are not a strength of Number One. I do not feel comfortable speaking to Doctor Boyce about this as it was his concern about Vulcan telepathic abilities and the reactions of the crew which led to Captain Pike’s decision. Captain Pike’s directive is part of the problem so I cannot speak with him.

His mind began considering viable alternatives beyond the Enterprise. Logically, Spock knew his father’s job as Ambassador required above average interpersonal skills; however, he acknowledged that his pride would not allow him to admit his difficulties to Sarek. He realized his emotions were inappropriately distorting his decision, but so be it. His mother was also well-suited to the task, given her inherent familiarity with Humans, but he did not wish for her to worry about his having difficulties. Further, he did not wish for Sarek to be made aware of his challenges. He knew she would keep his confidence if requested, but he did not want to put Amanda in the position of keeping his secrets. That left T’Pring.

T’Pring’s correspondence often mentions activities she has undertaken with friends and associates. She clearly has interpersonal skills that I lack. Although those skills are with Vulcans and not Humans, perhaps she could recommend courses of action for me to consider.

Decision made, Spock slowly brought his mind out of meditation, gave himself a few moments and then rose from his meditation mat and sat in front of his computer terminal. T’Pring was the most logical choice.

To: T’Pring

Subject: Recent Mission

I am writing to you about a mission on which I have spent much time reflecting in meditation. You have encouraged me previously to reveal more about my reactions to missions and indicated your willingness to listen and provide your perspectives. I am accepting your offer.

Recently, for the first time, I was put in charge of a team during a planet visit. During the visit, one of my team members was injured. Lieutenant Marks’ injury resulted in him being in severe pain. We had insufficient pain medication to alleviate his suffering. I saw two options available to assist him: (1) divert his attention from the pain through personal interaction or (2) mind meld with him to help direct his mind to eliminate the pain. However, there were impediments to each alternative.

I lacked the interpersonal skills to execute the first option on my own and had to rely on the assistance of a junior officer. In the future, I may not be accompanied by another officer who can make up for my deficiencies. So I recognize I must change.

Spock considered explaining why he lacked such skills, but determined it was unnecessary. T’Pring knew of some of his difficulties with other students on Vulcan and the reasons for his reticence to speak about himself. 

You appear to have a wider social network than myself. I wondered if you have suggestions on how I might improve on my abilities to engage others in non-work related discourse.

The second option was problematic because I have been advised by the senior members of the Enterprise (Captain Pike, Number One and Doctor Boyce) to keep my telepathic skills private. The Captain did not make it an explicit order, but it was clear he and the others were concerned that crew members would feel uncomfortable around me if they knew I had the ability to read their thoughts. At the time this was requested, I felt it was a reasonable precaution as the crew had not worked with a Vulcan before.

Spock stared at the screen. His fingers seemed frozen over the keyboard. Should I stop here and simply ask whether she thinks the ‘order’ is reasonable? Can I divulge my fear? Will she think less of me? His brain whispered, perhaps she already knows, and it was only yourself that was fooled. He took a slow deep breath and forced his rhomboid muscles which had tightened to unwind. T’Pring has proven herself trustworthy, he reminded himself. She deserves the truth.

However, as I have meditated on the matter I have begun to wonder whether I accepted the order too readily because it allowed me not to confront what lays hidden in myself. I told you before that I shield from you because of my shame and for self-protection. The first emotion was fairly stated, but the latter I have now recognized would be more accurately labeled fear. Did you recognize it as such? I have been a fool. One who did not want to acknowledge that such a base emotion was ruling me. I had to face that on Epsilon V. Logically, I knew an option was to communicate with the Captain and obtain permission to perform a light meld to assist the Lieutenant in coping with his pain. I was scared to do so. I feared what impressions about me a glimpse into his mind would reveal when I lowered my shields to perform the meld. It shames me to say this. I was on the verge of panic as my emotions surged from the thought of performing a meld. I was able to regain control, but the matter has troubled me. Logically, I knew he was not Velshun. Logically, I knew his life should not be forfeit even if he held negative thoughts about me and yet I hesitated to act. Ultimately, I did resolve to ask the Captain permission to speak with the Lieutenant, if the first option was not working, but my resolution was never put to the test. I was hesitating again when the time came to contact Captain Pike. I am not certain I could have even brought myself to perform the meld had I been authorized to do so.

Spock quietly sighed. He wanted to believe that he would be able to lower his shields to perform a meld when needed to save a life. The rational part of his brain knew that all people did not judge him negatively and that it was common for individuals to have both positive and negative impressions of another person. However, it was difficult to remember that when he thought of the pain of the meld with Velshun. Spock knew he was ‘putting the cart before the horse’ as his mother had once explained. Without permission to discuss melds, this would never occur. He wondered whether T’Pring thought it was time his telepathic abilities were revealed to others.

Despite my concerns, I have considered approaching the Captain to rescind his original recommendation. At the time he made the suggestion, I was new to the Enterprise. If the knowledge is revealed today would it frighten the crew so much, if they understood that I shield to prevent inadvertently sensing their surface emotions and thoughts? I wonder what Lieutenant Marks would have chosen if I had given him the choice. What is your opinion on this matter?

 

***

 

T’Pring was seated cross-legged on her bed reading Spock’s correspondence, in amazement, for a second time, hope blooming in her heart, when she realized T’Pela was standing in the door frame to her room. 

“What has you so deep in thought?”

“I received a communication from Spock. It is different than his prior correspondence.”

“In what way?” T’Pela asked, stepping in the room and leaning against her desk.

T’Pring paused, considering what she could say to her friend, without revealing the private contents of the communication. “He asked for my advice on matters that affect him personally – there was no discussion about science. I think it is a sign he is beginning to trust me more.”

“You did say he revealed more about himself in that video conference call.”

T’Pring tipped her head in affirmation. “He did. And his correspondence since that call has had a different color, an awareness of me as a person. This letter partially touches on subjects we discussed on that video call, topics that I know he is reticent to discuss.”

“That all seems positive. So why the look of concern on your face?”

T’Pring sat up on her bed. “The trouble is I am not sure what advice to give. It partially involves his inter-relationships with his Human crew members. The only Human I have met is Amanda, Spock’s mother, and I have only spoken to her a few times in my life. Also she has lived on Vulcan for many years and it is likely her behavior is modified as a result. I do not wish to give him inappropriate advice, the first time he reaches out to me.”

T’Pela’s forehead creased. She paced a few times before settling on the edge of the bed. “He is certainly aware of that fact. From what you have told me about Spock, he has kept to himself most of his life. He likely did not have much opportunity to develop social skills while on Vulcan. It appears he has not developed those skills while on Earth either. He likely just expects you to use your own experiences. Just admit what you are uncertain about. He cannot expect any more.”

T’Pring tipped her head in the direction of her friend to acknowledge her assistance. “Thank you, T’Pela.” She then pushed herself off her bed and walked over to her computer, “I think I will focus on this now, if you don’t mind.” 

T’Pela rose as well. “Just remember to be yourself,” she said as she left the room.

T’Pring turned to face her computer monitor determined to offer Spock her honest opinion. She stretched her back and rolled her shoulders to relax, settling into her chair, she curled her legs underneath her.

To: Spock

Subject: Recent Mission

I am pleased that you have trusted me to give you advice regarding the matters you have raised.  My advice is based purely on my experience interacting with Vulcans. You will need to consider whether it will be effective with the Human crew members on the Enterprise.

T’Pring stared into space. First, she wanted to acknowledge the change in the tone of this letter. She hoped it would continue.

I am aware that as a result of certain negative experiences here on Vulcan you have tended to shut yourself off from others. This has extended to myself, although you appear to be slowly recognizing that I wish to support you. Be assured that this is the case.

T’Pring was frustrated that Spock was letting some hurtful childhood experiences tarnish his interactions with all people. How can I encourage him to let go of his fear and take action to change? T’Pring thought of her mother’s advice to her when she was supervising her younger cousins, ‘Emphasize positive outcomes of good behavior rather than the negative outcomes of poor behavior’ she could hear her say.

You need to learn to trust others, Spock. My experience is that when people ask about you, that they do so because they have a genuine interest in you as a person, not because they are looking for a point of weakness.

She remembered when he had accused her of being like others, feigning an interest in him to find a point of weakness, in his courtyard after the koon’ul.

I suspect that many who join Star Fleet have an interest in exploring other cultures. If they express an interest, do not shut them out. Speak about yourself. Ask them questions about their experiences growing up.

T’Pring reflected on his prior correspondence, trying to remember any positive interaction she could remind him about. It was disheartening to realize there was only one person he had ever mentioned that had taken a personal interest in him. Her heart squeezed tighter: he truly is alone. Spock’s correspondence was devoid of friendships. He had forced interactions with those he was acquainted with on the ship, but no social circle for support.

Several years ago you wrote to me about Leila, how you found the interactions with her interesting. You spoke of matters beyond science. It can be this way with other people as well. You may need to initiate these conversations, since by this time your colleagues may be aware of your past reluctance to join in such discussions.

What advice can I give? She recalled Spock indicating that Leila had initiated discussions during meals. It seemed fair to assume Humans behaved similarly to Vulcans other than they spoke during the meals rather than after them.

If in the past you ate in your room or at the laboratory alone, make a commitment to eat a set number of times a week with a fellow crew member or in an area where others congregate. I presume your role allows you access to their personal files. Do your research. Plan to ask them a personal question. Do not only ask them about work-related matters. Be prepared to answer questions that they may ask in return.

She recalled Spock mentioned that the Enterprise followed a 24 hour time cycle as that what was followed on Earth. She had read that Humans typically required 7.5 hours of sleep a day and once they exceeded 10 hours a day in work their efficiency declined significantly. She assumed during the other 6.5 hours, likely more when not in an emergency, there would be some social activities on the Enterprise to relieve boredom.

I am not certain what recreation activities are available on the Enterprise that you could participate in. Is there an exercise class you could join or team activity? Is there music – I believe you mentioned you brought your lyre and sometimes play it to relieve stress. Have you allowed others to hear you play? Your crewmates may be interested in hearing a new instrument. It will show them a different side of you beyond science. Do they play word games or math games like we enjoy on Vulcan? Perhaps there is a game you could learn or teach? Any of these activities will help you to get to know others on a more personal level and they will get to know you as well. My experience is that during such activities discussions focus less on work and more on areas of personal interest.

T’Pring suspected Spock was harder on himself than most. Did Sarek put unreasonable pressure on him or was it self-induced in an attempt to prove to others that he was sufficiently Vulcan? She believed the shame he felt for his emotions was due to this tendency to expect more of himself than what was reasonable. However, his desire to prove others wrong had a positive side – it likely was instrumental in his pushing himself to succeed. She wanted him to know she was proud of his desire to improve whether or not his social skills improved significantly.

Remember Spock, not everyone is equally comfortable interacting socially. You may never be completely at ease in social settings and that is acceptable. I am sure you had Masters here on Vulcan or instructors at Star Fleet Academy who preferred to shut themselves away from their students and others who seemed to enjoy interacting with the student body. Your goal, to improve your interpersonal skills, is appropriate. It does not reflect negatively on you, if you as a leader in the future, still need to reach out to others for assistance. I have heard it said, that it is a sign of a good leader to know when they need to ask for help. I am proud that you did that to assist Lieutenant Marks. I am certain you do not think Captain Pike deficient if he looks to you for your scientific knowledge.

T’Pring’s initial reaction to reading that Spock had been told to keep his telepathic powers secret was of surprise. It seemed illogical to not use all the skills of crew members. But then she reminded herself that the crew was comprised entirely of non-telepaths. Non-telepaths had to trust that Spock would not use his powers without their consent. Trust took time. Her situation with Spock was proof of that. But her situation had also demonstrated that trust could be earned with patience.

I am less certain how to advise you on your second question. It seems illogical to keep what could be a valuable skill secret. However, clearly senior members felt the risks to your acceptance by your fellow crew members was high if they knew of your telepathic powers. Obviously, if you revealed your abilities you would also inform them that Vulcan culture values the right to privacy highly and could explain how you shield your mind from their thoughts. But they still need to trust you to keep your shields up. When you first arrived, clearly they would have had no basis to trust you. It might equally have been said, there was no basis not to trust you; however, I am inclined to think that the initial decision to keep your telepathic skills private was reasonable until some measure of trust was earned. The question is whether you have earned their trust yet?

T’Pring paused. She was doubtful Spock had shown enough of himself to have earned their trust. Being knowledgeable about science would not suffice.

Although you have been on the Enterprise 4.6 years and I am certain you have performed your scientific duties efficiently and effectively, I am not certain you have earned their trust. Trust is a personal matter and typically requires both parties to share something of themselves. Given you have admitted that you need to enhance your social skills, I am not certain whether there would be a sufficient level of trust to divulge such information at this time without making others wary.

What suggestion can I make that will be of value to him? T’Pring wondered.

Perhaps you should work on improving your interpersonal skills for a while. If you find one or two shipmates, that you have a special rapport with, then consider sharing the information with them, in confidence, to gauge their reaction. If they do not seem fearful, seek their guidance about sharing the information with others. Once you believe the information could be shared more broadly, I would suggest you discuss the matter again with the Captain. If you think discussing with another, to be in violation of his implicit order, you may simply have to go to him directly when you sense it is the correct time. Hopefully, the Captain’s views will change when he sees a change in how you interact with the crew.

T’Pring knew she had answered Spock’s questions, but as she reread his letter again, she felt there was one unasked question.

Although you have expressed doubt, I have confidence that when the need arises for you to perform a meld, you will be able to do so. You may have a moment of anxiety, just as you did this time, but you will be able to master it. Perhaps this anxiety will always be with you when dealing with strangers. My hope for you is that some positive experiences will help you to move past those negative ones of your youth.

I hope you will find this of some assistance.

T’Pring closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. Responding to Spock’s query had been exhausting. She hoped he appreciated her honesty. She wanted him to be able to depend on her.

***

Spock had been in his quarters, when Number One had contacted him two days ago, to inform him that the rare mineral xllinth that they had stored on the Enterprise from their visit to Orendi III was to be delivered to the Vulcan Science Academy. She had told him that even though general shore leaves were not being authorized, due to the short time they would be in orbit, that she had authorized leave for him. He had communicated immediately the news to Amanda and T’Pring and a meeting had been arranged.

Spock inspected himself in the mirror. He pulled on the hem of his shirt to remove any creases.

“You look fine,” his roommate, Lieutenant Simon Garfield indicated from his bed. “If you stand any straighter I’ll think a metal rod has been inserted in your spine. Why are you so tense? Most of us would be thrilled to get a chance to visit family, even if it is just two hours. While I didn’t expect you to be doing cart wheels, you are unusually quiet, even for you.”

The Lieutenant’s comment made Spock inwardly grimace. If my nerves are obvious to him, what will my father think?

Spock turned to respond. “My career choice did not meet with the approval of my father. I have not been home for 13 years, 4 months, 3 days.”

“‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder,’ my mother used to say.”

Spock raised his eyebrow, acknowledging the phrase. “Mine as well.”

“Perhaps your father has had a change of heart while you’ve been away.”

“Unlikely.” He turned and departed with a nod.

As he headed to the transporter room, he admitted to himself that the Human saying was indeed true. He was anticipating the sensory familiarity of his home world: the warmth of the Vulcan sun, the dry heat of the air, the scents of Shi’Kahr. However, he felt apprehensive about the arranged meeting, unsure if he was welcomed by all that would be present. Why lunch at Pla’tor’s Restaurant? Was it because his father did not wish to welcome to him into the family home? It was close to the transportation center and thus, also convenient for T’Pring as his mother had stated, but he could not help wondering. Yet, his mother had indicated that Sarek would attend. It would be the first time they would speak since he had left home.

Spock emerged from the transportation center onto the streets on Shi’Kahr. Thankfully, he had a few moments alone to master his emotional response to the sweet familiarity. He briefly wondered if his facial expression betrayed the internal delight that besieged his senses. He headed north. Most of the shop windows were familiar to him, but some of the establishments had changed hands. Five minutes later he had arrived in front of his destination.

He stepped inside the restaurant doors. The host indicated that the other members of their group were already seated on the terrace. Spock took a moment to school his features to a calm expression, although his heart raced in his side and would not be contained. Before emerging onto the covered terrace, he entreated, Let me not betray my emotional state in front of my father.

His parents and T’Pring rose as he approached. Amanda was wearing a light blue dress that matched her eye colour. Her face shone with delight. Sarek was wearing his Ambassador robes. Does he wish to have this seen as an official visit with a member of Star Fleet rather than a family visit? His expression was inscrutable. T’Pring wore a fitted green dress which accentuated her figure. Spock thought she looked pleased to see him as her eyes seemed to radiant warmth. As he drew closer, his mind seemed to draw blank, as to an appropriate greeting, this despite the fact that he had planned this meeting in his mind for the prior two days.

His mother stepped forth. He knew she would not hug him in a public place, but she did reach out to touch his cheek gently. He lowered his shields, granting himself this moment to feel her love wash over him. It had been too long since he had felt her aura.

“Welcome home, Spock,” was all she said.

Spock swallowed hard as he looked into her eyes which were moist. He knew his mask of indifference had vanished, but he decided he did not care. He wanted to grant his mother a small smile. However, he paused to be sure he could speak with composure, before responding, “thank you, mother,” then allowed the corner of his mouth to quirk up.

When she removed her hand, he looked again, at the others. “It is good to be back on Vulcan.”

“I am pleased that we have this time together, even if it is necessarily short,” T’Pring stated, as Spock connected eyes with her. He believed she spoke with sincerity. 

“My parents extend their apologies for being absent.”

“It is unfortunate. But we understand the fund-raising event which they are hosting was planned well in advance. Let us be seated.” Sarek pointed at the table as Spock turned his eyes towards him. Spock had suspected he might sense disapproval for his lack of control on greeting his mother, but his father’s eyes did not seem quite as hard as usual.

Pla’tor served one dish at a time with several dishes shared by all during the course of the meal. Sarek inquired of T’Pring whether she had any particular allergies or preferences then ordered a selection of plates without conferring with his family. While they waited for the food to arrive between the first and second courses, Sarek generally controlled the flow of the conversation. Considerable time was spent discussing political matters on Vulcan and within the Federation. Spock was grateful that his father chose to avoid political topics in which Vulcan’s position opposed Earth’s at the Federation Council. Whether he did so out of respect for his mother or himself, he was not sure, but he was thankful that the meal would not be marred with a dispute. Yet, he could not help but feel disappointed that he had not been asked about any personal question about his experiences on Earth or the Enterprise. Sarek could have just as easily been dining with a fellow Ambassador rather than his long-absent son. Spock considered raising a family matter, but determined not to break the détente.

When the third dish was finished and the plates removed, Amanda quickly interjected before Sarek took over again. “Enough with politics for the moment, Sarek. T’Pring has barely had a chance to speak.” While his father could have disputed that statement, as T’Pring had interjected into the conversation with questions and observations, he merely raised his eyebrow and yielded the floor to his wife.

Amanda then focused her attention on T’Pring. “This is the first meal we’ve had with T’Pring since she served us tea after the koon’ul. It makes this an extra special occasion. Spock mentioned in his letter to me that you have been recently promoted to a managerial position at Tchail Research. Your parents must be very proud of you, as we are of Spock.” T’Pring appeared to sit slightly taller in her seat as she received his mother’s praise. He avoided looking at Sarek, as he was uncertain whether his mother was expressing both of their views or merely her own, about his accomplishments.

“Thank you. I have found the work at Tchail to be rewarding, although it is narrow in focus. When I read Spock’s correspondence, I often realize how much more there is to learn about the universe. Explorers, such as those on the Enterprise and other Federation Starships, are adding so much more to our scientific knowledge. Spock’s scientific papers are contributing to the greater good.”

Spock felt his cheeks warm slightly when T’Pring turned to look at him after finishing her statement. Her eyes twinkled brightly. He knew she had made such statements deliberately in defense of him, in front of Sarek. He was grateful to her and looked towards her, hoping she could see his thanks in his eyes.

Amanda smiled happily at them both.

Sarek redirected the conversation. “Do you live close to your place of work?”

As T’Pring described the home she shared with her friends and provided details about each of them to his parents, Spock took a moment while he was not pressured to maintain a dialogue with his father, to look around the terrace. He was relieved that their table was not gathering any particular interest. Other families appeared immersed in their own meals or conversations and oblivious to them. Did I imagine that on-lookers focused on me in my youth?

The fourth and final dish was balk’ra. The aromatic scent of the casserole brought up warm memories for Spock. When he was young, his mother seemed to have the uncanny ability to know when his spirits were low, and often on such occasions she prepared it for him. Just the scent of it cooking in the kitchen was often enough to get him to leave the sanctuary of his room and interact with the world again.

They at the balk’ra in silence. As the dishes were cleared away, Spock realized his father had leaned forward slightly and was staring at him intently. “Was the dish to your satisfaction?” Spock felt like he heard the word ‘son’ at the end of the sentence, although he had not uttered it. Suddenly Spock was certain that this dish had been selected specifically for him. The key ingredient was the balktu, a squash-like vegetable his father did not eat when other options were available. Sarek could have chosen one of several other options Spock would have enjoyed.

Spock held his gaze as he replied. “It was most agreeable. Certain dishes can never quite be reproduced successfully without the natural ingredients. Thank you, father for making that selection.” 

“It has been too long since Spock has enjoyed native cuisine,” Amanda commented.

“Perhaps,” said Sarek, never breaking eye contact with Spock, as he responded to Amanda’s observation.

For the first time in 13 years, Spock felt that the relationship with his father was not damaged beyond repair. He wanted to say something, but felt at a loss for words. Finally, he merely raised an eyebrow in the direction of Sarek. The action seemed to amuse him, as Sarek’s eyes seemed to soften and he raised an eyebrow in return as he leaned back again. Spock felt his spine relax, although until that moment he had not been conscious of holding his posture particularly erect.

Their server had arrived back at the table with hot water for each and a box of teas. Spock heard Sarek arranging for the meal to be charged to his account as they made their tea selections. Once everyone had taken their first sip, Amanda began to quiz Spock regarding his impressions of the command team, members of the science department and his roommate. She seemed mildly disappointed that he did not have much more to report than in his correspondence, although he did add in some additional personal information about each that he had learned while practicing his social skills. It seemed that these additional bits of information were more interesting to his mother than their skills in performing their duties.

T’Pring joined in the conversation asking, “Have you joined any activities on the ship?”

Spock was surprised. Has she not read my latest correspondence?

“I did join the chess club, but there is no one equal to my skill set. I have decided to program the computer to play chess against. Perhaps others will benefit from the programming over time. I attend a weekly one hour class to learn Tai Chi taught by Lieutenant Chan. It is a graceful form of exercise that promotes serenity through gentle flowing movements and similar in some ways to meditation in that it assists me to clear my mind. Also there is an informal music group which performs at recreational gatherings periodically during the year. Ensign Uhura recently convinced me to join the group, although I have not yet performed at a concert. She did persuade me to bring my lyre to the recreation room and I accompanied her while she sang in an impromptu music session.”

Spock noticed as he spoke that his mother’s face had lit up in delight. “I’m so glad to hear that Spock. It’s important to have activities beyond your job to keep you occupied. Why didn’t you mention it before?”

“I only recently began these activities and was not certain I would continue them.” Spock looked across the table at T’Pring who seemed to be enjoying Amanda’s happiness. Then he realized with a jolt, that T’Pring had asked that question not out of ignorance, but because she knew it would please his mother to hear him discuss such matters. Surak’s saying: “The only noble desire is the desire to serve others,” came to mind. He sought T’Pring’s eyes as he said, “If it were not for T’Pring, I would never have broken away from my pattern of retreating to my laboratories or quarters at the end of my shift. It was a well ingrained habit. Her counsel has improved the quality of my interactions with the crew.”

Sarek cleared his throat. “Amanda, I think we should give Spock and T’Pring some time to speak in private before he has to return to the Enterprise.”

Spock had thought his mother might protest at suddenly having her visiting time come to an end, but to his surprise, she seemed pleased with the suggestion. “You are quite correct,” she said, directing a smile at Sarek. “T’Pring, I am so pleased you were able to make the journey to Shi’Kahr on short notice to be with us all today. And give our regards to your parents.”

“It was honor to have been invited.” She stood up and nodded politely as she spoke, “Lady Amanda, Ambassador Sarek.”

Spock rose as well as his parent’s stood. He raised his hand in the ta’al. “Live long and prosper,” he said as he looked at his father and mother, pleased that this departure was more amicable than the last time.

“Peace and long life,” said Sarek.

“Come back safely soon,” added Amanda blinking quickly to combat tears that appeared about to fall.

Sarek turned to leave and Amanda quickly followed him out, glancing back one last time as they left the terrace.

Spock seated himself again and turned immediately to T’Pring, “Thank you for defending my career choice.”

“Your father needs to be reminded that your career is an honorable one.”

Spock sipped his spiced tea. “And for what you did for my mother. I am not sure how you knew that speaking about my extracurricular activities on the Enterprise would bring her such happiness. I think she will worry about me less with such knowledge.”

T’Pring’s eyes appeared to dance. “Although you may think your mother, being Human, is quite different. I surmised she would be like my own. My mother rarely asks me about my job. She is more interested in my activities outside of work.”

“Your insight allowed her to depart with a light heart instead of heavy one. For that I am grateful.”

“It was you who brightened her day. It is you who have made these changes in your life Spock.”

Spock leaned forward slightly and spoke quietly with sincerity. “It would not have happened without you. I had been at a loss to know how to change the patterns developed over a lifetime. Forcing myself to eat in the mess hall and go to the recreation room a certain number of times a week was challenging. It seemed as though I had made no progress. My next letter to you disparaging the lack of results must have seemed childish.”

Spock was pleasantly comforted when T’Pring reached out and tentatively touched his wrist on the table. “Negative. I sensed you were frustrated, but also that you were determined. I simply sought to encourage you.”

“You did,” Spock said quietly, reflecting on the regular barrage of communications he had received almost weekly asking him what conversations he had initiated, what activity he had participated in during the past week. “I did not want to disappoint you and report that I had not done something I had committed to.”

T’Pring gave his wrist a playful push. “You had not mentioned to me that Ensign Uhura had persuaded you to perform on your lyre and join a musical group.”

Spock withdrew his hand from the table as he explained. “She came to my quarters five weeks ago to inquire whether I might allow her to practice her Vulcan with me over a meal once a week when she spotted my lyre on the wall. I mentioned the language lessons – she is a communications officer and linguist.” When T’Pring nodded, he continued, “Just four days ago, she came to my quarters to request that I accompany her in performing a musical piece in the recreation room. She had composed a song to celebrate the engagement of one of the crew members. She sang the song to me and I was able to develop music to accompany her singing. I intended to write to you about it, but then you indicated you would be able to join us for lunch and I thought I would tell you in person during our visit.”

“What was the reaction?”

“It was as you predicted.” Spock hesitated as he remembered the sense of camaraderie he had felt afterward for having participated in the celebration. It was the first time he had ever felt a true sense of belonging. “Many of the crew came over to discuss the instrument when I finished playing. I asked questions of them as well, and learned of the different instruments many played, for a while, in their youth. Some continue to play and have also brought their instruments on board. Those musicians along with Ensign Uhura, who can be as persuasive as yourself, have encouraged me since then to join their musical group.”

“Will you continue to play with the group?”

Spock paused. “I am not certain. I know I will go more than once before making a final decision.”

From the way T’Pring’s eyes brightened, Spock thought she looked pleased. Suddenly, he was struck by her beauty. She had always had an aesthetic appeal. But now it seemed to radiate off her. Had the tension underneath most of their prior discussions blinded him to her attractiveness? Or was it that he now appreciated her inner beauty too?

Spock heard his name being said by T’Pring who was looking at him with a puzzled expression. “Apologies. I lost focus.”

“I was saying, have you considered speaking to Captain Pike about revealing more widely your telepathic abilities?”

“I have, but I thought your suggestion to speak to someone first that I trust prudent. I have considered Ensign Uhura. I have gotten to know her while we practice Vulcan. She might already suspect I have telepathic abilities. She does quite a bit of research into cultures she is studying the language of, although perhaps she believes that because I am not fully Vulcan, that I do not possess the ability. However, with her background she might not be representative of the crew. She seems more open than many to different cultures.”

Spock realized that the time was drawing near for his departure. He was sorry that he did not have more time to spend with T’Pring. Their conversation had been quite engaging. “If you have not made alternative plans, would you accompany me on my walk back to the transportation center?”

T’Pring nodded and they rose from the table. They walked in silence for a couple of minutes before Spock began to speak. “Before I take my leave of you, I would like to express my gratitude. The course of action I have taken on the Enterprise has had a very profound impact on my life. I set out to improve my impersonal skills. This has been accomplished, I believe. But through that process, to my surprise, I have begun to trust others. As I share part of myself, others share part of themselves, and I have felt inclined to share even more of myself. While intellectually I realized that I had closed myself off, I had not truly understood the cost of such an action. My life on the Enterprise, which I never would have characterized as unsatisfactory, has improved as I have learned to trust others again with bits of myself.”

“I am satisfied to hear that Spock,” responded T’Pring, slowing to a stop as they arrived in front of the transportation hub.

Spock reached out and touched T’Pring’s forearm as he looked her in the eyes. “I am sure you must be questioning, why I continue to shield from you, the person who has assisted me in coming to these discoveries. Know that I do question my actions and have thought periodically on this topic while I meditate. I should trust you above all others.” Spock paused to swallow hard. “Because of that, it raises the greatest fear in me.” Spock broke eye contact then and dropped his hand from her arm, as he turned his head, “It is most illogical. I know it. I know you would not betray—”

He felt T’Pring’s touch on his shoulder. “It is alright, Spock. Please turn around and look at me.”

As he turned her hand fell away. T’Pring’s features seemed to have a soft radiance. Her eyes held his in a soft caress. “I am glad that you are learning to trust again. I made a promise to wait. While I will not deny that it is difficult at times, I am not asking to change our agreement.”

Spock then held out his hand, parting his two fingers. T’Pring did the same and they kissed briefly for the first time. Spock felt a pleasant tingling sensation radiate up his arm from his fingers. The tips of T’Pring’s ears turned a slight olive shade before he broke the kiss.

Spock consciously decided to depart from tradition in his farewell. “I will return again if the opportunity arises.”

“I would welcome such a visit.”

Spock then turned and then walked promptly into the transportation center.

 

 

balk’ra - a Vulcan casserole made of a squash-like fruit, and while it tastes like yellow squash, it has the texture of mashed potatoes

 

Chapter Text

It was the end of their shift as Spock, Number One and Captain Pike filed onto the turbo lift.  The Enterprise was currently in orbit around Brunel IV for three days. Various crew members including Number One and Captain Pike were headed for shore leave of various durations.  “Lieutenant Commander Spock, could you join me in my quarters for a few moments?” the Captain asked.

Captain Pike turned to Number One, giving her a nod, as she entered her quarters. “See you in the transporter room at eighteen hundred hours.”

Spock followed the Captain wondering what particular tasks he might assign for him to complete while he and Number One were gone from the ship. When they arrived at his quarters, Captain Pike sat in his chair and gestured to the other. “At ease Lieutenant Commander, take a seat.” 

Spock sat down, but remained at attention in the chair waiting. 

“You’ve been on the Enterprise for almost 10 years now—”

 “Nine years, 10 months —” Spock would have continued, but saw that the Captain has raised his hand.

“Yes. Well, it’s been brought to my attention that other than the 2 hours you spent on Vulcan 18 months ago you haven’t taken shore leave in over 4 years. This last mission was particularly stressful. Doctor Boyce informed me that you’ve lost almost 4 kilos in weight and I know you extended yourself while assisting Mister Scott in getting the engines back on line. You can’t afford it. You’ll be taking shore leave on Brunel IV. This planet is noted for its dining and entertainment as it hosts numerous Federation events. Number One has identified three restaurants that specialize in Vulcan cuisine and is sending them to you as we speak.”

“I would prefer to remain on the Enterprise to rest. I could also complete some administrative tasks for Number One and yourself.” Spock stopped talking when he saw Captain Pike shaking his head in negation.

“No. You’re not taking on additional duties while the rest of us enjoy ourselves. Doctor Boyce and I haven’t forgotten that you have stated a preference to rest and meditate on your vacation. I’m simply ordering you, on the Doctor’s recommendation, to get off this ship for a minimum of 7 hours to see a museum, go shopping, meditate in a forest,” the Captain trailed off waving his hand in the air.

After a pause he resumed, “Why not ask that new nurse who joined the crew to accompany you?”

Spock considered for a moment who the Captain could be thinking about then remembered a nurse he had been introduced to in the mess hall and inferred, “Nurse Chapel?”

“Yes, her. She certainly kept you talking the other night over dinner with Doctor Boyce.”

Spock remained silent.

“If not Nurse Chapel, Yeoman Colt might enjoy your company.”

Spock surmised the Captain was attempting to politely divert the Yeoman’s attention from himself, but he had no interest in feigning an interest. He maintained a neutral expression, hoping the Captain would understand his disinterest and drop the subject of who he should ask to accompany him on this ordered excursion.

The Captain sighed quietly. “Spock, you aren’t required to take anyone with you, but I thought you might like the company.” He leaned forward, folding his hands together on the desk. “It might be beneficial to develop a support base. Your interpersonal skills have improved significantly during your second term on board. It hasn’t gone unnoticed that you’ve spent more time mingling with the crew in the mess hall and recreation room and less time sequestered alone in your quarters. It was one of the reasons I thought you were ready for promotion to Science Officer when Lieutenant Commander Matthews transferred to the Constellation at the beginning of this term. Leading people isn’t just about knowing the correct facts. You’ve developed a lot in the past few years.”  A slight smile graced his countenance before he continued. “I hear Ensign Uhura even coaxed you into performing on your lyre in the rec room. I’m sorry I missed it.”

Spock simply raised his eyebrow at the Captain. He was not certain if he was meant to respond to the observation.

“Anyway, my point is that it’s healthy for Humans to unwind after a stressful mission. We often do that by talking with friends. I know the added responsibilities I’ve given you have increased your stress, whether you admit it or not. It only gets tougher as you move up in rank and I think you have the ability to go far. Do you have someone you trust, that you can speak with when things get tough?”

“Vulcans rely primarily on meditation to relieve stress. A bondmate may also assist.”

“Well, if there is someone on board you think might make a future bondmate feel free to invite her to accompany you…” Spock remained silent. He had no intention of explaining to the Captain that he already had a future bondmate. “… or him … or go solo. But get off this ship within the next 72 hours for 7 hours. That’s an order.” 

Spock rose from his seat. “If you will excuse me, Captain. I shall return to my quarters to consider a possible travel companion, research possible activities on the planet and review the restaurant recommendations from Number One.”

The Captain released a small chuckle. Spock was uncertain what he had said that could be construed as amusing.

“Fine. Let Number One know if there’s someone you wish to join you and she will align your leaves. Dismissed.”

When Spock returned to his quarters, Lieutenant Sean MacMorris was stretched out on his bunk reading his PADD.  Before he second guessed himself, Spock issued an invitation, “Would you be interested in joining me for 7 hours shore leave tomorrow? I have been ordered off the ship and encouraged to bring a travel companion.”

Sean was a short term replacement in the science department while Lieutenant Alejandro Moreno took 6 months parental leave. Sean had arrived 2 months ago. He was the first roommate Spock had encountered that seemed to welcome his presence, not merely tolerate him, and the reverse was true. As a result he no longer felt the need to avoid his quarters in favor of the laboratories. He looked forward to evenings when their shifts aligned. Although his conversational skills with other crew members had improved with repeated practice, it was a conscious effort. With Sean conversation seemed to flow naturally.

*****

Spock and Lieutenant MacMorris spent several hours researching with the various museums, sites with archeological significance and natural wonders on Brunel IV. They readily agreed, given the limited time, to focus on one major attraction:  a historical site with adjacent museum. Sean had insisted that Spock make a reservation from one of the three restaurants Number One had recommended that specialized in Vulcan cuisine. The next morning they disembarked the ship.

“Let’s dispense with formalities while we’re here. I’d prefer it if you just call me Sean. Would you mind if I just call you, Spock?”

“That would be agreeable, Sean.” Spock then pointed in the direction they needed to head. “I believe we have a 25 minute walk to the archeological site. Feel free to browse in any of the small shops in town on route.”

“I think we can leave the shopping until later. I’m just as anxious as you are to get to the site. There aren’t many sites as well preserved as this one showing how cultures lived centuries ago.  On earth there is something comparable in Herculaneum where volcanic pyroclastic flows covered an ancient city at the time of the Roman Empire. Have you ever visited the site?”

“Negative. Have you Sean?”

“Yes. I went with my parents when I was a teenager. We visited both Herculaneum and Pompeii.”

“Was there anything in particular that impressed you?”

Sean laughed. “Honestly, the only thing the stuck in my mind was that ‘size matters’.”

Spock turned to companion, raising an eyebrow. “Please elaborate.”

“An erect phallus was frequently used in Roman artwork. Let’s just say I felt rather intimidated in comparison to what I saw in the frescoes and statues displayed. In fact, there was quite a lot of erotic art that caught my eye. I doubt Vulcan has anything comparable.”

Spock was amused. “You forget Vulcans only turned to logic after centuries of being ruled by our passions. There is a comparable site near Vulcana Regar of a village prior to the adoption of Surak’s teachings.” Spock allowed a small smile at the corner of his mouth. “I remember quite clearly admiring with curiosity a particular piece of art depicting a male, behind a male lined up with a female until being pulled along by my father.”

“Really?”

“There was also a fascinating display of early weapons that had been forged.”

“But perhaps not as interesting as the artwork?”

Spock looked at Sean’s face which had broken out in a smile. His blue eyes were dancing.

“Perhaps not,” he acknowledged.

“Well, I can’t say I remember anything else about the sites I visited. But I have grown up some since that time. I’m looking forward to seeing the city street they have excavated which shows household residents. I’m curious as to what a family home looked like. How many people lived in the structure? Were they multi-generational? How many children were typical? What was considered upper and lower class? I have always been interested in the way family units structure themselves in different cultures.”

Spock turned to his companion who was clearly enthused. “I have always found different cultures fascinating as well,” he said, as they arrived at the gate to the site. Admission to the site included a PADD with a layout of the outdoor excavations, a large museum housing smaller artifacts and those being preserved from the elements and various 60 minute guided tours focusing on different aspects of culture. They had previously agreed to divide and conquer the site because of the limited time. Each had selected a tour and a primary area of interest so that later they could share what they had learned.

“I will meet you here in 3 hours, Sean.”

“Excellent. We should have a lot to share over dinner.”

At the appointed time, Spock returned to the gate. He found Sean sitting on a bench under a tree drinking water. He appeared to be perspiring profusely. Spock sat on the bench beside him.

“Sean, are you well?”

“Yes. Just a little hot. I should have noted the temperature. I was raised in Scotland. Not much sunshine and temperatures top out at around 20C. My body isn’t accustomed to temperatures above 40C. I just need to rehydrate”

Spock surveyed his companion. He considered contacting the Enterprise to be transported up, but realized to his own surprise that he did not want to end their excursion prematurely unless necessary. Sean did not appear to be in undue distress. He recollected much of the walk had been under a canopy of trees once they left the town center. “If we take a slow pace, do you believe you can manage the walk back to town?”

Sean grinned. “Definitely. We can enjoy the scenery. And the store shops will be air conditioned when we get there.” Sean pushed himself off the bench. “Let’s get going.”

On their journey back, Sean enthused about what he had learned about family dynamics at the time of the volcanic eruption and how that compared to current culture. Sean wanted to purchase something small to remind himself of his trip so Spock accompanied him into various shops in town. Eventually, Sean settled on an ornately carved dagger. “It is a replica of a dagger I saw in one of the homes,” he explained.

Spock examined the erotic carvings on the handle. “Are you sure this is not a reminder of your youth?”

“It will remind me of this day and our conversation earlier when you shared your story about Vulcan Regar.”

“Indeed,” Spock remarked, pleasantly touched that Sean wanted to remember their interaction.

After making their purchases, they accessed the public transportation system for a 15 minutes trip into Kpat. Five minutes later they arrived at Evoras. They were seated by their host on a terrace overlooking an expanse of desert.   

“Are you sure you will be comfortable out on the terrace? Perhaps relocating to the interior would be beneficial.”

“Don’t worry, Spock. The sun will be setting in—”

Sean looked at him expectantly.

“37 minutes”

Sean nodded. “37 minutes. I notice they’ve already left a pitcher of water.”

“On Vulcan, it is traditional to welcome a guest with water.” Spock reached for the pitcher and poured them each a glass.

Sean held up his glass of water before taking a sip, “To an enjoyable evening with good company.”

Spock reached for his glass and tipped it towards Sean then took a sip in response.

 “Is Evoras a Vulcan name? Does it mean anything?”

“Affirmative. It means desert breeze.”

“Does the setting remind you of home, Spock?”

“Some of the sensory perceptions are the same. The scent is different.” Spock looked at Sean, “Overall, the ambiance is … pleasing.”

Sean smiled back. “I’m glad. I leave dinner selections in your capable hands. I’d like to try real Vulcan food. I trust you won’t select anything that could poison me.”

Spock raised a brow.

A few moments later the server appeared. Spock started to order then turned to ask, “Would you like an alcoholic beverage, Sean?”

“No. I think I better stick to water to rehydrate myself. Anyway, I doubt alcohol is part of a traditional Vulcan meal.”

“You are correct, it is not. However, since it is evident,” Spock gestured to the guests around them with a tip of his head, “that other species frequent the restaurant, there are a variety of selections available.”

Spock finished the order then turned back to his companion.

“That’s the first time I’ve heard you speak Vulcan. You speak Standard so well that I sometimes forget… Do you think in Vulcan?”

“Affirmative. All my schooling was in Vulcan. My mother spoke to me in Standard and father in Vulcan although both are conversant in each. Generally, I find Vulcan to be a more precise language with respect to concrete words, but less so with abstract words as those are often based on emotion.”

 “What’ll we be eating?”

“The first course is sazh-shihvek, a baked vegetable pie served with mashed slok. Slok is a tuberous root with a slightly sweet flavour similar to sweet potato. This will be followed by mix a p’nari fruit and the nuts of the k’luk tree. The seeds are red in colour, similar in size to currants with a slightly acidic flavour. The nuts are slightly larger than a peanut, but sweet to counter-balance the acidity of the seeds. Last will be plomeek soup, which is a light vegetable broth.”

“Are these everyday foods or delicacies?"

“Everyday. I thought you would appreciate sampling what is commonly consumed.”

Sean nodded. “I do. It gives me a better picture of everyday life which is what intrigues me. But, you should have ordered something special for yourself. It must be a rare treat for you to eat real Vulcan cuisine.”

The server arrived with the first course. Sean enjoyed the vegetable pie and slok comparing it to one of his childhood favorites chicken pot pie and mashed potatoes that he would enjoy at a neighborhood pub. Spock was unsure if that was compliment or not. The fruit and nuts he was less enthused with, declaring it ‘too healthy’.  Spock laughed inside with Sean’s verdict that plomeek soup was bland and that he should have definitely ordered a soup delicacy. Between courses they shared what they had seen at the archeological site. 

When the server held out the tea box to select a tea, as Spock reached to make a selection, Sean interjected just as he was making his choice, “Pick yourself a delicacy.”

Why not? Spock indicated his selection. “It is ch’aal. A spicy tea only grown on Vulcan.”

“Sounds good to me.”

When the server returned with their brewed tea, they each took a moment to inhale the fragrant scent and to appreciate the purple coloring before taking a sip. Spock had only tasted ch’aal on one other occasion. The corners of his mouth rose as he absorbed the depth of flavor.

When he looked across the table, Sean was staring at him intently. “You so rarely smile. I am guessing it meets with your approval. It’s exquisite.”

“Affirmative.”

They sipped their tea in quiet for a moment longer. T’Pring’s advice sprung to mind. When you have someone you trust speak to them about your telepathic skills.  Can I speak to Sean? Will he keep my confidence?

Spock looked at Sean, took a breath. I need to trust. His voice seemed quiet to his ears as he began. “Sean, I would value your opinion on something. It is matter which would require your complete confidence. Will you give your word to keep what we discuss private?”

Sean leaned in. “Of course, Spock. Is it a personal matter?”

“Not in the way you may be inferring. It involves certain abilities I have as a Vulcan which I have kept undisclosed from crew members.”

“Everyone?”

“Negative. The Captain, Number One and Doctor Boyce are aware. They are the ones who recommended this course of action. Doctor Boyce became aware that Vulcans possess certain abilities during a medical conference. Although they are not secret, we do not generally speak of these matters so it is not common knowledge.”

Sean’s brow creased as he took another sip of his tea. “You are questioning the decision to keep it private.”

“I did not always question it. But, as time has passed, I have begun to have my doubts.”

Sean looked at him directly. “Tell me,” he said quietly.

Spock averted his gaze, as he felt irrational panic. He realized he was gripping his tea cup too tightly and willed his muscles to relax before it shattered. He reminded himself again, I need to trust. He swallowed hard then looked up into Sean’s steady blue eyes and spoke quickly in a hushed tone. “I am a touch telepath. I could readily read the surface emotions and thoughts of my Human crewmates, if I so chose, and they would not be aware of my actions. I do not. I constantly shield myself to respect the privacy of those around me.”

Sean had no reaction, so Spock continued. “If I wanted, I could merge my mind with another to go deeper still. Nothing would remain secret. Captain Pike and the others thought this knowledge would make it difficult for others to trust me, so directed me to keep it secret. It was not an order, but a strong suggestion, made I believe in his mind for the overall benefit of the Enterprise. I believe he thought without keeping this secret, the crew might not accept my presence as readily or if it all.”

Spock felt Sean’s finger tips on his wrist. The tension in his gut seemed to uncoil. His touch was a clear sign of trust.

 “What made sense ten or so years ago, when you were the first Vulcan on the Enterprise of any constitution class vessel and no one knew what kind of person you were, and what makes sense now, when your crewmates have come to respect and trust you has got to have changed. I believe you, when you say you will not read my mind.”

Spock looked down at Sean’s finger tips again then back to his face. “Do you think others would feel the same way?”

Spock missed his comforting touch when Sean pulled away and leaned back in his seat. “I’m not sure. I’d hope so. We say we’re a United Federation of Planets, but Star Fleet isn’t as integrated as it should be. It seems wrong to say we accept alien species equally, but then make you keep hidden an important part of yourself. Was there something that prompted you to question the decision?”

Spock took a last sip of his tea. “During a mission, Lieutenant Masters was injured and we were without pain medication. I could possibly have melded my mind with his to control the pain receptors. He was in needless pain for hours. It raised questions in my mind.”

“My view is this: If you could help someone in pain, I believe all would want you to feel comfortable to offer them aid. They would still have the choice to turn you down.”

“I do appreciate your thoughts,” Spock said as he motioned for the server to bring the check. 

“I know we need to get back to the Enterprise, but we can continue this discussion tonight or some other night, if you would like.”

Spock tipped his head to acknowledge the offer.

“I enjoyed our day together, Spock. Thank you for inviting me. How many credits do I owe for dinner?”

“I will cover the cost. I return the sentiment about the pleasure of this day.”

*****

After shore leave, Spock did converse further with Sean in their quarters about the pros and cons of keeping his telepathy secret, as well as his concern that he might not be able to overcome his fear of rejection, to actually be able to perform the meld. Eventually, he determined that it was time to speak to the Captain again about his instructions and requested a private meeting.

He pressed the announcer, and was granted admittance to Captain Pike’s quarters. He was seated as his desk, working on his PADD, and motioned for Spock to be seated.

“What’s this about, Lieutenant?”

“You may recall that soon after I joined the Enterprise, Doctor Boyce learned of Vulcan’s touch telepathy. At that time, I believe that the Doctor, Number One and yourself felt the crew might be uncomfortable in my presence if they were aware of my abilities.”

The Captain pushed his PADD to the side giving Spock his full attention. “We tend to be wary when others possess abilities that we lack.”

“Understandable when the person that possesses such abilities is someone you know nothing about. I recently spoke of my abilities with a crew member I trust on the condition of keeping the matter confidential. He believed that given the passage of time that others would have sufficient faith in me to trust that I would not read their thoughts against their will.”

The Captain sighed. “I wish I had as much faith as the person you spoke with. Who did you tell?”

“Lieutenant MacMorris.”

The Captain shook his head. “Sorry to say, but I don’t believe the Lieutenant’s reaction will be the norm. I think perhaps Sean is letting his personal feelings cloud his judgment.”

Spock stared at the Captain wondering to what he was referring.

Captain Pike glanced away for a moment, cleared his throat then looked him in the eye. “Spock, I believe Sean’s attracted to you. It’s certainly no secret that his sexual orientation is homosexual. It’s on his Star Fleet profile page and, even if it wasn’t, I’ve seen the way he watches you in briefings. It doesn’t take a genius to put two and two together.”

Spock’s mind rebelled. Captain Pike is mistaken. Sean has not blatantly encroached on my personal space like others have over the years. He has only touched me once. Spock wanted to object. To declare Sean unbiased. Yet as he quickly contemplated the matter, he sensed the Captain spoke the truth. Sean looked at him differently – intently, like he wanted something more from him. Like Leila had years ago.

Spock pushed the conversation forward anyway. He needed to know what the Captain thought. “Do you not think I have earned the trust of the crew?”

“I am sure they do trust you. However, I still believe it’s best to ‘let sleeping dogs lie’?”

Spock’s eyebrow rose. “What do sleeping dogs—”

“It’s just an expression. It means that you should leave a situation alone so as to avoid worsening it. There is no immediate benefit to the crew to revealing your abilities. However, revealing them may cause unease among some members of the crew. I recognize there is a cost to you. My request goes against some of the diversity training I’ve received, but as Captain I’m trying to consider the entire crew.”

Captain Pike ran his hand through his hair, shaking his head slightly. “I can’t say I’m certain what I’m asking is correct. This isn’t an order, it never was. It’s a request. If you feel uncomfortable continuing to keep this aspect of yourself hidden, after what I’ve said, tell me. I’ll get Lieutenant Patel from Human Resources in here and we’ll develop a communication plan.”

Spock steepled his fingers as he considered the Captain’s words. I would prefer honesty, but are my needs more important than those of the crew who will feel uncomfortable? “I understand your position that there is no immediate benefit, however, situations may arise where my skills would be of benefit.”

Captain Pike nodded. “Agreed. If you find yourself in a situation where your abilities may be of assistance, feel at complete liberty to use your good judgment to determine, if the time is right to explain your abilities and use them.”

“I will do so.”

“I think this matter is settled. Dismissed.”

Spock rose from his chair and left the Captain’s quarters. When he emerged in the hallway, he hesitated. He knew Sean would be waiting in their quarters to hear the result of his meeting with the Captain, but felt uneasy about returning there directly. He headed to the science lab.

Spock retrieved the culture specimens that he and Sean had been monitoring and sat himself in front of a microscope. Thoughts interfered with his progress. Sean has only 76 more days on the Enterprise before he will be gone. Never to be seen again. Is it necessary to address with Sean the Captain’s remarks? To make him understand that I am betrothed to another. The Captain’s expression jumped into his mind: ‘let sleeping dogs lie.’ He has not made any advances on my person. Why create possible disharmony when silence will cause no harm.

Decision made Spock focused on finishing the task at hand swiftly and efficiently. He then returned to his quarters to share the aspects of his discussion with the Captain related to his touch telepathy.

*****

Spock assisted Sean as he finished packing his belongings together. The Enterprise would arrive at Starbase 7 the next day where he would take up his new position. Spock pulled out the bottom drawer of the Sean’s dresser and brought it over to Sean’s bed. The bottom drawer seemed to be a collection of artifacts from shore leaves on different planets. Sean provided a running commentary on the source of each item until he got to ornate dagger he purchased on Brunel IV.

He brushed his finger along the blade then held it out to Spock. “I’d like to give this to you.”

“That is not necessary, Sean. I have an eidetic memory. I will remember our day without such a reminder.”

“Nonetheless, I’d like you to have something concrete to remember me. Like the Vulcan sand, you let me run my hands through, that you keep in your urn.”

Spock paused for a moment then took a few steps across the room to pick up an ancient, small stone carving, about 10 cm in length. “An exchange. This is said to be the likeness of Surak. An important philosopher to our people.”

Sean followed him across the room. “I can’t take that. It looks valuable.”

“These are of equal value to me,” Spock stated. He then held out the carving.

After a moment’s hesitation, Sean took it with thanks and gave Spock the dagger. He stepped back to his bed and wrapped it carefully inside a sweater and put it in his bag.

Spock placed the dagger on his bed then walked back to Sean, expecting him to finish his packing, but Sean simply turned slowly around to look at him intently.

Spock felt as though his heart had come to a stop as Sean’s gaze held his. He closed his eyes to escape the intensity, but when he did he felt Sean’s warm fingertips glance the side of his face as his hand slid behind his head. He willingly let his head be tilted forward and a moment later he was rewarded with Sean’s moist lips on his. Sean’s other hand wrapped around his back. Spock did not resist his embrace. He wanted to feel the length of Sean’s body pressed against him. Sean’s tongue pushed against his lips seeking entrance to his mouth and he parted his lips, He wanted him to explore. He wanted his touch.

It was the groan of satisfaction that rumbled from his own throat that lifted Spock from the unaccustomed haze of desire. Although he wanted to respond, to deepen the kiss, he forced himself instead to stiffen in Sean’s arms and step back, breaking contact. Sean’s arms fell to his side.

Spock was acutely aware of the sound of each of their breaths.

“Sean,” he said hoarsely, opening his eyes. Sean was flushed slightly pink. Spock gripped his hands behind his back and squared his shoulders. It was difficult to form a coherent thought. His blood continued to rush to engorge his phallus.

Sean’s voice was slightly breathless as he spoke. “I want to make love to you, Spock. I have for some time, but I’ve been unsure . . .” He trailed off.

After a deep breath, Sean asked, “Have I offended you?” His hands were extended, palms open, concern plainly written across his creased brow.

“Negative.” He said then looked to the floor again, focusing his mind on suppressing his desire to pull Sean’s body flush against his own.

Spock felt an unexpected urge to explain and lifted his eyes, this time maintaining contact. He spoke quietly. “I have not engaged in sexual congress with another. I would have welcomed physical intimacy with you, if I were free to choose my partner.”

When Spock’s comment registered with Sean, he exclaimed with surprise, “You’re engaged?”

Spock allowed a small quirk at the edge of his mouth. “An arrangement that is equivalent made when I was young.”

Sean sat down heavily on the edge of his bed. “You did not pick your partner?”

Spock seated himself on his own bunk facing Sean. “It is not the custom in my clan. The arrangement was made by my parents.”

Sean shook his head. “It never occurred to me that you weren’t available. Many cultures have an obvious sign to help the clueless – a ring, head covering, hair style. Something. Not that I would have known a Vulcan sign.”

“It is not a visible sign. Another Vulcan would know. It is a telepathic connection.”

Sean smiled sadly at him then, “I haven’t tarnished your memory of our friendship, have I?”

“Negative. I simply have another pleasant memory associated with you.”

Sean rose again, “I better finish packing. Do you want to come with me to the rec room? I can say my good-bye to a few others. Then I can grab a snack and you can have some tea and we can play a final game of k’tela. Uhura is off-shift and I am sure will join in. She loves word games.”

“That is agreeable.”

*****

To: Amanda 

Subject:  Final Term on Enterprise                                                                                                                                                                   

I have signed on for another 5 year term as Science Officer. I have also been promoted to the rank of Commander.

 

To: T’Pring

Subject: Goran III / Final Term on Enterprise

Please let me know your reaction to your two months of field work on Goran III when you return to Vulcan in two weeks. I know this was your first experience off-Vulcan for an extended period and I am curious as to your reaction. I read a paper regarding some of the work Tchail Research has been doing to improve the crop yields on that planet. Is this study further follow up?

I have signed on for another 5 year term as Science Officer. I have also been promoted to the rank of Commander. I look forward to leading more away teams on unexplored worlds.

With my promotion, for the first time since leaving Vulcan, I have my own quarters. It is unexpectedly pleasing to relax in a room with the temperature set at Vulcan norms.

Spock paused. It was ironic that just when he begun enjoying having a roommate he no longer had one.

Lieutenant MacMorris, my roommate of the last 6 months, whom I mentioned in my last correspondence has taken a post at Starbase 7. He left eleven days ago.

Spock chewed his lower lip. His mind wandered remembering Sean’s kiss in their quarters the night before he departed. His subsequent dream. Focus, he commanded himself, shaking his head to break the images.

I spoke with Captain Pike about my reservations about continuing to keep my telepathic skills hidden. The Captain remains convinced that there is no reason to divulge my abilities broadly. However, he has given me leave to use my judgment in an emergency situation. I accept that decision.

Be assured that I remain committed to returning to Vulcan at the end of this term.

 

Spock felt a pang of guilt at what was written as he sent the communication. Lies of omission are still lies. However, what needed to be said could not be done through written correspondence. How can I tell T’Pring that once I became aware of the depth of Sean’s feelings that I did not discuss the matter as I did not want to reduce our interactions? How I responded to his kiss before breaking away? What I’ve determined about my own sexual desires?

He closed his eyes. Trying to contain a feeling a frustration with himself. He had been confident that indulging in his friendship with Sean would not pose a problem even after Captain Pike had told him of the observed attraction. Spock knew he would not allow any sexual encounter to happen between them. And none had . . . except in his mind. It was difficult to control what began in an unconscious state.

The dream had occurred five nights ago. After a late dinner in the mess hall, he had returned to his new quarters to finish the task of decorating. He had finished hanging the red drapes and arranging his ornamental Vulcan daggers when he removed the smaller ornaments that he intended to place on the shelf which acted as a backboard to his bed, along with his urn of Vulcan sand. The last item he placed was the carved dagger from Sean. He had run his fingers over the images of the well-endowed men on the handle engaged in sex acts with various partners. He had closed his eyes and licked his lips remembering the feel of Sean’s on his. He had felt himself becoming aroused, but had contained it quickly, then meditated to calm himself before going to sleep. He had thought he had successfully diverted his mind from such thoughts, but . . .

His dream started like reality. Replaying again what had occurred. Sean’s fingertips reaching out to the side of his face, sliding around his head and guiding him into a kiss which deepened and became more passionate. He heard Sean’s slightly breathless voice, ‘I want to make love to you.’

In his dream, he did not deny his desire. They stripped quickly, resumed kissing each other frantically, until they tumbled onto the bed, Sean on top. Spock circled his arms around Sean’s back and thrust upwards, but it was not enough. ‘Take me’ he had pleaded, wanting to be possessed.

He had awoken, painfully hard. He did not will his erection away as he had done previously. It was what the Vulcan masters had counselled was the appropriate remedy. This time he cast his controls aside. He was alone in his new quarters. He closed eyes and played out the fantasy. He rolled onto his side and licked the fingers of one hand. He pushed one finger then two inside his anus and imagined it was Sean filling him. Soon he began to thrust his fingers into is his body, picturing Sean’s hardened cock filling his body. His other hand wrapped around his shaft, pumping himself in the same rhythm of Sean’s imagined strokes. He had groaned in satisfaction as he spasmed and felt the warmth of ejaculate in his hand for the first time. He had examined the colour, texture, viscosity and scent before rising to clean himself.

After replacing the sheets, he had lain in the bed, thoughts tumbling through his head. Why did I allow that fantasy to continue when I awoke? Why did I not follow my Vulcan training? Why should I dream of being with Sean and yet never fantasize about being with T’Pring? Is it simply physical proximity? Is it that he is male and she is female? And the most alarming question of them all. How could I ejaculate semen? I am too young for such a physical response.

The dream and his response to it had prompted Spock into action. Research was completed. He knew that Vulcans prior to sexual maturity typically experienced a widening and lengthening of their phallus in response to stimulus commencing generally between the ages of 22 and 27 and that the ability to produce semen and ejaculate typically did not occur until 5 years prior to pon farr. He had been within Vulcan norms previously, his first arousal occurring at Star Fleet Academy. This time he focused his research on Human biology.

Human males begin to ejaculate semen around the age of 13 with a range of plus or minus three years. Spock was not certain whether the fact that he was able to ejaculate now meant the acceleration of pon farr. It seemed improbable that he would reach sexual maturity so young. He was only 34.1 years old. The youngest record of pon farr was 44.2 years. In any case, he felt confident that his third term on the Enterprise was not at risk. He would only be 39.1 years old when it was completed in five years. He and T’Pring would still have time to adjust to one another.

He also researched whether the dream he had experienced was typical for Humans as Vulcans do not dream. Research supported that Humans frequently fantasized about sexual encounters in their dreams - even sometimes ejaculating while in the dream state. Clearly, his Human-half was responsible for initiating the dream. But what did it mean? Further, research indicated that heterosexual Humans were capable of experiencing in their dreams homosexual encounters and vice versa. Basically, fantasy was not a predictor of sexual orientation.

Spock knew research could only tell him so much. He needed to search himself for answers. He had experienced sexual arousal four times in his lifetime. He had never concluded what triggered his erection that first time when he had walked in on Darvin at the Academy.

The second time was the night after Leila had kissed him in the laboratory. He had woken that night in a fantasy imagining Leila taking him in her mouth. He had woken with a painful erection which had taken seventeen minutes for his mind to curb.

The third time had occurred a month earlier while watching Sean wrestle Ensign Steinberg. The sexual pheromones in the gym were strong. He could see their erections as Sean pinned the Ensign on the mat. For a moment his mind had envisioned that he was pinned under Sean and his phallus had begun to respond. He had left the gym to gain control.

Then recently there was when Sean kissed him and his dream and waking fantasy of being with Sean which he had allowed to continue to completion.

The individual encounters were not conclusive in his mind. He had not become aroused by females in reality, but had in fantasy. He was aroused by males, both in reality and fantasy. Instinctively, he felt more drawn to males than females, but realized this was not because of their physical attributes, but more because of their desire to dominate. Other than the initial time with Darvin, the other party had initiated the sexual activity. He knew this would not matter during pon farr as his biology would compel him to mate with T’Pring, but it would have implications outside of pon farr.

Following that train of thought, he explored the situations he found most arousing. He deliberately attempted to bring himself to a state arousal imagining himself engaging in sexual intercourse with T’Pring. Initially he had difficulties becoming aroused, but when he focused his mind he was able to direct the blood flow to sustain an erection.  

When he enacted fantasies in which the other party was the aggressor he became aroused more quickly, particularly when the other party was a male desiring to penetrate him. With females the most successful fantasies involved him being restrained and them teasing him to an aroused state and finally given him release orally. The result of the experiment had surprised him. Was it a lack of experience or lack of confidence, his fear of rejection, which made him desire that others take the lead? He did not actively desire to penetrate others for satisfaction. Would reality be different than fantasy? Would he always want others to take the lead? He was not certain. 

Spock knew he would have to discuss this with T’Pring. She had a right to know and she would know inevitably when he lowered his shields and they melded. He also knew he did not want to permanently block a portion of his mind to prevent her from seeing him responding to Sean. Also he knew that he not only wanted to kiss in the Vulcan fashion, but the Human fashion as well. He wanted to be brought to completion orally, but that was not done on Vulcan. Mental stimulation was the way to seek release outside of penetration for Vulcans — not other forms of touch. These desires were likely a product of his Human half.

How will T’Pring react? Logically, she must know that 28% of the Vulcan population are bisexual so my attraction to males should not pose a problem. However, it was uncommon for a Vulcan male to exclusively desire penetration. This likely would be surprising to T’Pring.

He believed that they could work together to make their bonding successful if they both committed to assist each other to achieve mutual physical satisfaction. Spock knew he would do his best to meet her physical needs outside of pon farr. Generally, Vulcans engaged in penetrative sex less frequently than Human’s as they were trained to control their desires and the joining of minds was a preferred form of release. However, if she was unsatisfied, if she preferred a more dominant partner or more frequent penetration, he would encourage T’Pring to enter an open arrangement.

Spock knew he desired to be penetrated. Would T’Pring object to the use of sexual aids to allow her to penetrate him? Would that provide sufficient pleasure? And what of the certain Human acts he desired that T’Pring might consider deviant? He did not wish to submerge more of his personality. Would she be agreeable to him engaging in such acts with another if she did not wish to do so with him?

Spock steepled his fingers in thought. He knew he had to discuss these matters, but it could not be done through correspondence.  For the time being, he would apply the Captain’s remedy and allow sleeping dogs to lie.

 

 

p’nari bush - edible red berries, sometimes golden, on a bush with blue leaves (see wonderful story by Duck Darien “Legend of the P’nari”)

 

Chapter Text

Spock opened his eyes, and looked at flickering light burning incense in the watcher, from his meditation mat in his room. At least he had touched the fourth level of meditation, c’thia. The visit to Starbase 11 had forced him to acknowledge the truth.

He had beamed down with Number One and Doctor Boyce to visit with Captain Pike for the first time since Captain Pike’s injury. His hands tensed on his thighs as he pictured the yellow blinking light. Spock had offered a meld, a means to communicate, but he had blinked, “No”.

Spock suspected the Captain did not want him to experience his likely violent emotions. He must be feeling anger and despair with his once vital body and mind trapped in that black box. I have a duty to help him. It may take time, but I will find a way. With that determined thought, he rose from his mat and went to his replicator for some tea.

As he inhaled the spicy scent, he seated himself in front of his computer console. Perhaps writing about the incident will help in achieving further acceptance of what has occurred.

To: Amanda

Re: Changes on Board the Enterprise

You may have heard through father’s connections at Star Fleet that Captain Pike was seriously injured while saving others on a training mission. He was exposed to Gamma Rays and will not be able to resume his duties. I grieve for him. Number One has also tendered her resignation effective immediately.

We expect notice shortly regarding who will be our new Captain and First Officer. The ship will remain at Starbase 11 until they board. Doctor Boyce has also indicated that he will be retiring, but has agreed to remain on board for a further six months.

Spock took a sip of his tea. He then clasped his hand together, steepling his index fingers together. How could he convey the sense of unease that permeated the ship?

The imminent departure of the three most senior members of the Enterprise is causing stress amongst the crew, myself included. Forty-eight other crew members have tendered their resignations, 72% of those amongst more senior personnel who served with both Captain Pike and Captain April before him. It may be hard for you to appreciate, how the culture of a ship is influenced by its leaders. Yes, there are 430 crew members, but how they come together as a team, how much faith we have in each other, how we cope in a crisis is influenced by leadership style. I have come to appreciate this more, now that I am a Lieutenant Commander. Although I know whomever will be assigned will be qualified, having gone through the rigors of Star Fleet training, I find myself nervous about what changes will come.

Spock reached for his tea again, taking the time to inhale the aroma slowly. His concerns were trivial compared to what had occurred to Captain Pike, yet he wanted to say what was on his mind.

Captain Pike and Number One shaped me into the Officer I am today. They took a chance on my ability to adapt to working with Humans when they welcomed me on board. I learned what these Officers expected of me and was able to meet those expectations. I wonder what will be the working style of the new leaders and will I be able to adapt? Will the new Captain wish to bring in his own Science Officer to lead the department? Will the new Captain have any bias, conscious or unconscious, against Vulcans? These questions and more have disrupted my meditation sessions.

Speculation about the future is illogical, yet I find myself unable to prevent such activity as we orbit Starbase 11 with no assigned task, but to wait for the replacements to arrive. I need to accept what has occurred and what the future will bring. Kaiidith.

Spock copied what he had sent into a new communication which he opened to edit for T’Pring. However, as he began to scan the contents of his letter again he hesitated. He had not realized it as he drafted, but the content was shockingly emotional. He would have to trust his mother not to reveal to Sarek the anxiety that was evident in the words he had written.

I must control my self-doubts. His grip tightened around his tea cup. There is no reason the new Captain and First Officer should not accept me as I am. I perform my duties well. He breathed deeply to calm himself.

What will be the point of revealing my emotional state to T’Pring? The benefits of acknowledging them have already be achieved. I can now focus on controlling the emotions.

Spock deleted the communication to T’Pring determining to write once he had information regarding the new leaders.

***

T’Pring worked with T’Pela to pull weeds from their small vegetable garden. It was their own small research laboratory. A place to try out drought resistant plants destined for other worlds.

“Did you enjoy your evening with Muroc?”

“Affirmative. We have similar tastes in music. After the concert, we had dinner at Nirak’s restaurant then strolled through the city for a while talking.”

“You did arrive home rather late.”

“Conversation flows easily between Muroc and myself.”

“I wish that were the case between Spock and myself,” T’Pring said as she dug under a particularly deep rooted weed.

T’Pela paused in her work to look at T’Pring. “I thought he had been communicating better since his visit home.”

She allowed a small sign to emit from her lips. She had confided to T’Pela that Spock guarded his privacy more than she desired, but had not revealed the depth of his shielding. She had confided in no one the true state of affairs between them. She was tired of carrying this secret.

T’Pring would welcome the assurance of a friend that it was not something she had done that caused Spock not to trust her. With each passing day, the frustration with her sa-kugalsu mounted, despite her efforts to curb such feelings through meditation.

His recent silence was even more difficult to bear, as she had thought he had begun to trust her. The reversal of progress disturbed her deeply and was wearing at her patience.

“He had been then it all came to a stop. The last communication I received was exceedingly brief. It could have been written by the Star Fleet communications office it was so impersonal. Spock indicated that he had a new Captain and First Officer and included highlights of the service records of each. Seventy-six days ago he forwarded a research paper he thought I might have interest in. Other than that I have heard nothing.”

“Do you sense across your link that he is disturbed? Perhaps he is finding it difficult to adapt to the new leaders and does not want to tell you,” commented T’Pela, as she resumed pulling weeds.

“I have not sensed any particular disturbance.” How could I? T’Pring thought as she yanked at a weed with particular vengeance taking out her frustration. But as she looked at the weed in her hand, she had to acknowledge that T’Pela may have raised a valid point. I will write to him and ask about his working relationships with the new leaders. He has always answered honestly when I make direct inquiries, she thought.

Their task completed, T’Pela gathered the weeds together to put in the composter.

When she stood, T’Pring looked at her friend and the corners of her mouth turning updwards slightly. “Let’s get back to the topic of you and Muroc. This has been the third weekend in a row that you have spent your time with him. Do you see him as a potential adun?”

“I am not certain. Stonn also remains interested in me and has many fine attributes,” said T’Pela, as T’Pring opened the lid to the composter to allow her to drop the weeds in it.

“They both would make fine matches.”

T’Pela nodded. “Sometimes, I wish my koon’ul had happened years ago, like yours, and it was all settled.”

“Do you? I used to wish I had been given a choice.” T’Pring said remembering, as she glanced into the distance, how hurt she had been when Spock had honestly suggested that a later date might result in more optimal matches, although she agreed with his position. Even now she realized they likely would not have picked each other given a free choice. But she had faith that if they worked together theirs would be a successful bonding. When she had left Vulcan she had sensed Spock was so committed. He had extended his fingers for the ozh’esta. But his unexpected coldness since then had confused her.

Movement by T’Pela broke her away from her reverie.

“Let’s go inside and get cleaned up,” T’Pela commented.

“Affirmative.” I will draft a communication to Spock.

***

Spock surveyed the chess board in front of him, tuning out the lively conversations going on around him in the recreation room. He moved his rook to the third level.

Captain Kirk had obviously anticipated that move and quickly moved his bishop in reply commenting, “I think we may be moving towards another stalemate.”

Spock had come to that conclusion as well, but had not wished to presume another draw, until the Captain acknowledged it. “Indeed. I see no reason to prolong this match.”

The Captain smiled then, one of those radiant smiles that lit up his face. It was startling, the warm feeling that he often felt when graced with that smile. Do others felt the same way in his presence? “Perhaps you don’t, but I enjoy the company.”

Spock paused, disconcerted. He had not meant to suggest he was anxious to end the match, far from it. “Captain, I did not mean–”

The Captain shook his head laughing. “No offence taken. I’m sure you have things you could be doing, Lieutenant Commander.”

The remark made Spock pause. Evidently, the Captain’s friend, Lieutenant Commander Mitchell, had informed him about his displeasure with the timeliness of Spock’s report delivery. Spock expected Mitchell’s appointment as First Officer imminently. In fact, he was uncertain why he had not already been appointed given he had been handling most of the administrative tasks previously conducted by Number One since his arrival. It was safe to assume that this was a subtle warning, given in a neutral setting, to let him know that he stood aligned with his friend. Spock stood abruptly feeling uncharacteristically distressed that the Captain had not sought out the complete facts before making a judgment.

“I do have some reports I need to ensure get sent to Lieutenant Commander Mitchell on a timely basis,” he stated in a clipped tone, to assure the Captain he understood the veiled comment.

The Captain looked up at him quickly, cocking his head, and started to raise his hand, as if in protest. He then quickly glanced around at the crowded room before rising to accompany him. “I’ll come with you.”

Spock would have preferred to leave alone, but he could hardly refuse to leave together. None-the-less, he strode ahead to the turbolift, halting only when he heard, “Spock, wait.”

Spock took a moment to compose his face into a neutral mask before he turned to face the Captain in the empty corridor. It was illogical to run from a reprimand.

The Captain’s eyes pinned him. “Has Gary been given you a hard time?” To Spock’s surprise when he looked closer into their depth of his hazel eyes, they seemed more concerned that displeased. Did I misunderstand earlier?

Spock raised his eyebrow, contemplating how to respond to the Captain’s question about his friend. “Hard time, Captain?”

“Don’t pretend not to understand me.”

Spock was relieved that the turbo lift arrived at that moment giving him a moment to think. They stepped inside, the Captain quickly giving their destination. Caution seemed prudent. “Lieutenant Commander Mitchell has noted areas for improvement in my performance. I am endeavoring to rectify the situation.”

The Captain held his mouth in a firm line, looking slightly perturbed with his response. “Someone reported a remark he made the other day during the briefing meeting I requested he chair.”

It seemed like the Captain was giving him an invitation to comment, yet Spock was uncertain how to proceed. He clasped his hands behind his back and remained silent as they stepped out of the turbolift.

The Captain stepped in front of him blocking his way. “Did Gary say, ‘I’m disappointed that I received the analysis of readings of the Qualzi star only 15 minutes in advance of this meeting. I thought the computer circuits in your brain would allow for more prompt analysis.’”

He dared not look at the Captain. Was it possible the Captain was displeased at how Lieutenant Commander Mitchell had expressed his displeasure or was this a test to see if he could handle insensitive remarks without fuss? He hoped it was the former, but steeled himself to accept if it was the latter. His mouth felt suddenly dry as he swallowed, and focused on a point above his Captain’s right shoulder. “Affirmative. I detected an error in a subordinate’s analysis. I thought it appropriate to take the time to coach them through the matter so that they would not make the same error in the future. I should have corrected the paper expeditiously and then provided—”

“Stop it, Spock. This conversation isn’t related to when Gary got that report delivered. Why would you…” The Captain’s voice trailed off as Spock felt the warmth of his hand grasping him just below the shoulder. “Look at me.”

Spock shifted his eyes down slightly and was met with warm hazel eyes and a brow that appeared to be creased with concern. Relief flooded through him. “I’m your Captain. It’s my job to make sure everyone is treated with respect on my ship. Gary is my friend, but it doesn’t give him the right to make remarks like that. I thought he’d grown up. Why didn’t you tell me what he said?”

Spock felt the support offered in that grip and was pleased; however, he did not want the Captain to believe he could not handle his own problems. “Captain, I have learned to deal with insensitive remarks from a young age. This is nothing new. You need not be concerned.” The support he had just received was more than enough, more than he had ever received in the past.

The Captain looked up as two crew members approached, then ushered them down the hall a few meters until they reached an available meeting room. He motioned Spock forward and they stepped inside. Spock appreciated that the Captain understood his need for privacy.

He resumed the conversation immediately. “Has Gary made similar remarks to you previously?”

Spock remained silent for a moment, but it was clear from the Captain’s intense stare that he expected an answer.

“Affirmative.”

“And others?”

The Captain reached out and squeezed his shoulder again. “I’m not expecting a list of names, Spock. A yes or no answer will do.”

“Affirmative. The number of remarks has declined over time as the crew has become accustomed to my presence.”

“Any remarks are one too many. Don’t justify the abhorrent behavior you’ve tolerated.”

Spock almost sighed when the Captain dropped his hand to begin pacing. It was alarming how comforted he felt by that touch.

 

The last time his mother had comforted him with touch he had been 17 years, 2 months and 23 days old. It had been after the incident with Velshun. She had been embraced him on the floor of his room, rubbing his back in a soothing manner, after he had failed in his attempt at meditation, when he heard, the rumble of Sarek’s voice. “Amanda, I would speak with you.”

 

He had stiffened at the tone. The fact that his father had been able to arrive at the door of his room without warning was proof of his mental distress that day.

 

His father’s eyes had been impenetrable.

 

“Now.”

 

He remembered the shame he felt in that moment: for having lost control with Velshun, for needing his mother’s physical comfort, for being a disappointment to his father.

 

His mother had continued her gentle movements. He had forced himself to speak. “Mother, please go.” He could not let his father know how much her touch had soothed his battered soul. He feared she would continue, despite his words, but her hand stilled, then withdrew.

 

The Captain stopped his agitated movements and Spock dragged himself from the past into the present. “I think a message needs to be sent. Gary will be making an apology to you at our pre-planetary briefing meeting tomorrow morning. You will be running the weekly Ops meetings from now on.”

“Captain, I hardly think it—”

 

The Captain’s eyes flashed momentarily, “I’m not asking for your opinion, Lieutenant Commander.” Then they softened again, “Spock, I don’t want to command a ship where such insults are tolerated. This isn’t just about you. Each member of my crew needs to know that they’ll be treated with respect. I think if I set a proper example with Gary, it may help get the message out regarding what’s acceptable on my ship. I’ll get Uhura to help the news make it through the grapevine regarding his apology. I’m sorry if that makes you feel uncomfortable.”

 

Spock was surprised that the Captain perceived he would not relish receiving an ordered public apology, but accepted that the course of action was reasonable and might benefit others. “Understood. If I may be excused?”

 

“In a moment.” The Captain gave him a small smile. “I expect you to report to me any similar incidents in the future. I respect your ability to handle your own issues, but this is important to the culture of the Enterprise. Understood?”

 

“Affirmative, Captain.”

 

The Captain gave him a nod then strode out of the meeting room ahead of him. Spock followed and watched him walk down the hall to stop in front of the Lieutenant Commander Mitchell’s quarters, squaring his shoulders, before he raised his hand to press the announcer. Spock turned to make his way to his own quarters. The Captain had surprised him, yet again. It was becoming a pleasantly familiar occurrence.

 

He went over to his computer screen to begin working on the reports he owed Lieutenant Commander Mitchell feeling contented.

 

***

 

Spock returned to his quarters. He had left the mess hall, declining the invitation to join some of the other senior officers in a game of poker. He had noticed on his PADD earlier in the day a communication from T’Pring and wanted to devote some attention to her correspondence. He sat in his chair and scanned the communication quickly. It was always interesting to read of the activities she had participated in with her friends on Vulcan and to learn of the new research she was involved in a T’Chail although this letter seemed more clinical, focused on work and not her personal interests. He read her closing sentence again, “Share with me your impressions of the new leaders. Hold nothing back.” The wording was uncharacteristic of her previous style. Why would T’Pring think I would be anything less than honest? Has my delay in writing caused her to suspect I am withholding information from her?

 

Spock stood. As he made himself some spiced tea he considered what he would say. He was aware it his first communication had been exceedingly brief. Since then he had started and aborted more than one communication to her regarding the new personal. He harbored an irrational fear that Captain Kirk would somehow disappoint him moments after he acknowledged in writing the favorable impression he had formed. But he would not lie either and paint Captain Kirk as a lesser individual than he appeared to be.

 

He also wondered whether he should address the sense of distrust her closing remark raised. I am overly sensitive because I have delayed in writing? It would be a grave insult, after the patience she has shown regarding my shielding, to question her. I might be better served to state the truth of why it has taken so long to correspond. Decision made, Spock straightened his back, returned to his desk tea in hand and commenced.

 

 

To: T’Pring

Subject: Changes on Board the Enterprise

My delay in writing to you has been because I have had difficulty determining my impressions of the new leaders. I am still adjusting to them even after 187 days with Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Commander Mitchell and 72 days with Doctor McCoy. I have grouped Lieutenant Commander Mitchell as a ‘leader’, although we are of equal rank, as I anticipate him being appointed First Officer. Captain Kirk has in many ways had him acting as First Officer and as such I have reported to him during various meetings.

Spock paused. For not the first time, he wondered why the Captain had not yet appointed his friend First Officer. Did he have another person in mind who was currently unavailable? Was he uncertain? Why am I now in charge of the Operations meetings? He glanced back at the computer and forced himself to focus on his task rather than speculating again on the cause of the delay.

I started more than one communication, but never sent it, as I thought additional observation might change my initial opinion. With the caveat, that my views may be subject to change, with further input, I will do my best to give you my honest impressions of each.

As you know, I admired Captain Pike a great deal. I expected that it would be difficult for Captain Kirk, the youngest Starship captain ever appointed, to fill the void left of a veteran of 11 years. How Captain Pike would react in a given situation had become predictable to me. I had anticipated that the crew of the Enterprise might suffer from the new Captain’s inexperience initially, particularly in strategic situations. I was mistaken. Captain Kirk has proven himself more than capable of adapting to any situation. I do find myself challenged; however, to anticipate his reactions to all situations. The logic he applies to form a course of action is often a mystery to me.

Spock sipped his tea. It was difficult to capture the change in mood of the Enterprise since Captain Kirk’s arrival. It was the more intangible aspects that seemed most important, but would be challenging to convey.

Captain Pike had a calm, quiet demeanor. Captain Kirk is a more energetic personality. While Captain Pike was content to remain in his Captain’s chair, Captain Kirk often walks the bridge. He reminds me of a le-matya circling its territory. As he surveys the bridge, he often stops to talk with each of us, at our stations. This seems to have enhanced the comradery of the bridge crew. He seems to have connected all of us with an invisible string as he makes his rounds. I find myself listening to his conversations with others. Often he will draw me and others in by directly soliciting views on the matter being discussed.

Admittedly his energy can result at times in him venting his frustration on an unsuspecting individual, including myself, when something has not occurred as quickly as he would have liked or when one’s response is not sufficiently helpful. One might expect this to have a negative impact, however, he inevitably realizes what he has done, sincerely apologizes to the individual, not in private, but in front of all, and the positive mood is restored.

That said, he will speak of performance matters in private, when he believes it is warranted. On the eighth day of his command he called me into his quarters, to discuss my ‘propensity to report insufficient data’ when he asked my opinion on a scientific matter. We agreed that I would report “insufficient data” only when the hypothesis I had formed had in my mind less than a 30% chance of being correct. In other cases, he expected me to speculate, but I was at liberty to caution him that I was speculating. The interaction was satisfying as he seemed to have a genuine interest in my thought processes. He also discussed why as the Captain he needed such speculations from me, even if there was a significant chance of error.

Amongst Humans, there is an expression, whereby an individual is labelled ‘a people person’. I never understood the term before, but do now, as I have seen it in action. The term is meant to describe someone who is outgoing, positive and open to the ideas of others. This is an apt description for Captain Kirk. He seems to have made it his mission, to get to know on a personal level the 430 crew members. I am not an exception. He spends us much time as his busy schedule permits in the recreation areas. One day he sat across from me as I played chess against the computer and challenged me to a game. He is a most formidable opponent. We have played on 23 occasions since that day. The discussion during those games is wide-ranging. I find I have already shared more about my personal self and learned more about the Captain’s upbringing on a farm in Iowa, than I ever knew about Captain Pike in the 11 years, 4 months and 5 days we served together.

The Captain has two close friends which he particularly requested for senior positions on the Enterprise: Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell who is our helmsman and Doctor Leonard McCoy. My impression of Humans has been that they will make allowances for their friends, overlooking their short-comings. Captain Kirk surprised me recently by not behaving in this manner.

Lieutenant Commander Mitchell while chairing a meeting made a disparaging remark connected to my species. Another member of the crew made the Captain aware of the remark. He confronted me to determine about why I had not reported the incident to him.

Spock took a sip of his tea, remembering the grip of the Captain’s hand on his bicep, the concern his eyes had expressed.

He made it clear that it was his duty to me to ensure I was not prejudiced against and to other members of the crew facing discrimination. I cannot recall another similar situation where I have felt such unequivocal support.

Spock paused to sip his tea. What to say about Gary Mitchell?

Based on the above, I am sure you have surmised that the absence of Number One as First Officer has not been positive from my perspective. Much of my daily interaction on administrative matters now occurs with Lieutenant Commander Mitchell. Number One was herself, a highly logical and unemotional being, so we had a natural affinity. I do not relate well to the Lieutenant Commander. I have attempted to engage him in conversation off-duty to find a mutual area of interest, recognizing he likely will be appointed First Officer, but our interests seem divergent.

To date our awkward relationship has had no appreciable impact. I do have some concern Lieutenant Commander Mitchell may resent that fact he was required to apologize to me, but since the incident nothing further has occurred. I believe we both recognize the need for senior officers to work together. I am certain the Captain will be alert to indications we are not working together effectively.

Spock closed his eyes and released a mental sigh as he got to Doctor McCoy. What surprised him the most was how many interactions he had with the Doctor and how successful the Doctor was at getting him to lose control. There were a number of positive aspects about the relationship which gave him hope that the challenges they were experiencing could be overcome.

Doctor McCoy has replaced Doctor Boyce as the Chief Medical Officer. Doctor Boyce and I interacted very little as he rarely left the confines of sick bay and we only had discourse if a situation demanded it. Doctor McCoy is a much more visible presence on the Bridge. I often wonder why he has come to the Bridge, but the Captain seems interested in his opinions. He has also joined us on numerous landing parties and regularly joins the Captain and other members of the bridge crew for meals. I find myself often diametrically opposed to his views. He tends to take an emotional approach to most situations, while I try to apply reason. The Captain seems to enjoy hearing various viewpoints no matter the subject.

On occasion, Doctor McCoy’s comments can become personal in nature. It is as though he is deliberately attempting to provoke an emotional response from me. It brings back unpleasant memories from my youth when I struggled to maintain control in the face of such attacks. Regretfully, I cannot say that I have not resorted to his level on occasion when irritated. Captain Kirk has sometimes had to jump in to diffuse the situation.

I do admire the Doctor’s medical knowledge. He has shown a keen interest in learning about my mixed biology, purely in the name of science he would proclaim, but I believe it is to ensure, if the need arises that he could provide proper medical care. He insisted that I undergo various monitored tests to gauge my reaction to various stimulants and antibiotics to allow him to assess the proper dosage for myself. He has also insisted that I routinely donate blood to create a stockpile. He was not satisfied with the quantity on hand.

The Doctor does appear to have, similar to Captain Kirk, a genuine interest in learning about other cultures, including Vulcan culture. We often have different perspective on the cultures, but his sense of curiosity is equal to my own.

Finally, I have found when a crisis is at hand, we have been able to put our differences aside to collaborate successfully.

Overall I feel comfortable with the changes. This is undoubtedly because of Captain Kirk. He holds the other two individuals in check.

Captain Kirk, through the force of his personality, has the ability to bring the best out of each member of our crew, myself included. For this reason, I feel positive and about my remaining term on the Enterprise.

Spock contemplated how to close his communication.

I will endeavour to provide more timely updates in the future.

Your latest communication did not include what activities you and your roommates have been engaged in. Trust that I read such details with interest.

 

***

 

T’Pring walked into the living area. “Who won the game?” T’Pring asked as she pulled out a chair to join her friends around the table.

T’Pela took a sip of water then replied, “It was a close match, but I prevailed in the end.”

“Would you be interested in another? More competitors always makes the game more challenging,” suggested T’Pring. Everyone nodded in agreement and threw their blocks into the box for selection. T’Pring wondered to herself, if Spock would enjoy the company of her friends and whether he enjoyed word games or whether he only preferred mathematical games like K’buto.

Suddenly T’Pring felt a wave of emotion overwhelm her. She put her hand to her temple. Waves of shame and remorse flooded her mind and fragments of thought before she lost consciousness.

When she awoke she was stretched out on her bed. She sensed she had been unconscious for 3.1 hours. She opened her eyes and saw her friends and the robes of a healer.

The healer noted her awareness. “My name is T’Sel.”

“Healer T’Sel, thank you for your assistance.” She recollected a calming presence in her mind and deduced it must have been her.

Her friends gathered around her bed. Expressions of concern on their faces as they asked her in various ways how she felt.

She considered the matter and answered honestly, “There is no longer any pain. Could I have a moment with Healer T’Sel?” Her friends nodded their understanding and retreated from her room to give her privacy.

T’Pring turned to the healer and asked, “I am curious as to what happened while I was unconscious? Do you have any insights?”

“When I entered your mind, I determined that your mind was being bombarded with strong emotions that appeared to emanate from your bonding center. As a healer, I have learned techniques to withstand such an onslaught. I acted as a buffer to slow the transmission so that your senses would not be overloaded. I presume from your reaction this has never occurred before.”

T’Pring found it difficult to focus. What did that mean? She tried to form a reasonable question, “Are you able to determine what caused this to occur?”

“I do not have sufficient facts to speculate. What do you recall?”

T’Pring tried to remember the moment before she fainted. Her heart began to race as she recalled the assault from Spock’s mind. A small gasp escaped her lips as the intensity of it all came back suddenly. “Spock, my betrothed, was distraught . . . confused.” She took a breath then continued, “He is off planet. I was unprepared when the bombardment began.” I wonder what happened to him. Could it have been a call for assistance?

“Can I access the information transmitted?” she asked, anxious to ascertain what had prompted the episode and determine if action was required on her part.

“Affirmative. I suggest you access the information during meditation, to allow its examination while in a calm state of mind.”

“Do you think Spock is better now? He has shielded his mind from me.” T’Pring did not want to divulge that this was normal between them unless the Healer questioned her on the matter.

“I can only tell you what I experienced. I arrived within moments of your losing consciousness as Stonn called the emergency line. When I first touched your mind, the emanations from Spock were very strong. 14 minutes later there was a catalyst and Spock was able to gain a tenuous control again. It was 42 minutes after I arrived when I sensed he had shielded. I shall not speculate on the reason he took that action. At that time, I removed my presence from your mind. Since then I have waited for you to naturally regain consciousness.”

“Thank you for your assistance.”

“I am pleased to have been able to serve your needs satisfactorily,” Healer T’Sel replied. “You should continue to rest. I will advise your friends that my services are no longer required and show myself out.

A few moments later T’Pring’s friends came into the room. “Can we bring you anything to make you more comfortable?” asked Asil.

“I am a bit thirsty – some water would be welcome. I do not require anything else at this time. I am going to rest for a short period and then will try some meditation. Please go and play a game of K’Tela as we had planned. I do not want to spoil your evening. I really am feeling much better.”

Once Asil returned with her water, her friends filed out, leaving her alone. She could faintly hear them talking in the background as they got started on their game. She sipped her water while she sat in bed. When done, she lay back, but sleep would not come. She was too anxious to determine what had befallen Spock.

She rose from her bed, unfurled her meditation mat, lit the wick to her meditation candle then seated herself cross-legged. As she stared at the flickering flame she concentrated on her breathing, in, out, in, out as she relaxed her mind. She began to search her mind for the transmission from Spock. What had happened to him? It was as though she was walking through a mist with an undefined destination, then slowly emotions began to wash over her, as well as images and snippets of dialogue.

The first image to congeal into a solid shape is a tall blond woman. She is holding Spock’s hand. No, she is clutching both his hands in hers. Spock declares, ‘I’m in control of my emotions’ but, it is not true, he is in turmoil. Through Spock’s eyes, she watches her response. ‘The others believe that. I don't. I love you. I don't know why, but I love you. I do love you just as you are… Oh, I love you.’ T’Pring recoils. He belongs to me.

She reaches out and touches Spock. His external shields are not functioning either as he absorbs her pain. Spock feels an urgent need to get away. He does not want to hurt her: a name coalesces in her mind, Christine.

“I’m sorry,” he says backing into a hallway, then stumbling into a room. T’Pring feels his body slump heavily against the doors for support.

He lunges towards a chair. The pain and anguish intensify. Spock sobs and chants ‘I’m in control of my emotions’. T’Pring’s heart is pounding in her side as she tried to absorb his emotions. Spock calls on his teachings to try and gain control, thinking of matters that calm him ... his duty … mathematics … but it is to no avail.

A quiet sob escapes her throat in sympathetic agony as her concentration breaks. She takes a moment to gather herself, than considers what she could discern from what she had observed. Spock is not in physical danger. He is not in control, thus, it is unlikely he reached out for assistance. It is not clear what caused his mental turmoil.

She chews the inside of her cheek. If he did not initiate contact do I have a right to continue? I am merely reviewing what already exists in my mind, she rationalizes, although the words seemed hollow even in her own mind. It may provide valuable insight into his emotions that he fears to share with me. In this way, when we finally meld, I will be prepared. She sighs, knowing the truth. I am tired of waiting to know what lays hidden. This may be my only chance for another 4 years and 213 days when his tour of duty ends.

Decision made, T’Pring licks her tender inner cheek as she refocuses on the flame. Soon the images resume with a golden haired man striding into the room where Spock has hidden. He is demanding answers, ‘Where have you been? What happened?’

Spock’s mind is lost. He is unable to comprehend. ‘My mother, I could never tell her I loved her ... an Earth woman, living on a planet where love, emotion, is in bad taste.’

A wave of remorse sweeps through T’Pring. She digs her nails into the palms of her hands and focuses on the images in her mind.

The other man is agitated, yelling at Spock. He grabs both his arms and shakes him. His panic for the safety of the ship pours into Spock, but Spock remains lost in a maelstrom of emotion. ‘I respected my father, our customs. I was ashamed of my Earth blood.’

T’Pring instinctively recoils, as the other slaps him. Spock momentarily focuses after the assault, ‘Jim, when I feel friendship for you, I'm ashamed.’ T’Pring senses the waves of shame pouring through her and knows it is true. Who is Jim?

She is stunned when Jim hits Spock again, can’t he see Spock is in anguish? Jim’s yelling again now ‘You’ve got to hear me! We need a formula. We've got to risk implosion!’

Some of the urgency of Jim’s rantings is getting through to Spock. Suddenly, his mind is clear, he is aware again. He responds coherently, as he grabs Jim’s hand forcefully, ‘It's never been done!’

But then another wave of emotion sidetracks him. ‘Understand, Jim. I've spent a whole lifetime learning to hide my feelings.’

When Jim hits Spock this time, there is uncontrolled rage in response. Spock hits Jim back, hard sending him flying.

The memory presses forward. They are interrupted by a call. The golden haired man, Jim, answers the hail in a crazed manner ‘Yes, I found Mister Spock! I'm talking to Mister Spock, do you understand?’ When the woman responds, T’Pring hears her call him Captain. Jim must be a derivative of James, the new Captain he wrote me about. T’Pring watches, even more fascinated now.

Spock is reining himself back in, regaining some of his control to focus on the crisis at hand. He looks at his Captain, calls him by his given name, first gently ‘Jim’ and then again trying to get the Captain to focus, ‘Jim, there is an intermix formula.’

Another man in a red shirt arrives and Spock leaves with him. T’Pring watches as Spock, more composed at this point, works with the engineer, Mister Scott, on the mathematics of restarting the engines. The waves of emotion continue, but are less over whelming. Spock is able to work through them.

She is just about to end her meditation session, as Spock enters the turbolift and directs it to the bridge. She focuses on his feelings as he rides the lift. All she senses is worry for Jim, his Captain. Surprisingly, there is no trace of anger towards him for his earlier callous treatment.

When the doors opened, Spock quickly goes to the side of the Captain’s chair and leans in, concern thrumming through his being, ‘Are you all right, Jim?’

Another surprise, the warm look the Captain gives Spock, when he asks in return ‘Are you?’

She feels a wave of relief and pleasure as Spock looks back.

The situation appears to return back to normal when he steps away. There is discussion of the cure to the virus that had infected them and what the time travel had meant to them. Spock returns to his science station and reports back in a professional tone using Jim’s rank again, ‘We’re back to normal time, Captain.’

T’Pring ended her meditation session. She sat on her mat a while to compose herself. The house was quiet. Finally, she opened her eyes into the serenity of her bedroom. Given the time, the others would be in bed. However, she knew she was not ready for sleep. She needed to time to contemplate all she had seen and felt.

She ventured down the hall to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. While she was waiting for her tea to steep in the pot, she heard steps coming down the hallway and looked up to see Stonn in his sleeping robe. “I heard you get up. Would like some company?”

“That would be welcome. Would you like to share some tea, it is almost ready?”

Stonn grabbed his cup and sat down across the kitchen table from her. “That would be agreeable.”

T’Pring was thankful that Stonn did not push her to talk about what had happened immediately. She needed a moment to assimilate it. They both sat quietly sipping their tea in a comfortable silence. “During my meditation session, I was able to access what transmitted across our link. I was able to slow it down, so it was not so overwhelming. Even then it was difficult to absorb. It is difficult to know what it all means.”

“Did you get a sense of what prompted the episode?”

“Affirmative. Spock as well as several of his crewmates were infected by a virus. The virus impacted individuals differently, but generally it exposed your hidden feelings. His controls were compromised by the virus, impacting his ability to shield.”

Stonn’s gaze felt intense. “You appear troubled. I presume some of what you saw Spock has not previously shared. Everyone has a right to awek’es. It is unfortunate it was breached inadvertently. I am sure Spock will understand it was not your intent to willfully invade his privacy.”

T’Pring turned away, not wanting to betray in her eyes her actions. Let him think I had no choice, but to absorb it. Twenty-seven years, 3 months and 2 days. It was too much to ask her to turn away when the information was available in her own mind for the looking.

She swallowed then looked back at Stonn and spoke quickly, trying to defend her actions, if only to herself, as Stonn did not know she had breached Spock’s privacy deliberately. “Spock has always shielded his thoughts from me.”

Stonn’s eyes widened slightly at her startling revelation.

T’Pring looked down. Control seemed elusive at the moment. “And now I do not know how to interpret what I have seen.” Her voice had trembled slightly as she spoke. She felt very much alone.

T’Pring looked up as she sipped her tea. She forced herself to breathe deeply, trying to calm herself, to regain a measure of control. Is this the after-effect of exploring Spock’s unguarded emotions?

Stonn remained quiet. His face pensive. What is he thinking?

Finally he spoke. His voice was solemn. “If you wish to divulge to me what was revealed, I could provide an unbiased perspective. You could later tell Spock, why you confided in another. I will never reveal to another what we discuss.”

T’Pring closed her eyes as she considered the merits of his offer. It would help to have another perspective. Now that she possessed this information, she needed help to understand what she had seen.

She took another moment, gathered herself, opened her eyes and began. “I saw a tall blond woman, Christine. She declared that she was in love with Spock. That was her secret. She held his hands, almost obscenely, rubbing her hands over his fingertips. She even kissed his fingers with her lips,” she said as she swirled her tea in her cup. How could he let her touch him so? “It was uncomfortable to observe her touching Spock in such a manner. Do you think she is aware of the sensitivity of Vulcan hands?”

“Unknown.” Stonn took a moment to sip his tea. “What Christine professed is not relevant. Spock cannot control her feelings. What is important, is what he felt towards Christine. Did you sense that he returned her feelings?”

T’Pring felt immediate relief as she knew that answer. It was right that Stonn had redirected her to what was important. “Negative. Her declarations of love made him uncomfortable. He did not feel strong affection for her. He felt sympathy for the pain he had caused her by not returning her love. He did not want to hurt her. He fled from the room to get away from her. It was after that, that he broke down further.”

Stonn rose and grabbed a knife and gespar fruit. As he peeled it, he said, “Please elaborate.”

T’Pring took a slice of the fruit and took a moment to enjoy the bitter sweet taste. “I cannot tell you all of what followed next. Some of it is too private. But for the first time, I truly realized how much it costs Spock to try and live as a Vulcan, hiding half of who he is from the world. For example, it causes him pain to not express to his mother his feelings for her in a way that she as a Human would appreciate. When I experienced his anguish, it made me sob out loud. It was difficult to bear for even just a brief moment. To endure that all the time . . . to feel ashamed of half of who you are . . . his life has been even harder than I imagined.”

Stonn finished chewing a slice a fruit. “Perhaps it is good that you have felt some of his pain. You may understand him better. Is there something else you feel comfortable to share that you would like a second perspective on?”

T’Pring remained quiet for a moment, then nodded. “The exchanges between Spock and his new Captain I found very perplexing.”

She closed her eyes to hear Spock’s words again and the way he delivered them. “Spock’s Captain sought him out to help him with some complex scientific problem to help restart the engines. Spock was lost in his emotions and Captain Kirk hit him more than once to get his attention.”

T’Pring paused again and swallowed, “Spock made a confession to his Captain that distressed him greatly. He said, ‘Jim, when I feel friendship for you, I’m ashamed.’ When his Captain was impacted by the virus, Spock called him Jim, rather than Captain, on multiple times to try to get him to refocus on the crisis. Finally, when the engineering crisis was solved, Spock’s first thoughts were of the Captain. He hurried back to the bridge and when he arrived he did not go to his station. Rather he immediately headed towards the Captain’s chair and asked with concern, ‘Are you all right, Jim?’ He wasn’t upset at all about the fact that the Captain had hit him, he was only concerned about his well-being.”

Stonn interjected, “How did the Captain respond to Spock’s inquiry?”

“He smiled warmly back at Spock. And asked in an equally concerned manner about Spock’s welfare. From Spock’s perspective, it was like there was no one else on the bridge in that moment. It was only the two of them.” T’Pring felt her cheeks flush and quickly looked down at her tea. “I felt like I was intruding on a special private moment, even though when Spock stepped back, I could see many people present on the bridge.”

“Interesting. However, perhaps that level of concern is common amongst command teams on Human ships. Spock is working amongst Humans and does need to adapt his behavior to work efficiently amongst them.”

“That might also explain Spock’s persistent use of his Captain’s given name,” T’Pring began, then stopped herself. “However, that would be inconsistent with what Spock has previously told me.”

“How so?”

“Spock indicated to me that he tries to follow Vulcan customs. It seems unusual that he would suddenly adopt Human customs, unless this was another impact of the virus. The woman, Christine, who was making advances on Spock, encouraged him to use her name, implying it was special and not how he would normally address colleagues. His mind resisted the idea, initially, but eventually capitulated. With the Captain, he used it freely, without prompting.”

Stonn finished off the last piece of p’tav’ri as T’Pring pondered aloud. “Why did Spock say he was ashamed of his feeling of friendship for the Captain? It makes no sense. Vulcan culture values friendships. Ancient Vulcan culture values warrior bonds highly. How can feeling friendship cause you to feel shame?” T’Pring asked, then added for emphasis, “And he did feel shame. I felt it.”

Stonn nodded. “His choice of words is perplexing when combined with the emotions you indicate he transmitted across the link. Do you think Humans have different views about friendship than Vulcans?”

“Negative. Spock in prior correspondence has written about the various friendships that existed on the Enterprise under Captain Pike’s command and Captain Kirk’s friends that he brought onto the Enterprise. His writing of these relationships did not suggest that they were unaccepted.”

T’Pring looked at Stonn. His forehead creased in thought. He began to fiddle with the knife. Wiping and re-wiping the blade with a napkin.

“Stonn, do you have any insight?”

Finally, he put the knife down, and looked at her directly. “Affirmative. But it may not be my place to speak it. Speculation such as this, without sufficient facts, may not be wise.”

T’Pring was well aware that speculation was dangerous. But she had already crossed that line, when her mind had unexpectedly recollected how her parents looked at one another and realized that was the look in the Captain’s eyes when he looked at Spock on the bridge. And the response she had felt in Spock was what she had felt when he had kissed her. It was what had caused her to spontaneously blush. She needed another perspective. “Please speak your mind. If your speculations have merit, I can seek out other facts or speak to Spock directly to determine their veracity.”

Stonn nodded, then began to speak. “You spoke earlier of ancient warrior bonds. As you know, some warrior bonds go beyond friendship in their strength. Such warriors were mated for life. Perhaps Spock has sensed a desire in himself to be with his Captain in such a capacity. I am not suggesting he would act on such a desire, merely that it might exist. They already have a common interest in space exploration.”

“But why would he be ashamed? If he has an attraction to the Captain, we would make the traditional arrangements.”

“Perhaps Human culture does not approve of male/male pairings. Or more specifically he knows his Captain only is attracted to females. He might feel ashamed if he believes the Captain would find such an interest distasteful. A relationship with a senior officer could also be forbidden as a matter of policy in Star Fleet,” speculated Stonn.

T’Pring remained silent for a moment. She had sensed a possible attraction, but her heart resisted such a conclusion. She would prefer not to have Spock’s divided attention. “It is a possible explanation,” she said slowly. “Other explanations might exist of which I am not aware.”

“Another possible explanation is that he would prefer to be with his Captain exclusively. He could be ashamed that he has not spoken of his sexual orientation with you.”

Is it possible Spock is only physically attracted to males? Will he see his obligation to fulfill my physical needs as a distasteful duty? Will he desire another even during pon farr? But he initiated our first kiss. His eyes have shown signs of appreciation of my physical appearance.

“I do not believe Spock has acted contrary to his betrothal bond. He would not deliberately pursue his Captain, any more than he would deliberately pursue another woman,” T’Pring said, automatically to defend Spock. I have to believe that.

“I did not accuse him of deliberate action. He may in fact be resisting what is an instinctive attraction for him in deference to his commitment to you. Was anything else said of interest?”

T’Pring nodded. “The Captain said something about relationships.” She paused to recall the interchange she had observed. The scene unfolded as she closed her eyes, “The Captain said, ‘I have a beautiful yeoman. Have you noticed her, Mister Spock? You're allowed to notice her. The Captain's not permitted’ then later ‘… flesh woman to touch, to hold.’”

T’Pring opened her eyes to gauge Stonn’s reaction. “Such a statement is suggestive that the Captain is attracted to woman, but not conclusive that he does not have an interest in men. It is intriguing that he said that Spock was allowed to notice her, but that he was not permitted. This suggests two things. First, he is not aware that Spock is betrothed to you and second, that the Captain avoids relationships with crew members. This further suggests the existence of a Star Fleet regulation against relationships between a Captain and his crew. Or it could be a personal preference Captain Kirk has adopted to avoid the perception of possible bias.”

When Stonn finished speaking, he rose to take his tea cup and knife to the sink. T’Pring gathered her cup as well, willing her arm to remain steady and not betray how overwhelmed she was feeling. She willed herself to focus on how to proceed. “A couple of these matters can be researched. I can determine whether laws on Earth recognize male/male relationships and whether they are generally accepted and what Star Fleet regulations exist regarding relationships between officers.”

“Regardless, you will not know what individual standards govern the behavior of the Captain,” replied Stonn.

“The Captain does seem to live for his ship.” His words came unbidden from her lips. “He said, ‘Love. You're better off without it, and I'm better off without mine. This vessel, I give, she takes. She won't permit me my life. I've got to live hers.’”

Stonn turned quickly to look at her.

“What is it?”

“You said the Captain said ‘Love. You’re better off without it.’ What was Spock speaking about just prior to him saying that?”

T’Pring closed her eyes again to concentrate and gripped the counter. “They were speaking about the possibility of risking implosion to save the ship, but mixed in with that conversation was when Spock declared that he was ashamed of his feelings of friendship, followed by the statement ‘Understand, Jim. I've spent a whole lifetime learning to hide my feelings.’ Their conversation was jumping erratically, perhaps, as a result of the virus.”

When T’Pring opened her eyes again, Stonn was leaning against the counter. “Perhaps the Captain, whether consciously or unconsciously, understood that Spock had declared more than friendship, and thus substituted the word love when he answered back. His understanding seems to be that Spock does not want those feelings, as he says ‘you’re better off without it.’ Or perhaps he understands that he is the object of that love and he does not or will not reciprocate those feelings, so he offered a warning that he would be better off without those feelings. It is not clear.” Stonn visibly straightened. “A reason to cease such speculations.”

T’Pring looked at Stonn, grateful for his companionship. “Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me this evening. You have made some interesting observations that I may not have noticed on my own. I need some time to contemplate what this might mean to me and determine my next actions.”

They began to walk down the hall. As T’Pring arrived at her room, Stonn stopped as well. He said quietly, “If you wish to discuss this further in confidence in the future, please know that I would be honored to be of assistance. Good night.”

***

T’Pring arose the next day still feeling unsettled. In her meditation session she had difficulty reconciling her actions. She was ashamed that she had violated Spock’s privacy and then compounded that betrayal by speaking of what she had seen with Stonn. But she did not regret the information she found out, nor that she had Stonn’s input in interpreting it, as his insights had proved valuable to her.

It was unsettling to think Spock might desire a relationship with his Captain even if she had faith he would not act on it. She wanted to be the only one that Spock desired.

Her mind kept circling around why he would keep his sexual orientation, if other than heterosexual, secret. Sexual orientation is instinctive and not something a Vulcan would conceal.

She had to believe that Spock was uncertain or had only recently become aware of his sexual orientation. Her mind recalled the words of Master Tulon from her sex education class, ‘Sexual orientation is generally established by mid-twenties, but for some, it is not established until the late-thirties.’

But if he was aware, she felt he was obligated to discuss the matter with her, as it impacted their future. Is this a reason he continues to shield?

She resolved to investigate what she could on her own, then she would take Stonn up on his offer to discuss the matter further before initiating any discussion with Spock.

***

Stonn was seated in the kitchen reading his PADD a week later when T’Pring entered arrived home. He looked up and asked, “Where have you been?”

“In Shi’Kahr doing some research related to Star Fleet regulations and human cultural practices,” she replied, knowing he would understand her reasons for making such a trip.

“Would you care to discuss your findings?”

“That would be most agreeable.” T’Pring poured herself a glass of water before seating herself across from Stonn at the table, who pushed his PADD to the side, giving her his undivided attention.

“First I visited the Labrith Museum of Cultural studies and determined that homosexual relationships have equal standing under the law on Earth, but that there are some clusters within society that still object to such unions. Of note is the fact that only 4% of the Earth population identify as homosexual or bisexual. Employers are not permitted to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.”

“Interesting. The percentages are significantly lower than on Vulcan. I believe the latest survey indicating 28% were bisexual and 4% homosexual.”

“Next I visited with an officer at the Star Fleet recruiting center. Sexual orientation is not required to be disclosed. Human Resources indicated many do voluntarily state their orientation. Of those that disclosed, 7% of Humans in Star Fleet self-identified as other than heterosexual and overall 10% of the Fleet considering all species. I was told there are no specific rules against relationships amongst crew members; however, unofficial views exist. Generally, the concern is with respect to biased performance evaluations when seniors and subordinates are involved in a relationship. For this reason relationships across departments or of those of equal rank are marginally more acceptable. I specifically asked about relationships within the command team, and was told the concern would be less about bias and more about compromised command decisions: a commander unable to put their partner in danger.”

Stonn listened attentively as she relayed what she had learned. “That was informative. However, as I predicted, it does not help resolve whether Spock has an interest in his Captain, nor whether Captain Kirk might respond to such an interest, if Spock ever expressed it. All you have determined is that they would not be prohibited from entering a relationship under Earth law or Star Fleet regulations, if they had an interest in a relationship.”

Stonn clasped his hands on the table in front of him. “When do you intend to speak with Spock about what you saw and the fact that you discussed it with me?”

T’Pring tapped her fingers slowly on the table top. She had anticipated that Stonn would press her to speak with Spock, but she was not yet prepared to do so. “I have meditated on this matter. As I am certain no wrong has been done against me, there is no immediate need.”

Stonn pulled his eyes together sharply. “I did not suggest he has wronged you.”

“I know. But I considered it.” T’Pring gestured to herself. “If he had grown to care for his Captain in such a manner that he would desire him as a partner either instead of or in addition to me, and not spoken to me about such a desire, I would consider it a betrayal, even if he did not act on it.”

Stonn nodded, althought she was not sure whether he agreed with her point or merely was acknowledging her point of view.

T’Pring continued. “Spock has known Captain Kirk for only six months. I believe he has never had a deep friendship. I sense Spock is confused as to the depth of his feelings.”

“That may be, but silence will not help. To keep from your sa-kugalsu the fact that you saw and then discussed with another such a private matter for any length of time is a risk. He may rightfully feel betrayed by your actions,” he cautioned.

T’Pring inwardly cringed. What would Stonn think if he knew I searched out this information rather than having it forced upon me? She had to trust the Spock would accept that his actions had partially precipitated her own.

“Agreed. However, I am not certain at present that even if I pushed him, Spock would be able to answer what Captain Kirk means to him. I do not want to become one of the other people in Spock’s life that torments him about his feelings. What if he was ashamed truly because to acknowledge the need for friendship is painful for him? To find that he cannot live in isolation, would be a difficult admission. Spock needs time to figure out his own mind.”

“Perhaps you could simply obtain clarification about his sexual orientation?”

“I would like such clarification,” she admitted. The thought of Spock desiring to be with another she found distressing, although she knew she would accept it, as others had before her, if that was what was needed for harmony in their marital bond. “But I can see no way to raise the matter, without raising suspicion about why I would raise the topic.”

T’Pring had considered all their interactions and was certain there had been no subliminal clues she had missed that suggested he was not attracted to her form at all. In fact, the clues pointed to an attraction. The only question that truly remained in her mind was whether Spock was equally attracted to males or one particular Human male. “I trust that if I give Spock time, he will reach out to me, if there is something we need to discuss.”

“You cannot wait indefinitely.”

“I know. But for now I wish to be patient and let Spock figure out his own mind. I trust him to behave with honor while he does.”

T’Pring pushed herself up from the table and headed back to her room. She sat herself on her bed, wrapped her arms around her knees, and looked across at the image of Spock on her desk. She did not want to be the one to initiate any conversation. If Spock did, then it would mean he had come to a decision about himself that he was prepared to discuss.

The difficult part would be to know when to reach out if Spock did not communicate a desire to speak. Silence could mean he had not yet determined his feelings or could mean that simply there was nothing to tell her.

In either case, she would have to confess she betrayed her promise to him to wait until he chose to freely share his mind with her and ask his forgiveness. Kaiidith.

 

adun - husband

aru-yem - dinner

awek’es – privacy

c’thia - reality, truth, logic, the way things are

gespar - fruit that tastes tangy and piquant, grown in temperate zone of Kir Province

kaiidth – what is, is

K’tela - a word game similar to Scrabble

ozh’esta - touching the index and middle fingers between bondmates and/or t'hy'la

sa-kugalsu – fiancé

Chapter Text

T’Pring woke up in the night disoriented. She had never been one to panic, but it was hard not to in this moment, as she felt the thoughts of an unknown person invade her mind. ‘He can reshape any mind he chooses. He used it to erase our memories, put his own thoughts there. He was surprised it took so much power. We fought him, remember? But we grew so tired, our minds so blank, so open, that any thought he placed there became our thoughts. Our minds so empty like a sponge, needing thoughts, begging. Empty. Loneliness. So lonely to be sitting there empty, wanting any word from him. Love. Hate. Live. Die. Such agony to be empty. Empty. Lonely. So empty. So empty.’

The flow ended abruptly. T’Pring gasped out loud. When the man had talked of being lonely and empty, an empathic response from another had flooded her mind. She took two slow deep breaths and looked inwards. She found memories, not her own. Fragments of a conversation, revealed themselves. A person in a blue Star Fleet jersey was speaking. ‘If there's the slightest possibility it might help’…‘I've never used it on a Human’…‘Look into this man's mind to see if what he's seeing is real or delusion’…‘It's a hidden, personal thing: part of our private lives’…‘Jim Kirk could be in real trouble’

Realization dawned. Spock must have lowered his shields to meld with another. The emotional response was his. If he feels so empty, why does he not let me in? She pushed the thought aside to concentrate on unravelling what had occurred.

Why had he risked a meld when he was so reticent about melding previously? She tried to access earlier conversations, but none were accessible. Only the surface memory of what transpired just before the meld must have come through our link, memories not yet transferred for long-term storage.

The conversation and information she reviewed from the meld itself revealed little other than Spock had been urged to perform the meld because the Captain was presumed to be in danger. She surmised the man in the blue jersey was Doctor McCoy. She remembered Spock indicating he was a close friend of the Captain and so it might be acceptable to not use his rank when referring to him. Also the Doctor was aware of his ability.

Although the experience had been jarring, T’Pring was pleased for Spock that he had been asked to use his skills this time and had been able to overcome his anxiety to perform the meld. I wonder if Captain Kirk returned safely to the Enterprise?

***

Spock stopped by the mess hall after his shift. He retrieved a vegetable soup and salad. He planned to complete some administrative tasks and correspondence in his room prior to joining the alpha Bridge crew in the monthly poker game. He had begun participating in the monthly game after the Captain referenced it as his source of inspiration when he saved the Enterprise by insisting the ship carried deadly corbomite. The evening always provided interesting opportunities to observe the risk tolerance levels of his fellow crewmates.

He logged into his computer and noted he had a communication from his mother which he opened.

To: Spock

Re: Congratulations

During a recent diplomatic reception Sarak and I attended at the end of Bengaria Conference, we had a pleasant surprise, when in the pre-dinner reception Admiral Mendez, remarked on how proud we must be with your promotion to full Commander and appointment as First Officer of the Enterprise. He remarked that you and Captain Kirk formed the youngest Command team in the fleet. Naturally, we did not mention that our son had not taken the time to write about such an important promotion. It seems this occurred as much as two months ago?

We are so proud. For Captain Kirk to have appointed you to such a position, means he has faith in not just your scientific abilities, but your leadership abilities as well. You have never written with detailed impressions of the new leadership team. Your letter only provided brief background information following the arrival of Captain James Kirk, Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell and the appointment of Doctor Leonard McCoy. I appreciate you needed time to interact with them before writing, but surely sufficient time has passed to provide your views on the new leadership. Also let me know how you personally are getting along with Captain Kirk. I know it must be an adjustment after 11 years with Captain Pike and Number One.

I can imagine with your additional responsibilities, it may be difficult to find the time to write, but I do so enjoy receiving your communications.

Spock felt a pang of guilt as he read his mother’s communication admonishing him in a friendly way for not writing. He should have written her when he had written T’Pring about the new personnel.

He had hesitated to write to T’Pring or Amanda about his promotion when it occurred, being uncertain as to whether the position was permanent or not. Further, he had been reluctant to write about the circumstances that had led to his promotion. However, he had delayed too long. First he would deal with his correspondence. Later, he would address his administrative tasks.

To: T’Pring

Re: Promotion

My mother wrote me today admonishing me for not writing as she became aware of certain developments from another. I have been even more remiss in my correspondence with her than yourself.

I am now Commander and First Officer. As a result of an incident, Lieutenant Commander Mitchell obtained unusual telekinetic powers. As Science Officer I had to recommend a course of action to save the ship to the Captain. I saw two possible options: to strand Lieutenant Commander Mitchell on Delta Vega, a deserted lithium-cracking station, or to kill him before he became too strong. I thought the Captain might believe that my recommendations were biased by the challenges I had experienced in dealing with him.

Spock clenched his spoon as he heard again in his mind the Captain yell: ‘Will you try for one moment to feel? At least act like you've got a heart. We're talking about Gary.’ He took a moment to calm himself and quell the unfathomable ache those words evoked.

He was not pleased with my recommendations. Ultimately, he saw the necessity of leaving him on Delta Vega. However, by that point it was not enough. Captain Kirk had to confront his friend. Lieutenant Commander Mitchell died, as well as Doctor Dehner, who was similarly affected.

Spock paused in his eating to remember how weary the Captain had looked when he had offered him the promotion and role of First Officer that evening in a private summons to his quarters. The pain of the death of his friend was still etched in his countenance as he had sat slumped in a chair, drink in hand.

I was promoted that evening immediately following the death of Lieutenant Commander Mitchell. I thought the position likely temporary, assuming Captain Kirk would later appoint another – someone he would feel comfortable with on a personal level to share the burden of command (as much as that is possible). I felt keenly that evening completely inadequate to the task of offering emotional support. He had been forced to kill his friend in the line of duty. I could see he was in pain, but I could think of nothing to say. For this reason, I delayed in writing about my appointment as First Officer.

Spock inwardly smiled as he remembered a subsequent conversation over chess when he had dared to ask the Captain why he had appointed him First Officer the evening of Lieutenant Commander Mitchell’s death. Spock had expressed a view that important decisions should not be made while in an emotional state. The Captain had explained that he been making observations regarding his character for months, but that the decision was made in his gut that day. He had come to the conclusion that he could trust Spock to do what had to be done to save the Enterprise and to tell him the unvarnished truth. It was the oppohis recommendation regarding Lieutenant Commander Mitchell that had made his mind up.

Spock stopped his musings and started on his salad. He glanced through what he had written to regain focus. How can I articulate what it means to have been shown such faith? The fact that the Captain felt he could entrust the safety or the crew of the Enterprise to him, if he was unavailable, amazed him still. The difference of such faith was intangible: a nebulous thing, but it meant the world to him. And there were the treasured times spent alone with Jim, exchanging views about the worlds they had visited.

My mother wished for me, when I left home, that I would find a friend. I thought her foolish. After the betrayal of Velshun, I had resigned myself to the fact that if I was accepted without prejudice it would suffice. Captain Pike accepted me without prejudice. I was content. However, now I feel I have a friend, one that I can trust and who trusts me. It is strange to realize that you have been dying of thirst and were not aware of that fact.

Spock allowed himself to enjoy for a moment the warm feeling that writing those words had brought him. He stabbed his remaining lettuce leaves focusing his mind on Doctor McCoy.

I cannot say that Doctor McCoy and I have yet found much common ground other than we both believe the Captain’s welfare to be our first priority. For example, while the Doctor does not understand Vulcan mind techniques, he recently urged me to perform a meld on Dr. Van Gelder. I was able to overcome my own anxiety and the information gathered was helpful in rescuing the Captain. Were you aware of the meld? I did not sense any shields on your end when I lowered my own, but you did not appear to be in a conscious state.. I realize you might not internally shield as you desire contact; however, please consider your own welfare. I do not wish to endanger your mental health in performing my duties.

Thank you for your recent update on what you and your friends have been doing. One day I should like to meet T’Pela, Asil and Stonn.

Did you and Asil enjoy your trip to Raal? Were you impressed by the Voroth Sea? As a child, I can remember being fascinated by the life that lay just beneath the surface in the sands. My mother likely has the collection of shells I gathered on that trip. My father bought my mother a necklace of iridescent shells in one of the fine shops. It is one of her favourite pieces of jewellery. I imagine it reminds her of Earth and its much larger oceans. Did you return with any shells from walks on the beach or did you instead purchase some jewellery made from the shells?

After finishing the letter to T’Pring, Spock cleared his food away, made himself some tea and began composing his letter to his mother.

To: Amanda

Re: Promotion and New Leaders of the Enterprise

I apologize for not writing sooner. The delay was not caused by lack of time, although my additional responsibilities do keep me busy, rather initial unease on my part regarding the promotion to First Officer as it arose subsequent to the death of a fellow officer, Lieutenant Commander Mitchell, who was a friend of Captain Kirk’s from the Academy and who I initially thought he intended for the role.

I am enjoying my role as First Officer and find it quite manageable along with my other duties. I enjoy assisting in strategic decisions on the bridge. Further, the Captain allows me to lead or accompany him on many visits planet-side which is intellectually stimulating.

I know you are curious about Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy. I have yet to make my mind up about the Doctor. He has a combatant personality that I find frustrating. At times, his argumentative nature seems to border on insubordination, but the Captain tolerates it well. In fact, Captain Kirk seems to enjoy listening to different points of view, to hear all sides of an argument, before making a decision. I do my best to counter-balance the Doctor’s blatant emotionalism. Despite our differences, I do have respect for him as his medical work is of the highest caliber. I believe he also grudgingly accepts my scientific abilities. I find that when we need to combine our efforts together on a scientific matter, we are able to work well together.

Captain Kirk is open-minded, intelligent and dedicated to the crew of the Enterprise and the ideals of the Federation. As I mentioned above, the Captain encourages those under his command to speak their views. He has taken the time to get to know individuals on a personal level, including myself. We frequently play chess together either in the recreation room or his quarters. During those games we discuss matters other than the business of the Enterprise. We have discussed views on Federation politics, cultural differences between Humans and Vulcans, interesting scientific phenomena, inspirational passages from a good book or poem, a myriad of topics. We also regularly dine together. It may be just the two of us, but often other members of the bridge crew are invited. I find, as a result, my interactions with other members of the bridge crew have improved even more than before.

You asked about how I feel personally about the changes. I miss the council of Number One, but as I have now worked among Humans for an extended period I was less dependent on it than in my earlier years. The greatest difference has been in my relationship with Captain Kirk.

Spock paused to sip his tea. He felt challenged to convey what a difference the arrival of Captain Kirk had meant to him. He decided a couple of personal stories might help ‘paint a picture’.

Captain Kirk defends my rights and in doing so has given me the confidence to speak about my own struggles without fear of judgment. Let me demonstrate with an example of the difference in Captain Kirk’s and Captain Pike’s leadership styles. During a tense moment on the bridge, it was revealed that our attackers were of Romulan descent and that based on their physical appearance it was apparent that they were an off-shoot of the Vulcan race. There was the possibility that a spy was on board the Enterprise and when a transmission occurred the helmsman muttered that it should be given to me to translate. Captain Pike ignored such comments previously, explaining to me in private, that he did not wish to draw unwarranted attention to my ‘differences’ or ‘alien nature’. This was the approach taken at school on Vulcan, as well, so I had grown accustomed to that approach, and thought it quite logical. However, Captain Kirk asked the individual to repeat the comment for all to hear. He then made it clear that he had no room for bigotry on the bridge of the Enterprise. I confess that although this approach put me in the spotlight as distinctly different, I preferred the latter approach.

Spock paused as he wrote, allowing the warm feeling he had felt in that moment wash over him again. It had felt good to be defended in front of the others, rather than being left isolated to stoically endure taunts. He knew his response was an emotional one, that he should strive to contain the feelings evoked, but he could not bring himself to do so. He luxuriated in the sensation for a few minutes longer before resuming his correspondence.

On a different mission, Captain Kirk was split into two halves - on a simplistic level, a good Kirk with reason and compassion and an evil Kirk with base urges. We needed to get the two halves to merge together again because he was rapidly losing his ability to command. I normally would not speak of my own struggles to integrate my mixed heritage, but I knew it would help the Captain to hear it. I deliberately spoke to Doctor McCoy of my struggles knowing Captain Kirk would overhear the conversation. The Captain’s desire to know me as a person gave me the courage to reveal more of myself than I have ever done before.

Spock heard in his mind as he typed, the Captain’s words: ‘Thank you, Mister Spock from both of us.’

The Captain later acknowledged my assistance on the bridge.

Spock allowed himself a small smile as he contemplated his final paragraph. He knew it would please his mother.

When I left Vulcan 16.2 years ago, you said, “I hope you find what you are looking for by leaving Vulcan.” Since then in various communications you have expressed a wish that I might find a friend in my travels amongst the stars. I believe I have found the friend you wished for me in Captain Kirk. It has made an intangible improvement on the quality of my life on board the Enterprise that is hard to articulate.

Spock was glad his mother had prompted him to write. It felt right to acknowledge in a concrete way the importance of the Captain’s friendship to him. I have been a fool to think that my life could be rewarding with no deep connections to other beings. How will I manage when I return to Vulcan in 3 years, 4 months and 16 days? I will miss his comradeship … his look across the bridge or chess board … his touch.

Kroykah!

Spock’s lips froze on the lip of his tea cup. What had prompted his mind to stray in that direction? He forced himself to breath in the scent of his spiced tea to ground himself in reality. He took a sip of the tea and swallowed.

He listened to the recycling air and the hum of the engines.

He reminded himself of his commitments.

I am committed to return to T’Pring on Vulcan after this tour.

I am committed to build a life with her and raise a family, should she desire it.

I will fulfill my duty.

 

***

Spock stood on the sidelines, beside Jim awaiting their time slot in the gym. Earlier in the day, he had tried to get his mind to focus on developing a plausible excuse to back out of the match, remembering how the pheromones in the air combined with watching Sean’s wresting match had aroused him previously. However, his rationale thought processes were undermined by a desire to test his physical abilities against the Captain. He knew he had the advantage of strength, but the Captain was agile and quick. As in chess, he was certain Jim would make a good opponent.

In any case, he rationalized, if I delayed today, the Captain would only continue to make requests until I acquiesced. As his heart accelerated with anticipation, Spock realized he had deceived himself. He had never truly wanted to cancel the match. A hidden part of him wanted the opportunity that wresting would allow for full body contact. I must control. I must not let the Captain …

He was shaken out of his musings by a gentle jab in the shoulder from Jim. Spock was aware that the prior combatant’s departure for the dressing room left him alone in the gym with Jim. He took a moment to stretch. While doing so he strengthened his mental shields for the physical contact which was about to commence. Jim suggested a series of warm up moves to limber up which he readily agreed to. After 12 minutes he realized that his senses were becoming over-whelmed by observing the contours of Jim’s well-toned body and inhaling his scent. He suggested they move onto their purpose. It was agreed who-ever scored 5 points first would be the victor.

They had each scored 3 points, when they lined up in the center of the mats again. Spock looked across at Jim, who grinned at him with determination, and he felt undone. He had known he needed to focus on the match, but instead his eyes watched entranced as a rivulet of sweat ran down his throat. He was wondering how salty the liquid that had pooled at the base of his throat would be when he felt Jim’s shoulder slam against his own. He fell backwards onto the mat and squirmed to try and free himself. As he did so he felt Jim’s erection, captured in the red tights, on his thigh. It froze him momentarily with longing. The distraction was sufficient for the Captain to be able to complete his move which pinned Spock to the mat. Jim’s chest pressed on his and his legs were astride each of his thighs. The welcome erection was pressed along-side his own groin. Spock looked up into dazzling hazel eyes. A drop of sweat dropped onto his lips and Spock could not stop himself from licking his lips to taste it. Salty like Earth’s oceans. His mind raced. What if Jim should lean down and kiss me? What if he should impale me with his erection? The six seconds while their gazes were locked felt much longer. But it was long enough for the controls over his body to shatter. The evidence of his arousal erupted with the crumbling of his controls — his penis rapidly hardened and lengthened underneath the pressure of Jim’s body.

Finally, he found his voice, “I concede the match.”

Jim rolled off him and put out his hand to help him up.

Spock resisted taking his hand for fear he might pull Jim forward for an embrace. He pushed himself off the ground, grabbed his bag from the corner and headed swiftly to the locker room. As he departed he wondered when the other two crewman leaning against the wall had arrived. Had they seen his shameful state? He quickly sat on a bench. Towel in his lap. Eyes closed as he tried to regain control.

He shuddered as he heard Jim’s voice. “Is everything okay, Spock? You left awfully quickly.”

He took a moment to slow his respiration rate before responding in as steady a voice as he could muster. “Everything is fine, Captain.”

“Jim. We’re not on duty, Spock. And you’re not looking at me.”

Spock thought it best to not gaze upon the Captain at that moment. He knew it would not help him control the desire that coursed through his veins and which had to be subdued.

Without warning, Jim joined him on the bench. “Look, I assume you’re sitting here with this towel in your lap, not looking at me, because you’re embarrassed by your erection. There’s no need. I’m sure you noticed that the heat of the battle got me aroused. It often does when I’m well matched. It doesn’t mean I am about to proposition my wrestling partner.”

The problem is I wish exactly the opposite to be true. Spock managed to glance to his side and raise an eyebrow, knowing Jim was trying to put him at ease with gentle humor.

“And I don’t presume that anyone I wrestle with who has the same reaction, has any lecherous intent either. Now, I’m going to the shower to get cleaned up.”

“Thank you, Jim, for your understanding. I believe I will wait here a moment longer while I regain adequate control over my body.”

“I have a more hands on solution to the problem,” Jim laughed. “But to each his own.”

Spock remained seated on the locker room bench a further 6 minutes until he was able to divert blood flow sufficiently to return his phallus to its flaccid state. He then quickly toweled off and headed to his quarters. He felt momentary relief, as the doors swooshed behind him and he stepped into his private sanctuary. He removed his clothes and went to put on his meditation robe. However, he realized he could still smell Jim’s scent on himself. He entered the joint bathroom he shared with the Captain, quickly turned the shower to the sonic setting and stepped inside. When he was done, he donned his meditation robe.

He unfurled his meditation mat and sat cross-legged on the floor. He began to breathe deeply and slowly calmed himself. He reminded himself that Jim’s erection had nothing to do with any sexual attraction for himself. He had said so himself. He reminded himself how he had observed this in other Human males as well. He was thankful that Jim presumed his reaction was equally unrelated. I must not allow myself indulge in such physical recreational activities with the Captain again. My controls are not sufficient for such proximity. It is disrespectful to the Captain to have such desires when he does not have any interest in a male partner and to T’Pring when I am bound to her. Captain Kirk must remain as my friend, nothing more.

 

Kroykah – Stop immediately

Chapter Text

“How much longer before your experiment is concluded?” asked Stonn who had come with T’Pela to pick up T’Pring up. They often commuted back and forth to work together, enjoying conversation and each other’s company. This evening they were going to pick up Asil as they had dinner reservations. T’Pring was cleaning up her work area when her knees buckled. She grabbed the counter to prevent herself from falling. A wave of pain flashed through her mind and she found herself, mirroring the words she heard Spock speak to a woman parsecs away: “No, I can’t. Please, don’t.”

Stonn and T’Pela rushed over to her side. Stonn held her up as T’Pela brought a chair over for her to sit in. “What is happening?” Stonn asked, his voice terse. 

T’Pring closed her eyes to focus herself internally. “There was tremendous pain across my link with Spock. The pain is gone now, but Spock seems to have lost the ability to shield” or no longer desires to shield, the thought continued in her mind. “He must have collapsed as he is on the ground.”

T’Pring stopped talking. How could he?

T’Pela shook her arm gently, “What is going on? Is he being attacked?”

T’Pring shook her head. “Negative. He is kissing a girl on the lips in the human fashion,” she reported as though she were watching a film. She raised her hand to her mouth realizing she had inadvertently spoken aloud. Instinctively she felt guilty for speaking. Spock must not be himself. Don’t shame him. There to be a rational explanation for his behavior, the logical part of her brain insisted.

She began to shake and closed her eyes as she bit down on her knuckles. But how could he speak those Human words of endearment to a stranger? She knew that “I love you” was the Human equivalent to, ‘I cherish thee.” Not a stranger! Leila Kolami, she read the name in Spock’s mind together with the knowledge that she had brought him to this spot to show him how colonists had survived exposure to lethal berthold rays. Pain, jealousy, rage swept through her. He wants her. She could feel his desire. He always wanted her. Her mind filled in the blanks. Spock lied before. He has already had her and wants her still. That is why he shields.

T’Pela shook her arm again. She opened her eyes to see T’Pela kneeling beside her and Stonn gripping the edge of the counter tightly.

“You should shield if he cannot control his mind. It is your obligation,” prompted T’Pela.

I have no obligation to him. He has no rights. He has lied. Shielded his mind against mine so that I would not know of his betrayal. She sucked her knuckle, the metallic taste of blood in her mouth enflaming her passions. I want evidence. I need time to search his mind. What reason can I give?

“Shield for yourself, if not for him,” Stonn added, looking concerned.

She pulled her hand away from her mouth momentarily. “I want to monitor the situation.”

T’Pela’s mouth turned down slightly at the edges with displeasure.

Confusing images from Spock’s mind replayed. Spock allowing Leila to touch him on his chest, but her words suggested she was not sure of his feelings. ‘There was always a place in here where no one could come,’ she had said.  Did Spock tell the truth? Did she imagine he had deeper feeling for her?

 “She brought Spock to this place.” That fact seems important. Think. Control. She took a breath to try and calm herself. “It was after a flower sprayed him with spores that he was in pain.” T’Pring spoke slowly, as she tried to make sense of the images.

 “Do you suspect the woman took him to this flower, knowing it would alter his mind?” Stonn asked.

Did Leila strip Spock of his mind controls for him to act this way?

Relief and shame flooded T’Pring’s mind, simultaneously. Perhaps I have falsely accused Spock? But what if he truly loves her and only turned away before out of an obligation to me? I can’t turn away. I need to know the truth.

She looked up as she grasped both hands in her lap. “Affirmative. Spock could be in danger if his mind is altered.”

Both T’Pela and Stonn looked skeptical.

She straightened her spine. “I will not turn away. Please continue on to dinner. I need to focus. I will arrange transport”

Stonn shook his head. “You should not be left alone. I will remain with you and arrange transport home. T’Pela you can proceed with Asil.”

“I suggest another alternative. I will go and pick up Asil. We will stop at Topek’s Restaurant on the way back to collect our dinner for later consumption. We can then all eat at home later. We can dine out another evening. Such an approach is the only logical course of action.”

“I don’t want to spoil everyone’s night out.”

T’Pela’s mouth was in a firm line. “We can have dinner out another evening.”  She rose to depart.

“I need to speak with T’Pela in private, but will return shortly. Is that acceptable?” Stonn asked.

T’Pring nodded. “Affirmative.” She wanted them to go. She needed privacy. Voices from the hallway faded away. No. She bit her inside cheek to prevent herself from calling out. He cannot desire her. Stop.

T’Pring felt a hand grip her shoulder. She opened her eyes, unsure of how much time had passed. Stonn was standing beside her looking down. His gaze was intense. T’Pring felt as though she was a specimen under a microscope.

“Would it help to discuss what has happened? I sense . . . there is more. You are flushed and your respiration rate has accelerated noticeably.”

She knew she should not share what she had witnessed. Spock was not himself. But it was too much to bear all alone. Spock’s betrayal hurt. Stonn could be trusted. She nodded, not trusting herself yet to speak.

Stonn pulled up a chair beside her.

T’Pring took a steadying breath. “Spock knows the woman. He wrote to me about her previously. Her name is Leila Kalomi. She wanted to pursue a romantic relationship with him on Earth, but he refused her. Before he kissed her, he said, ‘I love you. I can love you’.”

T’Pring paused to look at Stonn fleetingly. She clutched her hands together on her knees and closed her eyes. Breathing deeply.

“You may speak your mind with me. All will remain in confidence.”

She kept her eyes closed. “They continued kissing in the grass… he became aroused … he welcomed her touch… he did not resist when she touched him intimately… she stimulated him with her hand then she…” It was hard to detail the depravity she had witnessed – that Spock welcomed! T’Pring forced herself to continue. “She took his lok in her mouth.”

T’Pring looked up momentarily to see that Stonn’s forehead was creased, as if he had frowned while she spoke. She looked back down at her lap. She forced her hands to release their painful grip, but the disquiet she felt in her body manifested itself in an uncontrollable urge to move her hands up and down her thighs. “There was transference. I … I could feel his desire … his longing as she grazed his member with her teeth then sucked the head further into her mouth. He began to thrust into her mouth seeking release. I called out in my mind for him to stop. He did not. It did not end until he ejaculated.” T’Pring felt Stonn’s hands on hers, stilling their agitated movements, anchoring her.

T’Pring opened her eyes when she was finished, but focused her sight on Stonn’s hands, which gripped hers tightly.

“I imagine it was difficult to be a part of it,” Stonn said in a gentle tone.

She took a shuddering breath to try and calm herself, her heart was still racing madly from reliving it. “When it was over, he was disturbed. He left to clean up. He stopped at a stream and used some of the water to clean himself. He went into a barn and changed out of his uniform pants and into a green outfit. While alone, his thoughts were jumbled and conflicted … I can love… but do I love… her? He became upset about what had happened… ashamed of his loss of control… of his actions. As he became distressed and angered at himself, his thoughts began to clear. He started to regain focus. He thought of his duty to me… to Star Fleet… to his Captain. But then she appeared in the barn with another flower, as though she could sense she was losing him, had lost him. It was not as painful for him, for me, when he got sprayed the second time.”

“You must remember this plant is impeding his ability to control his actions,” Stonn said quietly, removing his hands from hers.

Her eyes sought Stonn’s for comfort. “It still feels like a betrayal. I think, part of him, relished being free of his Vulcan controls. He kissed her willingly. He responded to her actions. I am angry with him. His actions hurt me. If he had no interest in her, he would not have acted in such a manner.”

“Being attracted to another and acting on that attraction are two different things. Prior to today he may have had an interest, but he did not act inappropriately. If he had, he would not have reacted as you described.”

T’Pring clenched her hands. “Logically, I know what you say is true, that I should be able to contain my anger, but it will not take away the pain.”

“The pain may lessen to a manageable level once you let go of your anger towards Spock.”

“I feel even greater anger towards Leila. She betrayed him by deliberately compromising his controls.” T’Pring’s voice began to rise. “How dare she touch–”

Stonn cleared his throat.

T’Pring was thankful that he had, before she said even more in her emotional state. “Forgive me. I need to gain control.”

T’Pring did not sense judgment, only understanding from Stonn. He waited while she slowed her respiration rate, unfurled her fingers, the nails having left imprints in her palms.

Eventually he spoke again. “I know this is painful.  But, may I ask a clarifying question about Spock’s response?”

T’Pring nodded, curious.

“You said, Spock ejaculated. It is too early for Spock to have such an emission. Are you certain? Perhaps he had a spasm from the stimulation?”

“Negative. Through the link I felt his release. The throbbing in his lok lessened.” T’Pring paused before continuing. “Also when Leila removed her mouth, she leaned over Spock and kissed him. When he explored her mouth with his tongue it registered in his mind that the taste was different than when they first kissed.”

“It is difficult to know if his physiological response has been influenced by the spores. Although it seems highly unlikely that it could induce a biological response that Spock was not mature enough for.”

T’Pring straightened her back on the chair, stretching her neck at the same time, as she could feel tension coiling in her body. How was this biologically possible? Is Spock going to enter pon farr early? How long has he been able ejaculate? Was this the first time?

T’Pring was grateful when Stonn changed the subject. “Is anything going on currently?”

“Spock and Leila are currently outside. Spock is laying in the grass with his head in her lap looking at the shapes of clouds in the sky. Captain Kirk has just called him on his communicator and ordered him to report to him, but he has refused the order,” T’Pring said, a touch of surprise coloring her voice.

T’Pring continued to concentrate on the scene before her relaying the details to Stonn, “He is engaging in a frivolous discussion with Leila. Now he is climbing a tree. He is hanging upside down and laughing,” she said incredulously. Is this how Humans behave?

“Captain Kirk is upset with him. Spock has been placed under arrest and under the custody of a Mister Sulu. Spock has climbed out of the tree and is holding Leila’s hand now. He has a plan. He wants to infect Captain Kirk so he will stay on the planet with them. He and Leila are leading the others over to some more of the plants.” T’Pring recoiled. “Oh no… they all got sprayed. For some reason the Captain is not impacted and yet the others are. Captain Kirk remains upset.”

Stonn interrupted her narrative. “It is interesting that you indicated that when Spock was upset his mind cleared and that the Captain was not impacted while he was upset. What is happening now?”

T”Pring closed her eyes to concentrate again. “Spock is seated at a table and is in discussion with a Mister Sandoval who is in-charge of the development on the planet. Captain Kirk has just arrived. Spock is distressed. He wants the Captain to feel as content as he does. It is strange, he seems to recognize that this feeling of contentment is induced.”

“I wonder why he does not fight it more.”

T’Pring raised her eyebrow. “Spock has struggled to accept his dual nature his entire life. Here it does not seem to matter. Unless there is a catalyst, I doubt he will have the willpower to turn away from what he has sought.”

“Has the Captain said anything?”

“Spock is speaking to him now, ‘It’s a true Eden, Jim. There is belonging and love.’ When the Captain turned away, he whispered, ‘Join us, please.’”

“Does the Captain seem interested?”

“Negative. He has left to go back to the ship. Captain Kirk seemed frustrated and angered. Leila wants Spock to go for another walk with him in the gardens outside. She has taken his hand to lead him outside, but Spock is distracted. His mind is not on her. They have sat down on a bench under a tree. She has tried to kiss him again, but he brushed her away. He keeps looking towards the sky where he knows the Enterprise is in orbit. He is thinking about Captain Kirk. I can feel his distress that they are separated. He wants him to return, to be content to remain on the planet with him.”

When she glanced at Stonn she noticed his brown eyes seemed to be focused inwards. He seemed to be pensive. After a pause, he refocused on her, sharing an observation. “It is interesting that while the spores continue to influence him, Spock seems to be less distracted by Leila, and more concerned about Captain Kirk. Leila led Spock to this plant to try and make him stay with her and be content. However, clearly her wishes are not fully realized as Spock is not yet fully content. It could be that his sense of duty towards the Captain is slowly over-riding the influence of the spores.”

Leaning forward in her chair, T’Pring considered what Stonn had said. It was fascinating. “You are correct. Leila is sitting beside him with her head on his shoulder, his hand is holding hers, but his thoughts are not on her, but on him,” said T’Pring contemplatively. “However, I do not sense any lessening of the influence of the spores yet.”

“Based on what you shared, Spock does not seem to be in any danger from Leila. I suggest you raise your shields to give him privacy.”

“He remains under the influence of the spores. I will not let Spock remain indefinitely in that state. If I need to I will reach out to Star Fleet to be the catalyst to set him free. To do so, I need to continue to monitor the situation.”

Stonn looked as though he was about to object as T’Pela entered the room. “I am glad to see you appear well. We were anxious to see how you were doing so we hurried. Asil is waiting in the aircar for us. Are you able to walk or should we assist you?”

“I have experienced no further issues. Walking should not be a problem. I may not be talkative in the aircar, but do not be concerned.”

T’Pring could feel Stonn’s eyes on her. She sensed he wanted to continue the conversation, to convince her to shield, but she had no intention of doing so. Spock had forfeited his right to privacy through his actions with Leila.

After welcoming Asil, T’Pring got in the aircar and closed her eyes for the journey home. She wanted to concentrate on what was occurring parsecs away. Also, she did not want to see Stonn’s look of concerned disapproval which she was certain was on his face.

 

***

 

As the aircar pulled to a stop, T’Pring opened her eyes and promptly announced. “I am going to my room. I will eat later.”

Stonn looked at her. “I ask again that you consider my advice.”

T’Pring held up her hand. “I must continue. I will speak to you later.” She said as she departed the car. 

Stonn’s lips turned down slightly at the corners. “It is your decision. However, I insist that you allow us to check in on your regularly in case you experience any further difficulties.”

“That is acceptable,” she said and turned away from him. It hurt to see the disappointment in his face regarding the decision she had made, but he was not the one who had been betrayed. Stonn had no right to judge her actions. She had to know what Spock felt for Leila. Had Spock lied about his attraction to Leila? And why did Spock long for the Captain even while being with Leila? Would the Captain be able to save them or would she need to get assistance?

***

Stonn joined T’Pela and Asil in the kitchen for dinner. They quickly set the table. The conversation was subdued as they circulated the food to take helpings.

“Do you think Spock will be able to regain control of his mind soon?” asked T’Pela.

“There is no basis to know,” Stonn responded.

Asil was piling her plate with the spicy kastruk.

“Put some aside for T’Pring. You know that is her favourite dish,” commented Stonn.

“I will save her a bit of everything before we start.”  T’Pela took a plate, gave Stonn a nod, acknowledging his comment and began to put aside food for T’Pring.

The friends ate quietly until the tea was served by T’Pela.

Asil broke the silence. “Did T’Pring say anything further about Spock’s loss of control? T’Pela indicated she observed Spock kissing another woman. I do not see how such an action could be forced.”

“She shared additional observations, but asked that they remain private.” Stonn replied as he sipped his tea.

T’Pela looked quickly across at Stonn. “I think she should shield. If Spock desires this Human as his mate then I am certain he will make his intentions known. If he does not, and is acting out of character because of an outside influence, then I am certain he would not want to be observed. I know I would not want someone to observe me when I am not myself,” commented T’Pela.

“It is an ethical dilemma. T’Pring believes that Spock was deliberately, not accidently, exposed. Based on what T’Pring has shared with me, there is evidence to support this position. T’Pring may have believed Spock’s life was in danger when she made the initial decision. However, it has since has been determined that this does not appear to be the case. She indicated a desire to contact Star Fleet if the situation continues. However, I am not certain his safety is her only motivation. I am concerned she is not sufficiently in control of her emotions to make a reasoned decision…” Stonn trailed off.

“In my opinion, she is curious. She could contact Star Fleet now. Curiosity is not a satisfactory reason to continue to remain unshielded.”

Asil jumped in. “Do not judge harshly T’Pela. She must be hurt by what she saw and is likely not thinking in a clear and dispassionate manner. If this continues much longer, we can approach her, to help her regain perspective.”

Stonn sighed quietly. “I have spoken to her about what she is doing.”

“I am going to go quickly check on her.” A moment later Asil returned. “T’Pring is unchanged and the situation remains the same.”

“Let us give her a bit more time. If we need to speak to her again about the need to shield to respect Spock’s privacy, it should come from another,” Stonn stated.

Asil nodded grimly. “Let us clear the table and find another topic to discuss. It is equally inappropriate for us to continue to discuss this matter.”

 

***

 

When the door to her bedroom opened, T’Pring looked over her shoulder to see Stonn standing there. It was the second time that he had come to check on her. “It is over. He is back in control again. His shields remained down for a period even after the spores were gone. Perhaps it was the shock. Those last few moments were intriguing. I know my actions have disappointed you, but it would be beneficial to discuss what I witnessed with you, if you are willing.”

“Understand that I spoke out of concern for you. I would still like to be of assistance. But first, come and make a plate of food and assure T’Pela and Asil that you are well. They are concerned. We can bring the food back to your room to consume and discuss what occurred in private, if that is agreeable to you.”

“Affirmative.” T’Pring rose from her bed and proceeded to the kitchen. “Did you leave me anything to eat?” she asked in a light hearted tone, as she wanted to put her friends at ease about her well-being. 

It was reassuring to see the warm faces of T’Pela and Asil. They did look relieved to see her. “Stonn insisted that we leave some spicy kastruk for you as it is your preferred selection. And I recalled you love crunchy noodles so I set aside for you an extra helping of those as well,” reported Asil.

“There is also a bowl of plomeek soup,” added T’Pela.

“Can I brew you some fresh tea?” asked Asil.

“That would be most agreeable,” replied T’Pring, enjoying the attention and distraction from the disturbing scenes she had witnessed. Her mind was in turmoil trying to make sense of it. She relaxed as her friends put together a plate of food and reheated her soup. “I am going to eat my food in my room. I am a bit fatigued. Stonn has offered to keep me company.”

“Is Spock improved now?” T’Pela asked as she pulled out a tray for T’Pring to place her plate of food and now warmed soup. Asil then placed a teapot with heated water and two cups on the tray. 

“Affirmative. The impact of the spores that attacked him has been mitigated,” T’Pring answered, grateful that despite their natural curiosity, they had not pressed her for any details of what transpired. “Thank you for your concern,” she added as she took the tray and made her way back to her room.

She put the tray, which had short legs on the floor when she got to her room. She and Stonn sat cross legged across from one another on her woven mat. T’Pring started on her noodles, grateful for the temporary comfort such routine actions as eating brought her. When she finished it, she forced herself to address Stonn who had been waiting in silence. “Perhaps I should briefly summarize what occurred since we were at the office. Then you could assist me in analyzing the events similar to the last time, but sharing your perspective.”

“Agreed. Please proceed.”

“You recall that when we left Tchail Research, Leila was trying to get Spock’s attention, but he was thinking about his Captain who had gone to the ship. Eventually the Captain called and said he was going to join them. The Captain sounded different, as though he had been changed by the spores. I could feel that Spock was pleased as he exclaimed, ‘Wonderful, Jim.’ Later the Captain called again. He said he needed Spock to come to the ship to bring some equipment down to the planet. Spock returned, but his Captain attacked him with vicious insults. Spock was hurt and confused by the disparaging remarks. He tried to remain in control during the attack. Captain Kirk was unrelenting. He knew just what to say to hurt Spock and he did. Each verbal barb was like a sharp blade, being thrust into his soul.”

T’Pring made a small gesture with her hand as she recalled the attack in the transporter room. “Captain Kirk then elevated the attack further, when he also began a physical assault with a metal bar. It brought back to Spock painful memories of earlier attacks on Vulcan. He lost control. He fought back in a rage, momentarily blinded as to even where he was or who he was attacking. Just when I feared he would seriously injure his Captain, the spores influence vanished.”

T’Pring tipped her head towards Stonn, “It was as you inferred earlier, the rage negated their impact. Spock quickly deduced that his Captain had enraged him deliberately to destroy the spores. Captain Kirk apologized for what he had done, but explained it was necessary to make Spock angry enough to shake off the spore’s influence.”

Stonn observed, “It is evident that the Captain knows Spock well. He knew just what to say to infuriate him. He must have known he was taking a risk. He demonstrated tremendous faith that Spock would be able to stop himself from actually hurting him once the spores were gone. That Spock would be able to grasp quickly that he had not meant the insults.”

T’Pring nodded as she paused her story to eat the spicy kastruk. “The kastruk is delicious. Just the right about of spice.” She then finished her soup before resuming her story.  

“Once Spock was calm, the Captain requested his assistance to create a subsonic transmitter to broadcast over the planet to irritate everyone on the planet. They were working together as a team on the bridge when Leila contacted him and asked to come up and see him. The Captain was concerned about him seeing her. He said, ‘Mister Spock, Miss Kalomi is strictly your concern, but should you talk to her while she's still under the influence of the spores?’ Spock assured him that he would be back from the transporter room shortly.”

Since T’Pring was finished eating, Stonn poured them both a cup of tea. “Do you think the Captain believed that Spock had been intimate with Leila Kalomi?”

T’Pring sipped her tea. “Uncertain. He saw Spock kissing her. From his perspective, Spock appeared to have betrayed his Star Fleet oath for her. It was clear that Captain Kirk was concerned about her influence, but he trusted Spock to return to the bridge as he promised. He did not order him not to go, or accompany him, which logically he would have done, if he had not trusted him to return.”

T’Pring noticed that Stonn hesitated before continuing to inquire, “After all that you have seen, do you have concerns Spock has an emotional attachment to Leila Kalomi?”

T’Pring shook her head slowly as she looked at Stonn. “Negative. I sensed Spock’s determination to return to the bridge as he rode the turbo lift to see her. When he came to the transporter room, she knew he was no longer under the influence of the spores. She immediately said ‘You don’t belong anymore’. Spock responded ‘It was necessary.’  Leila declared her love for him and begged him to return with her to the planet. He seemed to regret in some way the loss of the spores. To my surprise, even though he recognized she had deliberately infected him, there was no anger to control.”

Stonn remained silent as he listened intently.

T’Pring paused, then swallowed as she remembered Spock’s feelings that had washed over her through the link. “He does not love her. He cares for her. He did not want to hurt her. He reached out and touched her cheek. A gentle touch. He felt … sympathy and remorse for causing her pain...”

T’Pring looked at Stonn, grasping for words to explain the confusing scene. “It was as though he could not be upset with her because… because he knew how she felt.” T’Pring ended with a note of triumph in her voice, certain she had finally deciphered Spock’s feelings in that moment, even if she did not know why he felt that way.

T’Pring watched as Stonn elevated an eyebrow at that statement. “Did he give her a reason for his decision not to return with her to the planet?”

“Affirmative. His explanation was most curious.” I wonder what Stonn will make of it? “He said, ‘I have a responsibility to this ship, to that man on the bridge. I am what I am, Leila, and if there are self-made purgatories, then we all have to live in them. Mine can be no worse than someone else's.’ Do you have a view as to what it could mean?”

Stonn closed his eyes, then leaned forward, forehead creased in thought. After a few moments, he looked at T’Pring and began to dissect the statement out loud.

“Clearly when Spock was discussing his responsibility to the ship, he was referring to the oath he swore when he became a Star Fleet officer, to put the interests of the Federation ahead of his own personal interests. He also mentioned his responsibility to that man on the bridge. Obviously, a reference to Captain Kirk. He could have simply been referring to the fact that he had just made a promise to return or perhaps he felt a deeper commitment because of their friendship.”

T’Pring nodded her agreement. Stonn then paused in his analysis. “I admit that I am not familiar with the term purgatory, so I am uncertain about how to interpret that statement. Do you know what it means?”

“I did not know the term either. I just finished researching the meaning, when you came to check on me. It is an Earth term. Some Humans believe that purgatory is a place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who are expiating their sins before going to heaven. Heaven is the place that the katra of the good Humans go after death.”

T’Pring summoned her courage and dared to ask Stonn what had been perplexing her, “Why do you think Spock believes he is living in a self-made purgatory?”

Stonn looked down for several minutes. When he raised his eyes, he asked, “Are you certain you are prepared to hear my suppositions?”

T’Pring glanced away. “I think it is best I try and face the facts whatever they might be. I have formed a tentative theory. It would be helpful to have an impartial view.”

Stonn sipped his tea. “I have been reconsidering our earlier discussion in light of your comment that you believed Spock remained under the controls of the spores when he sat with Leila, but was thinking of the Captain. Is that still your belief?”

“Affirmative. I am more certain of it now. When the Captain broke their influence over him, I immediately was aware of a change in his mind.”  When Stonn remained silent, T’Pring prompted. “Please proceed.”

Without further preamble, Stonn spoke. “Spock thinks he has the soul of a sinner and deserves to be punished. He knows he has sinned by being untrue to you with his body with Leila. Yet, I think there is more, as logically he was not entirely or even at all to blame for that incident. Previously we discussed the illogic of his feeling shame for his feeling of friendship for the Captain, however, it was just one observance of such behavior. What if Spock was not thinking of his Captain when sitting with Leila out of a sense of duty, but simply because he longed to have his Captain join him on the planet to achieve contentment?”

T’Pring felt her heart lurch as his speculations appeared to be headed in the same direction as her own. I have to know. “I think Spock has formed a deep attachment to his Captain and would prefer him as bondmate. Consequently, Spock believes his betrothal to me is part of his self-made purgatory, as without it he would be free to pursue his Captain as a mate.”

Words out, T’Pring placed her tea on the tray, and folded her hands in her lap to prevent the tremor she felt in her being noticeable as she waited for Stonn’s confirmation.

Stonn’s eyes narrowed in concentration. “The attachment could simply be friendship, but I admit I have begun to speculate his desires could go deeper. However, I do not believe that he would see you as part of his self-made purgatory. Recall, Spock compared his position to that of Leila. She desires Spock, but he does not desire her fully in return. If Spock desires his Captain, but believes he is not desired fully in return, his purgatory is comparable to hers and one of his own-making because he has chosen to remain by his Captain’s side believing his feelings are not returned. Regardless of his betrothal bond, the problem would remain.”

T’Pring reached for her tea, sipping it slowly, considering what Stonn had said. “Perhaps that is why Spock was not angry at Leilia, but felt sympathy towards her. He understands her position.” It did make logical sense. It comforted her to think Spock did not blame her. However, it did not remove the ache in her heart from the realization that Spock believed he needed Captain Kirk to find contentment, not herself.

“It is likely our betrothal bond that makes him believe he has the soul of a sinner.”

“It may contribute to this belief. He may view an inability to curb his desire as a sin against his link with you, although that is debatable, since nothing suggests he has acted on his desire. Alternatively, he may view it as a sin to desire someone whom he does not believe returns such desire in the same manner. It is unclear. In any case, this is all speculation, not confirmed facts.”

T’Pring looked up at Stonn. “Do you think I should reach out to Spock to understand the nature of his feelings towards his Captain?”

“I suggested this prior to this incident. You know the correct course of action. You must tell him what you suspect and how you learned of this promptly.”

T’Pring opened her mouth to defend herself, but Stonn raised his hand and she silenced herself. 

“Let me continue. I know you believe you had your reasons for your actions today, but I believe your decision was compromised because of the pain his actions caused you. I am certain Spock would not have acted as he did without the influence of the spores. With the benefit of meditation and time to harness your emotions you will know that too with certainty. I warn you that Spock may feel you have betrayed his trust in breaching his privacy to observe him during times when he could not shield and resent you for it. You acted deliberately, he did not.  However, what is done, is done, and the sooner he is made aware the better. He may be understanding of what prompted your actions.” 

How could Stonn defend Spock? “He should not keep his desires from me, his ko-kugalsu.”

“If he does not intend to act on his desires, from his perspective there may be no point to informing you. He may have intended to shield it from you with a belief that he is acting honorably by protecting you from knowledge that would be painful to you. Alternatively, perhaps he does intend to tell you, but has not had an opportunity to do so. If I were Spock, I would want such a discussion in person.”

T’Pring took a sip of her tea, trying to calm herself. Stonn is simply providing Spock’s perspective, she reminded herself.

Stonn looked away for a moment then turned to face her. The intensity in his eyes was surprising. “Let us assume, when you confront Spock, he acknowledges the truth of what you suspect. How you will respond to honesty on his part?”

T’Pring bit the inside of her cheek. She had spent considerable time contemplating this, but it was still difficult to acknowledge what she had decided. “If he answers in the affirmative, I would encourage Spock to speak to his Captain, to determine if his desire was returned.”

“You need to think this through carefully. An affirmative answer does not mean that your future bonding would not be a successful one. Desire is not the same thing as acting on desire. That is why we have controls. He appears to be satisfied to never act on his desire towards Captain Kirk, but to maintain his relationship as a friend to the Captain.”

Stonn paused then and swallowed audibly before continuing, “It is not my place to tell you whether you should encourage Spock to discuss his feelings with Captain Kirk. However, if you do and the Captain indicates he reciprocates those feelings then you risk losing Spock. His desires are not more important than your own. What do you want?”

“I know better, what I do not want. I do not want Spock to live his life in a perceived self-made purgatory, if there is another way. If he explores that path and understands that there can only be friendship with Captain Kirk, then I think he will be content in his life with me. And I will know also, that I behaved with honor.”

“What if he tells you, that although he desires the Captain, he does not wish to approach Captain Kirk?”

T’Pring quirked her eyebrow at Stonn. “Why would he not wish to pursue his desire?”

Stonn steepled his fingers together. “He may feel his duty to you, as his betrothed, takes precedent over personal desires that he can control. Also, he may view it as the safest path because he does not want to risk damaging a friendship which is important to him by confessing feelings which may not be welcome.”

Stonn straightened in his chair. “There are many reasons why Spock might justify to himself not pursuing Captain Kirk. My question to you is, if he indicates he does not want to pursue him, after admitting an attraction, and commits that he will never act on his desire, will you be able to trust him?”

T’Pring looked down, swirling the last remains of tea in her cup. “I admit his actions with Leila hurt me. I considered it a betrayal and acted accordingly, disgracing myself. My emotions overwhelmed me. I lost sight of the fact that it would not have occurred if Spock had not been under the influence of the spores. I believe I can trust his word.”

Stonn cleared his throat. T’Pring looked up into his eyes. “What if Captain Kirk desires Spock in return?”

T’Pring held Stonn’s gaze as she replied. “If they desire each other, I would not wish to bond with Spock simply because of our parent’s arrangement. I would encourage him to ask for his freedom through the p’pil’lay van-kal. I would then search for another suitable bondmate. There is no shame in exploring the possibility of a different outcome.”

Stonn nodded his head in understanding. “Perhaps I should leave now. Until we know further facts a way forward cannot be concluded. Surak has said, ‘the search for truth is the best path’. It seems that you are prepared to follow that path. I hope for Spock’s and your sake that he is willing to search within himself and perhaps with Captain Kirk for the truth.”

T’Pring rose gracefully from the floor with the food tray. “Thank you for your counsel and advice. Your insights into how Spock might perceive matters have been most illuminating. I will consider it all carefully before I initiate a conversation with him.” 

Stonn rose as well, placed his cup on the tray, then took it from T’Pring’s  hands to return it to the kitchen. 

 

***

Spock woke up, aroused, at 03 18 in the night from a nightmare in which T’Pring walked in on a scene of Leila fellating him in the grasses of Omicron Ceti III while the Captain stroked himself to hardness, promising him ‘After she’s done, I’m gonna fuck you so hard, that you’ll never think of betraying me again with Leila.’

He did not allow himself to touch himself to come to completion, neither did he focus his mind to redirect the blood flow. He acknowledged that he deserved the pain for what he had allowed to happen on Omicron Ceti III. He had betrayed his betrothal bond to T’Pring, his Star Fleet oath and his friend. The erection would eventually dissipate.

Spock shifted on his bed as his mind wandered. I need to speak with T’Pring. It cannot wait until I return to Vulcan. Spock sucked in his lower lip, worrying it, while he considered the possibility that T’Pring was already aware of what had occurred. He had recognized that his shields were compromised 0.4 hours after Leila’s departure, but he had not been able to determine exactly when his shields had crumbled. Was it immediately after the spores hit or sometime later? He hoped T’Pring might have shielded herself when she realized he was compromised, but he had no way of knowing. Will she understand that I would not have acted in such a manner without the influence of the spores? Our bonding will not work if she does not trust me.

And what of Jim? He said he forgave my actions, but how can a Captain trust a first officer who deliberately tried to infect him with a substance that could have cost him his command? Even if Jim could look past his behavior, it was a source of shame to Spock. His need for Jim’s presence in his life and desire for more could have destroyed his future. At least, he does not suspect what drove my actions.

Thinking of Jim again had only exacerbated the pressure in his groin. He took a few deep breaths. Focus on T’Pring. She is your betrothed, he reminded himself.

When can I communicate with T’Pring? His mind began to methodically sift through the schedule of the Enterprise. Sub-space visual communications were reserved for Star Fleet matters. They were due to be in orbit around Starbase 11 in 46 days for 18 hours. Although he felt he should confess sooner, he knew correspondence would not suffice. He needed to look her in the eye when he told her what had occurred with Leila Kalomi and ask for her forgiveness.

As he lay in his bed, he wondered whether he should also take the opportunity to discuss with her his sexual preferences. He had wanted to wait until he was on Vulcan, but tonight’s dream reminded him how difficult it was to control his unconscious thoughts. In addition to his bisexuality, which she was not aware of, he had envisioned a completely Human act. He would not be able to keep his desires from T’Pring once he unshielded his mind.

He rose from his bed, reviewed the available time slots and booked himself a meeting room on the Star Base. He sent a communication to T’Pring requesting confirmation that she would be willing to meet with him on that date and time.

 

***

 

On their way back from the concert Asil asked, “Shall we have some tea before going to bed?”

T’Pring agreed indicating that they all likely needed to unwind a bit before they could sleep. Stonn grabbed the cups and T’Pela quickly cut some fruit and placed it on a plate for all to share.

They discussed the music they had heard. The concert had featured three different groups: a Tellerite group that featured about 30 performers energetically stomping to a beat, a Human orchestra performing a piece called ‘Bolero’ which had a hypnotizing beat until the discordant end which was rather disturbing and a Vulcan quartet playing ‘Ode to the Xirahnaha’ which had an eerie sound mimicking the cries of the silver birds of L-langdon mountain range.

Stonn and Asil seemed to enjoy the energy of the Tellerite group, although admitting it was a bit loud. T’Pela preferred the piece chosen by the Human orchestra. She found the end of the piece refreshingly different. T’Pring favoured the more traditional Vulcan sounds. Eventually the conversation wound down and they each headed to their rooms.

T’Pring slipped out of her dress and put on a robe. She removed the combs from her hair then brushed it out mentally counting the strokes. Once completed she entered her bathroom, brushed her teeth, slipped out of her robe which she hung over the door and entered the sonic shower. She relaxed as the cleansing waves pulsed over her, then suddenly staggered, having to lean against the wall to avoid falling down. Waves of pain flashed across her betrothal bond, the image of Captain Kirk shaking Spock and looking concerned swam before her eyes, then it was gone in an instant.

Somehow T’Pring knew it was not Spock’s pain, but the pain of another. Someone else was in agony. She quickly got out of the shower and sat on the edge of her bed wondering if anything else would follow. Shortly thereafter thoughts began to flow across the link again as Spock deliberately dropped his shields to meld with a being that called itself a Horta.

‘Murder. Of thousands. Devils! Eternity ends. The chamber of the ages. The altar of tomorrow! Murderers! Stop them. Kill! Strike back! Monsters! … The end of life. Murderers … It is the end of life. Eternity stops. Go out into the tunnel. To the chamber of the ages. Cry for the children. Walk carefully in the vault of tomorrow. Sorrow for the murdered children. The thing you search for is there. Go. Go. Sadness. Sadness for the end of things. Go into the tunnel. There is a passageway. Quickly, quickly… It is time to sleep. It is over. Failure. The murderers have won. Death is welcome. Let it end here.’ T’Pring, through Spock, felt overwhelmed by the sadness of the creature, for the pain it endured.

Spock was spiraling with the Horta towards blackness, then suddenly there was the Captain calling to his consciousness, bringing him out of the depths of despair, ‘They’re eggs, aren’t they?’ and the images were gone.

T’Pring laid back on her bed to rest. She hoped they would be able to help the Horta. She had seemed like a remarkable creature. Many Vulcans would not have been open to sensing the thoughts of a being so different from themselves and to feeling their pain, she thought. She felt proud that Spock had used his telepathic skills to allow him to communicate with her.

I wonder what prompted the need to meld with the Horta? If I meditate, I might capture Spock’s surface thoughts like when he melded with Dr. Van Gelder.

T’Pring’s curiosity spurred her to action. She rolled herself of her bed and position herself cross legged on her mat and concentrated on her breathing to enter a meditative state.

Thoughts began to coalesce. She heard Spock say in an agitated voice, ‘Jim, your life is in danger, you can’t take the risk’. The image of a tunnel appeared. Spock was running through it.

Then her mind heard Stonn’s voice warning her before, ‘You have betrayed his trust in breaching his privacy…’ What am I doing? Stonn is right. I need to stop this before I destroy his trust in me and damage our betrothal bond beyond repair.

***

T’Pring glanced up from where she was working in the laboratory and saw Stonn standing in the doorframe. She immediately knew something was wrong. He was standing too straight. He was too much in control. She crossed the room quickly and braced herself. “The air shuttle T’Pela was returning in from her visit to Shi’Kahr had a malfunction. She and three other co-workers died on impact to the surface,” he said in a clipped tone.

T’Pring’s heart lurched for herself, Stonn, her family. Her mind seemed frozen, her lungs unable to function. Finally, she was forced to inhale deeply. She saw Stonn standing rigidly in front of her and reached out to touch his shoulder briefly saying the ritual words of condolence to him, “I grieve with thee.” The words were inadequate.

T’Pring turned and approached her supervisor in a daze and briefly explained what had occurred. She requested two days leave and was granted that immediately. This would allow her to support Stonn and visit with T’Pela’s family over the weekend after the ceremony. Her supervisor instructed another worker to put away her work so she was able to leave immediately.

Once they were out of the building and in the relative privacy of the shuttle car lot, T’Pring asked, “Were they able to save her katra?”

“No. Her sa-mekh informed me that the Healer indicated that she had died immediately on impact so there was nothing that could be done,” replied Stonn. He continued in a flat tone, “The mem-lu-til-kum will be held at dusk tomorrow evening.”

A sigh escaped her lips as she recollected T’Pela’s barely concealed joy regarding the reason for her trip to Shi’Kahr. She had confided to T’Pring that she had selected a gown for her koon’ul and was to be fitted for it. She glanced at Stonn, barely able to think. “Do you know if Asil has been told yet?”

“I told her sa-mekh that I would contact her. Will you come with me?” Stonn asked, a slight tremor in his voice.

“Of course. I will notify her supervisor to tell Asil to be in lobby and we can speak to her privately when we arrive. I also will make the travel arrangements for all of us to ensure we arrive on time for the ceremony tomorrow evening.”

***

T’Pring found Stonn reading. He had kept to himself for the last three weeks since the mem-lu-til-kum and she had not wished to disturb his need for privacy. She also had needed privacy to accept what had happened. The smallest little thing would catch her unguarded and she had to struggle for control. Yesterday, it had been pulling out the cup T’Pela had preferred for tea. She thought perhaps Stonn might benefit from discussing what happened and the impact to his life. She had valued his support in the past and thought he could use a friend. Asil had gone out with some friends so she knew they had a few hours alone.

“Please come in and eat. I have prepared a light lunch. There is some barkaya marak and bread to enjoy,” T’Pring said.

“Thank you for preparing the meal. I know I have not been doing my share of the household duties in the last few weeks. I will do better.”

T’Pring waved her hand in dismissal. “It is of no consequence. Asil and I understand you must have a lot on your mind. You have lost more than a friend. T’Pela had told us that you and she had finally come to an agreement, although it was not officially announced. What do you intend to do now to find a match? Are you going use the services of a match-maker or is your sa-mekh aware of any unbonded females who may make a suitable match? You are only three years away from your 39th birthday and it will take time.”

Stonn stirred his soup with his spoon allowing it to cool. “It is true that she and I had come to an agreement two months ago. She had been working on selecting a day that worked for both families before announcing the official betrothal ceremony.”

He paused before continuing to stir his soup. “We had taken so long to come to an agreement because T’Pela was concerned that I was interested in another.”

“Another?” T’Pring queried. Words spilled from her lips before she could retract them. “You have not pursued the interest of any other to my knowledge.”

Stonn simply nodded his affirmation stating quietly, “I have not, as it was not my right.”

So the other must have already entered an arrangement thought T’Pring savoring her first mouthful of soup. Who could it be and how was it that T’Pela had observed such an attraction, but that she had not observed it herself? They did not have a wide circle of friends. Why had T’Pela not spoken with her about it? T’Pela had never really explained why she continued to let other men pursue her when it was clear to T’Pring that she preferred Stonn. Stonn’s comment explained a lot. T’Pring understood the desire not to be second choice. 

Once the meal was finished, T’Pring rose to prepare the tea, while Stonn cleared the table of the soups bowls and placed their tea cups on the table. When they were once again settled, T’Pring resumed their earlier conversation. “You did not answer my question about what you intend to do now regarding finding a mate.”

“I am not certain,” Stonn replied, with a small sigh. “Can we talk of something else? I am not yet prepared to make a decision regarding my future. Have you approached Spock yet regarding your observance of him with Leila and your other suspicions regarding Captain Kirk?”

“Negative. I wanted to think about our discussion. Then the accident with T’Pela interfered. I admit I have delayed. I am nervous about how to approach him and also of his reaction when I explain how I came to have these views.”

“So nothing has changed since our last discussion.”

“I did experience a part of a mind meld,” she said, pausing to pour them each a cup of the steeped tea.

Stonn raised an eyebrow and she continued.

“I glimpsed into Spock’s mind 10 days ago when he merged minds with a silicon based creature called a Horta as his Captain’s request. What was interesting was that this creature had killed some of the miners of the planet to protect her unborn children. He melded with it to try and communicate with it after it became injured. I began to meditate to determine if I could read more from Spock’s mind, but then stopped myself just as the information was revealing itself. I determined I would listen to your advice and not deliberately invade Spock’s privacy any further than I have already.”

“I am pleased you resisted the temptation. It is unusual for non-healers to meld with anyone, but family or their spouse. Have there been other melds?”

“There was one prior meld that I did not discuss with you. It was not particularly revealing other than I know it was done with a man suffering delusions to try and assist Captain Kirk who they knew was in danger. Prior to Captain Kirk’s arrival Spock had not performed any melds. Captain Pike preferred that Spock not use his telepathic abilities. He wanted his skills kept a secret as he thought other crew members would be uneasy in his presence if they knew about some of his telepathic abilities. Spock and I had actually corresponded about his concerns regarding that request.”

“Captain Pike’s reticence is understandable. I have read that most non-telepathic species are nervous around telepaths. Did he mention a change in view under Captain Kirk?”

“Negative, but there seems to be a different attitude. Both the Captain and new Doctor urged him to use his skills. I think Spock was brave to perform those melds.”

Stonn sipped his tea. “Melding with someone suffering delusions or a completely unknown life-form carries risks.” He then added after a pause, “Spock seems to be willing to risk a lot when his Captain is in danger or to assist his Captain in achieving success. It appears to be at the least, an uncommon friendship.” 

T’Pring looked across the table at Stonn, “Agreed.” 

Silence hung between them. Finally, Stonn spoke. “T’Pring you need to speak to Spock. He is your sa-kugalsu. You dishonor yourself with your continued breaches of privacy and silence. Even this time, with the Horta, you could have shielded at the first sign he was entering a meld, but did not. Your initial curiosity was perhaps understandable given his shielding, but it must come to a stop. I have already encouraged you to reach out to him and I say it again. You need to speak to Spock  –  put in the open your speculations – he is deserving of that respect. It is clear Spock and the Captain have a friendship. There have been indications of perhaps a desire for more than friendship, at least on the part of Spock. Nothing suggests that he has acted on such desires or with deliberate disrespect towards you. What the Captain thinks and desires remains unknown to you and is likely unknown to Spock. Nothing further is going to be gained with delay, other than your own loss of face.”

T’Pring hung her head. “I know you are correct. I admit that all you say is true. I have no logical reason to offer for my delay. I did not tell you, but Spock wrote 38 days ago. He suggested a teleconference when the Enterprise is in orbit around Starbase 11. He provided no details regarding the reason for the request, but it was less than 48 hours after the events of Omicron Ceti III. I have not yet contacted him to schedule the meeting.”

“The timing of the request is compelling. It suggests a determination on his end to be honest with you. He also may be aware you did not shield. Your failure to acknowledge his request is disrespectful.”

T’Pring spoke quietly. “I think my shame over my actions has held me back. I promise I will delay no longer.”

When Stonn remained quiet, T’Pring raised her head to find Stonn looking at her without the condemnation that she feared. “I believe Spock will understand why you acted as you did, if you are honest with him. Trust in his ability to consider your actions fairly.”

His gaze remained steady when he continued on to ask, “Does your view remain that you would urge Spock to ask for the p’pil’lay van-kal to break the betrothal bond if he determines that Captain Kirk would agree to bond with him?

“Affirmative. I do not wish to force myself upon Spock, when he would pick another. It was an arrangement my father made because he was interested in aligning our interests with their House. I would not choose a bondmate for such reasons. However, I do believe Spock and I would make a good match. He has committed to return Vulcan after this five year term on the Enterprise is completed and to lower his shields at that time, so we should have the time to get to know one another. After that period, if he wished to proceed with our bonding I would be pleased to do so as well, unless there is some unexpected impediment. I am somewhat concerned about the timing being shorter than anticipated because of Spock’s ejaculation. It is another matter I need to discuss with him.”

“I am pleased to hear you say that you would not want a marriage simply for financial gain and prestige.” Stonn put his cup down and sat straighter. “Hear this, should Spock decide to pursue the p’pil’lay van-kal, I would like you to consider me for a bondmate. I kept my silence previously as I did not want in any way to act in a manner that might have persuaded you to turn away from Spock. Even now, I am not sure if I should speak; however, Spock may be concerned about leaving you unbonded. He may feel his commitment to you takes precedent to other considerations. You may tell him that this is a needless concern because there is one who desires you as a mate.”

Stonn’s pronouncement left T’Pring momentarily speechless. She cast her eyes downwards while she composed herself. It was no wonder that T’Pela had never spoken to her about her suspicions about Stonn. She had never suspected the depth of his feelings for her. She had just thought of him as a most trusted friend. One she could always lean on. I wonder if Captain Kirk is equally deluded, oblivious to what Spock would offer him. Finally, she found the strength to look into Stonn’s eyes.

“I had no idea of the depth of your regard for me. I am honored that you would want me as a bondmate. I feel like a selfish fool. I am sorry if I caused you any discomfort in choosing to confide these matters with you. It could not have been easy for you. I only did so because of the respect I hold for you.”

Stonn bowed his head in acknowledgement. “It has been difficult. However, my position has perhaps allowed me to understand the position of Spock better than you. I know what it is like to have desire for someone and to hide those feelings for honor’s sake. I know also the fear of rejection. If Spock indicates his desire for you, then I will look to find another mate, as it is his right to be with you. I believe he would be a good partner. I have no desire to interfere unless you are free. I do not ask for an answer at this time. It would be premature. We should not discuss these matters any further until you have spoken with Spock. When will that be?” 

“He will be at the Starbase in eight days.”

With that Stonn left the room, leaving T’Pring to contemplate further his revelation. She acknowledged to herself that in many ways she was closer to Stonn that she was to Spock. Yet, she believed she had not done anything with Stonn to compromise her betrothal bond to Spock. Then she paused, realizing Spock might view her discussions with Stonn of his private life as a breach of trust. What if I am wrong and it is I who have betrayed him by my actions?

 

barkaya marak similar to cream of spinach soup

kastruk a vegetable similar in texture to eggplant

koon’ul joining ceremony

mem-lu-til-kum funeral ceremony

p’pil’lay van – divorce ceremony

sa-mekh father

 

Chapter Text

Spock clasped his hands together on the desk in front of him trying to quell signs of his nervous tension. His spiced tea sat steaming in the corner. He could not help be concerned given it had taken T’Pring 39 days to respond to his request for a teleconference. The longest time between a communication and response previously had been 57 hours when T’Pring had been away travelling with friends. The only logical explanation he had been able postulate was that she was aware of some of what had occurred on Omicron Ceti III. The unproductive thoughts that had plagued him while he had awaited her response surfaced again. Perhaps I should have immediately asked for forgiveness? Does she understand an outside agent impacted my controls? Will that make a difference to her?

Lieutenant Uhura had assisted in making the arrangements with Starbase 11’s communication department on his behalf. He straightened in the chair in the private room awaiting notification that the link to Vulcan had been established. What is important is that T’Pring has agreed to speak with me, not when, he reminded himself.

He resisted the urge move again, to at least project an outward appearance of calm. After several minutes the link finally turned green indicating it was active. He clicked on it and was connected. T’Pring was seated in what appeared to be her bedroom based on the décor in the background. She had a light application of make-up, her hair was clipped back and she wore a light green short sleeved top which matched the simple green beaded bracelet on her left hand. Her appearance was as pleasing as always and yet something was different.

Spock waited a few moments for T’Pring to look at him. When her eyes continued to remain downcast he decided to commence. “Greetings T’Pring. Thank you for agreeing to speak with me.”

 “Greetings Spock. Your request for a video conference call was unexpected. Your communications have been infrequent since the arrival of Captain Kirk. I presume your new role as First Officer combined with your duties as Science Officer has left you less time to communicate with me.”

Spock pursed his lips together in a firm line. Her tone seemed clipped. Her continued avoidance of eye contact was disturbing. The accusation of infrequent communication was true, but it likely did not account for her uncharacteristic behavior.

“Affirmative. It took some time to form impressions of the new personnel.” Be honest. He paused, swallowed hard. “More recently there have been matters which I knew must be addressed, but written correspondence seemed insufficient. To write about less important matters seemed dishonest, so I have not written at all.” 

Spock detected a slight nod of acknowledgment of what he had said, but T’Pring’s head remained bowed. She began to twist a bead on her bracelet. Despite his growing certainty that T’Pring knew what he was about to confess, it was difficult to speak.

Spock sighed slightly. “Will you not look upon me?” he asked quietly.

T’Pring clasped her hands together, squared her shoulders and raised her head. Her features were a blank slate. Her eyes were impenetrable pools of darkness. Spock forced himself to maintain eye contact. Although he had practiced his confession countless times in meditation sessions in his quarters on the Enterprise, he had not imagined it would be this hard to look on his ko-kugalsu and speak of his betrayal. He did not want to witness her pain knowing he was the cause.

His mouth was as a dry as the desert sands. He took a sip of his tea to wet it, yet his throat constricted as he began to speak. “Once I wrote you about a woman, Leila Kalomi, who desired a relationship with me while I was at Star Fleet Academy. At that time, I declined her advances. During a recent mission, I met her again. She again pursued me. I regret to inform you that I did not resist her advances. I allowed certain—”

T’Pring’s voice quivered slightly as she spoke. “You kissed her in the Human fashion.”

His eyes closed briefly, in reflex, at the accusatory tone in her voice as she emphasized his initiation of the kiss. She knows. He forced himself to look at her as he acknowledged the charge. “Affirmative.”

“She ... she touched your lok with her lips and mouth.” T’Pring glanced down for a moment, then looked up again. Her eyes flashed with anger and pain. Her voice became more animated. “You became aroused and ejaculated. You enjoyed it.”

Spock felt his insides twist as he realized how much T’Pring had experienced. “Affirmative. I ask forgiveness. I did not—”

Spock wanted to explain about his loss of control, but T’Pring held up her hand, and he let her continue. It was her right to castigate him.

“You felt ashamed afterwards,” she said quietly.

He nodded in affirmation. Her acknowledgement of that fact and quieter tone suggested she might be willing to listen to his explanation, despite his breach of trust.

He took a sip of tea, determined to be patient. He wanted to give her the opportunity to ask questions or comment further, if she wished, however, T’Pring remained still. She seemed small and fragile, not the confident woman he was accustomed to. His hand clenched around his cup. My actions have contributed to this change. Does she imagine I prefer Leila as a bondmate?

Spock did not wish to hurt her any more than he had, but he had vowed to himself that he would speak the truth. “My controls were stripped from me when I was sprayed by the spores of a plant. Leila’s hand touched my cheek. I felt her love for me. I responded to her feelings. I love her that I loved her.”

Spock looked intently at T’Pring. “It is not true.”

T’Pring remained silent.

“I regret that I did not have sufficient controls to resist what I desired. She has always been sexually desirable to me.” Spock bowed his head, “I wanted to touch and be touched, to feel her acceptance and love, to respond in kind. However, unlike before I did not hold back, I could love.”

T’Pring’s fingers began to twist the beads on her bracelet. She hesitated before she spoke in a halting fashion. “You kissed her on the lips. Do you desire this Human form of touching that involves the mouth?” she asked, looking up quickly then glancing away.

Spock noted the malice in her voice had been replaced by tentative curiosity and strove to answer openly and honestly. “I found it stimulating to use my mouth and tongue and not just my fingertips in the act of kissing. The additional sensory inputs of taste and smell enhance my experience. I would desire to kiss you in such a manner, all over your body, if you would allow it.” Ask her. Spock swallowed hard. “Is the idea repugnant to you? I do not wish to disgust you with my Human traits.”

T’Pring glanced up quickly. “I am curious Spock. It is clear you find this pleasurable as do other Humans. I admit I was shocked to realize that you desired this, but I would be willing to try.”

Spock realized that he had been holding his breath as T’Pring spoke. With relief, he breathed in again, the tension in his body releasing slightly. “If you do not enjoy my touch in such a manner, we will not continue to do so.”

“Do your parents—” T’Pring began then flushed green, turning away.

Spock’s eyes crinkled. “In our home, I have on occasion seen my mother kiss my father on the lips. I have not seen him initiate such activities, but neither does he exhibit any sign of stress or displeasure.”

T’Pring nodded, then continued to twist the beads on her bracelet, avoiding eye contact. 

Is she nervous about something else? He considered what she had witnessed and realized what it must be. He continued in a quiet voice, “T’Pring, I would not ask that you bring me to completion as Leila did. It is not the Vulcan way.”

“Do you desire it?”

Be honest. “Affirmative. It is pleasurable to me.” Spock swallowed. “Since then on seven occasions at night in my quarters I have remembered how it felt and become aroused. On most I have been able to appropriately subdue my erections with mental techiques.”

T’Pring’s fingers momentarily stilled. She did not look up, but said softly. “I would want to please you, Spock, if this is what you desire.”

“It is comforting to hear you say that. But it is not necessary for you to perform acts that are against your nature.” Spock faltered slightly, “I have considered this. As I am not yet sexually mature, it is difficult to predict how strong my desires will be. Humans often rely on self-gratification. I…” He hesitated, before continuing, remembering the night he had taken himself in hand imagining Sean’s touch and the subsequent nights of self-exploration while he investigated his own sexual desires. “I have done so on occasion when mental discipline has proven ineffective.” He did not want to reveal the number of times unless asked.

T’Pring raised her brow.

“If those techniques prove inadequate. I could make alternative arrangements, if you would permit.”

T’Pring nodded, but said nothing further.

Spock sipped his tea, then prompted. “You have not indicated whether you can forgive what I have done. Will you still accept me as your sa-kugalsu? You do understand my controls were compromised. I would not have acted in the manner I did had I not been infected by the spores.”

T’Pring glanced up. “I understand that the spores impacted your controls. I felt your pain when you were first attacked by them.”

Spock could not help some of frustration from filtering through his voice. “Why did you not shield if you knew my controls were stripped from me? Why watch me shame myself and betray you?”

T’Pring flinched at his words. Spock watched as her fingers reached again to restlessly twist the beads of her bracelet. She did not look at him. “At first, I thought you might be in danger. I surmised that Leila had taken you to that flower knowing what it would do to you. I did not anticipate all that might happen. I thought I might be able to reach you through our link to help you regain control. I did try.”

Spock thought about her words, trying to understand T’Pring’s perspective. “I accept that you thought I was in danger initially.” At first, stuck in his mind. The implications disturbed him. “How long did your observations continue?”

“I sensed your desire for Leila when you kissed her. I was hurt. Angry. I thought you had lied to me about her. That your shields were erected to prevent me knowing of this relationship. You had forfeited your right to privacy in my eyes.”

No!

“I observed you until you and Captain Kirk effectively executed the plan to destroy the influence of the spores on all the people on Omicron Ceti III.”

Spock closed his eyes. He was stunned by the length of time T’Pring had observed him. He concentrated on his breathing. He listened to the ventilation system. He could not think of a response to articulate.

“That is not all.” 

The trepidation in T’Pring’s voice was clear to Spock.

What else could there be? Spock opened his eyes and captured hers. Her eyes revealed apprehension.

T’Pring’s fingers stilled on the bead she had been twisting.

He raised his eyebrow and willed himself to remain silent.

Clasping her hands together tightly, T’Pring straightened herself in her chair. “Spock, I too, ask forgiveness. I have perpetrated acts against you beyond the above. There is no outside agent that is to blame. I am ashamed of what I have done. Each act seemed individually insignificant and was done without ill intent, but I realize now that there was a pattern to my actions.” T’Pring swallowed audibly. “You once wrote that a bonding could not be successful if each party did not feel they could share their whole self with their partner. I told you I was prepared to wait until you returned to Vulcan to know your inner thoughts, but each time an opportunity arose for me to see your mind unshielded, I found myself unable to turn away.”

Spock tightened the grip of his clasped hands as anger surged through him. To know that his private thoughts had been invaded enraged him. Do you not trust me? “For what purpose did you probe?”

“I hungered to know you better. To know what you kept locked inside away from me. The first time your shields were breached, it happened too quickly for me to react. I was rendered unconscious.”

Spock was shocked to learn he had overwhelmed her mind in such a manner. The experience must have been frightening for T’Pring, he admitted to himself.

“A healer was brought in and he told me if I meditated I could access what was transferred while I was unconscious. I was only trying to learn what happened to you when I began to probe what had been transferred. I was concerned for your welfare. However, what I learned made me curious to know more.”

T’Pring gestured her hand towards him. “I should have asked you immediately about what I sensed, but I thought perhaps I had misinterpreted. Your own emotions seemed conflicted. I was not sure that even you understood them.”

What incident is she thinking about?

T’Pring continued her explanation. “I confirmed in our correspondence my awareness of when you performed the meld with Dr. Van Gelder. What I did not communicate was that I analyzed the other information that came with the meld to understand what prompted you to perform it.”

“What about during my meld with the Horta?”

“I did not shield during the meld. Afterwards, I started to probe to determine what initiated the meld, but I stopped myself. I had promised that I would cease my shameful actions after watching you on Omi Cron Ceti III.”

Spock realized that his hands had clenched together in anger. His heart rate was also elevated. He tried to calm himself so he could think coherently. He loosened the grip of his hands allowing color to come back to his knuckles. Have I contributed to T’Pring’s behavior by shielding our betrothal bond so thoroughly? Did I ask too much of her? But what made her so inquisitive that she would continually violate my privacy?

“Can you forgive me, Spock?”

Spock was uncertain. How could she violate him so? “All of this because of a general curiosity,” he stated, through gritted teeth.

“Initially. Later, it was directed towards a specific aim.”

What has she been searching for? “Have you discovered what you wished to know or do you have questions to put to me?”

T’Pring tilted her head down. “What I have learned confirmed to me that you are a man of integrity. You would not consciously act in a manner that would betray me.” She paused, raised her chin, and looked directly into his eyes, “My question is this. If you were free to choose, would you prefer to bond with your Captain, Spock?”

Spock felt his back muscles cease. He froze his facial muscles in place as he turned his head away from her, although he knew his reaction might be taken as an answer in and of itself. “The answer to the question is irrelevant. I am not free. I have a commitment to you. I have not forgotten that fact.”

Spock heard T’Pring’s small sigh. “I know you have not forgotten.”

Spock forced himself to turn his head back to the view screen, to look T’Pring in the eyes. He did not see accusation in their depths. “The answer to the question is relevant to me. I breached your privacy searching for the answer to that question. You confessed that you were ashamed of your feeling of friendship for the Captain.”

Psi 2000. That must have been the first time she accessed my thoughts.

“The statement was illogical. Friendship is not something that causes shame. Your emotions felt deeper than friendship. However, I recognized that you were under the influence of a virus. I was not certain whether your response was genuine or not. I wanted to know more before I discussed what I suspected. This search for the truth led me down a dishonorable path. Will you tell me the truth?”

“I believe he is my t’hy’la.” Not even a flicker of surprise? “He is my friend and my brother; however, he will not be my lover and future bondmate,” Spock stated, firmly.

“Why have you concluded he could not be your bondmate? Have you ever asked him directly what he desires?” T’Pring pressed.

What is the point of such speculation? The question is irrelevant. “As I have a betrothal bond to you, I have never considered having such a conversation. I am content to remain by Captain Kirk’s side as his First Officer and friend.”

T’Pring’s eyes appeared to soften. “You did not answer my question, Spock. Do you desire him as your bondmate?”

Spock felt as though he were on the edge of a precipice. T’Pring was demanding an answer to a question, that he had tried without success to avoid considering given the futility of it. “Affirmative, but I would still take you as my bondmate. We have been pledged.”

T’Pring’s eyes crinkled at the edges as she smiled slightly. “The point is this. If you prefer your Captain then invoke the p’pil’lay van-kal and break our bond. I do not wish to hold you hostage against what you truly desire. I would hope you would do the same for me, if our positions were reversed.”

Spock’s eyebrow raised in surprise. T’Pring’s magnanimous gesture was not needed. She did not understand the facts. “Your generosity is not needed. The Captain does not want such a relationship with me.”

“Have you asked him?”

Spock relaxed in his chair. “Negative. However, I have observed him. The evidence is clear. All his prior relationships have been with women. Even those dalliances never involved personnel on board the Enterprise. Captain Kirk would not engage in a relationship with a male, nor would he enter a relationship that could compromise his command decisions. It would not be possible for him.”

To Spock’s surprise, T’Pring did not accept his explanation. “This is just speculation on your part. You have not asked him. I have seen through your eyes the way he looks at you.”  She continued on gently, “I know I am not experienced in analyzing the looks of Humans, but what I saw made me believe his feelings towards you were deeper than simple friendship.”

Spock sucked in his bottom lip and ran his upper teeth over his gums. He could not think what to say.

When he did not reply, T’Pring continued to speak. “He touches you, knowing you are a touch telepath. Does that not tell you he is offering you his mind?”

Spock stiffened. Her comment was offensive. “I would never violate the Captain’s privacy in such a way. He trusts me to remain–”

T’Pring cut him off. “I know that you remain shielded. But he may have already shared information with you. Perhaps you have not sought this information out because it would be even more difficult to follow your chosen path if you knew your desires were reciprocated.”

Spock tilted his head in thought. The direction of T’Pring’s conversation was most curious. Does she know something? His heart rate began to elevate.

“Spock, when you melded with the Horta, your shields were down. You were spiraling towards possible death. The Captain held you when he pulled you away from her. You may not have examined the feelings that he projected when he pulled you away as you were assimilating what you have learned from the Horta, but I focused on him. It was more than what I would expect for a mere friend. Look at it now.”

Spock turned his mind inward. A small gasp emitted from his lips. The level of concern, panic for his well-being, was disproportionate. Sometimes I have thought his look was conveying--

T’Pring’s voice cut-off his musings. “You need to speak to him.”

Spock tried to re-focus. I cannot just pursue my own desires. “Even if the Captain does reciprocate my feelings, you have done nothing that would justify me asking to break our betrothal bond. To do so could bring dishonor to your name and your house which would not be deserved.”

“It is your right. You are not required to state a reason.”

“Agreed. However, you know that there will be speculation as the p’pil’lay van-kal is rarely invoked.” Spock steepled his fingers and rested in his chin on the tips of his index fingers. “I am not certain the Captain or Star Fleet would want our relationship publicly announced. There would be valid reasons for keeping it secret, particularly if we ever were captured by enemies of the Federation. But, if no reason is offered, it may impede your ability to secure a suitable match. I cannot pursue this course of action without considering your welfare.”

Spock closed his eyes to concentrate on the problem, steepling his fingers. When the solution presented itself he opened his eyes again. “T’Pring, although it is my right, you could make it known that you requested that I take this action because I had broken our betrothal bond. My actions with Leila haven given you sufficient cause. I would sign a statement acknowledging the truth of the charge. Such a request on your part would be viewed as favorable to waiting to invoke the kal-if-fee. Your name would remain sacrosanct.”

T’Pring frowned. “Negative. I will not disparage your name.”

Her brows drew together as if in thought. Spock observed T’Pring duck her head and begin to twist a green bead on her bracelet. Finally, she looked up again. “Spock, do not be concerned about my ability to secure a mate with explanation. I am aware of another who desires me.”

Is that why she is encouraging this course of action? She desires another. Years of rejection sent his mind spiraling. Spock fought for control. He knew he needed to truly listen. He held his tongue.

“I only recently learned of his interest. I had sought his advice when I was confused about how to interpret some of what I had seen.”

Spock’s steepled fingers collapsed into a tight grip. He reached for his tea to disguise his distress. How could she tell another?

T’Pring’s eyes appeared to turn inward. “It helped to have another’s perspective. I was confused.” A crack of a smile briefly appeared at the corner of her mouth. “He confronted me about the ethics of my not shielding. He urged me to speak to you after what I had done on multiple occasions. He predicted you might be inclined to make a decision against your own best interest out of a sense of duty to me. It was for this reason, he told me he broke his silence.”

As T’Pring spoke, the sense of betrayal he had felt evaporated. She had not rejected him. She had sought to understand him better.

T’Pring looked at him. “I had not thought of him as potential suitor given we were pledged, but now that he has approached me, I believe we would also make a good match”

I believe her. T’Pring has no more actively pursued this other party than I have pursued Jim. Who is T’Pring’s suitor? How did they meet? She must trust him deeply to tell him of our private affairs. Now that she knows his interest, would she prefer him? I would not desire to hold her, if another would be her preference. She needs to understand all aspects of myself to make an informed decision.

“T’Pring, regardless of what I learn from the Captain, you must consider your desires. We have spoken plainly about many things today and you have discerned much, but I need to tell you more. Obviously, in recognizing my desire for the Captain, you have already perceived that I am attracted to males as well as females.” Spock swallowed hard. “You need to know that I have no strong desire to penetrate another.”

T’Pring raised an eyebrow at him.

Spock continued. “It is not that I will be unable to respond to you outside of pon farr and engage in sexual intercourse should you desire it. You are desirable to me. It is just that I am not certain if your needs and mine will align. Penetrating another is not my preference. It is the reverse. I am not certain how much I will desire penetration once I am mature. Artificial means may suffice, but I am not sure. And there is my desire for oral sex which we discussed earlier. I recognize that the combination of all these matters may mean that you would prefer your other suitor rather than myself as your future adun. Take some time to consider it. I would not hold you to our parent’s arrangement, if there is a better match for you, regardless of Captain Kirk’s interest in me.”

T’Pring was quiet for some time, lightly clasping and unclasping her hands. Finally, she looked up at him. “I won’t deny that some of what you said have said today about your sexual preferences is unexpected. I had speculated about what your bi-sexuality might mean for us and your desire for certain Human sexual practices. I do not need more time to consider matters, Spock. If the Captain does not desire you, I will join with you. I trust that we will work together to give each other mutual satisfaction. If we need to seek alternative arrangements, we will, as is the custom. Your sexual nature is part of who you are and I accept that.” T’Pring paused, blushing slightly, “You are desirable to me. I have thought of being penetrated by you on numerous times. I do not prefer another to you although acknowledge there may be challenges. I only told you about my other suitor so you would understand that I have other options that are acceptable to me.”

“Nonetheless, I ask that while I explore options with Captain Kirk, that you consider what you desire as well.”

“Spock, I have one further question for you? When you were with Leila, you ejaculated semen. Was it caused by the spores?”

Spock remembered the dream after Sean MacMorris had left the Enterprise. “Negative. It has occurred when I have stimulated myself.”

T’Pring straightened in her chair. “I am concerned that this could mean you will enter pon farr earlier than a full Vulcan.”

“I also was disturbed when this first occurred and did some research. Humans begin to ejaculate at 13 years of age plus or minus 3 years. So I have postulated that it was for this reason I have developed the ability in advance of my first pon farr. In any case, I should be finished with my tour of duty and on Vulcan before a need arises.”

“It could also mean that you are maturing faster than you anticipate, Spock. You need to act quickly. Speak to Captain Kirk.”

Spock was tentative as he spoke. “I do not want to prematurely risk our friendship. If he is not interested, our working relationship could be made more difficult on the Enterprise.”

T’Pring leaned towards the screen. “You must do something, Spock. Watch him closely. Consider how he interacts with you as compared to others. Do not decide for your Captain without giving him a voice in his future.”

Spock rested his chin on his finger tips. “I will consider how best to proceed. Will an update in three months be sufficient?”

“That will suffice.”

Spock studied T’Pring for a moment longer. They had been open with each other today. Confessions which might have destroyed their trust in each other had only served to strengthen their belief in each other. The reasons that he had shielded himself from T’Pring seemed unimportant to him now. Clearly, she accepts all of me, including my Human emotions and desires. Spock lowered his shields.

He reached out tentatively across his link, “T’Pring?”

T’Pring eyes sparkled as she raised her hand, to touch the back of her head, when she looked at him, “Spock? What are you doing?”

“I will shield against you no longer. I wish you to know that I forgive your actions.”

“I forgive you as well. But this is not necessary, Spock. I can wait until your return to Vulcan, as I promised. I will not invade your privacy again.”

“I made a promise to you, as well. I told you when I felt ready, I would lower my shields. The time is well passed when I should have done so.”

T’Pring waved her hand slightly in negation. “Given you are about to explore a possible relationship with Captain Kirk and I wish–”

Spock could feel her trepidation. “Privacy for your suitor,” he conjectured.

T’Pring tipped her head as the thought was transmitted. “Affirmative. I suggest that we each adjust our shielding such we will have an awareness of the well-being of each other, but sufficient to grant us privacy to interact with others at this time. If I sense any loss of control or that you are entering a mind meld I will fully shield.”

“As you wish.” Spock felt the presence of T’Pring dim in his mind. “When we reconvene, you can determine the way forward. Live long and prosper, T’Pring.”

“Peace and long life, Spock.”

Spock looked at T’Pring a moment longer before reaching for the computer screen to terminate the transmission. He leaned back in the chair enjoying feeling her quiet presence in his mind, but no longer colored by her thoughts or emotions.

 

adun - husband

lok – penis

p’pil’lay van-kal  - divorce ceremony

Chapter Text

 

“Absolutely no screen time this evening, Spock.” Doctor McCoy stood beside him in the turbolift. He insisted on accompanying him to his quarters, just as he had insisted on accompanying him on his short visit to the Bridge. “Not sure why I allowed you to look into the view finder at all. I guess, I was just relieved you could do so,” the Doctor glanced at him. He continued quietly, “It was good to see you where you belonged.”

Spock was surprised by the somber tone, but touched by the sentiment of the doctor. “It was only 2.3 minutes before you interjected.”  The Doctor’s eyes seemed to be darkened with an inner turmoil. His eyes had appeared troubled other than the first moment when Doctor McCoy had recognized that he could see. At that moment, his eyes had lighted with joy. 

“If I had been doing my job, none of this would have happened.”

As they exited the doors, Spock turned and lightly touched the Doctor on his forearm. “Leonard, I assure you I am recovered. You have no reason to reproach yourself.” 

Doctor McCoy looked down at his hand then raised his eyes, shaking his head side to side slowly. “I appreciate you saying so, but I know better. Jim does as well. We both failed you.”

They continued down the hall silently until they got to Spock’s quarters. 

“I’ll see you in the morning, Spock. Come in an hour before your shift. If everything looks fine, I’ll clear you for duty with no restrictions.”

Spock stepped into his room. “Thank you, Doctor. I will see you then.”

When the doors closed, Spock wondered what he would do for the evening. Additional meditation to assimilate recent events would be beneficial. Perhaps I could borrow a hard copy book from the Captain when alpha shift ends? He reached for his lyre.

He had been playing for 43 minutes when he heard Jim’s voice through their joint bathroom. 

“May I come in?”

“Enter.”

The Captain strode in and then leaned against the wall. To Spock’s trained eye he appeared to be attempting to appear relaxed with a casual pose, but there was something intangible in the rigidity of his posture that suggested he was tense. “Bones told me that he ordered you to avoid any screen time until your shift tomorrow. Thought you might want the diversion of some dinner and chess, unless you have other plans,” he said with a slight smile.

“That would be agreeable.”

“Great. I need to shower and finish some paperwork, but won’t be long. It’s been a while.” 

To Spock, there was an unsettling weariness in the Captain’s voice as he continued, “We still haven’t completed the game we started before the business with the Guardian.”

You have not invited me, his mind accused, but quickly softened, conscious of the unfairness of the charge. And I have been too scared to ask for fear of rejection.

“Come over in thirty minutes. I’ll get my Yeoman to bring us some dinner. See you in a bit.”

Spock nodded as Jim turned to go back into the bathroom. A few moments later Spock heard the water turn on and he quickly resumed playing his lyre to mask the noises from the other room. Sometimes he wished his hearing was not so acute. Jim had a habit of seeking sexual release while in the shower. Of late, Jim’s actions had brought inappropriate visual images to his mind and his own physical response which required mental focus to subdue, unless he was otherwise occupied.

As he played Spock considered that this evening would be a good opportunity to observe his Captain and gauge whether to risk exposing his feelings. He had a call scheduled with T’Pring in three days and he had yet to speak to him.

Jim’s attraction to Edith Keeler had left him confused. Unbidden his mind replayed yet again Jim’s confession, ‘I think I’m in love with her.’ Those words had been painful to hear and had stirred emotions in himself that were difficult to confront and resolve. He had been reticent to approach the Captain immediately afterwards to speak of his loss and since their return the Captain had chosen to occupy himself with work more than usual. As a result, he had never even offered proper condolences. It weighed on his mind with each day that passed, yet he had not wanted to bring up Edith’s death if Jim was trying to put it behind him.

Spock’s fingers moved instinctively on the strings into a melancholy melody as his mind replayed the final moments on the New York street. If I had not called out, would the outcome have been different? Would Jim prefer a different outcome? The look of anguish on Jim’s face had haunted him since.

To confess my feelings now, so soon after Edith’s death and the deaths in Jim’s only family will appear insensitive. The music became discordant as he contemplated that fact. The harsh sounds continued as he further considered that the Captain had never visited him alone after his attack on Deneva, nor after his blinding. Always Doctor McCoy was present. Why?

He covered the strings with his palm, silencing their sound. Jim was done with his shower. He took a deep breath, reminding himself that Jim had reached out this evening. I must seize this opportunity to speak of my desires despite the inopportune timing. He suppressed a shudder of apprehension that began at the base of his spine before it moved through him. My confession cannot destroy our friendship. He may not reciprocate my feelings, but he will not spurn me, he repeated to himself. Eventual acceptance of that thought, calmed his soul and at last his fingers resumed playing soothing harmonies until his time sense told him it was time to prepare to depart.

Spock expected Jim would be dressed casually as was his practice for when off duty. Spock determined that he would break custom and wear his brown casual robe. Tonight he did not want to appear as First Officer to the Captain, but as an equal. The robe also had the benefit of providing additional warmth. Jim will have turned up the temperature in his room a few degrees so I should be physically comfortable.

He walked through their shared bathroom to Jim’s quarters on schedule. Jim was stretched out on his bed with a pad in his hands, bare feet visible under casual dark gray stretch pants and a navy short sleeved t-shirt. He glanced up as he entered, “Dinner’s just arrived.”

Spock walked over to the table and occupied himself setting the items from the trolley onto the table. He poured orange juice in a glass for Jim and Altair water for himself. He placed the tray of vegetarian lasagna and basket of bread in the middle of the table for them to share. The slice of apple pie and guava fruit for himself he left on the trolley for later consumption. When Jim placed his pad on his nightstand, Spock put a generous slice of lasagna on each of their plates and sat down.

“Thanks for serving,” Jim said as he joined him. Jim picked up his orange juice and offered a toast, “To many more years of service together.” 

Spock raised his eyebrow at the atypical greeting prompting Jim to explain.

“The Denevan incident gave me quite a scare. I’ve never had time to contemplate life on board the Enterprise without you before.” 

Spock picked up his glass, hoping that the salutation would indeed be prophetic, and repeated the phrase, “To many more years of service together,” then swallowed his water. Is Jim simply referring to the fact that the Enterprise would not be as efficient without me as First Officer or did his comment have a deeper meaning?

Jim bent his head down and started on his lasagna. Although they typically did not banter back and forth during meals, as Jim understood that Vulcans did not engage in conversation while eating, Jim often did provide some running commentary on whatever was on his mind. Spock would later provide observations when he had consumed his food.

This evening Jim also ate in silence. Dark circles under his eyes indicated a lack of sleep. The combination, together with his slumped shoulders suggested uncharacteristically low spirits.  Undoubtedly, due to the recent deaths of those he loved. I should speak with Doctor McCoy. Perhaps shore leave is required or he may have another suggestion?

As they each completed their lasagna, Jim finally raised his head. He asked in a subdued tone, “How are you really? I know I teased you about how regaining your eyesight would be an emotional experience, but I simply was covering my own reactions to the joy I felt when you came to the bridge. That inner eyelid saved Bones and I years of unbearable guilt.” Spock heard the laugh at the final remark. It sounded forced to his ears.

Spock took a swallow of water while thinking about the Captain’s statement which mirrored Doctor McCoy’s earlier. “There is no need for guilt on either of your parts. I told him this as well. The pain was becoming intolerable which is why I volunteered. There was a serious risk that I could have lost control and tried to take the ship again.”

Jim shook his head as he tore off a chunk of bread to wipe up the remaining sauce on his plate. “You agreed to the procedure while trying to maintain control against unbearable pain. It was our job, no my job, to protect you against unreasonable self-sacrifice.”

“It was not known how long it would take before the test results confirmed what killed the creature. There was a risk that more lives could be lost if the creatures had left the planet.”

“I should have at least asked how long we had to wait. I shouldn’t have been in that much of a hurry.” Jim ducked his head, conveying to Spock the extent to which the Captain was disturbed by what he perceived to be an error in judgment on his part. 

Although he had consumed all he intended, Spock pulled an extra chunk of bread from the basket, ripping off a piece, and placing it in his mouth to chew slowly, giving himself extra time to think. How can I assuage his guilt? He swallowed when he was prepared to speak. “My mother sometimes says, ‘hindsight is twenty twenty’. You made a command decision at the time, with the best information you had available. That is all that can be expected.”

Jim shook his head, as he sipped his orange juice. He said somberly, “I didn’t gather all the information. That is the point. My judgment was clouded with worry over the pain you were in, although you tried to hide it, and the pain Peter might have to endure. My desire to end your pain sooner almost cost you your career. It was just so hard to watch you suffer. Even Bones had to remind me that my affection for you might be clouding my judgment -- that I had a duty to the inhabitants of Deneva.”

Spock considered Jim’s statement. Had Doctor McCoy actually said ‘affection’? Had Jim spoken to Doctor McCoy about him or had he merely inferred that affection existed, based on his own observations? Had Jim’s affection impaired his command decision? “Time was of the essence. You made the best decision you could at that point. That is all anyone can ask of you.”

Jim’s voice sounded strained. “I don’t deserve such support from you. After you were blinded, I left you with Bones. I didn’t even come to see you in your quarters.”

Spock spoke the words in had told himself. “You were grieving for Edith, Sam, Aurelian. The situation on Deneva demanded—”

Jim’s hand slapped the table, making the empty plates rattle. “No! Don’t make excuses for me.”

Jim got up, his movements agitated, pacing his quarters. “That had nothing to do with it. I hid on the bridge. I justified my behavior, rationalizing you’d want to be alone.” He returned to stand in front of his chair, shoulders squared.  “Spock, the truth is I was afraid to face you and what I had done.”

Spock could not help but feel a glow of contentment knowing that Jim had not been avoiding him for the reason he had suspected. It was not because of the tragic events in New York, but out of misplaced guilt. “Jim, Doctor McCoy stayed with me. You would have come eventually, when the crisis passed. I believe Doctor McCoy will clear me for duty after my physical tomorrow morning. Please sit. Let us put Deneva behind us.”

Jim reseated himself slowly.

“It appears you have finished your lasagna, would you care for more or shall we move on to dessert?”

Jim smiled in a manner that let Spock know he was aware of the obvious diversion tactics. “I would like more lasagna, but Bones would kill me. Let’s clear the table. I did invite you here to complete our game. We can eat our dessert and resume our chess match. Does that sound agreeable?”

“Affirmative.”

They quickly put the dishes back on the trolley. While Jim brought over the chess board, Spock placed the desserts onto the table. Jim, who was playing white, made a move. It was obvious he had pre-planned his attack. Spock found his own concentration on the game lacking, as he contemplated how to broach the topic that he knew he must. Forty-seven minutes later when they had both finished their desserts, Jim commented, “Your game’s off. Are you sure you’re not suffering from some lingering after effects from Deneva?”

Spock could see the game would be lost shortly. He looked across the board past Jim around his quarters. His chin rested lightly on his steepled index fingers. After tonight will the Captain invite me again into his quarters for a chess game, a meal? Or will he feel more comfortable with others around in the rec room or mess hall like when he first joined the ship?

“Spock?”

Spock brought his gaze back to focus on Jim. His mouth suddenly felt dry. “Physically, I am fine. I wish to discuss something with you,” he said, as he moved a pawn in position to protect his king, adding quietly, “It is of a personal nature.”

A look of surprise registered on Jim’s face. “Did you want to finish the game?”

Spock saw no point in dragging out the game any further simply to avoid the conversation. His heart rate was already elevated. Delaying would not help.

“Negative. The game is yours.”

“I’m going to have a drink. I presume you’d prefer tea?”

“That would be agreeable.”

Spock packed up the chess set, while Jim prepared the beverages. A few minutes later they sat across the table from each other once again. Jim had already taken a first sip of his brandy.

Spock swallowed nervously into the silence. “I am at a loss as to how to begin,” he confessed, looking into his cup of tea nested between both his hands on the table top. He closed his eyes to focus himself. A moment later Jim’s fingertips, feather light, touched his right wrist. When he opened his eyes, Jim pulled back his hand, but leaned in, his hazel eyes exuding warmth.

“It’s okay. You can tell me.”

Jim leaned back again, relaxed.

Spock cleared his throat. “I find that I am at somewhat of a cross-road in my life. This has forced me to confront certain matters. It is my sincere hope that what I am about to say will not negatively impact the rapport we have developed, as I value our working relationship highly.”

Jim nodded. “We do make an excellent command team. It amazes me sometimes that despite our different backgrounds how we seem to be able to work so well together. Chris told me what a competent officer you were, but it’s more than that I think.”

“Captain Pike was an excellent leader.”

“You risked your career for him,” Jim said, taking another sip of his drink.

“I considered it my duty to offer him a better life,” Spock explained, taking a sip of his tea. “But from my perspective, the relationship I had with him pales in comparison to my relationship with you. Christopher Pike was my Captain.” Spock paused, placing his tea on the table, forcing himself to look at Jim. “You are more. You are my friend. You have made me feel welcome, like no one before.”

Jim smiled at him then, one of those smiles that crashed through his defences. It caused him to falter for a second as his heart rate accelerated further. “I wish for more.” Spock paused then, trying to gauge from Jim’s facial expression whether he understood where he was headed and had any reaction, positive or negative. None was revealed. Jim simply looked pensive, his brow creasing.

“Spock, our friendship is important to me as well. I’ve spent considerable time trying to understand why you seemed so anguished about our friendship almost a year ago now. You said you were ashamed of your feelings for me. I was concerned that you thought I was pushing you—”

Spock cut Jim off holding his hand up. “Please let me continue. I was ashamed because I thought I should be able to control what was growing inside of me. Since then I have tried to analyze our interactions to discern your—”

Jim leaned forward. “Just tell me,” he directed gently.

“I will. But before I do I need to apologize for my behavior after our return from New York. I did not behave as the friend I claimed to be. My only excuse is the difficulty I had in assimilating the feelings your attraction to Edith stirred in me. It was difficult for me to see you so drawn to her. I believe I experienced some moments of jealousy for the first time. However, you must believe that I never consciously wished her ill. She was a remarkable person. I grieve with thee.”

Jim bent his head low. His voice sounded hoarse when he spoke. “I know you didn’t wish her ill. She was a remarkable person.” Spock noted the unshed tears that glistened in his eyes when Jim lifted his head to focus on him. “But so are you.” 

“I have been reluctant to speak to you directly of my desires out of fear of damaging what we have today.”  

Jim drained the remainder of his drink, staring into the empty glass which he rolled between his hands. “What is it that you desire … exactly?

Spock chewed his bottom lip before swallowing. “Jim, the erection I failed to subdue during our wrestling match was not without direction as you presumed. Thoughts of you arouse me and torture my nights. But my desire is more than just a longing for a physical connection. Your soul has touched mine. I admire you as a person. I would have you as my life’s companion. I desire to bond with you. If I have offended—”

Jim glanced up quickly, a radiant smile flickering quickly across his face.

Joy? Happiness?

“I’m not offended. I’m honored. What I said to you in the change room, I believed it when I said it. I thought my erection had nothing to do with you. But when I went to the shower to deal with it, I fantasized about you. Since then, you’ve played a starring role in more than a few nighttime fantasies. Normally I don’t get recurring ones.” Jim looked up and shrugged, “I’ve begun to think, one day we could be more than friends. I’ve been trying to rein my own feelings for you in, afraid of seeking more now. I think the only reason I wasn’t put under the influence of the spores the first time I was sprayed was because I had just seen you kissing Leila Kalomi. The green-eyed monster, jealousy, had me in its clutches.” 

Spock was relieved to hear Jim say he was attracted to him, but something in his manner made his heart still, one day... “However,” Spock prompted sensing that Jim was not done.

“I’ve held back for several reasons. You just obliterated my first concern. I thought my feelings and physical desires would make you uncomfortable and could undermine our working relationship. But, I have others.”

He held up his index finger. “First, I am the Captain of the Enterprise and the safety of my crew is my number one priority. Nothing can take precedence over that. My feelings for you could compromise my command decisions. The fact that Bones had to remind me of my duty when you were ill recently and my questionable decisions demonstrates how easily this can happen and we are not even in a committed relationship.”

Jim’s middle finger joined with his index finger in the air. “Second, I’ve never had a successful long-term relationship. From what I understand about Vulcan culture, you bond for life and once in a partnership there is an expectation of exclusivity. Also I’ve used my charms for the benefit of the Enterprise on occasion. I’d prefer not to have my hands tied. Based on my track record and those parameters, odds are that we will not be able to sustain a relationship, which would undoubtedly impact the morale on board the Enterprise.

Jim’s thumb joined his other fingers as he stretched out his hand. “Third, my experience with males is extremely limited and quite some time ago while in the Academy. I’ve been on the receiving end of a handful of blow jobs, returned the favor a few times and came while engaged in frottage. I’ve always been taller and stronger than my partners. It would be an adjustment. I presume you’d want anal sex and my fantasies suggest I want it too. However, fantasy and reality may differ. I wouldn’t want to be only on the receiving end, if you get my drift. I think I could handle both giving and receiving with you, but I’m not sure. Do you have a preference?” Jim asked, as he closed his fist, his cheeks blushing slightly pink as he looked down.

Spock felt the heat in own cheeks and ear tips. He thought he would address the last comment first, “Jim…” He waited until Jim raised his head again, so he could look into his eyes. “I have never engaged in coitus with another male or female. So my experience is more limited that your own. In my fantasies, I prefer the submissive position.” Spock forced himself to add, as he knew his biology would not allow that to be the case always, “At times, I will need to dominate. Vulcans do not become sexually mature as early as Humans, so I am, relatively speaking, still in puberty.”

Spock surmised based on the surprised look on the Captain’s face that he had not realized he was still a virgin. Did he presume I had intercourse with Leila or another?

“I would be agreeable to engaging in sexual activity, in a number of positions, prior to a bonding to determine if you do find sex with me sufficiently satisfying.”

Jim then laughed outright. The tension in the air popped like a bubble. “Willing to sacrifice yourself, eh?”

Spock quirked his eyebrow, encouraging the playful moment to continue a moment longer. “It would not be a hardship.”

Jim laughed again. After a pause, he turned serious. “What about my other concerns?”

Spock glanced at the wall that joined their quarters. “I’m aware that you have a healthy sexual appetite which has been primarily been satisfied by women. Vulcan society is more pragmatic than you may believe. You are correct that the bond is for life. If the need for sexual intimacy differs between bond mates or the sexual orientation differs or for other valid reasons, this is dealt with through formalized open arrangements. While random, casual sexual encounters are not acceptable, such formalized open arrangements allow for different needs.”

“I hadn’t realized that polygamy was common on Vulcan.”

“It represents about 19% of the households. Typically, the arrangement is comprised of four individuals, but some are as large as six. Under Vulcan law, all members of an arrangement have to agree to the admission of any new party as they become part of the family unit. The first, or primary, bonded couple have rights and obligations related to any offspring.”

Jim sipped his drink. “Can you, um, have sex with anyone in the arrangement.”

Spock smiled inwardly and allowed a quirk to manifest itself at the corner of his lips. “That would be atypical, as normally the new party was brought in to meet a specific need. For example, if after we were bonded, you found that you wished to have a partner that was physically weaker than yourself, then another partner could be found. He or she would be your partner alone as I would have no need to engage in coitus with them. But random encounters . . . these would have to cease.” Spock closed his eyes. “If in a mission, if there was no other alternative, I would accept your judgment that it was a necessity, but—”

“You’d want me to explore all other alternatives first. Understood. It would be the option of last resort. Do you anticipate that you’d want another partner?”

“I desire penetration, Jim.” Spock took a sip of his tea. “Assuming this would be no hardship for you, provided our minds are sufficiently compatible, I believe you alone, will fulfill all my needs.”

Jim broke out in a boyish grin at that remark, then he paused and leaned forward intently. “Wait a minute, I thought bonding was just the Vulcan term for marriage. But it sounds different – what do you mean ‘provided our minds are sufficiently compatible?’”

Spock heard the surprise in Jim’s voice and sucked in his lower lip. How had I failed to consider that Jim would not be aware that a melding of minds would be required? The marriage customs of Vulcans was not a subject addressed in xenobiology and certainly not something a Starship Captain needed to have researched. Just because I long to touch his mind, does not mean the reverse is true. Spock studied Jim who seemed to have pulled back in his chair, physically distancing himself. The joy from moments ago seemed to have been replaced with an indecipherable look.  Alarm? Concern? Curiosity?

“Spock?”

Spock forced himself to respond. “Vulcan marriage involves both a physical and mental union. It creates a permanent bond, similar to a mindmeld, which you have observed, but on the deepest level. It allows the continual sharing of thoughts and emotions without touch. A permanent bond is only created when I become sexually mature. I should have anticipated that as a Human you might not welcome such a merging—”

“Stop. I didn’t say that. I’m just trying to understand. Is this permanent bond necessary for Vulcans? You can’t just get married?”

“It is beneficial for a sexually mature Vulcan to have such a bond. We can survive without it, but it is not a desirable state.”

Jim closed his eyes and ran his hands through his hair.

Spock’s shoulders slumped as he said flatly, “Is the idea of sharing minds so repellant?”

Jim opened his eyes and looked squarely at Spock. “No. I’m jealous of the Horta! She got to glimpse the inner you. I want to experience the intimacy of a meld. But to be permanently linked? You mentioned open arrangements involving other partners. I can’t imagine that reality. You’d feel my desire for another through our bond, wouldn’t you?”

The crushing weight that had descended on Spock moments ago lifted as he realized Jim relished the idea of sharing minds. “Affirmative, but it would not diminish our regard for one another. In addition, there is an ability to shield, even in a permanent bond to allow privacy. I would teach you the technique. I would not be engulfed in your activities. Many family units on Vulcan operate in this manner successfully. Understand, it would be painful for me as your bondmate, if I knew you were not sexually satisfied. I would be aware that your needs were not being fulfilled. I could not be content in that scenario.”

Jim leaned forward again and his shoulders seemed to have loosened. “I wouldn’t be content either if I thought my activities were hurting you.”

“They would not. This would be someone else who you loved, likely for different reasons than myself, and I that I had agreed should join our family unit.”

 “Clearly, polygamy works on Vulcan, on Earth and with other species. I’m just not sure it’s right for me. I’ve never been involved in a relationship where there were more than two.”

Spock quirked his lips. “There is no rush to decide such matters.”

“Wait a minute, you said you were at a crossroads,” Jim responded, eyebrows scrunched together. “I thought based on what you said that you needed to permanently bond imminently.”

“I do need to make a decision as to who will be my bondmate and establish a mind link with them. A betrothal bond. If two minds are not compatible enough to form this link then a full bonding later would not be possible.”

“Am I right that the betrothal bond allows the intended couple to get to know one another before forming a permanent bond? That it would involve the sharing of thoughts and emotions.”

“Affirmative.” Spock felt a twinge of guilt. That was one of the purposes of the betrothal bond; however, his actions with T’Pring had undermined it.

“Is that the only reason for it?”

Spock shifted in his seat. “There is another reason which is private. I will explain at a later date, if you determine that you wish to explore a permanent bonding.”

His deflection of the question did not go unnoticed. Jim paused and looked at him intently. Spock willed himself to remain motionless. He was uncertain if he took a breath in the 48 seconds before Jim resumed speaking.

“Fair enough. Later.” After a sip of his drink, Jim resumed speaking. “So if we enter a betrothal bond we’ll be mentally linked. That could pose a problem. I could receive Star Fleet orders that are required to be only read by me, as Captain.”

“Jim, I believe we can wait until at least the end of your first command term, possibly your second, to enter a betrothal bond. Even if we do enter such a link, a betrothal bond is not as deep or as strong as a permanent bond. The shielding techniques which I would teach you, can also be applied here. Also if you desired it, I could shield the link until it is necessary for us to bond.”

“I feel like there’s something you’re not telling me. Now you’ve suggested you can wait at least three years, maybe eight, to make a decision. Is there something else we should be discussing? What created the pressure for you to raise this matter this evening? Is it your parents? Do they want you bond with someone else on Vulcan?”

Spock swallowed. He wanted to tell Jim of T’Pring, but felt he should at least first inform her that he planned to do so. A delay of a few days would not matter if Jim was truly interested in a relationship. “Jim, I obtained the information that I needed to know today – that what I desire is not an impossible dream. There is additional information which I do need to share with you, and I will do so, after I converse with someone on Vulcan. It should be no more than a week, likely less before I can be more forthcoming.”

“Alright, but I expect more information next time we talk.”

“Agreed,” said Spock. He needed time to prepare for a conversation in which he would explain why he was already betrothed to another, how he would break that betrothal bond if Jim wished it, and what that would it mean to Jim when his time came. Tonight’s conversation had already proceeded into areas he had not planned. 

Then to Spock’s surprise, Jim stood up and stretched his right hand out in an invitation for him to grasp it. When he did and stood up as well, Spock was met with a brilliant smile. Jim took another step closer, so that they were standing chest to chest, mere centimeters apart.

Jim’s hazel eyes twinkled as his thumb stroked the outside of Spock’s hand enticingly, sending sparks of desire up Spock’s arm. “I think we’ve spent enough time talking about the theory of a relationship between us this evening. That’s all very logical. Time to move to the practical. I want to experience what it’s like to have my mind touched by yours. You said, we must be mentally compatible to have a chance at forming a bond. I think we should determine if a relationship between us has a chance of success, don’t you?”

Spock was stunned. It was hard to think coherently while in such proximity to Jim. He had not anticipated him expressing a desire to experience the touching of minds this evening. Jim never failed to surprise him. The air rushed suddenly from his lungs. He could not breathe. What if it should be like with Velshun? A tremor jerked his body as he recalled that moment of rejection. He became aware of Jim’s voice calling his name, both of hands now grasped his shoulders firmly.

He refocused his vision, took a moment to inhale. He could see the concern on Jim’s face.

“What happened, Spock? You … it was as though you went away.”

Spock quirked the corner of his mouth. “An unpleasant recollection from my past.”

He felt his confidence return in the supportive silence. The rigidity in his body slowly eased.

Jim dropped his hands. “Sorry, if I was pushing you.”

Spock’s own hand shot out automatically to grasp his wrist. No! He did not want Jim to step back. I want to touch his mind. The fact that Jim had offered his mind so willingly did delight him. Spock realized he had not discussed this possibility with T’Pring. He did not want to share this moment with her. T’Pring has promised to shield herself when I meld, he reminded himself.

Spock thought his voice sounded a bit unsteady as he began to speak. “I could do a light touch to test compatibility. It will not be a full meld where you can see into my mind. As I explained there are certain matters I currently wish to keep private. I realize that the exchange is one-sided. I promise it will not remain so…”

Jim smiled, as he cut him off, “You don’t normally talk quite so much. Have I made you nervous?” Then he nodded and said quietly, “Anyway, I already told you I could wait. Let’s do this. Take a look around.”

Without another moment of hesitation, Spock dropped his external shields completely. Jim’s nervous excitement bled through immediately as a result of Spock still holding his wrist. He released his hold and tried to reach out to T’Pring to alert her to what he planned, but she did not respond. She was a dim light in the back of his mind. Is she asleep? He decided to proceed anyway, not willing to delay any longer.

Spock gently placed both his hands on the psi points on Jim’s face and slipped into his mind. It felt as though he was wrapped up in a warm blanket. Welcomed with no questions asked. Spock saw thousands of threads reaching out from Jim’s mind to his. It was as though they were meant to be linked together. He had no doubt they would be compatible.

Spock turned away from that image and focused momentarily on his link with T’Pring which had faded to nothing. She must have blocked the link. A light touch, he reminded himself, although he wished to delve deeply into Jim’s mind, to know whether the depth of his feelings for Jim were reciprocated. What reservations will Jim hold about me as a partner? Will he question whether I can be responsive enough to satisfy him? Just as his doubts began to take hold, he forced himself to turn outward again. He sensed Jim’s delight about his revelation this evening and then a wave of desire crashed over him. Spock instinctively turned his head so that their lips could meet and he felt Jim’s warm moist lips on his. Within moments the first gentle kiss became more passionate, lips parting, tongues exploring each other’s mouths. He felt Jim’s hands, slide up his back, pressing their bodies closer together. Spock yearned to be closer. He pressed his budding erection against Jim’s thigh. No! He slammed his shields back into place.

“Forgive me,” he gasped, as he stepped away, his breath short. 

“Nothing to forgive. You read my thoughts correctly.” Jim said, playfully.

Spock admired Jim’s flushed pink cheeks then trailed his eyes lower to his tented pants.

Clearly, the focus of his observations had been noted, as he heard a quiet chuckle. “This erection that has sprung certainly confirms that I won’t have any trouble responding to you sexually. Not that I thought it was a concern.”

Spock raised his eyes again.

Jim’s eyes danced as he slowly licked his lips. “You kiss wonderfully.” He then inhaled deeply. “You smell divine too. I could get used to that scent. I presume you felt our minds would be compatible.”

Spock swallowed hard. It was difficult to suppress his arousal in Jim’s presence while inhaling his pheromones in the air, but the situation had progressed much farther than he had anticipated. “Affirmative. With your permission, I will return to my room to meditate. You need time to reflect and consider everything we have discussed this evening. It was less than a month ago, that you appeared, to me at least, to be in love with Edith Keeler. You need time to consider what you truly desire.”

Jim, straightened his sweater, which had slid up his body exposing some of his skin. “Yes. I do need some time. Making decisions on the rebound is not ideal. But I doubt I’ll get much sleep tonight. Time for another shower to help me cool off,” he said, then winked mischievously.

“Good night, Jim.” Spock made a hasty retreat to his room.

“Good night, Spock,” Jim called after him. “Don’t forget you’re supposed to see Doctor McCoy in the morning before your shift.”

Spock lifted his eyebrow, as he turned at the doorway, “Why would you think I would forget?”

Jim laughed. “Mmm. You might have things on your mind as you try to fall asleep. I know I will.”

***

Spock woke 45 minutes earlier than usual to dress and depart his room for his eye exam with Doctor McCoy ahead of his shift. He was mildly irritated with himself as he had not obtained the requisite hours of sleep the prior evening. He found he had to meditate 1.2 hours longer than normal prior to attempting sleep. Then when he had laid back to rest, his mind quickly brought to the fore how at home he had felt in Jim’s mind, the scent of Jim, the feel of Jim pressed against him, how he longed to be taken by Jim and he quickly had another erection he had to focus his mind on to subdue. Jim had been remarkably prophetic.

Doctor McCoy had a series of tests planned. When it was done, he indicated his exam results were consistent with results prior to the light exposure and declared Spock fit for duty with no further restrictions on reading activities. 

Spock strode onto the bridge nodding a welcome to Lieutenant Uhura and Ensign Chekov. A moment later Jim arrived with Lieutenant Sulu. Instead of moving directly to his chair, he strolled over to the science post as Spock settled into his chair. “Sleep well, Mister Spock?” Jim asked in a low voice meant only for his ears, but he did not linger to hear a response. Spock thought he looked rather smug. Intuition?

A few moments later, Jim did turn to ask him from his chair, “How did the eye exam go this morning?”

Spock’s eyebrow rose. I am here, he thought. “Satisfactory. Doctor McCoy has cleared me to resume my duties with no restrictions. I am sure his formal report will be delivered to you later today.” The shift was uneventful consisting of the normal banter around the bridge when no crisis was at hand.

As they left the bridge, Jim asked “Care to join me and Doctor McCoy in the mess hall for dinner?”

“Negative. I intend to dine in my quarters so I can catch up on administrative duties. I am a bit behind as a result of Deneva. I may retire early after taking care of some personal matters. I am a bit fatigued.” Spock replied as the doors to the turbo lift swished closed.

Spock helped himself to a tray and obtained a vegetarian grain bowl, side salad and tea before returning to his quarters. He dealt with various department requests that had accumulated during the Deneva incident as he ate his dinner and sipped his tea. He opened his personal mail and realized he had a recent communication from T’Pring expressing concern for his well-being and asking him to contact her. Spock realized with a jolt that she may have experienced some of the pain exerted by the organism when it attacked him on Deneva. I will need to explain why I did not reply to her request promptly.

Spock lit the candle in his firepot and settled on the floor for a quick meditation session to try and quiet his mind before his call with T’Pring. It was difficult. He did not wish to hurt T’Pring, but neither could he afford not to be honest. Thirty minutes later he roused himself and settled himself in front of his computer screen in his robe for the call.

Spock regretted that the call would be audio only. He wished to see her reactions to his words as they spoke. Perhaps I should drop my shields to sense her true feelings, what she truly desires.

Spock was contacted from the bridge when the connection to Vulcan was established. “Greetings, T’Pring.”

“Greetings, Spock. I am relieved to hear your voice. I have been concerned for your well-being.”

Spock heard the sincerity in her voice and smiled to himself. For too long, he had misjudged her character. Suspecting subterfuge when there had been none. Why had I not believed her when she told me that in my youth?

“I had to shield. Later I sensed you were in control of your mind again, but you did not reply to my correspondence.”

Although T’Pring calmly stated a fact, Spock suspected she was hurt by his failure to promptly respond. It was something in the way she made her statement.

“I will explain and I believe you will understand. I suggest that I drop my shields so we communicate via our mind link. It will ensure no misunderstandings.”

T’Pring did not reply immediately. Her hesitation surprised Spock. He thought she would desire such openness on his part. “I would prefer … some privacy to allow me to organize my thoughts before expressing them. However, I would welcome a sharing of surface emotions. It will aid in ensuring the intent of our words, if not precise, are not misunderstood.”

“As you wish.” Spock partially lowered his shields. A feeling of concern overlaid with hurt washed over him. He could not perceive any specific thoughts. “Is this acceptable?” he asked.

“Affirmative. My awareness of you is stronger, but not sufficient to perceive the concrete, only the abstract.”

“My perception of you is the same. I regret the pain, I caused you.”

“Do not be concerned. I was able to shield when you lost control.”

Spock smiled to himself. “I do not refer to only the physical pain, upon my attack. I refer to the hurt I caused by not replying to your communication.” A ripple of surprise infiltrated his mind. Did she not suspect I would perceive the true reason for her pain? “I only read your correspondence for the first time today.”

A stronger wave of amazement. “Why is that?”

“When you initially felt my pain, it was because an organism attacked me and subverted my controls. It tried to direct my thoughts through exerting pain. Eventually, through mind disciplines, I was able to regain enough control to suppress the pain to function, but Doctor McCoy was unable to remove the entity from my body. Through research we later determined that light could kill the creature.”

“Fascinating.”

“I was exposed to extreme light that temporarily blinded me. After I regained my sight, Doctor McCoy restricted my time in front of computer screens.”

“Has your eyesight fully recovered?”

“Affirmative.” Spock sensed T’Pring’s relief, relief that he shared. To his surprise, it did not matter to him, if she picked up the strong emotions that had been evoked when he regained his eyesight. He did not try to contain the joy he felt, as he remembered again his feelings as Doctor McCoy had come into focus. He had never imagined he could have felt such delight at seeing his countenance. Regaining his sight had been a profound experience.

There was an easy silence between them as she assimilated it all. 

Finally, T’Pring spoke again. “I am pleased you are recovered. I would have you tell me about whether you were successful in learning the desires of your Captain,” she said in her straightforward manner that Spock had come to appreciate. Spock sensed light humour. Does she know all that transpired? She was not shielded when I began the meld with Jim, he remembered. But I thought she shielded later?

“I spoke with the Captain the prior evening. He admitted to a strong mutual attraction, but has certain reservations. I had anticipated most of them including that his prior sexual experience is limited with men. He indicated he had never been taken by a male. I failed to consider that the concept of a permanent mind link may make him uncomfortable. Although natural to us, it is an alien concept to a Human.”

“Are you certain he is uncomfortable?” Spock heard a slight challenge in her voice, but the feelings that washed over him were gentle and compassionate removing the sting of her words. “Forgive me, I awoke and sensed you had lowered your shields. I did shield as promised, but was momentarily aware of what was occurring.” T’Pring’s mind projected curiosity, “Did you ask to meld?”

Spock glanced down at his tea, a feeling of warm contentment filling him as he remembered how Jim had surprised him with the request.

T’Pring sensed enough to make a statement. “He asked you,” she said with certainty.

“Affirmative. The Captain suggested that we test mental compatibility.”

Spock hesitated.

“And...” T’Pring prompted. Spock could almost picture her motioning him to continue speaking.

“We are compatible. I suspect he would have welcomed a full meld, but I was reticent to do so without first speaking to you. The Captain does not know of your existence yet. I also explained to him about shielding, which I think put his mind more at ease regarding a permanent bond and his ability to maintain some privacy,” Spock added.

“What do you think about his reservations? Are they true impediments?” T’Pring asked.

Spock steepled his fingers leaning forward slightly in his chair as he concentrated. “The most difficult reservation to overcome relates to compromised command decisions.”

“How could this be overcome?”

“The most obvious solution is to simply wait to bond until after the mission is ended.”

“That may be possible if he wishes to remain Captain for only another three years. But what if he wants another mission. Captain Kirk is younger than your first Captain and he served more than one term. Unless you state otherwise, I would assume that he would wish to continue on as Captain of the Enterprise. You will be 45 at the end of a second term. Given your mixed heritage, this puts you at significant risk that you will need to mate during his second term of duty. Further, if our bond is severed and you have sexual encounters which include a meld with him, there is risk that a permanent bond will be formed, if there is a natural affinity.”

“We may have to limit our interactions to avoid such an occurrence.”

“Is that practical? You implied before that Captain Kirk has frequent sexual liaisons. And now that you have both expressed your mutual attraction, it will be more difficult to avoid acknowledging it.”

With her words Spock momentarily suspected that she might not have stayed shielded as she had said, but then realized he did not sense this from her. She was projecting genuine concern. Spock felt the tips of his ears turn green and felt a wave of shame, both at his suspicions and for his behavior the prior evening. He had not intended to initiate any mental or physical contact during his initial meeting with the Captain prior to gaining her agreement.

He knew immediately that T’Pring had picked up his mixed emotional reaction. Now she only seemed confused as she queried, “Spock?”

“We did kiss in the Human fashion during the mind touch.” Spock quickly reached out to gauge her reaction. Calm acceptance.

“Did you sense any discomfort in his response?”

“Negative,” Spock could feel the heat in his cheeks, which now matched his ear tips, but continued on stoically. It was difficult to have such a conversation with his betrothed. Perhaps T’Pring was wise to have suggested some measure of privacy, he did not wish for her to know the thoughts that were filtering through his mind at present. He tried to suppress the surge of desire that thinking about yesterday had created in him. “The response from both of us was typical of males.”

Amusement washed over him from T’Pring.

Spock groaned inwardly. Clearly, I was unable to mask the desire I felt.

“Forgive me. But I don’t think it is practical to believe you can limit physical contact, for three, possibly eight years, if just thinking about yesterday has this impact on you. If you bond permanently sooner, is there some way his reservation regarding compromised command decisions could be overcome?” T’Pring asked.

Spock continued to press his chin on the tips of his index fingers. “We could inform the senior bridge crew, so that if our decisions appeared to be compromised, that they could draw it to the attention of the impacted party, although I am not sure the Captain would want our relationship to be publicly known. Beyond that, there does not seem to be an apparent solution other than relying on our abilities to put aside our personal feelings and perform our duties in compliance with our oaths.”

“Do you think that is feasible?”

“Affirmative. The Captain recently had to make a decision where my well-being had to be secondary to Federation interests. He was able to do so, although he has questioned the decision that he made. I believe I could act in the best interests of the Federation, if required to do so.”

Spock straightened himself in his chair, waiting patiently while the line remained quiet for a period. He could not ask T’Pring for what he desired, she would have to offer it. He reached out in his mind as it was now difficult to pick up her emotions. Has she shielded fully for more privacy? Spock’s awareness of her seemed to brighten again. T’Pring seemed calm, at peace, yet he heard her swallow across their connection before she proceeded.

“If the Captain does not desire a mental link, but you still wish to have a relationship with him I have another alternative to suggest. You broached the topic before of an open arrangement to satisfy our potentially different sexual preferences and appetites. I could satisfy your need during pon farr. Then otherwise you could be with him exploring the Universe.”

Spock sensed a sudden rush of nervousness from T’Pring before she continued. “If you would permit it, I would then also ask to have another join our family unit. Stonn. I would like a companion on Vulcan.”

Stonn. The one who was interested in T’Pela as a bondmate?

T’Pring must have sensed his surprise at her revelation as she continued to explain. “He has not pursued anyone since T’Pela died. An open arrangement would increase your chances of an heir, if that is a concern to you. The first born by rights would be yours as we are the primary bonded couple, regardless of the genetics. Any further issue would be determined by genetics.”

Spock was amazed at her offer. He was disturbed by how wrongly he had judged T’Pring and castigated himself. Amanda had judged her character more fairly from the beginning, he reflected.

“What is the matter?” T’Pring hesitated before continuing. “Do you object to Stonn joining our family unit? Have I offended?”

Spock cleared his throat. “Negative. The disturbance you felt is directed at myself not you. I am ashamed of how gravely I misjudged you. You are quite remarkable. If you would allow Captain Kirk in my life, it is only right that I allow Stonn. I would allow it regardless of the Captain’s decision. The Captain may also require another partner, if he does not find sufficient sexual satisfaction with me. He did indicate a preference to be physically stronger than his partner. Stonn will also need a permanent bondmate. We will have a large family unit to manage, if this is the way we proceed.”

T’Pring’s pleasure radiated out to him. Then after a pause, she spoke. “You need to determine Captain Kirk’s preference. But we need to consider Stonn’s needs as well. We must give him sufficient time to find a suitable mate. He may need more time if there is an open arrangement, particularly if a Human or Humans are to be part of our family unit. Do you believe six months is sufficient time?”

Spock clasped his hands and closed his eyes to contemplate all that they had discussed. He had not considered approaching T’Pring regarding an open arrangement on his behalf. It had seemed enough that she had freely accepted his mixed biology. It had advantages beyond what T’Pring had listed. It would mean that Jim would never see the shameful loss of control he would endure during pon farr and he would be safe from injury. Jim would not have to be concerned about the risk of the loss of privacy that he was inherently used to as a Human, yet they could meld when desired. Finally, they could postpone bonding, but commence a physical relationship, if that is was what the Captain desired. They would not be held hostage by his biology. 

However, there would be challenges. Open relationships required mutual agreement and understanding of a number of partners. He had thought they would have to the end of his first term to make a decision, but he did understand Stonn’s need for time to find a suitable mate. Also he could not expect T’Pring to live with such uncertainty for an extended period. He opened his eyes and voiced what he was thinking aloud, “Six months… I thought we would have more time to decide.”

“I believe you overestimate the amount of time Captain Kirk will require.”

Spock mentally sighed. The request is reasonable. What practical impediments exist? “Although Captain Kirk has indicated a physical attraction to me, the Captain expressed a concern that he may not enjoy all aspects of sex with a male. If he is agreeable, I wish . . . to engage in coitus with him to determine his satisfaction. Would you consent?”

Spock searched their link to gauge T’Pring’s reaction to his request. Was she offended? No clear impression was revealed. He suspected she had raised her shields again slightly for further privacy as her presence momentarily dimmed. After a pause, she spoke. “I consent.” Spock thought he could discern a slight sound. Is she twisting the beads on her bracelet? Spock recollected she had previously done so during prior meetings during tense moments. “Further, you have my permission to engage in a meld during intercourse to help him understand the intimacy that allows. I will not think of it as a betrayal of our betrothal bond,” she said quietly.

Spock allowed his appreciation for this kindness to transmit to T’Pring as he considered if there was anything else that was needed to make a decision in the next six months. “Do I have your permission to divulge our betrothal bond and all of what we have spoken to the Captain, including Stonn’s existence?” Spock asked.

“Affirmative. The Captain needs to know as many facts as we can give him so he can make an informed decision. That means Spock that you must speak to him about pon farr as well. Otherwise, he may not be able to appreciate that there is a finite timeline determined by biology to make a decision – that we are not pressuring him for a decision without reason.”

Spock blanched momentarily at the idea.

“Do you not trust him with the truth?”

“I do. It is not that…” Spock paused, unable to voice his fear.

“He will not think less of you, if he is who you think he is,” T’Pring said softly. “It may help him decide between the alternatives. He needs to know what will be required of him.”

Spock knew T’Pring was correct and squared his shoulders, committing himself to the discussion. “I will discuss pon farr with him, if he expresses an interest in a relationship, so he can make a proper choice knowing all the facts.”

“That is good.” Contentment filtered across the link from T’Pring. A contentment which he shared as well. Enjoying T’Pring’s aura at the back of his mind.

T’Pring broke the silence. “While I enjoyed sensing your presence today, given you are continuing to explore a relationship with Captain Kirk, I think it prudent for us to resume our shielding at the prior level.”

“As you wish,” Spock replied, although he waited a few more moments before raising his shields. T’Pring faded to a dim light. “I appreciate your patience and understanding as we determine the correct path forward. Given I am continuing to explore a relationship with Captain Kirk, I propose that I write you with an update in three months and arrange a call at the end of six months. I will communicate sooner, if there are final decisions before that time. ”

“I will await your communication. Peace and long life, Spock.” T’Pring then ended the communication.

Spock leaned forward, steepling his fingers, as he thought. He knew he would need to speak with Jim soon about the conversation that he had just completed; however, he wanted time to consider how to approach the discussion.  Further, the Captain needed a bit more time to consider their initial discussion. I think it may be best if I occupy myself in the laboratories for a few days.

 

***

 

T’Pring took control from the aircar as they pulled up to the entrance door of Breth Research and Asil got out of the aircar. “I will meet you at 6 30,” Asil said, as she departed.

Stonn did not waste any time waiting to ask T’Pring about her conversation of the prior evening with Spock. “Have Spock and his Captain come to an agreement?”

Stonn selected Tchail Research as their next destination as T’Pring responded.

“Negative. Spock has spoken to his Captain about his desire for a long-term relationship. They will need some time to sort this out as there are some concerns, most particularly compromised command decisions.”

As the air car started in motion, Stonn turned to her. “Is Spock not already compromised if he has such feelings for his Captain, whether they have consummated a relationship or not.”

T’Pring acknowledged, “Possibly. I am sure Spock uses his Vulcan disciplines to make the most logical choice he can under the circumstances. And Humans likely have experience dealing with conflicting emotions that they draw upon when they have to make difficult choices. But we both know it will be more difficult if they have a full bond, at least for Spock, as the need to protect the bondmate is instinctual.”

T’Pring swallowed, then continued, “I also told Spock that I would be agreeable to an open arrangement if he wanted to pursue that course of action and stated my preference that you be included in our family unit.”

“That is not my preference,” Stonn replied stiffly.

“I am aware.”

“Why not wait to see if Spock would choose the Captain alone before offering. I desire to know your mind at all times.”

“Captain Kirk was concerned about the mental link necessary in a permanent bonding. I believe an open arrangement would solve that issue.” T’Pring reached out and brushed two fingers down Stonn’s arm. “We will be in the same household and able to meld daily. Further, I anticipate Spock will remain away from Vulcan for considerable time. He initially wanted a longer tour of duty. This will allow him to extend his term.”

“Spock will have the permanent bond.”

T’Pring remained silent. There was no denying that truth; however, she had an obligation to Spock. She knew Stonn recognized it, despite his comments. She gave him time to compose himself.

After a deep breath and slow exhale, Stonn turned to her. “Were there other concerns raised?”

T’Pring also took a breath, relieved that the conversation had moved on. She reflected on her conversation with Spock and replied. “Affirmative, but none that I have believe are legitimate. I have given Spock consent to engage in sexual intercourse with Captain Kirk and to initiate a full meld. I believe it will be good for them both.”

The corner of Stonn’s eyes crinkled. “It may benefit us for the Captain to have that experience. It may convince him that he wants a permanent bond. Why do you think it will be good for Spock?”

“It will allow him to see himself through his Captain’s eyes.”

“Why is this essential?”

“I have surmised that the unfair judgments Spock received as a result of his mixed heritage makes him underestimate his worth. He admitted that he falsely concluded that I saw him as tainted because of his Human half. I suspect, he is concerned now, that he is too Vulcan for his Captain. That he will not be able to satisfy his needs in some way.” Is that why he offered the Captain the possibility of another partner? Not because the Captain expressed such a need, but because Spock doubts his abilities to fill not only his sexual needs, but emotional ones as well.  “I have seen the way his Captain looks at him. He does not see Spock as damaged goods. He sees Spock as Spock is, and desires what is before him. With a meld, Spock will be able to see the truth.”

“Do you think the concern related to Command decisions can be overcome?” Stonn asked. 

“Unknown. They are both men of integrity who made an oath to the Federation. If they do not believe they can fulfill their oath while in a sexual relationship, the open arrangement may still be a viable alternative, allowing them to wait to consummate their sexual relationship. Spock desires him. I believe he will find a way.”

The air car arrived at their workplace. When they had both exited the car, T’Pring continued. “Spock has committed to give me an answer in six months.”

Stonn came over and stood beside her. He glanced briefly around the parking lot then reached out and ghosted his fingers over her face. T’Pring’s heart thrummed with excitement at the contact.

“Very well. They do have much to consider. I have lived for a long time with my desire for you. His eyes bore into her intently. “I very much want to know your mind and body intimately.”

T’Pring touched Stonn’s chest lightly. She did not dare to be so close to his psi points. “And I yours. Even if the Captain decides not to have a relationship with Spock, Spock will allow you to join our arrangement. He has already said as much. Once they make a decision, I will ask that we formalize this decision. We will then at least be free to meld.”

The sound of another air car arriving made T’Pring to drop her hand. Stonn stepped back while stating, “Six months more to know your mind can be endured, although I wish you had given them a shorter deadline. It is difficult to believe that I remain eight to eleven and a half years away from sexual maturity. I already find it difficult to suppress my body’s response to you.”

T’Pring felt warmth in her cheeks in response to his statement and looked away. “We better head inside.”

Chapter Text

Spock had thought it wise to let Jim reflect on their earlier conversation for a few days before he revealed T’Pring’s existence. He did not want Jim to feel pressured so he had kept himself occupied supervising other projects the last three nights. He had found it difficult to clear his mind for meditation. The uncertainty had inexplicably withered his appetite such that he had only been able to consume tea and water in the last 63 hours. His sleep had also been disturbed surprisingly by erotic dreams involving separately T’Pring and Jim. It was most unusual.

He straightened from the viewer after finishing the scans, his time sense alerting him that it was the end of his shift. He repressed the urge to rub his lower back which had begun to ache 3.2 hours earlier. He headed to the turbolift, turning to wait for the Captain, as was his custom, who was completing some administrative matters.

Jim approached with a friendly nod. When the doors to the turbolift closed Jim said, “It feels like you’ve been avoiding me.”

“My intention was simply to give you time to consider what we spoke about. I do not want to pressure you for a response.”

They arrived at their floor, departed the lift together, walking down the corridor side by side.

“Given the routine star mapping we’ve spent the last few days completing, I’ve done nothing but think about what we discussed.” As they arrived at the Captain’s quarters he added, “As you know, we’re next expected at Altair VI for the inauguration ceremonies. Let’s plan for a serious conversation the second night we’re on Altair. There are no events scheduled. We can have dinner and the privacy we need to discuss matters openly.”

“That would be agreeable.”

“There were some matters that you promised more details on later. Will you be prepared to elaborate?”

“Affirmative.”

“Fine. I can wait. In the meantime, I’ve missed your company. Any chance you could stop by for a game of chess after you’ve finished whatever has been keeping you in the science labs? We can leave the serious conversation for later.” Jim asked with a smile, his eyes twinkling.

Spock allowed a small smile to form on his lips. “Affirmative.”

“Great. Come by for twenty one hundred hours. That’ll give me a chance to have dinner with Bones. See you later.” With that, the Captain went into his quarters. 

Inside his own quarters Spock noted, when he checked his PADD, that he had a message from Doctor McCoy requesting his presence in the morning before shift. No doubt he has noted my less than optimal caloric intake. A small sigh of frustration passed his lips at his meddlesome nature. He continued to scroll through his messages checking for the expected updates on various science projects. Two reports from Ensign Forbin were missing. He had planned to review them to provide comments so they could be addressed during his evening shift.

Spock reached for the comm unit. “Lieutenant Masters are you incapable of managing your subordinates. Two reports due to me for review from Ensign Forbin have not been transmitted.”

“I’m not certain what the problem is, Commander. I just arrived for my shift. I will follow up to determine—”

Before the Lieutenant had a chance to complete her sentence, Spock cut her off snapping, “I am not interested in his excuse!”

The stunned expression of the Lieutenant registered with Spock. Did I actually raise my voice at her over delayed reports? “I apologize for my words. I will follow up to determine the reason for the delay. It is not necessary for you to do so.”  Spock ended the communication quickly.

After a deep breath to calm himself, he considered why he had reacted so negatively. I do need some food. My metabolism seems off, Spock thought. However, when he arrived at the mess hall, he found the noise and smell disquieting and his resolve to consume sustenance vanished. He determined that chamomile tea would suffice to calm his nerves. After retrieving his tea, he headed to the lab to confront Ensign Forbin. When he arrived, he discovered Ensign Vanderburg instead.

“Where is Ensign Forbin?”

“He had to report to sick bay. He almost fainted earlier. Doctor McCoy indicated he would notify you once he had sorted out the problem. Ensign Forbin asked me to complete the reports that were due to you today. I am just finishing them off. Sorry for the delay, sir. I know they are late, but I was not as familiar with the data.”

“Understandable. Transmit them when you are completed.”

In spite of there being a legitimate reason for the reports delay, Spock found he was unusually disturbed by the lack of results. He wanted something to focus his mind on. He decided to continue his own analysis of xmanite, a mineral found in trace amounts on Aldabaran. The mineral had some unusual properties. Spock struggled with focusing. He shifted in his seat trying to relieve the pressure in hit back. Several times he found himself restarting his analysis. Eventually his internal chronometer told him it was time to return for his game of chess with the Captain. He sighed. The time spent on the analysis had not been as productive as he had hoped.

As he returned to his cabin, to drop off his PADD, he considered cancelling the chess game, to try and attempt meditation again, but knew he did not want to disappoint Jim. Knowing he was expected, he entered the Captain’s quarters through their shared bathroom.

The room was unusually saturated with Jim’s scent. Red gym tights, undergarments and towel tossed on the floor provided the reason. Obviously, Jim had visited the gym for a workout after his dinner. Spock glanced in the bed chamber and noticed he was donning his bath robe.

“I lost track of the time, so I ran out of the gym directly, knowing your punctuality. Sorry, I didn’t get a chance to shower, but I’ve wiped off most of the sweat I hope.”

“If you would prefer to postpone…,” Spock began to say, but stopped when Jim shook his head in negation and brought the chess board over to the table.

“I’ll shower later.”

They set up the pieces and Spock made the first move as he had white. Spock found his mind was even less on the game, than it had been on his lab work. They had some quiet conversation. It was difficult to not be distracted by the scent of Jim that lingered in the room. His mind seemed preoccupied by the fact that the Captain was naked under the bath robe. When Jim reached out to the chess board he inevitably provided a further glimpse of his smooth broad chest or revealed more thigh which was alarmingly distracting. Spock’s defeat came in record time.

“I have not been the best opponent in our last two matches,” Spock commented dryly as he tipped his king in defeat.

“No. Perhaps you’ve had other things on your mind.”

Spock raised an eyebrow. “Indeed,” he said, rising from his chair.

Jim also rose stepping closer. “Why the rush to leave?”

Jim’s tongue flicked over his lips in what appeared to Spock to be an inviting gesture.

“It’s been hard to get thoughts of you out of my head. And speaking of hard,” he murmered, looking down and closing the gap completely between them. 

Spock found his hands had moved without any conscious thought to slip under Jim’s robe and slide up his back to pull Jim flush against his body, pressing his own budding erection against Jim’s thigh. Spock looked into Jim’s inviting hazel eyes and seconds later his lips descended to join with Jim’s savoring the taste. Their kiss soon became more passionate and Spock heard himself moan in pleasure. He could feel Jim’s mouth move to form a smile at that sound. Mine. Spock hoisted Jim up on his thigh with his left arm and turned to press Jim’s back roughly against the wall. His tongue began to thrust forcefully into Jim’s wet mouth as he slid his right hand up his chest to rub against Jim’s nipple which began to firm up in response. An urge to possess all of Jim, body and soul, came over Spock.

Spock lowered his shields, allowing Jim’s desire to crash over him, exciting him further. He removed his right hand from under Jim’s robe and placed his finger tips on the psi points on Jim’s face to possess what was his. Jim opened his eyes and Spock both saw and felt his shock. Spock froze. Spock exhaled as he stumbled back and away dropping Jim off the wall.

“It’s alright,” said Jim panting slightly, “I was just surprised. You gave me no warning. I give you permission to look inside my head again. I want to explore your mind this time also.”

“It is not.” Spock found that he was slightly trembling with need. “I cannot be here. Jim, forgive me.” And without another word he fled to the relative safety of his own cabin.

Spock engaged the privacy lock as soon as he entered his cabin to ensure his Captain did not follow and endanger himself while he remained aroused and lacking in control. It is too soon, his mind screamed. He slid down the wall in despair. His heart seemed to be pounding in his ears blocking coherent thought as blood continued to race towards his groin. He pressed the palm of his right hand against a painfully hard erection.

No. No. No. Slowly, Spock was able to focus his mind to the task of taming his arousal. He remained on the floor. T’Pring was right. My Human heritage has not allowed to me avoid pon farr. Instead it has brought it early. He rubbed his lower back with his left hand to relieve the pressure from his internal testicular system. How could I have been so blind? I did not even recognize the obvious warning signs – the ache in my chenesi, the lack of appetite, inability to concentrate, erotic dreams. The dominating persona I just exhibited is undeniable.

Spock pulled his hands away from groin and back and covered his face. Head in his hands, he trembled in shame and despair. I nearly forced a full meld without consent.

Because of my delay, there will be no chance of a bonding with my t’hy’la. It is too late. The p’pil’lay van-kal is no longer an option. I will have to bond with T’Pring.

Pushing himself off the floor, Spock went and lit his firepot. He needed to meditate.

How will I explain to Jim that I am returning to Vulcan to be permanently bound to another? That what I had raised as a possibility for a future for the two of us, can be no more. The only hope now is an open arrangement, if Jim can accept an arrangement with me permanently linked to another.

And what of T’Pring? I have broken my promise to her that we would know each other before we would be forced to join. Spock remembered the fear he had sensed from her regarding such an occurrence. That she does not know my mind fully, is my mistake. It is because of my shielding that she will need to mate with a mental stranger.

 

***

 

T’Pring woke during the night disquieted. Spock was aroused. Is he going to engage in sexual intercourse with his Captain? Momentary jealousy swept over her. She audibly gasped when Spock completely dropped his shields and she felt his desire for the Captain. Despite the fact she knew this was the logical progression of their prior discussion a small part of her still wanted Spock. The Captain must have given permission for a meld.

Just as she raised her own shields to give them privacy, she felt anguish come through from Spock. She sat up in her bed, clutching the sheet, wondering what would cause Spock such distress. Did Spock’s aroused state disturb the Captain? Had he rejected the meld at the last moment? What was happening now? T’Pring knew she had promised privacy, but her intuition told her Spock and the Captain were not together. She tentatively lowered her shields and was assaulted with more anguish. She immediately put her shields back in place. She would invade Spock’s privacy no further. Then it all fell into place.

Although she had been told what to expect when the time of mating approached, she had not immediately recognized the symptoms in herself. She now realized that her bond with Spock, despite her shielding, was humming with life. And there was a wetness in her undergarments. She slid her fingers into herself. There was a noticeable discharge of mucus. Her body was beginning to get prepared for his need. 

T’Pring knew she would have to keep herself fully shielded from now on, until she and Spock met again. In this way, her controls would not become compromised by his mental instability. She was thankful it was only the male that fell into madness at this time.

She pulled her knees up to her chest as a tremor swept over her. It is going to happen just as I feared. I will have to endure pon farr with Spock, having never fully touched his mind. At least we have spoken openly with each other, she reminded herself. Her nails dug into her palms. It is not the same. Nothing can replace the intimacy of a meld.

She glanced at Spock’s picture on her desk. Anger coursed through her. She closed her eyes. She focused on her breathing as she tried to control herself. Anger is pointless. Soon Spock’s body and mind would demand to join with hers and there was no way to stop it.  Is that why he is in such anguish? He does not desire me in the least?

T’Pring clutched her knees tighter. No. She willed her body to be still. Slowly a sense of calm returned. Spock did not lie. He believes in our ability to be successful bondmates. I am sure of it too.

She stretched out her body and rose from her bed. She slowly paced in her room. Why such anguish? It must have something to do with the Captain. Could he have lost control and assaulted the Captain when aroused? She knew it was useless to speculate, but her mind would not rest. She also doubted she would be able to return to sleep immediately. She went to the kitchen to heat water to brew a cup of tea.

Although she had tried to be quiet, it only took a few moments for Asil and Stonn to each enter the kitchen.  

“Is everything alright?” asked Asil. “It is not like you to rise in the middle of the night.”

“Sorry for disturbing your rest. I have some news. I need to make arrangements to go to Shi’Kahr for my kal’i’farr to Spock,” she stated more calmly than she felt. As she said it, she watched Stonn grip the back of the chair he was standing in front of firmly. She hoped he would not crush it with the pressure he was putting on it. He looked at her with despair in his eyes, but said nothing.

“How can this be? He is the same age as you. Only 37. It is too soon. Perhaps it a false alarm brought on by some external agent” speculated Asil. “We know that while exploring the galaxy he has been impacted before with unusual consequences to his controls. Perhaps something has impacted him which mimics the symptoms.”

“Negative. It is not just Spock that is impacted,” she stated, without elaborating, trusting that the others would understand of what she spoke and not ask for details. “I would have liked both of you to accompany me to the ceremony to stand as friends, however, Asil I know you have plans to travel to the Kitimar Conference on Berengaria VII for your research project. Could you instead plan to visit me after the 10-day pon t’ namishau?”

“I would be honored to make such a visit,” Asil replied.

Stonn then turned to Asil and herself, “May I have moment in private with T’Pring?”

T’Pring nodded her head in acquiescence and Asil departed swiftly for her room with a perplexed look.

T’Pring obtained another tea cup for Stonn and sat herself at the table. She waited for Stonn to begin the conversation since he had requested the meeting. He remained standing rigidly, his back as straight as a board. Slowly, he spoke, “I find myself irrationally wishing for a logical reason to request that you invoke the kal-if-fee.”

She knew Stonn did not expect a reply to such a rhetorical remark and so remained silent.

Finally, he moved, pulling out a chair to sit across the table from her. T’Pring poured both of them their tea.

“Illogically, I had begun to plan our future.” Stonn’s eyes looked devoid of life as he continued, “Spock will make an excellent bondmate for you. Kaiidth. I must seek another.”

The pain of the loss of their future together was palpable to her. I don’t want to lose Stonn. Her heart began to hammer excitedly as she recalled her conversation with Spock. “A future together is not hopeless. Spock will be agreeable to an open arrangement.”

Stonn shook his head slightly. “There is no reason for him to consider such an arrangement now.”

“For reasons unrelated to Captain Kirk, he expressed a desire that I consider what I wanted. I want to share my life with you, Stonn.”

“Spock does not even know me. How can you be so certain?”

T’Pring’s eyes lighted, as they creased at the corner, with her inward smile, as she recollected their earlier conversation. She was certain she could trust Spock’s earlier commitment. “He told me, he would agree, even if Captain Kirk did not agree to join our arrangement. Further, if you are here on Vulcan, I can encourage Spock to continue to travel the stars with Captain Kirk for several more years, even if I have a child. I know this would please him, even if it is just as the Captain’s friend. He is more at home on the Enterprise than here on Vulcan. He will not object. What is your reaction?” 

Stonn locked eyes with her. A spark of life dancing in them as his hand reached across the table, two finger extended. “I desire to be part of your life.”

“And I, yours.” The tingle that travelled up her arm from the connection where their fingertips touched made her heart race. She was certain her cheeks had darkened, but could not turn away from Stonn’s intense gaze. His mouth seemed to quirk at the corner as his two fingers moved to caress, first the inside, and then outside of her fingers, and now over her knuckles. It felt wonderful. It was good to be desired.

Stonn continued his gentle exploration. “Do you think the Captain will wish to enter into our open arrangement as well?”

“Spock said he mentioned the idea to him, but did not elaborate on his reaction to it. If he joins, but is unable to adjust then the entire unit will be in disharmony. That would be worse ultimately than if he chose not to join. I am certain Spock is aware of this and will counsel him appropriately. I wish there was another alternative.”

“I as well. An open arrangement is not my preference, but the time for preferences is past.”

Much as she desired to prolong Stonn’s touch, T’Pring pulled her hand away. She knew it was much to ask, but she did not want to be alone at the ceremony. “Do you think you will be able to stand beside me at the koon-ut? I wish to have a friend with me.”

“It will be difficult to watch you bind yourself to Spock. However, I do wish to support you.  Also, I would not wish Spock to take my absence as a sign of disrespect to his claim over you.  Further, assuming Captain Kirk will accompany Spock, and if we are to enter an open arrangement, it would be appropriate for me to meet them both as soon as possible,” Stonn reasoned. 

T’Pring acknowledged his response with a tip of her head. “I will make the travel arrangements to Shi’Kahr for tomorrow evening. I expect the ceremony will be the day after that, but it is difficult to be certain. I will arrange for your return on the evening of the third day to be safe. Spock will likely contact his clan leader as is the custom, but if I have not heard from them by the end of today, I will reach out to T’Pau directly to inform her to expect his arrival.”

“I will contact Tchail Research in the morning to advise them that you will be absent for work for 14 days and that I will be gone for four. Perhaps we should take a moment to meditate, before the day commences,” suggested Stonn.

T’Pring thought it a good idea. They placed their tea cups in the washing machine and left the kitchen. When T’Pring entered her room, she lit her candle, and tried to focus her mind on the flame. However, it was difficult to calm her mind. Thoughts kept intruding: How is Spock doing physically and mentally? What caused him to feel such anguish? Would he be able to get leave to come to Vulcan? Had Spock told the Captain of her existence prior to the onset of his condition? Is there another viable option? It was the latter matter that her mind refused to drop and kept circling back too.

Finally, she gave up trying to clear her mind and decided instead to focus on that question. While an open arrangement did seem like a logical solution for Vulcans she wondered if it was something that Captain Kirk would adapt to well. From her research into Human sexuality she was aware that some Humans did practice polygamy, but she remembered a vague sense across her link with Spock that the Captain had not welcomed the idea. Does a better alternative exist for him – for us all? Perhaps there is a way the Captain could help, she thought. I told Spock not to make decisions for him. Are we now doing the same thing? T’Pring turned her mind to considering the possibilities. She had 4.2 hours until morning and she intended to use that time to explore alternatives.

 

***

 

Spock sat cross legged on his meditation mat in front of the watcher, as he had off and on for the last 2.3 hours. Incense scented the air. In between his attempts at meditation, he had played his lyre, rearranged the artifacts at the head of his bed and attempted a game of chess against the computer.

He had retreated to his room as soon as his work in the science labs was finished to try and regain control after his outburst when the Doctor had made an unscheduled visit to try and schedule his annual physical. Both his words, ‘I shall certainly break your neck’ and the stunned look on Doctor McCoy’s face had haunted him for much of that time. He had yet to determine how he would explain his behavior should the Doctor report it, nor how he would explain his immediate need to return to Vulcan to the Captain. Is there a way to ensure the conversation is not on the official record? When we discussing our future, I had the right to ask for privacy.

Spock took a deep breath. Frustration mounting at his inability to even achieve the first level of meditation. He heard his door open. He turned to see Nurse Chapel enter carrying a tray.

“Doctor McCoy’s records indicated you haven’t eaten in three days, so I thought some —”

An uncontrollable rage swept over Spock as Nurse Chapel lifted the cover off a bowl of plomeek soup. How dare she presume to serve me? It was an unbearable breach of Vulcan culture. He took the bowl of soup and hurled it towards his door as Nurse Chapel backed up activating the sensors. He heard the bowl clatter against the corridor wall.

Nurse Chapel screamed.

He stepped towards the doors as she turned and fled. It was then he saw the stunned looks of the crew and bewildered look of his Captain standing beside Doctor McCoy. The evidence of his loss of control was dripping slowly down the walls.

“Captain, I should like to request a leave of absence on my home planet. On our present course you can divert to Vulcan with a loss of but 2.8 light days.”

Jim looked stunned and angry as he replied tersely, “Spock, what the devil is this all about?”

“I have made my request, Captain. All I require from you is that you answer it. Yes or no.” How dare he not grant my request. Spock’s clipped tone barely hid his outrage.

Jim proceeded to enter his quarters, uninvited, demanding answers. “All right, Spock, let's have it.”

The adrenalin rushing through his system made it more difficult than usual to interpret the Captain’s question. What did he want explained? “It is undignified for a woman to play servant to a man who is not hers.”

“I'm more interested in your request for shore leave.”

Not that. He inwardly groaned.

“In all the years—”

Spock tried to control his frustration, but found himself interrupting. “You have my request, Captain. Will you grant it or not?” 

The Captain ignored his interjection. “In all the years that I've known you, you've never asked for a leave of any sort. In fact, you've refused them. Why now?”

He forced himself to speak calmly. “Captain, surely I have enough leave time accumulated.”

“Agreed, but that isn't the question, is it? If there's a problem of some sort, illness in the family…”

Jim was giving him an opportunity to explain, but he simply could not explain to all of Star Fleet. This was still an official conversation. “No. Nothing of that nature, Captain.”

“Then since we're headed for Altair VI, and since the shore facilities there are excellent—” Jim continued.

“No! I must.” Spock exclaimed, to his dismay, having lost control again. He took a moment and with effort forced himself to speak in a controlled manner, despite his elevated pulse. “I wish to take my leave on Vulcan.”  He gripped his hands behind his back to stop their shaking. Adrenalin coursing through his system.

“Spock, I'm asking you. What's wrong?” The confusion and concern in Jim’s voice cut into him. When he looked into Jim’s eyes, he read unvoiced questions: ‘Why did you run from my room last night? Is this connected?’

“I need rest.” Not a lie, he told himself. Rest and meditation will help for a while. “I'm asking you to accept that answer.” It was clear the Captain understood there was more, but to his relief, he accepted his response and ordered Sulu to divert to Vulcan, before leaving his quarters.

After the Captain departed, Spock paced his quarters, mind in turmoil. How can I explain my impending marriage to T’Pring to Jim? That I may never return to the Enterprise? His heart ached. No, I must convince T’Pring that I need to complete my tour of duty at least. We had agreed that after this tour I would return to Vulcan.

What if the improbable happens and she conceives? It would still be 10 months before she delivers, he reminded himself, to contain the panic he felt about to envelop him. With assistance she could manage for a period of time. I should have tested my sperm’s fertility then I would know if there was any chance of conception. Why have I never done so? Random thoughts continued to bombard him until it was time for his shift.

It was a relief to be on the bridge. It gave his mind something to focus on other than his physical needs and the inevitable arrival on Vulcan and how the course of his life was about to alter. However, his efficiency was lacking due to his inability to focus. He became aware of Uhura, addressing the Captain about a priority communication and came to attention: ‘To Captain, USS Enterprise from Star Fleet Sector Nine. Inauguration ceremonies, Altair Six, have been advanced seven solar days. You are ordered to alter your flight plan to accommodate, by order of Komack, Admiral, Star Fleet Command. Acknowledge.’

Not enough time to divert to Vulcan at normal speed, he immediately computed, before he heard Chekov state that fact.

Head directly for Altair Six.” He turned as the Captain addressed him. “Sailor's luck, Mister Spock. Or, as one of Finagle's Laws puts it, 'Any home port the ship makes will be somebody else's, not mine'. The new president of Altair Six wants to get himself launched a week early, so we have to be there a week early.” His expression softened, “Don't worry. I'll see that you get your leave as soon as we're finished.”

Spock chewed the inside of his cheek to avoid saying out loud what his mind screamed internally, I MUST get to Vulcan. When he thought he had sufficient control, he ground out as calmly as possible, “I quite understand, Captain.”

Spock attempted to resume his duties, as the Captain left the bridge. However, his mind was fixated on one problem: how to get to Vulcan. At maximum warp it was possible.

Spock surveyed the bridge. He felt slightly better again although he was disturbed that his time sense was off. He could not recall what tasks he had actually accomplished. He looked into his view finder refocusing his mind on his scientific duties before anyone took note of his distraction. As he did, he heard the turbolift open and his name called by the Captain.

Jim was standing hands balled on his hips. He looked angry as he summoned him, in an uncharacteristically cold voice. “Come with me, please.”

Spock moved towards the turbolift. Mind confused as to what could have caused the Captain to be displeased. Although Jim stood beside him, it was as though he spoke from the end of a distant tunnel.

“You've changed course for Vulcan, Mister Spock. Why?”

None of what he said made any sense. A wave of dizziness came over him. Spock leaned against the back of the turbo lift momentarily to regain his balance. He forced himself to glance at the Captain, who looked more concerned than angry now. “Changed the course?” he parroted back.

“Do you deny it?”

How can I deny anything? I cannot recall my recent activities. “No. No, by no means, Captain. It is quite possible.”

“Then why'd you do it?”

Spock could hear the frustration in the Captain’s voice. Another wave of dizziness. This is happening too fast! His heart began to hammer in his side. Stay calm. Answer the question. “Captain, I accept on your word that I did it, but I do not know why…” Liar!  “… nor do I re-remember doing it.”

When Spock forced himself to turn and look at Jim, he saw only confusion on his face. A wave of panic attacked him as he contemplated the prospect of the crew, Jim, observing him lose his mental faculties. “Captain, lock me away. I do not wish to be seen. I cannot. No Vulcan could explain further.”

“I'm trying to help you, Spock.”

“Ask me no further questions. I will not answer.” 

“I order you to report to the Sick bay.”

“Sick bay?” There is nothing in sick bay that can help my condition.

“Complete examination. McCoy's waiting.”

Dazed, Spock exited the turbolift. What were my orders? Sick bay. He focused his mind to recollect the direction. I will report and then return to my quarters. However, Doctor McCoy was most insistent. Spock realized his shields were crumbling when his mind was flooded with worry for his well-being from the Doctor, when he touched his arm to prevent him from leaving sick bay.

As he reclined on the examination table, it took all his will power to not groan in pain. The pressure on his chenesi was almost unbearable. The skin was stretched tight over the now raised bumps in his lower back as his system produced and stored additional sperm for the mating cycle ahead. Spock tried to relax for the examination; however, the adrenalin in his system kept his nerves on edge. He felt the ship reverse course. No! Not Altair! I must get to Vulcan!

He strummed his fingers on the diagnostic table as thoughts raced through his mind. How will I shame myself if I do not get to Vulcan? Even more disturbing, Will Jim be safe? Will I reach for my t’hy’la in the absence of T’Pring? Will he welcome the touch of my mind and body? Spock suddenly became aware that such thoughts had diverted his blood flow to engorge his phallus. Must suppress it, he commanded himself, but his ability to control his body’s responses was waning. It took six minutes before he was flaccid again. During that time Doctor McCoy made no comment as he examined the diagnostics and performed a physical observation, but Spock was certain his arousal had not gone unnoticed.

How long can I hide my deteriorating condition? My mind and body are already becoming unbalanced. What will I do?

 

***

 

Relief was the primary emotion Spock felt when Doctor McCoy removed him from active duty on medical grounds following his physical. It would allow him to remain in his quarters unseen. He was uncertain if his attempts at meditation, of late aborted prematurely due to a lack of focus, was having any effect at slowing the progress of his condition. Inexorably, he was losing control over his mind and body.

When he had closed his eyes, his physical needs seem to compound. His mind brought forth images to torment him – himself wantonly penetrating T’Pring or Jim to achieve release. Sometimes it was not clear who he was with as long as there was a body to quench his need. It was abhorrent. Worse still, when he opened his eyes, he found his thoughts had aroused his body. A significant part of each day was now devoted to directing his blood flow away from his groin which had a constant ache. This combined with the throbbing in his lower back meant that rest was elusive.

Spock feared the delay in getting to Vulcan. As the time extended, the chances of him entering plak tow before he could join with T’Pring increased. He hoped his Human blood would help him remain lucid longer, but he had no idea if this was just another case of ‘wishful thinking’ as his mother was fond of saying. If they could meld before the mating urge overwhelmed him, then the risk to T’Pring would be reduced. He did not want to hurt her.

Even benign thoughts of mating with T’Pring had started to engorge his phallus. Spock groaned. If I cannot keep my mind from her, I need to change the perception. He turned on his computer screen and found amongst the images sent over the years, the picture of her taken at the inner courtyard of his own home when she was seven. Focusing on her youthful, innocent image and concentrating on the events and conversation of that day helped.

Desire under control, his thoughts wandered. If only I had heeded T’Pring’s warning to act sooner. Then I would have had a choice. Regret is pointless, he reminded himself. The feeling persisted.

Spock was snapped out of his fruitless reflections by the sound of the buzzer at his door. “Come.” He spoke automatically. He began to rise out of his chair, but was held in place by the wave of his Captain’s hand motioning him to stay seated.

“Stay.”

Tension was evident in Jim’s body. He stood shoulders squared.

It was disquieting to be looked down upon.

“McCoy has given me his medical evaluation of your condition. He says you're going to die unless something is done. What?”

It was difficult to think. Jim’s scent was clouding his mind.

“Is it something only your planet can do for you?”

He was unable to suppress the tremors the moved through him as he nervously reached for his PADD, stylus in his hand. Jim interceded and grabbed him by the wrist. The Captain’s concern for him flooded over his decimated shields. He heard his name ‘Spock’ but wasn’t certain if Jim had said it out loud or only thought it. What was clear was the anguish in Jim’s heart. It was crushing in its intensity.

Spock wrestled his arm free to avoid being further overwhelmed. I must maintain control. I cannot allow what happened the last time I was alone with him to reoccur.

The Captain spoke again, attempting a detached professional tone, which Spock knew was an act. “You've been called the best first officer in the fleet. That's an enormous asset to me. If I have to lose that first officer, I want to know why.”

Feeling caged under Jim’s relentless gaze, Spock rose and walked into his bedroom area to focus on the watcher on the wall burning incense just beyond his bed. He twisted his hands together to prevent their shaking. “It is a thing no out-worlder may know except those very few who have been involved. A Vulcan understands, but even we do not speak of it amongst ourselves. It is a deeply personal thing.”  He dared a brief glance at Jim. “Can you see that, Captain, and understand?”  

“No, I do not understand. Explain. Consider that an order.”

Escape was impossible. Order or not Spock knew he could not divulge such private Vulcan cultural matters to Star Fleet and the Federation. He gripped his hands behind his back to steady them. I cannot tell all of Star Fleet, but if Jim understood, perhaps he could convince Star Fleet to allow the Enterprise to return to Vulcan. Speaking of his shameful secret was worth it, if it would keep Jim safe. “Captain, there are some things which transcend even the discipline of the service.”

Spock knew the Captain was aware that he had never disobeyed a direct order before. Has he understood the need for privacy in this matter?  He watched as Jim walked towards him, contemplating what he had said. He seemed to understand now, not to touch, as his stance mirrored his own, hands clasped behind his back. It was clear that he had interpreted his unstated plea when he responded. “Would it help if I told you that I'll treat this as totally confidential?”

Having obtained that commitment, Spock knew he would explain. If they were to have bonded, he would have done so with the same commitment of confidentiality. Nonetheless he found it difficult to begin, and needed to walk away from the Captain.

His throat constricted as he began, “It has to do with biology.” He barely managed above a whisper. Unfortunately, Jim could not hear him. He repeated louder, “biology”.

“What kind of biology?” asked Jim, as he came closer, to stand beside Spock.

It was difficult to suppress his frustration and remain still. “Vulcan biology.”

“You mean the biology of Vulcans. “Biology as in reproduction.”

Spock nodded. Finally, he has gleaned my meaning.

“Well, there's no need to be embarrassed about it, Mister Spock. It happens to the birds and the bees,” offered Jim.

A wave of annoyance, swept over Spock at Jim’s tone. This was not merely about coitus. “The birds and the bees are not Vulcans, Captain,” he said emphatically. He turned, pacing back towards the watcher, to compose himself. It was too difficult to maintain eye contact.  “If they were, if any creature as proudly logical as us were to have their logic . . . ripped from them as this time does to us,” he started. A sigh of frustration escaped at his inability to convey the dread of what was to occur to him.

How can I make Jim understand? Folding his arms across his chest, Spock forced himself to turn back to look at his Captain. “How do Vulcans choose their mates? Haven't you wondered?”

Jim responded as Spock suspected most Humans would, “I guess the rest of us assume that it's done quite logically.”

Spock shook his head slowly, as he seated himself back at his desk gingerly, taking care not to lean back in the chair. “No. It is not.”

Thankfully, Jim kept his back to him, making it easier to commence. “We shield it with ritual and customs shrouded in antiquity.” Spock allowed himself another small huff of air before forcing himself to continue. “You humans have no conception. It strips our minds from us. It brings a madness which rips away our veneer of civilization. It is the pon farr. The time of mating.”

When he had finished the worst of it Jim turned to look at him, then sat down across the desk from him, with a look of not quite disbelief on his face.

I must make him understand this is my reality. “There are precedents in nature, Captain. The giant eel birds of Regulus Five, once each eleven years they must return to the caverns where they hatched. On your Earth, the salmon. They must return to that one stream where they were born, to spawn or die in trying.”

Spock watched as Jim rubbed his chin trying to comprehend what he was being told. He questioned it nonetheless. “But you're not a fish, Mister Spock. You're—”

Spock knew what he was about to say, but he cut him off. It is not true. “No. Nor am I a man. I'm a Vulcan. I'd hoped I would be spared this, but the ancient drives are too strong. Eventually, they catch up with us, and we are driven by forces we cannot control to return home and take a wife. Or die.”

Spock wanted to offer an apology, however, such words would change nothing. He hung his head in shame, locking his fingers together in his lap. He braced himself for challenging questions about why he had spoken to him about a relationship without telling him any of this, but Jim remained eerily silent.

Eventually, Jim pushed himself to his feet then walked around the desk to stand close beside him. Spock braced himself to withstand an onslaught of emotions with his touch, but he merely put his hand on the ledge and stood silent. Has Jim recognized that the time for touching has passed? Jim sighed. Disappointment? “I haven't heard a word you've said, and I'll get you to Vulcan somehow.” He then strode purposefully out the door.

Spock allowed a sigh to escape his lips as he closed his eyes. What does Jim think of my betrayal of the future I promised us a few nights before?

It was good that Jim had left his quarters. It was difficult to enough to suppress his physical needs, but to do so while in the presence of someone he already desired and who had expressed a desire for him, was particularly challenging. He would try meditation again and if that failed rest. If Jim could get permission to return to Vulcan, then perhaps he would survive to mate with T’Pring. After that other arrangements could be contemplated.

I must survive to reach Vulcan.

***

Spock reflected as he lay in his room on whether there were any actions he could take to prolong his survival until he arrived at Vulcan. He knew the risk to Jim was growing hourly. If the Federation did not allow his imminent return to Vulcan, eventually he would lose control when in plak tow and seek his t’hy’la to slake his need. The shameful fact that he had almost forced a meld haunted him. Logically he knew that a bond with another could not succeed unless his bond with T’Pring was sundered; however, logic would not be a relevant factor while in the blood fever. His body and mind would simply attempt to join with another regardless of the chance of success in a desperate struggle to survive.

While he rested, in an almost dream state brought on from exhaustion, he considered possibilities. He could engage in coitus with another crew member. It might sate his physical needs sufficiently to give him time to get to Vulcan, if they continued to be delayed. He had more certainty he could control his desire with someone other than the Captain, if he acted soon, before plak tow commenced. Who would be willing? A female would be best to avoid injury if I lose control. Lieutenant Spartel? Someone outside my department would be preferred. Nurse Chapel? Her voice came to him, ‘I love you Mr. Spock.’ She has shown an interest.

Slowly, he sensed a presence in his room, hovering by his bed. The scent was familiar. It was Nurse Chapel. Her scent is fading. She must not go! 

He pushed himself up and called to her before she departed. His thoughts were tangled as he began to speak while sitting on his bed. “I had a most startling dream. You were trying to tell me something, but I couldn't hear you.”

He held up his hand to keep her from speaking. He got up off the bed to get closer to her. I know she desires me, she confessed it. If she is willing, I must act, to protect Jim. How will she react to a suggested encounter? “It would be illogical for us to protest against our natures. Don't you think?”

“I don't understand.”

Not a rejection. Naturally she is confused, I was not sufficiently clear. Physical contact might help ease the path forward. Spock reached out to gently wipe a tear he noticed falling from her eye. “Your face is wet,” he observed.

With the touch, he was immediately overwhelmed by her concern for his well-being. She would be willing, he realized with certainty, if I explain my life at stake. I should be able to control sufficiently so that I will not hurt her physically. I do not want to hurt… I just need more time… Shall I ask permission to kiss her first before I explain?

As he considered the best way to proceed other thoughts surfaced from Nurse Chapel. Spock realized with relief that this course of action would not be necessary. She was here to tell him they were headed for Vulcan again. He would get to Vulcan in a few days. Jim would be safe from him. He let Nurse Chapel say the words.

“I came to tell you that we are bound for Vulcan. We'll be there in just a few days.”

“Vulcan,” he confirmed, still in a daze, at the positive turn of events. He spoke her name next, not knowing what he planned to say, “Miss Chapel.”  I should ask forgiveness.

“My name is Christine.”

He owed her a kindness. It was disturbing what he had been considering. Would I have used her body to keep Jim’s safe? He turned his mind from such thoughts to acknowledge her simple request. “Yes, I know, Christine.” It would be safest for her if she departed promptly. “Would you make me some of that plomeek soup?”

“Oh, I'd be very glad to do that, Mister Spock,” Nurse Chapel replied and left with a smile on her face.

Spock was thankful, he had not been compelled to act. He had seen enough from the glimpse in her mind to suspect that he would have hurt her deeply even if he had explained the biological necessity of his actions.

***

Spock was eating the plomeek soup Nurse Chapel had brought him when the Captain stopped by his quarters.

“Spock, I owe you an apology,” he began. “Bones had me come to see him after the shift ended today. He’s focused on nothing except trying to determine the nature of your hormonal imbalance.” Jim smiled wistfully, “You know, he’s much like you when there’s a mystery to be solved.”  He glanced at the floor, “Somehow he tricked me into inadvertently confirming his suppositions that your condition was tied to reproduction. I’m sorry,” he said, contritely.

“No need to apologize, Jim. I should have realized the Doctor with his medical abilities would have been able to deduce my problem.”

“At my request, he did agree to keep everything in the strictest confidence and not formalize it in his medical logs. Also I wanted to tell you, we received a communication from Vulcan requesting us to inform them when we arrive in orbit.”

Spock acknowledged that information with a nod of his head thinking the Captain would then leave, but he stayed standing in place looking momentarily uncomfortable before continuing on. “Spock, tell me what’s going on. I didn’t ask for all the details before because I was …well, a bit shocked by Bones’ prognosis. The first priority was to get you back to Vulcan. But we’ll be there soon.”

Spock inhaled deeply as Jim took a step closer to the table he was seated at. His scent was intoxicating, causing blood to begin to race towards his groin and clouding his mind. “You and I talked about having a relationship.” Jim’s voice hitched on the last word. “You asked if I’d consider bonding with you.”

The hurt in Jim’s voice cut through the fog of desire. He pushed the bowl of soup away from himself, unable to continue eating. “Jim, I never would have opened that discussion had I anticipated these circumstances. I had expected being free to–”

Jim leaned forward placing both hands on his desk. “Why aren’t you free? You said you must ‘return home and take a wife’.” Jim began to reach out one hand as if to touch him.

“No. Don’t.” Spock said quickly, leaning back. I must resist his touch. “Please. Step back.”

Jim winced, but stood up, stepped back and dropped his hand back to his side. “Why can’t it be me? You’re not married yet.”

“My mind was locked to another by my parents’ arrangement, in a ceremony when I was but seven years of age. Her name is T’Pring. The mind link ensures that she and I are drawn together to mate. Prior to the onset of pon farr, the link could have been dissolved and another established. T’Pring became aware of my attraction to you. She and I had mutually agreed to such an action, if you desired me.”

Jim pounded his fist into his hand. “I knew there had to be some explanation. You’ve too much integrity to discuss pursuing a relationship that never had a chance.”

Spock swallowed hard. “Jim, even now I desire you. But mating with you would be unsuccessful. I won’t be able to create the necessary mind link, although I might try. You could be injured physically and mentally. It is becoming … increasingly difficult for me to control in your presence.”

Jim’s hand began to reach, prompting Spock to continue quickly. He captured Jim’s hazel eyes with an intense stare. “You must help me keep you safe. My shields are virtually gone. You must not touch me again until after the ceremony. If I sense any desire from you, I doubt I would be able to stop myself, regardless of the fact that rationally I know only mating with T’Pring will ensure my survival.”

The hand fell again limply at Jim’s side. “Alright. I’ll remember that.” He shook his head. “You should’ve told me about T’Pring.”

“I did not think it necessary until I understood your interest. Once it was confirmed, I spoke with T’Pring. I had intended to divulge the truth when we reached Altair VI.”

Jim sighed. “I believe you. It’s difficult. I hadn’t even sorted out what I wanted and now it’s snatched away. No matter what, you’re still my friend. Above all else, I want you to survive.”

“And you will always be my friend.”  T’hy’la, he mentally substituted. “If you would be seated I will explain the ceremony and discuss how long it may be before I can resume my duties, assuming T’Pring agrees to my completing this five year mission.”

Spock watched Jim’s mouth simply drop open then clamp shut at the suggestion that he might not return.

“I suggest moving the chair a meter away from the table.”

Jim creased his forehead.

“Your scent will be less distracting at a distance.”

“Okay, tell me what I need to know,” the Captain commanded, a moment later, as he leaned forward seated in his chair 1.2 meters away.

***

Spock concentrated on his breathing as he waited for the image of T’Pring to appear on the viewscreen. He was pleased that both the Captain and Doctor had agreed to accompany him to the surface as they made their way to the bridge. Although he expected that T’Pring would agree to his return to the Enterprise to complete his mission, there was no guarantee. He wanted to honor his friends by publicly naming them as such. He expected T’Pau would not be pleased by his decision; however, he was past being ashamed of the friends he had made while serving on the Enterprise. Friends who had welcomed him more than his own planet.

The prior evening Spock had told the Captain that T’Pring would likely welcome him upon the Enterprise achieving orbit around Vulcan and that they would exchange ritual phrases. The bridge crew were focused on the main screen when T’Pring appeared.

“Spock, it is I.” 

A rush of desire, which Spock felt painfully in his loins, accompanied her appearance. He quickly clenched his fists to avoid a gasp which threatened to escape. His mind lurched into an automated mode, speaking without his volition. “T'Pring, parted from me and never parted, never and always touching and touched. We meet at the appointed place.”

He tried to discern T’Pring’s reaction to this turn of events, listening and watching intently as she intoned calmly, “Spock, parted from me and never parted, never and always touching and touched. I await you.” Her voice and her expression were carefully neutral. As she remained fully shielded, he could only speculate. Disappointment? Resignation? Am I projecting my own feelings?

Uhura said aloud, what he imagined, the rest of the bridge crew was thinking, “She's lovely, Mister Spock. Who is she?”

Spock knew he did not want to entertain a long dialogue about Vulcan culture. “She is T'Pring. My wife.” He rationalized that it was not a lie, as it would be true by noon the next day.

***

Spock lay on his side on his bed, to avoid pressure on his lower back. It was a fruitless attempt at rest. It was as if knowing T’Pring was near had accelerated his condition. His heart rate was at 112% of its norm, blood seemed to be roaring in his ears, filling his penis which strained against the confinement of his pants. His fingers, now stiff claws, dug into his thighs, to restrain the urge to touch himself. Touching only brought pain. There was no relief. The throbbing in his loins was nearly unbearable.

He pushed himself off his bed and paced his quarters. The inexecrable deterioration of his condition was frightening. He felt overwhelmed with regret. It was useless to wish to change his past actions, but his mind kept circling around, reminding him that he was the one who shut T’Pring out. What if our minds do not become attuned to one another quickly? How will I live with myself, if I harm her before the permanent bond is established?

Abruptly Spock turned and sat down at his computer terminal. He contacted Lieutenant Uhura and explained that he wished to contact T’Pring V’Dun knowing the communications officer would find a way to make it happen. Eighteen minutes later, Lieutenant Uhura advised she had a connection.

When he saw her visage, the pressing need in his groin multiplied, wiping out all coherent thought for a moment. “T’Pring,” was all he managed to utter, as a tremor ripped through him.

“Spock, how are you managing? I thought you might be here yesterday.” Her eyes were open wide.

Spock clenched his jaw when he felt another tremor. He closed his eyes to focus himself as much as he could in her presence. Her question and demeanor demonstrated concern. Thankfully, she did not appear as cold as on the bridge earlier. “The Enterprise was initially delayed in heading to Vulcan. At present, I am adequate. Although I recognize this communication breaks custom, I concluded it was necessary due to my prior disregard of traditions to your possible detriment.”

T’Pring simply raised an eyebrow.

“Perhaps it is my Human half, but I have been unable to contain the regret I feel regarding my past actions. I promised that you would not have to mate with a stranger. Yet, due to my disregard of my dual biology and constant shielding in violation of Vulcan norms, that is what you now face.”

T’Pring’s eyes seemed to brighten. “I cannot claim that I do not wish it were otherwise, but I do know that we are not the strangers we once were Spock. I have seen glimpses into the tenderness in your soul. The fact that you have reached out confirms my impressions of your nature.”

Clasping his hands together to prevent T’Pring seeing the tremors he could no longer suppress, Spock continued. “I worry that time is short and I may enter plak tow before we first meld. I fear I will hurt you before the permanent bond forms and allows me greater awareness of you.”

“I do not know what the future brings, Spock. I admit to some trepidation about tomorrow. Yet, I know your clan are strong telepaths and you seem to be blessed with such skills. If we are to be telsu, let us have faith the bond will form quickly.”

Faith? To hope seemed like a most indulgent Human emotion, but he did not wish to dissuade her optimism. “I will try to maintain your confidence. I am honored to be your sa-kugalsu.”

T’Pring glanced down momentarily. When she raised her head, her eyes caught his with a penetrating look. “Whatever happens Spock, I will remember who you truly are when not trapped in the blood fever. You cannot control your biology any more than any other Vulcan male. Promise that you will remember that after whatever comes to pass.”

Her presence flickered out before Spock had a chance to reply. It was comforting to hear her say that she would not hold any actions he might perpetrate against her person against him. He let a small moan escape his lips as a wave of desire washed over him. He curled his hands into fists and pressed them up and down his thighs, focusing again on suppressing his physical needs. When the longing passed, Spock allowed himself to hope that there would be no actions to forgive. 

***

T’Pring took a calming breath before she answered the teleconference call, she had requested. Spock’s unexpected call had unnerved her, making her wonder whether she should cancel her call to Captain Kirk. Yet, after careful consideration, she firmly believed her idea had merit and that the Captain should have a voice to determine his future.

She straightened herself in her chair and reached to tap the connection. This would be a call that would decide the future of four individuals. She hoped Captain Kirk was the person she imagined he must be for Spock to hold him in such high regard. T’Pring nodded her head at the assured man she saw before her.

“Greetings, Captain Kirk. I appreciate your agreeing to have this call with me,” T’Pring said as she raised her hand in the ta’al.

The Captain smoothly returned the ta’al. “I was surprised by your request and your insistence that it be kept confidential from Spock.” Then he smiled, not the radiant smile she had seen through Spock’s eyes, but a pleasant smile, as he said, “I’m sure you’ll divulge your reasoning to me.”

The Captain, she noted, had leaned towards his viewer. His face revealed an intense focus on her.

“How much do you know about why Spock returns to Vulcan?”

“He explained to me that the two of you were betrothed as children and he is returning to marry you as pre-arranged. He explained that Vulcan biology makes it imperative that he return at this time to mate with you as he needs the person his mind is linked to in order to survive. He referred to this mating drive as pon farr.”

T’Pring tipped her head acknowledging his words, relieved that the Captain was partially informed. At least he understands the urgency of the matter. “Spock spoke the truth. But it is not the only truth.” 

A flicker of light seemed to appear suddenly to enliven the Captain’s eyes.

“I became aware that Spock was attracted to you. I had agreed to dissolve our link through the p’pil’lay if you two desired a relationship.”

The Captain nodded, acknowledging her statement. “I understood from Spock that it was too late for that to occur.”

“Affirmative. That ceremony is no longer an option. Another alternative exists to break the mind link. However, to do so at this time, is not without danger. I will speak of this alternative, only if you wish to permanently bond with Spock.”

The Captain opened his mouth to speak, but she held up her hand to silence him. “Before you answer, let me finish. Did Spock provide details of what pon farr would be like for you?”

The Captain shook his head. “No. I just assumed a mating drives involves a lot of sex in a short period of time.”

“It is more than that. He will lose awareness of himself during this time.”

“He mentioned a loss of control. I just thought he meant he might be more emotional, less guarded. I might see more of his Human half that he keeps so well hidden. He has behaved a little erratically.”

How can I make him understand the danger to himself? He must know the truth. “He may not recognize you for who you are, but only as the one that can quench his need. His personality will be altered. He must be the dominant partner during this time. He must penetrate you and often. I suspect he will be more Vulcan and less Human than the norm. He could become violent if you deny him. His strength may mean that he could accidently injure you. The bond, when fully established, helps prevent this, as it will bring an awareness of your physical and mental well-being to Spock, but that will only be established through a meld. Since he is has not already been linked to you this must occur during penetration. Further, the full bond may not establish immediately. Spock is only half Vulcan so there is a risk it will be more difficult to achieve and that difficulty may increase even further with a Human partner.”

T’Pring could see her words had surprised the Captain, as the light in his eyes was now a bare flicker. She gripped the side of her desk, forcing herself to carry on. “I will be blunt. Spock told me that you have never been taken by a male. Serving Spock as his bondmate through pon farr may not bring you pleasure, may cause pain and could be dangerous to your health. I suspect Human males are not designed to withstand the 5 to 7 days of copulation that is typical. Vulcan females are. Also, remember a permanent bond cannot be undone. If you later regret your decision, you will have to live with it for the remainder of your life and stand prepared to serve Spock’s need every 7 years, assuming his mixed biology follows Vulcan norms, after this early onset of pon farr.”

Jim nodded. His face an unreadable mask which appeared to be carved in stone. “I appreciate your honesty. Is there anything else you want to tell me?”

T’Pring forced herself to release her grip of the table. Her hands were beginning to seize from the pressure. “Negative.” She realized that she was now just five centimeters from her monitor and consciously adjusted her position to an upright one. Her heart raced in her side as she said in a voice that she was certain betrayed her nervous tension, “Captain, please tell me what you would desire.”

He squared his shoulders before beginning to speak. “When I heard Spock exchange your ritual words with you, it was one of the more painful moments in my life. I wanted it to be my mind and body forever touching and touched by Spock’s. Not yours.” Then he grinned, and T’Pring knew for a moment, how Spock must delight to be the object of that blinding light, “Nothing you have said has changed what I knew in that moment. I want him. I want that permanent bond to me with me. I presume you have a plan?”

“Affirmative. But as mentioned before, there is danger and I confess the plan is not fully thought out. I need your expertise to fully develop it and determine if it is viable. Your life could be at risk, Captain.”

“Danger is part of my job description.”

“Further, the success of the plan cannot be guaranteed.”

“There is a human expression: ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained.’ I want to gain Spock.” He enunciated each word of the latter sentence. How could Spock have ever doubted that he was desired by this man?

“I estimate if the first part of the plan is executed successfully, there is a 98% chance he will be yours.”

The Captain leaned back and laughed quietly. “I have learned to trust the odds provided by another Vulcan, so I accept yours. All I need to do is execute the first part of your plan successfully. Let’s hear it, so I can evaluate it myself.”

T’Pring felt the tension in her body ease as she began to speak. She believed her plan was sound, but it would be good to have his perspective. “Spock has the right to bring up to two friends with him to the marriage ceremony. My expectation is that he may—”

“Spock has already invited myself and Doctor McCoy.”

T’Pring nodded then continued. “I have the right to challenge the marriage ceremony. I can select another to fight for my hand in marriage. Such a fight is to the death. The victor of the battle then determines my fate. I would select you to fight Spock and you will need to fake your death.”

“But why would Spock fight with me? I can’t imagine him trying to kill me. He’s put his life in jeopardy on more than a few occasions to save mine.”

“When I challenge, if Spock is not already in plak tow when he arrives, he will be immediately thrown into it. His mind will be in a fevered state unaware of anything other than the need to prevail in this fight so he can mate. He will not know you as his Captain, but simply as an obstacle that must be overcome.”

“Alright, I get that, but how does this help? Now that he’s in this fever state, won’t Spock have to mate immediately or he’ll die? He’ll still need to bond with you.”

T’Pring shook her head. “The battle will sunder our bond. The need to mate again will resurface, but not immediately. He could choose to keep me as his property or wife, but I estimate the odds of this at 2% or less. He would not be able to forgive me for choosing you as my Champion and forcing him into a battle that forced him to kill you, Captain. He has named you as t’hy’la. To be bound to someone for life that had caused him to do the unthinkable.” T’Pring took a moment, as a tremor flowed through her as she thought about the pain she was about to inflict on Spock. “I am certain he would prefer to end his own life through ritual suicide or when the blood fever returns to let it claim him then, rather than to mate with me after and live for decades with the knowledge of what he had done. The only reason he could have to mate with me, would be to prevent me from mating with another. He knows that Stonn has offered to be my bondmate. He could conceivably mate with me to prevent me from mating with Stonn. However, I believe Spock is a man of integrity. The honorable choice would be death. Vengeance would not be his primary motivation.”

With his chin resting in his hand, the Captain looked pensive. “Hmmm. ‘To fall on his own sword.’ He likely would choose that over vengeance. Your logic seems as impeccable as his,” he acknowledged. “However, it concerns me that if we fail in this plan, in addition to my death you have predicted death for Spock. That’s not why I risked my career to bring him to Vulcan.”

T’Pring shifted in her seat, feeling the weight of responsibility. “Acknowledged. Then we must have confidence of success or we should not execute the plan. I do not want to be the cause for both of your deaths.” Her heart rate was accelerating under the strain. Is the risk too great?

“It would make the most sense for us to inform Spock of the plan. We could work in concert. I’m sure we could put on a good show.”

T’Pring steepled her fingers on the desk in front of her. The Captain clearly has no idea how repugnant this plan would be to Spock. Given the risk of plak tow obliterating all his controls, Spock would never agree to put your life at risk, she thought. In any case there were other important reasons.

“Negative. Spock may have his mind touched prior to the ceremony. It is customary when clan members reacquaint with the clan matriarch after long absences. If the plan was in his mind, then all would be forfeit. Also for Spock to be receptive to bonding with you the link to me has to be broken. That can only be accomplished through a battle to the death. If he does not believe in the battle, the hormonal response would not be sufficient to break the bond.”

“Is there no other way? The plan is risky.”

“At this point, with Spock having entered pon farr, the only choices are the kah-li-fee or I bond with him. However, if you think the risk of my plan is too great, I could bond with Spock, see him through pon farr to ensure his survival, then you could join in us in an open arrangement.”

“Spock did mention the concept. We briefly discussed it. He indicated that he would allow me to take another partner if I was not sexually satisfied with him. He didn’t say it explicitly, but I think because he’s only observed me with women and I admitted that I had limited experience with men he’s concerned that I will miss being with women. He couched it all in terms of differing sexual appetites. Is that what you’re referring to?”

“You are correct in your basic understanding that an open arrangement allows for multiple partners in a marriage contact. Spock and I would be permanently bonded, but you could become his second spouse. This would allow you two to have a relationship and continue to explore the galaxy on the Enterprise. Spock is aware that I am interested in another. I would want Stonn as my second spouse on Vulcan. Stonn, as a male, would need to find someone agreeable to such an arrangement as well to form a permanent bond. Permanently bonded spouses are called to one another during pon farr. Depending on the arrangement there may be sexual relations at other times although I suspect Spock and I would only come together during pon farr. You could meld with Spock when in physical contact.” T’Pring felt her cheeks blush slightly, “There is a potential for a lack of privacy in such arrangements; however, the practice is to shield fully when another is engaged in sexual activity. If Spock entered a meld with you, I would shield. You would not be aware of what occurs during pon farr as there would be no permanent bond between Spock and yourself. Light shielding, allowing an awareness of the other is –”

The Captain raised his hand. T’Pring halted her discourse.

“I appreciate what you are offering. It poses no risk to Spock or myself. And I trust you, when you say you would shield. I know Vulcans respect privacy. I say this with no disrespect intended. The bottom line is that I prefer not to share Spock with you, if I can help it. I accept that the kah-li-fee is the best way forward provided I can figure out a reasonable strategy. How does the fight work?”

T’Pring felt the knots in her belly unwind. It was a relief to have Captain Kirk’s tactical knowledge in developing a viable plan. “The fight begins with the lirpa. A weapon with a weight on one end and a blade on the other. After a period of time, if no one is victor then a halt will be called and another weapon, the ahn woon, will be brought out.”

The Captain’s eyes lit up when she mentioned the weapon change. “The break will give us an opportunity.” 

She smiled inwardly. She had not determined how the Captain could win the contest, but clearly he now had an idea.

“Do you know how long I will have to fend off Spock before the break? I won’t last too long in the heat and gravity of Vulcan.”

“I am not certain. I can send you a communication.”

“No. It might be better if there was no written record. Could you call me in the next two hours? I’m not certain what that is in Vulcan time?”

“Spock has explained your time units to me. I should be able to research the matter and respond within that timeframe.”

“Actually, the less communication the better. Call me only if the first round is longer than 15 minutes.”

“Understood.”

“I’ll have to take something during the break that will act relatively quickly after the fight resumes.”

“Is there something you can take that would simulate death?”

“I’m sure Doctor McCoy can come up with something.”

T’Pring twisted the beads on her bracelet as she watched the Captain talk to himself.

“I could possibly hide an injection on my clothing,” he conjectured, but then rejected that idea. “No. It could get dislodged during the fight…a capsule that I keep in my mouth might work…but I might bite down on it prematurely if jostled. Perhaps Bones could figure out something.” The Captain twisted his hands together. “It would be better if Doctor McCoy could inject me when the time was right.” He then looked at her expectantly and asked, “What excuse could I give for an injection?”

T’Pring contemplated what he asked. “You would need to appeal on the grounds that the fight was unfair for a Human not born on Vulcan. Something related to the air, heat or gravity.”

The Captain nodded. “I might get the Doctor to create some sort of capsule just in case our plea for fairness does not work. Also it is a good back up plan if I don’t think I can last through the first round.”

“I will leave it to you and Doctor McCoy to determine the best method for dispensing a drug. What if Doctor McCoy does not have an appropriate drug?”

The Captain gave a half smile. “Then the open arrangement will have to work. If I have to share Spock, I am glad we’ve already met. It is clear you want what is best for him.”

T’Pring felt surprisingly gratified by the Captain’s words. “How will I know how to proceed?”

“Will I have time to give you a sign of some sort?”

“Affirmative. My attendants at the ceremony will be introduced to Spock’s grandmother before we enter the arena. You will be introduced after we arrive. During the introductions you should be able to give me a sign.”

“All right.” The Captain tipped his chin down. “I will nod like this if I want you to proceed with the challenge.” He tipped his head up and down. “I will move like this if I want the marriage to proceed.” The Captain slowly turned his head from side to side.

“Understood. Is there anything else we need to discuss?”

T’Pring noted that the Captain who had looked self-assured up to this point, seemed uncomfortable, as his eyes broke contact and he looked down momentarily. Then he looked up again and asked, “It’s a little awkward asking you this, but assuming we proceed, I’m wondering how long will Spock have after the ceremony before it becomes urgent for him to mate again. You said not immediately, but just how long will we have? Days? Weeks?”

He had asked a question she had no precise answer for. “Unknown. As I explained, the hormones released during the battle should break the bond with me. The kah-li-fee has not been used in recent times. Ancient texts suggest that for full Vulcans, the mating urge typically resurfaced between six months and two years. Spock’s hybrid nature may alter the pattern. I am not certain if proximity to a desirable mate accelerates the return.”

The Captain smiled at the latter information then his face became serious again. “That means, if something goes wrong, and Spock kills me before we can fake my death, Spock can be saved. Doctor McCoy and you can explain to him that it was my decision. It wasn’t his fault. That I want him to live.” T’Pring felt the Captain’s eyes boring into her. “Spock must not die.”

T’Pring swallowed hard. How can I promise such a thing? “I will do my best Captain to contact Spock if the need arises and to try and make him understand that you wanted him to choose life should the worst come to pass.”

They each then looked at one another for a moment quietly.

“If our plan succeeds, Spock won’t be offering you thanks while on Vulcan so let me thank you now from the both of us. If it does not, well…you’ve given me your promise.”  The Captain then raised his hand in the ta’al.  “May you and Stonn live long and prosper.”

T’Pring replied returning the ta’al, “I wish peace and long life to you and Spock.” She then terminated the transmission after lowering her hand. She now understood, in a small way, why Spock loved and admired his Captain. He appeared to have great strength of character. He had not flinched at risking his life for Spock.  Indeed, his last thoughts were about the need to save Spock should the plan fail.

 

kal’i’farr – marriage

kah-li-fee – challenge

koon-ut  –  place of marriage

lirpa  –  a weapon with a weight on one end and blade on the other

ahn woon  –  a long leather strap about 10cm in diameter with weights on both ends used as a weapon

plak tow – blood fever - the final part of pon farr whereby the victim is rendered incapacitated and the only thought is to mate

ponn farr – time of mating, typically once every 7 years for a Vulcan male

pon t’ namishau –  time of adjustment

t’hy’la –  fri

Chapter Text

The Eridani sun was high in a cloudless sky as T’Pring took her position in the procession. In front of her were the bell bearers and T’Pau on her divan, carried by four men. She glanced behind her where Stonn stood stiffly. The executioner and two more bell bearers were in the rear.

How will Stonn react if I select the Captain as my champion? During meditation she had considered whether to explain to Stonn the plan she had tentatively arranged with Captain Kirk, but determined it safest not to divulge their secret. He might have felt duty bound to tell Spock of their plan if he objected to it. Also this way his honor could not be tarnished if something went astray. I will explain my reasoning afterwards, if the plan proceeds and succeeds.

Meditation had also revealed a simple truth. If the plan proceeded, no matter the outcome, it was virtually certain she and Stonn would be able to permanently bond. Since her conversation with the Captain, she had considered again the odds that Spock would want to bond with her after her betrayal of his trust. She now believed her prior estimate of 2% to be grossly exaggerated. In truth, she could not conceive of it. Spock would be gone and she and Stonn would be together. Today or a week from today, I will know the touch of Stonn’s mind.

She could hear in the distance Captain Kirk’s voice speaking with another who she presumed must be Doctor McCoy. From the fragments of conversation that drifted on the light breeze, she heard them commenting on the temperature being hot and the atmosphere being thinner, and asking questions about the ceremony to Spock. Her heart began to race. This must mean the plan is going to proceed. Why else discuss such matters unless they were setting the stage for later?

The sound of the gong striking jolted her, sending a tremor down her spine. All her meditation to calm herself in preparation for today had not been sufficient to quell the nervousness she felt. Will I shortly be bonded to Spock and called on to mate with him or will I instigate a match which may result in death? What sign will the Captain give?

The procession immediately started.

When the gong struck again, she was able to peer through the solid stone archway as she entered the koonu-ut to see Spock standing on the platform, mallet in hand. He looks tired, she thought, even more than yesterday.

She heard the Captain express surprise upon discovering that T’Pau was officiating at Spock’s wedding. Did he not know that T’Pau is Spock’s grandmother? Has Spock not spoken about his family? The Captain must not know what a powerful clan he will be affiliated with when they join one day.

Spock walked forward bowing before his grandmother in greeting. T’Pring quickly glanced at the Captain as T’Pau engaged Spock in a brief mind touch. The Captain tipped his head up then down. Challenge. Her mind blanked momentarily as she glanced away. Can I do this? A sense of dread crept up her spine.

T’Pau’s eyes flickered in the direction of Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy. “Spock, are our ceremonies for out-worlders?”

“They are not out-worlders, they are my friends,” Spock replied.

T’Pau’s jaw jutted out slightly at his declaration. Does she disapprove of his choice of friends?

“I am permitted this,” Spock stated firmly.

T’Pau raised her hand, motioning the Captain and Doctor to step forward. T’Pring felt her heart rate accelerate. Would T’Pau disallow their attendance? How did I fail to consider such a simple matter? Her mind began to race. What else did I not consider?

Spock introduced his Captain.

T’Pau’s eyes squinted as she peered at him with an appraising look. Had she learned about his importance to Spock in the brief contact with his mind? It was widely known that she was a powerful telepath. Or is she simply aware of Captain Kirk’s reputation in the Federation? T’Pau then looked towards Doctor McCoy and he introduced himself.

“Thee names these out-worlders friends. How does thee pledge their behavior?”

T’Pring released the breath she had been holding when she heard T’Pau’s question.

“With my life, T’Pau.” Both men seemed to swell with pride at the response.

T’Pring turned to observe Spock more closely as T’Pau began to speak the ancient ritual words. As she did, he caught her eyes and held them. It appeared to be a silent plea of understanding for what would come. T’Pring froze unable to even breathe. A tremor appeared to shake through his body. Spock sucked in his bottom lip and closed his eyes and eventually stilled. When he opened them again, his eyes, thankfully, were no longer focused on her.

“What thee are about to see comes down from the time of the beginning, without change. This is the Vulcan heart. This is the Vulcan soul. This is our way.”

The strain Spock was under was evident. His breathing appeared slightly labored. He could no longer control his arousal, the evidence was obvious in his tented pants. When T’Pau stretched her hand out to call, “Kah-if-farr” and the bell bearers began shake their racks of tiny bells, Spock appeared to jolt to awareness moving to the podium mallet in hand.

The speed with which he moved surprised her. T’Pring acted quickly before Spock could strike the gong, stepping between Stonn and T’Pau to stride up onto the podium around the pit of burning coals. She held up her hand projecting clearly into the arena, “Kal-if-fee!

The shock of her announcement was revealed plainly in Spock’s face. When she looked across the arena, she noted Stonn’s eyes had also widened with surprise.

Spock began to move towards T’Pau, mallet in hand, stopping only when the executioner stepped forward blocking his way with the v’duk. He dropped the mallet, withdrawing both mentally, his eyes seemed to turn inwards, and physically by backing to the side of the koon-ut. Spock clasped his hands and appeared to be unaware of what was occurring elsewhere.

The Captain and Doctor pretended to not know what had transpired, shouting out questions in feigned confusion. T’Pau explained it to them. T’Pring was less certain the Captain was completely dissembling when she heard him call out to Spock. Concern was evident on his face. Despite her explanations to him that the challenge would catapult Spock into plak tow, she realized Captain Kirk had not fully appreciated what that would mean. He appeared to be in genuine shock that Spock did not acknowledge him. I do not think he is acting now.

T’Pring continued to watch Spock as T’Pau answered their questions. Suddenly, she became aware that T’Pau was no longer speaking to the Captain and Doctor, as she heard her name called out.

“T’Pring, thee has chosen the kal-if-fee. Thee are prepared to become the property of the victor?”

She focused herself to give the expected response in as neutral a tone as possible. “I am prepared.”

As she listened to the bell bearers ringing the bells, T’Pring noted Stonn had recovered from her announcement and was now standing erectly. Proud expectation of selection was evident in his bearing. What else could he expect? How will he react when I pick the Captain?

T’Pau turned to Spock. “Spock, does thee accept challenge, according to our laws and customs?”

For a moment T’Pring felt panic rise. What if he rejects the challenge and simply accepts a painless death, after my rejection, at the hands of the executioner? I never considered this. Does my face betray my anxiety? The instinct to mate must be overwhelming reason, she thought with relief, as she saw him nod acceptance, otherwise why would he chose to fight for me when he surely will not want me any longer? The bell bearers jangled the bells to signify his affirmation.

She listened to Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy faking concern that she would pick Stonn as her Champion. It was impressive how they pretended to have no knowledge of what she was about to do. Focus, she commanded herself, as she heard T’Pau call her name.

“T’Pring, thee will choose thy champion.”

Lifting her head high, she placed her hands on her chest, thumbs forming a triangle and began the ritual phrasing, as she walked forward, hoping the hammering in her side would not be revealed in her voice. “As it was in the dawn of our days, as it is today, as it will be for all tomorrows, I make my choice.”

T’Pring saw Stonn stepping forward confidently, as she quickly moved past him, knowing she could say nothing to prepare him for what she was about to do. She pointed her hand at the Captain. “This one.”

T’Pau straightened in her chair in an uncharacteristic show of surprise, quickly concealed.

Stonn burst into protest. “No. I am to be the one. It was agreed.”

T’Pring inwardly cringed. What is he saying? No such agreement had been made. She wanted to turn to Stonn, to assure him, but forced herself to stand at attention, like the statues guarding the gates at Gol.

“Be silent.” T’Pau ordered.

However, Stonn did not heed her command. “Hear me. I have made the ancient claim. I claim the right. The woman is–”

Mercifully it came to an end when T’Pau stood from her chair, staff in hand and commanded silence in her imperious voice, “Kroykah!” The bell bearers shook emphatically reinforcing her command.

T’Pring bowed her head, afraid to look up. She did not want to see Stonn’s mortification at what he had almost proclaimed. Soon it will be so, if you will still have me, she thought.

Finally, Stonn quieted. “I ask forgiveness.” T’Pring could hear the subjugation in his voice as he backed up.

She waited until she was certain Stonn had stepped behind her before raising her head, not willing to encounter his expression as he passed. Nonetheless she could hear him breathing heavily behind her. It felt as though his eyes were boring into her head, trying to comprehend how she could have denied him the right to fight for her hand. I did not adequately consider his position. He must have already been under stress, attending my koon’ut, to see me permanently bond to Spock. I should have told him the plan. Spared him such a loss of face.

T’Pring turned her mind away from Stonn, as she heard T’Pau address the Captain. “T’Pring is within her rights, but our laws and customs are not binding on thee. Thee are free to decline, with no harm to thyself.”

Does she not want the Captain to participate? Has she sensed how important the Captain is to her grandson? Or does she simply not want an incident with the Federation knowing Spock’s Vulcan strength would likely defeat the Captain? T’Pring’s contemplation was broken when T’Pau began to walk forward into the arena to meet Spock who had surprisingly broken out of his plak tow induced trance and had begun to approach her.

“Thee speaks.” T’Pau said, amazement tinged, even in her voice.

How is this possible? T’Pring felt her heart rate accelerate as she listened to Spock beg T’Pau to forbid the contest against his Captain. She could see the fear on his face at the prospect of such a contest.

“I will do what I must T’Pau, but not with him. His blood does not burn, he is my friend.” Spock’s eyes winced shut at the painful prospect of hurting his Captain.

“It is said, thy Vulcan blood is thin. Are thee Vulcan or are thee human?” Spock’s ability to make such a forceful plea must have unnerved T’Pau, T’Pring thought. It is illogical to challenge whether he is Vulcan at this, of all times. Clearly he is suffering a condition only a Vulcan male endures.

Satisfaction surged through T’Pring when Spock rightly pointed out this fact in the midst of his fever. “I burn, T'Pau. My eyes are flame. My heart is flame.” But then Spock refocused on what was important to him. “Thee has the power, T'Pau. In the name of my fathers, forbid. Forbid!”

T’Pring tried to force her face into an impassive mask. It was uncomfortable to listen to Spock. She glanced at Captain Kirk. He also seemed to find listening to Spock’s entreaty painful.

“I plead with thee!” Spock implored.

How could T’Pau ignore such a heartfelt plea? T’Pring winced as she heard his final painful request.

“I beg!”

Will Spock ever be able to forgive what I conspired with the Captain to put him through? She was certain now, had she been able to seek his view, that he never would have taken this risk.

T’Pau stiffened with resolve. “Thee has prided thyself on thy Vulcan heritage. It is decided.”

T’Pring chewed on her inner cheek. What was decided? Had Spock’s pleas touched T’Pau sufficiently to forbid the contest? How could she ignore his pain?

One of the bell bearers wrapped and knotted a blue sash around Spock preparing him for battle while they waited T’Pau’s verdict. Spock again appeared to mentally retreat, as though the energy expended to make that plea had tapped the last reserves of his remaining lucidity.

Spock’s anguish must have moved T’Pau. She turned to the Captain. Previously she had offered him a way out. Now she was actively warning him not to get involved. “Do not interfere Kirk, keep thy place.” To a Vulcan her words would have been understood as a command. T’Pring internally sighed with relief as the Captain would feel no need to comply with her informal command. T’Pau had not broken with Vulcan tradition and forbidden him from engaging in the contest.

When T’Pau asked for his decision, the Captain glanced at T’Pring, then looked at T’Pau, and replied, “I accept the challenge.”

T’Pring could not see T’Pau’s face to gauge her reaction, but thought her bearing was slightly more stooped, as she slowly moved back to her chair. For once, she appeared to show her age.

Once seated, T’Pau motioned and the lirpas were brought forth. The Captain and Doctor feigned ignorance of the proceedings admirably, both acting shocked at hearing that the fight was to the death.

T’Pring began to wonder about the folly of her plan as she watched the Captain nearly drop the lirpa as he took hold of it. I did not consider that the mere weight of the weapons would put him at a disadvantage.

When Spock opened the fight with a swing that sliced into his chest, T’Pring bit hard on her inside cheek. Have I negligently put Captain Kirk’s life in peril? Naturally, his tendency is to fight hesitantly so as not to injure Spock. However, Spock driven by ancient drives beyond his control has lost the ability to temper his actions. He is impelled by his biology to fight to win. Can Captain Kirk survive long enough to fake his own death?

When Spock drove the Captain backwards smashing the gong in the center island attempting to crush the Captain’s head, T’Pring bit her inside cheek again to quell the urge to call out. This time blood was drawn. She was licking her wound when the Captain finally levelled a blow knocking Spock to the ground.

T’Pring watched nervously as they grappled near the fire pit. It is taking too long. The Captain pinned Spock momentarily to the ground. Spock responded by kicking him and the Captain fell back unarmed. T’Pring felt her heart was racing like a va’khen’s must when it dives from the sky to catch prey on the mountains. Spock came at him with the blade of the lirpa and the Captain was on the defensive moving backwards trying to get away. Let the break come soon.

They grappled, each holding onto the one lirpa. The Captain managed to fling Spock to the ground, but when he arose Spock knocked the Captain to the ground with the butt of his weapon. Spock plunged the blade down towards the Captain’s head as the Doctor shouted ‘No’, but Spock did not even pause in his attack. T’Pring swallowed the bitter taste of blood in her mouth again. Thankfully, the Captain managed to roll away and kick Spock back.

Krokah!” T’Pau commanded.

Finally, T’Pring thought with relief.

Spock remained on the raised firepit ready to pounce. The Captain was on his knees, panting as blood dripped from his chest.

T’Pring could hear her own accelerated respiration which she tried to moderate. Had T’Pau noticed it? Had Stonn? At least neither was aware of the true interest she had in the outcome.

Doctor McCoy jumped into action. “Is this Vulcan chivalry? The air’s too hot and thin for Kirk. He’s not used to it.”

“The air is the air. What can be done?” replied T’Pau, looking at Doctor McCoy.

The Doctor unbuckled a pouch on his belt and held up a hypo. “I can compensate for the atmosphere and the temperature with this. At least it’ll give Kirk a fighting chance.”

T’Pring held her face in what she hoped was an indifferent expression. Relief flooded through her when she saw T’Pau nod.

“Thee may proceed,” she stated.

The Captain’s breathing was still labored despite the break in action. He was covered with a sheen of sweat. The Doctor knelt down beside him. Playing the charade, he glanced over his shoulder at Spock and told his friend, “You’re going to have to kill him, Jim.”

In between gasps of air, the Captain replied, “Kill Spock? That’s not what I came to Vulcan for, is it?” The Captain continued his faked ignorance, when he looked at the hypo that had just been injected in his arm and asked, “What’s that?”

“It's a tri-ox compound. It'll help you breathe,” the Doctor smoothly replied, continuing the act. T’Pring was jolted back to the deadly seriousness of the situation with the Doctor’s last words, which she realized were heartfelt. When he grabbed the Captain’s shoulder, he told his friend, “Now be careful!”

T’Pring hoped the formula worked quickly otherwise, Spock might indeed kill Captain Kirk. Why did I ever propose this plan to him? T’Pring wondered. An open arrangement would have sufficed to meet all of our needs. Will I be able to forgive myself if it fails?

Doctor McCoy moved to the sideline and the Captain forced himself to stand, as T’Pau called for the ahn woon. Bell bearers signaled the fight was to resume. As they did, T’Pring could see that the Captain was clearly dazed. He looked perplexed as to how to even hold the ahn woon. I should have better prepared him. Taken more time to explain the weapons.

Spock unfurled the leather straps and swung them over his head. The whirling sound reverberated through the air. When he released the straps, they wrapped quickly around the Captain’s legs and with the weights adding to the force brought him to the ground. Spock yanked on the straps to release them and swung them again towards the Captain’s head. The Captain managed to grab the strap and haul himself up, swinging Spock onto the ground and into a pillar. Spock sprung back to his feet as the Captain attempted to untangle his ahn woon, while crouched in the sand. Spock straightened his weapon into a taut rope then jumped Captain Kirk from behind.

They rolled on the ground, trading blows. Spock eventually wrapped the ahn woon around the Captain’s neck and lifted him over the coals of the fire pit in a chokehold. T’Pring closed her eyes unable to watch. I must do something. She dropped her shields and projected, Don’t hurt him! She gasped quietly, clamping her shields back in place. Spock’s true self was unreachable. He was lost in his desire to destroy his opponent. He could not comprehend her message.

When she opened her eyes again, her peripheral vision told her that T’Pau’s gaze was in her direction. There was a slight rise in her brow as if in question. Had T’Pau picked up her plea somehow? There was no way she could have sensed it … or could she? T’Pring schooled her features into a blank slate, ran her tongue over her raw inner cheek, and kept her eyes on the contest until she sensed T’Pau had turned back to focus on the action.

They had fallen from the pit to the ground. The Captain tried to choke Spock on the sand, but Spock had the ahn woon pulled tightly around his neck in a stranglehold. The Captain was unable to get enough air. He collapsed to the side of Spock, who was standing, continuing to hold the ahn woon wrapped tightly around his neck. Stop it! The Captain went limp, his arm fell to his side. Has the medicine Doctor McCoy administered worked or has Spock truly strangled Captain? I can see no signs of life.

“Kroykah!” T”Pau stood calling out immediately.

The word seemed to bring an immediate awareness to Spock. He gently lowered his motionless Captain to the ground. The look of disbelief and anguish on Spock’s face was hard to behold. I have done this to him. Even if our plan has succeeded, will he ever be able to forgive me this moment of pain?

The Doctor, shoved Spock away, grabbing the ahn woon from him. “Get your hands off of him, Spock! It's finished. He's dead.”

A tiny sigh escaped her lips before she could suppress it. Immediately T’Pau’s eyes locked onto hers. Is she reading my mind? Sensing my emotions? If she can sense my emotions then what must she sense from Spock? Your guilt is playing tricks on you. She can only suspect something, nothing more, she told herself without true conviction.

Finally, T’Pau turned her gaze elsewhere.

All eyes watched as Doctor McCoy gently unwrapped the ahn woon from the Captain’s neck. She hoped desperately that the Doctor’s words were part of the act. He had said them so convincingly that she did not know. Did he have to be so cruel to Spock? Couldn’t he see his devastation? She saw no signs of respiration from the Captain. I must believe that he simply does not want Spock to touch him and sense his mind.

T’Pau’s voice cut across the silence. “I grieve with thee.”

Spock turned away from the scene walking slowly across the arena, as if in a waking nightmare, trance-like, away from what he had done. He removed the ceremonial blue sash wrapped around his waist and gave it to an attendant as the Doctor called to the Enterprise. Spock released a deep sigh. He appeared unsteady on his feet. T’Pring worried that he might collapse. T’Pring swallowed around the lump in her throat as she observed Spock’s posture which screamed his despair. His body was not straight, his shoulders sagged. A fine tremor passed through him.

He remained rooted to his spot, when Doctor McCoy came to speak to him. “As strange as it may seem, Mister Spock, you're in command now. Any orders?”

It looked for a moment like Spock would not be able to focus sufficiently to respond. Then he slowly nodded. “Yes. I'll follow you up in a few minutes.” He took a steadying breath. “You will instruct Mister Chekov to plot a course for the nearest Starbase where I must surrender myself to the authorities.”

T’Pring realized with grim satisfaction that she had predicted correctly. Spock did not want to mate with her now. He felt he deserved to be punished for what he had done and was already seeking that out.

Spock began a slow walk towards her. She expected she would see barely concealed rage when his eyes met hers, but his brown eyes were somber and lifeless, quietly resigned to his fate. As though, inexplicably, he thought he deserved what had befallen him. She lowered her shields to try and determine what emotions he was suppressing, but sensed nothing. The light that was Spock was gone from her mind. It had worked, their bond was broken as planned. T’Pring was unprepared for the wave of sadness that that fact invoked. She bit again on her inside cheek to prevent herself from making a sound. She wanted to offer comfort, hope, but knew she needed to continue to play her part. In any case, what can I say? I may have caused him to kill his t’hy’la. It was hard to force herself to look into his deadened eyes.

Spock was succinct. “T’Pring. Explain.”

What does he want? “Specify.”

“Why the challenge, and why you chose my captain as your champion?”

T’Pring had not expected Spock to ask for an explanation and had none prepared. She had thought that he would turn away from her when the match was over and tell T’Pau he rejected her. How can I explain my seeming betrayal? She chose to be brief and close to the truth. “Stonn wanted me, I wanted him.” Spock knew this to be a fact. She had told him so.

Spock studied Stonn closely. She did not sense any malice when Spock replied, “I see no logic in preferring Stonn over me.”  

Spock continued to stare at her as though commanding her to say more. What more does he expect? She momentarily thought to save her honor in the eyes of T’Pau. To explain that she had urged Spock to invoke the p’pil’lay van-kal to break their bond because he had found his t’hy’la in his Captain, but he had not done so, forcing her to take action. However, there was no point. It would serve no purpose other than to cause Spock more pain by reminding him that this contest need not have occurred. My plan either has worked and Spock will find out shortly that the Captain lives or it did not and he will have to live with what he has done. And I, with what I forced upon him.

T’Pring offered an explanation that she hoped would at least sound plausible to those present. “You have become much known among our people, Spock. Almost a legend. And as the years went by, I came to know that I did not want to be the consort of a legend. But by the laws of our people, I could only divorce you by the kal-if-fee. There was also Stonn, who wanted very much to be my consort, and I wanted him.” I might as well acknowledge what others witnessed today and will know shortly, she thought to herself before continuing on. “If your Captain were victor, he would not want me, and so I would have Stonn. If you were victor you would free me because I had dared to challenge, and again I would have Stonn. But if you did not free me, it would be the same. For you would be gone, and I would have your name and your property, and Stonn would still be there.”

“Logical. Flawlessly logical,” Spock replied at her conclusion, his voice devoid of life.

What motivated Spock to make me speak, when he could have just shunned me and left? Was he trying to force me to admit my betrayal? When realization dawned, T’Pring felt guilty. He is not looking to blame others. He intends to take it all. He wanted to give me a chance to offer an explanation that he would accept. Had I spoken of the p’pil’lay van-kal which he did not pursue, he would have accepted that as well. Spock was attempting to help her save face during his moment of anguish. That he should do this for her welfare was overwhelming. T’Pring swallowed. She wanted to give him thanks, but knew that would make no sense to the others present. “I am honored,” was all she could think to say, which did not remotely convey what she wished.

Spock turned towards Stonn who stepped forward. “She is yours. After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.”

T’Pring thought that for the first time Spock’s words betrayed some of the bitterness he must be feeling towards her. How can I blame him? In her heart, she knew Spock would have been satisfied to go on forever wanting his Captain and not having him, than to face a future without him in it.

Spock then turned away from her and Stonn and walked to stand in front of his grandmother. He raised his hand in the ta’al. “Live long, T’Pau, and prosper.”

“Live, long and prosper Spock,” T’Pau replied in kind, her voice solemn.

Spock’s reply was ominous, as he shook his head in negation. “I shall do neither. I have killed by Captain and my friend.”

T’Pau was unable to disguise the pain his words caused her.

T’Pring hoped yet again that her plan had worked for if it had not, she feared she would not only have cost the Captain his life, but Spock’s as well. I shall do neither. The words were ominous. She and Doctor McCoy would try to explain it was the Captain’s decision, and that it was his desire that Spock carry on without him, but she doubted it would matter to him.

After walking to the center of the arena, Spock called the Enterprise. He did not glance in her direction again.

T’Pring turned to look at Stonn. His eyes were gentle, but perplexed. She knew she had to explain herself to him, but at this moment she simply needed his support. He seemed to understand, as he reached out briefly to touch her shoulder and guide her through the gates where they had entered. Just as they were to pass through she paused to look back.

T’Pau had walked over to the left of the fire pit where Captain Kirk had fallen. Her staff gently tapped the sand. Did she regret her decision to not forbid his participation in the fight? Did she know what Captain Kirk meant to Spock when he named him as his friend? Does she suspect? T’Pau raised her head and T’Pring felt as though her head was momentarily locked in a vice, her eyes unable to break contact. T’Pau’s face was an inscrutable mask. Finally, T’Pau simply raised an eyebrow and turned away.

***

Spock felt a moment of disorientation, as the transporter began the process of disassembling then reassembling his molecules on the Enterprise. He stepped off the transporter platform, nodded to the crewman on duty, and moved into the hall. How can I face my fellow crewmates? I must get away. As he walked the sights and sounds of the ship seemed strange, unreal to him. He felt more alien than he had in many years. I don’t belong here anymore. I have destroyed my home. Jim.

He moved on auto pilot. When he entered into the turbolift, he leaned against the wall for support, his legs feeling like rubber. “Deck five.”

Why did T’Pau not listen? How could T’Pring have done this to me? Don’t blame others! It was my cowardice that delayed me speaking to Jim. It was my hands that ended his life.

When the doors opened, he pushed himself upright, straightened his uniform, and moved into the corridor. He could hear the echo of Doctor McCoy’s words, cutting him like a phaser beam: ‘Get your hands off him, Spock,’ as he walked.

Finally, the sanctuary of his quarters was at hand. Spock’s legs collapsed beneath him, no longer able to support his weight, as the doors shut behind him. He fell to his knees and buried his face in his hands. He could not contain the horrible agony inside him any longer. His breath was ragged when he let out a sob and then another, but before he lost complete control to his turbulent emotions, he clenched his jaw shut and wrapped his arms around his body, to still his movements. With effort he slowly regained control and a fatalistic calm took over.

Thankfully, I will be in the brig soon, then later in custody at Starbase 5, off the Enterprise. Eventually, whether months or a couple of years from now, the plak tow will resume and my misery will end. How long will I have to suffer with the knowledge of what I have done before my biology takes over to end it? He opened his eyes. His eyes fell upon the dagger that his former roommate Sean had given him. Its length would be sufficient for the disembowelment necessary for ritual suicide. He pushed himself off the floor, grabbed the dagger, and pulled the blade from its sheath. He pressed his thumb against the blade. It was sharp enough. Then he shook his head in negation. I do not deserve such a quick death. Star Fleet and my fellow officers need a chance to exact revenge.

Doctor McCoy should be given the first opportunity. He is, was, he corrected himself, the Captain’s closest friend. Spock put the dagger back in its sheath. He straightened his uniform and headed to sick bay, heart deadened.

He hoped, despite everything, that after the berating that he deserved, that the Doctor would allow him a moment to say a private farewell to the Captain, before calling security to send him to the brig for the duration of his stay.

When he arrived in sick bay, he found Doctor McCoy and Nurse Chapel together. He promptly began to explain his intentions so that they would be under no misapprehension that he intended to assume Command, “Doctor, I shall be resigning my commission immediately, of course—”

Doctor McCoy interjected, “Spock, I—”

“So I would appreciate your making the final arrangements.”

Doctor McCoy tried again to interject, “Spock, I—”

Spock continued over him, wanting the conversation to end quickly so he could request to be alone with the Captain. “Doctor, please, let me finish. There can be no excuse for the crime of which I'm guilty. I intend to offer no defense. Furthermore, I shall order Mister Scott to take immediate command of this vessel.”

Then his shattered world came back together when he heard, “Don't you think you’d better check with me first?” spoken from behind him. I must be going insane. He spun around, and reached out to touch him, to be certain it was not an illusion.

“Captain! Jim!” If he had not been holding the Captain, the adrenalin surge from the unadulterated joy that swept through him would have caused him to collapse. He gave himself a moment to get his composure back, paused to straighten his shirt, and did his best to calmly state over his wildly beating heart, so recently split in two, “I'm pleased to see you, Captain. You seem uninjured. I am at something of a loss to understand it, however.” He was amazed that his voice did not quiver.

Jim beamed back at him while he explained “Blame McCoy. That was no tri-ox compound he shot me with. He slipped in a neural paralyzer. Knocked me out, simulated death.”

Spock had the urge to hug McCoy for his deception, but knew he had put on enough of display already. “Indeed,” he said, employing his stock phrase for situations when he could not think of what to say. His mind was spinning, trying to make sense of what had transpired. Why had Doctor McCoy brought a neural paralyzer to his wedding ceremony?

Thankfully McCoy requested some privacy, and waited for Nurse Chapel to leave, before pursuing more questions, “Spock, what happened down there? The girl? The wedding?”

Spock was finding it hard to focus through the din at the back of his mind chanting, Jim lives! “Ah, yes, the girl. Most interesting. It must have been the combat. When I thought I had killed the Captain, I found I had lost all interest in T'Pring. The madness was gone.” Spock noticed that as he explained, the Captain gave McCoy an indecipherable look. The intercom whistle interjected and he listened as Uhura explained that their delay to Altair VI had been approved because of T’Pau’s request for diversion of the Enterprise.

Spock thought he might get to escape sick bay without further discussion, but then the Doctor turned with a grin. “There's just one thing, Mister Spock. You can't tell me that when you first saw Jim alive that you weren't on the verge of giving us an emotional scene that would have brought the house down.”

Although he knew the Doctor would recognize it for the lie it was, he played their usual game. “Merely my quite logical relief that Star Fleet had not lost a highly proficient Captain.” He was thankful that the Doctor had not run a tricorder over him, as the empirical evidence would have proved otherwise. His hammering heart would have betrayed him in an instant. He had gone from the depths of despair to overwhelming joy in short succession. Now other emotions began to overwhelm him. Fear. Will Jim ask me to leave? How can he ever trust me again? Shame. For his actions. I must take control. Meditate.

“Yes, Mister Spock. I understand.” The Captain offered in support.

“Thank you, Captain.”

“Of course, Mister Spock, your reaction was quite logical,” added Doctor McCoy.

Is he really relenting that easily? “Thank you, Doctor.”

“In a pig's eye!”

Spock turned. What was there to say? He had called him out with the truth.

The Captain hurried him out. “Come on, Spock. Let's go mind the store.”

Spock thought the Doctor looked awfully pleased with himself. His mother’s phrase ‘the cat who swallowed the canary’ came to mind as he left sick bay. Yet, he could not be disturbed by the Doctor’s victory in this round of banter for without his swift action the Caption would be dead. Then he realized he had never gotten a chance to ask him about the neural paralyzer. He was about to turn back, when the doors shut behind them, and the Captain said in a much more serious tone, “Let’s go to my quarters. We need to talk.”

 

***

 

Spock tried to prepare himself. He was uncertain in what direction this talk was going to take. The Captain seems genuinely pleased to see me, but how could he ever forget that I attacked him with murderous intent? The agonizing pain in his heart that he had felt when he looked on Jim’s limp body on Vulcan resurfaced. He realized the only course of action he could take was to offer his resignation after his actions. Jim lives. That has to be enough, he told himself.

When they arrived at Jim’s quarters, the Captain called the bridge. “Scotty, get us on route to Altair VI. You’ve got the con until further notice.”

The Captain then sat in a chair and motioned for Spock to do the same. Spock kept his eyes downcast, hands clasped together on his lap, as he seated himself. He could sense Jim’s intense gaze compelling him to look up, but he felt vulnerable and ashamed and was unable to comply. He realized he had been unconsciously sucking his bottom lip and willed himself to stop and remain still, which he accomplished, other than a nervous swallow.

He could see the Captain reaching his hand out slowly in his peripheral vision until it rested gently on his thigh. Then a gentle squeeze and nudge, followed by, “Hey, everything’s alright. I’m fine.” A small huff of air escaped his lips. “I think you’re fine too, but I need you to talk to me, to confirm that fact.” He removed his hand.

Spock remained silent. He could not think of what to say. Coherent sentences refused to form. He felt overwhelmed.

“Please look at me.”

Spock looked up and Jim offered him a warm smile. “That’s better.”

His smile was like the sun. Soothing. He basked in it for a while allowing his mind to settle a bit. He thought it best to begin by assuring Jim he had no further reason to fear attack. “Jim, I am under control. The hormonal balance that caused me to… to…” he sighed slightly, at his inability to even name what had occurred. The Captain knows what I did. After a pause, he moved on resolutely. “I can continue my duties until a replacement can be found. You cannot operate the Enterprise without a First Officer you can trust. I therefore request a transfer.”

To Spock’s amazement, Jim simply chuckled. “Request denied. I’m glad your hormones are no longer raging and you feel in control. T’Pring predicted that outcome.”

T’Pring predicted?

“I need to clear something up so you won’t feel guilty about things that weren’t your fault.”

Spock raised an eyebrow as Jim continued. “The short story is this. I went to Vulcan knowing that T’Pring was going to challenge and choose me as her Champion. The Doctor brought along the neural paralyzer to simulate death. This way I got you and T’Pring got Stonn.”

Spock was momentarily speechless. He began to surmise out loud, “T’Pring contacted you…” When Jim nodded in agreement, he continued slowly, “She coerced you into this plan in which your life was endangered so that she could have Stonn.” How dare T’Pring risk Jim’s life?

“No!” the Captain said emphatically. “She didn’t coerce me. She put all the facts on the table. T’Pring clearly explained the risks. She was clear that she would serve as your bondmate if I thought the plan too risky. She offered an open arrangement if you and she bonded and I desired it. I rejected that option. You see, I wanted you all to myself.”

Spock shuddered, trying to control his emotions. His jaw clenched, knuckles in his hands turned white with the pressure he exerted clenching his hands into fists. How could they make such a plan? “She had no right to approach you with this plan without my acquiescence. And you, how could you have agreed to it without discussing it with me.” How dare they conspire in such a manner! He pressed his fisted hands into his thighs. “She… you… had no right. I never would have agreed to risk your life. The open arrangement would have sufficed.”

Jim shook his head. “If there was no alternative, yes. But there was one. When I knew I could have you all to myself, I had to pursue it. I wanted to tell you, but T’Pring said if you were aware of the plan, it likely wouldn’t break the bond. Also, T’Pring guessed T’Pau might meld with you and then the plan would be revealed. We couldn’t take the risk of telling you.”

Spock remained silent, too shocked to comment. It felt as though all the oxygen had been sucked from the room.

“What’s important is that it was my decision. Freely made.” Jim leaned forward in his chair, into his personal space, hazel eyes intent. “T’Pring did not coerce me. She was willing to do what was best for you, and us, at all times.”

“I understand your words. They are difficult to accept.” He forced himself to acknowledge his feelings. “I am angry that your life was needlessly put at risk. That you and she could have planned to do this to me. To be betrayed, even with good intent, is still a betrayal.”

Jim’s eyes and brow wrinkled. “It wasn’t a betrayal.”

Spock closed his eyes. It was a betrayal! By her. By you. Doctor McCoy. Those I trusted betrayed me again. He felt dizzy, overwhelmed. Intellectually, he understood the rationale provided, but emotionally the decision to execute such a plan was unacceptable. I need meditation to allow me to process my feelings.

He focused on his breathing to calm himself. When he opened his eyes, Jim was still leaning forward, watching him intently, concern evident on his face. Spock forced himself to unclench his hands, to give the appearance of calm.

Jim leaned back a bit. “Just so you know, Doctor McCoy left T’Pring a message to let her know that I was alive, as soon as we reached the Enterprise. He didn’t want her to worry about your well-being. We should contact her with our thanks.”

“It would be best if you spoke to her alone.”

Jim cocked his head to one side, eyes widened.

“I do not want to say anything I would regret. At present, there is a risk I would do so.”

“If that’s what you wish.” Jim paused, before continuing, after wiping his brow with his hand. “You know, she was quite convinced that if the plan went poorly that you wouldn’t wish to continue and she would have had two lives on her hands.”

How could she execute this plan, if she understood so well what it would do to me? “Quite correct. I contemplated ritual suicide before coming to sick bay. I resisted because I believed it would not be adequate punishment. I had resolved that when the plak tow returned I would simply let it run its course.”

Jim frowned at him. “It wouldn’t have been your fault. It was my decision.”

Spock shook his head. “Irrelevant. I would have killed you with my own hands. Do you think I could go on with that knowledge?” Spock’s voice broke. “You have no conception of what I felt when I looked down at your lifeless body. How could you conspire to do that to me?”

“Conspire?”

Words sprang forth unchecked. “You planned this with T’Pring, knowing I would never consent to the plan. I wished to die the moment I looked upon you.” Spock turned away. He felt out of control, anger surging through him, at what their plan had made him do, made him feel.

Eventually, stepped in front of him and reached out grazing his cheek. He spoke into the silence.

“I did, what I did, out of love for you. I believe T’Pring acted from the same motivation. You’re going to have to forgive me for the pain I caused you before we can start planning a future together.”

Spock could not help, but feel the myriad of surface emotions that poured across in that touch, as his shields were still not yet fully operative. He was awash in love, guilt, empathy, fear. Fear?

“Why are you afraid?”

Jim swallowed. Spock felt Jim’s fingertips slide down his face, then his shoulder. “What if you can’t forgive me? Then our plan would have been all for naught. Worse. I’ll lose you completely because I was selfish and didn’t want to consider the open arrangement. I rejected it out of hand.”

Jim sighed. “I didn’t give proper consideration of what the successful execution of our plan would do to you. I was solely focused on what I wanted.”

Confusion swirled in Spock. “I need time to process what has transpired.”

Jim nodded. “You’re still on medical leave until Doctor McCoy says otherwise. I’ll tell him to schedule you in at 08 00 tomorrow morning for a complete physical. Go to your quarters. Rest. Meditate. Regain your equilibrium. Let me know when you’re ready to talk again.”

“Affirmative.”

Jim then transformed himself into the Captain again as he stood. “I’d like to get to the bridge, to check in with Scotty. We have an appointment at Altair VI, I’d like to keep. I’ll think of something to tell the Bridge crew to prevent of any further questions regarding the marriage. I’ll let you know later what I said.”

Spock stood as well, recognizing the dismissal. “Understood.” He turned and headed through their joint bathroom into his quarters.

He removed his blue tunic. The sand which tumbled to the floor brought back vividly the image of Jim dangling at the end of his awn woon in the sun scorched sand of the area. He felt momentarily dizzy and sat on the edge of his bed to steady himself. He shook his head dispelling the image and continued to undress: boots, socks, undershirt, pants and finally underwear. The scent of semen, on his now dried clothes, caused an involuntary tremor. Did I climax while in combat?

He quickly showered to remove all the physical evidence of what had occurred on Vulcan. After donning a robe he lay back on his bed. He was relieved that his physical was not scheduled until the next day. He sensed his elevated hormone levels were reducing. Perhaps their dissipation together with meditation will allow me to consider all that has happened in a more detached manner. I need to regain control of my emotions.

 

ahn woon – a long leather strap about 10cm in diameter with weights on both ends used as a weapon

Kah-if-farr - it is time

Kal-if-fee - challenge

koon-ut - place of marriage

Kroykah – stop immediately

lirpa – a weapon with a weight on one end and blade on the other

plak tow – blood fever - the final part of pon farr whereby the victim is rendered incapacitated and the only thought is to mate

va’khen   – a flying predator in the mountains

v’duk – ancient weapon, spear like in length was a large blade on the end, used in execution to sever a head