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Like A Tear Cast In Stone




"Lt. T'Prayd."



I look up from my work. It is Commander Spock. I had sensed his presence when he entered the room behind me, yet had carefully omitted turning to greet him. No Human would have heard his entrance so, like a Human, I waited for him to speak. He will have noticed this, I am sure, and yet his face is carefully schooled to the proper degree of courtesy, as befitting a superior addressing a new subordinate. I have worked in his department for some six months now, yet the reality of our carefully-maintained distance cannot ever change.



"Yes, sir?" I have, of course, the right degree of courtesy in my voice; the tone one adopts when speaking to aliens. One cannot expect full understanding, yet all lifeforms are deserving of respect. Even Vulcans who have denied basic tenets of their culture.



"We will shortly be in orbit around Markus A. I have placed your name on the landing party list."



He extends a tape to me, which I accept. Both of us are very careful not to touch the other's fingertips.



"This contains preliminary data on the geological formations on Sub Continent H, where we will be concentrating our explorations. Trace readings have been found of naterliim. Landing party duty will provide you with an excellent opportunity to further yourself in your specialty."



"Thank you, sir," He has been very scrupulous in his treatment of me and the other Vulcans under his command. One could not accuse him of any of the Human failings of favoritism or discrimination. He has not attempted to hold any of us back in our careers. I wonder why this is so. Certainly, the Humans maintain their own systems of ethics, and yet I have seen their abuses, as well. I am surprisesd, considering his other shortcomings, that he has not embraced these failings. Perhaps he hopes we will all transfer off the Enterprise? Our presence must disturb him. I cannot conceive of the realities of his position. How can he maintain existence and functionality, living as he does as a cultural outcast?



"Projected time of assignment is 0600 hours, third shift. Be ready in the transporter room at that time."



"Yes sir." I watch him leave. He walks away in absolutely correct military bearing. How very proper he is, when he is around fellow Vulcans. How schooled he is when he speaks to any of us. It is as if he were completely unaware of how we regard him. Such mastery would be admired, in another. Perhaps he hopes somehow to redeem himself by form when he has long departed us in substance.



Or it might be that he simply does not care. Perhaps he is so lost in his degradation that the Opinion of the world of his father means nothing to him, I do not see how he could achieve such skilled control in any other way.



For it is control, not his nature, I have observed him with the Humans. When he thinks himself free of our presence, he is not so formal, then. The Humans would not notice, of course, but I have observed his relaxation of standards, his lessening of formality. That, most assuredly, shall never happen to me. But the cases are completely different; I do not have his bad ancestry to use as excuse for any lapse.



Living among Humans has been the education I have expected. These experiences shall lead to greater things. I will be able to advance very rapidly in my field. My bondmate's circumstances permitting, of course.



Though it is, of course, because of Steyvil that I am on the Enterprise now, instead of at the Science Academy, where I could be working toward honors in my field.



The test sequence is complete; the computer is flashing. I start, then I look around. A quick wave of shame touches me, I have been sitting here for nearly a moment now, doing nothing, ignoring my work.



It is good that I am alone in the laboratory, No one noticed my lapse.



I turn my attention back to my analysis of the chemical properties of darvahl, a fascinating new substance founed on Arcus B. I force my mind to concentrate on my work.



* * * * *




When shift is over, I go to Recroom 8 to take my evening meal. As expected, the other Vulcans are already here. They have waited for me to arrive before they begin the day's end meal.



There are no other crew members here. It is a small room, and we have reserved it for our use at the same time every day. Any of the Vulcans on board may attend or not, according to preference. I am the last to arrive. Steyvil, my bondmate will not be joining us. He rarely does. He puts in many extra hours on his shift. He hopes to win attention this way, and a possible promotion. He spends much time working on his goals. This is very commendable. It would be good for us to advance our careers consistently, winning similar promotions at the same time. Commendable, also, are the hours he spends with the Humans on board conversant in his field. He has explained to me that they will be of much use in his career. I am a fortunate wife, to have so ambitious a husband. I would not care to be exposed to nearly as much contact with Humans as he tolerates.



As usual, there are seven of us here. Spock , of course, never joins us. There is an unspoken consensus among us all as to the degree of politeness and courtesy which we must accord him. We do not invite him to our gatherings. He does not inquire of them. Thus is balance achieved.



Soquel gives the opening words, and shares the water. A small glazed vessel, brought from Vulcan, serves for the ritual pouring. Then the meal is served. T'Chrei programmed the computers well. The meals taste almost as if they had been prepared on Vulcan itself, instead of being reprocessed from the Enterprise' food stores. The program of course, utilizes no amimal proteins. We were very clear on that point. It was useless for the Humans to protest that, in addition to Spock, there were many practising Human vegetarians aboard this ship and that there was no danger of animal protein being introduced into our food. I insisted on separate programming for our food. It was an issue I was most adamant on, and T'Chrei, out of her great courtesy to me, did the programming herself.



We finish the meal in silence. I feel at peace, at home with my fellow beings. After the dishes are cleared, T'Mek recites from the "The Commentaries of Surval", a well-developed, most logical text. We each have chosen pieces tonight to relate, each adding to the aura of calmness we create to reconstruct our world in our minds, using subtlety to engage the intellect, to help guide clear insightful thought processes.



T'Chrei is, perhaps, unconventional in some of her choices. She chooses a piece of Human poetry, and then uses the ni var form to complement it with Pre-reform Vulcan poetry. She prefaces this by stating she wishes us to consider certain points of similarity between alien cultures.



She is too daring. I have seen the glances she and Semtel exchange. Most inappropriate, to show marital affection in the presence of others. Such a public display is unseemly. I wish Soquel would speak to her of it. It would be his place, as the most senior of us in our group. I have mentioned my concern to him more than once, but he has chosen not to respond to my suggestions.



There. Right there. They brushed fingertips, uncaring of our presence, our watchful eyes. I will speak to Soquel again of this, I do not care for this unsettling display. It creates a type of turmoil inside me; I will not have it. It is far too much that I should have to tolerate Spock's presence every day.



I should be commended for my control, my precision in dealing with him on a constant basis. True, Soquel and T'Mek are also his subordinates, yet somehow he chooses to focus his attentions on me. I wonder why this is. Why should I be singled out? I have not stated my disapproval of him and the sterile union he has chosen to indulge himself in, but, nevertheless, my thoughts are clear and plain. He would have to be mindblind not to know, and Spock is anything but that. Indiscriminate, rather, in how he chooses to use what should be a sacred talent. Promiscuous. How odd that one not a full Vulcan should have so full a measure of what is so uniquely a Vulcan talent. He is willing to meld with anything, despite the danger of contamination, of loss of identity, of the necessary intimacy with other minds that is part of any mental contact. His meld, at the beginning of our current mission, with the machine Vger prompted much discussion among us. The power of the mind he exposed himself to - some have expressed wonder he retained his sanity. It is my belief that he did not; that is easily proved by his subsequent choice to explore his Human heritage, his Human - emotions...



I do not wish to think of how he degrades himself thusly. I should not let his presence affect me so. The others have often offered me this advice. I should spend more time in meditation. I am surprised that some of them seem almost accepting of his circumstances. Particularly Sarteyn and T'Lell. They know only too well how difficult it is to deal with him. T'Chrei has said that we cannot fault him for his unvulcanlike behaviour. She speaks overmuch of IDIC, and not enough of Tradition.



It seems that she and my bondmate think much alike on many things. There have been times when I have considered the illogic of mating unalike minds. Perhaps T'Chrei and Steyvil would have been more suited... I should not even think these thoughts. Kaiidth! What is, is. The fact that Steyvil and I do not share accord on every matter means nothing.



* * * * *




It is still early when I return to the quarters I share with my bondmate. Steyvil is not there. That is just as well. I welcome the opportunity for quiet; I can meditate far more easily when I know I shall not have to deal with his presence.



I take the proper position, and try to draw my mind inward. I have been lacking in discipline lately, and yet it is still important to observe all the forms. I do not care for certain unsettling thoughts which enter my mind. Perhaps it is not possible for me to meditate at all anymore. I do not understand why this should be, and struggle for long moments to attain first level.



(Images: The Human's face bears an ecstatic look, as did Steve Morris' face, when I accidentally intruded upon him and LaBelle Morita in the observation chamber. They should have activated the privacy button. What can one expect of Humans?



Kirk is rapt, he is ecstatic, Spock's hands are upon him, they fondle, they kiss, they caress, they have forsaken their clothing, they are rigid with want, they--)



A soft sound breaks my concentration. I shudder, then hold myself very still and calm. It is only Steyvil.



I slowly rise from my seated position in the meditation area. Steyvil's eyes catch mine briefly, move on. His body smells of physical exertion. He says nothing as he walks past me into the 'fresher. I hear the shower dial up.



He goes to the gym with several Humans almost every night. I watched them once, resting after one of their exercise routines, when Steyvil did not know I was looking. His face was not Vulcan. He was so relaxed. The Humans have corrupted him, and I am tied to him forever. We have had two pon farrs together. We are bound for life, and that cannot be changed.



Sometimes I cannot bear it!



That thought is quickly repressed. It is most unworthy.



I sit down at the terminal in the alcove. My research is easily accessed, and I engross myself in my studies. I am working hard; I shall have finished three papers by the time my first year of duty has been completed. This will do much to advance me.



Steyvil emerges presently, hair tousled, still wet. He has developed a taste for water showers. What a shameful, wasteful luxury! I have pointed out to him he will have to do without, once we are assigned to an all-Vulcan ship. This is certain to happen, as our group was jointly assigned to the Enterprise for for the first two years of its newest five year mission, the result of an agreement between the Federation and Vulcan Councils. His reply to my logic is that he is taking a cross-cultural opportunity to explore the meanings of Idic.



I dislike the expression on his face when he says such things. It is cold. He mocks me. I do not know how to respond.



Steyvil seats himself at his own terminal. He has it hooked up to all manner of peripherals. Some experiment he is doing, but as he does not elaborate, I will not question him. I am not interested. I return my attention to my own terminal. It is quite easy to shut out the distraction of his presence and focus myself completely in my work.



* * * * *




I cannot help but waken with a certain amount of anticipation the next day. It is the first time I will have taken part in a landing party, and I am very conscious that promotions may be gained from direct field experience. There are many things I would like to do in my work; many avenues I would like to explore.



Steyvil has already departed our joint quarters. The silence and privacy is soothing. We are on the same shift, yet sometimes I speculate what it would be like if the Captain were to assign us separate shifts. He would not do it, of course. He has his own considerations to think of. He has been very scrupulous in making certain all bondmates serve on the same shift during non-emergency tours of duty.



(What is it like, for a Human? For him and Spock? Why do these thoughts continually occur to me? I am most shamed.)



No, Kirk would not assign Steyvil and myself to separate shifts. He would see this as a punishment, and, of course, he has no reason for that.



Why, then, do I think of it as something other than punishment? Why does the thought attract me? I see little enough of Steyvil as it is.



I should meditate upon this, but my mind shies away. I am thankful meditation is a private activity, and that I am not required to speak of it to anyone - not even my bondmate. Nor could he take it from my mind, even if he were so inclined. He has very little talent for telepathy. He is nearly as mindblind as a human. No, no one knows that when I meditate, I rarely achieve even first level. Too often my thoughts drift to unworthy topics.



(Too often I think of how it would be, for them. Together.)



It is good to be alone. It gives me the calm I need to deal with each day. I linger to the last possible minute in the peace and silence before I leave my cabin.



* * * * *




I take my place on the transporter pad, waiting tor the still-unusual sensation of the beam's tingle taking me, the brief second of annihilation, suspension. It is not possible to remember what happens during transportation. The event is instantaneous. This is scientifically provable. It has haunted me, at nighttime in uncontrolled, barely remembered dreams - the sensation of falling, of absolute aloneness. At night, in dreams, an emotion intrudes. I have no name for it. It is a weakness. I do not admit it to any other. I do not think of it often. There. Transportation is complete. My eyes blink, adjusting to the brightness of a daytime, alien sky.



The landscape falls around us on all sides, full of hardy greenish-brown vegetation and long peaceful stretches of pale dirt between the scattered plants. Readings indicate there is a river in a shallow valley a short distance away. Only glints of it show through its fringe of tall airy trees.



It is pleasantly warm. I see sweat break out upon the Captain's forehead. He frowns, squinting towards the mid-afternoon sun, then turns to his first officer.



What a smile he gives Spock! Why do these Humans do this thing? It unsettles me. It is such a public indecency. I turn away and fumble for my tricorder.



McCoy has his eye on me. I disapprove of him immensely. He has made many discourteous remarks to me during the time I have been aboard the Enterprise. I have complained of this to the others, but they do not appear to be bothered by his disrespect. I have considered accusing him of xenophobia, but I lack support from the others. Prejudices of many kinds are very widespread in Humans. How typical of their race that they would allow such a one such a position of authority,



McCoy complains of my test results. He dislikes the fact that we have all been certified on Vulcan, and not through his precious 'regular Starfleet channels', as if he is unaware of how well-known his disrespectful opinions about that particular authority are! I have heard many tales of his irrationalities. He appears to resent that all Vulcans now serving in Starfleet are from the newly- certified board on Vulcan itself, and not through Earth. How clearly his prejudices show!



My mind has wandered again. This is most disgraceful, I assign myself mental tasks as compensation, and attend to the Captain's orders.



Our assignments are quickly given. We will divide into groups of two and explore each of the designated areas. I am unsettled to find Spock has chosen himself to be my companion. How odd that he does not choose to accompany his lover. I had thought they clove to each other constantly, greedy and drunk by each other's presence, blind to the opinions of others. But I have rarely seen them together. My duties in the labs do not bring me into contact with the Captain very often. Perhaps they do have some sense of propriety, after all,



Spock is all business, We reach our chosen site at a brisk pace, and he immediately sets the equipment up, and designates promising areas of investigation. He takes samples with a speed and efficiency that challenges me to my limits to match his pace. Nor is there any flaw in any of his data. He is choosing to make a display of his abilities. He is arrogant. I saw the look in his eyes when I made that error on the readings. He was aware of it, but chose not to correct me. He will, doubtless, bring it up in his report.



The afternoon passes quickly. We return to the campsite before any of the others. I wish we could return to the Enterprise. I long for the confines of my familiar cabin, the comfort of my own bed, my bondmate deeply asleep beside me. But we will be spending the night here. It is efficient to do so I suppose, but the scent of the air is alien and I would prefer not to spend the night in the company of four Humans and Spock.



Spock busies himself with campsite chores. Tents have been erected in a semi-circle. He chooses to start a fire in the space between them, a most illogical action.



I dare to say this, and he turns to look at me. One eyebrow quirks, and there is a trace of an expression on his face.



"I have found that Humans enjoy the sight, sound and smell of a fire."



"Such sensual beings," I say coldly.



He keeps his gaze upon me. It is true. There is a definite expression on his face. I search for the interpretation.



He is amused by me.



Something hard and sharp flares in me. I force it down beneath the contempt I feel for him.



It can all be blamed, of course, on his ancestry. His father, Sarek, displayed his own weakness in choosing a Human for a mate. There may have been some logic in choosing an alien as a mate for a diplomat; I have heard speculation that he was, in fact, ordered by the Embassy to find a suitable nonVulcan wife in order to demonstrate our belief in Idic. How distressing for him, though he would have had the satisfaction of duty properly performed. The Earthwoman, Amanda, cannot even be a true bondmate to him. These things are not spoken of, but many know them anyway. I have heard that he and the Earthwoman Amanda could never achieve a true bond, and they live as the mindblind, linked only physically by animal passions.



Something is not logical. It is more than obvious Kirk and Spock share a full bond. Is this true because of Spock's exceptional telepathic talent, or could Kirk be one of those rare Humans who have similar abilities?



I find that thought very unsettling.



Spock has completed the fire and has seated himself down beside it. He studies the data on his tricorder. I think again of the illogic of the match between him and the Captain, and again that cold sharp feeling surges within me.



How true that bad ancestry shall prevail. Not only does Spock duplicate his father's mistakes, he surpasses them. Another Human bondmate - well, such could be predicated from his background. But a male! How against custom! How against logic! How against the future! But perhaps what is said is true. Perhaps he is sterile. In any event, it is probably just as well that he is not contributing to the heritage of the next generation.



He has started to speak. I pay strict attention. It would be well if he commended me for promotion. I hope if I am promoted that I will be able to take advantage of the new position. It must be one in which Steyvil can also share.



My abilities exceed my husband's. If I were unbonded, I could do much more with my career. There would be no end to the possibilities that would be open to me! I think of Humans, sometimes, with all their freedom, and something twists inside me at the impossible thoughts which persist in entering my mind.



Kaiidth. I am a Vulcan. I am bonded to Steyvil. We shall be promoted together, or not at all. Am I focusing properly on everything Spock is saying? He is making no allowance for my lesser experience; I am forced to concentrate fully on his words. Long minutes go by, and I am aware of nothing else but the data he feeds me and my own infrequent responses.



Abruptly, he finishes. He is watching me closely.



The silence is uncomfortable, Almost, I could wish for a chattering Human nearby to save me from the power of his scrutiny. What does he expect of me? I must be polite and wait his words. Does my face show the proper respect, as befitting his rank and family? Am I acting properly? I cannot be disrespectful to him: he is my superior officer, I owe him loyalty. Yet he has no honor. Ancestors, what is the answer to this dilemma?



Does my expression betray me in any way? Steyvil's does, very often. This does not seem to concern him. We have lived too long among Humans. I know they cannot read my face, interpret any trace of irrationality there, but Spock is skilled. He could read any lapse in logic on my part as surely as he interprets the master computer. Above all others, I do not want him to perceive any lapse at all on my part.



Spock asks me highly specific questions about what he has just told me. I answer his every query for hard facts easily, triumphant in my ability. Then his questions change. New questions are asked, ones designed not to elicit mere information but also my interpretations of the given data. He wants opinions, conclusions. I stumble once or twice, faltering. I do not know what he wants. Are these questions designed to reveal something about me?



Of course they are. It is like any examination at the university. I must ignore the fact that it is Spock who is doing the asking and concentrate on the questions themselves.



The answers become easier. I start to reveal more than simple facts. I am, after all, speaking to one without honor. It will do me good to use this as a mental exercise. I must remember that he is in the position to judge my future. I may not approve, but this is the way of the universe.



The idea that he is sitting in judgement on me causes me to falter once again. His eyes are so keen, so assessing. My words, after that, seem less coherent, less brilliantly concise, less like the workings of a well-cared-for machine; more akin to something damaged, with its works full of rust and sand, and its power decaying down.



I am grateful, indeed, when the other Humans return.



Thera is much noise around the campfire that night. The Humans laugh and talk incessantly. I glance at Spock, to see if he disapproves of his Bondmate's free and boisterous behaviour, but there is not the slightest trace of censure in his eyes.



He is watching James Kirk, and for a moment, before he is aware of my glance, I see strong emotion in his face.



It unsettles me. There is a softening of expression in his features; a revealing of what lies inside his mind. He is more naked than if he'd stripped his garments before us. What a frightening thing this is! How can he go about like this, showing his soul to the world?



The night is tedious. It is hours before the Humans decide they need sleep and go to their separate tents.



Kirk and Spock share one tent. McCoy is in with Specialist Martin. I am very grateful that I am not sharing the doctor's quarters; I have no wish to be within range of his abusive words.



I am sharing my tent with Yeoman Lithgow. She is prone to talking too much, like all Humans. Despite my minimal responses, she insists on chatting away as she prepares for sleep. She discusses anything at all - the work, the heat, the results of some gambling wager made on some distant sports event, clothing she has seen on various leave planets, an upcoming Human holiday.



"Well," she says finally, settled inside her sleeping roll, "I sure wish Jan could be here with me now, she'd love this natural air."



I make no response. I am grateful that she says nothing further.



I do not need as much sleep as the Humans. Perhaps I should go outside and attempt meditation. Certainly I cannot meditate here. Yeoman Lithgow's slow, even breathing is distracting; I could not achieve the necessary concentration,



Still, I do not move. The warmth is pleasant in the sleeping roll, and the hard ground beneath me is a reminder of distant realities. I enjoyed night-long excursions as a child, camping trips out in the fastnesses of the desert with my brothers. There was an ease then. I knew exactly who I was, where I was, and everything around me was settled and orderly. Why did it have to change?



I feel sleep approaching. Drowsily, my mind drifts to Spock and the Captain. It conjures many pictures. There is much skin. There is passion. A fascinating word. I consider the various ways males achieve physical union with each other. Such thoughts shame me. Yet they return to me over and over again, despite my efforts to banish them, and I cannot explain why.



It is at these times I am grateful I can shield so well from Steyvil. It eases the ache of long disappointment in his lack of telepathic ability. The ache caused by knowing I can never have the type of bonding that others accept as their natural state in life.



Since my last parental bonding, I have had no contact with any other mind, save briefly and by accident. I spoke of this once to a Healer, confessing my need, but she had no advice, save to endure. There are many in our people who cannot achieve a true deep bond, she told me. Accept the passive link between you and your mate, and you will find other rewards.



But there have been no other rewards. Since speaking with her, no word of this has crossed my lips. Even if some other could understand, what cure could be offered? I am bonded to Steyvil. For life. I try never to reach out to Steyvil's mind. It cannot be helped at times, of course; I was in his mind during his pon farrs, and yet he did not know me. He was a stranger to me then, as he was a stranger the day we wed. As he has remained in the years since then. He did not know me, during his Time, merely invaded me with his excruciating need, and left my own desire untouched.



Will Spock and Kirk mate here? Should I stay awake and listen for telltale sounds?



I force myself to concentrate on sleep instead. To blank out the thoughts running about in my mind. To lose myself in that lapse of consciousness, of control.



* * * * *




When I rise the next day, Yeoman Lithgow is still deep in sleep. I step out into the campsite. The early light shines clearly across the uneven ground. The smell of last night's fire, now ash, fills my nostrils.



Close by, there is a stream of running water. I walk in that direction, knowing it to be safe for washing. I move quietly through the trees that follow the path of the river, feeling attuned to the silence, the privacy. The aloneness.



The hint of some sound stops me before I break all the way through the protective forested borderline to the water's edge.



Beyond the last thin leafy pattern before me the brilliance of the daylight shines on the river, and the two men seated beside it, illuminating everything clearly.



It is Kirk and Spock. Together. Not in any carnal embrace. What is this flash of feeling I feel? Disappointment? They are sitting side by side on a large flat rock while before them the crystal purity of the blue water flows by.



They are silent. Spock's arm is around Kirk's back. Momentarily, he lowers his head to one side, resting it against the fair brightness of Kirk's hair.



Kirk turns his face to Spock's, and their eyes meet. Something exchanges between them. It is there in their eyes, and the way their faces soften. It is a specialness, for them alone. It is as I have seen it, in the faces of T'Chrei and Semtel.



It is not for me.



Something explodes in me, something forceful, something so powerful I reel before its impact. It feels like an animal inside me, clawing me raw, leaving me for dead. I seem to see Steyvil for a moment, but he is a frozen automaton, a robot, carrying on with his work. He is not touched by this storm inside me. I could die down here, and he would not know.



My hands are empty. I feel them curl together until my nails draw blood from my palms. I am always parted. Never touching. Never touched.



My vision is blurred, yet I still see Spock start suddenly, half turn in my direction, then pause. He senses my presence. I am intruding on his privacy. But he makes no further move. He is extending me the courtesy of pretending he is unaware of my trespass.



I slowly, silently move backward. Then the storm takes me again, and I forget silence and run, run through the woods, away from the camp, crashing away through the bushes and trees and undergrowth. I am entirely heedless of my surroundings. I must be alone, somewhere, completely alone. Branches catch at me, scratching and tearing. They are nothing; I am nothing. I am the force which fills me, and will not ease itself with anything less than destruction.



* * * * *




It is later. I do not know how much later. My time sense is gone. I do not understand.



I am numbed to the heart.



I am seated beneath some overhanging trees, protected from view by their branches. My body curls upon itself, knees to my chest, arms clasped around them.



I still ache. It is not to be escaped, after all. Carefully, I stir. My hand brushes my face. There is moisture beneath my eyes. How odd. It is not raining. It must be dew from the plants. I ran through them quickly; leaves lashed across my face. It must be dew.



I do not move any further, There seems to be no need for the effort.



Spock finds me some time later. I see him, a tall figure in pale blue, making his way along the path I so recently forged. Unerringly, he comes to my hiding place, bends down and meets my gaze.



He stretches out one hand to me. It is long and fine. I stare at it. It seems like an alien thing. What does he want of me?



My hand goes out to meet his. His warm fingers clasp around mine, strong, solid and sure. He helps me rise, draws me out from beneath my failed shelter.



I am open, so open! Forgive me! But I cannot help it. Starved, my mind encompasses his mind, and I am flooded, filled with his thoughts, the distilled essence of his soul.



He does not draw away. He is not shocked, not horrified. I am floating apart piece by piece. See, it is so easy. So surgically precise. That is my hatred. That is my need. That is my jealousy. I learn from him all the old Vulcan names for these states of mind. I have been consumed with emotion, and have not known it. He understands, How can he understand? How could he not hate me? He knows I have despised him. Is that pity he shows me? Define this, please.



He understands. How can he understand? He shows me bits and parts of his life. He, too, has needed; he, too, has felt abandoned inside his aloneness. He understands so clearly. I have been so alone; I have needed so much. But my lips could never say these things. My mind has never reached out for what I need. Who could I reach out to?



Spock offers a possibility: Steyvil cannot reach out. But I can reach in. Why have I never thought of this before? It is not my place, as a wife. Or is it? Another woman would not have hesitated. Why have I never thought of this? But now, how can I? Steyvil is a stranger to me. He has always been a stranger.



As are all Humans when they come together. Spock's mind is gentle as he points this out. I have memories for him to draw on. All the Human couples I have seen together, and ignored, in my isolated passage through their world.



Then there is Kirk. He shares this, too. A full and complete bond, with a non-telepath. Kirk's mind, wakened to the presence of Spock, has meshed with him in ease and perfection.



Kirk could not reach out, but he can hold what he has. The vision blinds me, their unity, their completion, and instead of taking joy from it, I feel only desolation and sorrow at the lack in my life.



Spock matches my abandonment perfectly with his own comparison of his mental state in earlier years, before he came together with Kirk.



Teacher, I say, Teacher. My thoughts will not form, But he understands. He leaves me a vision of Sarek and Amanda, their hands touching, their faces quite still as they exchange an intimate glance, then look away. There is no bond there; that is quite true. What they share is shared in the Human way, but it is enough for them.



Gently, Spock disengages from my mind. I feel sunlight flooding down on me. Strangely, I am still standing. A wave of dizziness washes over me, passes. He is still holding my hand. I am buoyed by his strength. The meld is broken, yet he is still giving me some measure of his peace.



I do not know what to say or do. Nothing has prepared me for this. His eyes are a clear brown color. Why have I never noticed this? He is watching me closely.



"I am unworthy," I whisper. He does not respond. I am ashamed to be in his presence. I smooth out my uniform and search for other words, "Do you request a report, sir?"



"None needed." His tone is informal. I feel no threat from him. It is good, because I sense myself trembling.



I feel my lips tighten. I do not know how to act, to behave. There are no rules, but the old ones. I feel something inside myself harden and compress.



"Then I'd like to return to work, Sir."



He watches me for a long moment. Then, perceptibly, his expression shifts back to formality. "As you will, Lieutenant." Oddly, his tone is not as distant as his face, "But remember..."



He says nothing further.



I accompany him back to the campsite. The rest of the Humans are up and about, noisily chattering as they prepare their morning meal.



It is a long day.



I am most grateful when all our tasks are completed and it is time to return to the ship. We go through beam-up decontam, debriefing, a meal. It is late when I return to my quarters.



Steyvil is there, concentrating on the computer screen. He does not turn to greet me. He makes no sound of acknowledgement of my presence. I sense no welcome in his mind.



I clean myself in the fresher, then return to the cabin, taking up the opposite side of the room for my own studies. But I cannot concentrate. The words, figures and charts mean nothing. My mind is dancing with other images, images Spock gave me.



I turn and watch my husband.



"Steyvil?"



"Yes, wife." He does not turn to look at me. His voice is cold. Almost, I quail before it. But I will be living with him for the rest of my life.



"Husband," I say again, then pause. The words do not come to me.



He turns, finally and watches me impatiently.



"You have a great interest in Humans. You see much of them - spend many off-duty hours with them."



There is an expression on his face. "I intend to continue doing so."



"I approve," I say.



Surprise appears in his eyes. He remains silent.



"If it is possible," I say, "might I accompany you to one of their gatherings?"



"Do you have any interest?" His surprise has deepened.



"I am living among them, I would know more."



"I do not understand, wife."



"I have been examining my behaviour." This is so hard to say. "I have realized there are errors in the way I perceive the world, I wish to correct these errors."



Is there the faintest hint of softening in his expression? Certainly, he has concealed his surprise.



"Very well, wife," he says, after a pause. "John Englewood and Lori Myers are having guests in commemoration of the date of their marriage tomorrow. You may attend with me, if you wish."



His gaze still searches mine.



"Thank you," I say, The words seem, somehow, appropriate.



We each go back to our respective work. This time, all the facts I have assembled make sense.



That night, when he is sleeping next to me, I find it possible to turn toward him, move closer. I look at him for long moments. I see him as a stranger, but it is as if the intervening years we have experienced are wiped clean. He is as to me as when we first met, when the Healer linked us together for all time.



I keep my mind quite clear. Can I welcome him? Is it possible?



I rest one hand quietly against his face.



And in his sleep, his hand comes up to cover mine.
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