Summary: At a time when he's juggling his ambassadorial duties with his father's failing health, Spock meets someone new.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns Spock. I have just borrowed him for a while and will not profit from any of this.
This story is part of my S/U Trekiverse. It follows "The Softest Star."
Thanks to my good friend Jungle Kitty for beta reading.
Feedback is desired.
The Waking Man, Chapter One
"Excuse me, Ambassador."
Saving his latest revision to the treaty, Spock looked up to see that his aide was standing in the door to his temporary office in the Delar Consulate. She was dwarfed by the high stone arch that characterized the architecture of this culture, and she radiated barely-contained energy, weaving her fingers together before separating them, and then weaving them together once more. She apparently noticed what she was doing at the same instant he did, for she unclasped her hands and put them firmly behind her back. He did not allow his amusement to show. She was young, and she would learn. Indeed, although he had never displayed his enthusiasm in such an overt manner, he remembered a day when assignments like this had energized him, too.
It seemed so long ago.
He could not help but cast back in his memory to a time when all was new to him, a time when each day brought a new challenge, and the morrow was greeted with anticipation rather than the foregone conclusion that it would simply be more of the same.
"Spock," he said. "You may call me Spock, T'Miren, when we are not with the other dignitaries."
"Yes, of course. Spock."
He waited for a long moment, then prompted, "Did you have something to tell me?"
She nodded hastily. "Yes. I wished to inform you that I have had no success in contacting your father."
"Did you try both of his offices? It was my understanding that he was on Earth now, but perhaps he has returned to Vulcan."
"No one answered my hail at either location. I did speak with the receptionist at the embassy on Vulcan, but according to her, his itinerary shows that he is on Earth, and no one answers at his office in San Francisco."
"I am not surprised. Now that my father is semi-retired, he does not keep a full staff on Earth." His attention already back on the treaty, he said, "Perhaps you can reach his aide, Sakketh. He will have the information we need."
He heard her footsteps recede down the long hallway, and he shook his head indulgently. T'Miren was the daughter of an old colleague from the Vulcan Science Academy. He had known her since she was an infant, but one would not think so by witnessing her formality now. He had hired her as his aide not merely as a favor to her father, who was concerned about his offspring's lack of direction, but because he had always been impressed by her intelligence and her eagerness to please. She was so eager to please, however, that he was growing tired merely by watching her. She had not relaxed since this assignment began.
Taking a heavy breath, he forced himself back to the task at hand. When had it come to this? He had written so many of these agreements that it was difficult not to do it by rote. He squared his shoulders and reminded himself that there were subtle details about this situation that made it unique. It might not particularly challenge his intellect, but that did not make it any less important.
He changed the wording of a phrase, reread the paragraph, then changed it back. Until he was sure of his facts, he would have to be vague about the terms of the previous agreement--a verbal agreement that he trusted only his father or Sakketh to remember--between the Delarians and the Kzet. If T'Miren was not able to contact either of them soon, he would have to take the task into his own hands and attempt to reach Sarek himself. It was ironic that he and Sarek could function so smoothly as colleagues, but never as father and son. Of course, if Perrin had her way they would not even share their professional relationship, but fortunately her influence on Sarek did not extend that far.
He heard the clatter of footsteps that gradually grew louder, and he realized that T'Miren was walking even more quickly than before. He sighed and clasped his hands on the desktop while he waited for her return.
"Ambassador!" she called from the hallway.
Something in her voice jolted him out of his ennui. This was not merely the zeal of an inexperienced youth.
"Ambassador Spock." She stopped in the doorway. "I was able to reach Sakketh's wife, and she told me that Sakketh is at the hospital with your father. Sarek became ill yesterday morning."
Spock was already out of his chair and moving toward the door. "What is wrong with him?"
She fell into step beside him. "She said that he became disoriented and confused. He did not know where he was, or why. When Sakketh attempted to assist him, he..." She swallowed hastily. "He, ah, he became belligerent and argumentative. He struck Sakketh on the jaw."
Spock's step slowed, and he knew that both alarm and disbelief showed on his face. "Sarek?"
They turned the corner, and he saw the makeshift communications room just ahead. "It sounds like he might have had a stroke."
"That is what the doctors thought, too, but they have not been able to find any indications of one. They are running more tests. He is lucid at the moment, although he has experienced two more 'interludes,' as the doctor called them. I hope you do not mind, but I took it upon myself to call the hospital for a status report."
He stopped in the doorway and faced her. "I do not mind, T'Miren. I am impressed by--and most grateful for--your initiative. Thank you."
"I am pleased to have been of service, Ambassador." She handed him a scrap of paper. "Here is his room number. He is at Starfleet Medical Center in San Francisco. Am I correct in assuming that Ambassador Tevek will take your place in the talks?"
"I have not made that decision yet, but yes, I do think it likely that he will need to do so."
"In that case, I shall prepare a brief for him. Tell Ambassador Sarek and the Lady Perrin that they will be in my thoughts."
She nodded and walked away. As he crossed the room and sat down at a comm terminal, he allowed himself a moment of satisfaction at having accurately seen the promise of a capable assistant in a rather flighty young girl. The next moment, however, the image of what might be happening in San Francisco crowded all lighter thoughts out of his mind, and he addressed the communications console.
"Computer. Contact Starfleet Medical Center, San Francisco, Earth."
He had to make a conscious effort not to weave his fingers together, just as T'Miren had done earlier, while he waited for the computer to respond.
* * * * * * * *
Spock ran his credit chit through the scanner, grabbed his travel bag, and exited the taxi. Starfleet Medical Center was imposing in front of him, and as he walked, he looked up at the general area where his father's room would be. He did not know what he would find. He had spoken with a Dr. Pruit three times during the eighteen hours he was en route, but the doctor had found nothing new.
He probably should have asked to speak with Perrin, too, but he had convinced himself that doing so would only add to her burden. The fact that it suited him to avoid her was secondary. He also had not told Saavik that he was on his way to Earth. Her granddaughter was due to give birth any day, and he did not want her to feel obligated to leave South Carolina. He would call her when he had some news, and let her know he was here.
Someone he had contacted when his shuttle was on final approach toward Earth was---
"Spock! Spock, dang it, slow down."
He looked over to see Dr. McCoy shuffling down the sidewalk that intersected his. McCoy moved well for a human of such advanced age, but Spock could not resist meeting him halfway to grasp his elbow.
"Greetings, Doctor. Thank you for coming on such short notice."
"Hmph. It's the least I could do. I don't know about all these young doctors they've got in Starfleet these days. Wet behind the ears kids who wouldn't know a stethoscope from a saxophone. We'll get a real doctor in there and we'll see what's what."
They started walking again, and Spock was careful to measure his steps as the doctor crept along. He noticed that McCoy did not ask him to release his elbow; the last time they were together, he had affected offense at Spock's attempt to help, but this time he did not object. Spock began to doubt the wisdom of asking McCoy to make such a hurried trip from Macon, and he slowed his step even further.
McCoy yanked his elbow from Spock's grasp. "Dammit, I didn't come all this way just to take a nature hike. Let's get moving."
"I do not want you to overtax yourself, Doctor. One patient is enough."
McCoy stopped and peered up at him, and Spock noticed that he was measurably shorter than when they were last together.
His cantankerous manner vanishing, McCoy patted Spock on the arm. "Spock, I appreciate your concern, but really, I'm fine. It does me good to feel needed. Consulting in Atlanta just doesn't do much to fill my time, and I'm very happy to be here. Now, let's see if we can find out what's going on with your father."
Nodding his gratitude, he took McCoy's arm again. He changed the subject as they resumed walking.
"Did you know that Jacob and Cecilia are expecting a child?"
"No, I sure didn't! When's it due?"
"Two days ago."
He laughed. "Boy, oh boy. I'll bet Saavik's about fit to be tied."
"She is understandably excited."
"How many will that be for her, anyway? Great grandkids, I mean."
"Well, from one great-great-granddad to another, you can never have too many of them."
They fell quiet as they entered the building and stepped into the lift. Soon, they were walking down the hall toward Sarek's room. Spock could hear the quiet, efficient tone of Sakketh's voice interspersed with another more urgent voice, a voice that could only be Sarek's, although if Spock had not known to be listening for it, he would not have recognized it. It was far too agitated and argumentative. There were two other voices which must be the doctors, and he wondered how many other people had witnessed his father's distress.
He stepped through the door with McCoy right behind him, and Sarek immediately looked up and said, "Spock."
Spock froze. Was that a tear glistening in his father's eye? He looked helplessly at Sakketh, who did not meet his gaze, then at the two doctors, both human, who did not cease their muted discussion. He forced himself to take a step forward.
"Hello, Father. I heard that you were unwell."
"Spock, I do not know what is happening to me," Sarek said tremulously. "I do things I should not do, and I say things I should not say. It is not right, I know it is not right, but I cannot stop myself, I cannot."
Spock moved a chair closer to the bedside and sat. He had expected to find that his father was not aware that his behavior was out of the ordinary. Perhaps this was a good sign. Perhaps he was not so ill, after all. He actually seemed quite lucid.
Ignoring McCoy, who was examining the diagnostic display at the top of the bed, Sarek looked beyond Spock at the empty doorway as if he were expecting someone else.
Spock glanced over his shoulder. Before he could speak, Sarek asked, "Where is Nyota? I had thought that she would come here with you."
Spock knew that his mouth was open, and that McCoy had turned toward him in disbelief, but all he could do was blink. Finally, he swallowed and said, "Father, Nyota died nineteen years ago. She has been gone a very long time."
"Ah yes, of course. Amanda died, too." Sarek looked again like he might cry. "They died. They all die. I do not understand why they must always die."
"Everyone dies eventually. Mother and Nyota both lived long, full lives. Their deaths were peaceful." He paused to study Sarek, whose eyes were growing heavy. "We should all hope to meet such a peaceful end."
Sarek did not hear him, for he had fallen asleep. Spock sat back heavily in his chair and looked at the doctors. He recognized the gray-haired Dr. Pruit from his earlier calls, but he did not know the woman.
"These episodes exhaust him. When he awakens, he'll be rational again." Dr. Pruit motioned to the woman beside him. "This is my colleague, Dr. Angelluci. She's an exobiologist with a specialty in disorders of the nervous system."
"Greetings. I am Spock, but of course, you have already discerned that. This is Dr. McCoy, an old friend. He was gracious enough to agree to meet me here."
Dr. Pruit smiled at McCoy. "Dr. McCoy and I go way back. Good to see you again, Len."
"Good to see you, too, Freddie. Spock, Fred here is one of the best geriatricians around. I don't believe I've met you, though, Dr. Angelluci."
Dr. Angelluci extended her hand to McCoy. "Please, call me Rose. It's an honor to meet you, sir. Both of you, actually. Ambassador Spock, I'm glad you were able to get here so quickly. With patients like this, it's always good to have a family member nearby. It seems to calm them."
"I wish we had some news for you," added Dr. Pruit, "but we're still waiting for the test results I told you about earlier."
Spock hardly heard what Dr. Pruit had just said. Instead, he was focused on Dr. Angelluci's last words. "I am the only family member here? Where is Perrin? Has anyone contacted her?"
Sakketh, who had been standing quietly in the corner, said, "To answer your questions, yes, you are the only family member here. She is on Vulcan. I contacted her."
Spock waited for Sakketh to elaborate, but finally prompted, "And?"
"She is busy." Although Sakketh's face remained expressionless, his disapproval was very clear. "She is on the planning committee for the Embassy Ball, and she cannot come to Earth at the moment."
Spock pressed his lips together and stood. "Perhaps she does not understand the gravity of the situation. I will attempt to explain it to her."
As he walked out the door, he heard McCoy mutter something before striking up a discussion of Sarek's symptoms with the other doctors. The first few words had been too quiet for Spock to understand, but he had little doubt that McCoy had said something derogatory about Perrin. It was good that Spock had left so quickly, because he would have been hard pressed not to express his agreement with McCoy's opinion of his father's wife.
* * * * * * * *
Perrin had just picked up the seating chart when her computer chimed. Perhaps this was Gretchen with the estimates from the caterer. Truly, it was a monumental task to plan a meal for a group with such varied dietary restrictions, especially since her co-chair was proving completely ineffectual at keeping up with all of the details. She hoped that everyone appreciated just how much of the work she'd had to do all by herself.
"Computer, accept call."
Spock's dour face appeared on the screen, and she deliberately hesitated a moment before saying, "Why, Spock. What a surprise. How are you?"
"I am well, Perrin. And you?"
"Quite well." She knew that he didn't care if she was well or not, and that this wasn't a social call, but she didn't allow his bad manners to cause her to lose her composure. "I see that this call is originating from Earth, and I assume that you are with Sarek. How is he?"
"He is quite ill. The doctors do not have a diagnosis yet. You should be here with him."
"The Embassy Ball is just next week. This is the biggest event of the year for the non-Vulcan ambassadors and their wives. Everyone who is anyone will be there, and I can't leave now."
"Your husband's health is important, too. Indeed, it is infinitely more important than a mere social event."
She shook her head. Spock was such a social clod. "You're wrong. This is important, and your father would agree. I'm needed here."
"No, you are needed here."
Finally losing her patience, she said, "Why? Will I be able to do what the doctors haven't? Will my being there make him better? Of course not. That's ludicrous. However, here, I can preserve his career. Sakkath told me about his behavior, and if that gets out, he'll be through. Do you understand? Finished. He'll be finished! The only people who can know about this are a few doctors and close family members, and my job is to act like nothing has changed, to talk to the right people, and to be conspicuous with my presence. When this is over, maybe I will be able to leave, but until then, my place is here."
Spock's expression hardened even more, if possible. "Some things are more important than a career."
"You are one to talk about this! You gave up everything for Nyota, and when she was finally gone, what were you left with? Just a lot of memories. You certainly didn't have a career. You didn't even have a life!"
"That did not matter to me, and it should not matter to you. My father will always have a place with the diplomatic corps, regardless of what you think. He was happy when I arrived today, Perrin, openly happy. If I am the one who must see him through this, so be it. You will regret it one day. Spock out."
She drew in a large, angry breath before lashing out at the blank screen. "Damn you, Spock! You will not get the last word here."
She closed her eyes until her heart rate slowed, and then stood. The seating chart must be done today, and if Gretchen didn't call soon with those prices, she was going to have to take care of that herself, too.
End chapter one
The Waking Man, Chapter Two
From his seat next to Sarek's bed, Spock keyed a series of commands into his padd and examined the results. T'Miren had coped well with his absence. As a matter of fact, the transition had been so smooth that one might not even notice that he was gone. He studied tomorrow's schedule until he finally found a flaw. The talks were stalled in a rather tedious stage, and it was too soon to include the Kzet high regent; she was only interested in the final summation of the agreement, and there were still too many details in flux. He saved his changes just as he heard voices in the hall.
He turned wearily when Doctors McCoy, Angelluci, and Pruit entered, accompanied by two Vulcans. The male Vulcan was very young, and Spock knew that he could not have been out of medical training long. The woman was somewhat older, with a few thin streaks of gray at her temples that blended into her long, straight hair.
"Hey, Spock." McCoy patted him on the shoulder. "How are you holding up?"
Spock shrugged lightly. "Sarek is asleep, and he has been quiet for approximately six hours. This is the longest he has remained calm since I arrived."
"Well, we think there's a reason for that." McCoy pointed toward the two Vulcans. "This is Dr. T'Val, and this is Healer Setap. They're going to run some tests on your father, but we think we know what's going on."
"Indeed? Normally, I would think that this was good news, but judging by your demeanor, I believe that such a conclusion would be premature. Am I correct?"
Dr. T'Val nodded, and he was surprised by the open compassion in her expression. "We believe that he is suffering from Bendii's Syndrome. Have you heard of it?"
Spock resisted the urge to rub his eyes. "I have not. Am I to assume that it is serious?"
Healer Setap nodded. "I fear that it is, Ambassador. It is a progressive disease of the brain that begins with the deterioration of the area that controls emotional restraint. A worst-case scenario would be that eventually he succumbs to complete dementia and then death. It is generally considered an affliction of the elderly."
T'Val frowned at the dispassionate description. "It is not necessarily a sentence of death, Setap. With the proper precautions, he could have many good years left."
McCoy patted her on the back. "That's right, darlin.' It's not all doom and gloom."
Spock was too tired to react to the odd sight of McCoy patting a Vulcan woman on the back and calling her "darlin.'" Instead, he simply said, "What are the proper precautions?"
T'Val replied, "A good diet, an abundance of sleep, the removal of unnecessary stress. All of the typical common-sense things one might expect."
"You stated that there is a reason he is resting calmly now," Spock said to McCoy.
"Well, it's odd, but it was the clue we needed. The cyclical nature of his symptoms is unique to Bendii's, and the more I dug around in the medical journals, the more certain I became that it was Bendii's. Healer Setap here is a specialist in Bendii's, and he's going to help us run tests to confirm the diagnosis."
"I see. Since he is the specialist, I assume that his prediction of 'doom and gloom' is accurate."
"Well, you see, it's not that easy. While it's true that for many patients the outlook isn't good, doctors are learning more about Bendii's every day. There's a promising new medication that we would like to try. It's still experimental, but it's performed well in clinical trials. Bendii's is a rare disease, and we just don't know much about it."
Finally, Spock allowed himself to rub his eyes. "How rare?"
McCoy gestured toward T'Val. "We brought T'Val in from Atlanta because except for Setap, she's the only one of us who's actually seen a case of it."
She pulled a chair close and sat down next to Spock. "It was a pediatric case, very tragic. The child was born with a number of chemical imbalances in his body, one of which was an inability to metabolize the vitamins that nourish the portion of the brain that controls emotional restraint. The parents became concerned when he passed the age of logic but still displayed excessive emotions."
He did not take his eyes off Sarek. "What happened to the child?"
"He died, but we learned much from him."
Healer Setap walked over to the bed, and Spock saw that he held a hypospray. "We will start a regimen of medication and vitamins that will boost his immune system, and we will monitor his progress."
McCoy motioned toward the door. "C'mon, Spock. Nothing's going to happen right away. Let's go down to the cafeteria and grab a bite. I'm starved, and I'll bet you haven't had anything to eat since you arrived."
The doctors were trying to crowd around Sarek, and Spock could see that he was in the way. He rose and followed McCoy out of the room.
* * * * * * * *
Hoping that he would end up with more than just a bunch of vegetables, McCoy sat patiently at the table while Spock selected their meals. McCoy had given the excuse that his feet hurt from standing around all day, but he could tell by Spock's calm acquiescence that his friend knew he was just too damn old. He was glad to be here, really he was, but he'd also be glad to get back to his home, his easy chair, and his bed. Maybe he'd be there this time tomorrow if they were right about the Bendii's.
He moved the salt and pepper shakers out of the way when Spock approached with the two trays.
"Well, Spock, I don't know how you do it, but you still look the same as you did fifty years ago." He picked up his fork and speared a green bean. "So how's it going? The diplomatic life and everything."
"I was on Delar brokering a treaty when I received notice of Sarek's condition. I turned it over to the junior ambassador, and my aide stayed behind to help. They appear to be coping with my absence, but I cannot help but be concerned that a crucial detail will escape their notice."
McCoy looked more closely at Spock. "For someone who's supposedly concerned, you sure don't sound very concerned."
"To be honest, it is difficult to generate enthusiasm for the project. It is very much like every other project I have undertaken for the past eighteen years. The diplomatic life, as you described it, is not always particularly challenging."
"I can't believe my ears. The last time I talked to you, you were raving about this agreement you'd settled or that meeting you'd chaired. You're one of the best-known and most well-respected ambassadors in the Federation, and you've accomplished great things. What happened?"
"Do not misinterpret my explanation--I am very pleased that there is peace in the Federation--but it does not take a great deal of skill to settle a squabble between neighbors over a boundary dispute, or to reestablish a trade agreement that was revoked because of a perceived slight between one self-inflated potentate and another."
"Well, I'll be damned. I never thought I'd hear it. You're suffering from a midlife crisis, my friend."
"I most certainly am not. That is a human predilection, and I am not going to buy a boat as Mr. Scott did, or take up skydiving as Jim did."
"Maybe not, but believe me, I've heard 'My career isn't any fun anymore,' or 'I'm stuck in a rut,' or 'I only did it because I was bored' a thousand times. Sure, those men are coming to me because they're worried about their expanding guts or their receding hairlines, but it never fails that their real problem is middle age. You're suffering from stagnation, sure as can be."
"I will not argue that my life has become rather predictable, but it is far from a crisis."
"Well, yeah, maybe that term's a bit too extreme for you, but I still think that you need to find a way to spice up your life. Don't do anything drastic, though. Buy a new flitter. Take up coin collecting."
Spock raised an eyebrow, clearly expressing his opinion of McCoy's suggestions, and changed the subject. "How have you been, Doctor? Do you still spend several days a week at the Crawford Long Medical Center?"
"Oh, yeah, I'll do that until the day I die. It gives me a reason to get up in the morning." He chuckled. "Well, that and the cat. Did I tell you that a friend of mine gave me a damned cat? It tears up the furniture and coughs up hairballs all over the place. But for some reason it's taken a shine to me, and I guess it's okay."
"I can tell that you are not entirely displeased with it."
"Nah, it keeps me company. So how about you? Got anything--or anybody--keeping you company these days?"
"What about that woman, er, T'Oto or T'Utu or whatever her name was?"
"T'Tia? I only saw her twice socially, Doctor, and that was four years ago. There has been no one else since then."
"It's been that long? Hell. Where did the years go?"
"They have gone where all the other years have gone. At any rate, I am at home less than fifty percent of the year due to my ambassadorial duties, so there is no need for an 'anything' or 'anybody' else to occupy my time."
"Well, maybe that's your problem. A new woman in a man's life will heat things up, and it doesn't matter if he's human, Vulcan, or whatever. You can believe me, if I wasn't so damned ancient, I'd be finding me something softer than a cat to warm my bed."
"I do not doubt it, Doctor."
McCoy tried to keep a straight face, but when he met Spock's eyes, he started snickering. "Yeah, like you believe that. I was lucky to get a woman into my bed even back when all the equipment still worked. Now shut up and eat your salad."
* * * * * * * *
Sarek was released two days later, and Spock accompanied him out the front door of the hospital and into the brightness of a clear Terran morning. Both McCoy and Sakketh had left the hospital yesterday when it was evident that the worst had passed, so it was just the two of them now.
"Once again," said Sarek, "thank you for coming. I know that it was an inconvenience."
"That is of no consequence," replied Spock.
"It is of great consequence. You will have much work to do when you return to Delar. Perhaps it would have been better if you had remained there."
"My place was here."
Sarek did not meet his eyes. "It is unfortunate that you had to witness my time of weakness."
"Father." Spock stopped walking, which forced Sarek to stop and turn toward him. "You were ill. It implies no weakness on your part."
"Nevertheless, you should not have neglected your duty," Sarek said stubbornly.
Spock did not know whether to be provoked or amused, so he decided to choose amusement. As he started walking again, he said, "Someone once told me that my primary duty was to my father. This person was very wise, and while I did not see the logic of this statement at the time, I do now. I believe that you would agree."
"Who was this person?"
"Mother. She became quite upset with me."
"Ah. I see. Then perhaps we should accept the wisdom of her logic."
The teasing tone in Sarek's voice reminded Spock of the banter he had often heard between his parents, and he realized that he had never heard that kind of banter between Sarek and Perrin.
"Mother always knew that family came first," he said. He could not resist adding, "Obviously Perrin does not agree."
"Do not bring Perrin into this." The lightness had vanished from Sarek's voice. "She did what she thought was best, and I agree with her choice. At any rate, it is not your place to question her choice." They had reached the taxi stand, so Sarek stopped. "I will take my leave of you now."
Squelching a sensation of regret at having ruined their conciliatory mood, Spock asked, "Are you certain that you do not want me to accompany you to your apartment?"
"I am quite certain. I am not an invalid."
Spock drew himself up. "Very well. Goodbye, Father. I hope that your health continues to improve."
"I trust that you will speak of my condition to no one."
"It is no one's business but your own."
Sarek nodded sternly and seated himself in the nearest taxi without another word. When he had left, Spock climbed into the next taxi and programmed a course to the San Francisco Spaceport.
End chapter two
The Waking Man, Chapter Three
Eight weeks later, Spock found himself back under the welcoming Terran sun on another clear morning, this time in a rented flitter heading from Atlanta to Macon. The treaty negotiations had gone on much longer than they should have--indeed, the stubbornness of the Delarians could tax even a Vulcan's patience--but it was finally done, he had finally caught up with the work he had missed on Vulcan, and he was finally going to see Saavik's newest great-grandchild.
First, however, he wanted to pay a visit to an old friend. His last communication with McCoy concerned him. McCoy had said that he had cut back to spending only one day a week at Crawford Long, and Spock wanted to see for himself how McCoy was doing.
He stopped in front of McCoy's house, and he was encouraged to find that the yard was in good shape. In his experience, one of the first signs of an inability to cope with everyday life was a neglected yard, but the grass was neatly trimmed and edged, and a bed of red and white impatiens flourished around the manicured shrubs. He climbed the two front steps and signaled his presence. When no one answered, he signaled again and tried the door. It was locked. There was a flitter in the driveway, and although it was possible that someone had taken Dr. McCoy somewhere, he uneasily rapped on the door. Still no response.
He left the porch and slipped between the shrubs to peer in the nearest window. There was no one in the living room, but since McCoy's bedroom was in the back, this was not conclusive. He hurried around to the side of the house, shielding his eyes to look in each window he passed.
The shades in the bedroom were drawn, but he noticed that the kitchen window was open just a crack. He worked his fingers into the opening, and had just begun to try to force the window upward when a voice from behind asked firmly, "May I help you?"
Spock whirled to find a tall woman standing next to the bird bath, a potted marigold in one hand and a trowel in the other. The knees of her denim overalls were dirty, and she wore well-used gardening gloves. She also had a dark blue baseball cap on her head with a red bill and a large white "A" on the front, and when he looked closer, he realized that she was Vulcan.
He could not help but sag slightly against the side of the house. "Excuse me. I did not mean to intrude. When I did not receive a response at the front door, I became concerned."
She took a step closer and squinted her eyes against the sun. "Ambassador Spock?"
He studied her face. "Dr. T'Val. Forgive me. I did not recognize you at first because of..." He pointed vaguely at the cap on her head.
"Oh, this." She put the trowel on the edge of the bird bath, then took the cap off and looked at it. A few loose strands of hair escaped from her ponytail. "I suppose that it does hide my face, which is actually desirable because Sol tends to cause freckles to appear on my nose." She used her forearm to brush the hair away from her forehead and replaced the cap. The marigold was still in her hand, and dirt had sprinkled onto her cheek when she lifted her arm, but she did not appear to notice it.
He moved closer to the edge of the small back porch. "I confess that I am quite surprised to find you here."
"Leonard needs help with a few things, so I try to drop by occasionally."
"That is kind of you."
"The kindness is mutual. He took me under his wing, to use one of his phrases, when I was hired at Crawford Long. I was new at being a doctor, and I do not know what I would have done without him."
"Indeed?" Spock frowned as he attempted to piece together the chronology. "To the best of my knowledge, Dr. McCoy has only been consulting at Crawford Long for twenty-four years. I would have thought that you were older, ah, that is to say, you strike me as someone with more than twenty-four years experience in the medical field."
She almost appeared to smile. "If you mean that I seem too old to have been a doctor for only twenty-four years, I have actually been a doctor for only nineteen years. It was a late career change."
He allowed the corner of his mouth to rise in response. "I see. Forgive my blunder. I am quite familiar with the concept of late career changes."
The amusement was evident in her eyes when she nodded. "Leonard is fortunate to have a friend who would be so concerned that he would attempt to break into his home."
"And he is fortunate to have a friend who would risk freckles on her nose for the sake of keeping his yard neat."
"He is more than a friend. He is like a father to me."
Spock abruptly realized that he had completely forgotten about McCoy. "Where is the good doctor?"
"He had an appointment in town, as well as some errands to run. He will be sorry he missed you."
"Perhaps you will be kind enough to tell him I came by, and that I will contact him before I return to Vulcan."
"I will." She seemed to remember that she still held the marigold. "This is the last flower I have to plant. Before you go, do you have a suggestion about where I might put it?"
Spock stepped down from the porch and looked around the yard. "I am not familiar with that variety. Does it require sun or shade?"
* * * * * * * *
McCoy grabbed the handle over the door and pulled himself to his feet, then reached back into his flitter for the two lightest bags. He was surprised to see T'Val's small flitter still in the driveway; maybe he could talk her into staying for supper. He slowed down to climb up onto the first front step, and the second, and then palmed the lock and went into the house.
Carrying the bags into the kitchen, he looked around and decided that she must still be in the back yard. That's what she'd been doing when he left, and he wondered what she could have found out there to keep her busy for so long. When he neared the back door, however, he realized from the murmur of voices that she wasn't alone.
He walked out the back door and stopped quickly when he discovered who the other person was. Spock and T'Val sat side-by-side on the back step with gardening gloves, a trowel, and a potted marigold between them.
"Well, Spock! What brings you here?" he asked.
Both Spock and T'Val stood and brushed the dust from the seats of their pants. "Dr. McCoy," said Spock. "Greetings. I was on my way to Saavik's, and I thought I would stop here."
"I'm glad you did. Come on in, both of you. Let me fix you something cold to drink."
Spock looked up at the sun and across the yard at the lengthening shadows. "Actually, I must go. Saavik expected me several hours ago."
"Are you sure?" asked McCoy. "I'd love to have a chat."
Spock had begun backing toward the side of the house. "Forgive me for rushing off, but Saavik will already be quite exasperated with me. I will be at her home for four days, and I will contact you before I leave."
"That sounds good. You be sure and tell her I said hello."
"I shall do that." He nodded toward T'Val. "It was agreeable talking with you, T'Val."
"I enjoyed our discussion, too. Have a good visit with Saavik and the rest of your family."
"Thank you." He nodded, and vanished around the side of the house.
T'Val picked up the marigold. "Allow me a minute to put this in the ground, and I will help you with your grocery bags."
"Will you stay for supper?"
"Yes, of course."
"Great!" McCoy went back into the house, but he paused to look out the window at T'Val. She watched the sky until Spock's flitter had passed overhead, and then put on her gloves and started toward the back of the yard. Well. This was an interesting development. He'd have to make sure that it developed some more.
* * * * * * * *
Spock sat in a beach chair watching the children play in the surf while Saavik, next to him, bounced the baby on her knee.
"Steven!" she called out. "Do not eat the sand! Sylvia, make him stop that. Sylvia!"
Sylvia continued to jump in the waves, obviously unable to hear, so Saavik handed the baby to Spock and trotted toward Steven. "Steven! Spit that out."
Spock held the baby in front of him, and she gurgled around her fist. A small froth of saliva bubbles trickled from the corner of her mouth, so he shifted her to one arm and used the hem of his shirt to wipe her chin.
He watched Saavik pull a seashell out of Steven's mouth and sternly tell him not to do that again. Steven was only three, but he was certainly old enough to know better. Saavik shook her head as she walked back in Spock's direction.
Sitting down, she said, "He and Juanita were supposedly having a contest to see who could hold the most sand in his or her mouth. He was going first. I hope he is not sick later." She held her arms out for the baby, but Spock pretended not to see her.
"The sand is no less sanitary than the ocean water they swallow every day," he said.
"Perhaps you are correct. I will take Rachel now."
"She is content here."
"Look, she is blowing raspberries."
Spock glanced down to see that more spittle had collected on her chin. "Raspberries?"
"That is what it is called when babies do that." Saavik again held out her hands for the baby. "Come to me, little girl."
"As I said, she is content." Spock decided to change the subject. "Dr. McCoy asked that I say hello to you on his behalf."
"How is he?"
"He seems to be doing well. Of course, 'well' is a relative term, but he is still quite vigorous for his age. He has a friend who helps him, but for the most part he is independent."
"How old is he now?" She leaned toward him, but he shifted in his chair so she could not reach the baby.
"He is one hundred and thirty two years old. I have only known one other human who lived so long."
"There is a woman in town who is one hundred and thirty. She used to be a patient of Michael's, and he still stops to see her occasionally." Saavik pointed toward the baby. "Rachel needs to have her diaper changed."
"Very well. You may have her."
Spock handed her to Saavik, who gave him a shrewd look before carrying the baby up toward the house. She was only halfway there when Michael leaned out the back door and yelled something. Spock could not understand him over the noise of the ocean, but Saavik evidently did because she turned back and shouted, "Spock! You have a call."
He came to his feet and crossed the beach toward the house. When he reached Saavik, she handed the baby to him and said, "I'll stay out here and watch the children. Perhaps you can take care of Rachel after your call."
Spock accepted her, and she blew bubbles as he carried her to the house. When he reached the back door, he held her out toward Michael.
"Saavik said that she needs a fresh diaper," he said. "I will take the call in the office."
Michael took her, and as Spock walked down the hall toward the office, he heard Michael going in the opposite direction, evidently 'blowing raspberries' himself. He shook his head at the foolish things humans did when presented with a baby, and he sat down at the desk.
"Computer, accept call."
The screen brightened to show McCoy's face.
"Hi, Spock. Are you having a good visit?"
"Yes. It has been quite pleasant. Everyone is here for the weekend, so Saavik has a full house."
"I hope I didn't interrupt anything."
"Not at all. The younger adults have all gone deep-sea fishing for the day, so Saavik, Michael, and I are watching the children, who are playing on the beach at the moment."
"How's that new baby? I'll bet she's as cute as a button."
"She is very engaging, although exhausting. Cecilia said that she had been sleeping through the night prior to this visit, but we have all lost a great deal of sleep since she has been here."
"Yeah, well, that happens sometimes when their routines get disrupted. She'll settle down about the time you all leave." McCoy rubbed his chin. "Hey, Spock. My environmental controls have been acting up recently, and every time the serviceman comes out here something new goes wrong. Do you think you could take a look at it before you leave?"
"I will be pleased to do so, but have you asked T'Val to investigate your problems? Perhaps she could help you."
"T'Val? She knows about as much about computers as I do. Contrary to what you might think, it's a myth that all Vulcans are computer geniuses."
Spock raised an eyebrow at McCoy's sarcastic barb. "When would you like for me to come?"
"Are you doing anything tonight? Say around 1900 hours?"
"I have no plans. That time is good."
"Okay, then. I'll see you tonight. McCoy out."
Spock closed the communication channel and stood. He could hear Rachel crying upstairs, and he knew that it was time for her nap. Michael was probably attempting to help her go to sleep.
He headed back out toward the beach.
* * * * * * * *
As soon as the screen grew dark, McCoy clapped his hands together and rubbed them, then addressed the computer again.
"Computer. Contact T'Val at Crawford Long Medical Center."
He concentrated on wiping the grin off his face before she answered.
End chapter three
The Waking Man, Chapter Four
"Hello Spock." McCoy made a beckoning motion with his hand. "Come on in."
Spock walked through McCoy's front door and immediately noticed that the temperature seemed to be quite pleasant. Of course, he would not object if it were warmer, but he knew that most humans would find this acceptable.
"Greetings, Doctor. I hope that you are well."
"I'm fine, just fine. How about you?"
"I am in good health."
"How did that thing on Delar go? Did you get all the details worked out?"
Spock tilted his head slightly. It wasn't in McCoy's nature to stand about making 'small talk,' and he wondered why McCoy was doing so now.
"Yes. The situation was resolved without incident." Spock looked around the room. "Where are your environmental controls?"
"Don't be in such a damned hurry. We haven't had a chance to talk for a while. How's Saavik?"
"Saavik is doing very well. She thrives in her role as great-grandmother, and since Michael retired, she has increasingly scaled back her hours at work so they can travel together. They are both quite content."
"And your father?"
Spock paused, hoping that McCoy would either allow him to check the environmental controls or invite him to sit.
"Father seems to be well, although as always he is evasive about his health. However, he is back on Vulcan now, and I have been able to spend some time with him recently. It is my judgment that he truly is..."
His voice trailed away at a signal from the front door.
"Well!" said McCoy brightly. "I wonder who that could be." He shuffled over to the door, and when it opened, he exclaimed, "T'Val! What a pleasant surprise."
Spock heard T'Val's voice from the doorstep. "Leonard, have you forgotten that---"
"Don't just stand there," said McCoy. "Come on in."
T'Val walked into the house, but she stopped as soon as she saw Spock. Spock met her eyes, and then crossed his arms and turned toward McCoy. From the corner of his eye, he saw that she had also turned toward McCoy.
"Hey, I have an idea," said McCoy. "Since you're both here, why don't you stay for supper?"
Spock took a deep breath and looked over at T'Val again. She blinked twice, looked up at the ceiling, but finally said, "Very well. But Leonard, do not think---"
McCoy turned expectantly toward Spock. "Spock? How about you?"
"I will stay."
"Great! I have a vegetable lasagna in the warmer that I think you'll both love. I can't take credit for cooking it myself, but it came from that new Italian restaurant down on tenth street, and I heard it's supposed to be really good. Of course, I had to tell them to leave out the onions because they give me indigestion, but..."
McCoy's voice receded in the distance as he ambled into the kitchen. Spock had finally spotted the environmental control on the wall by the door, but he made no move to check it. He faced T'Val again.
"What excuse did he give you?"
"The light in his bedroom closet is not working," she said. "You?"
"The environmental controls."
"Ah. I see. Since there appears to be nothing wrong with the temperature or the humidity, I think it is safe to assume that there is also nothing wrong with the closet light."
"I believe that is a safe assumption."
"Well, we will humor him." She started walking toward the kitchen. "For now."
Spock watched her walk away, and then raised an eyebrow and followed.
* * * * * * * *
"Goodnight, y'all," said McCoy, his figure silhouetted by the light inside the house. "Thanks for coming."
Spock stood on the front walk with T'Val at his elbow. "Thank you for the meal, Doctor," he said. "The lasagna was very good."
"It certainly was," said T'Val. "I appreciate it. I will see you tomorrow, Leonard."
McCoy gave them one last wave and closed the door. Spock clasped his hands behind his back and started slowly down the walk beside her.
"Do not look now, but he is watching us from the window," she said.
"Then perhaps we should humor him some more, and talk for a while. It is a pleasant night. I am not in a hurry to leave."
"Neither am I. We shall talk, then."
When they reached her flitter, she leaned against the door and looked up at the sky. "There is a halo around the moon. I think that it will rain tomorrow."
"The weather forecasters agree with you. They have predicted an eighty percent chance of rain. When I left Saavik's home, she was attempting to plan some indoor activities for tomorrow. It will be quite a long day if the children cannot go outside."
"You and she should take them to the aquarium in Orlando. Dr. McCoy and I took two of his great-great-grandchildren there last summer, and they were very pleased with the activity. I think that you would find it enjoyable, too. I certainly did. We actually could have stayed there much longer, for we did not get to see everything."
"That is a good suggestion. Thank you."
She looked back up at the sky when the blinking lights of a spacecraft passed overhead, quickly gaining altitude from the Atlanta Spaceport. She followed it with her eyes until it vanished in a far-off streak of rainbow light. "How beautiful," she said.
He had been watching it with her, but this made him look at her again. "I have seen so many ships go into warp in my lifetime that I do not give it much thought anymore."
"It is a pity when something becomes so common that it no longer inspires wonder, but this is simply the way of life. Perhaps I am still captivated by it because I have only seen it from a far distance, and I am left yearning for it."
"Surely you have traveled on a warp-capable craft," he said.
"Yes, of course, but one cannot see the warp effect when one's own ship goes into warp, and I am not widely traveled. I did not leave Vulcan until I decided to come to Earth and study medicine."
"I noticed that you were addressed as 'Doctor' rather than 'Healer.' I find it interesting that you continued your training in this manner. Most medical professionals choose to specialize rather than make a lateral move."
"It was not a lateral move. I had never studied medicine before I came here."
"Indeed? You are the first Vulcan doctor I have met who did not begin as a healer. May I ask why?"
"We shall simply say that my primary goal was to leave Vulcan. My choice of career was secondary."
There was a long silence while she studied his face, and he could tell that she was trying to ascertain if he really did understand. Of course, he of all people knew what it was like to want more than anything simply to get away, but he did not mention this. Finally she looked back up at the stars.
He pointed toward the location where they had seen the ship. "You should ensure that you go to a space station someday and watch the ships go into warp. The warp effect is particularly impressive when the view is not obscured by an atmosphere."
"I will remember that." She sighed lightly and looked over at the house. Standing straight again, she said, "It is late, and I should go. I hope that you have a good day with the children tomorrow."
"Thank you. Good night."
She palmed the lock on her door. "Good night."
Spock started toward his flitter, but soon stopped and turned. "I believe that Saavik will like your suggestion of going to the aquarium. If you are not doing anything tomorrow, would you care to accompany us?"
She glanced at the house. "Dr. McCoy is no longer watching. You do not need to humor him any longer."
"I am not."
She shook her head. "I could not impose. That time is for you and your family. At any rate, I must work tomorrow."
"Then after work. We can dine together."
"I do not think---"
"It would please me."
She hesitated for a long moment with her hand on the roof of her flitter and her foot in the open door. "Did you have a particular restaurant in mind?"
He had not realized that he was holding his breath until he felt the air leave his lungs. "I do not know the area. You may choose."
"Very well. I will dine with you."
"It is decided. I will pick you up at 1900 hours tomorrow."
He took another two steps toward his flitter, but then realized that he did not know where she lived. Turning back quickly, he opened his mouth to speak, but before he had uttered a word, she said, "1433 Oak Drive in Forest Park."
He nodded. "I will be there. Good night."
"Good night, Spock."
He held her eyes a moment longer, then walked to his flitter. He waited until her flitter was off the ground, programmed a course for Fripp Island, and soared into the sky.
* * * * * * * *
Spock stood in front of the antique dresser in the guest room and adjusted his collar.
"I do not know what possessed me to do this," he said.
Saavik, seated on the bed with Sylvia, Juanita, and Steven lined up next to her in order from biggest to smallest, responded, "I think that it is about time you did something like this."
"It will be awkward. I will not know what to talk about."
"From what you have said, the two of you do not have a problem finding topics of discussion. Simply relax and be yourself."
"It was different before. It was not a 'date.'" He grimaced and tugged at a crease across the shoulder of his tunic.
Juanita bounced up and down from her seat on the bed. "Spock has a girlfriend, Spock has a girlfriend."
"Spock has a girlfriend," echoed Steven.
Her hand on Sylvia's back, Saavik pointed at the door. "All three of you, go find your grandfather. Tell him that you want ice cream."
"Ice cream!" yelled Steven. He hopped off the bed and ran from the room with his sisters behind him.
Spock glanced over his shoulder at her. "Thank you."
"Just because this is a date does not mean that you should behave any differently than you have before."
"It is inevitable, Saavik. One cannot help but behave differently." He patted the crease one more time, then gave up and sat on the bed next to her. "Perhaps I should call and cancel. She did not seem overly eager to do this, and it will probably be a relief to her."
"Do not be foolish," she said sternly. "You cannot cancel simply because you changed your mind."
"I did not change my mind." He looked down at his hands. "But I did remember the last time I had a social engagement with a woman. It was very uncomfortable for both of us."
"Nonsense. You are simply spoiled because you and Nyota were good friends before you became anything else, which made everything easier."
"Perhaps you are correct. However, it will still be a difficult evening. That is a fact, proven by past experience."
"Spock, how many times have you seen a woman socially since Nyota died?"
"That is hardly a representative test bed of data."
"In addition, tomorrow is my last day on Earth. She will think that I do not wish to see her anymore when I do not ask her out again. That is what happened before."
"Because before you did not want to see the woman again. This will be different. I am certain she will understand, because you will explain it to her. Correct?"
"We will see." Standing, he pulled at the hem of his tunic. "It is time for me to go."
"Enjoy the evening. Do not worry about coming home at any particular hour. And behave. Do not do anything I would not do."
He raised an eyebrow at her teasing comments, then left the room and trotted down the stairs. He could hear her calling the children as he walked out the door.
* * * * * * * *
"Do you trust me?" she asked.
"Yes," he replied.
She looked up at the waiter and said, "We will have the chana batura to start, along with peshwari naan. For the main course, we will have vegetable korma, vegetable makhanwala, and a side order of bagala bhath."
"Two Kingfishers and a pot of chai."
The waiter nodded and took their menus. When he had left, she said, "I hope that you are feeling adventurous."
He did not know how to reply to that, so he said, "Do you come to this restaurant often? You seem to be very familiar with the menu."
"I come here occasionally, although not as often as I would like. The food tends to be too spicy for most of my acquaintances. I brought Leonard once, and he was ill for three days." Her eyes widened. "Do you like spicy food? I should have asked before I ordered."
"The descriptions on the menu were intriguing," he said tactfully. "I am most curious to sample the items you ordered."
"You do not like spicy food." She twisted in her seat, searching for the waiter. "Perhaps he has not placed our order yet. We can tell him---"
"T'Val." She did not respond, so he repeated her name more emphatically. "T'Val."
She finally faced him again.
"I will be fine," he said. "It is not a matter of whether I like spicy food or not. As Dr. McCoy would say, it simply does not like me. I will be cautious, and I will ensure that I keep a cool beverage within reach."
She wrinkled her brow apologetically. "I ordered beer for us to drink. Is that acceptable?"
"I do not know. I have never tried beer."
"I should have asked if you drank alcoholic beverages."
"I have been known to drink a glass of wine. You ordered a second beverage. If the beer does not suit me, I will drink it."
"The second beverage is hot tea."
The waiter chose that moment to approach the table with two bottles of beer, a pot of tea, two empty glasses, and two empty cups. Spock caught his attention before he could leave.
"Would you also bring me a glass of water?"
"Of course, sir," the waiter replied.
The waiter left, and Spock looked back at T'Val to see that she had a slightly pained expression on her face.
"There," he said. "The problem is solved."
"If the food is too spicy for you, we will order something else."
"I am certain it will be fine." She looked at him dubiously, so he added, "I will consider this a night of new experiences."
He picked up a beer bottle and a glass and started pouring, but she stopped him with a gesture.
"If this is to be a night of new experiences," she said, "you must learn to do it correctly."
She demonstrated by holding the bottle and glass in such a way that the stream of beer flowed down the side of the glass. When the glass was full, she exchanged both for the other bottle and glass, and held them in his direction.
"Now you may try," she said.
He took them from her and imitated her technique, and soon they were each holding a full glass.
"To new experiences," he said.
He was fascinated to see that the tips of her ears flushed when he tapped his glass to hers, but she attempted to hide it by quickly taking a drink. He did the same, and he tried not to react to the bitter taste of the beer.
"It is an acquired taste," she said apologetically.
He met her eyes, concerned that he would have to reassure her some more, but when he saw the humor in her expression, he relaxed. Perhaps this evening would not be so awkward after all.
* * * * * * * *
Four hours and twelve minutes later, he was accompanying her up the front walk to her house. The ground was wet, but he could see gaps in the clouds through which the stars shone, so he knew that the rain had passed. They stopped in front of her door, and she faced him.
"Thank you for taking me out to eat," she said. "I enjoyed myself very much."
"It was my pleasure."
"I hope that you do not regret eating the spicy food."
"I do not."
They stood there silently and looked at each other for so long that he began to wonder how to end this gracefully. If she were a human woman, he knew that she would expect a kiss, but fortunately a Vulcan woman would have no such expectation. However, he had climbed the front steps with her and crossed the generous, shaded porch, and now they could go no further unless she invited him in. He did not know whether he wished for such an invitation or not, and he began to experience a slight anxiousness when he tried to decide how he would answer.
Fortunately, she solved his dilemma. Placing her hand on the front door control, she said, "Good night."
The breeze stirred just the ends of her long hair, and he realized that if he were to be honest with himself, he was disappointed that the time had come to end his evening with her. Remembering how Saavik had urged him to explain that he was leaving Earth tomorrow, he decided that there was an alternative he had not considered before.
"May I call you tomorrow?" he asked.
She had been looking at her hand on the control when he spoke, but she slowly brought her eyes up to meet his. They were so close in height that she did not even have to raise her chin to do it.
"Yes," she said.
He nodded, and she nodded back.
"Good night T'Val. I will speak with you tomorrow."
He waited until she was inside, then started back to his flitter. As he walked down her sidewalk, he computed the time it would take him to get back to Saavik's house and what hour it would be on Vulcan when he arrived. If he exceeded the speed limit only slightly, he would be able to reach T'Miren and ask her to reschedule next week's appointments before she left the Embassy for the day.
End chapter four
The Waking Man, Chapter Five
Two days later, Spock found himself in Atlanta watching a troupe of Minzu WuJu dancers from Peking. It was not something he would have chosen himself, but it was surprisingly entertaining. The dancers were performing a classic dance drama called "The Magic Lotus Lantern." Nyota had always enjoyed the ballet, and he had tolerated it for her sake. This, though, captured his interest. It was undeniably Chinese, with its stylized masks and distinctive music, but the graceful movements and careful, acrobatic precision reminded him of Vulcan K'ta dancers. His mother had often taken him to the K'ta'ru when he was a child, and he had not thought of them for years.
He took a moment to surreptitiously study T'Val. She was clearly enraptured by the dance, her eyes large and her lips slightly parted, and she was tapping the arm of her seat with just her index finger almost but not quite in time with the music. She was not beautiful in the sense of the Vulcan ideal--her eyes were more amber than brown, her face was slightly too round, and her hair, while straight, had one place just off-center in her hairline where it wanted to grow in a contrary direction--but he found her appearance oddly arresting, nonetheless.
The music ended with a flourish, and Spock quickly faced forward again before she could catch him watching her.
They both clapped politely, and he opened the program to see how long the intermission was to last. She leaned close to his shoulder so she could read it with him.
"We have time for a beverage," she said. "Would you like to have a glass of wine with me?"
"Are you certain you would not prefer beer?"
Just the ghost of a smile graced her lips. "Wine is more appropriate for a refined venue such as this, and I am fond of wine."
He stood and followed her to the lobby. "Red or white?" he asked.
She waited at the side of the lobby while he bought two glasses of red wine and returned. She sipped and said, "Cabernet?"
"Actually, it is Merlot."
She made a small downward movement with her hand, and although he didn't hear anything, he thought that she might have snapped her fingers. "Merlot. I should have known. Unfortunately, I am not good at identifying wine. Please forgive my ignorance."
"Perhaps I should not confess that I merely asked for red wine and read the label on the bottle."
"That would be wise, for I am quite impressed. An extensive knowledge of beer such as I possess is not nearly so sophisticated."
"Ah, but I was impressed by that. I look forward to the time when you can demonstrate your knowledge again."
She met his eyes shyly before taking another sip. "What do you think of the dancers?"
"I am enjoying the performance. They remind me of the K'ta'ru."
She looked at him with obvious delight. "They remind me of the K'ta'ru, too. When I was young, I was enamored with K'ta, and that is why I always attend when the Minzu Wuju are in town."
"Did you study K'ta as a child?"
"No. I was much too tall and clumsy, which is just as well because my parents did not possess the resources to pay for expensive lessons." She looked up when the overhead lights dimmed and brightened again. "It must be time to return."
"It is." He extended his hand toward her. "If you will give me your glass, I will place it on that table."
Instead of immediately giving him the glass as he had expected, she drained it before handing him the empty glass. He hid his amusement as he placed both glasses on the table in the corner. If he were to finish his wine so quickly, he thought it likely that he would become inebriated, but he deduced that she would have no such problem. He had never known a Vulcan who tolerated alcohol well, but evidently she was unique. Indeed, he was quickly learning that she was unique in a number of respects.
He escorted her back to their seats just as the house lights were lowered permanently and the dancers took the stage again.
* * * * * * * *
Standing over the kitchen sink with an apple under the water, Saavik heard the chime of an incoming comm signal. She put down the apple and grabbed a dish towel, and dried her hands on the way to the office.
She sat in the chair. "Computer, accept call." The screen brightened to show T'Miren, Spock's aide.
"Greetings, T'Miren," she said.
"Greetings, Saavik. How are you?"
"I am well. And you?"
"I am well," T'Miren replied. "May I speak with Spock?"
"He is not here right now."
"I see. Would you tell him to call me?"
Saavik checked the chronometer at the corner of the display. "It might be quite late when he returns. Should I tell him to contact you at home?"
"It will be late? I had assumed that he was with the children. No matter. He is welcome to contact me at home."
Saavik glanced over her shoulder to ensure that Michael was not close enough to hear her. "He is on a date."
Both of T'Miren's eyebrows shot up. "He is seeing someone?"
"Yes. He met her only recently, but he is evidently quite taken with her. I am certain that she is the reason he extended his vacation."
"He gave me no indication of this when we spoke. Is she human?"
"No, she is Vulcan. She is a doctor in Atlanta."
"What is her name?"
"Is her name spelled with an 'a' or an 'o'?
"With an 'a'."
T'Miren took a moment to process this information, but obviously she had never heard of T'Val. Finally, she said, "If he comes home too late tonight, tell him that it is acceptable if he calls tomorrow. It is not urgent."
"I will give him the message."
"Thank you, Saavik. T'Miren out."
Saavik picked up the dish towel and returned to the kitchen.
* * * * * * * *
Once again, Spock walked T'Val to her front door, and once again, she did not invite him in. She also kept a formal distance between them, so he made no attempt to touch her. On the whole, this was much easier than it was last time, for he did not have to decide how to say goodbye to her.
"May I call you tomorrow?" he asked.
"I would like that," she replied.
They exchanged good nights, and he left.
* * * * * * * *
When he arrived home, Saavik met him at the front door. She was dressed for bed, but she had obviously been awake and waiting for him.
"T'Miren called and wishes you to contact her," she said without preamble. "She said that it can wait until tomorrow."
"Thank you, Saavik."
He expected her to return to her room, but she made no sign of moving. They looked at one another until she asked, "How did it go?"
"It was agreeable."
"Good. Are you going to see her again?"
"I told her that I would contact her tomorrow."
"Very good. What do you think you'll do?"
He raised an eyebrow. "If I had known that I was to be interrogated upon my return, I would have been stealthier when I entered the house."
"I am simply pleased on your behalf. You do not need to tell me if you do not want to."
He permitted himself a small sigh. "I thought that she and I might attend a lecture on vibrational polarity in trilithium piezoelectric nanotechnology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. I..."
His voice trailed away when she wrinkled her nose in obvious distaste.
"It promises to be a fascinating topic," he said, somewhat defensively. "I am well acquainted with the presenter. He is an expert in the field."
"That does not sound like much of a date to me."
"It is a perfectly acceptable 'date.' After all, is the purpose of assignations such as this not to ascertain mutual compatibility?"
"It is difficult to ascertain mutual compatibility when the other party is lulled into a stupor by boredom."
He pressed his lips together, but finally he took a deep breath and said, "Very well. If you must know, I have no idea what I am doing. If we were on Vulcan, it would be much easier to locate acceptable forums in which to cultivate joint interests and learn about one another. Indeed, one can attend events that are designed for precisely such a purpose. It is not so easy on Earth. Do you have any suggestions?"
Her brow grew furrowed, and Spock waited patiently in the silence. Finally, he said, "You do not know, either. You are hardly in a position to criticize my idea."
"I know enough to know that your idea was bad. The weather is supposed to be nice for the next several days. Do something outdoors."
"I know! When Cecilia was dating Jacob, they went to Charleston for the day. She went on and on about how pretty it was. You should do that."
He thought about it for a moment before nodding grudgingly. "Actually, that could work quite well. Charleston has a rich historical background, and I would like to learn more about it."
"Good," she gloated. "I will ask Cecilia for more ideas."
"That is acceptable. Now, if you will excuse me, I will retire for the night."
"Me, too. Goodnight, Spock."
End chapter five
The Waking Man, Chapter Six
Spock and T'Val strolled down the shaded sidewalk, pausing to look at each grand old home along the way. A group had just passed in the opposite direction, and he could hear the tour guide tell a story about a ghost that supposedly watched from the highest window of the nearest house, the spirit of a woman whose husband went to sea and never returned.
Spock started to move on, but T'Val stalled him with an upraised hand. When the guide finished the story, she finally faced him again.
"I am always fascinated by the stories humans tell," she said. "The children on the ward are never happier than when they are being frightened by a ghost story."
"My mother always enjoyed ghosts and ghost stories. I will never forget being taken to a 'haunted house' one Halloween when I was very young and we were on Earth visiting my grandmother."
"What did you think of it?"
"I was unimpressed, although I did quite enjoy the caramel apple she bought me afterward."
"Tell me about your mother. What was it like to grow up with a human mother?"
"It was normal to me, so I have no basis for comparison. I am certain that there were differences between my household and others, but to me, she was simply my mother."
"Could you describe her to me?"
"She was of average height with blue eyes and dark blonde hair, although her hair had turned completely gray by the time she died. She was also very kind and gentle, and it was readily apparent that her education had been of the highest caliber. She could display a temper, but compared to many other humans, her temper was not bad. She liked to laugh." He gazed at the so-called haunted house as he remembered another human who had liked to laugh. "Even after living many years on Vulcan, she was not afraid to laugh."
"I would have liked to meet her. Although I did not get to know your father well when he was in the hospital, I believe that for him to have married a human, she must have been very special."
"She was." He gestured ahead of them. "Would you care to walk again?"
She nodded, and they started moving. "Did you spend much time on Earth?" she asked.
"Yes. My mother and I came here at least once a year for an extended visit while I was young, and after I joined Starfleet, I spent much more time here than I did on Vulcan until I moved back in 2293."
"Earth is a nice place to live. I have never regretted coming here. I do not intend ever to return to Vulcan."
"Do you go back for visits?"
"Never," she said flatly. She looked at the brochure she had picked up earlier and gestured toward a side street. "I believe that the market is that way. Would you care to see it?"
He frowned slightly at the sudden change in topic, but he did not pursue it. Instead, he nodded and started across the street. "I would be most interested in seeing the market. Is there anything in particular you hope to find there?"
"I understand that the primary local craft is basket weaving, and I would like to purchase one if I can find one that appeals to me."
"Very well. We will search for baskets."
She grew quiet while she studied an ancient cemetery they were passing, but he hardly noticed the cemetery as he wondered why she had been so certain that she would never return to Vulcan.
* * * * * * * *
Glad to be home, Saavik loosened her collar and carried her satchel into the office. She had been forced to deal with several unexpected issues at work this afternoon, so now she was going to have to complete tomorrow morning's report tonight. First, though, there was something else she needed to do.
She sat at the desk. "Computer. Contact Cecilia at home."
She waited patiently until the screen brightened to show Cecilia, with the baby on her lap.
"Grandmother!" Cecilia said. "What a nice surprise! Say hello to great-grandma, Rachel." Cecilia took the baby's tiny fist in her hand and wiggled it.
"Hello, Cecilia. Rachel is growing so big. Look at all that hair."
"She's starting to get her first tooth." Cecilia poked a finger in the baby's mouth to show Saavik the budding tooth. "She's cranky all the time. She hasn't let me put her down all day."
"No doubt you have your hands full. I will not keep you long. I have something to ask you."
"Sure." She shifted the baby to her other knee. "What is it?"
"You are aware that Spock has been seeing a woman socially, are you not?"
"He's still seeing her? Wow! That's really something."
"As I am certain you know, he and Nyota were already well acquainted when they began their relationship, so they did not have to go through the awkward 'dating' phase. Therefore, he is experiencing difficulty now. Just yesterday, he told me that he was taking T'Val to a nanotechnology lecture, but I talked him into taking her to Charleston instead. I remembered how much you enjoyed going there with Jacob when you were dating."
A dreamy smile appeared on Cecilia's face. "Oh, yes."
"My point exactly. You are not far distanced from your dating experience. It is my hope that you can offer some suggestions for his dates with T'Val."
"Sure. Um, they're really old..."
Saavik raised an eyebrow. "They are not so old. T'Val is younger than I am."
"Still, there's no way they'd go surfing or dancing or any of the things Jacob and I used to do. Old people like bingo, don't they? Maybe he could take her to a bingo hall."
"I do not think---"
"Or shuffleboard! There's this little old lady in our building, Mrs. Eisenberg, who goes to play shuffleboard once a week. She really enjoys it. You should try it sometime, Grandmother."
"Oh, and Mrs. Eisenberg said that she's going on a cruise to the Bahamas in a couple of months. Well, maybe that's not such a good idea for Spock and his lady friend. It's an overnight thing, and really, I can't imagine, you know..." Cecilia lifted her shoulders and shuddered delicately. "I mean, I know people that age have s-e-x, but, well, you and Grandfather have been together for a long time, so you know what I mean."
She paused to shudder again, and to Saavik's great relief the baby started fussing.
"I see that you need to go," said Saavik. "It was good talking to you. I will consider your suggestions."
"Okay! I'm glad I could help. I'll talk to you soon, Grandmother. Goodbye."
Saavik terminated the connection and leaned back in her chair. Really, from where did Cecilia get such outspoken tendencies?
She reached for her satchel and turned her mind to her report.
* * * * * * * *
Seated at the breakfast table, Spock looked up when Saavik entered the room.
"Good morning," he said.
"Good morning." She poured a cup of coffee, sat down next to him, and gazed out the window. "It appears that we will have another nice day today."
"Yes. The sky is unusually clear this morning, and the weather report states that the temperature will be comfortable and mild. It is unfortunate that the weather was not this cooperative while the children were here."
"Yes, it is." She paused to inhale the steam coming off her coffee. "What are your plans for the day?"
"T'Miren forwarded several communiques to which I must respond this morning, and after that T'Val and I are going to lunch. She stated that there is a new restaurant she wishes to try. After that, I do not know. We are both free for the remainder of the day. Did Cecilia have any suggestions about interesting activities for us?"
"She is still thinking about it," Saavik said evasively.
"No matter. I assume that we will find something interesting with which to occupy ourselves."
Her eyes on her coffee, Saavik nonchalantly said, "Speaking of finding something interesting to occupy yourselves, I have noticed that you always come home at a respectable hour. If it works out that you should happen to want to stay out later, or perhaps even stay out all night, it would not be a problem."
"Saavikam, is that a subtle attempt to discern the nature of our relationship?"
Giving up all pretense of casual interest, she leaned forward and placed her hand flat on the table. "You cannot blame me for being curious. You have spent the last four evenings with her, yet you always come home as if nothing has happened, and you do not tell me anything!"
"There is nothing to tell."
"I do not believe you. You are obviously very fond of her, and it has been a long time since you were with a woman."
"Saavik! Do not be impolite."
"It is true, is it not?" she said stubbornly.
He looked at her sternly, but finally said, "That is beside the point. She is a dignified woman, and my behavior toward her is proper. As it should be."
"That is simply another way of saying that you are not getting lucky."
He decided that such a statement was not worthy of a response, so he looked back down at his newspadd.
"Are you falling in love with her?" Saavik asked.
Closing his eyes briefly, he realized that she would not let the conversation end if he did not at least partially satisfy her curiosity.
"I will admit that I enjoy her friendship, but 'love' does not enter into the equation. You know that."
"You loved Nyota."
"That was different. She was human."
"And T'Val is Vulcan. Maybe it is different, but I know that it is not that different. You are a man, and she is a woman. You may think that the two of you are just friends, but if you want my opinion, you will be sorry if you leave tomorrow without making an attempt to take it beyond mere friendship."
He seized on this opening to discuss a different topic. "Actually, if you do not mind, I would like to extend my visit two more days. When I talked to T'Miren this morning, she told me that she had taken the liberty of arranging for one of the junior ambassadors to meet with the Bolian High Counsel. I had intended to return for that, but it is not a challenging assignment and it will be a good experience for him."
"Michael and I will be very pleased to have you." She lowered her voice. "And if you should happen to change your mind about precisely where you want to stay while you are on Earth, we will be fine with that, too."
He shook his head and returned his attention to his breakfast, but she did not give up so easily.
"Or perhaps you could bring her here for a visit one evening. I would like very much to meet her. Maybe you could do that before you leave."
He did not take his eyes away from the padd by the side of his plate, but he knew that she was watching him closely.
Finally, he said, "I will consider it, Saavik."
"Good. Invite her on Friday." She stood and put her cup in the sink. "Since it appears that you will be leaving on Saturday, the timing will work out very well. I must go to work now."
He watched her leave, then took a deep breath. Even though he had not agreed to her idea, it would appear that the matter was settled.
* * * * * * * *
Spock parked his flitter in the spacious garage next to Crawford Long Medical Center, and set out toward the pedestrian bridge that would take him to the main building. T'Val had said that she needed to see some patients before lunch, so he had agreed to pick her up at work. He was pleased to do this, because he knew that Wednesday was also the day McCoy came to the hospital. He would be able to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.
As he entered the building, he thought again about what Saavik had said this morning, and he remembered how as a child she had done everything she could to get Nyota and him to be together. That had been many, many years ago, but evidently she had never gotten over the impulse to meddle in his personal life. She did not understand that as two adult Vulcans, he and T'Val were in no hurry to enter into a physical relationship. As it was, he had not touched her once, not even the most casual touch. Of course, he found her quite attractive, but while Nyota had never been far from his thoughts in even the most ordinary circumstances, he had found himself remembering her even more vividly in the past few days, and he knew that all he wanted from T'Val was companionship. He did not need anything more.
He followed the signs to the pediatric ward and approached the desk inside the door. "My name is Spock, and I am seeking Dr. T'Val. Is she available?"
The young man nodded. "She told me to expect you. She's with her last patient, and if you'll have a seat in the waiting area, she'll be right with you."
Spock walked around a pile of brightly-colored blocks and a small table covered with coloring books, and took a seat in an undersized chair. A little girl who was sitting on the floor undressing a doll looked at him with huge, blue eyes, but she soon returned to her task.
"Hey, Spock, T'Val told me that you were coming by."
He looked up to see McCoy heading in his direction. "Greetings, Doctor. I had hoped that I might see you here today."
"Me, too. I've been watching for you." He took an agonizingly long moment to sit in one of the small chairs. "So you and T'Val have been hitting it off pretty well, have you?"
Wondering if he was about to be subjected to another inquisition, Spock cautiously replied, "We have been enjoying one another's company a great deal."
"Yeah, she's a great gal. Smart as a whip, and sweet, too. The kids here love her."
"I have no doubt that they do."
"I think she's quite smitten with you, although damned if I know why."
Accepting the barb in the spirit in which it was intended, Spock retorted, "Perhaps it is because she is as 'smart as a whip.'"
McCoy snorted, but then became serious. "Well, you just be sure you treat her right, Spock. She hasn't had an easy life."
Spock hesitated, uncertain what McCoy meant by this, but in the end he simply said, "You know that I will, Doctor."
"I know." McCoy patted Spock on the arm and stood. "I'll tell her you're here."
McCoy scooted away before Spock could say anything else, and a few minutes later, he reappeared with T'Val beside him. Spock stood to greet her.
"Are you ready?" he asked.
"Yes, I am ready."
They walked into the hallway with McCoy, but he headed in the opposite direction.
"You kids have a good time," he said. "I'll see you later."
They said their goodbyes, but just as they had crossed the pedestrian bridge, she stopped.
"One moment." She touched him lightly on the elbow. "I meant to ask Leonard about one of his patients. Would you mind returning to the ward? It will be very quick."
He did not respond at first, so surprised by her touch that he could not formulate words. She watched him expectantly, evidently unaware that she had done it. Finally, he nodded, so she turned back and trotted across the bridge. After a moment, he roused himself and followed.
End chapter six
The Waking Man, Chapter Seven
Michael watched Saavik check the casserole for what must have been the fifth time in as many minutes.
"You know," he said, "it's never going to get hot if you keep opening the oven door."
She glared at him for a moment, but then seemed to wilt. She came over to sit beside him.
Putting both elbows on the table, she covered her eyes. "I just want it to be perfect. Spock seems to be quite taken by this woman. What if the food is terrible? Or she is bored? I might say the wrong thing and offend her, or---"
"Saavik." He pulled one hand away from her face. "It'll be fine. Why are you so worked up about this?"
"She is a full-blooded Vulcan. I have had so little contact with real Vulcans, and I do not want to ruin this for him. He has been alone much too long, Michael. I just want him to be happy."
"His happiness doesn't hinge on the success of this evening. Besides, I know she'll like you. How can she not?"
"But what..." She hesitated, and then blurted, "What if I do not like her?"
Michael put her hand on the table and covered it with his own, stalling until he could think of a response to this. Finally, he said, "Why do you think that you might not like her?"
"I do not know. I want to like her, truly I do, but secretly I think that I might actually be angry at her, which is foolish because I have never even met her."
"Is it because you feel like she might replace Nyota in your life?"
"No! Well, perhaps. Michael, I do not know. I am so confused. I know that no one can ever replace Nyota, not for me and not for Spock, yet this is the first time he's shown any real interest in another woman since she died. It is not as if he is being unfaithful to her, but..." She hesitated.
"But I am also a little angry at Spock, while I am also very happy for him. It is so foolish."
"It's not foolish. It's normal. Even if this doesn't turn out to be anything, he's finally showing some signs of moving on, and the inevitable result is that things will change for both you and him." He rubbed her hand. "You know, when I'm gone, I hope that you'll find someone else."
She opened her mouth to object, but he continued before she could say anything. "I know that he won't replace me, but I also know that you have a big heart and there will be room enough for both of us if you'll only allow it."
Looking down at her hand in his, she said, "I do not want to contemplate that day, and I may not do as you wish, but I promise I will remember that you said this."
"That's all I ask."
They sat quietly until a small ding sounded from the oven, at almost the same instant that a signal sounded from the front door.
Saavik jumped up and grabbed the rumpled dish towel, the cheese grater, and a few other items that had been left out on the countertop. Shoving them all into the same drawer, she said, "Michael! Will you remove the casserole while I get the door?"
He heard Spock coming down the steps, and she hurried out of the kitchen without waiting for a response.
"Sure, I'd be glad to take the casserole out of the oven," he said with a chuckle. He put it on a warmer and stuck the oven mitts into the drawer with the dish towel and cheese grater, and headed toward the front of the house. He got there just as Saavik opened the door to reveal a tall Vulcan woman.
"Come in," said Saavik. "I am Saavik, and this is Michael, my husband."
She stepped through the front door almost timidly. "It is nice to meet both of you. Hello, Spock."
"Hello, T'Val. I am pleased that you could come."
"It is my pleasure." She allowed Saavik to usher her into the den. "You have a lovely home. Do you enjoy living on the beach?"
"Very much," said Saavik.
Grinning, Michael said, "Saavik has always loved the beach. This house has been in my family for several generations, and I've always said that she married me because beachfront property was part of the package."
Obviously getting the joke, T'Val said, "There are worse criteria upon which to base the choice of one's mate."
"See?" Saavik elbowed him gently in the ribs. "T'Val is a very wise woman. She knows the importance of real estate."
Michael laughed and glanced over at Spock, who had said very little since T'Val arrived. Spock was standing by her side, and Michael's laughter dwindled away when he noticed how closely Spock was watching her. Well. Saavik said that Spock had claimed they were just friends, and maybe that's what he believed, but this wasn't the look of a man who was just watching a friend. Michael sneaked a peek at Saavik, and he saw that she had noticed it, too.
She pointed toward the back door. "T'Val, would you care to sit out on the deck and have a beverage before dinner? Dolphins were playing in the surf earlier, and they might still be out there."
T'Val looked quickly toward the window with interest. "I would like that. It is a very pleasant evening to be outside."
Spock finally broke his silence. "Would you like a beer? I believe that there are some in the refrigerator."
Surprised, Michael met Saavik's eyes again to see that her reaction was the same, but they both looked away before Spock or T'Val could notice.
"Yes, thank you," she said.
Saavik asked, "Spock, what about you?"
A significant look passed between Spock and T'Val, and when Saavik turned toward the kitchen to retrieve the drinks, Michael saw her exaggeratedly raise both eyebrows.
"Michael, will you help me?" she asked.
He obediently followed her into the kitchen while Spock and T'Val went out to the deck. As soon they were out of sight, she grabbed his elbow.
"He is drinking beer!"
Michael grinned. "Yeah, I noticed. What do you think of her?"
"I think that I will like her very much. She is not what I expected, however."
"Same here. She doesn't act like any other Vulcan I've ever met. She's, I don't know, too casual. She's not all hung up on formality, and I can tell that she doesn't measure the consequences of every word and action."
"Yes! She actually seems like she would be spontaneous." Saavik leaned close. "Did you see the way he was looking at her?"
"I sure did."
Saavik shook her head as she reached into the refrigerator. "I have not seen that expression on his face since..."
She didn't complete the sentence, but Michael moved behind her and gave her a soft kiss on the cheek. "I know."
She closed her eyes for a moment, then handed two bottles to him. "Do you also want beer?"
She retrieved one more, gave it to him, and pointed toward the drawer. "Will you get the bottle opener? I will bring the glasses."
"What are you going to have?"
"Water. I will come back for it."
She started to leave the kitchen, but he stepped into her path. "Are you all right?" he asked.
She took a heavy breath. "Yes, actually, I am."
He smiled at her until he saw an answering smile in her eyes, then moved out of her way. She carried the bottles onto the deck, so he found three glasses and followed.
* * * * * * * *
They had ended up eating on the deck, and they had stayed outside until the breeze finally grew too cool for comfort. At the moment, Saavik and Michael were in the kitchen cleaning the dishes. They had insisted that they did not require any help, and Spock knew that it was no accident when he found himself alone with T'Val. He also suspected that it might take Saavik and Michael a very long time to finish.
T'Val stood next to him, gazing out the back window. "The moon's reflection on the water is mesmerizing," she said.
"I find it very calming."
"Yes. I can imagine that it would be easy to lose all sense of time and place here. They are fortunate to live in such a scenic location. I am certain that it was a wonderful place to raise a family."
"Their son, Derek, had a very good childhood here. Interestingly, he chose to live off-planet, but both of his children came back. His son lives in Raleigh with his wife and three children, and his daughter lives in a rural community in Maine."
"Is she the one who just had a baby?"
"That is correct."
She pointed at the water. "What is that?"
He leaned close to her shoulder as he attempted to see. "I believe that it is a school of fish jumping out of the water. Actually, I do not know why we are standing here if we wish to see the water. The view is much better from upstairs. Would you care to go up there?"
"Certainly. I would also like to see the rest of the house, if Saavik and Michael do not mind."
"They will not mind."
He followed her up the stairs and turned on the lights when they came to the room at the top. "This is the nursery. Of course, it has been many years since it was more than a guest room."
She walked over to a high dresser and ran her fingers over a small replica of a carnival merry-go-round. "This looks very old."
"It is. It belonged to one of Michael's ancestors."
"Is it a music box?"
He picked it up and turned it over. "I have never inspected it closely, but I believe that it is. This appears to be the mechanism that would be used to wind it."
He replaced it as she looked around the rest of the room.
"This must be a very bright and cheerful room when the sun is shining, with those large windows across the back."
"This house has many large windows."
She nodded, and he turned out the lights before they moved across the hall to the next room. Turning on those lights, he said, "I understand that this was once the master bedroom, but Saavik and Michael converted the formal dining room and small bedroom downstairs into their bedroom."
"This room is very large."
"However, it does not have an ocean view. Now it is used primarily for storage."
They crossed the hall again to the next room. "This was Derek's bedroom when he was a child."
"I can tell that this was a boy's room. I would be willing to wager that it looked just like this when he was a child, with sports posters on the wall."
"You are correct, except for the bunk beds Michael and Saavik added for the older children to use when they come to visit."
They moved on to the next room. "This is where I stay when I am here," he said.
Her eyes were large as she inspected the massive old bed and matching dresser. "What beautiful antiques. Are they made of oak?"
"The small table in the corner is oak, but the rest is walnut. Did you notice the porch across the back when we were outside?"
"Yes. Does this room exit onto that?"
"All of the rooms across the back do."
He opened the doors to show it to her, but they both stepped back at a gust of cool wind, and he closed them quickly.
"I am certain that it is very enjoyable in warmer weather, but it is a bit too breezy for my taste tonight," she said.
He started toward the door, ready to show her the next room, but she had moved over to the high dresser and picked up a holo from Saavik's collection. He did not have to look at it to know which one it was.
"This is a wonderful shot of you and Saavik. I can tell that it was taken a long time ago, but you both have hardly changed. And this woman--I have seen her in some of Leonard's holos. Who is she?"
"She was my wife. That was taken on the day we were married."
"This is Nyota? She was beautiful."
Spock was surprised that T'Val would know Nyota's name, for she had never asked about his marriage and he had never brought it up, but he just said, "Yes. She was."
"Leonard told me about her, that she was human and her name was Nyota. She must have been in Starfleet when you and Leonard served together."
"We knew one another for many years before we wed."
She ran her fingers gently down the frame, then carefully put it back where it belonged. "Do you miss her very much?"
Empathy in her eyes, she nodded, and they looked at one another until she started toward the door for a continuation of her tour. He turned out the lights and took her into the room at the end of the hall. This time, though, he did not turn on the lights, for they had reached the sunroom that looked out over the ocean.
She gasped and moved to the window. Her fingertips lightly on the glass, she gazed at the magnificent view.
"Impressive, is it not?" he said.
"It is incredible. I have never seen anything like it. If I lived in this house, this is where I would have my room."
"This room was actually not an original part of the house. Michael's mother was ill for a long time before she died, and his father built it for her."
"Being in this place would be a peaceful way to meet one's end, I think. To be surrounded by an endless horizon of water..." Her eyes traveled upward. "And the stars! Look at all the stars."
Standing close, he gazed at them with her. "There is so much to see out there, T'Val. It is an endless frontier of new worlds and their suns, celestial phenomena such as supernovas and nebulas and things that have never been classified."
"I envy you your past. My own small experiences are dwarfed by the life you have lived."
"That is not true. Each person's experiences are valuable. The choices I made are no more important than the choices you made. My life does not diminish yours."
She hung her head for a moment before turning toward him. "Do you know anything about my life?" she asked gently. "Has Leonard told you about my past? How I came to find myself on Earth, a medical student at the age of fifty?"
"He intimated once that you have had a difficult life, but he never gave me any details."
"Have you not wondered?"
"Of course I have, but I did not want to pry."
Crossing her arms, she leaned her head back, then took a deep breath and faced the window. "My parents were very... average. My father was the groundskeeper at a modest estate, my mother worked any odd job that would earn an extra credit or two, and neither of them questioned their drab existence or strived for anything better. I had two younger sisters, and anything we wanted, we had to gain through our own means."
Spock frowned, but he did not interrupt.
She continued. "When I was fourteen, my parents became concerned that they had not yet found a mate for me. My middle sister was nine, and my youngest sister was seven, yet my parents could not make matches for them until they had done something with me. It was a problem, for I was tall and ungainly, with no education or wealth or societal position to make up for my lack of physical attributes. Finally, they promised me to a man 155 years my senior. I pleaded with them to reconsider, but they were so relieved to have arranged what they thought was a future for me that it did not matter how I felt about it."
Spock finally could not remain quiet. "How could they do such a thing? It contradicts everything for which our culture stands."
She regarded him with an upraised eyebrow. "Our culture, or your culture? Your family is well-known, Spock. They have wealth and privilege, and you grew up in very different circles than I did. You were insulated from the common life. Just because your family was always perfectly proper in everything they did does not mean that all others lived that way. Your childhood is as foreign to me as mine is to you."
"But to give you to a man like that---"
"They were happy to find any man for me, and it was even better because this man had resources and he was willing to barter for me."
"He paid them for you?"
"Yes, of course. Do not be so shocked. Exchanges of wealth take place among even the finest families of Vulcan."
"They are gifts."
"You may call them what you want, but all my parents had to offer was me." She leaned forward to emphasize her point. "Perhaps your parents went against tradition and allowed you to make your own choice, but that does not happen often. My parents made the choice for me, and this is what they chose."
He shook his head. "You give my parents too much credit. I, also, was bonded as a child, to a girl named T'Pring. She did not want me when she came of age, and that is why I was free to choose Nyota."
"You are fortunate, then, although I think that your first bondmate must have been a very foolish girl to reject you." She shook her head sadly. "But tell me, was she also seven when the two of you were bonded?"
A small wisp of hair had fallen across her forehead, and he resisted the urge to smooth it away. "Yes," he said.
"Was she from a prominent family like your own? Was she beautiful and refined, and did she attend only the finest schools? And were you both allowed to reach full adulthood before the time came to consummate your union?"
"Yes to all questions," he said reluctantly, knowing where this must be leading.
"When I was nineteen, he took me as his full partner, with all that it implies. Only nineteen. I did not even fully understand what I would face on my wedding night. As it turned out, my wedding night was the least of my concerns. He was not a kind person, and he never let me forget that he had done me a great favor by saving me from certain spinsterhood."
"Did you bear him any children?"
"No. He wanted children, but I took contraceptives without telling him I was doing so. The last thing I wanted was to bring a child into that home. I thought that my parents should not have had me, and I did not want to perpetuate their error."
He looked at the floor for a long moment before meeting her eyes again. "T'Val, I am sorry, truly sorry. No one should have to endure something like this, especially not a young girl with no other options." He hesitated, uncertain whether he wished to ask the obvious next question. "Are you still married to him?"
"No. I endured twenty-eight years of being treated like chattel, a prisoner in my own home. Twenty-eight years of being told that I was unattractive and unworthy. The occasional physical abuse was not so bad, but the constant attacks on my self-worth served to keep me under his control for a long time."
"I simply woke up one morning and decided that I could not live like that one more moment. I walked out of the house with only the clothes on my back, and I fled to a place where he would never find me. I hid for three years, taking any job I could find just like my mother had done when I was young. For the first time in my life, I understood the sacrifices she had made, but I could not find forgiveness for her, nor for my father. Finally, I saved just enough to come to Earth, and I applied to medical school. I am grateful every day of my life for the registrar who saw promise in me, and who admitted me even though I could pay no more than the most meager amount."
This time, he indulged his desire to brush the hair from her forehead, and she closed her eyes and leaned into his touch.
"I think that you are the bravest woman I have ever met," he said.
"It is called desperation, not bravery."
"It is the same thing, whatever you call it. Were you able to divorce him?"
She made a small sound, almost like a bitter laugh. "Ironically, I heard two years ago that he had died, so I am a widow, and I am entitled to his estate if I should wish to claim it. I do not wish to claim it."
His fingertips were still on her forehead, and it was a very easy matter to run them down the side of her face to her chin, and to turn her face up to his. Her eyes were very large in the darkness. They stood like that, looking at one another, until she dropped her gaze and stepped back.
"We should return to Saavik and Michael," she said. "I am certain that they are finished in the kitchen by now."
Not taking his eyes off her, he nodded, but he could not speak. She still did not look at him, but evidently she took his silence for assent, for she turned and left the room. He had no choice but to follow.
* * * * * * * *
Standing at the front door, T'Val addressed Saavik and Michael. "Thank you for inviting me to your home. I had a lovely evening."
"We were very pleased to have you." Saavik opened the door for her. "I hope that you will come back soon."
T'Val's only response was to nod noncomittally, and Spock wondered whether this meant that she would come back again, or she would not. He was still confused by her having pulled away from him earlier. He did not know what he would have done next if she had not, but he would have preferred to be allowed the opportunity to find out.
The door closed behind them, and he walked her to her flitter. She was very quiet. Only when she finally got to her flitter and opened the door did she turn to him.
"Have a safe trip back to Vulcan tomorrow," she said.
"I am certain I will. May I call you once I get there?"
She hesitated just a moment too long. "Yes," she said unconvincingly.
She was turned slightly toward the flitter, so he moved closer in an attempt to be in her line of sight. "What is wrong, T'Val? In my opinion, we have been growing very close to one another, but suddenly you act as if you have changed your mind about wanting to see me."
"I simply... do not wish to mislead you, Spock."
"Mislead me? In what way?"
"It is possible that you want something different from this than I do."
He could not help but cross his arms defensively. "What do you think I want from this?"
"More than I can offer."
"That is a vague answer. Please be more specific."
"Forgive me, but it is the best I can do."
She climbed into her flitter and reached for the door controls, but he grasped the edge of the door before she could complete the motion.
"Allow me to rephrase it, then," said Spock. "I enjoy your company. I desire companionship. Do you not enjoy my company?"
Not looking at him, she said, "Of course I do."
"Do you desire companionship?"
"Then it is decided." He removed his hand from the door. "I shall call you once I reach Vulcan."
Finally, she looked up at him. "Very well. I will talk to you then."
He nodded, so she closed the door and took off. He shook his head and returned to the house. He had no sooner entered the front door than Saavik approached with obvious excitement.
"Spock, I like her very much," she said. "I believe that you and she are a very good match."
Not able to prevent brusqueness from coloring his voice, he said, "Perhaps."
"You do not think so?"
"I do not know."
"Is it because of Nyota? She would want you to be with someone again. I think that she would approve of T'Val."
"Excluding a momentary meeting in the hospital, I have only known the woman for nine days. It is much too soon for this sort of discussion."
"It is not! Nine days is enough time to decide if there is a possibility of a future with her! Why---"
"Saavik, I do not know." He saw the crestfallen expression on her face, so he repeated more gently, "I simply do not know."
"I understand." She grasped his upper arm and leaned close, something she had not done since she was very young. "But whatever happens, I want you to know that it is all right with me."
He swallowed past a sudden obstruction in his throat and placed his hand over hers. "Thank you, Saavikam. It is late now, and I believe that I would just like to go to bed."
Nodding, she stepped back, so he climbed the steps to his room.
End chapter seven
The Waking Man, Chapter Eight
Studying the padd in his hand, Spock left his office and approached T'Miren's desk.
"T'Miren, this is the new trade agreement between the Centaurans and the Tellarites. Could you please contact Mr. Gaav of the Tellar Trade Commission and ask him if export restrictions have recently been eased? The two passages I highlighted directly contradict their current agreement with Vulcan. If something has changed, I would like to arrange a meeting to discuss modifying our trade agreement to reflect the new conditions."
"Who should attend the meeting?"
"You and I will attend, and I think it would be appropriate if Tevek also attended, since he brokered the current agreement. You may leave it up to Mr. Gaav's discretion as to who should represent Tellar. Do not allow him to procrastinate, for this is something we must settle soon."
"I will do that." She took the padd from him. "It is almost 1800 hours East American time on Earth."
He allowed a hint of annoyance to show in his expression, and she quickly found something to occupy her attention on her desk. He returned to his office.
He had told her nothing about T'Val, and only sporadically did the clock in Atlanta reach 1800 hours while he was at work, but somehow T'Miren had discerned that over the last two months he had developed a habit of calling Earth at the same time every alternating Earth day. It was a convenient time for T'Val, since she would have generally arrived home from work but not yet gone out for the evening, so he was willing to arrange it around his own schedule. At any rate, she never called him, so he knew that this was his only choice if he wished to talk to her with any regularity.
He deliberately waited until five minutes after 1800 hours to turn to his computer.
"Computer. Contact T'Val."
The computer found her number in its memory bank and initiated the call. Moments later, the screen brightened to show her face. She was wearing her baseball cap, so he assumed that she was on her way to Dr. McCoy's house.
"Hello, Spock," she said.
"Greetings, T'Val. I see that you are ready to do some yard work."
"Actually, Leonard expressed a desire to go to a baseball game, so soon I will be leaving to pick him up."
"I see. I had assumed that your cap was merely functional, and not symbolic."
"It is primarily functional. Leonard insisted on purchasing it for me the last time we went to a game. I have found that it is an effective way to keep the sun off my nose." She pushed the bill of the cap up. "How is work? The last time we talked, you mentioned the possibility of a peace conference. Are your plans any further along?"
"Yes. I have commitment from eight Federation member worlds, and several others have unofficially told me that they will send representatives. I hesitate to call it a peace conference, however, for there is no conflict to settle. It is more a show of solidarity, so perhaps the term 'summit' would be more appropriate."
"I see. It sounds like it could be quite interesting, regardless."
He shrugged lightly. "I am not certain that I would choose the word 'interesting' to describe it, but it will be beneficial to renew old contacts and make new ones. How is your seizure patient?"
"She is doing better. We have pinpointed the area of her brain that is causing the seizures, and I am consulting with the surgeon tomorrow. We hope that we can correct the problem with some minor surgery."
"What of the sibling? You had mentioned concern over the genetic factor."
"We have found no abnormalities in his brain, which is a great relief to all involved. As I told you, the parents lost their first child to this malady six months ago, and I do not know how they could bear the loss of another."
"It is an unfortunate situation."
"Yes, it is, but everyone is feeling quite optimistic at the moment."
"That is good." He paused, then casually said, "The season of K'Rukh is nearly upon us, and the schedule of events should be available soon. It would be a good time for you to visit Vulcan."
She shook her head. "We have discussed this before. You know my answer."
"You are being illogical, T'Val. There is no one here who can hurt you anymore. Your parents live on the other side of the planet, and you do not need to face them if you do not want to."
"You are being illogical, for you keep making a request that you know I cannot grant. I will never set foot on Vulcan again."
"If we are to debate logic, I would submit that such inflexibility is self-defeating."
"And I would say that discussing this yet again is futile."
Her voice had developed an edge, so he decided to concede this round. "Very well. I will consider the matter closed, but only for the moment, for I have learned that persistence is a virtue."
"I would hardly call it persistence." Although her tone was still sharp, her expression did not match it. "I believe that Leonard would call it stubborn bullheadedness."
"That would probably be the most polite version of what he would say. Enjoy your baseball game. I will talk to you in two days."
The screen grew dark, but before he could return his attention to his work, the computer signaled an incoming call.
"Computer. Accept call." This time, he saw his father's face. "Greetings, Father.
"Greetings, Spock. I am planning to contact Elas today about a matter unrelated to the summit meeting, but I thought it best if I kept abreast of the latest developments in case the topic comes up. Has the Elasian delegate responded to the invitation yet?"
Spock frowned. "He said that he will attend only if he is allowed to participate in organizing the security for the event, so I forwarded the latest plan to him. I told you this yesterday."
"Ah, yes. Of course you did. Is he satisfied?"
"He has not yet replied. Father, how did your appointment with the healer go this morning?"
"It went well. You should contact the Elasians rather than waiting for them to contact you. They are certain to want changes."
"I am certain they will, too, but I must allow them time to review the document. Pressuring them will benefit no one. What sort of examination did the healer do?"
"It was quite routine, just a check-up. Perhaps you are right about the Elasians, but I am concerned that they will deliberately wait until the last moment and use this as an excuse not to attend."
"I will not allow that to happen. Did the healer tell you anything new? Did he adjust your medication?"
"That is enough!" Sarek exclaimed. "I am tired of your incessant questions."
Spock tried not to react to his father's sudden anger, but he knew that he was not entirely successful. "I merely ask out of concern for you," he said.
"If you are so concerned for me, you will let the matter drop! I do not answer to you."
"Of course you do not, but---"
"I will not discuss this anymore. Sarek out."
The screen grew dark, and Spock exhaled slowly. He took a moment to compose himself, then put in a call to the healer. If Sarek would not give him any information, he would speak with someone who would.
* * * * * * * *
Spock sat in his flitter and looked up at the big house on the side of the mountain. This had seemed like a good idea after he spoke with the healer, but now he was not so certain. He had been sitting here long enough that Perrin might have already seen him, however, so there was nothing to do but go forward with his plan.
He left the flitter and started up the long front walk. This was his family's ancestral home, but it was so large and uncomfortable that no one had lived in it for generations. Perrin had decided that it suited her station in society, though, so she and Sarek had attempted to turn it into a home, albeit a very inhospitable and unwelcoming home. He certainly felt like a stranger here, or even an intruder. His presence would not be welcome. Perhaps she would turn him away at the door and spare him what was certain to be an uncomfortable conversation.
He signaled his presence at the door. After several minutes, the door opened, and she regarded him a long moment before saying coolly, "Spock."
He answered her in the same tone. "Perrin."
"Sarek is not here."
"I am aware of that."
She nodded and stepped back, and he took that as permission to enter. She did not invite him further into the home.
"I wish to discuss Sarek's health," he said.
"I spoke with his healer earlier today. He told me that he wanted to adjust Sarek's medicine, but Sarek refused."
"Does Sarek know that you talked to his healer?"
"No," Spock admitted.
"He will not be pleased."
"That is why I came when I knew he would not be home. He is forgetful and easily agitated, and he will not allow me to discuss the topic of his medical care. I am here to enlist your help."
She arched one eyebrow. "My help? Are you so desperate that you'd come to me?"
He knew that her words were intended as sarcasm, but all he could do was agree. "Yes. I am that desperate."
She tilted her head assessingly. "What would you think if I told you that Sarek and I discussed this, and we agreed that he should not take his medication anymore at all?"
He frowned, so she continued.
"It interferes with his ability to think clearly. He is nothing without his intellect. Those are his very words. And I agree with his decision."
"What use is his intellect if he suffers from memory loss? Or if he cannot keep his emotions in check? Perrin, this is yet another manifestation of his illness, and you cannot reinforce his faulty thought processes."
"How dare you come in here and tell me what I can and can't do if you don't have all the facts! There is more than one way to deal with this illness. There are meditative techniques, behavior modifications, and other alternative approaches."
Already certain of the answer, he asked, "Are they working?"
She stiffened. "It takes time."
"Time is a luxury he may not have." He opened the door. "Despite what you think, I did not come here to antagonize you. If you have my father's best interests at heart, you must take another look at your options. Do not risk his life because of a grudge you hold against me."
Taking a step toward him, she said, "You give yourself too much credit. What you want or don't want in this situation is of no matter to me. You're not as important as you think you are."
"Then prove it. Make the best choice for Sarek, even if it is what I would choose myself."
She put her hand on the door, and he was forced to take a step back so she would not slam it in his face. "I believe that I have already proven it. Goodbye."
The massive old door closed with a heavy thud, and he was alone once again. He took a deep breath and returned to his flitter.
* * * * * * * *
That night, Spock filled a kettle with water and put it on to boil. It would have been easier to dispense the hot water directly from the tap, but Nyota had always insisted that the tea tasted better when one started with cold water. He turned the kettle slightly to see the dent from the time she had dropped it in their kitchen in San Francisco. She had become angry over the dent, but she would never allow him to buy her a new one.
He gazed out the window into the night while he waited. Why did Perrin and Sarek refuse to listen to reason? He was reminded of Steven when he was two years old, who would think that because he had covered his own eyes, you could not see him. It seemed they had decided that if they pretended Sarek was not ill, the illness would go away. Illogical.
The kettle whistled, so he poured the water into his cup and sat at the table while it brewed. The house was very quiet. He considered turning on the tri-vee just to hear the sound of another voice, but instead he stared at the cup until the tea was ready. He rose, discarded the tea leaves, and sat down at the table again while he waited for the tea to cool.
The steam spiraled up from the cup, and he watched it rise until it turned into tiny wisps that soon vanished entirely. He idly calculated the time in Atlanta. Six point eight hours had passed since his call this afternoon, so it would be past midnight there now. T'Val was no doubt already in bed, asleep.
Trying the tea, he found that it had cooled enough to drink, so he sipped while replaying his conversation with Sarek earlier. Sarek had become impatient, expressing the desire that Spock leave him alone. Spock remembered being short with his parents when he was thirteen years old and suffering from a persistent ache in his knees, an ache that prevented him from participating fully in physical activities and often kept him awake at night. He had resented their concern, and he had done everything in his power to avoid going to the healer. As it had turned out, it had merely been the pain of stretched ligaments, stressed because his bones were growing so quickly the ligaments could not keep up. Regardless, he had felt too mature to be subjected to such parental concerns. Now he felt like the parent, trying to coax a child into doing what the doctor thought was best. It was inevitable that the roles would be reversed, but he had never expected the day to actually be upon him.
He finished the tea, so he placed the cup in the cleaner and wandered into the den. His book rested on the table beside the sofa, and although he paused to look at it, he eventually continued down the back hallway to Saavik's room. The bed was perfectly made, just awaiting a guest, but Saavik had become so involved with her great-grandchildren that she did not come to visit very often anymore.
His bedroom was to the left, but it was too early to retire, and he did not want to meditate. The room was uninviting, at any rate. He had experienced great difficulty sleeping in that bed after Nyota had died, but somewhere along the way the ache over the empty pillow beside him had evolved into comfort from the memory of their many good years together. Now, though, he remembered those long, lonely nights. He turned away and headed toward his study.
He sat at his desk and stared at the computer. It was now well into the wee hours of the morning in Atlanta, much too late to disturb T'Val. The silence in his home was overwhelming, however, so he addressed the computer before he could change his mind.
"Computer. Contact T'Val."
As his office computer had done earlier today, this computer accessed her number and put the call through to Earth. The computer hummed for so long that he almost canceled the call without leaving a message, but finally the screen brightened to show T'Val. Her hair was mussed, and her eyes were heavy.
"Spock!" she said. "Is something wrong?"
He wrinkled his brow apologetically and replied, "Forgive me for waking you. I simply felt the need to talk to you."
"What is it? What has happened?"
His elbow on the arm of his chair, he briefly closed his eyes and rested his forehead on his fingertips. "It is Sarek. He is getting worse, and I do not know how to deal with it."
"Oh, Spock. I am sorry. Is the medication not working?"
"His healer believes that an adjustment is all that is required, but Sarek has discontinued his medication entirely. I even went to Perrin today, but she supports his decision. It seems that I am the only person who sees reason in this situation, and I am at wit's end."
"Why is he resisting the doctor's advice?"
"He claims that it interferes with his thought processes. Evidently he and Perrin have done some research of their own, and they have chosen to try alternative approaches."
"Meditative techniques and behavior modification, which are clearly not working."
She inhaled deeply. "Spock, sometimes the best thing we can do for a patient like this is to back off. Allow him to make his own choices."
"What if his choices are wrong? Am I to stand by while he continues to deteriorate?"
"You have to understand that things are happening to him that are outside his control. He has suppressed the emotion of fright his entire life, yet just when he most needs his emotional control, it is unreliable. If he can take charge of his life, even in this small way, perhaps it will help. The best thing you can do for him is support him, reassure him that he can still make good decisions, and hope that something works."
"That sounds so bleak."
"It is." She searched his eyes. "It is a bleak illness. We had no guarantee that the medication would help. Sometimes all we have to go on is hope, and hope can be bolstered from the most unexpected sources. If he and Perrin truly believe that there is a chance this will work, the hope in their hearts will be stronger medicine than any meditative technique or behavior modification. You must allow him to try."
He was quiet for a long moment before finally dropping his eyes and nodding. "I understand. Thank you for the words of encouragement, T'Val."
"I wish I could do more."
"You have done enough just by being there. I must allow you to return to your bed. I will talk to you soon."
"Call again at any time if you wish to talk."
"I will. Good night."
The screen grew dark. He sat at his desk and studied the small glass paperweight next to his stylus and padd. Nyota's grandmother had given her that paperweight, and it had been here since the day they moved into the house. He needed to take it to Earth the next time he went, so he could give it to Saavik. She would appreciate having something that had meant so much to Nyota.
Finally, he rose and headed for his bedroom.
End chapter eight
The Waking Man, Chapter Nine
The next morning, T'Miren leaned away from her desk so she could see through the door to Spock's office.
"Ambassador, you have a call." Her eyes widened, and she added, "From Romulus."
Spock raised an eyebrow and she nodded, so he turned quickly to his computer. "Computer, accept call."
The screen brightened, but what would have been the image of someone's face was instead the insignia of the Romulan government.
"Greetings," he said, careful to speak as if this were a routine call.
"Hello, Spock. It has been a long time since we talked to one another."
The voice was masked, but Spock immediately knew to whom he spoke: Pardek, Senator to the Romulan High Council. They had met long ago, and although they had managed to stay in loose contact over the years, there had always been a furtive nature to their missives. Pardek's government had clearly never condoned their communication. Now, however, Pardek spoke from behind the official seal. Something was obviously different this time.
"It certainly has," Spock replied. "It is good to speak with you. I trust you are well?"
"I am very well."
Although any normal inflection in Pardek's voice was replaced by a heavy, mechanical intonation, Spock could detect satisfaction.
Pardek continued. "I have been tasked with something that I believe will please you. We have always talked of peace, you and I."
"We thought that it was no more than a dream, but we hoped that the day might come when our people could speak openly, brother to brother, friend to friend. Well, my friend, perhaps that day has come."
Spock sat straighter. "Indeed?"
"Yes, indeed. It has come to the attention of my superiors that you are organizing a conference at which the primary topic will be peace. We are interested. It is my hope that this will usher in a new openness between our peoples."
"This is extraordinary news. May I ask what prompted this change in attitude?"
"There is no single cause. Perhaps we should just attribute it to the winds of change."
"Regardless of the reason, your overture of friendly discourse is most welcome. May I consider this official notice that you will attend?"
"No, no. That would be premature. This will not be received with acceptance among the high council if I do not first gently introduce them to the concept. My initial conversation with you is being done under the table, so to speak. You have my permission to make it known that we are considering the possibility of attending, but I would ask that you not mention me by name. For the moment, at least, I must maintain a low profile."
"Understood. I will respect your wishes."
"I will be in touch soon, and we will discuss the particulars."
"Very well." Spock inclined his head. "Until then."
The screen grew dark, and Spock leaned back in his chair. This was an astounding development. As he had told T'Val, the so-called peace conference could hardly be labeled a peace conference; it was merely a token event to be held for the sake of appearances. Now, however, it seemed that it might become a true event of note--the historical beginning of a new peace, not just within the Federation but beyond. He could not deny that a fresh excitement coursed through him, something that had been absent from his career for much too long.
He looked up to see T'Miren standing in his doorway.
"You will be surprised when I tell you the content of that conversation," he said. "The Romulans are floating the possibility that they will attend the peace conference."
Both of her eyebrows shot up. "They are?"
"Yes. I must inform the Federation president immediately. Please make the appropriate arrangements."
Spock permitted himself a satisfied nod when he heard her initiate the call. Perhaps a new day was dawning, and he would be here to witness it. Amazing.
* * * * * * * *
Walking down the hall of the embassy, Spock said, "When T'Miren spoke with Mr. Gaav five days ago, he denied that there were any discrepancies between his trade agreement with Centaurus and his trade agreement with Vulcan. No doubt he has instructed Mr. Kaal to take the same stance."
Sarek, beside him, nodded. "I am not surprised. His agreement with Vulcan is much more favorable than his agreement with Centaurus. It benefits him to feign ignorance."
"Agreed. I have given this some thought, and I believe that our best approach would be to present Mr. Kaal with the two agreements and allow him to draw his own conclusions. If we attempt to use logic to prove our argument, he will become recalcitrant. However, if he is able to 'discover' the inconsistencies for himself, he will save face and will be much more amenable to change."
"That is a wise approach. I complement your logic."
"Thank you." They turned a corner in the hall, and Spock said, "I received a call yesterday that you might find quite interesting. It was from my contact on Romulus."
Sarek nodded, immediately understanding who had called even though Spock had not revealed a name. "I find it fascinating that you have maintained a relationship with Pardek. Perhaps you see something in the man that I do not. He has never struck me as someone worthy of trust."
Frowning slightly, Spock said, "Father, that is contrary to what you have told me before. You have always been quite supportive of my maintaining a dialogue with him."
"I do not trust him," Sarek said stubbornly.
"Will it improve your opinion of him to learn that he wishes to pursue the possibility of attending the peace conference? He specifically mentioned the hope that there would be a new openness between Vulcans and Romulans."
"He said that?"
"Indeed he did."
"I assume that you have discussed this with the president. What did he think of Pardek's suggestion?"
"He was quite pleased. Pardek has asked that I not mention him by name, however. My conversation with the president was couched in very general terms."
"Ah, I see. It is interesting that Pardek professes a new openness with the Federation yet will not allow you to disclose his identity."
"The Romulans are a paranoid people, and one can hardly fault him. His government is notorious for saying one thing while doing another. Protecting his identity is an old habit that will not die easily."
"Romulans have many old habits," said Sarek with unexpected heat. There was also a touch of fear in his voice. "Be careful! Do not be deceived."
Reminded of how he used to speak to Saavik when she became agitated, Spock calmly said, "I will be cautious, but I have great hope that this initiative will succeed. All I can do is proceed in good faith."
"You are allowing your emotions to influence your thinking."
Refraining from pointing out the irony of Sarek's statement, Spock said, "I assure you that my reasoning is quite rational. It would be illogical to distrust him before I am given reason to distrust him."
Sarek's only response was a raised eyebrow, and Spock decided not to pursue the discussion. Not only had Sarek been on the verge of losing his temper--at a very inopportune moment, to say the least--but he was of another generation, one that did not trust the Romulans. This was the dawn of a new age, and Spock would not be trapped in his father's preconceptions.
Suddenly, Sarek halted and looked about himself in obvious confusion. They had reached a juncture of two halls, and their meeting with Mr. Kaal lay down the hallway to the right in their usual meeting room. T'Miren and Sakkath were already waiting outside the room, but Sarek did not notice them.
Spock's first impulse was to use this as an example to prove to Sarek that he needed to heed his doctor's advice, but instead, he simply held out his hand as if to politely usher his father ahead of him. Spock looked at Sakkath, but both Sakkath and T'Miren immediately cast their eyes toward the floor in a discreet attempt to pretend that they had not noticed.
Drawing his robe around him, Sarek walked past Spock and down the hallway toward the meeting room as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. All Spock could do was follow.
* * * * * * * *
"Computer. Contact T'Val."
It was late in ShiKahr when the clock in Atlanta finally reached 1800 hours, but Spock had stayed awake in hope of talking to T'Val. He was not ready to sleep, at any rate; once it had become known that the Romulans might attend the peace conference, calls had begun coming from all corners of the galaxy. He had been so busy yesterday that he had even missed his chance to call T'Val, and now he was eager to tell her what was happening.
The screen brightened, and she said, "Spock, hello."
"Greetings, T'Val. How are you?"
"Quite well. I left work early today to attend an infant's christening ceremony, and I am quite invigorated. The child's mother was my patient for many years, and we had feared that she would not live to see adolescence. Now she is a successful young woman with a family. It is very rewarding."
"I am certain it is. No doubt the young woman was very appreciative of your gesture."
"She was so pleased to see me that she asked me to sit at the front of the church with her family."
"That is quite an honor."
"It is. And how are you?"
"Busy. Forgive me for not calling yesterday."
"It is of no consequence. Why have you been busy? Has something interesting happened?"
He nodded. "To say that it is interesting is an understatement. I was contacted by a representative of the Romulan high council, and he expressed interest in attending the peace conference."
"The Romulans? Spock, that is incredible. If you can arrange this, it will be quite a coup."
"I am hopeful that it will come to pass. In addition, word spread quickly that the Romulans might attend, and suddenly support is coming from other unexpected sources. The Orions have said that they will come, as have the Klingons and the Tholians. I even received a request for more information from the Cardassians. It has been overwhelming."
"Just days ago you sounded rather discouraged about the prospect of this peace conference, but how quickly things have changed. I am very pleased for you."
"How is your father? Is he doing any better?"
"No. Yesterday, when I told him about my call from Romulus, he became upset. I have known my contact on Romulus for many years, and Sarek has never expressed any reservations about him. Suddenly, however, he became angry and fearful. He told me not to trust him."
"Paranoia is not unusual in these patients. Because the deficiencies in their brains force them to filter input through alternative cognitive areas, their perceptions become skewed. Even the most routine event is suddenly viewed differently, and this is hardly a routine event. I am not surprised that he would have a distorted view of it."
"That is not all. We were walking to a meeting, and when we reached a branch in the hallway, he did not know where to go. The building is not unfamiliar to him, and we were en route to our usual meeting place."
She nodded sympathetically. "How difficult this must be for him. Even the most routine action can be a challenge. I hope that his confusion was not evident to others. He is a very proud man. He made it very clear that he wanted as few people as possible to be aware of his condition."
"The incident was witnessed by only Sakkath and T'Miren, and they were careful to behave as if they had not noticed anything out of the ordinary. To the best of my knowledge, no one has given T'Miren any details, but she has seen enough to know that something is wrong."
"Sarek is fortunate to be surrounded by people who will be tactful in their dealings with him."
"Perhaps so, although I cannot help but wonder if he would be better off if handled with less tact and more firmness. I still find it difficult to pretend that all is well."
"I know that you do, which makes your decision not to interfere all the more admirable."
"We will see if it is also beneficial."
"I will help you recognize when it is time to adopt a more aggressive approach, if that day ever comes. For now, I am confident that you are doing the right thing."
"I am most appreciate of your help, T'Val."
"I know that you are. A burden lessens when shared. This might not be entirely logical when the burden is only metaphorical, but it is still true."
He nodded. "I will speak with you in two days. Good night."
"Good night, Spock."
End chapter nine
The Waking Man, Chapter Ten
"Computer. Display housing map at Itarek diplomatic complex."
His elbows on the arms of his chair, Spock steepled his hands and studied the housing assignments T'Miren had made so far. Less than four standard weeks remained before the peace conference was scheduled to begin, and it was time to give serious thought to where everyone would stay. The mixture of Federation and non-Federation representatives presented a challenge; not only would there be discomfort between the Federation and non-Federation races, but many of the non-Federation races were hostile to one another. He had learned during his career that problems were more likely to arise during the so-called leisure hours than during the meetings themselves, and he must be mindful of the effect unofficial contact would have on the peace process.
T'Miren, seated beside him, pointed toward a building that was labeled 'Recreation Center.' "I took the liberty of inquiring about this place. It has a large indoor swimming pool. I thought that we could close it to the public, and the Lozarians could stay there."
"Very good. Please ask them if that would be suitable."
Just as T'Miren finished keying a note into her padd, her computer signaled an incoming message. She rose and left the room. Spock heard her answer the call and ask the person to hold.
"Ambassador Spock," she said from the doorway, "Ambassador Tevek wishes to speak with you."
"Computer, save map and accept call." When the screen brightened, he said, "Greetings, Tevek."
"Greetings, Spock. Have you been monitoring the diplomatic channels?"
"No. T'Miren and I are working on the peace conference, and I have not checked the diplomatic channels since this morning. Why?"
"Evidently, there is a situation developing between Romulus and Andor."
T'Miren left the doorway, and Spock heard her quietly ask her computer to locate relevant news reports.
"It does not seem overly serious at this time," continued Tevek, "and I only happened to hear about it because I had a meeting earlier with the Bolian trade commissioner, who is disgruntled because it might interfere with one of his more lucrative routes. However, I knew that you would want to be kept apprised of anything that might cause tension between the Federation and the Romulans, no matter how insignificant it might be."
"You are correct. What do you know about it?"
"Very little. Yesterday, a Romulan ship entered an area that Andor claims belongs to them, and the Andorians are not pleased. They asked the Romulans to withdraw, but as of 1300 hours, the Romulans had not responded. That is all I know."
"I see. Thank you for notifying me."
Tevek's face faded from view, so Spock left his office.
Standing behind T'Miren, he asked, "What have you found?"
"The incident is so minor that the only references I have located so far are a communique stating that the Romulans entered the disputed territory, and a formal complaint lodged by the Andorian foreign secretary."
Spock took a moment to read the complaint over T'Miren's shoulder, then shook his head. "It is unfortunate that the complaint is so strongly worded. This could have been resolved with little notice, but no doubt the Romulans have taken offense and now it is more serious. Please instruct the computer to flag any reports that are relevant to the situation."
He returned to his office and called up the map again.
* * * * * * * *
Awakening early the next morning, Spock went to his desk before he had even changed from his nightclothes.
"Computer. Query all news services and diplomatic channels regarding the situation between Andor and Romulus. Limit search to the last twenty standard hours. Sort by time and relevance, with most recent reports first."
As the results scrolled across the screen, he saw that he had been right to be concerned. The Romulan government had issued a statement late yesterday claiming that they were within their rights to occupy the disputed area, and overnight the disagreement had gained momentum as every government began to feel the need to express an opinion. So far, though, nothing more than politely-worded salvos had been fired, and as long as this continued to hold true, there was no need to alter his plans for the peace conference. Indeed, the peace conference would be more important now than ever.
He instructed the computer to continue monitoring all channels and rose to prepare for the day.
* * * * * * * *
Spock sat in his office and reviewed the agenda for the first day of the peace conference, while his computer emitted a steady stream of chatter in the background. He had instructed it to provide a synopsis of each development in the dispute between the Romulans and the Andorians, and although it had announced new items only sporadically earlier, it now droned almost constantly. He had given it only a small portion of his attention throughout the day, but the latest report caused him to look away from his work.
"...five additional Romulan ships have arrived..."
"Computer," he said. "Provide details, visual only."
He thumbed off his padd as the story unfolded before him. The Romulans had indeed sent reinforcements, and in response, two Andorian warships had been recalled from deep space. The Andorians had also asked for support from their closest ally, the Tellarites, and although the Tellarites had not yet responded, Spock knew that it was only a matter of time before the Andorians asked for Federation support as well. The Federation president had made it clear when they discussed it this morning that the Federation's stance was one of non-intervention, but Spock knew that this would be difficult to maintain in the face of political pressure from the Andorians.
T'Miren answered a hail in the outer office, then leaned back in her chair and said, "Ambassador, you have a call from Romulus."
"You may transfer it."
As the screen once again showed the insignia of the Romulan government, he decided that he would not be the first to mention the current political situation even though this was undoubtedly the reason Pardek had called.
"Greetings," said Spock. "I am pleased to hear from you. I trust all is well."
"I am very close to convincing my superiors to send two representatives to Itarak," said the distorted voice. "Have you locked in the date?"
"I have. The conference will begin precisely twenty-six Standard days from today, which corresponds to the twelfth of Brenek on your calendar."
"That is good." The voice hesitated. "Perhaps I should not tell you this, but you have worked hard on this conference and you deserve to know. There is a faction in my government that is skeptical about the peace talks. They claim that the Federation will never trust us, and that it is just a ploy to lull us into lowering our guard."
"I assure you that no such ploy exists. This is an honest overture of peace."
"That is what I tell them, but they point to the build-up of forces along the border we share with Andor. I just learned that more Andorian ships are gathering in the disputed territory. What are we to think? We are trying to maintain a small presence in that area so that it is not taken from us, yet we are threatened."
"You must understand that your claim to that area is unclear, just as Andor's claim is unclear. Perhaps this is another item we can resolve when we talk."
"I hope you are correct, but I fear that the situation will escalate before then. Not everyone here--and, I suspect, not everyone in the Federation--wants peace to succeed. If the Andorians attempt a show of strength, or even worse, others become involved, I shudder to think what might happen."
"You and I will simply have to do our best to quiet the less moderate voices. My analysis of the situation is that it will soon reach a stalemate, and this will work in our favor so long as the balance does not shift."
"I hope you are right. I look forward to the day when I can speak with you face to face."
"As do I."
The screen grew dark, and Spock pondered what he had been told. Was there a message within the message, or was all exactly as it seemed? Had it contained a veiled threat, or was it merely the sharing of a common concern? He had reason to trust Pardek, but he could not ignore the implication that the Federation was not to become involved.
As if matters were not already bad enough, he heard T'Miren answer a hail in the outer office and say, "One moment, Ambassador Sarek. I will see if he is available."
"I will take the call, T'Miren," said Spock before she could summon him. A moment later, Sarek appeared on his screen.
"Greetings, Father. I assume that you have been watching the news reports."
"Indeed I have. What is your interpretation of the events?"
"I believe that this is a simple misunderstanding, and---"
"A simple misunderstanding? You must be realistic. This has gone far beyond a simple misunderstanding. I told you that you could not trust the Romulans. They are building up forces in Andorian territory. This is an act of war."
"I have seen no act of war. Granted, the Romulans have sent ships, but the area has been in dispute for many years. They are within their rights. Pardek said---"
"Pardek! I do not care about what Pardek said! No doubt he is playing the role of the aggrieved party. I do not care for his government's approach. It is always better to talk before resorting to force."
"No one has resorted to force yet, Father, and the common goal he and I share is to talk."
Sarek came very close to scowling. "I have just received a summons from the Federation president. He is concerned about the situation between the Romulans and the Andorians, and he has asked me to come to Earth to serve as an advisor to him."
"Do you think that this is wise? I fear for your health." He did not mention his additional fear that Sarek would not provide objective counsel.
"My health is none of your concern. I am leaving Vulcan by end of day. Sarek out."
Sarek's image blinked out, and all Spock could do was lean back in his chair as he continued to stare at the blank screen. Finally, he said, "T'Miren?"
She appeared in his doorway. "Yes, Ambassador?
"Sarek has been summoned to Earth to act as an advisor for the Federation president concerning the situation between Andor and Romulus."
"Do you think that this means anything?"
"Such as whether the Federation might be considering action in support of Andor? It is possible, although I detected no urgency in his tone. He is a trusted confidante to the Federation president, and he has acted in this capacity before. However, it could be the first step toward formalizing a public stance in the conflict."
"What do you think Sarek will tell the president?"
"It is difficult to say. At one time I would have had confidence in his ability to remain impartial about the situation, but now..."
He deliberately did not finish the sentence, but he knew that he did not have to. T'Miren had not been privy to the details about Sarek's illness, but she had seen enough to know that something was wrong. Sarek needed someone to stay close and monitor his condition--not to mention ensure that he did not jeopardize the peace process--and Spock did not trust Perrin to adequately do either.
The thought occurred to him that a trip to Earth would also allow him to see T'Val again, but of course he would not mention that to T'Miren, either.
Taking a deep breath, he said, "It has been quite some time since I visited the embassy in San Francisco. I believe that I am due for several appointments there."
She nodded emphatically. "You are correct. I will make travel arrangements for both of us."
She started to leave, but Spock stopped her with an upraised hand. A question in his voice, he said, "I trust that you will determine exactly which appointments I will have."
"Do not be concerned about that. I will arrange it."
Her expression gentle, she nodded again, and returned to her desk.
* * * * * * * *
The shuttle was very quiet, so Spock decided that he would send a text message, thereby not interrupting the solitude of the other occupants. At any rate, T'Miren sat in the next seat, so even if there had been background noise, he would have been reluctant to voice what he had to say. Her eyes were closed and he assumed she was either meditating or sleeping, but there was still not enough privacy to suit him.
"T'Val," he typed. "I am en route to San Francisco. Sarek and Perrin are on a shuttle ahead of me, and it is my hope that he will not be on Earth long before I can find a reason to remain near him. His condition has not improved. The Federation president has requested his presence as an advisor, and I am concerned that the weight of this situation will prove too heavy for him to bear. His behavior is unpredictable, his memory is unreliable, and I fear that his health will only get worse if he continues to refuse medical intervention. However, I have remembered what you told me, and I have attempted to be supportive of his choices even if I do not agree with them.
"The effort to organize the peace talks continues to proceed, although it is obvious that the situation near Andor will complicate matters. I seem to be relying too heavily on hope these days, but I hope that all parties can sit down together with the common goal of peace before it becomes a moot issue."
He reread what he had written and decided that it was time to launch into what had been his intended topic all along.
"It has been almost three Standard months since I last saw you, and I find that I am eagerly anticipating the opportunity to be with you again. My schedule will be quite full, but I hope--as I said, hope is a common theme throughout all facets of my life at the moment--that there will be time for me to come to Atlanta. Another possibility is that you might arrange your schedule so that you can come to San Francisco for a day or more. It would please me to show you the town, and I believe that you would find it enjoyable.
"Please consider what I have said. I do not know how long I will be able to remain on Earth, so we must take full advantage of the time available. I will contact you soon, and we will discuss our plans.
He hesitated with his finger over the 'send' key. Was he being too forward? She had made it very clear that she was reluctant to become involved with him, and it was possible that she would not react well to the idea that he wanted her to come to San Francisco. His request seemed very reasonable, but he knew that there were implications even he could not foresee. He had no doubt that she felt 'safer' in Atlanta; when it came time to say goodnight, she was always in control of the situation. If she were to come to San Francisco, it would be certain to change things between them.
So, his options were clear. He could maintain the situation as it was, or he could gently urge her to allow their relationship to evolve. Of course, another alternative was that he could take more drastic measures and 'go out on a limb' as a human might say, and she would refuse him entirely, which would in effect be a step backward for them. Should he maintain the status quo, or should he take a risk? Was he even ready for this, himself? That he would think so hard about whether to send this missive was probably indicative of his readiness or lack thereof. Perhaps it would be better to remove the portion about coming to San Francisco.
He moved the cursor up to that paragraph. As he positioned his finger over the 'delete' key, however, he remembered how it had felt when they looked out at the ocean at Saavik's house and he turned her face toward his in the moonlight. His heart had beat faster, and he had experienced urges that he had not experienced for many years. It had been somewhat frightening, but it had also been exhilarating, and he had felt as if he had finally awakened after a long sleep.
He pressed 'send.'
There. The decision was out of his hands. His heart was pounding now, just as it had pounded that night, and it was both frightening and exhilarating, just like that night. How would she react? Would she take it at face value, as simply an invitation to visit, or would she see in the invitation something more, a hope--yes, hope--for something new?
Hope. It felt good to hope again.
End chapter ten
The Waking Man, Chapter Eleven
It was late when Spock and T'Miren finally arrived at the consulate temporary housing. She had already made all necessary arrangements, and he was able to go straight to his suite. He had objected at first to taking up such a large space, since these suites were generally reserved for dignitaries who traveled with their families, but when she explained that he was directly next door to Sarek's room, he had acquiesced.
He placed his suitcase on a small luggage stand and checked the chronometer on the bedside table. He had hoped that he would be able to call T'Val when he arrived, but it was nearly 0230 hours in Atlanta. Instead, he opened his suitcase and began to unpack.
Just as he had closed the suitcase and placed it in the closet, a signal sounded at his door. T'Miren had indicated that she was quite tired after their long flight, and he thought it unlikely that she was his visitor. This could only leave Sarek, who had probably been informed of his arrival by now.
He went to the outer room and said, "Come."
The door opened, and as he had anticipated, it was Sarek. Sarek did not look pleased, but as long as Perrin was not with him, Spock did not care whether his father was pleased or not.
"Greetings, Father," he said, as if his being here were nothing unusual.
Sarek glowered at him. "May I enter?"
Spock gestured Sarek into the room and waited patiently for the argument that was certain to come.
"Why are you here?" asked Sarek.
"I believe that you know why I am here."
"How dare you," said Sarek. "How dare you! You followed me here. You did not even ask whether I wanted you here. You simply took it upon yourself to do it."
"What good would it have done to ask your permission? You would have said no. However, that does not change the fact that you are ill, and you need my assistance."
Sarek took a step closer. "I do not need you! I am not a child in need of a nanny. I insist that you leave. You are neglecting your duties on Vulcan."
"I have no duties on Vulcan at the moment."
"What about the peace conference? You have abandoned your responsibilities in favor of a personal whim."
"I can plan for the peace conference just as easily here as I can on Vulcan."
"I do not care about that!" Sarek was so close now that Spock could feel the heat of his breath. "Do you not understand? You're not wanted here!"
"Father, allow me to help---"
"No!" Sarek gestured wildly, and Spock had to take a hasty step back to avoid being struck. "I said that I do not need you! You have always lived your life as you pleased, with no thought for what it did to me, and I see no reason for you to change now! I do not want you here! I do not want..."
He suddenly fell silent, and all that could be heard was his labored breathing. Spock watched his father's angry expression gradually change to one of confusion, and then to one of reluctant comprehension.
His eyes wide, Sarek whispered, "I thought I could manage on my own, but I cannot. I cannot cope with this, Spock. It is too big for me."
Spock did not touch his father, but he stood very close.
"We will get through this together," he said.
Sarek covered his face, and Spock waited while he regained his composure.
Finally, Sarek said, "If I can arrange it, will you stay near me when I am with the president? I will think of a reason. He does not need to know the truth." The last sentence was meant as a statement of fact, but it had been voiced almost as a plea.
"He does not need to know. You can give him any reason you desire, and I will support it."
Sarek nodded, looked Spock in the eyes once again, turned, and left. Spock finally took a deep breath, willed the knots out of his muscles, and headed for his bedroom.
* * * * * * * *
Early the next morning, Spock stood in the hall outside Sarek's quarters and waited for his father to answer the door. He had received a message from Sakketh that he and Sarek were both to meet with the president today, so he assumed that Sarek had found a reasonable explanation for his presence.
When the door opened, it wasn't Sarek who stood there.
"Spock," said Perrin haughtily.
"Perrin. I am here for Sarek."
"I know why you're here." She stepped very close and lowered her voice. "You never give up, do you? You couldn't get to Sarek through me, so you do it this way."
Spock regarded her for a long moment, wondering if he should even deign to respond. Finally, he said, "My intention is only to help him. You know that."
"What I know is that you can't stand the fact that we disagreed with you about his treatment, so you're going to try to influence him this way. Well, I'm watching you."
"That is your prerogative. However, I must point out that it will be exceedingly difficult for you to watch me, since Sarek and I will be with the president and you will not."
She gave him a venomous look, but it vanished when Sarek approached.
"Greetings, Spock," he said.
"Good morning, Father."
Addressing Perrin, Sarek said, "There are some matters I must address with Spock before we go to our meeting."
"Of course," she said.
She nodded once to Spock, and left the room. As he turned expectantly toward Sarek, he could not help but wish that it were always so easy to get rid of her.
"I told the president that I am considering retiring soon," said Sarek. "I did not admit that I may have no choice about the matter, but he does not need to know that. I also told him that he could rely on your guidance in my place. He agreed readily. He has a great deal of respect for you."
"I am honored, Father. However, it is my belief that your illness will not end your career unless you allow it to do so. There are other alternatives---"
Sarek silenced him with an upraised hand. "I am aware of your discussion with Perrin, and I do not wish to rehash it now."
"Very well. Please continue."
"The president gave me permission to divulge certain details to you. He learned yesterday through his intelligence sources that Cardassia is allowing the Romulans access to their trade routes, and it is widely thought that the Romulans are using these routes to amass troops."
"I see. Cardassia has claimed neutrality throughout this incident, but I am not surprised by this development. It was only a matter of time before they made their loyalties known. However, it does nothing to lessen the tension in an already tense situation."
"That is correct.
"I hope that this does not change the Federation's stance of nonintervention."
"Officially, nothing has changed, but I am certain this is one of the topics the president will wish to discuss today. Incidentally, I received a call from the Betazed Consulate this morning, and their position is that their representative will not attend the peace conference unless the Rigellians make an official statement of support for the Andorians."
"The fact that every government feels the need to choose a side is not helping anyone's cause."
"I agree, but it is a natural tendency," said Sarek.
"What was your response to the Betazed representative?"
"I told her that you are organizing the peace conference, not I, so she must speak with you about it. However, I added that your response will most likely be that she must discuss this with the Rigellians."
"And you were correct. That is exactly what I will say." Frowning, Spock clasped his hands behind his back. "None of this bodes well for the peace conference."
"It certainly does not. The peace conference will be useless if you cannot bring all parties to the table."
"Worse, it could be disastrous if we do manage to bring all parties to the table while hostilities are running so high. However, I must move forward with the assumption that everyone recognizes the value of peace. Perhaps we can put our differences aside once we are all at the table."
"Accomplishing this will require a skilled negotiator, someone who can maintain ironclad control of the proceedings while allowing the delegates freedom to reach agreements of their own accord. It will not be an easy task. However, I am confident of your ability to do so. You have proven yourself more than equal to the challenge on a number of occasions."
Resisting the urge to raise both eyebrows at the unexpected compliment, Spock said, "Thank you, Father. I will attempt to prove worthy of your regard."
Sarek's expression softened, and Spock knew that this was merely another symptom of his father's inability to control his emotions. However, he found this much more agreeable than the display of temper to which he had been subjected yesterday.
The sentimentality vanished from Sarek's face, and he pointed at the door. "It is time for us to meet with the president," he said.
* * * * * * * *
"Mr. President," said Admiral Chesk with heat, "as you see here, the Excelsior and the Constitution are both on patrol in this sector, and eight smaller ships with weapons capability are also near. In addition, the Tellarites have pledged their support, and they can bring four warships to the area in dispute. If we can persuade the Centaurans to join us, the Romulans will have no choice but to back down."
Seated in a chair to Sarek's right, Spock tried to remain calm while Admiral Chesk pointed to the tactical display in the center of the room. Of course, Spock could understand why Chesk would be so passionate in his delivery--Andorians were passionate over even the most mundane matter, and now he was discussing a possible threat to his own people--but he could not help but be concerned that the admiral's inflammatory words might incite similar passion in others.
"The Romulans are not known for backing down," said the Deltan ambassador. Her tone was so matter-of-fact that Spock could not tell if she was in favor of a military solution or not.
"I repeat, they will have no choice," replied Chesk. "The Federation can assemble an impressive show of support for Andor with only ten hours notice."
"You mean a show of force," countered the Deltan.
"A show of force is what we need!" exclaimed the Klingon representative.
"Gentlemen, Madam." said the president. "I agree that an overt display of 'support' will be perceived as a show of force, and we are not yet ready to take a public stance on the matter. However---"
Chesk stepped forward angrily, but the president raised his voice a level and continued before Chesk could object.
"However, I ask that Starfleet assemble a report addressing the feasibility of supporting Andor. We will not take action at this time, but we must ensure Starfleet's readiness to lend aid if it appears that war will develop. Of course, no one wishes for this outcome, but it is essential that we be prepared."
Spock could no longer remain quiet. "Mr. President, I am highly alarmed that the Federation would even entertain the notion of joining this conflict. If war is not the natural result of tensions between the Andorians and the Romulans, it would certainly be the result were the Federation to become involved."
"Would you suggest that we stand idly by while the Romulans organize an attack force?" asked Chesk. "If they were to suddenly take action, we would not be able to react."
"Publicly supporting the Andorians on the chance that the Romulans might attack is a self-fulfilling prophecy," replied Spock.
The president stood, signaling the end of the discussion.
"Admiral Chesk," he said, "I am in agreement with Ambassador Spock. I stress that I am not entertaining a military solution at this time. I hope that I have made this very clear. I will look for your report in the morning."
Spock nodded his appreciation, and filed out of the room with the others.
* * * * * * * *
McCoy sat in T'Val's back yard with a cold, sweaty glass of iced tea in one hand, and a whisk broom in the other. He would have rather been armed with a good old-fashioned fly swatter, but T'Val being T'Val, she refused to keep anything that could be used to destroy life. So, he made do with the whisk broom. He waved it around his head to shoo away the gnats.
She came back from her garden with a sprig of mint. "Is this what you had in mind?" she asked.
"Thank you, darlin'. That's exactly what I wanted." He gently crushed the mint leaves between his fingers and dropped the whole sprig into his tea. "I hope you got some for yourself."
"I did." She mimicked what he had done before leaning back comfortably in a chair. "I am pleased that you agreed to come over tonight."
"I appreciate being asked, but I hope you know that I wasn't trying to wangle an invitation when I called. I really intended to have you over to my place."
"I understand that, Leonard. It has simply been a while since you were here. You invite me to supper so often that I wished to return the favor."
"Well, it was mighty fine. There's nothing better than corn on the cob, big red tomatoes, and greens right out of a garden." He patted his full belly. "Your bean soup was as good as what my mama used to fix, too. I'll make a Southerner out of you yet, my dear."
"As long as I do not have to eat grits, I will be proud to be considered an honorary Southerner."
"Aw, c'mon. Add a little butter or cheese..."
He stopped talking when she sat up suddenly and turned toward the house. After a moment, she relaxed and faced him again.
"What's that all about?" he asked.
"Oh, that? I thought I heard the computer signal, that is all."
He kept an eye on her as he took a sip of tea. "Expecting a call, are we?"
She pointed to the corner of the yard. "Look--the rabbits are coming out. I believe that the mother rabbit has a nest back in the hedge. I look forward to the day when she brings the babies into the yard."
"Uh huh," he said, with extra emphasis on the 'huh'. "Heard from Spock lately?"
"I received a missive from him three days ago. His father had been summoned by the Federation president, so Spock followed him to Earth. He is concerned about his father's health."
"Uh huh," he said again.
She darted an annoyed glance at him. "He wished to monitor his father's condition."
"He is a very dutiful son."
Glaring at him, she took a drink of her tea. When she lowered the glass again, McCoy said, "Do you think he might have another reason for coming to Earth?"
"He mentioned concern over the conflict between Romulus and Andor."
Obviously getting nowhere with sarcasm, McCoy decided to take the direct approach. "T'Val, has it occurred to you that one of the main reasons he's coming to Earth is you?"
She poked the mint further down into her glass. "It has occurred to me."
He waited a moment, then said, "Well? And what do you think about that?"
"I think that it was a good idea for him to come to Earth for his father's sake, but not such a good idea to come here because of me."
"Why? Don't you like him?"
"Liking or disliking is an emotional state."
He snorted. "I've been around enough Vulcans in my day to know that they're perfectly capable of liking and disliking. So let's try again. Don't you like him?"
She rolled her eyes, and he refrained from commenting that exasperation was also an emotional state.
"Yes, I do like him," she finally said. "What is there to dislike? He is an intelligent, attractive man. He is very kind to me, and we have much in common."
He leaned forward carefully, the whisk broom poised to smash a fly. Before he could complete the motion, however, T'Val flicked her finger at it and it flew away. He scowled at her and said, "So why are you bothered by the possibility that he might have come to Earth to see you? Most women would be flattered."
She took a heavy breath. "I am rather overwhelmed by it all, Leonard. Before he left Earth the last time, I tried to tell him that I thought it best if we did not stay in close contact. Then, he asked me repeatedly to come to Vulcan, and now he wants me to come to San Francisco to visit him. I have noticed that he has difficulty accepting 'no' as an answer."
"Maybe it's because your mouth is saying 'no' while the rest of you is saying something else." He reached over and covered her hand with his own. "I saw how you jumped when you thought you had a call. Now, that didn't look like a woman who was hoping to be left alone. As a matter of fact, I'd be willing to wager that doing some home cooking wasn't really the reason you wanted to be here tonight."
Her eyes were glued to her glass like she was afraid it would run away if she didn't watch it.
He squeezed her hand. "I can understand why you're frightened. Men have done nothing but treat you wrong your entire life. First it was your father and then that animal you called your husband. You don't have any reason to expect something good to happen."
"I am not afraid of you, and you are a man."
"Sweetheart, I'm a hundred and thirty two years old. I don't exactly threaten the part of you that's being asked to go out on a limb right now."
She was quiet for a long moment, her eyes still on the iced tea glass, but finally she looked up at him. "Leonard, I am very content with my current status. I fear that Spock is beginning to see something of a future in this, and there is no future. I do not wish to go to Vulcan to see him, and I do not wish to go to San Francisco."
His shoulders drooped, and he removed his hand from hers and leaned back in his seat. "Okay. Then you'd better set him straight, T'Val, before this goes any further."
She nodded, but he didn't miss the hint of pain that flashed across her features. Interesting. She said that she didn't want to be with Spock, but it was obvious that she didn't really want to call things off, either. Maybe, if he could stall her from making any big pronouncements, good old Mother Nature would step in and things would take their course...
He nonchalantly took a sip of tea. "Of course, there's always the possibility that he's not thinking about the future, and then you're going to feel pretty foolish for jumping to the wrong conclusions."
"I do not understand."
"I mean, he's going to think that you're pretty full of yourself if you make such a big deal over a little old trip to San Francisco, and you accuse him of proposing marriage when all he had in mind was a little time with a pretty lady."
"It is not like that at all, Leonard."
"And now that I think about it, he's mentioned being pretty concerned about his father. I'll bet that's the reason he really came here. Boy, is he going to think you're a fruitcake when you tell him that you thought he came to Earth for you. Woo-wee, I wouldn't want to be in your shoes."
She turned away, and even though he couldn't see her face, her conflict was obvious in the set of her shoulders. He sure did love the fact that Vulcans were always so literal about things. They'd fall for just about any bullshit you fed them.
"Do you think I should go to San Francisco?" she asked.
He pretended to consider it. "Well, that might be the smart thing to do. Just go and have a good time. Don't read too much into it."
She shook her head. "I am not certain if---"
The unmistakable chirp of a comm signal sounded from the house. Her eyes widened, but she made no move to leave her seat.
"You'd better get that," he said.
"What should I tell him?"
"That you'll come to San Francisco."
She nodded slowly. "Perhaps you are right. But only for one day, Leonard."
He held up a finger, ready to admonish her, but he realized at the last moment that he was in danger of giving himself away. Instead, he said, "One day is a good idea. Tell him that, anyway. You can play it by ear and extend your visit if things work out."
"That is what I will do."
As she scurried into the house, he took a big swig of iced tea and sighed with satisfaction.
End chapter eleven
The Waking Man, Chapter Twelve
"This is fascinating, Spock. Do you think that the women really wore long dresses and high heels while working in the fields?"
Standing by T'Val's elbow, he studied the colorful mural.
"The women of that era considered it scandalous to dress like a man, thus shunning trousers, but I believe that this painting is highly stylized. The truth is probably somewhere in between."
She nodded absently, never taking her eyes away from the painting, and moved to the next mural. She had been like this with every sight he had shown her on their tour of San Francisco, and her overwhelming awe and appreciation reminded him of her reaction to the ship that had gone into warp in Macon. He had been to the Coit Tower a number of times, and he had ceased paying close attention to these murals long ago. Her questions made him notice details he had never noticed before, however, and he found that he was seeing the murals through new eyes.
She drew back when they got to the next one, a depiction of a man butchering a hog. "This is repulsive."
"I agree, but it is representative of a barbaric time."
They moved to the next painting. "This is much better," she said. "'City Life, painted by Victor Arnautoff.' What a busy city. Look at all those internal combustion vehicles. No wonder the sky is so hazy."
"Has Dr. McCoy ever told you of the time we went back to San Francisco of the late twentieth century?"
"No, he never did." Finally tearing her eyes away from the painting, she looked at him. "I am certain it was an amazing experience. Was it like this?"
"The painting exaggerates the level of activity, but is not a total exaggeration. The city was very loud and busy. A constant stream of automobiles traveled the streets, and the air was rank with their exhaust. There were many pedestrians, as well. Everyone was in a hurry, and we had to be careful to stay out of the way of the people and the automobiles."
She pointed to the painting. "Look at this man buying a periodical. He does favor you a great deal," she teased.
"We visited San Francisco over fifty years after this painting was completed. I sincerely doubt that is me."
They had completed their tour around the room, so they entered the elevator and rode to the top. As soon as they disembarked, she hurried over to the edge and gazed out at the city.
"Look at the view!" she exclaimed. "This is incredible."
He followed her around the top until they looked out over the water.
Moving close to her back, he pointed. "Do you see the island out there? That is Alcatraz. The building used to be a prison."
"That was a prison?"
"As I said before, it was a barbaric time. And there is Fisherman's Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge."
"It is beautiful. Have you ever gone across the Golden Gate Bridge?"
"I have not only gone across the Golden Gate Bridge, but I have gone underneath it, as well."
"Were you in a boat?"
"No. I was in a Klingon Bird of Prey."
She raised one eyebrow. "I am certain that there is an interesting story behind that."
"There is. I told you of our trip back in time. We went under the bridge when we returned to our own century. We had lost control of the ship. We were flying blind, and we were being buffeted by the violent weather. Although we did not realize it until later, we narrowly missed crashing into the bridge. It would have been ironic to come so close to fulfilling our mission only to have it end that way."
"It was a mission? I assumed it was accidental that you had gone back in time."
"It was deliberate, and it was actually much more than a mere mission. An alien probe had come to Earth, and it was disrupting the atmosphere to such an extent that life on Earth was in danger of being exterminated. It sent a repetitive signal that we determined was similar to the songs sung by whales, specifically a species that was extinct. We went back to twentieth century Earth in order to find a whale with which the probe could communicate."
"Obviously you were successful, because life on Earth is thriving. You describe this task in such simple terms, but in reality it must have been terribly difficult."
"Yes," he said. "It was difficult."
He looked out over the water, but he did not really see it. Instead, he saw Jim's face, determined and unafraid when they made the decision to go back in time. He saw McCoy's face, furrowed with the knowledge of what was at stake if they failed. He saw Sulu, his expression calm but his eyes belying the adrenaline in his system as they made their approach to the sun, Scott, jovial even when matters were at their most dire, and Chekov, dazed but relieved when they rescued him from the hospital. And Nyota's beautiful face... confused and hurt when he did not remember her, but suffused with radiant joy when he did.
It had been so long ago.
He suddenly became aware that T'Val was waiting for him to elaborate.
"Our task was complex," he said, "and success was not guaranteed. We knew that we were risking not only our own lives, but the future of Earth itself. In addition, I was undergoing the greatest personal challenge of my life, but they saw me through it. They were good people. They never gave up on me."
The wind was blowing her hair across her face, and she tucked it behind her ear.
"What happened, Spock?" she asked. "Why was it so hard for you?"
"Have you ever heard of the Genesis Project? It happened before you were born."
"I learned about it in school. It was an attempt to create a new world out of lifeless matter, was it not? It was stolen from the scientists who developed it, and there was a battle when Starfleet tried to get it back. In the end, it was used as a weapon, and something went very wrong. The experiment was not successful."
"You are correct. Do you know the role I played in it?"
She frowned as she tried to recall the details, but finally she shook her head. "Were you on one of the ships?"
"Yes. I was killed in the battle."
She blinked several times before she could answer. "I must have misheard you."
"You did not. I died of radiation poisoning."
"How could that be?"
"My friends left my body on the Genesis planet. At the time, it was a beautiful place, and they thought it fitting. My genetic material became caught up in the Genesis effect, and my body was regenerated. They retrieved my body before the planet destroyed itself, and they took it to Vulcan where the high priestesses performed the fal tor pan."
"The refusion. I have heard this story, but I did not know the details, and I did not realize it was you. Who kept your katra?"
He allowed the corner of his mouth to rise. "Dr. McCoy."
"Leonard." Her eyes were lit with wonder. "He kept your katra. I did not comprehend the depth of your friendship."
"The years that you all served together must have been very good years," she said.
"They were among the best of my life. You spoke of my privileged childhood, but I was not a happy child, T'Val. My difficulties seem petty in the face of what you suffered, but I struggled. Neither Vulcan nor human, I was not accepted by others, and I did not accept myself. It was not until I was on the Enterprise and I met this extraordinary group of humans that I began to understand who I was and my place in the universe."
"Tell me about them."
He leaned back against the low wall. "I must begin with Jim Kirk. I am certain Dr. McCoy has told you about him. To say that I was close to him is an understatement. He was more than a friend and more than a brother. We could not have been more different, but those very differences drew us together. He was an exemplary human being, and I am grateful to have known him."
"Leonard has told me about Jim. I wish I could have met him."
"I am certain that you and he would have gotten along very well."
"Who else was in this group you called friends, the ones who went through these experiences with you?"
"You know Dr. McCoy, of course. There was also Montgomery Scott. He was the ship's engineer. He and I did not form a close friendship, but I never doubted his loyalty and commitment. Others were Hikaru Sulu and Pavel Chekov. They both served on other ships, and eventually Sulu went on to a command of his own, but none of us ever forgot the bond we had forged on the Enterprise."
"You have left someone out," she said.
He took a heavy breath. "Yes, I have. What can I say about Nyota? She was passionate, vivacious, intelligent, gentle, generous... We were good friends long before we were anything else, and that never changed. She was my closest friend for many, many years."
"You must have had a perfect marriage."
He shook his head. "We are all imperfect beings, and therefore marriage is a union between imperfect beings. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage. Our relationship had its good times and bad times, and there was actually a ten-year period before we were married during which we were not together. She had a number of relationships with other men, and I formed a serious relationship with another human woman. In addition, even after we married, our marriage almost fell apart at one point. However, in the end we realized that we wanted to be together, and it was worth any amount of hard work and sacrifice to make our marriage successful."
"She sounds like an incredible woman."
"She was. I never told her that I loved her in so many words, but she always knew that I did." T'Val had reacted subtly at the mention of the word 'love,' so he added, "Does it shock you to hear me speak of love?"
"Frankly, yes. You say it so casually."
"It is ironic that I can discuss it casually now when I could not at the time. That is one thing I have learned in my life. It may be love for a friend, love for a parent or child, or love for a woman, but it is not wrong to allow oneself to love."
"But it is painful. I can see it in your eyes, and I can hear it in your voice."
"Yes, it is painful. Every human I have ever loved is gone, except for Dr. McCoy, and it will not be long before he is gone, too. I have watched so many beings for whom I cared die." Her hair had blown free again, so he reached out and tucked it behind her ear, and did not remove his hand. "That is why it will be a relief to someday be with someone who in the natural order of things will survive me."
Her eyes widened, but she did not pull away, so he felt emboldened. There were several people nearby, but he ignored them. The moment was right.
"Has anyone ever kissed you?" he asked.
"No," she whispered.
Carefully, he leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek, near his hand where his fingertips rested behind her ear. His touch was very gentle, and while he did not linger, he also did not hurry. He drew back to see her reaction.
Her eyes were still very big, and she licked her lips and swallowed. They looked at each other for a long moment, and finally he withdrew his hand.
"Come," he said. "There is still much for you to see in San Francisco."
* * * * * * * *
Night had long since fallen, and they walked down the sidewalk toward the consulate. Her flitter was parked in front, and he knew that she would soon be gone.
"Thank you for showing me around San Francisco, Spock."
"It was my pleasure," he said.
Their steps slowed, and they would reach the flitter in just moments.
"This is such an interesting city," she said. "I cannot say what I most enjoyed. Perhaps it was the Japanese Tea Garden, or maybe it was the view from the tower. I also quite liked Lombard Street, with its sharp curves and beautiful flowers, and the ride on the antique cable car was memorable."
She stopped by her flitter and faced him. The moon was full tonight, and it shone from behind him, bathing everything in shades of silver. It turned her hair almost blue, and her eyes, normally pale, were dark and mysterious. She was clearly waiting for him to reply to her comment about her favorite sights, but he had long since ceased thinking about the day behind them.
"You do not need to leave," he said.
She opened her mouth but did not reply.
"Stay, T'Val," he continued. "It is late in Atlanta, but the night is still young here. Stay. Stay here with me."
He fell silent, and he heard the laughter of two humans in the distance, followed by a snippet of music as a door opened and closed. T'Val continued to gaze into his eyes, and he forced himself to stand very still while he waited for her answer.
Finally, she looked away, her eyes darting to the left and then to the right as if she had been trapped. "I cannot, Spock. I must go home."
She opened her door, and he considered catching the edge of it as he had done before so that she could not escape so quickly. Instead, however, he stayed where he was, resigned to the fact that he would have to let her go.
She climbed into her flitter, but she hesitated just as she reached for the door control. She still did not speak, but he saw the moment for what it was--one last chance to let her know that he did not intend to give up so easily.
"If you do not want to stay here, I understand. However, the president has returned to Paris for the weekend, and I know that you have tomorrow off. It would be a shame if we did not capitalize on this opportunity to enjoy our free time together."
She looked up at him uncertainly. "What did you have in mind?" she asked.
"You may decide. I have some work I must complete in the morning, but I will be free for the rest of the day. Would it be agreeable if I were to arrive in the early afternoon?"
She tapped her finger on her upper lip. "Dr. Leah Syamkin is speaking Saturday evening at the Kaye Children's Center in Memphis. She is an expert on juvenile diagnostic scanning, and her topic is recent advances in the field. Does this interest you?"
She nodded. "Come to my house, and we will make our plans from there."
He stood until she had flown out of sight, then walked toward the front door of the consulate.
End chapter twelve
The Waking Man, Chapter Thirteen
Walking T'Val to her door, Spock reflected on the fact that another week had passed and everything had stayed much as it was before. The stand-off between Andor and Romulus was still tense, but no one had done anything rash, and he had been successful in stalling any action on the part of the Federation. This was good.
Also, his father seemed to be holding up. Spock would prefer it if Sarek took a more aggressive medical stance against his disease, but he had not gotten worse, so this was also good.
Finally, his relationship with T'Val was still one in which they seemed to dance around one another, with his every step forward matched by a step back from her. This was not so good, but as long as his steps forward were larger than her steps back, he could remain hopeful that eventually he would wear through her defenses and convince her that she could trust him.
As usual, they stopped at the front door and she turned to him. He knew that she would be reaching for the lock at almost the same moment that she thanked him for the evening, and once again he would return to his flitter and begin the trip back to San Francisco. Therefore, when she said something else as she reached for the lock, he was caught off guard.
"Would you care to come in?" she asked.
He had already shifted his weight in preparation for going back down the steps, and he had to quickly readjust his footing. He took a moment to gauge her expression, trying to confirm that she was sincere.
"Yes, thank you," he finally said.
She motioned him indoors. "Computer, lights," she said.
The lights came up, and he looked around the room. It was decorated in an eclectic manner, with a faded old quilt that was tacked to the wall serving as a backdrop for a meditation fountain, and a crude Terran woodcarving of an old man placed next to a Vulcan t'chelka bowl. The most astonishing sight of all, however, was the huge, fluffy gray cat that hopped off the sofa and began rubbing itself against her legs.
"Hello, Matya," she said. "Did you have a good evening?"
The cat simply wound itself around her ankles.
"Spock, this is Matya. He is a Maine Coon cat."
"Ah, greetings, Matya," he said uncertainly. "You have quite an unusual name."
She gave him an amused look. "When he was a kitten, he would hide and jump out at my legs when I passed. It reminded me of a le'matya. Thus the name Matya."
"I see. Dr. McCoy mentioned that he was recently given a cat. Was it from you?"
She raised an eyebrow. "That is not how he usually refers to it."
"To be accurate, he said that he has a 'damned cat,' but he admitted that he is fond of it."
"I gave it to him. It is shy, however. It hides whenever he has a guest, although it is accustomed to me." She leaned over to give the cat a quick tickle behind the ears, and then asked, "Would you care for something to drink? I have a bottle of red wine that the sales clerk assured me was good."
"That would be agreeable."
She started to walk, but the cat was still under her feet and she stumbled. "Go, Matya. Get away." She addressed Spock. "He is very affectionate."
She walked toward the back of the house with the cat at her heels, and Spock followed. The kitchen was just as unique as the front room, and he marveled over the elaborate stained-glass lamp above a heavy, round wooden table with claw feet, and the array of modern Vulcan appliances lined up on the counter with a few ancient Terran appliances he did not recognize.
"I see now why you were so appreciative of the furniture at Saavik's house," he said.
"I have quite a fondness for Terran antiques." Uncorking the wine, she said, "Would you reach into that cabinet for two glasses?"
He quickly found two glasses, and she poured the wine into them. He tried to think of an appropriate toast, but she gestured toward the back door before he could speak.
"Could we sit outside? The night is very pleasant."
She held the cat away from the open door with her foot while he went out, and she slipped out behind him. He saw a small cast-iron table with two chairs under a tree to the side of the yard, but even though he knew that it must be their destination, he paused to admire the scenery that was bathed in blue by the moon.
Her yard was not large, but she had been prudent with the space; flowers sprouted profusely all around the borders, and he could see a modest vegetable garden to the side. The grass under his feet was thick but well-trimmed, and she had erected a wooden latticework near the back door that was nearly hidden by a flowering vine. There were also potted plants of all sizes arrayed on the small stone patio under his feet. At the quickest count, he spied three bird feeders, but he would be willing to wager that there were more he hadn't yet found.
He followed her to the table. "I am quite impressed with your yard. You have obviously invested a great deal of time and effort into it, and it has paid off."
"Thank you. I am constantly amazed at the sheer diversity of plant life on this planet. Even in the most arid regions, you will find flora. I am unable to resist buying another plant almost every time I go shopping, for there is always something new. Sometimes I fear that I am in danger of overdoing it. The landscaped area of my yard now exceeds the open space."
"In my experience, humans believe that there is no such thing as too much landscaping. It is very different than what one might find on Vulcan." He paused to sip the wine, then nodded appreciatively at the glass. "But of course, you are aware of that. Perhaps it is even why you choose to cultivate such a lush garden."
She looked at him from the corner of her eye. "Ah, so now you attempt to analyze my motivations." Her voice was light, but he was not certain if she was actually teasing him. "Do not look too closely. You may not like what you see."
"I assure you that I am looking very closely," he said with all seriousness. "What do you think I see?"
She studied her wine glass for a long moment. "You think that you see a rebel, but I am actually very much a conformist. Sometimes I wish I were a rebel, but deep inside I am too timid. My world is safe. I like it here."
"I have been a rebel, and it is not such a good thing. A rebel is by definition someone who rejects what others accept, and one cannot help but hurt others--and quite possibly oneself--that way. If one wishes to go against the status quo, it is much better to do it by embracing change, rather than merely falling into change because there is nowhere else left to go."
He paused a moment for emphasis, then leaned forward. "I will tell you what I see when I look at you. I see a woman who embraces change. I see a woman who is trying to live life to the fullest to make up for the time she has lost. I see a woman who has found her niche in the universe, and who is finally blossoming after being forced to remain stagnant for too many years. I see a woman who has learned that she can stand on her own two feet, but for whom that knowledge was hard won."
She shook her head, her eyes still on her wine glass. "You give me too much credit. It was merely survival instinct that led me here."
"You do not give yourself enough credit. There is much to be said for survival, and survival is far more than only sustaining the body. The mind and spirit must also survive. Many people do not realize that. They content themselves with mere physical survival, and they allow their mind and spirit to atrophy."
She shook her head again but did not reply, and they sat in silence for several minutes while they sipped their wine. It was not an uncomfortable silence, however, but a companionable one, at least for him, and he believed for her, too. She appeared lost in thought, her lips slightly pursed as she gazed out into the yard, and he hoped that she was considering what he had said. She was a remarkable woman, and it disturbed him that she did not appreciate just how remarkable she truly was.
Suddenly, she frowned and leaned forward, looking beyond his left shoulder. "Is that an animal in my garden?"
He turned around. "Where?"
Jumping to her feet, she pointed. "There. In the corn. Something is moving."
Without waiting for a response, she jogged across the yard, reaching down to turn off what he assumed was a forcefield emitter as she passed. He followed curiously.
"It is a raccoon!" she said. "Shoo. Shoo. Go away."
He saw something fat and furry amble quickly down the dirt path between the green beans and a cucumber vine, and squeeze through a small gap under the wooden fence. T'Val went directly to her corn plants to inspect the damage.
Joining her, he said, "Perhaps you should patch the hole under your fence."
"They can always find a way into the yard. I am quite fed up with my emitter. It is always malfunctioning for one reason or another. Look at this. The raccoon destroyed at least three plants in search of an ear that was mature enough to eat."
Kneeling next to a tomato plant, he said, "I am afraid that it did some damage here, as well."
"Those tomatoes were just starting to come in. Can we salvage any of them?"
He stood. "No. The raccoon was quite thorough."
She stepped over the demolished tomato plant and went over to the emitter control, and flipped it on and off several times. "Just as I suspected. It is not working at all."
"Do you require some assistance?"
"I would be very pleased to have some assistance with it. I have tried repeatedly to fix it, and I am never successful."
"Very well. Do you have a flashlight?"
"Do you have an electromagnetic screwdriver?"
"Ah, I do not think so. I will bring you what tools I have."
He sat on the ground next to it and removed the cover. The moon was almost bright enough for him to see what he was doing, but he was glad when she returned with a small lantern and held it over his shoulder. He immediately saw the problem.
"You are using the wrong type of contact, here. Do you see?"
She leaned close and looked over his shoulder. "No."
"These are all hexagonal 6H-SiC Schottky diodes, but the one causing the problem is a simple ohmic contact. They are not compatible."
"That is all gibberish to me."
"No matter." He sorted through the tools she had placed on the ground until he found what he needed. "I will simply bypass this circuit, and it will suffice until we are able to find the correct part. There. It is done."
He put the cover back on the emitter, flipped the switch, and nodded in satisfaction at the subsonic hum that came from the direction of the garden. He picked up the tools and stood.
"Perhaps now I will have some decent corn," she said. "I will be certain to give you some to convey my gratitude."
The night was very still, with only the barest of warm breezes brushing against his skin. Two crickets chirped an antiphonal duet in the grass, and as he gazed at her, a firefly briefly illuminated the night, leaving a ghostly trail as it passed just behind her head.
He took a step closer, near enough to touch her if he wished. "There is a more immediate way you may thank me."
The moonlight was reflected in her very large eyes. "How?" she asked.
"You may allow me to kiss you again, like I did on the tower."
She hesitated so long that he thought she was going to refuse, but finally she said, "I suppose that a bountiful garden is worth the price of a kiss."
"Very much so."
He took the lantern from her and placed it and the tools on the ground, and rested his right hand lightly behind her ear like he had done before. She watched him very closely as he brushed his lips against her cheek.
He drew back to look at her and said, "Close your eyes."
She complied, and he kissed her very gently on the tip of her eyebrow. When he drew back to look at her again, her eyes fluttered open, but this time, when he bent toward her, she closed her eyes and turned her face up to his.
He kissed her on the lips, barely capturing her lower lip, and then shifted slightly to kiss her again from several different angles. He was careful not to startle her as he gradually increased the pressure, but when he moved his right hand to her back and placed his left hand on her waist, she tentatively brushed her hands across both sides of his face and worked her fingers into his hair.
As he pulled her close, he realized how very long it had been since he had felt another body next to his, and the knowledge hurt, a real, physical ache deep in his chest, a hollowness that he longed to fill. Her body was so like his, tall and straight with few fleshy curves, and it felt as if she were made to be here, fitting and meshing and conforming inch for inch, from where their feet bumped together to where their mouths hungrily met.
He broke the kiss, moving his lips to her ear so he could murmur, "I want to touch your thoughts, T'Val."
Nodding almost frantically, she moved her hand to his meld points at the same moment that he found hers, and there she was, he was there, they were together, and he finally knew what it was like to be with someone whose mind was constructed for a joining like this. A memory of Nyota flashed through his thoughts, of the many times he had touched her mind and how good it had been, and his pang of regret over the fact that it had never been this fluid was all right. It did not matter, for it was merely a part of him, a piece of the whole that T'Val accepted just as easily as he accepted the part of her that had been forced to join with a man she abhorred.
Desire rose between them, a desire that was neither his nor hers but theirs, and when she caught his hand and backed away, he followed without speaking.
* * * * * * * *
He woke the next morning to the sensation of a heavy weight across the back of his leg, and he raised his head from the pillow to realize that the cat had jumped onto the bed. Turning his head carefully, he saw that T'Val was sleeping beside him, so he slowly reached down and pushed the cat toward the side of the mattress. It jumped down, flicked its tail as it glared at him, and stalked out of the room with tremendous dignity. He rolled onto his other side to face T'Val, and relaxed onto the pillow again.
They had not slept until the wee hours of the morning, and he did not resist the warmth that rushed into his chest at the memory of the previous night. She had been cautious at first, but he had taken it slowly, cajoling her and encouraging her until she had finally abandoned her inhibitions. Reddish highlights and a few streaks of grey showed in her hair in the morning light, but last night when the lights were out it had seemed so very dark as it had cascaded around him, surrounding him like a tent and caressing him with its cool softness.
Her hair was in wild disarray this morning, and he gently lifted a few heavy strands so they would not obscure her face. She stirred, rolling onto her back to reveal a crease down her cheek from sleeping on a wrinkle in her pillowcase, but she did not wake. He could see her profile clearly now, and he studied the small knot at the bridge of her nose that marked the place where it had impacted with a bedside table when she was very young. She had mentioned this several times, and he knew that she was self-conscious about the fact that the doctors had not been entirely successful at straightening it. To him, though, it was merely another trait that made her face unique. He could also see a number of tiny freckles on her nose, and he deduced that she must have worked in the yard this week without her baseball cap.
She stirred again, and this time when she rolled onto her side, she opened her eyes to find him studying her.
"Good morning," he said.
"Good morning," she replied. "Have you been awake long?"
"Just long enough to think about how beautiful you are."
She grimaced, running her fingers through her hair in an attempt to untangle it. "I am certain that I look like something Matya caught in the yard and dragged to the doorstep."
He captured her hand, enfolding it in his own and bringing it to his chest. His movements caused the sheet to fall away from her shoulder, and he was able to glimpse one small olive nipple as it peeked out from under her arm.
"You are beautiful," he repeated.
"And you are being tactful."
"I assure you that I am quite sincere."
She gave him a dubious look, but before she could voice another objection, her stomach made a very faint rumbling noise.
"I believe that it is time for some breakfast," she said, shifting her weight in preparation for leaving the bed.
"It can wait another moment. You will not starve." He slid his hand under the covers to the small of her back, effectively capturing her. "How are you this morning?"
"I slept soundly, if that is what you mean."
"That is not what I mean."
She looked down at her hand on his chest before meeting his eyes again. "I am fine. With everything."
"I did not know that it could be like that, Spock. Between a man and a woman."
He tightened his grip on her back protectively. "I am sorry that your past experience has not provided you with all the riches of life, T'Val. I promise that it will only get better if you will allow it."
She nodded seriously. He leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers, but he had no sooner done it than her stomach rumbled again.
"Spock," she said against his lips, "if you do not allow me to eat soon, I might very well starve."
It was not breakfast for which he had been hoping, but he decided that he would not press the matter. Pulling away, he said, "Very well, then. We will eat. I would not wish to be responsible for your demise."
She climbed out of the bed and hurried to her closet, and he could tell that she was uncomfortable with her nudity. Her legs were long and her buttocks were firm, and he was not given nearly enough time to view them before she pulled a robe around her shoulders.
Belting the robe around her waist, she said, "I will get it started, and you can join me in the kitchen when you are ready."
He had already thrown back the covers and stood, hoping to assure her that there was no shame in revealing their bodies to one another after what had happened last night, but she only dared a glance at him before she left the room. He raised an eyebrow and retrieved the clothing he had thrown over a chair, and began to get dressed.
* * * * * * * *
After breakfast, he had lingered as long as possible, but finally he stood at the front door.
"I will call you tonight," he said. "It might be late, however."
"It does not matter if it is late. I will be here."
Brushing his fingers against her cheek, he said, "I meant it when I said that you are beautiful."
"I know that you did. I am not sure I understand why, but I do know that you meant it."
He held out two fingers for a Vulcan embrace. She did not react at first, but he did not waver. Finally, she pressed two fingers to his.
"Have a safe trip back," she said.
He nodded and walked out the door.
End chapter thirteen
The Waking Man, Chapter Fourteen
In his room at the consulate, Spock picked up his satchel and carried it to his desk. He was concerned about Admiral Chesk's most recent proposal, and he wished to review it. When he sat at his desk and opened the satchel, however, he stared at his padd for a long moment before opening the compartment at the side of the satchel and taking out the small holo-emitter that he had kept with him for so many years.
He remembered how inconvenient he had considered it when Jim, for example, took an image of his son everywhere he went, but now he did the same sort of thing himself. It was interesting how one's perspective tended to change over time. Nyota had come across this holo-emitter long ago during a visit to her parents' home, and he had placed it in his suitcase for safe-keeping. He had never bothered to remove it when they returned to Vulcan, and over the years he had transferred it from suitcase to suitcase until finally it had ended up in his satchel. Now he was so accustomed to having it that he would miss it if it were gone.
He activated it and leaned back in his chair. The face that smiled at him was a very young face, but it was one that he remembered well. Nyota had been only twenty-five when she was assigned to the Enterprise, and although he was never one to be overly impressed by physical beauty, he would never forget the moment when she first materialized on the Enterprise's transporter pad. She had been with another young lieutenant, but his eyes had only been on her. He had seen something special in her even then. He never would have predicted what they would eventually become to each other, however.
He sat forward again with his elbow on the arm of the chair, and he rested his loosely curled fist against his upper lip. Nyota had been the center of his life for a very long time. Even after she died, the memory of her had been his anchor, the calm place in whatever storm was sent his way. He found now, however, that the circle around that calm center was no longer so concrete; the edges of it were becoming indistinct, as if it were growing to become something new.
"Nyota," he murmured. "I lost you when you died, and I do not wish to lose you again."
She smiled at him, unfazed.
"Do you know what is happening to me?" he asked. "Do you understand that I am being challenged to move on? My feelings for you are as strong now as they ever were, but I can no longer tolerate being alone. I have found someone who makes me feel complete again."
He fell silent, and in the silence, he remembered her generous heart. He remembered how she had always known that he would outlive her. He remembered how she had accepted that he would be given an entire other lifetime after she was gone. How he would have to endure another lifetime after she was gone. How he would be forced to live without her for the remainder of his years.
"She pleases me, Nyota. She is a good person. She is so different from you, yet there are many similarities. I find that I want to be with her my every waking moment. Is it time? Is it time that I put all that we had behind me? Or perhaps I should consider that I will merely be carrying it forward into something new."
He idly ran his finger along the side of the holo-emitter, and then he turned it off with a decisive motion and returned it to his satchel.
"Computer," he said. "List the flights from Atlanta to Terra Station One with two available adjoining seats, beginning at 1700 hours tomorrow."
He viewed the results and selected his choice. 1710 hours, tomorrow, June fifteenth. It was done.
* * * * * * * *
"Where are you taking me, Spock?"
He looked at the woman in the seat next to him. "You will know soon enough."
She pressed her lips together in vexation, but he could tell that she was not truly displeased. "I do not understand why you are keeping our destination a secret."
"As I said, you will know soon enough."
A voice came over the speaker. "We have arrived at Terra Station. Please prepare for docking."
He felt a gentle bump when the shuttle attached itself to a port, and soon they had disembarked. He tried not to show his amusement when she stopped at the ever-changing board that displayed the incoming and outgoing flights.
"Are we going to Mars?" she asked.
"I do not think that we are going to the moon, for we could have done that directly from Atlanta."
"I have heard that the storms on Jupiter are most impressive this time of year."
"Then we are going to Jupiter Station."
"We are not."
She gave him another mock-annoyed look. "Spock, you must tell me where we are going. You promised that we would not be staying overnight, yet I do not see any more day trips exhibited on this board."
"Come with me."
He placed his hand on her back and gently steered her away from the travel hub toward a relatively quiet corridor. He could tell by the expression on her face that she was baffled, and he was astounded that she had not yet discerned the purpose of their visit.
Finally, they came to a darkened observation lounge with ceiling-to-floor windows, through which a vast expanse of open space as well as the furthermost part of the station could be seen. It was very quiet, with only one other occupant, who was more interested in her newspadd than the view. He escorted T'Val to the window just as a large, deep-space ship detached itself from a port and floated away from the station.
He knew what would happen next, so he watched her instead of the ship.
The barest hint of rainbow-colored light illuminated her features, and she gasped. "Oh, Spock... It is just as beautiful as I always knew it would be."
He moved behind her and rested one hand on her shoulder, and pointed toward another area. "If we wait, we will see a ship come out of warp over there."
They watched expectantly until suddenly there was a flash, and a ship seemed to appear out of nowhere. An instant later, another one dropped out of warp right behind it.
She covered his hand, still on her shoulder, with her own. Neither of them spoke while they watched ship after ship vanish and appear, each displaying the distinctive light signature associated with warp travel. He had seen enough ships go into warp that he could identify the warp engine by the spectrum of radiant energy released, but he decided that he would not explain that to her now. It seemed that speaking would spoil the moment.
Finally, she turned toward him. He was still standing very close, and they were almost face to face.
"Thank you, Spock. This is one of the best gifts you could have given me."
Gazing deeply into her eyes, he said, "And thank you for giving me the ability to view this again with wonder. It is good to comprehend the beauty of something I had long taken for granted."
The ghost of a smile graced her lips, but it faded at the seriousness of his expression. "What is it, Spock? Is something wrong?"
"No. Quite the opposite. Something is actually very, very right."
She shook her head in puzzlement.
"T'Val, I am certain you recall the discussion we had about love. I said that it was good to love someone. It enriches the soul, and it leaves one with the sense that all is right with the universe. It turns out that I have fallen in love again. I did not expect that it would ever happen, but it has." He touched her gently under the chin. "I have fallen in love with you. Share the flame with me. Bond with me."
She opened her mouth and closed it, blinked twice, and said, "You wish to bond with me?"
"Yes. We have both been alone for a long time, but fate brought us together. We are well-suited to one another."
"But... your home is Vulcan, and mine is Earth."
"I am prepared to leave Vulcan. I am already away much of the time, and I could easily move my office to San Francisco. The commute from Atlanta to San Francisco is not intolerable."
"You are willing to move to Atlanta?"
"I could not ask you to leave your home, Spock. That is where you lived with Nyota."
"You do not need to ask. I volunteer freely. It is the place of many good memories, but I need more than memories now, T'Val. I need you."
She took a deep breath and pulled away from him.
"No," she said.
"No. I will not bond with you."
Frowning, he said, "I do not understand---"
"Do you think that you are so irresistible that no woman could refuse you?" Holding her arms stiffly at her sides, she curled her fingers into fists. "I will not bond with you. It is as simple as that."
He knew that his distress showed on his face as the silence stretched between them. Only moments earlier, she had been warm and affectionate. From where had this sudden hostility come? It seemed that she had gone out of her way to be hurtful with her words. Gradually, however, he realized that he should not be surprised by this abrupt change in behavior. It did not diminish his sense of loss at the sudden dashing of his aspirations, but he should have seen this coming. She had been hurt before. She clung fiercely to her independence, and she labored under the misconception that it was weak to allow someone new into her life.
Keeping his voice light, he said, "I am quite aware that there are many women who can resist me. However, I do not care about them. It is you I hoped to convince. Clearly, I will have to try harder to convince you of my appeal."
She thawed slightly, as evidenced by the subtle loosening of her fists. "Spock... Forgive me if I was harsh. I did not really mean what I said about you. You are a good man, and any number of women would consider themselves fortunate to be with you."
"You are already forgiven. As I said, however, there is only one woman about whom I care, and she evidently still finds me resistible."
"She is undeserving of your kindness."
"Ah, but she is well worth the effort."
Clasping her hands with great deliberation, she said, "I do enjoy your company, but I quite like my life as it is. It took me much too long to establish a lifestyle that suited me, and I do not intend to change my status. It would be best if we did not see one another anymore."
"That is not acceptable."
"You are looking for a mate, and I will never be your mate. It is illogical for you to continue to waste your time on me."
He raised an eyebrow, pleased that she had taken the discussion into the realm of logic. He was on much more solid footing now than if they had continued to discuss it from an emotional perspective.
"You are operating under a false assumption. I am not looking for a mate. I had no desire to bond again until I met you."
"That desire shall have to remain unfulfilled."
"For the moment, perhaps, but I am optimistic about the long term."
She shook her head. "You are very stubborn, but so am I. It is obvious that we have reached an impasse."
"I see." He clasped his hands behind his back as he pretended to consider it. "I posit that there are two ways to end this impasse. One, you agree to bond with me. Two, I withdraw my proposal. Of course, there is always the third option of no longer seeing one another, but as I said before, that is unacceptable."
"Since I will not agree to bond with you, it is apparent that you must withdraw your proposal."
"Very well. Consider it withdrawn."
Surprise flitted across her features, and he knew that he had won the advantage in their debate. The idea had been planted, and he had learned that one of the constants in life was that something unfailingly appeared more attractive when no longer available. Also, he had not pressed her to the point where she would reject him entirely. Very good. Attempting to hide his satisfaction, he looked away from T'Val only to see that the woman with the newspadd was watching them. He met her eyes, and she hastily became interested in her newspadd again.
"Come, T'Val," he said. "It is growing late, and I must take you home so I can return to San Francisco."
She eyed him warily, then led the way out of the observation lounge.
* * * * * * * *
She had said almost nothing to him on their trip back, and as he walked her to her door, he wondered what was going to happen next. It had occurred to him earlier that he would like to stay the night with her again, but now he considered that he would be fortunate merely to receive an acknowledgment of their continued relationship. Of course, he was quite certain that it would continue, but her attitude did not bode well for the enjoyment of certain physical comforts for the remainder of the evening.
She turned to him when they reached the top of the porch steps. "Thank you for taking me to the space station, Spock."
"I was pleased to do it."
"You do know that I appreciate your companionship, do you not?"
"That was my assumption."
"I simply do not wish to change my life. Can we agree that this is an established fact and accept our times together for what they are?"
"You made your stance on the matter quite clear, T'Val, yet I am still here."
She nodded and caught just the edge of her lip between her teeth. "Then if I were to invite you in--and perhaps allow your visit to turn into an extended stay--you would not consider it also an invitation to think that I might have changed my mind, would you?"
"As I said before, my proposal is withdrawn, so it is a moot point. However, for the sake of argument, if you were to invite me in, I would consider it only an invitation to come in and nothing more."
"That is good." She turned demurely toward her door. "In that case, would you care to come in?"
"I would be most pleased to do so. Incidentally, I should inform you that I am not in a particular hurry to return to San Francisco."
"Interesting. Coincidentally, I am feeling quite rested. I am not in a particular hurry to sleep tonight."
She opened the door, and as soon as it had closed behind them he took her in his arms.
* * * * * * * *
The next morning, McCoy ambled up T'Val's front walk with the juicer she had loaned him last week. The damn thing didn't work. She'd told him that he would be able to make juice from the apples on his tree, but in his opinion all it made was a mess. He probably hadn't used it correctly, though. If he played his cards right, maybe he could get her to come over and do it for him.
He pressed the door signal and waited. When she didn't answer right away, he pressed it again and peered through the window. He thought for sure he'd gotten here early enough that she wouldn't have left for work, but maybe not. A moment later, however, he heard footsteps approach the front door.
"Leonard," she said when she opened the door. "Greetings. I did not expect to see you this morning."
"I just wanted to return this contraption. I couldn't get it to work. I don't think I was doing it right."
She took it from him, and while she was studying it, he stepped past her into the front room. She followed, her eyes still on the juicer.
"Are these the settings you used?" she asked.
"I think so."
"I do not doubt that you had problems, then. It is still programmed for tomato juice."
"I guess that explains why I ended up with a whole mess of applesauce."
"It certainly would."
"Well, since you understand it better than I do..."
His voice trailed away when he heard the noise of a spoon clanking softly against a bowl, and no matter how smart T'Val might claim her cat was, that wasn't the sound a cat would make. Leaning back to see into the kitchen, he couldn't believe his eyes when he saw Spock sitting at the table with a bowl of fruit in front of him and a newspadd beside it.
"Spock?" he said.
Spock looked up from the newspadd. "Greetings, Doctor."
McCoy looked from Spock to T'Val, who impressively did not react at all, and back to Spock. "Well. Fancy seeing you here. Aren't you supposed to be in San Francisco?"
"It is 0400 hours in San Francisco. My presence is not required there for several hours."
"Okay. Well. Then I guess I'll see you later."
Spock returned his attention to the newspadd as McCoy headed back toward the front door with T'Val behind him. When he was out of Spock's sight, he grabbed an elbow and pulled her close.
"T'Val, what's this?" he asked.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean," he pointed toward the kitchen, "what's this? You know. This."
She regarded him evenly. "What do you think it is?"
"Well, you little dickens." Snickering, he squeezed her arm. "I'll be damned. I'm happy for both of you."
"Before you get too excited, Leonard, you need to understand that 'this' is nothing more than what it appears to be on the surface. Do not read too much into it."
"Oh, I won't. Don't worry. But I'm still happy for you."
She opened the door. "Goodbye, Leonard."
"Bye. See you at the hospital tomorrow." He started out the door, but then remembered the juicer in her hands. Taking it from her, he said, "I'll give this another try. And I'll do my best not to drop by too early in the morning if I need more help with it. I wouldn't want to interrupt anything."
She pushed him out the door, but not before he could waggle his eyebrows at her. When he headed down the walk toward his flitter, he couldn't help but puff out his chest a little. Damn, he was good. He'd known all along that they were just right for each other.
End chapter fourteen
The Waking Man, Chapter Fifteen
Careful not to disturb the sand castle the children had built near her chair, Saavik stretched out her legs and dug her toes into the warm sand. A couple of waves had come perilously close to breaching its defenses, filling the moat and washing away a portion of the wall, but she did not want to be the one responsible for finally demolishing it. They had worked much too hard on it for that.
She discreetly looked at Spock, who was sitting beside her. The two of them were ostensibly watching the children, but she knew that he was really much more interested in watching T'Val, who at the moment was knee-deep in the water with Steven in her arms. She would dangle him in the surf until a large wave threatened to overcome them, and then pull him out at the last moment, accompanied by much delighted screaming and the demand that she do it again.
"They are beautiful children, are they not?" Saavik asked.
Spock nodded. "Neither of us is impartial, but I believe that even a stranger would agree."
She pointed at Sylvia, who was allowing the waves to bury her feet in the sand. "The older she gets, the more she looks like Derek, which is interesting because I never thought that Lucas favored him. Evidently the physical characteristics skipped a generation."
Studying Sylvia, Spock said, "I do not see the resemblance. All three of the children have their mother's fair coloring."
"They do, but neither Lucas nor Maria have angular faces like that. I believe that her bone structure had to have come from Derek."
"You simply want one of them to look like you."
"That is not it!" She paused, then asked, "Do you think that Sylvia looks like me?"
She scowled at him, but he ignored her as he continued to watch the children.
"T'Val is good with them," she said.
"She is a pediatrician. She is around children every day."
"I think that she would be a good mother. You need to marry her and make a lot of babies."
Saavik waited for Spock to rise to the bait, but instead he only dropped his eyes slightly before looking back out at the ocean again.
Lowering her voice, she asked, "Is everything all right?"
He still did not meet her eyes, so she leaned closer but did not say anything. Finally, he took a deep breath and faced her.
"T'Val states that she does not wish to bond."
Aware that her eyes were huge, Saavik exclaimed, "You have asked her?"
"Quiet, Saavik." He made little shushing motions with his hand. "Do not make a spectacle."
She scooted her chair right up to his. "Are you saying that you asked her to bond with you and she refused?"
"It was something like that."
"Oh." She tapped her finger against the arm of her chair. "But the two of you are still together. She obviously did not reject you outright."
"She has mixed feelings, for lack of a better word, about the matter. She wants to be with me, but she does not want to bond."
"That does not make sense."
He nodded. "It is rather confusing."
"Are you willing to continue the relationship on those terms?"
He glanced up at T'Val, then leaned so close to Saavik that his forehead nearly touched hers. "I led her to believe that I had accepted those terms, but in reality, I am merely waiting until I can change her opinion. Do not tell her I said that."
"I will not." Unable to contain her excitement, Saavik straightened and tapped a little pattern into the sand with her feet. "I am certain you can do it! You are a very skilled negotiator. Keep me updated on how it goes." She leaned close one last time. "But you do not need to tell me all the details."
She thought that he was going to object to her innuendo, but instead he merely looked back out at the water.
"You can be assured that I most definitely will not," he said.
He met her eyes again, and she could see the humor in his expression. She shook her head, and they both turned back toward the children.
* * * * * * * *
"We demand support!" Admiral Chesk's antennae bobbed in concert with the fist he emphatically placed on the president's desk. "The Federation has allowed the Romulans to amass a fleet. Unchecked, they grow bolder every day. I insist that the Federation take action! Now!"
Spock edged as close as he could to the desk, trying to come between Chesk and the president. "Mr. President, we cannot allow alarmist predictions to alter us from the course of peace. We are presented with an unprecedented opportunity, one that we thought we would never see in our lifetimes. To act now in a militaristic fashion would be foolhardy. We---"
Chesk pointed his finger directly at Spock's chest. "I will tell you what is foolhardy! To sit back and watch while my people are endangered. You keep telling us to wait, but the longer we wait, the more dangerous the situation becomes."
"We must be patient. There is a faction in the Romulan government that no longer wishes to support expensive military actions. My contact assures me that as long as the Andorians do not take action, the Romulans will not."
"You know their history as well as I do, Ambassador Spock! They will never agree to a peaceful solution. Why do they continue to amass troops if they do not intend to wage war?"
"They have a legitimate claim, Admiral."
"They do not!"
"Gentlemen." The president raised both hands. "I am not unsympathetic to your situation, Admiral. I agree that the time may be ripe for a show of support."
Admiral Chesk straightened victoriously, but Spock spoke quickly before the deal could be finalized.
"Mr. President, I must object," he said. "The Romulans are not willing to concede their claim to that space, but as long as we do not act, they will not act. I am certain of it. The peace conference is only nine days away. Nine days, Mr. President. We cannot allow this opportunity to elude our grasp."
"Nine days is like nine years to us!" exclaimed Chesk. "Much can happen in that time. We cannot delay. We have allowed the Romulans to make us look like timid weaklings---"
"There is a difference between timidity and wisdom, and between weakness and restraint," interjected Spock. "Now, more than ever before, is the time for restraint."
The president steepled his hands on his desk. "Ambassador Spock, are you able to contact your man on Romulus? Perhaps we could reach a compromise."
"No, sir. I have no way to contact him. However---"
Chesk made a broad gesture with both hands. "The mysterious Romulan! How convenient that you have no way to contact him."
"However," continued Spock as if he had not been interrupted, "he promised that he would call me at 1400 hours this afternoon. He is always quite prompt. What sort of compromise did you have in mind?"
"I cannot believe that I am hearing this!" said Chesk. "Mr. President, surely you cannot---"
The president quieted him with a glance, then addressed Spock. "Tell him that we will take it as a sign of good faith if the Romulans send no more ships to the area of conflict. We will allow them to retain the forces that are already in place, with the understanding that we will resolve the dispute using more peaceful means at the conference."
Spock nodded with satisfaction. "I will relay your message. Thank you, Mr. President. You will not regret this decision."
"Now," said the president, "if you will excuse me, I have other matters to attend to."
Chesk gave Spock a venomous glare, and the two of them left the president's office.
* * * * * * * *
With a candle flickering on the table between him and T'Val, Spock tried to appear attentive to the violinist who had wandered near. He had brought T'Val to this restaurant in Nashville based on the advice of a security guard at the consulate. The man had overheard Spock tell T'Miren that he was going to Atlanta for the weekend, and the man had stated that he and his wife had dined here several years ago to observe their anniversary. So far, however, the experience was not living up to its reputation.
T'Val hid part of her face beneath her napkin, presumably so the musician would not see her amusement. He added an embellishment to an already syrupy phrase, and drew his bow away with a flourish. Spock nodded polite appreciation, and met T'Val's eyes when the man walked to the next table.
"Perhaps if I give him a tip, he will stay away," he said.
"He might be encouraged to serenade us even more."
"True." He took a sip of his wine. "I fear that dining here is not nearly so enjoyable an experience as daring to eat spicy ethnic food or sample the beer selection."
"I do not mind. Consider this: It will definitely provide us with an experience to remember."
"Indeed it will. However, next time I will allow you to choose the locale."
"That is a wise decision."
The server brought their food, and T'Val immediately busied herself with inspecting her meal, as if she could not decide what to try first. Finally, she sliced off a section of an asparagus spear, dabbed it against her plate to remove the excess sauce that was threatening to drip, and placed it in her mouth. He could tell by her expression that the taste was agreeable.
She speared a small mushroom but noticed his scrutiny just before it reached her lips. Raising an eyebrow, she asked, "Are you displeased with your meal?"
"Actually, I have not even noticed my meal. I am too interested in watching you."
"It will grow cold if you do not eat it quickly."
"That is of no consequence."
He placed his hand on the middle of the table, palm up. At first she just looked down at it, but after a moment she put her hand in his and allowed him to grasp it. She still held the fork in her other hand, poised above the plate, and he could see the puzzlement in her eyes.
"I believe that I could watch you for the remainder of my life and never tire of doing so," he said.
Her eyes widened, and the mushroom dropped off her fork and back onto her plate. He held his breath, hoping that now would be the moment she would realize her error in refusing to bond with him. He had given her the perfect opening; all that was left was for her to say yes, his wish was granted, and he would be able to watch her for the remainder of his life. Instead, however, she tugged her hand out of his grasp and looked down at the table.
After a long moment, he exhaled softly, then tapped his finger against the table to make her look up at him again.
"Your meal will grow cold if you do not eat it," he said.
He waited until she had picked up her fork again, then started on his own meal in earnest.
* * * * * * * *
She had been very quiet while they returned from Nashville, which had given him ample opportunity to plan his strategy. Withdrawing his proposal had not made it more attractive, so it was obviously time to change his approach.
He walked her to the front door, and since she did not hesitate or give any other indication that she was saying goodbye to him now, he followed her inside when it opened.
"Computer, lights," she said.
She removed her jacket and hung it in the closet, and turned to him. He could see the uncertainty in her eyes, and he placed his hand on the side of her face, and then ran it down the length of her arm to intertwine his fingers with her own.
"Bond with me," he whispered.
His arm dropped to his side when she pulled back so that he would see her exasperation.
"Bond with me," he said more insistently.
"I have already given you my answer. Did you know that you can be quite an annoying man?"
"I have heard that before. I will cease annoying you if you will agree to bond with me."
"You are not listening to me, so it is clear that I must find another way to make you stop talking. Perhaps it will also serve to convince you that our current arrangement is perfectly acceptable as it is."
As she took him by the hand and led him into the bedroom, he resolved that his new strategy would be to simply keep asking until he wore her down. He could not deny that their current arrangement was acceptable--it was actually quite pleasant--but he knew that it could grow into something even better.
When she extended two fingers and began to stroke his hand, however, he decided that he would wait until later to put his plan into motion.
End chapter fifteen
The Waking Man, Chapter Sixteen
"The Klingon ambassador is being very vocal about the fact that he wants the Federation to take action. I heard today that he has been trying to gain support among the Federation Council."
Not taking his eyes off his padd, Spock nodded. The afternoon had just segued into evening, and he and T'Miren were in the small sitting area in his quarters. A multi-page hardcopy of the peace conference roster was spread on the low table between them, and she was kneeling on the floor next to it while he sat more comfortably on the sofa.
"Yes, I know," said Spock. "The Laturian ambassador told me this afternoon that Kayok approached him after this morning's briefing."
"Indeed? That is surprising, considering that Laturi stands to benefit from Andor's misfortune. The Laturian trade association would be more than happy to take over Andor's trillium trade routes."
"I had the same thought. Obviously, Kayok is so certain of his position that he has grown brazen. He is willing to look for support in even those places that are least likely to give it."
Spock glanced up at a signal from the computer, but before he could speak, T'Miren stood.
"I believe that I would like to take a break now," she said. "I did not have lunch today, and it will be difficult for me to work into the evening if I do not eat something now."
"Of course. We will resume in thirty minutes."
She left, and he sat down at his desk just as the computer signaled again.
"Computer, receive call." The screen brightened, but he knew who it would be before he saw her image. "Greetings, T'Val."
"Hello, Spock. I received your message. I regret that you must work tonight, but I understand. I know how busy you are."
"I regret it, too. However, the friction over the Andorian conflict has grown to the point where I decided that it would be prudent if T'Miren and I attempted to assess the impact among the delegates to the peace conference."
"How does it look?"
"I am concerned, but not alarmed. I feel that we have successfully isolated the primary sources of dissension, which is the first step toward managing the problem. Tomorrow I will begin speaking personally to either the delegates themselves or their representatives in an attempt to sway their opinions."
"That is a wise plan."
"How was your day?"
"It was productive. I met with the cardiologist about the Emerson child, and she has drawn up a battery of tests we will run tomorrow. I am hopeful that we will be able to pinpoint the defect and perform the implant surgery no later than Thursday. If all goes smoothly, he should be able to begin working with the physical therapists, and he will be back in school by the fall term."
"That would be a remarkable feat. Good work, Doctor."
"Thank you, but I believe that he deserves most of the credit. I never cease to be amazed at how resilient children are. When they brought him to me, I feared that he would be bedridden for the rest of his years. Now he should be playing soccer by the spring." She leaned closer to the screen. "It is unfortunate that you will not be here tonight. I was planning on preparing some of Dr. McCoy's mother's bean soup with cornbread, and I even purchased a new type of Belgian beer that I have never tried before."
"Perhaps you could save the ingredients until tomorrow."
"I would be pleased to do so, although I cannot promise that all of the beer will still be here tomorrow. It is a mild evening, and I was thinking of how nice it would be to sit outside and drink one of them."
"You must do that, then, and I will have a pleasing image of you while I work. It will not compensate for my not being there, but it will have to do."
Her expression softened. "I agree that it is a poor substitute. I will miss you tonight."
"You know that there is an alternative, T'Val. Something that would allow us to be together even when physically separated."
The softness vanished. "I am incredulous that you would bring this up again. You already know what I will say."
"I disagree. I only know what you said the last time we discussed it. I cannot see into the future, so I do not know what your response will be the next time I ask."
"It does not take a fortune-teller to predict my response, as you very well know. The answer is no, and it will be no the next time you ask, too."
"Ah, but perhaps it will be yes the time after that."
She shook her head with resignation. "I must go now."
"Very well. I will see you tomorrow. Good night, T'Val."
She ended the transmission, and he leaned back in his seat and raised both eyebrows. He would have to ensure that he and T'Miren finished all their work tonight so he could leave on time tomorrow. It would obviously take a great deal of persuasion to convince T'Val to bond with him. Indeed, between his relationship with her and the threat to the peace conference, his powers of persuasion would be greatly taxed in the days to come.
He contacted the kitchen and requested a light meal, and bent to his work with increased vigor.
* * * * * * * *
"No! Leave me be!"
Seated in Dr. Pruit's waiting area, Spock could not help but wince as his father's voice carried from the examination room. There had been a strange combination of pathos and fury in his tone, and Spock looked closer at his padd in an attempt to pretend that he had not heard anything.
The murmur of a feminine voice drifted out from behind the closed door, but it was interrupted by a clatter, and Spock hoped that one of the doctors had dropped something. The alternative--that it had been the sound of a thrown object--was difficult to contemplate.
He finally dared a glance across the room at Perrin, who was seated with her legs crossed at the ankle and her hands clasped in her lap. She was so still that she appeared to be carved from stone, and her lips were pressed into a bloodless line. He was not certain if her fierce composure indicated sympathy for her husband's condition, embarrassment at his loss of control, or anger that he would subject her to this.
The door opened, and Dr. Pruit and Dr. Angelluci came out. Spock stood, and Perrin came across the room to meet them.
"How is he?" she asked.
"Well, as I'm sure you know, his condition hasn't improved." Dr. Pruit rubbed his chin. "Most of the time he's calm like you'd expect, but it concerns me that he becomes agitated so easily. The therapist is showing him some new relaxation exercises right now, but we think it's going to take more than that."
Dr. Angelluci pulled a small reference padd out of her pocket. "There's a new type of medication we'd like to try. It's in the same family as the drug he's been taking, but it's a little stronger."
Spock raised an eyebrow. "It was my understanding that he had discontinued his medication."
Perrin gave him a scornful look. "He started taking it again two weeks ago, but it hasn't done a bit of good. Dr. Angelluci, I have reservations about these new drugs. He could hardly abide the old ones, and now you want to give him something stronger."
Dr. Angelluci sighed heavily. "Yes, I know. I have reservations, too, but we're running out of options."
They were all quiet until Dr. Pruit said, "There is one more thing we can try. Dr. Angelluci and I have been reluctant to mention it because it's a pretty radical approach, but at this point it might be worth considering."
"That's right," said Dr. Angelluci. "About eight years ago, a healer on Vulcan began experimenting with a particular kind of mind-meld on his Bendii's patients. It..." She looked down at the pager on her hip. "Damn. I need to go."
"That's all right," said Dr. Pruit. "I'll take it from here."
She hurried away, and Dr. Pruit continued.
"As she was saying, there's a new technique that looks hopeful but is mostly unproven. It's a special kind of mind-meld that appears to help the patient."
"Continue," prompted Spock.
"The patient and the other person actually lock their minds together in such a way that they all but trade places. The purpose is to spread the burden of the damage and in the process make it manageable."
"Must this be done by someone with medical training?" asked Spock.
"No," replied Dr. Pruit. "It would actually be self-defeating to limit it to a doctor, because this isn't a one-time thing. It must be done by someone who's in constant close proximity to the patient. It's only a temporary fix each time, so it must be done repeatedly."
"This sounds like a very promising approach," said Spock. "Why have you not mentioned it before?"
"There are drawbacks. Eventually, the patient develops immunity to the meld, and it becomes ineffective. A meld with a new person might buy a little time, but inevitably the patient is plunged back into a state of mental and emotional disarray that is just as bad--or worse--than before, and the end comes quickly after that."
"If it allows the patient to experience a renewed quality of life, even if only for a limited time, in my opinion it bears close consideration."
"But that's not all," continued Dr. Pruit. "It also takes a tremendous toll on the person who undertakes the meld. They risk complete emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion, and frankly, it doesn't seem to be worth it to make one person well at the expense of another person's health, not to mention the violation of medical ethics that are involved."
"If the person volunteers for the task, there is no ethical dilemma," said Spock.
Dr. Pruit shrugged, but before he could continue, Perrin said, "As his wife, I should be the one to do this."
"Do not be ridiculous," said Spock. "You are not a trained telepath. I am the logical choice for this."
Perrin edged closer to him. "You and your father haven't even touched each other's minds before. It doesn't make any sense that you would begin now."
Unable to believe that Perrin would mention such a personal matter in front of Dr. Pruit, Spock said, "That has no bearing on the current situation. As his son---"
"A son who has kept his distance his entire life!" she exclaimed. "You've always lived your life for no one's satisfaction but your own, and I don't expect that to change. Dr. Pruit said himself that it needs to be someone in constant contact with Sarek. Obviously, that eliminates you."
"Please, please," said Dr. Pruit. "Any talk of a meld is premature. We need to try this medication first. It'll be several days before we know whether it works, and we can reassess the situation then."
Sarek chose that moment to walk out the door, so Spock abandoned any attempt at a rebuttal to Perrin's last statement. At any rate, he should not have been drawn into the argument in the first place, for it was clear that he was the best choice to perform the meld. Everyone would agree once calmer minds prevailed.
Dr. Pruit started describing the specifics of the new medication, so Spock decided that it was time for him to return to the consulate.
* * * * * * * *
Comfortably ensconced in one of the large wicker chairs on T'Val's front porch, Spock took a deep breath. The rain had been pattering softly all evening, and the air was heavy with a variety of scents--wet earth, newly cut grass, the perfume of magnolia blossoms, the sharp tang of the rain itself. He looked over at T'Val in the chair next to him, and reached over to gently rest his fingertips on the back of her hand.
"I am going to pour myself a glass of water," he said. "Would you like one?"
He went into the house. There was still just enough daylight outside that he did not need to turn on the lights, and he walked into the kitchen and took two glasses down from the shelf. He noticed Matya watching cautiously from the shadows as he poured the water.
"You are uncertain about me."
Staring at him, the cat moved just the tip of its tail.
He left the kitchen with glasses in hand, and gave one to T'Val when he reached the porch. Settling himself back into his chair, he said, "I have spent a great deal of time here recently, but Matya continues to be distrustful. Is he this aloof with everyone?"
"He is jealous. I have seen him looking for you when you are not here, so do not let him fool you."
Spock raised an eyebrow. "He has? Interesting."
Sipping her water, she said, "Why do you ask? You have never appeared to be particularly concerned about his affection before."
"He is important to you. If we were to become bonded, his rejecting me would cause strain."
She set her glass on the table next to her with a thunk, effectively expressing her opinion even though she did not speak.
Spock leaned in her direction. "T'Val, I will be leaving for the conference soon, and we need to settle this before I go."
"It is settled. I do not know why---"
T'Val was interrupted by a cheery feminine voice, and Spock turned to see an elderly woman waving from the porch next door.
Quickly addressing T'Val, Spock said, "Do not think that this conversation is over."
"I believe that it is. Hello, Mrs. Moore," she called out.
"This is a nice rain we've been having, isn't it?" asked Mrs. Moore.
T'Val walked over to the edge of the porch. "Indeed it is. I am pleased to see it. My garden has been rather dry lately."
"Oh, you wouldn't believe the cucumbers I'm getting." Mrs. Moore craned her neck, trying to see beyond T'Val to Spock. "I set out the early kind, and now I'm about to drown in them. T'Val, would you introduce me to your gentlemen friend?"
"Of course." T'Val stepped out of the way and gestured toward Spock. "Mrs. Moore, this is Spock. Spock, this is my neighbor, Estelle Moore."
Standing, Spock inclined his head. "It is an honor to meet you, Mrs. Moore."
"Oh, my." Smiling, Mrs. Moore placed both hands over her chest and pretended to speak confidentially to T'Val. "This one is quite the catch, T'Val. You need to make sure you don't let him get away."
"That is exactly what I have been telling her," said Spock.
T'Val scowled at him, but Mrs. Moore laughed and headed back toward her front door. "I need to return to my canning. T'Val, I'll bring you some fresh dill pickles when I'm done. It was nice to meet you, Spock."
When she was gone, Spock sat down again.
"She is an observant woman," he said.
"Do not be too impressed with yourself. She said the same thing when she saw me talking to the plumber last week."
Raising an eyebrow in amusement, Spock picked up his water and looked back out at the rain.
* * * * * * * *
The next morning, Spock stopped by his quarters to pick up a data wafer, then went next door to Sarek's room to see if he was ready to go to the morning briefing. He signaled his presence, waited for what seemed an inordinately long time, and signaled again. He had just decided that his father must have gone ahead without him when he heard a faint noise from within.
Rapping on the door, he said, "Father? Is that you?"
He heard the noise again. It sounded like someone was sobbing.
"Sarek," he repeated with more urgency. "Open the door. Let me in."
Just as he turned away to find someone who could override the lock, the door swooshed open. He immediately stepped inside, and when the door closed behind him, he was plunged into complete darkness. The quiet sobbing had stopped, but he could still hear someone breathing.
"Computer," he said. "Lights at twenty-five percent."
The room was lit with a faint yellow light, and Spock could not suppress a gasp at what he saw before him. Sarek, rumpled and unkempt with the tracks of tears on his face, stood with his arms held out in a posture of supplication.
"Spock," he said beseechingly. "Spock."
Moving quickly to his side, Spock placed one hand on Sarek's back and grasped his elbow with the other, and steered him toward a chair. "Father, I am here. It is all right."
Sarek fell into a chair, wrapped both arms around his waist, and tilted his face toward the ceiling as if he were in tremendous pain. "I do not know this place, Spock," he moaned. "Why am I here? I tried to find my study. I wished to get some work done, but my study is not where it should be. Nothing is where it should be."
Dragging a chair close, Spock sat down in front of his father. "You are at the Vulcan consulate, on Earth. Do you remember?"
Sarek stared at him, his face contorted with confusion. "I got out of bed, but I could not find the lavatory. I was going to take a shower and go to work. Spock, you must call them and tell them that I will be late. Telak will take care of it. He is good at things like that."
"Father, over thirty years have passed since Telak was your aide. Sakketh is your aide, and you are on Earth." He looked over his shoulder, trying to see into the bedroom. "Where is Perrin? Try to remember. Where is she?"
Sarek's face crumpled, and he started to sob again. "Perrin. Perrin," was all he said.
"Sit there. Do not get up."
Spock paused to see if Sarek understood his instructions, but it was clear that Sarek was beyond his reach. Keeping a close eye on him, Spock hurried across the room to the computer.
"Computer. Contact Starfleet Medical. Request emergency beam-out for two from this location, and inform staff that the patient has Bendii's Syndrome. Also, have them notify Doctors Pruit and Angelluci that Sarek's condition has worsened."
Spock ran back across the room and helped Sarek into a standing position just as the transporter began to take them.
* * * * * * * *
Spock sat next to his father's bed while Dr. Pruit scanned him. Sarek had become violently agitated the moment they materialized on the hospital's transporter pad, and the emergency technician had been forced to sedate him. Now, Dr. Pruit was preparing to bring him out of sedation, and Spock was poised to react quickly if there were more problems.
Pressing a hypospray against Sarek's arm, Dr. Pruit said, "Okay. Here we go."
They waited until Sarek's eyes fluttered open, and Spock immediately relaxed. The sharp intelligence that had been missing from his father's face earlier was very evident now.
"Hello, Father," said Spock.
Sarek swallowed weakly. "I see that I am back in the hospital. What happened?"
Spock tried to think of a way to avoid describing the uncomfortable details, but Sarek repeated, "What happened? You must tell me."
Taking a deep breath, Spock said, "When I came to your quarters this morning, you were weeping and incoherent. You did not know where you were."
Sarek looked up at the ceiling with his face set in grim lines. "I see."
Dr. Pruit pulled a chair close to the other side of the bed and sat down. "Ambassador, you had what we call a synaptic disconnect episode. It's just a symptom of your disease. I'm afraid it does mean that your Bendii's is advancing, but you need to understand that what happened this morning was not your fault. If you hadn't been alone, it's possible that we would have caught it sooner, and you would never have gotten into that state."
Sarek did not reply, instead continuing to stare at the ceiling.
"I must admit that I was surprised to find you by yourself. "Where is Perrin?" asked Spock.
"She is visiting her niece. I have been doing so well on the new regimen that we thought it acceptable for her to leave for one night. I will contact her and tell her what happened." Finally facing Spock again, Sarek said, "Thank you for taking care of me."
"I am relieved that I happened to be there when you needed me."
Coming onto his elbow, Sarek leaned close to Spock. "Spock, I want you to tell me in no uncertain terms that you will not allow this to distract you from the plans for the peace conference."
Spock met Dr. Pruit's eyes briefly, caught off guard by his father's sudden intensity. "Ah... Of course, I will continue to move forward with the peace conference."
"That is not what I mean. You must go to the peace conference, regardless of what happens to me. You stated before that your primary duty was to your father, but I will not accept your sacrificing this goal on my behalf. Promise me that one week from today, you will be on your way to Itarak."
"Very well. I promise."
Sarek nodded with satisfaction, and collapsed back onto his pillow and closed his eyes. He seemed to have fallen asleep, but after a moment he began to toss his head on the pillow and pluck at the covers, and his lips worked soundlessly as if he were talking to himself.
Dr. Pruit walked around the bed to Spock.
"He's out of the woods for now," Dr. Pruit said softly, "and rest is the best thing for him at the moment. Maybe you could contact his wife and go about your business. Nothing is going to happen here anytime soon."
"Is it time to try the mind-meld?"
Dr. Pruit frowned and put his hands on his hips, and studied Sarek. "Let's keep an eye on him for another day or two, and make the decision then."
Nodding, Spock stood. He took one last look at Sarek and left the room.
End chapter sixteen
The Waking Man, Chapter Seventeen
Spock hurried away from the administration building after a short meeting with the president. The plans for the peace conference were finally being locked into place. The president had approved his own itinerary with only minor changes, and T'Miren was finalizing the arrangements now. They would be leaving in only six days.
He shook his head, unable to believe that after so many covert communications with Pardek, after countless hours of negotiations with representatives from all over the Federation and beyond, after endless debates with the angry Andorians, the day was all but here.
As he started down the walk toward the parking area, he calculated the amount of time it would take him to reach the hospital. If he were prudent with every spare minute, he could visit Sarek at the hospital and be back for his scheduled call from Romulus. He would be pleased to tell Pardek that everything had finally fallen into place. Then, he would meet with T'Miren to confirm that all of the desired arrangements had been made, and if he were fortunate, he could be in Atlanta in time for a late meal with T'Val. He would have to take some of his work with him, but he could complete it just as easily at her house as in his room at the consulate.
He had just reached his flitter when he heard a voice from behind.
"Spock! Spock, wait!"
He turned quickly to see that T'Miren was rushing to catch him. She was obviously alarmed about something, and a number of negative scenarios played through his mind in the seconds it took her to reach him.
"What is it?" he asked.
"The Romulans. They attacked. There are many Andorian casualties."
"When did it happen?"
"No more than thirty minutes ago, although there is much confusion about the timing. The president is calling an emergency meeting now."
He turned back toward the building and jogged up the steps. "Where is the meeting?"
"In his office."
They were quiet as they entered the building and rushed down the hallway. An armed guard stopped them momentarily at the president's door, but soon they were inside. It was a hive of furious activity, with many voices going at once and a number of high-ranking Starfleet officers huddled around four different tactical monitors.
Spock had taken no more than three steps into the room when Admiral Chesk saw him.
"It has happened!" Chesk exclaimed. "Just as I said it would! My people were caught unaware, and they were slaughtered." His voice broke. "Men and women who were told that peace was on the horizon were slaughtered without knowing what had hit them."
Spock approached the president. "Mr. President, I cannot understand why this has happened. My contact---"
Chesk had followed him across the room. "Your contact! You were misled, Ambassador Spock. You were duped, as were all of us. We cannot trust them! We should never have trusted them."
Spreading his hands, Spock said, "Admiral Chesk, please..." He swallowed, uncertain about what he could say. "Please understand that I---"
Chesk placed his hand on Spock's forearm and squeezed, which was so unexpected that Spock could not help but flinch slightly. Neither of them spoke until Chesk relaxed his grip and allowed his hand to drop to his side.
"It is not your fault, Ambassador. You are a man of good will, but you placed your trust in the wrong sources."
Unable to respond, Spock looked over at the president.
"The Federation considers this an act of war, Ambassador Spock," said the president. "I am taking a delegation to the war zone, and it is only fitting that you accompany me. If you and your aide have any unfinished business, I suggest that you take care of it now, for we are leaving tomorrow morning."
Spock nodded, then turned and left the room with T'Miren at his side.
* * * * * * * *
Why had it happened? What had caused the Romulans to decide to attack? Was that the plan all along? Were the promises of peace just a ruse, a way to lull the Federation into inaction until the Romulans were able to put all the pieces into play? Or did something change, disrupting the equilibrium and finally tipping the balance toward war?
The door to the lift opened, so Spock headed down the hallway that would take him to Sarek's hospital room. He knew that he passed a number of familiar faces, doctors and nurses and even patients who had come to recognize him, but try as he might to acknowledge each with a polite nod or a quiet greeting, the effort was simply too great. It was all he could do to keep moving, rather than halt to be alone with his own whirling thoughts.
When he had stopped by his room to check the news services, he had found a short message from Pardek. Pardek was clearly nervous, looking over his shoulder every few moments as if afraid that someone was bearing down on him, and he had been in too much of a hurry to take the time to distort his image and voice. It was actually the first clear look Spock had gotten at his Romulan counterpart since the Khittomer Conference.
"Forgive me, Spock," Pardek had said. "I did not know that this was going to happen. If my government's interest in the peace talks was only a ploy, I was as deceived as you. We will not talk again soon, but I want you to know that this is not over. Someday, you and I will again meet face to face, and peace will be the agenda. Pardek out."
And that had been it. Spock wanted to trust Pardek, but it was difficult. Only time would tell him how sincere Pardek had truly been. For now, all that mattered was the obvious fact that the peace conference would not happen as planned. He had composed a short message stating that it was postponed, and he had tasked T'Miren with contacting all of the affected parties. However, everyone would know that even once it took place, it would not be particularly meaningful. The Romulans and their allies would not be there, and it would serve very little purpose to discuss peace when all of the parties were already at peace with one another.
He turned the final corner and walked into Sarek's hospital room. To his great amazement, Sarek was dressed and sitting in a chair, going over something on a padd with Sakketh as if it were a typical day in his office. Perrin hovered behind him, and Spock knew as soon as he met her eyes that something had happened. Dr. Angelluci was also present, and she gave him a big grin as soon as she saw him.
"Greetings, Father," Spock said. "I am impressed at how robust you look. It is quite an improvement over yesterday."
"I am much improved, thank you."
Dr. Angelluci could hardly contain her excitement. "It worked, Ambassador! The mind-meld worked."
Spock felt the air knocked from his body as if he had been punched in the stomach. "You melded with someone?" he said to Sarek.
"Yes. Sakkath melded with me."
Sakketh nodded. "I am greatly honored to have assisted the Ambassador in this manner."
Spock knew that he was already unsettled over the Romulan attack, and he fought to maintain his composure. "I am pleased for you, Father, and I appreciate Sakketh's sacrifice, but I must point out that it would have been much more appropriate if I had been the one to meld with you." He could not help but add, "I am your son. Why? Why did you not choose me?"
Perrin's eyes flashed victoriously. "Sarek was incapacitated, so the choice was mine."
"You knew my opinion on the matter."
"So I did. But in the end, your opinion did not matter, for I am his wife and I knew what was best."
Spock looked at Sarek, certain that his father would express displeasure at his wife's behavior even if Dr. Angelluci did not understand, but Sarek merely said, "I heard that the Romulans have attacked the Andorians. Are you going to the war zone?"
"Yes," Spock replied automatically.
"Dr. Angelluci has not agreed to release me quite yet, but it is my hope that I will be able to join you soon. I have no doubt that the Federation will become deeply involved in the conflict, and the president will need all of his advisors. Please keep me apprised of your plans."
Sarek became preoccupied with his padd again, so Spock turned and left without speaking another word.
* * * * * * * *
Spock brought his flitter down under the streetlights in front of T'Val's house. He had used the flight time to attempt to regain a measure of tranquillity--'Kaiidth,' he had repeated over and over to himself, 'What is done, is done'--but he knew he had not been successful.
He had been a fool.
He had followed a blind path of trust, of hope, of faith in the belief that if one expected the best of others, others would live up to those expectations, and he had been wrong. He had been wrong to believe that the Romulans desired peace, he had been wrong to listen to Pardek, and he had been wrong to assume that he would be the one chosen to mind-meld with Sarek.
He climbed the steps to the front porch, then signaled his presence at the door. As he waited for T'Val to answer, it occurred to him that he did not like having to wait at the door like this. He might as well be a neighbor or an acquaintance or even a complete stranger. It seemed much more appropriate that the door would be programmed to recognize him, so he could enter as if this were where he belonged. This should be where he belonged. If T'Val would bond with him and set everything right, he would be coming into a welcoming home instead of standing on the front porch like a visitor.
She opened the door and beckoned him in. "Spock, I was just watching the news. I am so sorry."
"It is quite a setback. Needless to say, the peace conference is indefinitely postponed. I am leaving tomorrow for the war zone."
"Tomorrow?" she said with dismay. "I had thought that we would have several more days together before you had to leave. How long will you be gone?"
"I do not know. I assume that I will be gone until this conflict is over, which will not happen soon. I might be gone for weeks, or even months."
She moved close and held up two fingers for the ritual embrace. "I will miss you, Spock."
He gazed into her eyes, and there was no mistaking the tenderness and affection that was reflected back at him. He could not continue like this. It was time to resolve this matter.
Pressing his hand to hers, he said, "T'Val, bond with me. Now."
She started to pull away, but he quickly captured her hand.
"Please do not send me away without the comfort of a bond," he continued. "Soon we will be physically parted, but there is no need for us to be emotionally and mentally parted, as well. I desire to be one with you."
She hesitated, and he felt his heartrate accelerate at the thought that finally she might capitulate. The next moment, however, determination tightened her features, and she twisted her hand out of his grasp.
Stepping back, she said, "I have already told you no, Spock. I am sorry. I care very deeply for you, but when I said no, I meant it. I like my life as it is. How can you claim to dislike our current arrangement? You continue to come here. You continue to enjoy the physical benefits. You have all of the advantages of a relationship with none of the drawbacks."
"I know of no drawbacks."
"Altering one's life to suit another is a drawback. What about giving up one's independence? I do not wish to become dependent on anyone, not even you."
"I do not ask you to become dependent on me. I ask that you share your life with me. There is a tremendous difference between dependency and sharing, T'Val. It implies no weakness on your part to admit that your life would be enhanced if we were to bond."
"I am not concerned about being weak."
"Then I do not understand your conflict. If you are to be with me, then be with me. I am tired of this evasiveness and half-commitment."
"And I am tired of being pressured."
He took a deep breath. "Very well. Then that is it. I have been patient with you, T'Val. I have persevered despite receiving no encouragement from you. However, I have run out of patience. I am through."
She straightened defiantly. "With what are you through? Are you saying that you are through badgering me to bond with you?"
"I am saying that I am through enduring the emotional strain of asking and being rejected, of being with a woman with whom I want to bond but who does not want to bond with me. I am through with you." He started toward the door. "I wish you well, T'Val."
She did not stop him, so he left.
* * * * * * * *
Saavik hurried down the steps at the sound of someone entering the front door. She had not expected Michael to come home from his medical seminar tonight, and at any rate, he would not use the front door. Derek and his wife had no more vacation time left for the summer, and neither of their children had said anything about visiting again soon.
"Hello," the person called out, and she was pleased to recognize Spock's voice. She entered the vestibule to see him waiting just inside the front door, but her step slowed when she saw the expression on his face. Something was clearly wrong.
"Greetings, Spock," she said uncertainly. "This is a very nice surprise. What brings you here? Is everything all right?"
"I am leaving for the war zone tomorrow, and I thought that I would visit you before I left."
"War zone? What war zone?"
"Have you not watched the news today?"
She motioned for him to follow her into the kitchen. "I read this morning's news reports while I ate breakfast, but I have not checked any of the news services since then. Would you care for some tea?"
"Yes, please. The Romulans attacked the Andorians this afternoon at 1632 hours your time."
"Oh, no," she said sympathetically. "I am sorry to hear that, Spock. I knew that something was wrong the moment I saw you. What will that do to the conference?"
"The official stance is that it has merely been postponed, but I do not know if it will be worth the effort to hold it at all, since obviously the Romulans and their allies will not attend."
She filled a kettle and put it on to heat, and they both sat at the table.
"What time are you leaving tomorrow?" she asked.
"I am to meet the president and his advisors at his office in Paris at 1100 hours. We will be taken via shuttle to the Excalibur, which will leave Earth orbit as soon as we are on board. I estimate that we will be underway no later than 1130 hours."
"You are traveling with the president? That is most impressive. He must greatly value your input."
"Or perhaps he thinks that I should help clean up the mess I am partially responsible for making."
"You? Why would he hold you responsible? You did not tell the Romulans to attack."
"No, but I did tell the Federation to remain uninvolved."
"And that was good advice. For all you know, the situation might be even worse now if the Federation had gotten involved sooner."
"Or perhaps there would be no war at all."
The kettle whistled, so Saavik got up to take it off the heat. "You cannot blame yourself for what happened. Your only choice was to act in accordance with your beliefs." She poured the water into both mugs and returned to the table with them. "I am certain that the president always has many people telling him to use force, but very few telling him to preserve peace. I have no doubt that your insight is valuable to him. The fact that it turned out to be inaccurate this time does not lessen that."
"Thank you, Saavik, for both the tea and the kind words."
"They are not merely words," she said stubbornly. "They are the truth."
He nodded absently, and although she looked for a hint of amusement in his eyes, she did not see it. Usually he would react to her headstrong attitude with fond indulgence, but tonight it seemed that he hardly heard her.
"How is Sarek?" she asked.
He drew his brows together minutely before he erased all expression from his face. She had merely been trying to change the subject, but she knew that she must have inadvertently hit upon another sore spot.
"He is doing much better," replied Spock.
"Is this not good news?"
"It is definitely good news."
"You do not act like it is good news."
"Forgive me. I am being selfish. Of course I am very pleased for him. It is simply that the doctor recommended we try a mind-meld to help him regain his control, and I thought that I should be the one to meld with him. His aide was chosen instead."
"That does not make sense. A family member would have been a much more logical choice for such an intimate task. Was there a reason the doctor had Sarek's aide do it instead of you?"
"I do not know what, if any, reason was given to the doctor. Perrin made the decision, and I was not there to refute her."
Saavik wrinkled her nose in distaste. "Why would she choose his aide?"
"The meld must be maintained through constant close contact, and she stated that she chose his aide for this reason. I am certain that it was not her true motivation, however. She does everything in her power to distance me from my father, and I should have realized that she could not allow me to do something that would bring us closer, regardless of whether it was the best choice for Sarek."
"The meld is not a one-time thing?"
"Spock, I hesitate to point this out, but I can understand her reasoning. It would be difficult for you to make yourself available---"
"I was willing to do whatever it took, and she knew that," he said stubbornly.
Saavik took a deep breath. Spock was not viewing the situation objectively, but it was clear that he did not wish to have anyone point this out to him. Deciding not to pursue the matter, she finished her tea and noticed that Spock's cup was also empty.
"Would you care for more?" she asked.
"Thank you, but no."
She glanced up at the chronometer over the stove and saw that it was nearly midnight. "I did not realize the hour. Do not let me keep you if you are ready to go."
"Actually, I would like to stay the night if you do not mind."
"Really? I had assumed that you would want to spend your last night here with T'Val."
"If this is an imposition, I can return to San Francisco tonight."
"Of course it is not an imposition! I will be glad to have you. Is T'Val busy tonight?"
"Not to my knowledge."
"Then why are you not with her?"
"We are no longer seeing one another. If you do not mind, I believe that I shall go up to my room now. I have a small amount of work to complete, and I would like to meditate before I retire."
She frowned but said, "I do not mind. It is time for me to go to bed, anyway."
"Very well. Good night, Saavik."
She watched him walk away, then stared at the empty doorway after he was gone. The last she had heard, he was hoping to bond with T'Val. What could have happened to cause them to end their relationship?
Shaking her head, she turned out the light and went upstairs.
End chapter seventeen
The Waking Man, Chapter Eighteen
"Good morning, Cindy. How are you today?"
T'Val briefly rested her hand on her small patient's head before activating the scanner.
"My tummy still hurts, Dr. T'Val. But it's better."
"That is good. I am pleased that you feel better. If it gets worse, however, you must tell someone. Will you do that?"
Cindy nodded seriously, so T'Val brushed a lock of wispy blonde hair away from her forehead and left the room. She immediately saw Leonard coming around a corner at the end of the hallway.
"T'Val!" he exclaimed. "I sure am glad I caught you! There are little bugs all over those flowers you planted a couple of weeks ago. I don't know what to do about the damn things. They're eating holes in the leaves."
She pressed her lips together. "Leonard, I was certain that there must be some sort of medical emergency, the way you called out to me."
"Well, there is," he said indignantly. "My flowers will be dead if I don't figure out what to do. Do you have a minute to talk about it?"
She consulted her padd. "Yes. I just completed my rounds, and I do not have another appointment this morning. Would you care for a cup of coffee?"
"That sounds good."
They walked to the break room, and she ordered two cups of coffee while Leonard found a table. The beverage dispenser was slow today, and she stared blindly at the wall while she waited for the two cups to fill. How could Spock have asked so much of her? He was an intelligent man, and she had told him--repeatedly--that she was content with her life and did not want to change it. Why had he misunderstood? He must have simply chosen to misunderstand. Obviously, he was accustomed to always getting his way. It was becoming more and more clear that their relationship had been doomed from the start. It was good that they had ended things now. Pursuing it would have been a waste of time for both of them.
Why, then, did she feel so bad?
Her breakfast sat like a stone in her stomach, and the hollow ache behind her eyes had gotten worse with every passing moment throughout the long, sleepless night. She could not stop replaying how it had felt to be held in his arms, to be cherished in a way that she had never been cherished before, to feel like a woman rather than a frightened child when he touched her. What would she do if she could never again share the details of her life with him, hear the sound of his voice, gaze upon his kind face?
"Hey, T'Val," called out Leonard. "That coffee's going to turn into tar if it sits there much longer."
She quickly picked up the coffee and carried it to the table. Leonard watched her closely as she sat.
"Where were you?" he asked.
"Forgive me. I had a sleepless night, and I am exhausted today."
He studied her face. "Normally I'd make a crude joke about why you didn't get any sleep last night, but somehow I think it might be inappropriate. What's up?"
She tried to take a sip of her coffee, but it was so hot that she jerked it away and a few drops sloshed onto her shirt. The pain made her eyes sting, and she grabbed a paper napkin and ducked her head while she tried to blot up the spots from her clothing.
"T'Val, what is it?" asked McCoy.
She shook her head, her eyes still on the stain.
Reaching across the table, he took the napkin out of her hand. "Tell me," he demanded.
She stared at her shirt a moment longer, but finally raised her head. "It is Spock. I do not know what to do. My life was very good before I met him, but then he came into my life and now everything has changed. I want my old life back. I want to be completely self-sufficient again. I want to be content with my solitude. He has ruined everything."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"He asked me to bond with him, and I refused. Now he is gone and nothing seems right anymore. All I want is for everything to be the way it was before."
"He asked you to bond with him, and you said no?"
She nodded unhappily.
Frowning, he leaned forward. "Okay, so let me make sure I got this right. You were alone and everything was just fine in your little world, but he came along and made you realize that your little world wasn't quite as perfect as you thought it was. He made things better. But then you called it quits, and now you're blaming him for ruining everything?"
"My life was good. I want my old life back, Leonard. I preferred everything just as it was."
"It sounds to me like you're working awfully hard to convince yourself of that. Well, let me tell you something. Life is always better when you share it with someone. Take it from someone who's been alone pretty much all of his too-damn-long life. Do you want to be like me? Old and stooped and relying on the kindness of friends?"
"Your life is good, Leonard. You cannot tell me that it is not."
"Sure it is, and I'm grateful for every day I'm given in this universe, but do you think it couldn't be better? Dammit, T'Val, look me in the eye and tell me that it wasn't good to have him seated across the table from you in the morning reading a newspadd."
He stared unflinchingly at her, and when she didn't respond, he said, "Tell me that you'd rather talk to your cat at the end of a difficult day than to someone who sympathizes with what you've been through."
"It was fine before."
Slapping his hand on the table, he said, "Tell me that you disliked having a warm body in the bed next to you, that it didn't feel right to be able to roll over and know that you weren't alone in the long, dark hours of the night!"
"Very well! I cannot deny any of that. It was good. But what of him, Leonard? Eventually he would have regretted choosing me. His family is so illustrious that they are almost revered. My family is nothing. And me? I am tall and clumsy. My education was second-rate, and my training in emotional control was sporadic at best. My feet are too big, my breasts are too small, and I have a lump on the bridge of my nose. What man could want me? It would not be long before he realized that he had made a mistake."
McCoy shook his head. "T'Val, I can't believe I'm hearing you say that! Is that what this is really about? You're a beautiful, intelligent woman. I've known that from the day I met you."
"It is different with you, Leonard. You and I are friends, and you are attuned to what is inside me."
"And you think that Spock isn't?"
"You know as well as I do that attraction is based on the external as well as the internal. It is not shallow or cruel. It is simply the way things are."
"Okay, disregarding the fact that you're an idiot for thinking that you're unattractive, let's talk about Spock for a minute. He's a loyal friend, a good person, and he's been alone for far too long. He has good taste, and he's obviously smarter than you are. Do you doubt him so much that you think he'd choose someone he didn't find desirable?"
"I do not know why he chose me."
"Well, I do, and obviously he does, too. I admit that it surprised me a little bit to hear that he proposed so quickly, but now that I've had a chance to think about it, it makes sense. It took him forever to marry Uhura, but the difference between then and now is that now he has a successful, happy marriage behind him. Then, he had only the experience of a bondmate who didn't respect him." Leonard looked pointedly at her. "Gee, that sounds like someone else I know. Does it sound familiar to you?"
They fell quiet while she thought about what he had said. Could it be that she was basing her reasoning on the wrong factors? She had liked her life. There was no doubt about that. But was she was clinging to it because it was safe, rather than because it was good? She knew that she had allowed her unfortunate past to color her perception of the present. She would be a fool to think that it had not. Was it possible, though, that her reasoning had been faulty when she did not consider that there was no comparison between her past and what was happening now? Perhaps her logic had been flawed from the start.
"Do you truly think that Spock delayed marrying Nyota because of what happened with T'Pring?" she asked.
"So he's told you about T'Pring? Yes, I absolutely think that he was afraid to get married because of what happened with T'Pring. I'm sure that there were other reasons, too, mostly based on things that were going on inside his head, but that was a big one."
The pain in her stomach lessened slightly. "If I were to accept his proposal, I suppose that the worst-case scenario is that we would learn we were not well-suited for one another and we would part company."
"That's right, although I'd be willing to bet good money it'll never come to that. However, if you don't try, I guarantee that you're going to wonder what could have happened for the rest of your life."
"You are right." Standing, she consulted her padd. "I must rearrange my schedule so I can tell him that I have changed my mind. I hope it is not too late."
"What do you mean too late? Did he give you a deadline or something?"
"He is leaving with the president for Andor today."
"What?" McCoy stood and took the padd from her hands. "I can't believe we've been sitting here jawing when you knew that he was leaving! I thought he was going to be on Earth until the peace conference began. I'll take care of your schedule. You just go. Go on, go."
"Thank you, Leonard."
"Go!" he repeated. "And you're welcome."
* * * * * * * *
Saavik hurried to the door. Whoever it was, they were impatient, for the door had chimed twice before she could even make it to the bottom of the steps.
"Come," she said.
The door opened, and Saavik raised both eyebrows when T'Val stepped into the house. Her face was flushed, and she pushed her hair away from her forehead while she spoke.
"Hello, Saavik. Is Spock here?"
"No. He left almost two hours ago."
T'Val's face fell. "It was so late when he left my house last night that I was certain he would come here, but I anticipated that he would not leave until 9:00 am at the earliest."
"Normally he would have stayed, but he got up and left this morning without delay. He was not in a good mood."
T'Val closed her eyes briefly. "I am certain he is not, and it is my fault. I must talk to him before he leaves Earth."
"Contact him via his communicator."
"What I have to say must be said in person. I cannot do this over a communicator."
Doing some quick computations in her head, Saavik grasped T'Val by the upper arm and turned her toward the door. "Perhaps it is not too late," she said. "He told me that he had several things to do before he left. Get in your flitter and go as fast as you can toward San Francisco. T'Miren will know where he is. I will contact her and let you know."
T'Val placed her hand over Saavik's. "Thank you, Saavik. I will talk to you soon."
As soon as T'Val was out the door, Saavik ran to her office.
End chapter eighteen
The Waking Man, Chapter Nineteen
Rushing through the hospital lobby, T'Miren looked ahead to the lift and realized that there would not be room for her once the man in the hoverchair had squeezed in. She changed direction without breaking stride and took the stairs two at a time until she had reached the third floor. She hesitated while she tried to discern in which direction room 326 would be, but soon she was hurrying down the hall. There it was. Room 326. She strained to hear Spock's voice as she approached, and when she did not, she immediately started thinking about where he might have gone next. If she were quick, she might be able to find out where he was and reach T'Val before she landed here at the hospital.
"Father," said a voice in the room, "I think that it is too soon for you to make this trip."
There. Spock's voice. She stopped abruptly, took a deep breath, and casually walked into the room. Sarek and Perrin were seated by the window, and Spock sat on the bed with his back to the door. There was also a young human female standing near Sarek, and T'Miren assumed that she must be a doctor. Sarek seemed to be surprisingly well; she had not been told why he was in the hospital, but from all indications she had assumed it to be quite serious. Either it had not been so serious after all or he had made a remarkable recovery.
"Spock, I assure you that I am quite fit," said Sarek. "I..."
Sarek's voice trailed away when he saw T'Miren, and Spock looked over his shoulder. "Am I late?" he asked. "According to the last information I received, I was not to meet you for another eighty-two minutes."
"You are not late. I simply thought that I would come here before we left. I have not seen Ambassador Sarek since he fell ill, and I wished to give him my regards."
"Most kind," said Sarek. "It is agreeable to see you, T'Miren."
"I am pleased to see both of you."
"Hello, T'Miren," said Perrin warmly. "Sarek and I appreciate your dropping by."
T'Miren addressed Sarek. "You appear well."
"I am quite well. I was just in the process of informing Spock that I have received permission from Dr. Angelluci to travel soon."
"That's right," confirmed the doctor. "I want to monitor him for two more days, but if nothing changes, he'll be cleared to go to Andor."
"The president will be pleased to hear that," replied T'Miren.
"The president always welcomes Sarek's input," said Spock, "but I am certain he would agree that it is not worth the risk to Sarek's health."
"There is no risk," said Sarek. "Medical personnel will be available, and Sakketh will be with me should I require his assistance."
Spock did not reply immediately, but T'Miren had been around him long enough to see the disapproval in his eyes. She did not understand why Sarek would require medical assistance from his aide, but whatever the reason, Spock was not pleased.
Finally, Spock said, "I have given you my advice. If you choose to ignore it, that is your prerogative."
"Indeed it is," said Perrin.
Spock threw a dark glance her way and stood. "I will speak with you soon, Father."
Realizing that Spock was about to leave, T'Miren hastily stepped between him and the door. "Spock, there is something I must discuss with you."
"Very well." He waited for her to speak, and when she did not, he prompted. "What is it?"
"Ah, I..." She desperately cast about for something to say. "I am not certain what our agenda will be once we arrive. Do you have any thoughts about it?"
He frowned but gamely replied, "No doubt the president will want to meet with the Andorians. However, you are not responsible for our plans. The president's aide will take care of everything."
The crease between his brows increased when she still did not move out of his way, and she knew that he was about to run out of patience with her. T'Val should arrive at any moment, however, and T'Miren knew that she must keep him here.
"Should I bring the data we have compiled for the peace conference?" she asked.
"Of course you should. It may be canceled, but until we make that decision, we must not abandon our plans."
"What data should I bring? Just the list of attendees, or should I bring the schedule, too? What about their travel plans?"
Finally stepping around her, he said, "I have not yet packed for the trip, and I do not have time for this. Bring everything, and we will decide what we need later."
"Spock, wait!" she exclaimed. "You cannot go yet. I still need to ask you some questions."
He stopped in the doorway and faced her. "T'Miren, this behavior is most irregular. What is going on? You---"
T'Miren heard footsteps in the hallway, and Spock stopped in mid-sentence at what he evidently saw from the corner of his eye. The next moment, a tall Vulcan woman stepped into the room. T'Miren had never met T'Val, but judging by Spock's stunned reaction, she had no doubt about who this was.
"Hello, T'Val." said T'Miren. She was aware that she had violated Vulcan convention by addressing the older woman before being officially introduced, but for some reason it seemed appropriate that she do so. "I am pleased that you made it. I do not know how much longer I could have stalled him."
"Thank you, T'Miren," said T'Val. "I appreciate your help."
Clearly bewildered, Spock said, "I did not realize that the two of you knew each other."
"We have never met," said T'Val, "but it seems as if we have known one another for quite some time."
"It certainly does," added T'Miren.
Shaking his head in confusion, Spock absently said, "Sarek, Perrin, this is T'Val. T'Val, this is my father and his wife, and this is Dr. Angelluci."
Sarek nodded politely at her. "Dr. T'Val and I have already met."
"Of course you have," said Spock.
T'Miren ducked her head to hide her amusement. She had never seen Spock act in such a befuddled manner. Finally, though, he gathered himself and turned to T'Val.
"Why are you here?" he asked.
Gazing into his eyes, she said, "Because I could not let you leave without saying yes."
"Yes? To what?"
T'Val pressed her lips together in an indulgently annoyed manner, and it occurred to T'Miren that if T'Val were human, she might preface her next remark with an affectionate chide. Instead, T'Val simply said, "What question did you ask recently that might have caused me to travel all this way simply to give you an answer?"
Spock's entire body seemed to relax. "You will bond with me."
"Yes. I will."
She held up her hand with two fingers extended, and when Spock pressed his hand to hers, T'Miren glanced over at Sarek and Perrin. They both appeared stunned, and T'Miren guessed that Spock had not said a word to either of them about T'Val. It was clear that Sarek was pleased, but Perrin appeared vexed. T'Miren raised an eyebrow when she met Perrin's eyes, which made Perrin glower even more.
"I must be in Paris in less than one and one half hours," he said to T'Val, "and I cannot predict when I will be back on Earth."
"I know. Do you think that we can do this before you leave?"
"We can try. I believe that certain city officials are allowed to perform a wedding ceremony. A ship captain would also serve our purpose, although it is my understanding that the Excalibur is returning to Earth only for us to board. I doubt that we could delay it long enough for a wedding."
"I am certain that there are many churches in this town," said T'Val, "but I do not recall seeing any in this vicinity."
"At any rate, we might have difficulty finding a minister who would be willing to perform a bonding ceremony," said Spock. "In my opinion, our surest approach would be to pursue a civil ceremony."
"Do you want me to look into that for you?" asked T'Miren. "If there is something else you need to do to prepare, I could arrange it and let you know."
T'Val shook her head. "I do not think that we have enough time for that."
Everyone fell silent until Dr. Angelluci said, "Uh, there's a nondenominational chapel here in the hospital. What about that? I've seen the chaplain perform ceremonies ranging from a Tellarite christening to last rites for a Klingon. I'll bet he could do a Vulcan bonding ceremony."
Spock raised an eyebrow and looked at T'Val, who nodded, so they left in search of the chaplain.
* * * * * * * *
Father Bob, as he called himself, was a short, balding man who obviously took his job very seriously. At the moment, he gripped a small book so tightly that his knuckles had turned white, and Spock held T'Val's eyes while the small man ran his index finger down the page and found the correct text. This could very well be the most unique Vulcan bonding ceremony of all time, and Spock could see her amused awareness of this fact.
Father Bob cleared his throat, and read in a hurried monotone, "As it was in the dawn of our days, as it is today, as it will be for all tomorrows, this is the Vulcan heart, and this is the Vulcan soul."
Since Spock was facing T'Val with the pews on his left and Father Bob on his right, he could observe the spectators without appearing inattentive to the ceremony. A plump, white-haired woman had happened to be in the chapel when they all arrived, and she now sat next to Perrin with a white kerchief clutched in her hands. She actually seemed to be watching the ceremony with more rapt attention than either Sarek or Perrin were. Dr. Angelluci sat behind them with two colleagues she had rounded up at the last minute, since Father Bob had been unhappy at the paucity of his audience. Spock had not even been given an opportunity to meet them, but he had heard Dr. Angelluci address the tall redhead as Beverly and the petite blonde as Elaine.
Father Bob fumbled with the book until he managed to turn the page. "Two minds will be joined, and once joined, can be parted but are never parted, never and always do touch and be touched."
The woman dabbed at the corner of one eye with her kerchief, and Spock noticed that all three of the doctors who sat behind her were every bit as interested in her behavior as in the ceremony itself.
Father Bob continued. "The fire of the ancients held forth that two kindred souls would be joined for all eternity and beyond." He seemed to be somewhat more comfortable with this passage, and his voice grew stronger. "The Ka-li-fa, begat by the flame within, is the beginning and the end. It gives us strength, and it keeps the power of the All in our sight. Yea, though the fires may burn us, we are cleansed, and our sins are forgiven."
Spock exchanged an uneasy glance with T'Val when he realized that Father Bob had improvised that last sentence. She coughed delicately, and Father Bob seemed to comprehend what he was doing. He reddened and pulled the book closer to his face.
"Who are the two whose minds will be joined today?" asked Father Bob.
"Spock, son of Sarek, son of Skonn," replied Spock.
"T'Val, daughter of T'Palta, daughter of T'Pel," said T'Val.
"Who stands with Spock, son of Sarek, son of Skonn?" asked Father Bob.
"I do," said Sarek, who came to his feet and moved close to Spock.
"Who stands with T'Val, daughter of, uh..." An expression of panic came upon Father Bob's face.
"Daughter of T'Palta, daughter of T'Pel." whispered T'Val.
"T'Val, daughter of T'Palta, daughter of T'Pel," repeated Father Bob.
"I do," replied T'Miren, who also came to her feet and moved close to T'Val.
Father Bob pointed at the floor. "Kneel before me."
Spock took T'Val's hands, and they knelt facing one another, with Sarek kneeling behind Spock and T'Miren kneeling behind T'Val.
Father Bob nervously looked at the audience before whispering, "I'm supposed to, uh, do the mind touch thing now, but I don't know how."
"Do not be concerned," murmured Spock. "We are able to do this ourselves."
Gazing into T'Val's eyes, he lifted his hand and found her meld points, and she did the same to him. He was aware of the other people in the room, but in an instant they had vanished from his attention and all he knew was the gentle touch of her mind. His lifetime passed through his memory: his first awareness of life, his bonding with T'Pring, his argument with his father, his commission into Starfleet, his death, his return to life, his marriage to Nyota, her death, his years of being alone... and he was brought to the present moment with the landmarks of T'Val's life placed alongside the chronology of his. He knew the innocence of her childhood, her unhappiness and despair when the innocence was taken away, the victory of her hard-won independence, and the way he had fallen into her life and turned everything she had known upside-down. And it was good. It was right.
He finally opened his eyes to find that the room was just as it had been, and he knew that only seconds had elapsed while he and T'Val had relived their lifetimes together. She shone brightly in his mind, and when he searched for the echo of his bond with Nyota, T'Val accepted his relief at the knowledge that it was there, too.
They stood, and Father Bob said, "I now pronounce you husband and wife."
Spock met his eyes quickly, and Father Bob grinned. "Sorry," he muttered. "I couldn't resist."
Spock nodded, and he and T'Val turned to accept the congratulatory wishes from the rest of the group.
* * * * * * * *
Beverly Crusher stood back while Spock and T'Val left the chapel, then she walked out slowly with the other two doctors. She could hear the voices of Ambassador Sarek and his wife behind her as they thanked the chaplain for performing the ceremony on such short notice, and she shook her head in amazement.
Keeping her voice low, she said, "Rose, if you'd told me an hour ago that I would be attending the wedding of one of the most famous men in the Federation, I would have said that you were out of your mind."
"How about that?" Rose grinned. "I thought it was plenty amazing to have Ambassador Sarek as a patient, but to have been witness to such a dramatic family event... Wow. I always pictured Vulcan wedding proposals as boring and businesslike, but I sure was wrong. I should be so lucky as to get a proposal like that from Pete someday."
Beverly glanced down the hallway. "I hope Jack gets here soon. He would have liked to meet Ambassador Spock, but if he doesn't hurry he's going to miss Ambassador Sarek, too."
Elaine's eyes grew big. "You called him?"
"Well, sure I did. I couldn't do something as incredible as this without telling him about it. He and a friend were getting ready to go sailing for the day, and I caught them just in time. Oh, look! There they are."
She waved, and Jack nodded when he saw her. She grinned when she realized why it had taken them a little longer to get here than she had expected--both he and Jean Luc were wearing their uniforms, a big change from the rough boating clothes they had been wearing this morning when she left for work.
Sarek and his wife walked out of the chapel just as Jack and Jean Luc approached, and Beverly wondered if the smile on her own face could possibly be as big as the smiles of the two men when Rose began the introductions.
* * * * * * * *
Spock and T'Val walked slowly through the promenade of the San Francisco spaceport. A Starfleet shuttle awaited at terminal thirty-one for the sole purpose of whisking him to his rendezvous with the president in Paris, and before long he would be aboard the Excalibur and on his way to Andor. He had always looked forward to trips like this with anticipation, but this time he found that his attitude was quite different. Even if the dispute could be resolved quickly, it still would not be quickly enough to suit him.
"I will be interested in hearing about Dr. McCoy's reaction once you inform him that we bonded," said Spock.
"No doubt he will take full credit for bringing us together. He has been quite satisfied with himself recently."
"I am almost hesitant to tell Saavik. She will understand why we did not include her, but she will still be disappointed. In retrospect, I cannot comprehend why I did not at least contact her to tell her what was happening."
T'Val rested her hand lightly on his back. "Perhaps it was because you had other things on your mind."
Allowing the corner of his mouth to rise, he nodded. "Perhaps so."
Terminal thirty-one was just ahead, and he could see T'Miren waiting with a man in uniform who must be the pilot. When she saw them coming, she caught Spock's eye and gestured to the pilot, and they both left the room through a door that presumably took them to the shuttle. He and T'Val were alone.
They stopped when they reached the door, and he placed his travel bag and satchel on the floor. He gazed into T'Val's eyes.
"I am finding it very difficult to leave you," he said.
"It could not possibly be any more difficult than it is for me to watch you leave."
He placed his hand on the side of her face. "Program your front door to recognize me, and I promise that I will walk through it as soon as I am able."
Covering his hand with her own, she said, "I will hold you to that promise."
They stood like that for a long moment, but finally he knew that he could not keep T'Miren and the pilot waiting any longer. He leaned forward and kissed her gently on the lips, then picked up his bags and walked through the door. He looked back at the last instant, but he only caught a glimpse of her before the door shut behind him.
As he headed down the short corridor that took him to the shuttle, he considered what was facing him ahead. The peace initiative had been ruined, and it was up to him to see what, if anything, could be salvaged. Sarek would arrive, and he would be accompanied by a man who was suddenly more intimately acquainted with him than Spock had been in his lifetime, and a woman who would do anything in her power to widen the gulf between father and son. Somehow, though, the situation did not seem nearly so dire as it had just hours ago. He searched for the glow of T'Val's mind in his own, and when he found it, he knew that nothing could possibly be as bad as it seemed. There was always hope for the future.
Hope. It was good to hope again.
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