Part of every long day and night I'd spent aboard Enterprise had been given over to thoughts of Spock, and what might happen if I ever found myself alone with him again. But now that he was here in my quarters, the only thing I wanted was to see him gone. As long as he was present, I would be unable to speak openly with Tilendi.
He was seated at the computer, engaged in a tedious conversation with Elydex about security arrangements. Why they felt it necessary to conduct this face-to-face discourse was beyond me, for the whole matter could have been handled in seconds by data transfer. I was ready to scream with frustration: I paced the living room restlessly, pausing now and then to consider how easily I might slip the keen blade of a kitchen knife neatly beneath Spock's ribs as he sat there unaware. But even that fantasy failed to bring much pleasure.
Finally he stood and turned to me: "Counselor Elydex wishes to speak with you, Commander." He stepped away from the terminal.
At last we can get this over with. I greeted Elydex, trying not to show my impatience.
"Let me tell you what the situation is, Commander," she said. "Owing to the sudden recall of the Council, the chief of Federation Security has had to reassign some of his people, including your guards. The perimeter security around your residence is unaffected, and the building guards and transporter technicians are on duty, but I have asked Commander Spock to remain with you until Captain Rydell can bring your personal guard back to strength."
"With respect, Counselor, that isn't necessary."
"Regrettably, it is." Her eyes held mine as if by magnetic force.
"Counselor, I assure you--"
"Now, you will be hearing from Ambassador Tilendi very soon. She is aware of our temporary security arrangements. I am trying to determine what is going on with the Council, but even my minister has no information. I'll be in touch with you as soon as I know something."
I nodded. Elydex was obviously not going to be moved: I would just have to get rid of Spock by myself.
"Did you have a pleasant time at Lieutenant Chapel's home?"
"She was very courteous to me. Thank you for giving me permission to go."
"You are most welcome." A trace of a smile: "I told you that you might find something to enjoy during your stay. Goodnight, Commander."
"Goodnight, Counselor." I broke the connection. The comm signal sounded immediately, making me jump. I hit the answer key before the second chime.
Tilendi's face appeared. Before she could say anything, I spoke quickly in formal Romulan: "Ambassador, I am not alone. Commander Spock is with me." For all I knew, Spock could be wearing a translator; but at least I had to warn her.
"I know that, Commander. I spoke with Elydex. We agreed that this arrangement was the most prudent one just now."
That was a matter for debate, but I had more important things to discuss. Phrasing my words as carefully as I could to give her an adequate opening, I said, "The Federation Council has been called into emergency session. Has the Empire issued a formal declaration of war?"
"My staff is still trying to gather information. I will keep you apprised of developments. Right now I have good news, Commander. I am in receipt of some personal messages for you from the homeworld. They have only recently arrived. Shall I forward them to your terminal?"
"Yes," I said, following her lead. My voice was calm, but my heart was pounding. "Tell me, who are they from?"
"Why, let me see ... your mother and your brother, and three of your colleagues. Also two of your crew members, I believe."
"That is good news indeed, Ambassador," I said quietly. "Thank you for letting me know."
"I thought you would be happy to hear it, Commander. I will speak with you again as soon as I can." Her image faded from the screen.
I sat at the terminal for approximately the time it would have taken me to read the nonexistent messages. Spock, if he had been listening, would expect me to do that, and I needed a few moments to compose myself. The information Tilendi had conveyed so efficiently and innocuously was all that I had hoped for: Adjuvant was safely home in Romulan space, its mission accomplished, its crew intact. If I had been alone in the apartment, I might have burst into tears or laughter, or possibly both. But I was not alone, and that fact was the next thing that would have to be dealt with.
* * *Spock was standing in front of the fireplace, his hands clasped behind him in what I was beginning to recognize as his habitual posture of detachment. He was gazing at the artwork that I'd propped on the mantelpiece.
"I do not require your protection," I said coolly, letting my eyes follow his to the drawings. "This building is secure, and in any case I can defend myself. You may leave."
Without looking at me, he said: "My orders are to stay with you until Federation Security can restore your normal complement of guards."
"Then I suggest you take up the guard's place. On the other side of the door."
He ignored my suggestion. "Do you always keep these quarters at a temperature of twenty degrees, Commander?"
He was right: the room temperature actually was close to that of Chapel's apartment. I had been so distracted by his presence and by Tilendi's news that I had barely been aware of my cold hands and feet. I glanced automatically towards the enviro controls, but he was already heading in that direction.
"An energy-saving function has been programmed into the thermostat," he said, peering into the innards of the small console. "If the sensors detect no life forms in the apartment for four hours or more, the temperature is set back to its default level." He was adjusting something in the console as he spoke. "I have reset the thermostat for thirty degrees, but it will take some time for rooms of this size to reach that temperature again." He looked questioningly at me. "I can build a fire if you wish."
Now that I was consciously aware of the temperature, I shivered involuntarily. It occurred to me that he was probably feeling the cold too, for we had both been sedentary for hours in Chapel's chilly living room. I weighed the satisfaction to be gained from knowing that he was uncomfortable against the pleasure of being warm myself. "Very well," I said.
He began to arrange logs and kindling on the grate. I took the chair nearest the fireplace and sat watching him, thinking idly that he was building the fire as systematically as he had built the pyramid of food on his dinner plate: a stable, long-lasting base, topped and surrounded by smaller necessary components, arranged for efficiency in consumption. That thought almost amused me.
The fire caught immediately, and I was grateful for its radiant warmth. Spock stood to one side of the fireplace, looking into the flames. "I have been ordered to stay with you, Commander," he said, as if there had been no interruption in our earlier conversation. "So I cannot take the guard's place outside. But I would not do so in any event." He lifted his head and sought my eyes. "We may not have another chance to talk privately."
On some level, I had known that this was coming. I met and held his gaze as I uncurled my legs and sat up straight in my chair, preparing for confrontation. "And why should we need to talk privately? Has anything been left unsaid between us?"
"A great deal has been left unsaid."
"More of your unspoken truth? I've already had a surfeit of that."
"Your bitterness is understandable, Commander."
"Don't patronize me, Spock." My control was slipping fast. Anger rose within me, too long suppressed, and beneath the anger a hurt so deep that if I acknowledged it I would cry for years. "You're walking on dangerous ground."
"I meant no offense. I was merely stating--"
"The obvious, as always. Nothing remains to be said. You made your choice, and I wish you the joy of it. Now leave me alone." I stood up; I could feel the neuralin flooding my system, readying me to fight or flee. Emotional overload. First Tilendi's news, now this. Stay calm.
Spock shook his head, but I couldn't tell what the gesture was meant to deny. "Hear me out, Commander Tayva," he said evenly.
His composure infuriated me. "No! No, you will hear me out, Nerien Spock! Ie kleya iol'tra Fal'kanin!" I spat the Vulcan words at him, mocking the memory they summoned. "First officer of the Enterprise, who calls himself Vulcan! Who faithfully carries out his Vulcan duty to lie and betray and pervert the power of mind!" I took a step towards him, centering my energy, while a distant voice warned, This is irrational. Control yourself. But I was far past caring. Even if he was wearing a concealed sidearm, I had a good chance of striking a deadly blow before he could react. The hand is a blade, more lethal than any sword--
I should have had the advantage of surprise, but anger made me careless in my timing. Spock seized my wrist in midair and expertly positioned his lower body away from the path of my knee. With his right hand he twisted and pinned my other arm, using exactly the amount of force necessary to disable but not to injure. He had successfully blocked my attack, yet in his eyes I saw neither triumph nor satisfaction but something close to despair. In one terrifying instant, in the fraction of a second that it took the nerve impulses to reach my brain, I understood why.
He had been unprepared for physical contact with another vulcanoid being, and in particular a vulcanoid being whose unshielded mind he had touched once before. The psionic circuit was completed before either of us had time to erect barriers or defenses: I was assaulted by a rushing onslaught of raw emotion--grief, guilt, anger, and a fierce hopeless longing. My first panicked thought was that he had somehow tapped into the secret, shameful feelings I'd tried to bury deep within me, and that I was seeing them through his eyes. But in another split second I felt the link flare fully to life, as if it had never been extinguished but had only lain dormant. Images and sensations resolved themselves, and their psychic signature became clear: the searing, blinding emotions I was experiencing now were his.
Shaken and gasping for breath, I freed myself from his grip and backed away from him. His pupils were dilated, and he too was breathing rapidly: the moment of contact had been frighteningly intense. I stood facing him, rubbing my wrists, struggling to comprehend what had just happened. Then dizziness engulfed me and I reached out reflexively, seeking a support, trying to maintain my balance.
He caught and held me in his arms, and I clung to him as if I were drowning. Wordless emotion flowed between us like a current, washed over us in a deluge. I could feel him fighting for the control necessary to give form to his thoughts. He unwound my arms from his neck and took my hands in his. His face was a mask, but his eyes-- I owe you this, at least, he said without words. Permit me.
The thought and its meaning were as clear as speech. He was offering me exactly what I'd told myself I wanted: the truth, irreducible and, in the crucible of the mindlink, indisputable--or so it was said. But he had asked for my trust before, and then repaid me with betrayal ...
He perceived my thoughts, of course. Knowing that no mere explanation or apology could persuade or satisfy, he lifted his right hand and parted his fingers, deliberately calling to mind what had happened between us on Eidolon. Still holding my other hand, he sent a single word through the link: Please.
Though everything in me warned against it, I matched my palm to his: I must be mad ...
He placed his fingers lightly on my face, unerringly finding the cranial nerves. Instinctively I lifted my hand to his temple to deepen the connection. He drew his breath in sharply, but made no attempt to stop me.
As if our touching had opened a floodgate, images poured into my mind. Sealed orders, transmitted clandestinely. A logical plan, to be executed with maximum efficiency--no lives lost, no blood shed. Obtain the Romulan technology, preserve the balance of power, secure the peace: what could be more rational? Three ships, each equipped with a prototype of the device. Choose one, stage the deception, perform the task, be gone ...
Then fragments of his memories and perceptions began to surface randomly. Eidolon's corridors, warm enough for a Vulcan's comfort, winding their complicated way towards the engineering deck. Crew members who looked startlingly like himself. The familiar spicy aromas of Vulcan dishes arrayed on a serving-table. Tal and the guards entering my quarters, weapons drawn. My own face, pale with shock and anguish--Why would you do this to me? What are you that you could do this? And the answer, echoing cruelly in his mind: First officer of the Enterprise.
Unable to sleep, unable to meditate, he had tried and failed--not for the first time--to reconcile his loyalty to Kirk and his duty to Starfleet with his Vulcan ethos. He'd told himself repeatedly that he had consented freely to an assignment he'd believed to be legitimate, and that he had no reason to react emotionally to the outcome of a military mission, particularly when the encounter had produced no casualties--
I couldn't let that pass: No casualties except your honor, and mine!
Silent, rueful agreement; and a thought, or the memory of a thought ... I felt his desire to hide it from me, and then his conscious decision to reveal a truth grounded in loneliness and homesickness and a lifetime of inchoate longing: how strongly a hidden part of him had been tempted--for a moment, no more-- to accept the place I would have made for him, and how much that temptation had frightened him. His logic told him that Vulcan plus Terran did not equal Romulan, and that his place, wherever it might be, was not in the Empire, but the memory of his weakness appalled him still. How could he have thought, even for an instant, of remaining with me and thereby jeopardizing the mission, his captain, and the Enterprise? He believed that he had proved once again his inability to attain the Vulcan paradigm of perfect detachment, perfect will, perfect control. Yet beneath the shame and self-reproach--emotions that no full Vulcan would have acknowledged--lay something else, a feeling even more profoundly un-Vulcan but well known to every other sapient species: mourning for the loss of that which might have been. The Federation is not the whole universe ... I saw with astonishment that his pain was easily equal to my own.
And I could do nothing but show him my truth, a truth I hadn't admitted even to myself since that first night, for to do so would mean that I owed him forgiveness, or at least understanding ... I took a deep breath and tried to transmit the thought precisely: You were right. I would not have respected any other choice.
The irony of it all was enough to make one smile, or weep, for there was nowhere to go from here. I couldn't hold back my next thought: Each of us has seen truth in the other's mind ... and now nothing is the same.
He sighed and tightened his grip on my hand: Nothing has been the same for me since I first saw you.
Then he showed me exactly what he had seen: the logical paradox that neither reason nor experience could resolve, the insoluble term in the equation--an enemy starship captain ready to commandeer or destroy the Enterprise; a political prisoner at Starbase Four, demurely sipping water while a Romulan attaché limped away to the infirmary; an unlikely friend of his shipmate Uhura, laughing at a shared joke, just as a human would, though she was not human; a dark-haired beauty who looked so like a Vulcan that she might have been a sister or a cousin, who reasoned and argued as a Vulcan would, whose mind had opened to his as a Vulcan's would, though she was not Vulcan ...
And, oh, his memory of that opening of minds, that communion--if it was a true memory.
It took all the strength I possessed to withdraw partially, but I desperately needed to gain some psychic distance: "When? I must know, Spock, or it is all for nothing. When?"
Again his thought was as clear as speech: When you told me your name. After that--always and only the truth, in mind and in heart.
His voice was hoarse, half-breaking, as he said my name aloud now for the first time. I saw in his mind his memory of its meaning: the living light of my homeworld's daystar, shining through the freezing mist of the polar ice-rains. He tilted my head back so that he could see my face: So rare and so beautiful.
Slowly, tentatively, as if I were walking blindfolded along the edge of a cliff, I responded to his touch as I had done when we were on Eidolon. His reaction was immediate: relief and hope and a sharp, sudden hunger that triggered my own. A sweet sensation coursed through us, but his question--directed, perhaps, as much at himself as at me--rose above it: Is this truly what you want?
I slid my hand under his sweater, feeling the heat of his body through his shirt, the rapid beating of his heart: What I always wanted. What I thought you wanted, too.
He made an indistinct sound and began to move his paired fingers against my mouth--musician's fingers, long and supple and callused at the tips. I touched them with my tongue, tasting soap and firewood and the salt of his skin. His breathing quickened, and I fanned the spark of arousal in his mind, let him feel my own excitement. But before I could give myself over to his embrace, I had to know-- Tell me your name. Your first name.
I conceived the thought in Vulcan, using the form of "first" that connoted significance as well as ordering. Like so much else in his culture and in his own nature, Spock's name was hidden, private, rarely spoken and never discussed. But the rightness of my request was evident to us both, and he did not hesitate. As he thought his name--so beautiful in its cadence, all liquid, lilting sibilance--I recognized in its four syllables the hopes his parents had held for him. I repeated the name, loving the sound of it, thinking it as a litany, a chant, a charm. I felt his surprise and then his sudden pleasure:
No one has called me by that name for many years ... and no one has ever made it sound like a song.
He took my face between his hands, and his mouth came down on mine. I opened my lips to taste his tongue, to breathe him deep inside me. With that intimate touch, the psychic link manifested itself as an elaborate, weblike architecture of spirit that surrounded and bound us at many points of our shared consciousness. Awe, curiosity, tenderness, arousal--all were experienced separately and together in a feedback loop that both diffused and focused his responses, and my own ...
The thought that came into my mind couldn't have been more unwelcome. I pulled away from him. This had to be said in words, and said accurately, before the blood supply to my brain was completely redirected elsewhere. "It is ..." My voice was shaking. "It is customary for Romulan officers to practice celibacy while in command of a mission. We believe that intimacy with a subordinate officer or a crew member leads to indiscipline and demoralization. I ... I have been celibate since I took command of my ship. Therefore, I have not had to--"
Spock touched my lips with his fingertip, tracing the outline of my mouth as he spoke: "I understand. I too have had no reason to address that issue." I felt the ghost of amusement in his mind. "But there is no possibility that Vulcan genetic material is similar enough to Romulan to permit the result you are envisioning."
"Yes, but McCoy--"
"Is in the grip of an enthusiasm. I have read the literature, and the test reports he forced upon me. He is wrong. And in any case--" The amusement faded. "You know that I am half human--a hybrid." There was an unexpected hint of old pain in that thought, instantly suppressed. "Without technological intervention, there is a strong likelihood that I cannot--"
I touched his lips as he had touched mine: Then we have no reason to stop.
He loosened my hair, lifted it, let it fall through his fingers: Are you sure this is what you want? I will not be able to stop ...
I moved my fingertips on his face, my mouth on his mouth, my body against his body: Don't stop. I will die if you stop.
He groaned aloud as he caught the thought. There was no hope of our getting as far as the bedroom or even the sofa. We sank to the floor, feeding on each other's need. Our mouths were ravenous, our hands eager, our bodies burning. Clothing disappeared in a blur of tactile sensation--my velvet dress, his woollen sweater; my ribbed leggings, his gabardine trousers. Excitement rose and reverberated through the mindlink as we made sweet discoveries, so that it was impossible to say whose murmured endearment, whose whispered plea, whose impatient sigh drifted into the silent room. When at last he braced himself above me, I lifted to meet him, guided him, moved with him as he moved in me, shared his awe and wonder at what we were together. And at the end, when I arched beneath him, crying out my pleasure and his name as I felt his shuddering release, he held me as if he would never let me go in this or any other lifetime.
* * *
I could see no reason to abandon the soft cushioned carpet and the heat and light of the fireplace. Spock, shaking his head, went to the bedroom and returned with the duvet. He put another log on the fire, then lay down next to me on the floor and settled the duvet over us, muttering that he supposed our distant ancestors must have slept like this in the desert.
Enveloped in the warmth of his body and his spirit, physically and emotionally sated, I felt the absence of tension and anxiety for the first time in weeks. Daylight would bring questions and consequences, but right now ... right now I could barely stay awake. "This is lovely," I said sleepily, watching through half-closed eyes the sparks and embers that were streaming upward from the crackling logs. "This fire. All this wood."
He drew me closer to him, pressed his lips against my hair. "This fire," he murmured. "And all these burning bridges."
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© 1996, 1999 Kathleen Dailey. All rights reserved.