Late that afternoon another winter storm arrived. Violent winds bent almost to breaking the exposed trees that lined the streets, and clouds of drifting snow rapidly solidified into meter-high barricades that blocked the progress of vehicles and pedestrians. Squadrons of de-icers waddled along on their overworked antigrav belts, engaged in a losing battle to reclaim the groundways from unmediated Terran nature. I was profoundly grateful to be viewing the scene from behind several centimeters of triple-glazed, argon-sealed insulglass. The terminal screen glowed softly behind me: I could see the newsreader's reflection in the window as he breathlessly recounted unfavorable changes in temperature, precipitation, and traveling conditions to listeners who were undoubtedly as glad as I that they were safely sheltered from all that he was describing. Hasn't this planet heard of climate control? I smiled to myself, remembering McCoy's response: Canadians like blizzards. I sincerely hoped that they were pleased with what they were getting now.
The building's discreet--indeed, barely visible--housekeeping service had taken careful note of all that I had used and consumed, and seen to it that supplies were generously replenished. Columns of newly split firewood, arranged on each side of the hearth, reached to the mantelpiece, and in the bedroom and bath tidy stacks of linens filled the drawers. The kitchen cupboards held trays of stasis-packed meals, snacks, and appetizers, and the contents of the liquor cabinet would have met with the approval of an Argelian wine merchant. I judged that, storm or no storm, one could remain comfortably nested here for several tendays before being forced to make contact with the outside world. Only one thing was missing from this snug, secure setting ...
For possibly the hundredth time that day, I checked the chrono display: almost five p.m., and still no word from Spock. Be sensible, I told myself. He would come here if he could. I knew that Kirk had summoned him to a meeting, and that they might still be together; I knew that the disappearance of Al-Diraj represented a major crisis for Starfleet, and that senior officers would surely be on around-the-clock duty call; I knew that it was as likely as not that some admiral or commodore had ordered Spock to have no further contact with me. I knew all those things, and yet--I will return to you in a day or two. I had no choice but to rely on that promise.
In rare moments of objectivity, I was able to acknowledge the rich irony of the situation. A number of eligible Romulan men, all endowed with intellect, charm, good looks, and position, had tendered formal proposals of marriage to me--the first on the day I reached the age of majority, the most recent during a visit to my sister on Acthariet. For Romulans, monogamous marriage was the norm: people might experiment all they liked, but mature, responsible adults eventually mated for life and fulfilled their obligations to their houses. My youth and the unique demands of my job had so far served as barely acceptable excuses for turning away one suitor after another, but the simple truth was that I wanted none of them--not for more than a month or two, at any rate. My obstinate refusal to choose a husband both amused and worried my family and friends, who were certain that I would end my days alone and childless. That I should suddenly come to love and be loved by a Vulcan Starfleet officer who had been the direct agent of my downfall and whose name was by now anathema across the Empire--well, as Uhura might have said, to get the joke you had to be there.
There was scarcely a culture that didn't retell with relish some ancient legend or epic tale of star-crossed lovers, tragically thwarted in their passion by kinsmen, enemies, or Fate. Those stories bored me: I preferred to read about daring characters who seized the moment, defeated their opponents by strategy and swashbuckling--such an evocative word, that--and ran laughing, hand in hand, to meet their destiny. If it was true that we constructed our own futures through our imaginings, then I would see to it that my future with Spock was of the second kind.
I knew that I would have to match wits with him and find a way to prevail, whether by closely reasoned argument, shameless appeal to emotion, or sheer unyielding stubbornness; for I was certain that he was busy developing his own stratagem for our future, and equally certain that it didn't involve his coming home with me to the Empire ...
Sighing with frustration and impatience, I glared at the chrono display. One couldn't even begin to engage one's opponent until he was within sensor range.
* * *
It was well after midnight when he came to me. I'd fallen asleep hours earlier on one of the living-room sofas; the comm chime roused me from a muddled, anxious dream of strange rooms in unfamiliar houses and twisting hallways that led nowhere. Disheveled and not yet fully awake, I stood and watched as glittering mirage became solid reality.
For a moment we simply looked at each other. Then he was crossing the room and I was in his arms, crushed against him, barely able to breathe. I clung to him as I had that first night, and with the same desperate longing. I felt an answering surge of emotion from him, and a physical desire more than equal to my own--but held in check. Something other than the satisfaction of our mutual need was at the forefront of his consciousness ... and, since he wasn't even attempting to shield, that something was all too easy to perceive.
"Don't do this to yourself," I whispered. "Don't do this to us ... not now!"
He cupped my face in his hands. "You should have told me." Anger, but not directed at me--or not entirely at me. And a sick, despairing dread that no Vulcan should have been able to feel ... "Aerlyn, how could you keep this from me?"
"How could you not know?" I pulled away from him. "Gods of Remus! Do you and Kirk imagine that your dead enemies rise up and stroll away from the battlefield as soon as Enterprise breaks orbit? Actions have consequences, Spock. I tried to tell Uhura and McCoy--I owe a debt of honor to my people. I thought you would understand." My voice broke on the last word.
"I understand that I will not let you go." He drew me close to him again; he was maintaining control with an effort. "We will find some other means of repaying your debt of honor."
"That's what I want to tell you, if you'll listen." I gave him the same explanation I'd given the others, stressing that my family and friends would stand with me and persuade the Senate to clemency. But in my eagerness to reassure him, I went too far. "And now that the scales of power are in balance once again," I said, quoting Tilendi, "my personal honor is at least mended, if not intact."
The humans might have missed every clue laid before them, but Spock needed only the one. Slowly and very gently, he took me by the shoulders and held me away from him, then dropped his hands so that we were no longer in physical contact. I could almost see the rapid working of his mind as he examined premises and conclusions. "Al-Diraj," he said, searching my face. "The cloaking device lost ... your personal honor ... You were responsible for this?"
I said nothing, but he wasn't waiting for an answer: perhaps my expression had told him what he needed to know.
"Impossible," he said. "There were no security breaches. You had no access ... no way to obtain the coordinates--" He stared at me, visibly shocked, not wanting to accept what his own logic told him. "The ships' crews," he said finally. "All those lives--"
"To be weighed against other lives, such as those of my crew, who would have followed me in death!" I cried, knowing those words amounted to an admission, no longer caring. "Whatever may have happened to the cloaking device you stole from me, I hardly think you're in a position to moralize. You're a soldier like me, Spock. You've taken more than one life in your time."
That struck a nerve. "In combat--" he began, but I wasn't going to let him off so easily.
"And what do you think this is? Romulus is fighting for its life and its honor in ways that the Federation will never understand! The cloaking device would have been our salvation! You committed the act of war, not us!"
His voice was low, controlled, and colder than I'd ever imagined it could be. "Your 'salvation' was the ultimate secret weapon. A fleet of cloaked ships might slip across the Line and devastate a planet, a system, a dozen systems, with no warning. You need never meet your enemy in the open, never seek a bloodless solution. And yet you talk of Romulan honor--"
"You don't understand! It was meant to be a deterrent! To give us some respite! The cloaking technology isn't reliable enough to support a fleet--you've seen that for yourself now. No one fired upon Al-Diraj! Even if no other ship had been there, Al-Diraj would have engaged the cloak at some point to test it. That vessel was doomed from the start. For that matter, the cloak could have malfunctioned while it was still on my flagship, and then we would be the ones lost, only the gods know where!"
He deliberately turned away and walked over to the window, leaving me standing in the middle of the room. "Spock," I said to his back, wondering whether he could bear the truth, knowing that I was a fool to speak it. "In my culture, one's personal honor is tied up with that of many other people. I did what had to be done to regain my honor, and my crew's, and my family's. I obtained what information I could, then made a logical inference based on the balance of probabilities--surely a Vulcan ought to approve of that." Silence. "And I may have indirectly averted a war into the bargain."
He half-turned towards me. "The end can never justify the means. If I have learned anything from ... from the Enterprise incident, I have learned that."
"I don't know that I agree with you." I was only vaguely aware of what I was saying. All I wanted was to hold him in my arms, to drive away the angry tension between us. But he had never seemed more alien, more untouchable, than he did at this moment ... "Sometimes the greater good, however you define it, has to be served by any means necessary."
Spock's thoughts were hidden behind a Vulcan mask. I suddenly saw him as he had been when we were at Sarek's house--so happy and relaxed, and later, when we were alone, so joyfully passionate. That man had disappeared; in his place, once again, stood the first officer of the Enterprise.
Because he would not come to me, I went to him. "We are what we are, Spock. I told you that before you left. You said you understood the obstacles we faced. You said we would find a way. Was that a lie?" Before he could answer, and before I could think better of it, I rose on tiptoe and kissed his mouth, holding his face between my hands as he had held mine: This is who we are, beloved.
I sent the thought as forcefully as I could, with the same mental intonation that he had once used, and tried not to give in to the fear that chilled me as I felt his psychic and physical withdrawal. Desperate to break through the barrier that separated us, I laid my hand on his arm: "Look at me, Spock. I'm not human, and I don't delude myself with fantasies of happy endings and universal peace. I'm not Vulcan, and I don't claim permanent and exclusive possession of the moral high ground." My fingers tightened reflexively on his sleeve. "If you can't accept me for what I am--if you want me to become someone else, then--" I forced myself to finish it. "Then you're asking for something I'll never be able to give."
His face showed nothing, but his eyes widened very slightly, as if I had caught him by surprise--no, more than that: as if he suddenly recognized someone he'd thought a stranger. He removed my hand from his arm and, without a word, strode towards the foyer. I fully expected him to open the door and leave. Instead, he took off his boots and field jacket, then retrieved his kitbag from the transporter platform where he'd dropped it. He stowed bag, boots, and jacket in the closet, shut the door on them, and looked a question at me. Not trusting my voice, I held out my hand and offered him my paired fingers.
His touch was hesitant at first, his kiss gentle, diffident, as he sought a way back to where we had been. Rejoicing in the low sound he made when my lips opened against his, I met him more than halfway: No one said this would be easy. We have a long road ahead of us.
Mixed emotions lay very near the surface of his consciousness: he was still troubled by my role in the loss of Al-Diraj, still fearful for my safety, still disconcerted by the strength of his feelings. But beneath all that, beneath the desire no longer held in check, I could sense something new in him--an improbable blend of Vulcan certainty and human hope: A perilous journey, but we will make it together.
* * *
Many hours later, in the first light of morning, I stirred in Spock's embrace. He moved his hands on my back, urging me closer. Together we drifted near the dreaming edge of sleep, not ready to wake just yet ...
The thought came from somewhere other than his conscious mind. I felt him start with surprise: The library computer.
Jolted awake, I sat up and pulled the duvet around me. "What is it? What's wrong?"
"Enterprise's library computer," he said, instantly alert. "I thought you had somehow made contact with Romulan intelligence, or acquired an accomplice--"
"You were in error, beloved. I had no such assistance. Unfortunately."
He frowned at me. "I authorized your access codes myself ... nothing classified above G-3 was made available to you."
"Mmm," I agreed. His face and body were half-shadowed in the dim blue light--pale here, dark there, like a sculpture carved from Remish marble: he might have been the model for one of Procris's tall, lithe warrior-gods.
"And yet you were able to ascertain--"
"I told you, Spock. I gathered as much information as I could, then made an educated guess. The power of deductive reasoning--I thought Vulcans swore by it."
"'Deductive reasoning' and 'educated guess' are not synonymous." A pause. "I assume that you transmitted this information to your government through the two officers who were detained on Enterprise?"
"You make it sound as though I committed espionage," I said, delicately stressing the I. "Any schoolchild could have had lawful access to terabytes of data from those files. I applied my mind to the task." I touched my forehead for emphasis.
Spock looked as if he were considering a number of possible rejoinders, but said nothing. I reclined against the pillow, allowing the duvet to fall away from my body. His eyes followed its path. When I drew him down to me, he didn't resist. His mouth was warm on my throat, hungry at my breast. He lifted his hand to my forehead and caressed the place I'd touched: I believe I never told you--
"Told me what?" I whispered. My own hands were busy, bringing him to quick, ready hardness between my open legs. "Told me what, Spock?"
His answer, expressed with a sigh of resignation, sent silent, helpless laughter bubbling through me in the moment before all thought was gone: How much I admire your mind.
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© 1996, 1999 Kathleen Dailey. All rights reserved.