Disclaimer: Okay, we all know the drill. ParaBorg owns them, except my original characters and the original content of this story.
Thanks to T'Thelaih for emotional support, beta reading and being T'Liorah's godmother. Thanks also to the ladies, gents, and aliens of TrekFest, who gave me their support and encouraged me to finish this.
Rating: R, TOS, S/f
Summary: A young Vulcan and what he leaves behind.
kh'liorah: (noun) lit. "first light," dawn.
---From the New Oxford Vulcan Dictionary
"Tell me that you'll wait for me," she whispered. The stars and the night were between them.
Spock turned to her then. "I don't know if I can." Her hair was long and dark.
"You're leaving soon, and you won't come back." It wasn't a question. When the facts were known, there was nothing to question. Maybe there never had been.
He ran his hands through her hair, feeling the forbidden softness of her body. She was not his betrothed. "There is no place for me here."
She could have made a place, said all the things and promises that weren't even possible between them, but she did not. He was not her betrothed and all that might have been was forbidden. But not here, not now. "Come to me," she murmured, drawing him close.
There were no stars between them, but the wind stirred in the shadows as they moved.
I had thought I would not recognize her. We were both far older than we were the last time we had seen one another. But then, she was full Vulcan, and time had scarcely marked her while I had seen the first strands of silver in my hair. She turned when she saw me watching, and her luminous grey-green eyes had widened in shock. How she knew I was there, I shall never know.
T'Liorah waved to me when she saw me watching the ocean. "Spock," she said in greeting. It was the first word she had spoken to me since we'd parted nearly a century before, and yet I heard all the things we'd never said. Then, softly: "I heard about your wife. I grieve with thee."
I nodded in acceptance. "It was not unexpected." That was truth; my wife's illness had been short, and the end known from the diagnosis.
A slight, sad smile touched her face. "But still a shock, I think."
She stood to come near me, and I saw something then that reminded me strongly of the younger woman she had once been: T'Liorah, sliding gracelessly on a patch of wet sand. She recovered quickly enough, but she'd seen the smile I was trying to hide. "Nothing ever changes, you know," she replied wryly, wiping the damp sand off her long skirt. "We just get better at hiding it."
The observation was so like her that I'd wondered how I could have failed to remember all that she had been to me. Se'kahru'te, t'hy'la, friend and lover. But that thought was, like all the ones I'd had in the years since we'd parted, best unexamined. What was past could not be recovered, after all. "So why are you here?" I asked mildly, staring out over the purple waters of Melithar. It was one planet among many I had visited since my return from Romulus, a watery world on a short road to nowhere, as my sometime nemesis Dr McCoy would have said. Yet here, out of all the planets I had visited, I had found T'Liorah again.
T'Liorah lifted her hands in a gesture only too familiar. I remembered her as the younger woman she had been, lifting her hands to play an imaginary flute. "Concert tour, if you can believe it. Our freighter broke down and the captain was without funds to repair the ship, so...." She shrugged. "It is not the place I would have chosen to perform, but at least the Melitharsa seem most appreciative."
"How long will you stay?" I asked, and in my mind I heard her say Speak not of forevers, not here, not now.
T'Liorah brushed back a disordered curl that had come loose from her braid. "Until the debt is paid. And you?"
I thought of the negotiations between the Melitharsa and the Federation over dilithium, negotiations which had begun a year prior to my arrival and which still showed no signs of ending. I was too old, perhaps, to feel such impatience, or to be surprised that any culture should be illogical, but there it was. I had not the ambassadors' innate gift for compromise and conciliation, but if I was no longer a Starfleet officer, I was at least useful. "Until there is no longer need," I said simply.
T'Liorah nodded. We said nothing for a time, not for lack of words, but for having too many. At length, she asked, "Have you had a good life?"
I thought of all that had passed between us since I'd seen her last: my years on the Enterprise, my wife, our children, the mission to Romulus. "Yes," I replied. "And you?"
"It's not the life I was chosen to lead," she said simply. "But yes, it's been a good life." Her response mystified me, but then, she had always found a way to do that. She had been chosen by her family's traditions to be a musician, and it certainly appeared that she was one. "What do you mean?" I asked.
She threw a small flat rock into the depths of the ocean. "I was bonded as well," T'Liorah continued. "Serlin. He was an engineer aboard the Enterprise-C." She smiled slightly, fondly. "He was quite tone deaf, not at all the man my family would have chosen. But we found a way to live between our worlds, and it worked well for us."
I should hardly have been surprised that she'd chosen another, for her original betrothal had ended the same time as mine. And our lives had not crossed in all the years since. But the pang was there, nonetheless, and it was illogical to deny it. "I grieve with thee," I managed to say, and she nodded in understanding.
The strange hooting cries of the Melitharsa guide alerted us that we were no longer alone. "He comes for you, I think," she said mildly. "My set is over for the night."
"When do you play next?" I asked suddenly.
T'Liorah stood, brushing the sand from her skirts. "Tomorrow evening, at the reception for the Vulcan ambassador." She looked up at me and smiled as she used to when we were young together. "Which would be you, I should think."
"Which would be me," I confirmed. "Then I shall take my leave of you."
To my utter amazement, T'Liorah winked. "Don't leave too long."
The reception was, as most of these affairs were, a study in meaningless conversation, noise and the deleterious effects of intoxicants upon sentient beings. Yet there was no graceful way to get out of it: I was no longer only a scientist, to avoid such things with cause. So I drank my Altair water, listened with politness to the unsubtle ramblings of one of the Federation's advisors on mining rights, and generally tried to keep from showing my boredom.
When I heard the music begin playing ancient Terran chamber music, I wondered if T'Liorah labored under the same difficulties. But I thought not: though music was considered essential to diplomatic receptions, it was considered, illogically enough, strange to notice the musicians. The evening eventually wore on, and when it was time to make my diplomatic exit, I was surprised to find a messenger waiting outside my hotel room. "For you, Ambassador," the young Melitharsa hooted softly. "From the flute player, the Vulcan lady."
I nodded my thanks and took the small bit of paper. There, in T'Liorah's messy script, was written all I needed to know. "Come see me on the beach when the reception is over."
I consulted the chronometer on the dresser. The reception surely could not last more than another hour; the Melitharsa, with equal parts tact and prudence, would insist that some of the more inebriated guests retire to their quarters.
So I changed out of my ambassadorial robes into the civilian clothing of my past, and walked down to the beach to await her. She arrived 15.2 minutes later, dressed in a flowing green gown that almost exactly matched her eyes. She was carrying a blanket, I saw, and wondered at. A small smile twitched at the corners of her mouth. "I should not have thought you would be an ambassador," T'Liorah said wryly, spreading the blanket on the ground. The triple moons of Melithar reflected strangely in the waters, but I was at peace here.
I raised one eyebrow. "Neither did Sarek, I can assure you," I replied, thinking of my father's passionate disagreements in the months before my mission to Romulus.
T'Liorah folded her hands. "I heard when he died. Bendaii's is no pleasant way to go."
I nodded. "He was able to die with dignity."
She raised one dark red eyebrow at me, and I knew that there was little indeed that time had changed. "Yet there was much that remained unsaid?"
Between Sarek and I, or between us? I thought but did not say. Too many years had gone by, too much unsaid. T'Liorah turned to me then, as if she had heard my thoughts, and I remembered that too-brief time when she had been able to. "We never said what we should have, did we?" she asked softly. "You had your duty, I had mine, and never did the two meet."
I could not see her face clearly in the light of the moons, but the pain in her voice was real. "T'Liorah, do not do this. You had no cause in our separation."
She raised her eyebrows. "Don't speak of what was, is that it? If not now, when? In a few days, you'll board your ship or I'll board mine and we'll be separated again and we'll never say what we should have said." Her voice grew firm with a quiet vehemence that I'd never known could come from her.
I folded my hands. "There is nothing to say, except that I ask your forgiveness." When her hand touched mine, I jumped with a shock that was only partially surprise. Since my wife's death five years earlier, none other had touched me.
"Spock," T'Liorah said with a wisdom time alone must have taught her, "there is nothing to forgive. Not here, not now."
"Speak not of forevers," I said slowly, echoing the long-ago words. When my lips touched hers, it was as if some long-buried current had suddenly flared back into life. In that instant I was not the ambassador's son, nor a widower, a father, or a retired Starfleet officer, but a man touching a woman.
The touching brought our minds into contact. I remembered that T'Liorah had been nearly mind-blind to everyone but me, and even that link had faded. Yet it was restored now as if it had never been cut. //You think too much, se'kahru'te// her mind whispered to mine as her hand undid my shirt. It was her old term for me, from when we had been students together.
My hand undid the bodice of her gown, freeing her breasts to touch the cool air. It occurred to me that we were about to make love on a beach that was anything but private, and yet, I could not bring myself to care. //Se'kahru'te// she thought to me again //you have not been on Melitharsa long enough to know that they will not come onto the beach when the moons rise full.//
//It is you who thinks too much// I thought to her as the gown slid softly onto the sand. //I cannot say I noticed what condition the moons were in.// In the light of the moons, T'Liorah's bronzed skin glowed faintly white. I remembered, suddenly, the way she had looked on a planet light-years away and a century in the past, and knew she remembered as well. //We were so young then// she teased.
//And not past it now, I should think// I told her, sucking lightly on one of her breasts. She arched up against me, and the sudden disordered surge to her thoughts telling me what I needed to know. Her hands undid the fastening of my trousers and pushed them off to lay next to her gown.
The wind blowing off the ocean should have chilled us both, desert-bred as we were and yet we did not feel the cold. I took T'Liorah's thin body into my arms, and the years spun away. We were adults now, no one could choose our path for us as was not the case when we had last met. Here and now, there was time enough for us both.
Her small hands tightened on my shoulders, and my body remembered what my mind had forgotten. I entered her slowly, and when I felt her thighs rise against my own I knew I had remembered correctly. The sound of her breathing mixed with mine and the sounds of the ocean around us blended into a searing stream of images: T'Liorah's body, tightening around me, the passion in her grey-green eyes, my own release and the feel of her arms around me. //We're not too old after all, are we?// she asked breathlessly
//I...believe I am still functional, yes// I replied wryly, and I was not terribly surprised when I felt her punch me slightly in the arm. It was her old gesture, picked up from the few human students we'd seen in our youth, but even as it was not Vulcan, it was totally hers.
//Shall we see if you are still...functional?// she asked, nestling slightly against me in a manner that was all provocation.
I could not have, for all the worlds and the honor of my House, have kept the laughter inside me. So I elected not to try. //I do not think I could possibly be functional so soon//
When her mouth closed around me, I knew she had guessed correctly. I could also not have hidden my arousal.
Where she had learned such a skill I did not think to ask---we were neither of us children nor virgins. //But I am a musician// she thought to me, laughing through our link. //Some skills do...transfer//
When I felt myself coming closer, T'Liorah climbed on top of me and lowered herself onto my throbbing erection. She rode me as we had done those long desert nights in the past, and when we reached the peak together, I knew we had served each other well.
We slept that night under the three moons, and awoke early enough to watch the two suns rise. Under our blanket, we were both naked, and yet, the thought of what the Melitharsa might say to the spectacle of the Vulcan ambassador naked with one of the musicians occurred to neither of us. Or rather, it did not occur to me. T'Liorah, who'd retained much of her wry humor despite the intervening years, chuckled about it quite often until my mouth on hers silenced her laughter. When we heard the sounds of the wakening city, T'Liorah turned to face me. "Se'kahru'te," she said softly, not using the fragile link between us, "there is much still to be said, though not now."
I nodded in agreement. "Do the moons rise full tomorrow?"
She smiled wryly, and I saw, if only for an instant, the young woman I once knew. "They rise full for a week, se'kahru'te. Tomorrow, then," T'Liorah replied, and dressed herself in the green gown. Even sand-encrusted, wrinkled and mussed, she looked as one of the ancient queens of our past.
Or, as memory came full to me, a young woman who'd once asked for my help.
"Se'kahru'te?" a female voice murmured.
I started. For someone to call me "fellow learner," was illogical. I was no one's fellow, not here. I looked around. There was no one else in the hallway, so the girl must have been speaking to me. I turned, to see a petite Vulcan girl looking up at me. Up---she was barely five feet tall. "My name is Spock," I said. "What is your need?"
The girl tucked one errant lock of dark red hair behind her ear. It was a gesture that was somehow self-effacing, not at all like the other gestures of all the other Vulcan girls. There was no attempt at emotional control, no subversion of even the smallest signs of emotion. She was nervous about something. "It is this...Standard. I cannot understand it, there is no logic to it."
An errant human thought flitted across my mind. Without thinking, I spoke the words. "As my mother would say, that's the point."
The girl raised her eyebrows. "You do understand! It is this idiom...how can they say one thing and expect it to mean another? How can anyone understand anyone else?" Abruptly, she seemed to realize that her words had taken on an un-Vulcan vehemence. "I ask forgiveness."
"There is nothing to forgive," I replied. Standard was very nearly my native language, and yet its nuances, its idioms and figures of speech, frequently gave me difficulty.
From somewhere, a thought came.. "We could perhaps study together, if it would aid you."
The girl nodded, suddenly seeming years younger. She had to be nearly my own age of fifteen Standard years, but there was something so....well, un-Vulcan about her. Yet I was the half-breed, not her. "That was why I asked you, se'kahru'te."
I studied her. Everything about her dress looked as if it had been put together in haste---the collar of her uniform shirt was bent and wrinkled, her hair was not neatly coiled as was the custom, and her nails were ragged and bitten. Yet she was a full Vulcan, and she wanted my help. "I would know your name," I asked slowly.
Unbelievably, she flushed. "My name is T'Liorah."
My mother, when told, blinked.. Since it was one of the more extreme emotional reactions I could remember of late, I was mystified. "You're bringing...a girl...home?" she had said finally.
"Ihwlaht se'kharu'te," I replied evenly. "She's just another fellow-learner."
As was her human custom, my mother replied in Standard. "Well, of course she's another student, Spock. I was just surprised."
"Why?" I asked.
She blinked again, and there was some strange dampness to her eyes. "You've never brought anyone home, Spock, and I was afraid you would never have a friend." Her words confused me further. T'Liorah was a fellow-learner, the one had nothing to do at all with the other. I had no friends, and if the lack disturbed me, I had also learned not to show it.
My mother blinked again, and the strange dampness was gone from her eyes. "Tell her she's welcome to join us for lastmeal if she wants." I nodded, though the connection between a fellow-learner and the friendship my mother assumed I would find was still troubling.
T'Liorah arrived on time that evening. Her hair was dragged into a sloppy coil, as if she'd remembered at the last moment that young women of Vulcan families wore their hair up. Nevertheless, she managed to convey the impression of extreme disorder as she stood on the threshhold of the doorway.
I met my father's dark glance from the head of the table, and rose to answer the door. "T'Liorah," I said to her, "we are honored by your presence." T'Liorah inclined her head in return, revealing a stray lock of hair that had somehow not made it into her braid. Who was this girl, that such disorder did not bother her? It was a mystery, a curiosity, and one that I could not put from my mind as Vulcan should. She was full Vulcan, but she was also herself. It was most perplexing.
"I am honored by your effort, se'kahru'te," she replied. Shoving the mass of text-tapes over to one side, I could see that they were labeled---and not neatly---in Vulcan that looked like it had been written under the influence of an intoxicant.
"Well, don't just stand there," Amanda called from the dining room. "Show the poor child in."
I started. "Forgive me," I murmured slightly. "The dining room is this way." Placing her satchel where I indicated, T'Liorah followed me into the room. The floor was not the rough hewn stone of most Vulcan houses, but the smooth tile of earth, and she began to slip. I caught her arm, and her thoughts entered my mind. //oh gods your family thinks I am a barbarian//
It was thought with deep embarrassment, and I hastened to reassure her in the instant before she was steadied and my mind left her own. //they will never say you are not a Vulcan// The thought produced deep amusement in her mingled with shock. It was then that I knew why: T'Liorah was nearly mind-blind, yet I had managed to enter her mind.
"I've been meaning to even that spot out," Amanda said, trying to cover the girl's embarrassment. I raised one eyebrow, knowing she had intended no such thing. Why should speaking a falsehood be any more acceptable than the truth? I wondered.
I sensed T'Liorah force her hands to stop their shaking. "It was my own error, I ask forgiveness."
Sarek's voice cut through the conversation. "There is no use in debating. Dinner is prepared."
T'Liorah's gaze, grey-green and startled, jumped to my face. Seeing no great surprise there, she relaxed minutely. If Sarek was always this way... I could sense her think, but that he was not normally this curt I did not tell her.
Dinner was, put simply, a miserable affair. Amanda, on the one hand, tried to draw the silent T'Liorah out while Sarek's displeasure with the whole scenario hovered over the table like a living presence. When it was over, I refrained from uttering a sigh of relief, but only barely.
When they stood and began to move towards the study, Sarek's voice stopped us both cold. "The study is not available, Spock. You will have to study elsewhere."
I made my face a Vulcan mask, the one my father expected and my mother detested. "As you say, Father."
"The only available place would seem to be my room, if that does not offend you," I said quietly, for her ears alone.
"Is it away from here?" she dared to ask. I nodded calmly, but I was amazed. How had she understood?
"It does not offend me." Absently, she rubbed her left ear, where the betrothal stone glittered dully. "If we leave the door open....." I nodded, understanding completely. For the sake of the proprieties, I could not be fully alone with her. Though the custom was centuries old, even now, her betrothed would have the right to Challenge me.
But the thought came to my mind unbidden, and I wondered at it. I would fight for you.
Later that night, as was the custom, I walked T'Liorah back to her house. It was not strictly logical, for there was no place on Vulcan anymore that a woman or a man or a child could not walk in safety. The custom had always seemed essentially illogical, a waste of time and energy, but I could not begrudge it now.
We talked, as we had after dinner, of inconsequential things: of her father, a musician from T'LingShar, of her own joy in playing the flute, of the difficulties she had with Standard. But as we walked back to her house, I was bothered by the sense of something that badly needed to be said. "T'Liorah," I said softly.
"I ask forgiveness."
She raised one dark-red eyebrow. "For what cause?"
"My mother does not see you as a fellow-learner. She sees you as...t'hy'la."
"But I scarcely know you." It was not said with the disdain I had becomed accustomed to in other Vulcan voices, merely an explanation of an essential fact. Yet I feared she did not understand. The pull between the Vulcan Way and my mother's chaotic humanity was the essential condition of my life; the fact that my parents often seemed bent on some sort of undeclared war over it was neither logical nor easily explainable.
I tried again. "She does not wish me to be alone."
T'Liorah nodded. "It seems a reasonable desire. We are all alone at one time or another, and yet all of our poets and philosophers decry it as a wasted existence. She touched my hand lightly. "There is nothing to forgive, Spock."
Something deep inside me tore and began to go free. Nothing to forgive? She had seen, and understood. All too soon, we were at T'Liorah's house. It was a simple dwelling, marked by none of the calculated grandeur of my father's residence. "My father will not have been concerned, Spock."
"But your mother? It is late."
A slight shadow crossed her face. "My mother died last year, of plak s'ran."
I blinked. Why had she told me this? I was nearly a stranger, or close enough to it that the distinction was trivial."I grieve with thee," I murmured. T'Liorah nodded slighly, and the gate slid shut behind her.
The next morning, the entire experience seemed as if it had been a dream.. All was as it had been before at the school: I was alone, tolerated for no other reason than that I was an ambassador's son. But there was a difference: T'Liorah met me outside the classroom of our Standard class. "Greetings, Spock," she said in accented Standard.
I nodded in return. "Greetings, T'Liorah," I replied in the same language. Her presence was strangely reassuring; two days before, I had not known she existed, and now it was as if I had never not known her.
We entered the classroom shortly before the tele'at, Stuvin, began his lecture. "Today's dialogue," the teacher intoned, "concerns a Terran practice of creative lying known as the theater."
Intellectually, I knew Stuvin was a product of a mindset my own mother had often decried, the mindset of Vulcan superiority that would let a man teach another culture's language without having any understanding of that culture. Tele'at Stuvin's lectures were always marked by his somewhat unique interpretation of Terran culture, and yet even I, isolated from my human relatives, knew the words were inaccurate. My mother had long loved the theater, and she had no affinity with liars, creative or otherwise.
Stuvin's hawk-like gaze settled on me, and I made my face Vulcanly impassive. Or perhaps not, for Stuvin's gaze sharpened. "Spock," he intoned with just the barest hint of sarcasm, "perhaps you would like to read the role of the Terran?"
I wasn't entirely surprised. I was the only near-native speaker in the class, but the Stuvin's bias was equally real. And yet, there would be no point in complaining. How could I allege bias where emotion was not supposed to exist? Stuvin was an elder and the elders were always right. Resigned, I stood and began to key up the lesson, a dialog between an actor and the director of a play. But I stopped when I felt T'Liorah's small hand close on my arm. "Tele'at," she said respectfully. "I would like to read the role of the Terran."
Stuvin stared at her. "There is no need. Continue, Spock."
Something in T'Liorah's tense stance prevented me from continuing. In that moment, there was something in her that reminded me strongly of my great-grandmother. "There is need, Tele'at. My Standard is not as good as his, and I could use the practice."
One silver eyebrow rose over an eye as cool and as grey as a le-matya's before pouncing. "This defiance is illogical, and it is not worthy of he who is your father, T'Liorah."
She held her ground. "It is not defiance to insist upon learning, Tele'at," she said calmly. "My logic is not lacking, and he who is my father would agree."
And suddenly, as if my words had kindled from hers, I found the words I'd been lacking in all the months of Stuvin's veiled comments. "What is illogical is denying a student the opportunity to learn because of a bias you will not acknowledge."
Stuvin gestured at the door, the very lack of expression on his face giving lie to the belief that Vulcans had no emotions. "Out of this classroom. Your attitude is lacking in respect."
One hour later, following a stern lecture from the provost, T'Liorah and I were dismissed from the school for the rest of the day. I was stunned, and not only from the prospect of explaining to Sarek how, exactly, I had managed to get expelled from school. Why had T'Liorah defended me? And why had her defiance given me the strength to challenge an elder?
We were nearly to her house when T'Liorah gently touched my arm. "You should not have done that," T'Liorah said quietly. "It was my choice."
I raised an eyebrow. "On my behalf, for which I thank you." I shook my head. "If it had not been today, it would have been tomorrow."
She pushed a straggling lock of hair behind her ear. "I do not understand."
I switched to Standard. "If it had not been today, it would have been soon. He was...looking for an excuse. We provided it, but the cause was sufficient."
A brief look of wry merriment flashed through her eyes. "My father will see it so, but yours?"
I stared at her. Her father would understand this? Getting expelled from class? "What do you mean, he will understand?."
I heard the astonishment in my voice and waited for the rebuke that I knew would come. Half-Vulcan, less that Vulcan, other than human. But no rebuke came. "Come, you will meet him and then you will understand."
Sovak was understandably surprised to see his daugher home so early, though the only sign of this was one dark red eyebrow, raised in mild shock. "Has there been some difficulty at school, T'Liorah?"
"You might say that," she replied, and although the words were Vulcan-toneless, there was a strong undercurrent of emotion. "I wanted to read the part of the Terran."
Before Sovak could ask for clarification, I cut in. "I ask forgiveness. Your daughter was trying to come to my aid and-----"
Sovak rose, a tall, stocky man nearly a head taller than his daughter. "This conversation has no logic to it. Will one of you please explain what is going on, before I have to call Space Central for a translator?"
T'Liorah and I looked at each other. Finally , T'Liorah related the whole incident. "I see," Sovak said when she was finished. "You were not wrong, my daughter. Stuvin's actions were unwarranted." He glanced over at me, blue eyes smiling though his face was impassive. "Which does, however, leave the question of what exactly to do with you. Your name is not unknown to me, and I rather think my interpretation of events will not be the one you hear if you return to your house this early."
I felt the hot blood rise to my cheeks. No, my father would not understand and though my mother might rail against Stuvin's racism, she would not gainsay my father in whatever he chose to do. "What do you suggest?" I asked quietly.
Sovak laced his hands together. "I will contact Sarek tonight and let him know why my daughter decided to aid you." He raised his eyebrows. "Of course, it's up to you to explain how it was that you both managed to be expelled."
"It does not signify," I said calmly. "Whatever you say, there is one interpretation my family will make and it is best they make it sooner rather than later. But I thank you for your offer of assistance."
Sovak nodded. "My water is yours," he said formally. "It is well she assisted you, though I would that it had not been necessary."
His words were formal, chosen with an understanding of what I would face when I returned home. I bowed to him slightly, and T'Liorah walked me to the gate. "You should not have done that," she said again, and the undercurrent of misery was clear. "I didn't want to create more trouble for you."
Again, it was as if her words had kindled mine. "You were worth it." And I did not have to see her face to know the joy she couldn't hide.
"I have had a communication from Sovak cha'Suereh. I believe he is the father of your se'kahru'te."
I made my face impassive, but inside, I sighed. The reckoning had clearly begun. "He is, Father."
Sarek blanked the screen and came to stand in front of me. "Sovak spoke of his…understanding of your deeds, Spock. It is not one I share. You are the heir to the House of Surak; for you, the standards must be higher."
Here, too, was another bias---and one which could not be fought or argued with. Some deep voice inside me wanted to flee to someplace where I could be honored for who I was, not for my family's lineage. "Is it because I am half-human?" I asked.
Sarek was not used to challenges from me, and one eyebrow rose in shock. "There will always be some who will assume you are…less, because of your mixed heritage," my father said evenly. "Therefore, you must always follow the higher standard."
It is unjust, I wanted to say, but did not. Sarek continued, "When you return to your classes tomorrow, you will apologize to Tele'at Stuvin and you will accomplish any task he sets for you, without complaint." I turned to go, but it seemed he was not finished. "And the se'kahru'te? T'Liorah? You will not see her."
I had not expected this. "For what cause, Father?" I asked.
"The manner of her raising is in question, my son. She is too volatile, too easily controlled by her emotions. I will not allow her path to be yours."
I fought to keep the flare of anger off my face, but I had the suspicion I wasn't entirely successful. Sarek raised an eyebrow at me. "So you see, my son, what such contamination has already done to you."
And are my mother's emotions a contamination too? I thought. But my father was Vulcan and for a Vulcan, there was no connection beween the two. Sarek had issued an edict as my father, and he expected to be obeyed.
"As you say, Father," I told him, and took my leave of him. But I knew, even as I left, that I could not obey him.
T'Liorah and I talked the next day; it could hardly have been otherwise, for she and I were united in our aloneness. If I was Sarek's half-breed son, T'Liorah was the daughter of musicians and a descendant of dancers who had inherited neither her parents' musical skills nor the grace of her ancestors. "Yet you play quite well," I told her late one afternoon after classes had formally ended for the day.
She lowered her flute. "You say that because you did not hear my mother. I can make it whisper, my mother made her flute tell stories." I had heard of T'Liorah's mother, the famed musician T'Miha, and knew that T'Liorah's words were true, insofar as T'Miha's reputation went.
Yet there was something else to the quality of T'Liorah's music that was utterly lacking in the recordings of T'Miha's music. A sense of isolation and longing, a certain passion which made T'Liorah's flute far more alive than the studied brilliance of T'Miha. "It's because your flute has not found its own stories," I replied. "Do not undervalue yourself."
"Why not, when so many others are eager to do it for me?" she asked bitterly.
I knew, as surely as if she had spoken the words to my mind, what caused her unusual bitterness. Sarek must have contacted Sovak. "I ask forgiveness, T'Liorah."
She shrugged. "It was none of your doing." But she tilted her head up at me, and the impish light was back in her eyes. "Your father says we are not to meet," T'Liorah said impishly. "Yet you are still here."
I smiled briefly at her. She was, perhaps, all the things my father said she was: a bad influence, a girl whose Mastery was far from certain and who smiled too frequently for anyone with Vulcan blood. Yet I could not stay away. "I am still here," I told her.
T'Liorah smiled, and I knew then why I felt so drawn to her. T'Pring might one day smile at me, but it would be a calculated gesture designed to elicit some response. T'Liorah smiled because the emotion was in her. She touched my arm lightly. "Then let's speak no more of it."
And it was just as easy as that. We did not speak during school, but we met in the evenings and the early mornings and the times when our parents were not around. It never occurred to them, I am sure, that either of us would disobey. Or rather, it did not occur to our Vulcan fathers. My human mother, however, was quite another matter.
She came to me one morning when Sarek had been called away on a meeting of the diplomatic service and T'Liorah had her flute lessons with her old teacher in T'LingShar. "Spock, there is something I have to ask," Amanda asked. "What is it between T'Liorah and you?"
I blinked. We had been careful, I was sure, yet somehow she had known. "My son, I was your age once too. I know you've been seeing that girl."
"Of course I've been seeing T'Liorah, Mother; we are in school together," I said, deliberately misunderstanding.
"That's not what I meant," my mother said sharply, "and it's no use playing innocent. Do you know what you're risking? Your father could declare you ktorr skann for your disobedience."
I could not lie directly to my mother, nor could I admit the truth. In the end, remembering a maxim of Surakian wisdom, I kept silent. "So you're keeping the truth to yourself?" my mother asked, when several seconds of silence had gone by. She smiled then, a little sadly, and I wondered what truths she had learned to keep to herself. "Spock, I know it's not been easy for you here, but your father and I thought it was best that you be raised Vulcan. I only wish you could have found a friend."
I nodded, and began to retreat to my room for meditation. But my mother's words stopped me as I was halfway up the stairs. "Spock, I can't reveal what I don't know."
I did not have to ask what she meant.
"Tell me of her," T'Liorah whispered to me late one evening, as we sat in an isolated library room. We were studying the works of T'Sisa, an ancient poet of pre-Reform Vulcan, but I rather suspected that T'Sisa's poems had nothing to do with T'Liorah's question.
I felt an uncomfortable feeling lodge in the pit of my stomach. No Vulcan would discuss their betrothal or the Time, as it was a matter for privacy. No Vulcan, it seemed, except T'Liorah. "Who do you mean?" I asked sharply, trying to distract her. No, T'Pring was not someone I wanted to think about.
"You know perfectly well who I am discussing, Spock," T'Liorah replied softly. "His name is Stelith cha'Scerat," she continued as if I had not spoken. "I have seen him exactly once since our betrothal, but we'll never wed."
I blinked. "Never?"
She smiled, a smile that hinted at the woman she would become. I was mystified by it. "We have an understanding."
I thought of the rumors, of the ritual battle that could end a betrothal during the Time. "Not by the kalifee?" I said, shocked past my composure.
"What do you think of me?" she asked, deathly quiet. "No, Spock, I would not do that to a man I was pledged to. Stelith and I have agreed that we will end our betrothal quietly once our clans accept us as adults."
This was such an unconventional idea that I was rocked by it. "How? And why?"
"The how can be accomplished in any healer's office, Spock. As for the why, Stelith and I are nothing alike. Yet his mother was my father's old tutor, and---" she smiled faintly---"my father thought I would not wed if Stelith and I were not bonded."
I knew how she appeared to others: chaotically messy, graceless and lacking in most of the Vulcan mores that bound our society together. Yet I knew her father was wrong. If T'Liorah was graceless, she was also lacking in any artifice. If she thought nothing of smiling when the mood took her, she also did not know how to lie.
"So will you wed her?" T'Liorah asked, impishly.
"She and I have no understanding," I said bluntly. "For me, there is no other option."
Her hand touched mine under the table between us. "Not even in a healer's office?"
"Not even in another universe," I said distantly. "It is not done in my family." But the words were false even to my own ears. Had not my own father denied tradition when he married my mother?
"So you will wed where you're told, and when, and who, and never count the cost?" She sounded as mild as a child asking why the sky was red, but I already knew there was little mildness in her.
"I will wed, because the House of Surak demands it," I said softly, wondering how in all the worlds we had gotten to this conversation. "You have a freedom I don't."
T'Liorah wiped all traces of emotion from her face, and was once again impassively Vulcan. But the small brown stain of kelasti sauce on her collar spoiled the image. "Specify."
"You are full Vulcan," I told her. "No matter what anyone else thinks of you, they will never say you are not a Vulcan."
She chuckled softly, but there was little humor in it. "No, they'll just say that I'm a tviokh, or worse, that I have Akaren blood." She switched to Standard, and in her increasing command of the idiom, I saw how angry she was. "You don't own the market on bigotry, Spock."
She closed her data padd and left me alone with my thoughts.
We did not speak for several days after the discussion in the library. T'Liorah returned to T'LingShar briefly to attend to some business with her mother's clan, but she had left chaos in her wake. The idea that I need not marry the girl my parents had chosen was, quite simply, astonishing. The option had never been discussed; indeed, it had never even been suggested that a betrothal bond could be ended by a healer. I wondered if the same idea had occurred to T'Pring. Did she seek a way to be honorably freed of her betrothal to me? I wondered, but I would never ask. T'Pring was the last daughter of a matrilineal clan line fallen on hard times. She had her duty, as I had mine.
My father returned from his work each evening, and I retreated to my room after dinner. I spoke little to either of my parents, and though I know my mother was concerned, my father was less so. He saw in my new-found seriousness the product of all of my Vulcan training.
But I saw T'Liorah early the next morning.
"I ask forgiveness," she said simply. "It was wrong of me to try and impose my views on yours."
"It was no imposition," I told her. "The cause was sufficient." I took her hand. "But there will be no healer's office for me."
She nodded. "Does she know that you are so honorable?"
I smiled then, remembering all of T'Pring's disdain. "I very much doubt it."
"Spock," my father said to me that evening, as I worked on my analysis of T'Sisa's poetry, "I would speak to you." He spoke in the ambassadors' tones that brooked no opposition, and I could not quite repress a sigh. Whatever the ultimate subject of the discussion, it was almost certainly likely to be unpleasant. I rose to follow him into his study.
"The provost has informed me that despite the…incident last week, you are still going to graduate at the top of your class," Sarek continued. "I have also received a notice from the Vulcan Science Academy that you have been accepted to begin your studies as soon as you graduate."
The faint flicker of rebellion grew stronger within me. The place at the Vulcan Science Academy was not truly mine; it had been reserved for my brother Sybok. With his disgrace, the slot had fallen to me, and with it, all the other burdens of being Sarek's half-breed son. It was unjust, to expect me to follow in my brother's footsteps, to be the son Sybok had refused to be. Yet there stood my father, dark and implacable, insisting that I fufill my role as heir to the House of Surak.
Quite clearly, I saw the pattern of my days. I would earn my degree from the VSA, as my father had, and then follow him into the diplomatic service. And then T'Pring and I would wed, and ….I fought down the panic his words induced. Was nothing to be under my control? "Father," I said carefully, "would not some other institution be more logical?" Any place but the VSA, where I am only your son and never myself, I thought but did not say.
"The eldest children of the House have always attended the VSA." Always, the words of an ambassador, acknowledging my words but ignoring them nonetheless. Abruptly, I thought of T'Liorah, who had no such artifice in her, and wondered why her quick wisdom should be the one despised.
Sarek did not wait for my answer; it was assumed that I would agree as I had always done. When he left the study, I stared out onto the desert night and saw only the stars I would never reach.
"What do you see in them?" T'Liorah asked. It had been four days since we'd been able to see each other outside of school, but with our parents either absent or deliberately unseeing, we had taken the time to enjoy the desert stars. We were inside the botanical park, an area screened from night predators and weather, but still perfectly private. The proprietor, an aged human, had seen me there many times and, with a disturbingly knowing glance at T'Liorah and I, had quietly left the security gate open.
"What do you mean?" I asked, taking a drink of the herbal tea T'Liorah had brewed before we left.
"The stars," she replied simply. "I see you watch them from time to time. What do they tell you?"
Again, I felt the dull press of the panic my father's words had caused. "Nothing," I said shortly.
She raised one eyebrow. "I rather doubt that." T'Liorah tilted her head up to look at the constellations, and I could not help but notice the way her red hair, now unbound, tangled down her back. She was graceless and chaotic, but she was also beautiful in her disorder. "So tell me their stories."
I thought of the stories my mother had told, stories that she had written down or cared enough to remember. With other Vulcans, the legends were scorned as pre-Reformation illogic, nothing worth preserving. But somehow it seemed right that T'Liorah should also care. Who else, in our ordered world, would? "That one," I said, pointing up at the constellation that looked like a graceful woman with a sword, "is T'Sileh the Wanderer. The legend says that she fought for her betrothed when he was captured by an evil demon, and as a reward for her heroism, the gods placed her image in the stars."
T'Liorah smiled up at me. "She must have loved him very much."
The phrase made my breath catch. No one ever spoke of love between betrothed couples, only duty and madness. Could there not be something more, something that made all the madness of the Time worth it? "I should hope so, for what she risked." And it seemed logical that I would take her hand in mine.
The night passed slowly as I told her the other stories of the constellations: of T'Sira and Shenek, of Sihara, the god of the oasis and his lover T'Renna. All of the stories were about the wonders of bonded love, of friendship and trust and honor, and yet, there would be no such endings for T'Liorah and I. I had my duty to T'Pring, and whatever else I felt was of little importance. "Spock," she said slowly, "why do you not go to the stars?"
"I can't," I said dully. "I am to go to the Vulcan Science Academy after graduation."
Her grey-green eyes darkened. "By whose choice? Yours, or your father's?" Her hand tighened within mine. "You'll never see the stars like this if you go there, don't you know? All you'll see is duty, and all they'll see is Sarek's half-breed son."
It startled me to me to hear her say what I had been thinking. She was nearly mind-blind, but somehow, she had seen and understood. And slowly, I told her the one thing I had told no one. "I am considering applying to Starfleet Academy."
"Spock, that's---that's a most logical choice," she said solemnly, like the perfect Vulcan she would never try to be. But the smile in her eyes belied the Vulcanness of her words.
"I am not certain that it is, T'Liorah." I replied. "If I do this, I will most certainly be outcast."
"Outcast? For a little thing like choosing to be a scientist instead of a diplomat? It's your life, and----" I cut her off, knowing she did not understand. Her family, by Vulcan standards, was appallingly liberal. "T'Liorah, it may be my life, as you say, but my life belongs to the House of Surak, and as I am the only son---"
"Not the only son," T'Liorah said softly, for all of Vulcan knew of Sybok's crimes. Yet even she, unconventional as she was, would not speak his name. "You are just the only one remaining. Would your father make you ktorr skann for choosing your own path?"
I thought of Sybok's exile, of my mother's own veiled warning, and knew that he would. "Yes."
Her free arm wrapped around my shoulders and though I should have felt uncomfortable at the contact, I did not. "You will have to choose someday, Spock," T'Liorah told me. "If not now, when?"
"'If not now, when?'" T'Liorah quoted, on a watery planet a century removed from that night in the botanical park. She laughed as she nestled against me. "Gods, I was so arrogant, thinking I could force you to choose. I don't know how you put up with me."
"Because you were right," I told her. "I have always found women who are to be…most attractive." She laughed again, and I thought how fortunate we were. On the surface, the path of our days on Melithar had continued as before: the interminable negotiations, the diplomatic functions which always had a quartet of nameless musicians. Yet our nights were a safe harbor away from the veiled statements, the haggling and the noise.
"Did you have a good life?" she asked again. "I knew you'd become first officer on the Enterprise, of course---there was scarcely a news service that hadn't covered it. But---" she smiled slightly---"I wanted to contact you, but I was afraid."
The idea of T'Liorah being afraid, of anyone or anything, was astonishing. And yet, I had not tried to contact her either. "I was a fool," I said quietly. "I should not have left you."
"Yes, you should have," she told me, and as I looked at this older and wiser woman I'd found in the last place I should have expected, I knew that I could not leave her again. "We were so young, Spock. You had just begun to figure out who you were, and if you'd stayed with me then, you would never have learned." Her lips touched mine. "But you've learned now?"
I nodded. "Care to see how much?" I teased her. We were neither of us old, not by Vulcan standards, but seeing her made me feel young and hopeful again.
She was wearing nothing but a loose skirt and blouse, clothing that should have appeared Vulcanly conservative were it not for the fact that I could tell there was nothing underneath it. The thought of T'Liorah wearing such clothing around the cadre of other musicians, mostly Vulcan and all of them rather easily offended, made me smile. She, too, had made her peace with our culture.
"It's Melitharsa in design," she said rather breathlessly as I untied the laces on the front of the shirt. "They don't wear undergarments and our clothing was sold when...ohhhhh....Spock...."
I released my hold on one of her breasts. "You were saying, about the clothing?" I asked mildly. Her grey-green eyes widened. "I was saying, Spock, that if you don't continue, you'll be the first Vulcan ambassador to die of drowning."
I laughed then. I had learned, over my years with humans, that emotions were not entirely bad. But it had been T'Liorah, all those long years ago, who'd taught me the lesson first. "Very well," I said, in the prim tones of an ambassador, and she chuckled.
Her mouth touched mine, and memory returned: the first time she'd done this, and the last. Yet were we not different people? "Enough of that," she murmured against my mouth, clearly sensing the thought. "Kaiidth. We are both here now."
Her hands removed my heavy ambassadors' robes, and my mouth returned to her breasts. T'Liorah always had been small-boned, and the contrast between her petite size and that of the other Vulcan women had given her no amount of grief. Yet her smallness was pleasing. "You romantic, you," she said breathlessly.
And then I found myself underneath her. Small she might be, but T'Liorah was no weakling. She ran her hands through my chest hair. I remembered how startled she'd been, a century before, to discover that I had chest hair. But that was then, and T'Liorah the woman was no longer startled. "You feel good," she murmured from where she straddled my groin. I could feel her wetness and my own erection.
Her slow, undulating movements were causing all of my reason to shatter. I did not have it in me to complain. "T'Liorah," I said softly, "please...."
T'Liorah's red hair fell loose to touch my chest as she smiled at me. It was the smile of a woman loving and loved, and I wondered how I could ever have let her go. "As you say," she replied, and lowered herself onto me.
The flood of my own release matched hers, and all too soon it was over. "I thought I should have lasted longer," I told her as she rested in my arms, her body damp with the smell of salt and water and the passion we'd shared.
"You could have only if I could have as well," she replied wryly. "Why analyze it?"
"Most logical," I said, and T'Liorah laughed. We both knew logic, at least the Vulcan type of logic, was not in her. I felt her heartbeat slow under my hand to its usual fast rhythm. And knew that I had to ask. "T'Liorah, can we not bond now, as we should have all those years ago?"
Her smile was radiant and wry at the same time. "We can bond now, but not because we should have all those years ago." T'Liorah's lips touched mine and I heard her voice in my head. She was nearly mind-blind, yet her mind had never been closed to me. //We can bond now because it is right. I cherish thee.//
She spoke in the ancient language of our people. "I would be thy wife, unto the flames of the Time I would follow thee." It was not the same vow I had made to my wife, five years dead, nor to T'Pring over a century in the past, but the ancient vow of love and fidelity. The same vow, I realized suddenly, that T'Sileh the Wanderer had made to her betrothed in the old legend.
I whispered the reply. "I would guard thee and thy kin with my life, and never should I part from thee." We were both older now, our duty to our clans done. T'Liorah's daughter was bonded with children of her own, as were my two sons. We had each done our duty to everyone else. This time, our duty was to each other.
My hands touched her face in the ritual position for forming a bonding link. Twice had I gone through this, and yet with T'Liorah it was subtly different. Was it because she was nearly mind-blind, or was it because we had chosen each other, willingly? I realized I would probably never know, and it was no longer a concern as I felt her shields lower and let me in.
I saw many of the people that had made up her life since we had parted: Serlin, their daughter T'Mia, her performances, the friends she had made and the loss of those she loved. T'Liorah had indeed lived a full life. //And what of you?// she asked in the link, and I showed her what she needed to know. My wife, a widow who neither knew nor cared about the ranking of my clan but who had valued me for who I was, the birth of our sons, my years on the Enterprise, the friends who had taught me how to be whole, my death and resurrection. //You've led a full life too// she teased. //Before thee, this is all I am//
It was the ritual phrase that cemented a marriage bond, and as my mind interwove with hers, I spoke to her through our bond. //Before thee, see of me what you will.// And it was done. "T'Sai T'Liorah, aduna Spock," I whispered to her.
"Sai Spock, adun T'Liorah," she whispered in reply. Then my wife grinned impishly. "Do you think they'll understand if I don't play tonight?"
I laughed, but only because she had taught me that I could. "Seclusion will have to wait, my wife," I told her, "for the negotiations must continue. But I would consider it an honor if you would....play with me."
The double entendre existed in both Standard and Vulcan, and T'Liorah chuckled. "A captive audience, hmm?" she said lightly as she dressed. "Just what every musician wants."
And as we walked back to the nameless hostel where we had both been billeted, I could not help but think of another night, a century in the past.
I glanced at the screen as it beeped the unaccustomed sound of an incoming hail. No mail was ever sent to me directly. My heart began pounding as I read the coding. It was from San Francisco, Earth. The message was too simple for an event that was going to change my life: I had been accepted to Starfleet Academy. I glanced at the chronometer; T'Liorah should have returned home from her music lessons by now.
But as I heard the voices of my mother and father, I knew there was no chance of slipping out of the house tonight. Amanda might be willfully ignorant of my relationship with T'Liorah, but Sarek was far too vigilant. "Spock," my father called. "I would speak to you."
My heart froze. His voice was cold, colder than it had been when he'd uttered the ritual phrase that had made Sybok an outcast. Once again, I had the sense of a reckoning about to begin. "I have received a message," my father said tersely, "from the commandant of Starfleet Academy, congratulating me on my son's acceptance." His voice was low, devoid of emotion. "Why have you done this?"
T'Liorah was not present, we were not mindlinked in any but the most superficial way, yet some of her utter certainty remained with me. "It is my life, Father. I cannot attend the Vulcan Science Academy."
My mother looked between the two of us as we argued, and I could sense something of her feeling of betrayal. Whether she felt betrayed because I had rejected our clan's traditions or because of the way Sarek was acting, I could not tell. But I also found something within me to harden my heart. If my life was not Sarek's, neither was it hers. "You would reject our ways?" Sarek demanded. "Why should you think that you, a boy, can decide without the guidance of the elders the way your life should be?"
I made my voice firm. "Who else can decide, Father? Will you, will any of these people, have to live with the choices you make for me?"
"You will contact the commandant and tell him this has been a mistake," my father said coldly.
I lifted my chin, hearing the words T'Liorah had whispered to me only the week before. If not now, when? "I will not."
Sarek stared hard at me. "If you persist in this decision, you will be made outcast."
It was as I had feared, and yet I heard my mother's gasp as if it were my own. "Sarek, he's our son. How can you even think of----?"
"I can think of it, Amanda, because he acts like an illogical child who does not understand the consequences of his actions."
My mother stared at him as if she had never seen him before. "I don't know you, Sarek. Let him go, it's his choice."
"Choices have consequences, Amanda." Sarek turned back to me. "Very well, my son. Since you have made this decision, you are no longer my son. I will contact the clan elders to erase your name from the birth records. Once you leave this house, do not return, for even our shade is no longer yours."
Amanda gasped, the tears welling bright in her eyes. "Spock, I----" She reached out a hand to touch me, but I pulled away. No, I could not bear her sympathy or her pity, not while I was still reeling from the shock of being outcast. How had Sybok stood it?
I did not take much with me the night I left my father's house: only the clothes on my back, and a few treasured books. But as I left my father's house that night, it occurred to me that I had no place to go. No place at all, except for T'Liorah. She would understand, but would her father?
And so it was that I found myself at T'Liorah's house. Her bedroom was on the ground floor, and the window was half open. "T'Liorah!" I whispered. There was no response. I was about to try again when she came to the window. "What is it?" she whispered.
As it was, I didn’t have to tell her. The sight of my satchel must have told her what she needed to know. "Oh, Spock, I'm sorry."
I shook my head. "Do not be, T'Liorah. It was perhaps destined to be so."
She nodded briefly. "When were you to leave for the Academy?"
"The transport was to be tomorrow evening."
T'Liorah smiled then, reassuringly. "Wait here."
When she returned a few minutes later, she'd thrown a cloak over her nightgown and was carrying a small satchel of food. "My father will not allow you to stay," she said sadly. "Liberal we may be but the ban of ktorr skann is absolute. But I know of a place where you can stay, and be comfortable until tomorrow evening."
She was silent as we walked, and I was too shocked by the night's events to ask further. But when I saw the crooked monoliths, I knew where we were. "The Place of Marriage and Challenge?" I just managed to avoid squeaking. "Here?"
T'Liorah shrugged. "There's a…consummation room in back. Unless you'd prefer to sleep in the desert?"
I shook my head. "No, of course not."
The room was dusty, unused since the last time a bonded pair had consummated their marriage here. It was small, but sheltered. I could stay here, at least until I went to meet the transport. But as I lit the fire, I began to sense a curious sort of presence that said I await you. When the fire was lit, I turned to see that T'Liorah had removed her cloak. In the white nightgown with her wavy red hair unbound, she was the most unreasonably beautiful woman I had ever seen.
I walked towards her. "Do you await me?" I asked softly, wondering if she'd sensed that same presence.
T'Liorah smiled. "Always. But there is no need to wait now."
My eyes widened a little at her boldness. What she was suggesting was so unheard of as to be scandalous. We were both betrothed, and what we were both contemplating was adultery by any Vulcan law. And yet, it was also strangely exciting. To know someone who felt as I did, who did not condemn….
I took her hand in my own, not the restrained Vulcan embrace of bonded couples, but the way I had seen the humans in ShiKahr act. "I agree," I said softly.
The contact fired the emotions between us. We were not linked---T'Liorah was nearly mind-blind and would not, in any case, have forged a link with me while she was betrothed.But the storm of my emotions---desire, need, affection----could not have remained within my own mind, for these emotions she shared as well.
No one would come, no one would look for us at the consummation room. It was ours, for however long we had need of it. In the light from T'Kuht, I smiled at her. "I would rather have had you here as my wife, but it will not happen."
T'Liorah shook her head. "No, but we have this time."
"Is this what you want? Truly?" I asked. In answer, her lips touched my own, softly. "I could want for no other."
I ran my hands through her red hair. "There will never be another," I murmured, not knowing where the words came from, but knowing also that they were true.
"Shssshhh," she murmured, placing a long finger against my lips. "Speak not of forevers, not here, not now."
The nightgown she wore was thin and loose. I gently undid the catch on the collar and the gown fell to the floor in a puddle of fabric. It was not long before my own clothing was also disposed of, and we stood together in the firelight. I was suddenly possessed by a strange nervousness. I knew the physical facts, but no one had ever spoken of the actual details. "I do not know how," I said.
The smile that graced her face made her look every inch an elf from one of my mother's stories. "I have no knowledge either. But I do not think it is a test we can fail."
Hesitantly, I touched her shoulder, reassured when she did not flinch as T'Pring did everytime I came within distance. Her skin was soft and warm and as her mouth met mine, I stopped wondering why kissing was derided as a human custom. Something that was this good, surely no Vulcan could understand. Her hands, long and graceful, touched the sides of my face. "You are beautiful," she said, and I sensed her joy at being able to say it aloud.
"I do not think I am, but you are," I said. Watching her for any signs of discomfiture, my hands trailed down to her small breats. She was fine boned, so much so that I thought I might be able to see the bones in strong light. I also knew better, but rational thoughts were not ones I wanted to have now.
"No one has ever spoken of this joy," she murmured. "Only of duty and what I must allow my husband to do in his madness." Her own hands explored the soft dark hair on my chest. I felt her surprise at the chest hair. No one had ever told her of that either, but then, no well-bred Vulcan girl ever saw a Vulcan man with his shirt off.
"You are thin," she continued, "but you are no weakling." Her hands touched the muscles of my arms, lighting fires along the nerves. I gasped. "What you do to me, kh'liorah," I murmured against her ear.
As my mouth touched the tip of one pointed ear, she arched against me. "Nirshte kroykah," she said passionately. Her hips rotated instinctively against my groin and I felt my erection grow in size, the drive to enter her overcoming almost all rational thought. Almost.
T'Liorah looked up at me, and her gaze was clear and steady without a hint of fear. "Do you want this?" I asked again.
In answer, she guided one of my hands to the center of her own wetness. "Do you doubt it?" she asked, smiling.
I was astonished by what I felt, the scent and the feel of her new to my understanding. Had we caused this? It didn't seem possible."I do not doubt it."
We lay down on a blanket on the floor. At the sight of her breasts, nipples erect with her own need, I felt another urge as well. I took one of them in my mouth while my free hand returned to her warmth. "Ohhh!!" she murmured into the desert night.
Gently, I assumed what I believed was the correct position. My penis entered her well, and the warmth was like nothing I ever dreamed of. She was tight, the way untravled, but welcoming just the same. One more thrust and I was deep inside her. Instinct took over as I thrust again and again, and T'Liorah's hoarse cries matched my own as we entered the fires together.
When she left me that night, it was understood that she would go with me to Space Central. What I did not know is that it would be the last time I would see her until our reunion on Melithar over a century later.
I turned to her where she lay against me. "Shall I tell you why I never tried to contact you, my wife?" I asked her.
"You can try," she said seriously, "but only if you'll understand why I didn't try to contact you."
"If I had contacted you," I said quietly, breathing in the smell of her hair, "I would have broken my betrothal vows to T'Pring, left everything and everyone behind. But I was so close to my dreams…it did not seem as if I could have had both you and them."
She laughed slightly. "We were all of fifteen, Spock. Do not trouble yourself because you did not know what you were losing when you left. I could have contacted you, and yet, I did not."
"Why?" I asked, one of the questions we'd never asked each other.
"My father learned where I'd been the night before you left," T'Liorah said delicately. "One of the guardians of the land saw the light in the consummation room." She folded her arms. "Sovak was quite furious, and forbade me to contact you. Every outgoing frequency was monitored, my every movement outside of the house watched. It was not until Stelith and I severed our bond that my father ceased his control over me." She shrugged. "I could have tried harder, but I was afraid of being made ktorr skann as well.. And by the time T'Pring Challenged, I was wed to Serlin."
"What does it matter?" I asked her. "We are both here now."
And it was more, far more, than good enough.