Disclaimer: ParaBorg/Viacom owns 'em, I'm just checking them out of the library. All original characters, content, and ceremonies © 2000 by Roisin Fraser. Okay to post at ASC, all others please ask. Constructive comments welcome, email to Roisin_Fraser@hotmail.com.
Author's Note. This is the fifth story in the T'Rela series. It takes place approximately one Standard year after "The Difference." Familiarity with the other stories is assumed, and encouraged. If you want to read them, the other stories can be found at my website http://www.reocities.com/Area51/Starship/2151 Song phrases are from Sarah McLachlan, with a nod to Islaofhope. Extra points for those who recognize where the lyrics come from. J Some of you who frequent my website may have noticed that this story was on my website last year. WARNING: this isn't the same story. Same idea, same title, vastly different story.
The term "sihaya," meaning oasis, is not one I invented. It was used in Frank Herbert's Dune, and I acknowledge it with my grateful thanks.
Thanks to my beta T'Thelaih and to Islaofhope and PernFancy for their initial beta-ing on the original version of this story. Any errors, blame me, not them. Thanks to Editrix as well, who thwacked me when I needed it <g> and who made me add smut into what could have been, and very nearly was, a no-sex pon farr story. Perish the thought….
Summary: Ten years after their bonding, Spock and T'Rela face their first pon farr together.
Rating: TOS, R for adult situations, angst, het smut, violence (this IS a pon farr story,) S/f
Crucible: noun. A place or set of circumstances where people or things are subjected to forces that test them and often make them change. (Definition from the Encarta World English Dictionary)
< means dream sequence
// telepathic thought
"at the crossroads I am standing"
When she looked back over the Time, when her lover once more lay unfevered beside her, T'Rela was never able to pinpoint exactly when it had begun. All she knew was that she had almost lost him, but he had come back to her. As she placed one hand on his back, now damp and cooling with sweat from the last traces of the fever, she wondered whether they would be able to go on after this.
Spock stirred beside her. His eyes were still green-rimmed from his exhaustion before the fever, but the intelligence, the humor that marked him as Spock was back in his eyes. He turned to face her, and she brushed the damp hair back from his forehead. //Beloved// she sent to him.
He brushed a weak hand, no longer shaking, across the meld points on her face. //T'Rela, my own, have I hurt you?//
T'Rela considered. Between the cumulative effects of several days of sexual activity and the emotional and mental stress of stabilizing his mind and hers until he could get to her, there was probably no place on her body which did not ache either literally or figuratively. But they had made it though the Fire together. Whether they could survive after it was still open for debate. //I am largely intact. But you…how do you feel?//
The wash of his amusement reached her mind like water on the desert: rare, and greatly desired. Under the circumstances, she knew that it was probably illogical to feel grateful for anything as small as Spock's humor, but it had been too long absent. //I have definitely had days where I was more intact. For instance, after being attacked by Klingons.//
She laughed with the simple joy of his survival. It had been a very near thing, she knew; had he not already been en route to Vulcan when the blood fever began to escalate, he would not have survived. The quicksilver light of his mind flashed and hummed underneath their bond as he grew suddenly serious. // "If I should wound thee, let my sword arm go slack and my eyes unseeing."// It was a phrase from Vulcan's past, the past of their ancestors, a vow spoken between bonded warriors.
T'Rela shifted slightly, wincing as the movement agitated another sore group of muscles. Abruptly, she realized that the movement, the physical distance away from Spock, had drawn his attention, he who was always sensitive to her moods. //You did not wound me, Spock. You did nothing you need feel shame for.//
He grasped her wrist tightly, not as strongly as he had when the blood fever was at its peak , not strongly enough to leave bruises. //Rela, you are evading the question.//
//If I do so, it is for my own reasons. Rest, we will speak of this later.//
Spock sat up. T'Rela could tell the sudden movement still made him dizzy and nauseated---another side effect of the Time---but he did not pass out. //Rela, we have never lied to each other. If we wait until "later" to discuss this, there will always be some logical reason why we cannot discuss it. I am alive, the Time will pass within the next two days, so there is no reason why it cannot be discussed now.//
The cumulative effects of lack of sleep and emotional strain were beginning to wear on her as well. Her mental voice was rough with unaccustomed sharpness as she lashed back at him. //You never told me you feared being abandoned again. Why could you not discuss this with me? Why did you not trust me enough to tell me what shadows your soul?//
Spock stopped short, realizing just how furious she was. It was not for nothing said that an Akaren's anger could set the desert itself on fire. His hand brushed an errant lock of hair off her forehead. //Perhaps because I did not realize it myself.//
The contact startled T'Rela and she lurched backwards, revealing a particularly livid bruise under the light shift she wore. At his shocked gasp, she pulled the shoulder of the shift up again. //It was not me you grasped in fear, so it is not you I blame. But you should have told me.//
In the wake of pon farr, the senses are abnormally acute; even the slightest touch between a bonded couple can be enough to trigger another emotional storm. It was this storm that flitted through Spock's eyes as he watched his wife. //I should have. I would hear how it was for you.//
T'Rela considered, though in reality there was no other choice. If they were to survive this and go on, there had to be a beginning somewhere. //I will speak of it.//
"to be consumed would be the death of me"
<She stands on the red sands of Vulcan. The Place of Koon-ut Kalifee, though it is not a place T'Rela has ever visited. But with the odd calmness of a dream, it is on those sands where she waits for her mate. The discordant sound of bells alerts her to his presence, but there is more, much that makes no sense. There is another Vulcan woman, tall with eyes that looked cold, and a Vulcan matriarch, fierce and implacable. And two humans as well, one golden-eyed and one with the fierce energy that can only dare to heal.
Pale and fevered, Spock arrives with the two humans. It is nearly too late for him; the unrelenting fever has wracked his system of most of his quickness and speed. If there is no Challenge, he might yet survive this, his first pon farr. T'Rela calls out to him, but he does not see her, she does not exist. Even speech is becoming rough for him now, with the fever's instinct to take a mate pressing on his mind. He has eyes only for the tall, cold woman at T'Rela's side, the woman who will, in an instant, demand that the bond be severed.
T'Pring stops him from striking the gong. "Kalifee!" she shouts.
And the Challenge begins…>
T'Rela woke suddenly, from the dream of fire and Challenge. She was drenched with sweat and breathing hard, as if she had been fighting the Challenge herself. T'Rela brushed the hair out of her eyes and stared into the cold light of the pre-dawn morning, trying to trace down the source of that memory.
The memory had been Spock's, she knew, though greatly distorted by his own fears. She had seen the memory once before, shortly before their bonding, and was unsurprised at its power to still wound him. It had been nearly ten years since that day, but those memories were not the ones to fade easily with time. There was much she could have said, through the bond, but it was closed to her now as he worked. And T'Rela feared that all she could say might well be useless. What was "I will not abandon you" in the face of a reality where it had already happened?
The chronometer flashed 03:35. T'Rela sighed; better she should get up now than spend the rest of the morning trying to sleep again. She poured herself a cup of tea and watched the sunrise over the desert.
The voice was McCoy's, and Spock noticed that the doctor had, once again, managed to break his train of thought. "What is it, Doctor?" he asked, not noticing the slight harshness of his voice.
McCoy's eyebrows bobbed up once. The Enterprise was on day five of an epidemic of Rigellian flu, the latest strain brought aboard courtesy of an infected crewman. It had incapacitated fully a third of the crew, and those who remained healthy were covering double shifts to make up for those who were ill. Small wonder if Spock should be a little irritable, with the Science Department running ragged. "When was the last time you ate?"
When was the last time food had even sounded good? Spock could not remember. "I ate the last time you did," he replied evenly.
The doctor smiled. "That's what I thought. Scotty swears the new replicator program makes passable kreyla---would you like me to bring you back some?"
For an instant, nausea rose in his stomach. Spock fought it "No, thank you, Doctor. I am not hungry." Which was only the truth. Even the thought of kreyla, a dish he rather enjoyed, was enough to make his stomach clench.
Abruptly, Spock realized that his response would surely only engage the doctor's curiosity. Out popped the ever-present mediscanner, with its irritating whine. "Hmm," McCoy was saying. "Your systems are a mess. You're running a fever, you damn fool---why didn't you put yourself in isolation? Playing Super-Vulcan is just plain stupid----did you think you wouldn't get sick?"
Spock became aware only then that he did indeed feel feverish. The headache, no doubt caused by the Rigellian flu, was not making his thoughts any more logical. "I did not realize," he managed to say. It had come on so suddenly….
Another one of those non-verbal noises from the doctor. Curious how he managed to communicate so much with that noise. "Spock, consider yourself confined to quarters; Sickbay's so full I doubt you'd get any rest at all here. I'll stop by with your medication. And," the doctor added, forestalling the expected objection, "I'll send someone to check on you. If you're on the computer or doing anything but resting, you'll be right back here."
Spock stood as wave of dizziness and nausea burned its way through him. "I …quite concur, Doctor."
McCoy watched him go, only then wondering when the Vulcan had last agreed with him.
Spock sat down heavily on his bed. He had tried to dismiss the pain of the headache with a mild healing trance, but it would not be dismissed, and now it thudded to the rhythm of his blood. He closed his eyes, trying for a meditative trance, but fell into the realm of dream.
<He sees her there, among the lands of fire and ice, a tall figure all alone. It is T'Rela, and she stands in this land he has never seen dressed in the gown she wore for their bonding. It is a shifting, diaphanous gown of deep green, a gown that is meant to be concealing yet fails in that objective. It does little to hide the lush curves of her body or the taut lines of musculature that belie her strength. It does little to hide all that she is to him, in the Fire.
Their bond tells her of his Need: this is the Vulcan heart, this is the Vulcan soul. He gathers her to him, and she comes to him willingly, unafraid of him and all that he might yet become in the grasp of the flames which consume him. His hands shake, his body is flame, his hands invade her body and mind with the suddenness of encompassing lust.
But just at the point where there minds become one, he encounters a barrier of ice and stone. //I cannot. I would not stay with that which you will become.//
"Wait," he tries to say, trying to call her back. But the sense of abandonment and despair rises thick in his throat; the words do not come. All he can do is watch her leave as the flames consume him.>
Spock awoke with the suddenness of a man suddenly restored to life. It had been 9.8 years since this had come, since the madness had arrived and changed his life forever. How could he have allowed himself to forget? As if in answer, he could hear McCoy's voice: "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt." Was it really that simple? Had he allowed himself to forget, even to the extent of ignoring the obvious symptoms?
He smiled slightly as he considered T'Rela's response to that. She had as little patience with denial as anyone he had ever met, and the combination of Akaren healing and Vulcan logic had proven most effective in dealing with patients who simply refused to see. "It is illogical to deny what must be," Spock murmured in the darkness of his cabin; for some reason, it was important to hear the words spoken aloud. "She will not abandon me, she is not T'Pring."
But the words fell flat, unreassuring in the silence of the room.
And the Enterprise was two weeks away from Vulcan.
"take her hand, and she will lead you through the fire"
In the morning, after Sudek had left for school, T'Rela made an appointment with the only other Akaren healer in ShiKahr. It was not a thing she had ever done before; her only serious illness had been in the minor outbreak of mutated lung-lock fever five years before. And there were any number of Vulcan healers she could have gone to, but T'Rela trusted her instincts. An Akaren soul-healer, trained in the strengthening and repair of mental bonds, seemed to be the only appropriate choice.
T'Alik rose as T'Rela entered the office. She was an old woman, lined with the sands of two centuries of desert life. In the middle of her second century, T'Alik had chosen to take place in an exchange of Akaren and Vulcan healers, and her small office had quickly become a focal point for the other Akaren who, like T'Rela, lived in the city. T'Rela, whose relationship with her own mother had been conflicted at best, had come to respect the older kinswoman as a healer and as a friend
T'Alik appraised her patient critically. T'Rela knew that the soul-healer had doubtless seen the reasons for her visit; it would have been easy to one with the Akaren healer's sense. "Greetings, T'Rela. The peace of the desert upon you."
T'Rela replied, "The peace of the desert be upon you as well, Healer T'Alik. I would speak with you on a matter between bondmates."
Pale lavender eyes studied dark purple ones. "I would know what this matter is."
T'Rela folded her hands in her lap. "My husband is entering the early stages of what the Vulcans call pon farr. He will not return in time."
T'Alik might have sighed. Intermarriage was still rare between Vulcans and Akaren, for this reason among many. No Akaren man had ever died in the grip of the blood madness, but for Vulcan men, it was possibly fatal. "Is your husband aware of his condition?"
T'Rela shook her head. "I think not. He has confused it with something else, but it is the blood madness." The vast distance between them had attenuated most of the perceptions she would ordinarily have received from him, but this one was particularly strong, laden with apprehension.
She gathered her thoughts and looked at T'Alik. "I seek aid from you, T'Alik. I would ask for aid in sustaining him until he can come home."
"You are aware that this has never been tried with a Vulcan before?"
T'Rela felt the first bite of the fever's impatience. Culturally, they were a race apart, but biologically, they *were* Vulcans. "I am aware. Will you aid me?" Her voice flashed with an irritation not entirely her own.
T'Alik nodded. "I swore the same oath you did, T'Rela. I would not see a man die if it were in my power to avoid it." The rebuke was mild and not without compassion. If the bond between T'Rela and her husband could not be strengthened enough to maintain her husband's precarious physical condition, Spock would die. And since T'Rela would be in the link with him, the probability was high that T'Rela would also die. T'Alik glanced outside the window. "When you sense that it is time to begin, come back and we will start."
T'Rela breathed out in simple relief. It was not logical to fear the unknown, but all the same, she was glad that she would not have to walk this path alone. "To everything, there is a season," as Amanda had quoted frequently; it was the same belief the Akaren, in another form, had known and cherished for thousands of years. Every ritual had its appointed time, every journey its sorrows. *We will survive this, and you will return to me, Beloved.*
Spock managed to sleep a little that night, only to be awakened by the sound of the door buzzer. "Come, " he said, a little drowsy; sleep had been a rare thing, and with the escalating pressures of the blood fever, would become even rarer still.
It was McCoy. "Oh, sorry, didn't mean to wake you. Here's your medication. Take it with food if you can."
The mention of food caused the Vulcan to pale, something which the doctor didn't miss. "How are you feeling?" he asked, peering closely at the black-clad form in the dim light.
The storm of emotions wrought by the dream had done its work; Spock clasped his hands together to prevent their shaking. "I am not entirely functional, but I shall recover."
The doctor hadn't missed the fine tremor in his hands before he had clasped them together. "This isn't just Rigellian flu, Spock. Time to level with me."
With concentration, Spock found that he could keep his voice free from the harsh distortions of the blood fever, could even string words together in his usual manner. "It is not logical to repeat that which we both already know."
McCoy looked as if he very much wanted to retort, but thought the better of it, remembering the short tempered irritability of Spock's last pon farr. "You aren't going to throw any plomeek soup at me, are you?"
There was a brief flash of something that might have been a smile across Spock's tired face. "For the moment, no."
"All right, then. I'm gonna scan you and see if there's something I can do while it's in its early stages." He paused, and looked hard at the Vulcan. "It is in its early stages, isn't it? You didn't delay in mentioning it, like you did the last time?"
Spock looked inward, using the healer's sense as he had learned it from T'Rela. The slight elevation in hormones, the unpredictable shifts in body temperature, the rise in blood pressure…."Yes, Doctor, I believe it is in its early stages." I hope, he thought but did not say. Dying in the blood fever, separated from his wife by the distance between them, was not something he wanted to consider.
The doctor ran the mediscanner over him. "Hmmph. There are some things I can do for you, but the best cure is the one you already know about."
Spock nodded. As it was in the dawn of our beginnings…"How long before the blood fever becomes critical?"
"Six, maybe seven days. Because of the human factors in your blood, there isn't any real telling. My advice is to get yourself on a shuttle as soon as possible."
"Do you know how far away we are from Vulcan?" Spock asked, raising an eyebrow. "14.3 days, at maximum warp."
"Well, unlike the last time, there is something that can be done about that. It's only temporary, of course, and when it wears off, the pon farr will affect you much more than it might have otherwise. But it will slow the progress of the condition, enough so that you'll make it to Vulcan alive."
Curiosity was evident in the Vulcan's voice. "How did you find out about this treatment, Doctor?" Remembering the silences which had met McCoy's inquiries the last time, Spock doubted the discovery had been an easy one.
Wryness touched the doctor's eyes. "A little bird at the Vulcan Science Academy told me, a little bird with purple eyes. She wanted to make sure you survived it, whenever it happened again, so you could come home to her." Spock felt the hiss of the hypospray in his shoulder. "And I intend to see you get home safely."
T'Rela. He should have guessed. His wife had contacts among the healers, both Vulcan and Akaren, of ShiKahr, and was not without a certain streak of deviousness. Spock felt warmth at his wife's concern for his safety, and reflected that T'Pring would never have done such a thing. Aloud, he said only, "What are the side effects, Doctor?"
"You might feel a little bit groggy, but that's easily explainable as a remnant of the Rigellian flu, so no one need know about that. And you'll have to be monitored carefully, because once this medication wears off, that's it. You can only take it for a maximum of seven days."
The doctor placed the hypospray in his ever-present pouch. "Oh, and there's one other thing. Tell Jim, now. Don't wait for him to hear it from me. Don't keep this from him."
After the doctor left, Spock noticed with relief that the injection had cooled some of the fever in his blood, enough so he could function and maybe, just maybe, sleep. But just as he was about to call the captain, the door buzzer rang again. "Come," he said, wondering wryly just when he had gotten so predictable.
Jim stood in the doorway. "I'm not disturbing you, am I? Bones said you've come down with Rigellian flu too."
Spock nodded. The captain had been one of the first affected, and one of the peculiarities with Rigellian flu was that those who survived the initial infection could not be reinfected. "That is what the doctor said. I confess to a certain amount of dismay."
Jim laughed. "Because there's at least one disease in the universe that finds Vulcans irresistible?"
Spock raised one eyebrow. "Indeed." He paused, wondering just how he was going to phrase what he was about to say. Despite the fact that this man was one closest friends he had, the long years of Vulcan training insisted that pon farr was a matter for bondmates alone, and not for open discussion. But there was no logic in keeping secrets, not from this man, who had saved his life more times than he could count.
Jim saw the change in Spock's expression, and wondered at it. Even that change was far more expressive than his usual impassivity. Finally, Spock spoke. "There is another matter I need to tell you of. My symptoms are not just those of Rigellian flu." Spock looked down at his hands, which still shook with the fine tremor of the blood fever. Why should he have imagined that this conversation would grow easier with time? He continued, "I am experiencing the first symptoms of pon farr."
The other man sat down heavily in the other chair. "How long before it becomes critical?"
"About eight days from now."
Jim nodded. "Thanks for telling me, Spock. I know this must be hard for you." He paused and looked searchingly at the Vulcan. "If you feel it's becoming critical, just let me know, and I'll make sure you get home."
Spock nodded. "The doctor has placed me on medication for it, but I will certainly advise you if the situation changes."
After the captain left, Spock tried to relax back into sleep. The medication had muted the worst of the growing storm in his blood, and Jim now knew of the condition. The worst should have been over, at least temporarily.
So why was he so…afraid?
"it's no good to go alone"
As sunset's shadows crossed the desert with glancing rays, T'Rela walked from the medical complex to her son's school.
Sudek knew of the pon farr, of course; it was part of the instruction for every child that passed kahs-wan. But having been born in the years after Spock's first pon farr, Sudek had never seen his father in the condition. And though it was a Vulcan tradition that little should be said about the pon farr besides the bare facts of its existence, T'Rela could not do that to her son. Spock, she knew, might be a little uncomfortable about such open discussion, but she knew he would concur.
It wasn't hard to pick out Sudek from the crowd of children just exiting the school. Since the kahs-wan a year earlier, Sudek had grown nearly four inches, and was easy to spot in the orderly crowd of Vulcan children exiting the building. There had been other changes too, since the kahs-wan; Sudek had begun to receive training from a Vulcan adept in controlling his emotions and strengthening his mental shields. All in all, he was not entirely the same child he had been a year earlier, T'Rela reflected, but it could hardly have been otherwise with the killing gift only barely restrained.
When the training had first begun, it was only with great difficulty that T'Rela had restrained herself from telling the adept, a surprisingly kind young man named Sovay, not to turn her son into a Vulcan. She did not think she could have dealt with the sudden absence of her son's laughter or his easy and rakish smile. But Sovay had not been an adept for nothing; though the expression on his face had not changed, he had reassured her that the training was not intended to make Sudek into something he was not. And so, a year after the kahs-wan, Sudek had grown far more confident of his ability to control the killing gift, and had gained a certain amount of maturity as a result.
Sudek smiled a little when he saw her; it was part of their own tradition that they walk home together. "How was school?" she asked as they began the walk home.
Sudek raised one eyebrow in the Vulcan version of a shrug. "We've begun studying Vulcan pre-history."
Pre-history…T'Rela wondered how those primitive people had dealt with the pressures of the blood fever. No doubt that was one of the reasons early Vulcan had been so warlike. "And do you like it?"
"I do, but I wish we'd get up to the Sundering."
Small wonder, that, T'Rela thought. The Sundering was, after all, also the story of the formation of the Akaren, and Sudek's own cultural ties were far more Akaren than Vulcan. Not by any design, of course; if he had chosen Vulcan, she would have let him. But simple affinity had made their eldest child far more Akaren in his personality than either Vulcan or human.
"There is something I need to discuss with you, Sudek," T'Rela said. "Now that you are an adult, it is time."
"Is it about my bonding? Sulien met his bondmate last week."
T'Rela felt a tug of repugnance that she could not quite hide. To do such a thing to a child seemed the ultimate in foolishness---one had only to look at the disaster of Spock's first bonding to see that. But even had Sudek been fully Vulcan, he would not have been allowed to be bonded. The prohibition which prevented the bonding of a ye'shanta to a partner who did not have it predated the Sundering. Though it had had very little effect in the dispersion of the killing gift among the Vulcan and Akaren populations, the ban remained. Sudek could only be bonded to a woman with the killing gift---a near-statistical improbability, given the rarity of the condition. If he tried to bond to a woman who did not have the killing gift, the probability was high that he would kill her.
Among the Akaren, where the incidence of ye'shanta was somewhat higher, a more relaxed form of the ban prevailed, but even among the Akaren, it was still rare to find two people with the killing gift in the same generation. "If it is, Mother," Sudek continued, "I don't think I want to be bonded, not yet."
T'Rela released the breath she didn't know she was holding. "I am pleased to hear that, my son. But that was not what I needed to talk to you about."
Sudek gazed at her, waiting for her to continue with that peculiarly Vulcan patience that she had never been able to emulate, try though she might. "What were you told about pon farr?"
Sudek considered, the light breeze lifting the ends of his long black hair. "That it would occur every seventh year of our adult lives. That it was the reason bondings in childhood were necessary, and that we were not to discuss it with outworlders."
Inwardly, T'Rela was appalled at the sparseness of the instruction, but not really surprised. But how was she to begin explaining this? The time she had shared dar'etaj with her first husband had been wild and memorable, one of their few times of complete togetherness before the illness which had killed him.
The memory of her Time with Salet had remained in her mind long after his death, when she had lost a Vulcan patient, a young man who looked barely old enough to use beard repressor. He had been separated from his bondmate by an accident, and had died in agony. She had looked at the other healer and said, "There was no need for it. He should not have died like this. His condition wasn' t fatal."
The other healer, a Vulcan whose name she had long ago forgotten, had looked at her with glacial contempt. "It is our way. If you know so little of Vulcans, why do you insist on trying to treat us?"
It was that memory which stayed with her now, the memory of her own confusion that anyone could die from what was essentially a hormonal imbalance. She knew, from Spock's memories of the last Time, how he had been ruled by the same cultural conditioning that had killed her patient all those long years ago. And there was, quite simply, no telling which conditioning would rule Sudek's physiology. She already knew, through Spock's own memories of his last Time, how it had been for him. The truth is the only fit beginning, she could hear her own father saying once long ago. And so, taking a deep breath, she began. "Sudek, your father will be coming home in a few days and---"
He interrupted, reminding his mother that he was still very close to childhood. "But he's not due for leave until this fall. Why is he coming home early?"
"Sudek, it isn't polite to interrupt. Yes, your father is coming home early. He is coming home because it is Time." Consciously, she used the ritual phrase, the one phrase that had lasted for thousands of years unchanged throughout all the language shifts and wars. "It is called pon farr."
Sudek's eyes narrowed. T'Rela recognized that look; he was trying to interpret all that she had said and not said. "Will it make him sick?"
Absently, she wondered who in her husband's family had had this discussion with Spock…or if anyone had. Pray Goddess she could avert the conditioning now, so that her son would not suffer as his father almost certainly would. "He will be feeling feverish, and he will likely be extremely irritable. The hormone shifts can make someone in pon farr shake and nausea is not uncommon." It was almost a relief to be able to talk of it in medical terms.
"I don't think I want to go through that," Sudek said quietly.
She could understand that one. "It might not be that way for you, my son. I tell you this only because I do not want you to be afraid. Your father and I have a strong bond, he will not die. And everyone, Vulcan or Akaren, feels the experience differently. I just want you to remember that."
Sudek's eyes were clear with understanding. "I will think on what you've said."
"who's there that makes you so afraid you're shaken to the bone?"
<…He sees her there again, standing in the land of fire and ice. It is and is not T'Rela; the body, the stance of the shoulders are hers, but the eyes are not. Instead of T'Rela's warm purple, the eyes which watch him now are a cool, glacial black, tilted slightly at the corners as T'Rela's are not.
He cannot breath for the fire coursing through him, cannot even draw breath enough to speak. The fire is coming too fast for him, and Spock is afraid to even try to speak for fear the words will be unintelligible. He cannot speak, but the woman can. The voice is not T'Rela's low alto, but is instead the cold, clipped tones of she who was bondmate. The words issue obscenely from the face that is T'Rela's. "Did you think I would stand here, and let you take me as you are? Come and try it, if you think you can."
Maddened, enraged by lust and the desire that overrides every other lucid thought, Spock comes near her. He grasps her tightly, excited by her struggles. "No, you will not leave me," he growls, his voice a rough, savage shadow of its usual self. "There is no running for you."
The woman wrenches one arm free. "No?" She hits him hard and makes as if to run, but he is faster and stronger and motivated by the desire for survival he knows will be lost if she leaves. His hands touch her temples, and he is inside her mind…but the wall is there, high and solid. She will not bond with him, will not let him form the link that is as necessary for his survival as the raw act of sex.
The woman's face changes again, and this time, it is entirely T'Rela's, touched by a coldness and hatred he has never seen on her face before. "It is as I told you," she says savagely. "I will not save such as you.">
Spock awoke from the latest dream unusually grateful for the alarm that had awakened him. What sleep he was getting was being stolen by the dreams, and he did not, truly, know how much longer he could keep going. Day four, and the medication---an interceptor for the sas'kal hormone, the doctor had called it---would expire in three more days. Spock took a deep breath and attempted to calm his racing heart and the fire that was burning inside him.
The door buzzed, a grating sound that made Spock instantly grateful there were no heavy objects to hand, else he would have thrown something at it. When the door opened automatically, Spock realized it had not been the alarm which had awakened him, but the sound of the door buzzer. It would almost certainly be McCoy, alarmed because the door had not been answered, so alarmed that he had used his medical override to open it. Pushing aside the killing rage that someone would invade his privacy, Spock stood as McCoy entered.
McCoy stared. The man in front of him was nothing like the composed, collected Vulcan he had known for so many years. This man, hair mussed, eyes wild and hooded, skin flushed with fever, was a stranger, a stranger who might easily be murderous. Uh-oh, I bet that medication isn't working anymore…"I was concerned," he managed to say. "You didn't appear for your appointment this morning."
The appointment, Spock remembered through the green haze of fever, was yet another excuse for the doctor to pry, to take blood samples, to touch him, all without realizing how much his touch inflamed the condition without relieving any of the tension. His hand seized the one object to hand, a piece of quartz from the Akaren lands, and held it tight, using the pain of its sharp edges to force the killing rage back. "There is no necessity," he said, hearing with horror how rough his voice had become.
"No necessity? How can you say that? This is your life, Spock!" McCoy burst out without thinking how those words, in the tone he had just spoken them, might easily anger this stranger who wore his friend's face.
For an instant, the mask of rage slipped, enough for McCoy to read the fear Spock was also just only keeping at bay. "Once she realizes I am not full Vulcan, she will Challenge, and I will die."
Challenge? T'Rela? What the hell was this about? McCoy tried again. "Spock, she wouldn't do that to you." Only then did he realize just how delirious Spock had become. He pulled out his scanner and sighed, seeing what he had feared. The interceptor for the sas'kal hormone, which was in actuality a placebo, had finally stopped working.
He had been against it when T'Rela had contacted him. "Dammit, T'Rela, you're a healer too. Are you in the habit of giving your patients medicine that doesn't work, that won't work?"
T'Rela had only stared at him with those great purple eyes. "Leonard, I have told you what I have sensed in his mind. He is not aware of it himself, does not yet suffer the symptoms, but he will die long before I can reach him, if something is not done. Hopefully, by the time the medication stops 'working' the Enterprise will be close enough to Vulcan that I can reach into his mind and stabilize him that way."
He had looked at her then, seeing the younger woman she had been in medical school, all those long years ago. "It hasn't been easy, being married to him, has it?" he asked irrelevantly. They appeared content enough, and likely were, but this uncertainty, the implacability of Vulcan biological cycles, must surely be hell.
T'Rela raised one of those dark eyebrows at him. "I wasn't aware that it was supposed to be easy. Will you do this for me, for him? I can't keep him alive if you don't."
Against his better judgment, he had agreed, hoping against hope that Spock's Vulcan mind could keep his Vulcan biology in check for just a few days more. And it had worked, for three days, but now the gamble was lost.
"She already has," Spock rasped, "she has and I will die because of it."
And though McCoy was no telepath, he could almost sense the storm of violent emotion raging through the Vulcan. Remembering the hyperacuity of Spock's senses the last time, the doctor was careful to move slowly so as not to alarm him. "Spock, will you let me touch you? I need to check something."
"Will it do either of us any good?" Spock asked slowly, trying to hang onto whatever shreds of sanity were left to him. McCoy heard the echo of his words from the last time: Examine away, Doctor, for all the good it'll do either of us. He turned the warble off on the mediscanner, and swore once, violently. Spock hadn't slept for the past four days, he was dangerously dehydrated, and was being affected by the huge amounts of the sas'kal hormone being dumped into his system, amounts that were far in excess of where they should have been at this point in his cycle.
As he watched the scanner readings, he saw the Vulcan's heart rate speed up, then slow down, and stop. "Damn!" McCoy swore, thumbing the intercom. "Medical emergency, beam us directly to Sickbay!"
"Glowing ember, burning hot, burning slow…"
<She sees him standing there, in the land of fire and ice. It is a land crafted out of his own dreams and nightmares, no place he has ever seen or is likely to see. He looks at her and through her, it is as if she is not there.
T'Rela has never seen him like this, feral and compelling in his madness. "Benaht, benaht, sel'akal cad-foren?" "Husband, husband, why will you not see me?" she asks. But there is no answer. T'Rela wonders when she stopped truly expecting one.
There is an answer, of sorts. His voice, rough and shaking with the lust and the fever. "You will not leave me."
She cannot tell if it is a question or a statement. "No, of course not. How could I?"
He holds his hand out to her in the greeting-to-bondmates, but his hands shake so badly they blur in the air. T'Rela is not afraid, she is a healer, she has lived through the Fires before. They touch, but there is little of gentleness about it. This too, T'Rela expects. His hands are hot, burning with his fever as they run over her body.
All of a sudden, they stop, and the violence in his eyes is remarkable even for the Fires. "This cannot be. You have Challenged. You cannot be here."
T'Rela does not understand, not immediately. "I have not. I am here now."
The rage and the fear which contorts his face makes her step back. "You cannot be. Let me die…">
"NO!" T'Rela awoke with a muted shout. Her husband could not die, not in the grip of the blood fever. She would not allow it.
The incoming page whistled, and T'Rela pushed it down angrily, wondering why she had never noticed how irritating it was. The screen filled with McCoy's face, and her irritation vanished as with the wind. "This isn't good, is it?" she asked. It was Spock's agitation and fear which had, she suspected, prompted the last nightmare.
"No," McCoy said shortly, weary beyond bearing, "it isn't. His heart stopped from all the stress. If there's something you can do to stabilize him, I'd be doing it quickly. I don't know if I'll be able to bring him back the next time." The screen faded.
Once, T'Rela had thought there might be something she could do. But the memory of his rejection in the dream was still far too real. If he rejected her like that in reality, it would be his death. No one else could reach into Spock's mind as she could.
She placed a call to T'Alik, knowing that it was late but also knowing that T'Alik would be expecting the call. When the older woman's face filled the screen, T'Rela could see that words were not necessary. "I'll be there shortly," T'Alik said. "Meditate if you can, this will need all of your inner strength to succeed."
Sudek, fortunately, was a quick riser, and like the adult he was expected to be, he did not ask unnecessary questions. Amanda didn't ask when T'Rela brought Sudek over. One look at the controlled wildness in T'Rela's eyes, and Amanda knew what was going on.
"Good fortune to you," she murmured.
T'Rela tried to force a calm that was suddenly almost impossible to maintain. "I will bring him back," and then she was gone.
"How's he doing, Bones?" Jim asked, looking at the pale figure on the bed.
Bones just shook his head, looking defeated and weary to the bone. "There simply isn't much I can do for him. Oh, sure, I could sedate him, but his biochemistry is odd enough that I don't dare try it."
"Have you had any luck with the Vulcans?"
The doctor snorted. "You mean besides a wide variety of responses which roughly translate as 'none of your business, outworlder scum,' to 'why are you asking about this again?' Nope." Jim smiled, recognizing the exaggeration for what it was: McCoy's attempt to deflect his very real concern. Small wonder that the Vulcans had been as closemouthed as they had been ten years earlier.
McCoy rubbed his eyes wearily. "Damn, but I wish that lie I told Spock was the truth." The doctor found himself suddenly unable to breathe due to the large Vulcan hand cutting off his air-flow. "What lie did you tell, McCoy?" Spock grated. "She has Challenged, hasn't she?"
"Spock!" Jim tried to force his arm off McCoy's throat, but it was like trying to move a block of lead. Spock's hand was in the perfect position for lan-dovna, and in another few seconds McCoy's windpipe would be completely crushed. "Let him go, Spock! He didn't lie to you about T'Rela. She hasn't Challenged, now let him go!"
Jim's words didn't have the immediate effect that Chapel's hypo did. The Vulcan sagged on the biobed, and Bones rubbed his throat. "Always knew that damned Vulcan was going to be the death of me one of these days, just didn't think it'd be so soon. Damn, I'd forgotten how fast he is. Put him in security restraints, Christine."
The doctor and the captain stepped safely out of swinging range. "What now, Bones?"
"T'Rela was going to try and reach into his mind to stabilize his condition until we could get him on a shuttle. I don't understand, exactly, but she's the long-distance telepath. How far are we away from Vulcan?"
"Ten days. It'll be another three before we're even close enough for a shuttle to get there in time. Do you think she can pull it off?"
"She can, if he stays alive long enough." McCoy looked worried. "This is hitting him harder than it did the last time, and I don't know if anything I do will make any difference at all."
T'Rela sat in front of the attunement flame and tried to focus as she knew she must. It was not the attunement flame Spock used, the flame contained in the firepot beast that was the one remaining relic of Vulcan's nomadic past. Hers was more simple, a small candle lit in a ceramic bowl made specifically for that purpose. The container was not important; its use was. When she felt calm descend upon her mind, she turned to T'Alik. "I have found the center."
T'Alik nodded. "I will act only as an aid in the link, you will not be aware of my presence unless there is danger." She paused, looking at the encroaching wildness in the younger woman's eyes that was only to be expected in one whose husband had entered the Fires. "If his mind should reject you, do you want me to pull you out?"
It would mean his death if she does. Beloved, I cannot lose you! "His mind will not reject me," T'Rela said with an assurance she did not feel, remembering the images in his dreams, the fear and the anger. "As long as I have strength to try, do not pull me out."
T'Alik observed the play of emotions over the other woman's face and nodded, knowing this one had more than the usual amount of stubbornness for an Akaren woman. "As you wish."
The older woman touched the side of T'Rela's face, and the link opened.
"your words keep me alive"
<Spock opens his eyes to a darkness shot through with light and shadows. Where this place is, he does not know, but at least it is not the land of fire and ice. He sees her standing there, the woman who has been his bondmate for ten years, and knows her presence inside his mind is real.
T'Rela turns to him. "I can save you until you can come to me, Beloved. Will you let me try?"
Something deep within him, a voice gradually silenced by the pressures of the fires, wants only to agree, to let her be his sihaya in this wasteland. But the memory of another woman who stood as bondmate is too close and will not let him answer. "You have Challenged," he rasps from the pain and the fear. "You will come into my mind and then leave me."
The barrier between them is as ephemeral as smoke and as solid as brick. Without his consent, she cannot proceed, cannot enter his mind further to regulate the hormones that are fast killing him. "I will not leave you," she says. "I will stay here until the Fires kill both of us, if that is what it takes to prove it to you."
He wonders, with the only lucidity that is left to him, if this is reality or dream. "It is the only reality your mind can accept, Beloved," T'Rela responds, and her voice is not the clipped, cruel tones of she who was bondmate. "Please, let me help."
He is too long in answering. T'Rela fights her despair and fear that the Fires may have gone too far for even Akaren healing to work. "I cannot," he says now, wanting to believe in the reality of her presence, but too far gone to make the last leap of faith. "I cannot."
The anger builds in T'Rela. "What will it take to prove to you that I have not Challenged, that I am as I have always been to you---your bondmate and wife?" There is only one thing that stands a chance, and T'Rela knows it as soon as he does.
She comes close to him, close enough to feel the fever burning bright throughout his body, close enough to feel the desire mingling with fear and despair.
"Doctor, the readings are changing," Chapel's voice, bright with hope.
McCoy rubbed his eyes wearily. Spock had been deeply unconscious for almost a day now, and the doctor had reluctantly been forced to admit that whatever help there might be was beyond his abilities. "Changing for the good, I hope." He came to study the med-panel. The flood of hormones was slowly leveling off, not anywhere near safe levels, not yet. But it was a start.
Chapel's smile of relief matched his own. "Stubborn woman," he said. "She's pulling it off."
The land changes around them as they stand gazing into each other's eyes. It is not the land of fire and ice, the darkness of light and shadows, or even the place of Koon-ut Kalifee. It is an oasis, a nameless place that is who and what they are to each other.
"I am not her," T'Rela says. "Do you not see that this is our reality?"
He is shaking with the effects of the blood fever, from lust and need. "If it is," he barely manages to say, "come to me."
Her lips touch his own as her mind meets his, free of fear and burning with desire. Whose burning lights the way, neither can say; it is always that way, in the Fire. His hands shake as he removes her gown, as he brushes over her breasts, as his hands roam lower, seeking the source of her own desire. His touch is not as fierce as it will be in reality, when they are finally together, but it is rough enough.
T'Rela is a healer, she has lived through her own Fire, in the long years before she met this man. None of this is surprising to her, or a thing for fear and pain. He senses it, and the wonder is clear in his mind. Spock cannot speak now, the blood fever is too strong. But he retains enough lucidity to say through the quicksilver fire of their bond //You do not fear me?//
His answer is the feeling of her mouth nibbling on one pointed ear, in the enjoyment and passion she clearly feels as his body molds to hers. //How could I, Beloved? This is who we are. And I would never choose to leave, do you see that now?//
He wants to believe, but the fear is too strong. //You will still leave.//
McCoy just barely stopped himself from swearing. The hormone levels had suddenly spiked, and the doctor suspected what was happening. "Dammit, Spock, don't fight her like this. She's trying to save your life."
Jim came to stand next to him. "It's not good, is it." It was not a question.
The doctor shook his head. "The readings had leveled off for a while there, but I think he's fighting T'Rela." The anger at suffering was clear in the doctor's eyes. "I don't suppose you could get T'Pring up here, could you?"
"Cause I'd like to kill her myself. No one should be able to do this to another person. He's rejecting T'Rela because he thinks she's Challenged, just like T'Pring. That bitch may end up killing him after all."
"you have no strength left to squander"
Time ceases in that nameless oasis. T'Rela does not know how much longer she can keep up the fight to keep Spock alive. He stands apart from her, fairly burning with the rage that she would dare to Challenge, no longer really understanding that the woman who stands in front of him has never Challenged, and never would.
T'Alik's voice, calmer by half than T'Rela's own, enters the meld lightly. //Kinswoman, is it not time? Your strength is almost gone.//
T'Rela shakes her head. //I swore I would not leave him. If I leave him now, there will not be another chance.//
Spock senses the third presence in the link, but fortunately is too far gone to do more than fume about it. //You have told this to another? Delighted in the fact that you've Challenged?//
All at once, T'Rela can no longer stand his pain, or her own. //You're not afraid of being abandoned by me, you damned fool, you're afraid of being saved by me! Because being saved means letting go of all the other anger you've kept hidden…and it's so much easier to hold on to the anger than to let it go. It means admitting that you need me to survive, that you need anyone.// The words which pour from her are not the ones she would have said normally, but that is as it always was between them, that they could bring out the very best and the very worst in each other. Then, slightly more calmly //I have told you that I am not T'Pring, that I would not Challenge. The fact that I am here does not convince you?//
He steps back a pace, astonished by the volatility of her anger. //I want only to live// he says mutely. //I cannot…I am too tired.//
And that, at least, is accurate; T'Rela can sense his exhaustion, born of the fever and the rage. //Take my hand, and I will lead you through the fire, Beloved.//
Day seven. McCoy watched, and waited. It was a doctor's vigil, and one he'd repeated often enough for this man. He had watched in despair as the life-signs had cycled ever lower, wondering how he was going to tell T'Rela of her husband's death. Or even if she would survive it, enmeshed in the link as she was.
He blinked. This couldn't be happening, could it? The life-signs were rising, the hormone levels were tapering off. Still far too high, but Spock would survive to get to Vulcan.
Jim, asleep in the other chair, woke suddenly. "Bones?" he asked, not daring to hope that his friend would survive this.
McCoy began laughing, a laugh of joy and hope and wonder. "Remind me," he said, "never to get into a fight with that woman."
T'Rela sagged against the supporting arm of the other woman. "We have succeeded. He will come home to me."
Then T'Alik did something T'Rela would not have expected. "M'arae, j'kalin cad-a'sral." "Kinswoman, I honor you for your strength." It was the formal blessing, one woman to another, and T'Alik meant it. Not one woman in a thousand would have survived what this one had, to bring her bondmate home to sanctuary.
T'Rela tried to smile, to form the ritual response, but darkness was encroaching faster than her mind could form the words. "Come," T'Alik said, "you need rest, before he who is your bondmate arrives." For I think it likely you will have little rest after that.
"my body aches to breathe your breath"
T'Rela had known the instant Spock had arrived. Accompanied by a weary and solicitous McCoy, grumbling about the heat and "that damned cranky Vulcan" despite the fact that it had been his choice to accompany Spock to Vulcan, T'Rela had met them both at the terminal. T'Rela's actions had brought the pon farr cycle back to where it had been a week earlier; Spock's hands shook, but not so violently as they would later, and the fever was still barely contained. The fact that he had openly kissed her, right there in front of a haze of disapproving Vulcans was enough proof, as she said later, that he would survive.
The doctor had waved the mediscanner over both of them, of course. His eyebrows bobbed up and down as he looked at T'Rela. "You do realize that you're fertile," he had said quietly, one healer to another, not sure if she even wanted another child, given the complications she had had with Sudek.
She had only nodded. "The timing is only appropriate, Leonard. Do not be concerned, for I am not." He saw the burning joy in her eyes then, the joy that would let her risk all that had occurred in her last pregnancy for the sake of the love that flowed between her and Spock like a living force.
McCoy had caught Spock's eye then, and had immediately fallen silent, remembering the possessive, killing rage that afflicted any Vulcan male during this time. "Don't look so worried, Spock," Bones said, trying to lighten the mood. "I think you're the only one strong enough to take her on." T'Rela had only laughed.
Finally, we were alone, my husband and I. My husband, my dearest love. The flames flicker in his eyes as he looks at me now, feral and strangely compelling in his madness. I do not know if he will remember any of what we shared in that no-place of the mind, but even if he does not, he has at least survived to be reminded.
He comes towards me then, in the fierce desire that is so much a part of the Time. His hands, burning hot, grasp me tightly enough that I know there will be bruises later. "Do not leave me," he rasps; it is as much command as plea.
In answer I nibble and bite at the warm spice of his neck, at the strange hollow behind his ear that is so soft. His hands are hot on my body, his mouth hungry at my breast. There is no need for foreplay; our desire kindles each from the other. This is the Vulcan heart, this is the Vulcan soul.
My own hand drifts lower to his own desire, hot and throbbing with the violence of his passion. "Could I leave this?" I ask, moving my hand up and down. It is dangerous what I do, playing with him like this, but the danger only adds to the excitement. I, too, have entered the Fires.
The capacity for speech has left him with the rekindling of the flames; his answer is quite plain enough. He carries me to the bed, and enters me with a roughness that I don't truly mind; I have been ready for him since I saw him at the terminal. His mind thrusts into mine with the rhythm of his body. //You cannot leave me// he pants. It is the center and the fear of Vulcan desire, the desire to love and be immolated in the Flames, but not to be abandoned.
I am as strong as he, though it is a fact that is not immediately apparent. I turn so he is underneath me, and I begin riding him with the roughness of my own desire. His hands grasp my breasts in a grip that would, perhaps, be too painful were this not the Time. Right now, I only find it exciting. "Why should you," I pant, "get to do all the commanding?" I touch his mind, and the thought comes clear, though I do not know which of us has thought it. //We can never leave each other. We are bound, one to the other.//
In the moment before all thought deserts us both, I feel the spasms deep within me, and know that the Fires have served us both.
"If I feel a rage, I won't deny it, I won't fear love"
Spock looked at his wife, the shame clear. "Forgive me, Beloved, I should not have done this to you."
T'Rela only smiled. "Beloved, hasn't there been enough shame and fear in this? You could not have acted other than as you did, though you could have told me what you feared." She reached out, and he came willingly into her arms. She had been too close to losing him, and wanted only to feel him around her, the miracle of his living body, now cooling as the Fires left him.
He touched her face gently. "Will you not let me love you, as you should be loved?"
She fought to surpress a chuckle, but lost the battle. "Goddess, Beloved, haven't you had enough?"
The smile that touched his face had been too long absent. "That isn't what I meant, Rela, although I truly wouldn't mind if you would not." One hand moved slowly on her breast as he spoke. "What I mean is, I would like to love you free of suspicion and anger. I should not have ever doubted you."
There was time; they could be gentle and slow in the loving now that the Flames had left. She ran her hands through his thick black hair. "I would like that." The desire in her eyes left no doubt as to her meaning.
Spock entered her mind with the wonder of a man who thought he had lost his sanctuary. There was love in T'Rela's mind, love and passion and something else, an awareness he had only sensed once before. It was there, growing and dividing under his hand on her stomach, the new life created from the fires of their passsion. //Is this true?//
The wryness was bright in her mind. //Come on, Beloved, would I lie to you?//
He smiled in recognition of how far they had already come. //No, Beloved, you would not.//
She pulled him down on top of her. //Care to celebrate?//
His answer was not expressed in words.
For the curious among us, here's where the lyrics came from….