Disclaimer: ParaBorg/Viacom owns 'em, I just took them out on a date. I promise to have them home by midnight. All original content, ceremonies, and original characters are
© 1999 Roisin Fraser. Thanks to my betas, Editrix, Islaofhope, and PernFancy, without whom this story would not have been what it is. Okay to post on ASC or archive. All others, please ask me first. Constructive comments welcome to Roisin_Fraser@hotmail.com
Chronology: This is the second in a series dealing with Spock and his family. The first is "Hope and a Common Future." "Captains' Drinks," which was posted to the ASCEM(L) newsgroup, is also a part of this series, though it takes place much later. Both stories can be read as stand-alones, though you might enjoy this one more if you read "Hope and a Common Future" first. Both stories can be found on my website. http://www.reocities.com/Area51/Starship/2151
Author's Note: For the Irish speakers/readers among us, I have, ahem, borrowed Irish Gaelic names for two of my Akaren characters. Caoileann (KEE-lin) and Sorcha (SUR a kha) are native Irish names. Sorcha means "radiant," and with apologies to T'Rela's brother, is actually a woman's name. Caoileann is a woman's name, but somehow, I don't think T'Rela's mother minds too much.
Summary: A month after "Journey to Babel," Spock goes home to formalize his bonding with T'Rela. (In my canon, "Amok Time" happens approximately six months before "Journey to Babel," regardless of how it was originally broadcast.)
Rating: PG for implied het smut, adult situations. TOS, S/f, and even though they don't get "any," K, Mc, Am, Sa, and anyone else I can get to come to the wedding.
"Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts
And stand together yet not too near together
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cyprus grow not in each other's shadow."
Pillars of the Temple
The door bleeped insistently. Spock suppressed a sigh and fastened the collar on his dress uniform. Though he would not admit it, Doctor McCoy was correct; the dress uniforms did tend to make one feel as though strangulation were imminent. "Come."
Jim entered, looking as uncomfortable as Spock felt. "I can't believe you look so comfortable in that thing."
One eyebrow lifted. "I am not. I am just better at hiding it."
Jim laughed. "Well, whatever works. Are you ready for this?"
Spock considered. "I believe the appropriate response is…not printable. Sir."
Jim laughed again, acknowledging the truth of what Spock said. The last time the delegates to the Babel conference had been aboard the Enterprise, there had been murder and attempted murder on board. He had objected to the mission on personal grounds; a ship of the line should not be relegated to being a passenger freighter. But there was, once again, no other ship available, and so the Enterprise was on its way back to Babel, to pick up the delegates and take them to Starbase 23. Jim could only hope that this time the delegates would be calmer.
"To expect calmness from ambassadors is illogical, Jim."
Jim blinked, startled, then recovered almost immediately. Spock had told him that it was not uncommon after a marriage bond for telepathic abilities to increase drastically. Seeing the startled look on his friend's face, Spock apologized immediately. "I am sorry, Jim, I thought you actually said it. " Since his bonding to T'Rela five months earlier, he had worked on strengthening his mental shielding, but the process was still incomplete.
"Nope, just me thinking loudly." Jim smiled. "Don't worry about it; it just surprised me. Might do a helluva lot more than surprise Sarek though. Have you thought about what you're going to tell him?"
"Jim, my father and I have rarely agreed on anything, including the color of the sky. I doubt this will be any different."
Jim stared at him. "So basically, you're going to go welcome your father aboard, knowing full well that he'll realize you're married as soon as he sees you. And that you didn't tell him."
Spock shook his head. "No, Jim, I did not tell Sarek because we were still estranged when I married T'Rela. That he will shortly find out is of no consequence."
"I hope it's as easy as you think, Spock."
Amanda watched her son deliver the required formal greeting, and knew something was up. There was a lightness to his eyes that had never been there before, and although his expression was as impassive as always, she could sense the muted joy radiating from him.
Amanda fell into step just behind her husband as they were conducted to their guest room. That she could sense Spock's emotions, something she had not been able to do since he was a small child, told her exactly what that something might be. She had heard, of course, about the Kalifee, and had feared that her son would be consigned to a painful death. Now, she rejoiced to know it would not be so.
And Sarek didn't see it. Because of the nature of his work, his own mental shields were far more powerful than was the norm. Amanda knew he had never been as attuned to the nuances of Spock's expression as she was.
Lady Amanda had not survived so many years on Vulcan without being able to shield her own emotions. Her face was as calm as any Vulcan's, but she was greatly curious. When had the bonding happened? And who was this woman who would now be her daughter-by-marriage?
As she entered the room, her eyes met her son's. Lady Amanda smiled, and the door slid shut.
Spock entered his quarters. Even for a Vulcan, it had been a long day. The Servellian ambassador had attempted to force the food processing computer to produce a dish banned in the Federated spaces for its lethal toxicity to most humanoid races. The ambassador, not the most patient of men, had promptly blasted a hole through the wall with his weapon. The damage to the main food processing coils had taken into the early morning hours to repair, and Spock could not repress a certain amount of satisfaction that the Servellian ambassador was now, as Jim put it, "cooling his heels" in the brig.
//How is it with you, my husband?// T'Rela's mental voice, warm and kind.
Initially, he had found it greatly unnerving that she could communicate with him over such a long distance; such abilities were altogether rare among Vulcans. Then T'Rela had explained her abilities were common among the Akaren; long-range telepathic communication was often the only viable way of communicating during the harsh storms of the deep desert.
Her presence was not a constant one; although the bond always remained, she seemed to be able to sense when he was at work or asleep, and thus saved these communications for times when he was not busy. And so he had grown accustomed to the discussions after his day had ended. //The day has not been without its trials, my wife. My father does not realize we are bonded. I will speak with him tomorrow.//
A brief glimmer of brightness, the telepathic equivalent of a smile.//My ahve'he, please tell him before he decides to marry you off again.//
//Of course, my wife.// The incoming hail chimed; it was a message from Sarek. //Ahve'he, my father has decided to suggest another bondmate for me. He requests my presence at a Family Council tomorrow afternoon.//
//I wish I could be there for you, ahve'he.//
//I think just my presence will be sufficient to complicate matters.//
The glimmer was brighter this time. //Parted from me and never parted, I await thee.// The gentle contact faded.
"Why does he want us to be there?" McCoy asked irritably.
Spock raised an eyebrow. "Doctor, when you and the captain attended the Kalifee, you stood as my friends. Normally, in such a Council, your role as witnesses would be filled by my siblings. Since I have none, Sarek has requested that you stand as witnesses." Internally, Spock surpressed a wince at his deception; he did indeed have a half-brother, whose name he was forbidden to speak and whose existence had been wiped from all the records on Vulcan.
The doctor ran a finger under the collar of the dress uniform. Not for the first time, he wondered if unemployed executioners became Starfleet tailors. "Are you trying to tell me that Sarek doesn't know you're bonded?"
Spock raised one eyebrow. "That is correct, as I have already told you. If you do not wish to go---"
"I wouldn't miss this for anything."
As a small child, Spock had often found his father formidable, a cool, distant presence, the image of All Vulcan. It had taken eighteen years of silence for Spock to gain some perspective on his father, but it unnerved him that he did not know how Sarek would react tonight.
When they entered the ambassador's quarters, Spock was surprised to note that Sarek, too, seemed uneasy as he indicated that the three of them should sit. "I speak in the language of our beginnings," Sarek spoke in Vulcan, which the intradermal translators interpreted as a rather arcane form of English. "That there should be nothing of fiction told as fact, I have brought the witnesses." Sarek handed his son a cup of lindar tea; Spock took it, drank, and handed it back to his father.
"The Family Council now begins," Sarek said in the carefully modulated tones of an ambassador. "Eldest son of the House of Surak, thou art unbonded. In the tradition of the ancient ways, this cannot be."
Spock took a steadying breath, wishing he had been able to speak of his bonding before Sarek called the Council. But duty and their estrangement had intervened. "Father of my House, that which you seek is not necessary."
The look in his father's eyes was one Spock had seen more than a few times: disapproval. "You have lived in defiance of the ways of the ancestors for too long, my son. Do you wish to wait until the Time forces a choice upon you?" Spock might have flinched; the memory of the Kalifee and Jim's near death was still raw.
Amanda placed a restraining hand on her husband's arm. "The Council was called so that some decision could be reached in this matter. That is the real issue."
All at once, Spock was certain that his mother knew. There was that glint in her blue eyes, and her knowing glance at the cabin door. But heya, he could not be sure. "I have made my decision, Father of my House. I have found a bondmate."
Sarek actually blinked. "You have declared intent to bond?"
Spock was no longer the uncertain near-adult he had been. "No, Father. I am bonded. All we lack is the formalization of the bond."
Spock could almost see his father "switching gears," as the human saying went. "Indeed. Who is your bondmate, that we may speak with her to arrange the formalization according to the ancient ways?"
She was there, a shadowed flame in his mind, as he spoke. "She who is my wife is T'Rela of the Akaren."
It was late in the ship's night when the three Starfleet officers adjourned to Jim's quarters. McCoy had brought his customary bottle of Romulan Ale with him, and was now nursing a glass of it. "There's somethin' I don't understand, Spock. Why a formalization of the bond? You're married according to Federation law."
Spock studied the nearly untouched liquid in his own glass. "The Federation recognizes a Vulcan bonding as a legal marriage. According to Vulcan law, for a bonding to be
legal---that is, recognized by both families---there need to be at least two witnesses. My...bonding with T'Rela was done with no witnesses." He tried, and failed, to stop the faint color that rose at the memory of how they had bonded.
Jim noticed it, and hoped Bones didn't. Time for a distraction, he decided. "Okay, Bones, outta here. You're not sleeping on the floor tonight, you snore too much."
McCoy drew himself up with outraged dignity. "I, Captain suh, do not snore." The doctor, though somewhat unsteady on his feet, wobbled towards the door.
Jim laughed; they had certainly shared enough tents on landing parties to know that Bones did, in fact, snore loudly enough to wake the dead. "C'mon, Bones, I'll walk you to your cabin." He looked at Spock over McCoy's shoulder. Will you be here when I return? Spock nodded, and the doctor and the captain left.
T'Rela's mind touched his gently. //Is it done, my ahve'he?//
//It is done, my wife. Interesting that we are formalizing that which we already know is real.//
//The humans have a saying about marriage, my husband: "you have your wedding for your relatives, and your marriage for each other." I think this must be what they meant.//
//They are wise about many things, my wife. But please do not tell Dr McCoy I said so.//
The brightness again. //It would never occur to me.// There was a brief dimming of the connection between them, as if her attention were suddenly split. //Beloved, there is a woman who has come to see me. I must leave you now.//
The door slid open, and Jim entered Spock's cabin. Carefully, he studied his friend, noting the calmness of his features, nothing like the cool reserve of their early friendship. Peace, like water on the desert, was written there. "How are you doing, Spock? Really?"
"I am well, Jim. Thank you for distracting the doctor."
Jim laughed. "Well, he does snore. And besides, he never would let you forget that you were blushing."
"No, that is true. The doctor is...most persistent."
They fell silent for a time, and Spock considered how fortunate they both were to be having this conversation at all. Seven months ago, T'Pring's machinations had nearly killed them both, and now they were discussing his wedding, a wedding without the Fire.
"So what happens now?"
Spock had been thinking of how his own embarrassment had nearly killed this man, a man who was as his brother. With some difficulty, he reined in his reaction, swearing that such would not happen again. Jim would have all that he needed to know. "Sarek, as the eldest of my clan, will go and speak to T'Rela's clan. They will negotiate before the ceremony."
"I thought T'Pau was the eldest of your clan. That's why she was officiating...before, right?"
"T'Pau is the Eldest Mother of the entire clan. Sarek is the eldest of our particular division of the clan, which includes Sarek's siblings, my cousins and their families. Since I am his only son, it is Sarek who will do the actual negotiating."
"Negotiating for what? And who is negotiating for T'Rela?"
"In ancient times, such negotiations were done for purposes of assigning property and clan rank. Little has changed, except that T'Rela will retain her own property and clan rank; the negotiation now is over which property is common property." Spock thought for a minute. "I believe Caoileann, T'Rela's mother, is negotiating. She is Eldest Mother of the Akaren; it is her right."
Jim whistled slightly. "That's likely to be some conversation. Will you need to be there?'
Spock shook his head. "No, such negotiating is done between families, not between the betrothed or wedded couple."
Jim took a swallow of his drink. "Well, it was quite a shock to find you'd bonded while you were on medical leave; I thought Uhura was going to drop the Starfleet Dependent's Form when you handed it to her to transmit. So what is she like, this wife of yours?"
Spock heard under the question the words Jim did not say, clear even through his shielding: Are you happy with her? Is she a woman who can love you back, not one who marries you out of obligation? "Jim, we are happy together," he said, answering the unspoken questions. "She bonded to me without knowing who my family was. And she does not mind 'being the consort of a legend.'" The last was said with no small amount of wryness, and Jim reflected how very far they had come since those words were spoken in dead earnest.
Spock gathered his thoughts and knew there was something that had to be said tonight, or remain forever unsaid. "I ask forgiveness, Jim."
Jim blinked. "For what?"
"Before you stand at my wedding again, I must apologize for what I did to you."
Jim cut him off with a movement of his hand. "Spock, you don't have to. I understand the stress you must have been under."
Spock shook his head. "No, Jim, that is no excuse. Hear me out, please."
"T'Pring and I never had a strong bond. It was not something she desired, and truthfully, I did not want her either. But there was a long tradition of alliances between our families, and so the betrothal went forward. I kept expecting to hear a request from her demanding Severance; it was her right, once she reached adulthood, to sever the bond. But I never heard anything, and when the Time came upon me, I believed she had chosen to remain linked with me."
Jim gazed at his friend over the desk between them. "There's something you never told me. Do you mind if I ask now?"
Spock raised an eyebrow as if to say You really need ask for permission? "If T'Pring didn't want you, and you didn't want her, why didn't you divorce her? The option was available, right?"
His friend hesitated slightly. "The option was available, Jim, but consider the situation as it existed. Severance is an option, but it is not favored. If I had demanded Severance, I would have entered pon farr without a bondmate. I knew no other Vulcan women, so who could I have turned to? It seemed to me then, as distasteful as the prospect was, that marriage to T'Pring was preferable to a slow, painful death in pon farr."
Jim shivered, remembering the fear he'd felt when he realized Spock could die from his madness. He seemed to hear again McCoy's voice: I can't trace it down in my biocomps and Spock won't tell me what it is. But if isn't stopped soon, the physical and emotional pressure will simply kill him. "Yes, I can understand that."
Seven months ago, and it might as well have been yesterday. He could feel the heat of the desert sands, see the green haze of fever and smell the faint iron tang of human blood."I looked at her picture and tried to reach her, to let her know I was coming for her, but there was nothing in my mind but a dead emptiness."
"She shut you out? In your condition?"
Spock nodded. "It was then that I realized how deeply she hated me. I should have told you before we beamed down that she would probably Challenge, but I never thought she would pick you for her champion."
Jim smiled a little ruefully. "Well, that makes two of us. But you don't have to apologize for what she did."
"I do have to apologize, Jim. I apologize because T'Pring never will, and because my failure to tell you about the Challenge put your life in danger. I did not tell you that the Challenge was to the death."
"No, but if I'd been paying close attention to your conversation with T'Pau, I would have realized that I wasn't told the full truth." He looked closely at his friend. "I accept your apology on one condition."
Spock knew that look, the look of a human trying to lighten a difficult topic. "What condition is this?"
"Promise me that won't happen again."
Sunset, on Vulcan. Lady T'Rela of the Akaren, near-wife to Spock cha'Sarek, gazed out the window and watched the stars emerge. She noted with some relief that the temperature had already begun to drop; Vulcan's heat was at its most torrid in mid-summer. T'Rela supposed she should have adjusted to it by now, but the Akaren lands were in the cooler northern regions, and the heat was still hard for her to acclimate to.
The annunciator beeped. "Yes?"
"There is a woman who requests to speak with you. She is rather insistent."
T'Rela smiled at the understatement. For a Vulcan to admit that the woman was insistent meant that she was quite probably irritating the receptionist beyond the limits of a Vulcan's control. "I will go speak to her."
The doors swished shut behind her. The woman was in profile, and she turned at the door's opening.
It was T'Pring.
T'Rela's breath halted somewhere in her lungs. What could this woman possibly want?
T'Pring's cold dark eyes surveyed the Akaren woman, and T'Rela waited under that gaze, using the time to assess the other woman as well.T'Pring thinks she hides her contempt well, but to the Akaren born, it is only too obvious, T'Rela thought. She was quite beautiful, but there was no warmth about her; T'Pring had obviously been the center of her own universe for some time.
"T'Pring, of the House of Stonn, I greet you."
"T'Rela, near-wife of Spock cha'Sarek, your presence honors me."
T'Rela raised an eyebrow at that; sarcasm must have been an emotion allowed under Surak's Rules. "I am pleased that Spock was able to bond with someone finally. I did not know the Akaren were so accomplished in their abilities."
"T'Pring," T'Rela said, disliking the woman almost instantly, "your reputation does not hint that small-talk is among your gifts. What reason do you have for your presence?"
T'Pring eyed the Akaren woman. "Your presence is requested before the Council of Bondings."
Absently, T'Rela wondered where on the spectrum of demands "your presence is requested" fell. She knew of the Council of Bondings; they functioned as mediators in cases of disputed marriages or betrothals. Such disputes were rare, but they did happen. "For what cause?"
Once, on a trip long ago with her father, T'Rela had been stalked by a pack of venomous calidri birds. Alone of all the predators in the Akaren lands, they killed more than they needed for survival. T'Pring's gaze, calculating and intent, made her think of the packs of calidri. The thought that her husband had very nearly been wed to one such as this was enough to make her faintly ill. I swear I will not put our children through this.
There was a certain malign satisfaction in T'Pring's eyes. "Your right to marry into the House of Surak is disputed."
T'Rela stared hard at the other woman.. On an Akaren, it was a look of barely repressed fury, but it seemed to be lost on the Vulcan woman."On whose authority? You are not a member of the House of Surak, by your own choice." The words were said evenly, at what cost only T'Rela knew.
There was a faint curve of the lips that bore only the slightest resemblance to a smile. "The House of Stonn is allied with the House of Surak. We have the right to dispute the forming of other…alliances," T'Pring said.
"Why is T'Pring allowed to dispute the formalization of my bonding?" Spock asked his father that night. Ship's night had fallen, and they were alone in the guest quarters. Spock stood stiffly with his arms folded. The gesture was one of extreme irritation; Sarek was clan head, and had not told his son that the House of Surak was still affiliated with the House of Stonn. T'Rela had related the substance of her conversation with T'Pring shortly before Spock's shift began, and it had only been with the greatest difficulty that he had controlled his emotions until he could go discuss the matter with his father.
"My son, if you cannot be unemotional, at least try to be precise. The House of Stonn is disputing your bonding. " They were alone in the guest quarters; Jim had taken Amanda on a tour of the botanical gardens. Sarek stood with his back to his son, one hand on the mesh screen.
Spock took a deep breath. "As you say. But the question still remains unanswered."
Sarek looked at him then, suddenly appearing as old as his chronological age. "I ask for your forgiveness. I had not thought her capable of ashv'cezh, but I was wrong about that, and I was wrong to bind you to her."
Ashv'cezh, Spock thought, revenge worse than death. Yes, that was ever T'Pring's way. "But why should she seek revenge? She wanted Stonn and he wanted her."
Sarek turned to face him then. "My son, there are other factors to consider. Have you not heard T'Pring's allegations?"
Spock nodded. It would have been difficult not to have heard; the Kalifee was rare enough that news of the Challenge, and T'Pring's subsequent allegations, had hit the mindnets almost immediately. She had alleged that the Challenge had been legal because her bondmate was defective. As the allegations were similar to other attacks she had made to him over the years of their betrothal, Spock had simply ignored them. "I have, Father. I do not consider them to be of consequence."
The older man stared at him. The Spock he had known before their estrangement had constantly tried to be more Vulcan than the Vulcans, and would have been greatly disturbed by such an allegation. This man, his son, was in many ways a stranger. "T'Pring said that your lack of telepathic ability gave her the legal right to Challenge at the Kalifee. This excuse allowed her to avoid prosecution for the attempted murder of you and Captain Kirk."
Spock raised an eyebrow. "Was that likely? The Kalifee is not illegal under criminal law, only immoral."
Sarek shook his head. "Kalifee during pon farr is only legal if there is some defect in one of the partners. Since you are half-human the Council of Bondings was willing to believe her allegation. Now that you have announced your intent to formalize your bond, the Council of Bondings apparently thinks otherwise. If I perceive this matter correctly, she has been called to answer for her actions."
Spock considered. It did make a certain amount of sense, given the byzantine web of clan alliances and customary laws that governed Vulcan. "And T'Pring called T'Rela to testify at the council in response. If she is successful in disputing the formalization, then she is vindicated and can therefore avoid prosecution."
Sarek nodded. "It appears this is her plan. I wish I could have severed that alliance with the House of Stonn."
"Why didn't you?" Spock asked bluntly, feeling absolutely certain that Starfleet Command, with all of its intrigues, was a far saner place than Vulcan..
Sarek frowned slightly. "You would not know, since you take little interest in clan affairs, but your aunt T'Siri's eldest son is betrothed to Stonn's sister."
Spock ignored the implied insult; such things from his father were not uncommon and had lost most of their power to disturb him. "I remember. Their betrothal was sealed the month after my first one."
The door opened and Amanda entered. She started a bit to see her son leaning against the mesh screen and his father sitting down; it was a reversal of all the times she had seen Sarek chiding Spock, telling him he was not Vulcan enough. There was no sense of the tension she remembered, although Amanda was equally certain that there had been some sort of disagreement earlier.
Sarek turned to his wife. "How were the botanical gardens, my wife?" He extended his two fingers to her.
She returned the gesture, touching her two fingers to his. "They were quite beautiful, my husband, though a bit damp after Vulcan." //Sarek,// she asked in the privacy of their bond //what has been going on here?//
A mental sigh //T'Pring is once again in our lives, my wife//
The annunciator bleeped. Glancing at the glyphs, T'Rela saw that it was an incoming message for her from Ambassador Sarek. Had she never heard of Ambassador Sarek, still she would have known him for her husband's father. The similarity of expression marked Spock as Sarek's son. "T'Rela of the Akaren?"
Perhaps caused by her medical school training on Earth, a certain amount of irreverence had crept into her nature. No, some other Akaren your son married. "Ambassador Sarek, I am she whom you seek."
His gaze took in her tunic, healer brown, with the small Medical Services badge, and Sarek realized that he must have called her at work. "I ask forgiveness, Healer,"
T'Rela smiled then, quickly. "The cause must indeed be sufficient for you to contact me, Ambassador. How may I assist you?"
"My son has asked for the formalization of your bond. On behalf of our House, I would seek to meet with you."
"I am honored. What time pleases you?"
"The Enterprise will be returning us to Vulcan tomorrow evening. Is that sufficient?"
"It is indeed, Ambassador."
Had he been fully human, Jim observed, Spock would have glared at the board. This was the second game in a row he had lost. As it was, he merely tilted an eyebrow.
Jim took pity on him, knowing full well that Spock's inattention at chess was due to some very human nervousness. He began to replace the chess pieces in their storage container; it was late into ship's night, and the Rec Room was deserted. "You up for some coffee?"
Spock nodded. Although most Vulcans could not tolerate caffeine in any form, Spock had inherited his mother's tolerance for it. "Indeed, Jim, that would be most welcome."
The temperature was set to approximate the cooler temperature of Vulcan's desert nights, and Jim shivered slightly when he entered Spock's cabin. Not that he wasn't used to it; they had spent many nights here playing chess or talking over ship's business. But it did give him an appreciation for what it must be like for Spock to be the only Vulcan on a chilly ship full of humans.
"What happens now?" Jim asked.
"T'Rela and her family are meeting with my family tomorrow." Suddenly Spock looked uneasy, and Jim noticed it. "What is it?"
"There is a matter I must tell you about." Briefly, he related his discussion with Sarek.
"Well, I can't think of a single person who deserves to be charged with attempted murder more, but I'm sorry you have to deal with her again."
"That was my reaction as well. But it is done, there is no help for it. The meeting before the Council of Bondings is scheduled for three Vulcan solar days from now. May I have leave to go?"
Jim nodded. "We can spare you; it's not like we're doing anything more critical than freighter service. Do you want Bones to beam down with you?"
"Well, it seems that the last Vulcan ceremony we've been involved in didn't run according to plan."
Spock nearly laughed then. The sound that emerged was more like a strangled cough, a sound that was so unexpected that Jim nearly dropped his coffee. "I doubt that McCoy's beads and rattles will be needed. The Council of Bondings is not known for combat, armed or otherwise."
Jim raised his eyebrows. "As long as you're certain, then. Take as much time as you need to get this straightened out. You only get married once."
"I have been married once. In fact, I am bonded now."
"Oh, you know what I mean. Just take whatever time you need, okay? And don't get into armed combat with anyone."
The dark eyes opposite his smiled.
T'Rela gazed at the door of Ambassador Sarek's house. Taking a calming breath, she tapped on the annunciator panel.
The door opened to reveal the face of an older human woman. "You are T'Rela?"
T'Rela nodded, wondering what the woman saw when she looked at her. "I am."
"I bid you welcome to our house." T'Rela stepped inside.
She had known, of course, that Spock's mother was human; it would have been impossible not to have known, especially since such marriages were still rather rare. What T'Rela was not prepared for was the restrained warmth in the woman's eyes.
T'Rela followed Amanda into the living room. The house was decorated in an eclectic mix of human and Vulcan artifacts; a piano in the corner, ancient Vulcan weapons on the wall, bookshelves stacked full of Terran books. It was comfortable, if a little odd.
"My husband will be with us shortly. He is in meditation at this time."
T'Rela continued her appraisal of the older woman. A human bonded to a Vulcan, a woman who lived on a planet where the open expression of emotion was considered rude at the very least, she must have been remarkable indeed to have retained so much of her humanity under such cultural pressure. It was a pressure T'Rela could identify with; the Akaren kept their emotions and many of their older ways. IDIC notwithstanding, the pressure on the Akaren to assimilate, to adhere to Vulcan standards of conduct, was sometimes overwhelming, a never-ending tension between the pull of Vulcan ways and the preservation of all that it meant to be an Akaren.
Sarek emerged from the bedroom. "Greetings, T'Rela. Your presence honors us. Shall we continue to dinner?"
Dinner was, T'Rela was pleased to see, a fair mixture of familiar Vulcan foods. There was a murmur of conversation and there was also not the distance she had feared. When dinner was over, they adjourned into the living room. Sarek stood for a moment, gazing into the inky night as if to focus his thoughts. Then he said, "The Council of Bondings will meet soon. Are you prepared to defend your bond?"
T'Rela returned his gaze levelly. "I am prepared to do more than that. I am a healer; I can swear that T'Pring's words are untrue."
Sarek nodded. "It is well, then." He paused. "I ask forgiveness for drawing you into this so close to your formalization."
"Kaiidth." It was an Akaren concept as well as a Vulcan one. "What is, is. I am Spock's near-wife; if I must fight for him, than that is the way of it." And with her words, Sarek remembered all that the Akaren had once been, and all that they still were: fierce warriors, loyal, independent, and wholly dangerous. They had provided sanctuary to Surak when he fled from one mob or another, and his lessons had been their saving. But the Akaren kept their emotions, and in their fierceness there was no Vulcan who could match them.
T'Rela's hair brushed against Spock's chest in the dark. //There is something I should tell you, my husband.//
Though T'Rela could not see him clearly, she knew that he had raised one eyebrow. //Indeed?// His arms tightened around her, drawing her closer.
She nestled against him; his body temperature was slightly higher than her own, and the difference was comfortable. //If time permits, Caoileann wishes to speak with you tomorrow.//
T'Rela was just about tall enough for the top of her head to rest under his chin; as she nestled there, Spock breathed in the warm scent of her hair, something spicy and uniquely her own. //I will make time, my wife. We are family now.//
There was a delicate sigh from his wife //I thank you.//
His hand brushed her face. Though she was a healer, and was used to survival on short sleep, the strain of an impending formalization was also proving wearying. And in truth, it was an exhaustion he shared. //Rest, Rela. I cherish thee.//
//I cherish thee also, Beloved.//
Caoileann had requested that they meet on what T'Rela termed "neutral territory": the botanical gardens in ShiKahr.
"But that is rather far away from the Akaren lands. Would she not prefer somewhere closer?" Spock watched as T'Rela readied herself for work. He had never lived intimately with another person, and her transformation from the woman of night and starlight into this calm, professional healer was fascinating.
T'Rela secured the last pin holding her braid in place. She came to sit next to him on the bed. "It is rather far away, but remember, she was planning to be in town for the formalization anyway." Her hand brushed the side of his face, crossing lightly across the meld points. //Spock, I wish you good fortune.//
//As I do you, my wife.//
It was not far from T'Rela's dwelling to the botanical gardens. Started some years earlier by a homesick Terran with a flair for gardening, it had grown to include plants not only from Earth, but from many worlds in the Federation. It was a favorite place for meditation for many of the students from the Vulcan Science Academy, and was rarely, if ever, completely empty.
The air inside the enclosed portion of the gardens was heavy with oxygen and damp with moisture. Spock breathed in the air and smelled the characteristic scents of wet dirt and blossoming flowers. There was a rustle from behind one of the rose bushes, and Spock saw her. He had never met T'Rela's mother before, but there was no doubt of her identity. The shape and color of the eyes were those of her daughter.
"Spock?" Her voice was laced with the same accent as T'Rela's, a faint lisp slurring some of the consonants.
He inclined his head, and began the formal greeting. "I am honored by your presence, Eldest Mother Caoileann of the Akaren."
She noticed that he stumbled for a fraction over her name, though he pronounced it well for one not born to the Speech. It makes what I have to say that much more difficult. "I was known as T'Lir when I was T'Rela's mother. You may call me that if the name I was given with my title causes difficulty."
Spock remembered T'Rela discussing her family shortly after they bonded. "My mother is Eldest Mother of the Akaren. Since her position required that she be mother to all the Akaren, she severed ties with us when I was five. My brother Sorcha and I were raised by our father Siret, who is also a healer." Spock had wondered at the time how well a child of five could have dealt with what must have looked like abandonment. Sarek, for all his distance, had at least always been physically present. She had smiled, sensing his thought through the newly-made bond. "She who was my mother had gained a reputation as a wise counselor and an astute judge of character. It was an honor for her to be chosen as Eldest. Did we miss her? Of course, but the needs of the clan outweighed those of any individual or family."
"It does not. But I thank you for your kindness, Caoileann." This time, his pronounciation was more certain.
"Shall we sit?" she asked in Vulcan, indicating a bench.
There was silence between them for a time. Finally, she spoke. "I have agreed to formalize your bond according to Akaren rites, but I do not agree with your marriage to my daughter."
Spock had heard, on a few occasions, of an Akaren's usual bluntness. But even T'Rela at her most direct had not been this straightforward. "Indeed. Specify."
Caoileann smiled then, and the look was so like her daughter's that Spock's breath caught. "It is not you I object to, Spock cha'Sarek, so do not mistake my meaning. Do you know how many of us there are? We are a minority that wishes to remain one, to retain the Ancient Ways. But every year, more and more of our people leave the desert and the ways of their ancestors behind."
Spock thought of T'Rela's dwelling, the Akaren weavings, the altar to gods Vulcans had long forgotten. She had not abandoned their ways, only adapted them to better stand between two worlds. Even as she lived among Vulcans, T'Rela was permanently marked by desert ways. "Your point is not logical, Eldest Mother." Vulcans, especially those who lived among humans, could be blunt as well. "You say that T'Rela abandoned Akaren ways; this is not accurate."
Her eyebrows raised. "What will your children be, when you have them? Will they maintain Akaren ways, or will they know them only as the ways of strangers? And what will you do, when your wife must leave to follow Akaren paths or be severed from us?"
Knowing she was in surgery, Spock did not attempt to touch his wife's mind. But he knew she would have concurred as he spoke. "Caoileann, I have stood on the borders of two cultures my entire life. My children will have their own path to choose, but T'Rela and I will do all that we can to make certain they have that choice to make." He paused. "I will not interfere with what T'Rela must do to remain an Akaren."
The Eldest Mother breathed out. "Remember what you have said when your family objects to the training of your children in Akaren ways. Remember what you have said when T'Rela must stand as healer during Migration. Remember all that you have said, and perhaps I may yet be mistaken. For now, I cannot rejoice, for I know that we are losing another Akaren."
Sarek, spare and dark, stood at the doorway of the compound. It was not, as Vulcan buildings went, particularly attractive, just a squat building made out of adobe. But it was in this building where most of the important clan business was conducted. "My son, are you prepared for this?"
Spock had always hated the place, illogical though he knew it was. It was in this building where his first link to T'Pring had been made. Spock's hand brushed against his wife's as they entered the compound where the Council of Bondings would meet, and she could sense the force of his concentration coupled with a thread of nervousness. "I am as prepared as might be expected, Father."
Inside, there were a number of people seated in a circle. Almost all were older women; Vulcan retained the matriarchal structure that also governed the Akaren. By reputation alone, these women had been chosen to act as arbiters, and their words carried the force of law. Spock knew most of them; some were distant relatives, some like his aunt T'Siri were near relatives, but the rest were from a wide group of different clans. Abruptly, he noticed that one arbiter was missing. //T'Pau is not here.//
T'Rela frowned slightly. She knew from his memories of his Severance from T'Pring that T'Pau was the Eldest Mother of his clan, and had officiated during his last Time. //Why do you think she is missing?//
//In the absence of evidence, it would be unwise to speculate.// Sarek led them to their places in the circle, and T'Rela focused her own attention inward. Sound ceased in the room as a woman stood. Spock knew this was also part of the ancient ways. One arbiter would speak for all, but all would share in the final decision. "I am T'Lar. I stand in the stead of T'Pau, she who is Eldest Mother of the House of Surak. She who is Eldest Mother will not act in this matter because she is a'telahk l'srin."
The last two words were unfamiliar to T'Rela, for they were spoken in Old Vulcan, a language she did not understand with any great fluency. Spock's mind brushed against hers as he explained. //A'telakh l'srin means "disgraced by her actions". I can only surmise that T'Pau refused to judge the case because she allowed the Kalifee, and thus contributed to the current suit. //
//I do not understand. Was there any other option?// The memories of the Kalifee were fragmented and blurred in T'Rela's mind, no doubt owing to Spock's own physical condition at the time.
//T'Pau could have refused to allow the Kalifee. She could have halted the Kalifee once T'Pring chose the captain, knowing that he did not realize the Challenge was to the death. Her absence is an admission that she acted wrongly in her role as Eldest Mother.//
//I should like to meet T'Pau to thank her for her honesty.//
//You shall, provided the council decides in our favor.//
T'Lar spoke. Her voice was no louder than the wind blowing outside, yet was somehow more forceful for all its softness. "Since the dawn of our beginnings, it has been our way to settle disputes between clans in this manner. The issue before us is this. T'Pring of the House of Stonn, formerly of the House of Sjet, claims that her first bondmate was defective and thus that she did not act in violation of our laws by Challenging during the Kalifee. The House of Stonn also disputes the formalization of Spock's bond with T'Rela.
Spock of the House of Surak has stated his intent to formalize his bond with T'Rela of the Akaren. If the Council of Bondings finds that their bond is a true one, then T'Pring stands in violation of the ancient laws, and shall answer for acts of attempted murder. The formalization will then be allowed." Her gaze fixed on T'Pring with little mercy and less warmth, and her words were glacial. "T'Pring, chattel to the House of Stonn, you may speak if your bondmate so desires it."
T'Pring's gaze narrowed on Spock. "Our bond was defective from its first forming. When I touched his mind, I knew that he did not have the mental abilities to sustain a marriage bond as a true Vulcan would. Our laws and customs allowed me to Challenge if my betrothed was defective, and so I did. That he now announces his intent to formalize his bond with an Akaren only proves what I say. I dispute his right to enter into an alliance which only hides his inabilities."
T'Rela felt her heart lurch slightly against her ribs. She knew that many Vulcans did not trust the Akaren for their telepathic abilities and their emotions, and it was this mistrust that T'Pring was playing on, using the belief that Akaren abilites were so strong that they could make a mental link even with a half-breed Vulcan.
T'Lar raised an eyebrow at this line of reasoning, but did not comment; as arbiter, she could not take sides in the discussion. "Have you evidence for this?"
T'Pring nodded. "I call T'Rela of the Akaren to bear witness."
T'Rela stood and entered the circle. T'Lar spoke. "T'Rela, near-wife to Spock cha'Sarek, are you prepared to have my mind touch yours, to determine the strength of your bond?"
"I am prepared, Arbiter of the Council of Bondings."
Her hand touched the side of T'Rela's face. T'Lar's mind was as powerful as an Akaren adept's, and the position of her hand T'Rela's face shifted slightly. The force of her mind attacked the bond, and T'Rela felt her knees begin to buckle, and the world began to fade to grey. On the other side of the circle, she heard Spock give a gasp that was most horrifying sound.
T'Lar's mind withdrew slightly. //I ask forgiveness.//
T'Rela swallowed, fighting the impending nausea. //Why was this necessary?//
//If Spock's mind had been as weak as T'Pring alleged, my actions would have severed the bond immediately//
//Surely there were less painful ways of proving this?//
//Perhaps. But none so effective.//
Her mind brushed against T'Rela's, healing the momentary damage. As the link dissolved, T'Rela picked up one last thought. //There is strength within thy bond, Lady T'Rela, like the strength of pillars of a temple.//
Gently, she released the Akaren woman, and T'Rela returned to her place at the circle. She looked over at her bondmate, who was deathly pale. //Are you all right?//
//Indeed. I am grateful you were not harmed.//
T'Lar stepped forward. "The council will discuss a resolution. We will adjourn for two hours." She and the other council members withdrew, and Spock and T'Rela followed Sarek and Amanda out into the desert afternoon.
There were two figures waiting for them , one in Starfleet blue and the other in gold. T'Rela knew from Spock's memories that these were the two men who had stood with him at his Kalifee, the one who saved his life and his shieldmate, the one who risked everything to take him to Vulcan.
Spock introduced T'Rela to his captain. "I am honored to meet you, Captain, " she said, and it was more than the standard greeting. She knew full well that without either of these men, her husband would not be alive.
The captain smiled, and T'Rela saw immediately where he got his reputation for charm. "Please call me Jim, Lady T'Rela."
She smiled. "T'Rela is fine. I am not officially Spock's bondmate until the Council agrees to the formalization."
Spock had developed a sense for when the captain was up to something. "I am gratified to see you both, but how did you explain your presence to Starfleet Command?"
The captain cleared his throat. "Well, Scotty found a warped baffle plate on the port nacelle that needed to be fixed. And of course, Vulcan Space Central has the best docking facilities in the quadrant."
T'Rela felt the quick glimmer of sunlight, the mental laughter Spock would never utter aloud. //Rela, Mr Scott and I did the standard engineering inspection before picking up the delegates. There was no warped baffle plate on the port nacelle.//
//No, merely a misdirection.// Aloud, he said only, "Of course, quite logical."
The doctor muttered, "In a pig's eye."
The comment received an amused look from the captain, but it had succeeded in breaking the tension. They followed Sarek and Amanda to a shaded area to await the verdict. "Has the decision been made?" the captain asked, knowing that they must surely have been worried.
Sarek spoke. "Not yet, though I think they will not need the full two hours."
T'Lar exited the compound under the light of the sun. "The council returns."
They followed T'Lar inside. She raised an eyebrow at the presence of the two humans, but said nothing. The two men had stood with Spock at his Kalifee, and if one of them had been forced to fight him, the disgrace of the Challenge was not his fault. In deference to the two humans, T'Lar spoke in Standard. "As arbiters, we are charged with more than mediating disputes. Our role is to make sure that the when ancient ways are used, they do not violate the Rules of Surak which saved our planet. Healers T'Makh and Salir, will you come forward?"
The two Vulcans were much as Spock remembered them from his childhood. Tall and unbending, cool and reserved, the epitome of proper Vulcan behavior. They were the healers who had helped establish his betrothal link with T'Pring. He had heard that they had gone to Gol some years earlier, and had thus been unavailable to comment upon T'Pring's subsequent allegation. "What is your Truth?" T'Lar asked of them.
T'Makh clasped her hands behind her back. "I and my partner initiated Spock's link with T'Pring. Although their was some resistance on the part of the girl, their link would, in time, have become a full marriage bond."
"Salir, is this your Truth as well?" T'Lar asked.
Salir nodded. "His mind was most adept for a child's, and he accepted the link with no difficulty."
T'Lar spoke. "I thank you for coming from Gol to speak your Truth. The decision has been made. Spock cha'Sarek and T'Rela cha'Siret, will you come forward?"
They stood and moved towards the center of the circle. "Their bond is a true one," T'Lar said. "The allegations of T'Pring of the House of Stonn are wrong, and we do not hear her words. T'Pring shall answer for the charge of attempted murder, and the formalization shall go forward."
The woman turned, her dark gown framed against the evening sky. "Captain."
The captain smiled. "It's Jim, remember?"
"Of course, Jim. Is it well with you tonight?"
Jim nodded. "It's well with me. I just came outside to get some air." Inside the house, the relatives of the groom were gathering, and although Jim had always known that Spock had a large extended family, he had never seen it demonstrated before. He gazed inside the window of the house; Bones was engaged in a conversation with Spock's aunt T'Siri, who was also a healer, and Spock himself was speaking with his parents. "Are you nervous?"
Humans were so forthright; it was a quality any Akaren could respect. "I am. Are you?"
Jim eyed her carefully. Of course she knew what had happened the last time. "I am, and I find myself hoping that history will not repeat itself." He didn't realize he'd said the last part until the words were already out of his mouth.
The wind stirred T'Rela's hair slightly. "Jim, I will not Challenge."
"Of course not. I didn't mean to imply that you would. It's only that---"
She gazed back at him, understanding his fear without castigating him for it. "I know what you are saying, Jim. I honor his life as you do. I will not abandon him."
T'Rela was relaxed in a way that was utterly disarming, and Jim found himself responding to her openness. "I'm sorry. You must think I'm terribly rude."
"Why? Because you expressed concern for the life of your friend? There is no cause for shame in that. I rest easier knowing you will protect his life."
"T'Rela, I will do all that I can to bring him back to you." It's only that "all I can" sometimes isn't enough.
T'Rela nodded. "You have promised to try. That is sufficient."
Some hours later, the faint jingling of bells drew Spock's attention. "The marriage party approaches," he said softly.
Jim flinched internally at the echo of the last Time in Spock's words. "Are we going back there?" he managed to say. The thought of having to stand again on those blood-red sands where both of them had so nearly died made his skin crawl.
Spock shook his head. "No, Jim. Quite illogically, I found myself unable to consider the prospect. We are going to the Place of T'Rela's family. They hold some property in the area."
"And a good thing, too," McCoy said quietly for their ears alone. "I left my tri-ox on the ship." Jim looked at him, and the doctor sighed. "Okay, I didn't leave it onboard the ship, but I hope to hell we won't need it."
Jim shook his head. The conversation with T'Rela had eased his doubts. "We won't."
There was no more time for words, for the sound of bells was growing closer. Amanda turned to them and smiled. "Spock, it's time."
They moved to the front of the procession. The other Vulcans carried torches, and as they advanced they were joined by the Akaren of T'Rela's family, a colorful group in their traditional garb. T'Rela herself could not be seen, for although Spock knew she must be in the center of the procession, the relatives who surrounded her were all taller. "It's to prevent me from being kidnapped before the wedding," she had explained earlier.
//Are you nervous, my husband?//
//Whoever said that Vulcans do not get nervous, my wife, obviously had never been married.//
The quick, bright flash of a mental smile. //Parted from me and never parted, our time approaches.// And then her presence faded.
The procession stopped past the city limits of ShiKahr, and Kirk and McCoy gaped in amazement. For this piece of land was no dry, barren site, but was instead an oasis. Flowered plants grew in stunning profusion over the small plot, and in the center a fountain gurgled.
T'Pau and Caoileann were already there, waiting as the crowd parted to let T'Rela through, guarded on both sides by her father and brother. Jim fought off another attack of déjà vu as he saw T'Pau standing there, fierce and implacable.
The rest of the procession quickly sorted itself out into a circle. Spock, with Jim and McCoy on either side, stood before T'Pau and Caoileann. "Spock, son of Sarek, son of Solkar, thee claims this woman as thy wife?" T'Pau asked in that voice which could freeze a le'matya in its tracks.
Spock met his grandmother's gaze with his own. "I have done so, T'Pau."
Caoileann turned her attention to the woman who had been her daughter. "T'Rela, daughter of T'Lir, daughter of T'Jira, do you claim this man as your husband?"
T'Rela nodded. "I have done so."
"Then let vows be taken so the bond may be witnessed. As it was in the time of our beginnings, as it will be for all tomorrows, this is our way." T'Pau stepped off the platform, she touched their temples. "Thy bond is strong. Recite thy vows."
In one voice, they began:
"Parted from me and never parted
Never and always touching and touched
I await thee.
Where you are fire, I am the water."
Then T'Rela, in clear voice, recited the woman's vow, to a man she knew would die one day without her presence. "When the flame reaches thy eyes, I will cool thee." And the smile that almost never reached Spock's face was in his eyes as he gazed at her. He slipped his grandmother's ring on the ring finger on her left hand, and T'Rela smiled for both of them.
Caoileann stepped forward, with Sorcha, T'Rela's brother, close behind her. He held a length of cloth. At her nod, he began to wrap it cross-wise around their joined hands. "Spock and T'Rela, I bind you each to the other. In time of war will you shield each other, in all times will you remain faithful to each other, holding the life of your partner sacred above all else?" At their nod of assent, she continued, "Wherever the desert wind may lead the other, will you follow?" They nodded, and Sorcha finished wrapping the cloth. "Then you are bound one to the other. You leave this place as not two people but one."
As might be expected from a Vulcan reception, it was not a particularly loud affair. There was some mixing between the Vulcans and T'Rela's Akaren relatives, but it was relatively reserved.
It didn't take long for Jim to notice that both Spock and T'Rela were missing from the reception. Amanda and Sarek joined them in the corner of the room, and Jim also noticed that Amanda's eyes were suspiciously red. "Where's Spock?" Jim asked quietly.
Amanda smiled, a particularly wicked look. "Old Akaren custom."
At McCoy's questioning glance, Sarek spoke, "Caoileann explained it to me yesterday, during the negotiations. Spock is supposed to 'kidnap' T'Rela from the wedding. At the appropriate time, Sorcha and some of her kin will go looking for them,."
Bones nodded. "Kind of like a shivaree. Old Southern custom. Putting the bride to bed and all sorts of illogical behavior."
"Indeed," the ambassador replied. "Except that Sorcha will not go looking for them for approximately four days."
Jim smiled. It would have been nice to congratulate Spock after the wedding, but he supposed it was all right this way too. Correctly interpreting his expression, Amanda said, "I rather think Spock knew nothing of this until after the ceremony, thanks to the fact that we kept them separate for two days."
Jim laughed, trying to picture his impassive friend being told that his first duty after the formalization of his bond was to 'kidnap' his wife. "Well, whatever works. So long as they're happy together."
"What is this place, T'Rela?" Spock asked. "And explain to me again why it was necessary for me to 'kidnap' you?" There was amusement in his tone.
She laid one finger across his lips. "All will be revealed in time." She lit the oil lamp on the wall, and Spock saw that they were inside a small cottage. T'Rela came towards him then, and light glinted off the narrow band on her finger. "You kidnapped me to show you would rescue me even from my own family. Which, incidentally, gives us four days of complete privacy away from both our families before they come looking."
"Do you think four days will be enough?" he asked, amused.
T'Rela laughed. "We do have the rest of our lives, Beloved." She paused. "As for this place, it is common property, what I asked for during the negotiation, a place for us to be alone for a time."
The desert was still with its timeless silence, waiting. T'Kuht rode high this night, and the muted glow of the oil lamp, shaded T'Rela's eyes into a violet so dark it was almost black.
He reached for her then, and it was as it had been the first time, but the passion that had fired them both then now lit the way. The gown fell easily to the ground in a dark whisper of silk. Then her own hands were upon his bare shoulders and their lips met. The ember of their bond flared into full flame at the physical contact.
//Parted from me and never parted// their joined minds whispered. //Never and always touching and touched.
//Our time is now.//