Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom. This story is the creation and property of Bev Clark and is copyright 1976 by Bev Clark. Originally published in The Other Side of Paradise #1, edited by Amy Falkowitz.

 

A TIME FOR TEARS

Bev Clark

 

Before I gaze at you again

I'll need a time for tears;

Before I gaze at you again,

Let hours turn to years.

I have so much forgetting to do ...

 

"Before I Gaze at You Again."

Lerner and Loewe: CAMELOT

 

The pleasant-faced matron behind the information console at Starbase 27 Hospital looked up in surprise at the tall Vulcan in science blue standing expectantly before the desk. Thinking to anticipate his question, she said quickly, "The Vulcan section is number six, Commander -- outside and to your left."

Spock nodded. "I know; however, my business is here. I would like to visit Miss Kalomi, if it is permitted."

The receptionist stared for a second, then turned to the console, hovering over it as if she weren't quite sure how it worked. Spock felt distinctly nervous watching her; recalling some of his childhood stories, he half expected the machine to go up in smoke. Finally the woman looked up.

"It seems to be all right, Commander. Just go up to the eighth floor -- the nurse there will take you to Miss Kalomi's room." She hesitated, flushed, and continued. "I'm sorry I was so hasty. It's just that, well, our human patients so seldom have Vulcan visitors that I, well, er..."

She ran out of words under Spock's penetrating amused gaze and settled down to poking buttons again. Spock left hurriedly before she hit the wrong one, wondering idly why a human receptionist was needed at all; the computer alone would have been more efficient.

He presented himself to the nurse on duty on the eighth floor; he was not surprised to see that that floor was intensive care. The nurse looked as surprised as the receptionist had, but her professional demeanor returned almost at once and she buzzed the proper room.

"Miss Kalomi, you have a visitor," she said brightly. "Do you feel like seeing anyone?"

There was a pause before the person on the other end replied in the affirmative. Spock noted with concern but again without surprise that the voice sounded thin and strained. He followed the nurse as she paced along the hall, stopping outside a room numbered 646.

"In there, Commander," she said. "I'll ask you not to stay too long, and, um, be careful not to upset her. In her condition that might be dangerous."

Spock nodded. "I understand. I shall be most circumspect."

"Good." She smiled. "I imagine she'll be glad to see you. You're the father, aren't you?"

Spock regarded her gravely, allowing her to draw her own conclusions. She smiled again, less certainly, and hurried off to her station. Spock watched her retreat, one eyebrow cocked in admiration of her perspicuity. Then he mentally braced himself and entered Leila Kalomi's room.

She did not turn at the soft "whoosh" as Spock stepped inside. She was reclining in bed, staring out the large window which occupied most of the wall opposite the door. From where he stood Spock could see that she did not look well; her arms and face were thin and had lost all their color of five months earlier. Spock's brows drew together a fraction of an inch. He made no move but waited for Leila to recognize his presence.

"Elias?" she asked in a pale voice, as she turned toward the door. "Did you want to..."

Her voice trailed away as she saw Spock standing still and tall in the doorway. She stared, opened her mouth to say something, but evidently could not find the words and jerked her face abruptly away. Spock thought he glimpsed a trace of shine on one cheek, but could have been mistaken -- the afternoon sun was shining directly onto Leila's face. He stepped as close to the bed as he deemed proper. From here he could see the tautness of the muscles beneath the translucent skin; the hands, so listless and relaxed from a distance, grasped fistfuls of bedclothes.

There was silence until Leila spoke in a voice as tight as her fists. "How did you find out?" The voice came perilously close to breaking on the last word.

Spock regarded her with increased concern; he had expected ... something curiously undefined, but not hostility. Perhaps the emotional aspects of the situation were more important than he had suspected. He chose his words to be as neutral as possible.

"I received a communication from one of your associates. He thought it best that I be apprised of the situation. I agree."

"Was it Elias?" she asked, still without inflection.

Spock inclined his head slightly, then, realizing that she couldn't see the motion, answered, "Affirmative."

She giggled, a high artificial noise on the edge of hysteria. "You'll never learn to say just 'yes.'"

She rolled onto her back, raising herself on her elbows, head turned now to face Spock, though it was as if she were looking, not at him, but at something beyond him. The position emphasized the heaviness of her body and the sharpness of her arms and neck. She waited a moment until she could speak calmly.

"He gave me his word that he would not tell you what had happened."

"I do not condone the breaking of a promise, but under the circumstances, Mr. Sandoval's action was justified. He believed he was acting in your best interest."

"Won't anyone let me decide what my best interests are?" She sat up suddenly, avoiding the hand Spock put out to restrain her. He held it in the air a moment longer before returning it to his side, ready to reach out again if necessary. He began to consider how he might calm Leila as she addressed the wall in front of her."

"Once was bad enough, and twice... I couldn't bear to have you near again, and then to have you leave again. I couldn't. I would die first."

She made no attempt to stem the tears suddenly running down her cheeks. Uncertain of what to do next, Spock said, "I shall, of course, marry you."

"NO!" she cried in a voice that was practically a howl and buried her face in the pillow; but Spock had caught sight of a strange, momentary relaxation of her face, as if she had wanted to accept but changed her mind.

He was at a loss. He suspected that Leila had said something very important, and though he did not understand quite what it was, he had answered in what he thought the most appropriate fashion ... and had made the situation worse. Leila was not responding as he had predicted. Her extreme emotionality he attributed to her pregnancy; hormonal imbalances could do strange things to anyone's mind, as he knew from recent personal experience. Still, he had never been able to deal rationally with a crying woman. For the first time in his life he wished that he had observed the behavior of human males toward human females more closely.

The rapid bleeping of the mediscanner reminded him too of the physical danger of Leila's outburst. He did not need the abnormal readings to know that her condition was precarious at best, and that any great stimulus might precipitate a crisis. Caught in a web of indecision, he waited, a stone sculpture, until Leila had regained partial control, and he had found his way back to relatively neutral ground.

"How did it happen?"

"That might take a while to explain," the woman said, rolling onto her back and cupping her hands protectively over her abdomen.

"I have the time."

She sighed and closed her eyes. "We wanted the colony to grow as quickly as possible, of course, so we used no contraceptives. There should have been pregnancies, but there were none. We didn't feel concerned enough to study it in detail, but we think the spores considered pregnancy in its earliest stages to be a disease. Conception occurred, but within a few hours, or a day, the embryo was destroyed, and the body returned to normal."

Her voice was level as she explained the action of the spores, her subject a safe topic. It wavered a little as she talked of herself.

"I ... lost ... the spores before they had a chance to act. The pregnancy was diagnosed soon after we reached Starbase 27."

Spock nodded. "I see. Very interesting. The odds against such a conception occurring even with adequate preparation are..."

"Very high," she concluded with a slight laugh, more controlled. "I know. We've been over the figures."

"The odds were much greater than that," Spock said quietly, "for me. I am -- or believed I was -- sterile."

For the first time Leila looked at Spock as if she might be thinking of his feelings. A brief flash of pity and stifled understanding crossed her face. She still did not speak directly to Spock but her voice was more sympathetic.

"I think that the spores might have had something to do with that also. They had a great respect for life, as they saw it, although they didn't understand humans."

"Nor do I," Spock commented. "Particularly human females."

It was the wrong thing to say, again. Leila stiffened and looked away. "We've been through that before, I think."

"Why did you decide to have the child?" Spock asked abruptly.

She hesitated. "I wasn't going to have it, but the doctors thought there would be more danger in an abortion. And I wanted... there were other reasons, emotional ones." A bitter note crept into her voice. "Once I thought you'd understand ... but I suppose you wouldn't."

Spock thought that she was probably right, but he wondered -- his child. Impossible, but true. And, he realized, not unwelcome. There was a trace of feeling in his words as again he offered, "I shall marry you."

She shook her head slightly and stared at the sun-coppery base outside the window. Her voice was only slightly higher than normal. "No. It wouldn't be fair."

He raised an eyebrow, puzzled. "There is the child to consider."

She blazed. "And I would know that you had married me for its sake. No."

"You cannot raise the child alone -- he is partly Vulcan."

"But mostly human," Leila replied. "I am going to raise it alone, and I won't forget that it is partly Vulcan. You needn't feel any responsibility."

He cocked his head and gazed at her curiously. How was it possible that she did not comprehend his position?

"It is natural that I feel a sense of responsibility; the child is mine as well."

She retorted, "Your sense of responsibility has always been very high."

Perhaps she had not meant to sound sarcastic, but Spock was stung nonetheless. "At the time, I had no choice, Leila."

She softened only a little at the hurt in the well-controlled voice. "Perhaps not."

There was a moment of almost peaceful silence. Spock was beginning to see that he had greatly underestimated Leila's independence. His eyes had been opened during their brief interview, so that her next words were almost inevitable. He was not surprised, only (surprisingly) disappointed.

"Spock, I would rather not see you again. It would be too painful Please -- go."

Spock though with a strange unfamiliar emotion. of the child whom he had. never thought he would have, and whom he might never see. "I cannot, Leila."

She tossed to her side. "Please, Spock -- oh!"

She doubled over, clutching her abdomen, sweat standing out along her forehead. Spock was at her side instantly, his forehead, if possible, more contracted than it had been before.

"Leila?" He had never heard his own voice sound so uncertain. "Are you in pain?"

"Yes," she gasped, and winced as another contraction passed over her. Her face contorted as she tried not to scream.

Spock moved smoothly to the wall intercom and notified the nurse of the emergency (belatedly realizing that she would have been informed already by read-outs, and that a medical team was no doubt on the way). His face was grave as he returned to the bed where Leila crouched in as near a fetal position as she could managed, breathing shallowly and making small pathetic noises as she tried to stifle cries of pain. Spock put a hand gently to her face and murmured indistinguishable words. He added, a little louder, "I'm sorry."

Leila's face had relaxed a little, but her body shuddered as another powerful contraction passed through it. When it ended, she shook her head feebly. "No, not you ... there were ... small pains all ... all day. I thought--" Deep uneven breath. "--it was nothing. They were--" Exhale, gasp. "--so small..."

She tried to curl up even smaller, to protect herself. Spock increased the pressure of his fingers on her temples.

The door opened and a young black man rushed to Leila's side, followed by the duty nurse and an orderly wheeling a stretcher. The doctor examined the woman briefly before looking up at Spock, who had dropped his hands at the doctor's entry. The doctor indicated Leila."

"What...?"

Spock answered, "She was in great pain; I eased it."

The doctor nodded; apparently he had had some experience with Vulcans. "I see. It shouldn't affect anything. Orderly, help me move her to the stretcher. Nurse, I'll want operating room A."

Spock, ignored, watched impassively as Leila was wheeled out the door; his mind was not still, but active and disorderly, as it had been in the two weeks since he had received Sandoval's message on the Enterprise. If anything, the instability had increased. He did not quite understand what had happened, or rather why, except that his presence had obviously upset Leila's precarious stability and precipitated her premature labor. He understood intellectually how such a thing could happen, but he could not understand how a human woman could allow ... her emotions to control her health, especially when that health was threatened. That he was the cause, of both the threat and the instability he accepted, albeit reluctantly. He had not planned to do any harm either time, but the conclusion was too obvious to ignore. He had truly thought then that an abrupt severance of ties would be best for both of them, forcing her to come to terms with her devotion to him. Perhaps, he thought, for the first time, it had been an escape for him, a method of evading a subject he could not deal with logically and would not accept emotionally. Oddly, Leila had adjusted while he had not.

The thought was surprising, as so much of the day had been, and needed to be followed up; and he badly needed to sort out the unprecedented confusion he felt. There was also the matter of Leila's possible -- probable -- death to consider, and the illogical (but unfortunately, inevitable) guilt that it would entail. He sighed and shook his head, most human gestures indicative of the degree of his concern, and seated himself in the corner chair, hands steepled, eyes unfocused. His face was not calm.

Once he broke his trance and walked to the nurse's station near the near the turboelevator. He asked the man behind it, "Why was Miss Kalomi not placed in the Vulcan section?"

The nurse looked at the Vulcan in front of him and said, "It was thought that the atmosphere here would be better for her. Emotionally, I mean, and the care was the same."

Spock nodded, agreed, and went back to his meditation.

He was not again conscious of the passage of time until the door slid apart and the stretcher bearing Leila was wheeled in by a different orderly than had taken her out. The doctor followed, weary but relaxed. Spock was momentarily grateful for the years which had taught him to read human expressions. There was no need to ask about Leila's condition.

It would have been unnecessary in any case, for the doctor said immediately, "She'll live, though I don't know why. She's amazingly strong, considering. She must have an incredible will to live." He ran a hand through his kinky hair. "Or love ... ah, you understand?"

"No," Spock admitted, his eyes resting on Leila who now lay motionless on the bed, a tired child now safely home at last. "The evidence seems incontrovertible." He turned back to the doctor. "The child?"

The smaller man hesitated. "He was too young, and the circumstances were not, ah, normal. I'm sorry."

"I understand. I expected no more," Spock replied. It was his turn to hesitate. "Thank you, Doctor."

The doctor stared for several seconds, incredulous, before he regained his composure. "I didn't... thank you, Commander. Ah, you can stay if you like."

Spock nodded, from his bedside position. He was still there when Leila awoke very early the following morning. She blinked once or twice to focus her eyes; she saw Spock. Her lips tightened and she looked away, not to the window this time, for Spock was blocking it, but to the door opposite. It might give no comfort, but at least there was no pain in it. Spock understood the rationale very well. And even to his eyes her face held pain enough for them both.

"Leila," he began, but she interrupted him to address the blankness in front of her.

"Your child is dead," she said flatly. "You're free to go back to your purgatory."

Spock felt the bitterness that penetrated even the post-operative grogginess clinging around Leila. Suddenly, he knew what was wrong.

"Perhaps," he said gently, "there is room in one purgatory for two souls."

She turned her head to gaze at him in wonder. He found that he could not meet those suddenly open eyes and pondered the corner chair instead. Leila said nothing for several minutes, but lay still, staring up at the ceiling while her face gradually settled into more peaceful lines. At length she faced Spock, pale hair falling across paler face; only her faint accent was not faded as she spoke.

"I lost our child, Spock. I'm sorry."

He reached out a hand and brushed the forgotten hair from her forehead, resting his palm briefly against her cheek before he withdrew it almost, but not quite, to his side. His face took on a peculiar expression as he struggled, not quite successfully, to control a smile. In a quiet, matter-of-fact voice he replied, "It is irrelevant. There will be others."

THE END