DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Toni Cardinal-Price and is copyright (c) 1980 by Toni Cardinal-Price. This story is Rated PG. It was originally published in Views of Intimation, 1980.

In Moments of Daybreak and Darkness

Toni Cardinal-Price

Spock of Vulcan strode purposefully down the quiet street of his native town of ShiKahr, oblivious to his surroundings.

The morning's meditation period with Suran had proven successfully relaxing and he felt deep contentment inside which elevated his spirits to the highest level since returning to his home planet.

He reflected upon his feelings, satisfied by the progress he had made. It had not been easy; returning to the Enterprise after three months of Orion imprisonment. During his confinement he had been brutally interrogated, physically abused to the point where, upon his release, it was doubtful he would survive.

But he did survive. McCoy had performed required surgery flawlessly -- had attended him day and night during three days of crisis period until he could safely prognose Spock as on his way to recovery. Quite a remarkable man, the doctor.

And then of course, there was Jim.

Spock quickened his pace, smiling slightly at the thought of Kirk.

Jim had been there beside him every moment he could consciously remember; holding his hand, whispering words of comfort, of support, of love. Jim. He had made the following weeks easier to bear. The memories of Orion torture somehow faded as Kirk's constant presence enveloped him with warmth, compassion, understanding. Then, with intuitiveness Spock still found unfathomable, Kirk had arranged for this extended leave on Vulcan, knowing Spock would need the support of his parents and the serenity his home planet offered in order to fully recover.

And it was working. Spock's morning meditation with the family healer, Suran, was proving increasingly beneficial. The Vulcan first officer was losing the pained look of tension that creased his face, the haunting despair that filled his eyes -- the tremble that sometimes left him stammering when he spoke. In addition, Amanda's loving attention had soothed much of the physical damage. Spock had been dangerously emaciated when he was released from incarceration; his body had been skeletal, his weakness, overwhelming. McCoy's medically prescribed diet had worked somewhat, but Amanda's splendid exotic dishes had put the much needed weight back on Spock's already thin frame. His strength was back, his spirits high. Everything was gradually becoming 'right' again.

Spock felt the smile tugging harder at his lips and wondered what any Vulcan would think should they pass him now. But then, they most probably would remember his parentage, his choice of lifestyle, and logically dismiss him as being honorably Vulcan and forgivably human.

He ran the last half-mile to his house, feeling vibrantly alive, reborn, rejuvenated; excitedly anticipating the afternoon to be spent with Jim and his parents.

Jim, of course, had accompanied Spock on his leave -- Spock would not have gone without him. Along with the presence of Amanda and Sarek, leave was proving to be the best prescription possible for Spock. He relaxed in the easy comfort of Amanda's attention, the renewed affection and support Sarek offered. And most of all, Jim's unending, all-encompassing love. For the first time in his life, Spock felt totally at peace with his heritage, with his parents ... with himself. All as a result of his near destruction by the Orions.

Spock opened the small gate to his parent's house, breathing in the aroma of the various flowering plants his mother had nurtured in her garden. Spock's sensitive ears discerned only silence and he reasoned Jim and his parents would be inside the house, most likely preparing for the midday meal. Spock's stomach grumbled in hungry anticipation and he swung open the front door of the house, stepping inside.

He never saw what hit him. Reality ended with a crashing blow to the back of his head.

* * *

Pain. Intense, unending, pain. It ripped through his mind, disrupting all sense of being, of time ... of thought. He lay prostrate, fighting the wracking nausea that convulsed him.

Eons of agony passed before he could reason beyond the pain. Slowly, carefully, he opened his eyes only to be met with blackness. His dazed senses scrambled for data, his strangely lethargic brain struggling to interpret the impulses he received.

He was lying on the floor and as his fingers traced the hard surface beneath him, he recognized the patterned inlay of stone and tile and knew it was the floor of Sarek's den. Blackness was all prevailing and fleetingly, he wondered if the darkness from within the den, or if he, himself had been blinded. He closed his eyes tightly for a moment, as confusion raged through his mind. He began to logically decipher his thoughts.

It was hot, almost stifling in the den. The house temperature was normally cooler out of respect for Amanda, and somehow the increased temperature intensely worried Spock. He began to crawl along the hard floor, the pain in his head preventing him from standing. His hands cautiously skimmed the tiled surface as his eyes gradually began to discern a few vague shapes around him. His hand brushed against something and he stopped moving, throwing all concentration into his sense of touch. His fingers felt the smoothness of material, traveled along the fabric until he encountered the cold stiff flesh of a hand. His body tightened in instinctive revulsion and fear constricted his throat. There was no question that the hand he touched belonged to a corpse -- he knew death, knew the feel of it. Yet, he did not want to acknowledge it; as if by refusing to believe, he could somehow reverse it, banish it. With trembling hands and senses numb with fear, he reached out to explore the body further, gradually becoming certain of its identity. It was only when his fingers traced the strong face and elegant ears of the victim, did he allow a broken whisper of grief to escape his lips. "Father..."

Pain smashed into his face, throwing him backward as he gasped in shocked agony. Behind his closed eyelids, bright colors reeled crazily as hurt invaded, overwhelmed. In a moment of disrupted time sense, he pictured himself under interrogation by the Orions, feeling their brutal torture once more. Then the present returned with a caustic mocking laugh that chilled his very soul. He pressed a hand against his injured face, feeling the sticky wetness of blood and the ragged edges of torn flesh. He willed his protesting eyes to open, startled when they encountered light. Before he could focus on the figure in front of him, he heard the laughter again and knew with certainty the intruder's identity.

She stood before him, much like she had done years ago, during the time of his madness; proud, haughty, defiant. Rejecting the pre-arranged destiny of her life. Rejecting vows made in the adolescence of youth. Rejecting him.

"T'Pring." Her name reverberated in his mind, came rasping from his throat as he struggled painfully to sit up. Her image swam before him, the pain in his face throbbing now to a dull ache. It was then that he noticed her eyes.

Only twice before had he seen a Vulcan in the mental state of insanity. One had been an unfortunate recipient of Klingon torture, brutally mind-raped by their mind-sifter device. Another had been the result of a type of breakdown rare among Vulcans but not undocumented. Spock could still remember the stricken Vulcan's eyes, glowering with single-minded rage at any and all who approached. Dark eyes, burning like coals. Dark hate-filled eyes...

Spock shivered at the memory and at the same look he now received from T'Pring.

She stood motionless over Sarek's body, tapping the blunt edge of a long knife against the palm of her hand. The blade dripped emerald blood onto her fingers, ran in thick rivulets down the front of her dress. Sarek's blood.

Drawn back to the figure of his father once more, Spock saw that Sarek's eyes were open in a death gaze that reflected both pain and astonishment. On the floor, a dark green puddle of blood seeped from beneath Sarek's upper torso.

"In the heart," T'Pring said scornfully, in answer to the look of anguish on Spock's face. "It took him two point seven of your Earth minutes to die." The emphasis on Earth was full of hatred nnd disgust. "But the ancient's poison was quick -- he suffered little. A death far too good for him, for he was the beginning of the contamination -- the sire of an unworthy legend." She stepped over Sarek's body, glaring down at Spock. "As for the other two..." she continued, haughtily.

Spock's heart stopped, his eyes narrowing fearfully. In his injured state, he hadn't even thought of the danger to his mother and Jim. He began to tremble, not daring to breathe, not daring to consider that they might be...

"The other two are in the cellar," T'Pring was saying as she walked slowly towards him. "We will join them there, and then the choice will be made, Spock of Vulcan."

As she stood before him, he saw one of her shoes, stained with blood, and knew that had been the weapon that delivered the blow to his face. A thousand questions raced through his brain, each elusive, indistinguishable. Finally he could utter only one word. "Why?"

T'Pring laughed, a cruel, mirthless laugh, and crouched down beside Spock, pointing the tip of the knife she held close to his face. Her cold smile glared at him. "You should have chosen me, Spock," she said contemptuously. "Instead, you condemned me to a life with a fool."

Spock struggled to make sense out of her words, grasping on to a thought. "Stonn?" he said, confused."T'Pring, the choice was yours."

"I had no choice!" T'Pring answered sharply. "The great legend of Vulcan had allowed another to complete his all too Human needs."

Spock listened to her words with growing comprehension of their meaning, but before he could speak, he felt the barriers to his mind snatched away as a cold, hateful force entered. He was powerless to stop T'Pring's intrusion; the memory of that time long ago was thrust before him.

Always him! T'Pring's voice rang deep within his mind. He flinched at the extreme emotional hatred invading his thoughts. He replaced me in your essence from the very moment you met. I felt it -- knew it, even across the vastness of space. Never and always touching ... and touched. The emotions you felt for him crept into my being. It disgusted me -- you disgust me. To allow one so inferior, a ... Human to become so ... close. T'Pring's mental projection was biting, painful, yet Spock was too weak to close his mind to her. And when the need inflamed you, you sought me out -- yet I knew to whom your heart belonged. Vulcan would never live to see a child spring from her mighty legend's loins. I would not be second choice to a Human!

Images began to pound into Spock's senses, storming into his consciousness. Time of flame, place of Koon-ut kal-if-fee. The fire, the bells -- ringing ... ringing, ringing...

"No!" Spock said hoarsely, fighting to dismiss the visions. "It was your choice, T'Pring. You wanted Stonn. You chose..."

"I wanted power ... power that you could have given me. I wanted the Human destroyed!" T'Pring said, her face tight with rage."Stonn was weak, and you gave me to him!"

"It was what you wanted," Spock argued, trying to reason.

A hand slapped him across the face sharply and T'Pring's image swam for a moment before him. Then she was gripping his arm, dragging him to his feet. He stood, unsteadily.

"We shall go to your precious 'Captain' now," T'Pring said haughtily, holding him steady. "And she who bore you -- the one who allowed your Human nature to flourish. The challenge will be answered differently, you will have but one choice to make." She pushed him, propelling him forward as he staggered across the room.

As he stumbled into the hallway, he tried desperately to reason -- to formulate some course of action. The shock of Sarek's death was far outweighed by the fear he now felt for Jim and his mother. Yet, he had no strength to attempt resistance at the moment; he could barely walk, barely think. His mind and body were helpless against the insane Vulcan woman behind him.

His vision blurred. He faltered and was shoved once again from behind. Then suddenly, before him was the huge door leading to the house cellar, and he looked down into ominous darkness. A push sent him hurtling down the cold stone steps as he lost his balance and tumbled over and over until he hit the dirt floor. He could not contain a moan of pain as dizziness swept him, carrying him to the edge of consciousness, then releasing him once again to reality. He lay with his face pressed into the cool sand, willing unsuccessfully, the pain to subside. Beyond his own painful gasps for air, he could hear nothing, and the fear already gripping his heart, heightened, demanding action. He lifted his head, painfully, seeking the source of a small light creeping into his blurred vision. His vision cleared and he faced the slumped figures of Amanda and Kirk.

They were seated on the floor, across from him. Their eyes were open, but glassy and unfocused. They showed no sign of awareness and Spock realized they were very heavily drugged.

Crawling painfully on hands and knees, Spock moved closer, oblivious to the sound of T'Pring's footsteps behind him He was almost within arm's length of Kirk, when a sharp point pressed between his shoulder blades, halting him. "That's close enough," T'Pring informed, holding the knife to Spock's back. "I want you to have clear view of both of them when you make your choice."

Spock halted and felt himself being pulled over on his side. A sharp point pushed against his wrist and he looked down, confused, as T'Pring held the tip of her knife blade against his flesh, drawing blood as the knife pierced skin. It was only then that Spock noticed the small ridge in the !mife blade, recognized the ornate handle as being that of a K'ha'wan; a special knife used in ancient times when sacrificing one's life in tribute to gods was not unknown. The ridged blade could hold numerous toxic potions, the point and ridge acting almost like an old-style needle and syringe.

Spock watched helpless, as T'Pring pressed the knife handle, releasing the flow of liquid down the blade, into the welling drops of emerald at the knife's tip. He knew now what had caused his lethargic responses as he saw the mark of an earlier puncture.

"Only a small amount," T'Pring explained, her eyes cruel and hard as she looked at him. "I want you conscious, yet unable to defend yourself and your ... loved ones." She took the blade away then, rubbing it clean on the material of her dress. She stood up.

Spock felt the effect of the poison immediately. His already numbed senses became almost totally paralyzed; his arms and legs lost feeling. His vision blurred and his face felt cold, tingling as if a thousand tiny pins were pricking him. He lay back helplessly on the dirt ground as the room swam dizzily around him.

"The time of madness is once more," T'Pring said finally as she moved away from Spock and stood against a wall. "You will choose, Spock of Vulcan. One of your 'loved' ones will die ... or live by your choice. Which will it be? Your precious Captain ... or your mother?"

Spock stared at her incredulously. Her words filtered through his numbed brain, shivered along his senses and collected nauseatingly in his stomach. He fought the gripping fear, his mind racing to analyze the situation, to determine a course of action.

Choose. She wanted him to choose. But there was no purpose, no sense in what she asked. He could not fathom her reasoning, could not even begin to. "T'Pring." His words were slurred, his tongue felt thick and heavy. "You ... need the assistance of a ... healer," he said quietly. "Think. Reason it out. You do not act logically or rationally. You need.."

"Silence!" T'Pring's scream echoed against the wall, reverberated down Spock's spine. She took a step toward him, then halted, her eyes blazing, nostrils flaring as she glared at him accusingly. "You are the cause of my madness, and so you shall be the tool of my revenge. Choose!"

Spock recoiled from the thought. T'Pring asked the impossible, there could be no choice. The two people he loved most were before him ... he could not pick one of them to die,

Is love so rewarding an emotion, Spock? T'Pring's thought slammed into his mind without warning; taunting, teasing. The choice is simple. Can you not reason it logically?

Spock continued to lie against the dirt floor, struggling to close his mind from her, to reach inward for any ounce of stored strength. He tried to ignore her thoughts, but they intertwined with his own, her voice filling his consciousness. Your parent, or your consort, Spock, she demanded. She who gave you the capacity to love, or he who took that love away from me. Which?

It was your choice, T'Pring, Spock argued wearily, stalling for time, trying desperately to determine a solution. I would have taken you as my wife. He was not my consort then, but I loved him as a commander, and a friend. I would have taken you, had you not called for a challenge. But you chose. You had no love in your heart for me. You wanted Stonn.

Enough! T'Pring's protest was like a physical blow which left his senses reeling. Do not speak of love, Earther! It is a Human emotion! It has no-place...

You're wrong, T'Pring. Spock's thoughts sliced into hers. Vulcan love may be expressed differently, but it is still very much a part of our culture. It has a definite place, though you chose to ignore it. You ignore all that Vulcan teaches. You have killed once ... have broken the revered law of life.

I have killed twice, T'Pring returned, haughty and unrepenting even in her thoughts. Stonn ... discerned my plan attempted to stop me. But I had this... She withdrew a small hand phaser from the back of her dress and her mind-link with Spock broke away as she spoke. "Ironic. Stonn would have killed you in Kal'i'fee had I let him. Yet he died trying to save you. A weak man ... and a fool."

"A very ... wise man," Spock countered, pushing himself up into a sitting position and trying to steady his trembling muscles. He curled himself up tightly, resting his head against his knees and breathing deeply. "T'Pring," he signed, after a moment. 'You are seriously ill. Surely you know this. You can be helped." He looked up then, focusing on her blurred image. His eyes were pleading. "Let me help you. Let me get a healer for you."

Complete silence was his answer. T'Pring stared at him, unhearing, uncaring. After a moment, she walked to him, her knife pointed toward his face. "Now, legend of Vulcan," she whispered contemptuously. "Make your choice."

Spock looked up at her, then rested his forehead against his knees weakly. "A moment," he said softly, his words barely audible.

T'Pring consented, stepping back.

Spock felt the pangs of defeat clutch his soul, shaking the very depths of his being. He looked over at Kirk and Amanda and knew again there could be no choice. Jim -- loved beyond all comprehension, his chosen for all time. His life, his very reason for being. And Amanda -- beloved parent. Unlimited understandiing,, unending capacity for giving. How could he choose?

There was another choice. He knew very well that even if he chose Jim or Amanda, T'Pring would not allow any of them to live. But this other choice -- it was his alone to make, even T'Pring would have no control over it.

Spock stood wobbily, trying to collect his strength as the room whirled around him.

"Choose!" T'Pring demanded from behind him.

Spock remained motionless, head bowed. "My choice will be in the tradition of Ancient Vulcan," he stated, fighting the weakness which shook his legs.

A short silence followed, then T'Pring said hesitatingly, "Very well, Proceed."

Spock clasped his hands together, steepling his fingers. He stared at his fingers in deep contemplation, willing every ounce of strength from within. He looked past his steepled fingers to the drugged figures of Kirk and his mother. They could not comprehend their surroundings, although for one fleeting moment, Jim's eyes met his. But there was no recognition in the hazel depths and Spock let his own gaze drink in the sight of the one he loved most.

He lowered his head once more, prepared now for the only choice he could make. He felt a fresh wave of strength flow through him -- he would need it for what he was about to attempt. Behind him, he heard T'Pring's erratic breathing as she waited in anticipation for his choice. He closed his eyes and drew a deep breath, knowing these next few seconds might be his last. His choice was made, he had to end the threat to his mother and Jim. "As it was in the dawn of our days, as it is today, as it will be through all tomorrows." His voice was extremely low, barely audible as he stood, unmoving. "I make my choice." He waited for a moment, then swung abruptly around, his hand outstretched.

Caught off guard, T'Pring did not have a chance to move. Spock's flailing hand knocked free the knife she held in her left hand. "No!" she cried with rage, falling back against the wall.

Dizzy, shaking with weakness, Spock stumbled towards her, reaching ... reaching. Through the blurry haze before him, Spock saw T'Pring her hand, saw the small hand phaser she held. Before he could grab her, the phaser went off, the heat from its beam singeing Spock's side as it flashed by him.

From behind, he heard a small gasp as the beam found a victim. He reached for T'Pring's neck and pressed the struggling woman against the wall. His fingers tightened and he felt the snapping of bone as T'Pring sank limply into his arms.

Spock leaned his forehead against the wall for a moment as everything whirled like a dizzying kaleidoscope in his mind. He released T'Pring from his hold and she slumped dead to the ground. Very slowly Spock turned away from the wall.

* * *

The desert of Tu'mat'ran was an incredibly wide expense of land, covered with dark rust sandy soil. In the distance, the mountains of Kla'ee'ta stood majestically against the red-orange sky. Vegetation was scarce, except for a few varieties of cactus and succulent plants.

Spock stood motionless on the sand, his face turned towards the sun, eyes closed. A strong wind ruffled his hair, tugged at the folds of the long ceremonial robe he wore. In each hand he gripped a decorated urn.

He stood for a very long time, unmoving. Finally, his eyes opened. He gazed out over the desert, his brows furrowing in concentration, then glanced down at the urns he held. Muttering a few words in ancient Vulcan, he then whispered something else in English and very slowly, turned the urns over, letting their contents spill out.

Two separate piles of ashes hit the soil and were whisked away by the wind, mixing together as they scattered across the desert. Spock lowered his head as a fresh wave of grief took hold. He fought it -- tensed his body physically against it. Then a hand was suddenly gripping his shoulder: strong, supportive ... comforting. An arm slipped across his back, drawing him close. Spock lifted haunted eyes to Kirk, reaching out to touch his arm in gratitude. He cleared his throat once and spoke. "Fate is sometimes ... too harsh." His voice wavered ... broke. He cleared his throat again, "Yet, my mother's place was always at my father's side, as his place was beside her. She would not have lived without him. By Vulcan law he was her bondmate for life. By Human preference, she loved him beyond death."

Kirk stared at the disappearing tufts of ash with blurry eyes as he nodded numbly. "As I love you," he whispered.

Spock looked at him somberly, then nodded also. "And I, you," he pledged.

Their arms tightened as they drew close in an embrace of comfort and consolation. They held each other for a long moment, then Spock drew back, looked once more across the desert and sighed. "Had T'Pring taken you from me, Jim, it would have been for a short time only. There is no life without you."

Kirk reached for Spock's hand, holding it tightly to still its trembling. The communicator at his belt signaled shrilly in the silence. He reached for it and flipped the grid. It was Scotty. A new assignment had come in from Starfleet. Their presence was needed on board.

Kirk looked up into dark eyes that watched him sadly, trustingly ... lovingly. For a moment Kirk remembered those eyes wide with horror, gazing at Amanda, dead on the cellar floor. Even drugged, Kirk had seen the look of horror soften to relief when Spock had seen that his Captain was uninjured. Fate had ultimately sided with T'Pring. The demand of choice had been met -- one loved one sacrificed over another.

"Jim?" Spock's voice broke him from his contemplation. He re-focused on the Vulcan's face. The lines of stress were still evident, yet not so severe. It would take time to heal Spock's wounds. Kirk was ready to give him all the time in the world.

"It is time to return to the ship," Spock said quietly.

Kirk knew his friend was right. It would be easier aboard ship. Here there were too many memories for Spock, too much pain. Once back on ship, Kirk could help Spock with his grief, with the sadness they both felt. The Enterprise beckoned ... called them home. Whatever ties that existed on Vulcan for both of them were gone now. There was only one constant; they had each other. It was enough to withstand anything fate would throw their way.

Kirk clicked open the communicator once more, alerting Scotty for beam up.

Spock bent to arrange the two burial urns beside each other, let his hand linger for a moment upon them. He stood and took his place beside Kirk.

The transporter beam captured their essence in a twinkling of lights, taking them home.