DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Johanna Cantor and is copyright (c) 1981 by Johanna Cantor. This story is Rated NC-17. Originally printed in R&R #13. This is the sequel to "Home Leave".
by Johanna Cantor
Meridian -- the sun was directly overhead. But its rays could not penetrate the rocks that sheltered the small oasis and Spock slept on. His was the profound sleep of exhaustion. Need had driven him beyond bearing. But need had been met and met so fully that now he could sleep, for once in his life unaware even of the passage of time.
His body, somehow, knew. Time passed; the time returned. Spock shifted uneasily, sensing danger. Somewhere in the shadows a beast was taking form. His disquiet increased. He could sense the beast now and knew he was its prey. It prowled the darkness; there was no defense.
He curled into a protective ball, but at that moment the fever beast sprang -- and had him. Huge jaws clamped at his spine, eased off, gripped again...
Spock writhed and the instinctive escape movement jarred him, sending a jolt of pain that brought him to himself cruelly, but so quickly that no sound escaped a throat set to scream. Spock opened his eyes and sighed in relief. Waking had returned him to the light and he was safe. What pursued him was only the reproductive drive of the Vulcan male. He need not fear that. He need never fear it again.
Casually, only to double check, he turned toward the sound of light breathing. T'Pan was sitting at the edge of the warded area, hands placed for meditation. He watched her, letting the sight of her please his eyes, but he resolved not to disturb her. There was no bond to make her aware of his need, and it was not etiquette to interrupt meditation. Besides, surely he would be able to control now.
He willed his body to relax -- to no effect. Humiliated by this private failure, he opened his hand to take a grip on the sand under their tarp, resolving at least to endure until it was time, and this time, to maintain silence.
//Foolish,// T'Pan had scolded, when first she'd sensed his chagrin. //"Then Sruma filled the canyon with roaring, and the cries of Silon were heard in the--"//
//Wife, I must sound like a scalded pup!// he'd communicated savagely.
//So proud! Wouldst be better than our fathers?//
She'd laughed at his intensity and gathered him to her for consolation. //It is permitted,// she'd absolved him gravely. //Besides, thee is not the only one making noise.// That had truly comforted and it comforted him now as he watched her. T'Pan's face was calm: hers was a well-schooled mind. yet somehow its force remained in harmony with a generosity, a capacity for giving -- and receiving -- that he had never before sensed in a woman. Perhaps she was not as unique as she seemed to him. Perhaps he'd simply never allowed himself to be aware, until necessity had once again stripped him, leaving him naked, undefended... He shuddered. But the harshness came to all, he reminded himself. It was part of being Vulcan.
And how fortunate he had been. He had expected only pain -- a physical mating whose only comfort would have been its ending. Instead, he had found....
Spock suppressed a gasp and turned away. It was better not to think what he had found. He must concentrate on gathering strength; the heaviness of his body warned him that he would not rest again soon. Strength would return as need increased, he assured himself. He would relax, and gather--
Ai! His body seemed to thrum in angry rejoinder. How it was Spock who must obey, until his debt to his race was paid in full! Fever began to rise, making him lightheaded, threatening his grasp on the light. He longed to call T'Pan, but pride dictated silence. Think of something else, he told himself. The thrumming intensified; the unreasoning panic of the time began to take hold. Impossible to think of anything else! There was no bond to comfort him; suddenly, though the time for witnessing was past, he longed for a friend to hold his hand. Sarek! Jim... Bones...! Only, did humans have any conception...!
Sometimes, he thought. All right. If he couldn't think of anything else, perhaps he could at least focus on a related area. Problem: Do humans experience necessity? Data available...
He had rather avoided collecting such data. But he remembered a very young, very intoxicated midshipman swearing, white-faced, that he couldn't beam up yet. Spock had had to help the security team restrain the boy, and the odd groan he had given as his problem unexpectedly solved itself had not sounded like pleasure. And sometimes Jim ... even Jim. Spock remembered him canceling a chess game, explaining with unappreciated frankness that he was going to beam down and not come back until he'd gotten his rocks off...
Rocks off... Suddenly the odd expression was all too vivid. Spock's hands clutched the tarp, gripping involuntarily. Little moans seemed to rise in his throat; he shut his jaw against them, his mind groping for comforts. Remember now that thy heaviness is seed... Out of thy travail will come children... But any child born of this torment would not be his. Unless T'Pan... T'Pan! Patience. Endure. It is not long. Soon... Not soon enough. Blackness hovered. It would close again. Just as it had... A tiny moan of despair escaped him.
"My poor friend!" T'Pan's voice was suddenly close. "I thought thee asleep!" Arms came around him, pulling his body to a familiar shelter; then he was where he had to be, his heavy system supported with a velvet strength. T'Pan established a light meld and gasped. He tried to ask forgiveness, but she hushed him, supporting his mind and body with her own, comforting, and reassuring. //Never try to endure alone, Husband!// she reproached. //It is not expected. There. Never mind. Thee will be better soon.//
//No. I should not have slept.//
//Hush. It is not long. There is nothing to fear.//
//I am not afraid.// It was true. Even waking alone on the tarp, he had not been afraid. He would have what he must have; he knew that now. If only the blackness would not close around him. If only he could maintain some corner of control, of sanity... Her body moved under his; he cried out, then swore at himself.
//Hush.// But her mind was sheltering and he knew that she was not reproving his noise, but only his illogical wish to maintain silence. //Let be what must be.//
What must be. //T'Pan! Wife!//
T'Pan sensed an overpowering need; terror vibrated in her mind. //Thy promise! Spock! Thy oath!//
//No! *Let* me!// The contact with the woman pledged to him was heightening need unendurably. He gathered his strength, no longer knowing anything but the need to pledge, to join, to be one--
//No!// T'Pan broke the mindlink. Spock gave an imploring moan, reaching out to her, but she shielded against his touch, and he fell into the gathering darkness that closed around him.
T'Pan held Spock close, profoundly troubled. Everything in her rebelled against what she was doing. But he was thrusting violently now. Release would come and he would be better. It did, but he could not stop. T'Pan gasped in alarm. Then, cruelly, but efficiently, she dug into him. If that didn't work... But Spock was arching again, screaming. It should not be long now. She sensed that he was reaching for her frantically, desperate to join with her, to do what instinct told him he must do. She shut him out and he gave a strangled sound, half supplication, half protest. An iron fist raised and she put her hands up to defend herself. But Spock deflected the blows himself, pounding the sand in his urge to batter her into submission, but somehow, even now, managing to rein in that instinct.
A male in the plak tow and still he could control. T'Pan felt her respect for this man growing, even as he began to sob. "Thee has courage, my husband," she murmured aloud, hoping the sound of her voice would help him. "Poor brave one. Thee will be better soon. This will ease. I know thee cannot think now. But I must have a mind to the future. Duty is clear. T'In must have the child; vow is a vow. Besides, what of thee? Now thee can think of nothing but the need; no man could. But once light returns to thy mind, thee may regret even my pledge. I must leave thee free, Spock. I must! But thee has what thee must have. Thee shall have what thee must have. Always ... always..."
It seemed a long time before he could ease. But at last he lay quiet, only nuzzling her neck in a mixture of gratitude and desire. Very cautiously she touched his mind again. //Spock?//
//Wife.// He was better. But she must be sure.
She felt reluctance flood him, but he assented. //I remember.// So. It was safe. She took him well into her mind for cool and comfort. //Wife!// He sighed. //Oh, Wife, I need thee so.//
//Sh. Thee has me. Now. Always. Thine. All. Always...// The words of her pledge echoed in their minds and T'Pan gave a little cry. Spock lifted his head quickly to look at her, and she saw him smile. Then he began to move in her, very slowly, very gently. His need had eased; for a moment she questioned, surprised. Then she understood that he meant to serve her.
//No,// she protested dutifully. //Rest.//
//Hush.// His fingers sought her breast, but his own body was in the way. He gave a grunt of annoyance, then withdrew, holding her hand to keep in contact. Fingers, then lips sought her sensitive places and they both laughed as she wriggled, enjoying the tickling that was so much more than teasing. Spock's caresses slowed and lingered. His body nudged and suddenly T'Pan could no longer bear an emptiness that seemed to pervade her. Spock entered and her pain eased, but her body demanded more than this.
Very carefully, so as to cause no pain, her hands sought his back. This was what she wanted and his seed began to gather in obedience to her caresses. Spock concentrated on her sensations, thinking of how his body completed hers, filling, providing... T'Pan's eyes dreamed, luxuriating in their shared responses. Spock knew an impulse to complete the bond; now he could do as he would. But as quickly as the thought formed he rejected it, reassuring her. He would do nothing without her consent. Only, bond or no bond, he was hers. Only hers. Need gathered and he gave a tiny cry, but in that moment T'Pan's whole being seemed to claim him. //Mine,// mind and body stated together. //Mine. Now.// Her body cried out with the command and Spock's arched in obedience. //All,// she demanded and he arched once more. Then they were still.
T'Pan's head was spinning: she shook it. Her mind cleared, and she realized that the dirtiness was Spock's. Alarmed, she monitored his condition. "Thee should not be so tired!" she exclaimed aloud.
Spock caught the tinge of guilt and shook his head. "It is the human factor," he murmured.
"Not--" T'Pan pushed him away, getting up.
"T'Pan!" he implored, catching her hand.
He was frightened! T'Pan arched a brow in reproach, but smi led. "A moment," she said. She was back in less and she settled him in her lap, making him drink a little, accept a vitalizer, then a gentle rub. "There," she consoled. "This is what thee needs."
"No." He looked up into her face. "Thee. Only thee."
"Thee has me," she smiled. "Now, and always." His eyes closed. T'Pan waited a moment. "It seems," she reproached mildly, "that I must teach thee to trust, dear friend."
He colored, controlled his reaction, and took a deep breath. "No."
Bur it was true, she realized suddenly. And after all he'd been given reason enough. She began to stroke his forehead, murmuring the ancient words of her pledge. Spock sighed, smiling a little sheepishly at his enjoyment of her attentions. Then, quite suddenly, he was asleep again.
T'Pan pulled back cautiously and settled him on the tarp. She covered him, then lay down next to him, making sure their bodies touched. He must not lie awake, enduring in silence, without her knowing, ever again. Of course, no sensible man.... But she must learn to accept such illogic from this man of hers. There was so much to learn, so many strange things to accept....
Spock turned in his sleep, snuggling closer, his erection hard against her leg. She cupped her hand under the smooth roundness, feeling an absurd impulse to keep it warm. It was pleasant to think that contraction had not even begun. He would be hers for days and days, until....
Until. A cold apprehension settled on her chest; she pushed it aside. No one could command the future, if they bonded-- But they must not bond. Her duty now was clear, whatever the future might bring. If Spock wished to bond, once he was rational and all obligations were met, she would permit -- with what joy, he must not now be allowed to know. If not, at least he could never reproach her for entrapping him. Her status.... For a moment T'Pan wondered, as she could not help wondering, if she had done a foolish thing. Perhaps. Certainly, even at best, life with this strange one would be far from easy. But somehow, at some level deeper than logic, she felt sure that she had made the correct decision. Somehow, she was certain that the span of a lifetime would not be long enough, to value such a friend.
* * *
Amanda studied Sarek speculatively as he read. It had been two days now, and the longer there was no word, the more eased he seemed. But his wife was expiring of curiosity! "Sarek?" she asked meekly. He looked up. How far could she go without embarrassing him into silence? "Sarek, you do think Spock is all right?" Concerned mother, that should work.
"Of course, Wife. We would have heard if he--"
"It wouldn't be the first time he hasn't wanted to worry us."
Sarek paused fractionally at that, but shook his head. "No. Not in the time. He would call for a father's support. And if he did not, T'Pan would. He is not in difficulty." He returned to his screen.
Amanda glowered. "I don't suppose he's comfortable yet."
Sarek froze momentarily. "By now the worst should be past."
That had been a mistake. She went to him to touch him reassuringly and for a moment his hand clung to hers. He'd been perfectly white when he'd finally returned from acting as witness. And all night long, as she dozed fitfully, she'd been aware of the patterned breathing of meditation, until finally she'd said to hell wi th her private noninterference directive, and hugged him tight. "I know he was grateful for your witnessing. But now--"
"I only know that they have not returned, my wife. I spoke with T'In not an hour ago."
"What does she think of this?"
"I doubt she is pleased. But her main concern will be the child."
"Spock and T'Pan might marry."
Damn. "Sarek, what will happen if they marry?"
"Oh." Sarek tended to forget that there were areas of Vulcan custom with which Amanda was not familiar. "It is a moot point. Spock waived all claim to issue in agreeing to seed the house. But if he and T'Pan marry he surely will not consent to having no say in the rearing of their child. If T'In..." He broke off, listening. "An aircar."
"Coming here!" Sarek ran; Amanda charged after him, and caught sight of the craft. "It's Spock!"
"I can't! Oh Lord! Sarek, go to him. I'll join you in just a few minutes. But--"
"Thee is wise, my wife. If--" Sarek stopped tactfully. But Amanda could supply the rest. If Spock was already upset, perhaps even in fever, his mother's agitation could only harm him. She fled. But it was only minutes before Sarek called to her. "Wife!" Sarek was actually showing excitement. "He has brought T'Pan! He asks permission to enter the house."
"To enter the house?"
"It is a formality," he explained impatiently. "He is asking our consent to a -- to their -- to some--"
"Oh never mind!" Amanda ran for the doorway. Sarek caught her, and for a moment iron hands held her still. Amanda understood and breathed quietly, calming down. "All right," she said. Sarek released her, and they walked sedately to the door.
"Thee wishes to speak, my son?"
"Yes, Father. I wish to bring T'Pan to our house. Thee will permit?"
"Most willingly, my son. Enter, T'Pan. Be welcome."
T'Pan acknowledged with formal gratitude, but her eyes searched Amanda's face. Amanda saw their anxious question. "Oh, my dear!" she cried, and rushed to embrace her friend.
It was hardly the traditional welcome, but it reassured Spock as nothing else could have. His knees buckled out of sheer relief, and he clung to Sarek's quickly preferred arm. "Allow me," Sarek whispered, and he put his arm around his son, supporting him, guiding Spock's head to rest on his shoulder. His hand seemed to move of its own accord; he established a light meld. Relief... gratitude... well being. But also discomfort, fatigue... //Has it been difficult, my son?//
//No. Oh, no. It is only...traveling. The aircar--//
//It is not designed for the comfort of a tumescent. I see.// He was tempted to hold the meld, to help Spock block the discomfort. But T'Pan was standing very near. He took a moment to impart strength and broke the contact.
"He is weary," T'Pan said, taking Spock from him gently. "Would you be kind enough to call a healer tomorrow? I would like to be sure that his exhaustion is not due to some problem."
"Of course we will summon a healer, Daughter. But will thee not honor me by using the family form?"
She colored. "We are not bonded."
Sarek stared; Spock put a protective arm around her. "I will explain." But he was leaning on T'Pan.
"No. Tomorrow." Sarek held Spock's eyes with his own for a moment. "Whatever you both decide. Whatever you both think best." He put his arm around his reeling son and guided him up to his room.
* * *
Amanda paced; even Vulcan ears could not catch the sound of bare feet on a carpet. What the hell could the three of them be doing? Twenty minutes. Twenty-five. At last!
Sarek activated the door behind him and came to her imnediately. "Spock sleeps. He required support. Without a bond--" he stopped abruptly.
"I know. But they could bond. What--"
"I do not know. But believe they returned so early in order to explain their plans to us, my wife. As soon as Spock has rested--"
"I see." Amanda thought it over. "I think he wants her, Sarek. The way he was holding on to her--"
"Oh Sarek! Do you suppose she won't have him? Oh--"
"No. When she went to him and took his hand, she looked at him as if--" Sarek broke off, embarrassed to be speaking of such things. Then he saw that his wife was coming to him, understanding in her eyes, and he swept her into a hard hug. Emotionalism. Control. He set his mind to regaining tranquility; but his arms kept their hold for a few moments. "Wife, will thee stand with me? Courtesy requires that I call T'In."
"She will not be pleased," he warned. "I suggest that we deflect any questions about their status. If she knows they are not bonded, she may command T'Pan to return."
"Oh, Spock would be invited to accompany her. That would be understood. And his needs at this time would be of concern to T'In. But I believe Spock will ... be more comfortable here." Amanda slipped her hand under his arm as they walked to the console.
* * *
Spock woke before dawn, knowing need. But it was so much easier that he was able to stretch and even turn over, luxuriating in the sight of his own room, the softness of a bed. T'Pan slept still; it was good to hear her regular breathing. He lolled, content, until he could no longer be comfortable. He turned toward T'Pan, and at that moment she stirred, smiling, her legs opening as though to admit him. But she was still asleep. Spock smothered a laugh. She was dreaming! She had to be. And she was dreaming of him! Her lips smiled because she was thinking of the feel of him between invitingly parted legs, probing, entering... He controlled himself. T'Pan could command his release now; it seemed even his body had learned to trust that the command would come. It was good to pleasure her, concentrating on her wanting, sometimes even holding back, just a little, to tantalize them both. Then would come the moment when they knew themselves, male and female, two halves of one whole. When that happened, they seemed to flower in a ecstasy of joining, both needing, both giving, until they floated, content, knowing that everything was as it should be, that this had been ordained for them since the beginning of time...
T'Pan was moving now, still smiling in her dream. She would wake soon, wanting him. And he would be there. He would pleasure her until her eyes shone, imploring him to go into her. He would tilt her up, rubbing gently, until he could feel the very--
Spock gasped involuntarily, but shook his head, setting himself to regain control. It was hard, now, to believe that he had ever let urgency drive him so harshly, instead of willing his body to tune to hers... He touched his wife and she woke. "T'Pan." He loved to say her name. Her arms reached for him and he gathered her to him. "I greet thee, Wife," he said politely.
"Something?" No, it was wrong to tease her. He put aside the pretense of not hungering as she hungered and caressed her, fingers, then lips fondling each breast, fingers trailing gently down...
It was a plea. He got to his knees slowly, savoring his control. Her eyes feasted on the sight of him; instinctively he turned to display the proud swellings... The last thing in the galaxy he'd ever thought to be proud of! He shook with silent laughter and T'Pan laughed too, anticipating delight.
* * *
"Spock? T'Pan? Is it permitted?"
Sarek's whisper was barely audible. T'Pan knew an impulse not to answer. If he heard no response, he would go away, leaving her to bask in the soft afternoon light. But she was awake. It would be discourteous...
"A moment?" she called politely. Spock stirred and she gave him a swift caress as she reached for a cover to throw over him. She got her robe from the wardrobe, brushed her hair back, and went to the door.
"I beg forgiveness," Sarek said politely. "It is--" He stopped, staring at her, then quickly looked away. "It is the healer," Sarek went on. "Is it convenient?"
She turned to Spock. He sat up, nodding. "It is not necessary," he said. "But if a healer has already made the trip, it would be--" He broke off, his eyes widening.
Sarek nodded. "It is Sepek. Be prepared, my son."
"I hear my father." He rose, draped in the cover, and went quickly to the fresher.
"T'Pan," Sarek said softly. "T'Pan--" But what he wanted to say could be said only to a daughter; outside the family form, the words simply did not exist.
T'Pan blushed, but she met his eyes bravely. "I would be honored." Her voice trembled; she firmed it, putting shyness aside. "I would be honored to be called Daughter."
"Daughter." He held out his hands in the parental manner, and she touched them. "Daughter, I rejoice."
Sarek stood in the hallway for several minutes after she closed the door, trying to assimilate what he had seen. Then he turned and almost ran back to Amanda, who sat conversing with Sepek. He grabbed her hand, shot a brief apology to the healer, and pulled her out into the garden. Sepek looked after them in some surprise, then rose and philosophically poured himself another cup of tea. A healer must be prepared for such vagaries.
"Sarek!" Amanda gasped. "What on--"
"Amanda! " he whispered. "T'Pan is ripe!"
"Ripe?" she squawked.
"Sh!" he begged, shocked at hearing the word spoken. Then he recovered himself. "I beg forgiveness, my wife. But that is one of the--"
"--things that are not spoken of," she finished with him in unison. "But please, explain."
Sarek put his lips to her ear, then hesitated, trying to find words. "She is...."
"Ripe." Amanda mused in a safe undertone. "Oh, Sarek, pregnant?"
"No. It is ovulation. But more than that. It is-- she is... Amanda! He must be pleasuring her!"
He took a hasty step away, then back to her. "I must apologize to Sepek."
"Yes," she managed. "Yes. Go." He almost bounded away, still big with suppressed drama. Amanda waited until the doors activated. Then she sat down and laughed until her ribs ached.
* * *
T'Pan picked up her brush, then turned on the blowers to hasten the drying. She must not take too long. But Spock was so comfortable that this had seemed the perfect opportunity to wash her hair. Later she might not have the time. Or the inclination. She hummed happily as she brushed it dry, then she pinned it back and dressed. Sepek would want to examine Spock in private.
Spock was sitting on the bed in his robe. He looked up quickly as she walked in, then looked away. Suddenly alarmed, she spoke sharply. "What is it?" No answer. She hurried over to him. He was tense with some agitation; his body shuddered involuntarily at her touch. "What is it?" No answer. She reached to meld.
"No!" Spock exclaimed. He pulled away and walked out of reach, turning his back to her.
T'Pan stared at him, wounded. How could he...? Emotionalism. Control. She calmed herself. "May I know what troubles thee?" No answer. "I would help." He shook his head. "Please.'' She touched his arm.
Spock whirled at her touch and pulled her close, holding hard. T'Pan reached to join, but encountered his shields.
"Please," he whispered.
Please what? He was not in need. If he would not explain, or let her perceive what troubled him, what could he possibly want from her? She knew an impulse to push him away; it seemed almost obscene to stand so close in a physical intimacy when he would not permit... She reached for him again; again he deflected her. She broke the mind contact, considering. She could break through; she was far stronger now. But she had no right. "Spock?"
He only tightened his arms. Somehow she knew he was imploring her to underrtand. To let him hold her. She put her arms around him and stood quietly. He was working toward something -- some goal, perhaps. That was to the good. But why reject her? Use her? "Canst tell me, Husband? I wish to help."
"Thee is helping," he mumbled.
She shook her head. But as they stood together, she sensed him begin to calm. She worked to conquer her agitation, putting anger aside, and reached to join very lightly, only enough to impart calm, lending energy. This was accepted with gratitude, and she felt a little better.
Spock pulled away, taking a deep, bracing breath. He went to the door, activated it, and called. "Sepek?"
The healer walked in. Spock faced him resolutely. Sepek greeted him, then hesitated, waiting for Spock to present T'Pan as his wife. T'Pan excused herself and hurried out, more flustered than she could remember ever being. She wanted to pace -- no, to scream in anger and outrage. She sought the most concealed spot in the garden and sat down, to achieve calm.
* * *
Sepek looked after the hurrying woman, somewhat at a loss. He turned to Spock, a question on his face, but then his healer's instincts took over. "Thee has pain?"
Apparently Spock meant to leave it at that. Sepek took his arm. "Lie down." He felt the tension of his friend's control as he pushed him toward the bed. "Has it been difficult, Spock?"
"Then what troubles thee?"
"Tell me." He made it an order.
"It is not--" He choked. "It is nothing that is a difficulty now."
"I see." Sepek thought it over. "But that is not true, is it, Spock? Memories can be very much of the present." Spock was silent. "The cause is sufficient, my friend." He reached for Spock's temples. "Let me help."
* * *
"Madam." T'Pan just managed not to whirl. She sat quietly as Sepek came toward her, scanner at ready. Sepek examined his readings, noting the slightly elevated temperature and bowed. "Felicitations, Madam."
She could not give the proper response. "Spock?"
A lifted eyebrow was quickly lowered. "He sleeps. I believe you will find him more comfortable."
"He let you -- you melded with him?"
Sepek's surprise at the unorthodox question was admirably controlled. "Yes, Madam. You will find his disquiet eased, believe. Oh. One possible problem. When contraction begins, you will find that he fears pain. This might cause difficulty. I have assured him that there is no reason to anticipate discomfort. If you can reassure him also--" She bowed understanding. Sepek bowed in farewell, and left.
T'Pan remained, alone with bitter thoughts. Spock had melded with Sepek, allowing a healer to calm him. The healer had given him sleep. Her attempts -- rejected! She had tried to help. Begged him! Tears stung her eyes; it took all her concentration to control them.
"T'Pan?" It was Amanda. T'Pan's first impulse was to hide; her second was to run to her friend and sob out her woe. She controlled both and stood. "Yes, Amanda?"
"It's Tony Rinaldi -- he's calling from the lab. This is his fifth call today. I thought you might--" She stopped, studying T'Pan, then quickly averted her eyes. "I'll tell him you can't be disturbed."
"No. Thank you. No, I will speak with him." Amanda showed her to the console. T'Pan braced herself and punched to receive.
"T'Pan? T'Pan!" The Human's words seemed to boil out. "Finally! Goddamit, woman, it's good to see you! But when are you coming back? You said two days, and it's been..." T'Pan tried to stem the tide, as the door activated behind her.
* * *
Spock woke to need and groaned in weariness. But it was not harsh. Once relieved, he would soon sleep again. His hand searched and found only the smooth bedsheet.
Spock sat up abruptly. The fresher? No. Somewhere nearby, then. Undoubtedly Sepek had told her that her husband slept. Still, she would not go far.
The minutes dragged by, apprehension added to mounting need making them slower and slower. He whimpered her name and checked himself sternly. His mind was reaching, almost screaming. But there was no bond to draw her to him. If she would only permit their bond, he thought resentfully, she would be with him, drawn to him, feeling need even as he felt if. "T'Pan?"
He got up and made his way to the door. The house was silent. A frightened cry rose in his throat; he suppressed it and forced himself to think. Sarek and Amanda had an engagement this evening. But surely T'Pan... He crept down the hall, staying close to the wall. "T'Pan?"
Silence. He set his jaw and started dawn the stairs. Each step increased the weight of his burden. But he saw a light -- the communication room! He ran and activated the door.
"T'Pan, damn it--!" A man's voice! Spock growled silently. How dare a man speak her name? Swear at her! Talk as though he had some right--
"Tony!" T'Pan was pleading. Spock's eyes blazed; he stalked over. "Tony, please don't upset yourself. As soon as I'm ... finished here, we'll talk it over. All right?"
"No, it's not all--!" Spock's hand snaked out and cut the connection. He stood glowering. The console signaled an incoming call -- Rinaldi again, no doubt. He brought his fists together and smashed it.
"Spock!" T'Pan was gazing at the crushed plastic in horror. Spock looked down at her and a pain that had nothing to do with physiology struck through him. What a fool he had been! He grasped her wrist and pulled her to her feet. "Spock," she tried to smile, "I thought thee asleep. I will come at once." He nodded curtly. He had served her, as agreed. Now he had his rights. He started to the door, but his ear heard no following step. He whirled.
T'Pan was standing by the console, hands pressed to her temples, trying to calm herself. Brace herself! She looked up at him, and suddenly he saw himself through her eyes: A male. No! Another male! Another male she must serve, provide for with her body. Another? That was intolerable. She would serve him and him alone! He crossed to grab her wrist, to pull her after him.
"Spock--" she protested. He whirled and slapped her. Her white, shocked face was a silent reproach, but he turned again, pulling her along. The stairs -- he set his jaw and mounted the risers. Need lashed, but he continued inexorably. There was a time. There was a place. Patience, he told his body. Patience. The hallway. His room.
"Now," he told her. He did not meet her eyes; why should he? He had nothing to reproach himself with. A child she had wanted. A child she should have. She owed him for that. Once the debt was paid, they would be quits.
T'Pan undressed quickly and got into bed. Good. She understood what she owed him. He entered her brutally, melding only with the shallowest contact; her being did not interest him. He began to move, to appease need, and she moved with him, serving. He closed his eyes, bracing himself. She reached but now it was he who shielded. He would bear his pain alone, with pride, as he always had. The unshared release almost shattered him, but he made no sound.
His body was still; need was past. He could be grateful for that. Contraction should begin any time now. Sepek said it wouldn't hurt. Spock knew better, but the pain would be welcome. Spock pushed himself up and climbed out of bed, shaking his robe down.
Courtesy demanded response. "Thank you." He started toward the door.
"Spock!" He did not turn or even hesitate. T'Pan stared at him; then suddenly a fury she had never experienced welled up in her. She jumped out of bed and ran to get between him and the door. "Thee shall not leave like this. Spock! What--"
"Excuse me." He might have been talking to a stranger on the walkway.
"No!" He took her shoulders and moved her aside. It was the last straw. T'Pan grabbed him by a hold he could not bear to break and held tight. The pain of her grip drained the color from his face; he stood, immobilized. She watched him, pleased at the pallor, and drew a triumphant breath. Finally he met her eyes. "T'Pan--" he began and stopped.
Well, that was some progress. "Thee," she stated evenly, "shall sit down. In that chair. And thee shall swear not to leave it without my permission."
It took him a few tries, but he got it out. "I swear."
She released him. He took a shuddering breath, then pulled his robe to erase the outlines of her grip. "Sit down." Heobeyed. She went for her own robe, moved a chair over for herself and sat down.
His eyes were closed; she saw he was trying to calm himself. She leaned back, following his example, and for some time there was silence. Finally she heard him stir. She opened her eyes and found Spock eyeing her. She managed a smile.
Spock gave a little sigh of relief. "Savage," he reproached. She had only to cock an eyebrow and he shook his head imnediately. "I regret my behavior."
"A tumescent must be forgiven."
He shook his head. "There can be no excuse for such actions. To strike, in anger--"
"Thee was in fever. That I can understand."
"That is generous. Thank you." He closed his eyes.
T'Pan jumped then controlled herself to speak very steadily. "It will be proper for thee to use the family form, Spock."
"I am honored," he replied mechanically. Then his face twisted in pain. "I had thought..." But justice was clear. "No. I have no claim on you, T'Pan. No right to--"
Only the misery in his voice eased the pain of what she was hearing. But if he was miserable... "Spock!" He looked at her with a bewilderment that shocked her. "Spock, hast forgotten? I am thine! Sworn to thee!" His astonished gaze did not waver. Her heart seemed to sink. "If thee regrets this now, I am sorry. But--"
"T'Pan!" Eager eyes seemed to spotlight her face. She tried to meet his look, but her eyes dropped before the combination of hope and fear she saw in his. "T'Pan, is it not thee who regrets?"
"Regrets?" She said it like a foreign word, and Spock's eyes widened even further. "No, dear friend. How would I regret?" Spock spread his arms with a little cry and she burrowed into them.
* * *
"Wife?" T'Pan came to herself with a jerk, wondering how long they had sat thus. "Wife, may I rise?"
"My poor friend! Forgive me!" She scrambled off his lap and helped him stand and he sighed in relief. She steered him to the bed and set to work, rubbing away all discomfort. Spock stretched luxuriously, then reached to pull her down beside him. "Rest, Husband."
"Husband," he repeated. "T'Pan, I want so much to be thy husband. To have thee. Forever. T'Pan !"
"Hush. Thee has me. Now. Always."
"T'Pan, let me pledge!" Tears sprang to her eyes, and she almost nodded.
"I am not irrational. I am not even in need! Let me bond."
"We must wait."
"Hush," she soothed him. She reached to feel his back. He had spoken the truth; he was not in need. The knowledge warmed her, and she shook her head at her own emotionalism. "Spock, calm thyself. We will talk."
"I know why," he whispered harshly, disregarding her instructions. "It is Rinaldi!"
"Tony?" He was so far from the mark that she could only gaze in surprise.
A bitter smile twisted his mouth. She gasped. "Oh, make no reproach," he rasped. "You told me before the mating. The fault is mine. I ... forgot!"
"Spock!" She took his shoulders and shock him violently. "Thee cannot possibly think--" His eyes met hers and she realized that he could think... "No," she said baldly.
"Truth. We are colleagues. Friends. And yes, as I told thee, we have had sexual congress. Often. But it is--" She hesitated and her color heightened. "Spock, with Tony it is like -- like this afternoon. Serving, perhaps helping, but only in body." She forced her embarrassment down and met his eyes. "That is why today, when spoke with him, I told him our sexual relationship must end. That I would not--" Her voice put quotes around the words."--'have dinner with him.' Tonight, or ever again." Spock swept her into an iron embrace.
She let him hold her until he began to ease. Then she touched his cheek, very lightly, as though to meld. "This afternoon?"
He colored. "I beg--"
"You let Sepek help. Why not me?" He pulled away; she grabbed him, holding his face to lock gazes. "Why?"
"Sepek ... knows... T'Pan, let me go." She let go, giving him space, and he closed his eyes for a moment. "I do not wish to show thee."
"Then tell me."
He sat up, folding his arms over his knees, not looking at her. "Sepek was ... I told thee. T'Pring."
"Oh!" She reached for his hand; he held hers tightly.
"Sepek was blade bearer. Afterward, he was my healer, during..." He choked.
"Dear friend," T'Pan said sympathetically, understanding now.
Spock was silent for a long rime. He kept a tight grip on her hand, but he calmed himself without assistance. Gradually his color returned. And when he spoke, it was to speak only of them. "It is not Rinaldi?" She shook her head, a glint of mischief in her eyes. "Then why will thee not consent to a bond?"
"The child. T'In can have the child. If only..."
"Spock." He looked at her, setting himself to listen carefully. "Spock, we did discuss this." He shook his head. Well, he had hardly been in a rational state. "I wish to remain on Vulcan. For now. And thee--" She managed a smile. "Thee must roam the stars, dear friend. Thee belongs on the Enterprise. All Vulcan knows that!"
"Come with me!"
"One day perhaps I shall. But..." She stopped, hoping he would understand. But she saw only noncomprehension. Her heart sank again: "I do not mean to put my interests ahead of thine, Husband," she acknowledged formally. "But my project is--"
His eyes lighted suddenly. "In the fifth generation."
"Yes. It will be at least five years before we have even preliminary results. Spock, I began this project four years ago. I planned it for two years before that! I cannot-- I beg thee will not ask me to--"
Agitation was rising uncontrollably. He took her hand, signaling for calm. "But, Wife," he protested mildly. "How should I put my interests ahead of thine?" T'Pan closed her eyes against grateful tears.
* * *
Spock waited outside the birth center, using every resource to command calm. T'Pan was quite sure she was pregnant; at some level, he was certain too. But only the tests would tell. And what of the alien components? If his child endangered her health...! Control, he admonished. Truly he was not yet himself. If there were any danger, they would remove the fetus. Even a generation ago Amanda had survived, as had he. What Sel had accomplished in an isolated lab on Tenedos could not be difficult for the ShiKahr Birth Center.
The door opened; he rose quickly. T'Pan was alone and he hurried to her. Her face told him and he returned her smile. "Three," she whispered triumphantly. "T'Ria, Katholia, and I. Thank thee, dear friend."
"Thee is all right?"
"Normal pregnancy," she nodded. She turned and instinctively he reached for her arm. An astonished look told him that his sudden solicitude was as unappreciated as it was unexpected; he dropped his hand.
The hurt she law for just a moment quelled T'Pan's urge to laugh at him. She tried to think of what to say, but the door to the center opened again and her family came out. T'In was glaring at them. T'Pan took Spock's arm, human fashion, and they walked toward the other women. "One day I shall walk behind thee," she promised, "in the position of trust."
The hurt disappeared. "There is no one I would rather have at my back," he whispered. They looked up; T'In's face as she watched them was grim and set.
"Oh, dear," T'Pan whispered. "Perhaps I had best guard thy back now!"
His chuckle was almost audible. "That will not be necessary." He released her and she went to T'In, reaching for the parental touch. T'In's face softened. She held T'Pan a moment, but she looked directly at Spock. "I thank you," she said.
Spock bowed, appreciating what that had cost this proud, bitter woman. He could not think what to say, but T'Pan came back to him, taking his arm again, and the awkward moment passed. T'In turned, leading them to the hangar and Spock followed, only taking advantage of the turned backs to put his arm around his wife to be.