Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom. This story is the property of Mzsnaz and is copyright (c) 2005 by Mzsnaz. Rated PG.
In ancient Rome, a red flag was a signal for battle.
* * *
"Sarek, are you sure?"
Amanda Grayson watched as her husband paced in the confines of their comfortable quarters. The fact that he was pacing was disconcerting enough. Of more alarm to her was the nearly feral way he would glance at her, as though the very idea that she was in the same room was excruciating to him.
He had claimed that it was over when he had accepted the mission to Rana 7. Now, at least in Amanda's mind, it had been a dreadful mistake. So far, they had been able to stave off the aftereffects of their first pon farr by staying in their opulent rooms and offering creative excuses to their hosts about 'shuttle lag' and 'possible food intolerances'. Now, the chancellor had demanded that they attend a compulsory meeting. There would be no justification for their absence.
"Sarek?" she softly queried.
"YES, Amanda! I am sure!" the Vulcan raged, even as he tried to stop his piercing words.
She involuntarily jumped at his incensed tone even as she forced back a heated retort. It's not his fault, she reminded herself again. Don't even try to reason with him right now.
"Very well, Sarek," she casually said. "Are you ready to go? They'll be expecting us in about 30 minutes."
He stopped in mid-stride and turned away from her. She knew he wasn't ready. Far from it. Facing the wall, she could see his trembling form struggle to regain control of his labored breathing. Why the effects of the madness had continued worried her, but Sarek was adamant that the crisis was close to resolution. He would restore order to his chaotic mind and body and all would be well.
Exhaling slowly, he cautiously tested his newfound calm. They would attend the meeting, which should last approximately 2.4 hours. Once those assembled dispersed, he and his wife would return to their quarters and ...
Closing his eyes, he felt the surge of longing once again encompass him. Why was his control so complete overrun with yearning? Did they not just undergo the pon farr that should have driven out such intimate, immediate desires?
"My husband, you can't go to the meeting. Not like this," Amanda declared levelly, her voice composed.
"I have to go. We have to go. There are no alternatives."
She kept an unruffled look of control on her face even as she tried to reign in her own swirling emotions. It was growing more difficult, though, as his thoughts were being projected through their marital bond at an alarming rate. The images that were streaming through her mind had absolutely nothing to do with the meeting. By now, she could also feel the growing flames fanning throughout her mind and causing her body to ache with need. Taking in an equally ragged lungful of air, she looked at her husband, his back still to her.
"Sarek, we have less than 30 minutes to ... to do something about ... this."
He was now totally immobile and silent, staring at the wall in the opposite direction from her. In any other circumstance, his moody stubbornness would have been a minor annoyance; however, this wasn't a typical predicament. It was obvious he didn't want to admit defeat over his lost control.
She would have to take matters, quite literally, into her own hands. With an ambiguous sigh, Amanda stood and began to undress. It was the most sensible answer. The day before, she had made the mistake of waiting too long; now, she had to find a discreet tailor or seamstress who wouldn't ask questions about mending a formal gown that had been ripped nearly in two. She didn't want to take two dresses in.
Draping the outer lace covering of the evening dress on the back of a nearby chair, she began to work to remove the silken under sheath. The clasp in the back had given her difficulties earlier, and now she deeply regretted selecting that particular outfit. How to remove it without assistance?
A sharp intake of breath from behind caused her to freeze. Cursing in a very unladylike fashion under her breath, she had only one thought. She had really liked this dress ...
* * *
Outside of the chancellor's chamber hall, the stoic Vulcan Ambassador and his wife waited with a growing crowd of disgruntled assembled diplomats. The meeting had been delayed due to an unexplained power failure in the main power grid of the city. With his tone pitched so that it carried only to his wife, the Ambassador tried once again to get her to speak.
Silence met Sarek's query.
"I am certain that under most circumstances, your plan would have worked," he offered as he continued to keep his voice low. "The clasp obviously malfunctioned, which only stressed my already deteriorating control."
His wife's cool blue eyes graced him with a succinct look.
"I shall buy you another dress," Sarek insisted.
He observed his wife's seemingly nonchalant roll of her eyes skyward.
"No, my husband. You will buy me two dresses. Two!" She pulled her light cloak around her as she shook her head. "Sarek, this is bordering on farcical! What am I supposed to do? Buy breakaway clothing? You have to find out what's wrong!" Her voice hissed at him even as he considered her words.
"Breakaway clothing?" Sarek blinked several times as the image filled his thoughts. Amanda immediately regretted the picture she had just implanted in her husband's mind. Biting her lip to keep from grinning, she instead scowled at him.
"Don't get any ideas," she murmured. "I was joking, but I'm very serious about your finding out about the cause of this lingering ... well, you know. Is this the way a Vulcan woman gets a new wardrobe? I hope not."
"I thought the material would be more resilient than that," he claimed as he considered again the loss of the dress.
"Ruined," she muttered. "You completely ruined a Gyhanaano original. I just want you to know that."
"It was quite aesthetically pleasing, I believe," he said lightly.
"How would you know?" she asked in complete exasperation. "It wasn't on me long enough for you to form an opinion!"
Fortunately for Sarek, at that moment, the bright glow of lights engulfed the hall. With an excited air of anticipation, the crowd pushed forward and soon they were in the hall.
As the crowd milled around the buffet tables and broke off into groups, Amanda noted with great disappointment that Sarek had already been pulled into a political group discussing the trade agreement between Rana 7 and Rana 4. What fun, she thought, trying to keep her best-interested face on. It soon faded as she listened to the droning voices. With a quick nod, she indicated to Sarek that she was going to the outside terraces located nearby. He barely moved his head as he acknowledged her leaving. Taking that as a good sign, she took in a deep breath and, exhaling to remove the remnants of memory from earlier that evening, she exited the hall onto a brightly lit terrace.
The shimmering nighttime view of the Ranian city of Hzanaal was aglow with the soft lights of the low set buildings and the stars above. Relaxing, Amanda leaned against the rail and watched the distant blaze of illumination that came from the shuttle station located near the shoreline of a vast ocean. The occasional streak of light that would originate at ground level and flash upward reminded her that she'd have to pack after the meeting for their return voyage in the morning. Too many distractions, she thought. Too much ...
"This is the city of Hzanaal??? Pathetically small, isn't it?"
Startled by the unexpected baritone voice, Amanda jumped slightly and turned to face the speaker. He was a tall man with a strange, seemingly permanent smirk on his face. He grinned, and her first instinct was that it was time to leave the terrace. Shrugging, she answered the questions with a disinterested tone.
"Hzanaal is one of the oldest cities on Rana 7. Its size is fairly typical for this planet." Smiling an apology, she continued. "If you'll excuse me, I believe I'm needed inside."
"No, he doesn't need you right now," the man said with a shrewd look. "I'm just here for the history part, anyway."
Perplexed, Amanda turned back to the man.
"What are you talking about?" she asked. "Of whom are you speaking? And what history part?"
"Questions, questions... You know what I'm talking about, Mandy." The man dramatically waggled his eyebrows. "He's sated for the moment, but those thoughts! My, my ... I would have believed that a Vulcan wouldn't think such things. I'd assume they would be contemplating the universe, or reasoning out mathematical theorems, or some such. You have really ruined him, just as he ruined those two gowns."
She listened with horrified recognition. How did this stranger know such personal information?
"My name is Amanda, not Mandy," she said, her tone indicating she wasn't amused in the least. "I'm going inside. I wish I could say that it was a pleasure." Ignoring his slack jawed expression, she turned and began to stride toward the entrance; but somehow, the man was once again standing in front of her.
"Not so fast, Mandy," he smoothly said as she blinked in surprise and stood still. "Aren't you wondering why I know so much?"
"Obviously, you're a pervert," she concluded as indignation blazed in her blue eyes. "You overheard a very private conversation. If you'll excuse me..." She tried to walk around the man, but once again he was in front of her.
"All I have to do is scream," she threatened, "and Security will have you in custody so fast it will make your head spin."
"Oh, Mandy! I'm standing on the edge of time ... walked away when love was mine..."
The off pitch singing was too much. She shook her head and, frustrated, crossed her arms and tapped her right foot on the terrace cobblestone.
"Would you please leave me alone?" she implored as the man's warbling continued. "And as for your 'singing', you should keep your day job ... whatever that might be. I'm going inside. Don't try to stop me."
"Mandy, you're right," he agreed with a smirk. "I'm not interested in trying to stop you. I just want to understand and appreciate you, that's all." His eyes slowly traveled up her body, causing her to question just what he wanted to appreciate.
"What is that supposed to mean?" Amanda asked as she glared at the man.
"Understand your devotion to Mr. Bland," he offered as explanation. "Hmm. You know, I have reconsidered that ... I believe I'll call him Mr. Personality from now on. He's clearly developed one since meeting you. Brava, ma Cherie. I didn't think he had it in him. Or, should I say, I didn't think you'd have it in you." The slight emphasis on the word 'it' caused her to blush furiously.
"You are the most repulsive person I've ever had the misfortune to meet," she growled as she swept past the man. "Don't you ever speak to me again." Once again, before she could take more than a few steps, her path to the entrance of the hall was blocked.
"Move out of my way..." she said, anger bubbling to the surface.
"Oh! You're right. I didn't introduce myself, did I? I am Q." The man bowed deeply with a mocking flourish of his hands.
"Move out of my way, Q." Amanda was now shaking with anger. Q seemed delighted.
"Oh, Mandy! You're such a spitfire! I love it!" Q was nearly giddy as he continued. "I absolutely adore angry blue-eyed brunettes ... or is it upset blue-eyed redheads? I can never keep that straight. You really need to relax, though. I don't want to disrupt history, after all." Judging from his sardonic tone, Amanda had the impression that he could care less about history.
"Relax?" she inquired, curiosity quelling a bit of her aggravation. "What exactly is that supposed to mean? What historic event is supposed to happen that you don't want to disrupt?"
In a flash of light, a chronometer appeared on Q's wrist. She started at the shocking appearance of the chrono and took a slow step away from the person she had assumed was human. He examined it closely, and then turned his suddenly studious gaze to her.
"Ummm. Not yet ... wait ... wait for it ... ."
"What are we waiting for?" she asked as she stared at the being. "And who ... or what ... are you?"
"Not yet ... wait ... THERE!" Q said in a satisfied manner. "Congratulations, ma Cherie. You just made history."
Now certain that she was dealing with a madman, she humored him with a cautious half-smile.
"Yes, I see. Well, I must be going now."
"Don't you know what just happened?" he said, shocked by her ignorance. "Oh, that's right! You humans are so out of touch with your physical selves that you wouldn't even notice the spark of new life if it ... oh ... just hit you in the uterus."
As the dawning realization of what Q said stirred through her, she closed her eyes as the painful truth was revealed. He was just a superficial, malicious monster.
"Oh, so now you're trying to tell me that I just conceived?" She swallowed hard and forced herself to go on. "That's not funny at all, Q. It's a very delicate topic for me, and I detest you even more than before for making light of it."
Surprised, Q stepped back as he realized that the human was tearing up. The sneer that automatically emerged in such situations fell into place, but he wasn't sure what to say.
"Oh, come on, stop that," he ordered. "Don't cry. I'm telling you the truth. Aren't you elated? It's the only reason I'm here ... that, and the fact that I don't understand your interest in Mr. Personality."
"It's not interest. It's love."
A loud, choking sound filled the terrace as Q sputtered with laughter.
"LOVE? The L word?" he asked as he shook with laughter. "That's rich! Tell me you're not serious! Tell me you don't think he, a Vulcan, feels that way, too!"
"I love him, Q, and yes, I do believe that he loves me, too."
Falling to the cobblestone, Q clasped his middle as he guffawed.
"Oh, Mandy! This has been the best laugh I've had in centuries!" he wheezed out. "Oh, you poor, deluded thing! He doesn't love you! Isn't it evident in the way he has used you these past few weeks? He's just like any human male in that respect. He's only interested in one thing, and it starts with an 's' and ends with an 'x'."
"That's not true," Amanda maintained as she glared down at the hysterical being. "Sarek can't control the biological realities of Vulcan life any more than I could be pregnant because you say so."
"I'm not just saying so ... I know." Q rolled onto his side and looked up at her. "As an omnipotent being, I have the inside track on everything, even the moderately interesting blips in history like the first Human/Vulcan conception ever."
"I'm not pregnant."
"If that's what you want."
His unblinking stare was eerily devoid of life as an uncomfortable hush surrounded them.
Suddenly anxious, Amanda unconsciously brushed her hand over her abdomen. Was it possible? Every doctor and scientist she'd talked to had said it would be out of the question for such a conception to occur. They wouldn't even give her the odds since it was impossible. Was Q just callously toying with her? An alarming flash of insight occurred to her as she considered the significance of what she was about to say. If Q was right, she didn't dare infuriate him. The silence grew as the being in front of her waited for a response.
"For the moment, I'll accept what you've said," she quietly replied. "Please don't do anything to change the situation."
"Tsk, tsk. Only minutes into existence, and he's already a mama's boy."
This is preposterous, she thought, even as Q's words warmed her heart. A boy? Sarek would be so pleased ...
"Oh, geesh!" Q raged as he buried his head into his crossed arms on the ground. "Mandy, not everything revolves around Mr. Personality, you know! Stop thinking about him! You are so obsessed! I might become physically ill if you don't stop drooling over him."
"I don't drool over him," she argued as Q pushed himself up.
"That's right!" he said stridently as he dusted off his clothes. "You llllooooovvvvveeee him, and he lllooooovvvvveeeesss you! So, how many times a day does Mr. Personality tell you that he loves you? Ten? Fifty?"
"He doesn't actually say it, but ... "
"Wait. This just gets better and better." Q sidled up to her and put an unappreciated arm around her shoulder. "Let me get this straight. He loves you? I know that he fawns over you, and he has those meticulously complex fantasies about you, which I really enjoy, by the way." He again waggled his eyebrows. "It's a Vulcan's attention to detail that's just so lacking in the average human erotic daydream... Getting back to the subject. So, he has never, ever actually said that he loves you? That is just so pitiful!"
"He doesn't need to say it. I feel it," she insisted.
"Feel it? Oh, please. This you can feel." His arm tightened slightly around her shoulder even as she tried to pull away. A smarmy look plastered his face as he felt her struggle to get away. "Yes, Mandy. This is the feeling that a Vulcan has for you. It's all physical. It's all about what you can do for him."
"Let go of me, or I'll scream," Amanda whispered, her manner hostile to the unwanted contact.
"That's sounds a lot like what you said to Mr. Personality earlier. I could paraphrase ... "
"That's it, Q!" she cried as her face contorted in fury. "I'm leaving this terrace and I don't want to ever see or hear from you again! EVER!"
Q's grip on her didn't lessen. He only pulled her closer and continued to taunt her.
"You don't tell me what to do!" he hissed into her ear. "Listen here, Mandy. I just want you to acknowledge the truth. He will never say that he loves you, not even now that you're going to have his child. You can do whatever you think will make him say it, but he won't. So, get those pretty little illusions out of your head. Your entire life is going to be one of heartbreak and misery, and it's all because of your misguided belief that a Vulcan can experience and understand love."
"You're wrong," she said, her tone resolute. "I'm not misguided, and I don't expect him to say it."
"Liar, liar, pants on fire! You do expect him to!" Q chuckled as he felt the tremble in her slight form. "Oh, this is just too precious! I must keep tabs on your progress. You won't mind, will you? Why am I asking? It really doesn't matter if you approve or not. Watching your little hopes and dreams get shot down by the ones you love will be just too compelling for me to miss."
Releasing her, he frowned as she took several quick steps toward the entrance of the hall.
"Mandy, don't tell me you're crying again," he said with no show of compassion. "I know how emotional pregnant women are, and everyone knows how emotional you are to begin with, but please try to contain yourself when you're around me."
Facing the entryway, Amanda cut her eyes back toward the omnipotent presence.
"Q, I have a favor to ask. If..." She reconsidered her words. "Since you have said that I'm pregnant, I want you to leave this child alone. No contact whatsoever. You can check my progress and bother me if that amuses you, but that's it. Only me. Agreed?"
"No contact with 'little boy blue'? Not even a courtesy call?"
At first crestfallen, Q suddenly brightened. "Fine, I won't contact him."
Narrowing her eyes, Amanda felt that there was something in his words that she was missing, but she couldn't put her finger on it.
"Q, when I say no contact, that means he is to have no knowledge of you at all. No tricks."
"I'm not into tricks, Mandy," he insisted as he plastered a phony smile on his lips. "I won't contact him. Have fun in your failure, ma Cherie. I feel sorry for you. I truly do. Adieu."
He disappeared in a flash of light.
Entering the hall, Amanda was surprised to see Sarek striding across the room toward her. It was unheard of for him to leave a discussion early, unless ... She grimaced. Oh, no ... not again.
"Amanda, are you well?"
His words took her off guard as she tried to determine his state of mind. He appeared calm and normal, which was a relief after the chaos of the past few weeks. There were no stray thoughts snaking through her consciousness. There was nothing but the comfort of their bond. Smiling, she nodded.
"Yes, I'm fine," she said. "What about you?"
Knowing exactly what she was talking about, he almost imperceptibly shrugged.
"Do not misunderstand me, Amanda, but the desire has passed."
"I'll try not to take that the wrong way," she joked lightly even as her smile faded. "Why do you want to know if I'm well?"
"Earlier, I sensed a certain increased level of tension in you," Sarek explained. "I know that these past few weeks have been somewhat difficult. You are not still upset over the gowns?"
Giggling, she shook her head as her smile grew.
"No, Sarek, I'm not upset over that anymore." As they walked back toward the chancellor, she suddenly continued. "And, we may want to wait on purchasing any replacements for those outfits. At least until we get back to Vulcan."
Sarek wondered at the mysterious statement and look that his wife gave him. A most pleased, yet secretive look, indeed.