DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Dee Beetem and is copyright (c) 1983 by Dee Beetem. Originally printed in Masiform-D #13. Rated PG.



The Other Man

Dee Beetem



T'Pau's sedan litter led the marriage party into the home ground of Spock's forefathers. Behind her grandmother, T'Pring followed like a captive marching in procession. The landscape was harsh, desolate, and arid, and the smell of the wind was alkaline. Near her own home there were at least a few trees, and arroyos with water. Spock's land was a claw stretched into the Great Sand Sea.

From time to time T'Pau's sharp eyes scrutinized the bland features of her granddaughter. She had accepted Stonn's presence with cold legality, showing her suspicions and condemnation of the folly of her blood-line. Challenge was often considered, but seldom gone through.

"Perhaps you know better than I do, old woman," thought T'Pring. "But I would trust you more if you counted my well-being as important as the politics of this marriage."

* * *

She had been fidgeting in her room, penned in her chambers by nerves. Should her hair be upswept, combed down ... perhaps eye shadow? Ridiculous; Spock would not care. T'Pring wiped from her finger the lip-shade she had chosen--an exotic pink--and stared at her reflection in the mirror.

When had she begun to think that she was ugly? Hair black instead of blonde, eyes dark instead of light, bony hawk-like face ... Her bondmate did not desire her.

After their betrothal, she had known her playmates' sneers for the first time. "Earther! Spock's an Earther!" She had withdrawn into little girl dignity and Spock had stolidly ignored her.

Just as she began to be interested in her bond-mate, that strange half-alien boy, Spock had left Vulcan, disgraced within his family. More years. Yet more years. In all the time since his departure, he had not message-taped to her, and only sent--how many?--three communications through clan channels. He had nothing to say.

And yet she knew him. The hybrid had his weaknesses, but he was a wonderful telepathic transmitter. From his unconscious mind, she caught patterns and memories when he was relaxed or distracted.

There was the warm autumn night when she looked up to see the harvest moon--but Vulcan has no moon. Or fragments of lytherette music--only broken bits, but sweet. And she knew the twinges of pain caused by his comrades' barely-veiled hostility.

Slowly, very slowly, an image began to permeate her awareness, the image of one who was everything she could not be--laughing eyes, dazzling smile. The one Spock held dear to his heart. His beloved.

Spock had given *all* his loyalties to strangers and to aliens. But he still had to return to her.

Someone knocked diffidently at the door, and T'Pring nearly jumped out of her skin. "Who?" she asked sharply, and was startled by the entrance of her cousin Stonn.

Stonn was struggling for control. Lips tightened, he spoke almost inaudibly. "I have heard ... is it so ... that Spock comes to koon-ut-kali-fee?"

Stiffly, T'Pring displayed the ornate bridal gown, its every brief fold crusted with tradition. "I must be ready when he summons me. Please, cousin, you should not see me now."

He stood before her, young and handsome, fists clenched in outrage. "This cannot be! You are too young--you will be bruised and damaged by the primitive rage and passion of koon-ut-kali-fee. Spock's alien blood demands that which is impossible."

Half-hypnotized, caught in the maze of her thoughts, T'Pring measured the sturdy bulk of her cousin Stonn. She was sorely tempted to lean against his shoulder and take comfort. Instead she sighed. "There is nothing you can do."

Poor Stonn ... he knew little about women. His betrothed had died when they were children, and T'Pau held off rebonding until the right political alliance presented itself. True, the marriage was twenty years too early by modern custom. But in pre-Reform times, girls a cycle younger than she had been dragged to their conquerors' couches and, if legend was true, had suffered no lasting damage.

"There is something I can do," Stonn insisted. "By the ancient laws, T'Pring, I claim thee, I pledge my body against he-who-is-thy-husband." The old warrior receded, leaving Stonn a very nervous, worried young man. "I know how bad this sounds, T'Pring. But you must consider, and if Spock is unbearable, then you must accept my offer. Remember, there *are* things worse than death." His set speech finished, Stonn looked uncomfortably around the room, filled with bridal preparations, and left.

T'Pring threaded T'Pau's antique jewel-chain through her fingers spasmodically. It was impossible; she could not Challenge. To see Spock's blood spattering her cousin's hands, to know Stonn's guilt at killing, to dare Spock's fury. Stonn was an innocent, protective but not passionate. He did not know how complex and dreadful the Bond could be.

Stonn was so proud of his great skill as a gymnast. She wondered if he had offered to fight Spock partly because ... he knew he would win.

* * *

The sound of the bell-banners was maddening. T'Pring shivered, hot and cold, at every pulse of the sound. T'Pau's precise control gave no sign that she ... had ever been a young woman approaching her bridegroom.

Spock waited at the old L-Langon shrine. Eyes wide, T'Pring stared at her husband, disoriented. It was all wrong! He was her warrior ... he should come to her in armor. The mallet Spock grasped struck the gong. Its low, summoning note readied her completely.

Her gaze strayed beyond Spock's figure to the party behind him. The two were dressed in uniform as Spock was, sweating in Vulcan's heat. He had brought humans to their wedding!

T'Pau was speaking, but T'Pring did not care what she said. This time--the time of mating--was not *their* way. Starfleet officers, they would find her marriage one more savage rite on an alien world, the fulfillment of a disgusting instinct.

One more compelling image came to her from Spock's mind, swiftly as a mountain breeze. He, too, found it a disgusting instinct.

"Kah-if-farr!"

"Kali-i-fee!" The words of hatred and challenge were all too ready on her lips. How could she do this? But how could she marry such a man? A voice in her head told her, "I am a murderess."

As the ritual words were spoken, T'Pring found her attention frozen on the shocked faces of Spock's human friends, as they watched this Vulcan nastiness helplessly. She replied curtly to T'Pau's gritty, threatening voice, and then, as she looked deep into the hazel eyes of Spock's captain, she knew!

This was the one Spock loved.

She pulled no understanding, no explanation from any of her memories--only a sickening anger that grew and grew. The emotions of ancient times warred fiercely with the control her culture had forced upon her. Although she stood riveted in place, still T'Pring thought her hatred was so great, that if she touched his mind, Kirk would die. Would die...

Her action was swift and logical. "THIS ONE!" And the blond features that her nightmares knew showed only stupid surprise. Stonn did not understand ... he was trying to argue ... *no, no, my cousin, don't you see? The blood must be on my hands, not on yours. And not Spock's--his!*

Spock was trying to scream. He was rocking back and forth in his effort to speak, but T'Pring knew that speech was beyond him now. Her heart contracted. She had gone far ... very far ... but she did not have to do this. She could back down; it was against custom, but T'Pau would not forbid. Then his words, faint and breathless, hit her like molten needles. "...my friend ... my friend..."

"I will see this finished," T'Pring told herself, composing her face into a death mask. "And no price will be too great."

The battle was swift. She had never before seen combat with the lirpa, the deadly blade that could kill with one stroke. Spock was not the unquestioned master she had anticipated--his delirium made him slow and erratic. But his ... captain ... was trying very hard not to kill him.

Then it was all over. There was not much blood; Spock was victor, and the human lay strangled by the ahn-woon. T'Pring acknowledged that she had hoped it would be this way, although now she was Spock's chattel. He could kill her if he chose.

Out of the corner of her eye she could see the transporter sparkle. The humans, living and dead, were leaving.

T'Pau, whose rigid back expressed an anger she could not--or would not--conceal, grasped T'Pring's hand roughly and gave it into the hand of her owner.

Then T'Pring saw the one thing that could still frighten her. Spock was perfectly composed. "Explain," he demanded, in a fully logical, hatefully unemotional voice.

"Specify," she parried desperately, knowing she could not speak, could not explain. She was his chattel, but she did not have to confess what she knew.

The heat of the Vulcan suns, the firepit, the marriage itself, all left her. T'Pring felt ice-cold and frigid, not composed but blank. She felt the words dribbling out, stilted, fantastic, a bizarre mixture of her playmates' jeers and the jealous words of her sister T'Leriah, who had envied her, consort to a legend.

"Flawlessly logical," Spock said, and then, with a grimace of mockery, he gave her casually to Stonn. After that, Spock said a grave farewell to T'Pau, took out his communicator, and demanded immediate beam-up.

T'Pring had not imagined that he could just ... leave

This time she did lean against Stonn's shoulder, to offer comfort as well as take it. He was stunned; his face showed clearly that he did not know how to deal with such biting contempt.

There were a great many years to come, T'Pring thought. She would heal ... surely she could heal.

THE END

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