DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. This story is the creation and property of Lois Welling and is copyright (c) 1981 by Lois Welling. Originally printed in R&R #14.



Ambassador's Lady

Lois Welling



NOTE: Many years after leaving Starfleet, Spock, now an ambassador, and married to T'Pru, mother of his several children, met Genessa Marlow, a young Human doctor. History repeated itself, and this couple lived happily together for nearly eighty years. After their deaths Genessa's granddaughter, Anne, traveled to Vulcan as stipulated in Genessa's will, to return Spock's lytherette to his family. On Vulcan, she met Spock's son, Sannen. History repeated itself once again and the couple married shortly before Sannen took up his new duties as part of the diplomatic team sent to the newly demilitarized Razor's Edge. Anne thought the life of a diplomat's wife would be glamorous and exciting. Instead, she found herself hiding out in a roach-infested room while they waited out a bushfire revolution. Finally rescued, she insisted that Sannen leave the diplomatic corps. He refused, and she packed.

* * *

"I choose to work for the Federation," Sannen told her. "I explained that earlier. This work has meaning for me. If you will just give yourself a few weeks to regain..."

"Few weeks!"

"Our marriage is not worth that much time?"

"That's not fair. I can't even talk to you. You won't understand my side of this. I'm leaving now, before this ship leaves orbit."

"No. You will not go anywhere in your state."

"Watch me," she said while stuffing her nightgown into the tote. She put the strap on her shoulder, turned just in time to see her husband walk over and lock the door.

Her anger burst into rage. "You can't do that!" she screamed. "You have no right!"

"Is there no way we can discuss this rationally?"

"Not as long as I'm locked in here!"

"Anne..."

"No!" she was shaking with fury.

He unlocked the door.

Anne grabbed the tote bag just as the ship gave a tell-tale lurch. It was leaving orbit. Somehow during their argument Anne had missed the warning chimes, now it was too late. She was trapped. Frustration welled up in her as she twisted around and flung the tote. It flew across the room and hit the wall with a thud. She sank into the nearest chair, suddenly drained now that her anger was spent.

From his position next to the door, Sannen had silently watched her actions. When she remained seated, he moved toward her. She stood and stepped out of his path. "Order some wine, will you please? I'd like some after my shower." With that she disappeared into the bathroom.

When she emerged there was wine and cheese waiting. Neither spoke as they ate. Anne consumed most of the wine while Sannen drank tea. After the tray was removed, Sannen said, "Perhaps now we can talk."

"No. I'm in no mood. I'm going to sleep for two days, then we'll be at Vulcan. We'll take care of matters there."

"Then?"

"Then, we'll talk."

* * *

As Anne stuffed the last of their belongings into the tote, Sannen answered a knock at the door. A grim-faced captain greeted them. "Something Is wrong," Sannen said, stating the obvious.

"Yes, sir. There surely is." He did not attempt to conceal his uneasiness. "I have been contacted by Vulcan port authorities. Now, according to my earlier information, you and your wife were returning to Vulcan because of an illness in the family."

"That is correct." Anne recognized Sannen's ambassadorial tone.

"Well, I'm afraid it's not that simple. This involves more than just your family. I don't understand how it happened, but it seems that there's a mutated influenza virus running rampant on Vulcan. It's spreading out from the port city."

"Port city? About our shuttle, we are to be..."

The captain shook his head. "There will be no shuttle. The city is virtually closed. Seventy- five percent of the population is sick with this thing. We diverted to Vulcan fourteen hours ago. Our ETA is..."

"Why was I not informed?"

"I saw no reason to tell you until necessary... There is a continent-wide state of emergency in effect since this virus hit. It's spreading like..."

"How can that be?" Anne asked in confusion. "I thought Vulcans could heal themselves."

"I had heard the same thing," the captain interjected.

"Injuries, yes," Sannen answered, "except serious ones of the brain, also native infections and viruses. Such things as allergies are almost unknown, but unfortunately when a new disease descends upon us, we are unprepared..."

"I don't understand," Anne interrupted.

"To defend the body, the brain requires information. This necessitates a certain amount of time."

"...And if the virus is fast enough, you're sick before the brain can act to defend the body."

"Precisely."

"Well," the captain said, "they have a vaccine now and the Federation has nonVulcanoid teams covering the planet..."

"NonVulcanoid. This virus attacks only copper-based blood types?"

"That seen to be the case." He emphasized his next words. "And they have the planet under quarantine."

"Quarantine," Sannen repeated.

"Yes, sir. That's what I've been trying to get at. You will not be allowed to go home. Authorities are detaining incoming natives at the port. Individuals without good reasons for being there are being refused landing privileges. Natives who must go planetside are given the vaccine, but there's a five day waiting..."

"Five days? My family.. .certainly there must be..."

The room's intercom beeped. "Captain Woller, respond please."

The captain flipped on the switch. "Woller here. Go ahead."

"I have located a member of the ambassador's family as you requested, sir."

"Very good. Connect up, please."

The video screen flashed to life and they were looking at a Vulcan male in his teens. "Sian." Sannen stepped forward.

"Grandfather." The boy stood straighter.

"You are alone?"

"Yes, sir. Everyone else is too ill."

"Everyone?"

"Yes. Some more severe than others..."

"Who is caring for them?"

"I am, and those less ill."

"How is it that you escaped the virus?"

"I was away with my fellow students. When it was learned what happened, we were kept isolated until the vaccine was developed."

Anne moved closer to her husband. "He can't possibly manage with a household that large." The warning bells chimed. "We are making orbit," the captain added needlessly. "Will you be going planetside?"

"We will," Sannen emphasized.

"Then I will see you both in the transporter room in 15 minutes. Good day, sir, ma'am -- and good luck." With that he left.

Sannen returned his attention to the young Vulcan on the screen. "Sian, is there any way to circumvent this quarantine?"

"Not legally, sir."

Anne watched his shoulders tense. "I will see what can be done. Until then, you will have to carry on as you have been. Anne and I will be there as soon..."

"Oh, no, Sannen. Just you. I m going with him. He needs help and there is no reason for me to be quarantined. I can't catch..."

"You would do that?"

The hurt showed in her eyes. "You have to ask?"

His eyes stayed locked with hers for another instant, then he returned his attention to the screen. "Sian, Anne will accompany you and aid you in caring for the family. Except for a few greetings, she does not speak Vulcan. I expect you to be available to interpret, answer questions and explain that which she finds unfamiliar."

"Yes, sir... Also, I have taken care of that matter as you instructed In your spacegram."

"Matter? Oh, yes. The facility is operational?"

"Yes sir."

"Facility?" Anne interrupted.

He glanced in her direction. "I shall explain later." Then back to the screen. "Sian, I shall contact you every day and, if there is any emergency, you are to let me know immediately. If any other items occur to me, I shall send instructions with Anne. Until we are reunited, be well."

"Yes, sir, and you also." The screen went dark.

"Tell me about this 'facility'," Anne said the instant the image faded.

"Anne, as long as you are at my family home, you will not be able to use the toilets..."

"What?" Her head came up with a jerk.

"Human waste is different from Vulcan..." He was using his lecturer's tone.

"I know that. But we've been using the same toilet all this time -- and when I visited Vulcan..."

"Those facilities were not designed to reprocess the waste. At Na'Sar we have a reprocessing system, as do most Vulcan estates."

Anne suppressed a giggle. A shit factory! Leave it to the Vulcans! "What'll I use?" she asked when she was sure she would not laugh.

"I have had Sian prepare the stall that Amanda used when..."

"Stall! Where is it?" Terrible visions flashed through her mind.

"In the common bath area."

"Not in the main house near the bedrooms?"

"There is running water only in the kitchen and bath area of the house."

"You have to be joking?"

"You must remember that the building of Na'Sar was begun over six centuries ago."

"I don't care. Didn't you people ever hear of modernization?"

"Na'Sar has undergone changes many times. One of the most recent was to install updated computerized equipment in the kitchen and laundry area. The family finds the arrangements suitable."

"Are you telling me that Amanda spent all her years on Vulcan trekking off to some bath house?"

"No. She had a bathroom installed, but after she died -- it was removed..."

"By whom?" Human eyes met Vulcan. "Never mind, I know."

* * *

Because of the nature of the situation, Anne was processed through customs without delay. She then went with Sannen to the quarantine area. There she tried to absorb an instant course on the virus, its symptoms and treatment. Sannen gave her last minute instruction and after a formal, embraceless farewell he was gone and Anne could do nothing but be on her way. She spotted the young Vulcan waiting in the deserted terminal and hurried toward him. They exchanged awkward greetings then he asked about luggage.

"Lost most of it on Razor's Edge. I left Sannen our one bag. He'll need it for his things. What I have is in here." She handed him her rolled up jacket. A small medicine case fell out of her clutch purse. "Oh, nuts," she said, bending to retrieve the container, "can't lose these little goodies."

The outer door of the atmosphere controlled terminal opened and Vulcan hit Anne full in the face. Even though it was twilight, the temperature was well over 100F. Instantly her clothes stuck to her and the stronger gravity pressed in on her chest. She trudged along beside Sian and let out a sigh of relief when he started the ground car and activated the cooler. She leaned back and tried not to think of how she and this boy were going to care for a house full of sick Vulcans.

They parked in a large landing area surrounded by what Anne took to be storage domes for the vehicles. "This way," Sian said, leading her towards a gate in the high wall. Inside was a huge courtyard surrounded on three sides by house.

Sian began to run and Anne looked ahead to where he was heading. Then she was running too. There on the ground, on her hands and knees, was a woman digging in the dirt. Next to her was a naked child. Sian dropped down beside her. "Aunt T'Manda?

"The fever consumes him," she said, not looking up from her task. The boy began helping her dig.

Anne stopped beside them. "Sian, what is she doing?"

"The child burns with fever. She digs for cool, moist soil to pack around him in hopes of lowering his temperature. It is an ancient..."

Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Anne grabbed the child and the woman cried in anguish. "There's a much better way to do that," she said by way of explanation. The woman quieted. "Sian, water. Where's water?"

"Kitchen."

Anne ran to where he had pointed while Sian and the mother followed. "Lights!" She heard a hand hit the switch. Anne's eyes flashed around the dining area.

"There." Sian was pointing again as he half dragged his sick kinswoman.

The far wall was the cooking area and Anne ran towards it. The exertion made her dizzy and her heart was pounding, but the intense heat of the small body in her arms spurred her on. She grabbed the first large pan she saw and dropped it into a sink. It clattered loudly and the child jerked. She began filling it with tepid water. By now Sian and the mother were behind her. "Sian, put this..." she surveyed the room, "there, on one of those tables." Water sloshed as he hurried to move the pan. Anne placed the child into the pan and began scooping water over his body, knowing the anxious mother was watching her every move.

"This will bring the same results -- only faster."

"Yes, water," T'Manda said gasping. "I did not think ... how ethnocentric we are." She began to shake and Sian helped her into a chair.

"Lord," Anne said out loud when she realized that the mother was in no better condition than the child. She should be in bed, but Anne knew that she would never leave her child. "Sian, lay her down here and get something wet to wrap around her -- a cloth from a table." When this was done Anne asked, "How many others might be in the same condition?"

His wide eyes met hers. "I do not know!"

"Better go and check." Her thoughts were running wild as she continued to scoop water over the child. We can't care for people if they're all over this big house. We'll bring them here. "Sian," she called just before he went through the door, "before you go, push those tables back against the wall. We'll bring everyone here, it's the only way. And what do we have for them to lie on? When Sannen took me to the desert, we had sleeping bags."

"Yes," he called while shoving tables. "1 shall bring them."

"And blankets," she called after him.

While he was gone Anne poured more water over the child and his mother. As she did so, she stared at the two sick individuals. The woman was T'Manda, Sannen's youngest daughter and the baby was Spock named after the man that Genessa had spent so many years with. They were both so pale.

The door opened and Sian and a somewhat older male came in carrying a very old female. There was no doubt in Anne's mind that she was Sannen's mother. They were followed by a couple with a girl about 8 years of age. When the old woman was down on a floor pallet and covered with a wet blanket, the two assisted the others. When these three were cared for, the two males left only to return with more sick people. As they placed a male next to T'Manda, it was obvious to Anne that the one with Sian was using every bit of his strength to keep going. They continued their trips until there were fifteen people on the floor, then the male helping Sian became the sixteenth.

Spock's temperature was down, so Anne removed him from the water and placed him next to his mother. "Sian, the next thing we need to do is get some liquid into these people. And I need a baby bottle. But before we start, show me where that special 'facility' is."

Time lost all meaning for Anne as she and Sian moved from pallet to pallet coaxing down liquids, feeding crushed ice to those who refused to drink, wetting blankets, holding pans for vomit and helping those who could walk to the bathroom which was located just across the hall from the kitchen. When they finished one round, they began again.

During a quiet period Anne dozed off, then woke with a start at some noise. She knew that Sian had not slept so she dragged herself to her feet and joined him.

At some time it registered in Anne's mind that the light in the room was from the sun and not the overheads. Day had come without her notice.

When they had finished yet another round and all was quiet, Sian said, "You should rest now. I will bring food."

"You don't have to say that twice." They sat together at one of the tables against the wall. They had tea, thick soup and a crusty bread. His ebony eyes watched her. "Why do you keep looking at me like that?"

"What was that you just swallowed?"

"Just a pill. They give them to all incoming humans. Keeps you going until your body can compensate for the differences in gravity."

"I know about them. You are to take one per day."

"So..." Anne said, feeling intimidated.

"I observed you taking one several hours ago."

"That was yesterday's. This one is for today." She avoided his eyes.

"Misuse of those pills can..."

"Oh, now don't start lecturing me. You'll remind me of your grandfather and besides, we have too much to do. Tell me, what kind of light soup or cereal might they keep down?"

Using the computer they programed a thin broth and it stayed with most of the family members or sickies as Anne had begun to call them in her mind. But the young girl and the male next to T'Manda couldn't keep anything down.

Her head kept nodding as Anne sat on the floor feeding the baby. She looked over at his mother and their eyes met. "Hello." It was all Anne's fuzzy mind could think to say.

"Hello, Anne, and praise upon you for your help."

"You know who I am?"

"Sian told me, also that Father is in quarantine. How is he?"

"Down with a mild case of this virus, but I did speak with him this morning. He'll be here in a few days."

Spock had finished eating and Anne laid him next to his mother. "He'll sleep now. How about you? Could you sit at the table and eat some soup?"

"Yes, please." She turned her attention to her husband. "Steen seems to have been more severely affected than I."

"Yes. We're keeping a close watch on him and the girl."

"T'Loren, yes." T'Manda shook her head. "We have been most concerned. She has never been well. But come. I take your time when you have many to care for."

"Well, hello there," Anne said looking into T'Loren's lifeless eyes. "I'm Anne."

"Peace, and welcome," she responded. "I am T'Loren. Are you a healer come to help?"

"No. I'm your grandfather's ... wife."

"Oh." For an instant there was a spark of life in her eyes. "Is Grandfather here?"

"Not yet. He's been detained at the port, but he'll be here as soon as he can."

The girl watched intently as Anne continued the bathing. "Grandfather spoke to me of you before he left."

"He did? How interesting. Will you tell me what he said?"

"He...he..." She began gasping for breath.

"You can tell me later, T Loran. Stay quiet now."

* * *

Anne searched her clutch purse. Then, becoming panicky, she dumped the contents onto the table. They're not here! My God, I've lost them! Slow down, think! Where did you last have them? Right here! she answered herself. I keep the container in my purse and only take out one at a time. And they're gone -- why that little rat! "Sian!" She went running to the laundry room. "Give them back!"

He looked at her, but said nothing.

"I said, give them back! Who do you think you are, going through my purse?"

"You will make yourself ill."

"And you think that justifies your actions?"

"Yes."

"Well, it doesn't! Sian, I need those pills to stay on my feet."

"The possibility of damage to..."

"I won't be taking them that long. By day after tomorrow we'll be through the worst of this. I have no intention of harming myself. It's just that there is no other way right now. You know you can't handle this alone."

"Grandfather said I was responsible..."

"He didn't mean this! Besides, I'm sick and tired of you Vulcans thinking you're the only adults In the whole galaxy. No one is responsible for me, except me!"

He reached Into his pocket.

* * *

Anne knelt beside T'Loren as the child retched, her whole body Jerking with each spasm. On either side lay her parents, both too sick and weak to help her now. But they were keeping down the water and broth, as was everyone except this child and the male next to T'Manda. Anne thought his name was Steen. People are puking on me and I don't even know their names, and they're so sick they don't even care. Anne was so tired that her muscles were quivering. I need another pill, she told herself. When T'Loren had finished she fell into a fitful sleep. Anne cleaned away the mess and bathed her. Then with Sian to help, she made her a fresh pallet. No sooner had they finished than the male started.

They repeated their actions for Steen and he too settled into that fitful sleep. Since everyone else was resting, Anne used the quiet period to catch her breath. She grabbed something to eat, then splashed some cold water on her face. She longed to shower and wash her hair, but there wasn't time. Any extra time was spent on the ever-growing pile of laundry. Soiled items were placed in one end of the auto-clean and removed clean and fresh-smelling at the other. Anne was so grateful for this piece of modern equipment that she patted it lovingly every time she got close.

By late afternoon Anne was frantic and her voice revealed the emotion. "Sian, get on the intercom and contact the nearest hospital. Tell them we've got two who can't even keep water down. We need something intravenous, slap/packs will do. Tell then you'll go immediately. We need them fast."

Sian returned with a supply of slap/packs but no new instructions. The doctors had nothing to add to what they were doing. Once the virus took hold there was nothing to do except treat the symptoms. "The hospitals are exceeding their capacity; they have people on floor pallets too." Sian handed her the packs. Anne removed the wrapper and peeled off the protective covering from the membrane before placing the packet against T'Loren's thigh. The moisture and nutrients would now absorb through the skin. Sian did the same for Steen.

* * *

Anne lay on her pallet trying to rest. There was nowhere her body did not ache. She had tried to eat, but found she had no appetite. It's the pills, and you know it. Soon, probably tomorrow afternoon, they'll lose their effectiveness and I'll have to sleep them off. But by then most of these people will be able to help themselves. Most were able to sit at the table long enough to eat and could go to the bathroom unaided. Even Steen and T'Loren had not vomited since the slap/packs had been applied. This cut down on the laundry, further decreasing the work load. We're going to make it, Anne thought, not too tired to be pleased by the fact.

Unable to find a comfortable position on the floor, she sat up and leaned against the wall. Everyone was lying quietly, except T'Pru. She was struggling to her feet. Anne gritted her teeth and went to help. This was the first time she would face her mother-in-law when the woman was awake and alert. "Let me help."

"I can manage," T'Pru said, ignoring Anne's outstretched arm. "You need not concern yourself with me."

Stung by the remark Anne snapped, "That wasn't your attitude when you were throwing up all over yourself -- and me."

"We could have managed without your..."

"Grandmother," T'Manda said, pushing herself into a sitting position. "You did not see. That simply is not the case. I know that without Anne's quick thinking, Spock would be dead." She picked up the child and held him close. "Also, Steen and T'Loren require much attention."

Ignoring Anne, T'Pru turned to her granddaughter. "Then, for the others, I am grateful, but for myself -- it would have been better had I not lived to see that woman's descendent here, in my home." She turned slowly and one foot at a time, shuffled out of the room.

As Anne watched, she knew the strength and control it was taking for T'Pru to remain on her feet. She'll outlive us all.

"Anne," T'Manda said when T'Pru was gone. "Do not allow her words..."

"You don't have to apologize for her. Sannen warned me that she'd be hostile."

* * *

Their arms loaded with clean laundry, Anne and Sian were on their way to the dining room. Sian stopped in front of Anne. "Something is wrong." He began running and Anne followed. As they got near the door they could hear moaning. An uncanny sight greeted them: everyone on the floor tossing, turning, crying out, reaching out their arms.

"My God, what's happening?"

"T'Loren!" Sian set down his armload while Anne dropped hers and both ran to the child. "Convulsions! I will call for help." He ran out of the room as Anne dropped to her knees and tried to remember her first aid training. Put something soft into the mouth so she doesn't bite her tongue, Anne recited to herself. She scrambled to the laundry pile on the floor and grabbed a face cloth. Rolling it tightly she stretched it across the child's mouth. Then there was nothing else to do but sit and watch.

"Why are they all like this?" she blurted out as soon as he returned.

"The telepathy. Because of the illness, she cannot control and they cannot block."

All were reaching in T'Loren's direction and from either side her parents were fighting to touch their child. Sian gave their hands direction and with the physical contact all motion except T'Loren's was stilled.

"They know what's wrong?" He nodded. "She's dying, isn't she?" Anne's voice was barely audible. "We sit here and do nothing while she dies."

"There is nothing more we can do. Physicians are on their way."

There was a final violent spasm, then she was still. The two sprang Into action. Sian applied heart massage while Arne did the breathing. After several minutes, he stopped. "It is no use."

"NO! We can't stop," she said between breaths.

He took hold of her arm. "T'Loren is dead."

"No!" Anne grabbed the child and held her tightly. "No. No. No." She kept repeating the word.

"...No, no, no..." Anne sat on her knees, the child pressed to her breast. She was rocking back and forth.

"Anne. Anne." A hand touched her shoulder. She raised her head and found herself gazing into dark intense eyes. Her foggy mind told her that she had not seen this face before, yet it seemed vaguely familiar. But she knew that these keen eyes had not stared up at her from the dining room floor, she would have noticed , and remembered.

"Are...you...the...healer?" she asked, her words disjointed.

"No," he replied, his deep voice almost a whisper. "I am Sajon, Sian's father."

Anne looked at him with blank eyes. "Where did you come from?"

"The space port. I have been in quarantine with my father, but I arrived there two days earlier."

"...Oh, how is Sannen?"

"Most anxious to be here... Anne, about T'Loren..."

Anne looked at the child pressed against her breast, then back at Sajon. "She's dead, you know." Her voice cracked. "I couldn't help it. I tried..."

"I know you did. Sian has told me. Everything has been done. No one could have saved her. T'Loren had many problems, it was not just her heart..."

Anne's face showed no hint of comprehension. "Maybe, if I had..."

Sajon continued. "T'Loren has never been well. It was not expected that she would reach adulthood. The heart problem was genetic and operable in adulthood, but..."

"...What am I going to tell them?" she asked, glancing at T'Loren's parents.

"You will not have to tell them anything. They already know. Anne, look at them, they are at rest. T'Kara and Sagen were linked with their daughter when she died, sharing the last moments, making them easier."

Anne continued to rock.

"You must release T'Loren. Her body has been donated to research, so that others may benefit."

"Research?"

"Yes. Sian has called. Soon someone will come to claim..."

"No! What will I tell T'Kara and Sagen? They'll wake up and want to see her. They'll ask me..." Sian had returned in time to hear Anne's words. Father and son exchanged looks. "I do not seem to be able to convince her that T'Kara and Sagen would want this done. Time is short, we may have to take her..."

"Perhaps a link," Sian interjected.

Sajon stared at his son. "You would agree to participate?"

"If it will be of help... I could join Sagen to..."

"Why Sagen? T'Kara is the stronger .telepath."

"Yes, the two females. Will we require permission?"

"I think not, under these circumstances."

Anne continued to rock as Sian placed his hands on her temple. After several minutes he removed his hands and they waited.

Anne stopped rocking and laid the child on her pallet. "The spirit of T'Loren is gone -- let the temporal body be taken in hopes that others might not suffer as she has." She recited the words in a voice not her own, then shook her head.

"You do understand?" Sajon asked. Anne nodded. "We can take her, then?"

"Yes, but not like this. She must be clean. I will wash and dress her. Sian, will you get something of hers -- a favorite dress and a blanket to wrap her in?"

Sian went to fetch the items and Anne started to get up. "I must get fresh water."

"No," Sajon said. "You stay. I shall go." He returned with clean water and linen. Silently they washed the body.

Sian returned with a moss-colored dress and a blanket of a deeper green. "I brought her brush -- for her hair. She always brushed her hair..."

When things were to Anne's satisfaction, she allowed Sajon to carry T'Loren. She and Sian walked on either side as they went to the landing pad where a small air car waited. Two dark-robed figures accepted the body from Sajon.

The air car lifted off the ground and the three watched until it disappeared over the horizon. Sajon broke the silence. "Sian, I believe we have just witnessed a Human pass through a mourning period."

"Not quite," Anne said, her voice cracking. "Next is the tears." They began rolling down her face.

"You do not have time for tears now. There are others who need you."

If Sian's voice had been harsh, Sajon's was more so. "Sian, you will control..."

"No," Anne said, not wanting to be the cause of an argument between Sannen's kin. "He's right. I'll have to cry later, when there's time." She wiped her eyes and began walking faster. After a few steps she stopped and the tears came.

"Sian, go back to the others, I will stay with Anne."

"I'm sorry," she sobbed, "but she was just a child."

"Do not apologize. We all mourn her passing, Vulcans simply cry unshed tears." He put a supportive arm around her while she cried.

* * *

The three were preparing supper when Anne almost dropped a tray loaded with bowls of soup. She felt herself going rubbery from the legs up. Sajon was at her side. Voice quivering, she said, "This is it. The pills are catching up with me. You'll ... have ... to take ... o-v-e-r..." The last thing she felt were two strong arms slipping around her.

Anne woke and struggled to her feet with one destination in mind. As she weaved around the floor pallets, Sajon was there. "You should not be up."

"Nature calls. I'll be fine. The others need..." Her legs gave way. He helped her there and then back to her floor pallet.

"You are doubly cursed for helping us," he said, pulling a blanket over her. "First for having to consume those pills to remain alert and again as they dissipate from your system."

"It's all right," she said, closing her eyes.

* * *

"Anne. Anne." She opened her eyes in response to Sajon's voice. "I should like you to stay awake for a short tine."

"Okay," she said, closing her eyes.

"Anne." He propped her up against the wail. She blinked several times, then glanced around the room. It was empty.

"Where is everybody?" she asked groggily.

"All are well enough to return to their own beds."

"Oh, good." She slumped over and he sat her up again.

"You are the last one. I wish you to eat and then you can get off this floor and into a bed."

"Floor's fine." She tried to scoot back down. He prevented it. "Oh, all right." With his help, she ate a bowl of soup and that crusty bread she liked.

"Now I shall take you up stairs."

"Bathroom stop first," she said, trying to be as matter of fact as he was.

"Since we are here I believe a shower and clean clothes are in order."

"Sounds glorious." She tried not to think of what she must look and smell like. He began undressing her. "I can do it," she said, intently aware of his hands touching her. "If you would get my nightgown? It's with my purse somewhere in the dining room."

When he was out of sight she undressed and got into the shower. Wonderful, she thought as she lathered herself and scrubbed. After a few minutes she was dizzy and her legs folded under her. Unable to prevent it, she slid down the slick wall. Sitting on the floor, the water pouring over her, Anne could only hope she didn't pass out. The door opened, the water stopped and a large towel went around her. Sajon lifted her out of the shower and sat her on a bench. He began rubbing. "I can do it," she said, knowing she could not. Her arms and legs were like lead and she could barely sit up.

Her nightgown went on and he lifted her. She could only stare and cling to him as he walked the hall and climbed the stairs. Then she was in a bed and his arms were slipping away.

"I'm sorry, I've been staring, but there's something so familiar about you."

"I have been told that I resemble my grandfather."

Anne could not respond as the realization hit. Spock, ohmygod yes. He looks just like Spock.

"Sleep now." His hand brushed her cheek as he tucked the blanket around her. Then the door closed and he was gone.

...No grey in his hair and Spock had not had a beard, but that face -- and those eyes. A scene from her childhood came back with total clarity. She was a gangly ten-year-old, crouching just outside Genessa's living room, listening. In the bedroom her grandmother and Genessa were arguing about this mysterious Vulcan. The door opened and there he stood, looking ten feet tall. "Hello," he had said. "You must be Anne." She could only nod. He put his travel case and cloak on a chair, then glanced in the direction of the voices, then back to her. "Come, Anne, let us walk in the garden and become acquainted." At that instant Anne had fallen in love. And that image had remained bigger than life to her for many years. It had haunted her daydreams and fantasies throughout her teens. She'd renewed her interest in her great grandmother and scoured the news reports for any mention of him. Genessa had become her idol and Anne was determined to be just like her, to become a doctor and to marry Spock. I haven't thought of that in years, she mused. How utterly naive I was. I really did think I could marry Spock. But I married his son. The thought was like ice water on her mind. My God! Is that what I did? I couldn't have the father, so I married the son. No! I love Sannen. It was just coincidence. I never once thought about Spock when I was with him. These pills are making me crazy.

Anne's eyes tried to focus as she woke. She felt a pressure, a hand around hers. "Sajon?" she asked, her voice slurred.

"No. It is I, my wife."

"Oooh, Sannen. You're here. I'm so glad." She drifted off again.

When she awoke againm there was no pressure on her hand. "Sannen?" There was a hint of panic in her voice.

He moved next to the bed and took her hand. "I am here ... Anne, I have been most concerned."

"I'm fine now," she said, smiling up at him. "I just needed lots of sleep after I came down off those pills." Her eyes kept wanting to close.

"Your actions were most reckless..."

"Oh, Sannen, stop it," Anne said, giving up the fight and letting her eyes close. "You knew all along that I would have to do something to..."

"You planned this from the first?" The dismay was evident in his voice.

Anne forced her eyes open. "Are you telling me that you didn't figure out that was the only way I would be able to help?" She'd known it aboard ship, from the minute she realized the situation and offered to help.

"I did not consider it. If I had, I would not have allowed..."

There's that word again, Anne thought as the adrenalin began to surge.

"..And I reprimanded Sian severely..."

"You did what?' Anne came straight up in the bed.

"I reprimanded him. He should have informed..."

"Stop, right now!" She took several deep breaths, then looked him straight in the eye. "Sannen, when -- if ever -- are you planning to treat me as an adult and equal in this marriage?"

"Your actions were not that of an adult."

"Weren't they? I did consider the risks, but without those pills, I would have been useless to Sian. He would have had one more person to care for. I had to take them. Under the circumstances, what else could I do?"

"You might have harmed..."

"Answer the question!"

There was a long silence during which it occurred to Anne that Sajon had known about the pills and not had this reaction. For some unknown reason, this realization exasperated her further. "Sannen!"

"Under the circumstances -- you had no other choice."

"And my behavior?"

He sat next to her on the bed. "You would have me say that your behavior was that of a responsible adult."

"Yes, thank you. And you will apologize to Sian."

"Apologize?"

"Yes, and soon."

"Very well, I suppose I must."

"He did try to stop me, you know. Even took my pills."

"He did that?" There was a hint of admiration in Sannen's voice.

Anne was feeling more secure now that Sannen was responding in a familiar manner. "Now that that's settled," she said looking around the old-fashioned but ornately furnished room. "Tell me whose bed am I in?"

"Mine, of course," he said, pulling her into his arms.

They shared a long kiss, then Anne whispered in his ear. "Sannen, I have to go to the facility." He picked up a robe from the foot of the bed and held it for her. "Where'd you get this?" she asked, slipping into it.

"T'Kara thought you would find it useful."

Halfway to the bathroom, Anne's legs began to weaken. Sannen had to carry her. "I feel ten times worse than when we walked the canyon," she said slipping her arms around his neck.

"This arrangement is most inconvenient for you. If you planned to stay here, something would have to be done."

"You don't know how many times these last few days I wished I was Vulcan and only needed to come here twice a day."

"I prefer you just as you are, my wife."

"Do you? Sometimes I wonder."

When she emerged from the bathroom, Sannen said, "If you can manage it, I should like to stop in the sitting room. The evening meal is finished and we should find some of the family there. They have all expressed concern as to your condition. A visit would reassure them."

The idea made Anne uneasy, but it had to come sometime, so why not now. "All right, for a few minutes." He picked her up. "Sannen, you can carry me there, but I walk in."

Sannen was right, several family members occupied the sitting room. Sahes and his son Salix were playing chess, four others sat around a low table with some anti-grav disk game. Sian strummed on a lytherette. T'Manda and Selby were reading at the far end of the room. Sajon was not in the room. Isolated, and somehow above it all, sat T'Pru. Like a queen mother surveying her domain, Anne realized.

All activity stopped when they entered and Anne felt her face color with embarrassment. Sanes stood. "Father. Anne, might we interpret your presence here as a sign that your health is improved?"

"Yes. I feel much better."

"We are pleased. I should like to take this opportunity to express the family's gratitude for your service during our illness..." It seemed to Anne that he was selecting his words carefully, like someone who was not used to speaking the language on a daily basis.

T'Pella entered the room and spoke to Sannen in Vulcan. The only words Anne recognized were father-in-law, call, and Councilbeing Bentoriz.

"There is a call for me. If you will excuse me." He helped Anne to a chair and left.

After a few false starts, conversation resumed and Anne was included. Although it was awkward, and T'Pru remained aloof, Anne was pleased. It was obvious that the rest of Sannen's family did not share her mother-in-law's opinion of her. They were willing to give her a chance.

As soon as Sannen returned, T'Pru rose and came towards then. "A problem?"

"No, Mother, not a problem. The call concerned Razor's Edge. Anne, this will interest you. President Madares and her party have been restored to power. The rebellion has been crushed and the government is now quite anxious to align with the Federation. They wish to resume negotiations as soon as possible. My presence has been requested..."

"Your presence?" T'Pru's voice cut across the room. "You cannot consider going. Your wife is ill..."

"Oh, no," Anne said coming up out of her chair. "I don't play those games and I won't be used that way. I'm not sick, just tired." Too late Anne realized she was talking too loud.

With an authority Anne had never heard before, Sannen said, "We shall continue this conversation in private. My wife, attend." He offered Anne his arm. Anne could not figure out who he was upset with, her or his mother.

Back in the bedroom, Anne said, "Sannen, I'm sorry about what I said to your mother, but..."

"It is she who does not know her place."

"But she doesn't want you to go either." Anne found it incongruous that she and T'Pru agreed on something.

"Your words were not sincere then?"

"Oh, I meant what I said about not using my condition, but..."

"I should not have doubted that you would understand my desire to return to Razor's Edge and complete what I began..."

"I do understand, but..."

"...You have always said that you disliked unfinished canvasses."

You would remember that! "But, but, there'll be other times."

"And have the record show that my first assignment went uncompleted?"

"It's just that something's wrong there. I have this funny feeling..." She knew how feeble that sounded.

"It is most unfortunate that our first assignment should have been such..."

"It wouldn't have made any difference when it happened."

"I believe it would. If you had several positive associations to reflect on, this one negative event would not loom so large..."

"Sannen, it's more than that. Ambassadors do get killed."

"Between them, my father and grandfather served the Federation for 221 years without incident. Within the Federation itself, there is an extremely low record of such occurrences."

Anne felt so confused and tired. Her mind would not form the argument and it was not fair to force her wishes on him, but she had this feeling...

"Anne." Sannen was standing next to her with a glass of water and a medicine 'container. "It is time for you to take these."

"What are they?"

"Vitamins. The healer prescribed..."

"Healer? When? I don't remember..."

"Earlier today. You were asleep. She only stayed long enough to scan and give me a report."

"You called a healer?"

"No. Sajon did."

"Why? There was no need..."

"To be certain of your condition You are correct. There is nothing amiss that rest and vitamins will not correct. And that leads to the next question." Anne knew what was coming. "Will you remain here and allow me to go to Razor's Edge?"

Anne was trapped, backed into a corner by her own words. She wanted him to stay, but to accomplish that she would have to use her condition. This went against her grain and the whole family would knew that Anne had said things she did not mean. She managed a feeble, "Yes."

"I am not convinced."

"Reading things into my voice now?"

"It was you who taught me."

Anne smiled as a rush of warmth and love for him flowed through her. She held out her hands and he took them. "Sannen, go and finish what you started. I will wait... And probably sleep the entire time."

"If you are sure?"

"Do you remember what the judge said at our marriage?"

"As I recall she made several comments. She did not approve of our marriage. We had nothing in common, she said."

"Well, she was wrong," Anne said, suddenly defensive. "But I was referring to that line about never parting with discord between us. I think that was good advice and I intend to follow it." She slipped out of bed and into his arms. As he held her, she unfastened his tunic and ran her fingers across his chest, then began criss-crossing his back with her nails. She kissed him, then traced the outline of his mouth with her tongue. An involuntary sigh escaped his lips and she responded in kind.

A flick of his finger and her nightgown slid off her shoulder and to the floor. He followed her lead and began his own tracing movements, but his fingers slowly found their way to her nipples. Meanwhile her hands moved to his waist and under the band of his trousers. Soon she had them open. Feeling weak in the knees, she backed up and pulled him into bed.

* * *

She lay in his arms, savoring the afterglow. These were her favorite times. She could give free reign to her emotions and not feel censured by his eyes, like an undiscipline child. Is that what it is? Do I enjoy these interludes so much because it's the only time Sannen accepts me as an equal? Stop this, she told herself. In a few hours Sannen will be gone; don't spoil what you just shared.

"Most innovative, this wife of mine," he said in a lazy voice. "I have not had anyone undress me since I was an infant, and we shall not comment on how long that has been."

She snuggled closer, trying to recapture the mood.

"I shall miss you next to me at night," he continued. "I am amazed at how quickly it has become a habit."

"I can't believe that in all those years, neither you nor your wife ever crawled into bed with the other."

"She did once. I awoke to find her standing at the foot of the bed."

So, thought Anne. T'Min was not so different from me. "You invited her to join you, I hope." Anne's tone was teasing.

"I did."

"Well, did she let you know what was on her mind?" Anne drew patterns in the hair on his chest.

"There was no need." His voice was solemn.

"You didn't make love?" Her voice changed in response to his.

"Oh." Anne realized that T'Min's motivations for seeking our her husband were not so simple as needing to be loved. "It was when she knew she was dying, wasn't it?"

"Yes."

* * *

They were after her. She ran, but as usual they could run at full speed while her legs mired in quicksand. Her pounding heart echoed in her ears. In slow motion she continued to run, one painful step after another. They were gaining on her. They were coming closer, closer. They reached out to grab her. She screamed and woke, tangled in the bedclothes, wet with perspiration. Her heart still pounding, she forced deep breaths and tried to calm herself. She was alone in the bed. Sannen was leaving, going back to Razor's Edge. "Don't go!" she cried. "I'm scared. It's wrong. Don't go!" Too late. He left hours ago. She'd awakened when he kissed her goodbye then had fallen back to sleep, and into her nightmare.

* * *

Anne woke this time to the sound of rattling dishes. T'Kara was setting up a meal. "Breakfast time?" Anne asked, stretching,

"Lunch."

"Really? That late?"

"You required the rest."

"Thanks for the use of the robe," she said, slipping into it.

T'Kara nodded. "Father explained how it was that you lost your belongings. It must have been a frightening experience."

"Not something I'd care to repeat." Anne did not want to think about this subject. "As soon as I feel up to it, I'll shop." She sat at the small table and took a sip from the cup T'Kara offered. "Coffee! This is real coffee!"

"Yes. It was ordered for you."

"Thank you. Did Sannen tell you that I couldn't start my day without it?"

"No. His sister, my Aunt T'Lana is in Stafleet. I recalled a long ago comment of hers. She said it was her observation that most humans could not function unless fortified with coffee."

"She was right." Anne took another big drink.

"Is it to your liking?"

"Hot and black -- a little too strong, perhaps."

"I shall attempt to do better next time."

"Don't apologize. I really do appreciate the gesture. It means a lot to me." And it did. She chose to interpret this gesture as another indication of the family's acceptance of her. It was important to know what they were thinking. She watched for some reaction as she said, "I wasn't sure how you all would accept Sannen' s marriage to me."

"Anne, if Father has found peace and contentment with you in this marriage, we cannot find fault."

"I can't ask for more than that." Anne was tempted to comment on T'Pru's attitude, but there was something more pressing on her mind. "T'Kara, about T'Loren."

"I have been told of the guilt you carry because of her death. You must rid yourself of this."

"But maybe if I'd done something different -- gotten the slap/packs sooner..."

"No. Do not dwell on such thoughts. We shared her life for eight years. For that we are grateful ."

"But she was your only daughter."

"I have two sons and am still within child bearing age. Sagen and I chose to prevent further conception since T'Loren's birth so that we might devote ourselves to whatever years she had. Now, perhaps..."

"If her mother can accept T'Loren's death so well, can I do less?"

"I should expect nothing less from the woman Father found worthy to make his wife."

* * *

Uneasy about the special attention she was receiving, Anne went to the dining room for the evening meal. Although she felt good on waking, her stamina dissipated quickly. Within an hour she was back in bed.

Anne cursed under her breath. "Damn big, ugly, spooky place!" She had been wandering around in the dark for several minutes, the glowlight casting eerie shadows. After further meandering she found an outside exit. "If this doesn't lead to the courtyard, I'm sunk!" As she reached for the handle, the door jerked open. Aggggggt She screamed and dropped her glowlight.

"Anne?" She recognized Sajon's voice.

"My God, you scared me." She accepted the glow light he'd retrieved.

"What are you doing here in the middle of the night? Are you ill?"

"No." She sighed. "I -- I was on my way to the bathroom and got lost. I must have taken a wrong turn."

"Obviously. But why go outdoors?"

"Because from the courtyard I could orient myself!" Her voice was sharp.

"Have I given offense?"

"No! It is just that every time we meet, we end up discussing my bathroom habits. It's embarrassing."

"You have a physical problem then, that explains why you must use the facility so often."

"No, dammit! I don't have a problem. Humans evolved on a water rich world. We're built different than Vulcans. We go more times a day."

"I see."

"Good! Then we won't ever have to discuss it again! Now if you will excuse me."

"I shall wait and escort you back..."

"No! I'll find my own way, thank you." Anne stomped off muttering to herself.

* * *

It was midmorning when Anne awoke to a knock at her door. "It is I, Sian."

"Come in." She assumed he had brought her breakfast, but his hands were empty.

"I have been sent to ask if it would be convenient for you to vacate this room for the day?"

"Vacate?"

"Yes. The room requires extensive cleaning."

Confused, she crawled out of bed. "No problem," she said, but wondered what was going on. She spent her day in the sitting room, except for a long nap In the first floor guest room.

It was late evening and Anne was very tired when Sian finally appeared at the sitting room door. "Your room is completed. I shall escort you."

There was no doubt that something was going on. Anne was about to inquire, then thought better of it. Sian would not be pleased to know that Anne could read him so easily. Instead she quietly followed him. In the hall they passed two men in worker's coveralls carrying tool kits. "Sian, something you want to tell me?"

"No."

Once inside the room her eyes were immediately drawn to the new structure that dominated one whole corner. "What's that?" she asked looking from Sian to T'Pella and T'Manda who were busy cleaning away the mess obviously left by the workers.

"It is a bathroom," Sian stated proudly.

"Bathroom?"

"Anne," T'Pella said, "early this morning Sajon suggested this. We all agreed. It is simply too inconvenient for you to go so far so many times a day."

"He promised the workers a bonus if they finished in one day," Sian added.

"I'm overwhelmed -- and very pleased." Anne stared at the structure. The sleek modern construction was so out of place in this old fashioned ornate room.

"Will you not inspect it?" Sian asked, obviously anxious to.

"Oh, of course. Let's." He opened the door and waved her in. Yes, it was a bathroom with all those convenient 'facilities' just fifteen feet from her bed. She tried the sink faucets and peeked into the shower stall. She gazed at the stool, but did not flush it.

T'Pella and T'Manda watched from the doorway; since this unit was built for single occupancy there wasn't much room. "It is a modular unit like those used in star liners," Sian explained.

"It is, isn't it," Anne realized. "Where in the galaxy did he get it?"

"We import them for a liner assembly plant here on Vulcan. The engines and other parts are manufactured here and one of our family companies supplies the other units. I helped select it. Does it please you?

"Oh yes. How could it not? My own bathroom. I can't imagine how it was managed. Where did you get the water and sewer lines?"

Being official spokesperson, Sian explained further. "They were already here on this floor. The first human to live here," he eyed his two aunts, "the wife of Sarek," T'Pella cleared her throat. "...My great, great-grandmother, had a bathroom installed. It was later removed, but the water and sewer lines remained. It was not difficult to reactivate them."

* * *

She twirled around in the shower and spread her arms to embrace all of Vulcan. "My very own shower!" Even the water seemed better than in the bath house. "Decadence." T'Pru's right. "It is decadent. And I love it!" Mostly because her privacy was restored. She could use the toilet without everyone knowing. She'd seen their eyes every time she encountered a family member while walking the halls. Even when she wasn't, she knew everyone assumed she was going to the bathroom.

* * *

It was only midmorning and already Anne was suffering from severe boredom. She couldn't send Sannen another tape. He had only been gone two days and she'd sent two tapes. She had nothing left to say. Her last tape was almost an exact repeat of her first, except for fifteen minutes of extolling the virtues of her new bathroom. Aside from relating to him how something in last night's dinner had disagreed with her intestines, resulting in diarrhea and how she hadn't even minded because of her new 'private' bathroom, she had nothing new to add. It occurred to her that without the new bathroom, last night's episode could have taken on major proportions. Visions of her sprinting through the halls encountering every family member caused a fit of giggles. Then the idea of not making her destination brought her up sober.

"If I stay here any longer, I'll get bed sores," she said to no one. "Time to do a little investigating."

She stood just outside her door. To her left lay the central stairway to the third or first floor. To her right was unknown territory. This she would investigate. The hall was wide, with rooms off either side. Odd point, no doors were directly opposite any other. The lighting was indirect and out of date as was everything else. She guessed this place had not seen redecorating in a century. It must be like living in an old hotel, yet the kitchen and laundry areas contained modern equipment. Also, the sitting room held the latest in audio/video systems and Sannen had said that the communications system was constantly being updated. Why didn't they fix up the rest of this place? Why this hodgepodge arrangement?

Anne turned the corner expecting to go into the far wing of the house. Instead she found herself facing a sealed archway. Puzzled, she went to the alcove and tried the balcony doors. They were locked. She peered out the windows. They were dirty. She was pleased. They aren't perfect. Her faith in Vulcankind was restored. She could see the wing, but couldn't get there. "Maybe," she said with glee, "They keep the not so logical members of the family locked up in there."

"Anne."

She jumped half a meter.

"It is not my intention to continually startle you."

"It's all right." She took a deep breath. Feeling the need to explain her presence here, she said, "The bedroom walls were closing in on me, so I decided to venture out." She was studying him as she talked. He cut such a striking figure, probably because he was so thin, yet finely proportioned that anything he wore looked well on him. Now he was wearing dark trousers and boots that stopped just below the knee. Over his shoulders was a knee length cloak that was lined in the same deep burgundy as his shirt. Where's he been dressed like that? And until the middle of the morning? That outfit was strictly evening wear. Knowing she couldn't ask, she said, "Hope that's okay?"

He stroked his beard in an offhand way. "Certainly. You are finding that inactivity is tiring?"

"Very. When I feel up to a trip to the city, I'll get some supplies. Then I can paint. I have several ideas for subjects..." She did not add that she would like to include a portrait of him in that outfit to her list. "Sajon, I've been wanting to see you so I could thank you for my bathroom, but I was told that you were away."

"Yes, business. And you are welcome, but I thought you did not wish to discuss that subject." There was a glint of teasing In his eyes.

"Well, now that I've thanked you we can close that subject forever... And I apologize for my bad manners that evening."

"Accepted."

It seemed to Anne that he was about to say something else, then changed his mind. Searching for something to fill the silence, Anne asked "Why is that passageway blocked?"

"Because that wing is no longer structurally safe for occupancy. It is the original house built here at N'Sar over six hundred years ago. Some decision regarding it must be arrived at soon. The family is considering several alternatives."

Anne found the idea of an unsafe building on Vulcan strange. "How long has it been standing empty like that?"

"Since before I was born."

"You'll forgive me if I say that that strikes me as highly illogical. Why wasn't something done before now?"

"Grandmother is opposed to change in any form. When the family had fewer members it was of no consequence, now we need the room."

Anne could not think of any comment on that -- at least not one she wished to express out loud. Neither spoke for several seconds, but Anne sensed that there was something he wished to say. "Is there something?"

"I was curious as to how you would compare living among Vulcans to your own people?"

Her mind began sorting through the many mental comparisons she had made since coming to Vulcan. Some things were so similar; humanoids had certain physical needs and met them in similar ways. Patterns of thought were different, but among individuals as well as races. One thing had made an impression on her. "Laughter," she said. "I hear conversations, musical instruments being played, even singing, but no one laughs."

"Did you not expect such when you married a Vulcan?"

So, thought Anne. This is the real question. He wants to know about Sannen and me. I bet the others do too, but I'd also bet they'd never ask. She admired his forthrightness. "I'm not sure what I expected when I married Sannen. I only know that he never seemed alien to me. He was just a man, attractive, mysterious, but a man. From the very first it was so natural between us. We were just two people learning about each other, sharing. Being with him was so interesting. He loves to teach, and to learn, wants to know about everything. For Instance, on Earth he was fascinated with the moon and its phases. Every day we had to check its position..." Suddenly embarrassed, she stopped. "I talk too much."

"Do not apologize. If you share this with someone, savor it. Two people can be raised in the same household, spend years together and not begin to understand what motivates the other. What you have is rare and to be cherished."

Then he too stopped abruptly. His words, like hers, overflowed with deep personal experience, unfortunately not pleasant, like Anne's, and very recently called to mind.

The air was suddenly filled with the silence and the emotion Anne had applied to his words. She was drawn to him, wanting to comfort, to undo the wrong and make it right. "I guess I'll be getting back," she said, knowing she must put some distance between them or embarrass them both. Her steps faltered and he reached out a steadying arm to her. They touched and both pulled back as if they had been burned. "I can manage." she stammered.

"Yes ... I see that ... you can." He turned and she listened as his bootsteps echoed down the hall.

* * *

Anne woke feeling really rested for the first time since arriving on Vulcan. Today I could shop, she said to herself, then mentally calculated the day. If she was correct, this was not a school day for Sian. Maybe he would be willing to take her.

She found him working in the family vegetable garden. She sat in the shade of a dwarf tree and watched him work, noticing that the family pet was doing the same thing. I would have thought that Vulcans would have trained their weeds not to grow unless given permission, she mused as the young man pulled and pulled.

When he finished the row he came towards her. "Good morning," he said very politely.

So it's going to be one of those days, Anne thought. "Good morning, Sian." Her voice was as formal as his. She didn't know why, but he seemed to be of two minds about her. Sometimes the talk flowed freely, as between two equals, or even friends; other times, like now, he became very standoffish.

"May I be of assistance?"

"As a matter of fact, you may. I'd like to go into the city, to the alien quarter. I want to shop and if I don't get some red meat soon, I'm going to roast that sehlat and eat it." The boy's eyes widened. "Oh, for the god's sake, stop taking me so literally. I didn't mean..."

"Then why say it?"

"Sit down." She patted the ground. Stiffly, he lowered himself. "You are going to have to learn one of the important differences between us. Because Vulcans put no inflections or emotions into their speech, or use no facial expressions, their words can be taken literally. It's not that way with humans. In fact, it's just the opposite. We actually use these things to impart meaning to our words. I was merely emphasizing my hunger for meat when I threatened your pet, but there was no malice in my voice and I was smiling."

"I see."

"I'm not sure you do. But Sian, I am trying to learn your ways and I think you should do me the same courtesy."

"I am. I wish to learn from you."

"That sounds like something you've learned to recite." The turn the conversation had taken brought down Anne's earlier good mood and she lost her enthusiasm for shopping.

"I shall prepare myself and be ready to leave in one hour. Is that satisfactory?"

Again Anne noticed that he refused to address her with the title that custom denoted or even the one required by common courtesy. When she married Sannen the idea of being someone's grandmother, let alone being addressed as such, had been very unsettling. Now the insult and underlying motive from this boy upset her. Doubly so, since she had come to like and respect him and wanted the same from him. "Sian, since you refuse to address me by any title, and since I dislike being treated like a nonentity, why don't you call me Anne?"

His eyes leveled with hers and she saw the defiance. "That would not be permitted."

"Well, think about it. We're going to have to come up with something."

"I shall. Now, if you will excuse, me, I will prepare..."

"Forget It. I've lost interest in shopping."

Something flashed in his eyes, just for an instant, but Anne caught it. "You're disappointed, aren't you? You wanted to go."

"Yes," he admitted. "I have never been to the alien sector."

Anne's mood brightened at his words. It might mean he was softening towards her. "Well then, let's go and investigate it together."

"Yes. I shall be quick." He was almost running across the courtyard.

"Don't forget to tell someone where we'll be," she called after him.

They parked the ground car in a storage lot and began walking. Since Vulcan zoning was strict, the buildings in the alien sector were not drastically different from those anywhere in the city. Vulcan was an uncrowded planet. Twenty story buildings were their tallest. The shops were the attraction of this place. Non-Vulcan businesses were confined to this area with no discrimination in placement; this made for an adventure.

Anne spotted a cafe and headed towards it. "Hungry?" she inquired.

"No."

"Well, I am. Come on." She ordered three beef rollups and two drinks.

"What is this?" Sian asked when the glass was put in front of him.

"An icy. Fruit juice over crushed ice."

He tasted it while Anne launched into her rollups. He wrinkled his nose. "What's the matter? Don't you like it?"

"The drink is pleasant enough, but those things have the odor of rotting yoants."

Anne was not deterred. "To each his own," she said, stuffing her mouth with another rollup. Her stomach full, Anne was ready to shop. Credit voucher in purse, she began buying everything from the skin out, although not necessarily in that order. She modeled dresses for Sian's approval and asked his opinion on shoes. Items they weren't interested in buying they still inspected and they had a great time sampling candy and fruit. Anne noted that Sian was not letting anything escape his notice. His eyes actually widened in the toy sections. "People really do pay such amounts for play things?" A fiber optic mobile caught his eye. Anne suggested they buy it.

"It is a child's toy," he stammered indignantly.

"I know. I meant it for Spock."

"Yes," Sian brightened. "He would enjoy it. But we should go now. You are tiring yourself."

"Can't leave yet," Anne said, trudging along, "I haven't gotten any art supplies." They spent the better part of an hour in an art store.

"Now, we may leave?"

"Just a few more things."

Sian raised his eyebrow as he scanned the arm load of parcels each of them carried.

"...If I could just rest for a while and eat." Anne knew that Sian was right, she was tired, but she didn't know how soon he would be free to bring her back.

"You are hungry so soon?"

"What do you mean, so soon? It's been over four hours, and I've been sick."

It took Anne a few more minutes to convince him. Then they stored the parcels and found a restaurant that served Human and Vulcan cuisine, and Sian joined her in a meal. "I do feel better," Anne said over her second cup of coffee. "I just want to get a few more things, then we'll go."

Arms loaded, they were making their way through the late afternoon crowds when Anne spotted an Earther Holo Theater. Thinking she would file the information for future reference, she went to read their list of films. Patiently, Sian stood beside her. "Oh, they have Close Encounters of the Third Kind in the original. I haven't seen that since I was a child. It's a story -- a classic really, written before any alien contact. A speculation of what it might be like," she added in explanation to his blank look.

"Yes. We have such a story."

"Let's go see it."

"Now?"

"Why not? Unless you have to be home."

"No..."

"Well?" Anne said, excited.

"What of the packages?"

"Back to storage, I guess. And you better call home." The parcels back in storage, Anne and Sian rented a minibooth and a cassette and went to watch CE3K.

* * *

"Sian," Anne said as they retrieved the packages for the final time, "thanks for going with me. It was just what I needed, a little touch of home. I can't tell you how many nights I fell asleep watching that movie. As a child, it was my very favorite story."

And so they talked. Sian had many questions about the movie. Anne was not surprised that much of the humor was lost on him.

They were still talking as they went through the door to find T'Pru and Sajon waiting. What now? Anne wondered as she set down her packages.

T'Pru faced her. "You will explain the meaning of your actions!"

"Grandmother,"Sajon said, "let us go into the sitting room, and discuss this without emotion."

It seemed to Anne that he had emphasized this last word. Why do I feel like a schoolgirl reporting to the principle's office? she asked herself as they walked. A glance at Sian told her that he felt the same way. She had the urge to giggle and quickly suppressed it.

When the door closed the old woman stated again, "You took the child to a Holo. Earther Holos are concerned only with matters of the flesh. You have no respect for our customs, beliefs..."

Anne was torn between laughter and anger.

"Grandmother, let us have an explanation before..."

"Look, Mother-in-law, I did no such thing. I happen to know how sexually repressed most of your race is. I would not confuse Sian by exposing him to something of that nature."

"Great-grandmother, it was not like that," Sian protested.

"Son, suppose you tell us about this movie." Sajon looked at Anne. "If you have no objection?"

"Be my guest," she said, sensing his caught-in-the-middle position. But needing to vent her anger at something, she flopped heavily into T'Pru's chair.

From Sian's hesitation it was obvious to Anne that he was very uncomfortable with three adults focusing on him. "The film was the human equivalent to our own From out of the Sky They Came, contact by superior aliens. It had many elements to consider. The twentieth century human's conception of spacecraft and alien forms, the amusement of the nonbelievers, the government handling of the situation... They actually lied to the people and constructed an elaborate subterfuge..."

"It sounds most interesting."

"I found it so."

"And there were no sexual references?" Sajon glanced at T' Pru.

"Two humans -- kissed. But, if I am correct in my interpretation, it was compassion and friendship they were expressing and not ... lust." He glanced at Anne for reinforcement.

"Excellent, Sian. That's exactly right." Anne smiled her approval.

"Grandmother, I can find no fault with Anne's actions."

"The experience had no redeeming value," T'Pru snapped.

Anne heard a sigh escape Sajon's lips. "We could debate that, but at worst it appears to me as a harmless entertainment."

"Sian does not do well in his studies. He needs to focus on serious subjects, not entertainment."

"I plan to do that, Great-grandmother. I have chosen this subject as the topic for a research paper." (This was news to Anne. Sian had not mentioned it during their discussions) "I should like to compare and contrast the two films and the Vulcan and human attitudes about aliens, prior to contact." (Kid's a quick thinker, Anne finally realized.)

"Grandmother, does that satisfy you?"

"No!" Her eyes were blazing. "What that woman has done..." She stopped. She had lost this battle and all knew it. Without another word she left the room.

"Sian," Sajon said, trying to salvage what was left of all their dignity. "I should be interested in reading this paper when it is completed."

"I am honored..." He too wanted out of the room. "I should like to begin immediately. If you will excuse me, Father..." He nodded in Anne's direction and started for the door.

"Sian, I believe this incident has caused you to forget your manners."

He didn't stop.

"Sian."

"Excuse me ... Grandmother." The word was barely audible, but the closing door echoed in their ears. It was the first time he had addressed Anne as such, and the word had to be dragged from him.

Sajon was out of his chair and moving across the room. "Let it go," Anne said;

"He will apologize for his rudeness."

"I don't want his apology, not that way."

There was a look in his eyes that Anne had not seen before. "You must understand that I cannot allow this to go unchallenged."

"Why? It's not that big a deal. He'll come to accept me in time."

"You can be so sure?"

"Yes, I can. Sian and I had a beautiful time today. We shopped, talked, shared food, and a lot of positive experiences. It was very easy between us, because we were alone. He could relate to me as Anne. Then we get back here and you expect him to call me 'Grandmother'. He can't think of me that way. He remembers T'Min and what they shared... Sajon, suppose custom demanded you call me Mother?"

"... if custom demanded it -- I would abide."

"Would you? I have trouble accepting that. But even if you would, the word would have no meaning. The significance of that title should go to the person who deserves it."

"I can accept that reasoning, but..."

"Don't you see what an awkward position Sian's in? The adults in the family have an out. They can call me by my first name. Sian's stuck...unless... I realize that Sian won't be considered an adult for several years yet, but isn't there some way I can give him permission to call me Anne?"

"That would be most irregular. He must earn adult status, then he will have the responsibilities and privileges."

"I know that, but I won't be here that often and it would make matters so much more pleasant."

"I cannot imagine my father allowing such a breach of tradition."

"Sannen's not here now. We have to deal with this situation. Sian and I began our relationship as two equals and I am willing to accept him on that level. Do you have any objections?"

"Not if this is acceptable to you."

"What about the rest of the family?"

"I believe all will accept it -- except Grandmother. This breech of conduct will displease her greatly."

"Ooooh her." Anne's sigh was long and heavy. "Sajon, what am I going to do about her?"

"I do not believe there is anything you can do."

"It can't be that hopeless. I'm not asking for friendship or even respect. I just want her to accept the fact that I am Sannen's wife and to stop these verbal attacks. I mean, it's not my fault that Genessa was her husband's mistress."

"As I understand your language, 'mistress' is not the correct word to explain the situation. If it were, Grandmother would not be so distressed. Genessa and Spock were bondmates, a very different relationship. Genessa achieved what T'Pru could not, and that is what she cannot forgive."

Anne was struck by his words. She could not help but be reminded that she and Sannen were not bonded. "Then you see no hope for any sort of a truce?"

"No. I believe I would be misleading you if I said differently."

Defeated, Anne excused herself. "I have to see to the meat I bought. The timer on the insulated cold/keeper has probably run out." Anne lifted the package from the hall table. There was a spot. Further defeated, she went to store the food in the cooler and to find a cloth. "With my luck, it'll stain," she muttered.

* * *

Anne woke with her mood no better than when she went to bed. She willed herself to go back to sleep so she would not have to think, but when she fell back to sleep after waking she always had those nightmares. They only served to reinforce her fears that something was wrong on Razor's Edge. The news reports did not concur, of course. She had followed them religiously since Sannen left and according to them, everything was fine.

Even with her eyes closed she could see the unopened packages from yesterday's shopping trip scattered all over the room. They needed attention. She made herself get up. The sight of all those new clothes did not brighten her mood, but opening the painting supplies did.

Her supplies in one hand and dragging a portable blower with the other, Anne found herself a shady spot in the garden and set to work. She had searched the house for a spot with good lighting, but the few rooms she had access to were on the first floor and poorly lighted for her needs.

Not ready for any serious work, she let her fingers find their own way. Soon the face of the child Spock took shape on the paper. Not satisfied with the chin line she erased and continued. Later she moved to a clean spot on the paper and began a full body sketch in a sitting position, head tilted over the right shoulder. Anne continued and two hours later she had several sheets containing different poses. She decided she liked the sitting position best and would develop that into a full piece.

T'Loren was her next subject. She started over several times. Anne knew the girl's face. It was etched into her mind, but she could not get any of the drawings to her satisfaction. Finally she realized why. It was in the eyes. Now that she knew the problem, she tried to correct it. It was no use. No matter what she did, the eyes still reflected death. Anne destroyed all the sketches.

Sian was a better subject. Like Spock, she had seen his face in many unschooled expressions and had no trouble producing several sketches.

When her fingers began to cramp, she was forced to rest. Wanting to stretch her whole body she began to walk. Within a few minutes she found herself going out of the compound through a gate in the wall. There she saw the front of the condemned wing of the house. "So this is what greeted visitors six hundred years ago." It was impressive, or had been before it had begun to deteriorate. Anne could picture it, stately, rising three stories on huge grey stone blocks, the large windows facing the foothills of the distant mountains. The site was well chosen, this view was spectacular, while the other two wings faced desert. Now the building showed its centuries of weathering. The mortar was crumbling, the windows, like old eyes, tired and sagging. The large veranda-like porch which had once run the length of the building was almost gone, ripped off with its roof by some violent storm, Anne guessed. The three remaining stone pillars stood reaching up to nothing, and the steps leading to the oversized door were no more, just a heap of loose rock remained. The sight intrigued Anne; here was an impressive subject for an oil.

* * *

Anne sat In the garden. With the sun already down and a portable blower next to her it was almost pleasant. The child played beside her. Sian approached from the house. He looked from her to Spock. "What are you doing?"

"Isn't it obvious that I'm babysitting? Your aunt T'Manda and Uncle Steen have gone to a concert."

His only common was, "I see."

"What's the matter, don't you think I'm capable of caring for Spock?"

"I am sure that you are most capable." He sat down next to the child who was busy pulling himself into a standing position and then immediately flopping on his bottom, looking terribly surprised each time. Sian helped the child maintain his balance. "He has a famous name, after a Vulcan who was honored throughout the Federation..."

"I know. I met him once, when I was a young girl. I was most impressed. I would imagine you enjoyed being with him..."

"He spent little time with us. When he was not working for the Federation, he was with her."

"Is that it, Sian? Is Genessa the reason you can't like me?" Anne was amazed that she not thought of it before.

"You have taken Grandfather away, the way she took him from us."

"Now, wait just a minute. That's not quite true. We plan to live away from here because of your great-grandmother's attitude toward me. Sannen doesn't want her upset at her age."

"She has met you. She survives!" With that he left and the child once again flopped to the ground.

"Really!" Anne muttered as she reached out a steadying finger to Spock. But I can't argue with what he said, she thought. She sat back in her chair. He's right. T'Pru knows I exist, that I'm married to her son and now we've met face to face. There will never be any real understanding between us, but she can't keep after me forever. And the rest of the family accepts me, likes me. Why should Sannen and I give that up to go live on some planet where we have no family or friends? I'd miss them, she realized. Sannen and I will never have a family, but I could watch Spock grow, and help care for him, like tonight. There's Sian, he and I could be close, if everyone would stay out of our relationship. Selby will be married within a few years and hopefully there'll be another child. We'll never be really close, of course. The cultural differences rule that out, but it would be better than being alone ... and Sannen would have his family and they him... Maybe he would even consider giving up this Federation appointment... Yes, if I could make peace with T'Pru before he returns. A lump always grew in her middle when she thought of Sannen on Razor's Edge. I've got to make him see... But that's not fair to him... oh, I wish Lainie were here. I need some advice. I sure miss her, there's no one to talk to here. They just don't understand. Sajon's the closest thing to adult understanding I have." Anne was beginning to feel depressed. This could turn into a real downer, got to stop. She scooped the child into her arms. "Come on, little one, I do believe you need some attention."

Later, when the child was asleep, Anne went downstairs to watch the evening news. Hopefully, there would be news of Razor's Edge, something to ease her mind, like a treaty signing date. T'Pru was already in front of the video. "Where is the child?" she demanded.

"Safe in his bed sound asleep," and suffering no contamination. Anne finished under her breath.

"I believe I shall check him."

"Be my guest," you old bag. Anne flopped into a chair.

As soon as T'Pru left the room, the report from Razor's Edge came on, pleasing Anne no end. When T'Pru returned, Anne stood. "Sorry you missed the report," she said sweetly. "It was excellent. Talks are finished and the treaty is expected to be ratified within the next two weeks. And the pictures were lovely, two very nice ones of Sannen." The last part was a lie. "You don't seem pleased. I would have thought you would consider it an honor to have a son follow in the traditions begun by his father and grandfather."

T'Pru favored her with a piercing look. "There are two traditions I believe this family should be without."

"Two traditions?" Anne was puzzled, then the light dawned. Why you old witch! She laughed in spite of herself, mentally scoring two points for T'Pru. But she was not about to let it go. "It strikes me as highly Illogical for a Vulcan to indulge in such fantasy. There are things we all must accept in this life. For you, I'm afraid it's that I am your son's wife and intend to remain so."

"You will not lecture me. I have accepted many undesirable situations in my lifetime. But what of you, Woman? What is it in this life that you must accept?"

The question surprised Anne. She thought before answering. "That Sannen won't be prodded or cajoled into resigning his position with the Federation," she said, realizing, for the first time, the truth of her words. "And I still have a long way to go in accepting that. So, I believe I shall meditate on it right now. If you will excuse me, Mother-In-law, I'll say good night."

* * *

Anne headed for the garden. Quiet and solitude were what she needed. Using stone walls and plants, the garden offered several cul-de-sacs of seclusion. This allowed several people to occupy it at the same time without intruding on one another's privacy. Yet near the center courtyard was an area large enough to accommodate the whole family.

Anne was almost into one of the privacy areas before she realized that someone was there. She turned to leave. "Anne?" It was Sajon.

"Sorry. I didn't mean to disturb you. I'll leave..." Anne drew away, she needed to be alone to think about her statement to T'Pru.

"No. Please. I should like to speak with you -- about Sian."

"Of course." She was flattered that Sajon wished to discuss his son with her. She knew that Sian's behavior was atypical. His vacillating reactions to her were proof of that. She had wanted to discuss it with someone, but knew that it would be presumptive of her to ask. Now Sajon was volunteering to discuss this with her. She should not have been surprised. Sajon was the only member of the family who did more than pass the time of day with her and she could not help but respond to that. She sat on the stone bench. He stood, keeping a distance between them. "I must admit that I am confused by his constantly changing attitude toward me."

"You must believe that you are not at fault. It has to do with his unresolved feelings concerning his mother."

"Yes. I've been meaning to ask. How long has she been dead?"

"...She is not ... dead." The statement spoke volumes.

Anne's instinctive response was a long drawn out, "Ooooooh, I see."

"Do you?"

"I think so." She had difficulty keeping her voice steady. "At the Koon-ut-kal-if-fee, she challenged -- and lost."

"Yes." His tone was hushed. "I claimed her as chattel, then banished her. At Sian's birth I brought him here."

"And Sian knows this."

"It was his right."

"How often does he visit her?"

"They have never laid eyes on each other."

"But, you must see her?"

"Only when necessary."

Anne repeated her "Oooooh."

"You disapprove."

"No. No. I don't have enough facts to pass judgment should I want to. I can only assume that you had strong reasons for keeping them apart, considering the burden it must place on you and Sian."

"Our burden?"

Anne's words came in short spurts and she tried to compose what she wanted to say. "Sian has grown up with an ... unseen ... unknown mother -- and he knows of her actions -- from you. It would seem to me that is quite a burden for a child. He can't possibly understand -- and children often feel guilt for their parents' actions. On one hand he could idealize her and resent you as the resident parent -- or go to the other extreme and hate all females because of her actions. And what position does that place him in among his peers?"

"You are most perceptive. Sian has exhibited both of these behaviors, and has difficulty relating to his peers. He is much closer to his grandfather than to me... And you are the first female that has elicited an emotional response from him in any way."

"You think that beneficial? I thought the idea was to control."

"One cannot control what one refuses to acknowledge exists."

"I don't think I understand."

"It has been obvious for some time now that Sian is repressing his emotions towards his mother and females in general. Until your arrival we had not seen any outward manifestations of these feelings."

"Well, he certainly is ambivalent about me."

"And you handle him well. By not ignoring his behavior, you force him to face it."

"The results aren't always good.

"That is not important at this time. His actions give us something to focus on."

Anne had considered Sian's behavior to be that of a rebellious teenager, but Sajon was making it sound more significant. "You really believe that Sian has a serious problem with females?"

"I know it to be a fact... At nine years of age, he refused to be bonded."

Anne's "Ooooh," spilled out again. "That must be unheard of -- given the cycle."

"It is... I compliment you, you have studied our culture thoroughly."

"I am honored. But I feel as though I've just scratched the surface. There are so many things I don't understand. ...About Sian, what do you want me to do?"

"Continue as you have been. With your permission I should like the discuss the situation with a healer."

"Certainly."

* * *

As a routine developed, the days began to run together for Anne. She rose later than the family members and had breakfast alone. Then taking a lunch cooler, she went to paint. She had finished the preliminary sketch and background wash of the old wing and had been working with the oil for several days.

Anne stayed at her spot all day. To go back to the house meant loneliness or T'Pru. Either way she preferred this shaded spot just beyond the garden gate. She got into the habit of bringing a book to read while eating her lunch. A short post-lunch nap quickly joined the routine. She went in when she knew the family would be at dinner, showered, timed her arrival at the dining room to coincide with their leaving.

For the first week it worked; then one night Anne found Sanes waiting for her. "Anne, I would speak with you."

"Of course."

"You have been taking your meals apart from us. Have we given offense?"

"Oh, no. I don't want anyone to think that."

"Then might I inquire why you will not take food with us?"

"Because of the meat. Sanes, I need meat several times a week and I don't want to ... well, offend anyone."

"I assure you, we would not be offended by your customs. We respect them, as you do ours."

"But when I cook it, well, it gives off an odor. I didn't want to spoil dinner for anyone."

"I assure you, you shall not."

"If you're sure..."

"I am. Tomorrow we shall expect you to join us for dinner. Also, we shall expect you in the sitting room after you have eaten, unless you have other plans."

"No. I'll join you ... and, Sanes, thank you." He nodded and then left.

* * *

"Anne?" A gentle tapping at the door accompanied her name being called. Anne recognized T'Manda's voice.

"Go away!"

"Please allow me to speak..."

"No. I don't want to talk, leave me alone!"

Anne heard the retreating footsteps as she paced her room, still too angry to do anything but give her thoughts free rein. Soon her name was repeated from outside the door. This time the caller was Sajon. Anne restated her former message.

"Anne, I will not leave until I have spoken with you." Uninvited, he opened the door.

"Sajon, I'm still too angry to talk. All I can do is scream about the dirty-minded old bitch."

"Then I shall listen."

Anne's hands were shaking as she waved them. "Who the hell does she think she is? She had no right to..." Anne stopped and turned to look directly at him. "She spoiled such a good time... Sian was helping me with my Vulcan. I accented something improperly and changed its meaning. He explained what I had said. I laughed and put my hand on his shoulder. It was so natural and innocent. I know I shouldn't have; I took it right away. Sian understood, it was all right. Then there she was -- screeching and pointing. She actually accused me of -- of sexual advances toward Sian... Where the hell does she come off saying things like that? She goes against everything that Vulcans are supposed to live by."

Sajon's voice was calm in comparison to Anne's. "Fear can cause an individual to do many things."

"Fear? What are you talking about? T'Pru has nothing to fear from me."

"She believes she does. She worries that you might choose to exercise your right and unseat her as female head of the family."

"Say that again."

"As wife of the elder male you become the elder female and in charge of all household matters."

"Are you saying I could put her out or something?"

"No. You could request she turn over to you all records pertaining to the running of this household and take control ."

"Really? I could do that?" Various plots began forming in Anne's mind. Her head began to swim at the very idea that she might have some power of her own. "Oh, I don't want to do anything like that. I just want her to stop these attacks. Not only is she after me, but she won't let anyone else befriend me. The other day she told T'Manda not to let me care for Spock anymore." Anne caught the look in his eyes. "Oh, she's been after you, too, hasn't she?"

"Yes. She wishes me to keep Sian away from you."

"God damn her! Will you do it?"

"No."

"Why?"

"I have my reasons and Father has asked that Sian stay close to be of help to you." Anne thought for several seconds. "She's really worried about this?"

"Yes, she is. This has been her life since Amanda died and is all she has."

"But that's her own doing. Sannen told me that she abandoned her profession after marrying Spock and that she never cultivated any other interests outside of this house."

"Yes. She has isolated herself from the outside world. She rarely leaves Na'Sar." The mental image of an old women with nothing to occupy her time but supervising the household necessities for others served to soften Anne's anger. It also planted the germ of an idea.

* * *

Anne sat in the chair next to the bed, facing the window. She stared out at nothing. She had been there for a long time.

There was a rapid knock on the door, her name being called, then Sajon was striding across the room. "Anne, I heard. I thought you might be..."

"In a rage?" she asked, turning to face him. "No. I'm beyond that. I'm just numb, too drained for anger."

"There is nothing can say, except to apologize for her actions."

"Don't bother, everyone else in the family already has."

"I did warn you. Why did you proceed against my advice?"

"Because I knew better. I was going to prove you wrong. I was going to come to terms with that old -- woman once and for all. In my fantastic mind I figured it all out. I would convince her that I was no threat to her precious job and with the painting I'd cut through that resentment. Then there'd be peace around here. So much for my strategy... 'Gifts from thee are unwelcome.' That's what she said. 'Gifts from thee are unwelcome.' I never realized how much soft spoken words could hurt. And now I know, she'll never change towards me, never."

"What will you do with this knowledge?"

"I honestly don't know. The thought of continuing like this until she dies is more than I can stand... I had even been toying with the idea that Sannen and I could be here when we weren't traveling..."

"That is as it should be."

"Not now. It can't be -- and your father's position, I don't want to go with him anymore -- I don't want him to go ... it's all so mixed up..."

"I do not understand. You married Father with the intentions of traveling with him."

"That was before Razor's Edge. Since that incident -- I'm afraid. I have this feeling that something's wrong."

"You have discussed this with my father?"

"He didn't understand. How do you explain ghosts and boogymen to a Vulcan?"

"This position is important to him."

"I know that -- and I don't have the right to ask him to give it up. That's all part of my confusion... I don't know what to do, but the feeling is there -- and it is real..." She had moved from the chair and was pacing the room. "I'm going to wear a path in the floor if I keep this up." She stopped pacing and sat on the edge of the bed. Sajon moved to stand next to her.

"When Father returns I am sure you will be able..."

Both turned at the same instant to find Sian staring at them from the doorway. Though he had not made a sound some instinct told them he was watching. "Sian?" Sajon questioned.

His eyes were filled with loathing, his fists clenched. "You have taken Grandfather from us. Will you take my father also?" He turned and ran down the hall.

"What?" Dumbfounded, Anne looked at Sajon for an explanation. "Sajon? Oh my God! He can't think... Go after him! Make him see..."

Sajon was already moving towards the door.

As the meaning of Sian's remark penetrated, Anne began to feel sick inside. "He can't believe that. He can't." This was the final blow.

Hurriedly Anne packed a bag and went to T'Manda's room. Steen answered her knock.

"Anne?"

"Steen, will you take me to the city, please?"

He glanced at her bag. "So, it has come to this. You have been driven from this house."

"Yes, I guess it has. Will you take me?"

"I do not suppose I could change your mind."

"No."

"Then I shall take you."

All the way to the city Steen tried to reassure Anne that time and Sannen's return would solve her problem. But all Anne wanted was to be alone away from everyone, even Vulcan itself if that were possible.

* * *

Anne lay on the hotel room bed staring at the ceiling. How did it all go so wrong, she asked herself several times. We had the perfect life planned. But the best laid plans of mice and men... "It's all gone -- all gone." Everything was closing in, there was an actual physical pain and pressure in her chest. On one side T'Pru making it impossible for her and Sannen to make their home at Na'Sar. She divided the family, forcing everyone to choose sides. To be for Anne was to automatically be against T'Pru. The family could not stand up long under such strain. Sooner or later there would come a split and Anne had no wish to be the cause. Tonight had seen Sajon and Sian at odds because of her. More of the same would follow.

The original life she and Sannen had planned seemed illusive to her. She could not remember why it had sounded attractive. To think about it now filled her with apprehension and vague fears. And what had happened to the adult relationship she had envisioned? More and more Sannen was treating her like a child in need of protection. He chose to correlate emotionalism and immaturity and classified her accordingly.

The two alternatives squeezed at her from both sides and Anne saw only one way out. "I'm leaving." As it stood, the situation was impossible. The only thing for her to do was admit the marriage was over and get out while no bonding existed and before any more damage was done.

With her out of the picture the family could settle into its pre-Anne routine with T'Pru. Sannen could keep his position with the Federation and spend his off time with his family. To Anne's mind this would benefit them all. Sannen seemed to be the only one in the family with any control over T'Pru and by Sajon's own words, Sian needed the stabilizing influence Sannen provided. The family did not need and Anne could not live with the stress her presence brought. This was the only answer.

Her decision made, Anne set about constructing concrete plans. Tomorrow she would see about a space liner. If connections could be made, she could get to Razor's Edge before Sannen left and they could settle this.

* * *

Anne regained consciousness in a sterile grey examination room. She remembered. She had been in the hotel lobby, ordering a car, when she had begun to feel dizzy. "I fainted," she said out loud. Immediately there was a grey-robed female at her side.

"I am T'Nadra, a physician," she said helping Anne sit up. "Has the dizziness passed?"

"Yes, thank you. But why this?" Anne pointed to her examination gown.

"The hotel manager brought you here when you became unconscious..."

"I don't think that was necessary. I'm just run down from..."

"Indeed, Madam?" Her voice contained a mild reproof. "Do you realize that you are pregnant?"

Anne's face and mind went blank for an instant. Then she recovered. "I am not! I can't be! My husband is..." She did not finish.

"There is no mistake. We..." A second female entered the room, a cassette in her hand.

"The child is Sannen's," she said to the first. "I have confirmed it with genetic testing." There was no attempt to conceal her words.

"What?" Anne was confused, but when the words penetrated she became angry. "Just what are you implying?"

"You will forgive us. We meant no insult. We simply require facts, so as to know how to treat you." Anne only stared. "As you yourself were about to say, you believed that Sannen was sterile."

"How would you know that?" Anne demanded, further confused.

"I examined him six point eight months ago. We confirmed that the cyclic drive no longer affected him."

"He told me that, and that we would have no children."

"At that time Sannen informed me of his plans to serve the Federation in an ambassadorial capacity, I knew his bondmate was dead. After testing, we informed him that he could travel for the Federation without thought of the cycle." Her voice took on an indignant, betrayed tone. "Had he thought to inform us that he planned to take a mate, we would have carried testing further and determined fertility."

Amusement joined the mixture of sensations that were swirling in Anne's mind. Because they had told him he was through with the fever, he assumed he was sterile. Sannen had been done in by his own system of logic.

T'Nadra was still talking. "...Since this pregnancy was unplanned, will you wish to abort?"

"No!" The answer was instinctive, then her confusion caught up with her. "At least I don't think so."

"Do you speak for your mate?"

"Yes," she said, then wondered about her answer. Surely Sannen wouldn't want. that. But he did plan a life that excluded any more children. Oh I don't know anything right now, her mind cried. She tried not to let her confusion show. "I'm going to have to think about this."

"Certainly. I shall set up an appointment for next week. Until then do not strain yourself physically, also you will require proper rest. We shall discuss diet at our next appointment. Until then, I would suggest only bland foods and, of course, I am to be called at the first sign of ... anything unusual." T'Nadra noted the concern on Anne's face. "Hybrid pregnancies are not the risk they once were but I do believe in being cautious. I plan to keep a close watch on you."

Still In a daze Anne dressed and left the room. The much relieved hotel manager was waiting to escort her back to the hotel.

* * *

She lay on the bed, again staring up at that same ceiling. Pregnant. The word repeated in her mind. All her resolve of last night was gone and her confusion back.

Sannen would not want her to abort, of this she felt sure. But that was the only thing she was sure of at this point. With all other things, she was back to square one.

"A child. I'll have a baby. A baby is growing inside me, even now." She rubbed her hand across her abdomen as if expecting something physical to have taken place. "She." At that instant it became she, to Anne, and the image of herself with bulging middle formed in her mind. "Maybe she'll look like me -- only with pointed ears. She'll have so many needs -- and we'll give her so much love and care. "We." Anne's mind sobered. "We. I won't be here, with Sannen. I'll be -- alone somewhere. No. I can't do that. I'll have to stay here at least until she's born. Then what? My God, what kind of a life do I have to offer my child? The two of us living alone, without family. I know what that's like." Being raised by her father's mother, while her father traveled as a vacuum worker in space. Fitting in occasional visits with her mother when she was between husbands and had time for Anne. One long honeymoon, Anne remembered thinking that about her mother's lifestyle. She was always on a honeymoon with a new husband and when the honeymoon was over, so was the marriage. Her father being an only child, there was no extended family. The one visit to her great-grandmother's ended with Genessa and Grandma arguing and their leaving early. There were never any cousins to play with or large family picnics or holiday celebrations like other kids had. "I won't have my child live like that -- but we can't live at Na'Sar." Thoughts of how T'Pru would take this news filled her mind. It would not be pleasant.

There was a tightening in her chest again as she felt closed in on from all sides. She got into her nightgown and tried to sleep. Instead she lay tossing and turning, the pain in her chest continuing.

As the pain grew worse, Anne clutched at her chest and struggled to the intercom, intent on calling a healer. Mouthpiece in hand, she stopped. What could a healer do? Her problem was mental, not physical, and the stress was not good for her child. "Something has to be decided, and now!"

* * *

Anne entered her bedroom at Na'Sar to find it unchanged. No one had been in here since she left. "Come," she said in response to a knock at the door.

Sian entered. "You wished to see me?"

"Yes. I did. I intend to settle things between us, about the other day."

"Father and I have already discussed it."

"That pleases me, but I should like to discuss it also. I do understand how what you saw might have appeared as very intimate and improper Vulcan behavior. But humans wouldn't have given it a second thought."

"Cultural differences."

"Yes."

"And there will be no scandal, so Father said."

"Sian, that you could even think that I or your father might consider such a thing hurts me deeply. That would put father against son (Anne shuddered at the very thought). It would tear a family apart.

"It has been known to happen."

"Well, not where I'm involved."

"...There is no attraction between you and father?"

"Attraction? Yes, I find him attractive. He has everything necessary to qualify, sensitivity, intelligence and good looks. And he is the only mentor of this family who was talked to me about anything more personal than the weather or the state of the plomeek crop. I responded to that; I needed it. But lots of men in the galaxy are attractive, including your grandfather. No matter how cultures select mates, what makes marriages, is work. Without that, all you have is two people, occupying the same space. What is important here is that I married your grandfather and have pledged my commitment to him. My energies lie in making this marriage work.

"Great-grandmother said there would be a divorce."

Anne was struck by how close T'Pru had come to being right. But that was in the past. "No, Sian. Not only will there be no divorce, instead there will be a child."

"Oh... Na'Sar will see many changes in the future."

"Really?"

"...My mother will be returning. She is also with child."

"Really!' Anne repeated with genuine surprise. "And that is why your father is bringing her home?"

"She is ill; the virus has left her disabled. She must have complete bed rest and care if she and the child are to survive."

Anne watched him as he spoke of this never-seen mother of his. "Sian, how do you feel about meeting your mother?"

"...My emotions are ... confused. It troubles me..."

"Take your time. Get to know her. She's neither the worst person that ever lived or the best. Like most of us she fits somewhere in-between. Give her the same chance you gave me."

"Father and I have spoken at length about this. His words echo yours. He said that she has borne her failure well and has served him without complaint. He brings her home with no regret."

"You make it sound like she lived here before."

"She did. She was orphaned as a child. Since she and father were bonded, she came to make her home here. It is not an uncommon practice."

Several questions flooded her mind, but Anne knew she could not ask them. Sian had just spoken to her on a very personal level; she could not jeopardize that. "Will she remain after the child is born? Will they marry?"

"She will remain, but I do not believe that Father will ever make her his wife. He does desire that she partake in our lives, though. She will be allowed to share in the caring of my brother or sister."

"And to get to know her firstborn son?"

"Yes, that also."

"Sian, I would be most pleased to continue this conversation at a later time. Right now I have a family meeting to attend."

"Meeting?"

"Yes, I called for one. You were correct. Na'Sar is about to see many changes."

"You will challenge Great-grandmother?" he asked, awed by the thought.

"That's exactly what I'm going to do."

"Will you force her from Na'Sar as she did you?"

"That's not my intention, but if she decides to leave, I'll gladly hold the door for her."

"No one has ever done that before -- are you not afraid?"

"I'm scared to death; will you wish me luck? I know it's illogical..."

"Perhaps not -- with her. Good luck, Grandmother."

Anne forced back the tears that welled up in her eyes. Keeping her voice calm, she said, "Thank you, Grandson." With a sense of determination, Anne went to her meeting.

* * *

Sannen was pleased as he stood on the, speakers' platform. But his impassive face showed no expression as he listened to the concluding speeches. Soon, within the hour, this would be over - successfully completed and the treaty signed. By midnight he would be on a liner and in three days, home with Anne. His mind thus occupied, Sannen paid no attention to the crowd in front of the speakers' platform. He did not see the man among the many just below the platform. The man shifted, waiting, then ever-so-casually slipped his hand under his cloak, taking hold of the projectile firing weapon and slowly sliding it into position.

Acute Vulcan hearing detected the shot being fired and in that instant Sannen hesitated, not knowing for whom it was meant. In deciding whether to step in front of President Maderas or simply move himself, he was too late. The projectile hit and Sannen sank to the floor. The assassin knew his victim. It was a direct hit in the heart.

Sannen focused his eyes on President Maderas, kneeling next to him. There was only one thought on his mind, a message. He must get word to Anne. President Maderas would see it delivered. He motioned her closer, knowing his voice would not carry far. "Please, a message to my wife. Tell her -- I have her news -- I am both ... proud and ... pleased..." His strength gone, Sannen's head fell to one side.

THE END