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Story [Star Trek: AOS] “with a hundred different stars in my skin” Spock/Uhura, AU, Complete on 3/04!

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Mira_Jade , Aug 27, 2013.

  1. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: As always, I am stoked you are enjoying this!! I am so glad that the last chapter did not disappoint. :D [:D]

    L'iest has come up against something as immutable as Beren and Luthien - against whom even Morgoth had to cower [face_dancing] So dude better watch his backside. :cool: Spock is spoiling to take him down a peg or a dozen. =P~

    [face_laugh] I could not have said it better myself! Lets just say that I have a plan or two for L'iost up my sleeve. I can't wait until we get to that part. [face_mischief]:D


    Part VIII

    A part of him was both thankful and irritated by Kirk's intrusion.

    The Vulcan part of him was thankful; glad for the moment he now had to step away, to process and align his thoughts in neat and orderly boxes once more. They were boxes which Nyota never had been content to conform herself to before, but which, since her, he had packed and stacked quite nicely, or so he had thought.

    He would have to meditate twice as long tonight, he knew. Already he could feel an ache growing at his temples, the tell tale sign that his control was stretched to its thinnest line. The points between the two bloods of his heritage was tangled helplessly, and now he could not tell which was which and what was what. Once, long ago, she had helped sooth that line, but now . . .

    He had felt anger, pure and simple, when hearing about her fights, her struggles. The anger had been a surprise to him, a wave of red washing through the carefully wrought bonds of his logic and control until it had been all he could do to keep from opening her mind right there – looking inside and ripping away any trace of the other being until her mind was clean and whole before him. He wanted to tear, he wanted to destroy, he wanted ruin, and that urge was Vulcan to its very core – a primordial rage of his species that they had tried for generations to stamp away and rise above.

    And Spock had . . . until she rocked his world on it's axis once more.

    At first, he had not even been able to look at her. He had busied himself with making tea, of all things, knowing that he hardly fooled her with his diversion. He had listened to her story, and had to grasp the back of his chair to keep from reaching out and taking her hand – to keep from touching the long line of her scar, the tangible reminder of all that she had went through – all that she continued to go through. Seeing her so hurt had been as a physical shock to his system, the knowledge that another had dared to harm her in such a way, the knowledge that -

    - but no. She was not his to care for, and he tried to tell himself that it was worry he felt as an old friend. He felt a righteous indignation for an old comrade, and nothing else. Of course he knew anger. Of course he knew worry. Both were to be expected. Both were natural and human.

    And yet . . . he had felt the way she had tried to access the strands of their broken bond, as reflexive to her as breathing. He had felt, and a part of him had reached back in reply. It was both human and Vulcan, the urge give comfort and receive it in return, and he had been glad for the kettle going off, lest he said something less than wise as a result.

    Less than wise. He allowed himself a mental flinch as he thought about his complimenting her scar. Compliments were not appropriate between them at this point, let alone a comment on her physical appearance - but the words had tumbled from his mouth without his taking time to give them proper thought. Often had it been so around her, and now . . .

    He told himself that it was not proper to think about how he still found her beautiful to look upon - how he had wanted to touch the new line of her hair, the more prominent shape of her cheekbones. He wanted to run a soothing hand over the line of ruined skin on her face, to erase every memory of pain and weakness until every time she looked and saw the scar, she would think instead of his touch.

    But . . . seeing her as a whole helped dampen the unexpected ardor of his thoughts. She looked as if she had not been eating properly – as if she had not been able to eat properly. She had always been thin, tall and lean and graceful like the lines on their fastest ships, but now she was treading the line towards unhealthiness. Her bones poked through her skin in odd places, and he knew that if he were to feel at her spine, he would feel each dip and turn of vertebra. It should not be so, he thought. And that too he would take up with L'iost when his time inside of her mind came.

    Inside of her mind . . . At the thought, he felt a human pang of . . . nervousness, could he call it? . . . deep inside, stabbing between the bonds of his control. For him to look and see what L'iost had done, to touch her mind and open his up to her own . . . He did not know if . . .

    Real too had been the thick feeling of guilt that had risen in his throat when he had first heard her tale. If he had been there, he thought . . . if he had never left . . . Would things had been different? Would things have changed, or would they have stayed much the same?

    But to think on what could have been was human to the extreme, and illogical in full. And so, he pushed the thought away.

    An hour, Spock decided. An hour, at least, of extra meditation was called for that night. And then he could continue on from there.

    For now, he had a duty to perform, and he would see it done.

    He took a deep breath, expanding his lungs and finding his center. He carefully pushed each thought of her aside, wrapping his concerns and tempestuous emotions into a box of its own, and buried them deep within his psyche. It was, he thought, as trying to bury air; nigh impossible, and seeping through the cracks no matter how hard he tried.

    By the time he reached Saerk's door, he was composed again. He could feel his thoughts rolling beneath the surface, but no longer did they strike the shores of his consciousness like a wave.

    “Saerk,” he said to the boy within, “I am leaving for the investigation now. You are, under no circumstances, to leave. Is that clear?”

    Saerk gave him a blank look – what would have been innocent bewilderment on a human face, and Spock raised a brow higher in reply, adding a touch of his mind to convey just how much he meant his words. Strange beings were running afoot, and he . . .

    He would have Serit come and keep an eye on the child, Spock thought. His aide had, over the years, become quite used to Saerk and his ways, and knew how to keep the child well in hand.

    Saerk tilted his head at the sincerity in his tone, blinking long and slow as he felt for something just beneath the surface. Mindful of his son's . . . sensitivities to the emotions of others, he pushed his thoughts deeper, until all Saerk would be able to feel was calm.

    Saerk raised a brow – not completely convinced, but he did nod his head sharply. “Affirmative,” he said. “I will stay here, father.”

    Spock inclined his head, and then turned to leave. By the time he made it down the hall, Nyota and Kirk both were ready to leave, standing close together and chatting animatedly. Personal space, Spock knew from long experience, disappeared in Kirk's company, and that did not give him pause so much as the easy smile on Nyota's face did – the simple way she touched Kirk's arm with her amusment, the fact that she laughed at all.

    The evidence of their long years of friendship stung, though Spock knew it should not. Fifteen years, he thought, and a bond slipped from his containment of feeling. Fifteen years they had known each other, and . . .

    But now was not the time for this line of thought.

    “If you are ready,” he said, and his voice came out cool for the effort of his keeping it free of infliction and tone.

    Kirk raised a brow at hearing so, but kept his smile fixed upon his face. “Of course – there you are, ever keeping me on my toes,” he said instead, clapping him on the shoulder even though he knew how Spock felt about such affections. The human part of him, Spock thought, did not mind so much. Particularly, in that moment.

    The walk through the complex was thankfully short. Spock walked a step between Nyota. Before, his eyes would have instantly found the long fall of her ponytail as it swayed. Now his gaze fixed on the long curve of her neck, no longer concealed by the length of her hair. He watched the elegant line of her spine, the way the fabric of her uniform moved over her hips, before snapping his eyes back up center and telling them to stay there.

    Perhaps . . . two hours of meditation tonight, Spock thought. Yes, that would be beneficial.

    Kirk glanced over his shoulder, but if he caught the line of his stare, he said nothing. Instead he tucked a smile away and picked up his pace so that Spock could walk besides Nyota instead of behind. Doing so, Spock thought, brought difficulties of its own, but that, at least, was manageable.

    When they got to the carriage – for a lack of a better term, for the longer flights on Ennor were done by harnessing two flying creatures, which looked to be crosses between horses and dragons, to a spherical container, where passengers were seated – a new conundrum was presented by deciding who would sit where. Kirk thankfully took pity on him by sliding into the seat next to Nyota. Spock sat across from them both, and tried not to notice the way their knees were nearly touching.

    Yes, he was not imagining it now. Kirk was most definitely amused.

    Spock leveled a look at his friend, and thankfully, the whole exchange going unnoticed by Nyota – who was staring enraptured out the window, looking at the twilit land in delight as the carriage took flight. There was a simple, childish look of delight on her face at the ride, and he was reminded of her love for the bygone works of Anne McCaffrey. He knew of the pastures in the southern lands of Ennor, and perhaps . . .

    Best to keep his mind on the problem at hand, Spock thought, instead thinking of the Ennorians and their plight. There would be time to think on other things later.

    They reached the lower levels of the city minutes later, and were led into a building that was cut deep into the mountainside. Nyota's fascination from their ride quickly turned to a look of bland indifference – forced, he saw – when she saw that they would be entering the mountain tunnels, and he unconsciously came up behind her, shadowing her as if from a threat. Neither he nor Kirk asked if she was okay with entering the tunnels, instead they each took a point on side of her, and gave her their unspoken support.

    Once again he felt the pins and needles sensation of her unconsciously accessing their bond, and he felt something inside of him hurt like a physical pain at her unknowingly seeking out comfort and security.

    He inhaled deeply . . . he exhaled slowly.

    They were led by two Ennorian guards through the tunnels, through security, and then on to the morgue, where the clan investigators had been working with a team of detectives from Starfleet to ascertain the assassin's identity.

    Already talks between Starfleet and Ennor had been strained, even before the murders had started. The Ennorians were a hive minded race, and discord in even a fraction of its people hurt the whole. If its people were frightened and ill at ease, it would cripple the planet. And so, they had to find the killer's identity, and bring to justice the force behind the killings. These Silent . . . willing to resort to violence and bloodshed to keep their people from moving forward, it was illogical to the extreme, and Spock found himself squaring his jaw at the senselessness of the loss that hovered around them.

    They greeted the detective from Starfleet, a human man named Ghile Black – from one of the Clesagne moon colonies, as told by the bluish cast to his nearly white skin, which was a byproduct of the moon's artificial atmosphere – who in turn introduced him to his Ennorian associates. All were powerful empaths, who used the hive mind not just to communicate, but to search. Spock could feel the hum of their combined power on the air, and he looked over curiously when Nyota tucked a frown away. Was her unease from the similarities to Serillious, or from L'iost's presence continually widening her own psychic receptors, allowing her to feel what he could feel?

    At that too, he knew a thread of worry, which he neatly pushed aside. Humans had innate psi receptors – as did most sentient beings. It made telepathic communication with them easier when compared to some races, but to keep such channels constantly open, filling them and then draining them again . . . Soon, her mind would not be able to handle the strain, and L'iost would break her, like a strong hand on a porcelain cup, one being ignorant of ones strength until it was too late.

    Spock swallowed, and pushed that thought aside as well.

    “Alright, show us what you've got,” Kirk called them to order, and the detectives started to detail the leads they had and those they questioned as they pulled out the sheet covered corpse of their dead clansman. The man had been high ranking amongst his people, and a loud voice in the urging for Federation membership, at that. His death had come as quite the blow to the proceedings, the people of Ennor both mourning the loss of their own, and questioning the safety of continuing onwards, both.

    As the shroud was drawn away, Spock only paid half attention to the words going on beyond him. Instead he studied the corpse before him. The Ennorian's golden skin was a pale shade of yellow in death, and his white hair was dry and brittle. And yet . . . that was the only negligible mark Spock could see. There was not a mark of struggle, a mark of defense. Spock could not even tell how the man had fallen, but for . . .

    “So, was he poisoned?” Kirk asked, seeing what Spock saw.

    “And that is where it gets tricky,” Ghile said. He looked over to the head Ennorian at his side, who came forward to touch a gentle hand against his kinsman's temple.

    “It was not a poison of his body,” the Ennorian man said in heavily accented Standard. His words still clicked and popped on his tongue. “But of his mind. Here,” he looked to Spock, gesturing for him to step forward. “You would be able to feel, Master-Vulcan, even in death.”

    Slowly, Spock stepped forward, finding the familiar meld points on the cold skin, and seeking . . .

    There was no spark of thought within, no warmth of life and living, and yet . . .

    He pulled back a moment later, blinking at what he had felt within - a gaping void like a maw stretched wide. The searching hunger where once a mind had been . . . a shadow and its consuming . . .

    “What was that?” Spock said, and though his voice was level, Kirk's eyes took on a wider cast at the faint tremor he heard underneath. Kirk understood that what he had seen had upset him. He looked, and saw the question in Nyota's eyes too.

    Again, he felt pins and needles at their bond. But she was not seeking comfort this time, so much as offering it, and he -

    He carefully blocked out that part of his mind, ignoring the part of him that ached all the more for doing so. Now was not the time, he told himself.

    “He has been drained of his connection to the hive-mind,” Spock said, as simply as he could for those in the room who did not understand the ways of interlinked minds. “He has literally been emptied of that which gives him life. They needed not lay a finger on him to do so.”

    Kirk blinked. “That had been theorized in the first report,” he said slowly. “But I was since told that it was impossible.”

    “Improbable,” the Ennorian said. Spock could feel his grief and his fear on the air around him, tangible enough to touch. “But not impossible.”

    “What kind of creature would be able to do this?” Spock asked, for this was beyond the Ennorians and their abilities.

    “Not any creature of our world,” the Ennorian said. “But, of our sister world . . .”

    Ennor II was more primordial than Ennor I, Spock knew - the Dark Ennorians refusing all from the spoken word to any technological advancements from the outside world. The Ennorians called them dark simply for the shadow on their minds – they delighting in warfare and feeding off negative emotions, much as the Ennorians of this world existed in a nearly utopian state for their hive consciousness. It was as yin and yang circling the sun on a shared orbit, and now . . .

    “There are whispers of creatures there who feast on psychic energy; creatures of unparalleled stature and grotesque deformities, warped by the same energies that feed them. The drakaur, but, such beings are merely that. Whispers. Stories told by children to scare other children.”

    “And yet,” Kirk pressed. “Is it possible that they are real?”

    “We have the evidence before us,” the Ennorian said simply.

    “And if it is not,” another Ennorian said, “One of the Silent have merely found a way to amplify their own abilities to do this. Another improbability, but perhaps slightly more feasible than monsters in the mists.”

    Spock tilted his head thoughtfully, unable to discard either theory until they had more information to go on. He had seen odder things throughout the years, and nothing would truly surprise him now.

    “So,” Kirk said, taking charge. “What is being done to find this thing? Your hive mind – you should be able to sense him, right?”

    “In part,” the Ennorian answered. “He has hidden himself, and so, instead of looking for a massive mind in our consciousness, we are looking for gaps. For blank spaces. But the planet is large, and there are many such inconsistencies. The search will take time.”

    “And we do not have time to spare,” Kirk ran a hand through his hair. “The talks pick up again in three days, once the grieving time is done, and while we can start with the investigation still ongoing, I would rather we had this under wraps by then.”

    “We already have a list of possible locations,” Ghile said. “We were going to start chipping away at them come dawn.”

    Kirk nodded his head. “You can count me in on that,” he said.

    “We are honored, Captain,” Ghile said in reply.

    Kirk gave a loose grin. “I knew that I would have been bored just sitting still on this trip. I'm happy to help.” He turned to Spock. “Spock, do you think that you can help the Ennorians with their search? I don't know how compatible you are with their hive mind, but you are a fresh set of eyes. You may pick up on something they have missed.”

    Spock inclined his head. “I shall do so, Captain.”

    “Alrighty then,” Kirk cracked his knuckles. “Ready, break.”

    The Ennorians in the room tilted their heads, and Kirk smiled ruefully. “It's a Terran figure of speech,” he waved a hand. “I will see you gentleman in the morning then. Everyone get a good night's rest - you are going to need it.”

    Indeed, Spock thought as he thought of all of the demands he would soon place upon his psyche. Perhaps, he gave ruefully, he would need even more than two hours of meditation that night. Much more.


    He arrived back to his rooms to find that Saerk had not ventured out, and Sarit gave a favorable report of his son's behavior before taking his leave for the night.

    Spock stood for a moment, rubbing his temples and forcing his mind to calm before approaching his son's room. Saerk was dressed for bed, and sitting atop the bedspread, reading from the PADD in his hands when Spock entered.

    Though he had thought that he had shielded his thoughts, Saerk still tilted his head to the side, and blinked when he entered. He put his PADD aside.

    “I would ask you how the investigation goes,” the child said. “But it seems I do not have to.”

    “Things are . . . more complicated than I would have first anticipated,” Spock said simply, coming over and putting the PADD on the bedside stand, powering it down. The hour was late, and the child needed rest.

    “The thing you saw; this thing that troubles you,” Saerk said, studying his face intently. “It is . . . purple and grey. And hungry. What is it?”

    “A very evil thing,” Spock answered as simply as he could. “An evil being who wants to do this world harm.”

    He fought the human urge he had to run a hand through his hair. He should have left Saerk on New Vulcan, he knew with a pang of regret. He knew that things had the potential to escalate on Ennor, but he had been selfish. He had not wanted to be away from his son, and he did not want for Saerk to have to . . .

    Saerk did not deserve for both parents to be gone at once, not if Spock could help it, and so, he had taken him with him. It had been a selfish impulse to want his child always near. A human impulse. Now, with a dangerous being out there who thirsted and hungered . . .

    They would solve this quickly, Spock decided. Quickly and neatly, and then leave this world far behind them.

    “An evil thing,” Saerk muttered to himself. “Like the creature that feeds on Miss Nyota's mind?”

    Spock blinked, though he should not have been surprised. L'iost's presence was strong, and Nyota wore her feelings at the surface of her mind. Of course Saerk would be able to sense such a being.

    “Yes,” Spock answered on a whisper. “Quite like that.”

    “Her mind is red,” Saerk said, troubled. “It should not be. It should be gold - gold and orange. It still is, deep inside.” Saerk looked up at him as he climbed beneath the covers. His eyes were no longer far beyond his years. Instead, it was a child who asked in a child's voice, “Can you help her?”

    “Yes,” Spock gave his reply. “Yes, I do believe I can.”

    “Good,” Saerk said simply, settling in against his pillow.

    Spock felt fondness pull at his heart as he ran a hand across his son's brow. “Sleep now.”

    Saerk nodded, and Spock gave into the Vulcan impulse to help him on towards dreams. He soothed the child's psyche, and before he drew his hand away, Saerk slept.

    Slowly, Spock rose, and turned from the room. He had a long night ahead of him, he thought as he shut the door behind him. He had much to think on, much to solve . . . and it was best to get started on that now.

    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    =D= =D= Another rockin' update.
    You do my snuggle bunny amazingly well. ^:)^

    Quotable nummies:

    At first, he had not even been able to look at her. He had busied himself with making tea, of all things, knowing that he hardly fooled her with his diversion. He had listened to her story, and had to grasp the back of his chair to keep from reaching out and taking her hand – to keep from touching the long line of her scar, the tangible reminder of all that she had went through – all that she continued to go through. Seeing her so hurt had been as a physical shock to his system, the knowledge that another had dared to harm her in such a way, the knowledge that -

    - but no. She was not his to care for, and he tried to tell himself that it was worry he felt as an old friend. He felt a righteous indignation for an old comrade, and nothing else. Of course he knew anger. Of course he knew worry. Both were to be expected. Both were natural and human.
    And yet . . . he had felt the way she had tried to access the strands of their broken bond, as reflexive to her as breathing. He had felt, and a part of him had reached back in reply. It was both human and Vulcan, the urge give comfort and receive it in return, and he had been glad for the kettle going off, lest he said something less than wise as a result.

    Less than wise. He allowed himself a mental flinch as he thought about his complimenting her scar. Compliments were not appropriate between them at this point, let alone a comment on her physical appearance - but the words had tumbled from his mouth without his taking time to give them proper thought. Often had it been so around her, and now . . .

    He told himself that it was not proper to think about how he still found her beautiful to look upon - how he had wanted to touch the new line of her hair, the more prominent shape of her cheekbones. He wanted to run a soothing hand over the line of ruined skin on her face, to erase every memory of pain and weakness until every time she looked and saw the scar, she would think instead of his touch.

    YES, BABY YES! Kiss it all away! [face_dancing] And she is still his, in every and all ways that count. [face_love]

    Inside of her mind . . . At the thought, he felt a human pang of . . . nervousness, could he call it? . . . deep inside, stabbing between the bonds of his control. For him to look and see what L'iost had done, to touch her mind and open his up to her own . . . He did not know if . . .
    Real too had been the thick feeling of guilt that had risen in his throat when he had first heard her tale. If he had been there, he thought . . . if he had never left . . . Would things had been different? Would things have changed, or would they have stayed much the same?

    Such real and understandable emotions/ponderings. [face_thinking]

    Before, his eyes would have instantly found the long fall of her ponytail as it swayed. Now his gaze fixed on the long curve of her neck, no longer concealed by the length of her hair. He watched the elegant line of her spine, the way the fabric of her uniform moved over her hips, before snapping his eyes back up center and telling them to stay there.
    [face_laugh] [face_laugh] Sweetiekins cannot help himself! [face_dancing]

    Love that whole dragon-riding idea once the investigation is settled, and other crucial matters.

    The thought of he and she riding dragons just makes me =P~ and wriggle with eager anticipation!


    On a serious note, whether it's an adept with creepy, stronger skills or a "monster" out of the mists, that is one flaming evil menace that needs to be dealt with yesterday. [face_nail_biting]


    Mira_Jade - I want to do short stories flowing from this AU. 1. A parallel of Ny's experiences but from Spock's POV, and going back quite a ways. Back to their initial relationship and severing. Ouch! The main part will be naturally current events.

    And 2. A Jim/OC romance - I figure it would be quite interesting, because he's older and yet still himself, nerf-herder.

    I was thinking of two possibilities: bringing in an older Audrey Pearce or a whole new OC, one perhaps he crossed paths with in earlier times but never had the chance with before. If the latter, I will going to give her honey-gold hair and grey-blue eyes. And I'll welcome name suggestions. :D Make them sound UK-ish like Elinore, or Elspeth. LOL
  3. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: Gah! I was so excited when I read your post. So excited!! [face_love]

    You know that I would love any and all offerings you could come up with in this 'verse, my friend! I am so stoked to read them. [face_dancing] After this story I wanted to do a collection of oneshots about their life after - you know, the 'learning to be a family' moments, so we should have plenty to feed off, too. :D If you want to talk about any particulars, feel free to shoot me a PM! [:D]

    And as for Jim - you know I love Audrey and would love to see her in any and all things, but an OC sounds fun too! Whatever your muse decides. :cool: For names (yes, I have a document just with names and their meanings for OC's - hush :p), I have these that are UK-ish . . .

    Ailsa – A Scottish name, an island off of the Clyde river
    Adeline – French, meaning 'noble'
    Adelaide – Medieval English, 'noble and kind'
    Cerys – Welsh, meaning 'love'
    Caera – Irish for 'friend'
    Cressida – Greek for 'gold'
    Darcy – Meaning 'dark one', and always a hit. ;)
    Elivina – British for 'good elf'
    Ellesse – Old German for 'foreign'
    Emmeline – French, meaning 'work'
    Niamh – pronounced 'nee-iv', it's one of my favorite Irish names, meaning 'luster, brightness'

    . . . or I could think of more. :p

    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  4. Master_Jaina1011

    Master_Jaina1011 Jedi Master star 4

    May 20, 2002
    Mira_Jade Nyota's Heart - You crazy gals. Whatever you guys write I will read.

    Mira, I am enjoying this story immensely. and the Li'iost(?) mind thingy... whoa. Spock will help right and send him back to where he belongs?
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    Master_Jaina1011 -- hi there! I can tag or conversate you when my stories start. I'm gonna start outlining asap. :D The S/U from his POV will be called, "The Other Half of Me" [face_sigh] and the Jim story will have Elivina as a love interest, either a ship's counselor :cool: [like Troi] [face_laugh] or chief surgeon. :D :D Doctor and Captain getting it on and she snips at him for winding up in her Sickbay all the time. [face_laugh]
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2020
  6. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: Elivina! I love it. :D I cannot wait until that series is off the ground. Feel free to tag me when you do so, please. I don't want to miss a word. [:D]

    Master_Jaina1011: It is so good to see you here, my friend! I am stoked that you are enjoying the story so far, and hope you continue to do so. [:D]

    And, speaking of L'iost and Spock's aid . . .

    Here you go. [face_mischief]

    Part IX

    L'iost was ill to leave her mind alone that night.

    Every time she shut her eyes he seemed to be there, tormenting her by bring back her deepest buried memories – watching Spock leave time and time again, remembering her time in the tunnels of Serillious, how she had lulled away in a black and empty world for so long, not strong enough to push back, not strong enough to fight.

    She awakened, unrested and groggy, but more determined than ever to get the ghost of L'iost from her mind. Her thoughts were her own, she decided fiercely, and he would no longer take her dreams from her.

    Spock was meeting with the Ennorian empaths for the better part of the day, while Kirk rode out with Ghile and his team at much the same time. When she checked her messages, she saw that Spock asked her late in the afternoon – when he would be breaking from his work with the empaths for the day.

    Nyota passed her morning listening through tapes of the Ennorian tongue, but not truly listening to what she heard. She tapped her stylus against her PADD as she worked, her eyes finding the window more often than not, thinking of both her own personal turmoil, and the particulars of the intrigue that now gripped the planet they were trying to aid.

    This was all so eerily akin to Serillious, she thought, only on a larger scale. At the path her mind took, she felt L'iost rumble against her thoughts, scoffing at the idea that any could be superior to him. He turned his nose up to the hive mind she now sought to help – even the threat they faced received no more than a passing glance from L'iost, as confident as he was in his own superiority.

    But not for long, Nyota replied, and at that too, L'iost was less than impressed.

    When it was time, she headed over to Spock's suite of rooms. She was greeted by Saerk, and while the boy did not smile, there was a certain brightening of his eyes that told her that he was happy to see her.

    “Father is ready for you,” he said simply, and Nyota came in and looked over to where Spock already had two cups of tea steeping. Instead at sitting at the long counter in the kitchenette, he had two Vulcan meditation mats down on the floor of the common room. He was sitting easily with his legs crossed, a single candle lit before him. The scent of the wax easy and warm as it filled the room. Like vanilla, Nyota thought, but not. The spice was soothing, she thought as she put her bag aside, and took off her boots.

    She had not seen Spock so . . . casual since their last days at the Academy, she thought with a pang. He wore a simple black tunic of a rough weave, and loose fitting pants to match. The color set off the pale shade of his skin, highlighting the alienness of his features – the strong lines that had always intrigued her in times gone by, and still drew her eye even now.

    Her heart made an odd motion in her chest at the thought, and yet, she pushed it aside. As much as she was look past her unease with letting Spock inside of her mind, there was still some things she would rather he did not see. And while she did not think he would look, she would be doing herself no favors if she could not keep her thoughts from the forefront of her mind.

    “So,” she said in greeting as Saerk went back down the hall, “how do we do this?”

    “We do this,” Spock answered, waiting for her to sit on the mat across from him. She folded her hands in her lap, fighting the urge she had to fiddle her fingers together as she did so. “By forming a net.”

    “A net?” she questioned, curious.

    “Yes,” Spock inclined his head. “Telepathic communication is possible through hundreds of small psi receptors in your brain. Most sentient creatures have these receptors, while only a few species can access and manipulate them. L'iost has reached through and opened yours – no doubt seeking where you have known a form of telepathic communication before.”

    She watched, and saw the way a muscle in his jaw worked at his saying so. Her bond with him, she understood. An uncomfortable feeling washed through her if she wondered . . . if he had never . . .

    But there was no use in dwelling on what if's, she told herself. She squared her jaw, and instead listened to what he had to say.

    “I will go to these receptors, one at a time, and create an 'anchor', blocking L'iost from accessing these points, and then connect the anchors like a net. It shall take more than one meld to do so, but I do believe I can keep these anchors in place long enough for your mind to heal from your growing psychic scars. Once your mind figures out how to heal itself, it should naturally block L'iost from any further attempts. The human mind is resilient, and it shall do more work than I. I merely have to open up the door for you to do so.”

    “And if,” she asked slowly. “If L'iost is stronger than you . . . if the anchors do not hold . . . what then?”

    She saw a shadow cross through his eyes, quicker than a blink, and she felt a flicker of disquiet pass through her. “The anchors will hold," he did not answer her outright. "You need not worry about anything else.”

    There was determination in his voice, she heard. A line of steel, forged by heat.

    She nodded, allowing herself to trust him. It was a trust that came easily, she thought. Too easily, a part of her warned, and yet -

    - she had no time to dwell on such things when he shifted before her. He looked to be at a loss as where to begin. She forced a stained smile to her own face, understanding his hesitation.

    “It's been a long time,” she said gently.

    “Indeed,” his voice was soft from his throat. She felt the sound crawl across her skin like a caress.

    She inhaled, as if bracing herself, and he noticed.

    “I will not,” he said carefully, " . . . I will not look anywhere I do not need to. On this, I give you my word.”

    She nodded. She let out the breath she had not realized she had been holding. “I know,” she said. “I trust you.”

    The human mind and healing, she thought on his words. It was true, she willed herself to believe. In more ways that one.

    She watched as he shifted his weight, as if unsure of how to proceed. She remembered once, a lifetime ago, how tentative fingers had stroked her psi points in a lover's touch before slipping and sinking . . . She remembered the slow warmth that had flared through her thoughts, like an ember coaxed to flame, and one being once existing where once there had been two – a union of thoughts more intimate than any of bodies.

    But now . . .

    She leaned towards him, giving him an approval he did not need. His hand made a fist before relaxing, and she felt the unsure brush of his fingertips across the skin of her face. She held her breath at the touch, willing old sensations and old memories to lie dormant as they fell into place, finding a hollow there, a dip there, and then -

    His mind felt the same as it did those long years ago. Warm and alien; foreign and bright. Where before she instantly had access to his thoughts and feelings, his every emotion and most distant memories, she now realized that he was holding himself back from her. She felt nothing but an odd golden light, and he in turn delved no deeper into the innermost parts of her mind than he had to. Instead he stayed upon the scarred paths of her psyche; observing, seeking . . .

    It was different than before, she thought, something like regret filling her at the thought. Different, and yet -

    Almost immediately, she could feel L'iost fill her thoughts, drawn to the surface by the foreign presence in her mind. He wasted no time with words, and Spock did neither, both presences turning over and about each other like a storm about the horizon. One was noise and light, where the other was endless. Untouchable, even.

    She winced, feeling the claws of L'iost as he struck himself deep. In reply, Spock too turned in her mind like a weight. And it was too much, too much . . . she felt the urge to panic, to push them both away, but just as soon as the sensation surfaced, she was aware of the golden light of Spock's presence seemingly shifting. On one front, he held L'iost at bay, while at the other she could feel the light of his mind sinking into the scarred and damaged parts of hers. His presence was shaped as a comfort.

    I will not hurt you, she felt, more than heard, and she trusted him. She believed him.

    Foolish, silly girl, L'iost was not the only one to divide his attentions. So easily do you put your trust in him again. I have seen the untold depths of your mind. I know how he wounded you, child. He tore your mind open and left it open for any other to burrow in and make their next. Instead of caring for your needs, he catered to the needs of the many. The needs of everyone but you. And you . . . you now let him in once again? You are simple enough to truly think he can so easily cast me aside . . .

    I am not so unsteadfast in my affections, little one, this you must know . . .

    L'iost had been there for so long, Nyota knew. So long that she was hard pressed to remember a time when he had not been there. Even for all of his dark words, she still felt a rippling from L'iost's mind. He cared for her, in a queer sort of way. In a way that went beyond definition, as a parasite cared for the continued health of its host, so that they would both flourish on together. While he was fascinated by Spock's presence – curiously turning over the ties that bound her to him, as he had when first he touched her mind – he felt an animal's sense of wronged justice for her sorrow and her regret when it came to Spock.

    He hurt you . . . L'iost whispered. He left you . . . and you think that he can help you, you truly do?

    He was not completely wrong, Nyota knew. But he was focusing on the part of her mind that worked beyond conscious thought and sentient logic. He focused on the part of her that was base instinct and simple feeling. He focused, and scratched his taloned fingers deep, until -

    She could feel her memories surfacing; things she had been determined to keep hidden while Spock was within her mind. But at L'iost's command, she felt the memories fly towards him like debris in a storm. She could not call them back.

    And Spock looked.

    He looked, and he saw . . .

    . . . saw her, weeping and alone the day he left for New Vulcan, a human grief mixing with her inability to accept or deal with the empty place in her mind where once he had been . . .

    . . . telling everyone she was okay in the days, weeks, after. Lying to friends and family and even herself until she believed it to be true . . .

    . . . then learning from Jim that he had married, that he had such a bond with another. Telling herself that she was happy. That she was glad . . .

    . . . a dozen half-hearted relationships. A few men she cared for, loved even, but never to a point where she had felt drawn like a moon to its orbit, and . . .

    . . . Serillious, L'iost deep in her mind, seeking and searching, digging out the part of her that she had once shared with Spock and exploiting it like a locust upon a barren tree, looking for any last glimpse of green . . .

    You left me, the human feeling hiccuped out – drawn from a place in her mind that was neither logic nor educated thought, but rather emotion in its truest sense. Human feeling in it's rawest form, unable to control and impossible to ever completely reason away. You left me, and now . . .

    She felt L'iost's satisfaction in her mind. Felt him as he fed at the point that connected her mind to Spock's, and at that, she felt a rage fill her, righteous and true. That was not his, she thought fiercely – savagely, even. It would never be his – and it took her a moment to realize that it was not only her own anger she was feeling, it was Spock's too. His golden presence turned as something living, something red and angry as it advanced on L'iost's presence in her mind and smothered -

    And L'iost laughed. He laughed and laughed and laughed, until finally -

    Nyota blinked, violently drawn back to herself as she opened her eyes, once more aware on the physical plane. She was breathing heavy, as if she had gone too long underwater and she now had to gulp in that first breath of air.

    She opened her eyes, and saw that the candle had burned down before them. It was nearly out. Her legs cramped from sitting in one position for too long. Her back was bowed from the way she leaned towards him for his touch. And Spock . . .

    He was still touching her, she realized. His fingers were still pressed to her skin, as if he were unable to bring himself away. His eyes were wide and black and so very full, until -

    He pulled back from her. When next she blinked, he was untouchable again, and she felt as if she was left reeling again with nothing to grasp onto.

    “The first anchor has been set,” Spock said. His voice was even. Too even, and upon hearing the lack of feeling from him, she felt something deep within her stomach twist. It felt too much like regret for her taste, and irrationally she felt the need to apologize, to assure . . .

    “Spock,” she said, gathering her words together as best she could. Her voice was strangely level when she spoke. Strangely calm. Though her mind hurt like a wound, rubbed raw, it had an ache of healing about it. A sore scabbing over and closing. She felt a glimmer of hope upon the outskirts of her mind, knowing that not this time, but next time, or the next after – no matter how many times – this would be something they could defeat.

    And she would not be caught so unaware next time.

    She felt determination steel her bones as she forced herself to hold Spock's gaze, even when he could not bring himself to look at her.

    “Spock,” she said gently. “What you saw there . . .”

    “Was not mine to see,” Spock said simply. Rigidly. “I apologize for overstepping my bounds.”

    No, she thought, setting her jaw. She would not let him retreat on her.

    “No,” she shook her head. Once again she had to fight the urge she had to lean forward to take his hand. To offer comfort where she could. “No. We need to talk about this. What L'iost showed to you . . . it wasn't the truth. Not the whole of it.”

    “Was it not?” Spock asked, and when he spoke his voice was low. Dark. “It felt as a truth, Nyota. I . . . I harmed you, more than you yourself may even realize. It was foolish for me to initiate a bond with you those long years ago, and it was cruel of me to break it apart at the first test of my loyalty. I . . .”

    Hurt you . . . Ileft you open and unprotected to the likes of him, she could feel an echo of his thoughts in her mind, and she pursed her lips at hearing so. She fought the urge to touch her temples in frustration.

    “Yes,” she said frankly, sparing neither him nor himself. “Yes, it hurt when you left. I felt as if my world was ending in those first few days . . . but I healed. I moved on. I have not wallowed over you for fifteen years, Spock – I've lived my life as best I could, and over time I've even found closure in the thought that you were doing the same. What L'iost showed you . . . it was emotion, basic and raw. It was not my every thought and whole rational being. Remember what you said about the human mind and healing, just before we started?”

    Still, he would not look at her. She watched as he listened though, as he put together what she was saying with a mind to quick for her to follow.

    “Do I wish things had gone differently?” she asked next, pushing forward past the lump in her throat. “Yes. Whenever I think of you I would wish things had been different. But I did not let that wish consume me. I did not let that regret cripple me. I've moved on. I've moved on, and now . . .”

    Now they were both here, and she was confused by the resurrection of old attachments and old desires. She felt like one swimming with no shore in sight, and she just wanted a sign from him -

    When he looked up at her, his eyes were still closed off. They gave nothing away. “Nyota,” he said, and it took a moment for it to compute that he said her name. Her name. An unexpected warmth bloomed in her, passing like a shiver up and down her spine. She knew . . . she then knew that she was not as unaffected as she would have professed to be. A part of her, human and yearning and full, wished, and knew . . .

    “If you wish,” he pushed on. “I would understand if you would prefer to finish this with someone else. I am too close to the situation at hand; emotionally compromised, you may say. I would understand if you did not trust your mental health and stability to me.”

    And that, more than anything else, stuck deep within her. She felt it light as a tentative thought, a hope . . .

    “No,” she said simply, and finally his gaze met hers and held. She had to fight to keep from taking his hand in her own. “I . . . you set that first anchor. You silenced L'iost in my mind, and that is more than anyone else has yet been able to do for me. I am grateful, Spock, very grateful, and if you were still willing to help me, I am ready to keep on going forward with this.”

    She still could not read his thoughts from his face, but she could feel a strand of wonder. A strand of amazement. They were as whispers, whispers like . . .

    . . . whispers like the first stages of their bond, all of those years ago, when it had set in without either of them consciously knowing that it did so. At the thought, she felt a part of her warm, and for the first she felt strong enough to defeat the shadow at her mind. She felt strong enough even, to hold on and see if there was anything left. If there was anything . . .

    She held a hand to her temples. The adrenaline of the moment had passed, and now she felt an old and familiar throbbing.

    “You will have a headache for the rest of the night,” Spock said. “It is not unexpected.”

    She gave a wry grin in reply. “Yeah, not much has changed then,” she said, a note of the teasing underlining her words. That first meld between them, even gentle in nature, had put a throbbing in her temples for the rest of the day, and only time and a deepening of the bond between them had lestened that particular sideeffect.

    “Here,” Spock said, rising to his feet as if grateful for a task. “I have a pain suppressor, if you would wish.”

    “I wish,” she answered before standing herself. She was a little unsteady on her feet, but after a moment of blinking her vertigo away, she felt well enough to walk.

    They both moved to the kitchenette, and Spock poured her a glass of water before fetching her a tablet of aspirin.

    Their movements must have alerted Saerk as to the end of their session, for a moment later the child was at the end of the hallway, peering curiously in at them both.

    “Father, is all well?” Saerk asked, looking first at her and then at Spock, his head turned curiously. Nyota remembered the day before, in the market, Saerk's uncanny ability to feel L'iost in her mind. She remembered him speaking of his odd brand of perceptions, and reminded herself to ask Spock about it when she had a moment, curious as she was.

    “Yes, Saerk,” Spock answered. “All is well.”

    “Then . . . you were successful?” Saerk spoke slowly, as if wishing to ask, but unsure of whether or not he had the right to do so.

    Spock looked to her, and she answered for him. “Yes,” she assured the boy. “We took the first step in the right direction,” she said, and knew she meant her words in more way than one.

    “Good,” Saerk inclined his head in a sharp motion before looking out of the window beyond – where the sky had started to flush with the first stages of twilight. Nyota blinked when she noticed the state of the sky. They had been out of it that long, she wondered? She looked then at the nearly consumed candles and the long cooled mugs of untouched tea before realizing that they had stayed in the meld for much longer than she had first thought.

    Well, she thought ruefully, that sure explained the headache.

    “May we go out for Paichi tonight, then?” Saerk asked. “You mentioned so earlier, but I would not want to presume now.”

    Ah yes, dinner, Nyota thought. Her own stomach rumbled at the thought, reminding her that she still had not eaten that day - her stomach in knots when she woke up. It was becoming a bad habit, she knew. She crossed her hands over her stomach, hoping to hide her body's rebellion. “Paichi?” she asked curiously.

    Saerk's dark eyes lit, and she had the strangest feeling that the child was trying to hide a smile as he looked from her to his father. “You do not know what Paichi is?” he asked, as if it was an unthinkable thing. “Father, if you would, she should come as well. In the interests of hospitality,” he added quickly – too quickly, she caught on.

    Spock noticed too, and he raised a brow at his son before turning to her. “Paichi is a vegetarian fare of the Ennorians, similar to your Thai cuisine on Earth, as best as I can explain it. If you are not otherwise engaged this evening, we would be glad of your presence.”

    “There is a firefly dance,” Saerk added, as if the knowledge would surely top the scale of her decision. “They answer the Ennorian flutists at the sunset, and it is fascinating to watch.”

    Dining on exotic foods, and watching an alien dance as a foreign tongue buzzed in her ears? It was, in part, why she had joined Starfleet so many years ago. She felt the immediate urge to say yes, but felt a moment's hesitation. It was . . . very informal, she realized. Intimate, almost; the outing of a family . . . and she . . .

    . . . very much wanted to go, she realized as she looked first at Saerk, and then at Spock. She wanted . . .

    “Yes,” she answered. “I would go with you, if you would have me.”

    Saerk all but bounced on the balls of his feet - a child's excitement that not even his Vulcan blood could do away with. "Excellent," he proclaimed before turning to ready to go.

    As he headed down the hall, she looked to Spock, and found that he was still watching her oddly. She felt that same flicker of wonder. A hesitant waft of fascination, and she held on to both as if they were too fragile to let go of.

    Human minds and their ability to heal, she thought again. It was a thought that she clung to. Yes . . . she finally admitted the truth for what it was, knowing it to be so more than she ever had before.

    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    Love your description of the meld: @};- A light as golden as the Deathless Lands of Valinor [face_dancing] That was gorgeous and poignant. =D= =D=

    I am chuffed they are going to have a 'family outing'. (Was Saerk matching them two up?) :* [face_laugh]

    I love the idea of more melds ^:)^ I love the fact that they are still open and candid with each other. :)

    It feels like their bond is re-forming (woohoo!)
    I am so gooified, it's ridiculous. [face_love] [:D]
  8. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: I am thrilled that you liked that part. It was the hardest part to write so far, but I think it paid off. :p

    Oh yes, Saerk is being a little devious. After all, their 'colours' match. But, more about that later. ;) [face_whistling]

    And now, more about that reforming bond now . . . ;) [face_love][:D]

    Part X

    Quite simply put, he felt as if he was being watched.

    He felt a pressure building in his temples; gnawing at his bones, and no matter how Kirk tried, it was a feeling he could not shake. It was a whisper of warning that had served him well throughout the years, and so, he did not brush it away. Instead he let it linger as he cast his eyes around the tunnels. He kept his hand carefully gripped on the hilt of his phaser. Something moved in the shadows, watching, waiting . . .

    And for the life of him, Kirk could not figure out what.

    They had been searching the tunnels of the mountains for the better part of the day. Though he could not tell by the dark, he felt a rumbling in his stomach that said that the evening hour was already upon then. A whole day searching, and they had discovered nothing of note. Following Detective Ghile and their Ennorian guides, they had yet to find anything valuable in the 'blank places' in the hive mind’s perception of the land. Their telepathic ability was created by the gases in the air and the pull of the planet's orbit, and so, many geographical 'hot spots' appeared on the empath's radar – each one having to be systematically gone through and crossed off the list to find out which one was the Silent in their hiding.

    Around them, the burnt orange tunnels went on long and deep, their flashsticks casting long rays on the porous walls as they went. The tunnel walls were gouged with huge grooves, as if a creature of claws had once hollowed the tunnel into the mountainside, and took its wound from the land.

    Kirk raised a brow, tracing one of the grooves as they went. He turned to Ghile, curious, but the other man shook his head.

    “Primordial markings,” he said in explanation. “Mineral eaters; who would have cared as little about you as you would have them. They are long extinct now.”

    Kirk nodded, relieved. After their talk yesterday about monsters and myths, he was open for anything they would find – but he would rather not have to face down claws that were that large.

    “Once was, when the Ennorian planets were in their infancy, the ancient residents of these worlds could use these tunnels to travel from one system to the next. The turbulent gases in the atmosphere, the proximity to their sun and Ennor Prime – it was a perfect mixture for wormholes, connecting one world to the next. Though most of the crossing points were closed as the solar system came in to its maturity, there are still rumors of pathways existing. There must be for the Dark Ennorians to have passed over in such force – Ennor II keeps a strict watch on travel to Ennor I through the spaceways, and any foul contact would have been caught.”

    Kirk sighed through his teeth as he processed what he was learning. The scales were heaping up before him, and he did not like the way they were tipping, at all.

    “Wonderful,” he muttered. “And you are saying that you have no idea where these pathways are?”

    Ghile looked to the Ennorians again, but shrugged. “I have only been told that they are far from here, and not of any concern. And yet . . .”

    “There were once many ways,” Kirk pressed. “If they did not know that one of them was open in their own backyard . . .”

    “It is possible,” Ghile gave. “Sometimes, when you have illuminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter however improbable -”

    “ - must be the truth,” Kirk finished for him. At Ghile's look, he grinned. “I have a buddy,” he explained. “He loves Doyle's work to pieces - he does his version of gushing and everything when you get him going, and it's hard not to pick up a thing or two.”

    “Ah,” Ghile's pale mouth drew up in a half grin. “He must have impeccable taste, then.”

    “In more ways than one,” Kirk agreed, his smile turning soft at the thought.

    Even though his attention wastaken by the mission on hand, he couldn't help his mind from turning to Spock and Nyota. He known a peace in his heart for seeing the both of them talking again – not quite comfortable together, but getting there. It had been a low blow that had separated them those long years ago, and he was happy for his friends – and even happier still for his own hand in pushing them together again. Now, if they could solve the problem on hand, they could focus even more on the issues that stretched between them. And he . . .

    . . . he could return to the dull monotony of whatever else Starfleet had planned next for him. A ribbon ceremony whenever a new building was opened at Headquarters? Calling him to wave his hand and smile whenever a new planet took on Federation membership? His thoughts rankled as they passed through his mind, and he stubbornly pushed them aside. This easy mission had taken a turn south, and now here he was, once again knee deep in some sort of intrigue or the other.

    Spock would have said that he should be content in the knowledge that he was doing well where he could be of the most use. And yet, Spock had also said that he could give his most to the Federation aboard the helm of a ship. If the his own desires happened to align with the good of many, well, who was he to argue?

    Now, he only had to convince Starfleet of the same.

    And yet, that was a thought for later. For now . . . As they went, Kirk looked down at the scanner in his hands, trying to find a pattern in the locations that the Ennorians had marked off. With a different code, the locations of the murder and other acts of violence thus far were all noted, and he searched, trying to look for a reason to the seemingly random acts before him. There had to be . . .

    As they walked, they came upon the sound rushing water. An underground river, cutting through the inside of the mountains. The river was fed from the hot pockets of heat and water within the planet, and the water in the river was hot, scalding almost – if the bubbling surface and wispy tendrils of steam were any telling.

    “This is the source of the pocket?” Kirk asked, tapping the scanner in his hands when it flickered.

    “It would appear,” Ghile said after talking to the Ennorians next to him to confirm.

    Kirk sighed as they followed the river for a little longer. The river came to an opening in the mountain – where it poured into a massive waterfall that fed the waterways surrounding the capitol. He looked, and could see stars as they started to appear in the crimson and violet sky beyond, caught in the last moments of the sunset as they were.

    “Then it's another dead end,” Kirk said, running a hand through his hair in frustration. They had only until the end of the week before the talks were scheduled to begin. And he . . .

    He could still feel that whisper of warning as it crawled up and down his spine. It tickled the back of his neck, it turned his stomach. There was more going on here, Kirk wanted to say – but he only had a gut feeling and no way to describe what he felt.

    They turned, and then the feeling turned into an all out certainty.

    “There is something else here,” Kirk said on a low whisper, rounding on Ghile as he did so. His eyes cast about the tunnel, looking for a defensible position, when -

    The Ennorians with them hissed, and hunched over, grasping at their heads as they did so. Kirk rounded, his phaser at the ready, but he could see no foe to face. Nothing with claws and fangs . . .

    Instead he felt a pounding at his own temples, so great was the pressure on the hive mind around him. He winced, having to take a knee against the pressure, trying to breathe in and out as he cast his eyes around, searching . . .

    A sound, a wind that howled like a freight train rumbled past them. Kirk could feel the fell presence as it pressed in against his bones, smothering him. He blinked -

    - and then, the presence was gone, as if it had never been there in the first place. Beyond them, the river sloshed wildly in its cradle, as if the waters were aflame from within.

    Their Ennorian companions had been knocked unconscious by their invisible foe. Kirk was grim as he knelt down by their crumpled bodies, but, to his relief, he found slow and sluggish pulses greeting him at each neck. The psychic energy had just overwhelmed them.

    Kirk exhaled through his mouth, returning his phaser to its holster.

    “What was that?” Ghile asked, more to himself than to Kirk. His grey eyes were narrowed as he took in their fallen companions.

    “I have no idea,” Kirk said, reaching next for his communicator. “But I think that was what we were looking for.”

    The feeling of another, of being watched, was gone now. Kirk swallowed, not liking his thoughts as he wondered just where the presence had gone off to.

    He looked to the right, seeing where the river calmed, and like a puzzle piece clicking into place, a missing piece of the riddle suddenly made sense.

    “The waterways,” Kirk said, moving to tap the scanner in his hand to show the 'pockets' that lined the underground systems. There was one, near the heart of the mountain that was larger than most, pulsing with empty energy on the scanner's screen. “They are using the waterways to travel. Here, I would bet you anything that this is where they are working from.”

    “And,” Ghiles said thoughtfully, reaching over to enlarge the display. “That pocket may be large enough to hide one of the wormholes. If we could find this pocket, then . . .”

    “We could close the pathway,” Kirk said. “And deal with our bad guys here face to face.”

    At that, Ghile turned to look at the river. His brow furrowed, troubled. “And yet, they are far from this pocket. Either, they were following us, or . . .”

    “They were heading out,” Kirk said, looking where the river fell into a thundering cascade scarcely feet from them.

    He did not like that thought . . . not at all. And yet, there was nothing he could do about it here.

    “Alright,” Kirk said. “We need a shuttle for these guys, and we will give the capitol a heads up. I think they have trouble coming their way.”



    The Paichi restaurant was built into the side of the mountain, spreading across the lip of a cliff to give a breathtaking view of the forest bellow. Open to the twilit air, and situated between two impossibly tall cascades of falling water, the restaurant was situated in one of the more beautiful spots Nyota had seen in her travels thus far. It was lit with softly pulsing lights and framed with huge jungle plants, some with leaves as tall as she was. White night-blooms opened up to the evening air as the sun set and the stars came out to play in the sky.

    At the crest of the sunset, it was as Saerk said – flute players in twinkling beads and sparkling golden dresses came out to give their song, and at their call, hundreds of tiny golden insects – fireflies, simply put – came out to dance to their song. The show was lovely and enchanting, like a child's idea of fae rings and their moonlit dances.

    Saerk sat, his eyes wide and his mouth all but smiling as he took in the dance of the fireflies. Once the sun set completely, the magic of the moment ended – but not completely. For when the fireflies left, one of the flutists still played, and she was joined by a player on an alien harp, and a percussionist on a low, tribal sounding drum. As the music turned sweet and full, many of those dining got up to dance to the slow, haunting tunes they played.Saerk fidgeting in his seat, and Spock easily saw his son's desire before giving him leave to go and ask his questions. Politely, he added. And do not persist if they do not wish to speak.

    Nyota watched the whole interaction with a barely hidden smile the whole of the way through. There was something intimate the whole evening, eating together as Spock and Saerk both took turns walking her though the menu. They had talked about light and easy things – letting Saerk carry the conversation for the most part, which almost immediatly led to him picking her brain about her travels during her career. She loved sharing her tales, and so she did so with gusto, picking out their more humorous and lighthearted adventures from amongst the stars.

    She would have to start paying more intention to the insects of the planets they visited, she thought with a smile. Like a little boy, Saerk seemed to be interested in anything that crept and crawled, and unfortunately, those were things she actively tried to avoid while on a new planet.

    But now he had the fireflies to examine and explore, and he all but bounded from their table before remembering himself. He slowed his pace to a brisk walk, and politely approached one of the flutists. He was successful in his query, for the flutist smiled and gestured for Saerk to sit, eager to share the particulars of her art.

    “The hive mind is not just a link of psyches,” Spock told her – no doubt the same as Saerk was learning from the flutist just beyond. “It is in the very air, and the notes from the flute manipulate the 'waves', if you would. The fireflies respond and 'dance' accordingly. It is a magician's sleigh of hand, but aesthetically pleasing, nonetheless.”

    “It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen,” Nyota said, meaning every word. “The food's not half bad either.” And it was true – the Paichi was a noodle and vegetable mix with a sweet sauce atop, and truly just wonderful to the taste. (Even if she had been told not to ask what the noodles were made of. She had no qualms about that – don't ask, don't know was a common rule of thumb when it came to alien cuisine, and she had learned her lesson well early on in her career.) She had already eaten one serving and was considering a second – Spock had encouraged her to do so, and she saw the way his eyes lingered on the exposed lines of her collarbone, the new hollows to her cheeks.

    Subtle, she thought, but she did appreciate his concern.

    A part of her thought that she could feel his concern – a flicker of thought against her consciousness, but when she had lingered, waiting for another whisper of empathy, she could feel no more. It had to have been her own imagination, but still . . .

    She tapped her fingers against her glass, and wondered.

    “This is already our fourth time back,” Spock continued wryly. “This is one of Saerk's first times on a completely new world – other than New Vulcan or Earth, and he was eager for the first sight of something 'alien' to his eyes. We came here for political reasons – this is a popular destination for many of the senior clansleaders, but Saerk's awe superseded that our first night here. I must confess that my attention was quite diverted, when it ought not have been.”

    Spock the father, she thought again with a pang. But this time the pang was a softer emotion . . . a warmer emotion, rather than anything else.

    And it was true, when she looked around she could see quite a few familiar faces from the files she had been studying. Senior clansmen indeed . . .

    She looked again, and saw where Saerk was gesturing as he asked the flutist his questions. She looked tickled as she answered his thirst for knowledge as best she could, and when Nyota looked at Spock, she could have sworn that she felt a flickering of affection from him. Of pride.

    She took in a breath, and told herself that she was just being sensitive. She picked up her glass, and took a long swallow, distracting herself from her thoughts.

    When the flutist actually laughed at one of Saerk's questions, Nyota raised a brow, feeling another strand wrap about the slowly strengthening bond she felt with Spock's son. She would miss him, Nyota knew. Miss him dearly, and -

    - at the thought, she felt a flicker from L'iost in her mind. The mental confrontation from earlier meant that he was just a whisper to her thoughts. A half-formed idea in the back of her mind. He was curious, she realized after a moment. Curious for Saerk and his strange empathy, and at the thought, she turned to Spock, remembering what she had wanted to ask him.

    “So,” she started nonchalantly, unsure of how to phrase her words. “Saerk is . . . empathetic for a child. Unique you could even say.”

    Spock's glanced at her, and she watched as something there flickered. He tilted his head, as if considering, before his gaze turned serious, his decision made.

    “He is of the kash'kau,” Spock spoke the unfamiliar word slowly, watching as she translated the High Vulcan it in her mind. “In the times when our people still served Sekhet, he would have been revered as great – sought out as war-lord or a clan-leader with his able to glimpse, and manipulate, the thoughts and feelings of others without the benefit of a bond, or even a physical meld. The Elders capable of giving him direction, allowing him to unlock the full extent of his gifts, are gone now; but in him, a part of our ancient way of life still lives.”

    She processed that, turning the information over in her mind until it made more sense to her. She knew that Vulcans had been a violent and passionate race in the time before Surak and his teachings, and yet, to know of those who were capable of taking and viewing at will – like L'iost, a part of her thought . . . It was a reminder, of just why the Vulcan people so valued their logic and their control. They had to, when so much churned beneath the surface of their race.

    “Between I, my father, and my elder counterpart, we have been able to help him practice his control,” Spock said, watching the thoughts as they turned in her mind. “He does not pick up thoughts unless they are especially strong now. Instead he views the minds of others in terms of colours – as a way to allow pressure to escape, you could say. He does not shut his gift down completely, but he uses it in a way that would not be invasive to others. It is a . . . fine line he walks. One that wearies him at times. But he is strong, and is capable of much.”

    She was not imagining it that time. She could feel his pride like a low flame; his love for his son like a hearth-fire, warming her to the bone. A part of her captured the feeling, holding it close and turning it over in her mind's eyes.

    “That is . . .” she searched for a word to properly explain what she thought, but found that she couldn't.

    “Fascinating?” Spock provided, a brow quirked.

    “Yes,” she agreed, fighting a shiver. “Very.”

    Spock looked back to Saerk, and just barely, his look dimmed. She thought then of all of the hardships that must have come from raising such a child - the hardships and joys, both. Spock, would know the fight in one's own mind, the fight to perfect one's control, and in him, she could imagine no better parent for Saerk. And yet, she then thought of undertaking such a thing alone. She thought of T'Rin, so suddenly gone, and wondered . . .

    She found the question on the tip of her tongue, about to break free, when, suddenly she found herself asking, “Would you like to dance?”

    The words tumbled out without her even realizing that she herself wished to do so. But the musicians had continued on with their haunting song, and out of the corner of her eyes she caught a glimpse of fluttering wings and gracefully swaying braids and pleats of swirling fabric, and her words went on without her conscious thought.

    She shut her mouth with an audible click. She felt her cheeks flush as she looked down at her empty plate. “It's okay,” she said almost immediately after. “If you do not want to -”

    “No,” Spock interrupted her a moment later. “I would not mind, if that is your wish.”

    He would not mind, not the most glowing acceptance a girl could hope for. But, coming from Spock . . . Nyota looked, and could feel a flicker of surprise from him,as if he was as bewildered by his accepting as she was of her asking.

    She bit her lip as he stood, and offered her his hand.

    She took a breath, and held it. She released it as she placed her hand in his own, allowing him to help her up.

    It had been many years since she danced with him, but her body remembered even where her mind did not. It was second nature to place her hand in his own and rest the other upon his shoulder. His hand found the hollow of her waist, and then he was leading her in time to the drummer's step, and she followed.

    How many times had they done so, she tried to remember? She remembered dancing with him at Federation functions, even before their relationship begun – always going with him as his 'plus one' to fend off Pike and his matchmaking ways and a hundred other stares and questions. She remembered more than that; a dance on the beech when there was no music to play but for her laughter as she tried to prove to him the joys of spontaneity. Logically he had expanded on her argument by kissing her still smiling mouth and then the night had spiraled on from there. She remembered dancing with him at the banquet for her graduating class, the celebration solemn for just how many lives had been lost with Nero and his mad rush for vengeance. She had danced with him too at the gala at New Vulcan's founding, and had known a bittersweet joy in the last dance, knowing as she knew his decision even before he made it. Knowing . . .

    His touch on her waist became that much tighter, and she wondered if he knew the shape of her memories. The bittersweet press of her thoughts. Was that all her own feeling so, she wondered, or did she . . .

    She looked, trying to glean an answer from his eyes, but found that she could not. His eyes were very dark; too dark, she thought. Yet, they betrayed neither thought or feeling. He executed his every step with a crisp accurateness, neither lingering too close, nor pressing too far. Some would call his face blank, too perfectly composed, but she could feel the tension of his hand on his waist. She could feel his hand warm about her own. She looked, and could see where his pulse jumped at his neck, fluttering beneath the surface of his skin. She looked, and she wondered . . .

    The music spun, and she spun with it. The drums seemed to thunder in her ears, matching the fierce tattoo of her heart. The flute was a wistful, mournful sound, and for that moment, she thought that she knew exactly how it felt.

    She . . .

    But then, there was a discordant note. The drums faltered, and then fell in a graceless rhythm. The harpist broke a string. There was a sound like a great wind, rushing through the silence that came from the breaking of the music, so suddenly was itshrieking -

    They were -

    She felt as Spock instinctively drew here near as a pressure built about her head, terrible in its intensity as it clamped down on her like a vice. She forced her eyes open, seeing where the Ennorians around her had fallen to their knees from the psychic onslaught. Attack, she thought, willing herself to stay on her feet. They were under attack.

    But she could not move, could not think with the howling in her mind, the searching – she closed her eyes and felt something empty and dark claw about her thoughts. And she was just feeling the edges of it, she knew, her already raw psi endings feeling the barest corner of the onslaught touching the hive-linked minds of the Ennorians around her.

    Nyota, she heard Spock in her mind. I need you to focus, concentrate. I need you to move with me so that I can get to Saerk, but I will not leave you here -

    - Yes, she thought, interrupting him. Her fear for Saerk rose, and she felt a defensiveness that was all instinct and unsheathed claws. Yes, I can move.

    It was as if she were a babe taking her first steps, but somehow she found the power to walk on her own accord. She lined her mind, trying to force away the shadow that was descending, and was successful enough to walk. She fell into a sitting position by Saerk, and fumbled for the child's hand – as if to assure herself that he was alright as much as it was to offer a comfort where she could. With his sensitivities, she worried . . .

    She steeled herself, and looked down as Saerk's hand suddenly tightened within her own. She looked, but the child's eyes were carefully blank, carefully dark. He seemed dazed, and it took her a moment to realize that he was as a calm in the storm around her – he blinked, and she felt the pressure about her head fade. The sound of a howling wind faded to a dull war, and she looked -

    Spock had already left them again, hurrying over to where the senior of the clansleaders was hunched over with his hands clasping his temples. Spock was already deep in a meld with the other man, helping the Ennorian fight against the force that was descending over them all . . . a force that was like smoke above the body of the clansleader, a shadow without form or shape, but still flickered to reveal fangs, flickered to reveal claws. It shimmered as if pulsing with a life of its own, snapping and fighting with Spock until finally, it let loose a horrible, blood curdling cry . . .

    And then, as quickly as the attack had begun, it was over.

    Saerk's fingers turned limp in her own. She looked to the child again, concerned, but he merely looked tired to her searching eyes. Exhausted, but . . .

    “I am alright,” he said, his voice a dry cloak. “However, the clansleader . . .” The child looked to where Spock was looking for a pulse, and his voice was hollow with knowing. Nyota felt her chest tighten as she understood what Spock would find. Saerk . . . she looked, and saw where his bright and eager eyes had dimmed just that slightly, he having felt something a child should never have to feel . . .

    Spock caught her eyes, and shook his head, and she felt her stomach drop as she realized that the situation had just turned that much dire.

    ~MJ @};-
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    Hi! Oh hello! I loved the first scene, so incredibly fascinating about the tunnels being wormholes for egress between worlds. =D= =D= Definitely need to warn and close that sucker down!

    The scene at the gorgeous restaurant :) Saerk's curiosity and his easing the dinner conversation [face_love] Cool gift Saerk has - able to be used to the benefit of many I think. I am glad he is learning wise management of it.

    Ah! Ny's bittersweet memories. And the dance! I was melting until -- Spock became like Mithrandir and Glorfindel combined. Now if she doesn't jump his bones, I will! [face_laugh] ^:)^
  10. Dantana Skywalker

    Dantana Skywalker Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Apr 7, 2002
    Your descriptions in this are lovely! Sorry I haven't responded to the past few chapters, I've been ill. But I've been reading! So many times, I've yelled at my screen, "Just kiss her already!" Ha ha.
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  11. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    Yes, yes. And that just for starters. [face_dancing]
  12. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    WOW what a ride and what a nice characterisation of characters we all love
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  13. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: As always, I am thrilled that you are enjoying this so much! Thank-you for your kind words and continued support! [:D]

    @Dantana_Skywalker: Why thank-you! I am glad that you are still enjoying. [:D]

    earlybird-obi-wan: Why thank-you! It's been a rollercoaster writing it too, let me tell you that. :p 8-}[face_love]

    Part XI

    The hours after the murder of the clansleader were nothing but chaos, the events thereafter spinning on faster than she could track or even completely follow.

    She stood with Spock while they answered Kirk and Ghile's questions, and tried to add her words to the debate when the remaining living of the clansleaders reacted first with fear – wishing to withdraw completely from talks with Starfleet in a flare of instinctive panic. This course of action, while it would slow the violence for the time being, would never completely deal with the threat lingering at their back door. Instead, itwas a threat that would only continue to linger, and grow all the worse if it was not dealt with here and now.

    When the mass of people started to break up, drawing back to the council buildings to speak, Nyota opted against going with Kirk and Spock, instead saying that she would watch Saerk until Spock was able to return. It was a decision that, years ago, she never would have seen herself making. But she had said her piece in the argument, and Saerk was all wide eyes and too silent words at his father's side. This world would live, and they would do their part in seeing that it lived on in peace. Saerk was a child, far from home, and had seen something that his young eyes should never have seen.

    Though Spock's face was closed off – focused on the task of hand, she felt a rippling of gratitude at the back of her mind, and she knew that he was thankful for her offer. She had . . . she had felt that emotion from him, this time she knew it for certain. But there was no time to think on that. Not now.

    Saerk was quiet was they entered the suite, and then silently efficient as he readied himself for bed. Nyota sat on the couch in the common room, unsure of quite what to do next. She did not want to go back to her own rooms that night, that she already knew. Though this was a temporary place to stay, and not even her own rooms at that, she already felt more at home here than she had in the dozens of places she had lived in their years apart. She did not want to leave Saerk alone, even to go and fetch a change of clothes and other necessities from her room. It was a strange, fierce urge that she could feel build in her bones – the urge to hold close and protect, and she was once again taken aback by how quickly her bond with the child had settled upon her.

    Then again . . . Saerk was of Spock. She couldn't help but love him, she thought.

    Briefly, she entertained the idea of stealing one of Spock's night-shirts to sleep in, before passing the idea away with a smile that was more happy memories than bittersweet recollection.

    When Saerk was ready for bed, she followed him into his room. He did not look at her before crawling beneath the covers, and laying down on his back, staring up at the ceiling with eyes wide open. Nyota paused by the door, hesitant to leave as she held her hand on the controls for the light. She bit her lip, unsure of what to say, but needing to say something.

    “Saerk,” she said gently. “If you want to talk - ”

    “ - I do not,” Saerk said softly. His easy, happy voice, was now a dry sound in his throat. She hated the sound as she heard it. “I do not wish to speak,” he had to try twice to say the sentence. “And yet . . .”

    “I can stay,” she offered, years of helping with her nieces and nephews having taught her aplenty. “Until you fall asleep, that is.”

    Saerk swallowed. The sound was loud in the quiet. “That would be acceptable,” he whispered.

    She did not say anything as she set the lights to a low glow, just enough to see by. She took her seat by his bedside, feeling like a guard in a tower as she did so. They did not say anything more, and while it took much too long for him to fall asleep, fall asleep he did.

    Nyota sat in the silence, and waited.



    She was starting to nod off herself when she heard the soft hiss of the door beyond being opened.

    Instantly, she was wide awake, her heart fast in her chest, and every one of her senses aware. She looked down to assure herself that Saerk was still sleeping, even if he was not sleeping peacefully. His brow was creased, turning with dreams before smoothing again, and she felt her heart ache at the sight. When she glanced up again, Spock was at the door, looking in on them both with something unreadable in his eyes. She felt a low, warm emotion settle in her heart, but was unsure if the feeling was from her or him in that moment.

    Spock's step was silent as he came in. He placed his hand against his son's brow, and she could nearly taste the warm, easy peace that filled the room as Spock pushed the boy into a more restless sleep, one without remembered dreams.

    He sighed as he drew back, his look taking on a shadow – unhidden in the dark. It was a look she too wanted to stand as a guard before. And so, when he turned, she followed him.

    “What has been decided?” she asked when they made it to the main rooms of the suite once again. They both moved to sit on the couch, even though Spock leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees. He propped his chin on his steepled fingers, still tense and preoccupied from the meeting he had left. She felt unease fill her at the sight.

    “The Ennorians are fearful,” Spock finally said in answer, “and rightly so. We have been given forty-eight hours in which to give our aid in finding the culprits. If not, the Ennorians will see to the good of their own, and break off the talks.”

    “Sending us away will not end the threat,” Nyota did not like that at all. “And they are crippled to fight this force on their own might.”

    “Which is why we have been given two days time in which to neutralize the threat,” Spock reached up to rub at his temples. It was a telling gesture, one he would only use when around those closest to him. “Fear and negative emotion cripple their hive mind, and they will quite literally not be able to handle this attack as it continues, in one way or the other.”

    She swallowed at hearing that, knowing that he spoke the truth. “What are we going to do?” she asked.

    The corner of Spock's mouth twitched. “As it often is with the Captain, he has an objective, a hazy lead to go off of, and no idea of how exactly he is going to do what needs to be done. But go we will, as we have no other choice.”

    “Go?” Nyota asked. “Where?”

    “Kirk and the detectives found what looks to be a primordial wormhole in one of the negative energy signatures near the center of the mountain range. They have discovered a plausible theory on how the Silent have been traveling on the underground waterways. We shall go, ascertain the threat, and neutralize it if we may.”

    It all sounded like what-ifs and maybes to her. She did not like it. She did not like it at all . . .

    “And then do what?” Nyota asked. “Our culprit feeds on psychic energy. Even the strongest Ennorian empaths will not be strong enough to fight – and you cannot hold off an army, if that is what you find.”

    “The idea is that I will be able to dampen the dark empath enough for the Ennorians to fight back,” Spock said. “It is possible, but untried, and we have no time to test theories. Wormholes my be collapsed; they are violate structures in time and space, and even a weakening of the physical point of entry on our end will ruin the pathway completely. We do not need to destroy this foe, so much as trap it back on its own world.”

    “So . . . you are going to wing it?” Nyota raised a brow.

    “Those are not precisely the words I would use,” Spock tightened his jaw. “But the Captain did say something along those lines, yes.”

    “I bet he did,” Nyota cracked a faint smile before tiredly rubbing at her temples. “When do we leave?”

    “The Captain and I,” Spock said carefully, “Will be leaving tonight. It is nearly a five hour trek on foot, since there is no other way to travel through the mountains, and we do not have the time to waste. We will rest in the tunnels when we must, and continue on in the morning.”

    She nodded, understanding what he said, but not liking it. It was not even midnight yet, even though it felt much later, and there was no time like the present to go off after their culprit. Kirk and Spock would be going, she heard the implication in his words, and fought the urge to bristle against being told to sit put and wait. She wanted to go with them, she wanted to help, and yet, with L'iost in her mind . . . she was a liability, they knowing not how their target would react to her, and the last thing she wanted to give to them was a variable.

    And . . . this was not a time to leave Saerk alone. As much as she never would have once seen herself as the woman left at home with the child, now . . . This was the real world, and not about preconceived stereotypes and their roles. She would do what was best for them all.

    She saw the terse line of Spock's shoulders, the stiff set of his back as he looked at her. He wished to ask her specifically for what he wanted, but he did not have to.

    “I'll look after Saerk while you are gone,” she said before he asked. “He . . . this hit him hard, and I don't want him to be left with strangers.” Already she was not? she wondered, but did not linger on the thought.

    Instead she thought of the look of something other, of something more in Saerk's eyes as he calmed the storm of the dark empath around them. She remembered the tired, glassy look in his eyes, the numb look of knowing when the clansleader had been declared dead. No . . . she did not want him left alone.

    Something shadowed flickered in his gaze before passing away. It was a heavy look, tired in shape. “I should not have brought him,” Spock said simply, a note of regret in his voice. “It was selfish of me, and yet, I had not thought events to escelate to this point. An error, on my part.” A human error, made with human emotions, she heard the unspoken, and yet . . .

    “Is that you second guessing yourself I hear?” she teased softly, leaning closer to him. There was a hands breath of space between them, and she tried not to think on it as she carefully kept her hands on her lap, not touching his shoulder in comfort as she wished to. “Thinking on what-ifs is human, you know.”

    He raised a brow, but did draw away from her. She waited, expecting a response about logic and its ways, equally teasing in kind. She did not expect for him to bow his head, and whisper, “I find myself second guessing my actions often when around you. Always have I seemed to do so, ever since when first we met.”

    Gently . . . hesitantly, he reached over to her, but did no more than to rest careful fingertips against her scar, gently touching the high curve of her cheek. There was something soft in his eyes, something rueful when he added, “Then again, I am not wholly Vulcan, as well you know. And perhaps such second guessing is to be expected.”

    Her heart was doing a stupid sort of dance in her chest. It tried to rise in warning, saying that she opened herself up to new hurts all over again. But alongside the fear, she felt a curious rise of heat and something warmer than that still, and she could not tell if it was he or her whose emotions she was feeling on the end when she leaned over, closing the distance between them with the ease of memory, and -

    The door opened.

    “ - so, it's going to be just like old times. Isn't it, my number one,” Kirk's sing-song voice greeted them, entirely too chipper for the hour and the events of the evening. “Really, it's been too long, and – ah. Well then. Hello there, Nyota. I am leaving now – this is me, leaving. Leaving now.”

    She sighed, and dropped her head in her hands as Spock drew away as if he was struck. She felt cheated, she thought a bit childishly, pressing her mouth together in a thin line as she scooted back to her cushion. She felt a lance of frustration, and amusement filled her when she realized that it was not only she who felt so.

    She did not imagine it this time. He had felt frustration and irritation both, and she had felt it.

    “Kirk,” she interrupted gently. “You don't have to go.”

    Kirk slapped his hand against his brow. “I know, the mood – it's ruined.” He still sounded entirely too pleased, even as he fumbled over himself. “But I can step outside again if you think that you can un-ruin it?” He lifted a brow, and at that Spock turned a frosty look in reply.

    “You are ready, I presume?” Spock asked, drawing him back to the matter at hand.

    Kirk patted the strap of the pack he had on his back. “Ready when you are. Ghile's team is already gathering outside. We will set out immediately.”

    Spock inclined his head. “I will be just a moment.”

    Kirk beamed after him as Spock rose to gather his things together. “Just like old times,” he said fondly, glancing from Spock's retreating back and then to her again. “ . . . completely like old times now?” he asked, and she turned so that he did not have to see the look of bemusement on her face.

    “Goodnight Kirk,” she turned from him.

    “It's okay,” Kirk was unperturbed. “We will have girl talk when I get back.”

    Goodnight, Kirk,” she called behind her, and that was that.



    They traveled as far as they could before stopping to rest for the remainder of the night.

    Their group was grim and silent as they set up their places to sleep, and Kirk watched them all with a thoughtful look on his face. They had gathered quickly against the threat, but even as dead to the hive as he was, he could still feel the tremors of unease on the air. Unease and fear, he would call it, if it was not more than that.

    He sighed, and settled against the rock wall of the tunnel, trying to rest his thoughts so that he could sleep. He would rest but little, he knew. But still, he had to try. He was getting too old to rely on adrenaline to carry him through all-nighters and days to be saved anymore.

    He winced as he settled in, a pain in his lower back reminding him where age had settled in elsewhere. But he set his mouth stubbornly at that. McCoy had given him a clean bill of health – and with age at least came a surprising increase in strength, even for what he lost in speed. As strong as an ox, McCoy had laughed, and just as stubborn as one.

    He wouldn't be put to pasture this easily, he thought, setting his mouth in a line. Not at all.

    Spock settled down next to him after walking the perimeter of their small camp. His brow was creased in thought, and yet Kirk could feel a faint aura of peace fill the air around him as he passed. He raised a brow, amused. Most did not know the full extent of Spock's talents with his Vulcan heritage, and if he calmed arguments or soothed disputes by projecting his own peace into the air, none were ever the wiser. Kirk knew his friend for long enough, though, and he recognized the shape of the rest that settled upon his mind.

    “How is that working?” Kirk asked.

    “I am trying to ascertain the compatibility of my own abilities and the Ennorian hive mind,” Spock said, understanding what he asked. “I do not have the time to test my theories any further than this, unfortunately.”

    Kirk could hear the note of frustration there. They were walking in nearly blind, and yet, they didn't have much choice. Ah well, he thought. They had done well enough on the edge of their seats before, and this would be no different.

    “You aren't worried, are you?” Kirk raised a brow, his mouth set in a teasing line.

    Spock sat up straighter. “There is no sense dwelling on such possibilities as defeat,” he said in answer. “It is illogical and unproductive, at that.”

    “Still,” Kirk reached out to pat the other man's shoulder, loving that Spock's raised brow was more the force of habit rather than any true annoyance, “I think you can do it.”

    Spock's look softened, but only just. “As always,” he said dryly. “Your faith is noted.”

    “Faith based on logic,” Kirk clarified. “It is nothing so sentimental on my part.”

    “Indeed,” Spock let him his half-truth, and Kirk only smiled.

    “And, speaking of fights of the mind . . . We haven't had time to talk about it, but L'iost?” Kirk asked. “How is that coming?”

    Spock's jaw set in a tight line. But Kirk knew that his friend's anger was not for him. “L'iost is settled in deep, and yet, I do not believe that his damage is irrevocable. The first anchor has been set, and I am confident of our progress.”

    Kirk nodded, satisfied. “Good,” he said. “I knew he would go running for the hills as soon as he felt you.”

    “That is not quite how I would put it,” Spock disagreed, but an edge of satisfaction lined his voice nonetheless.

    “Oh, come on,” Kirk countered. “Don't pretend. I can see it as clear as day – you are all too glad to play the knight in shining armor. Especially seeing as how I walked in on -”

    “ - Kirk,” Spock interrupted him.

    “It's almost poetic,” Kirk continued, unable to resist teasing his friend. “After all of the times you have been a wet damper on many a cozy situation with I and a friend of the female persuasion - like Raxi on Corux IV . . . or Lady Vanwe at that delegation out on Tanquia Prime back a year ago – yeah, don't think that I had forgotten about that. If I had a dime for every time -”

    “ - Jim,” Spock tried again, this time with an edge to his voice. “If you would, I do not wish to speak of it.”

    “Okay,” Kirk cut off his teasing, settling his face into a more serious expression. “And yet, I just wanted to say that I am happy for you – for both of you. You deserve this, you really do.”

    Spock was silent for a long moment. Kirk watched, waiting for him to work through his thoughts with a patience that would have once been foreign to him.

    And, at long last, Spock decided to talk to him. “She . . . I have hurt her once. She has no reason to trust me. Even when you walked in, there was fear at the forefront of her mind, even as it fought for supremacy with other emotions. I . . . I do not deserve her trust, nor would I fault her for not choosing to make a leap of faith again when I betrayed her confidence before.”

    The words were a truth, drawn from the deepest parts of him. Kirk felt his chest turn tight at the realization, hating again that the universe had taken so much from two that he loved more than his own blood.

    “Isn't that for her to decide?” Kirk pointed out gently. “Give her a chance, Spock – let her make the choice this time. She never was able to before.”

    Spock was quiet, but Kirk could see that he was processing his words. That he was listening. He had felt her fear, Kirk processed the odd way of phrasing it in his mind. He knew the bare minimum about Vulcan bonds, even after being friends for so long with Spock. But he knew, if a shadow of their old bond was returning . . .

    Then, he only had to continue to push, and the rest would take its course.

    “Give her a choice,” Kirk said gently, “And even if she decides to play it safe and protect herself, then at least you will know. At least you won't have to wonder any more.”

    Spock did not reply, but Kirk did not expect him to. He had said what he wanted to say, and he was content leaving it there.

    Instead, Kirk settled down on his sleeping pallet, and closed his eyes, trying to force his mind and his body to rest. Spock remained sitting for a long moment after, before laying down as well. Kirk could not see, but he knew that his friend did not once close his eyes that night.

    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  14. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    Ny with Saerk -- [face_love] [face_love] Awww! Sweetie is feeling maternal already. And so am I! I just wanted to [:D] [:D] him. I am very happy she is staying while the dudes are winging it. [face_laugh]


    LOL! Yup, the winging it is absolutely Jim, patented and copyrighted. :* But 48 hours, foot, give them 72 anyway. :p


    Him touching the place of her scar and them feeling more of one another's emotions - :) :)

    I was totally frustrated at the interruption, ;) but I love the bromancy talk. [face_dancing] Yes, give her a choice. :D

    I love mostest how Spock is truly his most genuine self with Nyota, even after all the time apart.


    After reading Taste of Shadow, Spock now reminds me of Fingon: selfless courage & deep vulnerability. I just couldn't love him more if I tried. ^:)^
  15. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    Nice update with the moments between Spock and Uhura. She is sweet with the kid.
    And Jim and Spock are at it again with their banter
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  16. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: As always, your words just made writing these chapters worthwhile. [:D] Like Fingon! I like that comparison more than words can say - the valiant, indeed. ;) [face_love]

    earlybird-obi-wan: Thank-you! :D

    Alrighty, here we go with more. We are getting down to the final chapters now - there are just three left to go after this one. Which is both sad and exciting for me. ;)

    Part XII

    It took her hours to fall asleep, but fall asleep she finally did; exhaustion and spent adrenaline finally pulling her down into a surface slumber. She awakened earlier than she normally would, pulled into alertness by a voice at the edge of her mind, rumbling on her consciousness.

    The hatchling stirs, L'iost said, and she blinked at his awareness of Saerk, something sharp lancing through her at her alien parasite's observation. But when she tried to question him on it, L'iost was already gone. She frowned, troubled, before pushing the blankets away and standing.

    She went through her morning routine, showering and dressing before going to the small kitchenette to see what she could round up for breakfast. The cupboards were thoughtfully stocked for the Ennorian's guests, and she smiled to see so – she did not like relying on the replicator unless she had to.

    She spied the relative ingredients for pancakes (a grain of some sort and what she assumed was milk), and set to work. Though Spock would admit it not, he had a weakness for flapjacks, and she would wager any money that his son was the same. Spock preferred waffles, she remembered with fondness, and yet, seeing as how she was absent a waffle iron, that would have to wait for some other time.

    She stopped as she cracked an egg into the bowl (a blue egg, but an egg nonetheless), pondering over the easiness of the last thought – a thought that implied a next time and more. A thought that came as reflexively as breathing. Something rose in her stomach then, a warmth that was absent the tingling sensation of apprehension that normally came with it. She remembered the night before, remembered, that before Kirk had walked in . . .

    The warm feeling grew, she could feel it in her fingers and toes. And yet, she bit her lip, not wanting to assume, or think too far ahead. Let's just get through today, she thought ruefully. One step at a time.

    And then, they would see what they could see.

    The smell of food drew Saerk from down the hall, and he slipped noiselessly into one of the tall stools lining the counter. She glanced at him, trying not to be obvious with her staring as she poured the batter onto the hot pan.

    “How did you sleep?” she asked, trying to sound as cheerful as she could.

    “I took in my required rest,” Saerk replied after a moment. “It was adequate.”

    She felt a pang as she glanced over at him again. His eyes seemed shadowed, but they were not as dark as they could be. She knew that Spock had pushed him into a deeper sleep before he left, and she was glad for it.

    “Well, I am glad to hear that your night was adequate,” she said. She put the bowl down, and then moved to where she had fruit out on the cutting board. She pushed the knife towards Saerk. “Would you like to help me?” she asked. “Your father likes fruit on his pancakes, and I assumed you would as well.”

    Saerk raised a brow, and there was a spark of curiosity there. She tried not to smile at seeing it.

    “Pancakes?” he asked.

    “A Terran delicacy,” she responded solemnly. “Have you had them before?”

    “No,” Saerk answered, trying to peer past her, and at that, she did smile.

    “Well then, you are in for a treat,” Nyota said as she moved to flip the pancakes, humming as she did so.

    “You do not have work to attend to today?” Saerk asked as he carefully began slicing the fruit. She turned to lean on the counter across from him, her smile widening.

    “Not today,” she said, not elaborating past that. Life was never an absence of work, but rather knowing when to put it in its place. “Today is all set aside for you. We can't leave the suite, but I am sure we can figure something out . . . How does Scrabble sound?”

    Saerk blinked. “Another Terran tradition?”

    “Verily,” Nyota answered. “And one that I am shocked – and ashamed – that your father has not shown to you before. Ah well, you are looking at the Nairobi Scrabble Champion five times running here, and it would be my pleasure to show you the game.”

    “Another localized sport?” Saerk asked, raising a brow.

    “Very,” she laughed. “You are catching on now.”

    Saerk did not smile, but there was something about his eyes that lightened. She felt determination fill her at the sight, glad that she was there to help him through this. If she could bring even the smallest bit of light to the child today, she would consider her toils successful.

    “Now,” she said, turning back to the griddle once more. “Pancakes are recorded in Terran history as early as ancient Greece in the fifth century BC. Tagenities they were called, based off of the Greek words for frying pan . . .”



    After a few hours of sleep, they were on their feet and moving again.

    Their group was a quiet, solemn one, the hive mind all but buzzing from the differing strands of negative emotion and fear. Kirk was fighting a migraine, even feeling on the edges of the consciousness as he was, and where at first he had been angered by the Ennorian's short timeframe, he was starting to understand it more and more. He was having trouble functioning on the outskirts; he could not imagine what it was like near the center of the mind.

    He exhaled through his nose, long and slow, as he had been doing often that day. They were following the tunnels deep into the mountains, where one of the larger pockets of negative energy was alongside the waterways. They were nearly there, for which he was grateful – he was itching with the urge to fight, to act, and the more he felt the hive around him pulse with unease, the angrier he became. This was a peaceful, honest people, and to have such a black presence leeching on and tearing apart that light like locust . . . it made him angry. It always had.

    Spock looked up at the spike of feeling from him, and raised a brow. Over the years, their friendship meant that Spock was adept at telling his moods – from his facial expressions, along with his Vulcan senses, and Kirk did not bother trying to hide from his knowing.

    “We are almost there,” Spock said simply, looking down at the scanner in his hands. “Another bend in the path, and then we should be upon the negative reading.” The announcement was more to calm him than to inform the rest of their group, Kirk knew, and he tried to collect himself at the realization.

    He breathed in deep, and exhaled.

    Minutes later they came to where the tunnel opened up to a large, cavernous space. The cave was full of bubbling rock formations alongside the walls and massive stalactites hanging down from the ceiling. In the middle of the space was a calm pool of green water, shining underneath the iridescent strands of ore in the burnt orange rock around them. Spock looked down at the scanner, and then at him, and nodded.

    “This is the origination of the negative energy,” Spock said.

    Kirk raised a brow, looking at the pool. “This is the portal?” he asked, turning to Ghile behind him.

    The detective raised a brow as the empaths started muttering amongst themselves, before nodding. “It is possible,” he said. “It's large enough, and due to the water over the surface of the wormhole, it would not have been suspected.”

    “Then, if this was the place . . .” Kirk let his voice tapper off. Yesterday he had been able to feel a sense of wrongness on the air. He had felt as whatever the Silent were using to scion off the physic energy passed over him. And now . . .

    Nothing . . . he felt nothing.

    Wary, he watched as his men filed into the cavern, their weapons at the ready as they searched the space. They found no life forms, but they did see signs of movement – where a large group of people had been traveling to and fro, their tracks leading to the edge of the pool and then seemingly within. If that was true, they would be on the other side of the portal, Kirk thought, even as something nagged at him.

    This was wrong.

    He felt his skin crawl, ready as he was for a fight, for a threat, and yet . . .

    “Clear,” one of the officers announced, and yet, Kirk still looked around, wary.

    Spock came to stop at the edge of the pool, and he looked curiously above, to where great curtains of stalagmites hung from the ceiling of the chamber. Kirk followed his gaze, and asked, “What are you thinking?”

    “About destroying the portal,” Spock said, his voice thoughtful. “And yet, my worry is not that. The amount of movement through these wormholes would have eventually showed itself to the Ennorian's senses. They would have to limit their trips back and forth, which is curious, seeing as how -”

    “ - there is no one here,” Kirk finished for him. “They can't all be gone for lunch at once. But then, if they are not here -”

    “ - where are they?” Spock completed his question. “Indeed, that was just the quandary I was contemplating.”

    Kirk drew in a breath through his nose, frustrated as something flickered just beyond his reach. He -

    He felt it then. That flicker of wrongness, the flicker of being watched.

    “Down!” Kirk shouted, “Everyone down!”

    But it was not the great force of presence he had felt the day before – merely a fraction of it, coming from a winged being who dropped down from the curtains of stalactites above. An Ennorian, Kirk thought at first, but instead of the golden skin and white hair he was used to, this being had dark, purple-grey skin and hair the color of steel. He felt a pressure against his mind – and the Ennorians around him hissed as they pushed back with their telepathic senses, turning his own attack back on him.

    The lone Dark Ennorian did not make it far in his attack before being subdued, thrashing and kicking out as he was bound.

    “A straggler?” Kirk asked Spock as they approached.

    “Or a sentry of some sort,” Spock said.

    And at the words from Spock, there was a flare of black feeling from the lone man. It is no use, the Dark Ennorian 'thought' at them as he was bound. Kirk winced at the feeling as it settled in his mind – whispering through his thoughts and settling alongside his memories. It was a horrible, awful feeling, that voice - so unlike the presence of the hive he was used to feeling with the Ennorians that he recoiled.

    Kirk winced, stepping forward, but Spock shook his head, stopping him. “He will not speak aloud,” he said.

    “The Silent,” Kirk remembered, pressing two fingers at his temples. “Got it.”

    As the Ennorians restrained their Dark counterpart, Spock knelt down before the bound man, tilting his head calmly as the being thrashed. “You are alone,” Spock said. “Tell us, where is the rest of your force?”

    The being laughed, was the only way Kirk could think to describe it. It danced like fingers through his mind, tapping on one thought before flicking another in a child's graceless rhythm.

    Moving, the Dark Ennorian answered. Far from here.

    Spock's eyes glanced at the portal, and the Dark Ennorian inclined his head. A negative feeling pierced through his skull – a 'no', Kirk understood. So simple, so confident, he said. You come here to claim your victory as we passed you in the ways.Our feedings have been token so far, merely to sate the One we have bargained with. We have given the One the voice of those who should know silence – we being a race of higher beings, needing not of the spoken tongue. But now . . .

    A monster in the mist, Kirk thought, something uncomfortable settling in his gut. Wonderful.

    And yet . . .

    “Now?” Spock prompted.

    Now . . . we have found a mind who opens us to another world. A mind linked to the minds of others. If we were to give the One this mind, then he will give to us this world . . .

    Kirk thought, trying to process what the Dark Ennorian was saying. They did not necessarily want the destruction of their sister world – they merely wanted to scare them out of entering the Federation, keeping their worlds to their simple and primordial ways of living. If they were using this higher being as their weapon, they would not want to offer up the psychic energies of their sister world – if anything, they would want that for themselves. So, if they found a way to feed the monster, but still assure its cooperation . . .

    Kirk felt something dark settling in his gut as he understood. The one with their mind opened to another world . . . Nyota. Nyota had been there the other night when the Silent had attacked – feeding the mind of the clansleader to the monster they had bargained with. And now . . .

    They were in the wrong place at the wrong time, he understood, his limbs going cold, as if his veins suddenly ran with ice. They were -

    “Spock,” he hissed sharply, but Spock understood at the same time he did, reaching out to pinch the pressure points in his neck and shoulder that would render him unconscious. A cold determination – and a part of Kirk wildly called it fear before reigning himself back in – bloomed in his eyes before turning to a fierce resolve.

    “I know,” Spock said simply, and then they were tearing down the tunnels from the way they came, only hoping that they would be able to make it in time.



    “Jejune?” she laughed as Saerk placed his tiles on the board. “I am fluent in a few dozen languages, and know the basics of dozens more, and I am telling you – that is not a word.”

    “Indeed, it is,” Saerk disagreed. “From the Latin jejunus, meaning empty of food. Now, however, it is used to describe one who is intellectually empty or dull.”

    Nyota raised a brow. “Ah ha,” she said slowly. “Alright, I will let that slide – just as long as there was nothing pointed about it.” She looked at him significantly.

    The face she received in reply was carefully blank – too blank, she thought, as something around the child's eyes tightened as with a smile. “Pointed?” he parroted the word back. “It was simply the best way to utilize both my 'j' and a blank tile upon a triple word score. The meaning of the word was secondary to its placement.”

    “Whatever you say,” Nyota shook her head. “Now, how many points was that?”

    “Forty-two points,” Saerk said after a quick calculation, and Nyota scowled.

    “You are killing me, kid,” she laughed as she tapped the PADD with her stylus, recording the score. “You are solidly kicking my butt.”

    “I learned not to underestimate you after the first game,” Saerk gave, his cheeks coloring slightly. She had won that game solidly, and now she was faced with a three forths Vulcan intellectand its full concentration.

    “Best two out of three, then?” she asked.

    Saerk tilted his head. “That would be acceptable, and yet, I have yet to win this game.”

    “Just barely,” Nyota muttered. “We are all out of tiles, too.”

    “Then I have almost won the game,” Saerk said, a not-smile touching his mouth and Nyota rolled her eyes. “But not yet.”

    “Cheeky Vulcan,” she said, but there was fondness in her voice as she said so.

    She turned the board to her to figure out where to place her last tiles when she felt something flicker underneath the surface of her thoughts. Since Spock had set the first anchor in her mind, L'iost had been silent for the most part – whether because he was being pushed away, or because he had interests elsewhere, she could not tell, but she had been grateful for the respite.

    Now she felt him as he tried to swim to the forefront of her consciousness, pleased with the struggles he was facing. It was the anchor that had kept him away, she understood then. Good.

    You need to move, now, L'iost said, his mental voice shaped in urgency. Something large comes; something black and shrouded in mist.

    She raised a mental brow at his voice, slow to understand what he was trying to say. I am busy here, she returned. And I have nothing to say to you.

    I care not for your petty attempts for dominance over me at this moment, L'iost all but hissed. This is greater than you and I, and the child -

    She looked, and saw where Saerk winced, sensing L'iost's thoughts alongside her own. “Nyota?” he blinked before looking at her, his dark eyes nearly black.

    Now! L'iost hissed, and like he had not done before, he moved her body for her – he forced her to her feet, and then she was pulling Saerk away from their seat by the window, all the way to the other side of the counter in the kitchenette. She hunched into a protective ball over the child, even as the glass beyond shattered as something small and beeping was thrown in the room, and then -

    The explosion rocked the room, throwing she and Saerk back against the wall, and yet she did not need L'iost to instinctively lock her arms around Saerk and draw him closer to her. She squeezed her eyes shut against the shockwave of broken glass and shrapnel from the wall. The smell of smoke filled the air as heat kissed their skin, and then there was a wave of black feeling against her pstche – greater than the physical explosion could ever be.

    Get up! L'iost barked. Now!

    Dark Ennorians, she spied from the window, three of them – with their purple-grey skin and voices chattering like insects over the warmth of the Ennorian hive. And yet, it was not they that drew her eye, but rather the shadow, consuming and massive behind them – a storm of an entity that moved as something sentient.

    The monster in the mist, she understood what she was seeing. That is what the Dark Ennorians were using to leech the clansleader's connection to the hive. This was . . .

    Understanding the danger they were in, she pushed Saerk behind her as she drew the phaser from her holster – not that she knew what good it would do. She only had the rising, consuming instinct to protect the child from harm. An instinct that had her baring her teeth at the winged creatures as they filled the room, and then -

    Your silly weapons will be no use against that, L'iost hissed. You need to let me -

    - do what? She fired back. This is a little bit bigger than you.

    Is it? L'iost returned, but she had no time to argue with him as the thing before her shimmered, blocking out the light as a great force tightened around her temples. She felt an unbearable pressure in her mind, a sound that she could not explain filling her every thought with the force that was all the might of a storm and the inferno of a star, and she -

    Then suddenly L'iost was pushing in her mind, pushing, and the shadow flinched. It recoiled. L'iost grew in her thoughts until she could not tell where the fierce flame of L'iost ended and the shadow of the creature began. Then the shadow was shrinking – not overpowered, but surprised, surprised enough that Nyota was able to back Saerk up towards the door, even as the room flooded with the Ennorian guards from beyond, responding to the explosion. Their gentle, golden presences expanded alongside L'iost's fervent attack, and it was enough. The shadow flinched. It shimmered.

    And then it was gone.

    She let out a breath, still holding her phaser at the ready, even as the Ennorians came forward to give pursuit. She took a step back, knowing that their chase would be fruitless, even before it begun. L'iost had snapped back to a small corner of her mind, no longer overpowering, but watching, and yet her temples were throbbing from the use of so much psychic energy – energy that was starting to tire her more and more easily as the psi receptors in her mind were stretched past what she could bear.

    The hatchling, L'iost whispered, he sounding as winded as she felt,see to him, and she turned to where Saerk was still standing in her shadow. She knelt down, feeling where he had a cut on his forehead from where he had hit the wall in the explosion. While the flesh there was swelling, and looked as if it would settle into quite the bump, she couldn't tell if he was hurt any further than that.

    “Saerk?” she asked, her voice shaking. “Saerk, sweetie, are you hurt?”

    He blinked, trying to focus on her. His eyes were glazed, distant – the same as they had been when the clasnleader was killed the other night, and she felt something inside of her clench at the sight. She knew only that Saerk's gifts were strange by Vulcan standards - she had no idea how deep they went, or how he would react to such a battle of psyches. A real worry filled her as he paled, unable to concentrate enough to meet her gaze.


    “Forgive me, but I am suddenly feeling rather tired,” Saerk said, sinking to his knees in an uncoordinated motion. She caught him as he fell forward, kneeling down to support him, even as she looked to the closest Ennorian beyond.

    “I need a medic!” she exclaimed, worry filling her voice as she met the man's eyes. Some of her emotion must have touched him, for the Ennorian was turning then, barking orders to someone past her sight, and she turned to the child in her hold.

    “Just hold on,” she whispered into Saerk's hair as she held him tighter, hoping that a part of him was aware enough to hear her. “Please, just hold on.”

  17. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    Fun with the scrabble and pancakes and exciting action after that. I hope Saerk will be alright
    Mira_Jade and Nyota's Heart like this.
  18. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    Something in the depths of my bones melted and danced at the image of Spock loving pancakes and waffles. Oh, waffles with whipped topping that you have to lick off! =P~ [face_laugh] [face_laugh] Ny with Saerk was just too fantabulous! The last scenes -- rockin' edge of seatness. =D= =D= =D= Oh my stars and garters, more soon [face_batting] Like tomorrow? [:D] [:D]
    Mira_Jade likes this.
  19. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    earlybird-obi-wan: Why thank-you. Saerk will be more than alright! I just couldn't help being the tinniest bit mean with that last part. ;) [:D]

    Nyota's Heart: Something told me that you would like that bit! [face_laugh] Writing Nyota with Saerk has become just as much a joy as writing her with Spock, that's for sure. Now, for more . . . [:D]

    Part XIII

    The Ennorian healing rooms were underground; their warm, soft chambers filled with abuttery light and a hum of soothing song on the air, a song coming from some place deep in the rock.

    She sat with Saerk long after the healer left. The Ennorian had said that the child had merely exerted himself mentally, and needed rest – nothing more. It was common in youths who tried to move too quickly with their abilities, and yet, as he knew little of Vulcan physiology, he could only do his best with guesswork. It was a diagnosis that fit, though, and so Nyota tried to let Saerk sleep as long as he could, sitting by his bedside and feeling her heart turn in her chest like something living for the crest and wave of her feelings.

    Spent adrenaline still flooded through her veins, ready to flare into being again with the slightest provocation. She sat between Saerk and the door, the motion instinctive and old within her, one she did not consider twice before giving in to. His dreams were restless, his mouth thinning and pressing together before his brow would smooth, gentle for only a moment before his rest would turn uneasy again. She took his hand after the first time, and that seemed to help him, but only just.

    And so, she sat very still in the half light, and let herself think. She pulled her thoughts apart, one at a time, sorting them carefully to find a basic truth at the root of each of them.

    She cared for him, she acknowledged then. She had really, truly come to love the child before her, even though the time she had spent with him was so short. The fear she had felt during the attack had been raw and consuming; the warmth she felt now was encompassing and basic. It was an old, instinctive love that had taken up root in her, and she was shocked by how quickly it had grown to flourish with such a life. She had . . . she had not remembered being as terrified as she had been earlier, but it had not been for herself, but rather, for the child she had to protect, the child whom she would give everything for . . . never mind that he was not of her blood, never mind that he was not of her womb, she . . .

    Nyota passed her thumb over the back of his hand, marveling at how slender and fragile the long fingers were beneath her touch, and her heart twisted again.

    She was letting herself fall in too deep much too fast, with both father and son, she thought next, and yet . . . it felt natural. More natural than anything had felt in much too long, and she could not will the feeling away.

    Before her, Saerk blinked, his dark lashes fluttering against his pale skin – too pale, Nyota thought. She carefully put her thoughts away, and took her hand from his.

    “Hey, kid,” she said when Saerk focused on hers, his gaze blurry before sharpening. “How are you holding in there?”

    “I have been . . . better,” Saerk said, his throat dry around his words. He rubbed at his eyes before looking to her, his head tilted in a way that said that his thoughts were already moving much too fast for his own good. “That . . . that thing. Is that what you have been searching for?”

    “Yes,” Nyota answered, her mouth a tight line around the word.

    “It was black,” Saerk muttered, more to himself than to her. “Much too black, and it swallowed . . .” He looked up at her, his brow furrowing, as if he was unfurling a riddle long past his comprehension. “So . . . this is what you do. Your work . . . I have never quite understood why Father missed it so. It is right for him, he is gold again while doing so. He has not been in much too long. You . . . you are gold, as well, beneath the red. And yet, I could not feel you when that shadow fell. You were not gold then, you were a red so dark that it was black enough to match, and I . . . I did not like feeling you as such.”

    She blinked, processing what he said. Once again she felt that flicker of curiosity and concern for his odd abilities, and she was not quite sure what to say.

    “Well, that thing is gone for now,” Nyota tried to sooth. “And you are safe here.”

    Saerk nodded, just once, his eyes falling as he processed her words. She wanted to reach out and touch his hand again, but she did not, unsure if the contact would be welcomed or not.

    His eyes were turning heavy again, and a small smile touched her mouth at the sight. “You should try to sleep again, if you can,” she said gently. “I'll stay here,” she added when Saerk's eyes opened, discomfort shining before he tucked it away.

    He did not answer her, but a few minutes later, his breathing had evened out again. She sat still in the silence, and waited.

    She only sat for another half hour before she was joined. Spock came to the door of his son's room with a quick step, as if he had been running before slowing to a stop. She looked, and saw where he had still been dressed for his trek in the tunnels. There was dirt smudged on his face. His hair was mussed. They had just returned, she understood.

    He cast a quick gaze from Saerk to her, and then back again. She could feel his presence at the back of her mind, quietly and subtly searching before she waved her hand, drawing him in.

    “He's okay,” she assured him. “Just exhausted.”

    Spock nodded his head once, but did not seem to accept her words until he entered and held his hand to his son's brow, searching. At last, he exhaled, and backed a step away. When he fell into the seat next to her own, his motion was graceless. She could feel his relief tickle at the back of her mind, his thoughts once again her own without the distance between them.

    “He handled the attack very bravely,” she whispered into the silence that fell. “You would have been proud of him.”

    Spock was silent for a moment more, hardly blinking as he looked down on his son's still form. She could feel his emotions swim, tangling about themselves as he slowly removed one strand from the other. “We found the portal, and yet not of our culprit. And so, when the one sentry we apprehended told us of their goal here . . . Hearing that we were in the wrong time at the wrong place . . .”

    He did not complete his thought, but she could feel the sentiment behind the words – the wave of fear and thick, nauseous worry – it had overwhelmed him as it had not since the day that Vulcan was destroyed. He did not know how he would be able to handle . . .

    “We are here now, both of us,” Nyota soothed as softly as she could. “Apparently L'iost did not take kindly to his host being harmed.”

    Spock turned to her, raising a brow. “What do you mean?”

    She reached up to tap a finger against the side of her temple. “L'iost,” she said. “He fought your hold to swim to the forefront of my consciousness. He surprised the entity the Dark Ennorians used long enough for the guards to come and add their own minds to the fight. I wouldn't call it a defeat, exactly, but they were able to push that . . . shadow away.”

    “Most curious,” Spock muttered, his brow furrowing.

    Nyota frowned, a shiver passing over her spine as she remembered the blackness of that weight . . . the way it devoured.

    Spock caught the trail end of her thoughts. She remembered curving around Saerk to keep him safe from the blast, every instinct within her screaming that she protect, that she keep him safe at all costs consuming her until she had been a force to match L'iost. She watched as his mouth pressed, making a line at the thought from her.

    He reached out, and touched the top of Saerk's hand, and the simple gesture of a parent ensuring themselves of their young one's safety tugged at something inside of her. She bit her lip.

    My mother was green . . .

    . . . my father isorange and gold . . . they did not match . . .

    . . . you are gold beneath the red . . .

    . . . that thing, it was black . . . so very black . . .

    We match, she thought, something warm and full settling inside of her at the thought. She took in a deep breath, feeling her lungs stretch with the motion. She was slow in letting the breath go, as if before leaping from a great height, and then -

    “I have a question,” she said, her voice hesitant from her mouth. Spock turned to face her at the tone, waiting. “His . . . his mother . . . I know, it is not my place to ask, really, and yet -”

    “ - no,” Spock interrupted her, his voice gentle. “You have a right to know. You need not feel that you overstep a boundary where no such one exists.”

    She exhaled. She was ready then. “I know she is gone. Saerk told me, in part. And yet . . .” she waved a hand, uncertain of how to conclude her thought.

    Spock was silent a moment before answering, as if considering how best to shape his reply. She waited.

    “T'Rin and I knew from the start that we were a marriage of convenience,” Spock said, his first words given on an exhale. “She had one to whom she was betrothed since childhood, and, growing with their minds connected, she had learned to love him. Vulcan's destruction and his death was very hard on her, and I think . . . I think that what made our union bearable was that she had lost as much as I. I . . . I could still feel flickers of him in her mind, even until the end of our marriage, and she . . . she could feel you. There was an understanding between us, a friendship found in loss, even, but we never filled in those holes in each other.

    “She . . . when she took her latest job on Carax II, she did so knowing that it would be a long term commitment. She would be gone for four years time, and she would not leave me with an open ended bond. She said that she could feel that I was not emotionally satisfied with our marriage. She told me that emotional fulfillment meant more to me than even I consciously understood, and with our inability to have another child, and Saerk old enough to both understand the reasons for her leaving and develop properly without her direct influence . . . She released me, she said . . . It was the only time I have ever seen her smile, as faint as it was. In a way, I believe we freed each other.

    “We still communicate weekly, and I know that Saerk keeps an even closer communication with her. Since Vulcan's destruction, her throwing herself into this new world is the first bit of healing and closure I believe she has found, and I am . . . while I did not choose her, I look on the years we shared with fondness, even if they were not . . .”

    “ . . . what you would have chosen otherwise,” Nyota finished for him. Her voice was very soft. “In the smallest of ways, I think I can understand that.”

    Still, Spock looked down. He would not meet her eyes.

    She hesitated for only a moment before reaching over to cover his hand with her own. A heartbeat passed before he slowly unfurled his hand. He clasped her fingers with his own.

    And gently, she smiled. With the skin to skin contact, she could feel his old grief and his old hurt, even flickers of happier moments from his time with T'Rin. And yet, above that, she could feel a small warmth, a growing warmth; a flickering, hopeful thing that she knew for its own place in her heart, rising in her bones.

    Hope, she let the warmth of it settle on her tongue and turn like butterfly wings in her stomach. She smiled then, unable to do anything else as Spock tightened his grip about her own.

    They only turned when there was a knock at the door. Kirk leaned into the room and smiled a sharp smile, full of teeth.

    “I think that I have an idea,” his eyes glinted as he pushed away from the door, trusting that would follow.

    Nyota caught Spock's eye, who raised a brow in return. Slowly, they rose together and followed the Captain out.



    “No, absolutely not,” Spock was the first one to answer, his voice sharp as it cut through the silence that followed Kirk's words.

    “Why not?” Kirk was quick to challenge, his eyes flashing bright.

    “If you say that it is too dangerous,” Nyota's voice all but slithered, “then I don't even want to hear it.”

    “And yet,” Spock returned frostily, “hear it you shall. We are dealing with an untold entity with an untold power; to trust another untold entity and untold power to aid us – it is illogical to the extreme.”

    And yet,” Kirk pointed out, “We are running out of options. Tell me you can think of something better, Spock, and I will go with it in a heartbeat. You know that.”

    Spock was silent for a long moment. His brow was stone, and yet he did not have a better solution. He could not, Nyota knew, because there was not a better choice of action.

    “L'iost is a variable,” Spock said slowly. “Trusting him to aid us with this threat is illogical to the extreme.”

    “Even if we do not trust L'iost, enough to use him as a weapon, we have the perfect bait with him and Nyota here,” Kirk argued. “We have struck out twice trying to find this threat on our own. If we can lure this being out into the open – where we want him, we would not need L'iost past being the lure that we so desperately need. We can destroy the threat, and the Ennor will be ready for peace and continuing their talks with the Federation. What is that you are always saying about the good of the many, the good of the one . . .”

    And yet, she is the one, she heard the thought ghost across Spock's mind. It snared at her own thoughts before he tucked it away, far from her sight. Just barely, she let herself soften.

    “Spock,” she said gently. “I am ready for this – I have always been ready for this. This is why I joined Starfleet in the first place. I want to help, and if I can, I will.”

    “Already L'iost tears apart your mind as his own. If I were to break the bond I put in place, I am not sure that I would ever be able to put it back again, even if he does prove to be a valuable weapon against this entity. I do not think you properly understand the risk, Nyota.”

    At the edge of her mind, she could feel L'iost stirring. He waited, she thought, as if with holding his breath. She waited for him to speak, to comment, but he did not say a word. Instead, he waited.

    “I understand the risk,” she said, even though her voice was hollow to her own ears.

    “You are human,” Spock continued, “L'iost's presence has gone on for much too long, and he is stretching your psi receptors to a point that is dangerous. And now, to let him take on the strength and scope necessary to confront this threat . . . you may not survive the confrontation.”

    “And if I do not?” she returned. “Is this something you can fight? This is beyond even you, Spock, and the few moments you would be able to buy the empaths would not be long enough to destroy him completely.”

    “And yet,” Spock said, “I may be able to hold him back long enough to trap him on the other side of the portal. It need not come down to raw strength, but the cleverness of our execution.”

    “So your worry is for not,” Nyota said. “L'iost can still attract this beast with your wards in place, and then you and the empaths can do the best to see that he is taken care of for good. And yet, as a last resort . . .”

    Spock was silent for a moment. A long moment. His eyes were hard. She could feel his thoughts as if through a wall of water, and knew that he was holding back from her. “I do not like it,” he said simply.

    “Neither do I,” Kirk said, running a hand through his hair in frustration, “And yet, we are running out of both time and options.”

    “I do not like it either,” Nyota said, letting her voice drop low in an attempt to sooth the line of static on the air, snapping like a live wire against her senses. “But I will be careful . . . and this, this may be our best chance at seeing this threat destroyed. I do not want to waste it.”

    Spock was carefully still before her. His face betrayed nothing, and his thoughts too were far from her. But she knew the signs of him exercising his control, and read his feeling for what it was.

    “Then so be it,” Spock said, his voice monotonous, without an infliction of feeling. “We shall do it this way.”

    “It is the only way, Spock,” Kirk said gently. He stood very close to his friend, even though he did not touch him. “And trust me for this, Spock – I always bring my crew back in one piece. This will not be any different.”

    “Allow me to be dubious in trusting a plan to your rather uncanny stroke of good luck, Jim,” Spock's voice was wry – annoyed, anyone else would think, and yet, Kirk was not fazed. He patted the other man on the back, a rueful smile tugging at his mouth when Spock slanted a look at him for the gesture.

    “Now,” Kirk cracked his knuckles. “Lets propose this to the Ennorians. We have much to do before the morning, and little time to waste.”

    Kirk turned to leave, and Spock turned after him. Nyota fell into step next to Spock, concerned as he continued to hold himself aloof from her. She touched the back of his hand as they walked, and while Spock did not return the gesture, he did look down at her, the stone of his face softening.

    “Spock,” she whispered gently. “I can do this.”

    “You are mistaken if you think my worries to be a reflection on you,” Spock said, his voice low to match. “I do not trust the force that leeches at your mind, and no amount of spoken argument will put that worry to rights.”

    “I do not like it either,” she returned, and for the first she felt a flicker in her mind. A shimmer of dread for the fight ahead that she tucked away as quickly as she could, unwilling to show her guest just how unsettled she was by the fight to come. “And yet, if there was any other way . . .”

    “Desperate times call for desperate measures, and it is the desperation of this ploy that disturbs me more than anything else. We do not properly understand L'iost, and we do not properly understand the force we face. The variables before us, the lack of conclusive data . . .” His words broke off on a note of frustration, a note she could not fault him for.

    She swallowed, taking a deep breath as she did so. She thought then of Saerk small in the shadow of the being filling the room as glass flew. She thought of the threat hanging over this peaceful, beautiful world. She thought even of Spock, how they were just now finding their stride, how there was something there, just waiting to be reached, and -

    “And that,” Spock said softly, hearing her thoughts as his own, “Is what concerns me most of all.”

    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  20. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    I am rendered speechless again. Like what else is new!? My "Other Half" parallel will be amazing, girlfriend. I can feel it! The tenderness and the concern and the reaching to deeper closeness - makes me feel so buoyant and happy. But something deep in me clenches at Ny's risk. Daughter of a Maia you are not, baby girl, to storm the fastness of such 'blackness :eek: [face_nail_biting]
    Mira_Jade likes this.
  21. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    A very nice update with Saerk and Nyota caring for him. And the risks for her[face_praying]
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  22. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart - It is no natural threat they face, it's true! I'm mean as an author and couldn't let them get off easy. :p But you are right! This is far past Nyota, and writing Spock's 'logical' concerns and caring - I loved doing so, and I am glad that the feelings impacted as they were aimed. Once again, reading your thoughts is just a treat. Thank-you, again.[face_love] [:D]

    earlybird-obi-wan - Why thank-you! There is a risk indeed, but I can at least promise you a happy ending. Even after the bumps and bruises. :p [:D]

    Alrighty folks, it is this chapter, and then just one more. :)

    Part XIV

    They readied themselves to leave with the dawn.

    Nyota double checked the contents of her backpack, making sure that she had all that she could need packed and ready to go. She wore dark grey pants tucked into sturdy boots, with a short sleeved black shirt and grey vest over top, the Starfleet logo a pale shade of grey from where it was stitched in above her chest. She wore short black gloves on her hands, the supple material squeaking as she made a fist. Her fingers were restless, needing a task to busy themselves with as she checked the straps of the bag once she was certain of the contents within. She looked around, ready to go, when -

    “You are leaving?”

    She turned to see Saerk standing a step from her, his brow furrowing in a dip with his words. She could hear a note of discord in the child's voice, no matter how he tried to hide it.

    “I am,” she answered gently, meeting his gaze. “You are up early,” she tried to say next. “You should still be sleeping.”

    “I have partaken of adequate rest,” Saerk said, looking down at her pack and then up at her. He swallowed once before speaking, the small tell louder than any words he could have uttered. “I do not wish for you to go.”

    He gave no arguments to go with his feeling so, no carefully arranged debate and supported evidence of the rightness of his words. Instead, he squared his mouth and then looked down, as if ashamed by the illogical shape of his statement. She felt something in her heart tug at the sight, and she sighed.

    “I do not want to go either,” she said softly. “And yet, there is little choice in the matter. Not for me.”

    Still, Saerk looked down.

    “You will not be safe,” he stated.

    “I will be careful,” she said after a moment, unable to lie to him. “I will be careful, and I will come back.”

    He looked up at her, one brow raised witheringly at her words. “It is illogical to make such a promise when you are unable to guarantee the certainty of its outcome.”

    “And yet, it's the truth,” she said. “I have every intention of coming back safe and sound. Returning safely means more to me than anything else.”

    “And yet, you cannot know,” Saerk said again, his words picking up in speed up as he spoke. The corners of his speech were sharp, more telling about his worry and fear than anything else. She watched him breathe in deep, trying to reconcile all that was Vulcan about his blood with that small human flame that burned deep within him. “You will leave,” he forced the words out, “leave, just like . . .”

    His words tapered off. He did not finish them. Instead he closed his mouth with an audible click of teeth, and swallowed away the end of his sentence. And yet, she did not need for him to finish. She understood . . . she knew.

    Nyota knelt down before him, taking in a centering breath of her own. She wished that he were a human child in that moment, wanting to hug him tight and tell him just how much he meant to her – how much his father meant to her. But he was stepping back even as she looked at him, as if ashamed of the feelings turning within him. She sighed, suddenly tired in that moment.

    Instead of saying anything, she held a hand out to him, letting him make the decision to touch her. Saerk looked at her offered hand once, dubiously, and then, slowly, he accepted. He let her hold his hand in both of hers.

    Hand to hand, letting her thoughts swim forward in the way of his people, she tried to explain how much she cared – and how quickly such a caring had formed within her, at that. She let him see how much she cared for his father, and how that caring was a determination – an impetus – to come home to him, and to come home as quickly as she could. She felt Saerk turn in curiosity over the surface of her thoughts and emotions, even as she tried to let her mind fill in the cracks of his worry and fear. He squeezed her hands tighter in reply, understanding her efforts.

    “I still do not like it,” Saerk said, looking down at her hands when the touch of her mind drew away. “This thing is black . . . it swallows. It will swallow everything, even you.”

    “Then,” she said gently. “We will have to be extra careful. That much I can promise you with certainty.”

    Saerk raised a brow, but he nodded. There was nothing else he could say.

    She stood again just as Spock entered the room, dressed similarly to her with a pack of his own upon his shoulders. He looked between her and his son, and a moment later she could feel his concern brush against her mind. She looked to Saerk and then stepped back, and Spock understood.

    “We will return as soon as we are capable of doing so,” Spock said to his son. “Until then, see that you mind Serit in all things. Is this clear?”

    “Yes,” Saerk nodded as Spock knelt down, much as Nyota had a moment before. He touched the top of Saerk's hair and touched his brow to the child's in a tender gesture. Nyota could feel a warmth linger about them, and knew that Spock comforted his son as much as she tried to. When he drew away, Saerk looked stronger to her gaze. There was a mark of determination to his eyes as Spock stood. Determination, and . . .

    She tilted her head as the tone on the air shifted, feeling something else come from the boy. But then Saerk blinked, and the moment was gone before she could identify what she felt. She looked, but when Saerk caught her eye, there was nothing within them to give her pause, and she waved her own feeling of unease away.

    “We will return soon,” Spock said as they both turned for the door.

    And then, the time was upon them. Saerk nodded his head in understanding, and watched them leave.


    Hours had passed, and yet, she could not shake away the uneasy sensation of being followed.

    They walked deeper and deeper into the tunnels, traveling for so long that it seemed as if they had to now be deep within the heart of the mountains - though, logically, she knew that they had barely scratched the surface of the great range. She tried to keep her eyes trained unblinkingly ahead, pushing away the feeling of unease that grew within her every time she had the urge to look back behind.

    At her side, Spock was quiet as he walked. He had been slow to speak the whole of the time while Kirk outlined their plan of attack, only adding his words when it came to the logistics of their movements and offering his own suggestions of how to improve their strategy. She did not like his silence, but she could feel the reason for it, his mind as a storm whenever she reached out to him – and such a feeling was not conductive to him fighting with a clear mind in the time to come.

    So, she kept to her own mind, and tried her best to clear her own thoughts. In the back of her mind, L'iost was strangely silent . . . watching . . . waiting. After all of the times he had offered his unwelcome opinions, now he was mute within her thoughts, and she could not contain her irritation for his doing so.

    She felt a flicker of amusement, deep inside, and knew a fresh wave of frustration for her parasite's emotion.

    She grit her teeth, and walked on, trying her best to ignore him.

    Spock looked over to her, having felt the encounter within her mind. He raised a brow before his expression smoothed, giving nothing away. “I will not release the anchor holding him unless as a last resort,” Spock said. “I want you to know this, and plan your actions accordingly.”

    She nodded. They had already talked about this. “I know – and I agree. I do not want to give L'iost a bigger foothold any more than you do.”

    That was the honest truth, she knew. And yet, the feeling of shadow grew around them. A black feeling rose, and she could not help but know . . .

    By the time they reached the chamber holding the portal, she had rehearsed the plan so many times in her mind that she already knew the shape of the cavern by heart. The calm blue pool . . . the stalactites above . . . but this time, it was no empty chamber. The stalactites rippled as with movement – like termites upon a hill, and it took her a moment to realize that the movement was dozens upon dozens of Dark Ennorians above them, gathered like insects on the rock.

    There was a cry, and then -

    Hell broke loose as their Ennorian empaths rushed forward to confront their sister species. Kirk led a squadron of Starfleet security to fight alongside the Ennorians, allowing Spock and his team free to set the explosives in the rock above the portal, meaning that they only needed to keep the black shadow the Dark Ennorians were using distracted long enough to do what needed to be done.

    She saw where a path of round stones crossed the pool down the center, wide enough for one to cross without fear of loosing their balance, and she swallowed, knowing what she had to do.

    “You are clear,” Kirk said into the comm piece at her ear. “I've got your back covered.”

    “Five minutes and forty-three seconds are all that I require,” Spock said next, his voice terse and mechanical as he was swallowed by his task.

    Five minutes to hold a shadow at bay.

    She could do it.

    She stepped out onto the first stepping stone. The second. By the time she reached the middle, she inhaled, her breath shaky within her lungs. And, within her mind, she searched.

    There was a great, terrible sound that filled the cavern then – a sound of scratching nails and consuming wind; heartbeats, sounding out like thunder. She braced herself against it, the empaths fighting around her flinching as if struck as a black presence filled the air. She looked, seeing no face or form, only a strange black cloud that was no less sentient for its lack of form as it snapped from one position to the next with a strangely graceful rush of sound on the air to match.

    In the back of her mind, she could feel L'iost coming to the forefront of her consciousness. He watched as she watched, his interest piqued – hungering, she would almost say as the shadow came closer. She could feel as its black senses stretched out . . . searching . . . finding . . .

    . . . and then passing her by.

    It passed her over . . . it moved on, looking with nearly desperate senses about the cavern, almost uncaring of the battle being waged all about it.

    Unease hammered in her chest, stronger than her fear. She did not understand, she thought then. Did the shadow not notice her there. Did the shadow not . . .

    It was never after you, L'iost finally said with certainty in her mind. You have made a grave error.

    But, if not her, she wondered, then . . .

    A mind open to the mind of others, the Dark Ennorian had said. A mind open to the minds of worlds . . .

    Not open to just one – as she was, she understood with a sinking field. But one who could glimpse and manipulate the minds of the many with an ancient gift. Kash'kau, Spock had said of his son, though the full extent of his gift would never be realized with the elders of old dead and their secrets gone with them. She remembered then, how Saerk had been as a calm in the storm when the shadow had attacked the clansman before their eyes that night . . . Saerk had been unaffected by the shadow, and the shadow had seen . . .

    And yet, Saerk was far from here, she comforted the wild lance of fear that bit through her heart at that thought. Saerk was far from here, he was safe, and -

    The feeling she had, of being followed, of being watched, she thought next. That had not been the shadow they were facing, but rather -

    Spock had followed her train of thought from the beginning, and she could feel his unease break through his cool control like a crack in a dam moved to the rushing of a great wave. She felt him cast his senses about the cavern, to the tunnel they had just came from, and -

    Saerk! Run! She heard Spock exclaim on the mental plane, just as she saw a dark head peeking over from one of the stone formations lining the tunnel they had just came from.

    “It's not after me, it's after Saerk!” she exclaimed into her head-set. “Kirk, you have to -”

    “Saerk, what the hell?!” Kirk was quick to reply, fear lancing through his voice in an open and raw sound. “Damn it all, but how is that even possible? Never mind, put together a Vulcan's strategy and a human adolescent's inability to stay put -”

    “ - Kirk!” she interrupted.

    “I know, I know,” he said, and as ever, his grim humor was but an outlet for his adrenaline as he started running to where Saerk was looking with wide eyes on the shadow that filled the corridor about him, growing. “And yet, I am not sure what good I can do - ”

    “Just get him out of here,” she exclaimed.

    He will do no good against that, she could hear L'iost speak into her mind, his every thought as teeth bared. With his human hands and his human weapons. The hatchling -

    L'iost is right, Spock's mind touched hers then, the syllables of his mind quick and terse.

    She looked for Spock, who had paused in his setting of the explosives. His eyes were closed, and she could feel him reaching out in her mind. She could feel him searching. L'iost rose at his call, his presence filling her mind in a way it had not since Serillious, showing her how much he had truly been holding his presence at bay.

    You know what I would ask of you, Spock said next.

    I know, L'iost said. And yet, I am unsure of why you would expect me to comply.

    The mind you succor yourself on is human, and wilting beneath your touch, Spock said. Remain within, and you will have the cause to sustain yourself for another few months – a year, at best, before her mind collapses beneath the strain. Would you rather not devour something your equal in might. Would you rather not gorge yourself on an entity fitting of your appetite?

    But, her mind
    . . . L'iost whispered, and his voice was wistful.

    Can tolerate this no more, Spock said. And you are not without feeling towards your host. You are not without care.

    She felt L'iost's senses flicker, looking to where Saerk was pushed back by the shadow. She could feel the child's panic, and fear, and that more than anything else cut through her like a knife. Spock's presence in her mind stared stubbornly ahead, unable to let himself think about his son's plight past what he was doing to ease it.

    The shadow opened its claws, and -

    Saerk screamed. Kirk swore in her ear.

    She closed her eyes, and felt as L'iost made his decision. I am working from a great distance, L'iost said. I shall need help to make the switch, and her mind may now be able to handle the strain.

    Just do it! her own thought was wild in comparison to the cool collection the other two spoke with. She could not . . .

    I will guide both, Spock said. I will help you settle your connection, and I will shield her mind as best I may. And yet -

    - there is not time, L'iost finished for him, agreeing.

    What do I do? she asked, feeling as L'iost made his decision.

    Just face the shadow, L'iost said, and let me work.

    She felt as Spock inhaled, as he stretched out with his senses, finding where the shadow took its succor. She knew fear as it filled her, but she tried to push it aside so that Spock could concentrate on what had to be done. She felt as he made a bridge of sorts, linking her to the shadow, rippling and so very black across her senses . . . she felt as L'iost grew in her mind, filling every corner, pushing her back and back and back until she was but a spark in her own thoughts. She was small, she was nothing, and -

    She could not breathe, she thought. There was nowhere for her to go, not when she was so full, fit to burst, it seemed.

    The anchor, L'iost rumbled in her mind, and no longer was his voice the smooth and cultured tone she had long known. It was something more than sound, something more than a voice – something that was the rumbling of a furnace and the thundering of a storm. She closed her eyes as Spock cradled the small piece of her that remained in her mind, shielding her from the full brunt of L'iost's might.

    I will release it now, Spock said, his voice coming as if from far away.

    Focus on your thoughts of gold, little one, L'iost said to her, seemingly right behind her ear. It is what drew me to you in the first place . . . it is what will save you now.

    Spock exhaled, and she felt as the chord binding L'iost snapped, and then -

    It was as if there was a rushing of storm wind in her mind. She felt as if she closed her eyes on a hurricane as it ripped, as it tore. She fumbled on the high waves, she struggled to breath, unable to find a grip inside of her own mind. For a moment, she thought that she would be taken along with the shadow as L'iost swelled across the link Spock had created to meet the dark creature head on. He was a terrible red light as he pierced the shadow, seemingly trying to consume it. The empaths of both species screamed at the psychic onslaught. They fell to their knees, holding their heads as the two forces collided.

    Hold on to me, she felt Spock within her mind. Hear my voice, and follow it.

    But he spoke from so far away, she thought. She could not . . .

    Nyota! His voice was a force fit to match the storm around them. If she could only . . .

    Your thoughts of gold, L'iost had said, and she tried to cling to those, to remember -

    - she remembered her parent's faces, smiling in pride as she held her Starfleet acceptance letter . . . her father guiding her though her first language, and her mother showing her the stars at night and whispering their old stories and names -

    - she remembered laughing with her sister, adjusting her veil on her wedding day and laughing with joy as she took Dajan's hands in her own and calling him brother -

    - she remembered the first time she had met Spock, unable to look away as something like a spark took root inside of her heart, spreading like wildfire in the days to come, until -

    - their first kiss, light and warmth filling her mind as he touched her thoughts with his, and she knew then that she would love none other like this -

    - holding him after Vulcan's destruction, being a strength for him as he so often was for her. Letting him cling to her, and find a little bit of himself again, stronger together even after loss . . .-

    - loss. She remembered the years apart, and their time recently together. She clung to their new found warmth, to the love she could feel fill her spirit again now as it so clearly had then. Love, she thought - for she did, so truly and deeply, and she knew then . . . -

    She clung to that feeling. She made it all she thought of. She let the warmth of it consume her, hiding her from L'iost's wrath and the ruin of the shadow. She was more than that in the moment, she was gold. They were gold . . .

    And so, she clung to Spock, and let him shield her from the storm.

    Your five minutes, L'iost whispered in her mind – no words spoken, just the shape of his thoughts making their meaning known deep within her mind.

    Have passed, Spock returned. We are ready.

    As L'iost had been able to move her that once, he now moved the shadow, dropping Saerk from its hold, and drawing the force back to the pool with its now tempestuous waves. They grappled with each other, but L'iost was stronger, dragging the shadow, forcing the shadow, until -

    Now, little one, he hissed in her mind, and she ran.

    She reached the other side of the pool, all but flinging herself from the last stone as Spock caught her, pulling her away as above her, the explosives went off, shattering the massive formations from the ceiling, letting them fall to pierce the pool below. The portal gave an awful, rushing sound as it fell in on itself, swallowing L'iost and the shadow and the ruin of the rock from above, and it broke -

    And then, as quickly as it began, it was over. The pool settled – just a pool of water once more. The Ennorians struggled to their feet, those remaining of the Dark Ennorians easily subdued by the Starfleet officers as they were bound and gathered together. The battle was done, the scuffle was over, leaving her with a migraine like she had never felt before and a curious lightness about her mind as she struggled to her feet. She was . . .

    She was free, she realized on a short, breathless thought. L'iost was gone, she could barely contain her joy at the thought. L'iost was gone, and she was free, and -


    Her stride wobbled those first few steps, and she almost fell. But Spock was at her side in the next moment, supporting her as they made their way as fast as they could to the mouth of the tunnel. She could read his worry and unease in the shape of his face, let alone with the easy and open way his mind now meshed with her own, their bond trying once more to flicker into place as if they had never been apart.

    Kirk was already kneeling down with Saerk. He looked up at both of them as they came, his grave expression breaking into relief as he felt for a pulse and found it. “He's still breathing,” he said, moving so that Spock could kneel down and pull his son's still form to him. “I can't tell about his mind, and yet . . .” he waved a hand, his mouth a grim line. He could not finish his thought.

    But Spock was already one thought ahead of Kirk, placing his hand on his son's psi points and slipping into a meld with hardly a thought. She held her breath, fear filling her for the thought that now, after everything . . .

    A heartbeat passed. One and then another, and then -

    Saerk coughed. Once, and then twice. His eyes flickered, and while they were tired and glazed, they were open. They were aware.

    “Oh, thank god,” Kirk was the first one to breath, turning and running a hand over his face in his relief. The strong line of his shoulders trembled.

    “Saerk,” she gave on an exhale, sinking down on the opposite side of Spock so that she could make sure for himself that he was okay.

    “You foolish, illogical child,” she could only breathe as she took his hand in her own, needing the tangibility of touch. “What were you thinking??”

    “I thought that I could help,” Saerk croaked on a dry voice, slow to find his words. “I thought that I could help you . . . so you would not have to . . .” He broke off, unable to find his breath as he inhaled. His lungs were moving much too fast in his chest, unable to gather in air.

    She bit her words off, knowing that the time for reproving would come later. For now, she only let herself feel relief.

    “The good of the few . . . the good of the many . . .” Saerk still tried to say, before she hushed him.

    “Shhh,” she said. “There will be time for that later.”

    Saerk nodded, closing his eyes again as he turned in his father's hold. She felt tears burn in her eyes as she turned to Spock, finding his normally impassive face creased with the weight of relief and love both. He held his son to him as he met her eyes, and across his mind, she could not help think, like father, like son. Her foolish, beautiful Vulcans . . .

    Exhausted then, she moved to Saerk's other side, falling in a graceless pile of limbs to rest her head against Spock' shoulder, unable to even think about moving past that spot. Spock shifted, slipping an arm around her shoulder as she basked in the simple relief of surviving, of triumphing . . .

    Kirk plopped down next to them, a simple joy on his face as he smiled softly at them. His friends – his family, and Nyota exhaled then, more comfortable then and there than she had been in much to long – even with the mire of the battle and the exhaustion of her mental fight still clinging to her psyche. Nothing else mattered then. She could not imagine being more comfortable than she was in that moment.

    And so . . . she closed her eyes, and listened to her loved ones breathe.

    ~MJ @};-
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  23. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    Reserving my spot for savoring - slowly, like Ghiardelli chocolate [face_laugh] [face_laugh] [face_love] !!!!


    ETA: Oh riveting. Oh, stupendous! I have only two words: My Tinuviel ... That is all. ^:)^ ^:)^ ^:)^
  24. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    What a beautiful, action packed update. All are safe. Excellent
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  25. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: You are quite simply the best! I am so glad that you enjoyed. :) [:D][face_love][:D]

    earlybird-obi-wan: Safe and sound and happy indeed! [face_love][:D]

    Author's Notes: And here we are with the final chapter of this tale. I have to give a big round of thanks and hugs to everyone who joined this journey with me. It certainly was quite the ride. [face_love][:D]

    Part XV

    “Then, you are sure?”

    Admiral Myna arched a slender brow, but the sternness of her gaze had already softened, knowing how she would reply. There was a frank appraisal to her sea-grey eyes, observing her with a quiet contemplation as Nyota sat before the comm screen, more at ease then than she had been in months.

    “I am very sure,” Nyota answered, and for the first time in years, her choice for her future was one she absolutely accepted . . . and embraced.

    Myna looked, and must have seen something in her face. She nodded, satisfaction lining the gesture as she did so. “I will put the paperwork through, then. Starfleet will be the lesser for loss of you – but I know we will benefit in other ways from your decision. I have our linguistics department all but foaming at the mouth for your publishing your findings – they will be keeping in contact.”

    “I look forward to it,” Nyota inclined her head, and in that too there was the truth.

    Myna pressed the tips of her steepled fingers to her chin as she considered her next words. For a moment Nyota felt as if there was a chessboard with pieces in motion between them before Myna's face smoothed. Something soft touched her eyes as she leaned forward.

    “And I wanted to take a moment to let you know that everyone here is happy for you – and not just to hear that your unwelcome guest is gone for good. It's hard to put down roots between the stars, and we are happy when one of our own finds the path that fits them.” Myna's eyes flickered, something rueful lighting before fading away again. “It is interesting, how only last night I was having this same conversation but to a different degree. Some will always have that wanderlust deep within them, while others will find that something to ground them. I am glad for your choice, Uhura, and I hope it brings you happiness.” For the first, Myna used her name rather than her title, and Nyota felt warm fill her for the mentor and guide the older woman had been during her time in Starfleet.

    “Thank-you, Admiral. I do believe it will,” when she said so, she felt something inside of her thrill at her words, something breathless and delighted taking flight and soaring at the thought. This choice was the right one, she knew in her heart. This was more right than anything had felt in years, and she was eager for the next chapter of her life to now begin.

    The Admiral inclined her head, and leaned forward to end the transmission before thinking the better of it. She hesitated. “Make sure he takes care of you,” Myna finally added in a wry tone. “He will have those to answer to if he does not.”

    “It would be only logical,” Nyota gave, her eyes twinkling, and Myna actually smiled before the transmission winked out and hid proof of the gesture away.

    Leaning back in her seat, Nyota continued to stare at the screen for a long, long moment, before getting to her feet in a surge of breathless energy. The day was still new, and there was still much to be done. She felt determination fill her as she thought of everything that had to be done before they departed later that day.

    . . . everything.



    “I do believe that a congratulations are in order, Captain.”

    Captain,” Kirk drawled the title out, puffing his chest out with pride. “You know, I do like the sound of that. They drove a hard bargain – but I am sure that I can keep them from forcing an Admiral's plaque on my chest for the time being.”

    “And the helm of a ship?” Spock asked. “When does that go into effect?”

    “The helm of the ship,” Kirk breathed, the same awe and adoration filling his voice that he would use to speak of a cherished lover. “They are bringing her back to life, Spock – for one more tour of uncharted space, at least, before they hand it off to someone younger and brighter. But . . . by that time, I am hoping that my bones will finally want to settle down somewhere. Somewhere permanent, even.”

    “Perhaps,” Spock gave, his voice neutral.

    “Yeah,” Kirk waved his hand, his face creasing with a doubt to match. “You are right – and still, I can hope. We will simply cross that bridge when we come to it.”

    “An apt plan for the future,” Spock said, his voice without inflection. Kirk rolled his eyes in reply.

    “Now you are just mocking me,” Kirk said, his eyes twinkling.

    “It is illogical for a Vulcan to indulge in such frivolities,” Spock deadpanned. “I did no such thing.”

    “Well then, I am speaking to the half human part of you when I am telling you to knock it off,” Kirk retorted, loving every moment of their banter – even if Spock refused to acknowledge it as such.

    “I can assure you," Spock raised a brow, "I have no idea what you mean.”

    “If it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck . . .”

    “I must confess that I am confused as to the relevance of ducks to -”

    Spock,” Kirk interrupted. “Just say that you are happy for me.”

    A heartbeat passed. One, and then another. Spock said, “I am happy for you, Jim.”

    Kirk beamed. “I know you are – but it's good to hear sometimes.”

    He looked over to where Spock was still moving about the room, and packing what he needed for the return trip to New Vulcan. He moved quickly and efficiently, but Kirk knew his friend well enough to see the stiffness in his stride, the unsettled tapping of his fingertips as he smoothed down a piece of clothing more than was needed, or tucked an item in for no apparent reason after it had already been secured. He was distracted, Kirk knew. Distracted, and restless in his skin.

    “And speaking of the happiness of friends . . .” Kirk tilted his head, ready to launch into the second reason for his visit. “How are things going there?”

    Spock stopped what he was doing long enough to raise a brow, but before he could plead ignorance, Kirk cut him off. “And don't even pretend that you do not know what I am talking about. You're smart enough - figure it out.”

    The confrontation in the tunnels had already been the day before last. The day before had been filled with reports and meeting with Starfleet and the Ennorian government. Every moment Spock had not been in meetings with others had been spent with Saerk in the healing rooms – where the child was recovering from the psychic onslaught he had endured with the Dark Ennorian host and L'iost combined. His mental scars were nothing that time and rest would not cure, and yet, Spock was eager to return him to New Vulcan in order to get the opinion and care of his own people's healers.

    Kirk knew that there would have been little time for Spock to speak to Nyota, and yet, he had to make sure that his friend was not hiding behind the logic of duty to avoid what needed to be said – a rank combination of human and Vulcan traits if ever there was one.

    He had talked to Nyota briefly the day before, just long enough for her to tell him of her resigning herself from active duty, and he had been happy for her. There was a new light to her eyes – both with L'iost gone and Spock returned, he would wager, and he would not see that light dimmed so quickly. He had pushed his way along so far, and he was determined to see his duty as a friend through to the end.

    “I have not taken a moment to speak to her,” Spock said, forming his words carefully.

    Kirk was ready to him. “Understandable,” he shrugged. “I just want to make sure that you will.”

    “It would be illogical to leave without saying farewell,” Spock said. “Saerk has formed an attachment, as well. He would not let me do so, even if I wished to.”

    Kirk let out a breath through his teeth. Spock was going to make this a difficult conversation, wasn't he?

    “Farewell?” he pushed. “Nothing more?”

    “I must return to New Vulcan,” Spock said. “Nyota has her mind freed and her path now wide and open before her. I would not stand in the way of her possibilities. My role as an Ambassador ties me to New Vulcan more often than not, and I would not offer her another immovable situation when she just escaped from one.”

    Ah . . . Kirk opened and closed his mouth. While he understood, to the smallest degree, he still found frustration rising in his lungs as he ran a hand through his hair to expell some of his nervous energy. He was tired of one of his friends making a martyr of themselves for the other, and he would not stand for it again.

    “Not everyone puts their career, or their duty, before their heart,” Kirk said, knowing he struck a low blow, but unrepentant of doing so when Spock's eyes narrowed on him. “You are making a choice for her again – just give her the option, Spock. Tell her what you would like from a relationship, and let it go from there. Compromise is the core of any relationship – and the worst she can do is actually say 'no', before you decide a 'no' for her.”

    Spock paused from where he was packing, resting a thoughtful hand on the smooth curve of his lyre as he pondered what he had said. Human more so than Spock would ever admit to being, Kirk understood the defensiveness of ending something before it began – especially where he had been burned before, even if he had brought that flame to his heart with his own hand. It was natural, and yet, Kirk needed his friend to see that, and fight against the urge.

    “Just promise me you will talk to her?” Kirk pushed.

    A moment passed. “I will,” Spock said simply, and Kirk nodded, satisfied. As long as he was willing and open, he knew that things would follow through to their natural conclusion. Their path was all but sealed in Kirk's mind.

    “I've already called in most of the old crew and told them the news,” Kirk flashed a grin, contentment rolling in his veins for more than one reason. “Bones says that if you hurt her again, he will rip your pointed ears off.”

    Spock blinked. “While I understand the illogical Terran tradition of males close to a female about to embark upon a courtship uttering such threats, the doctor's words are unnecessary,” he said rather icily, “I have no intention of hurting her. Not this time.”

    “I know you won't,” Kirk said warmly, smiling openly at his friend. “And I am happy for you . . . for both of you.”

    Spock tilted his head, and Kirk waited to hear how illogical it was to offer his congratulations before anything was even officially struck, but Spock said nothing like that. Instead, he inclined his head, and something about his eyes smiled, even where his mouth did not.

    “Now,” Kirk clapped his hands together in barely restrained glee, ready to move on to more pressing matters. “Starfleet was talking modifications when they mentioned resurrecting the Enterprise. And I have an idea or two to run past you, if you don't mind . . .”



    It was well into the evening hour when Nyota sought him out.

    The day had kept her busy with wrapping up loose ends and settling things with the Ennorian council. After she finished packing, Nyota paused, and felt for the warm, tenative spark she could feel waiting, just beneath the surface of her mind. Since L'iost's departure, she had tried but little to access her old bond with Spock, flinching away from the mental contact as if from reflex. But the fact of the matter was that it was still there under the surface, as if they had never been apart. Now that her mind was empty again – blessedly silent and hers once more – she could feel an echo of what once was . . . a promise of what could still be hers again, if she but reached for it.

    Instead of being heavy and dominating, Spock's presence in her mind was soft . . . soothing; like the natural part of a whole, joined to its other half once more. It did not fill her mind so much as it settled like the tide against the shore, natural and fulfilling – as if it was always meant to be. She could not remember the last time she had felt so at ease, so at peace - even during their last time together. Fifteen years ago, her thoughts had still been fresh and sharp and filled with the tantalizing idea of a career and adventures amongst the stars. Now, she could only think about roots . . . home . . . a family, and she felt more settled in her skin than she had ever been.

    She followed Spock's presence in her mind to the gardens outside of the governmental buildings, where a balcony had been built into the tiers of wild growing plants. Sheltered beneath tall, sweeping trees with their giant fronds and low, draping branches, the balcony was framed by a rushing cascade of water, tumbling down into the jungle far below. The jeweled blue waters flashed gold and orange in the light of where the sun was just starting to sink towards the horizon in the distance beyond.

    Nyota stepped forward to stand with him, feeling where he was aware of her presence in the back of her mind – like static prickling along the skin, filling the air like a storm before lightning struck.

    She leaned against the railing, and breathed in deep the spice of the exotic flowers and the sweetness of the mountain air. Her heart was slow and lazy in her chest, picking up speed only when he looked over at her. His eyes were dark and full, catching the light from the setting sun and returning it.

    “I will miss this place,” she was the one to finally break the silence. “Each world I have seen has been beautiful in its own way, but here the sun sets in a way I have yet to see anywhere else. It is indeed a wonder.”

    “It has its aesthetically strong points,” Spock acknowledged. “You would enjoy the sunsets on New Vulcan if you appreciate this here. The shades of red in the sky are like any other I have yet to see in my travels.”

    “I would like to see that someday,” she said, finding that she meant every word. Against her mind she could feel his presence turn in curiosity . . . and hesitation.

    “And now, what are your plans? Your mind is once again your own, and your options are open before you,” Spock said, turning to rest his back against the railing. He gave her his full attention, unblinking and pointed – and what was often unsettling to others drew tingles up and down her spine. She found herself leaning towards him, easy with his presence even after so many years apart.

    Nyota shrugged. “I might return home for a little bit – see my family, assure them that I am truly alright. I might travel a bit after that, or just find somewhere peaceful to settle down . . . I resigned from active duty with Starfleet, but I would still like to keep in contact with the linguistics division, and for that I need somewhere quiet to publish my findings - from both Serillious and here.”

    She raised a brow, waiting for an invitation. Although she could feel both a warmth and interest coming from his mind, she wanted to hear him say it. And so, she waited.

    “Such an endeavor is ambitious, and yet, you have the ability to meet it head on,” Spock said carefully, still looking at her. His eyes were very dark, she saw, the pupils blown wide.

    She smiled. “Is that a compliment?”

    “It is an honest assessment of your abilities,” he said.

    “Then it is a true compliment,” she teased.

    “If you wish to view it as such,” he inclined his head.

    For a moment, there was nothing between them but for the murmur of the rushing water, the call of some exotic bird from above. She let her smile stretch, and said, “Sheyan III has particularly fine beaches this time of year.” She pretended to look thoughtful. “Relaxing, warm - but without being a prime tourist destination. That may work.”

    “Perhaps,” Spock said. The one word was stiff from her mouth.

    And yet, she still would not let him off the hook. “Or Antian Prime? The starscapes there are to die for, and their local cuisine is quite perfect . . .”

    “If you prefer such things,” Spock said. She watched as his jaw tightened. “New Vulcan, while not possessing beeches or exotic cuisine, has a rather fascinating appeal with the desserts and mountains. I find a beauty in its landscape, and for peaceful conditions conductive to study and publishing your research, you would find little better.”

    “New Vulcan is a logical choice from that standpoint,” Nyota tapped her chin. “And yet . . .”

    “Saerk would greatly enjoy your presence there,” Spock gave. He took one step closer to the truth.

    “And I would enjoy his,” she admitted, turning so that she faced him fully. “And you . . . would you enjoy my presence there?”

    “Enjoy . . .” he drew the one word out as if it was foreign to him, an idea that he could not quite wrap his mind around. “If such a word could be used to describe what I feel when I am with you, then yes, I would enjoy your presence as well.”

    He was standing very close to her. Once again, the tie that bound them seemed almost tangible between. Only, this time, her mind was her own and any interruptions were far, far away. And then, finally, he was cupping the side of her face in one of his hands and then he was kissing her.

    Finally, she could not help but think as something inside of her soared, and little shockwaves touched her skin from where his mouth brushed hers. Along with his kiss she felt the touch of his mind, and without a second thought, she let him in, basking in the closeness of him – both tangibly and intangibly - as warmth and a golden feeling both filled her. She closed her eyes and felt . . .

    Enjoy her presence? She could all but hear his thoughts. Hardly. As if such a simple word could explain the everything that she was to him. The everything that she always had been. He did not have the words to ask her to stay with him. He could not find the words, simply because there were not the words – not in any of the languages she had learned in her studies thus far.

    He did not ask her, simply because so much rested upon her answer. Everything rested upon her answer. He opened his mind to her, and she was once again humbled to see the scope and depth of his love for her. In a way, she would never love him as he did her, simply because she did not have the capacity. Vulcan feeling and Vulcan passions ran so deep that they were hot and possessive and consuming – such was the very reason that his race had wrapped up such feelings in logic and the tight bonds of their control so long ago, lest they destroy themselves. While she had never let herself forget that, she now found new proof of that raw and real before her. She felt small in the eyes of his feeling so . . . small and cherished and so very adored.

    As best she could, she tried to return her feelings to him, letting him feel the years apart, showing him how she had struggled to find herself again after he was gone. She let him see just how full she was now, just how content . . .

    It was nothing more than a gentle touch of mouths, and yet each tentative brush of lips seemed to be a balm for every year apart. She wrapped her arms around him, tracing the path his spine made and mapping out the once familiar line of his shoulders underneath her palms, and she felt another year disappear. He rested his hands at the back of her skull, threading his fingers through the short strands of her hair, and another year fell away. A questing hand found the pointed tip of his ear when she ran her hands through his hair, and at the spike of pleasure she felt from his mind, another year was forgotten. His kiss turned more insistent then, opening up to her and consuming, and another year was gone. She pressed closer to him, finding her place as they wrapped together and their time apart was all but forgotten.

    She had missed this . . . she has missed their ease of closeness . . . the rightness of such a passion. She had missed this, and yet . . .

    She need never miss this again, if she but wanted. And oh, how she wanted in that moment.

    I had thought that I had given up the right to this forever, she felt his thoughts take shape, spoken directly into her mind. I cast this aside, and you would have every right to refuse me again. It would be logical, and yet, I find myself feeling . . .

    She pushed all of her thoughts of love to him – both new and old, both those long buried and those just recently discovered. I was never quite able to forget you, she gave in return. And I never figured out how to stop loving you, even when I tried. Now . . .

    Now she felt as if she held a hundred different stars underneath her skin, so filled by light and warmth as she was . . . and she never, ever wanted to let that feeling go. She would not. She would fight to keep it, and never loose grasp on it. She felt as her resolve and her determination settled in next to his and made it whole. She had made her choice, and she had never felt more complete.

    When he drew away from her, it was only so that he could rest his brow against her own. He was still tenderly holding her face, sharing her breath in that moment as they once again became two minds. Though the link was still there, she smiled up at him – herself – and chose her path from there.

    “I want to go home,” she said simply.

    Not the bridge of a spaceship, she thought - not Earth, or New Vulcan even, just . . .

    “With you,” she whispered. “I want to go with you.”

    His next breath shuddered in his chest. His skin was so very warm against her own, as with fever; both new and old to her all over again. He swallowed, and yet, when his eyes met hers, she had no doubt.

    “Home,” he agreed, and there they begun.

    ~MJ @};-