STAR TREK- The Original Series/Captain Sulu

SELEK:I'm usually a lurker, but Gayle gave me the opportunity to work with her terrific writing skills. I took a chance that I wouldn't sound like a complete idiot. I supplied some ideas and she translated my clumsy attempts at getting my ideas across to become the wonderful prose you are reading here. I am honoured with her patience and ability. Selek...(who is shuffling his feet and looking down sheepishly, ear tips slightly greenish) And always signs his e-mail... I come to serve.

GAYLE:Writing is a pure pleasure for me. Sharing these stories with readers is a newly discovered pleasure. Now, I have found a reader... that has asked one too many questions and was roped (I hope pleased at the fact) into helping me finish. It is hard to find someone that imagines in the way or creates in the similar style... well we did it! It has been a delight pure and simple working with Selek. And rumor has it that the collaboration may just continue. Gayle...(one that has been honoured by your service, Selek)

And our only creative difference...?

He says... "Mene sakket ur-seveh"

And I say... "Dif-tor eh smusma"

Written by Gayle Rochefort-Potts
Assisted by Selek; Creative Engineer

SUMMARY: As the voyage of the Excelsior and of Captain Sulu continue without Am'ath, the lives of Rahl and Am'ath begin to take form. There is discussion of peace between the Rihansu and the Federation. Will this mean that Am'ath's existence is revealed? Will she be returned home? Or will it be revealed that she is content where she is?

DISCLAIMER: The Great Bird of the Galaxy created "The universe" that we play in. Paramount owns "The Universe" that we play in. They will have al the monetary gains and the headaches... we will have all the fun!


2298.4 Two years after the events of the Select Incident.

On a remote world in the Rihansu Empire.

Rahl turned under the covers.

She started screaming.

He flipped the covers back and headed for her room at a run. He slid the door opened and ran to her side. He gathered her into his arms as he called to her. "Am'ath." He smoothed her hair then covered his ear closest to her as she screamed again. He rubbed her arm as he called to her again. The dreams that had stopped had recently turned into nightmares. For the last few nights, he had been on patrol and Sh'rien had come to her and found it necessary to administer a sedative. Both had accepted the premise that these began because of Rahl's absence. It had been the first time in six months that he had left for more than one night.

"Am'ath." He felt her body heave with sobs. He whispered to her that she was safe. He was here and would see to her safety.

Her eyes opened and she moved away from him. She sat huddled on the corner of the bed, her face buried in her nightgown against her raised knees. She kept crying as she tried to find the control of her emotions.

"Am'ath. Come, let me hold you." He moved closer to her, his touch moved slowly up her arm then to brush back her hair. He rubbed his eyes and felt a shiver travel his body. His body wasn't really awake yet and neither was his brain! He yawned. "Am'ath..." He moved beside her, wrapping an arm around her.

Am'ath lifted her head. "Leave me." She sobbed softly, still huddled tightly.

"I won't leave you." He brushed back his own hair behind his shoulder as he moved closer to her. "You will relax." He lifted her chin then dried a few tears. "You will come closer and allow me to comfort you." He kissed her forehead softly.

She gave in. She moved closer to him, stretching out her legs and cuddled up to him. She felt him slip under the covers as he pulled her in closer. Covers were drawn up and tucked in close around her.

Rahl lifted his head at the sound of the door opening. He nodded to Sh'rien.

Sh'rien moved closer, his voice just above a whisper. "I brought a sedative...?"

Rahl shook his head. "I will call if she does not return to sleep." He assured him.

"It is the accident that she is remembering."

Rahl nodded. He smiled at his friend. "Go back to sleep."

"I could leave this here?"

Rahl shook his head. "It will not be necessary."

Sh'rien nodded then left the room quietly.

Rahl touched her hair with his lips, as he brushed her hair back. A finger traced her elegantly shaped ear.

She shivered and he moved closer to her. "Tell me..."

"No." She took in a slow breath. "I do not wish to re-live it."

Rahl felt her hand move around his waist.

"Do not leave..."

"I won't." He closed his eyes as he continued to hold her and soothe her by running his fingers through her hair. "This happened last night..."

Her head nodded.

"We will be leaving for Romulus in the morning. Have you packed?"

"Yes." She felt her sobs calming. She felt his chest expand suddenly from another yawn. She moved from him, propping herself up slightly. "I did not mean to disturb you."

"Screaming down the compound does not make for restful sleep." He grinned at her. "No matter." He brushed her hair back then watched as it fell forward again. "You only had to ask and I would have kept you company...."

She nodded as her eyes lowered. "I ask forgiveness..."

He lifted her chin. "It is not necessary." He leaned forward to kiss her. She responded to him this time! For the first time, her lips softened, her hand rested gently against his face. He pulled her to him as he lay back then rolled her under him. His lips kissed a path to her ear then down her neck. He held his breath as his stomach fluttered and he moaned softly. He brushed his lips on her cheek then rested his lips close to her ear. "You have my heart.... my soul.... tread gently, My Treasure." His fingers moved the fabric from her shoulder then his lips tasted her skin.

She ran her fingers through his long hair, urging his head to rest on her chest. She traced his features slowly as she closed her eyes, relaxing into the bed. Her hand ran along his bare back, caressing his warm skin. He lifted his face and his eyes searched hers. She smiled at him then closed his eyes gently with her fingertips. "Go to sleep." She stroked his hair and caressed his back for what seemed to her a long time.

Rahl felt her body relax under him, her hands stopped moving and he listened to her gentle breathing. He smiled to himself, settled against her then closed his eyes. If this was all he would share with her, this was enough. He listened to her breathing and her heartbeat for a time as he fell asleep.

But the peaceful night would end soon. She began to dream again. Her moans and Vulcan whispers came in short bursts, along with the twitching in her body. Her hands spasmed against him only to wake him again. Her voice grew to just more than a whisper when he moved and tried to wake her.

"You were dreaming again?" He sat facing her, his hand held hers caressing the back with his thumb. She nodded sleepily. "You will get no rest this way. Neither will I!" He teased. He moved from the bed, her hand locked onto his. "I will be right back." He kissed her then moved her hand from his. "I will get something to help you sleep..."

He went into his study and poured a generous amount of Orion brandy. He warmed it in the food processor then brought it to her. He sipped it as he sat on the bed. "Drink this."

She sat up then looked suspiciously at the milky green substance.

"Orion brandy, warmed." He lifted it to her lips; her hand tipped the glass slightly.

She swallowed then licked her lips. "It is spicy."

"Herbs to help you sleep." He took a small swallow of the warm liquid then offered her more. "I want you to drink most of this."

"Of course, Healer Rahl." She took another sip, closed her eyes and swallowed it. She felt the warmth begin in her stomach and radiate from there. She tucked her legs under her gown; she rested against the pillows. There was a swirl of clear green color within the cloudiness and she swirled the liquid watching the pattern change. Another mouthful disappeared. "What will we do if this does not work?"

"We will lay here under the covers and talk of our future until the sun rises."

She passed him the last mouthful. "I still do not recall the events. It is a sense of what happened. The pain, the confusion and the darkness." Her fingers ran along his lips. "Then you were there..." She leaned to him and kissed him, her hand moved to the back of his neck as she increased the pressure of the kiss. Her fingertips touched the side of his face. "Prepare...Commander..." She reached into his thoughts with only one hand as she pulled his hand around her waist with the other.

He pulled her suddenly to him; his body felt as if she had touched every inch of him at once! He ran his hand down her back, pulling her to him as his hips pushed against her. He gasped then moaned her name. His body totally in tune to her! His mouth tasted her skin as his body pushed against her. He shivered!

Am'ath moved slowly from his thoughts. Her mouth touched the back of his neck. "Do you like this?"

He rolled from her, breathing deeply. His eyes were closed and his face flushed. He licked his lips. "This is how Vulcans..."

"...kiss." She laughed at his wide eyes. "It was only a brushing of your thoughts." She was surprised at his reaction. Her fingertips drew a line down his body.

He grabbed her hand. "Do not." He sighed as he waited for his body to calm. Nothing would have given him more pleasure than to take her now, but he knew it was not yet time. She was not ready for this and he was not ready to commit to her not knowing if she would remain or not. So much was uncertain for her! He kissed her palm then tasted her.

She inhaled sharply then withdrew her hand.

"This affects you...?" He sat up and took her hand in his, held it gently with her palm up. He watched her as he traced a line down her hand. Her fingers curled in as her eyes closed, his lips then brushed her palm. Her hand pressed against his mouth, her body shivered. He moved closer to her then sat back on his heels. His breath blew across her palm; her eyes closed for a moment as she wet her lips.

He kissed her.

Time was taken, nothing rushed.

She stretched towards him as his lips brushed the edge of her sleep gown. She cupped his face, lifted it to brush her lips across his... her tongue reached into his mouth as her stretched palm ran down his finely muscled arm. She was on her knees and moving closer. Her hunger for him was growing, faster than she had wanted it to. Her mouth brushed his throat, her mouth nipped at his skin then she moved down. Her small nips and tastes drove him to distraction!

Rahl felt the shudder run the length of his body, he held his breath as he heard this growl begin in his throat. His hands moved into her hair, clenching the silkiness. He was on his knees and moving closer to her, pulling her body against his! His hands began to discover her body through the fabric of her sleep gown. Thin linen did little to hide all of her attributes. His fingers brushed her stiffening nipple under her gown, if he moved the opening just a little.... his mouth tasted her gently. She tasted of cinnamon and honey, of a youthfulness ...he had forgotten how this felt!

A very deep breath was taken; he held her hands in his and kissed each palm as he sat back. He blew out his next breath slowly through his mouth. "This must wait..."

"I do not want to wait.... My Lord." Her mouth captured his; he held her wrists behind her as the back of his fingers caressed her face. "I need thee..."

His mouth brushed hers as he spoke. "Never in Vulcan...." He tasted her mouth, the brandy had sweetened her, adding to his pleasure of her. He held her chin as his mouth opened to taste her. She pressed her hips against his hot swollen sex. He moaned deeply as he pressed back, his hand that rested low on her back. "We must wait..." His body shivered, her body rubbed his slightly sending a wave of hunger through him. He allowed her lips to taste his ear and to cause another shiver.

He sat back, breathing heavily and holding her at arm's length. "No more." It hurt to say the words! He felt his body's hunger for even the briefest of her touches. "No more. Not now." He closed his eyes as he held her arms. "I want all of you here, not just the shell..." He lifted her chin. "After Romulus. We will become consorts there."

"I wish to be filled by you..." She reached for him as he pulled away. Her arms wrapped around herself. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. "This is not easy...!"

"No." He moved from the bed and stood in front of the large window that dominated one wall. He leaned on the sill that was just below waist high. The cool night that radiated from the glass was helping. He wished he had worn more than just the sleep pants. He sighed then looked to her reflection in the tinted window. She was beautiful! Her arms wrapped around her just under her breasts, threatening to spill out the opening in her gown. Her shoulder was still bare and he knew if he turned to face her, he would see the marks he left and his body would want her again! "Forgive me for beginning this..."

"It is not needed, My Lord." She finally sat back then pulled the covers over her body. She lay on her side facing the outside edge of the bed. She wet her lips and hesitated about asking... "Stay. Do not leave me."

He took a breath and straightened his stance then whispered. "By the Powers, I will never leave you..."


On Romulus, at the scheduled formal function of the Fleet...

"Commander Rahl, of the Empire's Fighter 'Ravaged'. His consort, Am'ath 'cha Tal, House of the Ancients."

The officer stated in a clear voice as the doors were left open to admit them into the festivities. The room was large, many were present and most of them wore the uniforms of the Empire's fleet. Music played, some were dancing and they were escorted towards the gathering of the superior officers.

Rahl stepped forward and saluted, he bowed his head to the civilian attendees. He faced the officer that was obviously a well-decorated superior. "Lord Commander, may I present my consort. Am'ath'cha Tal."

The older officer bowed his head. "A pleasure." He took in the sight of this obviously beautiful woman; a fine veil covered her down past her waist. It was obvious that she came from an affluent background.

"An honor, Lord Commander." She returned the slight bow. She wore a gown of gray Deltan silk velvet, a low cut neckline with a web of silver lace covering her bare skin. The matching whisper of a veil was in grey with silver threads patterned to match the lace.

"The first time on Romulus?"

"Yes." Am'ath knew that the answers would be examined closely. Her spoken Romulan was perfect. "My parents chose to live on a far off world. My father was a man that appreciated solitude."

The older man continued his visual assessment of her. "Your heritage is somewhat obvious... how far back was the...Vulcan." The naming of the race was almost repulsive, the way he spoke it.

She lowered her eyes slightly. "A generation ago. It was claimed that she chose her life here." She acted appropriately dishonored by the admission. She even moved slightly closer to Rahl to enhance her discomfort. "My parents assured my future by insisting that I be well educated in all aspects."

"What are your... qualifications?" He asked with a curiosity that was not directed at her intelligence. His glance down her body indicated his true interests.

"I have studied history, art, music, some of the more common sciences, hand-to-hand combat as well as the strategies of planetary warfare." She stated with an air of humility. She glanced at Rahl, his head bowed in acceptance of her statement.

"No other skills...?" He hinted at his meaning with another long glance down her body.

She lifted an eyebrow, then her eyes to met his. "The skills you speak of are reserved for my consort. As it is with your consort, is not that so, Lord Commander?" She had a sharpness to her voice that would have been misplaced under normal circumstances.

"How did you know...?"

She faced Rahl. "Yes, I wish to dance, My Lord."

He bowed his head, as he guided her onto the dance floor. He smiled slightly his arms held her. "You tread on dangerous waters, My Treasure." He touched his lips to hers through her veil.

"I will apologize...?"

"No." He met her eyes, taking pleasure in their depth. "You were right to say what you did." He smiled at her, his fingers touched her lips then he kissed her palm. "It was the implication that you knew what he was thinking. He did not like that."

"You knew what he was thinking and you are not a touch telepath." She spoke softly as he did.

"I was not thinking of asking you to dance..." He tilted his head wondering if she could actually read his thoughts.

"No, but we could not perform the activity that you were thinking of... not here." She smiled at his surprise. Her fingers brushed the contact points, his eyes closed and he sighed.

"You are a delight..." His lips touched hers, tasting her uniqueness even through the veil.

The darkness was not difficult for her to maneuver through. She slid the door open that joined her room to his. She entered quietly then called to him. She had a cover wrapped around herself against the cool air. "Rahl?" She moved closer then stopped as he rolled onto his back. "My Lord...?" She spoke slightly louder.

"Yes." He opened his eyes as he turned his head towards the dark figure. His hand went to the touch control of the lamp. He smiled. "What are you doing wondering around?"

"I was cold."

Rahl slid over in the large bed then lifted the covers for her. "Come." He tucked one arm under her; the other replaced the covers around her then pulled her closer. Her body moved closer to him, cuddling into his warmth. At the moment, all wrapped in the covers and cold, she seemed fragile. "It is hard to believe that when we practice hand-to-hand, you are the victor..." He brushed her hair back then kissed her. "Are you keeping the cover as well?"

"Until I warm up." She shivered then kissed his throat. She felt his hand sneak into her covers and he pulled her closer to him. "Were you fast asleep?"

"No. Just dozing. I had been reading." He slid his hand along her body, her leg wrapped around his hip. He moved his head back then looked to her dark eyes. "You could not sleep?"

"No." She smiled, he knew her so well, sometimes better than she did herself.

"Why not? The dreams...?"

"No." She snuggled in closer wishing to change the subject. "I wished you..." Her tongue tasted his skin, her lips made a path to his mouth.

He moved away form her, to talk. "Am'ath. You know that I care for you. I do not wish this to be a substitute for what you left behind."

Her mouth tasted his throat. "Left what behind?" She closed her teeth against his pulse, her lips sensing his warmth. "You are my future, My Lord Rahl." She captured his mouth, her fingers moving to the contacts that would arouse and please but not join them. She had always sensed that he was not yet comfortable with this and she would not move any deeper.

"It is a future I want to share...." His arms held her tight against his warming body. She felt him grow hard between their bodies. She moaned as she whispered her pleasure of him. Her hand slid down his body then under the sleep pants he wore, her touch pulled his body closer as her hips rubbed against him.

He moved the covers from around her, dropped it on the floor then covered her with his body and his supply of covers. He brushed her hair back. His thumb ran along her lips then he pressed his mouth against hers. Her legs wrapped around his legs, her warm genitals pressed against him. He lifted his head to take a deep breath then he tasted a path to her ear. "Be sure of this, Am'ath." His tongue tasted the elegant tip and he whispered how he wanted her!

She shivered against him!

Her fingertips ran down his back, under the waistband then around to his stomach as she pushed them down. Her movements freeing his stiff member. He sighed as her fingers brushed against him.

She moaned as her hips lifted against him, grinding into his warmth. Her tongue wet her lips then tasted his. She giggled as his mouth began a slow teasing line of kisses and nips down her body, some tickled and some aroused her. Her fingers moved into his long soft dark hair, her fingers curled into fists as her body warmed to him. Pulling his head closer against her, his mouth teased her breast slowly at first but as she reached gently into his thoughts, his attentions became more intense.

He felt her softness, her hot body pressing against him as the trail moved lower. She gasped then moaned his name... almost a whisper as a shiver traveled down her body.

She reached deeper into this male's thoughts.... she tasted his hunger for her! She satisfied it slowly then fed him her hunger for his touch on her body! Her breathing was deep and uneven as he touched her inner thigh with his tongue. With every flick of his tongue, she shivered and moaned. She felt a hunger growing inside of her. She pulled him to her, needing him to satisfy even some of her desire for him!

His tasting of her was slow. He wanted her to need his touch... to want nothing else except him! To be able to chase away the last of her dark dreams. His body shivered as her mental touches aroused his body; he sighed as he allowed this euphoria to wash over him. He pressed his body and rubbed the aching hardness, slowly, against her leg.

"Now, My Lord Rahl...." She whispered as another shiver moved down her. Her fingers pressed against his head reaching in as far as she could without a permanent bonding! She gave him her need for him, tasted his hunger for her!

Rahl moved over her. He kissed her. Gently at first, then with a passion he had been afraid to share with her! She took him, tasted his mouth, touched his body and pulled him to her. She wrapped her legs around his then pressed herself against his swollen penis. She felt him move against her, his body shuddered and she felt the liquid dribble onto her stomach.

"Now... now...."

Rahl lifted his hips slightly; the tip of his penis touched the warm moist entrance to her body. "You are sure...?" He whispered in her ear as his tongue traced the shape.

She nodded. "Yes!" She arched towards him; her palms pressed against his firm buttocks as he slowly entered her. Her breath was held, as she demanded that her body relax! He moved in deeper, she moaned with the pleasure that was teasing her body still!

He began long slow thrusts until she matched his rhythm. He moved faster, the warmth beginning to grow in his groin. His body shivered, as he tasted her ear then her neck. His mouth settled in the spot at the base of her neck. He licked the hollow.

She tasted his ear, ran her tongue along the small point then sighed.

Her breath on his neck was the catalyst to his release. His body pushed into hers as it pumped the fluid into her! Her hips reached for him then pumped him dry as her climax came!

He remained within her as he rested his head on her shoulder. A light kiss, tasting the sweat that covered her skin. Her arms wrapped around him and held him close. She whispered of her pleasure at this and his skill at pleasing her! He kissed her mouth gently.

"Are you warm now...?" He brushed her damp hair back.

"M-m-m. I think so..." She pulled the covers around them both then sighed.

Rahl moved his upper body, rested on his elbow, propping up his head. His hand lifted her leg to wrap around his waist. He pulled her as he moved them onto their side. "You can sleep now?"

"For a little while..." She laughed softly. Her fingers traced a line down his body. "Until you wish me again..." She teased; her fingertips touched the soft mound of dark hair on his body that was pressed tightly to hers. She wiggled her hips causing him to move deeper into her. "I can feel it growing already..." She laughed as he kissed her neck.

"It is a good thing we are returning to the compound tomorrow..."

"Why?" She was surprised.

"I can throw you in the lake... to cool you down...!" He laughed then covered her with kisses and tasting her skin. "But that is tomorrow...." He lifted the generous breast then ran his lips across the stiff nipple. Her body shivered. "I am so pleased I found you..." His mouth captured hers as his body told her how much he truly desired her again!


Hikaru Sulu sat straight up in bed! He took a long deep breath as the dream suddenly stopped! He sat with his legs pulled up, his arms wrapped around them and his face buried in the blanket against his knees. He did not understand where this was coming from! This unbelievable feeling of Hunger for her! He had not dreamt about her for a long time now.... at least the nightmares had stopped!

He ran his fingers through his hair then flipped back the covers and stood. He adjusted the hard-on that seemed to accompany his dreams of her. He padded over to the bottle of brandy and poured himself a generous amount. He drank half of it down then felt the shiver then the warmth that radiated from his stomach.

He glanced at the time. "Four hours..." He sighed heavily then drank the rest of the brandy. "A cold shower." He told himself then followed through.

He came out of the shower wrapped in one towel and drying his hair with the other. He looked to the rumpled bed, considered sleep for about two seconds, but pulled on his uniform pants and sweater instead. He placed his comm-pin on the sweater. He had to get out of there!

Sulu made his way to the observation deck, obtained a strong cup of coffee and stood watching the stars. They were travelling at sub-light speed and the view of the stars was easier to stomach. It was just before Alpha watch and the ship was at it's quietest. It was early morning and the Delta shift was the lightest in the amount of personnel assigned to it. He tucked one hand into his pocket and sipped on the coffee.

He thought about her. He had not found a new partner for fencing, martial arts, meditation or even for chess! He was lonely. Then again, he didn't want to find anyone new; he wanted her back even after all this time.

"Can't you sleep either?"

The voice made him turn quickly, not startling him but surprising him. "Mr. Henley...?"

"Sorry, sir." She walked over to the superior officer; the cup of coffee she had ordered for herself carried protectively. "Alpha shift doesn't start for three hours, sir?" She had a very graphic dream and could not get back to sleep!

"I could remind you of the same...?" He sipped on the coffee and smiled at her. He was beginning to 'come to terms' with Am'ath's absence but he wondered if this was harder for Maggie.

She returned the smile. "Touché, Captain. I had a bad day, no belay that.... an uncomfortable dream." She let out the breath she was holding.

Sulu nodded, not offering anymore. He did not really want company but he had learned over the years that he might be the Captain but it did not give him a monopoly on the solitude. He had learned to find the solitude within himself, especially since Am'ath.... disappeared.

"Have you been dreaming..." She was sounding worried about something. "Sorry, sir. None of my business." She looked to the carpeting. She needed to tell somebody about these dreams or she'd bust!

He sensed her discomfort. He finished his coffee. "Do you want to talk about it?" He gestured her towards a chair; both of them sat down.

"I don't want to impose on..."

"I asked." Sulu stated as he toyed with the cup still in his hand.

"I know, but it's not your job, sir." She was trying to let him know that she did not expect him to comfort her or that he had to.

Sulu sat back. "Ever read the fine print in a Captain's contract...?" He smiled again then it slowly disappeared. "If I had, I'm not sure I would have taken the job."

"I doubt that, sir." Maggie sighed again then found the courage to start. "For the last few days, I have been having this dream that wakes me up but I can't remember it. This time, I remembered it... it was about Am'ath..." She watched him for any discomfort. He only tilted his head slightly. "I am not sure if it was my dream.... or hers...?"

He frowned. "What do you mean?"

"We have been friends for a very long time..." She noted his slight nod. ".... Over time her and I have become close." She swallowed nervously. She had never talked to anyone about this! "When we were in the Academy, it started... she showed me how Vulcans... melded."


"There was one time during our first assignment, that I was injured and she formed a different link to keep me alive..." Maggie felt the tension leave her body, she knew he understood! "The second year on this vessel, I was caught in that cave-in on the mining colony..."

"I remember..." He sat back slowly, not exactly sure where this was heading.

"She was with me. We talked while we waited to be rescued. We had spoken to the ship. We were not in any real danger, we ended up with some broken bones..."

"A lot more than that happened!" Sulu recalled the mission. Nothing special, just a routine-check of the area and because they were new to the survey team they were sent in for the internal readings. The cave-in happened for no apparent cause other than a weakening structure. The crew had an oxygen supply but these two had been caught deeper in the shaft. Numerous broken bones, internal damage and Maggie had been in a mild coma for a few days after being rescued. Am'ath had been at her side every moment that she wasn't on duty. He remembered seeing her in there and remembering the relationship between Kirk and Spock.

Maggie shrugged. "We survived." She smiled quickly. "At any rate, that time the link went a little deeper. She called it a little bonding. She and I are what translates as ...sister-lover." She looked to him for a reaction.

Sulu nodded. "T'hy'la. I have been learning Vulcan."

She nodded. "Well after that, I tended to know as she did when each of us was in trouble." She shifted in her chair. "I can only sense her when the situation is intense... she can sense me... all the time! She complains about it occasionally..." She took a deep breath. " Should I have said... complained?" She looked to him for some assurances.

"I wouldn't have." He folded his arms and took a deep breath, he was feeling his fatigue from not sleeping well lately. Uncomfortable talking about Am'ath with someone else, but knowing that he needed to.

"I have only sensed her once before tonight... I don't think it was a dream anymore..."

Sulu was interested now. "When was the other time...?"

Maggie cleared her throat then looked to the cold coffee in her cup. "The night before the mission." She lowered her eyes to study her boots.... they needed a shine. "When she was with...."

"What did you sense...?" He could barely control the panic he was feeling!

"Her.... feelings for who she was with..." She looked to him without lifting her head. "No matter what they say, Vulcans have emotions." The one hand she could see was gripping tightly to his arm! "My dream.... it was more intense this time...." She closed her eyes then shook her head. "It's only a stupid dream!"

Sulu looked down then sighed. "That is what I keep telling myself too..." His voice fell to a soft whisper. His eyes closed and he felt the aching in his chest! He had honestly thought he was over this. Was he feeling what she was thinking or... doing? Either way, she was alive and that was something!

Maggie's hand stifled the gasp. She stared wide-eyed at him as the realization began. "She bonded with you! I was never sure, even after you mentioned the link. I didn't know if you understood the difference."

"To a point."

"A bond, even a little-bonding, is similar to a bonding to mate but not as complete. It is the sheik-farr; it translates directly as the declared bonding. Between an adult male and female I suppose you could equate it to an engagement."

"But what I was feeling..."

"Captain..." She sat forward, hoping to make him understand this. It had taken her a fair bit of time to wrap her Terran standards around this and make sense of this. "... Vulcans can form little bondings with many people. It is the equivalent to a deep friendship. Sometimes these friendships are formed out of necessity... as in a male that is not bonded or his mate is inaccessible."

Sulu nodded.

"If she was exposed to that chemical.... she may not have any memory of us. That was how Dr. Chapel explained it to me. Because the drug works on the reality of the situation, it may throw everything out of kilter for her." Maggie felt the tears prick at her eyes as she felt her own loss. She could not even imagine how he was feeling if her assumption of his relationship with Am'ath was right. She wiped her eyes then sighed. "She may not remember us but the bondings would still be there... they are physical certainties. Imagine how hard it must be for her!" She looked to Captain Sulu his eyes were bright! He blinked a few times and she thought she had seen one tear roll down his face. "We can't lose her..." She whispered to him.

"Why not." He took a breath and shook himself into the reality of the situation. "Just because you care about someone doesn't mean they won't come to any harm...!" He wondered if he needed to hear the words more than Maggie did. "I am afraid that it doesn't work that way, Lieutenant Commander Henley."

"I know, sir." She felt rejected yet knew that he had not meant it that way!

Both of them needed to be reminded that things might not work out for the best.... and for reasons out of their control, Am'ath may not return to them. She stood slowly as she made a decision. She would pack up the rest of Am'ath things and put them into storage. She would hang onto the firepot and the ornate metal chest Am'ath kept above her bed. Her new quarters would be big enough and she did not want to forget about her... no matter how long the separation lasted.

"I'll be moving to my new quarters after shift."

Sulu nodded, understanding that it was time to move on... no matter how much it hurt!


Commander Rahl looked to the order, checked the authenticity of it then read it again. He was concerned and it showed in the deep frown on his forehead. He tapped his fingertips on the desk and looked around the room. He wondered if there had been a slip at headquarters. There was nothing that would have warranted even a bit of curiosity!

Yet, there it was staring at him, the Tal-Shiar commander was coming for an inspection.

Rahl looked up to the officer that entered. "S'kar. The Tal-Shiar will be here to inspect our facilities in one week. Insure that everything is in order." He smiled slightly. "And this time, dispose of the stash of Saurian Brandy. Bury it out there if necessary, but it implies as we have dealings with the Federation."

S'kar folded his arms. "We do." He grinned at the warning look on his commander's face. He nodded. "All will be prepared. We will seem as deprived as any other outpost assigned to this forsaken duty." He looked to Rahl. "How will Am'ath's possessions be explained?"

"She came from an affluent family and brought her possessions with her." He sighed. "I have a bad feeling about this..."


"On the heels of the return from Romulus..." He sat down then leaned back in the chair. "... there is someone that suspects me... or her." He ran his fingers along his lips as he considered each of the officers that would envy him in the least. "I suspect this is because of my possession of her... someone is jealous!"

"But to send the Tal-Shiar here would take the power of the..."

"Yes, S'kar... The power of the Battle Commander. Whom she insulted, as was her place, but it appeared that he did not take offense to it." He tapped his lips then released a heavy sigh. "Be extra careful. Inform no one else unless necessary. I will speak with Sh'rien and Am'ath about the matter."

S'kar nodded then turned to leave. He stopped with the door half-open then closed it smoothly again. "Commander, we have a scheduled patrol of the border..."

"We will begin tomorrow. We will return in sufficient time for the Visit."

"As you command." His head bowed and he left to begin to set in motion the 'clean-up' of all the non-essential equipment. The men would not be pleased but they would understand... hopefully!

Rahl tapped on the door then slid it open. He smiled as her head appeared above the dressing screen in her 'bedroom'. "You should have a separate room to dress." He had wished that he could have improved her accommodations.

"Why?" Her head disappeared again.

He could only imagine what she was doing! He crossed the room to the screen and looked over the top. She was pulling on her bodysuit and her upper body was not covered yet. She looked up to him then kissed him.

"You are impatient, My Lord." She slipped one arm into the sleeve then the other, she shrugged it on, pulled her length of hair out then sealed the opening. "Did we not spend enough time earlier satisfying your pleasures...?"

He laughed. "We played chess!" His hand reached to her arm then pulled her from behind the screen. "You are my pleasure." He gathered her in his arms capturing her mouth. They laughed, her arms went around his neck and she helped the kiss lengthen. His hand moved into the silkiness of her hair. He held her as his tongue reached into her mouth. "I can not get enough of you..." He spoke softly against her lips then tasted them. Her fingers moved to the contact points and his body sang for her!

She felt his body warm and his arousal was evident as it pressed against her hip. She wanted this man again! She wished to feel his hands touching her and his body press against hers. "Haran..." She whispered against his ear. She had found the pet name of 'fire beast' for him.

His hands moved to her shoulders, he held her at arm's length and shook her once. "Never in Vulcan! Never!" He shook her again as his grip tightened. "You must never speak in Vulcan!" He glared at her wide eyes and the panic that was on her face! "We will be discovered if you do this!" His voice was angry now. "Never... never... never in Vulcan!" He shook her with each word; he spoke through clenched teeth.

She drew herself away from him, her hands covering her mouth. She was holding her breath! He had never spoken to her this way before! She moved slowly to her knees, her head bowed low. "I asked for forgiveness, Commander." Her voice shook as she tried to control the tears.

Rahl stood frozen for the longest time, unbelieving of his own actions! He moved down with her then brushed her hair back. He lifted her chin and searched her eyes. "It is I that need forgiveness..." He dropped back his head and sighed. He was allowing his fear to intruded on their relationship, which was not fair! He sat back on his heels, his hands fell into his lap and he realized that it was his reaction that would have betrayed them, not the whispered words of a lover! He lifted his head to met her tear stained face..."I am sorry, Am'ath." He spoke softly. "There is no excuse for what I did..." His fingers ran through the length of her hair that had fallen forward. "I came in to tell you of a message I received. The Tal-Shiar will be arriving to inspect the compound..."

"I understand, My Lord." She moved towards him. Her lips brushed his. "I sensed a tension in you when you came in. This is the reason." She sounded calm and almost unaffected by the outburst. "All will be as it should be, My Lord."

Rahl held her.


Patrol was uneventful.

Rahl climbed down the ladder on the outside of the ship then looked to S'kar. "We should join the Federation, we would have enemies then!" He laughed with his friend. "Did you manage to arrange everything...?"

"Yes, I did. I have even had a slightly sumptuous meal prepared for tonight. The beds in the guest quarters have been turned down and the light has been left on in the window."

Rahl shoved the officer playfully. "You read too many Federation stories..." He shook his head slightly. "Will you ever grow up?"

"I suppose, eventually." He grinned. Rahl and he had been friends since their youngest days that can be remembered. They had shared all of the joys and the disappointments in each other's lives.

Rahl had been the one that told S'kar of his mate's death then drank and cried with him. S'Hansa was a most delicious creature, so full of life and an excellent security officer. Her death had been at the hands of an assassin as she protected the Lord Commander of the Fleet. She had killed the young Klingon just before he took her life.

Now, Rahl had taken him under his wing as soon as he received a ranking that afforded him the luxury of a hand picked crew. They had served together for almost thirty years.

S'kar reached over and grabbed Rahl's ponytail. He tugged at it then grinned. "It is your turn to supply the brandy."

Rahl pulled his hair from the other's grip. "I know." They entered the compound and made their way to his office. He poured out two large drinks then handed one to S'kar. "To our futures..."

"... they are bound in time." The oath that bound their friendship made up by both of them when they were about twelve years old. Not old enough to understand how long that would be, or to understand a warrior's oath. They were old enough to understand death. Their fathers were killed within months of one another... in battles. By the Federation ships at a time that war was inevitable. They swore then they would never have families to leave behind, but nature's passions spoke louder than their oaths at times.

S'kar stared at the empty glass. "You are happy, Rahl?"

"You mean Am'ath?"

S'kar nodded.

"I am."

"No regrets?"

"Not really, why?"

"I was just asking." S'kar looked out the window at the setting sun. "She will be expecting you. The sun is setting."

"Are we that predictable?"

"Only to Sh'rien and myself."

"You miss her still...?"

"Every night..." S'kar sighed then put the glass down on the tray. He bowed his head to his friend and his commander. "Pleasant dreams..."

Aboard the U.S.S Excelsior...

"Henley, plot a course for the nearest free port... We need a rest..." Sulu winked at her then stood. "Warp four. Give me all the particulars when I reach my office. You have the comm as well."

"Aye sir." Henley called up her replacement then waited as she and Marc Collins collected the information for the Captain. She had been surprised when Marc showed up at her quarters to ask her opinion about switching to the helm. He did not want to stay at the communications board any longer. She had let him know that he would not lose anything by asking. He did and a week later she found him sitting beside her. They worked well together.

Marc handed her a slate. "Here's my half..." He winked at her. "I'll deliver it if you want. I have a break coming up." He followed her as she moved to the center seat, his hand delivering the slate to Lt. Emery. He looked to him, "Just transfer the info for our next destination."

Mr. Emery nodded.

Marc waved to the engineering officer that usually replaced him on breaks then stood. "How's the Captain doing...?" He leaned against the arm of the command chair and spoke in lowered tones.

"As well as he can be."

"And you...?" He knew about Maggie's close friendship with Am'ath. He had caught her a few times with tears in her eyes for no apparent reason.

"As well as I can be... after losing a part of me..." She took a breath. "Go eat or get back on duty, Mister!" She grinned at him; her hand tapped his. "Thank you for asking. It helps."

Marc nodded, took the slate from Emery then headed off the bridge to the mess hall and... food!


The uniform tunic was dropped on the back of the chair, Sulu used one foot to pull off a boot then reached down and pulled off the other. He placed them just inside his sleep area. He sat down to the stack of reports on his desk. A printed out list of the reports and a friendly note at the bottom to check things off so they wouldn't be forgotten.

He smiled.

The first report he came to was the medical report, he put that aside... it would be a long one. The next was the shore leave parties... another long one to join the medical report. He slipped in the next slate, recommendations for promotions. He ran down the list questioning only one. He sent a memo to the department head and poured himself some coffee.

"Cold!" He poured the coffee back into the pot then cycled a fresh one. He returned to the desk and the next report. He poured a hot cup of coffee this time.

Fuel consumption, signed. Credit disbursements, signed. Request for additional space for the recreation department, 'if you can find it, you can have it' he wrote then signed it. Sipped on the coffee. He was getting hungry. He smiled at the fact that the mess hall consumption report was next, he signed it.

A slate slipped off the pile and he caught it before it hit the floor.

"You're good!" He slipped this one into the reader and froze. It was a request for a memorial service for Am'ath. He swallowed. The room was feeling stuffy. He placed his elbows on the desk, his hands moved together and he rested his chin on them. He blinked. How could he sanction a memorial service when he knew she was still alive!

His breathing was even and slow as the numbness crept over him. He closed his eyes as he took a sudden deep breath, trying to stop the tears. They used to come without warning. Not always when he was alone... once he had to leave the bridge for his ready room. He promised himself that would never happen again! Another deep breath and more tears. They would stop soon. They always did.

He pulled the slate out and tossed it off to the side. "Deal with it later..." He sat back and took a very deep breath. He went into the bathroom and splashed some cold water on his face then dried it with the hand towel.

The door chime sounded. "Come." He stood then faced Lt. Hart as she entered carrying a tray! "For me?" He asked hopefully. He tried to shake this feeling at the same time.

Rebecca grinned. "Yes. For you. I won't eat this stuff!" She teased him about his love of rice and sushi, moved the slates a little then put the tray down. "I have been comparing notes with Janice about you and Captain Kirk..." She smiled then folded her arms.

Sulu smiled his curiosity piqued. "Okay, I'll bite.... What about Kirk and myself?" He stopped at the doorway from the sleep area, his hands clasped behind him.

"You are both unbelievably stubborn!" She winked.

"Stubborn...? I'd call it decisive." Sulu looked to the tray and then to Rebecca. "At least you know what you are in for." He sighed, as the melancholy had not left him yet.

She tilted her head. "Tired, sir?"

"Not really." He headed to the desk but stopped and reached out to Rebecca for support. The room moved! He looked to her. "I'm okay. Just dizzy for a second..."

"You need some rest, Captain." She held onto his arm. "Lie down for a few minutes..."

"I'm fine." He moved his hand from her shoulder.

"You're not fine, you're being stubborn." She watched him as he moved to the chair and sat down heavily. "Have those dreams stopped?"

His head lifted. He had forgotten that he had talked to her about them, but that was months ago! Months! In actuality it was one year, three months and an odd number of days. He had never thought about having any member of his crew 'missing' for this long! When was the last time he had a 'normal' night's sleep? The night before she left. The night they spent in his office. The night she reached into him and touched him....

A sudden inhale!

So sudden it made Rebecca start! She moved to him and called his name repeatedly. She debated calling the doctor. She reached out to touch his shoulder and felt him jump under her touch. "Captain...?"

He looked to her. That numbness again! He stood. "I'll lie down for an hour..." He took a deep breath then headed to the bedroom and his bed. He lay down just before he was sure he would fall down! He just barely made it. He heard Rebecca calling Dr. Chapel. Now, he was in trouble! He had managed, so far, to avoid her and all of her questions and examinations.

Tears again! He felt them trailing down the side of his face. He turned to face away from the doorways. This had to stop! He had a ship to run! He had things to arrange... but not the memorial. That would be admitting to something he did not want to!


It was Christine's voice. He felt her weight as she sat on the edge of the bed.

"I need some sleep, that's all."

"It's more than that." She sighed. "You need to let go of her..."

"Can't." Sulu had talked to Christine about the linking.

"We can get a Vulcan Healer to come and...."

"No. End of subject."

He heard the whirl of the medical scanner. He wasn't going to face her and he wasn't going to agree to anything other than a nap and to get on with the mission assigned to the Excelsior. He felt the coolness of the hypospray touch his neck. He took a breath as he felt the medication take effect.

"Not fair, Chris..." His voice softened.

She rubbed his shoulder. "Sometimes it's the only course open when dealing with a very stubborn Captain." She felt his body relax under her hand. He needed more than sleep, but that was all she could insist on at this point. She looked to Rebecca standing in the doorway. "Has he eaten?"

"I just brought his lunch but before this..." She shrugged. "Before this, I can't be certain."

"Knowing him, probably not too regularly." Chris moved to the folded blanket on the chair. Flipped it open then covered him with it. She picked up her med-kit and headed out into the other room. "What was he doing?"

"Reports." She indicated the collection of slates. She reached down and picked up one that had fallen. She wondered if he had read this one. She offered it to Chris. "The engineering department has asked if they could hold a memorial service for Am'ath. He may have come across this one...?" She looked to the medical officer. "Do you think she is still alive?"

"I believe that he thinks so."

"That's not what I asked..."

"What I think, doesn't matter, does it?" Chris had thought she would be done with the effects of Vulcans on a Human's life and then she was asked by Sulu to accept this posting. Why? Because she knew Vulcans and he had forty on board.

"I guess not."

"You don't believe she's alive." Chris stated.

"No. I don't think she is." Rebecca cleaned up the tray and tidied the slates as she spoke. "I think it's time to end this... hunt for her and get on with our mission."

"Have you told him that?"

Rebecca shook her head. "Not my place."

"But you think it's mine?"

Rebecca stopped and looked to the older woman. "I don't know. Who is supposed to tell the Captain of a vessel that he is wasting his time and he should get on with it? Not a lowly yeoman, that's for sure!" She slipped the tray of untouched food into the re-cycling unit. She looked around the room then at Chris. "I have duty."

"I'll stay for awhile."

Rebecca nodded then left.

Christine moved back into the dark bedroom and watched him sleep. Even sedated, it wasn't a good sleep he was having. The covers were already half on the floor and he was whispering. She debated giving him another dose but instead she covered him again and left him to sleep. She would come back in an hour or so and see how he felt.

Maybe even have that heart-to-heart talk that was probable overdue.


Commander Rahl held his breath for a moment. He looked into the dark blue ale that filled his glass and wondered if he had heard right! He looked to the officer sitting comfortably at the dining table with a matching glass in his hand.


Rahl blinked. "This is a surprise, Commander H'earn." He had managed those words. He sipped on the ale and felt the warmth as he swallowed it. "This is the last thing I had expected!"

The officer chuckled. "Did you think I came here to check this worthless station or to arrest you?"

Rahl grinned, his eyes still on the ale. "Something like that." He drank down a mouthful of the smoking ale.

"You do not believe that you are capable?"

Rahl hesitated, choosing his words carefully. "One does not always attain the standards that one feels is due to him." Another sip of the ale, he had been careful of just how much he drank. Am'ath had done a perfect job of hosting the evening with him. She had even excused herself at the appropriate time after the meal. She was more than likely reading, as was her habit every evening.

"This is true." The officer stood as he drained his glass. "Think about it. I do not require your answer before tomorrow." He looked around the room. "This could remain your base of operation. None would suspect this as the station of the Tal-Shiar..."

Rahl laughed. "No, none." He drained the glass. "It is not my answer that causes me to hesitate... it is the reason of the choice."

"Your record speaks for itself. In all the years you have served, not one blemish. Not even a reprimand during your early years. The time you have spent here has been profitable for the Empire..."

And for myself he thought.

The tall officer stood with a sigh. He was tired of visiting these backward places and finding nothing but old drunk rejects of the fleet. Rahl had been a pleasant surprise to him and he would afford this officer all of the privileges he could. His service had been impeccable and he was uncertain as to why this officer had been over-looked for so long.

"Your casualties have been low and the transfers from this compound have been few. That is the sign of an officer that can deal with problems and find the solutions. As I said, your record is impeccable."

Rahl could not argue with him, so he remained silent.

"Commander, I have not slept on anything other than the bunk of my cruiser for the past four months. My body craves a decent night's sleep..." He grinned at the officer.

"Of course, Commander." He touched the control on the table and one of Rahl's officers entered the closed room. "Escort Commander H'earn to the guest quarters. See that he has everything required."

The officer saluted then waited for the visiting officer to follow him.

"Pleasant rest, Commander."

"Enjoy the large bed, Commander." He bowed his head.

"A pity there is no one to share it..." Commander H'earn chuckled wishing he had thought to bring his courtesan. But she would have been far from pleased to spend the time aboard a vessel or to remain in a place that was so beneath her personal standards. "Pleasant rest, Commander."

Rahl let out a heavy sigh after the door was closed. He poured himself another ale and sat down at the end of the table. Should he accept the posting? Only if Am'ath could remain with him. He would assure Commander H'earn that he did not engage in pillow talk. He had earn long ago, not to share secrets with the women he bed. True, this was a permanent relationship but the principals had not changed.... Secrets were secrets, especially military ones!

He rested his feet on another chair then leaned back. He drank some more of the ale as he considered the offer. He would ask if S'kar could remain in some position. The manner in which H'earn was speaking, there was an implication that all of this would remain as it is. It was only his positioning that would change.

He turned to face the door as he heard it opened slowly. He smiled. "You are wandering the halls again?" His hand reached out to wrap around her as soon as he could, but she brushed passed his fingers.

She bowed her head slightly. "I was becoming lonely and I heard Commander H'earn retire for the night." She moved behind him, his head still resting on the back of the chair and he looked up at her. She brushed his lips with her fingertips then kissed him.

Rahl laughed at the feel of kissing her this way. He lifted his head as she sat facing him on the arm of the chair. Her hair was tied loosely back with a strip of fabric. Her flowing sleep gown was made of a heavy gauze-type fabric and it hid very little. He propped his head against his hand, his elbow resting on the opposite arm. "Did you have enough to eat?"

She took the glass from his hand, placed it on the table then lifted his hand to her lips. She brushed the palm lightly. "Yes... Father, I have eaten enough." She teased him. She enjoyed seeing the smile on his lips. "Your tension has changed...."

Rahl nodded.

"The Tal-Shiar have offered me a position."

A slow smile moved across her face. "You are worthy of this, My Lord." Her hand brushed his jaw then began to caress his face, his neck and began on his chest. She leaned forward kissed him then held his glass to his lips. She tilted it slowly then lowered it. "You will take this position?" She placed the glass on the table.

"It is a consideration." He kissed her as he pulled her into his lap. Her arms went around his neck and she moaned softly. "I have other considerations at the moment..."

"And they are..." She sighed as his touch slowly traced a path from her lips down to the opening on her gown.

"You... and your pleasures..." He tasted her throat, feeling her rapid pulse against his lips. His fingers brushed the fabric off her shoulder, his hand freed her breast then his mouth covered her. Her lips brushed his ear then kissed his neck. Both had slept alone for the last few nights. She in his bed and he on board his vessel. His fingers slipped the tie from her hair, his fingers moved into the silkiness then burying his face in it. He breathed in her perfume then pulled her close. "Promise me that you will never..." He held her tightly, she could not promise that!

"What, Rahl?" She whispered in his ear.

"Nothing. It was an illogical request." He dropped his head back and closed his eyes.

She rested her head against his chest, listening to his heartbeat and his breathing for a time. "Do you wish to remain here?"

"No." He sat up with her then allowed her to stand. He reached for the ale and drank down most of it then handed Am'ath the remainder. He stood then took the empty glass from her, placed it on the table. He took her hand, kissed the back and held it as he walked with her to his bed.


Sulu sat straight up! His breathing was heavy, his heart was pounding and he tossed off the covers because he was getting too warm! He hated these dreams!

Christine jumped. She had been reading quietly. She stood staring at him trying to catch her breath! "Do you always wake up like this!"

"What...!" Sulu looked to her. "What are you doing here?"

"Waiting for the sedative to wear off."

"Sedative?" He frowned, held his head in his hands for a moment then remembered. "Oh, yea. Dirty pool, Doctor." He hid just how shaken he was from the latest 'dream'. He looked to the time. "I have duty and I am late."

"Hikaru! I asked Sencus to take this shift."

Sulu folded his arms across his chest. "You don't have the right..."

"As CMO, yes I do." She moved into the living area and ordered two teas from the processor then handed one to Sulu as he came through. "I can relieve you of duty as well. Care to argue that point?" She cocked her head offering him the challenge.

Sulu knew he wasn't up to fighting a student of McCoy's and she had a few other tricks up her preverbal sleeve that McCoy would never use! Like the sedative when he was not looking. Then again, maybe he'd better watch her a little more! Like Kirk used to watch McCoy! He sipped on the tea. "No."

"Thought not." She made herself comfortable in one of the chairs. "Do you always wake up like that?"

"Only when sedated." He muttered as he sat down opposite her.

"Touché." She sighed as she leaned forward, resting her forearms on the desktop. "Can I get a straight answer from you?"

"Occasionally." He took in a deep breath then let it out slowly. He was still not quite awake. "A lot lately. Satisfied?"

"Are you always dreaming when you wake up?"

"Shouldn't I be stretched out on a couch for this...?"

Chris grinned then waited for him to answer.

"Yes I am dreaming."

"Do you remember the dreams?"

"Yes." Sulu took a deep breath and dropped his head back. "Don't ask me to describe them..."

"Why not?"

Sulu lifted his head. He glared at her for a few seconds. "Because I don't care to discuss imagined Romulan torture methods or my preferences when making love! That's why. Satisfied?" He clenched his teeth against saying any more. He took a sip of his tea and tried to concentrate on the liquid going down his throat, he started to relax. "They are not really dreams.... not anymore."

"Then what are they?"

Sulu looked to her, wondering what had made him say that. He just opened a can of worms and because of his reactions, she could... ask him to step down. Hand command over to Sencus. His eyes went around the room then settled on the chessboard. He had moved it from his headboard, for some unknown reason. He reached out and picked up the white queen. "I am assuming they are memories and the transference of emotions, usually very intense emotions." He held the piece tightly then placed it back. "I receive them only when I am overtired. When I can't keep the shielding in place. Sedatives don't help any..."

"You need some rest." She was almost pleading with him. "You need to take the time to severe this bond..."

Sulu stood suddenly, angry. "You know, I don't recall anyone asking you to try to forget Roger Korby! Or severing your feelings about him!" He was pacing now. "You left Earth just to find him! Why do I have to give up? Because I'm a command officer? Or is it because she's Vulcan! You of all people should know what it's like to love a Vulcan!" He picked up the cup and tossed it against the door, the pieces flew everywhere. His body shivered with anger over this! His hands clenched tight as he drew in a deep breath to calm himself. "I have had enough of people telling me how I should feel about this!" He took a deep but short breath. "This is not a new relationship. It had been almost four years.... it was changing. Changing, and I wanted it very badly! She wanted it!" He drew in a breath and held it, finished with his tirade.

It was dead silent in the quarters.

He closed his eyes and when he opened them, he read the pain and the understanding she had on her face. His voice softened with his mood. "I'm sorry, Chris. That wasn't fair."

"No, it wasn't." She sighed. "But you have a point. We are trying to help you, maybe too much. For you to stop hurting over this. For you not to miss her too much." She paused. "But nothing can stop that." She had finished her tea a while ago she put the cup aside. "I'll make a deal with you..."


"You promise me to get some scheduled rest, eat regularly every single day, and I will get off your back about the bonding." She smiled. "It isn't the bonding that is bothering me. It's that you are exhausted and you are ready to collapse. I assumed it was because of the bond."

Sulu shook his head. "It's missing her. It's the not knowing and knowing at the same time." He looked to the time. "If I rush through a shower and get some food in my stomach, I can manage the rest of my duty. I'll work on the reports tomorrow."

"Don't rush through your meal."

"Promise." Sulu grinned then offered his hand as an apology.

Chris stood and accepted his hand then gave him a hug. "If you need to talk, come see me."

"I will." He hugged her back then shooed her out.

He stared at the door for a bit, then began to pick up the broken pieces of glass.


Maggie Henley walked into her quarters. Correction stomped into her quarters. She pulled off her uniform tunic and tossed it into the corner and stood there and screamed. She sighed. "I am tired of this!"

The door to her quarters opened and Ian Burgh walked in. He was angry as well, but not about the same thing. "Done?"

She spun around. For the moment, she hated his calm and his understanding of everything. Especially when she just wanted to be alone. No she didn't want to be alone, she wanted Am'ath to talk to! "Go away." She stated very clearly. She turned her back on him and dropped her head back. Her neck hurt. All of her tension was residing in her neck and shoulders and there was no getting rid of it.

"You can not keep getting angry about this!" Ian moved to stand in back of her. He hesitated about touching her then placed his hands firmly on her arms. "I'm not saying I agree with Captain Sulu, but I understand why he is doing it." His hands moved up her arms and began to massage her shoulders.

"I understand too. I miss her as well." She looked down to the floor closing her eyes as she did. "Keeping me from going on any missions is not the way to work it. Wrapping me up, protected and safe, will not make him feel better. It won't bring her back either." Henley stomped her foot down once. "Damn it! He's ruining my career!"

"No, he's not." Ian stated. He understood the situation. He had seen how this had effected both of them over the past year and it wasn't easy to watch your fiancée and your commanding officer suffering through this. He had enough of it all as well. "Commander MacIsaac has come to me about the captain ignoring his repeated requests for a memorial service."

She turned slowly towards him. This was the first she had heard about it. "The what?" She spoke softly and her body shivered. "Memorial service?"

Ian nodded. "You have to look at it from their points of view. Am'ath appears to have either died or...." He reached to his neck to scratch an imaginary itch.

"Or what?" She shivered again. "She's either died or what, Ian?"

Ian met her eyes they had gone cold. "Look, Mags. This is something I don't agree with but I do see their point of view. It's been a long time. Command has closed the books on this. I also understand..." He added quickly. "... your view and why you feel that way."

"But you don't agree. Do you?" She was feeling her strength leave her. He had to believe her, if he didn't believe in her, then there was nothing left! Her hand covered her mouth and she felt the tears start. "Ian?"

He saw the unbelievable pain in her eyes. He reached for her and held her. He rested his lips on her hair and wished with all his heart he could lie to her. "Not totally. I believe that it's been long enough. That we should have the memorial service. Let those that consider her gone, mourn her and those that... miss her, and a time to remember her. Let tomorrow take care of itself."


Commander Sencus sat back in the command chair. The helm officer turned.

"Coming up on Miridian VI."

"Request clearance for shore leave, Commander Rand. Standard orbit, Mr. Henley."

"Aye, sir." Rand turned to the console and sent out the standard message. "Do you want me to contact the Captain?"

"No need, Commander Rand." Sulu stepped onto the bridge. He stepped down into the well then took his place in the center seat. Sencus stood at his side.

"We have clearance, Captain."

"Thank you, Mr. Rand." He watched as the ship's screen showed the planet looming closer. His fingers tapped in the standard orbit on the arm of his chair, a habit he had not been able to break. During battles it was especially annoying to tap in the sequences and the ship not move for him! He curled his fingers and knocked quietly on the arm.

He still missed the activity of sitting at the helm.

"Standard orbit achieved." Henley stated.

"Very well, Mr. Henley." He turned in the command chair to Commander Rand. "Contact the officials, find out the shore leave standards and when we can begin. I am available for meetings, their convenience."

"Aye, Captain." She turned to her board.

The engineering yeoman handed Sulu a report. He read through it then signed it.

Lt. Hart showed up at his side with some tea and more reports.

"Do they stop...?" Sulu asked her as he accepted the handful of reports and the reader.

"Yes they do. When time stops." She smiled.

Sulu grinned back. "Well that gives us something to look forward to!"

"Most of those are the shore leave lists..."

Sulu nodded. "Everybody present and accounted for?"

"Yes, sir. Even yourself."

"I don't need..."

"Medical ordered leave, sir. You can't override it. It's only for a shift today and another in a few days. She knew she couldn't get you off the ship for any great length of time."

Sulu shook his head grinning. "She knows me too well..." He handed back the slates that held just the long lists of names. "I've checked the master. I trust that you have included everyone." He kept the division reports and the reader. "I'll worry about these in a few minutes." The second series of beam-downs included most of the alpha shift. Maggie turned, once solidified, to Captain Sulu. "And Captain, the order of the day is to enjoy!" She grinned then reached for Commander Burgh's hand. "I know I will...!" Her fingers fluttered in the air as Ian pulled her in the opposite direction from the way she was facing.

Sulu chuckled. "Promise." He moved from the spot that had been chosen as the beam-down point and headed 'into town'. He heard the third group beam down and someone called to him. He turned.

"Captain! Care for some company?" Rebecca called to him as she closed the distance between them. "No problem if you want to go it alone." She fell into step with him.

"I didn't have any real plans..." He didn't object to any company but if she had plans, he would have preferred for her to see them through.

"I was just going to check out the shops and have something to eat." She folded her hands behind as their pace slowed. "If you have no plans, I wouldn't mind the company..."

Sulu nodded. "Sure." He changed his direction to head towards the shops.

This world was unique to say the least. Accessible equally to the Federation, Klingons and Romulans made for an interesting mix. This world had started out as quite barren but over the last few years it had seen a growth of population and commerce. Shops had been set up, the existing buildings were cleaned up and improved and had become an excellent spot to experience shore leave!

Captain Sulu had, as usual, gone through the dos and don'ts of this world with the newer personnel and left a notation with the leave orders to review the laws of this world. He marveled at the signage being in multiple languages. If one was missing from the sign, it was assumed they did not converse in that language. Logical.

Rebecca had traveled in and out of numerous shops and Sulu, being the gentleman that he was, offered to carry some of the bags. He had nothing else to do and he didn't feel like doing any shopping. They were heading out of a clothing shop and Rebecca stopped dead. "Not bad...!"

"What...?" Sulu stepped aside when she stopped. He looked in the same direction as she was. He only saw some people heading into the restaurant.

"Not bad at all...." She looked to Sulu then giggled. "Sorry, just checking the scenery."

Sulu frowned. "Scenery?"

"The Romulan officer... he's not bad looking." She felt herself blush as he realized what she meant. "Men are not the only ones that look!"

Sulu grinned. "I never thought we were." He looked to the officer that was now sitting at a table in the near-by restaurant. "I suppose you'd like to eat in there now." He teased her and from the darkening blush on her face, he had succeeded.

"Afraid of the competition?"

Sulu met her eyes. "Didn't realize I was a candidate."

Rebecca decided to forget the rules for the moment. "If it were up to me, I'd have you signed, sealed and delivered by now."

He bit his bottom lip not sure what to say next. He cleared his throat. "Did you want to eat now?"

"No." She was enjoying his discomfort for the moment. "Captain, do you realize how many of your female crew dream of spending time with you?" She tilted her head slightly.

"It comes with the job." He wanted her to be aware that it wasn't always the person they were interested in, it was the prestige of being with the Captain of the vessel, not very conducive to a romance. "When I served as a first officer, it was to get to the Captain."

She moved closer to him. "I don't feel that way..." She took a breath calling up the courage she had been working on for weeks now. "I would love to help you enjoy your time here."

"Not a good idea, Lieutenant." He breathed in her perfume, one he had become familiar with and he was comfortable with her company and that could be dangerous! He moved back a step, shifting some of the bags, just for something to do.

"I never thought of you as shy." She lowered her voice.

"Not shy, cautious." He looked to her again. "If you want company for dinner, I would be quite pleased to join you. If you have intentions of turning this into something it's not... I'll return to the ship." Sulu stated quite plainly.

"Not even a possibility?"


"Not even once?" She smiled slightly.

"Not even once." He looked past her to the people that were moving around. He did not want to cause a scene and he did not want to transfer Rebecca, she was good at her job and an asset to him.

Rebecca nodded then took a deep breath. "Can't blame a girl for trying.... Captain."

"No. I guess not."

"Dinner then?"

He nodded then followed her into the restaurant.


The place was a collection of every kind of alien and military force that they knew. The table they had been seated at was larger than they needed, but there wasn't much of a choice. The noise was a low hum of activity and conversation. Dishes would occasionally clatter and then a shout for a clean-up crew... in whatever language was necessary. Menus were brought to them and meals were chosen.

Rebecca was sorting through her purchases and talking to Sulu about the items she wanted to be able to afford. Sulu joined into the discussion half-heartedly and eventually began to share with her stories about a few of his earlier shore leaves with Chekov! They were laughing about some of the situations the young men had found themselves in and were enjoying the friendship.

Rebecca looked up and was surprised to see shipmates coming in. She had the impression that everyone was already here! "Do you mind if we share the table with them?"

"No." Sulu stood and gestured for the two officers to join them. The place was packed and they would have had to wait for a table. "Mr. Henley, I see you have been spending your hard earned credits as well."

"Just a few necessities..." She stated suggestively with a glance at Ian as he sat down. "And no complaining from you..."

He held his hands up, surrendering to her. His head bowed a greeting to Sulu. "Captain."

"Mr. Burgh. I take it that you do not approve of the shopping sprees?" He had just about finished his steak dinner with all the trimmings.

"I just wish she'd come with me when I shopped!" Burgh giggled. "Wonder how comfortable they'd be, while I tried on suit after suit..."

Maggie grinned. "Or bathing suit after bathing suit..." She winked at Rebecca.

Rebecca chimed in. "Or silk bathrobes..." Her voice was softer.

Maggie's turn, her voice getting softer. "Or those very brief under..." Her mouth was covered.

"I get the picture." Burgh looked at her then lowered his hand. He looked to Sulu. "Get the feeling that we don't derive the same pleasures as they do?"

Sulu nodded, trying to finish the mouthful of food. "Makes you wonder if you're doing something wrong?" His comment received a few chuckles.

Rebecca's hand shot out and tapped Maggie's arm, her eyes went to the officer that was seated across the room. "Think he's alone?"

Maggie followed the direction she was given. "Who?"

"The Romulan officer..." Sulu offered. He clarified without even turning to see who they were talking about.

Maggie assessed the Romulan male. "He won't be alone..." She looked back to Sulu wondering how he knew. She looked back. "He's Tal-Shiar, definitely will not be alone!"

Burgh leaned towards Sulu. "Do you have the distinct feeling that we have become invisible?"

"You may have. I am just here for the scenery..." He pointed to the elegantly dressed female that was coming in on the arm of another Romulan officer. He looked to Burgh's face as he watched the woman walk in. "My guess is they belong with the officer they are watching."

"Good bet." Burgh rested his chin on his raised arm. "Makes you want to change sides, doesn't it?"

"At least consider it..." Sulu grinned at Burgh's nod.

Maggie then noticed where the men were looking and wanted to check out the competition.

Sulu wiped his mouth, pushed his plate away and turned back to the couple that they were monitoring and they did join the first officer. He was slightly surprised when the woman touched the already seated officer with a gentle caress on his face. This was a very public place for that type of gesture, even between Romulans. He had begun to turn back when she removed the veil from her head... he knew her!

He stood slowly. He felt numb then felt as if his heart would pound out of his chest. "It couldn't be..." He whispered. The napkin was still in his hand and he was crushing the life from it! His body was telling him he had to breathe! He inhaled suddenly.

Maggie looked up at him just as the color drained from his face. "Captain? Captain, what is it?" She looked over to the group and noticed the female as well. "The resemblance is scary!"

"It's not just a resemblance, Henley..." He took a breath as his eyes began to find the straightest path possible to her. His hand slowly put the napkin on the table. He estimated it to be maybe twenty... thirty feet at the most. If he contacted the ship as he started moving... he would request an emergency beam-out. By the time he reached her...

"Captain! Sit down!" Maggie held his arm. She was standing in front of him and he didn't react to her presence. Her hands held his face and she turned it to face him. "Sit down, Captain. It can't be her! It's obvious that she is Romulan."

"It is... I can feel her!" He sat slowly down waiting for the shock to leave his system. He had become so accustomed to ignoring the sense of her link that he did not even pay attention when the sense changed.

Rahl had left word for S'kar and Am'ath to met him here. He had missed her. Her touch was just the calming influence he needed.

"The Starfleet officer's are staring." S'kar sat back in the chair slightly.

"No doubt mesmerized by this one, S'kar." His fingers lifted her chin.

"I do not think so, My Lord. It is the females that are watching you and S'kar. It is I that should be honoured to be in such company." She smiled then removed her veil; her gaze went over to the table across the room. She saw the officer stand. Her hand went to Rahl's arm, her grip tightened. "Rahl...!" She whispered.

"Yes, My Treasure." He met the panicked look on her face then turned to see where she was looking. His hand tapped her hand. "Am'ath...?"

She took a very slow breath. She knew this man! This Human! She began to stand but Rahl's grip broke her concentration on the Federation officer. She watched Rahl as he lifted her hand then kissed her palm. "I want to leave..."

Rahl stood. He tossed S'kar the payment chit for the order that had just been taken. He escorted her out. He shot a quick glance towards the Federation group; they had discovered a clue to her past! Now what? He walked with her to the end of the walkway then pulled her into the entrance of a closed shop.

He lifted her chin. "Are you all right?"

She nodded. "I want to return to the Ravaged." Her breathing was shallow and a headache was beginning! She buried her face in Rahl's chest, relieved when his arms went around her. She felt protected for the moment. She could not shake the sense of the familiarity of the Federation officer! Was this a clue to who she really was? Did she wish to know? Did she have a choice?

****** Six months later......

Commander Rahl turned from the reports on his desk when she entered. "You are rested?" When they were aboard the vessel, she wore the uniform of her own devising. The dark bodysuit, with the thigh boots and a heavy overtunic for warmth. The markings she wore belonged to his House and held the rank and privilege of a personal advisor. She wore her hair in a braid that trailed down her back.

Am'ath nodded. These long voyages were tiresome and she would begin to find the need for very deep meditation. She was uncertain where the knowledge came from but it was a memory. "You have not eaten." She indicated the tray of untouched food. She had come to know that this was his difficulty on a long voyage.

He leaned back in the chair and indicated that she should move closer. "We have received a special assignment." He took her hand, kissed the palm then pulled her down to sit on his lap. "We are to serve as the escort for the Ambassador of the Romulan Empire and the Praetor, himself."

"And we are taking them...?" She ran a finger along his jaw then settled into his arms.

"There is to be a conference on the neutral planet of Tarod Nine."

"And the conference is about...?" She reached to a piece of the fish on his plate placing it in his mouth. "You need to eat."

He finished the small mouthful then licked his lips. "It is a conference about peace. As they all are." He accepted another bite of vegetable. "I am really not hungry." He smiled at the light wipe with the napkin she managed on the corner of his mouth. "And I am quite capable of feeding myself."

"You have not finished a meal in the past three days." She met his eyes. "It is too bad that you have duty..." She kissed him until he began to pull her closer. "When is this conference?"

"One month from now." He brushed his lips against her throat then her lips. "What was the difficulty with having duty?"

She moved from his arms but remained on his lap. "I would prefer other activities." She smiled then kissed his lips lightly.

"Do you not have duties as well?" He brushed back the length of hair that always seemed to fall forward even when her hair was braided.

"Yes." She stood then reached for a slice of fish and popped it into his mouth. "Build up your strength for when you are off duty." She smiled at him. Her 'duties' were to indulge in a curiosity of hers concerning Rihansu's past. Other than her personal interests, Rahl's position allowed her a privileged life. But she did serve occasionally as a helm or engineering assistant. She had sworn her oath to serve Rahl, as a loyal member of his crew. She was the second of his senior staff to bow to him and pledge her unwavering loyalty with the penalty of death at his hands, if, it was ever questioned by him.

Rahl grinned then nodded. She was, if nothing else, a reason for him to smile and look forward to the following day. He had told her that it was because he had spent the night with her. That he only suffered through the days, so he could enjoy the nights. He propped his head on his raised hand and watched her as she left his office. He would speak to S'Kar about taking part of his duty shift so he could spend time with her tonight.


Captain Sulu sat back in the chair. He was on his third cup of coffee and his fifteenth report. End-of-assignment reports were idiotic as far as he was concerned; it was just a summary of all the reports he had finished submitting over the past three months. Today he would be receiving new orders and the projected mission for the next three months.

He looked out to the stars that seemed to travel slowly past his viewing port. They were traveling at sub-light for the next twenty-six hours. Minor adjustments in the warp flows and general systems checks were going on. Everyone had been kept busy and hopefully, out of his hair until this report was finished.

He put his cup down then stretched. He was getting tired. He needed to move around. He left the reports and walked over to the 'window' and stood there with his hands tucked into his pockets. He sighed then tried to clear his thoughts of everything for a little bit. Find some relaxation in it all and hopefully some energy. He took in a slow long deep breath and then let it out slowly. He searched the 'scenery' for their next destination; they were to investigate a recently discovered star. Check it out then report back its confirmed magnitude, composition and whether or not there was any life in the system. He rested his head against the clearsteele.

The intercom signaled.

He straightened and looked towards his deck. "Sulu here." He seemed to speak to the air but he had left the unit on voice-activation, he didn't have to stop working or rush to the desk when he did that.

"Captain, Command has finally sent through the new orders." Janice Rand had stayed on duty until that message came in. She was over her duty shift by about four hours.

"Fine. Pipe it down. I'll look at it in a bit." He turned back to the stars expecting just the usual acknowledgement and the circuit to be closed.

"Captain, it's marked, not for further transmission."

Sulu sighed. "Okay, bring it down. Is that all?"

"Yes, sir. Bridge out."

Sulu nodded then stretched again. He yawned then tried stretching again, this time concentrating on stretching every part of his body. He had been concentrating so much; he did not hear Mr. Rand come in.

"Sorry sir." She grinned at his surprise when she spoke. She held up the slate. "New orders." She started out then noticed his untouched meal that sat on the table. "Do you want something else, Captain?"

Sulu grinned. "I have a yeoman." He walked over to stand in front of her. "Or are you hinting for a change in position?"

She shook her head. "No, sir, I wouldn't want that job again for all the sand on Vulcan." She noticed that he had begun to look tired. "But every now and then I don't mind helping out just so the memory remains realistic."

He laughed. "I understand, Janice." He looked to his tray. "When Lieutenant Hart brought it in, I had every intention of eating it. Just wanted to finish..."

"...that one report." She nodded. "I think one of the things they should include with the captain stripes is a timer that your yeoman can use on you."

"We would probable ignore that as well."

"Care to join me in the mess? Getting out of here might help." Janice had seen the difference in him since Am'ath's disappearance. On duty, no one would have really noticed but privately or off-duty, he had changed. He had become withdrawn and tended to stay by himself more and more. He spent his off-duty time in here as well and only slept in his quarters. A week ago, Hart had even shared with her the fact that Am'ath's cape was still in his closet, right beside one of his dress tunics, adding that it had been there since her disappearance.

Hikaru looked around the office. He nodded. "Sounds like a good idea." He pulled his tunic off the back of the chair then picked up the slate with the new orders. He slipped it into his tunic pocket then slipped on his tunic.

When they seated themselves at an empty table, Sulu reached into his pocket for the slate and dropped it into the reader he had picked up with his tray. He heard Janice's sigh and looked up smiling. "Just wanted to take a quick look. Nothing more."

"Sure." She stated doubtfully with a grin. She began to attack the spaghetti and sauce on her plate. She watched his face; he was frowning. "Well?"

"We have been asked to transport some Ambassadors to Tarod Nine for a peace conference." He sighed with the knowledge that it would mean dress uniforms and formal banquets becoming the order of the day. "Ambassador Spock and Sarek among them."

"It will be nice to see Spock again." She smiled. "Who are we trying to make peace with that would have brought Sarek out?" She knew that he tended to stay on Vulcan for the most part.

"Rihansu." Sulu stated. He leaned back in the chair; a chill went through him. He couldn't do this again. He'd be on edge the whole time, wondering and not being able to find out. Tal-Shiar officers would be all over the place. What if he saw her again? If it was her. The skin tone was wrong, she was laughing when she had come into the restaurant and she had made that display of...? Of what? He was sure he had felt her signature inside his head. He pushed back his plate, picked out the slate and dropped it in his pocket. "Do me one more favour before you turn in. I will have a transmission to Command in about ten minutes, see that it is sent."

Janice frowned. "Are you going to refuse the assignment?" She could understand his actions in this case.

"No." He sighed. "Resigning."

Janice had no time to even react to his statement before he was gone. She put her fork down and stared at the door. "Resigning?"


Commander Sencus stood outside the captain's office. He hesitated at first when Lieutenant Rand had come to him concerning Captain Sulu's statement. As first officer, it was within protocol for him to speak with Sulu about this but this was not a matter that Sulu had shared with him. He was acting on hearsay but trusted the source.

He lifted his hand and touched the signal button. He stepped in when the door opened. He stood by the desk that Captain Sulu was sitting at.

"Yes, Mr. Sencus?" Sulu looked up from the screen that held the image of his resignation. It was far from finished and not even signed yet. He had contacted Janice and let her know not to wait for it.

"Captain. I require a few moments of your time concerning ship's business." Mr. Sencus bowed his head then sat in the chair that was offered with a gesture.

Captain Sulu leaned back in the chair. "It didn't take Janice long to get to you." He grinned. He knew his officers and after he had left Janice, he realized that he should have told her not to tell anyone. Maybe he wanted someone else to know. Maybe he needed to argue the point with someone that understood. "That is what you've come about?"

Sencus laced his fingers; his elbows rested on the arms of the chair. He considered for a moment the man that was sitting across from him then decided to speak as easily as he could on the matter. "I do not believe that resigning your position would solve the difficulty that you face with this assignment."

Sulu moved his chair forward slightly. He had spoken with Sencus, almost a year ago, concerning the connection he had with Am'ath. Sencus had confirmed that it was a promise of bonding... kun-ut-so'lik. It had been necessary for Sencus to be informed of the bonding, just in case anything happened, so he could be prepared. He considered his words before he spoke. "Sencus, right now I feel as if I am connected to a ghost. Nothing real. Not there the way she should be. This assignment will drop this ship and me in particular, right in the thick of it. The crew can handle this assignment. I can't." He drew in a breath then rested his chin on his raised hands. "I have debated going to Vulcan to remove this... whatever it is. A bond. A link. After two years of feeling her only inside my head... I have had enough."

"Then may I suggest a slight alteration to your orders that may serve both purposes?" He had considered all possibilities as he traveled down in the lift.

Sulu leaned back, his chair tilted slightly. He sighed. "Sure."

Sencus cleared his throat quietly. "That you remain in command of the vessel. That you place someone else in command of the mission."

"Command will want to know why." Sulu liked this suggestion.

Sencus tilted his head slightly. "Why do they have to know previous to the action?"

"They don't." Sulu answered too quickly for the realization to sink in. He frowned. The solution was so simple; he was surprised he had not thought of it. Or did he just want a way to avoid this assignment totally? "They don't need to know do they?" He sat forward feeling a little less cornered. He ran the side of his finger along his lips, considering the suggestion. "Okay. Brush up on your diplomatic protocol, Commander Sencus." He stood. "You've been hired."

Sencus stood. He had not expected to be placed in this position but it was a Vulcan's honour to serve, as expected. He bowed his head. "As you wish, Captain."


The orders came through with the time schedule. The conference time had been changed and Excelsior was called into service before she had expected it. The first set of orders included the course heading for Vulcan. Their first pick-up would be Sarek and Spock.

The figures coalesced into the solid figures of Ambassador Sarek; Federation's Special Envoy, Captain Spock and their aides. Spock stepped down then turned to offer his support to his father if needed. It was not. Sarek was as always, a presence that one could feel enter a room. Captain Spock had not changed, still impeccably Vulcan.

Captain Sulu stepped forward and lifted his hand in the ta'al. "The Excelsior and its crew are honoured, Ambassador Sarek."

"Your service honours Vulcan, Captain Sulu." Sarek bowed his head slightly then turned to introduce the others. "You know, Captain Spock. Allow me to introduce my aide, Selek and Lieutenant Re'nar."

The young female officer was first to bow her head. Selek bowed his head. Neither spoke.

"Your quarters have been set aside, as requested." Sulu started out the door. He felt rather than saw the Vulcans fall into step behind him. "Your luggage will be beamed directly to your individual quarters." He stepped into the lift that had been locked on this level for them. He touched the controls and the lift took them to the appropriate level.

Sulu stepped out first then indicated to the aides that their rooms were first, one on either side of the corridor. He stopped at the next set of doors. "Captain Spock. Ambassador Sarek. The quarters will no doubt serve. I will have the yeoman assigned to you to notify you of our schedule. The timing for the dinners and conference rooms that will be available to you."

"Everything will be most acceptable, I am sure, Captain Sulu." Sarek bowed his head. I wish to speak with you privately, at your earliest convenience, Captain."

"Certainly. I have ship's business to attend to first. Shall we say 1600 hours in your quarters?"

"That will be acceptable." Sarek bowed his head, excused himself and disappeared into his room.

Spock touched the control to open his door. "If your schedule permits, Captain, I would enjoy a game of chess."

"My pleasure, Captain Spock." Sulu waited for Spock to disappear into his room and then he headed back up to the bridge. He had tours to help arrange and accommodations to check over as well as a problem with supplies. It was not going to be a smooth day.

At 1600 hours, Captain Sulu stood outside Sarek's door and activated the chime. He had no idea what Sarek would want to speak to him about. Another mystery, just what he did not need at the moment.


Sulu stepped into the quarters. He had prepared himself for the heat the Vulcan's usually enjoyed, but he was pleasantly surprised, the room was only warmer by about ten degrees. Sarek stood as he entered, he bowed his head. Sulu returned the gesture. "I trust everything is acceptable, Ambassador Sarek?"

"It is." Sarek studied this officer for a moment. When he had discussed this matter with Spock, he had been assured that Captain Sulu would have acted if he had the opportunity. Sarek was about to discover this fact for himself. "Tea, green." He spoke to one of the two aides; both were busy with their own terminals and were working at incredible speed if the flashing screens were any indication.

Sarek motioned for Sulu to join him closer to the seating area away from his aides. "Is my understanding that you have a missing crew member. One that is a citizen of Vulcan as well as being a Star Fleet officer of some worth."

Sulu swallowed, his mouth had suddenly gone dry. "How did that bit of information come to you?" He spoke cautiously but tried to remain in control.

"As Federation Ambassador, I have been privy to certain classified information. I serve also as the Vulcan Liaison to Starfleet. I am often notified of difficulties involving Vulcans and their service in Starfleet. It is a courtesy to be informed." He motioned for Sulu to sit down as he sat in the couch. Sulu declined. Sarek noted this. "I have taken a special interest in Am'ath's case." He paused before asking the crucial question. "How long has she been.. missing?"

Sulu's stance straightened marginally. "Two years, six months and an odd amount of days."

Sarek had been surprised at his accuracy. "What steps have been taken to secure her release?"

Sulu looked to the carpeting then back to the Vulcan. "Until a few months ago, there was no reason Starfleet had to believe she was still alive." He cleared his throat. "There have been no measures taken. Starfleet has closed the books on this." His voice was becoming uneven, revealing too much of his emotional stake in this manner. This is exactly why he did not want to be here!

Sarek noted the emotion that began to show on his face, then was controlled with almost Vulcan efficiency.

Selek appeared with a tray containing the cups and pot of tea. "Ambassador." He placed it down without a sound or jarring any of the items on the tray.

Sarek reached for the cup as Selek finished pouring out the green oriental tea. "I tasted this for the first time only five years ago on Earth, Captain. I found it to have an interesting flavour." He passed the traditional oriental style cup to Sulu then accepted his own.

"Why have you not acted, Captain?"

Sulu swallowed the mouthful of tea. "The truth?" As ridiculous as it was, the truth was what worked best. "I have never been given the orders or the authority to do so."

Sarek put his cup down. He met the eyes of this Starfleet captain. "I am familiar with Starfleet protocols, Captain. I know the discretionary power that a starship captain has at their disposal. Do you mean to tell me that you do not have a standing order to rescue a crew member?"

"We do." His voice was controlled for the moment. He placed his cup down on the tray. He tried to control the anger that was just under the surface, but it wasn't working. "We can not just walk in and kidnap her!"

"Captain, the recovery of a Federation citizen from Rihansu control and returning her to her home, would not be considered kidnapping. I find your attitude somewhat irresponsible."

"We are not even positive she is alive. We have no concrete proof that it was Lieutenant Commander Am'ath that we saw in the restaurant on Miridian Six..."

Sarek stood. His penetrating glare halted Sulu in mid sentence. He took a breath. He had been unaware of this development. "Do you mean to tell me that you did see her and did nothing to return her to Vulcan? And I presume you will also inform me that you have sanctioned a memorial service for her."

"I have not."

Sarek continued as if Sulu had not spoken. "Your actions, or lack thereof, disturbs me. I wish to make a formal request of you, Captain. I request that Am'ath be returned to Vulcan at your first opportunity."

"Get me the orders." Sulu felt himself shaking inside. This was exactly what he needed! "She will be returned, where she belongs. You have my word, Ambassador Sarek."

"Lieutenant Re'nar. Secure a channel to Starfleet Command. Admiral Nogura." He did not wait for the acknowledgement. He turned to Sulu. "You will have your orders, Captain."

Sulu bowed his head.

******On Tarod Nine...

Maybe it had been the days of being among the aliens; the sea of people, the attention to one's attire or the lack of sleep, but she wished only to return to the ship and remain there. There had been a sense of uneasiness and of the walls closing in on her. She had found sanctuary on the empty balcony just off the main room. She had drained the large glass of Romulan ale then came out here. It was dusk and the sky held a deep purple and gold shading to it.

It would be a simple matter to tap the circuit open and beam up to the vessel. She did not require Rahl's permission to board the vessel but she would have felt as if she were abandoning him.

She heard steps change from the inside flooring to the stone of the balcony. She turned and bowed her head. It was the Vulcan officer for the Federation's representative. She had found it odd that the captain of the vessel had not made an appearance as of yet.

Sencus looked out into the garden. Even in the dark one could see the lush vegetation. He bowed his head towards Am'ath. This was going to be difficult to begin a conversation with her. "The air does become too much for the senses with the mixture of perfumes and the aroma of the food." He was never any good at social conversations; even his mate had stated so years ago. "When did you arrive on Tarod?" He clenched his left hand out of her sight. His attempts at 'small talk' were lame.

"Three days ago." She answered only with the information he already knew.

"It is quite a collection of individuals."

"Yes." She frowned slightly, not understanding this Vulcan's actions. Vulcans were not usually ones to engage in idle discussions. She felt particularly uncomfortable in the presence of the Federation's envoy. She was uncertain as to why. She turned at the sound of more footsteps. She sighed. "Rahl." She was relieved at his appearance.

Rahl bowed his head courteously to the Vulcan officer then turned to his consort. He held a stemmed glass in one hand and he reached for Am'ath's with the other. Her felt her tension when she gripped his hand. "I was becoming concerned when you did not return immediately." He had noticed her becoming distant towards him in the last two days since arriving.

Sencus bowed his head to the couple then returned to the crowd. Finding a way to return her to the Excelsior would not be a simple matter.

Am'ath turned to Rahl. "Can we return to the vessel?"

"Why? The accommodations here are far superior." He had been teasing her earlier about her comfort with this environment. She suited the life that was available to her here. Servants, comfort and more affluent surroundings suited her, at least, in his opinion. "You would have to deal with food processors again." He had found even the Federation's food tasting better than the food on his vessel.

"I do not wish to remain." She leaned against him; her fingertips trailed a path from his ear, along his jaw and down his throat. She leaned forward and kissed him.

He lifted her chin, holding it firmly in his hand. "What is bothering you?" He studied her eyes. She was not behaving normally, as he had known her to. "You are anxious." He made an offer to her of the wine he carried. He watched her drink half of it down. "Are you not well?" He placed the glass on the small table near-by. Placed there no doubt to prevent glasses from being left on the railing and falling into the gardens.

"I am functional." She stated calmly.

"I have not heard you use that phrase in a very long time." He swallowed as a sudden realization took hold. He wet his lips then clenched his jaw for a moment. "You have remembered something...?" He tried very hard to keep the pain from his voice.

Am'ath shook her head. "I do not like being around so many... of the Federation." She lifted an eyebrow. "They continue to watch me as they did the first day. I am becoming uncomfortable with it."

Rahl accepted her word for the present. "Then we will return." He took her hand and lifted it to his lips. "But we will dance before we leave."

Am'ath tilted her head as if considering the notion. "Very well, Commander. As you wish." She bowed her head and slipped her arm into the crook of his arm as they returned to the crowded room. The music had stopped for the moment.

Rahl picked a glass of wine from a passing tray and handed it to her. "This a most interesting evening. I have noted that the Federation's Representative spends a great deal of time with Pardek." Rahl had been interested in the two as he had been approached by Pardek to ask for a private conversation at Rahl's convenience. "I have a meeting with Pardek later this evening. Would you consider attending?" He lifted her chin slightly. "Your council is one that is valuable to me." He noted that her glass was already empty. They usually shared the wine. Her consumption had increased over the last few days.

"Then I will attend, My Lord." She looked for a place for the glass then spotted a side table. She left Rahl's side and placed the glass down. As she turned she stopped short of bumping into a Federation officer. It was the female that would watch her more than the others. "Apologies." Am'ath's head bowed and her Standard was accented.

"Krahkra." Margaret Henley met the dark eyes. It was her! She took a deep breath, she had not been positive until this moment. She wanted to reach out, grab her and make her remember. Make her remember what she left behind. Make her remember that she had friends that cared about her.

Am'ath frowned slightly. "I am not Vulcan." She bowed her head slightly then moved off to join Rahl.

Mags Henley was left speechless. Had Am'ath lost all her memories?

"There is a problem?" Rahl took Am'ath's hand guiding her onto the dance floor. He took her in his arms and began to move to the slow beat of the music. She continued to watch the human. "Am'ath." He spoke softly then kissed her neck to get her attention.

She looked at him then hid the fear that had been on her face. She smiled at him, then returned the kiss. She turned her attentions to being with him forgetting about the human for the moment.


Lieutenant Commander Henley paced outside the door that led to Captain Sulu's office. She wasn't sure if she should say anything. She was sure that she couldn't just let the information get ignored. She took five steps one way then turned and headed the other way. She stopped and took a breath then hesitated at touching the door signal.

She clenched her hand, then sighed and paced a few more times. He needed to know. He needed to know that the woman that they had seen in that restaurant was... is Am'ath. Their Am'ath. The one that belonged here with them.

She clenched her jaw then tapped the signal button before she lost her nerve.

"Come." The voice that came from the other side of the door sounded tired.

Henley walked into the office. "Captain." She noticed his half-eaten meal and the blanket that had been tossed carelessly on the couch. "Look, I really hate to pile more pressure on you but... you have to attend the dinner tomorrow night." She sighed; she had finally said it. "Am'ath is there. She's with that Tal Shiar officer that we saw at that restaurant."

Sulu nodded. "Sencus filled me in an hour ago." He ran his fingers through his hair then tucked his hands into his pockets. He looked out to the stars. He could not see the planet they circled, he had wanted it that way and had altered their direction to avoid that view. "I haven't decided yet."

"Captain. If we don't try now... we won't get another chance." She was just short of pleading with him.

Sulu drew in a deep breath and closed his eyes. "I know."

Henley watched him for a moment. He was hurting so much over this and there was so much that he could do but he seemed to be stalling. Sometimes she wondered if he still wanted her back. Maybe it was just that he was afraid, as she was, that Am'ath had recovered her memory and did not want to come back. Or had forgotten about them totally and was content with her 'new' life. She cleared her throat then excused herself and left him with his thoughts.


The door chime sounded.

Rahl moved from his sleep area, closing his robe as he did. He had been reading as Am'ath slept. He tapped the release to admit S'Kar. He held out his hand accepting the computer slate.

"It wasn't difficult." S'Kar looked quickly into the dark room.

"She is sleeping." Rahl assured him. "She is not well. Too much wine." He moved to the desk that sat angled in a far off corner of the room. He swung the chair around and dropped into it. He waved S'Kar into the chair that faced him. "I am not certain why she indulges."

S'Kar held back his opinion. He had often wondered if her 'indulgence' was merely her way of coping with this substitute life.

Rahl dropped the slate into the viewer and sat back, bracing himself for the information that he had asked for. The screen filled with the insignia of the Federation then faded to an information sheet containing an image of an officer and the available data on him. Rahl scrolled down the screen slowly as he scanned the information.

S'Kar moved to the supply of brandy and poured out two glasses. He placed one down on Rahl's side of the desk. "Hers was found." He felt the unavoidable pain that showed on Rahl's face.

"You have read them?"


"And?" He reached for the glass without looking, as if he had expected to be there because he had left it there. He drank down the brandy, holding the last of it in his mouth. Savoring it while allowing it to burn his mouth and then to trickle down his throat.

S'Kar rolled the glass between his hands for a moment. "Highly decorated. Highly trained in use of the sword, power weapons and hand-to-hand combat, all phases, including Vulcan techniques. Best command officer in Starfleet since Admiral Kirk, whom he served under. An exceptional helm officer. He has even served undercover and infiltrated our defenses. He was young at the time."

"Weren't we all." He hesitated over flipping to the next file. "Hers?"

S'Kar sighed. Rahl was going to make this as painful as possible for himself. He hesitated then cleared his throat. "A member of his bridge crew. Her abilities only equal his at the helm. Highly skilled in all Vulcan forms of martial arts. She has also completed a level two engineering certificate. She is not listed as a Vulcan citizen. The status changed two years before she came here. It is unknown why the change was made."

"There is a House to contact?" Rahl stared at the human male that covered half of the screen. It would be much easier to deal with this if he thought that she was or would be badly treated. Something told him this was her t'hy'la. This was the one that haunted her dreams. The shadow, that caused her to sigh and moan with pleasure, when she slept.

"Margaret Henley. The officer that she nearly collided with today. The one we saw on Miridian Six."

Rahl nodded. "Go get some sleep, S'Kar." He flashed a weak smile at the officer then relaxed into the chair. He rested his head against the back and it tilted back slightly. "I need to think."

S'Kar finished off the brandy and headed out to his quarters to deal with his own feelings on the matter.


Captain Sulu stood and watched the warbird that was off in the distance. He had been studying the file that had been made available on the Rihansu commander. His accomplishments were many and he seemed to be an officer that avoided confrontations when he could. If; the information in the file was accurate.

Did he have the right to force her back? If she was totally content and well, why shouldn't she stay? What if she did remember where she was supposed to be and she wanted to stay there? Then he needed to know that. He would have to talk to her to find that out. The only way he could do that was to beam down. He was more afraid of the answers than any of the questions.

The intercom beeped.

He moved to his desk and tapped it on. "Sulu here."

"Captain." Henley sounded unsure. " I just thought I would let you know that we are beaming down shortly."

He smiled. "I know the schedule, Mr. Henley. I'm the captain."

"I know that, sir." She paused. "I just wondered if you would be beaming down with us, Captain."

Sulu drew in a deep breath. It was now or never. "I'll be in the transporter room when you leave." Non-committal.

Her assumption of his decision was evident in the disappointment in her voice. "Aye, sir. Henley out."

Sulu closed the circuit then went to his closet. He reached in to the dress tunic. Time for answers. His hand brushed against the silk of Am'ath's cape as he was pulling his tunic out. He shivered.


Rahl adjusted the collar of his tunic then smoothed the brocaded surface. He was nervous. He turned to face the doorway. "Are you ready?" He cleared his throat and tried to calm the anxiety for this evening.

Pardek was to bring him the latest course heading for the Rihansu leaving the Empire's space. He had agreed to help. Why? One only had to look to his consort to know that he held some affection for the Vulcan heritage of his people. If he were ever to be caught, it will mean his life. If he were to be caught by the Tal-Shiar, it would mean a slow, painful death. When Am'ath leaves, he will have little to look forward to except being alone. If she defies all the odds and remains, he will help Pardek, and his dream of unification, from a distance.

"A moment." She sounded pre-occupied.

Rahl leaned against the desk, his hands held the edge and he crossed his ankles. "You know I do not want to be late."

"We won't be." She stepped into the doorway and then met his eyes. "Do you like it?" She had kept this dress a secret from him and it was worth the look on his face.

Rahl held his breath for a moment then stood straightened slowly. He smiled then nodded. Her gown was deep green, blood green. Her shoulders were bare and it was extremely low-cut. It appeared as if it was a second skin to her until her hips and then it flared into a full skirt. She wore her hair long and in curls, as he liked it, fastened back, exposing her elegant ears.

He sighed. "We are going to be late..." He reached for her then drew her into his arms and kissed her passionately. He felt the rush of passion through his body as she pressed herself against his body. He felt her hip rub against his erection. He moaned then reached down and lifted her into his arms. "Very late..."

He carried her into the sleep area. He stood her beside the bed and her hands began to remove his clothes as he tried to discover the way to remove her dress.

***** The dining hall...

S'Kar stood with Sh'rien sipping the wine and watching for Rahl and Am'ath. "He is never on time lately."

Sh'rien smiled. "Do you blame him?" He smiled. "I recall a time when we would have to look for you..." He poked the officer slightly. "It is time for you to find someone."

S'Kar sighed. "Maybe. But not tonight."

"We are leaving in the morning?" Sh'rien looked down to the flooring for a moment then scanned the room again.

"So far." He cleared his throat then leaned towards the doctor. "Rahl has informed me of the additional supplies." He met Sh'rien's eyes.

"I had not heard whether he had agreed to this or not. He spoke to me of the drugs that would be required." His voice had dropped slightly. "To mask the readings without doing harm, is tricky. Easily accomplished but tricky."

"How so?"

"If an individual is sedated for too long, their bodies will not recover." He sighed. "That is my only concern. The timing. If we are detained for any reason or for any length of time, revival would be necessary."

S'Kar placed his half-filled glass with the collection of empty glasses. He sighed. "I will be glad to return to our usual menu. There is much too much here for me." He smiled at Sh'rien.

Sh'rien finished his ale. "I have had the foresight to spend a few days on the vessel." He grinned. "But then I have not had any company to attract my attentions." He was teasing S'Kar now. He had noticed the younger officer was often with differing females over the past eight days. Sometimes dancing, talking or even walking in the garden. He envied the young. He had never had the time to be young; at least that is what it had felt like.

The chimes sounded signaling that end-meal was about to begin.

S'Kar looked over to the entrance at the far end of the room. He smiled. "Leave it to Rahl to be late, but on time for the food." He tapped Sh'rien's shoulder. They walked over to meet the officer and to tease him just a little.

Captain Hikaru Sulu stood admiring the flowers and the order this garden held. He had been out here since he beamed down over two hours ago. He had not wanted to expose himself to the possible effects of being any closer to Am'ath. Spock had helped the situation by instructing him on how to control what he received. There would be more telepaths than just Vulcans and knowledge of his connection to Am'ath could be dangerous. He heard the faint sound of the chimes and wondered if he would be able to ignore them. He had no such luck because he saw Henley coming out with a very determined look on her face.

"Captain, they have started serving dinner." She stood a little distance away from him.

"I heard." He looked out past the gardens to the horizon. The sun was setting and spreading this golden colour across the sky. "I am not sure about this." He had debated beaming back up without a word to anyone about ten times already. "Do we have the right to force her to return?"

"Right now, does she understand that she has a choice? If I were in the same position, I would want to know about my past."

"What if she knows and just doesn't want to come back?"

She sighed. "That is why you have to go in there, Captain."

He looked to Henley and knew that this was something he had to do. He straightened his tunic then made his way to join Henley. They fell into step together and headed towards the dining room.

"You know, Henley, ordinarily ship captains do not usually need a conscience telling them what to do."

Henley smiled. "But you sir, are no ordinary captain."

His head bowed at the sideways complement.


The seating arrangements had been, to say the least interesting. The head table had been reserved for 'the main players', the Federation representatives and the Rihansu representatives along with the officers of the vessels that had brought them here. One side of the table held the Federation and the other held the Rihansu. The menu that had been chosen for these gathered meals had been carefully planned so as not to offend anyone.

The meal was eaten in relative silence. No one knew quite what to talk about or even what to avoid. Any discussions they heard came from the other parts of the room where the other participants were seated in groups that seemed more comfortable with one another.

Dessert had been cleared away and they were left with only coffees, teas and various brandies to 'hide' behind.

Sarek cleared his throat slightly. Earlier attempts at conversation died very quickly. He trusted that with full stomachs everyone would feel more amenable. He looked to Commander Rahl, bowed his head slightly. "Ihhei Am'ath. I was curious as to your Vulcan ancestry. How far back is the Vulcan influence?"

"One generation ago." She looked to the elder Vulcan.

"I see."

"Far enough to define her as a Rihansu." Rahl had a note of annoyance in his voice. "Her loyalty..."

Pardek was aware of the tension that was beginning. "Rahl, Rahl. We are involved in a mission of peace. The words were not intended as an insult." He smiled at the officer then looked to Sarek. There was something about the Vulcan that gave him a sense of trust.

"I ask forgiveness. I meant no offence." Sarek bowed his head.

"None taken, Ambassador." Am'ath emptied the last of her ale. She glanced once again in the direction of the Federation captain sitting at the opposite end to her. She had a sense about him, one of familiarity. It was most disquieting.

"Our progress in the talks have come along way. Do you not think so, Praetor?" Pardek was doing his best to keep the conversations at an amiable level.

"I do not expect total trust in our lifetime. Permitting travel to the bordering worlds is a beginning." The Praetor accepted the glass of Romulan ale. He waited for the smoke to rise before he drank any of it. It gave it a smoother taste. "Captain Sulu, your vessel has been patrolling our border quite often of late; what is your opinion of the agreement?"

Sulu looked to the ruler. "I would much rather be searching for new stars or worlds than travelling in a line, protecting an imaginary border."

"Perhaps one day the realities will be that the imaginary border ceases to exist."

As their discussion continued Am'ath began to watch the Human captain. He did seem familiar to her. Even his actions, had been anticipated by her. She knew, for example, that he was not pleased with the surroundings. That he would much rather be curled up in the black armchair staring... She held her breath. Where was this coming from? But she had a memory of him in a large armchair, in a room surrounded by stars. This was most illogical!

Rahl touched her hand that rested on her lap. She looked to him and smiled. He leaned towards her and whispered that he wished to disappear at the earliest opportunity. She nodded. "Ie, Riov." She agreed but her eyes never truly left the Human captain. She felt her body reacting to the Human's unique laughter as a joke was shared. Another memory? She smiled, pretending that she had heard the joke.

"One of the items of our discussion today was a willingness to share some of our resources. Would this not include personnel?" Spock was testing the waters and hoping this would become the way to arrange Am'ath's return. "What is your opinion, Pardek?"

"The idea has merit." He reached for another glass of ale from a passing steward. "It can present some hazards as well. I mean, do we consider them visitors, hostages or..."

"I would assume, Senator Pardek, that they would be accepted as guests." Sarek stated calmly. "As would your personnel."

"Yes, of course, Ambassador Sarek. I was not speaking negatively."

"The way to test the theory would be for an actual exchange to take place." Spock had their interest. "We could begin with an aide exchanging places with another aide. Or a junior officer for another."

The Praetor sat forward, arms resting on the table. He was extremely interested in this gesture. He did not want to reach a point, as the Klingons had, where he had to make peace or face the fact that his race would die. "Did you have any thoughts on the matter? Perhaps who would be suitable for this?"

"I would volunteer." Am'ath spoke quickly. She looked to the surprised faces and realized what she had agreed to. She glanced at Rahl. "It would be for only a short time."

Rahl stood, too quickly and could not contain the panic in his voice. "I do not care if it is for an end-meal..." He was shocked.

The Praetor waved at hand at him to sit down. "Do not cause a scene, Riov Rahl. Consorts are easily come-by. Think of the impression that her precise behaviour would present to the Federation." He looked to Am'ath, her head bowed slightly at the compliment. He returned the slight nod. "Many consider us nothing more that simple minded soldiers." He was facing Rahl now. "I grant you, Rahl, her quality would be difficult to match."

Rahl bowed his head with difficulty. He sat down slowly still in shock at the whole matter.

Sarek saw the opportunity. "If the formal exchange were to be made tonight in front of all parties, it would illustrate that we are taking these talks seriously." He had watched Am'ath during dinner. He had seen indications that she was losing herself in her manufactured life. Understandably so.

"Ambassador Sarek, it would be my honour to serve as rrh-thanai." Lieutenant Re'nar spoke. She had been busy studying the Rihansu for this conference. She had also discovered the mission within this mission. She understood the tradition of 'hostage-fostering'. One side gives the other a hostage against peace, this was usually practiced within families, and the hostage's life was forfeit if the peace was broken.

Rahl stood suddenly. "Vaed'rae" He ordered Am'ath to attend him.

Am'ath stood and moved with him. No apologies were offered. This was not Rahl's usual behaviour. Once they had stepped out of the dining room she reached to his arm. "Rahl."

He stopped and turned to face her. "You volunteered." He clenched his jaw and balled his fists to contain his anger. He was hurt! "By the Powers that Be, you volunteered!" He stepped towards her and she backed up almost to the wall.

She stared at him. She felt his anger and his pain. She had no answers for him. She was not sure within herself why she had blurted out the offer. "For peace."

Rahl opened his mouth then shut it. Clenched his jaw. "How noble." He shook his head, sighed and then started to laugh. Not a pleasant laugh. "You. A Federation officer that was left for dead. You are offering to give up your unique position here, for peace?" He stopped laughing. He held her chin in his hand then lifted it and moved his mouth close to hers. "Do I bed the rrh-thanai?" Her eyes flashed and he smiled at the very reaction he expected from her. " I did you?"

"Areinnye'n-hnah!" She whispered to him. She had never been angry with him before. She had never understood why one would wish another to go to hell, until this moment. In this moment, she shook with her anger and her fear and she wished him in hell.

He held her chin a little tighter. "You will send me there. When you leave that is where I will be." His lips brushed hers as he spoke the words softly. He pulled her into a passionate kiss. His body ached for her and he wanted her to know exactly what she was leaving. Her hand went to the back of his neck and he felt that delicious fire creep into his thoughts... for the last time.

This was a good-bye. She knew that. He knew that.

He held her, her head resting on his shoulder. "If I have my way, My Treasure, you will not leave me." He whispered softly, intended only for her ears.

Spock cleared his throat. He had left the table to find them but had not expected to find them here nor in such a private moment. He had stepped far enough into the room that even his leaving would have been noticed. He had also stepped into the room at the precise moment to overhear Rahl. This man had to be watched. Carefully.

Am'ath moved from him slowly. She turned away from both men to compose herself.

Spock bowed his head. "The Praetor is preparing for the exchange. Your presence is required." He paused meeting Rahl's eyes. "There will be time to collect any personal belongings and for taking leave."

Rahl did not answer. He looked to Am'ath. "Come."

"Yes, My Lord." She followed him out maneuvering her skirts around Spock as they passed him.

Am'ath returned to her seat and reached for the glass of ale. She drank it down. She licked the ale from her lips as she lifted her eyes to meet the captain's. She felt the panic rising in her, only now realizing what effect this would have on her life. Her revere was broken as the steward lifted her empty glass; she reached for another full one and drank it down.

Rahl leaned to speak to Sh'rien before sitting down. He whispered something to him and the doctor turned suddenly to stare at him. "I will make it an order." Rahl threatened then straightened and moved to his chair beside Am'ath.

Sh'rien stood, hesitantly then excused himself for a moment. He left the room quickly.

"Tell me, Ambassador Sarek. Will the Federation honour the tradition of the rrh-thanai? Or do they prefer hfehan?" She played with the glass as she looked to the elder. "Forgive me but I do not know the translations."

"Rrh-thanai or having hfai are not traditions that are upheld." Sarek glanced to the doorway where his son waited. "Fostering of hostages is not something that is even practiced by Vulcans. We do not have bond servants in the sense that you are referring."

"Then how am I guaranteed that I will be returned?" She looked directly at the Human captain.

"You will have our word on it." Captain Sulu stated easily. "You will be free to return at any point."

"And you do not believe that this one..." She pointed to Re'nar. "would not be?"

Sulu shifted slightly in his seat. "If we believed that, she would not have offered." His eyes flicked to the approaching figure of the doctor then as he leaned down and spoke to Rahl then took his seat.


The dark grey cape brushed the floor as he walked. The Praetor flicked one side of the cape back over his shoulder as he moved to the dais. The room fell silent as he assumed his place. He stroked his beard habitually then motioned for Sarek to join him. He cleared his throat. "Aefvadh, Gentlebeings. We are here to show the beginnings of trust between out Empires. In our discussions after our meal it was mentioned that a show of faith, of trust would be most appropriate tonight.

"We did not need to ask or choose those individuals that would be our 'olive-branch' in the words of the Earthers, in ours it is 'rrh-thanai'. The closest translation, I am told, is hostage fostering. The individuals offered themselves. Both have Mnhei'sahe. I am told the translation is passion for honour." He indicated the young Starfleet officer. "Lieutenant Re'nar of Vulcan. She will live and work as Rihansu for the period of one year."

Sarek stepped closer to the dais. "Ihhei Am'ath, consort of Riov Rahl of ch'Rihan. She was first to offer to live within Federation boundaries."

Both were moved closer to the dais, they stood one on each side. The applause for the exchange began softly then slowly grew. Am'ath and Re'nar bowed their heads accepting the ovation. Am'ath looked to Rahl, he was sitting, unmoving and his eyes locked on her every move. He was not pleased in the least.

The Praetor returned to the dais. "The exchange will take place in one hour. This will give time for our representatives to gather personal belongings and take their leave. Contact will be maintained throughout the year with them and their experiences shared."

Sarek started the return to their seats.

"Ambassador Sarek. I require leave of you to prepare." Re'nar stood straight and seemed totally sure of this decision. She bowed her head then moved off to return to the vessel.

Lieutenant Commander Henley stood, moved to Captain Sulu and spoke to him in lowered tones. He nodded and Mags Henley moved off to meet up with Lieutenant Re'nar.

Am'ath hesitated a moment. "Riov Rahl. I will return to the vessel to prepare as well." She lifted the glass that held the last of her ale.

His head bowed, paying more attention to the conversation that was beginning than to her. "Have someone go with you." He looked to the medical officer. "Sh'rien?"

He stood. "Yes, Commander."

She leaned down closer to Rahl. "I thought you might wish some private time..."

He glanced at her then waved her away. He leaned forward pretending to be more interested in the conversation. He caught her departure out of the corner of his eye, then leaned back in the chair and sighed.

S'Kar looked to his commanding officer. He was in pain, no matter what the outer expression was. He knew the feeling of losing someone, but this was different. Am'ath would still be alive. He had shared only two years with his soul mate and he still had dreams of her. Rahl would survive. He was born to survive. He had mnhei'sahe. Then S'Kar had an uncomfortable shiver travel through him. "Rahl..." He leaned towards his 'brother'. "You are not going to allow her to leave. Are you?"

Rahl met the eyes that he trusted the most and held them.

S'Kar swallowed. Rahl was planning something!


Re'nar stepped into the quarters that had been assigned to her. She began taking the items and placing them in her issued duffel bag. The door to her quarters opened and she turned to identify the visitor.

"Re'nar. I need to go with you." Mr. Henley stood just inside the doorway.

"For what purpose?" Re'nar continued to place her clothing precisely in the positions recommended by regulations.

"To make sure that Am'ath returns." She frowned. Was that right? Was her friend, her 'sister', returning? Or was it a Rihansu being exchanged? They were one in the same but which would she be welcoming?

Re'nar stopped and turned to face Mr. Henley. "You do not believe the Rihansu will honour the exchange?"

"They will honour it... I just have this gut feeling that something is not going to go smoothly."

"On what facts do you base this on?"

Mags grinned. "I base it on my knowledge of Murphy's Law."

The Vulcan looked to the floor for a moment. "I do not have knowledge of Murphy's Law and I do not believed that my knowledge of Federation Laws, in any form, mentions Murphy's Law at any point."

"Murphy's Law is simple." She remembered having this conversation with Am'ath years ago. "It has one statement. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong."

Re'nar tilted her head as she studied this Human. Both Sarek and Spock placed value in a Human's instinct. She bowed her head. "Accepted. You may accompany me."

Henley sighed. Step one accomplished.


Am'ath stepped from the transport pad. She turned to face the doctor. "You need not follow me. Tend to you division, I will take no more than thirty minutes to pack. Come for me then."

"Rahl asked..."

"Rahl asked that you accompany me. Nothing more. And he did that to annoy me." She wavered for a moment.

Sh'rien reached to steady her. "Are you alright?"

She waved his help away. "Too much ale. Nothing more." She smiled then sighed. "If I must do this, I wish to do it quickly." She tried to ignore the sleepiness that was invading her system. It was getting late, the dinner had been far from pleasant and she had consumed much too much ale. As she made her way to her quarters she wondered again about this Captain Sulu. Why did he figure so prominently in her thoughts all through dinner? Why did he seem to be so familiar to her? As did all the officers of the Federation vessel.

She stepped into the quarters, the door slid quietly closed behind her and she called for low lighting. She moved to the fan-backed chair and sat down with a sigh. She ran her fingers across her forehead wondering why she felt so tired? She leaned into the curve of the back. She would miss this. When she could not sleep because of the dreams, she would curl up here and eventually sleep. The chair was large enough for even Rahl to curl up here with her. She took a few deep breaths and decided that her packing would not be accomplished in this manner.

She stood and moved into the sleep area that she shared with Rahl. The covers had not been straightened from their last session of lovemaking. She smiled, straightened them slightly then reached into the closet for the largest of her cases.

She lifted it onto the bed and touched the release. The case seemed to split open down the center and fell into two sections that would hold all of her clothing. She had not been informed as to the environment she would be living in so she decided to pack all of it.

She had finished with her clothes and had just closed and sealed the casing when she felt this wave of weakness. She sat heavily on the end of the bed. This was not effect of the ale, she thought to herself.


Sulu walked the width of the transporter room then walked back. He had just sent Re'nar and Henley off to the Rihansu battle cruiser. It had been decided that since Re'nar was a fleet officer that her duties would continue as a member of Rahl's crew. He wasn't sure if he was comfortable with that but he knew Re'nar could take care of herself. He was just waiting for Henley to return with Am'ath.

He glanced up at the technician that stood behind the console. He grinned then tried standing still. He clasped his hands at his back and stood absolutely still, in an attempt to calm the anxiety he was feeling. He tried to sense her, over this short distance it should have been easy.

He felt his stomach tighten as a wave of dizziness washed over him. Something was wrong. He turned to face the technician, his hand raised to touch the comm-pin when the bridge paged him. "Sulu here."

"Shields have been raised and the warbird is powering up." Sencus's voice was calm.

"Contact Spock. Let him know this is personal. Tell him... keep the peace." Sulu started to move as he spoke. He picked up his pace to the lift. "I want everything on stand-by mode. Find our personnel by transponders."

"Aye, sir." Sencus closed the connection.

Sulu took a sudden breath; he was not feeling well. Or was it her not feeling well? He stepped from the silence of the lift to the controlled chaos on the bridge. Sencus stepped from the center chair, Burgh moved to the weapons station and Sulu stood in back of the command position. "Report."

"Shields are ready."

"Weapons are locked and on stand-by."

"Course headings are laid in. Ready to break orbit."

"We have confirmation that we are leaving orbit, Captain. But they do want to know why as we still have personnel on the surface."

"Tell them..." He sighed. "Tell them we are checking out a problem. We need to break orbit to test the warp engines." He shrugged at Mr. Rand then grinned. He moved into the chair and relaxed just a little as the ship slowly began to move out of orbit.

Sulu turned in his chair. "Mr. Sencus?"

"It appears that all three are together but the raised shields prevent beaming. The transponder signals are weak and I am assuming that the third bio-reading is Am'ath." He looked to the captain lifted an eyebrow then went back to work.


Re'nar skirted the bulkhead as she waited for Henley to catch up to her. Henley had been correct; things were not as they should have been.

Henley had quite suddenly gone pale then headed directly into the corridor. She said she had to find Am'ath. Re'nar had followed without a word and was filled in on the way. How Henley was connected to Am'ath and that she knew Am'ath was in trouble.

Re'nar checked the corridor then waved Henley passed her. Her hand shot out then pulled her back. "We are supposed to be here. Why are we hiding?"

"Because your quarters are with the crew, not the officers." Henley looked down the corridor. "Guards at every door except one." She looked to the timepiece. "Captain Sulu should be following by now." She smoothed her tunic. "Let's try it your way." She winked at the Vulcan officer then almost sauntered out into the corridor. Re'nar followed her.

They bowed their heads to the guards that they did pass. None of them seemed to react to their presence. They stood at the door and looked to the name.

"My Rihansu is rusty." Henley pointed to the nameplate.

Re'nar nodded.

They touched the release and stepped into the quarters just as Am'ath slid off the bed. Henley ran to her. "Try the ship." Henley began to assess Am'ath's condition. "I think she's been drugged."

Re'nar closed the case and placed it off to the side then helped Mags lift Am'ath onto the bed.

Mags reached under her tunic to the inside pocket and pulled out a palm-sized scanner. She passed it over Am'ath. She shook her head. "Everything is wrong."

"She has been genetically altered." The deep voice made them turn. The Rihansu officer crossed the room. "Part of Riov Rahl's perfect plan. Had it not been for this conference, it would have worked."

"Sh'rien?" Henley asked not sure of his name.

"Yes." He ran his own style scanner over Am'ath. "Slowly over the first year her chemistry was altered to resemble one bred in line with the Ancients. She is sedated but it is not a strong dose. I did not want to cause any harm and she had been drinking heavily." He looked to the two officers. "Rahl doesn't want her to go. He is the one that sedated her. He has assumed that if he can get far enough away, everyone will forget about her."

"How do we get her off of here?" Henley took a step closer to this officer. "Are you willing to help?"

"No. But it is necessary that you have my assistance." He looked around the room. "She had said it would take her thirty minutes to prepare." He looked around at the empty drawers and the open closet. "She has been happy here but not contented. She is a nei'rrh. A small bird, that is beautiful but deadly. And Rahl has caged her."

"And now?" Henley watched this man. He seemed to be honestly upset about this turn of events.

"She has asked to leave. Rahl has always said that she could... but this was too sudden for him. Volunteering herself was not something he had anticipated. I do not believe even she had anticipated this. " He leaned down and checked her eyes again. "She will sleep for a time yet."

"And how do we get home?"

"There is another working on that matter." Sh'rien hoped that S'Kar was not having too many difficulties with Rahl.


Spock held the printout of the message in his hand. This was not going to be well received. Fortunately, Sarek, Pardek and the Praetor were together discussing matters and waiting for word that the exchange had taken place. It was an unknown factor if the Praetor was aware of the emotional investment that Rahl had in Am'ath. It was certain, however, that he did not know she was a Federation citizen.

Spock hesitated at the door, smoothed his tunic, out of habit, then stepped in. "Praetor, we have a minor incident."

All had turned to face Spock as he entered. He went directly to the Praetor and handed him the message. "After printing this out, the message was deleted as well as any trace of it."

Sarek lifted an eyebrow, intrigued about what type of information could be this sensitive.

Pardek was less patient. He stood and moved to the Praetor's side. "Does it have anything to do with the exchange?"

"Yes." The Praetor handed over the message to Pardek. He looked to Spock for a moment, then to Sarek. "I have this impression that there is more to know. And you have known from the beginning." He moved to the armchair, he had previously occupied then waved Spock to another. Pardek took his place on the Praetor's right side.

"This is not good." Pardek muttered then handed the printout to Sarek.

Sarek looked to Spock. "Your perception was correct."

Spock bowed his head accepting his father's compliment.

"This Captain Sulu, how does he command?" The Praetor asked cautiously.

"He understands what is at stake, Your Excellency. He is not one to over-react. Captain Sulu can be trusted."

The Praetor leaned back against the cushioning. "Now. Fill in the information I am lacking to make sense out of this. This room is secure and the information will go no further." He looked to first one Vulcan and then the other. "Vulcan faces are not as unreadable as you may believe."

Spock lowered his eyes for a moment as he recalled how many times either Dr. McCoy or Admiral Kirk had stated the very same observance. He tilted his head slightly, indicating to his father that he was the one to 'fill in' the Praetor's knowledge.

Sarek thought a moment. "The idea of the exchange came before other information was known to us." He put his cup down that he had been holding, it was now empty. "Two point seven eight years ago there was an incident that involved Starfleet personnel. One of the officers had been presumed missing in action, possibly in Rihansu territory. The Federation did at one point contact your government concerning the matter."

The Praetor thought about it. "A Vulcan officer?" He sighed at Sarek's acknowledgement. "I recall a request for confirmation of information. We had none." He spoke hesitantly as he tried to recall the facts on the matter. "The report was severely abridged."

"No doubt." Sarek continued. "It was discovered only at the beginning of this conference that the officer that was presumed dead was in fact Riov Rahl's consort."

Pardek shifted uneasily and he heard the Praetor sigh.

"She has no memory of her past. The incident involved the use of harmful drugging, the side effects of which are a loss of memory. The side effects have been known to be quite severe with Vulcans."

"And you want her back."

"Without incident." Sarek added. "It was believed that if we could return her to Vulcan. Damage could be repaired and then at the time of the return, all would have been explained. If it is discovered that she wishes to return to Rihansu life, she will be permitted to do so."

"Then she volunteered..."

"As a Rihansu citizen." Spock interjected.

The Praetor cleared his throat. "Do you believe that Rahl was aware of her... association?"

"It is unknown but suspected."

Sarek watched as the Praetor quietly absorbed the information and attempted to make sense out of it. "The intent of this... shall we call it a delay of the exchange, is based solely on emotional reactions of one individual. If we can retrieve Lieutenant Commander Am'ath, without escalating the situation then all of this can be forgotten. Lieutenant Re'nar was informed of the situation and is willing to remain as agreed."

The Praetor nodded then stood. "I must speak with Riov Rahl."


The tall imposing figure was not often seen in the communication room. The officer on duty jumped up, almost knocking his chair over. "Fvilla."

He waved the officer back to the chair. "I wish a secure channel to the Battlecruiser Ravaged. I wish to speak directly to Riov Rahl."

"Yes, Fvilla." The officer started tapping in codes and arranging the screen for the Praetor's use. He waited only a moment and then he turned to the imposing figure. "I have Riov."

The Praetor sat down in the chair that was offered. "Now leave."

The officer blinked then nodded and was gone before it had sunk in that he had been told to leave.

"Riov Rahl. We have a problem." The Praetor saw no point in skirting the issue.

Rahl's image looked down for a second. "You do not understand, Praetor. This was not done with clear thought. Am'ath has had second thoughts and has asked that I..."

"Cause a war for her?" He leaned back in the chair. "I have been made aware of the circumstances." He tried to read this man. Rahl was far from stupid or power-hungry to any great degree. "I can give the order that will cause the destruction of your vessel. Do you wish this to happen?"

"If my death serves you..."

"Do not be stupid, Rahl." The Praetor leaned forward on the desk. The officer's image shook. "To die as a martyr is still to die." The image shook again. "You are having difficulties?"

Rahl looked over to his side then nodded. "The Federation vessel is firing at us."

"Then I will leave you to it. And remember Rahl, if you return here with your consort on board your vessel, you will die." He reached to the switch that will close the circuit. "Is that clear?"

The screen went dark; he did not wait for Rahl's response. He trusted that his head would dominate his actions and not another part of his anatomy. "Passion." He muttered as he left the room. Of all the emotions he trusted this one the least and yet without it, he could not rule.


"Rahl!" S'Kar held his friend's arm. They were in the private office and no one would hear anything that was said. "You can not do this."

"Watch me." He started to head out but S'Kar held his arm tightly. He stepped back then met S'Kar's eyes.

"Think of what you are doing, Rahl. Really think." He stepped closer to the officer. "She will not want to be held here against her will. There are the others. And the peace that we want, it is the only thing separating us from war... Rahl." The vessel shook again from the light charges that were being directed at the shielding to the vessel. The Federation captain was being extremely careful.

The intercom sounded calling Rahl's attention.

"Riov Rahl."

"Yes, Centurion." Rahl moved to his desk and sat down. He tapped open the frequency.

"The Federation vessel is closing. They have instructed us that they will increase the charge on the next volley."

S'Kar stepped closer to the desk. "He will listen. He will understand. But only if this is stopped now." He spoke in a low voice, not high enough for the intercom to pick up what he was saying.

Rahl stood. He looked to S'Kar then headed out to the bridge. "Slow to impulse. Drop shields." He looked to his communication officer. "Contact the Excelsior."

"Yes, sir." He tapped in the frequency then turned to the officer. "Channel is open."

"Captain Sulu. We were called away by a false signal. I was unaware that the exchange had not taken place. I assumed that when your officer beamed over..." He rested his elbow on the arm of his chair then rested his cheek against it. "...the transfer had taken place. Your officer and ... Ihhei Am'ath will be beamed over shortly. Stand-by."


The warbird moved gracefully out of orbit then disappeared into a warp field. Nothing else seemed to have changed. But everything had. Am'ath laid her hand on the clearsteele of the viewing port and whispered her good-bye to him. Promises had been made. Some destined to be kept, some were made knowing they could not be. She considered the last of his words, the remark that Humans do not live forever.

She heard the door swish open and she turned to face him.

Sulu stood inside the room just enough to allow the doors to close. He touched his com-pin and notified the bridge that she had been found. He looked to the carpeting for a second then back to her.

The silence seemed unending.

He cleared his throat. "I am not sure where to start."

"That is understandable." She turned towards him. This was all familiar to her but it was a feeling only. Her unplanned return to this was still unsettling. She shivered.

Sulu moved to the closet and pulled out the cape. "This might help." He held it out to her, unsure if he should help her or not. "Its yours."

"Thank you Captain." She wrapped the cape around her shoulders with a sight flourish. She felt a little more secure with this around her. In all that had happened in the past six hours, she had not even found the time to change from her dress.

Sulu opened the front panel of his uniform. He rested on the arm of the chair, facing her. He tucked his hands into his pockets; he needed to do something to stop himself from reaching for her. "I can raise the temperature.." He started to stand.

"It is unnecessary Captain." She stated quickly. "I believe it is a side effect of the sedation and will pass." Her memories of what happened were still fuzzy.

He moved to his desk, engaged the privacy lock and replicated a pot of Vulcan tea and two cups. He placed the tray on the table then filled the cups. Neither of them took anything else in their tea. He walked over to her and handed her the cup. "Take it the same way I hope." He smiled weakly.

"Yes." She held the cup with both hands then sipped on the hot liquid. She remembered this taste. She took another sip then licked her lips. "Vulcan?"

"Yes." God, this is hard, he thought to himself. So many questions he wanted to ask her but he wasn't sure he wanted to hear the answers. "We looked for you for a long time..." He looked to the carpet. He swallowed the lump in his throat then looked back up to her. "I knew you were alive. I just didn't know how to find you." She's home. She's safe. He kept telling himself ever since she had beamed over. Then security reported that she had disappeared from the assigned quarters. He had panicked and suspected a deception of some kind. He had 'reached' for her and discovered that she was close. He was learning.

She nodded. "My memories begin with my recovery. Some distance childhood memories are there. My training seems to be present." She met his eyes for a moment then looked across the room to the door. "The entry code was known. This place." She looked down to the carpet. "There were dreams..." She shivered. "Nothing seems to be consistent."

"Dr. Chapel found that, with the others, after the antidote was administered, the missing pieces would slowly fall into place. Everyone involved did a great deal of talking. Remembering." He wasn't sure how this would help her. They weren't sure if the antidote would help her, Chapel was checking through the results of her quick physical. It was decided to put off the complete physical until she had some rest.

"The recordings have been placed in my quarters." She had spent about fifteen minutes in the room and then ran from it, finding herself standing outside of this room and activating the door easily with the coding. Something had guided her here and her fingers into the pattern that opened the door. She shivered more noticeably this time.

Sulu noticed it this time. He slipped off his tunic then wrapped it around her shoulders. He took her cup from her, placing it with his and his hands held her arms for a moment. He breathed in the scent that he had dreamt about. He wanted to turn her around and continue from right where they had left off... but she did not remember any of that time together. Not yet.

He forced his hands to move from her then crossed the room to raise the temperature. He folded his arms across his chest and closed his eyes. "You can stay here for as long as you want." He sighed. "Captain Spock, Ambassador Sarek and Sencus will help you with your memory as soon as you are ready. Doctor Chapel wants to see you sometime tomorrow about your physical." He kept his back to her. "If any of them think you need time on Vulcan, that will be arranged."

He was unaware that she had crossed the room until her hand touched the back of his neck. He gasped, froze in position then managed a sigh. He felt it so suddenly and so deeply that he moaned.

"I had not remembered." She removed her touch. "I recalled being here and touching you... but nothing else." She frowned as she tried desperately to make sense of all of this. A bonding? She had not expected this but she was not surprised. "I do not remember..."

"It happened here, just before you disappeared." Sulu stepped away from her. "I'll send Mr. Spock in." He left the office before anymore could be said. He had felt her confusion and her fear. He also experienced a re-birth of the feelings for her that he had learned to tuck away. He moved right to the near-by intercom after he realized his comm-pin was still on his tunic. "Commander Rand, have Captain Spock report to my quarters."

"Aye sir."


Lieutenant Commander Henley touched the door chime. The door slid open and she was met by Am'ath. She had been asked by Spock to attend the session today. This was the first time she had been in Am'ath's quarters since her arrival a few weeks ago. Because of the way Am'ath looked and the way she dressed, it still felt as if she was Rihansa. "Am I early?"

"Five point eight minutes." Am'ath was still uncertain concerning their friendship. She had not felt comfortable wearing the Fleet's uniform, nor did she remember any of the styles of clothing. She wore her bodysuit, tall boots and a deep burgundy overtunic. "Some tea?"

"Sure." Henley smiled then followed her into the common room. "Has anyone told you about your things that are in storage?" She had arranged for Am'ath's firepot to be moved into here the day after her arrival. "I could help you set up some of your other belongings." She noted with interest some of the artifacts she did have displayed. A large container had been beamed aboard shortly after they had returned to orbit around Tarod Nine from the Rihansu battle cruiser. She had assumed it was more personal belongings, one of which was a large armchair. Her hand touched a tall statue of a female warrior. "What's this?"

"It is the statue of the first matriarch on ch'Rihan, T'Rehu." She recalled how Rahl would compare her to this warrior when they would practice with the swords. "She declared herself the Ruler of Both Worlds and remained so until the first war. It was said that it was she who killed S'Task, because he did not ask her permission to take his leave. The first of much blood to have been spilled in the Council Chambers. She was known as Vriha T'Rehu. The highest."

Henley felt a little uncomfortable that she spouted the Rihansu history so easily and with so much honour. She had even had a hard time getting used to the change in her skin tone; it was darker now. She was saved from commenting by the door chime.

Sencus and Spock had arrived.

They did not waste any time. Sencus began to arrange the furniture to create a larger area and Spock instructed the others to change into the meditation robes. Spock and Sencus slipped theirs on as well, removing only their boots and tunics.

When Am'ath and Mags had changed they walked into the darkened room with Sencus kneeling, deep in meditation and preparing himself for what was to come. Spock guided Am'ath to the kneeling cushion facing Sencus.

"Do you require assistance?" Spock spoke softly.

"I am uncertain." Am'ath looked to the figure in front of her, the calm and the peace that was obvious was something that she had searched for. She was unsure if she was capable of finding such serenity.

"Proceed. I will monitor." Spock moved to Mags' side. "You are here to supply information and for support. You have known of her the longest and may hold keys to information that may be important. You are also telsu-pi'maat, bonded as family."

Mags nodded then took her place on the cushion that Spock indicated between Sencus and Am'ath. She looked to the Vulcans' faces and wished that she understood all of this. She sat back on her heels and waited. She was getting warm. She should have taken off her sweater; these robes were warm.

Spock knelt beside Am'ath. He reached forward and touched two fingers first to Am'ath's temple, to check on her progress, then to Sencus' temple informing him that all was ready.

Sencus placed his hands in the melding points on Am'ath's face. He had not done this since his youngest child had come of age; that was twenty years ago. He had searched for the memory and the method that a parent calls out the training that would begin adulthood. Spock and he had discussed the methods to use; this they felt was the proper way to begin. If all of her training was there, they could instruct her how to find the rest on her own.

He felt her resistance for only a moment. He reached deeper to the centres that were used to 'store' information and found what he had been searching for. Norn-la-hai'nahr, the disciplines of adulthood. They were given to a child through a deep meld; it saved years of repetition, mistakes and frustration. Now, he had to discover the activation coding. He ran through the words that he had used for his children. Kashtan (birth), palikaya (beginning), vokau (remember), Mene sakket ur-seveh (Live long and prosper), all words that he could think of that were commonly used. He tried others that were not so common but with no success.

Sencus cleared his throat then looked to Mags. "Your thoughts." He reached one hand over to touch her temples, closing the 'gate' into Am'ath's thoughts for the present, as he searched for a possible activation coding. It was often something that was family oriented if it was not some of the more common phrases. He instructed Mags to relax, he smiled inwardly at her sigh, but it worked. He reached deeper. Her bond to Am'ath was as a siblings, very deep and yet unnoticed by Mags. He found nothing relevant. It was not something Am'ath had shared with her. He withdrew his search. Mags shook her head slowly then stopped and met Sencus' eyes. "They were Purist. She has declared herself..." She could not think of the word!

"Ktorr skann?" Sencus offered. Few Vulcans found it necessary to do so formally.

Mags nodded. "Just before the mission."

Sencus nodded. He had only had brief dealings with Purist and rarely ones that were steadfast in the total belief. It was usually a preference and not an adherence to the sterile narrow thinking. He looked to Spock. [Do you know the ancient words?]

Spock titled his head slightly as he sensed the question directed at him. He bowed his head for a moment. "Vuhilkansu k'koshtan yeht shen." He had studied the ancient scripts; this was a phrase that was not used any longer because of the connotation of racial purity. If this did not work, he was certain his father could be of assistance.

Sencus considered it. He moved his hand into position again then reached into her thoughts to the place where hopefully her beginnings were. He felt a shiver run through his body as the phrase was spoken in her thoughts. How could anyone introduce a child into adulthood with the phrase 'Vulcan is the true rising race'?

Am'ath took a deep breath. She felt tears on her face, Sencus' touch on her and in her thoughts. She felt the old words as they opened chapters to her existence yet to be. Her emotions were not permitted now. Her demeanour must be one of stoic perfection. Meditation and a lifetime of serving logic were to become her goal. Information concerning procreation and of the Time of mating was open to her. Not to be spoken about, with anyone other than her Chosen. There was so much to have been revealed at once! She felt the contradictions beginning to rise. Her Chosen was Human? Her 'ko-kai telsu' was Human.

She found the void. She 'asked' Sencus concerning it. He told her, with time all would become clear.

"A, T'kahr." She whispered.

Sencus moved from her slowly. Verifying that she was accepting of this newfound information. Assuring her that assimilating the information would be relatively unnoticed. This was merely the first step to returning her memories. That all of this information was 'in use' within her thoughts, now she would become aware of it.

They separated.

Spock indicated to Mags to move closer to Am'ath. He guided Sencus, as he stood then moved to the near-by chair. Spock looked to Am'ath. She was leaning heavily against Mags; both still on the floor and appeared quite content to remain there for the present.

"Rest is required." Spock spoke to Mags more than to the others.

"She'll get some sleep, even if I have to sit on her." Mags smiled briefly at Spock then looked back to her friend. Am'ath's head was resting on her shoulder, she looked extremely vulnerable at the moment.

Sencus stood and removed his robe. He accepted his uniform tunic from Spock. "She requires rest and food. Nothing more and no other company. The information needs to be... sorted through and categorized."

Mags nodded. "Don't worry, we'll manage just fine."


Am'ath had spent the next few days in solitude. It was necessary. The time that she remained in her cabin was spent reviewing records, log entries, personal logs and further studies. She had become a consistent occupant in one of the meditation rooms that opened to view the stars. She spent more time here than her room or in the company of others. Just yesterday, Captain Sulu came to her cabin and asked if she wished to play a game or two of chess.

She had agreed and felt, for the first time, the connection between them. She understood what had been done now. It was a proposal, kun-ut so'lik. She had not given him instruction as to how to deal with this as she should have. As she more than likely intended to upon her return from the mission. In her discussions with Captain Spock she had discovered that those instructions had not been given until Spock had boarded the Excelsior, just before the conference. There had been much pain before. He had experienced all that she had whenever she reached for their bond; this was only natural. But she had not been with Hikaru at those times. Nor had she been aware of the sharing.

Their games lasted well into the early hours of the following day.

Slowly, the routines that had once been hers were returned to. Reviewing of technical information and time in the simulators had replaced some of her projected duty schedule. Her Rihansu uniform was retained for the present.

She had adjusted her views on certain matters than before and she now understood humor. This surprised Mags Henley. Time with her had become a regular occurrence as well. First meals were usually shared and a few quiet times had been spent talking about the past. Including her time with Rahl. There were many conflicting emotions concerning this man and how much she cared for him.

Am'ath stood in the observation pod, expecting Henley to join her. It was end of shift for Mags and she had called from the bridge and asked if Am'ath could spend some time together. She had agreed.

Discoveries into her past were insightful but often times, painful, in a way that others did not always understand. She did not feel as if she could return to what she once was. Precision and control of her emotions was not coming easily. She questioned it, at times fought against it.

Captain Spock seemed to be of the opinion that she would find herself again. Earlier today he had reminded her that what was could not be changed. It had become a part of her, unavoidably so. She had spoken to him of her concerns with her relationship with Captain Sulu. Would he accept what has happened, without question? Would his feelings have changed? Captain Spock had stated that he could not answer for Captain Sulu. He did believe that if Captain Sulu's commitment had changed he would not have seen this mission through with such attention to detail.

The door chime sounded. She turned. "Come." Am'ath had learned from Mags attitude that she felt uncomfortable in Am'ath quarters, so they would meet here. Am'ath suspected it was from all the Rihansu artifacts that Rahl had sent to her. Yet these were her possessions, just as much as the firepot or the storage-box full of uniforms, tunics and Vulcan artifacts. For the present, the Rihansu atmosphere seemed more comfortable to her, or at least more familiar.

Mags stepped in. She smiled then looked out to the viewing port. "At least parts of you haven't change totally." She regretted the words as soon as she had said them. "Sorry."

"You have spoken what you feel. I accept that."

Mags sighed. "Did maintenance bring your storage-box to you?" She had made the request this morning for Am'ath.

"Yes. It was delivered." She waved Mags to the cushions that she had replicated for them.

Mags slipped her tunic off, the temperature was a little warm but not as high as it used to be. "I thought you'd like to get back some of your clothes and..."

"I am quite comfortable in these." Am'ath stated. She had actually found this type of uniform to be more comfortable and much warmer than the standard Fleet uniform. She did not know if she would return to wearing the uniform. "You do not approve."

Mags looked to her for a moment. "I don't understand it."

"If you were suddenly taken from all these familiar surroundings and dropped into an unfamiliar situation, as I have been, would you not wish to keep what is familiar around you?" Am'ath sat down on the cushions leaning to one side slightly. She propped up her head as she watched Mags consider what she had said.

"But this is familiar to you."

She shook her head. "It is not. You are not." She sat up. "You must understand. I know that you are from my past. I know that you are my family. I have knowledge of this vessel, as well as a great deal of the personnel. But it is like reading a book you have read before, but have experienced none of it. It is the memory of the experience that I am lacking." She stood and moved to the large clearsteele port. "But these clothes, the furnishings in my quarters and the Rihansu language is familiar. I remember receiving them as gifts or purchasing them. Sh'rien as my healer. S'Kar as a companion. Rahl as my commander. As my lover."

Mags shivered. She didn't trust herself to say what she wanted to. "They changed you." There was a soft anger in her voice.

"If they had not, I would have died." Am'ath turned to face Mags. "When I woke, I was vomiting and barely alive. When I woke again, I asked about 'the others'. Rahl said there were no others. But I could not recall anyone's name or what had happened. My name was unknown to me until later when Rahl showed me a printout. It held my signature." She took a step away from the window. "Correction, there were two names. One was Sencus. The other was Am'ath. Because I was female I assumed it was my name. I did not know."

Mags cleared her throat. "You mean you weren't sure?"

"No." She clenched her fists trying to control the frustration. "There was nothing there. Not a hint. Not one feeling of certainty. Nothing. Blackness." Her voice kept rising slightly. "Nothing." She took a breath and held it. She continued after a moment. Her emotions were far from controlled. "When I looked inside myself I saw only shadows. Without names. Without faces." She drew in a long breath. "Rahl was real. Walking outside with him was real. His touch was real."

"You once told me that a cage of any kind is still a cage." She was standing now. Her tunic in her hand as if she was preparing to leave.

"At the moment I feel as if I have traded one cage for another." She sighed. "I am just not sure who holds the key."

"I thought time with Commander Sencus and Captain Spock would help."

"It has given me a starting point. It has given me what I began as. But not what I have become. This I must do on my own."

Mags was not sure of what she could do. Should do. She looked at her watch. "I have dinner plans with Ian."

Am'ath bowed her head. "I regret I can not be what you expect me to be."

"It's not that..." Mags sighed, even she wasn't sure what she meant. She looked up to the ceiling, she felt tears prick at the corner of her eyes. "All this time, I wanted Am'ath... Athy back. You are not her anymore; but you are. I know that. I just have to find my place again and I guess I wasn't prepared for that." Mags slipped on her tunic then fastened it. "I have a long duty period tomorrow but I will call you when I am done."

Am'ath bowed her head. "Enjoy your evening."

Mags nodded then smiled weakly. "Thanks. I'll try." She turned and headed out to meet Ian for dinner.

Am'ath turned to the viewing port and lay her hands against the glass. "Rahl...what am I to do now?"


Am'ath moved with the precise movements that she had known all her life. Even with Rahl these had come as easy a breathing. She had taught them to him and that was when she had begun to remember snatches of her childhood. V'asumi was taught at an early age and the skill, speed and precision of movement came over time. He would stand at the side and watch her. He had this soft laugh and when she had asked about his reason, he said that he was picturing her fighting with some of the clumsy soldiers he had known.

She wore the Fleet-standard exercise suiting, tight fitting but the fabric allowed the skin to cool or remain warm. Her hair was fastened into a ponytail high on her head then braided. Today, after two hours of simple warm-ups and basic moves, she obtained a bamboo quarterstaff to practice with. She had hoped to rid herself of some of the growing tension but after the added two and a half-hours, nothing was helping.

Without thought she whipped the staff towards the wall with all her strength. She would obtain, hopefully, some satisfaction in the resounding crack that it would make. She turned around quickly as the sound never came.

Sulu stepped into the room just as the staff left her hand. He reached out and caught it. He had never seen her angry or frustrated to this degree. She had been keeping to herself and in the past month had been retreating away from everyone. Except him.

"Was this intentional?"

"Not directed at you."

"Would you like it back to try again?" He understood her frustration. He shared it, in more ways than one.

"No." She turned away from him. She did not want company.

He placed the staff in the corner. He stepped onto the matted surface. "Do you mind my company?"

She did not answer him.

"Have you tried just screaming down the place? That helped me a few times." He moved closer to her but remained at a distance still. "Either that or I replicated a pillow and beat it to a pulp." He remembered both occasions when he had reported to sickbay with hardly any voice. Chapel had grinned when he explained what he had done. "Actually..." He moved to the replicator and programmed two large pillows. He tossed one to her. He grinned. "Ever had a pillow fight?"

She looked to the vacuum encased pillow. "No. It is a childish and Human response to uncontrollable emotions."

Sulu nodded then tore open the sealed wrap on his pillow. It unfolded then ballooned to about half of his length and standard width. He held the two corners of one end tightly in his hands. "The idea behind this is a safe way to release some of your anger without hurting someone." He grinned at her raised eyebrow. He at least had her interest. He tossed her the pillow he had opened then gestured for hers to be tossed to him. He removed the wrapping on the second pillow then placed both wrappings in the recycler. "Care to try this?"

"It is juvenile."

"That's what you said about water-tag when you first tried it."

"Was that not an accurate statement?"

"Sure. But you liked it after awhile and it taught you to swim." He moved a little closer, dragging the pillow a little. "Eventually you found the logic in the activity."

"There is no logic in this activity." She stated flatly.

"You'll get rid of your anger." He stepped closer to her.

"I am not angry." She lied.

Sulu knew different. "I would be if I were in the same situation."

She studied him. "Why?" She reached down and picked up the pillow then held it close to her body. Was it just the bond that gave her the trust in this man, or did she have that with him before the bonding? Her hand clenched into the slightly resistant pillow.

He cleared his throat. "Well, first off, I would be angry about being left behind. But in time that would pass."

She agreed silently.

"I would be angry that I would have had to start all over again." Sulu noted her eyebrow raise slightly. "Being with a people that were... the other side, would make me feel as if I was being used."

She nodded fractionally.

"Quite possibly by both sides." He raised his head at her whispered yes.

"My training indicates that I should control these emotions. That they serve no purpose. They should be pushed down and not... experienced." She clenched her hand even tighter into the pillow. "For the last three years I have been... permitted to display my emotions."

"Hard to tuck them away now isn't it?"

"Yes." She answered quickly.

"Especially the anger." He moved closer to her, now he was about a meter away from her. "What or who are you angry with?"

She frowned. "No one."

"Of course you are." He smiled. "At me, for sending you on that mission. For Henley for not being able to protect you. Starfleet, for not allowing the search to be exhaustive." He titled his head slightly. "Those are all the things I was angry about in the beginning. Still am sometimes."

She looked down for a moment. He was correct. "Were you ever angry at me?"

He nodded.

"For what reasons?" She held the pillow in closer.

Sulu thought about for a moment. "For not coming back. For giving me this connection to you, that I could do nothing with. For changing." He held up a hand to stop what she was about to say. "I understand all of it. I know why they had to do what they did. What you did. I even understand that Rahl loves you and why he wanted to keep you. But I am still angry about it."

"You are allowed to be. You are Human."

"Think so? I can't fall apart when I am in command of this ship." He remembered the one time that he had to leave the bridge. "I am also bonded to a Vulcan. One that has emotions."

"Your point?"

"That when you and I are alone, I accept whatever you are. If you want to be Vulcan, that's fine. If you want to scream down the place and destroy this pillow, that's okay too." Sulu looked to the pillow in his hand then adjusted his stance slightly. "Care to try?" He grinned.

She swung the pillow at him, but not too hard.

Sulu shook his head. "This is going to be like teaching you to play tag, isn't it?" He had felt some of her anger ever since she came aboard the Excelsior. He sighed audibly. "Okay. This is the way you do it..." He held tightly to the corners of the pillow and swung. It struck her legs with an unexpected force and she went down, hard and fast. He grinned. "See, it's called a pillow 'fight'. Not a pillow tap."

She stood. "I see no point to this, Captain."

"Hikaru." He shook his head then had an idea. "Okay, what ever you are angry about, you have to say it before you hit me. I'll do the same." He prepared himself. "After five times if you are not... seeing the logic, we will stop."

She nodded. "Agreed."

"I'll start." He lifted the pillow preparing for his swing. "I hate it when you continually call me, Captain." And he swung. This time she remained standing. "Your turn."

"I dislike these games." She swung the pillow at him. It made a satisfying whump sound, but did not knock him over.

"Good one." He thought about it. He had to try to get her anger to the surface. "I had these dreams... that I couldn't stop." He swung the pillow at her. She had to take a step to regain her balance.

She lifted the pillow for her swing. "Aehallh... nightmares and they would not stop." She swung and hit him hard enough that he took a step.

"I wanted you here and you weren't." Sulu swung.

"I would scream at night, calling to you. You would not answer." She slammed the pillow against him.

"MacIsaac wanted a memorial service for you, but I couldn't tell him why I knew you were alive." He hit her a little harder.

"I do not like the way Mags stares at me." She swung the pillow and knocked him off his feet.

Sulu rolled to his feet. She was getting the idea. "Everyone wanted me to forget about you." He swung at her legs again. He was not as angry as she was; he had dealt with a lot of this and was having difficulty remembering some of the reasons. They no longer existed for him.

"I do not want to feel this aching.." She swung the pillow hard this time.

Sulu had prepared himself for this one.

"I do not want to feel lost anymore." She swung it again at him.

This was working.

"I do not want to be here!" She swung and hit him hard this time.

'Maybe better than I thought it would.' He thought to himself.

"I want the memories." She whacked him this time. "I do not want to be Vulcan." She was breathing heavily now. "I want to be trusted. I want the darkness to disappear." Her teeth were clenched and her swings were getting a little harder with each admission. "I want to start feeling normal. I want to stop wondering. I wish this had never happened. That you never found me. That Rahl was not so kind." Her body was shaking now and crying. "I want to remember..."

Sulu had been absorbing most of the blows and had watched her closely as the changes occurred. She had had enough now and so had he. He reached out to grab the pillow from her then pull her closer. He held her as she cried. When her knees gave out he sat down slowly with her. There was so much that everyone had imposed on her. So many do's and don'ts and should's and no one allowed her to just... assimilate.

He brushed back the hair that had come loose and kissed her head. "It's okay now. You're safe." He took a breath and let it out slowly. "Take all the time you want. All the time you need." He held her tightly.

When he felt he could let her go, he replicated some tea and tissues. He tossed her the box then sat down with her and talked. He listened most of time to what she wanted to say. He answered the questions she needed answered and not just the ones he wanted to answer. Some were hard. Some he had no answers for. He accepted what information she offered and stopped himself from asking her anything.

He rolled onto his stomach, pulling the pillow in close and hugging it. "Do you want to go back to Rahl?" He had to know and now was as good a time to ask.

She sat cross-legged beside him. "You would allow this?"

He buried his face in the pillow for a moment or two. "If I thought it was exactly what you wanted. I wouldn't like it but I wouldn't stop you."

She leaned forward close to his ear. "You are lying."

He looked at her; she was smiling. He lifted his hand from under the pillow and held his thumb and his finger about an inch apart. "A little." He grinned. "Do you?"

She hesitated for a second. "No. My place is here."


Captain Spock had chose to remain with the Excelsior until they returned to Earth. He had received permission to remain in an advisory capacity to determine if Am'ath should be permitted to return to duty. That was how the communiqué was worded, he chose to understand it in a slightly different light. When the decision was made, the actual wording would be quite meaningless.

When the door chime sounded he looked up from his work. "Come." He bowed his head to Am'ath as she entered. "I will be with you in a moment, Am'ath-kam." She merely bowed her head and as the human's would say, 'made herself at home'. As he watched her, she checked the titles of the few books on the shelf then poured the tea that was waiting. He would have to discuss with her the matter of her choice of clothing. To him it was incidental, to her no doubt a matter of comfort and preference, but to Command and to other personnel on board she was indicating a possible political choice.

He finished the page of reading and turned off the computer terminal. He sat down opposite her accepting the tea that had been poured. "It has been mentioned that you are spending a great deal of time in the observation pods."

"Meditating mostly." She looked to her mentor then back to the tea. "Considering the options."

"I was not aware that there were options that you wished to consider."

"It appears that everyone shares this belief." She spoke it with almost a bitterness in her voice. "It appears to others that this is a simple task, merely to step back into the path that I was on before."

"It is not?" Spock sipped the tea.

"No. It is not." She put the cup down and paced the length of the room. "Lieutenant Commander Henley wishes only that I would return to what I was. That I 'be' Vulcan again. That I wear the clothes I left behind. That I place the items in my quarters the way it was before. That the items that Rahl sent be packed away." She drew in a sudden breath. This panic was beginning again. It was to be expected. "Doctor Chapel wishes to see me again today."

"It sounds as if you feel it is unnecessary?"

"It is annoying." She looked to Spock expecting him to remind her that the control of emotions was necessary.

"It is necessary."

"It remains annoying."

Spock contained the smile of amusement as he leaned forward to place his cup on the table. "There is a matter that needs to be discussed."

She sighed. "There is always a matter that needs discussion." She returned to her seat, positioning herself uncharacteristically with one leg hung over the arm of the chair and her head propped up.

"It is your choice of clothing." Spock felt her annoyance. From his earlier conversation with Sulu, the last few days have been spent in emotional turmoil. Not unexpectedly so. "It is interpreted by some as a statement that you do not desire to return to the Federation, so to speak."

"Maybe I will remain for the year as the agreement stated and return to Rihansu space." She spoke in lowered tones.

"And Riov Rahl?" He asked as he tilted his head, considering how valid these statements were.

"Perhaps." She looked away from him. She had no intentions of leaving Hikaru but to remain in Starfleet was another consideration. One she had not made yet. One that had not been offered either. She sat up properly then looked to Spock. "Have you noted how everyone watches me?"

Spock nodded.

"They do not trust me. Even Mags."

He raised an eyebrow. "What gives you this perception?"

"When she visits. She removes her tunic and folds it with the markings on the inside. She places it carefully, close to the door. She does not discuss anything pertaining to duty or the personnel she and I were familiar with. She asks continuously about Rahl and how I was treated. Why I can not change how I dress. That hopefully I will be 'permitted' to wear the Fleet uniform." She clenched her fists tightly. How could she feel as if she was welcome back, if the discussions were always carefully orchestrated? "I wonder some times if she would have managed as well given the same set of circumstances."

"Your heritage was an asset."

"Yes. It was." She stood and began to pace again. "I also learned not to fight the assumptions. To accept what I was handed. To be trusted."

"And here?"

"Here...?" She stopped and thought for a moment. "Here, I feel as if I must crawl back into another's skin to be accepted." She looked to her hands, hands that had taken on a more brownish hue. She had become accustom to it.

"Does Captain Sulu expect this of you?"

She hesitated. "No, I do not believe so." She looked down at the carpeting and her boot. Her hand smoothed the top of the Rihansu-style boot. "He wishes only that I am happy."

"And if that happiness entails returning to Rihansu space?"

"He would accept it."

"And what of your bond?"

She dug her heel in to the carpet and twisted it back and forth. "It was what kept me sane. Sh'rien stated as much early on in my recovery. I did not quite believe him." She spoke softly. "The dreams that I would scream through were memories of the mission. Yet, I still have no actual memory of the outcome. The screaming stopped after a time, but not the dreams." She sighed. "Now I dream about..." The words stuck in her throat. She swallowed then cleared her throat softly. "Nothing. I have stopped dreaming. That is almost as disquieting as the dreams."

"Perhaps it is because you are no longer fighting to remember."

"No. Now I am expected to forget." She smiled slightly at him then folded her arms across her chest. "Forget that this officer saved my life. Forget that his touch is still remembered. Forget that I had a position of importance and trust. Forget that for almost three years I lived as a Rihansa. Genetically altered. I stare at this face everyday and remember the gradual change. Remember how Rahl and Sh'rien patiently sat there and explained and explained how this would help. But it was my decision."

"Have you discussed with Doctor Chapel the possibilities of reversing the effects?"

"Yes. It may not be effective because it has been so long. Doctor Chapel believes it would be better for time to decide. To see if naturally my body returns to... normal." She chuckled slightly. "You see, this is how this has been treated. An abnormality."

"How do you perceive the change?" Spock steepled his fingers, his elbows resting on the arm of the chair.

"As an evolution." She walked over to the desk, her finger tracing a pattern on the desktop. "Or devolution." She sighed.

"As I have indicated before, Am'ath-kam, your future is your own. You need not fit into another's mold." He stood then turned to face her. "If you choose to remain in Starfleet, there will be questions. There may be people that watch you because you are different. There will be those that watch you because they do not understand." He paused for a moment. "You can not be held responsible for their beliefs."

"No." She understood the reason for some of her discussions with Captain Spock. She understood Command's reluctance to accept her 'into the fold' so quickly. Perhaps that was a portion of the difficulty; she understood it from both sides. She felt the anger and the frustration, but she could also see the... logic. "And what, Yatau, do I do if Command deems me 'unacceptable'?"

Spock lifted an eyebrow at the title she honoured him with. It was a word that meant 'father' but a more familiar manner. One he would never have used for his father. "What would you wish to do?"

She remained silent and unmoving as she considered her answer. She looked to the computer terminal and then to the few personal items Spock had on the shelf. "Did you know that when you pledge your allegiance to your Riov, you are bonded to his House?"

"I was aware." He was not certain exactly what she was explaining.

"Were you also aware that when one has made the pledge of loyalty, they are also marked?" She recalled that particular part of the ceremony because one had refused it. "There was a young engineer that refused. He was given a choice, to return to his former position or death. He chose death. He was vapourized there and then. You see; his former position was non-existent. This was to be his first position. He had just left his home. His mnhel'sahe would have been tainted. His family would not have taken him back." She looked to Spock. "I was next."

"Your point?"

"Without this position, I have nothing. No home. No family. And my only House is Rahl's."

"You have your Chosen's House."

"Do I?" She turned to face him. She smiled at his raised eyebrow and the tilt of his head. "I do not know for certain. I suspect all is well between us. But it has not been talked of, not directly."

"Then perhaps it is time." Spock clasped his hands at his back. "If it happens that Command is uncomfortable concerning your return, you will have a place in my father's House."

Am'ath bowed her head low. "I am honoured."

He returned the gesture. "I will inform my father of my... adopted daughter's existence and the possibility of company at the family home." He pursed his lips to hide the smile as he thought of his father's reaction to the decision.

"Then I will inform you of my bond status as soon as it is known to me... Yatau."


Ensign Rosen touched the door chime on the quarters he had been sent to. Lieutenant Commander Am'ath. He wondered about that. Here was an officer of this vessel... or so the ranking and quarters designated, and yet he had not seen this officer's name on any of the duty rosters.

The door opened and the envelope was handed over. She gave him a polite bow then a soft-spoken thank-you. The ensign left and Am'ath closed the door. She turned the envelope over in her hand; there were no markings. "Curious." She made the only next logical step. She opened it and slipped out the folded note. She smiled slightly when she recognized the handwriting.

It read as follows, 'We met when you came aboard, seemingly a lifetime ago. Our friendship began over consoles that were concealed from one another. Our relationship changed over dinner and in the moonlight on a beach. All I can offer you is dinner by candlelight, travelling in the stars and conversation. Our future, I trust, will take care of itself."

The time and location were marked as well.

She slipped the note back into the envelope. It had been almost three years since she had left on that mission. For most of it she was not certain who or where she should be. She only knew that while being with Rahl, she was safe and protected, but that was not her destiny. When she returned here, she still did not know who or where she should be but she felt the rightness of being here. And with Hikaru Sulu.

It was time to continue her life. To 'pick up the pieces' as Mags had suggested to her. She moved into her sleep area. Placing the envelope on the surface of her bureau, she moved to her closet. She considered what outfit to wear, for precisely point four three seconds, then she pulled out the black dress.

The door to her quarters opened and she turned to face Mags. She was the only one that would walk in, or was permitted to do so.

Mags leaned against the frame to the doorway into her room. "Need some help, Athy?" She grinned. Things were slowly becoming accepted and 'normal'. She had seen more and more of 'her Am'ath' coming to the surface everyday. Even if that surface was a little darker than before.

Am'ath shook her head gently. "What is your continued attraction to these short names?"

Mags shrugged. "Less syllables?" She offered with a grin. She and Am'ath had 'had it out' one day and Am'ath pointed out the fact that Mags had not been fair and explained... in a loud voice, exactly what she had thought on the matter. Mags apologized. Am'ath accepted.

Am'ath placed the dress on the bed. She turned back to Mags as she began to take down her hair. "You came here for a particular reason?"

"No. Just thought you might have time to talk." She grinned. "But you are busy so I will leave you to get ready." It was obvious what she was getting ready for.

"Very well." Am'ath sat on the bed to remove her boots.

"Athy, promise me something?"

"If I am capable."

"That you won't disappear tonight." She winked at her.

"I was not the one to disappear, I was sent on a mission as you were."

Mags nodded. "Then refuse assignments, don't go anywhere and don't get beamed off of here."

"Should I have the choice. I will remain here."

Mags started towards the door then stopped. "May I offer a word of advice?"

"You usually do."

"Don't hold anything back from him."

"It was not my plan."

Mags nodded. "Have fun tonight."

"That was the intention."

Mags paused then headed to her quarters.

Am'ath stripped off the remainder of her uniform then stepped into the sonic shower. Her skin tingled from the process and after stepping out she applied the scented cream to her skin. She brushed through her hair and fastened the sides back then slipped into her dress and shoes with Vulcan efficiency.

She picked up the cape and fastened the clasp easily. She reached into the top drawer of her bureau and came out with a small case. She placed that in the inside pocket in the cape. She was prepared for the evening.

Captain Sulu stood looking out the viewing port. He had waited for this night for so long and now that it was here, he was scared silly. He stood stiff, almost at attention while he waited for her to arrive. He had to stop himself from checking everything for the tenth time since he arrived here. He had also left orders not to be disturbed for the next twenty-four hours. He had a staff that could manage just fine without him. Their present assignment was to map an unexplored area of space; then head home and his crew could handle that just fine.

The door chime sounded and he spun around to face the door. He took a deep breath to control some of his anxiety then cleared his throat.

"Come." He spoke as he crossed the room. He stopped solidly when she stepped into the room. He felt a shiver travel through him. Even the time they had begun to spend together fencing, playing chess or talking had not quite prepared him to see her dressed like this. Exactly the way he had seen her last.

He found his calm then walked towards her and helped her with her cape. He placed it carefully on the chair behind his desk. He moved to the table and poured the golden wine. He handed her one glass then touched his glass against hers. "To new beginnings."

Her head bowed slightly, repeated the words and sipped on the wine. He was nervous and she was uncertain as to the reason.

He drank half the glass down then cleared his throat. "If you're hungry we can eat now..." He moved to the covered dishes. "I wasn't sure what you liked, not totally, so I arranged for some of the foods we have had together." He lifted the lid of the largest bowl. "There's rice, vegetables and the galley came up with an interesting combination, carrot and mashya root soup." He started to lift another lid but Am'ath stopped him.

"I am not hungry." She placed the glass down. "My memories are not clear of all that transpired that evening." She looked to the view of the stars. "I recall beaming down reluctantly with Mags. I remember the meal and talking with you."

Sulu nodded.

"We danced. And then we left." She tilted her head slightly. "What did we dance to?"

"Waltzes mostly." Sulu understood finally what she was trying to do. Give them some place to start this evening without starting all over again. He went over to the computer terminal and tapped in the request for some music. "A Vulcan step-dance and a... tango." He felt suddenly awkward and unsure of everything.

As the room filled with the soft music, he started to reach for her hand then recalled that he wore gloves that night. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the white gloves and slipped them on.

"You wouldn't dance with me at first because of the physical contact." He offered his hand to her again and waited for hers to slip into his. He thought it might help her memories of the time. He guided her to the area in front of the viewing port then drew her into his arms, just as he had before.

They started moving with the music. He held her at the 'correct' distance. Three waltzes played before either of them said anything or even looked at each other.

Sulu smiled at her then stepped back from her. "This is silly." He slipped off his gloves. "We made a promise to each other. We have played chess. We have been fencing. We have talked at great length about everything and nothing and we are acting as if..." He stopped as he folded the gloves. He clenched his jaw then relaxed it. "... as if we just met." He looked at the decking for a moment then up to her. "I have missed you." He slipped the gloves into his pocket. "I am so afraid of doing or saying something wrong..." He reached to her, pulling her closer to him and he kissed her.

She placed her hand at the back of his neck and drew him into a deeper kiss. She had been unsure of how much he still wanted from her. They had never really spoken about anything private. What had happened while she was missing? She knew he had read the detailed reports.

She reached into his thoughts, touching only the surface for the present. She felt him hold her hand then move it slowly from his neck. He kissed the palm and she shivered.

"Show me how to reach into you." He spoke softly.

The pieces of her life had been slowly falling into place. Who the people were in her dreams, what they meant to her. Why, when she slept she thought only of this man. Now, this was the last piece. Was this what they both still desired? This was what she had desired, what made her feel complete. She now knew that he wanted this just as much and he was impatient.

She took his hand and placed it on the side of her face. "Close your eyes. Feel with your thoughts. Reach out. I will help." She placed her hand on the side of his face and very slowly reached in. She opened the path for him to reach easily into her thoughts. She felt the tickle of another's touch. "Yes." She whispered.

Sulu tried to relax. He was trying exactly what he thought he was supposed to do but nothing had happened. Not until he was just about to give up, he forced himself to relax then she whispered. He allowed himself to drift towards her, as if he were floating in the stars. He felt her lips touching his then everything open between them.

[No secrets. No dark places. No shadows.]

He felt the flood of information and images invade him. He held his breath until she whispered a reminder for him to breathe. This sensation reminded him of the swirl of colours as they were stirred together. He felt his legs weaken for a second. [Need to sit before we fall.]


He felt her touch on his face, tracing his features with her fingertips. She moved his hand from the side of her face and he was surprised that the connection was still there. He opened his eyes slowly and stared into hers. They were dark. So dark! There was a fire in them he had not seen before. "Now what?" He whispered.

"Now I teach you my way..." She lifted his hand then stroked it with her fingertips. She smiled when his eyes closed and he sighed. [Your way is with lips and words. My way is with touch and thoughts.]

They sat in front of the viewing port, a pool of silk around them, touching, exploring each other. Learning about each other. Am'ath had slowly removed his tunic, that was discarded in a heap. She kissed his mouth lightly, then ran her tongue along his lips. Her fingers gently caressing his face, touching and leaving delicious heat tracings on his skin. He even felt her warmth through the fabric of his sweater as her hands moved down his arms.

He mirrored her touches, adding only an extra kiss or a whispered word. Her skin seemed warmer than it had been and it held a sent of almonds. He breathed it in slowly. He drew his fingertips down her arm, then used the back of his hand to move up and then into her hair. It was warm and silky. He ran his fingers through its length then drew her closer to him. He kissed a trail down her neck then down to the fabric of her dress.

She lifted his face. Her fingers ran along his lips then kissed him. She lifted his sweater then brought it over his head, with a little bit of co-operation from Hikaru. She dropped the sweater behind him then ran her hands over his chest feeling each muscle. She kissed his neck then a slow path down to his taut nipple. Her tongue circled it then her mouth tasted it.

Hikaru inhaled suddenly then moaned. This was far more intense than he had expected and yet some control remained. Her breath was warm. Her tongue felt hot against his skin. She ran her tongue along his shoulder then gently bit into the softness of his neck. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply as this gentle assault continued. She seemed to cover every inch of his exposed skin and the nips were getting more frequent and intense.

His hands reached to her warm body. He brushed his lips along her shoulder then kissed her chin. Her lips were next to be tasted and enjoyed. Her breathing was deeper and as his lips rested on her neck he could feel her very fast heartbeat.

Her hands moved into the silk of his hair, then she kissed him. She placed her fingers in position to meld even deeper with him, whispering for his permission. "T'hy'la." Her lips brushed his. "Do you wish this?"

He nodded as he cleared his throat. "Yes. Oh, yes." He whispered back to her. "Show me how.." He lifted his hands to her face then let her position his fingers. He kissed her.

"It will be more than before." She spoke softly against his lips. She had also begun to feel the mating fire that was synchronized to their body's chemistry. It must have begun with the initial bonding years ago. Had it been that long? Or was his desire for her so strong that it called to her? She reached into his thoughts and opened the path for him to follow. She touched the area that she needed to 'bond' with, searing it with a mental marking that was hers alone.

It felt like a flash of fire in his head, then changed to a warm trail and finally to a warmth that seemed to pulse when she was close to him.

He drew in a deep breath then pulled her into his arms and kissed her with the new passion they shared. His hands slipped the sleeves of her dress down, the fabric pooled at her waist. He caressed her warm, soft skin with the back of his hand then with his fingertips. He lifted her breast slightly then took it into his mouth. Her fingers curled into a tight fist as this pleasurable sensation was savoured intensified with the meld, as she shared in what he was experiencing. He moved to the other breast, teasing her with a brush of his lips across her nipple then his mouth sucked gently on her.

She shivered.

Sulu pulled her close, as he tasted her lips. "I'll get a blanket..." He stood and crossed the room to the storage drawer under the couch. He pulled out two blankets and pillows then turned to her. He was going to suggest that she move here but decided against it. He checked the temperature and turned it up just a little before returning to her. He tossed the pillows and blankets down then knelt in front of her.

She caressed his stomach, then traced the few scars he owned. She began to memorize him, every muscle, every scar, and every nuance that was Hikaru. He was now hers. She brushed her lips against his warming skin, her teeth bit into his side. Her nails gently ran down his back, causing him to shiver. Her hands opened his pants then slid them down with his underwear. She touched the newly exposed skin then followed each touch with kisses or gently bites.

Sulu heard a moan leave his lips. As her soft hair brushed his growing erection, he dropped back his head and drew in a sudden breath. He reached to her shoulders and brought her up, her dress pooling at her knees. He pulled her against him, his mouth capturing hers in a passionate kiss.

This feeling of euphoria they shared was unbelievable! Every time they touched, or breathed he would experience something new. Her touch on his body was hot and so calm compared to how she felt. And she did feel! She had a passion that he had always suspected her to have. She had a hunger for him that he wanted to satisfy badly.

Clothes were further discarded then he pulled her close to him. She felt the coolness of his body and knew from his thoughts that he 'burned' for her. He was her Other. He was her calm. He was what made her feel completed as no one had before. His passion for the stars and for duty equaled hers. His passion for her had been surprisingly strong. She remembered feeling his call to her but not understanding what it was or what to do.

His touch seemed to cool her body yet ignite her passion. They seemed to move as one, knowing what the other wished, needed and wanted. As he pulled a pillow under her head, he kissed her. His fingers and lips brushed her skin and he would whisper how much he wanted her and how he had waited seemingly forever for this time. His entrance into her body was gentle and welcomed. The warmth that surrounded him was unbelievable.

The first time she felt his release was sooner than he had wanted it to be. She had felt his disappointment. She kissed him, her fingers ran through his hair and she laughed at his surprise at how quickly he was growing hard again. With this deep melding, no thought was private.

"Our passions feed each others." She whispered close to his ear.

Hikaru nuzzled her. His lips brushed her ear. "I think I am going to like this... Vulcan." He smiled as she shared his amusement.

"Be careful that I do not wear you out...My Human." She countered with.

"Your?" He lifted his head and stared into her eyes. Lifetimes of sharing in this way and of being like this? He smiled. "Okay, yours."

She started to laugh as he did. He captured her mouth then shared in all this alien's pleasuring. Their touches, kisses, caressing and satisfaction took them well through the 'night'.

They rested for a time and when they could not lay quietly any longer, began to satisfy their urgings again. Time seemed to slow for them, minutes seemed like hours, as their bodies craved each other again and again, then finally, they settled into a deep sleep.


Am'ath was the first to wake. They had remained in the same position they had fallen asleep in. Hikaru holding her tightly against him, their legs tangled with covers pulled in tight around them. She did not move nor did she wish to. She closed her eyes and listened to his calm breathing and his relatively slow heartbeat against her back.

She was home. She had found her 'place' finally. Many of the dark places in her memory had been filled with his perceptions of them. They were not hers, but often it was his perception of time spent together. She shared and healed much of his pain from the time she was gone.

He stirred slightly, repositioning his head on the pillow.

She heard the soft chimes of the watch bells. She looked out the viewing port at the far off systems. They were on their way home. She knew that by the star pattern. They had been here longer than had been intended.

The intercom sounded. She waited, unsure if she should wake him or not. It sounded again.

"Computer." Sulu stated without moving. "Intercom voice activated, this call only." He took a breath then wet his lips. "Sulu here."

"Captain. We will be entering our solar system in four point three hours." Sencus stated calmly.

"Acknowledged. I'll be on the bridge in two."

"Very well, Captain. Bridge out."

"Computer. Close circuit." There was a beeped and he knew it was closed.

She had sensed him awake just as the second signal sounded. "We have been here longer than anticipated."

"I guess we have." He sounded sleepy still as he shifted closer to her. "Do you think they would allow me to command the ship from here?"

She smiled. "It would be most difficult during battles."

Sulu drew in a deep breath then sighed. "Guess so, they'd have to close the shielding." He didn't want to move yet. "The mapping was supposed to take twenty hours. The trip home would take two days." He started doing the calculations. "What happened?" He brushed his lips against her hair.

She thought back for a moment. "Our joining."

"I know but... almost three days?" He opened one eye when he felt her turn to face him. He smiled at her smile. No wonder he was so tired! He brushed her hair back then kissed her. He shifted his position slightly then looked out at the stars. "This going to happen all the time?"

She shook her head. "I am assuming that we experienced a mild pon farr."

Sulu nodded. At least that explained why his memories of this time were foggy. "Mild?" Pleasurable, but foggy. He remembered not wanting her to move away from him and feeling as if he would never get enough of her. He looked to her frowning. "I remember someone talking to me." He tried to find the memory of it. He sat up, too fast and felt dizzy. "I have what feels like a hang-over." His head was pounding now. He rubbed his eyes.

"It will diminish." She felt a ghost of his headache. "It is the meld." She sat up and rubbed his shoulders and neck. "Food will help." She pulled one of the blankets around herself and left the other for Hikaru. The room felt cool for the moment and his skin had felt warm at first but quickly cooled.

"That and a hot shower." He twisted to face her then pulled her into his lap and kissed her. He felt the connection immediately and her pleasure in the joining, as well as her surprise with what happened. "The shower stall is big enough for two. And I do like my showers hot, so you won't freeze." He stood then pulled her up, keeping the blanket around her then drew her into a passionate kiss. He released his hold on her slowly. "Next time we plan a hiatus. This getting up for duty after all this activity is for the birds." He smiled at her lifted eyebrow. "Don't say it."

"But I wish to know."

"Later." Hikaru lifted her chin then kissed her, wrapping his arms around her. "Shower first." He reached down and lifted her into his arms. "Human idioms would damage your logic."

She accepted his 'transport' of her into the shower stall and the removal of the blanket. "As you wish."


Doctor Chapel looked up from her desk. She sat back in her chair. "Readings are well within normal range as of twenty-two hundred last night." She grinned at the Vulcan officer standing in the doorway.

"When Commander Sencus informed me that Captain Sulu had not answered the page I suspected as much." He sat in the chair that had been offered with a gesture. "It is not common but it does happen."

"Anything else that I should know about?" Chapel had a rather lengthy discussion with Spock and Sencus about this bonding. Which was after they had asked for a bio-reading of the captain's office and she refused until she knew the reason. "I will have to know everything I can to keep him in command of this vessel, Spock. He isn't Vulcan and she is under suspicion. We fall into this grey area of alien control of a command grade officer."

Spock raised his eyebrow. "Surely command has understood that bondings do not affect command decisions."

Chapel smiled. "Have you forgotten already all the crap that McCoy went through trying to justify some of the claims and the so called intuitive calls you and Jim made. How you or he would know about the other?" She paused. "Or did you know about it?"

"The difficulties that Doctor McCoy had?" He shook his head slightly. "I was never aware of the difficulties. I was aware of the dubious explanations that appeared on some of the reports."

"Well, I am about to inherent all the problems." Chapel sighed. "I need all the information you can give me. In writing. Verified. Something that I can point to and say I have information that states... whatever." She stood and poured out two teas. She passed one over to Spock. "I know that between Vulcan couples everything is to remain between them. But we are talking about the one officer I am solely responsible for. He went through hell while she was away and now that they are bonded... what happens the next time?"

"The next time, Doctor, he will have the skills he did not have. He will know how to reach to her, how to 'speak' with her if you will. The bonding gives that to them. It also carries with it some degree of shared knowledge." Spock sipped on the tea. "He did not know how to shield himself from her or how to separate what she felt from what he did, before. He has that knowledge now."

"And how will that affect his command abilities?"

"No one can be certain, but I trust that this will improve his command abilities. Humans are affected by one another's emotions; a portion of his command training has already focused on this. Decisions must be made with an almost disregard for the emotional issues. It will be much easier for him to do that now. His training will continue as he must learn to govern his emotions and not to allow even Am'ath to influence his thought processes. Captain Sulu has always been aware of this aspect and is also extremely conscious of the fact."

"And when the next pon farr hits?" Chapel hid her smile as Spock's eyes lowered and she noted the tips of his ears colour slightly.

Spock cleared his throat. "By then, I trust, they will have matters well in hand." He drank most of the tea then stood. "I will collect what information I can and transmit the information to your station." Spock bowed his head slightly. "Doctor Chapel."

She leaned back slightly, then tilted her head slightly. "Thank you Mr. Spock. It would be appreciated." She still enjoyed making this man uncomfortable, from time to time. Must have been another inherited habit from McCoy. She watched him walk out of the sickbay then grinned. "Some things improved with time."

Doctor Chapel picked up her cup and drained it.


Captain Hikaru Sulu stood on the raised portion of the bridge and was looking over the report that was handed to him, when the call came in.

Mr. Rand turned her chair slightly. "Captain. We have a confirmed orbit. Co-ordinates coming through now."

"Acknowledge them." He moved to the center seat. He looked around the bridge at his crew and sighed. Everybody was stationed where they should be. "Standard orbital approach."

"Aye, sir." Henley answered then her hands danced across the board. This day had started out better than most. She was contemplating a mystery on her hands about where Sulu and Am'ath were for the past three days. One could guess but why should she when all she had to do was corner Athy? She would tell her. Not right away but the guesses would be so outrageous that she would have to divulge something!

Henley grinned then looked to her new helm officer, as of zero nine hundred this morning she had her old partner back.

"Orbital course achieved, Captain."

"Thank you, Mr. Am'ath." He grinned. He liked having her back. Her acceptance back into Starfleet and her position on the bridge was merely a bonus. And he also realized that she could not remain on the bridge. He rested his elbow on the armrest then rested his chin in his hand; he would have to re-assign her to engineering. He was grinning too much and they 'talked' too much being this close. Maybe later, when he was used to this connection.

[You are projecting, Hikaru.]

He sat up in the chair, cleared his throat and laced his fingers. He sat back just as the yeoman appeared with his tea. "Thank you."

"No problem, sir. Glad to be home again, Captain?" She had noted his cheerfulness since he came on duty an hour ago. It was contagious.

Sulu hesitated then noted her grin. "Something like that. Another mission that has been successful with minimal losses." He looked to the screen as the familiar globe moved into position on the screen. "I guess it is nice to be home."

"Captain." Mr. Rand turned in her chair. "Docking will not be for another four hours."

Sulu nodded. "Okay. I am sure we can find something to do in that time."

"Aye, sir." Rand turned back to the board to acknowledge the message.

"Begin shutting down the systems that are not needed." He thought about it for a moment. "Inform off-duty personnel to prepare for beam-down in four hours. Delta shift first." He thought that would be a nice surprise for them as they checked their schedules. He knew that in about three hours or so, docking personnel would be beaming aboard to take over whichever positions had to be filled. He looked over to Commander Burgh. "What are your plans for this hiatus, Commander?"

Ian thought about for a minute then looked to Mags. "Sleep for the first week or so. You remember, sir, the uninterrupted kind." He grinned. "I was thinking of checking out some sights that I always intend on seeing and never do. Finding a slightly larger residence." He made it sound like a question.

"Any reason for that, Commander?" Sulu looked to Mags as she turned questioning Ian with a look. Obviously something was going on here and they were not being secretive about it at all. "Mr. Henley?"

She looked to the captain. "I haven't been let in on any secrets, sir. It's news to me." She shook her head slightly. She did not need to devote her full attention to the board. They were locked into the orbital path and would continue until someone made a change. "I was planning on visiting my family. It is going to work out that six of us will be home this time for a week. That should prove interesting." She grinned. "I wonder if my mom can handle us as well as she could before?"

"I believe she will manage just fine." Sulu had met Henley's parents on more than one occasion and most of them before Henley became a member of his crew. "She always managed to keep the cadets in line." He made a gentle turn in the chair, checking to see if he could send some of these people off a little early. "Lieutenant Hart. You can take some time and begin your packing. You won't be needed until later."

"Thank you, Captain."

Slowly over the next four hours personnel were excused from duty and ordered to start their packing. The Command staff would remain on board for another day, for final briefings and to check with any of the repair crews that they had to deal with. Updating of the files, circuitry testing, the air supply would be changed and repairs would be made. A small meeting was held before the department heads began releasing their personnel and the ship would be moved into dry-dock. A monumental task that was made almost simple with the use of computer guided systems and a watchful eye.

Captain Sulu took a final tour of his now very quiet bridge. Most of the panels were dark, some were on stand-by with only faint readings and one or two were still fully functional such as helm and communications.

He stopped in front of the helm for a second then slid into the navigator's position. He turned the chair to face Am'ath and then cleared his throat to get her attention.

"Yes, Captain." She glanced his way then back to her board. She was in the process of checking the connections to the docking bay before shutting down her board.

"Are you up for meeting some friends of mine?" He wasn't sure how 'public' she wanted all of this to be. He had checked the list of ships that were docked or in orbit and his luck was holding out. "I can't wait to introduce you to them."


Hikaru Sulu grinned. He was dressed for running. Sweat shirt and pants with his favourite runners. Am'ath was dressed as he was, but she looked far from relaxed... as she should. "How do you manage to look as if you are still wearing a uniform and standing at attention, dressed like this?"

"Mags has referred to it as a talent." She lifted an eyebrow. Running along the beach was not a logical version of 'relaxing'. A 'relaxing run along the beach' was, by logical definition, an oxymoron.

"I'll wager that you have not worn these since they were issued to you." He didn't have to wait for an answer; it was obvious. The fabric of her clothes was still thick feeling and the printing was still dark, not faded like his. "I suppose you are going to tell me that you are more comfortable in your uniform...?" Now he was teasing her.

"How long must I engage in this activity?"

"An hour."

"And then?"

"We shower and get ready for tonight." He grinned. He had contacted Pavel and Nyota and Demora. All three of them were on Earth and all of them were anxious to get together, but he had not told them why. He wanted to see their faces. He wanted to shock them because he had taken enough ribbing from all of them about his, shall we say, self-imposed celibacy. It worked for him, that is until he met Am'ath.

"For that activity, the time frame should be no more than one hour. Why are we beginning so early?" She tiled her head slightly. She was beginning to learn that Hikaru was not one to offer all information to her.

He stepped closer to her. "Because we have some indoor activities to deal with in between showers."

She lifted an eyebrow then as his paired fingers stroked her face, she understood. "You wish to engage in..."

He kissed her. His arms wrapped around her and he pulled her close to him. He opened his eyes to hers for a moment then kissed her again. He stepped back from her as he took in a deep breath. "You can wait here, if you want. I am going for that run." He headed for the large glass doors that dominated one wall of the room; the one that looked out onto the beach. "Coming?"

She bowed her head then followed him out onto the balcony and down to the beach. Her logic would have to be abandoned occasionally if she was to share in this Human's life. So be it.


CONTINUED IN Unavoidable Revelations

Feedback cheerfully accepted for...

Gayle and Selek