STAR TREK- The Original Series

"IN THE CIRCLE OF TIME"

SUMMARY: In this tome, the aftermath of Spock's death is dealt with. T'yshen finds connections to others that she had not anticipated and deals with the passage of time, without her Chosen bond-mate.

DISCLAIMER: The Great Bird of the Galaxy created The 'Universe' we play in. Paramount owns the 'Universe' we play in. They will have the monetary gain and all the headaches... we will have all the fun!

TOME FIVE -"Continuance"
By Gayle Rochefort-Potts
First Draft: May 1997
Final Draft: December 1998

*****

Standard Terran Year: 2285.2

Standard Kavifemai Year: 04 pos'Lashan

Within two days, Carl had the ship in orbit around Vulcan. He waited for clearance from Vulcan Central then landed the small craft. His hands were relaxed on the controls because he had taken T'yshen's advice to spend most of his free time meditating. He thought mostly of what this had meant to his life. How she had changed it, made it richer for him. He had the opportunity to pay her back now, by keeping his distance and yet being right there if he was needed.

He went through the shutdown sequence of all the systems. Di'on was going to have his hide if she knew the pounding this beauty had taken! After leaving their system, he had kicked this thing into maximum warp and kept an eye on the readings. Just as he reached the point where he had to slow, the warning signal had come on, the mixer was overheating. He tapped the control panel. "You have done your lady proud." He complemented the ship in true Human fashion.

He touched the tie-in to T'yshen's cabin. "Anytime you are ready, we can leave."

"Acknowledged."

Carl knew she would not take long. He took his tunic from the back of his chair and slipped it on, Vulcan styling, a gift from T'yshen. A deep burgundy linen suit with a cream coloured silk shirt. His long hair was fastened back. He was following the present style of Kavifemai as well as retaining the beard that he favoured. At least he felt as if he appeared... wiser than before.

Carl was just turning away from the console as she came down the corridor. She wore her robes of office, soft gray robes in a brushed silk. To him, the fabric felt like warm skin. The belt that usually whispered with the sound of tiny bells had been turned to silence the ringing. Her hair had been pulled back severely, then placed in small braids and fastened tightly to her head. She wore her waist-length veil over her face, appearing very Vulcan and stoic today.

"I have an item for you." She moved to stand in front of him. She lifted her hands and fastened something to his tunic. "If thee wishes to be treated as D'vel'nahr, thee must show it."

Carl looked down; it was an IDIC pin. "I am honoured, T'kahr." His head bowed slightly. She had explained to him this pin was only worn by those that practiced diversity. That one must believe in the principle that all are entitled to their own beliefs and practices within themselves. That this becomes a part of that individual, inseparable. "Thee are prepared?"

"I am."

Carl had noticed that in the time following Spock's death, her movements had been slower and her steps measured. She was still deeply affected. That is why they were here, to cleanse the bonding and to repair any damage the broken bond had caused. Her steps were not as light and sure as they had been. In the darkness of Spock's death, there had been promises made. They had not bonded; neither was ready for that. There were no secrets between them now and when they were together there was a shared vibration. She was kivan now, a surviving bond-mate, and a widow. He had become her lifeline and her Chosen. She needed time to heal and to adjust. He understood and would be there for her.

The ship's door and ramp operated together, the dry heat swirled into the ship and Carl felt his eyes sting. He had forgotten the drops that L'effa had given him. They were in his bag packed for now. He heard T'yshen took a breath of the warm air and her whisper that she was home. He waited for her to make the first move out. She knew the way.

The ship had been able to land in an area close to the Federation Offices. A fair walk, it would take them about twenty minutes, but well within acceptable limits. As they made their way along the walkways of Shi'Kahr, Carl was amazed at the lushness of the city and the walled gardens that surrounded each home. Some had been visible in part as they passed and the air was filled with the occasional heavy scent from the foliage. He had always thought Vulcan to be just desert, with nothing of interest to see. The few Vulcans that they passed bowed their heads in polite greeting. Mostly in respect for position and not because they were known. Carl returned the greeting and noted that T'yshen return the gesture in spite of the fact that she seemed oblivious at times to events around her.

Carl was relived when they reached the relative coolness of the Federation building. The entrance was through a double ornately carved stone door and it opened into a large well-lit foyer. He was always amazed at Vulcan architecture. It never failed to surprise him. Space where he had anticipated closeness and light-filled rooms when he had naturally expected stoic darkness. T'yshen moved to the desk to inquire as to Ambassador Sarek's location. She was informed that Sarek was expected in later in the day but would not be receiving anyone due to a death in the family.

"Inform him that Reldai T'yshen Kivan Spock can be reached at the High House or Mount Seleya." T'yshen turned to leave and Carl stopped her. He looked to the Terran receptionist then moved closer to the desk. He spoke in lowered tones to the young male asking if T'sai Amanda was in residence, then explained the connection.

"Apologies, Ambassador. I was not made aware."

"In the future I would suggest that you check through all information and communiquÚs relative to the persons in residence." He stated in Vulcan fashion, noting that this was more than likely the young aide's first day. He had that nervousness about him.

Carl touched her arm. "We can go up. T'sai Amanda is waiting."

T'yshen nodded then touched his hand, for his guidance to Amanda's suite. For some unknown reason, it had not occurred to her to inquire concerning Amanda's where-abouts. It was becoming apparent just how much this was affecting her.

The door opened to the suite before they had actually arrived. A red-eyed older woman waited in the doorway. Carl recognized her. His head bowed, as he guided T'yshen ahead of him.

Amanda's wrists crossed her palms up. T'yshen's crossed and touched hers, palms down. "It is good to see you, T'yshen-kam. We were not certain that you would come."

"I had to come." T'yshen felt Amanda's sorrow. "S'ti th'laktra."

"Du'laktra dor'tor etek." Amanda ran the back of her fingers along T'yshen's cheek. "There is much pain, even for a Vulcan."

"Grief is never pleasant, T'sai." She turned to Carl. "This is Kavifemai's Representative Carl Bennet." She paused for only a beat. "T'sai Amanda aduna Sarek."

"S'ti th'laktra." Carl bowed his head. "I knew your son only a short time, I was honoured to have served with him."

"Your grief honours us." She returned the bowed head.

Carl had looked past Amanda and noticed the half-prepared tea on the counter in the kitchen. He gestured towards the kitchen. "Allow me to finish, T'sai Amanda." He moved quickly into the adjoining room after he received Amanda's permission.

This gave him some breathing space and it afforded the women some privacy. He was feeling like a nervous wreck! Connected to her and yet not quite. He looked around the kitchen to get a feel for things. Their arrival had interrupted the activity so he simply picked up where Amanda left off. "Not too hard." He muttered to himself.

Amanda and T'yshen moved to the couch. Amanda took a deep breath. "Sarek has not discussed the details of his death. Only that it was radiation poisoning.

"As I understand it, the Enterprise was experiencing difficulty with its power. Spock entered the confinement area without a protective suit. He was in pain for only a short time and died. The vessel and the crew were saved." Amanda was still not sure how T'yshen had survived Spock's death. She was not certain how to ask. "As I said before, we did not expect you."

T'yshen nodded somehow understanding what Amanda was referring to. "We were on our way to leave Kavifemai, to come here then on to Earth for the conference. There was to be time spent with Spock." She went silent for a moment. "In the aircar, I felt ill. I felt the darkness and I did not want to leave him." T'yshen looked to Carl as he entered with the tray. "I was reminded of my duty, among other things and was offered a different path. I chose the new path."

"Beginnings are always preferable to endings." Amanda looked to Carl. "For my Chosen Daughter's path, I thank you." From the careful glances that past between them, there was more than just duty. She had considered a possible friendship between Carl and T'yshen. She knew, from experience, that remaining together for as long as this would invoke connections of many kinds.

Word had been received later that day that Spock's body lived! Admiral Kirk would bring him home. Spock's katra, his living soul, resided within Doctor McCoy. Sarek returned home with Commander Uhura... and they waited.

"What you seek has not been done since ages past,

and then, only in legend. Your request is not

logical."

"Forgive me, T'Lar. My logic is uncertain where

my son is concerned." Sarek stated.

T'Lar agreed to the Fal-tor-pan (the re-fusion) to replace Spock's katra back within his body. T'yshen stood with the priestess for a time, watching the preparations.

"I will take leave until I am required." She bowed to the Master and went inside the mountain. She climbed the spiral carved stairs that took her to the room where Amanda and Carl waited. She had spoken earlier to Kirk, briefly, concerning the method in which Spock had been re-born. Saavik had bonded with Spock out of necessity; that could not be disputed. What was in question was whether or not the memory of T'yshen's bond remained within him. She had not sensed it, nor had she shared this information with anyone else. She would be patient until they knew if the re-fusion was successful.

Amanda stood on the balcony overlooking the preparations for the ceremony. She was anxious, her hands bounced and she would clench them every now and then. Carl was off to one side keeping an eye on Amanda while he appeared to be reading the viewer. He had asked to see the old records that spoke of the Fal-tor-pan. His knowledge of Vulcan was enough that he could read directly from the writings, the outcome was uncertain and disputed by some that it could even be accomplished.

As T'yshen stepped into the room, she pushed back her hood. She wore the robes of a priestess, the white robes with the rust stained tabard that held the ancient markings of her House. She moved to stand at Amanda's side.

"You did not stay?" Amanda had not been surprised that T'yshen had been asked to help.

"I could not."

"He is your bond-mate." Amanda was aware of T'yshen's skills that could be useful in the re-fusion. The tracings that had been shared during bonding would also help his recovery. "You must return to him."

T'yshen had learned of the other bonding from Kirk and felt it from Saavik. "The viability is in question." She had not even been permitted to search Spock's thoughts or to touch the katra that was within McCoy. T'Lar had been the one to inform her the bonding was in question. "It was found that he had bonded with another. There are questions that must be answered before I delve too deeply." She heard Carl move to join them. "As he returned to himself, the bonding was necessary for his life-force to continue. Saavik was there. She is with him now." There was sadness in her voice that only people close to her would have noticed. "I am only required for the re-fusion. This I can do.... for him." She was not certain of which 'him' she spoke of, not even within herself.

She moved out onto the balcony to look down at the gathering. So many had come, mostly out of curiosity! All of his friends and family were down there with him. Her place was not with him or his family; hers would be as a part of the force that would attempt to bring an Ancient story to reality. She noticed Kirk looking up towards the balcony; she bowed her head.

She felt T'Lar's summons.

She lifted her hood and without a word, walked past Amanda and Carl.

Amanda's hand touched his arm as he started to follow. "She is needed. We are only required to wait. We have too many emotions to be involved." This was something she had understood from the beginning. If her son were to be brought back, it would be accomplished without her.

"All that can be done, will be done, though
it takes a full turn of the Vulcan Sun."
Taken from the book, Kahr-y-tan, the Ways of
the Vulcan, concerning patience and learning.

The collection of acolytes, Masters and those with special skills, as T'yshen had, stood surrounding T'Lar and the two that were to be made whole. T'yshen stood close to McCoy, she was one that could accept the Human's emotions without it affecting her control. She was to protect his katra as the transference took place. She had mental powers that equaled the Masters, yet she had not separated herself from her emotions.

The mental power in the air was palatable, almost to the point of being alive. The gong's measured sounding reminded them of the reality and of the passage of time.

The re-fusion had been successful, it had taken all the Masters to work together to channel enough mental power to sustain the High Master T'Lar's power to complete the re-fusion. Spock was within himself again. McCoy was alone within himself again. Now, there was the gradual return to what Spock once was.

Knowledge, that had to be re-learned. A lifetime of memories, that had to be recalled or at least spoken of. Severing the connection that still existed between McCoy and Spock was the next step in the process and then the healing of the pain that both of them felt.

Standard Terran Year: 2285.25

Standard Kavifemai Year: pos'Lashan 04.3

T'yshen stood watching him from a distance.

Spock moved sometimes with hesitation, almost as if he had forgotten what his next step was to be. To him, she had been nothing more than one of the priestesses that served Vulcan. When they were introduced, he bowed his head respectfully then frowned, as if there was something that he was trying to recall. In that instant, she had hoped he would remember her. She had stood off to the side as Spock had moved down the steps, passing Kirk and his shipmates, towards his room. He had moved passed them but then stopped. He turned slowly; then pushed back his hood. He had examined each face, thoughtfully. He came to the captain and there was a light in his eyes. She had heard his questions to Kirk about the ship. She was relieved that some memories had remained. Then she heard him whisper. "Jim. Your name is Jim." The customary eyebrow went up and Kirk moved closer to the Vulcan.

She turned away from them, painfully sharing the joy that James experienced. That day she had come to understand the Human phrase of 'hurting so much one's heart would break'. Not logical, but understood.

She replaced her hood and turned from watching Spock. He was deep into the sciences today and would not allow himself to be distracted. He was always this way when it came to his duty.

Today she was on her way to an appointment, one that had been asked for a week ago, but one she was not able to attend until now. She moved down the long corridor to the large archway then turned to the left. She moved, almost silently, to the third door on her right then touched the door and slid it open on silent, ancient runners. She stepped in and turned to her waiting visitor. He looked suitably dressed in the robe of an acolyte. The crew had adopted this manner of dress for a time. In this ancient place sonic cleaners were not available to them. They had lost all possessions with the destruction of the Enterprise.

"I could not see you before now." She spoke in accented Standard.

"I understand." He moved closer to her, comfortable but awkward in the lightweight robes and cautious of the distance between them. She did not seem comfortable with him here, yet there was the bond they shared that drew them together. He stood silently for a moment then dared to take a step closer. He reached to her deep hood and pushed it back. His fingers felt the familiar warmth of her without touching her. "I tried to keep him safe. I didn't know that what he was planning...." His voice was soft then cracked, tears had started to collect. "I thought I had been over this." He wiped the moisture away then smiled weakly. "It's so good to see you."

"Is that all you require?" She was not trying not to be hurtful but her words had not been carefully chosen. She was in pain. She could feel a thread of the shared bond and it lived within him! "I can not remain, James." She spoke his name carefully.

He frowned. "Why not?"

"I have other duties."

"Spock?" He moved closer.

"I am not permitted to interact with him. Only his family and his shipmates."

The frown deepened, she was 'family'. "I don't understand."

"You have not been informed?"

"All I've been told is that he is whole. He is learning. He is whatever.... But I have not been told how he is." He rubbed his eyes with his fingertips. "It's the not knowing."

"Are you not using the drops?" She knew him well.

"I forget." He looked to his robe. "No pockets."

She reached forward and turned back the hem of the sleeve. "It is here." She was careful not to touch him.

"I'll do it later." He promised then shook the sleeve back in place.

"Spock is as whole as can be expected. The Fal-tor-pan until now was considered nothing but an Ancient tale. There have always been questions concerning the success. There is no known record of this being performed before. He is learning. Vulcan is learning. Projections are that he will have been re-educated within three months. His memories are sketchy, but some are recovering." She noted the look of tension leaving his face. "I will arrange for you to be given access to his progress." She still held some legal rights as his.... bond-mate, but for how long was uncertain. The legalities of his re-birth had not yet been sorted out and his family supported her position for the present time. She lifted her hood then started to leave.

Kirk reached out his hand and held her arm. "Shen. Why can't you see him? You're bond-mates." He felt the tension run through her arm. He moved to stand in front to her. He hated these hoods; they hid far too much for his liking. He pushed back the hood again and this time caught the pain in her face before she had time to mask it. "What?" He held both her shoulders.

"He has no memory of our bond. That... did not survive."

He did not know what to say or do! He had thought that after the re-fusion, Spock would be whole again, that they would be able to be together again... all three of them. She had given them a freedom they had never known before. He pulled her close, wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly. "I am so sorry!" He whispered. It was pure instinct that made him hold her so tight, until he felt her body stiffen suddenly. He had found out as well, since the re-fusion, all of the touches that were uncomfortable for Vulcans. How many touches Spock and T'yshen had permitted him. He stepped back half a step, then held her face in his hands. "What can I do to help?"

She moved his hands. "Do not do this." She tucked her hands inside the long sleeves of her robes. "You carry within you a ghost of the bond. Until the Healer has seen you, we can not remain together. I am in the process of having any damage repaired. That is why I could not see you before now."

"I want to help...." He was still drawn to her. "I need to be with you." He had felt a sense of completion when she was around. That is what made him look up that first day. He had learned how to feel T'yshen and Spock. His eyes searched her face for some acceptance of what he was feeling.

"That is the bond. The need will grow with more and more contact." She lifted her hand without thought. Her fingers stroked his cheek then moved down his throat. She pulled her hand away suddenly then clenched it and hid it away in the protection of the sleeves. It would have been a simple matter to reach into his thoughts and share what remained within him. He would have welcomed that. To taste even his kisses might be enough to end the aching. It would be too simple to use him to quench her desire for Spock and unworthy of her affection for this man.

Kirk sighed at the touch. "I had almost forgotten how that felt." He smiled. "Stay and talk. I have no one to talk to about Spock. McCoy's still recovering." He stopped suddenly as he realized how much pain she must have been in. "I'm sorry." He ran his fingers along his forehead. "It's all so confusing. I was worried about you. I had the impression from Spock that bond-mates did not usually survive the death of...."

"Preparations have to be arranged in advance, unless there is family."

Kirk stared at her. "Then how...?" He felt his body tense. "More to the point, who?" His fists clenched into tight balls. Why hadn't he thought of this before?

"The only one that was near." She felt his tension over this. "I was traveling in the aircar to attend the conference on Earth. I was with Carl."

He looked to the stone floor for a second trying to digest everything. He looked up at her. "Carl?" He could not quite understand this, or maybe he just didn't want to! Was he being dense? He felt his breathing deepen. He bit his bottom lip as he realized that he was getting angry over this! He wanted her! He remembered the two nights T'yshen, Spock and he had shared, the touches... the warmth of being with them both! Everything had felt complete! If they had known, would they have spent more time together? "Carl?" He said it as if it had been a wild card in all of this. He turned away from her, his teeth clenched with the anger at himself, for not realizing any of this until now! For not being there!

"It was done without permission. I was preparing to follow Spock."

He whirled back to face her, totally devastated by her admission and yet not surprised. He tried to contain the anger that had suddenly surged through him. His words were a whispered shout. "And leave me to deal with both of you gone?" He met her eyes and stared for a time, it wasn't her doing. His mood and voice softening as he continued. "That would not have been fair." He indicated the bench by the window. "Please...?"

T'yshen hesitated, there was a part of her that also required his company. "For a short time."

Kirk smiled. He sat with her and tried not to move too close to her. He turned slightly to face her; his arm went behind her and gripped the back of the bench. Didn't he have precedence over Carl? Could he go to Carl and challenge him for her bond? Would it be fair to give her another mate that would die away from her? No, it wasn't. This would be enough, he told himself then added, for now. "Can we, at the very least, make a date to play chess?"

"It can be arranged." She wanted to comment how much the robes suited him. She sensed his discomfort in the clothing, catching a fleeting thought of his that he should have at least worn his pants.

"Do you have any idea what happened with the bond?" He spoke softly. He wanted them to be together again. He wanted this so badly. Twice he lifted his hand to touch her but he managed to control the impulse. He also needed to understand.

"From the ship's recording..." She paused, watching that had been most difficult. The pain on both of their faces was almost more than she could endure. "... and what I have recalled, I have surmised that Spock either blocked or attempted to break the link before he entered the chamber. He did this so that you could not have perceived his intent and neither would I. I suspect he was blocking. I did feel his death." She felt his touch, as his fist rubbed her back gently. "When he transferred his katra, the bond was not included." She looked to the Human, meeting his hazel eyes. "Perhaps not to cause undue stress on Doctor McCoy. I do not know if this was intentional. I did not sense any remnant of the bond within McCoy."

"If it was, it was the stupidest thing he's ever done." He grinned; his hand lifted and brushed the fine wisps of her hair back, unnecessarily.

"It will never be known." She released her hands from the protection of her sleeves.

"He may remember." Kirk reached to hold one of her hands, gently his thumb caressing the back of it.

"It will be too late."

"Meaning." His hand moved under hers, palms touching. He inhaled as he felt the warmth of her slipping into the surface of his thoughts. Such a gentle and soothing caress and it made some of the pain go away, at least for him, for now. He breathed in her scent, slowly. Why couldn't he have been the one that Spock had chosen to meld with? The bond, he suspected, would have been included then. But he would have stopped Spock or gone with him and perhaps it would have been T'yshen that would have been left... alone. And with that thought he knew why Spock had done what he had.

"I have another commitment to honour." She lowered her eyes as she felt Kirk's confusion.

"Carl?"

"Yes."

"If I had been there...." He had to ask.

"You were not."

"But if I had been...." He had to know.

Her fingers touched his lips. "Do not speak of that which did not come to pass."

"Now what?"

"The bond will diminish with time." Her voice was soft.

He held his breath for a second then whispered. "I don't want it to."

"A thread will remain until..."

"... one of us dies." He finished. She nodded. "Odds are, that it will be me..." He pulled her close then kissed her. He shouldn't be doing this, he told himself. This was the first time, since arriving that he hadn't felt her shielding totally in place. He moved his hands into her hair as the kiss deepened. He felt her gentle fire begin to creep into his thoughts... and then it was gone!

"Kroy'kah." She whispered as she tilted her head away from Kirk.

He touched his lips to her neck for a moment then changed the subject. "That chess game...?" He lifted his eyes to meet hers. Even a chess game was better than nothing.

"I will inform you of my schedule." She wanted to push him away and allow him what he desired in the same moment. She required logic to govern her passions; not the ancient drives.

"I love you." He whispered against her warm skin.

"Thee are most treasured." Her fingers ran through his hair then lifted his chin. "I must leave thee." Her fingertips brushed his lips.

He nodded. She was fighting all of this as well, but without Spock it felt as if it was a betrayal. He watched as she stood, lifted her hood and headed out of the room. He looked out the large window as he leaned back. His head dropped back, eyes closed as he folded his arms across his chest. "Spock ... what were you thinking?"

*****

It had taken over a week, ten-day as the Vulcans translated, to not feel the shared aching when T'yshen and Kirk were together. Today was the second day that they had scheduled a chess game. Kirk headed to one of the few rooms that he could find... it was like a maze in here, he thought to himself. His hand slid the door open and he was pleased to see that T'yshen was already there. He was always late. Tomorrow he promised himself, he would be on time.

"The work is progressing on the warbird?" She poured the tea that she had prepared.

Kirk smiled. "Yeah. Scotty says we should be ready in no time. Bones wants to clean it out. He hates the smell. And Sulu is impatient for the trial flight." He sat down on the bench then turned slightly to face her. The chessboard sat on a small table, the supporting leg went down only on one side, resembling a tray for a bed. It could be pulled in-between them above the bench seat. He bowed his head as he accepted the cup of tea.

"And what of you. What are you anxious for?" She had felt an excitement from him as he entered.

He smiled. "Seeing you mostly." He sipped on his tea. It was hot but this blend seemed to cool down his body and made the heat here bearable... if he sat still. He leaned into the corner of the bench. One arm rested along the back, his fingers could, if he reached just a little, touch her silky hair. She was wearing it loose today and it flowed down her back. Given only a second, he could lose himself in the silk and warmth of it. He took a breath to calm his reactions to her. "What have you done today?"

"Meditation." She held the tall cup with both hands, keeping them occupied until their game. She still felt the connection to him. The draw that she had felt the first day was still there. She had not expected it to disappear but she was surprised at how strong it was still. "Time was spent in the wu'sibav." She noted his slight frowned. "It is similar to a ...public baths."

"I didn't know there were any."

She tilted her head slightly. "Did you not believe that Vulcans bathed?"

He grinned, her eyes went bright, and she was teasing him. "No." He laughed a little. "No, not at all. I just didn't know that there were any bodies of water to bathe in." He finished off the tea then placed the cup down on the floor beside him. "I don't suppose it would be cool enough for us humans?"

"It would be similar to your saunas. It is located deep in the base of Seleya. It was a reason for much bloodshed in the ancient times."

"It sounds relaxing."

"You may accompany me, if you wish." She placed her cup on the small side table. As she turned back Kirk reached for her hand that rested on her lap. She closed her eyes to the flood of emotion from him. His hand curled around hers, his fingers on either side of her wrist. His hand was too large for her to match the positioning.

"Explain to me again why we can't be bonded." He met her eyes, searching for the answers to all his questions. "Explain why this that we share has to be allowed to die."

She shared the emptiness that he had projected of himself without her. She understood. She had tried more than once to help him understand. "There are traditions that have to be honoured. That to be bonded in the reh'tel-tor was to be a part of a triad. Without the third, there is no triad." She lifted her other hand and brushed through his hair. "The bond that you and he shared. That has survived. There must be a desire within him for me." Her fingers ran down the side of his face then brushed his lips. "If we bond...." She paused, hesitant to finish the thought but knowing that it needed to be said. "I do not wish this again. To feel a death in this manner. So distant." Her voice had fallen to a whisper. "If thee were willing to remain..."

"I can!" He added too quickly. His desire for this was too high and at the moment he would have agreed to anything. "I will." His voice softened.

Her hand rested against his chest. "You would not be satisfied with that life." She smiled briefly. "It would also mean to be away from Spock, and that you can not do. Nor would I ask it of thee."

He felt his chest tighten. She was right! He couldn't leave Spock. He didn't want to leave her either. And there was nothing in between for them. He had to come to grips with the fact that she would be bonded to someone else and that the bond that they shared would be lost over time. He took a deep slow breath. He took her hand that rested against his chest, in his and lifted to his lips. "Why do I want this so much?"

T'yshen slipped her hand from his. She released the hold from his other hand. It cleared her thinking processing. "I do not know, James. Thy desire is shared." She had to admit that to herself about him. "But is something that will diminish with time."

"Will you bond with Carl soon?" He ran his fingers through her hair.

"No. I will need time before I am prepared for another bonding. Carl is aware of it."

"He seems to understand much more than I do."

"He understands differently." She pulled the table that held the chess game closer. "Do you wish our game still?"

Kirk nodded. "And more of that tea." He sighed quietly. "Promise me that we will not avoid one another in the future." He picked up a chess piece in each hand, it was T'yshen's choice that would determine who played light or dark.

"I can only commit to my own behaviour." She moved the table between them as he moved back slightly. "I have no reason to avoid you in the future." She tapped his right hand for the concealed piece to choose the colour. He turned his hand over but waited for her to open his fingers before giving up the piece. "You are extremely tactile for an individual that wishes a bond with a Vulcan."

"I like how warm you are." He released his hold on the piece.

She shook her head slightly. "Incorrigible."

He lifted his eyes to meet hers, then smiled. "Most definitely."

*******

T'yshen turned from watching the desert at the sound of someone entering the room.

The younger one bowed to the older Vulcan. "Reldai, I respectfully request that we speak on certain matters."

T'yshen's hand indicated the bench. James had left a short while ago after their games of chess. Time spent with him was no longer painful. The second week of healing had served its purpose. McCoy was whole again and each had only their own thoughts to contend with. She had found some comfort in James' company now that the pain had stopped. It was time for her to return to her life on Kavifemai. The board still sat in the center of the small triangular table. T'yshen started to move the table out of the way.

"It can remain."

T'yshen sat on one end of the bench, the other sat cautious of the pieces that lay discarded on the bench.

"It was not my intention to replace your worth in his life."

"I had left his life at his death, T'sai Saavik." The young woman was everything that Spock had described her to be. Intelligent, beautiful and had a sparkle in her eyes that seemed, to him, to signify curiosity. T'yshen would have been introduced to Saavik during her stay on Earth; instead they were both here.

Saavik felt uncomfortable with the title. "I do not deserve the honour."

"Is the use of your rank preferable?"

"It is." She bowed her head slightly.

"As you wish." T'yshen paused for a moment. "You will be returning to Starfleet duty?"

"After a time." Saavik had spoken to Amanda of her plans but no one else. "There is a matter that has to be attended to before I return."

"This is your first time on Vulcan, is it not?"

"Yes." Saavik had exchanged her uniform for civilian clothing and was now playing nervously with the fabric. She had tried to prepare herself for every eventuality but had not considered a congenial conversation. "It has been interesting, but far from the homecoming I had hoped for." She looked to the chess pieces then to T'yshen. "Spock is progressing well."

"So I was informed."

"You have not seen him? I thought that you would have been someone that he sees numerous times in a day." She had been surprised. She had been to see her mentor a few times. His memories of her were of years ago, but he had understood that time had passed. The bond they had shared had not been a permanent one, just enough for his continuance.

"Spock has no memory of my existence except as an acolyte that participated in his re-fusion. I spoke to him on one other occasion." T'yshen stood and moved to the balcony. "The repairs to the Klingon vessel are going well?"

"Everything is on schedule. Estimates place the departure in fourteen point six days."

T'yshen turned to the officer. "That is an estimate?" She tilted her head. "I suppose for a Vulcan it would be considered as such." She looked to the distant figures moving around the hawk-like vessel. "I will be leaving in two days. My reason for remaining here has ended." She had visited with Spock this morning, only briefly, as a courtesy and discovered that the painful resonance had stopped. They had talked of his progress and of the sunrise over the Forge. Her memories of their time together were only that, hers. Her hand ran along the wind-worn stone railing. "You will be staying with the Ambassador and his wife?"

"They have extended the hospitality." Saavik had been taken aback that the bond had been lost so totally. Spock had spoken to her about T'yshen a few times before the accident. She had been anxious to meet the female that made her chosen-father's eyes brighten. "I will continue my studies until the child is born."

T'yshen sighed softly. She had thought that to be the reason that Saavik was remaining. "Do not rush your time together. Starfleet can wait." She would speak to Amanda concerning a portion of Spock's wealth being put aside for this child. She would do this before relinquishing her legal rights.

Saavik stood and crossed to stand beside her. "Reldai, may I ask your counsel in a matter?"

"You may ask." T'yshen turned to face her.

"Should I inform Admiral Kirk of his grandchild's existence?"

T'yshen raised an eyebrow. "Why would you not?"

"I thought the matter would be too difficult for him. The human's grief seems to cause a great deal of pain. To recall the fact that his son had died and can not share in this...." She felt some of her own discomfort at the fact. She had just begun to grieve over her loss of Spock when David was killed. David and she had not formed a life bond, this they had planned for this after the mission, with Spock's assistance.

"Consider how much this may fill that void and heal some of the hurt."

Saavik lifted her eyebrow. "I had not considered..."

"At times our own pain is what we try to protect."

Saavik nodded. "I will take leave of you, Reldai T'yshen."

T'yshen lifted her hand in the ta'al. "Live long and proper, Lieutenant Saavik."

"Peace, Reldai." She bowed her head and then left the room.

T'yshen would have extended compliments to Spock on his accomplishments with Saavik. She was an excellent example of his abilities as a guiding force in a young life. She turned back to the far-off figures and watched them for a time.

Standard Terran Year: 2285.7

Kavifemai Standard Year: 04 pos'Lashan

Being back on Kavifemai was a relief.

Entering his room, T'yshen was surprised at Carl's activity. "You are packing. For what purpose?"

"I told you on the ship. I can't trust myself staying close to you now." He lifted the last case containing his clothing. He stood silently for a moment just watching her. "You need time and so do I." He told himself for the umpteenth time that he should have done this long ago. As soon as a unit had been vacant, when S'task had asked him about it two years ago. "I'll just be over the ridge. Not far." He picked up the case and headed outside. T'yshen followed him. The case was dropped into the back seat. "I intend to be a frequent visitor..." He turned to face her, leaning against the side of the aircar. "... unless you want to be left alone."

"I do not wish you to leave here. It is your home as well." She had not expected this in the least. Humans did not always act as they stated they would.

"You are trying to recover still from Spock's death and his re-birth, the fact that he is alive and not bonded to you. I understand that, I really do. I learned that on Vulcan." He straightened then took a few steps towards her. "I never could master arie'mnu. All I ever want to do is hold you and make love to you. I want to be your bond-mate. I am not trying to rush you but I can not be near you like this anymore without touching you." His hand lifted slowly to touch her face. His fingertips lightly brushed her warm skin. "When you are ready.... I'll be near."

"I do not wish you to leave." T'yshen felt the pull he had on her, always had. He had touched something in her... maybe it was just his constant companionship that had somehow become a part of her.

"Can you come to me free and clear of Spock? As if he had died and stayed that way?"

"Not at this moment."

"Then for now, I'll stay at my own place. I'll expect frequent invitations for dinner, you still cook too much even for the two of us." He smiled then stepped back. He climbed into the aircar and waved as he headed off to his own unit.

She was not certain how long she had been standing there, she chose not to account for the time. In the past three weeks, she had lost her bond-mate, the one that was bonded to them had returned to the stars and now her companion. She stood in the doorway of the Federation made structure. She resided on a world where she was the only Vulcan. As she turned back into the house, she realized that she was surrounded by Terran styled furnishings.

She was indeed... alone.

Standard Terran Year: 2286.1

Standard Kavifemai Year: 05.2 pos'Lashan

Storms had become regular occurrences, just as on any other planet, and the inhabitants were becoming quite adept at preparing for them. The wheat had just been harvested and was in the process of being processed. Flour, cereal and the remaining hops were used for Kavifemai ale. Roughly half the supplies were stored for use here and the remainder was left for trade. A vessel was due to pick up the high quality products in two days. The transport vessel, Aegis, usually remained in orbit for two days. Its crew of ten treating themselves to a break from walking on the hard decks, at least that was the excuse the captain had used each time.

The day that the Aegis left, cargo intact, was the day the storm hit. It had been predicted that the storm would be stronger than usual, but no one had expected the intensity of the rains that were to come.

As usual, Carl stood in the doorway watching the storm as it headed in. He had noticed that the sky was darker than usual. He looked in at T'yshen, she was playing her flute. He had finally convinced her to take some time off from her teaching and get back to her instrument. He liked the music she was playing; it was soft and soothing. The tone of the flute was deeper than most Terran flutes that he had heard and he had learned that it had a wider range, almost like a clarinet.

"What is that called?"

"Mos'kan." She waited for the look of understanding. "In Standard it would be 'Child sleep." She adjusted the sheet on her stand, a breeze had fluttered them and one threatened to fall. "It is a lullaby. We do sing to our children."

He grinned. "I know." He poured himself some tea. "Do you want to have children?"

T'yshen looked to her music then back to him. "It has been a consideration. After the bonding with Spock, there was evidence that a pregnancy had occurred but it was not a viable one. I would not wish to bring a child up if I were to reside on Vulcan as Matriarch. It is not an agreeable environment for a young child."

Carl held back his initial reaction to her admission. "I never knew." He spoke softly as he watched her. "Did Spock?"

"There was no purpose in revealing the fact. Kaiidth. Nothing could be done."

"Makes sense," he muttered. Within his thoughts he knew it would only make sense to a Vulcan. He would have wanted to know if he had been involved. Why? He wasn't sure. He looked back outside trying to run through everything that needed to be prepared. The ships were anchored, the aircar covered and the sehlats had shelter. The pairs that had been brought from Vulcan had three litters of two each and all of them were doing well.

He started thinking of how different things had changed between them in the last year. They had become closer in some ways, more comfortable with each other. He still wanted to be with her, to love her and soon he would ask her again about a bonding. He wanted to have a family and grow old with her. He just wasn't sure that is the future she wanted to share with him.

"Come see the lightening!" Carl made room for her to stand in front of him.

T'yshen put her instrument down, gathered up the coverlet and wrapped it around her shoulders. She felt his arms wrap around her as he guided her to stand in front of him. "You find this interesting?"

"Yes, I do. It amazes me how you can never tell where it will strike. Or the pattern it takes." He grinned, met her eyes then looked back out into the field. His finger pointed to the dark veil moving across the empty field. "The rain. It's moving fast." He wondered if all the water storage units had opened properly. The new sensors they had placed would be activated if the stored water level went below a certain point. He hoped so; it would be a shame to waste all this perfectly good rain! The next flash of light was closer; the snapping sound told him something had been hit. He had to wait for the cloudiness to leave his eyes from the too bright flash.

She looked up to him as she felt his body tense with the sound.

"It's hit something." Carl ran his hand along her covered arm absently. "I hope it wasn't anything important." His voice was soft as he started to experience a bad feeling about this storm.

T'yshen was stopped from saying anything as the communication unit sounded. She moved to answer it. "T'yshen here."

"A silo has been hit but the fire is dying down quickly from the rain." S'task sounded concerned as well. "We will need to repair it or build a new one after the storm. Maybe even watch our consumption."

The next lightening strike was louder and closer. It made the same sound as before.

"Information has been acknowledged. We will meet after the storm and assess the damage. If that is all, S'task, I will clear the frequency."

"Very well." The click of the frequency closing was heard, T'yshen placed her unit on stand-by. She returned to the doorway. "Come in. We can check on the areas later." Her hand rested on his arm as the next bolt slammed down. She felt the vibration through the floor; it had to be close by. "Carl."

He looked to her as his hand reached for his cape. "It was the library."

T'yshen stopped him. "Kroy'kah."

"I have to check on things."

"There are no personal injuries. It can wait." She shivered from the dampness. "Everything else may be replaced. You can not be."

"I'm flattered." He smiled. "Just going to check that no one was there, I'll be right back." Carl saw her arm reach for her cape. "You are staying." He glared at her.

"If it is safe enough for you, it is safe enough for me." She picked up her medical bag as she exchanged the coverlet for the cape.

"You are stubborn."

She lifted an eyebrow. "I am Vulcan."

"Same thing." He pulled his hood up then stepped out into the cold rain.

The wind drove the rain against them and seemed to give them an extra push in the direction of the library. The damage appeared to be limited to the back of the building. The door opened slowly, or so it seemed, and they stepped into the quiet and dryness of this end of the library.

Carl shook out the cape then placed it on the hook near the door. He took hers and placed it on the next one. "Back room." He heard the faint sound of the rain just beyond them.

T'yshen headed towards the doorway as the back room was lit up by the lightening. She opened the door and moved in just enough to allow Carl entrance. The damage was to the building itself. The rain was pouring in along the roofing that curled out of the hole. The edges were still smoking from the hit. Carl began to move the furniture out of the way of the stream of water, placing it along the wall. Two spare terminals had been soaked and they would have to be checked out after they dried out.

"It could have been much worse." He shivered in his damp clothes then headed back into the drier portion, T'yshen in tow.

He was relieved that no one had been hurt. They continued to check the smaller rooms that were used as meeting, study or classrooms, depending on the need. One had a broken window but the rain was not coming in. The others were secure. He looked out the window at the heavy rain. "Do we head back now? Or wait it out?"

"I would prefer to return to our unit." She saw no point in remaining here for the duration of the storm.

Carl nodded then handed her the cape. He lifted his from the hook and wrapped it around his shoulders. "Good thing these are waterproof. At least they are dry on the inside."

"But far from warm." She stated as she shivered.

Carl grinned. "Ready?" He pulled the hood up over his head. He received a raised eyebrow then reached to open the door. They pulled the capes in tighter and made their way back across the Center Square.

He stepped into the unit just behind her. He shook off the cape and hung it on the hook. He shivered then rubbed his hands along his arms. "Hot tea sounds good." He headed into the kitchen. "You go get into some dry clothes and get under the covers. I'll bring you the tea."

She shivered then nodded in agreement. She disappeared into her room with the intention of returning before he found it necessary to bring the tea in to her.

Carl poured the hot water into the pot of tealeaves and spices. If nothing else, Vulcan foods were full of spices and most of them tangy. His body had suffered a little in the beginning but he was used to them now. He placed everything on the tray then carried it into her room. He heard the drying units shutting off; she needed the warmth no doubt. The jets were a blessing on a cold morning. He sat at the foot of the bed, the tray placed on the bed and his back to the bathroom door.

He may have made many mistakes, but never the same one twice.

"Tea's ready." He called to her, giving her a warning that he was here.

"I will be out directly."

He sighed, then lay back on the bed. Rain and running through it made him sleepy. He felt the cold wet fabric of his pant leg touch his skin. He shivered again. He sat up slowly then poured the tea. He was putting the pot down as T'yshen came from the other room. She wore heavy linen loungewear and her hair was loose.

"Why have you not changed into dry clothing?" She sat cross-legged on her bed, close to the pillows. She accepted the cup and sipped on the hot liquid. It did in fact help to warm her.

He shrugged. "My clothes are not too bad. I needed the tea more." He drank a good portion of the tea. He looked to the ceiling for a minute, listening to the rain. "It sounds as if it might be dying down for now."

"There are adequate supplies to repair the library?" She asked, searching for something to talk about.

"Should be." He drank the last of the tea. The spices bit at the surface of his tongue then slowly disappeared. "I guess our only concern is the silo and how much we lost from it. But overall, we should not have any problems; there's more than enough to go around. S'task worries too much sometimes." He grinned then stretched out, on his side, across the bed, his arm propping his head up. "Warmer?"

"Yes." She held the warm cup still half filled, her hands cupped around the base. "And you?"

Carl smiled. "Are you so uncomfortable that we can't even find something to talk about?"

"I am not uncomfortable." She drank more of her tea.

"That game you keep trying to teach me.... Want to give it a try or are you tired?"

"I am not tired."

"But you don't feel like playing?"

"Not particularly." She lifted the cup to her lips.

"Tell me about your childhood." He poured a small amount of tea into his cup then offered to fill hers. She shook her head. He sat up and drank down the tea. He placed his cup back on the tray then looked to hers. "Are you done?"

She nodded then handed him her cup. "Why do you wish to know?" She watched him as he moved the tray to the small table at the foot of her bed. He sat back on the bed, this time much closer to her.

"Because I am interested." He crossed his legs and folded his hands.

"My childhood was extremely limiting. I resided at Mount Seleya and spent most of my day with a Master. The rest was spent either in meditation or sleeping."

Carl understood that it was going to be difficult to get information out of her. "What things were you taught?"

"I was given all the information that Vulcan children are normally taught. The history of our world. An outline of the sciences, the arts and social expectations. Meditative lessons and languages."

"When did your parents die? How old were you?"

"I was approaching my seventh birthday."

"Were you ever betrothed?"

"No."

"Why not?"

She lifted an eyebrow. "You are, as a human would say, as curious as a feline."

Carl smiled then lowered his eyes. "Guilty."

"Your reason?"

"Don't want to leave."

T'yshen lowered her eyes, she had suspected as much. "My parents had not enough time to choose someone for me." She felt the movement as he moved onto his knees then came closer to her. She watched as his hand reached to lift her chin. She met his grey eyes, bright with an interest in her. She tried to control the tension in her body as he leaned forward and kissed her. He straightened marginally as his mouth left hers. He moved closer, leaned forward and kissed her again. His hand moved to the back of her neck as his kiss deepened.

He held her shoulders, suggesting with his touch that she move onto her knees as well. His arms pulled them closer together. He lifted his mouth from hers to take in the sudden breath his body needed. He breathed in the smell of her hair then buried his face in it as his mouth searched for her neck.

She held the back of his neck, her head tilting to the side to facilitate his touch. Her other hand moved slowly to his waist, then up under his top. She felt his shiver as her hand touched his cooler skin. She reached to the fastener in his hair, releasing its length. She placed the fastener in his pants pocket.

He held her wrist as her hand withdrew from the pocket. Her action had surprised him and caused a reaction that he was trying to control. He remained still while he calmed his body. "If you don't want this," he took a deep breath then slowly released it, "say so now." He didn't want to have to let go of her. Or to have to listen to her say that she wanted him to leave. He wasn't sure what he would do... correction, could do. Crawl away and simply die?

"I would not have allowed this much had I not..." she whispered but was not permitted to finish.

He captured and tasted her mouth as he pulled her down with him. He stretched out full length then pulled her close to him. He pulled her hair back then brushed his lips against her neck. He had to take this slower than his body wanted him to. He moved up her neck with light kisses, tasting her warm skin. His hand moved down her back pulling her tightly to his body. He had to keep reminding himself that this was not a dream. It was actually happening! Her hand moved to his waist then slipped under his top and caressed his back. He sighed at the warmth of her hand.

He kissed a path from her ear along her jaw to her mouth. He pulled her tighter as his tongue reached into the alien warmth. She tasted so different! Her body was inhumanly warm and caused him to shiver. He rolled onto his back breathing heavily, his eyes remained closed as he tried to calm himself.

T'yshen moved onto her side, facing him, her hand began a slow gentle caress over his chest. She kissed the side of his mouth then moved down his throat. Her lips pressed against the vein feeling the beating of his heart. Of all the species she had met, Terrans were the most interesting to her. They lived their lives so quickly, had so little time to learn and yet seemed to take more pleasure in living than most species did.

She sat up, studied him for a moment then straddled his hips. His eyes opened wide. He inhaled and held his breath. She heard the moan escape his lips as her hands ran over his chest then moved under the fabric of his shirt. She gathered the fabric then slid it up and over his head. He took it from her hand and dropped it on the floor. She continued tasting and caressing her human's skin.

Carl moaned as her touch continued. Her body was radiating warmth that was almost too much to take. He gasped and held his breath every time she touched him with her tongue. His hands moved into the silk of her hair; his hands clenched each time she nipped his skin. One nip wasn't so gentle and he reacted, pressing his shoulder into the pillow. "That hurt..." He could managed only a whisper.

T'yshen stretched out on top of him. She opened her eyes to inspect the bite that she was not able to control. She tasted the blood and apologized with an open-mouth kiss as her fingers reached to his thoughts. She felt the hard manhood at her hip as he pressed against her. His hands ran along her body pulling her closer to him.

Carl forgot about the pain on his shoulder as his hands moved back up her body then under her top. He slid the fabric up her body then off. It joined his top. He rolled her onto her back then his mouth began investigating her body. Her fingers moved into his hair then down his back, his body shivered. His hand ran down her side then slipped under the waistband of her pants. He moved down as he slipped them off; his hands ran up her legs to her waist. His lips touched her firm stomach then moved in a path to her breast. His tongue circled the already taut nipple and a shiver ran through her. He moved to the other and she moaned softly.

She reached to open his pants and then pushed them as far down as she could. She watched as he straightened to remove the pants. He was more than ready and that was obvious. He covered her body with his as he kissed her. Her fingers moved into his hair and pull him to her to deepen the kiss. Her tongue wet his lips then slipped into his mouth. She moaned as his hand slid down her side and gently suggested that she spread her legs.

He moved into her, taking his time. He felt her heat surround him and it was almost his undoing. He kissed her neck making a path to her ear. "You are so warm..." he whispered.

Her fingers touched one side of his face, beginning the light meld. Her other hand caressed his back with the suggestion that he continue. Her hips lifted pushing him in deeper. He took the hint and pushed in all the way. She lifted his hand to her face.

He nodded as he took a deep breath. "A bond?"

"If that is what you wish..."

"By the Powers ... yes!" His fingers moved to the position that he had tried only once before and that was to save her life. His hips moved slowly as they found the rhythm that would bring them unequalled pleasures.

He lost himself to her for a moment, forgetting how powerful she was. He dropped any of the barriers he had and felt hers fall away for him. He moved in to her thoughts marveling at the difference he shared with her now.

[Parted from me, but never parted. Never and always, touching, and always touched. We meet at the appointed place.]

Terran Standard Year: 2287.2

Kavifemai Standard Year: 06.4 pos'Lashan

Carl looked up; sensing her approach before her foot even touched the sand on the beach. He was working on the boats, today was one of his free days and he had planned some sailing. He had already been here for most of the day. He moved to the railing then down the rope ladder to the dock. "Didn't expect to see you down here." He smiled totally pleased at her company for any reason. He pulled the cloth from the knee pocket and wiped his hands.

"The Council is in session. There is a matter that requires our presence." She had walked from the meeting. She wore her customary hooded tunic, pants and soft-shoes.

"What matter?" He folded the cloth and returned it to the pocket. "Sounds serious."

"There is evidence that this world has been under observation by another race." She started back towards the city. Carl fell into step beside her. "S'task and Di'on are concerned."

"Of course." He noted that she was subdued. "You are concerned as well?"

"I hold the position of ruler of this world. I do not feel however that I have the right to decide for this world. The Rhannisu are a warrior race, just as Vulcans were. They wish to prepare for conflict. I believe it is more prudent to prepare for discussion."

"We could prepare for both." Carl added. They had crossed the beach as T'yshen explained matters and were now moving up the walkway to the center square. "Do you not believe the Kavifemai are capable of peaceful negotiations?"

"I believe they are capable, but I am uncertain if it is their preference." T'yshen headed towards their housing unit. "We will be contacted if we are needed." She headed straight to the large window that looked out to the field.

"You're worried." Carl sat in the armchair, facing her.

"I am concerned." T'yshen watched the grain wave in the light breeze. "I do not wish to experience a battle."

"Maybe it won't come to that." Carl kicked off his boots.

"Do you believe this?" She turned to face him.

Carl swung one leg over the arm of the chair; his hands went behind his head. "I don't know."

"You are not being truthful." She walked over to stand behind the chair.

Carl reached up for her hand then guided her around the chair to sit with him. He shifted slightly to accommodate her. "I would rather not guess." His arm moved around her, his hand rested in hers. This was the most difficult thing he had to get used to; she did not want or need to be with him as much as he needed her.

The door chime sounded. "Come," she stated and stood to greet their visitor.

S'task entered with Di'on. "We came to inform you of the Council's decision."

Carl sat up and gestured for them to sit down. "Some tea?"

S'task nodded. He took a breath as he leaned back, his arm went around Di'on's shoulder. "It was decided that we would defend our world. That decision came with little discussion." He sipped on the tea. "We are assembling the crews. Watches will begin as soon as possible and we also believe that we should notify Starfleet. We do not want to wait until half our people are dead before we ask for help. Di'on and I will accept responsibility for this."

He looked at them, realizing for the first time since the beginning that these two, sitting in front of him, were aliens, different from him. He had always thought of Carl as family, despite the red blood and his low tolerance for the heat. He had also considered T'yshen a distant relative. He had not, since arriving on the Enterprise, thought of them in this manner. It unsettled him. "I have been requested to ask both of you a favour. To care for the children." He paused for a moment, waiting for a refusal. "We need all of our ships available to fight and we do not want the children on board the vessels. This is why we will be contacting Starfleet, to take the children, to protect our futures. There is no place here to keep them safe. We should have planned for this. It should have been a consideration." S'task sighed as he felt the familiar knot in his stomach begin, the one he usually felt before a battle. It was a sensation he had not experienced in a long time.

Di'on sat forward slightly. "I was asked why you were not in attendance. When I explained, I was asked to inform you, for the record, that all of Kavifemai consider you to be citizens."

Carl bowed his head. "We are honoured."

"What of the preparations for discussion?" T'yshen was not comfortable with the result. She believed it was due to her inexperience with a confrontation of this type. Her logic and her world's wishes were at odds within her. She moved apart from the others, there were personal beliefs that she had to come to terms with.

"We are always prepared for discussions." Di'on added. She understood T'yshen's position even if she did not totally agree with it.

"Where do you perceive as the safest place for the children to be?" T'yshen had returned to the window as she considered the possibilities.

Di'on stood and moved to T'yshen's side. "The medical center was my first thought, but if there are any casualties I am not certain that it would an appropriate place for the children. My other suggestion was the library. It has the facilities that you require. Rooms that could be converted to separate sleep areas and has the central communication terminal." She watched the Vulcan absorb the information. "We will move in additional food, water and medical supplies."

T'yshen nodded. "You are far more skilled at preparing for war than I." She was not certain she was prepared to deal with this side of ruling a world. She would have to find the resolve to see this through to the best of her abilities. "I accept your recommendations."

Di'on moved to face her. "T'yshen, you must be the one to give the final word." She was surprised by the momentary indecision that she found in T'yshen's eyes. "You are Reldai and Vriha of Kavifemai."

No one had used the 'official' title for her before now. It was a Rhannisu word; it translated as 'The Highest'. T'yshen looked to the dark eyes of a woman that she had worked side by side with for five years. Through the meld with Spock, she had also been aware of Di'on before meeting her. He had considered her an honourable enemy, now he considered her an honourable ally. She had shared this opinion of Di'on. They had become 'warrior-sisters' and now she had to place her faith in Di'on's intuitions. She used Di'on's official title and the formal phase that was required. "The word is given, Chancellor Di'on"

Di'on bowed her head. "As you command, Vriha."

******On board the U.S.S Enterprise, parsecs away...

Jim Kirk stared at the chessboard. Spock had him this time, he was almost certain of it. He watched the Vulcan for a moment then decided that there was something he was missing. He began a third scan of the positions and the moves available to him. He reached to the coffee cup, without taking his eyes off the board. He tipped the cup and then realized it was empty.

Spock reached for the pot that had been placed on the warming plate. "Your consumption of caffeine has increased over the past week." He re-filled the cup.

"Next week I hope we will be busy and I won't have time for all the coffee." He met the dark eyes and grinned. "I have been meaning to ask you, have you gone through the ship's logs as McCoy suggested?"

Spock nodded once. "There are still events that I have no recollection of. I have accepted the events as fact."

"Such as?" Jim sipped on the coffee as he continued to search the board.

"I do not recall all of the events pertaining to V'ger. A few individuals and certain activities are a blank. The assignment to Starfleet Academy and receiving the rank of captain."

Kirk smiled. "Too bad, that was a good party." He leaned back in the chair. "Remind me to tell you about it some day." Over the past year, Kirk had tried not to push Spock about what he could or could not recall. Some things had come to him after reading or talking about the time frame. Situations that had been unclear were discussed and many times the events began to fall into place for him. Selfishly, Kirk was more than pleased that Spock had remembered their friendship and the connecting physical aspects were coming along slowly. "Anything else?"

"Nothing that pertains to duty." Spock drank some of his tea.

Kirk put his cup down and turned his attention away from the board. "You haven't even opened your personal logs, have you?" He was met by silence. "Why are you avoiding the issue?"

"I do not believe that personal events are necessary to concern myself with at this point." Spock had avoided this issue totally and hoped that Jim would as well. He had glimpses of the relationship with T'yshen through the melds he shared with Jim, but there was no self-knowledge of her in the least. Reading his personal logs had seemed like voyeurism, as if he was looking into someone else's life. "It is your move, Captain."

Kirk nodded. "I know. Trying to avoid the subject isn't helping either. And you aren't sleeping again..." He had read a few security reports that stated that Spock had been on the bridge or discovered in the lower observation room at odd hours. Not to mention the fact that he knew when Spock wasn't sleeping, he had even shared some of his nightmares. "Look. I understand how difficult this must be..."

"No you do not." Spock stated clearly.

Kirk sighed. "It's probably just as difficult as pretending it didn't happen."

Spock raised his eyebrow; he had not considered the matter from that perspective.

"I have an emotional investment in this as well! I still get the occasional letter from her, asking about you and me. It's hard not to talk about her. She gave us this freedom with each other. Well, maybe just me, to admit to loving you." Kirk rested his cheek on his hand; his elbow rested on the arm of the chair. An awkward silence filled the room. "I shouldn't have brought it up."

"Jim. I have touched on a few entries concerning Reldai T'yshen. I do not experience any recollection of any of our time together. It is as if I am reading another's life. Not mine."

"T'yshen's guess was that you tried to shield the bond so McCoy wouldn't have to deal with it. Somehow along the way it was... lost?"

Spock considered the assessment. "A logical premise."

"Just promise me that you'll keep trying." He reached for the pawn and moved it up one level.

Spock reached to his piece and placed it in front of Kirk's king. "Check-mate."

Kirk smiled. "Another game?"

The whistle of the inter-com stopped Spock's answer. Kirk reached to the unit built into the table.

"Kirk here."

"Keptain, we have received a request for assistance from Kavifemai. They are under attack." Chekov's voice was calm.

Kirk stood, pulling his tunic on as he spoke. "Direct heading. Top speed. Prepare for Battle stations, Mr. Chekov. Have Uhura contact them and let them know we are on our way."

"Aye, sir. Estimated time of arrival is eight hours, thirty-four minutes."

"On our way. Kirk out."

*******

Carl smiled at the sound of Uhura's voice. "Acknowledged Enterprise." He left the frequency on stand-by and returned to the noisy common room. Four infants, twelve under five, and only a few older children made for a chaotic experience. He looked to T'yshen as he stepped into the room and nodded.

T'Shal, one of the oldest at seven years old, had been born aboard the Enterprise. She had disappeared into one of the side rooms with one of the infants that required attention. Her parents were now high above them in one of the warbirds, as were all the others. The only exceptions were L'effa, J'ekon and his wife H'Sana, they had considered themselves too old for the fighting. They were waiting in the medical center for casualties. They felt they could be of more use there.

T'yshen was beginning the required class for today in the Venda prah. She had managed to arrange the children in a circle. They were all concentrating on finding their own centers. The infants had been placed on matting in the center of the circle; even they would be calmed by the meditations surrounding them. She spoke softly as she reminded the children of the path they must learn. She silenced the few that could not seem to remain quiet.

Carl held in the grin at her raised eyebrow and the look she gave to one child, and should have known how to behave. His demeanor changed drastically as he caught T'yshen's look. He bowed his head and muttered an apology then settled down.

"S'haile Carl." T'Shal held the freshly changed and now sleeping infant protectively.

"Yes, T'Shal." He leaned on the desk behind him. He adjusted the audio monitor in his ear; it was designed for a differently shaped ear channel and would creep out. He was monitoring the ships' transmissions as they fought to protect this world.

"Will there be casualties?"

Carl nodded.

"And deaths?"

"We hope that all will survive. But it is a possibility." Carl peeked into the blanket and the sleeping baby. He had even become accustomed to the tiny pointed ears and the slanted eyebrows. Somehow he had never really envisioned a child born with them. He always had the impression that the ears changed over time. "You should return to your lessons."

"Yes, S'haile." T'Shal moved between the two closest in the circle then placed the infant with the others. She took her place directly opposite to T'yshen.

Carl continued to listen in to the communication between the vessels. They had announced a course change to intercept an enemy fighter that was heading towards the surface. He lifted his head as one message was directed at him, to get the children under cover.

Carl touched the shoulders of the older boys then looked to T'yshen. "We need to find a more protected area. He looked around. "The tables. Bring them over against the center wall. The children will be protected under them for the present." He had mentioned to S'task that if they survived this battle, it would be a good idea to build a shelter. S'task had thought about it, then agreed.

The boys were just tall enough that when they lifted the tables, the legs cleared just enough not to be dragged across the carpeting. The Kavifemai were strong and most of the children here could help move the lightweight furniture. The others helped with the younger children and they huddled under the tables. They seemed to sense the approaching danger and the need for co-operation. T'yshen brought the blankets from the other room. They were used to tent the tables to cut down on the dust and debris that might reach the children.

Carl moved into the communication room to continue listening. "They are in line with the building." Carl no sooner said it than there was an explosion just outside the building. He turned his back to the outside wall as debris rained against the building. He looked out into the other room to check on the others just as the ceiling began to collapse.

S'task had ordered the ships to leave the atmosphere, hoping to draw the enemy into space. There was no reason the battle should go on near the cities. He had not forgotten any of his skills, and neither had any of the crews. He felt the ship lurch.

"Evasive!"

"Yes, Commander."

He smiled slightly, even the rankings had returned at least for the senior officers. Crews naturally returned to the vessels they had been assigned to originally. He had also never really noticed that more than half his crew was female! An oddity in the Rhannisu fleet, but his life-mate gently informed him that after this battle, this situation would change. She had smiled at him.

"Enemy locked on, Commander."

"Fire."

The energy beam left the small vessel and flared as it hit the shielding.

"The shields are weakening. Two more hits and they will collapse." The weapons officer turned to him. "Three at the most, unless they have reserve power." Sansa's hair had been fastened back as it used to be and surprisingly the crews had shown up in the colony jumpsuits. The sleeves held no marks of rank, only the crest of the Federation.

"Your discretion, Sansa." S'task had confidence in his crew.

He held his breath as the beams left his ship; he really had not wanted to do this! He did not want to kill another person... ever! He had been the one to remind the rest of the counsel why they had left home. He had also reminded his crew of Federation policy of using only an answering fire. They had not let him down. The attackers had not left them any choice and had begun the attacks early in the day.

"Shields have dropped, weapons have been taken off-line."

"Cease fire. Contact them. Ask if they require assistance in maintaining life."

"Not answering our hails."

S'task stared at the screen, he stood suddenly. "Shields up! Get us out of here! Fast!" He felt the hairs at the back of his neck raise. The ship began to shake from the change in direction and speed.

The screen lit up!

"Explosion. Shock wave in four seconds."

They held onto the consoles, trying to keep the ship functional, as they prepared for the impact. It came and began to shake the small vessel. Systems sparked as they always did when they went into overload. They waited for the calm.

Aboard the Rea's Helm, Di'on stood waiting for the screen to clear of debris from the explosion. She needed to know her life-mate was still alive. Right now, she envied T'yshen's telepathic bond with her mate. The screen cleared and she sighed with relief.

"Firestorm's damage?"

The communications officer turned. "Negligible. A few systems shorting out, nothing more." D'Han laughed then looked to her. "He says you owe him one hour."

"He will get his hour." She smiled at the teasing bet they had going. For each engagement survived they would receive 'special' time. "Have any enemy vessels reached the surface?"

Boards were checked and additional scans were made. "One vessel." D'Han touched the tie-in to the surface. "Kavifemai Station, we are on our way. One enemy vessel is heading in." He looked to Di'on as he realized he had committed them to an action without his commander's orders.

She nodded approval then gave the orders that would make it happen.

"Our energy is at half, Commander." The helm officer reported. "We can only maintain this level for another three hours."

D'Han turned. "Commander..." His finger tapped the switch to open the channel so all could hear the transmission from the surface.

"Rea's Helm. We have sustained damage. Three hits. Only one injury." T'yshen sounded calm but worried.

"Specifics." Di'on asked.

"A few bruises, one broken arm and a minor complication." T'yshen's voice seemed calm but it held an uncertainty.

Di'on stood. "A complication?" She waved to the communications officer. An old tactic, but one that had fallen into habitual use. He was to increase the gain and begin the recording. She tapped the nav officer's shoulder. The course would be changed to follow the communication. All the old skills had surfaced.

"It appears there is someone here that wishes to speak with you." T'yshen remained calm. "Ael was released from under the care of the Federation. She has returned to seek you." There was a pause in the explanation. "She is armed."

Di'on drew in a calming breath. "We will be there, Virha." The communication was closed at the other end and Di'on sat back in the command chair slowly. "Notify... no! We will go in. Continuous scan. We do not need anymore surprises."

"Yes, Commander."

*******

T'yshen stared at the young Rihansu and at the weapon that was held against Carl's head. He was being held by another renegade, this one an Orion. Another two had herded the children into a back room and they were told to remain there. Two guards stood outside the entrance and so far there had been no injuries from these actions. The injury that was reported had happened to Carl.

"You have managed your recovery well, Vulcan." She studied the woman wondering how quickly she would have died that day on the Earth ship had no one been there. "I had hoped that the injury you sustained would have been fatal."

T'yshen remained silent.

Ael slipped her dirhja out of its sheath. She rested the tip against the Vulcan's throat. "I did not care for the time I spent in the care of the Federation." She walked around T'yshen, knowing that this woman would not move as long as the Human's life was in jeopardy. "No wonder they have not won the battles against us. They are soft and easily fooled." She recalled how easy it had become to give the proper answers to the proper questions. She played the game with the medical personnel that were to care for her, then she was released. She had dragged the blade around her neck as she moved, only once did it nick the skin enough to bleed.

The communicator that hung on Ael's belt, sounded. She lifted it up then opened the frequency. "Ah."

"They are coming in." The voice stated.

"It was expected. How much time?"

"Four or five units at the most."

"Prepare for beam up in three."

"Yes, My Liege."

The communicator was replaced and then a thin strapping was pulled from a pocket. She handed it to the Orion holding Carl. "Bind him." She paused for a moment. "He will come with us. He will have the answers."

T'yshen began to consider the options that would guarantee everyone else's safety. There were none. The simplest and the safest would be to allow them to take Carl. The children could not be placed in danger. Di'on would be on her way and would be able to effect a rescue if necessary. Their vessel was not close by. They would have to travel to their vessel unless they had transport capabilities. Her last study of the system did not include that information.

Ael stepped back slightly. She turned Carl and checked the bindings, then turned him back. "Take him." The blade was poised to repeat the injury on T'yshen that failed to take her life before. She watched for a shifting of the Vulcan's calm or any indication that she was to act on her orders. There was nothing. "Is he not worth your attentions, Vulcan?"

"It would not be logical to attack an opponent that is armed when I am not."

"There are times when Vulcan logic serves even my purpose." She laughed then waved the dirhja in the direction of the two men guarding the children. "Watch her. She is not to move until I am aboard."

"Yes, My Liege." The older one stated easily. He moved into place beside T'yshen, placing his weapon at the back of her neck. The other remained in place.

"Follow me up at my signal." Ael did not wait for his answer. She grabbed Carl's uninjured arm and guided him out of the building. The transporters were not as precise as the Federation or the Rihansu technologies for the moment. Beaming had to take place in the open. Before she spotted Di'on rounding the corner of the building.

Her timing had been less than perfect.

Di'on nodded. "Ael. Return the Human."

"Di'on, my Commander..." She spoke sarcastically. "... Would you care to do battle for the possession of him?"

Di'on paused considering what she knew of this person. She was always one to require battle; it had seemed an admirable trait in the past. It seemed foolish now. She knew she needed to get close to her and to Carl. "I accept."

"Where?" She looked at her suspiciously.

"There is the Arena. We can do battle there, under Rihansu law and tradition. You will have safe passage to and from Kavifemai. You have my word."

Ael considered this for a moment. Her victory would give her, by right and tradition, all that Di'on now possessed... including her position as leader on that world. "And if I loose?"

"You will have safe passage out of the system. With an agreement not to return." Di'on tried to appear relaxed and as if she was overly confident concerning the outcome. It was the only way to deal with Ael.

"Very well." Ael raised her hand to an angry voice from behind. The voice went silent.

Carl's life was at stake. Di'on nodded. "One hour to prepare."

K'tar turned to face her. "S'task will not be pleased."

"That will make two of us because I am not pleased either." Di'on stood. "Contact S'task and inform him that we are doing this..." She headed off towards her housing unit leaving Ael under the watch of two of her most trusted officers. She needed time to consider her decision. She trusted that no one else would be harmed.

Ael returned to the building. She stepped in relieved that her subordinates had followed her orders. She looked to the ones that guarded the room. "Release the children." She moved to stand in front of T'yshen. "Di'on has offered the rite of combat as a way to settle this."

T'yshen lifted an eyebrow and glance towards Carl, who was in a great deal of pain. "Medical attention is required for his arm."

"Perhaps he will get it." Ael stated then waved the guard towards the door. "Take her out. She is to be released but she is not to make a move to return. If she does, it is to be her last. Is that clear?" She met the man's eyes. He understood. "Good." She held tightly onto Carl's arm and pressed the blade against his throat.

There was a knock on the door.

"What?" Ael stated tightening her grip on Carl.

The guard poked his head in. "There is a healer to see to the human's injury. He has been searched. He carries only the necessary equipment."

She looked to Carl and considered this for a moment. She had plans for the human before she gave him to Di'on along with her defeat. "Very well. Keep your weapon on him."

*******

Di'on and S'task stood in the center of the stone arena. T'yshen waited near-by, dressed in her robes, she was to officiate at this challenge.

S'task was staring at his mate. "Hand-to-hand brings some danger to you." He was not certain what prompted this action. He had landed his vessel then met Di'on here as the communication had asked of him. "Are you certain you are the one that should be doing the fighting?"

Di'on frowned at him. "I was the one challenged."

"Are you aware of what will be gained by her if you lose?" S'task had considered this the moment he had heard. He did not wish to become property of the victor, unless the victor was Di'on.

She lifted an eyebrow. "I do not plan to lose." She reached to his face then reached up and kissed him.

"How touching!" Ael laughed. She looked to T'yshen, noting the robes that she wore. "You are presiding over this, Vulcan?"

T'yshen's head bowed.

Di'on moved to T'yshen's side. "We can begin."

T'yshen bowed her head then drew up her hood. She moved to the raised area in the center of the arena. "People of Kavifemai... You have been called here to witness Kali-fi na'tevakh. A Challenge. For possession of the Human S'haile Carl, the position of High Chancellor of Kavifemai and the dispossession of S'haile S'task." She spoke clearly repeated the statements in Vulcan and in Rihansu, as was tradition here. She looked to Di'on. "Di'on, thee accepts the conditions of the Challenge?"

Di'on bowed her head. "I do, Vriha T'yshen."

T'yshen turned to face Ael. "Ael of ch'Rihan. Thee accepts the conditions of the Challenge?"

Ael bowed her head.

"Palikau." T'yshen moved over to the side. She would have to be the one to judge fairness.

Ael moved towards Di'on, reached to her arm, held it tightly, turned and pulled her over her shoulder quite easily. Di'on landed hard, knocking the wind from her for a moment.

Di'on stood quickly. She began to move in a circle with Ael opposite her. They were studying each other. Di'on knew from Ael's earlier training that her hand-to-hand skills were good but they had been clumsy. She was easily defeated once she gained any confidence in her abilities. Di'on allowed herself to be tripped. She rolled onto her feet.

"You have become a farmer, Commander?" Ael was beginning to discover that the warrior that she most admired had fallen short of her expectations. She pressed her advantage. She grabbed Di'on's arm and twisted it until Di'on knelt at her feet. "Do you surrender your position, Di'on?" She had bent down to speak directly to Di'on.

"No." Di'on reached up with her free hand, grabbed hold of Ael's uniform and pulled her over her shoulder. "A novice's mistake, Ael." She flipped her over and twisted back her arm, resting her knee and most of her weight onto Ael's back. She was not so gentle, her grip was certain and her weight was slightly more than Ael's.

T'yshen moved towards the two. An end seemed inevitable.

Di'on lifted Ael onto her feet, almost easily. "Farming has its advantages, Ael."

The guards entered the arena taking Carl off to the stone seating area. Ael glanced towards T'yshen. "I had not been aware that you were his. Or rather, that he belongs to you, Vulcan tradition and all."

T'yshen paused, unsure of her meaning until she reached through to the bond to Carl. She inhaled sharply then met Ael's eyes. "You have intruded on the bond." She had been concentrating on the challenge. His 'signals' had already been full of emotions and she had shielded herself from them. She had been unaware of this intrusion, that itself was a skill she admired Ael for.

"He is human. His skills are not adequate enough to stop me." This was a talent she had learned long ago in her service to the Tal-Shiar. It was not a precise skill, merely one that could be used quite effectively during interrogations. She could search thoughts, dig out information but she left scars, mental scars.

T'yshen's clenched her jaw, the back of her hand raised and made contact with Ael's face so quickly that no one had expected it.

Di'on felt her own body tense and back away. She looked to T'yshen totally shocked at her actions. She did not dare ask anything of her as she noted the change in T'yshen. There was no calm in her eyes and her usually relaxed stance was now stiff and unyielding.

"Vulcan tradition holds that intrusion on the bond are dealt with in only one way. Challenge. The victor determines the punishment."

Ael started to laugh. "Vulcan, you want to die that easily...?" Ael felt Di'on's hold on her loosen. "Very well. It would amuse me to have this Human as my pet." She looked to Di'on. "I trust our challenge has ended."

Di'on nodded her head slowly. She had been prepared to merely escort Ael back to the Rihansu border and leave her with her own kind. She did not wish Ael's death to be on her hands even though she seemed to invite it, now, Ael would have no choice.

Di'on took a step back, releasing her hold totally. "Ael, how do you plead to the violation of the bond between Carl and T'yshen?" She moved to meet the eyes of the woman that had once been her sister-warrior.

"I plead guilty." She stated almost with humor. "It is my right to choose the weapons."

T'yshen bowed her head. "Choose then." She slipped off the flowing robe, revealing the bodysuit she wore under it for warmth. This would be sufficient for the fight.

Ael noted that an assortment of traditional weapons had been revealed. They were hidden in a storage unit embedded in the center altar. "I choose the sword."

Ael walked to the table. The swords were of a utility grade, they had shed blood before and had been brought from ch'Rihan. This was part of their history that was still practiced. She held it easily; the weight was balanced to perfection and was easily welded. She also had the conception that because of the Vulcan's passion for peace that T'yshen was untrained and an easy conquest. She moved to the center of the arena and lifted the sword in salute.

T'yshen bowed to her. Her hand slipped into the sword knot then wrapped around the hilt. She lifted it; it was slightly lighter than she had anticipated. She moved to stand in front of Di'on, bowed on one knee and offered her sword hilt first to Di'on. When the weight was accepted, T'yshen bowed her head. She felt the tip of the sword touch the back of her neck. Tradition held that if the words that were spoken were believed to be lies, the life was forfeit and all the other had to do was push the sword into the other's neck. A quick and almost painless death, but one that no one could recover from.

"By right as bond-mate, by the laws of Vulcan and Kavifemai, I make the Ancient Claim of Challenge. O, hear me all that bear witness, I claim that Ael of ch'Rihan, has without cause or consent, compromised the integrity of my bond with Carl. I ask the right to claim any payment I desire as forfeit."

"Your rights and claim are acknowledged and granted." Di'on removed the sword then offered it hilt first to T'yshen as she stood. Di'on met her eyes. "You are certain of this?"

T'yshen bowed her head then moved to the center facing Ael. Her sword was raised in salute.

Di'on indicated that Carl be released as prisoner. S'task moved quickly to his side and helped him to the seating area to witness this challenge.

Di'on held her hand high. "All will be decided here. Let no one interfere. Challenge has been offered. Challenge has been accepted." She moved off to the side with Carl and S'task to witness the outcome. "Palikau."

At that, the challenge began.

Ael moved in and swung low, causing T'yshen to jump out of the way. She rolled and stood, ready for the next attack. Ael's sword came up in an arc then down suddenly. It clanged as it struck T'yshen's blade. T'yshen's shoulders absorbed the force of the blow. Her hands had raised, blocking the blow. Her hand felt the pressure of the sharpened blade bite into the flesh of her palm.

Ael smiled at the victory. She increased her attack on T'yshen, moving faster and keeping her on the defensive. This would be an easy victory as far as Ael was concerned.

T'yshen countered the blows easily, watching for the weaknesses in Ael's form. There were many. Defeating her would not be impossible. Her blows were not always strong; many of her strikes were made at the cost of form and efficiency. She also noted that Ael did not make use of the sword knot. T'yshen's arm braced for the move as her sword moved down the length of the other, a quick twist of her wrist and the sword flew from Ael's hand.

Ael was shocked!

The sword landed close to Carl's feet, the tip had grabbed into the ground and bounced. He looked to T'yshen for guidance.

T'yshen bowed her head slightly, her blade tipped down. She was breathing heavily then looked to Di'on. "The choices offered?"

Di'on took a breath, her voice needed to be clearly heard. "You may return the weapon. Deem it lost and choose another. You may also continue as you are; she without a weapon."

T'yshen bowed her head, she looked to Carl. A motion and he slowly moved to her side. Her hand went to his neck; she kissed him hard and passionately as she reached into his thoughts quickly. He had not been prepared. He was visibly shaken. S'task moved to help him back to his seating. She looked to Ael. "I have back what I lost carelessly; you may do the same."

Carl then understood what T'yshen had done. Flaunting her ownership of him then offered the luxury of continuing this with some honour given back to Ael. He watched Ael move cautiously to the sword. He stood then lifted the sword, offering it to her hilt first. He wavered as he waited. He saw the renewed fury in Ael's eyes as she took the blade from him. He bowed his head then turned his back on her to return to his seat.

Ael's next move was a mistake. The biggest one she would make. She lifted the blade, saluted T'yshen then aimed for Carl. She threw the blade with all the power she had in her. The blade sailed unwavering towards Carl's back.

T'yshen screamed through the bond for Carl to drop down without question. She ran then kicked into the air. Her foot connected with Ael's back. She fell. T'yshen landed roughly, rolled and stood facing this woman. Briefly, she allowed herself to check for Carl. Her bond told her he was unharmed but shaken. She glanced his way, just to have the visual confirmation. Ael's blade lay on the ground just behind him.

T'yshen waited. She controlled the rage within her that wanted only to rip Ael's thoughts from her. She could do this quite easily, causing Ael to become insane, slowly and totally cognizant of the changes. Perhaps a fast beheading was in order? She had to control. She had to slow her breathing, calm her body as her hand tightened on the hilt. She tried to rid her body of the anger that she was experiencing. She was not totally successful.

Ael tried, and failed, at being unaffected by T'yshen's abilities. She had been surprised by the Vulcan's abilities. She had been shocked by the open display of her bond and the emotions she and Carl shared. T'yshen took one step towards Ael. She took a breath and then another step. She pointed to the blade then tossed hers to land with it.

"Choose again." T'yshen placed her hands behind her back, forcing herself to relax; to control the emotions that were overwhelming her, clouding her judgement.

Ael moved to the table. She used the time to recover some of the calm.

Di'on stood next to her. "This is a mistake, Ael. T'yshen is highly skilled. Do not be misled by the peacefulness of the Vulcan's upbringing. We share a history." Her voice was only loud enough for Ael to hear. She remembered watching T'yshen practice t'asumi one day on the beach. The Vulcan was quick, agile and precise in her moves. Out of the corner of her eye she caught some movement. She turned to see S'task moving to the entrance of the arena and the sparkle of the transporter beams.

"Enterprise." She whispered. With all of this, she had forgotten.

"Being away from home has softened you, Commander. I will accept death in any way it is served.

Commander Spock's hand moved to stop Kirk. "Do not interfere, Captain." He recognized the setting. "It is a formal challenge."

Kirk frowned at his first officer then turned back to the scene in front of him. "Challenge? I thought only the men..."

"It is not a mating challenge, Captain Kirk." S'task guided them off to the side so he could explain. "The attack was Ael's fleet. She landed and took Carl. In the time that he was with her, somehow, she affected the bond."

Kirk started towards T'yshen. Spock's hand closed around Kirk's arm, threatening to tighten if necessary. "You can not interfere. It is her right as bond-mate."

"Do you wish to remain?" S'task looked into the arena. "It is to resume. They are waiting."

Kirk nodded. He contacted the ship and explained as briefly as possible as S'task guided the small group to the stands.

Ael looked to the 'new' audience and bowed. She turned towards T'yshen. "I grow weary of this game playing, Vulcan." She moved close then dropped into a crouch and swung one leg out, attempting to knock T'yshen off her feet.

T'yshen managed to move. She reached towards Ael, who was still slightly off-balance, lifted her outstretched leg and tossed her back. Ael rolled quickly, regaining her balance and tried a more direct attack.

T'yshen held the hand that was aiming for her throat. She pulled as her other hand held Ael and tossed her overhead. T'yshen turned prepared for Ael's next attack.

Ael reached for T'yshen's shoulder but it was lost to the twist the Vulcan took her body into. Ael grabbed the long braid, wrapped it quickly around her hand and pulled the Vulcan to the ground. Her body weight rested against T'yshen, holding the Vulcan down for the moment. Ael paused to breathe. She glared at T'yshen, the words coming through clenched teeth. "I will win, Vulcan. Then I will take him." She was gloating now. "You will watch as well." Her hand moved to the contact points on T'yshen's face. "I know how to please, not only to destroy."

Ael caught the movement of the Federation officer standing. "Do not interfere, Human." She smiled slightly at Kirk. "Do you wish to learn why we are superior?" She leaned a little harder on T'yshen as she reached into her thoughts.

T'yshen slammed every barrier that she had been taught into place. She felt Ael's uneducated but powerful search. She slowly moved her own hands into place on Ael's face. Ael had wrongly assumed that T'yshen, being Vulcan, would not attempt any mental attack. She felt little resistance to her probing; this counter-attack was totally unexpected.

Ael screamed. She tried to pull herself from T'yshen but even her exit had been blocked.

Ael screamed again!

T'yshen released her touch on Ael's face a second before she collapsed on her. She pushed her off; Ael curled into a ball. Unmoving.

T'yshen moved onto her knees, drew in a breath then stood. She was exhausted. She had exacted her payment. First for the initial attack then for the harm caused to Carl and finally for the intrusion. She straightened her stance, still breathing deeply. She was reaching for the control she required as a trained Vulcan.

T'yshen moved to Di'on, then knelt. "It is done. Challenge was won. Payment has been exacted." She stood slowly.

Di'on met the Vulcan's eyes and for the first time realized that Vulcan was the home of her people. She had always had doubts. There was no question now. She had seen the look of the Ancient Rage on T'yshen's face. A face that was usually so peaceful. She had also witnessed payment exacted as the Seheik had claimed could be done. She had now understood why Vulcan preferred the taste of peace. "What was the payment?"

T'yshen looked to the ground for a moment. "Her sanity. She will have only herself for companionship." T'yshen bowed her head. "I have honoured my teachings by not taking her life." She wavered for a moment. She looked to the stand and to Carl. "Attend me."

Carl stood.

Spock reached to stop Kirk.

Carl stood in front of T'yshen. "Thee has honoured our bond." He reached his hand to the back of her neck drawing her closer, returning the gesture that was made to him before. His lips brushed hers. "I love thee."

They left the arena.

Di'on turned to the crowd. "The Challenge has been satisfied." She motioned for L'effa to attend Ael. Matters would be decided what should be done with Ael, tomorrow. She stepped from the raised platform and moved towards the officers. She bowed her head in greeting. "Captain. Commander. It will seem the matter was dealt with easier than we had anticipated."

"We have the others in custody." Kirk stated. He looked to L'effa bent over Ael. McCoy had moved over to help as much as he could. "What about Ael?"

"It will be decided tomorrow." She was tired. "Captain, I would appreciate it if you remained in orbit until the decision is made."

Captain Kirk nodded.

T'yshen sat in the rarely used tub. It had been placed here originally for Carl's use. Someone in their 'infinite' wisdom had suggested that this was needed, as the sonic settings would damage his skin, over time. As if he was incapable of adjusting the shower settings!

Carl had insisted that she indulge in the bath. He filled it with hot water and scented oils. His hands had been busy massaging the sore and stiff muscles of her body, quite expertly, and was now finishing her arms. McCoy had healed the small fracture in his arm and it was fully functional.

T'yshen rested her head against the roll of toweling. Her thoughts would drift; she needed time to meditate and to rest. Her eyes closed as her body continued to relax. Carl was being attentive in a manner that had surprised her. His touch, his patience with her slowness and his wish to pamper her were all pleasing and amusing to her. She had no strength to argue nor did she wish to. Carl had even washed her hair and was now in the process of brushing it out and braiding it.

Carl had felt numb throughout most of the challenge. He wanted her to know how much he had been affected by the events of today. He had not been able to find the words as of yet to explain his pride with her. His hands brushed the tiny wisps of hair back, then reached to the mug of warmed ale. "Here, drink. It will help."

Her hand accepted the mug; she drank down a large mouthful then returned the mug to him. Her touch was gentle on his face and she moved closer to him. She wet his lips then kissed him.

His hands moved into her hair to hold her tighter. His body began to shake. He felt his tears and his inability to stop them. "I almost lost you." His hand held her dark hair tightly as the tension was heard in his voice. "Before my eyes, thee would have been killed. Thy blood would have ran green..."

Her touch was gentle on his face as she tried to sooth him. "I did not die. I was not even injured... except for this cut." She opened her hand, showing the mark the blade had made early in the conflict. "A few sore muscles. But I still have thee... our bond... well worth the price." T'yshen smoothed his beard with the back of her hand, as his tears slowed. "This time, had I lost... I would have taken thee with me... into the shali-bahn. I would have claimed thy bond in death. Thee would have been mine, either way."

Carl felt her weave herself into his thoughts. When she did it in this manner, he laughed. He called it tickling in his thoughts. It brought a glorious pleasure to him.

T'yshen smiled. This Human brought her more joy that anyone had. She felt that there was enough Vulcanoid strength left in her for one more movement... she pulled him into the tub with her.

Carl laughed then began removing his now wet clothes. He straddled her body once free of his wet clothing, then kissed her. Her fingers touched the side of his face and she drew him into the meld. It was fast and passionate, without the usual calm. He lost himself to it.

Captain Kirk stood with Spock at the beam down point. All had been resolved and Ael would be returned to Rihansu space, with a visual recording of the events that transpired. The remaining 'crew' would be dealt with under Federation law. He had understood that T'yshen and Carl were still resting and would not be here to see them off.

Kirk wished Di'on well and then ordered the beam up. He hesitated before leaving the transporter room. "Spock."

"Yes, Captain." He turned. He was expecting a question from him.

"This was considered... justice?" He looked to the Vulcan.

"According to Vulcan Law, yes."

Standard Terran Year: 2291.3

Standard Kavifemai Year: pos'Lashan 10.4

This year would be the largest celebration yet! The crew of the Enterprise had been extended a formal invitation; they did not refuse. The crew of the Excelsior had also been issued an invitation and was expected to arrive shortly after the Enterprise. Part of the celebration was to be the first betrothals among the children born on this planet. Time would tell as to whether or not the males would experience the pon farr.

There had been an area close to the beach where an arena had been built. This arena had been designed for ceremonial events and was designed after the ancient arenas on Vulcan. Their own place of Koon-ut-Kali-fee. This would be the first generation choosing to honour those traditions among the Kavifemai.

Spock, Kirk, McCoy and Uhura beamed down in an area that was out of the way. They stood on the edge of the square and watched for a moment, the bustle of activity.

Kirk grinned. "This looks like it will be fun."

McCoy mumbled an agreement then followed Kirk as he stepped out into the square.

"Captain!"

Kirk turned in the direction of the shout. He waved to the approaching figure.

Carl jogged to meet them. "You have no idea how much this pleases everyone that you could make it." His hand went out to shake Kirk and McCoy's hands. He saluted Spock as he greeted him in Vulcan and he hugged Uhura. "Still as beautiful as ever!"

She grinned. "A true diplomat." She was still looking around at the organized chaos going on. "But I still like to hear it."

Carl wore his civilian attire for the present. He remarked how smart everyone was in his or her dress silks and was on his way home to change when he had been told of the Enterprise's arrival. "I think I am the last to get dressed... again." He chuckled as he led the way to the library. "You can get away from the activity in here if you'd like or you can wander around. The official ceremony will be in the arena and will start in about thirty minutes." He couldn't stop grinning. He thought a minute as he looked around. "Everything is pretty much as it was before. The arena is through the path beside the medical center, just follow it and you'll find the place. Can't miss it. It's the circle of stones and columns."

Kirk grinned and nodded. "I think we will find it."

Uhura leaned closer. "If not, I'll ask for directions before we get lost."

Carl laughed out loud. "Okay." He looked to his timepiece. "I have to get home and get dressed."

"Then go. We can manage just fine." McCoy added. He wasn't sure if it was the day that had put Carl in this mood or the fact that there were other Humans around for a change. He watched him dash off towards his home. "His accent is very noticeable now."

"I caught that when we talked a few hours ago." Uhura added. "I didn't connect the voice with him and I had to remind myself who he was."

Kirk touched her elbow. "Let's go get something to drink, then head to the arena."

"You won't get an argument from me!" McCoy had been impatient about trying the variety of Romulan ale that had been rumored to be the best in Federation space. "Lead on McDuff." He looked to Spock as his mouth opened. "Don't Spock. It was another quaint Human expression."

Spock's head bowed slightly. "As you wish, Doctor."

The seating in the arena was full and they were escorted to the lower tier of seating, next to Sulu and his entourage. Greetings were exchanged and they all settled to watch as the ceremony unfolded in front of them.

In the center of the area was a tall stone pole, from it was suspended a large octagon-shaped gong. On the opposite side of pole was another stone structure. It resembled steps, the lower one at an acceptable height but the next one was exaggerated and the rise on the final one was only a few inches high. The pattern was mirrored on the other side. The activity seemed to be centered there.

Kirk leaned towards Spock. "Part of the ceremony?"

"Yes, Admiral. It is a kneeling stone. The participants are often young. This helps steady them without another's touch. There is a slight indentation to the stone where their bodies rest."

Kirk nodded. He was still amazed at how much he did not know about this civilization despite all the time he had spent with Spock over the past twenty-seven years. There had been little glimpses into Vulcan's culture early on. Some things had been accepted but not fully explained or really understood. Slowly over the years, Spock had been less reluctant to share the mysteries of his world.

Their attention was drawn to the adults coming into the center. Kirk had no trouble identifying T'yshen. She was dressed as he had seen her on Vulcan, in her silk robes and the markings of her family's House. The others that came with her wore robes with less decoration and as they moved to the center, the hoods were dropped back. It was S'task and D'Han. They had been the first and most promising to have studied the Kolinahr with T'yshen. They would assist in the ceremony today.

T'yshen made a low bow to the four cardinal positions. She bowed to her acolytes.

"What thee are about to see, comes down from the beginning of time. Without change."

Kirk smiled, he couldn't help it, and he loved her voice. He relaxed as the sub-dermal translators took over. The translations would resonant through his bone structure to his eardrum, only the wearer could hear it. He listened to the ceremony, watching the young faces as they bonded in a way that was to become natural. He looked to Spock a few times as the young couples were joined. He thought of the connection he shared with Spock. He wondered sometimes if Spock needed more than this mere human had to offer.

The last young couple he felt he should recognize. Spock leaned towards him with the needed information. "It is T'Shal. Her parents were killed in the attack. The young male is Sykar, the son of L'effa and Sariya."

Kirk looked at him amused that he knew these names. "Been doing your homework?"

Spock eyebrow lifted then he settled back.

Kirk settled back as well. "Don't worry. I won't tell." He whispered in Spock's direction.

"... without change. The Beginning was of Vulcan. The Journey was of Rhannisu. Our Present is of Kavifemai. This is the Vulcan way. This is the Vulcan soul." T'yshen repeated the words as she had for each betrothal. "T'Shal, Child of Arehna, Child of Hadaen, House of Rhe'yrn, Born of Kavifemai. Are thee prepared for Koon-ut-la?"

T'Shal's head bowed. She wore the plain robes of an acolyte as she was guided into position by S'task. "I am prepared." She knelt in place, her hands moved together touching only at her fingertips as she prepared for her betrothal. Momentarily she thought of her parents, how proud they would have been and how much they would have approved of the choice of mate. She had also, after much discussion with T'yshen, decided to retain the House name of the 'Returned'. She could barely contain her excitement over this and she could see in Sykar's face, his excitement. They had spoken about this a great deal and had even tried to touch one another's thoughts but they had not known of the preparations until yesterday. They had been kept apart since, as were all of the children involved.

T'yshen continued. "Sykar, Child of L'effa, Child of Sariya, House of Rhe'yrn, Born of Kavifemai. Are thee prepared for Koon-ut-la?"

Sykar's head bowed. "I am prepared." He wore a similar robe as he moved with D'Han into position opposite T'Shal. He mirrored her position and began the light meditation that would prepare him to receive the bonding. He felt D'Han's light touch on the side of his face as he was given the command that would release the instructions from deep within him. The information had been given to him about a week ago by Reldai T'yshen. It had been explained that when it was time he would gain the knowledge.

Sykar looked to T'Shal, he was as ready as he ever thought he could be. He separated his fingers slightly then turned his palms to face T'Shal. He cleared his throat then wet his lips. "I come to place my future in thy hands. Thee have the power of my life or death.... when the burning calls. Will thee accept?"

T'Shal turned her palms to touch his. "I come to take thy future in my hands. I accept the power of thy life and death... when thy burning calls. I accept this and thee."

Their hands moved to the practiced position for a meld. Minor corrections were made by S'task and D'Han. Both drew in a breath then released it slowly. Sykar was the first to reach, but only by a nanosecond. T'Shal felt herself drawn into him as she began the path though his thoughts. She felt his surprise at the sensation as well. So much of what they felt was the same. So many thoughts they had shared verbally were now within their own thoughts. It was amazing to be and not be within the other and your self in the same instant.

[T'Shal?]

She felt the shiver though her thoughts. She felt herself smile; no it was his smile. She laughed and he felt it. [Sykar.]

Sykar felt the thrill with this! He had heard and felt her laughter. Like velvet in his thoughts! He took a deep breath as he moved deeper into her thoughts. [Can you feel this?]

[Yes! Thee are in my thoughts as well. It is an interesting sensation... Sykar?] She 'read' his sharing of thoughts, memories and emotions. She returned the gesture. She felt a mental caress of a shared grief at the death of her parents.

[Do you wish private names?] This was a practice of the Rhannisu and one that they had been told could become theirs if they wished it. He felt her acceptance. [I will call thee, T'lheiann.... My Promise.]

[I will call thee... Khellian, my Hunter.] She laughed within the thoughts. [It is time to bond, Khellian.] She reached into the deepest places and found the core of what Sykar was, his identity and his acceptance of her were there. She burned her mental signature into him as he did to her. They moved slowly from one another feeling the thin thread of connection.

Sykar's hands moved from her face. He had a knowing-of-her that he did not have before. He looked into her eyes and knew that she was pleased and that she was hungry as well. He smiled at her then whispered the name he had given her, so softly that no other could hear it. Her eyes flickered with recognition. It had worked!

T'Shal laughed at as the realization occurred to her as well.

They stood together. Bowed to T'yshen, to S'task and then to D'Han. They moved off to join the others as they waited for the festivities to begin.

*******

There were many more people at this celebration than there was at the first one, ten years ago. Much had changed. Buildings had become common; fields of differing crops dotted the land. Aircars, sehlats, children, sailing ships and families had become common place. There were couples that were openly affectionate with one another and children of varying ages. The older children seem to take charge of the younger ones whether they were siblings or not.

Admiral Kirk had left the dance floor, out of breath and laughing with Uhura. They had managed a waltz, a samba and ended with a polka. The musicians from the Enterprise's 'Ever Changing Ship's Band' had been requested to provide some of the music for the off-worlders. The Kavifemai also had their musicians and were taking turns providing the music. He was trying to catch his breath as he thanked McCoy for the drink he was handed. McCoy had managed a glass of wine for Uhura and was now guiding her away as he convinced her to dance with him for the next waltz.

Kirk sat down heavily in the chair next to Spock. "I am tired." He drank some of the ale. "Must be getting old." He watched his Vulcan for a moment. "Are you having an acceptable time or are you planning on being stoic for the entire day?" He turned to face him. "You are being awfully quiet." He wiped the condensation on the glass with his finger as he waited for Spock to answer.

"I am having an acceptable time and plan to return to the ship at the earliest opportunity." Spock had not wanted to attend. This was another memory he had lost the one of this colony's beginning. He recognized few personnel and had found it disquieting that some people seemed to know him. When he reviewed the incident, he found the paperwork to be somewhat familiar. He remembered his parents being on board. He had a vague recollection of discussing matters with T'sai Di'on, but nothing of any substance.

Kirk sighed. "Have it your way, Spock." He leaned back in the chair and drank more of his ale. Spock had been less than enthusiastic about being here. Diplomacy had always been Spock's strong suit but this time he had been less than diplomatic about most of the events here. He drained the glass. "If you want to you can head up now."

"It would not be sociably acceptable to leave before the honoured guests have returned to the celebration, Admiral." He saw no reason for his attendance at any of this and his plan was to return to the vessel after the meal. It had also concerned him that he felt such revulsion at being here. That was the only word for it. He had not shared this information with anyone nor had he planned to. He wished only to return to the vessel and meditate. A portion of his consciousness seemed to require his immediate attention, mentally tapping his shoulder so to speak. He realized that Jim was talking to him.

"Spock?" Jim was sitting forward now, facing the Vulcan with his hand resting on Spock's knee. "Spock. What is it?" He was getting worried now; it had taken three calls before Spock reacted. "Should I get McCoy?"

"No, Admiral. I am functional. Forgive my preoccupation. It was rude." He met the hazel eyes and knew that he believed little of what was stated, except perhaps his apology.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes." Spock stated clearly. He wanted to add that he had been feeling odd since they had beamed down but stopped the statement. Jim would have whisked him off to the ship and sickbay and had McCoy do his usual poking and prodding until there was an answer. But there was none. Spock changed tactics in order to relieve some of the concern on Jim's face. "If you wish a refill, I will obtain it with my drink." His hand picked up the empty glass and left the table almost faster than Jim could answer.

Kirk sat back in the chair, folded his arms and studied his friend. He was hiding something and going to great lengths to disguise it, but it wasn't working and Spock knew it.

"Admiral."

Kirk turned to greet an old shipmate. "Captain Sulu." He grinned. "Having fun?"

Sulu nodded. "They know how to enjoy themselves, that's for sure." He sat down in an empty chair across from Kirk. "I think they could teach the Vulcans a few things about having fun!"

Kirk grinned and nodded. "Maybe." He glanced in Spock's direction and he was just now getting the glasses filled. "How do you like the captaincy?"

"Fine." He studied Kirk for a moment. "I can understand now why you wanted to get the Enterprise back all those times. You begin to feel as if she's yours."

Kirk nodded then his eyes dropped to the tabletop. "But don't let her own you, Hikaru. Find someone that can accept your captaincy and you. Hang on for dear life." His voice fell almost to a whisper. He looked to Sulu then cleared his throat. "Forget what I said. It's an old man talking." He sat forward and looked to the collection of Sulu's officers. "Any of them dance?"

"Sure. And very well." Sulu recognized the need for the change in subject. Enterprise-A was being decommissioned soon. No date but the rumors were flying. A new one was being built and rumor was that they had chosen a captain already. "The one in the red hair. She is my nav officer. She loves to dance and she's good."

"Then why are you sitting here?"

"Because she has tired me out." Sulu looked around the room. "Amazing how much it's changed."

Kirk nodded. "I especially like they way they have made that building concoction out of the sand and covered the original domes with it. Makes them look as if they had grown out of the sand and as if they are supposed to be there."

Spock returned to the table with the two glasses of ale. He bowed his head acknowledging Sulu's presence. "Captain."

Sulu returned the bow. "Your recommendation for my helm has worked out well."

Kirk looked to the Vulcan, curious. "What recommendation?"

"A student of the Academy placed well in all aspects of helm control and has an aptitude for engineering. Captain Sulu required a helm officer."

"But what he isn't saying is that this officer is female and Vulcan." Sulu looked over his shoulder to find her. "She's the one talking to Henley, my nav officer I mentioned before. They are inseparable." He looked to Kirk and then to Spock. "Remind you of anyone?"

Kirk glanced at Spock then shook his head. "No. Not at all." He grinned at Sulu.

*******

Admiral Kirk had found his way outside for a breath of fresh air. Everyone had eaten and were now getting ready for the real party. He found a near-by bench under a large tree and sat down. He opened his tunic and leaned back against the trunk. He could see the night sky just beyond the edge of the tree limbs and leaves. He wondered what it would be like to live dirtside for the remainder of his life. He would have to deal with that reality too soon for his own choosing.

He watched as a few people returned to the party. Spock had even struck up a conversation with S'task that seemed to be satisfactory to his mood and decided to stay for a while longer. He felt a familiar caress in his thoughts and he turned to look over his shoulder.

"Admiral." Her head bowed.

Kirk stood smiling. He took in the fact that she had changed her attire. A full-length evening gown that seemed to be made of liquid fabric. "T'yshen." He thought about complimenting her, then decided to keep it to himself. "Lovely ceremony. T'Shal is growing fast."

"Carl refers to her as a well fed weed." She moved closer to the officer. "Why are you not inside dancing?"

Kirk gestured for her to sit with him. She agreed to. "I am just out here enjoying the stars. Besides, I'm all danced out." He watched her eyes and then the lift of one eyebrow. He grinned. "I've danced enough for now." He offered as an alternative.

She nodded. "And how is..." she hesitated, then thought for a moment. "...life treating you?"

Kirk chuckled. "Not bad. Heading home after this run. The senior staff is due to stand down and the Enterprise is rumored to be decommissioned." He sighed. It seemed as if every conversation he had today included that bit of information, it was either offered or asked for. "Don't let me keep you from the party..."

"You are not." She studied this man. "You are not pleased concerning Starfleet's decision?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "I think I am just not sure what I'm going to do with myself after this."

"Come and visit."

He looked down to the ground. "Maybe."

She studied him for a moment then looked to where his eyes had been drawn suddenly. The door to the celebration had opened to admit someone. "You are expecting someone?"

"No. Just a captain keeping track of his crew." He tilted his head slightly. "How has life been treating you?"

She thought for a moment. "It is satisfactory."

"Only satisfactory? Being married to a human I thought would be at least interesting." He was teasing her and by the look in her eyes she knew it. He leaned towards her fractionally. "Do you think Carl would object to you dancing with me for awhile?"

"My understanding is that you are all danced out." She felt the whisper of his melancholy. The thread that connected them had not weakened with time, as it should have done, as it was reported to have done. The Masters had assured her of that. She had been surprised by the intensity that remained. "I do not require permission to socialize with another."

Kirk leaned back against the tree. "Even with one who is not yours?" He teased her using the Vulcan phrasing and was rewarded with a lift of her eyebrow. He allowed a slight smile to show. "Or should I have asked if it was acceptable behaviour for a bonded female?"

She frowned. "Why do you do this?" She lifted her chin slightly to meet his eyes. "Why do you question what is? We are bonded. You are mine." She stood prepared to leave the human to his solitude.

"Yours?" He stood and reached to her arm. She faced him again. There was a fire in her eyes that he had missed. He hadn't been sure if the bond would still be there. Explanations were always that this would diminish with time. He was beginning to wonder if they were referring to Vulcan timeframes. His sense of her had begun the moment they met, but he had thought that her life-bond to Carl would have cancelled out the reh'tel-tor.

"You forget, James, Vulcan is a Matriarchy. Biology has determined that the females rule. Their planet, their home and their mates." She was most definitely serious about this. "You are mine. You are also his. First, last and for always. That is something I accepted before the bond with Spock was established. I do not lay claim to you but you are bonded to me."

There was a part of him that wanted to simply tell her to do just that; lay claim to him. He stared at her; he could always tell when she was angry... her eyes went dark and small. Like Spock's. He took a step closer to her. His free hand brushed the hood of soft fabric from her head. He hated it when she covered her hair. The fabric draped low on her back, revealing the fact that the hood was actually the back draping of her dress. The front folds fell into place dipping low in the center.

He closed his eyes as he drew in a deep breath.

She drew her fingers along his jaw line. "Why do you do this?" Her voice had softened. She had found the control for her unexplained anger. He was one that would always challenge kaiidth.

"I don't know." He moved his head so that his lips touched her hand. His hand pressed hers tight to his mouth. He held her fingers as their hands dropped down. He released her arm then sighed. "I haven't the slightest idea, Shen."

T'yshen lowered her eyes for a moment. "You are the only one I allow to call me this." Her head tilted as she considered her affection for this man.

"What does Carl call you?"

"It is of no concern to you. Nor should you inquire." She brushed her fingertips along his cheek. "Do you still wish to dance?"

Kirk smiled. "It would be my pleasure." He offered his arm to her. Her hand was warm even through the sleeve of his uniform. He shook himself mentally as he tried to deal with all of this. He couldn't help but consider just how much that he and Spock were missing out on. Maybe they had simply become accustomed to being satisfied with what they had. As they reached the door and it opened, his hand automatically went to the small of her back. He discovered naked warmth. He looked to her totally surprised, not at all what he would expect her to be wearing!

"Admiral?" She had felt his touch and through it, his shock.

He cleared his throat. "Just not what I had expected."

"The cause is sufficient." She closed in her emotions behind strong shielding as they entered the room. James was, if nothing else, a passionate entity and under the circumstances should not be encouraged any further than she had already.

Carl had been leaning against the side of the building. Not hiding; but not easily seen either. He moved from his vantage point, to the bench and then sat down. Only six steps away and when he found them there, he froze. As her bond-mate, he knew for certain that she loved him. She was devoted to him. He was also aware of the bond she still held with Kirk. She had always explained it as similar but less than a life-bond, yet he could not draw her in as Kirk did with mere words. Nor could he arouse her as Kirk did with a simple touch.

He had always known there was something less than total in their bond. He had also accepted the notion that it was because he was not Vulcan. The difference now was that he was aware of her restraint in their relationship. He wasn't angry, just disappointed that this was not as it could have been. Or maybe it had to do with the fact that he was not her first. Maybe it was just that simple.

He sighed then stood. His only consolation in all of this was that no matter how much Kirk affected her or vice versa; he was the one that she was bonded to. He planned on keeping that a reality for a very long time. "Back to the festivities." He muttered to himself.

Captain Spock had been speaking with Di'on and S'task concerning the children's acceptance into Starfleet Academy when they became of age. He could not foresee any difficulties. It would be another ten years before the first generation of the Kavifemai-born were old enough to attend, by then some of the prejudices should have been dealt with.

He moved back to the corner table that he had been haunting, with a small plate of dessert, a rare indulgence. He looked up as Admiral Kirk and Reldai T'yshen entered.

They moved closer to the group that was dancing. T'yshen had changed from her robes and had he not known it was the same person, he would have assumed another had joined the festivities late. She bore little resemblance at the moment to the priestess that presided over the ceremony earlier. Her hair was fastened loosely away from her face but the true length was evident as it fell down her back.

Spock turned his attention to his dessert and tea as the two began dancing.

Kirk had stopped himself from pulling her closer as they moved onto the dance floor. He held her in his arms, easily moving in time with the music as he breathed in her perfume. He recalled how she had explained that it was made from a Vulcan spice; its light scent resembled cinnamon and mixed perfectly with her own scent of almonds. One that he had come to recognize as a scent that was indicative of Vulcans.

"I enjoy getting your letters." He followed the beat of the music careful not to fall out of step. "I don't think I have ever received actual letters before." There were a few women that he could dance with that seemed effortless, T'yshen was one of four.

"It appears to be something that becomes popular for a time and then dissipates. It had been one of my duties, to check the old writings and to repair any that had been damaged. My preference for using it, I believe stems from that time. Often complete text had to be re-written." She had thought it interesting that James had always answered in the same manner and the fact that his handwriting had improved. "It was when I first arrived at Gol, it was used as a teaching tool, to learn the old writings."

"I think I would be very disappointed if I ever received a personal message from you in the more conventional way."

"I shall remember that fact, Admiral." She tightened her hold on his hand for a moment as he guided her into an overhand spin to end this dance.

Spock was just finishing off his tea. The dessert had been consumed to its last crumb. He pushed the dishes to the side then looked to the couples dancing just as Kirk turned to face him. T'yshen's back was to Spock and Kirk's hand moved up her back to close into a fist in her hair. Spock suddenly recalled seeing that gesture before and his eye was drawn to the exposed tattoo low on her back. It resembled the stylized tattoo Jim had. When he had questioned Jim about his...

Spock felt very sick, very suddenly and only for a moment. He took a deep breath then released it slowly. A mild headache was beginning, as the room became extremely warm and confining. He reached to open the front closure on his tunic, but it didn't help. He placed his elbows on the table, his palms touched and he rested his forehead on the folded fingers. He closed his eyes as he tried to discover the source of his discomfort. He closed off his reactions so that Jim would not know. He would have to become very good at that.

He stood unsteady for a moment then headed in a direct line for the closest door. He drew in a breath of the cooler night air and the nausea lessened but he was still breathing heavily. He would have to wait before beaming up to the ship. He had no intention of stepping off the platform only to fall unceremoniously onto his face. Not very dignified for a first officer! Nor did he wish to be found here, face down. He spotted the bench and made his way to it just as he felt his knees give out, and sat down heavily.

"T'yshen!" He whispered softly. His heart was racing and his breathing was shallow. He concentrated on getting his body functioning normally. "She who is... was my bond-mate..." His voice barely loud enough for even him to hear. He remembered teasing her, by comparing her to Hu'a. His body was numb. He closed his eyes tightly as he recalled their bonding. He felt his body shiver. He remembered the shore leave just before the accident. He covered his eyes and drew in another slow deep breath. "Jim. He is... was reh'tel-tor."

That was why he had seen so many images of her in his thoughts! Most of them Jim had tried to shield from him and he had honoured that privacy. He had merely accepted the images, assuming that it was one of his many conquests and never thought to question them. There had been discussions in which Kirk seemed to be... familiar about her. He had asked only once about the tattoo and Jim had said that it was from their bonding. He had assumed that Jim had meant the one that Jim and himself had entered into. He remembered how Jim's mood had changed for a time then a few days later the mood seemed to return to 'normal'.

He took another deep breath deciding to return to his quarters as quickly as possible. His stomach was threatening to expel its contents and his head felt as if it would split open. He tapped the comm-pin and requested a beam-up directly to his quarters.

Apologies could be made later if necessary.

*******

Kirk, McCoy and Uhura had been the last to leave. Good-byes to Sulu and his crew were made as that team had beamed up less than an hour ago. There was a final token dance of the evening and then the good-byes to the friends on Kavifemai. They had managed to witness the suns rise just before they beamed up.

Kirk shook his head slightly as he stepped down. "And I have a full shift ahead of me," he muttered. "I really had not expected to have that much fun!" He walked through the doors knowing the others followed. He looked over his left shoulder at Uhura yawning. "Tired?"

"What do you expect?" She smiled. "At least I had the sensibility to book off today. I can climb into my bed and drift off until..."

Kirk turned to face her and snapped his fingers. "I can schedule a drill. Crew needs to be sharp you know." He grinned at her frown.

She glared at him as she backed him into the lift, smiling at her. "You can do it without me then... and you can put me on report for it now if you want." She stepped in then tapped the level for their quarters. She looked over to McCoy. "Why are you being so noisy?"

He blinked his eyes then looked her way. "Sorry. What did you say?"

"Never mind. Go back to sleep." She grinned at his sheepish grin. "Are you on duty?"

"Always. Doctors are never off duty. Doctors and mothers." He thought about it for a moment. "The last time I was off duty was...." He never finished the thought, the doors opened and they filed out of the lift. "Good-night people." He started towards his quarters then stopped after about ten steps, then turned. "Did either of you speak to Spock tonight?"

"He was planning on leaving early." Kirk frowned. "It's not like him to not say his good-byes though." He sighed. "I'll check on him. He should be up by now." He walked with Uhura to her quarters as McCoy continued down the corridor. "Think of me working hard."

She smiled at him then wiggled her fingers as she whispered her good night to him. She winked as she stepped into her room and the door closed, separating them.

Kirk shook his head as he yawned and stopped outside his first officer's quarters. He touched the door chime. It had taken a moment before he heard Spock invite him in. Kirk stepped in and was surprised that Spock was wearing his robe. He frowned. "Are you okay?"

"Why do you ask?" He offered Kirk a chair as he poured out some tea for him.

"You left early, without letting anyone know. You don't look well rested and I expected you to be in uniform." As he sat down he also noted that the Vulcan was still bare foot. Spock must have been in bed when he signaled. "Thank you." He lifted the cup to his lips and drank down most of it. He would be desperate for coffee later. "Did I wake you?"

Spock inclined his head slightly as he sat across from Kirk. "I was not well." He saw the immediate concern in Kirk's eyes. "I am presently feeling better."

"What was wrong?"

"I am not certain. Perhaps something I ate."

Kirk chuckled softly. "Okay." It was not something he would have ever expected Spock to say. In all the landing parties and shore leaves over the years, he would always check his food with the tricorder, just in case. "I just came to see why you left without a word to anyone."

"I apologize, Admiral."

"None needed. I was just worried." He finished off the tea then stood. "The tea helped. Thank you again. Will I see you on the bridge later?"

"My duty begins in forty-seven point six minutes."

"We will only be in transit from Kavifemai to...." He had to think about it. He really needed some sleep! "Starbase four-four. If you need more time, take it. I'll call you if I need you."

Spock accepted the offer. "If I do not feel that I can serve, I will notify you."

"Fair enough. See you whenever." Kirk left the warm quarters with a gut feeling that there was something really bothering Spock. He continued to the next door and entered his own quarters. There was just enough time for a sonic shower, clean uniform and a very quick breakfast. Maybe then he would feel better. He slipped off his uniform tunic as he muttered to himself. "But I doubt it."

Kirk slipped the clean uniform on, pulled on his boots and as he reached for his tunic, had a feeling about his first officer. He tapped on the tie-in to the bridge. "Scotty, can you hold down the fort for a little longer?"

"Aye, Captain. Nothing goin' on except waiting for acknowledgement of our departure and setting the course."

Kirk grinned. "Okay. I'll see you in about two hours. Taking time to eat and wake up."

"Aye, sir." There was a slight chuckle in his voice.

The connection was closed. Kirk picked up his tunic then slipped it on as he headed for Spock's quarters. He didn't bother to signal and just stepped into the quarters. He was surprised by what he found. Spock was sitting at the desk, still in his robe and nursing what looked like brandy.

"A little early in the day?" Kirk spoke softly. Spock looked... tired. "I have never known that to settle a stomach." He stood beside Spock. He started to reach for the glass but Spock closed his hand around it protectively.

Kirk leaned slightly on the edge of the desk. "What's wrong?"

Spock looked to the amber liquid. This was his fourth glass and the effects that it should have had on his system were nonexistent. He had no logical reason for the consumption of it other than it was reported to dull the senses. It did not. Spock still felt the aching. There were no words that he could use without telling Jim exactly what had happened and, to this point, he had managed to hide the fact. Spock did not want to share that news as yet and most likely preferred it to remain within his own thoughts for all time.

"Spock?" He waited a moment then turned to face him, his hand went to the back of his neck and his fingers reached into the black silk of his hair.

Spock closed his eyes at the touch. He felt none of the joy that Kirk would exhibit over this information and for that reason he wanted to keep this to himself. He shielded the new discovery from Kirk. "The matter will pass, Jim."

"For you to be acting this way, it's more than just 'a matter'." Kirk felt the shielding and the discomfort that seemed to go with it. "Can't we talk about it?"

"I do not wish to talk about it." Spock stated softly.

Kirk tightened his hold on Spock's neck. He leaned down closer to him. "Then do me a favour and ditch the drink. Right now you have me rattled enough that I want to either pack you off to McCoy or grill you until I know." He felt a warm hand cover his that was resting on the table's surface. There was definitely a problem! He also had the impression that there was no way that the Vulcan was going to talk about this. He had closed himself off and Jim couldn't read him at all. It was something that he would have to learn to live with.

"Agreed." Spock slid the glass to the side. He held the human's hand tightly in his and leaned back in the chair, Jim's hand slid naturally to his shoulder. Spock sighed. "Trust that this is a matter that I must deal with."

Jim hesitated. He didn't want this to be a closed subject. He withdrew his touch on Spock's shoulder then slipped his hand from Spock's. He picked up the glass and took it to the recycler, disposing of it. He had been a little surprised at how it had unnerved him so much to find Spock brooding. After all, how many times had Spock found him in this situation? Too many. He turned to face Spock as a thought occurred to him. "Have you remembered the bonding?" He closed the distance between them. "Is that it? You've finally remembered?" He felt relieved and almost light-headed with even the thought of that news.

Spock closed of his reception of the raw pleasure that crossed Jim's face. He was not surprised that his mate had arrived at the crux of the issue immediately. Jim had no comprehension of how distressing this would be for him.

For her.

For them.

Spock shook his head then lied. "No." He watched the change in Kirk's face. He wondered for a moment if this human thought he was hiding his emotions or did he know how much showed on his face. "It is a personal matter but nothing that need concern you."

Kirk frowned. "Okay." He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He wasn't sure if he believed Spock or not. He was leaning towards the 'not', but he had learned when not to push Spock as well. "I was hoping that maybe..."

"I can understand your desire for the memories to be recalled." Spock tried to shake himself from this mood that had settled around him. He had felt numb and overly sensitive. Unknowing and in the position of knowing too much. Perhaps it was best just to bury the information again as he had before.

He had remembered shielding the thread to T'yshen, just as he felt the coldness of death. He had wanted to save her from sharing his death as she had predicted. He recalled feeling her touch and then Carl's, that was when he released her. "Too much time has passed for any viability of the bond to remain any longer." He had learned to misdirect the truth too easily over the years, but he could never lie to Jim.

Kirk nodded. "I'll book you off for this shift. Rest. I'll see you later for our game and dinner?" For now he would drop the subject but he would keep a close eye on him for the next week or so.

Spock's head bowed. He knew it was only a matter of time before Jim would begin to discuss this again, but for now he was free to deal with the recovered memories. "A pleasure I look forward to, T'hy'la."

Spock's abilities to hide this from Jim were put to the test later that day. The chess game after duty was longer than usual. It seemed as if they were both concentrating on other matters. Then as they prepared for bed, Jim's touch on his bare arm reminded him of the care he would have to take in shielding his recovered memories.

As they made love with a passion that seemed almost urgent, the images of the three of them seemed to be uppermost on Jim's mind. Spock no longer accepted them as just Jim's memories. The remembering of them was fuelled, no doubt, by Jim's closeness to T'yshen during the celebration. He took the passive role as he tried to share his attentions between concealing the remembered past and his interest in his present activities.

Standard Terran Year: 2292.2

Standard Kavifemai Year: pos'Lashan 10.5

Carl watched as T'yshen repacked her medical case. She had just returned from the medical center with the supplies she needed. He finished off the juice, put the glass in the cleaning unit then moved to stand behind her. His arms moved around her and he pulled her close. "I have been doing some research and I have discovered that we have not been off alone in over a year." He whispered as he kissed her neck. "Care to find a quiet corner and hide for a few days?"

T'yshen reached to the side of his face, combed through his beard with her nails as she considered the idea. "Where?"

Carl shrugged. "Anywhere you want." He turned her to face him. "I need some time with you."

She allowed a slight smile to show. "And what do you wish to do?"

Carl grinned. "Guess." He met her eyes then bent down and kissed her. He pulled her to him, the kiss becoming more passionate. His tongue wet her lips then slipped into her mouth. He moaned as her fingers touched the side of his face, joining their thoughts slowly and gently. He wrapped his arms around her, her body pressed tightly against his.

T'yshen felt the reaction he caused in her each and every time he held her. She caressed his face as he lifted his mouth away from her in order to breathe. The bonding had been satisfying and pleasurable to her in spite of his inability to reach deeply into her thoughts. He more than made up for this in his ability to satisfy the physical cravings. She recalled the idiom he would use, 'at the drop of a hat', to describe how much time he required to prepare for coupling. It was, figuratively accurate.

"I will be generous and give you three guesses." He met her eyes and shared his smile.

"And if I do not guess?"

"Then I will have to go into a full description of every action that I mean to conduct." He stated this in an extremely serious manner.

"Then this will be a lengthy explanation?"

He grinned, his arms still wrapped loosely around her. "Most definitely."

T'yshen considered him for a moment. "You wish to engage in an extended timeframe consisting of sexual activities."

He closed his eyes then leaned his head on her shoulder with a sigh. "You were supposed to guess at something first, that is why I gave you three guesses."

"But I did not require them, it was quite evident what your desired activities would be." She ran her fingernails along his neck, causing him to shiver. She smiled at him.

The intercom unit sounded and she moved to answer it.

"T'yshen".

"We have a message from Vulcan. Ambassador Sarek."

"Very well. Continue." She paused for a moment as the image changed. Her head bowed. "S'haile Sarek."

"T'yshen. I trust you are well." He paused for a moment. "Your presence is required for a conference. The Excelsior will arrive in six hours to take you and Ambassador Carl to the destination."

"The destination?"

"It is unnecessary for you to know at the present time."

"Very well, Ambassador, we will be prepared."

The screen darkened.

"I suppose this means that we have to postpone our time alone?" Carl sighed. Conferences had a way of being scheduled at the most inappropriate times.

"There will be the voyage to the conference." She suggested with a hint of pleasure in her voice.

Carl nodded. "I'll pack."

"I will notify Di'on and speak to L'effa concerning T'Shal."

The beaming effect took them easily and deposited them on the Excelsior. Captain Hikaru Sulu lifted his hand to form the ta'al. "Excelsior and it's crew is honoured, Reldai T'yshen, Ambassador Carl."

Carl stepped down with T'yshen, fingers touching. He released the touch then accepted Sulu's handshake. "Thank you, Captain Sulu."

"Quarters have been set aside and we arrive at our destination in three days."

T'yshen bowed her head. "The Rihansu border." She stated it simply as if it was totally obvious.

Sulu looked to the decking for a second. "I am not at liberty to discuss any of this, Reldai T'yshen." He gestured towards a young yeoman. "Mr. Vianna will show you to your quarters. She will be assigned to you as liaison during your stay."

Carl bowed his head, understanding Sulu's position. "Thank you."

T'yshen bowed her head as they left the room.

Sulu looked to Mr. McIssac, his chief engineer. "I can't even imagine not trusting a Vulcan with sensitive information. Especially one that is associated with Ambassador Sarek." Sulu smoothed his tunic, a habit he had developed of late for some unknown reason.

"I would assume with the sensitive nature of this conference, it's to be expected." McIssac stepped out from behind the console after locking it down. "I suppose given the right information, even a Vulcan can betray a trust."

Sulu considered the idea. "I suppose. But I still feel like its going against the grain." They headed into the corridor. "I want to try to get to Khitomer ahead of schedule."

McIssac nodded. He waited at the lift; Sulu stepped in but held the door. "No problem. I think with the right coaxing we could manage... about six or seven hours ahead of schedule."

"That would be great." Sulu stepped into the lift. "They are sending the Enterprise as the escort."

"Good choice."

The door of the lift closed and took Sulu to the bridge. Commander McIssac continued on to engineering to check out his engines before he kicked it into high gear.

******

T'yshen sat in the large armchair, located in the observation lounge, with her warmed ale. Carl was fast asleep in their assigned quarters. Traveling had become common, although this ship was as impressive as the Enterprise had been twelve years ago. She was aware that the Excelsior was traveling at a higher than normal speed. She had understood the importance of the conference after reading Sarek's summation. She had made a few mental notes of questions that she would ask Sarek when they arrived.

She drained the glass then went to the recycler to dispose of it. The room was relatively empty, only four other individuals were present and they were occupied at the other side of the room with the holographic games. A shout went up and she glanced in their direction.

T'yshen walked towards the opposite end of the lounge, towards the grand piano that dominated the corner away from the viewing port. For the present the viewing port was closed, it was too disorienting to watch the stars while traveling at warp speeds. She ran her hand along the polished wood as she drifted back in her thoughts, to the time she played the piano on the Enterprise. She could not feel any imperfections in the wood as she ran her hand along the front of the instrument. She opened the keyboard covering and debated playing; it had been years since she had.

"Do you play?" Sulu held the large cup of tea.

T'yshen nodded. "It has been over ten years." She sat down on the bench then turned to Sulu.

He had come in for a quick break and then it was back to the bridge. He had not seen the Human/Vulcan couple since they beamed aboard. T'yshen looked quite different without the soft hooded robes that she had worn when she beamed aboard. He sat in one of the chairs that faced the piano.

"Do you play?" She asked if only for conversation.

"I can manage 'Chopsticks' and that is it." Sulu spoke firmly but with a slight grin. Learning the piano had never been one of his interests.

"I am not familiar with the piece." She indicated the keyboard.

Sulu shook his head. "No. I haven't played it in so long, I don't think I could even remember it." He grinned. "Don't let me stop you." He leaned back in the chair and sipped on the tea.

T'yshen tilted her head slightly then turned to the keyboard. She placed her hands on the keys then ran through a quick scale. The touch was sensitive and the acoustics, perfect. She began softly, the music building slowly with a feel of serenity and calm. She recalled this music as being T'sai Amanda's preferred piece. Sarek would often accompany her. It was one that was easier on the Human's ear. Surprisingly, it was the composition of a Vulcan and its title referred to the peace of meditation. The last notes were played very slowly then silence.

Sulu had finished his tea; he placed the cup on the side table and stood. He bowed. "Thank you, Reldai T'yshen."

She bowed her head. "The honour is in the sharing." She slid over to one side. "Now share with me the piece you spoke of."

Sulu grinned. "Not fair." He moved to the bench and sat down cautiously, not sitting too close. He shook his head. "This will sound awful." He put his fingers on the keys, pressed on one. He shook his head then moved down a key. He pressed that one. "Okay." He sighed, slightly embarrassed by this but enjoying the company. He began to play the simple tune.

T'yshen placed her hand on the lower notes, she had heard this. "I was not aware of the title."

"You've heard it before?" Sulu stopped playing. He was certain that she had smiled for a moment.

"It was the only piece James knew."

"James?"

She nodded. "Admiral Kirk."

Sulu grinned then laughed. "I presume that you know it better than I do."

"It was not difficult. Admiral Kirk referred to it in the same manner as you." She folded her hands in her lap. "He had stated that it was the only piece he could recall. Commander Spock played it for me later in its entirety."

Sulu rested his hand on the polished surface. "Have you remained in contact with them?"

"Letters are exchanged with Admiral Kirk." She thought of his last letter to her. The content was mostly trivial information, his personal observations and discussions he would have had with her. Mostly concerning Spock and the idiosyncrasies of command. "Both are content."

"That's good to know. I really don't take the time to stay in touch and I should." Sulu fell silent for a short time. "I should be on the bridge." He stood then smoothed his tunic. "We should reach our destination about mid-day tomorrow."

Her head bowed. "We will be ready."

"Again thank you for the musical interlude."

"A pleasure, Captain."

Captain Sulu picked up his empty cup and headed back to the bridge.

T'yshen placed her hands on the keys and played the more elaborate version of 'Chopsticks'. She smiled to herself. She recalled the comment James had made after hearing her play it this way. He had called her a 'show-off'.

She closed the cover over the keyboard then rested her hand on the surface. She indulged herself for a moment and recalled a time that they were together. It was the day after their joining, at first meal, and James was not accustomed to the rapport that was shared. He would begin a sentence and one of them would answer or continue before it was finished. He remarked that he felt so connected that he believed that he had the shared skills of his T'hy'la. And he proceeded to attempt the lyrette, to prove his point. It sounded totally unpleasant. Spock took the lyrette gently from him, informing him that he was not to attempt it ever again. Kirk had laughed and promised not to.

T'yshen stood, bringing her thoughts back to the present and headed back to her quarters. She had some notes to make regarding the conference that would begin in two days. She was looking forward to spending some with Sarek time before the meetings to spend time.

The Khitomer conference had begun as all conferences had, with the exception of the increase in security. Sarek had spoken to Carl and T'yshen of the recent events, some of which they had heard about but only in general terms. He outlined the accusations made towards the crew of the Enterprise and the events that had followed under the Klingon methods of justice.

When Admiral Kirk and his party interrupted the conference, it seemed as if the universal peace was to end at that moment. T'yshen had been surrounded by Sarek's aides, at his word, until her safety was assured only a short time later. Sarek had remained close to Azetbur. However, as the activities settled and the conspirators were revealed, there were a great many surprises. The applause that was awarded the Starfleet officers had been deafening and long.

The meeting had been suspended for a few hours and the delegates were escorted out of the council room until the matter had been settled. She had seen Spock speaking to a Romulan delegate named Pardec. He was reported by Di'on to be trustworthy in regards to a unification of the Vulcan and Rihansu people. T'yshen had spoken with him as well, much earlier in the day and he appeared to be honourable in his quest for peace for his people.

"Hi, stranger." Carl whispered close to her ear.

T'yshen turned to face him, her hand lifted and was met by his, palms touching. "Your meeting has concluded?" Carl had been included in the Starfleet conference as he served as a representative on Kavifemai.

"For now." Carl picked up a glass and filled it with a red liquid. He smiled. "I haven't had this in years."

"This is?" T'yshen had some tea.

"Cranberry juice." He drank a portion of it down quite satisfied with the test. "We should try to grow cranberries." He offered her a sip and held the glass for her. "Like it?"

"It has an interesting taste." She licked the juice from her lips. "How large is the fruit?"

Carl indicated a circle with his thumb and forefinger that was about the size of the kela-thorn berries. "About that big." He smiled. "I'll talk to the botanists on Enterprise or Excelsior before they leave. They may have the plant or seeds on board."

"If it pleases you."

He guided her off to the side, out of sight to most of the room, remaining very close to her. "Can we discuss what would please me, now?" He smiled at the raised eyebrow then her lowered eyes. He touched his fingertips to her chin, lifting it slightly. "May I?" He received her permission through the bond then leaned forward and kissed her, his tongue tasting the cranberry juice on her lips.

He continued holding her hand as he sipped on the juice. "The conference will begin again when the room has been cleaned. This was quite an interesting turn of events."

"It is fortunate that Admiral Kirk and Captain Spock were able to discern the intent of this deception." She looked around the room then returned to the grey eyes of her mate. "Have you plans for our journey home?"

He took a step closer, then kissed her gently. "A few."

"Tell me of them." She whispered to him.

Captain Spock had been speaking with his father. Sarek had excused himself in order to speak with another delegate that had seemed quite shaken by the incident. If anyone could, Sarek could soothe his nerves. Spock moved to the table that held the beverages where he poured himself and filled a second glass of juice. He looked around the room for Kirk. He spotted him heading this way and then his attention was drawn to the far off corner and it's two occupants. He felt the whispers of her shared bond through Jim as he moved closer. He showed no signs of sharing any of it.

Spock bowed his head as Kirk reached past him to the drink that had been poured for him. Kirk had leaned close enough and whispered his preferred activities. Even he was tiring of the formality of all of this. He always hated diplomatic affairs, too many rules and smiles.

"You look pre-occupied." Kirk sipped the juice.

"I was speaking to Ambassador Sarek and waiting for you." Spock had finished half of his glass. "When the session is reconvened, we will return to the ship?"

Kirk nodded. "No point in sticking around." Kirk watched Spock's eyes glance off to the side occasionally. He followed the line of sight and then sighed. "You have started to remember haven't you?"

Spock could not lie totally. "It is merely a sense of knowing the events happened. Nothing is clear nor do recall any particular moments." He sipped on his drink.

"You, my friend are a lousy liar." Kirk drained most of his drink. "One of these days you will want to remember for one reason or another, and you will have nothing." He glanced towards T'yshen with as much discretion as was available. "You will want to be with her..."

"It is not possible, Jim."

Kirk drained his glass then placed it on the table. "All things are possible. You keep telling me that." He sighed as he dealt with a reality of his own natural mortality. "Humans live a far shorter life than Vulcans." He looked to the Vulcan they had been watching across the room, and then to his own mate. Could that be why Spock and T'yshen had chosen human mates? To allow themselves time to help recover what memories could be and then they would have time together? He silently hoped that Spock and T'yshen would find their way back to each other. He wasn't sure but it sounded like something the Vulcans should plan. It sounded like something he would plan if he could.

Spock raised his eyebrow at the notion. He would not permit that to be the outcome. He would not seek her out to 'make amends' as it were. To ease his loneliness, or hers. It would not have been fair. She may choose another. She may return to Vulcan as its Matriarch and end her legacy there, with no place for a mate. She would not have any loyalties to him, nor did he expect her to. "I was not planning our separation as of yet. Nor do I believe Ambassador Carl to be planning his demise any time soon. I had not thought you to be planning a separation either."

"That isn't what I meant." Kirk cleared his throat. "Promise me that you will at least visit her at some point." He was met by the Vulcan's silence. Spock was going to remain stubborn about this and he wasn't about to argue the point with him. He was too tired right now. All he really wanted to do was get back to the Enterprise and some quiet time with Spock.

Standard Terran Year: 2293.7

Standard Kavifemai Year: 12.4

T'yshen had been called away from her meditation classes. She was aware that this would have been a reason of some importance. She sat down in front of the communication terminal. She tapped on the circuit and was surprised to see Sarek. "S'haile Sarek?"

"T'yshen. I wish to inform you myself. Amanda's life forces ceased approximately four hours ago." He tried to hide the fatigue in his voice.

"You are not at home." She made the statement rather than asked it. "Are you functional?"

"Barely." Sarek sighed. "Spock was with her."

"I grieve with thee." T'yshen bowed her head slightly. "I will attend."

Sarek nodded slightly. "We will talk."

T'yshen lifted her fingers to the screen. "Take care, S'haile."

"As you should. Sarek out."

T'yshen closed the frequency then began to make plans to travel to Vulcan and attend the burial of her 'chosen-mother'. To ease some of Sarek's grief and to help heal any damage caused by the severed bond. He needed her in a manner that he had not needed before. She would be honoured to serve.

Standard Terran Year: 2294.9

Standard Kavifemai Year: pos'Lashan 13.6

Carl pulled himself from a deep sleep. He had a sense that there was something wrong.

T'yshen had sat straight up in the bed, very suddenly. Her breathing was deep and fast and it took her a moment before she recalled her surroundings.

Carl reached to her hand and held it tightly. "What is it?"

She looked to him then felt her breathing slow. "It is James." She flipped back the covers then started to leave the warmth of the bed. "He is gone." She inhaled and wrapped her arms around herself.

Something did not feel right.

"Is he dead?" He felt her confusion.

Her head shook slowly a few times then stopped. "I do not know. He is gone. I do not feel him, but I did not sense his death."

Carl slipped from the bed then tapped on the low lights. "I'll make you some tea." He headed into the kitchen, giving her the privacy she may have needed. He closed off his sense of her thoughts as much as he could. She may have need of that type of privacy as well. He puttered around with the preparations for the tea then waited for her to come out.

He sat at the table with the cups and the pot of tea. He picked up the playing cards that were in a near-by drawer and began to play solitaire for about an hour. He looked to the bedroom door occasionally then back at his cards. She would come out when she wanted to. There was a part of him that was pleased that this connection with the Admiral would be gone now. He felt guilty thinking that thought. He never wished anything bad to happen to Kirk, just that he not be connected to T'yshen.

The communication unit sounded. He stood and moved over to it then flipped the circuit open. "Carl Bennett here."

The insignia for Starfleet filled the screen before the face filled the screen. "Ambassador Bennett, I am Lieutenant Commander Michaels. I have a message for Reldai T'yshen of a personal nature."

"If it pertains to Admiral Kirk's death, she knows." Carl enjoyed the momentary confusion on the other's face.

"Admiral Kirk had listed her as one of the first to be notified." Michaels stated.

"Send a copy of the official notification. Reldai T'yshen is meditating at the moment. I will let her know that you have called and seen to your duty." He had no patience tonight for any of this.

"Very well, Ambassador. Starfleet out."

The screen went dark. Carl stared at it for a few moments.

"Starfleet?"

Carl stood, faced her and nodded. "They will be sending you a copy of the official notification." He sighed. "Tea's ready." He pointed to the cups and the teapot. "It should still be hot." He looked to his wife. "Are you okay now?"

She nodded. "It was quick."

"I suppose that's something." Carl moved to his half-finished cup of tea as T'yshen poured hers out. "Staying up long?"

"No." She looked to his grey eyes and smiled slightly. "I do not know why I felt this."

Carl sighed. "He called to you, more than likely."

"Your behaviour is not logical."

"I don't have to be. I am human." He reached to her hand then leaned over and kissed her cheek. "Come to bed soon."

"Yes."

She moved to the window and the darkness. She wondered how Spock was coping with his bond-mate's... ceasing. She trusted that it was quicker than she had experienced at his death.

***********

END OF TOME FIVE

CONTINUED IN TOME SIX: PASSAGE OF TIME

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