THE OLD WAYS
by K.V. Wylie
I am T'Kohl and I have been told to attend to the Human healer in our community. I do not know if this duty is an honour or a trial.
The Human arrived very early this morning, before first bell. We did not know he was here until third bell, nor did we expect such a visitor. No Humans come here. Pajaharnee is closed to outsiders, especially to off-worlders. Our own families may not come. But a Human has.
The Master herself entered the Common Room when we were eating First Meal, to tell us about the Human. He was housed in the old building that was once the residence of the early Masters. He had arrived with a Vulcan not of our discipline, and we were told neither to enter the old building, nor to go into the garden surrounding it. We were told nothing more than that, but the Master does not give explanations. It would have been unusual if she had.
My roommate, T'San, was peculiarly stimulated by the news. She had seen two Humans once, in a shop in Matanko. "They change faces," she said to us, after the Master had left. "They change faces when they speak, and they are always moving, as if they have leapflies in their shoes."
"You sound as though you wish to marry them," T'Ych said, an insult for T'San was two years into the vow of body abstention and her marks were low.
T'San immediately silenced and lowered her gaze to her bowl.
"You have never seen a Human," I said to T'Ych.
"How can one change faces? We only have one face," T'Ych said, as if pointing out the obvious to a child.
"They do change," T'San said, though her eyes were still down. "I do not know how, but they do."
"I believe you," I said to T'San.
"Then you are as imaginative as she," T'Ych said.
T'Ych came from a distinguished family, a distinction officially irrelevant in this academy. Unofficially, it gave her many liberties. I come from a family with neither name nor fortune, but we have honour. I raised my chin and said, "Then let it be known I am imaginative for believing the words of one who has never practiced deceit."
I spoke loudly so that all at our table could hear. T'Ych eyed me, for my public challenge left her only three options. She could deny her accusation, but anything that happens in the Common Room may be brought to an Adept for arbitration. The penalty for the one found in the wrong is usually severe, but the penalty for false statement is one of the highest.
Her last options were to either apologize for the slur, or produce evidence that T'San was a dishonest person. T'San was young, and her emotions often uncontrolled, but her reputation was not one of lying.
T'Ych took the second option. Coldly, she said, "Forgive me. My words were unwarranted."
My name rang across the room. Immediately, everyone stopped eating and lowered their heads.
I stood and turned to face the doorway. The Senior Adept, T'Balq, motioned for me to come to her. Eyes circumspectly glanced in my direction as I passed. I did not know why I had been singled out, and it took all of my discipline exercises to keep my face composed.
"Teacher," I said, bowing.
"Come with me."
She led me outside onto the sandy pathways that ran to the other buildings, her steps slow and seemingly pained. T'Balq was elderly, and no longer stood in front of classes, but occasionally she took one or two students as proteges. Was I to be one?
"You have made an enemy, T'Kohl," she said at last.
"Revenge is not logical," I said.
"Many things happen here that are not logical."
I dared to look at her.
"The students have been told that a Human man is here?" T'Balq asked.
"Why do you think the Master has allowed him here?"
"Why?" I repeated uncertainly.
T'Balq nodded, expecting an answer.
"He must be royalty. Otherwise, he would not be allowed."
"Royalty," T'Balq said softly. "No, he is not, but it is just as well if that is what the students say about him."
"No one should be speaking of him," I said quickly. "We know nothing beyond that he is here, and it may not be our concern." I corrected myself. "Is not our concern."
"An unusual occurrence will never go unremarked," T'Balq said. "I would think he is the only subject of conversation in the Common Room right now."
She turned down the path to the old residence. The students had been told not to go there. Was she distracted? Such a thought was unwise, but she was quite old.
I halted on the walkway. "Teacher, where are we going?"
T'Balq pointed ahead. "I am taking you to the Human."
My training failed. T'Balq looked away and pretended not to notice my slip. "You will see to his needs, T'Kohl. You will not speak to him unless he speaks first, and you may not question him."
"Who is he?"
"An ordinary Human. It is redundant to tell you that anything you witness must remain unspoken, no matter who may ask you."
A warning? But who would ask after an ordinary Human, save naturally curious students?
"You have been selected for this task based on your conduct," T'Balq said. She resumed walking and did not speak again until we entered the old residence.
No classes are held here. The building is unused though the first floor remains part of the tour given to first year students.
The entrance hall had not changed since my tour. Two chairs sat in an otherwise large, empty room, and dust had gathered on the cushions and around the legs. Another room lay beyond, formerly a study area with tables and shelves, all empty. A staircase rose near the back exit.
T'Balq led me into the study area and sat at a table. She nodded that I should sit, glanced upwards once, towards the ceiling, then looked back to me and said, "His name is McCoy. He is a healer. Whatever requests he makes of you, you shall fulfill, bringing them either to my attention or to T'Wyn, the head counselor. The Human is on the second level, in the east room. Only you shall enter and exit that room."
"May he exit that room?" I asked.
"He may go wherever he desires, but I do not think he will leave. There is another in the room with him." T'Balq studied me, her gaze as steady as that of any of the younger teachers. "You may not understand this, T'Kohl, for you are not betrothed. There is a Vulcan male in the room with McCoy. McCoy is his consort."
A Human consort? Though I was careful not to let my emotion show, it did not matter. It was as though T'Balq was looking through me.
I did not speak. T'Balq nodded in approval at my silence.
"The Vulcan is of the House of Surak. His name is Spock."
So The Spock was the one described only as the Vulcan not of our discipline. If the Master had spoken his name, all in the Common Room would have known of him. Very few Vulcans go off world, and only four have gone into the military institution of Starfleet. It is considered a Human organization. The names of the four who voluntarily chose it are famous, and perhaps not in a way they would wish.
"Touch neither of them, T'Kohl," T'Balq said, "but be especially careful not to touch Spock. It is his time, but his time has gone on too long."
"Is the Human also in that time?"
"Humans may suffer their own types of madness, but they do not have that one. You are excused from your classes. At Seventh Bell, you may return to your room to rest. Do you have any concerns?"
"No, Teacher," I said, but T'Balq persisted, "None?"
"He must not be an ordinary Human to be a Consort in the House of Surak." Such a comment was bold, but T'Balq merely nodded towards the stairs.
"Go and meet him."
I complied and went up the stairs.
My internal sense of direction is accurate, but I did not need it to know which was the east room. Its door was the only one shut and bolted from the outside.
I knocked, waited, and knocked again, not wishing to enter unless the Human McCoy acknowledged my request for admittance. I assumed McCoy would not wish me to see any intimate expressions between him and The Spock.
Unfortunately, he did not answer. I could return downstairs, but T'Balq had specifically directed me here.
To the door, I said, "I am T'Kohl. May I enter?"
Again, no response came. Finally, I unlocked the door and opened it.
Inside was an antechamber containing a divan and table. Curtains covered the entrance to the main room.
"I am T'Kohl," I called.
"I heard you the first time, child," sounded a voice in such a heavy accent that it took me some seconds to discern the words. Also, McCoy spoke Standard.
I switched to that language. "May I enter?"
The curtains were drawn back and I saw my first Human.
At first I did not perceive much difference between him and a Vulcanoid. He was tall, gray-haired, and slender. Then I saw his eyes. They were a rare colour and bright as if lit from within.
"Come in, T'Kohl," he said, "but please be quiet. My friend is sleeping."
As he turned to indicate a bed behind him, I saw his ears.
They had no tips!
He turned back and caught me looking at him. Then, inexplicably, he did exactly what T'San had described. He changed his face.
I could not stop staring. The Human McCoy lifted the corners of his mouth until lines appeared around his eyes. His became the unmasked expression of a young child. Never had I seen an adult so openly display emotion.
My stare was rude. "I have given offense," I said.
"You haven't offended me, T'Kohl," McCoy said. "I'm amused because you look as if the Easter Bunny just dropped out of the sky."
"The Easter Bunny?"
"Never mind," he said. "You seem very young."
"I am a student."
I looked past him, towards the bed. The canopy drapes had been drawn around the sides. In the shadows, I could just see a figure lying on the sheets.
A small table and chair had been drawn up near the bed. A lamp and some papers were on the table. McCoy had been writing something before I arrived.
"McCoy, I have been instructed to serve you. What do you desire?"
"An answer to my prayers," he replied.
He motioned us towards the antechamber. We returned there and he drew the curtains. "Do you know who is with me, T'Kohl?"
"The Spock, of the House of Surak."
"I tried to sneak him in, but it's impossible to keep secrets on this planet. His family probably knows where he is by now. I can't tell you why, but I don't want any of his family here, except his father. Not until he's better."
"I understand." I did not, though.
"If Admiral James Kirk comes, he's allowed."
I nodded. "How else may I serve you?"
"He needs a Healer. Is it possible for one to come here?"
"There is a Healer in residence. Her name is--"
"No," McCoy said. "I prefer a male Healer. I'll also need some Lexorin."
"I shall make your request," I said.
"Thank you. If I need you, T'Kohl, where will I find you?"
"I will be on the other side of this door unless I am called downstairs. Shall I lock the door?"
His face changed again. Lines appeared on his forehead and his eyes seemed to dull a little. "It should be all right."
I left McCoy. T'Balq was still downstairs.
"Teacher, I met the Human McCoy. The Spock was asleep and I did not approach him. McCoy wishes a male Healer and a drug called Lexorin."
"Male," T'Balq nodded. "Yes, that is logical."
"I told him there was a Healer here."
She raised her hand. "Return upstairs, T'Kohl. I will fulfill McCoy's wishes."
I did as I was told. Searching the other rooms on the second floor, I found a chair and table for my use. As I moved the furniture near the door to the east room, I heard sounds of conversation from within. The voice answering McCoy did not sound normal. I was not used to Vulcan voices that rose and fell unevenly, but supposed that the voice of a male within the madness might not sound usual.
As I sat down, I could not help thinking of my father and brothers. They would also be subject to such a cycle, yet I could not recall ever seeing them act in any odd manner. My father did sometimes leave with my mother for a place they called Seclusion. Would that be when he suffered?
I could not visualize my father being emotional. He owned a store, and I had spent many of my child years helping him. I had spent more time with him than with my mother, and he had never behaved in any manner other than courteous and patient.
No, it was impossible. He did not go mad. The cycle must not affect all Vulcan males.
Yet, I had been told it did, by my mother before my seventh year.
I felt the warmth of sunlight on my feet. The angle of it across the floor tiles indicated that Second Bell would soon be sounding. T'San would be going to the study hall.
If she knew The Spock was here, she would be unable to study. She considered his choice of career pleasing, though her family did not know it yet. She wished to join the Human Starfleet and see the unfathomable sights that lay beyond our world.
T'San said that The Spock knew how to pilot ships that could fly to other planets, that he had lived on such a ship and served Humans willingly, and that his knowledge of the universe was limitless. Unfortunately, she also believed that he had bedded alien women and killed intelligent beings. Many Vulcans thought this, including her family. It was one of the reasons she did not discuss her course choices with them.
A door opened downstairs. I investigated and found T'Auc, the cook, with a tray of wine and food.
"For our guests," she said. "T'Balq sent me."
I took the tray. The plates and cups were made of polymer, such as would be used for small children. There was also a hypospray on the tray, and a small vial of Lexorin.
The reason for the odd dinnerware became apparent when McCoy saw the tray. "Good," he said. "Unbreakable."
He had been waiting at the door. "You must be a mind reader," he continued. "I was out here to ask if I could get some food for Spock."
He took the tray. As I was not sure what else I should do, I followed him.
The Spock, the legend, was standing by a window. He wore a simple robe, devoid of any marks of family or rank, yet his bearing was more of master than of guest. He nodded at me, but did not speak, and watched me with eyes so dark and direct that I stayed near the door.
His hands trembled enough to make the arms of his robe shiver. Had those hands taken life?
I shifted my weight to the balls of my feet.
McCoy set the tray on the bed. He could not have set it on the table without moving from between The Spock and me. "This is T'Kohl," he said. "She's going to be our messenger."
"T'Kohl, greetings and gratitude for your offer of service," The Spock said in Vulcan. His voice was raspy.
"What classes are you taking?" McCoy asked, an innocuous inquiry I did not expect, given the present circumstances.
"I favour the biological sciences, McCoy."
"It is my first choice. Final determination will not be made until next session."
McCoy sat on the edge of the bed, being careful not to upset the tray. His look upon me was not as direct as The Spock's gaze, but it was no less thoughtful. "Do you have a special teacher, one you prefer over the others?"
"Preference is not--" I started, but McCoy interrupted.
"Yeah, yeah, I know. So let's just draw a name out of thin air. Right now, if you had a question, who'd be the first teacher you'd think of?"
"Not the one I met, T'Balq?"
"T'Balq is retired, except for one or two students per session."
"Are you one of her students?"
He made that strange, amused face again. "I'm just being nosy, T'Kohl. Don't mind me."
"Do you wish anything else?"
"We're fine, T'Kohl. Thank you."
I left the room quickly.
Fourth Bell would have just rung when I heard noises from within the East room that brought me to my feet. Voices sounded and there was a crash.
I thought of McCoy, perhaps strong by Human standards, but fragile by Vulcan ones. Should I enter the room? Or would I be interrupting something natural for the madness? I could seek direction from T'Balq, but she had told me to convey McCoy's requests, not my own, and he had not called me. Should I assume he did not require me, or that he was, at the moment, too injured to do so? I possessed inadequate information to resolve the equation, so I remained facing the door.
Another crash sounded, then it quieted.
Inexplicably, I had been holding my breath, yet to continue drawing regular breaths required conscious attention. My entire focus was to hear anything in the silence beyond the door. T'Balq had said that The Spock's madness had gone on too long. I did not know how many years McCoy had been The Spock's Consort, or how many of The Spock's cycles he had borne. If he had come here seeking protection and aid because there was difficulty, and I had been placed in the position of intermediary, was I in error to remain in the hallway instead of investigating those sounds of violence?
At last I decided I would be less in the wrong to enter the room.
I could not find the men at first. The room was in darkness and the heavy curtains on the windows and the bed had been drawn. I stepped in something wet and realized by the smell it was wine. A cup and plate lay near my feet.
Something moved in a corner of the room. The Spock was on a divan, peculiarly curled up on one of the cushions, his head on McCoy's lap. McCoy's arms were around him in a comforting manner.
The Spock seemed asleep, but McCoy was watching me, shaking his head slowly.
I nodded my understanding. I was to remain silent. As I turned to leave, McCoy leaned back on the divan. The Spock suddenly grabbed one of McCoy's arms and held on. An expression of pain went McCoy's face, but he shook his head as I stepped forward. To The Spock, he said, "I'm here, old friend. I'm not going anywhere."
I returned to my chair in the hall, unsettled in my own mind as to what I had seen.
Just after fifth bell, I heard my name called from downstairs. T'Balq had returned with the cook who had another tray of food and medicine.
"Shall I take this up?" asked T'Auc.
"No," T'Balq told her. "It is T'Kohl's task."
T'Balq waited until we were alone before saying, "The Human inspires misplaced curiosity in everyone. T'Auc should know better than to offer to go upstairs in front of a student."
"None of us have seen a Human before," I said.
T'Balq studied me. "I would request you to attend to the Human tomorrow, but you appear disturbed. This is not a criticism."
"I am honoured to serve," I said. "McCoy may not be safe alone with The Spock."
"He does have the choice of leaving and bolting the door behind him," T'Balq said.
"He is protective of The Spock. I do not believe he would leave, even if his well-being was at risk."
"Humans form odd attachments." Without taking her eyes from me, T'Balq sat down. "You may speak, T'Kohl. I will answer as best as I may."
If my teacher T'Mohr had been before me, I would not have hesitated, but I did not know T'Balq.
She motioned me to a chair and said, "What you say to me, I will say to no one else. You may ask me anything."
Slowly, I said, "The Spock threw the tray of refreshments to the floor."
"Here is another tray, if he wishes more to throw. It is his time, T'Kohl."
I thought of my father. I could not envision him throwing anything. "Teacher, what is the madness?"
"You may as well ask the meaning of life," T'Balq replied.
"My mother told me it is the male's time of mating, but that description is insufficient."
"It is," T'Balq agreed. "Pon Farr existed before recorded history. It is part of legend and myth. Medically, we can predict the cycle by tracking hormone levels. Unbonded males may be granted surrogates, and there are drug therapies to ease symptoms. There has never been any further medical investigation."
"To date, no board has voted to allocate adequate funds," she said. "Females head most scientific and government boards."
"But if males were to petition," I started.
"Petition and publicly speak of the unspeakable? Just behind our logic is a most severe sense of privacy." T'Balq leaned back in her chair, as if trying to work out an ache. "I have been Consort to two husbands, yet I do not understand the madness. I only know the power I held with it. At any time, I could have simply let my husband die."
"Such a death is shameful," I said before realizing my words were insulting. "My apologies."
"I said you could speak freely," T'Balq said. "This is the way of our world."
I thought of my parents and felt chilled. "Life is be venerated."
"I agree," T'Balq said, "however, I am not ambitious." She closed her eyes. "It is said that, long ago, the madness was the only time in which males were allowed to be near females. They were not welcome, but they were necessary to continue the species. Our population has always been in danger of self-extinction, but when we came to realize how close we were to annihilation, males were allowed to live near and mate with females outside of their cycles as well. Then Surak came, and now we live together."
I bowed my head respectfully, as we had been taught to do any time Surak's name was spoken. When I lifted my head, T'Balq was looking at me again.
"To understand the achievement of Surak, a male, view it against a background in which females held all the power, and males were rarely allowed to speak or be seen in public life. I am gratified you will continue to attend McCoy. I believe that his attachment to his Consort and his background as a healer indicate he will make wise decisions with regard to Spock. Tell him that a male healer will be here tonight before Seventh Bell."
I rose and picked up the tray. "Teacher, if I hear sounds of violence, am I to enter the room?"
"Ask McCoy when Spock is not within hearing."
McCoy was outside the East room, standing before windows at the far end of the hall. I set the tray down on my table in a way that ensured he would hear it, but he did not turn.
"Two weeks, the only sunsets I saw were red," he said. "My biggest worry was squirrels in my garden." His eyes followed a flock of cloudkickers as they flew by to land on a dormitory roof. He leaned forward on the sill to watch their flight and his sleeves drew up, revealing darkening bruises over both wrists.
He abruptly straightened. His sleeves dropped back down. "What classes have you missed, T'Kohl?"
"Chemistry and differential equations, McCoy."
"Is it possible to bring the work here? I don't like causing you to fall behind."
He turned as I was puzzling over the emotion I could hear in his statement. "It may be possible to complete some of the assignments here. McCoy, the responsibility of my studies is not shared by you."
"Today it is," he said, but he silenced as his eyes went to a point behind me.
A breeze brushed my collar.
No, not a breeze.
The reflexive instinct to run rose within me, but I suppressed it and stepped forward as if unaware of anyone behind me. Afterwards, I looked back. The Spock stood there, his hand just coming down to his side.
He had come up behind me - he had touched me - and I had not heard him.
"I'm glad you're awake," McCoy said, his face breaking out into a smile that I now realized covered his tension. He stepped between The Spock and I, and began describing the sunset and the birds outside as if nothing was out of order. I watched him take The Spock back to the East room.
The Healer arrived at Sixth Bell. Being male, he was escorted in by T'Balq and the head counselor, T'Wyn, and taken directly upstairs. I was washing the tray and dishes when he arrived, and would have remained in the kitchen to complete the task, but T'Balq directed me to accompany them.
Judging by what I had seen of The Spock's behaviour, I thought that a group of our size might be too much for a male in the madness. I was, unfortunately, proven correct.
The Spock had been sitting on the divan. Upon seeing us, he stood, picked up McCoy, and threw him behind him. McCoy bounced off the divan and into the space between it the wall as The Spock assumed a protective stance in front of him. It was accomplished in a moment, and The Spock blinked as he perhaps realized he had given in to baser instincts. However, it was as if he could not overcome the impulse, for his posture towards us did not change and he began to advance.
"We are too many," T'Balq said, but T'Wyn would not retreat.
"He is just a male."
"He is the Ambassador's son," T'Balq said.
"Sarek's seed has been deemed no honour to the House of Surak," T'Wyn said. To the Healer, she added, "But we would prefer he not die as our guest."
As McCoy crawled out from behind the divan, I heard him say something that I would not repeat to my parents. T'Balq and T'Wyn continued their debate, ignoring or unaware of McCoy's words and The Spock's slow and measured steps towards them.
"Teacher," I tried when they were almost within The Spock's reach.
T'Wyn gave me a highly critical glance. "Does a student speak out of turn?"
"T'Kohl, you are relieved of this duty. Go immediately--"
The Spock leapt.
T'Wyn froze, her face betraying astonishment. More accurately, we all suddenly stilled. Including The Spock.
McCoy was the one who had yelled. He pushed between us, breathing hard and looking as surprised as T'Wyn. "That word is quite handy," he said. He nodded to T'Balq before turning to T'Wyn and saying, "I'll have you know that neither Spock nor Sarek have ever done one damned thing to besmirch the House of Sarek, and just who the hell are you?"
"I am the Head Counselor," T'Wyn said in a tone I recognized as one of displeasure.
"You're mouthy," McCoy told her. "Whether it's under your roof or not, whether he's just a male to you or not, I would prefer that my friend not die period." To the Healer, he said, "Please tell me you're a real physician and not some monkey she found at the side of the road."
"Sanek is my family's Healer," T'Balq said.
"Madam, I am grateful," McCoy said to her.
"I am honoured to serve, McCoy," T'Balq replied. She left. I would have followed after her, but at the doorway, she met my eyes and shook her head no.
T'Wyn stood her ground for a minute more, perhaps only as a show that she would stay if she chose to, before she left as well.
"McCoy, you have made an enemy," I said very softly.
"What's one more?" he said with a smile. He put his hand on The Spock's arm. "I need to sit down," he said. It appeared, though, that it was The Spock who needed to do so. Though he was standing, he looked sleepy and off-balance. He stumbled as he and McCoy moved towards the bed.
Sanek studied The Spock. "What symptoms have caused you concern, McCoy? The tiredness?"
"I can barely get him to wake up," McCoy said, holding The Spock as the latter fell into a doze against him. "His temperature's too high, but I can't find any sign of infection. When he's talking to me, he forgets what he's saying halfway through. I've tried Lexorin, at a low dose."
Sanek opened his valise and took out several scanners. "What stage of Plak Tow was Spock in when you went into Seclusion?"
"I don't know. His family had him locked up," McCoy said. "I thought we were getting through it. He seemed to be all right. He was a little emotional." He corrected himself. "More than a little."
Cautiously, Sanek neared the bed. As he took some readings with his instruments, he said, "Explain, McCoy."
"T'Laak, the head of the family, was willing to let him die, something about Sarek's seed being expendable. When Spock found out, he, well, he didn't take it well." McCoy glanced at the scanner. "This seems . . . like he's trying to die. Is he doing it deliberately?"
"No, McCoy, he is not."
As Sanek continued his examination, McCoy asked, "Is it something I've done or not done? I need to tell you that I didn't check my messages. I was late getting to Vulcan. I don't get many messages, but that's no excuse. I should have--"
"McCoy, the hormone levels are normal. As Consort, I judge that you fulfilled your role."
"Then what is this?" McCoy asked, his voice so openly emotional that I was taken aback. Sanek, however, gave no sign of having noticed.
"Are you Spock's first Consort?"
"He did have two other wives, but it didn't work somehow and he called for me. I once carried his Katra and we had, I mean we have a bond."
Sanek put his equipment away, his face down. By his reluctant manner, I understood, and I could see that McCoy understood as well. McCoy unashamedly hugged The Spock to him.
Sanek finally spoke. "There is neurological damage consistent with having used several courses of drug therapy to alleviate symptoms of Plak Tow. Spock attempted such a therapy this time as well. Traces of three drugs beyond the Lexorin are in his blood and liver."
"Is the neurological damage reversible?"
"Not at this stage."
"It shouldn't be this way," McCoy said, looking around the room, away from Sanek and I.
"The madness?" Sanek asked softly.
"No, I accept it. It's the way Vulcans were made. It's just," he hesitated. "There are three of us, close friends. In Human years, I'm the oldest, and Jim will not stop rushing in where fools fear to go. No matter how you look at it, it shouldn't be Spock."
Sanek nodded as if he understood the incoherent words. "I will return tomorrow."
I escorted him downstairs where T'Balq waited. When I returned to the East room, McCoy had not moved. He was still sitting on the bed, holding The Spock to his chest.
"How may I assist you, McCoy?"
He did not answer immediately. The changing expressions on his face indicated he was trying to think despite being overcome with emotions. At last, he said, "You mentioned a favourite teacher, T'Mohr. Do you trust her?"
"If you were to go to her, yourself, and ask her a favour without the Head Adepts here knowing, would she help you?"
"Yes, McCoy, and I believe I know your request."
He looked at me. Despite the naked expression on his face, his voice was direct and focused. "I don't care how farfetched it seems, if you can find anything at all that might help Spock, well, I don't know how I can repay you, but I will."
"McCoy, I am honoured to serve." It was a standard response, but I meant it. "I may leave at Seventh Bell. I will go to T'Mohr then."
I returned to my chair in the hallway, the image of McCoy holding The Spock still in front of my eyes.
T'Balq said that McCoy is an ordinary Human. I have no data or standard by which to compare, but I suspect he is not.
I roused T'Mohr from her bed when I went to her room that night, but after I told her the reason for my visit, she did not ask for an apology. I broke T'Balq's injunction not to speak of McCoy or The Spock, and I knew there would be a penalty. I was not sure what the severity of it would be. Would I face expulsion?
As the thought came to my mind, I remembered the sight of McCoy holding The Spock to him as if he could save him through willpower alone. I had taken the correct course of action.
T'Mohr and I went to the main library where her unimpeded right of access to the mainframe allowed us into any databank we pleased. We searched throughout the night. I read journals and articles until my eyes burned, and followed trails of trials and serums, both on and off planet, until nothing was left except for sparse rumour.
We did reach one conclusion. There was very little information.
"Vulcan honour cuts us too deeply," T'Mohr said, surmising my sense of failure. "What we do speak of, we do not write of either. Do not grieve, T'Kohl. You served beyond what was asked of you."
"To serve is not enough. I will return to McCoy empty-handed," I said.
I ate and changed my clothes. T'San was not in our room, though it was not yet the time she would normally have risen. I returned to the old residence before the first glow of sunrise was in the sky.
T'Wyn was in the first floor study room, working on a portable computer. I bowed to her.
"The presence of these males is disruptive. You will return to your regular classes this morning, T'Kohl. Go now."
"T'Balq has instructed me to serve here, Teacher."
T'Wyn turned to me. It was unheard of for a student to challenge a Teacher, but T'Balq's status at the Academy was higher than T'Wyn's. Though my head remained down, I could sense her gaze upon me.
"Do you understand what is happening upstairs, T'Kohl?"
"I do not understand the reason for the madness, Teacher."
"The madness is unimportant. Do you understand the family situation? Do you understand the significance of family lineage?"
Unsure, I replied, "In this academy, the status of one's family is not relevant. Our conduct alone brings us honour or shame."
"This academy is not Vulcan," T'Wyn said. "Spock comes from the House of Surak. There is no higher house. His is a dynastic blood line, yet both he and his father have taken non-Vulcan Consorts. Worse, Spock has taken a Consort who cannot deliver children."
I recalled McCoy's words to Sanek, that there had been two female Consorts before him, but I also remembered T'Balq's warning that I was not to speak about what I witnessed upstairs. I had broken the injunction once, by McCoy's request. I would not break it twice.
These were dangerous sands. What was the reason behind T'Wyn's questions to me?
"We may speak later, T'Kohl."
In the darkened hallway outside the east room, I came suddenly upon a lone Vulcan male. I halted at the unexpected sight of The Spock, wearing a hooded brown robe, and unaccompanied by McCoy.
I took a step back, but he held up his hand in the Vulcan salute. Then he lowered his hood and I found I was mistaken. It was not The Spock, but someone remarkably like to him, though older and gray-haired.
"I am Ambassador Sarek."
I returned the Vulcan greeting. "I am T'Kohl. I am in attendance here."
"How many students are assisting my son and his partner?"
"There is only me."
Ambassador Sarek glanced down the hallway. "There was another female student here when I arrived. She went down the far stairs before I could speak with her."
I glanced behind me, though there was no one to see now. Then I looked towards the door of the east room. "Have you been inside?"
"Yes. Dr. McCoy is waking my son so that I may speak with him."
The door opened and McCoy came out. He looked unwell. He nodded at me, and remained outside the room as the Ambassador went in.
"My apologies, McCoy. T'Mohr and I can bring you nothing."
He nodded as if he had not expected any other answer. "Thank you for trying."
"McCoy, who was the other student here?"
"Other student? When?"
"This morning. She left when Ambassador Sarek arrived."
"I heard the door open and someone in the antechamber. I thought it was you."
I opened the door quietly and looked in. A breakfast tray was on a table in the antechamber. I picked it up and shut the door behind me.
"Have you or The Spock eaten from this?"
"No," McCoy said. His manner was alert now. "Why?"
"To my knowledge, no other student has been assigned to assist you. I will go to the kitchens myself."
McCoy took the tray. "What will you say when you turn up with an untouched breakfast and ask to change it? It would be better to let them think we've eaten this and you're only asking for seconds. I'll ask Sarek to take this out and have it analyzed. No one will bother the Ambassador when he leaves."
"Logical," I said, and he gave me a curious look.
"I wish Spock had heard you say that."
I went downstairs. T'Wyn was no longer there, nor was anyone else. Quickly, I walked the path to the kitchens and prepared another breakfast. T'Auc watched me.
"The males are very hungry," I said.
"Men eat too much," she said.
"Who took the first tray?" I asked.
"T'Wyn," T'Auc replied.
"Was anyone with her?"
I deflected her by commenting, "It is unusual for the Head Counselor to enter the kitchens."
"She can do whatever she likes," T'Auc said.
When I returned to the old residence, I discovered T'Balq and T'San in the first floor study room. T'San looked frightened. Disconcerted, I halted at the sight.
In a severe voice, T'Balq said, "Take that up to McCoy, T'Kohl, and return here immediately."
I did. McCoy was still in the hallway. As he took the food, he asked, "What's going on downstairs? I heard yelling."
"As much as Vulcans yell."
"T'Balq and my roommate are below. I do not know why."
"There's too much going on around here," McCoy said. "Did you actually prepare this tray yourself, T'Kohl, or did the cook?"
"I did, McCoy."
"Good. If I could move Spock, I'd leave right now."
"Yes," I agreed. When I returned to T'Balq, she ordered me to sit. I took a chair beside T'San, who was sitting with her shoulders hunched forward and her hands clasped tightly in her lap.
"T'San informs me that you let her know Spock was here," T'Balq said.
"Teacher, I did not. I have not spoken to T'San since yesterday at First Bell."
"I found a note in our room," T'San said. "I apologize, T'Kohl, but I came here. I only wished to see The Spock. I would not have disturbed him."
"I left no note."
"T'San has never spoken an untruth," T'Balq said.
"No," I said, "but, Teacher, neither have I." I lowered my head for I was in the wrong. I had spoken to T'Mohr. Had she left a note?
"You did not speak to T'San at all when you returned to your room last evening?" T'Balq asked.
"I did not return to my room until this morning, Teacher. T'San was not there."
"How else could she know, T'Kohl, for who else knows of Spock's presence?" T'Balq questioned, coming to stand directly before me.
When I did not answer, she raised my chin with a cool touch. "T'Kohl, answer."
"How can I speak names and not accuse?" I asked.
T'Balq brought a chair in front of me and sat. We were so close that her knees touched mine. "T'San," she said. "Did the note tell you to come here?"
"Yes, Teacher. It said that if I came before First Bell and used the back stairs, no one would see me."
"I saw you," T'Balq said.
T'San, visibly shaking now, was reduced to silence.
T'Balq turned back to me. "Why were you not in your room last night?"
"Teacher, I have fulfilled what requests McCoy has made of me."
T'Balq studied me for a long time.
"Teacher," I asked, "may I know if T'San took breakfast up to McCoy?"
"You just took the breakfast tray," T'Balq said.
"I took a second tray."
T'Balq glanced at T'San who managed only to shake her head no.
"T'San, go to my office. Speak to absolutely no one. Not even The Master. Following this is your only hope of remaining at the Academy."
"Someone led her into temptation," T'Balq said.
"Ambassador Sarek saw either her or the student who took the first tray," I said. "I asked McCoy not to eat from it, and prepared a second."
"I have no logical reason for suspicion, Teacher," I admitted. "Nor do I know why someone would tempt T'San to come here."
"She was tempted as a cover for the other one who was here," T'Balq said. "If it had been discovered that a student had broken the restriction and entered here, T'San's guilt would, without doubt, be known rather promptly. I would look no further. What did T'Auc say when you asked to replace the first breakfast?"
"I did not ask to replace it, Teacher. McCoy kept the first breakfast and directed me to ask for a second, with the implication that the first was eaten. He will ask Ambassador Sarek to have the food analyzed."
T'Balq nodded approvingly. "McCoy is intelligent. We do not need an analysis, however, to know what has been put in the first breakfast."
"T'Kohl, you did something last night at McCoy's request. Was this request carried out by yourself alone?"
"T'Mohr and I searched for information on Pon Farr." I waited for a censure, but T'Balq merely nodded. "Whoever took the first breakfast up will not know that it was not ingested. She will return later."
"T'Wyn dismissed me. She told me I was to return to classes this morning," I said.
"You disobeyed her?"
"Your word is higher than hers, Teacher. You told me to stay."
T'Balq thought for a few moments before speaking. "T'Kohl, some of the old ways continue, despite our enlightenment under Surak," she said. "Why do you think there is so much interest in Spock?"
"He comes from a dynastic blood line."
"So, he is a prize," I said.
"His seed is," T'Balq said. "Despite the Human element he carries, the House of Surak is small and cannot afford to lose any branch. The family of a woman who carries his child, legitimate or not, gains immeasurably. The old ways, the old ruling houses continue, despite Surak."
"He has had two other wives. He may have other children," I said. "Would legitimate children not override the interests of any others?"
"He has no children," T'Balq said. "T'Kohl, I am trusting you with this because you have acted correctly so far. I am also of the House of Surak, and I am the one who offered Spock and McCoy protection here. I know that Spock was not able to consummate either marriage due to the presence of a bond with McCoy. The Matriarch, T'Laak, would have that Spock and McCoy remain together so that there will be no children. She does not wish any Human element to continue through the line. There is some disagreement over this within the family. Regardless of the Matriarch's opinion of Human blood, she would be forced to recognize any issue of Spock's." She looked at me. "Think, T'Kohl. Knowing this, what do you believe an analysis of the first breakfast will reveal?"
"A drug to continue Pon Farr?" I was relieved when T'Balq nodded. "Teacher, that would be very dangerous in The Spock's present condition."
"Such an action is consistent with the old ways." She stood. "T'Wyn is past child-bearing years, however, her desire for you to leave must mean that she has an interest in the female who is to bear Spock's child. This female must be of her family also."
"Teacher, in order to be sure of success, T'Wyn would need to find a way to have McCoy leave. As Consort, he would not allow a female to mate with The Spock."
"He might, if he believed it could save Spock's life," T'Balq said. "Or else, there would be a surer way."
"A violent one?"
"They are both in danger here."
"We can remove that danger by apprehending the female who will likely be arriving soon. We need to leave some means open for her, so that she will enter and go up to the second floor without suspicion. McCoy's mind is swift. He once tricked T'Pau. If you make him aware of what we know, I believe he will suggest a way of accomplishing what we need done. Once the female is caught, I will manage T'Wyn."
I ran upstairs. McCoy was in the hall, sitting on my chair outside the door.
"Is Ambassador Sarek still here?" I asked.
"Yes," McCoy said. His voice sounded different. I looked at him, but he turned away. Though I am unfamiliar with adult emotions, if he were a child, I would have judged him sad.
"Is something wrong, McCoy? May I help?"
"You have been a wonderful help already, T'Kohl. I was only hoping that Sarek could pull a rabbit out of a hat."
He regained control and turned back to face me. "He doesn't know what to do for Spock either. He's gone back inside to be with him."
"McCoy, there is more going on. We must act." I described the events of the morning, and told him of my conversation with T'Balq. As he listened, his face took on a stern expression remarkably like T'Balq's.
"The simplest solution is usually the best," he said. "Spock's asleep, and I don't expect he'll wake up any time soon. I'll get Sarek and we'll go into one of the other rooms and wait."
"It must not seem as if you are here."
He gave me one of the breakfast trays and some empty dishware. "Take these back to T'Auc, tell her that Sarek's left, and I've gone to the Healer in residence. Tell her Spock got suddenly aggressive after eating and he may have broken my arm. You've restrained him to the bed, and now you're on your way to check on me."
"Why tell T'Auc, McCoy?"
"She was in the kitchen when the first tray was prepared, wasn't she?"
T'Balq and I had both overlooked that fact. "McCoy, I do not know the Ambassador, but he is elderly, and you are Human. You may be facing two Vulcans. T'Wyn may return."
McCoy gave me a nudge towards the stairs. "Please go, T'Kohl. I may look like an old Human, but what counts more than strength is the depth of my motivation."
I carried out his instructions, moving slowly though I wished to run. The first floor was empty. T'Balq had left the way clear. I delivered the tray, told T'Auc that McCoy had been taken to the Healer, then walked to the Healer's residence myself, to complete the illusion. Once there, I told her about some small concern I had with my cycle, all the while trying to listen for something that would be beyond the range of my hearing.
When Second Bell rang, I could not wait any longer. I returned to the old residence and to something the Humans describe appropriately as bedlam.
On the floor outside the door of the east room, T'Ych lay unconscious, blood on her face. Ambassador Sarek stood over her. Blood was on his hands.
T'Wyn sat on my chair, her eyes showing anger. In front of her was a man I did not know. He wore a Starfleet jacket and the insignia on the sleeve indicated he was an admiral. McCoy stood just beyond the rest of them.
The man said to Sarek, "That was quite a wallop, Ambassador. You'll have to teach me how to do that." He looked at me. "Who are you?"
"I am T'Kohl," I said, noticing that the man held a Vulcan weapon. "I attend to McCoy."
"She's fine, Jim," McCoy said. "She's not involved with this. T'Kohl, this is Admiral James Kirk."
His was another known name. I bowed to him, then asked, "You are unhurt, McCoy?"
"Yes, and, as you can see, our plan worked."
"Plan?" Kirk asked. He pointed at T'Wyn. "Was your plan to let this one hold a phaser on you, Bones, while Sarek belted the hell out of the girl on the floor? Would someone care to tell me what's going on?"
"They came here to rape my son, Kirk," Sarek said, his voice colder than any I had ever heard before.
"Excuse me?" Kirk asked, but Sarek turned to T'Wyn.
"I choose not to," she replied.
"The female on the floor is of your family?"
T'Wyn didn't answer.
"My son has a Consort."
"Spock's Consort is a Human and unrecognized," T'Wyn said.
"He is recognized," Sarek corrected her. "You dare to bring another here? The female had no right to touch my son. Your dishonour will be known."
The Kirk looked at McCoy. "Vulcan politics," McCoy said.
"The old ways, Leonard," Sarek said.
"I'm getting pretty damn sick of both of them."
"As Consort, you have a say in this," Sarek said.
McCoy shook his head. "Ever since I arrived on this planet, everybody's been running around, doing what they want. T'Laak, T'Wyn, whoever this damn girl is on the floor. Even the cook's in on it. Everybody had her own plan, but no one ever once asked Spock what he wanted. And now look at him. So, Sarek, in answer to what I want, I want you to go after T'Laak. I want you to go after T'Wyn here. I want them to pay. Raise holy hell, Sarek, and don't stop until you've slammed this planet from pole to pole."
McCoy's ferocity was unexpected, but Sarek merely nodded.
I heard a noise behind me. T'Balq and The Master had come up the far stairs and were standing behind us, their eyes on McCoy.
"Thee understands our ways, Human," The Master said to McCoy, a compliment he either did not understand or did not accept.
"Madam, I do not like your ways whatsoever."
The Master bowed her head slightly, apparently acquiescing to him. "I take responsibility for what has happened here. We will clean our house, McCoy, and assist Ambassador Sarek in cleaning his."
Kirk put the weapon in his pocket. "By the way, where is Spock?" His gaze went to each of us in turn. When he looked at McCoy, McCoy pointed to the east room.
"We made a lot of noise, Bones. Why didn't he come out to see what was going on?"
Instead of waiting for an answer, Kirk went in.
"T'Kohl, get the Healer," T'Balq said.
I ran this time. When I returned, only T'Balq and T'Ych remained in the hall, T'Ych still unconscious.
"What happened?" the Healer asked.
"T'Ych has disgraced herself," T'Balq said.
The Healer did not ask further. She directed her attendants to put T'Ych on a pallet and take her to the infirmary. T'Balq accompanied them, after instructing me to remain in case McCoy should need me.
When I was alone, I tried to understand the events of the morning. T'Ych was already part of a high House. What did she think she would gain? What would be her defense? I tried to envision what my parents would say, if I had done such as she had. How could I return to them afterwards in such shame? There would need to be compensation to The Spock's family. What sort of payment would that be? Might such a debt take generations to pay?
McCoy came up the main stairs, his movements slow and tired.
"Is the party over?" He waved off my attempt to assist him. "Thank the heavens for you, T'Kohl. This would have gone badly if you hadn't been here."
"I was directed to aid you."
"When someone thanks you, all you need to say is you're welcome."
"Then, you're welcome, McCoy."
I waited, standing before him. I was not allowed to question him, yet there were many things I wished to know, such as what would happen to The Spock now, and where he and McCoy would go next.
Kirk came to the door. "Bones, I've been talking and talking to him. Does he hear me?"
McCoy did not answer immediately. He was swaying slightly. I dared to take his arm, to steady him, and he did not refuse me. "I hope so."
His skin was cool and his arm felt fragile under my hold, yet his eyes were as fierce as a swiftpaw's. We went into the room. The Spock was asleep on one side of the bed. McCoy sat beside him.
"Spock, it's me. Wake up."
Kirk had stopped at the doorway. I turned, but he was not looking at me. His face, so golden and strong in the hallway, looked pale and worried here.
"Bones, what is it?"
"It's my fault," McCoy said, his voice uneven. "We've never been able to get loose of that Katra thing. Because of me, he couldn't . . ."
I felt him tremble under my hand. I had no place here, but I thought that if I let go of McCoy, he would fall.
"Your message to me said that Spock might be dying. Is he?" Kirk asked.
So quietly that I was not sure Kirk could hear, McCoy said, "Sarek says he'll get a lot worse before . . ."
"It's not your fault, Bones."
"Spock made the choice about his Katra, and nobody could have known what would happen with Genesis. For Godsakes, Bones."
At last Kirk did come over. I withdrew as he put his hand on McCoy's shoulder.
At that precise moment, The Spock woke up.
I heard a scream, then McCoy yelled, "Spock, no." The Spock threw Kirk past me. Kirk hit a table and fell to the floor. The Spock went after him again, but Kirk only looked up and did not defend himself. The Spock back-handed him. I saw blood that was red fly against the wall.
McCoy rose, but I was closer. I was not to touch The Spock, but that injunction did not extend to his robe. I caught the sleeves and spun The Spock back towards McCoy. They collided and landed together on the bed. I stood and waited, hands raised defensively, but The Spock quieted as abruptly as he had risen up.
I glanced at Kirk. "You must not touch the Consort. A male in the madness does not allow it."
He blinked rapidly as he wiped blood from his mouth. "You touched McCoy," he pointed out.
"I am not sexually mature, so I am not a threat."
"I am not a threat either. These men are my best friends."
"The Spock is within the madness," I repeated.
Kirk got up slowly. "Spock, it's Jim."
The Spock seemed to be asleep again, but we all knew now how untrustworthy that assumption was.
Kirk moved from behind me and approached the bed cautiously, coming up on the opposite side from where McCoy was. "Spock, look at me, please."
McCoy called The Spock's name too, but The Spock did not respond.
Kirk, bravely or foolishly, knelt beside the bed, his face inches from The Spock's. "It's Jim. Don't you know me? Don't you remember?"
The Spock slept on.
"Bones, what do we do?"
McCoy's voice held pain. "I don't know."
The door behind me opened. Kirk rose to see who was there. He turned his back to the bed.
The Spock attacked him again.
I pulled on The Spock's robe, but I was not strong enough. I saw his hands go around Kirk's neck and begin to twist. McCoy shouted as he pulled on The Spock's arms too. Then Sarek appeared.
Three of us were necessary to release Kirk. I pushed him towards the door as McCoy and Sarek struggled with The Spock.
"Get out of here, Jim," McCoy said.
I took Kirk into the hall, for he seemed reluctant to move. I noted that, with the removal of Kirk's presence in the room, The Spock abruptly quieted. When I shut the door of the east room, it appeared as if The Spock were already asleep again.
"You need to see a Healer," I said. Indentations from The Spock's fingers lay on Kirk's neck.
Sarek came out of the room. "Sanek is downstairs, Kirk. I will have him see you."
But I did not need to go for the Healer. Having heard the disturbance, he had come up on his own. He examined Kirk's neck, and gave him a medication, then said to me, "Where is the Consort?"
"Inside the room," I said.
To Sarek, Sanek said, "The Consort must decide."
Sarek lowered his head and clasped his hands in front of him. "Yes," he said, his voice even, but very low.
"Decide what?" Kirk said hoarsely. Coughing cut off anything else he might have said.
"Do not interfere," Sanek said to him. He went into the room.
Kirk tried to follow, but both Sarek and I stepped in front.
"Would you have my son kill you?" Sarek asked.
"What's going on?" Kirk asked.
"The Healer is attending to Spock," Sarek said. He glanced at the door of the east room, then turned back to Kirk and said, "I do not wish to remain here. Will you accompany me?"
Kirk nodded, and possibly regretted the movement for his hand went to his swollen neck. He and Sarek left, and it was not too many minutes later that Sanek exited the room and followed them.
Sanek had left the door open. I could see McCoy standing in the room. He did not turn when I entered.
"McCoy, may I assist you?" I asked.
He closed his eyes briefly, then straightened his back, looked at me, and shook his head.
A movement from the bed caught my attention. The Spock lay curled on his side, visibly shivering.
"He is cold," I said. "I will get a cover."
"We're all cold," McCoy said softly.
I brought a blanket out of the cupboard and took it to the bed. McCoy was holding a hypospray. He gazed at it for so long that I asked, "McCoy?"
He rolled up one of The Spock's sleeves, emptied the hypo, then took the blanket and tucked it around The Spock. He got up on the bed and, uncaring of me, gathered The Spock to him in a private embrace.
The hypospray started to roll from the table. I picked it up. The vial had not contained Lexorin.
The Spock stopped shivering.
I took the hypospray downstairs with me. T'Balq was in the study room, alone, waiting for me. I gave her the hypospray and said, "Teacher, if I was in charge, I'd make them find a way to end this madness."
T'Balq bade me sit before her. She placed her cool hands upon mine.
"How did Spock die, T'Kohl?" she asked.
With my gaze steady upon her, I replied, "The Spock of the House of Surak died an honourable death."
She nodded. "Thee has learned."
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