Reaching Eden: Epilogue
The Book Of Penances

by Mylochka and Cheryl Petterson

(Standard Year 2249)

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Ruth Valley tapped impatiently on the glass of the window that separated her from Leonard McCoy. “Well?” she said.

McCoy turned from the readouts to the intercom that allowed him to communicate with her. She was one of three patients sequestered in isolation rooms; the others being Sulu and Noel DelMonde. “There’s a slight drop in the level of neurophenes in your system,” he replied, “but not nearly enough to warrant releasing you.”

“Goddamn…” Ruth snarled.

“But there is some good news,” the doctor interrupted before the Antari could start another long, acrimonious tirade against the medical profession. “You’re clear of the tetrodotoxin.”

“Then I can heal this without killing myself?” she brightened. “Hot damn!”

“Now don’t be gettin’ too hasty, Ruthie,” McCoy began.

“Hasty?” Ruth put her hands on her sickbay-gown-clad hips. “Bones, I’ve been stuck in here for three days after nearly a month away from my husband – and that only a few weeks after I was away from him for a month and a half! At this rate, we’re gonna be newlyweds for the next ten years!”

McCoy was grinning at her. “Like y’all were plannin’ on actin’ any other way?”

“I’m gonna heal this, Bones,” she said, and closed her eyes.

Okay, you little neurophenes, she told the chemicals in her system, time to go away now. It was fun while it lasted but playtime’s over. Break yourselves down into nice, flushable little pieces of trace chemicals. She focused her keheil abilities, aiming at chasing the drugs out of her neurons. To her utter annoyance, they scattered before her attempt like dust before an old broom, only to recollect into neurophene-bunnies under her metaphysical bed.

“Damn it, WHY isn’t this working!” she screamed in frustration.

Because, ani Ramy, they are chemicals designed to enhance your natural abilities. And for much the same reason why you can’t cure yourself of venus…

My body likes it, Ruth sighed at the Zehara. Can you convince Bones I’m not in any danger?

I think the proof will come when you exert yourself on a telepathic or empathic level and nothing untoward happens.

Which is gonna happen how while I’m locked up in here?

Really, ani Ramy, can walls contain thoughts? The point was to shield you from unwanted empathic contact, not from deliberate telepathic communication.

This is why you’re Z and I’m a lowly keheil, isn’t it?

Yes. Now convince your doctor friend.

Ruth again tapped on the glass. McCoy turned from his monitoring equipment. “Hey, Bones, watch this,” Ruth said, and concentrated.


Spock was at the Science Station on the Bridge, analyzing the wealth of data that had been retrieved from Dreamland Base. He was certain that a way could be found to neutralize the neurophenes before they started to damage the medulla oblongata or the hind brain – although a part of him pointed out that his certainty came from a desperate need that such a thing be true.

The chemicals in Mr. DelMonde’s system are breaking down more rapidly than those in Ruth or Mr. Sulu’s, he thought. He mentally acknowledged that the same was true regarding the chemicals in Paget, Tamura, Gollub and Chekov’s systems, though his focus was on those in the landing party who were gifted. Therefore, there must be something fundamentally different about Mr. DelMonde’s brain chemistry.

Spock moved his fingers, calling up the medical data on Noel DelMonde….

Husband, can you come to Sickbay, please?

Spock started. My wife, you are supposed to be in isolation…

I am. I’m trying to make a point to Dr. McCoy.

And that point is?

That I can handle myself even with the neurophenes running around in my system. I’m not in any danger, Spock. They aren’t trying to kill me without the neurotoxin. Spock caught a faint echo of spoken words. “See, Bones, I’m in telepathic contact with Spock on the Bridge and look at the readings. Nothing.”

“We’ll see about that,” came McCoy’s harrumph, and moments later, the intercom at his station signaled.

“Yes, Doctor, Ruth is in contact with me,” Spock answered it.

Ruth giggled and Spock heard it both over the com and in his head.

“And just how am I supposed to trust that you’re not fudgin’ the readings just to get out of here?” McCoy said, obviously to the Antari.

“Because if I was, and I’m still breathing, it means I’m well enough for you to let me out of here,” Ruth replied merrily. Come to Sickbay, Spock, sounded in the Vulcan’s mind, and he felt the slight, empathic push to obey come with the request.

You hardly need to coerce me, wife, he admonished.

I know, was her reply, it’s part of my experiment to prove to Bones that I’m not gonna die.

Very well.

How long will it take you to get here?

Barring emergencies or equipment malfunction, 1 minute and 14.3 seconds.

Okay, beloved. Thanks.

“He’ll be here in one minute and 13 seconds, Bones,” came the echo of her spoken words. “Time it.”


Two minutes and 30 seconds later, after Spock had assured McCoy that Ruth was not unduly influencing the medical scanners, Ruth was released from quarantine. She threw herself into her husband’s arms, kissing him happily.

“What’s the likelihood of bein’ able to release Mr. Sulu and Mr. DelMonde?” the doctor wanted to know

“Ruth, what amount of self-healing have you accomplished?” Spock asked her.

“Not much at all,” she replied. “I chased the chemicals around a little, but I don’t think I actually got rid of any of it.”

McCoy was frowning at the readings. “That’s what these say,” he returned. “There’s only the steady but minute drop that we’ve been recording for the past three days.” He glanced at the indicators that showed the biofunctions for the two men still in isolation. Both had readings for xenoneurophene and amyneurophene that were still higher than Ruth’s. He sighed, rubbing his jaw. “They’re not gonna like it, but I think we’d best wait on releasin’ ‘em until their levels are where Ruthie’s are now.”

“Poor Jilla,” Ruth pouted for her friend, then smiled as she again embraced her husband. “Let’s go home, Spock.”

“I am afraid I am on duty for another three hours, my wife,” was the Vulcan’s response.

“Damn,” Ruth frowned, then sighed. “Okay, what can I help you do to make sure you won’t be working overtime?”

“At the present time, organizing and deciphering the records from Dreamland are the most pressing problem the Science Section faces,” Spock told her. “Miss Gollub has been tireless in her attempts to verify the results of the chemical trials reported in those records.”

“So I’ll go bother Daffy for a couple of hours,” Ruth said. “But I expect you home in two hours and fifty-seven minutes, husband.”

“I will look forward to it, my wife.”

Ruth smiled and again reached up for a kiss, then turned to McCoy. “So where are my clothes?” she asked as the First Officer left Sickbay.


“You out?”

Ruth Valley turned to find Daffy Gollub standing by her table in Rec Room Five. She gestured for her friend to join her. “Of course.”

“What did you do?” Gollub asked, sitting down opposite her. “Mind-zap McCoy?”

Valley smiled smugly. “Actually I mind-zapped Spock while McCoy watched.”

“And that worked?”

“Like a charm.”

“So,” Gollub began slowly. “About the saving my life thing…”

Ruth waved a dismissive hand at her. “Don’t mention it.”

“No, it was my life. It deserves a mention,” Gollub insisted. “So…what can I say? Mensch, you’re a mensch.”

Ruth smiled. “You’re welcome.”

“And you said Kaddish for me.” Daffy added. “Very nice.”

Valley shrugged. “You would have done the same.”

“I guess I’d have to now. Let’s hope your immortal soul can get by on a rough approximation of the first four lines…”

“It was Chekov’s idea,” Ruth pointed out, starting to get uncomfortable with so much uncharacteristic gratitude.

“It was?” A strange expression crossed Gollub’s face. “I was sure I’d hallucinated that.”

“Yeah.” Valley confirmed. “And I figure if the nebbish suddenly decides he’s a Jew, I owe it to the tribe, right?”


“So,” she began carefully, “you and he are…”

Gollub made an unenthusiastic noise. “Not so great.”

“Oh?” Ruth paused and bit her lip. “Daffy, it’s none of my business, but…”

“But when does that stop either of us?”

“I know what he did really hurt you…”

“The sex is bad now,” Gollub announced bluntly.

“Eeew!” Ruth put her hands over her ears. “Too much information!”

“Oh, come on,” Daffy chided with mock gruffness. “Are you going to butt into my business or not?”

“I’m not sure if I want to now….” Valley frowned. “But, okay – omitting as many details as possible – is the problem with him, you, or both of you?”

“Him,” Daffy answered automatically, then admitted. “No… Me, too.”

“Okay, both, then. Again, leaving out details – what seems to be the problem?”

“Lack of commitment.” Gollub sighed. “But that’s always been there… Right now -- Let me put it this way – He and I have always shared the opinion of ‘Why cuddle when you could be screwing?’ and right now, we’re doing a lot of cuddling.”

“But that’s good, right?” Ruth asked. “That’s affectionate.”

“Affection-schmffection,” Daffy replied. “What did I just say? Cuddling is not the top option for either one of us.”

The Antari took in a deep breath. “Well...”

“And if you’re going to tell me to just give it time, that I could get from talking to the bulkhead behind you.”

“Talking to me makes you look more sane,” Ruth pointed out.

Daffy snorted. “Like that’s an issue for me.”

“Okay,” Ruth paused and examined the impressions she’d gotten of the navigator during their perfunctory visits over the last few days. “You and I hated her, but the ex-girlfriend was important to Chekov. He’s grieving for her and can’t admit that to you.”

Gollub shook her head as if she’d known exactly what Ruth was going to say and had half-hoped for something else. “I want to stop hating her,” she said.

“No, you don’t.” Ruth corrected.

“No, I don’t,” Daffy agreed. “But she turned out to be good.”

“She turned out to be part of what Del called the Beast,” Ruth pointed out. “Yes, she was an Intelligence Agent, but .. good? I think she lost that a long time ago. She would have sacrificed us all – including Chekov… maybe even starting with Chekov -- in a heartbeat.”

Gollub nodded. “He can’t stand the thought that she might have been sleeping with Sevrin. If he knew that she was mixed up with Cal…”

“And having sex with Chione.”

“And dead telepaths…”

“I wouldn’t mention that last one to him if I were you,” Ruth advised.

“Are you kidding? He’d cut off his schwanz and stuff it down a HazMat disposal unit.”

“Again with the details...” Valley warned, holding up her hands.

Gollub took a moment to sip on her coffee thoughtfully. “So you think that’s what’s the matter with us? We’re both still obsessing on the ex?”

“With the two of you, I think there’s a lot the matter,” Ruth joked. “But, yes, this seems to be at the bottom of the Mystery of the Unexplained Cuddling Syndrome.”

“Okay.” Daffy looked as though she were still turning the idea over in her mind. “Not a quick fix, but thanks… And for the saving my life thing too.”

“Hope it helps.”

“Saving my life seems to be working out well… Oh, and don’t think I didn’t notice that – following your usual pattern – you tried to follow me into the Afterlife.”

“Yeah.” Valley rolled her eyes. “It’s all about you, Daf.”

“So,” Gollub began. “How was it for you?”

“The Afterlife?”


“Well, I wasn’t there long, but it was pretty nice. Beautiful garden. Loving acceptance by a supportive deity. Joyous reunion with my parents…” Ruth had to pause and brush away some sudden moisture in her eyes. “Yeah, nice. And for you?”

“Not so much,” Gollub replied, looking sour.

Valley’s eyebrows rose. “What? You went to Gehenna?”

“I went nowhere. I could hear you guys over what sounded like a low quality comm connection, but other than that – I got bupkis. No Elijah. No Moses. No Einstein. No Sydney Bernstein…”

“Who’s Sydney Bernstein?”

“The nicest Jew I ever met. Ran a bakery on East 33rd.” Gollub shook her head sadly. “I thought he’d be a greeter or something.”

“Hmmm.” Ruth mulled this over as she took a sip of coffee. “I don’t know what to tell you. Did you talk to the Rabbi?”

Gollub sighed. “She said I wasn’t really dead so stop bothering her.”

“And when you continued to bother her?”

Gollub sighed more deeply. “She said it was a sign from God that I should become a Presbyterian.”

Ruth nodded sagely. “And this is why we have religion…”

“Because it’s such a comfort,” Daffy agreed.


When Spock entered his cabin, he expected to either be pounced on or to find his wife waiting impatiently in their bed. He wasn’t disappointed. The moment the door had hissed closed behind him, Ruth leapt into his arms, covering his face and neck with kisses. The cool skin beneath his hands registered before the visual fact that she wore practically nothing – a very seductive, very tantalizing, very beautiful ‘nothing.’

“I love you,” she murmured between oral embraces. “I missed you so much.” Her fingers were tearing at the fastening of his uniform. “I want you, I need you…”

“And I, you, beloved,” he affirmed softly, and lifted her from the deck, carrying her past the divider screen. She put her arms around his neck, fastening her mouth onto his, refusing to let go when they reached the bed, hanging from him even as he awkwardly removed his clothing. It was sublimely, familiarly amusing, and he became aware that she was feeling his reaction. She smiled under the kiss and started wriggling in delight. He felt a mental pull and was suddenly falling to the bed on top of her. Her laughter was out loud, her long legs immediately locking around him. His own urgency flared within him and their love-making was direct and very physical. When her mind opened beneath him, he found that the enhancement of her already talented telepathy enhanced his, and the mental union was every bit as direct. Their thoughts merged as their bodies joined, heady, completing and utterly satisfying.


After another two days in quarantine, Sulu was climbing the walls and Jilla was becoming increasingly distant. Jade Han checked the latest neurophene levels in the helmsman’s system and decided that, though they were still slightly higher than the levels in Ruth Valley’s bloodstream had been, they were good enough. She authorized his release with a stern caution that he do his best to avoid empathically reading those around him, though she could tell from his impatient manner that he wasn’t really listening to her.

Then she contacted Engineering and informed Jilla that it would be a very good thing if the Indiian would head to her quarters – immediately.


Sulu was fully prepared, if Jilla wasn’t in their cabin, to call her and tell her to come home – now. The wait in isolation had been hell on his nervous system. Not being able to touch her, to feel her, was making him more than a little twitchy. The brief embrace he’d been allowed after the return of the landing party from Dreamland had had far more of a tantalizing effect than any real sense of release. After twenty-four hours in quarantine, he was quite ready to ignore any ‘overhearing’ that might happen when he touched her, whether or not it was dangerous. Letting the amyneurophene eat him alive while making love to her was, after all, not a bad way to die…

And it’s thinking like that that made Han and McCoy keep you in isolation another four days, he reminded himself. He tried not to race through the ship’s corridors, trying just as hard not to listen to the wisps of emotion that drifted into his head from those he passed.

As he approached the door to his quarters, he saw Jilla hurrying toward him from the lift at the far end of the corridor. Blessing Dr. Han, he ran to her, lifting her off her feet and into a clichéd romantic-movie spin. His mouth found hers, her lips opening breathlessly under his, clinging to him as he carried her back down the corridor and into their cabin.

There were no words between them as his emotions poured into her, and hers into him. He felt Indi’s cold being chased away as the warmth and safety of his tia enveloped her. His own desperate hunger grew as her willing submission filled him. Each removed the other’s clothing in a haphazard, careless urgency and he was inside her before they reached the bed, pushing her back onto it…

“You really lettin’ me out o’ here, wit’ all the li’l sparklin’ pools in me?”

“The levels of the neurophenes in your system are lower than Mr. Sulu’s, Lieutenant.”

“May be, but I got no one’s life an’ sanity to save.”

“Are you saying you want more time in quarantine?”

Sulu shook his head, savagely trying to shut out the voices.

“Go on and grieve, bubee. I won’t smack you, I promise.”

“Dafshka, I do not know how. I don’t know where to begin.”

“Oy, you’re gonna want to tell me all about her, aren’t you?”


“So it’s more silent cuddling, huh?”

Stop it! Sulu cried.

“Cobra… mmm, that feels so good…”

“Oh, god, sweet Jesus…”


Sulu pulled away from Jilla’s clutching embrace. “Damn it!” he snapped. “Damn it, damn it, damn it…”


Not you too! “DAMN IT!

“Sulu…?” Jilla questioned breathlessly as the helmsman put his hands over his ears.

“I can’t make it stop,” he groaned.

“Is it too soon for you to be out of isolation?” the Indiian asked, her voice conveying all her anxiety and trepidation.

“God, I don’t know… I just… it can’t be, Jesus, honey, it just can’t be!”

“Do you need to return to Sickbay? If the amyneurophene is…”


The door chime sounded, followed by Ruth’s voice. “Sulu? Let me in!”

“Fuck!” the helmsman swore, then called, “just a minute!” He grabbed his uniform pants from the deck, tossing Jilla’s tunic to her. Pulling his clothing on, he growled, “come on,” in the direction of the door. It hissed open and Ruth entered cautiously.

“What’s going on?” the Antari asked. “What’s the matter?”

“Dr. Han released Sulu from quarantine,” Jilla replied, climbing off of the bed. “But his – enhancement – seems to be no less than it was before.”

“It’s contact with Jilla,” Sulu growled. “I touch her and I start hearing conversations…” He gestured futilely. “I can’t make it stop.”

Ruth came forward. “So who are you…?

“Pavel and Daffy,” Sulu answered. “Del. Jer and Sakura. You.”

“Hmm. And we’ve all got the neurophenes in our systems, too.”

“Do you suppose that’s why…?”

“And we’ve all had to be close for the …”

“Who knows what else the loonies did to the…”

“Not to mention – uh – past…”

“Don’t mention that.”

Sulu stopped talking, glaring at Ruth. Then he noticed Jilla’s stare.

“Is that what we sound like?” the Indiian asked the other half of Valjiir.

Ruth shrugged. “I guess so.” She frowned, then turned again to Sulu. “Have you tried shielding?”

“I don’t even know how to begin,” was his miserable response.

“Mind if I check it out for you?” the Antari offered.

“Yes,” he muttered, “but go ahead. If I don’t make love to my wife in the next minute or two I’ll be stark raving twitchy anyway.” Jilla flushed and a smile tried to sneak its way to Ruth’s lips. “Yeah, I know, what do I mean ‘will be.’”

“I didn’t say anything, Roy,” Ruth began.

“You didn’t have to,” Sulu sighed. He steeled himself, closing his eyes. “Go ahead.”

“I’ll be gentle,” Ruth promised, and her eyes closed as well.

It’s not really that hard, her voice said in his head. Just imagine a wall between your thoughts and – well, everything else.

What kind of a wall? Sulu wanted to know. Brick, stone, metal…

Doesn’t matter. Whatever’s easiest for you.

Not having to worry about it is easiest, Spike.

Yeah, but that’s not an option, is it?

He sighed again. Okay. He concentrated, trying to see the kind of stone barrier that surrounded his father’s gardens. Solid, he thought. Private. Irregular and beautiful and covered with green…

No, Roy, that won’t do, Ruth said. Irregular can let stray thoughts in and the live vines are a conduit for emotion. Try brick.

With a scowl, Sulu changed his mental image, but as hard as he tried, thick ivy insisted on covering the red brick edifice.

The emotions are too strong, Ruth mused. He felt her searching, as though she were looking through some files in his head. Here, this should be easy, she suggested. You already know how to use this to block out things you aren’t supposed to hear, even when you can clearly hear them.

What are you talking about?



She nodded. And these will have the advantage of being easily slid open when you want to share what you’re feeling – like with Jilla. Her mental voice chuckled. Try it.

The picture of the clean lines of the sliding rice-paper walls he had grown up with was an easy one to form. It was, as Ruth had pointed out, a skill learned in all Japanese homes; to be able to consciously shut out what went on in the next room, though both sound and light carried easily from behind the thin framework. It was simply accepted that one did not hear or see anything one could clearly hear or was plainly outlined against the paper.

Good, good, Ruth was saying approvingly. Now, just slide it shut between you and what you’re overhearing.

With a deep breath, Sulu reached out and slid the shoji closed. He heard Ruth giggle out loud and opened one eye. His hand was extended as though he were shutting a physical door.

“Okay,” Ruth said. “Let’s test it. Jilla, give your hubby here a great big kiss.”

Again Jilla flushed, but she stepped into Sulu’s arms, complying with Ruth’s request.

Sulu held his breath. There was a faint murmuring, almost like the sussurance of the ocean, but no words came to his awareness. He returned the kiss. Still nothing. He put more emotion into it, letting himself feel Jilla’s response. The arrhythmic sound got a little louder, but there was no sense of presence or language. He gently broke the kiss, smiling at Ruth.

“I think it works,” he said.

She was grinning. “Well, I think the real test will come about ten seconds after I leave, but…”

“You’re a womprat, Spike,” Sulu returned, “but thanks.”

“Any time,” the Antari said, then turned and headed for the cabin door. “And if you get overwhelmed again, call me.”

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