Original story by C Petterson and S Sizemore
Rewritten by Cheryl Petterson

(Standard Year 2250)

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It was quite by accident that Sulu discovered the saboteur. The Enterprise was orbiting Haddor, a planet under Federation protection though not officially a member. The government there had requested more information on membership and he and Spock had been assigned to deliver it. Ruth had come along to answer scientific inquires -- Haddor was concerned about possible contamination from the exploitation of its natural resources, mostly radioactive ores.

Sulu hadn't had much to do after playing courier. He had waited outside the government building for the mission to be completed. People had begun to stare at his uniform so he'd found a relatively secluded alcove in which to wait. So it was that he overheard the conversation between a minor Haddorian official and a man called Crosal.

Crosal was attempting to persuade the young man to treason with promises of power and wealth. It was an old story and Sulu had no thoughts of interfering — until Crosal started relating a successful mission to impress the Haddorian.

"Even against the Federation, we are successful," he said. "We destroyed their outpost on Alpha Asaad IV by the simplest of means. As we will throughout their borders. Klingons will always be victorious!"

It was a simple matter for Sulu to step out and surprise the traitor. One, effective, well-placed blow and the man was unconscious. Sulu then called for Spock.

"I trust this is important, Mr. Sulu," Spock said. The Governor had not appreciated the interruption and Spock was well aware who would be blamed if Haddor decided not to join the Federation.

"I'd say so, Captain," Sulu replied. "This — " he pointed to the unconscious form he'd slipped into the alcove, "is the man who sabotaged the sensors at Starbase 16."

Spock's eyebrow rose. "Indeed, Commander?"

Sulu's grin was fierce. "Indeed. He confessed it about ten minutes ago."

"You have a witness?"

"Of course." He gestured to the second occupant of the alcove. "This is Clerk Finna. Our traitor was attempting to corrupt him."

Spock shifted his gaze to the young man.

"I resisted!" he cried out.

"I am sure," Spock said distractedly. "A commendable action, Mr. Sulu. Contact the ship and arrange for detention. I will attempt to repair the damage done to the Governor's sense of importance." He knew it would sound more condemnation than praise, and regretted it as Sulu's grin abruptly vanished.

"Yes, sir," he snapped and opened his communicator. Spock turned to leave.

And was abruptly hit from behind, spun around, a very sharp object pressed tightly to his left side.

"Don't try it, Federate," a voice snarled in his ear, addressed, Spock knew, to both Sulu and himself. The clerk, Finna, still cowered in the alcove. Sulu's phaser was drawn but his reflexes were quick enough to prevent him from firing, an action which might have killed his captain. For a brief moment, Spock wondered why he'd stopped.

The man urged Spock to back-step with him, the knife digging into the material of the gold tunic. Spock kept his eyes locked on Sulu's face, trying desperately to formulate and convey a plan of action.

The helmsman's eyes were suddenly veiled and Spock remembered Ruth. She would sense the danger to her husband, but the pain he had caused her the past months would make her cautious, hesitant. And Sulu would give nothing away.

Several more backward steps and Spock felt a tingle. A phaser on light stun, aimed at his captor but transmitted by the bodily contact. Why, then, wasn't his captor falling?

A second tingling; stronger. Medium stun. Still no reaction. He must be shielded somehow. Ruth will increase the setting until it is effective. With the realization, Spock began the mental disciplines to provide some shield from the coming shock.

More steps. Sulu's face receding. Stronger sensation. Building fear and anguish in his mind. He blocked it as the mental exercises of long years’ practice took hold of his thoughts.

There were several moments of timelessness before a jolt of power threw him from his captor's body.


Ruth's mind recoiled in horror as her hands methodically increased the setting on her phaser. He can't be not falling, she told herself. I know my phaser's working. Why isn't he falling?

You're going to kill him.

I can't!

Click. Next setting. Nothing. Click. Next...

I can't!!

...setting. One away from...

I CAN'T!!!


Death leapt from her hand, striking the man who held Spock. Spock was thrown, Sulu lunging forward to catch him, his assailant disappearing in blue/white glow.

And Crosal's silent scream lanced through her mind, slicing it open: death, ending; my fault, my doing; sentience fading, blinking out into surprised darkness; ending, my fault, death, murder...

She didn't see the phaser in her hand. She didn't see Spock slowly straightening, or hear him calling for beam up. She didn't feel the transporter beam.

Death was in her mind and it was all she knew.


It was nearly more of an effort than Spock had strength for to simply continue standing, continue functioning. His head burned from the residual effects of the phaser, his constitution drained from the effort of shielding it.

Must keep alert... must get to the Bridge... report... Sulu must report...

He materialized in the transporter room fighting the disorientation. Before anyone could notice, he snapped out an order and forced his body to move from the platform and out into the corridor.

So strong was his shield, and so detached his mind from his surroundings, that he did not see his wife, cold, aching, terrified, reaching for him.


Something terrible had happened. Noel DelMonde knew that even before the figures on the transporter disks had fully materialized. Pain shot through him and his attention centered on the main source. Ruth was white, a horrible cold engulfing her. Del moved around the console, going to her. He heard Spock say something but didn't pay any attention to it. All he knew was the terrible, consuming need that was pulling him, of its own volition, to Ruth; Ruth's need, Ruth's pain. He was agonizingly aware that she turned to Spock, calling to her husband in whispered horror -- and that Spock ignored her. He felt that Sulu was also drawn by the terrible need, and that he, too, although with pain of his own, refused it.

DelMonde couldn't. Wouldn't. He pulled Ruth's icy body into his arms, welcomed her emptiness into his too-full mind, gave and gave until her thoughts began devouring him.

At the last, he was aware of Sulu's eyes turning back in anguish. "I take care o’ her," he said hoarsely, and swept Ruth off her feet, carrying her to his cabin.


Jilla looked up in surprise as Sulu fairly burst into the room. He was seething, waves of anger, frustration and pain radiating from him. He stood rock-still in the center of the room, looking anywhere but at her. She rushed to him, clasping his hands in hers.

"What is wrong?" she demanded fearfully.

He took a deep breath. "Ruth had to kill a man today,” he said.

Sumin tu!” Jilla breathed, her tone a reflection of his own agony.

“She saved Spock’s life,” he went on. “We caught the man responsible for the sabotage on Starbase 16 and he tried to take the captain as hostage. He was shielded and I couldn’t act, but Ruth was behind him and she had to put her phaser on highest setting.”

“Is she…” Jilla began.

“No, she’s not!” Sulu growled. “She's a keheil, damn it, it nearly killed her and…” He had to take another breath. “Jilla, Spock just let her bleed! She needed somebody. We beamed up and DelMonde was there…” He forced himself to look at her, praying she would listen, that she would understand.

Her eyes widened, then abruptly her gaze dropped to the deck. She seemed to draw into herself, her slate eyes dulling. "Oh."

"How can we blame her?" he managed.

"She is Spock's wife."

Sulu shook his head. "Spock hasn't been her husband for a long time."

"It makes no difference."

“She needed life, Jilla.”

“Have you not always been life to her?"

Sulu found himself nearly gawking. “Are you saying you would’ve wanted me to…?” he began incredulously.

Jilla blinked at him uncomprehendingly.

“Hon, she needed to take life, as she took death, She needed it inside her, as the death was…” Jilla’s sudden flush told him the Indiian finally understood. “Where's Spock when she needs him?" he finished bitterly.

Jilla was silent.

Carefully, Sulu took a step forward, gently taking hold of her shoulders. "Jilla, she's going to need you, too. You're her friend. When Spock finds out…" Her expression had turned hard and unforgiving, and Sulu grit his teeth. Wasn't life difficult enough on this ship without a wedge being driven between Jilla and Ruth?

"It is no business of mine," she stated flatly.

"Jilla," Sulu pleaded, "Del at least loves her..."

"Another man's wife."

"So did I." He regretted the words as Jilla swallowed a sudden sob.

"I did not blame you," she said softly. "I do not blame Mr. DelMonde."

"You weren't there!” Sulu insisted. “Spock practically threw her into Del's arms!"

Jilla met his gaze, tears in her eyes. “As I threw you into…?”

“No!” His denial was swift and fierce and agonized. "No, that was all my fault, all my doing. But you know how Spock’s treated her. You know how hard she's fought her attraction to DelMonde. But …” He grimaced, trying desperately to make her understand the way he did. “Jilla, she saved Spock’s life by killing a man. Spock turned away from her, again. And Del was there…"

"It changes nothing."

"God damn it!" he roared. If there had been anything but Jilla handy he would have flung it full force against the bulkhead. There was no reasoning with Indiian religion. Did you really think there would be? Christ, isn’t there ever going to be any peace on this hell of a ship? God, how he prayed for the day he'd be promoted away from that bastard! A promotion would solve everything for him and for Jilla – but what about now? And what the hell is Ruth going to do?

"She loves Del," he said. "And Spock won't let her love him anymore. Jilla, this is going to destroy her. She needs you.”

"If she does not have the strength within herself, she will not find it in me."

The sad finality of her voice made Sulu realize that nothing he could say would do any good. He took a long steadying breath and forced himself to drop the subject.


Del woke up wishing fervently that he was still on board the Hood, or on Dreamland Base where god-like indifference would insulate him from the guilt of what he'd done. He wanted to spare Ruth the anguish she was feeling and he knew, without arrogance, that if it had been any man other than him, it wouldn't have happened. If only she didn't love the Bastard. Then she wouldn't hurt. Then she not need you, he told himself angrily. An’ you know how much you want her to need you.

Much as I need her. I love her! And I not th' one murderin’ her. I do what I can to keep her alive. Babe, I t’ink you die las’ night if not fo’ me. He had to counter the bitter, It should have been him! that screamed in Ruth’s mind.

Yeah, cher, an’ th' charogne ought to be grateful.


What have I done?

It was the first thought in – how long? – that had penetrated the fog of anguish, pain and hunger that surrounded her. I killed a man. And then… She was in bed with a Human and she didn't know who. Was it Sulu? No, there had been no joy. Kevin? Love, yes, but not a child's adoration. Jim? No, impossible. But Human and caring. Nothing cold and distant...

Del, of course.

If she could open her eyes she would see him sleeping beside her, familiar and abominable. Open my eyes and know that I'm alive? Live with what I've done? Goddess, why?

Death needs life to cure it.

There was death all through me. Pain and surprise and someone else's mind screaming into blackness and I had to know that I lived. The cold voice went away, cut off any link with light and there was strength and warmth and I couldn't stop. And I didn't care who it was. But why couldn't it have been Spock?

He abandoned me. Why? To punish me, himself? I don't know. And what has he left me with? Another Kevin, using a man just because I can't have the one I want?

Worse than Kevin.

No, that's not possible. But it hurts worse to use you, Del. I love you. And you know damn well what you're getting.

Del. Spock. My body and mind and heart are mine to give as I choose. But my soul... Spock's forever. Del knows, I know. But does Spock?

My love. My loves. Both of them? Yes. And there was a time when I didn't even believe I could feel this emotion. I wish I never had.

And keheils can't commit suicide. We're supposed to accept all the pain we're capable of causing ourselves, and others, and learn from it.

One look, one smile, any indication of triumph from DelMonde and I'll kill him. Yeah, sure. Fierce this morning, aren't you, Valley? It'd serve you right if he didn't care either. And you can only think that because you know there isn’t a chance in hell of it being true.

I'm the Captain's wife and the whole ship must know. How do I walk out of this room and face anyone? Or go back to work? I've got a whole section to run, not strangers, but friends, most of them have worked for Spock and...

Jilla's going to be furious. And it's one more hassle poor Sulu doesn't need.

Maybe the Bastard will let me transfer. He wouldn't let his own mother transfer and I'm only his wife. Am I? I don't remember anything about screwing anyone else in the contract. If it's nullified then Jilla won't... Why am I so worried about Jilla? Because she's going to hate me, that's why. She'll just mirror back all the hate I feel for myself.

Suddenly she was clinging fiercely to the warm body next to her and his hands were in her hair, pulling her head roughly up.

"Look at me," he ordered gruffly.

She was afraid to open her eyes, believing hysterically that what she couldn't see wouldn't be there. He shook his head. "Ruth, come on, babe, we not have much time an’ we need to talk."

"Nothing to say," she answered in a dead, stranger's voice.

"God damn you," he growled.

She opened her eyes and saw the fear and anger in his eyes. He searched her face.

"Del," she murmured. "I'm so sorry."

He pulled her face down and kissed her fiercely. He needed her now, as badly as she had needed him a few hours before. Unconsciously her hands began to caress his ears and he pushed her furiously away. "Don’ do that!" he practically screamed into her face. "You not ever do that, I not your damn husband!"

"Oh god, I'm sorry!" she sobbed again and he pulled her back into his arms.

"Which one o’ us you apologizin’ to?" he asked sourly.

She tried to pull away but he only held her tighter and pushed her down on the bed. His caresses were harsh, almost brutal and she responded urgently. She momentarily forgot guilt and let herself be possessed by the half-angry passion that was the familiar Del, the Del she had loved since she was seventeen.


"I love you, I really do love you."

"I know, babe. You not cry fo’ me."

But it doesn't change one god damned thing. They shared the thought and knew it. So they got out of bed, got dressed and stared at each other, wondering what to do next.

"You come back?"

She shrugged. "Why not?"

He turned away and said bitterly, "Yeah. Why not?"

"Del?" she pleaded.

He pivoted back to her. "He not need you, cher. You ever stop needin’ him?"

"When I stop breathing?" She shrugged again, helplessly.

He stared at her, then whispered, “Jus’ come back."

"Where else have I got to go?"



The sound of Ruth's voice froze her, 'how dare she!’ mingling with the misery of the Antari’s tia. Jilla tried to ignore her. Why had Sulu let her in? He knew that she could not bear to see or speak with her now.

She felt hesitant fingers on her arm and Ruth repeated her name. She took a deep breath. Give her the courtesy of an explanation, she thought, she cannot be expected to know Indiian custom in such matters. She turned stiffly, her face and eyes guarded.

The shock didn't register on her face but her heart stirred tormentedly. Ruth's hair was disheveled, her clothing hastily thrown on, her face streaked with tears that still clouded her huge, anguished eyes. Her whole being radiated shame and grief and a hopeless defiance that couldn't quite drown the raw pain. Jilla controlled the trembling, recognizing the presence. She reeked of the same guilt to eyes that could see it.

"Jilla, I couldn't help it!" Ruth sobbed. "I've tried for so long... he drove me away!"

"You blame Spock?" Jilla managed incredulously, unable to believe that Ruth would attempt to justify such a thing.

"Yes, I blame Spock! He doesn't care! You have to understand, Del and..."

"I have to do no such thing!" Jilla broke in savagely, forgetting the explanation she had wanted to give with the dismay of Ruth’s rationalization.. "It was your choice!"

"You think I wanted... Jilla, I don't want to do this!" Ruth cried.

"Then do not," was the curt reply. How can she say these things, Jilla thought in horror, how can she deny this shame?

"I can't help it! Spock won't touch me, he won't talk to me, we have no marriage..."

"Did he free you?" Jilla asked hopefully. She watched Ruth's eyes close with bitterness.

"No. . ."

The hope crashed around Jilla’s tia in a tidal wave of shame. "Then you have a marriage."

"I'm not Indiian!"

Memory assailed Jilla’s senses with the faithlessness of the claim, however literally accurate:

The captain laid out the contract; three years duration, no vow, with blithe legal dissolution at the expiration date marked. Jilla sighed.

“Go ahead, Spock,” the captain said.

Spock lifted the stylus, his eyes meeting Ruth’s – and Jilla caught her breath. There was eternity in his gaze as he formed the letters of his name. The captain’s quiet, “Ruth,” did nothing to disrupt the web of promise and devotion that flowed between ebony and violet. The love was strong, the commitment certain as Ruth took the stylus, answering Spock’s silent vow with one of her own as she wrote her name. The statboard was passed to McCoy, who signed with grumpy pleasure, then to her. She hesitated, looking from Spock to Ruth. The communication was tangible to her, the bond they formed without words filling her with their adoration and fidelity and dedication. She almost heard their echo – when The Time comes again, beloved – I will be ready, my love.

“It should be spoken,” she said to herself, but signed her name.

She will deny it, came the immediate, certain response, but the words had to be spoken. “I felt the vow, Ruth,” she said. With frantic stubbornness, Ruth stuck out her left hand, palm up, and for a moment, Jilla would have sworn she saw the faint line of a reddened scar across the palm. She gasped, blinked, and the image faded.

“I’m not Indiian!” Ruth repeated.

Jilla spoke quickly, almost frantically, desperate to find some other way to convince Ruth to see the truth. "But he is Vulcan. You accepted him on his terms whether those terms were spoken or not. Vulcan marriage is inviolate and monogamous until death or release. He lives, he has not released you. You break faith with him, Ruth, you cuckold your husband, you prostitute your union, yet you admit no guilt. You blame him…"

"He broke faith with me!" Ruth shrieked. "He's shut me out of his life! How can I be his loyal, loving wife when he won't let me?"

"Ruth," Jilla said, as steadily and full of calm finality as she could manage, "you made the choice. You can not cleanse this sin by assigning it to Spock, nor deny it by citing its cause. Accept the fault, or stop the sin."

Ruth stared at her, helplessly. "You don't understand..."

"I do, too well!" Jilla snapped, and turned, trembling.

"You broke faith, Jilla, you cuckolded..."

Jilla whirled back, nearly screaming in anguish. "Yes, I did, and I am damned for it and I know it and accept it and acknowledge it every day of my life! It is the price I have paid! Why is it, Ruth, that you expect someone else to pay yours?!"

"There's no damn price to pay, I'm not Indiian!" Ruth shrieked back vehemently.

Jilla turned again, going back to her work. She heard Ruth's sobbing sigh, the shuddering intake of breath.

"Jilla," Ruth said.

Jilla determinedly ignored her.

"Jilla, please."

The pain pounded into her, the waves of Ruth's infidelity calling to her own, forcing the shame up from the deep recesses to which she had pushed it. Her mind clamped down on the rising agony.

"Please, Jilla, talk to me, say something, yell or bitch or scream but say something!" Ruth's trembling voice pleaded.

Jilla slowly turned, facing her for what was to be the last time in a very long time. "I will not speak to one who denies judgment," she hissed through her agony. She watched Ruth's eyes go cold and bitter and the Antari turned, striding out of the room. Jilla stared after her, motionless. She had not explained, not told Ruth how scathingly painful her presence was, how the guilt was tangible arrows of torment into her, into any Indiian, how intensely the sin tore at the Indiian heart and mind and soul. She would not have understood. She admits no sin. Lady Zehara, most honored ancestors of Spock Sareklrn, have mercy.

Jilla bowed her head, felt Sulu’s arms coming around her, and let the tears of pain come.


The testimony of Clerk Finna in the official inquest of Crosal's death made a very favorable impression on the Haddorians. They decided in favor of joining the Federation. Spock let Sulu process the application while he attended to the inquest paperwork. Upon checking with his yeoman, he was informed that the report from Sciences was not yet logged. Spock found that strange. He'd spent an hour in his cabin after logging his own report, repairing his synapses and regaining his equilibrium. Ruth had not come there. Nor was she on the Bridge. He had contacted Sickbay, asking for her. McCoy curtly informed him that he hadn't seen her. He checked every Science department, even calling down to the main computer. There was and had been no sign of her. He was about to make a general call when he caught a muttered comment from the Helm.

"Why don't you try DelMonde's quarters?"

Fire shot though him, a deep, roaring agony. No. NO!!

Yes. It is, has been inevitable. You have seen it. You have ignored it. Why does it surprise you? How can it hurt you when you have done nothing to prevent it, nothing to dissuade her? Nothing to hold on to her.

The relentless logic seared through him, strains of ice against the flames of anguish. Relentless logic. Feel what you have made her feel!

He stared impassively down at the Helm. The First Officer had not meant his words to be overheard. Spock closed his eyes for a few, brief moments, then abruptly stood and left the Bridge.


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