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

(Standard Year 2250)

Return to Valjiir Stories

Return to Valjiir Continum

Ruth's gaze snapped to Spock. Gone was the cold mask he had worn for so long — even in private until a short while ago. His face was weary, triumphant, and his thoughts leapt to her, sharing the pain and joy of the revelation he'd given her weeks before.


Ruth was exhausted, despairing. The sauvrn had taken all her reserves and she began sobbing helplessly. She was cold, afraid -- hopeless. Spock was inches away; warmth and comfort and love, but he might as well have been on the other side of the galaxy. She was alone, always alone... Del, I need you... NO! I need Spock, my husband, my beloved... Spock... Spock!

Trembling arms came around her shoulders, urging her forward with a barely felt pressure. Fingers touched her hair, timidly stroking, bringing her head to rest against muted heat and too-familiar drum roll. A voice hoarse and low and hesitant filled her ears:

"Ssshh, it is over. You are safe, it is gone." A pause, a sudden, painful gasp, then, "I nearly lost you!"

Ruth couldn't stop the swift, unbelieving stare. Spock's eyes were closed, his features pinched as if in pain. Lines of weariness and sorrow showed clearly on his face, and when the dark, hooded eyes opened to return her gaze, they, too, were sad and tired and hurting.

"Sp -- Spock?" she whispered.

"I nearly lost you," he repeated. "It is not worth it. My word, my honor, my career, friendship… meaningless if I lose you." His embrace tightened convulsively. "Forgive me, Jim, it is not worth that price."

The words swirled in Ruth's mind, a meaningless jumble of confused syllables, "What?" she managed to croak out. "What are you…." She pulled away, her voice rising in strength and pitch. "Jim? What are you saying?! What are you saying?! I don't understand!!" Her fists were pounding on his chest as if of their own volition as she kept repeating, "I don't understand!"

She heard his voice but could not hear his words. She felt his arms trying to hold her close, could not feel their strength. She saw nothing but the wavering film of her own tears.

Then there came a stab of pain, white light in her mind, and she cried out. Immediately the brilliance was withdrawn and fingers were soothing her temples.

"You are still weak, forgive me," Spock's soft voice murmured. "I thought only to comfort..."

She pulled away. "Ten months you've pushed me away," she rasped out. "Ten months I’ve tried to comfort… what are you doing to me?! What have I done?! I don't....!"

"I know, my wife, I know. I have an explanation..."

"Wife?! The contract is in force for..."

"Stop, I beg you!" Spock shouted, his voice harsh agony. Ruth broke into renewed tears as Spock pulled her into another embrace. "I can explain, my love. Listen: please Ruth, listen!"

She sobbed, clinging to him, trying to think. She was so tired, so confused. The sauvrn had left her so....

The sauvrn had left her.

"I'm alive. What the hell am I doing alive?" she questioned, the realization only adding to her confusion.

"I destroyed the sauvrn," Spock replied quietly.

She blinked. "You.. .how... it wouldn't just leave until..."

"Unless a stronger, fresher mind was presented to it."

She stared at his lowered eyes, swallowing; her anger and fear fading as the implication of his words sank in. "Yours?" she questioned nearly inaudibly.

"I could not leave you for dead -- or worse -- while there was still hope."

"But how... even a keheil can't..."

"A keheil must heal, even to her own death. I have no such block to self-preservation. I -- was able to wrench my mind away once the sauvrn left you."

Simple words, a simple deed. Yet Ruth knew the terror, knew the exertion and the pain, knew what agony it was to have to rip one's thoughts from another's... especially one loved and too-long denied...

Loved? Too-long denied?

Echoing in her mind, Spock's mental voice a caress, memory of calling, giving… come to me, the feeding is better here -- touch me, join with me, my wife, my love, my only beloved, golden one -- so good, right --so long -- come, I am stronger, come and feed -- my wife, my wife, my wife...

She sobbed aloud, throwing herself into his arms, crying now for him, for his fear and his pain. And again he hushed her, soothing, holding until her tears spent themselves and she slept in his arms, cradled against his chest.


He was still there when she woke; real, solid, warm. She hugged him once just to make sure and he returned it. She took a deep breath, said his name, and he put his fingers to her lips.

"I have much to say, Ruth. Will you listen?"

Her eyes met his and she nodded. He swallowed, then began to speak.

"First, you must know that I love you. I do, I will, for as long as conscious thought is mine. And since joining with you, I suspect even after that."

"Spock..." Ruth began.

"I know, I have given you cause and more than cause to doubt it, but you must believe me. I do love you."

Tears glistened in her eyes but she nodded. He touched her face, softly, lovingly, then continued.

"The night Jim Kirk disappeared, I heard him call out to me for help. I saw his impressions: the Guardian, Klingons... Kor. I felt as he did: the desperate need to escape, the fear, the madness. The memory of my own experience with the mind-sifter touched me. I am not certain of all the details, but this much I know: he is alive, he used the Guardian to escape Kor, he is lost somewhere in the past. And he is mad."

Ruth stared, unseeing, letting the words fill her mind. Jim, alive? Alive!? Madness, Guardian, Klingons. Where was I... that party. That damned party! I knew I shouldn't've gone, knew I...

"Why didn't you tell me?" she asked abruptly. Spock sighed deeply.

"At first there was no time. I did not see you those first few days. And I contacted Starfleet immediately." His voice trailed off. "I did not trust my impressions. I could not -- can not -- explain how I know what I know. As the hours and days passed, I became more doubtful of convincing anyone of the reality of my knowledge. Perhaps you would have understood and would have needed nothing other than my word. Starfleet, however, required proof. Proof that I do not have. Yet how could I abandon Jim when I know him to be alive and needing my help?" Spock's eyes closed and his voice grew soft.

"Ruth, my dearest wife, I have made a devil's bargain. Starfleet accepts my word; they do not believe me. They agreed to divert the Enterprise from her five-year mission and allow the patrol of the Klingon border. They granted me the Enterprise's facilities for my personal search. But I must pay for these indulgences. No one must know of my search. In particular, you must not know, nor Jilla, nor Mr. Sulu. Starfleet fears another Valjiir non-court-martial offensive. And if the Klingons breach the Guardian, they do not wish Valjiir otherwise occupied. They fear, too, any flamboyance from D'Artagnan. If I am correct, they reason, we must not call the Klingon's attention to our awareness of their schemes. All I have done was to further this bargain. I had to keep you from me, keep Jilla from me, keep Sulu too busy to think..." Again his words stopped and Ruth glanced up at him. There were tears in the dark eyes; anguish and bitterness and weary despair. "Perhaps," he murmured, "I could have found a way to circumvent Starfleet's orders, and for that failure I am deeply sorry and beg you to forgive me..."

"Spock," Ruth whispered and she threw her arms around him and held him as the lean frame trembled with his effort to control the pain and regret. He pulled himself straight.

"I had no other acceptable choice," he said, "though even this was hardly tolerable. I have never stopped loving you, more than any other -- any other," he repeated, "but I do not, cannot love you more than life. My own I give you freely; I cannot give you another's. Jim is alive. Can I turn my back on that?"

She was silent for some time before answering tonelessly, "No, damn it. No, you can't sacrifice another life... but it hurts."

His reply was quiet. "I know. I was cruel. The fault is mine. But can you see I did what had to be done? Can you see that there was no way but cruelty to keep those so dear at such a distance?"

"Didn't Fleet realize what they were doing to you? What you'd have to do?" Ruth flared. "It's been so insane, so..." Her voice trailed off as she stared at him in horrified confusion. "You weren't trying to kill anybody?"

Spock swallowed. "Did it truly seem so, my wife?"

She nodded. "I'm sorry, but it did."

There was a pause, then a sigh.

"Yes, so it did. My reasons were always logical. They were always carefully thought out. My logs will confirm this. I sent you -- others -- into danger, but never unnecessary danger." He looked at her intently. "Were it another Captain giving the orders would that not have been obvious?"

She looked away from him, the color rising in her cheeks. "Y -- Yes, of course. But you had changed so much, were so frighteningly cold. That isn't much of an excuse I know. I didn't believe it at first but... how you treated Jilla... and then you walked out and left me to die..."

"What?" Spock broke in, his voice nearly a shout. "Left you to… wife, when did I...” His voice stammered uncharacteristically.” Surely you cannot...did I not... the sauvrn..."

His bewildered shock sent ripples of renewed confusion into her mind. "No," she quickly assured him. "Not now, not the sauvrn."

"When, my wife? Of what do you speak?"

"In the transporter room! You left me!" she shouted, nearly hysterical at the memory.

"Left... I do not understand." He grasped her arms, pulling her close. "Ruth, I do not know what you mean."

"I was dying and you left me. I killed a man on Haddor. Don't you remember? If it hadn't been for... Del... I would have died."

"Haddor." Spock was clearly trying to remember. "Killed a man… I left you in the transporter…" There were several moments of silence. "The traitor who sabotaged Starbase 16," he said at last. "He attempted to hold me prisoner and you…" A longer pause. "...were forced to kill him. Yes, I remember. But I still do not understand. I left you in the transporter room, yes, but… left you to die? Were you injured?"

Ruth stared at him, blinking, then her eyes grew hard. "I killed!" she snapped at him. "I'm a keheil. When we kill we feel it. I destroyed sentient life. I was falling into his death, becoming it. I needed... Don't you know?"

He shook his head mutely.

"I reached out for you! I called to you! And you just... you turned away! You took Sulu away! You left me with Del and I was cold and hurting and needing..." She choked. "...needing and all there was was Del and..." She doubled over, sobbing out incoherent syllables as Spock stared at her in horror. She was nearly ready to scream that all his words had been lies when he started speaking.

"I did not know,” he rasped. "I had shielded against the aftershock of the phaser blasts. There was too much disorientation, I could not think... could barely stand... I did not feel your need... I did not hear your call... my wife... Fathers, what have I done?!"

The soft cry was enough to break through Ruth's hysteria. She reached blindly to him, felt his hands groping also toward her. "Oh god, you never knew!" she cried and heard his vehement reply.

"Never! Never would I have turned if I had heard! Believe me, I beg you, believe me!"

"Goddess, what have I done!" Ruth moaned. "I thought... I'm sorry, so sorry. I love you. I went to Del I'm sorry I needed and you had said I thought I'm so sorry!"

"I am sorry, my wife! Had I not been so cruel, so cold…. had I not given you reason to believe..."

"I should have trusted you!"

"It is I who should have trusted! I should not have allowed Fleet to decide my course. It should not have taken this much to force me to do what I have longed to do all these months. You are my wife, my chosen life's mate. I should not have tried to hide from you."

"What maniac at Headquarters talked you into this horrible masquerade?" Ruth muttered. "Couldn't you have just told us that there was something you couldn't tell us?"

"The means were left to my discretion," Spock admitted humbly -- miserably.

"Then why didn't..."

"Could you have accepted such a straightforward lack of explanation?"

"What? Of course I… "

"Day after day?"

"Well... Maybe for a while."

"For ten months?"

"No," she answered, annoyed and sheepish.

Spock nodded, then sighed. “Still, I should have found some other way. Can you forgive me?"

Ruth was quiet, then glanced at him. "Can you forgive me.... DelMonde?"

"DelMonde was my fault. I left you no other acceptable choice." The repetition of the words he had used for his own decision was painful confession.

"Still, I was... unfaithful..."

Spock gently took her hand, lifting her chin to search her eyes. "Do you love me?" he asked softly.

Ruth’s eyes widened. "Yes!"

"Will you... continue…with Mr. DelMonde?"

"No, goddess, no!"

"Then all is forgiven, my wife." She wanted to stop right there, to leave it and just hold him, be with him, but there was more that had to be said no matter how much she wanted to let it go.

"Jilla. Did you, tell her, try to -- rape?"

Spock's eyes closed. "Forgive me."

Pain lanced through Ruth's being. "How could you? God, Spock, how could you do that to her?"

"It was the only way to stop her sensitivity, to make her misinterpret what she did feel." His voice was anguished. "I could not risk her caring, her probing, her relentless questioning..."

"Right again," Ruth whispered.

"I would not have gone through with it. If she had not retreated... no matter. I knew she would."

Ruth felt her stomach twisting with revulsion. So cold, so calculating, using just the right emotions. He knows us all so well, can dissect us and dispassionately use -- NO! He's had to pay for what he's done. He hurts too! Remember that or you'll never get over this and I love him so I have to get over... "I love you, Spock."

He didn't look at her. "Your shielding is not yet recovered," he said quietly. "Yes, I was cold, calculating. Yes, I used my knowledge of you and Jilla and Sulu. And yes, I have paid. I have not, in ten months of searching, found any hint of Jim's presence in Earth's history. And now, when Fleet discovers I have broken my word I will lose the resources I need to find him." He raised his eyes to her and they were clear and resolute. "No matter. I could not bear to lose you. I will pay for that as well."

The admission filled her, replacing some of the pain with rueful understanding. "I’m sorry for how I’ve acted,” she murmured. "What can I do to help?"

"You have acted as I forced you to act," Spock rejoined. "But – my wife, you have not said if you can forgive me."

"This isn't easy," Ruth vacillated.

"I know. "

"I do love you."

"But do you forgive me?"

"I suppose I already have or we wouldn't be talking," she answered tentatively. "You saved me from the sauvrn, you broke your word for me, you love me. How could I not forgive you? We have to start over, rebuild some things, but …."

"I am sorry, Ruth,” Spock reiterated, his head bent. “For all I have caused you, the worry and fear and pain -- for all I have caused our friends. I will re-earn your trust, my love, if you will give me the chance."

It was her turn to gently lift his face. It was careworn and defeated, and she realized that she had only said, 'I suppose'. He had forsaken most of his principles in confiding in her. He had good reasons, she accepted that even as it hurt. For the most part she even agreed with him. Yet she had only said, 'I suppose.’ She took a deep breath. He'd given her the truth. She had to reciprocate, though her pride ached to remain as cold and silent as he had been for so long.

“I couldn't live without you, husband,” she murmured to him. “You did what you had to do. I accept and I forgive and I love you. I don't want to be separate from you ever again.”

In silence Spock held out his hands. Ruth went to his embrace, trying to open her mind to his. He shook his head. "You are bruised," he murmured hoarsely. "I will cause you no more pain -- not even welcome pain."

A smile broke through her tears and she hugged him fiercely. He returned it, the love and commitment flowing tangibly to her even without the mental contact. His lips found hers, the first kiss in ten months...

...and she pulled away from it, her hand coming up to her mouth. "No," she rasped. "I can't. Not yet, it's too soon. Please understand. I do love you, I do; I just..."

Spock nodded sadly. "I understand, my wife. It grieves me, but I accept the fault. I will not press you."

"I love you."

"And I, you."


And that was all. They had discussed his search, she had begun to help him. They agreed to keep up his facade, as hard as it would be and as painful as Ruth found it, particularly with regard to Jilla. And, now, it was over.

"I've found him."


"North America, the mid-twentieth century."

"Is he...?"

"As I said. Insane."

DelMonde's voice was sudden thunder. "What in th' name o’ God you talkin’ ‘bout?!"

Ruth started. She'd nearly forgotten Del was there. Spock had obviously not noticed him. He glanced at the Human and then at Ruth. She felt the involuntary question and gently shook her head. His eyes traveled back to Del.

"Captain Kirk," he said.

"Captain Kirk dead, gone fo’ a year, what you..." Del's voice stopped as the words that had been spoken sank in. "Found him? Twentieth century? Insane? Captain Kirk?!"

Ruth grinned. "Now I can tell you."

Tell me, then!

Ruth winced, waited a moment for the pain of telepathic contact to disappear. "Spock has been hunting for Jim since he disappeared. Remember at Cory's party when we both sensed something was wrong? And all those nightmares about Kor I told you about? That -- Klingon -- was responsible for it all, but it's over now."

What over now?

She winced again, understanding his refusal to follow the convention they'd silently agreed on since they'd first met by continuing to speak telepathically after she'd spoken aloud. "Spock's search. The way he's been acting... he had to, he was following Fleet's orders."

Fleet order him t’ destroy you?!

"Del, please stop it!" Ruth cried out. Spock was immediately at her side.

"Mr. DelMonde, she is not yet completely healed from the sauvrn's attack," Spock explained.

"I not hear not'ing from you ‘cept transfer granted, Captain!" Del growled.

"Del, you don't..." Ruth rasped.

"You want me stay?"

"You are an excellent officer, Mr. DelMonde, and..." Spock rejoined.

"An’ I love your wife!"

"I know."

"An' she love me!"

"I know."

"Motherfucker, there anyt'ing you not know?! "

There was silence for a moment, then Spock said quietly, "Yes. How to make amends for the last year."

Del's eyes closed and Ruth shuddered at the agony pouring from him. "Lemme transfer," he answered dully.

"If that is what you wish."

"It not what I wish but it all I can get. Damn you to hell, Captain." Del turned, storming from the room, the impact of what had been said clearly not yet fully registering on him.

"Del, I'm so sorry," Ruth whispered sadly. Spock said nothing for several minutes, then gently kissed Ruth's forehead.

"Come, my wife. I must speak to my First Officer."


"That's it," Sulu raged at Jilla as he entered their quarters and began pacing angrily around the room. "I've tied up all the loose ends. I went back planetside and found their damned guitars and left them in their cabins. That's all I had to do, and we're getting out. We'll transfer. If he won't let us transfer, we can resign. And if he won't let us resign, we can desert."

Jilla did not answer since she knew that he wasn't really expecting her to.

"He let me make a fool of myself for the last time," he continued. "How am I supposed to function properly if he won't let me?"

"You are an excellent Executive Officer.

"I'm a goddamned data processor!"

"It is hardly your fault that the Captain does not confide in you. You perform the duties assigned with efficiency and competency. He cannot fault your functioning -- and you should not -- when he chooses to keep you in ignorance."

Sulu smiled wanly at Jilla's quiet but vehement defense. "How is the crew to react when it becomes obvious their First Officer is kept ignorant? Will they blame the Captain? I don't think so."

"They should."

"No. Hell," he snarled, "one of my jobs is to protect his godlike image."

"Another duty he does not encourage you to perform."

"I hate him. And we're getting out."

"Yes, husband," she agreed. She turned to begin preparing transfer requests and resignation letters and the door chime sounded. She continued as Sulu went to the door.

Then whirled as Sulu's fury suddenly doubled, striking out in livid waves. All the blood drained from her face, her heart pounding, her legs going weak. She wanted to scream and cry and beg and clutched blindly at the desk as Spock entered the room.

"Yes, sir?" Sulu responded tightly when he saw who his visitor was.

Then he saw who stood beside the Captain.

"Can we come in, Roy?" Ruth asked.

Sulu stared at them -- them? "We?" he croaked.

"Please, Mr. Sulu," Spock said. "We wish to speak to you and your wife. There is much that needs to be explained. We -- I -- have not come to cause any further harm.”

"What further harm could you..." Sulu began.

"Please Roy?" Ruth repeated.

He turned disgustedly. "Sure. Why not? Nothing else has made any sense today."

Jilla's voice came from across the room, a desperate moan of, "No!" Sulu crossed to her hurriedly.

"I'm here, hon. Don't worry, he can't do a thing."

"He doesn't want to do anything!" Ruth burst out. "He wants to explain!"

"Do not tell me what he wants!" Jilla blazed back.

"Not that!" Spock voice seemed to almost explode from his lips. Sulu stared at him. The Vulcan was pale, and there was pain in his eyes.

"Rilain, I never wanted what I made you believe," he said, and the voice was unsteady. "I swear by my fathers. I had reasons for what I did. I would never have harmed you." His tone became anguished. "Rilain, it was a lie."

Jilla didn't look at him. She was trembling and her voice came, soft and sobbing. "It was no lie and well we both know it."

Ruth bit back her own sob as Spock moved forward. "The love, Jilla, the bond between us, but not the intent," he returned. "It is not -- as I intimated -- between -- "

"Intimated?" Sulu broke in fiercely, putting himself between Spock and Jilla. "Raw brutal passion? That's intimation?!"

"I used what would most offend her," Spock managed, the pain obvious, "but it was a lie. We had passion, yes, and it was raw and brutal as The Time must be, but it was not all."

Jilla burst into tears, falling to her knees. "I want you still!" she cried brokenly. "It was the truth, it is the truth! Aema, my love, sumin tu, I want him still!"

Ignoring Sulu, Spock knelt swiftly beside her, speaking hoarsely. "Yes, rilain, and I feel desire for you. We are mated. We cannot ignore what centuries of discipline have not conquered." He firmly yet gently turned her face up to his. "But it is not all, it is not only, and our regard, our kinship, is it not closer, stronger?" He took her by the shoulders. "Jilla, can you not yet accept your own damnation? As I have," he thundered suddenly, "for it was I who damned you, not Sulu!"

Her cry was rasping horror and helpless confession and she threw herself into Spock’s arms, weeping with desolate admission. Spock held her, soothing, his eyes seeking Sulu's. The dark almonds were shining with pain and tears.

Ruth had moved to Sulu’s side, her hand tentatively on his arm, her eyes, too, full of tears. "He cares, he does, can't you see that? Won't you listen?"

With a hard swallow, Sulu nodded.

Gently, Spock gave Jilla up into Sulu's waiting embrace. "I have no wish to replace you," Spock said to the helmsman. "I have no desire to cause you more pain. She has given to you the burden which is mine, yet it is only proof of her love for you. For how could she damn herself for one she did not love so deeply?"

Jilla clung to Sulu, burying her tears in his chest. He quieted her, then looked up at Spock. "You said you had reasons, you said you could explain," he said. "Explain."

Ruth returned to Spock's side, obvious moral support. He seemed to close in on himself for a moment, then took several deep breaths. He spoke softly and quickly, not giving Sulu time to react. "Jim Kirk is alive. I have known this since the night he disappeared. I received telepathic impressions. I know he was abducted by Klingons, mind-sifted, then taken to the Guardian of Forever. They wanted to learn its secrets. He escaped them into Earth's past. All I have done was to insure that Starfleet would allow me to use the Enterprise's facilities to search time for him. Headquarters imposed certain conditions -- no one, particularly Valjiir and D'Artagnan, could know of my search. Their reasons were valid: none of you could stand by and do nothing if you knew the truth. You proved that on our first mission. Valjiir could not be otherwise occupied should the Klingons breach the Guardian. I had to keep you all from finding out the truth. And so I used what would I knew would work. I kept you from me, from wondering, from caring. I used harsh means, cruel means and I will always be sorry for the pain I have caused. I do not know if I dare ask you to forgive me."

He stopped speaking abruptly and Ruth moved closer to him, stroking his arm, touching him with warmth and comfort.


Sulu stared, trying to make sense of all Spock had said. His head was pounding as he forced emotions aside. He'd said he would listen -- not just hear. Jim Kirk was alive. Alive. Trapped in the past. Mind-sifted. Spock was searching for him. Starfleet imposed conditions. Valid reasons. Oh god, valid reasons! Again, again; the bastard had valid reasons again! For all of this: overwork, pushing, threats, cruel cold calculating.... valid reasons!

"God damn you, it's no excuse!" he burst out. "You did what you had to -- you always do! You had good reasons... but it's no damn excuse!"

He felt Jilla's hands pulling at him and realized he had risen and was ready to charge the Vulcan. Spock stood ram-rod straight and stiff, Ruth trying not to move from behind his restraining arm. Her voice wavered when she spoke.

"He's not making excuses, Sulu. He said he was sorry. Please, this is hard enough..."

"This is hard enough?!" Sulu broke in. "Jesus Christ, I don't believe it! After all he's done, all he put you through... and you want me to worry about him!?"

"It hurts him, too!" Ruth wailed.

"Did it? Does anything? Can he feel? Would it hurt him if I tried to rape you? Would it hurt him if I let you die? Would it hurt if I drove Jilla away from..."

"You did, with Engisn LiLing!" Spock suddenly roared. "And yes, it hurt!"

Sulu let out an agonized roar of his own and attacked. He heard Jilla scream and Ruth began shrieking. He ignored it all, intent only on getting his hands on Spock's throat. Spock caught his lunge, turning it aside, but Sulu had been ready for that. His knee came up sharply to the Vulcan's unprotected groin and Spock abruptly doubled over. Sulu brought locked fists down on Spock's back, twice, three times, completing the collapse. He dropped, his knee right where a Human’s kidney would be, fiercely pummeling the Vulcan’s left side. Spock moved, intending to topple his assailant and Sulu merely stood, letting him roll to his side. He grabbed Spock’s tunic, preparing to pull him up into a hard right hook -- then he saw the look in the Vulcan's eyes: sorrow, regret... and tolerance.

Spock was letting his First Officer beat the shit out of him.

Sulu stared down at him, breathing heavily, barely noticing Jilla's entreaties, or Ruth's. "You bastard," he said softly, "you win again." He sat down beside his Captain. "Alright, I'm listening. Why?"

Spock slowly pulled himself up. "I have explained as best I can..." he managed.

"No. Why are you telling me now? You haven't told me a fucking thing in thirteen months."

"I know. I intend to remedy that." The dark eyes met Sulu's. "If you stay on as my First Officer."

"Do you want me to?"

"Very much so, Sulu."

Sulu nodded. "Why, Captain?"

"Because I have found James Kirk."


Jilla found herself holding onto Ruth's wrists, nearly breaking them, so tight was her grip. She hadn't been aware of her actions, though it was plain she had prevented Ruth from stopping Sulu's assault. Nor was she cognizant of why she had done so. All she had known for some time were emotions, pulling, pushing, buffeting her with tides and intensities she didn't understand. Spock's sorrow and pain and grief, Sulu's anger, incomprehension and bitterness, and Ruth's guilt — telmnori pounding into her, burningly painful: searing Jilla's soul, calling to her own guilt and shame. It was scathing, a hot flame into her being and Jilla was frozen by its agony, staring up into the violet mirrors of her own damnation.

Ruth nodded, understanding filling her being. "I know," she whispered hoarsely. "I'm sorry. He forgives me."

"It is his right," Jilla rasped. Ruth bristled at that.

"I'm not Indiian," she said.

Jilla shook her head, finally letting go of Ruth's wrists, turning away. "It feels the same."

"How can it?"

"It is there!"

"Jilla, I..."

"It is there!" She stumbled away from Ruth, trying to find some remnant of sanity to grasp on to. Reality was shifting with the chaotic emotions around her, her control shattered, even the guilt insufficient to give her a hold. She groped for Sulu, desperate for his warmth and safety.

Spock’s words penetrated her storm, bringing clarity and a degree of rationality:

"I must speak to Scott and McCoy, but we can retrieve him from the past."

And Sulu's, "Damn you, I had him!"

Spock sighed. "I know."

"You know!? I had Kor right in front of me! I had a phaser trained on him! I could've beamed him up!"

"So Ruth told me."

"You wouldn't listen to me! You never listen to me!"

"I know. I was wrong."

"It was all your fault, you smug bastard!"

"Yes. All my fault. It is only fortunate that I have found Jim."

Sulu shook his head. "Idiot," he grumbled, then straightened. "Damn you, why didn't you — never mind, you told me. I'll work out our course right away." His arm came around Jilla automatically as she reached his side. She held tightly, feeling normalcy returning. Then Spock said quietly,

"Rilain, do you forgive me?"

She gazed at him, no longer fearful, yet still apprehensive. "I understand," she managed. "There is no need for forgiveness."

"The hell there isn't," Sulu murmured in her ear.

"There is need to insure this cannot happen again," she said with more surety.

Spock nodded. "Yes. I quite agree. When Jim is returned I will procure the services of a healer."

Ruth came to Spock's side and pain again assailed Jilla's senses. "A healer?" she said, her voice worried.

"To properly sever our bond, my wife. As should have been done long ago."

"I'll second that," Sulu growled.

"What of your bond?" Jilla blurted out.

Spock stared at her, eyebrows rising. Ruth glowered.

"I'm not Indiian, Jilla."

"Then why does it feel the same!" Jilla demanded.

"What are you..." Sulu began.

"Telmnor," Spock cut in suddenly.

"But I'm not..." Ruth started again.

"But we are, my wife."

"What?! What are you talking about!" Ruth exploded.

Spock took her hands. "When Jilla went to Indi, Ruth. Years ago. You came to my cabin, we -- suffered with her." His voice lowered. "In the night, during our nightmares, you took my aro'din... there was blood on the blade in the morning, Ruth. Red blood. I did not understand then." He gently turned her left hand over, covering her palm with his. The touch burned Jilla and she bit back a sob. "I understand now," Spock finished.

Ruth stared at him, her eyes filling with tears. "I didn't remember."

"I know."

"Oh goddess, she's been right all along!"

"So it would seem."

"But we aren't..."

"At the time we were, were we not?"


"Which is our ultimate reality, my wife."

She swallowed, letting her tears fall silently, then turned to Jilla. "How do I..." she rasped.

Jilla, too, was in tears. "Kneel," she whispered. "Say, 'my husband, I have betrayed you. I beg you, release me that I may accept Aema's judgment.'"

"And I?" Spock asked.

"Do you accept her?"


"Then say, 'I do not release you; acceptance I give and we will face Aema's judgment together.'"

Then Jilla lost herself in Sulu's care, not listening to the words she had never spoken.


Finally Spock said, "Sulu, can you forgive me?"

Sulu looked up from Jilla's sobs. "In time, Captain."


Sulu grinned, a faint echo of his usual smile, but still a grin. "Spock," he repeated.

"Come, then. We have much to do."

Both men eased their wives from tight embraces.

"Jilla..." Ruth began, at the same time Jilla said, "Ruth..." They were hugging fiercely before either knew it, then pulled away, both flushing.

"Work, Majiir," Ruth said.

"Yes," Jilla replied.

They followed their husbands out of the cabin.


Jade sat alone in her darkened cabin, silently contemplating the small pipe she'd just lit. The events of the last hours were still a jumble in her mind. She'd finally convinced herself to believe it. Spock had used Noel DelMonde and Ruth Valley in an unforgivable manner. How could even Vulcan logic excuse exploiting his own wife's affair? She conceded ruefully that she could no longer understand him. She also found herself wondering if she could yet join the senior officers in their bitterness. Gods knew she could use someone to talk to. But then, they've had a year in which to spend their grief in words and tears. Better late than never? Not in this case, Doctor.

She shook her head, trying to clear it of the threatening sorrow. No use now -- not that it was ever any use. Her grief only led to memory and hopeless realizations that she knew she couldn't handle. She took a deep hit of the calming smoke, closing her eyes.


McCoy stood in the doorway, watching Jade's unmoving figure. There had been no response to his signal and none to his entry. What he had to tell her was too important to wait and too important to stand on propriety. It nearly broke his heart to see her alone and so obviously isolated.

He thought again of the news Spock had given him -- and the argument he and Scotty had given Spock: Jim was alive, trapped in the past; Spock had known it, kept it secret. His reasons were good -- and typically erroneous. When would that Vulcan learn that Human emotions didn't mean an inability to do what had to be done? McCoy fumed inwardly all over again. We wouldn't've believed him. We wouldn't've respected him as Captain. We would've run off half-cocked to find Jim. Blast that Vulcan! He'd shouted at Spock but Scotty had delivered a scathingly polite rebuke. McCoy's fuming turned to satisfied grinning as he remembered it.

"Aye, Spock, ye've got a point. Your officers are nought but bairns who canna control themselves. We're all in need of your strong hand to guide us, even leadin' us blind into hell. Ach, ‘t’was how Jim always treated us... but no, he let us do our jobs, trusted us to know where our duties lie. Maybe that's why he was such a likable man. Still, Spock, do na think we don't appreciate your sacrifice: keepin' us all in ignorance while you take on the burden all yourself. 'Twas a fine, brave, stupid thing to do!"

Spock's ears had turned a gratifying shade of green and the quiet, "Reprimand noted, Mr. Scott," had softened the engineer's ire. McCoy himself had humphed a "Minneapolis" at the Vulcan and then went to the computer to find out all he could about Jim's condition. Then he'd thought how best to tell Dr. Han that the man she loved was still alive.

He took a deep breath, striding purposefully into Jade's cabin.

"Doctor," he began brusquely, "I'm sorry to disturb you, but I need a consultation and I need it right away."

Jade looked up from her pipe. "Yes, of course, Leonard," she said, but her voice was weary. McCoy sat down next to her.

"It's a strange case. A mind-sifting. Damn Klingons." He shook his head. "Anyway, the man's been under primitive care -- not therapy, mind you. And the conditions... well, the institution still uses straight-jackets and padded cells and electric shock treatment. He's been there for a year."

"And still alive?" Jade broke in.

"Yes, Jade. Still alive. We're on our way to pick him up and I'd like to assign you to his case. He'll need extensive therapy, off-ship at Jude. Which means a long furlough for you." He saw the heavy 'what have I got to stay here for?' briefly flicker in her eyes and had to suppress his smile.

"What Federation planet is that outdated in its methods?" she wondered aloud. "Surely they'd know enough to at least contact someone else."

"I don't think so, Jade. They're the most advanced civilization they know of."

"A Federation planet? "

"Well, they weren't then."

"Then? A year ago? But they are now? Which is why we're going to rescue the poor man?"

"Not exactly."

"Leonard. What planet are you talking about?"


Jade stood. "This isn't funny, Doctor."

McCoy rose as well, taking Jade's hands. "I know. I'm talking about Jim."

Her face went pale. "What?" she whispered.

"He's alive, Jade. Mind-sifted, lost in the mid-twentieth century, but alive. And we're on our way to bring him home."

"Alive? James? But, Leonard, how...?"

"Talk to Spock about that. Right now you have a patient to concentrate on," McCoy said firmly. "A very sick, but very alive man who needs you, Jade Melissa. So you have the cry you need and then we'll get to work."

She blinked on tears as her expression changed from stunned to a kind of painful joy. "Cry?" she said as though she didn't realize she was already doing it. "Yes, Leonard, I believe I will."

He pulled her into a protective embrace and she rested her head on his shoulder as she was quite suddenly wracked by deep, aching sobs. "It's gonna be alright, honey," he soothed. "Best thing in the world for you." She wept for a long time and McCoy added a few tears of his own before she was through. When she pulled away, wiping her eyes with the back of her hands, she was smiling and flushing fiercely.

"Leonard," she warned, "don't tell a soul about this or..."

"Wouldn't think of it, ma'am," McCoy assured her.


"Yes, Jade?"

"Thank you."

"Just invite me to the wedding."

A shadow passed over her features. "If he's all right."

"I have every confidence, Dr. Han."

"I'm glad someone does."

McCoy wanted to ask, but kept his mouth wisely closed as they left her cabin together.


The Enterprise used the sling-shot effect to travel to Earth's past. The rescue was easily accomplished except for a tense moment when they'd had to call Spock from the ship to convince the young nurse who had cared for Jim that she couldn't come with them. And it had been painful to see the state Jim was in: more painful to see the sifter-induced reaction when he'd recognized the gold shirt Spock wore. But he was alive, and where there was life...

They were back in their own time now -- another sling-shot -- with Jim settled comfortably in Sickbay. Physically comfortably anyway. He was frightened and trying to remember -- but trying to remember gave him terror and agony. Spock gave as much reassurance as he could, as did McCoy himself, but it was obvious he would need exhaustive therapy. Jade was studying the records from the Terran sanitarium before approaching her patient. She had, upon first examination, asked for Ruth's assistance. Ruth had successfully treated mind-siftings before. McCoy and Spock had explained that the sauvrn had left her telepathy and empathy bruised: anything more than a simple healing was intensely painful, and anything involving another mind impossible until she had completely regenerated the damaged brain tissue. Jade had nodded acceptance and understanding and had taken more time to study the case. And, McCoy knew, to get her own emotions under control.

"There's one very important thing you must not do," he told her after she had announced she was ready to go in. "I should have mentioned it sooner."

"And what is that, Leonard?" she asked coolly.

"Whatever you do, don't call him 'James'." McCoy saw the pain deep in her eyes and went on hurriedly. "Because of the mind-sifting, he can't bear the sound of his name. He'll answer to 'Jimmy.’ Anything else causes extreme discomfort."

"Jimmy?" Jade questioned, horrified. "Jimmy? A child's name. Oh, my poor James."

"Are you going to be all right, Doctor?"

"Of course, Leonard," she snapped, then continued calmly. "It was a shock. I can handle it. It might even be easier to deal with a 'Jimmy.'" With determined confidence, she strode to the side of her patient.

"Jimmy?" she said softly. It tore at her heart when the warm hazel eyes turned to her in questioning incomprehension. "My name is Jade. I'm a doctor and I'm going to help you."

He smiled faintly. "I hope so. I really don't understand..."

She took his hand. "I know. We needn't go into it now. Just stay calm until we get to the hospital." There was no strength in his grip.

"Another hospital?"

"Not like that other one, Jimmy. It will be clean and bright, with parks and gardens and good food. And I'll be there whenever you want to see me."


"Yes, Jimmy?"

He frowned. "Not Jimmy. My name is... Jim." His breathing became rapid. "Jim... James... James..."

Jade quickly, gently held his face. "Jim, then. No more for now. Jim." She locked her eyes with his until he calmed. "You'll be fine, Jim. I swear it."

He nodded, settling back on the bed. She closed her eyes, shutting off the tears, but she held onto his hands for a long time and prayed to all the gods she'd never believed in that this time it would work.


The trip to the hospital at Jude Colony was uneventful. Jade kept Jim calm, and the engineers fretted over their overworked engines. Sulu worked closely with his Captain for the first time in their command, working out the reports and recommendations for Starfleet concerning Jim, the Guardian, and Noel DelMonde's transfer to San Fran Shipyards to work on the Class II Heavy Cruisers: the Nests. They dropped Jim and Jade off, Jade promising to take good care of him, as if anyone doubted she would. Then the ship headed for Starbase 11.


The Bridge was quiet -- a busy rather than tense silence. Sulu worked on the final drafts of the reports to Fleet, finding it easy to keep half his attention on the Helm after a year of practice. He acknowledged that a part of the ease came from the fact that Jilla sat at Engineering with no fear or trepidation; and Ruth occasionally smiled at her husband from Sciences; and Spock's voice was low, but not ice cold, as he spoke into the log recorder.

"…will request return to exploratory duty as soon as…"

"Begging the Captain's pardon, sir," Sulu broke in. Spock paused the recorder.

"Yes, Mr. Sulu?"

"Is it advisable to make that request at this time? We still don't know how much the Klingons know about the Guardian. Captain Kirk's condition could require specialized treatment in the form of various personal contacts. And should his recovery proceed swiftly, the Enterprise should be available to him, at Starfleet's discretion. All of which contraindicate a return to exploration."

Spock gazed at him so long, Sulu was sure a reprimand was forthcoming. Instead, Spock simply said, "You are correct, Mr. Sulu. I will amend my log accordingly."

Sulu blinked, said, "Yes, sir," numbly, and caught Ruth's beaming grin. He returned to his work as Spock finished his log. The deep voice rose calmly.

"Status, Mrs. Majiir?"

"Engines functioning at peak efficiency, sir," was Jilla's soft answer.

"Mr. Chekov?"

"On course at warp 2."

"Miss Uhura?"

"My board is quiet, Captain."

"Miss Valley?"

"Sensors indicate all clear." Her voice was warm. "Life stations report functional. "

"Mr. Sulu?"

"All reports satisfactory," he replied. He heard Spock conclude the daily report with, "Situation normal," and found himself answering the statement.

Situation normal, Captain? We'll see about that.


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