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

(Standard Year 2250)

Return to Valjiir Stories

Return to Valjiir Continum

To hear the song, click here

Noel DelMonde checked the tuning of his guitar. It felt to him like everyone was in the rec room. Who runnin’ th' ship? he wondered, and the answer came immediately: the absent member, the always, coldly, uncaringly absent member — Captain Bastard.

He and Mrraal, Geoff Redford, and Sharon Intansah were performing, a small respite from endless duty and recreation that no longer helped. Not that the performance would really help either, and at least it wasn't Cataclysmic. He bit back the grim humor. No, not noisy you-call-that-music Cataclysmic Nondenominational Band. No Jim t' complain anyway. No way to get th' Ice Queen an' Ruth together neither. So it jus’ music, not joy, not celebration — stop now, Cajun! He glanced at the audience. Kamikaze wit’ his Indiian Ice Queen. Scotty an' Len, drinkin’ as usual. Jade Han, alone, isolated — an' Ruth. My Ruth, th' bastard's Ruth, even I not know no more.

Mrraal began a hard, strong beat which Sharon soon joined with bass power. Del let his fingers bring wails of bitter counterpoint from the strings of his guitar and he started to sing.

"There may be an om in a moment,
But there very few folk in focus
Not the first
Not the last
Not the least..."

Th' least. That what he t’ink o’ her. When he t’ink o’ her. If he t’ink o’ her. You t’ink he does, Jade, non? You say he still feel. He let her sleep alone, afraid, dreamin’ of old fear, old pain...

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Jade opened her door and found Ruth standing in the corridor looking shy and uncomfortable. Jade studied her for a moment. She didn't look exhausted but she was. "You haven't been sleeping," Jade stated.

"Hello," Ruth answered. "Can I come in?"

Jade sighed. "Of course."

As Ruth entered, Jade noticed the dark bundle she was carrying cradled in one arm. Ruth went to the desk and set the bundle down, then carefully unfolded it. She stepped back and Jade blinked in surprise. It was a cloud tapestry, but different than any she had seen before. Cloud tapestries usually blended the elements of sky, clouds, light and wind into quiet, restful combinations of color and texture. They were gentle pieces of art, unobtrusive. This was wholly different, a night sky filled alternately with storm clouds and stars. Anger, loneliness, terror and madness spoke in the wind that drove across this tapestry. It was hauntingly, disturbingly beautiful.

"It took me a month," Ruth said from behind her. Jade jumped at the sound of the voice and wondered how long she had lost herself in Antari night. "If you like it you can have it," Ruth continued.

Jade turned and saw Ruth blushing. She refused to meet Jade's eyes. "Sit down," Jade said. "I'll get coffee." She waited a moment before adding, "Thank you."

They sipped coffee in silence for a few minutes. Jade waited, knowing that Ruth wanted to say something but wouldn't be pressured into saying it.

"You're wrong," Ruth said finally.

"About what?"

"I have been sleeping... but not very well." She gulped and made herself look at Jade. "I hate bothering you but I have to keep functioning so I had better talk to somebody and usually I’d talk to Jilla or Roy but he’s so busy and he doesn’t want to know anyway and Jilla couldn't handle it…." She took a deep breath. "Sorry. That made no sense."

"Nightmares?" Jade asked.

Ruth nodded. "I've always been prone to them. In the ones I'm having this time I keep reliving a mission we were on several years ago." She shivered. "It's bad enough remembering it when I'm awake." She looked around pensively, then said, "Could we keep this off the record? The captain wouldn't like it if..." She sighed. "I'm not going crazy. I just can't make them go away, and I've learned that talking about it helps put it in perspective."

"That sounds reasonable," Jade agreed. She had to push away painful irony, remembering a similar situation, James coming to her to discuss nightmares about destroying the people he loved. "What is it, Ruth?" she asked gently.

"Canti." Ruth laughed bitterly. "Sorry, I seem to think the universe must know what happened there. It was a mission that went bad. We were set up by a Klingon named Kor." She shuddered. "Bad things happened to a lot of us." She tried to sound flippant. "Mind-siftings, torture of more primitive kinds, rape… That's why I can't talk to Jilla. She was mind-sifted, then raped by Kor and can't take the sound of his name. Same thing happened to Monique and Kevin Riley – oy god, I never thought that he might’ve been…. “ She shuddered again, murmured something Jade couldn’t hear, then took a deep breath and went on. “Sulu and Spock got the skin flayed off their backs. The Captain got torn open from chest to stomach, and I…." She licked suddenly dry lips and finished in a cracked, strained whisper, "I keep dreaming what happened to me -- over and over…”

Jade had watched Ruth's eyes becoming increasingly haunted as she spoke. She braced herself and prompted patiently, "What happened to you, Ruth?"

Ruth licked her lips again. "The worst part is knowing that when I close my eyes I'm going to hear him say, 'Antari' — proprietary, gloating. If Shelob could talk she'd sound like Kor. I feel him calling, and then I relive the pain of the mind-sifter, seeing his face floating above me. Then the rape I can't stop for the sake of the mission.” Her gaze was fixed on nothing. “For the sake of the mission," she repeated hollowly.

"Have you discussed this with your husband?" Jade asked and waited for the tirade. Ruth just stared. "Ruth?"

"I know your theories about his dealing with his grief as a Vulcan,” the Antari said quietly. “Up to a point, I agree with them. So how do I discuss nightmares with a Vulcan? He'd only question my ability to handle Sciences, and send me to you," Ruth explained calmly. "I'll save the melodrama of my marriage for Jilla if you don't mind."

Jade combated annoyance and, surprisingly, hurt feelings, and answered, "Very well, Ruth. Do you have the nightmares every night?"

"I have them whenever I'm so tired I have to sleep."

"For how long?"

"Since... Spock became captain."

Jade considered for a moment. "On Canti, you felt helpless?” she said. “Trapped? Unable to control the situation?"

Ruth nodded. "I had to let myself be captured in order to find the captain. All I was supposed to do was fake being mind-sifted."

"But the mission backfired?" Jade encouraged.

"Well… I did find the captain, but… yeah, things went wrong.” She shrugged. “Even Spock isn't infallible."

"But he should be." Jade offered.

"Jade!” came the immediate protest. “It wasn't his fault! I can't wear subcutaneous transponders, and what I was wearing got knocked off. It was the kind of mission where everything went wrong."

"That pedestal's awfully high, isn't it Ruth?"

Ruth’s purple eyes blazed at her with sudden fury. "What the hell are you talking about?!"

"That you're feeling used and helpless and trapped and it's all Spock's fault — just like on Canti," Jade told her. "He's not a god, Ruth, and he's not a Klingon monster."

Ruth stared stubbornly for a long, tense minutes, then abruptly closed her eyes and slumped wearily in her chair. Her fingers came up to stroke her temples. "Maybe you're right. Zehara, yes, it makes some kind of sense. Thanks."

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Maybe those nightmares be tellin' th' truth. Maybe, dear infallible Doctor, it is all Spock's fault. Can you not see it, even now? What more he have to do? How long you keep defendin’ th' action o’ indifference? He not care, Jade. He sold th' Human half o’ his soul, an' Vulcan not have one. Or is Ruth not th' only one who t’ink he god?

"You needn't be well to be wealthy
But you got to be whole to be holy
Fetch the rope, fetch the clock, fetch the priest..."

Th' priest. We only have Rabbi Miller for Jim's — what? A small ceremonial, a year after he disappear. A year after this ship become hell.

"This planet of ours is a mess..."

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It was a simple ceremony; there were no long eulogies, no speeches of the greatness that was James T. Kirk. There was no empty coffin or urn, but Sulu had managed to get a few things of Jim's out of ship's storage — a glass sculpture, the Windstar, two volumes of his Hornblower books. Groups collected about them, talking, exchanging memories and stories. The man, not the captain, was eulogized a thousand times over. There was plenty of liquor, but the atmosphere was hardly party-like. They drank not to forget, but to remember. Pipes were conspicuously absent — by mutual consent of the mourners. Jim hadn't approved of smoking. The only words of memoriam came from Judy Miller. She was standing in front of the model of the Windstar and quietly recited the first three verses of the twenty-sixth psalm.

"Vindicate me, O lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. Prove me, O lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind. For thy steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to thee."

She and Dav had left very soon after.

Everyone was surprised at Pavel's appearance. He'd had Bridge duty and there was no way Captain Bastard allowed switching of schedules for personal reasons. Ruth's face had flushed and she averted her eyes when Pavel announced it had been Spock himself who relieved him. Ruth's guitar began singing, softly at first, but it soon was the only sound in the rec room, until it was joined by DelMonde's. No one asked for Jilla's lyrette, and the Indiian was keeping herself busy with Scotty anyway. She'd put aside her distaste for the occasion, but still did not speak to Ruth.

Uhura's voice soared over the guitar work, clear, atonal, singing 'Beyond Antares.’ It flooded the room with memory — strong, patient, compassionate Captain, Jim, Bwana, even James. Jade sat by herself, tears unshed in her dark eyes, only McCoy stopping to talk with her. She was outcast by her understanding of Spock, and the meaning of this day's service only made it more painfully obvious.

Sulu perhaps had it hardest, torn between Jilla and Ruth, between rage at Spock and grief for Jim, between, as always, duty and desire. There was no room for his sense of loss, and he stood staring at Jim's book, open in his hands, cold sober.

Uhura's voice grew steadily more tremulous, and on the last chorus, it finally broke, tears sliding silently down her cheeks. It snapped the restraint, and there were tears, even from Ruth, even from Jilla, even from Sulu.

And even from DelMonde himself.

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You see us, Jim? You know how much you were loved? How badly it hurt you, th' sacrilege he make o’ your ship?

"...I bet Heaven the same.
And the madman said, 'Son, as a friend
Tell me what's in a name... "

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"I not believe it. We leavin’? Wit’out th' Captain?" DelMonde was in sickbay letting McCoy check on the injuries he'd gotten the day before in a fight planetside over Jim Kirk, and the spreading rumor of a defection. The Doctor was bitter, angry, working with abrupt briskness.

"Spock couldn't wait," McCoy snapped out harshly. "He sat in that chair like it was a throne, lord high and mighty! He's been wantin’ it for years and I wouldn't be at all astonished if he was glad this happened!"

"Len, you not mean that," DelMonde admonished. "I not like th' green fucker, but Spock Jim Kirk’s friend."

"Oh don't I!" McCoy growled. "You didn't see him, son, you weren't on that Bridge. Ordered me and Scotty off like we were excess baggage! Damn if I'll ever set foot on his bridge again!"

"His Bridge?" DelMonde questioned both pointedly and worriedly.

McCoy took a deep breath. "Yes, his. Jim's dead, he has to be..." The voice trailed off. "He can't be," was a half-whispered prayer.

"Len, Spock has t’ report to base, it procedure..."

"Since when are you gonna defend that green-skinned ice cube?" McCoy interrupted brusquely.

"I not," Del snorted. "It jus'... We gonna come back, I sure of it."

"I wish I was."

"Spock not th' captain…"

"Not in name, son, but go up on that Bridge and see it, then tell me."

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"Hallowed be thy name!"

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Del hadn't meant to intrude. He'd only needed somewhere to be alone, to have the angry, jealous, stupid bout of self-pity before he could resign himself to working with a married and untouchable Ruth Valley. How the hell could he have known they were there? Married people didn't need darkened observation rooms for private trysts.

But there they were, standing, facing the stars, Spock behind Ruth, his fingers gently caressing her temples, Ruth nestled against him, arms raised to slowly stroke his. She looked peaceful, contented, satisfied… For the first time since he’d known her, truly happy.

Beautiful.

You are, my love. And so like them.

The stars?

Like them, my life.

Del shut his eyes, trying to silence the poetry that formed in his mind. No, I not wanna know.

Ruth turned, her eyes velvet amethyst stars themselves, and reached for Spock's temples. The Vulcan smiled, a softening of the angular face more than any movement of his lips. She returned it, tossing the golden silk of her hair teasingly, her fingers parting between second and third, sliding to his ears. His hands moved, the thumbs cupping her jaw, lifting her head. Her face shone with taunting, playful sensuality and sultry yet childlike invitation. He kissed her, then nuzzled her cheek. I love you was whispered in tones hoarse and unused to emotion. The poetry escaped and hung in the silence of the observation room.

Stars have shone forever
I have seen them before
But never held they peace and grace
And their beauty was not warm.

Del turned and walked away.

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“I give you the state of statesmen
And the key to what motivates them
On the left
On the right…”

I hit it, Captain, non? I know who mean more to you. She should have known too, nes't-ce pas?

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"Spock!"

At the captain's voice Spock stopped his progress down the corridor. James Kirk moved to him, his face stern. "Yes, Captain?" Spock said. Kirk walked beside him.

"I've heard a nasty rumor that you requested Jade Han's assignment to this ship."

"Nasty, sir?" Spock asked.

"Did you?" Kirk replied, not to be so easily distracted.

"No, sir. What makes such a rumor 'nasty,’ besides, of course, the fact that it is untrue?"

"To quote your lovely bride, I do not need the aggravation. Dr. Han is -- overly curious. "

Spock ignored the slight flush at the mention of Ruth's new status.

"Indeed?"

"Indeed," Kirk repeated. "I think she's out to get me."

"Interesting," Spock mused. "Have you any proof?"

"I don't like the way she — smiles — at me."

Spock raised an eyebrow. "Smiles, Captain?"

"Knowingly," Kirk confided.

"Ah," Spock acknowledged.

"Much the same as Ruth -- smiles --at you."

Spock seemed to consider as Kirk fought his grin. "As I understand it, sir, you would seem to have little problem."

"Oh?" The hazel eyes twinkled.

"No, Captain. You see, there is no one aboard of your rank to join you and Jade Han in wedlock."

Kirk broke into the laughter he had been holding back. And Spock's eyes smiled.

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"On the nail…”

Nails. Crucifixion. Martyr. The Ice Queen.

"Still I don't see a man in a mansion
That an accurate pen won't puncture..."

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Sulu had been in, into a cold shower and a fresh uniform, and out again with a quick kiss and a quicker explanation: "If I get the inspection of Deck Sixteen done tonight I'll only have two days' work tomorrow. Don't wait up, hon."

Jilla sighed, said goodnight to the closing door, and went back to the inventory reports she was helping Scott with. Half of her mind listened for the hiss of the door. DelMonde wasn't on duty, and Ruth would be showing up any minute. Jilla knew that Ruth was, or tried to be, flippant about these visits — I've come to hang from your ceiling, don't let me disturb you, just go on with what you're doing — but she also knew how desperate Ruth's plight was. Had she not been in the same situation? Loving a man yet unable to touch him, needing him and being pursued by another who was also loved and needed. A hard choice, the hardest one could make. Yet Spock, for all his coldness, all his isolation, was alive. Ruth had that hope. And that further pressure. Aema, Zehara, keep her safe, save her from my hell.

She was clenching her left hand tightly when the door opened. Ruth was her usual over-worked-disheveled and her eyes held the spark of desperation that marked an encounter with DelMonde.

"Sulu here?" she asked, not quite casually.

"He is working," Jilla replied. "As usual." Ruth was avoiding her gaze uneasily.

"You have a few hours then?"

There was no flippancy. Jilla rose, alert, and went for cups. "Of course," she said, and returned with a full pot of coffee. "What is it?"

Ruth took a long gulp of coffee before answering. "Del," she said, then laughed nervously. "What else?"

"Indeed." The word was out before Jilla realized it and she winced but went on. "What else?"

Ruth, too, grimaced. "Well, he was doing his usual 'babe, let me help’ routine and I was tired so I said alright, we can talk, just talk." She looked up. "For a while I thought it was going to work. I was spilling my guts-- " She shrugged at Jilla's look of astonishment. "I always do around Del. He was listening, holding my hands, comforting -- " She paused, frowning, but her cheeks grew pink. "Then the son of a bitch leaned over and kissed me." She lowered her eyes. "I almost didn't stop the second one."

There was a long silence as Ruth's feelings poured confusedly into Jilla's. So much, memory and sympathy and empathy, Ruth saying 'do you want him?' and her answer, "yes, more than anything'. But Ruth could counsel 'then why don't you?'; Ruth was not Indiian, was not, at the time, wed, she hadn't understood. She did now, yet the part that longed for DelMonde told her her vows were not as Jilla's. Even if the words were not spoken, Ruth, it was in your heart as you signed, in his, Jilla thought desperately. Do not let such traps trick you. He is your husband, please Ruth, have the strength I did not. I do not wish company in my eternity.

"I understand," Jilla said at last. "But you did stop it, that is all that matters. It is hard, believe me, I know how hard, but you are still stronger than he. Your Zehara have mercy, you will remain so."

Ruth nodded ruefully.

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It rueful ‘cause she not need righteous lectures on morality. She give you permission when you needed it, Majiir, gently, carefully, supportin’ rh' inevitable to make it easier fo’ you when it come. But you not care enough to extend her th' same. Inflexible, unbendin’, not even fo’ her, not even when you as guilty! Hypocrite!

"Go to town Go to hell! Go to jail.
There's bars and saloons
Where the jukebox plays blues in the night
And the madman said 'Son, time to go
We could both use some light..."

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"Len, you th' closest t’ing Ruth has to a father. You talk to your son-in-law, non?"

McCoy looked up from his reports. "That's carryin' friendly insults too far, son."

Del sighed. "She lonely. She needs. She walk 'round a tremblin’ mass o’ anger an’ hunger an’ pain an' her husband ignore her. Deliberate."

"Stone can't do anything deliberate,” McCoy snorted. "Hell, stone can't do anything, period."

"I not stone, Len. An' I love her. How I sit by an’ watch him destroy her?"

McCoy got up. "I don't advocate adultery, son. All either of us can do is be here for her. And when you need a friend..." The craggy face smiled tiredly. "My liquor cabinet's open."

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"And thy will be done!"

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The presence intruded on the peaceful moment though Spock said nothing and didn't even look at them. Ruth's head bowed guiltily — and she had nothing to feel guilty about. They were only having dinner.

"It alright, babe," Del murmured.

"No," she said, "never."

Del sighed and despite himself reached for her hand. It was trembling and involuntarily his fingers rose to her temples. Hush, babe, I here, he thought to her.

Del, I'm so alone!

No, I here.

He's not!

Del closed his eyes, squeezing her hand. Je t’aime, Ruth.

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"We live in an age of cages
The tale of an ape escaping…”

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Ruth looked up from her computer annex, stretching the cramped muscles, switching the terminal off. The report on the last survey was complete, which meant that she had finally cleared her desk of work and could take a few hours off. A glance at the chronometer brought a resigned sigh. It was after 0100 hours. The lab that had been full at 2000 was now almost deserted. Spock was still at an annex, intent on his research. He'd come in just after 2130 and Ruth had wanted desperately to leave, but he had informed her that he wanted the survey report in the morning. She'd planned on having it done, told him so, and so was stuck doing it. Even if he wasn't watching her, which was a safe bet, she couldn't leave until it was done. He would've undoubtedly asked if she had.

She stared at the gold-shirted back, suddenly aware that they were alone. She was alone with her husband. God, how long had it been? Seven months, two weeks, four days and an odd number of hours. Except for the fiasco. Why did I even try? Never mind, I never do, don't think about it. But how can I help it? I love him, yes, goddamn it Jilla, I do! But I can't take this. Look at him. He doesn't know I'm here. Was it, could it have been so different?

Ruth closed her eyes, her mind supplying images of a year that seemed eons ago, a year that she and Spock had spent blissful and content. And it hadn't been just sex; though that, too, had been good and completing. The contact, the friendship, the joy of speaking without words, the aid and support, in their personal and working relationship — there could not have been a time then that they would work in the same room for four hours and communicate nothing. Memory assailed her, clear and vivid. This same room, the same hour, he working on a thesis, she preparing a paper for a science journal.

"A fact in the language banks on the origins of Andorian words pertaining to ranges and effects of the ultrasonics phenomenon you are discussing could be of interest, Ruth."

"Thanks — " A yawn, " — but I'll go over it in the morning." Silence. A glance up, the eyes smiling in almost devilish roguery.

"A hint, my love?"

"If you like, tall, green, and handsome."

"What I prefer is slender, lithe, and golden."

"That kind of talk could turn a girl's head."

"Indeed."

The crossing of a room, strong arms accepting an impish, seductive embrace, a whispered, "It is after midnight, Boss."

The gentle caress of temples. "So it is, Lieutenant."

"Spock..."

"Yes, Miss Valley?"

Ruth's eyes flew open. Spock regarded her coolly. She'd said his name out loud. Flushing, she stammered, "The report is finished, sir."

"Very good, Lieutenant Commander." He turned back to the terminal. The emotions whirled in Ruth's mind, wanting, aching, empty and bitter, full of pain and humiliation and anger. Spock, I'm your wife, acknowledge me, say something, anything; goodnight, say hello to Del, please Spock, anything!

There was only silence and Ruth bore it as long as she could, waiting as always until all hope had been smothered in the cold cocoon of his indifference. It was only then that she fled to the waiting arms and bed of Noel DelMonde.

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"In the search
For some truth
He can use.
But many a drunk got drunker..."

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Scotty was late. Geoff Redford glanced anxiously at DelMonde. Del sighed, rubbing his hands over his eyes. Not again, please, sweet mere d’un dieu not again. "I go," he said to Redford. "Tell th' Ice Queen she cover fo’ us."

"DelMonde!" Geoff said in injured offense.

Del scowled and mumbled an apology. Redford was infatuated with Jilla Majiir. With another sigh, he left Engineering.

The walk from the turbolift to Montgomery Scott's cabin was short but it seemed an eternity. Eternity. Ice Queen. Damn, what I give fo’ a hit of sapphire! He wearily knocked on Scotty's door.

"Scotty?" he called. "It Noel."

Scotty voice was heavy, but not slurred. "Aye, lad?"

"I come in?"

"No, you go mind the ship."

"You on duty..."

"T'hell with duty!" Scott roared. "Go away, lad, and leave me in peace!"

DelMonde took a deep breath and walked into the cabin. Scotty was sprawled on his bed but there was no bottle in sight. "Scotty..." he began.

The engineer turned to look at him. There was a deep gash across his forehead. Del closed his eyes.

"What happen?" he asked, his headache strengthening.

Scott’s eyes were bloodshot, his face pale. "I fell, lad. And before you ask, I'm not plannin' on stayin’ hung over long."

"Len will..." Del began in relief.

"T'hell with Len, too!" Scott thundered.

"I not let you do this."

"Stop me, lad."

"I call Len an’ we get you a shower..."

"Noel, no! And that's an order!"

Del steeled himself and forced the words out. "I not take no orders from drunks, Mr. Scott."

"Lad..." Scotty abruptly closed his eyes, a sob catching in his throat. "Aye, you're right. I'm no fit father for my bairns like this."

"Why this time, Scotty?" Del asked gently.

Tears squeezed from under Scott's eyelids. "I saw Ruth at the observation deck last night," he said. "She was crying."

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An' what you care, motherfucker? What you know? Except, o’ course, you know it all.

"And many a thinker, thunker
Set the place
Set the time
Set the fuse!
The optimist laughed
And the pessimist cried in his wine..."

Optimist. Kamikaze, helmsman, friend. An' th' ultimate pessimist; overworked, pressured First Officer. He can't be both, but he got to be.

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"Sulu, I can't ask Del, but... what happened?"

He stared and felt himself blush. "Ruth..."

"In the transporter room, I mean. I know damn well what happened next. It's all jumbled, from planetside to Del's arms… to his…” She choked. “…bed… God, Roy, how did it happen!?"

She was suddenly sobbing brokenly, gasping for air. Sulu pulled her into his arms and held her fiercely. How in the name of every god is she going to recover from the last twenty-four hours?

"It's alright," he tried to soothe. “Everything will be…."

"No," she said, as suddenly calm as she had been suddenly hysterical, her huge eyes dull though they were filled with tears. "It hasn’t been alright and now it's worse."

"Are you leaving Spock?" He realized that the question was from the First Officer and not the friend and he hated himself.

She ignored it. "Just tell me what happened," she asked again.

Sulu studied her for only a moment. No, she really doesn't know. She was in deep shock and should have been taken to Sickbay. I've got every right to bring DelMonde up on charges for this. For what? Raping the Captain's wife? It wasn't and she's not and there's no Fleet regulation against trying to help someone you love. It's the Captain who ought to be brought up on charges. Dereliction of duty. To who? His wife, his Chief of Sciences? Both?

"Ruth, you want me to explain why he did it,” Sulu said gently, “but I can't. I'm sorry. DelMonde was working the transporter when we beamed up. You were dazed and cold, I've never seen you so pale and your eyes — I can't describe how they looked." A death mask, hideous and terrified and dead, he thought, but couldn't bring himself to say it. "You were staring at the Captain..." as though just looking at him would keep you alive "...and you started to walk toward him and he turned and headed for the door. I wanted to stay, Spike, but the Captain said, 'Mr. Sulu, I require your presence on the Bridge.' DelMonde told me he would 'take care of you.” He hung his head. “I'm sorry, I failed you. I shouldn't have gone.”

She collapsed against him again; only for a moment but he felt her shaking. Then she pulled away from his arms. "Where are you going?" he asked breathlessly. He felt his heart hammer once, painfully, against his chest and already knew the answer.

"I have to talk to Jilla."

No. He whispered it silently. Please, god, no. Make Jilla understand. She won't. She can't. One more thing. God, one more thing and I'm going to break.

~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~

"And the madman said,
'Son, take a word
They'll all wake given time…”

~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~

"Len, I not take much more. Sometime… I be t’inkin’ th' fucker want her t' cheat on him.”

McCoy sighed deeply, staring over his dinner at DelMonde. "Now why would he do that, son?"

Del took a swallow of coffee. "Void th' contract, make it her fault. Give himself reason to punish her openly, 'stead o’ this torture."

"You've got it all figured out, don't you?" McCoy said.

"You see ‘nother answer that make sense?" Del demanded.

"Nothing that Vulcan does makes sense to me," McCoy replied. "Why should this?"

"Len, what I do?" The words were anguished.

"Wait," McCoy replied. "It's only another year and a half till she's free."

"An' she die a li'l more ev’ry day."

"You can help her best by lettin’ her decide, son."

Del sighed. "You right. But she hurt, Len, she hurt."

"I know, son. I know."

~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~

"Let thy kingdom come!"

~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~

DelMonde went to the Engineering Station, got a status report from Geoff Redford, dismissed him, and sat down in his place. His eyes and fingers moved across the board automatically, checking, adjusting, all the while he was acutely aware of the man who sat so rigidly in the con. If there was any noise or movement on the Bridge he didn't hear or see it. He and Spock were quite alone but for a third presence, invisible, between them, being torn apart by them.

~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~

"The madman and I got drunker
Till "both thought the other thank you
And we laughed all the way to the stars..."

~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~

"We try t’ stay away from each other, Len, but we can't." Del tossed another shot of whiskey down his throat. "It not good, it not right but — fuck it, it there!"

"I don't judge you, son," McCoy replied. “I don't condemn you, either."

"Mais, you th' only one." Del's voice was bitter and McCoy refilled his glass, then topped off his own.

"You're talking about Mrs. Majiir."

"Shee-it!" Del exclaimed as he downed the liquid. "That damn hypocritic iceberg? Why th' fuck I care what she say?"

"Cause Ruthie does."

"Beat th' hell out o’ me why," Del replied. He refilled his own glass.

"Valjiir," McCoy said simply.

"Th' -jiir half can go t’ her hell tomorrow far as — " Del stopped, drank, then sighed. "Hell, Len I jus’ don't care."

"That's about the tenth time you've mentioned it," McCoy pointed out.

"Have another drink," Del muttered. "You still make sense."

"I always make sense, son."

"Even drunk?"

"Even drunk."

Del grinned, pouring another drink. "Prove it."

"With pleasure."

~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~

Half an hour later McCoy was still making sense but DelMonde didn't discount the fact that he was as drunk as Leonard. They'd gotten another bottle of good whiskey and were half-way through it when a cautious hand touched Del's shoulder.

~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~

"The optimist asked for a taste
of the pessimist's wine…"

~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~

"Mind if I join you?" Sulu said softly.

~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~

"And the madman said 'Son,
how you feel?" I said 'Me? I feel fine'..."

~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~

Nurse Chapel was the first person to see him as he came into Sickbay. She stared at him, horrified. He had an urge to put his fist through Christine's simpering face and was immediately sorry for the thought. He forced himself to say, pleasantly, "Mornin’, Chris." He was the only one who ever called her 'Chris.’ She used to find it charming. She nodded and busied herself at her desk. "Dr. McCoy in?" he asked.

"His office," she answered tightly without looking up.

He sighed. Ostracized by th' Spock fan club, I? I hardly wait to hear Jade's lecture. Hope Len has some brandy handy.

"Started wit’out me, I see," he said as the door between the office and Sickbay closed behind him.

McCoy smiled sourly and raised the small glass, half full of green liquid, in salute. "First of the day. Care for some?"

"I have Bridge duty in half an hour. What you t’ink?"

"I'll make it a double."

"You do that," he muttered as he slid into a chair and waited.

McCoy poured him a stiff brandy and, after handing it to him, stood squarely in front of his chair. He looked up at the doctor's concerned but stern face. "I love her, Len."

"That's good enough for me, son."

~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~

"Lead me into temptation!"

Del slammed his hips against the dark wood of the guitar. The music was screeching around him; his voice was hoarse. The pain and fury and bitter knowledge burned in him, searing him, setting his soul on fire.

"Into temptation!"

He screamed again at the Vulcan who wasn't there.

~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~

He'd been numb since Ruth had been brought back from the Klingon ship and the Captain had actually saved her life by luring the deadly sauvrn from her mind. Things had changed so much and Del didn't understand. And Ruth refused to tell him anything beyond what she already had.

She'd come to him after her recovery. His eyes had filled with an intense relief, but she didn't fall into his arms. He pulled her there. The embrace was brief and she pulled firmly away.

"Babe...?" he began.

"Del, I...I'm sorry."

"Sorry?" There was an almost animal wariness in his voice and Ruth swallowed.

"I...we can't...be as we've been, Del. Not anymore."

His gaze didn't waver. "Why not?"

"Spock is my husband."

Grim bitterness filled him. "He always been."

"I...I can't anymore, Del."

Desperation. "Why!?"

"He's my husband!" The words thundered in him, raw and bleeding.

"I love you!" he thundered back.

"So does he!"

The silence was as fierce as his words been. The world froze for an eternity, then came crashing down around him. Pain in increasing, unending waves, cold and dark and deadly. No! he screamed silently. No, Ruth, sweet honey love, sugar angel, NO!

He felt her within him, sharing his pain, and violently wrenched his thoughts from her, knowing she would be left with an image of blind, groping despair. Del pressed his hands to his head.

"I love you," Ruth whispered.

"Go away," he rasped.

"I'm sorry."

"Go away!"

~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~

"I said into temptation!"

His fingers strummed a few final, furious chords, then he let Sharon and Mrraal take to a thundering conclusion, swinging his guitar over his head and dropping it to the deck, leaving the eyes that stared at him; the emotion he could no longer bear.

Sapphire wasn’t illegal and it waited in his cabin.

END HALLOWED BE THY NAME

"Hallowed Be Thy Name" by Emerson, Lake and Palmer

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