(Standard Year 2249)

originally published as "Opera"

Return to Valjiir Stories

Return to Valjiir Continum

Go To Part Two

It wasn’t strictly necessary for a captain to greet new crewmembers, but Jim Kirk always made the effort to do so. He liked to show new personnel that they were welcome on his ship. Somehow, however, this time felt like something of a special occasion, due almost entirely to the fact that one of those reporting to the Enterprise was Dr. Jade Han. He was more than aware of her reputation as a psychologist – and if she ever received the log tapes that had inadvertently been sent to her, she was more than aware of him. He had prepared himself not to flush when he met her, regardless of whether she’d received them or not and this may be the first time I’ve ever prayed for a bureaucratic screw-up, he thought privately to himself.

The transporter sparkled efficiently and three figures appeared on the platform. Both females had delicate Asian features, but the impressions they conveyed were very, very different. Ensign LiLing was a magnificent, porcelain-skinned beauty, perfectly proportioned, her heavy black hair done up in an elaborate Asian style. Even standing still, she gave the impression of cat-like grace; a haughty, very self-aware Siamese cat.

Dr. Han wasn’t much shorter, but her figure was more slender, and her bearing was calm, almost aloof. Her gentle eyes and full lips softened the impression of professional detachment. Jim apparently hadn’t prepared himself quite well enough, for he felt his skin growing warm. Jade Han nodded at him, a hint of a smile playing around the corners of her mouth.

“Captain Kirk,” she said. Her voice held a trace of an accent Jim couldn’t place, but it was a pleasant, strong, cool voice. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you for a long time.”

She got the tapes. Jim sighed, but since there wasn’t anything he could do about it, he smiled and he gave her his hand as she stepped down from the platform. “I’m pleased to meet you too, Dr. Han,” he said. Ensign LiLing stepped forward and he again offered his hand.

“Welcome aboard, Ensign,” Jim said. “I believe this is your second assignment.”

The young woman’s eyes swept over him in a less than demure appraisal, and Jim found that he didn’t like it. It was too familiar, and too forward. And would you have minded if Dr. Han had done it? He quickly cleared the thought away. When the ensign spoke, however, her tone was correct and respectful.

“I was on the Hood for three months, Captain, but I jumped at the chance to serve on board the Enterprise.”

“She not th' only one,” the young man who had beamed with the women said as he also stepped down from the transporter. “Lieutenant Noel DelMonde reportin’ fo’ duty, sir.” Jim could easily place his accent: it was from the deep south of the North American continent, specifically the dialect known as cajun from Louisiana. Jim had read several volumes of the engineer’s poetry and liked the young man's imagery and symbolism. It called to the idealistic, romantic streak within him.

“I’m aware of your efforts to gain this transfer,” Jim replied, “and I’m happy we could oblige you. I’m honored to have so fine an engineer – and so fine a poet – join my crew.”

DelMonde’s eyes widened. “You know my work?” he asked.

“In both fields, yes,” Jim returned with a smile. “I am more than a soldier, Mr. DelMonde.”

“Of course, sir,” DelMonde deferred.

Jim pretended not to hear Dr. Han’s echo of the engineer’s statement.

The transporter room door opened to admit Scotty, Spock and McCoy. Jim turned to them. “Gentlemen, I trust you’ll find your new assignees satisfactory.” He watched as Scott stepped forward and immediately began a highly technical grilling of his new engineer. McCoy was all smiles as he warmly clasped Dr. Han’s hand.

“Good to see you again, Doctor,” he said.

“And you,” she returned. “Since we’ll be working so closely together, may I call you Leonard?”

“Sure can,” McCoy said, smiling even more broadly. “And can I call you Jade?”

She smiled. It was a lovely, warm, confident smile, and Jim had no doubts it could as easily be cool and cynical. Dr. Han was reputed to have a sharp wit – and even sharper tongue when the need arose. “Of course, Leonard,” she replied.

“Let me show you around Sickbay,” McCoy said.

She nodded and walked with him to the door. Once there, she stopped and turned. “I will see you later, Captain?” she suggested.

Was there a hint of amusement in her voice? Jim felt another blush coming on. “Ah, of course, Doctor,” he managed. With another smile, she swept from the room after McCoy.

After a disconcertingly blank moment, Jim turned to see Scotty grinning at DelMonde. The young engineer had obviously passed the test with flying colors. Jim glanced at Spock. The Vulcan was speaking quietly with LiLing, who, Jim noticed, was more attentive than Mrs. Spock, were she present, would have cared for. He grinned, then said unnecessarily, “Dismissed, gentlemen.” He left the transporter room, wondering when and where Dr. Han would pounce.


Lieutenant Commander Sulu had been waiting patiently just inside Engineering for half an hour. He was on the verge of deciding to wait impatiently. It was always this way. He was in a hurry to leave the ship and Jilla got absorbed in something about the ship. He sighed and consciously cleared his throat. If Jilla noticed, she didn’t look up. She’s a sensitive, how can she not know I’m here? he asked himself, a little testily. He shifted his weight, sighing again. There was no rushing her, he knew that well enough. But it’s so irritating, especially when we were due to start leave half an hour ago. When she does this when she’s off-duty it’s bad enough, but on leave?

Of course, he rationalized almost immediately, there’s a reason this time. A new engineer was due on board and as Scotty’s assistant, Jilla felt it her duty to meet him/her before beginning her leave. And there was the inexplicable fact that she was reluctant to meet Jeremy Paget.

That he couldn’t understand. Jer was his best friend, had been all their lives. They’d grown up together. And Sulu was understandably anxious to show off his Indiian prize to…

That’s it, right there, he realized abruptly. I’ve been thinking just like that. Show off my Indiian prize. His conscience twinged, recalling the accusations that had been flung at him by the Elihuite commissioners; accusations that Jilla had too readily accepted. Did he really think like that? Was she no more than another conquest, another alien to add to the Collection? No, it’s not like that, he refuted firmly. I want to show her off, sure, because I’m proud of what we have. I want to show Jer how good it is. Jeremy had been witness to his despairing flirtation with suicide more than a year previously, and Jeremy knew it had been due to his at-the-time non-relationship with Jilla. So naturally Sulu wanted to crow to his friend – more than you did in the tapes you sent him, he thought wryly. I’m proud she loves me. I’m proud she’s mine. She’s beautiful and talented and everything I’ve ever wanted in a woman. And that’s what I meant.

His conscience satisfied, he cleared his throat again. This time Scotty noticed.

“Lassie,” he said gently, “you were off half an hour ago. I have to get to the transporter, and your lad’s been patient enough.”

Jilla looked up, her skin brightening. “I thought I would wait to meet the new crewman…” Jilla began.

“I’ll tell ye what,” Scotty suggested. “You’re headed off-ship, are ye not? We’ll meet Mr. DelMonde at the transporter room.”

“DelMonde?” Sulu put in. “Noel DelMonde?”

Scott turned to him. “Aye, lad. D’you know him?”

“I do,” Sulu answered with a grin. “He’s a fantastic engineer. But he can be a bit – foul-tempered,” he added.

Scotty chuckled. “I’ll not hold that against him, Mr. Sulu,” he affirmed. “So can I.” He grinned and patted Jilla on the arm. “Off with ye now, lass.”

Jilla replaced the tool she had been holding, then stepped quickly up to Sulu. “Forgive me,” she said softly.

Sulu smiled at her, all his irritation forgotten. “It’s all right, hon.”

As they walked to the turbolift, she said, “I did not know you knew Mr. DelMonde.”

Sulu stopped. “You sound like you do,” he said and tried not to let the sudden jealousy creep into his voice.

“I met him once when he came to look for Ruth on leave,” she replied. Sulu bit his lip, knowing what leave that must have been. “How do you know him?"

After a quick glance up and down the corridor, Sulu bent to whisper in her ear. “He’s the engineer who made my needle.” Jilla looked startled and he grinned. “Come on, hon,” he teased, “you knew somebody had to design and build them.”

“But… is he qualified to be…”

“He’s the best Maker there ever was,” Sulu told her, “and with the requirements of needle racing, Makers have to be better than other engineers. Present company and Mr. Scott excepted,” he added with another grin.

Jilla frowned and said nothing more on the subject, but as they reached their quarters, she murmured, “Will Ruth be pleased, I wonder?”

“You know about…?” Sulu began, then his face paled. “Oh, shit.” Jilla inclined her head at him. “I hope he didn’t transfer here thinking…”

“She is married,” Jilla stated, then her eyes widened. “Does she know…?”

“Spock’s the First Officer,” Sulu returned. “He’d know. He had to have told her.”

Jilla sighed. “I suppose you are right,” she said, then, “as I suppose you will want me to wear something other than a uniform.”

Sulu smiled his most persuasive. “If you wouldn’t mind, hon.”


Sulu chose a pair of dark brown, rather tightly fitted slacks and a brocade kimono in shades of gold. He nodded approvingly at Jilla’s selection, a floor-length, empire-waisted dress of a rich maroon. “You’re beautiful,” he told her, and enjoyed her flush of pleasure. “Let’s go.”

He took her arm and headed for the transporter room. They met Scott and the new engineer in the corridor, and they stopped. Scott smiled at Jilla.

“Lass, you’re a vision,” he said. “Lieutenant Noel DelMonde, I’d like you to meet my assistant…”

“It be nice t' see you again, Lieutenant,” DelMonde interrupted.

“And you, Mr. DelMonde,” Jilla said. She turned to Scott. “Mr. DelMonde introduced himself to me a year ago when Ruth and I were roommates,” she explained.

“Ah,” Scott acknowledged.

DelMonde nodded to Sulu. “Lieutenant Commander,” he said. “Congratulations, mon ami.”

“Thanks,” Sulu grinned. “And I’d like to stay and chat, but we’re on leave…”

“An' Jeremy waitin,” DelMonde said with a grin of his own, then added “excusez-moi” to Jilla.

Jilla flushed, but murmured a quiet goodbye as Scott and DelMonde continued down the corridor.


In the year they had been living together, Jilla had learned to ignore the wash of emotion that came from Sulu whenever a beautiful woman caught his eye. She had even learned not to react with total confusion when he felt the same toward an attractive man – as he had just done with Noel DelMonde. So it was that she only glanced out of curiosity at the ensign who was accompanying Spock out of the transporter room as she and Sulu entered it.

She was Asian, taller than Jilla with a less-full but well-proportioned figure. Her black hair was rich and silky, her almond eyes dark and glittering. She moved with a grace Jilla found disturbing, though the Indiian could not have said why. When she smiled, it was provocative, alluring – and only for Sulu.

Jilla accepted the sensations that tingled between Sulu and the ensign without question. He was, after all, very attractive also, and her tia was used to others finding him so. She nodded a greeting to Spock, moved to the platform, and thought no more about it.


The vision that came out of the transporter room hit Sulu’s senses like a thunderbolt. He didn’t even notice Spock. All he could see was the lovely, sensual creature that smiled so invitingly at him. Her perfume was the ginseng of the Floating World, her grace the promise of the most willing of its courtesans. His throat went dry, his heart thundering against a chest suddenly tight and breathless. She was, he decided without thought, the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

She moved past him and his head reeled. It took him more than a few seconds to clear it, and when he did, he found that he was staring avidly after her. Jesus, you haven’t reacted to anyone like that since…


Chastising himself, he quickly stepped up onto the platform, smiling ruefully at his Indiian lover. Her eyes held a calm understanding and no castigation. He sighed in relief. You’re one lucky man, Takeda, he told himself, then asked Kyle to energize.

But the ensign’s beauty haunted him even as the transporter shimmered them out of existence.


“Lieutenant Commander Sulu and Lieutenant Majiir,” Spock said in answer to Ensign LiLing’s question. He noted but did not comment on the speculative look that came into the young woman’s eyes.


Jade followed Leonard around the Sickbay, listening and commenting politely on his descriptions of Sickbay’s equipment and functions and routines. Her mind, however, was occupied with memory and speculation; memory of certain log tapes she’d received not that long ago, and speculation about the man who’d recorded them. Captain James Tiberius Kirk, a legend, Starfleet’s wonderboy, though he was obviously a boy no longer. An Antari’s ‘Bwana’ Jim. And the former lover of a dozen or more different women. His reputation in that area was as well known as his eminence in Fleet.

He’s very handsome, she thought idly. Those tapes didn’t do him justice. Vibrant, alive, crackling with energy. So unlike the two other men she’d been serious about. And you’re serious about him? she asked herself archly. Well, in time, came the smooth response. Time. Yes. She chuckled to herself.

James, your days are numbered.


After seeing the ensign to her quarters, Spock returned home to begin his leave. He both hoped and dreaded that Ruth would already be waiting. He knew he had to tell her about DelMonde, but did not have any idea how to go about it.

The first thing he noticed as he entered his cabin was that it was warm. Comfortably warm, and therefore much warmer than he and Ruth usually kept it. They had compromised so that he was only slightly cool in his usual clothing, she only slightly warm in her preferred attire of shorts and halter. But now…

"Ruth?” he called. Her voice came from the bedroom.

“In here, husband.”

Husband. Spock felt his blood stir pleasantly. He forgot his dread and crossed the room, turning to slide the grillwork partition closed when he had entered the sleeping area. Ruth lay on the bed in a long robe of translucent, pale green material that only accentuated the naked skin beneath. Her hair was spread carefully out behind her. She smiled invitingly.

“Spock,” she said, giving his name its proper Vulcan pronunciation, “come to me.”

The pleasant stirring grew stronger and he did as she had asked. She reached up, her arms sliding around his neck, pulling him down to her. He accepted the kiss, then straightened and went to remove his uniform. She came to him, pressing her body against him as her fingers nimbly pulled at the blue tunic, the darker thermal shirt beneath it, then traced along his chest. Carefully he moved away, bent his head to kiss her again and murmured, “I will join you in a moment.”

She laughed, a soft, seductive sound and instead of returning to the bed, simply sank to her knees, kissing his chest and stomach, running her hands along his sides to steady her movements. He was beginning to be uncomfortable when she grasped one ankle, lifting his foot, tugging at his boot.

“I am capable of…” he began, somewhat disconcerted, and she interrupted with, “I know,” and a leer, and finished pulling off his boot. He stepped away from her.


She swiftly ran a hand up his thigh and between his legs, over his buttocks. “You’re beautiful,” she breathed. He flushed, again moving awkwardly, but she caught him, managing to pull his other boot off. Before he could protest, her fingers slipped into the waistband of his slacks and the thermal wear beneath and she yanked sharply down. He nearly toppled over. He knew his skin was greening rapidly, and she nuzzled suddenly to his thigh, her hands completing the task of getting his slacks to his ankles. Swallowing, he grasped her shoulders, pushing her away. She stared up at him as he stepped out of his clothing.

“Such tactics are unnecessary, my wife,” he said sternly. She sighed but said nothing as she gracefully rose, moving again toward him. She took his hand as she continued toward the bed. He followed, determined to put his embarrassment from his mind.

But it came flooding back as she reached eagerly for his penis, murmuring, “God, I love your cock.”

His hand was at her wrist, nearly crushing it as he abruptly sat up. She stared at him.

“What’s wrong?”

He had to struggle to get the words out. “Such – language… my wife, I find… It is not terminology I associate with… yours are not actions I associate with… Ruth, you are my wife.”

“Yeah,” she said simply. “So?”

Not a concubine,” he managed stiffly.

“Are you saying…” Ruth began indignantly.

“That your behavior is that of…”

“Some whore?!”

“Yes,” Spock agreed reluctantly. “My wife, you must understand, among my people – among Vulcans,” he corrected quickly to forestall her shout of ‘Minneapolis,’ “wives are…”

“Docile, submissive, retiring and frigid,” Ruth enunciated. Spock found himself flushing again.

“Such behavior from my wife is deeply disturbing to me,” he confessed. “A wife should not know…”

“How to please the man she loves?” Ruth broke in. “Spock, that’s absurd.”

“Among Vulcans, sex is… infrequent at best.”

“And not for pleasure, I know. But I'm not Vulcan. And that’s not all you are.”

“I am not as – sexually experienced, nor as sexually mature – “ He broke off in embarrassed discomfort.

Ruth studied him. “Not by what I saw with Jilla,” she pointed out. And you didn’t much mind it when I screamed ‘fuck me’ on our wedding night, came clearly into his mind.

“That was… different,” he said. We are not now joined.

Does every union have to be telepathic for you to enjoy it? “So you’re only hell on wheels when you’re in…”

Kroykah!” Spock snapped, suddenly angry.

Ruth blinked. Love, what’s wrong?

Need I be reminded that there have been others? his mental voice asked hoarsely.

Is that what…?

When we are joined, there is no doubt you are mine. I can accept your – expertise – with joy and pride…

Spock, you knew when you asked me to marry you…

I did not say it was logical! He sent to her his insecurity, his possessiveness, and his fear that he could not meet her needs with only the physical.

Her laughter stung him, but the gentle reassurance that came with it quickly took it away. I’m yours now, my husband. No one else matters to me. I love you. And I have no doubts as to your ability to satisfy me, yes, with ‘just’ the physical.

Spock sighed. “Must you be so… aggressive?” he murmured miserably.

“I like being aggressive,” she murmured back.

“Ruth, I do not know if I can respect…”

“In bed, I don’t want ‘respect.’” She kissed him, then began nuzzling to his throat and up to his ear. “What I want…” she whispered, then proceeded with a description so vivid, so erotic, and so luridly detailed that he could not stop his reaction. He groaned, his skin growing hot with his blush. She went on, her fingers and lips performing the actions she so hedonistically described. Her expressive language aroused him even as his mind was numbed with his own mortification. He shuddered as her lips moved over his shoulders, down his chest, licking fervently at his skin, lingering at the dark olive nipples. She murmured eager words about his taste and her desire to completely indulge herself with it, calling it delightfully bitter, like copper over her tongue. His body responded fiercely and she continued both her caresses and her verbal seduction. She called him strong, beautiful, potent, arousing; olive, emerald, verdant, virescent. When her mouth finally found his erection and she began sucking and licking the steel-hard organ – the act she had imaged for him the night they were wed – he was unable to control his reactions. He was seared with a pleasure as intense as any he had ever felt – nearly the equal of The Time’s urgency. His fingers clutched abruptly through the strands of Ruth’s hair, and he climaxed with sudden, almost painful force.

He knew he had lost awareness when Ruth’s voice came in his mind: It wasn’t that bad, was it, beloved?

Bad? His mind laughed, almost giddy. I have never experienced such ecstasy.

I told you you’d like it, she said smugly, and giggled aloud. “See? Wives aren’t everything.”

Warmth flooded him. “No,” he agreed. “But I believe, my wife, that you are.”


Ruth had asked Spock to ‘wear something different’ and Spock had considered the request, then went to his wardrobe and brought out one of the few articles of civilian clothing he owned; a priest’s robe left over from the mission to Canti a year before. She said, “not funny, Boss,” then giggled.

“Illogical, as always,” he commented.

“I’m only Vulcan by injection,” she replied airily. “And look who’s talking. You’d really wear that at Headquarters?”

“I thought it might amuse you.”

She turned, blinking at him in surprise. “You mean you really would…”

“I thought the suggestion would amuse you,” he clarified.

“And if I said I’d be more amused if you did…”

“I would decline, of course.”


He returned to the wardrobe and chose a sedate, dark grey shirt and black vest over traditional Vulcan leggings. When he had finished dressing, Ruth was staring at him, her huge eyes soft. “I have one stunningly gorgeous husband,” she sighed. Spock glanced at her. She was wearing a short dress of variegated gold, its long sleeves set off her golden-tan shoulders. She had pulled her hair up and braided the back, adding small crystal hair ornaments. “And you, my wife, are more than beautiful,” he told her.

During the last hour, the subject Spock had been meaning to discuss had not come up. He knew he should have said something to Ruth about Noel DelMonde. He was quite well aware that they had been more than friends. It was, he realized, that fact which had triggered his rather severe reaction to Ruth’s brazen seduction. He was also aware that for the past week he had allowed it to slip his mind, not wanting to spoil what everyone else referred to as their honeymoon. But looking at her now, he could not bear to give her the news.

She stood, taking his hand. “Let’s go dazzle the Admiralty,” she said. He nodded, and they beamed down to the recreational area of Starfleet Headquarters with Ruth still blissfully ignorant of the storm that her husband was certain awaited her on the Enterprise.


Jim forced himself to stride purposefully into McCoy’s office. If Dr. Han were there, he’d just bluff his way through it. To his relief – well, mostly relief – he didn’t see her. McCoy was sitting at his desk. Jim grinned to himself. “Bones, aren’t you beaming down?”

McCoy looked up from his desk, glaring over a stack of tapes. “No,” he growled, “and if you’ll excuse me, Captain, sir, I’m busy.” He lowered his head.

Jim wasn’t going to let him get away with that. He had a delightful revenge planned for all those off-duty excursions that his doctor had forced him into for his own good. The fact that McCoy was in a testy mood only made it sweeter. “Missing M’Benga already?” he enquired with deceptive mildness.

“Yes. Now go on, I’m busy.”

“Doctor, that is no way to address your commanding officer.”

McCoy’s blue eyes peeked up at him from under lowered brows. “No,” he agreed in an exaggerated drawl, “it isn’t. Ain’t you got nothin’ better to do than to pester me, Jim-boy? Go show that nice Dr. Han the observation deck; do you both a passle o’ good.”

“Maybe later,” Jim said, doing a creditable job of hiding his flush. “Right now I’m going to escort you to the transporter room. You, Doctor, are taking leave.”

“I’ve had leave, boy, on Vulcan, not two weeks ago,” McCoy replied.

“That wasn’t leave. Let’s go. And,” Jim added, knowing that it wasn’t going to stop the protest, “that’s an order.”

“It is, eh?”

Jim bounced happily on the balls of his feet. “Yep.”

“What are you up to?”

“Come along and I’ll show you.”

“Will it get you out of my hair?”


McCoy snapped off his reader, heaved an aggravated sigh, and stood. “All right, let’s get this over with.”


He materialized not in the expected transporter zone, but in the living room of one of Headquarters’ VIP suites. Before he had time to wonder just what the devil was going on, a door to another room opened and a serenely beautiful, statuesque woman came gracefully toward him, a welcoming smile on her lips.

“Husband,” she said in her beautifully accented voice.

Surprised , delighted, McCoy moved to meet her. “Natira.” He took her in his arms, realizing how much he had missed her. It had been nearly a year since he had seen her. “Wife.” They kissed and he thought, thanks, Jim. I really did need this.


Scott had been pleased with his knowledge, pleased with his attitude. Del had, of course, known about the Scotsman’s ‘wee bairns’ feeling, and he was warmed by his new chief's pleasure that he himself shared that emotion. Engines were precious things, like children, more so to Del than to other engineers. So when he said he was in a hurry to leave Engineering, Scott asked why.

“Ruth Valley,” he’d replied, unable to keep the anxious desire out of his voice or his smile.

“A bonnie lass,” Scott had returned with more than a touch of wary concern. Del’s empathy twinged. “But taken, y’know.”

“Taken?” Del repeated, his head beginning to ache.

“Married, lad. Six days ago. To Commander Spock.”

Married. The word had sent thunder crashing through his brain. All the work he’d done to merit this transfer, and now she was married.

DelMonde stood in his new cabin, staring at the small pile of personal belongings that had been transported to the room an hour before. Only an hour? Non, was an eternity. And in that eternity, his whole life had changed.

“Shee-it,” he murmured softly and his head began to throb with too many outside thoughts. With a fierce shake of his head, he bent to sort out the pile.

How she get married an' not tell me?

She not owe you. It her life.

But she know how much she mean to…

It still her life.

I thought I mean somet’ing to her.

Mere de dun, imbecile! You fo’get th' venus visions? It not you, non?

She needed me!

An’ you know why.

“Shee-it!” he repeated, more forcefully, and abandoned his unpacking. He sat down on his bed, trying in vain to soothe his headache using the techniques Ruth had taught him so many years ago. Memory was crushing him, sorrow and pain and hopeless despair…

Stop it, he commanded himself.

How I help it? She been my life, my hope…

She married. You not live in th' past.

An’ what I say to her? What I say to him?

Try felicitations.

Del sighed, shuddering, the internal argument raging on.

What if he hurt her? What if he not understand her? What if he not make her happy?

What if th' damn ship blow up tomorrow? You not live in th' future, neither.

I love her! She love me!

An’ you can’t live wit’ her. Remember it, non? If she foun’ someone she can live wit’, be happy fo’ her.

It not be easy, I be t’inkin'.

Since when life be easy, Cajun?

With another deep sigh, Del pushed aside the rest of the competing noise.

Bien, then, I be happy fo’ her.

But damn her, why she not tell me?


Go To Part Two

Return to Valjiir Stories

Return to Valjiir Continum