Return to Part Eight
Return to Valjiir Stories
Return to Valjiir Continum
Return to Valjiir Stories
Return to Valjiir Continum
Return to Valjiir Continum
Spock, Jilla and McCoy slept. Much of it was restless, filled with the vestiges of nearly two weeks' worth of exhaustion, malnutrition and nightmares, but compared to how much respite they'd had before this, it seemed a peace-filled heaven. But sleep eluded Ruth. She was too confused, too divided, her head refused to turn itself off. They had won. They were all alive, Spock was alive and sane, but nonetheless, it all felt very unsatisfying. It wasn’t that she hadn’t assessed the potential cost of winning. She had considered that Spock might, if he lived, go back to being Vulcan – and more Vulcan than before. It was the minutes before that reversion that she hadn’t expected.
Don’t think about it, she told herself. It’s a safe bet he won’t.
Of course, she didn't take her own advice. The telepathic meld haunted her, the intimacy of sharing Spock's inner demons was nothing compared to the intimacy of those last few moments.She who intrudes on my dreams. She who touches... she who fulfills...
Can it be true? Do I fulfill his dreams?
Do maybe not. Can, on the other hand...
She had picked up in telepathic images too strong and too subtle for words exactly how he perceived her. It could all be summed up in the Vulcan concept dei’larr’ei. He had attached to it the story of Ruth from the Torah, because dei’larr’ei connoted one following another's marked path, and the trust and reliance inherent in that kind of relationship on a planet that sent seven-year-olds out all alone in a desert full of poisonous plants, little shelter and deadly predators in order to make them choose logic over everything else.
And I'm dei'larr'ei. Tell me, is that a compliment? Are you telling me you think of me as strong, capable, worthy of trust and responsibility - or does it mean I'm a follower, a two-steps-behind Vulcan wife like your mother?
Or maybe, a fearful voice whispered inside her, that he wants you to be both?
She couldn't face that. Not now. Not after all this horror and pain and intimacy...
Even if it's taking the easy way out
Keep it inside of you
Don't give in
Don't give them anything
Don't let it show.
She stood, stretching her aching muscles, determinedly not looking at the other three people in the shuttle. More than anything, she wanted not to know them. She wanted to be alone, to forget, to start again and this time be more careful with her heart.
Hello, I’m Ruth Valley, and you are…?
Jilla Majiir? Welcome aboard. Let us, by all means, share nothing but these quarters. Perhaps a little music, a few minor confidences, enough for in-jokes and ‘never mind – I never do.’ Don’t let us look into each other’s eyes and know the truth… Jilla, forgive me for never knowing when to leave well enough alone.
Dr. McCoy, Leonard McCoy, Bones? Don’t trust me too much. Don’t listen to my foolishness. Don’t try to father me. Keep some of that ‘witch-doctor’ animosity and irascible hostility. Don’t hate me for using your dedication and caring nature to drag you into this.
Mr. Spock? I’ve shared your nightmares, and you’ve shared mine. I’ve lost myself in you and let you lose yourself in me. Will you ever forgive me for helping you live? How can you ever look at me again? How can I ever face you? Will you ever want me to?
Most of all, she didn’t want to know herself. She had been lonely and lost for years and he had exposed the core of it to her. She didn’t like this feeling, raw and unprotected and aching. She had hidden and guarded it for so long, and now it was out in the open and she had to face it.
So okay, face it. What have you lost? Pride, privacy, the façade of the Terror of Alterra. They know you, too well. For what? For comfort? Didn’t they, really, even before this hellweek?
Jilla did. That damn Indiian did a real head job on you to get you into this. She knew just when and where to push… push, push. Ruth couldn’t stop the wry smile. Yeah, she knew you, all right.
And Bones. What is there about you that he didn’t know? Do you really think you conned a smart man like him into accepting you? Just because neither one of you will admit to having learned to respect and even honor one another for the devoted healers you are…
And what about Spock? He wasn’t that far off about your ambitions, was he? He may have expressed it with a little more paranoia than necessary, but he’s right. True, you don’t want to replace him, but to be acknowledged as being as good as him? You’ve worked for that since Alterra. And didn’t he touch all your fears – and your hopes – chasing you around his quarters? The memory made her blush.
So, what have you lost? The burden of the charade, nothing more. Nothing less, either. You do have to have others, you know. Yeah, but I don’t like them to know that. You’re not really as private as you like everyone else to think. You need others, and you enjoy needing them. You enjoy loving them. And being needed and loved in turn. Isn’t that what you were born for? You are keheil. Will you be hurt? Of course, how else do you know you’re alive? If you cut off the pain, you cut off joy, too. So have the ecstasy and deal with the agony. He’s alive, he’s sane, everything’s going to be all right. You won, goddamnit!
“I need my guitar,” she said out loud. She had to have music, she had to take it back from the bitter place she’d consigned it to. They’d stored it under Spock’s cot. She went to where he lay and knelt by the bed. She found herself studying him for a moment. For once, the sleep was natural. Color was returning to his skin, a healthy, pale olive rather than the sickly jaundice it had been for so long. He looked like a Vulcan; a skinny, dirty, bearded Spock, sleeping. The traces of his tremendous struggle were disappearing into Vulcan calm and reserve. But you’re not just Vulcan, she thought at him. You’re Human, you’re Spock! For an instant, she hated the Vulcan calm. Then she realized that he was very possibly the only neurotic in the galaxy so neurotic that he wouldn’t admit to being cured of his neuroses. The venomous look she’d turned on him softened, and she nodded, understanding. She still wasn’t about to accept it – Minneapolis – but she understood. A smile twitched briefly across her face as she ducked under the cot and brought out her guitar.
Hearing the music, Spock opened his eyes. His hallucinations were over, so the sounds had to be coming from Lieutenant Valley’s guitar. He turned his head slightly so that he could see her.
She sat cross-legged, the instrument almost cradled in her arms. Her eyes were closed, a soft smile on her lips. She played light sounds, then soft ones, then furious, tuneless strumming, then intricate, melodic fingering. He noted without any but the smallest twinge of embarrassment that she was still half naked. Her hair was still matted with blood and sweat, her face was thin, dark circles underlining her huge eyes. Still, she was lovely, and he acknowledged the truth without emotion.
You very nearly ruined that beauty, a voice reminded him caustically. He acknowledged the truth of that in exactly the same way, and answered the unspoken assertion that went with it.
I did not ask for her help. In fact, I begged them not to do this. They forced this cure on me. The craving is gone – or buried too deeply to matter – and I am sane and alive. For that, I am grateful, but I need not appreciate the means to welcome the end. And I need feel no guilt for the pain I have inadvertently caused. The fact that I am what I am cannot be deemed a fault. I cannot be blamed if it does not meet with her expectations.
And her beauty will leave me in peace.
Jilla heard the sound and lay quietly, listening to the music, letting its variations ease her from one emotional state to another. She was glad of the music, for it meant Ruth was all right. It meant the horror was over. It meant she had performed her duty to her mate.
And what of the return? What of James Kirk? What of Sulu?
The captain can perhaps still be saved. Sulu is lost to you. Accept it.
She fought the tears, but realized she wasn’t entirely successful when Ruth stopped playing and came to her side.
“He’ll forgive you,” she whispered.
“Never,” was Jilla’s repeated reply.
“Trust me,” Ruth murmured. She placed her hand on Jilla’s and gently squeezed it. They were silent for long minutes, then Jilla sat up. Ruth smiled at her. “You look like hell,” she commented brightly.
“As do you,” Jilla said. Ruth laughed.
“You know,” she said conversationally, “if we get out of this, Kevin Riley may never be the same.” She gave a blinding smile. “The lucky boy.” Jilla opened her mouth, and the look in Ruth’s eyes stopped the comment she was about to make. Instead, she simply nodded.
“Lucky, indeed, Ruth.”
Spock sat on the cot and played Jilla’s lyrette. McCoy was standing before Spock, rocking irritably on his heels. Ruth and Jilla worked patiently, preparing the shuttlecraft for journeying off the asteroid. To where was Spock’s decision. Spock had, however, discussed neither his plans nor his criteria for that decision with anyone else. Which was why McCoy was bouncing impatiently.
Ruth scowled. She was afraid that although they’d gotten themselves a Vulcan – even though we could’ve gotten ourselves a hybrid, she added peevishly – they’d gotten one too jacketed to complete their ‘saving Bwana Jim’ mission.
“Great,” she muttered. “We’ll rot in a rehab colony for the rest of our lives while he sits on Vulcan making music and feeling sorry for himself. Logically, of course.” She put down the statboard with its checklist and marched the short distance to stand beside McCoy. Spock glanced up, raising one questioning eyebrow.
“Straighten up, Boss,” she told him, “or we’re in big trouble.” She didn’t wait for an answer, simply returned to the front of the shuttle. He returned to the lyrette.
“As opposed to what?” McCoy snorted.
“Greater trouble, I imagine,” Jilla answered as she stepped past McCoy to make adjustments to the warp engine circuitry.
“Well, what are we going to do?” McCoy demanded of Spock. But it was Jilla who turned to him. Her face was expressionless.
“We will rot in a rehab colony for the rest of our lives while he sits on Vulcan making music and feeling sorry for himself logically of course,” she replied.
“That’s no help, Mrs. Majiir,” McCoy grumbled.
Jilla actually glared in Spock’s direction. “Neither, Doctor, is he.”
The music soothed him, and so Spock ignored the caustic remarks. His mind was not idle, whatever Valjiir chose to think. He simply saw no reason to speak until he had sorted all the relevant data and had come to solid conclusions. He was not yet ready to face the illusions of his own subconscious, so he had studied the workings of the shuttle’s cloak while they slept. It was an interesting projection of the phenomenon of the verilium-obstitrate combination – a perfect sensor block that showed no trace of existing. Energy passed through it as though it were not there, but energy originating within the field could not escape. Thus sensor sweeps passed through it and warp engines left no tell-tale signature. Matter, however, passed through and from the field with ease. An effective cloak, it was not an effective shield. Still, it was a remarkable piece of engineering. And it would no doubt prove useful beyond this foolhardy adventure.
His thoughts skipped to the research he had been doing weeks ago, when he was still on the Enterprise, before the withdrawal had begun. So much time lost… He pushed the bitterness away. The thing, he was certain, was a pure energy entity. He did not know how it had been kept in the sarcophagus Jim had opened, but he was certain that it had. For a moment he berated all curiosity, and was struck by the irony of such a curse. No matter. The thing was energy and could be contained in the Valjiir field. But how to catch it? What could lure it from its safety within the Enterprise?
A smile crept over his features, cold, nearly malevolent. Of course. What else?
He set the lyrette aside and rose on still unsteady legs. McCoy stepped forward, ready to support him, but he waved the doctor away. He took the few steps to the front of the shuttlecraft. Ruth turned quickly to him, Jilla ceasing the adjustments she was making.
“Miss Valley, Mrs. Majiir, Dr. McCoy,” he said. “We go to Shas – providing this superlative example of chutzpah can travel that far on Valjiir’s prayers.”
The Enterprise had been orbiting Shas for four days. The sensors were set on continual scan, the proximity alert armed. Visual scans were on constant monitoring protocols, double shifts working around the clock. The security team that had volunteered for retrieval duty was undergoing continuous strategy and battle simulations. Uhura had stopped asking if she should ignore the hails from Starfleet Command. Kirk sat in the con, a cup of coffee clutched, un-drunk, in his hand.
They’re probably all dead, he told himself for the thousandth time. A hundred things could have happened to that shuttle, to them. If only I had some way of knowing for certain, I could stop circling this dead rock, stop worrying about my future and get on with living.
“Simulation seventeen completed, sir,” Sulu’s voice came from the com. “Success rating ninety-five percent.”
“Make it one hundred, Mr. Sulu,” Kirk replied automatically.
There was an edge to the Lieutenant’s voice. “Aye, sir.”
Damn them! I’ve got a ship to run, a crew that’s getting restless, maybe a little suspicious… No, Sulu’s only edgy because he’s as anxious to catch them as I am.
What if they’ve gone to a base, or Headquarters, or Babel? What if they’ve given up on rescuing their ‘Jim’ and intend to let Fleet crucify me? If I could get at the damn coding… Valley will die last for that!
No, don’t get angry. You can’t think when you’re angry. Let them go to a base. No one will listen to deserters or believe them if they do listen. It will be my word – a loyal captain’s word – against that of traitors, saboteurs, and a drug addict. Except for the computer… I’ll blow the damn thing up if I have to!
What if they manage to elude you and find some means of destroying you before you can destroy them? Impossible! But… how did the shuttle get away from the ship in the first place?
Kirk abruptly slammed his fist down on the arm of the con, realized the gesture, and deliberately broke the coffee cup in his hand to cover it. He swore, shaking the broken pieces and now tepid liquid from his hand.
“Sir, are you all right?” Uhura asked, rising from her seat.
“I’m fine, Lieutenant, thank you,” Kirk said.
“Shall I send for medical…?”
“I said I’m fine!” Kirk snapped, then immediately exhaled. “Sorry, Uhura.” He held out his hand. “Look, no blood.”
She smiled, but it was wan. He turned to Engineering. “Mr. Scott, any breakthrough on discovering what sort of cloak they used?”
Scott turned from the Engineering board, his eyes weary. “Aye, sir. I canna ken how, but I’m sure it was verilium-obstitrate based…”
“Captain!” Lieutenant Michaels broke in suddenly from the Science Station. "I don’t know how, but…" He checked the readings. “It’s there, solid, real…” A pause. “Sir, our missing shuttlecraft just appeared on the planet’s surface, about five kilometers from the temple site!”
Kirk turned the con. “Appeared?” he demanded.
“Yes sir, just like that!”
Another savage turn. “Helmsman…!”
David Kelly was confirming the readings. “She’s there. She couldn’t’ve gotten past us, but she must have.” He looked back at Kirk. “Unless she’s been sitting there the whole…”
“Captain, it’s Dr. McCoy!” Uhura broke in, and her fingers flew over the Communications board.
“… hear me, Jim?” McCoy’s voice was hoarse, strangled, an intense, fearful whisper. “I’ve found their damn screen, I turned it off. Can you see it? They’re all mad, Jim, I’ve been…”
The voice was cut off.
“It’s gone!” Michaels exclaimed. Kirk rose swiftly from the con.
“Let’s get moving!” he barked. “Uhura, have the volunteer team meet me in the transporter room on the double! We’ve got them!”
Jim shouted NO! and it was Kirk’s turn to laugh.
Ruth hugged McCoy and shouted delightedly, “Bones, you’re a great actor!”
“I just hope it works,” he growled, but he was grinning, proud of his performance.
“Ladies, Doctor,” Spock interrupted, “we have little time.”
“Hurry,” Jilla added, but she nodded in thanks to McCoy as she opened the shuttle’s hatch.
They had only moments. Spock was certain the ship would have gotten a fix on their position in the short time they’d been visible. He was, in fact, counting on it. He was the bait in this trap. He would set himself before Kirk, well aware he could be phasered down before it was sprung. The shock of seeing a cordrazine addict on his feet, unmoving, not erratic or full of craving should give them enough time, but it was by no means certain. And there was the undoubted security team to deal with as well.
He concentrated on his breathing, and waited.
Jilla focused on the cloak projector to keep her mind from dwelling on the expected security team. She knew who would be leading it. She had never thought to see him again, and she knew the anguish in her only added to her already wild appearance. He would never listen to her while she looked like this, she would never be able to explain…
Explain? Explain what? That you used him, betrayed him… or will you only need to explain m’lkta’fee? Or, perhaps, only telmnori…
Sulu, forgive me!
She focused her attention again on the task at hand. They all looked shocking, she no better. And perhaps that was to the good. The more they could shock the Kirk-thing, the better their chances of success.
She almost felt the transporter’s shimmer before it became visible. She murmured a silent prayer, kept the tears from her eyes, and centered the projector.
Ruth took a deep breath and nodded to McCoy. “Three!” she said, and he bolted out of the shuttle.
“Jim! Over here!” he cried. Ruth raced after him.
“No, Bones, damn you, no…” She saw Kirk taking running steps toward her and said in her head,Spock, now!
Sulu fought the thunder in his head as Shas became solid around him. He’d been in his quarters, reviewing the security procedures to give the Captain that final five percent when the call had come, and his wakazashi was stuck in his weapons belt. He’d grabbed it without thinking, and now the implication burned in him. Seppeku, samurai, wakarimaskah? Here on the sands, no white silk beneath you, none to wrap the hilt and a careful one-third of the blade. Ime no ai wa, kurushikarikeri, odorokite, kaki saguredomo, ten e mo furenba.
Now to meet only in dreams, bitterly seeking, starting from sleep, groping in the dark with hands that touch nothing.
His eyes cleared of the transporter’s sparkling, leaving only pain. He still couldn’t see the shuttle – but McCoy came racing out of nowhere in a panic, calling to the captain; a thin, haggard, bearded form in a torn, filthy uniform running on wobbly legs.
He barely had time to register the sight when Ruth’s screaming voice cursed McCoy as she ran to try and stop him. His breath stopped in a gasp. She was half-naked, her hair a tangled mass of blood and filth, her eyes violet fire in a wild, sunken face. She was emaciated, covered in streaked sweat, a light of madness burning in her. Spike, see what love has done to us! he cried silently to her.
Of its own volition, his agonized mind still sought the focus and release of its torment. The shuttle suddenly appeared, a pile of machinery next to it. A figure of dull silver and dusty red crouched there, and the sight hit him like a hard kick to his ribcage. Grey eyes that seemed enormous in their furious intensity met his, the delicate features invisible in a dull, dirt-streaked face. The lips that should be full and dark were only a duller smear in the wild-eyed, blood-haloed desperation. This is all that is left, fevered insanity. He must have died, how can she bear the loss of two mates…
Jilla, I’m here!
It doesn’t matter, maybe it never did. You can’t ease her, even if she’d let you…
She said she loved me!
She lied! They all lie! How many times have you heard it, how many times was it only selfish, hungry, manipulative need?
Jilla, why do I still love you?!
He nearly collapsed with the agony of the knowledge; the undeniable truth, her name, her words echoing in his mind. The grief and despair consumed him, leaving only empty desolation. He took a tortured step toward her, unable to stop himself, not knowing why or what he would do once he reached her.
Only to stop, frozen, as a tall, skeletal shadow moved from the shuttle. Ragged hair and beard, cracked lips, clothes torn and bloody and stained with nausea, eyes of ebony calm in the gaunt, hollow face...
Then Jim Kirk screamed.
He had to kill them all, the landing party as well as the others. He’d be the only survivor of a desperate battle. No evidence, no witnesses… hell, Sulu would probably thank me for it. Kirk was almost smiling as he materialized on the sands of his home.
McCoy came running toward him, Valley behind him. Kirk headed for them. McCoy would be hit accidentally as he fired on Valley. He lifted his phaser…
And Spock stepped out of the suddenly visible shuttle.
SPOCK! Jim cried joyously.
Alive? NO! Kirk turned to rush the damned ghost.
And something hit him. He screamed as the body he had fought so hard to keep was wrenched from his being. No, no! Not formless, not again, NOOOO…
Jim fell to his knees with the shock of having the thing torn from him. He didn’t know how, but he could feel, could think, see, hear, speak, be on his own. Whole, alive free! It took him a few seconds to regain control of his body, and when he looked up, Spock was reaching for his shoulders. The emaciated, filthy, drawn face was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
“Jim,” Spock whispered, an inaudible sound of hope and fear. Tears filled Jim’s hazel eyes.
“My friend,” Jim said, and remembering the trigger that had cemented Spock's suspicions over a month before, added. “Thank you, Mr. Spock.”
Ruth burst into delirious tears as she and McCoy collapsed against each other and to the ground. McCoy held her and their laughter was hysterical half-weeping. Jim and Spock stood and Jim said, “Hold all fire, they’re not mad or traitors.” The security team stared in confused wonder at the cylindrical patch of swirling fog that hovered where the Captain had stood seconds before.
And Sulu knelt, doubled over, anger and grief and anguish ripping through him, screaming inside him as Jilla moved away from the machinery, only to slump, unconscious, before the shuttle.
McCoy was asleep. Ruth and Jilla lay on the Sickbay beds, awake but being as inconspicuous as possible. Once he’d been cleaned up, Spock had insisted he had had enough of sickbeds, but M’Benga refused to let him leave. He also insisted that the addiction was no longer an area of concern, but since he wouldn’t say why, M’Benga insisted that he stay in Sickbay until that fact could be confirmed. Privately, the doctor had confided to Jim that there was, incredibly, no trace of it in Spock’s system whatsoever, but that he could be as stubborn as the Vulcan. Therefore, Spock sat on the edge of an examining table looking almost petulant. Jim couldn’t stop grinning at him, and was glad that Spock chose not to notice his boyish behavior. He knew Spock understood how good it felt to be free, to be alive and in control of your own body, even if the Vulcan couldn’t say anything about it.
“How did you do it?” Jim asked again. The first time he had asked had been on Shas, just before Spock had collapsed in his arms.
“The entity was pure energy,” Spock said. “The Valjiir cloak – “ Jim smiled as the designation. “ – prevents any energy from leaving the field if it originates in the field, while allowing matter to exit easily. We simply projected the cloak around you.”
“How did you know it would work?”
One eyebrow rose in familiar surprise and Jim smiled more broadly. “We did not, Captain.”
“You risked your life? You’d just gotten it back.”
“Of little use if you were not freed,” Spock replied, then added, “it would have undoubtedly simply tried again to destroy me.”
Jim nodded in silent understanding, then glanced at the beds that held Ruth and Jilla. “Mrs. Majiir, Miss Valley,” he said. “Thank you, Ensign, for believing Spock, Lieutenant, for being your usual insubordinate self.”
Ruth reddened and Jilla silvered and Jim smiled again. “I want you both to know I don’t intend to press any charges whatsoever.” He paused, sighing. “Fleet, however…”
“We are guilty, Captain,” Jilla said.
“On all counts,” Ruth added.
“Facts are facts, Captain,” Spock rejoined. “I can find no logical basis for a defense.”
Jim turned back to him in nearly indignant incredulousness. “Spock, what are you saying?!”
“The truth,” Spock returned. There was a pause in which Jim got ready for an angry rebuke. Then he caught the warmth deep in Spock’s eyes. “However, as I assume we would find it inconvenient to break them out of a rehabilitation colony…”
Jim’s laughter covered the last words of the sentence.
M’Benga hadn’t thought it was a good idea, but Sulu managed to persuade the doctor to allow him to see Jilla. He had collapsed himself, just after she had. Emotional and physical exhaustion, Ben had said, for both of them. Sulu had pushed his body to its physical limits with no more sustenance than coffee and anguish. Jilla had been living on much less food and sleep than was good for her, even less than McCoy had. Spock had had the nutrient shots, Ruth the protein shots. They had had food with them, but Jilla hadn’t eaten much of it. What sleep she got was always laced with the emotional turmoil around her and it had been constant for over two weeks. Sulu, not in much better shape, had promised he wouldn’t stay long.
She was still gaunt, still weak, but no longer wild-eyed and fevered and deathly pale. He’d been made to understand, by the Captain himself, what she and Ruth had done; the difficulty of if not the manner in which they’d done it. Kirk had even explained their reasons for doing it, the amoral thing that had possessed him for over a month. But there was one thing the Captain couldn’t explain, and that he had to hear from her lips.
You know what she’ll say. Why torture yourself? Walk away.
No. I have to hear it.
It’s the only way I’ll be able to believe it.
He approached her Sickbay bed, his arms folded, his hands grasping his forearms to prevent himself from trembling. It took several tries before he could say her name.
She raised her head, then lowered her eyes. She was ashamed, afraid to face him, and her pain called to his own.
“Can you talk?” he managed quietly.
Her answer was faint and subdued. “Yes.”
He had so much to ask, there was so much he wanted to tell her of the agony he’d been in, of what she had put him through – how he hadn’t slept, couldn’t eat, how every beat of his heart had sent loss screaming in his veins. He wanted to make her feel it, not as before, for vengeance sake, but simply to let her know that he could, he did understand her pain. Yet the words stuck in his throat, refusing to be spoken. There was one question, only one that mattered. “Why?” he said.
From the look of guilt on her face, he had no doubt she knew what he meant. Yet she answered something else altogether.
“I am bonded to him,” she said. “How could I have let him drown in a madness not of his own making? How can I ignore my duty to that bond? Had I not tried, not given myself to that task, I would be false to the one thing I have not sullied…” Her voice faded as the thought seared him.
The one thing you haven’t sullied? What about me?
Are you kidding? How was her saying “I love you” not sullying you? It sure as hell was false, wasn’t it?
She has to say it!
He asked again. “Why?” Again, she gave a deliberately misconstrued answer.
“Ruth loves him, and he her. She was the only hope of returning him to life and sanity.”
Sulu closed his eyes. One more time, he thought, then I’m done. He opened them and stared directly into Jilla’s fearful, anxious gaze. He had to have the answer, yet he wasn’t sure he could bear to hear it. “Why, Jilla?”
Her gaze dropped. Her fingers clutched at the blanket, twisting it. Her voice was very soft, her words hesitant and uncertain. “I could think of nothing else to say to you that would stop you long enough for the time we needed,” she said. She looked up. “I did not mean it to hurt you.”
The rage and despair and grief welled up in him all over again, making him tremble. He again had a wild thought of taking the wakazashi from his cabin and slicing his loss on her, then on himself. You knew it, he railed at himself. You knew it was a lie, you knew she used you…
I didn’t want it to be true, I didn’t want to believe…
And why, how could it have been anything else? Do you really think someone as innocent as her could ever accept you?
The words sent sharp agony through him and he had to remind himself to breathe. When he found a voice, it was one of the bitterest betrayal.
“You said 'I love you’ as a ploy, a means to your end, for love of someone else, and you didn’t mean it to hurt me?” He grimaced. “How long have I waited, Jilla, how long have I ached for those words? I’ve said it to you, over and over, freely, meaning it with everything that I am…” He took a ragged breath, then exhaled slowly as the futility enshrouded him. “I know. I deserve it. I should have taken you at your word, I should never have tried…” He closed his eyes. “I won’t bother you again,” he continued with barren sorrow. “I’m sorry.”
He turned, too bitter for words, feeling every agonizing beat of his heart, wishing fervently that it would simply stop. Her voice came at him, quick, urgent, full of fearful desperation.
“I did not mean to hurt you, for I meant it!”
He turned, staring at her in disbelief. The grey eyes were full of an unnamed terror, and her skin was bright, testament to strength of her emotion.
“What do you mean, you meant it?” he asked bleakly.
Her left hand was clutched tightly, and her gaze flashed from his eyes to it. Then she slowly, carefully opened her hand. “I did, Sulu,” she whispered. “I do.” She looked away, but kept her hand open, exposing the scar to him.
The words made no sense. She loves me? Then why say it then? Why wait to use it against me?
He was completely unaware he had spoken out loud. Or maybe he hadn’t. Maybe she simply felt the pain and the confused, suffering question.
“When I saw you at the shuttle, I knew you had been inside, I knew you realized what we were about to do,” she said quietly. “I had no time to explain, and – I feared you would not believe me. I did not know what to say, how to tell you – “ Her voice choked. “How to tell you goodbye. And while my thoughts debated and argued and resisted… my heart spoke its truth.” She looked up at him. “I love you, Sulu.,” she repeated, her eyes pleading with him. “I do. Aema, sumin tu, with all that is in me, I do!”
He blinked. For a long moment, his mind refused to register the words. “You said it…” he began slowly.
“Because I could think of nothing else to say,” Jilla whispered. “The words – they came from within me, not from what is right, what is proper. It is the truth, and I am helpless before it – and as with The Time, when I can no longer control myself…” She bent her head, her own despair overwhelming her.
Not right, not proper, but overwhelming and when I can no longer control myself, I am helpless before it.
He knew that feeling. That he could understand, that he could accept. That, he could forgive.
Forgiveness beget relief, relief beget release, release beget joy. That joy that spread through him, all-consuming, enveloping. It changed all that was within him. It was like feeling a rosebud open, and his senses drank in the sheer beauty of it. Yes, a rose, a silver rose, my silver rose! All the pain and loss, all the grieving loneliness and hopeless fear were lost in that blinding glory. She loves me, she does, with all that is within her, she does!
He knelt on the bed next to her, taking her delicate body in an embrace that was tender but not hesitant. For the first time he kissed her fully on the lips, savoring the sweet, fresh taste, reveling in the scent of her skin next to his – and to his everlasting wonder, she returned it. The sensations poured out from his being, and he no longer worried that it would overwhelm her or manipulate her or coerce her. He let his passion, his desire and adoration envelop and change her, his voice an emotion-laden rasp. “I love you, my Jilla, my silver one, I love you!”
She clung to him, glowing brightly, her heart racing fearfully as she trembled against him. She was terrified, he knew, but he didn’t care about her hesitancy or her vows or her damnation. She loved him with all that was within her, he meant it with all that he was, and they would deal with their demons together.
“May I have a word with you in private, Miss Valley?” Spock asked.
Ruth turned from her computer terminal, nodding and followed him into his office. Once there, he turned to her and said harshly, “The Captain thinks of you and Mrs. Majiir as heroes,” he told her. “I do not share this view. What you did was wrong, illogical, illegal, foolish, and dangerous.”
“Yes, sir,” she answered quietly.
His eyebrows lowered, and he realized that he had expected sarcasm, an argument, then eventual chagrinned agreement. “What Mrs. Majiir did was understandable, if not entirely forgivable,” he continued. “She acted as a Vulcan, therefore her loyalty to me was her overriding concern, regardless of the consequences. What I find appalling is that you should be so irresponsible as to assist her in her mad scheming. She could not have succeeded without your aid. Understand, Miss Valley, that while I am grateful for that success, I cannot help but wonder. Did you have no thought for the safety of this ship? Her crew? The Federation? You were wrong. No one life is that important.” He stopped speaking. She was smiling at him, her eyes warm and full of quiet joy. Just as they had been…
“Boss,” she said softly, and it echoed gently in his mind, “you should never have had me read Antigone.”
She turned and stepped silently away, but her smile remained.
Ruth and Jilla waited nervously for the Board’s decision. Not that it was in question; there was more than enough evidence for a full court-martial. They had answered all questions, and had pled guilty to all charges: mutiny, desertion, sabotage, treason, fraud, theft, abduction, forgery, assault.
“Do you suppose we’ll be able to see each other once in a while?” Ruth asked airily.
“I doubt it,” Jilla replied.
“Life isn’t so long.”
“I told you he’d forgive you.”
“So you did.”
“Sorry it won’t do you a fat lot of good.”
“It hardly matters.”
“As will I.”
Ruth sighed, glancing at the closed door. “What do you suppose is taking so long?”
“It is a long list of charges.”
“But we did it,” Ruth stated firmly. Jilla almost smiled.
“That we did.”
“You’ve been hanging around Scotty too long.”
“I beg your…”
“I never do.”
Ruth grinned, then sighed again. “Oh, Bwana, come on!” she said tightly. “Let’s get it over with.”
“ – and there comes a time when beings have to follow their own consciences or we become a dictatorship. I assure you, had I been able to, I would have authorized everything they did! To punish Miss Valley and Mrs. Majiir is a grave miscarriage of justice, not of the laws of this Federation but of the spirit of freedom in the galaxy. These charges have to be dropped!”
Admiral Davidson sighed, glancing at Spock. “Commander, do you agree with your captain?”
Spock nodded. “I do, sir. Further, I remind the Board of the practical good that will be derived from allowing the productivity of Valjiir to go unimpeded. In my opinion, sir, it far outweighs the technical misconduct with which they have been charged.”
“Technical misconduct,” Davidson muttered. Then sighed again. “Captain Kirk, is a fine in order, at least?”
“If you insist, sir,” Jim replied. “I’ll pay it myself, but if you insist.”
Davidson spoke quickly with the two other members of the Board. “So be it,” he said at last. “Call in Lieutenant Valley and Ensign Majiir.”
“The Karagite Order of Heroism?” Ruth whispered in awe.
Jim grinned at the amber, pear-shaped gem and red-and-black ribbon in Ruth’s hand. Jilla stared at an identical medal. He gave an acknowledging smile to the bouncing Dr. McCoy, who had already pinned his onto his uniform.
“And,” he said, “one other thing.” He nodded at Sulu, who handed a small box to Jilla, his eyes shining.
She opened it. It contained two wavy stripes of gold.
“Congratulations, Lieutenant Majiir,” Sulu said.
Title Song Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire by Joni MItchell
To go to the next story in chronological sequence, click here
Return to Valjiir Stories
Return to Valjiir Continum
To go to the next story in chronological sequence, click here
Return to Valjiir Stories
Return to Valjiir Continum
Return to Valjiir Continum