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As a Starfleet cadet, T’Sik conducted herself with a certain standard of professionalism in mind. She knew quite well how her family viewed her participation in the organization. After all, they were acquaintances of Ambassador Sarek, and when that influential figure’s son bucked his family’s wishes to become the first Vulcan in Starfleet, T’Sik had not heard the end of the perceived dishonor, the well-understood disrespect.

When she had decided to enter the service, her parents and four older sisters had provided a wealth of logical arguments against it, but her own logic had won out in the end.

Starfleet needed Vulcans in the medical division. More and more of their race were beginning to serve, and humans had such limited knowledge of the myriad specific illnesses and injuries that could befall them. T’Sik had long wanted to be a healer, and this seemed a logical use of her skills.

But it did not mean she had abandoned her planet, her culture. She may have been part of a predominantly human organization, but T’Sik was Vulcan. Fully Vulcan. And she always would be.

She arrived five minutes early for each of her classes, completed her assignments in half the time of her human counterparts, even guest-lectured a xenobiology course as the only one with first-hand authority on the subject matter. All this as a first-year. She knew without any doubt that she would rise quickly through the ranks, perhaps graduate early, certainly with an impressive assignment. It was all logical-- her plan, her life, her work. It was all entirely logical.

Until she met Angela Carter.

 


 

 

Angela Carter stood five feet and six point two inches tall, her blonde hair cropped short and inelegant, her pale skin mottled with freckles, pockmarks and flushes of red. T’Sik became familiar with Carter’s round jaw, square shoulders, strong arms, wide hips, abhorrent posture, and that smile that took up half her face, because Carter sat right in front of T’Sik in the Warp Mechanics class T’Sik was required to complete. Maybe T’Sik wouldn’t have noticed the cadet at all, but Carter seemed determined to draw attention to herself.

She raised her hand every few minutes, contradicting the professor, antagonizing the professor, cracking jokes that made the students beside her chuckle. T’Sik often had to force herself not to glare openly at the back of Carter’s head. Carter was loud and brash and took up too much space with the way her arms draped over the back of the seats on either side of her, and her very presence disrupted T’Sik’s study.

But she was also bright, social, intelligent, clearly, as her disruptive comments often had a strong academic basis. And as often as T’Sik had to stop herself glaring, she also had to stop herself staring. Carter had met her eyes once, given her an over-the-shoulder grin that showed her teeth and stretched her pink lips and crinkled the corners of her achingly blue eyes, and T’Sik couldn’t allow such an interaction to happen again. T’Sik had to focus, and Cadet Angela Carter was absolutely detrimental to her focus.

 


 

“T’Sik, right? Can I?”

T’Sik, who had been sitting blissfully alone in the mess hall, looked up from her padd, stomach dropping as her eyes met that sparkling blue and got stuck on the lines that branched from Carter’s irises. Turquoise, almost, T’Sik thought. Like Earth’s oceans. She had never visited the tropics, but she had seen enough holos to know the color, the depth, the magnitude, the--

“Or, ah, I could just…” Carter motioned to the side with her tray, indicating that maybe she should leave. T’Sik straightened, realizing she had forgotten to speak. It would be best, of course, for Carter to leave. And yet T’Sik was among humans, and humans were overly concerned with politeness.

“You may sit,” T’Sik said, shuffling her padd to the side. She hadn’t yet touched her own dinner, having been absorbed in her studies, but since her focus had already shifted, a dining companion would not affect her in any way. Not in any way whatsoever.

“Thanks,” Carter said, setting down her tray and slipping into the seat across from T’Sik. “Carter, Angie Carter. I don’t know if you recognize me.”

“From Warp Mechanics, yes,” T’Sik said. “You are vocal in class-- it would be difficult to miss you.” She didn’t fail to notice the derision in her own voice, masking something else. Everything else.

Carter laughed, a sound so loud and unrestrained it shocked T’Sik into straightening, leaning back slightly. Carter didn’t cover her mouth, nor did she seem ashamed. She just laughed , and T’Sik watched those strong shoulders shaking, watched that smile stretching, and felt something very uncomfortable tighten her abdomen.

“I just don’t like to keep my opinions to myself,” Carter said, waving a hand as her laugh subsided. She leaned her elbows on the table, twirling her fork through her salad and spreading the dressing around. “Not like you, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you say more than three words at a time.”

“Your statement is false,” T’Sik said, “I said sixteen words after you introduced yourself.”

Carter chuckled again, a little more subdued this time, her smile bright. “Well, all the same. It’s good to meet you officially. What’s your track?”

“Medical,” T’Sik responded simply. She did not return the question. Instead, she pulled her own neglected tray toward herself and took up  her spoon, eyes falling from Carter’s.

“Oh, interesting. First year?” T’Sik nodded. “I bet you're about ready to be done with your core classes then. I’m engineering myself, third year,” Carter offered, unprompted.

T’Sik didn’t know what to do with that information. She had assumed Carter’s track based on the woman's frankly incredible grasp of the concepts in their class, but she did not want to say so aloud.

Carter took a few bites of her salad as T’Sik dug into her now cold soup. They were quiet for a moment.

T’Sik had no concept of ‘awkward silence,’ except that she knew humans attempted to avoid it. But Carter seemed to take to the silence easily, to T’Sik’s surprise, and T’Sik found it refreshing. Humans often needed to talk in order to feel comfortable, but T’Sik had no idea what to say to Carter, her strange and aggravating classmate, and so she allowed Carter to speak or not as she willed.

After a while, Carter looked up and set her fork down, drawing T’Sik’s eyes to her, mid-bite. “Do you want to go out sometime?” Carter asked suddenly, and T’Sik felt her throat close around her soup as she choked.

She raised a fist to her lips, closing her eyes and coughing into it. Before she knew it, a hand was slapping her back, and she opened her watering eyes to see Carter leaning over the table, whacking between T’Sik’s shoulder blades as though she thought that would help.

“That does not help,” T’Sik managed to say, clearing her throat around the obstruction and regaining her breath. Carter returned to her seat, looking concerned.

“Sorry,” she said, “I didn’t mean to, ah-- surprise you. Are you alright?”

“I am unharmed,” T’Sik replied, taking a drink of her water. In truth, she was horribly embarrassed at how obviously she’d been startled by Carter’s question, and she knew in spite of her valiant attempts to suppress it, that her cheeks would be flushed green by now. She tried not to meet Carter’s eyes.

“Should I take nearly choking to death as a ‘no,’ then?” Carter asked, a little smile in her voice.

“Vulcans do not date,” T’Sik said immediately. Something like panic was rising in her, a completely unfounded and unfamiliar emotion. She did her best to shift it to the back of her consciousness for future meditation and consideration.

“Right,” Carter said, taking up her fork again and giving a shrug. “Nevermind, then. Worth a shot, right?” She winked, and T’Sik found herself leaning back in her seat, adding confusion to the growing list of the day’s emotions that she would have to parse through and box away. She understood the flirtatious nature of the gesture, and yet Carter had willingly accepted T’Sik’s rejection.

Carter seemed to realize then that T’Sik did not have an adequate response-- or any response.

She grinned that now-familiar sideways grin and set back into her meal. “So, Starfleet,” she said conversationally, her request for a date seemingly forgotten. “Strange choice for a Vulcan. What made you decide to join?”

It took a moment for T’Sik’s brain to change tack, to set aside the ease with which Carter seemed to move on. When she did register Carter’s question, it occurred to her that she didn’t have to answer it.

And yet, against her better judgement, she found herself talking about the need for Vulcan nurses, about her desire to protect and provide a service to the Vulcans in Starfleet. She found herself engaging in conversation with a brash, illogical human, even asking Carter about her journey, her origins. She learned about Carter’s family-- tailors by trade, based in Oregon-- and their own less than enthusiastic reaction to their daughter's career path.

“Technophobes,” Carter explained with a shrug and a smile.

And, still against her better judgement, T’Sik found herself enjoying it.

 


 

 

“No no,” Carter said, leaning over T’Sik’s shoulder and tapping the padd. “See there? That’s where the plasma coils connect. Do you see what’s wrong with them?” T’Sik stared at the screen, but she was far more aware of Carter’s breath ghosting past her ear, Carter’s hand on the backrest of her chair, Carter’s chest just a hair's breadth from pressing against her back.

“I… do not,” T’Sik managed to admit. She had a perfectly adequate understanding of mechanics, but her academic goals required much more than ‘adequate.’ It was only logical she should seek Carter’s help for advanced study sessions. Only logical they should spend an hour, more, a few hours a week, like this, tucked into an intimate corner of the library together.

She felt Carter’s smile before she saw it, and she tried not to look. “Okay, don’t worry about it. Let me grab my padd and I’ll show you.” Carter drew away and T’Sik tried to suppress the urge to follow her movements.

Carter sat down in the seat beside T’Sik at the library table, digging her padd from her bag. The thing was overflowing with papers and pens and bits of wire and other unidentifiable electronics, as disorganized as its owner and just as full of surprises.

“Thank you, Cadet Carter,” T’Sik said softly.

“It’s Angie, I keep telling you,” Carter laughed, straightening and meeting T’Sik’s eyes.

“Angie,” T’Sik echoed, and she knew as she said it that the tenderness in the name was too obvious. It was, in fact, the reason she tried not to call Carter by her first name. When permission had first been granted to do so, T’Sik had felt an unfamiliar emotion that had only begun to grow in its intensity. Thinking of Carter as ‘Angie,” such a childlike and intimate nickname, only made it worse. But Carter didn’t mention it.

Two months now, they had been on speaking terms with each other, and Carter had not once given any indication she still wanted more from T’Sik than casual friendship, nor did she seem to pick up on T’Sik’s rather uncomfortable growing affection.

T’Sik was relieved, truly. Vulcans did not ‘date,’ and T’Sik would certainly not date Carter. She had a plan, a path, and right now Carter’s sole role in that plan was to help her study.

But sometimes she wondered if the desire was still there, if Carter-- Angie-- would still be amenable to… to more. They were illogical, unnecessary thoughts, but present all the same.

 


 

 

T’Sik handed her padd to her friend, watching Angie’s eyes widen with glee at her final scores. She was so expressive, so free with her emotion, and T’Sik almost felt herself smiling.

“I knew you’d do well,” Angie said, thoughtlessly laying a hand on T’Sik’s back as she looked over the screen. “Second highest marks in the class-- I should have guessed.” She handed the padd back and lowered her hand, and T’Sik averted her eyes.

“Thank you for your tutelage,” T’Sik said dutifully, and Angie snorted.

“‘Tutelage?’” Angie repeated with a light nudge of her shoulder. “Who says ‘tutelage,’ you nerd.” Her chuckle was infectious, affectionate, and T’Sik couldn't even bring herself to object to the toothless insult. “You know I had fun, right?” Angie continued. “There’s nothing I love more than talking about engineering. Let alone talking about engineering with you. I bet you’re glad it’s over, though.” Angie was flashing that wide-lipped smile, her cheeks flushed a little more than usual. Her hair, longer now than it had been at the beginning of the semester, twisted in tangles around itself just above her ears, and T’Sik found herself staring.

She had long stopped worrying that she stared too long.

“In fact,” T’Sik said, nerves rising in her in a way that her meditation had so far failed to stop, at least when it came to Angie. “I have enjoyed our study sessions.” She paused, realizing the implications, and backtracked. “To my surprise,” she added cooly.

Angie laughed, that laugh that started in her belly and burst out her lips, and T’Sik ached knowing there was no reason to spend time like this with Angie anymore. No reason to hear that laugh or see that smile that had once been alien and now smacked of warm familiarity. She had completed her required engineering credits, after all, and Angie was unlikely to take xenobiology and therefore require T’Sik’s help.

“I’ll miss you,” Angie said as the laughter faded, and T’Sik felt her own fingers clench along the length of the padd. “Studying with you, I mean,” Angie corrected. “Can we still hang out sometimes? After I get back from break, of course. I’d like to hear how your project goes.”

T’Sik doubted that. Angie had often expressed that she didn’t understand T’Sik’s research anymore than T’Sik understood the intricacies of an antimatter converter, but whether or not she understood, she cared.

That was, in fact, Angie’s most valuable quality. She cared.

“I would like that,” T’Sik said, finding she meant it. Finding she, too, would miss Angie. Somehow this illogical human had become a part of her daily life, and she wanted her to remain. It was illogical. If her family knew of this friendship or the longing for more that T’Sik nursed in the privacy  of her own thoughts, they would use it as ammunition-- knowing they had been right all along about the effects of Starfleet on a Vulcan. But T’Sik didn’t care what they thought anymore. Not when Angie’s smile turned fond, genuine and unguarded, shining onto her like sunlight.

 


 

The word ‘love’ was as foreign and indecipherable to T’Sik as any other expression of emotion. She knew its definition, of course, could glean its meaning in context, but when it fell out of Angie’s pink lips she could not conceive of the fact that it could ever be applied to herself.

“I love you,” Angie said again, as if sensing that the first time hadn’t fully sunk in, “and I’m sorry . I know it’s not what you want-- I know Vulcans don’t do… do this whole dating thing, but I’ve been falling in love with you since the day I saw you and I just--”

“Angie,” T’Sik said, her own voice sounding strange to her ears. Angie looked up, those blue eyes swimming. She was sitting on T’Sik’s bed as T’Sik stood. T’Sik didn’t recall standing, only knew that the second Angie had said that word she needed to move. She needed to do something. She needed to regain the control that was slipping because the word ‘love’ had changed something intrinsic within her. ‘Love’ had ignited a flame that she had tried to snuff out since Angie had first sat at her lunch table and laughed that beautiful laugh. ‘Love’ suddenly carried meaning it had never carried before.

A meaning T’Sik thought she might understand now. At least in part.

She returned to the bed, sitting beside her friend, trying to keep her posture straight as a counter to Angie’s curved back and slumped shoulders. She never wanted her friend to feel the despair that seemed to weigh on her now.

“I do not know,” T’Sik began, clasping her fingers in her lap. “If I am capable of giving you what you desire.” Her voice sounded tremulous. Angie straightened, looking at her, though T’Sik couldn’t bring herself to meet Angie’s eyes.

“You don’t have to,” Angie rushed to say, reaching out as if to lay a hand on T’Sik’s knee, but withdrawing it. “I just-- I had to get it out, you know? I had to say something or I was just gonna--”

T’Sik didn’t mean to reach out. Her mind had gone completely, blissfully blank. Her thought processes working on a level she could not control or hear or understand. So when her hand landed on Angie’s thigh and her fingertips found the hem of Angie’s uniform dress and she felt the very human coolness of Angie’s skin, she wasn’t thinking of anything.

Until Angie’s eyes widened, and somehow T’Sik managed to speak, though it was not her rational mind that formed the words. It was something else within her. “If you might allow me to finish,” T’Sik said, and Angie didn’t look as though she could speak anymore, so T’Sik took a moment to continue. “I do not know if I am capable of giving you what you desire,” she repeated, then took a long breath. “But I would like to try.”

Angie seemed to stop breathing, searching T’Sik’s face, and T’Sik kept her gaze steady on this woman beside her who was everything T’Sik wasn’t, so stunningly human, so beautiful in her imperfection. And though T’Sik’s thoughts were trying to intrude again, to convince her that this was a terrible idea, she didn’t want to pay attention to them.

So she didn’t. She paid attention, instead, to the hand that laid itself over hers, the hum that traveled up her arm like a wildfire consuming a forest, and the impressions that seemed to tingle along her nerves.

Angie’s fingers curled around T’Sik’s and T’Sik felt her breath hitch at the intimacy of the contact. It was careless on Angie’s end-- she didn’t know what that touch meant or how it felt-- but that didn’t change T’Sik’s understanding that she would crave this touch forever, the feeling of Angie’s overwhelmingly bright mind shining just within her grasp, the feeling of those rough fingers gripping her own as though Angie didn’t want to let go either.

“Do you mean that?” Angie asked, voice timid in a way T’Sik had never heard it. Angie was always confident, sometimes overly so. She was the kind of person to stick her hands in a mess of wires without a thought for her skin, to speak up in a class of a hundred cadets without a thought for her reputation. And in this, she was scared. T’Sik could feel it in her.

And T’Sik didn’t want to see Angie scared. It wasn’t logical.

So she leaned forward, placing a hand on Angie’s cheek. She had seen humans kiss, but did not know how to do it right. She met Angie’s eyes and ran her thumb over freckles and licked her own lips, asking Angie silently to do this for her. To teach her this the way she’d taught her the inner workings of a starship, the way she’d taught her to appreciate subtle humor, the way she’d taught her to understand ‘love.’

And Angie closed the distance between them, pressing her lips to T’Sik’s in a touch too gentle to explain the way it bowled her over. Everything about Angie seemed so hard from the outside, but in this she was soft, calm, bringing her free hand to the back of T’Sik’s neck and twining her fingers through T’Sik’s hair and gently coaxing T’Sik to tilt her head.

T’Sik melted into the movement, shifted so she could lace her fingers through Angie’s, making a small noise in the back of her throat that had those lips smiling against hers. She knew this was unwise in a thousand ways, knew Angie had already distracted her so much from her studies, from her solitude, from her perfectly intricate plans. But knowing all this did nothing to stop her wanting those lips on hers, those fingers against her fingers, that palm against her palm. Angie sighed into her mouth, and T’Sik felt the brush of a tongue along her lips. Her whole body tingled as she pressed into the kiss, and she knew she could not have kept herself from this even if she had tried.

Just as she knew she had hardly tried.

 


 

 The arms around her were strong, comforting in a way T’Sik had come to rely on. Though Angie was only 1.23 inches taller than her, T’Sik’s chin fit perfectly in the curve of Angie’s shoulder, and Angie’s hair smelled of rose-scented shampoo. There was an artificial tang to the scent that had once bothered T’Sik, but it didn’t anymore. Not after the year she’d spent sleeping on Angie’s pillow where the scent clung to the twine of fabric, not after the year she’d been twisting her fingers in Angie’s hair and laying open-mouthed kisses along Angie’s skin, which bore the same sweet scent. Now, she knew it as Angie’s scent-- Angie, who T’Sik may very well have loved if only she knew how to say the word aloud, how to apply it to the woman who stood now at the transport station with a bag over her shoulder and T’Sik in her arms.

“I’m sorry,” Angie whispered against T’Sik’s hair.

“You do not need to apologize,” T’Sik said, but her voice was not confident in that. “You are following the logical path of your career and--”

“Don’t give me that,” Angie muttered, voice strained against the pain that T’Sik could feel in her. She took T’Sik by the shoulders and pulled her away, meeting her eyes. “You’re going to graduate early, I know you will, and the second you do--”

“They will not assign me the Farragut,” T’Sik said simply. The truth of it had occurred to her the moment Angie told T’Sik which ship she’d been conscripted to. “There are no Vulcans aboard the Farragut. It is more likely I will be given the Enterprise or an assignment aboard the all-Vulcan vessel that Starfleet has been considering.”

Angie snorted, a derisive laugh to cover every other emotion that swirled in her eyes. “Then I’ll work up toward the Enterprise or put on a pair of plastic ears and get myself assigned to that Vulcan ship. I don’t-- T’Sik, honey, I don’t want to do this without you.”

“And yet you must,” T’Sik said, pulling away. It hurt, breaking the hold of those hands she loved so much, but she had to. It would be easier if she did. “And I must follow my path without you. Neither of us planned to--”

“Stop,” Angie said, and T’Sik saw tears welling in her eyes. “I don’t care about plans or paths or-- or any of it. I just,” she paused, licking her lips. “I love you,” she said, as she said every day without once expecting T’Sik to say it in return. “And I’ll miss you.”

It took a great deal for T’Sik to admit the same aloud. She had never openly shared her feelings with Angie, though they had shared the shallow meld of a mental connection and the breaths and brushes of their bodies. The words themselves had always eluded her, but if nothing else she owed Angie this.

“I will miss you as well,” she said. And Angie reached out to clasp her hand one last time. She gave her the smallest smile, though sadness tinged its corners.

Their hands released, and Angie turned to the shuttle, sparing one look over her shoulder. T’Sik held her in her gaze for as long as she was able, until Angie turned away and boarded the shuttle out of sight. Even when it departed, T’Sik stood there, reconsidering her perfectly constructed future for the first time in her life.

 


 

 

Months would pass between subspace calls. Angie only had so much time allowed on the channel, and she still had family on Earth she needed to contact occasionally. But whenever possible she checked in with T’Sik. And though T’Sik didn’t know if they could still call themselves lovers, she knew the word ‘love’ was still the first to enter her mind when that smiling face popped up on her screen.

Angie grew her hair out, pulled it into a bun that made her look older than her 23 years, more experienced. Her uniform was always crisp, clean, badge shining, and T’Sik couldn’t help the feeling of pride that rose within her every time she saw how the mission was affecting this woman she cared so deeply for. Space was good for Angie. The Farragut was good for Angie. She had friends, stories of alien planets and a thousand horrifying malfunctions, but she always spared the time to ask about T’Sik’s studies.

T’Sik missed her with an ache that never seemed to fade, and she meditated often over what it meant. She had come to Starfleet for one intended purpose, and without the constant distraction of Angela Carter’s lips and smile and conversation and wandering hands and sparkling laughter, she was able to more studiously pursue it. But she recognized the illogic in only allowing herself one benefit of the multi-faceted experience that was the Academy. Her service to Starfleet would be an accomplishment-- the very accomplishment she had set out to achieve-- but perhaps success in that area was not the only success she should measure.

Somehow, she had earned the love of a woman who was intelligent, compassionate, humorous and driven. And somehow in spite of months of meditation trying to shove it down and months more of meditation trying to make excuses for it, she had to admit that she loved Angie, too.

Love. She shouldn’t have been capable of it. But she was. And maybe her family would hate her for this, for even suggesting a bond with a human, but she didn’t care about paths or plans anymore either. She cared about Angie. She loved Angie.

And she decided that the next time Angie called, she would tell her as much. Angie deserved those three words, even if they were the hardest T’Sik ever said. Angie deserved to know that when T’Sik graduated and the world widened before her, she would choose the path that led her closest to her lover.

 


  

If T’Sik and Angie had disclosed their relationship with the proper paperwork, perhaps someone would have thought to tell T’Sik in person, or at least contacted her directly. As it was, she found out like the rest of them-- through half-heard conversations in hallways, through whispers and rumors that seemed to slip into the student body like an infection, and spread just as rapidly.

Such rumors started first surrounding Captain Pike of the Enterprise , and T’Sik hardly listened. ‘Missing in Action’ nearly always turned out to be a false alarm. People went ‘missing’ on exploration missions at an alarming rate, and usually returned within a day or two. It could all be chalked up to a momentary loss of communication on a landing party.

Then, the rumors whispered the name of Pike’s science officer, Spock. T’Sik did start to pay attention then, if only because it had been more than a day, and the conversations overheard in corridors were more consistent. Besides, Spock was one of her people. The most famous of those in Starfleet. If he had gone missing alongside his captain, that would be news indeed.

The next day, T’Sik was in the mess hall when she first heard the word ‘Farragut ’ in association with the rumors, spoken in low tones at the table beside her. A stricken-looking cadet sat whispering to her fellows, saying that the Farragut and the Enterprise had both lost officers somewhere out past the edge of explored space.

It took T’Sik five minutes and twenty-eight seconds to dispose of her lunch and run to her room to access the computer terminal.

T’Sik excelled in all areas of study, barring warp mechanics, as it turned out. Computers in particular would have drawn her in if she hadn’t been so devoted to the practice of medicine. So it took very little effort to access classified mission reports, and to uncover one from Captain Garrovick of the Farragut .

The report concluded that six officers were now listed as two days missing in action: Captain Pike, Commander Spock and Yeoman Nelson of the Enterprise . Lieutenant Kirk, Doctor Taigen and-- and Angela Carter of the Farragut .

T’Sik felt dread well up inside her, a counterpoint to the logic of assuming all missing persons would be recovered as they often were. She tried to tell herself again and again that Angie would be alright, that she would return laughing to her ship and call T’Sik with another wild tale of her adventures. And then T’Sik could finally tell her that she loved her, as she’d been working toward for months.

 


  

A week passed. T’Sik neglected to turn in two assignments and found her attention wandering in class. At night, she looked upward, illogical to assume there would be any answer up there, but thinking somehow she might be able to see evidence of her lover in the stars.

 


  

Week two, she read another classified report. Alpha Novus V, the planet where the landing party had disappeared, had been quarantined. Until they could discover the nature of the tragedy, at least. The best scientists in Starfleet were examining data. She continued to dig into reports, messages, anything that might reveal a little bit more information.

There was none.

 


  

Week three, maybe four, maybe even longer. T’Sik could no longer tell. A chain of messages between Garrovick, Acting Captain Robbins and Admiral Nogura expressed a lack of hope.

 


  

After two months, all six members of the landing party were presumed dead. A message was sent out to all Starfleet personnel disclosing the loss, though T’Sik noticed certain details were missing-- the exact planet within the system, the exact circumstances, everything but the names. Starfleet expressed their condolences, and T’Sik wondered vaguely how many were left in mourning.

 


 

 

Leaving Starfleet often felt like her only option. Especially now that the semester had ended the way a star went into supernova.

T’Sik’s performance had declined rapidly. She could not focus in class, could not bring herself to study. She could hardly drag herself to her advisor appointments where the disappointed officer assigned to her expressed concern at her lack of ambition. And the worst part, if one could call anything in this mess of grief and agony ‘worse’ than the rest of it, was that she had no one with whom to share her anguish. She had told no one in her family about their relationship, insisting on secrecy that she always thought Angie would resent her for if Angie were less understanding, just a little less compassionate. And Angie had been her only friend. The only person T’Sik had ever needed. The only person T’Sik could ever rely on. Now she felt the hole of her presence in a way she never had when Angie had been out in space.

Because for all her talk of plans and goals, T’Sik had always believed that Angie would return to her, or that she would return to Angie. That somehow they would find a way to come back together. As the months wore on, “presumed dead” became “declared dead” and the world seemed to move on from the tragedy. The study of what had happened hit a dead end, and with the quarantine in place no one would be able to gather new information.

Six people dead, and Starfleet carried on. T’Sik should not have been surprised. People died all the time in Starfleet. It was a hazard that they all deemed worth the risk when they joined. But they were just people who died. Nameless officers on far-off worlds and far-off ships. Never Angie. Never the sole being T’Sik could claim to love.

But Angie had told T’Sik once that she was proud of her.

“Well I think it’s admirable,” she had said one night, as T’Sik laid on Angie’s chest and allowed herself to fall into a pattern of breath that complemented the steady rhythm of Angie’s heart. “You’re willing to sacrifice so much to help a few people. You’ll be the first Vulcan nurse in the fleet, but I bet you won’t be the last. You’re paving the way, honey.”

“It is hardly an accomplishment. I could be of more use on my homeworld,” T’Sik had said, raising her head and looking into her lover’s eyes. The Academy beds were narrow, but T’Sik never minded the proximity. Angie’s hand came to her cheek.

“That’s your family talking,” Angie said with that treasured smile. “You know better, don’t you?”

T’Sik had looked hard at her then, weighing her sincerity, but Angie never said anything she didn’t believe with her whole heart. Her conviction was as much a part of her as her haphazard freckles and her wide smile and her steady heartbeat.

“Perhaps I do,” T’Sik had said. “However, if you might be willing to remind me occasionally, I believe that will help.”

Angie had grinned at that and she’d leaned up to lay a gentle, human kiss on T’Sik’s lips.

Now, T’Sik sat in her empty dorm room-- curtains drawn, slumped in front of a computer screen that showed her course assignments for the next semester-- and she touched her fingertips to her lips, recalling the taste of Angie, the feeling of her soft body pressed close, the gentle strength of the hands that sought out T’Sik’s in the middle of the night.

Angie had been proud of her for pursuing her goals. It would be a disservice to her to end them now. But T’Sik could not carry on has she had, bearing the weight of mourning on her thin shoulders. She had never been as strong as Angie was.

Three days, she spent in meditation, refusing every thought of Angie that came into her mind, shoving every memory into the recesses of her consciousness. It was difficult. For the first two days, she could think of nothing but the woman she had loved and lost. But the longer she spent denying the emotion, the less insistent it became. She fasted, kept her windows closed and her doors locked and absorbed herself in the patterns of her mind.

Then, when finally she emerged exhausted from the trial of meditation, it was with calm, cold intention. She could not allow herself to feel anymore. Feeling had nearly ruined her. She had been weak. Love and grief had bored holes in her that she had only now begun to repair. It had been a mistake. It had all been a mistake. And she could now refocus herself, her intentions, her goals.

She would not think of Angela Carter again.

 


  

The Enterprise .

T’Sik’s assignment did not come as a surprise. Since Commander Spock’s disappearance, Captain Robbins had requested more Vulcans in her crew. She was used to working with them, T’Sik had heard, admired their dedication and their intelligence. And when T’Sik graduated as the first Vulcan nurse of Starfleet, it was only natural that she should be assigned to care for them, with the promise that she would transfer to the all-Vulcan vessel when it was christened.

She was one of four of her race on the Enterprise crew, but she could not claim that any of them were friends. Stenek would occasionally seek her out for a game of kal-toh, but otherwise T’Sik kept to herself.

Well, for the most part.

To her surprise, Robbins was the one member of the crew with whom she formed the deepest connection. Robbins was a strong commander, calm and logical, and T’Sik admired her for that. They functioned well together when situations necessitated it-- the odd landing party or injury.

But, more than that, they would occasionally sit in the observation deck in silence together, staring out at the stars. The first time, Robbins had seemed surprised to find her there, but joined her with only a muttered “May I?”

The second time, and each following, they simply sat beside each other as if the rendezvous had been planned, though it never was. Somehow they both simply found themselves in need of the quiet starlight. Though T’Sik had once prefered solitude in this, she found it felt somewhat soothing to have Robbins nearby.

Rumors had always suggested that Robbins and the late Captain Pike had been romantically involved, but T’Sik hadn’t given those rumors credence until she began to share these moments with her captain. Because the way Robbins stared out at the stars was the same way T’Sik did, as though she were searching them for answers, for an explanation, for resolution to a loss that could never be resolved.

T’Sik had long buried her grief, had long buried Angie and the thought of the person she herself may have become had her lover lived, but it was only when she sat with Robbins and stared out at the stars that she allowed herself to grieve, to hope, to wish, to wonder, to do all the things she prevented herself from doing otherwise. There was a freedom in their quiet companionship, and if T’Sik felt shame for it, well. She suppressed that, too.

 


  

“Nurse T’Sik, prep a room for surgery,” Doctor Boyce barked as his overbearing presence flooded Sick Bay. He barreled in-- steps quick and sure with an air of urgency he almost never exhibited. “McCoy, prep a biobed. We’ve got two lifesigns and one of ‘em is in bad shape-- A Vulcan.”

T’Sik had been seated at the desk, looking over medical records, but at this she straightened. She had passed a couple crewmembers earlier discussing a distress signal that had reached them, but she had ignored it and moved on. Distress signals happened all the time-- it was not her business until it became her business.

Now, it looked as though it had.

“Vulcan?” She asked. “I was not aware we were near other Federation vessels.”

“We’re not,” Boyce said, and McCoy drew up beside T’Sik, his own confusion evident in the furrows of his forehead.

“Then how’in the blazes did a Vulcan get all the way out here?” He asked, giving inelegant voice to T’Sik’s own question.

“The distress signal came from near the Alpha Novus system,” Boyce said with a meaningful look. “Captain’s saying it might be survivors from Pike’s landing party.”

Something gripped T’Sik’s heart like a clamp, taking the breath from her lungs. Hope surged within her, clawed at her mind as though it were digging itself from the grave in which she had buried it, and even though she tried to kick it down, she was unable.

“Do we know their identities?” She asked at once, her voice choked in a way she had never heard it. Both Boyce and McCoy looked to her, surprise raising their brows.

“Not until we beam them aboard, Nurse,” Boyce said almost patronizing. “And the second that happens they’re gonna need medical care. Prep the room.”

His voice carried no room for argument, and so T’Sik obeyed. “Yes sir,” she said, sounding far away to her own ears.

She completed her duties in total silence, straight-backed, fingers trembling around the blankets she laid over the surgical table, grip slackening around sensitive equipment that she fumbled over and nearly dropped more than once. It was inexcusable. Hope, fear, grief-- any emotion was forbidden to her.

And still, her mind turned over scant facts as though she were an archeologist uncovering hidden truths, putting together puzzle pieces. She couldn’t help herself. The Vulcan lifesign would be Commander Spock, of course, and her first duty would be to him. But…

But if that second lifesign happened to be one of the humans--

What were the odds that it could be her human? Astronomical. Impossible. And yet-- if Commander Spock had survived, why couldn’t Angie?

She could not think around her hopes, could not rationalize them or attempt not to feel them. Instead, her mind swirled and fluttered and her restless energy climbed and she began to wonder, to allow herself to wonder, what she might say to Angie if she saw her agian.

She had never allowed herself to think of such things, but now she couldn’t stop herself.

An hour passed before word from the transporter room said their patients were on the way, both unconscious. She was grateful McCoy had taken the comm, or she would have asked at once after the human’s identity. As it was, she hovered by the door in anticipation, buzzing with it.

When the door slid open and Boyce barrelled through with a few security officers and two floating stretchers, T’Sik felt hope rise the instant before it came crashing back down.

The human body, laying imobile on one of the stretchers, was male. T’Sik didn’t recognize him, but it didn’t matter who he was. Pike, Nelson, Kirk… it could have been any of them or none of them and it would feel the same. It was not Angie.

T’Sik swallowed her despair, shoved it down and put it in the back of her mind where she put everything. Of course , it was not Angie. How irresponsible and irrational that she had allowed herself even the briefest hope. This was precisely why it was dangerous to invite feeling, or even to allow it. This was precisely why she had forced any meaning from the thought of her lover’s name.

“McCoy, take care of Kirk. Nurse.” She thought she heard something, vaguely through a fog, but she was staring at the unconscious human, unable to look away until Boyce’s voice broke through. “T’Sik! Are you coming or am I gonna have to do everything myself?” Boyce barked over his shoulder as he shoved past her, carting the stretcher that carried Commander Spock behind him.

Her eyes followed Boyce and the limp body of Commander Spock long before her body did. It took far too much time to force her feet to move.

 


 

 

T’Sik could not hear Kirk’s thoughts, not in words, not without a meld. But she heard intention. She heard feeling. She heard love .

Her protests had fallen on deaf ears. The humans understood that the trance was delicate, but McCoy in particular insisted Kirk be allowed to see Spock. “He hasn’t gone quiet about it since he woke up. Just give him a minute,” McCoy had said.

T’Sik had laid down ground rules, of course, but that was before she knew why Kirk wanted so desperately to see his companion. It was not simple friendship, no. She’d felt it the moment he walked in.

He stood by Commander Spock’s bedside now with grief in his eyes and in his heart and in his mind. T’Sik felt it filling the room as though it were noxious gas, choking her, making her weak. She knew grief. By Surak, she knew grief better than most. Kirk had no right to grieve when his lover lay there before him, a steady breath in his lungs.

As Kirk rested a hand on the mattress she heard him calling to Spock. The anger that had only begun to bubble now surged in her, fury at the mere thought that this human, this worthless human had dared to form a bond with one of her kind and that now he dared to use that bond to Spock’s detriment. Did he know what he was doing to the man he thought he loved? Did he know the damage his mere existence could cause?

“Remove him,” she said without thinking, striding forward. The volume of his thoughts would be too loud, would distract Spock from his healing. His proximity alone was too much. Their bond was palpable, almost a physical sensation that stretched between them, and T’Sik could not allow him to remain-- to test Spock’s control.

And her own.

 


  

T’Sik allowed herself gratitude that McCoy restrained Kirk. She could easily subdue the man, especially in his weakened state, but her duty was to Commander Spock, to pulling him from his trance. So far, the human had done nothing but interfere with Spock’s healing. In honesty, she wished McCoy hadn’t called him at all.

But again, McCoy had insisted, and so T’Sik had to complete this delicate process with the distraction of Kirk’s fear pulling at her mind. She did not allow his emotions to overwhelm her, and stayed steady in her task, slapping Spock into wakefulness with as much dedication and detachment as she did anything.

When Spock’s hand shot out to clasp around her wrist and his eyes forced themselves open, she felt it immediately-- his own fear and his confusion and his love. Those emotions were overwhelming, far more overwhelming than Kirk’s, a tidal wave of feeling that she didn’t know any of her kind were capable of. Half-human or not, nothing like this should have come through the tentative mental connection formed through their contact. It was a relief when he released her, when she could move off the bed and toward the door, joining McCoy where he stood.

Kirk rushed forward, his hands on Spock’s face, on Spock’s hands, on Spock’s heart. He whispered love against his bondmate’s lips and T’Sik felt pulses of it radiating from them both. Her kind was not made for love. They were made for logic. Logic sustained them. Logic had sustained her for two years.

And here, Spock had thrown all logic to the wind, expressing his affection physically, mentally, in a way that was revealing and discomforting and-- for reasons she couldn’t identify-- made her furious.

She looked away as McCoy did the same, her heart aching in a way she had forgotten it was possible to ache. Kirk and Spock had found each other, fallen in love, and now reunited alive, healthy, happy.

Selfish.

The word floated into her thoughts without prompt, and stayed there. And she found she could not let it go. Selfish.

They didn’t know about Angie. They didn’t know about T’Sik. They didn’t know that others had been robbed their chance at happiness in order to give them theirs. But their ignorance didn’t excuse this. This was the human’s influence. He’d broken down Spock’s Vulcan control as Angie had once broken down T’Sik’s. If Kirk knew the damage he could cause, he would leave at once. He would run to the other end of the quadrant. He would never dream of allowing Spock to love him.

Or, perhaps, he did know, and simply didn’t care.

Selfish , she thought again, a refrain that built and boiled in her thoughts, and she felt her hands clench subtly at her sides.

 


 

 “You are to be held for observation,” T’Sik said cooly. She had regained herself slightly since Kirk had left mere hours ago, her control shaky at best, but present. And she was determined that nothing Spock said or did would endanger that. “Those are my orders. If you simply wish to see your bondmate, you may wait until you have been cleared.”

She scanned him again, though she had done so multiple times, ran tests over and over again. Even she wasn’t entirely sure why. Somehow holding him here, keeping him alone, made her feel better about her own solitude.

‘Feel.’ Feel . Since the moment the two survivors had entered her Sick Bay, all she could do was feel , after two years of restriction, constriction, apathy-- pure, blissful nothing.

Oh, how T’Sik missed the comfort of nothing.

“If you have thoughts, I request that you share them,” Spock said, and T’Sik finally met his eyes. They were dark, piercing, and familiar despite the fact she had never met this man. And yet, there was something in them that T’Sik never saw in Vulcan eyes. Emotion. Controlled, yes, but emotion . She did not want to indulge him in his curiosity, but somehow she needed to ask. His actions were illogical. She had made a mistake as a young woman, fallen into the trap of love, fallen into a promise spoken in gentle caresses and a tender smile. He was a Starfleet officer, older, wiser… he should know better than to bow to a human’s romantic whims.

“I do not understand,” she said after a moment. Setting down her scanner, she held her hands behind her back.

“Clarify.”

She took a breath. Unsure if it was wise to continue, but she felt as though she were a scab that had been picked at, reopened, and now spilled. And she couldn’t contain it anymore.

“I understand the necessity of forming a bond in your situation,” she said, attempting to keep all feeling from her voice. “Mental connections are often created through shared traumatic experience, and Vulcans are communal creatures. Were I trapped on a planet with a human, perhaps even I would have succumbed to the need for-- for companionship.”

The thought of Angie floated again through her mind, and she shoved it back, putting her lover in the box her memory had inhabited for two years. “What I do not understand,” she continued, “is the necessity of maintaining this bond. Do you have plans to sever it? A Vulcan healer could do so, and yet I sense no intention of it in your mind.”

Emotion flickered in his eyes again, something incendiary and harsh. “That is because I have no intention to sever our bond.”

“You called him t’hy’la,” she said, the word strange on her lips. “Are you aware of the importance of claiming such a title?”

“Infinitely. I would not say it if it were not true.”

“So your intention is to take this human as your mate?”

“I do not believe my personal affairs are your concern.” The bite to his voice recalled her of his rank, and she managed to restrain herself. How could she chide him for his emotional display when she was acting no better? Shame sank deep into her bones, just one more emotion she could no longer avoid.

She simply needed him to know what he was heading toward. She needed him to know how this ended. So few people could offer him the warning she was capable of offering. Wasn’t her duty to do so?

But she had overstepped.

“They are not,” she conceded, “I simply know that you have lived outside Vulcan society for two years. You may have forgotten--”

“I am aware of the social consequences of my actions,” he said with a tenor that chilled her hot blood. “I bonded with James Kirk of my own will and volition, and nothing has changed.”

Nothing has changed. That he could say such a thing as he lay in a biobed two-thousand years away from where he’d spent the last twenty-three months, that he could say such a thing while his human bondmate wandered the ship, mind reaching for Spock’s in a way any telepath could sense...

“With all due respect, Commander Spock,” she said, and she needed him to understand. She wanted him to understand. The loss he would suffer for this would ruin him. He would lose his Vulcan heritage and then he would lose his human lover and then he would be alone. Was he not afraid of being alone? She took a breath and looked into his eyes. “I believe everything has changed.”

Something in her words seemed to resonate with him, but as the silence stretched long between them she understood that she had not changed his mind. There was certainty within his expression that she felt herself envying. Certainty in the face of something no one could be certain of. Love. Life.

Finally, as though emerging from a fog himself, he spoke. “I stand by my decisions, and you have no cause to hold me here any longer. Discharge me.”

T’Sik felt her composure falling away as frustration caused her fists to tighten behind her back. Humans. Their effect always rippled. Angie had once taken away T’Sik’s shields, slipped into the cracks in her foundations, and in her absence T’Sik had crumbled. Emotions were useless, love was destructive, and Spock should have known better .

“He makes you emotional,” she said. “You are my patient, one of my species. I simply wish to help.”

Though he met those words with an almost imperceptible clench to his jaw, something in his countenance softened the longer he looked at her. The fact that she could even notice the difference spoke to the very warnings she was trying to provide. He was losing control, losing focus. “I understand,” he said. “However, you would be surprised how self-sufficient one becomes when stranded on an alien planet for two years. I do not require your assistance.”

Another flash colored his eyes, and T’Sik looked away.

Something in their tension had broken with his words, and T’Sik suddenly felt embarrassed. Her duty to Spock was as a healer, not as a harbinger. He would make his own mistakes, as she had made hers. And if they destroyed him, then they destroyed him.

At least she had tried.

“I-- I will speak to Doctor Boyce about releasing you from Sick Bay,” she said, self-conscious of her momentary stutter.

He thanked her, raised the ta’al, and T’Sik found herself returning the gesture without thought. Though she had wanted to hold Spock here for her own selfish reasoning, now she felt she would very much like him gone. His presence made her uncomfortable. The implications of his decisions made her uncomfortable.

When she wandered into Sick Bay at large and knocked on Doctor Boyce’s office door, he called gruffly for her to come in.

She walked in to find him leaning back in his chair, arms over his chest. “What is it?” he asked without kindness.

“Commander Spock’s vitals are adequate. He would like to be discharged,” she said. Her voice sounded wrong again. Not her own. Sad and tired and so human in its weakness.

“Your medical opinion?” Boyce leaned forward, chair squeaking with the shifting weight.

“There is no reason to hold him any longer.”

He paused, leveling a look at her before he stood. “What’s the matter, Nurse?”

The question surprised her. She drew back slightly as he approached. “I do not understand.” It seemed she was saying that a lot today.

“Something’s getting to you. What is it?”

“I am functioning perfectly adequately, sir,” she said, and the panic borne of being discovered rose within her. A human should never be able to sense shifts in her emotions, and yet Boyce, whose mind was growing weak with age, could sense it. She had fallen so far in the span of a day.

“Don’t pull that,” Boyce responded, waving his hand. “You’ve been off-kilter since the second we picked up these two. What’s got you all riled up?”

“I object to the inference that I am emotionally disturbed,” she said stiffly, some of her old composure returning to her voice out of habit rather than out of any real control.

Boyce let out a low whistle. “Sure. Listen, nurse, why don’t you take the rest of the day off?”

“With all due respect--”

Boyce held up a hand, something gentle in his eyes that were so often hard-edged. “That’s an order. If we’re kicking Spock out of Sick Bay, you don’t need to hang around. Go cool off.”

“Sir, I am not--”

He leveled his eyes at her again and she clenched her hands behind her back. “Yes, sir,” she finally said, and he seemed to drop his shoulders.

“Good. Get out of here and I’ll get the paperwork set up.” Boyce was gruff, but like McCoy all of his scowling sarcasm covered concern. T’Sik had never felt that concern directed toward her before.

She didn’t recall thanking him, but she must have. She didn’t recall leaving Sick Bay, but she must have. All she knew was that she wandered out into the corridor in silence and moved forward, feet carrying her exactly where they wanted to go, and no farther.

 


  

The observation deck was always soothing. If nothing else, it served as a reminder that T’Sik sometimes needed. The universe was vast, far larger than any of them would ever know. They-- humans, Vulcans, Starfleet -- sped about on their starships, set their boots down on alien worlds, looked up to alien skies and dreamed of reaching that unreachable edge, of knowing all there was to know.

And yet watching the stars rush past reminded her that they would never see everything. They would never know everything. As living beings, their view of the universe was narrow, the first and last breaths of their lives taking place in the same fraction of a moment in comparison to the great span of time.

So when T’Sik craved certainty, the kind of certainty she had seen in Spock’s eyes, this place served to remind her that none of them were certain. None of them ever would be.

And maybe she had to come to terms with that.

She thought, then, of Lieutenant Kirk. She did not know him, but she had heard his mind, felt its impulsivity, its insistence, its recklessness and optimism and unrelenting determination. And its certainty. Thankfully, she could now consider those traits without anger, the numbness having returned to her in some small way. She thought she understood now, why that anger had turned so fully to him.

He reminded her of Angie. Not in voice or countenance or appearance or anything physical she could perceive. But in mind. Spirit. She wondered if, maybe, they had known each other on the Farragut . If maybe they had been friends.

Her fingers clenched along the hem of her dress, and she took a deep breath through her nose, sitting straighter on the little carpeted bench, trying to hold back the realization that had begun to flood her.

But it was no use. She should not have been capable of love, but she was. She should not have been capable of hate, but she was. And she hated Kirk for surviving when the woman she loved had not. It was a simple understanding, and yet it proved to her what she had been trying to deny since the day she had decided to rid herself of feeling altogether.

She could not put Angie in a box and shove her to the back of her mind. She could not shed the weight of her grief or her sick fascination with the possibilities of ‘what if.’ She had to carry Angie, as she had all this time. Maybe it was proof she was broken, damaged, not Vulcan enough to claim her heritage, but there was no denying it anymore.

Somewhere to her left, the door slid open, and T’Sik’s eyes shot up to the intruder. She was ready with an excuse, ready to stand, to hurry away, but when the soft eyes of Captain Robbins fell on her, she found she couldn’t quite move.

“Nurse T’Sik,” Robbins greeted, moving into the room. “I thought I might find you here.”

T’Sik straightened. “Doctor Boyce ordered me out of Sick Bay,” she explained hurriedly. “If you require my assistance--”

Robbins held up a hand and moved toward her. “May I?” she asked as she had the first time she had found T’Sik here, holding out her hand to indicate the empty space at T’Sik’s side.

T’Sik nodded and Robbins settled down beside her. The woman let out a weary sigh as she sat, placing her hands absently on her knees. “It’s been a long few days, hasn’t it?” She asked, seemingly conversationally.

Without knowing the captain’s motivation, T’Sik could only look sideways at her, a thousand responses floating through her mind before she dismissed each of them. She didn’t respond.

“Listen,” Robbins said, turning. Her hands laid in her lap, and her eyes caught T’Sik’s in a probing gaze. “I wanted to tell you... I know how you feel.”

When the statement settled, that same panic surged inside T’Sik again. Panic and anger and disbelief because no one could claim to know how T’Sik felt. No one should know she could feel at all . And no one knew--

“Angela Carter was one of the lost landing party,” Robbins explained, breaking through T’Sik’s thoughts. “I hear you two were friends, back at the Academy.”

“From whom?” T’Sik snapped, accusation in her tone that she couldn’t hold back. She didn’t have any other friends, and had always hated spending time with Angie’s. Who could possibly have told her?

“Lieutenant Scott knew Carter, too, and took a few classes with her. He said you two always seemed close.”

T’Sik turned her eyes away from her captain, staring out at the passing stars as if she might be swept away by them, pulled into the universe’s currents. But she remained seated, couched in a reality that she couldn’t change by wishing.

‘Close.’ The word sounded so hollow. They had ‘always seemed close.’ Humans were more prone to exaggeration than understatement, but ‘close’ could not begin to describe what Angie had been to T’Sik. What they had been to each other.

At one point, T’Sik had thought she would abandon her life for that woman. At one point, T’Sik had actually believed she might bond with Angie. Form a lasting connection, a formal one. At one point, T’Sik thought she would damn her family and her heritage and chase after the warm feeling Angie nurtured in her heart. ‘Close’ implied friendship. Angie had been so much more than that. She still was.

Robbins didn’t fail to notice T’Sik’s silence. She turned her own attention out the window, and T’Sik wanted so desperately for this to feel like it usually did. For the silence to settle comfortably between them as they both searched the stars for their answers.

But they had their answers now, and answers weren’t enough.

“I’ve never told anyone on the crew,” Robbins said softly after a time, and T’Sik didn’t look at her. She couldn’t. “But Christopher-- Captain Pike and I-- were together. A couple. You probably knew. I think everyone did. But all this time I have… I am not sure why I never said it aloud.”

She paused and stood, walking over to the window. T’Sik watched her silhouette against the passing stars, a straight line of a woman, calm even in her grief.

“All this time, I have to admit I had hope. I thought that if anyone could come back, it would be him. He was always so stubborn .” She laughed something low and humorless.

T’Sik swallowed something hard in her throat. The deck was quiet, nothing but the hum of the ship around them and the far-off echo of activity that only a Vulcan could hear. She wanted to sink into that silence, back into the bliss of nothing, but it wasn’t an option anymore. Two years ago, she had told herself that she could not carry on with the weight of her grief. Now, she knew she could never shed it.

“Angie--” her throat closed around the name, but she continued, forcing words from her numb lips. “Angie was also stubborn. She did not suffer inconvenience well.”

Robbins turned to her, something in her eyes that T’Sik did not look upon long enough to decipher. Instead, she dropped her gaze to the floor, streaked with the light of passing stars, a kaleidoscope.

“Did you love her?” Robbins asked, and T’Sik felt something trembling inside her, something awakening that had lain dormant for so long.

T’Sik found it in herself to stand, though her legs were shaking slightly. She hoped Robbins didn’t notice as she drew up beside her, eyes fixed out the window. “Vulcans are incapable of love,” she said.

Robbins nodded, a deep breath making her chest rise, then fall slowly. “I know you might want that to be true,” she said. “But we’re all capable of love, aren’t we? I never thought I was either, but…” she stopped herself, something in her countenance tightening. When she continued, it was as though she were reluctant to do so. “I envy Spock. And Lieutenant Kirk. They have what I could have had. What you could have had. It’s okay to mourn for that.”

To T’Sik’s horror, her lip began to quiver. She clenched her jaw to stop it, but something was happening to her physically, her weakness manifesting as her eyes stung and her breath shortened. She could not allow herself to break. Certainly not in front of her captain. She could not allow this feeling to consume her.

Though even as she thought it, she knew it already had.

“I did love her,” T’Sik said quietly, nearly too quietly to hear. It was the first time she’d ever said it aloud. Though she had planned to. Long ago, she had planned to say it aloud to the one soul who needed to hear it. “But I could not tell her. I feel--” she paused, a breath heaving her chest and suddenly everything felt tight . She felt too big for her body, and still so, so small. “I feel regret,” she admitted, and a single hot tear rolled down her cheek. Turning from the captain, she pulled her hands to her sides, clenching them tightly, trying to clamp down on everything that had burst from her. “I feel regret because she died and did not know that I would have-- I would have loved her until I was dust. Until-- Abi' tra' vesh' ek'es-ris losrak,” her native tongue began falling from her lips without her intention, her thought, but she couldn’t stem the tide, “t' me heh ek'es-ris losrak t' ish-veh heh--”

A hand came to rest on T’Sik’s shoulder and suddenly she was turning. Suddenly Robbins was coming toward her. Suddenly a pair of arms wrapped around her back and pulled her in and T’Sik’s nose was buried in her captain’s tunic and she was crying . She had never cried, not once in her life, but now tears spilled from her eyes and choked her throat and even though her arms stayed straight at her sides she let herself lean into the body before her as Robbins’ embrace encircled her.

“I know,” Robbins said, and T’Sik could feel tears pressed against her scalp, could feel Robbins’ hot breath in her hair. “I know.”

And T’Sik realized that if anyone knew, Robbins would know. If anyone knew, someone who had spent the last two years in the same haze would know. T’Sik clenched her teeth against her tears, closed her eyes and pulled a labored breath through her lungs and tried to find that center inside her, though it had shifted so desperately she didn’t know if she could ever truly reclaim it again.

Breaking the hold of Robbins’ arms, T’Sik found her hands on Robbins’ wrists, pulling them away and holding them between their bodies. Robbins looked to her with slight surprise in her shining eyes. The starlight gleamed on the streaks of her tears, outlining her high cheeks, and she looked somehow inhuman in the light.

T’Sik swallowed, holding Robbins’ gaze because she couldn’t shy from it. She needed the understanding that she saw in those eyes, the understanding that flowed from Robbins’ mind like a river-- the coolness of it easing what had remained parched and dry inside her for so long. “I-- I grieve with thee,” she managed to say, and Robbins seemed to wilt slightly.

“Thank you,” she said. “And I-- I am sorry for your loss, too.”

T’Sik nodded, fingers still curled around Robbins’ wrists as though she couldn’t quite force herself to let go. This was the most physical contact she had shared with anyone in years, outside medical necessities. And something in her craved it.

“Does it help to know?” Robbins asked. T’Sik considered the question, parsing through the emotions of the last few days.

“No,” she decided. “Or… perhaps. I am unsure.”

“I am, too,” Robbins admitted.

“I believe-- I believe we all are,” T’Sik said, finally releasing Robbins’ wrists and turning back to the window. She was trembling, but attempted to contain it, tucking her hands behind her back once more. Her tears had ceased to fall, but the threat of them remained in the tremor in her voice. “That is what this means.” She looked out toward the starlit expanse, realizing only then how esoteric the statement seemed to be. “The stars, I should say,” she clarified. “We can be certain of nothing.”

Robbins drew up closer beside her, close enough for their arms to touch. She followed T’Sik’s gaze out the window and another sigh broke the rhythm of her breath.

“I don’t believe that,” she said after a moment. “I think all this--” she nodded out the window, a gesture that meant nothing to the vast expanse of black and light. “All this means that the only thing we can be sure of is ourselves. But as long as we have that, we have all the universe has to give us.”

T’Sik looked to her, the strong, angled profile Robbins carved against the light and shadow that flashed over her face. “And if we are unsure even of ourselves?”

Robbins swallowed, lips tightening as though holding back the tears she had only just forced to subside. “Then that just means we have more to discover. We aren’t just out here to explore space,” she said. “We’re out here looking for ourselves, aren’t we.”

T’Sik allowed the sentiment to reach her, to sink in. As philosophical and needlessly romantic as it sounded, there was truth in it.

“Thank you,” she said, unable to find a better way to respond. And Robbins looked to her, a small sad smile on her thin lips.

 


  

Two years later

McCoy rolled his eyes, slapping a hand on Kirk’s back. Kirk stood at Commander Spock’s bedside, a sight that reminded T’Sik of a moment that felt a lifetime away, though she could no longer sense Kirk’s emotions. He had done well in his mental training since he’d begun serving on the Enterprise , with some help from Spock and T’Sik, and she was grateful she could no longer hear him worry every time Spock ended up in Sick Bay.

Now, she stood off to the side with her padd, attempting to stay out of what was becoming a friendly squabble.

“Come on, Jim,” McCoy said. “He’s fine. Isn’t he, T’Sik?”

T’Sik met Kirk’s eyes and nodded. “The hypospray will wear off in approximately three hours. He is otherwise entirely unharmed.”

They had been forced to sedate Spock so that he might actually rest. The landing party had been stuck on the planet below for three days, and according to Captain Robbins, who sat upright in her own biobed just behind T’Sik, Spock had not slept at all in that time, and he had staunchly refused to do so upon reboarding the ship.

The hypospray had been McCoy’s idea (as he seemed rather fond of sedating his friends), but Kirk had not been upset about it at the time. He wanted his bondmate to sleep as much as the rest of them did.

“I guess it would be best to just leave him to it. I can’t imagine he’ll sleep well if I’m here hovering over him,” Jim said reluctantly, looking to McCoy, who smiled brightly.

“Look at you, Jim, finally listening to your doctor. Feel like I should commemorate it somehow.”

“Let’s celebrate with a drink,” Kirk suggested, rubbing his head. “After the last few days, I could use one.” He turned back to T’Sik, something entreating in his eyes. “You’ll look after him, right T’Sik? And call me when he wakes up?”

“Of course,” she promised, and Kirk gave her a grateful look. She knew quite well how concerned Kirk could become when Spock required any medical attention, just as Spock was when Kirk suffered any injury or illness. It was sweet, if somewhat aggravating for the medical staff.

“Alright, then let’s get you that drink,” McCoy said, using the hand on Kirk’s back to steer his friend to the door. “Comm me if you need anything, T’Sik.” She nodded, though she knew she would not call him. Since Boyce had retired at the beginning of their five-year mission and McCoy had become Chief Medical Officer, he had been working himself to the bone. The scant injuries sustained by Captain Robbins did not require his help, nor did Spock’s condition.

She watched the two depart, and a voice spoke up from behind her. “I admit, I’m surprised he agreed to go,” Robbins said, and T’Sik turned with a smile attempting to tug at the corner of her lips, though she restrained it.

“While he is stubborn, he occasionally recognizes the value of logic,” T’Sik said, approaching the captain’s bedside. She set the padd down and pulled a medical scanner from her pocket, running it over Robbins, who let out a short sigh.

“I’m quite alright, T’Sik,” she said softly.

T’Sik knew as much. She had personally attended to the captain’s wounds, the many shallow scrapes she had endured by crawling through briars, the few bruises sustained in an altercation with the planet’s primitive lifeforms. Now, all that was left was the resting, but T’Sik scanned her all the same.

“I admit,” T’Sik started cautiously, “three days without contact, I believed we would find both of you in far worse condition.”

Robbins’ small smile shined brightly in the white light and T’Sik attempted to stop her cheeks from flushing. Robbins seldom grinned, seldom laughed without restraint or did much of anything without restraint, but she tread emotion with a delicate balance that was rare in humans. She could express her joy, her humor, her sadness, without allowing it to overwhelm her. T’Sik respected that. Admired that. Admired her.

“I know Vulcans are incapable of worry-- both you and Spock have been quite clear on that--” Robbins said with a gentle tinge of humor, “but just know, you will never have to worry about me.”

T’Sik’s eyes fell to her feet as she pocketed the scanner again.

“Of course, Captain.”

“Euredice, please. I am off-duty.”

T’Sik’s throat closed, but she managed to breathe the name. “Euredice,” she said, and the way it came out was far too soft, too tremulous, too tender. But T’Sik did not feel shame for that tenderness. Once, she would have retreated from it, but now it simply existed, as everything within her did-- emotion and logic beginning to blend, though the occasional battle remained.

They were silent for a moment, and Robbins-- no, Euredice , shifted, a hand coming to T’Sik’s forearm and laying against the skin. T’Sik took in a breath through her nose, meeting her captain’s eyes.

“Three whole days,” Euredice mused. She paused, her eyes turning contemplative, the small smile fading slightly. “Is it strange to say that I missed you?”

Something tight curled around T’Sik’s heart, even as her pulse sped up. She wanted desperately to look away, but she always had trouble looking away when Euredice held her gaze like this, as though her own attention was arrested. T’Sik had long tried not to examine what that meant, but now she did, and she found it didn’t scare her as much as it may have once.

She swallowed and laid a hand over Euredice’s, fingers curling slightly.

“I missed you as well,” she managed to say, admitting to an emotion she should not have been able to feel. But that was okay. If she was broken, damaged, it was okay. At least she knew who she was. At least she knew what she felt.

So when Euredice leaned up and tilted her head, T’Sik only hesitated for a moment before she leaned down in turn, meeting her captain’s lips with calm, quiet certainty.