Title: A House of Cedar
Summary: After fal-tor-pan, Spock undergoes relearning on Vulcan...and when certain things are not included, a disgraced Starfleet Admiral changes that.
Length: 14,907 words
Originally published in July 2002 in Beyond Dreams 5. Thanks to my editors/cheerleaders Jenna and Dusky, and to devohoneybee just because.
A HOUSE OF CEDAR 1/3
I opened to my love
but he had slipped away.
How I wanted him when he spoke!
I sought him everywhere
but could not find him.
I called his name
but he did not answer.
--Song of Solomon
And he buildeth the walls of his house within with beams of cedar
--1 Kings 6:9
Spock cha'Sarek fingered the small data storage chip, then looked slowly back up to the tired eyes watching him. "I...do not understand, Admiral."
Eridani's waning light filtered through the window coverings, highlighting the quiet tableau in a soft, pale, reddish glow. It accentuated the human's ruddy skin tone and enlivened the dark red Vulcan robe he wore, leaving him painted in a palette of fiery colors...all except his eyes. Spock was very aware of the distinct lack of animation in the human's eyes. That absence bothered him deeply for reasons his logic could not discern.
Admiral James T. Kirk sighed softly and underscored Spock's sense of disquiet. He knew that once again he had been unable to live up to the expectations of the human who had risked so much for him.
"I know you don't, Spock. It's okay, you'll figure it out. Just...play the tape. It's, uh...self-explanatory. Mom sent it to me; she thought it might hold some...some therapeutic value. Frankly, I had no idea it even existed...." Kirk shook his head, a strange expression on his face that Spock could not interpret as he sighed again and absently rubbed his jaw. "Came as quite a shock to me. But anyway, just play it. And here...open this after you play it. After...afterward, if you have questions, you know where to find me."
Having given Spock an inadequate explanation, a set of instructions, a wrapped package and a long searching look, James Kirk took his exit from Spock's room.
Spock experienced a strong, disconcerting impulse to open the door and follow the admiral, demanding specifics about what he expected Spock to "figure out." But such a desire, by definition, was emotional in nature and therefore highly illogical. Spock grasped the data chip tightly, his thoughts even more confused.
He stepped over to the windows and looked out over his mother's earth-styled garden. He looked at her prized roses, flashes of brilliant color against a backdrop of silver blue and gray native growth. Delicate earth flowers, whose existence was the height of illogic in a water-starved desert region. His mother, yet another human whose references to his feelings confused him.
How would he ever regain that which had been lost to him? The more the humans encouraged him to remember certain aspects of his old self, the stronger he experienced the desire to retreat to the safety of Seleya's huge, ancient-and understandable-enclosure. Yet he recognized that such a need was emotional in origin, so he worked harder on maintaining his controls as he plunged further along his journey of remembrance.
And this.... He looked down at the small bit of technology in one hand and the box in the other. It must represent a significant and important step along his journey, or so he had gathered from the admiral's demeanor. He observed with a vague confusion that his hand shook slightly as he held the data chip. Control, he thought clearly, there must be control.
Only after Spock had regained sufficient control of himself did he walk evenly across the room to the computer terminal. Another piece from the puzzle of his life was now about to be revealed to him.
An odd feeling settled into his stomach. Something in this unknown threatened his equilibrium, and his hand trembled again. He curled it closely around the edge of the desk and squeezed, welcoming the clean, focusing distraction of mild pain as the audio-only file began to play.
Personal journal, Winona Kirk.
Standard date 4.10.2270
// Ah...Thank god for the sauna. I'll let it soften the aches out of aging muscles while I talk for posterity. I overdid it today at work, trying to get ahead of the workload so I don't feel too guilty about playing hooky the next week or so. Busy days like today remind me only too graphically that I am no longer a young girl, despite my determination to remain young for as long as my heart keeps working. Unfortunately, I haven't quite figured out the way to will my entire body into compliance with that edict. Time, my old friend and foe, keeps demanding its toll.
Once, I could have supervised the new hybrid test planting all day, come home to whip up a family dinner, and then bedded down the horses, all without breaking a sweat.
Of course, once upon a time, everyone I loved was alive and well, too. I've learned the hard way to live in the moment, to hold on with a greedy grasp to whatever joy can be had. Like the off-world seed, soil and water I experiment with, life is too precarious, too precious to waste.
And now to speak of precious...as of today, my Jim is home! He has an unprecedented two week leave on Earth while his ship is being repaired. He's alive and healthy and so handsome.... It's been entirely too long since I saw him last. I nearly strangled him in my enthusiasm as he jumped out of the aircar.
He told me he brought home a present for me-said those exact words to me, with his typical butter-wouldn't-melt grin-and out climbed his wonderfully exotic half-Vulcan first officer. I thought Mr. Spock's eyebrows would climb into his hair when Jim said that. My smirking child left it to me to explain to Mr. Spock about my desire to discuss the latest desert agri-farming advances with knowledgeable Vulcan scientists. Mr. Spock seemed quite willing to let me pick his brain even if he was, as he informed me, "less than fully knowledgeable" about the subject.
We shall see.... Jim has told me that in his opinion, Mr. Spock is the most brilliant individual he's ever met. I'm very much looking forward to spending time talking with him.
But the imp inside me raised its head right away, and I couldn't resist gently rattling that lovely, imperturbable Vulcan calm. I grabbed Jim by the arm-truly, I don't want to have to let go of him for the entire two weeks he'll be here-and smiled my own version of Kirk charm, and told Jim that yes, Mr. Spock was very decorative, and I could see why he was so pleased with his second-in-command, and if he ever got tired of him, he could send him to me. I'd be happy to put him to work in my labs where I could, ah, keep an eye on him.
I don't think I've ever seen a Vulcan blush before. They get green as moss. It's quite endearing.
If George were alive, he'd be threatening me with bodily punishment for embarrassing a guest like that. Not that it would be much of a punishment, or a deterrent! That was so long ago now...best if I don't travel down memory lane tonight. It's not the mood I want to set while Jim is visiting.
Ah, Jim. Time has laid its hand on him, too...all his youthful potential ripened into an unparalleled man. There's a strong sense of innate, unquestioned power that radiates from him with every step. There are also lines and wear on his face he didn't have four years ago before assuming command, and there's new pain lurking in the depths of his eyes. But the love still blazes out to me, strong and joyous.
My youngest, my brilliant, my beautiful child. He's traveled so far, so young. The fire in him burns as brightly as mine once did. Oh, it's so, so good to see him in person and get to hug him and feel his arms around me. It's been too long since I felt a pair of Kirk arms around me. Dear George and Samuel....I only feel their embrace in my dreams now. Jim's all I have left, and Peter, my Samuel's own son. How time changes things.
I'm concerned about Jim. Oh, everything is fine on the surface, he's still as strong-willed and energetic as he ever was, but still...there's something so...so lonely about him. I've been thinking back.... I never really recognized before how oddly insular he's always been, for all his socializing. I know a little bit about being determined and goal-oriented and unwilling to let anyone else in for fear of getting off-track.
(How many times has Robbie proposed to me as of this week? How many more times will he ask before he backs off, fearing a loss of his own self-respect? But Roberto is too much like me, too used to getting his own way. We'd be disastrous together in the long run.)
As for Jim...I know his job creates, even demands an insular situation. It's the nature of the beast. I don't pretend to say that running Ag-Research Bio is anything like running a starship. The only power over life and death I have on a daily basis is deciding which seeds will sprout and which will not. But power hierarchies are similar, and god knows, I understand Starfleet all too well.
When I was young and impulsive, I had George as my balance, my fuel, even when he was light years away from me. And then I had the boys when George was no longer there.
Where is Jim's respite, where is his refuge? Where is the shoulder he can depend upon when he needs to unburden? I know him too well...if he doesn't unburden, he'll eventually implode from the strain of his own control.
He is a deeply caring person. He'll give and give until he's all used up...and I know Starfleet. They'll take and take and take it all, then discard him and move on to the next person. It's a deadly combination.
He needs something. He needs someone in his life--
[a door opens]
// Trust me, Spock, you'll like this. Frankly, I have serious doubts we'll be able to pry you out of here once you settle in, considering the weather outside at the moment. Hey, Mom. You look relaxed.
// Jimmy. Give me a hug, it's so good having you here.
// Feeling better after relaxing for a while?
// Much. I usually come here at the end of the day. Keeps me limber. Spock, please, don't stand on ceremony. I've declared you an official member of our family, so there's no excuse for formality. Come in, find a bench.... Is something wrong?
// I...I am intruding. I will let you and Jim have some private time together.
// Absolutely not! You are not intruding. This has always been a place for the whole family, ever since the four of us built it years ago, when Jim was about eight years old.
// Spock, get yourself in here. I know for a fact it's just the way you like it...the temperature and lighting replicate the environment on Vulcan. You can't tell me you prefer Iowa's early spring temperatures and the rain that's falling at the moment.
// It is amazingly similar to my planet's conditions, even to the visible light spectrum. I confess I am curious as to why.
// [laughter] Blame Jim's father. He grew up in Arizona desert country, and later spent time on your planet with his parents. To him, this room was a reminder of his childhood.
// Spock, put a towel down and stretch out. Relax! That's an order.
// If you insist.
// Jimmy, did you get the horses bedded down for the night?
// They're all snug in the barn. I think I'll take Cruiser out for a ride tomorrow morning.
// You know what Roberto calls him, don't you? Bruiser.
// Ha! He's just high spirited, always was.
// That's one way of looking at it, dear. I'm sure he'll be happy to give you a run for your money, though.
// I think that's just what the doctor ordered.
// Jim...I fail to see under what circumstances Dr. McCoy would prescribe something of that nature, given the danger involved.
// Oh, Spock! You don't know how happy I am to know Jim's got you by his side on the Enterprise. He needs a steady head like yours to balance out his tendency to...excess.
// Indeed, Dr. Kirk. Has he always been this way?
// Please, Spock, call me Winona.
// Both of you are insulting the captain of Starfleet's premiere starship. If I wasn't so damned comfortable, I'd leave.
// I believe an acceptable compromise would be my addressing you in the equivalent Vulcan manner as Lady Winona, as your son addresses my mother.
// What lovely manners you have, Spock. I think I could grow quite used to being called that.... Are you sure you don't want to quit Starfleet and come to work for another Kirk?
// A very tempting offer, Lady Winona. Your labs have everything a research scientist could want.... However, the move would leave your son on his own, with no one to curb his wilder impulses.
// Ah, very true, Spock. That is a quandary.
// Are you two quite done?
// Now, dear, you sound peeved. And yes, I am done, as a matter of fact. I've been in here long enough. Any longer, and I'll start to desiccate. But you two stay, relax. It was a long, exciting day for me, so I'll bid you both goodnight and go to bed. Give me another hug, Jim...mmm. It's so good to have you here.... And you, too, Spock. [laughter] Don't worry. I won't hug and smother you with kisses. Although if you stay long enough, I will make no guarantees.
[footsteps, a door opens]
// G'night, Mom. Sleep well.
// Sleep well, Lady Winona.
// Good night, my dears. I'll see you tomorrow.
[a door closes]
[long silence, then movement]
// Just where do you think you're going?
// I...I thought to follow your mother's example and go to bed also. It has been a long day.
// We've hardly done anything today, Spock.... You feeling okay?
// Nothing is wrong, Jim. I simply am tired and thought to go to my room.
// Tired? Now I know something's wrong...you're preferring to sleep in a soft, cushioned bed in a cool, damp room, instead of lying down in here in this desert heat and falling asleep as I fully expected you to.
// C'mon, Spock. You're my closest friend. Please, let me help. Tell me what's wrong.
// [pause] It is...difficult.... Despite the temperature, which is indeed quite agreeable, I do not believe I will be able to sleep in this room. I find it...quite...disconcerting.
// Disconcerting? Why? Disconcerting how? And would you please stop hovering near the door?
// Spock, sit down and talk to me!
// Very well.
[a long silence]
// I'm waiting. Rather patiently, I might add.
// [a sigh] This room is constructed of Terran red cedar.
// Yeah, my father and Sam and I hand cut each plank for this room. I suppose the natural wood was an extravagance for my folks. I remember smelling like cedar for days after we handled it. The four of us had a great time. What of it?
// I find it...unsettling.
// Unsettling? Why? ...... Spock?
// Any Vulcan would find it...unsettling. The odor of the wood. It is very...unsettling.
// So you keep repeating...but I'm still not following you. Does it make you feel ill? Is that it?
// [a faint sigh] Never mind. I'm obviously prying into something that makes you uncomfortable. Go on to bed, if you want to. Consider the subject already forgotten.
// You promised something similar to me once before, two years ago.
// Promised? What?
// That a difficult subject would be forgotten. "I haven't heard a word you've said."
// Oh...well...I meant it then, and I mean it now. You know, Spock, there are only three people I trust completely: Mom, Bones, and you. Our friendship means a great deal to me...I hope you know that. I...I was very honored, if a bit surprised, when you decided to come on leave with me while the ship's in spacedock. I had thought you might travel to Vulcan and visit your family.
// No. I did talk to Sarek and Amanda, however. They are both well and send their regards.
// I see.
// Actually, Jim...I doubt that you do see.
// What do you mean?
// Jim...I made a choice to accompany you on your leave, to your family home.
// Yes, Spock. Like I said, I was really surprised, but wasn't about to let you back out of coming.
// Why did it surprise you?
// ...Well...because I...had assumed that, like the rest of the Enterprise crew, you'd take advantage of the time available to visit the people who mean the most to you.
// Ah. You erroneously assume that the one thing equates with the other. In truth, Jim, they do not.
// They don't?
// No, Jim. Although you are correct in that I chose to spend my leave time with the person who means the most to me.
// Aw, Spock, I.... [a small laugh] I'm...that's very....
// You are apparently speechless, not a common occurrence for you, from what I've noted.
// [faint laughter] But not so speechless that I can't say how...touched I am by what you've said, and how very happy I am you're here with me.
// You honored me by asking me to accompany your visit to your home. And I confess, I have been quite...curious to see the place of your childhood, and the people that gave birth to the man you are today.
// Iowa's beautiful, and Mom's special, isn't she? And I-I was a damned lucky kid. But I don't want to talk about me.
// Think of it as a leveling of circumstances between us, Jim. In truth, you have been privy to much of my life over the years.
// Only because circumstances usually forced it, Spock, you've got to admit. You didn't exactly wax eloquent about your private life.
// Indeed. I have, however, learned over the past years how`pleasant it is to share with and be known by you, Jim. I would hope the reverse is true.
// Believe me, Spock...I can't think of anyone else I'd rather be sharing this with. And tomorrow, I'll teach you how to ride a horse.
// That is an activity I must admit I look forward to...with dubious pleasure.
// [laughter] Well I can't wait. I can only hope my body-ow-is prepared for the activity.
// Correct me if I am wrong, Jim.... I had thought the purpose of shore leave for humans was to relax and allow the stresses of their job to dissipate.
// Well...yeah, Spock, you're aware that's the general idea. And not just for humans, but for stubborn Vulcans, too.
// Hmm. In any event, given that goal, I find you have not yet begun to accomplish it very well. You are carrying as much muscular stress as you usually do while aboard Enterprise. May I?
// Uhhh...oh. Yeah. Ow. That's...yeah, that feels really good, Spock. You've got great hands. Keep attacking my shoulders like that and...there won't be any stress left.
// That would be my desire. Or to be accurate...it would be one desire among many.
[long pause with faint movements]
// Yes, Jim?
// ...I...uh.... [a low moan]
// I take it this is to your liking?
// ...it's great...ahhh......uh, Spock?
// I did warn you that the wood of which this room is constructed is unsettling to me.
// Yes, but....
// And I believe I have now proceeded past the unsettled stage and into the next level.
// ...the next level?
// Oh. Oh. Spock. I-oh. What are you...uhhhh...It's...I'm....
// Jim, you are uncharacteristically incoherent.
// I'm...being uncharacteristically seduced by my first officer!
// That is very true.
// Wait, wait, hold it, Spock. I-I...wait a minute, please....
// Jim...I have shocked you.
// No! Hell, no! Don't you dare shy away from me, Spock. I have to know...is it because of the cedar? Is that what you were trying to tell me? Does the wood have some kind of hallucinogenic effect on Vulcans? Is it like alcohol in a human's bloodstream?
// [sigh] Not...precisely.... Did you know Vulcans greatly prize certain off-world items, many of which originate on Terra? Sandalwood is most highly prized from your world...but cedarwood is also a prized item.
// They both have what you would call...an aphrodisiac quality for those of my planet. For Vulcans, who are bred and raised to continually control and suppress their emotions, the aphrodisiac nature of these items can assist us in...moving past what otherwise may seem like unbreachable learned boundaries, so that we may more easily enjoy our own physical nature on a regular basis, outside of the biologic imperative.
// That's why you looked like a stunned, cornered rabbit when you walked into the sauna earlier. You walked into a room of Vulcan Spanish fly!
// Ah, you refer to a human aphrodisiac. [a sigh] Yes. Your mother....
// You were embarrassed.
// Wearing very little, would you not also be embarrassed if the situation were reversed?
// Uh...yes, I definitely think I would be. Even if the idea of being scantily dressed in a sauna with Ambassador Sarek and Lady Amanda is something I have trouble imagining.
// The idea does confound the mind.
// Spock, just...I need to know...tell me this...this...isn't simply the result of breathing in too much, uh...stimulation.
// You know that is not the case. I could direct your memory to the numerous times on board the Enterprise that I, that we...the many times between us in which there was a heightened awareness of.... Jim, I confess it would be easier for me to show you directly, if you will permit?
// Yes, Spock, please...do it.
// My mind to your mind, my thoughts to yours.... Our minds are one.
[a very long silence]
// No! Don't go, Spock! ...don't leave....
// As you can tell, Jim, I have not.
// Don't break the link completely, I couldn't bear it, not yet. It's...we're....
// This is only a fraction of the Vulcan way, t'hy'la...a way where one need never be alone, or lonely. Jim, we have both walked a long, solitary path prior to this moment.
// You've always been there for me every step since I've known you, Spock. Do you see how much that means to me?
// Yes...and now, there is the possibility for...so much more.
// Yes, more, Spock. I want it all.
// As do I, t'hy'la, and in truth, I would like to begin achieving it right now.
// Oh! [delighted laughter] Guess I can't complain about the venue, can I? Even with hard wood benches.
// Suffice it to say...I find our current venue...extremely inspiring.
// ...Ah...I guess you do, Spock. This is so....
// "Arousing" seems to fit your current circumstances.
// God, yes...so damned unexpected.... I feel like a teenager again. I can't believe we're here, like this.
// Good...it is fitting we suffer the same affliction together. I, for one, would like to experience...more of...this. May we?
// My god, Spock, you're full of surprises.... I have a feeling you're always going to surprise me.... [a sigh] Tell me...what are our chances of constructing a cedar sauna on the Enterprise?
// Jim...while I enjoy listening to you, I have at this moment a better use in mind for your mouth, if you will permit me to show you.
// Spock! I'm speechless....
// That is most definitely my current goal.
Automatic voice recorder off after five minims.
End journal entry.
end part one
link to part two