It was the elder Spock who came to them, in the end.

Jim had been explaining to his own Spock what had happened with T'Pid and what it had meant, even though he himself didn't know for certain. Spock had taken in Jim's vague summary, but he wouldn't speculate on her intentions, which Jim felt were quite clear but couldn't bring himself to say aloud. Spock might have been experiencing the same reluctance.

Perhaps - surely - she had been attempting to put her own mind at ease by seeking Jim's; to ensure that while she would be allowing her mate to work under an ex-lover, she was not allowing him to work under an enemy. And Jim would hold to that belief, because anything more hopeful was unthinkable. He could allow himself to fall from small heights, but great ones? He couldn't survive that again. He was fairly certain that Spock couldn't either.

Just before the ambassador's arrival, Spock had begun insisting that the interaction did not matter, curious though it had been. There was too much to be discussed for them to be focusing on T'Pid's place in it all, which had already been decided. There were three options to be debated: Spock could stay, he could go, or he could go with Jim for seven years and then come back. Come back to die, as he had originally been planning before his marriage. T'Pid would not be waiting for him, if they carried out this betrayal.

Jim had been opening his mouth to reply. That was when the second knock of the evening had come.

Jim's bowed head lifted and his eyes sought out the door before flicking warily to Spock's. Was it her again? It was Spock who stood to answer it. It felt like a protective maneuver, but Jim crowded at his back at the door, regardless.

"Who is it?" he whispered and Spock glanced at him, clearly exasperated.

"I have not yet opened the door," he said. Jim couldn't help chuckling a bit into the back of his neck.

When the door slid away, there Ambassador Spock stood again. They both gazed at him, unsure if they should be surprised or not.

"T'Pid has requested an audience with T'Pau," he said, bypassing any pleasantries. And without waiting for an invitation, he stepped around them and into the room. He was more restive than Jim had ever seen him, and Jim held back from reaching for Spock's hand as the door closed.

"What for?" Jim asked.

"That has not been discussed among the council," he said, turning to face them.

Jim squinted at him. "Does that mean you know or not?"

"I have my suspicions. We spoke briefly, but she was somewhat cryptic in her wording with me."

"Yeah, well," Jim shifted on his feet, shoulder brushing Spock's, "that makes three of us." He glanced between them both. "Or, uh... two of us."

"Yes, I know she has been here. I must insist on knowing what was said between you," the ambassador said, and he began pacing as he had been in the halls of T'Pau's residence. "T'Pid seemed quite... shaken."

"She insisted on melding with Jim," Spock told him and Jim started at his candor. "He attempted to dissuade her, unsuccessfully."

"Blame it on me, thanks," Jim said.

Spock turned to him. "If I have implicated anyone, it is T'Pid."

The ambassador stopped and faced Jim as well. "You permitted her access to your thoughts?"

It was not accusing, but clarifying. The problem apparently was not that Jim had allowed it, but that T'Pid had asked in the first place. "Should I not have?" Jim found himself asking anyway.

"It is only that it is astonishingly personal, Jim, as you well know. Should her impetus prove to be selfish in nature, it would-"

"Make no difference," Jim retorted and regretted it when the ambassador blinked at him in a way he never had. "What else can she do to us now? And I'm sorry, I don't exactly know what she was looking for. But I'm not an idiot; I didn't have to say yes. It's on me now." And when they both opened their mouths, he stopped them. "And don't say I'm Human. I've melded with you enough times to know how invasive it can be. She was more careful than you've been sometimes."

He knew his own Spock well enough to read his expression, to know that he wanted to claim that he had that right where she did not, the right to be passionate and impolite in the merging. But there had been a time when the ambassador hadn't had that right at all and had claimed it anyway.

"So, I appreciate you coming here to defend my maidenly virtue, but you really didn't have to," Jim said.

"Gratified though I am to hear that your 'virtue' remains intact," the ambassador said, with no shortage of irony, "I was sent to summon you back to the compound."

Jim blinked.

"To what end?" Spock demanded.

"If any one of us has the answer to that question, it is not I," the ambassador said, and he didn't look at Jim, but there was no question of whom he was speaking. It raised Jim's hackles a little, but before he could say anything, his own Spock was gently gripping his elbow.

"What exactly did she say to you?" he asked.

Jim sighed at how expectant they both looked and sat at the edge of the bed.

"She found the bond," he said and met his Spock's eyes. He hadn't revealed that to him yet. He shrugged a shoulder. "What was left of it."

There came a considerate look on Spock's face, but if he was touching the link, confirming for himself, Jim couldn't really feel it. It angered him without reason.

"I should have seen to it," Spock said, like it was a suffering animal to be put down. Jim glared at him.

"Yes," the ambassador agreed, clear chastisement, and Spock shot him a look, but then knelt before Jim.

"Does it cause you pain?" he asked. "I haven't-"

"No," Jim said. "That isn't-"

"It is no surprise, then, that she insists on seeing T'Pau," the ambassador said with an actual sigh. The restlessness had gone from him. "Fledgling or no, flagging or no, she will want the link dissolved."

"That's not it."

The words were firm, firm enough that they both fell silent, waiting for him to continue. And Jim had been certain of the truth of them as he said them, though he couldn't explain why. But he swallowed now, less sure under their scrutiny. What did he know about telepathy or T'Pid?

"It's - she didn't seem-"

"What else did she say, Jim?" Spock asked, looking up into his face, brown eyes wide. Had the ambassador not been present, Jim would have leaned into him.

"She said she wanted to ascertain my character," he said. Spock frowned as much as Spock ever did.

"For what purpose?"

"She didn't say, but-"

"Excessive curiosity, no doubt," the ambassador said aside to Spock. "If-"

"She said," Jim said, not petulant, but impatient, and fascinated as ever that the tone worked on the elder as well as the younger, "that she would be 'acting in my interest,' if she was able to."


"That could mean any number of things," the ambassador said, before anyone could even voice what everyone was thinking, what Jim had been thinking since she had left. "The dissolution of this link is technically, as far as they are concerned, in your best interest."

Jim winced and reached for the hand of Spock's resting on his knee. "I don't want it gone," he said.

"T'Pid will."

"Well, God knows that's her decision," Jim snapped, and stood, crossing to the window so that they would both stop staring at him. From the quiet that followed him, however, he was unsuccessful.

"Ambassador," he heard Spock say, "would you give us a moment, please?"

There was no reply, and Jim thought the ambassador must have been searching for a polite way to refuse. But then there came the sound of the door opening and then shutting again.

Then Spock's footsteps. Hands settled on Jim's hips.

"I thought she might..." Jim shook his head, allowed Spock to settle him against his chest. "The way she talked, I thought -" Jim cut himself off. Great heights, after all.

Spock's mouth brushed his neck. "I know," he said.

Jim gazed out the window, shuddered at the kiss pressed under his ear.

"I want you to stay," he said, and Spock's fingers tightened convulsively in the hem of his shirt.

"You are lying."

Jim sighed. "I think you should stay, then." He tugged Spock's hands free and straightened his spine. "I'll hear of nothing else."

And he moved to retrieve the ambassador from the corridor. Spock's fingers lingered at his waist until he was out of reach.