Chapter Forty-eight

"Is it true?"

"It is."

"Where...where is he?"

"On the deck."

Joanna swallowed hard as she felt the knot in her stomach tighten. When Admiral Pike had contacted her and told her that Salen was alive she had broken down in tears fearful that she was in the middle of a hopeful dream. Even standing on the Admiral's door step she wasn't sure if she truly believed it.

Walking towards the glass doors that lead to the deck Joanna couldn't keep from trembling. Stepping out onto the deck she gasped as she caught sight of Salen. Dressed in white he was sitting cross legged on the railing, using his Vulcan sense of balance in a way that made it look like he was defying gravity. He was staring at the trees as their leaves rustled in the gentle summer breeze.

"Salen?"

Joanna had been warned that Salen didn't respond to his name, but it still hurt when he didn't even glance at her. Joanna approached him slowly, afraid of startling him. When she reached the railing Salen glanced at her for a moment before returning his empty gaze to the trees. Feeling like her heart was breaking Joanna reached out and lightly rested her hand on Salen's arm.

Reacting like a robot Salen turned his attention to the hand that was touching him. He stared down at Joanna's hand for a moment before pulling away to break their contact. Tears slipped down Joanna's cheeks as Salen continued to show no interest in her. He got down off the railing and leaned against it as he continued to ignore her.

"Salen, I love you..."

Salen looked at her once more, but he looked more annoyed than anything else. Desperate to reach him Joanna reached out and carded her hands into his hair. She attempted to engage him in a deep kiss, but he didn't kiss her back. When she realized that she might as well be kissing a statue she stopped. Unable to face him like this she turned to leave. As she pulled away she ran her fingers over Salen's in the traditional Vulcan show of affection. Feeling more miserable than before she went to talk to Pike.

"Wait..."

Joanna's heart leapt when she heard Salen's soft voice. She turned around and found that he was truly looking at her. Instead of the blank stare he was searching her face with his arched brow knit together as though he was trying to figure out where he knew her from. Joanna stepped up to him and held her hand out for him. Salen pulled away in apprehension at first, but then slowly stepped back up to her.

Salen hesitantly reached out and touched her fingertips with his own. Joanna encouraged him by running her fingers against his. Salen smiled and closed his hand around hers. He brought her hand up to his face and closed his eyes as he nuzzled the back of her hand affectionately. Joanna found herself holding her breath as Salen continued to inspect her. A pleasant chill ran over her skin as Salen reached out and caressed her face. His dark eyes studied her every feature with almost a comical look of concentration on his face.

"Salen? Are you okay?"

"I...I think you name is Joanna."

"That's right."

"And I think I love you."

"Oh really?" Joanna smiled mischievously. "Prove it."

Chuckling softly Salen's face lit up with a broad smile. He ran his hand through Joanna's hair and used the purchase to tilt her head back slightly. Salen pressed his lips against Joanna's gently at first, but he quickly became more passionate. Returning the affection Joanna pressed her body against his. Wrapping her arms around his waist she held on to him as though someone was going to pull them apart at any moment.

When Salen released Joanna from the kiss she hid her face in his shirt and broke down into a cathartic weeping. Salen cradled her gently and stroked her hair as she continued to cry in a mixture of relief and emotional release from everything that had happened. Salen held her closer and kissed the top of her head.

"It is okay. I am here." Salen whispered. "I love you."

Salen had to act quickly when Joanna fainted. He already had his arms around her, but he now lifted her up. As his memories flooded back to him he realized that she must have been told that he wasn't returning. His heart felt tight in his chest as he thought about all she must have been through. Looking up Salen caught sight of Pike who was watching them through the sliding glass door.

Pike smiled and motioned for Salen to come inside. Holding Joanna close to his chest Salen walked into the house. He went over to the couch and gently laid her down before returning to the Admiral. Salen knelt down in front of Pike as he always had. Pike chuckled and held his hands out. Salen reached out and took his father's hands and gave them an affectionate squeeze.

"Father..."

"I knew she could find you."

"I am sorry for all I have put you through. I should not have lied to you..."

"Salen, I am proud of everything you accomplished as a Dog."

"You are not ashamed of me?"

"No." Pike shook his head. "Not at all. As much as I hate to admit it the galaxy is full of evil that sometimes can only be resolved by violence."

"I still should not have lied to you. I will not return to the Black Diamond."

"It is your life to live, Salen. I just want you to do what you feel is best."

"I do not know what is best any more."

"Why don't you and your partner talk it over?" Pike suggested.

"Razor?"

Pike nodded his head in the direction of the kitchen. Salen hesitated, but eventually got to his feet. Walking over to the kitchen Salen found that Razor was sitting up on the counter. He smiled brightly at Salen and jumped down off his perch. He winced in pain as he adjusted his arm in its sling. Among the bruises Razor also held a slash mark across the bridge of his nose. Looking at Razor's cut ear Salen realized just how much trouble he'd brought into Razor's life.

"I am sorry that I tried to kill you."

"It wasn't the first time." Razor shrugged.

The pair fell into an uncomfortable silence for a moment. Razor shifted his weight, grimacing in pain once more. Salen wasn't sure what to say next, his memories of what had happened were chaotic at best. He had in his mind everything that Beckett had told Spock about the device behind his ear, but it was still hard to believe.

"Is Beckett..."

"He died saving you Salen, and he had no regrets other than mucking with your biology to begin with." Razor interrupted. "He left me in command of the Black Diamond, and I want you to know that you still have a place there."

"How am I supposed to trust the Dogs or even Starfleet after what they let Beckett do to me?"

"You're right...I'm not sure." Razor admitted. "However, the elite in Earth's history had a motto that I think the Dogs need to adopt: Semper Fi."

"Semper Fi?"

"Short for semper fidelis...'faithful always'."

"Razor..."

"I can't leave the Dogs, Salen." Razor interrupted. "They are my life, I owe everything I am to that crew, and despite a few bumps in the road I believe in them and what they do. There is no where else in the galaxy for me, the Black Diamond is my home."

"I understand."

"I need a First Officer, Salen, I want him to be you..."

Salen said nothing at first, frozen with indecision. Razor waited patiently for Salen's answer. Salen ran through the events that had lead him to this cross road in his life and in his mind he had a logical answer to Razor's request. However despite what logic was screaming at him Salen found himself taking a step towards Razor. Holding his hand out for Razor to take Salen had two simple words to answer his unspoken question.

"Semper Fi."

Razor smiled brightly and grasped Salen's hand. He pulled Salen closer and threw his arm over Salen's shoulders. Chuckling in relief Razor ruffled Salen's white hair.

"Semper Fi, indeed my Vulcan friend..."