In the pathway of the sun,
In the footsteps of the breeze,
Where the world and sky are one,
He shall ride the silver seas,
He shall cut the glittering wave.
I shall sit at home, and rock;
Rise, to heed a neighbour's knock;
Brew my tea, and snip my thread;
Bleach the linen for my bed.
They will call him brave.
- Dorothy Parker, "Penelope"

"There is no logic in behaving as if you are yet one bonded," T'Ser, the clan matriarch, said to T'Pel. "You are yet young, and your husband is most certainly dead. It would be appropriate for you to consider taking a new husband."

"There is no proof that Tuvok is dead," T'Pel said serenely, no trace in her voice or expression of the anger she could not entirely stop from feeling, illogical though it was. "And I have four children. My oldest son is newly bonded. I have no time to pursue remarriage, nor any desire to do so."

"You are too young."

She was 92. She had married a man fifteen years her senior, when she was twenty-five and he was forty - his parents were in Starfleet and had chosen to let him choose his own bondmate, expecting that he might require a wife who could travel with him, while her expected bondmate had died in an accident. Vulcan women were not generally permitted to remain unbonded past the age of thirty. The pon farr killed unbonded males and tradition stated that despite the acceptance of male homosexual bonding, despite the acceptance of men taking alien wives, despite the fact that young boys still died on their kahs-wan, it was still necessary for any Vulcan woman who was not kohlinahru or otherwise unsuitable to give over her life and body to a man that he would not die or go mad. The cold statistics demanded that to ensure that all men of breeding age had bondmates, all women of breeding age had to be bonded or available to be bonded. It was not a choice.

The choice she had made, the only choice, had been in who she chose. A husband who had been offworld, who had experience in military and police operations, was not who most Vulcan women would have chosen, but for T'Pel, Tuvok was the closest thing to rebellion against the dictates of her society that she was allowed. Her clan was powerful, a distant offshoot of the Shi'Kahr aristocracy, and they did not interpret the teachings of Surak to allow military service, or Starfleet service, or the occasional need for violence required of police officers. She placated her family by becoming a nurse, a counterbalance to her choice of husband - a man older than she was, a man who had been among offworlders, a man whose entire family accepted and embraced necessary violence. Spies, soldiers, Starfleet officers, peacekeepers. This had not been T'Ser's mother's idea of a suitable husband for a great-granddaughter, and now that T'Ser was matriarch, evidently she wished T'Pel to move back toward the traditions of her clan.

A 92-year-old widow would never be accepted by the matriarchs. The Vulcan women who ruled over the clans were chosen from those who had performed their lifelong service to the Vulcan species, giving themselves to a Vulcan husband until either he died or his fires faded in old age. T'Pel was not even quite middle-aged yet. She had four children and might soon be a grandmother, but it was too soon for her to take the power of a widow, not when she had nearly a century left that she could give. So T'Ser believed, as T'Pel could see in her repeated insistence that T'Pel was young.

"I am young to be a widow," T'Pel agreed. "But Tuvok's fires last burned merely months ago. If he lives, he has seven years to come back to me. If he does not live... then in seven years, I will know it." And if he lived, but could not return within seven years, he would either die or be forced to take a new wife. She could consider the matter of a remarriage then... or, more likely, spend the next seven years coming up with good and logical reasons why she couldn't remarry, because she had no desire for a man that was not Tuvok.

"There is no reason to believe that he lives," T'Ser said. "His ship was lost in the Badlands. The Maquis craft he traveled on was small, and could not be expected to withstand a violent spatial anomaly. A Starfleet vessel, better equipped, was lost at the same time. Why would you assume that the Maquis craft could survive what the Starfleet vessel did not? It defies logic."

"They didn't find debris from either vessel," T'Pel said. "I don't assume that the Starfleet vessel was destroyed, or that the Maquis vessel was. Kathryn Janeway is a superb captain, for a human, and her crew are excellent Starfleet officers. I consider it entirely possible that Janeway did find the Maquis vessel, that she took her quarry into custody, and that her ship was lost, but not destroyed, with Tuvok back aboard it. In the absence of evidence, either scenario is possible."

"But the odds against the scenario you describe are highly implausible."

"Yet not impossible. And I am under no time constraint as a man would be. I will work, and if Sek and Sotari grant me a grandchild, I will help them tend that child. Asil has returned from the ranks of the kohlinahru to pursue a worldly life, and I will assist her in that. Varith seeks a mate; I will assist him. Elieth attends graduate studies; I will assist him. My life is quite full; I have no need to pursue remarriage at this time. I can wait, to learn the truth of Tuvok's fate."

T'Ser leaned forward. "T'Val never considered Tuvok a suitable mate for one of your stature."

"And yet he has given me four healthy children and a satisfactory life. It is illogical to seek more than that in a marriage."

"True. But there are several men from Shi'Kahr, of ages similar to yours, who seek a mate of an appropriate clan after the loss of their wives. I believe it would be wise for you to entertain their offers."

T'Ser was the clan matriarch. Reforms made over the centuries prevented her from actually having any legal power over who T'Pel did or did not marry; T'Pel was an adult, and Vulcans no longer allowed the clan leaders to rule over the adults in the clan. But the social pressure she could bring to bear was considerable. "I am certainly willing to converse with them, but they must understand I will make no swift decisions."

"They have time."

So this was to be her task, then. Entertain men she had no intention of marrying, converse with them, show T'Ser the proper deference due a clan matriarch and appear to be doing her will... and stall for time. Because if Tuvok lived, and came home or sent word, then all of this was moot. She would not need to remarry if she was not a widow. In fact she had no intention of remarrying at all, but she didn't wish a confrontation with T'Ser and the rest of the clan matriarchs unless she was forced to it. "Send me their names and contact information, and I will make arrangements to meet with them." And then she would contact Sek and Sotari, and invite them as well. Let a man come to her home to meet with her about remarriage, and let him do so in front of her adult son and his wife, reminding them that she was a mother and perhaps soon a grandmother, reminding them that there would be no erasing her marriage to Tuvok. It would inhibit them, give them a reason to pursue their suits slowly... and that would give Tuvok time to come home.

I know you live, my husband. There is no logic to it... the bond doesn't operate over the distance you've traveled. I cannot know you live, and yet, I do. Come home to me, Tuvok. Soon.