23. One Heart, One Soul

A/N

Wow, what a ride it has been. It has been three years, since I started dabbling in fanfiction and a little over two years since I started this story. What started out as a series of chapters in answer to various word prompts evolved into a massive story.

Being a non-native English speaker, I couldn't have imagined that I would one day conclude some writing of these proportions in a foreign language. I couldn't have done that without the help of many people. First and foremost are the patient people over at the TriaxianSilk forum, who have put up with my – let's say – quirky character for over three years now and have helped me tremendously over the years. There are Linda, aadarshinah, WarpGirl, Cogito and Distracted, who all were beta-readers for my writings at several points in time. I cannot even begin to imagine what monumental job it must have been to proof-read the writing of someone, who grew up with the grammatical mess that is the German Language. Many a superfluous comma went the way of the dodo.

Then there are authors like Distracted, Alelou, HopefulRomantic, Transwarp, BlacknBlue,Psldl and many others, who provided inspiration by the shipload and a high standard to look up to. And let's not forget the many people, who took the time to leave reviews both on TriaxianSilk and FF net. Kudos to Author Penholder for his/her closet telepathic abilities – suggesting what I had planned a long time ago.

Yes, with this chapter the story is coming to a conclusion. A labour of love that I have tended to for over two years will finally be finished. But it's not the end of the journey, it's merely a stop along the road. Starting out as a little fluffy AU piece, this universe of mine has taken on a life of its own and it has grown bigger than one story. Look out for the Sequel "Darkness On The Edge Of Space" coming to a fanfiction site near you.

I want to thank all readers, who followed this story and made my day with their kind comments and reviews. Enjoy :-)

Kotik a.k.a Lukenwolf

=/\=

Gardner sat back in his chair looking quite pleased with himself. While he didn't understand, why Lorian's presence was so important, it was another job well done. Diverting the Endurance was a logistical nightmare, one that included a cargo transfer bang smack in the middle of empty space, but – baring any technical mishaps - Captain Lorian would be just in time to be present at the wedding. If Lorian's crew performance reviews, particularly those of his chief engineer Kov were anything to go by, mechanical mishaps were unlikely though.

His glance fell on his new dress uniform. How the quartermaster had managed to procure one of the right size in such a short time remained a mystery, but equally mysterious was the fact how the crew of Enterprise, in collaboration with the Vulcans, had managed to turn a dilapidated space station into a small city in space in just a few weeks.

Leave it to this lot to work the miracles, he thought and couldn't contain a smile. After Maxwell's death, which had left him with some monumentally big boots to fill, he soon had understood just why Max had been so enamoured to this ship and its crew.

Being the crew of the first deep space exploration vessel – and therefore humanity's first impression for a lot of races - was a monumental enough task to get right, but on top of that they had fought a bloody war against the Xindi, had brought on peace between Tellarites, Andorians and Vulcans, had brought reformation to Earth's long-standing Vulcan allies and generally where always right there when a miracle was needed.

No wonder they get away with just about everything, Gardner mused and snorted with amusement.

There was no other ship in the fleet, where dating and quite a few other, more substantial relationship activities were the norm rather than the exception. The captain and the chief engineer were married, although in some convoluted Vulcan traditional way, the tactical and communications officers were getting married soon and by performing both the ceremonies for these two officers as well as the wedding of Commodore Archer and Captain Hernandez, Enterprise's Vulcan captain was soon to be the one with Starfleet's record of most performed deep space marriage ceremonies. Who would have thought that five years ago.

And now he was about to separate them. Up to now the transfer of Malcolm Reed and Hoshi Sato to Buran had been a mere Starfleet formality to him, not counting the little detail that both would break the records for achieving their new ranks. Having been invited to dine in the Tuckers' quarter last night had changed all that quite thoroughly. Seeing the four officers, which Shran had recently described as 'closer than an Andorian quad', made him realize just how close Enterprise's officers and the veteran crew were. Extended family summed it up quite nicely.

Aren't I breaking up the very soul of the ship? Wouldn't I destroy the very reason for their success? Gardner sighed.

But what could he do? There was nobody else even remotely as experienced as Malcolm Reed, needed even more so now that Buran would become the first Starfleet vessel with a substantial part of the crew being non-humans. And even if there were other candidates, the bean-counters at BuPers would never let him get away with keeping so much experience concentrated on one ship when it was desperately needed elsewhere. Well at least they were about to be assigned to the same fleet, so their ships would rarely be far from each other.

His thoughts were interrupted, when the door chime announced a visitor.

"Come."

The door opened and revealed Lt. Hoshi Sato. She was carrying several PADDs.

"The upgrades to communications are completed, you have now full access to all Starfleet communication channels," she said and Gardner took the PADDs with a smile.

"That was quick, Lieutenant, but then – why should I be surprised."

"Having the chief engineer do the more complex calibrations himself helps speeding up the process," she said.

"Sure does," he agreed and indicated that she should sit. "I have a question to ask, Lieutenant and I want you to know that you can speak freely."

"OK," she answered and by the way she dragged it out slightly, he knew that she wasn't sure about what was coming.

"Until yesterday the transfer of you and Commander Reed was a mere formality, but I admit after experiencing first-hand, how closely knit the crew of Enterprise is..."

"You're not sure whether it is a good idea to separate us," she finished the sentence for him.

"The Vulcans didn't exaggerate when they said you have some latent telepathic abilities," Gardner said with a smile.

"No they didn't," Hoshi agreed. "But I didn't need telepathic abilities for that. We've known that Malcolm was to take over the Buran since Captain Archer left the ship and more than once we asked ourselves if our departure wouldn't destroy what makes this crew so successful."

Gardner nodded knowingly and waited for further explanation.

"We are realistic enough to know that we're needed elsewhere. I've trained all my subordinates to the best of my abilities and Malcolm's second Lt. Taylor can – I quote – 'put a round in a flee's ass at two hundred meters', so there's no reason for us to hog those positions any longer, when a second ship can benefit from our experience."

Gardner laughed. He would recognize that quote any time.

"I should have known that you lot had seen that movie."

"I had my first date with Malcolm that day," she said.

That's a blissfully happy grin if I ever saw one, Gardner thought about the young woman's smile. God help you keeping that through the war.

"So you think the crew will still perform as exemplary?" Gardner asked.

"No doubt," Hoshi insisted. "The reason why this crew is so good is neither Malcolm nor me. It's the spirit of Commodore Archers years as Captain and don't underestimated the inspirational power of Trip and T'Pol. Now if Starfleet were to separate these two..."

"Don't worry, Lieutenant," Gardner quickly interrupted. "The Vulcans never tire of letting us know that this is not an option. And don't worry, you'll still be able to see your friends. Buran will serve in the same fleet, so it will rarely be far from Enterprise."

"I like the sound of that, Admiral."

"Thought so," Gardner said. "Dismissed, Lieutenant. I'm sure you still have enough preparations to do for the big day."

=/\=

Terval checked his robes to make sure they were not disheveled in any way. Even though he was still unsure about and didn't quite understand his inclusion in the human ritual, Amanda had done her best to relay all pertinent information.

Apparently he was appointed to a four man detail consisting of Commander Tucker as the 'best man', while Lt. Taylor, Lorian and himself would serve as 'Ushers'. While those roles were largely of a ceremonial nature, his own inclusion in the ritual had caused some confusion for him, considering that he had no personal connection of any kind to Commander Malcolm Reed, but obviously his membership in krei Charles and T'Pol's clan was enough to elevate him to a sufficiently trustworthy status that warranted his inclusion in the ceremony. Once again he was reminded that his quest to understand humans was only just beginning.

To the best of his knowledge, the wedding ceremony for Commander Reed and Lieutenant Sato was about to last almost three days. Owing to the diverse nature of Enterprise's crew the elaborate festivities were to be a mixture of several regional traditions from different parts of Earth. Not all of them were really understandable, much less logical. Commander Tuckers department had spent days to replicate porcelain and created plates, cups and other dishes from it, only for a sizable portion of it being meant to be destroyed today, on the evening before the ceremony.

One of the cargo ships had brought a massive wooden log, which according to the human database was meant to be cut in half by the newly-weds with a primitive muscle operated device in a bid to determine, who would be 'wearing the pants' in the household. He found that truly confusing since both Commander Reed and Lieutenant Sato wore such a garment most of the time.

Amanda's arrival cut his mental ruminations short. Obviously the time for the ritual destruction of the tableware had come.

=/\=

"Who came up with that idea?" Jon asked laughingly and grabbed a plate from the stack. After being lobbed into the air it came crashing down on the floor, where it joined a growing pile of shattered dishes.

"Who do you think?" Hoshi said with a smile. "Trip and Malcolm's beer suppliers – the Germans. It is meant to scare evil spirits away."

"Too bad we don't have any kids on the ship. They would have a field day," Erika added and chucked a cup into the air.

"Hey, don't need no kids to have fun," Trip said and threw a plate over his shoulder. With a loud noise it disintegrated on the wall.

"I don't envy whoever has to clean up," Jon snickered.

"That'll be us," Malcolm said.

"You – as in you and Hoshi?" Jon asked.

"Yes," Malcolm said. "All part of the ritual. After scaring the spirits away we have to prove that we can work together."

"Sounds fun," Erika said with a smile and walked off arm-in-arm with Jon to mingle with the crowd.

=/\=

"While not as destructive as the demolition of tableware, this ritual seems equally confusing," Terval said while helping Lorian to place the heavy wooden log into a sawing horse. "Is it also meant to scare away mythical spirits?"

"No," Lorian answered. "Both traditions originate from a region called Germany, a region with an abundance of quaint traditions. They often have symbolic value. The cleaning up of the broken dishes was the symbolic 'first mess' to cope with together, while the sawing of the log will be the first taxing task they have to complete after being officially wed. After the task has been completed, the crowd will judge the amount of sawdust having fallen on each side. The greater amount is meant to show which spouse will be the dominant in the marriage."

"So one could say that these symbolic situation make sure that the 'first mess' they encounter and the first taxing task are not a real crisis?"

"I think so," Lorian said, while placing the big two-man hacksaw against the log. "In a way it even makes sense, although other rituals have less symbolic importance."

"There are more?"

"Yes, there will be a sake ceremony at the reception to honour Lieutenant Sato's culture and Commander Reed will have to free his bride after a ritual abduction."

Terval looked at Lorian in disbelief. "A ritual abduction?"

"A tradition understood to come from a region called Russia. Between the main ceremony and the reception, the bride is 'abducted' by friends or family and the groom has to drink an alcoholic beverage from one of her shoes."

"That is unsanitary," Terval noted.

"True," Lorian agreed. "Which is why not an actual shoe is used, but a boot-shaped glass which presents its own challenge.

"A challenge?"

"The glass will be filled with beer and the toe of the boot will have to be positioned in a certain manner or the groom will shower himself with the beverage. Of course this fact is not made known to him beforehand."

"It appears to me that some of these rituals are designed for the amusement of the audience. Most guests appeared quite entertained by the destruction of the dishes yesterday."

"Amusement is a vital part of human marriage and they go to great lengths to elicit as many positive emotions as possible. Positive emotions are retained in human memory much longer than negative ones."

"Fascinating."

=/\=

The large conference hall of Salem One was packed. The three Ushers had made sure that seating arrangements had been organized in an orderly manner. The attending Vulcans – mostly those who would go on to serve aboard Buran were seated on the right side of the aisle, while the humans, wearing dress uniform, took up the left space and what was unoccupied on the Vulcan side.

T'Pol re-read the text again that was displayed on her PADD, making sure it was free of any religious references. With Malcolm being atheist and Hoshi of Shinto faith, any of the traditional Christian references would not be appropriate.

With a final glance she checked the audience. All were seated and ready to greet bride and groom. The groom – visibly nervous – stood before her, waiting for the bride to be given away. Since the father of Hoshi was in Japan, this task had fallen to Commodore Archer.

With a nod to Lieutenant Mayweather, T'Pol asked him to start the music and soon Felix Mendelsohn Bartholdy's "Wedding March" filled the room.

As the door opened a collective gasp could be heard, when Hoshi was led in by her former Captain. Wearing a traditional ornamental Kimono and head gear the petite officer looked spectacular, a fact that wasn't lost on her husband-to-be.

With an amused mental nudge through the bond T'Pol asked Trip to remind Malcolm of the importance of breathing.

Both Commodore Archer and Hoshi wore grins that could challenge Phlox when they slowly walked down the aisle.

"Delivery for you, Commander," Archer said with amusement as he put Hoshi's hand into the one of Malcolm, who was still too stunned to find any words.

Both bride and groom took a few moments to lovingly glance into each others eyes before they turned to look at T'Pol, who started her carefully rehearsed speech.

=/\=

"On This Day, the fourth day of March in the year 2156, we are here to witness and to celebrate the marriage of Commander Malcolm Stuart Reed and Lieutenant Hoshi Sato. More than just a ceremony, this is the most significant moment of human celebration and personal commitment. Let us join in their understanding that at this moment we hold in our hands the past and the future of man, the loveliness and responsibility of the human person."

"Marriage is not entered into lightly. We are concerned with more than just romance. It is something quite different from temporary relationships, which reach a peak quickly, then just as quickly subside. Marriage should be entered into reverently, or it is no marriage at all."

"Each marriage is unique and the relationships of the partners differ according to individual needs. But in any marriage, each of the individuals should find new strengths and capacities. Hoshi and Malcolm have resolved that they will come closer to the fulfillment of their goals by a marriage to each other."

Terval watched the proceedings from a place at the back of the audience. This had allowed him to take a seat next to Amanda without scandalizing any of the other Vulcans in attendance by the fact that Amanda's hand rested in his. So far krei T'Pol's speech had revolved around abstract concepts, but to his astonishment he realized that some of the sentences could just as well be spoken at a Vulcan wedding.

"Marriage presents a possibility not only for gratification, but also for enrichment. Marriage should be a means for the development of those personal social values that we prize so highly: integrity, cooperation, self-respect and human dignity."

"This ceremony will not unite you in marriage; only the two of you can do that. If the relationship between two people, which is symbolized in our culture by the state of marriage, does not already exist between you, this ceremony will not create that relationship. The bond uniting you is the entire meaning. This ceremony is simply the public announcement of the existence of that bond."

"A good marriage is very many things; a good marriage is also a relationship of love. Essentially, to be in love means to have a deep sense of identification with another person. It is to live in the life of that person, feeling his or her joys and sorrows as if they were your own. And, when two people are truly in love, each is concerned with helping the other become what he or she ought to be. The husband wants to nourish the best qualities in his wife, and the wife wants to develop what is good in her husband."

Terval started to wonder if that which krei T'Pol spoke about was a genuinely human ritual speech or if she had let her Vulcan heritage influence the speech. The spear in the others heart is the spear in you own. This Surakian teaching was nothing he would have expected to hear during a human marriage ceremony, but obviously the concept was not alien to them, considering that many of the humans seemed to agree with their Captain's speech.

"There should be a sharing of your lives; your lives should be a life together, there should also be spaces in your togetherness. Allow each other room and privacy to be individuals, with hearts and minds of your own. For only by being a whole person, can you have something to give to the person that you love. Each of you should keep the freedom of spirit that brought you to stand here today."

"It is our hope that your marriage will give you the strength and commitment to face all of life's adversities. Equally important, let us hope that it will enhance your sensitivity to all that is wondrous and beautiful. Your home should be a place to share the joys of life. Your home should also be a place where the pain and tragedies of life can be overcome. We hope that you will find there, a deep sense of security; security that comes as each of you learn to understand, to accept, and to forgive the other person, and as each of you learn to understand, accept, and to forgive yourselves as well."

"So, having considered alone and together this marriage, I now ask you Hoshi Sato, do you take this man to be your husband? Do you promise to love him and to comfort him, to honor him, and keep him in sickness and in health, in prosperity and adversity, as long as you both shall live?"

"I do," the petite female answered and although not a strong telepath, Terval could easily sense the waves of positive emotions flooding the room. While a spoken commitment would not be necessary at a Vulcan ceremony, it seemed to have a profound effect on the humans. Many of the females had started to emit tears and he saw the wisdom of Amanda's explanation that in such circumstances it was not a sign of distress. By the subtle, yet visible confusion of some of the other Vulcan guests he could easily surmise that not all of them had been made aware of that fact.

"And I ask you Malcolm Stuart Reed, do you take this woman to be your wife? Do you promise to love her and comfort her, to honour her, and keep her in sickness and in health, in prosperity and adversity, as long as you both shall live?"

"I do."

"Then Hoshi, please say with me: I Hoshi take thee Malcolm to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and health, as long as we both shall live."

Terval closed his eyes while Hoshi repeated her part of the wedding vows. While the emotions that the humans in attendance emitted where far from negative or disturbing, the sheer amount and force of them took a few breathing exercises to handle. Opening his eyes again he saw that some of his fellow Vulcans were in the same predicament.

"And, you Malcolm, please say with me. I Malcolm, take thee Hoshi to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live."

Terval repeated his breathing exercise as the next wave of human emotions bombarded his mind. Being in touch-telepathic contact with Amanda only exacerbated the condition, but considering that Amanda had joined many other females in quite sobbing he deemed it unwise to let go of her hand.

"Will the Best Man now please present the rings."

"Then Hoshi as you place this ring on Malcolm's finger, please say with me, 'With this ring, I thee wed, and join my life to yours.'"

"And Malcolm as you place this ring on Hoshi's finger, please say with me, 'With this ring, I thee wed, and join my life to yours.'"

After being presented the rings by krei Charles, both humans had again repeated the words flawlessly and Terval had again resorted to his shallow form of meditation as every time a new barrage of emotions had tested his control.

"May these rings stand as a sign to you of your desire to live, to love, to create, and to build in your lives and the lives of those whom you touch, that ideal of perfection which is humanity."

"When the tide is low, and the rocks are painfully visible, may your love be the waters of the new tide. And, when the tide is high, give thanks to the spirit of life itself, and celebrate it."

"So, after witnessing your vows, by the honour and right bestowed upon me as a Captain of naval and space faring tradition, I now pronounce that you are husband and wife. Malcolm Reed, you may now kiss the bride."

This time Terval had been unprepared. Not only came another emotional hit to his mind, accompanied by loud human cheering, but Amanda had obviously decided to see that as an invitation to place a similar sign of affection on his cheek. Having not yet progressed this far in their 'courtship', he was almost overwhelmed by the impact of such a gesture. Staggering half a step in Amanda's direction before he could compose himself, he felt how she quickly slung an arm around his waist to steady him. Looking at her he was greeted by a teary smile and by impulse he put two fingers to her face and gently wiped the tears away.

=/\=

Gardner came out of the conference hall, when most others had already left and the loud rhythmic cheering was a sure sign that the log sawing was already in in full swing.

"Come on, Commander, she's winning," he called out with a chuckle, seeing that the pile of sawdust on Hoshi's side was significantly bigger. Of course, having seen the tool beforehand, he knew that the shape of the saw's teeth made that particular result a foregone conclusion. Considering that Malcolm Reed was grinning like an idiot all the time, Gardner decided that the usually so reserved Brit didn't give a flying expletive about it.

After almost half an hour the log finally fell apart leaving the two 'combatants' covered in sawdust and the female population in raucous celebration about Hoshi's 'victory'.

Gardner lifted his arms to get the crowd's attention and the pandemonium slowly subsided.

"Since a change of clothing is now inevitable, I'd say we give the newly-weds some time for a change of clothes. Since my wedding present requires a certain attire, I'd say you change into a dress uniform. You, Mr. Reed might want to bring a spare, too."

The crowd giggled, causing Malcolm to glance at Trip with suspicion.

Seeing that Malcolm and Hoshi turned to walk to their respective cabins, Gardner called them back.

"While we were having the ceremony a 'band of thugs' from the Endurance, led by some Yuichi Sato, raided your respective quarters. Word has it that the loot was deposited in the Captains quarters on Buran, so you might want to start looking there."

=/\=

"Let's take my spare uniform with us, Mrs. Sato-Reed," Malcolm said gleefully, after releasing her from a long passionate kiss in their new honeymoon suite. "Whatever misfortune is to befall me, I'm bloody sure that Trip has something to do with it, so he can just as well let me change in his cabin."

Built almost exactly the same as the Tucker domicile on Enterprise except for the extra beam that had held the knocked out bulkhead on the older ship, it was obvious that the captains quarters on Buran had been built with a married or at least spoken for Captain in mind.

To Malcolm's amusement even a wooden keg of beer was mounted at the wall, mirroring the same arrangement in the Tucker cabin, except that it had a richly ornamented card attached to it. Malcolm took a look.

Liebe Hoshi, lieber Malcolm,

Wir wünschen Euch alles Gute zu Eurer Vermählung und möchten Euch in diesem Sinne unsere allerherzlichsten Glückwünsche übermitteln.

Bleibt stets so glücklich und verliebt, wie am heutigen Tag und denkt immer daran:

"In der Ehe muss man sich manchmal streiten, nur so erfährt man mehr voneinander."

Alles Gute Euch beiden,

Mattes & Kriegel, Königlicher Bierlieferant, NX-01 Enterprise.

"Looks like a case for a linguist," Malcolm said and handed the card over to Hoshi.

"Dear Hoshi, dear Malcolm. We wish you all the best for your marriage and we wish to express our heart-felt congratulations. May you always be in love and as happy as today, and never forget: In marriage you have to fight from time to time. That's the only way to learn more about each other. All the best for both of you. Signed: Mattes & Kriegel, Royal Beer Supplier, NX-01 Enterprise."

"I think I've just been offered a supplier contract," Malcolm laughed and led Hoshi out of the room back to the station, where by now the hall should have been reconfigured for the reception.

=/\=

Strolling into the spacious hall Hoshi and Malcolm were greeted with the whole audience lined up in dress uniform and to their surprise, even most of the Vulcans were in Starfleet dress. It looked as if Gardner had been busy handing out commissions while they had taken over their new domicile on Buran.

"Attention to orders," Gardner barked, once Hoshi and Malcolm had taken their place left and right of Trip and T'Pol.

"By order SFC-857603 of Starfleet Command, Lieutenant Hoshi Sato-Reed is promoted to Lieutenant-Commander and assigned duty as First Officer and Chief Communications Officer aboard NX-07 Buran."

To loud cheers of the crew Hoshi walked over to Gardner to receive her new rank insignia. To Malcolm's pleasant surprise, even the newly minted Vulcan Starfleet members joined the standing ovation, although they didn't join the whoops and cheers. But seeing that they were truly more flexible than the usual Vulcan contingent bode well for the tasks ahead. Had someone told him almost five years ago that he would once command a ship that was built by a former enemy and the crew of which would include more than 30 aliens, he would have contacted Harris to have the person delivered to the loony bin.

"By order SFC-857602 of Starfleet Command, Commander Malcolm Reed is promoted to the rank of Captain and assigned command of the NX-07 Buran."

Malcolm walked over and received the congratulations of Gardner for his new rank. While he was still concentrating on Gardner's words, he missed how two hooded figures dragged Hoshi into an adjoining room.

Getting back to the crowd Malcolm noticed the absence of Hoshi and judging by the difficulties that most of the crew, including Gardner, had to contain their laughter, they all knew what was going on. All except himself of course.

"Ok, Trip, where's Hoshi?"

Without answering Trip handed him his communicator.

"This is Reed. Where's my wife?" Malcolm demanded into the device.

"Your wife is under our care," a voice replied and Malcolm immediately noticed the accent. "You will be brought something and you'll know what to do. Your wife will not be harmed as long as you comply."

"Royal my arse," Malcolm said, but couldn't fight a chuckle. From the back of the audience, he saw Taylor, newly minted Lieutenant-Commander and his designated successor on Enterprise, approach with a boot-shaped glass full of beer. Judging by the size it was at least a liter.

Taking the object from Taylor he realized the flaw in his calculation. Judging by the weight it was at least two liters. Quietly pondering his options he started to drink from the oversize glass. Malcolm soon realized that he had made a mistake. He had surmised that, had he pointed the foot of the boot downwards, he would have to bend over like a limbo dancer to empty it, but by pointing it up, he had set himself up for a pressure refueling.

True to the expectations of the giggling crowd, the beer soon came rushing out in a powerful wave, showering the newly minted captain. Now Gardner's warning to bring a spare uniform made sense. With an amusedly lifted eyebrow T'Pol handed him a big towel and Malcolm rubbed his hair dry, accepting the crew's Schadenfreude benevolently. Hanging the towel around his neck, he reached for the communicator.

"Mattes, Kriegel, bring me my wife on the double!"

Grinning like Cheshire cats the two Germans came into the hall accompanied by a clearly amused Hoshi.

"Get a shower in our cabin," Trip offered still chuckling. "Just leave the dirty uniform in the laundry basket."

=/\=

Terval felt another unusual sensation. He was restless and inexplicably unsure of himself. According to his research of human marriage customs the wedding dance was to commence upon the return of Captain Reed. First the married couple was to dance alone, while later being joined by other couples from the audience.

Having researched the necessary movements and human music with krei T'Pol left him in no doubt that he was able to perform the movements adequately, but he was very unsure about how fellow Vulcans would react to this open display of affection. Krei Charles had spent a significant amount of time to explain that the Vulcans in attendance were much more open-minded than most of his species, but that had not entirely alleviated his insecurity, because none of them were yet aware of his relationship with a human woman, except for T'Len, who had hinted that she was aware of his attraction to Amanda.

Casting a glance at Amanda, he saw what krei Charles had once described as 'longing', the wish for something that one cannot attain. Obviously she didn't expect to be able to participate in the dance and he knew her well enough that she would never ask his permission to be allowed to dance with a different partner, something - he realized - would be an exceedingly disagreeable thought.

The opening door interrupted his musings and Captain Reed entered with newly restored impeccable appearance. As soon as he had returned to the side of his wife the music started to play and Terval carefully observed the correct gesture to ask a female for a dance. I appeared that one was to bow slightly, swinging one arm, so that the open hand ended up pointing at the free space that was used for the dance.

Feeling a familiar rush of emotions, he knew that Amanda was emotionally impacted by the sight. She had rarely let go of his hand all evening. While he had managed to keep that fact out of sight for fellow Vulcans, going ahead with his plan would mean that they would all be aware of his relationship soon.

He quietly observed the newly-weds on the dance floor and while the music had a strangely soothing influence on him, he could almost sense the passion between the two humans. The way they smiled at each other, the way their eyes never lost contact made him realize that he had the chance to experience a lifetime of something that most Vulcans would never experience – the burning passion of a human in love. Yes, he decided, this was worth any hardship they would encounter in their unusual union. The path would be a hard and long one, but he was determined to travel it.

The music changed to something called 'a waltz' and he observed Charles and T'Pol joining in together with many other couples.

"May I have this dance, Amanda," he said and performed the necessary movement. Seeing tears well up in her eyes almost instantly, he knew he had done the right thing. The monumental rush of joy and affection that flooded his mind as soon as they took up the close customary pose told him he had done well.

As he twirled a blissfully happy Amanda around the dance floor he saw something that almost made him forget the next step. Not very far from them Captain Savok and Lieutenant Commander T'Len had joined the dance. Keeping a much lighter touch than most of the couples around them and still moving less secure than those who were familiar with the required sequence of moves, they nonetheless had joined the ritual. For the first time in his life Terval felt as if his species was really progressing and it filled his mind with renewed hope that one day he could settle on Vulcan or Earth living with his desired mate without facing prejudice.

Continuing his dance with Amanda his glance once in a while fell on krei T'Pol, her mate and the newly-weds as they danced, celebrating love and life.

To be continued in "Darkness At The Edge Of Space"