S H A M E

They would never know the truth. She would never tell them.

Her smug assertion that she had chosen not to reveal the names of her collaborators left them all in a stunned silence. It was not like a Vulcan to be so defiant, but then Valeris was no normal Vulcan. Had she not learned to exist with humans, to attempt to understand them; even to take delight in their intentional lies? They had taught her well on board the Enterprise with their defiance, their breaking of rules, their decision to ignore orders. Not once, not twice, but three times on this voyage had she seen them intentionally ignore orders; Commander Spock had ignored orders. They all looked up to him, the Vulcans at the Academy, and even he saw fit to dispense with Regulations when it suited him.

She had done no different than he would have under different circumstances.

Klingons were not to be trusted; she had proven that, for they had agreed to betray their own chancellor with the promise of future war. Valeris had merely done what was needed to ensure that Vulcans, Romulans, Terrans, and all the races of the Federation would never be at peace with the Klingon Empire.

She had only done what most of them had wanted, even if they would not admit it.

Her back turned on them and the faintest hint of arrogance raged behind her eyes, for she knew she was untouchable. They could not obtain what they needed from her, so the plan would continue; it would succeed even if it meant her life, and she was sure it would. It was only logical for her to die in exchange for what she had done and the crimes she had committed. Like most Vulcans, she did not fear death, for it was a natural part of existence. The stunned silence that surrounded her delighted her, filling her senses as she realized she was the focus of all their astonished, stricken attention. Spock had once told her that she was the most promising of all his protégées and she had proven it by fooling even him until the end. Even if he disliked her choice, he would be forced to admit her intellect.

"Spock," said the captain.

It seemed more than a comment, almost a request if not a plea, but she did not understand what it entailed. Not even Spock would get the truth out of her; he could ask, he could demand, but she could refuse.

His hand closed around her arm forcefully and he yanked her around, surprising her with his anger. Spock was usually so full of control, so absolute in his logic, so driven that the passion that flared behind his eyes was never explored in his countenance. Valeris knew how difficult it was for him to appear wholly Vulcan; his human emotions were closer to the surface than he was willing to admit. And they were showing now, in his anger toward her, his sense of betrayal. She saw it in the depths of his gaze as he stared at her, meeting him in an unspoken challenge. She anticipated the gruff, deep tone of his voice but instead he lifted his right hand.

Shock coursed through her, disbelief at what he intended, prompting her to try and move away from him. It was an unwritten but understood law of the Vulcans that mind-melds were sacred and never to be forced; it was a crime punishable by law. But if she would not tell him what he wanted to know, what the captain demanded, he would force her to reveal it.

Valeris stepped backward and swiftly, angrily, he grabbed her by the back of her neck and pulled her to him. She could not fight him; he was much older, much stronger, and his quiet, commanding presence subdued her. His fingers touched the side of her face, joining their minds as one and entering her consciousness. Their thoughts linked and he searched, careful to remain on the outer edges of awareness, for even in violation he would not go too deep. Though he was angry, he kept it in check and she sensed his level of control over them both. Give me their names.

She would not betray the others, not willingly, not even out of admiration for the commander. He would have to admire her resolve. This was something she believed in, was willing to fight for, and she would make him work for it. Valeris remained strong as she searched his gaze. You will have to take them from me by force.

It was easy for him to demolish the walls she put up against his invasion, thrusting memories into his path in the faint hope it would distract him, but he did not pause to explore them in his single-minded pursuit of the truth. She showed him their first meeting at the Academy, the natural ease there was between them, her tremendous respect for him. This at least caused him to flinch inwardly but he had trespassed thus far, and would continue to go deeper. He had no patience for her distractions and insisted on the truth. Give me their names.

She showed him the long nights they had spent together at the Academy as he had assisted her in preparing for her exam, impressed with her dedication and the rapidity with which she comprehended his logic. Spock wasted no time on her attempts to remind him how fond he was of her, unflinching in his search for answers, discerning knowledge that, try as she might, she could not hide from him. Their lips parted and they spoke in unison, naming the admiral as one of her associates in this lethal attempt to sabotage the Federation's search for peace. She was conscious of nothing but him, not the wary presence of their companions or the intensity that raged between them, not the faint humming of the Enterprise, only his mind reaching into hers, his fingers still gripping the back of her neck with strength that would have harmed a human.

He was breaking through her barriers more quickly than she had time to assemble them, and the next name emerged from their united voices. "General Chang… the Romulan ambassador…"

Valeris came to a memory she did not want him to see and attempted to hide it from him, frantic in the knowledge that if he went deeper he would find it. Spock sensed her reluctance and his awareness deepened as he looked at her, discerning that was the last of their names. He did not release her but Valeris felt relief in knowing it was almost over. He would not learn what she was hiding from him after all, though she knew he was aware of her concern. Doorways into her deeper consciousness through which he might pass were still open to him but he resisted until Kirk demanded, "Where is the peace conference?"

Spock repeated this question to her and she answered honestly, I do not know.

Hesitation as he considered whether or not to believe her. He had shredded her upper consciousness and all that remained were deeper memories and emotions, a threshold that once he crossed he could not easily return from, a violation he found abhorrent and one punishable under all the laws of his people. He could forgive this in himself, this subtle invasion, this digging in the lighter depths of her mind, but to go deeper would be painful for her, extraordinarily so. This knowledge hung over them both like a threat, one he felt convinced would make her relent, but she didn't.

Where is the peace conference, Valeris?

Again, meeting his eyes and willing him to believe her. I do not know, Commander.

In the background, Captain Kirk demanded, "Where is the peace conference?"

This was a matter of life or death, a matter of war when there could be peace. Desperation was in his voice; he did not know what he asked of Spock or he would not have continued to ask it. There was only so much of a hold his duties as a commander had over him and the rest was vulnerable to Vulcan law, his honor his own responsibility. Valeris trusted him in this, that he would go no further, even if he did not believe her.

Slowly, his other hand moved from the back of her neck and Valeris felt the first hint of panic, fear flooding through her as she said, Commander… I do not know. Please, I do not know!

Distance, in his eyes and his inner voice, as Spock turned aside from everything he had been taught. Tell me.

The foundations in her mind crumbled as he dove into her consciousness with such force it overwhelmed her and caused her to cry out in pain. He was unrelenting even as she felt his self-loathing; his anger allowed him to condone it, a brutal merging in which he unlocked everything she had hidden from him, every memory she attempted to repress, things no one knew about and that she had intended to never speak of. Everything in her soul was laid bare to him, open for his perusal, all the pain and anguish, the joys and miseries, and the bitter reality of her affection for him. It went much deeper than respect. Here, he paused and she felt his shock. Like most Vulcan men, he was oblivious to the faint hints of emotion found in the females. Not all of them possessed it but a few formed deeper attachments. He saw her attentiveness in a different light, the emotions that shamed her with how human they were in their desires, that in all things she had striven for his notice and appreciation, even in this. He saw what she wanted from him and recoiled from it, the captain's voice gone from their minds as they stood together in her deeper consciousness.

She loved him.

Vulcans felt such things but not as humans did; their emotions were not so shallow, more repressed but much stronger, and what she held for him was astonishing in its intensity, making his violation of her thoughts all the more distasteful to him. She would never have revealed them to him, never have shared them with him, as he was Bonded to another; yet her soul was bruised and broken as she knelt before him, tears in her eyes. Now that he knew she had no reason to hide. She appealed to him, like a child pleading for a parent not to slap its hand away, her emotions overwhelming him.

Spock…

Her deeper memories lay in the wilds of Vulcan, the vastness of it stretching outward as heat and sand drifted around them. Spock knew she was still in pain. He was giving her pain, his presence where it was not meant to intrude. Even Bonding did not go this deep. It would have killed a human and it would kill her too if he lingered too long. She pleaded with him not to go, but to remain, to drive her mad so that she would not remember the shame. He understood at last, what he had done, what he had unveiled, what he could never purge from his thoughts; he saw what he had done, what he had destroyed. His anger evaporated, leaving him as he stared down at her, their minds one, his fingers pressed against her face. There were tears in her eyes and in his.

Spock withdrew, as painful for him to leave her mind as it had been for him to enter it, but in spite of her agony, she managed to share one last thought with him. I will never tell.

His hands were shaking as he lowered them from her pale face, her enormous eyes staring at him in humiliation, the pain lingering even after the connection was broken. Silence surrounded them, an uncomfortable silence into which his wavering voice intruded.

"She does not know."

It was difficult to meet her accusing gaze, his betrayal evident on her face.

But it was nothing in comparison to his shame.