Thanks for the reviews, it's good to read Soltek has provided some cause for exasperation with his Vulcan quirks. ;)

Chapter 23 - Telepathy

After an hour of meditation Soltek had walked to Irina's quarters and told her what had transpired between him and his parents.

'Couldn't you just have told them we familiarize by playing Kal'toh?' she asked with a sigh.

'Irina, I do not lie to my parents,' he replied.

'Then what about leaving out the part about us having premarital skin contact?' she asked.

'A lie of omission is still a lie,' he said unwilling to give in to this line of argument.

'Did you tell them we had sex?!' she asked in exasperation.

'No, but the possibility of...mating was included in my admission to physical contact and they didn't inquire about the...nature of the physical contact,' he replied ignoring the blush rising to his face.

'I'm glad about that,' Irina said, 'they probably didn't want to know, because they already suspected after the show with the console and then seeing you all calm again four days later...'.

'Not necessarily,' Soltek said, 'I could have resolved my chemical imbalance through meditation.'

'Sure,' Irina replied, but Soltek raised an eyebrow because he sensed Irina had thought something different about the subject than what she had just told him, but he concluded she wasn't lying, but expressing humorous irony.

She chuckled at his reaction. 'You don't know how cute you are,' she said and grabbed his face with both her hands to kiss him.

'I can sense...your reaction,' he panted while responding to her kisses. She realized things were getting heated when she was suddenly lying on the couch with him over her kissing and half-biting down her neck.

The next morning she awoke snuggled against him.

'Good morning,' he said softly.

She yawned and returned the greeting giving him a kiss.

When they had showered they sat down in Irina's living area eating breakfast. They would only have a short shift in the afternoon to attend the weekly team meeting because Glenn had told them to get at least 6 hours off for all their overtime work lately. They had an appointment with Dr. Lark to check if there were any incompatibility signs in their brains, but they still had 2 hours till then.

'You know,' Irina said after her gulping down the last bit of her croissant, 'after my talk with Dr. Lark I was kinda afraid it would only be once every 7 years.'

Soltek swallowed down what he was eating then hesitantly said: 'it usually is.'

When he saw her look he added, 'between you are human it is logical to assume things will be slightly different.'

She suppressed a grin, 'so what was that yesterday?'

'What do you inquire specifically?' he asked neutrally his ears betrayed him by turning a shade of green.

'Things happened quite quickly, are you sure your hormones are back to normal?' she teased.

He frowned confused, obviously thinking, then said in a serious tone: 'I don't know, my readings were normal when Dr. Lark checked me on Monday.'

'I was just curious and teasing you,' she said caressing his arm, 'I'm not complaining.'

He still frowned, obviously concerned about his behavior. 'Things like this didn't happen in my last bond.'

At that Irina raised her eyebrows and then said carefully, 'it sounds like some things weren't working well in your last relationship.'

'We accomplished what we had to,' he stated confused.

'Um, yeah, but I'm glad there's more between us,' Irina said taking his hand.

'I'm also very satisfied with you,' he said sincerely looking deeply into her eyes, 'but I still have a duty to observe my behavior for lapses in logic...this doesn't mean however that I would neglect to satisfy your needs.'

Irina looked at him and held his hand with both of hers. She still wondered what had aroused him so quickly yesterday, but she didn't dare to tell him how much she liked that passionate side, because he would likely just blush even more and not be up for that kind of talk. Then she saw his cheeks flush nevertheless and suddenly realized that he must have read her mind again. She released his hand.

'Did you just read my thoughts?' she asked startled.

He nodded frowning at her reaction.

'This telepathic stuff takes some time to get used to,' she said.

'I can teach you how to not transmit your thoughts uncontrolled over the bond,' he said.

'That would be great,' she said, 'it's kinda weird that I can't keep some things for myself. Not that I mean to keep secrets from you, it's just a bit scary to have someone kinda listening to all my thoughts...although I trust you of course.'

'I understand,' he replied, 'a Vulcan woman wouldn't transmit thoughts randomly either, so you don't have to explain. You are not used to telepathy and you have to learn how to use it.'

'Oh,' she said in a breath of relief, 'I'm glad you understand.'

'Once you have learned to receive my thoughts you will also need to learn how to shield yourself against me, so you don't get distracted in inconvenient moments like an emergency situation on duty.'

'Oh, that makes sense,' she replied, 'it must also be a bit distracting to you if I randomly transmit stuff.'

'In inconvenient moments it is,' he admitted, 'but I wouldn't trade your thoughts against anything.'

She smiled, then she looked at him thinking, 'Soltek,' she said giving him a mischievous grin, 'if I'm thinking something...dirty...does that affect you?'

He gave her an astonished look. 'I don't know,' he said hesitantly, 'that is a question I have never been asked.'

She grinned and concentrated.

Something crashed to the floor as he knocked over half the table.

They entered sickbay. There were no other patients at the moment and they saw three doctors sitting at various consoles filing reports or reviewing data. One doctor was an old human female with long gray hair sitting in the office Irina had had her talk with Dr. Lark in. There was a Vulcan male working on one of the consoles next to a bio bed and in the left wing of sickbay they spotted Dr. Lark who was just getting up from a console and walking towards them with a smile.

'Hello Lt. Paranov and Lt. Soltek, how are you?' she greeted them obviously happy to see them.

'Fine, thanks,' Irina said.

'We are well, thank you,' Soltek replied.

When they both sat down on the bio bed they saw that the Vulcan doctor had gone to the office and they were completely alone with Dr. Lark. The doctor first scanned Soltek and then Irina and said their readings were fine, no signs of any problem.

'Do you still get any head aches?' she asked Irina.

'No, I haven't had any since two days or so now,' Irina replied.

'Have you tried the exercises?' the doctor asked.

'Yes,' they both replied, 'they worked,' Irina added.

'How good is the connection when you're not consciously trying?' Dr. Lark asked.

'I am very well connected,' Soltek said.

'I'm still trying to figure it out,' Irina replied, 'he seems to hear every word I'm thinking, but I don't get a thing from him except for those exercises.'

'Thoughts are more difficult to receive. Don't forget that,' the doctor said, 'Lt. Soltek is also trained in telepathy while you are not. - Do you receive any other impressions from him apart from the exercises? Anything at all?'

'Sometimes I think I do, but I'm never sure what it is. It sometimes feels like some kind of warmth is spreading over from him to me,' Irina said.

'Hmm...,' Dr. Lark said, 'that sounds like you're receiving impressions, but can't interpret them you sometimes have the feeling that you can tell his proximity to you without looking?'

Irina frowned, 'I don't know.'

'Let's try it out,' Dr. Lark said, 'Lt. Soltek, could you please go to the other end of the room?'

'Yes,' Soltek said and walked away from them.

Dr. Lark scanned Irina. 'Now slowly walk towards us,' she called out to Soltek.

Irina concentrated while Soltek was slowly approaching them and smiled, 'I think I feel something, it's like the room is getting warmer.'

'The scanner is also registering reactions in your brain usual for this kind of telepathic contact,' Dr. Lark said happily, 'so there's definitely a bond...It's still a bit early to tell if there's some problem with the bond or if you're simply too inexperienced with telepathy to use it...but since your bond hasn't been created by an experienced healer, I'd suggest we take a closer look at it so we're not in the dark for another week without any progress.'

'What do you mean by taking a closer look at it?' Irina asked frowning.

'My husband is a specialist in telepathic healing and neurology,' she gestured to the Vulcan sitting in the office, 'he can do a mind meld and look at your bond in a way my instruments can't.'

Irina looked at Soltek, who seemed to think about it.

'Has something like this happened before?' Irina asked insecure.

Dr. Lark chuckled slightly, 'of course...there's a lot of things that can go wrong in a bond and if a couple decides it is important enough to see a healer about it whatever the issue is can often be corrected. If it's not an organic problem, it's often just like some communication issue, some things they are doing or not doing without realizing it. For example if someone is sending something the other isn't expecting to receive it can be lost.'

Irina nodded in understanding and looked at Soltek. He was slightly blushing, but nodded his agreement.

Dr. Lark looked at both of them. 'I know it's a bit odd to have someone else poke around in your mind, but he'll not search for any deep seated personal secrets, he'll just look at how you two sense each other...and checking a bond is routine work on Vulcan. It's also a recommended part of physicals although in Starfleet it's often neglected because there isn't a Vulcan healer on every ship.'

Both of them nodded and Dr. Lark walked over to the office and talked for a short time with the Vulcan doctor. Then both of them approached Irina and Soltek. The Vulcan doctor looked somewhat older than Soltek. He was very tall, had a chocolate-brown skin tone and smooth jet-black hair.

'I'm Dr. Hedak,' he introduced himself, 'Dr. Lark has informed me of your situation and if you give your consent I will perform a mind meld on both of you to perceive your bond. Then I will inform you about my findings and possibly give you some suggestions on how to adjust your telepathic connection.' His voice sounded patient and professional.

'I give my consent,' Soltek said.

'I'm okay with it, too,' Irina said.

Dr. Hedak pulled up a chair to sit in front of them.

'I'll monitor you for safety,' Dr. Lark said, putting cortical monitors on all three of them.

Dr. Hedak waited till his wife was done and then looked at Irina and Soltek. 'Before we begin relax yourself,' he said softly, 'imagine a place where you are safe and comfortable. Concentrate on what this place looks like, inhale its scent and listen to its sounds.' He paused and Irina saw herself at the beach in San Francisco, the wind caressing her face, the sun warming her, she could smell the fresh salty air and heard the calming sound of the waves gently washing to the shore.

'I will now make telepathic contact, don't be alarmed,' Dr. Hedak said softly and Irina felt warm finger tips settling on the right side of her face. It felt like the doctor was suddenly sitting next to her on the beach, it was a bit startling at first, but he radiated such a calm patience that she grew accustomed to his presence.

'Very good,' he said, 'now you become aware of your comm badge and the possibility to contact your bond-mate. You are thinking about where you want to meet.'

Irina remembered the day on the holodeck when they had their first official 'date'. She wanted to tap her comm badge, but before she could do so she was already there and Soltek was facing her only half a meter apart.

'Hi!' she said smiling widely and was about to kiss him, but felt he was uncomfortable about something. She suddenly remembered that the doctor was still watching them and when she looked out she saw him standing maybe 20 meters away from them. She suddenly felt a small flash of amusement coming from the doctor, but then it was gone very quickly.

After a pause she saw the doctor tap his comm badge. 'When you are ready return to sickbay,' his voice sounded over the comm channel. And then he beamed out. Irina took a breath and opened her eyes.

The doctor looked at them checking if they had fully come back yet and waited for a moment, then he said, 'your bond is well established, but there are some communication patterns I want to discuss with you.'

'We can have some tea in the office,' Dr. Lark said while she collected the cortical monitors. They slowly stood up and followed, still feeling somewhat queasy like they've just had a nap. Dr. Lark entered the office first and asked the other female doctor to give them some privacy. The older woman left and went over to the other end of sickbay sorting instruments.

Dr. Lark asked for their choices of beverages and when everybody had a mug, Dr. Hedak took a sip and set down his mug, looking at them.

'Lt. Soltek,' he said slowly looking at Soltek, 'you shield your own thoughts very well, but I have the impression your bond-mate would be able to process more information from you if you decide to lower your shields.'

Soltek frowned thinking about what the doctor was saying, then he looked questioningly at Irina.

She was about to take his hand, but quickly reminded herself that they were in public. 'I'd be happy if I could feel you better,' she said, not voicing that she felt slightly annoyed at him for reading her like a book, but shielding himself.

'Lt. Paranov,' the doctor said, 'I had the impression that you miss some information Lt. Soltek is sending to you.'

'Oh?' Irina said surprised.

'Vulcans express themselves more subtle in some areas,' the doctor said, 'you might receive more information via your bond if you pay more attention to what Lt. Soltek is sending to you. You seem to only pay attention to what you expect and miss all the other information. This is a mistake which occurs very often in people unexperienced with telepathy. If you expect to receive more information you will become much more aware of the information you are already receiving.'

Irina frowned slightly, but nodded. 'I often don't know if something I'm feeling or thinking is from him, from me or just the way I expect him to react.'

'That is also very common for people with little experience in telepathy,' Dr. Hedak said politely, 'you can learn to discern Lt. Soltek's presence from your own thoughts and expectations.'

Irina nodded, looking curious at the doctor.

'There's a very simple exercise,' he continued, 'sit approximately half a meter apart from each other, don't touch, but imagine to meet at a familiar place you've agreed upon beforehand and touch in your imagination. Concentrate on what the other looks, smells and feels like, this will give you cues on how to recognize each other's presence when you receive telepathic information from each other.'

'Sounds simple enough,' Irina said thoughtful and looked at Soltek, who was blushing, probably because of the part about 'touch in your imagination'. Dr. Hedak seemed to ignore it with professional neutrality however.

'Thank you, doctor,' Soltek said nodding at Dr. Hedak and Dr. Lark.

'We're here to serve,' they both said in Vulcan.

'Thanks,' Irina said with a smile.

'Don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions,' Dr. Lark said warmly putting her hand on Irina's arm.

'I will,' Irina replied.

'Cute couple,' Dr. Lark said via their bond after their patients were gone.

'Remind you of anyone you know?' Dr. Hedak replied with the hint of a smile.

'Yeah, now you say it there's something in the back of my head that seems familiar, but I can't quite remember what it was,' she said with a mischievous grin and gave her husband a tiny slap on one of his buttocks when she left the office.

He raised an eyebrow, took a quick glance to the other doctor, who was still busy with sorting instruments and hadn't seen a thing, then he sat down in front of a console returning to his files.