Disclaimer: See Chapter 1. Thank you so much to T'Sara, maba7x, mvw, SpinningMoreDreams and Carriewhowasreading for reviewing! Sorry it took so long to update this one.
Sorak knocked on Mina's door, folding his hands respectfully behind his back. Winter had passed swiftly, and the flowers were blooming on the roadside.
"Mrs. Hardister!" he called after five minutes. "It's me, Sorak!"
He heard her footsteps and straightened his posture, and his heart clenched when he saw her open the door. She looked frazzled and stressed, and he bowed his head.
"Your sink is overflowing?"
Mina smoothed her shirt and threaded her hand into her hair. She chin wobbled slightly and she sniffed. The tears did not fall immediately. She managed a long intake of breath. "Sorak, I wasn't..."
She glanced over her shoulder and then back to him as the tears fell, but she turned away from him, hiding her face. "Yes, my sink is plugged up, it's spraying water and food everywhere, and the..." She ran into the living room, picking up a box of tissues to wipe her eyes. "Sorak, I don't know what to do..."
She seemed out of control of her emotions, and he watched in pity and sadness as she sat down on the couch and began to cry.
Sorak hurried to her side and gingerly sat on the couch with her. "Mina, it will be all right." He dared reach out and pat her back. "Ka'i, Mina," he whispered. I am here.
He got up and looked at her sink, and he noted a tool box sitting on the counter. He took out a slender tool box of his own and tested the faucet. It sprayed water everywhere, and there came a stench of rotten food from the drain. He raised an eyebrow and looked under the counter, to the underbelly of the device, so to speak.
"I know how to fix this device," he declared after eight minutes of examining it. "Could you hand me the slender instrument with the hooked edge?"
Mina threw her arms around Sorak's neck and laid her head on his shoulder, tears still streaming from her warm brown eyes. "Sorak, I don't know what I'd do without you." She kissed his cheek quickly and wiped her eyes. "Ok," she murmured, steadying herself as she started sorting through the tools.
"This?" She handed him the tool, and watched wide-eyed as he began working. "How do all men know how to do these things and why were we women not taught too?" She swallowed thickly. "It only seems logical that both men and women should have these skills."
Sorak was silent, but she went on. "Gabe never did this kind of thing. He just, he'd call someone. Hell, I'd call someone but funds are so short. What with Lucy in college, and..." She turned towards him with horror in her eyes. "I'm sorry, Sorak, I'm just rambling."
Sorak shook his head. "Mina," he said meaningfully, gently gripping her shoulder. "If you need anything, do not hesitate to ask for it. I will not see Gabriel Hardister's widow lack for anything."
Tears filled her eyes again, and he noted a surge of gratitude flowing out of her. It nearly knocked him over. "Mina, please do not cry...or cry if it is what makes you feel better. Is there anything else I can do for you?"
She shook her head. "The backyard needs to be mowed, the guest bathroom has a leak in the showerhead, the laundry's not done, I haven't fixed dinner..."
He guided her to a chair. "You've done enough for today. Where is your lawnmower?"
She reached up and to her hand in his, "Sorak, you are in good clothes. You'd get hot and messy out there, with the grass as tall as it is. If you do this, will you at lease let me fix you some dinner?" She looked up at him, overcome with appreciation. "Please. Let me feel like I am good for something...I don't right now. I used to think I could do things, Sorak, and now I just feel like a failure." She sniffed. "And I can get you some clothes, a t-shirt or something, an old pair of shorts, I don't know...so you don't get your beautiful suit all grassy and dirty. "
She blinked and grinned, and he raised an eyebrow at her. "Do you Vulcans have clothes that aren't formal? I don't think I've ever seen a one of you looking anything but...perfect. Strom came out of his room looking perfect and did until he went to bed. How do you do it? Your hair, your clothes..." She pulled the hand that she had been holding toward her. "Even your nails are always perfect."
He shook his head. "We are not perfect, Mina," he said gently. He sighed. "I am adverse to you fixing dinner for me, as I have already explained the cultural significance of that to you, but if you wish to fix me dinner...if it makes you feel of use, then you may certainly fix me whatever you wish. I only ask...I do not eat meat."
"Neither do I," she said. "Trust me, if your grandfather had been a butcher in backwoods Mexico, you wouldn't touch meat ever again either."
He raised an eyebrow. "I...I do not believe I want to hear the details of that story." He stripped off his outer robe. "And you are not a failure. You are going through a troublesome time, but remember that you are not alone."
Mina kissed Sorak's hand. "You are a good man, Sorak of Vulcan." She sniffed again and took a deep breath. "Ok, I've had my pity party...let me find you some old clothes to work in."
She stood and hugged him another time. "Thank you," she whispered into his ear, kissing his cheek. He was surprised that he was so disappointed that she pulled away and trotted upstairs to look for the T-shirt and an old pair of jeans. Her son had some old clothes she knew would fit Sorak. She picked out a t-shirt and found a couple pairs of jeans for him and a pair of sneakers that her son never wore. That should do, she thought, and suddenly knew she would make him crepes for dinner.
She was at the top of the stairs when she saw him standing, waiting on her. He was such a handsome man, she wondered if there was a Mrs. Sorak of Vulcan. If there was, she certainly was the luckiest woman in the galaxy.
He felt her eyes rake his body up and down as she handed him the clothes.
"Sorak, are you married?" she asked suddenly. He shook his head.
"No...my wife left me to pursue the path of kolinahr. She has most likely become a master by now. To even become an initiate, one must revoke all personal relationships."
Her eyes flooded with pity. "That's a shame."
"It is our way," he said, sighing. "But I am not displeased. I find my work on Earth gratifying." And its women more than beautiful, he added privately.
"Man cannot live by work alone, Sorak. Well, Gabe did...but..." She shook her head. "Here, use the study to change clothes. I'll show you where the mower is, and I'll start dinner. I know, I know," she said, waving her hands. "In your culture, that would mean something different, but here on Earth, if a handsome man takes care of you or helps you, dinner is the least you can do for them." She touched his shoulder in an affectionate way.
She walked away over to the study and opened up the door for him. "Are you going to stay the night tonight, Sorak?" she asked, and then grinned. "And now that I know you aren't married, I won't feel guilty for kissing your cheek."
She blushed, looking down at the ground with a slightly mortified expression, but it passed. "I thought perhaps if you stayed the night, I'd get out some old movies or something you might want to watch...do Vulcans watch movies?"
"We do," he said, "if the woman of the house wants to watch one. Of course I will partake, and if you wish for me to spend the night, I will clear it with Osu and start work."
He went to the study and quickly changed, and he noted that nothing had been touched in here. There was still a half-empty bottle of whiskey on the desk, and PADDs and an old textbook open to a certain page. He stared at the desk for a moment, then closed the book.
"Forgive me, Gabriel," he whispered in Vulcan, as if the doctor's spirit could hear him. "I know you loved her...but I find myself wanting to fill your shoes. Is that so bad?"
Within two hours, Sorak was done with his assigned chores, the laundry was in the dryer, and dinner was almost done. She slid the last crepe onto a plate and handed it to him, and led him to the dining table. It looked too large for just the two of them, and she glanced at the island, wondering if she shouldn't start eating there. It would feel less lonely.
Mina didn't feel like conversing over supper, and it was silent as they ate, though Sorak didn't seem to mind. He ate his vegetable-stuffed crepes neatly and efficiently, and she hoped he enjoyed them. He confirmed that he did, and that was one of the only things she had that evening.
"So you're all right with watching a movie? Are you staying the night?"
"Yes, to both questions. Osu does not need me tomorrow. I will likely take my leave of you after lunch, which I will fix for you, after I have helped you with more of your chores."
A tear slid down her cheek, and she rubbed his shoulder, an automatic response. "Thank you."
She put in Mary Poppins and asked if he wanted something for dessert as the movie loaded. He accepted her offer, and soon they were both curled up on the couch (she was curled up; he was sitting up as dignified as ever) with blueberry cheesecake ice cream.
"There will be singing, just so you know," she warned him. "But the songs are classics."
Mina couldn't remember when she had been so pleased to watch a movie just for distraction, and she thoroughly enjoyed quoting famous lines to him and explaining the setup behind the story. Sorak thought Mr. Banks was correct in his discipline of his children, but he seemed to understand the story nonetheless.
Just as Mary Poppins was packing her bags again, Mina felt her eyelids droop, and she leaned sideways against the warm wall of flesh that was Sorak's chest and shoulder. She didn't even think about it as he set her empty bowl of ice cream aside and laid her down onto his lap. She fell asleep almost instantly, and slept beautiful till morning.
Sorak stayed up into well past midnight doing her dishes (she had plenty of them stacked up due to the sink fiasco) and folding her laundry, and she slept cozily on the couch, none the wiser. Finally, when her table was clean, her kitchen neat, and everything put away, he laid down on the other couch in the room and fell asleep, his eyes on her before he shut them.
He dreamed he was in Gabriel's study again, and the deceased human was there, drinking a glass of brandy and reading an old textbook.
"Gabriel," he said softly, and the man looked up at him with his clear, piercing gray eyes. "Forgive me."
Gabriel shook his head. "No."
"I am trying to look out for her, provide for her, and I regret my motives, but I am sure even you could not escape your basest self at times-"
"No," he said again, his eyes back on his textbook.
"Then you will not forgive me?"
Gabriel shrugged. "No. There is nothing to forgive."
When he woke, he could not recall that dream.
"Hey, Sorak?" she asked from the doorway. They had spent the day cleaning the downstairs area of the house.
"Yes, Mrs. Hardister?"
"What are you doing next week?"
"What I have done for the last twenty-six years. Do you require my assistance?"
"Well...my sister is coming into town to go to a conference in Denver, and I was hoping you could help me straighten up and clean some before she and her husband and children get here. They have three kids, by the way. The boy is five, the girl is three, and the other girl is an infant. Esperanza knows I have no help, and she doesn't want to impose, but I'm willing to do it if you help me."
"Babysit for her while she's at the conference. It'd be two days long, but she'll be back in the evenings."
Sorak considered it. "I will talk to Osu this evening and get back to you by tonight on whether or not I can do it."
She grinned. "You are an angel, Sorak. No matter what Soval says, thanks for helping me today."