The sun had just set. Sorik, weary from his mind meld with Clare, had retired to his own room for the night. But instead of winding down, the rest of the family seemed unusually wakeful and alert. There was a lot of coming and going in the wing of the house where Kovol and Linavil's room was located. Before long, the door gong sounded, and T'Vikka admitted two women wearing long white gowns and odd-looking white headgear. Kovol emerged from his wing of the house to escort them toward his room. "Midwives," someone said to Clare.
Clare decided she had better stay quietly out of the way. It was too early to feel tired, so she got out her needlepoint and took it to the main sitting room to work for a while. Two of the children approached her there. They were Tuvoth's son Xon, who was a little younger than Lizzie, and Xon's older sister, Zerra. "Father says you're interested in astronomy," the boy said. "We would be gratified to teach you some of the Vulcan constellations, if this is acceptable to you."
Clare suppressed a smile at hearing such a young boy speak such formal language. "It would be very acceptable," she replied. She laid her needlepoint aside and rose to follow the children to the terrace outside.
The strong heat of the day had passed, but the air was still warm. There was just enough of a breeze to set the stars twinkling. A little more than two months ago, Clare had stood in the snow, looking at the same stars with Lizzie, but now that felt like another lifetime. "That's the Sehlat," said Zerra, pointing at a constellation low on the horizon. "That bright star there is his nose, and those other stars—there, and there—form the rest of the head. See that star on the left that makes the shoulder? That's your own sun, Sol."
"Your planet is very far away," said Xon.
"I know," said Clare.
"It would be agreeable to go there some day," said Zerra. "Sometimes one wishes for the novelty of visiting planets other than one's own."
Kids are the same everywhere, marveled Clare.
Clare began to look about the sky. To her surprise and delight, many of the constellations looked the same as they did from earth. Only the positions of the very nearest stars were different. ("Vulcan is not so far away from earth, in astronomical terms," Tuvoth explained later. "Looking at the stars from earth and from Vulcan is roughly analogous to looking at earth's moon from Mexico City and your Seacaucus.")
That night, Clare learned to call her old friends in the night sky by their Vulcan names: the winged predator Shavokh and the Great Sand Dragon, the Three Princesses and the Swordsman, Tith-Khana the Weaver, and Maripol, Devourer of Hearts. When she fell asleep that night, she dreamed that she was dancing with Claire Pertwee and Deanna Troi. The three of them were whirling around and around on a transparent starship, through which they could see and hear the stars in every direction singing dixieland jazz in Old High Golic.
When Clare woke up the next morning, there was a baby in the house.
Linavil had given birth shortly after midnight. In the middle of the morning, several of the clan elders arrived at the house. Zerra and her older sister came to fetch Clare from her room. "T'Prel has summoned you," the older sister said, "and you're to wear this." She was holding a rust-colored robe with Vulcan calligraphy down the front edge. "You're to meet the new one now."
"But I'm sure Linavil needs her rest," Clare said. "I don't mind waiting, really."
"No, it is necessary," said the girl. "Sorik and T'Prel will insist."
Another odd Vulcan custom. Clare decided she had better comply.
Dressed in the rust-colored robe, Clare followed the sisters into the main sitting room where the family had greeted her when she first arrived. There were extra chairs arranged in a circle about the room, and the whole household was there, along with the visiting elders. Sorik was reclining on his couch, with T'Prel sitting close beside him, and everyone was wearing ceremonial robes. Linavil was seated next to Sorik and T'Prel, and Kovol stood next to her, holding the swaddled newborn in his arms. Folded over the swaddling was a dark red brocade blanket with gold edging. Clare and the sisters slipped silently into the remaining empty seats. Some sort of ceremony was obviously about to happen.
Sorik raised his hand in the ta'al and pronounced some sort of benediction in Vulcan. He then held out his arms toward Kovol, who placed the baby there. Kovol helped Sorik support the baby in his left arm, while Sorik held the index and middle fingers of his right hand together and wiped them gently across the baby's temple and cheek. He said something to the baby in Vulcan, then gently handed it back to Kovol. Next came T'Prel's turn to hold and welcome the infant. Tuvoth, sitting near Clare, explained, "It is the telan t'kan-bu na-skann, the welcome-bonding of the child. This telepathically introduces her into her birth clan."
Clare watched, fascinated, as each person in turn held the baby and traced two fingertips across its face, some of them chanting soft words in Vulcan as they did so.
At last, Kovol approached Clare with the baby.
"Her name is T'Leva," Kovol said. "You must hold her, so she learns to feel your mind."
The warnings of Captain Shaheed and Trevhad came flooding back. "Oh, I mustn't!" Clare cried. "I mean, I'm practically a stranger."
"You are one of her foremothers," said Linavil.
"As is she, in part," said Linavil, "and her father, and his father and forefather. They all are your descendants."
"She'll imprint on me," Clare objected.
"That is our intention," said Kovol.
Clare looked from one parent to the other. "Are you—are you sure?"
Linavil answered patiently, "Tsai Clare, you are her own flesh and blood. You are family."
Clare carefully took the warm little bundle from Kovol's arms. She gazed down at the tiny round face. It was like holding a woodland fairy urchin, with dainty pointed ears, wispy black hair, and a delicate complexion flushed faintly apple green. The baby squirmed in Clare's arms, opened one eye to a narrow slit to peer out at Clare, and then closed the eye and relaxed, as if satisfied she was in good hands. Clare gently stroked the baby's cheek with her fingertips. She had forgotten how soft a newborn's skin was. "Hello, T'Leva," she whispered. "I'm your granny."
Hope this message gets to you, wherever you are out there in the galaxy. I wanted to thank you for all the help you've given me. I've got so much to tell you when I see you again. Mostly, I want you to know that I've finally found my place in this crazy century. I'll never stop missing Donald or my boys, just like Sorik will never stop wishing he could have grown up with a mother.
But, at least, we've got the next best thing. Sorik and T'Prel have asked me to stay here for keeps, and I'm planning to accept. It may take me the rest of my life to understand this place and these people, but that doesn't really matter. The important thing is that I've got a family again. In fact, I've got an entire clan now. It's weird and mixed up and wonderful, all at once.
Take care, Deanna. Give my love to Geordi and Commander Data. If you're ever on Vulcan, you've all got an open invitation to stop by for dinner. I make a mean plomeek ragout, if I do say so myself.
That's it for now. As my kids here would say, "Live long and prosper."
Clare sat back with a sigh. What's the word for it, she wondered, when you're satisfied and bewildered and just plain amazed, all together? She remembered what Sorik had told her about logic meaning the thing that was right or fitting for a situation. Maybe that was the word for everything she was feeling. It's logical, fitting, right, for me to be here.
The household would gather for their evening meal in another hour or so. If only Donald could see her now. Poor lonely, frightened Donald, who had panicked at the thought of losing her. How, in his wildest dreams, could he ever have imagined what he was setting into motion for her?"You know what, Donald?" she said, to herself, to the air, or to Donald himself, if by any miracle he was listening. "I forgive you. Someday soon, I might even be able to thank you." Then she stood up and put her PADD away. It was time to start the soup.