Disclaimer: See Chapter 1. Thank you so much to Fameanon, maba7x, mvw and bina W for reviewing.
Meral watched as Renuk neatly packed his things into a box, and he noted the disgraced aide was avoiding his gaze. It not affect him, though, and he continued to watch Renuk's progress.
"Are you so eager to be back in this position? There is hardly any prestige to being relegated to a backwater planet and consorting with uncivilized and uncouth natives."
"There is no prestige in having sexual relations outside one's marriage, but you did not let that stop you," he retorted. "If you must know, I am pleased to be back on Earth and near she who is my wife."
"What I don't understand," Renuk continued, as if he had not heard Meral, "is how you can be rewarded for your behavior. You took a human woman. I did the same, and yet you were reinstated and I will return home in disgrace. It wasn't as if those females did not freely give themselves away."
"You 'freely gave yourself away', but what fails to penetrate your thick skull is that human women are to be valued. Had you realized that earlier, you might have found yourself with a human wife of your own...granted you dissolved the bond with your a'duna first."
Renuk seemed oblivious to his voice. "Had I wanted it...I could have had your woman easily."
"My woman called you worthless scum. I believe you are gravely mistaken."
"I did not have her because I did not make the attempt to tempt her. She is...too inferior for me, and she has chosen the perfect Vulcan family...inferior in every way."
"Says the man who has broken Surak's laws and touched many who are not his own. Do not attempt to lecture me about inferiority. I know my place in this world, in this Consulate, but you have grossly overestimated yours."
Renuk snorted. "They are human. They are a part of the IDIC, but they were not meant to stand next to us in a meaningful way. They are not worthy."
Meral refused to be baited. "If you believe you are in the right, tell all of Vulcan what you have done here on this planet. See how they react to you."
He heard movement behind him, and a body brushed past him, headed straight for Renuk, who was distracted by a pile of PADDs.
Commodore Forrest punched Renuk in the nose, sending the man to the floor, where he lay, sprawled out on the carpet like an alcoholic who had had one too many.
The human shook his hand, wincing in pain. "Damn," he murmured. "Bastard's got a bony nose."
Meral simply raised an eyebrow and continued the work Renuk had started, but he did not bother to be neat about it. He threw everything into the box so it was a jumbled mess, then lifted the unconscious man and set him outside the door with his items.
"Your left hook is quite impressive, commodore," Meral commented, taking a seat behind his desk as if nothing had happened. "I do not know of any human who has managed to render a Vulcan unconscious through such means. Granted, had he noticed you, you most likely would not have done as much damage. Though Renuk of Shi'Kahr was never known for his fighting prowess."
The human laughed. "Welcome back, Mr. Adviser. By the way, I heard rumors about a tropical wedding?"
"Yes, Judith and I are exchanging vows in three weeks."
"Well, congratulations, Mr. Adviser."
"Would you like to come as my guest, commodore?"
Forrest blinked. "Wow...I'd be honored. Send me an invitation, and I'll try my best to make it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to find something for my hand."
Judith adjusted Meral's collar, grinning in satisfaction at the clothes she had convinced him to wear. All the guests were wearing white and blue, and Meral was no exception, with his breezy white button-down and lightweight trousers, he looked younger, fresher than he did in his usual stuffy robes. She unbuttoned two of the top buttons, then refastened the bottom one.
"Can't be showin' dem too much of dis boombastic body, ai?"
"My body is for you to see, and no one else," he agreed, then ran his hands down her sides. "You look agreeable in white, Judith. You would look agreeable in anything, but even so..."
She giggled and pressed her forehead to his. "Who knew ya Vulcans would look so good in color, eh? It be good to get out of dem robes and let yer body breathe."
Meral smirked and stroked his fingers down her face. "Are you ready?"
"Papa be comin' any minute."
As if waiting for his cue, Jovan pushed aside the curtain to the dressing room and poked his head in. "We be walkin' down dat aisle in five, Judith. Meral, me Vulcan brotha, you come wit I."
Meral nodded and gave Judith one last satisfied look before following a family member to the marquee where the wedding was being held. Jovan stayed and tucked a flower into his daughter's hair.
"You make me a proud papa, baby girl," he grumbled, his lined eyes glittering with joy. "Now go out der, and shine."
She smiled and tucked her arm in his, and once the music started, she stepped out into the late afternoon sunshine.
The spectrum of color that hit her eyes made her smile as Jovan steered her into the shade of the marquee, as every guest had been asked to wear something colorful, and if they could not manage that (she was thinking mostly of the Vulcans), she asked them to wear white and blue. The Vulcans somehow looked more alien, yet younger and more relaxed in their human clothing, and the white shirts did not hide the fact that Soval, Sorak and L'Vek were all well-built, muscular men. The guests at her wedding were getting a rare glimpse at the Vulcan body, and she certainly appreciated the view. Meral's shirt rustled in the light breeze coming off the ocean, and she grinned at him as her father let her go with a kiss on the cheek and allowed her to continue the last few steps alone.
She took both his hands in hers as the minister began the ceremony, and she could not stop smiling at him. Their bond was humming with satisfaction and contentment, and as the sun set into the west, she thought to herself that she had never felt so happy.
Sorak handed Soval a cup of tropical punch and took a sip himself, raising his eyebrows in surprise. The punch was flavorful, infused with fruits he had never even seen before, and he took another sip, glancing over to gauge the ambassador's reaction.
"This is very agreeable," Soval murmured, taking a few more sips. "I have not tasted many cuisines from the Caribbean, but the fruits in this region are rather succulent. Perhaps we should incorporate them into the dining hall's menu."
"Indeed," the aide agreed. He glanced over at the crowd, at all the women gathered under the canopy. Several caught his eye, but he stayed put, even though Ms. Sadir had given him and the ambassador a crash course in slow dancing, so they would not look like fools on the dance floor.
"You should ask one of them to dance, Sorak," Soval prodded. "Many of them are eying you. I doubt they would refuse, and you are more graceful than I when it comes to human dancing."
Sorak shook his head. "Oh no, Osu. We just rid ourselves of one womanizer; we do not need another."
Soval smirked, watching Sorak eye the women in spite of his words. "You respect humanity. I would think if one stirred your katra, you would fall on your own lirpa if it would please your mate. You are not bonded. If Meral can find a mate among the humans, then I see no reason why you cannot."
Sorak felt heat prickle his ears. He hoped he could but...he could not imagine who might want him.
"L'Vek has also found a human mate..."
Sorak shifted and raised his hand, a surge of envy washing over his stomach. "Your point is taken, Osu, but I would say the same to you," he replied, hoping to shift the focus of the conversation.
However, as if to prove Soval's point, Judith stepped out of the crowd, pulling with her a lovely tanned woman in a yellow dress. Sorak swallowed thickly, noticing how beautiful Judith's friend was, and the bride grinned at him.
"Dis be my girl, Flavia. She wants to dance wit you, Mr. Sorak."
The aide felt his face flush green, but Soval spoke before he could form a coherent sentence.
"Sorak would be very pleased to dance with you, madam," the ambassador said smoothly. "He has even taken a few lessons to learn your dance forms. I think you will find him a very suitable partner."
Forrest wrapped his arm around his daughter's shoulders and steered her towards the ambassador, whose aide was being dragged onto the dance floor. The bride was laughing at the sight, but soon left to find her husband, and Soval turned towards him and his entourage.
"Ambassador. I don't believe you've met my family. This is my wife, Abigail, and my daughter, Genevieve. My sons couldn't make it, I'm afraid."
Genie swallowed hard once her father stopped talking. "Would you dance with me?" she asked boldly.
The commodore rounded on her. "Genie! I told you-"
Soval smirked. "Do not chastise her, commodore. Judith was telling me at length about the concept humans have about karma. I believe I have now seen this concept in action."
He turned and stared down at the commodore's daughter. "I am agreeable to dancing with you, young T'Sai." He held out his hand, strengthening his shields before she touched him, and led her to the dance floor.
Abigail sighed. "Damn, if I had known that..."
Max elbowed her gently. "Your dance card is full, woman. Come on.." He pulled her onto the dance floor.
Genie felt almost as if she might faint as the ambassador lightly wrapped his fingers around the subtle curve of her waist, and she looked up into his hazel eyes through her eyelashes.
"I didn't think you would accept," she murmured, taking his hand in hers. "Also, I wasn't sure if you danced or not."
"As you can see, I do," he replied, and she blushed.
"You know, ambassador, you might want to consider negotiating in an outfit like the one you have on. I think us humans would give you anything you wanted. 'It would be in Vulcan's best interests to raise the tariff on Vulcan goods at least 22.67%.' 'That sounds very reasonable, ambassador'...I'm just saying." She trailed off, looking away from him for a second, blushing madly at her cheek.
Amusement touched Soval's eyes. "While that might be beneficial to my people, I hardly think it in the realm of fair play, Miss Forrest. Now, if you could apply that mind of yours to how to get that kind of leverage with the Andorians, contact my office."
The music stopped and Soval let go of his young dance partner. He bowed his head, and raised a ta'al. "It was agreeable to dance with you," he said, leading her off the floor.
Max joined them with Abigail, who was grinning at something her husband said. "Did you have a good time, Genie?" She saw her daughter blushing and already knew the answer.
L'Vek, as best man, was instructed to stand on a chair and clink a glass to gain everyone's attention. "Now, the groom will throw the garter. I am told this is a human tradition, that means
whoever catches it will be the next man to marry."
A second later the garter landed perfectly around the leaf point of Soval's ear. Max couldn't help himself; he threw his head back and laughed, leading to every other human to laugh at Soval's mortified look. He slid his hand up and discreetly procured the undergarment from his ear, which caused every one to clap.
"And now the bride will throw her bouquet. Whoever catches it is required to dance with the man who caught the garter, in this case, Ambassador Soval."
Genie was shoved forward into the fray by her mother, but hung back a little, having never met the bride and only attending with her father. However, the bouquet soared over the other girl's heads, and she raised her arm and caught the bunch of flowers.
Soval was nearly green by the time she returned to her father with the bouquet, which she handed off to her mother. "Well, I guess we have to dance," she said, not really upset about that.
He flared his nostrils, but led her out onto the dance floor anyway and took her in his arms. She could feel her face starting to burn, as everyone's eyes were fixed on them, but the ambassador was just as graceful as he was handsome. He led her in a gentle boxstep, maintaining a proper distance as to not compromise their propriety. But still, he looked stiff and uncomfortable, and she leaned forward with a reassuring smile.
"I don't bite, ambassador. Chance brought us together for an extra dance. There's nothing to be ashamed of, you know."
"I am aware, Ms. Forrest, of the circumstances. I am just not favorable to being on display," Soval said stiffly, keeping his guards up, and maintaining a more respectful distance. "On Vulcan," he whispered, "touching is...not done in public. I honored the traditions of your people, but this is...difficult." He looked down at her and sighed. "Do you understand?"
Genie nodded primly, but was bursting with pride anyway, making sure to note who was taking pictures so she could get a copy from every angle.
The dance ended, and he led her back off the dance floor. Before he could slip away, she lightly touched his shoulder.
"Thank you for that, ambassador. I enjoyed it."
His eyes twinkled, or at least she thought she saw them twinkle, and he bowed his head. "It was a fascinating experience. I hope you enjoy the rest of the party."
V'Lok weaved in and out of the crowd, dressed in white like the staff catering for this event, and he glanced around for Seraphina. He knew she was in the crowd, as Meral had invited her in thanks for getting rid of his brother. The lights in the canopy made it hard to see, but he would find his prize, and ask her to dance.
Sera stood at the palm tree line, staring out over the expanse of the sea. She leaned against the nearest tree and relished the sensation of all the stresses of life fading away. She smiled as she glanced back at the crowd; it was nice to think that true love, even between aliens, was possible, and that not all men were like Renuk. It meant a lot to her that Meral had invited her and paid for the trip, even with a few extra days in thanks for her help getting his position back. She stepped out of her heels and picked them up, then stepped into the white sands to walk by herself.
V'Lok noted that Sera had slipped away from the party, and he noted a dark figure wandering along the shoreline, kicking up the waves as they rolled in. He followed her out onto the beach, the weak moon above his head lighting his way.
She did not anticipate his approach and turned around with wide eyes when he said her name, but he pressed forward, folding his hands behind his back.
"Why have you left the celebration, Ms. Goodman?"
Sera eyed him a moment. "They're all friends and family, and this is a time for friends and family. I'm only an acquaintance." She smile softly, brushing her hair back from her face. "You don't look like a waiter."
"What do you mean?" he asked, truly interested in her powers of observation.
"You stand like a Vulcan. Your body is that of a soldier, not someone surfing on the beach, your arms are corded in such a way that kind of makes me think of a warrior..." She looked him over again. "And your clothing is perfect."
He smirked and uncovered his ears and shook the hair out of his eyes. "Very astute, Ms. Goodman. It seems I cannot deceive you. I would not wish to, in any case."
"You have been lied to before. Renuk was dishonest and betrayed the trust you were willing to place in him."
Her eyes flooded with anger and confusion. "How do you know about that? I've never seen you before...or have you been spying on me?"
V'Lok shook his head. "I was spying on Renuk. You simply came into view, and I have been intrigued by you since. You are not easily deceived, and although my brother's behavior was abhorrent, his taste was not. He was correct when he said you are beautiful beyond the capacity of your tongue to express."
She closed her eyes, turning away from him. "Please don't repeat his words to me."
"Then I will cease my quotations. I understand Soval has offered you an internship at the Consulate. You wish to expand your career and make your way into the diplomatic sphere."
She changed her body posture to show him she was shutting him off, and she crossed her arms over her chest, but nodded. "Yes. That is my intention."
"I am the chief investigator on Vulcan. Do you know Earth history?"
"Then a comparison might be...J Edgar Hoover, and your F.B.I."
"Good for you. Sorry about your brother..."
"There is no need to apologize, Ms. Goodman. I aided in him being caught, as his actions were abhorrent to me. I want to give you some advice, if you will hear it, even though you are doing your best to show me you do not want me here." He moved so he was behind her. "Take the internship."
She shivered despite her cold posture, and she turned her head to watch his progress as he paced around her. Now that he was closer to her, she could see that he was very much like Renuk, but different. This man had an ease about him, a strong presence that Renuk could never achieve. And she did not smell anything fishy on him, even though his cold gaze made her tremble.
"I don't even know your name," she whispered. Why was she whispering?
"My name is V'Lok," he replied smoothly. "I want you to take the internship. Will you indulge me?"
"Why should I?" she whispered again, chiding herself inwardly for letting him set this hushed tone.
"That is a good question," he said, and she swore she could hear him smirking. "Because I can teach you things, things that will aid you not only in your profession, but in your life. You did well, spotting my brother as you did, but I can teach you things that will assure no one, not even me, will ever deceive you again."
She swallowed. "And what do you want in return?"
He stepped up behind her and gently tucked a stray auburn lock behind her ear. "I would never ask for something you are not willing to give. That would be futile. So let me ask you...what are you willing to give me?"
She stiffened, and he dared not touch her, even though her scent was clouding his synapses...she smelled intoxicating...
"I don't know. I don't even know if I want to take your offer..."
V'lok nodded. "Very well," he said evenly. "I will give you time to think about it..."
He pointed in the distance to a boat on the water, and Sera looked. She stared at it for a moment and then turned, but he was gone. She shivered slightly, dropping her protective stance, and she looked up and down the beach but didn't even see his footprints. Shaking her head, she decided to head back to the party.
Judith clung to Meral as he carried her through the door to the suite they had rented, and she kissed his neck as he locked the door and turned to her, familiar fire lighting his eyes.
"We jumped dat gun wit dat Vulcan bonding, no?"
"You are referring to our intercourse, and implying that this time together is redundant? My Judith, I thought you enjoyed spending time with me..."
She grinned at his teasing and started unbuttoning his shirt. "Ai, dat I do...an' no amount of lovin' on my Vulcan man is redundant, Mister Meral."
He purred as he unzipped her dress and let it fall to the floor, and his shirt and slacks followed quickly. Meral stepped over the pile of clothes and pushed her gently onto the bed, and she felt herself tremble in anticipation as he crawled on the bed towards her, his powerful arms cording with every movement.
"You pushed me beyond my level of tolerance, Judith, and there is only so much I can take before I am forced to retaliate."
She grinned as he began nosing about her thighs, and she throbbed, the anticipation and heat building between them.
"But now I be yers, love..."
"A fact I will remind you of many times tonight, and during our lifetime together."
She laid back into the pillows and stared up at the ceiling, closing her eyes against the wonderful pleasure he coaxed from her body. "I love you, Mister Meral...never forget dat..."
For a moment, he did not reply, but then she swore she heard him murmur four words.
"I love you, too."
She could only smile.
A/N: I could not have completed this story in this amount of time without Fameanon's help. Thank you so much, sweetie!