Disclaimer: See Chapter 1. Thank you so much to Ahlysha, bina W, maba7x and the anon reviewer for reviewing! And thank you to Fameanon for helping me write this!
S'Vec tapped his finger against his leg as he waited for V'Las to take off in his private flitter before giving the signal. He sent V'Las an encrypted message with explicit orders not to read it or even open it, and he smiled as his son forwarded the message as instructed. He at least knew how to obey some orders.
He nodded to the transport chief and counted to ten, then walked into the room to see V'Las being restrained in the interrogation chair.
"Father," the minister said, obviously frightened and confused. S'Vec picked up a chip from the surgery table, examining it for flaws. There were none.
"Father, how have I displeased you?"
"You are weak, my son. Far too weak. You allowed yourself to develop feelings for this scrap of a girl, and if she stays with you, I feel you may...lose your touch."
"Never, father! I would never, and having Joanna in my life has only strengthened my resolve to do exactly what you desire of me." He tried not to struggled against the restraints as he looked into his father's burning blue eyes. "I have done all you have asked without question. I will continue to do such, father. You are my master, and I ask little in return...I do love Joanna, but allow me to keep this love, please...I have nothing without her that is my own."
S'Vec laughed. "Haven't you realized? You own nothing, because everything you own is mine. This," he held up the chip, "will allow you to remember her, but only when I activate it. Unfortunately, you'll have to do without her for now."
His son's eyes widened. "What have you done with her?"
"She's safe," he replied calmly. "She's aboard my ship, and I'll put her to work as one of my servants. She'll be protected under my orders, I assure you."
V'Las looked rather green, as if he might vomit, but then he blinked rapidly. It seemed he was on the verge of tears. "Thank you, father," the minister whispered.
"However, we will have to sever the bond you share. The device won't work on a bonded mind...strange how that works. I guess having someone else there to recall things for you goes against the point of it all, don't you agree?"
His son let out a long, low moan. "What about Joanna? If you sever the bond-"
"I have raised hundreds from the dead, and you question whether or not I can help one girl survive a broken bond?" He laughed.
"Will be safe with me. Your daughter will come to love her Papa S'Vec. Don't you worry, V'Las, my boy. All that you love is in good hands."
S'Vec nodded to the surgeon.
"You may begin."
Kuvak sighed as he watched Tawny blow her nose for the fourteenth time that day, and he thought his wife looked rather drab in the black dress she had donned. The bulge in her stomach was quite pronounced by now, and he stroked her gently as she turned back to him and straightened his robes.
"You look nice," she croaked, her voice cracking from lack of use, and the fact that she had cried off and on since receiving news of Joanna's death. He knew his wife was a sensitive soul, and it pained him to see her in pain.
But most of all, he regretted that V'Las had finally found someone who seemed to center him and make him happy, only to lose her and his child. Kuvak could think of nothing worse than that fell blow that his fellow minister had received.
"Are you ready?" he said softly, offering her his calm and peace. She took it.
"Yes," she whimpered and buried her head in the crook of Kuvak's shoulder.
V'Las stood in the center of the room, his hands folded neatly before him. He felt numb. Not angry or sad, as even in his logic he should feel, but the type of numb that felt like thousands of pins and needles dancing in his very katra. He didn't remember being married, though his father had given him orders that he was to act grieved. He blinked and shook his head. As hard as he tried, he could not call a person's face to his mind. Surely, this was a deception of his father's. No woman had ever desired him, so it was logical to assume that this woman never really existed, or did and his father had killed her after making the illusion of his marriage.
He took a step toward the casket. Frowning, he reached out and touched its smooth surface. He wondered if it was as empty as he felt, or if like him it contained the body of a person betrayed and murdered by his father.
He turned when he felt a small, feminine hand on his shoulder. Tawny Townsend was there, dressed in black, her eyes rimmed red from crying.
"I grieve with thee," she whispered sincerely. "And I'm so sorry...if you need anything, just let us know, ok?"
He nodded automatically, his gaze turning to Kuvak, who looked dour as he examined the casket. "I grieve with thee, V'Las," he said in Vulcan, as was appropriate for the occasion. He bowed his head and turned away from them, and he heard Tawny whisper that she wanted a moment to talk to him alone. He raised an eyebrow, curious as to what she might saw to him.
"She loved you," Tawny breathed, looking as if she were on the verge of tears. "She loved you more than life itself, V'Las...minister. Never ever ever forget that, ok? She couldn't stop talking about you, and you made her so happy...you gave her everything she could have wanted. You did good."
She gave him a hug, and he wondered if Kuvak would be upset that she was affording him this intimacy. But she didn't let go for several seconds, and he could feel that she was supportive, and truly grieved with him. Fascinating.
"Never forget," she whispered again. Then she nodded to him and went to Kuvak's side, fresh tears streaming down her cheeks.
V'Las cleared his throat. He was getting angry for some reason. It seemed as if this deception was not a deception. His lips thinned; perhaps he was married, and a woman did want him, and his father had killed her and ripped it all from his mind. He turned back to the casket and placed his palm on the smooth surface. His mind began to burn and ache. What point was there in all of this? he wondered.
He stared at the black expanse of the coffin. What sick game was his father playing? He might never know, and all he might ever know of a contentment that he may or may not have had was a coffin that could contains something, or just as probably contained nothing.
He felt another female hand on his shoulder and he turned. He recognized her, Kiki...that rang something in his mind but...it was like chasing smoke trying to understand what.
"Minister...I want to thank you for all you and Jo did for me." She sniffed and tears ran down her cheeks. "She loved you, and...you would have been a good father."
She turned to the Vulcan man at her side. "I can't do this," she squeaked. "I can't be unemotional...take me home, please."
V'Las' eyes widened. The longer he stood here, the more anger burned in his veins. His head felt like a sehlat tooth was being rammed into his skull, and it was a pain he could not suppress.
Another hand landed on his shoulder, and he whipped around to face whoever else was here. It was another one of the secretaries from the Embassy, and she was crying openly. The minute he turned around, she embraced him, hard, squeezing him as if she felt his pain as keenly as he did.
"It aches, doesn't it?" she whispered into his shoulder. "Not having her here? It's like a hole is gone from our world."
He said nothing, and she pulled back, smiling at him through the tears. "I know you must be a wonderful man, minister," she said, her voice sounding odd from the mixed emotions she fed into it. "Joanna was so smart, and she wouldn't have picked anyone but the best. We're all here for you, if you need us."
She gestured out at the crowd, at all the women seated in the room, all the Vulcan males and other staff members from the Embassy here to say goodbye to a woman he couldn't even remember. But they all did, and it confounded him.
He looked down just in time for the Vulcan man with the woman who just hugged him to press a small PADD into his hand. He raised the ta'al to V'Las and then took the human's two fingers and walked away. V'Las turned from the group. He was shaking in anger. What fresh hell was this?
He tapped the PADD on, and there was a single picture there, a beautiful, brown-haired, brown-eyed woman, sitting wantonly on his lap. Her midriff was slightly swollen.
He ground his teeth; his father...if he discovered she truly existed and they were bonded, his father would pay for whatever he had done. He would pay, and pay in blood.
V'Las threw his robes over his wrists and stuffed the PADD into a side pocket. He could do this no more. He rushed from the place of death and grieving. He did not belong here, not for this woman who he did not know, yet suspected that he loved.
Joanna gently laid T'Anna's head on her shoulder, stroking her daughter's long, curly hair. Her daughter had been blessed with good looks from both sides, and Joanna often saw V'Las in her. It felt as if someone were stabbing her heart each time she thought of him. She had not seen him in four years, and she was beginning to suspect it would be a very long time before they were reunited.
"My heart is pierced by Cupid, I disdain all glittering gold,
There is nothing can console me but my jolly sailor bold.While up aloft in storm, from me his absence mourn,
And firmly pray arrive the day he's never more to roam..."
She hummed another strain of the song, and T'Anna yawned. Joanna smiled ruefully and closed her eyes as well, sighing as her heart panged.
The door swished open, and she slowly opened her eyes. She thought she must be dreaming, that it was all an illusion. She had been thinking of V'Las lately, and now he was in her dreams. But he never stayed for long, and often disappeared into smoke when she tried to touch him in her dreams. She didn't even bother getting up.
"Stop haunting me," she pleaded quietly. T'Anna frowned at her. "I've had enough of this hell, and I know you're not real."
V'Las blinked, and he could feel himself trembling. The girlchild was about the age his child would be. He was beginning to remember now, now that his father had taken the chip out of his brain, the chip that suppressed and manipulated his memory. He stepped forward, ignoring her command.
He stopped mid-step. What if she knew, and no longer desired him? What if she knew that he had taken a priestess to the bed that should have been hers?
His mouth went dry. "Joanna, if you..." his voice was thin, "do not wish me to be here I will go...but...I would..." He stepped forward again. "I want to know you again if you would allow it..."
She slowly stood up. It sounded like V'Las, looked like V'Las...this apparition seemed like it might be real. She was so tired...she stepped a little closer, and he did not disappear.
"Are you my V'Las?" she whispered, edging closer. He remained solid, and she slowly reached out her hand towards his chest. She squeezed her tear-filled eyes shut and took another step forward, and her fingertips met a solid body.
Her eyes flew open, and he was still there, the most heart-wrenching look of sorrow on his face. She fisted the material of his shirt, amazed that it was solid, and she broke out into tears as she stepped closer. He was still there, still real, and she stroked her hand over his silver hair, down to his cheek, which was as warm as she remembered his skin to be. His eyes still shone bright blue, like they had before, and an indescribable noise came out of her mouth as she sealed her lips desperately over his.
She kissed him, squeezed him, scratched her fingers down his back, mussed up his hair, toyed with his fingers, squeezed his hand to feel that long-lost jolt of electricity.
"Oh, my dearest, sweetest V'Las...oh, baby, I missed you so much!" She descended into fresh sobs, but kissed him anyway. She didn't want to let go.
V'Las wrapped his arms around her, and even though it disgusted him that she would kiss him, him who did not deserve her devotion, he could not help but kiss her back. He pulled back and looked into her face. It all made sense to him now, that funeral four years ago. Tears welled up in his eyes.
A little tug came to his robes drew his attention. He looked down and knelt before her. She had dainty points at her ears and bright blue eyes. She smelled like his child, and she was beautiful. He placed his palm at her cheek. "You..."
Joanna knelt with him. "This is T'Anna...she's our child." Jo sniffed and stroked her hand through T'Anna's hair. "Baby girl, this is your father..." she whispered.
V'Las's mouth opened and a small smile lit over his eyes. T'Anna rubbed her eyes and nodded.
The door opened again and T'Anna's eyes lit up. She ran toward the door.
"Papa!" She leaped into the man's arms and he kissed her cheek.
"There is my good girl!" S'Vec said, stepping into the room. "Did you say hi to your daddy?"
She nodded that she did and he gently pinched her cheek. "Good girl! Well, it seems that my son has gotten here before me. I was just coming to say that your husband is back from his mission. Not to worry now, Joanna, my dear...he's home for good. No more of Vulcan for you...for either of you. He did well, and has earned some rest time."
He kissed T'Anna's cheek. "But I'll still make time for you, my little grandchild."
"Yay!" T'Anna squealed, hugging him tightly. Joanna could see that V'Las looked pale, and slightly green, but she simply embraced him from behind and closed her eyes. Part of her hell was gone now, but what to do about T'Anna and S'Vec?
"Thank you for this, father," V'Las said, though Joanna thought she heard the tiniest edge of coldness in his voice. S'Vec laughed.
"Not at all, my boy! My little angel can stay the night with me so you two can catch up, hm? Meet me for breakfast, bright and early."
"Yes, father," he replied, and Joanna nodded.
"Be good for your papa, T'Anna," she instructed her daughter, but the girl was already chatting away with S'Vec, off down the hall. She felt tears well up in her eyes again as the door closed, but his warm fingers brushed them away. She leaned into his touch.
"I thought you were dead," he whispered, and she shook her head.
"I didn't know about priestesses, V'Las!" she admitted. "I thought...I told S'Vec that if you had to have anyone...Desiree seemed like such a nice girl, and I didn't know she was already with Oratt...I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry I did that to you, but baby, I didn't want you dead!"
V'Las embraced her. "I betrayed you...I would have rather died than go to another's bed." He openly sobbed. "I went to the priestess...I betrayed our marital bed, my vows to you, and I have not kept you safe."
He fell to his knees, wrapping his arms around her legs, and he buried his face in her thighs. "Forgive me, Joanna...I have been so selfish. I wanted you...and because I could not walk away, you have been here all these years. I have betrayed you."
He let the tears flow, four years of pain and loss flooding through his damaged brain. He was begging at her feet for her to forgive him.
He picked her up and pulled her to him. "If I live 90 years more, Joanna, I will heal this terrible thing. I will do nothing but that for all of my life."
"I love you," she whimpered. "I couldn't be there to help you when you needed me, and although it hurts me to think you've been with someone else, it was...logical. I love you. I love you so much it hurts me, and there were so many things I wanted to tell you that I never told you...there's so much to learn about each other, so we can grow stronger, together, right, my love?"
She kissed away his tears and gently pressed her lips against his. "I want to just...crawl inside your body," she said with a strangled laugh. "I want to just live within you, so you're never away from me ever again."
He lifted his hands to her neck, and she grinned for the first time in a very long time, and she sighed in contentment as he bonded with her again. "Yes," she breathed. "Thank you."
"No," he murmured, covering her lips with his finger. "Thank you."
She pressed her forehead to his, and they stayed silent for a long time, holding each other, crying together, touching each other. She couldn't think of anything else to say.
"He saved my sister," she said finally, her voice hoarse. "After that pig raped her mind. I'm going to thank Strom if I ever see him again. At the rate S'Vec is going, that doesn't seem too far-fetched now."
V'Las looked confused. "What do you mean, ashaya? Strom is not a target of my father. is he?"
She looked at him with pained eyes. "He killed the pig that raped my little sister. She's here, on this station, wherever we are, and she thinks S'Vec is wonderful. And I can't make her see otherwise."
V'las shook his head, and she sighed into his embrace.
"Oh, baby..." She ran her fingers through his hair. "We'll talk later, ok...for now, I just want to hold you, touch you...remember what it's like to be with my husband again..."
She purred, nipping at his neck. "Lay down with me, baby...let's get undressed and...I just need to feel you."
V'Las picked her up and lay her gently on the bed. "As you wish, a'duna."