Just One by Djinn

"Are they gone? Your...business associates?"

Mestral turned away from his study of the night sky to look at Maggie. "They are."

"Do you miss them?"

He considered her question, knew that in the past, he would not have given it the least consideration. There would have been no reason to. To miss someone or something was an emotion. An indication of regret or perhaps loneliness. He was a Vulcan. He did not allow himself to feel those things. Did not allow himself to feel anything.

Maggie settled down next to him on the bench and smiled at him.

In the past, he had not allowed himself to feel anything, he revised mentally as he felt his own expression lighten somewhat in response to her. But this was a new world, a new future. A new life. So he considered again her question. His people had left him here as he requested. In all probability, he would never see a Vulcan again. Never see his homeworld again. Did he miss them?

He realized her smile had turned into a huge grin. "You are amused?"

She nodded. "Anyone ever tell you that you think way too hard."

"No."

"Hmmm." She regarded him for a long moment. Then she reached up, gently started to remove the stocking cap.

He stopped her. "Do not."

"I want to see."

"I do not believe that you do."

Her hand dropped, ran along his cheek. "Your skin. The color." She shook her head, reached again for the hat. "I have to know."

Again he stopped her. "You will not like what you see."

"How do you know?"

"I am nearly certain."

"Nearly isn't good enough." She dropped her hand though. "Where did they go?"

"Away."

"Not very specific."

"Far away."

"Up north, I believe."

He nodded slightly. "Yes. North."

"North as in Alaska. Or North as in the North Star?"

He turned to look at her, tried not to let shock show in his expression, was fairly certain he failed. "North as in New Brunswick." He picked the first place that came to mind.

She nodded. "Whatever you say." They sat in silence for a few moments, then she turned to him. "Did you stay for me?"

He forced himself not to look at her as he shook his head. "I plan to visit the city."

She leaned back. "How long will that take?"

"I plan to visit more than one city."

"How many more?"

"I am not certain."

She stood up slowly. "So you want to see the world?"

He nodded.

She held out her hand. "Walk with me?"

He hesitated.

"I won't bite."

He finally took her hand. She led him back behind the bar, down a path that cut through the woods into a clearing.

She looked down at their clasped hands. "Your skin is so hot."

He tried to pull away but her grip was surprisingly strong. He looked at her in alarm.

"You are different, Mestral."

He tried to assess the best response to her statement.

"Stop thinking so hard!" She let him go. "Your skin is a strange color, you feel like you have a fever, you talk funny, and you wear this stupid cap all the time." Without warning, she snatched the cap from his head and stared up at him. "That's it? That's what you were hiding? Elf ears."

"Elf ears?"

"Pointed." She took a step closer. "May I touch?"

He knew he should tell her no. Vulcans did not touch one another there except in the most intimate of situations. It would be most improper. And yet he nodded, did not stop her as her hands moved slowly to his head. Did not try to stifle his gasp as her cool fingers touched the points of his ears.

"You like that?"

He nodded, suddenly at a loss for words.

"Better than you liked the kiss?" She sounded amused as she held a finger to his lips. "Don't answer that. I think I'd rather not know."

"As you wish," he said, feeling strangely bereft when she dropped her hands.

"Where are you really from?"

"I cannot tell you."

"I'm not going to tell anyone, Mestral. Besides, who would believe me? You're the town hero after what you did in the mine. Nobody will hear a bad word about you."

"It is not that simple." He turned away from her, walked a few feet before looking at the sky again.

"Oh. _That_ north." She laughed softly. "So I wasn't far wrong."

"I am not from Mars."

"Where then?"

"Vulcan."

She laughed again. He turned, raised his eyebrow.

At his look, she shrugged. "Both Roman gods. Both in love with Venus." Then she looked down at her dress. "Hardly a Venus though, am I?"

"Is a Venus a desirable thing to be?"

She smiled. "She was a very beautiful goddess." When he said nothing, Maggie seemed eager to change the subject and looked up suddenly. "Jack could tell you which planet is Venus. Would he be able to find your planet too?"

Mestral shook his head.

"Are you really leaving?"

He nodded.

"Why?"

"I wish to experience your culture. I said I would keep moving." He looked away. "I could contaminate too much if I stayed here."

"Contaminate?"

"If my true nature were discovered."

"So you think the city will be better? What if you have an accident?"

"I will not."

She frowned. "You might. It wouldn't be an accident if you could plan for it."

He didn't answer.

"Wouldn't it make more sense, be more..." she trailed off, looked at him as if searching for the word.

"More logical?" he supplied.

"Yes. Wouldn't it be more logical to stay here? Where people care about you? Where we keep our own counsel. Where your secret could be safe."

He did not answer.

She looked away, her laugh a sad, bitter sound. "Of course, maybe you don't want to stay? Maybe I'm making an awfully big assumption? It's not like you've been around much lately." She turned to him. "And who in their right mind would stay in Carbon Creek, anyway? What kind of culture are you going to get here?"

She turned and walked down the path, back toward the bar. "I'm going to miss you, Mestral," she called over her shoulder.

He let her go, sinking slowly down to the meadow grass and staring up again at the stars. He tried not to think of the catch that had been in her voice as she hurried away. Or of the way it had felt to have her touch him. He tried to tell himself what he felt for her was just curiosity. Normal, certainly, in the face of the exceptional circumstances he had found himself in but ultimately leading to nothing. He almost had himself convinced when he heard soft footsteps coming back down the path. He looked up at her.

"At least grow out your hair."

He raised an eyebrow.

"If you look ridiculous in that cap here, you'll only stand out like a sore thumb in it when you get to the city. Grow your hair out and let it cover your ears. Your friends did, you can too. Okay, that's all I wanted to say." She turned away again.

He got up. "They were not my friends."

She stopped but didn't turn around. "No, your friends are all here. In this town. Billy. The boys at the mine. Jack."

"You." He moved closer and she turned to look at him. "Your face is wet and your eyes are red." As he watched, liquid welled from her eyes and began to run slowly down her cheeks.

"I'm crying. Don't people from Vulcan cry?"

"We do not." He reached out to touch her skin, his finger gently wiping the moisture away. "Why do you cry?"

"I'm sad."

"You are sad because of me?"

Another drop of moisture fell and again he reached for it, but she pulled away. "You can't stop all my tears, Mestral. Not when you're leaving."

"Will you cry when I am gone?"

"For a while. But not for long." She straightened, seemed to arm herself with the strong resolve he had admired from the moment he met her. "I'll be okay. I'll be fine." Her expression was no-nonsense and for a moment she reminded him of T'Mir. "You be careful in the city. They'll take you for all your worth, if you let them. Not like Carbon Creek. People are harder there." She turned and walked away deliberately.

"I stayed for you."

She froze.

"I did not think I could be with you but you were the reason I stayed."

She didn't turn. "If you want to see my world, I can show you."

He took a step toward her. "Yes?"

She turned around. "If you want to see the city, we could go together."

"An excursion?"

"A day trip or maybe a weekend trip." She blushed. "Only..."

"Only what?"

"People would talk. Two unmarried people taking an overnight trip. Not really the way it's done in Carbon Creek."

"But a mated couple?" He noticed she blushed again at his choice of adjectives. "That would be the way it is done?"

She nodded. "But there are lots of women in the city too, Mestral. Younger than I am." She looked down. "Prettier than I am."

"I did not stay for them." He realized as she looked up at him and smiled happily that this time he had said the right thing. "There are many ways we are different, Maggie. There are things that you will have to know about Vulcans...about me."

She grinned. "Well, it's not as if we're getting married tomorrow, mister. I expect you to do some courting if you want to win me."

"Courting?"

"Wooing. Elaborate gestures designed to make me select you for my mate."

He realized she was making fun of the way he spoke. Decided that he didn't mind. "I do not know how to woo."

"Ask your friend Billy. He's got plenty of experience." She touched his ears, smiled as he shuddered. "So you'll stay here? In Carbon Creek?"

He nodded as he bent down to kiss her gently.

When he pulled away, she grinned. "Very pleasant."

He felt his mouth curl ever so slightly upwards. "Only pleasant?"

"You were hoping for more?"

He nodded.

She grinned. "I did say very."

"I could try again?"

She was already leaning in as she said, "A little practice never hurt anyone."

FIN