Reasons of Compassion

Title: Reasons of Compassion
Author: K.V. Wylie
Email: riordan10@yahoo.ca
Rating: PG
Status: new
Warning: Character death (not McCoy or Spock)
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Viacom, Paramount, and
the lawyers. This is non-profit fanfic, and no harm is meant.
Summary: For the Seventh Wave. Janet's challenge - Write a
S/Mc with a ritual of death and a ritual of life. Set years
after "The Search for Spock". Some AU with timelines.
If anyone cares: Siddhur is a mangled English spelling of an
Arabic word which means, "Sir."


"It is our mortality that defines us."
Jean-Luc Picard

"We will go to the highest mountain.
We will die on the highest peak.
Our thoughts enjoin, our minds beyond.
Forever will we speak.
Continuation."
Anonymous Vulcan Poet


<<<>>>

After all these years together, Spock could still surprise his
spouse with a meal the latter not only failed to recognize,
but could not look upon comfortably. Leonard H. McCoy,
recently retired for the upteenth time and hoping for at least
a couple of years of peace and quiet before either death or
another Starfleet reactivation clause came to claim him,
wondered if Spock was trying to poison him.

"What . . ." he said carefully, trying to suppress a gag
reflex. "What is *this*?"

"Rhouquats," Spock said, a forkful of it already in his mouth.

Watching Spock actually swallow, McCoy supposed that the
Vulcan might not be trying to kill him, unless the latter was
planning to leave this life as well.

"What is wrong, Leonard?"

McCoy tried to think of a nice way to say he'd performed
autopsies on weeks-old cadavers that smelled better. "Where'd
you, uh, get the recipe?"

"It was one of my mother's."

Lovely, McCoy sighed. If he insulted the meal, he'd be
insulting the memory of Lady Amanda too. He picked up his
fork and faced his plate once more.

Whatever rhouquats were, they looked like slugs in petroleum
jelly, topped with sauce made of more petroleum jelly. "This
is vegetarian?"

"They grow on Andor," Spock said. "The stems and leaves are
toxic, but the roots are edible and nutritionally rich."

McCoy speared one, watched something unmentionable ooze out of
it onto his plate, and looked away quickly. "I love you,
Spock, and you know that I loved your mother."

Spock's expression was unreadable. "But . . ."

"But," McCoy continued. "Either your mother's recipe is
gawdawful, or the stove has turned on you." He covered his
plate with his napkin, and got up to get a bowl of cereal.
"I'm sorry. Shall I make up my bed on the couch tonight?"

An arched eyebrow lifted. "I am not banishing you, Leonard,
but you may wish to sleep in another room regardless.
Rhouquats have an aftereffect, which would not be a problem if
both of us were inconvenienced."

McCoy paused in the act of pouring milk. "The aftereffect
would be?"

"The odor lingers."

"Is that it?" the doctor asked suspiciously.

Innocently, Spock replied, "Yes."

"Hmm," McCoy muttered. "Just in case that's not all, *you're*
sleeping on the couch."

The doctor meant it. The odor was enough to put him off, even
if there were no other results. Consequently, when the
priority transmission from Vulcan came through in the early
hours of the morning, Spock was able to retrieve the message
from the main room console without having to get up from the
couch.

The contents of the transmission, however, sent him to his
feet. He called for his husband through their link.

McCoy could sprint into wakefulness just as quickly. He was
in the doorway before the mental echoes died.

"What is it?"

"T'Pau is dying. I must attend to her."

"Oh no! You pack. I'll look up the shuttles."

"She is not on Vulcan," Spock said. "She is here. She was at
the seat of the Federation Council when she took ill."

McCoy paused, wondering why T'Pau had left Vulcan, but it
wasn't the time to ask. "At least you can get to her quickly.
Get a shower. I'll lay out your clothes."

"Leonard, she has requested the presence of both of us." But
the Vulcan was in the washroom before McCoy could say anything
more.

"You're the Designate," the doctor said to himself. He
checked the transmission to make sure he'd heard correctly.
There it was. She'd asked for him too.

McCoy booked transport, and was dressed and ready before the
Vulcan came out of the shower. "You're the one who's supposed
to take her Katra," he said. "I thought that was a private
thing."

"I have no information other than the message contents," Spock
said. He finished dressing just as a flyer came to their
door.

The driver would have heard them, so they kept quiet during
the trip. McCoy alternated between keeping an eye on Spock
and looking out the window, his mind whirling. They'd been
somewhat prepared for this eventuality, for T'Pau was quite
elderly by Vulcan standards, but its actual arrival was still
jarring. She was the Matriarch of Spock's family, and a
direct descendant of Surak. There were several women in the
bloodline who could succeed her, but T'Pau had not actually
chosen which of them was to take her place. If she died
without naming a successor, the resulting competition could
divide the family, perhaps permanently.

What T'Pau had done in the matter of her Katra was to,
surprisingly, bypass her oldest living male heir, her grandson
Sarek, in favor in Spock. Spock was to be the Designate, the
Receiver, the one who would be with T'Pau as she died and who
would carry her essence to Mount Seleya. The reason for her
choice was her own, and no one dared question her, not even
Sarek who had the right. But there was talk in the family all
the same. Some said it had to do with Sarek's marriage to
Amanda, the only Human in the family until McCoy, but if that
was the reason, then Spock, 'tainted' with human blood and
married to a human as well, would not have been the Designate.
Furthermore, Amanda had been offered a place in the Hall of
Ancient Thought, a great honor, if not an unsure one for no
one knew if Humans had Katras. And still didn't, for Lady
Amanda had desired cremation, without the attempt at Vulcan
immortality. Three seasons ago, Sarek had silently fulfilled
her wish, and carried the ashes to her family's vault on
Earth. T'Pau had accompanied him, also silently, but giving
favor by her presence. So the reasons behind the choice of
Designate were still entirely T'Pau's own.

T'Pau announced her choice after Spock and McCoy had married.
Coincidentally, the announcement came the day after they
arrived home from their first Isolation, the completion of the
first Pon Farr within their marriage. Neither was in much of
a state to deal with the news, for the cycle had been
difficult for both of them. Spock could appeal, but could
only legally do so within twelve hours. Recovering from Pon
Farr, he and McCoy slept through the opportunity. He became
the Designate, and had since kept his thoughts about it pretty
much to himself.

McCoy glanced over at Spock who was living up to the
stereotype by looking green. He sent a query through the
link.

Spock responded by taking McCoy's hand reassuringly. [I am
fine.]

McCoy doubted it, but let Spock be. They arrived soon
afterwards at the Federation Seat, and were whisked away by
nervous aides to a private suite in which a Vulcan physician
was in attendance.

"I am S'hoav. She has been waiting." He made it sound as if
they had taken their time getting there.

Spock entered into an inner room. McCoy headed for a chair,
but found S'hoav in front of him.

"Are you not Leonard McCoy of Sarek's House? She is waiting."

"She's waiting for Spock. I don't want to intrude."

"The Matriarch has requested you," S'hoav stated, with another
look of disapproval.

McCoy swallowed a retort and entered the inner room, S'hoav on
his heels.

What must have been hundreds of firepots lined the walls,
going across the floor, and sitting on shelves and tables.
The flickering lights cast a reddish glow over the room, and a
smell of smudge and spice filled the air. Elegant draperies
shrouded a huge bed, the head of which had been raised. T'Pau
may be dying, but she would do so upright.

She was wrapped in blankets glinting with edgings of gold
thread and jade stones. Her headdress stood firmly atop her
head, and she watched McCoy's entry into the room without a
quiver of expression across her lean face. Despite it all,
she looked small and frail in the finery. As McCoy neared the
bed, he realized she was upright only because of the support
of many pillows. Her headdress had been fastened to the
headboard.

He bowed respectfully as he neared her. "Siddhur," he said.

Spock stood a few feet away from the head of the bed, looking
unVulcanly stunned. McCoy went a step toward him, but T'Pau
held up a hand.

"Designate," she whispered.

McCoy turned around. She was looking at him.

He was startled for a moment, then he realized. Dim room.
Failing eyesight. "Spock," he said. "Get over here."

"Makkoy," T'Pau said, still in a whisper, but the authority of
the tone was unmistakable. "Come."

S'hoav approached the other side of the bed. Spock wasn't
helping, so McCoy spoke to the physician. "Her wishes are for
Spock to . . ." He didn't want to say 'take her Katra' in
front of her. It seemed disrespectful.

"Spock is revoked. Thee is my Receiver, Makkoy," T'Pau spoke,
her voice unsteady. McCoy turned back to her. Her upraised
hand was trembling and her voice was giving way, but her eyes
were flint.

McCoy felt the room spin. *He* was supposed to take her
Katra? The Human? More importantly, the unprepared Human?
She was aware of what had happened before, with he and Spock.

"No," McCoy stuttered. "No . . . I didn't . . . not again . .
. you said Spock . . . oh for . . .Spock, I told you the smell
of those rhouquats was enough to put anybody off . . ." He
pointed at Spock. "Unrevoke him."

"That is not allowed," Spock said, finally entering the
conversation. "Once revoked--"

"She can. Anything is allowed for the Matriarch," McCoy said
back.

"Does thee fight with me as I die?" T'Pau asked softly.

"I'm sorry. Truly," McCoy said, "but, Siddhur, it was always
Spock."

"Never Spock," she said. "I meant for you. Since the
Koon-ut-kal-if-fee."

Her voice failed and her hand went down.

"What do you mean, never Spock?" McCoy asked quietly.

"If the Matriarch had expressed her true wishes before now,
you would have appealed," S'hoav said.

"So you tell me about this *now*?" McCoy took a breath. "If
I appeal, it could take weeks for a hearing. In the meanwhile
. . ." He eyed T'Pau. "Your logic is infallible."

She took it as the compliment intended.

"The question is why," McCoy said, but T'Pau could only raise
her hand once more.

"There is no time. Makkoy, attend."

A spike of actual fear ran through him. "Siddhur, last time,
I failed."

"Thee did not."

McCoy glanced at Spock. Through their link, he felt the
Vulcan's lingering astonishment, but also, [I am here,
Leonard.]

The doctor tentatively touched T'Pau's hand with his own.
Beyond his own apprehension, he could feel Spock's worry.

How would this work? If he took T'Pau's Katra while linked
with Spock, wouldn't Spock be taking the Katra too? Or were
there mental barriers that Katras couldn't cross? Would it be
like the last time, with Spock's voice running bedlam through
his brain until he thought he would go mad from the constant
racket? What would T'Pau's Katra feel like? Spock was
half-Vulcan, and that had been bad enough. She was entirely
and unceasingly Vulcan, unremitting even in the last breath of
life. What would that feel like, inside his head?

Mostly, why had she chosen him?

The room slanted. Abruptly he was looking towards the door
from the wrong angle. Then he realized. He was seeing from
*her* angle. Spock and S'hoav looked back at him in return.
No, they were looking at *T'Pau*, but he was in her. He could
see their faces and, then, his own face, looking at him as if
he was outside his body.

He panicked and cried out. Dizziness overtook him. Then he
was back in his own head, looking from the correct angle. The
bed was before him, the door behind, where it should be. And
T'Pau . . .

Was dead. Her head lay against the pillow, her face relaxed
in an expression of serenity such as he'd never seen on her
before.

"The Matriarch has passed," S'hoav announced unnecessarily.
He ran a scanner over McCoy. "Tell me your name."

"I'm . . ." McCoy paused. He knew his name, but T'Pau was
inside him and every bit as authoritative as before. She
wanted to answer first.

Spock pulled over a chair, just in time for McCoy felt himself
going down.

"Leonard," he said, concern edging his voice.

McCoy steadied himself, his hands tightening on the armrests.
"I can hear her. It's almost as if she . . . hasn't died. I
can *hear* her!"

"Only the body is in death," S'hoav said.

McCoy reached through the link to Spock.

[Do you feel her?]

The answer returned, a bare wisp for T'Pau's presence was
strong. [No, Leonard.]

[Spock, she's so loud!]

[She is with you only. I hear nothing.]

McCoy felt another rise of panic, but Spock reached through
the link, reassuring him.

[I am here.]

Everyone's here, McCoy thought glumly. In me. Again. Why is
it always me?

"Matriarch, are you ready to receive your family for the final
time?" S'hoav said to the doctor.

McCoy rubbed his forehead. "You mean, am I ready?"

S'hoav's tone changed. "Family and those whose requests the
Matriarch will allow will speak through you, Leonard McCoy.
She will hear and reply. You are simply the passageway, the
Receiver. It seems you are not aware this is our way," S'hoav
replied. Again, the hint of accusation.

Fed up, McCoy responded, "She says you're to be nicer to me."

S'hoav blinked, startled, and McCoy inwardly smiled. T'Pau
had said no such thing, but he could feel approval from her.

Cautiously, the Vulcan physician added, "Leonard McCoy, I will
attend between visits, to ensure there is no harm to you.
When those of the family who wish to speak have done so, you
will be escorted to the Hall of Ancient Thought."

"How long will all of this take?"

"No more than one diurnal rhythm. A Vulcan host may carry a
Katra for two diurnal rhythms without degeneration, but we are
unsure of the effect in a Human host." S'hoav lowered his
head. "Matriarch, a reception room has been set aside for
your use. If it does not meet your approval, I will request
another chamber." He touched a button on the wall.
Immediately, the doors opened to admit several Vulcan guards.

They bowed to McCoy and said, "Matriarch, we attend thee."

Feeling horribly schizophrenic, McCoy managed a nod in return.

He was taken to an adjoining room decorated with ornate,
blood-green hangings. More firepots had been lit in here, as
well as small lamps. Their glow was a little brighter than in
the other room. It gave McCoy a small bit of comfort.

The guards helped him up onto a cushioned chair, set upon an
elevated platform. As McCoy climbed in, he recognized the
crests along the side. It was the same imperial chair that
had conveyed T'Pau into the arena during Spock's first Pon
Farr.

Once he had settled as best as he could, two of the guards
brought out a covering from a chest on the floor and draped it
over his lap. The quilt hung down to the floor and was
ridiculously multi-colored, but as McCoy studied it, he saw
why. A patchwork of designs was sewn on it. Some of the
threads, those in the middle, were so faded, they were gray,
but the colors became brighter and newer as his eyes traveled
to the borders.

He found that what he'd taken for a design was really a script
of words, some in the curlicues of ancient Vulcan, and others
in the more informal, modern lettering. Near one edge, beside
the word Spock 'en Sarek, was his own name in bright, silver
thread.

"The family tree," he said in wonder. The guards looked at
him, unsure if they were supposed to answer. He ignored them
as he traced back a branch of names - Spock, Sarek, T'Pau,
other names, some he recognized and others he didn't. Finally
he came to a name written in very old thread.

Surak.

He shivered, though he wasn't sure if the impulse came from
him or from T'Pau. She was with him and had been following
the names too. She urged him to go farther, so he did,
following through Surak's family line which now switched from
the father's name to the mother's. In many places, he came
upon a single line of female names, the males unrecorded. He
felt T'Pau's disapproval at the lost, unrecorded history.

At length he came to where the originator of the family should
be, the centre of the quilt, and discovered it was empty, the
fabric bare.

She spoke to him, inside his head.

[Lost, Makkoy. Where we came from in the beginning is
nameless. We know only that we took power by atrocious
violence and bloodshed. We murdered so many that the blood we
spilled turned the ground to liquid. We ruled by terror.]

She urged him to return to Surak's name. He did, and
discovered a second branch of names that ended again in an
empty place.

[Those who went to Romulus. Family we have disowned and who
have disowned us. We may have been wrong to stop the thread.]

McCoy didn't know how to answer her inside where her voice
was. He decided to whisper, even though the guards might
hear. "They rejected Surak and chose to keep their emotions.
I didn't know anyone disagreed with the Romulans being
banished."

[Thee married a Vulcan. Are we so unemotional?]

"To be honest, I only really know one Vulcan, but him I know
pretty well. So I'd have to say, no."

[There is another family line elsewhere. Remember this.
Someday, thee or Spock may go.]

"Go to Romulus?" McCoy couldn't keep the shock from
rebounding through his mind. He felt T'Pau recoil. "Forgive
me, Siddhur."

[Makkoy, this is why I chose thee. This is why I traveled to
Earth, when my end neared.]

He hesitated. "You chose me because I'm emotional?"

[I chose thee because thee dares. Thee defied me when T'Pring
legally challenged.]

"I don't remember that."

[Thee gave Kirk a drug to simulate death, and allowed him to
cheat.]

"Oh. *That*."

[Makkoy chooses by a logic of compassion.]

He frowned. "Siddhur, why would that be important now?"

She fell silent.

"Siddhur," McCoy tried, then called loudly, "Siddhur!"

The guards stared at him.

[Makkoy, order them to bring to thee the daughter of Stellek
and T'Penna, and to leave us alone.]

He did so awkwardly, however, they reacted as if T'Pau really
was speaking to them. They bowed hastily and sped from the
room.

McCoy sat for a few moments, lightly tracing names on the
quilt. "Now what?" he asked softly.

[The first approaches. Listen.]

He heard footsteps and voices. One of the guards entered the
room and asked, "Will the Siddhur receive Admiral Nogura of
the Earth Federation Council?"

T'Pau was willing, so McCoy nodded. This ought to be
interesting, he mused. The last time he had seen Nogura, it
was to yell at him for promoting Kirk out of the Captain's
chair.

Nogura was a short Terran, barely four and a half feet. McCoy
had often thought it ironic that the smallest people could
command with the greatest iron rule. Nogura was such a
commander, his inflexibility legendary, a reputation matched
only by T'Pau's.

As Nogura approached the chair on the platform, he looked even
smaller than McCoy remembered. As he bowed, McCoy noticed a
bald spot.

"T'Pau of Vulcan," he said, looking not at McCoy but at one of
the firepots. "I have come to offer my sympathy. The galaxy
will suffer by your death."

In a whisper McCoy himself could barely hear, he asked T'Pau,
"Are we polite or do we give a parting shot?"

[There is no accommodation for discourtesy. Does thee have
issue with the Admiral?]

"Big time." In a louder tone, McCoy repeated T'Pau's words in
his mind. "Thy words honor us."

Nogura must have been prepared for the masculine voice and the
man sitting before him - obviously he knew the protocol for
this situation - however, he hesitated, and had to gather
himself before going on. "If you have any last wishes, I am
willing to do my best."

McCoy recited T'Pau's reply. "There is Sarek's work with the
Legarans . . ."

"T'Pau, a treaty at this time would be meaningless."

"Thee need not be involved. Thy aide, Anlev, is competent."

"Competent," Nogura repeated grimly. "I suppose you could
call her that. I call her disagreeable."

"She only disagrees with thee, and only on the matter of the
Legarans."

Nogura finally looked up, and McCoy shifted uneasily in the
chair. Would Nogura believe that T'Pau was insisting on this
point, or would he think this was the doctor, being
argumentative again?

"She may go," Nogura said at last, looking disagreeable
himself. "T'Pau, if I may, I thought that Captain Spock was
your Designate?"

T'Pau silenced, so McCoy did too. This bothered Nogura. He
turned to take his leave, but turned back and ventured, "Are
there any further requests? Any, perhaps, to do with James
Kirk?"

Yup, McCoy thought, he *does* think I'm up to something.
T'Pau urged him, and in a bland voice, the doctor said, "The
situation with James Kirk does not concern us."

It concerns me, McCoy thought, but, frankly, he was a little
unnerved at the thought of what T'Pau could do in his head,
should she get upset with him. That time with Spock's Katra
had been bad enough. So he repeated her words verbatim, and
bit his tongue afterwards.

Damn, damn, damn, he said to himself, and felt the Matriarch's
admonition. [Patience, Makkoy.]

Nogura attempted another exit, but T'Pau suddenly decided she
wasn't finished.

"Nogura of Earth, we ask one final question of thee."

"Yes, T'Pau."

"What does thee believe will happen after thee dies?"

McCoy couldn't keep the surprise from showing on his face.
Neither could Nogura, who stared back in amazement.

The doctor shrugged as if to say, hey, I'm only the
passageway.

"I don't know what happens," Nogura said. "I've never thought
about it."

Liar, McCoy thought, and he felt T'Pau's agreement with the
sentiment. However, her reply was only, "Live long and
prosper, Nogura of Earth."

"Thank you, T'Pau," he said, and made his exit quickly.

<<<>>>

S'hoav came in with a medical scanner, ran it over McCoy, and
left without a word. Afterwards, McCoy sat for a while,
following lines of names on the quilt, before saying,
"Siddhur, Spock wants to come in."

[He shall be the last, Makkoy.]

"So we just sit here for the rest of the day?"

[Thee may break thy fast or administer to personal needs.]

"I'm rather used to 'administering to personal needs' by
myself. And I'm not hungry. Siddhur, why did you ask Nogura
about his soul?"

She didn't answer.

"This isn't helping," McCoy muttered. He tried another way.
"Siddhur, have you ever been in the Hall of Ancient Thought?"

[Yes, Makkoy.]

"What's it like?"

She gave him a mental picture of a long, shadowed dead end
burrowed into the side of a mountain. Innumerable, small
white receptacles lay in chiseled-out indentations in the red,
rough-stone walls. Murmuring stirred the air, the sounds of
hundreds of thousands of indistinguishable voices.

"Not to be, uh, disrespectful, but they look like ping pong
balls," McCoy said.

[Size is immaterial.]

"But how do you know who is where?"

[Thee need not know where. Thee need only listen.]

"If Lady Amanda had chosen to do this, could Sarek visit her?
Would she still be, somehow, within his reach?"

[He would not visit her. Requests which are self-concerning
are not allowed. He would need sufficient cause before being
admitted, and many years training in order to learn how to
communicate with the presences in the Hall.]

"I see," McCoy said. In the image T'Pau had given him, the
pitch of the voices was getting louder. "Are the presences
talking to each other?"

[Theirs is a level of existence living Katras do not
understand. The Masters do not believe the presences in the
Hall are aware of each other.]

"Siddhur, I know this is the Vulcan way, but I can sympathize
with Lady Amanda's decision not to be put into a ping pong
ball."

[Why, Makkoy?]

"It seems hopeless and lonely."

[Illogical, Makkoy, and emotional.]

"I know." McCoy closed his eyes and tried to get comfortable
in the chair.

He had no sense of time, and he wondered if he'd been dozing
for, when the next guard interrupted, he experienced a few
moments of disorientation.

"Siddhur!"

[Here, Makkoy.]

"Are you all right?" he asked, before catching himself. "No,
I guess you're not, having . . . passed on."

[Attend, Makkoy. T'Pring enters.]

T'Pring was dressed in elegant, though simply cut clothing.
She wore no jewelry and her hair was loose and unadorned down
her back. She bowed when she came in the room, took a few
steps near to the chaise chair, then went down on her knees on
the floor.

"Siddhur," she said softly. "I grieve."

T'Pau made no answer for several, long minutes. McCoy waited
uncomfortably, and finally 'nudged' T'Pau as best as he could.

[She is no longer of Sarek's house, Makkoy. She chose to
Challenge, and Spock subsequently refused her as his wife. We
may choose not to acknowledge her.]

From his elevated perspective, the doctor was aware that
T'Pring's bowed position made her seem smaller than if his
chair had been on the floor, rather than on a platform. She
may have been counting on the view appearing so. Still, the
realization didn't make the silence any easier for him.

At last, T'Pring said, "Siddhur, I ask of thee one last
favor."

T'Pau's words surprised McCoy. He repeated them, but not
without some human emotion creeping in. "Does thee make
requests to Sarek's house after having challenged? Where is
thy consort, Stonn? He, at least, may approach us without
reproach."

It seemed to McCoy that T'Pau already knew the answer to her
question. It was not enough to take T'Pring on her knees -
she also had to state out loud a source of shame.

"Siddhur, Stonn would not take me as his wife."

"Why did he scorn thee?"

Now McCoy was certain that T'Pau already knew the story. He
turned uneasily to look at a wall hanging, but the Matriarch
ordered him to return his eyes to T'Pring.

T'Pring kept her gaze fastened on the floor. "Stonn had
desired to be my Challenger. He could not see the logic of my
argument. He saw only an insult to his honor."

"Thee put a human in his place. There is no logic. There is
only dishonor, both to Stonn's family and to Spock's. Thee
continues the dishonor by thy presence before us. Does thee
not have a husband now, to speak on thy behalf?"

In a very even, but very soft, voice, T'Pring said, "Siddhur,
when it became known that I would Challenge, no other male has
inquired of me."

"Return to thy family then."

"They will not have me."

T'Pau knew that too, and McCoy was hating this conversation
thoroughly. These endless family insults and dishonors were
ridiculous. All T'Pring had done was decide against the one
her family had picked for her when she was seven. McCoy also
knew for certain she didn't cross Spock's mind anymore.

T'Pau decided to either relent or pose a different angle of
attack.

"Speak, and we will hear, T'Pring."

"Siddhur, I will make whatever restitution is required of me.
I ask only to be forgiven by Sarek's House."

"Thy request is denied."

McCoy did look away now. He could barely stand to repeat the
words.

"I understand, Siddhur." T'Pring rose and left.

McCoy felt ready to explode. "You cannot be serious!
Siddhur, this happened years ago!"

[Time is irrelevant, Makkoy. T'Pring understood when she
Challenged.]

"But she's cut off from every family. She has no one."

[Do not be foolish with thy sympathy.]

"It's hardly foolish," McCoy fumed. "This woman's paying her
whole life for one action. As far as I'm concerned, Siddhur,
your House is still violent and bloody."

[Makkoy, there is no precedent for deciding otherwise. This
is the way it has always been. Shall I spurn what has been
the Vulcan way for thousands of years, for no reason other
than compassion?]

"Yes, make a precedent. You're the damn Matriarch!"

[No, Makkoy. During this day, thee is the Matriarch. My time
has ended. Thee could require T'Pring to return here, and
thee could forgive on behalf of Sarek's House.]

"I could," McCoy frowned, "but you don't like that option."

[No one can hear my voice, but thee, Makkoy. No one would
know that I did not forgive T'Pring.]

"Siddhur, *I'd* know," McCoy muttered.

S'hoav returned with his scanner, followed by an attendant
with tea and fruit.

"Is anyone else out there?" McCoy asked the Vulcan physician.

"Ambassador Sarek, Matriarch."

After S'hoav and the attendant left, McCoy murmured, "Here we
go."

Sarek entered the room, then knelt. "T'Pau."

McCoy closed his eyes - it was all he could do to give the two
of them some privacy. It was also disturbing, addressing his
father-in-law who was addressing him in return as his
grandmother.

[Open thy eyes, Makkoy.]

He sent a resounding negative back to her.

[I cannot see unless thee sees. I cannot move unless thee
moves. Let me look upon Sarek when I speak to him.]

And she would speak to him. Finally, McCoy had to open his
eyes, for T'Pau was getting rather relentless in his head.

He found Sarek still kneeling.

"T'Pau," Sarek said. "I grieve."

"Sarek, we find no fault in thee. Does thee have any
requests?"

McCoy wondered if he'd ask about the choice of Designate.
Instead, Sarek rose and said, "I have none, T'Pau. I will
inform you that Admiral Nogura's aide, Anlev, will be
assisting me in my work with the Legarans."

This was the Vulcan way of saying thank you, McCoy knew.
Sarek was grateful for T'Pau's intervention with Nogura.

"Live long and prosper, Sarek."

Sarek nodded, then turned to go.

Anti-climatic, McCoy thought. Was that it?

It wasn't. T'Pau called her grandson back.

"Sarek."

He waited. T'Pau took her time to answer. McCoy wondered
why.

"Why did thy human wife prefer dissolution to the Hall of
Ancient Thought?"

The tiniest flicker of a muscle in Sarek's jaw was the only
betrayal of his being taken aback. "My wife had a belief set
consistent with a Terran monotheistic religion, the dominant
theme of which is--"

T'Pau interrupted him. "Were thee not her husband? Were thy
minds not one? Why did she choose disintegration over thy
objection?"

Unwillingly, Sarek replied, "Illogically, Amanda did not
believe her Katra would disintegrate if it was not transferred
to the Hall. She had no proof."

"Makkoy, also, will not accept the Hall." McCoy repeated her
words, overwhelmed with a feeling of unreality at being
simultaneously part and not part of the conversation.

"It is a Human tendency," Sarek commented.

Fortunately, the conversation finished there. After Sarek
left, McCoy said, "Siddhur, I admit I can be a dense man, but
I'm sensing a trend."

She refused to answer.

"The whole thing's illogical, isn't it?" McCoy said to no one.
He drank his tea and ate some of the fruit, then gave in and
went to the washroom. He was half-spooked at the thought of
looking at himself in the mirror over the vanity, as if he
might see T'Pau's reflection. Instead, a familiar, unshaven,
baggy-eyed face stared back at him.

He returned to the chair to find S'hoav waiting for him. "I'm
fine," he told him.

S'hoav checked his medical scanner. "Matriarch, your vital
readings are acceptable for a Human."

"Right now, you're only speaking to me," McCoy said.

S'hoav gave him a look, clearly hesitant to pick up any part
of that debate.

The doctor sighed. "I know. Today, *I'm* the Matriarch."

"Yes, Siddhur," S'hoav answered.

"And you have to do whatever I tell you?"

S'hoav took a second. "Yes, Siddhur."

McCoy drew the quilt back over his lap, then said, "It's good
to be the Matriarch."

"Yes, Siddhur. Will there be anything else?"

Nodding, McCoy said, "Were you T'Pau's personal physician?"

"Yes, Siddhur, I attended you for sixty-seven point eight
standard years."

"So you knew her pretty well?"

"Only the body is in death, Siddhur," S'hoav replied. "It is
correct to say that I have knowledge of you."

"Actually, S'hoav, she's being real quiet right now, so you're
only speaking to the Human."

The Vulcan physician pulled out his scanner again, but McCoy
waved it off. "She's still here, but there are some questions
I've been asking her that she's refusing to answer."

"Perhaps, Siddhur, such questions are not Leonard McCoy's
concern."

"I think they are," McCoy said. "There's a reason why she
made me the Designate. I'm supposed to do something besides
carry her Katra."

"I know of no basis for such reasoning, Siddhur." S'hoav ran
his scanner again anyway.

McCoy waited until he was finished before continuing, "Why was
I chosen? If you heard anything about the last time I did
this, you'd know it didn't turn out very well."

"The Refusion was successful," S'hoav said.

"Is that what T'Pau wants?"

"The body is in death, Siddhur. The circumstances with Spock
'en Sarek were different."

"Then why choose me?" McCoy persisted.

S'hoav relented. "I do not know, Leonard McCoy."

"It's an irrational decision."

"I pass no judgment on that. Stellek, T'Penna, and their
daughter await you, Matriarch. Are you ready to receive
them?"

"Yes, thank you," McCoy said, "but just the daughter first."

S'hoav left. A few minutes later, a striking-looking young
girl entered the room. She could not have been more than nine
or ten, and McCoy could see her ability at Vulcan discipline
was not yet strong enough to cover her awe at being called
alone before the Matriarch. Her hands were shaking as she
approached the platform.

"Siddhur," she said, and bowed. "I grieve."

"Speak your name, child."

T'Pau already knew the young girl's name, but she wanted to
see how the child responded.

"I am T'Pel, Siddhur," said the girl, raising her head and
managing a clear, even voice. "I am the daughter of Stellek
and T'Penna, and I am betrothed to Tuvok of the House of
Storak and son of T'Meni."

"Thee is cousin to Spock 'en Sarek."

"Yes, Siddhur, I have that honor."

"Does thee know why I have called thee before us?"

"No, Siddhur, but I am ready to fulfill any requests which you
make of me."

"We well know of thee, T'Pel. Call thy parents to attend, and
our physician S'hoav."

She bowed, and strode slowly to the door. McCoy had to admire
her; he could tell that T'Pel wasn't sure if she was in the
Matriarch's good graces, or bad ones, and probably would
prefer to bolt, either way.

S'hoav came in first, then Stellek and T'Penna entered,
T'Penna holding her daughter's hand. They bowed, and Stellek
said, "Matriarch, we grieve."

T'Pau told McCoy to sit up straighter than he was. Already,
his back was aching, but he managed another half-inch of
ramrod to his spine.

"T'Penna, let go of thy child's hand. T'Pel must stand on her
own from this day forward. We name her our successor, and the
Matriarch of the House of Sarek. She will bring added
commendation to the House of Storak. Her bridal price is to
be increased accordingly."

The parents remained as stone-faced as before, but T'Pel's
eyes widened. She looked at her parents and, finally, Stellek
said, "It shall be done, Matriarch."

"S'hoav and the Human Makkoy are thy witnesses. Go forth with
the news."

When they were alone, McCoy stretched and said happily,
"Siddhur, I enjoyed that."

[Enjoyment is not pertinent. T'Pel is the logical choice for
succession. She possesses the correct aptitude and is of the
line of Surak.]

"What sort of qualities make up this correct aptitude,
Siddhur?"

[The child is remarkably intelligent and able to withstand
physical stress.]

"Physical stress? You mean, she was ill?"

[Yes, Makkoy, and she nearly succumbed. Before she was of
four seasons, she experienced significant periods of
separation from her parents, which resulted in a higher level
of independence than most Vulcan children achieve at that
early age. She is also curious.]

McCoy blinked. "*You* admire curiosity?"

[Admiration is an emotional state, Makkoy.]

"Fair enough, but we can agree that curiosity is a desirable
trait?"

[I will allow that description.]

"So she gets in because she's smart, independent, curious, and
has withstood illness. These were qualities you had at her
age?"

[I did. There is another who possesses these qualities in
such a high degree.]

"How did you choose between them, Siddhur?"

[T'Pel is of the blood-line. The other was given a different
role.]

McCoy felt that strange moment of disorientation again.
"Siddhur?" he said cautiously.

[I am here, Makkoy.]

"The degeneration in the human host might be going faster than
S'hoav thought."

[Perhaps.]

"It's, uh, a bit of a concern, don't you think?"

[No, Makkoy. More of the family will be here soon, and T'Pel
will return to attend. Quickly, follow the logic. T'Pel was
given the highest honor. The other was given the second.
What is the second highest role to the Matriarch?]

"Consort to the Matriarch?"

[The Matriarch does not need to have a consort, nor can a
consort become head of the family.]

McCoy ran over several possibilities, but kept coming back to
one. "Designate to the Matriarch?"

[Thee has the correct aptitude.]

"And this . . . aptitude is important because . . . you want
me to do something," he said hesitantly. "But, Siddhur, every
time I ask you what it is you want me to do, you silence."

[The decision is thine.]

"What decision? What is it you want me to decide?"

She quieted. "Oh great," McCoy whispered. "Siddhur, this is
obviously huge."

Still silence.

"All right," he said, "Why do you prefer to leave
whatever-it-is in my hands?"

[Thee is my Designate, Makkoy. For this day, thee is Head of
the Family. Thee holds my fate in thy hands.]

More family arrived. T'Pel accompanied the first visitors in,
and remained standing, solemnly and quietly, at the side of
the chaise chair until late evening and nearly all of the
family had been to pay respects.

"Will you receive Spock now, Siddhur?" McCoy asked.

[Thy husband may enter, Makkoy.]

He nodded at T'Pel who went out to get him.

"Siddhur, about T'Pring--" he said. "Instead of looking at it
as, um, spurning thousands of years of tradition, could we
not, instead, see it as that she's been punished enough?"

[I do not offer forgiveness, Makkoy.]

"I don't get it," he persisted. "Because I suspect you want
me to defy tradition on another point. It's not ok for
T'Pring or anybody else to Challenge, but it's ok for the
Matriarch, the upholder of tradition? Is this rule written
down somewhere? Because it seems to have crept out of the
woodwork."

[I have been faithful to Vulcan ways, Makkoy.]

"By a sneaky loop of logic, yes, you have, because,
technically, I'm in charge at this moment."

T'Pel returned, with Spock. She took her spot by the chair.
Spock bowed before it, and said, "Siddhur, I grieve."

Spock looked collected and unflappable, but McCoy, who had
looked at him more closely and for more years than anybody
else, could see the tension. Spock had been stranded in their
link, for T'Pau's voice was overpowering in McCoy's head.

McCoy found it harder to speak to him than it had been with
Sarek. "Spock, we find no fault in thee. Does thee have any
requests?"

"I have none, Siddhur." Spock looked steadily into the
doctor's eyes. "I am ready to fulfill any request you would
make of me."

T'Pau quieted. It took McCoy a few minutes to gather himself.
"Would you, please, tell S'hoav that it's time to go to the
Mountain?"


<<<>>>


McCoy lifted his head and tried to see to the peak of Mount
Seleya. It was impossible, even with enhanced-vision goggles.
The top was perpetually covered by brown haze, a dry, dense
silicate of dust, not breathable for Vulcan air was rarely
moist enough to create any fog that lung tissue could handle.
Fortunately, they didn't have to go right to the top.

He was being carried, in state, in the chair by six, muscular,
Vulcan males. As strange as the conveyance felt, he was
grateful for it. He felt exhausted beyond measure.

The men were being very careful not to jostle him as much as
they could help. It was making the trip longer, but McCoy
wasn't concerned. The trip was going to be shorter than
anyone around him expected.

T'Pel was also being conveyed in a small sedan. Spock, Sarek,
S'hoav, and an almost innumerable line of guards followed
behind, walking slowly along the narrow path.

In a bare wisp of a voice, McCoy said, "Siddhur, if you want
me to push on one point, you have to give on another."

[Thee is the Matriarch, Makkoy.]

The procession was three-quarters of the way up the mountain,
still over a kilometer from the Hall of Ancient Thought, when
McCoy said loudly, "KROYKAH!"

The chair shuddered as everyone suddenly stopped in their
tracks.

McCoy removed his goggles. "Turn the chair around. I wish to
see who I'm speaking to."

The chair's attendants were forced to shuffle, to get the
chair turned.

McCoy glanced around. No one looked surprised at being
stopped on the path, but he was sure they probably were.
Sarek and Spock both had similar, raised eyebrows.

"I have two things to say. The first is something I've been
arguing about with the Matriarch all day. The upshot is,
she's going to give in on this point, in exchange for my doing
a favor for her. I hereby formally declare that T'Pring is
forgiven by the House of Sarek."

He waited. Vulcans were a hard audience; he never really knew
where he stood with them. He especially waited on Sarek.

Sarek finally nodded. "It is done."

McCoy breathed out. He wasn't sure if they were going to
believe him on the next point, or what proof he could provide
anyway. Spock was shut out of his conversations with T'Pau,
and S'hoav seemed naturally suspicious.

"The second is that I know I have a reputation, that it is
believed I do not respect ways I think are too harsh. This is
not true. I do respect traditions, even when I do not agree
with them. I am not guilty of deliberate or vicious
ignorance, but, yes, I am sometimes guilty of defiance. There
are some personal lines I cannot cross, no matter what the
grounds. I would like to believe that I have only ever
trespassed for reasons for compassion."

He glanced around again. S'hoav's brows were drawn. T'Pel
was once more wide-eyed. Sarek was impassive, but he looked
as if he had an idea what was going on.

Spock was gazing back at McCoy with tacit support.

McCoy continued. "The Matriarch chose the only Human in the
family as her Designate. I wanted to know why she had done
this, but every time I asked her, she refused to answer. She
has given me indications, through her conversations with those
who came to pay their respects, that she chose me because she
wished me to make a decision for her. An illogical decision.
A decision made when there can be no proof to guide it." He
turned to Sarek. "When Lady Amanda was offered a place at the
Hall of Ancient Thought, she was allowed to go there, to see
it, was she not?"

Sarek nodded.

"After she saw it, what was her decision with her Katra?"

"My wife chose not to allow her Katra to reside in the Hall,
Siddhur," Sarek replied.

McCoy ignored S'hoav, who had opened his mouth. "Sarek, tell
us why."

"Amanda did not believe her Katra would disintegrate if it was
not received by the Hall."

"You disagreed," McCoy said softly.

"Yes, Siddhur, but I respected her wishes."

"Illogical," McCoy said, "but hopeful."

"Hope is emotional, unreliable, insufficient--" S'hoav
started, but McCoy cut him off.

"Excuse me, *who's* Head of the Family right now?"

"You are not dealing with your Katra, Human, but the
Matriarch's," S'hoav stated.

"I know." McCoy took a breath. "And this is hard, but I
believe, honestly believe, that this is right for T'Pau. I
make no claims that what I am about to say is a better way. I
doubt it is. Vulcans have been doing this for thousands of
years, and if it wasn't good, you wouldn't still be doing it.
But for this one Vulcan, the accepted way is not enough. The
Matriarch chose me as her Designate because I dare to
Challenge. Therefore, I have decided that T'Pau's Katra will
not go into the Hall."

A Human audience, confronted with shock, will give a
collective gasp. Klingons will yell. Even mild Deltans have
something to say. But a Vulcan audience is ever hushed when
faced with the unforeseen. S'hoav looked offended, but even
he closed his mouth.

McCoy glanced at T'Pel. She looked back in clear wonder, and,
then, with a little quiver of amusement.

"I will be honored to serve you," he said. "Are you ready?"

The child nodded. "Yes, Siddhur."

He smiled at her, then said to the attendants. "Lower me
down, please."

They obliged. The row of guards watched him as he got up and
strode to the edge of the path, but they did not interfere.

He turned his back on everyone and looked over the desert.
Its true expanse was hidden by the oncoming, deepening
darkness, but the brash, red sand still glowed in the last
sparks of light it could find.

Whispering, he said, "T'Pau, I will miss you."

[I find no fault in thee, Makkoy. Live long and prosper.]

He kept his gaze on the last light of the sunset as she taught
him how to release her Katra. Then, gently, quietly, he let
her go.

As the desert closed into the night, he felt Spock's presence
return through their link. Warmed by it, he smiled.

(end)

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