Aug 192009

Prologue | I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X
Title: Zahvan T’Masu
Co-author: diane_kepler
Fandom: ST TOS
Characters: T’Nis, Starek, Spock
Rating: T
Warnings: Starek on æsthetics. Again. Still. Some flirting. Some intoxication.
Notes: Spock arrives. Starek promptly says stupid things and then recovers, by being gloriously confusing. Chocolate is eaten, leading to Vulcan drunkenness.

Across from the door through which Starek enters are two figures examining an oversized piece of abstract art. Both are dressed formally in robes of appropriately sober hues. T’Nis has put her hair up, with a minimum of ornamentation. She is explaining something to her new guest, who stands perfectly straight, his arms clasped behind his back.

To the left, an oblong table set for three is arranged before a set of single-paned French doors. They are open, allowing the the trickle of water from a feature in the courtyard to be seen and heard.

At the sound of Starek’s voice, both T’Nis and Spock and politely approach. The three of them meet near a grouping of deep chairs that separates the long wall with its fireplace and artwork from the doorway through which the Romulan entered.

Their host adroitly follows the opening protocols. "Commander Spock of the U.S.S. Enterprise, may I present Commander Starek of the Renunciation."

"T’nar pak sorat y’rani." Starek raises both his hand, in greeting, and his eyebrow, in fascination, but he waits for the greeting to be answered, before he speaks again.

"I confess, I have been intrigued by reports of your continued existence. "Pzhu-tor du vesh’nam-tor watosh. Au riyeht maut. Sem-rik." He studies Spock as dispassionately as he can. "Some people have no appreciation of the finer points of art and artistry. It is illogical and foolish of them to discount you merely because you do not fit the mold, in this day and age."

He pauses, for a long moment. "Forgive me my manners. You are, of course, a man, and not a work of art. And a scientist, I am told, whereas I am an artisan. It is a different perspective."

T’Nis hadn’t thought she was going to be this amused this quickly. Sem-rik, indeed. Spock is watching Starek closely which means that he doesn’t catch his host’s fleeting smile at the Romulan’s opening salvo.

There is a pause, indicating that the Federation officer is nonplussed. The pause could, of course, be deliberate. On Vulcan, strategic gaps in conversation are often used to convey surprise at another’s actions. They also work to express disapproval. But T’Nis has interacted with Spock before and believes that in this instance, her first analysis was correct. Starek has hit his mark.

"K’lalatar prkori k’lalatar prnak’liri.," Spock asserts, perhaps as a reminder.

"Gentlemen," T’Nis’s tone is easy. "Shall we be seated?"

It takes a fair bit of Starek’s control not to grin wickedly, but he manages well. He nods to T’Nis and waits for Spock to sit, so he can take the seat directly across the table. To sit next to Spock would be overplaying his hand.

"Your poets are surprisingly good, considering they were clearly not raised with the language," He remarks easily, to T’Nis, before turning his eye to Spock. "Butchery, of course, from a native perspective of excellence, but contextually considered, truly excellent work."

The sounds of the diners being seated seems to have been a prearranged signal. Cash arrives from behind Starek’s right shoulder to set down a platter, moving around the table to deposit another on the far end, near Spock. It is clear that he has heard the remark, but he says nothing.

"Butchery, Starek?" Spock’s reply is even. "No more than you or I attempting to reinterpret the works of Aristophanes, on T’Khasi. T’Nis and the students are to be admired for their efforts."

Amber glides in with a serving tray full of smaller dishes. Sartorially, she is the image of propriety, except for a pair of fuzzy pink socks. But she has smiles for everyone. Skye also returns with her ka’athyra. She gives a modest bow to the diners and sinks down onto a footstool over by the more plush furniture grouping, setting her lissome fingers to the strings.

T’Nis nods at Spock. "Your return visit encourages us more than your praise. There, I believe everything is arranged. Aru-yokul’voh muhl."

Skye begins to play.

Starek addresses Spock once again."You lack the native prejudices I have become familiar with. Of course, I might have guessed as much — you are here, after all." he considers the food for a moment.

"But, as I said, ‘contextually excellent’. After all, I, myself, have done no justice to Terran tradition, with my own composition. All things must be considered, not only objectively, as they are, but within the context in which they come to light."

He looks to T’Nis, faint confusion about his features. "Have I misspoken? You know I mean no insult to you or your students."

"Nam-tor ri thrap wilat nem-tor rim." T’Nis replies, giving Spock a look, that clearly says "ah, youth."

"The chef should be congratulated on this balk’ra," he says meditatively. "The cooler temperature is agreeable."

"I thank you. As with many dishes, I find it is best served cold." T’Nis risks a glance at Starek while her other guest is absorbed in what is on his plate.

Starek looks up, mouth full, and blinks. He has been eating rather quickly, and has just now realised that may not be the most polite thing. He swallows, and the corner of his mouth twitches in amusement as he looks to T’Nis.

"I have had three months of nothing but Andorian food, since D’nila broke the main replicator bank. Merendith will do anything to avoid taking my place on the bridge, much to my palate’s dismay." He glances at Spock. "It is refreshing to eat a sensible meal with company who are not throwing honey-cakes at each other, across the table. Also, I am firmly with Zhel-lan Spock, on the subject of the balk’ra. Do you think, once D’nila has the replicators working again, I could have this particular recipe? I would not trust Merendith with it, for the world, but I do not think the replicator will do it too much injustice."

"And certainly you may obtain the recipe" T’Nis tells him pleasantly. "And nourish yourself. It would be agreeable to see you full of energy at the end of the meal. Speaking of which, if you will excuse me, I will go see about dessert."

Khart-lan, lured by the smell of food, slinks silently in. He hops up onto the back of the sofa and watches them intently.

Spock addresses Starek from across the table. His tone conveys a certain camaraderie. "I also must admit an appreciation for food that has not been replicated. It is one of the reasons that I find these invitations so agreeable. May I ask how you have come to be acquainted with T’Nis?"

"We met at a conference," Starek is vague, unwilling to disclose the nature of their initial meeting. "She expressed an interest in my ship, and I in her rather prominently displayed Romulan ale. It was, if I may say, quite a meeting of the minds. And you? From whence does she come to know someone such as yourself?"

"Some months ago, a scheduled leave from the Enterprise coincided with an opportunity to lecture on temporal physics at Starfleet Academy. T’Nis attended and afterwards asked that I aid her with certain difficulties she was having with instructing her human students. Spending the remainder of my leave here was a productive experience."

When he has finished a bite of food, Spock indicates Skye with his gaze. "This musician has shown further progress than I had anticipated."

T’Nis returns to the table in time for Spock’s next question. "Aside from poetry, what other pastimes do you enjoy?"

"Aside from poetry? Any unconscionable uses of any language are high on my list. I’m a great fan of right and wrong." Starek glances across at T’Nis to let that one sink in. "Other than that, I enjoy indulging myself in all the beauty the universe has to offer me. Someone must be able to speak of the truth of beauty, and the objective points of it, panculturally. There are some things that all races find appealing, and I wish to find those things and combine them."

Starek pauses to eat some more befor continuing "And you? Other than temporal physics and music, I mean?"

"I find three-dimensional chess most stimulating," he leans forward, slightly. "But please, tell me more about this project of yours, to discover what appeals to all races."

"Most humanoids and vuhlkantra, at a similar point in development to where we are, have certain similarities in taste — whites and greens are prominent in starship designs, because they are cool, but bright, and easy on the eyes, in most cases. Klingons are the exception, preferring greys and reds. But, in terms of the attractiveness of females, I find that Klingons and Terrans are very much in agreement, and it is we who disagree, because we tend to find those body types excessive, since we are such a slim race." Starek nearly smiles, lip twitching. It fades quickly. "However, in all instances, spherical shapes tended to increase the appeal of a work — not spherical-type deformations of established form, but abstract spherical works. It is the most mathematically complex shape that can be expressed in three dimensions, and the simplest — the first shape any child draws. The sphere of suns and worlds, it appeals to all things."

Starek has stopped paying attention to himself and his words in the middle of this speech. His eyes have gone starry and distant as he traces demonstrative patterns with his hands.

"In the words of a twentieth-century musician of Earth, ‘Time is round and space is curved.’ We proved that, before his time, the Terrans, after his time, but the curve is still dominant in all beautiful things."

Finally, he catches himself. His face flattens out, his hands slow and settle. "I am still seeking another example of this phoenomenon. If it exists once, surely, it exists again. We are not all so different, I think."

Spock finds himself intrigued by the cadence of Starek’s words and also by the fine ideas themselves. Clearly he has put some thought into this. The beauty of the patterns Starek had been tracing does not go unnoticed either, although he does not see fit to remark upon it.

Amber approaches the table. "Dessert is almost ready."

T’Nis has eaten her fill and notes that her guests seem to have done the same. "I think we’ll tidy up and take it over by the coffee table, please."

As is traditional, everyone rises to assist with collecting dishes, although the students are there to take everything back to the kitchen. Once the diners have settled among the deeper chairs near the fireplace, the men occupying opposite ends of the same loveseat, Amber returns with the next course.

"Have you ever had soufflé before, Commander Starek?"

"I do not believe I have — or if I have, I did not know its name when I ate it." Starek crosses his ankles, leaning into his corner of the loveseat, so that his legs extend slightly into Spock’s personal space. He notes that the position is not nearly as attractive in these robes as it is in his usual style of dress.

Spock catches the scent rising from the ramekin set up in front of him, sharing a plate with its own little jug of sauce.

He looks up at T’Nis. "These dishes contain chocolate."

"And lavender," Amber adds helpfully. "My mom always put it in."

"In that case, I should not partake." he turns to hand his plate back, but the young woman stiffens.

"You don’t like chocolate, Commander?"

"It is not that. And I should not wish to offend you, T’Nis, however-"

Amber twists her hands in the hem of her blouse, looking greatly affected "I don’t -"

Their host leans forward. "It is my fault, Amber, I should have realized. Commander, I apologize. She was very excited about preparing the dish, and it was my oversight not to inquire about the flavoring."

"Please, accept my apologies instead, Opilsu." He addresses this last honorific towards Amber. "I shall partake. I am, after all, on leave at the present time."

The expression on Amber’s face goes from a rain-soaked morning in February, to an afternoon in May. "You’ll really eat it?"

T’Nis dismisses her with a wave. "We will Amber, thank you."

The young woman beams and scampers back to the kitchen.

"Thank you, Spock." T’Nis reaches for the chocolate sauce and drizzles some onto her pastry. "That was a kindness. She is so very concerned with making a good impression on you."

Spock nods in acknowledgement and reaches for his spoon.

Starek coughs to cover the fact that he’s just choked on his own spit. Eminently logical Spock has just agreed to intentionally consume an intoxicant. He takes a bite, and the world stops and stutters, for a moment. Starek visibly loses touch with reality for a moment, nearly dropping his spoon. "This… is … maut-klon’es. Maut-klon’es yokul-yehat."

Spock is also quite earnest in his reply. "Nam-tor ish-veh ritsuri. Sem-rik."

T’Nis notes with satisfaction that when they are all finished eating, no trace of the dessert remains.

Once again, they stack the dishes and T’Nis takes hold of the collection. "I shall convey your comments to the chef. I suspect she will be relieved."

She strides off towards the kitchen, where animated voices can be heard.

"Ritsuri eh sem-rik – kethelvau tu be’ka-zhit, Zhel-lan." Relaxing back against the couch, Starek watches Spock, from the corner of his eye.

"I do not — how so?" he cocks his head.

Khart-lan has been drawing steadily closer to Starek for some time now and has at last reached optimal head-rubbing distance. He starts with just the head and then goes along to stroke his entire body up against one of Starek’s booted shins.

Starek leans forward, scooping the cat into his lap, to pet it. "You are by no means the stereotypical Vulcan — but none of us are, tonight. Surely that qualifies as ‘exotic’. And in the present company, where even your ancestry could go uncommented, your angular features are enough to draw the eye." Starek lifts a hand to sketch in the air with a finger, again. "The angle of the typical Vulcan jawline is significantly flatter than yours. It makes your face seem slimmer, and oddly more … appropriate to the lines of the typical Vulcan body. It is a piece of natural design I had not realised I found disturbing, until I saw the alternative. Limuk t’du vaksurik maut."

His hand returns to the cat, scratching it under the chin. "But, my fascination with you is more than a matter of artistry, although that certainly helps the case. You are more human than even I, in some of your interactions. You perceive impact before you speak — perhaps a result of being the Ambassador’s son. Politics is in the blood, I’m told. But, even then, your world is one in which music is related to math. Mine is one in which math is related to music. It is these small differences in trajectory that leave me unable to stop attending you — calculating the different lines of thought, the alternate sites of impact for a word."

"You intrigue me, as few things do." Starek’s face has remained placid through the entire explanation, simple, open-eyed, and nearly mechanical, as he becomes, sometimes, when he needs to be certain of the precision of his words. With a nod, his eyelids slide down a millimetre or two, and again, his eyes shift to the side to watch Spock, instead of the cat.

"Music and mathematics are . . . equivalent." Spock mutters, staring at the piece of art over the fireplace. He clenches his eyes shut and then opens them again, shaking his head just slightly.

Starek notices Spock’s reaction, and suspects he’s getting somewhere. "Yes, but you come at them from one side, and I from the other. However, this is not what disturbs you. Unlike you, I speak what I perceive to be truth with somewhat less consideration for the impact. Have I offended you in some way? Be honest with me, that I may avoid doing so, again."

Khart-lan has begun kneading the robes in Starek’s lap, his claws working. He begins to purr. But Starek is not looking at the cat, at all. He simply continues to pet it, letting his fingertips judge the reactions, instead of his eyes. He needs his eyes to judge Spock’s reactions, regardless of how much he’d prefer to judge those with his hands.

"There is no offense, I . . ." Spock puts a hand to his face, the index and middle fingers near the center of his forehead, thumb along the line of his jaw. "Please excuse me. It appears that I require some air."

He rises slowly, heads for the French doors and passes through them into the courtyard. His progress is not one hundred percent linear.

Prologue | I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X