Prologue | I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X
Title: Zahvan T’Masu
Fandom: ST TOS
Characters: Starek, Spock, T’Nis
Warnings: Still nothing notable. Flirting and invitations. Innuendo and out the other, but not much.
Notes: Starek finally gets Spock alone, and the conversation turns to water… and æsthetics. Lots of fun with words and hands.
T’Nis emerges from the now-shadowed doorway leading to the kitchen. She leans over the back of the sofa, until she is close enough to whisper to Starek. "Tizh-tor sha-shai, Starek-kam ha?"
Starek tilts his head back onto the top of the couch, smiling wickedly, because he knows Spock is still outside, and cannot see it, at that angle. "T’nash-veh sanosh maut."
He gives T’Nis his most innocent expression. "Vesht zarahk-tor ish-veh – kwes nash-veh. Nah-tor lau nuh’ne’vi-yumuk. Ri’fai-tor nosahp-wak ish-veh hafau lamok."
There is a long pause as Starek unhooks the cat’s claws from a rather uncomfortable spot in his robes. "Vita nam-tor nash-veh svi’lafosh – nuh’maut tizh-tor ish-veh.I am uncertain of the state of things, at this time, ko-kai."
"Skye, you have done well," T’Nis nods at the young woman who stops playing, rolling her fingers in the air and flexing them. "Please go bring us that last tray from the kitchen and then you may join the others."
"Avon-telik na’sanosh ish-veh." she murmers to Starek, casting a glance after her retreating pupil in her shift-dress. "His stoicism is merely a front. I perceived on his previous visit that he will sample the novelties that I have to offer, given the correct inducement."
T’Nis stands, her fingers on the back of the sofa, and arches her back in a feline manner before leaning against it with one hip. The intoxicant is affecting her too, although unlike Spock she is used to it.
"Or were you getting cold feet?" Her tone is playful, mocking.
The Vulcan accepts the tray from Skye, who, with a small nod towards Starek, collects her instrument and leaves.
"This water is artisanal. He will be most appreciative of your thoughtfulness in taking it out to him. If he asks, tell him that I have retired."
The oblong tray with its handles at either end holds a decanter filled with a clear liquid and two glasses.T’Nis sets the tray down on the coffee table and follows Skye’s earlier trajectory, lowering the lights as she reaches the door.
Starek stands and takes the tray. "Cold feet," he mutters, heading toward the French doors, "That’ll be the day."
He approaches Spock, faint amusement playing in his eyes, as he closes the distance, and as he comes up behind his shi-kar-tor, he opens with a pre-Awakening offer of peace.
"Masu t’nash-veh terish k’t’du."
The Vulcan turns at Starek’s approach. He looks relieved upon seeing that the statement is, in fact, literal.
"Th’i-oxiara. Na’nash-gol’nev, nam-tor dvinsu t’du."
"You thought I was going to spit," Starek noticed, still amused, "and I would have, if it were my land. But, I have heard such things are frowned upon, on Earth."
He makes a sharp gesture with his chin. "Thanks are superfluous. Just take a glass before I start talking, or we both know I’m going to sprain my wrist, when I forget I’m holding this tray. The beauty of the universe is overpoweringly distracting, and I have it in my eyes, at all times. Perhaps, moreso tonight, than at other times. La’vaksur maut – heh hau tu na’ish-veh."
Spock fills both glasses. He relieves Sarek of the tray and sets it down on a nearby bench, turning to present a glass back to the giver. "Difan’es heh muhi’es.," he toasts, and drinks deeply.
There is a moment of silence before he continues.
"Many times this evening, you have commented on my appearance." He looks down, to the right, and then back up into Starek’s eyes. "It is . . . curious."
"Is it, truly? Then more the fools, those around you. Or, perhaps, more the fool, I." Starek sips at the water, savouring it, as he holds the glass reverently, in both hands. It is an oddly Vulcan habit, and one most often seen in the generation now breathing their last breaths.
"For all that spheres are universally appealing, I find a stronger draw to certain angles, myself." One hand takes flight, painting a body in the air, with caresses, rather than lines, fingertips lingering where his favourite parts would be, as he speaks. "I spoke earlier of your jaw, but the angle of your eyes is also pleasing — both the curve and the geometry of your face, where they sit. My Merendith likes to paint her face with butterfly wings, but you have a similar effect, with only light and shadow. I have watched the way your lips move, all evening, but only because it would be far less invasive and impolite than watching your hands. Your hands do not describe matter and emptiness as mine do, but the precision in your fingers makes grand gestures unnecessary. You are a thing of beauty, as well as a man of great intellect, and I cannot separate the two, completely."
Starek looks past his hand, catching Spock’s eyes again. "I wish only that I had met you in the rain, but you would not know me for a Vulcan, if I had. I fear I might have wept at your grace, in such circumstances."
Spock is so focused on the commander’s declarations that he does not realize how his own lips have parted. Who is this mercurial being? At first acquaintance, he seemed nothing more than a callow hanger-on. Yet now, the eloquence of the Starek’s words and the grace of his gestures dictate otherwise.
"I have never . . . " he looks to Starek, as if for guidance. "I do not understand."
Starek’s lips twitch. "Of course you don’t. Your father is a politician, and you surround yourself with scientists. I don’t understand the finer points of time-dependent fluid dynamics, and you’re lacking in some of the more detailed points of aesthetics."
He offers his left hand — always his left. "Read me. See as I do. I don’t know how much you can gather, from just a palm-touch, but it is all I am willing to offer. After all, I hardly know you, as much as I might think I want to."
The offer is made flippantly, but Starek’s eyes make clear that he understands the weight of such an offer. He has offered his hand to a Vulcan, to share some fragment of his perceptions. He knows that with just a hand, he can control what gets through — it will be the immediate thoughts and sensations, if that much, with a half-breed, and not the drowning rush of memory that would betray him. He clears his mind of everything but the lines and shadows, the rush of excitement, the mathematical comparisons with the golden ratio…
"I . . . do enjoy aesthetics. This place is aesthetically pleasing. You as well, Commander, with your sense of how we differ." Spock brings his other hand up to his glass to mirror Starek’s posture. "I confess a desire to know more, yet this is a novelty. Such exchanges -" he begins and then stops.
"Do artists commune in this way?"
"At times, when words are not enough. It is not a common necessity, as we see very differently than you do, to begin with. A hint, here and there, and the entire image is easily revealed." Starek sips his water, again, taking comfort in the ritual action. "It is not something I offer lightly to someone who lacks my eyes. It is also something in which I have only previously engaged with Betazoids. No Vulcan has ever shared my vision. Most, I think, would be quite disgusted at the thought."
His eyebrow lifts slightly. "And I thank you for noticing."
"Noticing . . ." Spock thinks for a moment. Starek can see the wheels turning. It’s easy to spot the instant at which understanding dawns. It’s marked by a lowering of the eyes and a sudden stammering explanation.
"I hadn’t meant to say I found you — I mean, it was because -"
The lighting is low in the courtyard, coming mainly from inside a shallow, rectangular water feature that ripples gently. The bottom sides of the pool are sand-colored. They scatter the light evenly; therefore, Starek is able to see the exact moment Spock begins to blush.
He straightens, looking at Starek head-on. "I am not disgusted. Not at all."
"Nor am I," Starek returns, looking Spock up and down, to call attention back to his heritage. It is a dirty move, coming from a Romulan, but Starek holds steady, keeping his mind filled with only the things he wants Spock to see.
He bends, gracefully, setting his glass down, pausing for a moment to watch the light diffract through the facets, painting his hand with small rainbows. Standing, he holds his left hand out to Spock.
Spock takes a breath and reaches forward to rest his fingertips lightly on Starek’s palm.
It’s a good thing that Starek got a grip on controlling his mind, while working with those Betazoids, last year, because otherwise this would have crashed and burned the instant Spock touched him. He curls his fingers around Spock’s, and focuses on the Vulcan’s face, letting the art take over. He can see the math: white lines, numbers describing the angles and the planes, every curve and jut. The colour matching begins along the right edge of his vision — he knows almost every shade of oil paint the replicator can make — or at least enough of the theory to recognize them when he sees them — and he is matching colour to number, now. Spock becomes less a man, in his eyes, and more a study in the whole of his parts, in the parts of his whole. The angle of refraction off his eye in lumens and vector, the pastel-soft edge that only exists on the outer rim of the left iris, closest to the nose. Every detail, precise.
And then, he steps back, still holding Spock’s hand, and the math, the sketched forms, the colour pallet — they all fall away, leaving only the striking image of a young Vulcan, caught off-balance, bathed in the glow from the nearby pool. The sky has become a rich, navy blue, greenish, along the horizon line, and Starek thinks it offsets the natural colour of the scene quite well.
He cannot quite control the flicker of thought — there and gone — of this beautiful figure bending through the steps of a pre-Awakening rain-dance. He chases the thought with more calculations of angle and dexterity from his memories of dinner, and a faint heat, a low-intensity desire, creeps in beneath the images.
Spock, conversely, is unprepared for the rush of color, as well as for the sheer quantity of hues that can be known and named and chosen. Along with the stunning visuals there are parallels and harmonics, entire categories of understanding linked with single ideas. With Starek’s perusal of his cheekbones, he apprehends not only the word "chartreuse", but its history, its strength, its chemical relation to absinthe, and the memories of how they burn a bit differently, going down.
The knock to the Vulcan’s psyche is like that first moment, as a child, when he discovered how differential equations were not just for solving, but for describing the physical world, and at the same instant how those slanted, marching rows of tensors could hold the cosmos inside of them.
There are other new concepts, too, such as the Orion word for the level of Starek’s desire. Spock is unsettled to see that the same word applies to the as-yet unacknowledged feeling in the pit of his own belly, which grows once it has gained an appellation.
Sober, he might have been able to absorb it all, but in his current condition, the body that Starek just pictured rain-soaked and glistening fails him. The glass of water drops from his hand. Starek attempts to catch it, but succeeds only in knocking it — plunk — into the pool and breaking the contact they shared.
Spock says nothing. He merely kneels and examines the depth of the water, grateful for the excuse to control his breathing and rest his eyes somewhere beside Starek’s face.
Although close to the edge, the tumbler is nonetheless beyond reach, at least of arms as fully clothed as his. Starek, however, kneels beside him, pushes back one of his sleeves, and easily retrieves the glass.
He deftly avoids the actual subject at hand, leaving time for the impressions to soak in. Having set the dropped glass aside, he leans backward, arching over his heels, and takes hold of his own glass. He takes it in both hands, holding it out to Spock, and stares, intently, at the ground, between his arms.
"My apologies. Please, have mine instead."
Spock is now quite aware of the growing need in his vitals. Of course, he must suppress it, as well as the feelings that are growing in tandem, but having seen his face through Starek’s eyes and his body in Starek’s mind, Spock’s efforts at control are partially successful at best.
And to further complicate matters, here is Starek in the ancient and beautiful posture of Van-Kal T’Masu.
The connotations of his offer are unmistakable. However, Spock retains enough of his faculties to understand the impropriety of such an action, however willing Starek might be. Thus, he rises, his hands folded together beneath his sleeves in silent negation.
It is the sound of Spock rising — the soft rustle of cloth unfolding — that catches Starek’s attention, and for a lengthy moment, he cannot quite place what has happened. Then, he looks up, and realises what posture he’s taken. With a slightly alarmed gasp, he unfolds, stepping back and blushing brightly as he rises.
"That’s not what I meant! Not like that!" He is actually unsettled. "My chief engineer is an Orion. It’s … it’s an Orion gesture of apology, and one I see often enough to forget."
He continues to hold out the water, in one hand, by the top of the glass.
But although Starek is now standing, the memory of the posture, and Spock’s mistaken idea of its connotations, seems to have burned itself into his frontal lobe. As it stands the Vulcan can barely bring himself to look at the glass. The hand that Starek has on the glass is still wet. Were Spock to once more brush that hand . . . .
Again, he struggles to regain some measure of control, yet again it eludes him. All he can think of now the rest of Starek’s arm must also still be wet — up to the bicep in fact.
"It is I who should ask your indulgence, for my oversight, not your for your perfectly logical misinterpretation." Starek’s wits begin to re-gather, and he can feel a faint chill creeping up his arm, as the water evaporates from it.
"But, here we stand, knowing and known, and I wonder if either of those things are necessary at all."
Starek wonders a great many things, in fact, like whether Spock is ticklish, or whether Romulan and Vulcan anatomy has diverged even farther than in skin tones and occasional brow-ridges, or whether he has made anything like the right decision, here. Certainly, he wants to watch Spock come undone, preferably beneath him, but he does not know which side he will play in the second act, when the curtain rises on what will clearly be his betrayal. He has a choice, there. He can stand with T’Nis, or he can gape in horror, and pretend he knew nothing, and that her revenge is her own doing. In the moment, it does not matter. The first act has not yet come to a close.
Spock does his best to consider rationally. There is such novelty here and it would not do to shrink from it merely because it is unaccustomed. Yet he backtracks once again. What madness to even consider this. Nonetheless the images he shared with Starek, far from dimming with time, seem to be growing brighter. He is unable to stop adding to them either. His mind is a kaleidoscope of his own making.
He realizes that some answer is expected. "We are guests here," he says at last.
"This is a truth. I am not, however, certain of your implications." Starek’s eyebrow lifts, the only motion to break his stillness, other than that of his lips.
"You are not certain?"
He struggles with a number of things. Confusion is first, the sense of being on shifting ground. This is followed closely by frustration at his inability to think rationally or assert himself in this situation. Desire is there as well.
"You that speaks of knowing and known and then you-"
"I wish to be certain I am not misunderstanding you. We do seem to have a bit of trouble, in that regard, do we not? You insinuate that there is something we might either attend to or shy from, because we are guests in this place, but there are any number of things to which you might refer, several of which are currently relevant." And at least one of which is relevant to my interests. Starek hopes the last part is only in his head. "Even you know that the knowing of hands is limited, at best, regardless of the insight it brings. And I do hope it has brought you that."
He grits his teeth. "I insinuate nothing. I merely point out that because we are guests in this place it would do to maintain," and he lowers his voice, "some modicum of decency."
"And that is an accusation. I know one of those when I hear it." Starek flicks his wrist, emptying the glass, through his fingers, into the pool. His neck stiffens, and his chin rises, ever so slightly. He sets his glass on the tray, silently, and moves to reclaim the other, as well. His lips are tight as he sets the second glass down, but he does not move to take it inside.
"Perhaps I am wrong. That does happen, from time to time." He does not look at Spock. "Do you wish to take this conversation out of such a public venue?"
Spock’s hands are now tight at his sides. "Do not seek to provoke me, Starek. Clearly you seek something beyond conversation. To insinuate that you now do not understand borders on insufferable."
"I insinuate nothing. I am merely attempting to keep up what appearances remain." Starek picks up the tray. "However, my initial assumptions were genuine, and for that I can only offer flimsy excuses. I do not seek to provoke you. That would be counterproductive.
"Yet now that we have set aside the veils of politesse, what about you? Would you accept something more than conversation?" This time he does look, indolent interest lighting his eyes, as he pins Spock with them.
"What I was attempting to say . . . " And then Spock trails off, understanding at last how poor, how almost ridiculous his earlier objection was. Perhaps making him aware of this had been Starek’s intent.
Certainly they would not disturb anyone. Indeed, being here, far from colleagues and family and home could be his best opportunity to experiment. Still, he racks his brain, looking for some, any excuse.
"I am unsure," he says, completely honest at last.
"I can accept that answer." Starek nods. "But are you willing to see how far you would go? I can be both pleasant and accommodating, and regardless of your final decision, it is not my nature to hold resentment, over such trivialities."
At last, an appropriate lesson comes to Spock’s mind. "Eik-veshtaya to’ovau kau – lu veshtaya ri glazhau goh na’kastorilaya t’kashan."
But he says it softly, as if not in complete agreement anymore.
"Ri vath kau eh ri vath rok nam-tor na’etek hi etek kau-tor," Starek says, before he can think too much about it. He spreads his hands, the tray wobbling a bit, in one, as he has forgotten he is holding it. "Ma etek natyan teretuhr lau etek shetau weh-lo’uk do tum t’on."
The very corner of his mouth curls up, slightly. "Even post-Awakening, all things are justifiable, with minimal effort. Do not quote Surak to me. Tell me the truth as you see it."
"The truth is only," and Spock takes a deep breath, "that I fear to acknowledge the truth."
"Zahal’uh. Im’roi’uh k’nash-veh." Starek holds his hand out, welcomingly, trailing it behind him as he heads back toward the house. He leaves the tray on a table and pauses at the base of the stairs, to be certain Spock has followed.
"We will continue this discussion in my room, I think. It is… moderately private, and at a glance, rather comfortable. Do you object to this?"
"I . . . cannot."
Spock follows him up the stairs, one hand trailing along the stone-faced wall for balance, and perhaps for security as well.