I don’t own Star Trek (though a case could be made for it owning me!) In writing these stories, I intend no copyright infringement, and make no monetary profit. They are a tribute, and a celebration.
This story is rated T (teen). Sexual references hinted at; nothing remotely graphic.
This is a continuation of Cowled. It’s not necessary to read that story to understand the central conflict in this 30 minute story.
Another Manner of Flame
If not for the smell, T’Pol could have borne the presence of the wrapped temptation in her room, despite the fact that she had to resort to a Terran word to describe the emotional response the book evoked in her. Perhaps there was a logic in that, as it was a human book which detailed human activities.
She had no logical reason to own such an item; she had many more reasons not to. Of no small priority was the unquestionable fact that, were she discovered to possess a book on human sexuality, even wrapped in paper she could not bring herself to remove, she would likely be returned to Vulcan immediately.
The book would certainly be repossessed, and likely given back into human keeping. She wouldn’t learn the information she sought; wouldn’t know if the images in her mind matched the illustrations in the volume, which the bookseller had described as both accurate and highly detailed.
T’Pol’s lips parted and her tongue tasted the air. She was reminded vividly of the scent of her own flesh charring in the flame; of the scent of the ripened fruit in the instant before it fell into her hand.
Illogical. This had the scent of aged papers and ink; moisture from the humid San Francisco air; Terran dust; and, above all, the scent of cured animal hide. That scent was strong enough to bring an urge to vomit, and yet she kept the volume here. She had vomited on the night she met her human, when she had sensed the strange desire in his mind, while the strange alien nectars of a Terran fruit touched her lips, and the discordant music seemed somehow to bind them together.
There was no logic in being certain that, even if the book made her physically ill, even if she could never bring herself to unwrap it, she wouldn’t part with it voluntarily.
T’Pol reached out; her paired and quivering fingers moved to within six centimeters of the place she deposited the package when she re-entered this room five days, seven hours, and fourteen minutes ago, as humans measured time.
And then she heard the single word, spoken in her mother’s voice.
It was illogical to think she heard Mother’s voice forbidding the action. T’Les was sixteen point two five light years away. Still, T’Pol was bound by the word, as she wasn’t as an infant. Her conditioning had been considerably more powerful than most children endured, because she was the infant who had dared to touch the flame, despite the warning.
Her hand hovered there; this was another manner of flame, perhaps.
But how could it cause harm simply to open it and seek what she must know? To understand the imaginings of a human male’s mind? He had imagined conducting the act with her. It had brought him arousal and pleasure to do so; almost as though they had actually pursued the utterly irrational act, which couldn’t be used for procreation. There was that within her which needed to understand, and wanted to experience it with him.
She rose, lit her meditation candle, and studied the flame for six minutes and four seconds before settling into her meditation posture, legs crossed to form a strong base, spine straight – but her hands would not be still in her lap; they quivered, pairing themselves, holding to one another, longing to sense….what, precisely?
If she knew the answer to that question, she wouldn’t have such need of meditation, and such inability to find the white space within herself.
T’Pol’s eyes were closed, but she could still see the book there. She could feel it, illogically, as though she still carried its mass through the streets. Most certainly, she could smell it. It was nothing like the flame or the nectar – and yet it was.
Her fingers were hovering yet again. Yet again, she couldn’t bring them nearer, and couldn’t release the need to do so. With a sigh that would have been unseemly had any other been here to witness the irrationality of her actions, she went to sit before her window. Her eyes wouldn’t close; they scanned the growing dark for the three lights she’d seen on her first night in this chamber. But they weren’t there; had not been, since. Surely, there was no logic in regretting that fact, or feeling less welcome on this world because of it.
The wrapped book she couldn’t touch, and the human who somehow made his desires hers, filled her. There was no white space; there would be none, this night, as there hadn’t been since she followed the music, and found the compelling human who knew her for what she was – an alien on his world. What did it mean that he had followed her, spoken to her?
T’Pol sighed more forcefully,the scent of temptation becoming suffocating. She opened the tall window to allow the strange scents of this world into her room. She stood there, at the window, as though in so doing she could make the fact of the wrapped book, and what it represented, vanish. It wasn’t logical, but she had no other solution.
The wind shifted to blow into her chamber, and, with it came the strains of the music, calling her….
T’Pol slipped from her room and out into another Terran Tuesday night.