Spock shifted on his rocky seat, his bid to find a more comfortable seating arrangement failing when his bruised hip met a hard, jagged edge. As he sought to contain his reaction to that small pain, he was caught unprepared for the sharp jab at his shoulder as fingers, unskilled in all but the most basic of medical disciplines, probed at torn skin and muscle. A gasp escaped him before he could prevent it and the fingers stilled abruptly.
Wide, dark eyes met his and Spock, his Vulcan controls now able to put his pain aside, sought to reassure his young companion.
"I was unprepared, D'Tan. Please continue your ministrations."
The young Romulan bent once more to his task, his uncertainty and great desire to take care making his job painstakingly slow. He had little to work with; medical supplies were both hard to get and a luxury they couldn't afford for a variety of reasons, but D'Tan was able to close Spock's wounds after a fashion, and bind them with cloth that, while not entirely sterile, would keep the threat of infection at bay.
Spock flexed his arm experimentally, unable to wholly hide the wince that the movement caused. It occurred to him that, the older he got, the more his body protested at the kind of abuses his lifestyle subjected it to. Where he once would have shrugged off today's injuries the way a Terran camel would a fly, he now found his muscles responding sluggishly to the commands they received, his bones creaking noisily, and a pervading stiffness that was difficult to ignore.
He stood up gingerly, testing the steadiness of his legs, when a nearby explosion shook the ground he was standing on, causing him to topple unceremoniously into D'Tan. Strong fingers gripped him tightly, preventing him from landing on the rocky cavern floor, but unfortunately digging right into his injured shoulder.
D'Tan sat him down on the rocks before he could protest, asserting himself as protector of the man who had been his guide since he was twelve standard years old. He found a small container of water amongst their possessions and lifted it to Spock's lips, urging him to drink. Spock took the liquid gratefully; age and a relaxation of his fierce hold on dignity had long since taught him the illogic of refusing aid when offered. He expected Doctor McCoy would have been pleased.
D'Tan took the canteen from him and sat down on the ground at his feet. Spock saw the hopelessness settle in the young Romulan's eyes the same way it did every time their band of Unificationists was hit. D'Tan, better than anyone, knew how it was to grow up with a dream and to see it stamped out by the Romulan Senate at every opportunity. He was young enough to hold onto that dream, and respected his Vulcan mentor enough to believe that he would succeed, but Spock knew that the young man's hope diminished gradually as the years went by with so little progress being made.
"Yes, Teacher." The face was dirty and bruised, the eyes downcast.
Spock noted the defeated slump to the shoulders and suddenly remembered anew the enormity of the task he had set himself. Sarek had told him he was a fool for trying to reunite the Vulcans and their warlike, emotional cousins. Doctor McCoy had agreed, in his inimitable, vociferous way. Jim... well, Jim was gone. Spock liked to think that Jim would have approved, might have tagged along, even.
Thinking of Kirk reminded Spock suddenly of another time he had thought he could unite the Federation with one of its enemies. With the memory came the tide of emotions he had never been completely able to eliminate, the guilt and anger over his own protégée's part in the incident overriding them all. He had spoken to Valeris about having faith, trusting that the universe would unfold as it should.
He gazed thoughtfully at D'Tan. This young man had known no other life than this one of running and hiding. His parents before him had been in favour of reunification. If anyone on this world stood for what Spock sought to achieve, it was this Romulan boy. If he was to become the leader Spock, the Unificationists, and Romulus needed him to be, then Spock knew that he must have a hope large enough for them all.
"D'Tan," Spock began again. Something in his voice made the young Romulan look up. "I have never told you of the time the Federation made peace with the Klingon Empire."
D'Tan straightened. "I know of the Khitomer Accord, Teacher. I know that you met with Chancellor Gorkon to initiate negotiations of peace. My parents made sure I was well taught."
Spock's face softened at the youthful pride and eagerness to learn. "Yes. Those negotiations were the beginning." The slight smile faded. "But I wish to tell you of a more personal matter, involving a... pupil of mine. Her name was Valeris."
D'Tan's eyes narrowed at the uncharacteristic hesitation but he said nothing and Spock continued.
"As you know, the relations between the Federation and the Klingons were volatile. But, after the destruction of their moon, Praxis, the Klingons faced the extinction of their race. Some within the Federation saw this as a great opportunity to eliminate an enemy; others saw it as an opportunity for peace.
"Valeris lacked faith. Faith that there could be peace after generations of hate and war. Faith that the peace would last if it was ever attained. Faith that the universe would not cease to exist if two warring factions ended their fight.
"Through her lack of faith, she instead took action to see that peace was never attained, her fear of change so great that she was willing to ally herself with her chosen enemy to see that the universe remained the same."
D'Tan frowned. "Is that not ironic?"
Spock's expression became wistful. "Indeed. Most ironic." He steepled his fingers as he remembered. "Of course, you know that their mission failed and the Khitomer talks went ahead, establishing the treaty that exists today." The Romulan nodded. "Valeris was charged as a traitor and punished accordingly." He looked away suddenly. "I have not seen her since."
D'Tan was intuitive enough to deduce that there was much that was not being said about Spock's interactions with Valeris, but that same intuition kept him from prying. But he thought over what the Vulcan had said and it occurred to him that Spock was imparting, as always, an important lesson. Usually, Spock's teachings involved logic of some kind, or Surak's tenets of wisdom, but there had been no mention of logic here.
And then it came to him.
"I am not Valeris," he blurted, startling them both with his vehemence.
An eyebrow lifted. "Indeed?"
D'Tan assumed an expression that belied his youth. "I have faith." He straightened his shoulders. "I have faith that we can join again with Vulcans in peace. I have faith that the peace will last. And I have faith that the universe will not cease to exist in the face of that peace." He smiled at Spock and the Vulcan could not fail to smile in return. "We will see to it, Teacher. You'll see."
Another blast sounded outside, as if to deny them their goal.
Spock rose stiffly. "Come, D'Tan. We must regroup with the others and reassess our situation."
As they walked Spock again wondered idly what Jim Kirk would would say if he were here to see his Vulcan friend entrenched in the Romulan underground, pursuing a cause that was, to most, plainly hopeless and illogical. He wondered what his friend would have made of Spock's reasons for being here, or the fact that his logical Vulcan was knowingly employing a huge piece of human wishful thinking. And faith. He had a sudden vision of Kirk as he had been when they first served together, a youthful starship captain full of dreams. The vision winked at him, then faded from view.
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