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Story Notes:

This story follows "A Walk in the Shadows".


THE HEALER'S PRICE        By M. C. Pehrson

 

The computer disk was in a public com-slot, ready to transmit, when Spock came to himself. Quickly he removed it. Clasping the disk to his chest, he hurried from the building and gasped as a searing afternoon wind engulfed him.

Did anyone notice his odd behavior? Surely there were no tears in his eyes, only moisture born of hot desert gales and stinging grit. He would not shame himself with tears. Shielding his face with his cloak, he moved into the storm. Sand seemed to be coming from all directions-clinging to his layered clothes, filtering into his soft brown boots, choking him with each breath. As a boy he had found this sort of weather exhilarating, but today Vulcan seemed a harsh and inhospitable wasteland. He felt lost and out of place in his own home world.

Did his thoughts show? He gripped the disk meant for Dorian Wren tightly, and like a crushed kernel of pleej corn, it enticed him with images of the Other's world, as sensual as Tobias himself. Purple oceans, cool breezes smelling of salt, rain sheeting over windowpanes.

Spock felt a sudden longing for that world and all the pleasures it had to offer. His first inclination was to repress the feeling and forcibly separate himself from any hint of Otherness. But the healer had urged him to accept such feelings when they arose. Though it went against Spock's Vulcan nature, he tried to follow T'Sora's advice. Anything that reduced his inner tension would also reduce the need for medication.

He arrived at the healer's backstreet clinic just as she was dismissing her final patient of the day, a young boy with a flushed, splotchy face. The child gazed wide-eyed at Spock and coughed as his mother guided him out the door.

Spock turned to the healer. "Another case of lung fever?"

"Yes," she said. "As long as this weather continues, there will be sickness. I am glad that I opened this clinic for the remainder of my sabbatical. The need here is very great."

He respectfully inclined his head and told her, "You are most generous to donate your time."

Her violet eyes held him. "And what of your time? Where have you been? I could have used your assistance this afternoon."

The words were not so much a reprimand as a medical inquiry. Nevertheless, Spock was embarrassed at having failed once again in his simple duties. Not long ago he had been the first officer of a Federation starship, but now he could not even manage a few hours of simple work without wandering off.

"I found myself in downtown Shi'yon'Kahr," he admitted, "preparing to transmit this." He held out the disk in a gritty hand. "I regret any inconvenience that my absence caused you."

T'Sora gave the disk a wipe and inserted it into the clinic computer. "It was Tobias who inconvenienced me," she said, starting the playback. "Perhaps if I assign him extra duties, he will learn to leave you at peace in yours." A slim brow lifted in speculation, then settled as an urgent appeal burst from the speaker.

"Dorian! Oh, how I miss you! Hurry up-please come and get me!"

Spock resisted an urge to cover his ears and block out the disconcerting sound. The thought of Tobias using his voice, his body, to send love letters to Dorian Wren disgusted him. If there were a way to pluck the replicate from his soul and be rid of him, he would not hesitate to do so. But for now he was trapped with the childish, unpredictable creature, bound together in an unhappy union until T'Sora could effect a permanent healing. Perhaps weeks, perhaps months, perhaps even years.

"I promise I'll be good," the voice pleaded. "I'll do anything you say, Dorian, anything..."

Spock walked into the lavatory and washed up. Then he stood staring at himself in the mirror for a long moment.  Yes, his hair was dark and his eyes were brown-the only outward signs that distinguished him from his blond, blue-eyed replicate.

"I am Spock," he insisted aloud. "S'chn T'gai Spock."

A tremor of angry resistance passed through him, and despite the healer's advice, he fought it fiercely. There was a grim sense of triumph in feeling Tobias vanquished...for now. Outwardly composed, he returned to T'Sora and helped close the clinic.

***

"Give it to me," demanded Tobias. "Just a little more pleej, that's all I want!"

Almost sighing, T'Sora stood toe to toe with the defiant halfling. It had been a long, tiring day. She had looked forward to a quiet evening with Spock, but here she was, dealing with a tantrum instead.

"Tobias," she said as patiently as possible, "you are sadly lacking in discipline. The art of meditation will help calm your mind. Now sit quietly for half an hour and apply the simple technique I have explained to you."

Tobias drew back his shoulders and stubbornly jutted his chin. "After you give me the pleej."

"You have acquired an unseemly taste for the herb," T'Sora noted. "I will not indulge it."

Clearly angry, Tobias headed for her medical pouch and began rummaging through its contents. T'Sora watched in silence as medical instruments and pharmaceuticals were strewn over the floor. When no pleej appeared, he threw down the empty pouch and faced her, eyes black with violent intent.

"Get the pleej, damn you! Now!"

Quietly she said, "Not until you meditate. And in view of your agitation, I am increasing the time to forty-five minutes."

In an instant, Tobias had crossed the room. His arm lashed out with a clumsy backhand to her face. T'Sora tasted blood. With one smooth motion she grasped his right shoulder and applied a moderate pressure that dropped the halfling to his knees.

"One full hour," she said. "Then I will consider a very small dose of pleej."

***

Tobias seethed. With every shred of his being, he resented T'Sora's mastery over him. The feeling of the blow he had dealt her still throbbed in his hand, filling him with angry satisfaction. One of these days he would find a way to leave this sandy hell of a planet. Somehow he would get back to Helexia...and Dorian.

After the nerve paralysis wore off, he reluctantly folded his legs into a posture of meditation. Though he closed his eyes, he had no intention of playing the Vulcan mind games. He was not Spock. He would only sit still for the necessary hour and dream of Helexia until...

Warm fingers touched his face. Startled, he raised his eyelids and found T'Sora kneeling before him. It was too late to pull away. Something in the healer's gaze seemed to leap out from the violet depths and restrain him. There was a moment of utter quiet during which his tension drained away. He was floating in a dark yet comfortable place...but he was not entirely alone. Somewhere nearby lurked the Other-the Spock-who constantly vied with him for control.

A sudden resurgence of irritation swept the quiet aside. Tobias reopened his eyes expecting to find the healer, but she had gone from the room. Self-consciously he rubbed at the place where T'Sora had touched him. He did not like the way she manipulated his mind. He did not like her unbending demands and firm patience and unfailing composure. By not fighting back, she always made him look foolish. And he did not like looking foolish, either.  

***

Harsh sunlight was streaming through the high windows of his room when Spock awoke, but the wind had not yet begun to blow. Why had T'Sora not roused him? His mental processes felt sluggish as he sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. The change of position sent a dull ache through his head.

Of course. It was past time for the pleej.

"Pekh," he cursed to himself.

An inner voice echoed a much cruder expletive. When Spock failed to react, the voice taunted him. You don't like me. You think I lack refinement. Well, you are not as disciplined as you think. I have seen the thoughts you sometimes have about T'Sora. Your precious healer.

Spock would have liked to say, "If there are any such thoughts, you have implanted them." But he did not answer the taunting Otherness in his mind. He tried to maintain the cool, noncommittal silence that T'Sora had advised. No agreement, no disagreement. Just a calm acceptance of that which he could not change. Even so, Spock inwardly shuddered at the thought of living the rest of his life with Tobias. Surely a healing would come.

After taking a moment to collect himself, he straightened the bed and dressed in fresh clothes. Then foregoing breakfast, he hurried through the rest of his morning routine and headed for the front door.

An unusual sight stopped him. A cloaked figure stood in the doorway, looking out into the small walled-in garden. For one heart-pounding instant Spock thought it was his father-that somehow Sarek had found him and would see what he had become. Then the figure turned his way.

Greatly relieved, he said, "Healer. You are not yet at the clinic?"

Her eyes warmed and her lips stirred into the suggestion of a smile. "Apparently not. Spock, have I ever left you? Come, we will go together."

As they walked the streets side by side, there were questions that Spock would have liked to pose. Why had the clinic not opened on time? Why wear a hood when the wind was not blowing? Could it be a cover for the faint swelling on her jaw? It looked as if she had concealed a bruise with makeup. Should he inquire about it? By remaining silent, he might seem cold and unconcerned, yet questioning T'Sora might be construed as meddlesome. It seemed like a very difficult problem, and thinking about it made his headache worse.

At the clinic her hood came off, clearly revealing the masked evidence of an injury.

"Your face..." he said.

"It is nothing," she countered.

T'Sora doled out a single kernel of pleej, and Spock set his mind on the simple tasks she expected of him. It felt good having something concrete and productive to do. The remainder of the morning was taken up with recordkeeping and whatever medical assistance he could provide. In late afternoon, the waiting room slowly emptied as the rising wind forced the populace off the streets. When the final patient walked out into the storm, Spock felt the healer's eyes on him and knew what was coming.

"Sit down," she said, indicating a nearby bench.

He considered making some excuse, but there was no escaping his therapeutic meld. Seating himself, he awaited the daily ritual. The swelling on T'Sora's jaw seemed more pronounced as she moved in beside him, her black upswept hair glinting in the light. Their legs brushed, and he closed his eyes. His blood began to race even before the graceful, proficient fingers met his face. There was a strong, irrational urge to pull away. But why should he resist? He thought of the trust that had grown between them over the month-long course of his treatment. These sessions were essential to the healing process and could not be set aside to pacify what was, no doubt, a childish resonance of the Other.

Spock determinedly sat still, and with a kind but forceful touch, T'Sora entered his mind.

He felt strange afterward, almost as if a fever were coming upon him, and he could not rid himself of the words Tobias had whispered that very morning. I have seen the thoughts you sometimes have about T'Sora. Back at the healer's home, he felt a great desire to be near her and was aware, more than ever before, of her fine physical presence. He could not help but admire the proud set of her shoulders, her fine symmetrical features, and rare violet eyes. As they shared dinner, he noted a mild flush on her face and a slight unsteadiness of hands as she picked at her food. Was she also falling ill? The very thought created a sharp stab of anxiety. What would become of him without T'Sora?

Abruptly she excused herself and retired to her room.

Still feeling uneasy, Spock cleaned the kitchen and spent some moments alone in the common room, but the need to be near T'Sora only increased. At last he got up and went to the healer's door. Finding it ajar, he peeked inside and saw her seated in meditation. Though it was unmannerly to intrude on such a private moment, his concern got the best of him.

"Healer," he said at the doorway.

She sighed deeply and glanced up. The look of tension in her lovely eyes sent a responsive pang straight through him.

"T'Sora," he managed to say. "Forgive the intrusion. It...seems to me that you are not well."

"And you worry that I might be developing lung fever?" Her slender brow lifted in amusement. "No, Spock. I am only tired." The healer rose to her feet, looking very weary indeed. "I may as well tell you now. Tomorrow will be our last day at the clinic. I feel the need for some rest before returning to my work at the university. You will come with me to a camp in a remote area of the Shi'yon'Kahr Preserve."

An odd flutter of excitement sidled through Spock's stomach. "Shi'yon'Kahr Preserve," he said in a carefully collected voice. "As you wish, healer."

Spock left her and walked into his own bedroom. Quietly he shut the door and leaned against it, lost in a sudden agony of confusion. He somehow sensed that the healer was not telling him everything. Was the upcoming trip more than a simple matter of rest? Why must they retreat to such an isolated area? What would happen between them there? As thoughts of a sensual nature teased at his mind, he struggled to bring his rising desire under control. Disgusted by such weakness, he placed the blame on Tobias. Was it not perfectly logical? These feelings for T'Sora were not his own, but spillage from his oversexed replicate. Tobias Wren was the one who wanted her.

***

After Tobias packed, T'Sora went back through the drawers and collected the items belonging to Spock that Tobias had "forgotten". The replicate always had to be watched closely, but for once she was glad that he was in ascendance. Time was short. She had detected Spock's inner conflict and would rather wait to explore it at their destination.

Tobias seemed to be looking forward to a change of scene. If he guessed any part of what lay ahead, it did not bother him. And that was hardly surprising. The libidinous replicate would likely be open to variations of the carnal experience he had enjoyed with Dorian Wren. The eagerness that T'Sora expected from him could prove to be a problem. When the hour came, it was important that Spock also be an active participant, not overwhelmed and forgotten in the natural rush for satisfaction.

T'Sora finished tucking Spock's things into her own luggage and turned to find a dark pair of eyes studying her. Looking at the halfling's lean, attractive body, she repressed a shiver of desire. At this point, it would take very little to break her control.

"We must leave now." The words felt forced and dry in her throat. She ran her tongue over her lips. Picking up her bags, she started for the commuter station. Every nerve of her being drew Tobias into step beside her.



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