"The Vulcan Way"
Koss straightened his shoulders and, deliberately refraining from glancing at his mother, who stood solemnly at his father’s side with the wedding guests and witnesses beneath the veranda, raised the striker in his right hand and struck the gong a resounding blow. He repeated it, the tone ringing loudly in the small courtyard, and then paused to wait for his bride. His face revealed none of the turmoil that seethed within him.
T’Les, his future mother-in-law, stepped into the courtyard and joined the wedding guests. She maintained a civil distance from his mother. The two of them had an understanding. Koss clenched his jaw and forcefully suppressed the fleeting sensations of resentment and humiliation which briefly broke past his rigid emotional control. His filial duty was clear. This betrothal had been his parents’ wish… an alliance with a politically advantageous house. The fact that his future bride wanted nothing to do with him and had had to be coerced into the union was irrelevant. The pairing was advantageous to both families, and eminently logical.
His eyes turned to the entrance to the courtyard. His bride stepped through the entrance, dressed in pale lilac. Her face was a blank mask, revealing nothing. Her body, revealed only partially by the drape of her flowing garment, was ripe and ready to bear his offspring. He exhaled, and stepped forward to greet her silently with two fingers outstretched, seeing before him the perfect representation of Vulcan womanhood. For a moment, his turmoil vanished… and then he touched her fingertips with his own.
He clenched his teeth to prevent himself from displaying an embarrassing show of emotion, and forced himself to maintain the contact as they turned in unison to kneel before the priest. As the ancient words of the marriage rite were spoken, her grief and loathing… a hatred of her situation, of her own weakness, and, lastly, of him, though he could sense her shame over the emotion and her desperate attempts to suppress it… were communicated as clearly as if she had voiced them through the intimate touch they were forced to share. His eyes searched her face. How was it possible for her to maintain such perfect outward control when there was so little control within? She met his eyes, and he sensed her apology, but the overwhelming emotions continued to bombard him. His eyes shied away from hers almost involuntarily. To look directly into her eyes while experiencing her uncontrolled emotions felt like an obscene invasion of her privacy. He’d known once he saw her again in her mother’s house after her return to Vulcan that she’d changed… that something was not right with her. He’d thought it was simply too much time spent with humans, but now he wasn’t so sure. There was something seriously wrong with her emotional control. She showed very little of the change outwardly, but a single touch by any Vulcan would reveal it. He’d have to discuss this with his parents. If the defect was inheritable, she would not be a suitable mother for his children. Surely even they could see the illogic of a union with a woman incapable of bearing normal offspring.
As the priest continued, Koss’s eyes roamed the veranda behind T’Pol, searching for him… the one she’d brought home to meet her family, ignoring with her impulsive actions the centuries-long tradition which forced a certain distance between Vulcans and offworlders for the preservation of secrets. He found the human standing in the shadows, away from the other guests. He was dressed in Vulcan formalwear, and stood with his eyes fixed on the back of T’Pol’s head. Unlike the Vulcans present, who stood watching the proceedings with bland and emotionless expressions, the human’s feelings were written all over his face. His teeth were clenched in obvious pain, and his eyes shone with unshed tears. His hands were in white-knuckled fists at his sides. Koss’ eyes returned to the face of his bride in sudden realization. The undercurrent of grief that he sensed from her now made sense. In Kalifee, he would have killed the human. That was the reason she came willingly to him… that and her filial duty to her mother. They were both trapped in this union by circumstances beyond their control.
As the priest completed the ceremony, Koss met the eyes of his wife. Her wildly uncontrolled emotions still disturbed him, but he found himself moved by her situation to an unaccustomed emotion. He met her eyes as they widened in surprise. Koss nodded solemnly to his new bride, and looked upon her with pity and sympathy. They would have to learn to adapt. It was an unusual beginning for a marriage, but it would have to do. It was the Vulcan way.
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