The starlight shimmered across the Shi'Kahr salt flats. The absence of a moon, and the distance from the city, brought out all the reds, golds, blues and purples from the long track of the Milky Way that was flung across the Vulcan sky. Ny shivered, and shifted closer to Spock as the paradoxically chilly breeze kicked up from the south. There might be a dust storm before morning. Soon, they would go inside the tent Spock's clan had designated for the two of them especially, and sleep uneasily - or at least she would - as they waited out the eighth day of T'Ashal's kahs'wan. Bee-bee no longer!
Soon, soon Spock would touch the newly formed parent-bond they had with her - she had consented to the formal mind-meld ceremony as well as the coming-of-age ritual, Nyota thought, agonizingly, but proudly - and so Spock could far more easily tell if she was alive, and how well she was.
So far, there was very little news, though none of it was bad. Soon, she would know if her baby had eaten that day. . .
My baby. . .
Ny shivered again. She was nine. And soon, in the eyes of every Vulcan, she would be an adult.
Soon. Too soon. And not soon enough. . .
Did she find water? Does she know where she is? If there is a dust storm, can she find shelter? Has she encountered any more snakes?
Ny made a fist. Soon. That was soon enough to turn back into a fretting, restless, very Human mother.
Now, she sat next to her husband - who had himself survived the same ordeal under far worse conditions - and looked up at the sky, waiting for the one tiny speck he had pointed out to her eleven orbits ago.
"There." He pointed. "Twelve."
"Twelve," she repeated, dully.
Counting the orbits of the Enterprise was helping a little, but not much.
She had been so happy, ten years ago, when Spock had said he was ready to have kids. She had been ready, years before that.
Or so she'd thought.
"She is well, Nyota," Spock said, with the soft voice that meant he was accessing the bond, "And easily within one day's journey of us. She is nearly home."
Ny let out a breath she didn't know she had been holding. The tension from her lungs leaped up into her throat, making her eyes water. "Did she find food again?" she asked hoarsely, but refusing to cry, "Did she find water?"
Spock shifted in the dark, his profile clear against the starry background, "No, and yes."
"Spock! She hasn't eaten in three days. . ." She gulped, and frantically held back violent tears.
His hand gripped her elbow, steadying her, "Her journey is nearly over, Nyota - all she needs is water, now."
She flung herself back onto the blanket they had spread across the sand. "I don't know if I can do this three more times, Spock. . ."
"The twins have the option of going together - " he began.
"No, Spock, stop!" she cried out, "I can't think of them out there! They just turned two! And Solkar. . . he's only six and a half!"
He hooked two fingers around hers in the comforting kiss he had found it necessary to use a great deal during the past week. This time, thankfully, he didn't bother reminding her that only children older than seven were allowed to attempt the kahs'wan. "I know, Nyota. Perhaps we should go inside. . ."
He lifted her up, and guided her into the small but comfortable tent the S'chn T'gai clan had provided. It stood alone, removed several meters from the rest of the clan's tents, placed at the very edge of the salt-plain. She sat down on the cot bed. It was quiet inside here. Too quiet.
"I miss our children, Spock."
He stood by the small camp stove, and began heating a pot of tea.
"I feel their absence, as well."
"Would T'Pau mind if I visited the twins in the morning?"
Their three younger children had been staying in T'Pau's tent ever since the camp was pitched. Ny saw them at mealtimes, but very seldom otherwise. She highly suspected that T'Pau - severe, logical, Vulcan-of-all-Vulcans T'Pau - was spoiling them. She would have complained, but they were so obviously having the time of their lives.
"She has no reason to mind, Nyota. You are the Mother of the Heir. You may do as you wish in the camp."
Ny sighed, "Oh, I know - it's just that there are so many Vulcan traditions, and I feel like I'm breaking one almost every hour or so."
"And so what if you do?" He handed her a mug of warm tea, "A tradition broken unknowingly is not like a broken bone - it does not hurt anyone, and is far easier to mend."
She sighed again, slumping over onto her pillow. "I just wish Amanda was here."
"She and Sarek will return from Andoria in five point three da-"
"I wish she was here now, Spock!" She groaned miserably, "I need another Human woman," she lowered her voice to the faintest of whispers, to make sure only Spock could hear her when she said, "This is worse than the pon-farr, Spock, it really is."
He stood, tense and speechless for a minute or two, not knowing how to comfort her more than he already had.
At last, she took pity on him.
"Oh, I probably just need to go to sleep. . ." She toed off her shoes, and twisted under the covers.
"A very good idea," he said, doing the same. He stooped a moment before getting in next to her, turned off the camping lantern, and turned on the white quartz "night light" she'd got him for their anniversary last month. He said the soft glow improved his sleep, and she had to admit it didn't hurt hers either.
"Oh, yeah," she murmured, "Just a minute. . ." Thinking of their anniversary had reminded her. He'd given her an antique gold pocket watch that needed to be wound every evening. She reached into the small box that served as a nightstand, and drew out the heavy, softly gleaming circle. She twisted the little knob atop it twenty times. As she did so, the tick-tick-tick of the movements sped up a fraction. Then, the even seconds resumed, ticking and clicking away, the same as always. How many times in the past week had she devoutly wished that time could be sped up? Too many times to count, probably. . .
She snuggled into Spock's side, and let the slow, even sound of his gift lull her into sleep.
When she woke early the next morning, T'Ashal was curled up asleep next to her, and Spock had gone to T'Pau's tent, to make ready the celebratory feast.