I didn’t want to talk about what had happened in the grove. Bones kept pressing me, even after he’d patched me up. He was getting bits and pieces of the story from people who were there. Apparently the tale grew in the re-telling.
Spock, bless his Vulcan heart, actually covered for me. That was a surprise, but I was grateful. No one would blink an eye if a Vulcan pronounced that the local flora was sentient, and I learned later that he did, indeed, confirm my report for himself. It was quite a picture I made in my head, him doing a mind meld with a sentient grove of trees.
See. I could so easily picture Spock doing it. But he was only doing what I’d done. Probably much more efficiently, but still. But it was profoundly unnerving, in hindsight, to realize the power that had been surging through me, the effortlessness with which I had simply tuned into that massive, living thing. I’d felt it; understood it.
A man had died. If I’d been able to be more sensitive sooner, could I have saved him? Stopped him? And just how would that look, standing up in the middle of all those very ordinary people, insisting that the tree-thing told me they shouldn’t put their lousy building in its heart? An aside, Reader – they did not build in the grove. I was happy enough for Spock to get the credit for that.
There were several other undercurrents going on in the wake of this episode that nagged at me, too, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on anything specific, and no one was talking. Thinking back, it still seemed odd that Spock himself had delivered me so quickly back to the ship. Surely it was a job for the doctor, though of course, I would have preferred Bones to the rather intense Dr. Chiddattra. But no, Spock had snatched me up almost as if he was trying to … to what? Almost as if he was trying to remove me from the scene of the crime, before questions could be asked.
That surely silly but insistent thought just re-ignited the worry I’d managed to keep buried the past few months: the worry that there was some bureaucrat out there who had taken a dislike to me, this faceless Culpepper guy. I mean, I didn’t really expect to be welcomed into the 23rd century with fireworks and a brass band, but it had never occurred to me that my unorthodox entrance might forever brand me as a suspicious person.
Bones, when I asked him, oh, so casually, about Culpepper, made too big a show of brushing it off. He was more interested in what had happened down on Virgilian, but I didn’t want to discuss that. Especially not with Bones, who’d become my core of normalcy. He knew I practiced some form of spirituality or contemplative path; that wasn’t so unusual nowadays, apparently. But he had no idea how deep it went – how deep I went. I guess I just felt weird enough without adding to my own reputation.
Besides, there was enough of a vibe already coming from Bones. Yeah, that kind of vibe; a girl can tell these things. The problem is, if you get close enough for actual confirmation, you’ve already opened a door you can’t close.
And I was way too confused to deal with anything like that.
For one thing, I was still finding my footing in this new world. Or galaxy. I might be a new person, but this one had inherited a lot of emotional wounds from her predecessor. For another, after living a life mostly solitary, punctuated only in short chapters by a man who materialized in front of me (for better or worse), suddenly I was living in the midst of a bevy of ‘em, a fact I found equal parts thrilling and highly unsettling. I had serious thinking to do about my future. I did not need distractions.
So, it seemed the only thing to do with Bones was to deflect his attention away from me. I grabbed at the first bright idea that came along. I set him up with Dr. Chiddattra.
Well, I pushed them together at every possible turn. Talked her up to him and him to her. Considering her considerable feminine energies, it didn’t take all that much. Of course, it didn’t last, either. Dr. Chiddattra was clearly a handful, too intense by far for Bones to put up with for long. But apparently it was pretty steamy while it lasted. It bugged the hell out of Jim, too, since he was so damned competitive in everything. That fact alone may have made it worth it for Bones.
And when it was over, had blown up suddenly and permanently, we didn’t see much of her on the ship any more. They maintained a professional communication, but avoided each other almost entirely. In a way, it was a natural progression. With the bulk of the new settlers arriving, her work was just beginning on the new colony, and Bones could turn his own attention back to routine.
So there he was, back in my room one evening, sitting side by side with me, as we listened to a bit of Beethoven, music much too heavy to accompany a heavy conversation. He asked me flat out why I’d been so encouraging of the whole thing, which wasn’t the half of it. I finally realized what he was saying: he was a little hurt and baffled that I’d been so eager for him to pursue another woman.
I didn’t really know what to say to that, and more or less changed the subject. But a little later, Bones laid a hand on my thigh, and I suddenly found myself choking back tears, more lost than ever. How good that steady, warm hand felt, how much I wanted to feel that, to feel more than that, how impossible it seemed, how impossible everything seemed. I felt irrationally pissed off.
Sometimes I can be such a damned coward. I took his hand, removed it gently from my thigh, kissed it lightly, and pleaded exhaustion. I started to say I had a headache, but being a doctor, Bones would have insisted on treating it. He always seemed to be looking out for me, and, yeah, you can’t help loving a guy like that.