rynne: (mighty pen)
[personal profile] rynne
Title: Like a Rolling Stone (The Metamorphic Remix)
Author: Rynne
Fandom: Star Trek XI
Characters: Gaila, Sarek, Amanda
Rating: PG-13
Word count: ~4400
Summary: On Orion, Gaila learns there are different kinds of stone. Off Orion, Gaila learns there are different kinds of lives.
Title, Author, and URL of original work: Pressure and Heat by [livejournal.com profile] framlingem.
Notes: Thank you to [livejournal.com profile] flyingcarpet and [livejournal.com profile] waketosleep for the great beta. Note that this fic does feature disturbing issues of consent, so please read cautiously. According to the Vulcan Language Dictionary, stukh-wan is the Vulcan word for nebula. Yes, the title is inspired by the song of the same name.


Gaila comes at twelve to the Courtyard of the Courtesans, a wide open space in the palace that is paved with warm yellow sandstone and occupied by her honored predecessors, carved in marble and accented in gold and obsidian. She cannot hide her awe, despite the slap and reprimand from her teacher.

The sun paints shining white marble in shades of red and amber, and the sandstone reflects back and adds the warmth of yellow. The statues stand tall and majestic, adorned in vibrant, eye-catching color. Gaila turns her head back slightly to watch them as she leaves the courtyard.

So tall and proud, Gaila thinks. So graceful, her predecessors.

She will learn, and become like them.

--

For three years, she learns. She learns to dance, and to make kah'la beer, and about the pleasure of the body. She learns how to speak Standard, for those of Orion's guests who cannot speak the native language, and manages to hold back the beaming smile as her teacher praises her skill. She has practiced her dancing, and her brewing, and her languages, but only now has she been deemed sufficiently graceful and knowledgeable to actually practice the arts of pleasure.

Her teacher compares her to Konu, mistress of Tet the Second, who did great deeds as the king's favorite and whose statue stands in a privileged position in the center of the courtyard. She is given jewelry to adorn herself as Konu is adorned, garnets around her neck and fingers to accent her hair, peridot and malachite in her hair to accent her skin, bands of gold along her wrists and ankles.

Her favorite is the garnet pendant that hangs just above her breasts. It is solid, almost heavy against her skin, the metal warmed and reassuring. The men who are here to choose among her and her sisters look at its deep red shine and touch the hair that matches it, or finger the stone and trace their fingers down to lift a breast and assess its feel in their hands.

By the time she is chosen, her breasts are bruised and sore, and she is both nervous and eager to practice what she has learned. Her man asks her to keep her jewelry on, and it shines in the lamplight whenever Gaila moves.

--

During the festivals, she and her sisters are called to the palace, where they dance the great pattern dances that represent the reigns of kings and emperors past, the history of her people.

The floors in the palace are cool and polished smooth, and it is an extra challenge to dance on them and not slip and fall. But Gaila dances well, as Konu had, and when the dances are over her man takes her by the hand and draws her into the shadows, where she dances for him alone.

At the end of each festival she is very weary, and her man ensures she gets little sleep, but she rises at dawn the next day. Dance practice is every day, even after a festival, and Gaila knows she must not be late, and that she must concentrate extra hard to avoid making a mistake even though she is so very tired.

--

The statue of Konu does not change. Marble endures, as fragile flesh cannot -- even should Gaila wrap her arms around the bare legs of the statue and hold on as tightly as she could, no smears of black and sickly brown and yellow will appear to mar flawless stone.

Gaila understands her bruises, and does not precisely regret them. They come from her man, and from her man's generosity in sharing with his friends, and from enthusiasm and eagerness. She is honored to be prized so highly.

But Konu does not have to conceal the marks of men's enthusiasm, and she does not have to dance even when she feels stiff and sore. Konu rests in the courtyard, with vacant eyes that look demurely down at Gaila and her sisters, her styled hair never growing heavy, her expression effortlessly set into an expression of love and fear and respect.

Konu is stone. She does not change, and cannot feel pain.

--

When Gaila is seventeen, her man lends her to a friend who wants to hunt off-planet, and does not want to go alone. She misses her sisters and the man's stories about his previous hunts are tiresome, but she listens as attentively as she ought and he watches her with eyes that glitter like chips of sapphire.

When they land, Gaila's feet step for the first time onto the soil of another planet. She feels lumps of dirt and shifting pebbles beneath the thin leather of her sandals, and marvels for a moment to feel ground that is not uniformly smoothed stone, a kind of ground she has not felt for years.

But this is not why she is here. She turns to the man, to ask him if he wishes to retire and ensure his rest for the next day's hunt, but he is already reaching for her.

She moves toward him, and does not expect him to knock her down, as if she would not slide to her knees or onto her back at the slightest of his gestures. She does not understand. There is no art in this -- this crude approximation of what the pleasures of the body could be. Why does he not want the art she would offer willingly? She begins to ask him this, but he cuts her off with a fist to her mouth. Her teeth cut into her, and blood fills her mouth, dripping out of one corner when she gasps.

His hands are rough against her skin, pulling at her clothes, and for the first time with a man, Gaila feels fear. He demonstrates no care for the prize beneath him, as other friends of Gaila's man did. He grips one wrist so hard the bones crush against each other, and Gaila cries out in pain, but he only gulps in excited breaths of air. He wrenches her thighs apart and settles between them, on top of her, resting so much of his weight on her that she struggles to breathe in.

He does not seem to care if he breaks her.

As he fumbles with an unfamiliar fastening, Gaila reaches out, almost on instinct. Her hand closes around a stone, and she swings it forward with all her strength into his head. The force of the blow knocks him off her, and she watches as he twitches and lies still, and blood seeps from his face and pools beneath him, a liquid, spreading circlet.

She leaves him there and runs for the ship, though there is no one there to chase her, no one even to know what she has done. She knows, though. He is dead, like her sister Karia after the man who chose her lost regard for his choice, and gave her to his own friends, and did not care if they broke her. Broke Karia, as this man wanted to break Gaila, as he is now broken.

She knows what she has done, and knows, too, that she can never go back to Orion. It was Gaila's duty to submit to whatever the man wanted. It is against the deepest of their laws for one such as her to raise her hand in violence to anyone, but in particularly to one of the nobility. There can be no leniency.

She tells the ship to take her far away, and flies it as best she can, from what she remembers of watching the man. As she leaves the planet behind, she notices that the rock, still covered in the man's blood, is digging into her hand. She does not let go.

--

She is weak. She is very weak, and the air is thin, and breathing is difficult. She does not understand the ship well enough to know what she must do, and when a strange ship hails her, she does not know how to tell it to go away.

She is relieved when they stop hailing her, but does not have time to let that feeling spread very far before she hears footsteps approaching her across floors that no feet but her own have touched in weeks.

Someone bends over her, but he is a stranger, and he is male. She has found it difficult to let go of the stone in her hand over the weeks, and it stays there now, clenched within fingers almost out of strength. But her fingers and her hand and her arm -- they have strength enough to keep her safe, still. She swings her fist, and her stone, at the stranger's head.

But the strength is not enough. The stranger catches her hand before it can reach him, and removes the stone. Gaila cries out and tries to get it back, but the stranger's hand squeezes between her neck and shoulder, and darkness overcomes her.

--

She awakens in a room that looks like an infirmary, surrounded by strangers. For a moment she recoils, but then she realizes she can breathe, and takes in as much air as she can, despite the taste of infirmary, of sterilization and an undertone of copper.

"You have awoken," a stranger says, coming to stand by her bed. "What is your name?"

"Where am I?" she asks, not ready to give them her name, not until she knows whether or not she will be returned to Orion.

"On board the Vulcan science ship Stukh-Wan. I am Dr. Kovak."

"Vulcan," Gaila repeats. She knows very little about Vulcans, only that they are scientists who base their lives on logic, and who will not trade with Orion.

"Yes," Dr. Kovak says. He looks at her impassively. "How did you come to have a ship, Orion?"

"Gaila," she says. Vulcans do not trade with Orion. Vulcans want nothing to do with Orion. Vulcans will not give her back to Orion. "My name is Gaila."

"Gaila, then. How did you come to have a ship?"

She is not sure how to answer him. Should she confess to the breaking of Orion's law? "He died," she says. "The ship's owner. He died, and I -- could not stay there."

Dr. Kovak nods. "And the stone?" he asks. "The stone with which you attacked Captain Sorak, and which already had blood not your own on it?"

She can't help shrinking back against her pillow, but she shakes her head. "He died," she repeats. "I couldn't stay."

After a moment, Dr. Kovak nods again, though Gaila somehow feels that he understands more than what she has said. "You are recovered from your oxygen deprivation," he says. "You will be assigned a room. The captain believes you should come to Vulcan with us. We will arrive there in three point eight days."

Vulcan, Gaila thinks. She is going to Vulcan.

She has been among aliens before, though never away from the palaces of Orion, and never alone. She does not know the rules.

She will learn. She has no choice, now.

--

Gaila spends the journey to Vulcan on the computer in her room, looking up its history. She learns about scientific achievements, the Vulcan Science Academy, the teachings of Surak, the formation of the Federation. She learns right up to the moment the Stukh-Wan arrives and the captain takes her to meet Sarek, the Federation Ambassador.

Ambassador Sarek looks at her from across his desk, but this time she resists the urge to shrink back. The crew of the Stukh-Wan -- they had not asked that she serve them, or pressed her to tell more of her story. They had not seemed to think of her at all, apart from showing her to her room and her computer, and explaining how to work the synthesizers in the mess hall.

But she does not think that Ambassador Sarek will show her the same comfortable disregard. She does not think she will be able to avoid telling her story to this man.

So she says, even before he can ask her, "I killed him. I killed him and I took his ship, because I couldn't go back to Orion. That's when the Stukh-Wan found me."

Sarek raises an eyebrow. "Why would you do such a thing?" he asks.

She shakes her head, confused. Why? "Does it matter? I killed him. If I return to Orion I will be put to death."

"Your reasons may not matter to Orion," Sarek informs her, "but they matter to Vulcan. Whether we offer you sanctuary or extradition depends on your answer."

Her reasons. She does not know what to think. Sarek wants to know her reasons? But the law is absolute. Reasons do not matter.

Yet they matter to this Vulcan, and Gaila took the ship because she wants to live. She still wants to live. "He wanted to break me," she says. She does not think of the look in the man's eyes, cold as gemstone, glittering with something she cannot name. She does not think of rough hands pawing at her skin and clothes, or hard weight on top of her. She thinks of the rock, smooth and heavy in her hand. She wants the rock back, and twists her hands around themselves.

"Break you?" Sarek asks.

"Like Karia's man broke her. He did not want my art, though I would have given it to him freely. He wanted my pain." She hangs her head. "I should not have fought back, but I did not even think. The stone was in my hand, and I killed him with it."

Sarek leans forward. "He attempted to rape you," he says, almost asking but not quite.

But again, Gaila is confused. "Rape?"

The slanted eyebrow rises again. "To force you into sexual intercourse against your will," he clarifies.

She still does not understand. This word, rape, it seems to say that her will matters. That she is able to refuse what he calls sexual intercourse but she has always understood to be her art. This Ambassador Sarek, he does not understand the ways of Orion.

He seems to see that she does not understand, and his eyebrow comes down again. "I cannot promise that you will not be returned to Orion," he says, leaning back in his chair. "But I will make every effort to ensure that does not happen."

That she understands, and she appreciates it. But she does not know what is to become of her now, and she once again wishes for the anchoring weight of the stone in her hand.

--

Ambassador Sarek's wife Amanda offers to let Gaila stay with them, and Gaila tries to control her astonishment. One such as she, under the same roof as the wife?

Vulcan is very different from Orion.

That is a refrain she has cause to repeat many times over her stay on Vulcan, and she has become used to being surprised. Her first was when she met Lady Amanda and saw that she was Human, from Earth, not even the same species as Ambassador Sarek.

On Orion, Orion men might take women of other species to their beds, but it would be unthinkable to marry outsiders. Yet here is Lady Amanda, wife to Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan.

But Gaila immediately feels at ease with Lady Amanda. She is compassionate, in a way that Gaila has never known before. She is gentle and forgiving when Gaila misunderstands why Ambassador Sarek allows her to live in his home. One of the first things she does, when Gaila comes to live with them, is to take her on a tour of the city of Shi'Kahr, that she might meet her new surroundings.

Once, Gaila's world had been narrowed to the Halls of the Courtesans, and then, when her man wanted her, to the Courtyard and the palace. Shi'Kahr alone is big, with millions of inhabitants, but beyond the city are the desert and the mountains and the rest of the planet. Gaila can stand on the sturdy stone outside Lady Amanda's home, on top of a hill overlooking the city, and feel the immensity of the planet under her and around her.

She learns geography, about Shi'Kahr, and the desert plains of Vulcan's Forge, and the L-Langon Mountains, and the sacred Mount Seleya. She does not visit any of these besides Shi'Kahr, but already she knows more of Vulcan than she did of her own Orion.

Lady Amanda engages tutors for her, to teach her mathematics and languages and sciences and everything else that her teachers in the Halls of the Courtesans never thought she would need to know. But she learns them now, and wants more, and more, and more.

And she wants them for herself. Once, she could not even have thought of wanting something for herself. Now Lady Amanda shows her that she can make choices.

"What would you like for dinner, Gaila?" Lady Amanda asks. Or, "You need new clothes. What would you like to wear?" Or even, "What are you most interested in learning, Gaila?"

On Orion, she danced because her teachers told her she would dance. She ate what she was given, wore what was set out for her. But on Vulcan, she can make her own decisions. It is exhilarating. It is terrifying.

"What if I choose wrong?" she asks Lady Amanda.

"Well, many choices aren't just right or wrong," Lady Amanda tells her. "They can be things you like or don't like, which you have to find out for yourself. But Gaila, when there is right and wrong, everyone makes wrong choices sometimes. That's part of having the ability to choose."

"Then why do we?" Gaila wonders. "Why can we make choices at all?"

Lady Amanda laughs. "Many different people try to answer that. Ultimately, I think that the ability to choose comes with sentience, with knowledge and understanding of ourselves as our own distinct beings. Because you are Gaila, you can make choices."

Gaila doesn't completely understand, and she is still afraid, but she smiles and thanks Lady Amanda, and goes outside to the garden and sits among the stones, feeling the strength of them and imagining that she can absorb it through her skin, like warmth.

--

Lady Amanda keeps pictures of people she knows and places that have meaning to her -- for the memories, she explains. Many of the pictures are of a young Vulcan man, and when Gaila asks about him, Lady Amanda looks both proud and sad.

"That's my son, Spock," she says. "He's a lieutenant in Starfleet right now."

That explains the pride, Gaila thinks, but not the sadness. "Do you miss him?" she asks.

"Yes, of course," Lady Amanda replies, reaching forward to touch a picture. "But I don't speak to him as much as I'd like. His father wasn't pleased with his choice, so Spock doesn't contact us very often."

Gaila blinks. She has been learning about choices, yes, but this Spock chose against what his father wanted. He actually made choices for himself, as Lady Amanda is urging Gaila to do.

There are a lot of questions Gaila has about how Spock could have made that choice, but she doesn't know how to ask them tactfully, so instead she says, "Why did he choose Starfleet?"

Lady Amanda strokes the picture slightly, then pulls her hand back. "He wasn't happy on Vulcan," she says, "though of course he would never admit that. But Starfleet was a place for him to fit in."

Gaila nods. She understands the need for acceptance.

--

Vulcan is old. Orion is as well, Gaila knows, but it was hard to get an idea of how old when she could never see raw Orion, just the shaped stone of walls and floor and statues.

Raw Vulcan is everywhere around her. She can see its age in layers upon layers of sandstone, and the sand and pebbles that whip around her in a breeze, the broken-down particles of rock too old to hold together. Or so Gaila imagines, at least, though she does not know the age of every stone, or whether they crumble as they age or endure. But she loves the sense of age and history she gets just from walking outside the house, or even in the city.

The colors remind her of her first sight of the Courtyard of the Courtesans, of the sun and the sandstone cobbles highlighting white marble statues with streaks of red and amber and yellow. But the stone here is naturally in those shades, whether during the heat of the day or at sunset.

The stone is warm, not just to touch but to sense, to feel. Sometimes it's too hot, especially when she goes outside even when Lady Amanda warns her that she'll be better off resting during the hottest part of the day, but even in its heat, the stone is comforting. It is solid. It is there.

Gaila brings her homework outside, whenever she can. She rests her back against the stone walls of the house, or sits cross-legged on a flat stone, or stretches out her legs to brush against stone, and lets it just be there with her while she learns the principles of such strange, new things as basic astrometry and mechanical engineering. The stone is always there, whether she understands her lesson or not. It is always there, patient, and that makes it easier to be patient with the things she does not yet understand.

--

She misses her sisters.

She does not truly miss her teachers, for her teachers had always held themselves apart. They did not encourage affection or connection between themselves and their pupils.

Her sisters, though, she had seen every day. They knew everything about her, as she knew everything about them. And as much as she misses each of them, misses Benna's laugh and Tricia's stories and the way Yula would give her a hug whenever she needed it, she knows she's growing beyond them.

Her sisters don't know everything about her now, and she doesn't know everything about them. They feel very much a part of her old life, which is growing so far apart from her new one.

She doesn't feel connected here. Lady Amanda is wonderful -- motherly, perhaps, is the word to describe her, but since Gaila never knew her mother, she finds it hard to connect to Lady Amanda like that. She is always Lady Amanda, respected and admired, just as Ambassador Sarek is respected and admired, and Gaila trusts the two of them the way she has never before trusted anyone but her sisters.

She trusts Lady Amanda and Ambassador Sarek, and she appreciates everything they have done for her. But they are not her family, not the way her sisters were, and she misses those connections.

She loves Vulcan, but that does not mean that she fits in.

--

For two years, Gaila has been living on Vulcan. She is nineteen, nearly twenty, and still afraid.

She has learned so much, and wants to learn more, but what will she do with her knowledge?

She has seen so much more than the walls of a palace, but where will she go now?

She understands, now, what rape means, but how will she live with it?

Gaila is nineteen, nearly twenty, and she is still afraid.

--

"Have you thought about what you want to do with your life?" Lady Amanda asks as she does work of her own. Translations, Gaila thinks.

"I have thought," Gaila says, "but that does not help. I don't know how to make a choice."

"What do you like learning about the most?"

Gaila thinks. There are many subjects she enjoys, but it's hard to pick just one, and she tells Lady Amanda this.

"Well, what kind of studies? Natural sciences, engineering, languages, histories..." Lady Amanda trails off, as if to indicate how many options there are. "And you have to consider what you would most like to do with that knowledge. Do you want to just study it, or do you want to apply it practically?"

The words seem to fall out of Gaila's mouth. "Apply it practically," she says, and barely has to think to realize how true that is. For most of her life, she was an ornament. Now she wants to be useful.

Lady Amanda nods. "My suggestion, then, is to take a subject you enjoy that you can find practical applications for, and look into how you want to apply them. For instance, do you want to work on a starship? Any number of sciences would be useful for that."

A starship. Gaila takes a moment to consider it. A starship, to take her to meet new worlds and get to know them, as she has gotten to know Vulcan. A starship, like the ones that brought her to the freedom she now experiences, and wants to use wisely.

A starship, like where Lady Amanda's son Spock has found a place to fit in.

Yes. A starship.

--

"Starfleet," she tells Ambassador Sarek and Lady Amanda, one night after the evening meal. "I have chosen Starfleet."

Ambassador Sarek raises an eyebrow, but apart from that he could have been cast from stone. "Why Starfleet?" he asks, his voice betraying an unusual stiffness. Lady Amanda glances at him before her eyes focus once more on Gaila.

"In Starfleet, I will travel and learn," Gaila replies, "but I will also...help. And I will learn how to help myself."

"Those are things you may learn on Vulcan," Sarek says. Gaila remembers that he hadn't wanted Spock to join Starfleet, but just as Spock had to make a decision for himself, so does Gaila.

"Yes, but I'm not Vulcan," she replies. "I am very grateful that you have let me stay here, in your home and on your planet, but Vulcan feels like it's for Vulcans, and Starfleet is supposed to be for everyone."

Sarek closes his eyes in a long blink, but then he inclines his head in a jerky motion and stands. "Attend, wife," he says, as he begins to walk away.

Lady Amanda follows him, but not before she takes Gaila's hand in her own and squeezes it, and says, "I think it is a good choice. Good luck in Starfleet, Gaila. I'm very proud of you. I'll tell Spock to watch for you."

Gaila squeezes back, and smiles. She does feel badly about Ambassador Sarek and his reaction, but she has learned to make her own choices. She has made this one.

August 2013

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