Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom. This story is the property of and is copyright (c) 1981 by Johanna Cantor. Originally published in R&R #16, Johanna Cantor editor. Rated R.

Promises to Keep

Johanna Cantor

Spock's time sense woke him at dawn and he stretched luxuriously, turning, as he always had, to watch the sun rise. Within seconds full daylight flooded his bedroom. There was something inherently right in this lack of halfway measures, he thought. Humans spent hours watching the compromises of sunrise and sunset. Vulcans got up and went about their business. That was as it should be. Spock got out of bed, and went about his.

In the hallway he and Sarek exchanged ritual good mornings, and descended the stairs companionably. "Thee slept?" Sarek wished to be sure.

"I slept, my father." Spock had, in fact, obeyed his father's command for a full six hours. He felt ready to wrestle a sehlat. But when he saw the breakfast room was empty, a cold foreboding touched him. "My mother did not return?"

"No." Sarek, too, was concerned; his face was graver than usual as he bent over Amanda's antique coffeemaker. "She called at 11:20 to say that the healer was still with T'In, and that she would probably spend the night."

"That was most kind of my mother."

Sarek noticed the slight stiffening. "Thee required sleep," he answered Spock's unspoken self-reproach. "I doubt thy mother could have slept."

Spock almost smiled at that. Amanda was controlling herself nobly, but her excitement at the birth of her grandchild was palpable. Sarek met his glance with one of equal amusement, then reached for a thermos. "Coffee?"

Spock shook his head. On board he always ate breakfast, joining Jim in his self-imposed task of setting a good example. On leave, he could please himself. He wondered briefly if repairs to the Enterprise had been completed yet. Jim's last tape had contained an estimate of two to three weeks. Spock almost smiled again as he remembered the obvious afterthought, the news that Jim himself was making an uneventful recovery.

"Thy Captain continues to improve?" Sarek asked.

Spock was conscious of a hope that he would never have to conceal his thoughts from his father, but he replied composedly just as the message center activated. Both crossed to it swiftly. It was Amanda, and she was smiling. "It's all right," she said immediately as Sarek pushed Receive. "It wasn't another stroke, or anything like that. She was just simply too happy to bear it. The healer got to her -- that is, helped her achieve calm, and she had a good night's rest."

"I hear, my wife. That is excellent news. Remain. I will be there in--"

"Oh, Sarek, you don't have to come all the way out here. I can--"

"I will be there in 20 minutes," Sarek settled the matter gently, and set the unit to record. "Spock, I will leave thee at the birth center."

"I had best stop at the lab first. T'Pan will want to know that all is in readiness for today's scan." Sarek nodded, and turned to his son. "When thee sees my daughter, say to her that a father's heart rejoices in the joy of the house of T'I."

Spock studied him, wide-eyed. If Sarek called T'Pan daughter ... Then he saw that Sarek was stretching his hands to him in a paternal touch, and he went to him joyfully. "Thee did the right thing, my son," Sarek reassured him. "It will be awkward at times. But no awkwardness -- or our own wishes -- can outweigh thy word, and the hope of a ruined house." Spock bowed, profoundly grateful for this acceptance of a situation awkward in the extreme. Sarek picked up the thermos, and they left for the aircar.

T'Pan's lab was silent except for the hum of the servos; a quick check reassured Spock that all functions were normal. He checked T'Pan's office and plotted the night's readouts; she would want to see them. Large piles of databooks still filled every shelf, but Spock shook his head at them. Visiting hours began at l0; T'Pan would be expecting him then. He activated the door behind him, and went down to the colony.

T'Pan's animals were relatively tranquil at this hour -- sleepy, perhaps -- just beginning the ceaseless activity of their day. Spock checked the servos. It was unnecessary, but again, T'Pan would want to know. He squeezed past the colony extension to check supplies, chuckling as he thought that now T'Pan would be able to do that, after several weeks of being physically unable to get through the passage. Somehow, they were going to have to make room for a play area here. T'Pan would need both arms free for her work.

A slight scuffling in the nearest hill made Spock turn. One of the babies was making for the open. He shot past his father, but one large paw shot out, pinning the pup in mid-gallop. The mother, one jump behind, flipped him, and resumed the morning's grooming. Spock chuckled aloud.

"Who's there?" an alarmed woman called from above.

Spock barely repressed a pre-scientific expletive. "Spock," he grated.

"Ooo! We'll be right down!"

No doubt, Spock thought sourly. He seemed fated to make a fool of himself before T'Pan's human colleagues.

"Spock!" Rinaldi was bubbling over as he and Anne crashed down the stairs. "Congratulations, old man!"

"For what?" Spock snapped. Then he could have kicked himself. He knew the human custom well enough, after all. 'Open mouth, insert foot,' he quoted the expert on the subject, wishing the doctor were here now, to help him explain to these open-mouthed humans that he had not meant to be discourteous. "Forgive me," he said. "I did not mean to be abrupt."

"Sure," Rinaldi recovered. "Sure. Okay." Both men paused awkwardly. "Well, how does it feel to be a father?"

Spock sighed. Of course he'd known that was coming. "I am not S'falt's father. He is a member of the household of T'I."

The humans frowned in bewilderment. "T'Pan said the baby would belong to her house," Anne said. "But you--"

"You..." Rinaldi picked up, "you ... er..." His hand began to describe small rapid circles as he searched for a word.

"I am the child's biological father," Spock interrupted hastily. "But he is not mine." The humans studied him for a moment, then simultaneously decided not to pursue the matter. "Do we have enough pellets?" Anne asked.

"Everything okay?" Rinaldi chimed in.

"Yes," Spock told them both. He moved past them toward the stairs. "I will return for the scan this afternoon," he promised.

"Sure," Rinaldi acknowledged.

"Give her our love," Anne said softly.

"Of course," Spock said, conscious of the warmth behind the awkwardness. At the top of the stairs he paused, and turned. "It is good to know that T'Pan has such friends," he said, and left quickly.

He paused in the main entrance, considering. Family could visit at any hour, but he was not "family." The center had stretched policy to allow him to attend the birth. It would be foolish to raise an issue over visiting. He decided to walk to the center. That would fill the time pleasantly.

He arrived precisely at l0, and obtained T'Pan's quad number. At her door he knocked, and politely awaited her call. A strange voice answered -- one of her roommates -- but T'Pan was there, in the corner, absorbed in a report. S'falt slept in the bassinet next to her. Spock paused, suddenly hesitant to interrupt her, but the strange woman spoke T'Pan's name, and she looked up.

T'Pan controlled at the sight of him. her countenance instantly. But Spock had seen what rose within her at the sight of him. He took a second to control his own flooding warmth, and stepped over to examine the baby.

"He is in perfect health," T'Pan said softly, rising to stand behind him.

Spock could not answer -- the only words he could think of too illogical for utterance. How could anything that small be so perfectly formed? T'Pan slipped a hand under his arm in a rare gesture of affection, but they were both aware of the politely averted gazes of her roommates, and they simultaneously stepped apart.

There was another knock; T'Pan called permission to enter. Then an exclamation of delight escaped her, and she was moving swiftly to the door, where S'tol, the aging biologist who had trained both of them, to say nothing of Sarek, and Sarek's father, stood arm in arm with his youngest son, S'tai. Spock joined T'Pan in her cordial greeting, then stood back to allow her to draw them to the bassinet. But T'Pan took his arm, standing at his side as the sleeping baby was duly admired.

"It is truly a beautiful sight," S'tai said, his voice a little constrained.

Spock turned involuntarily, then quickly turned away. Some emotion was not entirely controlled there; etiquette dictated it be ignored.

"Will you not sit down?" T'Pan asked politely. She moved to S'tol and seated him. Spock looked at the old man, and he and T'Pan exchanged worried glances. Something was wrong there, too. But S'tol was nodding his thanks.

"Sit down, my son," he said gently. "It is pleasant here." Spock placed three more chairs. It was clear that some conversation was desired.

They exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes: the weather, the domya question, T'Pan's research results, S'tol 's current project, S'tai's business. A natural stopping place was pleasantly reached: S'tai rose. But not to say farewell. "Spock. When do you return to space?"

Spock rose too. This was not casual conversation. "Next week."

S'tai slumped a little. "I see. I had hoped --" He broke off, and looked at his father. "It seems it must be now."

S'tol looked back at him, then took a long, level appraisal of Spock. Puzzled but composed, Spock met the look. "If I can be of service?" he invited politely.

S'tol nodded. "S'tai, why do you not walk a little in the courtyard with Spock? I will remain with T'Pan." Spock and T'Pan exchanged glances again, and she moved nearer to the old man. Spock gestured politely for S'tai to precede him, and followed him out the door.

They walked in silence for some time, enjoying the sights and sounds of a beautifully laid out garden of meditation. At least, Spock enjoyed them. S'tai was still obviously agitated, though in control. Spock guessed he was trying to calm himself, working toward a clear presentation of whatever it was he wished to say. So he merely walked alongside, allowing his own thoughts to wander: to T'Pan, and the way her face had lit at the sight of him, to S'falt -- but it was best not to dwell on that miniature perfection.

At least he was more fortunate than he had ever thought to be, he reminded himself. He would know the child, and see him grow. Sarek would stand as grandfather, by T'Pan's request, and T'In had agreed. Sarek -- and Amanda -- would have the grandchild proper to their years, to watch over, and guide through the levels of preparation for the Kahswan. Spock shook his head, bewildered by this wealth of riches. Only a few years ago he had been an outcast, fortunate enough to roam the stars he loved, but only carefully phrased letters from his mother had linked him with anything that was past. Then Jim Kirk had taken over command of the Enterprise, and by some process which the still mystified Spock could never analyze, had gone from commander, to commander and friend. And somehow the warmth of that relationship had generalized, allowing Spock to accept other colleagues as friends. He had grown to treasure those relationships, in spite of the difficulties he now knew he would never deal with to his own satisfaction.

Then had come the amazing series of coincidences which had reconciled Sarek to his undutiful son, and later the still more fantastic coincidences which had put him in this birth center garden, waiting with more than a little impatience for S'tai to get to his business, so he could return to T'Pan, and see that light that came to her eyes when she looked at the man she had promised --

"Spock, we have come too far!"

"I beg your pardon?" He couldn't have heard correctly.

"We must go back!" S'tai rasped. "We must-"

Spock grasped the older man's arm and pushed him into one of the alcoves. "Sit down."

Without apology, he felt S'tai's temples. A slight fever, unquestionably. But such a degree of disorientation ... He whirled. "I will call a healer."

"No! Spock, wait!" S'tai sighed. "This ailment yields to one remedy alone."

"I see," Spock said quietly, recognizing one of the ancient euphemisms. "Remain a moment." He hurried to the fountain in the courtyard, and returned with water. "Receive coolness from this," he said, and began the careful, caring ritual of dabbing temples, wrists and l ips, finally holding the cup to S'tai's mouth. S'tai drank, and calmed; he must, of course, be in the later stages of the fever. "We are just outside the east entrance," Spock told him. "We have been walking around the center, not away from it--"

S'tai's face twisted; he rested his head on the bench arm to hide it. "I beg forgiveness," he murmured.

"Your behavior gives no cause for shame."

It was not proper for a younger man to speak that reassurance to an elder, but it seemed to comfort S'tai. He sat up, and drew a deep breath. "What time -- 10:45?"

"Precisely."

"Then it is not long."

"No." Returning time sense signified the waning of the fever. "At 11:45 I may return."

It seemed they had been talking of a more immediate matter. "Return?" Oh. "Your wife is here, at the center?"

"Room C."

One of the operating rooms. "I am sorry. "Not. .. er, yes. Spock."

Spock sat down, wondering what S'tai must say to him under such conditions. "Spock--" S'tai began again. Then he slammed the bench with his fist.

Spock started, controlled himself, and spoke gently. "If I can be of service?"

"I could wish not to speak at this time," S'tai pointed out unnecessarily. "But it seems..." His voice trailed off again. Spock waited. "Spock," S'tai took the plunge, "would you call me Uncle?"

Spock almost showed his astonishment, but recovered himself immediately. "I would be honored." The relationship between their families certainly warranted such a tie, even though he barely knew S'tai. Still, if it made it easier for him now ... They exchanged a familial touch, and S'tai relaxed a little. "It is I who am honored, Spock. The honor of thy house, and most especially of thine own accomplishments..." Spock bowed modestly, as was proper, as S'tai stopped, as was proper. "Spock, what I wished to tell thee ... Hast ever met T'Ru?" S'tai's daughter. Spock frowned, trying to remember. "I think I have not had the opportunity."

S'tai nodded. "I thought not. Thee has been away. And now she is away, of course."

"I trust--"

"Yes. She received the highest ranking."

Spock expressed congratulations. "Of course, I would expect thy daughter to excel in the Kahswan," he added politely.

S'tai smiled. "She is a joy in my house. But she is not my daughter." Spock felt an eyebrow respond; he mastered it. "She is thine, Spock."

"Mi--" This time Spock's astonishment showed plainly. S'tai nodded, and sat back, closing his eyes to give Spock a moment of privacy. "I cannot beget a viable fetus," he explained tonelessly. "Our first time was fruitless. The second produced only a..." He swallowed. "It was a boy, but so malformed that we acted on the healers' advice to abort. The third ... T'Ru is thy daughter, Spock."

It took Spock another moment to find his voice. "I rejoice at the joy in thy house," he managed.

S'tai's eyes flew open; he grasped Spock eagerly. "Thank thee, Child. I. .. we..." He stopped, calming himself. "Mentors advise that she not be told until she enters youth training. But when she understands, she will of course want to know..."

"Of course," Spock agreed, making his consent to both points plain.

"I thank thee." S'tai closed his eyes again. "We would like thee to meet her, of course. We..." Suddenly he turned his back; a sob rasped. Spock sat horrified, unable to decide whether to reach out with comforts or leave tactfully. But S'tai mastered his emotional storm, murmuring an apology. "This has been a matter of great concern to us," he explained, "especially not knowing thee well. But now ... Thank thee."

There seemed to be nothing to say to that. Spock nodded, and both men sat silent, assimilating the events of the last few minutes.

Spock found he had to work to control a disconcerting mixture of astonishment and delight. He seemed to be contributing to the gene pool at a somewhat alarming rate. But no Vulcan could help but rejoice in the gift of a child. He must tell T'Pan -- she would be pleased to know of a daughter. She would be interested, too, to know that T'Pau had obtained ... T'Pau. He shook his head, wondering at the strength of that mind. Strange that it had never occurred to him that T'Pau would have ensured the continuation of his line.

Believing him doomed by the death of his Captain, she had, of course, taken the logical action. Odd, too, that she had never discussed it with him. Perhaps she feared raising the memories she herself had woven into a healing matrix of logic and comfort ...

Very cautiously, Spock probed. The web held. He knew what must have been done to him, on the rock itself. But the realization left him undisturbed. Truly he had but to rejoice in the joy-

"Spock."

"Yes, my elder -- my uncle."

"We requested the same donor this time. T'Ru has been such a joy that we...we..."

"Indeed I am honored, my uncle."

S'tai nodded, and subsided once more. Spock studied him covertly, a little worried by the strain in his face. This late in the time. S'tai would not be experiencing any uncontrollable physical difficulty. But the absence of a mate ... S'tai's eyes turned longingly to the entrance, and dropped. "It is only l2:l0," he said dully.

"Yes."

S'tai rose abruptly. Spock took his arm, recognizing the damnable blend of exhaustion and nervous febrility that could strike a man at this stage. "I believe a vitalizer would help thee. Shall we find one of the healers?"

"Perhaps in a few minutes." S'tai pulled away, heading for the entrance, then stopped.

Spock took his arm again. S'tai jerked away, then swore, and begged pardon. "Is this not ridiculous, Spock?" he laughed bitterly.

"It is difficult, S'tai. But thee has no cause to blush."

''Tchah! I cannot meditate, or read, or even think, except of my--" He stopped abruptly, to Spock's relief, then turned to slam his palm against a column.

"S'tai " Spock put both hands on tense shoulders. "Calm thyself. It is not long. Ease." S'tai turned, and Spock guided his head to his shoulder, standing as a son. Carefully he calmed himself, braced himself, then rested his fingers on his uncle's temple, offering a quieting meld. But S'tai removed his fingers, and straightened.

"It is not necessary, Spock. But I thank thee."

Spock nodded, and took his arm to lead him back into the portico,. "T'Mrn is in surgery, I gather?" If S'tai could focus on reality, that would help him regain control.

"Yes. They must ensure that fertilization occurs only with viable seed."

"Interesting. T'Mrn carries the child?"

"Yes." S'tai smiled bitterly. "The difficulty does not lie with her." He gave a short laugh. "Or rather, the difficulty does--"

"Hush, S'tai. Thee allows agitation to betray thee." S'tai bowed. "I thank thee."

"The womb tip is closed?" Spock reasoned. "Or no--"

"Covered. Surgically. It seems to make no difference."

It would make a difference to T'Pan, Spock thought. But that was their business. "Now, with the waning of the time, the shield is removed."

"Donor sperm is introduced, and the womb tip is covered again. It takes a little over an hour -- Spock, what time is it?"

"12:15."

"Damn!"

"Thee is doing well, S'tai. Half an hour passes quickly."

"No." Spock was silenced, but S'tai took a deep breath and resolutely led the way to the outer perimeter. "Let us walk to the square. When we get back, it will be almost time."

"An excellent suggestion." In truth, Spock had a few qualms about letting S'tai outside of the grounds. But S'tai controlled nobly. He made no attempt at conversation, and set a rather fast pace, but he gave no other sign of what it must cost him to walk away from his wife.

At the square, Spock hesitated. "It is 12:25," he said. "Perhaps..."

"We must return. I--" Spock saw S'tai's jaw clench, and put an arm around him. "Of course." He kept his voice calm. "It is not long now."

"Last time, they finished early." S'tai was panting a little. "This time, perhaps..." He pushed ahead, leaning forward, trying to hurry Spock. Suddenly Spock felt the unreasoning panic of a male in need. He suppressed it, controlling his reaction, shielding himself. "Courage. It Is not far. It is not long."

"I ... Spock, I must."

"I know." They turned a corner. "Look. There is the center."

S'tai gave a sigh of relief, feeling better at the sight. "Spock, I think I can ... 12.45. Sp...nephew. My father is frail. Wilt stay with me, until the healers are finished?"

"Yes."

"I think I can. But if I -- Spock, do not let me--"

"Hush. Thee shall present a calm face to the world. I promise." There would be meditation rooms near the surgery, of course. Probably they were soundproof. He'd get S'tai into one, and keep him there, out of sight, restrain him if necessary ...

They had to get through the reception area and up the elevator. But S'tai's control held. One hand on Spock's shoulder for support tightened painfully. But there was no other visible sign of difficulty. S'tai led the way to an open meditation room, and closed the door.

Then he slumped, resting his forehead against the door. Spock went to him, but S'tai paid no attention to his murmured comforts. "Wife," he whispered. "Wife, calm thyself. I am in control." Spock stepped back, blushing hotly, realizing that S'tai was speaking to his wife through their bond. But then, to his relief, S'tai straightened. "They are almost finished. It is not long."

"Thee will be better soon."

"Yes - unh!" He steadied himself with both palms on the door. "Very soon." He gave a rueful half laugh.

Spock swallowed, remembering too clearly just what S'tai meant.

"Soon ..." S'tai smiled, and Spock looked away, knowing what the older man was thinking. "The shield makes very little difference," S'tai continued unexpectedly. "Even knowing it is there, I do not mind..."

"That is good," Spock managed rather inadequately.

"Thee does have courage, Spock.". S'tai straightened, turning to him abruptly. "I could never ... Thee, twice..." He shook his head in wonder.

"There is a new method." Spock blushed again. "It is not painful."

"No. But to know..." S'tai shuddered, and laughed again. "Even for diagnosis, I could not. We had to come here, and stay here, so samples could be taken from T'Mrn between... I simply could not..."

"Nor I," Spock interrupted, hoping to forestall any more discussion. "I did not know about it, until afterwards. T'Pan says that is recommended, for--"

"They are finished!"

"S'tai, the healers will..."

S'tai flung the door open. "They are finished!" He strode down the corridor. Spock hurried after him. "She is this way."

"S'tai?" A healer stood in the doorway of one of the private rooms. S'tai hurried over. The healer nodded, and he fairly ran past her, to the arms held out to him. Spock saw him bury his face in T'Mrn's neck and her fingers come to his temple. Then he turned away.

The healer shut the door and came over to him. "And you are?"

"Spock." An eyebrow rose. "I stand in the relation of family."

"I see. Would you follow me, please?" Spock followed her to her office, where she sat down to add notes to a large file. "I will be with you shortly."

Spock nodded. This was still an experimental procedure; data on all aspects would be recorded. He took a deep breath, trying to do it quietly, suddenly aware that the events of the last hour had agitated him noticeably.

The healer finished recording and flipped to a fresh section, stylus poised. "May I have your name, family, and address?" Spock supplied them. The next few questions were equally routine. He became aware of a pulse beating in his temple, but kept his voice level. "Did S'tai request your company at this time?"

"No. His father was here with him. I believe our meeting was coincidental. But he had ... something of a personal nature to discuss."

The healer looked at him, at another section of the chart, then at him again. "I see. The conversation was agitating, I presume?"

"At first. Later, I believe he was reassured."

The healer noted it. "The patient did not remain with his father?" "No. S'tol seems ... somewhat frail."

"Yes." That, too, was on the chart. "He is expected to recover, but he was very ill for several months before the onset of S'tai's fever."

"Is that relevant to your purpose?" Spock asked coldly.

"It may be. S'tai experienced difficulty during the waiting period?" Spock swallowed, and she looked at him sharply. "That information is required. If necessary, I will obtain it from S'tai."

Spock knew his outrage showed; he didn't care. "Please explain."

The healer glared at him, then recovered her calm. "One of the objectives of this project is to research the difficulties still surrounding artificial insemination and, if possible, derive recommendations. The greatest difficulties, those surrounding donation, have largely been overcome." She looked sharply at him; still angry on S'tai's behalf, he held her eyes challengingly. "However, the difficulties surrounding the introduction of donor seed are still under investigation." Spock relaxed a little, accepting the presentation of an area of research. "Insertion during the end of the cycle, unfortunately, has resulted in nonviable fetuses in 38% of our cases. It seems that insertion must be timed after the peak of activity, during which it would be difficult in the extreme, but before the cycle has begun to wane enough to ensure comfort." Spock nodded understanding. "We make every effort to help at this time. The couple is required to spend the preceding day and night at the center. Surgery is always scheduled late in the morning. We require the presence of a relative or mentor, to remain with the man during surgery. His condition is rigorously monitored. Furthermore, we give long time estimates; we always finish early." She paused. "During this period the average duration of intervals is 3-5 hours. With the precautions outlined, a 90-minute surgical procedure should present no difficulties. Yet, without exception, our cases have suffered urgency during surgery."

Spock rose abruptly, afraid he might be sick. "And S'tai?" It was a demand.

"He was ... in difficulty."

The healer nodded, and made a note. "Any recommendations you have will be logged and considered."

Spock shook his head, but then he remembered. "He was well until l2:25. If you can shorten the procedure..."

The healer nodded and made another note. "That is being studied. Thank you." Without looking at him, she added, "Room CC is open for the use of visitors. Good day." Spock left without response.

The healer looked down at the final line: Condition of mentor. "Highly agitated," she wrote, and sighed.

* * *

Spock walked slowly to CC, refusing to show his difficulty to the world. Inside the small room, he closed and locked the door. The room was soundproof, equipped with a reader, a recorder, and booktapes heavily weighted toward the philosophies of T'Adimides. For a moment, he wondered who came here: women facing surgery, or a diagnosis. Sometimes, perhaps, it would be a man waiting out a healer's examination, or perhaps enduring the shock of a wife's pain ... or death -- he picked up a tape and smashed it against a wall. He hated this!

* * *

In her office the healer, ever dutiful, was scanning the center's records. Puzzled, she keyed for search. "Is anyone from the family of T'Gal a patient here?" The computer clicked through its index. NEGATIVE. The healer frowned and rang the front desk. "Spock of the T'Gal -- whom did he sign in to visit today?"

"T'Pan of the T'I," the clerk responded. "297A."

Not one of her cases -- it had been years since the healer had attended any but fertility cases. But the computer soon had a printout. She scanned it. Well, really! The healer pursed her lips. It was none of her business, of course, but one would think the house of T'Gal would have more pride. Perhaps it was the human element.

She started to dial the 290 attendant, then paused. The family was highly respected; they would not care to have their affairs made the talk of the center. She pocketed her stylus and a notetaker, and stepped out to the elevator.

* * *

In control again, Spock sat down, ashamed of himself. The drive was part of being Vulcan. It was to be accepted, not fought, as was the need to hold to -- and belong to -- one woman. He was more fortunate than many, in belonging to a woman whose eyes lit like the morning sky when he walked in the room. He started for the door, then hesitated, remembering that all the babies in the Center received their daily scan between 1 and 3. It was 1:20 now; T'Pan would probably be awaiting S'falt's exam. He sat down at the reader and dialed the MEDITATIONS of Stanlin. He had not read the precepts for some years; his disgraceful loss of control was indication enough that he could profit from them now.

* * *

T'Pan was nursing S'falt, wondering, a little resentfully, where Spock had gotten to. She wanted to see him, to watch him look at S'falt, and (providing this was permitted) discuss the amazing news S'tol had confided. T'Ru was a lovely child, grave and sweet, with dark eyes that seemed to contain all the logic of beauty and good. To know that she was Spock's -- damn! Where was that man?

The door opened; she turned, her heart leaping, then composed herself sternly. She managed to restrain in instinctive child's respect -- the head of Fertility Studies had always made her feel about six. "T'la," she rose in respect. S'falt's fist beat her in the startle reflex, then he immediately returned to his lunch.

"Sit, T'Pan." The healer searched her memory. Of course. They had discussed a donation, which in due course had arrived at the Center. Her manner thawed a little. "The man Spock," she said succinctly. "He is in CC, in noticeable agitation. If he is anything to you, I suggest you attend him."

"What--"

"I am not sure. If, however, it has to do with his donations and information gained today about their disposition, I would like to be informed of it, for our records. At your convenience, of course."

T'Pan bowed, wordless with dismay. She stood still under the healer had left, then detached S'falt, whirled to grab a blanket, and raced for the elevator. S'falt's howl rose in reproach and she shushed him agitatedly. "C," she ordered as the elevator appeared, and quickly brushed away a tear.

* * *

Three. Spock clicked off the reader in mid-sentence. He had promised to be back at the lab at four. But one hour, at least, he would stay with T'Pan. He activated the door.

"Spock!"

"Why, T'Pan!" Surprise turned to concern. "Something is wrong. The checkup? S'falt?"

"Oh! I ... forgot!"

A sob escaped her. Instantly, Spock drew her into the room and closed the door. Then he stood awkwardly, trying to decide what to do. T'Pan was striving to calm herself; he saw it was a losing battle. But new mothers were prone to emotional lability, after all. He checked the door lock and went to her, embracing wife and son. "There, little mother."

That broke her completely, but Spock had the sense to realize that this was a necessary release for her nerves, and he held her, letting her muffle her sobs in his shoulder. S'falt began to whimper. Spock took him, cradling him in one arm while the other protected T'Pan. He could not resist melding with his son. The infant mind was searching so frantically, his agitation growing ... //Hush, Child. He who got thee is here.// S'falt calmed immediately. Spock carried him over to the chair, securing him with the blanket, and returned to T'Pan.

She pulled away. "I beg forgiveness!" she whispered. But Spock sensed the mortification springing from unresolved difficulty. "Sit down, Wife. May I know what troubles thee?"

T'Pan turned her back abruptly. After a moment, she went into the fresher. Spock went to the window and remained carefully absorbed in the view until she returned.

"Spock." He turned. In full control, she faced him squarely. "I beg forgiveness."

"In what way does thee consider thee has injured me?"

T'Pan looked surprised, then grave. "In not considering fully the strain to thee."

"Of?" Spock was more and more puzzled.

"Of...." T'Pan swallowed hard. "Of donation." Spock frowned, but she hurried ahead. "I knew, of course, what thee must have suffered. Thee was on record here as a fertile donor. When thee told me about. .. about..." She choked, and started again. "I realized, of course, that ... on the rock itself, they..." Her eyes dropped. "I thought I could -- that the pain would be soon past, and that I could comfort ..." She turned her back, on the verge of another emotional display. "I beg forgiveness," she said tonelessly, and started for the door.

"Wife!" She stopped. Spock went to her and turned her to face him. Her emotion was almost out of control, so he guided her head to his shoulder and placed his fingers for a supporting meld. She shielded, not wanting him to see such agitation in her, but the effort of the shielding was enough to show Spock the distress she was in. "Wife, indeed, thee agitates thyself without cause."

Surprise -- the beginning of relief. //Truly?//

//The memory does not trouble me, T'Pan. Why--?//

//The healer told me thee was in difficulty. She assumed because thee had learned of the disposition.//

//On the contrary. I am pleased, my wife. I feel -- that is, it is a privilege to bring such joy.//

//But the donating. That memory-- //

//No.// He was reluctant to explore any memories of the time, but T'Pan must be reassured. He braced himself. //Return with me, Wife...//

* * *

Need was growing while Spock slept. At some level, he was aware of his discomfort, but T'Pan was there. She was awake, and already he was where he needed to be. He sighed in the gratitude of such comfort, and her mind joined his, easing his disquiet. //Thee has what thee must have, Husband. Sleep a little longer.// Spock obeyed, snuggling into the shelter of neck and shoulder. He loved that curve -- all her curves, but especially ... Need nudged and he grunted a little, but her mind and body tightened their protective hold.

Consciousness was returning, and he became aware that T'Pan was holding him at rest. It was kind of her, but he had slept well and long. In another moment urgency would overpower him; for that moment, he wanted to be in control. T'Pan tried to persuade him to remain in her comforts, but Spock pulled back, seeking awareness.

"What?!" he exclaimed, apprehension without knowing why. A moment's thought isolated the sensation, and he went cold with dread.

"It is a donation device," T'Pan whispered. "There will be no pain, Spock. Trust me, Husband. There will be no pain."

"No!" Spock cried out, but she began to thrust hard against him. There was no time; his body demanded movement, and relief. "No," he whimpered. T'Pan grasped his head, and in an instant they were strongly melded. He knew that he labored in alien ground, but from her mind the crying of the ground rose, a lonely emptiness that begged for only a little comfort. A little fear, perhaps a little pain, then this loneliness would be assuaged, and both could rest in quiet. The ground seemed to sob, thrusting hard against his thrusts in an agony of supplication. T'Pan's hands were stroking him, encouraging, begging..."Now!" her mind commanded, and her strong fingers dug at him. Spock felt his body shudder with the intensity of what must be, then mind and body obeyed, sending the longed-for seed coursing through his body and out. Now Spock could rest in the arms of his wife, dizzy with relief, but safe once more.

T'Pan soothed him, drying his face, then stroking his temples and ears in familiar gestures of comfort and affection. Spock smiled, teasing her with his perception that she enjoyed this as much as he. //Oh, why not?// she asked in mock annoyance. Then, //The pain is past, Husband?//

Spock was surprised that this was clearly a question. //Thee knows.// Then a cold finger touched him. //Unless--//

//No! Absolutely not. I swear it, Husband.// Spock relaxed, and so did she. //It is sufficient, Spock.// He sighed in relief and contentment, basking in the peace of his shelter.

After a few moments T'Pan pushed him gently. //Let me free thee, Husband.//

Spock started back eagerly, then something deep inside him rebelled. "No," he grated. He put his arms around her hips, tilting her up to him, holding her, waiting for the familiar pressure. It should not be long.

T'Pan chuckled, and Spock grimaced at her amusement. It was not logical to overcome difficulties merely for the sake of overcoming them, that was true. But something simply would not let him be a passive guinea pig, ruled by his own fears of a simple biological ... Need stirred, and he grunted in satisfaction. He would control, and he would decide ... Fingers of fear began to move in his chest, but T'Pan took him again, melding firmly. He knew the reassurance of her promise, then again the crying of the other. He writhed under the pressure, suddenly no longer sure that this was a good idea. But it was not long before T'Pan's command came, and once again his body responded. A few more thrusts, giving more, then more for good measure, and it was complete.

T'Pan urged him to rest. comforting him as before. But as soon as the dizziness passed, Spock joined her in ending the meld, and pushed himself back. Ughl The thing had to be removed, of course. T'Pan started for it, took one look at his face. and got out of bed, turning her back while he got out of the thing. The bag detached; he closed it, checking the seal carefully. Then he pulled the cover over himself. "T'Pan." She turned. and he held it out to her. She had a cryogenic portable ready. He set the bag inside. and she secured the cover.

"Husband." T'Pan spoke with neutral formality. "Does thee give consent to have this conveyed to the Center?"

"I do." She handed him a form. He read it through, and signed. There was a line for the signature of the wife. Damn. Firmly he wrote, "not applicable," and handed the form back to her.

"I thank thee." T'Pan started for the door, and Spock gave an involuntary exclamation. "I must take this to the message center, Spock. I will be back in three--"

"Thee might wish to put on a robe," Spock pointed out.

"Oh!" She blushed, realized she was blushing, begged his pardon, then made a dive for her robe, flung it on, and fled. Spock chuckled as the door activated behind her; it seemed his wife was not as matter-of-fact about this business as she would have him believe. Illogically, her agitation made him feel better about his own causeless emotionalism. So small a matter ...

* * *

"There, Wife." Spock brought them gently back to the present. "It is not uncomfortable." She was silent and his heart sank. He most emphatically did not wish to continue. But he could not stand the stricken look in the eyes that tried to show only acceptance. "Very well," he sighed.

Spock leaned back in bed, trying to subdue a too rapid breathing, and a stomach that refused his command to settle. Stupid. Over so small a matter -- now past and done. His stomach turned over; he wanted to whimper. Cursing under his breath, he flung the cover around him and got up to pace. The trouble was -- he had to face it -- quite simple. T'Pan was not here. And it seemed that, without her, the being known as Spock was no longer quite complete.

Probably when they bonded, it would be even worse. He would be forever at the mercy of fate. He who had been tranquil, now would never be entirely tranquil again, for--

T'Pan was back; Spock froze. But before he could look away, she was in his arms. "Husband," she said tenderly. She put an arm around him and led him to the bed, then into her arms and mind. Spock began a surprised protest. It would be hours before ... "Lie with me, Husband," she shushed him gently. Spock put his head back in the familiar curve, feeling her pleasure at his comfort.

//Wife, this is pleasant. But--//

//I know. But be guided by me. This is recommended.//

//Recommended!//

//Strongly.// Once again she began to stroke his temples, fingers caressing face and mind. //Every man feels shaken, Spock. The center has researched many cases. With the method they developed, the only difficulties of donation are apprehension before, and after. For this reason it is recommended that the matter not be discussed beforehand, and that afterward the man rest in the place that is his, and-- // A sudden stab of urgency made them both gasp. Spock lifted his head, eyes widening with astonishment. T'Pan pulled him back. //It is always thus.// She began to stroke him, so expertly that he moaned. //That is why they developed the container. It is not surprising after all.// Her voice went on, soothing. Spock swallowed hard. Not since returning from the desert had he experienced such devastating urgency. It was going to sweep over him, darkening his mind, turning him once more into that animal that must hump uncontrollably, mindlessly -- //Shh.// T'Pan was in control, her mind only touched by his difficulty. //Thee has what thee must have...// She was coolness and light. Spock clung to her mind as his body began to move. If T'Pan would hold him, be with him, be one with him, he could-- //Be one with me, Husband,// she echoed. //Be one...//

//Wife! Oh, Wife, I need thee...//

NO! Spock severed the meld so abruptly that they both gasped. The small room seemed to spring into shape around them. Spock whirled away, fighting back the memory. That was past. It was past. He could control now. He would not experience that unmasterable urgency again -- Until! He almost cried out with the thought. Emotionalism! he scolded savagely. Control.

It took him a few minutes, and it was something of a struggle. But, outside of the fever, the mind did rule. Gradually, he forced his will over that baser self, and achieved control. Then he sat down, staring sightlessly out at the desert. The mind rules.

"Spock?"

Spock snapped to, remembering he was supposed to be comforting his wife. A fine comforter! He turned to her.

T'Pan, too, was in control -- a little pale, but fully in control. She, too, must have spent those moments establishing the rule of the mind, setting logic in her serene seat ...

"Wife?" That was hardly fair. But T'Pan accepted the role of protagonist. "It is not the donating." Spock shook his head. "May I know what?"

Spock looked away, disgusted with himself. This woman asked only to give. Why could he not...? But he could not. He stared again over the desert. "I ask forgiveness. It is not thee. Thee is truly everything that is generous."

T'Pan could not reply, but she allowed herself to move a little nearer, knowing how difficult it was to speak of such matters aloud.

Spock heard her move and felt the lightening in the spirit of the woman pledged to him. He felt better for it -- but was he never to have another moment to himself? Must he always, now, be afraid? He knew the answer, even as he fought it. "Wife," he began dully. This was going to hurt her, and she did not deserve to be hurt. Now she would know him for the ingrate he was. "It is that all my life, I have been independent. Alone, but ... self-sufficient. T'Pan, I ask forgiveness. But it is because I value thee so ..." -- need thee so -- but he choked on those words, and shook his head, sure that he could never make her understand what he could not himself accept. "I was with S'tai. He was ... troubled. He needed T'Mrn. I saw him enter the arms held out to him. Saw how much he needed ... Forgive me. But I cannot but be fright--" He broke off, sure that T'Pan would misunderstand, be wounded, probably offended, as she had every right ...

But T'Pan moved closer still. "It is a terrible thing," she quoted softly, "to need what death can touch."

Spock whirled. "Wife, dost understand? Canst understand?"

A rueful smile answered him. "Indeed, dear friend. How would I not?"

Spock looked at her without really seeing her, suddenly shocked. But, of course! Why had he never thought of her life? The loss of parents as a child, thrust on the care of her bondmate's house, then even that security taken from her with the death of S'falt ... But she had survived it all -- survived, to become the person she wanted to be, with the strength even to choose to link her lot with another's, tempting fate, actually choosing a wanderer, an alien, a half-breed, to pledge... "T'Pan," he murmured humbly. "How has thee such courage? To choose to--to..."

"To 'give hostages to fortune'?" She managed a smile. "It is not a Vulcan saying. It is human -- they do not know who ... But it is true. It is the fate of mortal creatures, not so much that we ourselves must die, but that all that means life to us must..."

"But we have this moment!" Spock interrupted her. "Thee is mine. I am thine, and S'falt is ours. Should the worst happen tomorrow, we would still have had this moment. That is worth the risk!"

"Yes." T'Pan frowned. "Our teachers do not..." She thought for a moment. "S'Lin, perhaps, who wrote that..."

Spock shook his head impatiently. "It is not Vulcan. Logic teaches us how to prepare for loss. But to rejoice in the gifts of fate..." He smiled at her .. "Thee must meet my Captain, T'Pan. Admiral Kirk. He often says..." Spock blushed. "He understands things of this nature."

"I would be honored."

Spock's eyes almost brimmed with tenderness. "Thee must meet him soon. He is -- Sarek distrusts his lability. And there is a certain ... impulsiveness. But thee will know how to value..." Spock swallowed hard. "T'Pan, it is 4 o'clock. I promised to return."

"The scan!" Passion warred with concern; concern won. "Spock, thee need not--"

"I must. I promised Tony and Anne. Besides, thy project is of great interest to me."

"I thank thee." T'Pan took refuge in formality. "Thee is most kind."

Spock picked up S'falt and handed him to T'Pan in some haste. "I must be going."

T'Pan did not object. The scan would be properly handled, if Spock was there. But in the elevator, she could not resist stepping for just a moment into the position of trust. Spock turned to her, fingers extended in the spouse's touch, and her fingers met his in the manner that would, one day, be permitted them.

THE END