Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom. This story is the property of and is copyright (c) 1983 by Beth Carlson. Originally published in R&R #18, Johanna Cantor editor. Rated R.

Adjustments

Beth Carlson

The back of her right shoulder was throbbing and Christine accepted the seconds of nothingness during transporting as welcome relief from the pain. The respite, however, was brief and was broken by the heat, like a blast furnace, hitting her in the face; it all but felled her. Struggling to gain her balance, she felt a hot grip on her arm and another on her waist before she focused her gaze onto the deep hazel-blue eyes of a transport attendant. "Are you well?" The voice spoke in interstellar.

"She will be," came a second voice in Vulcan. "You are dismissed." The voice sounded familiar but she was still disoriented -- the transporter had never affected her like this.

A second pair of hands replaced the attendant's and Christine strained for independence. "I am well," she insisted, pulling discreetly away. She was beginning to feel like a pawn in a large game. At last her mind cleared, her balance began to return, and she found herself looking into eyes that seemed very much like her husband. "Father," she intoned, relaxing again. "How good it is to see you. I'm fine now. I don't know what happened, the heat I guess."

He responded by slowly releasing her to her own balance and lowering his head in greeting. "Your home awaits, Daughter."

The formality could not diminish her joy at seeing him and she, too, lowered her eyes for a moment, trying to control her face.

"Christine. You're so thin!" Amanda exclaimed, embracing her lightly and releasing her quickly. This was a Vulcan port, but nothing could keep her from touching a loved one, especially another human. Vulcan would just have to be patient with her human failings.

Christine's eyes clouded at her touch and she swallowed, blinking back tears. She looked from face to face. "It is good to be home. What was the last information you received on Spock?" Her face had become openly caring and Sarek turned to attend the anti-grav, marshaling it toward the door.

"Nothing since we last spoke," Amanda answered as they fell in the prescribed steps behind him. "You may view it when we get home. How's Jim?"

"Fine, the last I heard. Still fighting off of the Singini side of the Zetha quadrant. News is sporadic at the base -- kids coming in off the front mostly. I think I would have heard of anything serious though."

"Yes. I suppose," Amanda answered, troubled. There was silence for Christine to mull into. Spock and McCoy on Tychus, Scotty and M' Benga on the Cordova, and Jim alone now. No. That was stupid. Arron Pale Eagle was a fine physician, a good man. Jim was fine -- but damn this injury. Damn everything that put her so far away from everyone she wanted to be there for! Spock called it her 'mother hen/martyr complex', said she couldn't care for everyone and everything in the galaxy, but that there was every possibility that she would kill herself trying, if he allowed it. Christine smiled at the thought. Fine one he was to talk.

They approached the air car and Sarek loaded her travel case. He turned to help her in before Amanda, an unprecedented and unexpected breach of respect for an elder. It was only as she sank gratefully into the seat that Christine became aware of how very tired she had become in just that short walk.

As they were all seated and the doors closed Sarek turned in his seat. and reached out his hand to touch her. It was his right as her parent, had become his right with her marriage to Spock, as much as it was his right to inspect the well-being of his child by birth. But he had never utilized that right before. She bowed her head obediently, expressing her submission, and he placed his hand on her head for a long moment. There was no sensation of his presence as there was with Spock. In fact, she felt nothing, only very sleepy.

"Lie down," he instructed and she did so willingly, feeling his hand slip from her head as she lowered herself to the back seat. Sleep. It sounded so good.

* * *

When she awoke, she was in the bed at home in Spock's suite of rooms. The air conditioning was on, the light trom the window a dusky red; the smell of the incense that Spock was so fond of wafted over her from the firepot. Feeling safe and full of familiarity for the first time in weeks, she snuggled the covers around herself, wincing at the pain in her shoulder. Had her father-in-law made her full asleep? Could Spock do that? He never had. Sarek was a Vulcan in every sense of the word though. Having 'parent's right' to inspect and care for her health, he had utilized that right. She smiled and sighed, decided to sleep another few minutes. The minutes faded into hours.

* * *

"You're awake," Amanda said with a smile as she poked her head in the door. "Did you sleep well?" She came in and settled herself on the edge of the bed, taking Christine's hand.

Christine smiled and yawned, remembering not to stretch. She squeezed the hand in hers, feeling the muscle flex across her shoulder. "Yes. Evidently I did. How long did I sleep?" As she said it, her eyes rested on the far wall. The sun was refracting off of the mirror and casting light on Spock's lyre hanging there. She wished for a mindless moment that it could be with its owner for what small comfort it could lend. She blinked. That was foolish. There was no time or room for such trivialities in war. It would merely be another thing to clutter up the back of his mind. That was why he had sent the old instrument home in the first place, for safe keeping.

Amanda's eyes followed hers to the lyre, and she waited for a moment before she answered. "Since yesterday noon. It's mid-morning now."

Christine looked back at her and smiled again. "I haven't been very good company, I'm afraid."

"You have been no company. You are family." She pulled her hand from Christine's and brushed the hair away from her forehead, leaning to bestow a kiss there. "I am delighted to have one of my children home-- and safe." The two women looked at one another, Christine's eyes filling with tears. "I will run a bath for you. You are to soak for half an hour each morning and night. Dr. Ramirez' orders."

The younger woman sat up. "I can do it, Amanda."

Amanda frowned. "Christine," she said with authority and some exasperation, "Allow me to fuss over you. Sarek won't stand for it, and Spock is not much better. You are the only outlet I have for my nurturing instincts. Do not rob me of that."

Christine looked at her for a moment and then smiled and lowered her head obediently. "Yes, Mother." Amanda left to prepare the bath.

Sinking back down into the bed, she tried to remember her own mother. but as always, the memory was only a vague, warm blur. She wished sometimes that she had been older when her mother had died. Surely she could not have been as warm and loving as Amanda. And yet, to have wanted five children--. There she went again, wasting time on thoughts that were irrelevant to anything in the present. Spock was right. If she could program her mind to concentrate on only the essential, she could have far more time and energy to focus on productive and intellect.-sharpening endeavors. She smiled. A Vulcan she would never be. But he was right about so much. Oh, to have a day in his mind, she thought A full day unobserved!

A snort brought her eyes open. "Tay-Thon! Oh, I have missed you!" The shaggy body writhed all over with her words and seemed almost to be looking around before he wormed his way onto the bed and into her arms. "You're not supposed to be up here, you know." She buried her face in his fur and hugged him hard, all but overcome by the flood of visions of a thin adolescent having done the same so many times before her. Tay-Thon was certainly no stranger to worming his way onto this particular bed; she had seen him do so on no other furniture in the entire house. The sehlat nuzzled her face and then sniffed the rest of the bed with a plaintive whine.

"I think he's confused," said Amanda from the doorway. The look on her face told Christine that she had walked in on this minor transgression before. Tay-Thon slunk off of the bed and went to her remorsefully, but with his tail tip-tipping in supplication. She gave him a stern look for a moment before gathering his massive head in her hands. "What am I to do with you, Tay?" He craned his neck and licked her face. "Go lie down now," she finished with a smile and he lumbered out at a trot. Amanda looked up. "You've never been here without Spock before," she explained. "Tay's been everywhere looking for him."

Christine stretched cautiously and winced. "Poor Tay. I wish we could explain to him."

The older woman's eyes narrowed and she frowned. "How could we? When we do not understand ourselves how this can be happening?" There was more than a hint in her manner of the proud Vulcan indignation of her husband and son. It had been so deeply impressed on her for so long that it was no longer foreign to her, but a part of her. It touched Christine.

She grinned. "Oh, Amanda! Sometimes you're so Vulcan it's a joy to hear you." She came to her feet and was hit by a wave of dizziness. She sat down again before Amanda could catch her. They ended face to face, both grinning.

"Contamination, Daughter. Merely contamination." She smoothed hair back from Christine's face lovingly. "You're weak. The travel was a strain. Dr. Ramirez was not quite ready to let you go, but he--"

"I know. He needed the bed. The base infirmaries are packed, all of them."

"No, I believe it was your father's doing. You know how persuasive Sarek is." She sterned her face and imitated the full and precise tones of her husband. "We do have facilities here, Doctor. The Academy has some of the finest and most progressive physical therapy programs available." Her voice changed with a smile. "And so on. Dr. Ramirez didn't have much of a chance, I'm afraid." They both laughed and Amanda helped Christine up, leading her down the hall, both of them still snickering conspiratorially.

* * *

Sarek returned from his council meetings early and was home well before the dinner hour. After the greetings he sat across from Christine's chair. "There is time before the evening meal for you to soak and to proceed with your physical therapy. I have spent much of the afternoon in the physical therapy department of the Academy and I believe that I have acquired the skills necessary to assist you." He paused. "You find something amusing in my proposal?"

Christine did her best to stifle the smile and, failing, relaxed and allowed it to show. When you cannot be what you would prefer to be, be what you are well. She wasn't sure where the thought had come from, but it had become a way of life for her since Spock. Now, having failed to achieve any sort of respectable Vulcan control over her face, she showed her completely human response. "No, Father. I am pleased that you would do this for me."

"I am glad that you are pleased, but that was not why I chose this course of action. There was no purpose in exposing you to the heat and travel twice each day to accomplish what could be as easily done here." He turned to Amanda. "Prepare Christine's bath. I will be in my study if you wish to find me." And with that, first Sarek and then Amanda left the room.

Christine sat, feeling a little befuddled. Without the buffer of Spock there, she was noticing things about Vulcan family life that she never had before, at least not as she was noticing them now. W/hen she had first been with Sarek and Amanda, she had rankled at the way he ordered her, though Spock often did very much the same. But Spock had been with humans long enough that he usually had some tone of request in his voice or face. Sarek seldom did. It was becoming increasingly interesting to watch them, now that she had gotten past his brusqueness and begun to know him better. He spoke to Amanda as Vulcan men had spoken to their wives for centuries, as his father had spoken to his mother, his grandfather to his grandmother. He knew nothing else, and, in this place, in his life situation, there was no need to speak differently. Amanda had accepted that in Sarek, as she, Christine, had accepted the things that were alien to her in Spock. It all depended on the intent, and how much you loved a man, thought Christine, and how much you felt loved. Amanda was treasured, protected, and chosen by Sarek. Christine smiled, thinking of the pure surge of electricity that flowed between Sarek and Amanda when they were in the same room together, a surge that even she could feel, and she patted Tay-Thon's head. "What stories ;you could tell, Tay, if only you could talk." The animal licked her hand with a warm rough tongue.

* * *

The weeks passed and Christine gained strength, drinking in the love and security of her husband's home, now her home as well. And she waited for her shoulder to heal enough for her to return to the Enterprise, for the war to be over, but always, waiting. Sometimes she would think for a brief moment to wish that Spock would come home as well, but then in horror it would occur to her that the only way Spock could come home without the end of the war would be dead or wounded, and she would superstitiously revoke the wish formally, and promise herself never to let it cross her mind again.

Sarek was consistent and unmerciful with her physical therapy, always pushing her a hair beyond endurance, a hand coming to rest on her hand often to gauge her fatigue and pain, stopping at just the right moment for the maximum progress, without damaging either body or spirit.

Amanda healed just as efficiently, but in an entirely different way, giving the mothering Christine had never had and the womanly companionship she had often been wary of.

And through it all was Tay-Thon, giving his love freely, sitting at her feet during her therapy, providing a warm furry body to hug and to cry into on nights when the bed seemed so large and empty without Spock.

The love in the ShiKhar home was deep and abundant -- this home where Spock had been taught and nurtured.

* * *

Christine stretched back in her bath, running her soapy hand over her body. She paused to close her eyes and continued, trying to imagine that it was Spock's hand. But it felt wrong, too small, too cool. She giggled. Too tame. "Oh, Spock. I miss you," she whispered half aloud and opened her eyes.

Stepping out to dry, she looked over her shoulder in the mirror, as she had each day, to look at the angry red scar tissue spurning the world. She frowned at it, a flash filling her mind of being thrown against the damaged console, the jarring, the shock, the blood, and the tearing pain. She closed her eyes for a moment to clear the memory away, then opened them and reached to touch the scar. It was, she knew, just beyond her the reach of her fingers and she had to push her elbow with her other hand to reach it. She pressed her fingertips into it, feeling the ridge, and frowned again. A six inch memento of the war. "Beautiful welcome home present, Spock. Shit!"

Dropping her arm, she began to dream. Home. It ached in her. Would there ever be any such thing as their home, together? She had seen and experienced so much in two and a half years of war, and they had heard from Spock and Leonard or from Jim, in over eight weeks. The fighting was heavy and escalating, and they were in the middle of it. She didn't want to think about the odds of all of them getting out of the war alive and well.

Shifting her robe to distance a seam from rubbing on her shoulder, she thought again about Jim and about how he had lost first McCoy to retirement, then Spock to the war and now her to "this". It spat out in her mind like a dirty word. A smile crossed her lips. She had picked word up from Jim, and it fit so many situations pertaining to the war. She had resolutely refused to pick up some of his other favorite epithets. Spock would have her head for them.

It wasn't as if Arron Pale Eagle wouldn't be able to handle being CMO. It was just that she knew Jim. After five and a half years as his medical officer, she knew how to see the glint of anger in his eyes that needed to be worked out, the tell-tale slump of his shouldern and laxity of his jaw muscles when he was tired and needed to be coaxed into resting, the hyper breathing and clipped speech when he was too tense, the avoidance of her when there was something he didn't want to face. They were all symptoms that had taken a long time to see. Or the tendency he had to take the blame for things and people, when the self-involvement he fell into in his mind when he was lonely and felt that he was alone and tied down. Would Pale Eagle see all of those and would he know what to do? When to just listen, when to comfort, to cajole, prod, to kick his butt, set him on his can for a moment and then retreat to be lashed at when he needed to regain his authority. Would he know all of that? She signed. Damn, that Arron Pale Eagle better be watching out for him. She yanked the cord to her day robe viciously, angry at half a dozen things she didn't care to think about, but seemed to in spite of herself.

Storming out of the bath area she ran into Amanda, nearly bowling her over. "Christine?" She placed a hand on the younger woman's shoulder. "What's wrong?"

Christine breathed out and relaxed, suddenly realizing how angry she was becoming. "I don't know. Fighting windmills, I guess." Tears came into her eyes as her mother-in-law's hands settled on her cheeks.

"Daughter, Spock will be fine. Believe that."

Christine did not tell her that it had ben a combination of things that she had been angry about, but answered, "Believing something does not necessarily make it true."

Amanda smiled. "Christine, sometimes you're so Vulcan..." She paused for effect. "...that you're a pain," she finished.

Christine's smile became a laugh and she hugged her. "Contamination, Mother, merely contamination."

"The head contaminator is waiting for you downstairs. You better get down there before that shoulder gets stiff again." Christine's eyes rolled ceilingward as she left her to go to the library where her physical therapy customarily took place. The room was empty.

The heaviness still on her, she flipped on the news viewer. The ShiKhar city council meeting was in session and involved in a 'heated' debate over the restructuring of some of the older areas of the city. Jaws flexed, eyebrows raised, they quoted books -- only to be counter quoted from other sources. Folded hands remained relaxed, voices calm, but eyes flared, and words flew sedate and politely level trajectories to their destinations at the base of one another's views. To an unknowing observer it might have seemed as if they didn't care.

Christine's Vulcan was improving under the twice daily tutelage of Sarek during therapy - sometimes filling the mind eased one's pain -- but she still did not find the council meeting interesting and she reached to turn it off. As her hand activated the control, the Federation symbol filled the screen in override. She reactivated the screen quickly, her heart pounding and listened to the Andorian spokesman speaking in interstellar.

The war was over; the Alliance forces had admitted defeat.

"Mother! Father!" she cried, aware as it echoed that the ancestors were probably turning in their resting places at the sounds of shouting. Vulcans did not shout unless it was an absolute necessity -- and even then they probably thought about it a great deal in advance, but right now she was too excited to be calm. "Amanda! Father!" There go all of my manners, she thought, her eyes on the viewer.

Sarek was the first to enter, frowning. "My daughter, it is--"

"It's over! The war's over!" she cried and he silenced, coming to hear the Andorian's words.

Amanda arrived. "What is it, Christine?"

"The war is ended, my wife," Sarek whispered situating her before him to see the screen, his hands remaining on her shoulders.

"Thank God," came her voice quietly.

From the corner of her vision Christine saw Amanda thread her right arm around Sarek's waist, coming to lay her head against his shoulder as she watched. His left hand remained on her shoulder and he offered two fingers for her to touch. It was the first time she had ever seen them so physically close and she had to still the impulse to turn and stare.

A Vulcan announcer appeared to assure the citizens of Vulcan that complete lists of the dead and wounded would be forthcoming along with further details of the disarmament; the final onslaught, however had been severe and there had been heavy casualties among the Federation forces.

A partial list of injuries listed by clan appeared, her own name being the only listing for their clan.

Minutes after, a partial death list appeared. Christine's eyes flew to Sarek at the listing of a name under their clan.

"My cousin's son; only a boy." Sorrow was there in a tired and washed out look that, not even Vulcan control could cover. "Come, Daughter. It is time for therapy. We can listen as we work."

She looked at him and frowned. "You're as bad as Spock." It was a nonsensical statement to him and he ignored it. Amanda's eyes sparkled as Christine's met them, and the younger woman tried a different tack. "Couldn't we just skip it this evening -- became of the special occasion?" she asked, looking at Sarek.

Discretion always having proven-- as the old saying went -- the better part of valor, Amanda turned and left the room while she still could control the look on her face.

Sarek's face registered surprise. Clearly one had absolutely nothing to do with the other. Again he chose to ignore her statement and put his palm up. "I am waiting, Christine."

She wrinkled her face at him and put her right hand against his, pressing hard. The pain shooting across her shoulder affirmed that, like it or not, she was going to do her therapy. "Yes, Father," she sighed, her arm beginning to tremble from pain and fatigue, her jaw going tense with effort.

Sarek's voice came to her again: "Recite the verb tenses of being having the inference of dishonor as compared with those having the inference of incompletion or ignorance not the fault of neglect."

* * *

Each day the lists grew longer, each day they were relieved as Spock's name did not appear. Still, they had not heard from him. That in itself was proof of nothing; there were things to be done in the war mop-up and much traffic on the communication systems. Planets needed supplies and aid long overdue, defeated forces had to be assisted, assistance forces needed transportation to battered areas. But again and again his name was blessedly absent from the lists.

On the eleventh day they received a stargram. It was simply stated in Spock's precise way, "I am well. Spock."

Christine stared at the paper readout in Sarek's hand for a long moment.

"May I be excused?" she asked quietly, her throat tightening.

"You may," he answered and she took a deep breath, turning to leave. He spoke her name and she turned back.

"Yes?" Silently he took the steps to her and held out the paper. His eyes were so like Spock's, the kindness, the tenderness. She did not trust her voice, but took it from his hand, lowering her head briefly in acceptance and made her way to the bedroom.

Once alone she sat on the bed staring at the paper. "I am well. Spock." Tears came to her eyes and her chest clenched. Somehow, perversely, the end of the waiting closer, it seemed all the harder to bear. The tears made their way from her eyes to splash on her hand.

* * *

Several weeks later a tape arrived and when at last it was bed time, she took it with her to view it again privately. He looked well and very appealing in the one piece blue work suit, though the tape showed only from his torso up as he sat. He was overly thin but looked well rested.

"...being the only thing to keep us here. If all goes well I shall arrive on the nineteenth of the month, Christine. Much of the Enterprise crew were injured in the final onslaught, but only three were killed, Michaels, Jacobson, and a woman you did not know, Rayburt. Kevin Riley was critically injured but will live; he has lost an arm. Jim was not damaged. McCoy is very much himself. Our own crew cared for, he has been working extraordinary hours, along with the rest of the medical team in treating the survivors on Analectus. It is not a pleasant situation here. It was one of the last and, most damaged of those planets taken and used for Klingon bases. The Analecti fought well." His voice was low and uneven.

"There is much to be done here." He paused. "And much that will heal only in time." She read the heartsickness in his eyes and wanted very badly to be close to him. To hold him. To be held. "If there is any chance, I shall notify you by stargram. Live long and prosper."

It blinked out. Half a tape was better than none. She ran it back to the beginning to watch it one more time before sleeping.

* * *

Christine found her father-in-law in the garden tending a plant in a finely carved clay pot. He sat on his heels in the dirt, his hands brushing away dust from a leaf, the glow on his face very much like his son's exaltation over something long awaited come true, some deep mystery unlocked. She smiled at the glow on the unsmiling face and then composed herself and went to kneel across from him. "I rejoice in your pleasure, my Father." He looked up, surprised that in his preoccupation with the plant he he'd not sensed her presence nor heard her.

"You approached very quietly, Daughter." It was as close to a compliment as she would hear and head in acceptance.

"I am learning. Please forgive my intrusion. Might I share in your joy?" She was learning well the intricacies of Vulcan culture and Vulcan etiquette -- to properly communicate on a personal level with this man who was fast becoming as precious to her as her own father had been. Some day she would have to find a way to show him just how precious.

His face relaxed and a near smile graced his mout.h. "This is a Sorchi plant. I began it from a seed the night that Spock was born. It is not native to Vulcan and yet it has grown and flourished here, with the exception of the fact that it has failed to bloom."

She looked at the plant. Beautiful lavender and spring green serrated leaves sprung from a sturdy green stem cascading into a fountain effect that was almost perfectly symmetrical. "It's never bloomed?"

"When Spock was seventeen it had buds, but the plant was badly damaged in a windstorm that occurred when we were away. It has never shown buds again until now." His hand went to the plant and he lifted the leaves to show her. There, in the crevice where the leaves joined the stems were tiny nodes of lavender green plant flesh.

Thoughts of this man nurturing this plant through all of its barren years touched her and she wanted to exclaim her joy for him, to hug him and laugh, but she did not. To do so would ruin the moment and offend him. She tempered her face into the small smile that was permissible between close family members and met his eyes.

"I am honored, my father. I share your joy and I will be awaiting the event of its blooming." She lowered her head for a moment and rising, walked toward the house. Her back to him, the grin escaped her and she sighed happily.

* * *

They watched the eighteen transporter pads fill three times before Spock's form coalesced. Christine recognized him before he had completely solidified and was standing in front of him becoming the first sight he beheld upon coming aware. His eyes searched her face for a long moment and she struggled not to go to him. A human hugging a human in public could be overlooked. One did not hug a Vulcan, presumably anywhere, certainly not in public. He turned.

"Sarek. Mother." Each of them acknowledged him with a nod, Amanda firmly moved a step back from Sarek, as Spock stepped off of the transporter pad. Again his eyes came to Christine's. "My wife."

The tone held a totally different quality and he lifted his fingers to her. She touched them with her own, feeling a backwash of his emotions that made her lightheaded. Tears came to her eyes and she lowered her head; she would not reflect him to the world.

"You will go to the car," Sarek stated formally. "We will follow in a short while. I must make a call." He lifted his fingers to Amanda and, she shot him a look that Christine did not deign to interpret past the element of amusement, which was clear -- as clear as Sarek's giving his son time alone with his human wife who needed to be held and touched as much as his own human wife.

Spock allowed a small half-smile at her before they began their way to the aircar, Spock guiding his luggage and Christine falling a deliberate extra few steps back to watch him walk. She looked at him in detail -- surely this had been a woman's idea, the view was so nice. She looked at his hair and ears, down the thick neck, the slope of his shoulders, his shoulder blades, down his torso to his waist, to the firm rump that swayed as he walked. Her mind wandered and she felt a surge of desire for him fill her; she had not seen or touched him in over ten and a half months.

As they arrived at the aircar Spock hefted the luggage into the storage comportment and closed it, then turned and opened the door climbing into the back seat, turning to Christine as she too, entered. The shaded windows effectively shadowed them from the crowd as they came into one another's arms, their lips meeting in gentle fullness. //Christine. It has been so long. I have missed you, my wife.//

Their lips parted and she buried her face against his neck, feeling as if he would crush her. //Spock...I love you, Spock. I was so afraid I'd never see you again.// She lifted her mouth to his hungrily and he met it with his own hunger for her. His hands sliding up her back encountered the scar and he ended the kiss, moving his mouth along her neck.

//It is healing well?// he asked. His mind scouting her body for signs of discomfort found instead a healthy wave of sexuality and his hand reached instinctively to knead a breast, his mouth finding hers.

//Oh, God. Don't. Unless you want to be raped as you sit there.// She grabbed his hand. //Please. I'm serious. I can't bear it...//

//In an aircar?// He was amused and not a little aroused himself.

In spite of her words she was becoming aggressive and he accommodated. her eagerly, his tongue re-exploring the softness of her mouth. It took her a moment to answer him. //Yes. It's a Terran custom. More procreation has occurred in the back seats of cars than anywhere else outside the bedroom.// Her hand slid up his tunic and he grasped it, rerouting it to a better place and then groaning as she took the initiative.

It was getting very warm in the aircar by the time Sarek and Amanda returned. Sarek stood beside the vehicle, finishing his conversation to Amanda for a moment after he had sounded the latch. Spock and Christine straightened, Christine grinning broadly in embarrassment. //Stop that!// he commanded as Sarek and Amanda entered.

//I'm trying,// she shot back, her head held low, her fingers tightly entwined with his on the seat between them.

* * *

As they entered the house Tay-Thon launched himself at Spock with ye1ps of delight. Spock touched his head and then, unable to resist, knelt and hugged him, his face disappearing into the fur. He mumbled in the animal's ear, his hand against the shaggy head and Tay rolled over to receive a belly rub.

Christine moved closer and touched her thigh to Spock's side. His mind reached to her. //Can I requisition one of those?// she asked, watching.

//And better, wife,// he retorted, not looking up. He gave Tay a couple of farewell thunks on the chest and rose, avoiding her face, knowing full well that many times the control on her face rested in his not looking at her.

There was a continued and silent conepirllcy that extended in the next hour as they sat and talked with Sarek and Amanda. The atmosphere was relaxed and quiet as they talked about what had happened within the clan in the last years, Christine's therapy, Tay's antics. No one asked about the war. Spock volunteered nothing.

"You are thin, Spock," Amanda offered at last, as if she had saved it for an opportune time.

"You have told me that since I was seven, Mother," he answered affectionately, leaning his head back against the headrest of the loveseat.

"It has been true since you were seven. At six you were maybe a little too pudgy." She ignored his smirk at the word 'pudgy' and continued. "At seven you sprang up and turned into a rail. And you have been that since, but you are especially thin now."

Christine smiled. "Se's right. You are thin -- even for you." He shot her a look. Whose side was she on?

"You cannot fight it, my son," Sarek said gravely with a hint of humor in his eyes. "You must simply eat more."

Amanda laughed as she got up to answer the sounding com line. "It is for you, Sarek," she announced as she re-entered seconds later.

"Yes, Amanda," he stated with resignation and more irritation than she had seen him exhibit since she had been in his home. Amanda did not seem to take it personally and smiled after him as he disappeared into the library.

"He will be occupied for quite a while, I'm afraid," she said with a sigh. And then with a twinkle in her eye that spread to her face she looked at Spock and Christine. "You look tired, Spock. Why don't you two go upstairs and rest before dinner?"

Christine couldn't help but smile. Amanda was usually more subtle than that. She looked at Spock, her thigh against his, her amusement radiating into him.

"Yes, Mother. I believe we will," Spock answered and stood, starting off toward the stairs. Christine grinned at Amanda impishly and Amanda smiled before looking away.

"Dinner will be at 56:07," came her voice, but Christine's eyes were on the tight rump again as it moved up the stairs at nearly eye level before her. Her heart was pounding in her throat.

As the door closed behind them Spock turned and took her into his arms, his mouth finding hers and burning into it in a passionate searching kiss. She could feel herself skyrocketing inside as his sexuality redoubled hers and reverberated into each nerve and fiber of her body. From the strength of his embrace, the heat of his breath and the progression of his mouth against her, she knew he was deeply aroused as well. Still, their minds were apart, and she longed for that almost as much, hungered for the sensation of him coming into her thoughts. But it would come -- and -- and -- it would be... She couldn't hold her thought.

He had forgotten how soft her throat was -- known, but its touch had been elusive in his mind -- or how cool the inside of her mouth was and how smooth her tongue was against the roughness of his own. He wanted her mind; wanted to invade, to violate the separation of alienness between them, to stroke through the channel of their bond and into the depths of her -- but not now. He would prolong this anticipation ... if only the pulsating behind his testicles and the deep throb in this brain centers would allow it.

She felt him pull his mouth from hers gently as he unknotted the day robe. The unveiling. He enjoyed this, watching his hands disrobe her -- ad she enjoyed his face as he did it; instinctively she would straighten, breathing deeply, preening before his eyes. But now suddenly she was afraid. She grasped his hands as he began to lift the robe from her shoulders. Pulling from his reach she turned her back to him, misering the robe to her body.

"Wife." The voice was full of his own special brand of authority; it was a voice she would not disobey, and she stopped, awaiting the inevitable.

As he came behind her, he re-grasped the robe, lifting it up and away from her body, allowing it to slide from his hands to reveal the ugly red crease that marred the white shoulder blade.

Standing stock still, she felt hot tears trickling down her face, and then, she felt his hands against the sides of her arms, his mouth touching the nape of her neck, bestowing small kisses there. Slowly she began to relax, enjoying the kisses that traveled her neck and the top of her shoulder, giving her stomach flutters. Without warning his mouth began moving down the back of her shoulder. No -- not there! But it was too late; his mouth was against the red welt of scar tissue, kissing it as a mother would kiss a child's hurt. She started to turn to him, overwhelmed by his tenderness, but his hands held her still. She felt the heat of his tongue flick against the ridge and it sent chills through her as it touched the incredibly sensitive new flesh. The embarrassment beginning to flood her was thoroughly banished as his hot hands came beneath her arms to enclose her breasts. His mouth raised again to her neck and ear, his body pressed against her buttocks urgently. She turned in his arms and his mouth found hers with a ragged gasp, his mind exploding deeply into hers with a hot sexual force that she had not accurately remembered. She trembled violently under his kiss, fumbling for the zipper of his tunic.

Finding it, she pulled it the length of his back and slid it forward off of his shoulders. //Spock!//I It. was forced from her; she was no longer in control of her swirling mind -- or was it his? The tunic caught at the wrists and he encircled her naked hips with entrapped hands pulling her to him, the pulse of his blood pounding against her through his flesh as he struggled to loose himself from the garment. Free at last, he let the garment slide to the floor, stepping out of the footwear as their mouths searched and explored half-forgotten territory, their hearts remembering ways their minds did not -- along places that cried out to be touched. She felt only the relentless heat of passion as he pulled her beneath him onto the bed, and the delicious feeling of his sinewy body between her thighs as he entered her.

* * *

//You have made me a sexual creature. I have missed the comforts of your body.// His palm traced the rise and fall of her side.

//No one can make another person sexual. You always were sexual -- somewhere in there.// His belly felt hot against her caresses. //Maybe all Vulcans are sexual beings. Your father is a very sexual person.//

//!!//

//You would have to be blind to miss the glances and expressions that go on between him and your mother.//

//Or well mannered.//

She dropped the subject and snuggled further into his body reveling in the feeling of his arms and legs around her.

//You seem close to Mother and Father. Was the adjustment hard for you to make?//

She held him harder. //The adjustment was in being so helpless, in knowing that you were in danger, that Jim was still out there without his CMO. Spock, I felt like such a deserter! Pale Eagle and he knew each other -- but it isn't the same as knowing someone like an old sock, and knowing they know you and that you don't have to explain yourself.// Her eyes filled with tears. //I wanted so badly to be there for him.//

//I am sure he missed you, however, Pale Eagle is a competent physician.//

Christine's face tensed in the dimness. It was unlike Spock to take lightly something that involved discomfort to Kirk or to brush aside feelings of loyalty and protection; they were too deeply ingrained in his own personality. She blocked the thought neatly, relieved that they were only in the lighter level of the bond, and that even after the long separation she seemed to be efficient at it.

//I'm glad you and Leonard were able to remain together until the end.// It was true, as well as being something to keep the conversation going so he would not notice she was blocking. It had been a comfort to know McCoy was watching over him.

//Yes.// There was a pause and shielding. His lower levels were thrashing near the surface of the communication level. This, too, was unlike Spock, this lack of control, to feel him fighting within himself. //He was a great comfort.// There was sudden pain and stop-gap shielding-- and then he closed her totally away from his mind.

"Spock?"

"Yes."

"What's wrong?"

"It is nearly time for dinner." He sat up suddenly, glowering beneath the Vulcan mask of impassivity; she could feel it like an invisible wave. "My mother will be awaiting us."

She watched him stand and begin to dress. He had shut her from his pain, shut her from his mind, and now "our mother" would have included her, as was only proper. She sighed silently, her own mask in place. He did not mean it the way it had sounded -- in proper Vulcan culture, he had literally expressed regret at having married her. But he was not Vulcan right now. He was just a man who was hurting -- hurting so much, and pulled so deeply within himself that he was not even aware of what he had said, or that he had hurt her. She rose and went into the bathroom.

* * *

"Have another piece of bread, Spock," Amanda encouraged.

"If I eat another slice of bread, Mother, I will be uncomfortably full, but if you wish it I will do so."

"No, no. I suppose you've eaten enough," she admitted with a silent smile. It brought an indulgent look from Sarek.

"Amanda, you will have time to 'fatten him up' as you put it. It does not need to be done all in one meal." Spock gave his father a slight bow of the head and stood. "My wife, attend." He lifted his fingers and Christine met them with her own as she stood. His eyes leveled at Sarek's. "If you have no further use for us at this time, we will be in the garden."

"Very well."

It had been Christine's custom to help Amanda clear the table but Spock had made his wishes known and she made a point of not meeting Amanda's eyes; her necessary allegiance was to her husband's service and pleasure before all else; to look at Amanda would be improper, a sign of respecting Amanda's wishes in a matter that left no space for anyone's wishes but Spock's.

As they made their way to the door Christine wondered if Spock had noticed her adherence to etiquette; that she was learning. Some things were so hard to learn. Rarely would anything be said about her social ingraces. Spock would coach her in advance on her behavior on special occasions, but in the home she was gently tolerated when she erred, only the feeling that she had done something amiss chiding her. Mostly, unless it was a heavily repeated mistake or something of consequence when Sarek would feel it was his right and duty to inform her -- mostly, she learned from Amanda. Christine smiled. Amanda. By now, she knew everything. And the looks, the frowns, and the silent laughter that had gone on between them in the last months had been some of the best medicine Christine had ever known.

"You're smiling." His voice brought her back to the present as they walked along the path.

She grinned. "I was. Wasn't I?"

He tilted a dark head in the lantern light. "You were," he agreed, reaching a hand to her elbow to turn her down a side path. He left it there and, when she leaned against him, put his arm fully around her. "It has not changed. Since my first memory of it, it has not changed."

"And you used to hide in the bushes over there, didn't you?" she teased, trying to imagine him as a child. He raised an eyebrow. "Whatever for? There was never any danger here."

She hugged him hard with the arm she had entwined around his waist and sighed happily. "What did you do back here when you were a child?"

He stopped and gathered her to him by the waist, looking into her eyes. "Nothing as unorthodox as what I would like to do now."

"We could," she teased, knowing and anticipating his answer. "Wife. A Vulcan does not mate in the garden like an animal."

She grinned. After the statement about manners that afternoon, she did not say what was on her mind, that this garden, being kilometers away from the nearest neighbor, had probably seen its share of action in the years that he had been away, on all of those hot nights. "Then perhaps we should say out good nights and retire," she said instead. He kissed her warmly.

"My door is just over there."

"So it is," she answered, kissing his neck, and he pulled away, leading them toward the stairs.

"Isn't it impolite to not say goodnight?" she asked as he closed the balcony door behind them and tended to the firepot.

"Not as impolite as telling them to their faces that we no longer wish their company at this early hour of the evening."

"But they'd understand."

"Christine," he began, untying her robe. "If a human belches in your face, he may apologize, and you may understand, but it is still offensive."

"That's different." His mouth was hot on her neck, his hands stroking her confidently. "I -- think." She let the argument drop began to undress him.

* * *

//It is good to be home.// He pressed his mouth to her hair and held her

//My thoughts, as well, my first night here. No lights. No noise. No bustle. And at last, privacy; I never realized how un-private a hospital is.// She brushed some hair from the side of her face and resettled her hand against his chest.

//You were glad to be here.// It was a statement filtered with some amount of relief.

//Until your father came home with my physical therapy program mapped out in spades. Spock, the man is a complete tyrant!//

//There is resentment?//

//Oh, no. He has been so loving in our work together.//

//Loving?//

//The two of you are very much alike in some ways. He is a very tender man.//

//?//

//Tender and very protective. Very paternalistic.// She felt a sense of newness and perhaps a little denial before he closed that portion of his mind and flowed open a different level.

//I am glad you have been well here.//

//I have been very happy here.// She moved her hand caress him more intimately. //Except for missing you -- and this.//

//That feels good.//

He tremored and she laughed quietly. //It's supposed to. And this?// He replied with a moan and her own body began to heat in response to his enjoyment. //Just relax and let make love to you.//

She sat up and leaned to touch her lips to his navel. //Yes.// There was another moan as her mouth traveled downward and his hand come to rest on her head to guide her. //--yes.//

* * *

//We are not getting any rest.//

//You expected rest your first night home?// Christine laughed and found his hand against her mouth.

//You'll wake Sarek.//

//Sorry.// She took his hand in both of hers and drew her lips across his palm very lightly, her eyes scanning his face for reaction to the stimulation.

He closed his hand. //Again?//

She grinned. //No. Not yet. -- Spock?//

//Yes.//

//How was Jim when you last saw him? Really.//

//Exhausted. Thin. Happy.// A smile creased his thoughts. //Eating.//

Christine found herself smiling back the same thought smile. //And he really seemed anxious to go home with Len?//

//Yes. I asked him again just before departure and he insisted.//

//Did that--// She didn't know exactly how to word it.

//'Hurt' me? No. It's been over five years since he had seen McCoy. We were together the three years after McCoy's retirement, before the war. And it is only temporarily.//

//Do you think there's any chance that Len'll come back?//

//Perhaps... We have spoken of it .. Joanna has remarried. He does not feel that responsibility as strongly now.// He paused and then continued. //And you, my wife? What do you want?//

//My husband, I want nothing so much as to get back to my research.//

He held her tightly, pulling her onto his chest, searching her face in the darkness. //You wish to give up your clearance as Chief Medical Officer? Have you so soon forgotten the political and bureaucratic controversy and warring that surrounded your appointment as a woman CMO on a starship?//

//I wish to have time for research, which I have not had in my five years as CMO,// she replied simply. Her body against him, her hair falling into his face, he became distracted, pulling her closer, his mouth against her neck and shoulder. Giggling, she broke from him and came off of the bed, daring him to pursue. He did, knocking her to the floor, his hands pinner her shoulders to the floor painfully.

//Do not run from me!// he hissed into her mind.

//!!?// He shut his mind from hers and she gathered her wits to her and encircled his quaking ribs, feeling the wrath consuming him. Lifting her mouth to his she ran her lower lip against the tightness of his, and then probed gently with her tongue, pulling his head slowly into a kiss. When he began to respond she reached down to fully awaken his body and guide him into her. Breaking from the kiss, he shuddered as he felt her hands cool against his rump, pulling him into her. He began to move and she encouraged him, feeling the thrusts deepen and become hard, not hurting her, but as if releasing some nameless rage. His mind blazed back into hers in a disorgannized impulse of color and feeling that changed and surged with every thrust. At last he exploded to a climax and was still, his full weight on her, wet and shaking, his mind deliberately blanked in fatigue.

Her hands kneaded the muscles in his back, ignoring the undue moisture there, projecting comfort to him, presenting herself as calmly as possible to him so that when her emotions filtered to him they would be soothing. A moment later he disengaged and stood pressing a hand to his temple for a long moment. He met Christine as she began to stand, sweeping her up in his arms and holding her to him as if she were some small fragile creature. Placing her in the bed, he came to lie beside her, holding her protectively to him with one arm while covering them with the other. Still closed from her mind, he burrowed his face against her hair, his hand stroking up and down her back and bottom slowly. There was nothing he could say to her, nothing that would make any sense to either of them.

Christine lay quietly in his arms, confused and worried. He had not hurt her; she had felt him scout her for pain briefly just before he had stood. What slight discomfort there had been was leaving her body now along with the thin layer of semen moistening her legs. But now there would be only silence. Their minds apart, she felt a deep melancholy stab of aloneness, even in his arms. He would hurt in his own way -- and heal in his own way, as he always did; he was a Vulcan. She kissed his chest, feeling the hairs blow gently from her breath. After a long while he full into a deep exhausted sleep and she lay there awake, holding him and thinking through the night and into the tangerine colored dawn.

* * *

The days that passed were full. Relatives came and went. Spock and Sarek spent time at the Academy. Christine and Spock took long private desert walks in the evening when the air had cooled. And always when they were alone, among the tender and loving times, there were times of sudden withdrawal from her and sudden anger. There was a place in him that she could not enter and which he could not share, and that over and over would end their times together silently; together and yet very far apart.

* * *

"Christine?"

Hearing Amanda's voice she stood straight and was painfully aware of how she must have looked to her mother-in-law, leaning against the pillar, her arms wrapped around her body protectively. "Amanda. You're home early. How nice to see you." She tried to sound cheerful.

The older woman smiled a wise smile and sat on a stone bench motioning for Christine to sit before her.

"Come." It was all she said but Christine came and sat obediently at her feet offering her hands.

"Yes, Mother. How may I serve you?"

Amanda squeezed her hands and released them, looking deeply into her eyes. "Christine." She paused. "If I were a Vulcan mother and you a Vulcan daughter, you would come to me like this and lay your head in my lap." She placed her hands on Christine's head and lowered it gently onto her lap. "And I would put my hands on your head and read your pain and give my comfort and wisdom, and the shameful emotions would never touch the air, never be voiced." Christine wrapped her arms around Amanda's hips and felt hot tears begin their descent down her cheeks. "But we are not Vulcan," continued Amanda, "beyond our citizenship and our beliefs, my daughter -- and you must tell me what is troubling you for me to comfort you."

Christine wept bitterly, thankful that Spock and Sarek were not due to return before dark, and for Amanda's comforting hand stroking her head. At long last she raised her swollen face to meet Amanda's. "I know what it -- is intellectually. I've seen it a hundred times before and yet it hurts to see it in Spock."

"What, dear?" Amanda asked, puzzled.

"I'm sorry, Amanda. Post war anger, bitterness, overload. I know it will pass, I know -- I don't know when. And that's what scares me. A human would learn to talk about it, to channel it off. Amanda, Spock can't talk about it. it. I don't even know if admits it to himself. What does a Vulcan do with all of that pain and horror and hostility?"

"In ordinary Vulcan society he would not have exposed to what he has lived through these long months," she said softly. "It was part of the reason Sarek did not want him in Starfleet. In the first place, the pre-reform Vulcan faced battle, but he also had freedom to express anger. The post-reform Vulcan has not the freedom, but neither has he the aggravation; he lives in a well-ordered and controlled society. Spock has put himself in the position of having one foot in each world, moreso than he already has by nature." They stood and she took Christine's arm, beginning to walk the path of the garden beneath the latticed shading.

"But what can I do for him?"

Amanda patted the arm her hand rested on as she bent to avoid a particularly healthy bough leaning its heavily flowered head down. "There is nothing. A Vulcan will find his own way of coping."

Christine was close to tears again. "I know. But it hurts so much." She stopped and turned to Amanda, a tear escaping down her cheek. "It's not fair," she whispered, knowing it was a feeble argument; she had been over all of this in her mind for days.

Amanda smiled a slow, knowing smile. She brushed the tear away and cupped her daughter-in-law's jaw in her hands. "No. It isn't fair to be shut out. But then you knew the sacrifice you were making of your humanity when you began this relationship. You knew Spock for what he was when you married him." Her face grew stern and the younger woman's face contorted. "Are you sorry you married him?" Amanda asked and, seeing Christine's immediate negation, continued. "Then it is a small price to pay. Isn't it? For what we get in return?"

Christine broke into a smile and laughed as she cried. She threw her arms around Amanda. "Oh, yes, Mother!" The older woman rubbed her back and patted her. "Then let us go in and prepare a dinner worthy of two such fine Vulcan husbands."

Christine stood a little straighter and dried her tears. Life was falling back into perspective again. This, too, would pass. She nodded. "Yes. Let's."

* * *

//It is like eating. You do not need light to feed yourself, do you?//

//But it's pitch black.//

//Our cabin on Enterprise was totally dark when the environmental lighting was off.//

//It wasn't a cave -- and there weren't bugs.//

//You have never before been so squeamish, my wife.//

//Squeamish? You should talk. You're on top.//

//That can be remedied.// She sensed a warm chuckle in his thoughts as he rolled over, pulling her on top of him. //Caves bring out my baser nature.// His hand was untying her robe.

//That's too close to the truth to be funny.// She laughed.

//Then why are you laughing?//

//I can't figure you out. But I like you relaxed.//

//Is that w/hat I am? There are other words for what I am.// He grabbed her beneath the robe.

//Spock,// She gasped and then chortled, "Spock! Stop it, that tickles!: //Spock-- mmm-// There was a groan as she responded to his foreplay.

//But the insects,// he reminded.

//That--// She lost the train of thought for a full several seconds. //--insects?//

His lips smiled into the kiss in the darkness knowingly. There was nothing in the light that was not to be equally enjoyed in the darkness.

* * *

"I asked that you be prepared when I return. If that is too much to ask of you, I shall leave more simple instruction in the future."

"Don't bully me, Spock. It doesn't go."

"You will not raise your voice to me."

She spun away from him, her lips clamped over the retort, and headed for the door.

"I have not dismissed you." His voice was cold and controlled, and she froze at the door, back to him, her fists clenched. "You may leave," he granted bitterly, the tone of his voice a bare change from normal..

As she stormed out, Spock sat on the edge of the bed and lifted a hand to his temple to control his turmoil. Failing, he sank his head in his hands, cycling away the headache that was fast overtaking the back of his neck.

* * *

Christine sat at her desk trying to compose a letter to the youngest of her four older brothers, Collin. She was getting nowhere fast. She ran her eyes over the several lines she had before her and cleared the screen with a wave of dissatisfaction. Again, she began. It needed to be done; she had written to none of the four since her brief notes explaining her injury and her plan to do her recovering on Vulcan with her in-laws. Looking at the second set of sentences, again she sighed and cleared the screen, then turned it off. It was no use. At times, she thought, it was as if her mind was a thousand miles away -- she couldn't think straight. Sometimes a sight -- a bird in a tree, a baby sehlat, the limp of an old man -- would bring tears to her eyes. A simple thing like trying to write a letter would demoralize her. She closed her eyes and tried to single out what was bothering her. She was worried about Spock. She would accomplish nothing until she worked the thoughts into a more rational order.

And she was angry. Spock hadn't wanted his own ship. Hadn't wanted command in peace time -- let alone in war. They had robbed him of Jim's companionship when he needed most that gentle unrelenting coaxing to share that Kirk was so good at. When several days after his orders to command a ship arrived, her own appeared, leaving her on Enterprise with Jim, the haunted quietness that he had taken on deepened to a level neither she nor Jim could penetrate.

Christine swore silently. She could see Starfleet's point in not allowing a wife to be her husband's CMO, especially in war time. A CMO was often the only real balance of power, just of competence, and mainstay a captain had. Throw in a marriage relationship and the results could be disastrous; there were just too many inherent pitfalls. But in this case it had cut Spock adrift from everyone he needed -- and a relationship with an unknown CMO would not have time to develop as it might with two humans.

Paper pushers tended not to think in terms of people. In a sudden all-out war, it was only more true. They were only concerned with up positions. It had taken Kirk all of three weeks to convince Starfleet to pull McCoy out of his re-retirement sooner rather than later, and that if they were going to assign him, Spock's ship would be the ideal place.

At least, she thought, he had not been alone. Not been without a friend when he had had to order ships full of living beings destroyed, when he had lost crew over senseless situations -- when the mass carnage of it all overwhelmed him.

Tears came to her eyes. It was all too fresh yet, and she trembled, the know in her stomach and the uncomfortable panic feeling rising in her too familiarly. Just where was she with her own overload?

The door opened and Spock entered. "Have you seen the... Christine?" He came to her and a gentle hand touched her face with concern. "Are you well?"

Her head still down, she tried to smile and blink back the tears but failed. "I was just thinking." She paused. "I can't seem to get this letter going to Collin." She looked up at him and meeting his eyes flooded hers with emotion. She buried her face against his stomach, relieved when the warmth of his hands began to smooth over her back and when he asked no more of her but comforted her in silence as she wept.

* * *

He rolled over in sleep and reached for her. His hand encountering her bare blanket, he awoke suddenly, sitting up, a deep distress something akin to fear filling him. She stood across the room in the open doorway to the garden, the light of the sister planet glowing on her. His mind instantly relieved, he sat silently watching her -- her hair flowing in the breeze, the color of her skin against the silky pastel gown she had donned on arising.

Her sleeplessness disturbed him. It was not like Christine to have trouble sleeping. She had learned early in her medical career, as he had in command, the disciplines of sleeping quickly and well when the opportunity presented itself.

Again, the dread filled him; he would not continue on this way; it was not right to inflict this on her. The decision made, he got up from the bed. Tempted to put on a robe to cover his nakedness, he did not in deference to her. It was not cold.

She turned and smiled when she noticed the movement, enjoying the sight of his body as he came near. "I didn't mean to wake you," she said quietly.

"You did not. I am accustomed to you occupying my bed. When you do not, it is empty."

She noted the inflection in his speech pattern and voice to the more poetic and reached out to touch his shoulder. "Are you chilly?"

"Negative, my wife. The breeze is warm." He paused, changing the subject. "And you are lovely standing here in the darkness." His hand stroked her hair and neck and down the edge of her gown, letting a finger slip beneath the material to caress the rise of her breast. His eyes met hers again. "I must ask your pardon, my wife, your forbearance for--"

"For being cantankerous, quarrelsome and overly sensitive?" she said with a quiet smile.

He did not like hearing her words but accepted them as his just due -- and her human need to flare her hostility at him. "It is as you have stated." His eyes focused on his hand as it rested on her shoulder.

She touched his face and he looked at her again. Amazingly he saw there none of the hostility he had attributed to her in his mind, only concern. "Spock. It is totally normal and--"

His brow furrowed. "I have spoken to you harshly. I have denied you the respect due you as my bondmate and wife. I have treated you as chattel. That is not normal Nor is it excusable. A Vulcan woman would not have stood for it, nor would she be expected to. I have misused my authority over you shamefully. You are, by tradition, perfectly within your rights to deny me, and my family, and break our bond at the next pon farr."

Christine's eyes grew big and very blue with surprised bewilderment. "Then you are most fortunate to have chosen a non-Vulcan aren't you? That whole thing is a crock of bull!" She wanted to say more in her indignation at the coldness of his culture -- but she did not; she had already said too much.

"It is Vulcan tradition, wife. You will not call Vulcan tradition a 'crock of bull'. The tone was resolute.

"Yes, my husband. What I mean is that ... you have been through things that no man should have to go through, not a Vulcan, and not you of all Vulcans."

He began to rankle inside at her words, but he controlled himself, knowing full well her meaning and benign intent. He again toyed with the swelling just beneath the edge of her gown, watching his fingers. "I am going into the wilderness to meditate. I need time to come to terms with myself and my -- reactions."

She stroked his cheek. "But, Spock, if you could only..." She knew what she was asking of him as she heard it come from her lips and she stopped short, a hurt and troubled look on her face.

The same pain of their differences -- undeniably and painfully evident between them at that moment -- touched his face as well. "I do not know how long it will be. I will remain until I can return to you the husband that you married and are deserving of."

She wanted to tell him that it was all right, and that she didn't share in his feelings of self-degradation. But she was silent. She would not make his decision harder by her own conflicting emotions. She put her arms around him, holding him tightly, feeling frightened for him as he returned the embrace. "When will you leave?"

"Now. Before the sun is up."

At his words her heart began to race. She said nothing for a long moment. "Won't it take you time to prepare?"

Hope against hope.

"I will take nothing but a weapon and bedding. I will live off of the land..."

"Spock," she began plaintively, "can't you meditate without going totally primitive?"

He took her face in his hands and held it gently, the great depth of his love for her showing in his face by the light from the door. At last a slow smile creased his mouth, a simple half smile that remained unguarded for a long moment like a gift given to her. "In preparation for the Kolinahr, I 'went primitive' for twelve weeks. I doubt that this will take as long."

A tear trickled down her cheek and as he brushed it away she threw her arms around his neck. "I love you -- you -- Vulcan, you."

The strength in his embrace nearly crushed her.

* * *

"He'll be all right, you know." Christine started and turned in the semi-darkness to look into the face of her mother-in-law. "He's done this periodically since he was a child. The quiet of the desert seems to comfort him when he's troubled. It helps him to think clearly."

Christine turned back to watch the hooded figure slowly disappearing into the darkness. "I know," she said over the lump in her throat, and feeling an arm come around her waist, she leaned her head against Amanda's. They stood there together watching until he was no longer visible.

* * *

"It's taking its own good time, isn't it?" she asked as Sarek approached and crouched beside her, the Sorchi plant before them. The buds were now swollen full and lavender, but it would be days before they would be ready to release their blossoms.

"All things develop and produce in their own time, child, and in their own individual way."

She looked up to see his face, but it was impassive as he re-molded dirt at the base of the plant from where the wind had moved it to one side. She said nothing for long seconds and then as he began to stand to leave she spoke. "Father--" She felt an irrational need for him to remain near. "Have you ever seen one in bloom?" Was it that he was the father figure that she had missed in those years since her own father's death? Or was it that Sarek's presence was so like Spock's that it eased the empty feeling in her? She didn't know.

"No," he answered. "I once saw a holograph recording of a blossom."

"What does it look like?"

"Description would not do it justice." He paused and looked at her for so long that she felt uncomfortable, "Would you care to take a walk with your mother and me, my daughter?"

She almost declined but re-evaluated. He would not have asked simply for the sake of being social as a human would. "Yes. I would enjoy that. Thank you."

She caught the words too late. He looked at her for a moment, the frustration controlled, but there. "Yes, Father. I am slow to learn."

"You are human," he said simply. And with that he turned and walked toward the house. Christine followed hi, at the proper distance, declining for the hundredth time to take offense where none was intended, as Spock would say.

Spock.

Already it had been eleven days and she missed him terribly. Worse yet was that she was fighting hostility toward him. 'They had been married four years, two and one half of hem separated with the exception of three leaves; three days, five days, and eighteen hours, respectively. And now, after only eight days together he had been gone eleven -- and of his own volition.

Intellectually she understood that anger was counter-productive. She truly believed it. She knew that its stress caused untold hundreds of damages to the mind and body. She also realized that Spock was Spock, an entirely different entity from herself and as different as night and day in his way of coping with things. She realized all of this and ran it through her mind as she dressed in n the one piece desert suit, zipping its front in one quick motion and ramming the wide brimmed hat on her head. Catching sight of herself in the mirror, she stopped, amazed at how foolish she looked with the hat brim smashed down around her ears. A smile touched her heart, radiating to her lips and then to her whole face. Prying the hat up, she resettled it and smiled at her image in the glass. With a shake of her head, she left to join Sarek and Amanda. Her mind drifted to how sensitive Sarek seemed to be to her needs and how seriously he saw his role as her parent. She was determined to show him, somehow, someday, how honored she was to accept him in that relationship as well.

* * *

Tay Thon met Spock at the garden gate. The sehlat was a welcome sight to the dusty man. He received his hug and belly rub in relative silence in the darkness. His master thunked his chest in parting and stood, leaving his sleeping provisions on the porch to be dealt with in the morning.

The house was silent and Spock cleaned up in a downstairs bathroom, wishing for his mother's bath in which to shower. But the sonics would do and be quieter as well. Finishing, he made the ascent wrapped in a guest robe and entered their room quietly.

Christine was asleep on her side facing his side of the bed, one hand beneath her pillow, the other near her face. He shed the robe and slid into bed very gently, watching her sigh but not awaken. It amused him and he set out to find how much he could touch her without awakening her. She had fallen asleep knowing she was responsible for nothing and would be sleeping soundly. That would be in his favor he thought, reaching out a finger to touch her cheek lightly. She reached up a hand and he retreated quickly. Rubbing her cheek she breathed loudly and turned away from him to her right side.

He looked at her back for a moment and curled his body around hers. Still, to his surprise, she did not awaken but pulled his hand between her breasts, wrapped a foot around his ankle and slept on. Suddenly impatient, he enclosed a breast with his hand and, nuzzling his mouth through the tendrils of hair, began kissing her neck firmly. A cool hand pressed the hand to her breast and she groaned in partial awareness, and then suddenly, came fully awake and turned to him. "Spock!"

His hand came over her mouth. "Shhh."

"When did you get here? How long have you ... When did you get in bed? What time is it?" she whispered in rapid fire succession and he kissed her, pulling her to him hard, pressing his body against her.

"Interested?" His voice was husky-thick with desire and it ignited her.

She didn't answer but pulled him on top of her, kissing him fully. It had been eighteen days since they had last made love and she really didn't care long he'd been home. She cared only that he was.

* * *

//You are well?//

//I am fantastic.// She looked into his face on the pillow beside her, feeling his heat lying between her upbent thighs, her thigh fitting the hollow of his side beneath him. She squeezed his hips with her legs and he responded by leaning to mouth the tip of the breast he held cupped in his hand. They lay there a long while in contentment looking at one another, saying nothing, thinking of nothing but their enjoyment of being together.

//I missed you.//

//I endeavored not to think of you at all.// He paused. //I was unsuccessful.//

She chuckled a low and throaty chuckle and then was serious. //You are well?//

//Affirmatlve.// He brushed her hair back from her face and a tense look of curiosity turned into a frown on his face. //You are angry.// She shielded primary emotions poorly in bed.

The mood changed and she blocked her feelings more effectively. Feeling him withdrawing from her mind, she spoke. "I'm sorry. I know you needed to sort things out alone, but I am angry. I felt deserted. Left out."

"I cannot change that." His voice was quiet and low.

"I know." Trying to be rational about it wasn't helping.

They disentangled and lay apart. "If it feeds your sense of revenge," he said, an arm across his eyes, "I did not enjoy living in solitary for eighteen days in the heat without bathing, the majority of my mind on my own failures and shortcomings."

The picture of it touched her and her breath caught. The anger fled and she began to cry. "I'm sorry." She reached for him and he took her back into his arms.

"My wife, we must realize that by the nature of our relationship we are going to encounter many such misunderstandings. I regret that you hurt. I see no other means by which the situation might have been handled."

She smiled and buried her face against his chest, kissing the hollow at its center, and then looking up said, "No easy answers, huh?"

"You did not marry easy answers; you married me."

"You said it!" She punched his shoulder playfully and he grabbed her hand. They wrestled for long moments, Spock using only enough strength to hold her at bay, an amused look on his face, Christine half serious, half laughing in her frustrated attempts to assault him again.

"Getting tired yet?" he asked, needling her, half tempted to smile but lifting an eyebrow instead.

"No," she grunted with determination. "Damn you."

At that he drew her hands together and held them at the wrist firmly. With the other hand he pulled her head down and pressed his lips against hers, his tongue seeking. When she would not yield, his mouth slid to her face and neck, and then to her breasts. He turned her under him and continued touching and caressing her with his mouth and one hand until her breathing quickened from more than the exertion of fighting him. A look of triumph in his eyes, he kissed her again, enjoying the feeling of her mouth softening and opening beneath hin. He separated her wrists and pressed them to the pillow with his hands, easily aborting her attempts to embrace him. And then, as he felt her thighs come around him, he entered her and made love to her passionately, her hands still immovably anchored to the pillow and his eyes on her face as he drove her slowly and relentlessly through the throes of pleasure to a shuddering orgasm.

* * *

"It's for you, dear." Amanda poked her head into the library. Spock raised his head from the music he was composing and put down the lyre he had been leaning across. He channeled the call from the hallway console.

* * *

"Christine," Spock said her name as he walked into the bath area a few moments later.

"Hmm?" she answered half asleep, looking at him through slitted eyelids from the bath.

"Orders." He lifted the tape in his hand and her eyes opened fully.

She sat up. "For where?"

"Starbase 63. In six days. It will take almost two to arrive there."

Christine looked across her breasts to her hands in her lap and he lowered himself to the edge of the sunken bath to waggle his fingers in the water beside her absently. "You seem troubled." His head raised to meet her eyes.

She signed. "I'm thinking of Leonard. I really want us to be together, all four of us. Starfleet will keep you and Jim together. I serious1y doubt that they would cross public image on that. Ever since the V'Ger thing, you two have been galactic golden boys. And they'll keep you and me together because of our marriage. That will give the Enterprise a captain, first, and CMO. And Leonard will be odd man out."

"He may have already chosen that course."

"A transfer?"

"Retirement. He enjoyed being a civilian."

"Don't even think that. Besides, you said Joanna was remarried and doesn't really need him as much now. And Jim'll be working on him too, don't forgot that."

He was tempted to remind her that thinking or believing something or not would not change the reality that existed. But he did not. He remained silent, as he often did when her emotional tangents flared; instead, he shifted his mind to another track of thought. He had previously not taken her seriously about her desire to change her work status. Now, though, it seemed she was very serious.

"You would give up your position on Chief Medical Officer?" He eyed her cautiously. "It would be a sacrifice for you. You have labored long and hard for your rank and position."

She stood and released the water then stepped into the bath blanket Spock held, feeling him wrap her into his arms and rub her down briskly. "It's a matter of what I am willing to trade for something I want more. I want the four of us together. I also want to work on my research. I once said that I was glad I didn't have to choose between research and medicine, yet, somehow, I have done just that."

"Since the war no one has done research. Grants have been canceled by the score in favor of more productive endeavors." He hung the bath blanket and helped her into the rich green robe that had been hanging nearby. They headed toward the library.

"But before, even before the war, there was never any time for me to do research. I supervised, but I didn't get to do any. I was so swamped with my duties as CMO that I never had time." She pulled the pins from her hair as they walked and put them in the robe's pocket, cinching the belt tighter. "Then it didn't bother me a lot. But the war came and none of us had time for anything else but war, and over the months I started to really hunger for it. It was like an ache that never went away." She stepped on the stair and looked up at him for a long moment in the quiet of the almost empty house. "I love medicine. I wanted hand had -- and -- enjoyed, truly enjoyed, the prestige annd the power of the position."

His eyes studied her and he brushed a strand of hair back. He'd always valued Christine's sense of her own motives and her honesty about them.

She continued. "But between wanting to do research, being sick to death of being so tied down by the position and wanting Len with us, it is very tempting to resign and ask for head of medical research. Len would let me practice medicine as I wished."

He kissed her face. "Eminently logical, my wife." He was amused. "...if I did not know that the processes of thought were initiated by your emotional fondness for the good doctor."

She smiled. "And that makes my decision less logical?"

He put an arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer as they descended the stairs and entered the library. "Speaking of 'golden'... Are you not the 'golden girl' of the women's movements? Starfleet will not want to change their star token from the ranks of prominence."

Christine smirked. "Don't make me out to be a militant, Spock. I went fora CMO for my own sense of self-respect and to forget you, not for a movement. That I made it, and the time was ripe, that it coincided with the women's movement is -- coincidence."

"It does not change your value to Starfleet in that capacity." They had settled in the library and Spock lifted his palm to her in preparation to begin her therapy.

"I'm really not up to this this morning, Spock. I have only one more week of therapy left. Let's just skip it. Okay?"

His hand remained, his eyes fixed on hers, crystal blue against velvet brown. "Spock ... " she implored.

His eyes were patient but stolid in their insistence. "I am waiting, my wife."

Her blue eyes widened at her astonished realization of the replay of events. "You're as bad as your father!" She completed the interaction almost inadvertently.

His face betrayed only a hint of amusement but his eyes sparkled with life. "Begin," he insisted with staid authority.

She sighed and raised her hand to his. "Slave driver." He scowled a light warning at her and she grinned. Yes, They were certainly two of a kind, Spock and Sarek, and she loved them both dearly.

* * *

It was a hard ,decision to make. How this decision was met, how it was accepted or rejected would easily affect her for the rest of her life, and it boggled her mind just thinking about it. In the reality of it, though, it was her decision alone to make, hers to carry out, hers to live with. It was something she knew deep in her heart that she had to do, regardless of the consequences.

Coming from behind him quickly, she wrapped her arms around his shoulders as he sat at the low backed chair and kissed his cheek. "I love you, Father," she blurted and made her way from the room quickly so that she would not rudely observe his surprised reaction -- for that and because her heart was pounding in her throat and she was in serious danger of throwing up from the shock of what she'd just done.

Just outside the door she ran into Spock. Literally. His eyes were wide open in disbelief. The blood already pounding in her face increased until she was sure it would explode from her cheeks. This was to have been a totally private exchange or maybe it could be more accurately termed an assault. It really didn't matter. Christine thought to herself that this was the longest that she had ever seen Spock's eyes that wide; the first time she had ever seen him totally and immovably flabbergasted. They stood there for a long moment, chest to chest, wide-eyed both -- flushed face to flushed face. It seemed an eternity. Spock's eyebrows began to reappear and motility returned to Christine's legs. She shot past him and down the hall to the garden door. Spock followed her at a second's delay.

When they were at last in the garden, Christine came to her knees by a flower bed and sat on her heels, pressing icy hands to flaming cheeks. She concentrated on relaxing and breath control. Spock sat beside her and was silent until she had calmed.

"You have an explanation, I assume," he inquired.

She chanced a quick glance at him. "You need one that will make sense to you?" She didn't have one of those.

He raised an eyebrow and moved behind her, massaging her shoulders, knowing that the right one had a tendency to spasm now when she was tense. Concentrating, he could feel the pressure against his hand and the relaxing of the muscle as his heat soaked the depth of her outer flesh and encountered the knot. ''I believer your expression was an error. But Sarek will not say as much. I would advise you not to speak of it again. It would be best forgotten."

The pit of her stomach dropped at his words and her mouth began to fill with saliva. She surveyed the garden for a place to throw up.

* * *

There was more silence at dinner than usual. Sarek, indeed, said nothing about the incident and acted as if nothing had happened. Amanda was amiable, yet there was a slight unease in Christine and Spock.

"More Kitanvea, Spock?" Amanda urged.

"No, Mother."

She sighed. "Each leave you spend here, I fatten you up and then you return and go back to skin and bones."

"Mother," he said patiently. "I am hardly skin and bone. Did it ever occur to you that my most common weight is what is normal and healthy for me? And if you consistently fail at keeping my weight to your liking, why then do you insist in continuing in this mode of behavior?"

Amanda smiled, outargued and pleased with the loving interaction. "Bad blood, I suppose," she retorted, the smile breaking into an impish look that elicited a sigh and slight widening of the eyes from Spock. Would she never learn to capitulate with a proper respect for the victor? It reminded him very much of another such human. The warmth in his heart at the thought of seeing Jim again almost succeeded in reaching his face.

* * *

The following morning Spock and Christine were up before the sun and well into the desert on large grey-brown mounts. Today they would visit the family shrines o pay homage; it might be a long while before they returned to Vulcan again.

There was silence much of the time. Spock still felt that Christine had erred in voicing her emotions to Sarek and though it did not change his attitude toward her, the knowledge changed her attitude toward him and herself. She felt on the one hand small and foolish and on the other hand angry and she remained silent, not willing to expose her turmoil before him.

As they rode he looked at her. Feeling his gaze she looked up and he spoke. "I would have that explanation now," he said gently.

"I told you yesterday that it didn't make sense."

She had done nothing of the kind; She had asked a question. But he did not correct her; he was not after an argument. He wanted her to talk, to get out the emotions behind her silence. "I wish to hear it."

With a sigh, she reined the animal closer to him. "When Dad died I was crushed over all of the times that I had not expressed my appreciation or said 'I love you' when I thought it, or thanked him for his love and caring. I though then, that I would always express myself before it was too late, but when the V'Ger thing happened, I realized that if I died, again, there would be those who died with me that would never have known how much I really cared." She paused. "It's important to me to be open with the people I love."

He was quiet a long while, weighing his words carefully. "Does it occur to you that that attitude might be self-serving in the case of my father, a Vulcan, who does not care for such emotionalism?"

"You need approval and affection."

He was affronted but stilled it. ""There is that in me, which is human, that needs such things," he admitted.

She smirked. "There is that in you which is bull, as well," she said and galloped her animal down a slope. He followed her and caught the reins, causing her animal to toss his head and complain. His eyes locked on hers and she closed her eyes a moment in thought before speaking. Calmer, she opened them. "I'm sorry, my husband. I do not mean to be unruly. But are you aware that you do not like it when someone refers to your humanity as if it were a sectored off part of you -- and yet you use it when it is--" She could think of no other word and she said it gingerly. "--convenient?"

He looked at her a long moment. He was not angry, had not been, but there was a certain respect a man was due from his bondmate and its absence could not, by everything that was Vulcan, be tolerated easily or without correction. She was free to speak anything, as long as it was done with respect. As she had accepted his rebuke, it was over, for now, and he could consider her statement openly and freely. "Yes. You are right. My expression of myself, however, does not change the fact. Sarek does not seek affection, nor is it a welcome gesture to him."

She did not answer hin, but, in defending her actions, she had become more sure that, at the least, her actions had been harmless. She had not forced Sarek to respond, nor had she expected anything from him, and she felt better for having done it. She smiled. If Spock only knew that his objections had made her more sure... The air was clear and she took a deep breath. It was going to be a nice quiet morning, one of the last they would have alone before returning to the crowded world of their normal existence. She decided not to belabor the discussion.

* * *

It was early afternoon when they returned. Sarek's aircar was visible from a distance and Christine's heart fluttered with sudden fear and unsureness. She had gotten through dinner and a short evening the previous day, and today they had left before anyone else was up. But now, the whole afternoon was ahead of them -- and what if Spock was right and she hadd been plain offensive to her father-in-law?

They approached the stables and turned the animals over to the groundskeeper, then walked to the house. Christine felt Spock's hand come to rest on her shoulder as they walked, massaging it firmly.

The downstairs was empty when they entered and they went directly to their suite of rooms, passing Amanda and Sarek's closed bedroom door. Christine had an insane urge to nudge him in the ribs as they passed, but she did not and he seemed not to be aware of anything out of the ordinary. His words 'or well mannered' stuck in her mind. He really wasn't cognizant of it -- didn't allow himself to be. She found herself smiling again. Vulcans!

Spock headed for their bathroom as they came into the room and Christine collapsed into a chair closing her eyes, enjoying the air conditioning. Opening her eyes, she was baffled by what she noticed across the room on her desk. "Oh..."

"Christine?" Spock' s voice came from the bathroom, concerned.

Again there came the little gasp "Oh, Spock..." She came to her feet and went to the desk. There on the desk was the Sorchi plant. One bud had blossomed, another was partially open. The flower was glistening white with ruffled petals edged by delicate pastels of various colors. It was the most exquisite blossom she had ever seen.

Spock came from the bathroom zipping his desert suit. "Christine?" She said nothing, absorbed in the beauty of the blossom. Her hand reached out to touch it, but stopped short, trembling, afraid of injuring the tender flesh. Her eyes darted to his. "Oh, Spock."

The sun shining in reflected on her hair and tear filled eyes shone from a slightly dusty face. A pang of jealousy touched him at her easy reaching and at his father's acceptance of it. But she was a part of him, and as Sarek accepted her, he accepted Spock, indirectly as well. Warmth from the realization filled him and he stepped behind her and encircled her with his arms. The rush of her emotions flooding him, he shielded until he could think again. She was reaching for him mentally as her hands covered his arms, and he shifted his shields to cover a good deal of her emotions but allow for their thoughts to flow. //Yes?//

//I don't want to leave here.//

//I know.// For one of the first times in his life, he did not feel anxious to leave either. Always before when it was time to leave, he had felt a large part of himself eager to be away from the tension of being with his father, eager to be back where his life could be his own without the expectation of Sarek hanging over him. But this time was different. This time, somehow they had become something more than polite adversaries who expected the worst from one another and were genuinely surprised when a gentleness appeared. Somehow, this time, they had slowly, stone by stone, begun to take the barriers down together. And to the delight of each of them, they had found that the hard-earned treasures they had built in the years, and the reaching of Spock's childhood and adolescence were still there and beyond value to both.

Christine hugged his arms. //I love them so.//

He held her silently, his arms holding her tightly for a long time. //We have work to do,// he reminded her. //A place to be. Jim and McCoy are awaiting us.//

Their lives were elsewhere. //Yes.// Her tears caught in her throat as she breathed and she turned in his embrace, threading her arms around his neck. //And one hell of a fight with Starfleet.//

There was a chuckle in his thoughts and it surprised her out of her tears. //Undoubtedly, my wife.// He signed. //An occupation you are well adapted to.//

//Was that a shot?// She grinned at him, seeing his eyes tender.

//Yes,// he admitted with a tilting of his head. //You are contaminating me.// His face was solemn but he unleashed a wash of his emotions on her and she smiled almost shyly, burying her face against his neck.

//I love you, Spock.//

//I know.//

THE END