DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Catherine Kay and is copyright (c) 2000 by Catherine Kay. This story is Rated PG.

Birthday Surprise

Catherine Kay

*It had been a good party,* reflected Christine tiredly as she pulled off a boot and massaged her foot. She reached down with a slight groan and pulled off the other one and then crawled into bed and pulled up the covers still dressed in her uniform. It was 4 in the morning. Between the lateness of the hour and the mint julep she had tried to sip all night, she was completely done in. She fell into a dizzying dream of presents and cake and birthday spankings that didn't last long enough as the morning computer call jarred her awake.

Groaning with one arm over her eyes she reluctantly got up and headed for the shower. She looked at the time. Yep, she definitely couldn't sleep in any more. It's fine for the boss to be in a little late the morning after, but *she* couldn't be late. No sirree. It didn't matter that she had been the one to plan and coordinate and then clean up. The mellow glow from the alcohol had worn off. Definitely! Leaving her feeling tired and crabby and slightly bloated from too much cake. *Oh , God, why did I have that third piece of cake,* she thought as she schlepped into sickbay.

Her cranky reverie was short circuited by a "Good morning, Chris" from Dr. McCoy.

She gaped at him. "Sir, what are you doing here?"

"Why I work here, Chris!" McCoy responded with a twinkle in his eye.

She gave him a 'spare me' look and said, "Yes, but you were one of the last to leave and you had a lot to drink and I thought ..." She paused and tried to figure out a way to extricate the foot out of her mouth.

Leonard saved her the trouble. "Yeah, well, there doesn't seem to be any rest for the wicked." He smiled. "I got called into sickbay at 6:00. It seems our first officer had a tummy ache." A thoughtful frown came over him.

"That's the third time this month," she said, concerned.

"Yep. I can't seem to track down the cause," McCoy said. "It's a classic case of gastritis. But I can't find the irritating factor. He has no spirochete infestation, no food allergies, his liver is fine. There doesn't seem to be a virus present. If I didn't know better, I would say that it is stress related."

"But Vulcans don't have GI related stress disorders," Christine said stating the obvious.

"You're right. Full blooded Vulcans do not," McCoy said. "With Spock being the prototype for human/Vulcan hybrids, I think we just discovered something that is worth a medical paper or two."

"Well, medical papers are all fine and good but how are we going to treat his condition?" she said a little miffed. McCoy could be pretty cold blooded too when he was medically intrigued.

He patted her on the shoulder. "You worry about him too much, Chris. It's not like he spares the rest of us much thought. I have given him the standard treatment. He should be just fine and dandy even as we speak."

"But, Doctor," Chris argued as a fellow physician, "if the cause is stress and we don't treat it, it could become worse over time."

McCoy looked at her and said, " And how are we going to find out what is stressing our first officer, mmmm?"

"Could it be pon farr?" she suggested thinking that a general chemical imbalance could throw his stomach out of kilter too.

"Nope, checked for that when he came in the second time," McCoy answered.

"What is his workload like?" Chris asked.

"I just got done talking to Jim about that and a few of his lab rats. With this milk run, there really isn't anything on the bridge that is over the top. And the rats say he hasn't been down there in awhile. They're having fun for a change, pursuing their own projects."

"Well, that isn't normal." Christine said. Spock always had a science project going on.

"Well, Chris, he has served on this ship for 6 1/2 years. Maybe he has science block," McCoy replied jokingly.

"Maybe he is bored,"Chris said grasping at straws.

"And it's eating him alive," McCoy finished. He pulled on his lower lip. "Hmm. It's a possibility."

Chris rolled her eyes and sighed. "A remote one."

"Okay. Granted. But it's the best thing I have heard so far," McCoy said parking a hip on his desk.

"Well, boredom never killed anyone. So without more to go on ... " She paused remembering how hard it was to get Spock down to sickbay for tests. "I think we should leave it for now."

"Agreed," McCoy grinned happily. "Now speaking of stomachs. I didn't have a chance at breakfast. How about you?"

Christine smiled in response. "I didn't stop for breakfast either," she admitted. "Too much cake."

"Aha. Well, I won't tell your physician if you don't!" McCoy teased her.

Christine slugged him in the arm and said, "You're terrible. But I could go for a cup of coffee."

"Deal! Let's go. I hate eating by myself!" McCoy rejoined enthusiastically.

"Well you don't mind *drinking* alone," she said naggingly but with a smile.

"Listen, missy! You stop nagging me about my drinking and I'll stop nagging you about your sweets, okay?" McCoy threw back.

Christine laughed, "For how long?" McCoy laughed in response as they went down to the mess hall.

Three weeks later McCoy was no longer laughing as he examined Spock who hadn't even been able to make it to sickbay. He had found the first officer curled up in a tight ball in the bathroom of his quarters. The medical emergency switch had been activated beside Spock's bed. Spock was as white as a sheet and there was blackish green granules on his lips.

"I threw up," he whispered in obvious pain.

McCoy did an about face and ran to the com. "Med team. This is McCoy. I need a gurney and previcin brought to Spock's quarters stat. Christine. Set up the sickbay for surgery for Spock. He has a perforated ulcer." He didn't wait for the reply as he high tailed it back into the bathroom.

Spock groaned and threw up again. This time there was very little black. It was mostly green. "Oh, no!" Spock moaned.

McCoy got a wet towel and wiped Spock's sweaty, shocky face. "Spock. It's okay. You're going to be okay," McCoy said rapidly.

"It's blood!" Spock panted weakly.

"I know. I am going to take care of that. You're going to be fine," McCoy assured him. *How did it go from gastritis to a perforated ulcer in three weeks?* McCoy worried.

"I feel like I am going to pass out," Spock said weaving.

*Where the hell was the EMT?* McCoy thought furiously. Just when he was about to summon them again, they came charging through the door. "In here!" yelled McCoy. Donaldson ran in with the medicine pack and McCoy took what he needed and injected Spock with it. "Help me get him on the gurney," McCoy instructed.

When they tried to lay Spock flat, he groaned and lifted his knees. Donaldson was going to try to push them back down but McCoy stopped him with a shake of his head. "Let's get him to sickbay. NOW!"

As McCoy and Chapel worked on the perforated ulcer, McCoy made sure to send some tissue down to the lab to be analyzed. This just wasn't making sense. He sealed up everything neatly and then put Spock on a general plasma I.V.

"Turning sterile field off," Chapel said and a barely visible aura around Spock's abdomen disappeared.

McCoy rubbed a stiff neck. He shook his head. "What the hell happened?"

"I don't have any good ideas either," Christine said as she stretched. The com beeped. "That will be the biopsy," Chapel said.

McCoy walked over and flipped the switch. "McCoy here."

"The results of the sample you sent down is normal across the board."

"Thanks, Rodrigues," McCoy replied heavily. "Well, that's it then," he said as he flopped himself down on a chair. "I'm stumped." Christine had gone to the replicators to get some chicken soup and handed one to Dr. McCoy.

"Has to be stress," she said.

"Yes. But from what?" McCoy said despairingly. "We could sit here and guess till we are old and gray. And we may not be any closer to finding a solution."

"It can't be work. It can't be physical. So that just leaves mental stress," Chris said trying to analyze the situation anyway.

"Emotional stress, you mean," McCoy said darkly.

"I don't know about that, Len. Since he mind melded with V'ger, he has exhibited hardly any emotions at all. In fact, he is colder and more aloof now than he ever was except for the 48 hours afterwards. And you dismissed his emotional behavior during that period of time as neurological shock, remember?"

McCoy nodded his head in agreement. "What if I was wrong?" he said slowly.

"What?" Christine said.

"What if that 48 hours was the real Spock and the piece of cold granite we have had as a first officer is the actual shock."

"Len, you're grasping at straws. There is no neurological damage. There hasn't been any trace, physically, of that meld after the first week," Christine said.

"Right. No physical damage. But what if there was psychological damage?" McCoy persisted.

"I don't understand." Christine said shaking her head.

McCoy replied, "I don't either, yet."

* * *

Spock's recovery was unremarkable. In a day or so he was out of sickbay leaving McCoy scratching his head about the whole situation.

A few days later, McCoy was summoned to the bridge by a worried sounding Uhura. He arrived to find Spock sitting on the upper deck of the bridge doubled over in pain. He took a quick tricorder reading. Spock's stomach was once again irritated but not bleeding. It was cramping spasmodically causing a good deal of pain.

"Spock, can you control the pain?" McCoy asked.

"I have tried, Doctor," Spock said in a weak voice. "Every time I reach for the mind rules ... it just gets worse."

"Okay, let's try something different," McCoy instructed. "I want you to totally relax your body like you are soaking in a hot bath. I want you to breathe slowly and evenly. Just let your mind drift. Feel yourself floating." Spock did as McCoy suggested and the lines of pain faded from his face. "Are you feeling better?" McCoy asked.

"Yes," Spock replied in a slightly amazed tone.

"Good. You're relieved of duty." McCoy said.

"WHAT ... OOooo!" grimaced Spock, curling up on himself.

"Spock, breathe. Float," McCoy said firmly. "Okay. Listen to me but keep floating. You are stressed out. You are going to take a break. A little time off. Nothing major. It happens to the best of us. Now, I am going to help you down to your quarters and you can do anything that doesn't cause you pain. Okay?"

Spock who was slowly breathing in and out, nodded.

"Good," McCoy said. "Here, let me help you up." Putting his arm around the first officer, he gently led him off the bridge.

After McCoy had settled Spock in his quarters, he went to find Jim. He found him in the mess hall. It was the second Tuesday of the month, so the book club was in full swing. Scotty was in the middle of a review of the late 20th century book, "And A River Runs Through It." McCoy came up behind Jim and tapped him on the shoulder. Jim turned and lowered his glasses and looked over them at McCoy, a quizzical expression on his face. McCoy jerked his head and Jim got up and followed him a bit away from the rest of the group.

"I have just relieved Spock of duty," McCoy said.

"What? Why?" Kirk asked.

"Those stomach ailments are due to stress in my opinion and I found him doubled up on the bridge not 15 minutes ago."

"He was fine when I left 20 minutes ago. Stress?" Kirk asked rocked by this sudden change in his first officer.

"Are you sure he was fine?" McCoy asked, interested in the first clue he had had to the first officer's condition.

"Yes. He asked me to lunch," Kirk said flummoxed.

McCoy's eyebrows went up. "You said 'No' of course."

"Well, you know I did. What are you driving at?" Kirk said suddenly feeling guilty and not sure as to the reason.

"What I am driving at is this. In the last month, how many times have you turned down Spock's invitations to do off duty activities with him?"

"Well ..." the Captain paused to consider, "I don't know really. A few times."

"Take a guess. 2, 5, a dozen times," McCoy persisted.

Kirk shrugged, "More than five, I guess."

"Why?" McCoy asked.

"I don't know, Bones. I just got busy is all. For the longest time Spock wouldn't do anything with me, so I just got involved with other things, other people. The times he asked me, I had legitimate conflicts."

McCoy nodded his head. He was finally on to something. "When was the last time the two of you did anything together?" McCoy pressed.

Kirk pressed his lips together but gave the matter serious thought. "Other than in the line of duty, I assume." McCoy nodded. "I guess the second night after the V'ger incident. We talked a long time about possible characteristics V'ger-Decker might have," Kirk replied trying to remember accurately.

"About 8 months ago then," McCoy said to doubly confirm.

"It has been that long?" exclaimed Jim amazed. "I hadn't realized."

Later that evening, McCoy went to check on Spock. He was asleep. McCoy left a brief note and some medication beside the bed for him. He went back to sickbay to talk to Christine. "Chris. Can I talk to you in my office?" McCoy said already heading in that direction himself.

Christine quickly finished the mouth culture she was doing and followed him inside. "What did I do now?" she asked.

"Hmm? Oh, nothing," McCoy said. "I just wanted to ask you something. Do you remember my birthday party about a month ago?" She frowned and said, "Yes."

"I don't remember Spock being there," McCoy said.

"Spock?" Christine queried.

"Did you tell him about the party?" McCoy asked her.

"Well, no. But it was an open invitation. Anyone could come and we held it so that it was during part of second shift and third," Christine replied perplexed.

"But how did you get the word out?" McCoy asked.

"Word of mouth, of course," Christine said not seeing what this had to do with anything.

"I wonder if he knew," McCoy muttered to himself.

"What?" Chris said a little exasperated.

"Spock," McCoy said a little louder. "I wonder if he knew about my party."

"Well, I would assume so," Christine said.

"Yes. Maybe we all did," McCoy said. "Chris, I am starting to see a picture here and I think I don't like it," McCoy said plopping down in his chair and gesturing Christine to the couch.

"What picture is that?" Christine asked mystified.

"The Spock is lonely and can't get out of the box, picture," McCoy said. "Do you know that he has asked Jim to do things with him more that 10 times in the last 6 weeks and Jim turned him down every time?" Christine shook her head. "Add the obvious miscommunication about the party." McCoy continued.

"Miscommunication? Where did you get that?" Christine interrupted.

"Spock was sick the morning after the party, remember? I think he was upset that he had missed it," McCoy theorized.

"Talk about assumption!" Christine scoffed. "You know full well that Spock has shunned everyone on board for months," Christine said hotly. "I ought to thank him though. I finally got over him." she said not without some chagrin.

"I am not saying he didn't have a hand in this outcome, Chris. I am saying that this is where I think he is at now," McCoy said firmly. "And." he went on determined, "I don't think his goal was to shun us in the first place. Not anymore."

"What was it then?" Chris said.

"I'm not sure. But consider the amount of information he got from V'ger. Suppose he only remembers 1000th of a percent. That is still an awesome amount of knowledge. And hasn't he until a few weeks ago been working double sometimes triple shifts and I seem to remember even Uhura complaining that if she had to download or upload any more data from Spock's computer, she was going to lose it!"

Christine nodded. "Yeah, Ny told me that it seemed like he was trying to talk to dozens of scientists at the same time. She was about done in."

"Exactly!" McCoy said triumphantly, "What if he has just burned himself out?"

Christine shook her head, "He of all people should know how to pace himself."

"Granted, but what if there was a reason why he felt he couldn't?"

Christine shrugged and said, "The only person who can answer that question is Spock and I doubt he would tell you."

"You are right about that," McCoy said. Then he beamed at her, "But he might tell you!"

Christine put her hands up and said, "Oh no! Not me, buster. I am not spending a second 5 year mission as the laughing stock of this ship!" Christine said firmly.

"Please. It's different now, Christine. No one would misconstrue your attention to him. You and Parker have been an item for 2 months," McCoy begged.

"Yep, and I want to keep me and Parker an item," Christine said crossing her arms.

McCoy sighed, "I can't really blame you."

* * *

As it turned out, it was Uhura that gave McCoy the insight into what was at the bottom of everything.

"Leonard? Can I talk with you a minute?" Lt. Uhura softly said to McCoy who was on the bridge at the time.

"Sure," McCoy said.

Uhura motioned him aside and giving a furtive look at Spock said, "His mother sent him a message today."

"Whose mother?" McCoy asked softly matching her tone.

"Spock's mother. It was such an unusual transmission. There was a computer program as well as an image and voice component to it. I was afraid that there was a virus in it, because usually Amanda only sends text. So I opened it. And you'll never guess what it was."

"What?" McCoy said obviously not even trying to guess.

"It was an animated birthday card. And a voice and image message from her which I did not view."

"A birthday card," McCoy said surprised. "Did it have the birth date included?" McCoy asked hopefully.

Uhura shook her head. "No, all it said was, *Your pushing the big 60. Now is the time to start thinking of your retirement. Or not.* And then two cutesy girls come out of a cake barely dressed."

McCoy worked hard not to guffaw with laughter. *What a card to send to Spock* he thought. *Only Amanda could get away with it.* "Lt. Uhura, thank you very much," McCoy said aloud.

"No problem. I'm glad to help and well, I've been a bit worried about him. I just thought maybe someone should know."

McCoy got suddenly a conspiratorial look to his face. *OH oh!* Uhura thought. *I am in for it now!*

"Nyota." McCoy voice turned smooth. "How would you really like to help Spock."

"Well ... that depends. You're not out to tease him, are you?" she said.

"No! No! No! In fact the exact opposite. But I can't do it unless you help me," McCoy said.

She gave him a wary look but a slow smile started to spread across her face. "I suppose it's illegal."

"Well," McCoy said blushing, "Just a little bit."

"What?" Uhura said eyes shining.

"I want you to listen to Amanda's message and see if she says when his birthday is. If she doesn't, could you ask her?"

"I'll listen to the message but what do I say to her if I have to ask her directly?" Uhura said anxiously.

"Hmmm. Tell her that we got hit with a computer virus and only certain files were effected. Tell her that you need to confirm Spock's age because some parts of the personnel files had degraded and you have to find out which parts," McCoy said.

"She'll wonder why we don't download from Star Fleet central computer," Uhura said, knowing Amanda was no fool.

"Tell her we haven't eliminated the virus, we are trying to track it down by seeing what files it deletes and that since our computers are still affected, we can't download from another source," McCoy said.

"That might just work. Leonard, what did you really do in your previous life? You really have the knack for being devious," Uhura said her eyes sparkling.

"Why I thought everyone knew. I was a patented snake oil salesmen," McCoy said with almost a straight face.

Uhura giggled and then said, "I'll get it right away for you, sir."

Uhura came through and McCoy was relieved to find that Spock's birthday was still a little over two weeks away. He went down to his office and started to do some serious thinking. As always when he did this, his thoughts were punctuated by the sound of darts hitting the dart board.

THWACK! *Spock has fallen out of the loop.* THWACK! *He is definitely feeling isolated.* THWACK! *It has him stressed out.* McCoy got up and walked over to the dart board and pulled the darts out and then went back to the chair behind his desk. He propped his feet up and tilted back in his chair. *Because of his isolation on Vulcan and his deep freeze demeanor the first few days, people thought that he was avoiding them on purpose* THWACK! *But really, he was just buried in self-induced over work. Now what would make him work like there is no tomorrow?* THWACK! *He's pushing 60. In a human that is late middle age. Jim is 62 and I am ... well I won't go there.* THWACK! *But for a Vulcan with an average life span of 180 to 210 years that is like being 30 in human years. And...*

McCoy so abruptly swung forward in his chair that he almost got pitched out of it. *THAT's IT!* McCoy started to laugh.

Doctor Chapel heard the commotion and the laughter and peeked into McCoy's office to make sure everything was ok. "What's so funny?" she asked.

"Spock," McCoy said still sputtering.

"Spock? Funny?" Christine said looking surreptitiously for the downed glass of bourbon.

"Quit that, Christine!" McCoy snapped but then giggled again. "Spock is having a midlife crisis," McCoy said as he flopped down in his chair again grinning broadly.

"Spock?" McCoy nodded. "A midlife crisis?" Dr. Chapel said skeptically. McCoy nodded more. "Well, that is certainly an interesting theory considering that Spock isn't even close to middle age," Christine said crossing her arms.

McCoy peered up at her and said, "How did your 30th birthday go?"

"Well, I..." Christine paused. "Well, it's not the same, I'm human and I am a woman and Leonard you know darn well that my 30th birthday had me going back to med school!" Christine said flustered.

"Right!" McCoy grinned. "My 30th birthday had me signing up for Star Fleet. I had pictured my life married with children and I had just gotten divorced with my child taken from me. You were hoping to get under a certain Vulcan's skin and live happily ever after. But then he ran off to Vulcan supposedly permanently. So you threw yourself into your career."

McCoy continued, "Now Spock is roughly at the same life stage as a 30 year old human and he doesn't know what to do with himself. He just got done failing at Vulcan disciplines. He doesn't get along with his father. No familial support there and Vulcans put a lot of stock in that. He threw himself at V'ger trying to get the holy grail of all Logic and prove them all wrong. Only to find that for him it was useless and not all it's cracked up to be anyway. Then he throws himself into his work and neglects his friends, probably due to habit. I don't really see those monks being friendly, co-working types. Then when he comes up for air, he finds that his human friends have kind of gone on without him and he is isolated like he was at the start of his first tour of duty on the Enterprise and he's pushing 60." McCoy finished with a triumphant smile.

Christine just gaped at him. "Oh, my God. That makes sense!"

"Sure it does. 60 is the time when most Vulcan males are either dead or married with at least one rug rat. They are settled into their careers and everything is in a nice laid out niche for the next 50 or 60 years or so. Spock not only isn't bonded, but was rejected in a most vicious way. He must feel like he is going nowhere fast in Star Fleet. I think that is worth an upset stomach or two. He is watching his contemporaries race around the track and he can't even get out of the starting gate," McCoy mused aloud.

"What are we going to do? We hardly walk up to him and say. 'Hello, Mr. Spock. How is your mid-life crisis going'?" Christine sarcastically suggested.

McCoy laughed at the image that created. "No. That would never do. But a party might do the trick."

Christine groaned, "Oh, God! Another party."

"Oh common, Chris. I'll help you with this one," McCoy promised her.

"Sure you will." Christine sighed. "You need a secretary. Or a personal aide, Leonard. I am a doctor now, you know , not a social director."

McCoy clutched his chest and said, "Oof. Right for the heart. You're using my words against me."

Christine said tartly, "Damn right!"

McCoy turned serious. "Listen. I think it's worth the effort, Chris. He could really use some help here. In fact, all those stomach ailments are his way of asking us for help."

Christine put her hands up to forestall any more convincing by her boss. "Okay. I'll arrange another party."

McCoy clapped his hands and rubbed them together. "Great! Now we need to figure out a present."

"I don't do presents for Vulcans, Leonard," Christine said in a warning tone.

McCoy said, "Don't worry about it. I will take care of that. I just have to do some more thinking."

"I'll leave you to it then," said Chris as she ducked out of the office just as the first dart hit the board. THWACK!

* * *

Spock was sitting in the officer's mess pushing the boiled rice and black beans around on his plate. He was use to having a lot of spice in his food, but McCoy had said no to that. The only thing worse than the beans and rice was the apple sauce. He tried another bite of his dinner and had to suppress a shudder. The food was now too cold to be palatable in the slightest. He glanced at where Dr. Chapel and Nurse Parker were seated. They looked like they were enjoying each other's company. They were not close enough where he could hear any of their conversation, but it must be pretty amusing from the amount of laughter there was between them. He felt a tug of loss in his chest that seemed to sink into his stomach. Kind of a regretful pang.

He shook himself. *What is all this about?* he asked himself. He knew that Christine wasn't really right for him as a mate. They were barely friends, but he just couldn't shake the feeling that he had lost a possible opportunity.

Sighing he started to get up and was immediately startled by, "And where do you think your going, mister?"

Dr. McCoy was standing there looking stern. "You sit right back down and eat."

Spock looked at his plate with a slightly appalled face. "Doctor, please! I can't eat this."

"You have to eat, Spock," McCoy admonished. "You have to give your stomach something to work on besides itself."

"Fine, then let me have some decent food!" Spock demanded.

"The way you are carrying on, you would think hot food had addictive properties," McCoy teased. "Okay, you don't like beans and rice ... so how about some pancakes?" he relented a little.

"I guess I could try pancakes," Spock said ready to try anything.

"Good. I'll get you them myself," McCoy said and sailed over to the food station.

When he returned, he had a plate stacked with steaming pancakes and maple syrup. He had gotten himself a chimichanga and a tall glass of orange juice. *At least the food is hot again,* thought Spock bracing himself for yet another bland pasty substance. But after the first, sweet, fluffy mouthful, he decided things were looking up. "See?" McCoy said as he watched Spock's eyes light with satisfaction.

"So what's with the eyes on Christine?" McCoy said conversationally after a sip of orange juice. Spock stopped in mid chew. He swallowed. He ran over several possibilities for a reply. He realized he couldn't come up with a good one. He had been caught red handed. Damn the man!

"Nothing really. Just observing." Spock decided to admit to nothing ahead of time.

"Uh huh. So why the long face? You finally reviewed your life and decided maybe you made a mistake with her?" McCoy said astutely.

Spock decided that some time during this mission he was going to hack into the psyche files and check on Dr. McCoy's psi level. "Not exactly," Spock prevaricated.

"What exactly then?" McCoy said determined to get Spock to admit out loud some of what was bothering him.

"I just think ..." Spock paused, "I feel that ... I may have missed something," he finished awkwardly.

"Really? Like what?" McCoy said while chewing on his chimichanga.

"I don't know," Spock frowned. "Maybe a friendship?"

McCoy stopped chewing. "Friendship, huh? Never caught you mooning at Jim that way." Spock slid down in his seat a little. McCoy saw his discomfort. "Has it ever occurred to you, 'science officer,' that maybe the thing you think you missed was a chance at intimacy?"

Spock leaned forward and lowered his voice, "Doctor, please."

McCoy said shrewdly, "I know intimacy is a shaky subject for you, but it seems that some part of you is trying to tell the rest of you that you are ready for it."

A tinge of green was suffusing Spock's cheeks despite his best efforts to control it. "Doctor McCoy!" Spock said sharply from embarrassment, "I will not discuss my sexuality in the mess hall!"

"Sex!" McCoy said startled in a voice louder than he intended.

"Ssh," Spock shushed him.

"Sex. Who said anything about sex? I'm talking about intimacy," McCoy said in a lower tone of voice.

"Are they not one and the same?" Spock asked puzzled.

"Not by a long shot. Sure, intimacy between a man and a woman incorporates sex. But sex isn't necessary for intimacy. Two friends like you and Jim can be intimate. Intimacy is more about sharing your innermost self with another person," McCoy explained.

"But you just said that I don't 'moon', as you so quaintly put it, over Jim that way," Spock said defensively.

"Right. I think your ready for the intimacy between a man and a woman. Love in other words. Some people say that their biological clock is ticking." McCoy pause and lifted an eyebrow at Spock. "So is it?"

"Is it what?" Spock said feeling a little stressed but the turn in the conversation.

"Your biological clock. Is it ticking?" McCoy said determined to get some admission out of Spock if he had to go around and around with him all night.

"Yes. I believe it's ticking," Spock said softly looking suddenly like a lost little boy.

"Do you think that Christine would fill the need?" McCoy asked him.

Spock seemed to consider it. "No. I don't think she is quite what I am looking for in a mate."

"Mate? Who said anything about a mate?" McCoy rolled his eyes. "Good Lord! Don't Vulcans date? Adult Vulcans, like you, that are unbonded I mean?"

Spock seemed suddenly uncomfortable, "To be honest ... I don't know. I left Vulcan when I was 17. I was bonded. Most of my classmates were bonded. I never saw what the unbonded ones did. I guess I really wasn't interested until now," he said slowly turning it over in his mind.

McCoy took a long sip of orange juice. "Well, if you want my humble opinion. I think you should start dating. You don't have a clue as to what would make a good mate for you. It's a good way to start sorting it out. If that is really what you want to do ... have a family, I mean."

"Should I start with Christine?" Spock asked.

McCoy winced, "Maybe not just now. She is rather involved with Parker. And she is still a little bitter with you over the first five years. Give her some time to cool off."

Spock mulled that over and then said, "Who would you suggest?"

McCoy's eyebrows shot up and he said, "Hey! I'm a doctor, not a dating service. If you see a girl you would like to get to know better, get to know her better. Look. I gotta run. Lots to do. I just wanted to see how your stomach has been doing," McCoy said.

"Manageable. Thank you," Spock said.

McCoy looked at his wrist chronometer. 7:00 p.m. "Do you have any plans tonight?" McCoy said hoping that he did.

"Yes. I do. I am scheduled to play chess with the Captain at 8:00," Spock answered in a lighter tone.

McCoy looked at the happier expression that played about Spock's dark eyes. "Good. Maybe a rousing game of chess will keep that stomach of yours quiet," McCoy stated with relish, glad that Jim had realized his friend's need to catch up. "I want you to check in with me in a week and see if we can't back off on the meds a bit. Scotty is just about hysterical since you can't help with the more dangerous tasks while taking the muscle relaxants I prescribed." McCoy just about turned to leave and then a thought struck him. "Why are you helping on dangerous engineering repairs and maintenance? Scotty's got a whole team of engineers down there? I wouldn't think that he would need to bother you with it?"

A ghost of a smile played around Spock's mouth, "I'm cool under pressure." McCoy just laughed and walked away shaking his head.

* * *

After the heart to reluctant hear talk in the mess hall, Spock had been turning over the concept of intimacy in his mind. It took a few restless nights to convince him that he still didn't understand the concept. He decided to take the problem to a higher power. Someone who definitely had experience in this arena. Or so he thought.

"Captain, am I disturbing you?" Spock asked after the Captain had said "Come" in response to his knock.

"No, not really." Kirk looked up from the data pad in his hands. "I'm just going over some of the manifests. What can I help you with?"

Spock hesitantly came farther into the room and stood stiffly. "Um.." Spock said looking at the ceiling.

Jim seeing Spock's discomfort said, "I take it that this is of a personal nature?" Spock nodded coloring a little. Now that he was here, it was harder to talk about than he had imagined. "Why don't you sit down?" Kirk said and he gestured to the seat across from him. He pushed the data pad aside and folding his hands in front of him, rested his elbows on the table.

"I want to discuss intimacy with you," Spock said in a voice so low that it was almost a whisper.

Jim's mouth fell open. "Spock," he squeaked. He cleared his throat and started again. "Spock. I am very flattered, really. But I don't really think that I am the right person for you."

"But Jim, I can not think of anyone else," Spock said.

Kirk just stared at his first officer thinking *My God this isn't happening!* over and over. He cleared his throat and tried to think of a way to let his first officer down easily. "Spock. You want a wife and family, right?" he started.

Spock raised an eyebrow and admitted, "Well eventually."

Kirk got up and started to pace. He stretched the tense muscles in his neck and plowed on. "I am not the family type."

"Yes," Spock agreed. "That is why I sought you out. Dr. McCoy convinced me that I am not ready to take the step of a wife and family. I want to be intimate first. Actually it was Dr. McCoy who gave me the idea to come to you."

Jim stopped pacing abruptly. "He did?" Kirk said in a kind of 'I'm going to kill him for this' voice. He sat down and leaned forward, elbows on knees. "Spock, I just don't see how an intimate relationship on board would work."

"That is true. You have kept your intimate relationships confined to off-ship personal in the past," Spock said conversationally. "But I didn't realize that you did this on purpose. Would it not be more conducive to an intimate relationship to have that person more available to you?"

Kirk started to laugh softly with the beginnings of hysteria. He looked at Spock's puzzled, slightly hurt expression and sobered up immediately. "Okay. I'm going to be straight with you. I'm a heterosexual," Kirk said with an intense gaze.

"Yes. I know that you are," Spock said.

"I've had many, many women," Kirk said, his eyes riveting Spock's own.

"That's true," Spock agreed hoping Kirk could help illuminate him on the subject of intimacy. Spock had the disquieting feeling that he was missing something important in this conversation. He returned Jim's intense gaze trying to concentrate on everything Kirk was telling him.

"Of many different species," Kirk continued.

"That's why I thought that you would be suitable, since I too am of a different species," Spock tried to assure him.

"OooKaayy! Here's the thing. I can't be intimate with you," Kirk said firmly.

"But Dr. McCoy said...?" Spock started to argue.

"Look! I don't care what McCoy told you. He's just wrong. Okay?" Kirk slammed his fist into the palm of his hand.

"But we've been friends for a long time. I know I haven't been very good at sharing myself with you. But I promise you that I will change," Spock said really upset now.

"I don't want you to change. I don't want to change And I really am sorry to hurt you like this." Kirk so saying this, grabbed Spock by the arm and ushered him out the door.

Spock turned to try to apologize for this obviously distasteful subject when he found himself face to face with the doors of Kirk's quarters. Suddenly a spasm of pain hit him and he had to lean against the door jam for support. He tried his deep breathing and the pain faded. He walked down the hall on the way to his quarters and was hit again by another spasm. Then another.

"Oh, no," whispered Spock. Cradling his stomach, he made it to his door and staggered into his quarters. He reached his bathroom, fighting hard the nausea, and took the medicine that was sitting next to the sink. He went to his bed and laid down and soon he fell into a welcomed, painless sleep.

A few days later he was in sickbay again. The medicines this time weren't working. Chris was there when he staggered in.

"Have you kept to your diet?" she asked him.

"Yes. I admit it's limited, but I have not eaten anything that hasn't been recommended."

Chris did a scan of his stomach. "Well I got good news and bad news," she said when she completed her scan. Spock waited. "The good news is that you don't have a stomach irritation. The bad news is that I am going to have to up your muscle relaxant. That is going to effect your judgment and so you are basically back on the sick list."

Spock didn't say anything. He was too depressed to comment on this turn of events. Jim wasn't talking to him. In fact every time that Spock had tried to approach him, Kirk went the other direction. All he wanted to do was apologize.

Christine noting his quiet demeanor said, "When did this start getting worse?"

"Three days ago," Spock said softly.

Christine couldn't remember him ever sounding so defeated. The tone in his voice made her determined to help him. "What were you doing at the time?" she asked.

Spock shot her a look. He really didn't want to tell her about his bad taste in case she too would be so offended that it would end whatever tenuous relationship that they had. "I was standing in the corridor by Jim's quarters," he said evasively.

But she had caught the look and realized she was on to something. "Why were you standing outside Jim's quarters?" she asked deciding to play Hot and Cold.

Spock couldn't meet her face. "He threw me out."

Her eyebrows shot up! "He threw you out?" Spock nodded shamefacedly. "Physically threw you out?!" Spock winced and reluctantly met her gaze and nodded. "WHY?" Christine asked astounded.

"I said some things that were inappropriate," Spock confessed hanging his head. She thought about James T. Kirk. She couldn't picture anything that Spock would say to him that would provoke that kind of reaction from the Captain.

With eyes narrowed she asked, "What did you say to him.?"

"I tried to talk to him about being intimate with women," Spock said softly obviously embarrassed.

"I don't understand." she said. This wasn't like Spock to criticize the Captain about his women. And even in the face of that, Jim's reaction seemed a little extreme. "You were talking to Jim about his womanizing?" Christine asked just to make sure she had it straight.

"No. I was trying to ask for advice on ..." Spock blushed and said, "...how to go about being intimate with a woman," he finished barely audibly.

Christine wondered if she wasn't dreaming at this point.

"Will you excuse me for a minute?" she said, her face a mask with shock. Spock felt his heart sink into his toes. *Why was it so awful, that he should admit to needing someone? Maybe the thing was that one didn't talk about it, one did it. Like passing gas perhaps,* Spock thought dejectedly.

Christine walked into the restroom and shut the door and then splashed very cold water in her face. She blinked several times and then dried herself. She opened the door and went back to Spock. She smiled.

"Let me repeat what you said so that I make sure I understand you correctly." Christine paused to collect her thoughts. "You went and asked the Captain how to go about dating and he threw you bodily out of his quarters," she stated. Spock nodded in confirmation. Something wasn't adding up. She thought about her own misconception of what he was trying to say and said, "Could you repeat that conversation for me?"

Spock paled and said, "I'd rather not."

Christine said soothingly, "I think that a major miscommunication has occurred and as your doctor, it is my medical judgement that it is affecting you physically. So out with it."

Haltingly Spock started in. He hadn't gotten half-way and Christine was practically falling on the floor she was laughing so hard. "Please! Please! Enough! You're killing me!" Christine gasped out wiping tears off her face.

Spock stopped immediately afraid that he had done such mental harm as to jeopardize her life. "Do you need assistance? I can call Dr. McCoy?"

Christine looked at him for a split second to see if he was serious. He was and that set her off again. When she finally gained some measure of control she said, "No. That won't be necessary Mr. Spock. I think I am going to be okay now." She looked at Spock and shook her head, grinning. "I know what the miscommunication was Spock," she said her eyes sparkling. Spock lifted an eyebrow. "He thought you were asking to date him."

Spock frowned. "Why would I do that? I am ... oh ... oh my!" Spock said as he suddenly could see the double meaning of everything he said if one had the initial premise that one was being propositioned.

Christine chortled and Spock blushed furiously and had a hard time keeping a straight face. "How about if I talk to the Captain and clear the misunderstanding up?" Christine offered still smiling.

"I would be most grateful," Spock said earnestly.

"How grateful?" Christine teased him. Spock looked at her in shock. "I was just teasing." She said as she handed him his new prescription. "Let's take these for about two days and then cut back. Okay?" she ordered. He nodded and left. Still chortling she went about her duties. *Spock was certainly getting more fun,* she thought, *now that he was coming out of the closet about his emotions.* She laughed uproariously at her own bad humor.

McCoy walked into sickbay and heard Chris's guffaws. "What's so funny?" he asked her.

"Spock," she said giggling. McCoy started to look around. "What are you doing?"

"Checking for powdered sugar," McCoy said with a wicked twinkle in his eye.

Christine went into another fit of laughing and gasped, "Okay. You got me."

McCoy leaned up against a bio bed and asked, "So what happened?" Christine gave him the complete run down. McCoy was laughing when the com beeped. Christine walked over to answer it. "This is the Captain. Is McCoy in?" James Kirk said.

"He's standing right here" she said.

"McCoy here. What can I do for you?"

"You can give me an explanation as to why you told Spock I was a candidate for dating ." And with that McCoy and Christine broke into peels of laughter. "I am glad you think this is funny, McCoy. Because if I ever see you, it won't be. You practically destroyed our friendship!" Kirk seethed.

"Jim. I'm sorry. But you misunderstood what Spock was trying to say," McCoy chortled. And then he proceeded to tell him what Spock was really after.

There was dead silence on the other end. "Oh, my God. I'm sorry, Bones. "I ... I ... well, it sounded like ... " Jim couldn't get a coherent sentence out to save his life.

"Jim. Believe me. If Spock had hit me with that opening line out of the blue being as antsy as he probably was ... I would have thought the same thing. Don't worry about it. Just tell Spock, okay? He's pretty torn up about it," McCoy said sympathetically.

"Will do" and the screen went dark.

"Well, him being off duty will make things easier anyway," McCoy said.

"For you maybe. How am I going to keep him from walking into ten forward when I am trying to set up for the party?" Christine groused.

"Don't set up in ten forward. In fact, that was what I was coming down here to ask you. Would you mind setting up in Cargo bay 4?" McCoy asked seriously.

"A party in a cargo bay?" Chris said.

"It's just that his present is bigger than I thought it would be. It would be hard to move it, let alone hide it."

"What is it?" Christine asked now totally curious.

"Uh uh," said McCoy shaking his head. "And no peeking while you set up in there, 'cause I am going to have armed security guarding the thing until Spock opens it. Maybe he'll know what to do with the blasted thing. I am having a Hell of a time with it."

"Pooh!" Chris pouted.

"Yeah but the curiosity makes the work of the party not seem so onerous, huh?" McCoy smirked.

"If you don't watch out, you're going to come back in your next life as a snake in the grass." Christine quipped.

With an unrepentant smile on his face, he sauntered back out of sickbay.

* * *

"Security to Dr. McCoy! Security to Dr. McCoy! Code Green. I repeat code Green!" the intercom squealed.

"Ooohhh, SHIT! Not again! Worse than a goddamned baby!" McCoy cracked an eye open and peeked at the time. 4:20. He moaned.

"Security to Dr. McCoy! Sir! Please respond!" came the slightly panicked voice of the security guard on duty.

McCoy got up and half reeled to the com unit and hit the switch with more force than necessary. "McCoy here. What is it now?" McCoy said irritably.

"Sir! It's shaking its cage! It's trying to get out! It's yowling and snarling. Sir! Can't you do something? What if it gets out?" the guard said nervously.

*Those shirts should be yellow* McCoy thought grumpily *as in yellow bellied* "Listen, what's your name," McCoy began.

"McGivers," the security guard said.

"Whatever. You have to expect that sometimes it will be awake. Just think of it as an oversized ... err ... cat-dog."

"What if it gets out?" came the fearful question again.

"It's not going to get out. It hasn't gotten out in the 6 days it took to get it to the ship by freighter. It hasn't gotten out in the three days it's been here. But if it does get out, ensign--"

"That's Lieutenant, sir." the security guard corrected.

"ENSIGN if you get me up again," McCoy shot back. Then more calmly said, "If it does get out, shove it back in and nail the door shut. NOW GOOD NIGHT!" McCoy yelled and shut off the com unit just after a cowed, "Good night, sir" wafted through it. McCoy stumbled back to bed. "God, I'm glad that the party is tomorrow, er, today. Oh, hell, your talking to yourself again, McCoy!" A few minutes of silence and then -- a loud SNORE!

McGivers walked fearfully back to his post. He tried to ignore the scraping sounds of teeth on wood. He tried to ignore the clawing sounds and the creaks of the crate as it tried to bear up under this assault. He looked at the time. 4:30 Ninety minutes until his relief came. He was glad that this was his last shift with the thing. He had taken a peek at it once when Dr. McCoy had come to feed it. It looked kind of cute until it had gone after the raw meat that McCoy had shoved through the feeding hole. Then its whole demeanor had changed. McGivers shuddered. He couldn't believe that McCoy was giving this, this THING as a present to the first officer. * Must be a gag gift * the guard thought, wondering what Mr. Spock had done to piss McCoy off so.

The guard jumped and drew his phaser as he heard the sound of wood splintering.

* * *

Christine came into Cargo Bay 4 to size up the job needed to convert it into something festive. She saw a pasty face security guard half behind a crate with his phaser drawn. "McGivers? What do you think you're doing?" she said to the guard.

"I thought you were ... I must have dozed off for a minute when it stopped making noise," the shaken guard said as he reholstered his weapon.

"When what stopped making noise?" Christine said.

"Shh! You'll wake it and then there will be hell to pay!" the guard said urgently giving a fearful glance at the crate.

Christine followed his eyes to a crate that was as big as a chest freezer. It had a big red bow on the top. Christine's eyebrow shot up as she heard small snores come from the box. Curious, she started walking towards it. "Ma-am. I wouldn't do that ma-am. It's against orders and it's really not safe," the guard said warily.

His tone of voice stopped Christine. She reconsidered. *What was McCoy doing?* she wondered. *It sounds like he broke Federation rules on transporting dangerous animals.* She shook her head. *If he did that, then he must be six kinds of fool. The penalty is 20 years in prison.* Sighing and deciding that McCoy was a big boy and could mess up his own life, she got back to surveying the room.

* * *

Later that day and with the help of Yeoman Rand and Mr. Sulu, she managed to get everything and everybody they would need to set the party up in Cargo Bay 4. It was quite a little army. Two security guards were stationed somewhat down the hall pretending to be maintenance workers in case Mr. Spock came anywhere near Cargo Bay 4. Scotty had volunteered to keep the Vulcan busy by sabotaging the hot water system that fed into the officer's quarters. Spock loved long, hot showers, though he had never admitted it. But Scotty knew it full well by the water distribution logs that he had to keep tabs on. He was pretty confident that he could get Spock to help him locate and find the damage.

Christine looked at her watch. It was 3:00 and Mr. Scott and Mr. Spock should be well started on troubleshooting the problem. Scotty had guaranteed her 5 hours. Mr. Sulu came in with an armful of flowers followed by three others also carrying plants. Others brought in vases and containers to hold them. Christine had the cargo bay personnel move a few of the storage containers so that they could be draped off and tables and chairs set up. Yeoman Rand was in charge of decorations. Christine did the china set up. Lt. Uhura was suppose to come in after her shift at 6:00 to set up lights and music.

It was going pretty well, when she was startled to see Uhura coming through the door making a bee line towards her. "I'm sorry I'm late, Chris. But I can still get everything up in time," Uhura apologized. She motioned two additional people through the door pushing dolleys of stereo equipment and tools.

"Gee, Ny! I hadn't even looked at the time!" Christine said in amazement. She looked at her watch and saw that it was already 6:30 and realized that Uhura wasn't the only one running late. The drinks hadn't arrived yet. She flipped open her communicator. They weren't going through ship's communications just to be safe. "Riley? Where are you? How come the Romulan Ale and the Antarian fruit punch isn't here? I don't even have pop!" Christine said into it.

"I'm in the cooler. And I've been trapped in this cooler for almost an hour. Mr. Spock is in the galley searching every meter of piping. I can't get out and I'm freezing to death!" Riley whispered through chattering teeth.

"You should have called me," Christine said concerned.

"I would have, but he spent a lot of time with the pipes right outside this door. I was afraid he would hear me in here," Riley said.

"Riley, you have a heart of gold and I will be sure you get four hours this month in the hot tub!" Christine promised. "Just a minute more. I'll get Mr. Scott to get him out of there," Christine said hurriedly. She changed channels and had to wait for Mr. Scott to reply to her wordless call.

"Scotty here, Chistine."

"Scotty, the kitchen staff can't get the food and drinks prepared and out. Could you move Mr. Spock out of the area?" Christine requested.

"Oh, lass, I am sorry. I wasn't watching the time. I'll have him out in about 10 minutes or so." Mr. Scott apologized.

"Okay. But hurry! Mr. Riley is freezing in the cooler!" Christine said with some urgency.

"Oh, geez! Alacrity is my middle name," Scott said and then hung up.

"Christine to Riley," Chris called almost afraid to hear what he had to say. "It's going to be about 8-10 minutes or so. Probably sooner for getting out of the cooler, but wait for my signal," she instructed.

"Will do," came the chattering reply. Fortunately Scotty was as good as his word, and Riley was freed in two.

"OH, Riley!" Christine said when she saw him in the cargo bay with all the liquor and pop. "Thank you so much!" She gave him a hug and noticed that even his shirt was still cold. "Let me set up the drinks table and you go get warmed up, okay?" she offered.

"I think I am going to take you up on that, miss," Riley said.

Christine hurriedly put the drinks table together and then froze. Everyone in cargo bay froze as an unearthly sound came from the crate off to one side of the party area. It sounded like a big cat yowling but with bird clicks on the end. They all looked at each other trying to decide if they should be afraid or not. At that minute the food arrived. It smelled heavenly and Christine wasn't the only person to think so. The occupant in the crate thought so too and soon they could see the crate shake in concert with impact sounds coming from inside the box. The banquet crew shot Christine a look. She waved them to their jobs. What else could they do? There were clawing sounds now along with the pounding sounds from inside the box. Everyone was working but getting more freaked by the second.

At seven, Christine spotted McCoy sauntering in. She hurried over to him and said, "What have you done Leonard!"

"Me?" McCoy said with surprise.

"Don't play innocent with me. Why on earth did you bring a feral animal like that on board?" Christine said pointing at the crate where unearthly yowls and clicks were resonating.

McCoy listened for a moment and then sighed. "Its dinner time. I'll be right back."

"Wait!" Christine exclaimed and hurried after him.

"It usually doesn't eat until 9 or so but it must be all the commotion and the smell of food."

"Where are you going?" Christine asked.

"To the kitchen to get it some dinner," McCoy said patiently.

"You didn't answer my question!" she said exasperated.

"What question was that!?" McCoy asked not really concentrating.

"Why do you have an obviously vicious animal in a crate as a present for Spock?" she demanded.

McCoy and Christine went into the kitchen and McCoy walked to the cooler and got some raw liver. He stuck it in a computerized warmer and said, "Computer heat liver to 103 F and oxygenate the fluids."

"Warning : Liver will be unsafe to consume."

"Ignore the protocols on order of McCoy, chief medical officer."

"I wonder how long that title is going to last when Spock opens that crate and gets mauled," Christine said finally out of patience entirely.

"Christine. Honest to God. That is supposed to be a pet for Spock. It's called a Sehlat and I paid a Ferengi big money to get one. He told me this was a little older than usual but that it was still not mature. I guess you have to domesticate these things as pups or they have to be set free. I take it from some of the reading I did that Sehlats are big omnivores on Vulcan. Kind of like our grizzly bears on earth," McCoy explained.

"I don't know Len. Grizzlies are considered dangerous animals," Christine said skeptically.

"It sounded a little ridiculous to me too. But the Ferengi insisted that once domesticated they are totally gentle and intelligent animals. A big dog essentially. And Amanda said that Spock had one as a pet when he was a child," McCoy said.

"Well, that thing in there is definitely wild," Christine said. "Did you check that Ferengi's credentials? I have heard that occasionally they don't supply the real deal," she said with hands on hips.

"Yep. I checked with the Federation licensing bureau. That trader has a clean record."

Christine walked back with McCoy with the now pink liver. She watched as he opened a little trap door and a well clawed paw shot out. McCoy skewered the liver on talons and the paw shot back in. He closed the door and there was the sound of slobberous eating. Christine shuddered. She sure hoped that Leonard knew what he was doing. This didn't seem like the right pet for Spock.

At 7:45, Uhura said to Chris, "Well, I got the sound equipment and lights put together." On the heels of that statement soft Vulcan music began to waft through the air. It seemed to calm the beast inside the box as well. It stopped it frenetic clawing and crashing and just let loose intermittent yowls. After about 5 minutes the yowls turned to whines as the lights dimmed to half standard with a red glow to them and then there was only heavy breathing from inside the crate.

"Okay, everybody! Places. Uhura, get the lights down as low as it would be for a Vulcan dawn," Christine said excitedly. The lighting became even more reddish and dimmer. "Thanks! Now remember. No rowdiness. This is a party for Spock and we don't want to drive him back out the door. Think elegant cocktail party."

At that moment Spock walked in with Captain Kirk. "Captain, are the lights malfunctioning in Cargo Bay 4 as well?" was all he had time to ask as suddenly the lighting went up to 2/3 standard with a reddish hue and everyone said, "Surprise!"

Spock stood there for a second, unsure as to what was going on. "Surprise?" he finally responded after a hesitant glance at Jim's grinning expectant face. He paused awkwardly for a minute trying to discern what was expected of him. He realized that somehow he had walked into another party uninvited and decided to make a hasty exit. "Um. I can come back and fix the lights later." He turned to start to leave.

"Oh no you don't!" Jim was quick to grab him by the arm. "This is a surprise party for you!" Jim said.

McCoy who had seen Spock start to turn came up to him and said, "Today is your birthday, right?"

"Well, yes. But how did you find out? Birthdays are a human tradition. It is not listed in my Starfleet records, since date-of-birth is not a necessary requirement for entrance into the Academy," Spock asked a little flustered in spite of his Vulcan control.

"You got a human mother and we've been reading your mail!" McCoy said with a grin.

Spock gave him a stern look. "That is a Federation offense and ... " Spock began.

"Oh! Don't be an old poop!" McCoy interrupted causing Spock to raise an eyebrow. Whether it was because of being interrupted or called a name, was uncertain. "Go blow out the candles on the cake before something catches on fire!" McCoy harrumphed.

They steered him towards a huge cake. It was white with silver words that said "You're 60 today! You're not getting older, you're getting better." There were beautiful frosting roses all around the border. And of course it had 60 candles on it. Everybody started singing Happy Birthday. Spock was feeling embarrassed and trying to keep his face a normal color. But the shyness from being the center of attention couldn't quite be kept out of his eyes. As the last of the notes of the slightly off key rendition faded, McCoy and Christine brought him directly in front of the cake.

Christine said, "Now try to blow them all out in one breath."

"Why? Surely a few breaths would be more effective," Spock argued.

"It's tradition! You wouldn't fly in the face of human tradition, would you, Spock?" McCoy said with a gleam in his eye.

Spock shrugged his shoulders in acquiescence, took a deep breath and blew. Four candles remained lit.

"Oooo. You have 4 girlfriends," Uhura teased causing the onlookers to laugh. "Now you have to name them!" Uhura grinned delightedly. The look an Spock's face caused peels of laughter from all his friends. This time Spock couldn't stop the green flush that washed over his face.

Jim squeezed his shoulder and whispered, "It's just good natured teasing, Spock. They wouldn't do it if they didn't like you." Spock looked into his face, needing that reassurance from the closest, dearest friend he almost lost.

"I fear that the cake is in error," Spock managed to quip.

"You think so, huh!" McCoy said, eyes sparkling wickedly, "Let me see, now. There was Leila and Zarabeth."

Spock looked scandalized, "Dr. McCoy!"

Jim, chuckling, couldn't help but join in, "The Romulan commander."

"The Romulan commander! That's consorting with the enemy!" Scott said scandalized.

"I was taking a break that day, Mr. Scott," Jim said trying hard to keep a straight face.

"Oh, aye, that's right ye were," Scotty replied tongue in cheek. Spock was starting to sputter, his control breaking down under the barrage of good natured teasing.

"Who was the fourth one?" Christine asked also enjoying Spock's predicament. It was a nice change of pace putting him on the spot for a change over his love life and not hers.

Dr. McCoy piped up enthusiastically, "I've been giving that some thought and I think it's a three way tie between Miranda, you and the blond bimbo with boobs." Spock dropped his face in his hands.

"Blond bimbo with boobs?" Kirk asked puzzled. "I don't remember any blond bimbo with boobs?"

"Sure ya do. It was with the miners versus the cloud city dwellers. What the heck was her name..." McCoy paused for thought. "Roxanne, Lwaxanne, no ..."

Kirk tried to remember, "Visine, um , troxine ..."

Spock uncovered his face and sighed. Looking sky ward he said, "Droxine."

"Yeah, that was it!" said Kirk enthusiastically.

Spock blinked at them with some asperity although his cheeks were still apple green and said, "Are you done now?" Everyone giggled.

"Here, you get the honor of cutting the cake!" Christine said as she handed Spock the cake knife. She hesitated when she saw that Spock was standing there frowning in concentration, his head cocked to one side. "What's the matter?" Christine asked hoping it wasn't his stomach again.

"I heard something. It sounded like clawing," Spock said listening hard.

"I don't hear anything," said McCoy trying to throw the Vulcan off until it was time to give him his present.

"I don't hear it now either," Spock admitted. He took the cake knife from Christine and made the first cut.

Suddenly there was a loud resounding crash and crack as wood gave way. Everyone jumped.

A green and orange tornado with claws descended on them all. No one even had time to scream. The beast landed dead center on top of the cake, 8 inches from Spock. Its already blazing eyes narrowed further and it threw back its head and screamed its displeasure at being cooped up so long in that crate. Blood colored fangs glistening eerily from the reddish cast of light, showed themselves in full glory as it gave a second scream into Spock's face. Spock stared, transfixed, in a state of shock.

McCoy said, "Oh, for God sake. This thing would have to get out now!" And he moved to grab it.

Spock came out of his stunned surprise right at that moment and shoved Leonard aside, hard, screaming something in Vulcan. He leaped to the nearest security guard and grabbed his phaser and fired at the creature as it was leaping through the air to attack Christine Chapel who was standing closest to it, frozen in fear.

Spock dropped the animal on the first shot. Then he raced back to Christine, spinning her around and around frantically looking for claw marks. "Are you okay? Are you hurt? Did it scratch you anywhere?" Spock said in a panicked voice.

"No, it never touched me," she said shakily looking at the animal whose nearest claws were two inches from her boot. Spock, Vulcan decorum forgotten in the face of this near catastrophe, hugged her to him hard as he struggle to control his own shaking and ragged breathing.

McCoy who was rubbing a shoulder walked up to him and said, "Are you out of your Vulcan mind? That Sehlat was suppose to be your birthday present."

"What Sehlat?" Spock asked still a little rocked.

McCoy puffed in frustration and pointed at the animal lying comatose on the floor. "That Sehlat."

Spock stared at him. "You're joking!" A weakness was taking him over from the adrenaline rush. Hysteria was taking its place from the absurdity of this situation.

"No, damnit! I'm not joking. I paid 300 credits for that thing. I've been up with it three times a night for the last 4 days cause its yowls gave everyone else the colly wobbles. I have been giving it the equivalent of raw beef liver twice a day which is no joy, let me tell you, because I hate liver and the smell makes me want to puke. Now I know that it's a little old. But that Ferengi trader said that it was still trainable. And I think shooting it is a bit of an over reaction."

Spock looked at McCoy. He could feel the laughter bubbling up from his toes. There was no denying it. It became his entire being. He found himself sitting on the floor tears running down his face, only able to gasp out phrases. "A Ferengi trader?" ... "For 4 days you've had " ... "SEHLAT!"

Everyone was stunned by Spock's behavior. Spock would start to slow down and then start up again whenever he looked at the animal. McCoy knelt down beside him and gently asked, "Spock, are you laughing or crying?"

Spock tried with everything had to regain his composure as he wiped the tears from his face. The concerned faces of Jim, Bones and Christine brought him some semblance of control. "I'm not sure," Spock finally admitted when he felt he could finally talk. "Doctor. NEVER buy anything from a Ferengi and THAT is NOT a Sehlat. That is a Lematya. And actually, we should get it into a forcefield secured cage before it wakes up," Spock said quickly swinging back under almost full Vulcan control.

"It's dangerous then?" McCoy said soberly, disappointed that his great surprise had fallen flat.

"Deadly," Spock corrected. He nodded towards Christine and said, "Two more inches and Dr. Chapel would be fighting for her life. The claws deliver a deadly toxin as well as the fangs."

Everyone blanched at that. McCoy looked totally abashed as he suddenly pictured himself behind bars for the next 20 years living with the guilt of possibly killing his colleague.

"It was not your fault, Doctor." Spock tried to be reassuring. "It is from Vulcan. And I know you meant well. Isn't there a saying that it's the thought that counts?"

"Yes! But I damn near killed people with that thought," McCoy sputtered appalled at what could have happened.

"You were clearly the victim of fraud and I for one would be glad as a citizen of Vulcan and as a Starfleet officer to help you file suit."

McCoy clapped Spock on the back and said, "Thanks. I appreciate that." Spock let the affection he had for McCoy show in his eyes in silent response.

* * *

"Captain's Log. Personal log. Star date 2276.41. Security, after donning some protective gloves, caged the dangerous animal in a forcefield reinforced container. I ordered the helm to set a course for Vulcan at maximum warp. It will take us 16 hours to get there. McCoy has been ordered to care for the animal, until we arrive since he has managed to do well with it so far. In light of the gift falling flat, I have granted shore leave to my first officer upon our arrival on Vulcan for 4 days. I plan to drag McCoy to some of the Vulcan equivalent of zoos in case he ever wants to surprise Spock with a native plant or animal again."

Kirk smiled to himself. He had given Spock the rest of the time off, because it was his birthday. Spock had protested a bit, but Kirk had argued that spending a birthday fixing the plumbing and nearly being killed by a present was grounds for taking the rest of the day easy.

Spock sighed as he found that meditation eluded him. The drugs did make him a little high, but he was coming down from them. Still it was a pleasant euphoric feeling, though not conducive to meditation. It had been an odd day and he had to admit that he was experiencing a bit of an emotional let down. His door chime rang.

When he answered, he was surprised to find Dr. Chapel standing there out of uniform. In fact he wasn't sure what she was wearing. He found that he had to fight back the unusual urge to touch the shimmering dark green fabric.

"May I come in?" Christine said in a throaty voice. Spock stepped aside and she brushed passed him, giving him a teasing feel of the full length nightgown. A warmth ran through him. The door closed. Christine turned suddenly and closed in on the first officer so that they were no farther than two inches apart. Spock moved back a step and felt his back brush against the wall next to the door.

She closed the gap and caught his gaze and held it with her electric blue eyes. He couldn't look away from her commanding gaze to save his life. "It has occurred to me that an error has been made," Christine said softly.

"Error?" Spock said. The air in his cabin suddenly felt thick and heavy.

"I would say that I am a little higher class than a blond bimbo with boobs, or a bitter, ice bitch trying to kill you out of jealousy. Wouldn't you say?" She softly drew a finger against his jaw.

Spock was having problems breathing evenly. "Yes. I would have to agree."

"Then I assume that I was placed in that category because you had actual physical interaction with the other three," she said softly as she started to slowly play with his ear.

Feeling a rush of arousal, Spock slid away from her and stopped a few paces away. He turned to face her. "What do you want, Christine?" Spock asked in a voice that was wary.

"Why, to give you your birthday present and to at least be categorized above an ice bitch and a blond bimbo."

"Christine, I did not categorize you that way. Dr. McCoy did," Spock said earnestly.

"Oh, I know. But that is what everyone thinks. And if I am going to be accused of lusting after you, not that they are totally wrong, and being your girl friend then I want to at least be guilty of the charge and be lumped in with a higher class crowd," Christine said as she started to pad towards him.

Spock felt a moment of panic. This was the second time today that he had been stalked, and this time he didn't have a phaser handy. "Who cares what everyone thinks?" Spock said in a last ditch effort to save them.

"Oh! You have it all wrong," purred Christine as her hands slipped up his shirt. He felt as transfixed by her as he had been by the Lematya. "I only care about what I feel. And when they say those things now, I will feel like they are justified," she finished with a leisurely kiss.

"Christine, you don't have to do this," Spock whispered as her arms twined around him.

"Happy Birthday, Mr. Spock," she whispered in his ear right before she kissed it.

Spock felt the last of his control flee under that gentle onslaught. Trembling openly now he grabbed her by the upper arms and held her out from him. "Christine! I don't know what kind of game you think you are playing. But it is a dangerous one. I am not made of stone. What about Parker?" Spock asked in a shaky voice thick with desire.

"Parker and I are turning into really good friends, Spock. The relationship is cooling off. Not out of dislike or discord. It's just that we are too similar," Christine answered honestly.

Spock searched her face. "Christine?"


"Those other women?"


"I ... we ... they ... there wasn't time for ... I mean ..."

Spock was having a really hard time getting out the last part of that sentence. Christine reached with her lower arms to his waistband and pulled him forward until they were once again pressed tightly together. She held his gaze the entire time and felt him yield to her. She realized now that he was a virgin by what he couldn't quite say.

"I care for you, Spock. I admit that I came in here initially for myself. I was upset by the teasing. I had thought ... maybe I wasn't the only victim those first five years." Spock dropped his gaze in painful memory. Encircling his waist with one arm she use her freed hand to raise his face so he would look at her again. "I am not playing now. The offer is still open. It is still your Birthday. I know you're not made of stone. I am counting on it."

Spock looked deeply into her eyes and his hand brushed the hair next to her face. "I do wish it. It's just that ..." He licked his lips, embarrassed.

"I know it's your first time. We'll take it nice and slow," Christine promised gently.

"Can we include lots of intimacy?" Spock asked not really knowing what he was asking for.

Christine laughed in delight at the innocence and sweetness in his face . "Oh yes. Lots." she assured him.