DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Saidicam29 and is copyright (c) 2002 by Saidicam29. Events taking place immediately after the episode 'Journey To Babel'. Spock is suffering from some unusual symptoms and can not ascertain their cause, while Sarek takes advantage of his second chance at life. Rated NC17.



In My Dreams

Saidicam29



Bahweep! Bahweep! Bahweep!

"Attention, all hands. Red Alert. This is not a drill. Evacuate this deck immediately. Attention, all hands. Red Alert. This is not a drill. Evacuate this deck immediately. Attention, all hands. Red Alert…"

Spock was surrounded by smoke and darkness. Obviously something had happened to the ship, but he couldn't remember what ... an attack, perhaps? He recognized that he was in Lab 6, and as far as he could see he was alone. The emergency light was all that he had to see by as he tried to find the exit. Just as he found it, the doors opened and Nurse Chapel stood on the other side. He could see her lips move as she spoke, but he heard no sounds. He attempted to move towards her but was stopped at the door by some sort of force field. He tried to push against it, but it held firm. Seeing his predicament, Christine also pushed on the field and tried to speak again. Still he could hear nothing, but could tell she was shouting on the other side. He shook his head to indicate that he didn't understand her words. Christine became frantic and started pounding against the force field as she shouted at him. Spock tried to read her lips, but they were moving too quickly for him to follow. Then he heard some noise in the lab. It was a soft rustling noise and was coming from behind him. Spock turned around to investigate, then only saw darkness ...

Even though he didn't open his eyes, Spock quickly became conscious. He had sensed another's presence in the room and could tell by the soft rustling that they were making an effort to move quietly. There was a faint odor in the air. Something flowery, delicate, feminine, and familiar. "Miss Chapel." How odd that she could be here, when he had just been dreaming of her. Could he, in his ever-increasing state of pon farr, have summoned her to his cabin without remembering it?

"Yes, Mr. Spock?" Her voice was soft and slow ... seductive. He had always thought so.

"I had the most startling dream. You were trying to tell me something, but I couldn't hear you..." She was behind him, by the door, so he rolled onto his back as he opened his eyes to address her. His breath caught in his throat and a wave of desire washed over him at the sight of her. She was standing in the doorway to his sleeping area, facing him, and completely nude. Her long, platinum hair was loose and had spilled over her shoulders to slightly cover her full, pert breasts. A light from the outer room shone around her, highlighting her form, and giving her an almost supernatural appearance as if she was a vision.

He had never expected to find her thus and it took every bit of control he had not to let the pon farr rule his actions. He closed his eyes to block the view, but her image was already burned onto his brain. He could hear the patter of her bare feet moving across the floor and knew she was coming closer. He didn't dare open his eyes for fear he would lose control completely.

"I came to tell you that we are bound for Vulcan. We'll be there in just a few days." Her voice was barely more than a whisper.

"Vulcan." The words reminded him of his obligations, his duty. He could not have her. She was not his and he belonged to another. "Nurse, you must leave."

He felt her climb on the bed near his feet. "You can't last that long, can you?"

"I must," he said forcefully, more to strengthen his own resolve than to answer her. His eyes sprang open when he felt her feather-light touch on his inner thighs. He looked down to see her kneeling between his legs. He was taken aback to find that he was also naked, as he could not remember undressing before he lay down to rest. "You do not understand."

She looked from his erection up to his eyes. "Not completely maybe, but I have a theory." She slowly crawled over his body until she was straddling his hips.

Beep… beep… beep… beep… beep… beep… beep…

Spock became aware of a soft, rhythmic sound. Upon listening further, he realized there were also sounds of people moving around and talking in a nearby room. He awoke fully to find himself breathing hard, with a throbbing erection. It had been a dream. A dream based on a memory, but drastically altered from what had actually occurred in his quarters that day. But he was not in his quarters. He quickly surveyed his surroundings and was momentarily surprised to find himself in sickbay. The repetitive beeping was his own heart, amplified several times on the medical monitor. Turning his head, he saw his father in the bed to his left. What was Sarek doing on the Enterprise? Then he remembered. His father was recovering from his heart surgery of four days ago and the Enterprise was bound for a diplomatic conference on Babel.

Spock was surprised that he had fallen asleep again. The drug that was used to increase his blood production for Sarek's surgery had been having some lasting effects on his chemistry and his recovery was taking longer than expected. He wondered if this drug might possibly cause sleep disturbances in Vulcans. The case studies of Rigellians that he had shown Dr. McCoy in his effort to get him to perform surgery on Sarek did not mention any effects on sleep patterns … more specifically, nothing on dreaming.

After regulating his breathing once again, he focused on controlling his other physical discomfort, which was proving to be more difficult than he had expected. Vulcans rarely dream and he had only had dreams of that variety one other time in his life ... when he had been in pon farr. But that had only been 8.37 months ago, and he had never heard of the cycle reoccurring so quickly. Unless ... perhaps the challenge had not truly resolved the pon farr, but only relieved it temporarily. Could it be returning now? He fought down the panic he felt welling inside him. He was unbonded and away from Vulcan ... and his parents were on board. Since sleep no longer seemed desirable, nor likely, Spock decided to try some meditation. He attempted to focus within himself, but could not escape from the images that kept flashing through his mind. Images of her, of them, in their ardor.

"You are restless, Spock," Sarek said softly from the other bed.

Spock stiffened at his father's voice, wondering how long he had been awake. "Forgive me. I did not intend to wake you."

"I was already awake. I do not find sickbay surroundings to be conducive for rest, even after four days of being here." He adjusted his pillow so he could sit up and turned on the viewscreen by his bed. "What disturbs you, my son?"

Spock's throat tightened and he looked in his father's direction. Sarek regarded him placidly, his face relaxed. A memory of the two of them stabbed at Spock's consciousness. Spock had all but forgotten that there was ever anything but tension between himself and his father.

* * *

The wind blew ferociously against the shutters. Spock pulled the covers close around his ears. It sounded like the house would be blown from its foundations. He closed his eyes tighter and tried to concentrate on slowing his heartbeat just as his father had taught him. Calmness. Tranquillity. He would take his kahs wan test soon and an adult Vulcan would not let fear overcome his logic.

Spock sat up abruptly. I-Chaya! What if he had gone outside in this sandstorm? Throwing off his blankets, Spock got up hurriedly and searched for his boots and cloak in the darkness. He wasn't about to abandon his sehlat to the elements. I-Chaya would certainly not leave him in danger. He was Spock's responsibility. Holding his boots in his hand, Spock moved barefoot through the hallway, although the high winds whistling across the desert would probably keep his parents from detecting any sounds that he made.

Spock rounded the corner to the back entrance of the house and stopped in his tracks. Light from his father's study. Now what should he do? Surely he could not get by Sarek's open door undetected. An adult Vulcan would not creep around his own house like a thief in the middle of the night. He had a logical purpose for being awake at this hour. Determined, Spock squared his shoulders and walked right into Sarek's office. Halfway into the room he stopped in surprise.

I-Chaya snored rhythmically, asleep on the sofa with his head in Sarek's lap, Sarek's hand resting lightly on top of his wrinkled head. The wind whipped against the house and I-Chaya moaned in his sleep, paws twitching.

"Relax, I-Chaya. It is only a storm," his father soothed quietly, his hand stroking the great beast gently. I-Chaya's head lolled over, his mouth open, fangs glistening in the light from the fireplace. He shuddered once, then began snoring steadily again.

"What disturbs you, my son?" Sarek asked softly, looking up at Spock. "The storm?"

"Yes, sir. I was concerned about I-Chaya."

"I-Chaya is quite logical when it comes to severe weather. He would not run off to the mountains on a night like this. You would do well to follow his example," Sarek commented, his bemused look taking in the pair of boots in Spock's hand and the cloak folded over his arm.

Spock looked away from his father's penetrating gaze, shifting his eyes to the fireplace. He felt his blood running to the tips of his ears. His father knew about his trips to the mountains! Using bio-control techniques, Spock slowed the hammering of his heart.

"Yes, Father," Spock responded calmly, meeting Sarek's eyes directly. An adult Vulcan would maintain eye contact and would not equivocate.

I-Chaya raised his massive head and opened his mouth with a yawn as big as the Chasm of Faltok. His eyes bleary, he caught sight of Spock and lumbered off the sofa. I-Chaya sniffed the boots in his hand and began nudging Spock's leg excitedly. He was ready to go to the mountains if Spock was. Spock scratched him behind the ears.

"Sehlats are the most loyal of beasts," Sarek said, standing up and stretching his arms over his head. He picked up a poker and bent down, spreading the coals out evenly in the fireplace. "I-Chaya will keep your secrets well, Spock. Just as he kept mine when I was a boy."

Spock looked at Sarek's back and tried to imagine him as a boy sneaking off to the mountains with this same faithful sehlat. He could not quite complete the picture. Sarek stood up to his full height and faced his son. Looking up at his father's imposing form, Spock wondered if he would be as tall as Sarek one day.

"Come. Let us go upstairs before we wake your mother and she discovers that we are both restless. I do not wish to contemplate the consequences," Sarek told him, the corner of his mouth twitching fractionally.

"Nor do I, Father. Come on, I-Chaya. Time for bed."

The three restless members of the household made their way upstairs. Spock quietly put his boots and cloak on his desk chair and slipped back under the covers. I-Chaya settled on the end of the bed. Much later, Spock heard the wind roaring even louder. Feeling I-Chaya's comforting weight at his feet, he rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. As he drifted off, he became aware of warmth enveloping him. It was the solid presence of his father as he pulled an extra blanket up to Spock's neck.

"It will grow colder tonight. Sleep well, my son."

* * *

My son. It had been nearly two decades since Spock had heard those words from his father. When he had occasionally visited home since joining Star Fleet, he was usually treated as a guest or an associate by Sarek, not as his son. As a child hearing those words had been comforting, his father's voice soft and caring, an invitation to an open discussion between them. There had been so few of those between them lately that Spock was too unsure of this sudden acceptance from Sarek to trust it too much.

"Nothing," he said vaguely. Seeing that Sarek intended to stay up, Spock activated his own viewscreen.

Without looking away from his screen Sarek quickly responded. "That is illogical. How can 'nothing' disturb you?"

Spock had hoped that Sarek would let this particular discussion drop. He should have known better. Since he was not about to discuss his dream with anyone, least of all his father, he tried once again to thwart the conversation. "I only meant that it was unimportant." He risked a glance in Sarek's direction and was surprised to see an amused expression on his face. His father was teasing him!

Before either man could say anything more, Christine Chapel breezed into the room carrying a large tray of food. "Good afternoon, gentlemen. I hope you woke up from your naps hungry." She set the tray down and went over to Spock to check and record his vitals. "I need to palpate your abdomen to see if your liver has increased in size."

He tried to brace himself for her touch, but the memory of his dream was still too fresh. He couldn't look at her face, but looking at her body only made his mind wander further. Since she blocked his right side, the only other direction was to face his father, and he would not risk having Sarek see his discomfort. Instead he simply lay back and closed his eyes while attempting to distance himself from everything around him. He was unsuccessful. He noticed everything about her. The feel of her hands gliding over his body; the smell of her perfume, mixed with the scent of sickbay chemicals and her own natural smell; the hum of her mind as it brushed against his. He had felt this before, many times over the couple of years she'd been aboard, but today he was unprepared to shield it and couldn't prevent a slight gasp from escaping as her hands slid lower across his waistline.

Her movements stopped immediately. "Was that painful?" Her voice was professional, but concerned.

"No," he said curtly.

"Then why--"

"I assure you that I am well, Nurse. Are you through now?" Spock spoke more sharply than he had intended. He could see that Sarek was watching the interplay from his bed.

Christine removed her hands and briskly covered him back up. "I guess so." She picked up her PADD and began to record her findings. "Your test results from this morning were normal again ... that's two days in a row, finally. Since your chemistry seems stable now, Dr. McCoy said you can be released today after lunch. You are, however, restricted to light duty for the next two days, and you must report to us every twelve hours for the next two weeks so we can monitor the biochems. I know I don't have to tell you the importance of following Star Fleet protocol to the letter. If we're even a few minutes late on any of these check-ups we might as well just throw out all of the data we've collected on the effects of the drug Nityapushta on Vulcans… well, on one Vulcan anyway. Otherwise, that study of Rigellians will be all there is. I'm afraid that you're the guinea pig this time, Mr. Spock."

Having told him all she had to report, she moved over to check on Sarek. She stood on the left side of his bed and lifted the covers to check his incision. "Your scar looks good." She ran a medscanner over him. "You are healing very well ... even for a Vulcan." She smiled at him as she began to record her findings.

"I am much improved, no doubt in part due to the efficient care I have received from you and your staff, Miss Chapel."

Christine moved over to set a table with two place settings for their lunch. "Well, thank you, Ambassador. It's nice to have a grateful patient for a change." She cast a direct look at Spock, then addressed Sarek once again. "And, please, I thought that I told you to call me 'Christine' ... 'Miss Chapel' reminds me of my aunt. My elderly aunt."

"Forgive me, Christine. I would not want to confuse you with the matron of your clan," Sarek told her, the corner of his mouth quirking upward.

"That's more like it. Now, I'll have you know that I checked with your wife and she told me that everything on this tray are your favorite foods, so you have no excuse not to eat today."

Sarek turned off his viewer to give her his whole attention. "Your efforts are commendable, Christine, however, I am simply not hungry."

She continued with the place settings. "I realize that. It's a common side effect of your heart medication, but I'm going to let you in on a secret. Dr. McCoy thinks that you'd rest more comfortably in your own quarters and he is considering releasing you today. Now, he'll still want you to rest most of the time, and we'll be stopping in to check on you and help with your physical therapy, but at least you can stay with your wife again."

"That would be most welcomed."

She winked conspiratorially at him. "I thought you'd think so. But I'm going to be honest with you. Dr. McCoy puts a lot of importance on eating, and he won't even consider letting you go until you start taking meals on a regular basis. So if you want to increase your probability of getting out of here, you need to make an effort at packing away some calories. Right, Spock?"

Sarek looked back to his son. He had noticed him watching the nurse every time she came in the room since he'd been in sickbay and was beginning to suspect the cause of his son's tension the past few days.

Spock seemed to shake himself out of his reverie. "Yes," he addressed Sarek. "The doctor often uses blackmail as a means of getting his patients to cooperate."

Sarek watched Spock a moment more before responding. "I see. Then the logical action would be to eat so that I may be released."

"Undoubtedly," Spock murmured.

"Good. In that case ... lunch is served," Chapel told them gesturing to their meal on the table. Spock got up and walked over on his own, but Christine escorted Sarek to the table, even though he didn't require her help. While the men ate their lunch Christine worked on lab samples at a nearby counter, in case either of them should need anything.

Sarek took a taste of his plomeek soup, then sat back looking pleased. "You must commend your chef, Spock. The plomeek soup is very well done. Not many Humans can get the seasoning to Vulcan tastes."

Spock stopped eating his own soup. "I agree, Father, however, if I am not mistaken, I believe that this soup was made by Nurse Chapel herself judging from the fresh karrin seeds."

Sarek looked at the woman in question. "Indeed." Raising his voice slightly, he said, "Most impressive, Christine. Where did you learn to make plomeek soup like this?"

Christine waved off his compliment and continued with her work. "Oh, well ... I've made it so many times for Spock over the past few years that I was bound to figure it out, with his help, of course."

Spock grimaced at the slip up she unknowingly made. He knew how that statement would be interpreted by Sarek, by any Vulcan, for that matter. An unbonded female on Vulcan would not serve meals or drinks to a male who was not promised to her, unless he was a member of her household and it was her task to attend him. It would be considered scandalous ... only concubines with no clan status filled such a role socially in Vulcan society.

Sarek's eyebrow raised in surprise and he gazed at his son intently, but Spock refused to meet his eyes. "Indeed. The Enterprise crew is certainly fortunate to have such ... individualized ... medical care. I remember the first time Spock's mother made plomeek soup for me ... after we were betrothed, of course. It required quite a bit of ... modification." He looked back at the nurse. "I will ask Amanda to give you her recipe. Although she has an illogical tendency to change it now and then."

Christine chuckled as she collected her supplies. She turned around to address the men, totally oblivious to their tension. "Since you men seem set with your meals I'm going to the labs for a while. Dr. McCoy should be in shortly, and until then, the duty nurse will take care of you." Since neither Vulcan seemed to have any objections, she left with her supplies.

Sarek watched his son as Spock looked after the young woman. He had been observing their interactions for a few days now and he was finally forced to admit that Amanda might be correct about those two.

After the head nurse left Sarek resumed eating his lunch while Spock just stared at his. Sarek noticed his son's contemplative mood so he finished his meal in silence. Shortly thereafter the duty nurse cleared their lunch trays and ordered them back to their beds until Dr. McCoy arrived.

Once they were alone and settled in again, Sarek resumed their conversation. "That was most satisfactory. It must be gratifying to have homemade plomeek soup when you are parsecs away from Vulcan. Do you have it often?"

"Not that often." He didn't suppress his sigh. "Father, I realize that on Vulcan her behavior would be inappropriate, but I do not want you to misjudge her. Nurse Chapel goes out of her way to personalize the care of all of her patients. In my case, that means homemade plomeek soup whenever I have the misfortune of being confined to sickbay. She is a highly skilled professional, and, although her insistence on providing unique treatments for each crewmember may seem illogical, her methods seem to produce the desired results. She is not a ... a…" He searched for a kinder word than what came to mind. He could not bring himself to say it. The room was heavy with the silence that grew between father and son.

"El'wak kafeh?" Sarek's voice cut through the silence.

Spock's jaw clamped down and his eyebrows knitted together in anger. How dare he! Only minutes before he had been bantering with her. Sarek knew nothing about Nurse Chapel at all. To call a woman a 'leisure slave', on Vulcan, is a great insult. In polite society the term is considered profanity. Spock very carefully controlled his facial expression before he faced his father and responded. "She is not Vulcan and is unaware of Vulcan customs. I saw no reason to prohibit her from doing something she enjoys." He waited to hear his father's reaction.

Sarek considered this for a moment before responding. He didn't want Spock to overreact to his criticism ... not when they had just begun to communicate again ... but that was generally his son's reaction to his advice. "Spock, you are rationalizing. It is inappropriate for a woman to serve a man who is not hers. The fact that she is unaware of that is irrelevant. You are aware of it. When you allow her to act in this role, you permit her to demean herself. It shows how little regard you have for her."

Spock's eyebrows raised indignantly. He was angry not only at Sarek, but at himself for having thought the term el'wak kafeh before Sarek even spoke it. "That is not correct. I happen to have great respect for Miss Chapel. She is a valued member of this crew ... of my staff, as well as Dr. McCoy's and well liked among the crew. She runs the nursing staff in a logical and orderly manner. She is a competent and efficient nurse, although she is much better in the labs. She has a doctorate in biomedical research and has been invaluable in many of the situations we have faced on board. She has a keen intellect, and publishes biomedical articles in her free time. She is actually quite logical most of the time, although she has moments of irrationality and emotionalism, however, that is a trait of her species," Spock finished, surprised at how defensive his voice had become.

He looked over to find Sarek looking at him bemused. Then it dawned on Spock. Vulcans did not pry openly into personal affairs the way his human crewmates did. Sarek had used a classic technique of diplomacy to force Spock's into talking about his personal life. Spock cleared his throat softly, "The point is that Miss Chapel enjoys cooking. It is her hobby and it pleases her to have someone appreciate her culinary skills."

Sarek took a deep breath. "Indeed. I quite agree with your assessment, Spock. A woman like that deserves a legitimate bonded relationship. Surely there are many men who would be willing to offer her that. Why do you suppose no one has claimed her yet?"

Spock started several times to respond, but nothing came out of his mouth. He wasn't sure how to answer that question; he wasn't even sure what exactly Sarek meant by the question. Was he saying that Spock was responsible for no one having made her such an offer because of what appeared to be a relationship between the two of them? Or, was he suggesting that Spock should offer her such a relationship? Fortunately he was saved from answering by his mother's timely entrance into sickbay.

"How are my two favorite Vulcans today?" she said, smiling at her son and husband.

"I am well, Mother. I hope to return to restricted duty this afternoon," Spock replied, eager to change the topic of conversation.

"Good. I'm glad it's 'restricted duty' for a while. I know, I know. I worry too much sometimes. But you're just like your father when it comes to work … and speaking of the devil, how are you, Sarek?" Amanda asked, shifting her gaze to the other bed.

"Much better now that you are here, Amanda," Sarek told her, warmth lighting his eyes.

Amanda walked over and extended two fingers to greet her husband. Instead of returning the two-fingered embrace, Sarek reached out and grasped her hand in both of his and brought it to his lips. Amanda was startled by her husband's overt actions and momentarily lost herself in the depths of his brown eyes until she heard her son shift restlessly in his bed. She quickly attempted to pull her hand away, but Sarek gripped it firmly, refusing to release it. Instead he held it beside him on the bed, his thumb lightly stroking her knuckles. Amanda was unsure of what to make of her husband's behavior, but was not about to complain. Instead she chose to sit in the chair beside his bed and enjoy this affection from him.

Sarek, however, had other ideas. When Amanda started to slide into the chair he tugged on her hand to bring her onto the edge of the bed. Once she was sitting beside him, he continued to hold her hand, gently laying his other hand on her leg to keep her from leaving. He knew that he had surprised both his wife and son with his actions, but that didn't deter him. "You are late in visiting me today, my wife," he chided her softly.

Amanda looked at Spock for an explanation for Sarek's odd behavior, but he just raised his eyebrow questioningly at her. She turned back to her mate and smiled. "I stopped by earlier, but you were both sleeping. I didn't want to disturb you."

He reached up to stroke her cheek. "You always disturb me, my wife ... but you are never an intrusion. I have been told that I might be allowed to return to our quarters today. I am eagerly anticipating it."

"Oh ..." she said breathlessly… the only response she could think of. Her face suddenly felt hot. What on Earth was in that heart medication that Dr. McCoy had prescribed?

Spock watched his parents in confusion. Never had they acted this way before, at least not in front of him. He would have been embarrassed, but they didn't even seem to be aware that he was in the same room.

'I'm not complaining, my husband, but what are you doing?' Amanda spoke through their bond.

'I am giving our son a lesson, aduna.'

'A lesson in what?' She could feel a wave of amusement pass from him to her.

'In how one treats a female one desires.'

Amanda was quite speechless. 'Oh?'

Christine Chapel breezed into the room and made some entries on Sarek's medical PADD.

Sarek raised his eyebrows, gesturing meaningfully with his eyes in Spock's direction. Amanda followed the direction of his gaze and saw their son watching the nurse intently as she updated the records.

'Oh!' She looked back to her husband. 'I knew I was right about those two. This only confirms it. But it isn't like you to play matchmaker, Sarek.'

'I am responsible for my son's now unbonded state. I will not fail him again in that regard. He is old enough now to choose his own mate. From what I have learned of Miss Chapel during my stay here, I believe Spock has made a wise decision. Now it is time for him to act.'

Just then Dr. McCoy came into sickbay, but froze by the door at the unexpected scene before him. He watched the spellbound Ambassador and his wife a moment before realizing that Spock had noticed his entrance, and the doctor couldn't help but be amused at the perplexed look on the First Officer's face. He winked at him knowingly then wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, which got him a questioning raise of the Vulcan's eyebrow, before clearing his throat to announce his presence. Sarek removed his hands from his wife and allowed her to stand. Her cheeks were flushed. She sat down in the chair beside Sarek's bed and looked up at Dr. McCoy expectantly, and he gave her one of his lopsided mischievous grins before he turned his attention to the two Vulcans.

"Well now. It's about time you two sleepy-headed Vulcans got up for the day. I would've been in sooner, but you were both sacked out with your mouths hanging wide open. So I decided that y'all could just wait for me this time," McCoy told them. Sarek gave Spock a quizzical look. Spock shrugged his shoulders in response. If they wanted to be released any time today they would have to endure McCoy's litany.

"Let me have a look at you. I saw your readouts, but I don't trust these machines to monitor the temperature of a cup of coffee, let alone your sensitive Vulcan physiology. Spock, I'm told your chem work is normal. I suppose you're eager to get out of here, so you are now officially released. Restricted duty only, mind. If I catch you putting in more than half a day, I'll put you right back in this bed. Understand?"

"Yes, Doctor. Miss Chapel was quite exact about the conditions of my release." He got up and stretched a bit as he waited to hear his father's report.

Christine handed Spock his uniform so he could change then offered Dr. McCoy Sarek's updated medical file.

"Thanks, Christine. Anything unusual?" he asked as he quickly glanced over the file.

"No, Doctor. The T-negative production is up two percent, there was no unusual protein syntheses detected, and the R cells are slightly elevated, however, they still fall within normal parameters."

"Good ... you know, before we release him, we really should run a Talwen series."

"I already did, Doctor. All the K factors are still within normal range, and there have been no fluctuations within the past 48 hours." She gave Sarek and Amanda a quick conspiratorial smile and a wink.

"Great, that about covers it then." He look up at the couple and smiled. "Well, Romeo, I see you're feeling better, too. At least, you ate today. Nurse Chapel's soup does it every time."

Sarek nodded even though he was uncertain as to the meaning of that particular reference to the Shakespearean character. "A useful skill for healers, no doubt."

McCoy perused the file once more. "All right. I'm releasing you to your quarters as well. I want you to rest as much as possible for the next two days until we get to Babel. We'll start some moderate exercises ... Nurse Chapel will stop by to go over the regimen with you. If you have any discomfort, I want you to notify us immediately." He signed the PADD and handed it back to Christine for filing before turning to leave the room.

"Thank you, Doctor," Amanda called after him.

He turned around and smiled at her. "My pleasure, Madam. I'm just glad to finally be getting these guys out of my sickbay. One Vulcan is bad enough, but two is pushing it."

Amanda laughed appreciatively at his joke. She knew only too well how difficult these two could be ... especially when they weren't feeling well, not that either of them would ever admit it.

McCoy smiled back at her, then looked to her husband before turning around to leave, shaking his head and muttering to himself. It was very quiet, but loud enough for the Ambassador and Spock to make out something about never in a million years expecting to see any of that Vulcan "mind sex" in his sickbay.

* * *

Sarek sat on the couch in his quarters waiting for his wife to join him. They had just finished having dinner with Spock, Jim Kirk, and Dr. McCoy, and now Amanda was 'walking them to the door'. Illogical, in his opinion, since the quarters weren't that large and they were obviously capable of finding the exit by themselves, but she insisted it was a matter of propriety.

As he listened to his wife say her good-byes, he noticed several discs sitting beside the viewer located on a table at the end of the couch. Seeing one disc already inserted in the machine, Sarek pulled the viewer closer on its extendible arm to see what Amanda had been doing while he had been in sickbay. He activated the viewer and began reading where his wife left off.

'Are you sure about this? '

She melted a little at his concern and fell even further under his spell.

'Because once I lay you down, I won't stop until I'm deep inside you.'

This was one choice she had no doubts about. 'I'm sure,' she whispered. 'Make love to me, please.'

In one swift movement, he moved between her legs and drove his hard length ...

Sarek looked up as the viewer was unexpectedly turned off. Amanda sat on the couch, facing him, and looking slightly embarrassed. He couldn't resist the smile that tugged at the corner of his mouth. "I was not aware that you perused such ... graphic ... reading material, Amanda."

A slight blush crept up her face. "I don't." When Sarek arched his eyebrow disbelievingly, she amended her statement. "It's just an old romance novel. I rarely ever read those." She wrapped her arms around him and buried her face in his shoulder. "I needed something to keep me distracted while you were recovering," she mumbled against him.

"Indeed," he teased, "what I just read was certainly 'distracting'."

She laughed then turned her head so she could see his profile. "I'm so glad you're home."

"As am I, my wife."

She sat up and looked at him earnestly. "I don't know what I would do if I had lost you."

Sarek could see the depth of her emotion as well as feel it through their bond. He changed his position so he was facing her then caressed her cheek with his fingers. "Do not worry, Amanda. You will not lose me."

Amanda leaned forward and kissed him briefly upon the lips. "I almost did. Your heart stopped for several minutes during that surgery."

Sarek's fingers stopped in mid-caress. "I do not remember anything from the surgery ..."

"Of course you don't, but I'll never forget it. Those were longest minutes of my life. You were gone and all I could do was stand there, and hope ..."

Sarek silenced her by brushing his fingers over her lips. "There is no logic in dwelling on the past. I am here now." He took her hand and placed it against his side, where his heart lay. "Feel. Here is proof that I am very much alive."

Amanda could only slightly feel the soft thrumming of Sarek's heart, so she slipped her hand beneath his tunic for a better feel. Soon her fingers began to trace the scar left over from the surgery. "It's so long. Does it still hurt much?"

Sarek pulled the tunic off over his head so they could view his scar better. "The pain is manageable and the greenness will fade over time." He watched Amanda examine his side intently. "If it disturbs you, I can have the scar removed after it is completely healed."

Amanda glanced up in surprise. "No, of course not. It's not the scar that disturbs me. It's the reason for it." She leaned down and planted a soft kiss upon the wound then laid her face against his side.

Sarek held her close for a moment then gently laid her back upon the couch. He covered her body with his then placed feather-light kisses all over her face and neck.

Amanda giggled when he reached the sensitive area behind her ear. "You're in a mood today."

Sarek looked at his wife with mock indignation. "I am not. I am merely demonstrating my point."

This caused Amanda to break out in a laugh. "Um ... yes, I can feel your point quite well."

Sarek shook his head then resumed speckling kisses down her neck while his hand crept into her outer gown and worked on pulling the shirt from the waistband of her skirt. "I was referring to the point I made about being alive and well." Just as he gained access to her flesh Amanda placed her hand over his to stop him.

"Is this safe?" she whispered.

Sarek halted his actions and looked at her with amusement in his eyes. "As safe as it has ever been, aduna."

Amanda laughed at his teasing. "You know what I mean. It's only been four days. Did Dr. McCoy say that this was okay?"

"He said I could start a moderate exercise regimen."

"But you didn't ask him if it was okay if we made love?"

He sat up and pulled her upright as well. "Amanda, I refuse to seek another's permission to be intimate with my wife."

She heard the steel undertones in his voice. He was angry. "Well, if you won't, then I will. I'm not taking any chances," she sighed woefully. "And since we're on the subject, I think we should cancel our reservations for next week."

Sarek looked away to cover his irritation, then turned back to answer his wife in his typical calm, patient tone. "We always spend a night at the Sanosh Inn when we stay on Babel, and we have had the arrangements to celebrate our 40th anniversary planned for thirty six days." He took her hand in both of his. "I see no reason to change them."

She placed her other palm against his cheek endearingly. "I know that, Sarek. I just thought it would be better to stay in one place while we're there. Between your illness, the conference, the traveling ... the last thing you need is to be moving from hotel to hotel during the short time we'll be there."

He shook his head in disagreement. "My wife, there was a defect in one of the valves in my heart. A defect that had undoubtedly been there since my birth, but only recently became a problem. That defect has been repaired, so there is no reason to be concerned. Now," he stood up and held out his paired fingers. "Attend, my wife."

Amanda did as he requested. "Where are we going?"

"To our bedroom, aduna." When she started to protest he pulled her in front of him so she was entrapped by his arms, with her back tight against his front. "Do not argue. I will be cautious and if I feel any discomfort at all we can stop. Then you may cancel our anniversary plans. Agreed?"

She laid her head back against him. "Agreed, but only if you promise to never hide an illness from me ever again."

Sarek nuzzled his face against her neck. "Is this necessary, Amanda?"

"Yes, you bet it's necessary." The tension she'd been feeling the past few days swelled up again. "You had no right to keep something like this from me. I deserve to know when something is wrong, and I don't care if there's nothing I can do about it, I want to know!" She closed her eyes trying to block out the sensations Sarek was sending through her body with his nips on her neck and shoulder. She wouldn't be distracted from this.

"I did not want you to be worried or afraid. My reason was logical." He continued to move them towards the bedroom. "You are very tense now, Amanda. This is why I did not want to discuss my condition. It has ill effects on you. Since it is of no importance now, let us put this matter to rest and go to bed."

"No." Amanda slipped out of his arms and faced him, arms crossed in determination. "I am tense because I am angry with you. I need to be able to trust you, Sarek, and that's difficult to do when you hide things from me. I do trust your word, however, so until you promise me that you will never again hide something about yourself from me, then I won't accompanying you to bed, for any reason."

Sarek's pose mirrored his wife's. "That is called blackmail."

Amanda raised an eyebrow and replied in a deadpan tone, "No, that is called aggressive negotiation."

"I see." He looked at his bondmate thoughtfully. "You seem very serious about this."

"I am."

"Well, it seems you leave me little choice then." He walked past Amanda into the bedroom, alone.

Amanda didn't move, not quite able to believe he had walked away. It was such a small thing she wanted from him. "Sarek," she turned to follow him into the bedroom, but stopped short when she saw him leaning against the doorway, watching her expectantly.

"Conceding your demands already, t'hy'la?"

"Absolutely not!" she answered indignantly.

"I see. That is unfortunate," he walked up and gently took her hands, unfolding her arms, and wrapped them around his waist, "because that means that I will have to submit to your strictures." He allowed himself a slight smile. "Very well, Amanda. You have my word."

It took a moment before Amanda realized that he had given in. She looked up into his smiling eyes and had to mentally shake herself. 'Will I ever get used to this side of him?' She reached up to give him a kiss, then allowed him to take them into the bedroom.

* * *

Spock was back on duty. As he sat in his chair at the science station he couldn't help but acknowledge how much he missed being on the bridge ... where 'the action' was. Since he had no pressing duties to perform, he turned and faced the center of the bridge, slowly taking the time to observe his shipmates as they worked. To his left sat Uhura, who, due to the number of delegates on board, was so busy monitoring all the intership transmissions she barely had time to acknowledge his return to duty with more than a brief smile. In front of him and slightly to the right were Chekov and Sulu, manning their stations as they discussed their most recent escapades with the fairer sex. Then directly in front of him sat Captain Kirk ... Jim, who was also on restricted duty, and currently engaging in some mild flirtation with his yeoman as they went through the morning reports.

Since there was nothing on the main view screen worth investigating, Spock turned back to his console to run a routine scan of the surrounding space. Everything appeared as it should and he was about to turn off his scanner when a small object appeared on the screen. He adjusted his magnification and was confounded to see what appeared to be a humanoid figure floating in space. He couldn't increase his magnification any further, so he had no choice but to wait until the Enterprise drew nearer. Spock watched as the object began to take a more definite shape in his viewer. It was definitely a humanoid figure, female, to be exact, but he was still unable to make out any more detail. He waited until it fell within range of the main viewscreen.

"Mr. Chekov, apply full magnification to the main viewscreen, please," Spock requested brusquely.

The command startled the navigator, but he quickly recovered and carried out the order. "Aye, sir. Viewer screen at full magnification."

Spock waited a moment for the object to appear, but none did. "This is full magnification, Ensign?"

"Aye, sir. Just as you ordered."

Spock turned back to his scanner to ensure that the object was indeed within main viewer range and it was. 'This can not be,' he thought as he watched the object become larger and more defined.

"Something out there, Spock?" The Captain sounded mildly concerned.

Just as he was about to answer, the object began to turn and Spock could clearly see all its features. It had long blonde hair, clear blue eyes and a slender frame. It was Nurse Chapel. She was wearing a long sheer robe similar to what the Adepts on Gol wear on Vulcan. Spock stared into his viewer, mesmerized by the sight before him. Slowly she stretched both her arms out toward him, beckoning him. He saw her mouth move as she spoke to him, but he could make out none of the words except when his name crossed her lips. "Spock ... Spock ..."

"Spock?"

The Captain's voice brought Spock out of his trance.

"Captain?" came the First Officer's puzzled reply.

"Do you have anything to report?" Jim Kirk watched his friend's face carefully, concerned by his unusual behavior.

Spock stole a glance back at his viewer but the object was gone. "No, sir. Nothing to report at this time." He thought quickly for an explanation for his illogical outburst. "With our recent skirmish with the Orions, I prefer to maintain a high level of vigilance."

"Good point, Spock." Kirk raised his voice to address the whole bridge. "We should all stay on our toes right now, at least until this mission is over."

Spock swallowed hard as he felt the eyes of every crewmember on the bridge watching him, but when he looked up he saw everyone was hard at work manning their own stations.

Quietly he murmured, "Excuse me, Captain," then he closed the viewscreen down before getting up to head for the turbolift doors. His seat was immediately taken by his back-up personnel.

Alone, Spock slumped against the wall. He lightly banged the back of his head against the wall of the turbolift. 'What is happening to me? I am the First Officer of this vessel. I must maintain control. I am *not* hallucinating. But she's so beautiful ... I am in control! I must find an explanation for this ... it is unbearable! Must control.' Squaring his shoulders, he stood up straight in the turbolift, then logically and methodically began an internal bioscan, everything seemed normal. The turbolift doors opened on his deck and he strode purposefully to his quarters, away from the prying eyes of the crew.

Once inside he quickly engaged the privacy lock then restlessly began pacing the length of the room to release some excess energy. "I am a Vulcan ... I am in control of my emotions ..." he muttered as he attempted to regain his focus. "I am ..." He looked at his hands and realized he was rubbing them together compulsively. "I am ... sorry. I am sorry ..."

* * *

"I'm in love with you Mr. Spock." Spock slowly turned back to face the Head Nurse. Surely he had not heard her right? There was a tingling sensation on his hand, but he could not see anything there.

"You. The human Mr. Spock."

He watched her approach.

"The Vulcan Mr. Spock."

He had to stop this now ... it was the virus allowing her to do this and he knew if they survived this she would regret her actions. "Nurse, you shouldn't--"

"Christine, please," she resumed undeterred. "I see things ... how honest you are. I know how you feel. You hide it, but you do have feelings." She grasped his clasped hands between both of hers. "Oh, how we must hurt you ... torture you."

The contact was allowing her emotions to flow into him, bathing him in her love, and he needed to separate himself or become lost. "I am in control of my emotions."

She sighed softly. "The others believe that, but I don't. I don't know why, but I do love you. Just as you are. Oh, I love you." She softly pressed her lips to his hand then held them against her face tenderly.

Spock could do nothing but stare in disbelief. "I'm sorry." He could think of nothing more appropriate to say. "I am sorry."

* * *

"I'm sorry ... " Spock shook his head to bring himself back to the present. This simply would not do. He went to his closet and got out got out a plain, black Vulcan robe. He was long overdue for a meditation session.

* * *

Two days later Spock was about to press the buzzer to his parent's quarters when the door opened as Sarek was leaving.

"Do you require something, Spock?"

Spock stepped to the side out of his father's path. "No, sir. I just came off duty and thought I would stop by to see if you required anything."

"I am about to embark on a walk around this deck as it is part of my exercise regimen prescribed by Dr. McCoy." He looked at his son assessingly. "Join me."

Spock quickly caught up to Sarek, who had left without waiting for Spock's response. "Are you experiencing any lasting effects from your surgery?" Spock asked as he walked beside his father.

"Nothing unexpected. I still feel muscle twinges from time to time, but they are controllable. Are you still on restricted duty?" Sarek asked turning towards his son.

"No. I returned to full active duty this morning," Spock replied.

"I see." Since Vulcans aren't accustomed to small talk, the men continued their walk in silence. As they approached the observation lounge Spock suggested they tour it, to which Sarek readily agreed. It was pleasing to see that they had the room to themselves, since finding privacy was rather difficult with so many extra people aboard. As father and son stood side by side watching the stars pass by, Sarek attempted to draw Spock into conversation once again. "When do you go on duty again?"

"I am scheduled to report to the bridge in 1.26 hours."

"Indeed? Did you not say that you had just come off duty?" Neither of them took their eyes off the transparent wall before them.

"Actually, my regular duty ended 7.74 hours ago. I then worked in the labs for some time."

Sarek looked at his child critically. In his opinion Spock looked a little weary, no doubt from trying to catch up from the time he was confined to sickbay. "Your mother would say you are working too hard. Do you not require rest?"

"I am finding rest difficult to achieve lately, and Mother worries too much."

Sarek looked at his son with amusement in his eyes. "Yes, it is her way."

Spock returned the look. "You would think her exposure to our people would have helped her overcome such illogical tendencies."

Sarek's face became serious as he resumed his stargazing. "It is not only Human parents who worry about their children." He debated with himself for several minutes before finally giving in to his curiosity. "Spock, are you satisfied with your position as a scientist in Star Fleet? Do you still believe that it offers more than a position with the Vulcan Science Academy would have?"

Spock steeled himself for the same old debate and looked unflinchingly in Sarek's direction as he replied. "I am very satisfied with the path I chose. Already during my time with Star Fleet I have had more experiences ... been a part of more scientific discoveries, than I ever could have if I had stayed on Vulcan. I have no regrets."

For once it was Sarek who avoided Spock's gaze. "Then you are fortunate, my son. In recent months I have found many things that I regret."

Spock looked sharply at Sarek. He was quite surprised to hear his father admit to something like that and waited in silence in hopes that he would elaborate.

"Is it possible to have tea here?" Sarek took a seat at the table nearest to them.

Spock was taken aback by the unexpected request. "Certainly. I'll get it." He went to the replicator located in the lounge and ordered two cups of Theris-masu tea, a Vulcan blend. He handed one mug to Sarek before taking the chair opposite his father with his own tea.

Sarek sipped cautiously at the hot liquid and murmured a quiet, "Good," before resuming a contemplative silence.

After several minutes it was broken as suddenly as before. "I heard about what occurred at your ku'nat kali'fee. Your mother and I were off-world at the time, otherwise I would have been there."

Spock became absorbed in watching his tea. "As it turns out, you didn't miss anything."

Sarek also kept his eyes cast down, allowing both of them a semblance of privacy. "The ku'nat kali'fee is supposed to be a gratifying moment, where you finally become one with the woman chosen for you. I am uncertain where my logic went wrong, but it is apparent I failed you in this regard, my son. Forgive me."

Spock looked up at Sarek in disbelief. There was no logic in Sarek feeling responsible for Spock's failed marriage and yet his voice was filled with obvious regret. "You could hardly know how a seven year old girl would act as a grown woman. No one could have predicted T'Pring's behavior."

Sarek met Spock's gaze earnestly. "No, but her actions were deplorable nonetheless. She shamed her Clan and herself. And she insulted you and our House by her actions. You acted honorably, my son. Moreso than many would under those circumstances." He let his eyes wander to the stars once more. "Your mother was against the bonding. I should have listened to her more closely, but I had ... concerns, and I had wanted to ensure that when the time came you would not be unsettled in regards to finding a suitable mate. As you know, our biology does not allow for laxity in this regard and finding a mate during the fever is not ideal. I should have learned from my own experiences, however. Skon chose T'Rea for me, and while she was an adequate mate, it in no way compares to the depth of the bond I share with your mother ... a woman of my own choosing."

Spock sat in a stunned silence, unsure of what he should say in response. Never before had Sarek treated him like this ... as an equal ... a confidant.

Sarek suppressed a sigh and turned back to Spock. "That is why I have decided that I will not choose another mate for you. The choice should be yours, and as long as she pleases you then I shall accept whomever you choose."

The doors opened as a small group of delegates entered and took a table at the other end of the lounge. They were occupied by their own conversation, but the moment was spoiled for the two Vulcans. "I am to meet your mother for lunch. If I am late, she will be concerned." He stood as he prepared to leave. "Perhaps ... we can find time for a game of Kal'toh before I return to Vulcan."

Spock bowed his head respectfully. "That would be most welcomed. I await your convenience, Father."

Sarek nodded then left the lounge without another word.

* * *

... She slowly crawled over his body until she was straddling his hips, then took him inside her with one quick thrust.

He grabbed her shoulders to hold her away from him, but did not move her from his body. For a moment they stared into each other's eyes. There was confusion in his, uncertainty in hers, but desire in both. A part of his mind told him to stop this, but his body did not obey. He was being bombarded by a barrage of physical and emotional sensations that were unfamiliar to him. He couldn't sort through them and a part of him didn't want to bother.

Christine smiled seductively when she saw that he wouldn't refuse her. She reached up to take his hands from her shoulders and pinned them to the mattress beside his head. When she resumed sliding slowly up and down his shaft, Spock closed his eyes and moaned softly. She lay back down upon him and placed tiny kisses upon his lips.

"We can not ..." he murmured.

"Shhh ... we can," she chuckled huskily. "We are." She placed a trail of kisses from his lips across his jaw and began to suck and nip his ear while continuing to pump him. "I can make you feel better. Do you want me to?"

Spock didn't answer her, but turned his head to give her better access to the tip of his ear, where he was most sensitive. He freed his hands and ran them down her length and gripped her hips to encourage her to move faster and harder. She complied and sat up to be able to thrust down on him with force. As his climax was building, he met her thrusts with his own, and while keeping one hand on her hip to guide her, he reached up to find her meld points with the other.

He was not prepared for the intensity of her desire. Now both were breathing hard and the cabin was filled with the sounds of their moans and passionate whispers. Their thrusts became frenzied, animal-like, as instinct led them towards their release. She was close. He could sense it in her thoughts as well as through the tightening of her vaginal walls around his penis. When she climaxed, it felt as though static electricity flowed between them. He gripped her hips and thrust into her hard, lifting them both off the bed. The pressure was building within his shaft as he prepared to spill his seed within her. His own orgasm was imminent.

"Ah!" Spock jerked up into a sitting position as he awakened from his dream. It was the same dream he'd been having for two weeks now, except each time their escapade went just a little further, but never to completion. His erection was painfully hard, throbbing, yet he was surprised a few moments later to realize he had his hand pressed tightly against it in an attempt to relieve the discomfort. His breathing was almost back to normal, and next he would have to find some way to ease his arousal. He had found lately that meditation was impossible to achieve until he could bring himself out of his fervid state, and he was far from that at this time. As he looked down at his hand grasping his swollen member, he was reminded of the things he'd heard the other male members of the crew discuss, usually in vulgar and humorous references, and called by many different names. However, human males did apparently find it an efficient method of easing such states, but ... no, he couldn't do that. With a frustrated sigh Spock threw back the covers to employ another human method of easing arousal, a cold shower.

* * *

Sarek entered his cabin to see his luggage, along with his wife's, lined up against a wall by the door waiting to be beamed down to Babel. Amanda came out of the bedroom appearing distracted and looked startled when she saw Sarek standing in the room.

"Is everything in order, my wife?" Sarek asked as he presented his fingers in the traditional Vulcan embrace.

Amanda brushed her fingers against his as she answered, "I think so. I've been through these quarters three times and haven't found anything left behind. Well, if I did forget something we'll probably find it on the way back to Vulcan. Spock says the quarters are being reserved for the diplomats that are already occupying them, so we'll be back here on the trip home."

Sarek nodded in agreement as he was already aware of that fact. "We are scheduled to beam down in 10.73 minutes. Have you had the opportunity to take your leave of our son?"

Amanda glanced in the mirror on the wall to add some finishing touches to her hair. "No ... I thought he would have stopped in to say good-bye by now." She watched her husband's reflection in the mirror. "Have you seen Spock lately?"

"No, however, I am certain he is preoccupied by his duties. No matter. There will be time to visit before we return to Vulcan." Sarek took a moment to quickly review his itinerary PADD while he waited for Amanda to finish her primping.

"Hmmmm ... I suppose that's probably it. He certainly seems distracted ... and tired." She placed her hand on Sarek's arm to get his attention. "Do you think he's feeling all right?"

Sarek closed out his schedule program and grabbed Amanda's wrap to assist her in putting it on. "He has not indicated otherwise."

"True, but he probably wouldn't anyway." She turned her back to Sarek so he could place the wrap around her shoulders. She chuckled as another thought crossed her mind. "Maybe I should mention our concern to Christine. Then she could stop by his quarters every so often to check up on him."

Sarek laid the wrap on his wife's shoulders then kept his hands there as he talked to her. "Amanda, I want you to promise not to interfere in this. We may or may not be correct in our assumptions about Spock's regard for this woman, but even if we are correct, it is a private matter and they do not need you interfering."

"I am not interfering," Amanda objected, "I'm ... facilitating."

"Now you are rationalizing." He smiled slightly as he held out his paired fingers. "Attend, my wife ... our son is capable of handling his own concerns."

The door buzzer sounded, ending their conversation, as two Enterprise crewmembers arrived to carry their bags and escort them to the transporter room.

* * *

Spock entered his cabin wearily. Finally they were at Babel and the delegates would be on the surface for the next week debating on whether to admit Coridan to the Federation. During that time there was very little for him to do other than attend a few receptions as a representative of Star Fleet. Other than that, his normal duties would be minimal, giving him plenty of free time to rest and re-energize himself. Eager to relieve his mental weariness first, Spock knelt in front of his fire pot and began his meditation exercises. The first step was to find peace within himself. Only when he was relaxed and content could he then objectively consider his troubles and find a logical solution to resolve them. He quickly drifted into the other state where he was one with his mind, with his thoughts, and he finally began to feel centered once again. He was completely relaxed, floating in another realm. For him this often took the form of Vulcan, and he currently found himself at the foot of Gol, preparing to watch the adepts perform their morning rituals.

First they filed out of the mountain sanctorum and formed a semi-circle around a large fire pit in the clearing. Next the two eldest masters came forth to sprinkle some mah'ta into the fire causing the flames to leap up and change color as they recited the prayer to Oekon, the Vulcan God of spirituality and salvation. Spock looked at them, one by one, with their eyes closed and heads bowed in concentration. Then one particular adept caught his eye and he focused only on her. She was deeply involved in her chants, head swaying side to side as she pledged herself to her deity. Her swaying became more exaggerated until finally she threw her head back, lost in the strength of her faith. Spock's breath caught in his throat as he saw the identity of this Gol Adept. It was impossible! She couldn't be here ... on Vulcan, at Gol. Her hair, long and blowing free in the wind, was dark, not blonde, but there was no mistake; it was Nurse Chapel standing there among the adepts. She was dressed in the long, sheer gowns customary for the Gol adepts, just as she had appeared in his viewscreen a few days earlier. Suddenly she stopped her swaying and opened her eyes to stare directly in Spock's direction. Once again she slowly lifted her arms to beckon him to join her, only this time he could hear her soft melodic voice whisper his name ... "Spock ..."

Spock opened his eyes and fell back onto his posterior dejectedly. Was there no where he could escape his iniquitous thoughts of the head nurse? When would this madness end? Since meditation was unsuccessful and sleep no longer appealed to him, Spock decided to make productive use of his remaining off-duty time and attend to some projects down in the labs.

It was the middle of the night cycle on ship, so the corridors were mostly empty, as would the labs be. Spock often preferred to work at this time, just to avoid the constant chatter from the other life science department members as they all worked on various projects.

He entered Lab 4, eager to focus his mind on something useful, when he noticed Christine Chapel sitting at one of the tables looking diligently into a microscope. His first instinct was to leave, but instead he remained to take advantage of a rare opportunity to observe the nurse alone and unaware of his presence. She was dressed in the standard lab overalls, her hair pulled back into a tight bun to keep it from contaminating any samples. She looked away from the scope briefly to jot a few notes on her PADD, but otherwise stared constantly into her scope. Spock noticed the large plant beside her on the table, kept in a sealed glass container to protect the crew from its harmful effects. She was studying the Omicron Ceti III spores, looking for a way to benefit from the curative properties of the spores without suffering from the mind-altering effects. He knew she had been working diligently on this project, putting in many long hours, including her off duty hours. Her work ethic and dedication to others was not typical of most of the humans Spock had served with and he found himself admiring her selflessness.

Spock had known very few women like her in his life. His mother, of course, was just as giving, but then any wife of Sarek's would almost have to be, in his opinion. Then there was T'Pring, who was willing to forfeit another's life so she could have what, and whom, she wanted. And Leila Kalomi, the botanist on Omicron Ceti III who led him to be infected by the very spores that Christine was studying. He had known Leila quite well when they worked together on Earth several years ago. He knew then that she had romantic feelings toward him, and although he did find her to be quite intelligent and very beautiful, he was not inclined to reciprocate those feelings, even if he had not been bonded at the time. That was what she had found unacceptable about him; his Vulcan heritage which would not allow him to love her the way she wanted him to. So she took him to the spores to change him into the man she wanted him to be. She didn't mean him any harm, he knew that, and in all likelihood she probably thought she was helping him, but it was all due to an inability to accept him as he was ... as Christine did.

He was brought out of his contemplations when Christine suddenly sat back and with a frustrated sigh tossed her stylus onto the table. It was then that she looked up and saw him.

"Mr. Spock, is everything okay?" she asked in her professional tone.

Spock wished he had left when he had the chance. He was feeling much too unsettled for a late night encounter with the nurse, but to leave now would be rude. "I am well. You seem ... distraught. Do you require any assistance, Nurse?"

"Oh, no." She gestured to the plant sitting beside her. "Just another dead end is all, but there are still plenty of other possibilities to investigate."

Despite his earlier reluctance, Spock found himself taking the seat opposite Christine at the table. She passed over her report which he began to peruse. A moment later his concentration was interrupted by the whine of the small medical tricorder Nurse Chapel was waving over him. He put down the PADD and looked at her with suppressed annoyance. "I think you are emulating the good doctor a little too closely, Miss Chapel."

Christine put the device down. "Sorry, Mr. Spock. I was just checking. It's just ... you don't look ... well, like yourself, tonight."

Spock raised an eyebrow and responded dryly, "Then who would you say I look like, Nurse Chapel?"

Christine looked at him uncomprehendingly for a moment then smiled and lowered her eyes as she felt a blush crawl up her face. She was unaccustomed to his teasing. "I just want to make sure there are no problems from the Nityapushta… any side effects or anything."

Spock thought about his recent slumber difficulties, which he would not be sharing with anyone. "None that are of any consequence."

"During a drug trial all crewmembers are to immediately report any and all new symptoms to the medical staff regardless of the duration or innocuousness of such symptoms." She raised an eyebrow in Spockian fashion. "Star Fleet protocol."

Spock nodded solemnly. "Correct, Nurse." He suppressed a sigh. "I have been experiencing some ... disturbances with my sleep."

Christine pulled up a fresh page on her PADD and began to take notes. "What sort of disturbances: insomnia, dreams, frequent awakenings?"

"Dreams," he answered shortly.

"Okay, and do the dreams vary or are they recurring?"

"Recurring," he said, hoping she wouldn't ask for any more detail.

"Okay, and what day did the first dream occur, if you can remember exactly?"

"Of course, it was the night we departed Vulcan, after my father had his heart attack."

Christine paused in the middle of writing and look up at the First Officer. "Then you're saying it was the night before you received the drug for Sarek's surgery?" Spock realized the significance of this revelation. The drug wasn't causing the dreams to occur, which meant the problem lay with him. "Yes, so it is not of any consequence to the trial, as I said." He found this to be more disturbing than the dreams themselves.

Christine deleted the entries she had just made. "Well, it's not surprising considering everything what happened. It's difficult to finally realize that our parents are in fact mortal and will someday leave us."

Spock responded with crisp efficiency. "Nurse Chapel, I am a Vulcan. I have never held any illogical illusions about my father's mortality."

He could actually see her close herself off from him, and he regretted his brusque tone.

"Of course, Mr. Spock, I apologize. Perhaps it would be best if I retired for the night." She started to put away her supplies.

"Are you not going to start the next round of experiments with the spores? I could assist you, if you like." Spock realized that he didn't want her to leave, that in the short while they were talking he had managed to finally begin to relax, and he didn't want to lose this peace.

"That's not necessary, Commander, these can wait until tomorrow." She grabbed her PADD and headed for the door.

"Good night, Miss Chapel." He saw her pause and turn back to look at him. "Sleep well."

Christine thought she sensed something in his tone, something she'd never heard before, but dismissed it. "You too, Mr. Spock. Good night," then she left.

* * *

Amanda hummed to herself as she finished packing their bags to return to the Enterprise for their departure in the morning. She expected Sarek to arrive any minute then they would head to the Sanosh Inn for their last night on Babel. The Sanosh Inn was a tradition of sorts for the two of them. Every time they were sent to Babel they spent some time there. It was a rustic place, very simple, but appealed to them because of its rural location and lack of communications.

She heard the door open and sprang out to greet her husband. "You're late, but lucky for you I'm in a good mood and will forgive you now that you're here to sweep me away to our rendezvous."

Sarek stepped away from his desk, where he had been searching through some data discs, to greet his wife with the ozh'esta and accept a brief kiss upon his lips. "I am most fortunate to have such an understanding wife." His gaze swept over his desk once again. "Have you moved the data disc containing the trade estimates for the various Federation planets?"

Amanda stiffened as she felt a disappointment coming on. "I don't think so." She watched her husband search through his papers for the missing data disc. "Are you ready to take me to lunch or not?"

Sarek gave his wife an apologetic look. "No. I must return to the council chambers. The debates are running longer than we had anticipated. In fact, at this rate, I do not expect to be able to keep our reservation for tonight."

"Sarek, no ..." Amanda turned away until she could control her initial emotional reaction and speak in a fairly calm manner. "Sarek, it's our 40th anniversary, and ... it's been a long time since we've done anything special. I was really looking forward to tonight."

"As was I, Amanda. If it were my choice I would be with you, but it is not." He took her hands in his. "I regret having to disappoint you, t'hy'la. I promise that when we return to Vulcan we will do something 'special'. Anything you want."

Amanda took one look into those smoldering brown eyes and became disgusted with herself. It never failed, she always forgave him. "Okay, Sarek. I understand all about your duties, but I hope you don't mind when I say that I'm glad this will be the last time I'll have to worry about it."

"Of course, Amanda, I understand." He decided that now most certainly was not the best time to mention that, with his heart condition repaired, he was now reconsidering his retirement. "Are you sure you did not move my data disc?"

Amanda clasped her hands together and shrugged noncommitally. "Not that I know of. Unless it got mixed in with mine." She stepped over to the viewer by the couch to search through her discs. After a brief search she held one up for him to see. "I believe this is what you're looking for."

"That is the one." Sarek went to take his disc from her, but before he grasped it she held it out of his reach. He looked at her suspiciously. "May I have my disc, please?"

Amanda raised an eyebrow at him and answered haughtily, "No."

Sarek didn't bother to suppress his sigh, he knew that look. "Amanda, I do not have time for your games today. I must get back to the debates immediately." He again attempted to take his disc back, but again she backed away.

This time she couldn't hide her grin. "Well, I guess, once again, it's not your choice, is it?"

This time Sarek didn't bother to ask but again tried to take the disc back from her. Amanda expected this and attempted to stay out of his reach, but when Sarek grabbed her arm to hold her steady she had no choice but to turn her back to him and quickly stuff the disc into her brassiere. Amanda spun back around and looked at her husband defiantly.

Sarek stopped, stunned, "Where did you learn an unsophisticated move like that?"

"My mother ... and it's not unsophisticated," she replied indignantly. She crossed her arms across her chest. "So, what are you going to do now, Ambassador?"

Sarek considered his options then came to a decision. "Then you leave me no choice but to force you to give me the disc."

"Force me?" Amanda laughed disbelievingly, "using your brute strength?"

Sarek slowly shook his head and allowed a small smile to touch his lips. "No, Amanda, it will require very little strength on my part." He began to slowly approach her, hands held up in front of his chest, trying to get close enough to touch his wife.

Amanda's face became serious. "No ... ..Sarek, no." He kept approaching, undeterred. "Don't do it." His only response was a raised eyebrow. Desperate, Amanda tried to flee only to find that the couch blocked her path, so she attempted to quickly scramble over it to safety, but Sarek was too quick.

The Ambassador grabbed his wife and pushed her onto her back on the couch, then he straddled her legs and began running his fingers quickly over her ribs and sides. Amanda was very ticklish.

* * *

Spock rode the lift up to the tenth floor of the Bakarah Hotel, where his parents' suite was located. He found the correct door and was about to sound the buzzer when he heard some sort of commotion inside followed by what was obviously his mother's scream. Quickly, he entered the code Amanda had given him earlier and rushed in to see what was the matter. He was quite surprised to see his father's profile over the top of the couch.

"Are you going to give it to me?" Sarek asked his wife for the tenth time.

"No! Please ... stop ... I can't breathe ..." He saw Sarek sit back, giving what was obviously Spock's mother a rest. "May I have it now, Amanda?"

He could hear his mother panting as she tried to regain her breath. "No."

Sarek shook his head ruefully. "Then you leave me no choice." He leaned back over her and Spock could see them moving about as Amanda struggled against her much stronger husband.

"Stop!" she screamed, but this time Spock could clearly tell that she was laughing as much as she was screaming.

"I am quite serious, Amanda, I need it right now."

Spock's eyebrows spiked up his forehead. He quickly, and loudly, cleared his throat before the situation could become any more awkward.

Sarek heard the noise and quickly leapt off his wife to stand contritely by the couch. He was only mildly relieved to see that it was his son that had witnessed his less than dignified behavior.

A moment later, a red-faced Amanda stood up and began straightening her clothes. "Spock, what brings you here?"

Spock looked from one parent to the other slowly. "Am I ... interrupting something?"

"She took my data disc," Sarek quickly supplied to which Amanda tsked then reached down her blouse to pull out said data disc.

She slapped it into Sarek's awaiting hand and muttered to him, "Spoilsport."

"Thank you," was his only response to her, then he went over to his desk to collect a few more things. "I am now very late for a meeting. Did you need something, Spock?"

"No," Spock said slowly as he stared at his parents and wondered if Babel could somehow be a portal to another dimension, "I was just visiting."

"Well then, since your father has decided to dump me tonight, how would you like to take your mother out to dinner?"

"I already have dinner reservations with Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy, if you would care to join us. Or I could cancel and make other plans."

Amanda was touched by the offer. "No, go out with your friends. If I know you, this is probably the first time you've stepped off that ship since we've been here ... so enjoy yourself." She saw Sarek heading towards the door. "Wait a minute, buster."

Sarek stepped back to allow the doors to close and watched as his wife approached. When she did, she captured his eyes with hers and never left them as she reached into his tunic to pull out his bank card. Sarek's face registered no response.

"If you're not taking me out, then I'm going shopping."

Sarek watched her a moment before resigning himself to his fate. He spared a quick, helpless look to Spock, who was studying this whole scene intently. "Understood, my wife." He quickly brushed his fingers over her lips then left before she thought of any other demands.

* * *

Amanda was sitting alone at a small sidewalk cafe table, waiting for her lunch to arrive. She was engaging in a little people watching when a familiar figure came into view. "Christine!" she called out to the Head Nurse, then beckoned her over when she had her attention.

It took a few minutes for Christine Chapel to work her way through the crowd, but finally she managed to reach the Ambassador's wife. "Mrs. Sarek, it's nice to see you again. Everything going okay for you?"

"Amanda, please. Everything is fine, too fine, if you ask me. As you can see my husband is once again locked in some council chamber leaving poor little old me to fend for myself."

Christine didn't buy the wounded look for a second. "Somehow I think you manage just fine on your own."

Amanda smiled. "I suppose I do all right ... especially since the alternative is to sit and listen to a bunch of stuffy politicians drone on all day about nothing of any interest to me." She took a sip of her iced tea. "Hmmm, except for Sarek, of course."

Christine laughed out loud. "Oh, of course. That goes without saying."

Amanda smiled at her companion. "Do you have some free time, Christine?"

"Yes, the rest of the day, in fact."

"Great! Then you must stay and have lunch with me, my treat, and afterwards we can do a little shopping." She raised her hand to flag down a waiter without even waiting to hear Christine's acceptance.

* * *

'A little shopping, she says,' Christine thought to herself four hours later as she followed Amanda into yet another one of the little boutiques that the Ambassador's wife seemed to be quite fond of. This particular shop seemed to specialize in glasswares, many of which were very elegant and beautiful. Christine listened to Amanda converse with the shopkeeper in his native language. On shore leaves she preferred to leave the translator off so she could experience more of the local culture, and generally those people who dealt with Star Fleet ships visiting on leave tended to have some grasp of Standard, so it wasn't a problem. While she listened to the exchange, understanding none of it, she began to explore the store's merchandise. Almost immediately she zeroed in on a beautifully-made crystal blue vase with various intricate designs engraved around the outside. It was a magnificent piece of work, nothing like she had ever seen before. She was so wrapped up in looking at the vase that she didn't realize Amanda had stopped talking to the shopkeeper until she was standing right next to Christine and spoke.

"Oh, my, that is beautiful, isn't it?" Amanda traced some of the designs delicately with her fingers.

"I wonder if it's native?" Christine asked, still holding the vase reverently.

"Let's ask." Amanda called the man over and they spoke briefly before she turned back to Christine. "Yes, it's native. He says that piece was handmade here on Babel by an artist that lives several parsecs away. He says it's an original, because the artist only uses each mold once then he destroys it so he can never create the same piece twice." She watched Christine turn the vase over and over in her hands as she examined each part of the design carefully. It was obvious that she was in love with the work. "You're going to buy it, aren't you?"

Christine looked at the bottom for the price -- five hundred credits. "Ooh, I don't think so." She placed the vase back on its shelf with obvious regret.

Amanda looked at her with disbelief. "Why not, if you like it so much?"

Christine shook her head doubtfully. "It costs more than I'm comfortable with spending on a vase. Besides, it would be so easy for it to be broken on the ship with ion storms and whatnot."

Amanda looked at her consideringly. "Okay, if you're sure." Amanda waited a moment to see if Christine would change her mind. She could tell she already regretted not getting this vase, but apparently her decision was firm. She watched Christine as the younger woman gave the vase one last lingering look then began to wander back towards the door to wait for Amanda.

Amanda again addressed the shopkeeper in his native tongue, who responded by nodding his head eagerly and smiling, then caught up with Christine to continue their shopping.

* * *

The next couple of hours were spent window shopping as they made their way through the commerce area of town, with a final stop at a beauty spa for a little pampering. Christine was absolutely exhausted and amazed by the stamina the elder woman still had. It had been a delightful day, Christine laughed herself silly over the stories Amanda told about her life on Vulcan, her adventures with Sarek, and Spock's childhood; and Christine in turn told Amanda more about her family, and her career.

"This was a real treat for me, Christine. I rarely get to indulge in 'girl talk' anymore. Thank you."

"It was my pleasure, Amanda." She hesitated before asking a question that had been on her mind for the past few years. "Is it ... lonely living on Vulcan?"

Amanda looked surprised. "Lonely? No, not at all. I have Sarek and our family there, and our friends we spend time with. Why would you think it's lonely?"

Christine felt a blush crawl over her cheeks. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pry. I guess I just thought that maybe it was difficult to live among Vulcans because of their opinion of humans?"

"And what is the Vulcan opinion of humans, Christine?" Amanda asked.

The women maintained their walking pace as the discussion continued. "Well ... that we're ... emotional, uncontrolled ... child-like, I suppose."

Amanda nodded thoughtfully. "Uh-hmm. How many Vulcans have you known, Christine?"

"Well, I've met a few. I guess Spock is the only one I've had an opportunity to speak with to any personal degree ... and even that isn't much, of course."

"So Spock told you that's what Vulcans think?" She rolled her eyes. "Well, Spock's full of it. I mean, there are Vulcans who feel that way, and don't think their people should have any dealings with Earth, but they are in the minority. And regardless of how my son may carry on about the inferiority of humans, he doesn't mean it. It's his way of teasing. He gets it from his father."

"Oh, I never thought that he was--"

"Don't worry about it. You have to remember that Vulcans are not all the same. Just like humans are very different from each other. Now, Sarek and Spock tend to be more logical, follow Surak's teachings more strictly, than some do, but not nearly as strictly as others. Then there are some that don't follow it at all, but that is very rare, and most follow some form of a logical philosophy. There are even Vulcans who will smile or laugh a little, if they feel it is a logical response to a given situation. Logic is very much a matter of interpretation, but because of IDIC, they will tolerate each other as long as one does not cause harm to another, or incite violence or something of that nature." They were still traveling along the rows of stores when Amanda suddenly turned down a little side ally, catching Christine by surprise. "There a little store down here I need to go to."

"I take you've been to Babel before?" She hadn't even been aware that there were stores down these little alleys. They certainly weren't well advertised.

"Oh yes, countless times for one debate or another. We actually like it here very much. It's sort of a ... romantic get-a-way for us. Here it is."

The store Amanda had been seeking was a tiny, obscure place displaying various ladies lingerie. Christine glanced at the sign on the door: Kink's. Christine's eyebrows raised in surprise but she decided it would be wiser to say nothing.

Amanda stopped in front of the window to look over the wares. "Ooh, look at this one." She looked at the younger woman assessingly. "You should buy this. It would look great on you."

Christine looked at the garment in question. It was a lovely black two-piece peignoir set. The gown was V-necked with spaghetti straps and a lace bodice leading down to an ankle length full sweep. The matching robe came with sheer sleeves and a lace body. It was exquisite in its simplicity. "It's very beautiful, but I don't really have cause to wear it."

Amanda gave her a doubtful look. "Surely there's someone you can think of you might want to wear this for?"

Christine's face took on a wistful expression, which did not go unnoticed by Amanda. "Hmm. Nobody who'd appreciate it."

"You never know. He might surprise you."

Christine blushed furiously as she realized she'd been thinking of this woman's son. She smiled politely. "I suppose it couldn't hurt to be prepared. Are you going to buy one?"

Amanda pretended not to notice her discomfort. "No, but I do need to go in there. I've got plenty of lingerie, but I want to look for a few, uh, accessories." She saw a shocked expression cross the nurse's face as she opened the door to allow Amanda to enter first. "Christine, you don't stay happily married for forty years without learning to spice things up now and then."

It took several moments before Christine remembered to move out of the doorway.

* * *

"Not a bad little planet, as shore leaves go," Dr. McCoy surmised as he, the Captain, and the First Officer walked to the Restaurant Bahz for dinner.

"No, not bad, but it could use a little more exciting night scene. What do you think, Spock?" Kirk asked behind him, where the Vulcan was trailing his friends.

"I think that the facilities here are more than adequate and that you and Dr. McCoy are insatiable sensualists." Spock's teasing was rewarded by laughter from both his companions. He noticed that neither one bothered to deny the allegation.

They entered the restaurant and were promptly seated at a table for four in the center of the room. The dining room was quite full and bustling with activity. The men took their seats and began perusing the menus.

"Well I dunno, Jim, but I think the night life is about to get a little more interesting tonight. Take a look over there."

"What's that ... oh." Jim's voice sounded genuinely surprised causing Spock to look up from his menu to see what had captured their attention.

He had suspected it would be women, and it was, but not the sort of women that usually catch his human companions' eyes. Sitting in a corner booth, across the room from them, was his mother and Nurse Chapel. They were seated across from each other, but leaning forward as they spoke, giving an impression that they were trading confidences. For reasons unknown to him, this made Spock uneasy. Spock's keen Vulcan hearing picked up snatches of their conversation. He did not intend to eavesdrop, but when he heard his own name, he couldn't help but tune in their words. The message was somewhat garbled.

"When Spock… in the yard… buck naked… Sarek trying to catch him… little green tushy… neighbors were… Sarek tried to… Spock thinking it was a game… got camera…"

"I'd loved to have seen that," Christine said.

"Might just have a holopic with me…" his mother's voice.

The ladies leaned back as they laughed and Spock's eyebrow went up as he saw his mother begin rummaging through her handbag. He had no idea what the word "tushy" meant, but he had no intention of his mother showing it to Nurse Chapel. "Perhaps we should join them?" Spock said as he began collecting the menus.

"Wait a minute, Spock," Jim said as he wrestled his menu back from the Vulcan's hands. "Aren't you being presumptuous? It looks to me like they're having a good time without us. What makes you think they want our company?"

"Yeah, what's the matter, Spock? Afraid they're talking about you?" McCoy provoked.

"Of course not, Doctor," but Spock realized that was exactly what he was afraid of, especially since he knew for a fact that they were talking about him. "I just thought it would be inconsiderate not to say hello, since we know they are here."

"Well, I think it would be more inconsiderate to interrupt their evening. Besides, this place is packed and I don't want to risk losing our table." Jim Kirk was used to his men following his wishes, and tonight was no exception.

They ordered and passed the time engaging in some idle chit-chat until the meals arrived, everyone but Spock, that is. The First Officer remained quiet, except when prompted for a response, and every time Jim looked his way he found the Vulcan's attention was on the ladies' table. When the meals arrived and Spock was still preoccupied with the other table, Kirk gave up. "Okay, Spock. We'll go say hello. A quick hello. Maybe then you can join us here, in mind as well as body."

"Yes, sir." Spock had to restrain himself to wait for the Captain to precede him.

Jim Kirk worked his way through the restaurant with his friends in tow. As he grew closer to the table, Christine noticed their arrival, more specifically she noticed who was right behind him, and she didn't seem particularly pleased to see him.

Jim flashed his most charming smile and tried not to feel like an ass. "Good evening, Nurse Chapel, Amanda. How nice to see you both here." He wasn't succeeding. He felt like an ass. There was no reason for them to be over here.

"Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy ... Spock," Amanda nodded a greeting to each of the visitors. "I hope you are all enjoying your free time on Babel."

"We always enjoy shore leave, ma'am, no matter where it is." McCoy grinned, laying on the southern charm. "Of course, it's always more enjoyable in the presence of beautiful ladies."

The women smiled politely at the compliment, then there was an awkward moment when everyone was silent.

"You appear to have been successful on your shopping expedition, Mother," Spock said indicating the bags sitting beside her in the booth.

"Indeed. It's so refreshing to finally find someone able to keep up with me when I shop." She addressed all the humans to explain. "Even Sarek gets impatient after the first few hours."

"Then you will be returning to the ship soon?" he asked, a tinge of hopefulness creeping into his voice.

Amanda raised an eyebrow at the eagerness in her son's tone. She considered his words, then responded slowly and deliberately, using her most engaging smile. "I haven't decided yet. Christine and I were considering checking out some of the local drinking establishments. Is that all right with you, son?"

"Of course," Spock said, abased. "You obviously do not need my approval. I was just unsure whether it was ... safe for you to be walking around planetside at night, unescorted." Amanda noted that he was shifting his weight from one foot to the other. It stopped almost as soon as it started, but she knew what it meant. She had learned to read every microtwitch that both Sarek and Spock made. Sarek clenched his fists lightly when he was upset or uncomfortable with something. Spock moved his weight from foot to foot when something was bothering him.

Kirk and McCoy gave Spock sidelong glances. Babel was one of the safest ports in the Federation, with the most security. Maybe Spock was just being overprotective of his mother since the Orion attack on the Enterprise.

"I'm sure we'll both be fine, Spock. Unless ... you would like to escort us yourself?" Amanda couldn't resist at least one attempt to see him and Christine together, even though she had promised Sarek she wouldn't push.

Spock glanced over at the nurse, who was staring into her pasta dinner. "No, I don't think that will be necessary."

There was another brief silence until Amanda decided to take another approach. "I'm sure we could make room for everyone, if you'd care to join us."

Kirk started to decline but before he could finish his thought his First Officer spoke over him. "Yes. That would be most pleasing."

Four pairs of eyes stared at him in surprise because everyone, except Spock apparently, knew that it wasn't really an offer, that she was just being courteous. "Okay," Amanda said as she slid out of the booth and began moving all of the packages, while McCoy went over to slide in on Christine's side, once she had moved into the middle. Meanwhile Kirk spoke with a waiter about bringing their meals over to this table and Spock stood patiently waiting for his mother to arrange her pile of packages next to their table. She scooted to the center of the booth and Spock took his place next to her. Kirk plopped down next to McCoy. It was a tight squeeze, and not particularly comfortable, but it would do.

What Spock hadn't considered was that his eyes would be drawn magnetically to the object of his recent fixation. Spock tried to concentrate on the small talk that Captain Kirk was making with his mother and Nurse Chapel, but found himself distracted. He looked down at the tablecloth briefly, then around the room, then back at Christine who was smiling at Kirk's words. Spock had never seen her dressed in anything other than a Star Fleet uniform. Now she wore a deep blue gown that clung to every curve of her body, and her hair was worn down in a soft style. Spock looked back around the room, as if searching for the waiter.

"Isn't that right, Spock?" the Captain's voice brought his eyes back to the table. Spock had been so distracted that he had no idea which of his many "tall tales" the Captain had been telling the two women.

"Yes, Captain. I believe that is correct," Spock replied, trying once again to aim his attention at the conversation. McCoy snorted with derision.

"Well now. I never thought I'd see the day that you admitted you were wrong, Spock," McCoy drawled. Wrong? Well, that hardly seemed likely. Unfortunately Spock had no clue about the nature of the discussion. Deciding that any further attempts on his part would only worsen his situation, he relied on his standard response to Dr. McCoy's ribbing. Spock raised one eyebrow with as much dignity as he could muster. Everyone else at the table burst into laughter, which only made Spock arch his eyebrow even higher. Out of the corner of his eye he saw that Christine was holding her sides as she laughed. The peel of her laughter was a surprisingly pleasant sound to his ears.

The meals were finally redelivered and everyone resumed eating, giving Spock something besides Nurse Chapel to focus his attention on.

The meal was finished in relative silence, then coffee was ordered. The waiter brought Spock a pot of tea.

"Anyone in the mood for dessert?" Jim asked as he perused the dessert menu. "Looks like they've got Banana's Foster, with a touch of Rigellian rum in it."

"I'm game. How about you, Christine? Want to split something sinful?" Amanda wanted to bring the younger woman out of her shell a little. She couldn't help but wonder exactly what was causing her to be so quiet. She had been absolutely engaging all afternoon.

"Something sinful… and chocolate!" Nurse Chapel said decisively.

"That's what I like to hear," Amanda responded enthusiastically.

"Let's see… there's white chocolate mousse…" Kirk told them.

"Please, Captain. Real chocolate. The dark stuff," Christine told him. Amanda nodded in agreement.

"Okay, how about the Triple Chocolate Torte. It says that it's a chocolate lover's dream," Kirk read from the menu.

"Sounds like it's for us then," Amanda said as she looked at Christine to gauge her preference.

"Sounds wonderful," Christine said.

"What about you, Doctor?" Kirk asked.

"I think I'll try some of that Rigellian rum thing. Besides, I like it when they set things on fire right at the table," McCoy said. Kirk motioned for the waiter, who arrived promptly.

"Have you decided on dessert, sir?" the waiter asked.

"I think so. We'll have a piece of Triple Chocolate Torte with two forks for the ladies, one Banana's Foster, and I'll have the white chocolate mousse. What about you, Spock?"

"If it is acceptable, I would like to try a bite of the Triple Chocolate Torte," he said looking at his mother and Christine for permission.

"Well, I suppose we could let you have a bite," Amanda teased her son. "What do you think, Christine?"

"Well, since it's just this once. A small bite," Christine teased Spock as well, who simply raised an eyebrow at the two of them.

"Make it three forks then," Kirk told the waiter who then disappeared to the kitchen.

The entire table watched the waiter flambé Dr. McCoy's dessert selection. Spock was always surprised at how fascinating fire could be, no matter how many times he looked at flames. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed that Christine's eyes positively glittered with the reflected light, and her expression was one of child-like delight.

The waiter placed McCoy's dessert in front of him with a flourish. Now everyone was served.

"Will there be anything else?" the waiter asked.

"Not right now," Kirk told him, jabbing a spoon into his white chocolate mousse. The others joined him, except for Spock who waited patiently with his fork. Amanda and Christine both speared the confection that sat between them on the table. Spock watched as twin expressions of ecstasy spread across their faces.

"Oh, my. That's good," Amanda managed finally. "Um, try some. But just a little," she cautioned, pushing the plate across to her son.

Spock meticulously sectioned off a sliver of torte and delicately took a bite. One eyebrow lifted in approval. It was excellent chocolate. He would have to make sure not to overindulge, or he would become inebriated for the rest of the evening. Chocolate had a mildly intoxicating effect on the Vulcan nervous system. "Very good," Spock commented as he slid the plate back between the two women, his eyes meeting Christine's briefly. "How is your dessert, Doctor?" he inquired politely, turning his attention to McCoy.

"Not bad. Damn shame they had to burn off all that fine Rigellian rum, though. Say, I thought that chocolate would make you drunker than a skunk, Spock."

"A skunk?" Spock repeated, raising his eyebrow incredulously. Kirk started laughing so hard he nearly spit out a mouthful of mousse. Amanda and Christine joined in the laughter.

Spock gave McCoy a withering look. "Doctor, I fail to see the logic in a Terran omnivore of the Mustelidae family consuming ethanol," Spock told him archly. "At any rate, my chocolate consumption should pose no immediate health risks." The rest of the table suppressed their laughter.

Amanda licked a shaving of dark chocolate off of her fork, then smiled softly at her discomfited son. "I remember the first time your father had chocolate," Amanda told Spock. "He ate so much of it, he could hardly stand up without nearly passing out. I couldn't figure out why he couldn't put together a coherent sentence."

"Sarek was incoherent?" Spock asked her curiously, despite the presence of the others. Vulcans did not normally gossip, but he had to admit that his father's behavior had been somewhat atypical since his heart attack. It was so unlike him, but Spock was beginning to wonder how much he actually knew about what was "typical" behavior for Sarek. Especially since they had only begun speaking openly to one another recently.

"Yes. Didn't know which end was up. When he walked right into the wall, I got so scared I called the Embassy's healer right away. Sasev wanted to know everything he'd eaten for the entire day. I started with dinner, which was all I knew about, and when I mentioned the word 'chocolate' Sasev came as close to a Vulcan having a fit as I've ever seen. I thought that I would have to rush Sarek to the hospital but Sasev said that it would wear off in two or three hours. Your poor father ended up sleeping on my couch and waking up with a horrible 'chocolate hangover.' Honestly, he never said a word to me about chocolate being toxic to his system, and I'd never read or heard anything like that either," Amanda smiled at the memory. "Your father learned to limit himself to a very small amount of chocolate every month or so." The humans at the table laughed at her story.

"Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan is a 'chocoholic.' Who would have ever thought?" Kirk commented with a smile.

"There's a lot about Sarek, about Vulcans…" Amanda looked pointedly at Chapel. "…that isn't obvious."

"Vulcans never cease to amaze me," McCoy said sarcastically.

"Indeed. As well they should, Doctor," Spock dead-panned.

Amanda's eyebrows both lifted in surprise. Was her son developing a sense of humor? Perhaps rediscovering it. She had forgotten until the moment Spock and Sarek had openly teased her in sickbay that there had been a time when gathering around the family dinner table had not been filled with tension between father and son.

"Why you arrogant, pointy-eared, green-blooded…" McCoy started, then stopped, sputtering into speechlessness.

Spock leaned back in his chair and the corner of his mouth twitched up a satisfied fraction or so.

"Gentlemen. Play nice now," Kirk admonished them. "There are ladies present, and we should be charming them senseless," Kirk smiled his most boyish, engaging smile at Chapel and Amanda.

"Uh, oh. Listen to this nonsense," Christine told Amanda.

"Nonsense?" McCoy jumped in. "I might be a simple country doctor, but know a pretty woman in a brand new dress when I see one," McCoy drawled, his accent much stronger than it had been just a minute ago.

Christine blushed slightly at his comment. "You mean now that your attention isn't taken up by Rigellian rum and flaming bananas," Chapel shot back at him, laughing.

"I am affronted, Miss Christine, that you are implyin' that I didn't notice your new dress and hairdo right away. In fact, the minute we walked in here my eyes were drawn to the two loveliest women in the place. I was so dazzled that I had to sit down for a minute at that other table just to compose myself. Why I thought that I would have to ask our esteemed Science Officer to check my vitals with his tricorder," McCoy laid it on.

Christine and Amanda both laughed at his performance. Spock sighed inwardly. He did not understand flirting behavior at all. He sat back to watch two experts in action.

"You ladies have outdone yourselves," Captain Kirk added.

"Why thank you, Captain," Amanda responded. "We bought some new clothes and went to a wonderful day spa. Then we decided to get gussied up and paint the town."

"Paint the town?" Spock asked. Neither of them was dressed appropriately for such a messy task.

"Get dressed up and go out and have a good time," his mother clarified.

"Ah." Spock commented.

"Well, we're certainly glad you did," McCoy told them. "I do believe that dress matches your eyes to a tee, Christine."

"Do you like it? We found it on sale at this bazaar that was tucked back on some side street,"

"It's gorgeous. I've never seen any material like it," Kirk said seriously.

"It's handspun here on Babel," Amanda supplied.

"Whatever it is, it looks like it's shimmering like a transporter beam," Kirk said, mesmerized by the material.

Spock cleared his throat and started to say something, but thought better of it. He looked up to find all eyes at the table on him. He looked back at them unblinking. He felt his mother's foot connect solidly with his shin under the table. Shocked, he looked her and she narrowed her eyes at him. It was her "teacher look" that she gave to students who were lazy or who misbehaved. He cleared his throat again, and looked at Christine. "I agree with the Captain's assessment," he said softly.

"What assessment is that?" McCoy prodded him mercilessly.

Spock looked at him mildly. "That it is 'gorgeous'. However, I find that I must disagree with your statement, Doctor."

"Oh?"

"Yes. I do not believe that it quite matches Miss Chapel's eye coloring." Spock looked over and noticed that she blushed slightly at his words.

Encouraged, he continued as he looked right at her. "I believe that the cyan component is too saturated. However, it is an aesthetically pleasing contrast." His eyes met Christine's and held for a moment before they both looked away.

"I agree," Kirk said quickly to cover the silence that was building.

"Well, I'm glad that it's a 'hit'," Christine told them, her eyes glancing at Spock. Had he just paid her a compliment? For just a second she had the impression that the corner of his mouth was raised in a half smile.

"I told you that it was perfect," Amanda beamed. "And it was practically a steal. Oh, here's the waiter with our check," she said reaching across Spock to take the check from the waiter. She didn't want Captain Kirk to attempt financial gallantry as well tonight. To her surprise, Spock deftly blocked her arm and took the check from the waiter and gave him his credit card.

"Very good, sir," the waiter said as he left.

"I knew it… that chocolate is starting to kick in. He'll be walking into the wall the next thing you know," McCoy said to no one in particular.

"Not at all, Doctor. I am simply showing my appreciation for an enjoyable evening. I'd like to thank each of you for a pleasant dinner."

"My word. Where did you learn to be so well-mannered?" Amanda asked, her blue eyes dancing with mischief.

"I am the son of the Vulcan Ambassador," Spock responded drolly.

Amanda smacked his arm but then smiled broadly at him. Spock stood and gestured for his mother to exit the booth. She smoothed out her dress and looked at her pile of packages. "Oh, dear. I think that this pile has grown since we've been sitting here," Amanda fretted.

"We can have them beamed directly to the ship for you, Mother," Spock told her.

"Oh, I hadn't thought of that. Well, as long as it isn't any trouble…"

"It is not. I assure you," Spock said as he automatically reached for his communicator.

The packages dissolved into a transporter beam a few moments later. McCoy offered Christine his hand as she too stood up. Spock swallowed hard. She was even more lovely standing up. The gown clung to every curve of her body. She smiled at Doctor McCoy and then brushed a strand of hair back from her face. "Well, gentlemen, thank you for a lovely evening," Christine told the three of them.

"It was our pleasure," Captain Kirk told her truthfully. It had turned out to be more fun than he had expected.

"Well, I don't know about you, Amanda, but I am beat. One more stop at the bookstore across the street and I think I'm done for the night," Christine told the older woman.

"Sounds like a plan to me," Amanda replied. "Now that I've got room to carry a few more things," she said with a wry smile.

"I think we're bein' dumped," McCoy told Spock sagely.

"It would appear so, Doctor," Spock replied.

"Enjoy your shore leave," Amanda told them as she took Christine's arm and headed toward the door.

Kirk looked after them as they sauntered away. "I'll be right with you gentleman just as soon as I take a bio-break," Kirk told Spock and McCoy as he looked around for the restroom.

** *

It was almost morning on the Enterprise. Alpha shift would be starting, and Spock was due on the bridge in approximately 20.68 minutes. First he wanted to ensure that his mother had arrived safely back from Babel, his father too. He was approaching their quarters when he spotted Sarek at the opposite end of the corridor, coming towards him. In his hands he held a rather extravagant bouquet of roses and an expensively wrapped gift. Spock waited beside the door for his father to reach him.

"Spock." He greeted his son with a nod of his head, and a bit of obvious impatience.

"Father." He looked pointedly at the flowers Sarek held then raised his eyebrow inquiringly. His father, however, ignored his silent question and stared at him impassively. "Ah ... I assume those are for Mother."

Sarek looked bored. "Your deductive reasoning is impeccable, son. If you have business with me, kindly tell me so. I am just now arriving from Babel, and am quite fatigued." "Yes, of course. Forgive me." He quenched his curiosity about the gifts and focused on his original purpose for coming here. "I was just checking--"

"Oooh, flowers!"

Both Vulcans turned to see Nurse Chapel approaching quickly. "They're so beautiful. What's the occasion?"

For once Spock was grateful for the human tendency to pry into personal affairs. He waited eagerly for Sarek's explanation.

Sarek looked from the woman to his son and back. His discomfort was palpable. "They are for my wife. We are commemorating out 40th wedding anniversary today."

"Oh, how romantic," she crossed her arms and looked from Sarek to Spock yearningly.

That look always made Spock tense, and this time was no exception. "Perhaps so, Miss Chapel, but hardly logical," he replied tersely.

He didn't notice Sarek tense up beside him. "It is always logical to keep one's bondmate satisfied, my son," he said brusquely, then quickly entered his room before Spock even had a chance to reply.

A feminine giggle made him turn back around. He scowled and raised his eyebrow sternly at his subordinate. "Are you not on your way to sickbay for Alpha shift?"

For some reason this made her laugh more, and Christine just nodded her head as she walked away leaving Spock to himself in the corridor.

He waited a moment for her to leave, then he pressed the buzzer and entered his parent's quarters when the door opened. What he saw then caused him to stop in his tracks, stupefied at the sight before him. His parents were locked in a passionate embrace, lips devouring each other, their bodies pressed together. Amanda had her arms locked around Sarek's neck and was running her fingers through his hair on the back of his neck, while Sarek had one arm wrapped around her waist, lifting her up to meet his lips, and his other hand was exploring her ... posterior. Never before had he seen his parents exhibit such passion, the most he ever saw was an occasional kiss his mother gave Sarek on the lips, and that was usually seen without his parent's knowledge. Coming to his senses, Spock quickly moved out of the door way to prevent anyone passing by from accidentally witnessing his parent's lewd behavior.

He had expected the sound of the door shutting would alert them to his presence, but obviously they were too preoccupied with each other to pay attention. Keeping his eyes downcast, to allow them some privacy, Spock loudly cleared his throat. He glanced up long enough to see his mother open her eyes and glance in his direction over his father's shoulder, then she quickly pushed away from Sarek, her face turning crimson with embarrassment.

"Spock ... uh ... we didn't hear you come in ... ." She was trying to stall to give Sarek time to perfect his control. "I trust you enjoyed your time on Babel? I had a very nice time last night." She looked over at her mate then down at her fidgeting hands. "Well, I guess I'd better get these in some water ... excuse me." She grabbed up her bouquet and left the room.

Sarek remained facing away from Spock for a moment, then turned around and looked at his son evenly, without a hint of embarrassment. Spock found that he could not return the gaze, in part because he was somewhat embarrassed about intruding on an intimate moment between his parents, but also because Sarek lips still wore the bright red evidence of what had transpired.

"Mother seems pleased with your flower selection," Spock said noncommittally as he walked over to the desk near Sarek and grabbed a tissue out of one of its drawers.

"Indeed." Sarek automatically took the tissue Spock handed him, but then looked from it to his son uncomprehendingly ... until Spock silently gestured to his lips. "Thank you, my son." Sarek worked at wiping Amanda's lipstick from his face. "It is sometimes difficult to notice if she is wearing this cosmetic."

"Well, it is certainly noticeable on you." Spock tried not to show his amusement at his father's expense and Sarek only acknowledged the barb with a nod of his head. "I assume she liked her gift as well?"

Sarek glanced in the direction his wife went, to make sure she was still out of ear shot, then spoke to his son quietly. "I have not given her the gift. It is hidden until a more appropriate moment." He hesitated as he considered how to approach his son. "I would like to request your assistance on a personal matter ... for your mother."

"Certainly," Spock curiosity was piqued, something his father seemed to be doing quite a bit lately. "What do you require?"

"I would like to arrange for a special dinner for your mother. Something elaborate, and private, but ... not here." He gestured to standard issue room around them. "Something larger and it will need to be decorated to create the right ... atmosphere. Cost is of no concern, of course, if you could arrange for the things we will need."

Spock nodded thoughtfully. "Cost is not the issue, availability is. I think I can manage to arrange something appropriate, however, since it is not Star Fleet business, I cannot order the crew to do this for us, so we will have to do the actual labor. Unless you order your aides to do it."

"No. I wish to do this personally. Just let me know when you have a room."

Spock acknowledged this, then turned to leave to report for duty, but his father called him back. "One more thing, Spock. This dinner is to be a surprise for your mother. I do not want her to know what we are planning."

"Surprise her?" His mother would not be the only one surprised by Sarek's actions. Vulcans didn't even celebrate such occasions as anniversaries, so obviously this was all for her benefit, but Spock could not recall his father ever acting this ... impetuous before. He was at a loss to explain the change.

"Yes, surprise her. Am I not speaking clearly, my son?" Sarek raised an eyebrow displaying a slightly amused expression. "We will need to find something to occupy your mother's time so she does not notice my absence."

"Yes," Spock nodded absently as he considered this new wrinkle. "I will see what I can do. I must report for duty now, Father, but I shall contact you at my earliest opportunity."

"Understood, my son." He held his hand up in the Vulcan ta'al to bid him good day.

Spock returned the gesture then went on his way to the bridge.

* * *

It was midway through Alpha shift when Spock entered sickbay for his biochem screening. Nurse Chapel was sitting at a desk watching the door, looking as though she were waiting for him. He stopped in the doorway and gave her a questioning look.

"There you are. Hop on up here and we'll get this done right away."

Spock complied, "I am not late, Nurse."

"No, I know that. I was ready to go to lunch a little early today, but wanted to wait to get this done first." She began running the tests.

"Surely one of the other nurses could have done this so you could take your break?" He caught himself staring at her as she worked and forced his eyes to focus elsewhere.

"Yes, I could have, but I've done all of them so far, and I didn't want to risk the procedure being altered by someone else." She kept her eyes focused solely on her instruments.

"Indeed. That seems logical. In any event, I am fortunate you chose to do so. I wanted to discuss something with you. A…personal matter." He watched her face for a reaction.

"Oh ... okay." Christine was careful to keep her face blank as she put her instruments away. "You're finished here, Mr. Spock." She remained by his side to assist him with getting off the bed, if he required it, but as usual he declined her help.

Spock assumed an 'at ease' posture as he chose his words carefully. "It has become apparent that you and my mother have become ... friends, of sorts."

"And you disapprove," Christine stated icily as she glared at the First Officer.

Spock started at her hostile tone. "I did not say that, Nurse. I only bring it up because I want to ask a favor of you, on behalf of my mother."

She watched his face for any signs of insincerity, but saw none. "I'm sorry, Mr. Spock," she said softly, "Of course I'd be happy to help in anyway I can. What do you need?"

"My father has decided to arrange for a ..." He sought for an alternative word to the one that came to mind ... romantic. " ... special dinner for my mother, to celebrate their anniversary. He wants it to be a surprise, so we need to find some way to make the preparations without her knowledge. I thought, since you two seem to enjoy spending time together, that perhaps you could keep her occupied for us?"

"Aw," she sighed softly. "I'd love to Mr. Spock. There's plenty of things for us to do here. Do you need help with anything else?"

"No. Now I must meet with the ship's Chef and Recreation Officer to attempt to persuade them to be as agreeable as you are."

"Well, that's easy enough." Christine waved as a few of her nurses came in from their lunch breaks.

Spock waited until they were alone again to continue. "Indeed? How is it 'easy enough', Nurse Chapel?"

"Well, all you need to do is give them something in return. Barter with them."

"What do I have to barter with, Nurse, that would interest two human males?"

"Well, if there's one thing that everyone on this ship wants, with the exception of you that is, is more leave time. As first officer you're in a position to grant that. In fact, I know that Brian has been trying to get leave for quite some time to go home for a while and visit his family."

"Asking for leave of duty to return home is more than asking for an extra day at our next leave destination. It is not something Star Fleet likes to grant often, and I need to present an adequate reason for authorizing it." The room was getting fairly busy with personnel and patients coming in and out, and Spock had to raise his voice a bit to be heard.

"Know what, it's not going to be any noisier in the corridor, and I have to go get my meal card anyway. So walk with me and we'll continue this."

Spock motioned for her to proceed him out of sickbay then walked beside her as they made their way towards her quarters. "I realize Lt. Sacra has been requesting this for many weeks now, but it is a large favor to ask for."

"True, but you're asking a rather large favor of him, are you not? I mean, isn't he responsible for making sure all the real food on the ship is accounted for? So, he's going to have to fudge the records a bit as well." Christine stopped and keyed in the code to her quarters. She got her card and when she turned around to leave again she was surprised to see that Spock had followed her into the room. He had only been to her quarters a couple of times in the three years she'd been on board, for the rare lab report he wanted from her immediately, but never had he crossed her threshold. He seemed to be lost in thought, and she wondered if he was even aware he had stepped into her room. "So ... what's on the menu?"

Spock snapped out of his silent deliberation. "I do not know. I am only negotiating his cooperation. My father will meet with him to plan the meal. I believe you are correct in your assessment of Mr. Sacra's situation. I shall propose this ... barter to him. I thank you, Miss Chapel, you have been most helpful." He bowed slightly to her then turned to go.

"You know," Christine said behind his back. "I never realized Vulcans were so quixotic."

Spock pursed his lips together thoughtfully, turned back to face the nurse, then quirked both his eyebrows up in the Vulcan equivalent of a shrug. "Neither did I." He left then, but not before noticing Christine's amused smirk.

* **

Sarek walked into Recreation Room 6 where Spock was already hard at work sliding the room divider in place. He had already moved all of the furniture and equipment into the side they weren't using. Spock looked over when he heard the doors open. "Soran left a box for you. It's on the table." He came over to help his father with the rest of the preparations. "Was your meeting with the ship's chef productive?"

"Indeed. He was most helpful. Was it difficult to reserve this room for us?" Sarek asked as he began looking through the box of items Soran left.

"No, however, I will need to go planetside when we reach Vulcan to procure a lirpa for the Recreation Officer." Reaching into the box, he asked, "What is this?" Spock held up a plastic replica of a male and female in wedding garb.

Sarek finished carefully unwrapping a set of engraved champagne glasses before he looked at what his son held. "Ah. That is a decoration that adorns the top of a Terran wedding cake. Our wedding cake, to be specific."

His mother had told him stories about their weddings, both the Earth and Vulcan ceremonies, but he had never seen any of these items before. He took a closer look at the plastic couple. "This man is Vulcan," Spock said with mild surprise.

"Yes. Your mother had it specially made, obviously."

Spock held the figurine up to show Sarek. "Did you dress like this, in a tuxedo?"

Sarek took the item from Spock and held it reverently in his hands. "No, I did not. I would have, if your mother had requested it, out of respect for her Terran customs, however, she told me to wear whatever I was most comfortable with. You must concur that this does not seem comfortable."

"Indeed. I find very little Human clothing appears comfortable, or practical."

"That is what I wore," Sarek said nodding to a garment bag hang over the back of a chair.

"You have it with you?" Spock picked up the bag and started to open it before remembering his manners. "May I?" Sarek gave assent with a nod of his head then began setting a table for him and his wife while Spock removed the garment from the bag. It was a traditional ceremonial robe, except Sarek had chosen a deep mahogany color, and the Clan's glyphs were embroidered down the front and around each sleeve in gold. It was quite heavy, made out of a plush material comparable to Terran velvet.

Spock looked over as his father placed a candle and single rose upon the table. "You are expending a great deal of effort for this anniversary celebration."

"Yes. I think your mother will be pleased." Sarek looked at the table critically, then at his son. "You do not?"

"I'm certain mother will be very pleased, but I do not understand why you are bothering to do all this now." Could his mother be of ill health, or perhaps this change has been brought on by Sarek's own brush with death?

"It is customary to do this on or around the date you were wed. I had originally planned to do so on Babel, but the debates took longer than expected, so there was no time." Sarek grabbed several discs out of the box and began programming a selection of music into the rec room's audio system.

"That is not what I meant. I mean why celebrate your anniversary now? You never have in the past."

"We have celebrated our anniversary every year we have been married. It is very important to your mother," he said distractedly as he continued to work on his programming.

Spock shook his head slightly, although his father did not see it. "I do not recall you ever celebrating any other year."

Sarek turned around and quirked an eyebrow at Spock. "Your attendance was not required, my son." He replaced the music discs in the box and pulled out a bottle of champagne. "I need some way to chill this."

Spock pulled a chill bucket from beneath the table. "This was here when I arrived. I assume the chef left it for you." He activated the device and handed it to Sarek, who placed it on a second table, which he pulled up next to their dining table, then put the bottle inside to chill.

The door opened as the ship's chef entered carrying a small, round, white cake. He placed it on the table next to the champagne. "Commander," he nodded a brief greeting to Spock them addressed his father. "Ambassador, here's your cake. Just keep it inside this dome until you're ready to serve. That will keep the icing nice and stiff. There's plenty of room inside for you to put the cake topper on now for display. Is there anything else you need?"

"No, Lieutenant. This will be all for now."

"In that case I will return here at precisely 17:30 with the dinners for you and your wife." He gave a brief nod to both Vulcans then departed.

Spock prepared to take his leave as well. "Is there anything else you need for tonight?"

Sarek looked over his work. "Just the correct lighting. Computer," He raised his voice to activate the ship's voice response system. "Reduce lighting by ... seventy five percent." Immediately the lights dimmed drastically, leaving only slightly more than the emergency lights to illuminate the room. He looked around the room one more time. "It will suffice."

"Computer," Spock spoke up, "projection against the east wall, file named Mount Seleya."

A moment later the entire length of the eastern wall was covered by a projection of Mount Seleya at sunset, with T'Kuht just beneath the mountain's peak. It was very picturesque. "Is that better, Father?"

"Much." Sarek looked pleasingly at his son. "I wonder. Do you have any files of San Francisco?"

"Certainly. Computer, change projection along eastern wall to San Francisco, at night." Mount Seleya disappeared then a vision of the San Francisco Bay appeared across the wall. The many lights outlining the skyline reflected off the water's surface. Spock looked at his father for approval.

"That is much more appropriate. Thank you, Spock." Sarek didn't take his eyes off the picture before him. "Your mother and I have seen this view many times together, mostly before we were married."

Spock watched Sarek for several moments, questions burning in his mind to be asked, but he would never dare ask them. 'However, if there is any time Sarek might be prone to answer, it would be now,' thought Spock. He blurted out his question before he lost his nerve. "Father, why was mother a logical choice for a wife? Surely there were plenty of willing females at home. You were already a prominent figure on Vulcan." He waited to see if Sarek would answer, or rebuke him for invading his privacy.

Sarek was surprised that Spock would pursue such a personal line of discussion. He never had before, but then perhaps he never had the appropriate opening to do so. That could only be Sarek's fault, for such private talks are not only permitted, but expected between a father and son. He nodded gravely. "Yes, I am sure there were, but I was quite serious when I said marrying Amanda seemed the logical thing to do."

"What made her a more logical choice than a Vulcan woman?" Spock leaned against a table, listening with rapt attention.

Sarek hesitated, considering what and how much he should reveal, then decided that perhaps full disclosure would be beneficial to his son just now. "You may not agree with my logic, my father certainly did not, however I think my reasoning has since been proven sound. Amanda has been an exemplary bondmate. More suited to me and my lifestyle than perhaps any Vulcan woman could be."

Spock had never known that there was discord between his mother and Sarek's family. "Why would Skon disapprove of Mother?"

"It was nothing personal." Sarek tried to assuage his son's indignity. "He had not even met her. He just wanted me to follow tradition and pick a bride from a selection of women he had chosen."

"To the benefit of the Clan," Spock surmised and Sarek nodded in agreement. "Then you went against your father's wishes when you broke with tradition in order to marry mother or did he accept your decision once you had insisted on her as your choice?"

"Not exactly. He refused to come to our kali'i'farr ceremony, and spoke very little to me, except for business, for approximately 5.7 standard months."

Yet another family secret! Sarek and Skon had always seemed so close to Spock, he could not imagine them being so at odds. "What happened to change his mind?" he asked.

"I am still uncertain. One day I came home and he was at the house, with your mother, and they seemed to be having a rather pleasant visit. Everything was fine after that. In fact, he held her in very high regard." Sarek looked at his son and raised both his eyebrows in a helpless gesture. "I do not know who or what precipitated this change, and your mother would not speak of it."

Spock waited, but Sarek did not seem inclined to speak further. Risking another admonishment from his father, he pressed on. "You still have not explained your reasons for marrying Mother."

"Is it not obvious, Spock?" How could someone who lived in their house for eighteen years not see what others saw immediately? Sarek looked at his son quizzically. "Why do you think I married her?"

Spock's eyes widened dramatically and he quickly shook his head. "I would have no way of knowing. Anything I said would be mere speculation."

"Yes, but I welcome your speculation." Sarek crossed his hands in front of his waist in preparation to wait until Spock answered his inquiry.

"Well," Spock had thought about this many times over the years. "T'Rea was a Kolinahru. She divorced you to attain her goal of ridding herself of all emotion. Mother must surely be her opposite. Perhaps that affected your decision to marry a human. Or perhaps it was because you realized how beneficial it would be as Vulcan's Ambassador to Earth, to have a human wife by your side."

Sarek considered this. "It is true that I have no concern about Amanda pursuing Kolinahr," he had to suppress the smile that came at that thought, "however, since such a small percentage of Vulcan's populace ever attempt Kolinahr, then logically there is no cause to be concerned about a second wife divorcing me for the same reason. You do, however, have a valid point about Amanda being beneficial to me as an Ambassador. As a Vulcan it is often difficult to get members of the more emotional species to trust me, and your mother certainly has a way of 'putting them at ease', as she would say. However, this never occurred to me before we were married."

Sarek again grew silent, contemplative, and again Spock had to draw him out. "Why then?"

Sarek steepled his fingers before him and stared off at the view of the San Francisco Bay. He was silent for many minutes before he finally took a deep breath and continued his reminiscing. "Amanda was unlike anyone I have ever known, of any species. She was a great enigma to me and still is in some respects. She was my ... friend, Spock, nothing more. I had no intention of pursuing her as a bondmate, for I fully expected that when the time came, I would take another Vulcan wife. Things between us began to change, however. When or precisely how this happened I am uncertain, but I began to notice I was greatly distracted by her. More so when she was not near me than when she was. She was frequently in my thoughts throughout the day. Where was she, what was she doing ... who was she with? She invaded my thoughts at work, during my meditations," he gave Spock a meaningful glance, "and even in my sleep."

Spock, who had been thinking about his own recent distractions, felt the blood rush to his ears and had to turn away from his father's penetrating gaze lest his lack of control be noticed.

Sarek resumed watching the holovid on the wall to give his son his privacy. "Naturally, I could not allow this state of affairs to continue, so I decided the logical course of action would be to make Amanda my wife. This way she would be with me all the time, if not physically beside me then I would still feel her presence through the bond, and I would not suffer from these distractions." He turned around to face Spock, who had his blood flow under control once again. "Fortunately, she was agreeable, and my supposition proved to be accurate."

Spock was too lost in his own thoughts to realize his father had finished and was now watching him intently. If that was the argument Sarek used with Skon, it was no wonder his father did not accept Sarek's reasons. It was as close to an admission of love as a Vulcan could possibly get with words, and Spock had never imagined Sarek had such an intensity for his mother. He certainly hid it well, for Spock had only thought it was Amanda who had such feelings. Spock was brought out of his musings by his father's voice repeatedly calling his name.

"Spock, I know you have a tendency not to heed my advice," he held up a hand to stop his son's protest, "however, I strongly suggest that should you meet someone who has a similar effect on you, that you yield to logic and attempt to remedy the situation. Even if at first she does not seem like an ideal match."

Spock merely nodded his head in reply as the appropriate words did not seem forthcoming at the moment.

"Miss Chapel should have had your mother back to our quarters 5.69 minutes ago, and our dinner is due to arrive shortly. If you would escort your mother, I would like to use your quarters to change into my robe."

"Certainly. When should I have her here?" Spock asked, putting aside his unresolved thoughts until a more appropriate time.

Sarek considered the distance from the Rec. room to Spock's quarters and the time it would take for him to prepare. "Fifteen standard minutes should suffice."

"Agreed. I shall return with mother at that time."

* * *

"Mother, you can slow down, we have plenty of time." 'More than plenty,' Spock thought, 'at this rate we will arrive 3.2 minutes early.'

"You said he was already there waiting for me." She stopped and turned towards her son, clearly agitated. "He did not tell me about this reception tonight. Soran didn't remind me either. I wouldn't have forgotten about something like this, I know I wouldn't."

Spock was beginning to regret his ruse of a delegate reception to get his mother formally dressed for her surprise. "Perhaps he did not plan to attend originally."

"Well, a little notice would have been nice. Or at the very least he could have waited to escort me there himself. I hate being late." She smoothed a hand over her hair and down her dress then resumed her haste towards the rec room.

Spock kept his own pace as slow as possible without causing Amanda to berate him for his dilatory walk, but still they arrived at the door 1.4 minutes early. There was no stopping her now, so he could only hope Sarek had overestimated his time.

Amanda entered the room with Spock so closely on her heels that he almost ran into her when she stopped suddenly. The room was completely dark now, except for the lights coming from the San Francisco holovid. Sarek was just lighting the candle on the table and he looked up when he heard his wife's surprised gasp.

"You are early," he scolded gently.

"I thought I was late," she stammered. Rooted where she stood, Amanda slowly looked around and took in her surroundings. Sarek approached and slowly extended his fingers towards her. Amanda began to respond in kind, but her hand veered off-track to finger the glyphs on his robe. "Is this the same one? How did you get it here?" she asked, her voice filled with awe.

"They are all the very items we used 40 years ago, my wife." He gestured to the table behind him.

Amanda walked over and fingered the delicate glasses, then peered into the clear dome over the cake. When she turned around Spock could see her unshed tears as the candlelight glistened off their wetness. "I don't know what to say," she clasped her hands together helplessly.

Sarek walked over to his bride and tenderly traced his fingers over her cheekbone, and along her jawline. "Words are such an imprecise method of conveying thoughts ... or feelings." He leaned down and softly whispered against her ear, "There are so many other ways to communicate ... much more pleasurable methods."

Spock quietly left as Amanda stepped into Sarek's arms, engaging the lock as he went.

* * *

It was late into the ship's night cycle when Spock finally left his work in the labs to retire for the evening. He slowly walked along the dimly lit corridors, not eager to return to his quarters and to more dreams of the ship's nurse. Looking for a distraction, he decided to go to the rec room and put everything back in it's original place now, instead of in the morning as he and Sarek had originally planned. Surprised to find the privacy lock was still engaged, Spock gave in to his curiosity and decided to see for himself how their evening was going. It was a breech of privacy and he knew his parents wouldn't approve, but he wouldn't intrude nor would he stay long. Spock entered the door leading to the opposite side of the rec room than where his parents were. The lights automatically came on as the sensors detected his presence, but he ordered them off and moved to the divider separating him from his parents. Slowly he drew the divider back just enough for him to see into their side of the room. The lights were off, but the room had a little illumination from the half burnt candle left on the table, and lights off the San Francisco Bay. There was soft music flooding the room and on the opposite side from where he stood, Spock could see his parents standing together. They were locked in an embrace and slowly moving in a lazy circle in what McCoy once told Spock was a 'lovers' waltz'. Amanda's head rested against Sarek's shoulder and his head was bent low to her face, perhaps talking to her ... perhaps something else, Spock could not tell. The song ended and a new melody from Sarek's selection began, but his parents never altered their movements. They were quite oblivious to everything but each other, and obviously very content just being together.

Spock watched his parents with awe and more than a little envy. He considered the bond they must share and couldn't help but compare it to the sad imitation he had shared with T'Pring. 'Could she and I have ever been as they are?' he wondered, but quickly decided that they couldn't. There had been no warmth between them, no friendship, even as children. Just a tolerance for the bond they shared due to their parent's arrangement.

'Hardly a thing to build a foundation for a long, mutually satisfying marriage," he thought, then wondered when such a thing had become important to him.

He considered his earlier talks with Sarek, and the fact that he was now in control of his own state of matrimony. It was up to him to decide what kind of marriage he wanted and whom he wanted to be married to. But his career was very important to him as well. He had no wish to leave Star Fleet, or stop exploring space. And the two were mutually exclusive, weren't they? He had known of a few married couples who served together on starships, so it must be possible, under the right circumstances, to maintain a marriage while in Star Fleet.

Suddenly desiring privacy of his own, Spock quietly left his parents to their veneration and went to his own quarters. He had much to consider now before he chose yet another path in his life.

* * *

Spock waited in the shuttle bay with his father as the last of his parent's belongings were loaded. The Captain and Dr. McCoy would be along shortly for the official farewell, but Spock had wanted a few last moments with his parents beforehand.

"Perhaps I should go look for her," Sarek said with mild impatience.

"She said she would meet you here," Spock reminded him as they watched the last few bags disappear into the shuttlecraft.

"Yes, but she should have been here 10.4 minutes ago, and--" Sarek's stopped abruptly as the shuttle bay doors opened and his wife came through, along with Nurse Chapel. The women were speaking animatedly and laughed as they approached the men. "You are late, Amanda," Sarek reproached.

"Am I, Sarek? I'm so sorry," but her voice and her smile made it obvious she was not, "but the last time I thought I was late, you said I was early."

Sarek looked to Spock for help, but his son just looked back at him blankly. Deciding to ignore the remark, he reached out to take the last of her bags over to the shuttle.

"No, not that one, Sarek. I still need this one." He relinquished one of the bags to his wife and took the rest away to be loaded, his son in tow.

"Well, it was very nice to have met you, Amanda." Christine held out her hand for a shake but instead Amanda held it between both of her hands.

"You don't know how happy I am to have met you, Christine. I have something for you." She released the nurse's hand to take an object out of her remaining bag.

"A gift? That wasn't necessary." Christine gasped when Amanda pulled the Babelian vase out of her bag and handed it to her. She held the delicate crystal reverently in her hands. "I can't take this, it's too much."

"Nonsense, I know how much you liked it. I want you to have it. Consider it a thank you for taking such good care of my husband, and my son." She looked beseechingly into Christine's eyes. "Spock needs someone to look after him, you know, and not just when he's ill."

"I do what I can ..." Christine stammered, at a loss at Amanda's sudden urgency.

"I know you do," Amanda smiled to ease the tension she unwittingly caused. "But I've found that a lot of Vulcans, despite how intelligent they are, can't tell what's in their own best interest, even when it's staring them in the face."

"I see ..." but it was evident by her face that she did not completely understand Amanda's meaning.

Amanda had only a few seconds more before Sarek would be back. "Dealing with a Vulcan is a fine balancing act. You have to make them see what's right, but if you're too aggressive about it, they'll balk. Be patient with him, Christine. Don't push him, but don't give up on him. Just be there, all the time, and eventually he will come to realize his true feelings."

Christine blushed furiously as understanding dawned. "No, there's nothing--"

The shuttle bay door swooshed open and Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy entered. McCoy tugged uncomfortably at the collar of his dress uniform.

"My wife, attend. It is time to bid farewell." Once Amanda joined him in the ritual ozh'esta he saluted Christine with a Vulcan ta'al with the other hand. "Live long and prosper, Christine."

Still choked up with her embarrassment, Christine could do nothing but nod as she clutched the vase to her chest protectively. She wanted to protest, to correct the erroneous assumptions Amanda made regarding Spock's feelings for her, but there was no time. Sarek and Amanda each nodded to her then moved to speak with the Captain and Dr. McCoy. Spock paused a moment, looking at her questioningly, but then he too left to perform his duty.

Christine stayed until everyone cleared the room for the shuttle's take-off, in hopes of getting just one more moment alone with Amanda, but it did not happen. Now she sat in her room, staring at the intricate designs on the vase Amanda had given her, wondering what she should do next. 'What if they said something to Spock? He's going to blame me for putting that idea in his mother's head, I just know it.' She contemplated whether she should mention something to him about it, but wasn't sure she could stand that kind of embarrassment again.

She heard the door buzz and automatically called for them to enter as she stood to smooth out her uniform. She turned around and her heart plummeted into her stomach when she saw Spock standing just inside her door. His hands were behind his back in his typical posture, and his face was as impassive as ever. "Mr. Spock?"

"Miss Chapel, please forgive the intrusion, but I wished to speak with you regarding my parents."

'Oh God, he heard!' She quelled her panic and attempted to explain before he could accuse her of any wrongdoing. "Mr. Spock, your parents are very nice people, but I think they may have gotten the wrong impression about me ... and--"

"My parents were quite impressed with you, Nurse Chapel. I wanted to give you these." He pulled a large bouquet of brightly colored flowers from behind his back and offered them to her.

"Flowers? You got me flowers?" She took them from him, dumbfounded.

"Yes. I saw that my mother gave you a vase, it is only logical that you have flowers to put in it. I also wanted to thank you for all your effort regarding my parents, especially my mother. She enjoyed her visit, largely due to your company. It was well beyond the call of duty." He watched her sniff the flowers appreciatively and could tell she was pleased by his selection, which gratified him as well.

"I didn't do it out of duty, Spock. I like your mother, a lot. Thank you for these, they're lovely."

Spock nodded, acknowledging her gratitude, then cleared his throat apprehensively. "Then, shall I come back at 1800 hours to escort you to dinner?"

Christine laughed in surprise. "Now you want to take me to dinner? It's really not necessary, you know. The flowers are more than enough of a thank you."

Spock shifted his weight from one foot to the other, displacing his nervousness. He had expected her to agree immediately and he was unsure of how he would proceed if she turned him down. "Perhaps, but I would like to dine with you regardless, if you are willing."

Christine watched him intensely for several moments. She noticed a greenish flush cross his face as she studied him and saw him swallow hard, then smiled as understanding struck. Almost overcome with her elation, she had to force the emotion down lest she throw her arms around him in joy and send him screaming from the room. "That sounds very nice, Mr. Spock. I would be honored to dine with you tonight."

Spock's relief was evident as he spoke. "Very good ... Christine, then I shall return at 1800 hours." He turned to make a hasty retreat before she could change her mind.

"Mr. Spock?" Christine hoped this wouldn't scare him off, but she just couldn't resist teasing him a little. She waited until he faced her again. "Did you just ask me out on a date?" She hoped her smile would disarm any offense he might take.

Spock appeared to consider this for quite some time before he looked at her and raised an eyebrow sharply. "Yes, I believe I did." He looked at her, amused, then left her room feeling completely relaxed at last.



THE END

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