DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of J. M. Lane and is copyright (c) 1999 by J. M. Lane. This story is Rated PG-13.


JM Lane

New Arrivals

"Captain, the new biochemist and Security man have just beamed aboard."

"About time!" James T. Kirk, captain of the starship Enterprise, looked up from signing an engineering report upon hearing the crisp voice of his communications chief. He rose from his command chair and headed for the turbolift after handing the signed report back to the pretty yeoman patiently standing by. "Uhura, have Dr. McCoy meet me in the transporter room. Spock, mind the store."

"Yes, sir," came the automatic reply from both.

Uhura came on the intercom while Kirk was in the turbolift. "Sir, Dr. McCoy is not on board at present. You granted him two weeks' leave to visit his daughter."

"Who *is* available, then?"

"Drs. Chapel and M'Benga."

"Then have Dr. Chapel report to the transporter room on the double!"

"Right away, sir."

Upon arrival, Kirk was greeted by William Clarke, the new transporter chief, upon his arrival. Clarke had been one of Kyle's assistants and had idolized his superior, striving to be as much like him as possible. The young Terran had diligently worked his way up through the ranks and recently been promoted to Kyle's old job.

The Captain held out his hand in greeting to the two men stepping off the platform. "Welcome aboard. I'm Captain James T. Kirk." Kirk's outstretched hand was firmly gripped and vigorously shaken by the tall, well-built man nearest him.

"Thank you, Captain. I'm Dana Courtney, biochemist from Argelius II."

"I'm sure you'll prove a welcome addition, Dr. Courtney."

At this point, Dr. Christine Chapel rushed in. "I'm sorry I'm late, Captain."

"As long as you're here. I want you to meet a new crewmember, Dr. Dana Courtney. He's a biochemist from Argelius II. You two should have a lot in common." Kirk then turned to greet and shake the hand of the other new arrival, a half-Spaniard security man by the name of Lt. John Fleetwood.

"I'm sure we'll get along very well," Chapel replied stiffly -- until her eyes met Courtney's. The attractive Argelian held her hand longer than necessary after their initial greeting, finally raising it to his lips and kissing it.

"Are all your female crewmembers this beautiful, Captain?"

Christine blushed with pleasure at the unexpected compliment.

"Dr. Courtney!" Kirk called, obviously annoyed.

Courtney raised his head. "I'm sorry, Captain. You were saying?"

"You and Security Officer Fleetwood are to report to sickbay with Dr. Chapel for the prerequisite physical before assuming your duties."

Christine beckoned to the new arrivals after recovering her wits. "Follow me, please."

"Dr. Chapel, have them report to me on the bridge following their physicals," Kirk said.

"Of course, sir."

* * *

Christine found both men to be as healthy as the proverbial horse. "So you're from Argelius, Dr. Courtney?" she asked conversationally.

"I was born there ... and call me Dana. My people are lovers of peace -- not to mention lovers, period." He gave her a sly wink.

"Obviously," the female doctor observed.

"You're the loveliest woman I've seen in a long time. I want you to go out with me."

"I'm flattered, Dr. Courtney, but am on-shift until 2100 this evening."

"Then when would be convenient to see you?"

"How does tomorrow at 1300 sound? It's my day off."

"Fine. Until then, my dear." Courtney departed with a smile and nod as he departed for the bridge, then his station in Life Sciences.

"Is there something else I can do for you, Lt. Fleetwood?" Christine turned to the Terran Security man standing close by; an unmistakable gleam danced in his brown eyes.

"Yes. When may *I* see you?"

"My goodness, but you two are fast workers! Perhaps tomorrow at 1900 for dinner?"

"I'll be there with bells on. See you then." Fleetwood smiled and waved as he, too, departed for the bridge and his station there.

Little did anyone realize (least of all Christine Chapel) just how that seemingly innocent beginning would blossom into a full-blown soap opera!

* * *

Christine unexpectedly encountered Spock as she headed for the G Deck Rec Room and her dinner with Lt. Fleetwood.

The Vulcan raised a curious eyebrow at her attire. "Where are you going, Dr. Chapel?"

"I have a date, Mr. Spock -- and according to my wrist chronometer, I'm late already, so if you'll excuse me..." Christine moved restlessly, her voice impatient.

"Of course." Spock looked after her rapidly diminishing figure with his right eyebrow raised and bewilderment written all over his usually impassive face. It was the first time he had ever seen Dr. Chapel out of uniform, and the second 'date' she had had today, if memory served him correctly.

He had noticed her having lunch with the Argelian biochemist as he waited for his own to be served; now she was on her way to dinner with the Terran security man. For some inexplicable reason, her abrupt termination of their short conversation and the idea of her spending time with either Courtney or Fleetwood disturbed Spock greatly, but he would have denied any such emotion as jealousy. He forced the absurd, illogical notion from his mind and continued on to the bridge.

* * *

McCoy returned the following morning, checking in with Kirk before going down to sickbay. The Chief Surgeon leaned on the railing near the command chair after greeting his captain and long-time friend.

"Hello, Bones. Have a good time with Jo?"

"The best, as always. Hated to leave. Which reminds me -- she said to give her love to her 'Uncle Jim'."

McCoy used Kirk's intercom to call sickbay, intending to ask Christine what all had happened while he was away.

"I'm sorry, Dr. McCoy, but Dr. Chapel hasn't reported in yet." He recognized the voice as that of Leeanne Parker, one of the junior nurses.

"Thank you, Nurse Parker. I'll be down in a little while. McCoy out." He gave the Captain a strange look. "That's very odd, Jim. She's usually there before I am."

"Judging from your reaction, Bones, you haven't heard the latest."

"The latest what?" McCoy frowned.

"We have two new crewmembers."

"So what have they got to do with Christine not being at work on time?"

"Everything. She's been dating them -- a lot. One's a biochemist, the other a security guard. They both went for her in a big way. She's hardly had time to eat or sleep, much less work, since they arrived. Not that there's been much work lately."

McCoy's ears perked up. "Very interesting. Who first noted this?"

Kirk hesitated, knowing what the doctor's reaction would be upon learning the identity of the informant. "It was Spock, I think."

"Oh, really? That's even *more* interesting." McCoy gave Spock a wicked grin, which the Vulcan wisely ignored. The Captain was sure that Bones was hatching yet another plot to bait the First Officer about his female troubles, but the Chief Surgeon said not a word -- at least not to Spock himself.

"I can just imagine what our old friend thinks about *that*. It's a cinch he'd never admit this, but it's probably bugging him just as much *not* having Chris after him as it did having her after him. Not to mention how refreshing it must be for her to actually have some male attention for a change."

Kirk considered ordering the Doctor not to badger Spock, but dismissed it was unnecessary ... a decision he later regretted.

* * *

"I intend to speak with Dr. Courtney and Lt. Fleetwood. They have been monopolizing entirely too much of Dr. Chapel's valuable time," Spock observed as the three men headed for dinner in the Officers' Mess on C Deck that evening.

That was the opportunity McCoy had been waiting for. Kirk wondered why Spock had deliberately left himself wide open like that. It was almost as though the Science Officer actually *wanted* a confrontation with the outspoken Chief Surgeon -- and McCoy didn't disappoint him. He took full advantage of the Vulcan's apparent gaffe, pouncing on Spock like a hungry cat on a mouse.

"Why is that, Spock? Does it actually *bother* you that Chris has found other men to occupy her time? I thought that's what you wanted." The Chief Surgeon's lips parted in another wicked grin. "Hey, *I* know what's wrong with you! You miss the attention. *That's* it, isn't it, Spock?"

Outer space would have been warmer than the tone of the First Officer's reply. "My feelings in the matter are none of your concern."

"You mean you're actually admitting to having feelings?"

"Hardly, Doctor. I was merely pointing out that Dr. Chapel's services are urgently needed in sickbay and her two suitors take too much of her attention away from her work."

"Away from *you*, you mean. There hasn't been so much as a hangnail all week."

If looks could kill, the one Spock shot at McCoy would have been lethal. The Captain could scarcely contain his laughter, often concealing a chuckle behind a feigned cough or yawn. The doctor resumed his diatribe after the trio had reached the mess hall and obtained trays of food, seating themselves at a vacant table.

"You know, Jim, if I didn't know better, I'd swear, that our logical, unemotional Vulcan friend has actually been bitten by the old green-eyed monster. And any time that green-blooded computer shows emotion is a time to celebrate. Who knows, someday he may actually decide to come down from Olympus and join the Human race," the doctor proclaimed with fiendish delight.

"*Really*, Doctor."

Kirk shot McCoy a warning look. After all, even Spock had his breaking point. The Chief Surgeon reluctantly subsided for a time.

"All kidding aside, Jim -- I'm glad Chris's taste in men has finally improved. At least Courtney and Fleetwood pay her some attention ... which unfortunately is more than our Vulcan friend here is *capable* of."

Had Spock been anyone else, Kirk was sure that blows would have been exchanged as well as sharp words and frigid stares. McCoy could try even a Vulcan's patience, as Spock steadfastly maintained despite the strong bond of friendship between the three of them.

"Another thing I don't understand is why Spock hasn't taken her out of circulation long before now. Just what is the man *waiting* for, anyway? My God, the lady has everything any man could ever want -- even a Vulcan. Brains, mental compatibility, looks ... who could be a more -- pardon the expression, Spock -- a more 'logical' choice?"

Spock sat stony-faced and silent.

"I'm sure Spock has his reasons, Bones ... and they're *his* business. If it's meant to happen, it will -- on its own. *Not* because we demand it."

McCoy went on as though Kirk hadn't spoken. "And he doesn't give one tinker's damn about her, so why should it matter to him *how* much time she spends with Courtney and Fleetwood as long as she's not bothering him? Now all of a sudden he's concerned about how she spends her time. She's a grown woman; I say that's *her* business. I also think it's great that Chris has her mind on someone besides Spock. What did she ever see in that pointy-eared encyclopedia, anyway?"

Kirk knew he should have stopped Bones' harangue a long time ago, but the doctor was enjoying himself (and Spock's growing discomfort) immensely. *I'm afraid I enjoyed it, too,* he reluctantly admitted to himself.

McCoy's barbs stung deeply; it was all Spock could do not to lash out physically at his antagonist. Giving in to that impulse would not have changed the truth of anything the doctor said, but at the same time, the Vulcan knew that there would be no accounting for his actions if McCoy wasn't stopped soon.

"If you are *quite* finished, Doctor, I will take my leave now. Excuse me, Jim. I find I am no longer hungry. If you have need of me, I will be in my quarters."

Spock stalked out after disposing of his scarcely touched meal tray. The doctor's tirades invariably made him lose his appetite. McCoy stared after the departing Vulcan, then put his fork down and stretched lazily. "I never thought anything could get under that thick Vulcan hide -- but it's time *something* did. Why, did you know that just an hour ago Uhura had to repeat herself three times before getting Spock's attention ... and even then, he snapped at her for disturbing him? All she'd been trying to do was tell him that the computer tapes he'd ordered several months ago had finally arrived. She said she'd never seen him so preoccupied -- so it would seem that even our self-righteous Vulcan friend has his share of weaknesses, just like us ordinary mortals." The Chief Surgeon dug into his food with renewed gusto.

Kirk took a couple bites of food and a swallow of coffee before sighing deeply and giving McCoy a hard look. "That's enough, Bones. You've *had* your fun; now ease up on him or you answer to me."

The doctor sighed in disappointment. "If you say so, Jim, but I haven't enjoyed myself so much in I don't know *how* long!"

"I was enjoying it myself for a while. You're the only one who can get Spock to blow that celebrated Vulcan cool, even occasionally ... and even he needs to blow off steam once in a while. But after a certain point it goes beyond fun, and I want no more of it. *No more.* Do you understand me?"


"*Do you understand me*?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. Now we'd better get some sleep, Bones. 0600 comes mighty early."

"Don't I *know* it! Good night, Jim. See you tomorrow."

"Good night, Bones. Sleep well."

* * *

At 1400 the next afternoon, Spock headed for Life Sciences to speak to Dr. Courtney about Dr. Chapel and the inordinate amount of time the pair spent together. Had someone mentioned it, he would have denied it, but he had been experiencing all the symptoms of an unaccustomed emotion akin to jealousy. Totally illogical, but undeniable -- at least to himself.

Spock confronted Courtney moments after arriving; the two men argued quietly but fiercely. The Vulcan sensed that even the peace-loving Argelian could only be tried so far and on that assumption took no unnecessary chances, although he was confident of victory should their confrontation turn ugly.

"Mr. Spock, I am Argelian by birth, though one of my parents was Human, as your mother is. In my case, it was my father, but I favor my mother in overall temperament. I *do* have something of a temper, but rarely display it since I seldom have sufficient reason.

"Argelians are a peaceful people, even more so than Vulcans -- and we *show* our emotions! I am refraining from violence because of my upbringing, and for Christine's sake, but if you force me..."

"Unnecessary. I merely request that you refrain from spending so much time with Dr. Chapel. You are interfering with her work."

"Indeed?" Courtney's voice was icy. "Well, just let me tell *you* something, you arrogant, self-righteous Vulcan. *No one* tells me how to spend my off-duty hours or who to spend them with, especially you! Until the lady herself tells me I'm interfering with her work, I intend to see her when *and* as often as I please. She told me of her ill-fated infatuation with you. Most unfortunate ... so I intend to do everything in my power to make her happy.

"All you've ever done is break her heart, poor girl -- but she doesn't blame you. She blames herself for being foolish enough to fall in love with one of your kind. It is truly admirable how professionally she's conducted herself where you're concerned. It couldn't have been easy for her. She's an extraordinary woman; I doubt many men would have as much strength. But you add insult to injury by not only ignoring all that Chris has done for you, *endured* because of you, but she herself like she doesn't exist. You may not have feelings, but the least you should do is remember that she *does* ... and that there *are* men who will love her, even if you never do!"

Spock gave the Argelian a frigid glare. "Dr. Courtney, you are on the edge of insubordination. I am your superior officer."

"The only thing superior about you at the moment is your ego, Vulcan," came the equally frigid reply. "And this has nothing to do with rank. It's a purely emotional thing. Your exclusive claim on Christine's affections has been threatened, and you can't stand that."

By the look on the other man's face, Courtney knew he had struck a nerve, and had no intention of relinquishing his advantage. After all, it wasn't every day that one had a proudly logical Vulcan at their mercy. "So you *do* have feelings after all. I was beginning to wonder."

The Argelian drove the verbal knife ever deeper with each statement. "I would also bet a month's pay that no one's ever had the courage to stand up to you before ... so it's high time someone did. You've needed to be put in your place for a long time. Knocked off your high horse, so to speak. For Heaven's sake, if you care for Christine, let her know! The way you act, one would think it was a crime to care for someone."

"I do not need you to tell me how to conduct my personal relationships," Spock snapped.

"No? Your track record suggests otherwise." Courtney smiled knowingly. "Go ahead, try to deny it."

Spock found that he *couldn't* deny the charge ... not and remain truthful to himself. Be that as it may, he had no intention of admitting it to anyone -- least of all to the one who stood smirking before him as though he had all the knowledge of the universe at his command.

"I suggest you play your word games elsewhere, Doctor. I am a Vulcan; they will have no effect on me whatsoever." The First Officer's voice fairly dripped with contempt.

"You never give up, do you? You cling to your logical philosophy as stubbornly and tightly as a child clings to its other. Not even the love of a wonderful woman like Christine can make a dent in that steel wall you've erected around your heart. Is a life of logic and loneliness preferable to the life of love and happiness Chris could give you if you'd only let her in?"

Spock remained cold and silent; finally Courtney sighed in defeat. "Yes, I can see that it is. For that reason, I pity you, Spock -- because you don't know what you're missing ... and worst of all, you don't care. But the one I feel most sorry for is Chris, because she's fighting a losing battle trying to get through to you." Courtney shook his head sadly. "That's the biggest tragedy of all. You're all she ever thinks or talks about."

The Argelian's eyes were large and sad. "I know you don't -- can't -- understand, but I love her. I love her so much that I'll take whatever leavings she is willing to give me and be content. Unfortunately love is incomprehensible to such a logical being as yourself."

Spock was touched by the other man's poignant confession, but dared not show it. "Most commendable, Doctor. Miss Chapel needs someone to care for her as such a woman deserves."

Courtney bowed his head. "Thank you."

"However, I need not account for my own conduct where she is concerned. Miss Chapel was aware of the futility of her situation, but persisted in her illogical fantasies."

"What did you expect? That's the way she is when she's in love! She deserves a medal for putting up with you, much less loving you. I'll never know what she ever saw in you to love ... and who are you to say even one word in her behalf after the way you've treated her?

"I've shown her more love and attention in the last two weeks than you have in all the years you've known her!" the Argelian continued, looking at the Vulcan with poorly disguised revulsion. "Christine is a warm, beautiful, loving woman. Far too good for the likes of you! You don't even have such a thing as courtship in your culture -- just a mating season every seven years, like an animal!"

Spock's voice dripped ice. "My personal life is none of your affair, Doctor."

"Then I will thank you to butt out of *our* business, Vulcan. Just leave me -- *and* Chris -- alone! If I didn't know better, I'd almost swear that you were actually jealous, but jealousy implies emotion ... and Heaven forbid such a *logical* being lower himself to the level of an illogical Human! Now if you would be so kind as to remove yourself from these premises and let me get back to work, I will bid you good day."

The doors to the Biochemistry Lab closed in Spock's face after the biochemist's abrupt departure into the adjoining room. The Vulcan forced back a wave of anger that strangely enough was *not* directed at Courtney, but himself. He couldn't believe what he had just done -- confronted another man over a woman!

Nor could he credit the notion that he would ever consider any man a rival for Christine Chapel's affections. It was as though a force stronger than himself controlled him, making him warn other men away from her because he wanted her himself. *Preposterous,* he dismissed ... but at the same time, the almost inconceivable idea that he *was* doing it (for that very reason) nagged at him until he admitted it, if only to himself. But it would never do to be as obvious as the two Human males. It would have to be done logically and discreetly.

* * *

But surprisingly enough, Spock's best efforts to win Christine were ignored. She remained cool and distant toward him, preferring the company of the two Human men. Spock had never actively gone after a woman in his life, and his failure to make headway with her bothered him more than he was willing to admit.

The Vulcan steadfastly denied (publicly, at least) that her conduct was having any effect on him whatsoever -- but his private turmoil told an entirely different story. Christine never seemed to have time for anything but her work and the two Human males. For Vulcan's sake, why was she doing this to him? Surely she realized how much he wanted to spend time with her!

Spock caught himself up short, horrified at the turn his thoughts were taking. Why did it matter to him *what* she did, *who* she saw? He should thank Courtney and Fleetwood for getting her off his back ... but instead, he felt like putting his fist through a bulkhead at the mere thought of her with either one of them.

* * *

"Come," McCoy said to the knock on his door, surprised to see Kirk step in. "Jim! What a pleasant surprise. Is there something I can do for you?"

"I need to talk to you, Bones." The Captain looked and sounded troubled.

"What about?"

"You've got to help Spock."

"How can I? He never listens to me ... just the original know-it- all."

"Not this time." Kirk made himself comfortable at McCoy's desk. "Bones, you may not believe this. In fact, you may laugh at the very idea. I can hardly believe it myself, but I'm convinced that--"

"--Spock has actually fallen in love," the doctor finished Kirk's train of thought.

The latter raised an eyebrow at the Chief Surgeon's serious expression and even more serious tone of voice. "You're not laughing." His voice was laced with disbelief.

"No, Jim, I'm not. Spock thinks he's hiding it, but take it from one who knows. It's written all over him. I even caught him looking at Christine in sickbay recently. He-- Well, suffice it to say that I've never seen such love in any man's eyes or on any man's face as I saw on Spock's in that brief, unguarded moment."

"But Miss Chapel doesn't seem to want anything to do with Spock any more. Instead, she spends her time either working or with Courtney and Fleetwood. I can't figure her out. Bones, she's driving him crazy, and I have no idea how to help him ... or even if I *can*."

Leonard McCoy gave his friend and superior a wry grin. "Ironic how the tables have been turned, I think. First Chris spends years eating her heart out over Spock, and he wants nothing to do with her. Now it's the other way around. Poetic justice, if you ask me. Maybe now he has some idea of what he's put *her* through all these years. Serves him right to fall in love with the very one he's always ignored and pushed away."

"Are you *quite* finished?" Kirk bit out. "That's *beside* the point. He needs help!"

"Jim, I don't think that either Spock or Chris would appreciate any interference from us right now, however well-meaning. This is a private matter which they need to work out between themselves. My professional opinion is that we stay out of it."

"So what am *I* supposed to do? I need Spock at full capacity. In his present condition, he's not worth a hill of beans to me. I can't afford a lovesick First Officer. He *must* be brought back to himself ... and fast!"

McCoy sighed. "Unfortunately, Christine's the only one who can do that."

"She'd damn well better do it soon. Enough is enough!"

The doctor sighed dubiously. "Well, I'll talk to her and see what I can find out, even though it's against my better judgment -- but can't make any promises. It may be that she really *doesn't* love Spock any more. We must consider that possibility."

"Bones, sometimes you're about as helpful as nothing," Kirk retorted bitterly. "For God's sake, can't you see how *serious* this is? If Spock doesn't snap out of it soon, it could mean his career ... and that would destroy him. I don't want to lose him because of an unhappy love affair. He's far too valuable."

* * *

In sickbay the following morning, McCoy asked his female colleague point-blank why she was seeing so much of Courtney and Fleetwood.

"Why shouldn't I? After all, a girl can't sit home every night, you know."

"They're both in love with you, you know."

Christine sighed. "I know, and I *like* them a lot -- but that's it."


She nodded sadly. "Who else? I try to keep myself busy with them so I don't think so much of him, but it doesn't work. Nothing does. At best, they're poor substitutes for him, but what else can I do when the man I *do* love wants nothing to do with me? That's not exactly a boost to a lady's ego, you know."

McCoy nodded sympathetically as Christine's blue eyes became deep pools of sadness and frustrated love.

"Sometimes I wish I were a Vulcan woman. Maybe then Spock would notice me."

"His father didn't marry a Vulcan woman."

"Sarek is the exception, not the rule. That doesn't mean Spock would ever marry a Human woman."

"We don't know that for sure -- just as you obviously haven't heard the latest rumor going around."

"What rumor?"

"That Spock and Courtney had a very nasty argument ... over *you*!"

"You're kidding!" Christine couldn't believe her ears.

"No ... and that's not all. Uhura told me when she came in for her physical on your last day off that she'd tried to tell Spock that the computer tapes he'd ordered some months ago had finally arrived. She called him three times before she got his attention -- and even then, he nearly took her head off. Tell me, how often does Spock get *that* preoccupied? In addition, Jim told me that all this started around the time you started dating Courtney and Fleetwood. And get this: he even thinks that Spock has actually ... *fallen in love* with you!"

"Ridiculous. Spock hardly knows I'm alive."

"But I've never seen him act like this before -- not in all the years I've known him."

Christine frowned thoughtfully. "Now that you mention it, Spock *has* been behaving better toward me ... asking how I feel, what I'm doing, things like that -- but love never occurred to me. If, indeed, that's what it is. What do you think?"

"I don't want to get your hopes up, Chris, but it's looking more and more like the Captain is right."

"Are you telling me that I've actually *gotten through* to him after all this time?"

"Certainly looks that way."

"I hope so. That would be wonderful. He's all I've ever wanted, you know."

McCoy nodded and smiled. "You're the one-man type ... and it's about time *somebody* hogtied that stubborn Vulcan. Marriage is just what he needs to make him more Human."

"Then I should go for it?"

"Why not? You've got nothing to lose. Knowing Spock, it won't be easy, but love never is."

"It'll be a picnic after all I've been through."

"Then I suggest you contact Spock and start things rolling."

Christine smiled and winked. "Count on it. From what you've said, he's ripe for the picking ... and that with a little effort, I'll have Spock right where I want him: around my little finger, among other things."

McCoy returned the smile and wink. "Best of luck, Chris."

A moment later the sickbay intercom beeped; Uhura summoned the Chief Surgeon to the bridge. "Gotta go. See you later. Be sure to keep me informed on how you're doing with you-know-who."

Christine smiled and nodded; with a wave, McCoy was gone. The female doctor turned back to her own work with a light heart. With any luck, she would finally have the man she had loved so many long, lonely years!

* * *

While en route to the bridge, McCoy couldn't help a broad grin at the thought of how interesting life was going to be from now on. From the start, he had suspected that Chris had decided to reverse tactics and ignore Spock instead of chasing him, see if that would bring him to her.

It sure as hell couldn't have been easy for her, the Doctor was convinced of that -- but if Chris's happiness at his news was any indication, her ordeal (*and* Spock's) would soon be history, and the happiness they would share together well worth the wait. Reverse psychology was the only thing she hadn't tried ... and it had worked. (Oh lord, had it *ever*!) McCoy only wished that he could be there to see the look on Spock's face once he learned the truth behind Christine's atypical behavior.

A month later, on stardate 8426.2, the Enterprise came within scanning range of a previously unknown and uncharted planet in the ElNath star system, located in the constellation of Taurus. Spock's scanners indicated that the planet was a typical class M, one of six in the system but only the second class M discovered there.

The science officer was amazed to detect no Humanoid life, since ElNath was similar to Earth's sun Sol in many respects. In that case, the planet would be an ideal candidate for colonization -- provided initial investigations turned up nothing harmful. He became so engrossed in scanning that he didn't hear the Captain call him.


Kirk sounded annoyed, obviously having repeated himself several times. The Vulcan started in surprise when Jim's voice finally registered. He turned his head toward his Captain and friend, facial expression as bland as a baby's.

"Yes, Captain?"

"We're beaming down a landing party to the planet's surface. I assume you want to accompany us."

"Of course."

"Then let's get cracking. Sulu, you have the con." Kirk punched the intercom for sickbay while he and Spock headed for the transporter room in the turbolift. "Bones, report to the transporter room on the double. We're beaming down."

Christine Chapel's apologetic voice came over the intercom. "Sir, Dr. McCoy is in surgery. That young Rigellian who was so badly hurt in the Adhara II uprising we were sent to stop. He cannot be spared for landing party duty at the moment."

"What about you?"

"Sure, I'm free. Dr. M'Benga is assisting in surgery, and Nurse Parker can cover for me at the nursing station."

"Then grab your gear and report to the transporter room. You're beaming down with us."

Spock allowed himself a smile at the knowledge that Dr. Chapel would be accompanying them to the planet. It would give him an opportunity to be with her, away from the ship and his two rivals. She would be unable to avoid him or run away -- and perhaps, just perhaps, he would be able to make his own moves with a reasonable chance of success.

Christine sighed deeply as she packed her medikit. It was short notice, but after so many years in Starfleet (and on the Enterprise) she had learned to be ready at a moment's notice. In the transporter room, the landing party was outfitted with standard equipment: phasers, tricorders and communicators. Scott beamed them down onto a grassy bluff. After fully materializing, the party set off, eventually coming to a steep downward incline. The trio prepared to peer over the edge to check for a way down, but an accidental misstep by Christine on smooth rocks near the top proved their undoing.

Each instinctively grabbed for the nearest person in a vain attempt to maintain their balance, soon finding themselves rolling down the steep hill, out of control. It was over almost as soon as it started, and no one was hurt ... simply had the wind knocked out of them and the equipment scattered.

Spock picked himself up from the mound of dirt where he had landed, brushing it off his jacket and uniform, retrieving his tricorder, phaser and communicator from the dirt. "Miss Chapel? Captain? Are you both all right?"

Christine lifted her head from the patch of grass where she had stopped and which stained her face, hands and uniform. She checked herself, satisfied that she was in one piece. "I believe so, Mr. Spock."

"I'm all right, Spock." Kirk was sitting up in a profusion of flowering plants, conscious and seemingly unhurt. Spock recognized the plant as arbutus, found on Earth and many other class M planets they had visited. He also recalled that the plant in question secreted an oily substance to which Jim was severely allergic. Seconds later Kirk suffered a reaction, fighting to breathe as his lips and cheeks turned deathly pale. Spock caught and held his friend when his knees buckled as he tried to stand up.

"Miss Chapel, find your medikit and come quickly. The Captain is hardly breathing."

Christine located her medikit lying on a patch of grass about a foot from where she had stopped, grabbing the small brown case and running to where a semi-conscious Kirk leaned heavily on Spock, depending on his Vulcan friend's strong arms for support. She searched for the counteragent effective on most known allergies, but couldn't find it.

"Is something wrong, Miss Chapel?" the science officer asked.

"I have no counteragent. The best I can do is give him some tri-ox to help him breathe, then have some counteragent beamed down." Christine found the hypo of tri-ox and hastily injected Kirk, leaving Spock to make him comfortable while she reached for her communicator and flipped it open. "Landing party to Enterprise."

"Scott here," came the answer. "What's wrong, lass?"

"The Captain has been in contact with a substance to which he is severely allergic, and I have no counteragent with me. I would appreciate it if you would ask Dr. McCoy to have some beamed down to me as soon as he's free."

"Aye, lass. Stand by."

"Standing by." She flipped the communicator open again when it beeped a few minutes later, surprised to hear McCoy's voice instead of Scotty's. After learning that the Chief Surgeon had completed the surgery on the young Rigellian and left M'Benga to close for him, then keep an eye on him until he stabilized, she asked what was going on.

"Something's haywire with the transporter circuits, Chris. A short-circuit of some kind, I think Scotty said. He told me you needed the counteragent; I'm in the transporter room with it right now, but can't beam it down to you unless he can get the short-circuit repaired."

"Leonard, the Captain *needs* that counteragent. Tri-ox is a stopgap at best."

"I know, but you'll have to make do if Scotty can't get the transporter fixed. Just a minute. Please stand by." Every second seemed an eternity; at last McCoy came back. "I'm afraid it's bad, Chris. Scotty says that the main transporter circuits are 'shot all t' bloody hell,' quoting him. It's going to take at least three days before he and his crew can have them repaired. Damn fool contraption. I never *did* trust it!"

Chapel fought to keep disappointment and fear out of her voice. "What about the Captain?"

"All I can tell you is to find some water quickly, get as much of that stuff off him as you can, then give him another shot of tri-ox and keep a sharp eye on him for the next 24 hours. Keep me posted on how he's doing, and I'll keep you informed as to how things are going up here."

"Thanks." Christine tried to sound cheerful.

"I've got to go now, Chris. Good luck. McCoy out."

* * *

Spock took the news that they were on their own for the next three days with his usual Vulcan calm. "We had best locate water quickly. Captain, can you stand or walk?" The Vulcan frowned with concern at his Human friend.

"It's hard ... to breathe, but I'll ... try." But two steps later, the Captain passed out. Spock's arms caught him as he fell.

"Miss Chapel, it is up to you to carry the equipment since I must carry the Captain." She picked up the equipment and they set off. Spock carried Kirk as easily as though he were a child. They walked almost a kilometer before Christine used Spock's tricorder to locate a fresh-water pond.

Upon arrival, she dipped a soft cloth from a supply in her jacket pocket into the cool, clear water. She wrung it out, then thoroughly washed the Captain's exposed skin surface, giving Kirk another injection of tri-ox as he lay with his head pillowed on a rock and Spock's folded jacket.

Kirk's color began to return and his breathing improved, but Christine kept an eagle eye on his vital signs, taking frequent tricorder readings. Another half-kilometer walk brought them to a cave large enough to accommodate the three of them and protect them from the worst of the elements. Spock's jacket was laid out for the Captain to lie on; Spock carefully placed him on it. Christine's was folded up as a pillow after emptying it of all medical paraphernalia; Kirk's own covered him.

The Captain slept fitfully, alternately chilled and feverish -- almost delirious -- as Spock and Chapel kept a silent vigil at his side. The Vulcan managed to fashion containers from three large gourds, filling each with fresh pond water. The doctor dipped a fresh cloth into her own and wiped Kirk's perspiring face, repeating the action every few minutes. The pair were too engrossed in keeping their captain alive to notice the passage of time.

Christine checked her wrist chrono at 1800; they had been in the cave for twelve hours. Spock insisted on staying nearby, even though his body language and her tricorder readings indicated weariness, the combination of physical and emotional exertion having seriously drained him.

"Mr. Spock, you won't be able to help the Captain if you make yourself ill. Please get some rest; you've more than earned it. I'll take good care of him. Don't worry."

Spock raised an eyebrow at the emotional reference, but gave in to the logic of her words, making himself as comfortable as possible on the floor and wall nearest where the Captain lay. "You will notify me of any change?"

"Of course."

"Very well. Good night, Miss Chapel."

"Good night, Mr. Spock."

Despite his weariness, Spock found himself unable to sleep, so he removed his boots and assumed a lotus position, a favorite one for meditation.

Christine stood up and stretched to get the kinks out of her back, taking a secret delight in watching the sculptured Vulcan face in the glow of the heated stones around Kirk.

The Vulcan analyzed their present situation in the privacy of his thoughts. In many ways, it was reminiscent of the time spent in the frozen cave on Sarpeidon five thousand years ago with Zarabeth, who had helped him care for Dr. McCoy as Miss Chapel was caring for Jim now. In spite of the similarities between the two women, however, he had loved Zarabeth and *made* love to her. As a result, she had given birth to a son, but both had been dead for centuries and it was illogical to grieve overlong since no amount of grief could bring them back to life. It was best to remember them as one had known them.

As for Christine Chapel, at the time all she had been was a good friend -- and that was it, even though Spock was all too aware that she was in love with him. He had always told her (and himself) that friends were all they could ever be, but of late was seeing the beautiful Terran doctor in a whole new light. It seemed to have taken the two crewmen who loved her to get him to admit his own long-denied feelings.

Spock still recalled the overture he had made to her in the throes of his first *pon farr*. Christine had misunderstood his actions and rejected him. He regretted having been unable to make his intentions clear to her, but what he *had* done was the furthest he could go without offending his Vulcan sensibilities.

His Human half, on the other hand, had almost literally screamed at him to take the lovely woman who loved him and make her his own, both physically and mentally. But Spock had never forced his attentions on a woman, so if Miss Chapel no longer wanted him (and from all indications, that was a distinct possibility), he would not pressure her.

* * *

Spock awoke while it was still dark, surprised to find that he had indeed fallen asleep. The cave had turned bitterly cold, even with the heated rocks, and he shivered. "Miss Chapel? Doctor?"

"I'm here, Spock," Christine answered after a deep yawn. "The Captain is resting comfortably since his fever broke two hours ago. He is breathing well now, so barring any unforeseen complications, he won't need the counteragent."

"He is doing that well?"

"He should be fine by tomorrow."

"I am pleased to hear that. Now I think *you* should rest." His tone brooked no argument, so Christine stifled her protest and huddled on the wall and floor nearest the largest of the heated stones, attempting to sleep. It wasn't easy, but she finally did, feeling cold but rested upon awakening.

Christine stayed with the convalescing Kirk while Spock went in search of food. She knew they needed nourishment, but was concerned for his safety on a strange planet alone, even though neither of them had detected anything dangerous. One could never tell what might happen on an unknown, uncharted planet, no matter how Earth-like it seemed, which was why usually only the most experienced people were chosen for landing party duty during a reconnaissance mission.

Spock returned four hours later (an eternity to the almost frantic Christine), laden with several types of berries and other native fruits, several mushroom-like fungal growths and something resembling lettuce. He reported seeing no animal life except native songbirds, and being a vegetarian, the idea of killing them and eating their flesh turned his stomach. Neither the Captain nor Miss Chapel felt as he did, but they would only be here a short time, so they could safely subsist on the fruits, vegetables and water.

* * *

Kirk awoke in the mid-afternoon of the second day. "Spock? Miss Chapel?" he called out. He felt like he'd slept forever -- and with a lead weight on his chest, it had been so difficult to breathe ... but he felt fine now. Spock turned from where he was standing guard at the cave entrance at the sound of the Captain's voice, hands clasped behind his back and the latter ramrod-straight -- a characteristic pose.

"I am here, Captain. How do you feel?"

"Fine, now. Where's our lady doctor?"

"Miss Chapel is bathing in the pond at the moment. She should return shortly."

"I'm hungry. Is there anything to eat? And have you tried to contact the ship?"

"I found fruits, berries, fungal growths ... and what seems to be lettuce."

"No animal life-forms?"

"Only native songbirds."

As Kirk ate, Spock explained what had happened to the ship which had stranded them here. "There was a shorting-out of the main transporter circuits. Mr. Scott and his crew are doing their best to repair them, but he has warned that it will take at least three solar days to accomplish the job. Therefore, it is most logical that we make ourselves as comfortable as possible until he contacts us."

"How long ago did the shorting-out take place?"

"Yesterday morning at ten-hundred hours."

"Any communications since then?"

"Just Miss Chapel updating Dr. McCoy on your condition early this morning."

"What the hell *happened* to me, anyway?"

"You suffered an allergic reaction to the secretion of a native plant."

"In that case, I'll be glad when we can beam back to the ship, even as beautiful as this planet is."

Spock heartily concurred. After Kirk ate and drank, he made an effort to stand, gaining his feet with Spock's help. His legs were weak and wobbly at first, but got stronger the longer he was on them. Within half an hour, the Captain was walking around like nothing had ever been wrong with him.

The two men took a leisurely walk in the nearby woods, Spock pointing out where he had found their food and the birds -- all the while taking care to remain in at least partial visual contact with the cave in the event Miss Chapel returned.

Christine returned twenty minutes after the men did, nodding and smiling at them as she stashed her things in a nearby corner. "I never realized how much I missed bathing in water. I hope I didn't worry you too much by being gone so long. I had a swim after my bath."

Spock frowned at her. "Most illogical, Miss Chapel. You should never swim alone."

"Your concern is appreciated, Mr. Spock, but I can take care of myself. I know my limits."

The Vulcan looked properly nonplused for a moment, then raised a quizzical eyebrow at her. "Are you hungry?"

"Ravenous. Swimming always gives me a big appetite." She ate and drank after making sure Spock and Kirk had eaten. After the meal, the First Officer stood up to stretch his sleek body, then sat down again.

"It will be necessary to obtain more food and water if Mr. Scott and his crew have not repaired the shorted-out circuits within 24 hours."

It was nearly 2400 when they went to bed. Since Kirk was well again, he and Spock talked into the wee hours about the latter's adventures on the planet so far. Christine fell asleep to the sound of their voices.

* * *

Now that the Captain had no more need for the extra coats, Spock and Christine put them on again, as the night-time temperatures dipped close to freezing, even with the heated rocks. Spock's sensitive hearing caught the sound of her chattering teeth and he left Kirk's side after sitting in the darkness for close to an hour vainly trying to keep warm.

He made his way over to where she huddled close to the largest heated stone, trying to make her short coat cover her. Her cheek was cold to the touch. Having come from a desert planet like Vulcan, Spock was even more sensitive to the cold than she -- but was still warmer than Human body temperature, even when he felt cold to himself.

"You are cold, Miss Chapel. I heard your teeth chattering."

"N-not really, Mr. Spock. You needn't concern yourself with m-me."

"But I am. The heated stones are obviously insufficient to keep us warm; it will therefore be necessary to share body heat in order to survive the night."

Christine's heart pounded double, and she was hard-pressed to answer in a normal voice. "T-that isn't necessary. I'll be f-fine."

"Miss Chapel, please do not argue with me. It is illogical for either of us to be cold if sharing body heat can keep us warm and alive."

"W-well, if you insist -- "

"I do."

"V-very well, then."

He sat down beside her, gradually moving closer to draw her into his arms. She felt the rapid beat of his heart as he held her. This was the last thing she'd expected, but certainly wasn't complaining. Spock's arms felt so warm, strong and *right* around her! Christine was so content that she nearly fell asleep; he gently prodded her just as she was about to nod off.

"Miss Chapel?"


"You may put your arms around me. I assure you it is all right."

She hesitantly slid her arms around her companion's slender waist beneath his jacket; he held her the same way. How could she actually be in Spock's arms at long last? This *had* to be a dream! Even if it was only to preserve body heat, what mattered was that he was doing it.

After this, she was determined to have him belong to her -- not just for a couple of days, but all time. For the present, however, she was content to snuggle close in his arms. Sleep claimed her within moments, her head cradled on Spock's shoulder. His breath felt warm and sweet on her temple and hair, his lips gently brushing the latter when he thought she was asleep.

* * *

The sun lit up the cave's interior when Christine awoke the following morning. The warm comfort of Spock's presence had gone; she sat up and looked around, finding him quietly conversing with the Captain across the room. She smiled upon noting that Spock had placed his jacket over her legs to keep them warm after he was gone. He was so thoughtful, so caring -- even if he was unwilling to admit it or express it openly.

Spock turned his head in her direction upon hearing her yawn and stretch. "Are you all right, Miss Chapel? Did you sleep well?"

She had never slept so well in her life! "Yes, thank you."

"I must go out for more food and water. If you would care to accompany me, we could bring back twice as much." Christine accepted readily, scarcely able to fathom that Spock had actually asked her to join him. "The Captain said he would bathe in the pond, but not swim alone. He should be back before we return."

The Vulcan had risen at dawn and availed himself of the facilities of the pond to bathe thoroughly, returning before either Jim or Christine realized he had gone so they wouldn't worry. The pair returned some hours later, well-laden with fruit, vegetables and water. All enjoyed a fine feast, retiring as soon as it was dark. It had again turned freezing, so Christine suspected that Spock would once again want to share body heat to keep warm.

As she expected, he came to her again that night. They went into each other's arms as though they'd done it all their lives. For the most part, he was as proper as ever ... but when she awakened in the middle of the night, she felt a warm, heavy weight on her breast: Spock's sleek, dark head. One hand rested on his bent left knee, his right arm bent over *her* right knee, his right hand warm where it touched her.

The top of his head was within reach; dare she kiss it as she so yearned to do? Her fingers stroked it, then her lips brushed the top of his head before she could stop herself. Spock stirred slightly after the kiss; she was sure he would give her hell for taking such liberties with his person ... but instead, he merely lifted his head and asked, "Miss Chapel, why did you kiss me?"

"I felt like it. I didn't mean to bother you."

"I never said it bothered me. I was merely asking a question." So Christine was understandably startled when Spock moved to gather her into his arms, feeling his embrace gently tighten and her face lifted to his even though she couldn't see it. "Miss Chapel -- Christine ... whenever you have been close to me, I have ... experienced a -- very strange feeling. Strange because I have not felt it outside of my Mating Time. I am not currently *in* the Mating Time, so the feeling is most unusual ... though not unpleasant. In fact, I have -- found myself wanting to ... make love to you."

Christine couldn't believe her ears. This couldn't be real! Her face went crimson even as his startling confession rendered her speechless.

"Christine?" Spock recalled that he had seldom called her by her first name; it felt unbelievably good doing it again.

"Yes?" she forced out.

"Would you be -- willing for us to ... share physical love together? Give one another an opportunity to be simply man and woman, not Vulcan or Human, or Starfleet officers?" She wanted it (and him) so much that she could taste it, but had to be careful what she said and how she said it. "If you do not wish it, you have but to say the word. I will leave and never mention it to you again."

"Again?" Christine's eyes widened incredulously.

"Surely you remember. It was on the occasion of my first Time of Mating."

"Sorry, but I can't."

"I told you it was illogical for us to protest against our natures. You said you did not understand, that you had only come to tell me that we had changed course for Vulcan and would be there in a few days."

She was dumfounded and said as much. "But that's what I thought you wanted."

"It was, partially ... but I also wanted *you*. And you rejected me."

"How did I reject you?" The very thought was preposterous.

"Do you not *know*? How obvious did I have to be?"

"You mean you were trying to -- ?"

"'Make a pass' is the colloquial term."

"But how could I have known? A Vulcan doesn't make advances to me every day. I'm sorry if you felt rejected, then or now. I had no idea ... how could I? But I've wanted you from the first moment I saw you; that has never changed -- and it never will. I only dated Courtney and Fleetwood because I thought I could never have *you* ... so yes, I would like very much for us to make love. That is, if you still want me."

"Very much." Like a magnet being attracted to metal, Spock bent his head and their lips met.

Christine prayed that this incredible rapture would last forever. She had never been as happy in her life as she was right now! The couple reluctantly parted in order to move behind the high out-cropping of rock at the rear of the cave for privacy, spreading out one coat for a makeshift bed. They sat down on it and embraced once again. "You have no idea how much -- or how long -- I've wanted to do this," she whispered.

In due time, the clothing was removed, beginning with the uniform jackets. Once he sensed that she was ready, Spock lowered Christine to the makeshift bed and positioned himself accordingly. Their coming together was everything she had ever imagined it would be. After several tenderly passionate hours together, the tired but sated lovers fell into a deep sleep in each other's arms.

* * *

Spock awoke to the Captain's voice urgently summoning him, still holding Christine close to him. Her head rested on his bare chest; she was sound asleep. He allowed himself a smile as he recalled how he had buried his face in her silky hair and it had smelled of honeysuckle -- just as her equally silky skin had had a musky-rose scent.

He moved to kiss the top of her head, once again inhaling the scent of honeysuckle after nuzzling her neck, taking in the intoxicating fragrance still lingering there. He even found himself wanting her again, but had to forego that pleasure because Kirk's voice was insistent. Spock was loathe to move or wake the woman in his arms, but finally had to.

"Christine, wake up. We must dress. The Captain is calling and must not discover us like this."

The urgency in her lover's voice galvanized Christine into action and they dressed hastily, Spock going out to meet Kirk first. "Where in God's name have you been, Spock?" he demanded. Christine listened from her hiding place behind the rocks, her face flaming at the scenario she envisioned as she finished dressing. What if the Captain had called for beam-up without telling them? What if she and Spock had been beamed up still entwined as they had been a mere half-hour ago?

They would not only have been the talk of the Enterprise, but the entire inhabited Galaxy -- and neither would ever have lived it down or been able to look anyone in the face again! Thank Heaven that embarrassing scenario did *not* take place ... but another did.

"Scotty just called and said he could beam us up whenever we gave the signal."

The Vulcan could not meet his friend's eyes, and Kirk was sure he detected a green flush on Spock's face and the tips of his elegant ears. Spock was acting *most* peculiar, almost guilty -- and speaking of peculiar, where was Miss Chapel? Could they actually have...?

Kirk shook his head. *No. They couldn't. *Spock* couldn't! It's not the right time for him.* The Captain could scarcely fathom it, but was convinced when Christine finally appeared, looking rumpled, disheveled, and with a guilty flush on her cheeks equaling Spock's own. How could they have done it?

"Ready to beam up, you two?" He forced a smile.

"Yes, sir," the pair answered as one.

"Scotty, three to beam up," Kirk said into his communicator. *I can just hazard to guess what *else* they've done as one!* the Captain thought as they began to dematerialize. *My God, I didn't think it possible -- but it obviously is. I have all the proof I need just by looking at them!*

Kirk hoped Spock would eventually confide in him, but knew how private a person his Vulcan friend was. If Spock didn't want to talk, nothing short of a direct order would loosen his tongue. Miss Chapel wasn't the talkative type, either. If anyone came close to knowing her, Uhura did.

Scott welcomed them back once everyone had materialized. "Welcome back, Captain. Sure's good t' ha' ye all back again. We ha' th' very divil of a time repairin' th' shorted-out transporter circuits. P'r bairns. Blown t' smithereens, they were!"

"Just as long as they're all right now, Scotty."

"Aye, that they are. Shouldna give ye any more trouble."

"Everything else all right?"

"Jus' fine, Captain."

The Scotsman watched in amazement, then happiness, as Spock and Christine stepped off the platform and exchanged smiles. The engineer's eyes widened when he saw the look in the couple's eyes.

*Th' Lord only knows wha' 'appened t' Mr. Spock an' Dr. Chapel while they were on th' planet, but what'er 'twas, they certainly 'ave a diff'rent attitude toward each other now. A' least Mr. Spock does. Ah wonder if we'll e'er know jus' what 'appened b'tween 'em t' change things so drastically. One thing's f'r certain, though. Chris Chapel, p'r lass, 'as always been dotty about Mr. Spock. 'Twould seem that he now feels th' same about her ... and ah hope 'e does, because th' p'r lad 'as badly needed a lass t' love him an' end his terrible loneliness.*

Scott flashed a knowing smile in Christine's direction, one which she returned after an initial look of surprise, as the small group left the Transporter Room together.

* * *

Two full days passed before Spock could bring himself to confide in Kirk. He tried going over his tricorder readings, which he had put on tape, running them through his library computer -- but could not concentrate on them. The feelings he had experienced with Christine, as well as visions of his time with her, plagued him with renewed vigor. He had accomplished what he had set out to do as far as she was concerned, and he was pleased about that, but this ... Spock finally stood up and steeled himself to walk to the command chair.


"Yes, Spock?"

"I must speak privately with you."

Sulu and Uhura turned their heads upon hearing the tremor in the First Officer's voice. He noted this, lowering it so that only Kirk could hear. The Captain followed suit.

"Concerning what happened on the planet?"

Spock nodded, unable to bring himself to speak.

Kirk again saw an emerald flush invading his Vulcan friend's face and ears. "Well, things are kind of slow at the moment, so why not? Your quarters or mine?"

"Mine." The reply was barely above a whisper.

"Mr. Sulu, you have the con until Mr. Spock and I return."

"Aye, sir."

Sulu and Uhura had turned back to their consoles in disappointment when the two senior officers had lowered their voices. The strange look on Spock's face and the Captain's expressionless face were most peculiar in view of the kind of people they were. The helmsman had wanted to tell Kirk about the times he had caught Spock wearing that same look, but thought better of it -- especially here on the bridge.

He suspected that Spock's request for a private discussion had something to do with what was rumored to have taken place between the science officer and Dr. Chapel while the landing party was temporarily stranded on ElNath VI. It seemed unfathomable that something could have happened, but it was the only possible explanation for the Vulcan's recent atypical behavior.

Sulu also knew how unusual it was for Spock to let any emotion show on his face where it might be seen by others, yet it had happened. The Vulcan had immediately straightened his face into its normal calm, serene expression, raising an inquisitive eyebrow upon noticing the helmsman looking at him with a mixture of concern and curiosity.

"Anything wrong, sir?"

"Of course not," Spock denied ... as Sulu expected. "Why do you ask?"

"You've been looking -- well, uh -- kind of faraway and dreamy."

"Vulcans never look 'faraway' or 'dreamy'." The reply was icy. "Now get back to work."

"Aye, sir."

Sulu knew better than to argue with Spock, for anyone who did usually came out of the encounter suitably humbled. Dr. McCoy was the only one who had dared to cross verbal swords with the redoubtable Vulcan, and much to the crew's shock (and Spock's displeasure) the doctor occasionally came out on top.

* * *

After reaching E Deck, the two men headed for Spock's quarters, which adjoined Kirk's own. "All right, Spock, what's so important?" the Captain asked as soon as the doors closed behind them.

"Jim, something -- *happened* on ElNath VI."

"I'd gathered that from the look on your face the last morning we were there ... but what exactly was it that 'happened'?" As if he didn't know!

"It -- concerns Dr. Chapel." The Vulcan looked thoroughly embarrassed when he lifted his head.

"What happened between you?"

Spock momentarily turned his back to gather courage, then turned around. "I believe you would call it 'making love'."

"But I didn't think you *could*, Spock ... at least not outside of pon farr."

"Neither did I -- but apparently I was mistaken."

Kirk bent his head and rubbed his neck, then lifted his head to give his Vulcan friend a smile. "This comes as something of a surprise, but I couldn't be happier for you. How was it?"

Spock raised an astonished eyebrow, but replied, "According to Miss Chapel, 'wonderful'."

"What did *you* think?"

"I -- found it ... most enjoyable."

"This is quite a step for you. Any plans to bond with her?"

"I -- was considering it." The First Officer's eyes pleaded for help. "Jim, this is new ... totally unbelievable to me. I did not think myself capable of such feelings for a woman. They are most illogical, but I cannot deny them. That would be even *more* illogical."

"Spock, are you saying that you're -- *in love* with her?"

"I believe that is the correct term, yes."

"Well, congratulations. I'm sure you'll be very happy together." Even so, Kirk wasn't surprised to see not happiness but stark fear on his friend's face.

"Jim, you must help me. This is a most distressing development. What am I to do about it?"

"I'm afraid there isn't much you *can* do. Usually it's already too late by the time you realize it ... so I suggest you relax and enjoy it. From personal experience, I can tell you that falling in love -- *real* love, that is -- can be, and often is, frightening and unnerving. Particularly your vulnerability where she is concerned; when she's all you can think about and all you want to do is be with her. For these reasons, being in love with someone can take a lot of getting used to ... but eventually you wonder how you could ever have lived without it."

Spock found himself smiling slightly at the thought. "Indeed -- though it still seems incredible that it could happen to such as I."

"It happens to everyone sooner or later ... and Spock, love is *seldom* logical." Kirk could scarcely fathom all he had heard but at the same time, couldn't have been more thrilled that his beloved friend's terrible loneliness was at last at an end. "Well, now that that's settled, shall we get back to the bridge? I'm sure Sulu's beginning to wonder about us."

"Most definitely, Captain."

"Then let's go, Mr. Spock." The two stepped out of the latter's quarters, the masks of commander and First Officer firmly in place. Sulu vacated the command chair upon seeing the two senior officers return to the bridge. "Any problems here, Mr. Sulu?"

"All quiet, sir."

"Good. Return to your post."

Spock resumed his science station, now able to immerse himself in the information his tricorder readings gave him about ElNath VI. Kirk stole a quick look at Uhura; the Bantu looked up from writing a communications report and smiled at him. Kirk smiled back, wondering if Miss Chapel had confided in her yet. He would have to ask eventually, but for now it was back to work.

* * *

The ship was well into the Sagittarius Arm, the most densely populated sector of the Galaxy, before Christine could bring herself to confide in Uhura. The latter's slender brown fingers with their beautifully groomed nails gently stroked the taut strings, occasionally adjusting the tone dials of the Vulcan lyrette Spock had given her at the end of the first five-year mission.

It was one of Uhura's most prized possessions; she cared for it as lovingly as she would a child. Spock seldom gave gifts, especially ones such as this -- so anyone receiving a gift from him felt singled out, honored. Uhura was no exception. She hummed "Beyond Antares", a popular love ballad, stopping whenher buzzer sounded.

"Come." She was pleasantly surprised to see Christine step in. About time! "Chris! What a pleasant surprise. Come in and make yourself at home. I was just practicing on my lyrette. It always relaxes me after a tough day."

Christine's frosted brown hair was rumpled, as was her clothing; her face was flushed and anxious. "Ny, can I talk to you? I've got to tell someone before I burst!"

"Of course. What's on your mind?"

Chapel sat down on her friend's bed, hands demurely folded in her lap.

Uhura couldn't help but notice their nervous trembling. "From the looks of you, it must be important."

"That's putting it mildly," the other woman sighed. "I'm sure you know about my beaming down to the surface of that new class M planet in the ElNath system."

"Yes. What about it?"

"Something happened down there."

"That's nothing new. What's your problem?"

"Nyota, you don't understand. *Mr. Spock* was also in the landing party!"

At the mention of the Vulcan's name, Uhura recalled the shipboard gossip she had heard about him and Chris's two new suitors. She was also aware of the feelings Spock allegedly harbored for Christine, not to mention the argument he had had with one of his rivals. Lastly, she recalled the rumor currently making its rounds through the ship: that Chris and Spock had shared a 'night of love', for lack of a better term, while temporarily stranded on the planet. However, knowing the two involved as she did, Uhura hadn't believed the rumor ... at first.

"I'm sure you've heard the rumor concerning what happened between us down there."

"I have ... but from what little I know of Mr. Spock's background, it seems unlikely that anything could have happened."

"Not any more."

Uhura's brown eyes widened in shock and disbelief. She set her lyrette aside and moved forward to sit on the edge of her chair after turning it to face her friend, taking the other woman's hands in her own and gently squeezing them. "Do you mean to tell me--?"

"Yes." Christine blushed in spite of herself.

Nyota hugged her friend. "Congratulations! How did you do it?"

"I really don't know if it was any of my doing, though I *do* remember the first night planetside as being very cold, despite the rocks we heated with the phasers. The Captain was asleep; Spock came to me and asked if I was cold. He said he'd heard my teeth chattering."

"What did you tell him?"

"That I was fine, and he didn't have to be concerned about me ... but he knew better. He even offered to stay with me so we could share body heat, since the rocks didn't seem to be enough to keep us warm."

"I can just imagine how *that* made you feel!"

"I said that wasn't necessary." Christine sighed deeply. "He would have none of my stalling tactics. He said not to argue, that it was illogical for either of us to be cold if sharing body heat could help keep us warm and alive. You know how he's even more sensitive to cold than I am, so I gave in."

"As he knew you would."

"Yes; I could never refuse him anything. I was almost asleep when he nudged me and said to put my arms around him, assuring me it was all right."

"Nothing like having permission." Uhura smiled knowingly.

"That's for sure. It was wonderful to be in his arms at last, even if it *was* only to share body heat."

"Ummhmm," the other woman murmured skeptically. "Sounds more like our Mr. Spock is still trying to find a logical reason to do an emotional thing."

"It doesn't matter what his reasons may have been. What mattered was that I was in his arms -- and that he was in mine. The next thing I remember is my head on his shoulder and his breath on my temple. It was lovely to feel him kiss it and the top of my head. His lips are like warm silk ... but naturally this was when he thought I was asleep."

"What about the next night?"

"We went to bed after eating, as soon as it got dark. As before, Spock came to me after the Captain was asleep. We went into each other's arms as if we'd done it all our lives. For the first part of the night, he was as proper as ever, then I woke a few hours later to find his head on my breast. I wanted to stroke and kiss it in the worst way -- "

"Did you?"

"Before I could stop myself. I was sure he'd wake up and give me hell for it."

"*Did* he wake up?"

"Yes ... but only to ask why I'd done it. I said I'd felt like it and hoped it hadn't bothered him." Christine yawned and stretched, making herself comfortable on Uhura's bed. It was covered with a tiger-print bedspread, similar to the print in the long dress the latter wore. Her bare feet were tucked under her as she sat in the contoured chair near the bed.

"Go on."

"He said it hadn't bothered him, that he'd simply asked a question. The next thing I knew, he had moved to take me in his arms and pull me close to him. He claimed I was making him feel something he'd never felt outside of his Mating Time, as he called it. He said he wasn't experiencing that, so the feelings were unusual -- but not unpleasant. And get *this*: he even said he found himself wanting to *make love* to me! I think I blushed all over when he said *that*.

"Then he actually called me by my first name. He rarely does that without my prompting him. He asked if I would be willing for us to make love, have the opportunity to be simply man and woman, not Vulcan and Human. I wanted it ... oh God, how I wanted it! -- but had to be careful what I said and how I said it. I was silent for so long that he finally said, 'If you don't want to make love, say the word and I'll leave. I don't feel like being rejected again.'"

"Again?" Uhura was incredulous.

"He claimed he'd asked the first time during his first *pon farr*. Nyota, I had no idea he was trying to make a pass at me! How could I? I was dumfounded and told him as much. After all, I thought all he wanted was to go to Vulcan ... and had only come to tell him that we were on our way there despite Starfleet orders to go to Altair Six. He said he *had* wanted to go to Vulcan, but had also wanted *me* ... and I'd rejected him. I asked how that was possible, because I would never knowingly do such a thing. He said, 'Do you not know? How much more obvious did I have to be?'

"I managed to convince him that I would never have rejected him had I known that's what he was doing -- and that I still wanted him. Always had, always would ... and that I would like very much for us to make love -- if he still wanted me, that is. 'Very much,' he answered ... then kissed me. And I mean really *kissed* me. Oh, Ny, it was heavenly! I had no idea that any man's lips could taste so sweet -- and the pleasure was so exquisite that it was almost pain. In that moment, I knew that all my waiting and loving from afar had been worth it!"

Christine smiled. "It still seems like a beautiful dream. I can't tell you how he made me feel when we were no longer two but *one*! It's hard to believe it really happened, that I could be so happy. I always knew we'd be fantastic together, given the chance ... and I was right!"

Uhura stood up and stretched, then situated herself in her chair again. "I had no idea Spock had it *in* him."

"He's every bit as passionate as a Human male -- not to mention far more tender and loving. He may not do it often, but when he does ... *Wow!*. With him, quality is better than quantity -- though I naturally intend to find a way to get more of that wonderful loving more often. It's the kind every woman dreams of, but doesn't think she'll ever find."

Uhura smiled and shifted in her chair. "Anything else?"

"We woke up still in each other's arms, covered only by my coat. We were lying on his. It was so natural to feelhis body close to mine ... then we heard the Captain calling. I was so content that I didn't want to get up, but Spock said we had to so we wouldn't be found as we were.

"We dressed quickly; Spock went out first. The Captain asked where we'd been, that Mr. Scott had called and said he could beam us up any time. I was sure that Spock was blushing as much as I was! I wish I could have seen the look on his face and the tips of his ears ... not to mention the look on the *Captain's* face -- but all he said was, 'Are you ready to beam up?' after I came out. Then he called Mr. Scott and we all beamed up."

"Has the Captain said anything to either of you since?"

"I heard that Spock asked him if they could speak privately. Knowing the kind of friends those two are, I think I can guess fairly accurately what they discussed."

"What else, if anything?"

"Spock and I smiled at each other when we got off the transporter platform. Heaven only knows what Mr. Scott was thinking! I was sure that what happened was written all over my face -- but he didn't say anything, simply smiled at me as we headed for the doors of the transporter room."

"He must have been happy for you. After all, it's not exactly a secret how you feel about Spock. Naturally we'd be glad to see you finally get him."

At that moment, Uhura's intercom beeped; it was McCoy. "Uhura, if Chris is there, put her on. I need to talk to her."

"This is Christine. What do you need, Leonard?"

"You, to keep an eye on that young Rigellian I operated on so I can get some sleep. I haven't slept for two days."

"Of course. I'll be right there."

"Thanks. McCoy out."

Christine sighed after closing the intercom. "Well, duty calls, Nyota -- but thank you for letting me bend your ear. I feel a lot better now."

"What are friends for?" The women embraced at Uhura's door.

"I hope I didn't bore you."

"Far from it! I enjoyed every minute. It was 'fascinating,' as our favorite Vulcan would say. Which reminds me -- congrats again. God bless you both ... and keep me informed."

Christine smiled, nodded and left. Uhura smiled after her, then turned to look at her chronometer, amazed to see that it read 0100. *I'd better get to bed. I'll never wake up in time otherwise!* She fell asleep almost as soon as her head touched the pillow.

* * *

The only other thing Christine did while covering for McCoy (aside from checking the young Rigellian's vital signs periodically to make sure he remained stable and administering his prescribed medication) was enter all the current data on their patient's condition into his computer file. She yawned and stretched in her chair.

*God, I'm bored. It seems that treating patients consists mostly of giving them medication and waiting!*

McCoy arrived at ten-hundred hours, clean, well-groomed and thoroughly rested. "Mornin', Chris. I'd almost forgotten how good a bed felt ... or how it felt to sleep through the night -- but now I'm ready to lick the world. Or should I say the galaxy?"

"Would you settle for keeping sickbay running smoothly?"

The Chief Surgeon grinned wryly. "M'Benga went on R&R, I take it."

Christine nodded. "It's been months since he's had any. I believe he went to Vulcan to brush up on their latest medical techniques."

"Aaagh! The man's taste in vacation spots!" McCoy exclaimed in mock horror.

"Come on, Leonard, it's not *that* bad."

"How would you know? You've never been there."

"I've never beamed down, at any rate ... and besides, a lot of good things come from Vulcan."

"Oh, yeah? Name one. And Spock doesn't count."

She frowned at him but continued. "Their music, for one. Their artwork, too ... and then there's Amanda--"

McCoy had to concede that last item. Spock's Human mother was a lovely woman, so it made him wonder how she could ever have married Sarek or had a son like Spock. "All right, you win. Good things *do* come from Vulcan ... but it'll never replace Wrigley's Pleasure Planet."

"I don't think they'd want to if they could." Christine sighed in exasperation. "Don't you want to hear how your patient's doing?"

"Of course. How is he?"

"Stable. I renewed his dressings and gave him his last medication an hour ago."

"Good." McCoy's eyes widened again upon seeing the chrono reading. "Oh my God, you mean it's 1100 already? Why didn't you tell me? I never meant to keep you all night."

"Because you were too busy indulging in your favorite pastime -- running down Spock, Vulcan and all they stand for. Besides, you needed the rest and I didn't have anything better to do."

"Just as *you* never miss a chance to defend them," the Chief Surgeon threw back. "But let's get off that depressing subject and on to bigger and better things. Were you planning to shower and grab a bite after you leave?"

"Sounds like a good idea. I *do* need to freshen up after being here all night -- but need to talk to you first."

"About you and Spock, I presume."

The female doctor's eyes widened. "How did you know?"

"It's hard to miss ... especially considering the way you two acted after beaming up. Scotty says you smiled at each other and wore looks of pure love."

"I had no idea we were that transparent -- and besides, I see nothing wrong with that." Christine's voice was icy.

"There's nothing wrong with that. Don't misunderstand me. I couldn't be happier that you and Spock have finally gotten together. It just seems so unusual ... or should I say out of character? ... for Spock to have sexual desire for a woman outside of his Mating Time, as the rumors claim. Surely you're aware of how the Vulcan mating cycle works."

"Of course, but what's that got to do with what happened?"

"Spock isn't supposed to feel strong sexual desire or be able to perform in that capacity unless he's in the mating cycle, which won't occur again for at least another year."

"Well, he obviously *did* have the desire -- *and* the ability to perform. Most satisfactorily too, I might add."

"Then something's changed. Maybe Spock's Human half is in control more often now that he's getting older. Either that or something on the planet affected him."

"Meaning that *I* didn't." Christine's tone could have frozen the very air.

"Good lord, you're touchy today! I merely mean that something ... either in the fruit, vegetables, air, water or songs of the birds ... could have gotten to him, made him want to make love to you."

"I don't believe that. Neither of us detected anything with our tricorders."

"Some things are virtually undetectable, and even tricorders aren't foolproof." McCoy furrowed his brow thoughtfully. "Oh yes, I just remembered. When Spock and I were trapped in Sarpeidon's Ice Age, we met a pretty blonde named Zarabeth, also a prisoner there. As I recall, she reminded me a lot of you -- and we stayed in a cave there, too.

"I was very ill; too much exposure to the elements or something. Spock and Zarabeth cared for me, as you and he took care of the Captain. Then something happened to Spock ... he reverted back to the ways of his Vulcan ancestors. He even ate meat! Not long afterward, he ended up making love to her, just as you claim he made love to you. Seems he performs best in caves," McCoy joked.

"For heaven's sake, get to the point!" Christine snapped.

"She had a child -- a son. *Spock's* son. You met him, remember?"

A spasm of pain tightened Christine's lips at the realization that Leonard was right. The resemblance had been so obvious. How could she have missed it?

McCoy was instantly sorry for his thoughtless remark. "Sorry, Chris. I forgot what a sensitive subject that is for you."

"That's all right this time ... but you forgot something. As I recall, you said that Spock had acted as though he hadn't cared about Zarabeth at all -- and that you couldn't believe even he could act so callous. That hasn't happened in this case."

"Are you sure? Have you two spent any time together since returning to the ship?" McCoy read his colleague's answer in her face. "So ... he hasn't seen you since."

Christine reluctantly shook her head, even though she was convinced that they *would* be together again -- soon!

"That pretty well proves my theory, then."

"No, it doesn't. Not by a long shot!"

"Chris, believe it or not, I'm your friend. I don't mean to sound callous; I'm simply trying to be honest ... as I think you want me to be -- and still break it to you as gently as I can. Whatever affected Spock must have temporarily allowed him to release his emotions and indulge in a romantic interlude, like the spores on Omicron Three. You just happened to be there at the right time -- but it was a temporary thing. It's over now.

"Whatever he said when the two of you were planetside was most likely said under the influence of something. In other words, artificially induced. And when something ... love, for example -- is artificially induced, it rarely lasts. It must occur naturally; otherwise it's gone as quickly as it came. You may not enjoy hearing that, but it's a possibility you have to consider."

"Translated, I'm not capable of attracting Spock without outside help. Thanks a *lot*, Leonard. You're really a *great* boost to this lady's ego. Besides, Spock didn't lie. He never lies."

"Under normal circumstances, no. But these aren't normal circumstances. Treasure your time with him, Chris. Keep it as a beautiful memory, as well you should ... but don't kid yourself by indulging in the mistaken fantasy that it will happen again. No amount of wishful thinking is going to make it happen again."

"Whatever happened to 'Chris, I think Spock's in love with you'?" came the bitter retort. "I'll say one thing for you, Leonard. You really know how to spoil a good thing."

"Come on, Chris. Don't you think I wanted things to work out for you as much as you did? I'm only trying to be realistic. Spock just isn't made that way. Normally, he would never allow himself such an illogical thing as romance, much less a sexual relationship while in the throes of that romance."

"Believe what you like. My instincts tell me otherwise."

"You're grasping at straws."

"I don't care."

"Okay, have it your way ... but don't say I didn't warn you. He's hurt you so much; I don't want to see you hurt any more. You're a warm, wonderful, loving woman. You deserve a man who can love you as you deserve to be loved. Spock can't."

"That's *your* opinion," she retorted. "And besides, I'm a big girl. I love Spock, no matter what -- and why encourage me if you thought his feelings for me artificially induced?"

"I guess it was because I'm also a romantic at heart and wanted to believe it *was* really possible for Spock to love you as you wanted him to."

"Leonard, when one truly loves, she doesn't give up just because of a few setbacks. I couldn't give up, even if I wanted to. My love won't let me."

"Well, if you're that determined to have him -- "

"I am."

McCoy sighed. "Then all I can say is that I wish you luck. You're gonna need it. A miracle or two wouldn't hurt, either. Oh yes, I just thought of something else. Did you take your birth control injection this month?"

"No, I'm afraid I forgot it this time around. Why?" Christine hadn't really considered the consequences of an unplanned sexual encounter. Not that she'd mind having Spock's child, mind you, in the event that she *was* pregnant -- but it was the wrong way to get him to marry her.

"And wouldn't it take more than one night for me to become pregnant, especially with a Vulcan? If I remember correctly, a couple has to be bonded for conception to take place. Spock and I never got around to that."

"It only took one night for Zarabeth ... and remember, Spock is just *half* Vulcan. That often makes him the exception to the rule. Even if his Human half is submerged most of the time, it *is* still there."

"Now that I think about it, I really wasn't too concerned about the possible repercussions. I was too carried away, too happy."

"Then you'd better let me give you the standard pregnancy test. It won't take long, and if it's positive, then you can--"

Christine's eyes blazed. "Then I can *what*? Trap Spock into marriage? *Forget it.* As I said, I'm a big girl. I can handle even an unplanned pregnancy ... and I would sooner give up an arm or leg before I would ever give up Spock's child, something I've yearned for ever since I first fell in love with him!"

"I hope you also realize that if you *are* pregnant and Spock finds out, he'll feel obligated to marry you because he doesn't want another illegitimate child. You know what happens to a Vulcan who has an illegitimate child. Do you want that to happen to Spock because of your stubbornness?"

If nothing else Leonard said sunk in, that did. No, she couldn't bear the thought of Spock being ostracized from Vulcan in the event that she was carrying his child -- and they were not married. No amount of stubborn independence was worth that.

"Of course I don't. I couldn't live with knowing I put him through that kind of heartache again."

"Well, I'd better see to our patient now ... and you be sure to come in at 1300 tomorrow for your pregnancy test. At least that way you'd be sure -- then you could figure out what you want to do next."

"I'll be here. Thanks, Leonard." She hugged McCoy.

"For what?" He returned her impulsive embrace, but came out of it understandably flustered.

"For being my friend ... and for just being you."

McCoy had been about to say something else when the intercom interrupted. It was Spock -- calling for Christine! "Dr. Chapel, are you there? This is Spock."

"Yes, Spock. What can I do for you?"

"Would you come to my quarters in 15.25 minutes? I must speak privately with you."

"Of course, Spock."

"Then I will be expecting you. Spock out." The intercom shut off; Christine gave McCoy a triumphant smile.

"You were saying, Leonard?"

"Well, I'll be damned."

"I'd better go change. See you later." Chapel rushed out, leaving a stunned, bewildered McCoy in her wake.

*Well! You could knock me over with a feather. That's the *last* thing I expected. Maybe Chris was right after all!*

* * *

Courtney and Fleetwood caught up with Christine in an E Deck corridor after she had changed and was on her way to Spock's quarters.

"Chris, you've been avoiding us lately. Why? Is it something we've done?"

"Oh no, Dana, of course not. It's me."

"What's happened?"

For some unexplainable reason, Chapel found that she couldn't meet their eyes.

"Does it have anything to do with Spock?" Fleetwood asked.

She nodded; their reactions were predictable.

Fleetwood sighed. "Figures. We lose out to a green-blooded, pointy-eared, logic-spouting alien."

"What happened between Spock and myself makes it impossible for me to continue seeing either of you," Christine explained.

"You mean you and he really--?"


"Incredible. I didn't think he was capable of it," Courtney observed.

"If anyone could get him to do it, Chris could," Fleetwood declared.

Chapel smiled at them both. She liked them both so much! Why couldn't she have loved one of them instead of being so insanely in love with a half-breed Vulcan of whom she wasn't at all sure where his feelings for her were concerned?

"I won't pretend that this is easy for me to say, Chris, but it looks like the best man won. If Spock is what you want, I won't stand in your way. I only hope he treats you right, gives you the love you deserve."

"If he doesn't, I'll break his head in!" Fleetwood warned.

Christine smiled and patted his cheek. "Now, John, you know you don't mean that."

"No, I don't mean that," Fleetwood found himself saying, though he really did. "I just want you to be happy."

"I hope we can still be friends."

"Count on it ... but you're one tough act to follow, lady. It's not going to be easy to find someone even half the woman *you* are."

"I have no doubt that two very lucky girls will snap you two up in no time!"

"Only if they're like you," Dana proclaimed.

"I've got to go now. Spock is waiting for me."

Christine left two happy but sad former suitors in her wake as she hurried down the corridor. The two men looked at each other and shrugged. "Did you hear how casually she said that?" Dana gave his friend a penetrating look. "Spock must be one hell of a guy to win Chris's love. I only hope he realizes what a gem he's getting."

Fleetwood nodded before heading for the transporter room and landing party duty after bidding Dana goodbye at the latter's post in Life Sciences.

* * *

Now that both friends had confided in them, Kirk and Uhura knew they had to have a long, private discussion. After the Vulcan became engrossed in his work, the Captain quietly rose from his chair, making his way up to Uhura.

"Seen Christine yet?"

"Two nights ago," Uhura whispered back.

"Could we talk somewhere after shift change?" Kirk asked.

"How about your quarters?" Uhura suggested.

"As long as we lock the door and close down the intercom. I don't want to be disturbed."

Uhura nodded in agreement and turned back to her console; the Captain returned to his chair. When it came time for shift change, Kirk stood up and headed for the turbolift where Uhura was already waiting. "Spock, Uhura and I will be in conference in my quarters if we're needed."

"Acknowledged." The First Officer raised a curious eyebrow at their simultaneous departure, but otherwise thought no more of it ... even though he well knew that Christine and Uhura shared almost as close a friendship as himself and the Captain. The communications chief would therefore be the one the female Terran doctor would confide in regarding personal, intimate matters.

* * *

Only by sheer luck did Kirk and Uhura manage to enter his quarters without being spotted. They made themselves comfortable in the two chairs at his desk after obtaining drinks and snacks from the auto-chef. The Captain told his side first. "If it were anyone else, I'd say it was a simple matter of two crew people falling in love and think no more of it -- but nothing is simple where Spock is concerned. This just isn't *like* him!"

Uhura recalled when she'd been in sickbay dressing following a checkup and overheard McCoy telling Chris that something on the planet must have affected Spock, making him act as he did. "That's possible, I suppose," Kirk agreed. "It happened like that on Sarpeidon. But what about his actions *before* being stranded planetside?"

Uhura shrugged. "It's hard to say. Maybe it's like you thought. After all, Spock *does* have emotions, though he would prefer to deny it. Of course, his Vulcan half would make it more difficult, but he *would* still be capable of falling in love."

"And Bones said that Christine told him it had happened naturally, that there were no artificial stimulants involved. She has a tendency toward wishful thinking, especially where Spock's concerned ... but she's also scrupulously honest. She wouldn't say that unless she truly believed it or knew for a fact that it was true."

"Just as I've always believed that if one didn't already feel a certain way to begin with, it would be really tough ... if not impossible -- to manufacture it," Uhura observed. "If one feels a certain way and is just concealing it, certain things ... like the spores on Omicron Three -- would only bring true feelings out into the open."

"In other words, you're saying that Spock had feelings for Miss Chapel all along, but it took Courtney and Fleetwood's feelings for her to bring them out into the open."

Uhura nodded.

"Then no matter how unlikely *we* may think it, it's entirely possible that Spock really loves Christine ... in his own way, of course," the Captain said with a grin.

"Not only possible, but virtually certain. I wish you could have seen and heard Chris two nights ago. She was all but walking on air. I've never seen her so radiant. She just glowed, she was so happy."

"I wouldn't go as far as that in Spock's case, but he *did* say that he'd never felt this way about anyone before -- frankly hadn't believed it possible."

"Did he say he loved her?"

"Not in so many words, but didn't deny it when I asked if he did."

"Do you really think he does?"

Kirk took a generous bite of his chicken sandwich and an equally generous swig of coffee, then shrugged after swallowing. "Uhura, frankly I don't know *what* to think ... but Spock doesn't generally lie, so apparently it's true -- no matter *how* unbelievable it may seem to us."

"It's certainly going to take getting used to."

"For you and me both," Kirk declared. "But what counts is that our friends are happy. A good, passionate romance is just the thing for them -- especially Spock. He's loosened up considerably."

"So I've noticed." Uhura remembered her astonishment when the normally reticent Vulcan had actually *joked* with her on the Bridge -- when everyone else's backs were turned, of course.

The pair stood up and were preparing to leave when the supposedly closed-down intercom beeped. "Kirk here."

"Spock here, Captain. My apologies for disturbing you, but Admiral Cartwright of Starfleet Command wishes to speak with you regarding our next mission."

On my way. Kirk out." After the line was closed again, the Captain and Communications Chief departed his quarters, heading for the turbolift which would take them back to the Bridge.

"I wonder what Admiral Cartwright wants," Uhura remarked.

"I don't know," Kirk responded, "But it must be big for him to call personally."

Christine hurried to Spock's quarters after leaving Courtney and Fleetwood, but even in her almost indecent haste, she was five minutes late. She disliked being even *one* minute late, since that meant less time for her to spend with Spock. Her heart pounded and her face was flushed when he told her to come in, but she managed to sound normal.

"I'm sorry to be late, Spock. I was detained."

"As long as you came."

"You said you wanted to speak privately with me."

"Yes." He motioned her to sit down in the nearest chair, making sure she was comfortable before seating himself facing her. "As I am sure you are aware, it was very unusual for me to do what I did on the planet."

Christine smiled to herself. *I admit it was unusual, but it came at the perfect time for me. Whatever Spock may feel, *I'm* certainly not complaining!* "I realize that. There's no need to apologize, Spock."

"I am not apologizing. I never do anything without a logical reason." He frowned as she stood up, then smiled and gestured toward his sleeping alcove. "Shall we move over here?"

Christine's heart pounded even harder, making it difficult for her legs to carry her at a normal pace as the pair walked over and seated themselves on Spock's bed with its royal blue bedspread, a gift from his mother, which felt velvety beneath her inquisitive fingers. It was hard to think straight with him in such close proximity, not to mention the very romantic setting -- but she managed it after breathing deeply and mustering all her strength, both physical and mental.

"You mean that what happened there was ... well ... meant to be?"

"I would not put it in exactly those terms, but your meaning is essentially correct."

"What exactly do you have in mind?"

"It is time I married and fathered children. Since we have already shared physical intimacy, it is only logical that we also share mental -- or as you might express it -- *emotional* intimacy."

Christine's brows rose in astonishment. "Are you asking me to *bond* with you, Spock?"

His velvet eyes held a warmth she had rarely seen when he looked at her. "I believe that is what I said. As Dr. McCoy once said, you would be a most logical choice. I do not often agree with him, as you well know, but in this case it is the only logical course of action."

Christine laughed to herself. *If only Leonard could hear this. It would make his day!*

"When the time comes, would you prefer a Terran ceremony or would you like to go to Vulcan for the *koon-ut-kal-if-fee*?"

"What's that?"

"The Vulcan term for marriage -- or challenge, though I am assuming you have no wish to do so."

*No way!* Christine thought. "We can worry about that later."

Spock nodded thoughtfully and sighed deeply. "Still, I sense something about which you have been most concerned for some days. Something on which Dr. McCoy has warned you that you must come to a decision ... soon. Forgive my indelicacy, but I must know. Have you had your contraceptive injection this month?"

Christine wished she could lie, but was unable to do so to the warm brown eyes she loved. "No, I'm afraid not."

"I suspected as much. In that case, there is a strong possibility that you are carrying my child, since I have determined that I have 'Awakened' again. 'Awakening' occurs roughly a year before the Time of Mating; sexually mature male Vulcans are fertile up until roughly a month before *pon farr* occurs. Fortunately you will likely have given birth by then -- that is, in the event you are indeed pregnant. I will tell you how to deal with *pon farr* so that you will be prepared for it when it comes."

Christine blushed at his frankness, wishing she wasn't so transparent where he was concerned. "I'm sure it would take more than one night with you for me to become pregnant ... and if memory serves, isn't a couple supposed to be mind-linked, bonded, before conception can occur? We never got around to that, remember?"

"Ordinarily, bonding is necessary, but in my case is likely to prove otherwise ... and if I remember correctly, we -- shall I say -- *consummated* our relationship not once, but three times. So I ask you ... are you pregnant or not?"

"I can't tell you."

His upswept brows lifted, their expression almost suspicious.

"I can't tell you because I don't know for sure."

"When are you due to see Dr. McCoy for the pregnancy test?"

"Tomorrow at 1300."

"Good. Please be sure to inform me of the results so that we may plan accordingly." The couple then proceeded to touch fingers to one another's faces and perform the necessary bonding link. "I was told it took almost half an hour to establish a link with my former bond- mate. With you, I needed only ten minutes." They soon crossed the customary extended fingers and smiled at each other.

"I love you, Spock."

"And I cherish thee, Christine."

That statement thrilled Chapel right to the marrow of her bones, because it was something she had doubted she would ever hear from Spock's lips.

"Now all that is left to do is make arrangements for our event ual marriage ... my betrothed."

How wonderful and beautiful was the knowledge that Spock would at last belong to her!

* * *

Christine walked out of Sickbay at 1400 the following afternoon, scarcely able to fathom what McCoy had told her. She hadn't believed it possible, but it had happened. She was pregnant with Spock's child! How would she ever tell him? She was both happy and sad at the knowledge. Happy that she carried her beloved's child, but sad because she knew that he would surely feel obligated to marry her earlier than planned, despite their bonding -- a sign that he wanted her for his own, baby or no baby. Still, she wanted him to enter into marriage *willingly* instead of being made to feel as though he had been forced into it.

Chapel's former suitors met her in the corridor outside sickbay after the pregnancy test had been completed and the results made known. It had taken a lot out of her in more ways than one, so it was all she could do to smile and nod at them before heading to her quarters to sleep.

Courtney and Fleetwood looked strangely at each other after their former love had disappeared around the corner. "Chris didn't look well, did she?" Courtney remarked.

"Probably picked up a bug somewhere," Fleetwood speculated.

*If only that was all it was!* Dana thought sadly. He was only a biochemist, but knew all the signs. "Woody, that lady hasn't 'caught' anything. She's pregnant!"

Fleetwood's eyes became as round as saucers. "Dana, do you realize what you're saying?"

"I do."

"But you don't -- you *can't* -- believe the rumors about what happened between her and Spock on that planet!"

"I don't want to, but she has all the signs."

"Dana, you aren't an M.D. You could be wrong."

"All right, smart guy. Tell me why *you* think she's in sickbay on her day off."

But the security man couldn't come up with a plausible explanation. "Couldn't we ask Dr. McCoy?"

Dana scoffed. "Be realistic, Woody. Do you really think he'd tell *us*?"

"Do you think Spock will marry her if she *is* pregnant?"

"I don't know that much about Vulcans, so I couldn't say. We'll just have to wait and see what happens -- if anything."

* * *

Spock was waiting when Kirk and Uhura entered the Bridge. "Admiral Cartwright standing by on the Starfleet channel, Captain."

"Thank you, Mr. Spock. Uhura, put him through." Kirk sat back down in his recently vacated chair, giving his Vulcan friend a questioning look. "Any idea why he's calling, Spock?"

"I believe it may have something to do with our contact with the Romulans some months ago."

Kirk didn't get a chance to ask Spock what he meant before Cartwright's image appeared on the viewscreen. "Captain Kirk?"

"Kirk here, sir. This mission must be important for you to call us personally."

"Indeed it is, Captain. I'm sure you recall how two of your doctors isolated the 'Doomsday Bug' virus and gave it to the Romulans to see if they could come up with a cure."

The Captain's mind drew a blank for a second, then he remembered. "Yes, sir. Does this call mean that they have?"

"That's the latest word from the Romulan Ambassador." The Captain and a majority of the bridge crew suppressed a cheer upon hearing the welcome news. Spock allowed himself a smile.

"The Enterprise is to go to the boundary of the Neutral Zone and rendezvous with a Romulan medical ship. After establishing contact, all you need to do is have them beam the vaccine over to you. The Ambassador has promised there will be no hostilities between us for as long as it takes to make the transfer, but be ready just in case. The rendezvous will take place within one solar week; I believe that will be stardate 8443.09. Be sure to have one of your doctors on hand to receive the vaccine when it arrives aboard your ship."

"Will do, sir."

"Good luck, Captain. Cartwright out." Shouts of joy were heard all over the bridge the moment it was safe to do so. The loudest whoop came from one Leonard 'Bones' McCoy once Kirk opened the intercom for sickbay.


Spock gave the Captain an astonished look.

"That's fantastic, Jim ... the best news I've heard in ages!" the overjoyed doctor pronounced.

Spock frowned in disapproval. "Captain, it was most illogical for the Doctor to be so vociferous in his enthusiasm."

"I might have known you'd come out with something like that, Spock. You have a positive talent for it!" the Chief Surgeon groused.

"Talent for what, Doctor?"

"Oh, forget it."

"As you wish, Doctor."

"Though I would think that you'd be especially pleased, for now no one on Vulcan will have to endure the trial you went through."

"I am always pleased when lives can be spared, Doctor."

Christine was down in her quarters resting when the announcement came. Now there was one less disease for the Galaxy's medical minds to worry about. *News which could not have come at a more welcome time,* she thought as she placed a hand on her belly. It meant that she and Spock need never be concerned that their coming child would one day become another grim statistic of the dreadful malady which had nearly claimed Spock's life and destroyed his brilliant mind, making total retraining necessary.

After changing clothes, Christine called the bridge.

"Bridge. Uhura here."

"Nyota, this is Christine. I need to see you once you're off-shift. The Captain, too, if possible."

"Just a minute." Uhura motioned Kirk over to the communications station.

"Kirk here," the Captain said.

"I need to see you, Captain. It's very important."

"In that case, shouldn't Spock be there, too? He's busy, but--"

"Oh, no. Don't disturb him if he's busy. Just please come as soon as you're off-shift."

"We'll be there. Kirk out." The Captain looked questioningly at his communications chief. "I wonder what that was all about?"

Uhura smiled knowingly. "If I know her, it's about Spock."

It was unbelievably difficult for them to keep their minds on business until shift change and the time for their departure arrived. "F Deck," the Captain said as he joined Uhura in the 'lift at 1400.

Christine greeted them at the door. "I'm glad you could come."

"You sounded upset, Chris. What's wrong?"

Chapel pretended not to hear, just beckoned her visitors to sit down at the nearby table. "It must really be big," the other woman observed.

"You have no idea," Christine replied. "I just came from Dr. McCoy."

"And?" Kirk prompted.

"I'm pregnant." The visitors' faces registered shock. "Now you can see why I asked you to sit down." Christine made herself comfortable in the center of her bed, sitting cross-legged. "It was a surprise to me too, I assure you. I didn't think it was possible without the mental bond."

"Well, it obviously *is* possible," Uhura said.

Kirk recovered next. "Oh, my God. Does Spock know?"

"He suspects, but I said I wasn't sure."

"Do you intend to tell him that you *are* sure?"

Christine sighed. "I don't have any choice, Ny. He made me promise to tell him the results."

"Have the two of you bonded? Has he mentioned marriage?" Kirk wondered.

"Yes, we're bonded ... now. We discussed marriage yesterday."

"How will your pregnancy affect your plans?" This came from Uhura.

"We'll probably have to move the date up. Oh, yes. There was something else I wanted to ask."

"Name it," Kirk said.

"I haven't discussed it with Spock yet, but am sure he would approve if I asked the two of you to be godparents to our child."

"We'd be delighted," Kirk answered.

"Congratulations, Chris ... both on your upcoming marriage and the birth of your child." Uhura's large brown eyes were misty with tears as the two women shared a parting embrace. "I know your baby will be beautiful and brilliant with you and Spock for parents."

"Uhura, shouldn't we be leaving?" Kirk asked.

"Yes, Captain."

"Then let's be on our way. Would you like me to send the new Daddy down so you can tell him the good news in private?"

Christine gave Kirk a pained look, but nodded. "Yes, I would appreciate your sending Spock down as soon as he's free."

After she and the Captain departed, Uhura stared daggers at him. "Was that really necessary?"

"Was what really necessary?" Kirk was all hazel-eyed innocence.

"You know very well what," Uhura threw back.

"You mean what I said about Spock being a new father? What's wrong with that? It's true."

"That's beside the point. I don't think Spock would appreciate your juvenile humor -- and I can just guess what he'd have said if he'd heard you say it!"

"All right already. I stand chastened," Kirk conceded. "But I'm warning you, Uhura. You're on the edge of insubordination. That sharp tongue of yours will cut your throat if you're not careful."

It was said quietly, but Uhura knew from long years of service with James Kirk that he was at his most dangerous when he was quiet. "Do you want me to tell him or will you?"

"I will, Uhura. You may go to your quarters."

The Bantu smiled and departed.

Kirk returned to the Bridge briefly, making his way to the science station and leaning down to speak quietly to his Vulcan friend.

"Yes, Captain?" Spock looked up from his library computer console.

"Miss Chapel wants to see you as soon as you're free. Something about an answer to the question you asked her yesterday."

The Vulcan frowned. "How do you know this?"

"She called up here asking to see Uhura and me. We would have told you, but you were busy and she said not to disturb you," Kirk explained upon seeing the frown deepen. "So if you aren't busy, I suggest you go see her and find out the answer to your question."

The science officer swung his chair around almost angrily. "I most certainly will." Spock suppressed a moment of illogical anger at emotional Humans as the 'lift doors closed behind him. He especially could not suppress exasperation at Christine's verbosity. For Vulcan's sake, was she telling everyone on the ship about them? Wasn't it enough that they were already the subjects of unsavory gossip and conjecture?

He dismissed the notion almost as soon as he thought about it. He was being as illogical as they, thinking such a thing. However emotional and illogical Christine was, she would never disclose intimate matters except to close, trusted friends like Jim, Uhura and McCoy.

After Spock stepped out of the turbolift on F Deck, he looked around to make sure it was safe to do so -- then walked up to the female doctor's door and rang the bell.

"Come in, Spock." Christine hadn't expected him so soon, but refrained from mentioning it. The door closed silently behind him. "I came from Dr. McCoy's office an hour and a half ago."


"I'm pregnant."

He was silent for an awkwardly long time.

Christine waited on pins and needles for his answer. Despite their bonding, she had no idea what he was thinking and almost screamed in order to break the maddening silence. "Well, what do you think?"

He hesitated before answering. "I am -- pleased, of course, but we should keep the impending birth of our child secret until a more propitious time. I assume our closest friends already know."

Christine nodded. "I even asked the Captain and Nyota to be godparents." She explained the term; one Vulcan eyebrow raised approvingly.

"Most logical."

"How do you intend to inform your parents?"

"I will send Mother a stargram. I owe her one anyway. You had best contact *your* parents as well." Spock lifted his right hand and extended the customary fingers, curling them tightly around Christine's -- then turned for the door.

"Spock?" she called after him.


"Could you ... hug and kiss me?"

"The time on the planet was not sufficient?"

"Not for me."

"Very well."

Spock took his betrothed into his arms and bent his dark head so their lips met. In spite of his initial resistance, Christine knew it was every bit as heavenly for him as it was for her. He simply wasn't used to the Human ways of showing affection -- but given time, she intended to see that he *got* used to them. The sooner the better!

She heard from her parents a week later. They were thrilled to learn of her pregnancy and upcoming marriage. Her mother's stargram said in part:

*It's not the way we expected you to marry and have a child, darling, but if it makes you happy, we're all for it. God bless you and Spock with all the happiness you deserve. I deeply regret that we will be unable to attend your wedding, but please send a holovid of it if possible ... and visit when you can, so we can meet Spock and see our new grandbaby.

Much love,


* * *

The Vulcan went to his own quarters upon departing Christine's, shedding his clothing in preparation for a sonic shower upon stepping into his sleeping alcove. He dropped his used uniform into the recycler on the way to his bathroom. Upon completion of the shower, he donned his favorite robe and lit his flame-pot in the corner of the sleeping alcove.

Most people could not have functioned in the near-total darkness, but Spock could not only see but move toward the other side of the room with confidence due to his excellent night vision, the result of life on Vulcan, the moonless world of his birth. He removed his lyrette from its case and moved back across the room to sit cross-legged on his bed with the exotic instrument on his lap. Once he finished adjusting the strings and tone dials, he began to play, humming under his breath -- then began to sing softly.

Some of his own compositions first, then a song he had often heard Uhura sing. The sweet melody flowed through the air as his long, slender fingers stroked the strings in the manner they knew so well. In the midst of the song, Spock happened to think of the woman who lay sleeping just one deck below him ... the woman he loved and had bonded with, the one who carried his child and who would give birth to that child in the space of ten and a half months. He hoped they would be able to marry before then, but much depended on his mother's powers of persuasion.

He knew she would do her best for them, but if worst came to worst, they would have to wait the designated year before they could officially marry in the *koon-ut-kal-if-fee*. Vulcan law required that the male be within a week of his Mating Time at the most in order to be allowed to marry.

Spock was just under a year away from his next *pon farr* -- 11.42 months, to be exact. They would have a Federation civil ceremony, but the *koon-ut-kal-if-fee* was the official Vulcan wedding ceremony, and could not take place without the prospective husband being within a week of his Mating Time. There had been no exceptions to that rule, either -- at least none that he was aware of.

If the Vulcan Science Council refused permission, they would simply have to make the best of it. The child would have to remain a secret to all but those closest to them until such time as they were able to officially marry. It would be difficult, but he had endured far worse things. Neither particularly cared for the idea of waiting, but knew they might have to. Be that as it may, the ceremony which would bind them together in the eyes of all Vulcan was well worth waiting for ... and a year was a comparatively short time.

At 0430 Spock replaced the lyrette in its case, putting it back in its regular spot on the top shelf of his closet. He then moved to his desk and sat down, gathering his writing materials together after quietly telling the computer to turn on his desk light. He would give himself an hour to write, then transmit, the stargram to his mother -- then intended to meditate until it was time to dress and go on duty.

Spock shut down his intercom and even locked his door ... against Vulcan custom. It was vital that he be undisturbed and able to fully concentrate on what he wanted to say to his mother. He did not often have the time or opportunity to write her, but it was imperative that he do so now. He knew what he wanted to say to her, but found it difficult to begin writing.

Having the words in one's mind was one thing, but it was an entirely different matter to actually get them down in black and white. Spock would also have preferred to speak to his mother personally, but that was impossible at the moment. A stargram would have to suffice. His greeting was simply "Mother", since Vulcans did not use terms of endearment in their correspondence, even when addressing close relatives like parents or children.

**I regret having been unable to correspond with you earlier, but have had urgent personal business which has demanded my full attention and consequently has prevented me from corresponding with you. I believe you will understand my reasons for being so remiss in my duties toward you, since you have often found yourself in a similar situation.**

Spock went on to explain the "urgent personal business" and the events which had led up to it -- then hesitated. He was an intensely private person and disliked revealing personal, intimate things ... even to his mother, who knew him better than anyone except the Captain (and perhaps Christine and McCoy). He continued his detailed explanation, choosing the words which would best describe what had occurred.

**... The pregnancy came as quite a surprise to me, as you can well imagine, but in the end, I was very pleased since you have confided many times how much you long for grandchildren. You will undoubtedly be very happy to hear this and wish to inform my father, but please do not do so until we are married. I believe it logical for us to marry in order that the child not be what you would term a 'bastard.' You are aware of Vulcan custom concerning illegitimate children and the treatment of their parents. I do not wish to endure such an ordeal, as you can well imagine, so I am asking you to do everything you can in order that Christine and I may marry on Vulcan at the earliest possible time.

Lastly, I wish to stress that I am *not* marrying Christine simply because she is carrying my child. I have discovered that I care deeply for her -- more than I have ever cared for any woman. Since that discovery, I have bonded with her, and you will be interested to learn that it took only ten minutes for us to mind-link. As you know, the more attuned a couple is to one another, the shorter the time necessary for bonding.**

Spock's buzzer sounded as he finished writing the last word. He called out, "Just a moment," and turned back to the letter.

**You and Father will see us very soon. I am convinced that you will come to care for Christine as much as I do. I must close here, since there is someone at my door requesting admittance. I hope you and my father are well. Oh yes, Jim and Miss Uhura will attend us at our wedding. I am sure you will be happy to see them as they surely will be to see you. I must go. Farewell for now, Mother. *Wani-ra yana aisha* [I love you].

Your son,


He placed the stargram in his desk drawer, intending to transmit it at the first opportunity. After signing his name with a graceful gesture, Spock closed the drawer and pressed a button on his computer console to unlock his door so his visitor could enter. To his surprise, Uhura stepped in, a computer tape in her hand. It had to be something important, since she rarely visited him in his quarters.

"I'm sorry to disturb you, Mr. Spock, but new information has become available concerning El Nath VI. The President of ElNath II just contacted us and I taped everything he said because I was sure you would want to hear it."

"Indeed I would ... and no apology is necessary, Miss Uhura."

Her brow creased with concern. "Your door was locked and your intercom shut down. Is anything wrong? You don't usually do that."

"I merely wished privacy in order to attend to a personal matter which required my undivided attention."

The dark woman smiled and sighed with relief. "I was getting worried."

Spock favored her with one of his all-too-rare smiles. "Your concern is appreciated. Now I believe you said you had a tape for me?"

"Oh, yes." She handed it to him. "I believe you'll find it -- excuse the expression -- 'fascinating,' not to mention surprising." Spock inserted the tape into a slot on his personal computer and was about to depress the PLAYBACK button on the console when he saw that Uhura still stood beside him. His head lifted, eyes full of mixed concern and curiosity.

"Is there anything else I should know?"

"Chris wanted to see you as soon as you're free. She asked me to tell you."

"I will contact her as soon as I can. Thank you."

"You're welcome. Now I'd better get back to the bridge."


The doors closed behind her with a soft swish; he again locked them to listen to the tape Uhura had brought him. He sat back in his chair after pressing the PLAYBACK button, taking a deep breath in order to clear his mind and absorb all the information on the tape. A few moments later a smooth, cultured voice began to speak in accented Standard:

**"To the captain and crew of the starship Enterprise, NCC-1701-A, from President Semaj Retrac of Planet ElNath II, stardate 8443.19 ... in response to your inquiry of stardate 8436.12 regarding the possibility of intelligent life on the sixth planet of this star system, which you named ElNath VI when you explored it recently and found it apparently uninhabited except for native birds.

"We must express our surprise at your not having discovered the planet much sooner, and inform you with equal surprise that there is indeed an advanced humanoid civilization on ElNath VI. There has been for many decades, if not centuries. We cannot be certain, since we ourselves only discovered it five of your earth years ago.

"The inhabitants have the ability to become invisible at will -- an unknown element in the rays of our sun combines with their physiology to give them the power. One exposure is enough to last for a solar year. The surface of the planet is relatively unspoiled since they live and work underground, only coming to the surface every so often for agricultural purposes.

"They seldom have reason to leave since the planet provides them with everything they need ... though they do have a fleet of spaceships maintained for their population of 12 million in case of necessity. They are a peaceful, benevolent people, but are prepared to defend themselves (quite adequately, I might add) in the event of armed conflict.

"They are also highly telepathic; in fact they do not speak, at least not in the conventional sense. Their method of communication is mental, not verbal. They are aware of other star systems and worlds besides their own and us, but have never ventured beyond this star system. In fact, they observed your landing party when you stayed on the planet not long ago.

"They were most intrigued with Mr. Spock's exotic appearance -- his upswept eyebrows, pointed ears and greenish-gold complexion. I am happy to report that they were pleased to see other life-forms similar to their own, though it is doubtful they will wish to join the Federation.

"Their main concern is that the planet not become too well known and its beauty spoiled. They prefer to simply be left alone to live their lives in peace, but will show hospitality toward or give assistance to any Federation ship or personnel should it become necessary.

"Please do not be concerned for their safety as far as capture by Klingons or Romulans is concerned, for they have a planetary cloaking deice which renders the planet undetectable to hostile alien ships' sensors. And in case you're wondering why you could not detect them with your sensors and tricorders, they also have the ability to render *themselves* undetectable unless they wish to make themselves known."**

Spock pressed the *pause* button on his console, scarcely able to credit all he had just heard. As a Vulcan, he didn't believe in anything he couldn't see, touch or hear -- but it would be illogical to deny the truth of what had been said ... and he sensed that everything ElNath II's President reported was true. He wondered what Jim had thought of it, planning to discuss it with him at length if possible.

It was indeed surprising that they had not come upon the planet much sooner, since they had been in its vicinity several times. Perhaps it was because they had had other concerns on those particular occasions ... such as the time Orion pirates had hijacked a shipment of the rare drug strobolin, which he had needed to recover from choriocytosis, a disease fatal to Vulcans because of their copper-based blood.

The Enterprise had tracked down the pirate ship, capturing the Orion captain after he had tried to kill Jim, himself and the crews of both ships with a concealed bomb. They had also forced the Orion to order his crew to surrender, not to destroy their ship or themselves under any circumstances. Deep down inside, Spock had been grateful for all the efforts on his behalf -- and had he believed in luck, he might have said that he was very lucky to be alive.

He reached out and pressed the *pause* button a second time to restart the tape.

**"That is all the information we have on ElNath VI at this time. If we learn more about it and its inhabitants, we will inform you. Retrac out."**

Spock turned off the tape, leaned back in his chair and sighed deeply, looking at the chronometer on the far wall of his quarters ... kept there mainly for his Human friends since Vulcans had an inborn time sense and seldom, if ever, needed timepieces. It said 0545; he judged that he had enough time to get the stargram to his mother ready to transmit before change of shift.

Folding it, inserting it in a special green envelope and sealing it, then addressing and annotating it with his account number consumed six minutes. He left his quarters at 0552, making a quick detour to the mailroom and giving the stargram to the young lieutenant in charge of outgoing mail.

* * *

Spock arrived on the Bridge at precisely 0600, heading for the command chair where a still-yawning Kirk sat, having arrived five minutes before. The Captain looked up when a familiar shadow fell across the right arm of his chair and he gave his Vulcan friend a smile.

"Good morning, Spock."


"I was surprised not to see you when I arrived five minutes ago. You're usually here before I am."

"I was listening to a tape Miss Uhura brought me, then dropped off a stargram at the mailroom."

"Was that the tape from the President of ElNath II?"

"Indeed. Most fascinating -- and surprising -- to learn that there is indeed intelligent life on ElNath VI. I regret that we could not have met some of the inhabitants, if only so I could mentally communicate with them. Moreover, the planetary cloaking device sounds most advantageous and efficient. Regrettable that we were unable to find out how to build one."

"Perhaps we could have President Retrac obtain the information for us, since a planetary cloaking device would prove invaluable to all Federation planets and their allies." Kirk sighed deeply. "They would make a valuable addition to the Federation. A shame they're not willing to join us."

"Remember the Prime Directive," Spock admonished.

"At a time like this, I'd rather forget."

"I understand how you must feel, but we must respect their wish to remain undisturbed." The Vulcan placed a comforting hand on his Human friend's shoulder. The Captain raised his right hand to rest on Spock's for a moment -- something only a friend as close as himself would do. Only one other person was allowed to touch Spock in public: Christine, his betrothed, with their finger-crossing gesture.

Through their touch, Kirk felt the empathy his Vulcan friend shared with him. An all-too-brief moment later, the contact was broken when Uhura, pulling a double shift this particular day, turned around.

"Sir, the Romulan vessel is within hailing distance."

"Get McCoy to the transporter room on the double."

"He's already on his way."

"Then open hailing frequencies and stand by."

Spock retreated to his science station just before McCoy contacted the bridge from the transporter room. The doctor was like a child in his excitement. "Have you made contact yet, Jim?"

"We're just about to, Bones."

"This is the most wonderful day of my life. I never dreamed there would ever be a cure for that deadly disease in my lifetime, much less that I would personally receive the vaccine."

"This is a big day for all of us, Bones -- even Spock." The Captain looked over at the Vulcan sitting serenely in his chair at the science station, fully expecting an emphatic denial ... but none came. "Spock, did you hear me?" Kirk asked after closing the intercom to the transporter room.

"I did, sir," was the bland-as-vanilla reply.

"I was wondering, since you made no reaction."

"I do not think you really want to know my opinion, Captain."

That ambiguous comeback caught Kirk totally off-guard. Spock had never said such a thing before, not in all the years they had known each other. Why had he said it this time? Damn the man ... just when he thought he had Spock all figured out!

"I have the Commander of the Romulan ship standing by, Captain." To her incredulous horror, Uhura had recognized the Commander's voice, casting a worried glance at Spock. What would he think upon hearing that voice -- a voice from the past that he had never in the universe expected to hear again?

"Captain Kirk?" The voice was feminine and silky, but a voice that Kirk well knew could change to a sharp, severe one with warp speed.

"This is James T. Kirk commanding the U.S.S. Enterprise. Are you ready to make the transfer, Commander?"

"All in good time, Captain. I would first like to know if Commander Spock is still serving aboard your ship."

"Yes, he is. Why?"

"May I speak with him?" Everyone on the bridge looked nervously at each other, then at Spock, whose only reaction to the Commander's voice was a raised eyebrow.

"We'll see if he's willing, Commander. Please stand by." The Captain looked at his friend, but the sculptured face was unreadable. "Well, Spock, do you want to talk to her or not?" Kirk couldn't blame Spock if he refused, considering what had happened between him and the Commander ... not to mention the way they had parted.

"It would be most impolite of me to refuse, Captain."

"As you wish." For the umpteenth time Kirk failed to make sense of his enigmatic First Officer, gesturing to Spock to come down while pressing the intercom button to open the line. The science officer moved with quiet dignity and almost feline grace. "Go ahead, Commander," the Captain said.

"Hello, Spock," the feminine voice purred.


"How are you, Spock?"

"I am well. I trust you are the same, Commander."

"I never expected to hear your voice again, Spock."

"Nor I yours, Commander."

"Well, I'm glad to say that I have my own ship again at last. Not an Imperial cruiser, but it's the best I can expect, thanks to you and your Captain. You nearly ruined me." *In more ways than one,* she thought with an almost crippling pain in her heart. She cursed the very day she laid eyes on him! Damn that insufferably cool, achingly desirable Vulcan -- would she never be free of him?

Even now, his velvety voice brought back painful memories best left buried deep inside her lacerated heart. The scars had barely begun to heal, even after all the years apart ... all the lovers she had used and discarded because they were not Spock, and could never be him. How could she ever have been fool enough to ask to talk to him?

Her face flushed a deep emerald as she recalled how he had humiliated her in order to get the Romulan cloaking device for the Federation. She should have killed him when she had the chance, but at the same time would have died herself had any harm come to him. No one should have been able to get to her as Spock had, but she had allowed it.

She had wanted him so much she could taste it -- and had foolishly convinced herself that he had wanted her just as much. How could she have been such an idiot, allowing her renegade emotions to overrule her common sense? They had not only cost her a command, but her honor and pride.

*Never again!* she vowed, still remembering the almost impossible task of concealing her passionate desire for him when they had last parted ... and how she had barred him from escorting her to her quarters. She had offered to go to the brig as a prisoner, but Kirk had refused. After Spock had gone, she had walked to her quarters in the company of two security guards, with a dignity befitting a Romulan -- but once alone, she had screamed like a wounded animal, throwing every breakable thing she could lift and smashing them against the walls.

After exhausting herself, she had thrown herself on her bed, scalding tears of frustrated love and humiliation soaking her pillow. It had seemed hours before she managed to control the raging flood of tears. Upon regaining her composure, she had washed her ravaged face and vowed that no one would *ever* drive a Rihannsu to tears again!

The following day, she had been taken to Starbase 11 for interrogation and released to her government three days later. She had been stripped of her rank and family name, then exiled far from home for many years ... but had fought with all her strength to regain what she had lost. She eventually succeeded, but only in part and only after much heartache and hardship. She would never be trusted to command an Imperial cruiser again. The best she could get was a medical ship -- almost as much a disgrace to a Romulan warrior as a court-martial to a Federation officer.

All the hell she had endured because of Spock ... and then to add insult to injury, she had learned of his upcoming marriage through tapping subspace transmissions. To a Terran, no less! To lose him like that was the final blow. It was even rumored that Spock's Terran paramour was carrying his child! The pain at that thought was so intense it sickened her. To know that and be unable to lift a finger to stop it ... when *she* was the one who belonged with him, *she* the one who should be his wife and bear his children!

Kirk wished he could have known what was going on in Spock's mind at this particular moment, wished he could have spared him this. The Vulcan face was still unreadable, but the Captain could well imagine what his friend was feeling. Kirk still recalled when Spock had confided his attraction to the beautiful Romulan woman, but having to deny her because of their opposing philosophies.

Kirk knew that only Spock's loyalty to him and the Federation had saved him after his celebrated control had all but deserted him. It wasn't the first time Spock had had to deny a woman because of who and what he was ... and he had confessed to his Human friend that it only got harder, not easier, with time. Spock well knew how she hated him for what he had done to obtain the cloaking device, but most of all how she hated him for making her love him. If only he could have made her understand.

McCoy's impatient voice jolted the Vulcan back to reality. "For God's sake, when the hell are they going to cut the chatter and make the damn transfer? It could have been done at least a dozen times by now!"

"Patience, Doctor," the Commander soothed in her silkiest voice. "You will receive your vaccine very soon. Just give us a few moments to lock onto the coordinates of your transporter room."

Kirk had tried in vain to stem McCoy's anger, praying the doctor's impulsive outburst hadn't ruined everything, including their tenuous accord with the Romulans. The Captain waited with bated breath, sighing deeply in relief when the Commander said, "Thank you for waiting, Enterprise. Stand by to receive vaccine, Dr. McCoy."

Breathless moments passed while the transporter chief energized. The test tube of vaccine appeared on the #1 pad seconds later; the chief informed the bridge as McCoy retrieved it. "Do you have the vaccine, Doctor?" the Commander asked.

"Safe and sound, Commander. I can't thank you enough -- or tell you what this will mean. Not only to me, but the entire Federation."

"Our pleasure, Doctor. Now if you'll let me say goodbye to Spock, I shall be on my way. Spock, are you still there?"

"Yes, Commander."

"I'm leaving now. Fare thee well."

"Live long and prosper, Commander."

"Are you finished, Commander?" Kirk asked after a few moments of silence.

"Yes, Captain. May the vaccine be all your redoubtable Dr. McCoy expects it to be. Farewell."

"Goodbye, Commander -- and thank you again. Kirk out."

The whole bridge contingent heaved a sigh of relief once the ship-to-ship intercom was closed. On the other hand, the one between the transporter room and the bridge remained open, as it had during the entire exchange between the Enterprise and the Romulan ship.

"Thank God it's all over." McCoy's voice trembled with emotion.

"Be careful with that test tube, Bones. Its contents mean life for millions."

"That reminds me. I'd better go start synthesizing more of this stuff. See you later, Jim. McCoy out." The doctor closed the intercom and left the transporter room, barely able to hold back joyful tears.

Kirk was grateful that McCoy hadn't been on the bridge; otherwise he might have kissed the test tube as he bad been wont to do in the past ... and God knew he would *never* have been able to explain *that* to Spock!

"The Romulan ship has departed, sir," Sulu reported.

"Great. Set a course for Vulcan, warp six. Uhura and I have a wedding to go to!"

"Course laid in, sir. ETA at Vulcan, 4.5 days." The helmsman smiled warmly in Spock's direction; the First Officer merely raised an astonished eyebrow at him and turned back to his science console.

* * *

The Lady Amanda, Human wife of the legendary Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan and mother of his son, the equally legendary Spock, relaxed in her overstuffed chair with a steaming cup of herbal tea in her right hand and her son's most recent stargram in her left. She smiled and sighed contentedly after taking a long, satisfying swallow, setting the cup on the small tray at her right elbow.

Amanda leaned back in her chair, maneuvering it so she was almost reclining. Thank God Sarek hadn't arrived home from the Science Academy yet! Even as much as Amanda loved her Vulcan husband, there were times when she was glad he had duties like his teaching to occupy him. Especially when she received letters like Spock's latest!

It was always wonderful to hear from her only child since she saw him so seldom, but the news in this latest communication was even more wonderful. She had skimmed over the first part, reading the second with growing happiness and thankfulness. Spock had found true love at last -- and Amanda hadn't been at all surprised when his betrothed had turned out to be none other than the beautiful Terran doctor who had loved him devotedly and unselfishly from a distance these many years. Of course, her ever-logical son would never say, "I have found true love at last," at least not in so many words ... but then, he didn't need to.

Amanda had always been able to read between the lines of any "logical" thing Spock said and get down to the underlying emotion. She had hardly dared even think, much less let herself believe, that Spock had finally realized what a gem Christine Chapel was and claimed her for his own -- not only as his betrothed, but the mother of his child.

The first grandchild for Sarek and herself ... and with any luck, only the first of several. She remembered the first time she had met Christine, on board the original Enterprise for the diplomatic mission to Babel some years ago. Amanda had watched the nurse closely from the moment Spock entered sickbay to act as blood donor for his father's heart surgery.

Chapel had done an admirable job of concealing her feelings, but Amanda had known without having to resort to motherly intuition, just pure female instinct -- the depth of the love the attractive nurse bore for her strikingly attractive yet cool, stiffly proper (and *very* stubborn) son. It was much the same type of love Amanda herself bore for Sarek. Christine had done her best to remain professional while caring for Spock after he had donated blood for the life-saving surgery, but had let her guard down while he was asleep.

Amanda had seen the loving tenderness in the younger woman's eyes as she sat by Spock's bed, gently holding his hand, as well as the profound sadness which lay beneath the deep, abiding love. Amanda's heart had gone out to her, for the older woman knew as few did the ordeal a woman endured in loving men such as her husband and son.

At that moment, she had sent up a fervent prayer that Spock would eventually realize what a jewel he had within his reach. A jewel which was his for the asking ... if he would just unbend enough to ask! Not everyone could be as lucky as she, though Amanda recognized many of the same qualities in Christine that she herself possessed.

Maybe she *was* too emotional, too much an illogical romantic, as Sarek often said -- but she wanted their son to have as happy and loving a marriage as they. Heaven knew no one deserved it more after enduring such terrible loneliness all his life! Amanda was convinced that Spock would now have that happy, loving marriage, because Christine Chapel was everything she and Sarek could want in a daughter-in-law: intelligent, beautiful and mentally compatible with their son. Not to mention head-over-heels in love with him!

She recalled how Spock had always done his utmost to be just like Sarek all his life. Well, the old adage "like father, like son" definitely applied here. Spock was following his father's example in everything he did -- including his choice of a Human wife. As soon as she finished reading the stargram, Amanda intended to contact the proper Vulcan authorities and see what she could do in regards to persuading them to allow Spock to go through the *koon-ut-kal-if-fee*, even though he was almost a year away from his next Mating Time.

She had to do everything in her power to ensure that her son's marriage would take place ... a marriage she had despaired of his ever having, or even contemplating, after the fiasco with his first bond- mate. Sarek would be so pleased; now she could hardly wait for him to come home so she could tell him the news.

* * *

Permission for the *koon-ut-kal-if-fee* had come over subspace while the Enterprise was en route to Vulcan. Once word got around, everyone in the crew wanted to attend, but Spock had been told that the limit was three friends, two of whom had to be in the wedding party.

In this case, these were Kirk and Uhura -- so Scotty and McCoy were badgering both the Captain and Spock in order to be allowed to fill the remaining vacancy. "Really, Doctor, your most illogical insistence on being included does not influence me in the slightest ... and I fail to understand why you feel you have any chance whatsoever of changing my mind."

McCoy was fit to be tied. "Why, you -- " The Chief Surgeon wanted to unleash a string of unsavory epithets, but somehow managed to restrain his tongue. Spock not only had the hide of a rhinoceros where conventional insults were concerned, but often considered them compliments ... and vice versa. Would he never understand that crazy half-breed?

Kirk carefully concealed his impatience. "Scotty, *please*. If it was up to me, I'd take the whole crew down -- but the Vulcans stressed that only three friends are to accompany the bridal couple ... and even then, two of them must be in the wedding party."

"That still leaves room f'r one more," the engineer pointed out.

"It's out of my hands, Scotty. Spock has the final say." *That's right, James T. Chicken. Make Spock the heavy!*

"Well, Mr. Spock?" Scott turned toward the science station.

"That depends on whether you can be spared from your engineering duties, Mr. Scott."

"There's nuthin' goin' on tha' ma crew canna handle, sir."

"In that case, you may come, Mr. Scott. We beam down at 1400 tomorrow afternoon."

"Thank ye, sir."

McCoy turned on Spock after Scott departed. "Just what the hell do you think you're doing?"

The Vulcan stubbornly refused to answer; the Doctor cast an acid glare in the First Officer's direction as he stalked to the turbolift.

Kirk shrugged helplessly, throwing up his hands and grinning weakly. "Sorry, Bones." In spite of himself, Kirk could barely suppress a laugh at the doctor's impotent fury.

McCoy looked like the proverbial thundercloud. "Like hell you are," the hurt and angry doctor snapped, wishing he could slam a few doors. Unfortunately the automatic doors made that impossible, so he'd probably end up drowning his sorrows in Saurian brandy and wake up in the morning with a bitch of a hangover. "But have a good time anyway," was McCoy's parting shot as the turbolift doors closed behind him.

Kirk instantly regretted his thoughtlessness and absolutely deplored Spock's actions, which were even more cold-blooded than usual. Kirk and McCoy had been close friends for most of the former's adult life, so no one knew better than Kirk how the Doctor often covered up the tenderest of hearts with a gruff, brusque manner ... and how often McCoy read Spock better than the Vulcan was willing to admit, even to himself.

Bones had been deeply hurt when Spock had refused permission for him to attend his and Christine's wedding -- and just as Spock covered his feelings with logic, the doctor covered his with anger. McCoy considered himself one of Spock's closest friends (perhaps *the* closest, aside from Kirk) so it was understandable that he would feel pain at being left out. Kirk loved Spock like a brother, but McCoy was also very dear to him and he wasn't about to let even the Vulcan get away with abusing the doctor so callously. The Captain got up and headed for the turbolift.

"Take over, Mr. Sulu. We'll be back soon. Spock, come with me."


"*Now*." The Captain's voice dripped ice.

"Very well."

When the pair stepped into the turbolift, Kirk snapped, "E Deck," lighting into his unsuspecting Vulcan friend with a tongue sharper than any knife once the doors closed. "Was that really necessary, Spock?"

The Vulcan's tone was bland and innocent. "Was what really necessary?"

Kirk's voice froze the very air. "You know damn well what I'm talking about, so don't play dumb!"

Spock raised an astonished eyebrow at the Captain's tone. "I assume you are referring to my refusal to allow Dr. McCoy to accompany us."


Spock's Vulcan dignity was fully intact. "Captain, it is unnecessary for the Doctor to accompany us. He has been to Vulcan several times. Mr. Scott has seldom been there, so I thought it logical that he accompany us this time."

"That's beside the point. You totally disregarded Dr. McCoy's feelings in the matter, and that is inexcusable. I am aware of how often each of them have been to Vulcan. What I want explained is why you treated Bones so callously. He considers himself one of your closest friends, and close friends are customarily invited to one's wedding.

"Does your Vulcan heritage exempt you from even giving him the decency of an answer, or is there another reason why you ignored him when he asked why Scotty was invited instead of him? ... *Well*? What have you got to say for yourself? I really want to know."

Spock looked troubled. "I am not insensitive to the Doctor's feelings, Captain."

"Then you certainly have a strange way of showing it." The two were behind the door of Spock's quarters by this point. Kirk's voice was savage; it was more than Spock could take.

"Captain ... Jim -- *please*. Only three friends are allowed to accompany a Vulcan bridal couple. I have no control or influence on my home planet's traditions and customs. In addition, the Doctor accompanied us to my first attempt at *koon-ut-kal-if-fee*."

"Which didn't pan out, and where you damn near killed me. If it hadn't been for Bones giving me that neural paralyzer, I wouldn't be here now."

Spock visibly flinched, closing his eyes in deep pain. Even now that subject was a touchy one for him. He remembered all too vividly his intense grief when he believed he had killed the one person who meant the most to him in all the universe ... then the uncontrollable joy he could not help but show upon learning that his beloved friend was still alive.

"Jim, I could not have foreseen T'Pring choosing you as her champion, nor could I have foreseen your accepting challenge. And I must remind you of how I implored T'Pau not to force me to fight you." Spock sounded deeply hurt, as indeed he was -- but his strict Vulcan upbringing required him to conceal it, even as his Human half kept after him to reveal it.

"That still doesn't excuse your shabby treatment of the Doctor. Dammit, Spock, McCoy *cares* about you! Too much for his own good, apparently. He hides his feelings behind anger, just as you hide yours behind logic. A friend's wedding is a very special occasion, and when that friend -- especially a *loved* friend -- willfully excludes you from sharing in it, it's only natural to be deeply hurt.

"That is, if one is Human ... but then you aren't Human, as you're so fond of reminding us. Forgive the good doctor for his irrational behavior, Spock, but he's Human -- so he has feelings. Feelings which can be hurt. And even if *you* don't want him there, consider the possibility that Miss Chapel might.

"It's as much her wedding as it is yours ... not to mention the fact that she and McCoy are also close friends. Doesn't the bride have any say in how she wants her wedding to be or who she wants there -- even a Vulcan one? No matter how much she loves you, she isn't going to be pleased when she hears how you treated him.

"The man she fell in love with would never do such a thing -- nor would my best friend. I am very hurt, very angry and totally appalled at your actions, because I cannot see any way in the universe that your precious logic would give you license to treat a loyal friend like he was dirt under your feet!"

For once Spock was at a loss for words. When he finally did speak, his voice was quiet, barely above a whisper. "All right, Jim, you have made your point ... but I have promised Mr. Scott that he would accompany us. I cannot go back on my word. Two wrongs do not make a right."

"I'm glad to see that you finally realize that there *is* such a thing as carrying logic too far -- and if it happens again, I'll expect you to publicly apologize to the Doctor. For now, a private apology ... in front of me -- will suffice. I don't want to embarrass you, Spock, but will have no choice if you run roughshod over Dr. McCoy's feelings again.

"You are very dear to me, but so is McCoy. In fact, I've known him even longer than I've known you. I admit he has his faults, but so do we all -- even you! Good-natured bickering is one thing, but deliberate disregard for another's feelings is something else again. Something I absolutely *will not* tolerate from *anyone* on this ship while I command her ... including you! Do I make myself clear?"

"Quite clear." At that moment, Spock's intercom beeped; it was Chekov calling from the bridge.

"Mr. Spock, are you there?"

"Yes, Mr. Chekov. What did you want to say?"

"There ees sometheeng on thee ship's sensors that I t'ink you should see. Could you return to thee bridge?"

"On my way. Spock out."

The two senior officers looked questioningly at each other. "Anything important, Spock?" Kirk wondered.

"Mr. Chekov seems to think so."

"Then let's get back up there and mind the store."

* * *

Upon reaching the Bridge, Spock made his way to the science station, where Chekov was engrossed in reading the sensor output. Kirk returned to the command chair and Sulu to the helm console. Chekov moved so Spock could see into the viewer.

"Well, what is it, Spock?" the Captain asked.

"Most fascinating, Captain. Apparently another star is set to explode in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy near the star 30 Doradus, not far from where the last supernova was sighted from Earth three centuries ago. The Large Magellanic Cloud is located 170,000 light-years from Earth, which is nearby, considering the infinitely greater distances to the other galaxies in our universe."

"Spare me the astronomy lecture, Spock. Just tell me what it's doing."

"I am coming to that, sir. Only six supernovas of this magnitude have been sighted in our galaxy in the past thirteen hundred years. This collapsed star is on the edge, but not part, of the Milky Way, as the last one was. The first supernova of this magnitude was sighted in 1604, five years before the telescope was even invented.

"The last one in 1987 boosted the theory held by 20th-century astronomers that the remnants of exploding stars form black holes, new stars and galaxies. The tiny particles of the exploding stars, called neutrinos, are believed to be emitted by the collapsing stars before they explode into supernovas. Supernovas are a key element in the evolution of galaxies; however, the neutrinos are so small that they can pass through matter without harming it, making them difficult to detect.

"Sanduleak-62 202, the exploding star of three centuries ago, was a blue supergiant which behaved erratically, as does this one ... only this one is increasing in brightness at a rate over two and one-half times as rapid. Just moments ago the star's magnitude was 4.5 -- the smaller the number, the brighter the star -- but its present magnitude is 1.5, 50% brighter than even Polaris, the North Star, which has a magnitude of 2. Again, a most fascinating development.

"This is one of the most fundamental events in the universe -- the simultaneous death and birth of a star approximately thirty times the mass of your Sun. Once the blast debris clears, we may expect a superdense neutron star or similar body."

"Oh. my God. Anything else?"

"Not at the moment. It will take time to assimilate the information I have not already given you. I will let you know when I have done so." The Science Officer turned back to his console, resuming his observations of the data on the upcoming supernova.

"Thank you, Spock. Uhura, what about communications?"

The lovely dark woman adjusted the earphone in her ear. "There are no problems at the moment, but the magnetic field of the collapsing star is so immense that we may expect communications to be significantly affected -- adversely so -- in the event we remain in this sector longer than half an hour. Forty-five minutes at the most. If we aren't gone by then, we could not contact a planet, even if one were near enough ... but if a ship was nearby -- in the right place, mind you -- we *might* be able to contact them."

Spock's voice cut through the air like a knife. "An interesting but redundant statement, Miss Uhura, since we are the only authorized Federation vessel in this sector of the galaxy."

Uhura sighed in exasperation as she turned back to her console. "I'm aware of that, Mr. Spock. I was merely stating in plain English what will happen if we don't leave this sector within 45 minutes."

The Captain's tone ended the debate. "Our present position, Mr. Sulu."

"ETA at Vulcan 20.3 hours at our present speed, sir."

Spock sternly corrected him. "20.*5*, Mr. Sulu. Please endeavor to be more accurate in future." The First Officer's sharp eyes caught the helmsman's incredulous stare; his voice was cold and biting. "Is there something you wish to say, Helmsman?"

"N-no, sir."

"Then I suggest you keep your mind on your work."

"Yes, sir." The Asian turned back to his console, cheeks crimson with embarrassment.

"Vhat's the matter vith Mr. Spock?" Chekov whispered.

"I have no idea ... but if I didn't know better, I'd think he was nervous about his upcoming wedding."

"Anyvun vould be, I vould t'ink ... even a Wulcan."

"I hope you're right. It would certain explain his atypical behavior."

"I hope he really gets married this time."

"Anything that improves his mood would be welcome." Sulu looked up to find Kirk frowning at him, but the Captain said nothing, his face as unreadable as Spock's. In any case, the helmsman felt it best that he keep his mind on his work and off Spock's strange behavior as much as possible until they reached Vulcan, if only to be on the safe side.

Sulu had no desire to be disciplined for insubordination right now, especially if he was to be in command in Kirk's absence -- which would occur when the Captain beamed down to Vulcan to be best man at his friend's wedding ... a wedding which would definitely take place this time, since Dr. Chapel wasn't about to let Spock slip through her fingers now that she finally had him where she wanted him.

*For her sake, I'm glad she's finally going to marry Spock. They're perfect for each other, if I do say so myself. Even their weaknesses complement each other. For instance, the rocks in her head fit the holes in his -- or should I say the rocks in his head fit the holes in hers?*

Sulu was glad neither Spock nor Dr. Chapel knew what he was thinking. He'd *really* be in hot water! He chuckled under his breath as he re-focused his attention on his helm console and their destination ... a hot, arid planet in the Eridani system less than 20 hours from their present position.

* * *

It seemed to Christine that time either crawled or raced by, depending on the mood she happened to be in at the moment ... and that mood seemed to change from hour to hour, especially now that the Enterprise was in standard orbit around Vulcan.

In a matter of hours, she, Spock and their friends would beam down to visit with his parents Sarek and Amanda for a time, then go to the Place of Marriage for their wedding. She tried vainly to contain her excitement at actually being here at last. Spock would give her a reproving glance if she showed undue emotion, and she could not have endured that -- so she would have to summon all her strength (both physical and mental) in order to conceal her feelings of love, joy and anticipation.

He had told her that there was a time and place for emotion, and that time and place was in privacy, with one's closest friends, family or marriage partner -- not openly, where others could see and misinterpret it. The wedding finery was ready and waiting at Spock's family home, so Christine decided to take just a small overnight bag with her. She was nearly ready when her buzzer sounded.

"Come." She looked up and smiled when Spock stepped in. "I'll be ready in a moment, Spock."

He nodded and sat down to wait after crossing fingers with her. "I have contacted my parents. My father is not home yet, but Mother is expecting us in 11.35 minutes."

"I'll be glad to see them again. It's been a long time."

"Indeed." The couple exchanged smiles. "I regret having been unable to come before now. Miss Uhura said you wished to see me, but I have been occupied with making final preparations for our upcoming marriage."

Christine smiled at her future husband. "As long as you came." She ducked into her bathroom for the finishing touches; at that moment her intercom beeped. "Spock, would you please answer that for me?"

He raised an eyebrow at her but did so. "Dr. Chapel's quarters. Spock here."

Surprise was evident in Kirk's voice. "Spock, you're lucky that McCoy wasn't the one who called. He'd never let you live it down. After all, it's not every day one finds you in a lady's boudoir. Where's Miss Chapel?"

"She is occupied at the moment, so she asked me to answer her intercom for her."

"Will you be ready soon? The rest of us are waiting in the transporter room." At this point Christine came out, gathered her things together and gestured to Spock that she was ready.

"We are on our way now and should arrive shortly. Spock out." He turned off the intercom and raised his hand with the customary extended fingers to cross with Christine's own. The pair silently departed her quarters and headed for the transporter room to join the rest of the wedding party -- which now included McCoy.

* * *

The Vulcan still winced at the memory of how angry Christine had been. He was thankful that the walls and door of her quarters were soundproofed. He had no idea that she who was ordinarily so kind, gentle and understanding was capable of such anger. She had summoned him to her quarters once she was off-shift three days previously; the tone of her voice did not bode well. Spock had prepared himself as best he could, but it still wasn't enough. They had crossed fingers as usual, then she had motioned him to sit down in the chair next to hers at her desk.

"I understand that Dr. McCoy will not be going planetside with us for our wedding. Why not? I was counting on him being there."

"There was insufficient room for him."

"What do you mean, there wasn't enough room?" Her voice rose an octave.

"Only three friends can accompany a Vulcan wedding party," he said carefully.

"The Captain and Nyota are only two. Who else is coming?"

"Mr. Scott."

"I see." Christine barely kept her temper under control. "Whose bright idea was that?"

"Mine," Spock returned quietly. "I considered it logical to invite him since he has not been to Vulcan as often as the Doctor."

"*What*?" she shouted, furious. "You had no right to pick and choose who will and won't be at our wedding without consulting me! Dammit, Spock, what's gotten into you? This isn't like you at all! How could you do such a thing to Leonard? I have nothing against Mr. Scott being there, but to treat Leonard so shabbily after all he's done for you! I know the two of you have had your differences, but I thought it was simply good-natured bickering. I had no idea you really hated him."

"I do not hate him, Christine."

Her blue eyes flashed fire, then she shook her head in disbelief. "Spock, I wouldn't have believed it of you ... and never thought I'd say this, but in light of your actions, I'm having second thoughts about this marriage. I love you, but if this kind of behavior happens again -- Well, I don't see any way in the universe it could ever work.

"Marriage is a partnership, Spock. You must consider *my* feelings and opinions, not just your own ... and I want Leonard at our wedding. If you have even an ounce of decency, you'll see to it that he attends. Otherwise you can damn well forget the whole thing! Is that understood?"


"Good. Now get to it."

To say the least, it was a unique experience for Spock. It wasn't often that *he* was on the receiving end of a lecture, especially ones from both his best friend *and* the woman he loved!

* * *

"I never thought I'd see the day that our logical, unemotional Mr. Spock would do such a Human thing as get married. He always seemed so far above all that," McCoy teased to break the tension.

"Doctor, even Vulcans find it necessary to marry -- if only to perpetuate the species."

The others laughed at the look on the doctor's face. Once again Spock had managed to get the last word! One hard look from Kirk silenced McCoy before the Chief Surgeon could open his mouth for a sharp retort. This was a joyous occasion; no bickering would be allowed to spoil it. The transporter controls were set on the coordinates for just in front of Spock's family home; Scotty had the transporter chief set them.

Seconds later the group found themselves at the front door of Spock's family home. Amanda appeared before Spock could move to punch in the door code. "Hello, everyone. Do come in. So good to see you all again -- especially you, Spock."

"I am pleased to see you again too, Mother."

"Jim, Leonard ... you both look so handsome in your dress uniforms. And this must be Mr. Scott." Amanda moved to greet him after welcoming Uhura warmly. "We never got a chance to meet until now." A welcoming smile was on her lips. "I can't get over how wonderful you all look -- especially you, Spock." She glanced lovingly at her son, who allowed himself to smile back at his mother. Amanda then turned back toward Scotty, who was dressed in his best tartan kilt. "Spock's told me so much about you, Mr. Scott, that I feel I know you already."

Scott flushed with pleasure. "Thank ye kindly, Mrs. Sarek. 'Tis a pleasure t' meet ye a' last. Th' Doctor an' Captain ha' told me a lot abou' ye too, but it doesna do ye justice."

This time it was Amanda's turn to blush. "That's the nicest compliment I've ever received ... and call me Amanda. You couldn't pronounce my last name."

"If ye'll call me Montgomery." The two smiled and nodded in tacit agreement.

"Mother, you must greet Christine."

Christine raised her head at the sound of her name, giving her betrothed a smile in spite of the risk of his lecturing her about it later in private. As they made the traditional finger-crossing gesture, Amanda couldn't help but think of how much they reminded her of herself with Sarek. She could only pray that their marriage would also prove as long-lasting and loving.

Christine smiled warmly at her future mother-in-law after Spock formally introduced them. "It's wonderful to see you again ... Amanda. Especially under the present circumstances."

"I'm glad to finally be able to welcome you to Vulcan and our home. We have so much to talk about. Spock, do you think you could spare her for a little while so we could have some girl talk?"

"I suppose so, Mother, but we must leave within the hour. If you are not back by then, I will send Miss Uhura for you."

"We'll be here."

"Very well." Spock turned on his heel and went to join Kirk, Scott and McCoy.

Christine followed Amanda into the master bedroom; the older woman sighed in relief after helping Christine into the beautiful wedding gown she had made for her and putting her hair up. "Alone at last ... thank God! I can't tell you how good it feels to be able to release my emotions and just be myself!"

"I know what you mean," the younger woman chuckled.

"One thing's for sure, Chris -- there's nothing in the universe more complicated than being in love with a Vulcan. I speak as a lady who's been married to one for nearly sixty Earth years. It should be somewhat easier for you since Spock is half-Terran, but not by much. You might be able to get him to loosen up in private, as I have with Sarek ... and let me tell you, getting *that* man to open up even a little is no mean feat!"

"As I can well imagine," Christine laughed. "Where *is* he, anyway?"

"Sarek teaches at the Science Academy; he should arrive very soon ... but I must warn you, my dear. Spock is two people in one, so he fights a constant battle within himself. Consider yourself lucky if you're able to get him to show his emotions to you in private. For a long time he couldn't even do that ... and don't expect more than a smile or finger-crossing if you're anywhere together in public.

"Spock has striven to be the epitome of perfect Vulcan manhood since he was a child, preferring not to be reminded of his Terran heritage too often. I've tried innumerable times to get through to him that both philosophies have their good and bad side, to be just as proud of it as he is of his Vulcan heritage since they are both part of what makes him the person he is. He listens respectfully, then goes right ahead and does as he pleases. As Jim once said, Spock is stubborn."

"That's putting it mildly," Christine observed. "Have you any idea what I had to do in order to get him to this point?"

Amanda laughed. "I think I do, considering what *I* had to do to get his father to the same point ... even if it's the right time."

"That's the strange part. Spock said it wasn't -- and we hadn't bonded yet, either."

"Then how can you be pregnant? Spock said you were about a month gone."

"I don't know, but I am ... and it's five weeks now."

"Conception isn't supposed to occur without bonding -- and except in the Mating Time. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and I wouldn't be surprised if Spock was one, considering his background ... but it's generally believed that male Vulcans are infertile in between times. I remember how I tried to become pregnant again after Spock. The doctor finally told me that after a certain point in a Vulcan male's mating cycle -- varying with the individual -- things start to deteriorate and he can no longer father children."

"I hope I won't need to worry about Spock where fathering more children is concerned."

"I doubt you'll have any problems there, considering how easily you became pregnant this time." Amanda then insisted that Christine relate her version of what had happened between her and Spock on the planet -- listening closely, fascinated, as the story unfolded.

Uhura was just coming from the bathroom and was going by the master bedroom when she caught the sound of their voices. She could hardly believe her ears at the intimacy of the subjects they were discussing. Even so, she hesitated, torn between friendship for both Spock and Christine and her duty to report the truth. She finally sought out Spock and told him she needed to talk to him. They ducked into the kitchen.

Once behind the closed door, Uhura said, "Mr. Spock, there's something I need to tell you, but..." Her voice trailed off.

"You are afraid that you will betray a confidence," he guessed. "I can understand that, but you are the only one who can tell me. I never betray a confidence, Miss Uhura. You may trust me."

"I know, and I do ... but--" Then she brightened. "Wait a minute. What about a mind-meld?"

"If you wish." Spock raised a hand to Uhura's face, long slender fingers automatically assuming the mind-link position. He pressed gently and concentrated intensely. Uhura sighed and leaned back against the wall, offering only momentary resistance ... then her mind opened to Spock as though he had listened to the exchange between his mother and betrothed himself.

Uhura mentally confessed that she had only heard ten minutes of conversation; Spock assured her that that was enough for his purposes. The information garnered from the mind-link was incredible; he could scarcely fathom that either his mother or future wife would speak of such intimate things.

It was most disquieting, even though he was well aware that Human women often discussed their private lives and the private lives of others among themselves. But like Uhura, Spock was "fascinated" by all he "heard" in spite of his initial shock at the intimacy of the subjects discussed by the two women closest to him.

He discovered that Amanda and Christine had discussed the latter's pregnancy and how it had come about. He raised an astonished eyebrow at their belief that Vulcan males were infertile between the seven-year mating cycles (had his mother forgotten about "Awakening"?) Not to mention what Dr. Corrigan had told her when she had attempted to become pregnant again after Spock's birth ... how things deteriorated after a certain point in a Vulcan male's mating cycle so he could no longer father children.

Most surprising of all was Christine's confession that she wanted more children, and Amanda's reply that she didn't think there would be any problem with that since she, Christine, had become pregnant so easily this time. He gradually brought them out of the mind-link upon learning all that Uhura had overheard. She stood up straight, then stretched and sighed, talking for the first time since they had entered the kitchen. "Well, that's all I know, Mr. Spock. I hope it helps you."

"You have been most helpful, thank you. I will take care of it now. You may return to the living room." He sighed in exasperation and headed for the master bedroom after Uhura's departure. It was inconceivable that they had actually said these things, even though he had read them most distinctly in Uhura's thoughts. He truly hoped that he -- and she -- would be proven wrong, but what his sensitive ears picked up as he neared the bedroom confirmed his worst fears.

"It was hard to believe I could be so bold and daring," Chris- tine said.

"I was the same way when Sarek and I were courting ... *had* to be. A Vulcan would never make the first move. I speak from experience, as the wife of one and the mother of another."

"That's strange," Christine disclosed. "Because if I remember correctly, Spock *did*." There was shocked silence, then she continued. "He *asked* me to make love with him. Really. And you know where we ended up having our rendezvous? Behind a high outcropping of rock in the cave where we took shelter on ElNath VI. He laid out his jacket to lie on and we made love. Three times, as I recall. I never dreamed he had it in him! It was so wonderful that when the Captain called, I had no desire to move whatsoever -- but Spock said we had to, since the last thing we needed was for him to come investigate."

"Understandable," Amanda replied. "But even as much as I wanted to, I could never have done that with Sarek. He didn't make love to me until after we were married."

"I think the fact that Spock is half-Human had something to do with it," Christine said.

"Mother. Christine. That will be quite enough." Spock's stern voice startled both women back to reality; their cheeks turned crimson with embarrassment.

Amanda spoke first. "Oh, Spock. We had no idea you were there."

"Obviously," he retorted frostily.

"I thought you'd have Nyota come for us," Christine complained, unable to keep from blushing again when Spock fixed his eyes on her -- eyes which seemed to literally read her mind.

"You were too engrossed in your 'girl talk' to hear her." He heard the front door opening and closing, then his father's voice as the elder Vulcan greeted their friends in the living room. "Come. It will soon be time to leave for the ceremony." Spock's voice was quiet, but held an ominous undertone warning of unpleasant consequences if they did not comply with his wishes.

Amanda bristled like an angry cat. "Spock, I'll not have you address us in that tone of voice. It's not only rude, but totally uncalled for!"

Spock's reply froze the very air. "This matter no longer concerns you, Mother. It is entirely between Christine and myself. Father has arrived. He needs to prepare for the wedding ceremony, so if you are quite finished--"

"No, we are *not* finished. You interrupted us in the middle of our conversation," Amanda shot back, still angry.

"There is no time for that. We must be on our way." His tone curtailed further protests.

Amanda sighed as she reluctantly gathered her things and headed for the bedroom door.

Spock gave his betrothed a hard look, prompting her to do the same. He followed the two thoroughly mortified women out of the master bedroom, the three of them rejoining the others moments later. The next five minutes were spent in greetings and small talk, then the Vulcan Ambassador excused himself and went to prepare for his son's wedding.

While they waited for Sarek, Spock gave Christine a severe look which warned her that she was about to become the recipient of another of his standard lectures. "Miss Uhura's report was most disturbing. How could you have been so indiscreet as to discuss such intimate subjects?"

"Spock, it wasn't half as bad as you make it sound. For Heaven's sake, it was *your mother* I was talking to! It won't go any further, you know that as well as I do."

His frown only deepened. "That is beside the point. What concerns me is that you would so freely discuss our intimate relations with someone other than myself, even Mother. In a Vulcan marriage, such matters are not discussed except between husband and wife. I suggest you learn that now and try to refrain from repeating your error. Another most distressing matter is Mother actually encouraging you to speak of it. After all the years of marriage to Father, she knows better."

"Have you ever considered the possibility that she just might want to be herself for once and not have to control her emotions? She doesn't often get that opportunity living here on Vulcan, you know."

Spock's eyes widened in surprise and for once he was at a loss for words.

Christine looked at the clock. "It's nearly time for us to leave."

"Tradition dictates that we leave separately. You will go with Mother and Miss Uhura. I will go with Jim, Father, Mr. Scott and the Doctor."

They crossed fingers again, then Christine smiled provocatively. Spock knew only too well what she had in mind and it was highly illogical, since they could be interrupted at any time ... but that knowledge didn't prevent him from taking her into his arms and kissing her.

Sarek's disapproving voice shattered the moment. "Most illogical, my son. There is plenty of time for that after you are married."

The look on Spock's face was priceless. Never had Christine expected to see him blush!

"In addition, we are keeping the others waiting."

The group went outside to the waiting ground-cars; Christine got into one, Spock the other. Tradition also dictated that the groom arrive first, so Spock took off with Kirk, Scott, Sarek and McCoy. The women started up after the men were out of sight. Amanda was driving, smoothly shifting and accelerating onto the main road leading out of ShiKahr. Christine sat next to her; Uhura next to her friend.

"Well, maybe now we can finish what we were talking about before we were so rudely interrupted."

"I really don't think I should, Amanda. Spock gave me holy hell for doing it before."

"What he doesn't know won't hurt him -- and he can't catch us unawares this time. Besides, there were a lot of things I wanted to say and didn't get a chance to say."


"Come on, Chris, I'd like to hear more."

Christine frowned at Uhura. "Nyota, you're the one who got me in trouble the first time."

"I'm sorry. I won't mention anything more to Spock. Forgiven?"

"I don't know... Oh, what the hell. Of course you are!" The two friends embraced as Amanda alternately clutched and released the steering 'wheel'.

"Well, as I was going to say before Spock interrupted, I was very much opposed to his having an arranged marriage instead of one he had chosen himself. He deserved the same freedom of choice that Sarek and I had ... but when one is a Vulcan wife -- best you learn this now, Christine -- she doesn't argue with her husband. At least, not publicly.

"When Sarek and T'Pring's parents arranged the marriage between her and Spock, they were certain things would be different once they were grown -- that Spock and T'Pring would come to care for each other ... but I knew it was wrong right from the start and refused to be a party to it. As you both know, I was proved right. T'Pring was willing to have Spock die so she could have Stonn, picking the Captain as her champion in order to protect him. If Stonn was so superior, why didn't she let him fight for himself? Then she had the audacity to say -- right to Spock, no less -- that even if they had married, she would still have kept her lover, since he would be gone.

"That is against not only Vulcan, but Human, decency to brazenly admit such a thing. I can't tell you how glad I am that Spock had sense enough to choose you, Christine."

"Not half as glad as I am," came the reply.

"If it hadn't been for that failed attempt at *koon-ut-kal-if-fee*, which Spock blamed himself for ... he would probably have married you a long time ago. He could also have been spared the anguish and grief he suffered when he thought he'd killed the Captain. I'm furious all over again whenever I think of it -- and hope I never run into that wretched girl ever again, because I think I could do murder when I think of what she did to my son, the way she humiliated and disgraced him. How any woman supposedly in her right mind could reject Spock is beyond me.

"He has everything most women could ever want. I'd say that even if he weren't my son, though I couldn't be more proud that he is." Amanda sighed deeply. "I'm thankful his instincts were right, if nothing else. He confided to me many times that he didn't see how he could ever marry T'Pring, but felt obligated in order to please Sarek.

"He certainly didn't come because he wanted to ... it was because he *had* to. The mind-link he had established with T'Pring, even as tenuous as it was, compelled them both to come together for *koon-ut-kal-if-fee*, even if she did end up challenging him."

Christine suspected that the bonding had to have been imperfect, since Spock had made advances to her and allowed her to wait on him, fixing the plomeek soup he liked so much. Had it been a true bonding, it would have been unthinkable for either Spock or T'Pring to even consider another mate.

"I wanted so much to be there, to try and stop it -- but Sarek sensed it and barred me from going. I was heartsick when I learned what had happened. Spock could have been spared much if I'd been there. The Captain told me later that Spock had even been prepared to resign his commission in Starfleet. That made me feel even worse! Thank God that nightmare is all behind him now, that he has found happiness with you and will have a child to carry on his name."

"*Children*, if I have my way," Christine corrected. Moments later they arrived at the ancient arena dubbed 'The Place of Marriage.'

"We'd better get going. The ceremony starts in a few minutes. Ready, Chris?" Uhura asked as the three women got out of the car.

"Ready as I'll ever be." Christine fought for calm, even though she was trembling. Her legs felt like jelly; she had no idea how she ever managed to reach the Arena under her own power.

The ladies were told to wait until they heard Spock strike the marriage gong, then join the wedding procession behind the seated Vulcan High Priestess T'Lar, who was being carried in a throne-like chair by two attendants. Two large men garbed in warrior dress and armed with *lirpa*s stood by in the event either bride or groom wished to challenge and there was no champion. Impossible in this case, but Vulcans believed it logical to be prepared for any eventuality, however unlikely.

It seemed forever before they heard the gong, but at last the ringing reverberated through the thin air. Amanda turned to her companions. "That's our cue. We'd best get moving."

Ten minutes later, Spock and Christine stood before the seated Priestess. T'Lar's deep-set eyes were unfathomable beneath her upswept brows as she gave the bridal couple penetrating looks. Spock saluted her, then knelt before her with his dark head reverently bowed.

Christine soon realized that she was expected to do the same. T'Lar's long, thin fingers went into the mind-link position on both faces; her own head lowered and she concentrated intensely. The attendants, friends and family looked on, breathing a collective sigh of relief when the Priestess lifted her head.

"It is most gratifying how strong a link you and your betrothed have established, Spock, particularly since you only recently bonded with her. I have not felt such a strong link since your parents were first married." The bridal couple nodded quietly in appreciation, eyes closed and heads still reverently bowed.

"This question may seem superfluous in view of the strong link you share, but it is traditional, so it shall be asked. Do either of you wish to challenge?"

The couple crossed the customary fingers, then Spock said, "We do not," since a verbal reply was also required.

"Very well. We shall continue." The gong was struck again, then a white-garbed woman appeared at T'Lar's gesture. She was carrying a small drum; she sat down with it in her lap, proceeding to beat softly and rhythmically as the vows were recited ... vows somewhat similar to those used on Earth -- but with obvious differences. In keeping with tradition, T'Lar asked Spock first.

"Spock of Vulcan, will thee cherish Christine of Terra, thy chosen bondmate and wife, and establish a secure home for her? Will thee build a family in order that thy name be perpetuated, and will thee care for them in sickness and in health?"

"I will." His face momentarily quirked in Kirk's direction as the marriage bells tinkled, then lapsed into his usual serenity.

T'Lar then fixed her intense gaze on Christine. "Christine of Terra, it is rare in our history that one of Human blood has chosen to join with a Vulcan, but since that is your desire, you follow in distinguished footsteps -- those of Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan and Amanda Grayson of Terra, the first recorded Vulcan/Terran marriage.

"They were later to breed Spock, the first Vulcan/Human hybrid, whom you now wish to marry. Will thee cherish thy chosen bondmate and husband, Christine, run his home efficiently, and bear him children to perpetuate his name ... and care for them all in sickness and in health?"

"I will."

The bells tinkled again, then T'Lar turned to face the small congregation a short distance away, beckoning to Kirk and Uhura to come forward. "Are you both prepared to swear before myself and this company that all your friends Spock and Christine have said is true to the best of your knowledge?"

"We are," Kirk said.

"Do they wish to exchange rings signifying their wedded state, as is the Terran custom?"

"Yes. The rings have been custom-made in the form of a stylized Vulcan IDIC symbol," Uhura explained.

"May I see them?"

Kirk produced them and placed them in the Priestess's hand. T'Lar held it up so that Eridani's rays shone upon the rings. "May the regard that Spock of Vulcan and Christine of Terra hold for one another remain as perpetual as the Vulcan sun -- and may only death sever the strong bond they share."

After a few moments, she lowered the rings and gave them to their owners. Once they had been slipped on, T'Lar placed her own hands over the couple's joined ones to perpetually seal the marriage bond. Not long afterward, the drumming ceased and the woman waited patiently for the ceremony to end.

"Well, that does it," Kirk announced as he and Uhura rejoined Spock's parents, McCoy and Scotty. Nearly everyone's faces echoed Uhura's incredulous question:

"You mean they're legally married now?"

"Once T'Lar and the others leave, it's officially over ... then we may all return home," Amanda explained.

After the Priestess wished the newlywed couple peace and long life together, she and her attendants -- along with the drum-woman -- departed, leaving the small group to their own devices. "Is it safe to congratulate you properly yet, Chris?" Uhura asked.

"When Spock gives me the signal."

Once the Priestess and the others were out of sight, Spock caught the eye of his new wife and nodded with a half-smile.

"Okay ... *now*."

The three women tearfully hugged and kissed. Kirk, Scott, McCoy and Sarek each gave their own version of congratulations to the newly married couple -- then the older couple departed after making the others promise to rejoin them later.

Once out of his father's sight, Spock allowed his friends to kiss and embrace him ... or shake his hand. He didn't mind as long as the contact was properly brief. McCoy made another teasing remark after shaking Spock's hand.

"Well, Spock, I can imagine what your wedding night is going to be like."

Spock didn't even bat an eye at the good-natured baiting. "Quite similar to yours, I believe, Doctor."

Kirk and the others laughed; the Captain slapped a chagrined McCoy on the shoulder. "I'm afraid you had that coming, Bones."

Once over his initial embarrassment, McCoy was unruffled. "Did anyone think to make a holovid for the crew?" he wondered, recalling how Spock had obtained special permission to do this, not to mention the strings the Vulcan must have had to pull in order to obtain the permission which accounted for *his* presence here. For that alone, McCoy was sure Spock would owe the Vulcan authorities favors for the rest of his life.

After a short silence, Scotty spoke up. "Aye, Doctor, ah did. Caught ever' moment of it."

"Good work, Scotty. Send it up to the ship when you can," Kirk said as the group headed for the other parked ground-car. Kirk, McCoy, Scott and Uhura climbed into the spacious back seat, settling into contoured seats as seat belts automatically locked around them. The newlyweds occupied the front seat by themselves; Spock was at the 'wheel'.

The foursome in the rear smiled knowingly at each other in the shared knowledge that their Vulcan friend would -- logically -- refrain from touching his new bride (aside from finger-crossing) except in privacy. It was only too apparent from the looks on their faces in the rear-view mirror that both wished they had that privacy now.

Spock said they would arrive back in ShiKahr and his parents' estate within 45 minutes. "Forty-two point three-seven-five minutes, to be exact."

"Logical to the end," Kirk laughed, giving his Vulcan friend an affectionate smile. Spock adopted a totally perplexed expression, upswept brows almost hidden by his bangs when he turned around to resume his task of driving.

"I wonder where they'll spend the night," Uhura remarked, loudly enough to be heard in the front seat.

"For the time being, we shall share my room in my parents' home, Miss Uhura." Spock's tone effectively precluded further remarks in that vein -- at least until the party reached his family home and he was safely out of earshot.

Once the six arrived, it was dinnertime, so the five men were left to their own devices in the living room as the three women bustled around the neat kitchen. They heard snatches of Vulcan music as Spock played his father's lyrette, humming along with it as they prepared the meal. Vegetarian fare for Sarek and Spock, their favorite dishes for everyone else.

Amanda was renowned on Vulcan not only for her teaching but her cooking. Christine made sure to get her mother-in-law's recipe for plomeek soup so she could serve it to Spock in their own home. "Umm! Does that ever smell good!" she and Uhura proclaimed as a savory smell wafted from the pots on Amanda's immaculate stove.

"My specialty and Spock's favorite dish. One of Sarek's, too."

Amanda got the same look on her face at the mention of her husband as Christine did whenever Spock was mentioned. Uhura shrugged and shook her head in affectionate exasperation. Those two were hopeless! Just what *was* it that attracted Human women to Vulcan males, anyway? McCoy was of the opinion that it was their ears, but it had to be more than that -- probably some kind of animal magnetism or something. She would have asked, but doubted she would get a straight answer from either one of them.

Uhura liked and respected both Spock and his father immensely, but felt that Amanda and Chris made far too much of them. Not even at her worst had Uhura herself acted like that over a man. The closest she had come was the famous musician Guy Maslin, with whom she had fallen in love while investigating the deaths of the semi-aquatic (and very musical) creatures on the planet Taygeta some years ago. Guy had died there and not since his death had Uhura felt for anyone what she had felt for him. She understood the feelings of the other two women up to a point; beyond that, she believed they went totally overboard, embarrassing the men they loved.

Christine's distress brought her back to reality. "Can you imagine how I felt when I heard that ElNath VI was inhabited after all, that the inhabitants had observed the landing party while we were planetside? At first I thought, 'Oh my God, you mean Spock and I had an audience while in our little love nest?'"

"Oh, lord, no, Chris! How embarrassing for you!" Uhura sympathized.

"That's the understatement of the year." Christine blushed all over again.

"Christine, if the population is all they claim, surely they would allow the two of you your privacy once they realized your intentions," Amanda remarked as she made salad.

"I hope so. I don't like to think what we might have put on for them otherwise."

Uhura changed the subject. "Let's talk about the wedding. It was the loveliest I've ever attended, and your dress-- Well, mere words can't do it justice. It must be seen to be appreciated. White gauze, short lace sleeves, form-fitting, and with the hem just brushing the ground. And let us not forget the neckline ... modest, but low enough to hint at some of your more obvious charms."

"For Heaven's sake, Ny, you make me sound like some kind of fairy tale princess!"

"As far as I'm concerned, you were. I don't think any woman ever looked as beautiful on her wedding day as you did on yours."

"I didn't do it alone." Christine smiled at Amanda.

Uhura gave them both a puzzled look.

"Yes, I designed it, Uhura -- or rather, patterned it after my own wedding dress ... personally tailoring it to Christine's measurements."

This time it was Christine's turn to look puzzled. "But how could you have done that? I've never been here until now."

The older woman smiled enigmatically as she opened a cabinet and drawer to get plates, glass and silverware. "Guess."

Christine gave her mother-in-law a look of shock and disbelief. "You mean ... *Spock*? You're kidding! He never..."

"My dear, you should know by now that Spock has his own unique ways of doing things. Sometimes he's so clever that you have no idea what he's doing until it's over. He's been like that since he was a child, and frankly it scares the hell out of me!"

"Really, Mother," Spock's disapproving voice broke in. "Profanity is most unbecoming a lady."

Amanda nearly jumped out of her skin. "Spock, you did it again! What am I to do with you when you sneak up on us like that?"

Spock raised an indignant eyebrow. "I was hardly 'sneaking up' on you, Mother. I approached as I always do."

"Why are you here? Did your father send you?"

"Mr. Scott and the Doctor were wondering how soon dinner would be ready. Both have declared that they will 'starve to death' if they do not have some of your 'famous cooking' soon."

"What about the Captain? Is *he* going to 'starve to death' without my 'famous cooking', too?"

Spock was caught off-guard by the unexpected retort, but recovered quickly. "I imagine he is, but he hasn't said anything. I would surmise that he has decided it is more logical to remain quiet and wait until we care called to eat, as Father and I have been doing."

Christine detected a touch of arrogance and superiority in her husband's words, though she doubted it was intentional ... but Spock was so mysterious sometimes that it was hard to tell.

"Tell them dinner will be ready in ten minutes."

Spock turned on his heel and left as stealthily as he had come. Uhura declared that he would have made an ideal jungle cat as the women set the table buffet-style to everyone could serve themselves.

"Chris, go call that exasperating husband of yours," Amanda said ten minutes later. "Tell him dinner's ready and to bring his friends and father with him."

Christine smiled at her mother-in-law's peevish remark just before leaning out the kitchen door and calling to the small group in the living room. "Spock, Captain, Leonard ... everyone come and eat. Dinner is on the table."

McCoy was the first one through the door, sniffing the air. "If the food tastes half as good as it smells--! My stomach's so empty that it's leaning on my backbone for support!"

"Bones, if you aren't careful, you're liable to find that your eyes are bigger than your stomach," Kirk joked. The doctor glared as the Humans laughed and the Vulcans raised amused eyebrows. Once everyone had served themselves and sat down at the table in preparation for eating, the two married couples sat with customary fingers crossed until it was time to eat.

Kirk couldn't remember whether or not Vulcans said anything like grace and was frankly too hungry to care. All he wanted to do was dig into Amanda's mouth-watering culinary delights. However, it was traditional to wait until the host began eating. A moment later Sarek took a bite of food, then Amanda gave a nod and everyone dug in. For the next hour, it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.

After the meal was over and the dishes cleared away, the Terran men asked Sarek's permission to kiss his wife on the cheek and praise her culinary skills.

"I didn't do it alone," Amanda said. "Christine and Uhura helped."

"Then kisses are in order for all three ladies. Spock, is it all right to give your lovely bride a kiss on the cheek?"

"As long as you ask first."

All three women blushed with pleasure upon receiving grateful kisses and well-deserved praise -- then the three Terran males retreated into the living room with drinks while Sarek and Spock offered to help with kitchen clean-up.

"We can handle it ... but thank you for asking," Amanda replied with a smile.

"Very well, my wife. I will return to the living room." The elder Vulcan gracefully withdrew, but Spock remained.

"Is there something else you want, Spock?" his mother asked.

"Mother, do you really need Christine to help you? If not, we would like to retire now."

Amanda smiled understandingly upon recognizing the looks in her son and daughter-in-law's eyes. "It's still early, my son. Besides, we want to toast you and Christine first."

"Very well, Mother." The younger Vulcan's voice was laced with disappointment, but he knew he had to do his duty, however much he wished to be alone with his new bride. Christine *was* excused, however, soon seated beside her husband in the living room as he played his father's lyrette.

She had also seen and recognized the hunger in her new husband's eyes, suspecting that one reason he played the lyrette was to allow the soothing music to calm his desire for her until they were alone. Christine knew the feeling all too well ... but for her, only being in Spock's arms and their making passionate love could still the fire within her -- even temporarily.

She hoped the toast would be over quickly so that everyone would leave and she would be alone with him. It seemed an eternity before Amanda and Uhura returned to the living room with glasses of iced Altair water and Saurian brandy.

"We toast the marriage of our beloved friends and children." Amanda held up her glass of brandy to clink against everyone else's. "To Spock and Christine. May their love and marriage last forever!" The two Vulcans sighed in exasperation but said nothing, dutifully raising their glasses with the others...then everyone drank their glasses dry.

"Well, it's getting late," Amanda observed as the clock struck nine. "It's been a most enjoyable evening with you all, but it's time we went to bed. Everyone say good-night now, and we'll see each other in the morning."

Christine envied her mother-in-law's finesse in cleverly dismissing everyone. Kirk, Scott and McCoy made their farewells and headed for the guest house in the rear; the sofa bed in the living room was made up for Uhura. After bidding her good-night, the two married couples stood at their respective bedroom doors, each crossing the customary fingers with their mate.

"Good night, Spock ... Christine," Amanda said.

"Good night, Mother ... Father," Spock replied. Their respective partners nodded in assent. Christine added a smile to hers; Amanda smiled and winked at her daughter-in-law as the younger woman turned to go into the bedroom she would share with her new husband.

* * *

Christine yawned and stretched after closing the bedroom door behind them. "What a day this has been."

"Indeed." Spock allowed himself a smile at his wife. "Would you care to shower first?"

"It'll take me a while to get everything I need together, so you go ahead."

"Very well. I will not be long."

The hunger was back in the beautiful eyes Christine adored; she returned it as their fingers crossed before Spock reluctantly disappeared into the bathroom. Christine put her small bag on the bed, taking out the pretty shortie nightgown she had saved especially for tonight. It was pale blue, filmy and lavishly trimmed with lace; the hem ended a mere inch below the tops of her thighs. The top was low-cut; one could see a generous amount of alluring cleavage as the bosom was held up by underwire and spaghetti straps.

Christine gathered her toilet articles together, wrapped them in her towel and placed the nightgown on top. She felt thoroughly grimy after a day in Vulcan's intense heat, so she was glad she could use water for her shower if she so wished. The life within her stirred as though nervous and she patted her belly reassuringly.

*Don't worry, darling,* she told her unborn child. *I'm just nervously awaiting my wedding night with your father.* Christine became so engrossed in her thoughts that she didn't hear Spock come out. Only his gentle touch made her aware of his presence.

"Christine? Christine, you may go in now."

He smelled divine, a combination of soap, shampoo and after-shave -- but she felt slightly nauseated and looked pale to her concerned husband. "What? Oh yes, Spock. Thank you." She got up and started for the bathroom; he followed her to the door, gently touching her shoulder as she reached for the button to open it.

"You look ill, my wife. Would you like me to assist you with your bath?"

He had asked for two reasons, and ordinarily Christine would have loved to share the shower with him, but really didn't feel well. Besides, there was plenty of time for them to discover all the pleasures of married love.

"Don't worry, *wanimo aisha* (my love). I'll be fine." She stroked his left cheek with one finger and disappeared into the bathroom before he could make a move.

Spock had been too stunned at her use of his native language to do anything except thrill to her touch. What else might she know if she knew that phrase? *My ainama kaifa (beautiful wife) is most intriguing,* he told himself as he sat on the bed waiting for her, clad in a velvet robe with Vulcan symbols on it: a wedding gift from his wife.

He had given her earrings for her pierced ears, small IDIC symbols to match the ones in their wedding rings. Their gifts to each other had been the only ones they had had the opportunity to open; the rest would have to wait. They had more important matters to consider. Spock became so lost in thought that he barely heard the bathroom door open. He heard Christine call to him and looked up; the exquisite vision he saw upon doing so made him swear that he was dreaming with his eyes wide open...for she could not be real!

"Christine?" It was all the confused but totally enchanted half-Vulcan could do to control himself. She looked so very lovely and desirable! And even though it was unVulcan to feel this way, Spock couldn't help it -- and didn't care. The vision held out her arms to him.

"*Wanimo kaifo, wani-ra yanamos itisha*." (My husband, I am yours)

At last he could cast off the self-imposed restraints and give all of himself ... heart, soul, body, his very being ... to her, the vision. Spock took Christine's outstretched hand and pulled her onto his lap. She locked her arms around his neck, making him shiver when her fingers lightly stroked the back of it, curling his dark hair around and through them.

His entwined fingers rested on her waist, his embrace tightening as they began to kiss. His lips eventually traveled down her neck to her throat. He couldn't help smiling as he inhaled the intoxicating scent of her musky-rose perfume while his fingers slipped the straps of her nightgown off her shoulders, kissing them before moving on to uncover and do the same with her breasts.

His feelings were all totally illogical, but at the moment all Spock cared about was the lovely and loving female he held, kissed and loved -- *his wife*. He soon found himself lapsing into his native language in the throes of his fast-rising passion.

"*Wanimo kaifa ainama, wani-ra yana aisha*." (My beautiful wife, I love you) He stopped her before she could reply, even as much as he wanted her to. "My wife," he said in English. "Before we get too carried away, I must compliment you on your fluency in the Vulcan language. I was unaware that you had any knowledge of it."

"There's a lot you don't know about me," she laughed. "But to answer your question, that was one of the first things I studied once I realized I was in love with you." Christine rested her head on her husband's shoulder; he alternately stroked and kissed her hair as she spoke. "I just never had the opportunity to use it until now. I don't know much -- basic phrases and a few endearments -- but it's a start."

"Quite a good start, too. You are to be commended. If you wish, I will teach you more of the language."

"I'd like that very much -- later. Right now, all I want is for you to love me." Her nightgown slipped to the carpeted floor in a heap as Spock brought Christine to her feet; his velvet robe soon joined it.

Her legs parted at the gentle pressure of his body; she moaned with pleasure as he slowly lowered them both to lie on the bed, their lips locked in a tender yet fiery kiss.

"Spock, my darling..." was all he allowed her to say before passionately possessing her once, then again -- and yet again. It was as though he was starved for her, just couldn't get enough of her.

The last statement Christine had used constituted the limit of her knowledge of spoken Vulcan, but if using it enabled Spock to love her as passionately as he had on the planet (and as he was doing now ... in fact, it was amazing how rapidly her nausea had disappeared when he touched her!) she vowed to learn all she could of it. Of course, no matter how many tenderly passionate hours they shared, reality inevitably intruded -- so it was essential for them to get back to work and the necessary business of everyday living.

* * *

On stardate 8445.02, the Enterprise* was on routine patrol near the edge of the galaxy. Spock was standing by the command chair, quietly conversing with Kirk when Chekov's excited yell reached his sensitive ears at warp speed.

"*Bozhe moi*!" the young Russian exclaimed in his native language. "Mr. Spock, come quickly. You must see this. I cannot believe vhat I am seeing!"

Spock turned his head in the direction of his Science station. "It is unnecessary to raise your voice, Mr. Chekov. I will be there shortly."

The Russian moved aside in order to enable the Vulcan to view the sensor readout. For a long time Spock didn't say a word, not even his usual adjectives "fascinating" or "interesting". Instead, he became engrossed in the wonder he and Chekov had discovered, unaware that the turbolift had just admitted McCoy onto the bridge. The doctor looked at the science station and the Vulcan immersed in some interstellar phenomenon, a frown crossing his weathered brow.

"Jim, what in God's name is Spock so interested in? How long has he been like that?"

"I've no idea, Bones. He hasn't said a word since Chekov called him over."

"That's a first, having our outspoken Vulcan friend actually at a loss for words. Hey, Spock! How about letting us mere mortals in on your 'fascinating' discovery?"

The First Officer reluctantly looked up, giving the Chief Surgeon an irritated look -- or as close as the unemotional Vulcan could come to it -- but Spock's calm voice betrayed none of the irritation in his dark eyes. "You really must learn patience, Doctor. I did not think it logical to say anything unless there was something to say."

"That never stopped you before," McCoy shot back.

Spock ignored him and spoke directly to Kirk. "Captain, it seems that we have come upon a galaxy that is at least thirteen times as large as our own Milky Way ... if my calculations are accurate."

"But the Milky Way is over one hundred thousand lightyears in diameter," Kirk reminded him.

"This galaxy is over *one million* lightyears in diameter -- one point-three, to be precise."

"Dear God in Heaven." McCoy's face became ashen, his body sagging onto the railing behind him for support.

"The galaxy is called Delta 459, first discovered two centuries ago. It is four hundred million lightyears from Earth. It also appears to have two spiraling arms wound near the center which branch out at irregular angles. A most fascinating development."

"Anything else?" Kirk asked.

"A smaller galaxy alongside it. Its gravitational pull affects the size of Delta 459 much as your Moon affects the oceans to cause tidal waves on Earth. There is also an immense hydrogen cloud surrounding Delta 459. The gravity exerted by the smaller galaxy appears to make the gas undulate and gain momentum, thereby causing Delta 459 to spread out.

"Our scientists have long speculated on the existence of tidal effects as the cause of spiraling movement in galaxies, but it has never been observed in detail prior to this. Such gravitational effects have also been credited with fostering nuclear activity in galaxies and driving the course of galaxy evolution, but I find little evidence to support that hypothesis." Spock took a deep breath after his lengthy explanation.

"Thank you, Spock. Mr. Sulu, how long to Starbase 27 from here?"

"Two point-five solar days, sir -- if we increase speed to warp five."

"Do it. We're overdue for shore leave, so let's get there as soon as possible."

"Yes, sir!" The Asian face split in a wide grin.

McCoy resumed his characteristic baiting of the newly married half-Vulcan Science Officer and second-in-command. "Since I'll be -- indisposed, to put it delicately -- once we reach Starbase 27 and shore leave, I hope Chris knows someone there so she can have her regular checkup to make sure her pregnancy continues going as smoothly as possible. She *is* due for one within a week, isn't that right, Spock?"

"Yes, Doctor, I believe it is." Spock's voice was barely civil. Having children was an intensely private matter for Vulcans. For anyone to mention it in public, even a close, trusted friend like McCoy, was an almost unforgivable breach of good manners and a gross invasion of privacy.

However, Spock reminded himself that the doctor was, after all, Human and therefore could not be blamed for his ignorance of Vulcan custom concerning that aspect of life. He was tolerant of the Chief Surgeon's frequent social blunders because he knew how McCoy cared for him and Christine.

Kirk gave McCoy a hard look; the doctor clamped his mouth shut. "Bones, isn't it about time you got back to Sickbay? Dr. Chapel is probably wondering what in the universe happened to you."

"Yes, Jim, I believe it is. Thanks for reminding me. See you later."

McCoy took the none-too-subtle hint, even though he and the Captain both knew that Christine would hold down the fort until he got there ... even as sick as her ever-increasing pregnancy was making her. She insisted on working, at least until the ship reached Starbase 27 -- but after that, Fleet regulations required her to take maternity leave.

Spock could either take a temporary Starbase teaching job in order to be nearby if he so wished ... or he could have Christine go to Vulcan and stay with Sarek and Amanda until their child was born. Kirk had no idea what Spock's plans were since his friend had not yet confided in him, but he *was* certain that whatever Spock decided, it would be the best and most logical course of action for all concerned.

Kirk also hoped that he could somehow manage to keep the out-spoken Chief Surgeon out of Spock's vicinity until then. In the latter's present condition (or more accurately, his Terran wife's present condition), anything could -- and probably would -- happen, especially if McCoy got anywhere near Spock and made a tactless remark at this most crucial time. Spock still wasn't used to being a married man with a pregnant wife, so he had to be treated with kid gloves.

"Are you all right, Spock?"

The Vulcan raised a surprised eyebrow. "Of course, Captain. Why do you ask?"

"Just concerned. Bones can be a real pain sometimes, even though he means well. Don't let him get to you."

"He is Human, Captain, and therefore illogical -- so I have trained myself to tolerate him. Is there anything else you wish to say?"

"I guess not. Carry on, Spock."

The two friends exchanged a secret smile, resuming their previous activities after Spock quietly thanked Kirk for getting McCoy off his back when the Captain wandered over. "Any time. Now get back to work. I want to know everything you can find out about Delta 459 by the time we reach Starbase 27."

Spock nodded understandingly and turned back to his Science console, within minutes once again engrossed in the wonders of Delta 459.

* * *

Christine was officially relieved of duty within 24 hours of the Enterprise's arrival at Starbase 27. She checked with Administration for available doctors, discovering to her shock and delight that an old friend of hers -- also a renowned physician -- had recently been assigned to the Starbase with her husband of twenty years.

The two women had been roommates and friends all through Starfleet Academy and nursing school. Upon completion of nursing school, Christine obtained a Ph.D. in biochemistry while Anita went on to medical school. Barely a year after obtaining her M.D. degree, Anita had married and had twins. Christine had no idea how her friend had managed to juggle a career, marriage and children.

She frankly envied the other woman that ability since she herself had been obliged to forego marriage and children in favor of her career. Maybe Anita could give her some tips, since she would need all the help she could get in order to learn to juggle those three things herself. No mean feat, since each was a full-time job in itself, even in the 23rd century.

The Medical Complex was three floors up from Administration; she stepped into the nearby turbolift. "Medical Complex." Christine stepped off moments later, pleased to see hustle and bustle, but hoping nothing was seriously wrong. What would Anita look like after twenty years? Probably as beautiful as she always had. Christine had always felt like a wallflower next to her, but not as often nowadays. Not since her own marriage. And marriage to the man who had been the most elusive romantic prize in the known Galaxy to boot!

She smiled to herself. *After all, Spock loves me, so I must be worth something. Just knowing he is mine and that I am carrying his child makes me the happiest, luckiest woman in the galaxy!* With that happy thought in mind, Christine set off in search of her old friend.

* * *

Upon reaching Anita's office, Christine informed the young secretary that she was an old friend of Dr. Rogerson's and wished to surprise her. The girl smiled understandingly, but claimed that Dr. Rogerson required an appointment made well in advance, even by the Commodore himself. Christine assured her that that was another reason she was here (McCoy had called ahead for her) before letting herself in.

Christine found her friend treating another patient in one of several treatment rooms. The doctor said, "I'll be right with you," upon hearing the outer door open and close. *At least she still sounds the same,* Christine thought. *I wonder if she still looks the same.*

Anita Rogerson came out to face her visitor once her other patient departed. Christine's eyes widened in surprise at seeing how little her friend had changed. Anita's brown eyes widened like saucers as she grasped the other woman's shoulders. "Chris! Oh my God, Chris! Is it really you?" The women embraced warmly. "I can't tell you how wonderful it is to see you. It's been so long! What brings you here?"

"I need a checkup, for one thing."

"Sure thing -- but what about Leonard? Aren't you two still serving on the Enterprise? By the way, just how *is* my old flame?"

"He said he would be indisposed for a while and suggested I check to see if I knew anyone here who would do a checkup on me. As far as I know, he's fine. We arrived here yesterday for extended shore leave. Haven't you seen him yet?"

Dr. Rogerson shook her head. "You must tell him to drop by the first chance he gets."

"Will do. Now can we get on with the checkup?"

"Of course -- but what do you need it for?"

"You must really have been buried here not to have heard about Spock and me getting married."

The other woman's jaw dropped. "What did you say? Run that by me again."

"Spock and I are married."

"*You* -- and Spock? You're kidding! How'd you ever manage that? He's always been the most elusive romantic prize in the known Galaxy! I've lost count of how many women have tried to land him ... so what you've done ranks right up there with walking on water or raising the dead. A bonafide miracle. You *must* tell me how you did it!"

"I wish I knew -- then I could help others in the same situation."

"My friend, I believe I can safely say that you're now the envy of every marriageable woman in the known galaxy. God knows Vulcans are attractive enough, but getting one to admit to love when they don't believe in expressing emotions..."

"With Spock, it was as much an emotional decision as a logical one, but he'd never admit that. Not willingly, anyway. He's always hidden his feelings behind a wall of logic ... but I am happy to say that I've finally gotten *behind* that wall."

"Hooray for you -- though it couldn't have been easy, as cold as that bunch is most of the time."

Christine smiled knowingly. "That's what you think. At least about *this* Vulcan, anyway. Spock is every bit as passionate as a Human male ... as well as more loving, tender and considerate."

Anita Rogerson eyed her friend's radiant face incredulously. "But you once swore to me that you'd *never* fall in love with an alien -- especially not a Vulcan!"

"That was before I met Spock ... and he isn't alien. At least not entirely, and that's made him the exception to the rule for as long as I've known him."

"He must be, to get you, the original immovable object, to change your mind."

"You don't know the half of it, old friend."

"How long have you been married?"

"About two weeks."

"And you're pregnant already? What did you do, have him take a double dose of Spanish fly or something?"

Christine glared indignantly. "Certainly not. For Heaven's sake, what a thing to say! Besides, even if it worked on Vulcans -- which I doubt -- Spock doesn't need it."

"Then how'd you do it?"

"Passionately. Beautifully."

"Chris, what did you *do*?"

"It was Spock's idea, actually."

"I can't believe it. Vulcans don't do that."

"I didn't believe it myself at first. After all, it's not exactly what they're noted for."

"So tell me what happened, for pity's sake! Spit it out -- don't keep me in suspense!"

But Christine found herself stammering and blushing, barely able to utter a coherent word. After five embarrassing minutes, Anita assured her it was all right. "Don't worry, I understand if you can't explain. It happens to the best of us. I still remember how *I* blushed and stammered trying to explain about *my* pregnancy. After several mortifying attempts, I finally quit trying."

"I'm glad I'm not the only one. Hopefully I'll be able to tell you the whole story one day. It really is 'fascinating,' as my ever-logical husband would say. I'm getting far enough along so I can't work in deep space any more, so as of 1400 hours yesterday, I'm officially on maternity leave."

"How far along are you?"

"Approximately six weeks -- and after this shore leave, I'll have to decide where to spend the remainder of my pregnancy. If I don't, Spock will. It might be here, on Earth or on Vulcan ... wherever he decides I would be safest. In the latter case, I would stay with his parents until our child is born, then rejoin him at the first opportunity."

"You don't sound too happy about that."

"I'm not." Christine sighed unhappily. "I'd much rather be with Spock, even as lovely as his parents are ... but he says it's illogical for me to risk my life or that of our child in deep space when I could be safe on Earth or Vulcan."

"He has a point, though I can certainly understand your wanting to stay with him, particularly now that you're expecting a child."

"Will you be here for me in the event Spock elects to remain here?"

"You know it. What does he plan to do if you stay here?"

"Teach computer science or something, probably."

"That reminds me of what Bob and I did when the twins were born. He took a temporary teaching job on Starbase 11, which was where we were at the time. That arrangement sufficed until I was back on my feet. When I did return to work, it was only part-time while the children were growing up. I've gone back to full-time now that they're grown, but I don't know what I'd have done if Bob hadn't pitched in when they were small." Dr. Rogerson paused for breath. "Do you think Spock would do that for your child?"

"I'm fairly certain he would, but we'll have to wait and see. I certainly hope so, because I want to get back to work as soon as possible after our child is born."

"He'd understand that."

"Not only that -- he'd consider it only logical."

The doctor smiled and nodded as she checked the bio-comp readings near the head of Christine's diagnostic bed. "Do you think you'll ever be separated from each other or your child for any appreciable length of time?"

"Not if I can help it."

The other woman sighed deeply. "Well, your pregnancy seems to be going well so far, considering the differences between Vulcan and Human physiology, but things might get touchy later on because of it and you may need medication ... perhaps even hospitalization."

"Neither Leonard nor M'Benga seemed to think so -- and if anyone knows Vulcan physiology, it's M'Benga. He's helped to save Spock's life at least twice."

"Well, there's always the possibility of my being wrong, but one can never tell about the future."

"You said it." Christine got off the diagnostic bed, methodically straightening her clothing once on her feet.

"Everything's fine -- for now. I only pray it stays that way, for your sake ... and Spock's. God knows he certainly deserves a happy marriage and beautiful child."

The two women walked out into the deserted waiting area. "I intend to see that he gets both."

"Oh yes, Chris. Do keep me posted on what you decide to do. Bob and I could take care of you all if you stay. And did I tell you that Bob has also studied Vulcan physiology? In fact, he's second only to M'Benga when it comes to knowing them inside and out. That would mean two -- potentially three -- less patients for Leonard and M'Benga to worry about."

"That's great. Spock will be pleased ... and I'll let you know what I find out." The friends embraced again at the doctor's door.

"Give my best to Leonard when you see him -- and don't forget to tell him to drop by and see me. And give my regards to Spock too. He has to be one hell of a guy to land you. I hope he realizes how lucky he is."

"I think he does, though I doubt he'd say it in exactly those terms. Vulcans don't believe in luck, either."

"If anyone could make him believe in luck, you could -- particularly after all the two of you have surely had to endure in order to get to this point."

"That's not luck, that's a miracle."

"Whatever it is, what counts is that you're finally together."

"And we'll stay that way if I have anything to say about it."

Anita laughed. "And there's no doubt in my mind that you have plenty!" They embraced one last time. "See you later, Chris. God bless you and Spock always."

Christine then left to return to the quarters assigned her and Spock for a romantic evening alone with her new husband.

* * *

It wasn't until the following morning that Christine remembered her promise. She had had more important things on her mind ... as well as the rest of her! Spock had proven himself a most willing and apt pupil of her lessons in love. Not that he needed much instruction; it just seemed to come naturally to him, especially now that they were married.

He was as proper as ever in public, finger-crossing and a smile being the furthest he would go as far as showing affection was concerned -- but it was entirely different matter come bedtime. Who would have believed a Vulcan capable of such tenderness or passion? Christine looked forward with eager anticipation to whenever she and her new husband were alone together behind closed *and locked* doors.

One would have thought Spock had not only just discovered the pleasures of physical love, but invented them! Privacy seemed to make him an entirely different person. She doubted she would ever get enough of him (or vice versa), especially since he seemed to be making up for all the years he had denied himself and his love to her.

The pregnancy went well for the most part, but Christine was grateful to have competent help close at hand in case of emergency. She could hardly wait until the baby became active, so she could have Spock put a hand or cheek on her rounded belly ... maybe even stroke or kiss it.

With that end in mind, she redoubled her efforts, but had no intention of making further changes in him. All he needed was some loosening up. Her efforts so far had yielded most satisfactory (and satisfying) results, so she saw no need to improve on them very much. He was nearly perfect anyway, so her efforts merely helped complete the job Spock himself had begun.

* * *

Christine hoped she would find McCoy in the Starbase dining room as she headed there to have some herbal tea, her main drink other than milk and mineral water since learning of her pregnancy. Hopefully he wouldn't be too hung-over to appreciate the news she had for him. She had always secretly suspected that Leonard still carried a torch for Anita, since the women he had subsequently been involved with invariably resembled her in some way.

Christine had no trouble locating her colleague even though the room was nearly full. The object of her search sat a table halfway across the room, a large pot of coffee at his elbow and a steaming cup in hand. She made herself the herbal tea and joined him, greeting him in her softest voice since anything above a whisper seemed a shout to him when he had a hangover.

"Hello, Leonard. I'm glad I finally caught up with you."

McCoy looked at her with a wan imitation of a smile. His blue eyes were bloodshot, brown hair steaked with grey and rumpled. His lined face sported two days' beard growth and he smelled like a wino. "Oh, hello, Chris. Good to see you -- the three of you -- though I'm afraid I'm not much company right now. Oh dear God, my *head*! Why did I have that last glass of Saurian brandy?"

"Haven't you taken anything to offset the effects of the brandy?"

"Of course I have, for God's sake. All I dare take ... but my head still feels like it's going to split wide open if I so much as breathe heavy. If this pain keeps up, I'm gonna have to knock myself out." His teeth dug into his lower lip. "That'll teach me to have that last one for the road, won't it?"

Christine doubted it, but kept her opinion to herself. "I'm sure glad Spock isn't here to see this. He'd have a field day!" McCoy rubbed his throbbing temples in a vain attempt to relieve the pain in his head. "What was it you wanted to see me about?"

"Anita Rogerson's here. She was assigned three weeks ago."

The news hit the hung-over doctor like the proverbial ton of bricks. "Anita's here? Now? Oh my God, of all times!"

"Leonard, she's a doctor, as we are. I went to see her for my checkup. When I told her we were here for a month, she said to have you stop by at your first opportunity."

McCoy finished the large cup of coffee before him and poured another, taking a generous swig, which seemed to strengthen him enough to give Christine a real smile. "Oh, I'll go all right," he remarked wryly. "Provided I survive the night."

"You will."

"At this point, that is debatable -- but let's put that aside for now. It's been twenty-two years since I last seen Anita. How is she? Still as beautiful as ever?" Christine's silence made McCoy give his friend and colleague a concerned look. "She still makes you feel like a wallflower, I take it."

Christine nodded with a wry grin after taking a generous swallow of her tea.

"Don't sell yourself short, Chris. You're a damn attractive woman. Remember, Spock loves you as you are ... and he's a tough customer. If you can pass *his* inspection, you could pass anybody's."

"Thanks, Leonard; I needed that. You'll go see Anita, then?"

"I wouldn't miss seeing that lovely lady for anything in the universe. Where is she now?"

"Three floors up in the Medical Complex. You can spruce up and go see her later -- if you feel up to it, that is."

"Just the idea of seeing her again makes me feel better. Thanks for letting me know."

"Any time. I've got to go now. I'm to meet Spock in a few minutes and you know what a stickler he is for punctuality."

"I'm well aware of Spock's idiosyncrasies, thank you. Get going before he comes after you." The doctor managed another smile and gave Christine a friendly push to send her on her way. After watching her leave, McCoy settled down to finish his cup of coffee and prepare to see Anita again. That is, if any man could truly be prepared to see her.

Her beauty hit a man right in the heart ... and she was just as lovely personality-wise as she was physically. It wouldn't surprise him if she was even more beautiful than when he had last seen her over twenty years ago, whereas all he had to show for those years was more grey and wrinkles. Even when he'd been younger and fairly attractive, he had wondered what she'd seen in him ... though he would have married her in a minute had it not been for his being in the middle of his nasty divorce battle.

Of course, he really couldn't expect such a lovely, sought-after woman to wait for him when she could have her pick of men. He hadn't blamed her for being swept off her feet when the handsome and distinguished Robert Louis Rogerson, physician *extraordinaire,* had married her after a whirlwind courtship of only two weeks.

It had been the most talked-about wedding in Starfleet history until Spock and Chris's wedding two weeks ago. As far as he knew, Anita was still happily married to Rogerson after twenty years and two children -- twins, a boy (Robert Louis, Jr.) and a girl (Jessica Elizabeth), both now nineteen and currently attending Starfleet Academy. Her pregnancy barely three weeks after her marriage had been unprecedented, but not really surprising.

He had always considered Robert Rogerson the epitome of all a doctor, and man, should be ... and if anyone had told Leonard McCoy that he was just as much a legend, had just as much going for him, he would have been flattered but skeptical. McCoy had never had a high opinion of himself, especially not where his ability to attract women was concerned, so he was always pleasantly surprised when one gravitated to him instead of Jim or Spock.

*I guess that attitude comes from hanging around them so long,* he told himself. *Those two have always attracted women like flowers attract bees ... though in Spock's case, it was usually unintentional. He avoided romantic relationships whenever possible -- they're illogical, you know. But when a beautiful, determined lady like Chris sets her cap for him, not even a Vulcan is safe. However, from all indications, he seems to be enjoying himself immensely -- actually seemed to *want* to be caught! I've never seen him happier. Chris, either ... especially now that they're expecting a child.*

McCoy had always secretly thought Spock and Christine a strikingly handsome couple, and was pleased that she had finally managed to hogtie him. And speaking of children... His weathered face broke into a tender smile at the thought of his lovely Jo, the one good thing that had come out of his disastrous first marriage. She was the one creature he loved most dearly in all the universe, the only reason he had for living aside from his work and friends aboard ship.

The doctor shook himself roughly. Enough sentimentality. Anita was back in his life, so it was time to knuckle down and figure out the best way to deal with that fact.

* * *

As it turned out, McCoy had to take a large dose of sleeping medication. He felt fairly decent in the morning, but his head still hurt a little and his stomach was somewhat queasy, his mouth still feeling stuffed with cotton. Maybe if he took some aspirin with a swallow of water, then a dry piece of salted toast to settle his stomach, he would be able to get through the day and actually enjoy his visit.

After leaving his assigned quarters, the doctor headed for the turbolift which would take him to the Medical Complex. He looked at the wall chrono before stepping inside. 1505. Would he miss her again after all the years of swearing he never would if he had a second chance? That would be the pits after all the time he'd been without her.

He was nearly to her office when he saw a willowy woman come out and walk toward him. Her silver-blonde hair and brown eyes were familiar. Could it be--? He quickened his pace. The woman seemed to quicken hers as well ... or was it his imagination? The fortyish blonde lifted her head and spotted him. For a moment she seemed to look straight through him, then her eyes widened.



Both nodded at the mention of their names, flinging themselves into each other's arms as they laughed and cried at the same time. "Anita -- Oh my God, Anita! I can't believe it's really you! It's been so long!"

"Too long." He held and kissed her, thrilled by her eager response. "It's wonderful to see you again, Leonard. Thank God for Chris, bringing us together again after so many years apart!"

The happy pair linked arms and walked off to the Starbase dining room, selecting a sequestered booth and ordering drinks (non-alcoholic) upon arrival. It seemed only moments they were together, but in reality over two hours went by as they relieved their past lives: work, marriages, children. They touched continually, scarcely able to believe that the other was really there.

"You're still as lovely as ever."

"You always were such a charming liar, Leonard." Anita stroked McCoy's cheek with a finger that stopped on his lips, which promptly kissed it.

"You're an even more charming one." He gave her a warm smile. "You haven't changed a bit."

He eventually managed to steer the conversation around to why she had married so quickly after their breakup.

The beautiful middle-aged blonde sighed sadly. "Rebound, I guess. I was weak, vulnerable -- easy prey for any man with a handsome face and smooth line. Every man I saw reminded me of you in some way. No matter how hard I fought to relegate you to my past, I never stopped loving you, Leonard. Our breakup nearly killed me. If it hadn't been for Bob, I'd probably be six feet under by now. He literally saved my life and I'll always be grateful to him for that.

"As I recall, that was part of the reason I accepted his proposal. It certainly wasn't because I loved him. He's been a faithful husband, a loving father, and I've become very fond of him ... but as I said, I don't love him. You're the only man I've ever needed or wanted! It's been Hell having to live with the fact that I love you, but can never have you -- at least not as I would *like* to have you -- for 22 years ... but it would have been an even worse Hell if I hadn't had it to sustain me."

McCoy held Anita's hands tightly and kissed them. "Oh, dear God, Anita! If only I could have known!"

"I never lied to Bob, simply told him the truth straight out. He deserved that much, at least. He said he loved me and would do his best to make me forget you. If you'd been anyone else, it would have worked -- but I still love you and he knows it.

"At one point we even discussed divorce, but after 20 years, the children would never understand ... nor would it change matters as far as you and I were concerned, since you would be gone again on the Enterprise. Your work and friends aboard her would always take you away from me, no matter how many wonderful shore leaves we had. When one loves as I do, only a lifetime commitment -- marriage -- will satisfy the craving inside me. The craving for you, a life together *with you* ... to be Mrs. Leonard McCoy!"

He raised her hand to his cheek, voice laced with regret. "If circumstances were different, I'd marry you tomorrow -- but I have too many obligations already. Too much else to consider ... "

Anita's brown eyes brimmed over with tears as she placed a finger on his lips to silence him. "Don't you think I know that? So do I! Sometimes I think the Vulcans have the right idea, outlawing emotions. They're nothing but trouble, especially when you must endure the pain of loving someone you can never have because obligations keep you apart -- will always keep you apart -- and there's not a damn thing you can do to change it!"

Her voice broke and her head lowered onto the table, her slender shoulders shaking with sobs. McCoy wished he could have come up with something perfect to say, something which would end her flood of tears. There was a painful lump the size of Georgia in his throat as tears misted his own eyes.

"Anita, I'm so sorry. I can't tell you how sorry ... or how much I wish to God things could be different for us. I've never stopped loving *you*, either. No woman has ever been able to equal you. I came to see you after Chris said you were here, hoping we could talk, visit, and enjoy each other again -- but we're both in tears instead. Helluva way to have a reunion!"

The silver-blonde head came up, the cheeks flushed red and brown eyes swollen from crying. McCoy moved to hold her, brushing her tousled hair out of her eyes and kissing her tears away. "Maybe we should never have seen each other again," he murmured against her hair. "Not if something like this was going to happen. The last thing I wanted was to make you cry."

His companion squared her shoulders and managed a watery smile. "Don't talk like a fool, Leonard. I couldn't be happier being with you again, 22 years or no 22 years separation! I'm just a sentimental idiot, that's all."

"That makes two of us ... but while we can, I intend to see that we have one whiz-bang of a time together! Are you with me?"

"Count on it." Anita squeezed him and she once again settled her head on his shoulder after the couple shared another kiss.

* * *

By the time shore leave ended, the two could hardly bear to be separated ... but even as much as both deplored the idea, they knew it was necessary. It was a powerful temptation to ignore the very real barrier of her marriage and have a physical relationship, but both knew they mustn't. Consequently, they never did any more than hold hands, each other, or kiss.

All the same, their time together had been precious and beautiful, bringing them closer than they had ever been emotionally, if not physically. It was all of this that Leonard McCoy would take with him -- the time of his life he knew he would never forget ... or the way they had said goodbye, embracing and kissing passionately.

Anita clung to him, uncaring of the eyes upon them. "Leonard, my darling, please don't let it be another 22 years before we see each other again. These last few weeks with you have been heavenly, and I will always cherish them in my heart."

"You'll see me again -- and we'll have a *lot* of wonderful times together. I guarantee it!" He held her warm, scented sweetness close to him, only reluctantly releasing her when the loudspeaker called for all Enterprise crewmembers to beam up. He met Jim in the transporter room; his close friend and superior looked just as happy as he himself felt, even as much as he had hated leaving Anita.

Kirk smiled. "Ready to get back to the old grind, Bones?"

"Ready as I'll ever be," McCoy replied as the two men stepped onto the transporter platform with other crewmembers. The Captain looked his friend over carefully, a knowing smile crossing his lips and an equally knowing look coming into his hazel eyes.

"Haven't seen you since we got here a month ago, Bones. You must have really kept yourself well-occupied. Was she an old flame?"

McCoy looked surprised but nodded. He never *could* keep anything from Jim!

Kirk smiled wistfully. "I met one, too. Hated to leave -- but at the same time, I can't wait to get back to our other old flame, the Enterprise, and our work aboard her. Look out, Enterprise, here we come!" the Captain joked, both men chuckling as the Captain told the transporter operator to energize. The pair vanished, along with five other crewmembers, in a glare of golden light and sparkles after the operator's hand pushed the levers up.

* * *

Christine hurried to meet her husband at their pre-arranged rendezvous since her wrist chrono said she had less than five minutes to go ... and Spock always raised a disapproving eyebrow if she was even *one* minute late. It had been tolerable before their marriage, but now that she was a Vulcan wife, she was expected to behave in accordance with proper Vulcan tradition -- at least in public.

At precisely 1330, she reached the Starbase Rec Room where Spock waited at a table for two, forcing herself to walk in slowly after taking a deep breath ... with the dignity befitting her new status. Spock gave a half-smile of approval upon noting his wife's prompt arrival. "Your punctuality is most gratifying, my wife. Come, sit down. I wish to tell you my decision."

They crossed fingers once she was comfortably situated, then he steepled his hands and took a deep breath. "I have given the matter careful consideration. It is most logical for us to remain here for the remainder of your pregnancy, since you have a friend stationed here who is a doctor and could care for you. Her husband knows Vulcan physiology, so he could care for me -- and our child too, if necessary. They will need our medical records from Sickbay and we will need to beam our belongings down, but other than that, we are prepared for any eventuality."

Christine knew it wouldn't be easy for either of them to be away from the Enterprise for six months, since so much of their lives had been lived aboard her, but it was necessary. "Have you spoken with the Captain about this?"

"He said Mr. Chekov and Mr. Sulu could fill in for me until we return."

"What will you do while we're here?"

"I have accepted a temporary teaching assignment as computer science instructor until the Enterprise is in this sector again. The Captain said that would be approximately stardate 8451.08."

Christine sighed deeply in relief. "I'm sure glad to hear that."

Her husband raised a surprised eyebrow.

"I mean that you'll be here with me. I don't think I would care to be without you for six months."

The Vulcan once again extended two fingers to cross with those of his wife. "I doubt I could have been without *you* for six months, either."

* * *

Christine couldn't believe how rapidly the six months passed. It hardly seemed possible that it was already stardate 8450.94. The Enterprise would return in approximately two weeks and the baby arrive in approximately one -- that is, if Leonard's (and her own)calculations were accurate. She was ungainly now, having to walk slowly and rest frequently, wear loose clothing and rubber-soled shoes ... not to mention needing assistance when getting up from either a sitting or prone position.

There had been only one problem with her pregnancy (something having to do with blood factors), but medication corrected it. Spock planned to write his parents after the birth, advising his wife to contact her own since it was "only logical" that grandparents would want to know every possible detail about their grandchildren.

* * *

Labor pains began just after Christine completed her work as a part-time receptionist on stardate 8451.01. She had been about to step out the door when they struck full-force. She managed to make it to the couch in the waiting room and call to her friend, who came running.

"Is it time, Chris?"

"I believe so," she replied just before another pain struck so hard that it took her breath away.

"Where's Spock now?"

"Teaching his 1600 hours class."

"I can page him if you like," the doctor offered while helping Chris into the delivery room and making her comfortable on the birthing bed.

"No, I'll do it," she replied, instinctively reaching out for her husband with her mind. She had probably confused Anita by saying that, but there was no time to explain now. Labor was progressing twice as fast as usual -- probably due to the child being part Vulcan -- so she needed Spock as soon as he could arrive.

The class was in the midst of discussing the intricacies of the latest, most sophisticated computer equipment and components (many of which Spock himself had devised) when the Vulcan felt a sharp pain in his mind and his wife's mind-voice in his head. *Spock, the baby's coming. I need you!*

He projected reassurance and love through their bond. *Understood, my wife. I will be there shortly.* But even as he was trying to think of a way to tell the class, a white-garbed messenger came in. "My apologies for disturbing you in the middle of your class, Mr. Spock, but I have a message for you."

Spock quickly scanned the handwritten note given him.


Urgent that you report to the Medical Complex immediately. Chris has gone into labor and is asking for you.

Anita Rogerson, M.D.*

Spock quietly told the messenger to call for another instructor to take over his class since he had important personal business elsewhere, then left the room with his usual Vulcan dignity. The dignified facade dropped like discarded clothing as the Vulcan took to his heels once the classroom door closed behind him.

His black cloak flew as he rushed to the turbolift at the other end of the hallway, oblivious to the wide-eyed stares of students and staff alike. All he knew was that he had to get to Christine. Upon reaching the 'lift, he fought impatience as it seemingly crawled upward. When it finally arrived, he walked as rapidly as he dared to Dr. Rogerson's office, just a short distance away.

Upon reaching his destination, Spock softly knocked to catch Dr. Rogerson's attention. She stepped out of the room and jerked her head, motioning him to come in, pointing to a sterile gown, mask and gloves. He removed his cloak and quickly donned the sterile clothing indicated, stepping to his wife's side a moment later.

Christine's eyes were full of love and pain as she struggled to give birth, though she tried to smile when she saw him. Spock put one thinly gloved hand on his wife's face, making his mind one with hers and soothing the worst of her pain with a healing meld. *I am here, beloved. Relax, breathe deeply, and push only when necessary. I will take away your pain.*

*Thank God, you're here, Spock. I'll be fine now.* The pain in his face increased as labor continued. Christine wished she hadn't had to inflict it on him. It was cool in the room, but her face became wet with perspiration and her hair stringy. Spock reached with his free hand to find a cool, wet washcloth on the nearby instrument table.

Still keeping his right hand on her face, he wiped it carefully with the cloth in his left. Christine managed a smile in the midst of the pain; Spock's breath caught in his throat at the tenderness in her eyes. How could he ever have taken so long to realize what a priceless gem she was? Even now she was thinking of him, not herself.

Dr. Rogerson's urgent summons jolted him back to reality. "Spock. Down here. Quickly."

The female doctor stood at the other end of the table where Christine lay, waiting for something -- and he saw what when he arrived at her side. The child's head was visible. She had Spock move the bed to a semi-reclining position, then the doctor's gloved hands gently worked the baby out. Even at this stage, he could see that the child had a mat of dark brown hair and the ears were perfect miniatures of his own. The shoulders came out after Christine pushed hard one more time, biting her lip as another contraction hit. "Spock ... "

"Get back there," the doctor commanded. Spock again placed a hand on his wife's face in another healing meld after a kiss on her forehead.

*It is all right, my wife. The child will arrive very soon now.*

*Just as long as I have your touch, my husband.* Moments later, he felt her give one last push and it was over. Spock watched silently as the doctor placed the newborn on his mother's belly, cutting the umbilicus before delivering the afterbirth and giving the infant his first bath. She washed and scrubbed him vigorously, prompting a healthy, lusty cry.

Five minutes later the doctor turned back to Spock, holding a blue bundle in her arms. "Spock, come see your child," she called. For a moment the Vulcan seemed rooted to the spot beside his wife, but now that her breathing was even and pain-free, he stepped to where Dr. Rogerson stood.

She held the child out to him. He hesitated momentarily, then took the baby from her, cautiously moving the blanket aside to see the face of his first-born. From what he could see, it was a miniature of his own, but he was uncertain what color eyes the baby had since the lids were tightly closed. He looked up at the doctor.

"The child is male," she said. "You have a son, Spock."

The Vulcan's right eyebrow lifted, then he shocked Dr. Rogerson by giving her a smile. "Thank you, Doctor."

She smiled back. "You and Chris did the work. I only delivered him."

Spock looked back with concern at his sleeping wife. "Is my wife going to be all right?"

"There's nothing wrong with her that sleep won't cure. Having a baby takes a lot out of a woman, so she'll sleep well into tomorrow."

The Vulcan returned the child to the doctor, then leaned down and kissed his wife on the forehead once the doctor had turned her back before taking his leave. The doctor called someone at the Starbase hospital and transferred Christine to a private room there, deciding to carry the baby to the nursery herself.

* * *

Spock was sitting beside her bed when Christine awakened around 1400 the next afternoon. She called out his name, instinctively reaching for his hand. Their fingers crossed in the customary manner. "Spock, are you really here, or am I dreaming?"

"I am here, my wife. Our child has been born. We have a son."

She smiled, still half-asleep, as he gave her a gentle kiss. "I'm so glad. I wanted so much to give you a son."

Pain stabbed at the Vulcan at the thought of the son he had never had the chance to know, instruct and nurture as a father should. The pain of loss stabbed even more deeply at the thought of the mother of that child, his beautiful Zarabeth. He had known her for but a short time, but nonetheless had come to love her deeply.

If only she could have returned with him and McCoy when they had returned to their own time! He had had to cover up his deep pain and grief at parting by cold-bloodedly declaring that he was back in every way, and besides which, Zarabeth was dead and buried centuries ago. McCoy's baleful glare had said, "I can't believe that even you could be so cold-blooded, Spock!"

He still hurt for them both, most profoundly, deep inside himself, in a secret corner of his well-guarded but still far too tender heart. Christine saw the pain in his eyes and put a hand to his cheek.

"I'm sorry, Spock. That must still be a soft spot for you."

He put a finger to her lips, which she kissed. "Indeed ... but let us speak no further of it."

"After all, you have me now. We have a new son of our own. You have been given a second chance."

He smiled for her alone, their fingers crossed again. "Do you wish to change the name I have chosen for our son?"

"No, it's fine."

"Then I will tell Dr. Rogerson to make up the birth certificate with that name. Once we get back to Vulcan, we will register him properly after first showing him to Mother, Father and T'Lar." Christine nodded and they kissed, then he brought his fingers to cross with hers again as he bade her a reluctant farewell.

She would write her parents all about their new grandchild after having another nap and giving him his breakfast, since there was no guarantee that she and Spock would be able to visit any time soon with their son ... though she fully intended to send a family holograph once they had one made. Two hours and another nap later, the baby was brought in to her.

"Here's your son, Chris," Anita said with a smile.

Christine smiled tenderly at her child. "And Spock's son. Let me look at him. I didn't get a chance to before because I fell asleep. I've waited so long for this moment!" When the tiny boy was placed in his mother's arms, he waved his own around, small fists tightly clenched as his feet and legs vigorously kicked the air. She put him to her breast after opening her nightgown; he settled down and began to suckle greedily. "Have you ever seen such an appetite, Anita?"

The other woman laughed. "Have I ever! My son liked to drain me dry before *he* was satisfied!"

"This guy will probably run him a close second. I've never seen such a lust for life!"

"Pure instinct. Have you named him yet?" Christine told her the name Spock had chosen. "Appropriate, considering who this little dynamo's father is. Are you done with him yet?"

Dr. Rogerson put the baby over her shoulder and burped him as Christine sat up in bed and asked her friend to hand her child back. She positioned him on her bent legs, lovingly tracing his features with a finger. "He's the image of Spock, don't you think?"

"Absolutely. He'll probably be just as much a heartbreaker, too!"

"Oh lord, I hope not!"

"I meant that he'll probably be as attractive as Spock, Chris."

"I hope so, because I wouldn't wish what I went through on any one, least of all a prospective daughter-in-law."

"Here he's just born and already you're marrying him off," Anita teased.

"Hardly. He's not going to be pressured into an arranged marriage as Spock was. I'll see to it that he's able to choose his own wife when the time comes. Thank God Spock's first bonding didn't take. Otherwise I wouldn't have my beautiful baby now."

After nodding in agreement, the doctor took the child back, disappearing through the door with him. Christine closed her nightgown and picked up her cassette of her favorite book *Jane Eyre*, which she had asked Spock to bring her from home. She settled down to read a couple of chapters before writing the aforementioned letter to her parents.

* * *

Christine was home with the baby three days later. Once Spock had them all settled in, the new family shared precious, unforgettable private time alone together for the next four days. The Enterprise arrived in the mid-afternoon of stardate 8451.08 for another well-deserved shore leave.

Spock went to greet their friends, then brought them to see her and the baby. After settling him, she again sat down with her cassette of *Jane Eyre*, anxious to get back to Jane's romance with Mr. Rochester. Moments later the door opened to admit Spock, followed by Kirk, McCoy, Scott and Uhura. Christine carefully stopped the tape, getting up and going to the living room to greet everyone.

Each received an embrace and kiss after she and Spock had crossed fingers. "It's wonderful to see you all again, Captain, Leonard, Scotty, Nyota. We've missed you." Christine sighed as she noted the expectant looks on their faces. "I suppose that means it's time for me to go get the new member of the family." She ducked into the bedroom and picked up her sleeping child from his cradle, carrying him out to the waiting group. They all gathered around her as she stood in the center of the room with the baby in her arms. "Oh, Chris, he's adorable," Uhura gushed. "The image of Spock!"

"Such a bonnie wee bairn ye ha' there, lass," Scott enthused.

"He's beautiful," Kirk said.

"Even if he *does* look like Spock," McCoy joked. "Poor kid."

Everyone gave him strange looks, and for once the doctor was properly embarrassed. "Just kidding, everybody. He's gorgeous -- and I'm willing to bet that he'll be just as much a heartbreaker as Spock was. That is, before you took him out of circulation, Chris."

A little later, Christine took McCoy aside for a private chat while everyone else was occupied with the baby. At first he was reluctant, but finally confessed. "Chris, she loves me. I can hardly believe it, but she loves me ... in spite of her divorce. She said she would divorce her husband if I said the word, but how could I ask her to marry me, knowing I'd be gone all the time?"

"That's the silliest, most transparent excuse I've ever heard. There *is* such a thing as married personnel on a starship, you know." Christine sighed and stretched before leaning into the refrigerator for a bottle of Altair water. "Go for it, Leonard. Remember, I once thought I'd never have Spock, but we're married now and have a child. If I can do it, so can you."

"You have a point there."

"Of course I do. Now go do it before you lose your nerve."

"The only way I could do it is if I left right now."

"Go, then. I'll make your excuses to the others. Let me know how things turn out."

"Count on it. See you later."

It was nearly half an hour before McCoy's absence was noticed. Kirk came into the kitchen where Christine was making drinks. "Where did Bones go?"

"He said he had some personal business to attend to."

The Captain smiled and winked knowingly. "I see." Kirk helped her finish making the drinks, then carried the tray back into the living room where they rejoined the others.

* * *

Everyone spent a most enjoyable evening, hating to leave but looking forward to the rest of their leave, promising to visit again soon -- either collectively or individually. The others left after either kissing or shaking hands with them both, but Kirk lingered a few extra minutes. "Could I borrow Spock a few minutes? I need to ask him something."

"Sure, go ahead." The two men stepped out the door; Christine went into the bedroom and checked the baby again before getting into bed with her cassette, beginning to read where she'd left off after positioning the pillows and smoothing the bedcovers over her legs and feet.

Spock came in twenty minutes later. Within another ten, they had retired for the night. Once the light was out and Christine was lying in his arms under warm blankets, she thought of all the years she would spend with him, see their son grow up -- and God willing (also her health and duties permitting), have another child before she got too much older. *A daughter this time,* she prayed. *Maybe even twins!* Her last waking thought was a mental note to ask Spock what Kirk had wanted to ask him about at the earliest opportunity.

* * *

She was only half-awake at 0845 the next morning when Spock first crossed fingers with and kissed her before leaving to teach his 0900 hours class. Christine curled up in her overstuffed chair after feeding the baby and changing him, putting on a pretty dressing-gown over her filmy negligee. The doorbell chimed at 1045.


Leonard McCoy stepped in, a Cheshire-cat grin on his face. "Hi, Chris."

"Nice to see you again, Leonard. What happened with Anita?"

McCoy fairly beamed with happiness. "I'm to be married, Chris -- and I owe it all to you!"

"It wasn't totally my doing, but congratulations anyway."

"Guess what? Anita's children told her they're all for anything that makes her happy, though they'll still keep in touch with their father, as we both want them to. We'll be married once the divorce is final; I can hardly wait. It's been too long between marriages for me. I'm writing Jo after I leave here; she'll be thrilled to have a new mother, brother and sister."

"I'm very happy things worked out for you, Leonard. No one deserves them more."

"I'd never have had them without you." The two friends embraced warmly. "Anita's already applied for work aboard the Enterprise; with her qualifications, she's a cinch to be accepted. After all, we can always use extra medical help." McCoy sighed happily. "That reminds me. She asked me to ask you if you would be her matron of honor. She's too busy tying up loose ends on her divorce, or she'd ask you herself."

"I'd be honored."

McCoy's next question nearly floored her. "Do you think Spock would be my best man?"

"You could ask him. I'm sure he would -- but what about the Captain?"

"He's performing the ceremony, just as he did with you and Spock before we went to Vulcan for the *koon-ut-kal-if-fee*."

Christine was surprised that Leonard would even consider Spock after the way the latter had treated him where attending their wedding was concerned. Luckily for Spock, McCoy wasn't one to hold grudges. In addition, Spock had managed to pull some strings and obtain special permission for him to be allowed to attend ... after stern lectures from both her and the Captain, that is. Now that she thought about it, Kirk couldn't officiate *and* be in the wedding party, too. "Congratulations, Leonard -- and God bless you both."

"Thanks." McCoy's voice was husky with emotion. After they embraced again, the supremely happy doctor left.

Christine told her husband the good news upon his arrival home. Spock was pleased to learn that McCoy had forgiven him and wanted him as his best man since Jim was to officiate. Even at that, the Vulcan had been surprised to learn of the Chief Surgeon's imminent marriage -- not to mention disapproving of the divorce Dr. Rogerson had to obtain from her first husband. She also asked Spock what Kirk had asked him. The Vulcan said he had been invited to go camping at Yosemite with Kirk and McCoy, but had told his friend he could not give him an answer until he had discussed it with Christine. After all, he had a wife and child to consider now.

Christine had been to Yosemite some years ago and had never forgotten its beauty, especially since she had never been able to go again. She gave Spock permission to go, but admonished him to get holographs and tell her all about the trip. Spock assured her he would, then said (after informing Kirk that he would be joining him and McCoy after all) that they were supposed to leave within the next three days and would be gone for about the same amount of time.

She wasn't fond of being left alone, especially after just having a baby, but didn't want to disappoint Spock or his friends. In the end, she decided to make the most of the time they had left together even as she helped him prepare for the trip, so she would have some beautiful memories of her own to relive while he was gone. Hopefully they would offset much of the wrench of the physical separation, even as the bond kept them close in mind and heart.

* * *

It was a lovely wedding, taking place on stardate 8456.10 at 1430 hours in the Enterprise's chapel. Anita was radiant in a silvery-blue wedding dress; her son gave her away. For once McCoy didn't object to wearing his dress uniform, surprising both Spock and Christine. Kirk was in his dress uniform to marry them. Christine could hardly take her eyes off her husband, also bedecked in his dress uniform.

She wore her second-best dress, a form-fitting, simple white lace affair over satin, short-sleeved and knee-length. Her white slippers and opaque hose went perfectly with the dress. She also carried a nosegay of white rosebuds and wore a tiny diamond tiara in her dark hair. Her other jewelry was her wedding ring and a delicate gold necklace with a tiny genuine diamond heart pendant and the IDIC earrings Spock had given her as a wedding present.

Uhura had been happy to babysit little Sokar James, now almost a month old, while his parents attended their friends' wedding. She watched it on the small viewscreen in Spock and Chris's quarters as the baby slept close by in his cradle. She could scarcely fathom the changes which had taken place. First Spock had finally fallen in love with Chris and they had married, then had a child. Now Dr. McCoy was marrying again and bringing *his* new wife, also a doctor, to serve aboard the Enterprise with him. What next?