NOTE: This story is rated NC-17 and contains graphic sexual content. If you are under the age of 18, back out of here right now. Otherwise, please note that the Star Trek characters are copyright by Paramount Studios. The rest of the story is copyright (c) 1999 by T'Eros and may not be reproduced in any form without express written consent of the author. A single copy may be downloaded for personal enjoyment of the reader. Respect the rights of authors and artists!




Spock closed his eyes and held very still, then gasped softly and shuddered, clasping the woman he held into an even tighter embrace. Christine shuddered with him, feeling all that he was feeling as well as her own surging emotions, echoing and reverberating through their bond-link. She experienced the sun-bright flare of climax with him, knew the exquisite/painful physiological explosion of muscles and nerve endings, the indescribable rush of release. And he felt the bookend response of her body -- gripping muscles spasming to draw him deeper, hips rising to meet his, fingernails digging into his back to hold him firm against her body, now hot and slick with sweat.

As he slowly came down from his peak, he exhaled and calmed his breathing, his heart still pounding, and let himself sink into her now caressing arms. As always, he felt weak and as if he had expelled the greater part of himself, of his strength, into her body. And yet the euphoria of it kept him returning for more. It was an act that never became old, never lost the impetus of the first time. He wondered how he could have lived so many years into adulthood, his youngest, strongest years, denying himself the elemental joys of something so basic to life.

And, even more so, denying the mate he was meant to have. She held him now, pressing his cheek into her shoulder, stroking his hair and lightly massaging his back, bearing -- indeed, loving -- his weight still upon her. She must be finding it difficult to breathe with his body still full upon hers and he pushed himself up with trembling arms to release her, pausing to touch her lips softly with his in devotion before he settled beside her, his body still craving the heat of hers but too enervated to do more than nestle against her.

There was barely room for the two of them in his cabin bed. As an executive officer, he rated a bed a little larger than the "twin" size, single-person mattress issued as standard. But it was still not quite big enough for two people to share it comfortably. For lovemaking it was fine because they invariably pressed close to each other, but sleeping was another matter.

After sleeping alone for nearly his entire life, Spock did not share bed space very well. Christine found that out the hard way when he rolled over one night, dead asleep, and she found herself in sudden and painful contact with the floor. Of course, he had been horrified and profusely apologetic, but her automatic sense of danger kept her from falling into more than a light sleep from that point on. He didn't *mean* to hog the bed; his body just wasn't used to there being another person taking up space beside him.

But right now they lay in close proximity, still wrapped in the oneness of post-coital fatigue. He slipped an arm across her waist and pulled her near him, savoring the fading links of their bond-link. Ever since their holiday in Captain Kirk's mountain cabin during a forced evacuation from the ship, they had become bonded lovers, as Spock put it, "not quite a marriage, but more than a betrothal."

Their life on the Enterprise had taken an unexpected turn since then. When the two came back aboard, it was obvious that *something* had happened between them, because Christine was radiant with happiness, and Spock tended to look at her with a softness in his expression that McCoy called "positively pie-eyed in love."

And when it became apparent where Christine was spending her nights, the entire ship buzzed like a beehive with the news for a full three weeks before the gossip began to subside. Gradually, though, people got used to the idea that Nurse Chapel had finally managed to land the object of her affection and that the stoic, unemotional, ultra-rational Vulcan wasn't minding it a bit.

Early on, Kirk had taken his first officer aside for a private conversation and Kirk had discussed the subject of fraternization with crewmembers, which Spock calmly countered, regulation by regulation, until finally the captain gave up that route as a dead end. He then talked about Spock's duties as executive officer and how they might come into conflict with his personal feelings. Spock assured him that they had already talked about this.

Finally Kirk asked if Spock intended to marry Christine. Not until their assignment was over, the Vulcan replied. And what if she became pregnant before then? Had he thought of that? Spock responded that they had discussed the need for contraceptive protection and Christine had taken care of that before they had ever come together that first time, having used some arcane "woman's intuition" that something *might* happen between them and moved to prevent any undue consequences.

Thus, he had proceeded to make love to her with no further thought to the matter and had found that, once begun, he could not bear to stop. Everytime he entered her, physically or mentally, he wanted more. The long burning ember in his soul had ignited into a full conflagration where she was concerned.

And Christine had discovered that the long-whispered rumors about Vulcan men were true ... at least as far as Spock was concerned. On duty, he treated her with detached professionalism, but at night, when she came to him in the incense heavy darkness of his cabin, he took her to himself with a tenacious passion that invariably left her completely weak and sated.

And tired. So tired, both from the intense sexual activity and the lack of deep sleep in sharing the too-narrow bed with him. Tonight, after coming down from the soaring pinnacle of orgasm, she lay in his arms, aching with exhaustion. And there was something else, something that she had carefully hidden from him, carefully avoided thinking about during their mind meld. Something that added to her fatigue.

It radiated through her skin, however, and his telepathic sensitivity identified and responded to it. He raised up on one elbow and looked down at her face, limned with ruddiness from the smouldering firepot. "Christine, what's wrong?" he asked.

She gazed up at the beloved angles of his face, painted by the same ochre brush as her own. Her lips spread in a tired smile as she answered, "Nothing is wrong, Spock. I'm just worn out, that's all. I think it might be best if I spend a few nights in my own bed. I really need to get some sleep."

"You can sleep here," he protested mildly, reluctant to be parted from her. "I will sit up through the night and meditate. You can have the bed to yourself."

She smiled again and reached up to caress his face. "Then you wouldn't get any rest. Besides ... I'm going to have to be away from you for a week or so anyway. At least, I think I am."

He looked puzzled, unable to understand this completely unexpected statement. "Why?"

She looked away uncomfortably. "Well, you know ... because..." He didn't comment, still waiting an explanation. "It's about that time."


"Oh, Spock, come on. You know. That *time*. Of the month."

His eyebrows shot up abruptly. "Oh! I see. Is it your people's custom to seclude yourself then? I had never noticed that before."

She shook her head, still feeling embarrassed. "No. But I just wouldn't feel ... comfortable sleeping with you. I know it's not ... logical, but ... well ..." She glanced up at him. "Well, what do *your* women do?"

He peered down at her in puzzlement. "Nothing. Vulcan women do not experience periodic hormonal changes as human women do."

Now it was Christine's turn to stare. The doctor in her took over. "That's impossible, Spock. It's a physiological norm of the female reproductive system to prepare itself each month for pregnancy."

"Female *human* reproductive system," he corrected. "The Vulcan system is quite different. Vulcan women do not experience this monthly cycle. It would be a waste of bodily fluids needed to maintain life in a desert environment."

"Then how do they ...?"

"Pon farr in the male triggers ovulation in the female. It is only at that time when she is able to conceive. Otherwise, although sexual activity is common, she is physically unable to become pregnant. It takes a considerable strain off a marital relationship not to have unplanned offspring."

Christine turned her head away from him and murmured, "I wish it were that simple in human relationships." She got up and walked across the bedroom and into the office area of his cabin, the soft rosy light playing across the lines and curves of her nude body.

But Spock had felt the sudden surge of tension in her just before she'd pulled out of his arms. He sat up straighter in bed, the sheet still partially covering his lower body. "Christine, tell me what is wrong. I know that there is something you are not telling me."

She stood with her back to him, then turned to face him with a sigh. Her arms were folded across her stomach, the fiery light accentuating the roundness of her lush breasts and creating deep shadows along the junction of her thighs, the dark triangle at the base of her abdomen standing out as an especially seductive area. For a second, his attention flickered to the memory of the delights he had discovered there, of the indescribable ecstasy of lying between those smooth thighs and pouring himself into her. The thought caused an involuntary twitch in his groin, then he rigidly made himself look back at her face, at her tense, waiting features.

At last she answered. "I said I *think* I'm due soon. That's not true, Spock. I was due last week."

At first the significance didn't register on him, then he suddenly felt as if the core of his being had solidified into plasmacrete. "Have you performed the proper medical tests?" he asked softly.

"No. Not yet. I kept hoping ... that every day ..."

He felt as if his world had begun to crumble. "How could this happen, Christine? You told me that you were on injections."

"I *am*, Spock!" she snapped, her voice becoming angry with desperation. "And, anyway, I'm not alone in this, you know! You've more than contributed *your* part of the equation!"

He was silent and then slowly shook his head, his dark eyes grave. "No. I couldn't have."

"What?" She moved her hands to rest on her hips in an incredulous pose. "You'll have to pardon my French here, but was I mistaken about who has been fucking the living daylights out of me for the past few weeks?"

"That's not what I mean," he replied softly, stung by her crude language. It was one of the things he couldn't get used to about her. Although she rarely resorted to it, Christine could curse like the proverbial sailor. Raised as a "Fleet brat" by a career military father and then exposed to Dr. McCoy's salty tongue, her vocabulary had reached an astonishing size. When she chose to do so, she could blister the hide off a horta. She was simply too lady-like to use it very often. The fact that she had used an old Earth expletive now showed the depth of her distress.

She was still staring at him in a challenging manner, then her expression changed and she straightened. "Spock ... are you saying that you're ... sterile?" He didn't answer and she could see the hue of his face deepening even in the gloom. "But why ... why were you so concerned about my using contraceptives? And how could ... I mean ..."

"I am not sterile," he answered tightly, insult evident in his voice. "But the ... fertility of a Vulcan male is very low in the periods between pon farr. I simply wanted to take every precaution against ..." He shut up, vastly comfortable.

Christine couldn't help smiling sardonically. Her fists again resting on her hips, she remarked, "Well, it only takes one, you know."

"Apparently," he retorted, bitingly. He looked away, murmuring to himself, "It must have been the shan hal lak. It is very similar to pon farr. Perhaps enough so that..."

Her anger forgotten, Christine moved back to the bed and slid onto the mattress beside him. "Spock," she said softly, reaching up to trail her fingers along his cheek. "It hasn't been established that I *am* pregnant. I may just be late. But, if it's true, then it's not the end of the world. People have been having babies for an awfully long time now and most of them have lived through it."

He brought his sober gaze back to her soft blue eyes. "Those people were not my pledge-mate and they were not carrying my child," he answered. "This is very serious, Christine, if you have indeed conceived. It makes our full bonding imperative in order to seal the link between us. And there are medical concerns. Vulcan and human DNA do not blend easily. You must undergo extensive genetic surgery in order to produce a viable embryo. And then there is the matter of your career."

"What about my career?" she whispered tensely.

"You cannot remain on this ship," he responded, peering deeply into her eyes, his brows lowered in earnestness. "It is difficult enough to maintain a professional distance from you now. Once fully bonded, I would not be able to do so. It would be impossible for either of us to function during times of danger. And you would not be allowed to serve on space duty while pregnant. It would be too hazardous to you, the baby, and the ship."

Her eyes were beginning to fill with tears and she leaned her forehead against the welcoming solidarity of his bare, well-muscled chest. "What are we going to do then?" she said in a scarcely audible voice.

He drew her against him and they lay back against the pillows. "The first order of business is to determine whether you are, indeed, pregnant. We may be doing nothing more than making a mountain out of a rodent mound."

She couldn't help laughing. "Mole hill, Spock. Mountain out of a mole hill."

He grunted in response to her correction then continued, "In any case, you will sleep here tonight with me. I will see that you sleep deeply and well. Nothing will disturb you tonight." So saying, he lightly rested his fingertips against her face and, within a minute or two, she had fallen into a peaceful, dreamless sleep. He turned her so that her back was to him and then arranged the blankets to cover her beautiful, creamy body. So doing, he spooned himself against her and drew her close to him.

But Spock did not sleep that night. Curled around her protectively, he already knew the truth. It radiated through her soul, through her skin, suffusing her with a warm, soft glow that only he could perceive. He spent the night in deep thought. Already complicated, his life had just taken a 90 turn in a completely unexpected direction.

* * *

What?!?" McCoy exclaimed in complete shock.

"I said I want you to do a pregnancy test on me," Christine repeated with utter calmness, an almost lack of expression.

"Good God!" the chief medical officer answered, more to himself than to her. "That green-blooded son of a bitch..."

"Please refrain from personal comments, if you don't mind, Doctor," she said rather coldly. "I just need a test to ascertain whether I am pregnant or not."

McCoy drew himself up into his professional demeanor and stood, motioning her back to the lab. "Of course, Christine. Forgive me. This way, if you please."

The test didn't take much time, just about fifteen minutes from the time the sample of her blood was fed into the computer until the results popped up on the screen.

It was positive. Somehow, she hadn't doubted it.

McCoy observed his chief nurse closely, noting that her complexion had paled somewhat and that the line of her mouth had tightened. "Okay. Now what?" she asked quietly.

"May I assume that Spock is the father?" the doctor inquired.


"Does he know?"

"We talked last night. I think he knew what the results would be."

"Alright, I think we should call him in and let's all sit down and have a conference about this. There are medical considerations that we need to discuss."

She nodded mutely, still digesting the veracity of what she'd suspected. "Better call the Captain, too. This is going to affect all of us."

Thus, half an hour later, the four sat around the briefing room table, Kirk looking stunned, McCoy calmly professional, Spock as placid as always, and Christine as if an emotional maelstrom were raging inside her.

Kirk cleared his throat. "Well, Mr. Spock, I believe I asked you a question on this topic some time ago."

"I assure you, Captain, that Miss Chapel and I are as surprised by this as anyone. We have taken full precautions against such an occurrence but this was, as you would say, an 'accident'."

"Yes, well, I suppose it could happen to any of us," Kirk mused, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "The problem now is ... what are you going to do about it?"

Spock cocked an eyebrow at him and Christine looked up with an almost frightened expression on her face. "*Do* about it, sir? If you are insinuating that we should consider having this pregnancy terminated, that is not an option for a Vulcan."

"No," Christine seconded. "This is our baby and I intend to carry it to term if that is possible."

Kirk looked apologetic. "I was not implying abortion," he said softly. "Forgive me if I gave you that impression. I'm happy for the two of you. But it *does* present certain problems that you will need to resolve."

"Indeed," Spock conceded.

McCoy spoke up. "From a medical standpoint, the child is three-quarters human, one-quarter Vulcan. Christine is 29 days along and seems to be doing fine so far. But she will need to undergo a genetic evaluation in order to pinpoint any trouble spots that need to be corrected. I recommend the Federation Institute of Genetic Studies on Canopus 3. I'll contact them for you if you like."

Christine nodded dumbly. "Yes. I'd like it done as soon as possible."

McCoy acknowledged her request. "After the study is done, then she'll have to undergo intrauterine surgery on the fetus in order to correct any genetic malfunctions and assure that it will develop normally. Christine, you and Spock will need to discuss how much or how little you want done, what features you want to predominate, and so on."

"I will accompany her to Canopus and we will make our decisions there once the test results are done. If that is acceptable to you, Captain."

"Of course, Mr. Spock. That goes without saying."

Kirk was silent for a few seconds than continued in a low voice, "There are other things you need to discuss between the two of you as well. I assume you both know that Starfleet policy prohibits married couples from serving aboard the same ship and that pregnancies are generally handled by transferring the woman to a ground base for the duration of her pregnancy. There are legitimate reasons for this. Close emotional ties can interfere with the operation of the ship during emergency situations, particularly when one of the people involved is a senior officer. Compromised loyalties to the ship and crew cannot be tolerated under any circumstances."

"I realize this, Captain, as I have indicated previously--" Spock began.

Kirk raised a hand to cut him off. "Yes, Mr. Spock. I understand. But regulations are specific and I agree with the reasoning behind them. It's for the good of the ship and for the good, ultimately, of the couple involved. As is the policy for ground assignment. I realize fully how wrenching a decision this is, Christine, taking you away from Spock during a time when a couple normally draws even closer together. But again, the welfare of the ship is paramount over personal choices. Deep space duty is hazardous and we frequently go into combat situations. Surely you wouldn't want to risk the safety of your unborn child in such circumstances."

She hung her head. "Of course not, Captain."

"And again Starfleet has the primacy of the ship in mind. Heavily pregnant, you could not function with peak efficiency at a time when we might need you to do just that. And an injury could kill both you and your baby."

"I know, Captain. I *am* an officer. I know that I can't stay aboard." She raised her head to gaze at him calmly and resolutely.

He nodded. "Good. Now. It is not my place to make any decisions about your personal relationship with each other. If you choose to marry or not ... that is *your* decision. I just wanted to make you both aware that there are Starfleet conditions that you must take into account when you decide what you will do."

"Thank you, Captain," Spock answered quietly. "We appreciate your consideration and understanding."

"Very good. My door is open if either of you need to talk. Feel free to come see me night or day." The Captain looked over at his medical officer. "Bones? Anything else you need to say to me?"

McCoy shook his head slightly. "No, I don't think so at this time, Jim. I'll let you know if anything unusual comes up."

"Then, if you'll excuse me, I'll get back to the bridge. Mr. Spock, Miss Chapel, you are both excused from duties right now if you feel you need to devote your time to discussing this between yourselves and making decisions." He rose, gave them a brief nod, and left the briefing room.

The three remaining people sat silently for a few minutes, then Spock said, "Dr. McCoy, if you don't mind, I believe that Miss Chapel and I require some time alone. We have much to discuss."

"Of course, Spock. I'll put a call in to Canopus for you and let you know what I find out." He too stood and left the room.

Christine sat tensely in her chair, her hands clenched together. Spock watched her for a few seconds, then reached out and took one of her hands, bringing it over to hold between his. "Let's go back to my cabin, Christine. We will have more privacy there and I believe we will both feel more comfortable."

"All right." As he stood, she let him draw her to her feet and looked up at him, then impulsively fell into his arms and held him tightly. He slipped his arms around her and stroked the blonde locks of her hair.

"T'hy'la," he whispered. "It is not how I anticipated our lives would play out, but I am not unhappy about it. I am bound to you in heart and mind and this child only seals that bond further. I *do* regret that we will not have more time to spend together, just the two of us, but knowing that I have both you and our child fills me with contentment."

She looked up into his face, her eyes moist with tears. "S'hy'la," she murmured back, using the male form of the endearment he had taught her. There was nothing more to say and he bent to press his lips against hers, speaking volumes through his touch and their mind bond that he could not voice aloud.

* * *

Christine closed her eyes and tried to calm her nervousness as the massive genetic sampling machine hovered over her bare abdomen. She knew that Spock stood passively outside the testing room, watching the procedure, but she dared not turn her head in his direction. The sooner they got this over with, the happier she would be.

The genial male technician, a young Asian human, spoke in a reassuring voice. "Just a few more minutes, Dr. Chapel, then we'll be all done."

She nodded minutely and did her best to breathe normally. She turned her thoughts to more pleasant subjects, to the time they had spent together in the mountain cabin, to the carefree love they had shared, not knowing that at some point they ceased to be alone there. She pictured the embryo developing inside her, wondering what it would be, how it would look. Would it resemble Spock, with vulcanoid features? Or would its human features dominate? Or would it blend the characteristics of both worlds?

The fantasy kept her occupied for those remaining moments, then the technician announced, "All done! Commander Spock, you can join us now if you like. Doctor, do you feel like getting up or would you like to rest?"

"I'm okay," she answered, attempting to sit up on the side of the examination table, covering herself with the sheet. "Can I get dressed now?"

"If you feel like it," the technician answered. "Do you need help?"

"No." Christine slid off the table and was steadied by Spock's firm hand on her arm.

"I will assist you," he said quietly, gazing at her with a calm expression that brooked no argument.

He guided her to the small dressing room but stayed outside at her insistence. When she emerged, the tech was waiting for her. "We'll have your results tomorrow, Doctor. If you want my advice, I'd suggest that you go back to your hotel and just rest. You may think you're okay, but this procedure can drain you a bit. Just take it easy and we'll see you both at 1600 tomorrow afternoon." He smiled and left the examining room.

"An excellent idea," Spock commented. "I want you in bed as soon as we get back to the hotel."

Christine glanced up at him with a wry smile. "Isn't that how I got in this condition in the first place?"

He lifted both eyebrows at her in reply. "It was not in a hotel," he responded, completely deadpan.

She smiled broadly. "And people say that you don't have a sense of humor. Spock, there's a frustrated comedian somewhere inside you just screaming to get out!" She laughed at his astonished expression and said, "Come on. Let's get out of here. I'm starving and I really do want to rest this afternoon."

They took a hover cab back to their hotel and ordered a meal through the room replicator. By the time they had finished eating, Christine was more than ready to climb into the big bed and settle in for a nap. She changed into her nightgown and burrowed under the blankets as Spock drew the window curtains and turned out the room lights. She was faintly surprised, however, when she felt the bed sag and opened her eyes to find him stretched out beside her, fully clothed and lying atop the covers.

"You can join me if you want to," she murmured, sleep already evident in her half-lidded eyes.

He reached up to lightly stroke two fingers down the side of her face. "I fear that such close proximity would present too large a temptation," he answered in a soft voice. "And you are not ready for that. Sleep now, t'hy'la. You must rest so that you are strong for the coming surgery and so that the child grows well."

She smiled affectionately and let one hand slip down the front of her gown to rest on her still flat belly. "It's barely a child yet. Just a little blob of cells and tissues."

His dark eyes locked onto hers intently, lovingly. "It already possesses within it the qualities of uniqueness. I wish that you were able to feel its development telepathically. When you are further along in the pregnancy, I will attempt to establish a link through me so that you can sense its mind."

The unexpectedly tender offer made her eyes fill with tears. She didn't know what to say, so she leaned forward and kissed him with all her heart. "I love you, Spock," she whispered. "When do you think we can complete our bonding? I want to marry you now more than ever."

"After you are recovered from the surgery," he answered, stroking her cheek again. "We will see how well you are. I have no intention of jeopardizing your well-being while you carry the child. If we have to wait until after its birth, then we will."

"But I want it to have your name, Spock. I don't want it born out of wedlock."

A mildly indulgent smile lifted the corners of his lips. "It will not be born out of wedlock, as you say. We are betrothed mates and that carries almost as much weight as a full marriage. The child will not be *krenath* because I acknowledge it as mine and so it *will* carry my clan name and family status. But I understand the importance to you that we be fully bonded and if it is possible we will have T'Pau perform the kae'farr ceremony to join us. It would be preferable to me as well."

"I hope we can," she answered.

"Sleep now, t'hy'la," he whispered, repeating his earlier command.

"Meld with me, Spock," she requested, her sleep-heavy eyes beginning to close involuntarily. "I at least want to feel you inside me that way."

Without speaking, he gently placed his fingertips onto her face and slipped into her drowsy mind. There his essence twined and joined with hers, transporting her away to a place that was part dream and part alien landscape, loving her with a totality that he could not fully express in his physical form. After a while, bonded together in their mental fantasy world, they slept together in a star-flung darkness of their own making.

* * *

The early morning light seeping through the curtains woke Christine. The long sleep and mental bonding with Spock had refreshed her and left her invigorated. In fact, she felt absolutely marvelous, the more so when she realized that at some point he had undressed and slipped into bed at her side. He was asleep now, lying on his back with one arm thrown back over his head, the other draped across his stomach. She took the time to study and appreciate him, allowing her eyes to linger on the large graceful hand that rested atop his bare belly. For a second, she smiled at the memory of an age-old platitude about men: "Large hands, large feet, large..." Well, she couldn't vouch for its truth in *other* men but in Spock's case... Her grin broadened wickedly.

She turned onto her side and watched him for a long moment, letting her gaze rove over the peaceful lines of his angular face, the gentle sweep of his dark brows, the curve of his slightly parted lips. Her eyes slipped down his throat and across his strong shoulders and onto the muscular landscape of his chest. His body was wonderfully molded, compact and trim, superbly sculpted and masculine. Crisp, dusky hair covered his chest and trailed down his firm stomach, to regions further south and even more intriguing.

The thought of those regions set her heart to pounding and she found that the lingering desire of the previous night's dreams still gripped her. As unobtrusively as she could, she worked her gown up and then peeled it off, her nipples hardening immediately from both the coolness of the room and the building sexual excitement she was feeling. Snuggling a bit closer to him, she reached out and slipped her fingertips along his chest, deliberately and lightly scratching her nails across his flat nipples.

With a start, his eyes flew open and he turned his head to stare at her, his brows lifting a bit at the avaricious glint in her blue eyes. But she also noted that his nipples stiffened under her touch, betraying the automatic reaction he had to her.

After a moment, he asked in a sleep-husky voice, "Are you up to this?"

"Oh, yes," she smiled ferally, continuing her teasing touch. "The question is ... are *you* up to it?"

Humor and desire combined in his dark brown eyes. "Not yet, but I feel certain I will be shortly."

Her smile widened and she moved to lean over him, bringing her lips down onto his. He responded warmly, gathering her into his arms and allowing her probing tongue to slip through his teeth until it danced and fenced with his own.

Her hand moved down his belly until it encountered the waistband of his undershorts and quickly slid beneath that obstacle. His flesh shivered slightly as her fingers tickled through the brush of dark pubic hair, then she found what she sought and eagerly took hold of his still flaccid but quickly stiffening penis. It surged in her grasp and she began to stroke him gently, encouraging his rapidly developing erection.

He pulled away from her kiss with a gasp and closed his eyes, savoring her touch. He never tired of this, never failed to respond to the sensation of her deft manipulation of his most sensitive areas. She varied her hold on him, tickling along the shaft, stroking the flat of her fingertips over the head, reaching lower to fondle and ever-so-gently squeeze his testicles.

As he was beginning to wonder if she intended to bring him to fruition manually, she pulled her hand away and moved into a kneeling position beside him, yanking the blankets down to his knees. For a couple of seconds, she surveyed the prominent bulge in his undershorts, then she grasped the waistband of the garment and pulled it down. He lifted his hips to aid her and she had them off him within a few seconds. Then she bent over him to continue her work.

If he had thought her hands were exciting, what she did with her mouth nearly drove him mad. Licking, kissing, sucking him, she brought him so quiveringly near the brink that he finally tangled his fingers into the mass of her blonde hair and halted her.

"Christine! Stop! I cannot contain myself much longer," he gasped, actually shaking with the effort he was expending to maintain control. "If you continue, I will ejaculate into your mouth and I do not wish to do that."

She didn't mind the thought of that at all but she knew that he was still a little squeamish about the concept. He had been very inexperienced sexually when they began their love affair and she had discovered that the Vulcan perception of intercourse was quite straight forward. It was not logical to deposit semen anyplace other than where nature intended -- in the vagina -- and therefore the endless sexual positions that humans practiced was virtually unknown to him. She had gleefully set about to educate him. But he had still not responded completely to the idea of climaxing solely through oral stimulation.

She was patient, however, and was making progress. Lifting her head from his painfully throbbing erection, she smiled, her body flushed with her own excitement. "Then I see I'm going to have to do it the old-fashioned way."

She moved up until her hips straddled his and lowered herself onto him. As the head of his penis touched her hot, wet folds, he jerked in reaction and closed his eyes in an effort to keep in check his body's screaming demands for release. Teasingly, she rubbed herself against him for a moment, then took pity at the stress his features were showing now, and guided his hard, pulsing rod into her opening.

He gasped aloud and seized her waist, thrusting his hips up sharply, driving into her. The sensation of being completely filled by his large, solid masculinity sent her nearly to the edge of her own control. Leaning back slightly, she began a forceful, rhythmic movement against him, taking him as deeply into herself as possible. His strong fingers continued to grasp her body hard, almost painfully so, as he kept her in tight contact with his already straining pelvis.

And then suddenly his features contorted slightly and, with a soft cry he could not restrain, he shoved hard up into her, and instantly she felt the surge of his orgasm flooding her. She bucked against him, digging her nails into the steel-hard muscles of his arms and rode her own climax over the plunging falls of spasm after spasm.

At last, he shuddered and relaxed and she was able to finally breathe again. She slid off him, her thighs drenched with their combined fluids, and lay beside him, savoring the quivering aftermath of their love.

"I shouldn't have allowed you to do that," he murmured after a time, his own breathing still ragged. "I might have harmed you."

"I'm not made of glass," she answered. "I won't break."

"But the baby..."

"Is perfectly safe, too," she replied. "We can have sex as long as it's comfortable and right up to the last month or so, providing there are no complications. In fact, don't be surprised if my raging hormones turn me into a complete sex maniac during the middle trimester." She laughed. "Although I doubt you'll want to touch me once I get really fat and bloated." She smiled, her eyes twinkling.

He smiled back and placed his palm against the soft curve of her abdomen. "You will never be more beautiful to me than when you are grow heavy with our child," he answered softly, holding her gaze with his entrancing eyes. "Never doubt that."

Her breath caught in her throat and she moved once more into his arms, nestling into his warm embrace. She drifted back to sleep listening to the pulse of his heartbeat and the whispered endearments of his mind.

* * *

The walk back up the long hospital corridor to the geneticist's office was the longest one Christine had ever made. Spock strode quietly beside her, his customary equanimity completely intact. Christine noted that heads tended to turn in their wake as people stared at the imposing figure of the tall, uniform-clad Starfleet officer. She couldn't tell if the whispered comments were because people recognized him as the semi-legendary Commander Spock of the starship Enterprise or that they were simply awed by the dark exotic presence of a Vulcan.

In any case, he ignored them and, once they arrived at the doctor's office door, Spock ushered her in with a courtly gesture. The receptionist quickly hid the startled expression on her face at the sight of Spock, then asked pleasantly, "Yes?"

"I am Commander Spock. Dr. Christine Chapel and I have an appointment with Dr. Powell."

Quickly, the young woman checked her computer screen. "Yes, sir. Dr. Powell is expecting you. This way, please." Nervously, she led them into the doctor's inner sanctum and left them there. "The doctor will be with you shortly."

They didn't have long to wait, for Powell, a stocky, gray-haired human, joined them after about ten minutes, carrying a datapad. He lounged back in his office chair and reviewed the readouts for several minutes before beginning.

"Well, Christine, the good news is that you're 42 days pregnant with a little girl. She appears to be developing reasonably well and your system is handling it all in fair shape. The embryo has implanted in the uterine wall and the placenta has formed. Had any instances of nausea yet?"

"Some," she answered, glancing at Spock who lifted an eyebrow at her in mild surprise. She hadn't let him know about the queasiness she was beginning to feel in the morning. "There hasn't been any vomiting but I *do* feel fluttery now and then."

"Keep some crackers or wafers handy," the doctor suggested. "Okay. The embryo scan tells us that baby's human DNA is dominant, which we might expect since her parentage is 75% human. However, the 25% Vulcan DNA that she carries will need to be manipulated in order to make it blend properly. Spock, I take it for granted that there was considerable genetic work done with you in utero?"

"Yes," he answered. "My medical history can be accessed through the Vulcan Medical College Database if necessary."

Powell nodded, making a note on the pad. "I'd like to review it. It will help determine how much of your genetic makeup is natural and how much enhanced. There's the predictable amount of trouble brewing from the baby's Vulcan DNA and we're going to have to do some genetic reprogramming there in order to correct those problems. We need to do a bit of repair work on her heart, even up her blood mixture, and make sure her reproductive organs and glandular system develop as they should. Now ... have you thought about whether you want us to change her physical attributes?"

"What are they going to be?" Christine asked, a bit fearfully.

"Hard to tell at this stage, of course, but I think that, even though she'll be functionally human, she'll have Vulcan features. I'd guess that she's going to look a lot like her father." The doctor glanced up at Spock and smiled, not surprised when the Vulcan didn't smile back.

"But physiologically she will be human?" Spock asked.


"Her physical appearance does not overtly concern me," Spock answered. "Please do what is necessary for her proper development but nothing more." He glanced at Christine for approval and she nodded silently.

"When do you want to do it?" she asked.

Powell flipped through the screens of his appointment calendar. "Well ... ideally we should have done this in vitro before the two of you got chummy one night, but it's a little late to worry about *that*. Therefore, we'll just have to go in and clean up the mess now."

He either didn't see or ignored the astonished and slightly offended look Spock threw him and the grin that Christine ruthlessly suppressed as a consequence.

"I usually like to do this before the gestation has progressed too far. I'll schedule you for the 28th. Three weeks from now. See my assistant and she'll get all the paperwork done for you. We'll get this little miss on her way in no time."

He smiled up at Christine and was pleased to see the evident relief on her face. "Don't you worry, my dear. We're going to see that about seven or so months from now, you give birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl."

* * *

Christine waited silently until Spock had taken them out of orbit and locked the shuttle's guidance beam onto their rendezvous point with the Enterprise. Once the nacelles had kicked them into warp one and the stars were slipping past them like multi-hued streaks of fire, she looked over at him and asked, "Spock, how long would it take us to reach Vulcan from where we'll meet the ship?"

"I would have to calculate it precisely once there, but I would estimate two point eight days."

She looked fully at him, her face solemn. "Then let's go to Vulcan and bond before I have the surgery done. We wouldn't have much time for a honeymoon, but we could do it."

He swung the pilot's chair around in her direction. "We could indeed reach Vulcan in time, but it is not simply a matter of ... running away and getting married, Christine. There are rituals to be performed and, most importantly, we must obtain T'Pau's consent."

"I don't understand," Christine answered. "Why do we need her consent? I know she's First Chair of the Council, but ..."

"She is also the Eldest of my family," Spock responded earnestly. "She is my great-grandmother and it is she who must perform the bonding. Without her full participation, we cannot be mind-bonded through the kae'farr ceremony."

Christine sat back, slightly dumb-founded. "I didn't know..." she murmured. Her gaze slid away from his introspectively, then she looked back up at him. "But she bonded your parents, didn't she?"

"No. She did not," Spock answered. "When Sarek and Amanda were wed, she was not yet Eldest. They were bonded by *her* father, S'Tak, and only because my mother was already pregnant with me following Sarek's pon farr. It was necessary to bring her into the family to prevent my birth as a krenath, what you would call a 'bastard.' Otherwise, I doubt a human would have been allowed into the clan."

"Then there's the answer, Spock! She'll *have* to bond us or our baby will suffer the same fate."

Spock looked skeptical. "There is a high probability that she will do so, but T'Pau is unpredictable. It is never wise to attempt to out-guess her. If she decides that allowing another human and her offspring into the clan would be to the detriment of the Family, she may weigh in favor of the many rather than the few. In any case, our child will not be krenath. It is very complicated." He settled back into the pilot's seat and crossed his long legs at the ankles in a comfortable pose, obviously prepared for a long explanation.

Christine folded her arms and settled in as well. "Why is it that nearly everything that has to do with Vulcans is 'very complicated'?" she asked, almost rhetorically.

"We are a very old people and our culture has developed enormous complexity over the centuries," he responded, as if it were obvious.

"Well, I don't understand about this 'krenath' business. Why were *you* considered a bastard but our baby won't be."

"That part is simple," he answered. "I readily acknowledge our child as my biological descendant. Sarek did not do so at first with me."

"What?" That caused her to sit up straighter.

Spock went on. "It would help if I clarified the meaning of krenath. 'Bastard' does not mean the same thing on Vulcan as it does on Earth. On Vulcan, the stigma of a child born outside of the Clan does not rest on the child. After all, how could an infant be responsible for the circumstances of its parentage? No, the stigma rests upon the parents and the fact that one or both have neglected or refused to accept the responsibility of his or her own actions and thus caused a child to be born Clan-less."

He paused and his voice softened a little. "I will tell you of my heritage but you must promise that you will not repeat this. It is a private thing and could now cause untold harm to my father and his position. And it would ... hurt my mother deeply."

"Of course, Spock," she responded sincerely. "You know that I would never break a confidence."

"Very well." He took a breath and began, "My father was in his 70's when he met my mother on Earth. He had been married to a Vulcan woman to whom he had been pledged as a child, as I was to T'Pring. However, she died giving birth and he had no desire to remarry. As time went on, he was appointed ambassador to Earth and there he met my mother, Amanda Grayson. In time, they grew to be friends and colleagues and she ultimately came to love him. When the pon farr inevitably came upon him, she willingly gave herself to him, not knowing what all it entailed. He accepted because he felt that it could not result in a bonding or any other physical consequence as would have happened with a Vulcan female. He was wrong. Amanda became pregnant."

He shifted in his chair. "At the time there had never been a mating between a human and a Vulcan and most people thought it was impossible. Thus, when Amanda announced her pregnancy to Sarek, he refused to believe that he was the father. He returned to Vulcan but she followed him there and presented the whole family with medical proof that her child was half human, half Vulcan. Only then did Sarek believe and, in order to prevent an even worse scandal than a human in the Clan, he agreed to marry her."

Spock gave a wry little smile. "He did not reckon with her own stubbornness, however. Having established Sarek as the father of her baby, she refused to marry him simply for the sake of the child -- me -- and would not bond in a loveless match. She forced him to court her properly until he realized why he had been drawn to her in the first place -- their friendship and compatibility. It was only when he had proven his devotion to her that she bonded with him and by that time he had fully acknowledged my paternity."

"So, there is no danger of our baby being born Clan-less," Christine commented, resting her hand on her stomach, feeling unaccountably relieved.

"No. Because fully bonded or not, I know she is mine and I give her my name willingly."

Christine was silent for a long moment, rubbing her abdomen lightly, then she asked in a voice that bordered on timidity, "And what if T'Pau refuses to bond us?"

An expression of exquisite pain flickered across Spock's face before he leaned forward in his chair and answered in a soft, husky voice, his eyes intent on hers. "I will still take you as my own, t'hy'la, and keep you as my mate and the wife of my heart, because I long ago came to know that I am empty without you by my side. But you will not be considered part of our clan and you cannot hold my name or inherit my estate should I die before you. You will remain an out-worlder in the Family's eyes and our children will be given lower status in the family order as a result."

Christine could not contain the unbidden tears that suddenly welled up and spilled over her lashes, and she covered her face with her hand, squeezing her eyes shut as a sob clutched at her throat. Immediately, she heard Spock get up and cross to her in two quick steps. Then he was kneeling on one knee before her, pulling her into his arms and holding her tightly.

"She will bond us, t'hy'la," he whispered to her as she clung to him. "If I must call a Clan Council and challenge her before all the Elders ... she *will* bond us! I vow it!"

* * *

Kirk sat back for a long moment, his eyes hard upon his first officer, tapping his stylus on the desk in an irritated manner. Spock did not flinch, standing at parade rest before his commanding officer, hands loosely behind his back.

"This is very bad timing, Mr. Spock," the captain finally said. "I sympathize with your predicament but this is beginning to interfere with your duties."

Spock's cool, dark gaze moved from the point on the wall above Kirk's head down to rest on the human's face. "I realize that, sir, but this is family business that cannot wait. Were I able to postpone it, I would do so. However, every day that passes increases the problem and Miss Chapel and I have only eight days left to resolve this before she reports back to Canopus for surgery."

"I assume you realize that there is a very high probability that we'll be ordered onto patrol along the Klingon border. Intelligence reports indicate that there have been additional incursions into Federation territory and I anticipate that we will see duty there within the next four weeks."

"Yes, sir, I read the reports."

"And there isn't any way you can wait until afterwards to go home?"

Spock was silent for a moment and his gaze dropped, his eyes hooded. The military posture slackened just a bit and Kirk knew that they were finally going to talk as friends, not as ship's officers. "She is seven weeks along now, Jim," the Vulcan said softly. "You sent off her transfer papers before we traveled to Canopus for the genetic scan. Once those orders are processed and she is transferred to a ground station, I believe that it may be a considerable time before we are able to be together once more, possibly not until she gives birth. If she is not bonded into my family and accepted as my wife, it may be very hard for her." He paused and brought his eyes back to meet Kirk's steady gaze. "I ask that you grant this request, Captain. It is very important. To both of us."

Kirk held his first officer's intent eyes for a long moment, then he looked away with a sigh. "If she weren't pregnant, I'd just tell the two of you to straighten up and act like officers. But, I understand your feelings, Mr. Spock. I really do. If I were in your situation, I'd be asking the same thing of *my* superior officer." He tapped the stylus a few more times in a gesture that was part nervous energy, part habit. "You have your leave of absence, Spock, and hers, too. Get your things together and get to Vulcan and settle this thing. If the Klingons cooperate and stay quiet, we'll try to be there when the surgery is done. After that, it's anybody's guess what hell is waiting to break loose."

"Thank you, sir," Spock said with a note of genuine gratitude in his deep voice. "I will keep you updated and hope to see you on Canopus."

He turned and walked quickly from the Captain's office.

* * *

Spock pushed the buzzer beside Christine's cabin door and then walked in before she could answer. He found her on her knees before the toilet, a wet cloth pressed to her forehead.

Immediately, he went to her, concerned. "Christine! What's wrong? Are you ill?"

She smiled wanly and got to her feet. "I'm okay. Just a little morning sickness, that's all."

"Perhaps you should ask Dr. McCoy for something to settle your stomach."

"I'm okay. It will pass in a bit. It always does."

He looked even more alarmed. "This has happened before?"

She couldn't help laughing. "Of course, silly. It's just part of being pregnant. Don't worry about me." She wiped her face again and then went to rinse her mouth at the lavatory. "There are some crackers on my nightstand. Would you bring me a couple, please?"

He did so, meeting her as she came out of the bathroom. "Perhaps breakfast would make you feel better," he suggested, handing her the flatbread wafers.

"Oh, God!" Her face paled and she thrust out a hand to halt him. "Don't even say that word! Just let me nibble on these crackers for a while and I'll feel better."

Reluctantly, he backed off, deciding that she knew best when it came to the arcane mysteries of pregnancy. Logically, she should stay well nourished so that the child developed properly, but he felt that this was a battle he was sure to lose.

As if reading his thoughts -- and perhaps she was, through their nascent mind-link -- she smiled. "Don't worry, Spock. I'll eat. Later. My stomach just won't handle it right now."

"Very well." He sighed and turned to the business at hand. "I came to tell you that the captain has granted our leaves. Christine, I want you to get together the things that you will need for the trip and anything else you can't bear to leave behind."

She stared up at him, puzzled. "What?"

He gazed down at her with an intensity she had seldom seen. "You are not coming back to this ship," he told her. "We will travel to Vulcan and I will convince T'Pau to bond us so that you are fully integrated into my family. From there, we will go to Canopus so that you can undergo the necessary surgery on our child. And then we will decide where you will be safe and cared for until our baby is born."

Christine's breath had shortened. "Spock! Are you suggesting that I desert?"

"Of course not," he answered, a little surprised. "I am suggesting that you resign your commission so that we have control over where our home should be. Otherwise, you will be at the mercy of Starfleet's personnel bureau. We shall be apart far too much as it is. I do not wish to be further separated by the whims of clerks with excessive time on their hands."

She laughed at that image. The military hadn't changed in centuries. Generals and admirals might *think* they ran things, but everyone knew that clerks were *really* in charge. "When do you want to leave?" she asked.

"As soon as you can be ready," he answered. "Do not be concerned about what you leave behind. I will make sure that it is forwarded to you once everything is settled. I *do* recommend that you go back to Vulcan at least for the duration of your pregnancy. I will speak with my mother and make arrangements for you. You will be very well cared for there."

"Yes. That would be the most logical thing, wouldn't it?" And she smiled up at him, having almost unconsciously used his favorite word.

"Yes," he acknowledged, completely serious. "Once within the folds of the Family, you will find that a pregnant wife is treated with great regard. Vulcan birthrate is low and a new baby within the Clan is highly prized."

"And what about you, Spock? Where will you be?"

"I must rejoin the ship. I cannot walk away from my responsibilities as first officer anymore than I can walk away from my responsibilities to you," he replied. "I am doing my best to fulfill my duties to both."

Her blue eyes softened and she reached up to caress his face. "I know, Spock. I'm sorry to have placed such a burden on you. Had I known there was any chance at all of my getting pregnant..."

Hurriedly, he placed a finger against her lips. "No, t'hy'la, do not think that. Things unfold as they are meant to, and if the pathway of our lives detour onto another route, then it is as it should be. We must travel the way we are led."

She moved against him and held him tightly. "And I will follow you on those pathways, my darling. My s'hy'la." She looked up at him and her voice softened. "My husband..."

He stroked her blonde hair away from her face and whispered, "Tch'alha, i'aduna... My wife..."

* * *

The trip to Vulcan had been something of a revelation to Christine. They had departed in one of the ship's shuttlecraft and she had glumly faced the prospect of more than two days' travel without more than a cot in the aft compartment to rest on. But Spock had not seemed troubled by it and, within an hour of leaving the Enterprise, she discovered why.

The ship's comm panel came on suddenly and a voice announced, "Copernicus, this is Alo'oe. Do you read?"

"Copernicus here, Alo'oe."

"Is that you, Sai Spock?"


"There is a definite agreeableness in hearing your voice again, sai. Do you have the coordinates for rendezvous?"

"Yes. Prepare to receive my transmission." Spock's long fingers worked quickly over the navigation panel and then pressed the proper sequence into the comm board. "Do you have them, Salkan?"

"Yes, sai. We will meet you in exactly 8.37 s'pah. Alo'oe out."

Spock snapped off the comm board and then turned to look calmly at Christine, who was staring at him in confusion. "There is no logic in traveling in a shuttlecraft when a more comfortable ship is available," he said.

About ten minutes later, that more comfortable ship streaked out of warp like a rainbow flare and pulled ahead of them, its docking bay doors sliding silently open. Spock guided the Federation shuttlecraft into the bay of the Vulcan ship and shut down its systems as the bay pressurized. Then he stood and with great solemnity offered her the fingers of his right hand.

"Welcome to the Alo'oe, Christine. I thought it would be more appropriate to arrive home in my family's yacht than coming in bedraggled and weary after a long journey in a shuttle."

With a slowly broadening smile, she touched her fingers to his and rose to her feet. "My *lord*..." she breathed, meaning it merely as an expression of awe at his suddenly revealed wealth.

He raised an eyebrow and focused on the second meaning of her statement. "I am not a 'lord', Christine," he answered. "I am Sixteenth Lineal Heir of the House of Ni'ikhirch. My proper title is Sai, as you heard Salkan call me. And once we are bonded, yours will be T'Sai, roughly equivalent to the English title 'lady'."

Her eyes twinkling and her lips spread in utter delight, Christine couldn't help but drop him a very proper curtsey. As she straightened back up, she murmured with complete conviction, "My Lord..."

* * *

It hadn't escaped T'Pau's notice that Spock had brought the *qomi* woman home in style, an obvious power play on his part to force his will upon the Eldest. He had always been headstrong and determined to have his way, even to the point of defying his father and entering the human military fleet. Well, that had turned out for the good because the military had disciplined the boy and channeled his stubbornness into steadfastness. His innate strength and courage had brought honor to himself a number of times in the Starfleet's service.

But in filial matters, things had been harder, the way rougher. She hadn't been pleased -- not pleased at all -- by the debacle of the T'Pring affair, although Spock had handled it as well as could be hoped. He had arrived that time like a whipped sehlat cub, drawn back to wed against his will, but ultimately had comported himself with dignity and resoluteness when faced with the unbelievable treachery that awaited him. Had she known what T'Pring planned, she would have taken care of *that* problem immediately and made arrangements that would have better seen Spock through pon farr. The boy was her direct descendant, after all, and T'Pau took care of her own.

But now Spock had come home in the full trappings of a Son of the House, bringing a pregnant bride with him -- a pregnant *human* bride, no less -- and requesting that she join them in kae'farr. Indeed, he had more than requested it. His manner had said plainly that he expected it of her, expected her to bless the further dilution of his line with human blood by joining him to an out-world woman who carried his child as a result of a miscalculation in contraception. A child not conceived properly during the Time of Mating but through an emotional sexual interlude between Spock and this woman.

And now he had the gall to stand before her and ask her to bond them as if they had been mated by appropriate ritual and circumstance.

"Thee follows hard upon the way of thy father, Spock," T'Pau muttered, ensconced in the big judgment chair of the estate's main hall.

"I follow my own way, T'Pau," he answered firmly.

"Thee has always followed thy own ways. Thee has called thyself Vulcan, yet again thee has chosen to heed thy qomi blood. Thee chooses an out-worlder as thy mate, just as thy father did." Her hard, dark eyes narrowed as she flicked them in Christine's direction.

"That she is qomi has no bearing here," he replied. "What matters is that I have chosen her as the mate of my heart and that she now carries my heir in her womb."

"Thy *human* heir," T'Pau retorted.

"My *heir*," Spock repeated. "Whom I acknowledge and claim. Just as I acknowledge and claim Christine as my wife."

"If she is thy wife, then thee has no need of the kae'farr," T'Pau replied.

Spock stiffened under her icy gaze. "You know well, T'Pau, that if we are not bonded, I cannot bring her into the circle of the Family. Why would you do this to a daughter of the House?" he demanded.

T'Pau sat up straighter in her chair. "She is not a daughter!" the old woman snapped.

"I refer to *my* daughter! The one Christine carries within her! Would you deny her the status of her true inheritance simply because her mother is human? You would lower the caste of your own lineal heir by refusing her? Think how that would reflect on the rest of the Clan! I daresay the other Elders would demand an explanation."

"Kroykah!" T'Pau spat in fury, nearly rising to her feet before she caught herself. She sat back down, her black eyes blazing. "Thee forgets thy place, Spock."

"I am the son of your son's son," he answered coldly, never breaking his tight hold on her eyes. "I am sixteenth in line for your Chair. I do not forget my place. Indeed, I demand the rights inherent in it! I demand that you recognize the rank of my daughter and perform the kae'farr between my chosen wife and myself!"

T'Pau lounged back, regarding him cooly. When she next spoke, it was an acerbic comment in Vulcan. He replied in kind and for several minutes their heated conversation was carried on in that tongue. Christine could not tell what was being said, but the tone of the argument seemed to be getting decidedly ugly. And she could see that Spock was barely keeping his fury in check, growing more and more angry at T'Pau's baiting tone.

At last, the old woman lifted her chin and gazed down her nose at him, an almost smug expression on her face. "Thy emotions betray thee, Spock. Thee demands thy rights as Vulcan, yet thy reaction displays thy human blood. Tell me why I should agree to bring into this House more blood that will bring shame upon us, as thee does now."

He couldn't have been more shocked if she had physically slapped him across the face. Abruptly, he caught himself and drew himself up rigidly. For a long moment, he was silent and fear suddenly gripped Christine's heart as she realized that T'Pau had beaten him, had goaded him into the one thing that he was most afraid of -- losing control of his emotions.

Spock hung his head and said softly, switching deferentially to a subservient form of address, "I ask thy forgiveness, Eldest. I have acted without thought to logic or proper respect to thy wisdom and age. My only thought was to insure care and security for my wife and my child within the circle of the Family."

But now that she had put her obstinate great-grandson properly in his place, the elderly Vulcan's manner changed minutely as well. "Thy passion has always been great, Spock," she said in a softer voice. "Thy heart has always been correct, if not thy head. Come to me, my son. I would know thy thoughts."

With an almost palpable sense of relief, Spock went quickly and knelt before her. T'Pau placed her gnarled fingers on either side of his face and probed into his mind with the practice of two centuries. When she finally drew away, he lifted his face to look up into hers, still on his knees before her.

"Thy strength and determination are great, Spock," she said quietly, and now it was as a mother addressing one of her children. "I see that thy devotion to this woman is equally great. Does she feel the same for thee?"

"Ask her," he answered. He rose to his feet and turned, beckoning Christine. Barely reining in her terror, she approached and faced the matriarch. Spock turned back to the old woman. "Ask her, Great-Grandmother. Taste her thoughts and you will know."

The elder peered up at the tall blonde woman standing at Spock's side. "Does thee feel for Spock what he feels for thee? Is it thy wish to be bonded with him to the full extent of the kae'farr? To join with him in all ways until death parts thee?"

Christine's fear suddenly left her, for she abruptly saw behind the hard obsidian of T'Pau's eyes. Somewhere behind those stony features was a woman who had loved and married and borne children, who had known the ecstasy of a night's passion, who had writhed in a lover's embrace, who had pledged herself to stand by a man's side as long as they lived. Who had grown old with him and watched him die and who had lived to see her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow and prosper under her stern but loving eye.

Christine reached out and took Spock's hand firmly in her own, lacing her fingers through his, and she turned her steady gaze on T'Pau's, no longer afraid to speak the truth.

"I have faced death with him many times already, Eldest. And I have seen that he is brave beyond belief, strong and compassionate and wise and that men follow him willingly wherever he leads. He is one of the most honorable men I have ever known and I have been honored by him more than words can say to become his wife and the mother of his child. It is true that we did not plan this baby, but it has served to bind us even closer together."

Christine looked down earnestly at the elderly woman and said sincerely, "I love him with all my heart and soul, T'Pau. I want to feel him by my side when he is able to be with me, and in my mind when he is not. I want to bear his children and raise them in the ways of the Family. I want to be a part of him and know that he is part of me. I pledge that I will be a good and faithful wife to him and bring only honor upon him and his Clan. I ask that you bond us, T'Pau, so that we may be as one and so that this child I carry will be born into the arms of her people."

The two women exchanged a long and meaningful gaze, volumes passing between them unspoken, then T'Pau lifted her hand, palm out, in salute and Christine quickly knelt before her and pressed her own palm against T'Pau's. The old woman peered down at her and said softly, "I welcome thee, great-granddaughter."

* * *

*I'm going to throw up,* Christine thought as a wave of nausea washed over her.

*Please, don't do that,* came Spock's voice in her mind and it startled her almost to the point of jumping. She hadn't meant for him to catch that last thought, but mind-linked as they were now, she shouldn't have expected anything else.

*I'm sorry*, she thought back. *It's just so hot that I'm about to faint.*

*I will help you*, he responded and immediately the delicious sensation of cool air engulfed her. It was pure illusion, she knew, fooling her mind into believing that soft breezes were fanning around her.

In reality, she still knelt with Spock in the sands of his family's Place of Marriage and Challenge. They were surrounded by the members of Spock's family -- his parents, his aunts and uncles and ccousins, cross-bonded members of other Houses. All were here to witness the joining of a Younger Son to his chosen mate. And to gawk a little at the second human to be allowed into the Clan, she suspected. No one had said anything, but she got the distinct impression that there was more than a little disapproval being generated from her new Vulcan relatives. But she knew that no one would dare utter a snide remark in her presence. T'Pau had accepted her and that was the end of the discussion.

But she didn't care about that just now. All her consciousness and being was focused on the man before her. The fingertips of his strong hands pressed into her face, solidifying the bond between them, and she had reached up to hold his face between her own hands. She could not reinforce the channel between them, of course, but she needed to know him, to feel the texture of his cheeks and temples beneath her seeking touch. And it was amazing how microscopic and sensitive her touch had become. She could detail each tiny irregularity in his skin, could practically count each pore, could almost number the hairs on his cheeks and chin, although he was as clean-shaven as he ever was. For a second, one fingertip wandered across his lips and she could feel the sweet exhalation of his breath and the moistness of his mouth. And she began to feel an incipient throb of sexual need so that she forgot her own physical condition and concentrated on him.

*Yes...* she felt him whisper to her. He was beginning to feel it as well. It was part of the kae'farr, the upwelling of the mating drive that sealed a couple together. For many Vulcans it was necessary to fulfill a complete bonding, but Spock and Christine had long since passed that point. Now it was a welcome ignition of the natural fire between them. Before long it would become overwhelming and the Joining would take them. By that time, they would have secluded themselves but, for the moment, they struggled to keep their passion in check.

She looked up through her lashes and peered into the dark brown eyes so rapt upon hers. She could see the fire in him now as well as feel it through their bond. He wanted her. Needed her with a building intensity that fairly radiated through his skin as visible heat. But though she knew how physically excited he had become, his clothing was carefully designed to hide such an obvious fact from the spectators at the ceremony. He was dressed in the formal robes of the occasion, dark silk with the family sigil embroidered in silver on the front lapel. It suited him well and she had thought she'd never seen him so handsome or regal as now.

She was attired in a bonding gown of mauve, its many diaphanous layers rippling and floating as she moved. It was absolutely the most gorgeous thing she'd ever worn, but it was so *hot*. It smothered her with its veils and drapes until she felt that she would surely pass out right in front of the whole family. And her own building excitement only added to the trapped heat within her clothing. She had an almost uncontrollable desire to rip it away, shredding it until she stood in only her bare skin before him.

The thought caused him to catch his breath and close his eyes for a moment. *Soon*, he thought to her. *Soon, my wife, we will be together and I will have you as you wish to be.* And the picture of her naked and eager flickered in her mind as he struggled to control his building hunger.

She made an effort to damp down the answering image that flashed through her own thoughts, of his body atop hers, of his fervent masculinity hard within her... Abruptly, the image was blocked. Spock had stopped it out of sheer necessity, lest the Joining take them too soon.

*Not yet, my beloved. Soon! Can you stand?* Spock's voice asked in her mind. *It is almost time now.*

*Yes.* She gracefully rose from her knees as he helped her to her feet. Then he held out his right hand with his index and middle finger extended and she touched her fingers to his in a like gesture.

They turned to face his family in formal presentation and T'Pau announced in her cracking but authoritative voice, "This is Spock, son of Sarek, son of Skon, and she who is his wife, Christine, cross-bonded of House Chapel into that of Ni'ikhirch. Spock, I ask thee now, before the company of thy Clan ... how does thee pledge thyself to this woman?"

"In all things, T'Pau," he answered, never taking his gaze from Christine's shining blue eyes. "She knows my heart as I know hers. She shall be the keeper of our home, the mother of our children, and the strength and fire of our bond. I take her to me until death."

"And thee, Christine, does thee also pledge thyself to Spock?"

"Yes, T'Pau, I do," Christine stated with conviction. "He knows my heart as I know his. He shall be the maker of our home, the father of our children, and the courage and stability of our bond. I take him to me until death."

The old woman sternly surveyed the members of the family that surrounded them. "Then, I say that these two are one and this bond shall stand. And I welcome to the House of Ni'ikhirch our daughter, Christine t'cha'Chapel aduna'Spock."

She stamped the butt of her staff on the stones in finality and immediately the bell bearers vigorously shook the banners they held. The rest of the family loudly uttered one simultaneous word, and the ceremony was ended.

*It is time!* Spock's voice said in her mind and he led his bride from the circle of the stones. The family members parted to allow them to pass onto a flag-stoned pathway that led to a small cottage set further down the mountain slope. It was the Place of Joining, where newly bound couples secluded themselves until the madness of the mating drive cooled after several days.

Christine could feel the fire and eagerness burning in Spock and it was all she could do to keep from breaking into a run. She recognized it now. It was the shan hal lak, the engulfment. The same intensive drive that had possessed him during their wonderfully erotic time spent together on Earth.

As soon as they were inside the doorway and it had slid shut, he seized her in his arms and crushed his lips to hers. Even as his mouth devoured hers and his tongue danced against her own, his hands were ridding her of the confining veils. The headdress fell to the floor and his fingers buried themselves in her hair, pulling out pins and combs, freeing the blonde locks to cascade around her shoulders.

Then his hands moved down to the clasp at her throat and he pulled away from their kiss so that he could concentrate on it. His hands trembled and she quickly reached up to help him. Then she stopped.

"Wait," she said.

She stepped away from him, smiling at the dismayed expression that crossed his face. He couldn't wait. Not long, anyway. But she wanted to do this right.

With deliberation, she began to remove the layers of the mauve dress, each gauzy veil that floated to the floor causing the gown to become more and more transparent. The outline of her body began to be revealed to him, the roundness of her breasts and the enticing dark pink circles tipping them, swollen nipples protruding up through the thin fabric, the curve of her waist and soft roundness of her hips, the dark triangle above her thighs. His breath came almost as a sob as he watched her and she knew that she was torturing him with her slow strip-tease. But it was sweet torture and they would both be rewarded for it.

At long last, she stood clad only in the final layer of the garment and, her eyes locked on his, she let her fingers slide down the parting and allowed it to slip off her shoulders and puddle onto the floor with the rest of the veils. She now stood completely naked and finally he moved, quickly pulling her back into his arms and capturing her lips once more.

His body burned with intensity and she could feel the hard length of his erection pressing insistently against her groin. As his lips traveled down her throat and his hand sought her breast, she unsealed the closure of his robe, opening it to his bare body underneath. Her hand slipped inside, running over the muscles of his chest, through the crisp hair, teasing the small raised nipples nestled there. He groaned as her fingers trailed down across his tight stomach and then he pulled away from her just long enough to fling the dark silk robe from him with an almost desperate gesture.

Then he stood naked as well and, with a quick movement, he scooped her up and carried her across the room to the bed that awaited them. *Now, my wife*, he said in her mind. *The time of waiting and flirtation is over. I will have you -- now!*

He placed her on the bed and immediately moved into position atop her. He settled between her spread thighs and gently but quickly probed for entry. As the head slid abruptly into her hot, wet opening, he caught his breath and paused for a shuddering second to set himself and to make sure that she was ready. Then with a powerful shove, he was fully within her.

The sheer sensation of finally being physically joined nearly brought an immediate climax to both, but he pulled them back from the brink. For a long, long moment, he held still, his breath coming lightly and hesitantly against her mouth, as he savored the indescribable feelings that echoed back and forth between them. Her body clutched at his pulsating hardness, making him feel as if a live electric current was throbbing over and through him. He could feel the way he felt to her -- the delicious way he filled her, the heat of his body pressed to hers, the musky masculine scent of his skin.

She peered up into his eyes, hot blue volcanic fire burning within her own. *Come in me, Spock,* she whispered to him. *I want to feel you come in me.*

He needed no further urging. With a shudder of relief, he began to move within his wife.

* * *

Christine awoke to the sensation of soft lips against her throat. The lips moved to her jawline, then her ear and finally to her face. She sighed and sank into the delicious warmth of Spock's arms, becoming aware that part of her could feel what he was experiencing. She tasted her own skin as he lightly teased her cheek with the tip of his tongue and she could also feel the pleasant tightness in his groin as his sexual excitement renewed itself.

She turned her face to him and he moved his lips to hers, a soft, gentle kiss that slowly grew in intensity. She was melting against him, her body quivering with hunger, when he drew his mouth away from hers and asked in a soft voice, "Are you awake?"

"Mmmmm..." she murmured, her eyes still closed, reluctant to leave the near-dream state she was enjoying.

"I want you to watch the dawn with me," he said, still holding her close.

She opened her eyes at that and peered at him. It was still dark and she could not have seen his face had it not been so near to hers. "Dawn?"

"Yes. I want you to come with me."

"What's so special about the dawn?" she breathed, attempting to slip back down into sleep.

"You'll see. Get up," he urged, and she could feel through their link that he really wanted her to do as he asked.

Grumbling good-naturedly, she allowed him to draw her out of bed and wrap her in a robe of warm, heavy silk, bending to put soft slippers on her feet. He was similar attired. As he led her from the cottage, she nearly gasped at the chill of the night air. After the heat of the day, it surprised her and woke her fully.

Taking her hand, he led her through a garden, along a subtly lighted flagstone pathway that dropped down the slope of the mountainside. They didn't go far, just about twenty feet lower than the level the cottage was on and there she saw his destination. It was a large pond, roughly circular in shape, about fifty yards across. Its waters were dark and tranquil and the surface steamed slightly in the cool air.

He paused beside the pond and took off his robe and slippers, then turned to slide the silk garment from her shoulders. Her skin immediately prickled with gooseflesh, but then he took her hand and waded into the pond, drawing her after him. As soon as she stepped into the water, she gasped. It was deliciously warm. Not hot, but about the temperature of a relaxing bath. The bottom was clean sand and felt soft and yielding underfoot.

"Don't get your hair wet just yet," he advised. "The temperature of the night air has not yet risen. Come with me."

He struck out across the pond with a swimming stroke that kept his head above water and she followed suit. The bottom dropped out underneath her but, when she paused and tested its depth, she found that she could just touch the sand with her toes. Spock had reached the opposite side of the pond and was waiting for her, treading water.

As she reached him, he paddled a little further to where a low cliff hung over the pool. Lush fern-like plants crowded along the edge of the pond and she could hear a little trickle of water as a tiny waterfall found its way over the edge of the cliff and down through a rich mat of water-loving plants that covered the cliff-face. Here, she found that a long bench-like structure had been carved under the surface and he settled on it, drawing her to him, cradling her in his arms. The warm, soothing water lapped around their shoulders as he held her.

Overhead, the night sky was still blazing with stars, arrayed in constellations both somewhat familiar and totally strange. No moon dimmed their brightness and for a while the two simply lounged back, enjoying the spectacle and each other.

But inevitably their close contact, the enticing sensation of their bodies pressing together awoke once more the need and desire for love. She lay back in his arms, almost lounging across his lap. One arm supporting her back, he lifted her upper torso from the pool so that her firm breasts rose into clear view. The cool air stiffened her nipples into jutting projections and with his free hand he gently rolled one between his fingertips, capturing her lips in an impassioned kiss. But he didn't linger there. He brushed kisses down her jaw and throat, but then took them further, down to the alluring terrain of her breasts. He could sense through their bond that she wanted to feel his mouth on her, to feel his tongue working hotly against her, and he was more than ready to comply.

But as he pulled one of her protruding nipples into his mouth, she flinched and gave an involuntary little gasp. Immediately, he released her and moved back.

"Did I hurt you?" he asked. "I did not mean to be so rough."

"No, you weren't. I guess I'm just a little tender, that's all," she answered, peering down at herself.

Softly, he brought his fingertips up to stroke her full breasts, taking extra care with her swollen nipples. "Then I will avoid any further stimulation there if it causes you pain."

"No, I want you to. I love it when you suck me," she whispered adamantly, unconsciously projecting the image in her mind of the incredible arousal it generated in her, of seeing his dark head bent to her breasts, and feeling the heat and wetness and gentle pressure of his mouth engulfing her. "You can't believe how good it feels."

He glanced up at her, his dark eyes full of humor. "Yes, I can," he replied and suddenly she realized that he did indeed know. Through their mind-bond, he felt what she felt and she knew that her excitement fed his.

He lowered his head back to her breasts and proceeded to tenderly and carefully work his tongue over and around first one nipple then the other. He teased her by running the tip of his tongue lightly around the turgid flesh, then sucked her gently and thoroughly, all the time his fingers continuing to stroke the sides and firm bulk of her breasts. It was so exquisitely maddening, almost painful, that she found herself squirming beneath his touch, allowing the water to buoy her hips up in response.

Again, he could feel what she wanted and he moved his hand down her torso to the pulsing center of her womanhood. As his fingers slipped between her legs and into the sensitive recesses hidden there, she bucked up, her back arched. He tickled and stroked her, then slid his hand lower and pushed two fingers up inside her.

The action sent another explosion of sensation through her and into him. She clutched at him as he gently worked his fingers in and out, further inflaming her, then he relented a bit and pulled his hand away. She gazed up at him, panting with excitement, and felt the reverberating arousal that echoed from his thoughts into hers. Spread across his lap, she could feel his hard shaft pressing into her thigh and read in his mind what he wanted her to do.

They were of one accord, one mind, and she turned and settled astride his lap. His eager manhood plunged into her slick depths with ease, encasing itself fully within the sheath of her body. They held each other's gaze as she rocked against him, never breaking their fervent scrutiny until he gasped and closed his eyes with the intensity of climax.

Afterwards, she stayed where she was, straddling him, loving the feeling of his solid masculinity still within her. They kissed softly now, caressed one another, tongues gently fencing and dancing. His hands slipped up the smooth skin of her back, warm and comforting. She stroked down his neck and massaged his shoulders sensuously, and it wasn't long before she felt his penis pulse and stiffen again inside her tight passage.

Excitement built up again as their kisses deepened and their hands intensified their explorations. He shifted his hips and she drew her breath softly as his manhood began to move gently within her once more. She leaned back slightly and moved with him, taking up his rhythm until the fire of their sexual excitement blazed back up into an inferno. The steaming water of the volcanic hot spring fairly boiled with their frenzy and at last he clutched her tightly to him and nearly lifted them both from the water with the force of his eruption into her endless, burning depths.

This time, when they held each other in the aftermath of their love, it was with the exhaustion of total satiation. She slipped off his lap and lay back shoulder-deep in the simmering water, drenched with sweat and feeling weak from exertion. He looked much the same and she could feel his satisfied, drained fatigue.

Slipping his arm around her shoulder, he drew her close to him and they sank down into the blissfully warm water to rest and watch as the day dawned.

The sky overhead had begun to lighten and the stars to fade. The view faced east across the rugged badlands leading to the great desert called Vulcan's Forge. As the edge of the blood red sun peeked above the horizon, rays of light shot across the copper-colored sky and the upper edges of the buttes and mesas burned as with fire. Long purple shadows stretched out behind them, softening the landscape of reds and oranges. Traversing the eastern horizon, thin bands of clouds blazed like molten gold in the rising sun.

The morning light reached out and touched the enraptured faces of the two people watching its coming. As the water of the pool became shrewn with topaz sparks, Christine looked up at her husband's illuminated face, his skin burnished in the new light of day. Breathless, she drank in the sharp contrast of his jet black hair and the sweeping line of his eyebrows, the rich mahogany of his eyes and dark accent of his lashes, the deep shadows of his cheeks and nose, the elegant, alien peak of his ears. He was, she thought, beautiful beyond belief. It was not a word she would normally have applied to his rugged, angular features but to her eyes now it went far deeper than surface appearance. It applied to a man who had come to her and literally taken her into his soul, who had given himself to her more intensely and intimately than she could have ever imagined, who had placed within her a piece of himself and created a life that would seal them forever. Gazing up at his beloved face, she felt her heart surge almost to bursting.

*I love you...* she thought to him, meaning it with all her soul and being.

He turned to look at her and she could see and feel his answer deep within his eyes. There was no need for him to speak, either verbally or mentally. The wave of emotion that poured over her and swept her away said more than any words he could ever have spoken.

* * *

The morning was heating up fast as they made their way back up the flagstone steps to the cottage, clad once more in their raw silk robes. "How do you feel this morning?" Spock asked her as he lightly kept a cautious hold on her arm, lest she slip.

"Marvelous," she smiled at him. "Can't you feel how I feel?"

"I feel your happiness," he answered, smiling back at her. "But not the state of your stomach. Are you hungry? Does breakfast interest you?"

"Yes. It does," Christine replied, realizing that she didn't feel nauseated this morning at all. "I think you're a miracle worker, Spock. What have you done that has cured me?"

"I have done nothing," he responded, his dark eyes crinkling with humor, "except taken your mind off your stomach by giving you another body part to think about."

"Mmmmm ... Yours or mine?" she purred seductively.

"Mine needs a short rest, wife," he retorted softly, playfully. "Yours has exhausted it!"

She laughed and they paused on the small garden terrace that was at the rear of the Joining cottage. There she reached up to caress his face. "Thank you for taking me to the warm springs and watching the sun come up with me," she said. "It was absolutely beautiful. Is that why you wanted me to see it?"

"No," he answered, trailing his fingers down her cheek. "It was just a typical sunrise. But it was our first as bonded mates. I wanted to see it dawn with you beside me."

She drew her breath and then pulled him down to meet her trembling lips. "S'hy'la..." she whispered when they parted. He smiled and led her back into the cottage.

There, she stopped in her tracks, for there was a full breakfast laid out on the small table in the kitchen area. "Where did that come from?" she asked.

"The caretaker, I would assume," he answered, going over to see what was offered.


He glanced up at her. "Yes. There is always a caretaker for a Joining couple. Usually an older family member who is not likely to be shocked by the emotional excesses of the newbound. She provides for their needs, such as meals, but otherwise leaves them strictly to themselves." He lifted the lid on an etched ceramic teapot and inhaled the rising steam. "Ah, seefa tea. Excellent! It must be T'Luf who is caring for us. My great aunt. Seefa was always one of her specialities. Come -- I think you will find this excellent."

He drew her over and solicitously seated her then took the other chair close to her. For the next hour, he guided her through the various offering on the table. Instructing her how to use the little tongs and skewers, he showed her how to eat the fruits and breads and condiments of a Vulcan firstmeal, often feeding the bite-size tidbits to her himself. The seefa turned out to be a light herbal tea that tasted faintly like nutmeg. It was the perfect compliment to the foods, but Christine found herself wishing for a Terran style breakfast.

Spock noticed and peered quizzically at her. "Is it not to your liking?"

"I like it very much, Spock," she smiled, "but do you know what I'd *really* like?" She rested her elbow on the table and propped her chin in the palm of her hand. "A cup of coffee, a glass of orange juice, and a nice plain bagel with cream cheese."

He lifted an eyebrow delicately. "Perhaps that can be arranged. Would you like more f'khal?"

"No. It's delicious, but I don't think my stomach had handle anymore. Actually, I think I'd like to go lie down and rest for a while, if you don't mind," she answered, for the early morning activity and then the unfamiliar foods were beginning to cause her morning sickness to flutter up into being once more.

Immediately, he rose and assisted her to her feet. "Forgive me, Christine. I was not thinking." He led her back to their big bed and helped her undress, then quickly shed his own robe and slipped in beside her, gently drawing her against him and holding her quietly. He sent soothing thoughts through their bond-link and a healing influence that quelled her nausea.

They fell asleep spooned together and slept until late in the morning. When Christine finally opened her eyes again, she absently noted that their breakfast had been cleared away. She made a note to thank T'Luf personally for her deft care of them.

Spock was nestled against her back, awake now as well, and she lay for a while savoring the wonderful warmth of his body pressed against hers. She could feel his presence in her mind and luxuriated in the sense of security and safety that she felt with him.

"Are you feeling better now?" he murmured.

She made a soft sound of assent and snuggled back against him. "Yes. Maybe I just needed a little more sleep."

"You must rest as much as you need to," he answered. "I do not wish you to jeopardize your health or the baby's in any way." He slipped his hand down to her slightly rounded abdomen, spreading his strong, elegant fingers out to cover her protectively, lovingly. Christine placed her smaller hand over his large one, completing the contact.

"Have you thought more about what I suggested before we left the Enterprise?" he asked.

"About what?"

"Resigning your commission."

She turned onto her back so that she could look up at him. "Actually, I have, Spock. In fact, I'd already begun thinking about what I was going to do when the ship's mission ends next year. I'm not a career officer like you. My commission is a courtesy rank commensurate with my position on the ship. I joined Starfleet originally just to search for Roger, as you know. After we found that he had died on Exo, I decided to stay on the ship for two reasons -- I discovered that I liked the hands-on of space medicine. And I discovered that I liked you." She smiled up at him, then continued.

"But taking a nursing position was just a means to an end. I'm not a nurse by profession. My field is research biology. I've gotten some great experience on the Enterprise, but I think I'm ready to get back to what I do best. I want to get back into medical research. It's my first love." She grinned. "After you, of course."

He smiled back at her. "I know that you have been outstanding in your position on the Enterprise, but I have often felt your frustration there. I have observed that you were happiest when working on a problem in the medical labs."

"Yes. I imagine that I would have resigned in any case once my tour was up. If we hadn't gotten together, that is. Although if *she* hadn't happened, I suspect that I would have stayed just so that I could be with you."

Spock nodded his understanding, then looked amused. "I believe there was once an old Earth musician who wrote a song that said, 'Life is what happens when you're busy making plans.' That appears to be very true."

She laughed softly. "Is it ever! I suppose we'd better discuss what plans *we* plan to make since so much 'life' has happened to us."

He stroked her cheek. "Indeed. I feel I must apologize to you, however, for planning without consulting you. In snatching you away from the ship so abruptly, I mean. But at the time I felt the need for decisive action before your orders came through and we were separated."

"Oh, Spock, I was overjoyed when you took charge like that! That's the moment I really began to feel that you were my husband and I suddenly knew that everything was going to be all right."

"Perhaps I was feeling like your husband, as well," he answered softly. "A Vulcan husband is accustomed to being in charge." His brows went up a little. "That *is* one aspect of our bonding that you may find hard to accept. I promise that I will not act overbearing and as if I own you now, but you will find that Vulcan society is still strongly male-centered and a wife is normally quite subservient to her husband's wishes."

"I know. And I'll be the good little wife in public, don't worry about that," she replied. Then she adopted a fierce expression and poked her finger into his chest. "But don't get any ideas like that at home, mister! Or you'll find yourself sleeping on the couch!"

One eyebrow went up and he cocked his head a little. "Indeed, wife! Perhaps I *will* adopt a full marital role, after all! In fact, I believe that this would be an ideal time to demonstrate my dominance over you!"

Before she could react, he was on top of her and she found herself trapped beneath him. She made a playful attempt to shove him off, but he seized her wrists and pinned them both back against the mattress, holding her firmly. At the same time, he nudged her legs apart and settled himself between them, his rapidly hardening erection lying heavily against her groin.

"Now, wife," he asked. "As you would say, who wears the pants in this family?"

She giggled. "No one at the moment!"

"Who?!" he demanded again and he moved his hips against her, teasing her with his engorged manhood, rubbing it up and down against her, growing slick from her secretions.

"You do," she answered softly, gazing up into his eyes with growing hunger.

He found her eager opening and pushed partially inside. "Who?" he asked again in a whisper, working the head in and out of her until she arched up against him in ecstasy.

"You do, my husband!" she gasped, her head thrown back and her eyes closed in rapture.

"Exactly right," he murmured in reply and, with a decisive lunge, buried himself hilt deep within her.

She cried out and her fingers reached and flexed, her hands still pinned against the bed. He released her and slipped his hands beneath her shoulders, steadying her against him as his hips settled into a strong, steady rhythm. Moving her hands to his muscular back, she dug her nails into his flesh, riding his pounding thrusts as he carried them both toward the soaring, aching explosion of mutual orgasm.

When the bright flare of climax had passed and he lay still clutching her beneath him, drained and temporarily sated, Christine nuzzled her face against his neck and in a seductive whisper repeated into his ear, "*You* do, my husband ... until I say you don't!" And with a giggle of pure, wicked delight, she seized his earlobe between her teeth and shook it with mock ferocity.

Spock had enough presence of mind not to jerk away and risk losing part of his ear but Christine could feel his enormous surprise through their bond. She released her light hold on him and he moved back, staring down at her in shock, his brows nearly disappearing into his hairline. His expression sent her into peals of helpless laughter and she attempted to draw him back down into her arms.

He resisted and, in fact, withdrew from her body and rolled off her, sitting up on the side of the bed. He still looked as if she'd slapped him. She tried to be serious, but kept erupting into helpless giggles.

At last, he said, "Christine, that was not funny."

"Yes, it was! Oh, Spock, if you could see your face!"

"You bit me!"

"Oh, I didn't bite you. Not hard enough to hurt you, anyway." She was slowly succeeding in gaining control of her mirth. "And, for that matter, I seem to recall a little incident when you jumped on me like a Klingon in heat and nearly took a chunk out of my neck."

That brought a fresh expression of shock. "I did *not* 'jump' on you and I certainly did not 'take a chunk' out of your neck! You yourself initiated that incident by insinuating that you wished to have sex in the manner that Klingons--"

"Okay, okay, I surrender," she answered, still trying to master the wide grin pulling at her lips. "Truce. Cease fire. I give up." She sighed and lay gazing at him, her blue eyes warm and full of love. "And I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you."

His expression was softening as well. "You didn't. You just startled me." One eyebrow crept back up in a slightly exasperated look. "I did not know that life with you would be so ... unpredictable."

"Oh, my darling, you have no idea!" She laughed again, with gentle love this time, and held up her arms to him.

He shifted and sank back into her embrace, leaning down to capture her mouth. When he lifted his lips from hers, he said seriously, "Don't do that again."

"I promise," she whispered, gazing up into his eyes.

He nestled his head into her shoulder as she held him and she made up for their rough play by soothingly slipping her fingers through the thick black silk of his hair, letting her fingertips softly caress the tip of his ear, then trail down the side of his neck before starting the process all over again.

For his part, he once more spread his hand over her abdomen and ever-so-gently massaged her with barely perceptible movements of his fingers. Christine knew that his attention wasn't focused on her just at this moment, but deep inside her, on the tiny developing life that he covered so protectively with his large, powerful hand.

"We must leave tomorrow," he said softly.

"I know. We've barely had any time at all together."

"We have the rest of today ... and tonight. And the time on the Alo'oe en route to Canopus."

"And then you'll be gone," she whispered and he felt the wave of sorrow that crashed through her.

He lifted his head and looked into her eyes. Reaching up, he touched two fingers to her forehead and there was a surge of strengthening in their mindlink. "No, t'hy'la," he said seriously. "That is what the kae'farr means. It is why we say 'parted from me and never parted'. Because I will always be with you and you with me, whether we are physically together or not."

She closed her eyes and a tear leaked out between her lashes. "I do not want to be parted from you in any way, Spock," she said. "Especially not now."

His fingertips slipped down to her cheek and wiped the tear away. "I will be with you every chance I get, but you know that I have a duty to the ship as well."

"And now you have a duty to *us*. The baby and me."

He sighed. "Yes, but I *must* fulfill my oath to serve as first officer of the Enterprise for the duration of this mission." His expression grew even more solemn and he shifted so that he could look directly into her eyes. "I ask that you be patient with our situation, Christine. In seventeen months, at the end of our present assignment, I will have served as an officer with Starfleet for twenty years. I intend to retire at point and return to Vulcan. I have been considering a teaching position with the Vulcan Science Academy. Once my military service is up, we can follow our desires in building our home and family."

"Suppose we decide to settle somewhere else?"

"Then we will do so. We will make our home wherever our mutual interests lead us. But we *will* be together then, you and I and our daughter. And we can talk of other children and future plans and whatever else we wish to do. But be patient for just a little longer, t'hy'la."

She reached up to caress his face. "All right. I trust you to do what's best for us."

He kissed her gently then changed the subject. "Do you feel like taking a short trip this afternoon?"


"To a place I want you to see. To a place you might like. But one you need to visit in any case."

"Okay. Let me take a quick shower and clean up."

"I must do so, as well," he commented.

Her eyes half-closed and she asked suggestively, "Care to join me?"

Through their mindlink, she could feel the surge of arousal her comment brought, but he peered at her with an amused expression and answered, "If I did, we would never leave here. Because you would drive me into shan hal lak once more and I would bring you right back to bed."

"What's wrong with that?" she murmured.

He closed his eyes for a second and sighed elaborately. "Wife, I see that I *must* spend time away from you on space assignment or I will surely become a total invalid! You are absolutely insatiable!"

"Not at all," she whispered. "It's just that you drive *me* into shan hal lak whenever I'm with you!" And she pictured in her mind several of their more enthusiastic lovemaking sessions. His answering wave of excitement through their bond took physical form as she felt him throb and begin to harden against her.

"Perhaps it *is* too late in the day to travel," he answered softly, holding her eyes with his. "We would not arrive before it became uncomfortably hot. I believe tomorrow morning would, indeed, be a much better time." He drew her more firmly against his body and she encouraged him by slipping her leg over his hip, allowing his growing erection to pulsate up between her thighs.

"Yes, my husband," she whispered against his lips. "Now ... what shall we do for the rest of today ... and tonight."

* * *

The little air speeder whipped along the road that led into the hills north of ShiKahr, its grav field leaving a cloud of dust in its wake. Had they been in a ground vehicle, the ride would have been unbearably rough, but the repulsor field softened even the harshest bumps into barely noticeable nudges. Spock was a good driver and obviously knew where he was heading, so Christine sat back and enjoyed the scenery.

In the few times she had been to Vulcan, she had never ventured outside the cities before. Now she let her eyes rove over the rugged landscape, reminiscent of the canyonlands of North America, were it not for the hot orange sky that stretched overhead, streaked by high white clouds. The route had taken them into the Llangon, an arid stretch of rolling hills that was very nearly wilderness. It looked bleak and forbidding, but people had been living here since time out of mind.

But Spock guided them steadily onward until they came down on the far side of the range of hills and into a vast stretch of flat land. Here, she sat up straighter in her seat and stared in amazement. As far as the eye could see, this area was under irrigated cultivation, and where it wasn't being irrigated, there were endless fields of yellow grain -- tikh -- stretching to the horizon. Far off she could see massive machines moving amid the grain, harvesting it. Like most people unfamiliar with the planet, she had envisioned Vulcan as one planet-sized desert, covered only with sand and rock.

Spock noticed her astonishment and glanced over at her with a smile. "How do you think we feed ourselves?" he asked softly, referring to the planetary population.

"Is this what you brought me to see, Spock?" she asked, delighted to find this new aspect of her adopted home.

"Partially. We shall arrive at our destination shortly." He turned them off the main road and onto another well-kept route that paralleled the hills. Within a few minutes, they entered an area of pastureland, neatly fenced to contain grazing animals that cropped the short sparse grass. She identified herds of paran, long-haired goat-like creatures that provided both rich milk and angora-like wool that was woven into cloth.

Then, as they neared a small cluster of buildings climbing up the slope of the hills, she exclaimed "Oh, look at the horses!" She pointed to a half-dozen sleek animals in a paddock near a low barn-like structure.

Spock couldn't help smiling. "They are not horses, Christine. They are hoxa. But you are not wrong in your assumptions. We do use them for riding and racing."

Finally a large house came into view. It was constructed like many Vulcan houses that she had seen, of thick sandstone that protected the inhabitants from the fierce heat of day and surprising chill of night, but this one was definitely on a grand scale.

Spock turned into the compound and drove up to the house, where he parked in the shade of a large gray-barked tree, its long trailing branches covered with graceful yellow leaves resembling a weeping willow. As they got out of the speeder, he came around to her and gestured at the farmland spreading out before them.

"Welcome to Keldeen," he said. "My home."

Christine caught her breath and turned to stare at him. "What?! Spock, I thought your home was in ShiKahr!"

"My parents' home is in ShiKahr, the home in which I grew up," he answered. "But Keldeen is *mine*. This is my hereditary estate."

She couldn't contain the teasing smile that found her lips. "You never said anything about being a farmer!"

"I am not a farmer," he replied seriously. "I merely *own* a farm. Keldeen was left to me by my great-grandfather, Salkar, who was T'Pau's husband. It has been in our family's hands for over 500 years. We have always kept as much of it in cultivation as possible and added our yield to that of the other agricultural centers." He gazed at her with a quiet, solemn pride. "Vulcan has not gone hungry since the time of Surak, nearly 2,000 years ago."

He turned as he detected an older man coming toward them from one of the outlying buildings. The man was slightly stooped and lean, his bronzed skin giving testament to the long hours he had spent outdoors and, as he neared them, Christine could see that his hair was gray underneath his wide-brimmed hat.

Spock turned and lifted his right hand in salute. "Live long and prosper, Senak. I am pleased to find you here today."

The other Vulcan returned the greeting. "Peace and long life to you, Sai Spock. I had not expected your arrival but the surprise is a welcome one. May I offer my best wishes to you on the occasion of your Bonding?"

Spock inclined his head slightly. "I thank you for your courtesy. May I present to you T'Sai Christine, she who is my wife."

Senak saluted the woman at Spock's side and acknowledged, "Lady."

"Peace to you, Senak," Christine replied, following Spock's lead.

Spock addressed his wife. "Senak is the manager of Keldeen. It would not function were he not here in my stead."

"I serve the House of Ni'ikhirch with what small ability I have," the old man answered modestly.

"I am certain that your abilities are not small by any means," Christine answered. "From what I have seen of Keldeen, the efficiency and abundance are great."

"Your kindness is appreciated, T'Sai." He nodded his chin and then looked up at Spock. "What do you require of me this day, Sai?"

"I have brought my wife to see the estate. I do not wish to discuss business with you unless there is something pressing that I must attend immediately," Spock answered. "My time is somewhat limited and I merely wished to show T'Sai Christine the house and some of the grounds."

"As you wish, Sai. Peace and long life to you both." With that the older man went back to his work.

For the next two hours, Spock took Christine on a tour of his home. The house proved to be roomy and comfortable, built in the old Vulcan style and furnished to resemble that period. There was nothing pretentious about it, but reflected Spock's tastes and interests. Even this was not overbearing because he was seldom here.

They met more than a dozen people on their walk, all of whom greeted Spock with deference and respect. He acknowledged each one by name and introduced Christine. She replied politely to their welcome but knew that she could never remember all these new faces right away.

As they moved away from one such meeting, she asked Spock quietly, "Do all these people work for you?"

"Yes, and many more that you have not met. They live here, as well. Much more than I do. It is really their home more than mine. And some of them are family members. Keldeen is a family enterprise."

They climbed a wide staircase to the second floor and here Spock led her into an airy room with a big window that looked out over the vista of the hills to the west. The room was neat and masculine and contained a large, comfortable looking bed.

Spock closed the door behind them and then took Christine into his arms and kissed her, long and thoroughly. When he drew away, he said, "And this is the bedroom I use when I am home. If you wish, it will become *our* bedroom. If you wish to call Keldeen home, that is."

"I'll be honest with you, Spock," she answered, looking up at him. "You've caught me by surprise here. I never had any idea that you had a place like this. I suppose I always thought you just stayed with your parents when you were on Vulcan."

One eyebrow lifted and he peered at her in amusement. "I am 38 years old, Christine. I haven't lived with my parents since I was 16."

"Mostly because you were in Starfleet, though."

"Mostly because I was in Starfleet, but I did indeed leave home at 16. My great-grandfather died when I was 22 and Keldeen was his legacy to me. I hired Senak to manage it in my absence and have called it home ever since. I enjoy coming here when I find myself in need of a respite from the pace of life I normally live. I admit that I haven't been home much since our last deep space assignment began, but I hope to remedy that once this mission is over."

Christine pulled out of his arms and went over to the window to look out over the rugged, rolling hills. From here she could also see where they smoothed out onto the plain and where the fields of grain began. "How big *is* Keldeen, anyway?" she asked.

He came to stand behind her, also enjoying the view. "The Vulcan measurement would mean nothing to you, but in Earth terms, roughly 100,000 acres."

"Wow!" She laughed in awe. "And all in crops?"

"No. About half in cultivation. We also raise paran and have a dairy and wool operation. The upper 40,000 acres are in the Llangon Hills and are not arable. That section is a wildlife preserve, maintained as a purely natural haven for the area's indigenous plants and animals. I will take you there someday. It is quite rugged and can be dangerous, but I think it is very beautiful, too."

"I'd like that," she answered.

He nodded. "And you saw Keldeen's hoxa, too. They are more a ... hobby, I suppose you would say, than anything. They are Senak's pets. When he was a young man, he rode professionally for a racing stable in a province far to the west of here. An accident ended his career as a rider, but he never lost his love for the animals. He breeds them now for show and sale. Would you like to see them?"

She turned, her eyes shining. "Oh, yes! I had a horse as a kid and I still love them."

"They are *not* horses, Christine. Remember that."

"Of course, but they're still beautiful."

They went back downstairs and out through the kitchen area in the back. Spock took them across the yard to one of the low sandstone barns. It was dark and surprisingly cool inside and Christine recognized the universal smell of hay and animals. There was a passageway down the center of it and when they emerged on the other side, the sunlight was almost painful. But here they found a large fenced paddock and in it were a half dozen female hoxa and their colts.

Up close, Christine could see that they were definitely not horses although they had the same graceful form. Their faces looked generally equine, but had a bit of a bovine quality to them as well, for short, stout little horns sprouted in front of their ears. Their feet held three toes instead of a single hoof and a thick feathering of hair grew from just below the knees down to the hocks. And, their tails, instead of being covered with long hair from the base to the tip, was smooth-haired for about a third of its length before sprouting a thick, luxurious plume.

Spock went to the fence and called something in Vulcan. Immediately, one of the mares -- Christine didn't know what else to call them -- looked up from her grazing and ambled over to him, her foal following. When the animal came to the fence, Spock reached up and rubbed the whorl of hair in the center of her forehead then looked around at Christine.

"You can pet her, if you like," he said. "This is Alar. She is one of my favorites."

Christine approached and gently stroked the face and soft muzzle of the hox. The creature closed her big dark eyes in bliss and a soft rumbling issued from her throat.

"Spock! She's purring like a cat!"

"They make that sound when contented," he answered.

"Oh, she's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. And look at her baby! Oh, Spock, I am in love!"

He seemed pleased. "I had thought that your affection for horses would translate well to hoxa." Reaching up, he scratched Alar underneath her chin and the purring got louder. "I too am fond of them. They are magnificent animals."

They stayed for a few more minutes with the mare, then Spock said softly, "It is time to go, t'hy'la. We must return to ShiKahr and gather our luggage. We should depart for Canopus no later than 1400."

She sighed. "Yes. I suppose our honeymoon is over."

He looked down at her and, through their bond-link, she felt warmth spread over her like golden sunlight. *Never, my beloved,* he thought to her. *I will never cease to love you as I do now.*

The mental declaration was so unexpected that she caught her breath and looked up into his deep brown eyes, reading there all that he felt for her. She couldn't speak and was hampered by her need to remain composed and in her public role as a Vulcan wife. But the promise she returned to him of how she would demonstrate her love once in their cabin aboard the Alo'oe caused a surge of emotion to pulse through him and neither hesitated now to leave Keldeen for more time spent together.

* * *

When Spock and Christine beamed aboard the Alo'oe, they were surprised to find an elegant gray-haired woman waiting for them in the lounge.

"Mother!" Spock exclaimed before he caught himself, then instantly the placid mask he normally wore slid into place. "What are you doing aboard?"

"Oh, I just thought I'd hitch a ride to Canopus with you," Amanda answered calmly, sipping her tea. "I had an idea to do some shopping."

Spock quirked a skeptical eyebrow. "Shopping? I believe there is probably more to it than *that*."

Amanda sighed and set her cup down. Standing to look up at her tall son, she answered, "All right, Spock. The truth is, I thought Christine could use a traveling companion on her way back. Or did you intend to send her home, fresh from an operation, by herself?"

That caused Spock to halt in his mental tracks. "I had planned on escorting her back myself," he replied a bit uncertainly.

"And if you're recalled to your ship before then? Or hadn't you thought of that?"

"I ... I would have made other arrangements."

"The arrangements have been made," Amanda informed him, secure that she had already won this round. "Now, why don't you go up to the bridge and have Captain Salkan get us underway. I'll help Christine get settled in. She could probably use some female company by now."

Spock looked over at his wife, who was barely containing her amusement. "Go on, Spock. I think it's sweet of your mother to offer to help us out."

Spock sighed and turned toward the bridge with an expression that plainly said, *Women! I will never understand them!*

After he had gone, Christine barely stopped herself from bursting out in laughter and bent to pick up her valise, but Amanda beat her to it. "No, no, you let the steward carry that. You shouldn't be lifting things." She nodded to a young Vulcan crewman who was standing by and he retrieved the luggage and went ahead of them.

"Amanda, I'm perfectly fine and you know it! I'm not some breakable china doll, you know."

"Dear, enjoy this time and let us coddle you!" the older woman answered. "You will find that you'll be spoiled rotten right now so just enjoy it. It's not often that a new baby arrives in the Family, so the tendency is to wrap the mother in silk and treat her like royalty."

"But I'm fine."

They arrived at the master suite and went in. Amanda directed the young man where to leave the bags, then he left the cabin. Christine took off the traveling veil she was wearing and sighed. "Ah, that's better. Amanda, how do you stand these clothes? The Vulcans wear so many layers that you'd think they lived at the North Pole!"

"You get used to it. It takes a while to acclimate."

"Well, I'm about to pass out! Do you mind if I change?"

"No, make yourself comfortable, dear." Amanda seated herself in one of the chairs in the sitting area. "I haven't had a chance to tell you how happy I am to have you in our family, Christine. And how thrilled we are about the baby."

"Thanks," Christine answered from the adjoining bathroom. She emerged dressed in a long, simple robe of sapphire blue, embroidered with an elaborate design in gold thread. "Ah, that's better." She sat down in the accompanying chair. "And thank you for coming. Spock would never have asked you and I wasn't sure it was proper. I'm still learning all the ropes."

Amanda leaned over and patted her arm. "We women must stick together, dear. And, more importantly, we *human* women must stick together. You'll find that the Vulcans are wonderful people and I think you'll come to love them as much as I have. But they definitely have their own way of thinking and doing things and there are times when I simply want to scream!"

"Oh, I know that very well from being around Spock all these years," Christine replied.

"You don't get the full effect with Spock. He's half human and has lived with humans for most of his life. Being in purely Vulcan society is a bit different." Amanda sighed. "There were times in the early days when all I wanted to do was take Spock and run for Earth on the fastest ship I could find." She closed her eyes as memory took her and for a second there was a tremor in her voice. "There were times when I hated Sarek with every fiber of my being and just looking at my beautiful little boy reminded me that he wasn't human."

The older woman sobered and gazed meaningfully at her. "Be prepared, Christine. He's going to want to raise your child in the Vulcan manner and that means that you must curb all your maternal instincts and be as unemotional as you can. It will tear your heart out, but if you raise her on Vulcan, that's how it will be."

"Spock took me to Keldeen," Christine answered softly. "He didn't pressure me but I had the feeling he wants us to settle there."

Amanda nodded. "I thought he might. Keldeen is very special to him. It's the one place that is truly *his*. When he and his father parted company when he was 16, I think he felt somewhat homeless. Starfleet was his surrogate family, but he never stopped longing for Vulcan. When he inherited Keldeen, it was like a gift from heaven. It finally gave him a place where he could be on his own and run things the way he wanted to, not having his father or some superior officer telling him what to do. Of course, he stayed in Starfleet because it offered him the freedom to explore the galaxy and grow as a person and practice his first love, science. But in the back of his mind, I think he has always intended to come back to Keldeen eventually."

Christine nodded. "That's the impression he gave me. And it *is* lovely. But right now ... I don't think I could live there."

Amanda leaned over and laid a hand on her arm. "May I offer some advice, dear? Just a thought for you to think about. Until he leaves Starfleet, stay in ShiKahr. Get an apartment where you can raise your baby on your own terms -- within social norms, that is -- and find a position that will keep you busy and fulfilled. There are several excellent medical facilities that would be overjoyed to have you working with them. Then, when Spock retires from Starfleet, you and he can decide what you want to do and where to live." She smiled warmly. "And I'll be available to babysit my grandchild if you need me to."

Christine laughed. "Ah, we get to the *real* ulterior motive here!"

Amanda laughed as well, her blue eyes twinkling. "Well, of course. I intend to spoil her shamelessly!"

"Of course. But I *will* think about it, seriously. I think it's a good plan of action, really." Christine looked down thoughtfully, then back at her mother-in-law. "Can I ask you a question? How does Sarek feel about all this? About me and the baby? He didn't seem to have much to say when Spock told him that T'Pau had agreed to Bond us."

"Well, that's just Sarek. He's a very private man. His feelings for Spock are extremely complicated. Of course, he loves Spock deeply and is extremely proud of the man he's become, although he would rather be torn apart by a pack of wild hycals than admit anything of the sort. But he has never forgiven Spock for what happened between them and it is still very difficult for him to find favor with anything Spock does."

Christine's expression betrayed the apprehension and hurt that she felt. Amanda continued, "Oh, please, don't think he dislikes you, Christine. I believe that he finds you very acceptable as a mate for Spock. You are a logical choice, you see. And, while he would have preferred that the baby was conceived in the time honored way -- during pon farr -- I believe he's becoming quite excited at the prospect of being a grandfather." Amanda smiled mischievously. "And don't think that this is the only baby that ever got started as a result of shan hal lak. The Vulcans are very passionate people and sometimes those passions can run away with them."

Christine chuckled and blushed. "Yes," was all she said.

The older woman saw her embarrassment and laughed softly. "Yes ... I can see that you know that."

There was a volume of unspoken understanding that passed between them. "I never would have guessed..." Christine answered in a low voice, smiling. "Honestly -- he's worn me out!"

Amanda leaned forward again and said in a confidential tone, "Just between us, woman to woman, Christine -- he takes after his father."

Christine gave a burst of delighted laughter and for a moment the two women giggled like schoolgirls over this shared revelation. "Sarek?! Oh, you're joking!"

"Not at all. He's quite a different person behind closed doors." Amanda gave her a knowing look. "I can sympathize with what you're going through right now. Remember, I was pregnant, too, when I married. Although by the time we Bonded, I was so heavy with Spock that it saved me the full impact of the Joining. He was forced to hold back, but once Spock was born and I recovered, believe me, he made up for lost time."

"Oh, my God," Christine murmured. "I will never be able to look at Sarek with a straight face again!"

"Now, if you ever breathe a word of this, I will deny it to my dying day!"

"My lips are sealed!" But Christine sat back in her chair and laughed in delight. "Oh, Amanda, I can tell we're going to get along just fine."

"I hope so, dear. Now, you get some rest and call me if you need anything. I'll join you two for dinner. I think you'll find the cuisine on the Alo'oe is superb. Much better than you'd find on commercial liners or Starfleet ships." Amanda stood to make her exit. "I will see you then, dear."

As she started out the door, Spock entered. "We've left orbit," he informed the two women. "We should arrive at Canopus in 19.3 hours."

"Very good. I will see you at dinner, Spock," Amanda answered. "Until then, get some rest, dear." She shot a quick amused glance at his daughter-in-law and left, the door sliding closed behind her.

Spock turned back to his wife and walked across the room to her, a slight smile lifting the corners of his lips. "An excellent idea," he commented and Christine was delighted to see a certain look in his eyes. "Perhaps we *should* lie down for a while. The trip to Keldeen this morning must have made you tired."

Christine rose and slipped into his arms, lifting her face up to his kiss. "No, I'm not at all tired. But lying down *is* a good idea." She brought her mouth back up to his and this time her lips parted against his and her tongue slipped through his teeth to probe playfully against his. He responded enthusiastically and drew her closer, deepening the kiss.

When he lifted his lips from hers, she pressed her pelvis into his and moved her hips seductively against the wonderfully growing bulge she'd discovered there. "Unless you want to do it standing up, that is," she whispered, grinning wickedly.

* * *

The surgery took eight hours to complete and Spock sat like a stone in the waiting area the entire time. The Alo'oe had arrived to find the Enterprise already in orbit around Canopus 3. Kirk and McCoy had come down to join Spock in his vigil, McCoy wangling his way into the operating room as an observer. Amanda had sat quietly to herself, stitching contentedly on some sort of needlework that kept her hands busy during the long day.

Kirk had chatted with her for a while then attempted to engage his first officer in conversation, but the Vulcan had answered only laconically and finally the captain gave up the attempt. He read all the out of date literature lying around, then passed the time by flipping channels on the holoscreen built into the wall. The most interesting things on turned out to be a choice between a 50-year-old Aldebaran comedy series or a sales program featuring a sure-fire way to grow a luxurious rug on your apartment floor. After watching the sales pitch for a while and absently wondering whether his cabin would look better with a covering of purple-swirled fog or an ankle-deep golden grass, Kirk gave up and flipped back to the old comedy, even though he didn't speak Aldebaranese and could only vaguely figure out what was going on.

He was puzzling over the antics of the tentacled principles when Spock abruptly turned his head toward the door and Kirk looked up to find McCoy striding through them, still in surgical garb. He was smiling with assurance.

"Well, everything went just fine, Spock," the doctor announced. "Christine is in recovery and doing great. And the post-surgical genetic scans indicate that your daughter should have only the normal problems of skinned knees and teenage acne."

The joke was lost on Spock as he stood. "I fail to see how that affects the situation now."

McCoy looked over at Kirk and sighed elaborately. "You know, Jim, I think we shoulda done her a favor and clipped her ears while we were at it!"

Kirk laughed, more at Spock's offended expression than McCoy's attempt at humor, then said, "I'm glad it went well, Bones. Can Spock see Christine now? Or should she rest?"

"Oh, I think it'll be all right if he goes back. She'll be coming out of it soon and she might like him there. Though *why* beats the hell outa me! Come on, Spock."

"May I come as well?" asked Amanda.

McCoy smiled charmingly and motioned for mother and son to follow him through the doorway, leaving Kirk alone in the waiting area.

Kirk decided he needed some fresh air and wandered out onto the hospital's lushly landscaped lawn. Canopus 3 was remarkably Earth-like and the captain felt almost at home as he walked through the garden of flowers and shrubs. McCoy caught up with him there, now in street clothes.

"How's she doing?" Kirk asked.

"Awake and happy to have it over with," the doctor answered, falling into step beside him. "And happy to have Spock there, too." He shook his head. "Can you believe it, Jim? After all the years she chased him, I was flabbergasted when he did that about face and let her catch him. But, honestly, I've never seen him more content. You just can't figure out some people."

"Oh, I knew he'd come around sooner or later," Kirk mused. "I could see the sparks between them right after she came aboard."

McCoy quirked an eyebrow at him. "Well, you're more observant than I was. When did you first notice this fabled attraction?"

"When we were about to go down to Exo III and look for Roger Korby. She stood right up in his face and talked back to him and that impressed him, I think. All the other women on board have been so in awe of him that they practically quake in their boots when he's around."

"That's true," agreed McCoy. "Although I never noticed Uhura running from him."

"She doesn't run from anything," Kirk chuckled. "But there weren't any sparks between *them*. They just have a good working relationship and like each other as friends. Do you know that Spock would actually play that Vulcan lyre of his for Uhura to sing to? I never caught a performance but I heard they put on some pretty good concerts in the rec room."

McCoy nodded. "I went down for coffee one day and found Uhura actually playing it. I didn't think he'd let that thing out of his hands for love nor money. But he let her borrow it and play it."

Kirk shook his head. "Like you said ... go figure."

McCoy stretched and cracked the kinks out of his back. "Well, I don't know about you, Jim, but I'm up for a nice thick steak, so rare it moos when I stick a fork in it."

"Smothered in sauteed onions."

"And a big baked potato with all the trimmings."

"And a big cold glass of Markelian beer to wash it all down with."

McCoy's face was positively glowing with lust. "Let's go! I know of a tavern over on Port Street that serves it all just right."

"Don't tell me. Spacer's Landfall."

"On the nose."

Kirk grinned ferally. "I know it well. Let's go let Spock know we're leaving and then get out of here. There's a sirloin over there with my name on it!"

however, Kirk's communicator suddenly beeped.

Stopping, he retrieved it from his belt and flipped it open. "Kirk here."

"Uhura, Captain. We've just received a priority two message from Starfleet Command. We are to proceed immediately to Eta Cygnii and rendezvous with the Yorktown. The Klingons have attacked a Federation outpost in that area and we are to provide a show of force and patrol that area against further incursions."

"Acknowledged, Lieutenant. Dr. McCoy, Mr. Spock and I will beam back aboard shortly. Oh, and have Scotty send someone over to the Vulcan ship Alo'oe and retrieve our shuttlecraft. It's still stored in their bay. Kirk out."

The captain looked at his medical officer and sighed. "Well, guess we'll have to forget about that steak for the time being."

"Always seems to be our luck, doesn't it, Jim? Well, let's go get Spock."

They re-entered the hospital and McCoy led Kirk back into the recovery room near the operating suites. There they found a very weary Christine with Spock standing on one side of her bed and Amanda on the other. Kirk moved up and gently took her hand.

"How are you feeling, Christine?"

"Captain," she murmured. "I didn't know you were here."

He nodded. "Dr. McCoy and I have been here the whole day. Bones was in with you during the surgery." Christine nodded but didn't answer. "I'm glad you came through it so well. Now, I'm going to steal Spock from you for a few minutes." He squeezed her hand and looked up at his first officer, motioning him out of Christine's hearing.

Once they had moved away from the bed, Kirk said, "We've got our marching orders, Mr. Spock. Eta Cygnii has been attacked by the Klingons. We're to leave at once."

The Vulcan twitched up one eyebrow and nodded philosophically. "I suspected as much, sir. Would you give me a few minutes alone with her to say goodbye?"

"Of course, Spock." The men walked back over to the bed and Kirk spoke to Christine once more. "We have to leave, Christine," he said gently. "Duty calls. We'll keep in touch, though. Take care."

McCoy attempted to maintain a more professional demeanor at first then finally muttered, "Oh, the hell with it," and bent to kiss his head nurse soundly on the forehead.

That sent both of Spock's eyebrows soaring but McCoy merely stalked away gruffly. Kirk said, "We'll meet you out front, Mr. Spock. Amanda, it has been delightful seeing you again."

"Thank you, Captain. Doctor." She had overheard the whispered conversation between her son and his commanding officer and she knew that this leave-taking was for the long term. She turned to find Spock's eyes on her, his face solemn, and she understood. "I'm just going to step out into the hall for a moment. I'll be right back." And she left with the other two men.

Spock quietly turned and closed the privacy curtains around his wife's bed and her heart abruptly constricted as he did so. "It's time, isn't it?" she whispered.

He came back to stand beside her. "Yes," he answered in a soft voice, stroking his fingers down her face. "We've been assigned a mission and I must return to the Enterprise."

Tears welled up in her eyes and she gripped his hand and held it to her face. "I don't think I can stand it, Spock." Her eyes closed, tears began to roll down her face as she did her best not to give in to the sobs that threatened to take her.

He bent down and answered in a soft, urgent voice, "Christine, open your eyes and look at me. Look at me!"

With an effort, she did so and he quickly placed the fingertips of both hands on her wet face. Immediately, she felt his presence inside her mind and body, felt the incredible warmth of his love pour over her, felt his caring and protectiveness and strength surround her, and his rich deep voice spoke in her mind:

*I will never leave you, t'hy'la. Remember what I pledged to you in our bonding vows. 'Parted from me and never parted, never and always touching and touched, I take thee into my living soul until death shall tear me from thee.' I am bound to thee for all time, beloved -- heart and soul and body and mind. Through our Bond, you will feel my presence and I will feel yours. I will be there with you in your mind until I can return to you physically. Remember that.*

She sniffed and caught her breath, drawn into his intent dark eyes. *Spock...* she whispered back to him.

His expression softened and his fingers moved from mind-meld position to merely holding her face between his hands, caressing her. *I must go now, my beloved. Mother will care for you until you are recovered. And I will be back as soon as I can. I swear to you that I will.*

Christine sighed again and spoke aloud. "I know," she answered in a barely audible voice. She reached up to him and he leaned down into her arms. Still weak from the surgery she had just undergone, she nevertheless held him with all her strength, unwilling to let him go.

But finally, he drew out of their embrace and leaned down to take her mouth in a last, passionate kiss. Through their lips and their mindlink, they expressed all that they felt for one another.

Then Spock reluctantly straightened and gazed down at her for a long moment. "Goodbye, t'hy'la," he whispered, his voice rough with suppressed emotion. *I love you...*

She didn't trust herself to speak, for her throat was clogged once more with tears. Forcing himself to turn, Spock went through the curtains surrounding her bed and was gone.

She could hear the sound of his boots for a very long time as he walked away down the corridor.

The End