DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of T'Kuht and is copyright (c) 2001 by T'Kuht. I own no one or nothing. The idea is mine. It is a continuance to "Lover's Return" and another sequel to "I Started a Joke".



Desperado

T'Kuht



"Spock, you've been preoccupied the entire time you've been here," Leonard McCoy jabbed as he handed a plate of succotash over to the Vulcan.

"I fear that my mind is not on the particular gathering at this time," he admitted which nearly made Leonard drop the next plate.

Jim Kirk looked over at his friend. "Something wrong? Not your mother, is it?"

Spock shook his head, "No, Mother is well. It is another matter entirely. It is nothing that cannot be pushed aside while I am here."

Kirk nodded, "Good. I was telling McCoy that I hope to convince Carol to come the next time I visit. She's finally gotten to the point that she can be comfortable with me. I didn't realize it would take so long..."

Spock began thinking, yes, Kirk was having the same problem that he was. "Jim, may I ask, if I am not being too personal, how did you do it?"

McCoy's eyes narrowed. Spock had mentioned that one-sided affairs were just that one-sided... At the time he had assumed that he meant Christine's affection for him. Now, after he had spent two days there, he was not certain. He had been fairly close lipped, but the one time they had discussed what Christine was doing with her research, Spock had gone on for nearly an hour non-stop. It had been apparent then that something was definitely different with their Vulcan friend. Dawn was approaching again.

"No, you can ask, Spock. I just stayed this time. All the other times I've gone off and been away. This time, well, I didn't run. She's been in a lot of pain, we both have. Instead of turning from her when she began to tell me about her pain, I stayed there and listened. After a while, I began to tell her about my pain as well," he admitted. "Why?"

Spock stopped eating. "I was simply ... curious. Dr. Marcus is a remarkable person, and I knew that you wished to have some peace with her. I am pleased that you have found that."

Kirk continued talking about Carol Marcus, but Spock drifted off, some 1300 miles away to an apartment on Long Island.

* * *

Christine Chapel was not a happy woman. She had spent the better part of the first day of her devastating news cleaning up and talking to herself. She had put the stereo on blast and fairly vibrated the pictures off the walls as she tried to forget his words, "I can love. It has taken me 60 years to realize it. I do love ... you."

Now, she needed to go to work. She had someone who relied on every ounce of her professional ability to give them a chance at life again. The silver rose still remained fragrant and beautiful on her breakfast table. With more pain than she'd felt in years, she grabbed the rose, vase and all and opened the terrace. Flinging it as far as she could, she didn't watch to see where it hit or if it had caused any accidents on its way to shatter against the pavement.

* * *

Leonard McCoy couldn't handle it anymore. Jim Kirk went into town to get some supplies and he had the Vulcan there to himself. "Spock, out with it."

The moment Spock had dreaded for three days came. "I do not understand, Doctor."

"Something with you and Christine. I thought it was her feelings for you showing back up, but it's the opposite this time isn't it?" He didn't smile, not yet.

Spock hesitated, picked up a knick knack that McCoy had kept out of a two year old's grasp and waited to answer. It would not do to deny anything, but he did not wish to be needled about the situation either. "I have presented Dr. Chapel with a suitable agreement."

"A suitable agreement? What kind of agreement?"

"Marriage. She is ... considering at this time," he answered as if he were talking about a home loan.

McCoy laughed. "That's my girl. She's got you on the run, boy, and you don't like it."

The Vulcan pressed his lips together in a concerted line. This was precisely why he hadn't wanted to confide in McCoy. "The fact is, she is not precisely in favor of the idea."

That gave the old country doctor a start. He would have bet all the money in his bank account that she'd say yes without much hesitation. He also realized that Spock was rather upset with the situation. Softening his tone, he sat down on the overstuffed recliner that he favored. "Sit down, tell me about it."

Spock regarded the man so many had considered his sparring partner. He had thought talking to Jim might be best, but he was more preoccupied with his own attempts at romance than anything else at the time. Perhaps McCoy, he did know Christine better than anyone else after all. "There is not much to tell. We met quite by accident. Mutual friends gave both of us tickets to a dinner and since then, we have kept company of a sort."

"Kept company? You mean dated?" he asked wanting to be completely clear.

"No, I would not term it dating."

"But, you've spent time together. What have you done?" McCoy asked.

"We have attended a musical production, watched films, eaten meals, we have also been the scrutiny of a rather unusual item in the New York Times social column. That and the interview that she had nearly destroyed everything." Spock's tone was so sincere in his manner regarding their time together, that McCoy knew he was not just playing the field the way Jim did. Spock was completely serious about wanting her.

"You mean the one that compared her to Frankenstein?"

"You have seen it?"

"No, she told me about it. Why would that have anything to do with you?"

"We were mentioned at the end of the interview. The commentator insinuated that she would not be able to pay attention to her work because we were seen in each other's company. There is even a photograph that makes it appear as if I am kissing her."

McCoy needed a drink. "Remind me to move to New York. So, she's been smeared in the press again. Did you kiss her?"

Spock was shocked. "No, she had an eyelash in her eye. I removed it. We knew nothing of the picture until the interview two days later. She had spent the evening at my apartment and..."

"Whoa ... hold it ... back up. She slept with you?"

"Certainly not. She stayed in the guest room. It was too late to drive back from Newport to Long Island when we finished coffee, so she stayed, in the pajamas that Miss Uhura presented me on my birthday."

"Oh, those gawd awful things. Okay, so everything's been innocent fun up till now. What made the proposal so awkward?"

Spock thought a moment. It had been a complete misunderstanding. "I had not intended to propose to her in that fashion at that time. We were to have a celebratory dinner, but I was not aware of it. By the way the table was set and the mysterious content of her message and the way she began, I assumed..."

"You assumed, and you just leapt ahead with the suggestion thereby catching her completely off guard and probably frightening her out of her wits," McCoy concluded.

Spock was amazed. "Yes, how did you know that?"

"I know Chris. She's not one for surprises and prefers things to be laid out on the table the whole time. Did you even hint that you might wish a more intimate relationship up until that time?"

"No, I have been a gentleman toward her in all regards."

The two men sat, one a been-there-done-that human, the other a wet- behind-the-ears Vulcan. "Well, let's see if we can't find a few things you can do to mend the situation when you get back," McCoy decided and the brainstorming began.

* * *

Christine did not pray as such. She sent up silent prayers when she was happy, thankful, grateful, even distressed. But, she was not a knees to the floor reverent person. Now however, she might give it a try. The surgery to implant the first neuro-transtator into Vita Meyerson was complete. Now, they had to wait. Feeling the urge to spend massive amounts of time in a meditative state or at least one of penitence, she hesitated to go into the hospital's chapel. But something drew her here.

The room reminded her of the small private one aboard the Enterprise. It had been so sterile, non-denominational. This one was the same. Choosing a pew near the back of the room, she sat for a time just drinking in the quiet atmosphere. She was the only one there.

She had so many things to ponder. Her life had been one rather dull roller coaster ride. There were some big dips and twists at the middle, but the beginning and the end were fairly smooth sailing, until now. Spock, the mere mention of his name made her heart squeeze tightly and at the same time leap with joy. Why couldn't he have just been content to be friends? She needed friends. What she didn't need was someone wanting to start a family. That was something else she hadn't thought of. As the only heir of Sarek's line of the House of Surak, he would be expected to produce children. She could not longer do that. Even if she could physically provide children, she was no longer in the right mind-set to raise them. Her work was her child now. She had to concentrate on the millions that she wished to benefit. After all, the good of the many outweighed the good of the one...

* * *

Vita Meyerson woke after the surgery to find she felt no different. It was to be expected. Dr. Chapel had said as much when they'd had their pre-procedure discussions. It would be at least several days before anything could be discovered. The constant pain in the lower extremities was still there, but with the anesthesia, it was fading. She had been in pain from Bar-Chorii Syndrome for five years, but it had just now gotten to crippling strength. When she'd read about Dr. Chapel's work and need for a guinea pig, she'd not thought twice. It would do no harm and might allow her to go back to teaching in the classroom again.

"How are you feeling?"

"Dr. Chapel ... no different," she said with a smile.

"Well, at least no worse right? I want to hear from you everyday, if you can't come into the office, I will come to you. No matter what, twinges, numbness, any type of sensation that you are not used to having. You are the only one that knows what you are feeling so I'm going to rely heavily on what you think. And don't try to second guess your feelings. If you do that, you'll talk yourself into or out of whatever the truth is. Is that understood?" Christine Chapel said with her best smile. She liked Vita, they were of a kind.

"You can count on me. Believe me, I've been cooped up in that apartment of mine for a year now trying to get along without teaching in the real world. I want to get back to my life."

Christine was strangely intrigued. Vita told her she was a teacher, loved little kids. According to her records, she was 60 years old, but really didn't look nearly that. She had a bubbly personality despite the Bar-Chorii Syndrome. "Do you find your life rewarding, I mean being alone?"

"As long as I'm working, but this last year stuck without my kids ... it's been miserable. I spend most of my time sitting watching my fish. I still have contact with the kids, but it's through the monitors and messages. I don't have any hands-on contact," the dark featured woman answered. In ways, she reminded Christine of Uhura, but with a little more matronly nature.

Christine nodded. She was the same. When she was at work or with others she was fine, but it was those nights alone that she dreaded. Not wanting to tire her patient out, she patted her on the hand. "Well, I'll let you go back to sleep and if you feel all right, you should be able to go home tomorrow."

* * *

Ken Donaldson met Christine as he started out of Starfield. "Well?"

"Nothing yet, but it's too soon anyway. Where are you off to?"

"Anne wants to meet me for lunch, and then we're going shopping," he said a little surreptitiously.

"Make sure to remember blue is for boys, pink for girls," his boss answered with a sly smile.

"How'd you know?"

"Spock told me. Apparently Anne told him. Congratulations, you know I'll expect to get a cigar when they arrive," Christine teased.

"You'll get a whole damned plantation," Ken agreed and hurried through the ever falling snow to his skimmer.

Jenna was gone for the day already. Her son was going to his father's for the holiday, and she was heading to her parents. The place was quiet, empty, and dull. Just the way Christine liked to do her work, no distractions or people calling on her. Settling in her office, she started up her computer console, started to run through the log entries for the different stages of the different experiments going on at the time and found herself completely missing several of them as her mind worked through what she'd been talking to Vita about.

Here she was, successful, prosperous, contributing to the betterment of civilization, and alone. She had no family to spend holidays with nor did she wish to intrude on friends who did have. Spock ... again the name squeezed her heart off. He offered her a family. But she had not lied when she said she was not the marrying kind. She was set in her ways, she imagined that life with a man, let alone a Vulcan would be so different than what she was accustomed to now that it would not work. When she was younger, so much younger, and Roger had been her life's desire, she would easily have done what it took to be the perfect wife. Now, she was her own person, it would not be so easy to just stand by and allow someone else to make the decisions in the matters of her personal affairs. Judging from what she'd seen of Sarek and Amanda's marriage, she did not know how she would handle this two steps behind routine they had. The mere idea was like bitter herbs in her mouth. Spock was not his father, nor was he a pawn of Vulcan society or he'd have been bound and gagged long ago. Still, she was human and female, he was Vulcan and male, and there were rules. Shutting down the monitor, she suddenly felt very ill at ease here in this building all alone. She had to get out.

* * *

"Spock, are you sure you do not wish to attend the christening ceremony? So far we've just got me, Chekov, and Scotty. Bones here won't even hear of spreading his atoms out all over space one last time," Jim Kirk asked as they walked past one of the local establishments that he and McCoy favored.

"I have other duties that will keep me from attending. It is simply a media relations trip, is it not?"

"Yeah, you know, drag the new ship out with the old crew and let it sail around the block a few times and then park it for a while. I hear Captain Sulu is contributing a vital piece to the new ship," James Kirk said with a smile.

"Yes, Miss Uhura and Dr. Chapel were saying that Demora Sulu is to be the helm officer. The ship will be well taken care of," Spock replied. Kirk knew that Spock had seen both of their former crewmates before but just now realized what he had been talking about all week.

"Spock, you're hiding something?"

"Not at all Captain," he replied and the two bosom companions of thirty years stood looking at each other almost as if they'd never seen each other before. Kirk realized that the Spock he knew was know longer there. He had changed when the old Enterprise had been decommissioned and retirement had set in. This Spock was new, in ways the same, and in ways a completely separate entity than his best friend. Kirk realized also that he must seem just as strange to Spock. They'd grown apart in such a short time. Before he had always felt as if Spock needed him, leaned on him for support, and companionship. Now, he did not feel that with his friend. Spock no longer required him to be the only one in his life to remain loyal to. Kirk didn't know whether to be sad or happy. It did tell him that he was free now, the one thing that had kept him from Carol Marcus was the overwhelming fear that his friends still had to have his undivided attention. He could go home to her now and be the Jim Kirk she had wanted when David wasn't even born yet.

* * *

"Kara, how have you enjoyed school?"Christine Chapel said as she played with the five-year-old.

"I have fun every day," she replied and replaced the yellow block that Christine held with a blue one. She was building a castle and the colors had to be perfect.

"She is one of the brightest in the class the teacher says," Madeline Birch said as she watched the joy of her life play with the woman responsible for her health.

"I knew she was a smart one," Christine said. She had found herself driving through the neighborhood that the Birch's lived in after leaving Starfield and remembered the promise she'd made to visit. She knew it was the day before Thanksgiving and usually people had plans, but they had graciously invited her inside.

"Do you want to see me read my book?" she asked and Christine grinned.

Retrieving a paper copy of a simple reader, she let Christine hold it while she read the words, "See Spot. See Spot run. See Spot chase the cat. The cat runs up the tree. Spot barks at the cat. The end."

The little girl was nearly smothered in hugs. "I want to draw you a picture."

Allowing her to get up and go over to the little table that was set up for activities, the bright eyed girl arranged her crayons and the paper just so before beginning. Madeline and Darryl both watched her with glee. Christine asked, "She is still taking the ferizadone?"

"She's been able to taper off, but she still gets a pill a day. She has ear infections, runny noses, all the maladies that the kids get, but she's not had a relapse," Darryl answered. She had been home free for three years now and hopefully would remain so for the rest of her life.

The three adults talked quietly while Kara colored to her heart's content. When she finished she presented the masterpiece. "For you."

Christine accepted it as if it were the Nobel Prize. "Thank you, oh, it's so pretty. What is this?"

"That is you and me and the sun and a dog and that man you were with at my party."

Christine was taken aback at that. She had remembered Spock even though he had not even spoken to her. Treasuring the paper, she smiled, "Well, I hear that you are going to go see Grandma. I need to get going, but I want to check on her progress every once in a while if that is all right?"

Madeline and Darryl showed her to the door. She had a difficult time getting her coat on with a five year old attached to her leg. "You will always be welcome here, Dr. Chapel."

The sun was setting and cast odd bluish shadows over the snow that was piling up again. It appeared that this winter would be early. She started home to a very cold and lonely apartment.

* * *

He only remembered being this anxious one other time, his first Pon Farr. He was not shaking or uncontrollable, but he was being driven to distraction. He had been back from the visit with Kirk and McCoy for nearly a week. He had vowed that he would not call her, not push, not even suggest. He found that he was having a problem keeping that vow. He had told his mother of the situation, and she in turn had spoken to Sarek. Sarek decided that the best thing for Spock was work. He allowed Spock to write a draft of the new treaty to Sigma Iotia II. There was an advantage to having been in deep space for many years and having been there first hand to start the ball rolling before the diplomats rolled in. Spock did not have to be briefed on the planet's inhabitants or customs nor did he have to familiarize himself with their political structure. He was deeply engrossed in the negotiations for trade when a voice stopped him. "So, how was Leonard?"

His eyes met the woman's he wished to marry. They were unreadable, completely blank. She had done well to copy the Vulcan methods of hiding emotions. "They wished me to send you greetings."

She smiled, a half melancholy smile that said she was not happy. Indicating the door, she said, "May I?"

"Please do," he answered and took that moment to switch off the monitor as well as any outside form of communication. He did not wish to be bothered.

She looked around the small office. "It's smaller than the one on the Enterprise."

"Yes, but it serves my purpose. Would you care to sit?" He offered the large chair that sat next to the heat grate. It was so warm in the office, but Christine felt chilled to the bone.

She refused the chair, went to stand next to the window and looked out for a moment. "We need to talk."

Spock said nothing. She did not sound as if she wished to leap into his arms or begin choosing new slipcovers for their furniture. Her expression was more a deep bell signaling disaster. "Yes, I imagine that we do."

She did not turn. "I have given your ... proposal ... a great deal of thought. In fact, it has been annoyingly persistent in my thoughts these last two weeks even though I'm supposed to be concentrating on Vita's condition."

Spock interrupted a moment, "How is she?"

"She's not improved substantially enough to warrant celebration yet. But, it's still early. I have to keep telling myself that," the physician answered and turned to capture the Vulcan's eyes. "I have a good many questions. I have tried to make sense of things and without answers I cannot complete my findings," she sounded as a researchist would who was trying to remain unemotionally involved.

His mother's voice echoed in his head, Tell her the absolute truth whatever it is or no matter how much it hurts. Spock nodded, "I will answer whatever you wish to ask."

With a deep breath, she hesitated. She knew she should have written them down. "Why?"

He had practiced this one, had gone over it so many times in his sleepless nights that it had become a mantra of sorts. "You are a remarkable woman. I find that I wish to spend my life with you."

She accepted that. "Why now?"

He knew this one as well. "Mother says that we have always been fated for each other but that it was not until now that we could actually be together without self-destructing."

She thought a moment. "Can you explain that better?"

Spock thought, he desperately wanted to present her with the correct answers to her questions. "She pointed out that if I had not reacted toward you the way that I did, you would not now be you. If I had responded to you the way that you wished many years ago, would Kara be alive today?"

That made her pause. She considered carefully what he said. Continuing, "What makes you certain that I should respond to you now?"

Spock had no answer. Why should she change her life's path now when it was so set? He took so long to answer that she prompted him, "Well?"

"I do not know the answer. I am sorry," he replied, his voice deeper, tinged with sadness and regret.

"It's not a test, Spock," she answered with a little sarcastic laugh.

Spock's head popped up, he managed to look at her without the pain in his eyes showing too much. "Is it not? If I do not answer correctly the way you wish, will you not spurn me? Will you not turn and walk away and be gone forever?"

The two remained frozen in time. Christine shook her head. "No, I won't be gone forever. I'll always be here. But, perhaps not the way you wish. I am not giving you my decision. I just have to know what is going on. I don't have very many pieces of the puzzle to work with. After twenty five years, you'd think I'd know more about you."

That lighter tone in her voice gave him hope. "Tell me what I can do."

"Answer me honestly, or as honestly as you can. Don't tell me what you think I want to hear just to please me because it won't. Be patient, understanding. I will try to give you an answer as quickly as I can."

"Do not rush to answer the question," he replied trying to get her to realize that this was not a race or a contest. He did not want any split second decisions.

She nodded, remembered something else she was going to ask, one that was a little more personal. "You said something when Uhura was here. Will you answer it?"

"Of course."

"You said that seeing her nude was nothing new to you?"she asked, trying not to sound catty. He smiled a touch. She was jealous, that was an excellent sign.

"I believe I did not say that seeing Miss Uhura nude was new, I made the statement in general. I am well aware of the human female's physiology," he answered and at her questioning look, backed by a bit of mirth, he rephrased it. "I should say that the textbooks are quite explicit in their photography."

"All right, you're off that hook. One hears rumors," she said. Her eyes held a spark of delight behind them and he cherished that sight.

"I have one more question, well, more than one, but a major one that I don't expect you to answer at this time. I would like to know about Valeris," she posed and watched him carefully. His brows twitched, the eyes seemed to dull, his breathing stopped for a moment. The rumors had not been false.

"What would you like to know?"

"Not now. I have to go. Come to my apartment on Friday," she decided. With a slight smile, one she couldn't resist she said, "You never have cooked for me."

Spock nodded. "The last time I tried, you nearly died."

She laughed, a good laugh accompanied by a smile that lit the room for a moment before it faded. The melancholy expression took over again. He kept that laugh and smile in his mind to hold onto for the rest of the longest week of his life.

* * *

Friday arrived, it took a year, but it finally arrived. Christine was more than a little nervous. She was filled with near dread. She had sent word to Spock to arrive after 1800 so that she would have time to get home from work and change. It wasn't quite 1730, and she had fluffed all the pillows, straightened all the books, arranged all the items in the apartment at least three times. She had chosen a simple uninviting black dress. In fact, it was quite frumpy compared to the rest of her wardrobe, but it was perfect. The picture that Kara Birch had drawn for her was framed and sat above her mantel with the rest of her pictures. It always brought a smile to her lips. Nearly driven insane waiting, she decided to try music to soothe her savage breast. "Computer, music selection #3, shuffle."

The familiar simple melody of a piano score played through the room and the words of a classic rock tune filled the air. "Desperado ... why don't you come to your senses? You've been out riding fences for so long now. Oh, you're a hard one, but I know that you've got your reasons. These things that are pleasing you have hurt you somehow. Don't ya draw the Queen of Diamonds, boy, she'll beat you if she's able. You know the Queen of Hearts is always your best bet. Now it seems to me some fine things have been laid upon your table, but you only want the ones that you can't get. Desperado ... oh, you ain't gettin' any younger, your pain and your hunger they're drivin' you home. And freedom, oh freedom, is just some people talking. Your prison is walkin' through this world all alone. Don't your feet get cold in the wintertime? The sky won't snow and the sun won't shine. It's hard to tell the nighttime from the day. You're losing all your highs and lows, ain't it funny how the feeling goes away.... Desperado ... why don't you come to your senses? Come down from your fences, open the gate. It may be raining, but there's a rainbow above you ... you'd better let somebody love you... You'd better let somebody love you ... before it's too late..."

The words rang in her ears, would not fade, and the music switched to another song that she did not hear. Closing her eyes and placing her head on the mantel, she gave up the last shred of doubt that she had.

* * *

It was forever before the signal from the security man sounded and she replied. It would take two minutes for Spock to arrive at her front door. Turning the music off, she waited. The door buzzed. She didn't answer. "Open the door," she muttered to herself. Finally as if someone had pushed her from behind she twisted the door knob. Spock, all of Vulcan dignity and unreadable calm, stood at her door. From his appearance she could not tell if he was pleased she had opened the door or not. He stepped inside. He carried no wine, no flowers, only himself. "Dr. Chapel."

"Spock, did you have trouble with the weather?" she asked noting the amount of melted snow on his cloak.

"It was proving to be hazardous," he said, not mentioning that he had actually ended up in a ditch and had to be pushed out. Luckily, he had started early and ended up arriving on time.

"So, uh..." Christine began, both of them were awkward.

Spock picked up the conversation, "You wished to know about Valeris. I am prepared to answer now if you chose, or I can cook."

Christine had no appetite. "No, we might as well get the matter out in the open."

Spock nodded. Moving past her to stand staring out her terrace windows into the darkness, he began, "I sponsored Valeris' entry to Starfleet. She was a credit to her class and her heritage. I found myself attracted to her. Her youth, her perfect control, her accomplishments were all held in high regard by her peers and elders on Vulcan. I wished..."

He paused. He had shoved everything back to keep from feeling it and now was being forced to reveal all. He could almost feel his heart bleeding from the old wounds. "I wished... I wished her to replace me as first officer and science officer aboard the Enterprise. I wished her to fill the place I would leave when I retired. I was led to believe that she held the same views that I did regarding the future of the Federation. As you are well aware, she did not."

That was what Christine already knew. That much was in the news vids. Still, there had to be more. There was too much pain in his tone to be simply betrayal of a student. "And?"

It took nearly two minutes for him to answer. "I also wished her to be my bondmate. I envied her ability at such a young age to control her mind. I found it shielded entirely even during meld exercises. I now realize that if her mind had not been so strong, and I such a blind idiot, Gorkon might still be alive."

"You really think that? I don't. If Gorkon had been meant to die, he would, and we both know that. As it occurred, peace was established. If you had found out the plot when you did, peace might not have been so easy."

He turned on her. "Easy, you call the endangerment of Jim and Dr. McCoy easy?" he asked not believing what he heard. His eyes flared a little. This was still a very fresh wound.

"No, I mean it really did not cost that many lives. If you look at it from a militaristic point of view... That's what I heard when things had blown over at HQ. Please, keep going," she said, sorry that she ever interrupted him.

"Valeris was everything that had been upheld to me. She was the perfect, Vulcan choice. I also found that she was cold, calculating, devastating in her logic. I could not stand her when this was revealed."

Christine remembered the incident on the bridge that Uhura had spoken of, when Spock had practically ripped the information out of her mind in anger. The whole sight was more barbaric than if she'd been beaten at the mast. Christine ventured out on a limb. "Spock, had you bonded with her already?"

Spock's eyes, those dark depths grew wet with tears that were not shed. "We shared a meld, not one strong enough to bond us fully as T'Pring and I experienced when we were seven, but it was there nevertheless. It was more what on Earth would be considered a 'promissory' bond. Miss Uhura has no doubt discussed the incident on the bridge with you. I severed that link with Valeris at that time. It was not only distasteful, it was wrong to do it in such a fashion."

Spock, the most gentle man she'd ever met, had done such a deliberately vicious act. She was almost sickened but at the same time realized that he did feel deeply just as she had always believed. "I purposely hurt her to assert control over the situation. It was unpardonable."

"Did you love her?"

Spock met those eyes. She wanted honesty, nothing less would do. "No, I do not believe I did. I did not feel for her what I feel for you. They are similar but not the same. The feelings that I have for you are strong, deep, without boundary. With Valeris there were things that I did not wish to find out about her. I have yet to find anything about you that I found distasteful or unable to understand after some time."

Christine smiled slightly, she allowed the corners of her mouth to crinkle the laugh lines around her eyes. "What makes you certain that you won't?"

Spock drew a breath, held it. Allowed what he thought to flow out without pondering it beforehand. "I have touched your mind. I have seen nothing that would preclude such behavior. I have known you a long time. You have been consistent and remained true to the character that you have presented. I believe I can say that I know you well enough to trust your reactions. You are not a flighty woman, you are a scientist with a highly scientific mind. You work out problems in the same manner that I do. We are able to see the same results from a project."

"We're compatible, in other words," she said echoing what he had said the night she had accidentally proposed to him.

"Yes." He remained silent. He could think of nothing else to say.

Christine walked over to the mantel. With her back to him, she said, "I will not walk two paces behind." She turned to face him proudly. "If I do not walk beside you, I will not be there."

Spock nodded. "I would not ask you to walk behind me."

"I am set in my ways and bossy," she added.

"Dr. McCoy would say that I am stubborn and unwilling to listen to reason."

"My work must be of primary importance," she said watching his expression.

"Of course, as must mine at times."

Now, she hesitated, looked away from him to the fire in the fireplace. It gave her a strange quality to be seen with that amber light playing across her features. "I cannot provide you with heirs."

Spock took a step forward. "I do not require heirs."

"But your family, the Vulcan way, does it not stress the continuation of the Houses?"

"My father is still alive. My mother will die. He will remarry. He may have more heirs than I."

That seemed to shock her into a little silence. Spock continued, "If I had wished someone who could do no more than provide children, I could have chosen a twelve year old." He took another step toward her. The movement caught her attention.

Facing him, her eyes bored through him challengingly. "I'm frightened."

That was it. With one more step he was within arms length of her. She was stiff, unyielding. With a whisper so low she almost did not catch it, he said, "As am I."

With a sigh, she relented, gave into the logic of the situation. "Yes."

It was the most beautiful word he'd heard in his life. She wished to be his. Almost as if seeing a ghost standing in front of him, he reached out, brushed her cheek with his hand, regarded her as if she were a new life form. She allowed him to touch her, kept a steady gaze into his dark brown eyes. If she was a fool, she was a damned fool. Dropping his hand, he dared not touch her again.

"Spock?" she asked a little confused.

"You are real?" he asked with that little boy expression he'd had since being reborn. He said it as if she were going to melt away from him.

"Yes, are you?"

He nodded. To prove it, she moved closer to him, grasped his hand, pulled it up to her mouth, brushed the hot fingertips with her lips. He remembered the incident in sickbay as if it were yesterday. His free hand came up to touch her left shoulder, run down the length of her arm. She shivered. It was not from the cold but the excitement that went through her. "There are things that occur..." he began. Swallowed hard, regained composure. "If you wish, we can bond now. Officially we cannot be married until we have traveled to Vulcan for the ceremony. We can also be married as per human custom. You will have a church wedding."

"I don't need one. A justice of the peace will be fine. That is, unless you would care to have a little more formal ceremony," she answered.

"I would like to have our friends. Do you not wish to be joyful at this time?" he asked. She seemed so reserved, calm, almost resigned as if it were a decision she hadn't wanted to make.

"Yes, it's just so ... I had a hard time making this decision. It's not that I'm not happy, I'm just worn out. Would it be so difficult to wait? We are practically strangers to each other. I don't know what your favorite color is or whether you snore or what type of toothpaste you prefer."

"I am particularly drawn to the brown spectrum, I do not snore no matter what Dr. McCoy says, and toothpaste is a matter of no consequence," he answered with a tone of teasing. They were his parents already. She smiled for him. "But, if you prefer, we can wait. There is no rush to marry. We have all the time in the world."

"Then shall we say we are engaged ... it will give us a chance to get to know each other, enjoy time. It would also give me more time to devote to Vita and her condition. I did say that my work would be extremely important," Christine reminded after his expression changed slightly.

"Indeed. An engagement, for how long a period?" he asked wishing to be clear on their understanding.

Christine thought a moment. "We both admit that we are frightened of each other, and I dare say the idea of being married. When there is no more fear, or at least the fear is greatly outweighed by the joy, but until then, do not worry about my loyalty to you."

Spock shook his head, took her face in his hands. "I never doubted for a moment."

He kissed her so tenderly she was almost afraid he hadn't even done it. She felt a surge of exquisite pleasure go from her head to the tip of her big toe. That was something else she'd have to deal with. She'd had herself cut off from affection for so long she was afraid she didn't work correctly. That simple act assured her that everything was connected to the correct spots. Looking up with mischievous eyes, she asked, "So, what are you going to cook?"

He allowed her the smile that he kept hiding behind his eyes all the time when he teased his human friends. It was the smile he had learned from his father. "So, you wish to marry me for my cooking ability?"

"I could say the same for you. After all, I can boil water." Yes, it would be a marriage made in Heaven.

They spent the night over a dinner of steamed rice with braised vegetables and a Vulcan dessert of pastry that was rolled so thinly that it melted when it touched the tongue. They delighted in each other's presence, but made no move to show overly affectionate moves.

"The snow is really piling up, I don't know how well the roads will be," Christine was saying as she watched the traffic below. It wasn't moving at all.

Spock revealed his difficulty at arriving. "I spent fifteen minutes trying to get out of a ditch on the way here."

"You didn't tell me. Well, there is no way I'll allow you to go out in this then. You'll simply have to stay here," she replied with complete innocence. Then, with a hint of deviltry, she continued, "Unfortunately, Uhura hasn't given me any gaudy pajamas. I guess you'll have to make do with a pair of old sweats and a T-shirt."

Spock did not answer, allowed his eyes to follow her as she walked back to the bedroom to retrieve the clothes she spoke of. It was so overwhelming. Without caring, he allowed the tears to flow down his cheeks. Their release lifted a burden he had carried for so long that he now felt decades younger. She returned before he could dry them.

"What's wrong? You've changed your mind," she assumed, and her eyes were panic stricken.

Taking the clothes she carried, he pulled her toward him on the couch. "No, that is not the reason at all. Do you not feel this...?"

His hand grasped hers lightly. She was a little confused. "Yes, I feel you holding my hand."

"No, this ... being one. I find myself so overwhelmed by this simple touch. I am as a child that has sought the answer to a question and finally finding that it has been in front of him the entire time. You are my answer, Christine. The others were simply clues to what I really needed."

Now she had tears, they trickled off her lashes, splashed across his nose as she leaned forward to kiss him. Her lips tasted of the dessert that he had prepared, the naturally salty taste of humans, and the tea she preferred with large amounts of sugar. It was not a pressing kiss. She did not maneuver him down on the couch in an unbridled ardor, but it was one of infinite sweet passion. She kissed him as a shy lover who wished to be genteel and mild. He did not wish to change that. He wanted to know every possible angle of her before they fully bonded and shared wedded desires. He wished to memorize every curl of her hair, every freckle on her face, he had never noticed she had a light splay of freckles before. He let out a low chuckle.

"What?"

"Simply enjoying the view," he stated.

Christine straightened, spread her hands out in a magnanimous gesture. "And?"

"I approve, heartily," he decided.

"So, what do old married Vulcan couples do on cold snowy evenings at home?"

"There is no snow on Vulcan, and I would not know actually. As you are well aware, my mother is human. I have never seen a full Vulcan couple enjoy an evening in each others company," he explained and tugged at her hand to get her to sit beside him. She took the hint.

"Hmm, well, humans do several things, but we'll not get into details. We could watch it snow. I always enjoy that. It's soothing, almost hypnotic," she suggested and turned so that she faced the window. It was quickly an awkward position to be in. She squirmed. Spock had an idea. Standing, he pulled her up with him and moved the end table. "This will be more suitable," he said and began shifting the heavy couch across the floor. Rearranging it so that it looked out the window as well as the fire, he resumed his position at one end of the couch. Christine went to the illumination panel and turned the lights in the room down to nearly complete darkness. The footlights around the baseboard were the only illumination other than the crackling fireplace. Returning to the couch she sank down to be firmly held by a content Vulcan's arms. They sat that way watching the snow flutter and tumble to the ground far below them. It was blowing off the roof and swirling in the heights of the penthouse apartment. Out on the Sound they could see lights from various ships' beacons blinking and warning buoys with their steady rhythm. Their breathing fell into an easy steady cadence with each other, the muscles relaxed, the heartbeats became one. Nuzzling his chin on Christine's shoulder, he whispered, "I love you." Her small moan of almost painful delight was his only answer. He held her until she fell asleep in his protective arms.

Sleeping encased in a Vulcan's grasp all night on a rather uncomfortable couch had done its damage. She was stiff all over. As the morning light beat onto her face, it woke her from the sound slumber. Squirming a little, Spock roused and let go of her. "Something wrong?"

"No, just need to get up and move about. I never could get a good night's rest on this couch," she complained and turned to regard her fiancé. He was not mussed, every hair was in place. Taking a hand and tousling his hair so that it was disheveled, she laughed.

"Why did you do that?" he asked and smoothed the hair back down. He did not like having it out of place.

"Because, you are too perfect in the morning. Believe me, I am not anywhere that nice looking first thing."

Spock's eyes smiled and his lips soon followed. Reaching out to capture a stray curl, he set it in place. "Perfect."

She honestly lost her breath. Such an act from this man who she had tried with all her heart and soul to forget undid her. Her cheeks flushed and she lowered her eyes shyly. "No, never perfect. Neither of us. I'm going to take a shower. Can you start breakfast?"

"I can boil water..." he teased lightly.

"Well, you'd better get used to it. I might demand breakfast in bed," she said as she headed for the bath.

Spock allowed that comment to stop him. She preferred to have the last word in conversations. He'd let her. Going to the guest bath long enough to perform the morning ablutions, he had the tea done before she emerged dressed and coifed.

"At least the snow has stopped. It seems to have snowed a lot quite early this year."

"No doubt due to the El Nino effect in California," Spock replied.

"So, what did you have planned for the day?"

Spock paused the toast partway to his lips. He had meant to spend it with her if she chose. "I do not have plans, as such."

"Oh, well, I need to check on Vita. Would you like to come with me?" she asked, providing him with the opportunity he wished to be with her.

"I shall be very interested in meeting her. Perhaps we could then go to the embassy," he suggested.

Christine looked over the mug of tea. He obviously wished to announce their engagement as quickly as possible. "I suppose we should get it over with."

Spock exhaled almost violently. Rising from the breakfast table, he turned to the terrace windows before speaking. "You have accepted my proposal, I do not understand this reticence and almost regretful tone that you have."

Christine sipped more tea before answering. "Spock, I tried to tell you the night this all started. I haven't loved anyone, allowed myself to love anyone for so long that it's almost impossible to even conceive of the task now. I put myself in a prison so long ago. You held the key then as you do now. You've opened the door to my heart, but as a prisoner afraid to leave the safe confines of the jail, I can't seem to make myself walk out the door. I guess I'm just afraid, that's all. I would think that you would also feel the same way. Your own personal 'love life' for lack of a better term is not sterling."

Spock nodded, returned to the table. Christine reached out a hand, placed it on his, gave him a wistful, melancholy smile. He returned the gesture. He had assumed that she would go willingly into the relationship with smiles and laughter. Now, he could see that it was more frightening to her than being alone. Tears began to form in her eyes. "I don't know what I'll do if something happens to you."

"I do not plan on going anywhere."

"You know what I mean. It nearly killed me when you died. I don't want to feel that pain again." The tears spilled down her cheeks. It hurt so badly to finally be able to call him hers when she knew how much she could lose.

"I cannot guarantee how and when I will die, neither can you. If you were to die tomorrow, I would grieve the time we could have had and lost, but I would rejoice that for a moment in time, I had a woman who was truly one with me," he argued. It worked. She laughed through her tears.

"All right, we'll go to the embassy. I have to thank your mother for training you so well with the cooking... Your parents, will they approve? I am not Vulcan," she reminded.

"My parents not only approve but have both conspired and offered endless hours of advice. My mother was about to have me reading romance novels."

"Oh, my God!!!" she nearly spewed tea at him. Picturing Spock as this half nude romantic hero with a sword and she as the scantily clad heroine was enough to have her in fits for most of the afternoon.

* * *

Vita Meyerson's apartment was redesigned to take in the wheelchair that she used to maneuver around to keep the pain from her legs at a minimum. Pictures from children were pasted everywhere. Christine introduced Spock to her. "Vita, I'd like you to meet someone ... quite special to me,"she said with a twinkle in her eyes.

Vita took in the Vulcan with one glance, smiled, "Let me guess ... your boyfriend?"

Christine smiled, "How did you know?"

"The way he looks at you. Love is universal. This is a little sudden. Yesterday when I saw you, you were quite depressed."

"Well, that was yesterday. Today I am learning to fly again."

Spock decided to turn the subject to Vita's legs. "Are you finding any relief from the pain?"

Vita thought a moment. "You know, I don't know if it's really that much, but this morning when I got up I didn't seem as stiff. I am usually so stiff I can barely move. But this morning ... I don't want to get your hopes up though I did take some medicine before I went to bed."

Christine nodded and noted it on her data calculations. "Remember I told you, anything no matter how little or trivial. If we find that the implant works better or worse along with certain medications, that's excellent. It gives us something to base other designs on."

They visited for another hour, making certain that Christine had every pertinent detail on her subject. Spock asked about the children she taught. Vita in turn wanted to know about this odd couple. She had known Dr. Chapel just a few short weeks, but she felt a protective affection for her.

* * *

Amanda was in tears. Sarek sighed, "She always cries at weddings."

Christine corrected. "We're not married ... yet, just engaged. I wanted to get to know this man I've known for so long."

Amanda hugged her. "You will marry him, though. Say you will and make him happy."

"I will marry him. Whether I make him happy or not, well, that's just as much his responsibility as mine. But, he does make me very happy," she admitted. The prisoner was beginning to walk toward the door.

"Have you talked about when?"

"No, honestly, I've been so overwhelmed that just realizing we are going to be together is enough to deal with now."

Sarek nodded toward his son. They had things to discuss before any of the rest of the proceedings could occur. They retired to the study while Amanda and Christine chatted in the living room.

"You have bonded with her then?" his father asked as he took his customary seat in the bay window.

"No, she wishes to wait a time. I agreed. I find that I too am having ... some amount of anxiety."

"You now do not wish to marry her?" he asked, about to shake his son physically.

"I wish to marry her. It is that to touch her mind in that manner, to become totally one with her, I ... fear that," he waited for rebuke from his father. There was none.

"It is understandable. As your mother would say, once bit, twice shy. The experience with T'Pring was obviously not a pleasant one. The experience with Saavik equally so even though it was not a romantic one. This latest problem with Valeris would be considered devastating to anyone," Sarek analyzed.

Spock was relieved his father seemed to understand. "I wished to tell both Mother and you of our intent, but we are not in a hurry to proclaim our arrangement formally. She wishes to be engaged, to learn and discover before we marry."

"Fitting, she no doubt wishes to see if you will run or stay," he decided, which actually surprised Spock.

"I intend to stay," Spock replied confidently.

"My son, there are things that occur without our control that change circumstances every moment of our lives. There are times that love does not conquer all. You must be aware of this and not regard marriage as some easy task. It is a constant work in progress. Even now, your mother and I must compromise to be together," Sarek revealed. The trials and tribulations that Sarek and Amanda had gone through before Spock was even conceived were so great that most couples would not have survived. Her near rejection by most of Sarek's family was just the tip of the iceberg.

Spock weighed his father's words carefully, he would have to rely on his father's experience in the matter of the human heart to guide him. "There is another matter I wish to speak to you about," Sarek began. This would not be an easy subject to broach. It would have been awkward if it were just he and Amanda. "We are going to have a visit this week. You will be required to attend," Sarek said completely serious.

"Yes, Father," he answered and instantly became wary.

"As you know, Stonn is a member of the Vulcan Council governing interstellar affairs. He and T'Pring will be here to spend a week in conference. You are not required to attend the conference, however, it would be seen as a breach of etiquette if you did not appear at the formal dinner."

Spock nodded. It would not be an enjoyable evening. Sarek saw the thought appearing in his son's head. "If you wish to bring Christine, it will be acceptable. She will have to become used to diplomatic functions when she is your wife."

Spock dropped the bomb. "Christine will not be required to assume the traditional role of a Vulcan female. That has been agreed upon already. I shall treat her as an equal, not as my submissive wife."

"Then you will indeed have a rocky marriage," Sarek decided.

Spock turned to his father. "How so?"

"It is not the Vulcan way. Even in human marriages, the man is usually the dominant partner. You will be submitting to her will," he pointed out.

"I do not believe she meant it in that fashion. We have worked as equals for too many years to suddenly take on such dependent roles. You were not directly working with Mother when you met and married."

Sarek nodded. That was true. While he had taken etiquette lessons and been tutored in American English by her, he had not been her superior or equal partner in the situations. He still foresaw problems between the two. Christine was a free and independent woman. Spock was an independent and stubborn man. Spock mentioned something else. "Also, we will not have children to consider."

Sarek and Amanda had spoken of the unlikely event but neither had really given it much consideration. "Your duty to the family--" Sarek began.

"Is of no concern to me at this time," Spock finished without relenting. He would not be talked out of the idea or reality of marriage to this woman. He did not care if he was going against tradition. Sarek dropped the subject. With the Vulcan life span, it was not a pressing matter for either of them.

Spock returned Christine to her apartment. He actually preferred to think of it as his as well. He dreaded going back to the lonely cavern of a place he stayed in. He did need to mention the dinner that was looming. "My father informs me of an informal state occasion. We are asked to attend."

"An informal state occasion? Spock, you know there is no such thing. Is it absolutely necessary I attend? I would prefer to use the time to work," she answered hopefully.

Spock shook his head. "I would prefer you be there."

"Why?"

Spock sighed. He hadn't wanted to reveal this to her, but she would have to know sooner or later. "My former bondmate and her husband will be visiting. I am required by etiquette to attend. I wish for you to be there as well."

"Spock, that's a little..." She struggled for the word to describe the big pit that had just opened in her stomach.

"I realize it is uncomfortable for you. It will not be a 'day at the park' for me, either. You could look upon it as moral support," he tried, offering her a raised eyebrow as they keyed open her door. She turned just inside and allowed one elegant finger to stifle his doubts.

"I'll go, and I'll be civil. I wonder if she's as lovely as when you last saw her?"

* * *

Spock had not thought it was possible for T'Pring to have gotten more aesthetically pleasing, but she had aged extremely well. Her features were still taut and youthful. Even on Vulcan, she would have been mistaken for someone much younger. Stonn had aged considerably. His hair was almost snow white, but it leant him an air of dignity that he hadn't possessed before. As Spock recalled, Stonn's father had silver hair at an early age as well. Accompanying them was a doe-eyed, petite, almost China doll of a Vulcan. She was at least an entire head shorter than Christine. Her figure was what Christine described as that of a pixie, and the hair was black satin curls down her back. She was Stonn and T'Pring's oldest daughter T'Zel. She spoke very little, but her eyes spoke volumes. Hers was not the cold, calculated mind like T'Pring. Hers was an openly curious one that wished to interact with others not just sit in the corner. She found an easy dialogue with Christine who shared one of the same passions, cooking.

"How long will you be here precisely?" Christine was asking as Spock approached. He did not wish to be prideful, but he did believe his fiancee was the most beautifully attired female there. He had instructed her to wear something conservative and sleek. She had chosen a black velvet gown with long sleeves, scoop neck, and full skirt that fell to the floor. Long strands of silver beads had been looped around to create a collar like effect and glittered like diamonds against the black. Amanda had commented that she was quite the beauty when she'd first walked in.

T'Zel nodded as Spock approached with a glass of punch for Christine. "My parents are staying the week. I, however, will be staying on to work for Hartwell and Johnson."

"The interstellar trading company, that's impressive. I've heard they hire only the best."

T'Zel nodded slightly but not to indicate that she thought that well of herself. Spock found that T'Zel was a much more pleasant person than her mother would have ever been and something inside kept reminding him that she could have been his own daughter. A chime sounded to indicate dinner was served and the three made their way to the table. Amanda had made certain to have Spock and Christine seated together beside her although it would be considered rather an odd seating arrangement. They were supposed to be split up to facilitate conversation. But at this incident, conversation was not necessarily welcome.

The meal was eaten in silence as per Vulcan custom. When the after meal refreshments were served, the conversation picked up. Amanda preferred to speak to T'Zel. "So, what will your position be at Hartwell and Johnson?"

"Head buyer for Vulcan and its colony planets."

"Such prestige at a young age," Christine remarked which garnered a little of T'Pring's cold ire.

"I assure you, our daughter is completely qualified and suited for the position."

Christine smiled, "I meant no disrespect. It is just that it is a very large task for one so young. She will do well."

Spock nearly smiled. Sarek allowed one eyebrow to raise slightly. Amanda grinned easily. Christine had effectually disarmed whatever T'Pring was going to bite back with by stating something she dare not dispute. Christine, however, could not help but hear the 'our daughter' over and over in her head. Looking from Spock to T'pring and then at T'Zel, she tried not to appear too uncomfortable. Catching Amanda's eyes as they rested on the girl, she cleared her throat slightly and sipped her wine. It was going to be a long evening. Spock tried to understand why Christine was upset. The entire trip home she was quiet, unwilling to talk, and just slightly standoffish. He assumed it had been the verbal fencing she'd endured with T'Pring nearly all evening. Almost before Spock could get the skimmer shut down, she was out the door and halfway across the lot.

"Christine," he called. She stopped. Summoning all her strength to keep from breaking into tears before he reached her, she let out a deep sigh and watched the exhaled vapor dissipate in the air. Spock was beside her in a moment.

"What is troubling you?"

"Spock ... I sat there tonight with the woman you were supposed to marry twenty odd years ago along with her gorgeous daughter and couldn't help but see the longing in your mother's eyes. T'Zel is a lovely young woman, and she could have been the pride of your house. I cannot..." she started and choked on the rest of it. With tears puddling in her eyes, she shook her head to clear them.

Spock took her by the arms, held her apart from him but in a strong enough grip that she knew not to move. "T'Zel would never have been my child."

"What? T'Pring was your wife ... logically her child would have been yours," Christine reasoned.

"No. T'Pring does not treat her daughter as a proper mother should. You would not notice this because you are human. But even Vulcan mothers treat their children affectionately. There is no affection between those two. My half human genes would have made it nearly impossible to allow children by natural circumstances. She had made it quite clear to me in previous communiques that she wished no children. Children interfere with her purpose. The fact that T'Zel is alive as well as the others is simply because she had no choice but to carry them," Spock explained as easily as he could.

Realization began to drift across her face. "Then, if she did not want children, why didn't she simply use birth control?"

"That is not the Vulcan way. On Vulcan children are precious, wanted even if they are not desired. However, the ... feeling ... that I get from T'Zel is that she has been woefully neglected in that area. I had often felt that my own father was distant, cold, even purposely hurtful to me as a child, but I now realize that compared to what T'Zel has had, my father deserves an award. T'Pring would never have considered going through the needed genetic treatments to produce an heir for my house."

Christine shook her head ruefully. "The poor thing. They certainly sounded proud of her at the dinner table, though."

"Simply as a measure to goad you or me or my parents. T'Zel is indeed accomplished at such a young age, and they are proud of that but only that. As long as she can further their aims, she is considered a deserving child," Spock replied with a touch of remorse in his tone. T'Zel deserved a much better set of parents than she had received. Spock did not tell Christine that he did feel a sort of protective affection for the child. Letting go of her arms, he placed the extremely warm hands on her cold-nipped cheeks. "For the last time I will say this. It is you that I want, not your ability to produce children, as my wife."

Christine smiled, the tears drying in the frigid air. "Spock ... you are a wonder."

"Do you wish me to go upstairs with you?"

She shook her head. "I have to get to work extremely early tomorrow. Payment for tonight's little soiree."

Spock nodded. "Then, I shall say goodnight here."

She took his hands before he returned to the skimmer. "Not that way."

Stepping up to him, the heels she wore made her the same height, she kissed him passionately, fully on the lips. Parting from him, she said mischievously, "To keep me warm until I can get into bed."

His uplifted eyebrow and gleaming eyes watched her go into her apartment building. As was his custom, he waited for her lights to come on to signal she was safe and sound.

* * *

"What would you like for Christmas?" Spock asked Christine as they finished their meal and began clearing the table.

She laughed, "Spock, I'm a little old for Santa. I don't need anything for Christmas. I have all I've ever wanted."

She allowed one hand to brush across his and their gazes locked for an instant. Even though Christine had accepted Spock's proposal over two weeks ago, it still felt awfully new to them. Christine hadn't felt this way even with her first crush in elementary school. They had spent most nights talking, watching films, eating, attending dinners or apart working. Christine still kept many late hours that left Spock free to pursue things of his own interest. He often spent those evenings with his parents. One evening he had been invited to dinner with Anne and Ken Donaldson and had agreed only after a good amount of prodding from Christine to ... go and have fun. Anne consumed more food than either of the two men combined insisting that she was eating for three and had to keep her strength up. It was Ken who had asked what Spock was getting her for Christmas.

"I had not considered purchasing anything for her," Spock had replied to the other's stunned expressions.

"But, don't you want to get her a ... at least a..." Anne began but did not finish.

"A what?"

"Well, a ring. I mean, you are engaged, aren't you?" she replied.

"Yes, I had not considered this custom. Vulcans wear no jewelry to signify marital bonds."

Anne and Ken looked at each other. "Then she won't be expecting it. It would be the perfect Christmas present. You simply must buy her a ring," Anne insisted.

Spock was concerned. He did not recall seeing rings of any sort on Christine's hands. "I do not know her size."

Ken thought a moment. "I do ... or I know how I can find out. Just give me a couple of days, and I'll get it for you."

Anne grinned, "And, I know this little jewelry shop, it specializes in completely unique creations. You must agree that Christine must have a special ring." That was easily decided. Arrangements for Spock and Anne to seek out the jewelry shop within the next week were made.

* * *

Christine's apartment was always so inviting. Spock had long ago become used to spending the entire evening there and not leaving until breakfast. He practically lived there, but he did keep his clothes at the apartment in Newport. They did not sleep together. They had slept in each other's arms many nights, but neither were overly eager to begin sexual relations as yet. For Spock it was a matter of propriety. Premarital sex on Vulcan was heard of, but it was rare. Christine explained that she had been celibate so long that she felt almost virginal now. They were content to be pleased with each other's company. Christine felt completely at ease lying in his arms while watching it snow or the fire crackle in the hearth. Tonight, she sat cross legged beside the fireplace with a stack of pictures. Spock had asked what she looked like as a child months earlier, and it took that long for her to find the box of pictures in the closet. Spock found himself lying on his side, head propped on one wrist, looking up unabashedly at his future wife as she chuckled at various snapshots. "Oh, this is a good one. I was three..."

Holding it out to him, she revealed a picture of a little girl in a cowboy costume sitting on top a horse. Two shiny six guns gleamed in her hands and a scowl gave him the impression she was trying to persuade someone to do something she wanted. "You ride?"

"When I was a kid, haven't gone horseback riding in ages. When do I get to see pictures of you?" she asked and poked him lightly on the shoulder.

"My mother has not heaped them upon you? She must have left them on Vulcan. Consider yourself lucky," he decided and sat up beside her.

"No, I want to see all those embarrassing ones ... you know the one with you on the bear skin rug?" she asked and met confused eyes in the glittering firelight.

"We did not have a bear skin rug," he replied.

Christine sighed, "Never mind."

Digging through down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out a stack of drawings and specifications. She laughed aloud and explained, "When I was a dismal art student, we had to draw our vision of the perfect house. Sort of what we wanted when we got older and settled. Here's mine. I must have been reading heavily in the romance novels..."

She showed him the crudely drawn but adequately descriptive pages. He noticed a large red D in the corner, "You did not excel in art?"

"More like de-evolved. No, I was horrid. I don't know if you've paid attention to my handwriting, but it is one step above horrific. Of course, I am a doctor, that means I'm not supposed to be able to read my writing. Actually, it was fairly decent until I met Leonard. His is worse than mine will ever be."

Spock nodded remembering the doctor's own excuse for cursive. It was basically a code blue line with a blip every once in a great while. He pondered the drawing though. It was clearly a house with a white picket fence, a stick figure of people, a dog, and a tire swing in a tree. The cottage was actually rather detailed in its design. He could tell it was of a Victorian or revival architecture design. This was her child's dream of her adult life and none of it had come true. Handing it back to her, he allowed a smile to crook one side of his mouth. "It is nice to know you are not perfect."

"Perfect! I have you know that I am far from perfect, as are you," she reminded with another poke on his shoulder. She spoke in jest. He resumed his time staring at her. Stretching, she groaned a little at the kinks in her back. Spock's strong grip began kneading the taut muscles. Her moans of pleasure let Spock know he was hitting the right spots. "I'd marry you for the free backrubs," she finally said. His hot breath caressed her shoulders and helped work out the tension. It was at times like these that Spock as well as Christine were the most tempted. They were adults, in fact, many people would consider them old, but in many ways they were still children. An idea suddenly occurred to Christine. "You asked about Christmas..."

"Yes," Spock practically purred into her ear.

It tickled and she giggled a little,"I do have something I want."

When he did not answer but changed the direction he was massaging, she continued, "I got a message from Jan today. She is going to be in on leave from Christmas Eve till after New Years. Uhura said that they might come here to visit."

The massage stopped but the hands remained in place. They had not spoken to any of their mutual friends regarding their engagement after it had been decided. If this worked well, it would be the perfect opportunity... He thought of the gift he wished to present to her. "Perhaps we should invite Dr. McCoy and Jim as well. But, where will they stay? Neither of our apartments are large enough."

"Well, the men can stay with you, the girls with me. That would be ... Jim, Leonard, and I wonder if Scotty would want to come. I haven't seen him in such a long time," she turned to face him a glimmer in her eyes. "Do you know where he is?"

"Yes, in fact I received a message stating that he will be in Toronto for a speaking engagement before that time."

"Perfect. It will be nice to see all of them. Sort of a reunion. I would ask Sulu, but I know he'll be with Demora, and Chekov is off somewhere on Starfleet security. Still, nearly all of them..."

* * *

The shop that Anne Donaldson took them too was indeed a specialty shop. It specialized in silver and gold alloys. Spock was shown a book of the designs that had been made previously. They could reproduce any of the styles with the understanding that it would be just slightly different to maintain the uniqueness of the designs. Finding one that he preferred over the rest, he gave the details that Ken had given him regarding her ring size and what alterations he wished done. "When can I expect this to be done?"

"Well, with Christmas coming in just a couple of weeks, I don't know, early February possibly March," the shopkeeper said.

That would not do. "I will pay you three times its worth if you will have it before Christmas."

The shopkeeper mentally calculated the cost and the time required. It was not a difficult ring, in fact it was quite simple, it was just that there were orders ahead of his. Still, to lose the money... "Done. Pick up or delivery?"

"I would prefer to pick it up. You can reach me via the Vulcan Embassy in Newport. My card," he said and presented the man with a paper calling card that he carried around with him in case he could not meet with the proper people. It was not a necessity to carry them, messages were just as proper, but it leant an air of formality to his duties that he preferred.

Anne had made herself busy going through the books of other items available to purchase. Seeing Spock nod to the shopkeeper before turning away, she waited till he approached, "So, which one did you pick?"

"I thought you wished to be kept in the dark?" he asked as he escorted her out the door.

"Oh, all right, so, tell me ... when are you going to give it to her?"

Spock was a little confused. Was it not she and Ken who told him to give the ring to Christine for Christmas? "Christmas naturally."

"Naturally..."

The blue skimmer headed back for the ferry. This Block Island was an odd community. The homes were quite old if the architecture was any indication. It was sparsely populated and had views of the Rhode Island shore as well as Mauntauk Point over on Long Island. Driving up to the ferry boat that would transport them back to the mainland, Spock made a mental note to bring Christine here to look around. It was an unusual island.

* * *

"So, how many have we got?" Christine asked as Spock began inputting data on his terminal.

"So far, all of them have agreed, although Scotty will be late. He cannot arrive until Monday."

"Oh ... well, still he'll be here a couple days. We'll need to plan a menu as well as where we're going to meet. I don't know if either of our apartments are going to be large enough to comfortably entertain everyone," Christine pondered.

Her answer appeared at Spock's office doorway. "Why don't you entertain here?"

The two looked up to see Amanda smiling at them. Spock thought a moment about protesting, realized it was the logical alternative and gave up. Christine however, did not see the logic. "But Amanda, that's an awful lot of people to have hanging around."

Amanda entered, shushed her. "Not people, friends ... and when friends are involved, there are never too many and there is never too little room. Let them stay here as well so that we don't have skimmers going out and about all over the place. It makes much better sense than half of you in Newport and half in Long Island, doesn't it?"

Christine smiled and nodded. "I suppose you are right. Still, Spock and I will be in our apartment."

She'd slipped and Amanda had caught it but let it drop. "Then stay here. This place is big enough for the Vulcan String Ensemble plus all their instruments so it's big enough for six of my favorite people."

Spock recalled, "Seven ... Jim said that Carol Marcus will be joining him."

"Goodness, I haven't seen Carol in years. It'll be a regular pajama party,"

Christine decided and got a fit of the giggles. Catching Amanda's eye, she said, "Can't you just see the men all dressed in short pjs and the girls in those little babydoll nighties? Like in those really old beach party movies..."

Amanda laughed heartily at the idea of her son and husband hollering, "Surf's up dude!" as they ran down the beach to catch waves. Spock was a little lost. Christine noticed, "I'll make you sit through one with me sometime. I won't torture you with all of them, just one to give you an impression of the lower forms of my favorite entertainment medium. That is something, what will we do all snug as a bug here?"

"Do?" Spock replied.

"We've planned for them to be here four days and three nights more or less. We have to have some type of itinerary," Christine explained.

"Why?" came another rich baritone from the doorway.

"Sarek, well, because it would get awfully boring and tedious to just sit around all day. I'm sure no one will really want to go on a tour of the town. It's the worst possible time of the year to go sight seeing and everyone's seen New York," his future daughter-in-law explained.

Sarek agreed. The time between Christmas and New Years was the worst possible time to try to get anywhere or go out of town. He had learned long ago to just stay put if at all possible. Amanda decided it would be best to break the news about their house guests herself. "I have invited Spock and Christine's friends to stay here instead of splitting them up for their visit."

"I suppose that if I object it would do little good," he sighed slightly. He had no objection but did like to tease Amanda just a little.

His wife beamed at him. "Right."

"So, we are to be inundated with seven giggling, emotional humans for four days..." he bemoaned.

"And we have to endure two solemn, sober Vulcans," Christine turned on him.

Father and son seemed to take sides at that comment. Spock replied, "If you deem us so solemn and sober, why are you marrying me?"

Christine smiled a little wickedly, "I have to bring sunshine to your drab, dull life somehow. If it takes a vow and a bonding to do so, well ... it's my prison."

Amanda chuckled. Christine was plainly teasing Spock the way she teased Sarek. She recalled the early days of her engagement and marriage to Sarek. She had really no clue what she was in for, but had for the most part loved every moment of it. She could not think of her life without Sarek or Spock.

Spock took a deep breath, leaned back in his chair, did not look at his father although he knew precisely where he stood. "You are not imprisoned yet. And as interesting as this conversation might become, I do have work to do."

"All right, I give."

Amanda asked before she filed out, "Christine, would you care to have lunch?"

Christine shook her head. "I need to check on Vita today. Still waiting on something more conclusive than tingling feet."

The tone of her voice made it known that things were not progressing as she had hoped. Realizing that it would not be seemly to give Spock a kiss or even an affectionate caress, she simply brushed an index finger across the desk blotter to signify her feelings. Their eyes held each others for a long moment. Taking his own finger and running it along the blotter as well, he watched her leave before resuming his work.

* * *

The day before Christmas at Starfield really didn't see much work being accomplished. Jenna kept answering all hails with, "Merry Christmas Starfield." And Ken kept trying to create egg nog out of the unusual ingredients he had lying around the labs. So far, it hadn't worked well. Christine alone was still steadily trying to get her work done. Vita was still not showing any signs of improvement, and she wanted to do as much as she could before the gang got there to distract her for four days. The chronometer on the wall read 1600. Everyone else would be heading home early. She planned on staying late. "Hey boss lady, try this batch," Ken Donaldson said and shoved a mug of creamy liquid in front of her.

Christine was rather wary. "Ken you've given me three different batches and all three have been as tasty as milk of magnesia. In fact I think I'll have an upset stomach the rest of the night."

Her colleague pouted, "Come on, Doc, since when have you denied the scientific experience?"

"Since I've been part of the experiment group," she answered seriously but took the mug. It looked like egg nog, it smelled like egg nog, she took a sip ... it tasted like egg nog. "Hey, you hit the nail on the head this time, Ken old boy."

"Well," he grinned and shuffled his feet shyly. "I can't take the credit for it. Jenna finally ordered some from the local grocer and had it delivered."

They were in a festive mood so Ken decided to give her his present early. Retrieving a dress box wrapped with a bright intricately designed bow, he presented it to her. "Merry Christmas, boss."

Christine smiled but tsked at the same time. "Ken, I told you to save your money for those two babies."

Ken puffed up at the mention of his twins that were on the way. "Well, maybe next year I won't get you a present. Aren't you going to open it? I know it's not Spock, but well ... Anne tried as hard as she could."

Christine was immediately wary. Treating it with kid gloves, she pulled the bow off carefully so that she could keep it. Lifting the lid with the expectations that a bomb would go off if she just flung it off, she saw nothing but tissue paper. Sifting through the layer of tissue she found a layer of filmy see through material and then more tissue paper. Pulling out the turquoise material, she held it up... "What is it?"

"Good grief, are you so old you don't recognize a negligee?" Ken asked teasingly.

"A negligee ... my God, I have scarves with more material on them than this. It is pretty, though," she admitted and gave Ken a peck on the cheek.

A voice from the doorway caught them, "So, this is why it is taking so long to find the problem with the implant."

"Spock, what are you doing here so early?" Christine asked noting it was just 1615 and he wasn't due for another hour and a half.

"Apparently, catching my future wife in a tryst with her employee," he said seriously. There was no humor in his tone or in the eyes, but there was no anger either.

"Yep, we're having a flaming romance," Ken admitted with a smile and got Spock's eyes to change expression to that of bemusement. Christine held up the turquoise material. "He gave me my Christmas present early."

Spock stepped into the small lab, took the silken material between thumb and forefinger and regarded the iridescent nature. "What is it?"

"A negligee," Ken answered. At least Spock he could understand if he didn't know what it was.

Spock allowed one eyebrow to creep upward. With a slight frown and a nod of his head, he decided, "Good present."

Christine nearly fell off her lab stool. Ken almost choked on his own air. Spock considered an intimate piece of clothing something good to have. Spock placed the filmy material back into the dress box. "Anne is waiting in your office."

Ken took that as the signal to scram, nodded his parting, and escaped quickly. Spock gently closed the lab door. Christine was still trying to regain her mind after his last comment when he was practically nose to nose with her. "Spock..."

"Yes."

"I am still working..." she reminded but got distracted with a two fingered caress along her jawline. Trying to remain focused, she stammered, "Spock ... I need to keep working if we're going to spend the rest of the week with our friends."

Spock allowed the two fingers to travel the length of her jaw, around her left ear, and over to her lips. There they stopped and remained hovering as a hummingbird gathering nectar. Her eyes closed in rapture. It had amazed her that just his touch could leave her so breathless, and they had not even been intimate the way humans considered the ultimate intimacy. While her eyes were closed, he bent done, tasted the intoxication of her lips for a brief moment. Straightening, he was all business again. "I shall wait in your office."

"Mmm, that's a good idea," she answered and just before he turned to go, she reached out for him, "Wait..."

This time she stood, met him where he had stopped. One hand was placed on his chest to half steady, half keep him away, the other traced the same path he had on her but this time her kiss was deep, passion-filled, promising. "I'll not be the whole hour and a half," she answered.

Spock's eyes were mischievous, knowing, with a gleam in them, he left. "I knew you wouldn't."

Out of breath from the mere sensations, it took Christine at least five minutes to regain enough composure to read her reports.

* * *

Christmas Day arrived with bright sunlight, a crisp white world that nearly blinded Spock as they drove from her apartment to Newport. They were set to go to the embassy for an early dinner after they had spent a leisurely morning and afternoon at Christine's apartment. They would stop to check on Vita before going the rest of the way. Christine was busy watching the scenery go by from behind her UV spectrum sunglasses. Spock had no such need for glasses to protect his eyesight from the glare, but her blue eyes were particularly sensitive to the rays. "Spock," Christine began hoping that he would not become offended at her suggestion.

"Yes," he replied.

"When we get to Vita's, do you mind if I ask if she'd like to go with us to the embassy?" she asked quietly.

Spock was a little perplexed. He knew that Vita had no family and was housebound, but she did seem to be an upbeat social woman. Perhaps Christine had qualms about the first holiday spent as a member of his family? Until he found out why though, he would not know her reasoning. His lack of response created a slightly tense air in the skimmer. "May I ask why you feel it is necessary to include her?"

He said it, or he had wanted to say it without the disappointment coming through. He hadn't succeeded entirely. Christine sighed, "I just ... Vita is a very nice woman and lonely. I just thought it would be nice to include her. We don't have to, just forget it..."

"No, if you wish to invite her it is not a problem," Spock relented. He had hoped to give her the ring that he had picked up before he'd shown up at Starfield yesterday. Now, it appeared that she had other plans that did not include him. The doubts that lingered in his mind came roaring out of the back and threatened to take over his thoughts before he pushed them aside again.

The rest of the drive was in silence. Vita's apartment was sparsely decorated for the holidays. She'd had a load of new pictures sent from the kids that she helped teach via comp-link put around in the various spots and a tabletop tree blinked off and on in time with some Christmas tunes. She greeted them warmly, "Merry Christmas."

Christine smiled and handed her the small present she'd gotten for her favorite guinea pig. As the two women exchanged pleasantries and began the data gathering on Vita's implant, Spock went over to the apartment window that looked out over to the school playground. He stayed there watching as the sun glinted and gleamed off the icy haze on the packed snow. He didn't pay much attention to the conversation between the two women. He normally was questioning the readings or commenting on something in the room or at least watching the proceedings. Vita didn't notice the difference in Spock, but she did in Christine. The cheerful, almost overjoyed expression that she had been sporting for weeks now was subdued as if there were problems. "Vita, Spock and I would like to invite you to his parents for the day," Christine said hoping that Spock would chime in his approval. He did not.

Vita sensed a little tension. She smiled, "Oh, thank you for the offer, but I have some friends coming for supper and the children have promised to come sing carols for me too."

Christine shrugged. "Well, we just thought ... never mind. It's nice your friends are coming over."

"Yes, over the years we've often swapped holidays, but the last few years we've had to have them all here. Nothing special really. I don't fix anything extra, we just sit and talk, play cards," Vita answered graciously. She glanced over at Spock who was still preoccupied out the window.

"Well, we're entertaining friends this weekend as well, so I'll not be able to check in on you tomorrow. I will be bringing an old colleague of mine ... actually he was my boss, Dr. McCoy. I want him to meet you. Maybe he can help figure out what to jump start this thing with..." Christine sighed with an apologetic tone. She'd thought Vita would have shown signs of something by now. There were days that she had a difficult time hiding her disappointment. The snafu with Spock was only making her mood worse. "You're all done for today. Don't count on me until Monday, all right?"

"That's fine. Where can I call to leave a message in case something happens?"

Spock said something for the first time since entering the room. "The Vulcan Embassy at Newport." His tone was no nonsense as if he were impatient to leave the apartment and be on his way. At least to Christine it sounded that way, to Vita it was pure information.

"Merry Christmas," Christine said with a forced grin and tucked the present that Vita had given her in her coat pocket. Turning to Spock, "Are you ready to go?"

Spock nodded and caught Vita's gaze as he turned to face Christine. "Indeed, holiday greetings, Vita."

Christine waited until they were out in the parking lot to the skimmer before saying anything else. "You could have been a little more friendly."

"I see no reason to delay your work by diverting your attention from the task at hand," he replied and opened the skimmer door for her. He was angry. It was controlled, carefully hidden behind the calm exterior, but it was there. Christine didn't get in the skimmer. "Maybe I should stay longer, re-evaluate my findings."

Their eyes met in a stand-off. Spock did not answer. Her stare was as ice, colder than any that ever formed in the Arctic. He left the door open, walked around the skimmer to his side and got in. After a moment, Christine got in and sat down. It was a long quiet drive to Newport.

* * *

Amanda didn't have to ask to feel the tension. If it had not been in the quick measured strides of her son or the slower more deliberate steps of Christine, she'd have known just by the fact that neither of them said anything through most of the dinner. Even though Vulcans preferred silence with their meals, between the food there was conversation. Today it was as silent as an undiscovered Egyptian tomb. Sarek's attempt at small talk did nothing to improve the atmosphere. "Has your patient shown improvement, Christine?"

"No," she replied without possibility of continuing with that line. She didn't want to talk about Vita. With the meal finished, she did not look at her fiancé before saying, "If you'll excuse me."

"Certainly, Christine..." Amanda was saying and trailed off as she watched her head out of the dining room and into the kitchen. Sarek and Amanda both looked at Spock.

"Spock?" Sarek asked. He needn't speak the rest of the question.

"A disagreement ... it is of no concern," he replied stiffly. That in effect denied any advice that Sarek and Amanda might have given. He told them to basically mind their own business.

Clearing her throat, Amanda placed her napkin on her plate. "If you'll excuse me, I'll see about dessert."

Sarek knew she had no dessert prepared. It was a pretense to find out what happened. He nodded, "Yes, dessert. Spock, if you would not mind to go over the details of the last document that I sent you to review..."

* * *

The kitchen had always been a place of great comfort for Christine. She had spent a great deal of time there as a child with her mother, and it was a place of security and warmth for her. Now however, it was not her kitchen and she fumbled around trying to find a bowl. She wanted to make something with great amounts of chocolate. The only chocolate in the house was baker's cocoa, so she was going to make cake. She could hear the soft swoosh of the swinging door. She knew it would be Amanda.

"Can I help?"

"Yes, where is the vanilla?" Christine asked calmly but did not face her future mother-in-law.

"That's not what I meant, but it's in the drawer on the left."

Christine retrieved the extract, searched for something else. It was nearly five minutes of searching before she spoke again. "I suppose you could call it an argument."

"About what?" Spock's mother asked with a concerned tone.

"I just wanted to invite Vita to come today. He took it personally, I guess. He was quite ... put out when we were at her apartment," she explained, putting the ingredients in a bowl and stirring them.

Amanda shifted her head back and forth. "I see. You wanted to invite an outsider to your first family holiday together, and he found that ... disagreeable."

"He didn't say that. If he had, I would not have asked her."

"You asked her before telling him?"

"No, I asked him if it would be all right. He said yes. I must admit it was not an idea he seemed thrilled with, but he did agree," she pointed out.

"Hmm, Spock is probably just trying to figure out why you really asked her to come for a visit."

The two women caught each other's intent. Christine scraped the cake mixture out of the bowl and into the cake pan. "I don't know why I wanted her here. I mean, I know why I told Spock, but you're right. I guess I'm nervous."

Amanda's hand rested on her forearm. "Why? Have Sarek and I..."

"No, no... It's Christmas, not you nor Spock. The last holiday I spent with ... Roger before he left was Christmas. He promised to return before..." She didn't finish. Tears that were decades old mingled with the cake. "I always have trouble at Christmas."

"Have you explained that to him?" Amanda asked indicating the dining room.

"I don't want a lecture on being a sentimentalist or a fool or someone who should have left that far in the past," she explained.

"Has he ever done that to you?" Christine shook her head, set the cake in the oven to bake. "Do you expect that type of behavior from him?" Again a shaken head, "Then why now?"

"I suppose it seems silly to feel this way after almost thirty years."

"I swear, you two are so close mouthed that you spend most of your time skirting around what you really want to say. Go to him, tell him what you've told me. He'll at least know that you're not aiming your feelings at him." When Christine didn't move, Amanda gave her a shove. "Go on."

Christine headed to the dining room doors, they parted enough for her to hear the conversation that was taking place between Sarek and Spock. "They're talking shop."

"No, they're not, or they won't be. Give me one minute," Amanda assured and true to her word, Spock was sent to the kitchen with plates. He met Christine's gaze with difficulty. This separation between them was hard.

"Your mother has been talking to me," she began.

"Indeed, Mother does seem to offer her share of advice."

"Spock, I ... I'm sorry I invited Vita, or I'm not sorry I invited Vita, I'm just sorry that you got the impression that you did."

"Which was?" he asked to make certain that they were clear on the matter.

"You wanted to spend the holiday with me, and I invited a third party to tag along. You took it as a slight against our relationship," she explained.

"I did not."

Christine's manner was fast and with a bit of anger. "Oh yes you did. Don't give me this I'm a Vulcan there is no emotion bit... You were mad the entire time I was examining Vita."

"No, I was not mad," he replied stiffly.

The blue eyes narrowed, her softened stance stiffened, and she set her mouth in a grim line. "Then what the hell was that little attitude you pulled while you were there?"

Spock did not exchange heated words with her. He remained calm. "I was simply staying out of the conversation."

"Oh I see, then you ignore people in a manner that's considered rude when you wish to remain out of the conversation..." she accused.

"No." They were getting nowhere in this discussion. The explanation that she was supposed to be giving him forgotten, she tried clearing her head. "Well, that's dandy. I'm going to bed," she declared not caring whether the cake was finished or not.

Spock stood in the kitchen watching her storm toward the door. Just as she got to the swinging door, he stopped her, "Christine."

She didn't answer, she simply stopped walking. He continued, "I regret giving you the impression that I was angry. I was not. I simply did not understand why you felt it necessary to invite an outsider to a family gathering."

"Spock ... I ... it's not you, it's not your parents," the tone of her voice lured him forward. She was distressed. "I was telling your mother... I don't do Christmas well. It's not a favorite holiday."

"Why?" he asked, suddenly directly behind her.

Christine turned to him with tears. "Oh, honey, it's so old ... can't I just forget?"

Spock's eyebrow at the term "honey" amused her. He did not particularly care for the affectionate names humans gave their friends and loved ones. She reached up and tugged at the point of his eyebrow. "Take that thing down."

"Excuse me?"

"That eyebrow. Don't pop it up there every time I call you 'honey'. I'll try not to do it very often. The last Christmas I really celebrated was with Roger. I've lived through the holiday since then, but basically left it alone. Oh, I buy gifts for people, give the usual greetings, send out warm wishes for the holidays, but I don't enjoy it the way I used to. There is something about Christmas. It's so family oriented and special... I guess I got jumpy the closer the day got. Do you see? Am I forgiven?" she asked a slight pout on her face.

Spock's index finger tipped her chin up to look him straight in the eyes. His reply was in the form of a lingering kiss. There was nothing to forgive unless it was his own boorish behavior. "Only if you in turn forgive me?" Spock finished. Christine smiled as their lips met again. The smell of chocolate cake filled the room and before they parted she whispered into his mouth. "Cake's done."

"Let it burn," he answered.

She pushed lightly against him, parted from his lips. "But it's chocolate cake."

"And you were going to let it burn if you had gone upstairs," he replied while still keeping tight hold onto her.

"I would hope that an expert cook such as yourself would have sense enough to open the oven and take it out," she teased. Spock dropped his hands from her waist allowing them to linger at her hips for a moment. She walked away and removed the cake from the oven, turned the heat off, placed the cake on the burner to keep from scalding the counter and turned back to her future husband.

"Perhaps we should go have a nice time with your parents, what do you think?"

Spock nodded and opened the door for her to go through. He could wait a little longer before presenting her ring.

* * *

"You guys need a tree," Leonard McCoy began after plopping his bag onto the bed and heading back into the sitting room that joined the four suites that they were going to occupy.

"Bones, this is the Vulcan embassy, they don't celebrate Christmas."

"Who says they don't?" Amanda asked as she stepped out of the girls' rooms.

Jim Kirk looked at Spock's mother with a little disbelief. "You're telling me that Spock had a Christmas tree when he was a kid?"

"I think we had a tree until he was six or seven. After that we did not. But, you are right, we need a tree," she agreed. The room was big enough for a good sized tree. She thought a moment. "You know, since it is after Christmas we could get one on clearance, ornaments too."

"I didn't realize that Vulcans were so cheap," McCoy harrumphed.

"Not cheap, frugal," she laughed.

Sarek appeared beside her. "Frugal?"

"Sarek, we want to buy a tree," she said with little preamble.

Kirk would swear that he sighed with exasperation. The ambassador's face however showed no change. "My wife does tend to become over effusive during this time of year."

Amanda grinned, explained, "He means I'm sentimental. Sarek, we haven't had a tree since Spock was a young boy. Surely just this once. After all, we outnumber you this time."

If it was a threat, it was not a dire one. He would allow her demand. He felt that she would do it whether he wished her to or not. With a quick glance around the room, he supplied, "If you clear the sofa away from the doors to the terrace, you will have adequate space for a large tree."

"Come on, gather everyone else up, and we'll head out," Amanda decided. She felt a little more youthful than she had in years.

"Wait, Christine and I are going out to see her patient," McCoy was saying as she headed toward the door.

"Oh, well, you two could go out and the rest of us could go get the tree and ornaments..." the older woman answered authoritatively.

After the women, who were all too busy talking about the events in their lives to even make it out of the bedrooms, found out the plans, they were eager to go. Christine pouted, "But I want to go."

"Vita is expecting you," Spock reminded which made her pause. Two days ago he was upset that she had wanted to include her, now he urged her to go off while their friends were there. With a shrug, she sighed, "Oh, well, Leonard, should we get going so we can get back in time to string popcorn?"

Amanda hadn't thought of that... "Popcorn ... you know, instead of buying the ornaments, we could make them. You remember all those corny school projects we made as kids for our parents. It wouldn't be the posh stylish tree, but it would be special."

Janice and Uhura nodded as they began jotting down items. "Cranberries, blueberries, crepe paper, construction paper, glue, string...."

* * *

"So, what is this little ... relationship between you and Spock?" McCoy was asking as soon as he got his former head nurse out into the skimmer and traveling to Vita's apartment.

"You know perfectly well what my relationship is with Spock, Leonard McCoy. Quit trying to wheedle information out of someone who will gladly tell all if just asked politely," she answered sweetly. Her smile answered the questions he had.

"Let's see if I can get the scoop straight. He asked you to marry him, and you have accepted."

"Gee, you are smart. Next you'll be tapping out two plus two with your hoof," Christine teased.

"You know I can't add without a calculator. So, you have said yes," McCoy pressed.

Christine waited to answer until she came to a stop in the parking lot. "My God, you are dense or do you just want to hear it from the horse's mouth?"

"A very beautiful horse's mouth. You know I'll give you the lecture on how marriage is not a thing to be entered into lightly, and that, well, you and Spock aren't exactly from the same planet..."

"And I will listen and afterward tell you that I know all that. I haven't told anyone this. Spock doesn't even really know..." she began quietly. McCoy was a little concerned and gave his full serious attention to her. "I just don't know. I want to marry him. I want to love him. It is so ... nice to have someone love me. And he does love me. He tells me that he does at least once a day."

"Spock ... love ... that's something I've got to hear."

She nodded, sniffed a little. "I haven't been able to say it back to him yet. I don't know if he wonders why or just assumes that I do or if he even really notices."

"So, you somehow think that by not telling him that you love him that you somehow don't really love him?" McCoy surmised and Christine smiled.

"You always were the best psyche I knew."

"Well, to tell you the truth, Chris, it's not psychiatry. It's good old hard knocks. After Jocelyn, I had a hell of a time saying I love you and meaning it to people. I guess that as long as I kept it tight inside me that it was a way to protect myself from getting hurt again. It was the last thing that I could give up. By not saying I love you I never fully committed myself."

Christine nodded as he talked. Yes, Leonard McCoy was just as good a psychiatrist as he was a surgeon. "But is it fair for me to do that to him? He requires someone who will give every ounce of their devotion and loyalty. Neither of those things are in doubt from me, but he also deserves someone who can provide all the love he desires. And, believe it or not, that Vulcan desires more love than most humans. He craves it, but he's trained himself to deny it. Sometimes he is so ... needy. I had a spat with him about Vita the other day. We worked it out, but I wanted to include her in our Christmas day plans. He did not take that well. I was scared. He didn't understand and thought it was his fault or that I didn't want to be with his family on a holiday. I think I really hurt him," she admitted picking at the wool gloves.

McCoy absorbed it, took her hands in his. "Christine Elizabeth Chapel, I have known you for so long I can't remember how long."

"28 years," she supplied.

"Good God, he even has you talking like him. You two are perfect for each other... And I've known Spock just as long as you. If you had really hurt Spock, he would not be going around with his mother buying a Christmas tree to help celebrate the engagement to the love of his life."

She considered a second. "I don't know about the love of his life..."

"I do. I've seen him with a lot of women. This last one ... she about killed him. And he didn't have half the affection for her as he does for you. I think that all along he's known it was you. He just kept looking around for someone else who wouldn't touch as deep. You used to chastise me when I'd get on his case. You kept telling me that he had very deep feelings and to treat him as if he didn't have any was cruel."

They spoke for a few more moments before Christine finally decided it was time for them to go see Vita so they could get back in time to help with the Christmas decorations. At the door, the two were still talking animatedly when the door opened and for the first time since Christine had met Vita, saw her at eye level instead of in a wheelchair. She was speechless. Vita was standing, without grimacing, without apparent pain. A grin so wide it fairly blocked the door was on her face. "Merry Christmas, Doc."

Tears were beginning to stream down Christine's face. She'd waited so long to see results of any kind and only two days ago there had been no change. "But ... Friday ... there was no..."

McCoy pushed Christine into the room. "I take it you're Vita? My name is Dr. Leonard McCoy, I guess I'll have to examine my friends' handiwork."

Vita let them in and walked perfectly normal around the room. "I knew you were coming and I wanted to surprise you. I went to bed as usual last night and this morning when I got up, poof. There wasn't any pain, the numbness was gone, and I could stand without my knees buckling. I've made sure to stay off my feet as much as possible though just in case."

Christine's hands were trembling as she tried to input data. It worked. Her implant worked. She was getting light headed. With a slight shake, she returned to a more calm state. The questions began pouring out of her. "You say it was this morning when you woke up? Have your legs had any tingling or antsy feelings? Does your back ache or the muscles?"

"As far as I have been able to try, my leg muscles are fine. But I did do the exercises all this time to keep them from getting too weak. I am a little shaky, I don't know if that's from nerves or just because they aren't used to standing any more," Vita was saying as McCoy tried some general flexing techniques with her legs. She offered no yelps of pain.

"Does that hurt?" he asked as he pinched her leg lightly.

"Yes, but not too bad. They are as good as they were before I began having problems. They aren't as strong, but there isn't any pain. Dr. Chapel, if this is only temporary for a day, it has been worth it," she said sincerely and tears were threatening to choke her words.

"Vita, you are a true godsend. With your progress and now this ... I can begin working towards helping others. This is truly a Christmas miracle," she realized.

Vita took the doctor's hand. "Then you must be an angel. Where is Spock?"

"He's out buying a Christmas tree," Christine said with a laugh. She was beginning to feel lighter than she had felt in years. It was rather intoxicating.

"I guess you two patched up whatever it was that had been wrong?" the teacher asked instinctively.

"Yes, things are fine now. It's just a lack of communication on my part. I can't believe you are walking. I mean, I had expected some preliminary developments first. Did you take any medications last night?"

"No, I remembered you wanted to make sure I didn't. That tingling must have been the nerves trying to regenerate."

McCoy chimed in, "Probably. Christine, I think you have a success here. Other than her legs being a little shaky with disuse, I can find no place here that is unaffected."

Christine nodded as she noted everything down. She wanted to get Vita down to her lab and run some real tests. But, they had guests that didn't know what was going on."

"Vita, I want to see you as quickly as possible in the lab. I need to take blood and run tests. If I schedule you for tomorrow say after 2 PM, would that work?"

"I'm completely at your disposal. But won't I disrupt your party with your friends?"

"They'll party. Right now, I want to check you out. In fact, I'd rather do it now. It shouldn't take more than a couple of hours and with Leonard here ... I wish I could have Ken with me, but he and Anne are with her sister for the holidays. Just for safety, I'd prefer to have you in the wheel chair as we go in and out of the skimmer. After all, there is ice on the parking lot."

"I definitely don't want to break a leg," Vita answered and went about gathering things to take with her.

"I'll call the embassy when we get to Starfield," Christine was saying as they headed out the door.

* * *

Three hours later and no word from either Christine or McCoy. Spock thought of calling Vita's apartment, but did not have the number with him. It was illogical in any case. They were both adults, and McCoy was with her. He kept watch outside the large floor to ceiling windows that looked out onto the terrace as the tree was being readied for the homemade decorations. With unabashed glee, the humans were cutting up paper snowflakes, stringing popcorn -- well, eating most of it, and gluing ends of strips of construction paper together to create a chain to be used as more garland. The cranberries had proven to be extremely messy and were set aside to be cooked and eaten later. Amanda had decided that cookies were necessary and had set about making gingerbread men. Spock had been helping her with his new found expertise in cookies and had stepped over to the now dark windows to look out at the drive. "Spock, do you have the icing in the bag?" she asked.

"Yes, it is in the refrigerator," he replied. Sarek looked up from his place at the table as he diligently placed cinnamon dot eyes and little chocolate candy buttons down the tummies. He was averse to the whole idea, but nevertheless found himself engaged in the activity. He often found that his wife could sway him to do the oddest things. Finishing with the last of the gingerbread men that needed to be baked, he pushed the tray aside. "What is icing for?"

"When they cool they have to be iced," Amanda supplied. To Spock's still form she added, "Christine is fine. There is no need to worry."

"I do not worry. However, I am concerned. Although the roads are clear, accidents do occur."

"And if something happened..." Amanda started to say as she began icing one of the cooled cookies. She stopped. There was nothing that would tell the authorities who to call there if something had happened. She finished, "Nothing has happened."

Out in the main area, the group had put the tree up and the Kirk had taken it upon himself to string the lights. Carol had tried giving him advice on the task. "You know if you would plug the lights in before you put them up, you'd find out if they work or not."

"They are new, they should work," he answered with a harrumph.

"Maybe not. And it would look funny if you put them all on and then found out that the middle section doesn't light up for some reason," she countered.

Jim Kirk and Carol Marcus often butted heads as they had over 30 years earlier when they had met and grown close enough to have a child. Now they had tried to patch up their differences and the pain and had become close again. There would always be the pain associated with David and the blame that they both placed on each other, but they could work on it in time and stay together. After all the relationships Kirk had had with women in his past, he finally seemed to find the one that mattered most to him. He was determined not to screw it up this time.

"Wonder where Chris is?" Uhura was asking as she strung another popcorn kernel on the thread. Janice was too busy eating half of hers to string much. "Well, maybe she's having a night on the town with Leonard. You know those two can get distracted pretty easily."

Uhura laughed. Leonard might be a father figure to each of them in some form, but he was a charmer. Still, Uhura knew what Rand did not, that Spock had finally decided that love was the answer to his ills and that Christine equaled love. She'd meant to pull Christine aside and have a little galpal party while they were here and then the plans changed to include Spock's parents and Carol Marcus. It wasn't that she didn't like Carol, she just didn't know her very well. It was obvious that the feelings Kirk had held for her were more strong than ever, and it was also apparent that Janice Rand's presence was a little awkward. Although Kirk had been a protective figure in Janice's life and she had in turn loved him almost like Chris had with Spock, she had gone on and done other things. Her life had ventured into other's paths and she'd had other relationships. Still, Janice looked up at Kirk on that ladder and saw him much the same way she had the first day she'd been on the Enterprise, as the savior of the universe. He was her captain and loyal friend. She wasn't jealous of Carol, just a little envious. Carol had proven to be a friend to her while she and Christine had been stationed at HQ. They had spent several nights nursing wounds and healing hearts.

"So, when does Scotty get in?" Carol asked to send the subject in other directions.

"Tomorrow morning I think ... Spock..." Jim called from his perch.

Spock appeared at the door. "Yes?"

"Scotty, when does his transport arrive?"

"0930. We are to be there an hour ahead of schedule, however," Spock replied and with no further questions along that line went back into the kitchen. Kirk shook his head. The sight of Spock in an apron with flour dusted all over him was one he never in his wildest dreams or nightmares had ever pictured. He called back in, "Those cookies better be good...."

"Christine says that Spock has turned into a regular pastry chef. Well, at least we don't have to worry about her starving," Uhura commented.

Janice looked at her friend curiously. "What makes you say that?"

Kirk and Uhura glanced at each other. They both knew that Spock had intentions of marrying Christine, but with her out in deep space, she'd been left out. Kirk decided to tell her, "Spock's decided he wants to marry her."

"What... When... How...?" she stuttered. Spock who had heard the last bit stepped back into the living room. Her blue eyes were as wide as he'd ever seen them.

"It is the logical thing to do," he replied echoing that phrase his father had said in sickbay some quarter of a century ago.

Out in the entrance hall, he could hear the sound of flurried activity. It had to be Christine and McCoy. Quickly exiting himself, he went to make certain. The two were standing shaking their coats and boots off of snow and fairly beaming in delight. McCoy nodded, "Spock, sorry we're late... I'll go help."

Spock watched McCoy pass him, noted the expression of delight so evident on Christine's face that she was practically levitating. She waited until McCoy was in the other room and motioned for Spock to go into the study that was off the hall and away from the others. Pure joy radiated out of every pore. He did not need to know what from. "There have been developments?"

She nodded in the soft glow of the desk lamp that had automatically popped on when they entered. She managed to choke out, "It works. She walks."

Spock felt like lifting her to the heavens. If it hadn't been a rather human thing to do, he would have. Instead he approached her with two fingers outstretched, "My joy is yours."

She responded in the same manner. Since Spock had proposed to her, she'd not really shown much of the Vulcan affection that Sarek and Amanda exhibited. Now, her heart was beating so hard to be near this man who had stood beside her waiting just as patiently. The moment they touched, the electricity was unlike anything she'd ever felt. The prisoner had now stepped out of the door into the sunlight and was bathed in exquisite joy. Without much preamble, in fact there was none, their minds linked and mingled with each other's. Spock was slightly surprised, she felt it, "What?"

"It is simply that there has been no formal bonding ceremony. You should not have felt that."

She smiled, "In a way, we've been bonded for years. I did hold your very soul in mine for a short time. Could that be it?"

Spock nodded, "Yes, it would also make sense in some other things from my past. When it is more appropriate, I will speak of such things. Right now, I wish to focus on you and what happened with Vita."

"When we got there she walked to the door to open it. She walks, without pain. Her legs are tired and weak from inactivity for so long, but she shows no signs of the Bar-Chorii syndrome that she has. I should rephrase that. She still has the Bar-Chorii, but it is being subdued as we speak. McCoy and I took her to Starfield to run blood work and other tests. I would have called, but we got so busy. I'm sorry if we worried you," she realized with a tired little chuckle. It was so draining, but she was so exhilarated at the same time. "You'll have to excuse me, I think I'm positively giddy."

"You have every right to be giddy. Even on Vulcan such a feat would be cause for great celebration. It would be in a more quiet manner, but there would definitely be overwhelming satisfaction at the task you have just completed."

"No, not completed. I am at the beginning. This is the first of many celebrations if I have anything to do with it," she answered, clutching Spock's hand in near desperation to keep herself from flying out into the room. Her eyes were practically glowing in delight, tears of relief and happiness making them like diamonds in the dark room.

Spock stiffened slightly. "Then, the bargain that we had ... that when Vita showed signs..." His tone was a little downcast, as if she would never be his wife now for her work was too great.

"That I would marry you. I don't go back on my bargains Mr. Spock," she replied formally. "You are as much a part of this victory as I am. You've been there to support me when I needed it most. I require you to remain there."

"Then, Dr. Chapel," he said and remembered the small box that he had carried around with him for several days. Removing it from the pocket in the ambassadorial robes, he presented it to her. She didn't touch it. He opened the velvet case to reveal the band that he had custom made for her. It was a simple band of braided gold, one section green, one rose, and one white all wound together. He explained, "I chose this as a symbol of not only the non-ending devotion, but of the two worlds that we represent. You are the rose gold, I am the green, but the white, is us. We will no longer be two separate individuals but one unit with one purpose."

He took it from the box, lifted her left hand, placed it on the traditional finger, it fit perfectly. Placing her head on his chest, she said, "One heart, one soul. I am yours, you are mine."

She had heard the words before from transcripts of Vulcan marriage rituals. Spock lifted his hand to her cheek, placed the fingertips lightly on her pulse points to join them closer. "Parted from me and never parted. My thoughts to your thoughts."

Everything stopped or stood still, she wasn't sure. Time no longer passed. In her mind there was a presence so encompassing that it threatened to take away her breath from her body. She saw and knew all that he was. He in turn could feel every beat of her heart and the joy and anguish in her soul. It was done. When Christine lifted her head away from his chest, she saw the tears pouring down his cheeks. As he had done before she wiped them away, "What is it?"

Words were lost to him. "Just that love is a very strong emotion. I don't know if I've known it in this fashion before. I find it is something I have yearned for and did not know I wanted."

"Well, you have my full measure of devotion. Do I get to call you husband?"

"You may, although we are not formally joined by either of our ceremonies, but I wish to hear it from your lips," he answered.

"Husband," she whispered. She wept at the word. His arms encompassed her body and they remained in that fashion for enough time to make someone come looking for them. Fortunately, it was his father. He knew immediately from the change in Spock's mental shields.

"Daughter of my house, I welcome you," he said in greeting causing even more tears.

"I'm sorry I'm just one big blubbering idiot," she offered.

"No, never apologize for joy. Dr. McCoy has filled us in on the news with Vita. May I offer my congratulations. It is indeed an honor to have such a person included in the House of Surak."

Sarek did not remain, understood what it was like to find the most logical choice of them all. But Spock and Christine went with him. "I suppose we should tell everyone."

"I think they will know," Spock replied, noting that they both had changed in that moment it took to create a new being out of two. And in fact, they didn't have to say anything. Amanda could feel it through Sarek's thoughts, could see it in her son's eyes and Christine's carriage.

"My daughter ... I have waited so long to say that," she greeted warmly only confirming for the others what had occurred.

"Well, looks like we have two reasons to celebrate," McCoy was saying and valiantly trying to keep from pounding Spock on the back.

"But we never had a wedding reception or a shower or anything," Janice moaned lightly.

"True, we didn't get to give Spock one of those bachelor parties we always wanted to give. It's about time one of us got hitched."

Christine laughed a little. "Well, we're not legally married yet. But I think that it would be most appropriate to hold the ceremony now while you are all here. After all, there aren't too many others we'd have invited anyway to my knowledge, other than maybe Chekov and Sulu and with Scotty coming..."

Spock agreed. There was no other people he wished to have attend. And a human ceremony was far easier to arrange than the more private Vulcan one. However, they did not have the proper papers or arrangements made. "We will need a church?"

"Nope, a justice of the peace will do," she corrected.

The evening turned into a last minute wedding planner, Christmas trimming, and generally festive melee. Sarek could not help but remember the instance of his own human wedding to Amanda. It was much the same manner. He had 'courted' her for months. Well, courted was not what she called it. She called it talking to her. They spent dinners together and saw each other at embassy functions. She taught him to dance, and he in turn assisted in her pronunciation of the Vulcan tongue. It had not taken him long to realize that she was indeed the more logical choice than T'Rea had been for him. Her warmth and humor was not like other humans. She had restraint but allowed her general aura to spill over into his own creating a blend that only he could find attractive. Her parents had objected, but she had been of an age that it had not mattered what they thought. They had few close friends and only two were invited to the wedding itself. Spock had more close friends, brothers and sisters in arms as it were, than Sarek would have ever had imagined. Now, the son that Sarek had wished to present as the best of both worlds had accomplished the task even though it had been difficult from the beginning. His son was taking the entire evening in stride, almost too calmly. Even Vulcans had some leeway when it came to their impending weddings.

* * *

Montgomery Scott was met with a flurry of activity. As the group sped along in one of the embassy buses toward a destination he still wasn't sure of, he asked, "What's going on?

"Spock's finally marrying Christine," Janice answered from his left.

"We're finding a justice of the peace," Uhura answered from his right.

McCoy leaned forward from the back seat. "Just go with the flow, Scotty. We'll try to explain later."

Scotty sat back, just shook his head at the sudden turn of events the world that he knew had just taken, and enjoyed the trip. Spock navigated as Christine sat in the passenger seat trying to direct him where to go from a directory in her lap. "Apparently, there is no justice of the peace in New York, Rhode Island, or New Jersey that can perform the ceremony because we have to have a waiting period. But, it says here we can go to Connecticut. There is no blood test and we can apply for the license and just have to wait for two hours."

"Then, we head for Connecticut," Spock answered.

* * *

"How do you pronounce this?" the clerk asked, trying to read Spock's first name.

"It is of no consequence. It is spelled correctly. It does not need to be spoken at the ceremony. My fiancee will keep her maiden name for legal purposes," Spock explained.

The clerk looked over at Christine. "Ma'am?"

"He's right, I can't pronounce it either. It will remain Christine Elizabeth Chapel."

The woman continued with the questions. "Ages, birth dates, and birth places?"

"55, February 23, 2239, Columbus, Ohio."

"62, 12th day of Tasmeen ... roughly the 25th of March, 2231, ShiKahr, Vulcan."

"Have either of you been married before?"

"No," Christine replied.

Spock considered a moment. "No."

"Occupations?"

"Physician, retired Starfleet."

"Ambassador from Vulcan, retired Starfleet."

"Mother's maiden name?"

"Andrews."

"Grayson."

"Any known genetic disorders?"

"No."

"No."

The clerk glanced over the rest, required their signatures, asked for a thumb print to be used as identification. After the fee was paid, she stamped a few things, stapled a copy together, time dated it, and handed them a copy. "You will need to present this at your ceremony. If you marry before the two hour waiting limit is up, the marriage will not be valid. After the ceremony, it will be logged by the officiating clergy or justice of the peace, and you will receive a copy in the mail certified from our office. And, congratulations."

For some reason, Christine was rather shy. It was beginning to hit her that in a couple hours she would finally be someone's wife. Spock took the piece of paper. They turned and didn't meet each other's eyes. Apparently he felt the same way. The weight of a lifetime of responsibility to someone else was before them. As they walked back toward the waiting room where the rest of the group was waiting, Spock whispered to her, "Are you still afraid?"

"Yes, and you?"

"Yes," he answered and added,"but I am willing to face the unknown as long as you are in it with me."

"Ditto," she replied and on instinct she grasped his hand hard as if her entire life was in his grip. "You know it's funny, we keep running around like this is an emergency or something. It reminds me of those old war movies where the girl and boy barely know each other but decide to get married before he goes overseas."

"We do not have to marry today. We can wait if you wish to arrange something more elaborate," he said stopping before they went through the doors.

"No, this is perfect. The wedding itself is just a day, it is not representative of the marriage or the relationship. Too many people think that if they have a huge wedding that it means the marriage will be successful. Many times it's just the opposite. I don't want to get bogged down arguing over the china service or the songs played or how many to invite to a reception. You do realize that Anne and Ken will probably be angry, as well as Vita. But, they can throw the reception for us later," Christine decided. The anteroom was a small hallway right before they entered the main lobby. Right before Spock got to the door, she stopped him. "Spock..." He turned and searched her face. "Have I told you lately that I love you?" she replied softly.

"Not in 25 years. I have always known, but it is good to hear. Vulcans...." Spock cautioned.

"Don't speak of such things in public I know. That's why I stopped you before we got out the door," she finished and stepped out into the hall with him to their waiting friends.

* * *

Since it was two hours before they could even show up at a minister, they ate a late lunch at a country inn replete with a crackling fireplace and a piano bar. Uhura saw an opportunity and took it. After the meal and before the dessert was served she approached the pianist. "Do you take requests?"

"You hum it I can play it?" he replied confidently.

"How about I sing it you play it for me?" she asked with a glittering smile.

"Sure thing. What do you want to hear?"

"Well, since I'm with a wedding party, how about something suitable for a wedding?"

"Because You're Mine?"

"No, no, too sappy. I know..." she leaned forward and whispered into the pianists ear who laughed. The strains of the song started up and with a glimmer that was pure mischief she began, "I'm gettin' married in the mornin'. Ding dong the bells are gonna chime...."

Christine was laughing so hard she didn't hear most of the tune. Janice had joined in with the song and by the time it wound around to the end, Janice, Carol, and Uhura were doing a sort of can-can to the tune in front of everyone in the entire inn. They were given such a round of applause that the whole thing started again and this time it was a hoe-down that included Kirk, McCoy, and Scott. Spock sat calmly drinking his hot tea, his father likewise. It was all just one of the things they had learned to put up with from their human loved ones.

As the dessert dishes were taken away, someone remembered Christine's lack of proper attire. "Hey, don't you want to get a dress or something?" Janice suggested hoping she'd say yes.

"Not necessarily. I suppose you want me to wear a dress," Christine replied to her close friend.

"Of course." Janice raised her voice to be heard over the din of the rest of the group. "Attention ... since today doesn't occur every day of the year, we just simply have to get Christine a proper wedding outfit. Now, she is against the idea, but if I know my ladies, I think that we outvote her."

Four other hands went up, including Spock's mother, the doctor sighed, "Really, this suit is perfectly fine with me."

"Nope, you're outvoted. And I think that you men can do something with our extremely good looking Vulcan groom..." Nyota answered and nodded toward the wary Spock.

Christine was led off with nothing but a backward glance to try to save her. "I guess I'll meet you later."

* * *

The town they had chosen in Connecticut was not large and only had one dress shop to speak of. Luckily Christine had a nice figure and she easily fit into a large selection of clothes. Finally, after the items they were given to choose from, she seemed to find the one she wanted. Just as she took it to purchase it, she saw a window in a shop across the street, "Wait ... what's that shop over there?"

"That is an antique store," the clerk said hoping to ring her purchase up before her shift ended so she'd get the commission.

"But it has a dress in the window."

"It carries vintage clothing as well. Ma'am, do you wish this dress?"

"Huh, oh yes, I'll take it, but ... ladies ... I think I see something else I'd like to wear today."

* * *

"Hold your head up," McCoy growled and poked Spock's chin with his knuckles.

"I am."

"Not high enough. Look up at the ceiling."

"Gentlemen, is it necessary for me to wear this garment?" Spock asked as well as he could with his head craned back to count the ceiling tiles.

Kirk handed McCoy the cravat, surveyed the attire. "I think a bow tie is better."

"But the cravat gives him this air of ... of..."

"A Vulcan in human's clothing," Sarek supplied with a tinge of snobbery in his tone.

The three men turned to him, noted the easy going look in those eyes that could easily convey storms and lightning. "Well, we can't do anything about what's in the clothes. It's not the tailor's fault if he isn't exactly Gary Cooper..." Bones grumbled.

Scotty handed Kirk a piece of tartan. "Nae, here's what he should wear."

"Scotty, in no way shape or form can I see Spock in a kilt," Kirk replied handing it back to the engineer. The mere idea was almost too hilarious to be funny.

"No," came the reply from skyward.

"Well, here, just use one of these bows on the elastic and we'll be done with it," McCoy decided.

"Aren't you forgetting something?" came Sarek's voice from the seat he had occupied since they had entered the men's store.

"What?" the four chorused.

"His pants..."

* * *

"You can't see her," Amanda said stiffly and barred the entrance to her son.

"What do you mean I cannot see her?" Spock asked, suddenly alarmed that she might be hurt or ill.

"Tradition. You cannot see Christine until she walks down the aisle. But, oh my son... How was I blessed with such a handsome child?" his mother asked as she touched the lapel of the tuxedo he'd been forced into.

"You and Father chose the attributes that you wished to be most prominent when I was conceived. I assume that it was then that you were blessed," Spock reminded.

"Oh, you ... go sit over there and wait with the rest."

One thing that Spock had never done in his entire life was talk back to his mother. With his father he could debate, argue, even raise his voice, but with that Earthwoman who had raised him, he dare not do so. The one time that he could not do as she had begged him to do, he had been slapped soundly. But the physical blow had been nothing compared to her words, "I'll hate you for the rest of my life..."

* * *

The chapel was little more than the front parlor of the justice of the peace. The man looked around at the unusual group that he had before him. This would have to go down in the little book that he had of most unusual occurrences. He was astonished enough to see two Vulcans in a back woods little town in Connecticut, let alone marrying one of them to a human. He kept staring at the names that were on the license. "Excuse me, how do you pronounce this?"

Sarek replied with the tongue garbling sound and watched the man nearly swallow his white mustache from just hearing the name. Spock noted it as well. "It is appropriate to simply use my given name, Spock."

"That's good," the older man sighed. The sound that the older Vulcan had produced sounded vaguely like a cross between throat clearing and a sneeze.

"Isn't she ready yet?" McCoy called back to Amanda who disappeared into the small room set aside in case anyone wished to change clothes. Christine had purchased the dress without trying it on, but the size had been correct. They had worried that the gown would not fit since sizing had changed in the years between the gown's design and the wedding. But, as Amanda caught a look at her new daughter for the first time, she could not have been a better fit. "Christine..."

"How do I look?" she asked as Janice and Uhura kept fluffing different parts of the skirt and Carol worked on her hair. The gown was extremely simple in nature. The gown was pure satin and the palest shade of lavender she'd ever seen. The girls had argued that Christine needed a white gown since she'd never been married before, but Christine had fallen in love with the dress and didn't care what color it was. A plain sleeveless bodice with princess seams gave way to a huge flowing skirt. The back scooped so low that a brassiere, or at least the one that she had worn with her other outfit was impossible. Three rosettes in dark lavender adorned the area that the scoop met the waist.

"You are most beautiful," Amanda beamed. Stepping into the room more, she decided now was the time to present her with something. "Christine, I wore these on my wedding day. They have been in my family for more generations than I can remember."

Amanda held out a small box. Inside were two pearl and amethyst earrings. "I find it only appropriate that these are the jewels chosen. Your birthday is in February and mine is in June. Our birth stones together. It is as if fate were waiting for me to give them to you."

"Oh, Amanda, these are exquisite, I'll give them back as soon as the ceremony is over," she assured, not even wanting to touch something so valuable.

"Don't you dare. As much as Sarek and I wished for a daughter, I never had one. You are my daughter now. I expect you to call me Mother."

"All right ... Mom. Just so you'll know the difference between Spock and me, I'll choose the more familiar. Will Sarek expect me to call him Father?" she asked completely awestruck. The other women stopped what they were doing. It was almost sacrilegious.

Amanda nodded, "Only if you chose to call him that. He would consider it an honor if you did. He already calls you daughter. If you want to be let in on a secret, he's wanted to call someone that now for almost 65 years."

Christine smiled. Her own parents were long dead so it would not be a problem where they were concerned. "All right. He might regret that though later."

"No, Sarek ... well, despite what you all might have concluded or heard from Spock, Sarek deeply loves Spock. It's just that Vulcans are so..." she searched for the word and the other four found it, "stubborn."

"That's it. I was sent to find out if you are nearly done. Apparently Leonard is dying to do something else," she remembered.

"Wait, we have something old, something new, we need something borrowed and blue,"Janice reminded. She was the most superstitious of the group, but as silly as it sounded no one wanted to tempt fate.

Carol shifted a ring off her finger. "If you don't mind wearing Jim's Starfleet graduation ring, you can borrow it."

"Jim's Starfleet ring?" Uhura asked. She'd never seen Jim Kirk wear a ring of any sort, let alone anything as ostentatious as a graduation ring.

"I've had it now 35 years. He gave it to me when we first met and I always kept it."

"That takes care of the borrowing, what about blue..." Uhura mused. She had nothing on her that was blue except her underwear, and she was not taking that off. Janice shuffled through her purse that she had brought with her from the bus. "Here, this is blue..."

"That's a Kleenex, I'm not carrying a piece of ... used facial tissue on my wedding day," Christine objected.

"Do you have any that aren't soiled already?" Amanda asked, remembering what Sarek always said about her.

"Go ask McCoy or Kirk ... no, Scotty, I know Scotty has something blue. Go tell him I need to borrow it," Uhura said and Amanda hurried out to the task.

Uhura had known Scotty long enough to know that he was a horrid sentimentalist. For years now, since the first Enterprise had been in space, he had carried a small section of a blue ribbon that Mira Romaine had worn in her hair when she had been aboard on her way to Memory Prime. Uhura was sure he wouldn't mind letting Christine carry it for such an occasion. She was right, Amanda returned in moments with the little piece of ribbon. "Remind me to kiss Scotty very soundly when this is done," Christine said.

"Me too," Uhura sighed. Christine started to ask about that when she was prodded. "Are you done yet?"

"I don't know? Am I done?" Carol asked the other ladies. There really wasn't a mirror available and Christine couldn't see herself in one full length until they opened the door.

"As done as we're going to get here, but you do look so lovely," Janice said starting to pucker up.

"Good grief, don't start the water works or we'll never get out of here," Nyota admonished. She gave Christine a kiss and went out to take her place and start the proceedings. As had been agreed, she'd sing something as Christine headed down the short aisle. There really wouldn't be any bridesmaids or groomsmen, but Christine had asked McCoy to give her away out of a fond remembrance of his fatherly affection for her. He met her at the door. "Good golly ... if I'd known you were gonna be this pretty, I'd have married you myself a long time ago."

"Oh you..." Christine laughed and hugged him for a long time. "You know I'll always love you."

"Never a doubt about it, kiddo," he replied and with a pat on her hand, they emerged from the room. Uhura began to sing the words to a traditional wedding song from Altair 8, but since no one knew the language, they just had to go with the feeling that was exuded from the tune. It was a beautiful tune. Spock had to keep from staring open mouthed at the sight that headed toward him. His first glimpse of T'Pring in her wedding dress was like looking through a haze of fire. With Christine, it was through calm undisturbed sight. She was a vision. Taking her arm from the good doctor, he heard McCoy mutter, "You'd better treat her right or I know just how to kill you..."

Spock nodded and turned to his bride. "She will be well treated."

The justice of the peace smiled at the couple. It was obvious that these two weren't some fly-by-night couple who came in out of the blue to get married. From the appearance of their friends, they'd known each other a great while. He also didn't get to officiate at too many that had thought enough ahead to bring the traditional clothes. The ceremony was short, no more than ten minutes long. The vows were time honored and not changed or reworded to suit their purposes. Christine found that she had no trouble bleating out, "I do." She'd had nightmares all her life about getting to that one question and becoming completely mute. Spock did not stumble through any of the words or the customs. He'd attended more than the wedding of Ken and Anne Donaldson in his lifetime. He also had no problems adhering to any of the vow or their implications.

"The ring..." the man stopped.."You have a ring, don't you?"

Christine nodded and started to take the one off her left hand. It wouldn't budge. Her hands had been cold when Spock had slipped the ring on and after they warmed up, the fingers had swollen. "I can't get it off."

Spock tried to tug at it, not a millimeter. "It is stuck. Is it absolutely necessary that I remove it just to replace it in the exact same place?"

The justice of the peace thought a moment. "No, I don't guess so. It's just the part most people get real weepy over. We'll just pretend you've slipped it on. Keep hold of the left hand and repeat after me, With this ring, I thee wed..."

Spock did as he was told. "With this ring, I thee wed." The sound of his mother, it had to be his mother, crying behind him kept the air lighthearted. Spock would wear no such ring on his hand, although if she had insisted upon it, he would do so gladly. Christine was smiling through the whole thing. "You may now salute the bride," came the rest.

Christine half expected him to give her a peck on the lips or perhaps even on the cheek. He'd not shown any public affection toward her beyond a light brush with the fingertips or a slight smile. But here in front of the friends who mattered the most to them and his parents, he pulled her to him, tilted her chin to stare in her eyes, and engulfed her in a kiss that lasted exactly one minute. It was timed. When he released her she was fairly fighting for air. "Holy cow..." she breathed.

"Indeed," he replied.

There was no pandemonium to greet the two. They faced their friends. Both Janice and Amanda were crying so hard they looked more like they were at a funeral instead of a wedding. Sarek approached the new couple. "You must forgive your mother. She always cries at weddings."

"Sure thing ... Pop," Christine answered, remembering what Amanda had said about his wish to be called father by her. She couldn't help choosing the more human appellation instead.

Without a sigh, Sarek regarded his son. "I can only hope that you will be as content as your mother and I."

With Sarek's formal declaration of welcome into the family over with, it was the rest of the group's turn. McCoy pulled Scotty to the side and were having a quietly animated discussion while the couple were bombarded with well wishes from the others. They had been planning this for a few hours and would need some co-ordination to pull the feat off. Scurrying out into the snow, they frantically went to work.

"Spock, we've taken the liberty of doing something a little more special than just sending you off on a honeymoon," Kirk began with a twinkle in his eye.

Christine was suspicious. "What have you three been up to?"

"Just a little something for the bride and groom," he answered and stalled the group for ten minutes as he was told to do. The certificate was signed by Spock's parents as official witnesses and then by the newlyweds. If they wished a photograph, it would cost extra. They did have another ceremony to go through when they reached Vulcan, but only Spock's parents would be attending that one. Christine thought. "Wait, we may never get this opportunity again. Let's go ahead and get the picture. Only can we get a whole group photo?"

"Sure, just line them up the way you want."

"I'll get Scotty and Bones," Jim Kirk insisted and hurried out to the street.

The formal picture took only a few moments. Christine wanted to put her other outfit back on before they left but the girls would not hear of it. She was in the middle of objecting that she would freeze as they pulled both her and Spock out the door. They were pelted with birdseed. Spock was not amused. "Why do humans always feel the need to beat their fellow man?"

A horse drawn sleigh was sitting parked at the curb. It was only large enough for two. A driver tipped his high top hat. "Congratulations to the bride and groom."

"What are we supposed to do in a sleigh?" Christine asked as she was led up to it. They had let them put on their coats so they wouldn't catch pneumonia.

"Lass, if you don't know, you just wasted two dollars," Scotty laughed. "Driver, you have the address."

Spock and Christine settled into the sleigh, were covered up by the bundles of old bearskins and woolen blankets to keep from freezing. As the sleigh took off to their unknown destination they could hear the distinct clatter of something dragging behind them. Christine peeked over the side to see the old shoes, tin cans, and a sign... Just Married. Hollering back at them she was heard to say, "And don't you dare try to give us a shivaree...!"

The group looked at each other in wonderment as they sped out of their sight. Bones nudged Scotty who nudged Kirk. Sarek, however, was the first to voice it, "So, shall we use pans or trash can lids?"



The End

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