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. This story is Rated PG.



Amanda's Escape

T'Kuht



"You know there are times that I wish I had never married," Lady Amanda lamented into her iced mint tea.

Nyota Uhura and Christine Chapel regarded their newfound friend with a little surprise. To think there would be disharmony within their favorite Vulcan's parent's marriage was shocking. They exchanged looks which were not lost on Amanda. "Oh, don't get me wrong ... I love Sarek dearly and without Sarek there would be no Spock. It's just that, well, I don't get to do what I did when I was young. You know, I miss getting to go to bed when I pleased, where I pleased, eating what I wanted, wearing what I wanted. You know Sarek gets pretty miffed when I wear my hair down in public. According to Vulcan custom that is just not done."

Uhura laughed. "I was always led to believe that Vulcans don't get miffed."

Amanda smiled slowly. "No, they get miffed, they even get pissed, but well that's another matter. I just wish I could be able to spend time alone with friends just for a few days. I always get to spend time alone."

Suddenly Uhura had a scathingly brilliant idea. "Chris, what do you say?"

Christine regarded her friend confused. "Huh?"

"The cottage ... look, when we get to Petral 9, we've got a lake cottage rented for a week. There is an extra bed and it has your name on it," the Bantu woman grinned mischievously. Christine threw a damper on her fun. "Maybe Sarek won't let Amanda come with us."

Amanda, who had been about to say that he wouldn't, resolutely answered. "He will, or I'll go anyway."

Raising her iced tea, she said haughtily, "Ladies, to freedom."

"Freedom," the other two chorused and the laughing began.

* * *

"No," Sarek stated flatly.

The cabin's privacy grid separated the two of them. Amanda remained standing facing the wall. "It really doesn't matter what you say, I am going."

Sarek did not like this insolent tone his wife had adopted. "Wife."

Amanda sighed, tried a little different tactic. "Sarek, please. I just want to have a little time away. Is that so awful? You know I have few women companions and these are humans. Look at it this way, you and Spock can spend the time together."

Sarek came up behind her, the logic of allowing such a small request winning him over. "Indeed."

Amanda smiled, turned and looked into her husband's face. "Thank you. Just think -- you and Spock can chum around for a week and not offend me. You can stay up all night playing chess without having to worry about ignoring me. He is your son, after all."

Sarek's look at the word "chum" was a little dismayed. He would hardly chum around with Spock. They could do things together, but Sarek was his father not his friend. He knew that Spock already had been offered accommodations with the Captain and the doctor. Perhaps they would allow him to come along.

* * *

Amanda Grayson smiled broadly as she walked to the transporter room. She had left every item of Vulcan clothing she had in her wardrobe and had donned lake wear. She planned to lounge and shop and smile and laugh and just be human for a week. She might even flirt with a few men if she was near any. Entering the transporter room, she didn't know who she wanted a picture of, Spock or Sarek. The look on their faces was priceless. She'd have to see if they had security cameras and if they had a shot of them when she got back. Her three traveling companions, Uhura, Chapel, and Lt. Carolyn Palamas of Archeology and Historical Research, were already waiting in their off duty clothes. Uhura managed a low whistle at the revealing look at Spock's mother. "Girl, you are hot."

"Thank you, are we ready to go?" she asked and allowed Sarek to raise one eyebrow at her while she smiled deeply at him before turning to the transporter pads.

"Anytime."

"Mother," Spock interrupted before they could be beamed down.

"Yes, Spock?"

"Be careful," he answered after a moment's hesitation.

She smiled at him. "I love you too, dear." And she was gone in a beam of sparkling light.

* * *

The lake region that the girls had chosen was a pure tourist trap. But, that's what they had wanted. Located in the heart of the warmer middle section of Petral, Lake Kitterly was native population 5,000, tourist population 20,000. The cottage had been designed after the old chatauqua cottages on Earth and were painted bright colors that they were called by. Uhura had reserved the Pink Pussycat. It shared a dock and deck space with a bright purple one known as the Purple Passion Pit.

As the girls put away their things -- Uhura and Carolyn Palamas had drawn the rear bedroom while Christine and Amanda had gotten the front one -- they wondered aloud whether there would be any interesting people next door. At the time, it looked deserted.

Carolyn had changed into a bathing suit and appeared in the hallway between the two rooms. "I certainly hope whoever it is won't mind my sunbathing."

Uhura looked at the model figure with envy. "If they're men, they'll insist you do it often."

Christine came out. "Oh, yeah, definitely."

They watched Carolyn walk down the stairs. The nurse sighed. "Well, so much for having any dates. Maybe I can take her leavings."

Uhura looked at her best friend. "Christine, you are just as beautiful as Carolyn. You just have to think beautiful."

Amanda had emerged from the room ready to take on the world. "She's right you know. You have the prettiest eyes I think I've ever seen."

"That's the pot calling the kettle black I do believe," Christine said with her usual deprecating tone. She's always considered herself barely passable.

"Well, you just need to learn to shine a little more, that's all," Uhura said. She was determined to get Christine out of this strange little world in which she was an ugly duckling. It didn't help that she was in love with the only man on the ship who wouldn't notice or at least say if she were covered in manure or wearing an expensive evening gown. Perhaps with Spock's mother there, they could get some pointers. After all, it wasn't hard to see why Sarek had picked her with her new look.

Christine headed down to the kitchen where she'd had supplies delivered and needed to put them away. Amanda and Uhura lingered in the hall. "Amanda," she began. "Maybe you could help me. Don't ever tell Christine I told you this, but she likes Spock."

Amanda corrected her. "Nyota, believe me, I saw through Christine the first five minutes I met her. She loves him deeply, and he has nothing to do with her. Pity really."

Uhura's eyes narrowed. "That she loves Spock or that he has nothing to do with her?"

"Both, she's a wonderful woman. I dare say she reminds me of myself when I first fell in love with Sarek. It is a shame that Spock cannot allow himself to even explore the possibility of enjoying her company," the older woman mused.

"You mean because he's Vulcan?"

"No, because he's a man who doesn't know what he wants so he wants nothing at all. Spock may look Vulcan, he may have chosen to be Vulcan, he may act Vulcan, but down deep, he's just a male. After all, Sarek is full Vulcan and I turned his head. If Spock feeds you the line of bull that it is his Vulcan half that cannot see Christine or any other woman as a possible mate well, that's just it -- bull." Amanda was being frank which was refreshing.

Uhura's eyes began twinkling. "Thank you for that piece of information. I'll just have to see if I can use that when we get back to the ship."

* * *

Transporter room 4 was full of fishing supplies. Kirk and McCoy had rented a lake cottage, intent on spending their time fishing and enjoying the night life around Petral 9's Lake Kitterly. They waited for Spock and Sarek. It had been a bit of a shock that Sarek had actually agreed to their invitation of a week's stay in a cottage. But with Amanda's departure with their crewmates, the Ambassador was a little out of his element. It had been odd enough that the two were traveling on the Enterprise while on just a milk run. Kirk had suspected that the influence Sarek had over how he traveled to and from his diplomatic missions and the fact that his ship was just cruising around for a couple weeks had something to do with their presence. Still, he looked forward to the time spent with his first officer's father.

"Jim, I swear they're late," Leonard McCoy groused as he leaned against the wall.

"Actually we are fifteen seconds too early," came the reply as Spock, closely followed by his father, arrived at the transporter room.

"Hail, hail the gang's all here," McCoy complained lightly and started up to the transporter pads.

Kirk nodded. "Gentlemen, if you are ready, I think he is."

"What's the name of this place?" McCoy was asking as they settled into their positions.

"The Purple Passion Pit..." the captain's voice said as they dematerialized.

* * *

Lake Kitterly was gorgeous. Shops lined the wharf, a large Coney Island style amusement park was situated on the dock and every Friday was a town wide dance. McCoy and Kirk had basically dropped their gear in the front door and took off for the fishing areas. They were going to rent a boat and be out for the day. Spock and Sarek spent a few moments regarding their surroundings before going to their rooms. It had been agreed that father and son would share a room, Kirk and McCoy the other. "I take it they do not care which room they are given so shall we chose ours," Sarek suggested.

The house was an adequately furnished open design downstairs, the kitchen, dining area and living room all merging into one. Upstairs a set of bedrooms was separated by a bath and the stairs. The front bedroom had a balcony that overlooked the lake, the back private access to the bath. The front bedroom had a large queen sized bed. Considering that at least they were related, Sarek decided that perhaps he and his son could share that room. McCoy and Kirk would have to do with the twin beds in the back room.

"Father, would you care to play chess, or perhaps inspect the area?"

Sarek thought a moment. He really didn't want to sit indoors. Without Amanda there he was quite lost, even though he wouldn't admit it. He had been alone on many occasions, they had all been diplomatic missions however. Duty had parted them for long periods of time, but he had always spent his free time with her. "It is a pleasant day, perhaps we should take advantage of that."

Spock nodded. Chess would wait until night when the doctor and Kirk would be carousing. It would be a good excuse to keep from accompanying them. They could have some groceries ordered while they were going around Kitterly. The basics only would be needed since none of them really were expected to cook. As Spock and Sarek walked out the front door, Spock could see movement in the house adjoining theirs. He hoped their neighbors would be orderly and quiet.

* * *

"So, ladies, what do you say to a night on the town?" Carolyn asked her companions. She had spent the afternoon sunbathing and was glowing from the new tan. It made her platinum hair even more spectacular. Amanda agreed readily. Christine was hesitant. Uhura adamant.

"Let's go. Where to?"

Christine thought about the tourist brochures that they'd been reading on the ship. "Well, there's the amusement park, or we could go to one of the taverns. I personally would like a big steak."

Amanda moaned with appreciation. "Ladies do you know how long it has been since I sunk my teeth into a nice, juicy, rare steak? At least ... how old is Spock ... 42 years?"

"Well, then, let's not waste another moment," Uhura chimed and they were off. Walking was the transportation of choice on Kitterly, bicycles, small gas operated scooters, and boats the other means. If they really wanted they could go horseback riding one afternoon. The girls' laughter could be heard plainly as they headed for the brighter lights of Kitterly.

* * *

"Father, if I may ask a question," Spock began. This was a delicate area. How could he possibly ask why his mother was gallivanting with junior crew while his father stayed with three bachelors in a cottage called the Purple Passion Pit?

Sarek slowed his pace down as they worked their way through the streets of Kitterly. "Yes."

"Mother ... her behavior ... is distressing," Spock stated flatly.

"Indeed. She expressed a need to have time to herself. Apparently I do not allow her that. I did not know. She would prefer the company of strangers to that of her husband," he said quietly. He had not really meant for it to be spoken yet he had.

Spock saw a new universe open up to him in that simple statement. His father was hurt. "I am certain that Mother meant no disrespect. She simply wishes..." He trailed off, not certain what his mother had wanted. He was, what on Earth would have been called, a mama's boy from the beginning, even if he did deny it. His mother walked on water. His mother was an angel. His mother was perfect, and she was human. She mattered more to him than he cared to admit. The idea that she would hurt anyone was abhorrent to him.

"She wishes to be human, Spock. She can only be what she is. If she cannot be that with me, then she must have human female companions that she can indeed be herself. This is an interesting architectural style, a grotto I believe?" Sarek said changing and closing the subject all at the same time.

"The sign would indicate such. It is a restaurant apparently as well as a taverna. Shall we?"

"Yes, it is past time to eat."

The dark, smokey atmosphere was purely that -- atmosphere. No smoking was allowed in public buildings so a machine sat in the corners putting out thick bellows of fog. There was a seating area in the back, a bar to the left and an amusement stage to the right. According to a sign it was amateur night at the Grotto that evening. A well endowed waitress appeared. "How many?"

"Two."

"Entertainment or dining?"

"Dining," they answered in unison.

She led them through a darkened passage and into a dimly lit room. Each table or booth had a set of candles stuck into empty wine bottles in them. Apparently, they were the only illumination other than the red emergency lights at the exits and restroom areas. It was so widely accepted that Vulcans were vegetarian that she handed them an exclusive vegetarian menu. "I am Dinar, your server for the evening. I will return in a few moments for your orders. Do you have requests for drinks now?"

"Tea, unsweetened," Spock replied.

"Altair water," Sarek added.

The server disappeared into the darkened area. Spock and Sarek studied the menu. Or squinted to see the menu. Neither would admit they were having a hard time seeing in the blackness. A voice that Sarek would have recognized within a thousand voices wafted gently from another table. "Can't see a damned thing."

"I know. Well, you know what you wanted, do you have to be able to read it?" came a voice that he recognized as Miss Uhura's.

"Nyah, I'll go ahead and order. What are you getting?"

Sarek had not meant to eavesdrop, but his wife had not supplied him with the exact location she would be beaming down. Apparently she was staying in Kitterly as well. Spock recognized his mother's voice but said nothing, not wishing to add to his father's ill at ease.

Choosing the dish of pasta with stir fried vegetables, Sarek didn't feel like eating. He felt like his world had suddenly turned upside down. Spock chose the steamed rice and mushrooms with a cream sauce. The menu had more to offer than he would have presumed of a humanoid race. But, it was a tourist world so he assumed they had to adapt to many things.

They could both hear the patter of laughter from the booth the women sat at and awkward silences passed between father and son as they tried not to listen.

"So, what was Sarek going to do while you were off having a time?" they could hear Carolyn ask.

"Probably go do something utterly boring with Spock. No, I shouldn't say that. They need to spend time together without me getting in their way. I think I create some kind of aura with them at times. I'm sure they'll have a nice time. I don't think I would have had a nice time, but well, I am now."

Sarek felt even worse. So, Amanda did not enjoy herself while in his presence. He had always assumed, their bond was so strong. But then, humans were fickle. But he never would have believed it of his T'hy'la.

Spock could sense or feel or imagine his father's distress. If the words appeared to Spock as those of a dissatisfied wife, then what would they appear to his father? Yet from the completely masked look on his face, his father probably could not even begin to understand. The rest of the ladies' conversation had turned to what they planned to do, where they'd gone or would go and held no interest for Spock. It would be the height of bad manners to approach them. If his mother had wanted time alone, then that is what she would have. Dinar returned with their meals, which were delicious even though neither really had the stomach for them. Sarek had noticed the smell of freshly fried meat and grimaced as he realized who it was meant for. Amanda never ate meat in his presence and, he had assumed, away from it. Maybe just because he had been married to her for 42 years did not mean that he knew anything about her. Maybe he knew nothing about her. Glad to come to the end of the meal, he practically flew out of the building. Spock was hard pressed to keep up.

"Father," he began.

Sarek turned. "Spock, I intend to meditate. I would appreciate it if I could be undisturbed."

Spock nodded acquiescence. It would be completely against all of Vulcan to ask if he could be of any help with the situation. If his father wished help, he would ask him. At loose ends, the Vulcan had nowhere to go. So he stood, for several minutes outside the Grotto. The amateur night sign blinked on and he considered. Well, at least it's somewhere to go.

The performance stage was the only well lit area in the entire grotto. Settling into a small booth for two in the corner, he politely accepted the basket of chips and salsa handed to him and the glass of water. He was not hungry, he'd just eaten, but he was thirsty.

A master of ceremonies appeared on the stage. "Ladies, gentlemen, and others ... please welcome a new group to our amateur stage. The Enterprise Ingenues."

Spock didn't have to think twice who at least one of them was. Uhura couldn't resist performing for anyone, including the ship's flora. He was surprised to see his mother at the piano and the other two ladies on either side of the communications officer. He did not know either Ms. Palamas or Miss Chapel sang or did anything of an entertaining nature.

Uhura began. "Hello, we're going to do a song we've been working on for a while. Amanda, if you will."

With a flourish Amanda began with a chord. Apparently the ladies sang harmony. Their voices timed and united in perfect unison. "To know, know, know him is to love, love, love him. Just to see him smile, makes my life worthwhile. To know, know, know him is to love, love, love him and I do."

Uhura took the solo and the two blondes acted as backup singers. He could pick out the historian's middle soprano and the communications officer's higher soprano easily, but he was surprised to hear Miss Chapel's alto. She had a rich strong voice that he had never considered. She anchored the group down to keep it from soaring to a too high pitch. His mother's playing basically just made sure there was something to keep time with. The song ended and a round of applause greeted them. They exited the stage and a new group emerged from the dark. Spock decided to remain incognito. This could be quite educational. He could observe his mother from an objective viewpoint here. He noticed that while they had been on stage several of the male patrons seemed unusually interested in the group. But, there were three young vibrant women to focus on. Now, with the four offstage, he realized some of that interest was directed toward his mother, his-married-happily-to-his-father mother. He reacted almost like he was hit with a sandbag. *Perhaps she is not so happy as I have always believed.*

The evening ended and the Ingenues won the competition thereby winning the right to appear again the next night. Leaving before the house lights could come up, he headed back to the cottage. * * *

The first full day on Kitterly dawned early, bright, and warm. Spock had returned to a darkened house. McCoy and Kirk had not yet arrived, his father had already retired for the evening. Meditating, for a time, Spock retired. Now as the slam of a screen door jolted the Vulcan out of his sleep, he realized that his father had snuggled against him in the night and held him still with his arm draped across his son's waist. Spock tried to move which only tightened the grip. "Amanda," Sarek's voice whispered into Spock's ear.

Spock replied with a small squeak. "Father?"

"Amanda?"

More sternly. "Father, allow me to rise."

Two mussed and slightly embarrassed Vulcans sat up in the bed. The sound of footsteps on the stairs indicated someone else was up and about. Voices confirmed the doctor's and captain's absence during the night.

"Damned fool thing. That's the last time you get me out like that," McCoy's drawl indicated extreme agitation.

"Sshh," Kirk commanded as they got to the landing. Both doors were closed and they had no clue which room the others had chosen. Opening the front bedroom door, Kirk grunted. "I guess our room is in back."

"Yes," the Vulcans chorused, still sitting in bed.

Sarek couldn't help but wonder at their state. They reeked of fish, beer, and pond water and their clothes were filthy and torn. To borrow a phrase from Amanda, he stated, "You look like something a sehlat dragged in."

Leonard McCoy stuck his head in and launched into a tirade. "You would too, if Captain Ahab here had taken you out on the lake." He began their tale of comic woe with the renting of the boat, running out of gas, losing the oars, falling overboard and being drug by one of the freshwater varieties of swordfish. Suddenly he stopped. "Hey, what are you two sleeping in the same bed for?"

"Would you prefer to sleep with him?" Sarek answered completely serious.

Kirk thought he was gonna pee down his leg at that one and excused himself to the bathroom. After all he'd get the shower first this way.

McCoy recovered but only after giving the Ambassador a glare that would have disarmed a Klingon destroyer and shook the thought out of his head with a shudder. "Anyway, so we crawl up on the other end of nowhere, the only thing that floated had been the beer, so we slept on bangee leaves all night. As soon as it got halfway daylight out, we hightailed it back. I hope I packed enough anti-itch cream."

At Sarek's questioning glance, Spock answered, "Bangee is a hybrid of poison ivy. I suggest a strong hot bath and the destruction of your clothes."

McCoy snorted. "Why, thank you Mr. M.D." McCoy turned to the bath and heard the shower kick on. "Damn, he got the shower first. I'll probably get nothing but cold water."

Knowing better than to sit down, he went over to open the door to his and Kirk's bedroom. Their window looked out onto the deck and he could see one partially clad, extremely voluptuous female's back end lying on a lounge. "So you met the neighbors yet? The look really nice."

"No," Sarek replied as he got out of bed and headed to the wardrobe. Spock began tidying the bed. McCoy stayed watching the scenery." Yeah, I think I can convince Jim that fish are a low priority."

"Food was delivered yesterday. I believe you will appreciate what Spock chose," Sarek's muffled voice came out of the closet.

"I'm sure..." the doctor agreed with a moan.

Spock took his cue from his father. "Perhaps I should make certain everything arrived safely."

Leaving his father to dress, he went down to the kitchen and began pulling out items in the refrigerator. Everything had been delivered and was in good order. Choosing juice and a selection of breads, he placed them on the serving table. McCoy followed him after a few moments itching all the way. "Spock, what did you do with that small black pouch I had?"

Spock mentally ran through the items he and his father had placed in the human's room. "There was no small black pouch."

McCoy thought a moment. "Damn, it's at the bottom of Lake Kitterly. I have to get some anti-itch cream. By the time Jim gets out I'll have scratched myself to death."

Spock regarded the doctor and his frantic itching with wonder. "Why did you sleep on bangee leaves, Doctor?"

"We didn't know what they were till morning. It was pitch black and we were half drunk. Spock, go across and see if you can borrow something from the neighbors. If they don't have anti-itch cream, get calamine or cornstarch or Epsom salts or anything..."

The urgent tone and the hopping from one foot to another was enough to get Spock to start out of the house. He was halfway across the deck when he realized he was still in his night attire. Luckily he had chosen to sleep in his regulation exercise shorts and a black t-shirt. Smoothing his hair, he approached the low fence that separated the kitchen views from each other. A pair of feet could be seen poking around the corner, and he headed that direction. "Excuse me," he began but stopped when he realized the lady was half nude. "I am in need..."

The blonde turned her head to look at the speaker; she thought the voice sounded familiar. With a startled gasp she barely remembered she was topless before leaping to attention. "Mr. Spock."

"Miss Chapel? Uh, Dr. McCoy..." he stammered. Bringing himself to his senses he tried not to ogle the nurse's exquisite form.

"Where did you come from?" she managed to squeak.

"The Passion Pit," he answered meekly.

"Holy cats. What about Dr. McCoy?" she fumbled with the bikini top that lay between her and the lounge and positioned it so it covered everything it had been designed to cover. She didn't know which was redder, her face or her backside.

"He and the captain have come in contact with bangee leaves. They are in need of liniment," he explained with all the succinctness he could muster.

She laughed, the fact that she was in a very brief outfit forgotten for the moment. "I just bet they are. Let me, uhm, change and I'll come over."

Before she went inside Spock asked, "My mother?"

"She's not here. The other three went on an antiquing spree. I decided to enjoy the sunlight. I'll just be a moment," she said with a slight smile.

Spock waited till she returned with a medi-kit, bottles of lotion, and a short set over the bikini. "Shall we?"

Spock escorted her to the backdoor of the Passion Pit. McCoy was by now clad in only his underwear and bright red streaks raked across his torso and legs.

"I have brought assistance," Spock said and ushered in the nurse.

"Christine, I'm in my underwear," he complained trying to hide and itch at the same time.

"Like I'm shocked. Bangee leaves really, Doctor ... you and the captain need to check where you have a roll in the hay. Hold still," she was saying and trying to give him a shot of prednisone. When the hypo hissed against his shoulder, McCoy let out a deeply held breath. The fire was beginning to cool. "Christine, where did you come from?"

"The Pink Pussycat, I was sunbathing when Spock came over," she admitted. Sarek had been halfway down the stairs.

"Amanda, is she there?"

"No, she went with the others to go antiquing. I hate to think what she'll say if she knows you're over here, though," Christine said softly as she handed McCoy the bottle of lotion. Screwing up her face, she sniffed. "Maybe you'd better take a bath first."

"Jim's in the shower. I hope he's itching just as bad."

"What?" came a voice from the stairs. "What itching?"

"I'll kill him, are you done?"

"Next," James Kirk, captain of the USS Enterprise said, striding down the stairs buttoning his shirt.

"Miss Chapel? Bones, aren't you a little underdressed?"

"Go to Hell," he answered and took the steps two at a time.

The sight of a half dressed Vulcan, a fully dressed one, and a very nicely attired human female was a bit perplexing. Spock attempted to clarify. "Miss Chapel and the others are in the Pink..."

"Pussycat," she finished. "I take it you and Leonard had an interesting evening. Thank you. I'll remember the sight of him all covered in scratch marks till my dying day," she said and began to laugh.

Sarek interrupted. "Miss Chapel, why would Amanda have anything to say against my being here?"

The blonde cleared her throat. "Well, it's just that she might view it as following her. I mean she came with us to get away from you. With you here, that sort of negates the whole purpose."

Sarek nodded. "Perhaps I should go."

"No, I mean, as long as she doesn't know you are here, well, there's no harm is there. Besides, I really think she misses you," Christine provided and rubbed her side. They had drawn the queen bed as well and Amanda had dug herself into Christine's back during the night. Apparently Amanda preferred to sleep practically on top of her husband.

"You do? How?" he asked, hoping that his wife's affection was not lost on her.

"Just, well, women know these things. Anyway, you are up awfully late, aren't you? I mean to just be waking up."

"McCoy and I just got in. We had a little mishap. But, yeah, Spock, you are usually the early bird."

Spock cleared his throat. "Yes, and I should be dressed by now. Excuse me."

Christine started to go, but Sarek stopped her. "Miss Chapel."

The blue eyes turned to him, so like his wife's. "Please call me Christine. We're on leave after all."

The elder statesman nodded. "Christine. If I may consult you privately while Amanda does not know. I am at a loss. I do not understand why my wife has suddenly decided she wishes not to be with me."

Kirk went to see what was for breakfast. He'd like to know as well. He liked both Amanda and Sarek, almost as foster parents of sorts and was concerned about how the separation was affecting Spock.

"Oh, Sarek, she wishes to be with you. Believe me, she loves you dearly. It's not that she wants rid of you. She's just, well ... humans have a habit of feeling their age every once in a while." Her blue eyes sought the captain's hazel ones and he nodded slightly. Bolstered by his confidence she continued. "Amanda recently retired from teaching, did she not?"

Sarek nodded. "Yes, she felt it was time to enjoy herself."

"Well, there you are. Spock is grown and gone now for twenty years, Amanda has been busy all this time with projects and students, now she's at loose ends. She doesn't know what to do with herself, and she wants to see if she still has anything to offer humanity. I know that sounds like you aren't enough and that is true. You alone are not enough. She needs something else. It probably was not a good idea for her to just drop everything. But right now ... well, women, they like to feel they are beautiful. I think that might be a little of it too. When was the last time you told her pretty she is?" Christine said assuming he said that in the first place.

"Vulcans do not..."

"Excuse me, Ambassador, but you wanted my advice. My advice is when Amanda gets back to the ship, not now, 'cause she's in her footloose and fancy free mode, shower her with affection. Human affection. Flowers, poetry, jewelry, whatever it takes to make her know you do see her as a woman and not just as your wife."

Sarek considered her words. Christine might only be 31, but she was wise. Nodding, he accepted the idea. "But I must wait until we return. I must spend the week here..."

"Surely it's not that bad. After all there is Spock," she replied trying not to betray the brightening feeling in her heart.

Spock heard the last bit of the conversation. The nurse's affection was well known to him. The fact that his parents had taken a liking to her had not helped in the matter. Jim Kirk came to her rescue. "Well, I'm sure McCoy isn't going to want to go fishing for awhile so we can take in the sights. Do you ride, Ambassador?"

"Ride?"

"Horses. There are stables for hire here. I can't wait to get in the saddle," he grinned. Spock did not regard this as a good idea. He had had little experience with horses, but knew they could be quite dangerous. Still, if there were horses meant for the tourist trade, they were probably quite gentle. A day with his father in the countryside, perhaps...

Sarek had his own doubts. "I do not know if that would be advisable. My doctor..."

"Says you're completely recovered," McCoy answered as he stepped down the stairs. His itching was gone and the antihistamine was doing wonders on the swelling. He was still pissed that Kirk didn't even have a rash.

"Christine, what are Amanda's plans for the day?" Sarek asked.

"As far as I know they are shopping until around five then will be back for supper and out for the evening in Kitterly. We'll not be home till midnight at least," she supplied and munched on a piece of the dried cranberry toast that Spock had put out earlier. "Say, have you guys had breakfast? I'm famished and, well, technically we could call it brunch."

The suggestion was so far the best received one of the day, and Christine happily prepared a large brunch for the three men in her life and a rather depressed Vulcan.

* * *

Uhura dug into the stack of old material and pulled out the particular piece of silk she had been aiming at. Amanda oohed. "That's beautiful."

"I knew it would be. Hey, Carolyn ... where ... oh, the books, never mind ... so do you think this would make a good sash? I have this plain red dress with a little gold spot in it and it really needs some splash of other colors. I thought this was perfect when I saw it over there."

"It certainly would show off that gorgeous dark skin of yours. Mine is so pale. I don't dare expose it to Vulcan rays or I'd be a raisin in a short while."

Uhura had pulled Amanda over to the side to try to get her alone. With Christine back at the cottage and Carolyn with her nose in a book, it was the perfect opportunity. "Amanda, about Christine. Do you think she'd be good for Spock?"

Amanda waited a moment to smile. "From what I have seen of her, she's by far the best I've seen. The horrid thing Sarek forced him to betroth was enough to make me mad at him for a long time. At least she had the bad manners to divorce him. Thank God. I don't think I could have welcomed her open arms into my home."

Uhura's eyes tried to remain the same size. "You mean the woman who contacted Spock? I knew that something had gone awry, but really. Christine didn't tell me about that. I know she knew all about it too. Anyway. It's just that, well, I don't want to try anything if they really aren't compatible. Spock, well, he's a favorite of mine, and it would hurt Christine terribly. I'd not hurt her for the world."

"Well, she's got to dazzle him. As long as she stays amongst the crowd, she'll be just another face. If he could see her as a diamond in a pile of coal, well, it wouldn't take long, believe me. Once a Vulcan makes his mind up, they act quickly," she added remembering her own whirlwind courtship. Sarek had asked her to bond with him one day and the next they were off to Vulcan. She hadn't even had time to announce it to anyone.

"Dazzle, eh? Well, it might take a bit. Christine has a little problem."

"Probably her height. You know when I was in high school we had several girls her height and they were all athletes. They weren't approached much by the guys because, well, they were just too tall. Spock wouldn't or shouldn't have a problem with her height, though."

"Well, we'll just have to use that as an advantage, won't we? There's going to be a ship mixer when we get back. Maybe I can up with something that is tres chic," Uhura decided.

* * *

The Grotto was once again packed. Although the girls had enjoyed their meal there the evening before, they decided to eat elsewhere and then show up for the competition. Uhura had procured Spock's lyre from the ship before she had beamed down and was now prepared to play it in accompaniment. Now, the ladies decided to actually dress as alike as they could get for the performance. Spock had not mentioned that he knew that they were competing and also did not let them know he would be attending. This time, he brought his father to watch them. Sitting in the same booth he had occupied the night before, they waited until the Ingenues would appear.

"Spock, do you believe Miss Chapel is correct in her assessment of the situation?"

The Ambassador's son regarded his drink a moment before answering his father. "She is human and female. Her opinion is, I believe, accurate. However, I might add, if you wish to impress Mother, you can go about it while here without her knowledge."

Sarek was intrigued. "How do I go about this?"

"On board ship, while I have never taken part in this, there is a general aura around one particular human holiday, St. Valentine's Day," he suggested.

"I am familiar with it, most illogical."

"Perhaps if you could send her such illogical items."

"That would require a signature of intent," Sarek stated.

"Not necessarily. On board there are often cards simply signed your valentine or your secret admirer. You could send those to Mother."

The entire scheme appeared in Sarek's head. Yes, this was something. Perhaps if he were to send her an appreciatory message after the performance. Motioning to a waitress he requested a pencil and paper. Spock watched as his father composed a note. "I find your performance highly commendable. A Secret Admirer."

Spock read it and instantly thought of his father. "I don't think this will work. You are too transparent here. Perhaps a line of poetry."

The two sat and thought of all the poetry they could. Sarek thought of all the usual trite phrases, but they would not do. Amanda needed something special. Mentally searching through every piece of literature he had ever read, he remembered a passage from a long dead poet. He scribbled it as unrecognizably as he could. "'Not from the whole wide world I chose thee, Sweetheart, light of the land and the sea! The wide, wide world could not enclose thee, For thou art the whole wide world to me.' Richard Watson Gilder. This is but the sentiment I wish to convey, A Secret Admirer..." Spock nodded approval at his father's choice. He never knew the stoic Vulcan had it in him. Perhaps this shore leave would be more revealing than previously thought.

The house lights went down and once again, the entertainment started. Armed with Spock's lyre, Uhura led the foursome in the first number. It was a bawdy, saucy favorite of Uhura's that had the house in howls by the end. The second was sung, to Spock's surprise, by Christine. The song began a capella and later was joined by the piano and the soft strumming of the lyre. From the way she held her head, Spock could tell it took a lot to begin as well as finish.



"Don't know why, there's no sun up in the sky.

Stormy Weather, since my man and I ain't together.

Keeps raining all the time.



Life is bare, gloom and misery everywhere.

Stormy Weather, just can't get my poor self together.

I'm weary all the time, the time. So weary all the time.



When he went away, the blues walked in and met me.

If he stays away, old rocking chair will get me.

All I do is pray the Lord above will let me walk in the sun once more.



Can't go on, every thing I had is gone.

Stormy Weather, since my man and I ain't together.

Keeps raining all the time. Keep's raining all the time.



I walk around heavy hearted and sad.

Night comes around and I'm still feeling bad.

Rain pouring down blinding every hope I had.

This pittering pattering, beating and splattering drives me mad.

Love, love, love, love ... this misery is just too much for me....



Can't go on, every thing I had is gone.

Stormy Weather, since my man and I ain't together.

Keeps raining all the time. Keeps raining all the time."



As she sang in lower soprano/alto, the Grotto turned almost cold. The atmosphere was painfully somber and Spock could feel the odd tickle of the hair standing up on the back of his neck. He had never before been affected this way by a mere song. He knew who she sang about and perhaps that was why he had that reaction. However, looking over at his father, he noted he had felt something as well. He was certain that he knew nothing of Roger Korby's influence on the nurse's life. As the lights began to come up, there was silence and for a moment a fear that the song had not gone over well passed through him. Spock looked over in time to catch the sight of lights playing across the tears on her cheeks. The house went wild. Uhura came and hugged her hard. He could make out the communications officer's words by lip reading. "That was so beautiful. See I told you you could sing..."

Sarek motioned to a waiter. "Could you give this to the lady who played the piano for the Ingenues..." Motioning for Spock to lean forward he said through the din. "We should leave now, before she receives the note."

Spock nodded and exited swiftly while the house was still clamoring for more. He wished he could remain to see the results, but he was certain they would win. The walk back to the cottage was quiet and refreshing. Both McCoy and Kirk had stayed home due to exhaustion and sore backsides. The horses were a little more spirited than they had bargained for and both had been thrown more than once while trying to climb a hill. Spock had decided to forego the horseback riding after he spent fifteen minutes going around and around in circles with one foot in a stirrup trying to get into the saddle.

Moonlight glistened on the water and the sounds of the night life of Kitterly began to fade the closer they got to the cottage. Sarek was quiet. He was not used to being in close contact with his son. The rift that had been between them for eighteen years was still there, but now there were bridges to meet in the middle. He now accepted that Starfleet had been an influence on Spock. His friends were not ones he would have approved of, but they were good people.

* * *

"Excuse me, I have a note for the pianist." the Petral waiter said and handed the paper to Uhura.

"Sure."

Amanda had gone to sit down at the table the girls had picked and was as surprised as the others when the note arrived. Reading it to them, they fairly gasped with delight. Christine's eyes gleamed and then she frowned. "Just my luck. I can't even beat out the married woman for a date."

"Oh, it's just a note from someone who wants me to feel good," Amanda excused. Well, it was having the right effect. Sarek had never sent such notes. The few times he had actually written her by hand they were filled with details of missions, diplomatic duties, and general business. She crumpled the paper up, then thought better of it. *It might be nice to remember my vacation sometime,*she thought as she slipped it into her pocket.

* * *

Day two dawned just as bright and early. Spock had decided it might be best to sleep on the couch since his father had once again tried to crush him in the night. It was a wonder his mother had lived all these years. He was still curled up in a ball when McCoy's face appeared only two inches from his nose. "Spock? Are you all right?"

Blinking, the Vulcan focused. "Yes, Dr. McCoy. Please refrain from the inquiry."

"Just thought maybe you were ill or something. Where's your father?"

"In the bedroom. It is more comfortable for me out here."

"Oh, well.... Jim wants to try water skiing. Thought we had enough of that the first day out. Do you want to come?"

"Water skiing?" Spock asked unfamiliar with the term.

"Yeah, you know, you put on these skis, hold onto a rope and get drug behind a speed boat. It's fun when you know how."

The idea did not sound "fun". In fact it sounded quite dangerous. "I believe there are shops of interest in Kitterly. Perhaps another time," he declined politely.

McCoy grimaced. "Damn, I thought maybe I could get you to go so he'd let me off the hook. I swear he's going to kill us one of these days."

"You do not have to go along," Spock reminded.

"Somebody's got to tag along to keep him alive."

Spock nodded. The captain did seem to have a reckless attitude about him during shore leaves. But Spock knew that if Jim had wanted any opinions from him, he would have confided in him.

The morning was spent in preparation for the day. Across the deck, he could hear his mother's voice. Trying to appear as if he were perusing a particular piece of art on the wall next to the window, he listened.

"I'd still like to know who sent this note. It's silly, but I feel almost twenty years old again."

Christine's voice chimed in. "It's nice to be appreciated even if it is from afar. Did you pick out the piece you're going to play tonight?"

"Mmm, yes. I don't know how good an idea this is, though. I am just supposed to be the background."

Uhura answered, "Nonsense. You're as much a part of our group as any of us. Carolyn gets to sing tonight."

The soft-voiced historian replied, "Must I? I'm afraid I'll just screw things up. Christine did so well last night. Why don't you sing again?"

"No!" came the vehement reply. "I'm still trying to get my stomach to calm down. I thought I was gonna throw up."

"But you didn't, and we won. Let's practice and then we can go for that horseback ride."

"I thought we were going skiing," Amanda asked. She hadn't intended to ski but the boat ride would have been nice.

Spock's mind tried to think of a way to attract the nurse's attention without alerting the others. She had to be told the Captain's and Dr. McCoy's plans. Peeking out the curtained window, he noted the way they were sitting and that Christine was the only one who could actually see the window clearly from the table. Waiting till she was looking up, he waved the material about hoping to signal her. By the look on her face, it worked. Nodding as if in answer to another question, he knew she'd try to get over as quickly as possible. Seemingly interested in the purple cottage, she rose and walked over to lean down close to the window and pretend to smell the fragrant blossoms the boxes contained. Spock whispered, "Jim and McCoy are going skiing."

Without sign, she sighed and straightened taking a flower with her back to the table. Loudly enough for Spock to hear clearly, she called, "I think horseback riding would be an excellent idea. It looks like it might rain today anyway."

Amanda was outvoted three to one and she resigned herself to horses. She hadn't ridden for years, but she had been an avid horsewoman before she married Sarek. She even won dressage tournaments in high school. For a moment she wondered what Sarek was doing, no doubt having in depth discussions with Spock over some problem in logic. Oh well...

* * *

"Spock, I do not understand the motivations behind this purchase," Sarek asked as he paid for the items nevertheless.

The stack of books had been a find indeed. They had gone through some of the antique stores that Amanda and the others had frequented the day before looking for items that might prove useful to their goal. Spock had found a stack of books. Two were books of poetry, one was a book of etiquette, and the other was on how to "woo" women. Those were for his father. The fifth book, a cookbook was actually a present for Miss Chapel. He knew she cooked, or at least she did for him, and it seemed only appropriate that he repay her kindness for helping his father. It seemed perfectly logical to buy it for her.

"We need advice that I cannot give, Father. We are at a loss in this situation. Would you prefer to rely on the Captain or Dr. McCoy when we could find the information in a more discreet manner?" Spock reminded and took the bag. He knew one other place they should go before retiring to go through the material. He just was not sure where to find the item. "Excuse me, could you tell me where there is a florist?"

The checker looked at him a few seconds before answering. It wasn't every day you had two Vulcans buying love poetry and how to books at your stand. Now they wanted flowers. "There is one about seven blocks straight down the main boulevard."

"Thank you."

The streets were filled with people, but they weren't jostling or even bustling. They were just meandering and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. Halfway to the florist, the Vulcans came up to the kiosk that announced events in the area. There would be fireworks on Saturday to celebrate a planet holiday and afterwards a masquerade dance. It also listed that a performance by the winner of the Grotto's amateur contest would be featured. Since the Enterprise crew wouldn't be returning till late Sunday or early Monday, they would be able to attend all of these functions.

"Father, I have another idea. If you would bear with me..."

* * *

Amanda Grayson enjoyed the long, hot shower. The horseback riding had been wonderful, but now she ached from the use of apathetic muscles. She was even a little saddle sore. But it was worth the pain for the pleasure. As she toweled off and began combing out the long silver hair an excited call came from Uhura downstairs. "Amanda, come quick..."

Still too sore to run, she moved quickly to the stairs. Stepping down to the landing she was greeted with the largest arrangement of flowers she'd ever seen that wasn't hanging over a horse's neck. Large gladioli and mini hollyhocks adorned the back with wild flowers, and springs of what looked like parsley throughout. In front was a prominent card. It read, "I could buy no roses to compare with your smile, a Secret Admirer."

A twitter of excitement ran through her. Somewhere was a male suitor. It didn't matter that she was madly in love with her Vulcan husband. It was still a man and he liked her. She grinned at the three women gaping at her. Carolyn just shook her head. "How do you do it?"

"Look who's talking. You're the one with the big date tonight after the competition," Uhura complained. So far no one had shown more than a passing interest in either her or Christine. Although, Christine really wasn't looking for a romance in the night anyway. Uhura, however, could do with all the shore leave romance she could stand. On board she was pretty straight laced. There just really wasn't anyone on board yet to give her ideas past a few dates.

"Are we waiting up on you by the way?" Christine asked teasingly.

"Only if you don't want to get any sleep," Carolyn answered with a laugh and bent forward to take a deep whiff of the flowers.

Uhura looked over at the Purple Passion Pit, there were lights. "Hey, there are people over there. Maybe we should go invite them for a little party?"

Christine nearly choked on the half drunk lemonade. "I don't think they'd be interested."

Three pairs of eyes turned to her. As far as they knew, know one had even stuck their head out the door. How would she know what they wanted. She thought quickly. "They arrived the day that you were antiquing. I spoke to them in passing. Apparently they're a honeymoon couple. Very, in love if you know what I mean."

"Ah..." three chorused. There would be no more mention of their neighbors.

* * *

Tonight's entertainment was even better attended. Apparently they were becoming somewhat of an item and were packing them in at the Grotto. There weren't even any other competitors this evening so they had the floor to themselves. Luckily they practiced more than the two numbers they had agreed to do. Amanda gave a lively rendition of Maple Leaf Rag, Carolyn gave a comic recitation of a Deltan love poem, and Uhura added a couple numbers. Finally it was once again Christine's turn. Unfortunately she only seemed to know the words to sad love songs, but she did know how to play the piano. She hadn't practiced this song in a long time and hoped she remembered how to play the entire piece. With a deep breath, Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" began. As she played, it was as if she were at home practicing in the small conservatory that was surrounded by vines and the stained glass windows. Her piano was a grand piano, not a smaller upright version like this so the tone was a little different. Still, the keys were all black and white. She needed no music. She had performed it several times in recitals for her piano classes, and she had loved the piece so she'd memorized every stanza and nuance of the original version. She could picture George Gershwin performing it at Carnegie Hall. She became Leonard Bernstein as he conducted the Columbia Symphony Orchestra and played the piano piece. She smiled a little at the lilting opening notes and lulled herself into losing her stage presence. With a flourish she recalled the cymbal crashes and incorporated them into her playing by hitting the keys a little harder. The softer passages made her almost homesick for that piano. The dream of peace began.

Once again Spock and Sarek were in attendance. But this time they had brought Kirk and McCoy on the strictest orders to remain in the back and be silent. No one knew they had attended and that's the way Sarek preferred it. Now, as Christine intoned the melody of the famous piece, he found himself extremely impressed. McCoy was speechless. Kirk stunned. Spock enraptured. She was no longer Christine Chapel, head nurse. She was a dynamic, vibrant, colorful woman with depth and feeling and tone and ability. He found that he stared in almost wild abandonment at her as she performed. Christine didn't even look at the keys while she played. Her eyes closed, she knew precisely which ones to hit and when by the memory of the music. She was so lost in the ecstacy of the song that she didn't realize she was projecting such a strong image to the house. Sexual enticement practically danced around the Grotto. Each light touch and driving rhythm and change of pace becoming like a song of passion and love making. If Spock had been moved by her vocal stylings, then her pianist abilities practically drove him over the edge. Eventually the song wound down to an end, a hard crashing beat and crescendo that left the air humming with electricity. Without realizing it, Spock had been holding onto the table for his dear life, his knuckles nearly white with the effort it had taken to compose himself and not allow his body to follow her music. The eruption of noise that followed was deafening. McCoy was beating so hard on the table he knocked the candle over, spilling the melted wax everywhere almost catching them on fire. Fortunately he had upended a glass of water as well and the whole thing was put out. Kirk's whistle nearly shattered Spock's eardrum and even Sarek seemed to be smiling. Christine revived from her daze and smiled humbly as she received the applause and admiration of the entire room. Uhura just shook her head and smiled, Amanda bowed in honor, and Carolyn was too busy hopping up and down in glee to notice that she was almost topless. The proprietor came out to try to quiet the din.

"Please, please ... it is with the utmost pleasure that I present for the third time in a row, the Enterprise Ingenues with our trophy. Also, the invitation to perform for the masquerade on Saturday after the fireworks. Mademoiselle," he said referring to Christine. "You must perform again."

Christine swallowed hard. She hadn't bargained for this. There would be thousands in attendance. Yet if she were on the piano she wouldn't be afraid. She could always hide in the beauty of the music. Nodding she again sent the house into applause. She was not used to so much attention.

Literally a dozen men surged forward to extend their invitations to dance or a drink with any or all of the ladies. Amanda, Sarek noted, received offers as well but did not take any, yet she looked pleased having been asked. The Enterprise men left with the others as they flowed out of the popular spot into the cooler air.

McCoy was practically beaming enough to light their way. "Did you hear that? My Head Nurse! I didn't even know she played. She should be on the stage somewhere."

"Doctor, please, not so loud," Spock begged holding onto the one good ear he had left.

"Oh, I know Spock, she was just adequate according to your standards, but according to mine she's damned fine," he accused and was left standing rooted to the spot when Spock turned and said:

"On the contrary, Doctor, I found Miss Chapel's performance extremely enticing."

Kirk exchanged glances with McCoy. "What do you make of that?"

McCoy shook his head. "I don't know if I want to know. But, I think Spock's just seen her for the first time."

Sarek had listened to this interplay for a moment. Yes, Spock was acting a little differently. First the cookbook, now this. From his previous experience with Spock's treatment of the Head Nurse, he would not have expected this at all. Spock was brusque with her to the point of being cold and callous. With Uhura he was teasing, almost like Sarek was with his sister T'Maj when they were younger. With other women he was completely businesslike. But Christine registered almost annoyance with his son. Now, Sarek thought he understood. Amanda had made the "obvious to a human" view known to him the first time they had visited. But now he could plainly see it himself.

For a few moments Spock walked ahead in silence glad for the dark and the much needed privacy. So many things had occurred within the span of thirty minutes that he needed a moment to center himself. By the time the others caught up, he was once again the impassable Vulcan to all but his father. To his father he was a jumble of emotions. Sarek remembered those emotions well. They were long ago, they were older than Spock, but they were there. At the crossroads leading to the cottage and the wharf, the four parted company. The skiing had not injured the two humans beyond repair, and they were still ready to trip the light fantastic. The Vulcans however had plans to make. With the humans out of the way they could do so without fear of being found out.

* * *

The cottage was stuffy, even by Vulcan standards and windows opened up to allow the cooler breeze in. The humidity on Petral 9 made it like a steam bath when the heat began to rise in midsummer.

"Father," Spock began after reading several chapters in the "How to Woo Women" volume by a Lord Percy Mountbatten. "Perhaps this suggestion has merit."

Sarek, who had been digesting reams of poetry looking for suitable passages, turned to his son. "Yes?"

"Mother will be attending the masquerade on Saturday with the others. If you were to send her a note stating that you too would attend, as her secret admirer and would wish to meet with her," he planned.

"But would that not require letting her know it is me? Is that not what Christine advised against?" he pointed out. It did sound like a logical idea however to an illogical situation.

"But, if you were in costume, she would not have to know it was you, simply her admirer."

Sarek nodded, the idea playing around his eyes and the mind beginning to compose the note. This would be perfect.

* * *

Saturday arrived finally and the day sped all too fast for Christine. She had spent the day before practicing and honing her playing skills while the others had practiced or gone on outings. She hadn't really gone out much except the horseback riding of the other day. Still she couldn't complain. She was enjoying herself. There had been no messages or communiques with the Passion Pit so she assumed everything was going smoothly. She had not known that Spock had spent the entire time she was practicing sitting in a secluded area outside the main bedroom listening to the tantalizing notes. She had requested a piano be delivered to practice on after receiving the invitation to play at the masquerade. It had been delivered early Friday morning and she had stayed glued to it since. While she was playing a van delivered another bunch of flowers for Amanda, two of which were not from Sarek, three dozen roses to Carolyn, and a basket of chocolates with the trite message, "Sweets for the sweet" included. Nothing had come for her. It was just as well, she thought.

Costumes had been arranged for and were sitting out on the beds as the women talked excitedly. "Christine, do you have those earrings you got on Delta?" Uhura asked as she poked her head in the bathroom. The steam was so thick you couldn't even see.

"They're in my little blue bag. Can I borrow your pearls?"

"Sure, which costume did you pick?"

"Uh, a fairy princess I think. You go look at what it's supposed to be."

Uhura stepped down the hall to the master room where Amanda was already dressing as a Southern Belle. She was so petite and the three boned hoop so out of character that it was almost funny. Still, she would look stunning. The gown for Christine hung on the wardrobe still in the dry cleaner's bag. It was antique white with opalescent beads and pearls sewn all over it. A princess waist and puffed sleeves dated it about 1550 by Earth standards. Shoes that were sequined and dainty went with the dress.

"This is gorgeous. You're sure this is a costume? It looks almost like you got someone's wedding dress," she remarked and showed it to Amanda who nodded.

"I don't know, as long as it fits I suppose it'll work," Christine's muffled voice answered and she emerged wet and dripping from the bath. Carolyn was in before the steam had a chance to escape.

Laces instead of zippers and buttons instead of hooks and eyes were the only means to keep the gown on and if it weren't for the other ladies, Christine never would have gotten dressed. She was stunning. Carolyn, of course, made the most of her attributes and went as Tarzan's Jane. Uhura dressed as a Viking queen with the bullet shaped helmet and spear in tow. They would make one hell of a quartet.

* * *

Sarek was having trouble with the costume. Kirk tried prying it open with a wrench, but it didn't do any good. The armor was just going to have to go on without getting the bolts to loosen. Sarek didn't think it would be possible. He simply could not fit a size 7 3/4 head into a size 6 7/8 helmet. Still, Spock's combined strength and a blast from some lubricant got the opening to budge and he slipped it over his head.

"How did your King Richard live long enough to get to Dover?" he asked with a comic undertone. He was referring to the fact that once the helmet was on you could neither see, hear, nor breathe very well.

"Don't know, but you look very ... knightly," McCoy said tugging a little at his soda jerk costume. The coat was tight and the pants rode up. Kirk's version of a Siamese King was just a little too farfetched to be real, but the costume was surprisingly comfortable. Spock's dashing figure was molded into the breeches and waistcoat from the American Revolutionary period. He was supposed to be Benjamin Franklin. The powdered wig however was not going over well. It itched. With cane in hand, he struck a pose he remembered seeing from the portraits painted at the time.

"Why, Jim, it's our founding father. Say something wise and fatherly, Spock."

"Fart Proudly," he replied completely serious. McCoy laughed so hard his coat burst a button and Kirk thought he would need CPR or burst the seams of his pants.

"We'd better go before McCoy loses all his buttons. Besides, it may take a while to get Sarek maneuvered."

* * *

Smells of every type assailed their nostrils. Food was overflowing as it did every time they had a dance. Lights and sound bombarded the other senses until even the humans thought it would be difficult to stay in reality. It was Mardi Gras, New Years, the Fourth of July, and Christmas all rolled into one big celebration. A stage was set up for the entertainment and a large grand piano sat dead center. Apparently Christine's performance had made her the highlight of the evening so to speak. Sarek made certain he never strayed too far from Spock. He doubted if he could even get the armor off without help. "The more I think about this, the more I have decided it was not wise," he said.

Spock's keen hearing picked up the frantic call to get out of the metal garb. Still, they had come this far. Mother would never know it was Father. With the metal it would be impossible for her to read his mind's thoughts and the helmet was perfect to disguise his face and voice. McCoy and Kirk stayed close though they really wanted to be closer to the beer tent where some German clad serving wenches were pouring out drinks. Still they thought it might be wise to stick around till at least the dance started.

* * *

The mayor of Kitterly stepped up to the microphone and called the milling throng to attention. "Ladies, gentlemen, others ... please welcome our own Grotto's amateur contest winners ... the Enterprise Ingenues..."

Hearty applause and whistles broke out as soon as Carolyn stepped up to the lights. Christine arrived last and gasps went through the crowd as her costume glistened in the bright lights. She practically glowed in the night like a diamond against velvet. Spock watched her with almost childhood anticipation. He did not know what she had intended to play so he was almost breathless. Vocal selections came first, Amanda took the role at the piano, and they took turns with each person, except Christine. She would be the finale. Uhura alone had three songs, all received with loud applause. Finally they came to the end and Christine took her position at the piano. In the princess gown with wings made of a gauze so fine you barely knew it was there, she would have appeared as a pixie if she hadn't been so tall. Allowing her hands to barely touch the keys she chose to play Debussy's "Claire de Lune". The song practically haunted the stage and created such an air of melancholy that the crowd became utterly silent. The notes were so quiet and delicate, such a contrast to the rousing erotic piece before. Yet with the intricate furbelows they became like fairies flitting above their heads. The song matched her costume perfectly ... moonlight.

In the crowd, Spock became the moonlight, enchanted, entranced, flying higher and higher until the songs end. When it was over, the applause brought him back to a reality that he resented. He wanted, needed to be alone when she played. He longed for the solitude of the porch that he'd had that afternoon and the day before. He could meditate then, could keep himself calm. The next selection was Schubert's "Impromptu Number 2". The harder hit notes were fast and joyous with a pomposity to them that didn't really fit her personality. Finally, she had one more long selection. The crowd was eager to hear her. Concert grade pianists were difficult to come by even on tourist worlds. It didn't matter that most of them had no clue what she was playing, it was that she played it with such emotion and depth that they knew what had been intended by the composers hundreds of years ago.

The infamous strains of "Moonlight Sonata" began with the deliberate quiet and almost monotonous undertones. It lulled the senses to hear the notes. Most people didn't realize it was part of a larger work by Beethoven and were surprised when the song melded into a lighter faster melody that was almost like laughter in its design. The last was a strong driving force that worked her fingers to near exhaustion. Bent over in intense concentration and passion, she completely forgot the crowd and any presence other than she and the piano. Yes, it was good to play again. God, she had missed it. When she got back to the ship she would have to remain actively playing. Maybe that would be something she could focus on instead of constantly working or Spock.

If Christine could have played all night, the crowd would have gladly listened. As it were, the street dance would begin in just a few minutes, and the reverie she had been in was broken. McCoy was still shaking his head at the astonishment of finding out his nurse was such a good pianist. Sarek was pleased she had chosen Beethoven, a particular favorite of his. Kirk was too busy watching the German serving wenches to really appreciate the music. He wasn't that big with music anyway. It was beautiful, but he was not moved like Uhura or Spock was. Spock, was practically, for a Vulcan, foaming at the mouth. It was as if every note had sliced through the layers of the resolve that he had built over the years. His passion for music had been there all his life, it was second nature to him. Perhaps this was the closest thing he would feel of the human word love... He tingled all over and wondered if he might be ill. Sarek touched his arm. "Spock, how should I approach your mother at the dance?"

Mother? What ... oh yes, the task at hand. "Perhaps just step up to meet her. She knows you are in a knight's armor does she not?"

"Yes, but should I speak to her?"

"I believe the strong silent type would be best. The captain has informed me on more than one occasion that women love mystery. Be her man of mystery," Spock supplied and felt as if he were patting his son on the head and urging him into the path of an oncoming bull. Unless his father was a great actor, they were practically dead in the water. Still, his mother knew nothing of their presence up til now. And if his father could fool his mother, perhaps he guised as another could....

The street dance began almost immediately after Christine's last selection. She accepted the praise, congratulations, and well wishing from all those who had approached and smiled her best prettiest smile. Still, in the end, it was she left without a partner for the first dance standing at the steps to the stage and not the other three. Turning to retrieve the music she had left, she could see the flurry of motion beside her. Turning she could make out the figure of Benjamin Franklin but not the person behind the mask. "Your playing was exquisite."

She smiled a little tiredly. "Thank you. It's nice to be appreciated."

She expected him to go and turned to climb the steps lifting the gossamer dress to reveal the shoes and stockinged ankles. Spock allowed his gaze to linger there. He had seen her in far, far less, just the other day in fact, but these garments were so appealing. To be able to touch them became almost a calling. He stopped her ascent with a brush of his fingertips over her dress. She regarded him, the blue eyes still prominent behind the mask. With his voice as disguised as he could get, he asked, "Would you care to dance?"

Christine smiled. "Why, yes, thank you."

Taking his arm, she noticed his hands were quite warm, but it was a hot evening and he was burdened down in a woolen outfit. The song was a love ballad, appropriate for people who preferred to dance closely. Spock allowed her to nearly rest all the way against him as they maneuvered through the crowded floor. The music really didn't allow for conversation, and Christine didn't really press for any.

Spock just drank in the smell, her smell. She wore a light perfume, lilacs he thought, and it suited her perfectly. Her hair had been allowed to be draped down and held in a netting made of pearls and almost invisible threads. The idea of her hair was so heady he almost gasped and realized that he must take hold of himself instantly. As the song ended, he stepped away from her and bowed at the waist. "M'lady."

Christine smiled. "Monsieur, enchante de faire votre connaissance, merci beaucoup."

Her use of perfectly pronounced French again surprised him. He would never, ever again think of her as a surface personality. Now she was a complete woman, a mystery still, but one he wanted to solve. A faster number was chosen, and he did not know how to dance to anything other than a waltz or a slow dance so he simply answered and turned away. "Pas de quoi, bonsoir, mademoiselle."

Christine watched him leave and shook her head ... well, Franklin was the ambassador to France for a while during his illustrious career. Going back to retrieve her music, she could see the dance floor quite well. She noted that Amanda had met up with her mysterious gallant gentlemen and he was in the knight's costume that he had said he would be in. They were revolving around in a small circle that was cut by her gown and his unusual clanking attire. The nurse smiled and put the music back in the notebook to be sent back to the Enterprise.

She didn't have to wait long for the next round of dances. But strangely enough every time a slower number came up, there was Ben Franklin again. It became a sort of expectation. Still, she didn't know his name and she didn't offer hers. After all, they would be gone in a day or two and she'd not see him anyway. When he arrived as the fourth slow song began she laughed. "Aren't you tired of dancing with me?"

He nodded. "No, I find it pleasurable...Ch..." He froze. He nearly called her by name and he should not know what it was. Luckily she only took the sound as just that a sound.

* * *

Amanda found her secret admirer to be so dear and sweet that she was shy once again. He did not speak, simply held her lightly in his arms. The metal felt cold and odd against her skin. But, this was a pleasure that she'd not had in a long time. To dance with a man who was not her husband, not an ambassador or another dignitary, it was exciting.

The man in armor said nothing to her. He simply nodded or shook his head. It was more than exciting, if it weren't for the fact that she had a husband and a son that she loved more dearly than anything, she'd consider perhaps a one night stand with this stranger who claimed to admire her.

She smiled that smile that Sarek had been bowled over by the first time he met her. Safely within the metal helmet he allowed a smile, not the tiny hint of a smile that he usually had for her, but a wide honest smile that he was not ashamed of. Surak claimed that there were circumstances that warranted emotional displays. This was one of them. He didn't realize that this pretending would prove so intoxicating. He found a secret pleasure being able to watch her, touch her and her reaction be those of a shy demure woman. Perhaps this was not such an illogical idea after all. He loathed hearing the faster numbers. Like Spock he was not adept at them and after all the diplomatic functions he had attended, he still did not know how to dance to any.

The street dance lasted until midnight when at the first stroke of the bells in the tower on the square, bursts of fireworks exploded into the night sky. Lake Kitterly was aflame with reflections of lights, mechanical and pyrotechnical. Whistling, whirring, and the crackle of gunpowder and smoke didn't allow for sounds other than ohs and ahs. The crowd stood rooted practically in the spots they had stopped dancing in.

Christine's gaze upward allowed Spock to trace the nurse's silhouette with his eyes. Presenting even more of a vision of a fairy tale in that position, he found himself pulled toward her irresistibly. He had not been dancing with her the last dance before the fireworks began. The song had been too up tempo. But he had stayed within asking distance the entire night. He had never felt so single minded. Not even the problems in scientific research had presented him with such a drive. Stepping beside her, Benjamin Franklin grasped her hand firmly, making the fairy princess turn to look at him in wonder. Before she could ask what he was doing, Christine's mouth was covered in passionate, hot lips. A small attempt to resist was met by an even sterner mouth and she submitted to the desire. Fireworks were blasting away and the biggest of the displays fizzled into the lake as their kiss ended. Stepping away from her, Spock memorized the expression of surprise, dreamy enchantment, and delight that was evident on her face. Speechless she could only mutter, "Wha...?"

"Shh, Christine," he replied and frightened by his mistake, he quickly touched her lips with his index finger and rushed away before she could ask how he knew her name.

* * *

Amanda watched the fireworks with glee from the steps of the gazebo with her knight in shining armor. The Southern Belle costume fit her perfectly, Sarek thought, and longed to embrace her as he did when they were in their home on Vulcan. Now as the fireworks played above them, he reached out tentatively to the curls that descended from a comb and the elegant upswept hair. Amanda turned just then and the gloved hand brushed against her cheek as lightly as the breeze. She tried peering into the helmet to see her knight's face but couldn't. Reaching over to tip up the faceplate, she almost succeeded before his hand stopped her and clasped it gently. Shaking his head, he bowed at her, stepped forward to caress the still youthful cheek once again and walked away heart beating so hard he thought he might need medical assistance.

* * *

Both Spock and Sarek met back at the cottage at the same time even though they hadn't left together. Spock had found it necessary to take a brisk walk to help purge himself of the emotions and desires churning within him. He was certain that when the daylight arrived, and he once again saw her in the blue nurse's uniform that these irrational urges would cease. His father however could not help noticing that Spock's hands trembled slightly as he helped dislodge him from the armor that he had been canned in. Sarek did not believe he could become over heated on a cooler than Vulcan planet, but he was hot, parched, and sweating from the humidity. As soon as the metal garments were off and he was standing in the set of cotton under clothing, he felt much better. A shower, however, would be necessary to wash the grime from the metal and the humidity that had combined to create a layer of grime on his bare skin. Spock remained downstairs removing his own bits and pieces of costume. By the time his father was out of the shower, he had shed the human Benjamin Franklin persona and become Vulcan once again. Although his father knew nothing of his exploits with the nurse of that evening, he felt as if he should be apologizing for his behavior. Instead, he went upstairs and allowed the hot water to cleanse the scents and dust of Kitterly off him. Recalling an Earth saying, he twisted the shower knob to allow almost frigid water to wash over him. It did nothing to douse the mental flames, just the physical ones.

Ambassador Sarek waited for his son to emerge in their room. Although Spock slept on the downstairs couch, complaining the bed was too soft for his comfort, Sarek still regarded it as their room. Swinging open the French doors to the balcony, he stepped forward to watch the blazing lights of Kitterly. Somewhere out there his beloved Amanda was amongst the throngs. He wanted her here in his arms, in his bed. He was lost in the thoughts when Spock appeared beside him. "Humans are..." he began.

"Illogical creatures yet they are in certain ways superior to us," Sarek admitted. This surprised Spock into silent contemplation. He continued. "Your mother is stronger than either of us know yet she is also frail beyond belief. On Vulcan there is no such difference. Women as well as men are either frail or strong. It is that ability that gives her the courage and tenacity to stay married to a stubborn, pig-headed Vulcan."

"Would that not be considered a redundant statement, Father?" Spock chose to attack his grammar instead of his logic.

"Not necessarily. You can be stubborn but willing to bend. As far as the term pig-headed is concerned, I have always considered it to mean so unwilling to bend as to be unbreakable. So, in essence they are merely continuations of each other."

Spock digested this, allowing the moment between them, actually one of the easier moments in their lives to just exist. They both stood, hands clasped behind their backs watching the chaos across the water for a long period of time. Spock longed to know what Christine was doing but said nothing to disturb the peace. In his mind he could still hear the tinkling of the keys as she played, it didn't matter what she played, the act alone was enough to create deep stirrings within his heart. He almost wished he had presented himself to her instead of pretending to be Ben Franklin.

Sarek concentrated on how to react to Amanda's behavior when they returned to the ship. Technically, he could be angry or at least perturbed that she allowed a strange man to dance with her and to carry on with her as if she were not a married woman. But, he was the strange man. He also thought it odd that she did not recognize him while they danced. No, it wasn't odd, it was disappointing. But he had monitored her stay, and she had done nothing that would be considered immoral or even unethical. She had simply enjoyed herself.

* * *

Amanda and Christine walked back to their cottage. It was way past midnight, probably closer to two and they were both exhausted. Christine toted the sheaf of music under an arm and the wings of her costume in the same hand. "So, how was your knight?"

Amanda smiled. She knew that Christine had seen her knight suitor and also knew the questions she had in her head. "He was a gallant gentleman. He didn't even try to kiss me. Well, with that armor... Et tu?"

Christine puffed up proudly. "I had none other than Ben Franklin woo me on the dance floor. It's funny, he even kissed me during the fireworks. But, we'll be gone tomorrow and he just disappeared through the crowd. He did know my name, though... Probably heard it during one of the performances at the Grotto."

They rounded the curve and could see the lights of the Passion Pit as well as the Pink Pussycat burning. Christine smiled slightly. She didn't think that the Vulcans would have attended the festivities. Amanda was inside already and halfway up the stairs when Christine decided to go see how the others were. "I'm going to go check on something. I'll be in a little later," she explained and hurried out before Amanda could try to go with her.

Tiptoeing over the deck to the porch of the Passion Pit, she knocked lightly hoping they could hear her. It took a few moments but Sarek of Vulcan, shed of the armor and completely unreadable opened the door. "Miss Chapel?"

"Don't worry, Amanda's in the Pink Pussycat. I told her I was checking on something. So how are you doing over here?" she asked and watched Spock descend the stairs. Her mind noted the slight falter as he saw her still clad in the gown part of the costume. Gulping slowly, he made it the rest of the way down. "Miss Chapel," he said hoping that she did not remember Franklin's voice well enough to place him.

"So what did you two do tonight, play chess?" she asked assuming the set up game was what had been occupying them.

Sarek denied it, Spock affirmed the statement. Sarek regarded his son in his falsehood. Technically, he was not lying. They had played chess before, but it would not have been considered evening.

The nurse smiled slyly. "Okay, just wanted you to know Amanda's had a wonderful time and been good as gold. I think she really appreciates you just letting her breathe."

Spock nearly muttered about the lack of air while they slept but kept it to himself. Sarek nodded. "Would you care for tea? You look quite hot."

The tired blonde nodded. "Thank you, I guess I am. I had a very..." She searched for the word. "...mysterious evening."

"Really, in what way?" Sarek asked and Spock tried to dissuade the answer before she uttered a word. "It is a personal matter, Miss Chapel, do not answer."

Christine thought a moment the look of searching on her face. Did he just give her an order as well as reprimand his father? "It's really not personal. I just had an interesting dance partner... Ben Franklin. Most ... illuminating." The tea was cold, very cold and hit the spot, even if there wasn't any sugar in it. Sarek had his back to her when she had answered regarding Franklin or he would nearly have given the disguise away. Thankful that their costumes were safely put away upstairs, he remained impassive but looked at his son more closely. Spock's eartips were slightly flushed and the pounding of his heart had increased. Even ten paces away he could feel it.

"Indeed ... it is unfortunate that your shore leave ends tomorrow," Spock replied knowing that his father's scrutiny was enough to have him drawn and quartered.

"True, oh well, shore leave romance never works out very well anyway. Still, it might have been nice," she admitted and the blue eyes pierced through Spock's shell of resolve but he stayed glued to the spot behind the kitchen counter. She was an innocent in his escapades and would easily be hurt if she knew the truth. He suddenly felt ill. Before Sarek could ply her with more questions, she stifled a yawn and drew a hand over drooping eyes. "Well, I'm going to have to go to bed. Believe me, when I get back to the ship I'm gonna sleep so well."

Sarek was curious. "Why the ship? You are supposed to be resting here."

"Your wife, your mother. She's impossible to sleep with. If she's not kneeing me in the back, she's scooting me out of bed. How you've put up with her for over 40 years is beyond me."

Sarek nodded, yes, she was a restless sleeper. "We have a much larger bed."

Spock was bemused. His father was a different personality amongst his human friends even if he didn't approve of his lifestyle. While they'd had a mutually agreeable time while on leave, he would not consider it a success in father-son relationships. Christine started to yawn again and held up her hands in surrender. "Okay, I'm going. Good night morning, whatever."

"Miss Chapel."

"Christine." Spock finished and again the odd look on her face as she looked at him before leaving. Still, it wasn't the first time he'd used her first name so why was she shocked? Deciding it was the lateness of the evening she exited and crossed back to her own cabin.

* * *

"Spock."

The first officer of the Enterprise turned to meet his father's eyes. He knew now and would most likely be expected to explain this behavior. "Yes."

Sarek considered his next words carefully. "Human women are unpredictable, illogical to the extreme, and at times most difficult to get along with. However, they are also a source of great joy and strength."

Spock nodded once. His father chose to do this the roundabout way. It would almost have been more welcome if he'd have chosen the direct method.

Sarek continued, "While your mother is an eternal source of wonder for me, it has not been easy. But, I would not trade my time spent with her for..." He searched for the correct word. "...all the tea in China."

Spock saw a side of his father he had never seen before, tenderness and longing for his mother. He expected to be given some lecture either pro or con about Christine, but none was forthcoming. His father chose to let the subject drop. "I believe I shall retire for the evening."

Spock allowed his rising eyebrow to follow his father up the stairs.

* * *

Their last day was sunny and beautiful just like the other days. Uhura and Palamas hadn't even returned to the cottage yet and Christine was sleeping like the dead. But, Amanda was wide awake shortly after dawn. In her dressing gown and slippers she went out on the deck and enjoyed the warming breezes as she watched the ripples on the lake lap up to the shore. It was so earth like here and Vulcan was so ... Vulcan. She had never lost her love of water. Born in New Jersey but raised closer to Boston, she had always spent summer afternoons playing on the rocky shorelines. Vulcan had no such expanses of water. They had oceans, but they were underground and the springs were like oasis in the desert, but still they weren't the same as a pond or lake or a sea. Sitting in one of the wicker lawn chairs, she was quietly enjoying the sights and sounds when the noise from the Purple Passion Pit roused her curiosity.

The front door opened and Sarek maneuvered out the door with the four costumes to be sent back to the rental shop. He had spent only a few hours asleep before rising and left Spock sleeping on the couch and nodded a hello as Kirk and McCoy staggered up the stairs to their own room. The walk to Kitterly would be refreshing and the clothes had to be returned anyway so he quietly stole them away from the human's room and piled them with his and Spock's.

Amanda was curious. Christine had said the group next door was a honeymoon couple. The man who had exited seemed a bit old for a honeymooner. Rising and going over she bent down to retrieve an item dropped from his pile. "Excuse me, but you dropped this," she said and held out the metal gauntlet that had been part of his own costume.

Sarek knew he was caught and it was useless to resist turning to look at her. Trying to remain as innocent as possible, he met his wife's beautiful eyes. "Thank you."

Crystal blue eyes suddenly became electrical storms." Sarek! What are you doing here?!"

Sarek stepped toward her. "Please quietly, you will waken the others..."

"I don't care. You mean to tell me you've been holed up here the whole time, and I didn't know about it? I suppose Spock knows as well?"

As if in response to her question, Spock appeared outside the door, his parent's voices waking him out of sleep. "Mother, Father and I knew you were there, but did not wish to make you feel as if we were watching you."

Amanda looked from the two handsome men she called her own. Finally she looked down at the gauntlet and realization hit. "You ... my knight?"

Sarek nodded almost embarrassed. He fully expected her to read him another version of the riot act. Her reaction was slow and sweet. She did not allow the smile that was in her heart and mind to show. Instead she merely asked him. "Sarek, you sent me poetry and flowers?"

Again a nod. "Spock assisted in the efforts. I wish to ask forgiveness for my actions. I did not mean to intrude on your leave. However, I..." And now he was a loss. How did he tell his wife that he had meant to seduce her to keep her to himself?

"Yes," she prompted. This was a moment she'd remember till her death and after if she could. To see her logical husband and super logical son stammering and making excuses for giving her romantic presents was priceless.

"I ... wanted to show you my appreciation," he chose softly. His head bowed almost as a servant approaching his mistress he looked at her tenderly.

The smile that made her 25 once again was for him alone. There had never, would never be another man for her. He was her knight in shining armor. "And believe me, the appreciation was appreciated. Sarek, you didn't have to send me flowers or poetry. I didn't come on this trip to get away from you in so much as to get away from me. I just needed to be oh, someone else for a while."

"And were you someone else?" he asked well aware that Spock was standing there the whole time.

"For a time I was just one of the girls again. It felt so nice. But I am always Lady Amanda aduna Sarek. Never believe I want to be anything else," she assured and had crossed the distance to stand up against him. The clothes were the only obstacle she had in touching him and she took them from his hands and handed them to Spock. "And you, young man ... thank you."

Spock nodded at his mother's teasing and was in the act of putting the clothes on the picnic table when he could plainly hear the kiss she gave her husband. Sarek was not one to show emotional displays in public even with his wife, but this was a sufficient reason and he didn't care. Once again she was in his arms and they were one. *I have always been here, darling,*he heard her tinkling mind's voice. Yes now they were one, and he pulled her into an embrace.

A harried and weary Nyota Uhura and Carolyn Palamas came onto the deck. Uhura whistled. "Looky here."

Carolyn nodded. "About time..." and they walked into the cottage not even caring what had transpired. Christine appeared, disheveled and in her sleep wear, but with Amanda gone when she woke up and hearing the voices out on the deck she had gotten worried. Amanda turned to her roommate. "You, my dear, are a liar..."

Christine turned dark red and presented herself to the pain of responsibility. "I am sorry. I didn't mean to lie to you. We just thought it would be best if you didn't know they were here."

Sarek and Spock both agreed and Amanda again smiled. "It's okay. I'm not mad, don't worry."

Christine smiled slightly. Spock found himself enthralled at the nurse's appearance. The pale pink pajama set was not provocative nor was it revealing. But perhaps it was knowing that she had been in bed asleep had been tempting to him. He wished he could have touched her, watched her as she slept in peaceful dreams. Mentally shaking the thought out of his head, he concentrated on numerations instead. "Well, now that we know about you, and you know about us," Amanda declared, "why don't we spend the day together. It seems only logical."

It was agreed. Christine excused herself to dress properly as did Spock. The costumes were still piled on the table, Sarek and Amanda remained locked together even if they were physically apart. Amanda had never imagined her husband capable of this. He never ceased to amaze her.

Spock's communicator beeped as he was dressing, and he dug in the duffel to reach it. "Spock here."

"Report time 0800 tomorrow morning, Mr. Spock. Is the captain available?" came the lieutenant's disembodied voice.

"I will inform him as well as Dr. McCoy. Can you tell me the report time for Lt. Uhura's party?" he inquired thinking he might as well inform them while he was at it.

"Same time."

"I will inform them as well, Spock out."

The Vulcan returned to his dressing and chose a set of dark navy pants and a flowing navy over tunic that reached down to mid-knee. It was comfortable and attractive as well. He was actually looking forward to spending time with his mother.

* * *

Christine was standing before the wardrobe with dismay. She'd not really brought anything to wear in such staid company. She'd brought only a few of the more colorful things she'd worn to the Grotto, but they were all dirty. Choosing a pair of white denim shorts and a red and white checked cotton blouse gathered at the waist and tied into a knot, she decided that would just have to do. Putting the shoulder length blonde tresses into twin French braids, she wound a red ribbon in with them and tied them into bows at the bottom. She knew that she looked a bit girlish, but it was comfortable and the last day. Tying on a pair of crisp white canvas tennis shoes, she looked the epitome of a sailing girl, at least that's what she aimed at.

The others of the shore leave party were fast asleep, and it was best if they were left alone so the two Vulcans and two human females decided on the day's activities. "I vote for a trip to the amusement park," Amanda stated. The other choices were too cerebral to her mind, and she wanted to have fun the last day.

Sarek's pained expression was not lost on anyone. "Amanda, do you not think that it would be more appropriate to spend our last day in a more quiet pursuit?" His idea had been enjoying a trip to the gardens and touring through a natural history museum. Spock had found that a more agreeable idea. Christine however opted for the amusement park.

When the impasse seemed unbreakable, Sarek regarded how much he had wanted to be with his wife this week and caved in gracefully. After all, it was not much of a victory to only lose her for the rest of the day to stubbornness. Spock didn't particularly welcome the idea but could not back out now. Nodding in acquiescence, he fell in beside his father as they walked down the road to Kitterly. Sarek remembered the costumes halfway to town. "I shall return for them."

Amanda stopped him. "Oh, they'll be okay. We'll return them later. After all, we've still got ours and they have to be returned too."

The foursome sauntered into town enjoying the cooler weather and bright sunshine. The humidity was missing from the day and the heat was delicious combined with the cool breeze. Christine walked alongside Amanda and the two kept looking into store windows making Sarek and Spock pause nearly every forty feet or so. At one particular shop, the two ladies were looking over a jewelry display. Amanda was admiring a large cameo when Christine gasped softly. "What is it?"

Christine shook the pain out of her head. In the wedding band display was an exact duplicate of the one she had in a safe on the ship. It had been the set Roger had bought for them to wear when they were married. Absently, she fingered her left hand and the missing engagement ring. She'd not worn it now for two years yet the pang in her heart made it feel as if she had just taken it off. "Nothing, just memories that's all."

Amanda chose not to press. Christine had confided much to her in the two trips she had been on the Enterprise. The near two weeks that Sarek had spent lying in sickbay had afforded her a lot of time with the woman. "Come on, I think our escorts are getting frustrated."

Sarek and Spock waited and waited. Spock resisted the urge to sigh or to shuffle his feet. After all once he got to the amusement park it wouldn't be pleasurable either.

The usual rides were in full swing. Amanda wanted to ride one of the more stomach churning ones but neither Spock nor Sarek wished to do so. In fact Sarek got out of the ride by pointing to the warning sign regarding people with heart problems. "As a medical professional, Miss Chapel, would you agree that it would be best to pay attention to caution?"

Christine laughed. "Don't get me in this ... I suppose you are right, though. I don't want to have to run back and fetch McCoy. Especially in the condition you told us he was in."

Christine and Amanda rode the screaming, twisting rides, laughing the whole way and getting off in near hysterics every time. The more time Amanda spent with the nurse, the more she liked her. Yes, Spock was lucky to have someone like her who loved him, even if her son was so blind he couldn't see what was at his own fingertips.

Spock spent the time coyly watching Christine. If Sarek hadn't been so anxious watching Amanda he might have spent more time reviewing his son's reactions. As it were, he preferred to gaze at his wife. Midday approached and time for luncheon. Small al fresco cafes were spread throughout the amusement park and they chose the closest one to the last ride. Although they had walked and stood in line for ages, they weren't tired. Christine was recalling another trip to an amusement park as a child and had Spock's mother in such gales of laughter she thought she was going to pass out. Spock watched the nurse, enjoyed the story, reveled in the sparkling blue eyes that were almost a match to his mother's.

Christine caught his gaze every so often and would hold it for just a moment before turning away cheeks slightly flushed pink. Amanda would watch the interplay with interest. Perhaps Spock was not so blind as she had thought. The meal completed, they rested in the shelter of the umbrella over their table a moment. Amanda sighed. "It's been lovely. But, no trip to an amusement park is complete without a trip through a funhouse. Aren't I right, Christine?"

Christine coughed. "I suppose. But there isn't one in this park."

"There's a tunnel of terror. Same difference, it's dark and scary. Come on."

**** Under protest the Vulcans followed the human and arrived to stand in a queue for the Tunnel of Terror. They could hear mock sounds of screams and screeching coming from the dark tunnel the boats went through. Spock and Sarek stood to the side. Amanda shook her head. "Nope, this one you two ride along. You've gotten out of all the others but not this one."

The insistence brought a barely audible groan from both men. Still, they could not refuse her charms. Preparing to board, Amanda insisted. "Sarek rides with me. You two will have to get along on your own boat."

The rides were little more than small two seat across rowboats. Spock and Christine stepped into theirs hesitantly. Smiling slightly, she was thankful there were low lights to conceal her flushed features. The ride began and Spock wondered what the particular purpose of it eluded him. The mannequins, robots and puppets were apparent and the childish attempts at horror not even amusing.

They were passing through a section with colored lights blinking on and off creating a rather confusing optical illusion. Spock turned his head to see what Christine's reaction was and noticed the colors playing across her features. Once again the urges he felt as Ben Franklin slammed into him and without even stopping to consider his actions, he leaned forward and with only slight protest kissed her soundly.

Christine would have recognized that kiss anywhere. It had disrupted her so that when she had slept earlier that morning she had dreamt she was a woman of the 1770s, and Franklin was her lover. Gasping for breath when Spock released her, the look of recognition in her eyes amazed Spock. "You ... it was you."

Spock thought quickly. If he should answer yes he would have to explain. However, he was going to have to explain why he kissed her anyway. "Yes."

"Why? You danced every dance with me? Why?" she kept asking completely incomprehensive.

Spock pressed forward. Whatever happened at least he was honest. "I have spent the week watching you. I liked what I saw."

Christine felt like fainting. It was everything she'd ever wanted yet it was so sudden she was swept off her feet. "You liked what you saw ... what did you see?"

Spock moved slightly forward on the bench. She was leaning on him slightly, and he could smell her perfume with every inhale. "I saw a talented passionate woman who is at the same time beautiful and modest. You do not know how lovely you are, do you?"

Christine just bobbed her head around neither yes nor no. Spock continued. "I saw a woman willing to help others with no personal gain. I saw a woman who can be herself in unusual situations. I saw a woman..."

She was almost nose to nose with him now and it was her move that finished the kiss for them. They didn't notice that their boat had entered the daylight and was ready to be disembarked. Spock's parents regarded him with bemusement and joy. Amanda smiled. "Nothing like the Tunnel of Love to bring two people together."

Sarek decided to follow his son's example and stilled his wife with just as passionate a kiss. *You planned this all along,*he whispered.

*Just making sure my son gets a gal just like the gal who married dear old dad,*she laughed and fell into the passion of her husband's mind.



FINIS

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