DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Lois Welling and is copyright (c) 2002 by Lois Welling. This story is Rated R. This is the sequel to "The Displaced" by Lois Welling.


Lois Welling


A death has occurred. A child, once living, lives no more. As Vulcan custom dictates, we prepare for the time of Remembrance. We file into the chapel: Susan and I, four children, Sarek and Amanda. Last come Jim, Dr. McCoy, Uhura, Mr. Scott, Captain Sulu, and several nurses who cared for the child. The chapel was chosen because it is quiet and sedate, conducive to meditation.

It is an odd ceremony in human terms -- really no ceremony at all: no form, no ritual, and very little structure. At a prescribed time and place chosen by the close ones, those who have reason come together.

Each being reflects in his own way, in his own mind. That which was shared is remembered. The grief, not for one's own loss, but for what might have been for the one now gone, is experienced. This is a matter between the individual and his thoughts of the one who has passed beyond this life. One reflects in his or her mind and heart on the relationship that was shared. One works through the grief, then puts it aside forever. This is the Vulcan way of severance.

I must clear my mind of extraneous thoughts. I will think only of the one who is no longer among us. Charles Scott, only four days in this universe, so short a time. But I did know you: I was your father, you my son. I held you, studied you. You were an individual, unique. So different from the others -- Len, Jamie, Amanda. In so many ways…

From the beginning you were different. Your very conception was different. Not required, not programmed by drugs. You were conceived in the free expression of the bonding your mother and I share, a favored way to begin life.

Charles Scott…I did not fail you…you were born in freedom, your short life lived in freedom. You were never a slave. Your body never bore the sign that proclaimed you the property of another. Were you aware?

Your mother sits next to me. She has dealt with her grief in her own way. I accept it, as she does mine. We are so different, yet have managed to create a bond. Desire and commitment are the key words. IDIC does exist; the children next to Susan are the proof. I see in them the best each of us has to offer.

The bond -- so difficult to construct, continual work to maintain. From such a beginning…I digress; I seem incapable of concentration. How long since I last meditated? Too long. But it could not be helped. During the escape I could not be unaware of my surroundings.

How to deal with all of this? How to put it into perspective? I need to reflect, then put it aside, separate from it. I must begin to think of the future, not stay caught in the past, but where to start? With Susan, where else? Those first few weeks together sharing the pon farr and that tiny sleeping compartment. I literally thought I would go mad, from my own form of madness and her constant motion.

I would watch her -- after -- when the need was temporarily satiated. She would lie on her stomach, one arm over her head, the other at her side, rubbing her feet together, rubbing, rubbing, rubbing. Why any skin remained…

Once, when the time came again, I touched her shoulder and she spoke in her sleep.

"Oh, Michael, for the christ's sake!"

Michael? I pull away, even though I realize she is not fully awake, but need drives me.

"Tuesday night -- bowling, beans, and beer! Go away!"

I want to. But control deserts me, need compels.

"Goddammit, Michael, that hurts!"

Then she is awake.

"Sorry," she says. "When I'm overtired…"

That pity in her eyes; how I despise it.

My first remembered sight of Susan is as a blurred form coming at me, radiating anger, hatred. She tries to kill me, but cannot.

Her contempt for my actions, especially against the others. Soy-an, so young. Child molester! Susan's eyes scream. And Thela -- severely injured. Maniac, madman!

Yet what does she know of me, of my race? Nothing. I cannot explain, though I do try. I am different, not human. She scoffs, mocks, condemns.

Humiliation…dishonor…I cannot continue. I retreat.

Babies? Babies! She talks of babies, breeding farms, fertility drugs… It is all too much. I will die! Cease to exist. Be rid of the pain and guilt. She is screaming. "You owe us! You owe us!" I reject this. My mind rejects it. My body rejects it.

Responsibility…duty… Unknowingly she uses the correct words, impossible for a Vulcan to ignore. I pull myself back from the void. I watch her clean up after me, professionally, matter-of-factly. Then she turns to me. "Die, you coward!" she says, her voice cold. "Leave us to face this. We don't need you. We managed before, we'll manage now."

She has strength. I cannot help but notice that. She is a survivor. And she has information: escape -- she knows a way. After what I have done, my own will to survive is low, but if there is a way to escape… If I am to help, I will have to align with her, draw on her strength until I can renew my own. I will have to trust her, depend on her. I cannot do it alone, not yet, but with her help…

Still, the need to understand my own actions consumes me. Why? Why did I behave so?

A drug? She administered a drug, without knowing me? I explain my heritage and she feels guilt. Relief fills me when I realize…not all my fault. Without that drug, my own controls would have been successful…I would not have acted so. Her fault. I should like to shift part of the blame, but the drug is gone from my system, so I control the urge. I keep my voice level and tell her that she did her best. To add to her guilt would change nothing; undo nothing. And a decision has been made, a commitment given.

Dejected, she leaves the room.

I wait.

I try to maintain control. We must talk -- first. There is so much to be said. She returns to study me -- and she knows. I can no longer control. What will she do?

She holds out her hand to me, tells me her name.

The commitment is sealed.

She begins putting away her feelings of hate. "We are all we have here," she says. "Our cell -- never, never call this place anything else -- is our family. We must bend our wills for the good of the group." I see the logic. I will try.

She cuts my hair. Her touch is quick, sure, relaxed. It does not linger, yet I sense no repugnance. We talk -- general, impersonal conversation. Our relationship has changed. I do not know how this has happened, but it has.

I am not a human male. I explain this to Susan, but it is not until the second day that she truly, fully realizes what this means. Her reaction is devastating. Her obscenity cuts so deeply, destroying the building relationship…

Start over. Tension, mistrust, hostility all must be overcome a second time.

We have nothing in common, this female and I, nothing, except a goal. Had we met anywhere else, we would have passed each other by. We both know this. I would have intimidated her. She would have considered me pretentious…I would have assessed her as crass, common. Her language…

But we met on Towan. Circumstances and forced intimacies have reduced the barriers. There is no privacy.

First impressions pass quickly, replaced by a deeper knowing and understanding. I watch, begin gathering information, inside the cell and out. Sue's flippant attitude is not callousness, but a defense, as is her humor.

The others look to her for direction. She is the pivotal person here. I see her practicality, her common sense -- about most things. But, when angry, she has no sense at all. This bears watching; it would present problems.

The relationship between Susan and Thela, an enigma. It fluctuates. Also bears watching.

Both of them protect, shield Soy-an, who has so little to contribute.

The pon farr is finished. The need is gone. Time for a decision. Do I stay in the sleeping compartment with Susan, or move to the vacant one? It has no mattress, no privacy curtain, but they can be acquired. If I move, what will happen to the social order of this group? Thela seems secure knowing that I am with Susan. How will that change? Soy-an accepts the situation. Susan and I are the "elders" of this unit. Will my moving upset that? Soy-an could become a problem; she could try to get…too close. Susan and I have established a comfortable pattern. She does not push or demand; she lets me be. We have gained respect for one another. The very fact that I do not feel compelled to leave this enclosure is a sign of that respect. And our discussions…they have become a habit. Late at night, when the others are asleep, we talk. From Susan I learn what the others are thinking, feeling. This is an important consideration, because if I change sleeping compartments I will have no access to this information.

I shall stay.

We are a group united. Freedom is our purpose. The very air is alive with the excitement. Soon freedom will be ours, or so they all believe. Little do they know. I must topple their dreams; mine have already fallen. I keep this to myself until I have dealt with it. I should have known. I did suspect.

Escape is not that simple. Possible, yes, but far in the future, with careful planning.

Three sets of eyes on me. Disbelief… Disappointment… Despair.

I know these emotions. I have experienced them.

Susan and Thela talk, argue, speculate. Soy-an has little to contribute. I remain aloof, watching…I realize what this news means. What conclusions will they draw?

They understand. Long-term commitment. They agree that it is the only way. Any other course of action means death for us all.

The commitment is refocused.

Everyday routine -- everyday sameness; it builds and reinforces that routine. We settle into a life pattern. Priorities are set: escape, group maintenance, group solidarity, collecting and reporting of information; personal privacy -- least important.

Everyone plays his/her part. I watch Sue and Thela. They do well; can I?

They have learned the best way: consciously sublimate. I know the role…servile. I have played it before, but never for such an extended period.

Disregard heritage… Repress training…

And so the days pass.

Something has changed. Susan is different from this morning. Will she tell me? I wait. She goes outdoors. I follow.

"The doc confirmed it." She sits there in the evening shadows. She repeats the words. They have no substance, no meaning. They are empty. I think about this man -- "the doc", as Susan refers to him. His techniques have made larger scale interspecies breeding possible. He has the credentials, but does not deserve the respect of the title "Doctor". That is reserved for men like Leonard McCoy.

Three women pregnant -- each carried my child. My mind cannot grasp this. I think about it constantly, but it is not real.

I watch. There are subtle changes in each female. I do not imagine it. I should be concerned about them, but I think only of myself. My own lack of emotion is primary.

Then Soy-an is lying there. The blood is real. The anguish I see in her face is real. The fear -- hers, and mine for her -- is real, but…

Susan assumes charge, knowing what must be done. Now I understand why she chose emergency nursing as a career.

The doc arrives -- angry. He takes them away. I want to go -- perhaps then it will be real. The doc will not allow it.

Thela and I are left alone. We wait. We do not talk. Without Susan, things are awkward. Thela and I have never spoken of personal matters, and now is not the time for technical talk. So we wait in silence. I cannot help but wonder what she is thinking about her own condition. I should like to reassure her, to invite conversation, but…

Susan returns with the news. Four babies dead -- perfectly formed, but too small to survive. Why will it not become real? Soy-an, just a child -- nurturing four lives. Could that be possible?

I must be alone with this.

And so I am alone. I indulge in a parent's grief. It is a mockery. I feel no grief. I should…I want to feel…something.

Soy-an returns. She does not mention the babies; neither do we. I sense that they were no more real to her than to me.

The days are busy. The computer is nearly operational and data must be ready. I have completed the program and Kiear is pleased. He recognizes my worth and we work together as equals -- almost. How little he knows.

Susan and Thela continue to change with their advancing pregnancies. Susan has accepted the fact; she makes plans. Her attitude is positive. She has come to terms with this reality and tries to inflict her mood on the rest of us. Thela watches, trying to take her cue from Susan's behavior. They talk at great length. It is becoming real for them. Why not for me?

I lie next to her. There is scarcely enough room now. Neither of us can change position. I watch Susan, particularly the mound that is the growing twins within her. Susan sleeps, but they do not. Their motion is constant. What must it be like to feel the movement of other lives within one's own body?

Susan is in labor and the doc does not come. I hit the call buzzer again and again. Where is he? Then the doc's boy arrives and Susan and I know. I shall have to do this; there is no one else.

We leave the cell and walk slowly to the clinic. Susan seems calm, confident. She instructs me. But she does this every day and has given birth before. I… This is not first aid on some ensign. What if there are complications? Twins, mixed parentage…two lives, and I must guide them into the world. And what kind of world: slavery…and if the escape should fail…death. Put these thoughts aside; concentrate.

After all we have been through, Susan is embarrassed with me. She feels vulnerable on that table, in that position.

The contractions grow stronger, closer. Susan does what is required, the breathing, relaxing between contractions, but it is not enough. I have never considered it: all women -- motherhood/pain. The child struggles, pushing, demanding, needing oxygen. The pelvis -- giving, expanding, but not fast enough -- pain.

Suction, and then the cry -- it means the orifices are free of mucus. Cut the cord -- does that cause pain? A male; he breathes; I have a son. He is whole -- the ears, Vulcan. Why am I surprised? Record the time, control the emotions. Susan, you must repeat this. Can I? Susan cries with another contraction. So soon? Pushing is easier this time; thy brother has prepared the way. At this instant I know the name I will give the firstborn. Another male, whole. His name comes to me also. Was it meant to be? Pride! Do all males experience this? Did Sarek?

The afterbirth demand attention.

It is done. They are safe.

Susan and I talk. I tell her their names. She is pleased. To her it is a sign that I accept these sons. Did she believe I would do otherwise? Still, humans need signs.

I leave Susan and the babies. They sleep, but there will be no sleep for me this night. In our cell, Thela is waiting. I tell her, then go outdoors.

The stars above; somewhere out there is my life. No! My life is here now, until I can change this for all of us. I have given my word. Jim… Where are you? Are you even looking? Cease! Such thinking is counterproductive.

Jamie and Len. Watching, aiding them into life was a profound experience and responsibility. My need brought them life. Now I must protect that life.

My instincts about Susan are proving correct. Later, when we are free, we shall maintain this family unit, she and I. She desires that. Thela will return to her home. About Soy-an I am uncertain. She requires treatment, but will never be normal. Susan and I will stay together. She will live in my world; allow me to raise my sons in the Tradition. I cannot expect more. What is my part? Provide support, allow for her needs with the children and theirs with her. I shall not repeat Sarek's mistakes. It is not the life I had anticipated, but I accept it. We both agree: the children's needs are primary.

Thela in labor -- all day. Susan says all is well; first babies usually take longer. I would be with her, share, if I could. She would not want that.

I have another son. My first reaction…I want to see him. He has a name, Thone. I had no say in this, but I shall make no comment.

Thela feels the need to clutch Thone to her; she cannot trust. When she can do nothing else, she allows me to carry my son. I must accept that someday she will take him home with her.

My third son has joined the twins. I watch them sleep in their baskets. I am their father -- I repeat the words. So much responsibility. I must be worthy. I know them all as individuals: their cries -- so distinctive; expressions -- different; even their very breathing patterns. They grow, change daily. They are real. It is for them I survive. It is for them I bow and scrape. If ever my resolve weakens, I have only to look at their faces. I live to set them free of this place.

Routine changes drastically. Months pass around the constant demands of three small lives. The everyday trials; Susan handles them well. Is it just her experience? Thela panics and it shows. I conceal mine.

Their needs are so great. I never realized. They are into everything, so curious. I was never like that. We do what must be done. They live, grow, thrive.

Will it never end? We had a secure family unit, running smoothly. Then Susan tells me, "The doc started our shots," and the world is in turmoil again. All patterns of behavior will be upset.

How can I deal with this?

Soy-an, so like a child. Our relationship is that of parent and child; how can I…? How can I not? The alternative -- that place -- never! Death? No, this way offers life.

And Thela -- so much resentment. She wants her own mate…

I will do what I must. Lives depend on it. This family unit must survive.

And so I do.

Soy-an, so trusting, so eager to please -- it only increased my guilt and my hatred for our situation.

Thela is repulsed by the very thought of intimacy. We discuss artificial methods. Then we find her, with that guard touching her. I know instantly. I must kill him. I want to. He cannot be allowed to live; too dangerous. How convenient. Someone to vent my frustrations on; such pleasure, slamming him into that wall.

Thela is different; her resentment gone. Why? She responds -- needs, wants to be held, caressed, loved. Her opinion of me has changed. What does she mean, "warrior"? It seems I have met her cultural expectations. So be it.

We talk, share, as we never did before -- or after.

Susan is watching -- listening -- hurting. I sense it. I block it. Something needs to be accomplished. She knows the necessity, understands, but she aches.

Why can I not relax, now that Soy-an's and Thela's pregnancies are a fact and I am again with Susan? No answer. Susan feels betrayed, rejected. I cannot explain; forced pregnancies, a guard dead by my hands. I try, but words will not come, not yet. Some future time, perhaps.

Sustaining routine returns and there are three small boys growing, learning to walk, to talk. Order in our lives; how I welcome it, savor it.

Thela lying there. I rush to help. What are they saying? Not an accident? A purposeful act! Thela is confused, angry, but to kill a child, my child, any child! Rage erupts. She did not have that right… Did she? It is her body, but she jeopardizes us all with her actions.

She requires help. Push aside these emotions; get her to the clinic. We are caught and I am not sorry. My anger has to be focused; meditation will not diffuse it. Not this time. Let them punish me. I welcome it. With each touch of the wheel and the searing of my flesh, some of the anger is also burned away.

Trips with Kiear bring mixed feelings. I do not like being away, but they afford opportunity to observe, collect data, and plan. This is necessary, but what could happen in my absence?

The sphere car -- something is wrong -- we are going to crash…

Pain… Where am I? Arm, shoulder -- cannot move -- pain. Must control, assess damage, repair. Someone -- injection? No!! I shall controooool…

The craving claws at my insides -- my nerve ends -- need -- need. I must have it. I will have it!!!

Cold. Sick. Pain. Hot.. Cramps. If only I could control. Cannot. It controls me; disgusting. Susan? Susan is here. Cool compresses. I feel it. Soothing. Susan is here.

No will of my own, just NEED!

Cannot do it.


Susan again, always at me. Leave me alone, woman!

Talk, talk, talk -- no! NEED!

I did it; fifteen minutes. Small victory. Perhaps there is a chance… But, the craving, the need.

More talk. Susan again -- questions, questions.

I am sitting up; my body is not rejecting the tea -- another victory. Hope. I can -- will -- be free of the craving.

Susan, ask me. Susan? She is falling asleep -- the need. Do something, Susan! Ask me. Susan, how many moons does Vulcan have?

I awaken, but Susan is still asleep. How long did I sleep? Calculate the time. Eight hours. Good. Stand -- slowly -- walk -- more -- back and forth. Do not think -- walk. The worst is behind us. We have done it. I am free of it. Susan will be pleased. I want to wake her, tell her, and see her face. No. Later. She needs her rest.

Susan is depleted, as I have never seen her. I worry. The consequences: our daughter comes early. I deliver another child into this world. It is so different this time, so fast. There is no time to think. Susan cries; fluids are running, and Thela helps her to the floor. I tear the coveralls and I can see the head. It is out and I reach to guide the body. Female -- tiny -- fear grips me. She cries -- relief. The doc arrives, pushes me away, finishes. The cart, and they are gone from me.

Amanda Uhura joins us now that her weight is five pounds. I watch my daughter, I am pleased. Uhura -- freedom; soon, I hope. Amanda -- Mother … Mother, do you think me deadd? Will you ever know, you and my father? Yes! Someday. And you will be pleased. Will he?

Soy-an -- in labor -- in pain. I carry her to the clinic. I sense trouble. All our teaching, preparing -- wasted. Susan and the doc are waiting. I back away as they begin work, but Soy-an calls me. I move back to her and the doc says nothing. I link with her. I join our minds, but there is something else, another consciousness. The child. I sense its needs -- to breathe, to be free of the womb. It is time. Soy-an fights, inhibits the progress. I calm her. She is reassured by my presence, wants it -- needs it. She is afraid. She hears Susan's voice. She trusts us, so we guide, Susan from without, I from within. I encourage Soy-an to breathe deeply, pant, push. Help the child, Soy-an. Help. Susan tells us that she has the child, a female. Soy-an hears and is pleased. We praise her. She is happy.

I can withdraw; break the link. Susan hands me the child and continues with Soy-an. I begin cleaning the child. The doc, still watching… Why? Did he realize what I was doing? Later, without a word, he leaves.

I enter the cell. I am early; no one else is here. I survey my household. I think of it in those terms. Away from here I could provide so much more. Put away such thoughts for now… The time is coming.

There will be time for a lesson before the evening meal.

They are here.

Something is very wrong. Other children have been taken, they have seen -- they know. Emotions threaten to erupt. Control. How to explain? They need comfort, reassurance. I cannot even do that for myself. I talk -- words, empty words. Because of their trust, they believe; they want -- need to believe. Susan is upset, but she conceals for their sake. Thela fears. Thone senses it.

No one has an appetite. We are subdued. No lessons this night. Games and closeness are needed.

The evening drags on.

Finally everyone is asleep. But all are restless. I will stay inside tonight, in case one of them should wake…

My own lack of control is a sign of the stress. How much longer can I maintain? As long as I must.

I teach the concept of IDIC -- they observe their surroundings.

I advocate non-violence -- but they must spend their days in that place with the other children. It is their world and I cannot enter. To survive, they must make a place in it. How to explain? I teach them self-defense, to act as a unit, to protect each other. What else can I do?

The mental attitude -- they are being conditioned, subservient nature encouraged. I must combat this, yet they must learn not to call attention to themselves. Children who cannot be controlled are drugged. So much for their young minds to cope with. Yet I do them an injustice: They do cope.

And what of conditions within our cell? Jamie, Len, and Mandy have two parents. Susan bows to my wishes, for the most part. Our disagreements are few, albeit explosive. She will usually talk matters over with me before acting. For Susan, that is a profound retraining. She realizes the importance.

Thela is overprotective; she will not allow me to be a father to Thone, only a tutor. It is a disruptive force between us.

Soy-an, emotionally disturbed, is as much a child as Thay-an. But she does care for the baby if properly and constantly praised and coached. I use the mind touch to keep her motivated, but after I am gone… Susan and Thela will try, but it is a risk, yet there is no other way.

The middle of the night; doc's boy awakens me. Come quickly, he says -- to the clinic -- Susan -- hysterical?

And she is. I do not believe what I see: Susan attacking a male almost twice her size. Screaming obscenities. The many languages of Towan have increased her vocabulary tenfold.

Bondmate: danger. The thought comes from nowhere -- protect her -- kill him. No! Confusion. Think! How to stop this before he kills her?

Slap her, make it once, not too hard -- apologize for her behavior, subservient again. Swallow the gall. Fraunt is of no importance; Susan is.

Susan needs some time away, alone. Can I give her that?

Convince the doc. Make him see.

It works. I have done it.

Susan will wake soon. I shall enjoy telling her. It is so small a gift. She will make light of it -- or cry. But she will know.

Rub her neck -- that is always where the tension strikes her. She enjoys the touch. Always pleasant, she makes no demands, has no expectations. Just massage away her tiredness; another small thing I can do for her. She gives me so much. So comfortable between us now, no pressure here -- only from the outside -- to escape, unspoken between us, but always there.

We are alone; I have adjusted the door lock. We will not be intruded upon. It occurs to me that I have never been alone with Susan before. Food: a biscuit and tea -- not much, but shared. She flinches: her jaw -- there is pain, where I struck her. Let me examine, not severe. Tension in the shoulder muscles. I will massage, ease it away. She moves closer, touches me. Her touch is familiar, it calls only positive responses. How many times have we been like this? No…something is different. Her touch -- more than pleasant -- intense. The desire -- strong -- as never before. Love. She admits it, finally. Can I do less? It is there, has been for so long. For a time I was unaware; then I kept it from her. Better that way, for everyone, until we are free. But now she knows. She will keep it within her and let it sustain her while we are apart. I shall do the same.

This is the Susan I know. See yourself in my mind. Yes, the image is different from your own perception. You emphasize the superficial; I look beneath. You are strong. See your inner self, Susan!

Let your love flow, as I do. We can admit it, here, now, together. It is love.

She pulls me closer, unafraid of rejection. I enjoy that -- to be wanted, desired. Naked together, how many times? Yet, this is different. There are no untouched or untouchable places between us now -- mind or body. Excitement grows, directs. We abandon thinking; action leads. No words needed now. Spent, we cling to each other.

In a few weeks I shall be gone. After tonight, I shall go with a renewed strength and resolve. I shall come back for all of you. Susan, I vow.

Back in our cell -- routine. Yet the special awareness between us lingers. The others notice. Soy-an grows increasingly demanding, Thela distant. So be it.

I board the sphere car with Kiear and the others, as I have so many times before.

I have said my good-byes. Susan managed well. Last night she told me: she carries another child, our child, created in love. She is pleased, as I am. I leave with these joyful thoughts.

We are over the mountains. It is almost time. I have rehearsed this in my mind so often. But now the time has arrived. They suspect nothing. I have played the subservient role well. The guards are dozing; it is almost too easy. I apply the nerve pinch, then approach the front of the car. How unfortunate that I must eliminate Kiear before the pilot. How I should savor watching his face. Kiear slumps. The pilot turns, questioning; then fear surfaces and he pulls away. Too late. He joins the others. I land the car.

Change sandals -- cut one with a scalpel, then fray the edges. Break the other. Disinfect the scalpel. Change coveralls. Remove the collar -- finally. Such joy to be rid of it. Pllacce all these items in the craft. Cut myself, allow the blood to drip and run onto the coveralls, sandals, seats. Retrieve the parcel. Thirty-eight biscuits -- will that be enough? Could not hide more. Water container, small first aid kit, and a sweater taken from an incoming prisoner. A gift from Susan. A homemade satchel -- a "backpack," Susan called it. I am ready. I repeat the nerve pinch -- four lives extinguished, but to save almost two thousand.

I set controls on automatic, then time delay takeoff. It is simple: up to six hundred meters, then crash. There will be very little left. After all the years of planning -- now -- jump free. Craft moving up as programmed -- do not watch. But I must! To be sure. It hovers -- seems frozen in mid-air. I panic; something is wrong… Then it plunges -- the crash, so loud. Nothing could survive.

I begin walking. I must be far away when they investigate. I have time, but must not waste it. I walk south, toward the port. In six days a ship leaves for the home world. I will be there. There are slaves there wearing the same coveralls. With my hair longer and ears covered, I will not be noticeable. Besides, no one ever looks at the face of a slave.

Frustration -- anger -- guilt -- I must control. The best laid plans of… Attacked by a mountain cat -- my leg ripped open. I keep moving anyway. I must make the port in time. I cannot waste water -- there is none for miles. I clean the wound with a swab from the kit, but it is not good enough, I fear -- no time to self-heal.

Cross the desert -- travel by night. All is well, except the leg. It troubles me and I favor it.

I have made it to the low hills -- five days already. Too much time -- rest intervals are not satisfactory -- sleep fitful -- the leg.

I am above the port -- I watch. Must move closer, but cannot walk about freely now. The leg and torn coveralls have foiled my plans. Must move at night and remain unnoticed.

FAILURE! Frustration overwhelms. They loaded until the last minute -- bright lights. No possibility of getting aboard. Gall chokes me as I watch that ship lift off without me. I am a failure. All my Starfleet training, wasted.

Must not despair. Hide out -- live off scraps and save biscuits -- sleep during the day. Luck! A negligent worker -- new coveralls. Use the old for bandage -- find the cleanest part. Remove old bandage -- the wound -- not good.

I have made it. I am aboard ship, safe, with a crate to hide in -- in the cargo area, where I have some freedom of movement. Collected food and three containers of water, but the leg…

Waiting -- waitingwaitingwaitingwaiting. I am Vulcan. I will control.

Planetfall. I must be patient and not leave the ship too soon.

Land again, and night. Calculations correct. I need darkness. First priority: food. My supply exhausted two days ago.

Towan -- closed world. Must stay hidden. I would be noticed. Lights -- business district -- restaurants -- alleys -- garbage.

The leg -- dragging it now.

Day -- hide -- watch. Plans must be altered. I had intended to steal food for the remainder of the trip, break into a warehouse, get everything in one, two trips -- but the leg.

Restaurants -- factories -- warehouses -- I make the rounds collecting packages of edibles. Times must be prosperous on Towan: they discard much, but unopened, sealed packets are not easy to locate. At this rate I shall not have enough to sustain me.

I must return to the garbage -- worst part. At least I am alone -- no one to share my shame and humiliation.

After two aborted attempts, I am aboard a Vegan merchant ship smuggling Solad.

The last time -- next stop, freedom.

More waiting, waiting, waiting. The leg is bad. I do not look. I do not have to. The nightmares keep coming. I know I call out sometimes -- restful sleep impossible -- infectionn ssystemic now.

Planetfall again -- so close now -- so close. Do not be impatient. Eating the last food -- rationed well. I want to run -- crawl -- delirious -- rambling -- so close. Wherever we are, we must be inside Federation territory. Must get to a starbase -- outpost -- embassy -- anything, local police, if nothing ellsee. Leave the ship -- careful -- cannot be caught -- not now.

Outside -- fresh air -- not re-circulated -- dark, always dark. Will I ever see sunshine again?

Move away from the port -- go toward the lights -- city. Fence -- too high. I cannot climb. Find another way. Workers unloading trucks -- if I could get into an empty one befooree it leaves. Three-meter climb -- might as well be three kilometers. Hang on -- hoist -- pull -- roll -- roll! We are moving through the gate -- noise -- city noise. Get out now.

Falling -- oooooooh -- leg!

Signs -- Federation Standard -- Susan/safe.

Hide till daylight -- get out of gutter -- cannot move -- pain.

Voices over me… "Let him alone, Sam. He's just a drunk."

"No. this guy's hurt. He needs help."

UNIFORM! Is it real?

"Ensign…Ensign, I am Commander S…"

* * *

Spock felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to find Jamie standing next to him. "Son?"

"Mother sent me to see about you…"

Spock looked around the empty chapel. "How long ago did everyone leave?"

"A very long time. Should I attempt to calculate?"

"Not necessary. I am finished here. I have accomplished my task. Come; let us join the others.

* * *

For the displaced, bittersweet memories

Of home haunt the present and future.

Only a remnant of their number remains…

To survive now that survival is no longer the only goal,

To find a niche in a universe grown alien,

To challenge this season of genesis.

New knowledge instigates change and brings fresh pain,

But resolute acceptance of the expanded world is necessary, vital,

For this is the time of transition.

By Sharon Decker


Sue settled Thay-an into the double bed instead of putting her on the floor where the other children slept. As she tucked her in, Sue reflected on how Annie favored her dead mother. Oh, Soy-an, she thought wistfully, we'll do well by her, I promise.

She climbed in next to the child, lay back, and stared at the ceiling. Tomorrow morning the Enterprise and one of its shuttles were leaving Towan -- the shuttle taking Jim Kirk, Dr. McCoy, and Mr. Scott to Starfleet Headquarters. Immediately after, the Enterprise would warp out of orbit, headed in the opposite direction for Vulcan. Jim was leaving, and Spock had not yet accepted his offer to be part of the galactic hub probe mission crew.

It had been Sue's plan to have this matter settled before they parted company. But it wasn't settled. Sarek had broached the subject and Sue's hoped for discussion had followed, but not her hoped for results. Showing a rare lack of control, Spock had laid bare his desire to be part of that crew. Then, embarrassed, he had turned on Sue, accusing her of instigating the whole incident. She had tried to salvage her plan, to regenerate the conversation, but Spock had dismissed her like an unruly child. She'd known she had to leave the room before she said something she would be sorry for. Thay-an's timely entrance had offered her the needed excuse.

Now she lay in bed, her plan still incomplete. She had not avoided a scene -- only postponed it. And there was still the matter of telling Spock what else she had done; Amanda had insisted. Depression surrounded her like a dark cloud. He's gonna be pissed, she told herself, and absently began to chew on her thumbnail. He's gonna be real pissed. I promised Amanda I'd tell him what I did -- and when I do… Sue had witnessed Spock's anger three times in the last five years, but only once had she been on the receiving end. She had been too shocked and surprised to respond, but this time she knew it was coming and had time to prepare. That only made things worse.

She set about trying to mentally construct a defense of her actions. Having completely destroyed the thumbnail, she began working on the index finger.

Spock entered the bedroom and Sue stiffened. She lay unmoving while he checked the sleeping children. Knowing that he disapproved of her allowing the children to sleep with her, she remained motionless as he approached the bed. Trying to postpone the inevitable? she asked herself. He lifted Annie and settled her onto the floor pallet. As he slid into bed he said, "I am not fooled, Susan. I know you are awake."

She turned her back on him in a huff. "I am not speaking to you!" She was hoping to remind him of his insult to her earlier that evening and thereby gain some advantage.

"Indeed." His tone held a hint of amusement, and Sue knew why. He often heard more from her when she wasn't speaking to him than when she was. "Am I allowed to know why?"

"You know why!"

The amusement was gone from his voice. "You are correct. My comments in front of the others were unacceptable. You have my apology."

"Accepted." She rolled to face him. "Spock, why don't you give it up? Admit defeat. Call Jim and tell him that you'll take that science position." If only it would be that easy, she sighed.

"Susan, I -- "

"Face it," she interrupted. "This round is mine."

"You want me gone?"

"I won't even dignify that with an answer."

"What, then?"

"We have a good relationship; we know what to expect from each other. But after what we've been through, there are things we both need to work out. What's important here is that I know you need and want to go on that mission."

Ignoring the last part of her remark, he said, "I had planned to be with you and to assist you through your transition."

"I know that, Spock, but you're missing the point. I don't want that help at the price of your freedom. You've given us five years, and now you need to get back to your work."

"Susan, I am not sure I could to be away from you and the children for that long. Think of how much I will miss. They change and grow so quickly at this young age. Will they even know me when I return? I have just spent six months away from them and you all were in my thoughts constantly…"

"Did they forget you, or did they run to you like you had never been gone? Besides, I know how these things go. If they say six months, it'll be a year, maybe more. You'll have us all settled by then. Spock, Starfleet is what you do and you need to get back to doing it."

There was a slight pause. "Susan, you are not being attentive to the facts. If you were, you would know that I cannot consider being away for two years."

Sue pulled the bed covers closer around her and wished she could do the same with the darkness. "No, Spock. There is nothing to keep you from going."

Using his over patient tone, he said, "Susan, in approximately one point five years I shall again be in pon farr."

Knowing the moment was upon her, she gritted her teeth and said, "I've taken care of that."

"Taken care of?" Confused, he asked, "What are you talking about?"

"You know…"

"You are not making sense." His tone grew cautious.

"Look, I've had some sociology. I know that no society with your particular problem could continue without creating some safeguard. What if a bondmate is unavailable to her husband during his time? I mean, what if a wife should get hit by a -- spaceship, or something? A society that evolved around such a given must have established some custom to cover this situation. So…I asked -- your mother."

"You did what?" She felt the bed move as he sat up and knew he was staring in her direction.

She kept her voice low. "I asked your -- "

"Cease! I heard you." She sensed that his control was not strong and knew that with his next question -- and her answer -- that control would be gone.

"As distasteful as I find this, I must ask. What did you do with the information?"

Her answer was a whisper. "I talked…with Uhura."

In an instant Spock was out of bed and in the sitting room. Sue could do nothing but scramble after him. She heard his hand hit the wall twice, and the light came on as the door separating the sitting and bedroom slid closed. He spun around to face her. The fury he was radiating flashed through her. The bonding, intensifier of emotions, so exquisite in lovemaking, was painful in anger.

"You presume too much, woman!" He had never before addressed her in that way, but this reaction was not unexpected.

"So the great logical liberal goes sexist when it suits him!" Her words were flung out as a challenge.

"You had no right!"

"Oh, but I did. Your mother told me my rights. Want me to quote Vulcan custom for you?" Sue hoped her raised voice would convey a sureness she did not feel.

"Vulcan custom!" He spat out the words. "You know nothing of Vulcan custom!"

She stood her ground. "I know that I can make arrangements for you if I am not available…"

"You bastardize Vulcan custom." The words carried a physical force.

Her anger rising, she began to recite. "'If a wife is physically or mentally incapacitated, she or the female head of her family makes--'"

"That does not apply in this situation. You are neither physically nor mentally impaired, although there are times when I am suspect of your mental -- "

Anger notched several degrees higher. "Oh, dirty pool! Diiiiirrrty pooooool!"

"You dare question my behavior -- after what you have done? You have misused Vulcan custom, twisted it for your own purpose."

"Facts are facts. We won't be together then -- "

"We shall be together, because I will be on Vulcan with you, where I belong."

"Well, how noble!" She made a low, sweeping bow in front of him. "Saint Spock the Self-sacrificing. Martyrdom becomes you, but it makes me want to throw up! You want to go. Be man -- Vulcan -- enough to admit it. Admit it!"

"Yes. Yes! I want to go. But unlike you Humans -- "

"Balls!" she screamed.

In the bedroom, Jamie cried out. Both parents waited. The sound was not repeated.

The interruption gave both of them the seconds needed to calm somewhat. Sue's tone was normal when she said, "With all this talk of my needing adjustment time, you can't see that you need it, too."

His voice, though lower, was still agitated. "Even if that were so, I have been denied my privacy. How am I to face Uhura?"

"You've faced her for the past two days and lived through it."

"She has known that long?"

Sue nodded, watching him. The anger was still there; she saw it in his eyes.

"What did you tell her? How did you explain pon farr?"

"Didn't have to. Your mother just asked -- "

"My mother?" Sue watched him cringe and did the same.

"She went with me," she said watching him opened and closed his fists. "Anyway, she didn't have to explain. You didn't really think you could keep something like that a secret, did you? Apparently the whole ship was buzzing for days after that first time."

"You will tell me everything that was said." It was a command.

Sue flopped into a chair. "Amanda told me how these situations are handled by the females. If the woman is physically impaired, she makes arrangements; if she's also mentally incapacitated, the female head of her family does it. She was also very clear about my responsibility. I know that I can never use it against you -- never even bring up the subject."

"And you believe you can deal with that?" he asked incredulously.

"If I could deal with you and Thela in the same room, then I can deal with this."

"We were not bonded then. This time you would sense…"

She came straight up out of her chair. "At least I wouldn't have to listen!" Her voice was a screech.

Jamie cried out again, and Sue knew that she had awakened him. She palmed the doorplate and went to see about the child. As she sat next to him, clamped down on her own emotions and began rubbing his back. When she knew her voice would not fail her, she began talking soothingly. When all was quiet she heard the outer door open and close. Spock had left the room, and she knew where he would go. It was exactly like on Towan. When he needed to think, he went to where he could look at the stars.

* * *

Spock stalked the corridors. That has to be the most presumptuous female ever to draw breath! Finally, on his third try, he was successful in locating an empty observation deck. And if she were not so, we would not be alive today. He began to pace. He would require time to regain control. She understands you too well, Vulcan. You do wish to be part of that mission, the first to go so near the Galactic Hub. What would you do if you stayed on Vulcan? The Academy? No. Someday, perhaps, but not yet. Still, she had no right to speak to Uhura. But that has never stopped her before. Why should you expect it to be so now? After several minutes he sat and focused on the void of space before him.

An unknown time later, he heard a voice. "I would intrude. Spock, do you allow it?"

"Father? Yes. I welcome it."

Spock watched as his father stared. He had noticed it since their reunion, whenever they came to be together after a separation of a whole night or even a few hours. His father's first reaction upon seeing him was to take a complete visual inventory, as if he were reassuring himself that this was indeed his son and that he was alive and well.

Having been caught staring, Sarek looked away. "Your mother and I have been talking," he said, regaining his composure. "She told me what she and Susan have done."

"I do not seem to be able to put this into perspective."

"It is no wonder. These females have overstepped their authority. I believe Susan is more to blame. Your mother is too long away from humans. She allowed herself to be drawn in by Susan's innocent questions, and then felt compelled to accompany her when she visited Uhura. She has slept badly these two nights. She insisted that Susan tell you."

"Susan can be most devious when she has a goal."

"She does have a point, however. Susan is not the only one in need of adjustment time. The universe has seen many changes in the past five years. You will require time to assimilate them. Do you realize that you have made no inquiries about matters on Vulcan?"

Spock was struck by the truth of that statement.

"I realize that you could think of nothing else until your family was safe."

"I have been concerned only with my problems."

"It was not my intention to admonish, Spock. I mention it to point out your mental state. Under the circumstances, it could hardly be otherwise."

"I have given much thought to what you and Mother must have gone through these past years. Did you believe me dead?"

"No. I did not feel a severing. I will admit that as time passed, I began to despair of ever seeing you alive. I spent many hours trying to make contact, to perhaps visualize your surroundings and thereby learn your location -- all to no avail."

"How did Mother fare?"

"She experienced constant vacillation between knowing you were alive and sorrow at your certain death. We turned toward each other in this. It did bring us closer."

"It pleases me to hear that." Since Sarek had mentioned Vulcan, a hundred questions flooded Spock's mind about maters outside his own immediate world. He and Jim had discussed Federation news and Starfleet business, but what of Vulcan? He remembered that his last news of T'Pau was that she had been taken ill. "T'Pau -- she is well?"

"No. She retired shortly after your disappearance. She will not see another turning."

"I have not asked about T'Uriamne. Have matters improved between you and my sister?"

"Spock, your sister is dead. Last year -- a kidney ailment. I was called at the last instant; we were able to talk."

Spock felt despair flood through him. The always hoped for, if illogical, reconciliation and acceptance would never be.

"Let us discuss this mission. You do wish to go; about that, Susan is correct. In her own inept way she has made it possible for you to do so…" Sarek's voice seemed to grow speculative. "If I were to envy the other races, it would be because they are not biologically enslaved, as are we Vulcans…" His tone became more forceful. "I agree with Susan. If you do not go back to Starfleet now, you never will."

"If I should choose to go, that would leave the responsibility of Susan and the children to you and Mother."

"Spock, let us have the truth. I believe you are somewhat anxious about leaving the children in my care. Let me say this: There is no reason for these children to be raised in the same manner as you were."

Spock could only stare as his father continued.

"You were the first Vulcan/human child to survive, and since your mother could not tolerate another such pregnancy, you were, of necessity, raised alone. Shortly after your birth, I learned of my heart defect and lived with the fact that death might claim me at any time. I was strict and demanding with you for those reasons. I felt that I had to give you as much as I could in the shortest possible time. And, Spock, I am not displeased with the results."

On past occasions Spock had put his motives into words and Sarek had listened, but never before had the father given the son reasons for any of his actions. Spock knew the gesture was meant to be the beginning of a new understanding between them. But Spock was head of a family now. Old patterns were gone and new ones had been set. He would not return to being the unquestioningly obedient son who had only once defied his father. "I am grateful of this information, and it does make a difference, but Susan has her needs with the children and they with her. They have a solid relationship, and I plan for it to continue unaltered."

"I accept that. Susan has the kind of strength they will need to overcome the unusual circumstances of their birth. Yours is not a typical Vulcan family, and the children shall no doubt have to resign themselves to questions and even disapproval. I see in Susan the tenacity to keep this from becoming a lifelong handicap."

"There will be other matters outside their personal relationship. Do you not believe that you and Susan will continually be at odds with each other as to what is best for the children?"

"I foresee some problems, but your mother will be an excellent buffer. Susan has stated that she and I will in all likelihood knock heads -- "

"That's 'bump heads,' Father."

"No matter. My main concern for Susan is that she has not accepted her time displacement. She still thinks of Earth as it was in its twentieth century. Her time of transition is yet to come."

"I had hoped to aid Susan through that time. If I am gone, the task will also fall to you and Mother. Have you any suggestions as to how we might ease her way?"

"I have been researching the subject. Unfortunately, little is known about time displacement, but I did locate some data on the Altair Five. In that case, the procedure was to complete an extensive list of familiar reference points and then, using visual aids, show a history of these places from the time of the displaced individual to the present. With this, it is hoped that the individual can follow and accept the continuation of events from the known, through the changes, to the current status. If possible, places with personal experience should be used. But I do not believe it would be beneficial to begin with the time just after Susan left Earth. As you recall, there was much upheaval for a short period beginning in the early 1990s. What are your thoughts on the subject?"

"I agree with you. Susan has questioned me repeatedly about events that occurred just after she left Earth. For the most part I have avoided answering her. I am sure she will find the truth very upsetting. Had that repression of ideas and expression continued, it would have led to another 'Dark Ages' for her country, perhaps for the whole planet. Father, how can I, with a clear conscience, go on this mission with Jim and abandon Susan to this struggle?"

"If you stay because of her, she will know it, and it will add to her guilt. She has mentioned to your mother that she believes that you feel obligated to her because of the children. I believe she will feel more secure in your relationship if you go."

"Perhaps after tomorrow morning she will feel more secure. I have arranged for Captain Sulu to perform a marriage ceremony."

* * *

"Are you still mad?" Sue asked when Spock finally slipped into bed.

"No, I am not angry. I disapprove of your actions; you had no right ... However, it is done. I must accept it. Go to sleep now. You will need to be up early. Captain Sulu will be marrying us at 0700 hours."

Sue rolled over. Once nice thing about Vulcans; they didn't sulk. "Marrying us?" She sat up. "Spock, did you say 'marrying us'?" They had spoken of this on Towan, but Sue had not expected it to be dropped on her like a trip to the dentist.

"Yes," he said in the lazy voice that told Sue he was almost asleep. "Now go to sleep."

She lay back down and, clutching the blankets in both hands, rolled away from him. "I haven't been asked!"

He sat up and jerked the covers, spinning her around and reclaiming his share. "And you will not be."

"Then I won't be there."

"You will be there even if I must employ the tactics used by your caveman ancestors."

At his tone, Sue decided not to push her luck.

* * *

"Susan." She felt Spock's hand on her shoulder. "Wake up. We are to be in the captain's quarters in thirty minutes."

"Why so early?" She moaned and stretched. "Can't we live in sin for a few more minutes?"

"'Live in sin'?"

"Never mind," she said, drifting back to sleep.

"Susan." He shook her again. "I arranged for this time so that Jim and Dr. McCoy can be with us."

"Oh, yeah," she yawned. "I forgot; they're leaving right after breakfast." She struggled out of bed.

Stepping over Jamie and Len's floor pallets, she felt her way to the bathroom. She kept the lights dim as she slipped into the shower. Trying to get into the spirit of the occasion, she began humming "I'm Getting Married in the Morning." She was pleased about this ceremony. Going to Vulcan was scary enough. Being "legal" would make her feel somewhat more secure, and it was important for the children.

She smiled as she remembered the first time she had been a bride. A long time ago -- a lifetime ago. We were so young, just barely 17 and almost 20, so excited, so naïve. Oh, Michael, we didn't do bad, did we? We were building a good life -- we were happy. And now -- I'm eons and worlds away, starting a new life. She reached out to depress the soap dispenser and something gleamed in the soft light. It was the gold band on her third finger, left hand. She had worn it so long that it had become part of her. "Geez," she said out loud. "Have to do something about that. Emily Post would not approve of a bride going to her second wedding still wearing the ring from the first."

Wrapped in a towel, she sidestepped her way through the bedroom to find her clothes. She grabbed the rose-colored floor length gown she had worn to dinner the night before. She had chosen the style to conceal her so recently pregnant middle. Amanda had chosen the color. The only other clothing in her limited wardrobe was a casual pantsuit, two nightgowns, and a robe. After dressing and passing a comb through her hair, she tiptoed into the sitting room. Spock was waiting, dressed in Starfleet uniform.

"You don't like this dress," Sue said in response to his look.

"It will attract attention at this hour of the morning, and I prefer that no notoriety be attached to this ceremony."

Without comment, she turned and went back to the bedroom and changed. "I'm ready," she said when she returned, "but first we have to do something about this ring."

"You have kept it on these past five years; why make a production out of removing it now?"

She stiffened, then stuck out her hand. "Here, smartass. You get it off."

Spock pulled gently at the ring, and then felt the finger. "It will not come off because of the barb under the skin."

Sue jerked her hand away. "That's why the production! It has to be cut off."

"I think not. Dr. McCoy can remove the growth within a few minutes; then the ring will slip off without difficulty. When did this happen?"

"Years ago. I was baiting a fishing hook for Mickey, he got impatient and pulled on the line and the hook went through my finger. When the hook came out, it healed and left that. I think it's a sterile cyst."

"Then you have no objection to removing the ring?"

"Is that what you thought all this time?"

"Yes," he said after a long pause.

"Why didn't you just ask?" she said, exasperated.

"I thought I would not like the answer. It is, after all, the only possession you have from your former life."

* * *

They entered Sickbay, and a nurse directed them to one of the examination rooms, where Jim and the doctor were waiting. They exchanged subdued greeting, then Sue was quiet as the doctor examined her finger and called for a tray of instruments. Spock moved to stand next to Jim.

Sue remained silent as Leonard administered a local anesthetic to her finger. Then, using what he said was a laser scalpel; he cut and cauterized a small slit in her finger. The cyst slid out with the slightest push.

The atmosphere in the room was not what one would expect for a wedding. In fact, it tended toward gloom. "You don't look much like a bride," McCoy said, glancing from Sue to Spock.

"What did you have in mind, Doctor -- a Rigelian Hofic ceremony?"

"Nothing that drastic, just a little show of happiness. I assume that you consider this a happy event?"

"I consider this event a formality. Susan and I have been bonded for some time."

"Bones," Jim cautioned, "not now."

"Well, does this have to be like a wake? Can't he show a little pleasure?"

"I intend to -- to Susan -- in private," was Spock's reply. "I have no wish to call attention to this ceremony."

"Spock, you have been out of touch. You don't even remember what the grapevine is like on a starship."

"It is too late, then? The news is out?" He asked the question as if he already knew the answer.

"Certainly." McCoy reiterated, "Some wedding…the best man and acting father of the bride are going to outshine the nuptial couple."

Sue knew the doctor was referring to her plain pantsuit and the fact that he and Jim were in dress uniform while Spock was not.

"Bones is right," Jim added. "The crew even has a pool going: will the Vulcan kiss the bride or won't he?"

Spock was silent, and Sue's depression deepened. Just when she had thought things could not get worse, they were about to. She was ready to tell Spock to forget the whole thing when he said, "Susan, will you change into your dress?"

Surprised, she nodded.

"Jim?" he continued, sounding resigned to the situation. "About a dress uniform?"

"Come on," he said, smiling broadly. "We'll get one."

"Now this is more like it." McCoy's face erupted into a wide grin. "I'll see about some flowers."

"Yellow roses, Doctor, if possible."

Sue's heart swelled. He remembered! This would be one of those moments that, whenever recalled, would warm her heart for the rest of her life.

Wearing her long dress and holding a bouquet, Sue felt more like a bride.

The ceremony was Federation Standard and took only a few minutes. A statement of intent was read, followed by the standard "Will you" questions and the standard "I will" replies. Before beginning the ceremony, Captain Sulu asked their indulgence, confessing that this would be his first time officiating at a wedding. He was trying to keep his manner solemn, as the occasion demanded, but his face broke into a wide grin when he said, "I now pronounce you husband and wife."

Catching her completely unaware, Spock scooped Sue into his arms, bent her backwards, and kissed her long and hard. He stood her back on her feet, then looked the doctor straight in the eye.

"Did I act as anticipated, Leonard?"

"Sure did. I just tripled my money."

In a more festive mood, the group filed out of the cabin to the breakfast, where Sarek, Amanda, the children, and Mr. Scott waited.

Spock offered Sue his arm. "My wife," he said, his voice low. "I have considered you such for a long time."

The farewell breakfast was interspersed with noisy, festive periods and long, awkward silences. Everyone was dreading the good-byes that were to come in a few minutes. The children's presence helped. It gave the adults something on which to focus their attention. When breakfast was finished, the whole group headed for the shuttle bay, since the children were anxious to see this area of the Enterprise.

Spock and Jim were walking together, talking. Sue watched from several paces behind them. When Jim's head came up and he grabbed Spock by the shoulder, she knew. Spock had just accepted the science position. A satisfied feeling of triumph surged through her, quickly followed by an uneasy, scary one: two whole years without him.

Ritual signs of parting were exchanged, then cheeks were kissed, shoulders clasped, and there were a few hurried, awkward embraces. Then the three were in the shuttle and the others were leaving the bay so that depressurization could begin.

Everyone, even the children, was silent as they walked back to their quarters. Within minutes, the children were claimed for their day's studies. Alone, the adults began discussing the routine they would adopt for the four-day trip to Vulcan. The intercom sounded. It was Captain Sulu.

"Mr. Spock, I've just received a call from Federation headquarters on the surface. There seems to be a problem. A woman has barricaded herself and her baby in one of the miner's huts. She's hysterical and is saying that Susan promised to take the child, and that if she won't…well, she's threatening to kill the child."

All eyes turned to Susan, who exclaimed, "Ohmygod! I forgot about her!"

Spock's voice showed the confusion they were all feeling. "Her?"

"Jalona. Spock, you met her -- talked with her. She's Vulcan, remember?"

"Vulcanoid. Yes, I remember; one of three captured from the Salina sector," Spock added, glancing at his father.

"Spock, I gotta get down there and talk to her, fast!"

Spock made arrangements with the captain, and within a few minutes Sue found herself hurrying down the corridor to the transporter room between Spock and Sarek. She was trying to explain.

"She had her baby about six-eight weeks ago; gave me one hell of a time in L&D. Wouldn't cooperate and kept saying she was going to kill the baby. I kept telling her what trouble that would get her." They strode into the transporter room and took their places on the pad. "We were getting nowhere and it was getting dangerous for both her and the child. Finally I t -- " Sue was left in mid-word as Spock gave the order to energize and finished as they materialized on the surface and began walking toward the hut compound. " -- old her we could make a deal. If she would cooperate and take care of the baby now, and if we ever got off Towan and she still felt the same, I would take the baby." Her eyes were defiant as she looked from her husband to her father-in-law. "It's not the first time I've made that offer, you know. Lots of the women here don't want the mixed breeds!"

Both men stopped and stared at her, and Spock's voice held a hint of dismay when he said, "Susan, let us hope that they all do not decide to hold you to your word."

"Oh, they won't. She picked me because of you. She told me she would rather see the kid dead than raised with 'humans'." She turned to Sarek. "She used to watch Spock with the kids in the woods on freeday. That's when she came to me and said she was holding me to my word. I thought she'd change her mind."

"What of the child's father?" Sarek asked as they showed their identification badges and were allowed to pass into the hut area.

"Found him one morning with one of those mine picks buried in his head. All four women in the hut confessed."

"What happened to them?" Spock asked, obviously remembering his own experience with the whirl-wheel.

"Nothing. He was known as an abuser and they decided to make an example of him. Worked, too. We had a big drop in the number of beaten women reporting to the clinic. Time loss due to injury is important, you know."

They saw a hut surrounded by people and knew it had to be their destination. Spock and Sarek approached the man who appeared to be in charge, while Sue hung back. Spock turned to her. "Susan, you must talk to her."

"What do I say? Should I take the baby? That's what she wants. I mean; she expects us to keep it."

"You gave your word."

"Yeah, I did…it means another kid to raise."

"I realize that."

"I feel like I'm inflicting another burden on you."

"Susan, you are talking about a child. It seems that we are the only possibility of a productive, satisfying life this child has." His look did as much as his words to reassure her. She went to the hut and pushed open the door.

"Jalona? Jalona, it's me, Sue."

"Have you come to honor your word?" came the disembodied voice from the dimly lit hut.

"Yes, if that's what you want," Sue called back, her eyes adjusting.

"It is."

"I'm going to come in, with some people."

"Come alone!"

"No. We have things to settle. Others are involved."

"You will not betray me?" Mistrust replaced the defiance in Jalona's voice.

"No. I promise."

"You may bring them in." Jalona was attempting to remain in control of this situation.

Sue nodded to Spock and Sarek. "I want something to make this legal," she said, keeping her voice low.

Sarek conferred with the man in change again as Sue and Spock went through the door. The Vulcanoid was petite for her race and appeared even smaller as she huddled in a corner with a mine hammer clutched in her hand. The baby lay next to her in its basket.

"Jalona, it's all right. You don't have to be afraid. Nothing is going to happen to you." The woman raised the hammer as Sarek and two Federation officials entered.

"Don't be afraid. These men are just here to make the whole thing legal. Jalona, you can't change your mind later. I couldn't live with that. If I take this baby, I'll make him mine. I won't ever give him back."

"I will never want him back." She spat out the words. "I will not take that bastard home with me."

Sue cringed at the word, but did not comment on it. "All right, but I want you to think about a few things first. You've been away for almost three years. Back home, things could have changed; they could be very different from when you left. Your family probably thinks you're dead. Your mate may have found someone else. Your children have grown, and they may have made a new life and not need you anymore. It's a sure bet that you won't find things exactly as you left them. Did you think about that?"

"Yes. I have given many nights to such thoughts. I know I will find many changes when I return home, but that changes nothing concerning this child."

"Okay." Sue turned to Spock. "Make it ironclad and unbreakable."

He nodded and moved closer to the woman crouched in the corner. "Jalona, I want you to dictate in your own words that you relinquish all rights to this child now and forever. This gentlebeing will commit your words to tape; a copy will be made, and you must sign it. Do you understand?"

She nodded and began reciting. "I, Jalona of the clan Lotica, swear by the mother god that bore us all…"

Spock, Sue and Sarek conferred. Sue insisted that one item be included. "I want something in there about telling him the truth when he's older. It's his right." They added that after Jalona begrudgingly agreed.

"Also," Sue said, "I don't want this to get to the reporters." They all agreed with her.

When the paper was ready, the official had Jalona read it aloud, swear to its truth, and sign it. Then Spock and Sue did the same. Last, a witness, one of the Federation men present, signed it. Then Jalona shoved the basket toward Sue and dropped the hammer. Sue picked up the baby and showed him to Spock. "It's a boy -- did I tell you that?" She looked at Jalona. "What's his name?"

"He has none."

"Oh, Jalona! It's not his fault." She was instantly sorry. Sue knew she would have done no better had she been forced to live as Jalona had, and to choose between home and child.

"Nor is it mine. I have allowed him to live; more concessions I will not make."

"It's enough. I know that this child would never be accepted on your world. The Towans have ruined so many lives. Jalona, I wish you the very best when you get home. I really hope you find what you want there." She gave the woman her most reassuring smile; then, child in her arms, she turned and left the hut, followed by Spock and Sarek.

* * *

All the way back to their quarters on the Enterprise, Sue cuddled and cooed over the child in her arms. She held him close, fighting the tears and the urge to crush him to her. "Oh, Baby, it's going to be all right. You'll have a family now. We'll take good care of you. Oh, Chukka, we'll give you so much love; you'll be one of us."

When they were back in their sitting room and Amanda was being introduced to the new family member, Spock called Sickbay and made arrangements for a complete physical for the child.

"Spock, don't be so fussy. He's fine. I know his history."

Spock ignored her suggestion and continued making plans. When he was finished and had joined them, Sue said, "Okay, first things first. This baby boy -- " she snuggled him close to her again, " -- has to have a name. Anybody got any ideas?"

"It will take some thought," Spock said.

Unnoticed by the two younger people, Sarek and Amanda were carrying on a low voiced conversation. They finished what they were discussing, and Sarek turned to Spock and Sue. "If I might make a suggestion, there is a name Amanda and I chose years ago, but were never able to use. If you think you might be interested…"

Upon hearing this, Sue's biggest worry came rambling out of her as she interrupted Sarek. "Do you really mean it? Does this mean you'll accept this baby along with the rest?"

Sarek looked at Spock. "Why is she asking me this questions now?"

From the look on his face it was obvious that Spock could think of no reply. How did one explain Susan? He simply did the Vulcan equivalent of a shrug.

"What's the name?" Sue anxiously asked.

"Saren. It was my grandfather's name."

"Spock?" Sue queried.

"If it pleases you."

"Well, Saren it is." She held the child up to face her. "Saren, how does that grab you?" He didn't seem overly impressed one way or the other; he simply stretched. Sue sat in a lounge chair and laid Saren on her lap and felt the lower half of his clothing. "Just as I suspected. Crisis time; ChukkaChukkaChukka is very wet -- " She stopped and her eyes sought Spock's. "Have I been calling him that?"

"Several times," was the answer.

She hung her head. "Jesus! What a bummer." She picked him up and held him close. "You don't deserve that -- Saren. You need a chance to be yourself." Again her eyes sought Spock's. "What'll I do?"

"Perhaps if my mother were to keep Saren with her for a time?"

She got up and paced, the child held tightly in her arms, a flurry of thoughts whirling through her mind. A mother could hold and cuddle a human child for several years -- almost until adolescence made him too embarrassed for parental displays of affection. But this Vulcanoid child would be hers to hold physically close for only a few short years. Already Jamie and Len were pulling away. Did she want to give up any of that time? And what of Saren? He'd been denied love and affection since birth -- he needed… Sue was amazed at herself. As if Amanda couldn't give Saren affection! She went to Amanda and placed the child in her arms.

"Sue, are you sure you want to do this?" Amanda asked even while accepting the child.

"Yes. I need time to straighten this out in my mind. Besides, you missed seeing the others when they were babies. You deserve this," she smiled at the other woman, "Grandma."

* * *

Sue walked aimlessly down the corridor, occasionally kicking at an imaginary pebble. This four-day trip to Vulcan loomed large in her mind, taking on all sorts of unexpected connotations. Nothing was as she had expected it would be. She had anticipated excitement, but found herself depressed and at a loss for a reason. Having been denied it on Towan, she had planned to spend all available time with the children. Yet she had just deliberately avoided having lunch with them, choosing to eat alone. Their enthusiasm for the homecoming to Vulcan did not suit her mood. And lunch itself was another matter. After five years of biscuits, she had eagerly anticipated "real" food. Now she had little appetite. Losing Chukka, she told herself; that was the reason for her depression. Yet she knew there was more to the emptiness within her. She was free of Towan, married to a man she loved and respected, had her children with her, safely away from Towan. What the hell more do you want, she asked herself, and had no answer.

She watched the uniformed people in the corridors. They moved with a sense of purpose, and she was reminded of herself on Towan -- essential, vital, needed -- and knew that that was what was lacking now. Spock and Sarek were absorbed in several projects, and Amanda joined them when she wasn't caring for Saren. The kids had their lessons; everything was so new and exciting for them. It's only me who has no real purpose.

Oh, poor little Susy.

"Oh, shit!"

She reached the door to the briefing room in which she'd been working. Spock had set her some recent Earth and Federation history lessons. She had never liked history and couldn't relate to any of this. The Andorians joined in Federation in 2169, the Tellarites followed in 2201, then the…

"Who the hell cares?"

The Earth stuff was even worse. Third World War, Eugenics War -- God, wouldn't they ever stop killing? And the pictures…if they were of Earth, you couldn't have proved it by her. With no identifiable landmarks, it wasn't her Earth. For all she could tell, it was just one more alien planet.

She toyed with the stylus. "Whatever happened to the leaky 29¢ ballpoint pen?" she asked the room. Remembering her nursing school days, she thought, No wonder I can't concentrate. There's no music. She addressed the computer.


"Entertainment Section, Earth Music, 1960-1970s."

After several seconds of silence the computer said, "SELECT FILE, EARTH MUSIC -- EARLY FOLK/ROCK ERA. CONFIRM TO CONTINUE."

"Confirm!" she snapped.


"The Grateful Dead -- any song."

Several more seconds of silence.


"What?" She tried again. "Chicago."

Same reply.

"Who programmed this thing? I'll bet it's got every Lawrence Welk song ever recorded. How about Simon and Garfunkel?" she asked, deciding to try requesting something different.


"Play that!" she said, angry with herself for being frustrated by a machine.

The air filled with the beginning of what Sue remembered as "Homeward Bound."

Appropriate, she thought. I wish I were homeward bound. But I'm not now and never will be again. I'm on my way to -- Vulcan. She paused as the fact sank in and filled her with dread. Vulcan. Her mind filled with images described by Spock. Vulcan was going to be my home from now on. God, that's scary. I won't fit in, I know I won't, and what about the kids? Will they fit in, be accepted as a family? We're such a mixed bag -- a zoo, really.

Realizing that this kind of thinking was only digging her depression deeper, Sue tried her mother's advice for the "gloomies". Look at the bright side, Sue. There's Spock. That thought made her warm all over. Unconsciously reflecting on the background music, she smiled as she thought, He sure is my bridge over troubled waters. And Amanda, she'll do whatever she can for me. Even Sarek isn't turning out to be the blockhead you originally imagined. You're got a lot going for you, Sue.

But that's all outside me. What about inside me? Since she was alone, she didn't fight it. She let the tears slide down her face. Search for America: what for? It's all gone: my America, family, friends, gone forever. Every face I see reminds me that -- that I can count on one hand the people I can call 'friend'. The tears continued.

There but for the grace of you go I. Spock, I don't want you to go away -- God, I don't, and if I could, I'd beg you to stay -- I surely would. But I wouldn't have to beg, so I won't. Damn it, I won't!

He needs to go; he needs this time, and you are going to see that he gets it. You have your memories, but that's not all that's left. There's a whole lot more to come. So stop feeling sorry for yourself. Think of -- Thela. What kind of homecoming is she experiencing? And how is Thone? And for God's sake, what about all those people on Towan who have no home now?

Sue wiped her eyes and began to read the printout. About that time "Cecilia" began to play, that helped her mood considerably.

* * *

Some time later, Susan looked up as Amanda entered the room. The older woman sat down across from Sue and handed her a glass.

"Juice. Doctor's orders."

"Thanks." Sue took a drink. "Saren napping?"

"Yes. Susan, you've been crying."

"Yeah. Self-pity; been wallowing in it. You ever do that?" she asked, sure the answer would be "no".

"Many times in the past five years."

"Oh, yeah. I guess so; you had reason enough."

"So do you. You've been through quite a lot, especially in the last few days."

"I'm scared, Amanda."

"Of Vulcan?"

"Of everything. Hell, we both know I'm not going to fit in."

Amanda smiled. "Oh, Susan!"

"You felt the same way?"

"Oh, yes. I remember…almost 45 years ago. I was also on a spaceship bound for Vulcan. I was twenty years old, married to a man three times my age, pregnant. One night I sat straight up in bed and started to cry. I cried for hours." Amanda shook her head at the memory. "Poor Sarek. He didn't know what to do with me or for me."

Sue also smiled at that image as Amanda continued trying to reassure her.

"You'll do fine on Vulcan. They…"

Sarek joined them. He, too, noticed Sue's red eyes and nose. "Susan, are you…well?"

"Just a case of self-inflicted weepies. I'm fine now."

"I have been studying the Towan records which Dr. McCoy left me. They are most disturbing."

"Disturbing? How?

"In the past ten years there were 403 time displaced individuals brought to Towan. There are at this time 23 surviving."

"And I never got a chance to really talk to any of them."

"How do you know that?" Amanda asked.

"I had access to the medical records."

"So you did," Sarek stated.

"Last one died about three months ago -- an older woman. She couldn't breed; lasted all that time in the general compound -- must have been some sort of record. Really upset me. If she had lasted a few more months…"

"It is the suicide rate that disturbs me. It is much higher among the time displaced."

"I know. They couldn't adjust, and when they found out they could never go home, well…"

"My question, Susan, is: Why did you not have these problems? Why were you able to adjust?"

Sue was quiet for a while. "I thought a lot about that. I decided it was because for the others it was the first time anything really bad had happened to them. For me, I didn't really care. I had it good in the clinic, so all I worried about was not doing anything that would jeopardize my position until we could escape."

"If you would rather not discus this…" There was understanding in Sarek's voice.

"No, I don't mind. I think there are some things you should know. Did Spock tell you anything about me?"

"Just that you had been married before and had two children, and that they had died before you left Earth."

"A car accident; they were going camping."

"You were not with them, then?"

"No. We had planned to go the week before -- that was my weekend off work. Then Michael had a chance to work for his brother, pick up some extra money. We were saving for a trip to Disneyland. Anyway, Michael left the decision to the kids; they opted for going camping a week later without me. It didn't matter to Michael and me; we went camping a lot. That's what I said that day: 'There'll always be another time', but there wasn't… So you see, after they died, nothing the Towans could do…"

"Susan, there is no need to continue." Amanda put her hand on Sue's shoulder.

"I was trying to explain," Sue continued. "Even though Towan was bad, it didn't get to me because I'd been through all that suicide bit before."

"You tried to commit suicide?" The disbelief was evident in Amanda's voice.

"No. I never actually tried it. I couldn't. I had my reputation to uphold." She grinned feebly.

"Your reputation?"

"Sure. I'm a nurse. I know how to do it. I couldn't be hauled into the emergency room where I worked and let them pump my stomach or sew up my wrists. How could I face that? No, if I ever did it, I would have only one chance and I would have to do it right. So, instead, all I did was talk -- and think -- about it. I did a lot of that. For months, in the middle of the night, I would call my friends, crying that I didn't want to go on living, that I had nothing to live for."

"I take it something happened to change your mind."

"Yeah. I had this friend I used to call. I was there for her during her divorce, so she was doing the same for me. Well, she met this guy and they started living together. Then when I'd call in the middle of the night, sometimes he would answer the phone. He took it pretty well, but after several times I guess he got tired of it. One night when I called, he said he was coming over. Within a few minutes he came striding into and went straight to the pantry for a stack of used newspapers that he put on the kitchen table. Then he got my bed pillow and put it on the papers. Then, he took out a gun and some bullets. He loaded the gun right there in front of me. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. He loaded the gun and then led me to the table and sat me in the chair. He put the gun into my hand.

"'Sue, put your head on the pillow, then put the gun barrel right behind your ear. Go on, Sue.'

"'I can't!' I was screaming and crying. 'I can't!' I was shaking all over. I couldn't even look at that gun. I felt so heavy.

"'Come on, Sue,' he encouraged. 'This is what you want: peace, release from pain. One little click and it'll be all over.'

"'I can't!' I started to sob.

"'You sure?' he asked.

"'Yes!' I was blubbering like a fool.

"He came over and took the gun out of my hand. 'Then don't ever pull this stunt again. Hear me?'

"'Yes." By then I was sobbing into the pillow. I guess he went to the door and called my friend, because she came in. She was real worried.

"'Oh, Sue, are you all right? I didn't want him to do that, but he wouldn't listen.'

"Pretty soon we were all crying and hugging each other, and then we were laughing. Paul found some wine in the fridge and we proceeded to sit around the table and get smashed. And that was the end of my suicide thoughts."

After several seconds Sarek asked, "This 'Paul' -- he could be that positive you would not harm yourself?"

"The bullets were blanks. He said that if I had pulled the trigger, they'd know I had problems and they would have insisted I get professional help."

* * *

As she sat in the dark sitting room, Sue heard Spock get out of bed. He had awakened, and she knew he would come to see why she wasn't in bed. She braced herself for another lecture about how her behavior was becoming increasingly agitated these past few days.

"Turn that off!" she hissed when light flooded the room.

"You do not usually have trouble sleeping."


He came to sit beside her. "Would you care to discuss the reason for your restlessness?" He didn't try to keep the edge out of his voice.

"I'm scared. Vulcan scares me."

"Why should that be? There is no one on Vulcan who would harm you."

"You know it's not physical fear. It's facing that spaceport tomorrow. With the news of what happened on Towan all over the airwaves, I just know there'll be all kinds of people there gawking -- and reporters."

"On Vulcan? Really, Susan, have I taught you nothing of my home world in the past five years?" His voice could be so condescending!

"Well, some of them must be nosy, and there could be other races there, too."

"It is of no consequence. We will not be landing at the spaceport. The Enterprise is equipped with a transporter; we will beam directly to the house."

"Oh, shit! I should have thought of that."

"There is no reason for you to have considered it."

"Oh, yeah, I should have known. I'm just so damn stupid. I never -- "

"Pity I don't have my lytherette. Then I could accompany you through this little scenario."

She flashed him her best "Go to hell" look and the bird, and hoped his remarkable night vision was able to catch every nuance. "Sure, you can make jokes. You're going home, but what about me? I'm going to some alien planet where nobody is going to like me, but shit, what do you care -- "

Harshly, he interrupted her. "There is one thing about which you are correct: your language. Your use of profanity will not endear you to Vulcans."

"Well, screw you!" she said, anger at a flashpoint, then, with her voice a full octave lower, she said, "You just don't understand. I can't ever go home."

"Susan, it is not within my power to change that." The statement was a plea for understanding.

"And I wouldn't let you if you could."

"What, then?" Spock tried to keep the exasperation out of his voice.

"I don't know, goddamn it, I don't know!" He gathered her into his arms and held her as she went limp against him. After several minutes she said, "We're not going to fit in, you know -- the kids and me. We won't be accepted. Your mother's worried, too; she told me some things. Tried to prepare me."

"What did she say?"

"Well, she told me about how rough you had it growing up on Vulcan. You know -- with the other kids and all that."

Sue felt, rather than saw, him shake his head. "Susan, did you go through your whole childhood without any sort of confrontation with other children?"

"Of course not. I had more than my share of fights and hurt feelings. It's only natural… Are you telling me it wasn't that bad?"

"At the time, I perceived it as very painful. What I am trying to tell you is that what my mother was seeing was normal and happens to most children."

"But you were different?" she emphasized.

"Did you know any children who were mixed racially?"

Sue thought for a few seconds. "Yeah, there was this one kid. His mother had been a Japanese war bride."

"How did you feel about him? Did you taunt him?"

"No. For the most part I couldn't a cared less. Then he stole my candy bar."

"He did what?"

"He stole my candy bar. There was this school field trip and we had to bring a sack lunch, and he stole my candy bar."


"And I called him a slanty eyed gook." She said that last part almost under her breath. "Well, he shouldn't have stolen my candy bar!" she added defensively.

"Suppose he had not been of mixed parentage?"

Sue shrugged. "Then I'd have found another name to call him."

"Exactly. And most children do it. I had my share of such incidents, and when my mother learned of them she became very distraught. Perhaps if I were not an only child…"

Sue remembered her own mother's reaction when her brother Jeff had come home all beat up. "Amanda was overprotective?"

"That hardly covers it. Susan, the children have already had several negative encounters in the day room on Towan. They, and you, handled them satisfactorily."

"You think it'll be all right?"

"Would I even consider leaving you and the children if I did not believe you to be safe and in good hands?"

With that statement Sue was able to relax and let some of her fear of Vulcan drain from her. "Let's go to bed. I think I'll be able to sleep now."

* * *

Why should Vulcan bother me? Sue asked herself as she snapped the last suitcase shut. It's not like I don't know what to expect. Spock has taught me so much -- told me what to expect in every aspect of life there. The house, for instance, he's taken me mentally through it any number of times. I know the layout, the colors; hell, in some cases even the furniture arrangement. She smiled as she remembered the first days she and Spock had spent together. It had been so awkward. He had had two moods: out of his head with madness, and overcome with guilt. Sue had made a couple of statements, just in passing, like, here she was on an alien planet, yet there were so many things that seemed the same as Earth. She would have thought that nothing would be recognizable. That one statement, thrown out to break the silence, had led into an hour and a half dissertation on how the similar needs of hominids produced similar responses and solutions in meeting these needs. As he had recited about the homogeneity of the hominids, Sue had learned two things: everything she had never wanted to know about hominids; and, when Spock was lecturing, he wasn't indulging in self-pity. So, during those first few weeks, when the quiet was about to drive her up the wall, she would ask a question and then, when his voice began to grate, she would fall asleep.

Later, when her opinion of him had changed, she had paid attention to his talks, and still later, when she knew that Vulcan would become her home, Sue had made it a point to learn and remember.

Well, here goes nothing, thought Sue as she stepped onto the transporter pad. Amanda, with Saren in her arms, Sarek, Jamie and Len had already beamed down. She, Spock, and the girls were next. Captain Sulu was there supervising the beam down himself and saying his good-byes. The only other people in the transporter room were the two ensigns who had been responsible for the children's care and the female in charge of the controls.

When the signal was given, Sue closed her eyes and gritted her teeth. She felt the tingle, then nothing. Her next sensation was heat, and her nostrils filled with the smell of sand. She began perspiring immediately. Lord, she thought, this is gonna be murder. She opened her eyes just in time to see Amanda and the boys enter a large stone structure. All that was visible from her vantage point was a four story high, curved stonewall. This must be the desert side of the cylindrical house. Because of the winds and occasional sandstorms, there were no windows on this side.

Landscaping consisted of a few low growing, brownish green shrubs on either side of the flat stone walk that led to the entry. Sue looked around at the nothingness. On a clear day you could see…sand. Sarek and Amanda's house sat on what Sue judged to be a city block of the stuff, as did the other dozen or so houses scattered around. Half a mile to the east was the city. There was only one word to describe this area where Sarek and Amanda lived, "suburbia," and it tickled Sue. The land was flat like her homeland, but even if you could plant corn and soybeans, it would never look like central Illinois, especially with the purplish twilight casting an eerie glow on everything.

Sue responded to Spock saying her name and Mandy tugging on her arm. As she walked toward the house, Sarek passed her on his way to gather the luggage that had just materialized.

Even before the door shut behind her, she felt the cool air and breathed in deeply. Sue found herself in a high ceiling, formal entryway. Several feet to her left was a staircase. She was considering having a look when voices from the opposite direction caught her attention, and she followed them. She entered the huge main floor sitting room just as a woman came through the doorway from what Sue thought must be the first floor storage area.

"Peace, T'Sana," Amanda said, apparently not surprised to see the other woman there. "How pleasant to be greeted by our neighbor on our return."

"Peace to you all on your homecoming," T'Sana responded, then added, "Spock, Vulcan rejoices at your return and the gifts you bring."

Though Spock accepted her words without visible reaction, Sue knew how relieved he must be and instantly warmed to this unknown woman. Sue knew that non-acceptance of his actions and his family was a major concern to Spock.

When introduced, Sue stumbled over a "hello" and a "peace and prosper," but T'Sana did not seem to notice. "When we learned," the neighbor continued, "how many would be arriving, I realized you would require help. I have prepared a meal and made ready the bedrooms." She looked at the child in Amanda's arms. "An infant. Amanda, I have not prepared for an infant."

"No matter, T'Sana. We brought the essentials with us." The two women, still discussing necessities, went into the kitchen area.

The children were looking wide-eyed around the room. When Spock noticed, he said, "You children may inspect the house." The adults had discussed the tactic while they were still on board the Enterprise. They were curious as to how the children would react to the large house. It would be the first time in their lives that they had so much freedom and so much space.

Jamie and Len conferred. The steps in the entryway had caught their eye. This was something new and different and was first choice for investigation. They started for the entryway, then stopped. Each approached a younger sister and, as was their habit, took a smaller outstretched hand. Then the four were off to explore their new world.

"Be careful," Sue called as she sank into a chair. Spock was at her side. "I'm all right," she said before he could ask.

Sarek was coming through the doorway with an armload of parcels. "Father," Spock asked, "how may I help?"

"Take these to your mother. I shall bring in what remains."

Sue sat quietly observing her surroundings. It was just as Spock had described it. Neutral walls, like the entryway; they made the large room appear even more spacious. The first floor was one large, circular room divided into specific areas. Near the far wall were a piano and another musical instrument, the name of which Sue could not remember. At the center, in a sunken area, facing the double doors leading to the garden, were a set of couches, two chairs, and several small tables. Closest to her, on the way by the entryway, was a built-in communication/entertainment center.

Behind these areas, against the natural stonewall, were the dining room, kitchen and storage areas. The other wall in front of the sitting areas did not complete the circle. It had been sliced off. A transparent wall covered the expanse and rose four stories to the roof.

Through this transparency Sue studied the garden, which consisted mostly of rocks and low growing shrubs. There was a sheltered spot with a table and chairs, and there were paths for walking. The garden was completely enclosed by a four-foot high stone wall. Her eyes were drawn upward to the three large panels suspended above and beyond the garden wall. They were there to shade the house from the morning sun while absorbing energy and storing it for night use.

The children burst into the room, distracting her. "Come see, Mother. The stairs -- we climbed them."

No mother could deny such a request, so Sue followed them to the entryway. It was an inside stairway, its light coming from the skylight four stories above and some form of indirect lighting on each riser.

The boys raced up and Mandy ascended like the mistress of a manor house. Sue became very choked at the thought that a set of lousy stairs could be such a treat. Thay-an was cautious. Sue took her hand, and together they climbed. Sue was wheezing by the time she reached the second floor, and she caught her breath as they all peered into Sarek and Amanda's study and gave their bedroom a quick once-over. The children were impatient to climb higher. Even Thay-an, having conquered the first flight was anxious to go again.

Sue was in actual pain as she struggled to the third floor and into another bedroom. "This has to be your father's room," she gasped as she staggered to the bed and flopped down. Len looked at her as if she had just desecrated a shrine.

The four children stared open-mouthed as they studied the room.

"This room was his? This whole room?" Jamie asked in utter disbelief.

"Yes, why? Oh, I see what you mean. It's as big as our whole cell, isn't it?"

The investigation began. Four sets of eyes and hands became very busy. Len became interested in a model rocket, but the others found little to hold their attention until Mandy struggled out of the closet pulling a container.

"Plays!" she cried. "Come see."

Excited hands grabbed a toy, examined it, then discarded it as bright eyes fell on other treasures.

Soon the container was empty, its contents scattered about the floor, and Mandy crawled inside. Jamie was giving the scattered toys a second, closer inspection, while Len was drawn back to the model rocket. Thay-an tugged at the container, trying to dislodge her sister.

"Mine!" was Mandy's only comment, as she held on tight. Thay-an turned, looking for a higher authority to which she could plead her case. Spotting Sue, she went to the bed.

"Mine. Thay-an wants it," she declared, pointing to the container.

"Yeah, I know you do," Sue soothed. "Later you can have a turn. Come sit by me for now." She helped the child crawl onto the bed. "Now tell me what you think of your father's room."

"Daddy's room? No. Daddy with us."

"When he was a boy, this was his room."

"Boy? Daddy a boy?" Annie giggled.

"Yes. Like Jamie and Len."

"No." She giggled again.

Spock stood in the doorway. Annie scrambled off the bed and went to him. He picked her up. "Mommy says Daddy a little boy, like Jamie and Len."

"And you find that difficult to believe?"

She giggled and laid her head on his shoulder. He took her to where there was a picture on the wall.

"Thay-an, this is a picture of me at the age of six."

She shook her head. She knew better. She squirmed to be let down and began investigating with the others.

Spock sat next to Sue. "How do you feel?"

"Like my rib belt's too tight."

Sarek appeared in the doorway. "I could use some help in locating and setting up the exyont."

"The who?"

"Crib," Spock said. "For Saren."

He left her there, and soon she was asleep.

* * *

Sue heard her name. Someone far away was calling her. Go away, she thought, and rolled over.

"Susan, emergency! You are needed in the clinic."

Responding instinctively, she rolled to get out of the bed enclosure and fell. "What the hell?"

Spock picked her up. "I was trying to awaken you for dinner. I did not intend you to fall."

"Well, hell. Ohhh! I'll probably be crippled for life."


"You're not a doctor. I know better…"

"Susan, dinner is waiting."

She stood, straightened her clothes, and ran her fingers through her hair. "I'm ready. Let's go."

"You are not wearing shoes."

She looked down at her swollen feet. "No. I'm not," she confirmed and limped out of the room.

* * *

The children could be held at the table only long enough to eat. Then they were off to more exploring.

The four adults remained at the table. Three of them savored their wine; the fourth had gulped hers and wanted more.

"Susan," Spock warned.

"I'm celebrating," she said, and began expounding on her many reasons to do so.

"Susan," Spock said again, after she had run on for several minutes.

She giggled in response to the look on his face, then lowered her eyes and tried not to giggle again.

Sarek cleared his throat. "Amanda and I have decided that you two should take our bedroom. The climb to the third floor is too strenuous for Susan."

"You'll get no argument from me," said Susan, thinking it was a great idea. She looked at Spock, expecting him to say something -- anything. "Thanks," she finally said when he didn't comment. "The kids can bunk on the -- "

"Susan." Whenever Spock used that tone she knew she wasn't going to like what he had to say. "The children have expressed an interest in sleeping in my room."

Sue felt as if she'd been hit. It had to come; she knew that, but not so soon, not their first day here… "All of them?"

"Yes. The boys initiated the idea, but the girls quickly joined in the planning."

"You think it's okay?" she asked, her voice faltering.

"I see it as a very healthy sign of their adjustment."

Sue knew that they were all watching her, waiting for her to explode, or cry. She was determined not to do either. "Okay," she said. "If they're ready to make the break, then I'll have to be ready, too." She held up her glass. "Could I have some more wine, please?"

* * *

Settling the children in for the night became rather involved, and Susan climbed to the third floor so as not to miss out on anything. The boys were willing to let the girls have the bed, but the height seemed to put them off. They decided on floor pallets. The whole idea almost went up in smoke when it was learned that Sue and Spock would be one floor below, and not just across the hall. Thay-an went to Spock and wrapped her arms around his legs. Suggestions, ideas, and opinions went back and forth. Three adults kept their patience; the fourth was about to lose hers. Just before this happened, the other children convinced Thay-an to stay with them. The door would be left open and there would be a light on dim setting.

After the children finally settled in bed for the night, all Sue wanted was to do the same. She headed for the second floor bedroom. Entering, she triggered the lights, and they automatically set on dim. After a quick glance around the room, her attention was drawn to the view beyond the transparent wall. She moved closer and stared into the darkness that was broken only by the city lights in the distance. So this is Vulcan by night. Funny, she thought. By night it doesn't look different from an Earth city. Or, for that matter, it's probably no different from any city on any planet. Suddenly she felt a little less out of place.

Her mood somewhat lighter, she turned to survey the room where she would spend her first night on Vulcan. She shook her head in amazement. This plush, opulent room, decorated in off-white with burgundy accents, was not what she had expected of Spock's parents' bedroom. She gazed at the large bed and ran her fingers over the surface of the furniture. It had a metallic luster and was cool to the touch. Positively sensuous, she thought as she peeked around a curved partition. There she found a large walk-in closet. She strolled through, noting that, like the rest of this house, there was a place for everything and everything was in its place. "Amanda's a little too neat, but she's got good taste," Sue said to herself as she flipped through the clothes that hung there. There was, of course, the required supply of tan long-robes -- the one-size-fits-all kind that was the at-home outfit for this culture. In contrast, there were several beautiful gowns and a full wardrobe of outfits for any occasion. Telling herself that she really had to do something about her own wardrobe, she went back into the bedroom.

"Wow!" she exclaimed, her eyes widening as she entered the bathroom. "Talk about luxury!" She ran her hand over the walls, counter, built-in basin, and the back of the stool. Everything was made of the same material and seemed to have been molded from one piece. There were no visible seams anywhere. There's no shower, she thought, disappointed, then spotted a lever in the middle of the wall about waist-high. She raised it. "Wow!" she repeated as water spurted from several jets embedded in the walls. It was aimed so the spray converged at one point just off-center of the room, where the floor sloped slightly to a drain. Eager to try this, she stripped and stepped into the stream.

As the hot water soothed her body, some of the fatigue and tension flowed away. Hanging just above the water spray was a catchall. In it she found soap, and she lathered. She sniffed; it was scented. How long had it been since she had bathed with scented soap? She reached up again and found a container she hoped was shampoo. It lathered, so she washed her hair and then rinsed until she was sure the water would turn cold. But it continued to run hot, so she stayed, standing there, letting the hot water run over her body and staring at the night. On her inquiries about these window-walls, she had been told that one could see out but not in. Still, it was an odd feeling -- the hot water running over her as she stood naked in the dimly lit room, gazing out into the darkness. It was another world, and for an instant it seemed as if Towan had never happened. Almost.

Later, when she was dry and wrapped in one of the giant towels, she tried to think where she might find her nightgown. It sure won't go with the décor, she thought, picturing her granny-type gown. So who needs it? The kids aren't sleeping in here. It's just -- the two of us. It was at that instant that it occurred to Sue that she should take advantage of being alone with her husband. After all, this was the only honeymoon she would get.

When Spock slipped into bed, she sighed and rolled toward him. "After all these months," she whispered, "we're finally alone."

"Susan, you are naked."

"Ah. Clever, these Vulcans."

"Where is the gown you had aboard ship?"

"Still in the suitcase, I guess. Who cares?" she asked, wondering what difference it made.

"This is neither the time nor the place…"

"Not the place!" she sputtered. "It's a bed, isn't it? What do you think your folks do in here -- play checkers?"

"They rest."

"Sure they do, and they found you under a plomeek leaf."

"My mother conducts herself…"

Sue scrambled out of bed and flounced across to the closet. Returning in a sheer negligee, she waltzed around the room, swirling the skirt. "Frederick's of Vulcan, don't you agree?"

He eyed her closely. "That belongs to my mother?"

"Well, it's too small for Sarek."

"Have you no sense of privacy?"

"I was given permission to wear anything I like. Spock, you really are incredible," she sighed, realizing his discomfort was real. Suddenly the room was crowded with a tangible presence and Sue's mood dissolved. She felt awkward and naked in the flimsy negligee. She threw on a tan robe and went to find her own nightgown.

So much for the honeymoon!

* * *

Sue stormed into the kitchen. "What's the matter with your son this morning?"

Amanda looked up from her breakfast preparations. "My son? Spock must have upset you."

"He can be such an ass…I don't know what's gotten into him, but last night…and this morning he won't even talk."

"Sue, let's discuss this over a cup of coffee." By Amanda's expression, Sue knew that she was right; something was troubling Spock. She took the cup Amanda offered and followed her into the garden. Amanda stared at the rising sun that was just clearing the building in the distance.

"I'm jealous of my time here; it's so short. It will be bearable for another hour or so, then not until evening."

Sue's thoughts were not on the view. "What's stuck in his craw? Is it something I've done?"

"No. You mustn't think that. It's another matter entirely. What has Spock told you about how Vulcan governs itself?"

"How Vulcan governs itself? What's that got to do with anything?"

"Everything. Now tell me what you know."

"'Kinship'," Sue recited in a singsong voice. "'Kinships are the essence, the heart and head of Vulcan society. They select representatives to the central council, which governs the planet. All kinships are equal within the council regardless of size, status, or wealth." Sue didn't buy that. "Since each elects from its own, each censors its own."

"That sounds like my son."

"Word for word. There's more, but I've forgotten the rest."

"Sue, the kinship is more than that. One's place in it is one's life."

"Now I remember. Kinship takes care of its own. There is no welfare on Vulcan, no orphans, and no individual taxes. So what's the problem?"

She found her answer in Amanda's eyes.

"The children! But I don't understand. They're his -- how can that be denied?"

"There is no question of their biological parentage, and Saren's adoption will not be questioned. Spock is concerned that their legal status within the clan might be challenged."

"Who would do such a thing?"

"Any member of the kinship has the right. Think about it. Spock is an only child. If he should die without legal issue… but it's more than financial. What is beneficial for the whole kinship must be considered."

Sue ran her fingers through her hair. "If they're not accepted, what will that mean?"

"Very little as long as Spock lives, but after his death -- they would be without clan status on Vulcan, without inheritance."

"Shit." Sue was up and pacing. "Does anybody have to know what we're going to do?"

Amanda smiled at that remark. "Sue, you cannot smuggle six children into a kinship and hope that no one will notice."

"We're in for a fight, then?"

"I don't think so; neither does Sarek. The kinship has the authority to refuse status, but Sarek and I agree. They will not exercise that right." She shook her head, and there was sadness in her eyes. "Spock will not listen. This is the most visible sign of just how much these past five years have affected him."

"What will happen today?"

"Within hours of his coming home, Spock informed the kinship of his intention to declare the children his legal issue. We can assume that the information was discussed and a decision made."


"If the decision is to accept -- and I'm sure it will be -- someone from the kinship will step forward to witness -- "

"And if the answer's no?"

"Sue, an appointed representative will be present regardless. If the decision is to reject legal status, the witness will remain silent. But that won't -- "

"They'll zap us without a word. They sound like a bunch of pricks to me. Why don't they just stay away?"

"So there can be no misreading of intentions. If no one were there, it could be due to an accident or a misunderstanding."

"Is that final? No recourse?"

"No. One can petition."

"With a snowball's chance, I bet."

"Sue, Sarek and I do not believe this will happen. We are attuned to the pulse of the kinship; in a telepathic society, it's impossible not to be. I know Spock is worried that the exaggerated news reports will have a negative effect on the kinship. You know Vulcans are terribly concerned with privacy, especially in certain areas."

"That's putting it mildly. Are you sure there won't be any hassles?"

"Yes. I only wish we could convince Spock. It's as if he's flung out a challenge, daring the kinship to oppose him in this matter."

"Lord, I hope you're right." Wearily, Sue got up and went inside.

She met Spock on the stairway. He had Saren in his arms, and from his stance she could tell that his mood was no better.

"Where's the rest of the gang?"

"Father has the children in the study."

Sue ignored the jab. "Where're you going with him?"

"Mother wants Saren with her."

"Okay. I'll be ready in a few minutes."

"I have decided to go alone."

"Fat chance!"

"I will not have a scene." If anything could get Sue's back up, it was his parental tone.

"Then don't start one! They're my children, too." She folded her arms across her chest, leaned against the wall, and matched his stare.


"Very well, we go together."

* * *

They parked the aircar in a lot at the edge of the legal complex and started walking. Spock glanced around.

"What's wrong?" Sue asked.

"I have never seen this place so crowded."

"It's been a lot of years since you've been here, remember."


"But there do seem to be an awful lot of people heading in the same direction that we are."

"So, I believe, I stated."

"Do you recognize anyone?"


"They're from your kinship, aren't they?"


Sue felt her heart pounding. What if Amanda and Sarek are wrong? She glanced at the crowd. Which one has the rope? "Let's not go now. We could -- " His look silenced her. She had seen that Spock before: on Towan, whenever he felt there would be trouble. She described it to herself as his "tall-in-the-saddle-and-defiant-as-hell" look. Well, whatever happens, we go down together, she told herself, feeling fiercely protective. She stuck out her chin and hurried to keep up with his long strides.

People continued to converge on the building that was Spock and Sue's destination. The two entered as part of a large group and, once inside, they had to pick their way through the crowded hall to the Department of Records. With a slight nod, Spock acknowledged several greetings. Sue tried to read faces, but should have known better. She found no expressions in these chiseled features.

Like everyone else, the woman behind the desk showed no emotion as she recorded the information Spock gave her. There were low voices behind them, and Sue had to fight the urge to glance over her shoulder.

"Susan, do you know Saren's father's planet of origin?"

"Hawking's Land," she said, her voice cracking.

The woman rose and walked around her desk. Her voice was loud and clear as she spoke in Vulcan. Sue did not need to understand the language to know that Spock's kinship was being addressed and that a witness was being requested. She shut her eyes and stood frozen to the floor.

"Susan. Susan," Spock whispered.

"Do we have a witness?"

"Yes. Open your eyes."

She did, and slowly turned and to her amazement realized that they had more witnesses than they could possibly use. Everyone, it seemed, was here for that express purpose.

"What does this mean?" she asked.

"It is the Vulcan way of expressing -- approval. Notice the emblem everyone is wearing. It is a symbol…" His voice faltered.

"It's for you, then? They're saying they support your decision to stay alive and rescue us from Towan, even if it did result in all that publicity?"

"So it would seem." His voice was still not normal.

"And the kids? They're in?"

He nodded.

Sue watched the defensiveness drain out of him as he relaxed.

An aisle parted for them as they left the records hall. Susan had enough sense and respect to remember to stay behind him. Just this once, she told herself, it won't hurt. She remained quiet as they walked to the aircar. Words seemed inadequate; they would only break the mood.

* * *

"What are you doing?" Sue exclaimed when Spock dipped the aircar toward the sandy desert floor.

"These are the family lands. It is customary to visit after a long absence." He handed her eye shields and took a pair for himself.

"Why didn't you tell me before we left the house? I would have worn something with sleeves. My arms are gonna fry."

"I had not considered coming here. I did not believe I would have the proper frame of mind for such a visit."

"Well, if it means you're in a better mood, then I'm glad we stopped."

Sue climbed out of the car and trudged along beside Spock. There was no doubt that the man-made stone formation ahead was their destination. They entered through an arch. Sue squinted her eyes and looked around. So Vulcan had its own Stonehenge. There really wasn't much to see: a high, walled arena and what looked like a fire pit in the center. Yet there was something eerie about this place. Spock went to stand near the pit while Sue moved next to the wall, where it was shaded. Testing the sand, she found it hot, but not burning. She sat and watched as he stood, unmoving, for a very long time. She was becoming impatient when he finally came to sit next to her.

"Spock, I've seen this place before."

"Yes, in my mind."

"This is where it all happened. What's-her-name and Jim and all that."

"She has a name."

"Yeah, well, it's not important. That's all over with."

"Yes, very true. The whole episode is ancient history." He leaned back against the wall.

Sue scooped up a handful of sand and let it run through her fingers. "Today is kind of a new beginning, isn't it? I mean, everything is settled now."

"Yes. I am most fortunate. So many things could have gone -- some other way." He took her hand and brushed away the sand grains, one finger at a time. "The escape, with so many things beyond my control -- "

"But you made it."


"And your father didn't turn tail and run when he saw all of us, like you thought he might."

"Susan, for a non-telepath, you read me very well."

"Not much genius involved -- just knowing. This morning was the frosting on the cake, wasn't it?"

"Yes. To sense the approval of one's own kin -- a most pleasurable experience."

"Well, just don't let the whole thing go to your head."

He held her hand more tightly. "I noticed that you knew to keep your place this morning."

"I knew it!" She jerked her hand away. "One lousy time and you throw it up to me. Next time you'll have footprints up your back."

He stood and reached to help her. "Come, woman, before you fry out here." He slowed his stride to match hers as they walked to the aircar.

It was true. Everything was settled, and if she felt as though a heavy load had just been removed from her back, what must he feel? His body movements and even his tone when he had called her "woman" suggested he was as relaxed as she'd ever seen him.

Not being one to miss an opportunity, Sue decided to try to set the mood for that night.

"Now that you're feeling better, when do you think we might consummate this marriage of ours?"



He repeated, "Now."

"Don't be funny," she said sarcastically. "I was thinking of tonight."

He took her arm and turned her around to face him. "Here and now."

"What's the matter with you?" She could not read the look in his eyes. "Are you all right?"

"What is wrong with here and now?"

"Stop this!" She pulled away from him. "You're nuts!" she said, exasperated. "Here in the sand? With bugs and sand -- everywhere? No, thanks, I prefer a bed, even if it belongs to your parents."

"You always claimed to be adventurous." There was a glint in his eye and haughtiness about his attitude that Sue had never seen before.

"I guess I'm getting old." She took two steps backwards.

He took two forward. " There is always the aircar."

"Oh, my god! The back seat of a car! It's probably a '52 Chevy. That's what got me into trouble the first time." She continued to back up while he slowly advanced toward her.

"You stop this," she said, half laughing. "You're crazy."

"No, not crazy; mad. Mad with the fever…"

Now he was dramatizing. She couldn't believe it. What next?

"…Here in the desert, on my family's lands -- the ancient drives are surfacing."

"They are not! Now stop!"

Glancing backwards, she caught sight of the aircar. She turned and began running. It was instinctive. She was breathing hard after the first few steps and knew she could never outrun Spock.

He chased her, but allowed her to stay just out of reach.

"Stop!" she squealed as she circled the car.

She was not paying attention to his movements; she ran around the car and into his arms. Holding her in a tight embrace, he kissed her long and hard.

Coming up for air, she said, "On the other hand, there is something to be said for spontaneity."

* * *

If the morning had turned out very pleasantly for Sue, the afternoon promised to be just the opposite. Arrangements had been made; the next day, Jamie and Len would begin school. This afternoon, parents and children would visit, in preparation for that beginning. Knots tightened in Sue's stomach, but she said nothing. This had to be. Postponing it would not make it easier, yet she did have these feelings of dread. Part of her wanted the children to lead normal lives -- to go to school, socialize with peers, make friends. But another part, a deeper part, wanted to clutch them to her and not let go. She had a long talk with herself, but it all came back to the same thing. To accomplish this normal life for her children meant that she had to let go of them.

Sue supervised the boys' baths and dressing. Excited, they scrambled into the matching tan colored shorts and pullover shirts that were standard children's garb. Mandy fussed at the idea of being left behind and Annie just fussed, all adding to Sue's sour mood.

When they were ready and Amanda had the girls in tow, the four set out. They walked to the school along the same path Spock had used and that would soon become everyday-familiar to Jamie and Len.

They were expected and were immediately ushered into the office of the school administrator. Sue had come prepared to dislike the woman on sight, but this T'Vinda proved to be so neutral in everything that Sue could work up no enthusiasm for it. She did begin the conversation in Vulcan, thereby excluding Sue, but she quickly noted her error and switched to English, thus robbing Sue of her only real complaint. Sue gave herself up to paying attention to what was being said. Having little to contribute, she could only listen as plans were made for tests, tests, and more tests. When these were completed and evaluated, there would be another meeting to determine the boys' placement within the school system. Spock seemed satisfied, so they proceeded to the next scheduled event, a tour. Jamie and Len had been remarkably quiet during the discussion, but were becoming more animated with the talk of seeing the classrooms and other children. They liked the idea; Sue did not. She was sure that it was they who would be on display, and not the school. Seeing no way to avoid this, she simply trailed along behind the group.

They were introduced to several people and told what each was in charge of. Sue, of course, retained none of the facts. She knew she didn't have to; Spock would recite it all to her later. But she came away with the vague image of her boys being pushed from pillar to post for this test and that; and when they were finished, the girls would begin. Anxious to be out of the school, she breathed a heavy sigh of relief when the door closed behind them and they began retracing their steps toward home.

The boys kept their father busy answering their many questions. Sue was grateful. It made her silence less noticeable, and she was not in the mood to explain. All she wanted was to put distance between her and the school.

She knew she had to face this same kind of ordeal with Vulcan physicians. They, too, had a multitude of tests, but Spock had promised her that that could wait.

They stood alone for a few minutes while Jamie and Len ran off to investigate the nest of a small ground animal.

"Susan, are you displeased about the plans for Jamie and Len?"

She shrugged. "No."

"You cannot keep them -- "

"Tied to my apron strings? I know that." The words came out more harshly than she had intended. "Just give me time," she added defensively. "Everything's happening so fast."

After supper, Spock and his parents presented Sue with a plan. They wanted the girls to attend a preschool and to hire someone to take care of Saren, so that Susan would have free time to translate the doc's medical notes.

Sue flatly rejected this idea. "I can take care of the kids and do the translating."

"Susan," Sarek said, "this is too much. You need to be free to concentrate."

"I can't believe a Vulcan is saying this. From the time I was 17, I was either a full-time nursing student, or working full-time, caring for one or two kids, taking care of the house and doing all the bookwork for the business."

"Business?" Spock inquired. "Susan, tell me about this business."

"The student house. Michael and I had a big house; we lived on the first floor and rented out the second floor and attic to graduate students."

"You never spoke of this before," Spock said.

"You never seemed interested."

"I'm interested," Amanda put in. "I'd like to hear about this."

"Right after I graduated from high school -- I, well, I got pregnant." She looked at Spock and wondered if he remembered her remark about the '52 Chevy. "That sure wasn't according to plan, with Michael in school and all." She shook her head ruefully. "It was a mess. We had no money. Michael's uncle saved us, he had this student house on campus. In exchange for free rent, we could be the house directors. We did it for about three years while I was in nursing school. Then my mother died and left me some money. So we bought a house near the campus and started our own business. I was working full time at the hospital, running my own home and the business, taking care of Mickey, and pregnant again."

That ended the discussion.

* * *

Sue had expected that Sarek and Amanda would soon return to their normal routine, but for several days they stayed at home to help her with the children. She soon realized that their real reason was to make sure Spock was free to pursue his own work. Five years was a long time for a scientist to be out of touch. But the close contact served another purpose. It allowed everyone to become better acquainted. So, with the days, the awkwardness passed and patterns established themselves in the household. By the time it was necessary for Sarek and Amanda to return to work, a schedule had been worked out.

The family always took breakfast together. Then Amanda went off to her office at the Academy and Spock went to his catch-up work either in his parents' study or at the Academy, depending on his plans for the day. Sarek took the girls to his study for two hours of lessons.

Both girls went eagerly with their grandfather, but it had not begun so easily. The forbidding elder had had to win their confidence. Sue remembered coming down from the third floor one morning to find Amanda standing on the landing.

"What are you…"

"Shhh." Amanda held her index finger to her lips. "Sarek is in the study with the girls."

"That's right," Sue whispered. "He's starting their lessons today. How's it going?"

"Mandy's in the study with him, but look."

There was Thay-an, leaning against the doorjamb, peeking around the corner into the study.

"She still won't get close to him, will she?"

Amanda shook her head. "I'm so anxious to see how Sarek will handle this."

"Me, too."

They could only catch an occasional word, but it was obvious that Sarek and Mandy were trying to coax Thay-an into the room.

Cautiously, the child edged around the corner and into the study. Sue and Amanda tiptoed across the hall to take her place and peeked around the doorjamb.

Mandy was on Sarek's lap and he was beckoning to Thay-an. As he reached for her, he looked up and caught the eavesdroppers. With only a passing look of disapproval, he returned his attention to his granddaughters. The two inquisitors turned to find Spock watching them from the end of the hall. His face bore the exact same look of disapproval as his father's. Amanda and Sue looked at each other, then ran for the bedroom, trying to suppress squeals of laughter.

* * *

With the girls settled with Sarek, Sue and Saren went to the garden for an outing; then she fed and bathed him. When the baby went for his nap, Sarek returned the girls to Sue and left for his office.

Huffing all the way, Sue followed Annie and Mandy to the fourth floor sunroom. While they played, she was supposed to translate the doc's notes. But Sue found it difficult to concentrate. Reading those notes brought back too many memories, and her mind followed where they led. It's too soon, she told herself. I need more time.

When Saren woke, the four had lunch. After more play and story time, all three children (and many times one adult) took late afternoon naps.

When the boys came home, they shared accounts of their day; then Sue herded everyone outside. As she sat in the garden holding Saren and watching the other children play, it struck her that she had been through all of this before.

If supper was to be anything more than computer processed, Sarek, Amanda, or Spock had to cook. Sue still did not know enough Vulcan to follow a recipe or operate the more complicated kitchen equipment.

Supper and the two hours following it were again family time and then came the job of bedding down five children; this accomplished, the adults could talk. That is, they could if Sue could stay awake. Within an hour or so after the children went to bed, Sue began having trouble keeping her eyes open. She and Spock excused themselves and went to their third floor room. Spock always went to bed with Susan and was always there when she woke in the morning. But Sue knew that, more often than not, he would get up after a few hours' sleep and work until just before dawn. This was a concession to her, and she enjoyed it. It continued the habit that had started on Towan and was, for the most part, the only time the two were alone. Sue noticed, though, that Spock found this a convenient time to lecture, as on one night when they were sharing the bathroom, getting ready for bed.

"Susan, you did not finish your meal again. This is a poor example to set for the children."

"I couldn't help it. Whatever it was, it was too spicy."

"It is one of the most bland foods we have on Vulcan."

"You're kidding! That stuff? Besides, I could tell that you didn't like it, either."

"But I ate it. I am going to ask your physician for a vitamin supplement for you."

"Maybe you'd better. I'll never get used to that stuff."

He gave her the eyebrow. "Do you remember the second meal we shared on Towan?"

"No. Why?"

"You refused to eat your biscuit because it was so tasteless."

"Well, I guess after five years I got used to them."

"Now you must get 'un-used' to them. Unless you would like me to contact Towan and place an order for several dozen -- "

The cold water on his face, flicked from her fingers, ended the conversation.

* * *

"Ayaaaaaah!" Sue fought as if for her life. Spock grabbed her and pulled her close. She clung to him.

"Quiet, now. Take a deep breath."

"Jesus," she said between gasps.

"Nightmare again?" he asked, knowing the answer.

"Yeah. God, this one's the worst." She lay trembling against him. "What's wrong with me?"

"There is nothing wrong with you. Adjusting takes time. Now, tell me about the nightmare. Together we shall defuse it."

"It's the Kiear one. He's standing over me, laughing. He's telling me that your escape plan failed and he has you and how he's going to kill you by inches. Only he's going to kill the children first and make me watch along with you because I didn't tell him what you were planning. God! I'm so scared and I feel so helpless. I hate that feeling. It's like I'm being suffocated." She clung tighter. "Why should I dream that? Spock, it never happened."

"But it very well could have. Consciously or not, you must have thought about that."

"Yes, I did. Lots of times. And that you would come back too late."

"No, Susan. That is my nightmare."


"Yes. All those weeks aboard ship, alone. Every time I tried to rest, that scene haunted me. The rescue ship would come out of warp drive just as Towan exploded."

"I thought Vulcans could control that sort of stuff mentally."

"Not when one is malnourished, injured, and unable to rest for more than one or two hours at a time."

"I guess," she said, relaxing as the tension drained away.

These were her most contented times, when he could relax and trust her enough to let his vulnerability show. She settled into his arms, enjoying the closeness.

"Do you wish to make any changes in the house plans we drew up on Towan?"

"No. Why?"

"Tomorrow I plan to contact an architect. I will want him to meet with us both after he has studied our design."

"You could do that; you know what I want."

"Are you still agreeable to building on the land adjacent to this house?"

"Of course." She squirmed, shifting position.

"I want you to be sure."

"I am. I like the idea of your parents being so close. In fact, I don't see why we even need to build that house. Your parents said we could stay here."

"You cannot be serious. There is no room and no privacy. On Towan, you insisted on your own home."

"I know. It's just that…"

"Susan, this is yet another sign of your indecisiveness."

"It is not," she said defensively. "I want my own home." There was no conviction in her words. "I just want to be sure that it's what you want."

"It is. That is why the extra parcel of land was originally purchased. I fully expected to return home to marry and raise a family."

"But not with me." The tears sprang to her eyes.

"Susan." The word was pure frustration. "This is so unlike you."

"Is it?"

"You were not like this on Towan."

"Oh, yes, I was. You weren't there at the first, when I was alone. I cried all the time. Then Thela came and we both cried. But she needed me, and when Soy came, she needed me, too. Everyone depended on me -- even you, at the beginning, remember? I had to be strong there. But here, no one really needs me. I'm not essential."

"I need you. You are my bondmate. I will always need you."

Needing to believe that, Sue clung to him and to the words.

* * *

Having just put Saren down for a nap, Sue was returning to the kitchen and cleanup duty. Hearing Sarek and Mandy in the living room, she paused. She listened until she caught the gist of the conversation, then barged into the room, past Sarek in his chair, to where Mandy was playing with the computer controls. Sue snatched the child by the arm, swatted her behind, then turned her around.

"Go to your room and stay there until I tell you different. Understand?"

The teary-eyed child nodded and scurried out of the room.

Sue looked at Sarek. "Go ahead. Say what you're thinking."

"Was it necessary to be physical?"

"Yes. You already told her no."

"I was explaining my reasons."

"You did that earlier."

"She will come to accept -- "

"You don't seem to understand. A two year old child doesn't want logic; she wants to play with the pretty lights and buttons."

"She is just a child."

"She's a pusher. Just watch. Within two days she'll be right back there."


"And when I catch her, I'm gonna spank her."


"She's not Vulcan. Blame me, or my genes, if you want, but that's her personality. You'll notice that Jamie and Len don't do it." Sue shrugged. "They think of other things."

"Yes. I am amazed at their diversity."

Sue sat across from him. "I think we need to talk about the difference between physical discipline, as you call it, and child-beating."

"I do understand; you did not strike in anger. I have seen them accept rougher treatment in play."

"And I've seen children completely demoralized by words."

His head came up with a jerk. "Is there some significance to that statement?"

"Yeah, I guess there is. I prefer a little physical punishment, restriction, denying privileges, to verbal attacks and lectures."

"What are you saying?"

"I'm afraid that you're going to blame their behavior on their human heritage."

"I have never used such methods before. Why should I start now?"

"You didn't? Never? I -- "

"My son said that?" The hurt was evident in his voice.

"No, no, he never said -- I just assumed… I know he felt he had failed you. He must have internalized those feelings from somewhere."

"From the unspoken word?" Sarek rose and walked slowly into the garden.

Sue stared after him for several minutes. Then she turned to Thay-an, who had sat quietly through the whole scene, content to play with her toy. "Stay here," she told the child, and followed Sarek outdoors.

"I'm sorry," she said, walking up behind him.

He turned to face her, pinning her with his eyes. "Susan, would you prefer that I spend less time with the children?"

"No. No, that's not what I want." She slumped onto a stone bench, oozing misery.

"Am I so forbidding?"

"Hell, yes," she said. "You have this attitude -- like your way is the only way. I don't want us to become lost in that." His expression did not change. "You don't even know what I'm talking about, do you?"

"Perhaps," he said softly. "This attitude you speak of -- I find it useful in the council chambers. I attempt to remove it with the robe. Obviously, I am not successful."

"Remove it!" Sue could not help but grin at this remark. "You can't remove it. It's part of you -- in the genes. It's my guess that's why they took a physicist out of his laboratory and made him an ambassador." Her grin faded. "It's just that I know we're not the family you had in mind for your only son."

"If that by you mean that, when considering a future for Spock, I did not envision five years of slavery and forced breeding, then you are correct. But it did happen and must be accepted. I can only be pleased with the outcome and the method you and my son have chosen to deal with the situation. Remember that I had the opportunity to view Towan. There were few groups who managed as well as yours."

"But what about the kids? They're quite a mixed bag, but mostly human."

"I married a human; she bore my son."

"Yeah, but Spock's mostly Vulcan; these kids aren't."

"What does that mean?"

"I don't know -- that a little human is okay, but not too much."

"Susan," he said dismayed, "would you explain the logic of that statement."

"Didn't make much sense, did it?" Sue turned away feeling total dejected.

"Susan, my son is alive and well, as are his children. By his own words, I know that you were the driving force behind this reality. How could I be anything but grateful?" He sat next to her. "How can I make you understand that I am not your adversary?"

Her mood lifted, she turned back to face him. "I think you just did." Her eyes still locked on him, Susan thought that would be the end of their conversation, but had been around this Vulcan long enough to know he had something else on his mind. "Go ahead," she said. "There's something you want to say, isn't there?"

"Yes, there is. I thought perhaps if I shared this with you, it might ease matters between us." He continued his study of her. "I would like this kept between the two of us though. I am not at all sure that Amanda and Spock would understand."

"A conspiracy, I love it," she said, turning to face him directly. "And you have my full attention -- Fraunt!" She exclaimed, knowing she was right. "You did it, didn't you? You saw that son-of-a…I knew if I told you about him, you would do your damndest to get a look at him."

"Yes I did," he nodded, but his reaction was not as rewarding as you might have hoped for."

"Please, just tell me the whole story," Sue pleaded.

"He was undergoing questioning with two Federation investigators when I was allowed to enter the room. There was a definite reaction at seeing me, hate mixed with anger, would be my assumption. I introduced myself…"

"And," Sue prompted fidgeting on the bench.

"His exact words were, 'Vulcans!' He almost spat the word. 'I should have killed that one the instant I laid eyes on him, but Kiear wouldn't hear of it. Too good with computers, he said. Now look where we are.'"

"But you told him, didn't you, that Spock is your son."

"Oh, yes, Susan, I did. And watched the color drain from his face."

"Thank you," Sue said as she leaned back on the bench and savored the moment.

* * *

Spock entered the room and crossed it in three long strides. "Susan," he said, his voice full of concern.

She turned from where she had been standing at the window wall, staring out at nothing. The book was still in her hand.

He glanced at it, then back at her. "I did not intend for you to read that book. In fact, I concealed it."

"You make a lousy spy. I saw you hide it."

"And now you are upset."

"Hell, yes, I'm upset! It stinks; it fucking stinks!" She stabbed at the air with the book. "It's like something out of the Dark Ages, the Spanish Inquisition relived. I can't believe it. Book burnings, destroying artwork, sculpture, and records, for god's sake! Sure, a lot of the stuff was junk, but to make such a show of destroying it. And wiping computer memory banks, tracking people through their sign-on names -- that's nuts! They were nothing more than computer organized witch-hunts…then telling people to stop certain kinds of research. Humans! They're all crazy!"

"Do not blame the species. They are no different from any other. Most planetary histories are written in blood…"

"It stinks!" she yelled, and slammed the book on the table.

"Susan, that book is irreplaceable." He emphasized the last word.

"Sorry. I forgot that it's an antique, like me."


Sarek entered the room in the same hurried manner as his son. "Amanda said Susan was reading -- "

"Past tense!" she snapped. "Read!"

"Our only concern was that you not be upset…"

"I know!" Sue interrupted Sarek again. "Read only history tapes. Less emotional; six million people killed in a few pages. No feelings, just facts."

Sarek went to the table and picked up the book. "Why should this particular book have such a negative effect on you?" he asked when she had wound down.

"Because it's about home. "It's…"

"Too close," Spock said. "Most of the events described in that book took place in Susan's hometown. For that very reason I removed it from the library shelf." He gave Susan a pointed look.

Carefully, Sarek was turning the book over in his hands as he examined it. It was the autobiography of a twentieth century biologist. "Did you perhaps know Dr. Humrickhaus?"

"Know him! Didn't either of you read this?"

"Yes, some years ago." Sarek replied.

"Not that particular book," Spock added.

"Here." She took the book from Sarek. Licking her finger, she began leafing through it. Noticing their expressions, she slowed, lest she tear a page. Finding what she wanted, she shoved the book at Spock. "Read that."

Spock read aloud. "…deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of my research assistant Michael Benelli and his two children…" He looked at Susan. "Your first husband was Dr. Humrickhaus's assistant?"

She nodded. "While Michael was working on his Ph.D., he wrote all the programs. Ulrich would tell Michael what he wanted, and Michael would make it work."

"'Ulrich'?" father and son said in unison.

"You were on a first-name basis?" Sarek asked.

"Yeah. Why do you think that stinking book bothered me so much? I know him, his wife and daughter…I can't believe that all his work was destroyed. Michael spent so many hours in that building -- and they blew it apart." She sighed deeply. "I don't even understand why."

"Because people were afraid of his research. He was actually altering the nucleus of a cell."

Father continued where son left off. "His research, along with that of two others, became the basis for the mutations that led to the Genetics War. His was the fundamental breakthrough."

"But to have to defect to Russia! Do you know how backward that is? To run for your life, renounce your citizenship… What that must have done to him -- to never be able to come home…"

"Susan, his was not an isolated case. There was a rising against the radical, the unconventional. The conservatives organized. There were riots, assassinations; lives were lost."

Sue seemed not to hear Spock. She was still immersed in what she had read. "It's hard to imagine all the scenes in that book. Like the time he was locked in his office, with all those people outside calling for his blood. All in the name of God… Maybe it's just as well Michael didn't live to see that." She moved back to stare out the window wall. "And breaking into his office later, destroying everything. They should have known. The key was hanging on a nail next to my kitchen door."

Sarek's next words came slowly, deliberately, as if with each one the facts registered. "You had a key to Professor Humrickhaus's office?"

"Sure. Michael worked there, and I did some data entry and watered his plants when he was out of town." Sue stared at her father-in-law. He had a strange, far-off look in his eyes. Sue glanced at Spock, who was also watching Sarek.


"Excuse me," he said, coming back to them. "Just a fleeting thought."

* * *

For the next two weeks, Sue isolated herself, reading and learning what had happened in the years just after she had left Earth. Then she emerged, saying that she had had her fill and giving the appearance of having settled the matter within herself.

Spock attempted to discuss the subject with her one night when they were alone. Sue was not interested. Sarek broached the subject of a healer, and it was quickly dismissed. He tried again, suggesting a historian to aid Sue in putting the whole episode into perspective. Again his offer was refused.

"I'm all right," she announced when questioned again. "Just disappointed. I thought we were the enlightened generation. We were going to do it better and not make the same mistakes our elders had. But we were no better, no better at all. That idea just took some getting used to, that's all."

"It is not just idle curiosity that prompts my asking," Sarek said. With this remark, he had everyone's full attention. "After our discussion about Dr. Humrickhaus, I took the liberty of telling your story to a selected group of scientists."

"The Guardian." Spock came straight up out of his chair.

"Who?" Sue asked as Amanda added, "What?"

Father spoke directly to son. "As we discussed earlier, this is exactly the type of experiment they are looking for…"

"And they are interested?" Spock's excitement was almost visible.

"Very much so."

"It would be an excellent choice. With access to that office, we could retrieve all the original data from the computer…"

"Wait a minute!" Sue said over their exclusive conversation. "What the hell's a Guardian?"

The two stopped talking, then Spock explained. "While on Starfleet duty, the Enterprise encountered a strange phenomenon. On an otherwise uninhabited planet, we came upon a time/space gateway. Unlike the natural/sporadic type that brought you to Towan, this is a permanent artifact constructed by some advanced society. An intelligence controls this gateway, providing the capabilities of selection…"

"Selection?" Amanda repeated.

"Sounds crazy to me," Sue said, her mind envisioning a huge television screen with a channel selector.

"Yes, it is most improbable, yet it exists. After its discovery, the Galactic Council set up a scientific settlement there, and all the research still has not produced clear evidence of the origin or extent of its power."

"One of you two said something about how they were looking for experiments," Sue interjected.

"Yes," Sarek answered, "productive ways of using the apparatus."

"Sarek, just what is this all about?" Amanda asked warily.

Sarek hesitated for an instant. "It has to do with a possible trip back in time -- to Susan's home."

"Why?" Amanda asked. "I see no -- "

"Dr. Humrickhaus's research, Mother," Spock said, interrupting her. "Think of it: to have his original data."

Susan had been quietly trying to digest this information. "Are you saying I could go back to -- to my time on Earth?"

"Exactly," Sarek said, watching her.

"If I could go back," her breath caught in her throat, "then I could go back before Michael and the kids died…my God!"

"No!" Spock moved next to her chair. To punctuate his words, he took her by the shoulders and forced her to look him in the eye. "Susan, you have no such choice. That is not possible!"

She sat rigidly, drawing in several deep breaths. "That's scary. For a minute there I thought I could play God, and… Why?" she said, as the thought occurred to her. "Why can't I?"

"Susan, the past must not be changed. If it were, then the future would not be as it is. Do you understand?"

"No," she said, still puzzled, "but I'll take your word for it." She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes, then opened them when she felt Amanda's hand on her shoulder. She looked up and forced a weak smile as she accepted the glass of wine Amanda offered.

Sarek moved to the chair just across from Susan. "How would you feel about going back to your home after the accident?" he asked cautiously.

"I don't know," she hedged, still bewildered by the whole idea. "How soon after?"

"Shortly after you actually arrived on Towan, I would suspect."

"For how long?"

"Several days -- no longer."

"And everything would be the same as when I left? They'd still be d -- "

"Yes. Nothing would be changed."

"Why go? What for?"

"This would be an archaeological retrieving expedition."

"Say that again."

"Susan," Spock began, "you have access to materials that were lost. With your help, Dr. Humrickhaus's records could be saved."

"You mean like King Tut's tomb or Indian diggings?"

"Yes," Sarek emphasized.

"You think it's important?"

"Very," he said in the same emphatic tone.

"I wouldn't have to go alone, would I?"

"I do not believe that would be advisable," he said, his tone more normal.

"You'd go with me, wouldn't you?" Her eyes sought Spock's as this question was addressed to him.

"Unknown at this time, but unlikely." He mouthed the words, but Sue read a different answer in his eyes.

"I can think of one reason why this wouldn't be good for Sue," Amanda said, her tone advising prudence in this matter. "She still thinks of Earth as it was during its twentieth century. To send her back to that time will only reinforce that image."

"That is a distinct possibility." Sarek nodded in agreement.

"Yeah, but I could say my good-byes, and get some things…" Several fantasies began playing in Sue's head as for the first time she could see a reason for such a trip.

"You could say nothing," Spock said.

"I don't mean out loud. Mentally -- I'd know that I was leaving and not just be ripped away with no warning. That was the hardest part."

"Would you be willing to discuss this with the scientists who are interested?"

"They really want to do it, then -- get into Ulrich's office?"

"Very much so."

"Okay, I'll talk to them."

* * *

The household settled for the night, but there was no sleep in Sue. Her mind was running wild with the idea planted there by Sarek. While she lay next to him, her eyes wide, Spock fell asleep. It was the first time in their shared life that this had happened, which was unfortunate for him. He had only been asleep for a few minutes when Sue poked him.

"Hey, I just thought of something."

"What is it?" he asked with little enthusiasm.

"All that stuff that Ulrich did -- it's all been done over again since then. It would have to have been."

"If you are attempting to state that his research has been duplicated many times over, you are correct."

"Testy, aren't we? But then, why bother to go after it?"

"Because, in this case, the benefits could outweigh the risks. His was the original research in the field. We know the state of the science. Studying his work offers insights into a mind that was ahead of his time." Spock rolled over and pulled the blanket around his shoulders. If by this action he was hoping to discourage further conversation, he should have known better.

"There's something else here. If you can go through that guardian thing, well, you can go without me. I mean, you could go anywhere in the past, to get anything, couldn't you?"

"That is correct, but consider the risks."

"Yeah, I suppose you could really mess things up… did they ever think about using this thing to go back and fix things? Like -- suppose Hitler was never born and there was no war…"

Spock raised himself to his elbows and stared at her. "Do you want me to answer that?"

"No. I guess not. If it wasn't one thing, it'd be another, unless you changed human nature." She was quiet for several seconds. "Still, there's something wrong here. Something just doesn't smell right. It's like there's more to this than you're telling me. What did you and your father talk about when I went to check the kids?"

Spock pulled himself into a sitting position, obviously realizing that he would get no sleep until Susan did.

"You are correct. There is more to this mission than just retrieving Dr. Humrickhaus's notes. If it is approved, it will be a twofold mission."

Sue folded her arms across her chest. "Go on," she said in a self-satisfied tone.

"We have discussed the problems associated with time displacement: the feelings of isolation, the estrangement from the new society, the inability to adapt…"

Sue knew all of these feelings. In the twentieth century, she had been a nurse. On Towan, she had been taught enough to function, but here her medical knowledge was useless. If she wanted a career, she would have to start at the beginning. And she did feel isolated, as if she would never fit into this society. Worst of all was that there was no one to really talk to, no one with mutual experience. "How can going back change all that?"

"That is one of the questions that needs answering. You are an excellent choice for this first experiment, for several reasons."

"Because I can get into Ulrich's office, but why else?"

"Because there is no question of your wanting to stay," Spock explained.


"Back in your own time."

"Kind of sure of yourself, aren't you?"

The bed shook as he turned toward her. "Certainly you would never consider it -- not leaving-- " he hesitated, "the children."

She detected something never before heard in his voice: uncertainty, or disbelief, perhaps. She couldn't decide which, but she enjoyed his predicament.

"Of course not," she said, moving over to lie close to him. He put his arm around her and they lay quietly for several minutes.

"Susan, if plans for this trip materialize, I am sure they will include a psychiatrist."

She let that news sink in for a time. "That'll mean they will be watching everything I do -- and they'll have to watch me after I get back, too. They'll have to follow up and see if my feelings about being here are different than they were before I went."

"Yes, that will be necessary."

"What if I don't do so good?"

"Susan, you are not being tested." He paused. "About my accompanying you…"

"Spock," her voice was strangely low, "that's not open for discussion. You've got to understand how it is. I know I'll have to leave the kids, and that's about all I'll be able to deal with. So either we both go, or neither of us does."

Knowing there would be no changing her mind, Spock acquiesced. "For the sake of argument, let us accept that I will be allowed to accompany you. I would like to discuss some of the other aspects of such a trip. First, here are the practical aspects, such as living arrangements for the duration of our stay."

"That's no problem. I have a big house with lots of rental rooms, remember?"

"You said that you discontinued that practice after Michael's death."

"I'll say I made an exception. After all, Willie's still there."

"Who is Willie?"

"Graduate student, gets his PhD in August. Then I'm planning to sell the house."

"Susan, you are speaking in the present tense."

"Hell. Only 'cause it's easier!" she snapped, knowing that that wasn't quite true. "I was planning to sell the house."

"Someone might question your change of mind."

"I'll say it was a favor to Ulrich. Who's to know?"

"What of the professor himself?"

"He's on sabbatical. I thought I told you that."

"No, you did not. Where on sabbatical?"

"In Europe. Left the middle of June and won't be home till the end of August."

"That is a definite advantage for us. Perhaps we could use your home. Tell me about the house."

She got out of bed. "I need one of those electronic pad things. It'll be easier if I draw it." She returned with the necessary items, turned on a light, and climbed back into bed. Setting the pad on her up drawn knees, she drew a square in the center of the screen. Slightly off-center of the bottom line, she placed two small marks through the line. "Front door." The left side of the square she divided into thirds, marking them "living room," "dining room," and "kitchen" from the bottom to the top of the paper. In the right front of the diagram she marked off a small square and labeled it "front hall" and just behind it "Mickey's room." Moving up the paper, she filled in a small hallway Nicky's tiny bedroom, the bathroom, and last, the larger back bedroom which she and Michael had shared. "This whole section," she indicated the right side of the square, "was redone, walls and everything, to suit our needs." She pointed to Mickey's room. "That was a formal parlor before we started. And the kitchen, we re-did that too. All we did on the second floor was what was necessary to meet city codes for rental rooms." She continued her first grade sketching, adding the big front porch, a driveway and a garage on the north side of the house, a bay window in the living room, and the living room fireplace. "I don't know if it's important, but there's a six unit apartment building on the south side, and to the north a house that's been converted into three apartments."

Spock studied Sue's masterpiece. "Whom would I be likely to encounter in your home?"

"Besides Willie, there's Michael's brother Vic. He drops in once in a while to see how I am. And my nephew Mark, he cuts the grass and always wants to borrow my car. And an occasional friend." She shrugged. "My brother Jeff comes by every so often. That's about it."

"What of other members of your family?"

"Jeff's the only one who lives in town. John lives in California, and my dad and stepmother moved to Arizona a few years back."

"No one who might become suspicious?"

"No. Well, there's Matthew."

"Who is Matthew?"

"Just a friend."

"I see. How close a friend?"

"That's none of your business!" To her irritation, Sue found herself becoming flustered.

"That close?" Spock raised an eyebrow.

"Yes. That close!" She sighed. "He's the reason I was on the plane. If it weren't for Matthew, I never would have gotten to Towan."

"I should like to hear more of this."

"He was married."


"He got my name from a bulletin board."

"He what?" That statement shook his complacency.

"For racquetball. We both needed partners and had our names and phone numbers posted on a bulletin board. He called me. I didn't want to play with a guy; they're always so gung-ho. He insisted, said he needed the exercise. One thing led to another… I thought he was safe, damn him. He fooled around a lot but stayed married. I needed somebody and he was fun, never serious. Then he changed. That day, he called and said he was going to ask his wife for a divorce. I panicked. I didn't need that guilt on top of my own. I packed and ran -- called the airport and took the first plane I could get. I ended up in Miami. When I got there, I didn't know what I was going to do. While waiting for my luggage, I saw this big poster, 'Bermuda Beckons You.' I got on another plane, and the rest, as they say, is history."

"This Matthew could be a problem?"

"I don't know. Last time we talked, I told him I never wanted to see him again."

"You suspect that that will not be the end of it?"

She shrugged.

"Susan, how many people did you tell that you were leaving?"

When she did not answer, he repeated the question. Sue began chewing on her lip.

"You left without informing anyone?" he asked, dismayed.

"Yes, but you have to understand how it was," she added disgustedly. "First, I had time off from the hospital. I didn't request it, but you can only accumulate so much leave time, then you have to take it or lose it. So here I was with this free time, and this thing with Matthew was eating at me, and -- " her tone grew softer, "and it was coming up on the second anniversary of the accident. If I had told either my family or Michael's that I was leaving town, there'd have been a scene."

"But to leave without a word!"

"I tried to call them. Once from the local airport -- got a busy and a no answer, then again from Miami -- that time, two no answers. I planned to call when I got settled in Bermuda."

"So far as your family knows, you had no plans to leave town?"

"I guess not." She studied his expression. "Why? Is it important?"

"I was just wondering if this trip back to Earth was destined."

"Explain that!"

"Susan, each timeline has its own fate."

"You mean I'm supposed to go back?"


* * *

The next few weeks were busy ones for Susan. Her mind and body were poked and prodded, scanned and analyzed in every conceivable manner. She was subjected to hour upon hour of questioning. She was also give a recorder and asked to keep it with her at all times and to tape anything she might recall. She was not to evaluate the information -- just relate it. The team of scientists would determine the worth of each item. When she thought that she had answered every possible question, they suggested hypnosis and plowed through her subconscious.

She tolerated the medical testing with less fuss, because there was something she wanted: the anti-aging treatments. It was bad enough to know that Spock would outlive her by many years, but her vanity shuddered at the idea of deteriorating in looks and physical condition while he remained virtually unchanged. Knowing that her time clock ran faster than his did not set well with Susan at all. Even the nausea and dizziness caused by the treatments were borne without complaint.

Then, after several weeks of constant demands on her time, all activity ceased. Sue was told that it would require time to digest and organize all the information. She waited, days, then a week. Then she questioned Sarek. He had no news. Slowly, Sue's days fell back into their normal routine of childcare and translating the doc's notes, and only periodically did she think of the trip.

The longer Sue stayed in the house, the more difficult she found it to go out. With Spock home after so long an absence, they received many social invitations plus an ever-growing list of speaking requests. Though Sue would have liked to, she could not refuse to attend all of them. So, Susan made her debut into Vulcan society, and she did, in a sense, take them by storm. Everyone was anxious to talk with the person out of time. Finding herself at a loss as to how to deal with the situation, she wanted to run from it. She adopted a passive attitude, fearing anything else might bring too much attention to herself and her fears. She avoided what she could and stumbled through what she could not. When all else failed, she used her physical condition -- feigning headaches, tiredness, or anything else she could think of that would keep her at home.

"Sue, I need some things from the market. Will you go for me?"

"Certainly, Amanda." Such a simple request, so why am I feeling so anxious? She watched Amanda prepare vegetables for dinner and wondered how she could get out of this. "If you'd rather, I could do that and you could go."

Amanda looked up from her work. "No, Sue. I think you should go. You haven't been out of the house for days."

"All right." Sue accepted the list and left the house. "I can do it," she told herself. "It's not so far; only to the edge of town and about four blocks. I should be back in 30, maybe 45 minutes, back and…safe." Her spirits sank deeper. "I'm not getting any better, and they're beginning to notice. Stop saying it like that, like they're the enemy. It's for your own good. You have to go out; you can't become a hermit." She continued lecturing herself as she walked. "You understand the problem, and that's half the battle. All the changes -- it's difficult for you, but you can't give in to the urge and pull in on yourself."

Sue closed the gate behind her. "Why did that click sound so ominous? One foot in front of the other, that's how you do it. Think of something else. Let's see -- how about how well the boys are adjusting to school? They can go and come home by themselves…but their mother wants to bury her head in the sand…"

"Peace, and welcome to Vulcan."

Startled, Sue stopped and looked down to find a young boy staring up at her. She guessed him to be about ten or eleven years old.

"Peace," she finally replied.

"I am Sarol," he said, falling into step beside her. "Do all humans talk to themselves?"

"Oh, was I talking to myself?" She winced at the image.

"Yes. Where are you going?"

"To the market. Where are you going?"

"To the market also. May I walk with you?"

"I guess so," she responded, thinking that his question seemed rhetorical, since he already was. They walked in silence for several minutes, but even though Sue could not explain it, she felt much better now that she was not alone. She watched as the boy stole glances at her. "You know who I am, don't you?"

"Yes. I have seen you on the tri-dee. You were on Towan -- with all those others. I cannot imagine it. No intelligent being should have to live like that. Was it terrible?" The boy paused and looked down, then said more slowly, "I ask forgiveness. I spoke too freely."

"Not at all. I agree with you." Sensing his discomfort, Sue made her tone casual.

"What is that?" he asked, obviously grateful to be off that subject and looking for a less personal one.

"My list for the market."

"Why do you require a list?" he wanted to know.

"Because I'm stupid," Sue answered without thinking. "I suppose you don't need one."

"No, I do not…"

"Well, here we are," Sue said, cutting him off mid-word.

Left with no recourse, the boy moved away from Sue, and she felt suddenly abandoned and alone. "Hey, would you mind helping me find some of these items?" she called after him.

"I should be pleased to aid you." He selected the few items he had been sent for, and then began showing Sue where to find what she needed. She felt like a creep. She had been to this market any number of times and knew where everything was.

As they prepared to leave the market, Sarol asked, "May I help you carry these things?"

Sue grinned and said, "I though you'd never ask."

Both were quiet as they walked along. It seemed as if neither could think of anything to say. When they reached their parting place, he said, "I should like to meet your children. Would that be permitted?"

"Yes, I think that would be fine. You're older then they are, you know."

"I realize that. Perhaps I could help with their lessons, or something…"

His motive struck her. "You're curious about them, aren't you?"

"Yes," Sarol admitted.

"Well, come after school some day." She accepted her packages and thanked him. He nodded and turned to go his own way as Sue went in to find Amanda still working on the vegetables.

"Did you get along all right?" Sue was aware that her mother-in-law was eyeing her intently."

"What do you mean?" Sue said with dramatic flair. "My gosh, it was only a little trip to the grocery store." She began emptying her packages.

* * *

Sue entered the kitchen to find Sarek getting himself a glass of water. "Oh, hi," she said as she prepared Saren's bottle. "No work this afternoon?"

"I have excused myself from the Academy. Jamie, Len and I have plans."

"So that's what had them so excited this morning. They were jabbering a mile a minute before school -- in Vulcan, of course."

Sarek shook his head. "Susan, I believe you are going to have to put some serious effort into learning the language."

"I thought I'd just keep going at the word-at-a-time method."

"Something more structured is in order, do you not agree?"

"Yeah, I guess," she said taking the bottle from the heater.

Later, while feeding Saren, Sue heard pounding noises coming from the garden. When Saren had finished his bottle, Sue gathered him up and they went to investigate the source of the noise. She found Sarek and the boys at the far end of the garden, adjusting several lengths of pipe.

"What in the world is that?"

"A svrouxl, Mother, " Jamie volunteered.

"English please."

"Exercise bars," Len said, his voice slightly superior.

"Oh, like a jungle gym?"

"Exactly," Sarek said and as he came to stand next to her Saren reached out to him and took the child from Susan.

Sue stayed to watch the proceedings as Sarek, Saren settled on his hip, directed the placement of several pipes. As the boys were following instructions, he turned to Susan. "This unit was satisfactory for Spock, but we shall have to add more sections for this group."

Sue smiled at his predicament, then asked, "Why not just put it up in our yard?"

"I do not want the children near the construction. I shall move it later, when the house is completed."

* * *

It was early evening as Sue and Spock sat in the garden watching the children play. Sue liked this particular spot; close enough to keep an eye on things, but not in the midst of the activity. Crawling now, Saren played at their feet content with his toys and Spock was reading. Life could be good, Susan told herself, even on Vulcan. She sipped her wine and wished it was a ice cold beer. "Did you notice anything different about your father tonight?

"Different?" Spock looked up from his reading. It seemed to Sue that that was all he ever did. "In what way?"

"I don't know," she shrugged. "But he sure acted funny when I asked him about the Guardian trip. Usually he just tells me that he has nothing to report, but tonight he was so evasive. What was it he said -- something about news being forthcoming, then he wouldn't say anymore.

"Susan, you are imaging things."

"Oh, you think so," she said. "Well, how do you explain that, or am I imaging that too?" She was staring at the two men who had just come through the gate.

"No, you're not seeing things," McCoy said, with a broad smile on his face.

"Jim, Doctor." Spock stood, then asked in concern, "The probe mission -- has it been cancelled?"

"No, Spock," Jim said. "We still have hopes for that. If," he added, "all those committees can get off their butts and get the rest of the money appropriated. But now we're here about the Earth mission."

"Earth mission?" Sue and Spock repeated.

Kirk and McCoy exchanged looks. ""He didn't tell them," Jim said

"That sly old dog! McCoy added.

"I told you, I told you," Sue gloated.

"The Galactic Council has approved this trip through the Guardian?" Spock asked needing to hear the answer straight out.

"Yes, to Sue's hometown. We're going. Sarek engineered the whole thing -- been pulling strings like you wouldn't believe…"

"Got everything he wanted, too," McCoy added.

"Not quite everything," Kirk put in.

"Start from the beginning," Sue demanded.

"The four of us are going to Earth, circa 1976, to your hometown. Isn't that what we've been talking about?" McCoy finished.

"Starfleet is involved, and my father is behind this?" Spock's questioned.

"Didn't I just say that?" McCoy asked.

"What do you mean, Sarek got everything he wanted, almost?" Sue wanted to know.

McCoy and Kirk claimed empty chairs and the all sat down. "Sarek wanted," Kirk said, "this trip to be for five, not four."

"He wanted to go with us?" Sue looked at Spock who was staring at the house as if he could see his father right through the walls. "Well, why can't he go?"

"Starfleet felt that one non-Human and one civilian were enough of a risk."

"Non-Human, I understand, but what's with civilian?"

"Susan, apparently this is to be a Starfleet mission. You cannot do something involving such risks and not have controls in place." Spock told her and Kirk nodded agreement while Sue just stared at them in confusion.

"Sue." McCoy reached across the table and took her hand. He patted it and said, "Let me tell you how it is. I'm going because I'm the doctor. Spock is going because he's our scientific expert, and I hear that you won't go without him." She nodded again. "Now, without you, there's no trip, because you know where the good stuff is, and Jim here is the captain. He gives the orders."

Sue's eyes slowly traveled from McCoy to Spock to Kirk. "Oh," she said, "You mean like we're in the Army now?"

"Now you've got it," Kirk said from where he was sitting. "And I need to be sure that you understand that."

"What'd you mean by that?" she snapped.

"I somehow get the impression that you don't follow orders too well."

Sue glared at Kirk. "Why'ya pickin' on me? What about them?" She pointed to the other two at the table.

"Sue, if I give an order, I know what they will do. You on the other hand…"

"Oh yeah. I'll have you know that I follow orders in E.R."

"That's good to hear, but this will be different. Suppose, just after we go through the Guardian, I decide that something's wrong and that we're going right back?"

Sue looked shocked. "You wouldn't do that -- not right away…"

"I could, if I felt the mission in jeopardy. What I need to know is how you would react."

Sue studied him for several seconds, pondering his words. Then she stood up, stretched her arm out in front of her, and clicked her heels together. "Seig Heil, Herr Kaptain!" she said in what was supposed to be a German accent.

"As long as we understand each other," Kirk said smiling. "Now, I want to see my namesake -- and the others, too, of course."

Chairs shuffled as they all rose and started for the play yard at the end of the garden. All rose, that is, except Spock. Sue glanced back to find him still staring at the house.

* * *

The rest of the evening was spent in catching up and socializing, but the next morning was all business. Jim called a meeting in the fourth floor sunroom. They took places around the table; then he opened his briefcase and produced several piles of diskettes.

Spock was amazed. "You have already been provided with all that information?

"Yeah, Bones and I did a lot of work on our way here. We worked out a tentative schedule. The team we are working with at the Guardian think they can be ready for us in about," he checked his wrist chronometer, "about four standard weeks from yesterday. Since it's a five day trip to the Guardian and they requested at least two days briefing time, we'll have to be ready to leave here in 21 days."

"That's no real problem, Jim," McCoy said shifting in his chair.

"We've got a lot to do."

"Jim," Spock asked, "How long will we be on Earth?"

"Seven to eight days. We go in on June 25 and back out on July 1 or 2 depending on the arrangements we can make and how long it takes us to gather the data. You see anything wrong with that?"

"I do not have enough data to make a judgment."

"That'll change," McCoy said.

"Yes," Jim emphasized. "I've got plenty of work for you, but we'll discuss that later. First," he shuffled through the diskettes, "let's talk about timing." He found the one he wanted and slipped it into the portable computer. The screen brightened. "My information states that the last radar contact with the airliner Sue was on was at 11:37 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on June 25, 1976." He looked at Sue.

"Sounds good to me," she shrugged.

"Then your arrival time back on Earth will be 10:40 a.m. Central Daylight Time on that same day. We'll follow exactly five minutes later. This lead-time is for you to make sure that everything is as it should be. Sue, this is critical. The portal will be left open for two minutes. If you discover anything out of order, you are to return immediately. If you don't, we'll accept that as a sign that everything is okay."

"I understand," she said aware of three sets of eyes boring into her. "I really do understand," she punctuated the words. "But why is the time so important? Why can't I go back earlier?"

"You can't go back until after you've left. Even I know that," McCoy said.


"Susan, there cannot be two of you in one timeline." Sue thought that Spock was looking at her as if he could not imagine two of her anywhere.

"Oh. What would I do -- cancel myself out?"

"A distinct possibility."

"Well, then I go back at -- 10:40, is it?" She thought for a second. "Wonder what it would be like, meeting yourself…"

"All right," Kirk continued. "As I said, we'll be staying seven or eight days. Our departure will be in all likelihood be the evening of July 2. That should give us enough time to gather the data…"

"Too bad," Sue interrupted shaking her head, " we can't stay until the Fourth. Gonna be a hell of a celebration…"

"Celebration?" Jim questioned.

"It's 1976! Our 200th birthday…"

"By God, it is," McCoy exclaimed. "We declared our independence on July 4 of 1776. Seems a shame to miss that, Jim…"

The look on Kirk's face gave the answer.

"Our departure," Spock asked. "How will that be accomplished?"

Sarek stood in the doorway. "Would I intrude if I joined you?"

"Certainly not," Kirk said as McCoy pulled up another chair.

"I was just about to explain our departure. Research shows that we can rent a Cessna 172 at a local airport near Sue's home. I've checked out on a simulator on the particular mode. I'll go equipped with a valid Illinois pilot's license and reserve a plane for the evening of July 2…"

"An airplane?" Sue asked, puzzled. "Why would you want to rent an airplane?"

"Sue, I thought you understood this," Jim shifted uneasily in his chair.

McCoy scooted his chair around to face Sue. "You were considered lost -- dead -- when that commercial airline disappeared. If we bring you back to life for eight days, then we have to…"

"Kill me again. Yeah, I guess that would set things straight." She rubbed he temples with the tips of her fingers. "But how does the airplane fit in?"

"You were lost in an airline accident," Spock said, joining the conversation for the first time in several minutes. "The most logical thing is to use that same device."

Sue realized that all of a sudden the mood of this gathering had changed. A tension surrounded every word, and she understood why. It was not easy to explain to someone how you were going to arrange their death, even if it wasn't real.

"Perhaps I am at fault here." It was the first time Sarek had spoken since joining them around the table. "I did not explain this aspect of the trip to Susan."

"Okay, okay." Sue tried to make her voice light. "I get the picture. You need to explain my absence after I leave with you on July2."

"Sue," Kirk said solemnly, "It's that, or leave you as a missing person, case unsolved."

"No. That's too hard on the family. They'd imagine the worst: kidnapping, rape, murder. No, the accident is better. They'll believe I went quickly, without pain, they'll mourn, and then get on with their lives. I take it you're going to do something about the plane -- crash it or something."

"Yes, plans haven't been finalized yet, but we'll probably get the plane in the air using a remote control device and then explode it."

"There'll be an investigation, you know. There's a government agency that looks into air crashes."

"We realize that. If we do it right, like over a large body of water, they won't find enough evidence to draw any definite conclusions."

"Just one more unexplained air crash," Sue added.

"That's the idea. Now to housing arrangements, the oversight team has no problems with us staying at Susan's. Her rooming house provides a good cover. The fewer people who see us," Kirk smiled broadly at Spock, "the better."

"I keep telling you," Sue said, "It's not a problem. If you looked at any of the video from then, you can see that anything goes from hairstyles to clothes. Nobody pays any attention to anything on a college campus. It's one gigantic weirdo scene."

"Susan," Spock said, "It is not that simple."

"Yeah, it is. All you have to do is let your hair grow to cover the tops of your ears -- and you guys too," she added looking at Kirk and McCoy. "All of you have to let it grow, otherwise you'll look like recruiting posters for the military."

The three military men stared at her.

"Well, I know that's what you are, but you don't want to look like that on Earth, do you?"

"No, we don't." Jim flipped the cassette out of the computer and inserted another. "This is a wardrobe list. We'll need to go over it in detail." He looked at Spock. "At least it won't be like last time. We won't have to steal."

Sue's eyebrows went up at that remark and she very must wanted to question that statement, but the look that passed between the three friends make her hesitate. She decided that this was better left alone.

"And, Sue," Jim continued, "You have to be very sure that you go back looking just as you did when you left Earth."

"Oh, yeah, I didn't think about that." She picked up several strands of hair. "We're going to have to get out the dye bottle -- and what about this scar on my chin?" Sue robbed the spot where Fraunt had struck her.

"It will be removed," McCoy said matter-of-factly.

"How about a few of these wrinkles?" She asked, pulling at her face. "After all, I was a few years younger then."

"We'll take care of them also," was McCoy reply and Sue considered asking him it there was any such thing as a thighectomy, but thought better of it.

"This is most interesting. I should like to hear more, but I have another appointment." With that Sarek stood and headed for the door and was exiting the room just as Amanda came in carrying a tray of food. After placing the tray in the quickly cleared spot on the table, Amanda settled into Sarek's chair, obviously planning to stay.

At the sight of the food, it was decided that a short break was in order. Everyone reached for a plate while Amanda poured coffee and tea.

"About names," Sue said between bites of her snzia (a sweet finger food that Sue had dubbed a Vulcan Twinkie). "Are you guys going to use you own?"

"Yes," Jim said. "One less thing to worry about and less chance of slip-ups."

"Well, shouldn't Spock have another name, even if we call him Spock?"

"I do have another name," Spock said between bites of his own snzia.

"Well, I can't pronounce it, and even if I could and had to introduce you by it, what nationality would you say it was when someone asked?" Finishing her sweet, she reached for a second.

"You may have a point, Sue. It wouldn't hurt to agree on another name, just in case." Kirk was looking at Spock.

Sue smiles, put down her Twinkie, and rubbed her hands together, as if she had been planning for this response. "Let me see. What would be a good name? We can't use Benjamin -- that's taken. How about Horace -- do you like that? Or maybe Waldo. Waldo Spock."

McCoy grinned. "I think Percy would suit him."

He and Sue chuckled. "I know; Mortimer!"

"All right, you two, enough," Kirk said, refusing to join the fun at Spock's expense. "If we need a name, let's make it something short and common and easy to remember."

"Oh, okay," Sue said, feeling cheated, she still had several good names she wanted to try. "How about John, or Paul?" she asked, disheartened.

"David," Amanda said, her voice low. "If you are to use a name, use David." Her voice died out, leaving a rather awkward silence.

"So," Sue said, trying to cover that silence, "that's what you would have named Spock. I suppose Sarek wouldn't let you."

"Sarek made no objection. I just decided that it was one more handicap that Spock didn't need." She rose and left the room, leaving an even more uncomfortable silence. After several seconds, Spock got up and followed her.

"Well," Sue said to the remaining two men, "I guess David it is."

* * *

Sue and McCoy walked along. They had left the garden and were following the path the boys took to school every day. The doctor had approached her after their meeting with him, saying he wanted some time to talk to her where they would not be disturbed. Since anywhere in the house or yard she was fair game for the children, they had decided on a walk.

Sue studied McCoy, glancing sideways every few seconds. She had a good idea what he wanted to talk about and was waiting for him to begin. So far, his comments had been confined to the weather and the amount of sand in his boots.

"Get to it," she finally said, giving in to her impatience. "Suppose to be having a therapy session, aren't we?"

"Think you need one?" came the reply.

"Don't do that. I hate it."

"Do what?"

"Answer every one of my questions with another question."

"Is that what I'm doing?"

"Shit!" She scooped up a handful of sand and threw it at him.

"All right," he laughed, while trying to keep the flying sand out of his eyes. His laughter faded. "Your family's concerned. They care about you -- and this trip we're considering, well, it's a pretty big step."

"I know all that!"

"Why so angry?"

"You're doing it again!"

"Can't help it. I need answers. Now, why so angry?"

"I don't know!"

"Okay." McCoy raised his hand is an apologetic manner. "You tell me, how do you think you're adjusting?"


"After five years of slavery, you're just fine."

"No. There are some things," she hedged.

"Such as?"

"Going out -- it's hard for me."

"Really?" His interest perked at this, as Sue had known it would. Better coming from me, she decided, then from the others. "Tell me about it."

"Oh, come off it, McCoy! It's not so complicated. For five years my whole life was in one building. Spock was down one hall, the kids down another, and Tha and Soy were with me. I kept tabs on things, checked the kids several times a day…"

"And you feel that you have to continue doing that?"

"No. It's just that, when I'm away for awhile, I get these feelings -- kind of scared, panicky. Is that really so unusual?"

"No, but do you think you're dealing with it -- trying to overcome it?"

"I recognize the problem. I know I have to go out."

"You're constantly refusing invitations, and when you do go out, you insist on coming home early. Aren't the people friendly?"

"Oh, they're friendly, all right. Everyone wants to get to know the living artifact."

"Come on, Sue. It can't be that bad."

"Hell it isn't."

"Well then, let's talk about it."

"No!" Sue moved off the main path to follow a side one. It led to a low rise in the terrain and offered a view of a dry lakebed and a bench for contemplating the view. McCoy took her change of direction in stride. Sue sat on one edge of the bench and leaned back to stare at the sky. In her opinion, if you've seen one dry lakebed, you've seen them all.

McCoy placed one foot on the seat of the backless bench and leaned his arm on his knee. "How about Spock? Making any new discoveries about him?"


"No culture shock?"

"Come on." She rolled her eyes back to stare at him. "Spock and I don't have those kinds of problems."

"Why should you be any different from other mixed species couples?"

"Because when you live like we did, your priorities get straightened out in a big hurry. When survival is your number one concern, no one cares how you worship your god, or about your sexual customs, or where you put the fork."

"But, Sue, you're not on Towan anymore. Now the everyday nit-picky things come to matter."

"We're past all that. We accept each other the way we are. Besides, we have a commitment to the kids. They come first."

"Then what's this business about you not shopping for the clothes and things they need?"

"They have clothes," she said, jerking up to face him. "Don't make it sound like they're naked."

"But you don't like to shop, do you?"

"No. Neither do a lot of people."

"Because it means going out?" he ventured.

"No," she said lying back down. "That stuff's not important -- money and possessions…"

"Really? There must be more to it than that." McCoy switched knees. "I should think that after five years of paper coveralls, you would want a whole new wardrobe. But I've been told that's not the case. Not only are you unconcerned about material things, but I've heard you're buying clothes without even trying them on."

"Oh, hell." She got up and started walking back down the path. "It goes way back, before Towan." She continued when he was next to her. "I always wanted to have money for clothes and things, who doesn't? But Michael and I -- well, we weren't poor, but we could never get ahead. We scrimped all the time, and something was always breaking down. It was like for every forward step we'd take two or three backward. Know what I mean?" McCoy nodded.

Sue shrugged. "With Michael still in school, we could never get ahead. I had a second job, would take extra nursing duty, he would pick up odd jobs whenever his studies would allow, but still, the day before payday, the frig was almost empty. We'd go to my in-laws. Nona, Michael's mother, she knew what was going on, always had a big pot of something cooking."

Sue went quiet for several seconds. "Then, all of a sudden, Michael and the kids were dead, and I was rich. All that insurance money -- it meant nothing." Sue did not realize that they had stopped walking. When she did, she started again, too fast. "Aren't we supposed to be talking about this trip back to Earth?"

"What about that? Want to go?"

"Yes…No…I don't know."

"Decisive, aren't you?" McCoy grinned.

"Yes! I want to go." Sue tried to stay angry, but one look into those blue eyes and she caved in. "I really do want to go," she said, her tone calmer, "so I can sign my will."

"Will?" His eyebrows rose.

"I'm rich, I told you," Sue said. "I left an unsigned will at my lawyers'. It haunted me for weeks after I got to Towan. All that money going to the lawyers and the State."

"Who gets it in your will?"

"Nieces and nephews. There's a lot of Benellis and some on my side. It all goes into a trust fund for their education. I had Spock check it out. If we go, I'll be able to sign the will."

"So you think you can handle this trip? I heard you were pretty upset at first."

"Hell, yes! Think about it. You expect anyone to be blasé about something that far out?"

"I guess not," he agreed. "Anything else about going back appeal to you?"

"Being able to bring back some of my own things -- pictures, some of my mother's things," Sue said. "I have most of her favorites possessions. They bigger items I'll give to my brothers, and I'll keep the smaller…"

"Give?" Again McCoy's eyebrows rose questioningly.

"Jesus! I'll leave a list as part of the will. Every time I say anything you jump on me like I'm going to go back and announce to the world that I've just come back through time," she said, glaring at him.

"It's critical, Sue. You'll be under a lot of pressure…knowing what you do about the future. You could be tempted…"

"To leave Ulrich a note? It crossed my mind. But he wouldn't believe me. I've already been lectured about that several times. We all have our own lives and we have to live them out. I got through their deaths -- Michael, Mickey -- and Nicky -- and Ulrich has to live his own destiny…"

"Now," McCoy interrupted, "that's something I've been meaning to ask you about. Where did you get those names?"

Sue relaxed at the question. "Fate played a dirty trick on me. All I did was name my son after his father -- Michael Junior -- and give my daughter a name I've always loved, Nicole. To avoid confusion, Michael Junior became Mickey, and Nicole…"

"Nicky," McCoy finished, laughing.

"That's another thing about going back," Sue continued. "If Spock gets the professor's work -- well, then all of Michael's work won't be lost. It'll be nice to know that all those hours of his research, the work he did writing new programs -- now it won't be lost."

"Not bothered about leaving the children?" McCoy asked.

"That's the worst part, but they'll be with Amanda and Sarek, so I'll know they're okay."

McCoy eyed her closely. "We're going to be watching you. You realize that, don't you?"

"Yeah. If I do all right, they might try sending some other 'displacies' back to their homes. It's kind of scary, like if I'm not good, someone else will be denied a chance to go home."

"How do you feel about being a guinea pig?"

"Oh, no. We are not going to start playing twenty questions again." She ran ahead and got through the garden gate before McCoy and locked it behind her.

* * *

With their departure date only five days away, the flurry of activity increased. Every minute found "The Four Musketeers" (as Sue had mentally dubbed Spock, Kirk, McCoy, and Sarek since they had begun planning this trip) engrossed in important tasks. She entered the study to find them at it again, huddled around a table littered with small mechanical devices. Intensely busy, they ignored her as she walked around the table, peering over shoulders.

"What'cha doin'?" she finally asked.

No one seemed in a hurry to answer her, so she cleared her throat.

"We are preparing equipment," Spock said absently.


"Because it is required for our trip." His tone had shifted to "over-patient."

"Oh." Sue took a vacant chair, turned it around, sat down and leaning her elbows on the chair back, rested her chin in her hands and watched. "What's this?" she asked, reaching for a piece of equipment.

"Careful," Sarek warned.

She continued to watch. They were so intent, reminding her of her Cub Scouts building their soapbox racers. "Seems like serious business," she said, becoming bored with it all.

"It is," Spock said. "If we are to tap the computers through the terminal in the professor's office, we will require sophisticated equipment."

"Oh." She repeated, and watched for several more minutes. Then she said, "Wouldn't it be easier if I just punched in Michael's code and printed the files?"

Four sets of hands stopped moving as four sets of eyes bored into her. Then, four voices began at once.

When they had quieted, Spock said, "I know that you have Michael's original computer work. What I shall be attempting is to obtain the work that was done since his…since that time."

"That's what I'm talking about. I can get you the latest printout through Michael's sign on. It's still in the computer."

"How do you know?" McCoy asked.

"Well, it was there just before I left -- three days or so before. I checked."

"Checked?" Sarek questioned.

"Yeah, I'd do that every so often -- punch in his code to see if it would still give me access." Her voice trailed off.

"Why?" This time it was Kirk who asked.

"I don't know." She fidgeted uncomfortable. "It's like some part of him was still alive. What difference does it make?" Her voice turned harsh, trying to disguise her uneasiness.

"Susan, will you explain the procedure to me?" Spock asked.

She pictured the process in her mind. "There's this keyboard, like a typewriter, and a readout screen -- it's called a CRT, and it's on if the computer is up, and there's a printer."

"It actually has a printer?" Spock interrupted.

"And required no disks or cassettes?" Sarek added.

"No, well, we could save it to a floppy disk, but you couldn't use that here. I thought a hard copy would be better." Sue emphasized. "This was a brand-new type of computer. It even told you what to do, like, 'PRESS SHIFT/STOP" for access, or something like that. When you did that, it asked for your sign on name and the name of your account. If you got that right, it would tell you to enter your security code."

"What do you mean, 'got it right'?" Kirk wanted to know.

"You only had three chances. If you don't enter the correct name and password by the third time, it would shut you off. It's for security. You have to know what you're doing -- can't just keep trying forever. Anyway, that gets you into the files, and there are more options. You could edit, or just inspect or print. So, I was thinking that I could print all the files."

"Susan, if what you say is possible, it will greatly simplify matters."

* * *

The days of waiting were behind her, the endless briefings over, the tearful goodbye's said. The nerve-racking trip to the Guardian completed. Finally, Sue and her fellow travelers were led through the maze of machines and their operators to the portal. Sue stood mesmerized as scenes from her past rolled by. It seemed so real; it was real. She could not help but be caught up in the actions that were so much a part of her life. There. That peace march down Green Street, she had been on the sidelines, by the bookstore. She rubbernecked to see if she could find herself in the crowd.

"Susan,' Spock's voice was insistent. "Susan, go now!"

Startled, she felt a hand on her back; then she was moving forward

* * *

Friday, June 25, 1976

Sue looked around in total confusion. This was her backyard, her tree, neglected flowerbeds, and sandbox, devoid of sand for many years and overgrows with weeds, and, as usual, the grass needed cutting. She stared at the half-painted garage; Michael had never finished the job. "I haven't been out here all summer," she told herself. "What the hell am I doing out here now?" Her bewildered mind gave her no answer, so she shrugged and walked up the steps to the back door. Feeling inside her purse, she muttered, "Where's the damned key?" She stopped and studied her handbag. It looked like hers, yet there was something different about it. It was too new looking, and her keys were not inside. "That's what I'm doing out here," she said, answering her earlier questions. "I must have left them in the car." She went back to the garage and checked the car's ignition. No keys. "Damn," she muttered again, searching the car seat and the ground as she retraced her steps. Frustrated at not finding the elusive keys, she stomped back to the garage and grabbed the extra house key from its "hiding place."

As she slipped the key into the lock, Herman bounded over the fence and raced up to push against her leg. "Where've you been, Mutt?" Sue demanded to know, trying to sound stern. "I thought we had this settled, about you going out of the yard."

Herman turned his big, soft eyes on her and drooled on her shoe.

"Been making the rounds of garbage cans again, haven't you, Hopeless? You'll end up at the pound, and I won't bail you out!" Both knew she didn't mean it. Sue opened the kitchen door and Herman pushed past her to his food dish.

Once inside, she headed straight for the refrigerator and grabbed a large bottle of Pepsi. The hiss the escaping gas made when she opened the bottle was such a pleasant sound she didn't even bother with a glass. She drank right from the bottle. "Good stuff." She took another long swig while still peering into the refrigerator and poking through an assortment of covered oleo containers, only one of which contained oleo. She found nothing to her liking. In fact, she wrinkled her nose at two diseased-looking items and disposed of them, containers and all. She glanced into the meat compartment and gazed with yearning at a package lying there. "Hot dogs," she said, caressing the package. She ran for the cupboard and was in luck. There on the shelf was a bag of potato chips.

Sue set a pan of water to boiling and spread out relish, catsup, mustard, and then chopped onion. Herman nudged at her leg and she filled his dish. "You really have me trained, don't you, Mutt?" Back to tending her own stomach, she searched out buns -- no luck. "Oh, well," she said, undeterred, "I'll use bread." She found the remains of a loaf in the corner of the bread drawer.

Three hot dogs with everything, one and a half large Pepsis, and several disgustingly satisfying belches later, Sue decided she was going to be sick. As she got up from the table, a wave of dizziness hit her and combined with the nausea. She staggered through the dining room, into the living room, and collapsed onto the couch

She woke to the doorbell's insistent ringing and Herman's barking. "Who the hell could that be?" She struggled to sit, then stand. The light-headedness and queasy stomach were still with her and had added a headache to the list. Herman raced past her and, coming off the carpet, hit the hardwood floor, lost his footing, and slid into the door with a thud. The doorbell rang again. "If Willie forgot is key, I'll kill him." Then she remembered that she had locked herself out earlier. "Well, maybe I won't."

Herman scrambled to his feet, pressed his nose against the doorjamb, and took up his barking. "Herman, shut the hell up!"

Peeking through the edge of the curtain, Sue eyes her visitors. Salesmen, she just knew it. Three nicely dressed men in suits and ties and carrying samples cases. On a college campus that meant only one of two things: encyclopedias or, worse yet, Jehovah's Witnesses.

"Damn!" she muttered as she grabbed Herman by the collar. "Sit! Stay!" she commanded and Herman did. Jerking open the inner door and speaking through the screen, she said, "Whatever you guys are selling, I'm not buying!" She slammed the door and headed back for the couch.

The doorbell started ringing again, and every ring vibrated Sue's aching head. She stomped back to the door and yanked it open. "I told you guys, I'm not buying!"

The three were staring at her and all spoke at once.

"We're not selling."

"What's going on here?"


"She doesn't remember!" someone said, and they were all struck silent.

The blue-eyed one recovered first. He moved closer. "Ma'am, we're not selling anything," he said with a distinct Southern drawl.

Sue just stared.

"Susan!" the tall, dark one repeated.

"You know my name?" She found that idea and him disturbing somehow. Keeping her eyes on the three in front of her, Sue reached out and locked the screen door, the click of the metal resounding in her ears. Though it made no sense, she felt more secure behind that locked door. Only then did she feel safe in asking, "How do you know my name?"

"Professor Humrickhaus," Blue-Eyes explained. "He was supposed to contact you about lodging. He said he would make arrangements for us to stay with you."

Damn Ulrich! Sue thought. "He had no right to do that. I don't rent rooms any more, not since -- well, I just don't rent rooms any more."

"He told us that, but said you would make an exception, it's just for a week."

"He said you would be willing to help us." It was the dark one; he stepped forward and was holding out an envelope. Sue's stare went from him to the envelope and back, and she shivered. Then, not knowing what else to do, she unlocked the door and slipped her hand out far enough to get hold of it.

It was from Ulrich -- a letter saying that he knew Sue would do him this favor and take care of these colleagues of his, and at the end, he thanked her. Damn him! Sue mentally repeated her curse.

She looked at the three who were watching her expectantly. "I really think you would be happier in a motel. My rooms haven't been opened in over a year; they'll be musty…"

"We have no transportation. The professor said you might act as our guide." The blond had gotten into the conversation.

"Shit," Sue said, barely under her breath. She was now mentally dismembering the professor.

"Just a week?" she asked, weakening.

"Yes, ma'am," the cute blond assured her. "No longer, we have to be somewhere else by then."

I'm gonna be sorry, I just know it. As these thoughts ran through her head, she pushed open the door and allowed her new renters to come in. She was sure there was a collective sigh of relief as they entered the house, but they were brought up short as Herman rose to his feet and began emitting low, guttural growls.

"Down, boy," Sue commanded as she took hold of his collar. She gazed at the three newcomers. "Best thing is to let him sniff you, then he'll settle down." Then Sue watched as Herman sniffed each one and they attempted to make friends with the dog. The animal took extra time in examining the dark one, and that confirmed Sue's suspicions that there was something different about him. When Herman was convinced of their good intentions, he trotted back into the living room.

"The rental rooms are on the second floor," Sue said, starting up the stairs. "I live on the first floor." She pointed through the glass doors. "That's off limits. Your kitchen and laundry room are in the basement. "I'll show you later." She reached the second floor and went about opening all the doors save one. "That room's rented."

She knew the answer to her question before asking, "I don't suppose you have linen ... "

"No, ma'am." Blue-Eyes was smiling at her.

Already sorry for agreeing to do this, and angry with herself for being so weak-willed, Sue stormed off to the linen closet. Her arms loaded with sheets and blankets, she motioned for the three of them to follow her.

"You want separate rooms, or what?" she asked as she dumped her armload onto a bed.

"Whatever you have will be satisfactory," was the reply.

"Well, there's this room with two beds and the one across the hall, and the attic had room for two, but it can get pretty hot up there at this time of year." She watched as the three conferred. Then Blue-Eyes and the blond settled with suitcases where they were standing and the dark one took the room across the hall. "That'll be $150 in advance," she said, and the cute blond produced the money.

After stuffing the money in her pocket, Sue distributed linen and opened windows. "Bathroom's at the end of the hall," she called out as she went to check the towel supply. "Damn Willie!" she thought, looking at the messy bathroom. She threw some cleanser into the tub, stool, and sink and began scrubbing.

As she cleaned, she could hear the three talking in hushed tones, but could only catch a word or phrase now and then. "Take it slow…don't jar…could be serious… Should have considered…" It sounded like the one with the Southern drawl. There was something strange about this whole thing. She went back to the linen closet for towels, found Ulrich's letter and reread it. Then she went into the bedroom and faced the three. "There are names here, but I'd like to know who's who."

Blondie smiled at her, but Sue thought it seemed forced -- as if he sensed her uneasiness and was trying to reassure her.

"Jim Kirk, Sue -- Mrs. Benelli -- and this is Leonard McCoy." He indicated Blue-Eyes.

"Ma'am," he said, his smile also seemed put on for her benefit.

She nodded, and then looked to the dark one, awaiting his name. He was staring at her, and Sue felt as if he was trying to look inside her.

"This is Spock -- David Spock," Blondie -- Jim Kirk -- was saying.

Sue knew she was staring, but could not see to stop; there was something different about this one. He was reaching out his hand toward her; she had to say something. "Any relation to the baby doctor?" she asked, knowing how stupid that sounded.

"No," he said, his hand still out.

"Well, I'm a…gonna let you get settled." She stumbled over the words as she backed away from him. "I'll be downstairs if you a…need anything, just knock -- loud. I have a splitting headache; think I'll lie down… " She said listening to herself ramble.

"Is there anything we can do?" the dark one -- David -- asked, taking a step toward her.

"No," she stammered, and took another step backward. "I just need to lie down." To maintain her balance, she had to hold onto the banister as she went down the stairs. After swallowing three aspirins and straightening her unmade bed, Sue crawled in, clothes and all. She lay very still trying to ease the pounding in her head.

Sue was watching a parade -- a parade of freaks, "people" marching before her in costume and make-up. But it wasn't costumes or make-up. They really did look like that, and they were after her. She was running, running…Sue was in E.R. working on a trauma; an arm and shoulder injury, but it was all wrong; the muscles and tendons, and the blood -- it was green. God, green!

She woke, panting, lying still to catch her breath, and promising herself she would never eat hot dogs again. She sat up slowly needing to go to the bathroom. She walked slowly noting that the headache, though not completely gone, had banked down to a manageable level. A cool washcloth on her face helped.

Sue heard a knocking, and then someone was calling for Mrs. Benelli. She remembered her new boarders and cursed herself again for letting them in. She walked through to the living room and found the three in the entry hall.

"Ms. Benelli," Kirk began.

"Call me Sue, please. Mrs. Benelli is my mother-in-law."

Just then Willie came bursting through the front door. "Mrs. B!" he exclaimed. "Mrs. B, you're alive!"

"Good observation skills, Willie," Sue said with extreme sarcasm. "I'm alive, now go up and sleep off whatever you've been smoking."

"No, Mrs. B, honest!" he pleaded. "I'm sober and no weed. It was just on the news down at Barney's. They said a plane disappeared over the Bermuda Triangle and your name was on the passenger list." Willie looked puzzled. "You never told me you were leaving."

"I wasn't leaving. I'm right here! Oh, God!" The implications of this announcement began to penetrate. "You sure it was my name?"

"Honest, turn on the news."

"It's too late, unless…you think they'll repeat it." Sue was making for the television set.

"The other channel. Their local news is a half hour later." Willie rushed past her and turned on the TV and set the channel. Sue glanced up to see that her boarders had followed them into the room. As they all listened to the political update, Sue watched as the three were again conferring in very low tones and the dark one was staring at the family picture on the wall over the sofa.

Then the announcement came and commanded their attention. "An Olympia Airline DC10 is reported missing over the infamous Bermuda Triangle. Ninety-two passengers and six crew are missing. One local person is on the passenger list. Mrs. Susan Benelli, of 1156 Illinois Street…"

"Shit!" Sue exclaimed, not believing what she was hearing. "They can't do that! They'll scare everybody. My family -- Jeff!" She ran for the kitchen phone. Lifting the received, she found the line dead. "Oh, no," she groaned, and then noticed that it was unplugged. Jamming the cord into the wall outlet, she punched a number.

"Hello, Katy, it's me, Sue. No, I'm not a voice from the dead," Sue said in response to her sister-in-law's reaction. "Katy, don't cry…Jeff? Yeah, I'm all right…Hell, I don't know…Yeah, I just noticed it was unplugged…This afternoon? I was here, asleep on the couch…You were? I don't know; out, I guess…Oh, Lord, what about Dad…You didn't... Not anyone? Thank God…The TV station…Good idea; I'll do it now. Okay, bye."

Sue clicked the receiver button, punched again. "Give me the number for Channel Four, please. This is an emergency…352-4000," she repeated. "Thanks." She punched numbers again. "Channel Four? This is Sue Benelli. There's been a mistake…No. Listen! I'm Sue Benelli, and I was not on any plane over the Bermuda…I don't care how; just do something." She drummed her fingers on the counter while she waited. "Yes, Mrs. Foster…Yes, I'm Sue Benelli…Confirm? I'm telling you that I'm…Oh. Well, how can we do that?…Interview? A roving reporter?…Isn't there any other way?…Oh, all right…Yes, I'll expect them."

Sue clicked the received and made another call. "Hi, Dad…Oh, not much. I just remembered that you're two hours behind us…Well, the news is on here and, well, there's been some stupid mistake and they gave my name as being a passenger on a missing airplane…Yeah, yeah…I don't know, but I didn't want you to hear it and freak…Yeah, Jeff suggested I do that, and I did…Fine, they're fine…Yeah, me too…The TV station is sending a reporter so they can make a retractions…Say hi to Marion. Yeah, talk to you soon."

Sue took a deep breath and punched yet another number. "Nona, this is Sue. I thought you might be watching TV…Good…Oh, they had some crazy mix-up and gave my name as a passenger on an airplane that's missing over the Bermuda Triangle …Yeah." Sue laughed nervously. "It's like in the National Enquirer -- little green men and all that garbage…Well, I just wanted to reassure you, in case you'd heard the news. I called and they are supposed to put a retraction on the air…Okay, later."

"Did they get a retraction on?" Sue asked, nudging Herman out of the way so she could flop into the chair.

"Yeah," Willie said, and they all listened as the weather lady did her thing on the screen, the awkwardness in the room grew.

"Thank God for that," Sue sighed. "Oh, Willie, we're got new boarders, just for a week. Now let me see if I can remember names." She looked at the blond. "Jim Turk, isn't it?"

"Kirk, Jim Kirk," he corrected as he and Willie shook hands.

"Leonard Mc-something," Sue said watching Blue-Eyes.

"McCoy," he finished and took Willie's hand.

"And this is…David, no that's not right. Sorry, it's on the tip of my tongue…"

"Spock," he supplied, and he too shook hands with Willie.

"Good to have you aboard," Willie said, and with the introductions finished, he started for the door. "After this, I gotta have a beer. Anyone else?" he called over his shoulder."

"Me," said Sue.

"Yes," Kirk called.

"If you have enough," McCoy put it.

"I'll bring the whole case." Willie called from the basement steps.

The phone rang again, and Sue went to answer it. "Hello…Millie?…Yeah… crazy isn't it? Fine. I'm safe at home. Thanks for you concern…Sorry, but I've got people here…gotta go…Ciao."

Sue hung up the receiver and it rang again. "Hey," she said into the mouthpiece. "Oh, hi, Joe." She made a face at the receiver. "No need; I'm just fine…Who knows? Just some stupid mistake…Get together? Yeah, sure; sometime." Not soon, she thought to herself. "Ciao."

She hung up the phone and waited. As she knew it would, it rang again. "Damn!…Oh, no, not you, Aunt Lou. I meant the phone. It's been ringing off the hook…I'm sorry you were frightened…Yeah, yeah…Everyone makes mistakes, Aunt Lou…No, I don't think it was deliberate…Yes, well, you can relax now."

Slumping against the wall, Sue hung up the receiver. The phone rang again. "Hell with it!" she said and walked away. Willie handed her a beer just as the doorbell rang.

"Shit! Now what?" Sue exclaimed and that realized it was probably the television people. "Somebody get that damn phone." She opened the door to two men, one with a large camera on his shoulder. "Come in," She pushed open the door.

As one man began asking questions, the other set up his camera. Sue looked around the empty living room. "Where'd everybody go? She called.

"We're hiding in here," Willie called from the kitchen.

"Cowards," she called back.

"No, we just didn't want to intrude on your 15 minutes of fame."

"Thanks a lot."

"Mrs. Benelli," the camera-less man said, "would you have some identification papers -- driver's license, maybe?"

"How about these?" Sue went to the desk and pulled out some bills with her name and address on them and the business checkbook.

"That'll be fine, and Chuck, get a shot of that." He pointed to the family portrait on the wall.

The room was flooded with light so strong it temporarily blinded Sue. She was nervous under the brightness of the lights and knew she was squinting at the camera. It also dawned on her that she hadn't even bothered to comb her hair and cringed at the image she must be presenting. But wanting this over, she kept her answers short and to the point. In the kitchen, the phone continued to ring and be answered. It was obvious that the reporter wanted Sue to discuss the incident, and when she wouldn't cooperate, he ended the interview.

She showed them out and joined the group in the kitchen just as Willie answered the phone again. As he talked, he asked Sue, via sign language, if she wanted to talk to the party. Sue shook her head and grabbed her beer. When he hung up, he said, "This is gonna keep up all night."

"You're right. Let's unplug the damned thing and go sit on the porch."

Everyone agreed, and they gathered up the beer case and started for the porch. The phone rang again. "Shit! Willie, I though you unplugged that."

"I thought you would."

"Well, someone get it this one last time."

Sue walked back into the kitchen to listen as David conversed with the party. After several statements, he covered the mouthpiece with his hand.

"This is a reporter from Channel 13. He would like an interview. What do you wish me to say?"

"Tell him to go suck an egg," she said and left the room.

Sue and Willie sat on the porch swing while McCoy and Spock took lawn chairs and Kirk perched on the porch railing. The talk went from Sue's sudden death and her bewilderment as to how such a mix-up could have occurred to the topic of Willie's PhD. After they all reached into the case for a second time, Sue noticed that the dark-one didn't join them.

"Not a beer drinker, are you?" Not waiting for an answer Sue went into the kitchen and returned with a large glass of lemonade. "Here you go, David," she said very much aware of his eyes on her. She shook her head, "Don't know why but you just don't seem like a David."

"You're right," Kirk put in. "We never call him that. Don't know why, but for some reason we seem to go by last names. Kirk, McCoy and Spock."

"Yeah, that seems to fit better," she said moving back to her place on the swing. As the conversation resumed, she tried to analyze her conflicting emotions for the dark one -- that was how her mind had categorized him from the instant she had laid eyes on him: dark, mysterious, different, and just a little frightening. He had called her Susan when he'd accepted the lemonade and earlier; only her mother had ever called her Susan. And why did he keep looking at her as if he expected some response and was confused or hurt by her lack? Finding the whole day too much to cope with, Sue abandoned herself to some serious beer drinking.

Just at dusk, a hot-air balloon came into view over the trees. "Look," Kirk pointed from his perch on the railing, and they all did. They watched as it hung there against the pale background of the evening sky -- a delicate looking thing, reminding Sue of a bright red Christmas ornament. They heard the hiss of the jet heater, and slowly the ornament began to rise. Then, catching an unseen current, it drifted north and out of sight. The watchers crooked their necks for one last look.

"It was shaped like a tomato!" Kirk said in amazement.

"The Flying Tomato," Willie said. "That makes me hungry. Let's order pizza."

After explaining that the "Flying Tomato" was owned by the operators of a pizza place and served as an advertisement as well as enjoyment to the owners, the group agreed on two large pies with everything but anchovies. Willie got up to make the call.

"Wait a minute, Willie." Sue said. "Make half of one of them meatless. David -- Spock's a vegetarian." She stopped the swing. "How did I know that?" She seemed about to panic as she stared at the three, her eyes settling on Spock. "How the hell would I know that?"

"I believe I mentioned it earlier, when we were upstairs," Spock supplied.

"Oh, good." She sat back and pressed her fingers to her temples. "This day has been too much."

* * *

"Hey, Daffy," Willie called as a large yellow cat stretched her way up the steps.

"Well, been asleep under the porch, have you?" Sue added.

Daffodil ignored them all and began inspecting the sticky pizza boxes. After picking through the remains and eating the few tidbits she found to her liking, she jumped onto Spock's lap and began washing herself.

Sue was surprised when he didn't come straight up out of his chair. "If you'd like," she volunteered, "I can take her." Sue knew Daffodil's habit of lighting on people who disliked cats.

"Her actions do not disturb me," he said scratching Daffy behind the ears.

"Okay," Sue shrugged, thinking he couldn't be all bad if he liked cats.

At Sue's suggestion, Willie got his guitar and sometime after her evening shift at the cheese factory, Gina, Willie's girlfriend came by. The two harmonized well together.

It was long after midnight when Sue stood up. "Sorry, folks, but this headache just won't give up. "I'll going to put it to bed. Last one in locks the front door." With that she called to Herman and went into the house.

* * *

Saturday, June 26, 1976

Sue awoke with her headache still pounding and tried to focus her eyes on the bedside clock. Four a.m. She sighed and stumbled to the bathroom. There she went to her private pharmacy of drugs that were physician give-aways. Poking through the pile she found the pain pills she wanted and swallowed two. After reliving her bladder, she staggered back to bed.

The next time she looked at the clock it read 1:00 and the sun was pouring in the windows. I've slept past noon, she realized. I never sleep that long. She hauled herself out of bed and to the bathroom. Her headache was much better and her stomach felt settled, but she needed a shower. Hair and body washed, Sue slipped on a robe, wrapped her hair in a towel and shoved her hairbrush in her pocket. Then she went to the kitchen to get something for her parched throat.

A large glass of orange juice in hand, she went to her favorite place, the front porch swing. Setting her OJ on the railing she began brushing and fluffing her hair. Movement inside the house startled her and then she remembered her three boarders. "Who's there?" she called just as Spock came through the door.

"Oh, hi," she said. "Hope the room and bed was okay." Sue felt very awkward and could think of nothing else to say.

"They serve their purpose quite well," was his response as he sat in the chair farthest from the swing.

"Been reading?" she asked noticing the book in his hand. She also noticed that he had shed the suit for jeans and a polo shirt and did look a little less intimidating.

"Yes, actually, I found this book in my room. There is quite a collection of reading material in several languages."

"Yeah, I should clean them out, but I just haven't gotten up to energy to tackle that project. Every time a student graduates they seem to leave stuff behind."

"But I find it curious that there are so many different languages."

"That's because most of the students who lived here were foreign. If you check in the basement kitchen, there's a picture wall of all of them. At last count there was sixteen different countries represented." Sue continued to watch him and decided that now, in the light of day, sitting here talking, he didn't seem quite so scary. "Where are the other two?" she asked.

"Willie offered to take them on a tour of the city. They should be returning any time now."

"Why didn't you go with them?"

"I had other work to do," he said and for some reason Sue didn't quite believe that was the truth.

"Help yourself to some lemonade?" she asked as she sipped her juice only to find him staring at her. "What?"

"I do no wish to invade your privacy. Yesterday you declared that space off limits."

"Invade, don't be silly. I was just mad…" she sighed. "I was just upset with Ulrich for not telling me you were coming. But it's just for a week, so no big deal. Besides I'm used to a house full of people. Students were always running in and out and the kids and their friends." Sue felt her throat constrict and went quiet.

After several seconds of silence Spock said, "I don't suppose Ulrich mentioned that I might have a look at Michael's work?"

"No, he didn't say a thing. But, that's not surprising. He can be so brilliant about his work, but so absent minded about every day matters."

Willie's old beater rumbled down the street and came to a stop in front of the house. McCoy and Kirk climbed out and came up the steps as Willie pealed rubber. "Late for work," Sue said shaking her head. "So how was your tour?"

"Interesting," Kirk said, "to coin a phrase. But, I'm parched." He broke open the six-pack he was carrying and handed McCoy a beer. "And what have you to been up to?" he asked.

"Not much," Sue replied. "I got up very late and haven't done a thing since." Another car pulled up to the curb and a female got out.

"Hey, Maddy," Sue called, "What's happening?"

"Hey, yourself. What'ya mean, what's happening? Why aren't you ready? And introduce me to these nice gentlemen," she added as she reached the porch.

She shook her head. "Maddy, this is Kirk, McCoy, and Spock," She indicated the three in turn. "Colleagues of Ulrich's. This is my friend Madeline."

With the introductions out of the way, Maddy turned back to Sue. "Come on, girl. John will skin us if we're late today."

"Late for what?"

Madeline stared in disbelief. "Have you lost your mind, or what? Don't you remember what today is?"

"Ooooh myyyyy God!" Sue exclaimed. "The concert! Zeppelin's in town!"

"No kidding, now get going…"

"Something wrong?" Kirk asked.

"Oh, no!" Sue exclaimed, "everything it A-OK. Except my hair's not dry." Sue brushed furiously, "And I've gotta work."

"Work?" McCoy questioned.

"Yup." Sue came up off the swing and was dancing in circles. "Zeppelin's -- at -- the -- hall -- and -- we -- get -- to -- work -- it. Maddy and I work all the events there," she added in response to their confused looks. "She's security and I'm in first aid. And tonight is one of the paybacks for all the boring shows we suffer through. " Her body was moving to the beat of some imagined music.

"You can't go," Kirk said and Sue stopped dead in her tracks.

She turned back to face him. "Excuse me?" Sue said incredulously, "Can't go! That almost sounded like an order." Maddy eyes were as big as saucers.

"I mean," Kirk backtracked, "You weren't feeling well earlier and with your headache..."

Sue's face broke in a wide smile. "Ain't no headache been born that can't be cured by the sight of Robert Plant in tight pants." With that she was running through the house to her bedroom. She threw on underclothes, grabbed her black jeans from the drawer and pulled them up. "Wow!" she said out loud when she was able to zip them up without lying on the bed and sucking in her stomach. She pulled on her orange ILLINI tee shirt and slipped a hair band over her wrist and shoved her comb into her pocket. She had to crawl around on the floor to locate her black shoes and socks, and then ran, thinking she would put them on in the car. Hope Maddy's got some lipstick, she thought, knowing there was no use in putting on make-up. It would be sliding off her face within minutes of the start of the concert.

Sue got back to the porch to find Maddy and Kirk in deep conversation. "He wants to go," Maddy said to Sue, obviously in favor of the idea.

"Go? Maddy, you know there's not a ticket to be had for any amount of money."

"I know that, but we could, you know…" Maddy shrugged and gave Sue a knowing look.

"Sneak him in; you know how John feels about that."

"Yeah, but the others do it all the time and we never do." She smiled at Kirk, "Just this once…"

"I don't know…" Sue said, watching Maddy and shaking her head. "It could be trouble…You know CPR?" she asked Kirk on a whim. When he nodded, she continued. "Maybe we could tell John he's in EMT training and is volunteering his time tonight."

"That'll work," Maddy squealed and smiled at Kirk who smiled back.

Sue just shook her head. "Let's go." She took the steps two at a time and got into the back seat, knowing Maddy would prefer Kirk next to her. She watched from the back seat as Kirk conferred with the other two and then followed Maddy to the car.

* * *

Maddy's car came to a stop in front of Sue's house with two more directly behind it and one across the street. All piled out and made for the porch where Sue noticed Spock and McCoy still sitting where they'd left them almost eight hours ago. Kirk was at her heels. "Concert was great," he said, "and now we're having a party. Sue invited the whole security crew."

"Party?" McCoy questioned, "What do we do now?"

"Pay Tony there (a young man carrying a case of beer nodded) $2 each for the beer." Sue was on her way to the kitchen with her arms full of grocery bags. People from the other cars were coming up the steps and moving into the house. "Someone put on the music," Sue yelled as she emptied her bags and she and Maddy set out bowls of potato chips and pretzels. Someone did and loud music blared from the stereo. More cars pulled up and their occupants filled the rooms. Sue turned to Maddy, "introduce my guests, will you?" She smiled at her friend. "I think you can handle that job."

"I'll manage," Maddy said with a haughty flip of her head and went off to fight her way through the crowd already dancing in the dining and living rooms.

Sue leaned against her kitchen counter pressing a chilled beer bottle against her forehead. This damn headache just would not give up.

"What's with those three?" Tony asked, nodding his head toward the dining room.

Sue laughed. "Colleagues of Ulrich's," she said. "Just here for a week, some special project."

"Colleagues of Ulrich's?" he questioned. "Sue, they're military."

"They are not."

"Oh, yeah, I put my time in and I know military when I see it. Special project, hey? The professor working on something for the government?"

Sue shrugged as Tony shook his head. "How'd you get stuck?"

"Just lucky I guess. They're not so bad," she said as he took the beer from her hand, set it on the counter and pulled her into his arms.

"Come on, let's dance." And dance she did for the next two hours, like she hadn't danced in years.

Sue was just coming back into the living room after a potty break when she saw Matthew come through the front door. He made straight for her. "I want to talk to you. You had me scared half to death, threatening to leave town and…"

"Well," she interrupted, "I don't want to talk to you."


She threw up her hands. "Help! Police." The police officers in the group, though technically off duty, came to stand behind her as everyone went deadly quiet and someone scratched the needle off the record.

"Go away," Sue said, "This is my party and you're not invited."

"You're drunk."

Sue smiled at him. "Not yet, but soon, real soon."

With the cops at her back Sue said, "He is not invited and is trespassing. Please remove him."

"Come on, mister," the female officer said, "you don't want this kind of trouble."

Matthew held up his hands and backed away. "You're right, I don't. I'm going," he said to the officers then to Sue, "I'll talk to you tomorrow when you're sober. And plug in the phone!" He stomped out of the house and the music began again as the party continued.

It was a long time later when Sue went to the turntable and took off the record stack. Then she slipped a cassette into the tape player and a melancholy tune filled the room. She went to stand before Spock. "Dance with your hostess," she said holding out her arms, "last chance."

He stared at her. "I do not…"

"Sure you do. It's only polite, and I just know your mama raised a polite boy." With a slight shake of his head he stood and took her in his arms and they moved with the music.

"It is now 3:30 a.m. Will this party last much longer?"

"No, like I said, this is the last dance. This song is my signal. When they hear this tape they all know it's time to clear out. I had an uncle who used to say; I'm going to bed now, so you people can go home. This is my way of saying, the party's over."

"Did you and your husb… Micha… did you have these parties often?"

"Hell no, well not in the last several years anyway. When we were in our early twenties we did, then we had kids in school and jobs and life got in the way. Besides I'm getting too old for this shit." She put her hand to her forehead and pressed. "Do you know how sorry I am gonna be in the morning?"

"Yes, I believe I do."

They continued dancing, slowly moving to the music. "Why not approach Jim or Leonard to dance with you?"

"Just a feeling I had. Know you're safe," she said into his chest. "I'm coming down off one hell of a high." She sniffled, "and it ain't gonna be a soft landing. Somehow," she said looking up at him, "I just know you can handle it." She laid her head on his chest again.

"What are you feeling tonight? You seem very…animated."

"I was, wasn't I? Felt really alive. Like I just come awake from hibernation or something. I don't know how to describe it. All my senses -- everything seemed larger than life. II wwanted food, just the smell of meat, those hot dogs, and, God, I wanted a steak, rare, very rare, and the beer tasted so good. And sounds, I heard a siren earlier today and I had to actually stop and listen to it. The music tonight really fired me up."

She shrugged. "I don't know why, but I just yelled my head off, like I hadn't yelled in years."

They danced and after some time Spock realized that the same song was playing over and over. Susan began to sing along with the music. Red-red wine, go to my head, red-red wine, make me forget. Memories won't go. I had hoped with time thoughts of you would leave my head, but now I know only one thing makes me forget. Red-red wine. Stay close to me, don't let me be alone, the words went on and Spock felt Susan pull him closer.

With Susan clinging to him as if for her life, they continued to dance and her balance continued to deteriorate as she stumbled. She finally gave up and swayed into him for support. Spock was forced to lean into the music since he was unable to move.

Spock noticed that the party was quieting down. Though some people were still dancing, others were gathering empty bottles and trash for proper disposal.

He continued moving in time with the music as Susan clung to him and that same song continued to play. Against his chest Susan had begun to cry softly and Spock could do nothing but hold her.

She nodded and waved as people called their thanks and goodbyes to her, but stayed in his arms long after the last person had gone and the tape had clicked off. She was still moving with remembered rhythm.

Then when the house was very quiet, she pulled free of him and went to the closet where she took out a leather jacket. She slipped into it although it was several sizes too large. Walking as if in a trance, she went out the back door, her three houseguests following at a discreet distance. They watched her go into the garage and the oversized nightlight perched high on a nearby pole gave enough illumination to see through the open door. Pulling back the cover she swung her leg over the Harley parked there and began to cry harder. Laying her head on the handlebars she cried, heavy sobs racking her whole body.

"Best to let her get this out," Bones said, and he and Jim went back to the house while Spock kept silent vigil in the shadows.

* * *

Sunday, June 27, 1976

The phone rang and after realizing the wishing would not make it stop, Sue got out of bed to go answer it. "Hey, oh, hi, Jeff…Do I? Well, I feel terrible…Too much beer… I was celebrating. My un-death, I guess. Yeah, why not? Willie and my new boarders…I know, I know…Three…just for a week…A favor to Ulrich….Colleagues, some special project…Wedding? Oh, hell, I forgot…Yeah, I guess I better…What time? Pick me up, will you? Yeah. See you then."

Sue made coffee and with her first cup, she took four aspirins. As she sat sipping her second cup, she heard footsteps on the stairs. "Come in," she said in response to the knock, and her three boarders appeared in her kitchen doorway. "Coffee." She pointed and the two beer drinkers headed for it like homing pigeons. She looked at Spock and again found him studying her. "There's juice in the refrigerator and a glass in that cupboard," she said pointing and he helped himself.

"Is there a problem?" Spock asked.

"Not really, my cousin is getting married this afternoon. I guess I better go to keep my father happy and peace in the family. My brother and his wife Katy are going to pick me up at three o'clock." She squinted at the clock on the wall. "It's noon, already, what are you three up to?"

"Lunch," Kirk said. "Yesterday Willie showed us several places we can walk to. Would you care to join us?"

"No, better not. I better get ready for that wedding." The sound of someone coming up the back stairs caught their attention and a young man entered without knocking. "Hey, Vic, what did'ja bring me?" she asked referring to the bags he carried.

"Sweet corn, lettuce, green beans, and," he set the bags on the counter and waved a bright red globe at her, "the first tomatoes of the season."

"Already? Pop and his cold frame, that's marvelous," she said, getting out of her seat to inspect the goodies he had brought. "Vic, meet some colleagues of Ulrich's. They're here for a week on some project or something…" She had her nose in the bags, pulling out the vegetables and introducing her guests at the same time. "That's Jim," she jerked her head in his direction, "and McCoy," she pointed with a large tomato, then smelled it. "Oh, can't wait to dig into this…that's Spock," she gestured. "Grilled cheese sandwiches with fresh tomatoes." She was looking at Spock. "You're gonna think you died and went to heaven."

"Parade watching still on for here on the Fourth?"

She turned her attention to her former brother-in-law. "Sure, why wouldn't it be?" Sue's look turned serious. "Vic, you in a hurry, or what?"

"No, I got a few minutes, why?"

"Want to talk to you about something." She smiled up at him. "You still want the Hog?"

His eyes flew open wide as his face broke into huge smile. "You kidding me?" he asked. "Hell, yes, I want it." His tone changed. "Sooz, you sure? I mean…"

"Yeah, Vic, I'm sure. Said goodbye to it last night. It needs to be ridden, not just sitting here rusting."

"Sooz, let me buy it…."

"Buy!" she said sternly, "You think I'd sell Michael's Harley? Come on. Who else should have it but his baby brother." She left the room to return with a small metal box, then went to the desk in the dining room. Returning with a key she opened the box and shuffled through papers. Bringing one out she grabbed a pen from a cup on the counter and signed. "Title," she said handing it to Vic. "Now, raise your right hand." Vic gave her a questioning look as he glanced uneasily at the others in the room, but did as she asked. "Now, swear on Michael's grave that you will never ride without a helmet! I mean it, Vic…"

"I swear. Sooz, I swear I won't ride without a helmet and leather. Geez, I'm not stupid."

"Leather's in the closet," she motioned and Vic went to get it. He walked back in wearing Michael's jacket, and carrying the chaps and helmet. "Sooz, you sure about this?"

"Yeah, I'm real sure. Time I moved on, isn't that what everyone's been telling me? As soon as you change the title and get license and insurance, she's yours." She flipped him the key she had taken from a hook by the back door.

"Can't believe it," he said. "Gotta see her." With that he was out the door with Sue behind him. "Come on," she called to her guests, "We should all witness the worshipping ceremony."

Sue leaned against the garage wall as Vic rolled the machine out onto the driveway. He and Kirk then proceeded to go over it with a fine tooth comb. Then Vic straddled her and turned the key and she roared to life and Sue smiled.

"So," McCoy said, coming to stand next to her. "Michael was a motorcycle rider. Somehow it doesn't match with the computer expert."

"Oh, he had a wild side, did my Michael. When the stress got to be too much with too many deadlines and too little money and time, he would roar out of this driveway and burn rubber for three or four hours and come back a new man."

"And you're ready to part with his bike? That's what last night was all about, wasn't it?"

"Yeah, " She eyed him cautiously. "Not sure my mother-in-law will thank me, though." She gave him a sideway glance. "Sorry I inflicted all that on you last night. Just couldn't seem to help it, kind of embarrassing…I know he," she indicated Spock who was watching the proceedings from the back steps, "was outside, kind of standing guard over me. I thought that was kind of funny."

"He was concerned about you, we all were."

"Well, I guess I should thank him." Sue walked over to where Spock was standing and sat on the top step. She watched as McCoy moved to the bike and joined in that conversation. "Wanted to apologize," she said, not looking up at him. "Wasn't a pleasant thing to do to guests. You should have taken my advice and stayed at a motel. Wouldn't have to put up with…this crazy lady." Then she did look up at him. "Thanks for keeping watch, but I wasn't going to do anything stupid." With that she got up and went into the house leaving the screen door banging.

Even though the temperature was in the 80's, Sue decided that she wanted to soak in the bathtub. She often used it as therapy for depression, a tired or sick body, hangover, or just as a cure for self-pity. Just now she was feeling a combination of all these symptoms. She filled the tub to the overflow valve, added scented oil, submerged her body to her chin and closed her eyes.

Growing sleepy, she forced herself to move. She took the magnifying hand mirror and tweezers from the corner shelf and began plucking stray eyebrows. With the errant hairs gone, she studied her face. She looked different to herself, yet could not identify a specific difference. She stared at her reflection, for a long time. A stranger stared back. How little we really look at ourselves, she thought. This woman gazing back at her was not at all how she pictured herself.

When the water grew tepid, she drained the tub and showered to shampoo her hair and rinse off the oil. Wrapped in a beach towel, she reached for the aspirins and stopped. She went back to her stash and grabbed two strong pain pills. She toweled her hair and went to the dresser to plug in her hot curlers. She stared at the empty clean space in the dust on the dresser top. Now where in the hell could they be, she asked herself, knowing she never moved them. There were other items missing too, she noticed as she began pushing things among the clutter: makeup, her eyeliner, mascara, and perfume -- her favorite bottle was gone. "What else?" she wondered, pulling open a drawer. A sick feeling engulfed her as she stared at the large vacancy in her underwear drawer. "Ohmygod!" Shaking, she ran from the room.

In the living room she encountered Jim. "Willie said you might have a city …Sue?"

She opened her mouth, but nothing came out.

Taking her by the hand, Jim led her to the sofa. "Sue, what happened?"

"I think," she gulped air, "I've been robbed -- oh God, I think some pervert's been in my bedroom."

"Pervert?" Kirk repeated.

"There are several things missing -- personal things."

"Calm down, now. Maybe you just misplaced them."

"A whole drawer full of underwear?"

His expression changed. "What else?"

"Makeup, perfume, my curlers, for the god's sake!"

"Anything else seem out of place?"

"I don't know. That's as far as I looked."

"Maybe we'd better have a look." His voice carried a certain sense of confidence.

"You go first."

"Come on." His smile made her feel safe, but she stayed behind him all the way. They both stared down in the underwear drawer. "It's not completely empty," he said. "What about the closet?"

Sue edged the door open with one finger. When nothing jumped out at her, she relaxed and looked through her clothes. "My new dress -- the one I was going to wear -- it's ggonne. And my blue one, shoes, my sandals, slacks -- blue, beige, black, and white." She inventoried, scooting empty hangers along the rod. "All my best clothes!" she wailed and began shaking. "Someone's been in here."

"Now, wait a minute," Jim said. "How would anyone know what were your best things?" He paused. "Sue, think about it. These are all the things you would take if you were going on a trip."

She sank to the bed in confusion. "A trip? I wasn't going on any trip."

"For the holiday, perhaps."

"Holiday? Oh, you mean the Fourth. No, I always spend the Fourth with my in-laws."

"That man who showed up at the party last night, he mentioned something about you leaving town."

"He did?" Sue rubbed her now pounding head. "Now, I remember. He said that I threatened to leave town. We talked on the phone and he kept saying he was going to divorce…" Jumping up, she went to what had been Michael's side of their closet. "My big suitcase is missing, and my overnighter. But I don't remember." She was trembling. "That reporter on the TV -- do you suppose? My God, I must be having some sort of breakdown…"

"Wait a minute," Jim said, moving closer to lay a hand on her shoulder. "You're jumping to conclusions."

"What else can I think?"

"Maybe you've been under stress lately…"

"I been upset about Matt, but…"

"It'll come back to you. Just relax and give it time." He paused. "Maybe a little rest would be in order."

"Can't. Have a wedding to go to, remember."

"But, if you don't feel up to it…"

"I'm all right -- except for my damn head." She rubbed her temples.

Kirk sat down next to her. "If you don't feel up to it, you shouldn't go out."

"Have to. If I don't show the family will get all hyper and come over here and start fussing. They've been watching me like a hawk ever since…"

"Even since your husband and children were killed?"

She looked up at him. "Ulrich tell you about the accident?"

He nodded.

"They wouldn't let me see them, did you know that? That was the worst part." Tears welled up in her eyes. "The car burned and they wouldn't let me see them -- the camp stove fuel…" She wiped her face with her fingertips. "Well, I better get dressed, Jeff will be here soon."

"Maybe you'd be better off with a little sleep. You could call your brother and explain. I'm sure he'll understand." Jim kept his tone casual.

"You don't know my family. I'd rather put in an appearance, stay for a little while and duck out."

"If you think that's best." Jim stood. "McCoy and I will be gone…"

"Oh," Sue remembered, "You need car keys and a map. At least, I didn't forget that. There may be hope for me."

"I'm not the least bit worried." He flashed that killer smile again.

Sue went to the kitchen door and lifted a ring of keys off the nail, then to the desk in the dining room. "Make sure you lock the door," she said handing him the city map.

"Spock will be here. He has plans to work on those papers of Michael's if you can find them."

"Oh, yeah. The ones we talked about earlier. I remember that, too."

"Come on, Sue, there's nothing wrong with you."

* * *

Using her old curling iron, Sue did her hair, trying to recall -- to picture herself getting down her suitcase and packing for a trip. Nothing. Still frustrated at losing her best dress, the only long one she owned, she picked through the closet. She pulled out her black, sleeveless shirtwaist and decided that for a late afternoon wedding it wouldn't be too bad. Picking through her jewelry box, she untangled a silver necklace and, to her surprise, found both earrings. She brushed out her hair and teased it some. Using what she could find on her dresser -- foundation, almost dried out, old masscaara, and eyeliner -- she did her face. "Damn," she muttered, as she used her second favorite perfume and lipstick and considered herself fortunate to find a pair of pantyhose without runs, and her black heels.

In the foyer she found Spock sitting on the steps with Daffodil on his lap.

"Oh, you wanted Michael's papers."

"Yes, if you have no objections."

"No, I don't mind. Good they get some use, but they're on the closet shelf. I'll let you reach them."

Gently he set Daffodil on the step and followed her through the house to a closet in the hallway that connected the bedrooms.

"Up there," she pointed, and he brought down the boxes.

Sue gave her hair a final check in the hall mirror and caught him watching her.

"Is my slip showing?"

"No. No, you look -- most attractive."

"Thank you," she said, wondering why he sounded surprised by that fact. "Are those what you wanted?"

"Wanted?" He was still staring at her.

"Michael's papers."

His eyes went from her to the box in his hands and then back to her.


He looked back at the box, opened it, and leafed through the contents. "Yes," he finally said. "This is the material I was interested in. Thank you."

His eyes darted to the corner of the hall, and hers followed. There was a movement; something ran into Nicole's bedroom and under the dresser.

"What was that?"'

"A four legged rodent, I believe."

"Oh, shit! Napoleon -- or Josephine. Gerbils," she said in response to his expression. "My daughter's pets. We have to catch them before Daffy does." Sue went to the edge of the dresser and got down on all fours. "Damn," she kept repeating. "I don't have time for this."

Spock was next to her and Napoleon -- or Josephine -- scurried past. Spock reached out with lightening speed and caught the animal.

"Wow, you're quick." She said staring at him. "He goes in here." As expected, she found the screen on top of the glass aquarium that served as a cage was ajar. "Damn Willie. He feeds them for me, but always forgets to put the rock back on the screen." Spock placed the runaway in its cage and secured the screen and Sue noticed him surveying the room; walls covered with a rock stars and animal posters, toy box overflowing with Barbie dolls, mostly neglected that last year, a bed full of stuffed animals, still necessary for secure sleep, dresser top cluttered with pictures of outings with friends, jewelry, fingernail polish, all the requirements for a typical nine year old girl.

"She just finished third grade," Sue said, then sucked in a big breath. "And next week I start clearing out."

"What will you do?"

Sue shrugged. "Don't laugh," She said, "But I'm thinking of joining the Peace Corp. There are places all over this planet that need nurses. Might even take some classes and get certified in Peds." She shook her head. "Had this dream, God, the dreams I've been having…Anyway, there were these kids, and they needed me. Funny thing was though, they weren't sick…and there was all this sand." She shook her head. "Do you know how much I hate sand?" Deciding she was talking too much, Sue abruptly changed the subject. "We better find the other gerbil." They began poking under the bed and behind the dresser and toy box when a horn blared from outside.

"That'll be my brother," Sue said, exasperated.

"You go," Spock encouraged. "I shall find the missing rodent and return it to safety."

"If you're sure?" When he nodded she straightened and smoothed her dress one last time.

"Susan," he said as she left the room, "You look -- very nice."

* * *

Her head pounding, Sue slowly climbed out of her brother's car. He had come around to the passenger side and was helping her. "Take yourself to bed, sis, I'll check on you tomorrow."

"Okay," she said, trying not to move her head. "Thanks for leaving the reception to bring me home -- and thank Katy." Jeff helped her up the steps and pushed open the front door as Sue sagged against the doorjamb.

"Want me to stay?" he asked with concern.

"No, you go back to Katy."

He have her a quick hug. "I do want to say one thing. Katy noticed that you took off your wedding ring. We're both taking that as a sign that you're ready to get on with your life, and we approve." With that he turned and crossed the porch, taking the steps in one leap.

"Ring?" Sue followed him out the door and across the porch and slumped against the post to stop the pounding in her head. "Where's my ring?" The tears started, and slowly she sank to the top step. "I am having a breakdown."

"Susan? Susan?"

Recognizing Spock's voice, and the concern, she straightened and wiped her eyes. She heard the door open and close and then he was sitting next to her. "Susan, are you ill?"

"Yes, I'm cracking up. Look? Look at this!" She shoved her left hand at him. "My ring is gone -- and I don't know how. It couldn't come off, but it did! God, my head…" She tried to get up. He took her arm, and she was grateful for the help leaning on him all the way to the bedroom. Shuffling through her pill supply she handed him a container. He opened it and gave her two.

"Three," she demanded, "I need three."

He gave her another and filled a glass with water. Then he led her to the bed. As she lay down and kicked off her shoes, he pulled the sheet up over her. "Stay quiet and allow the medication to do its work."

"Thanks," she managed to say, and after raising the window slightly, Sue heard his footsteps as he left the room and went through the kitchen.

* * *

Sue lay in the dark, wishing life would go away. The clock glowed 9:04 p.m. She stayed quiet for a while, groggy from the medicine, but managed to sip water from the glass on the bedside table. Her mouth felt like she had swallowed her pillow. Inching to a sitting position she found that the severe pounding was gone, but not the ache. "Am I ever going to get rid of this headache?" she wondered. Without turning on any lights, she stripped off her dress, slip, pantyhose. After a trip to the bathroom she pulled on cutoffs and a tee shirt.

She headed for the kitchen and some Pepsi and poured some into a mug. It was a habit she had begun when the children were young; she told them it was coffee and they were too young for coffee. They hadn't believed her. Taking the full mug with her, she made her dark way to the front door. "Who's there?" she called, hearing the squeak of the swing chain. Slowly she pushed open the door. "Willie, that you?"

"No. It is ... "

"Oh, it's you." She went to join Spock on the swing. Again Daffodil was on his lap. "She sure has taken to you."

"Is that unusual?"

"No, I guess not. She always did go for the men -- didn't you, Hussy?" Sue reached out and scratched the animal's underside. She had nothing else to say for several minutes, but kept glancing up and down the street.

"I had hoped you might sleep through the night."

"No such luck." She got up and paced the length of the porch.

"There is a problem?"

"Yeah, the phone woke me. It was Matthew. He's been drinking and he's coming over. I don't want to be here. Go for a walk with me, will you?"

"Why not stay and deal with him?"

"He's been drinking and you can't deal with a drunk. You either humor them or get pissed. I usually do the latter. Come on."

He stood with Daffodil in his arms; then, giving the cat a last scratch behind the ears, placed her securely on the porch rail. Watching, Sue was again impressed by his gentle handling of the animal. A curious thought flashed through her mind, wonder what he's like with a woman?

"You see," she continued as they walked, "he'll make a scene. Then, after he sobers up, he'll feel the need to come back and apologize; then we'll probably get into another hassle. I'd just as soon avoid the whole mess."

"You have no feelings for him then?"

"Of course, I have feelings for him. I wouldn't be in this mess if I didn't. I should have known better, but I'm wasn't in the best shape at that time, I was grateful to him," she said rambling. "He came along just as I was pulling out a deep depression and made me laugh again, when I never thought I would. But, I don't need the guilt that goes with him. I never wanted anything serious. I'm not ready for…your friends, Jim and Leonard, they're kind of late tonight, aren't they?" Sue asked abruptly changing an awkward subject.

At that moment they walked past a bar, and his response was drowned out by the rock music spilling out of the open door. Thinking it might be fun to go in and abandon herself to the music and the beer, Sue looked at her walking partner and sighed. After observing him at last night's party she knew that this low-life establishment would not be his choice of entertainment, so they continued walking until the got to the Baskins & Robbins.

"Got any money?" she asked, searching her own pockets. When he produced several bills, she grabbed them. "Come on," she said running ahead of him into the store. They exited with Sue slurping on a triple-dip black walnut fudge cone and Spock with a single scoop of fresh peach. Just walking and trying to keep three scoops on the cone and from dripping kept Sue too busy to talk for several minutes.

"Slob!" she called to a passing car whose driver had thrown a paper drink cup out the window. The breeze took the item and mixed it with the rest of the litter that cluttered the street. For a second Sue considered picking it up, but realized the futility of the gesture.

"Why do they do that?" she asked, expecting no answer. "I was somewhere recently -- now where was that? Can't seem to remember -- but it was so clean. Really made me feel good. Damn, why can't I remember where that was?"

"About this Matthew," Spock said, interrupting her train of thought. "What will he do when he finds you are not at home?"

"Hopefully, he'll go away."

"Has he behaved in such a manner on other occasions?"

"Who knows? We've never had an argument before. Everything was light and easy, just fun. Why couldn't he just leave it that way?"

"I cannot speak for his motivations."

Sue stopped and looked up at him. "No, I'm sure you can't. You'd never get into a mess like this. You're not even married, are you?"

"Actually, I am. And, that surprises you?"

"No, I guess not. You probably have a nice, ordered life with a ordered, non-demanding wife." The image of a stereotypical professional woman formed in Sue's mind: tweed suit, sensible shoes, briefcase, and hair pulled back into a bun.

"That is far from reality," he said, as if he'd read her mind.

So he flipped for some sexy little number who runs him a merry chase. Another stereotype replaced the first image in Sue's mind. "I want to hear more about this," she said, picturing some beautiful, young, buxom thing cooing and enticing any favor from him.

Just then a red sports car squealed to a stop. "Where the hell have you been?" Matthew demanded.

"What's it to you?" Sue and Spock continued to walk.

"I told you I was coming over." Matthew moved the car slowly, matching their pace.


He gunned the motor and pulled ahead to stop in front of her house. Getting out of the car, he sat on the steps and waited.

As Sue and Spock approached, he asked, "Do you wish me to stay with you?"

"No, but stay within yelling distance."

"You believe he might become violent?"

"No. I might."

Spock went past her and into the house. Sue sat on the step next to Matthew. "What do you want?"



"What's wrong with that? A few days ago, you wanted the same thing?"

"No. I never wanted anything permanent."

"Why keep seeing me then?"

"Christ, Matt, I though you were safe. You screwed half the females on campus. I was just one of a cast of thousands. I never wanted more."

"Is there someone else?"

"Oh, Christ, how typical," she said holding her head.

"How about him?" Matt jerked his head backwards, indicating the door Spock had just gone through.

"He's just a renter. I only met him two days ago." Sue began rubbing her temples.

"What's the matter? Another one of those headaches?"

"Yeah, for two days, and now it's going to my stomach. I just want to go to bed." Wrong: she knew it the instant the words were out of her mouth.

"Come on," he said, pulling her up. "I'll put you to bed and stay with you. We'll talk in the morning."

"No. Go away. I can manage."

"Come on, Sue…"

The door opened and Spock was there. "I believe the lady has asked you to leave."

"Look, I don't know who the hell you think you are, but butt out! I've been through this with her before and know what she needs…"

"That is not her wish."

"Butt out, damn it!" Matt exploded.

"Matt, stop it. Please. You're killing this by inches; I wanted a clean break…"

"Sue," he pleaded, "let me help you."

"No! I don't want anything from you. He'll help me," she reached out her hand to Spock as Matt moved closer.

"Leave now!" The menace in Spock's voice startled Sue as she began to sway with a wave of nausea. Spock caught her as Matt stormed away.

"Thanks," she said as he scooped her up and carried her to the bedroom.

Sue lay face down on the bed while he applied a warm cloth to the back of her neck. "Thanks," she said again. "The nausea's gone, but my head. I'm going to have to go to hospital for some Demerol. Will you drive me when they get back with the car?"

"If you wish, but will you allow me to try something while we wait?" He began massaging her neck, applying slight pressure to both sides just below the ears. "Turn and face me." She did it slowly and he put his hands on either side of her neck again, rubbing with a slight pressure in a circular motion.

"Oh, that's nice," she moaned softly. Reaching up, she ran her hand over one of his. "You're so warm. Feels good."

As he continued, she carefully rolled her head to the side, relaxing as some unknown tension drained from her. She stayed quiet for several minutes, and then pushed herself into a sitting position. "Right here," she said, placing one of his hands just between her shoulder blades. "Right there; it feels like it's tied in knots…oh, that's it," she said when he placed his other hand there and began a gentle kneading. "You can do that forever." She leaned forward and rested her head against his shoulder.

Her mind drifting, trying not to think of the pain or of Matthew, then suddenly, she was very aware of this man who was so close to her. As she moved her head, her lips brushed against his neck and it too felt warm. Mildly curious, she ran a hand over the back of his neck. "You're so nice and warm, good circulatory system. I'm always cold, even in July." She shivered as a late evening breeze fluttered the window curtains and passed over her.

"I shall lower the window," he said, his voice deep. He took hold of her shoulders as if to lean her back against the pillow and in the next instant, his mouth covered hers and he was pulling her closer into his arms. Sue responded eagerly as his lips parted, his tongue running across her lips. Her mouth opened in response as she felt her nipples hardening and that pleasant ache of sexual arousal filled her and everything but this man and their desires began to fade from her consciousness. She wanted to lie back and pull him with her, to feel the pressure of his strong, lean body fully against her.

She closed her mouth against his, turned her head, and then slowly pushed him away. "I -- we -- don't need this. You've got a wife, and I just peeled one married man off my life. I'm not going to start with another one." When all he did was stare at her, Sue became more uncomfortable. "The massage -- it did help. Thank you."

"Then allow me to continue."

She paused. "Okay, but that's all, promise." When he nodded she scooted into a prone position. "Ohhhhh, that feels so good." Without realizing that it was happening, Sue began dozing off. Coming awake, she said, "Sorry, it's not the company," then trying to cover her social error, she added. "At least, I don't snore."

"Indeed!" he said, sounding somewhat taken aback.

Wanting to question that remark, Sue tried to muster the energy, but quickly decided it wasn't worth the effort. Instead, she sighed as his hands moved over her shoulders, then down her back and even up her neck into her hair.

* * *

Sue woke with a start, heart pounding as she groped the bedding, and came up empty handed. She was alone! He'd left her! Why'd he leave me alone? She was up and running, although not too steady on her feet, her hands finding walls and furniture to steady herself. In the front hall she ran into Kirk and McCoy who were just coming in. "What have you done with him?" she demanded of them.

"Done with him?" Kirk asked, "Who? You mean David?"

"Don't call him that!" Sue said angrily. "It's not his name and you know it -- where is he? What'd you do…"

"I am here, Susan," Spock said coming down the stairs.

"I woke up alone, you left me…you knew I needed you…" She stared at him. "You shouldn't have left me…Tell your wife…maybe she'll understand that I needed you…you don't have a wife…" Sue was trying to make sense of the jumble in her mind, "Yes, you do…but you're supposed to be with me."

Kirk stepped in front of Spock before he reached Susan. "Why should he be with you?" Kirk demanded. "What is he to you?"

Sue gaze went from Spock to Kirk and back again. "He's part of me, my other half. How can that be? I don't understand -- we've just met -- don't even know each other ... "

"If you don't really know him, why come looking for him?"

"I don't know," she snarled. "God, what's happening to me?" She went quiet and then beginning rubbing her neck, the next instant she began screaming, "Where -- are -- my -- children?"

"Doctor?" Spock questioned. "Let me…"

"No, Spock. She needs to do it herself." McCoy was emphatic. "She's remembering and I want her to come all the way back to us."

"My collar's gone -- Towan -- we're safe -- where are my kids?" she kept repeating between breaths as panic engulfed her.

"She'd hyperventilating," McCoy said. "Sit her down, head between her knees." Spock stepped in front of Kirk grab Sue, pulled her into the living room and sat her on the sofa. The overhead light flashed and then dimmed to low.

"Do as Dr. McCoy says," Spock encouraged and Sue bent her head and tried to calm herself.

"Ohmygod, ohmygod," she repeated over and over. Then she went limp and Spock caught her before she fell to the floor. "The kids are safe -- they're…"

"On Vul…" Spock started to say, but McCoy hand on his shoulder stopped him.

"Let her do it, Spock. Let her work this through."

"Tell me about your children," Kirk said.

"They're dead," Sue said, misery on her face and in her voice. She slipped from his grasp to the floor and stared up at the portrait on the wall.

"Yes, Mickey and Nicky are dead, is that all?"

"Chukka's dead, too," Sue choked off a sob. "He died too…but the others are safe." She was up on her knees now, staring at Spock. "You came back for us, and the others…"

"Who?" Kirk demanded. "What are their names?"

She turned back to face him, "Jamie, and Len -- Jamie." Her eyes flew from Kirk to McCoy. "They were named for you…"

"Named after me, by whom?" Kirk kept at her for answers.

"By their father, of course. He named them after his best friends ... "

"Are there others?" This from McCoy.

"Amanda Uhura, for his mother and the lieutenant with the freedom name." Sue was staring into nothing.

"Is that all?" Kirk prompted.

"Leave me alone!" Sue demanded as she sagged against the sofa and pulled her knees up to hug them. "I'm tired. Leave me alone."

"No, I want you to tell me where these children of yours are."

"They're safe. Don't you see? They're safe and I can sleep. They're with their grandparents…and there's Annie, she's mine now and the baby, Saren."

"Why aren't you with them?" Kirk asked, standing over her, not willing to let things go.

"Because we have to do -- something -- get something -- from the computer…" Slowly, Sue pulled herself into a sitting position and stared up at the three.

"Susan, do you remember where you are and why?" McCoy continued to question.

"Onmygod, yes. We came back here to get Michael's work, and Ulrich's." The three Starfleet officers sighed in relief.

"What day is it?" Sue asked, beginning to tremble.

"Just past midnight. Monday morning," Spock said.

Rubbing her face, she said, "Can't think. We came on…Friday, what the hell have we been doing since then?" she asked wide-eyed. "Why didn't you do the mind thing or take me back?" She looked to Spock and Kirk for answers. "You warned me you might. Why'd you let me go on like this, with the headache, and God, I could have ruined everything."

"It was a chance we had to take," Kirk said. "Bones here wouldn't let us do anything else."

"I'm sorry, I've made a mess of everything…"

"Susan," Spock said, "You had no control over what your mind…"

"Spock," McCoy interjected and the Vulcan went quiet. "Sue, I need to know about what happened to you when you came through the portal. I need you to start from the beginning. Sue, when you first saw Spock, you appeared frightened of him. I want to know why."

"Frightened -- of Spock. Don't be ridiculous." She came up on her knees, aggravated at the very suggestion.

"Tell me exactly what you were feeling when you first saw him on the porch."

"Don't remember. Was just pissed at the idea of renters. Rooms weren't ready -- or anything."

"Sue, don't play these games with me. This is not just idle curiosity on my part; I need to know what was going through your mind."

Sue leaned back and expelled a heavy sigh. "He scared me, okay. Is that what you wanted to hear?"

"No, I want to know why."

"I don't really know. He just kind of freaked me out. Seemed different then you two, but the next time I saw him -- when you were all in the hallway, well it was okay. He was just one of the group."

"Then what did you do?"

"Well, Willie came in and we had that whole scene with my name being announced on television. God, I was suppose to say that I had changed my mind at the last minute and got off the plane. That was my cover story and I forgot it." She looked from McCoy to Kirk. "Did I mess up everything?"

"No," Jim said from where he had retreated to lean against the wall. "It all worked out."

"God," Sue said, rubbing her head.

"Keep going," McCoy prompted. "We were on the porch drinking beer and you did something, tell me about that, exactly as you experienced it at the time."

She studied him for a long moment trying to remember what he was talking about. Then she looked at Spock. "I noticed that Spock wasn't drinking any of the beer so I went to get him something else." Sue stopped to concentrate. "I stood in front of the fridge and almost grabbed the pitcher of iced tea, but knew he wouldn't want the caffeine, so I made him some lemonade."

"How did you know he wouldn't want caffeine?"

Sue shrugged, "Just knew it."

"Did you think that was strange, your knowing that?"

"No, not at that time. Some of my foreign students didn't use caffeine or alcohol. I guess I was in house mother mode."

"And after that?"

"The flying tomato came over and made us hungry so we ordered pizza, and I told Willie to order part of one with no meat." Sue's eyes widened. "I knew Spock didn't eat meat, but didn't know how I knew that." She smiled up at Spock. "Covered for me nicely, didn't you? We just talked and Gina came by and then I went to bed."

"Next morning, what did you do then?"

"Not morning -- afternoon, I think." She continued to rub her temples. "I slept past noon, took a shower and went to sit on the porch. Spock came out and we were talking when you and Kirk came back from your tour with Willie. Then Maddy came by and I got ready for work."

"About that," Kirk put in, "you never mentioned that other job."

"Did too." She threw McCoy a piercing look. "You remember when we went for that walk. I mentioned that I took a second job and would pick up extra nursing duty because we needed the money."

McCoy nodded. "That's correct, but you didn't tell us you were scheduled for work during the time of our trip."

"Well, hell, after five years I forgot, okay!" She zeroed in on Kirk, "That's why you came along and stuck to me like glue."

Kirk nodded, "And if I go deaf, I am holding you responsible." His smile made Sue feel a little better about this whole mess.

"Oh, God, I invited everyone here after the concert, didn't I?" Sue cringed at the memory. "After a wild evening like that nobody's ready to sleep, so we party and…"

"Sue," McCoy interrupted, "What was going through your mind, that's what I'm interested in."

"At first, nothing, just the concert and how good the music felt and that I wanted to dance and cut loose. Hadn't done that for such a long time. Then, I started to think -- not a good thing -- makes me depressed. I kept looking at that picture." She glanced at the family portrait again. "Spock was looking at it and then I had to -- and remember, then it was like Michael was talking to me. 'Let it go, Babe,' he was saying. 'Get on with you're life, that's what you'd tell me to do if it'd been you with the kids and me left behind.'" Sue went silent for a moment. "He was saying if was okay to move on and I remember kind of talking to him in my head. Like I needed a sign or something to know it was really all right, not disloyal. That's when I knew it was time to let go of his bike." Sue sat back and her eyes filled with tears. "So I gave the bike to Vic," she said wiping her eyes.

"You asked Spock to dance, what was that all about?"

"I knew I was going to be a mess and that he could handle it." She stiffened and her tone grew more aggressive. "…And don't ask me how I knew, cause I don't know. It just felt right in here and here," she tapped her chest and head. "Then I cried myself out and went to bed…" She paused. "No, I did something else." She swallowed, gulping in air. "Since they died I slept with Michael's tee shirt, the one he threw on the bed that last day. Wouldn't wash it, kept it under my pillow. Well, when I came in from the garage, I threw it in the hamper and fell asleep without it." She peered at McCoy. "That's a good sign isn't it?"

"Yes, I think so. Now it's Sunday…"

"I went to my cousin's wedding and Spock and I took a walk to avoid Matthew. It didn't work, he found us. Then when he went away, I went to bed -- no, Spock was rubbing my neck, trying to get that damn headache to go away." Sue shut her eyes as she tried to recall the sequence of events. "He kissed me and I liked it, but he had a wife -- said so earlier and I didn't need another married man…Okay, this isn't really important is it, kind of personal…"

"You're right. I just need to know that you remember everything."

"Well, I do, but I still don't understand why you didn't let Spock give me back my memories. Would have saved my head and lots of trouble for all of us."

"I was for it, Spock wasn't so sure, but McCoy wouldn't hear of it," Jim said deferring to the doctor.

"Sue, we had no idea what consequences there might be in taking you back before you remembered. What if you forgot the past five years and only remembered your life on Earth? I don't think you would have wanted that and I know Spock didn't."

"I don't believe I would have forgotten all of that, Spock, my kids, no, maybe for a little while, but not forever. He's too much a part of me." She was studying McCoy. "What else, what are you not telling me?"

McCoy heaved a heavy sigh as his gaze went from Sue to Spock. "I didn't want either of you to have to live with the uncertainties. There can be no reservations or regrets. When you go back to Vulcan, it must be your free choice because you want that life. Do you understand that I did not want either of you to live with the doubts?"

Sue only nodded, too choked up to speak.

"I think," Jim said, "That we're back on track now and could all do with some sleep." He turned and headed for the stairs with Bones at his heels.

"Doctor," Spock stood and moved toward McCoy. "Thank you, as usual, your instinct were correct."

"You're welcome, Spock. Now I hope you will both rest easy now."

* * *

"Can we go to bed now?" Sue asked hesitantly, noticing how tense he was. She knew the signs, his mouth a hard line of thinned lips, tension pulling his brow tight. She'd seen that look before, the first days they shared in cell 9 and again the night they'd rushed Thela to the clinic.

When she got no response, she said, "Okay, they picked through my innards. Now it's your turn. Tell me what you were thinking while I was in lala land?"

He studied her for a long moment and, for once, Sue waited quietly. "When I visited Earth as a child, I had the opportunity to ride a roller coaster. I did not enjoy the experience; it had my head and stomach in upheaval for hours. These past few days have revived that same sensation."

"Share this with me, please."

"That you did not recognize me was most disconcerting. I thought I had lost you; that our bond no longer existed, though I could not conceive of such a thing happening."

"Sorry," Sue said pulling herself up to the sofa to sit next to him. "Are you reassured now?"

"Yes," he said, pulling her close. "Having you remember certain things did help, but I was still most concerned. Susan, are you quite sure that you have no misgivings then about returning to Vulcan?"

She pushed away from him. "You can be seriously asking me that?" she said angrily. "Well, okay, I really don't want to go, I want to abandon you and five kids and go -- be a beach bum…" She was waving her arms.

"You would be a poor candidate for such a profession," he stated, "hating sand as you do."

Sue stared at him, saw his face soften and the tension begin to drain away. Then she began to laugh. "I did say that, didn't I?" She snuggled back into his arms. "If you and the kids come with sand, a mud hut, igloo or tree house, then that's where I'll be. So don't ever say anything like that again. You know that you and the kids are my life."

"I had thought so, but…"

"No, buts, Spock. Let's go to bed. I want you to kiss me like you did earlier this evening.

* * *

Monday, June 28, 1976

Sue stretched lazily in the bed as she waited for Spock to finish in the shower. Why they had to go to Ulrich's office so early in the morning was beyond her, but after what she had put Spock through the past three days, she was not about to argue with him.

A tapping at the back door caught her attention. She pulled on her robe and went to see who was there, opening the door to Michael's niece standing on the back porch. "Lisa! Come in, honey. What are you doing out so early?"

The ten year old walked past her into the kitchen. "Mama's outside. She sent me to see if you were ready."

"Ready?" Sue glanced at the calendar. The date was June 28th -- that meant another mass for Michael and the kids. And sending Lisa to fetch her -- that was a new trick for Maria. "Damn," Sue swore under her breath. "Come on," she said to the child. "Your mother and I are going to settle this once and for all." Sue marched through the house to the front door. On pulling it open, she could see that the car parked at the curb was empty, meaning that Maria had gone to the back door.

"Lisa, go sit in the swing, will you? I want to talk to your mother alone."

"Okay, Aunt Sue." Lisa shrugged, but did as she was asked while Sue shut the door and retraced her steps.

She entered the kitchen to find an open-mouthed Maria staring at Spock, who was standing in the bedroom doorway wearing only a terry robe.

"Well, I see you two have met."

Maria tore her gaze from Spock and turned to Sue. "He was in your bedroom!" she exclaimed.

"Look closer, Maria. He was in my bed."

"You wouldn't…"

"Why not?"

"In Michael's home…"

"In my home!" Sue watched as Maria's anger built and she began to tremble. "Go ahead," Sue goaded. "Say it. All these years you've felt it. Have the guts to say it."

"You never were good enough for my brother!" Maria shouted.

"Not even original," Sue said, disappointed by the predictable remark.

"Susan," Spock said, "you are deliberately misleading her…"

Sue looked at him in surprise. "What do you want me to tell her -- that we're marr -- ah, getting married?"

"Married!" Maria's tone was incredulous.

"Yeah," Sue snapped. "Married, and why not?"

"If you loved Michael…"

"What, I would have thrown myself on his funeral pyre?"

"If you loved him, you would -- remember."

"And live on memories. I did that long enough. I'm ready to start a new life now."

"With this man?"

"Yes, with him! I told you last month: no more Masses. Maria, take down the altar, blow out the candles. Michael's dead!"

With that, the woman turned and fled the house.

"Susan," Spock asked from his place in the doorway, "was that necessary?"

"Yes. She won't listen. I've been through this on the 28th of every month for two years."

"It was your right to no longer be party to this practice, but did you have to be so harsh?"

"I've tried to be nice, but every month she'd be back again," Sue defended and then sighed heavily. "She's going to run straight to the family with this," Sue said following him back into the bedroom. "And that means a lot of questions we didn't want to deal with." She flopped on the bed while Spock began to dress. Sue began to giggle. "It's a good thing she didn't get a look at those," she aimed her gaze at his groin, "or we'd be scraping her of the wallpaper."

* * *

The morning's schedule called for a trip to Ulrich's lab. It had been planned for Sunday morning so that there would -- hopefully -- be no interruptions. Sue's lapse of memory had screwed that up and now it was Monday. "We should still be okay," Sue had stated in her most convincing tone. "Not too much goes on during the summer, and with Ulrich gone, his office should be empty." Sue could not promise access to the computer, but in her experience she had found it available most of the times she was in that office. If denied, Spock could at least survey the situation. "We're going early before classes start and offices open."

"Why is it," Spock asked as they made their way across campus, "That we are each walking on a separate sidewalk?"

"I," Sue said with the superior attitude of someone in the know, "am walking on a sidewalk. You, on the other hand, are walking on a bike path, and if the university was in full session, you would have long ago been run over and thoroughly cussed out by an irate cyclist."

"Indeed," Spock said, moving to walk next to Sue.

"Biochem building," Sue said as she unlocked the main door of Miller Hall. Their footsteps echoed down the long corridor, and Sue was beginning to feel uneasy. She had been here many times before, and at all hours of the day and night, but this felt different. To her surprise, Ulrich's office door was unlocked. She glanced at Spock as she cautiously pushed it open.

"Oh, hi, Al. Kind of early for you, isn't it?"

"Yeah," he grumbled, not even looking up from the terminal.

"Something wrong?"

"Hell, yes, something's wrong! This is supposed to be my vacation. I'm supposed to be leaving for Colorado -- Damn Ulrich -- thinks nobody had a life outside work."

Spock remained near the door while Sue went for her watering can. "Is he still in Europe?" she asked, wondering if he had returned unexpectedly.

"Yeah. He called me at two this morning. Said he forgot about the time difference. Like hell he did. Wants an update…" Al looked up and noticed Spock standing in the doorway.

"This is a friend of mine. He came to help me water the plants." Sue introduced the two, and then said, "You've been here since two o'clock?"

Al nodded. "I'll probably be here all damn day!" His short temper echoed in his voice.

The ringing phone interrupted him. "That's probably the big man now. Yeah," Al said into the received. "Hell, no, it's not running! There's a problem somewhere -- okay, I'll try that. Here, talk to Sue." He shoved the received at her and Sue had no choice but to take it.

"Hi." She tried to sound casual. "Fine." She looked around the office at various plants. "They're fine too, but the spider plant is going to need repotting. Remember, I told you -- yeah, when you get back -- okay. Al's ready for you again."

As the phone conversation continued, Sue went into the adjoining lab and filled her watering can with distilled water from a tank. Spock kept his place by the door as she tended each plant. "Is it working now?" Sue asked Al as she finished her chore.

"Yeah, got it running. Damn thing will take five-six hours to update and sort all the latest data, then I have to come back, print it and see it gets mailed. So much for my trip…"

"Al," Sue said leaning across the terminal to smile at him. "Aren't you missing the obvious?"

The young research assistance looked up at her, and then a large smile slid over his face. "No, I'm not. You've done it before haven't you, printed a report for the man?"

"Sure have, but it's gonna cost you. You're going to Colorado, you bring me back a six-pack of Coors."

"Six-pack! Sue, you do this for me and I'll bring you a case of Coors." He began shuffling papers and disks. "Here's the address in Europe, needs to be over-nighted. Secretary will do it, if you get it to her before five. I'll leave it running, just hit print when it's finished and that should take about forty-five minutes to an hour." Al got up and walked to the lab, and motioned Sue to follow. "Sure this is okay? I'm not interrupting any of your plans or anything?"

"No, it's no problem. You know I'm only a couple of blocks from here."

"Well, it would sure make things easier for me with my girlfriend. She has this trip all planned and if I had to cancel -- anyway, here's a number where I'll be tonight. Leave a message when it's all done, will you? Knowing it's done, I'll be able to enjoy my trip." He scribbled a number on a post-it note and stuck it on the computer screen.

"Okay, Al, I'll be back at," she glanced at her watch, "right after lunch, about one o'clock. Should be finished printing by then." Sue went to a cupboard and took out a large mailing envelope. "Will it fit in this?" she asked Al.

He looked up and nodded, again pounding away at the computer.

"Okay, have a good vacation, I'll call you when it's all done."

"Thanks, Sue. You're a life saver."

When they were safely out of the building, Sue jumped up and down. "Wow," she exclaimed. "That was unexpected. Scared me for a minute, but it turned out to our advantage."

"Did I understand him correctly?" Spock asked. "He has updated the file and the latest research data is now being compiled. You will print a report and mail it to the professor."

"You got it almost right." Sue smiled up at him. "I will print 2 reports and put one in the mail. We get the other copy. If we had come yesterday as planned, we wouldn't have gotten the new stuff. Do you think that good fortune had begun to smile on us?"

* * *

Sue and Spock were in the kitchen preparing dinner when they heard the car in the driveway and knew Kirk and McCoy were home.

"Uh-oh," Sue said in response to the look on Kirk's face.

"A complication?" Spock asked.

"We didn't get the plane," Jim said as both men slumped into chairs.

"The license -- is there a difficulty?"

"No," Jim said, exasperated. "It's this holiday. All the planes are rented. It seems that everyone is going somewhere to celebrate the two-hundredth birthday of this nation of ours. There won't be a plane free until noon on the fifth."

"Oh man, the Fourth of July -- I never thought of that being a problem. What'll we do now -- and what about the people back at the Guardian?" Sue asked. "Won't they be expecting us?"

"The time frame is different," Spock said. "While we are here, days are passing; back there, it may be only minutes or hours…"

"They won't expect us until they see us," Jim added, getting up to help himself to ice tea.

"Wait a minute," Sue said, "What about the other local airports -- there's Bloomington and…"

McCoy was shaking his head. "Already tried that. The fellow at Illini Field called for us -- tried every airport within 100 miles. It's the same story everywhere." He accepted the glass of tea Kirk handed him. "We're just going to have to stay the three extra days."

"We need to think about what kind of problems this will cause," Kirk said, downing half a glass of tea.

"I miss my kids," Sue said; then, realizing that they did not need a whiny mother adding to their problems, she continued, "But it'll be good for them. Make them appreciate me. What about my family? Should I cancel the parade watching for the Fourth?"

"What reason would you give?" was Spock's question.

"I don't know…"

"I think that's a bad idea," McCoy interjected.

"Why, Bones?" Kirk interjected as he refilled his glass.

"Because things are different since Michael's brother and sister showed up here; we've become more than renters with a strictly business arrangement with Sue."

"Good point," Jim put in. "What do you think, Sue?"

"I can tell you one thing. If we go ahead with the plans for the parade and show up at the picnic, there'll be less questions."

"I don't know…" Jim shook his head.

Watching him, Sue felt very guilty for having screw up everything so bad. "Maybe," she volunteered, "we could take my car and go out of town for the day." She set a large bowl in the middle of the table.

"Too many risks," Kirk said, reaching for the garlic bread.

"It also leaves us with the same problem of what to tell Sue's family." McCoy accepted the basket of bread from Spock.

"What about going somewhere in town here?' McCoy asked as he accepted the bowl Jim passed him. "Looks good, Sue, what did you call it?"

"Vegi-spaghetti. There's nothing open but grocery stores, movie theaters and bars."

"Sounds good to me," Bones added.

"Not funny," Sue said as she passed the salad.

"Are these those excellent tomatoes?" Spock asked as he accepted the salad bowl and Sue nodded.

"Sue, tell me what happens here on the Fourth of July?" Jim asked between mouthfuls.

"There's a parade and the route goes right by the front of the house, so the family comes here to watch. Then there's a picnic at the Benelli family home."

"Any chance we could stay upstairs, out of sight?" Jim wanted to know.

Sue shook her head. "The house will be crawling with people -- lots of kids running in and out."

"Too chancy," Jim decided.

"Perhaps we could work in Dr. Humrickhaus' laboratory that day," Spock suggested.

Sue set down her fork. "You're missing the whole point. This is a holiday, and people expect other people to be celebrating with family and friends. You have to understand how they will look at it. You're supposed to be visitors, here in Illinois for the first time, away from your own friends and family. The natural thing is for them to invite you to participate in our holiday gathering. The normal thing would be to accept and enjoy yourselves."

"Anything else makes us suspect," Jim realized.

McCoy looked from Spock to Jim. "They'd think it was funny that Spock would decline and leave his intended on a holiday."

"And not want to meet her family," Jim finished. "That kind of trouble we don't need."

"I really think you're making too much of this. The Benelli's are used to having visitors around. They always plan for extras. I mean, they roast a whole pig…"

Both of Spock's eyebrows went up at the remark.

"A whole roast pig!" McCoy exclaimed. "In the house?"

"No," Sue shook her head. "In a pit in the back yard."

"What you're saying, Sue," Kirk interrupted, "is that we won't be the only outsiders."

Sue nodded. "There'll be neighbors and friends, probably 50 or 60 people in all. When we had foreign students living here, there would come. That was something -- watching them watch us celebrate our independence day…"

Jim appraised the situation. "So you don't see any serious problems with us going along?"

"Only one," Sue sighed. "Since Maria has been flapping her jaws, Spock will be in for the third degree. Nona will shanghai him for one of her little chats."

"No problem for the silver tongued Vulcan," McCoy smiled and saluted Spock with his ice-tea glass. "Charming old ladies is his specialty."

"What do you think, Spock?" Jim asked ignoring McCoy's remark and Sue's snicker.

"It does seem to effort the least percentage of risk."

"But what if she asks where we met?" Sue asked, really concerned.

Spock looked up from his dinner to study Sue. "Perhaps, I shall tell her that I found your name on a bulletin board."

"What?" Sue gasped, then giggled as she remembered telling him how she and Matthew had met. Well, she thought, I guess that's better then finding it on the bathroom wall.

* * *

Tuesday, June 29, 1976

Sue was alone in the house and found it a little disconcerting. She had returned from her own morning errand to find a note on the kitchen table letting her know that her three guests were off to scour the used bookstore Sue had introduced them to, and she knew that they could spend hours lost in that place. Their previous trip had each of them returning with a grocery bag overflowing with treasures.

As she nibbled at her sandwich she recalled her morning trying to determine just what she was feeling.

She had met with her lawyer this morning and signed her will, but, unlike most people, Sue knew that by this time next week, her lawyer would be filing that will for probate. She would not be dead -- just gone back to Vulcan, where her life and her children were waiting. She smiled at the thought of trying to explain that to her lawyer. Marvin would call the men in to white coats to come for her. No, she could not tell him anything. She could only insist that after all this time, after all her stalling, the will had to be signed and sealed this week.

He had groused about his backlog of work and his secretary being on vacation and inconsiderate clients, but he had gotten it finished. Now it was safely signed and Sue could relax.

Relief: that was part of what she was feeling. All those monthly insurance payments that she and Michael had been so hard-pressed to make, along with those from the "other driver's" company would pay off after all.

There would be no fighting over her mother's precious keepsakes. Sue knew who in the family would appreciate them and had dispensed the items accordingly.

Her nephew Mark would have her car -- next spring, when he was old enough for his license. If that caused a few hurt feelings, well so be it. She only hoped that it was not a mistake, but Mark was sensible…Besides, she knew that he would have a car of his own before long; better hers than some piece of junk he picked up for $200.

If she was honest with herself, Sue had to admit that signing that will was closing the door on the accident, admitting it was over and done with. Because, with the will, she had also signed the final waiver for the "other driver's" insurance company, accepting their settlement. For them it meant that they were free of her, she could not come back and sue for more damages. It was a release for her, too, a letting go. Somehow, holding back her signature had given her a sense of power, and until now signing it had meant accepting defeat. She knew better now, felt differently. Her resentment was gone; she had forgiven them, all of them; the other driver, the insurance companies, God, the rest of the world, and herself -- for living and not being with them when it happened. Sue hugged herself as she realized how lucky she was and how glad she was to be alive.

Sue finished her lunch and began the clean up and preparations for dinner. At the sound of the doorbell, Sue took her hands from the dishwater, grabbed a towel and started through the house. She opened the front door to find her friend, the Reverend Patrick McCardy.

"Oh, shit!"

"Very nice greeting, Sue," he said shaking his head. "Makes me feel real welcome."

"Who called you?" Sue snapped, ignoring his remark.

"Maria, Vic, and your mother-in-law." Uninvited, he walked past her into the living room.

"I should have known," she said following him and flopping on the couch.

He sat next to her. "What did you expect after that announcement of yours?"

"I expect people to mind their own business."

"In your family?" he asked amazed. "Everyone's concerned."

"I know what I'm doing."

"Do you? We had lunch -- when -- about two weeks ago, and you were talking about Matthew, how worried you were, and the guilt you were feeling. You said you were going to break it off with him. I didn't even have to advise you or dredge up my religion and morals lecture. You made your own decision. Now, out of nowhere, you announce that you're going to marry some man no one knows."

"I know him!"

"From where? You never mentioned him before, and you and I go back a long way, Sue. Where did you meet him?"

"In another life."

"Now, that I believe. It's the only place you could have."

"Patrick, what do you want from me?"

"I want you to take your time, don't rush into anything you might be sorry about later." He caught her look. "Sue, you wouldn't do anything foolish, like run off and get married, would you?"

Sue's anger at her busybody family was rapidly turning to amusement as she watched the genuine concern on Patrick's face. "No, Patrick, I wouldn't get married without you." She continued to study his face. "Come on, I know you too well. There's something else you want to say."

"Well," he said hesitantly, "both Maria and Vic said that there was something different, peculiar, about this Mr. Spock."

"In what way?"

Patrick shook his head. "They weren't able to describe their impressions very well, but I found it curious that both of them mentioned it."

"Well, I disagree, but if you want to stick around for a while, you can meet him and judge for yourself."

"He's not here then?"

"No, all three of my guests are out."

"Well, offer me some lemonade and I'll stay awhile." They got up and moved to the kitchen where Sue poured them each a glass and then continued shucking sweet corn.

"So," Patrick said, "just where did you meet your future husband?"

Sue was glad her back was to Patrick as she cursed herself for having such a big mouth. How she wished that she had held her temper with Maria and kept her mouth shut about their relationship. She should have told Maria that he was just using the shower because the one upstairs was broken or something. Then she wouldn't be in this mess now. Too smart too late, story of her life.

"So," Patrick repeated.

"Through Ulrich," Sue lied. "They're colleagues." Sue's mind raced as she tried to tell a coherent story. "Remember when I went to that conference with Ulrich and they presented that award in Michael's name?" When Patrick nodded Sue continued lying, "Well, Spock was there presenting a paper and we were introduced. We've been talking on the phone since then…"

"Why do you call him by his last name?"

Sue shrugged. "I don't know; just habit, I guess." She was perspiring and not from the work of shucking corn. "Why'd you ask?" She hoped to change the subject.

"I don't know; just seems funny."

"I don't call you "Father," anymore, do I?" Sue was hoping to distract him.

"That's because you have no respect for the collar."

"Collar," she said, regarding him intently. "You're not wearing your collar. And besides, anyone who would wear day-glow orange or chartreuse socks doesn't deserve respect." Tradition confined him to black trousers and quiet shirts, so Patrick could only express the unconventional side of his personality in his socks. He wore the brightest, loudest colors he could find. It was his trademark. He wore the formal vestments at the alter, performing the church's ceremonies, but when he walked and the robes moved, the congregation always looked for -- and found -- the flash of bright color.

"Tell me what it is about him that you love," Patrick said bringing Sue out of her reverie. "That look tells me something," he added in response to the smile that brightened her face.

"He's kind and gentle, sensitive. And he always puts everyone's needs before his own. You should see him with k…"

At that second Patrick's pager beeped and startled Sue. "Excuse me, got to make a call," he said going to the phone.

Sue let out a deep sigh realizing she had almost spilled the beans about the kids. Never could lie very well, she reminded herself. I'm not smart enough to keep my stories straight.

"I want to continue this conversation," Patrick said hanging up the phone, "but right now I have to get to the hospital to administer the Last Rights.

* * *

Wednesday, June 30 through Saturday, July 3, 1976

Sitting on the living room floor, Sue and Jim sorted through her record collection.

"What about those?" He pointed to a stack of albums Sue had put aside.

"Oh, those are just Michael's; nothing anyone would want."

"Let me check; there may be something on the list." Jim scooted across the floor.

"Okay," Sue said, "but there won't be anything. When it came to music, all Michael's taste was in his mouth."

Jim flipped through the stack of LP's and removed three, while Sue just stared.

"I don't believe it. They're on the list?"

"Sure are."

"That stuff is trash! It deserved to be destroyed."

"That's not the point, is it? It wasn't allowed to survive or die on its own merit; it was removed because someone judged it unfit for anyone to hear." Jim added the three albums to his stack. "Is that all of them?"

Sue nodded and they began putting the records back into the cabinet, except for a few that Sue put aside. "You promised to tricord these for me, remember?"

"Yes, how about tomorrow? Right now I think it's beer time."

"I hear them calling from the fridge," Sue agreed and they went into the kitchen and each grabbed a bottle.

"How's it going with you?" Jim asked after a long drink. "Getting together all the things you want to take?"

"Yeah. Deciding is hard though, want to take everything."

"Sue, about the animals…"

"I know. Don't feel bad -- I've got a big family. They'll each find a home."

With that settled Jim said, "Let's go find Spock and Bones. It's about time they called it a day too." Jim grabbed another beer while Sue poured a large glass of lemonade and they started through the house to their gathering spot on the porch. They were almost to the foyer when Spock came down the stairs two at a time and pushed out the front door without so much as a backward glance in response to Jim's call.

"What the hell…" Jim said, looking to Sue.

"Search me."

The two peered out the front door. Spock was nowhere to be seen.

The two went upstairs hoping to find a clue. They peeked in on the doctor. He had fallen asleep while watching Johnny Carson smiling from the television screen. Jim stepped lightly across the room and flipped off the set, then to the doctor's side to turn off the bedside lamp. Then they backed out and quietly closed the door.

Their next stop was the bedroom where Spock had been working. A card table had been set up next to the small student desk, and on it, in very neat piles, were Michael's papers, computer printouts, notebooks, a tricorder, tape recorder and box of tapes. The two exchanged looks and shrugged. For lack of any better ideas, Jim pushed the "Play" button on the recorder and it immediately clicked off.

"Rewind it."

Jim did, and then pressed "Play" again. Out came a male voice reciting information.


Sue nodded.

Jim pressed "Fast Forward," then "Play," several times. It was the same. He was about to give up when the tone of the voice changed.

"Sooz, where's my beer?" Michael called from the machine.

"When I get to it!" came the three-year-old answer from somewhere in the house.

"That's you," Jim stated.

"Who else?"

"Now!" Michael yelled again.

"Up yours, Benelli!" came the reply.

Though the words were harsh, no one could mistake them for anger. This was ritual bantering that was part of the play this couple shared.

More technical jargon could be heard from Michael, and then, "Here." It was Sue on the tape again.

"Thanks, Babe." There was a pause that could be accounted for by someone taking a long swig from the bottle. Michael's voice continued. "Now, bitch, take off your pants and lay on that bed. I'll get to you in a few…."

In one lightening move, Jim reached out to shut off the tape.

"Oh, no," Sue interjected. "You listen to what happens to Tarzan."

"Hey, cut it out! Sooz, look out -- my papers, danm! Get a rag…"

"You got him with the beer," Jim said.

"You bet. I forgot that all that stuff was on those tapes." Sue began fast forwarding the tape and listening to snatches of conversation.

Jim perched on the edge of the desk. "It was good between you two?"

"Yeah, it really was. The divorces were starting in our crowd, but -- I don't know, we just didn't seem to get bent out of shape over things like our friends did."

"You're not trying to tell me you didn't argue, are you?"

"No, we did a lot of that. But for the most part it didn't mean anything. There were just a few that were serious." Sue smiled and shook her head. "I remember the last one…"

"Sound intriguing."

"No, very typical, really. A party, drinking, and a statuesque blond that caught his eye; she was everything I wasn't."

"And you let him have it."

"If you mean yelled and screamed, then no. That's for leaving the cap off the toothpaste and dirty underwear in the corner. This required a different strategy."

"The silent treatment," Jim moaned.

"Exactly, and that wide-eyed, hurt look. I did that for about an hour. Then, without telling him, I had his best friend drive me home." Sue smirked up at Kirk. "Mean, aren't I?"

"I guess you are. And he followed?"

"Within the hour."

"Sue, you really are cruel."

"Yeah," she snickered. "I kept up the silent treatment for a day and a half and he was mine, body and soul." Sue continued listening to the tape. "I was hoping this wasn't on there, but it is…"

"…late, hon." It was Sue's voice.

"Yeah," came Michael's tired response. "I'm bushed. All I want is some sleep."

"Bet if I put my hand down you pants I can convince you different," Sue cooed.

"Think so?"

"Know so."

There were shuffling noises on the tape, followed by several seconds of silence.

"Tape's running."

"Give Ulrich a thrill," Michael said. "I'll check the kids; while you…"

"I told you, they're both sleeping out tonight. You're getting forgetful, old man…"

"No kids, huh?"

"Nope. We're all alone."

"Well, look out baby, 'cause Daddy's gonna…" There was a click on the tape, then silence.

Sue sank into a chair. "Those tapes are full of stuff like that, and with the kids." She looked over at Jim. "Why'd he keep listening?"

"We both know the answer. Because he said he would edit Michael's tapes… Bones warned him about this."

"He did?" she asked incredulously.

"Sure. Sue, if my perceptions of you are growing and changing, what must Spock's be doing? Vulcan was his world; even Towan was in his frame of reference. You had to adapt. Now we're learning first-hand what your life was like."


"Think about it. He's living in your -- Michael's house, sleeping in the bed you shared, meeting his family…"

"I did that on Vulcan." Sue defended.

"Not in a house he's shared with another wife."

"But, they're -- gone. They're part of the past."

"Not when they're coming back to life on those tapes. I really think you need to talk to him about this."

"You know he won't. He's out walking and thinking. He'll settle things within himself or bury the emotions, but he'll never mention it to me."

"Sue, you should be able to get him to talk."

"Yeah, if I raise enough hell, but maybe it would be better coming from you."


"You're not quite as close to the subject as I am. He could say thing to you that he might not want to say to me…Maybe for this he needs a friend instead of a wife."

"Okay, I'll give it a try. Think I'll wait outside -- catch him before he comes in." Jim said getting up and heading downstairs.

* * *


Ignoring the captain, Spock made no response as he hurried up the porch steps and made for the door.

"Commander." Jim's tone made it an order then turned malicious. "Been listening to some pretty intimate stuff between a man and his wife."

Spock stopped and turned to face Jim. "She is my wife."

"Not then she wasn't."

"Precisely." Spock paused as his shoulders slumped. He then went to sit next to Jim on the swing.

"So tell me about it." It was not a request.

"None of this was real to me before. I knew the facts of Susan's life, but felt it had nothing to do with our family. Then I encountered that family picture on the wall and saw that female child, Nicky. There was my own Amanda staring back at me. I watched her mourn him, the sorrow she feels…"

"Felt, Spock, she's come a long way since we've been here."

Spock cast Jim a doubting look. "He never had a face before; he was a dead man who had nothing to do with me. Now he is a becoming bigger than life. It is a new sensation for me." Spock paused to look at Jim. "I feel threatened. Can I ever give Susan what she needs as he did? Her whole life here was something I did not consider important and now I see just how full it was. I did not see human marriages as…

"And Michael's computer work," Spock said, abruptly changing the subject. "He was brilliant, do you realize what he could have accomplished had he lived? Susan had mentioned that he was working with computers and I dismissed the whole concept as insignificant, unimportant. I consider myself an expert in the field, but he was an expert before there was a field. He was running on his own instincts, just as you do. He had almost no prior data to guide him. The discussions on those tapes between him and Ulrich are utterly fascinating. Ulrich would just state his desires, Mike, I want to be able to show this, or predict that, and could I have that by tomorrow afternoon, and the man would do it. Not everything worked perfectly; they had to fine-tune, but his insights… And sometimes they would be discussing a problem and Michael just seem to pull a completely new idea out of nowhere and go with it. Had his word been widely published, I would have studied him in my research…" Spock found that idea incredulous.

"A little envious, are you?" Kirk asked.

* * *

"What are you eating?" Spock asked Sue as he walked into the kitchen.

"Self pity food. What you eat when you're feeling sorry for yourself and need solace because you're in a deep funk."

"Really? And what particular food is it?"

"Well, chocolate's a big part of the equation, that's a given and for me it Oreo's and milk."

Taking a closer look at Sue's activities, Spock asked, "May I join you?"

"Ah -- sure," she sputtered in shock at his request. "Get a glass and spoon."

He did and sat down across the table from her.

"Better if you dunk 'em," she said plopping an Oreo into her glass of milk and holding it submerged with her spoon. "Timing's everything." She scooped out the cookie at exactly the right moment of saturation and held out the spoon. "Try it."

He allowed Sue to feed him the cookie. "Very tasty," he said on swallowing, "May I have another?"

"Yes, Sir," she smiled and dunked another Oreo. When she had it on her spoon she stood and moved around the table to stand next to Spock. He turned his chair to face her as she leaned over and slid the cookie into his mouth. "I didn't think Vulcans went in for self pity."

A short breath, almost a sign escaped his lips. "Usually they do not, but today this Vulcan seems to be greatly effected by the emotion."

Sue set down her spoon and settled onto his lap. "Is there anything this Human can do to rid you of that feeling?"

"I have always found Humans to be most resourceful. I am sure you could think of something…" he said as Sue traced the outline of his ear with her tongue.

"Well, Sir, I would enjoy the opportunity to show you how resourceful this Human can be, but I work better in a more comfortable environment with a more conducive atmosphere." She stood and pulled him to his feet. Pushing him backwards him across the kitchen, she shut off the light and headed toward the bedroom. Stopping with orders of "Don't move a muscle!" she scooted back to grab the milk jug and shove it into the refrigerator. Then she was back in front of Spock, undoing his shirt buttons, pulling it out of his jeans.

* * *

July 4, 1976

"Ooooff!" Sue and Spock came awake when Herman pounced onto the bed.

"Get off me, you big oaf!" Sue said in irritation.

"What is his difficulty?" Spock asked.

"Mind meld with him and find out," Sue said, trying to ignore the animal and go back to sleep.

Another loud bang from somewhere outside rattled the glass windowpanes, and Herman trembled.

"I do not believe that is necessary. The noise frightens him."

"Very good" she said sarcastically. Then, "Off!" she commanded the dog, but Herman only burrowed deeper between them as another firecracker went off.

"My God, you stink!" Sue braced both feet against the animal and pushed. He dropped to the floor with a thud. Another firecracker banged, and the bed humped as Herman crawled under it.

"He'll stay there all day," Sue said, lying back down. After the bouncing stopped, Spock got up, but Sue snuggled back down under the quilt. It was useless. With every loud bang, Herman shuddered, shaking the bed. Resigned to the fact that she would get no more sleep, Sue got up.

Exploding firecrackers were growing more frequent as she went into the kitchen and started breakfast. Sue shook her head. Fireworks were illegal in this state, yet every year people had them.

After setting potatoes and eggs to boil, Sue mixed up a batch of brownies. With those in the oven, she began mincing onions and green peppers. The second batch of brownies had just gone into the oven when her nephew Mark came through the back door.

"Hey, Aunt Susy."

"Don't 'Aunt Susy' me. You were supposed to be here yesterday."

"I know," he said grinning up at her. "Let's parley…"

"Cut my grass, then we'll parley."

He came over and put his arm around her shoulder. Looking down at her, he continued his teen-age banter. "You sure are a good-lookin' woman -- now, about letting me use your car."

Sue hooted with laughter. "If that's your line, you will never get a date, besides you can't drive yet." She punched him lightly in the stomach and he fell back, as if hurt.

"Chicks love my line," he said, "and Ned can drive, got his license last month."

"You're nuts. Now go cut my grass." She used her 'stern mother' voice.

"Yeah, yeah," he said as he headed for the brownies, while Sue threatened him with a wooden spoon.

"I hear you got a new dude," Mark said, licking crumbs off his fingers.

"Dude?" Sue laughed at the description.

"Well, is it true?"

"What did you hear?"

"Mom and Dad, talking. Aunt Maria told Grandma -- boy, was she upset. She said how you wouldn't go to mass with her, and how this guy's staying in your -- well, Grandma's gonna talk to you. Are you really gonna get married?"

"Yes, I most certainly am."

"I think that's neat. Gonna have more kids too?"

"Probably. Maybe a half a dozen…"

"When do I get to meet him?"

"How about right now?" Sue said as Spock came in from the dining room.

"Spock, this is my nephew, Mark."

With greetings exchanged, Mark said, "I think it's great that Aunt Sue's getting married again." He was staring at Spock with that same curious look that everyone else had had. "I gotta get to the grass before my old man gets here, or he'll have my butt ... " Mark turned to Sue. "About the car…"


"I'm goin', I'm goin'!"

"…And put up the flag," Sue yelled after him.

"The resemblance is remarkable," Spock said when the door slammed behind Mark.

"Yeah, he and Mickey were just two weeks apart in age, went to the same school, same grade. The Benelli Terrors. Lena and I spent more time at school than all the other mothers put together. He always went camping with us, except that last time. Thank God Lena didn't give in to him that time. If was her parents' 50th wedding anniversary, and she insisted that Mark go to their party. He threw a fit, but for once she wouldn't change her mind. If she had, there would have been one more dead…"

"Susan, do not do this to yourself."

* * *

While the lawnmower buzzed outside, Jim, Bones and Spock helped Sue set up extra lawn chairs and a card table on the porch.

"Take the screen off the front bedroom window," Sue said to no one in particular while holding out a screwdriver.

"You wish us to do what?" Spock asked.

"Why?" McCoy wanted to know.

"All the teenagers will watch the parade from the porch roof. I don't remember how it got started; not enough room on the porch, I guess. But now it's a tradition."

"It seems a dangerous practice." Spock said.

Sue just shrugged. "Being a teenager is dangerous."

Joe, Michael's oldest brother, and his family pulled into the driveway. Hellos were called back and forth as they unloaded a cooler from the back of their station wagon. Lena carried a pan of something while little Angela dragged a big bag of potato chips, which she had already opened and was eating from.

Within minutes there were two more cars lining the drive and people where hustling for a chair while kids ran in and out of the house.

Sue made up her last jug of lemonade and got more paper cups. On her way to the porch with the jug, she encountered Maria and her family. After a quick hello, the kids ran to find their cousins. Maria's hello was frosty and over polite, but her husband Jim was very friendly, giving Sue a pat on the shoulder and a confident smile.

Sue introduced her guests when necessary, but these three needed no lessons in mingling. Kirk and McCoy were extroverts by nature, and even if Spock did not take the initiative, he was attentive and talkative when approached. He had once explained to Sue that he had learned to turn any conversation away from himself by simply asking questions which the other could answer. Most could not resist the flattery.

Sue listened now, while pretending to arrange the tray of already arranged cookies and brownies. Sure enough, Spock had Vic telling him all the woes of running a wholesale liquor business. "You can't buy a decent truck these days, and you can't find a reliable man to drive it. Some of 'em can't even add…"

Sue's brother Jeff and his family arrived. This was one of the two occasions when Sue's blood and marriage families socialized. The other was when her father and stepmother made their yearly visit from Arizona. Sue introduced Spock to Jeff and Katy and five-year-old Johnny. They were polite, but Sue could sense them studying the Vulcan, and she knew that Maria or Nona had been on the phone to her brother.

Katy excused herself to add her contribution of cupcakes (Katy always had to be different) to the collection on the porch table.

"Can I see the hamsters, Aunt Sue?"

"Sure, Johnny, just don't let them out."

Alone in the kitchen now, Sue stared at her brother. Folding her arms across her chest, she leaned against the counter. "Something on you mind, Brother?" she asked, an invisible chip on her shoulder.

"You look just like Mom when you do that."

"Do I?" Sue said, not giving in to the ploy.

"Come off it, Sue, and tell me just what the hell is going on here." When Jeff was upset, he paced as he was doing now.

"You mean Sp -- David." Again Sue silently cursed her big mouth.

"Hell, yes. Nona called me and told me you're planning to get married. You think I like hearing that from someone else?"

"Jeff, I'm sorry. It wasn't supposed to happen like that."

"Well, how was it suppose to happen…"

At that moment little Mario came running into the kitchen. "Aunt Susy, Aunt Susy! Angela's on the roof and she's too little…"

Sue ran through the house to find Joe already taking the stairs two at a time, and she followed him. Angela was removed from the roof and her behind swatted. Joe carried the teary-eyed child downstairs, past the fretting mother, and placed her on the porch steps with instructions not to move.

With the short-lived excitement over, Sue went to find Jeff. He was just where she had left him.

"Look," he said, more upset than angry now. "This isn't finished. I've got lots of questions, but we obviously won't be able to talk today. You name a time."

"Not tomorrow," Sue said with a slight catch in her voice. "How about later in the week?"

"Good. Let's have dinner somewhere -- just the two of us, we'll have the whole evening to talk."

"Won't Katy feel left out?"

"No, she suggested it."

"Okay. Next Thursday, how's that?" Sue did her best to keep any emotion from showing on her face. She tried to recall her E.R. days and remembering what she had to do on Towan when something was going wrong in the medical complex. Whatever you were feeling, you kept to yourself. She needed that now as she looked at her brother, the earnest concern on his face, knowing that she would not be here for that dinner and conversation. Instead her family would be mourning her death.

A siren sounded, and Johnny came tearing into the kitchen. "It's starting, Daddy, the parade's starting!"

"I know, son. Let's go." He took the outstretched hand and turned to leave.

"Jeff," Sue said, "just remember one thing. Spock makes me happy. Because of him, I'm whole again."

* * *

Sue was grateful when the last float disappeared around the corner and the sound of the final marching band died out. On the sidewalks, people were already folding their chairs and packing their belongings. The teenagers came off the porch roof and made a last check of the food table before finding their families and preparing to leave for the Benelli family home and the afternoon picnic.

Coolers and leftover food was packed for transport and house chairs were returned to their places around the kitchen and dining room tables and at the desk. As soon as the street cleared, cars began pulling out of the driveway.

With everyone gone, Sue checked the porch. As usual, it was sticky with spilled beer, lemonade and pop that had mixed with potato chip and cookie crumbs. "Ugh!" Sue complained, peeling her shoe off the porch floor. Knowing the mess would soon draw ants; she went for the hose.

As she was spraying the porch floor and railing, Spock came around the house carrying a garbage can. He began picking up the litter discarded by inconsiderate parade watchers. Sue watched him for several seconds, fighting the terrible urge that had taken possession of her. It was useless. Without her consciously initiating the action, her hand moved like an entity unto itself.

The cold water hit home and the Vulcan snapped up and around.


She kept the hose aimed at him as he marched straight toward her. "Stop!" she yelled, knowing he wouldn't.

In the brief struggle for possession of the hose, both got wet; then Spock had control and turned it full on Sue.

Being a veteran of many water fights, Sue knew what to do. She followed the hose for several yards, and then kinked it double, thereby cutting off the flow of water.

At that point, Kirk came out the front door and inquired as to what was going on. Spock turned to explain, and Sue unbent the hose. She howled with delight as Jim spurted in surprise, and Spock quickly aimed the hose away from the captain.

McCoy happened around the corner and laughed at the sight of his two friends soaking wet. Spying Sue in the corner of the porch, he said teasingly, "I see the little lady got the best of you."

"There!" Kirk said, pushing Spock's hand. McCoy joined the wet ones with a yelp and Sue lapsed into fresh gales of laughter.

"Hey!" McCoy shouted, and went for Kirk.

In the next instant, all three were stalking Sue. She screamed and scrambled over the porch railing, heading for the backyard. Kirk leaped the rail and was after her. He grabbed her, slung her over his shoulder, and carried her back, screaming all the way, to where McCoy had come off the porch and was waiting with the hose.

Jim kept her cornered between himself and the forsythia bushes while McCoy sprayed her. "Help me!" she screamed at Spock, who was now watching the action from the porch. "Do something!" she demanded at the top of her voice.

He did. He turned thumbs down and walked into the house, leaving her to the mercy of Jim and the doctor.

* * *

"I really don't want to go to this picnic," Sue called from the bathroom as she stripped off her wet clothes.

"I see no alternative," Spock answered from the bedroom where he was dressing.

"Michael's mother is gonna corner you," she continued, strolling into the room, toweling her hair. She sat on the bed. "I hate for you to have to go through the third degree."

"Susan, I shall emerge from the encounter unscathed."

"Yeah, but she'll ask all kinds of personal questions."

"All the woman really desires is assurance that I shall do right by her Susan and any offspring we might produce."

"And you're gonna tell her that?"

"I shall endeavor to do so."

"Boy, would I love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation."

* * *

As Sue parked the car half a block from the Benelli home, they could hear the boisterous party in full swing. As they walked up the tree lined street and into the yard they recognized several people from Sue's house and were introduced to new people as they encountered them.

"There's Nona," Sue pointed. "Should we get this over with?" Sue asked her three companions.

"Good Lord!" McCoy exclaimed as the group stared at an elderly woman wearing a dark blue dress and her steel gray hair pulled severely flat to her head. "Shades of T'Pau."

"May as well," Kirk said. "Red alert, gentlemen." And they began making their way to where Nona was working behind the food table, setting out and arranging the variety of salads people had contributed.

Sue added her container of potato salad to the table. "Try these," she said pointing to a large bowl of cucumbers. "My sister-in -- Lena's and they're kick as -- butt…Nona," Sue said when the woman had focused her laser beam on Sue. Sue hugged her and kissed her cheek. "I want you to meet some friends of mine. Jim Kirk, Leonard McCoy." The two stepped forward and nodded their 'please to meet you' and 'thanks for the invite.'

After acknowledging them Nona set her sights on Spock. "So," she said taking in every nuance of the Vulcan. "…this is the one."

"Yeah, Nona, this is the one. This is David." The woman's gaze shifted back to Sue and her study was intent.

"You have that look," she said, "of a woman in love."

Sue's smile brightened. "That's because I am. I know how to pick 'em, Nona. You know that."

"So it would seem." Nona turned and searched the gathering, then called, "Maria," and beckoned with her hand.

As Sue watched Maria make her way toward them the body language told the story of a young woman under orders from her mother. Sue remembered meeting Nona when she was just 16 and so frightened she was afraid she might wet herself. The woman could still intimidate her, but Sue had learned to hold her own with Michael's mother.

"You have something to say to Sue," Nona said when Maria stood next to them. It was not a question.

Maria cast an uneasy glance from Spock to Sue. "Sorry abut the other morning," she said.

"…And?" Nona prompted.

"…And I wish you and David all the best in your new life.

"Thank you," Sue said, feeling very uncomfortable."

"Now," Nona continued, before things became any more awkward, "I should like a few words with David here."

"Certainly," Spock said, moving around Sue to take her arm.

As they walked off Sue turned to Maria, "I apologize for the other morning…"

"Me too," Maria countered, "It's just that…I miss Michael so. He was the only one who really understood me…"

Sue watched her former sister-in-law and knew her grief and sorrow was genuine. Maria had idolized her big brother Michael as only a baby sister can. She would insinuate herself between husband and wife at any opportunity. The only reason Sue had tolerated her behavior was because Michael hadn't. He would put her in her place whenever she overstepped her bounds and from him she took the rebuke with no hard feelings.

"I understand that, Maria, and I miss him too, but you have a husband and children. Now I have a chance to have that again. Don't begrudge me that, please."

Maria shrugged her shoulders uncomfortably. "I don't. If you think he's right for you, then I really do wish you all the best."

Sue stared after Spock and Nona walking over by the garden, away from the crowd. "He is. I've only loved one other man and at 16 I knew Michael was right for me. Now I know it about…David. Just be happy for me please.

"I will, Sue." She reached out to hug Sue.

Sue responded to Maria's embrace. It would be the last time she would see Maria, and Sue would not have it end with hard feelings between them. "Look," she said. "Let go see what's happening at the grill." Arm-in-arm, the two walked over to the barbequing area.

Sue noticed that Kirk and McCoy were engrossed in conversation and seemed to be getting instructions on how to baste the hog. She stopped to listen while Maria excused herself to check greet a newly arrived friend.

Michael's brother Joe and Pop Benelli were in charge of this whole operation and Sue remembered how it was in years past when Michael made up the third of the barbequing trio, getting up early on the Fourth to help with getting the animal onto the spit. There had been no party two years ago, everyone was still in shock over the death of three of their own. She had tried to come last year, had gotten to within two blocks of the house, but then turned her car around and headed for the cemetery where she sat on the graves and sobbed her eyes out until Pop showed up. He sat down next to her, took her in his arms, and they had cried together.

The hog was just coming off the grill and the two Starfleet officers joined the group of men who were lifting the animal out of the pit. Then the long process of carving began with the newcomers were being offered samples from the end of a very large knife.

"Do I get a taste?" Sue asked and the knife was pointed in her direction.

"What'd ya think?" she asked as all three licked their fingers.

"Makes your mouth water," McCoy said.

"The taste brings back a few memories," Jim said, looking around. "Where's Spock?"

Sue pointed across the yard where Spock and Nona were settled in chairs under the willow tree. "She's had him long enough. Think I'll go rescue him."

"This is a real gentleman," Nona said upon Sue's arrival. "You will clean up your mouth for him, and not shame him with your dirty talk."

"Yes, Ma'am," Sue said lowering her eyes.

"You are a fortunate woman…" Nona continued rising and Spock was up helping her. "…See, a gentleman -- to have found two good men in your lifetime. Now," looking up at Spock, she said, "You will come with me."

"Where are you going?" Sue wanted to know.

Nona stopped to turn that "look" on Sue. "Not your concern." She smiled a conspiratorial glance at Spock and with that the two walked off leaving Sue staring after them.

"I didn't care anyway," Sue lied as she flopped into Spock's vacated chair and looked around at her surroundings remembering. This spot here under the willow tree had always been a favorite of hers. The first time, she had been just sixteen and had only been dating Michael for a month. Nona had cornered her, dragged her off to talk, just as she had done with Spock. "So," the older woman had said, "you're the one my Michael is seeing." Her Michael; all of them were hers -- her husband, her children, and anyone who married into the family. She considered them hers too.

She could see herself in this yard that first year, not knowing anyone, trying to remember all the names. The next year, she had waddled, eight months pregnant with Michel Jr., then another two years after that, in the same condition. Then had come the years of chasing little ones. But that, too, had passed. What a relief not to have to take anyone to the bathroom!

Lena took the chair next to Sue. "My feet are killing me," she said and soon they were engaged in everyday chitchat about work, kids, husbands, and the state of the world. Sue knew that her former sister-in-law was working around asking about Spock. To avoid answering, she was about to excuse herself by saying that she had to go to the bathroom when Mark came bounding over to them.

"Come on, Aunt Sue. We've been challenged to a game of bocci ball. It's the Benellis against the visitors."

"No, thanks, Mark, I have…"

"But you always play," he said, disappointment showing in his face.

"Not today, Mark. Let someone else…"

"Aunt Sue, we need you. Last year we lost…"

"Mark, not…"

"The family name's at stake. We need you. Well," he hesitated, "…are you a Benelli, or aren't you," he demanded.

The question caught Sue off guard. Though she didn't voice it, she instantly knew the answer, and the strength of it surprised her. It was true that she could not pronounce what she was, but she wasn't a Benelli anymore.

"Aunt Sue, are you okay?"

"Yeah, yeah, Mark, I'm fine. Now, who would dare to challenge the Benelli's?"

"Well, those two guys you brought, not Spock, but the other two. They said…"

"Oh, they did, did they? Well, we'll see about that." Sue saw her chance for revenge for the hose incident.

The Benellis won five out of six games and retained their championship title.

* * *

"Hi, Dad, have a good 4th? Yeah, me too. No, nothing special, it's just that we usually talk on Saturday, and, well, I won't be here, so I thought I'd call. Yeah, going out of town for the weekend and didn't want you to worry. Up north with colleagues of Ulrich's that are staying with me… Oh, Jeff called you, did he? Yes, Dad, it's true. Daddy…not for a while -- we're in no hurry. You'll meet him long before we get married. Yeah, we'll come -- August. No, Dad, I am not coming to Arizona in August. How about the fall -- October or November -- I know -- we'll come for Thanksgiving. Yeah, I do. Dad, I know how to pick the good ones. Dad, I -- I gotta go. I'll call when we get back to town -- Daddy, love you…" Sue hung up the phone and sagged against the kitchen counter. Then Spock was there, his arms around her.

"No regrets?"

She turned in his arms to look up at him. "No regrets. Just saying goodbye." She smiled and then hugged him close. "Do you know how ready I am to go home? I miss the kids, and your mother…I even miss your father."

* * *

The sun streamed through the lighter patches of the stained glass windows where Sue sat in front of the side altar. The statue of the Blessed Virgin stared sightlessly down at her as several vigil candles flickered heavenward, carrying with them the prayers of the hopeful. She had lit them herself, years ago, the last time, for her dying mother. Her mother hadn't recovered. But, then, sometimes the answer is no.

Two elderly women filed in through the side door. After making the sign of the cross at the holy water font, they took places in the center front pew. Another old woman and an old man came in and also took places close to the front. Only the old ones come to weekday Mass, Sue realized. I wonder why that is? A young boy in black cassock and white surplice came out into the sanctuary and lit three candles on each side of the main altar, then disappeared into the sacristy. Then, in formal procession, the boy returned, proceeding Patrick by several feet and just off to his right, making more noticeable the missing partner. Sue knew that some young boy would catch it from Sister Mary Joseph for having overslept and missed his serving assignment.

All stood, and Patrick began the Mass. As Sue responded to the familiar routine, she remembered all the time she had spent in this church. Some of her earliest memories were of sitting between her parents and squirming through Sunday Mass and getting "the Look" from her father. Later, sitting with the school class, the nuns watched, instead of Daddy. She had come to dislike Sunday mornings and had tried playing sick. But it only took once for her to learn that her father did not believe in miracle cures occurring early Sunday afternoon. If you were sick in bed on Sunday morning, you stayed there all day.

Important times in her life had happened here; First Communion, with white dress and veil, prayer book and rosary. It had been such a relief after the terror the day before, first confession. Confirmation; she had promised it all, but seeds of doubt were already sprouting. She had ignored them for there had been no Patrick to talk to and because it was easier. As a teenager, she had wanted the beautiful wedding, and most of all the white dress. She had bargained with God. If He would not strike her dead for wearing it, she would be a good wife and mother. She had walked down that center aisle and promised -- she had no idea what.

Two christenings, here in this place, two more First Communions -- the same veil and prayer book; happy times. Then, three caskets…

The bells rang for the consecration of the Host. Sue approached Patrick to receive Communion.

"Sue, accept the Body of Christ." Patrick watched her intently, and she could hear the concern in his voice.

Mass was over, the others filed out, but Sue did not move. She looked up to find Patrick staring at her.

"Something wrong?" he ventured.

"No, I'm just saying good-bye."

"To me?"

"To everything. Patrick, I'm going away."

"With Spock?"

"Yes," she nodded.

"So, you're getting married without me, after all."

"Don't be mad."

"Sue, there'll be a church, another priest. Seek them out…"

She shook her head. "It's very different there…"

"You're scaring me. Do you really know what you're doing?"

"Oh, yes. My life is there -- with him. I've known that for a long time, but yesterday I really felt it and now I'm ready to go. Can you understand?"


"Spock?" Sue saw him silhouetted in the doorway. Patrick turned as he approached.

"Reverend." Spock nodded in Patrick's direction, then looked to Sue. "I was concerned."

"Shouldn't have been. I left a note on the kitchen table. I just needed to say this one last good-bye."

"Sue tells me you're going away."

"Yes, that is correct."

"Spock, I don't quite know what's going on here, but I do know that if Sue leaves here -- her home, her family -- she'll be giving up a lot. I can only hope that you're as committed to her as she is to you."

"Reverend, I can assure you that I am."

"Sue has told me," Patrick continued, "that there's no Christian church where you're going…"

"Not in the formal sense," Spock admitted.

Patrick just kept shaking his head. "I would feel so much better if this relationship were solemnized, or legalized somehow…"

"You don't have to worry, Patrick. I'll have a good life," Sue said, trying to reassure him.

"There is something more going on here; I sense it. Sue, are you already married?"

"How could that be?" she asked, trying to duck his question.

"I don't know, but…"

"Reverend, as I understand it, there is a blessing you could bestow…"

"Yes, yes, there is." Patrick brightened. "You two, come with me."

They followed him to the foot of the altar where he turned to face them.

"Heavenly Father, here before you are Susan and Spock, your children. Bless them as they begin this journey, this new life together. Susan, Spock, turn to Him in your need and share with Him the joyous times.

"Listening to Sue a few minutes ago, I was reminded of Ruth's words to Naomi: 'Wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you live, I will live. For your people shall be my people and your God, my God…' Is that how it is, Sue?"

Sue smiled up at him and nodded.

* * *

As she walked through the garden, Sue hugged herself in defense against the late evening chill. Even with the long sleeved desert robe, she was cold, but was not yet ready to go indoors. With the children finally asleep, she wanted quiet and some privacy, since she had had none during the day. After the confinement of their early years, the children were taking full advantage of their freedom. The hesitation of the first few days was gone, and after a few weeks, rules of touch and touch-nots had been established. Sarek had even convinced Mandy (with Sue staying out of it) that she could not play with the computer, even though the boys were given limited access. What followed was a very busy routine and Sue knew she was fighting a losing battle.

Numerous times, Spock had offered to engage childcare help and Sue had decided to accept his offer. Even with all the built-in housekeeping devices, Sue was finding that keeping up with five kids and trying to work on the doc's papers was too much for her. "Must be old age," she told herself. "After all, I'm not 20 any more." Tomorrow she would begin interviewing the three applicants who had seemed interested and who had passed Spock's initial screening. There were two females -- one young, the other older, widowed -- and one male. Prejudice or not, she was sure she wouldn't find the male acceptable. She and this person would be spending a lot of time together in close proximity, and Sue knew she would be more comfortable with a female. She also thought she would prefer the younger female. The children already had a grandmother; they didn't need another. Perhaps someone younger would not be so set in her ways and would be more in touch with the times -- and more accepting of this odd family.

Sue stared across the chest-high wall at the almost completed structure. Soon, they would make the move across the garden to their own home. She walked through the gate and across the yard. Then her footsteps echoed on the bare floors as she wandered through what was to be her home. Though it was empty, she could picture it in its finished state. She and Spock had spent much time planning and choosing the furnishings.

Set to the south of Sarek and Amanda's home, this structure was completely different in style, being only two stories high, and of a straight-line design where the other curved. The main floor was dominated by a central living area with an open beamed ceiling two stories high and the entire west wall a fancy tempered glass to catch the afternoon sun. Only the advanced technology of being able to control the amount of incoming light through the glass allowed this advantage. To one side of the living area were the kitchen, utility and dining rooms, the latter facing the garden through the glass wall. The opposite wing would house the new help and guests. Although as far as Sue could see, the only people who might possible stay in those rooms would be Jim and Bones. There was a loft on either side of the living area, reached by either of two staircases and connected both inside and out by balconies. One side was the children's wing in intricately designed separate and shared bedroom, study, and play areas, while the other would house the master suite. There was a bath/dressing area, with that same shower arrangement Sue loved in Sarek and Amanda's home. The actual bedroom was huge with a sitting room/study with glass walls facing east and south.

Careful in the fading light, Sue made her way along the outside, and still railless, balcony and down the outside steps. In what would be her garden, she perched on a pile of leftover stone used to cover the exterior of the house. She stared up at her new home and was struck with the thought of how far they had come in only a year. From that cell on Towan to here, was it possible? They had marked the occasion tonight before their evening meal and had decided to make it a yearly event. It had been a year of so many changes since Spock had appeared in their cell and whisked them out from under Fraunt's nose. He had taken them away from that life and all the fears that went with it; a year since Chukka had died and Saren had come into their lives, and only half that long since she had gone back to Earth and Illinois Street to find that she didn't belong anymore -- that her life was here now.

Then they had come back to face new problems. Something had not been right; Sue and Spock sensed it the moment they reached home, but the children's excitement at their arrival had demanded their full attention, so whatever the problem was, it had to wait. All had given their undivided attention as the contents of Sue's boxes appeared one by one and the item's purpose and history was explained. The remote controlled model airplane, hand built by Mickey; the Barbie dolls and wardrobe enclosed in their "penthouse" case, the Tonka trucks, which were naturals for Vulcan sand. The picture albums had been given a quick once-over, but had since been scrutinized by all. Grandma's antique silver bowl, carnival glass pitcher, and crystal stemware would be spotlighted in the new house. The glow-in-the-dark Frisbee had been a big hit, as had the yo-yos.

When the children had finally fallen asleep, each clutching a favorite treasure, Sarek had told them. Thela and Thone were on their way to Vulcan.

Shortly after Sue and Spock's departure, the message had come in the code Sue and fought long and hard for -- sometimes at the top of her lungs. Spock had, of course, given Sarek this information -- just in case. So, when the message had come, Sarek had acted as per Spock's instructions. The Vulcan Free Traders had been contacted and the agreed upon amount, a considerable sum, had been paid. Then they had awaited word of Thela and Thone's arrival.

Since she had not heard of them before, Sue had demanded to know just who these Free Traders were and if they were dependable. To her surprise, she had learned that there were members of both sexes who were not accepting of Vulcan society, i.e., the bonding. Not being inclined to fight the system, they had escaped it -- into space. Amazed at hearing this, Sue's next question had concerned the unbonded males in this group. It seemed that most chose temporary couplings, but surgical removal of the Farrthano gland was a much-practiced option.

These individuals took the Vulcan integrity into space, and along with trading, they began to contract private business deals. All were within galactic law, but the Free Traders' methods proved more expedient than normal channels. Over the centuries, they had built a reputation of honor in all their dealings. They were shrewd negotiators, and once payment was accepted, they delivered as promised or refunded.

The family had waited. The promised date had come and gone, followed by two more. Sue thought she'd go crazy waiting. Then, a message arrived telling them to come to the spaceport. Sue remembered it all…

She had been first through the door, followed by Spock and Sarek. "Thela, Thone…" Sue was so relieved by the sight of the two of them. She wanted to hug Thela, but when the Romulan held out her hands, Sue got the message.

"We were so worried. When the deadline passed…" She turned her attention to Thone. "How are you, sport?"

"I am well." A slight smile crossed his face.

"Sue, I am so pleased to see you, even though you will in all likelihood remind me that you predicted this."

"Tha, I'm sorry it didn't work out for you. I really am."

"I know you are."

"Was it bad getting out?" Sue asked, knowing that Thela would not tell her if it was.

"No, it went well, only because it was not anticipated." Thela was looking past Sue. "Spock, I thank you for the speed with which you acted."

"Credit goes to my father," Spock said nodding to Sarek. "I was away when your message arrived."

Thela looked to Sarek. "Then, sir, to you I give my thanks. I realize the cost and shall attempt to repay…"

"Your safety and Thone's is payment enough."

There was an awkward silence; then Sue put all their thoughts into words. "Thela, what are you plans? Are you ready to come home with us?"

"Sue, you know I have no such intentions."

"Thela?" Spock questioned. "Where will you -- and Thone go?"

Her gaze went from Spock to Sue and back to Spock. "I shall go with the Free Traders. They have offered me the chance to serve with them -- in space. Would you of all people deny me that?" she said in response to his look.

Sue watched the look that passed between them. She had seen it before, on Towan, and knew that these two shared something she could not touch."

"And what of Thone?" he asked.

"He will have you, brothers, sisters, elders…"

"And what of his mother?"

"Sue will see that he does not lack in such attention."

Spock turned to Sue. "Explain to her…"

Thela and Sue exchanged glances. "Sue will do no such thing. She understands. In my place she would do the same."


Sue nodded. "Thela's right, in her place, I would do the same. Now you come home with us for a few days and then…"

"Susan, I plan to leave now…"

"Oh, no you don't!" Sue said, shaking her head, and then turning to Sarek. "Would you please take Thone outside. Thela and I need to settle some things." With Sarek and Thone gone, Thone only after a nod from his mother, Sue was back at Thela. "You are not going to drop that child off like so much dirty laundry." Anger was evident in her voice.

"Sue, I have no such intentions…but I cannot stay…"

"Yes, you can -- for a few days to see where he'll live, his school, get to know his grandparents some…"

Thela was looking at Spock who had seen these arguments so many times before. "Spock, explain to her…"

"Don't even try," Sue said, crossing her arms over she chest, "to get between husband and wife…"

Thela's mouth dropped open as her anger dissipated. Then she smiled, "Oh, Susan, you were married, I am so pleased for you both…" She turned to Spock. "There are times you have my sympathy, Spock. She can be so…"

"Yes, indeed she can," he interrupted, but Sue knew she'd won this argument as Thela turned to the Vulcan Free Trader who had brought her and Thone here.

"I agree with the human," T'Eisa said. "I will make a pilgrimage to my family lands and visit with them and then purchase supplies for the Traders. I shall meet you here in the morning, four days from now." With that she turned and left.

"Susan," Thela sigh in exasperation. "Would a clean break not be easier for Thone?"

"No. Now, this Free Trader thing, as you sure you won't change your mind?"

"To live off Spock's charity; to have no chance for my own life? If I had been willing to settle for that, I would have stayed with Morag."

"Okay, okay. I had to ask. Of course Thone is part of the family, but I need your word on something -- no, two things. First, you have to keep in contact with him…"

"Is that really best for him?"

"Yes. I can mother him; Amanda -- Spock's mother -- will too, but he knows who his mother is. If you abandon him, well, we won't be able to compensate for that rejection."

"Sue, I will bow to your knowledge in this. If you feel that Thone will benefit…"

"He needs you to show an interest in his life -- even from afar. You must communicate often and visit, and remember special occasions. When he's older, take him with you for a time."

"Sue, he will be happier and accepted with you and Spock. He will belong to a family. I cannot give him that. Morag refused…" She lowered her head, then looked at Sue. "I agree to your first condition. What of the second."

Sue shifted uneasily and her eyes went to Spock. "There's something I want to say to Thela…"

Before she could finish, Spock interrupted. "I will be with Sarek and Thone." He turned a walked through the door, leaving the two women alone.

"Thela, you won't have to worry about this condition for a lot of years, I hope, but when I'm dead -- you and Spock will still have many years of life left. Promise me you'll come back to Vulcan and be with him. You'll need someplace by then and he'll…"

The two could do nothing be stare at one another as Sue fought back tears.

Thela's voice was choked. "You know, then, what we share?"

"Yeah, I know." Sue looked away for a moment and then back to Thela. "Tha, promise me. He'll be alone then -- his folks will be gone, the kids grown with lives of their own. I can't bear to think of him alone -- he'll need someone with him -- someone who knows…"

"You have my word.

* * *

And so the two had been welcomed by everyone and after four days Thela had sailed off into the Wild Black Yonder with the Free Traders. There were times, when Sue was knee-deep in kids and household chores, that she thought of Thela -- remembered her in the sleek uniform of the Free Traders, not a hair out of place, her fingernails long and manicured. Sue imagined her having exciting adventures, and she envied her.

A movement distracted Sue's reminiscing, and she looked up to find Spock coming toward her. As she watched him, she remembered why her envy of Thela never lasted very long.

"Kids okay?" she asked.

"Yes, all asleep. You have been gone for some time."

Sue scooted over and he joined her on the rock pile. "Just thinking."

"Yes, the anniversary has called up many memories -- and thoughts of the future."

When Sue did not respond, he continued. "It is necessary that we discuss the children's test results. There are some very serious decisions to be made."

"I'm not ready, there's too much to digest."

"Susan, you…"

"Okay, okay, we can talk, but not make decisions. There's no big hurry, is there?"

"No, but I do wish to hear your thoughts."

"Still very confused. About Jamie and Len -- part of me is glad that they won't ever need to be bonded; then I wonder if you're disappointed that they're not more Vulcan."

"In no way could I be disappointed in the fact that they will never experience pon farr. As adults, it will afford them a freedom Vulcans never know."

"But as children living here, it sets them apart in yet another way, and Thone will require bonding. How do we explain? The three get along so well, and that's unusual for a threesome. This could cause a split."

"We will be in no hurry to bond Thone. He will need time to acclimate himself to all that life on Vulcan entails. What are your thoughts on Thay-an?"

"I just don't know," Sue said rubbing her temples. Those results were the most startling. Thay-an had the highest telepathic potential of all the children and was the least able to emotionally cope with it.

"A special school may be her only answer. She will be with others like herself and sheltered until trained."

"I know," Sue interrupted. "Deep down, I know I can't give her what she needs most."

"Susan, that is not a failure on your part…"

"…I know that too, but if we do send her away, that'll leave Mandy the only girl. I've always liked it that there were the two of them. And how can I let her go…and, God, Spock, if we do make that decision, she won't want to go…"

"You are correct in that. She will not realize that we have her best interest -- her very sanity -- to consider."

"No. She'll just feel abandoned."

"As you stated, this is not an immediate problem. She will be closely monitored and the problems may not begin to surface until puberty. Susan, if we should decide on that course of action, we will accompany her to the school and remain near for awhile."

"But will it be enough? If leaving home is too traumatic, it'll offset any benefits of the school. Maybe keeping her with us would be better in the long run."

"Susan, I do realize how foreign the idea of sending a young child away from home is to you."

"It feels so wrong. As her parents, we should be best for her. But I know that isn't always true. Sometimes handicapped children are sent away to learn to accept their problems and become independent."

"An excellent analogy."

"It was?" she questioned.

"Thay-an's telepathy could become a dangerous handicap. If she does not learn to control it, it will control her."

Sue leaned against Spock and was glad that the Galactic Missions had been postponed yet again. She would have more time to consider all these matters as they pertained to the children, and, more importantly, she would have Spock here with her during that time.

Wanting done with this conversation, Sue interrupted her own thoughts. "Hey, I just remembered that I want to ask you about something. She rose and pulled him up. "Come show me what this is all about. I don't remember it from the plans." She led him around the yard to the southwest corner. "What's that?" she asked pointing at a half-constructed structure.

"When finished," Spock said, "it will be an arbor. Vinta vines will be planted to grow up and cover it…"

"Are those what your parents have on that wall, the ones that smell so nice?"

"Yes, and under the cross beams," he pointed up, "will hang a swing similar to the one…"

"A swing? You're building me a swing like one from my front porch?"

* * *

Sue opened the front door, and there stood Dr. McCoy.

"Oh!" she squealed, and threw her arms around him "We heard the news. It's definite this time -- the trip's a go." She stepped back. "What's the matter? I can tell by the look on your face that…"

"Doctor, what has happened?" It was Spock entering the room, the concern evident in his tone.

McCoy's face was grim. "You're both right. I do have news, and it's not good. Where can we talk?"

"Sarek's study is empty. Please, come in, Leonard."

As soon as he was seated, Sue blurted out. "What's this all about?"

It was Spock who answered. "Starfleet Command does not want me on the galactic probe mission," he said flatly.

"What? Why?" Sue's eyes flew from Spock to McCoy.

"I'm afraid you're right, Spock."

"Why?" Sue repeated, her voice still too loud.

The doctor did not immediately answer.

"You need not be afraid to speak the word, Doctor. It is because of the pon farr. This comes as no surprise to me." Spock turned to Sue. "If you recall, I did try to prepare you for this."

"I took care of that."

"Not really," McCoy put in.

Spock shook his head as he looked at Sue. "All you did was render two crewmembers inoperative, instead of one. With a crew that small, it could endanger the whole mission."

McCoy nodded in agreement.

Spock was looking to McCoy again. "What did Jim say, Doctor?"

McCoy smiled. "You know our captain, Spock. He said, 'Fix it, Bones.'"

"That's it," Sue said bouncing with sudden excitement. "You wouldn't have come all this way just to deliver bad news. You have an idea."

Now McCoy had Spock's attention. "Is she correct?"

"As a matter of fact, Spock, she is. I have been in contact with the Vulcan medical establishment. We've been burning up the subspace communication waves for weeks now -- been conferring with someone named T'Leal. We may have an answer…"

"Answer? I do not understand."

"Shhh," Sue said impatiently. "Let him talk."

"It's no secret that research to control pon farr has been going on for many years." When Spock nodded, McCoy continued. "Results haven't been very successful, but one thing they have accomplished is to artificially induce pon farr. This may be your answer, Spock…"

"I forbid it!" Sarek's voice cut across the room. All eyes turned to him as he stood in the doorway, Amanda at his side.

Spock turned and met his father eye-to-eye. "I would hear the doctor out. It is, after all, my decision."

"After these past five years, I will not see your life risked to an untried drug."

"Not risk? Should I never venture out?"

"This endangers your life."

"It is my life."

Sue's eyes were darting back and forth like a spectator's at a tennis match and the tension in the air was palatable.

"Is it just me who is experiencing feelings of déjà vu?" Amanda asked her voice strained.

"No, we have had this conversation before." Sarek's tone carried less force.

"With very unsatisfactory results," Spock added.

"I should not care to repeat that experience."

"Nor will I, Father."

"However, I am against this experiment."

"But you will retract the work 'forbid' and allow me to decide."


"In my place, would you ask less?"

"I withdraw my objection. The decision is yours." Sarek turned to leave.

"Father, stay -- please. I value your counsel on this."

Sarek took two more steps, then stopped. When it was evident that he would remain, Spock turned back to McCoy.

"Huh?" The doctor uttered, startled at the attention suddenly focused on him. He cleared his throat. "I've read several case histories. One was a young male with a terminal illness. He and his wife wanted a child, but he wouldn't live until his next cycle, much less survive it. His condition was deteriorating monthly. Pon farr was induced. The drug worked; the female conceived, and the male live long enough to see his son born."

"What of the pon farr itself?" was Sarek's first question.

"Not quite normal. Much more intense, but of shorter duration. I have the report; you can read it yourself."

"And Starfleet will accept this?" Sue asked.

"Let me assure you," McCoy smiled at everyone in turn, "Starfleet has been convinced." That was one meeting Sue was sorry to have missed.

Sarek's mood was still guarded. "Doctor, T'Leal freely discussed this information and gave you access to case histories?"

"Ambassador, I get the distinct feeling that Vulcan wants very much to see one of their own on the crew of the probe mission. Let's face it. It's quite a plum. The names of the crew will be remembered as the first to go to the hub of our galaxy. Do you realize the competition for places on the crew?"

"I can well imagine Vulcan wanting Spock on that crew, but the honor is not worth his life."

"I wouldn't suggest it if I thought that a possibility." There was a hint of irritation in McCoy's voice.

"Forgive me, Doctor. I did not mean to imply that you would."

McCoy nodded acceptance of Sarek's remark. "I would like to arrange a meeting with T'Leal. Then we can discuss this at length."

"I've got a question," Sue said. "All the guys who took this drug -- were they 100% Vulcan?"

"Yes, Sue, they were."

"Well, how's Spock's human side going to fit into this?"

"Susan," Spock said, "When it comes to pon farr, I seem to be full Vulcan."

Four heads jerked up to stare at him.

"I do believe, husband, that you're bragging! But I guess that settles it…"

"No, Susan." His tone was very different from a few seconds earlier. "This is far from settled."

Sue was about to ask why, but the look in his eyes told her it would be better in private.

* * *

"Okay," Sue said as soon as their bedroom door was shut. "What's to discuss? If you're to go on that…"

Spock did not respond; instead, he went to stand and stare out the window. Sue watched and then went to stand next to him.

"Spock, what is it?"

"I was remembering -- the last pon farr…"

She took hold of his arm and turned him to face her. "That's all in the past, and forgotten."

"I find that difficult to accept."

"You're not still carrying that guilt around, are you?"

"No, with help, I have dealt…"

"Help? You've been seeing a healer, discussing this…"

"You object?"

"No. I just didn't realize it still bothered you."

"I could not face another pon farr with the memories of the last unresolved." His study of her was intent. "And you have no hesitation about the next time?"

"No, why should I?"

"I can think of several reasons."

"That act was committed by someone I don't know -- a faceless stranger. What has build between us since then has obliterated that beginning." Sue stopped and thought for a moment. "I guess it's like the pain of childbirth. Hurt like hell at the time and your first thought when it's over is, I will never put myself through this again. But once you look at the face of your child the memories of pain fade and in time you don't remember how bad the pain was." She thought about how to phrase her next words, not wanting them to cause their own pain. "I remember the facts of that first night, but I never think of them in relation to you."

"How can that be?" The misery in his tone of voice echoed his mood.

"Look at it in the context of the situation. What happened to me was no different from any of the other women on Towan. I had hoped to do better, and cursed my bad luck, but it left me no worse off than most of the women there. I still had a bigger priority -- to keep Tha, Soy, and myself alive so we could escape. Besides, I though I could turn your guilt into an advantage."

"Guilt -- yes. I thought death my only choice."

"You reeked of it. I decided to use it to my benefit. I thought I could control you through it."

"Excellent logic."

"Aren't you going to say I was heartless and conniving?"

"As you stated, you were trying to survive."

The whole tone of their conversation had turned sour, and Sue wanted desperately to find some words to turn it around. "Let me tell you about the Spock I know. He delivered Jamie and Len, and then Mandy. He protected Soy-an and saved Thela, and then took her punishment on himself. But even more than that, he was there, day after day, working to get us out of that hellhole. He was gentle and loving that night in the isolation room. That's the man I know and love." She moved behind him and slipped her arms around him, laying her head on his back. "We're going to do this, Spock, if you and McCoy think it's safe."

* * *

The next two weeks seemed like that many months to Sue. Healers poked and prodded her body and mind all over again. None of the old test results would do; they wanted all new ones for comparison. So many times she had been on the verge of screaming "No more!" but she didn't. She was Spock's only chance for that mission, so she bit her lip and kept silent.

Everyone felt the need to counsel her. Amanda, as a human female who had shared a common experience, said, "Sue, I did not realize the importance of the training until I was forced to rely on it."

Sarek told her to feel free to question him on any matter.

"Any matter?"


"Well, I always wondered…How did you and Amanda ever get chummy enough for you to propose?"

"I didn't. She asked me."


At least when she and McCoy talked, it was as equals, friends. They both had the same goal: Spock's welfare.

T'Leal, as healer and self-appointed teacher, had harped on one point ad nauseam: without the early and prolonged training, Sue would have a difficult task. She must concentrate -- the female role was critical. The healer had preached on a theoretical, scientific level. In Vulcans, the predatory and reproductive behavior had the same psychological and biological beginnings in aggression. Somewhere in the progressions, a signal to the brain triggered the direction a specific action would take. That in itself was not so different from many hominoid species. The main difference was that, during the Vulcan reproductive cycle -- during the pon farr, when the male had no control -- the female controlled the triggering mechanism.

The success of this experiment depended on her. Sue knew it and she was determined to make it work. She applied herself, studying the tapes and practicing the techniques. She trained herself to respond automatically, not to get caught off guard, knowing she had to be prepared, so no matter what Spock's mind threw at her, she would ignore it, act instinctively, and lead him away from the violence. All in all, Sue thought that T'Leal was overreacting. She and Spock had been through this before; they had managed then, and would manage now.

After explaining that they would be away for the next ten days, Sue and Spock said good-bye to the children and left for the city's medical center. Dr. McCoy and T'Leal met them, and accompanied them to the large room that would become their home for the duration. It reminded Sue of an efficiency apartment, but when T'Leal began instructing them on the workings of the equipment and demonstrating how the sensors worked, Sue realized that there was more to this room then met the eye. Shades of Masters and Johnson! she thought.

Sue watched nervously as Spock was given an injection; then they were left alone. Spock went directly to the room's small desk and his reading materials, and Sue didn't complain. She knew that he still had much catching up to do if he was going to be ready for that mission.

To keep her hands busy, she unpacked, hanging up their robes in the closet and putting the rest of their belongings in the small dresser. When nervous, as she was now, Sue had the tendency to make jokes. Except for the street clothes they were wearing, they had brought nothing but bedclothes. At this moment, that struck Sue as particularly funny. It was all she could do not to laugh as, one after another, lewd comments ran through her mind.

Her little chore completed and her mind out of the gutter, Sue went to sit on the couch with her folder of the Doc's papers. She sat shuffling them and watching Spock. Trying not to be too obvious, she peeked at him periodically from behind her papers while pretending to read.

"Susan," he said, his back still toward her, "stop observing me as if you expect me to explode before your very eyes."


He got up and came to sit next to her. "Having second thoughts?"

"No. I'm just no good at waiting."

"Gross understatement. If you could do some work, the committee is most anxious for those translations."

Sue set herself to the task and produced five pages; then, as a reward, she treated herself to a long shower.

Spock was still at his work when she emerged from the bathroom, so she crawled into bed. Sometime later, she woke enough to know that he was lying next to her and she snuggled close to him. Sensing her tension, he began the routine that had its beginning on Towan. Slowly he massaged her shoulders, his hands traveling over her back, covering every inch, then up to her neck and into her hair. Never in a hurry, he allowed his fingers to linger as they kneaded away the tightness. Sometimes the tension did not melt away; instead, it changed direction. It was then that she became an active partner in the touching and caressing. She knew now that he did enjoy being touched, had his own places of vulnerability. She had learned them, as he had hers, and she had come to have a real appreciation for Vulcan control.

Later, while lying in his arms, Sue giggled, and Spock inquired as to what she found so amusing.

"My talk with T'Leal. You won't believe the things she said. I don't know how I got through it without coming unglued. She was telling me that prolonged intercourse can cause injury and pain, and the -- now, get this -- there are alternatives. Can you believe that?"

"Yes, but what I hesitate to ask, is, how did you respond?"

"Did my best not to laugh. But when she pulled up a list of positions on the computer, I almost died. But," Sue stressed, "being the dutiful wife, I read it. Then I pointed out two positions that weren't listed. She shut off the machine."

He pulled her closer and whispered, "I know what is on that list. Show me the other two."

Sue giggled again.

At the appointed check in time, both were awake, so Spock reported on his condition. When everything was considered satisfactory, Sue gave the second injection.

* * *

Sue responded to the urgent sound of her name. "I'm here," she said, rolling over. Spock clutched at her. "Hey, it's okay. I'm here." He didn't seem to hear as he pulled her under him. "Wait a minute." She was trying to sort out the flood of thoughts that were bombarding her mind. Mostly she could read his fear -- fear of her not being there. "Spock, I'll always be here; don't you know that?"

As he slept, Sue conferred via intercom with McCoy and T'Leal.

"Readings are all within the expected," T'Leal confirmed. "Shall we continue?"

"Of course," Sue answered, wondering why the healer had even asked.

Sue repeated this sequence through the night and into the next day as she fought the edginess she was feeling. She paced the floor just for something to do. "Talk about feast or famine," she said to herself. She was either totally occupied, or she had nothing to do. If Spock were himself, he would lecture her about translating the Doc's notes. That thought made her glad he was asleep. "And it's only the start of the third day," she sighed.

By the fourth day Sue knew she had a problem. Her automatic responses to Spock's loss of control -- well, they weren't very automatic. As the fever built in him, she did her best to respond as she had been instructed. But, try as she might, she could not direct the mind contact -- not past the first few minutes anyway. She repeated the memorized lectures to herself. "'You are in control; lead your mind where you wish it to go and his will follow. Do not become caught in his inconsistencies.' I'm trying, dammit, I'm trying!" But she was tired and knew her own control was slipping.

At the check in times, Sue said nothing of this. She waited, wondering if T'Leal or McCoy would notice something on their sensors. But even though she could detect the concern in their voices, they gave no hint that anything was wrong.

Sue mentally crossed her fingers. It may not be the best way, but she knew that they would get through this.

The next time he awoke needing her lasted only a few minutes, and Sue felt like so much baggage. "Wait a minute!" she snapped as he pulled at her. "Let me get more comfortable; last time my head was jammed against the headboard." She should have saved her breath.

Sue sat in the tub, soaking her sore, aching body. Having no better ideas and no one she could ask for advice, she tried to find some comfort in what Amanda had told her. "This can be an intense time of sharing," her mother-in-law had said. "You will gain a new understanding of each other; the bonding will strengthen through this time." Sue rubbed at her upper arm and realized she would have a dandy bruise there. So far, she hadn't seen much strengthening of their bond, and she was falling apart. Knowing she couldn't be away from Spock for too long, and resenting it, she made herself get out of the tub.

The intercom buzzed and she answered. "Is it time for the next injection?"

"No. It should be," McCoy said, his voice guarded, "but Spock's hormone count is above levels predicted for this time. Sue, we've decided to omit this injection."

"Okay. I'm sure you know he's asleep so I'm going to grab a bite to eat."

"That's a good idea," McCoy said. "You need to keep up your strength…Sue, are you all right? Your heart rate is up and your blood pressure down some in the past several hours."

"I'm fine, Doctor McCoy. It's just that this is so nerve racking, so un-natural. Either too much to do or too much time on my hands…"

"Sue, you've been through this before…"

"I know, but I had two other women to take care…" The image of Thela and Soy-an flashed through her mind, and Sue knew that was not a good thing to dwell on just now. "It was different there on Towan," she said.

"Well, try to relax while Spock's asleep. McCoy out."

Sue went to the corner kitchenette and punched a few buttons, and then took her selection to the small table. After a few bites, she pushed the tray away. It was either the food or her mood, but she couldn't taste anything. Thinking on McCoy's comments, Sue asked herself, "Why is this different from last time?"

For one thing, she told herself, my motives were different. I didn't give a fig about Spock as a person, and I sure as hell didn't care about his needs. He was just a means to an end. And there was no bond between us. He wasn't expecting me to be there for him mentally, now he is, and Sue knew she wasn't doing what was expected of her. The bonding wasn't working and Sue didn't understand why.

Am I letting my feelings for him get in the way of this? she wondered. "That's just great, Sue! You were better for him when you didn't give a damn. That makes a hell of a lot of sense, and it won't do."

* * *

Spock lay across the middle of the bed. "If I try to nudge him over, he'll wake and…" Sue grabbed a blanket and curled up on the couch. Within the hour, he found her there.

All she wanted to do was go to the bathroom, but Spock had clamped a hand around her wrist and would not let go. Even as he slept, Sue could not pry his fingers loose. She felt like a trapped animal and sensed the panic rising in her stomach. Her instincts were to hit or kick him to make him let go of her, but knowing that wasn't the answer, Sue forced herself to relax. "This is your fault," she told herself yet another time. "You're doing it all wrong -- and after all your big talk. He's afraid you won't be here, because you can't use the mind link to reassure him." And she knew that she wouldn't feel so angry and frustrated if the two of them were sharing this like a truly bonded couple.

Having calmed her mind, she lay quiet and took deep, even breaths for several minutes. Finally, she felt his hand go lax. Slowly she slid her wrist free, inched out of bed, then ran for the john.

Coming out of the bathroom she heard him stir; then he was awake and sitting up in bed. "I seem to be taking my half out of the middle again," he said with more coherency then he'd had in two days.

"Yeah," Sue said half-heartedly.

"No witty comeback?" he questioned.

Sue had heard the slight tension in his voice, but did not respond.


"Spock," she snapped, "I'm here; isn't that enough?"

"No, not nearly enough."

She couldn't take back the words. She could only go to him and hope he understood.

* * *

Sue was dozing in the chair when a knock at the door jarred her awake. "Who's there?" she asked in confusion.

"Delivery," was the one word reply.

Opening the door to stare at a young woman in a Medical Center uniform, holding a large bouquet of flowers, Sue said, "Are you sure you have the right place?"

"I believe so. You are Susan, are you not?"


"Then, these are for you." She handed a bewildered Sue the flowers. Dumbfounded, Sue carried them to the table and searched for a card. She found it nestled among the yellow blossoms.

Susan, these are not roses, but they are yellow. May they convey what I am unable to at this moment.

Spock had signed his name in Vulcan. It was one of the few written words Sue knew in that language. She stared at the flowers and wiped the tears that formed. He had planned this; thought about it ahead of time.

The next time he woke she thanked him. "What a human thing to do. You're going sentimental on me."

"No, Susan, it was the logical thing to do for the human who is seeing the Vulcan through this most difficult time."

* * *

Where all the lectures to herself had failed, the flowers succeeded. Sue's outlook brightened and her mood came up out of the mental cellar. This new resolve manifested itself as determination to make this mind link work for, not against, them. And Sue did make it work -- once, twice. Then she began to wear ddowwn, physically and mentally.

She watched as he slept, sprawled across the bed, his hair tousled. She rarely saw him like this, usually enjoyed it, and thought he looked vulnerable, but not now. Now she thought he would never seem vulnerable again. She was the vulnerable one.

Pacing the room, one end to the other, she counted the twelve steps, then turned and counted nine more. Their cell on Towan had been fourteen. That's what this reminded her of -- like being back in that cell on Towan. No, worse. On Towan, she could go outdoors for some fresh air, look out the air vent and know if it was day or night. In here, with no windows, she had soon lost track of time -- even what day it was, asking at each and every check in time. The patient replies only increased her frustration and anger.

Noticing the Doc's papers on the table, and knowing she hadn't the concentration to work on them, Sue packed them away, then turned out the light and sat in the dark. She pulled a blanket around herself more for security than warmth. There was almost no sound: Spock's breathing, her own. Realizing that she was sighing heavily, she tried to stop. So as not to think, she concentrated on the sounds of the air softly whooshing through the recirculator and the hum of some piece of equipment. Sue tried to identify it, but quickly tired of that game.

Sue looked around the sterile room and became more disgusted with herself. The wilting blossoms, no longer bright and with petals drooping, seemed to agree with her self-assessment. How stupid she had been, thinking that they would share this time, that it would be like making love. During that time, the mind link was a real ego trip: seeing herself in Spock's mind, the way he saw her, the things she did that excited him; and the reverse -- just to imagine what she wanted sexually and to have him respond. It was the ultimate high. That was what Sue the imbecile had expected. Instead, they were just two people occupying the same space.

He was driven. She saw the need to survive that theory said was programmed into every species. The male need -- not to join with her to create a child, but to spread his seed far and wide in the hope that some would survive. She knew that her own programming was purported to be different. The female need was to bind the male to her, for the protection of herself and her young. To unite these diverse urges, civilizations attempted to make its member monogamous. In touch-telepathic Vulcans, the bonding was supposed to channel the male need to mate in one direction. Sometimes Sue knew that Spock needed her; other times, she wondered if any warm body would do. T'Leal had warned her to expect this, but Sue had been nonchalant, saying it wasn't important. It was, but it changed nothing. So she went to bed, promising yet again to do better.

* * *

Hands on her body, violent thoughts in her mind; Sue awoke to that onslaught with no time to gather herself. Focus! A voice commanded from inside her head as she rolled away, desperate for a few seconds to gain control. He reached out and caught her by the ankle. She twisted around to stare at the man who had hold of her and was pulling her closer to him. There, in that instant, something inside Sue's mind snapped. She was back in that cell on Towan with the faceless stranger.

"No!" she screamed, and kicked free. Before he could react, she scrambled away from him. Knowing he was behind her, she ran screaming to the far end of the room and found herself cornered in the kitchenette.

"Susan?" he called, confused and disoriented as he moved toward her.

Frantically searching for something -- anything -- to use to protect herself, Sue grabbed the fork next to her dinner tray and knew she had her weapon. Grabbing it, prongs forward, she raised her arm; then, in a half-crouch, she braced herself. "Come on, you bastard. Just touch me one more time and I'll cut out your stinking heart."

"Susan?" He got closer and she lunged.

"I'll kill you -- kill you for what you've done!" She was wild, with adrenaline surging, and that combined with his confusion, allowed her to match his strength for a few seconds.

Neither of the struggling pair was aware of the door opening. Strong arms gripped them and pulled Sue and Spock apart.

"No! Let go -- I'll kill him!" She fought the new intruders, arms flailing, feet kicking, as she twisted to get away. It did her no good. Her intended victim was being led away from her as she was dragged from the room.

Arms flailing, Sue fought the new intruders, but with no success, she felt herself pulled away from her attacker. "No, let me at him, I'll kill him for what he did…" It was no use; she was jerked away from him, could no longer strike at him.

Knowing she had failed, Sue felt her body go limp, let it be pushed and shoved into some sort of clothing; hauled from the room and then felt herself being settled into a chair. "If he comes near any of us again, I'll kill him…I swear I will." Her energy spent, she sagged against the chair back.

Someone was calling her name; there was a hand on her chin, forcing her to look up to where the voice was coming from.

"Sue, who am I?" the voice demanded.

She stared for several seconds blinking her eyes as she tried to remember where she was. "McCoy," she said hesitantly.

"Good. Now tell me. What in the name of God happened in there?"

"In there?" she asked disjointedly.

"Yes, in there." He pointed back over his shoulder. "What happened?"

Her voice quickened as she began to tremble. "He raped me -- he came back -- he was gonna do it again…"

"What are you talking about? Sue, you're not making sense." McCoy moved toward her and when she jerked back, he stopped.

"Tell me again," he said, his voice deliberately calm. "Exactly what happened?"

She was shaking now as she tried to talk between gulps of air. "He was after me -- he already got Tha and Soy…" She sobbed and clutched her middle.

"Sue, listen to me. That was Spock and he was doing what his system drove him to do -- to join with his wife, his bondmate."

"No," she yelled. "It was him -- attacking me -- because I was there. We put him in our cell -- he was from Starfleet -- Tha said he could get us off Towan, but he attacked us…" Her raspy voice gave out as her head fell against the back of the chair.

"Spock called you by name. I heard him." The confusion in McCoy's tone was evident.

"No! You don't understand. It was him! He raped me -- all of us." Her words, like her breath, came in short gasps. "I could see it all -- in his mind. Soy begging, begging him not to hurt her, but he didn't listen. And Tha -- she fought back -- enraging him. He was like a bull, wanting to kill her. I saw it all." Her eyes were glazed as she continued to relive that night on Towan.

"Dear God in heaven," McCoy said as he staggered backward, and then T'Leal was beside him helping him to a chair. "How's Spock?" he managed to say when he was seated.

"Resting, for now. Tell me, Doctor, what is happening here?"

"God, I hope it not true, but I think Sue's reliving the first night with Spock." He took the cup T'Leal offered and drank. It was hot herbal tea and he tasted the stimulant it contained. When he began to speak again, it was as if he was gathering his thoughts. "You know about their years on Towan?"

T'Leal only nodded, obviously not wanting to interrupt.

"He would have been well into pon farr by the time he arrived there." McCoy turned his attention to his Vulcan counterpart. "With no mate available, what would he have done?"

"Begun to shut down his system…"

"That's what I thought," McCoy interrupted. "And that would have led to his death, am I correct?"

Again the woman nodded, but the concern and confusion showed in her eyes.

"I could never get either of them to discuss those first weeks on Towan. Sue would only say that they managed to get through it. But now I think…" He looked to T'Leal again. "Sue is saying she was assaulted and so were the other two. Is that possible? The Spock I know would rather die than commit such an act -- and -- my God -- three women…"

"No Vulcan would do such a thing." There was no doubt in T'Leal conviction.

The two doctors studied Sue as she sat in her chair hugging herself, rocking back and forth and staring at nothing. "We can't give her anything to calm her, can we?" he asked the healer.

"I would not recommend it at this time."

McCoy scooted her chair closer. "Sue, tell me again, what happened that night."

Sue did not even look at him. "Sue!" he demanded, "Look at me! Why are you accusing Spock of rape? He would never do that, not the Spock I know. T'Leal says no Vulcan would do that…"

She looked up at him and then down at her hand. "Oh Christ, it's all come back and he promised I would never have to suffer through that again."

"No Vulcan would act as you have accused," T'Leal said with confidence.

Sue stared up at the two healers, her mouth and brain trying to coordinate. This was their secret, no one was ever to know and now she had to tell. It was an unspoken pact between them; he would see that she never relived that night in his mind again and she would never reveal what had happened and the part she had played in it. But now that she had blurted out his actions she had no choice but to finish the story and admit her part in it. After several false starts, Sue said, "A half Vulcan would if you shoot him full of pen-ox." She opened her fingers and the fork she was still clutching clattered to the floor.

"Pen-ox. My God," McCoy exclaimed. "Why would you do that? You could have killed him."

"We were losing him," Sue sought to explain, "his vital signs were almost non-existent -- needed him to get us off Towan. Thought he was Vulcan and it worked on Tha's people. I didn't know -- I didn't know…" Tears were running down her face.

McCoy swallowed hard and glanced at T'Leal, then back to Sue. "So he was dying and you injected pen-ox to revive him. But instead it made him…" McCoy couldn't finish.

"Made him wild, in a rage," Sue said the words McCoy couldn't. "Soy was alone with him, then Tha came in later and he attacked her. I was last…when the pen-ox finally wore off he was like a different person. And he felt so guilty -- I planned to use that to make him help us." Sue took the cup of tea T'Leal handed her and murmured a thank you.

"So you're telling me that after that beginning, you forgave him and aided him through the rest of the pon farr." McCoy shook his head. "I find that very difficult to believe."

"Wasn't easy. I really did try to kill him -- that scar on his neck -- I did that." Sue paused to take several sips of her tea. "You have to understand, we wanted out and he was our only hope and when the drug wore off, he was so gentle helping with Soy and with Tha's injuries…sorry," she said, "but what choice did we have?" Their helpless stares gave Sue the same answer she had reached that night on Towan. "None! No other choice but to go forward. So I swallowed what little pride I had left and he did the same with his dignity and we got through it." Her eyes traveled from one healer to the other and noted that their look did not change. "I'm sorry, I don't know why all that came out. He promised to bury it so deep that neither of us would remember it again." She looked up at these two medical people hoping to make them understand.

"You did what?" T'Leal asked, her eyes wide.

"Asked him to bury the thoughts…he kept remembering -- every time we were -- together -- it made no sense to keep reliving it. I asked him to get rid of those thoughts, but he said he didn't have enough control to do that. So I said bury them…"

"That," said T'Leal, "is the root of our problem. I knew something was interfering with the bonding, but could not ascertain what it might be."

"What?" McCoy eyes flew from Sue to T'Leal. "What's the problem -- something with the bond?

"Exactly. I know Susan was trying, as was Spock. But something was interfering with the bond. It is not possible to create a block on certain memories, without placing the entire bond in jeopardy. Spock knows this, why would he do that to a bond…"

"What bond?" Sue snapped. "There was no bonding, just slaves trying to stay alive."

McCoy shook his head. "All those tests we ran, and not a hint of this. You really had me fooled."

"I didn't think it was important. I just wanted all those terrible memories to go away so we could get on with what we had to do to survive. I'm sorry I got him into this."

"Now that we understand the problem, we can remedy it. Susan, you and Spock will need to acknowledge those memories and not fight them. They are part of the past and cannot be altered. When you meld again, you will need to let those emotion flow, experience them, accept them, and then let them go…"

"Oh, no!" Sue pushed her chair backwards, as if she were being stalked. "I'm not going back in there. I won't…I can't."

"You must." The healer's reply was harsh.

"No! I'm calling off this experiment as of now. It's finished!"


"Sue," McCoy's voice was almost a whisper. "This is no longer an experiment. Now his own body has taken over…"

"We have accomplished our objective," T'Leal interrupted. "He is now deep in the fever."

McCoy watched Sue bristle at the Vulcan's remark. "T'Leal," he interjected, "leave us alone for awhile." The Vulcan nodded and left the room with McCoy following her to the door. The two exchanged a few words and then McCoy turned his attention back to Sue. "Sue, you can't be serious about not going back to Spock."

"I can't do it…" The look she gave him was pure misery.

"You think about that." McCoy left her soaking in the tub, the jets slowly pulsing the tension from her body. He returned several minutes later with towels and a heavy robe. Sue stepped out of the tub and into the robe, letting it absorb the moisture from her body.

She followed McCoy back to T'Leal's office and discovered that the healer was not alone. Sue's immediate reaction was anger that T'Leal had brought in another healer without her permission.

Before either could say anything T'Leal focused her sights on Sue and asked, "Does your decision about to returning to your husband still stand?"

"Yes, why?"

"I have called in a surrogate."

"What! Her? You had no right!"

T'Leal's reply had a hard edge to it. "I have taken the right you have advocated. Spock will have a mate."

Knowing she would have no effect on T'Leal, Sue turned her anger on the newcomer. "Where do you get off, waltzing in here? He won't know you!"

"He will accept me -- and he will live." Her voice was smooth and slightly condescending, further angering Sue.

"Fine!" she yelled. "Just fine! You can have him. Let him use -- abuse you." She jerked around walked to the other side of the room with McCoy at her heels.

"Sue, it's not that simple and you know it. You can't let the surrogate go."

"Yeah, let her go. She wants to be a martyr." Her anger drained away. "And I can't ... I need time."

"So, Spock dies for all the wrongs of Towan."

"Die! He won't die."

"T'Leal," McCoy said curtly, "tell her the odds." When the healer did not respond, he repeated his demand. "Tell her, damn it."

T'Leal moved closer, away from the newcomer. "There is a 52.7% chance that Spock will not survive, and a 23.9% chance for the Surrogate."

"That can't be true," Sue said in genuine shock. "I know surrogates can work."

"If the surrogate is there from the onset, yes," McCoy told her, his voice back to normal. "But not when you try to introduce her once the pon farr has progressed to this point. It won't be a conscious decision on his part, but…"

Sue listened, knowing he was using every argument he though might get through to her.

"I will increase the odds in their favor with drugs," T'Leal stated. "When tranquilized, Spock will not be capable of violence, and with careful monitoring, I believe I can see both safely through this."

"I told you," Sue said as the door clicked shut. She glanced up. That woman, the surrogate, was gone and Sue knew where.

"Sue, don't let this happen." McCoy's voice was anguished.

"Maybe it'll be better," she said to him. "Let her go, then I can have some time to get my head straight, so by the next time…"

"There won't be a next time." He paced in front of her, then turned to stare down at her. "Sue, who the hell do you think you're kidding? Spock was betrayed the first time; now you're going to do it to him again…"

"You don't understand. I can't face him…"

"I understand one thing. If you walk out, if you're not there when he needs you, then it's over. There'll be nothing left -- nothing."

"No," she pleaded. "We'll work it out."

McCoy shook his head. "He won't even look at you."

"I can't help it; Jesus knows I can't."

"Then it's over."

Sue watched McCoy's face. There, in his expression, was the truth of his words and the sorrow Sue could not feel just now; sorrow for what she and Spock were about to lose. She stared at him for a long moment as everything she and Spock had ever shared, everything that was their life, washed over her and slipped away, and then slowly she rose and left the room

When she opened the door, that female, whose name Sue never wanted to hear, was standing next to the bed. She was speaking softly in Vulcan and reaching her hand up as if to touch Spock.

"Get out."

The Vulcan turned to face her.

"I said, get out."

"What will you do?"

"I don't know yet, but it's none of your concern."

"That is as it should be." As she moved toward to door Sue could not help but notice that her clothing -- the uniform was the same as T'Leal's.

"You're a healer?" Sue questioned.

"Yes, still in training, but ... "

"Healer and a surrogate…" Sue's confusion showed in her voice.

The two females, Vulcan and Human assessed one another. "No, I am not a surrogate."

"Then what the hell are you doing here?" Sue demanded.

The Vulcan did not immediately answer, but when Sue grew more agitated, she said, "It was a ploy. Dr. McCoy said we could not appeal to you logically; you had not the frame of mind to listen. We had to appeal to you -- emotionally." She said that last work as if it were something not said in polite company.

At this, Sue's anger and confusion dissipated. "McCoy knows me too well," she realized, and thanked God he did. Sue knew she would never have forgiven herself for abandoning Spock during this time, even if he could.

"I do not believe there was any real concern. If a true bonding exists, you would never allow another female near your bondmate." With that she left the room, and Sue took her place next to the bed. Staring down at Spock, she felt the pull of the bond even through his sleep.

After several minutes, Spock stirred. "Susan?" he said, confused. "Where are we? Are we home?''

"No, not yet, but soon, now," she said, fighting back tears as she let the robe drop to the floor and slid into bed with him. "I know the problem now, what we were doing wrong, and I even know how to fix it. So soon now, we'll be home free."

* * *

The door chime got Sue's attention as she walked through the sitting room, her arms full of laundered clothes. When she answered it, she was nonplused to find a beautiful, cape-swathed woman on the doorstep. From the top of the Vulcan woman's perfect upswept hair down to the shapely feet clad in tall leather boots, she radiated what Sue called 'class.' She was not only instantly envious, but she felt like awkward and oversized next to this petite woman. This was disconcerting enough, but the arrogance in the woman's voice when she demanded to see Spock was really annoying.

"I should like to see Spock, I should like to see Spock," Susan repeated nastily to herself, trying to decide if she should have followed her first impulse to slam the door in the woman's face.

Instead she got a grip on her temper and invited the chic stranger in. "Come in, but watch out for the toys on the floor." Sue could not help but notice that the woman seemed noticeably nervous, which was unusual in a Vulcan. "Does he know you were coming, and if he doesn't, could I give him your name?"

"I would rather not. Just inform him he has a visitor." She looked Sue up and down as if assessing her status in this house.

Sue could feel her blood pressure rising and took a deep breath to control her response. "Look, he's working in the study," Sue said, proud of her self-control. "Getting ready for a very important mission. I don't like to interrupt him if it's not necessary."

"Very well. I shall tell you this much: we have a history, Spock and I. I was his bondmate. Is that sufficient reason to disturb him?"

"Bondmate." Sue parroted dumbly. "But you're not -- now. I do know that!" For the first time the other woman showed signs of uncertainty.

"I rejected him. It was a mistake. I have come…"

Sue didn't wait to hear more, but knowing she had to vent somehow, she resisted her impulse to jump the woman and beat her to a bloody pulp. Dropping her armload of laundry on the sofa, she stalked across the room and up the stairs. Once there she threw open the door of the study. "Someone to see you," she said fiercely. "Says she's your ex-wife!"

Spock looked up unperturbed as the door banged into the paneling. "Susan, what are you talking about?" Shaking his head in exasperation, he stood up from behind the desk and followed her, but when he saw the visitor he stopped abruptly. "T'Pring?"

"I just returned to Vulcan and heard of your return…."

Sue watched with narrowed eyes as the two Vulcans studied one another. Neither showed any emotion, but she knew enough about Vulcans to recognize a scene when she saw it and Spock did not look pleased with his surprise. If she takes one step toward him I'll scratch her eyes out, Sue decided.

T'Pring broke silence first. "The challenge was a mistake. I regret…"

Spock raised his hand, quickly interrupting her. "T'Pring, let me introduce my wife and bondmate." He moved to stand beside Susan, putting his hand on her shoulder.

The woman stopped mid-word. "It is too late," she said bowing her head.

Sue felt Spock stiffen. "It was too late, T'Pring, the instant you raised your hand in challenge. Make no mistake about that."

The woman flinched, turned, and left almost before Sue could register her departure. She was too busy staring at Spock. He sighed once at her impatience before he gave her the explanation. "We were bonded as children, but she did not wish it. She chose another."

"She gave you up?" Sue said incredulously just as Sarek entered the room. "I thought Vulcans didn't do stupid. Is the woman nuts or what?"

"Son?" Sarek questioned.

When Spock said nothing, Sue blurted out, "Some bitch just waltzed in here saying she made a mistake by challenging -- or something."

Father and son's eyes met and shared their astonishment. "T'Pring came here?" Sarek asked.

"Yes, she did." Spock just shook his head. "And I regret that I did not take the opportunity to thank her for freeing me." His eyes acknowledged his wife's sudden smile.

"God," Sue said feeling very good all of a sudden. She had lots of questions for Spock, but they could wait. For now she would savor this moment. "I think I shall go sit in the garden and think on this." After a moment's hesitation, she added, "The only thing that could make this moment any better would be an ice cold beer."

"Allow me a moment." Sarek went to the kitchen and returned with an icy bottle.

Silently he offered it to Sue whose stare swung from the bottle to his face. "Where in the hel… Vulcan did you get this?"

"A merchant in the alien sector. I had him to order it, is it to your liking?"

Sue took a long hard swig. "Aaaah, yes. Excellent. Thank you, father-in-law, I shall now retire to the garden to meditate on this most wonderful day." My husband just told some gorgeous bitch to go to hell and the Vulcan Ambassador just bought me a beer. Life doesn't get much better then that." She took another long swig as she left the two Vulcans staring after her. God, life was good!