A few tips of the hat here. To Selek and T'Lea, for their "Sarek's Flitter" story (which I loved!), I will borrow the idea of Sarek's precious child (I mean the flitter, not Spock ,<g>) here briefly. To Saidicam, for her wonderful "In My Dreams" tale, which inspired me to have Sarek a bit more forgiving and understanding of his son, especially after what happened at Babel. To Trish, for her concept of the soulbonded Vah'ren, in "Bondings." To JM Lane for the loving Spock she portrayed in "Stolen Promises," who helped me give Spock a more human side. And to Jacqueline B. of course, without whose brownies my whole millipede-legged saga would never have gotten written.

Legalese stuff, ever the lawyer I am: Copyright 2006 Mistress V, permission to archive at TrekTales, all others need only ask. I do not own the copyright. I am only playing with the characters in my own little world. I will return them safely. Rated NC17.

Day by Day

Mistress V

 

Sunday 07:00 Enterprise

 

"Christine," Spock whispered in her ear.

"Whazzax," she mumbled sleepily against his shoulder. They had been up until nearly 4 am pursuing their mutual romantic interest. "Too 'rly. Go'way." She tried to burrow into him further. "Tn' mor minnes..."

"It is 07:00, so it is not early."

He was maddeningly, logically persistent. Christine groaned as she realized the tendrils of sleep she had been desperate to hold on to had vaporized. Spock had succeeded in waking her at 7 am, and it was a Sunday, their day off. Damn his Vulcan internal chronometer anyway.

"Okay," she said, though she steadfastly refused to open her eyes. "What's so almightily important that you had to interrupt a good dream?" He did not answer immediately, always a bad sign. The she felt him grab her hips and pull her into a sitting position astride him. Her eyes flew open as she looked down at his amused expression ... and his very evident arousal.

"I believe this is what you call a waking dream, is it not?" The amused expression became a sensual smile, which she always reveled in seeing.

"Yes, I think so," she replied, leaning down to snuggle against his chest. Then realization hit her. "We have to get up, there's so much to do, what time does the shuttle arrive...?" She struggled to clamber off of him, but his arms held her fast.

"Hush," he said, placing a finger across her lips. "We have plenty of time, that is why I elected to waken you now. We can rest on the shuttle, but we most certainly cannot do this, can we? It is, after all, a diplomatic transport."

"No, of course not..." Although they had become a member of the Shuttle Club on one of Enterprise's shuttles a few weeks back. "And we'll be at your parent's house this week, so any hanky-panky is out of the question."

"Why do you and your superior insist on using that archaic phrase? It sounds as though you are referring to Terran women's handkerchiefs." He chuckled as his hand tweaked one of her breasts into hardness. "I am certain our parents will have us both staying in the spare room until the ceremony. So it would seem logical we would be expected to indulge ... would it not? They are aware we reside together, after all."

"Spock, it's the old 'Not In Our House' rule. Parents are quick to say to unwedded couples, 'You can get all the nookie you want, but not in our house.'" She nibbled at the hair on his chest, a sensation that both of them liked immensely.

"My parents would not say something so hypocritically illogical. And what is 'nookie' anyway?" He was being stubborn and thoroughly enjoying the moment.

"This," she replied as she sheathed him in a quick, easy motion.

"I see."

12:00 Shuttle Bay

 

The shuttle had arrived and a young Vulcan stepped onto the deck. He walked over to Jim Kirk and gave the Vulcan salute.

"Captain Kirk, I am Ambassador Sarek's personal aide for your journey. My name is Selak, and I am here to assist you with anything you may need."

"Welcome to the Enterprise, Selak, and we are most grateful for use of the Ambassador's transport. These containers need to be loaded aboard, then I guess we'll be ready to go."

"I have the agricultural certificates," Ensign Pauulu said, handing the Vulcan a PADD, which he scrolled through with interest.

"Hmmm, avocados, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, habanero peppers, limes, pineapple, what an interesting cargo." He glanced up at Pauulu. "What time is endmeal?"

Pauulu looked blank.

"He means dinner, Mr. Pauulu," Spock replied. He addressed the assistant pleasantly. "I gather our experimental agricultural program interests you?"

Selak nodded. "Yes, it is always fascinating to see what can be produced in space. This is a very fine example of your program. I see no problem with the agricultural certificates, so the containers may be beamed directly to the Ambassador's residence once we clear Vulcan Space Central."

McCoy leaned into speak quietly to Kirk, away from Vulcan ears. "Jim, did that Vulcan just make a joke?" he asked.

Kirk shrugged. "He's in the diplomatic service, they always have a little more offworld demeanor in them, I guess. All that contact with non-Vulcans."

Selak turned to Kirk. "There has been a slight change in plans, gentlemen. You will not be required to return via shuttle to your ship this evening. As it transpires, the supply cruiser VSS Shi-Kahr will be leaving for the science station tomorrow morning at 07:00, and you can be transported on it to rendezvous with Enterprise later that morning. So you shall be staying this evening at the Tav'Sal'Nava as the Ambassador's guests. Does this meet with your approval?"

"That will be fine, Selak," Kirk replied. "I will just go notify my commander." He and McCoy headed out the doors just as Christine was entering the bay with Kala and Nyota.

"Jim, a night on Vulcan?" McCoy was saying. "I'd rather come back to the ship!"

"Vulcan's changed a bit, Bones, since the last time we were there," Kirk said as they entered the turbolift.

Selak and Spock turned to the female group that was heading towards them, chattering amicably. They stopped short of the two Vulcans and introductions were made.

Kala handed a garment bag to Christine. "Here it is, Chris, take good care of it!" she said, giving her friend a hug.

"I will," Christine replied, holding the item carefully. "Kala, I don't know how to thank you."

"Just look fabulous in it for me, okay?" Kala said.

"So you and Nyota will beam down to Vulcan early Thursday morning, for the quick rehearsal, then Lady Amanda is taking us to the new Deltan Day Spa in Shi-Kahr. And then it's dinner at their home, before you have to take me back to the Enterprise." Christine repeated the plans for the hundredth time that morning.

"Yes, Chris," Kala and Nyota said good-naturedly in unison. Christine was so busy talking to her friends that she did not see the look pass between them and her fiance.

The shuttle bay doors whooshed open once more and Kirk, McCoy and Engineer Scott entered.

"Well, it's time we got the show on the road," Kirk said to his Chief Engineer. "Mind the store well, will you, Scotty?"

"It will be my pleasure, sir. I shall see you and the Doctor tomorrow morning, then."

"He rather likes metaphors, does he not?" Selak remarked to Spock.

"Indeed, he does."

"Commander, your mother sent this PADD for you to read on the journey," Selak said as he handed the item to Spock.

Final good byes were made and the passengers entered the shuttle. It was almost the last time Christine would be on the ship as a single woman. The thought pleased her mostly, but the usual butterflies were there. She shooed them away.

12:30 Christine's Quarters

 

"I feel like a thief!" Kala said.

"Kala, thieves take things away, not bring them in," Nyota replied. She glanced past the boxes stacked in every available space. "He said on her pillow, so on her pillow it goes."

Kala regarded the object. "I never thought Spock was this creative," she remarked, handing it and the card to Nyota, who arranged both on the pillow, as instructed. "I wonder what's in it?"

"We'll find out Thursday night, you can bet!" Nyota said with a grin.

"That's for sure! Let's go rollerblade, gotta keep toned up so we look fabulous on Friday!"

"It won't be the same without Chris, but yes, that's a great idea. Then we can check with Cookie about how the food is coming along for the reception here. I'm sure he'll want to see about what the special guests will be preferring to eat."

"Speaking of food, did you talk to Pauulu?" Kala asked.

Nyota's grin turned sly. "I sure did. He's all for the idea, thinks it's wonderful. So we'll be meeting with Cookie in the galley on Wednesday evening. Pauulu's offered to help."

"That'll be an interesting night," Kala said as they left the cabin and re-engaged the security lock. "I just hope he doesn't drag Tex along."

"Trouble in paradise?"

Kala blushed. "Are you kidding? If he showed up, we wouldn't get any work done at all...at least he and I wouldn't..."

14:00 En Route to Vulcan

 

Spock was reading through the PADD his mother had sent him, one eyebrow raised in surprise. He glanced over at Christine, who was dozing. Kirk and McCoy were busy working on reports for the visit to the joint science station the next day.

"So you see, Spock, things on Vulcan are just a little bit different now, even since you last were her. Granted, you had just come from Gol, so you might not have noticed this, but I wanted to make sure you and Christine were not too surprised.

Vulcan is still the same, and will always be Vulcan, but foreigners are tolerated much more now, and there is a sizable population of them in Shi-Kahr . Offworld culture and sport has touched our society in a positive way these past years. And there is a great renewed interest in traditional Vulcan music, drama, fashion and literature, particularly from the younger generation. Do feel free to hold hands with your fiance if you want to. You will see a few Vulcans doing so, and it is no longer frowned upon.

I look forward to seeing you and Christine very soon!"

Spock was surprised, but not shocked, at the message. From what he had been reading of life on modern Vulcan, he realized that the society he knew as a child had taken a small step into the new century, and the results had been positive. This would be a most fascinating trip for himself and Christine.

15:30 Vulcan Space Central

 

"You're all cleared to go," Selak said when he returned to the shuttle. "I will have your bags beamed directly to your rooms at the hotel, Captain, Doctor. The rest will go to the Ambassador's home. I shall see you, no doubt, during the week."

"Thank you again, Selak," Kirk replied. "You have been most helpful."

"We shall meet you at the Terran Ambassador's residence at 18:00, as planned, Jim," Spock said.

"Affirmative, Spock, see you then."

They headed to the transporter station.

"Here we go," Spock said, as he offered Christine his arm, which she accepted. "Onward and upward, as they say."

*I love you,* he finished through their link.

*You too.*

16:00 Ambassador Sarek's Residence

 

"Welcome, children," Amanda said.

"Thank you, mother," Spock replied.

"Thank you, Lady Amanda," Christine added.

Amanda gave her an amused look. "It is Amanda, Christine, I told you that."

"Spock, Christine, welcome," Ambassador Sarek said as he entered the hallway. "Forgive my tardiness, but diplomatic issues arise at all times, and I was just detained on a call. I trust you had a pleasant journey?"

"We did, Father, Selak was most helpful."

"That one will go far in the Diplomatic Service, I think," Sarek offered. "He will also assist Ambassador Kl'o'rox's aide with your guests from Qo'noS. Apparently, he has a very good rapport with offworld visitors, and makes them feel quite at ease here."

"A good trait in a diplomat," Spock observed, glad that they had a more open line of communication now.

"And Christine, are you well? Did you find the journey to your liking?"

"I did, sir, the shuttle was most comfortable. Thank you for providing it."

Sarek gave her the special expression she had seen on the Enterprise a few times. "It was only logical to send it for you, as the journey time is much less. And it is Sarek when we are in an informal situation, remember?"

Christine allowed a small smile to creep onto her face. "Yes, Sarek, I remember."

"Have you been continuing with your ice skating?" he asked pleasantly.

She nodded, recalling their unintentionally hilarious meeting on the holodeck. "Yes, regularly."

"Christine is adept at both land and ice skating, Father. I join her quite often in both activities." Spock said. "It is logical to keep healthy by the pursuit of sport."

"So young Stark says to me each time we meet," Sarek agreed. "He is a most remarkable young man."

"Sarek, we cannot thank you enough for arranging to have the reception for our shipmates at his sports facility," Christine said gratefully. "It's the prefect venue. How did you manage it?"

"Logically, of course," Sarek replied.

Amanda laughed at his remark.

"You find this amusing, my wife?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Forgive him," Amanda said. "It's a very old pattern between us. Everything is logical with Sarek."

"As it should be, my wife." Sarek always got the last word.

Spock was a bit taken aback at this open expression of affection between his parents. Well, it was as close to affection as a full Vulcan could show, especially one so strict in his adherence of Surak's teachings. He wondered what else the week would hold.

"As I was saying," Sarek continued, "young Stark was in need of a 'dress rehearsal' so to speak, for his facility opening. One with many different cultures in attendance. What better group than your shipmates? You shall hear more of the details later. But for now, my wife will get you settled, while I conclude this issue which has arisen. We shall leave for the reception at 17:30, if that is amenable?"

Spock and Christine both nodded their assent.

"Let's get you to your room," Amanda said. "There's plenty of time for you to shower and get changed." She headed down the hall.

Christine and Spock traded a glance.

"Here you are, this is the guest room," Amanda said as she opened the door.

"Thank you, Amanda, I am certain I shall find it very comfortable," Christine told her as she took her things inside. She looked around. "It's beautiful, thank you for your hospitality." She closed the door behind her.

Amanda looked at her son, confused. "Spock?" she asked.

"I surmise I shall be sleeping in my old room, Mother?" he replied as he picked up his bag and walked across the hall to another door, which he opened. "It still looks the same, I cannot believe it has been so long."

"Yes, well, I must start getting ready myself, so I'll see you later," Amanda said to herself as she hurried towards the master bedroom.

Christine was unpacking when a knock came at her door. "Come in?" she asked.

Spock entered, shutting the door behind him. In one quick stride he had her in his arms, his mouth on hers.

"SPOCK!" Christine whispered as she tried to duck out of his embrace. "This is your parent's home, stop that!"

He raised both eyebrows but did not release her. His hand stroked her hip. "As I told you, we are expected to share the same sleeping quarters, so is it not logical to expect that I may be permitted to kiss you here as well?"

"You don't understand, it's, well, it's just not nice for the bride to be to disrespect her fiance's parents." She struggled for the right way to explain this archaic custom, but failed.

"I do not understand you Terrans, Christine," he replied, caressing her backside as he pulled her against him. "But I love you just the same. Can we not share your room?"

She shook her head. "No, it's not proper. We're not married. And this is not the Enterprise. This is you parent's home, and we are their guests."

"As you wish," he said. "So I gather I am to do without 'nookie' as you call it for the next five solar days?" His tone was sad. "And the pleasure I get from holding you close when I sleep?"

"That's about the picture," she replied. "Now, sit. You need your anti-warp-lag hypospray, or else you'll be sleeping in your canapes. Shirtsleeve up, please."

Spock obliged, obediently rolling up his uniform tunic as she got her medikit. Christine was just about to inject him when there came a knock at the door.

"Come in?" she said.

Sarek entered the room. He looked a surprised at the scene presented to him.

"Sarek, hello," Christine told him. "I'm just giving Spock an anti-warp-lag hypospray, so he won't have any ill effects from the time difference."

"Ah, yes, I find that to be a helpful way to adjust to travel," Sarek replied.

"Father, is something amiss?" Spock asked.

"No, I was just checking to see that your rooms are adequate to your needs?"

"They are," Christine said, "right Spock?"

Spock assented. "Most comfortable, father, though I did find myself thinking of I-Chaya as I viewed my old room."

Sarek turned to leave. " Yes, I-Chaya was much a part of this household. Well, I shall see you in a bit, then."

"Now OUT!" Christine said when he was gone. "I have to get cleaned up and dressed for this shindig we have to attend."

"I could join you," Spock tried one last attempt. "I stayed in this room the last time I visited, the shower is more than adequate."

Christine pointed at the door.

* * *

 

"Well?" Amanda asked when Sarek returned.

"She was giving him an anti-warp hypospray, Aduna. And no, they are not going to share the same quarters." He shook his head as he headed to change in his dressing room. "I do not understand their illogic. They reside together. Why would they think they have to pretend otherwise here?"

Amanda slid an arm around her husband's waist. "It's as I thought, my love. The old 'Not In Our House' rule. Christine thinks she has to obey it, even though we know otherwise. But what can we do? It would not be logical to just say, 'It's ok for you to sleep together here.' I do admire Christine for her principles, but ... I wish I could communicate to her it's ok to be in love with my son somehow..."

Sarek gave her an amused glance. It was clear he knew the meaning of the term. "What do you propose we do?" he replied.

"I would say give it a few days. One or the other of them will, as we say, reach the end of their rope. I could see it in Spock's face. He is not pleased with the arrangement."

"And it is quite clear who wears the trousers in their relationship," Sarek remarked as he gave his wife a kiss on her forehead. "But now we must prepare for the reception, Aduna."

"Which trousers should I wear this evening, Sarek?" Amanda said with an impish grin on her face.

* * *

 

"Where is the staff car, Sarek?" Amanda asked as they left the house.

Christine braced herself for the heat, which was similar to what she had experienced on Fuega. Thankfully, the injection she had taken contained ingredients to lessen the effect of the local climate.

"I thought we'd take the flitter," Sarek replied, hitting the remote for the spaceport door.

"Sarek, it hasn't been cleaned this week," Amanda said. "Selak is picking it up tomorrow."

He turned. "I meant mine."

"Yours?" Spock nearly choked.

"Yes, why not? It is a special occasion, why not take it? The vehicle hardly ever gets any use, I am offworld so regularly." He headed towards the cherry red vintage flitter, which had pride of place in the garage.

Even Christine was surprised. She and Spock had discussed his father's pride and joy one day, but never had she suspected she'd get to ride in it. And here it came, purring smoothly, with Sarek at the controls.

"Christine, since this is your first visit, and the sunsets are quite spectacular, why not sit in the front with me?" Sarek offered. Christine threw a surprised glance over her shoulder and was met with two raised eyebrows and one amused smile.

"Is Father feeling well?" Spock said to his mother as they moved to the back door.

"He's just pleased with the turn of events, my son," she replied. "Trust me."

18:45 Terran Ambassador's Residence, Shi-Kahr

 

"So are you settled in all right?" McCoy asked Christine as they sat on the terrace.

She sipped her wine, which was local vintage and quite smooth. "Yes, Len, everything's on track."

"I know you might find this hard to believe, but I kind of always thought you two might end up together."

Christine snickered. "Len, you slay me. Sure you did."

"No, Chris, I'm serious. When he and Sarek were in sickbay during that Babel mess, I could see how Spock watched you. His folks did too. Amanda even commented on it. But she said that Spock was stubborn, like his father, and to give it time." He tasted the bourbon and branch which the Ambassador was rumored to favor. "This is good stuff!"

"Thanks, Len. At least someone believed in us. I almost gave up myself. " She changed the subject, curious. "So how's the hotel?"

"It's amazing, Chris," he replied. "You wouldn't even know you were on Vulcan. Every conceivable race is staying there, and there are loads of guest workers from all over the Federation, too, as well as very polite and tolerant Vulcans in many posts. This place sure has changed from our last visit."

"That wasn't the greatest," Christine reminded him, inwardly cringing at the memory of Spock's failed attempt at marriage.

"Sorry, Chris, my bad. The whole diplomatic compound is remarkable. Have Spock take you for a walk there, it's something to see. In fact, Jim and I are headed to a little club later he knows about, Delta's Dawn. So I'll tell you all about it when we get here for real next week. And from what I saw of Shi-Kahr itself, well, it looks the same and it feels the same, but the energy's different."

"How so?" Christine had never been to Vulcan before.

"It's just less somber, more positive. I can't explain it any other way. Speaking of Vulcans," he said as Spock joined them.

"Yes, Doctor, what about Vulcans?" Spock asked.

"I was just telling Chris how many interesting Vulcans we've already met today."

Spock raised an eyebrow. "Indeed. Well, yes, there are many. Now if you are through monopolizing my fiancee, I need to introduce her to someone." He held out a hand and helped Christine get up, then took her arm.

"I wasn't monopolizing her, Spock, we were looking at the shooting stars. There are lots of them. Maybe you should take her out to watch a few."

"I shall take your suggestion under advisement, Doctor, as always," Spock replied as they moved inside.

"Now who do I have to meet?" Christine whispered. "I can't keep track of all these names."

"Trust me, T'hyla, not this one." He indicated a figure so familiar that anyone in the quadrant, and quite possibly the galaxy, would have known him in an instant. "Christine, may I present Stark? Stark, this is my fiancee, Dr. Christine Chapel."

"A pleasure, Doctor," Stark said as he extended his hand for a Terran handshake.

"It's Christine, Stark, and I'm pleased to meet you too."

Sunday 20:30 Sports Complex, Shi'Kar

 

"This is quite the facility," Kirk remarked as they left the halfpipe area. "Stark, I am very impressed. I ski whenever I can, and this snow is as close to the real thing as I've seen yet."

Stark smiled. "It took years of technology, but decent artificial snow is finally able to be produced. A real boon to winter sports enthusiasts everywhere. Of course, the capability doesn't come cheap, but in time, it should become more available. Until then, facilities like this one will help bring the experience to a whole new group of participants."

"Are there plans for more facilities?" Christine asked

"Yes, eventually. But for now, we'll concentrate on this one. I do plan to open a training facility at Lake Tahoe, though, one that will rely on real snow." Stark guided them through the climate controlled exit chamber into the recreation and leisure part of the complex.

Christine and Spock stopped to admire the large wall of framed holoimages. Selek and T'Lea, the ice dance silver medalists at Polaris, who, despite the prior costume scandal, had taken the InterGalactic Skating Union Championships the following month with a more toned-down, graceful program. T'Lara, the ice sailor, who had won a bronze at Polaris. The two-time gold medal curling team. T'Shaq, the Vulcan forward of the New York Galaxy. The great distance runner Solol.

"Vulcan has a had long history of sport," Sarek said behind them. "And now we compete in friendship with the rest of the galaxy. This is a good accomplishment, Stark, and I am certain there are more yet to come."

"Yes, sir, it is now Vulcan's time," Stark replied.

They entered the private luxury suite attached to Stark's office, which overlooked a large bar and dancefloor area. The adjoining room held old-fashioned games like pool, skittles, air hockey and foozball, which, Stark claimed, were beneficial in building an athlete's competitive skills. A full service restaurant and snack bar adjoined the games area.

"I must bid you a good evening," Sarek announced. "There is a meeting I must attend to, so we shall meet again Thursday morning as planned for a final run-through." He turned to Amanda. "The staff car will see you home, my wife." Then he turned to Spock and handed him the flitter keys. "Perhaps you and Christine would enjoy a scenic drive home. Take good care of her, my son," he said with a raised eyebrow.

Spock looked at the keys and back at his father, dumbstruck.

"Surely, my son, if you can pilot a shuttlecraft, or a starship, you would know how to handle my flitter?" Sarek asked.

Spock nodded, glad for the darkness of the room so his father could not see his ears flush. Yes, he could pilot a shuttlecraft quite well, even when...otherwise engaged. He shook his head slightly to focus his thoughts. "I shall endeavor to use great care, Father. Thank you."

"Spock, the flitter is not a child. She needs to be opened up a bit on the spaceway ... within reason, of course. I trust you will know what to do. Now, if you shall excuse us, we must go. Good evening to you all." And he and Amanda left the facility in swirl of colorful robes.

Stark came over with Kirk and McCoy in tow. "I was just explaining to the Doctor how the hill is monitored for safety according to the ability of the snowboarder," he said. "Anyone wanting to use the halfpipe who's snowboarded before will need to do a quick skills run so it can be determined what part of the pipe they will use. That way, injuries are kept to a minimum."

"A great idea," McCoy enthused. "Before we debugged the holodeck program, I must have had two dozen injuries from snowboarding alone. Everyone wanted to..." He stopped, embarrassed.

"It's ok, Doctor, I realize there are thousands of souls across the galaxy who want to be like me. That's why I built the safety features into the program." Stark glanced at Spock. "So anyone from your ship who wants to may snowboard. The halfpipe will be open, fully staffed, for at least four hours, more if needed. We have adequate boards and cold weather protective gear. The ice rink won't be ready yet, but if they return after we open officially, I'd be pleased if they gave the ice a test run for me too."

"So we'll meet with you on Thursday morning, Stark," Kirk said. "I'll bring our Chief of Security, anyone else?"

"Your karaoke person or dj if you have one?" Stark replied. "So they can do a soundcheck."

"That would be Lt. Riley," Spock stated. "He and Mr. Scott will be at the sound tables for the duration, with the house staff, as the more busy he is, the less likely he would be to get into mischief."

"One of those?" Stark laughed. "There's one at every competition. Smart move, my man. Oops, sorry, logical decision, Spock. No offense meant."

Spock regarded the champion. "Stark, I, too, have had to learn how to balance both halves of my whole. None taken."

"Well, that about wraps things up, Stark. We'll take our leave and see you Thursday. You say the exit backs into the diplomatic compound?" Kirk glanced out the back window, where the mall could clearly be seen.

"It does. We can discuss the logistics of where your crew is allowed to go when we meet later this week. It's a pretty much foolproof system. See you then!"

"We shall be leaving you too, then, Stark," Spock said, "and thank you for your hospitality."

"Actually, I was hoping I could ask Christine a favor." Stark reached into his Vulcan tunic (a tasteful deep blue suit, lightyears away from what he wore at the Iggys) and brought out a holodisc. "I'm hoping to do this song with my best Terran friend at the opening ceremony proper. But I'd love to do a dress rehearsal at your reception. Just after I give everyone the welcome. After you dance your first dance together, I think. Then I'd make a graceful exit and lurk."

Christine looked at Spock. "That would be fine, Stark," she said. "I presume it won't cause any intergalactic incident?"

Stark grinned, at ease with the couple. "Heck no, I had it checked out six ways to Sunday. Er...I meant...."

Spock cut him off with a half-turned corner of his mouth. "I believe we know what you meant, Stark, there is no need to repeat yourself." The atmosphere became decidedly more relaxed.

"Here's the song, do you know it?" Stark handed over the holo.

"Of course. It's great. Spock knows it well too." Christine turned the disc over in her hands, unaware of the look Spock gave the Vulcan.

"Are you up for a quick run through?" Stark asked.

Christine nodded. "Sure, why not? If Spock can be our critic, of course. He's judged a few karaoke nights on board, so he's qualified."

"Right. Let's get up on stage and give it a go."

* * *

 

22:00 The Mall

 

"Are ordinary Vulcans allowed in this complex?" Christine asked as she and Spock looked up at the diplomatic hotel's splendor.

"Of course, T'hyla. But in the evenings, access is more restricted because of security reasons, as at any diplomatic complex anywhere. Vulcan citizens regularly visit the restaurants here for an evening out, and much business is conducted over dinner as well."

"It's so beautiful, is the architecture Vulcan?"

"It is," Spock replied. "The style is early post-reform, similar to your neo-classical period on Terra. The local architects who designed the hotel were using the original plans kept in the archives at the Museum of Antiquities. Most of the embassies are similarly designed."

They stopped at the security checkpoint. "Good evening, Commander, Doctor," the Saurian said pleasantly. "Off for the evening?"

"We shall take a stroll up the mall, and then return for our transport," Spock told the guard.

"Fine, have a good evening, then."

* * *

 

Christine glanced at the Vulcan family walking slowly past them. The husband and wife were engaged in what looked like a pleasant conversation, with a youngster dragging after them. Two older children held PADDs in their hands as they walked.

Spock nodded a reply to their greeting. Then a computer generated voice was heard in the still desert air. "Zhaya abru," it said.

"What does that mean?" she asked when they were out of earshot.

"Game Over."

"What?" Christine said, not sure if she had heard correctly.

"The youths were playing a computer game. It ceased. That is the voice you heard." Spock's answer was matter of fact, as though nothing were out of the ordinary.

"Computer games? On Vulcan?" Christine was somewhat aghast.

"Did you Terrans think you invented the Game Boy?" Spock replied, giving her a half smile.

* * *

 

They stopped to regard a somber, quiet, half-circled monument of some type. Pillars were set at even distances in a half-parabola, carved of a native stone that shimmered by the light of the streetlamps. There was no writing of any kind, just a carved rendition of a starship with a single phrase under it on the ground beneath them.

"This is the Intrepid Memorial," Spock said softly.

"It's so sterile," Christine said honestly. "So bare."

"It was the request of those that built the memorial. They wished it to be so." Spock's fingers caressed her cheek. "I know it is not the same as the Hope Memorial in San Francisco."

Christine remembered the fountains, the plants, the plaques with every crew member's picture, and suddenly felt the differences in their cultures open up a vast chasm between them.

"Does no one come here? Does no one remember them?" Christine's voice did not hide her confusion.

"Yes, those that felt loss do come here, but it is not as on Terra. But I can tell you that Vulcan grieves with the families still."

Christine shivered. Spock, aware that no one was in the vicinity, wrapped his arms around her for a moment. "You are tired," he said. "Let us walk a bit more and then return home."

They walked further and then saw signs of gaiety, at least Vulcan gaiety. Fountains splashed, children played, grandmothers watched with a cautious eye, lovers strolled.

"What is this place?" Christine was astounded.

"The Botanical Gardens. My mother shall show it to you tomorrow, no doubt, on your way to the Old Town. Shi-Kahr comes here on pleasant nights to enjoy the breezes and the scenery."

"And to people-watch?" Christine couldn't resist the phrase.

"Yes, perhaps that too. Ah, there is the very thing I was hoping to find." He indicated the cart ahead of them.

"Ice cream?" Christine was even more astonished than before. "I thought Vulcans didn't touch their food, as a rule."

Spock gave her his special half-smile. "Ice cream is a well-received offworld import here. It is made of a substance similar to your tofu, with many pleasing varieties. Vulcans enjoy it regularly." He indicated a family wandering past them, whose toddler was obviously liking the frosty treat, as were his parents. "What would you like to try?"

"I honestly have no idea," Christine confessed. "Choose for me, will you?"

Spock gave his order to the vendor and swiftly returned with two cones. "I have selected a nut flavor, similar to your cashew, for you. Mine is the Vulcan equivalent of strawberry." He looked at Christine as she tried it. "Do you like the flavor?"

She closed her eyes as she savored the strange nutty taste. It was utterly delightful. "I do," she replied.

* * *

 

22:00 Delta's Dawn, Diplomatic Compound, Shi-Kahr

 

"This is the place, Bones," Kirk said as he indicated the unmarked door. "Number 45."

McCoy eyed the dark side street apprehensively. "Jim, it may be Vulcan, but I don't know about this..."

At that moment, the door opened to reveal a pretty Orion hostess, tastefully clad in a flowing Vulcan styled gown. "Gentlemen, welcome to Delta's Dawn. Please follow me."

"Orions on Vulcan? Am I dreaming?" Mc Coy asked Kirk.

"Money talks, Bones. Not all Orion women are slave girls, you must know that by now."

"Yes, but on Vulcan?" McCoy was aghast.

The hostess stopped for a moment and spoke into her earpiece. Then she turned to her companions. "If you would please accompany me?" she asked, indicating an elevator.

"When in Shi-Kahr , Bones..." Kirk said philosophically.

The lift disembarked them on a private-looking level. They followed their hostess to an unmarked door, which she opened and ushered them through, then she disappeared.

"Captain Kirk, Doctor McCoy, what a pleasant surprise," the deep voice of Ambassador Sarek greeted them. "May I present his excellency, Ambassador Kl'o'rox, of the Klingon Empire? We were just having a Saurian brandy to toast the upcoming nuptials. I saw you enter the club, and was hoping you might join us."

"It would be a pleasure, gentlemen," Kirk replied.

* * *

 

"So is this a kind of Vulcan Neutrality Area?" McCoy asked after the second round of brandies had been delivered. "I am rather surprised at how this evening turned out."

"It is a safe haven for those who need to conduct diplomatic business, yes," Ambassador Kl'o'rox replied, "but mostly, it is a place for all the galaxy's races to have a good evening's fun. Sundays are generally quiet, but on Fridays, the Ladies' Night is quite the talk of the compound."

Sarek neither confirmed nor denied the statement, but his upraised eyebrow indicated this was likely true.

"To galaxy-wide understanding." Sarek offered a toast.

"Kai Kassai!" added the Klingon.

Kirk and McCoy lifted their glasses. "To our health!" Kirk said.

Ambassador Kl'o'rox regarded his companions for a moment, then began to speak earnestly. "I am glad you happened to join us, gentlemen. Ambassador Sarek and I were just discussing something that I feel I must share with you."

Kirk glanced at Sarek, who nodded his assent.

The Klingon continued in a quiet voice. "My son recently attended a Kal Hy'ah on Qo'noS, where he chanced to meet a relative of the prospective groom who had only just returned from a 6 year journey on a merchant vessel. This vessel traveled far into the Beta Quadrant, and the young man met many interesting spacers in his journeys. Some who had been past the Beta Quadrant..."

Sarek, Kirk and McCoy listened intently as the Klingon spoke further.

"It seems there are forces beyond our homeworlds which makes the petty grievances our worlds drag out now and then pale into insignificance. He spoke of a people called the 'Baargh' and of an alliance called the 'Dominion', though nothing concrete is known of these peoples, only conjecture. But from what I have heard, they will pose a threat someday to both our worlds, so we must be on our guard."

"Vulcan has heard rumors of these beings as well," Sarek admitted, "but we dismissed them as spacer's tall tales. But with the Ambassador's confirmation, it would seem the threat is real. Far off, but nonetheless a threat someday."'

"Mr. Ambassador, thank you for your honesty. Ambassador Sarek and I shall endeavor to deliver your warning to Starfleet," Kirk said, awed by the Klingon's downright honesty. Perhaps the Orions had been correct, after all.

"K'adlo, Captain Kirk," the Klingon replied. "Now, let us not talk of such things when a happy occasion is upon us. We shall have final toast to the bride and groom, then we must take our leave, let our wives wonder what we have been up to this night."

"Indeed," Sarek conceded.

* * *

 

24:00 Ambassador Sarek's Residence

 

"Hello, Sarek, how is old Kl'o'rox, then?" Amanda asked as her husband entered the house.

"He is well, my wife. I am surprised to see the flitter here already, where are Spock and Christine?"

"Asleep in their separate bedrooms," Amanda sighed. "Though Spock admitted they had walked in the mall and had an ice cream before they came home."

"Ice cream? Are we dealing with adolescents? Could they have possibly have had some type of disagreement, perhaps they are having doubts about the bonding?" Sarek let concern creep into his voice.

"Not at all, my husband. They are simply fatigued. When they entered the house, they were holding hands. And I saw them kiss goodnight in the hall, more than you and I would ever have dared before we were engaged."

Sarek relaxed as he sat next to his wife on the living room sofa. "I am sorry to worry so, but when I remember the first marriage attempt..."

"Sarek, that's as old as the first Martian landing," Amanda laughed. "These two may be a little unconventional a couple, but trust me, it's for real." She rose and held out her hands to her husband.

"I never did quite understand your Terran expressions, my wife, but this one seems most logical," Sarek admitted as he embraced Amanda.

"Come to bed, beloved. It is late and we have busy schedules tomorrow."

"Not perhaps that late," Sarek said with a smile.

* * *

 

Monday

 

The predawn stillness was wrapped around Shi-Kahr as Kirk and McCoy entered the hotel's transporter station, ready to beam aboard the Vulcan cruiser which would take them to an Enterprise rendezvous.

"Jim, did we really have drinks with the Klingon Ambassador and Sarek last night?" McCoy asked his friend.

"Yes, Bones, we did. An interesting discussion, don't you think?"

McCoy shook his head as if trying to bring the image into focus. "He's not a bad old guy, really."

"Sarek? He's not that old." Kirk gave his CMO a grin."But you're right, Kl'o'rox is probably used to the diplomatic game after all these years. It was the same in our own history. Despite all the muscle-flexing and trash talking, most governments really don't want war unless it's absolutely necessary. Especially diplomats, look at the perks they get. By the way, what did you learn about Sylvie? I saw you talking to her."

"I still can't get over the fact that an Orion women would be working on Vulcan." McCoy's expression was one of disbelief. "Her parents live in the Rigellian system, dad's a spacecraft engineer, mom's a caterer of some kind. Can you believe, she's working for the summer to earn money for university? This is her second summer here, studies art history back home. She said the tips she makes at Delta's as a hostess are more than she'd get in a whole year there. Reminded me a bit of Joanna, tending bar on the Gulf Coast in the summers, making her school dough."

"Well, Bones, the Vulcans apparently have a very simple code of ethics in the diplomatic compound, don't touch the guest workers. Anywhere else, she'd be fair game. Here, she's just another kid working her way through college. I've got to hand it to them. Of course the Syndicate isn't what it used to be, either, so free Orion women are a little more common in the galaxy."

"Gentlemen, we are ready," came the voice.

"Energize," Kirk replied.

* * *

 

The Vulcan sunrise woke Christine early. The sound of exotic birdsong caressed her ears. She opened her eyes and saw that the greyness of predawn was fast becoming lighter. Apart from the twitters and cheeps, the house was still. A glance at the chronometer told her it was 05:30, and thanks to the anti-warp-lag med, she wasn't feeling all that terrible. The perfect time to do yoga, she thought. It would chase away the last cobwebs from her brain.

It had been odd sleeping without Spock next to her, but she had been so wiped out from the journey that the fact barely registered. In fact, both of them had hit the same brick wall of exhaustion at about the same time last night, and all either of them could think of was getting home. Even the use of Sarek's flitter did not inspire them to do anything more than take the spaceway back to the house by the most direct route possible. They had shared a smoldering kiss goodnight in the hallway, but that was it. Whoopee.

Sarek and Amanda were also early risers. They sat in the kitchen, enjoying the stillness and a cup of herb tea, which was their daily routine. Both of them were startled to see the door from Christine's room onto the patio open. A moment later, she appeared, a rolled up mat under her arm. She was dressed in soft trousers and a t-shirt, her hair loosely caught up in a ponytail. They watched as she set up the mat, sat down in a cross-legged position and closed her eyes.

"Yoga," Amanda said.

"So I surmised. What is she doing?" Sarek asked.

"Breathing exercises. It helps the body and mind warm up."

After a few moments, Christine rose to a standing posture in one fluid, graceful movement and turned towards the sunrise.

"Suri-ya-nama-skaya," Amanda remembered from her own yoga studies. "Saluting the sun."

They continued to watch her obviously well-practiced routine. Both were further surprised to see Spock enter the patio from the hall door a moment later. He, too, was similarly attired. He situated himself across from Christine and began his own warm-up. Soon his movements were mirroring hers.

"Spock told me he had been learning the discipline," Sarek remarked. "It would appear he is an adept student, and that Christine is a good teacher."

"I guess I'd best see to breakfast," Amanda said. "They'll be hungry after their workout."

"I recall when you were studying yoga in our courting days," Sarek reminisced. "At first I had no idea what the word yoga meant, and S'onar thought it might be some exotic Terran animal."

"That's Yogi Bear, dear," she replied with a giggle.

Sarek continued to watch the practitioners, intrigued. Clearly this was a discipline not unlike the Kolinahr routines, a control of body, mind and breath. His eyebrow raised as he saw them sit down knee to knee, join hands and, in a quick movement, twist themselves in mirrored opposite directions. He could hear the faint creak as Christine's spine unknotted itself. Sarek was pleased his son had opened to this new type of experience and to the woman he shared it with.

As he joined Amanda at the kitchen window, he was caught by the couple's movement. Obviously, the regime had concluded. He saw his son give Christine a quick, affectionate embrace, a peaceful look of contentment on his face. Sarek noted his son's hands traveling down from her waistline to possessively take hold of her derriere.

"Looks like your stubbornness isn't the only thing he inherited," Amanda remarked.

"Yes, Aduna," Sarek agreed, swatting lightly at her own caboose.

* * *

 

"So we have a busy day ahead of all of us," Amanda said as she cleared away the last of the breakfast dishes. Spock and Sarek had already departed for some appointments in the city, including the fitting of Spock's ceremonial marriage robe. "Did you enjoy your yoga?" she asked Christine.

"I'm sorry if we disturbed you. But yes, it was a very pleasant workout."

"Not at all, we're up with the birds around here. It's the best time of day. Well, we'd best head into Shi-Kahr if we want to get things done before the boys meet us at 11:00. It shouldn't take too long, really. The marriage license formalities are a breeze now, even Vulcan realized it was illogical to have frustrated families waiting around city hall all day long."

"Isn't frustration an emotion?" Christine teased.

Amanda smiled back at her. "You're learning quickly, my dear."

* * *

 

"Here we are," Amanda said as she opened the door of a small boutique off a twisted old town backstreet.

Christine followed her into the cool interior. Her senses were pleasantly assaulted by the sight of incredibly beautiful, colorful, elegant women's formal wear. She wondered if this was a shop frequented by offworlders.

"T'sai Amanda, welcome," an elegantly-attired Vulcan woman said in a silken tone. "And this is Spock's betrothed?"

"May I present Dr. Christine Chapel," Amanda replied. "Christine, this is the Lady T'Khut, the owner of this shop."

Christine and the woman exchanged formalities, then both she and Amanda were ushered to an overstuffed ottoman. T'sai T'Khut disappeared into the back.

"What are you getting?" Christine asked.

"Me? Nothing, my dear."

"Oh?" Christine was confused. "Is something wrong with my wedding dress?"

"Not at all, Christine, it's spectacular." They had looked at it earlier that morning. "It's tradition that the future bride be given a gown to wear to the welcome ceremony by her mother. Since your mother is not here, I'd be pleased if I can do the honors."

"Amanda, you mustn't. Please, let me take care of this."

Amanda shook her head. "I insist, Christine. Sarek isn't the only stubborn member of the family." She looked at Christine with affection. "Please, let it be my gift to you."

Christine knew she had met her match. "OK, but..."

"No more buts, young woman," Amanda replied with a twinkle in her eye.

At that moment, the shop owner reappeared, carrying a garment in her hands. She was accompanied by a younger Vulcan woman who, Christine noticed, was wearing extremely fashionable eyeglasses. She had seen many of these on the locals since her arrival. Vulcans were supposed to have perfect vision, so she wondered at the trend.

"Here you are, Dr. Chapel," T'sai T'Khut said, handing an elegant dress over. "I think the measurements given to us were quite accurate. My designer, T'Kath, can help you adjust the gown. Do please try it on."

Christine allowed herself to be led into the fitting room and was swiftly transformed into Cinderella. She looked at her reflection, not sure if it was really herself she was seeing. The gown was made of a silk-like chiffon material, and was in two parts. The skirt was pleated in minuscule folds at one hip, and fell in a gentle swirl to the floor. A strapless top, with an appliqued bouquet of a small flower at the waist, completed the design. The fabric was a pale, shimmering lilac and was embroidered all over with a silvery pattern.

T'Kath draped a matching scarf across her neck and down her back. "It to your liking?" she asked.

"It's wonderful. And it fits me perfectly" Christine replied as she exited the fitting room.

Amanda and the owner, who had been sitting together chatting, rose to give the outfit a critical once-over.

"Perfect," Amanda said. "T'Kath, you have once again done a marvelous job."

"It suits her well," T'Khut agreed. "You shall look most pleasing tomorrow, Dr. Chapel." She turned to Amanda. "It shall be delivered to your residence this afternoon."

As they moved off to settle the bill, Christine reluctantly went to divest herself of the fabulous garment, feeling a little bit like Cinderella did at 00:01.

* * *

 

"Is that a shop for the foreign population?" Christine asked as they headed off for the tedium of the license bureau.

"Why no, T'Khut caters to Vulcans, for bondings and other special events." Amanda seemed surprised.

"But the colors and styles are so...so..."

"So brilliant? Christine, there's much you have to learn about Vulcan, and Vulcans. They're not a grey and colorless race. The IDIC really does apply to the entire population -- infinite diversity. There are those who go the way of the Kolinahr, and try to adhere very strictly to Surak's teachings. Then there are those who you might hear of, 'Vulcans Without Logic,' who question the complete suppression of emotion and actually show some. In between you have all types, just as we do on Terra. By the way," she added, "that term is considered quite an insult here."

"But," Christine said, suddenly fearful, "Spock is acting a little bit on the illogical side by marrying me, isn't he?"

"According to his father, perhaps, and that would have been in the old days of their standoff. But according to most of the population, no. Affairs of the heart are supposed to be logical, but that's just a guide. Remember, Surak taught the control of emotion -- not the obliteration of it. Not everyone who bonds at 7 marries, you know. Sometimes, the logic of the initial decision turns out not to have been so logical after all." Christine knew this was a reference to the T'Pring disaster. " And even Sarek has taken a little softer stance lately. It started after we were with you en route to Babel, and has mellowed him a bit. He and Spock communicate fairly well now, and that's a big step for Sarek. Naturally, he decided that it was a logical step. That man can infuriate me!" Amanda laughed good-naturedly.

Christine pondered this. She looked at a group of teenaged girls who hurried by, headed to class no doubt. "Amanda, why are so many Vulcans wearing eyeglasses? Isn't Vulcan eyesight perfect?"

"Oh, that's S'omm and T'Annu's thing. They spent time in Hollywood after their soundtrack won the Iggy award this year, and both of them came back sporting those artistic glasses. No, of course they don't need glasses here. Or sunglasses, either. But the younger generation is wearing them, as you can see. I'm wondering how Stark's hairstyle will affect the hair salons here in Shi-Kahr ."

Christine fought the urge to laugh out loud at the thought of multicolored Vulcan hair. "Speaking of colors, back to the dress shop. Those designs are lovely, where does she get her inspiration from?"

"Those are traditional-style Vulcan formal dresses. Every one you saw there is a type worn for generations, even centuries. There's been a revival of traditional arts here lately, call it native pride, as illogical as that sounds. The fabrics may be a little more modern, but the styles and the colors are as old as the Reform in some cases. Of course, you'll wear a robe over it when we leave tomorrow."

"A robe?"

"Like a travel cloak. I have one that should fit you. It's partly to keep the dust off your dress and partly so that no one can see it until you arrive at the function. That's the logical reason, I prefer the first. Once you're there, you'll be amazed. It'll be like a flock of exotic birds. The males speculate endlessly about what goes on at these events, let me tell you."

"Don't you tell them?" Christine asked.

"Nope." Amanda flashed a sly, wicked grin. "Let them keep right on guessing!"

* * *

 

True to Amanda's word, the licensing formalities, both Vulcan and Federation, went by quickly. In less than an hour, they headed over to the Vulcan Science Academy Medical Center for the requisite pre-bonding exam. It, too, took less time than Christine would have imagined.

The Vulcan female doctor who took the readings and did a swab of her mouth was competent and efficient. She looked at Christine's health certificate that Leonard had provided.

"Thee are a physician as well?" she asked as she completed the certification.

"I am. I serve aboard the USS Enterprise as the Assistant Chief Medical Officer." Christine wondered what the woman would say to that.

"My nephew has applied to study at the Academy. He aspires to join the Starfleet Medical Center upon graduation, as an emergency center physician." The doctor handed Christine back the PADD she'd brought. "All is clear, Dr. Chapel, and I have sent the approval on to the license bureau. Thy bonding may proceed as planned. My best wishes to thee and thy betrothed. "

Wonder what Len would say about that, Christine thought to herself. He'd had enough trouble accepting one snowboarding Vulcan First Officer, but a Vulcan Starfleet physician in his sickbay?

Then with a glance at the time she realized she had to hurry on to her appointment with the bonding planner. Sarek had provided a staff car for her journey, but it would not do well to be late.

* * *

 

"Dr. Chapel, welcome. Please come in," the older woman said as she opened the door wide. "I am T'Jen's aunt, her Ezyet T'Ser. She has been detained, so while you wait for her, perhaps you would have some of your iced tea and biscuits with me on the patio?"

Christine and the woman seated themselves at a table next to a pool covered with what looked like water lilies. There were hanging plants and flowers of every variety, as impressive as Amanda's own garden.

"I must admit I became fond of iced tea during my years in New York," the woman said as she poured out two glasses. "It slakes the thirst better than just about anything else I know of. I regret I cannot attend your ceremony of welcome tomorrow, but the High Council is meeting, and its newest minister cannot afford to be absent. My niece shall be there in my stead."

"High Council? What is your position?" Christine was intrigued by the smooth grace of the woman, who looked to be Vulcan middle-aged. The Terran influence was subtle, but her appearance and attire was pure Vulcan.

"I am the new Minister for Sports and Culture. Given the recent focus on Vulcan, it was thought logical to create this post for me. I had served for nearly eight of your Terran years at the Vulcan Consulate in New York, most recently as Vice Consul." She handed Christine a plate of tiny, delicate cookies. "Do try these, my niece's husband has them made at the hotel."

"Is he a chef?" Christine asked, trying to think of what to say to a female equivalent of Sarek.

"He wishes he could be, but alas, no, he runs the Tav'Sal'Naya hotel. He and my niece met when I was posted to New York, his father is still the chef at the consulate there, which is a formidable task. They grew up over plomeek soup in the consulate kitchen's pantry, so the elected to bond and return to Vulcan."

Christine bit into the cookie, delighted at its subtle taste. "They are delicious," she pronounced.

"So, have you been adjusting to Vulcan?"

"Slowly. It is not at all like I expected, though."

T'Ser nodded in agreement. "Vulcan surprises many. I honestly think some believe the entire populace wears sackcloth and ashes and goes about reciting the lines to funeral dirges."

That was probably me, Christine thought to herself.

"Thankfully, Stark, and the recent film, have helped to change the image of Vulcan a bit. Though Stark is not your typical Vulcan, by any means. So tell me, Christine, you are a physician? A noble profession. Are your parents also healers?"

The wall went up, despite Christine's best attempt to stop it. "My mother was a nurse, yes, but she's retired now. My father died before I was born." Inside, her emotions were in turmoil. She wanted to cry, probably due to warp lag. This was not good. The woman was only trying to make small talk, which many Vulcans did not even believe in. She wished the niece would come home before the dam of memories burst again.

~What troubles thee, my child?~ The voice was in her mind, like Spock's, only it wasn't Spock. Her head snapped up and she stared at the woman across from her.

~Thy gift is strong.~

Christine opened her mouth, but instead, answered in her mind. ~What is this? I am frightened.~

"Do not fear this, Christine. I sensed your distress. I am sorry, your gift is so strong I could not help but hear you."

"What gift?" Christine asked warily.

"Your psi levels are extremely high for a human, am I correct?" The woman addressed her steadily, as she would a frightened child.

Christine could only nod.

"Then may I ask you, why are you so troubled? Your bonding day is Friday, this is not a time to dwell on the past."

Even before she could think of a caustic reply, she answered instead, "I cannot help it, I am human, and I miss my father."

The woman regarded her. "I am not prying, Christine, but I know there is more than that. Will you not tell me some? Perhaps it will lighten your burden?"

Christine felt as if she was standing before a river. There was only one way to get across it. She decided to do so and took a deep breath. "My father was the Chief Medical Officer aboard the USS Hope. Perhaps you heard of it?"

T'sai T'Ser nodded.

"The plague ship," Christine said bitterly.

The USS Hope was the first large scale Federation medical ship. Not a full fledged hospital ship, it nonetheless had a crew of 200, and was devoted to purely medical research and health issues at various outposts. Christine's father had been the newly-appointed CMO. Fresh out of residency, he had married the pretty nurse he'd been dating a month before the Hope put out on its maiden voyage. Christine's mother. She had been delighted to discover her pregnancy soon after her left, and had eagerly communicated the news to her husband, who was just as happy as she was.

Only disaster had struck. The ship had picked up some sick colonists at an outpost near the Romulan Neutral Zone and for some reason, they had not been screened properly for communicable diseases before coming on board. It was still early days of Federation space medicine. A deadly virus, native to the planet below, had spread swiftly through the ship. No antidote could be found, and even to this day, the disease could still be fatal if not treated at the onset. People died within hours of their first symptom and in a short time, there was almost no one left standing to run the ship, which had started drifting towards the Neutral Zone. The captain and first officer had already died, and the chief engineer and the CMO, Christine's father, had to decide what to do.

Starfleet had dispatched a ship to the area, but before it arrived, the USS Hope had self-destructed. There was endless speculation, of course. The officers and crew were all listed as lost in action in the line of duty, but Christine knew in her heart that her father had pressed the destruct button. For the good of the many, as the saying went, a phrase that was the cornerstone of the Hope Memorial in San Francisco. No one was ever formally held accountable for the destruction, and the dead were remembered with honor.

Her mother took the news very badly. She insisted she was to blame, because she had only spoken to her husband days before about the pregnancy and she was certain that had distracted him from his duties. Duty that would have included screening the colonists more carefully. There was no way that could be proved, but Christine's mother firmly believed this. She took herself south to Pismo Beach and got a job at a hospital in San Luis Obispo, where Christine was born. Her father was never mentioned until much later, when Christine had announced her intentions to go into space. She'd been left to form her own opinion about the matter, but when she further decided to become a physician, her mother had retreated into herself, which was one of the reasons she had gone off to seek contentment at the Ashram.

Christine looked down at her hands, which were trembling. She had no idea why she had just poured out her heart to this stranger, but the cathartic action had somehow helped.

"I grieve with you, Christine," T'sai T'Ser said gently. "You must not blame yourself or your mother for what happened. It may seem hard to understand, but carrying the sadness will only hurt you."

"Thank you," Christine began, "but..."

"But you think that a race with no emotion cannot give advice on how to deal with it?" The woman's voice was kind. "You underestimate the depth of a Vulcan's grief."

She looked out at the garden, as if reminding herself of its presence, then continued. "Perhaps I shall tell you of the Intrepid, my child."

Christine looked at the older woman. "The Intrepid? What has that got to do with this?"

T'Ser's face remained calmly serene. "Nothing, perhaps. Perhaps everything. The choice is yours. Would you hear what I would tell you?"

"That's a part of Vulcan's private history," Christine replied. "It is not know to most of us from offworld. I -- I do not think we should be discussing this."

"Why not?" T'Ser's face registered mild surprise.

"Spock and I will be bonded, and then he will know all of my thoughts," Christine said slowly. "All of them. How would he feel if he was aware I had been told things Vulcans do not speak of with others?" She remembered his half-cavalier admission about the experiences of his awakening, and still felt he would regret telling her someday.

"Christine, your perceptions are incorrect. This is not a taboo subject. It has, in the past, not been discussed much, even among Vulcans, but you will see that changing. Our planet was in mourning for many years and has only now come out from under the shadow of this."

Christine's curiosity was getting the best of her, but she held firm. "I cannot. It would violate the trust Spock and his family have put in me, and I just can't risk losing that."

"Do you think speaking of this with me would make you somehow unworthy in their eyes? As you feel about your own past? That what happened before you were even born has marked you as one who is not good enough?" T'Ser's voice was very soft and filled with understanding.

A sigh escaped Christine's lips, but she said nothing, only looked back at the woman, trying to decide what to do. Perhaps this was some kind of final test to see if she was the ideal bondmate for Spock?

~This is not a test of your morals, Christine. Please, trust me. I am a healer.~

"A healer?" Christine's voice raised a pitch. "You said you were a High Council Minister?"

"I am now. And I was a diplomat prior to that. But I originally trained as a healer, and I may assure you that the bond between a healer and patient is as sacred as that of a parent and child...or of bondmates. What is discussed with a healer cannot be shared with others unless the patient has given their permission. It is recognized even in the marriage bond as a place that is solely belonging to that person." She paused a moment, then spoke even more softly. "Spock will not misjudge you for this, nor will his family. Sarek and I are very old friends from long ago. He knew my parents well. But again, the choice is yours."

Christine took another deep breath. She was already in the middle of the river, she decided. There was no turning back now. "Tell me," she said finally.

"Would you give me thy hand?" T'Ser asked. "And do not fear. Listen with thy heart. And learn."

"You are a healer? What kind?" Christine wondered if the woman was a psychiatrist of some kind, then dismissed it. Vulcans would not admit to mental illness, it was too illogical.

"I was trained as a Hassu-Katra. A healer of the soul. You might know this as a psychic healer. My destination was the new Federation starship, the USS Intrepid..."

Christine opened her heart and took in her words.

"The Intrepid's maiden voyage started about the same time as that the Enterprise's second voyage. The one where you and Spock first met. I had been found to have the gift of the ancient healers in my youth, so my destiny lay with helping my people. My family have long been practitioners of the healing arts. When it was decided that an entirely Vulcan crew would be manning this new ship, years before it launched, I was chosen to be the specialist healer that would be on board. My intended, an engineer, would be there as well, and when the time was right, we would join, as our ancestors had done.

"The crew consisted of bonded or joined couples. They did not necessarily serve in the same department onboard, but all were bonded or joined. If the need for a marriage arose, the couple would either be sent to Vulcan, or, if need be, the resident priest and priestess would perform the marriage rite. It was all very logical. Our mission was one of scientific research, and anticipation was great among the crew. So much to be seen in the galaxy. 400 of Vulcan's best and brightest were on board. The energy was very positive."

"But if you were meant to be on board, why weren't you? I mean ... you said only couples were in the crew, what happened?" Christine's eyebrows furrowed together as she speculated.

"My niece was quite ill, and it was felt I should stay behind to help her heal, as she was but a child of perhaps 12. Her parents, my brother and sister-in-law, were unable to be with her, and neither were my own parents." T'Ser paused to let the meaning of her words become clear.

"Oh my God," Christine whispered. "They were on board."

"I was to join the ship on its journey after my niece had recovered. My parents were the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Nursing Practitioner on board. My brother was a historian. My sister-in-law was a translator in the communications division." She stopped for a moment. "They all perished that day, yes."

Christine gave the woman's hand a gentle squeeze. "I am so sorry."

"It was worse yet for me. Not only did my family die, but my intended. And he who was to have challenged for my hand."

"Challenged? You did not want to bond?" Christine was stunned. She thought T'Pring had been a one off, even though Amanda had said otherwise.

T'Ser continued. "Sulin and I were felt to be logical choices for bondmates as children, but as we grew older, our interests and our feelings changed. He was eager to be promoted in Starfleet, to become what you intended is, an officer and perhaps a captain one day. He had no desire for anything other than a bondmate of position and the accompanying children that brought. Savou, who was a dental healer, had met me at the Science Academy Medical School and we discovered we were much more suited to each other. We had planned to discuss this during the journey with my parents, all of us, to see if a logical decision could be reached."

And that discussion had never happened, Christine realized. In one awful moment, this woman's life, as she knew it, changed forever.

"I was at the Space Communications Center that day," T'Ser said a little sadly. "I had gone to send a message to T'Jen's parents, telling them that she was well now and I would soon be joining them. But something else drew me there too. My gift. I was standing at a console when the feelings began to overwhelm me. It swiftly became too much, and I collapsed. When I awoke in the hospital, it was a week later, my niece and I were orphans together, and Vulcan was in turmoil."

"In turmoil?" The term sounded strange to Christine's ears.

"There was a movement that Vulcan should leave the Federation immediately. Illogical, yes, but understand, 400 of Vulcan's future had been wiped from its book of citizens at once. There was not a clan that was untouched, one way or another. Families were torn in two. The concept of manning the Intrepid with our people was an illogical move, one that never should have been attempted. The conservatives thought Vulcan should withdraw from contact with the rest of the Federation and become independent once again, confining its space exploration to local journeys only. It was felt that self-containment was the logical route, a return to the old ways of early pre-Reform."

"But Vulcan is still in the Federation. And it is more visible than ever before." Christine realized she had answered her own musings.

"Within weeks, even as the debate raged, ordinary healthy Vulcans began dropping dead, as you Terrans say. The old, the young. For no other reason than they had ceased wishing to exist."

"Grief." Christine said slowly. "A terrible thing."

"Yes, grief. Sometimes, emotion needs to be expressed, but how, if it has been suppressed so long? That is when Sarek made his most impassioned speech about remaining in the Federation. He argued that if Vulcan did not renew contact with the rest of the galaxy, that if it did not allow its citizens to serve side by side with all the races of the Federation in acknowledgment of the infinite diversity of all things, then our race would be surely lost. We would revert to the old ways and destroy ourselves."

Christine pictured her future father-in-law making the plea to his unyielding fellow Council Members. He was obviously a formidable force to be reckoned with. She sensed T'Ser's gentle amusement. ~He is.~

"It did not come without a terrible price for Sarek, however. There were those who felt that his words were hollow because his son was safe aboard the Enterprise. And others were more blunt. They felt the fact that Sarek's son had become so much a legend in Starfleet was the reason the Federation decided to man the Intrepid with our people. Eventually, after much debate, this illogic was dismissed and Vulcan chose to remain a member. But Sarek suffered." She said no more, but Christine knew what she meant. He had become ill on the way to Babel, which would have been right after this time. The stress of the situation, plus the added estrangement with his son, must have been a terrible thing for him to endure.

They stopped to drink some tea and Christine regarded the woman who sat before her. She had told a tragic story and yet she sat there calm and reserved.

"And you, what did you do, T'Sai?" she asked.

"I took my niece and went to Terra, after I visited the holy ones at Gol and asked that I be released from my healing duties. The pain of the tragedy had almost destroyed me, and I had my niece to think of. Fortunately, they agreed, and I applied to work at the embassy in New York. Sarek arranged this, and I have been there until only recently, when duties called me back home."

Christine shook her head. "I almost find it impossible to believe. And now, what is Vulcan's future? The memorial to the Intrepid is so barren, why are they not remembered?"

"As I said, that will change. The generation coming of age is choosing to remember those that passed, those who unwittingly set the foundations for Vulcan to be what it is today. Vulcan shall always be as it has been, but its outlook is now more modern and more logical. One can only move forward, and to do that sometimes take hindsight. After a time, Vulcans began visiting offworld as never before. Starfleet offered cadetships to any Vulcan wishing to study there and you can see that our people now serve, as Sarek stated, with all the peoples of our Galaxy in the Federation's fleet. Artists, musicians, sportspersons, and entrepreneurs soon were visiting other cultures and we welcomed the same from elsewhere. Students began taking a year of university at another school on another planet, learning about offworld life. Some Vulcans chose to marry those from other races and this was no longer viewed as scandalous. Our people learned a bit of tolerance, acceptance...cooperation. And through this all, our culture, our beliefs became stronger. Those that ventured away from here came back with renewed respect for our ways, but sought to modernize some things, it being a logical progression. Look at Stark. His parents met and married on Terra, and when his mother lost her parents, she encouraged him to follow his obvious fondness for his sport."

"Stark?" Christine was astounded.

"His grandparents were scientists on board. An oceanographer and a geologist. They were very modern-thinking Vulcans for their time, but he never knew them. Yet he has chosen to embrace both sides of his heritage ... as your betrothed has. This is a logical thing. Otherwise, a person risks losing sight of who they really are because of the constant battle within."

Christine realized how lucky she was that Spock had learned this was so. The obstacles they had overcome to get where they were suddenly seemed very insignificant compared to what had happened in the past 8 years here.

"But what has this to do with me?" she asked. "I am honored you told me these things, but how can it help me?"

"Perhaps I, as you say, took the long route, but think, Christine. If you feel your past has tarnished who you are, think of Spock. He was viewed with disdain by many, who blamed his proficiency as an excellent officer, something that was rightfully his, for their own loss. It caused judgment to be passed unfairly on someone who was not at fault." She paused again, and Christine had a fleeting vision of T'Pring mocking her beloved Spock, telling him he was unworthy of her. She shivered.

"You have such goodness in you, Christine. I can see the radiance of your katras shimmering together. It is no accident that you have come together, you are as you say, soulmates. Those who belong together. Go to him and let your goodness pour over him. He has doubts, too, you know, and he worries, though he would never admit this, it is too illogical."

"I don't know what to say, T'Sai T'Ser. You have given me the gift of trust. I promise I shall keep this gift. I shall not betray it." Christine gave the woman's hand another squeeze.

"I thank you, Christine. As I say, you shall soon be seeing some remarkable things here. Though none as remarkable as your own union. When news reached me that T'Pring had challenged her bond with Spock, I knew in my katra there was another who was better for him. And now I have met you. I look forward to the festivities on Friday. And here is my niece, just in time to help take care of the last-minute details."

"Ezyet, Christine, please excuse my tardiness. The activities for Stark's homecoming have taxed the hotel's staff to the limit and I was called into service manning the vidphones for a time." T'Jen, a modern young Vulcan woman, breezed into the patio area, carrying several samples of orchid flowers. She, naturally, wore eyeglasses, and the ubiquitous Ferengi slippers. "I must admit to being absolutely parched from so much speaking. I hope that is iced tea?"

Her aunt poured out a glass for her niece. "Christine and I were just catching up on the news," she said. "And now I must go review the reports for tomorrow's Council meeting. I give my inaugural address, so I must rehearse. I shall see you Friday, Christine, at your bonding ceremony. Live long and prosper."

"Your aunt is a very special woman," Christine said. "I am so honored to have met her."

"She is my greatest supporter, that is true," T'Jen agreed. "And I do not know what I would have done without her through the years..." They shared a thoughtful look and then set to work. "Now, shall we view the flowers and choose the final design and colors? I have your dress fabric sample right here."

* * *

 

Spock had been having a most revealing afternoon as well, though of a decidedly different variety.

"Spock, it is good to see thee so healthy after all these years away from Vulcan," the physician said. "I trust thy family is well?"

"They are fine, Dr. Salat, and I am pleased that my physical examination finds me in good health."

"May I offer congratulations on thy upcoming bonding," the doctor added.

"Thank you." Spock seemed to shift a bit in his seat, but only for a second. "I wish to discuss a matter with thee, of a most personal nature."

"Indeed?" The physician raised an eyebrow. "Please proceed. What is thy question? And know that thy concerns shall remain confidential, as by my oath of being a healer." This relaxed Spock somewhat, who had a fear that his father would be quizzing the family doctor incessantly about his visit.

"It is ... about my mating cycle. I wish to know if it is possible to project when it will next occur. This would be useful in planning for leave. It would not be logical for a First Officer to experience pon farr aboard a starship if it can be anticipated beforehand." Spock was inwardly very uncomfortable discussing the topic, but it had to be done.

The physician scanned Spock's medical records on his computer. After a moment, he spoke. "Thee has quite a long time to make thy plans, Spock. My records indicate you should enter your next mating cycle in approximately 6.10 solar years."

"Your records must be in error, I entered pon farr for the first time 6.8 solar years ago." Spock was certain there had to be a logical reason for the discrepancy.

Dr. Salat re-calibrated the data. "There is no error, Spock. Thee has just completed thy cycle, and the next one should occur as I stated."

"Completed my cycle?" Spock's tone was almost shocked. "How is that possible? I did not experience the fever nor the other symptoms. No, there must be an error, perhaps the record is mixed with that of another?"

"Thy yamareen spiked approximately 2.2 months ago, though its level was extremely low. On the other hand, I see a very high level of human sa-dau-tukh in thy system, which means thy sexual activities are occurring on a regular basis."

Spock felt the tips of his ears flush very hot. "That is illogical, doctor, how could I enter my pon farr and not be aware of it? It is not possible. I remember the first time I had the fever, and I will not soon forget that."

The physician raised his eyebrow and steepled his fingers before him. "Spock, I have been thy physician since before thee drew thy first breath. Of all the sciences there are, I must admit that medicine is the one which most often defies logic. Children are born whenever they decide to enter the world, spontaneous cures occur when all was thought lost, viruses mutate to avoid being destroyed. Logic and medicine are often at odds with each other.

"Now, since thee are a scientist, let us look at the facts. Thee are half human, as thee knows. Thy first pon farr was aborted by events beyond thy control, which likely affected thy system. Then thee journeyed to Gol in an effort to purge thyself of emotion and endured the regimes there for some time. This was also bound to do something to thy cycle. Thee left Gol and returned to the Enterprise where thee had the encounter with V'Ger. Any one of these events alone could disrupt thy cycle. Add to this your obviously regular sexual relations and there thee sees the possibility. As I stated, thy yamareen levels were at the very low end of the scale. So it is entirely possible that you merely felt ill for a time ... and then, possibly, indulged a bit more than thee would normally do? Think back. Were thee ill recently?"

Spock's face was fighting a losing battle not to turn emerald green. He wracked his brain. Wait, perhaps ... no, it could not be ... or could it?

He spoke, a bit uneasily. "I had a gastric concern at about that time, when I consumed too much cheese. My betrothed sedated me so I could rest. I recall feeling very queasy and feverish, but I attributed this to the stomach upset."

"And when thee recovered? Did thee have ... relations?"

Spock nodded, certain his face was now the color of an avocado. He and Christine had spent the rest of the weekend in bed, as they did on occasion. Apart from her saying he was "friskier" than usual, nothing had been amiss.

"There thee has it, then, Spock. Thee indeed had thy mating cycle, aborted thought it may have been. I take it thee are using precautions? Pregnancy in deep space is still a risk for both mother and baby."

He almost stuttered. "B-but Christine and I do plan to start a family when this mission ends, in 3.8 years. Will my next cycle be so unpredictable? Christine is in her prime childbearing time now, so I am hoping my fertility level will not be so low."

"Spock." The physician regarded him with a guardedly amused look, which he could get away with, given the young Spock had bitten him during his first injections at age one. Even Sarek had stated that a child that young could not possibly control his emotions, but both he and the physician had teased Spock now and then about the incident. "Did thee not hear what I am saying? Thee are ... potent. Thy sa-nei are of a very high and healthy level. Were thee not using precautions, thee would be well on the way to fatherhood by now. Thy human physiology has seen to this. Thee need not wait until thy next mating cycle to begin a family."

"How can we start a family outside of my mating cycle?" Spock was confused.

The doctor now cocked his other eyebrow. "Spock, son of Sarek, are thee telling me that thee would not know how to make thy wife pregnant?"

Spock sat there, thunderstruck. "What?" he finally asked.

"I believe the term is, proceeding the 'old-fashioned way.' Do not dwell on this, Spock. Thee and thy intended can have many children, any time thee wish by the looks of things. But if thee do not plan on having them now, use caution."

Spock was quiet for a few moments. Then he addressed the physician before he rose to leave. "I thank thee for thy honesty and advice, Doctor Salat. Christine and I shall see thee at our ceremony on Friday, and I trust..."

The physician met his gaze. "It remains between us, Spock, thee has my word. Thy father can be much too nosy for his own good at times, though I cannot tell him this. Live long and prosper."

* * *

 

Christine got out of the staff car and walked up the driveway. She saw Sarek there, lovingly buffing the flitter.

"Good afternoon, Christine," he said. "Was your meeting with the ... bonding planner agreeable?" Sarek still was unsure how the process worked, though it seemed logical.

"It was," she replied, daring to run a hand across the flitter's shiny hood. "It's a beautiful machine, Sarek."

"I was surprised you and Spock did not go for a drive last night?" he asked, with one eyebrow fighting to stay level.

"Oh," she laughed. "We almost called a taxi. Both of us were so exhausted it's a wonder we got home without falling asleep. Fortunately, we chanced on an interstellar radio transmission of some old rock and roll songs, and that kept us awake."

"Rock and roll, you say? By which artists?"

"The usual: Led Zeppelin, Bon Jovi, the Beatles..." Christine looked at the flitter again.

Sarek wondered whether he should say they had probably picked up the local university's alternative radio program, "Sunday Night Rock," then thought better of it.

"I met T'Jen's aunt, the T'sai T'Ser, this afternoon," Christine remarked. "She says she was acquainted with you? She is quite an interesting person."

"Yes, she is. I have known her for years, a most capable woman. Her family perished on the Intrepid, you know."

"So she told me," Christine replied. "Sarek?"

"Yes, Christine?"

"Thank you." An unspoken look of understanding passed between them.

"Your father was a good man and a fine officer, Christine. You honor his memory by what you do." Sarek let his pride in her touch his voice.

"I know, Sarek. It just took me awhile to realize it."

Spock came out of the garage just then with some windscreen cleaner. At the sight of Christine, he put the container down and walked over to her. "I have missed you," he said, giving her a hug.

"You, too," she replied.

The hug turned into a kiss. No big passionate thing, but no brother-sister peck, either. Sarek was glad the house was well set back from the others in the cul de sac, but he still had a feeling that the woman next door was most certainly reporting this incident to her long-suffering husband. So be it. It was not as though they were having sexual intercourse on the hood of the flitter. He shook his head. That image was not one he wanted to pursue.

They were saved from further scandal by Amanda's timely arrival. "Dinner should be ready in about ten minutes. Oh hello, Christine. How did it go with the bonding planner?" They walked up to the house, deep in discussion.

Sarek raised an eyebrow at his son. Spock mirrored it and set to work finishing his job on the windscreen.

* * *

 

"It's a beautiful evening, so I think Christine and I will go onto the patio and observe the khas'khiori," Spock said as he got up and held his hand out to his fiancee. She followed him out the sliding glass door.

"What's that?"

"Shooting stars. I believe your superior recommended we view them together."

* * *

 

"It would appear we are making progress, my wife," Sarek said.

"Oh, Sarek, you're as broody as an old biddy hen. Let them find their own way." Amanda handed her husband a dish of ice cream.

"Though I must admit, this does resemble a rather adolescent relationship, do you not think?" Sarek helped himself to a large spoonful of the dessert. "Ahh, my favorite, Amanda. You spoil me."

"Sarek, Spock has been given something most of us never get. A second chance at his happiness, and do not raise your eyebrow at me, you know what I mean."

"Yes, my wife." Sarek continued his systematic consumption of the ice cream.

"He left home at 18, and we won't even go into what happened a few years ago, so of course he's going to be acting a little bit like a teenager. This is the first time he's realized he can have a bond like ours, not some cold partnership. He's enjoying himself, and so is Christine."

Amanda was getting a little testy. Sarek had been speculating as to whether or not the couple still were amenable to the bonding ceremony, of all things, most of the afternoon. He said this was logical because Spock had looked rather strange when he returned from his medical appointment. Amanda had soon convinced him that was a most illogical line of thought.

"Agreed, my wife. But what is the real issue here?" he reached his hand out, inviting her touch.

"Sarek, I'm sorry. It's just that you've been given a second chance too, and I don't mean with me. With your son. You have a good relationship with Spock now, spend some time getting to know him this week. It might do the both of you some good."

"I believe your suggestion is a logical one, Aduna."

* * *

 

"He said what?" Christine gasped, wishing she had been a fly on the wall of the office, even though Vulcan had no houseflies that she had seen yet.

Spock repeated the physician's statement verbatim. He and Christine dissolved into helpless giggles.

"SHHHH! Your father will hear you! We're supposed to be watching shooting stars, not displaying tasteless human emotion." She tried to escape his tickles, but he was much too strong. That, and she didn't really want to escape.

"T'hyla..." Spock began. "I was wondering..."

"Spock, I am your doctor too, and no, you do not have to worry. Trust me, I knew a long time ago that you're not shooting blanks. When the time's right, we can start trying for a family, not before." She leaned back at an angle across his stomach, face up, watching the stars. He draped his arm across her neck protectively.

"Shooting blanks? Is that a medical term?"

She leaned over and whispered in his ear.

"Really, Christine."

"It's the truth," she replied honestly.

"I shall be leaving early to visit the family shrine tomorrow, in order to ascertain the roads are safe for our journey the next day," he said. "We have had an unusually rainy spring and there have been rockslides."

"Mmmm, I'm looking forward to getting out of the city and hiking. Do you need a sunscreen hypospray before you leave tomorrow?"

"Vulcans do not sunburn," he said matter of factly.

She gave up with a contented sigh and settled back to watch the show in the skies above them.

"And your day, was it interesting?" he asked after awhile.

"Yes, very."

* * *

 

"They really are viewing the stars," Sarek said, amazed, as he peered out of the darkened window.

Amanda slapped at him. "Sarek, it's not nice to be voyeur. You are a nosy one, aren't you?"

"I was merely ascertaining if they required anything," he replied.

"Sure you were."

They settled down to watch the evening holonews. A few moments later, they heard the couple return to the house.

"I have an extremely early day ahead of me, so I shall bid you goodnight," Spock said as he came into the living room.

"Sleep well, son," Amanda told him. "And be careful tomorrow."

"Use caution on the roads," Sarek added.

Spock gave his fiancee a chaste kiss and disappeared towards his room.

Christine edged closer to the sofa. "I was wondering if I could join you for the transmission? I'm wondering what's been happening elsewhere since I arrived here."

"Certainly, Christine, we would be delighted," Sarek said. "Please make yourself comfortable."

She sat down, content in the warmth of the atmosphere that surrounded her. It really was going to be ok, she thought.

From the corner of her eye, she thought she saw a movement. A tall, blonde haired man in an old Stafleet uniform stood there for a split second, but was gone so quickly she thought she had been seeing things. There was a soft, comforting voice in her head as well. Or was it the overhead ceiling fan?

~It sure will, honey. I love you.~

* * *

 

Tuesday

 

She was sleeping, back at her childhood home in Pismo Beach. Gracie, the persistent tortie cat, was trying to wake her by tapping her cheek with a velvet soft paw. Christine reached out to catch the frisky feline but instead encountered a well-muscled arm, attached to an even more well muscled shoulder. She opened her eyes, confused for a moment.

It was still dark outside. A dim motion sensor light outlined Spock's familiar silhouette, sitting on the bed next to her. He was dressed in a traveling cloak.

"I know it is still nighttime, beloved, but I wished to see you before I left for my journey," he said as she pulled herself into a seated position. His arms easily enfolded her and his mouth sought hers. After a moment, he drew back and gave her an amused glance. "Or perhaps I should stay here with you?"

"I wish you could, but both of us have things to do," she sighed.

"Does this mean you have changed your position on our sleeping arrangements, then?" His fingertip traced her neck down to her collarbone, sending waves of desire coursing through her.

"I'll take it ... under advisement," she replied, returning the contact as her hand brushed against his cheekbone. "But it would be most disrespectful to your ancestors to keep them waiting because of emotional excess."

"That is quite logical," he continued, letting his finger continue to trace a path down her chest towards her abdomen. "However, tomorrow..." His eyes asked a question.

"Mmmm, tomorrow. Now you'd best get going if you plan to see the sunrise there." She kissed him lightly. "I love you so much, Spock. Sometimes I can't even believe this is happening, that it's just a dream."

"It is no dream, T'hyla. My love for you more than matches yours for me." He stood up, bending over to kiss her a final time. "Now shom-tor, rest, it is still the night. Dream that I am holding you close."

* * *

 

Spock was stowing his daypack in the back of the sturdy sport utility ground car Sarek had obtained when he heard footsteps come up beside him.

"Good morning, my son."

"Father, you are up early," Spock replied. "Is something wrong?"

Sarek rubbed the bridge of his nose. "The Tellarite Ambassador insists we do business on his world's time. I am just taking my leave for a short rest before I must meet with the event staff who will set up for the ceremony here. Then I must attend the High Council meeting. It will be a long day, I fear."

"Perhaps you can rest later this afternoon, while Mother and Christine are at the Ne'shau," Spock suggested.

"A logical thought, my son." He looked at Spock. "Have a safe journey, and remember the spring rains have washed much of the road out. If it is dangerous to proceed, use your judgment and return. I shall see you later this afternoon."

"Thank you, Father, until my return then," Spock replied as he opened the driver's side door and swung his tall frame into the seat.

Sarek turned to go back inside and noticed the house directly across from theirs had some faint lights visible. A shade twitched, ever so slightly. He felt sympathy for his neighbor, Skrav, whose bondmate persisted in keeping tabs on the entire neighborhood under the guise of a 'citizen's watch' program. A logical plan, but this particular area was the safest in the city, and this in a city with virtually no crime rate whatsoever. He shook his head. No doubt he would hear the latest update from Skrav at some point soon.

* * *

 

It had been an extremely harrowing drive to his destination, but Spock was determined to be there before dawn. The road was non-existent in many places. It was just becoming grey when he parked the vehicle and started towards the shrine. The silence was serene. A bird twittered here and there, but otherwise, nothing else could be heard. He settled into a meditation posture facing the mountains where the sun would rise and began his breath control, asking his ancestors to help him purge the memories of this place that haunted him still.

* * *

 

Christine had just finished her yoga routine when she saw several workmen enter the patio. Sarek was with them and was in the process of explaining how the garden, which was to the side of the patio and lawn area, would be set up for the ceremony of bonding. Christine's stomach did a flip flop. This certainly was no dream. In three days' time, she would be onboard the Enterprise, preparing for her wedding to Spock. After all these months of waiting, everything was heading towards fulfillment and she felt almost giddy at the thought.

* * *

 

"Amanda, are you certain my gown looks all right?" Christine asked as she touched the folds of her skirt.

"You look wonderful, Christine. Let me help you with the cloak." Amanda draped a dark blue lightweight woven garment across her shoulders and fastened the froglike attachments on the front. She surveyed her handiwork in the mirror. "There. Now you're set until we arrive, when it comes off."

The custom seemed to Christine not unlike those observed in some of the Arabian States. Given the dusty, desert climates of both places, it made sense to wear the protective garment.

"Are you ready?" Amanda asked.

"As ready as I can be, I guess. Let's go, then."

* * *

 

T'sai T'Pau lived in a beautiful, extensive desert estate some miles from Shi-Kahr . Amanda's sensible flitter made the journey quickly, and she pointed out the various landmarks that were visible along the way.

As they prepared to exit the vehicle, Amanda reached over and took Christine's hand. "I am so glad you and Spock finally found each other, Christine," she said softly. "He was so alone, I was beginning to wonder if he would ever risk being with someone again. I'm very happy it is you. You'll have a good life with him. Just love him, no matter how illogical he might say love is. He wants it just the same."

Christine gave her a hug. "Thank you, Amanda, for accepting our love for what it is. And for accepting me."

"We wouldn't have it any other way, my dear. Now come along, let's show these ladies what you've got."

* * *

 

It was exactly as Amanda had described, a flock of brightly-plumed, chattering tropical birds. Soft Vulcan chatter, perhaps, but the energy was the same as at a female gathering anywhere in the galaxy, Christine guessed. Women were the same no matter where they were. Clothes, gossip, food. It would be interesting to see how the event progressed.

After dispensing with their cloaks and giving the baskets of limes to a caterer for display, Christine and Amanda walked through the hallway and out towards the sounds of the other guests. They soon found themselves in a gracefully landscaped outdoor shaded patio. The architecture reminded Christine of an old Roman-style villa. There were fountains, a lily-filled pond as at T'sai T'Ser's home, plants and flowers everywhere, and acres of what looked to be a green Terran-style lawn. Groups of women and teenaged girls stood here and there, conversing. The colors and styles of their attire were enough to take the senses away and Christine remembered Amanda's remark about how the male population wondered what happened at these social gatherings. She resolved to keep the secret of the sisterhood.

"This is quite a lovely place," Christine said, marveling at the obvious size of the property.

"Yes, it's been in the clan for as long as it existed, in one form or another. Sarek and I had our bonding feast here." Amanda's expression indicated she was remembering a very happy day in their marriage. "The families were both here, more guests then you could imagine, and the celebration went on for four days."

Christine raised an eyebrow, as she had unconsciously begun doing, mirroring Spock's practice. "Four days? We only have two until we leave for Terra. Is that enough time?"

Amanda placed a hand on her arm. "Christine, these are different times. We were married almost a half century ago. Ceremonies today can be as traditional or as non traditional as the couple and their families wish. Even registry-office marriages are starting to be seen, with the bonding and celebration coming later, when the couple has time for it. Modern bondmates, both of who are working, need a modern bonding process. That's why T'Jen is in such high demand ... and esteem. Her employees are staffing the party today."

"Yes, she certainly paints a different picture of what I thought a young Vulcan woman would be like," Christine said, remembering their pleasant afternoon planning session, which, of course, had segued into other discussions. New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas (of all places! But T'Jen and her husband, S'Rob had enjoyed their trip there, both being in the hospitality industry), modern bridal fashions on Terra and Vulcan, and, of course, Stark. The growing company T'Jen had started on a whim was now doing most of the event planning for the weeklong festivities, backed up by the hotel her husband managed.

"T'sai Amanda! And this must be Dr. Chapel?" A woman about Amanda's age stood before them, part of a group of three elegantly-clothed Vulcan females.

"Christine, I would like to present some of my good friends. Ladies, this is Christine Chapel, Spock's betrothed." Amanda began the introduction process. Christine was quite interested to learn about her mother-in-law's companions, who looked to be a very pleasant trio.

"This is T'sai T'Jacq, who is the chief neonatal nurse practitioner at the Science Academy hospital. T'sai T'Deb, who is a senior journalist for the arts and literary review. And T'sai T'Cher, who is the assistant chief administrator at the Science Academy hospital."

Formalities were exchanged, then the women drew Christine into conversation immediately, asking about her work, if she was enjoying her time on Vulcan, and commenting on her dress. Christine was surprised and pleased that she held her own so easily. Everyone was speaking excellent Federation standard, so there were no language problems.

They moved on eventually towards a table under the shade where a large punchbowl had been set up. She and Amanda took cups of the beverage that were offered to them by another member of the catering staff. Christine regarded the young man, who was Vulcan, as he stood at the loose parade rest of those in his profession. Like his counterparts anywhere, he was clad in an immaculate white shirt, black trousers and a wrap around apron. The cut was Vulcan, giving the overall effect one of elegance. She made a mental note to try and visit the Tal'Sav'Nava hotel while she was in Shi-Kahr , even for a few moments. Leonard had told her about how efficiently it was run, and if this was any indication, she had to see for herself.

"T'sai Amanda, it is good to see you again. And this is?" A younger Vulcan woman stood before them, her delicate features enhanced by the jade green gown she was wearing. Gold jewelry shimmered on her neck and ears.

"Christine, this is T'sai T'Ren. She is a statistician attached to the university's economics division, one of those who provides the data needed for just about everything these days. Sarek relies on her office to help him in his duties."

T'Ren extended her hand for a handshake. Christine gave Amanda a glance, not sure what to do.

"It is quite all right, Doctor," the woman told her. "My office deals with visitors on a daily, if not hourly, basis. I am pleased to meet you."

"Likewise," Christine replied, giving her hand a shake.

"How is your daughter, T'Mar?" Amanda asked as they walked on.

"She will be performing later," T'Ren said. "There's much excitement, she has been accepted to study xenoarchaeology at the Science Academy. Her father and I are pleased. Her brother, of course, sees this at the perfect opportunity to learn more about Terran native cultures of the American Southwest." She paused, giving Christine a friendly look. "He is enraptured with the idea of your cowboys and Indians, I fear, Dr. Chapel, and no amount of telling him that this is an ancient culture will dissuade him from believing that there are horses and tepees in American cities to this day."

"There are both," Christine admitted, "but they're not in the cities any longer. In fact, Spock and I will be spending part of our honeymoon in the Southwest, where archaeological digs are still very much a part of the landscape. Is your daughter interested in this?"

T'Ren nodded. "She wants to study different desert living sites from long ago, such as your Native Americans, the Australian Aborigines and such, to compare them with our own Vulcan examples. Her brother, who is but three, thinks she will bring home, what is his name, Iron Eyes Cody, to visit Shi-Kahr when she completes her year of offworld studies. As you can tell, we watch the odd old Terran western film now and then."

Christine and Amanda exchanged an amused glance. Clearly, Christine thought, many Vulcans were embracing many interesting avenues, and it was obvious that small boys would always be small boys. The woman's dress and demeanor were Vulcan, but it was clear she had a modern point of view. Interesting, Christine mused. T'sai T'Ser had been correct.

"Where is T'sai T'Pau?" Christine asked, as she and Amanda were touring the kitchen facilities with T'Jen, and her husband, who had made a flying visit, he admitted, to check on the staff.

"She'll be around," Amanda assured her. "But don't worry, you don't have to pass any kind of test, Christine. You are Spock's intended and she intends to welcome you properly to the clan."

T'Jen came up to them with a plate. "You must try the stuffed ha'ma'ti leaves. We are planning to serve them at your party Friday evening and we need your opinion on the spices."

"No dinner for us tonight," Amanda said with a smile.

* * *

 

The sun was climbing high into the desert sky when Spock got up from his meditation. Slowly, he walked the ancient circle, remembering the last time he had been here. The sound of bells, the whisper of the wind, the entry of his grandmother, and of his intended. Kirk and McCoy standing there, wondering what to do. The frenzied insanity of it all. And his feeling of terrible loss.

"Spock," a voice said.

He turned. It was Kirk, but he knew it was only a vision. His friend was on board the ship. This was a ghost from his past.

"Jim. Why have you come here today?"

Kirk looked at his First Officer. "You nearly killed me on these sands. So long ago."

Spock closed his eyes in shame. "I know, and it pains me still."

"Spock, it was in the past, so you shouldn't be thinking of it any longer. You've found happiness with a wonderful woman, a new life together. Don't beat yourself up over this. It wasn't your fault."

There was only silence. Spock could say nothing, his emotions were in such turmoil.

"I forgive you, my friend. Can you forgive yourself?"

Spock felt the tension in his chest slowly dissolve, as if a balm were being soothed onto his soul. Jim was right. It was time to forget ... and forgive.

"I can, Jim, and I do," he said to the empty air that blew gently past him.

He sat back down on the sands and closed his eyes, knowing that he had more dragons to slay.

"Son of Sarek," another voice came quietly.

Spock looked up, knowing this was yet another vision.

"T'Pring," he said flatly.

"Thee looks well," she told him. "It is clear thy career in Starfleet suits thee."

"It does." Spock's voice was steady and emotionless.

"Thee are distressed?"

Spock regarded the vision of an older, bonded T'Pring. "Why are thee here? It is done between us. The tr'krei'ses I suffered after thee broke our bond has caused me distress, why does thee plague me? Does thee think me a duhik-nirak?"

"Spock. We were but children when we bonded. It was an illogical match. I have made a good life with Stonn, and our daughter aspires, as thee did, beyond our world, and we welcome this decision."

"I must ask thee, again, why are thee here? It is done between us."

T'Pring waited a moment before she replied. "For me, yes, I released thy presence years ago. But thee has not done the same. That is illogical. Stonn and I wish thee and thy intended well in thy bonding, but thy unfinished business called me here. Thee must let the past go and move forward."

Spock closed his eyes, realizing he had to let go at last. "I thank thee, T'Pring, and wish thee and thy family a pleasant life."

"Live long and prosper, Spock, Son of Sarek," T'Pring said as she faded from sight.

He caught his breath and realized the path was clear for him to move forward. But just as he moved to rise from his posture, he became aware of another figure.

"Spock, son of Sarek, son of Skonn, of the house of Surak," came the familiar voice.

"Ko-mekh-il T"Pau," he replied reverently. "Why is thy katra here, on this day?"

"It called me, grandson," T'Pau said. "Thee looks well, my child. What is thy trouble?"

Spock thought carefully before he replied. "The last time I saw thee, it was not a logical situation. And my friend, who thee thought dead, shall be at my bonding ceremony. How can this deception allow my bonding? Thee will be displeased."

T'Pau's vision contemplated for a moment. "That was years ago, my grandson. And I know the illogical activities of they first pon farr meant nothing. It is now clear to me that thee has found thy Vah'ren, they soulbonded mate, and thy bonding is logical. Why does thee question this?"

"She is Terran," Spock replied, "and she thinks thee would hold her in contempt."

"Why, grandson, when I can see the glow of thy joined katras lighting thy essences?"

Spock looked at the vision of his grandmother. "Because she is not of Vulcan. Her ways are different. I love her, and love is an illogical emotion. How can thee accept my soulbonded when our very essences are different?"

"The same way I accepted thy own parents, Spock. The call of the Vah'ren is stronger than any logic that is known. Those souls are meant to be joined, as thy parents were. And as thee and thy intended are meant to be joined. Do not sit here suffering any longer. Go to thy residence. And perhaps talk with thy father. Sarek is anxious to re-establish his presence in thy life. Speak to him."

"I shall," Spock said to the unheeding desert breeze. His essence seemed to be at peace, finally. The great weight in his soul was lifted at last.

He looked around at the silence. It was time to go home.

* * *

 

T'sai T'Pau readied herself for the formal greeting of her new daughter in law. She would be tardy, but it was illogical to deny her grandson's need.

She walked into the garden and saw Amanda and Dr. Chapel speaking with a group of other women. Slowly, with much dignity, she made her way over.

"Dr. Chapel, " she said, " would thee walk with me in the gardens?'

* * *

 

Sarek had arrived home after the Council Meeting, in need of some rest before the women returned. He saw his neighbor, Skrav, working on the sandstone wall that bordered the house and walked across the road for a moment.

"Behsu Sarek," Skrav said. "how goes it this day?"

"Well, Beshu Skrav," Sarek replied. "We are preparing for the bonding ceremony as planned and much is happening."

Skrav hesitated a moment before he spoke. "My wife thought otherwise," he stated simply.

"Why?" Sarek asked, though he and Skrav knew the answer already.

"She saw your son and his intended ... sharing a public shok-tor," Skrav began. "And then he left the house well before dawn this morning. T'Gla felt he had perhaps elected to return to Gol, due to this, as she says, scandalous emotional display on the part of his intended."

Sarek gave a heavy, exhausted sigh. He and Skrav had been through much together, and both knew his bondmate's proclivity to exaggeration and imagination all too well.

"Skrav," he said slowly, "my son plans to take his intended hiking tomorrow in the clan's land. He has logically gone to inspect the roads, to see if a groundcar can make the journey. His betrothed, and my wife, are at the clan welcome. As, I believe, is T'sai T'Glad."

Skrav raised his eyebrows. "I knew this, brother, but you know how it is."

Sarek let his mouth turn up. "Indeed," he replied. "We shall see you at the bonding ceremony."

"Save a Saurian brandy for me, Sarek," Skrav called to Sarek's departing form.

* * *

 

"Are thee finding thy stay here pleasant?' T'Pau asked.

Christine answered honestly. "It has been most enlightening."

"That is good, " the older woman replied. "Thy bonding is in but three solar days. I am pleased that thee are my grandson's intended. I hope thy life together will bring much peace and contentment to thee both."

"Thank you, T'sai T'Pau," Christine said.

The matriarch indicate a flowering plant before them. "The wantei blossoms are displayed on they gown," she told Christine. "A flower whose scent is subtle but compelling, and whose fragrance rules the night. It is most appropriate thy dress is decorated such," she said as she indicated the bouquet appliqued at Christine's waist. "It is the sign that the bond will have much sweetness."

Christine regarded the clan matriarch, fearful of what she may say next.

"I met thy father, thee knows," T'Pau continued.

"You did?' Christine was once again astounded.

"The Hope visited Vulcan early in its maiden voyage. He was a model officer who spoke fondly of his bondmate on Terra. Thy mother. Thee has his eyes and his stature. And his vision of healing. Thee does his honor well by thy chosen profession. and I know thee will care for my grandson in all his needs."

The women looked at each other, but said nothing, nothing needing to be said.

"Come," T'Pau said. "It is time for thy welcome."

T'sai T'Pau led Christine to a small dais that had been set up at one end of the patio. Amanda joined them and they sat down in exquisitely carved antique chairs that looked as though they were made from a type of mahogany wood. The other guests took their places on seats around the patio's parameters.

T'Pau clapped her hands and music began to play. It was sensual and exotic, with an almost lilting quality, similar in type to that of Southeast Asia on Terra.

Christine watched as two lines of teen-aged girls slowly began processing into the patio area. They were dressed in long-sleeved, high necked pastel silky tunics which fell below their knees, with slits up to the hip. Darker slim fitting trousers completed the ensemble. The girls were barefoot and each carried a branch of a flower that resembled a gladiola. They began an intricate crisscross pattern of steps, moving back and forth, waving the flowers slightly as they danced. Their expressions were serene and contemplative. Christine was mesmerized by the sight.

"What is this?" she whispered to Amanda, fearful of violating some taboo by speaking.

Amanda replied, "It's the dance of the maidens, those who are yet to be married, acknowledging the fact that one of their number must leave them to join her husband."

The cadence of the dance was one of sadness mixed with joy, if that was possible, and Christine continued to watch. One by one, the girls came forward, bowed to her, and placed their flower branch on the ground in front of the dais. When they had finished, the flowers formed a beautiful pattern.

"It's an ancient symbol, from before the Reform, of the infinity of the marital bond.," Amanda said.

T'Pau stood up and looked at the gathering of females. She began to speak in her accented, though perfect, Standard. "Since the time of our ancestors, the bonding of marriage has involved an end and a beginning. The betrothed must leave her family and home to join with that of her intended. And so it is still today."

She turned and looked on Christine with her gaze. "I present to you the newest daughter of our clan, she who shall join with Spock, son of Sarek. Dr. Christine Chapel."

Her hand indicated that Christine should rise. From nowhere, two of the young maids appeared, carrying a rich, dark blue velvet-looking robe. They helped her into the garment, which was elaborately embroidered with Vulcan glyphs. It fit her frame perfectly, the rich folds swirling about her like waves on an ocean. Christine realized this was her clan robe.

T'Pau spoke once more. "From this day, she is known as T'sai Christine of the House of Surak." She turned to Christine and gave the Vulcan salute and the greeting in her own language. Christine responded in kind, bowing to the matriarch as Amanda had instructed her to do.

"Now, daughters of our clans," T'Pau said, "let us celebrate her bonding." She indicated the extensive buffet which had been set up.

And so it was that Dr. Christine Chapel, of Pismo Beach, Terra, ACMO of the USS Enterprise, was welcomed into the House of Surak.

* * *

 

Spock pulled into the driveway, glad he had completed the journey home. He'd stopped to check out some hiking spots, which were in decent shape, but the condition of the road to his family's land still concerned him. He had called in at the residence of the ancient cousin who served as a caretaker of sorts and had reported the problems.

As he opened the door, he wondered if he should pull on his traveling cloak. He wore convertible trousers, which he had long since unzipped into shorts, his sturdy hiking boots, and a Vulcan Science Academy regulation physical education t-shirt, a gift from a friend of his father's he had seen this week. T'sai T'Glad would have a field day if the son of Ambassador Sarek was seen showing his bare legs. Then he realized she was probably still at the welcome party. A glance at the spaceport showed his mother's flitter not in evidence, though his father's everyday flitter was parked, so Sarek was home. Fine, then, he reasoned, not caring at this point who viewed his legs. It was time for a shower and some nourishment.

* * *

 

Christine looked up from her nearly empty plate and thought she was seeing double.

"Dr. Chapel?"

"T'sai Christine, sister."

"T'sai Christine, would you join us by the reflecting pool?" asked one of a pair of twins, who Christine recognized as having danced earlier. They were now in their ceremonial finery, and both wore ... eyeglasses. As well as Ferengi slippers.

Christine stood up and allowed herself to be led off by the young women.

"I am T'Cath," one offered.

"And I am T'Cathy," said her twin. "We are t'dahsular s'ka-yu-mur."

"Identical twins," her sister countered.

Christine regarded them both, amused. "Which one of you is the elder?' she asked, a long-standing tradition on Terra. The young ladies did not disappoint.

"I am," T'Cathy said.

Her sister eyed her twin with a long-suffering glance. "By 1.37 minutes, my sister."

Christine spoke to both. "Well, in some years, that will be an advantage, as one of you will be younger than the other," she said, with just a touch of humor.

"I remind my sister of that regularly," T'Cath replied.

"Hourly, I believe, "T'Cathy countered.

Christine allowed herself to be seated amongst a group of animated teen-aged girls. Animated for Vulcans, but the energy was quite noticeable. Even on Vulcan, it was clear that adolescent girls shared the same interests of their sisters across the galaxy. The conversation her arrival had interrupted had been about Stark, naturally.

She looked at one of the teens, who was holding something very familiar on her lap, but familiar to Terra, not Vulcan.

"Is that a Chihuahua dog?" she asked, amazed. The small creature scampered over to investigate the newcomer.

"It is, T'sai Christine," its owner admitted. "Her name is Poquita. And I am T'Crys."

"How did she arrive here on Vulcan?" Christine had seen many pet seh-lats, but not Terran-style dogs, though Amanda said there were a growing number in Shi-Kahr , thanks to the foreign populace. She patted the small canine, who leaned into her touch.

"My sister, T'Jude, serves at Starfleet in San Francisco as a mathematician," the girl replied. "She recently wedded a stellar cartographer who is from Mexico City in the Mexican States. When they came to Vulcan for their bonding, they gave Poquita to me as a gift."

Christine patted the tiny creature's silken head once more, then handed her back to her mistress. "You all speak Standard so well," she remarked.

It was as though a dam had broken. The voices were calm and controlled, very Vulcan, but the scenario was that of any teen-aged group anywhere.

"We are studying the era of Jane Austen currently in our literature class."

"You see, T'Crys' mother, T'sai T'Maria, spent a year at Cambridge on Terra."

"She is the Superintendent of Languages for the Shi-Kahr School District."

"Do you prefer 'Pride and Prejudice'? A logical story line, and we have seen the holo with Emma Thompson."

"I rather enjoy 'Wuthering Heights' with Laurence Olivier. Black and white holos are so much more compelling."

"Ghosts are illogical."

"Have you ever been to England, Dr. Chapel?"

Christine joined the discussion with gusto.

* * *

 

Spock was peeling the skin off some avocados when his father entered the kitchen. "I hope I did not wake you, Father," he said.

"No," Sarek replied, eying the sight of Spock so at home in a culinary setting, "I was ready to waken. What are you making, my son?"

"Mother left a note stating that she and Christine would not be home until after the time for endmeal, so I am making something to eat. Are you hungry? There is more than enough for us both."

"Those are avocados, are they not?" Sarek regarded the green spheres.

"Indeed, I have taken a fancy to Terran guacamole, which Christine introduced me to, although I season it with our own Vulcan chilies. I am making some and soy thuk quesadillas. Is this to your liking?"

Sarek nodded. "Your mother and I used to frequent an excellent Mexican restaurant in the Marina District of San Francisco, during our courting days. They had most delicious vegetarian burritos there. And the view of the sun setting over the Golden Gate Bridge was quite pleasant, especially if accompanied by a decent margarita."

Spock tried to picture his parents having a quiet drink together, something he and Christine did on occasion. For some reason, he was able to envision this for the first time.

"My son, do you need any assistance?" Sarek asked, interrupting his musings.

Spock raised an eyebrow. "You can cook? Mother said that when she met you, if you were not having dinner at the embassy's dining room, you survived on Campbell's tomato soup and microwaveable waffles at your staff quarters."

Sarek sighed. "Your mother is, as ever, mistaken," he said. Spock looked at his father, curious. "I was also well acquainted with peanut butter and Ritz crackers."

The corner of Spock's mouth turned up. "I am making a fruit kaasa out of some limes, pineapple and sash-saras. Perhaps you could slice the fruits in preparation for juicing them?"

"Indeed, son I could. I do not suppose this kaasa would be the basis for a margarita-styled drink?" Sarek asked, reaching for a knife.

"Perhaps," Spock conceded. He drew on a pair of latex gloves and began mincing the chilies.

"Why do you need the gloves?" Sarek, a stranger in the kitchen, was wondering at the strange spectacle.

"The chili oils cling to the skin of the finger, which can then be transferred elsewhere on the body, such as the eyes," Spock stated. He and Christine had already experienced this phenomenon, though nowhere near their eyes, and he vowed not to repeat it again.

"Most logical, my son," Sarek said. He watched Spock work. "You have missed your calling, you might have made a fine surgeon." He paused. "Speaking of physicians, how did your medical examination go?"

* * *

 

Christine was deep in a discussion of yoga hand mudras with the young women when they drew a collective breath.

"Our mothers are looking for us," T'Cath said. "The event is logically at its conclusion and they are headed this way."

"Quickly," T'Mar instructed. The tiny dog, who been enjoying all the attention, was passed from hand to hand across the group until it was safely hidden in T'Crys' large carryall. She got up and scurried unobtrusively into the house.

"The dog was to have remained in the flitter," T'Cathy explained. "But we knew it would be more logical to have it here with us." She lapsed into silence as several clan matriarchs approached the group, exercising the maternal radar common to every single mother everywhere.

"There you are," Amanda said. "It's time to bid goodbye to T'sai T'Pau and make our way home. Are you ready?"

Christine looked back at the girls who had shared their selves with her, and gave a full Terran smile. "Take care, ladies, and remember. Dream big."

"What was that all about?" Amanda asked as they headed towards their final farewells.

Christine looked at her. "Girl talk," she said simply.

Amanda gave her a conspiratorial wink. "Good for you, honey. I bet you had a ball."

"We did."

* * *

 

"So all is well, then?" Sarek asked.

Spock had told his father some, but not most, of the discussion he had with the family physician. He figured that discretion was the better part of valor in this case. If his father knew something concrete, he would be less likely to go searching for more details.

"Yes, Christine and I can begin a family whenever we choose. Logically, this would be after the current tour of duty ends. Then we can determine what to do."

"Good. Pregnancy in deep space is not recommended," Sarek agreed. He gave his son a level look. "I do trust you are being logical in the meantime? After all, contrary to what you may have heard, your mother and I did not purchase you at the old town bazaar in Shi-Kahr , you know." This was a reference to the fact that despite the best efforts of the Vulcan Science Academy medical staff, he and Amanda had ended up conceiving on their own.

Spock returned the gaze. "Why no, Father. I was always under the impression that the pu'a brought me." He slowly raised an eyebrow.

Sarek fought the urge to chuckle, allowing both corners of his mouth to twitch upward. "Let us have endmeal, then, my son, and view the holos you brought."

"Most agreeable, Father," Spock replied.

* * *

 

"So you say you and Christine view this holo series regularly?" Sarek asked as he helped himself to some more food.

"Yes, CSI is one of our favorite old Terran shows. The team works to logical conclusions, and the special effects, crude as they are now, were state of the art back then. The setting of Las Vegas adds a bit to the program as well."

"Your mother and I spent a weekend there once, a rather interesting resort." Sarek sipped at his fruit kaasa, which Spock had mixed with some tequila he'd brought from his recent trip to Starbase 6. "This is a very palatable drink, son. Are you certain you will not have another? I shall not drink alone, that is illogical."

"I fear I am fatigued from my early rising, so no," Spock admitted. "And Christine and I will be up early tomorrow, though not quite so early as today, for our journey. The roads are 43.5% out, though. I think it would be more logical to take mother's flitter, rather than a groundcar. And that way we would not have to leave quite so early."

"Perhaps you should take my flitter, as your mother may need to run errands tomorrow," Sarek suggested.

Spock raised both eyebrows this time. "To the clan's land? In the desert?"

"I was not aware that our clan's land had been moved recently," Sarek replied dryly, his way of teasing his son. "I think it would be an enjoyable day out for both of you if you took it, my son."

"A logical suggestion, father. I thank you for the offer. Yes, we shall take your flitter."

Sarek looked at the screen once more, intrigued by the character's interplay. "And you say that you and Christine have done re-enactments of this show on the holodeck? Fascinating."

Spock though back to the last re-enactment they had done, although it had not happened anywhere near the holodeck. He smiled to himself as he recalled the sorry state of his personal lab afterwards. It had been quite an eventful evening. But not one whose details he wanted to divulge to his father.

He was saved from more discussion by the sound of his mother's flitter returning.

* * *

 

"I still can't believe what an enjoyable afternoon we had," Christine said as she and Amanda exited the vehicle. "You're right, it was a very special time. I promise not to tell." She gave an impish grin.

"I'm glad you had fun. I must admit, I did too. And trust me, when I first met Sarek's mother, I thought I would faint on the spot. She cuts quite a presence. You handled yourself so well, how did you do it?"

Christine remembered the matriarch's words. "We had some things in common, I guess."

"That's a step in the right direction," Amanda replied. She looked at the collection of cars and flitters. "Looks like the boys are home. I only hope Spock called out for some dinner. Sarek loves to play the starving husband role whenever I can't be home for endmeal. You'd think an ambassador would know how to operate a replicator, at the very least."

They headed towards the front door. As they entered the hall, they heard the holoviewer in the living room. "I guess they're watching the news," Amanda speculated.

She and Christine went into the kitchen and put the flowers that had been presented at the ceremony into a vase, then moved to their rooms to change clothes. The males of the family were so engrossed in their viewing they did not even acknowledge the noise they made. Amanda wondered if they could be watching a sporting contest of some kind.

"Here you are," Amanda said as they joined Spock and Sarek in the living room. "My goodness," she remarked as she took in the food on the coffee table. "Where did you get this? Did you order out?"

Sarek indicated his son. "Spock and I prepared this, though I must admit, Spock did most of the preparation, while I did the supervising. There is plenty to eat, will you join us? Or at least in a kaasa margarita?"

"Kaasa margarita?" Christine asked. Spock quickly poured her a glass, which she tried. "My goodness, this is ... good. Potent, though."

"Yes, Spock has refused to have more than one, because he and Christine are leaving early tomorrow for their hiking trip," Sarek confessed, "but my wife, perhaps you would join me in a drink?"

Christine and Amanda sat down next to their respective partners and looked at the holoscreen.

"It is a Terran show called CSI," Sarek said. "A very entertaining, logical production."

"So I see," Amanda replied. "I guess we're in a Las Vegas frame of mind, are we?"

"Ah, an excellent thought, my wife. The show is just ending. Perhaps we shall view our favorite Bond film, now that you and Christine have returned home? It is still early."

Early? When did the bar open? Christine wondered. But then she realized that neither Spock or Sarek were really even tipsy. They were merely enjoying each other's company. "And what film would that be?" she asked.

Spock put his arm comfortably around her shoulder, drawing her against him. "Diamonds are Forever," he replied.

* * *

 

Spock finished his mediation and realized he was thirsty. Some lime water would be quite palatable, he thought. There would be an early morning for both he and Christine, so they once again were sleeping apart, despite a particularly sensual goodnight grope in the hall. Tomorrow, he thought to himself, tomorrow.

As he made his way down the hall to the kitchen, he was aware that the holoviewer was still on. Curious, he glanced in to see if his father was perhaps viewing a late night political broadcast. What he saw surprised him.

His parents were comfortably settled on the sofa, watching the old Elvis holo "Viva Las Vegas." Sarek had his arm around his mother's shoulder, and she had her legs tucked up under her as she leaned against him. They appeared to be enjoying the holo. He could hear bits of their conversation, but could not make out the words. The scene looked so much like a normal end of day in his own quarters that he was quite astonished. Their behavior mirrored that of his and Christine's, something he never would have imagined to be possible. That thought made him smile.

Sighing contentedly, he headed off to the kitchen for some refreshment, knowing the next day would be full of fascinating discoveries.

* * *

 

Sarek came into the kitchen and found Christine giving Spock a hypoinjection.

"Are you ill, my son?" he asked.

"Good morning, Father," Spock replied. "No, I am fine, but Christine is giving me a preventative against excess UV rays and other overexposure to the desert's environment. I have found that my time away from Vulcan has made me a bit more sensitive to the elements here, and to get a sunburn would be most illogical."

"Indeed, that is an excellent idea. Even our own citizens are beginning to shield themselves from the sun's power, as I am sure you have seen with the preponderance of sunglasses being worn." He indicated Spock and Christine's extreme-weather trousers. "Those are quite fascinating in appearance. Are those zip fastenings on the legs?"

"Yes," Christine told him as she deftly gave herself the same injection. "The pant portion unzips, allowing the wearer to convert them to warm-weather hiking shorts as the day progresses. Spock and I have several pairs and find them to be very useful in our outdoor activities."

Amanda gave Sarek an amused glance. Bare male Vulcan legs were still not generally seen, except in sporting situations or at a seashore vacation. She hoped Sarek might take a page from their son's book. His legs were delightful to behold, in Amanda's opinion.

"Well, shall we depart, then?" Spock asked, grabbing his daypack. "The sunrise will not wait for us."

They made their way to the flitterport, Sarek giving an unconscious look over his shoulder at the neighbor's residence. As if in answer to his question, the shade moved slightly. By the grace of the ancestors, Sarek thought to himself, did that woman never rest? He admired his friend and neighbor Skrav all the more for his ability to tolerate such illogical behavior on the part of his bondmate. Was she even Vulcan, he wondered, or was she a changeling the p'ua had left? Well, there were exceptions to every rule of logic, Sarek then admitted, and T'sai T'Glad was number one on the list.

Spock opened the doors and helped Christine into her seat, then stowed his pack in the trunk. He settled himself behind the controls as Sarek closed up after him.

"I shall endeavor to be cautious, Father," he told Sarek.

His father raised a knowing eyebrow and said something in Vulcan so softly that only Spock's ears could hear. They immediately flushed, but Christine was talking with his mother about tomorrow's activities so did not notice. Spock fired up the engine, and tried to fathom the fact that his father had just told him that caution was logical, but not to be overly-cautious in some areas. Only it translated as...well, never mind. He backed the flitter out of the driveway and they set off on their journey as the dawn's grey shadows began to make their first appearance.

Sarek turned to his wife. "I am certain T'sai T'Glad will be drawing her usual illogical conclusions," he told Amanda, holding his fingers out for her embrace. Then he took her hand instead and they walked back to the house. What was that old Terran saying? In for a penny, in for a pound?

* * *

 

Spock and Christine stood before the ancient shrine, watching the early rays of the sunrise peek over the mountains. The air was still and surprisingly cool, which surprised Christine, who was grateful for the protection the long trousers offered.

"This is the place where my ancestors have come since before our history has been recorded," he said softly. "We honor the spirits of those who have passed before us, and ask their guidance in all matters."

Christine shivered, recalling the fact that Spock and Jim had nearly fought to their death here during his first time of mating. She was glad that Spock would find comfort in her embrace the next time. There would be no need for the ancient ways of combat any longer. No one could challenge their love for each other, as illogical as it seemed to be thinking of that in so sacred a place.

As if in answer, Spock wrapped his arms around her shoulders and turned her to face him. The sun's rays were dancing over his face and his eyes were dark with emotion. "T'hyla," he said, "it is the custom during the traditional marriage ceremony for the couple to walk this circle as a symbol of their journey forward into their new life together. Will you do me the honor of walking with me?"

"Yes, but ... we're not married yet." She was fearful, as ever, that some ancient taboo might be violated.

"Our souls were wedded the day we were destined to be Vah'ren by the fates, my beloved," he replied, one hand stroking her jawline. "So it is most appropriate that we make this journey here now." He took his place by her side, his hand holding hers protectively. "Let us begin."

After they traversed the entire circle, Spock stopped before the shrine and placed his hands on Christine's face, asking for a link. She nodded.

He began the ancient betrothal proposal, something that was done when the bondmates reached maturity, but before the time of mating. Christine replied in kind, giving herself fully to the man who stood before her, knowing through their link he loved her with such depth it nearly took her breath away.

When the link was completed, he took her in his arms and kissed her chastely.

"Your ancestors are surely disapproving," she said lightly afterward.

"I highly doubt it, T'hyla. It seemed the logical thing to do, do you not agree?"

* * *

 

"And this is all your family's land?" Christine asked, amazed, as the flitter did a flyover of a spectacular canyon. Spock banked and turned to do another pass, enjoying the maneuverability of the craft as much as Christine was enjoying the view.

"It is, approximately two hundred square miles, most all of it a nature preserve. There is no one here today except for ourselves, and Sklan, an elderly cousin who lives here and watches over the shrine." Spock pulled back on the controls and the flitter climbed into the morning air, sunlight glinting off its brilliant finish. He glanced over at Christine, whose face was alight with the joy of the ride.

"There's a stretch of Highway 1, just north of Piedras Blancas and Hearst Castle," she said, "nothing but straight road until you reach Ragged Point, and it's all speed. With a convertible and a sunny afternoon, it's heaven." She looked back at Spock. "We'll be there on our honeymoon, so you can see it."

"Indeed, I shall look forward to that" he replied, moving in to set the flitter down atop a flat bluff.

"Are we going to hike here?" Christine asked. "This is a great view!"

"No, I am taking you to the spring called shok-tor, not far from here. The trails into the rocks above it are quite good for climbing." He reached across to run his index finger down her nose and across her lips, his eyebrow raising provocatively. "Would you like ... to give it a try?"

Christine was unsure of his meaning. They were finally alone, was he suggesting they have some fun on top of the butte, or in the back of the flitter?

Spock chuckled, realizing her confusion. "I meant the flitter, Christine. Would you like to pilot it?"

You father's flitter? Are you crazy? I'd be afraid to touch the control panel, let alone try to navigate it. No, this isn't the same as a Mustang convertible." She shook her head sadly.

"I can assure you it is quite like driving a motor vehicle, with a few differences. I insist you try. You will find it a most enjoyable experience." He hit the door remote and exited the vehicle, stretching as he did so, then stopped to convert his trousers into shorts. "It has grown warm," he commented.

Christine did the same and then joined him on the driver's side of the vehicle, still unsure of what she was supposed to do. She watched as Spock moved the driver's seat back a distance and proficiently adjusted the safety belt. Then he got back into the seat.

"I thought I was driving?" she asked, now even more confused.

Spock smiled at her, indicating she should sit on his lap. "It is quite safe, I can assure you. The harness will brace us both, and there is plenty of room for you." She hesitated only a second, then climbed over him. His hands grasped her hips and firmly guided her to sit between his legs. He drew her against him as he adjusted the seat belt. "I learned to pilot the flitter this very same way," he said. "My father brought me here when I was perhaps eleven years old."

Christine pictured the scene and found herself giggling. She could only imagine the pre-adolescent Spock straining at the bit to fly the sleek little craft, then Sarek's stern disapproval at such emotional behavior.

"Did you not realize there was a different time before my father and I had our disagreement over my chosen career?" he asked softly, giving her neck a nuzzle that promised of headier delights to come later. "We shared many adventures together, and I am pleased that our relationship is again returning to that level." He started up the engine once more. "Now, let us begin." His hand closed over hers on the throttle and the flitter began a slow takeoff. Christine let him guide her and gave herself over to the delight of the experience.

They traversed the canyon twice, Spock guiding her through a banked ascent, then they flew between two buttes, the flitter dropping to within a scant hundred meters of the ground. "Pull back on the throttle," he instructed her. She did so, hesitantly. "Harder," he purred in her ear, his words full of double meaning. "It prefers a strong touch." His fingers moved over her hand seductively and she leaned back into his hips, relishing the contact between them.

The flitter crossed over a spring set into some weathered red rock formations. Spock indicated it with a nod. "Our destination. The spring of shok-tor. It has an underground water source and the mineral content draws the animals to drink here. The views from the top of the rocks are most pleasing."

"Animals?" she asked, knowing that le-matyas called this territory their own. "Is it safe?"

"Quite safe, they only come to the water at nightfall or at dawn. When I was a boy, my cousins, our fathers and I spent a night here in a type of treehouse we constructed, watching the animals as the came to the water's edge. It was quite an adventure." He guided Christine as she banked the flitter and brought it to a smooth landing on a flat surface adjacent to the spring. Spock set the window shades and they exited the vehicle.

Christine walked ahead to the edge of the bluff, which was perhaps five feet above the spring, and looked down at the water below. "It's beautiful," she exclaimed, moving forward for a closer vantage point.

Spock had retrieved the daypack and was closing up the trunk. "Be careful, Christine, he warned, "there have been unusually heavy spring rains and the earth there might be..." His words stopped as he heard her shriek and saw her form disappear down the embankment in a cloud of red dust. "Unstable...?" he finished.

Even as he raced to the bluff's edge, he was assured of her safety through their link, although she was decidedly displeased. He reached the spot where she had last stood and peered down.

"Don't," she said resignedly. "Don't even think about laughing."

She was lying on her back in a puddle of the oozing red mud that made up the bank of this part of the body of water. Thankfully, it had protected her from injury, as rock ledges surrounded the rest of the spring, but, from the look on her face, it had not been the most pleasant of experiences to go through.

"I shall endeavor to get you back up here, don't worry," he replied, slipping off his daypack and tossing it on the ground behind him. Unfortunately, even that minuscule amount of seismic activity was enough to cause the rest of the loose dirt to dislodge under his feet, bringing him down the same path Christine had taken. "Oh SHIT!" he yelled, just before he landed beside her, face down, in the muck.

For a long moment, neither of them said anything. Then Spock drew himself into a sitting position. Christine did the same. Still not speaking, she reached out a hand and wiped the mud from his face, the twitching of her lips belying the amusement she felt.

"So," Spock finally began. "Do you frequent this watering hole on a regular basis?"

Both of them broke into laughter, but Christine quickly brought the situation back to reality. "Now what?" she asked. "I'm not going hiking in muddy clothes, that's for sure." She kicked off her now sodden boots.

Spock considered the options. This was not the romantic interlude he had planned. "I suppose we could divest ourselves of our outer garments and put them in the trunk, then head back home?" he offered.

"Do you really want to be seen driving through Shi-Kahr in your underwear? What would your father say to mud all over his flitter's trunk? And then there's that neighbor of yours he mentioned ... it would make the evening news, I bet."

"Yes, I see. That thought had not occurred to me." He surveyed the spring's parameter, then indicated a smooth sandstone ledge shaded by an outcropping that was nearby. "I propose we still get rid of our muddy outer garments and rinse them out. The sun is hot, so they will dry quickly. We could then perhaps try to hike, despite the condition of our footgear."

"And where shall we wait while our clothes dry, in the flitter?" she asked, but not because she was hoping for a romantic interlude. The vehicle's interior would be heating up crisply despite the window shades. "The hypo I gave us protects against sunburn, not sunstroke, and I have no intention of getting either."

Spock closed his eyes, in despair of the way the morning was turning out. "We can rest on the ledge there, I have brought a light protective blanket." He got up and climbed the bank to retrieve the daypack, then hopscotched across the boulders to set it on the ledge he had pointed out. Christine watched him, then stood up as well. "It's the logical thing, T'hyla," he told her when he returned. "The sun is growing hot, so let us proceed."

Christine threw him a martyr's look and started shrugging out of her clothes. Thankfully, the mud had not made it through to her knit camisole set, but she had been lucky. She knelt on a rock to rinse her shorts and shirt out, making quick work of it, then spread them across a smaller ledge nearby. Spock was right, the heat would take care of the drying process rapidly. She glanced over at him to find he was doing the same thing.

The water's surface shimmered and she turned to admire the vista. It was an azure blue in color, and from what she could tell, had a mineral content not unlike that of Terran Perrier water. The entire setting was just beautiful, and she hoped a hike to the rock's summit was still going to be possible.

Spock watched her standing at the water's edge, clad only in a pastel undergarment set. The garments were made of soft knit and her figure's curves were clearly visible beneath it. The sight of her sent a surge of desire welling south of his brief's waistband. An idea began to form. He smiled, then bent down and put his hands in the mud.

"Spock?" Christine asked, hearing him come up behind her. She turned, then stared at him. "Wha--?"

In a heartbeat, he had left one muddy handprint on her left breast, and the other on her hip. His eyebrow raised. "Oops," he said innocently.

"Why you Vulcan oaf," she replied, incensed, then she, too, bent to the mud and swirled her hands across it. A moment later his briefs had two bright red handprints plastered on the posterior portion. "What the hell are you playing at?"

He folded her into his arms. "Now what shall we do? Our undergarments will surely stain if we do not rinse the mud off quickly."

So that was it. "Spock, this is your family's land, what are you saying? What if someone sees us cavorting around here in the altogether? No way." She thought it might be somehow disrespectful to his ancestors.

"There is no one within 200 miles of this place except my cousin, and he will not be journeying here today, he is elderly." His hands continued to leave muddy marks on the backside of her underpants. "The water is delightfully cool, not overly so, and as I said, the sun will dry our garments quickly." He released her and regarded the scene before him. "Now will you enter the water yourself, or must I assist you?" He was smiling, but his hands threatened a tickle session if she did not comply with his request.

Heck with it, Christine thought. A quick skinny dip wouldn't be that bad, and if someone happened along, they could stay submerged until they left. She turned and plunged into the water, Spock close behind her.

It felt like champagne, cool and refreshing, and the depth was no more than waist high. The bottom was smooth sandstone. She dove under the surface, enjoying the unusually bubbly feeling of the water. Its taste was sweet, not alkaline like she had expected. A pleasurable experience, she decided. And the water would act as a sunstroke preventative, provided they got out of the sun fairly soon. It was fast becoming very warm.

She felt him behind her as he drew her against him. He had already divested himself of his briefs and the coolness of the water had not dampened his ardor. He turned her effortlessly to face him. "You need to put your things on the ledge so they may dry off," he instructed, indicating the rest of their clothing. "Perhaps I should assist you after all?" In a swift moment, he had removed her garments and put them to dry with the other items. Then he returned to their embrace. "Much better," he murmured. His lips found hers and they kissed, with nothing between them but the sensual feeling of the spring's water.

After a few more kisses and underwater dives, Spock led her over to the ledge where he had left the pack. He hoisted her easily before him into a sitting position, but did not join her. She sat, perched on the warm but shaded rock, looking down at him.

"What are you doing?" she asked softly as he nudged her legs apart and stood there looking at her.

"This is the first time I have seen you entirely unclothed outdoors in natural daylight, T'hyla," he said in a sensual growl. It was true, their brief outside coupling the day he had proposed had been of the half-naked, swift variety, and their rain escapade had occurred in the ship's arboretum. His hand reached out to touch the curls at the juncture of her thighs, which were sparkling with drops of water. He looked up at her from under heavy-lidded eyes. "So I am enjoying a quite spectacular view."

She let her foot rub against his shoulder and then leaned back to give him a better vantage point. His hands slid upward with a lover's caress. He allowed his fingers to roam at a sensual, languid pace, exploring things carefully, seeking entry now and then. Christine let a moan pass her lips. Her body was ramping into overdrive and quickly.

"E'tum," he whispered as his lips began the same journey his hands had just finished. Christine knew enough Vulcan to understand that he was indeed savoring the view. His tongue settled down to explore something slowly and thoroughly.

"Oh, Spock," she sighed.

* * *

 

Wednesday 12:00 Vulcan Space Central

 

"Welcome to Vulcan," Selak said to Worf and his family. "I trust your journey was to your satisfaction?"

"As could be expected," Worf replied honestly. They'd had to take transport from Qo'noS run by the entrepreneurs of the region, the Ferengi, because in theory no Klingon ship could call at Vulcan and vice versa. Thankfully, once they reached a border space station, they had transferred to a Federation-licensed star cruiser, for quite a nice rest of the journey.

"I am Selak, and this is the Klingon ambassador's aide, K'e'flex, and we are here to make your stay on Vulcan a pleasant one."

"NuqneH," K'e'flex said in the traditional greeting. "And this must be K'a'tya and Mogh?"

Worf introduced his family to the diplomatic aides and then produced a PADD. "I have agricultural certificates for the plants we are carrying," he stated.

Selak looked over the documentation then opened the container. His expression turned to one of surprise as he smelled the heady fragrance the herbs gave off. "What is this? It smells most unusual, most intriguing."

"It is the Klin-ta herb," Worf explained. "Almost impossible to be grown offworld, it gives an added subtle flavor to practically any dish. These were grown at our agristation. We are bringing these as Cha'nob."

"Ritual gifts of welcome," K'e'flex added, hoping he might obtain some leaves for his wife to cook with. A taste of home, he thought.

Selak, too, was hoping to try the unusual herb with the earthy fragrance. It might be good in a pasta sauce, he decided. "That is fine, your paperwork is in order, so we can get you to the Tav'Sal'Nava hotel in good time."

"And this evening, we shall see you for a meal at his Excellency's residence, Worf," K'e'flex said, "while the ladies of the community here will take K'a'tya and Mogh on a local adventure of sorts."

Mogh looked up at his parents, his excitement apparent. He clutched his snowboard, which he had firmly refused to pack in his luggage, opting instead to sleep with it next to him on the star cruiser. "Let us go, Sos, Vav?" he pleaded.

They moved towards the transport station, the aides following.

"Not your typical Klingon citizens, are they?" Selak asked his companion.

"No, indeed, they are the exception, however we do have what passes for culture on Qo'noS," K'e'flex replied.

"If only you could say the same about poker players," Selak smirked. His friend had lost another 50 credits at the weekly game the night before and was still smarting.

"It is because we cannot bluff the way you expressionless androids can," the Klingon countered, but he was permitted this luxury; the two had been through many adventures together and were comrades in arms.

"Touche," Selak said drolly.

* * *

 

12:30 The Spring of Shok-Tor

 

"Have you recovered?" Spock asked.

Christine turned in his arms and snuggled against his shoulder. They were reclining on the warm shaded rock ledge, protected by the elemental blanket Spock had packed.

She sighed. "I think -- so."

Her body was still singing from his oral ministrations. It had been unlike anything she had ever experienced before. As soon as one wave of fulfillment washed over her, another started to form. The pleasure had gone on and on for what seemed like forever until at last her world went supernova and she collapsed against Spock, head thrown back, unintelligible sounds pouring out of her mouth.

"Indeed, you were enjoying my activities, were you not?" His hands caressed her body in the warm still afternoon air.

"I lost count, Spock. The feelings I had -- I didn't know I could experience them. It was indescribable." Even her words seemed unable to portray what had happened. Ripples of contentment still washed through her.

"I felt every delightful spasm," he said huskily. His hand moved to her inner thigh then climbed higher, sliding through her warmth. A long slender finger began exploring once more.

Christine gasped as her body responded and heat started to pulse where he was touching her. "I didn't think I had anything left," she told him in amazement.

He looked at her, one eyebrow raised. "I beg to differ, T'hyla. I believe you do." He pulled her on top of him, his passionate gaze searing her. "I want you. I want you now. Here." His hands grasped her hips and pulled her into position as he began to thrust into her, his eyes never leaving hers. "Now. Christine. I. Want. You. Now."

Desire quickly enveloped them both. Spock held her fast as his movements within led both of them higher towards fulfillment. "Ahh, so good," she gasped. "Harder, I need you harder, Spock," she begged, taking his hand and placing it on her abdomen. "Can you feel yourself?" she whispered. "You're there inside me."

Her words seemed to inflame Spock. He pulled himself up to join her and their mouths met, devouring each other, while his upward thrusts continued making her insane. "Omigod," she inhaled sharply, feeling the pleasure start to spiral up towards the summit. Spock joined her easily as both of them fell over the edge, shouting a garbled phrase in Vulcan as they shared in each other's exquisite release.

Spent, they lay back, finding their way once again into regular orbit.

"What is this place? A portal to another world? I've never felt like this," Christine admitted as she lay across Spock's chest, snug in his arms.

He smiled. "The spring of shok-tor is reputed to be a magical spot," he said. "Do you know what shok-tor means in Vulcan?"

Christine shook her head. Spock traced her lips again with his finger, which were swollen from their fevered kisses of a few moments ago.

"It means to kiss. Shok is Vulcan for kiss. In the pre-Reform times, it was said a maiden came to this spring every day to draw water, and the spirit who guarded the water fell in love with her. Only the maid was to leave and join her intended in marriage. The spirit was jealous and wished her to stay, so he made the water's sweetness lull the maid into a deep sleep so she could remain there with him forever."

"Sleeping Beauty."

He continued. "Yes, like your story of Sleeping Beauty. And this maid too was woken by the kiss of her beloved, who told the water spirit that to hold her there against her will was unfair. And so the spirit released the maid because he did not wish to see her sad. The spirit is rumored to make the waters sweet to this day for lovers who chance upon it."

"I can tell that story was from a long time ago," she agreed, wondering if ancient Vulcan grandmothers had told the legend to little ones as they prepared to sleep for the night. "But it's still beautiful."

He pulled her closer, his body hungry for hers once more. "You are beautiful, Christine. Here in the daylight, in these waters, you are so very beautiful, like the wild spirit of the winds that blow through these canyons." He kissed her. "And you are mine, as I am yours."

* * *

 

She stood at the water's edge, pulling her hair into a loose ponytail. The water's mineral content had given her the frizzies. Thank goodness she was going to the spa tomorrow, or else her hairstyle on Friday would hark back to the old hippie days of Terra.

The late afternoon sun was arcing towards the horizon. Their clothes had long since dried, but neither of them had cared until a few moments ago. In fact, they had begun to head towards their garments some time ago when Spock had decided to conduct an experiment to see if the buoyancy of the water's mineral content might enhance underwater lovemaking. It had proved a most delightful theory to investigate. They never got to hike, but that didn't matter. Time enough for that on their honeymoon trip.

"So, we must leave this place, my love," Spock said as his arms encircled her waist for a last embrace. "I shall remember the pleasure we shared here this day always." His tone indicted that he wished they could still remain beneath the rocky ledge, exploring the limits of their passion.

"It was the most wonderful day I have ever spent in my life," she agreed, kissing the hollow of his throat. "How can it get any better than this?"

"I do not know, T'hyla, but once our marriage bond occurs, it shall. And I look forward to that as well." He brushed some mineral salt residue off her cheek. "In the ancient times, the bride and groom did not even appear at their wedding for feast for several days, so overtaken were they by the shan-ha-lak, the marriage bond engulfment."

"Will that happen to us? I mean, we have a party to attend that night, remember. And the reception at your parent's house." Christine was concerned.

"Most bondings take place during the time of pon farr, but ours shall happen outside the fires, so perhaps it will not be as intense. I discussed this with the physician and he stated this was a possibility. Of course, my human genes may have an influence as well. Let us see what transpires, shall we? Do not worry. If you are very worried, perhaps you can administer that patch you did so long ago, remember?" His eyes danced in merriment as they recalled his constant state of human style arousal early in their relationship.

"Spock! I will not have my husband taking the modern equivalent of saltpeter on our wedding day! You're right, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it." She took his hand. "Come on, your parents will think we dropped into a canyon or something. Sarek is probably pacing right now, wondering where the flitter is."

They climbed up the bank and headed towards the vehicle. Spock unlocked the doors and disengaged the sunshades. Heat rolled out of the vehicle like a blast furnace, despite it having been parked in the shade. It would take a few minutes to cool down, unless they wanted to risk third degree burns on their backsides.

"I guess we wait," Christine sighed. She felt Spock embrace her from behind and leaned comfortably against him as they watched the sun continue its downward journey. There was still plenty of daylight left, and the scenery was breathtaking.

He pressed his hips against her purposefully. "I can think of a pleasant way to pass the time," he suggested.

Christine decided to act on impulse, knowing he was still reluctant to ask for some things that he enjoyed. She turned to face him, both hands on the closure to his shorts. "So can I?" she purred. In one quick movement, she had freed him from the confines of the material and was on her knees, returning the favor he had bestowed upon her earlier.

* * *

 

Sarek and Amanda were double checking the event company's handiwork in the garden when they heard the flitter return. They watched from their vantage point as Spock drove the vehicle up the drive and parked it deftly in the fltterport. He and Christine got out.

Both were barefoot, each holding their mud-caked hiking boots, which they placed at the side of the garage. Spock then turned on the nearby garden hose and his parents continued to watch, curious, as he rinsed off the footwear.

"I would imagine it was rather muddy out there," Sarek remarked.

Still unobserved, they saw the couple make their way to the front door and go inside. Christine's hair resembled old Terran style steel wool, and their clothes looked a bit worse for wear. The expression on their faces was one of contented fulfillment, a look Sarek and Amanda knew well.

Amanda leaned close to her husband and whispered something in his ear.

Sarek pondered for a moment, then shook his head, his mouth battling to stay level. "I disagree, Aduna. They were both clearly still wearing their pants."

* * *

 

Christine made her decision. She drew a robe around herself, grabbed her shampoo and marched across the hall and into Spock's bedroom. A moment later, he was delighted to find her joining him in the shower.

"I'm not pretending any more," she said simply.

Spock pulled her into an embrace as the water coursed over them. "Neither am I," he replied.

* * *

 

Spock's parents watched as the lovers, who both seemed to be unusually tired, left the dinner table and headed down the hall. They were not surprised to see both of them enter their son's bedroom and close the door.

"Well, at least now things are back to normal," Sarek announced. He had inspected the flitter and was pleased to find the interior spotless. Apart from residual dust on the outer surface, there was not a mark on it. His son had done a very fine job of piloting the vehicle.

"Whatever normal is, Sarek. Somehow, with those two, I don't know what to expect." Amanda turned to load the dishwasher, a smile on her face. It had been extremely clear that the self-enforced period of abstinence had ended. Good for them.

Sarek came up to his wife and drew her into an embrace. "All this speculation on passionate pursuits has me thinking, Aduna," he said. "Perhaps when all the festivities are concluded, it would be a good time for us to take a small vacation? To Risa, maybe? I am sure I can arrange for the diplomatic guest house to be at our disposal for a long weekend. Does that idea please you?"

Amanda smiled up at him. "It does, my husband."

* * *

 

"Fascinating."

Christine opened her eyes to find Spock standing over the bed. He looked down at her with a gleam in his eye, which seemed to be at odds with the fact that he had just finished his evening meditation.

"What's so fascinating?" she asked, trying not to yawn. Her body was deliciously spent.

"There appears to be a scantily-clad female in my bed." His eyebrow rose seductively.

Christine was about to make some witty remark when realization hit her. This was Spock's room, the same room he had slept in as a boy, in the very bed she now occupied. She looked back up at him and saw his adolescent self, eyes agog at the prospect of exploring the mysteries of sex with a willing, eager partner. It didn't surprise her, they'd already played out his athletic hero Academy fantasy awhile back.

He swiftly untied his robe and let it fall to the floor, then pulled the covers back and joined her. His hands reached out tentatively to explore her skin that was visible, his arousal very apparent.

"My parents are home," he whispered, the same as any fourteen year old overdosed on hormones would. His eyes were alight with humor. "So we must be quiet. I -- I admit, I have not done this before."

"Neither have I," Christine replied. She reached down to explore his previously uncharted territory.

* * *

 

Thursday, daybreak Ambassador Sarek's residence

 

Spock allowed himself the luxury of a stretch, then returned his arms to encircle the sleeping Christine. The early morning light seeped through the blinds of his room, bathing her features as she slumbered. Spock's hand brushed the hair off her forehead and kissed her brow.

"Mmmmm." She stirred in his embrace but did not open her eyes. "Good morning," she finally said.

"It is indeed an extremely good morning," he replied.

Her eyes opened and she looked at him, sensing his humor. "And why would it be so extremely good?"

His arms tightened around her. "There is now a totally unclothed female in my bed."

"Oh?" she asked wickedly, letting her hand begin to wander across his chest.

"Yes, and she has the smile on her face of one who has been thoroughly satisfied," he whispered. He kissed her lightly. "Is that correct?"

"You might say that, Mr. Teenaged Fantasy Man." Her comment brought a flush to his ears and a grin to his face. "I don't know if I'll be able to walk today!"

"The spring is reputed to have that effect, Doctor." His fingers traveled through familiar territory. "You are -- a bit sore, perhaps?"

Now it was her turn to flush. "I am," she admitted. "Too much fun."

"Indeed. Perhaps I should employ an ancient Vulcan cure in that case?" he said evenly.

"Which is?"

"Kiss it and make it better?" His eyes held mirth and passion both.

She struggled out of his embrace. "Then I need a shower."

He caught her fast. "No, you do not, my love. Why interfere with the cure? Now lie back and relax," he told her as his mouth began blazing a trail of soft kisses down her abdomen.

Christine did as she was told.

* * *

 

"But what about you?" she asked after she had found coherent speech once more. She could feel his arousal pressing on her leg.

"Perhaps ... I should also employ an ancient cure for myself as well?" His hand began to travel down the line of hair on his lower stomach, an amused smile accompanying his actions.

Christine told herself this was not about to happen. Surely Vulcans did not ... they could not ... not ... that?

As if reading her thoughts, he chuckled. "I am half human, T'hyla, and the physician assures me my human testosterone is at very high, healthy levels." His hand moved lower and found something to occupy itself.

"SPOCK!" she whispered. "What are you doing?"

He raised an eyebrow. "You think me not capable of taking care of myself when the need arises?" he asked. "I have had to on some occasions, when you were off ship or working a different shift. Does this shock you?"

She could not even speak. Her eyes tried not to travel past his face, but she was well and truly aware of what was going on further south.

He smiled widened and he allowed his other hand to lightly touch the contact points on her face. Visions, fantasy visions, started to slide across her consciousness. Familiar ones. Sickbay. The shuttle. Rain. The springs. The bio lab. Academy fantasies. Teenaged ones. Then...?

"In Jim's chair?" she gasped. "On the bridge?" The image intensified.

Christine stared back at him, stunned for a moment. Clearly, there was much more to Spock than she had imagined.

"Give me that," she commanded, batting his hand away from its erotic activities. "At least we can take care of half of that fantasy."

* * *

 

"Now we need a shower," Spock remarked a bit later. "Would you care to join me?"

* * *

 

Thursday

 

Daybreak Hotel Tav'Sal'Nava, Shi-Kahr

 

Worf opened his eyes groggily. Despite the earliness of the hour, warp-lag had affected him and he was fully awake. He glanced at the other side of the bed and noticed K'a'tya had already risen. His head hurt a little from the climate and time differences, but thankfully, there were no ill effects from the long evening spent at the Ambassador's residence last night. The Embassy physician had seen to that and had injected all guests with a preventative antidote; it had worked.

He dragged himself out of bed and wrapped one of the plush robes the hotel provided for guests around himself, marveling at the richness of the soft cotton terry. It was not like this at home, where agricultural duties meant no-nonsense clothing.

From behind the connecting door to Mogh's suite room, Worf could hear his son playing holovid games. He opened the door and took in the sight. Mogh was seated on a sofa, dressed in one of the "Vulcan Heat" t-shirts that seemed to be worn by all the young boys of the planet, visitor and resident alike, and some old sport shorts. He was totally enthralled in the game, stopping only to pick up nugget from a large box marked "Chicken McNuggets" from the McDonald's restaurant in the diplomatic compound.

"Good morning, son, did you have a good day yesterday?" he asked as he seated himself next to the lad. Worf helped himself to some of the nuggets, which he had tried long ago at a deep space agristation's foodcourt. They were quite tasty for non-Klingon food, though he preferred burritos, and, of course, his son's pizza.

Mogh grinned at his father and began a non-stop account of the adventures he and K'a'tya had. "We all went shopping to the old town bazaar and a vendor spoke Klingonese to me, Father, and Mother bought some pretty things for her and the baby, and then we went to a double feature holovid and it was neat and Mom went with the ladies somewhere while we were at the holo and then we all had dinner at McDonald's and then we went to the holovid arcade and I won six games and then we went for a walk somewhere with fountains and had something called ice cream and then we came here and we were so tired we went to bed and you weren't home yet and everyone is talking about Stark being here in Shi-Kahr and the facility..." He paused to draw breath. "And how was your evening, Father?" he asked.

Worf was still trying to decipher what he'd just heard. "It was nowhere near as exciting as yours, son, but I am still fatigued so your mother and I shall rest a bit more. We do not leave for the zoo until later this morning. Will you be all right playing games for some hours alone?" He was hoping to catch a few more hours sleep and was certain K'a'tya would too.

Mogh nodded, already back into the holo before him. Worf left the room, closing the door behind him with a yawn. K'a'tya was still not back in bed. Was it possible she had gone out for something to eat for all of them?

"K'a'tya?" he asked.

A giggle reached his ears. "In here, Worf." The voice was coming through the half-opened bathroom door.

"Are you coming back to sleep?" Worf said, wondering what was possibly funny about the bathroom.

"No," she said with another giggle. "Why do you not come in here instead?"

This was unusual. Worf made his way across the carpet and peered around the door. His jaw dropped onto the tiled floor and he was certain his eyes had popped out of his skull. "K'a'tya?" he gasped. "W-what, what are you doing?"

His wife, who was seated in the sunken bathtub, smiled coquettishly up at him and blew some frothy white substance into the air. "I am bathing, Worf."

"Bathing in water? Why? There is a perfectly good sonic shower here. What a waste of water! Will the hotel charge us for its use?" Worf was concerned. On Qo'noS, water was in short supply, and the day's agricultural work was cleaned up with an ancient, but functional, sonic shower at their home. Females bathing in water was only something he had seen in some ... male entertainment films.

"Worf." His wife turned her mouth into a pout. "Water is free for guests. Do not be silly. It is actually ... quite nice." She blew some more bubbles at him.

Worf sniffed their scent. It was pleasingly musky and ... arousing. He forced himself to think of his conversation. "Where did you learn about this ... practice?"

She laughed sexily. "We went to a spa yesterday and the other wives told me about the tubs at the hotel ... and how to use them. Will you not join me, Worf?" A long, shapely leg extended from the bubbles.

"Mogh," Worf said desperately, unsure of what to do for perhaps the first time in his married life.

"Computer, privacy lock," K'a'tya purred. She turned on her stomach, affording Worf a view of her perfectly rounded buttocks, slick and bubbly from her activities. "Will you not bathe my back, husband?" she asked, remembering what she had been told to say by the Ambassador's niece.

Worf opened his mouth to speak but not a word came out. He stood, rooted to the spot. This was due to the fact that all available blood in his system had pooled in one place.

"It would appear you need some assistance, husband," K'a'tya sighed as she rose from the tub, nearly giving her husband coronary failure into the bargain. She climbed daintily up the tub's stairs and grabbed the tie to Worf's robe. In a short moment, he was a naked as the day he had been born and was following her obediently into the bubble-filled water.

* * *

 

07:30 Ambassador Sarek's Residence

 

"Good morning," Amanda said as Spock and Christine came into the kitchen. "No yoga today?"

Christine was certain she had turned crimson, thankful that Spock answered for them both. "Our activities yesterday provided sufficient exercise," he stated.

Sarek eyed his wife and sent a confirmation of his suspicions through their link. *I would wager they did,* he said, amused. He had recognized the frizzy hair Christine was sporting, as had Amanda, and knew that the spring's high mineral content was the culprit. The two of them had obviously been ... swimming, as he and his wife had done years ago. Though their visit had been an actual planned picnic and swim trip that had become a bit more than that. Sarek recalled the afternoon he and Amanda had spent under the ledge at the spring's bank.

"Very well, "Sarek said, bringing himself back to the present. "I presume T'Jen and Christine's friends shall arrive presently, so, my son, if we wish to avoid being overwhelmed with an excess of female energy, we had best leave for Shi-Kahr soon, do you not agree?"

"Yes, Father," Spock replied, feeling a well-aimed kick under the table. He turned to Christine. "I shall see you this afternoon, T'hyla," he said, giving her hand a caress, then he and his father beat a very hasty retreat just as T'Jen came up the path.

T'Jen and the women were seated having coffee and discussing Christine's dress when the hum of the transporter beam was heard. A few seconds later. Nyota and Kala materialized in the hallway. It was indeed as Sarek had predicted, an excess of happy, positive female energy.

After they had done a brief run-through of the ceremony's logistics, T'Jen prepared to get back to the hotel. She stopped Kala for a moment. "You designed and made the dress?" she asked.

"Yes, it is a copy of a dress worn in an old Terran James Bond film," Kala said.

T'Jen looked thoughtful. "I surmised I had seen it before, my husband and I watched those holos regularly in New York and we stock them for guests." She regarded Kala. "You have done an excellent job. Where are you based, on the starship?"

"I am, but soon shall leave for New York, where my parents live. They hope to set me up in my own business there."

"You don't say?" T'Jen said. "I regularly deal with offworld clients, Vulcan and non-Vulcan, who seek something a bit different for a celebration. Perhaps you can give me your details? Then I could put potential clients in touch with you?"

Kala smiled broadly as she and the bonding planner exchanged information on their respective PADDs. Then T'Jen looked at everyone a last time. "I shall see you tomorrow, then." Her eyes had her aunt's soft twinkle. "Your wedding day, Dr. Chapel." And then she was gone.

"We'd best be gone too, ladies," Amanda said. "Because there will be work to do when we get back. She paused to a note for Sarek and Spock. "Shall we?"

* * *

 

Noon Stark's Sports Complex, Shi-Kahr

 

"And you say that the drinks system is foolproof?" Kirk asked.

"Absolutely," Stark replied. "It 's a thumbscan. Instantly tells how many drinks the person has had, and how drunk they are. One drink per person per trip, so no buying rounds for friends. Of course, someone can sneak around it, but it'd take a lot of planning." He grinned. "And then they have to get past Kaz!"

He indicated a tall, no-nonsense looking Terran female, a stunning blonde with eyes that could be friendly...or all business. "This is Kaz, my chief bartender. She works with Aran and Rico," Stark pointed to the pair of towering, buff looking Bollians flanking her. "Not much gets through them."

"Hiya," Kaz said, in a broad English accent. "Don't worry, we won't have any problems tomorrow. And it'll be brill having a practice before the actual kneesup."

Stark playfully admonished Kaz. "Standard, Kaz." He turned back to the entourage. "Kaz was head bartender at her university in England, so she's seen it all. She's doing a year here as a guest worker, then wants to open a pub at a space station somewhere."

"Piece a cake, this," Kaz grinned. "Student pubs, now that's a whole nother story!"

"Right, that's about it, I guess," Kirk replied. "Scotty, Bones, any questions?"

"Lt. Dillon and my team will be manning the transporter detail, so no. And the house security won't let anyone out of the facility here, so I guess we won't have to worry about drunken revelers running through the streets of Shi-Kahr," Scotty said. "And your instructions were good, Cap'n. I think the crew is well aware they're to be on their best behavior."

"So, Spock, tomorrow's the big day. Sure we can't give you a last night on the town?" McCoy asked.

Spock played into the role as usual. "Indeed not, Doctor, I plan to spend this evening relaxing with my parents. I shall see you tomorrow morning."

McCoy hrrmphed. "Your parents?" he said to himself. Sarek and Kirk gave each other a look of amusement. It was clear they both knew the game's parameters.

"Well, that's it, then," Kirk said. "Bones, Scotty, we'd better get up to the ship. Ambassador, Stark, we can't thank you enough for your hospitality. And Spock, I'll see you in the chapel tomorrow, then!"

They faded into shimmering light and disappeared. Sarek turned to Stark. "And Stark, can we drop you anywhere?"

Stark looked rueful. "I suppose my relatives' house," he sighed. "I'm stuck there under house arrest, it seems."

"Why?" Spock asked.

"The press follow my every move now they know I am here in Shi-Kahr . They pestered T'Lara and her family so much they have returned to their vineyard outside town rather than stay at their home here. I cannot even meet friends for lunch or we'll be followed and every detail of our menu reported on. I'm sick to death of the publicity, but it comes with the territory, I guess." He frowned, tired.

"Your relatives are not home?" Sarek said.

"My great aunt and uncle are lecturers at the Science Academy, which is in the middle of final exam, period, so they're not home at all. It's just me and the replicators. My parents arrive tomorrow morning, early, but ... what I wouldn't give for some real home cooked food, not that my ezyet's replicator isn't well-stocked, but it's been kind of lonely this past week." Stark looked very dejected.

Spock eyed his father, with a question in his glance. Sarek then addressed the obviously miserable young man. "Perhaps you would join us, then? Spock and I are returning home, and we shall have guests this evening for an informal meal. I think you would enjoy it. You can accompany us now, and perhaps help us with any last minute preparations for tomorrow?"

Stark broke into a very non-Vulcan grin. "Honest? For real? I could hang out with you? That's cosmic!"

Sarek's mouth tried in vain to remain level. "That would be fine, yes, Stark. We would be honored to have you 'hang out' with us."

Three vidphones were called into use.

* * *

 

"Sarek's bringing someone else home for dinner," Amanda said as she turned her phone off. "Probably some old friend of the family. Was that Spock?" she asked Christine.

Christine nodded, as the Deltan spa assistant handed everyone some iced mint tea. "He's checking in," she replied, not mentioning the real reason for the call, which she had vowed to keep secret.

"Ahhh, this is the life," Kala sighed as a spa coordinator rubbed a masque onto her face. "For once, I'm the customer, not the client."

Nyota laughed. "No you know how we feel in your capable hands, Kala," she told her.

* * *

 

Over at the zoo, Worf powered off his vidphone and spoke in a low tone to his wife. "Say nothing, my wife, or else the youth will surely die of excitement." He gave her a smile, remembering the fun of earlier that morning. "And you look fine, my wife, it is still a casual event." He looked around, then seeing no one in the immediate presence, added, "You looked even more fine this morning, my beloved."

K'a'tya gave him a sultry smile. "This will be an interesting trip, as you said, my husband." She patted his knee suggestively.

Worf wondered if they might arrange for Mogh to go off on another excursion some afternoon the following week.

* * *

 

14:00 Ambassador Sarek's residence

 

"Your home is quite impressive, sir," Stark said after they had been on an informal tour. "Thank you for having myself and Sierra as your guests."

"It is our pleasure," Sarek replied, reading the note Amanda had left. "It appears we are not to touch any of the vegetables in the refrigerator, which are for this evening's meal and will be sliced when the women return. We are to fire up the outdoor BBQ later. For now, it is the replicator, I fear."

"Before we eat, I was wondering," Stark began uncertainly, distress coloring his usually pleasant features.

"What troubles you, Stark," Sarek replied, instantly recognizing something was on the youth's mind.

"I ... I need some advice on a matter, a family matter." Stark swallowed very hard, fearful of offending his hosts, but somehow, he trusted both men. "I cannot speak well to my uncle, and my parents return tomorrow but it is about that as well. It is ... something that bothers me greatly, but not having grown up on Vulcan entirely, I am confused."

"Of course, Stark," Sarek replied. Spock looked at his father in amazement. Clearly, he had adopted a new openness in many things. "How may we assist you? What concerns you?"

"I have a holo I would like to show you," Stark said tentatively. "It may explain some things."

They moved to Sarek's study and settled onto the sofa there. Stark hesitated before he began the vid.

"Ambassador, you knew my grandparents, did you not?" he began.

Sarek nodded. "Yes, your grandfather's work on the oceanography about Xir-tan K'lan-ne's unstable terrain is still well-respected at the Science Academy. And your grandmother's work on the earthquake fault geology there was pioneering for the time."

Stark closed his eyes. "I never knew them, not that I can remember. They were resident research scientists since my mother was a child, so it was not possible to visit them there. Then they were stationed on the Intrepid..."

Spock and Sarek exchanged a glance. "Go on," Sarek said gently.

"Let me show you," Stark told them, pressing the play button.

A beach scene opened up, a traditional Vulcan-styled dwelling built at the shore. What appeared to be an old styled Terran wetsuit was hanging from the terrace roof, next to some type of surfboard. But that was not the focus of the vid. A middle aged Vulcan couple were sitting at the table, the sea's noise a whisper in the background. Only these Vulcans were as atypical a Vulcan as Spock had ever seen. The male's hair was long and gathered into a loose ponytail. His skin was suntanned darkly. The woman's hair was likewise long, falling in a plait over her shoulder. Both wore loose traditional Vulcan styled clothes.

"Greetings, Stark," the man said in excellent Standard. "Our best wishes on the anniversary of your birth. Your grandmother and I wish we could be with you and your parents on this day. You are now twelve, it is soon time for your khas-wan." He looked at his wife a moment, then continued. "But your grandmother and I have some news, exciting news. We shall be joining the Intrepid in two weeks, as scientists on board there. So I cannot assist you in your adventure this summer when you come to Vulcan. Your mother's brother shall have that honor. We send you luck for the test that comes before you. Your choice is yours, Stark, as your mother's was before you. Know we will stand behind whatever your decision may be. Live long and prosper. We shall see you at journey's end."

The image faded and Stark was clutching the remote tightly in his hand. "As you can see, my grandparents were not exactly the Vulcans everyone thinks they were. They were, as my mother T'Joan called them, old Vulcan hippie scientists. It was a term of affection for them. Long before they had been assigned to the unstable continent of K'lan-ne, they had told my mother her destiny was her own. Very dangerous modern thinking, but she took them at their word and went to Terra to study at UC Berkeley. She was a communications major, then she went to work at the Vulcan embassy. And then she met my father."

"I recall meeting your parents on occasion, the most recent time just before you were born, Stark," Sarek remembered. "They are a fine couple. What is the trouble, then?"

"My mother's brother disagreed with his parent's lax lifestyle, and ridiculed their thinking. He stated that they were V'tosh ka'tur, Vulcans without logic, and that my mother followed their path, a disgrace to the family. When my parents brought me home after my birth to be received into the clan, I gather there was a terrible disagreement between my mother and her brother. She never returned to Vulcan, thought I was sent to spend summers there with my relatives.

"And then the Intrepid happened. My mother returned, but her brother refused to see her. And then I had to make my khas-wan, only it would not do to have the son of the Deltan Vice-Consul be harmed during this, so my great uncle and a contingent of male relatives made it with me. They never spoke to me, they never looked at me. And I did not understand what I had done wrong. It was mentioned that this was due to my half-Deltan makeup, but I knew it was more, but I had no idea what it was."

He looked at the image frozen on the screen. "Until I viewed this again."

"You are the picture of your grandfather." Sarek's voice was soft.

"Indeed, Stark, you favor him tremendously," Spock added.

Stark turned his pain-filled eyes to face the two Vulcans. "What do I do? My mother and father are arriving tomorrow, and my mother hasn't really spoken to her brother since before I was born. I feel as though it's my fault, because every time they look at me they see my grandfather. This is causing me a great deal of pain and I know Vulcan's cannot show that side. If I am to embrace my Vulcan heritage, I have to put this behind me, but I am the child of both of my parents. I have no idea what to do. How can families be so cruel to one another? It is not logical! It's -- stupid."

The silence that filled the room was absolute. After a moment, Sarek spoke.

"Spock and I have found that working together in the kitchen can be very conducive to discussion, Stark." He rose. "The vegetables need to be sliced, and we have three sets of hands. Shall we go and see what conclusions we can draw during our work?"

"A logical suggestion, Father," Spock said. His eyes met his father's and the message was clear. Such a repeat mistake must be prevented if at all possible. How, it was unclear, but Stark had entrusted them with a terrible burden, and a creative way to solve it had to be discussed...without giving away too much of the family history. It would be an interesting afternoon.

"Come on, Stark, let's hit the kitchen." Spock tried his best Terran slang.

* * *

 

Thursday, early afternoon Shi-Kahr Shi'aushfa

 

Mogh was watching the Terran spider monkeys chase each other around the open enclosure. The keeper had brought several of the small primates out who were now running from child to child, begging them for the bits of fruit they held.

"I am Silok, son of Seron," an accented young voice said next to him in halting Standard.

Mogh looked at the speaker, a Vulcan youth about his own age, dressed, as he was, in a Vulcan Heat T-shirt. "And I am Mogh, son of Worf," he replied, pleased to be airing his own Standard.

They regarded each other, then turned to look at the monkey who tickled Mogh's hand, searching for the treat hidden there. Once it had grasped the fruit, it chattered at its companion and chased it up a nearby tree.

"You are not of Vulcan?"

"I am of Qo'nos. My parents and I are here on a scientific visit as guests of the Klingon Ambassador," Mogh stated proudly.

"Welcome, then, Klingon," the young Vulcan said. "What do you study at school on Qo'noS?"

"My studies are mostly science and history. My parents are agriscientists and I hope to become one as well, to develop better ways of growing food for our people. And you?"

"It is hoped I shall be an solar engineer, as my parents are," Silok replied. But," he dropped his voice," I would prefer to design aircars. I have already drawn the plans to a flitter I hope to build when I am old enough. Or perhaps I could design ... snowboards..."

Mogh grinned at his companion. "I, too would like to do this. We have sand on our homeworld, no snow, so my friends and I snowboard on a sandhill my father and I built. But the design for snow has flaws on dry land. Perhaps a landboard should be designed too."

"A logical concept, Mogh," the Vulcan remarked thoughtfully. "We too have sand here." He looked over at his parents, who were regarding the tropical birds in the next enclosure. "Stark is quite cosmic, is he not?" he whispered.

"Very cosmic," Mogh whispered back. "Will you use the new facility when it opens?"

The Vulcan almost smiled. "I am counting the days. Perhaps ... we shall meet one day at a competition?"

"Perhaps," Mogh said.

"Mogh, it is time we go, we must soon leave for our meal," came his mother's voice.

"Until we meet again, Silok, may your ancestors give you strength."

"Until then, Mogh. Live long and prosper."

* * *

 

Later that afternoon Ambassador Sarek's residence

 

"It was my mother who first put me on a snowboard, you know," Stark remarked as he continued slicing up sweet peppers.

"Your mother?" Spock looked up, surprised, from the chilies he was stirring into the guacamole he was making for dinner.

"Yep. She insisted we take a family vacation to Lake Tahoe the Christmas after ... after..." He stopped for a moment and gave Sarek a knowing look.

Sarek nodded as he continued to cut up fruit for the sangria.

"Anyway, she claimed that my grandfather had promised to teach me to surf someday, and since she didn't know how, the closest thing was snowboarding. It was love at first halfpipe for me." Stark shrugged. "As illogical as it may be to express emotion, let alone about a sport."

"You clearly inherited your grandparent's passion for an interest," Sarek replied. "And that is quite logical. Vulcan is very pleased with your success and hopes you have more in the future. Sport is clearly a good thing, as we have come to see."

Spock watched the interplay between his father and the young champion. During the past hours, he had listened to their conversation but had wisely not intruded, speaking only when he felt a comment was needed. It was clear to him that his father's general commentary about pride and stubbornness being illogical but nonetheless sometimes a part of familial relationships was a social commentary on his own family. It was as close as Spock had seen to an apology from his father, and he had traded a grateful look with Sarek. It was enough.

"But I am afraid about what my uncle might say to me. He hasn't really spoken to me since my arrival here. My auntie, she's been great, but she's so busy teaching three history classes. I get the feeling my uncle would rather hide in his library rather than look at me." Stark gave a sigh then began slicing the last of the mushrooms.

"It is not logical to fear that which might or might not be said, Stark." Spock's voice was thoughtful as he recalled coming home from Gol to a more open Sarek. He had announced his intent to return to the Enterprise and had gone so far as to tell his father that should he and Christine Chapel cross paths again, he would attempt to court her with a view towards a bonded relationship. Spock had agonized over saying something so ridiculously illogical to his father, given he had not seen the nurse for some two years or more but he finally gave in and said so. To his surprise, Sarek had merely stated that it would be logical to pursue the plan to its conclusion, whatever that might be, lest Spock spend the rest of his life illogically wondering "What if?" He continued. "Wait to see what happens when your parents arrive. Speak with them as you have spoken to us. It is clear they cherish you and will likely have some ideas to help you through your confusion."

"Spock is correct, Stark," Sarek said, eliciting a raised eyebrow from his son. A compliment? "Time and events can change even the most illogically stubborn mindset. See what the next days hold for you."

Stark looked at both men. "Thank you for your honesty with me," he said simply. "I had nowhere else to turn, and I am grateful you listened." He put the last of the vegetables into the fridge. "It looks like we're done with the food prep," he said with a smile. "How about a game of mathra-melthashan?"

"An excellent suggestion," Sarek told him. "I taught Spock the game when he was a young child, and his mother taught it to me during our courting days in San Francisco. A very good game for developing eye-hand coordination. Let us adjourn to the patio."

* * *

 

"Now where do you suppose those two are hiding?" Amanda asked as they entered the hall. "Sarek? Spock?" There was no reply.

"I can smell the outdoor BBQ heating up," Christine said, "so they must be here somewhere." She and her friends went into the recently abandoned guestroom to deposit their gear, reveling in the aftermath of the hedonistic delights of the Deltan day spa. It had been a wonderful way to spend some leisurely hours. They returned to the kitchen.

Amanda was surveying the fridge in amazement. "All the vegetables are sliced, the sangria is made, and everything is ready for the evening. Do you suppose the caterers dropped by?" Her speculations were interrupted by a sharp noise coming from the patio lawn. "What in heaven's name was that?"

At that moment, several pairs of footsteps were heard moving across the roof above their heads. "Someone's up there," Amanda continued, puzzled. "Could it be the event company?" She and Christine looked up at the ceiling.

"Amanda..." Nyota was looking out the patio door with Kala. "There's a dog in your back yard."

"A dog?"

"Looks like an Alsatian. It sure is pretty," Kala added.

All four of the women regarded the placid canine, who sat calmly gazing up at the roof.

"Have you found it?" Sarek's voice could be heard in the still afternoon air.

"Not yet," came Spock's answering baritone.

"Wait, there it is!" a third voice said. The footsteps moved across the roof in the opposite direction.

The women moved outside. "Sarek?" Amanda asked her husband, who stood holding a ladder against the far wall of the house. "What are you doing?"

"Good afternoon, my wife, ladies," Sarek began.

"Here it comes!" a voice shouted from the roof. A Frisbee sailed past Sarek's head towards the dog, who leaped up and caught it neatly, then trotted towards the ladder where Sarek was helping two male figures to the ground.

"Good girl, Sierra!" One of the figures knelt down to stroke the canine's head and take the proffered disc. "Good girl!" He then stood up next to Spock.

Christine heard her friends take a simultaneous deep breath of recognition.

"Omigoodness," Nyota whispered. "It -- it's--"

"Stark!" Kala gasped.

"Forgive me, my wife, guests," Sarek apologized. "May I present Stark? He was in need of some diversion and a meal in a typical Vulcan family environment. And this is his canine companion, Sierra."

"Ladies, I am pleased to meet you," Stark said with his customary beguiling smile.

Sierra loped over to Amanda, sat down and held up a paw. Amanda knelt down and took it. "Welcome to our home, Sierra," she told the dog. Then she rose. "And you too, Stark. Shall we get everyone introduced, then?"

"Typical Vulcan family environment?" Christine said to Spock, mimicking his raised eyebrow. "You are joking, right?" She was doing all she could not to burst into laughter.

"I am pleased to see you too, T'hyla," Spock replied.

* * *

 

"So Amanda lobbed the Frisbee with a vengeance and I, of course, sprang up to catch it. Only then I lost my balance and fell backwards." Sarek was continuing the story he had begun earlier.

"Right into the fisherman's casting pond," Amanda laughed. "It sounded like a tidal wave. Unfortunately, there was a competition in progress. Sarek was drenched, but he had caught the Frisbee."

"What happened?" Stark asked as he sipped his sangria and sampled some more guacamole. "Those fly casters in Golden Gate Park can be pretty territorial."

"They were not pleased, I can assure you," Sarek replied. "I was, how do you say, snagged by two hooks. After we had extricated the barbs from my clothing, I offered to make restitution."

"But everyone was laughing so hard by then they let it go." Amanda glanced at Spock. "Your father said he could not understand why humans got so emotional over a trivial matter. Thankfully, no one recognized him as the Vulcan ambassador."

"S'onar was not pleased with the check I asked him to send to the competition's sponsors," Sarek added. "But he did so. And Amanda and I found another place to play Frisbee."

Spock was lost in the vision of his parents, in their courtship, spending a weekend afternoon playing Frisbee in the park. He had much to catch up on, he realized, grateful he now had good communication with both of them.

"That was when I decided to marry her," Sarek finished. "She did not laugh even once at my predicament, though she could have. It remains a joke between us to this day."

"How about you, Spock?" Stark asked. "How did you know?" Such a personal question would have been unthinkable in the past, but now somehow seemed right.

Spock thought for a moment. "I believe it was the coconuts," he finally said.

"Coconuts?" Amanda repeated.

"It all began one Saturday morning...."

* * *

 

"The way to any male's heart is still through his stomach," Amanda philosophized after Spock had concluded the amazing (to Sarek) tale.

That's aiming too high, Christine thought to herself.

*I would tend to agree.*

*SPOCK!*

*It is true, is it not?*

"It must be a common factor," Stark mused.

"What's that, Stark?" Nyota asked, by now at home with the young man, as was everyone else at the patio table.

"Falling objects and emotional exchanges. When I first met T'Lara, she refused to have anything to do with me."

"What?" Kala gasped. "You, Stark? Why?" She could think of several dozen women on the ship alone who would be glad to have something to do with Stark.

"I sat down next to her on the athlete's transport and said hello. She said that I had interrupted her mathematical course plotting calculations for the next day's ice sailing heats. Then she went back to her PADD and ignored me."

"And?" Spock prodded, as curious as everyone else.

"We left the bus and I asked her to have dinner with me. She refused. I asked her why not, and what I'd done to offend her." Stark was smiling at the memory of the pretty young woman giving him the proverbial cold shoulder.

"Let me guess," Sarek offered. "She said you had done nothing to offend her, correct?"

"Exactly," Stark replied. "Then she said she wasn't ready to bond with me, of all things. For Pete's sake, I'd just asked her to dinner, not proposed, and I told her that. I didn't even know her, though I wanted to. She -- she threw the snowball at me."

A smile, the human and Vulcan variety both, spread around the table.

"She claimed she was field testing the iceboat's trajectory. Yeah, sure she was. That's when I knew she liked me too. We had dinner all right, and we've been 'keeping company' as she says, ever since, despite that little dancing transgression the night I won my gold medal." He flushed. That was a memory still making the public rounds in the media.

At that moment, the doorbell chimed. Sarek and his wife rose. "Our guests have arrived, let us welcome them," he said. Spock and Christine followed his parents to the door.

Sarek opened the door to their guests. Worf and K'a'tya stood there, with Mogh in front, holding up a beautiful green herb-like potted plant..

"Kevet-dutar Sarek," Mogh said, "and T'sai Amanda, please accept this Klin-ta plant from our homeworld as a gift if thanks for inviting us to your home." He had practiced the speech well and his polish showed.

"Qat'lho," Sarek replied as he took the plant. "And welcome to our home, Worf, K'a'tya and Mogh." He sniffed the earthy fragrance of the plant. "Ambassador Kl'o'rox has spoken of this herb and I am certain we shall enjoy its fragrance in our garden and its flavor in our meals."

Mogh then addressed Spock and Christine, who were standing next to Sarek and his wife. "Spock and Dr. Chapel, please also accept this Klin-ta plant in honor of your Oath taking." He handed Christine the other leafy herb, which she, too, sniffed appreciatively.

"Thank you," Spock replied. "It shall have pride of place in the Enterprise arboretum." He looked at his friend. "Worf, it is good to see you again, and to meet your family."

"Likewise, Spock, has it been so long since we spent time discussing agriscience?" Worf replied, thinking to himself, and snowboarding?

"Let us join our other guests on the patio," Sarek entreated, "before we set pilsu Mogh to work on his famous pizza, which I have heard great praise for from my colleagues at your embassy."

They walked down the hall and out the sliding glass doors leading to the back yard. "Worf, K'a'tya, Mogh, may I present Commander Uhura of the Enterprise, Kala from the Enterprise's excellent spa and..." He paused, hearing a youthful gasp of breath next to him.

"You must be Mogh!" a voice said as its owner bent down to extend his hand to the stunned youngster. "I'm Stark and I've heard a lot about you and your pizza!"

Mogh mutely took the offered hand and shook it. "T-t-hank you," he finally said, still not quite believing his eyes. Stark looked up at Mogh's parents. "Worf, K'a'tya, it's a pleasure. You have a fine looking young man here."

"Thank you, Stark," Worf said evenly, giving his obviously starstruck wife an amused sidelong glance.

"Is that a Terran dog?" Mogh asked after a moment.

Stark grinned down at him. "It sure is! That's Sierra and she's called a German Shepherd. She came all the way from Lake Tahoe with me on the star cruiser. So far she likes Vulcan. Do you?"

Mogh nodded vigorously. "Especially the zoo."

"Zoos are cool! I like them too." Stark was doing a great job of making the boy feel at ease, to the admiration of all present. "So, do you need any help making your pizza? I like to cook and I'd sure like to see what you put in your special sauce. How's about we go clean up and get the pizzas ready so they can bake, then we can play a game of Frisbee with Sierra? She loves it."

"Frisbee?" Mogh looked at his father for guidance.

"Puv-Ngop," Worf quickly supplied.

Mogh broke into a huge grin. "We play it on Qo'nos, too, my father taught this game to me when I was small. That would be ... cosmic!"

"Let's go make dinner, then," Stark said as the two of them headed off towards the kitchen. As they entered the house, Spock could hear Stark asking the young Klingon, "So you board on sand, huh? Maybe I should think about designing a landboard model. Could you give me your ideas on that?" and Mogh's delighted squeal of assent.

"Well, this beats all," Worf said pleasantly as he and K'a'tya sat down at the table and set about to try the sangria they were offered.

"Indeed," Sarek replied.

* * *

 

"This has been a most pleasant evening, Ambassador, Spock," Worf said as they surveyed the scene before them.

The pizzas had been finished to the last crumb (Stark had politely inhaled three helpings, claiming he was researching new menu items for his cafe), Spock's guacamole well received, and the sangria was adding a pleasant touch to the evening's ambiance. Amanda and the females were admiring her garden and chatting about their purchases in the old town bazaar. Mogh, Stark and Sierra were busily working off their meal in a vigorous game of Frisbee, which Sierra clearly was winning.

"It has, Worf, and I am pleased we could spend it together. Your Ghub' Daq Mogh is a credit to you and your Be'nal. He will go far, I think. Might he have the makings of a member of the Klingon Diplomatic Corp?" Sarek asked.

Worf watched his laughing son chase the flying disc, the canine loping after him. "I would hope so, Ambassador. Or perhaps an agricultural scientist as we both are. But his friends are favoring the Defense Corps, so I cannot speculate. For now, it is enough that he has these days to remember. Perhaps the kindness and enjoyment he has experienced on this journey will remain in his memory through his lifetime. I know such things have done so with me." He looked at Spock, recalling the friendship he had been extended so selflessly and the enjoyment it brought.

"My father has always maintained that ordinary citizens are perhaps the finest ambassadors any culture can have, and I agree with him. A logical conclusion," Spock replied.

"I agree, my son," Sarek concurred.

"And I, too," Worf said.

Their conversation was interrupted when they heard Stark ask Mogh, "So, what's the Klingonese word for snowboarding?"

"We do not have one exactly," Mogh said. " 'peD' is our word for snow, but there is nothing that means board as we know it."

"How about making 'board' sound like your language?" Stark replied.

"peD-bard" Mogh stated carefully. "Would this work?"

"Cosmic!" Stark gave him a Terran high-five.

* * *

 

The party was breaking up, with everyone having an early day to prepare for. Worf and his family had left with the Embassy driver, Mogh and Stark the best of pals, and planning many adventures for the week of festivities, including taste-testing some of the cafe menu items Stark was planning to offer at the facility. Mogh was looking forward to trying something called "Sushi."

Stark was about to make his exit with Sarek's assistant, Selak, when his vidphone buzzed. He answered it, a look of surprise on his face. After a few moments, he powered it off and looked at Sarek in amazement.

"It was my mother," he said. "My parents took an earlier shuttle, they just arrived in Shi-Kahr ."

"Should Selak drop you at their hotel?" Sarek asked.

Stark shook his head in wonderment. "That's just the thing. She called from my Auntie's house. They're staying there. At my Uncle's invitation." He swallowed hard. "My mother ... she sounded ... very pleased."

"A good thing, perhaps?" Spock had come up to stand next to his father. "Why not see what the rest of the evening holds? We shall see you tomorrow."

Stark gave the Vulcan salute then shook hands with both men. "Thanks again for helping me out."

"Thank you for spending your evening with us," Spock replied. "It has been quite enjoyable. They watched as Stark headed off to the groundcar with Selak.

"No doubt T'sai T'Glad has much to speculate on," Sarek said after a moment.

"Indeed," Spock replied. "I must admit, I do grieve with Skrav at times."

"Ha." Sarek came as close to a genuine laugh as he had all week.

The ladies, meantime, were preparing to leave for the ship. Christine had her dress uniform and a small overnight bag ready, plus the precious herb plant which had added such a delightful taste to the pizza sauce. They had made plans for Amanda and K'a'tya to have some time at the spa before the ceremony for last minute adjustments and everything was set.

Spock came up to Christine and touched her shoulder. "Are you ready?" he asked, his eyes dark with suggestion.

Christine hesitated a moment. "You two go on ahead," she told her friends. "I'd better check over some things one last time. I'll -- see you in the morning?"

"06:30, bride to be," Nyota reminded her.

"We'll bring champagne breakfast," Kala added. Then they faded into light as the transporter beam activated.

"Should we wait for her?" Kala asked after they had materialized on board. She looked over to see Lt. Dillon waiting by the transporter console and was delighted at the way the evening was turning out.

"Are you kidding?" Uhura laughed. "I know that look, Kala. She'll be ... awhile."

* * *

 

Christine and Spock had been sitting out on the patio saying goodnight. This was, of course, after he had shown her shooting stars in his bedroom.

"I shall see you in the chapel tomorrow, beloved," he said softly, holding her close for one last kiss.

"After all this time," she told him as she traced one brow with her fingertip, "it's finally going to happen."

"As it was meant to be, my Vah'ren."

"SAREK!" Amanda hissed. "Will you get away from that window already?"

Sarek looked at his wife. "I was merely..."

"The heck you were, buster," she replied. "You were snooping again. Maybe you're T'Glad's long-lost brother? You're just nosey!"

This drew a good-natured scowl from her husband, who moved to embrace her. "I am sorry, Aduna, I just worry overmuch."

"They're just doing what we did, my husband," she replied. "Though those two have likely done quite a bit more than we managed to do before our bonding."

"Now who is being nosey, my wife?"

* * *

 

Christine stepped off the transporter platform and saw Ensign Pauulu waiting as she had requested. She handed him the plant. "This was a wedding gift from Worf's family, it's--"

"A Klin-ta!" Pauulu inhaled the plant's unusual scent then whistled. "Almost a legend, it can't be grown from seed off Qo'noS, it's too particular. Boy oh boy! What an addition to experimental agriculture!"

"You can ask Mogh where it would do best tomorrow," Christine replied. "He'll be here bright and early with his parents. I must admit, it's certainly a delicious tasting addition to a meal."

"That's for sure! It'll be a pleasure, Doctor. And I'll have your bouquet delivered to the spa in the morning."

"Thanks, Mr. Pauulu, for everything."

"Oh and Doctor?" Pauulu said to her retreating form.

"Yes?" She turned.

"I -- I'm glad those coconuts fell like they did. I mean, look what happened?" He grinned.

"Yep, Mr. Pauulu, it all started with those blasted coconuts." Christine laughed as she left the transporter room.

* * *

 

Spock had finished his meditation and turned back the covers on his bed, which had just seen some fine activity an hour ago. He was surprised to see a small wrapped parcel on the pillow. How had it gotten there? Christine, he reasoned.

Curious, he sat down and opened it carefully. It was a book. He drew in his breath as he recognized it as a copy of a famous pre-reform set of poems by the philosopher-poet T'Rish. He let his fingers trace the ancient words.

"Of the K'hat'n'dlawa: Sonnets to my Vah'Ren."

He opened the book and saw an inscription from Christine. He read it slowly, savoring the sentiment.

"To Spock, my life, my love, my mate, my fulfillment, on the occasion of our kali'farr. I love you. Christine."

* * *

 

Christine entered her cabin and put her things away, picking her way through the boxes and cartons that were stacked in every available space. She was tired. In a few minutes, she was in her comfy old jammies with the pink cats and martini glasses on them, ready for bed.

She saw something on her pillow. Two things, actually. A card. And a -- coconut? She picked up the card and opened the envelope. Inside was a hand-lettered parchment that said, simply, "To Christine, who I love with all of my heart. It began with a coconut. So perhaps you will honor me by wearing this present on the occasion of our marriage tomorrow. Spock."

Puzzled, she picked up the nut and it fell apart in her hands into two equal halves. Nestled inside one half, on a piece of soft cloth, was a stunning pair of diamond and sapphire earrings. A smaller note was in the other half. "They match your eyes, my love. The eyes I never tire looking of. I love you, my Vah'ren."

* * *

 

T'Joan and Stark were looking through a box that was in the living room. "Your uncle found this in the attic," his mother said. "I believe these items belonged to my parents, but I don't know what they are, I was offworld for so long."

Stark picked up a piece of wood that had been carved into some kind of a marine figure. "What do you suppose this is?" he asked. "It looks like some kind of a dolphin."

"It is indeed a type of dolphin," a quiet voice stated. "Our father carved it during his time at the science settlement."

Mother and son turned to see who was speaking. T'Joan's face broke into an expression of quiet happiness, of the Vulcan variety, of course. "Do you know of this, my brother? Can you tell Stark and me what these objects are?"

"I would be pleased to do so," her brother replied as he sat down on the sofa with them. "There is much to tell."

FIN