Disclaimer. Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom. This story is the creation and property of Mistress V and is copyright 2006 by Mistress V. Rated NC17.

 

Good Morning, Starshine

Mistress V

 

"Good morning, starshine ... there's love in your skies

Reflecting the sunlight ... in my lover's eyes..."

Stark was dreaming.

He was in his bed back at the lodge in Lake Tahoe and it was winter. The room was warm. He was naked, except for his gold medal, which rested on his bare chest.

She was standing in the doorway, equally unclothed, her eyes devouring the arousal that stood proudly at attention. Slowly, exquisitely, she made her way over to where he lay, unable to move or even to think coherently.

"Stark," she whispered. "Take me." She threw a leg across his hips and he shuddered at the contact of her warmth against him.

"T'Lara," he moaned. "So warm. So hot!"

She leaned down and kissed his face, teasing him with her tongue. "Stark, I want you."

The tongue became more persistent. More ... slobbering?

Stark opened his eyes. He was nose to nose with Sierra, who gave him a sad little sigh. He groaned. No T'Lara. The covers were a Bedouin tent over his erection. He looked at the chronometer. He'd only been asleep ... fifteen minutes? It was still dark outside, well, nearly dawn.

"Aww, HELL!" he muttered, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. In a moment, he was under the icy waters of a cold shower. He wondered if T'Lara might even consider ... then just as quickly dismissed the idea. She was a good Vulcan young woman so he would not even think of suggesting such a thing to her. But the prospect of enforced celibacy until their marriage in two years seemed bleak. For once, he wished he was not half-Deltan.

* * *

 

Spock kicked the door shut and put Christine down, still kissing her. Eventually, they separated.

"Mmmm," she sighed as she snuggled against him. "Alone at last." Then she drew back. "But we're soaked, from all that dancing. C'mon, to the showers with the both of us."

He did not argue, although it would be their third shower of the past day together.

* * *

 

Kala stretched, encountered a supine form, and froze. Hesitantly, she looked over. Greg Dillon was sound asleep next to her. Alarmed, she took in the situation.

Fully clothed, sans shoes and socks. Both of them. She didn't know whether to laugh, cry, or be sick. Not from a hangover, the hypo had taken care of that. From frustration. What had happened? Or not happened?

She hit the pillow in disgust. Still a virgin. And she really, really liked Greg. That was the problem. Guys liked who they slept with, or at least desired them. But taking someone's, er, cherry, that was quite another matter. "Too much emotional investment," one had said upon learning her chaste state.

Tears threatened to spill over her clenched eyelids.

A hand delicately stroked its way up her arm. Then she was pulled down into an embrace. Greg looked up at her, a sleepy smile on his handsome features.

"So," he whispered, as his hand drifted lower across her chest. "I think we've both had some rest, huh?"

The night before, at least the end of it, came back with astonishing clarity. Greg had fallen asleep in her arms, apologizing profusely for doing so, but he had worked two straight shifts to get the next three days off. He had planned to take her to the opening festivities on Monday, and to Stark's special event on Sunday morning.

And he knew. And he didn't mind. "We'll take care of that in the morning," he'd said with a grin, just before he drifted off. "I promise."

Now it was morning. She felt her heart start to pound. Yes, I think we have," she answered, her eyes questioning him.

His fingers brushed the hair of her forehead. "Relax, Kala. We've got the next three days to get it right. Now c'mere. Let's start at the top, shall we?" And then he kissed her and her worries flew away like motes of dust in a sunbeam. Their clothes slipped off almost without effort. He pulled her even closer against his body, his hands stroking her entire length. "I want you, Kala. You're the most amazing woman I've ever met."

Kala knew it was going to be all right. At last.

 

* * *

 

T'sai T'Ser finished her morning walk with a lighthearted spring to her step. She almost felt like a girl again, like the innocent maiden she was before all the darkness closed in.

She and General S'Toick had known each other for years. Their families had been well acquainted, and she had also met his wife. He was a good man, and it was sad to see him alone. Perhaps companionship would be a logical thing for them both. Cultural events, dinners, conversation. That had never hurt anyone. She frowned for a moment. The Intrepid had cast a shadow across the entire planet, but that shadow was finally beginning to see sunlight again.

Her niece had gladly offered to arrange an after-concert supper at the hotel's restaurant, and had been quite animated over her dinner companion. "After all, Ezyet," she had said, "it is not good to be by yourself, you know. It is time to move on."

Perhaps she would see what happened and then possibly heed her niece's advice.

* * *

 

"Oooh, your mom left us brownies!" Christine, clad only in a towel, skipped over to where the tray was set. "All that dancing and snowboarding, I'm still starving." She started to pick up the dish, then froze.

Spock, who was adjusting a towel around his hips, came up beside her. "What is it, is something wrong?"

Christine set the tray back down a little to the side of where it had been. "Look," she said, pointing at the bureautop.

Spock regarded the area she indicated, one eyebrow raised.

"You don't think your mother ... noticed that did you?" She traced the outline. "I must say, darling, you do leave a fine ass print."

"Christine!" He attempted ferocity, but his tone was laced with humor as he drew her into an embrace. "I am certain my mother left the brownies precisely there for a reason. And I am equally certain a question has been plaguing her ever since."

"Oh?" She batted her eyelashes coquettishly at him. "And that is?"

"Where are your footprints?" He reached behind her to brush the rough plaster wall. "Not a mark. My father, of course, would be wondering how the imprint appeared in the first place. I am thankful he did not accompany my mother. It shall be ... our secret"

Then his shoulders started to shake uncontrollably. All the tension from the humorous events of the preceding week finally burst forth and he broke into helpless laughter, collapsing backward onto the bed, dragging his equally mirthful wife with him.

"SHHH!" she admonished. "Your father will hear you! This is our wedding night, er, morning, not an excuse for emotional displays." The oxymoronic absurdity of her statement only added to the hilarity.

"I do not care, my wife," he replied, giving her rear end a playful slap. "And whoever is listening, do you hear? I do not care! How do you think the mark got on the bureau?"

"SPOCK! That's not nice." Christine was aghast.

"It is true, my wife. You and I indulged in sexual intercourse ... or should I say guv-tvi-rivak?" He regarded her. "Why are you so surprised? My parents did not find me under a gooseberry bush, you know."

Her cheeks flamed at some embarrassing images. Spock raised his eyebrow once more.

"You actually thought Vulcans ... mated in a medically-controlled environment? In the height of pon farr?"

She shrugged. "It involved emotion. I figured it had to be controlled somehow. I know better ... now."

"Oh, my wife, you wonderfully silly woman." Spock tightened his arms around her. "Perhaps you need some ... sexual education in the Vulcan ways." He let his hand slide under the towel a few inches. "And while we are on the topic of sex, we need to revisit our earlier conversation."

"And what conversation might that be?" She raised herself up on an elbow, her other hand trailing through the hair on his stomach.

"You stole an illicit glance at a part of my anatomy well before we became re-acquainted. Where, and when?"

"Spock." Christine rolled onto her back, crossing her arms across her chest in mock indignation. "Remember the little escapade on Ekos? You and Jim got beaten up so badly you were both bleeding all over the place. We had to sedate the both of you? Your uniform, what was left of it, was soaked. Who do you think stripped you? The good fairy?"

Spock's eartips flushed. '"I was not aware you had disrobed me." Then he gave her an amused glance. "And what you saw ... was it ... pleasing?"

"Very." She moved back onto his chest. "Very nice. In fact, so nice, I was tempted to ... examine it further. But then I heard Leonard calling, we had to restrain Jim, he was in much worse pain than you, though he'd never admit that."

He took her hand and placed it somewhere. "Then I take it you liked my ... lok?"

"Your what? Your cock? Yes, I liked it very much, even back then." She moved the towel away to give her better access to the object of their discussion.

"Lok. That is the literal Vulcan term for what you are holding. Though there are others, much more interesting."

"Oh?" Her hand started to move slowly, deliberately. "Tell me."

"Come here, my wife, and let me instruct you in Vulcan phraseology of an erotic nature." He pulled her back up into his arms.

"And where did you learn these terms, my dearest?"

"Christine, just because one has not experienced something does not mean they are completely ignorant of the subject." He removed her own towel, then replaced her hand on his anatomy. "Now let us begin. Kov. Lerash'es. Kliton thorshau. Ashaya mashu-pohshuk. Shall I continue?"

"What do the phrases mean?" Christine was genuinely curious, despite the attention she was giving to something that demanded it.

"The translations are ... rather literal, but here goes. Rock. Hardness. Exploding arrow. Love geyser."

"Love geyser?" Her eyebrow rose. "What else have you Vulcans come up with?" She stopped her actions, too aroused to continue.

He slid his hand along her flank and began to explore. "Ausachya. Fur. Fal. Hot. Masupik. Wet. Mashau. To ... make wet." His fingers sought a lazy entry. "Yontau. To burn." He wiggled the digits then withdrew, bringing them to his mouth. With an agonizingly slow movement, he licked the moisture off. "Masu'es slor," he whispered. "There is a word, yon savas. It means fire fruit." He began to kiss down her body. "And I find myself wishing to partake of yours."

* * *

 

"So tell me," Christine asked as she fed some more of the brownie to her husband. "How did a tight-assed unemotional Vulcan like yourself get such an ... oral fixation? Not that I'm complaining, mind you. Curiosity, I guess."

Spock took a drink from the champagne flute then handed it to his wife. "I suppose," he began, "it started early in my childhood."

"Your childhood?" Christine choked on the bubbles then set the glass down. "Please elaborate."

He laughed and pulled her close. "No, my foolish one. Not like that. My mother was fond of baking sweet desserts. Like brownies. And she always insisted I clean the bowl by using my fingers and then licking them. It was, she said, an old Terran custom."

"Mmm," she giggled, remembering many an afternoon doing the same thing in her mother's kitchen. Maybe Spock would like to help her bake chocolate chip cookies...

"I do happen to like homemade chocolate chip cookies," Spock said as he continued. "Anyway, I followed this custom, which, she assured me, my father also indulged in, although he limited his tasting activities to those done with the baking spoon."

Christine all but guffawed at the thought of Sarek helping out in the kitchen.

He moved his thumb across her lips. "And I discovered that using one's mouth, in particular, one's tongue, could be quite ... pleasant." He shivered as she took it in her mouth briefly, flicking her own tongue across it, with a very specific thought accompanying the action.

"That's a good introduction to oral delights, I agree," she said after a moment. "But how did you make the quantum leap from your mother's kitchen to..." She could not bring herself to finish the sentence.

"To enjoy the zhav of your treshaya slor guv tukh?" The words rolled so seductively off his tongue she found herself wishing it was elsewhere, preferably where he had just described.

"What did you just say?" Her voice had dropped to a whisper.

"I said that tasting your sugar-like ... special place ... gives me pleasure." His eyes left no doubt to the meaning of what special place meant.

"So ... how did you ... learn about such things?" She barely got the words out, but wanted to know.

His hand started its search once more. "One of my hallmates at the Academy was getting married, and we threw him a bachelor party. It was quite tame, from what I have heard of these things." No strippers. He admonished her thought playfully. "There were ... adult vids at the celebration. I must confess to having had one too many beers, and found myself on the sofa watching a vid."

Christine tried to concentrate on the story, which was difficult, given what was happening somewhere else. But it was so interesting she forced herself.

He pulled her closer into his embrace, all the while continuing to slide through the wetness that was increasing exponentially. "The title of the film was 'Sweet Box' and it was ... entirely oral pleasuring of women by men. In great detail, from every possible angle. I was ... fascinated. I had heard of this sexual practice, but had never witnessed it. I became ... quite aroused. So much so that I left the party suddenly and headed for a cold shower. That helped the physical symptoms, but the scenes were burned permanently into my memory." He licked her ear seductively. "And I decided I wanted to ... try this someday. But the opportunity never presented itself until we became a couple."

"You were a most willing and eager student," she purred, recalling the first time he had gone exploring orally. Her fingers brushed across his cheek, conveying what her words could not. "And you have only improved with time." A thought entered her mind unbidden, a scene from the day at the springs. Of her losing control over and over as each shockwave coursed through her. Only this time she felt the added pleasure he got from her release.

"Again?" he asked against her mouth softly. "I do so love to lick you, my love, to zhavan ko-lok kotik. Come for me again?"

"Oh please, yes."

* * *

 

Kala stirred in Greg's arms, a smile on her face. It had been so simple, really. And so wonderful. She glanced at the time. Noon. Good thing she was off herself, the spa would have to do without her supervision today. And maybe for the next few days?

Her thoughts were interrupted by a pulsing against her thigh. She looked over at Greg, catching the now-familiar look in his eyes. "I think something's awake again," she said with a giggle. Her fingers closed around his arousal, and she was amazed at how brazenly wanton she was feeling.

Dillon had absolutely no complaint about the situation. He rolled onto his back and pulled her astride his hips. "Come for a ride, Kala," he whispered.

 

* * *

 

Stark looked up from the speech he was practicing.

"T'Lara! What are you doing here?"

She walked over and sat down next to him on the patio. "I thought I might help you with your pronunciation, Stark. After all, you are still a bit unsure of the language." She put her hand on top of his. "I am ... very pleased at what your doing. Proud, as illogical as it sounds, but you know as well as I do that my family was not untouched by this event."

Stark put an arm around her shoulders and kissed her brow. Most all of the Vulcan team at the Polaris Games had lost a relative in the disaster, yet the event had moved the culture forward, as ridiculously illogical as it seemed. He had gotten the idea from talking to his fellow athletes, the new generation who sought to honor those who had been lost, those whose memory had helped them venture forth for Vulcan.

"Thank you for believing in me, T'Lara," he told her honestly. "I hope I can be a worthy husband and bondmate to you when we get married." Inwardly he sighed. Two long years.

T'Lara looked over his shoulder. Satisfied that no relatives were in sight, she leaned into him and planted a surprisingly affectionate kiss on his mouth. "It is good to see you, my love. I have missed you so," she whispered. Then she took the speech from him. "Shall we finish this, then perhaps this evening we might go for a drive? Tell me which words still give you difficulty."

Her demeanor was all business, but Stark was trying to comprehend what she had just suggested. He was confused.

I SAID a drive? In your flitter?

The thought entered his head without any effort on his part. He stared at her, a pleased smile on his face.

"Did you -- just?" he finally asked.

"Oh Stark," T'Lara sighed. "It is quite clear there is much you must learn. And I am more than willing to be your instructor." Her eyebrow rose a notch.

Stark slowly let out the breath he had been holding. Perhaps it would not be two years, but he would have to take it at her pace, that was certain. Her aim with a flying object was deadly.

 

* * *

 

"Kind of quiet around here, eh, Bones?"

"It's always quiet, Jim. That Vulcan never says much, you know that," McCoy snorted. "At least not to me."

Kirk gave his CMO a skeptical look. "Admit it, you're gonna miss his familiar face."

"No, but I will miss my ACMO. Who will run the monthly gynecological clinic while she's on her honeymoon?" McCoy scowled good-naturedly.

"Tut tut, Bones. The same person who ran it before she came on board as ACMO. You, yourself, and you." He looked at his vidscreen. "So we need to be at the ceremony tomorrow morning at 11. Sounds like it might be interesting. We never did hear much about the whole thing, you know. Maybe now we'll learn something."

McCoy looked thoughtful. "Yeah, Jim. Maybe the Vulcan culture is finally opening up a little bit. I mean, look at the difference in the Hope memorial and here." He shook his head. "What a terrible waste."

"Agreed. It should be thought provoking. But let's not sit here getting morbid. I checked with Starfleet, and they think it's a good idea if we pay a little social visit to the Ferengi's gambling cruiser this evening, after it docks. Just to show our presence, have a drink, that sort of thing. You up for it? Scotty can mind the store."

"Are you kidding? What time do we leave?"

* * *

 

"Well, Christine, Saturday evening is upon us soon. How would you like to spend it? Our first official night on Vulcan as husband and wife. After all, we leave tomorrow evening for Terra, and who knows when we shall again be in ShiKahr?"

They were sprawled across the bed in the guest house, the late afternoon sun sending its brilliance through the slatted shutters. It had been quite an ... amorous morning and afternoon.

Christine reached across her husband's relaxed form for her communicator. "You tell me, it's your planet, dearest. But I really should check in for a minute." She signaled the ship and soon was engaged in conversation with her friend Nyota.

Spock went over to the computer monitor at the desk and pulled up a list of the evening's events in the city. He was listening to the conversation going on behind him, naturally.

"She did? So, what happened? Really? Good for her!" Christine laughed seductively into the comm unit. "No, nothing that exotic. Things have been going as normal down here. We'll see you tomorrow morning for the ceremony. Later, hon!"

"I would be interested to learn what your definition of 'as normal' is, my wife," Spock said as he held out his hand to her. "But please, let us view the cultural offerings for this evening and select an activity. Or else I may be forced to keep you here and make love to you for the duration." His hand slid to the crease between her butt and her thigh, a place he never tired of touching.

"Spock, we're on the star cruiser for 2-1/2 days each way," Christine began.

"2.76 to be precise," he replied.

She knew better than to rise to the bait. "At any rate, we'll have plenty of down time for ... erotic fun. You're quite correct, I want to get out this evening. Let's see..."

Spock began to read the events aloud. "Movie of the night: 'Bridge Between Our Worlds.'" He raised an eyebrow.

*I TOLD you not to GO THERE. She was a bimbo, you said so yourself!*

He sighed. "Yes, my wife," he agreed. Christine was as jealous as he was, though neither of them wanted to admit it. "Karaoke night at Delta's Dawn."

"We could do that anywhere. In fact, we just did. Next?"

"ShiKahr chess championship, junior division."

"Uh, no."

"Gallery opening. 'Sounds of the Silence of Gol. A holographic retrospective.'"

She now gave him a raised eyebrow. "No."

"We could go to the Ferengi gambling cruiser, which docks this evening."

"I am quite sure the son of Ambassador Sarek had best not be seen anywhere near that floating den of iniquity," Christine said. Then she smiled. "Besides, we'll be in Las Vegas for a night, if you really want to sin ... fairly. The Ferengi stack their decks, everyone knows that."

"Yes, your logic is sound. Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. A Galactic Journey in Music."

"What's on the program?" This sounded like a possibility.

Spock looked at the description. "Feast Day in Seville. Polaris Suite. Songs of a Vulcan Spring. On the Steppes of Central Asia."

"By Borodin?" Christine's voice had raised a pitch.

"Yes, that is the composer's name. And apparently Somm himself will conduct the soundtrack from his award-winning film tonight."

She put her arms around his shoulders, nibbling at the tendons there. "Could we possibly go to that? Or will it be broadcast somehow? Those are four classic pieces of music, all very different. I would ... love to hear them."

Spock gave her one of his special smiles. "Easily done. My father has an ambassadorial box at the Cultural Palace. Let us go ask if we may share it this evening."

* * *

 

"So, miss Kala, have we taken care of your ... situation?" Greg Dillon asked the woman who lay naked across his chest. His hand stroked the perfect curve of her spine.

She raised her head a bit and met his gaze. "Yes, Greg, we have. Now what?"

"Now what?" He pulled her up against his shoulder. "We go out tonight, and tomorrow, and Monday. And I sleep in your bed, or you sleep in mine. Very simple. Kala, I know you're leaving for New York eventually, but let's enjoy the time we have left. Who knows what will happen? I'm just glad we got this chance."

She shivered as his fingers went unerringly to a special place he had discovered. "Let me make love to you, darlin'. We have time to make up for." He looked at her searchingly. "Kala, you're no one night stand, trust me. No matter what, know that. I will be kissing you as you get into the transporter beam. But till then, I plan to ravish you every chance I can get."

Kala succumbed to the pleasure flaming through her body, wondering if her father had said similar words to her mother way back when. Or vice versa?

* * *

 

Sarek and Amanda, who were enjoying the late afternoon on the patio, were quite surprised to see the couple emerge from the guest house and head their way. Both were dressed casually, and both seemed in quite fine spirits.

"Spock, Christine, it is good to see you. Are things well?" Sarek knew the greeting sounded ridiculous, but he had no idea what else to say. He and his wife had not emerged form the place of shan'ha'lak for three days, and then very shakily. By contrast, the couple before him looked relaxed and placid. And quite ... comfortable with each other.

Amanda had no problems jumping right in. "Are you hungry? There's plenty of food if you are. Or maybe something to drink?"

"Some iced tea, Amanda? That would be great." Christine followed her mother-in-law to the patio door.

Spock sat down at the patio table. His father regarded him, his customary eyebrow raised. "Your bonding is ... satisfactory?" he asked.

"More than satisfactory, yes, Father." Spock met his father's gaze firmly. "Christine and I wish to attend the symphony this evening, and wondered if we might share the ambassadorial box with you and Mother? It transpires Christine is well-acquainted with the program and would enjoy hearing the pieces, as would I."

"You may have the box to yourselves, my son. Your mother and I have other plans for the evening. In fact, you shall likely see your grandmother in attendance. Do please go, and enjoy yourselves. It promises to be a quite fascinating program."

"Thank you, Father, we shall do as you suggest." Spock turned to see his mother and wife returning with beverages and snacks. He held out his fingers to her in the traditional embrace, which she took as she sat next to him. "It is confirmed for the symphony, Christine. We shall be able to attend."

"Thanks, Sarek, I'm very grateful. My mom instilled a love of classical music in me from the time I could first listen. I can't think of a better way to spend the evening."

"Can you arrange a staff car for us, Father?" Spock asked.

Sarek allowed the corner of his mouth to turn up. "Your mother and I shall be using the embassy driver this evening. Take the flitter. I am sure it will be a most enjoyable drive."

"Very well, Father. And thank you again." Christine felt her husband's amused shock even as he poured them drinks.

*Perhaps the backseat of the flitter might be an interesting place for an experiment?*

*SPOCK!*

* * *

 

Christine smoothed a stray lock of hair into place and finished adjusting her necklace. She had been wearing the gorgeous earrings Spock had given her since she had unwrapped them, but for this evening, the new gold matched set she had bought at the ShiKahr bazaar last Thursday seemed just the ticket.

The reflection facing her in the bathroom mirror almost seemed a stranger. A happy, beautiful stranger, wife to a man whose love for her was so deep it defied description. Spock had expected her to wear her wedding gown to the symphony, so this was going to be a real surprise to him.

She opened the door and walked out in a silken swish. Spock turned to greet her. His eyes registered pleased surprise, while his arms automatically went to hold her close. "You look stunning, my wife," he told her happily. Then his eyebrow quirked. "But where did you obtain a traditional Vulcan ensemble as yours?"

"I also have my secrets, Spock." Her smile was enigmatic. "Shall we go then? We don't want to be late. Why does the event start so early, anyway?"

Spock took her arm and opened the door. "Because Vulcans enjoy the later evening hours as a time of relaxation with family members. As at the Botanical Gardens. The cooler temperatures are conducive to outdoor activities such as walking."

"And ... other activities?" She got a kick out of the flush that spread from his eartips down his neck.

* * *

 

Sarek and Amanda were in the kitchen having a glass of iced tea when they saw the couple depart the guest house for the flitterport. Spock was resplendent in a Vulcan style tunic and trousers, and Christine matched him in her lilac formal gown. Amanda noted the new gold pieces that adorned her neck and ears.

"They look every inch the proper Vulcan couple," Sarek remarked, almost proudly.

At that moment, Spock stopped and brushed a strand of hair behind his wife's ear. His fingers held hers in the traditional embrace, then he broke with tradition and gave her a soft kiss.

"Perhaps not quite the proper Vulcan couple," Amanda sighed.

Sarek gave her an amused look she knew well. "Why would you say that, Aduna? How many times have I kissed you just that way as we were preparing to depart for an evening out? No, they are behaving as I would have expected. Must I demonstrate?" He pulled his wife close and gave her a kiss not quite as chaste as the one his son had given his own wife.

"Oh, Sarek, I feel like we were courting again." Amanda let a wicked giggle lace her words. "With them out for the evening, they'll never suspect. This is so decadent, I can't wait."

"Then let us prepare, my wife." Sarek's eye held a mischievous twinkle.

* * *

 

T'sai T'Ser's stomach was doing its hundredth flipflop of the day. She gave her reflection one last once-over and decided she looked a proper Vulcan widow. Then she frowned. Widow was so negative a term. But then General S'Toick was in fact a widower, so they were both in the same proverbial boat.

The musical program looked to be a diversely interesting one, and there was a pre-concert reception with the artists she was looking forward to attending. A chance to see some of her friends, which she had been re-acquainting herself with since her return to Vulcan.

Her niece had promised a lovely after concert supper at the hotel's dining room, in a private endmeal room. T'Ser gave her hair a last once over and then almost lost a heartbeat when the door chimed. She took a deep, cleansing breath and made her way down the hall. If she could have smiled, she would have.

* * *

 

Nyota Uhura giggled into her comm unit.

"Everyone's running off to the gambling cruiser," she purred seductively. "It's just you and me, honey. What shall we get up to?"

Her intended evening's companion returned the suggestive laugh. "I'm sure we'll think of something, my dear," he replied.

* * *

 

"Ko-mekh-il T'Pau," Spock said pleasantly. "It is indeed good to see thee this evening."

T'Pau acknowledged the greeting and gave Christine a welcoming glance. "It is, Spock, good to see thee and thy bondmate at this event. Would thee be so kind as to fetch me and thy wife a cooling beverage?"

Spock almost bowed. "Of course," he said as he headed towards the bar.

Christine surveyed the pre-concert reception. They had already met the featured artiste, S'omm, whose awarded soundtrack to the Iggy-winning film would be performed this evening by the composer himself. He and his wife had engaged them in animated conversation about the California states of Terra, where they hoped to return soon to work on a new film.

Now T'Pau stood before her, every bit the regal clan matriarch, but with a softer gaze on her face. "Thy bonding is progressing well?" she asked.

"Very well, T'Sai," Christine replied. "And I thank thee for bonding us."

A trace of something akin to emotion, Christine was certain, shone in the woman's eyes for a microsecond. "And thee are going to Terra for thy honeymoon, I hear? Where to? I have visited thy planet on occasion. A fascinating place."

"We plan to visit both the deserts of the American Southwest as well as the coastal region of California, where I grew up," Christine replied. "Spock is quite fascinated with some of the sacred places I have visited, such as Monument Valley and Sedona, so I intend to show him these. They are quite beautiful."

T'Pau nodded. "I have heard of these places, my child. A most appropriate place to get to know thy bondmate, I am certain."

* * *

 

Spock turned from the bar and encountered a friendly face.

"Good evening, Spock," Skrav said placidly.

"The same to thee, Skrav," Spock replied. "Is T'sai T'Glad with thee?"

Skrav gave a slight nod. "She is, and I must warn thee, the fact that thee and thy wife are here, and not in the place of shan'ha'lak, has been the subject of endless speculation on her part already. Are thy parents not here also?"

Spock shook his head. "They had other plans."

"I see." Skrav raised his eyes heavenward, a move Spock thought odd. Then he figured the man logically wished he, too, had other plans. "Shall I play into her speculation, Beshu Skrav?" he asked, with a hint of a humorous glint to to his eyes.

"Far be it to me to suggest thy actions, Spock, son of Sarek," his neighbor replied with a mischievously raised eyebrow.

* * *

 

"This has been an enjoyable evening already," General S'Toick remarked to his companion.

"Yes it has," T'sai T'Ser replied. "S'omm and his wife have done much to promote our Vulcan culture offworld ... as well as instilling a new respect for it in the new generation."

"Indeed." Her companion turned to give her a pleasant glance. "But I hear that much of ShiKahr has fled to the Ferengi's gambling cruiser, which has docked here for a five day stay. Perhaps thee would have been more comfortable going there instead?"

"Of course not, General. I have been to Atlantic City many times with the staff of the Vulcan embassy in New York. Gambling and its mathematical precision is interesting, but not nearly as pleasing as a night of music with a genial companion."

* * *

 

Spock returned to where his grandmother and wife were standing and picked up snippets of a most fascinating conversation.

"I much prefer the North Rim to the South," T'Pau remarked. "More beautiful and less traveled."

Christine nodded her assent. "We plan to visit both. Has thee been to Sedona?"

"Yes, child. The place called Bell Rock is a most sacred spot, according to thy native peoples, and I felt its energy most strongly. Thee must take Spock there."

"I plan to." She saw her husband at that moment. "Your grandmother and I were discussing Arizona," she said simply.

"Indeed," Spock replied as he handed them their beverages.

* * *

 

"That was a most enjoyable performance," Christine said as Spock started up the flitter. "The music was just amazing. S'omm has a lot of talent, I guess that's why he's headed back to Terra."

Spock easily maneuvered the flitter onto the spaceway. "I agree, T'hyla. A most pleasant way of spending the early evening. But the night has only just begun." He shot her a meaningful sidelong glance.

But Christine had something else on her mind. "I can't believe you told your neighbor there was still 'time enough' for shan'ha'lak. She was just speechless. Spock, you are so bad sometimes. I can only imagine what she is thinking."

"Do you care, my love?" Spock placed a free hand on her knee. "Her speculations are well known and just as well ignored. Had we not been in evidence this weekend, she would have surely thought our bond was so all consuming as to be based only on sexual knowledge, not logic, since I was not in pon farr, as she had likely ascertained. You, the wicked alien woman, must surely have seduced me with your strange concept of rampant, non-mating sexual pleasure."

Christine started to laugh out loud.

"Now since she has seen us acting as a quite ordinary husband and wife, she will be forced to think of new way to entertain herself. Though I hope her idea of a bonding of convenience does not re-surface, as I prefer you, my wife, not another male." He raised his eyebrow.

"Poor Skrav," Christine sighed. "What does he do? It had better be interesting enough to keep him occupied and away from his wife's fertile imagination. She should write romance holos or soap operas!"

Spock shot her a peculiar look. "Skrav works for the Vulcan Security Services. He has for many years, in the cypher department. He is what you would call a code-breaker.'

Christine stared at her husband, incredulous. "A spook?"

"A phantom? Trust me, he is quite alive."

"No, an agent, a spy, big brother? As in the Federation Intelligence Agency?" She started laughing again, so hard that the tears threatened to spill over her lashes. "Omigod, that is just too funny. His wife should work there, not him! What does she do?"

"She is a ... housewife, as you say. That explains why she has so much time to speculate on the clandestine activities of the most suspicious House of Sarek. But Skrav takes it all logically in his stride, from what my father tells me." By now, Spock was struggling to keep from laughing as well. He knew that once they returned to the guest house, he would likely join his wife in a very good guffaw, as she called it.

At that moment, Spock became aware of a ShiKahr Spaceway Patrol flitter in the next lane. The officers gave him a friendly wave of the hand as they passed.

"We can't be arrested for laughing, can we?" Christine asked, suddenly fearful.

Through their link, she felt him almost lose control, though his voice was as calm as ever. "Indeed not, emotional outbursts are not quite a criminal offense ... but if it were to happen, T'Glad would be among the first to know. Skrav has ... a transmission scanner, I hear, for his job. So she knows all that happens in the area."

Christine bent over double in near hysteria. "I can't stand it," she gasped.

* * *

 

"It appears my parents are not yet home. Good," Spock said as he parked the flitter and opened the doors. "Come, my wife." He held out his hand to Christine.

"What's on your mind, good sir?" she asked, suddenly playful.

"I propose we divest ourselves of this formal attire in favor of something less ... structured."

Christine gave him a smoldering glance. "And?"

"And then go for a drive."

A fantasy vision flashed across her mind, one she very much wanted to see happen in real life.

"You're on."

* * *

 

Spock cut the flitter's engine. He and Christine surveyed the vista of nighttime ShiKahr spread out below them, like a jeweled scarf dropped on the valley floor.

"Magnificent," Christine breathed. "And this hill belongs to your family?"

"Indeed, T'hyla," Spock replied as he adjusted the seatback. "Years ago, the developer had planned to build several other homes on this road, above the place where my parents now reside. My father decided to keep the natural beauty of the area intact by purchasing the empty tracts of land instead. You can see, there were two other pullouts as we drove up here. A dwelling would have been built at each had my father not intervened."

"Thank your father for me," she replied, allowing herself to be guided into the somewhat cramped back seat. "But not now, OK?"

Her husband raised an eyebrow. "No, I have other plans for the present. Let us commence, shall we?"

"You and your fantasies." Christine smothered a giggle. "Do you have any others I should know about?"

"I might," Spock replied as he pulled her against him, "but for now, this is my number one priority." His mouth ended any further speculation on her part.

It had been years since Christine had been romance in the back seat of a vehicle. Actually, there had not even been that many instances. High school was busy spent studying for college, and the local surfers had wanted cute bouncy blonds, not a tall, gangly brunette. In college, couples wandered in and out of each other's dorm rooms at will, not that she'd done much of that, though. Roger had his own place and they were soon living together, anyway. At Starfleet Medical School, her studies had been a top priority, and the two failed romances had happened long before any serious carnal knowledge had been exchanged. In fact, she'd ended both of them because the men involved had just not been Spock.

And now she was here with Spock, her husband, in the back seat of a vintage flitter, his father's no less, parked at the end of a Vulcan road. Even a screenwriter could not have painted a more improbable picture, but this was not a romance fantasy holovid, this was happy reality.

Spock pulled her into his lap. His hands slid up her thighs, under the short skirt she wore, his fingers quickly and easily negotiating the slight bit of lace and silk masquerading as her underpants. "It would appear you have been anticipating this as much as I, my wife," he whispered. "What is it about physical contact in a vehicle that is so ... satisfying?" He recalled their equally passionate encounter aboard the Enterprise shuttlecraft a few weeks ago. Very satisfying. Then he forced himself back to the present and slowly removed the skimpy garment from her body altogether. "Mmmm, this is much better," he said, as he let his fingers explore further, free of any barrier.

"Spock."

He managed to pull back for a moment. "Yes?"

"The flitter."

He raised an eyebrow. "Yes, we are in the flitter, is this a problem?"

Christine shook her head, then ran her hand across the smooth leather seat. "We can't let anything damage this, your father would definitely be ... displeased."

He thought for a moment. "As usual, your suggestion is quite logical. I believe there needs to be some sort of covering placed on the seat, to shield it from any ... foreign substance." In one quick moment, he had his t-shirt off and had placed it beneath where they sat. "I believe this solves the problem, does it not?"

"I think you just created another," she replied, rubbing her cheek against the fur on his chest. Her own hands were now curious, traversing the line of hair that pointed like an arrow to the waistband of his jeans. She rubbed her finger over the pronounced bulge at the zipper. "Oh, Spock," she sighed, "do you have any idea how good you feel?"

"Perhaps if you were to ... undo the constraining fabric, both of us would feel much better." He was finding it a bit difficult to breathe and talk at the same time.

Christine opened the button of his waistband, her eyes locked on his. The zipper made its slow way down, tooth by tooth, until he was free and hard in her palm, already wet in anticipation. She couldn't help seeing the similarities to every old teenaged romance holo she had ever watched, where the hero and heroine were doing it hot and heavy in the back seat. All that was missing was the...

Condom?

She stared at the item Spock had put in her free hand. He gave her a dangerously amused look, one that bordered on an outright grin.

"What on earth is this for?" she asked, turning the object over. "And where did you find one?"

He took the packet from her and proceeded to tear it open. "I obtained it at the starbase shopping center some weeks ago. As you said, it would be logical to protect the flitter from any ... collateral damage. And this serves the purpose nicely. Though I confess to never having had the occasion to use one."

"You planned this? Why am I not surprised?" She kissed him, conveying her delight at the prospect through their link. "Lucky for you, mister, that I had the foresight to start contraceptive injections well before you decided to go spelunking." Then she gave him a playful wink, watching the delight dance across his face. "But what makes you think I know about these? They're almost museum pieces, you know."

"Ah, but I am fortunate enough to have a spouse who is not only a physician, but who also gives the monthly gynecological clinic on board ship. So it would seem logical that she might know something of this, does it not?"

"You've been talking to Leonard too much, buster." She took the condom and fitted it where it was supposed to go and together they got it into place. She ran her fingers across the studded texture. "You certainly got a good one, this type was supposed to increase pleasure for the partner, or so it was claimed."

"Then shall we test its claim?" His hands free, he now pulled her top up, revealing an unbound set of breasts. "You are missing your undergarments, Doctor," he admonished, giving one nipple a tweak.

"So are you, Commander."

* * *

 

General S'Toick handed T'sai T'Ser an ice cream cone then took one himself. "I have found this a most pleasant way of ending a summer's evening," he admitted. "I often come here with my daughter and her family. My grandchildren are particularly fond of ice cream. They have made me a convert, I confess."

She bit into the delicious coolness, regarding the serenity of the evening that surrounded them. The concert had been delightful, and the supper they had shared afterward very enjoyable. The conversation had been agreeable, the company perfect. With a slight ache, she realized just what she had been missing all these years.

They strolled back towards the diplomatic compound and their waiting transport. The usually quiet Intrepid memorial was a veritable hive of activity. Workmen were everywhere, behind covered scaffolding, busily finishing preparations for a special event Stark had announced for the next day. In the center of the plaza, where the single memorial stone lay, was a large draped object.

"It would appear that tomorrow's event should prove quite interesting," General S'Toick remarked.

"Indeed, it would." T'sai T'Ser knew more than most, for she herself had been helping Stark with his speech, at Sarek's request. She had found him to be a most polite and dignified young man and knew he would do much for the good of Vulcan, though he was not at all the picture of the typical Vulcan. She had seen him just yesterday at Spock and Christine's bonding, and the red and blond streaks that decorated his traditional hairstyle were anything but subtle. But that was Stark, and she accepted who he was. She hoped the rest of the planet, at least some of it, might do so in time.

"Perhaps tomorrow evening, we might venture to the Ferengi's cruiser? After all, would it not seem logical for one from the Security Services to make a courtesy visit, just to insure all was going well?" He allowed the barest trace of amusement to grace his tone.

"That might be a very good idea, yes," she agreed. "I would be pleased to accompany thee, General. Perhaps I might introduce thee to one of my favorite games of chance, craps?"

"I know it well, and would be pleased to play wit thee," he said, a twinkle passing across his eyes. "But the hour grows late and we both must prepare for the morrow. Let me see thee home, and I thank thee again for a most wonderful evening." His fingers extended for the traditional affectionate embrace, which she took, pleased.

"As I thank thee," she replied.

* * *

 

"You're certain we can come up here? After all, this road leads directly past Ambassador Sarek's home." T'Lara looked over at Stark with a questioning glance.

"It's fine, Spock himself told me the views up here were cosmic. And he says we should come hiking up here too. I'll ask the Ambassador when I see him. We could bring a picnic and watch the sunset, maybe?" The idea of spending time alone with his fiancee was pleasing. Stark loved the spotlight, but it got old after awhile. "Here we go," he said as he parked the flitter on an overlook below the summit. "Let's get out and have a look!"

T'Lara followed Stark out of the vehicle and they stood, awestruck, as they looked at the stunning view. The evening breezes were still very warm, carrying the scent of the wild vegetation that grew in the hills surrounding ShiKahr.

"I'll protect you from the le-matyas," Stark said as he led T'Lara to the hood of the flitter. Both of them sat down companionably and looked out at the city lights. It was beautiful and very quiet, miles away from the craziness of the past week.

"There have not been le-matyas sighted in the vicinity of ShiKahr for 65.3 years, Stark," she replied.

Stark sighed. Another tutorial was on its way. But he was wrong.

Her hand brushed his cheek just before she settled her head on his shoulder. "I appreciate the thought, my love, and I thank you for it. I feel so safe with you, Stark."

Stark let his own hand cares her shoulder. They had just finished a very serious discussion of some things and he was even more determined to care for the woman he loved, who returned his love so deeply. Pre-bonding sex was definitely not going to be an issue, but there were some other things that had to be sorted out first. Stark wondered how this could be accomplished. But now was not the time to speculate.

"I promise to always protect you, my T'Lara. You will not need to fear me, or our love." He gave her a kiss, just passionate enough to seal his vow, then they returned to looking at the view and the city in general, which had grown in size since Stark's last visit. He could just make out the lights of his sports complex, and down the mall, the monument where he would be speaking in the morning.

* * *

 

"I can see why condoms fell from favor," Spock remarked. "Despite the thinness of the material, sensation is severely limited, at least for the wearer." He stroked Christine's hair. "And for you?" They were lying comfortably on the back seat, rearranging their clothing into some semblance of normalcy.

She looked up at him, a contented smile on her face. "It was nice," she finally said.

"Nice?" He raised his usual eyebrow. "I suspect they heard you on board the Enterprise, my wife. Merely nice?"

"That was from the second course, brownie boy" she reminded him. Indeed, after the preliminary investigation of condoms in lovemaking, Spock had announced he wanted dessert and had proceeded to help himself very thoroughly. "But it was a quite novel sensation. I must admit, though, I prefer the feel of your naked lok inside me," she finished, pleased at being able to put her recent vocabulary lesson into use.

"Then shall we return home and see what other sensations we might discover?" He placed the used knotted condom in a tissue then deposited it carefully in his pocket for later disposal.

"Don't forget the wrapper." Christine handed him the bright pink square which read "Big Stud".

"Ah yes, thank you." Spock placed the item in the middle of the back seat and left it there. Christine looked at it, then back at her husband, realization beginning to dawn.

"You want him to find it, don't you?" she asked, seeing just how wicked a sense of humor her husband really had.

"Perhaps yes, I do. My father has a proclivity to being overly curious. As my mother so often tells him, this leads to his finding out something he might not wish to actually know. It has been apparent that all week, he was speculating on whether or not we were being amorous. Now he will be presented with the evidence of our scandalous sexual activity in his flitter, an activity he himself encouraged, however subtly. He cannot discuss this with us, it would be too embarrassing for all involved. And he cannot tell my mother or she would laugh for a solar month at least. So he will be, as you Terrans say, stuck. And the flitter, of course, will not show a trace of anything untoward."

"Spock, you are very, very bad," Christine snickered as he started up the engine once more.

"I have always had this type of relationship with my father, so I am merely making up for some lost time. I am quite familiar with this practice of late, though of a quite different variety." He gave her a knowing look.

"I can't disagree with that," she replied.

Spock negotiated the flitter carefully down the curving road. He and Christine were surprised to see another vehicle parked on a lower overlook. Two figures were seated on the hood, obviously studying the view below them.

"Who could that be?" she asked.

"I believe it is young Stark and his fiancee, T'Lara." As Spock said this, the couple turned to look at their vehicle. He lowered his window. "Stark, T'Lara, good evening. Is anything amiss?"

"Spock? Chris? Hey, we were just talking about you!" In a moment, Stark and T'Lara had made their way over to the flitter. Spock cut the engine. He and Christine got out and they all began discussing the next day's activities. No one was even surprised they had run into each other where they had.

The comm unit in Sarek's flitter beeped. Spock leaned and saw it his father. He flipped on the switch with a slight frown of surprise.

"Spock here, good evening Father."

"Ah, you have not retired for the night, then. Good evening, my son, Christine."

"Is anything wrong, Father?" Spock wondered why on earth his parents would be calling, unless the embassy car had broken down somewhere. It was still relatively early, not even midnight.

"Your mother and I are here visiting the Ferengi's entertainment ship and we are having quite an enjoyable time. Your mother wondered if you and Christine might not wish to join us for a few hours? Most of your friends seem to be in attendance. In fact, the only one missing appears to be Stark."

"Stark and T'Lara are here with us at present," Spock replied. "We ran across them just now."

"You don't say? Just a moment, then." There was a sound of muffled conversation, then another voice spoke.

"Stark, T'Lara, hey, it's me, Dad. Why don't you come on up with Spock and his wife? There's lots to do here, and the Ferengi delegation would like to meet you as well. Good publicity and all."

Stark looked at his fiancee, who seemed to be as excited as a full Vulcan could get without showing emotion. "What about T'Lara? I was supposed to get her back to her cousin's."

"I checked with her family. There'll be no problems. We'll make sure she gets safely home son, don't worry."

"What's everyone wearing?" Christine asked for herself and T'Lara. Priorities were important.

Amanda's voice could now be heard. "It runs the range from very casual to dress Starfleet uniform. But you don't need to dress up as formally as you were for the symphony. Just throw something on, I know you'll look fabulous."

"We shall call you when we are ready to come aboard. How shall we get there?" Spock said.

"There is a fully functioning transporter unit on board here, so you may beam directly here, and we shall return in my personal shuttle, " Sarek replied.

"That sounds agreeable, Father. We shall call again in perhaps a half hour when we are ready transport aboard."

"Very good, son, we shall see you then."

"How do we look?" T'Lara said to Christine. She was dressed in a Vulcan styled trouser suit of soft pastel silk. Stark was similarly attired in a male version of the everyday attire.

"Just fine, both of you," Christine told her. "Spock and I will change into something a bit less country western dancehall, then we can see what everyone's been talking about. I'm glad we got a chance to see the ship."

"I must also confess to having a slight amount of curiosity," Spock admitted as he and his wife got back into the vehicle. "Follow us down to the house, then, Stark."

"Curiosity is cool," Stark said as he, too, started up the engine.

T'Lara raised an eyebrow. "Then may I ask what you thought they were doing here this evening?"

Stark laughed, something he never apologized for. "What do you think? The same thing I'm hoping we can do sometime soon."

"In a vehicle?"

"T'Lara, I have a private room in my office area back at the complex. Trust me, no, not in a flitter. Whenever you're ready, we'll ... proceed."

"That's disappointing, I have seen so many vids about just such romantic adventures. In an auto, usually." She let her hand caress his kneecap.

Stark, for once in his young life, was speechless.

* * *

 

Meanwhile, in the skies above Vulcan...

"Well, Bones, this is quite a place, don't you think?" Kirk asked as they surveyed the main salon. "And there's more to be seen, the head of the delegation has promised us a tour soon. How about a drink first?"

"Don't I usually give that prescription, Jim?" McCoy replied, taking in the sumptuous surroundings before them. "This is on par with the best that Wrigley's has to offer, you know. The Vegas planet too."

"So I hear. The Ferengi are keen to be trading partners, maybe with a view to joining the Federation some day, so they're putting on their best face. I, for one, plan to enjoy it. Wonder where Spock and Chris are? Seems like half of ShiKahr is in attendance. And half my crew, from the looks of things."

McCoy shook his head. "Did you have to go and spoil everything?"

* * *

 

"So where is Mogh this evening?" Kala asked Worf and K'a'tya as they waited for their drinks. "We're so glad you could join us."

"He is at the home of the Ambassador's niece, where he shall spend the night. It transpires he and her son will be part of the ceremony tomorrow, though we have no real idea of what he shall be doing." Worf had a proud expression on his face, matched only by that of his wife's.

"And on Tuesday, the day before we depart, Stark is taking some of the youngsters to the seaside for a surfing excursion. Worf and I are so thrilled, it has been many years since we have enjoyed a beach together." K'a'tya had a smile that indicated it would be a pleasant day indeed.

"That's great. And it gives you and your wife some time to enjoy the more grownup offerings here," Greg Dillon remarked. "You up for some dabo?"

"I thought you Texans preferred poker?"

Dillon laughed. "Nope, I'm not from cowboy country. My folks are in the fishing business. Give me dabo any day, it's way more exciting." He put his arm around Kala.

The waitress arrived. "Two Klingon martinis, and two chec'tluths."

Kala and K'a'tya took the steaming drinks. "Kai-Qapla'!" they said simultaneously, just before they downed the strong brews.

"She is a true Klingon woman, my friend. Be very afraid." Worf gave Dillon a knowing wink as they had a sip of their martinis.

"So where's Nyota?" K'a'tya whispered to Kala.

Her new friend shrugged. "She said she wasn't up to a party, wanted to spend a quiet night in. We'll see her tomorrow, though. What's your game of chance, anyway, my sister in crime?"

"Craps." K'a'tya was firm in her decision. "I need a new pair of Ferengi slippers."

* * *

 

"Fettuccine Alfredo, Caesar salad, fine champagne and a vid. Nyota, you truly know how to entertain."

Uhura laughed as she served the food. She hit the play button and a colorful image filled the screen. "I aim to please, my dear."

"'King Solomon's Mines'. What a crock of crap," Ade M'Benga snickered. "Horribly miscast, and the legend and the reality bear no resemblance to each other."

"It's the romance of Africa, silly. They don't make 'em like that anymore. Now it's adventure on other planets, not on the route to Lake Tanganyika!"

M'Benga gave her a kiss. "You are a romantic African woman, Nyota. And to think, we were right under each other's proverbial noses. But until your friend the ACMO started seeing the First Officer, we never had an opportunity to meet. I, for one, am grateful to them."

"Me too, Geoff. But I do prefer your African name."

"Do you have ... another name, my dearest Nyota?"

She wrinkled her nose in distaste. "Of course. But you'll never get it out of me without surgery!"

M'Benga laughed heartily. "We'll see about that."

* * *

 

Selak drew his breath in sharply.

"A bad hand?" K'e'flex asked.

The Vulcan shook his head, indicating the doorway. "It would appear my employer has arrived. I did not think he would make an appearance, but it seems I have misjudged the situation."

"I grieve with you, friend. What shall you do?"

"The same thing you shall, my brother. Look."

K'e'flex saw his own employer enter the doorway behind Ambassador Sarek and two Ferengi representatives. His expression became distressed.

"Effing hell," Kyle said as he saw a familiar pair of figures follow the entourage. "What're they doing here?"

Sulu gave a derisive snort, but Riley spoke for the entire table. "We're fu**ed."

Ajax, the Bollian, who looked sadly at his full house, had been equally dismayed to see his own employer part of the group, who were headed their way. "Sh**," he moaned.

"As you can see," the Ferengi trade delegate stated, "all races of the galaxy gather here on our entertainment cruisers. It is a place to promote peace and understanding over games of pleasant chance."

"Indeed," Sarek replied, eying his personal aide. "I trust you are having an enjoyable evening, Selak?"

"Affirmative, Ambassador." Selak knew his entire table of musketeers looked to him to make things right. "All of us are here to enjoy the hospitality of our Ferengi hosts and to wager in the spirit of good camaraderie."

"Very good," Kirk remarked, with a knowing glance at Riley. "The galaxy shall benefit from the relationships forged here, no doubt."

"Truly," Ambassador K'e'flex agreed, with an equally knowing glance at his chief aide.

The group moved on.

"I call you and raise you three hundred credits," Ajax stated firmly. "As we were just discussing, this is a game of intergalactic cooperation, correct?"

Kyle, Selak, Riley and K'e'flex folded.

Sulu eyed the Bollian. "On behalf of my fellow comrades here, I think I have you beat." He laid his hand on the table.

Ajax sighed. "At least it's for a good cause, whatever that may be.

* * *

 

Kaz took a swallow of her drink and sighed satisfactorily. "Struth" she told the young Ferengi bartender. "That is one of the smoothest Vulcan Volcanoes I've ever tasted. And I pour a pretty mean one!"

"Thank you, my lady," the Ferengi youth replied. "And I can say honestly your gin and tonic was equally enjoyable.

The clinked glasses and finished their beverages.

"Let me tell you ... what did you say your name was?" Kaz asked, looking speculative.

"Quark, miss," the bartender offered.

"Look, Quark, you're wasting your talents here. You need to be running your own place somewhere. I've been watching you, you've definitely got the makings of a real owner. Remember that. Till then, I hope you visit Stark's club while you're here. My staff and I will give you drinks on the house, of course. One bartender to another."

"I thank you, my lady. And someday, I hope to pour a drink for you at my own club, as I hope you will for me at your own establishment. Let us toast that vision, shall we?"

Kaz and Quark drank to future success.

* * *

 

"Anyone up for another hand?" Sulu asked as he counted his winnings.

"I'm in," Ajax replied. "There's no way you could pull a royal flush twice in succession. Who else?"

The rest of the table quickly reaffirmed a willingness to be parted with their credits.

* * *

 

"It's all in the wrist," Amanda said to Ensign Pauulu.

"It certainly is," he agreed. "And you obviously have the wrist for it." He indicated the stack of chips before her.

"Place your bets, folks," the croupier called.

Amanda shook the dice in her hand, close to her ear. "C'mon, honey, someone out there needs a new snowboard!"

"I think it is quite noble of Lady Amanda to donate her winnings to Stark's scholarship fund," Lady Kl'o'rox said to T'sai T'Joan. "I only hope my husband might see the same wisdom, should he do well at dabo."

T'Joan nodded. "Everyone has been so generous, it appears that he first winter sports camp shall be quite successful, with many varied participants. Stark tells me he has begun reviewing the applications already and they are most impressive."

"Speaking of husbands, here they come," said Markusha, the wife of the Bollian Ambassador, indicating the tour which was making its final stop in their gaming area.

"SEVEN! A winner!"

Amanda caught Sarek's pride through their link. *You always were an exemplary participant at games of chance, Aduna.*

*I had a good tactical instructor.*

* * *

 

The two couples materialized on the transporter pad without incident.

"Welcome to our ship," gushed the official Ferengi chief of the delegation. "Stark, it is an honor to have you here with us, as well as your friends."

"Thanks," Stark replied. "We heard there was plenty of fun to be had aboard, so here we are!"

"We thought a photo opportunity now would be best," the chief continued. "Then you and your party would be free to enjoy the facilities with no other concerns. Would you come this way?"

Stark gave T'Lara a knowing glance. "I won't be long," he told her. He moved off to the waiting media with his parents, anxious that his relationship with her be kept private as long as possible.

"Spock, Christine, T'Lara, it is pleasing that you could join us," Ambassador Sarek said. "This truly is a most remarkable ship. Shall we give you a tour?"

* * *

 

"If 'tis not the fair Kaz, the maid of my every dream," Riley slurred to the woman he stood facing.

"Good evening, Lieutenant," she replied neutrally.

"Lieutenant? She wounds me yet again. And one who has recently become a wealthy person, too."

"How much did you win?" Kaz had heard, and seen, it all at one time or another.

"Enough for you and me to trip the light fantastic on Risa, my darlin' "

"Risa's not my thing. Way too overdone, if you ask me. I'd much prefer Lord Lucan's resort. Without you, though. Sorry, Kev. Give it up, will ya? Plenty of talent here on the ship. I'm ... not on the market."

At that moment, two sexy Orion shills descended on Riley. "Come try your hand at dabo, good sir," one entreated. They both slipped arms through his.

"I guess I'm on to a good thing," Riley admitted as he allowed himself to be led away willingly.

* * *

 

"Ooh, baccarat! My favorite game of chance!" Christine quickly made her way over to the table and addressed the ladderman. "Chemin de fer?" she asked.

"Oui, Madame Spock," the Deltan replied in perfect French. "Sil vous plait."

Christine seated herself next to a Tellarite, a Ferengi, an Orion woman (who was holding the Ferengi's chips) and a Vulcan. "Carte," she stated succinctly.

"Coup," the ladderman announced.

Spock and his father exchanged a raised eyebrow.

"I was not aware your wife knew so sophisticated a game," Sarek remarked.

"Christine applies herself to most things in great detail. As this is the preferred game of one of our favored film characters, James Bond, she and I have endeavored to learn its rules."

"Then why don't you join the round?" Amanda asked. "It's obvious they know who you are."

"I prefer to watch, " Spock replied. "She is quite Vulcan in her demeanor, if you observe."

"Le Grande," the ladderman announced. "Madame?"

"Palette," Christine said, her face expressionless. If she could have been smoking an antique cigarette holder, the picture would have been perfect. But she did not smoke, and the ship did not allow it except on the special smoking deck.

Stark made his way to the table. "Chemin de fer?" he asked in equally flawless Gallic.

"Oui, Monsieur Stark."

He sat down next to Christine with grin.

"Carte."

A waitress appeared. "What may I bring you?"

Stark and Christine conferred for a moment before she replied. "Veuve Cliquot Rose, sil vous plait. 2207. C'est un anee bon. Pour le table."

* * *

 

Back on Vulcan at the Klingon Ambassador's niece's residence, things were finally settling down for the night.

"Are you excited, Mogh?" asked Loki, the great-nephew of Kl'o'rox.

"So much so I may find it difficult to sleep at all. We shall be part of an important commemoration tomorrow, and also be partaking of the new facility on Monday when it opens! "

"Will you apply for a scholarship, then?"

"I shall, but there are many worthy candidates from my world. In fact, there is one I know of who would be most deserving of a chance to learn here. Let us see what the future holds, shall we?"

"A good idea," Loki replied sleepily.

* * *

 

"So, Bones, what's your recon mission discovered?" Kirk had been seated in a quiet observation lounge, savoring some excellent Saurian brandy.

"Amanda's a killer at craps, and so is Kala. Spock's watching his wife play something called chemin de fer. Riley is losing his poker winnings at dabo, thanks to two beautiful chip minders, and everything else is going well."

"That's good to hear. Have a drink?"

"When have I ever turned down that invitation?"

* * *

 

"Banco," Stark said firmly.

The ladderman gave him a questioning look, then handed the shoe back to Christine. She drew her cards and turned them up. "Le Grande," she announced at the total of 9.

Stark sighed. His 8 was good, but not good enough.

Christine took her chips and handed them over to the champion. "Here, Stark," she said. "Let's bring someone to Vulcan who might not otherwise have the chance."

Stark gave her one of his trademark grins. "Awesomely cosmic, Chris!"

* * *

 

Back on the Enterprise all was quiet.

Engineer Scott had relinquished the watch to Ensign Chekov, who was pleased to have the con, even for so boring a milk run.

Kala and Greg Dillon had transported back to her quarters early, as had Worf and K'a'tya to their hotel room. Both couples were enjoying a romantic rendezvous, though in vastly different settings.

Nyota Uhura and Ade/Geoff M'Benga had decided to watch "Congo," an even more ludicrous interpretation of "King Solomon's Mines" and both were screaming with laughter at Tim Curry's characteristic overacting.

* * *

 

In ShiKahr, T'Sai T'Ser had completed her evening meditation and was preparing for bed. She thought about all the loss her family had suffered. Then she gave a silent thanks to her ancestors for allowing her to move on from the past, no matter how small a step it was. Tomorrow would be a momentous day indeed.

* * *

 

"A most enjoyable evening," Ambassador Sarek said as they prepared to board his shuttle. "And quite satisfactory in its diplomatic endeavor."

Amanda pulled Christine aside and handed her a wad of credits. "I won this early, before I decided to give the bulk to Stark. Use it on your honeymoon. Treat Spock to something you wouldn't ordinarily do."

Christine tried to wave away the generosity. "Amanda, the Discretionary Fund has seen to both mine and my mother's well being, as I've tried to convey..."

"So what? Think of it as pin money, my dear. Now I insist. And I want a vid postcard of how you spend it, too!"

"My wife, are you ready to leave? It does grow a bit late."

"Coming, Sarek," Amanda said with a wink.

* * *

 

Amanda picked up the vidphone. "Ambassador Sarek's home," she replied. It was Sunday morning and they were due to leave for the ceremony within the hour. "Just a moment, Da'av, he's outside. I'll get him."

She picked up the handset and went out the patio door and across the lawn to the driveway where Sarek had just finished backing the flitter out of the port in preparation for a quick once over before their departure. He was sitting in the driver's seat, a rather peculiar expression on his face.

"Sarek? It's Stark's father, with a last minute question." She handed him the phone, noticing his funny look. "Sarek?"

He snapped himself out of his self-imposed trance and took the receiver. "Thank you my wife."

Amanda hurried back inside to continue getting ready, wondering what her husband's mood was about. Well, he'd undoubtedly tell her later, knowing him.

* * *

 

"Do you think he noticed?" Christine asked her husband, who was peering unobtrusively out the shutters, clad only in his briefs. "And stop doing that keister dance or we'll never get out of here on time."

"Keister dance?" Spock turned around. "And what, precisely, is a keister dance?"

"You were wiggling your ass in my general direction, dearest," she replied. "And answer the question, did he notice? After all, it was your idea, condom man. Hmmm. Maybe that'll be your new nickname. Yes. Has a nice ring--"

Her words were stopped abruptly by Spock's kiss. "You talk too much, my wife," he told her when he'd finished kissing her into silence. "But I do not mind. My mother shares the same trait as you, and I have long since learned to live with it." He tightened his grip around her waist, giving her a promise of fun later. "And yes, Christine. He did notice. I could tell by the expression on his face ... he immediately put on his 'Vulcan face' as you call it. That is his way of dealing with an unexpected situation."

"Do you think he is ... displeased?"

"On the contrary, I am certain he is grateful we used ah, a condom."

She slid a hand across the front of his briefs. "We won't need to use one later," she promised. "But now we need to get into those ghastly dress uniforms."

"Just think how much we shall enjoy divesting each other of them later. And as for your comment regarding my posterior, it is clear we both have a preference to view and touch that part of each other's anatomy, so it is only logical that I should afford you that pleasure as often as possible."

She grabbed a handful of tight Vulcan buns. "You said it."

* * *

 

"So here we are again, Bones, another day, another ceremony." Kirk surveyed the plaza, which was filling with people. They were seated in the VIP section just behind the podium. "But I must say, I've been looking forward to this one."

"Me too, Jim. It's good to finally see a mention of this in a positive light. Seems just yesterday when Spock collapsed on the bridge, remember? I wonder how Stark will present this?"

"He can handle himself pretty well, I think. Look at how he played at the baccarat table last night." They had both watched the young champion remain cool and unruffled, despite losing a not insubstantial amount of credits.

"What's with that, anyway? It seems to be the Deltan national game, and they all speak French to boot when they play it!" McCoy looked puzzled.

Kirk shrugged. "Ambassador Da'av tells me that ever since that Deltan actor has been cast as the newest James Bond, the Deltans have thrown themselves into emulating all things 007. That includes Chemin de Fer and its tradition of being played in French, as well as vintage Aston Martin ground cars and martinis shaken, not stirred." He laughed. "Looks like Mr. Bond is still going strong after nearly three hundred years of outsmarting the bad guys."

"It was nice of Chris to donate her winnings to the scholarship fund. If a Vulcan could have looked proud, I don't know who was prouder, Spock or his father."

"Yes, Bones, she's charmed them both, it would appear. Good for her. And good for Spock too." Kirk gave his CMO a knowing smile.

"For once, I agree with you, Jim. I think it's great they finally got together. Though I wonder if he's managed to apologize enough times for that flying soup. It's pretty clear she drives the car in their relationship. I never thought she had it in her. But I like it."

Kirk laughed again at the memory. "I'm sure it's over and done with a hundred times by now. Speaking of them, here they come now." He looked more closely, then grinned. "And you're right, she's driving."

"Who's that with them?" McCoy squinted in the bright sun.

"It's my communications officer ... and your other staff physician. What's this about?" Kirk looked quite surprised.

"Nyota Uhura and Ade M'Benga?" McCoy's eyebrows had done a great imitation of his favorite Vulcan's.

"Ade? I thought his name was Geoff." Kirk was even more puzzled now. Uhura sat right behind him. How had this gotten past his all knowing persona?

"Ade is his traditional African name. Geoff is his given one. A few of us call him Ade. But I had no idea he was seeing Nyota. That's a shocker!" McCoy was shaking his head in amazement.

"We've been too busy watching my first officer and your ACMO instead, Bones."

"I think you're right there, Jim."

* * *

 

"Hello Silok!" Mogh greeted the young Vulcan. "And this is Loki, whose great uncle is the Klingon Ambassador."

"I am pleased to meet you, Loki, and to see you again, Mogh, though I am somewhat puzzled why I was chosen to participate. Tell me, did you somehow arrange for this?"

Mogh gave him a conspiratorial glance. "Yes, when it was stated that Stark was seeking youngsters from all the races living here to help with the ceremony, I mentioned your name."

Silok looked surprised. "But why?"

"Why not? I enjoyed speaking with you at the zoo. And it now transpires that Stark agrees a land version of a snowboard is a good idea. He wishes to test this during our excursion to the seaside. Are you looking forward to the trip?"

"You -- you met him?" Silok asked, growing even more astonished. Who was this person standing before him, he wondered.

"It was unexpected, but yes, we met, and we discussed our idea of a sandboard. Stark was interested and said it was a logical thought."

"Cosmic," Silok breathed. Then he remembered where he was. "Mother, Father, this is Mogh, who I met at the zoo this past week. It was he who mentioned my name to the planners. And this is Loki, the Klingon Ambassador's great nephew."

Silok's parents came over, quite eager to see the person who their son had spoken of meeting that day. When the call had come from Stark's office, they had presumed it to be some sort of misunderstanding. It was now clear this was not the case.

"Greetings, Mogh, Loki," said Silok's mother. "And we shall be joining you in a day's time for the seaside trip as well, it appears."

"Yes, it shall be quite a good day. And these are my parents," Mogh replied, indicating his own mother and father.

The couples quickly exchanged formalities. "What is your profession on Qo'noS?" asked Silok' father, fascinated at meeting not just one, but four Klingons at one time.

"We are agriscientists both," K'a'tya stated.

"And we are solar engineers," Silok's mother said. "So it is clear we shall have many fascinating things to discuss on our journey, shall we not?"

At that moment, Stark himself appeared in the room. "We are almost ready to begin, so listen carefully. During the ceremony, I shall be speaking in the Vulcan language, which some of you may not understand. That's quite OK. At the appropriate moment, T'Lara shall bring you over for the special act of remembrance. Just follow her." He looked out at the group of youngsters, Vulcan and offworlder both. "And thank you for helping make this day a very special one for me and my people, and for the galaxy."

* * *

 

Stark took a deep breath and gave his parents and T'Lara one last glance. He began to speak in the Vulcan he had practiced for many days now.

"People of Vulcan, I, Stark, stand before you this day not as a champion of sport, but as one who is also Vulcan. I may have spent my formative years on Terra, but every summer I visited ShiKahr, and my mother, T"sai T'Joan, took great care to instruct me in the ways of her heritage.

"Then one day, when I was perhaps eleven years old, our lives changed forever. I came home from school to find that my mother's parents, the grandparents I had heard so much of, but had never met, had perished on the Intrepid along with its entire crew."

The silence in the plaza was absolute, but energy rippled through the audience almost palpably.

"It was a desolate time for our planet and our people, and I know little of what transpired here save for what my mother told me. But she was determined to honor the memory of her parents, and the following winter, my parents and I went to the snows of Lake Tahoe for a holiday. My mother then told me that her father had promised to teach me to surf one day, but since he could not do so, she would teach me how to snowboard instead. And thus began my sport legacy.

"When I came home the next summer to complete my kahs-wan, I wished very much to visit the memorial to the Intrepid, which I knew to be here in ShiKahr. But I was surprised at its somberness, its austerity. To me, almost an offworlder, it might have been logical to presume that I expected it to be as that of the USS Hope on Terra."

Christine wondered how he knew about this, then realized his parents had likely taken him there as they lived in San Francisco when he was growing up. She felt Spock hold her aura protectively through their link. *You do honor him, my wife. And know that I love you.*

Stark continued. "I presumed that it was the wish of the families, so I said nothing. But years later, when I began to compete for Vulcan, I talked with my fellow athletes. And with other Vulcans I met in my travels. All of us had been touched by the tragedy, not a family had not suffered its own loss. And we began to speak openly of the Intrepid and its legacy.

"Every one I spoke with said the same thing. They wanted to honor those in their families who gave their lives that day. Because as illogical as it may seem, that event helped all of us move forward. Our Vulcan culture is as strong as it ever was, but we now share its uniqueness with all the peoples of our galaxy, as Vulcans continue to serve side by side with the galaxy's diverse races on board the starships of Federation's fleet."

He paused, then looked behind him where a fabric covered the wall. In one movement, the curtain fell away. A soft gasp was heard. Stark turned back to the crowd. "There is an individual stone square on this wall with the name of each person in the Intrepid's crew. The choice will be up to the families of those who are gone, but they may decorate the stone as they see fit, to honor the memory of the name. As you can see, I have chosen to have a picture of my grandparents, which was taken at the seashore they both enjoyed studying. That way, I have put faces to their names not only for myself, but for anyone who would wish to know of them.

"And in the recent film, 'Songs of a Vulcan Spring,' the beautiful fire flower was sung of. As every Vulcan schoolchild knows, the fire flower blooms early in the spring, as a sign that our land is once again reborn, despite the searing heat of the summer and the winter's sandstorms."

Stark indicated the large covered object that was in the middle of the plaza. Two attendants removed the cloth and another soft gasp was heard. Then there was a sound of water splashing.

"This is a perennial fountain, cut from the finest local stone. The design at the top is the fire flower's delicate bloom. And in time, I hope this place will be graced with our native vegetation and that it shall become a place for all peoples of the galaxy to visit ... to learn ... to remember ... to honor."

At that moment, T'Lara led the group of children to the fountain. One by one, each threw a fire flower blossom into the cool water, then they sat around the fountain's base.

"My way of giving back to Vulcan and to the galaxy is to invite its children here to partake of my passion for sport. This winter we shall have our first scholarship program at the facility I have given to ShiKahr, the facility which officially opens tomorrow. But in closing, I say to you that it is due to the memory of those I honor today that we stand here before you. And I am honored to say thank you to you, my people, for allowing me to come home."

There was silence, for Vulcans did not applaud. But the offworld guests had no qualms about doing so, and soon, a standing ovation was being given to the champion. Ambassador Sarek moved forward and gave a traditional salutation of thanks in the Vulcan language, which Stark answered in kind. T'Joan came forward and did the same. From her seat next to her niece and General S'Toick, T'sai T'Ser felt something not unlike a paradigm shift. It was as though the darkness which had enveloped the planet after the tragedy had finally given way to glorious full daylight.

At last.

* * *

 

Much, much earlier that morning ... on board the Enterprise...

Ajax gingerly opened one eye, then closed it again. He groaned. The room was doing Titan turns, and he did not even know what those were.

"Yeoman Ajax," a voice said.

The Bolian opened both eyes this time, despite the pain doing so caused him. A suitably stern-looking Starfleet officer was regarding him.

"Who are you?" he asked, realizing his throat was as parched as a Fuegan desert. Where the hell was he, anyway? This wasn't his apartment at the Bolian staff complex.

"That is no way to address a superior officer, yeoman." The lieutenant scowled.

"Superior officer? What the fu**? I'm a staff member of the Bolarus IX Diplomatic Mission to Vulcan. Where am I?" What the galaxy had he been drinking, anyway?

"Not any longer, yeoman. If you recall, you decided to enlist in Starfleet last night, after you lost your third hand of poker."

"I did? I couldn't have. Don't you have to take an exam or something?" Ajax felt sick, and not from the alcohol he had consumed. Starfleet? As in voyages to hostile planets?

"Our Captain administered the oath last night when you beamed aboard. You shall take the exam in a week's time, when we call at Starbase 45, but until then, you have been given the temporary rank of Yeoman First Class, assigned to engineering. You report there in 30 minutes."

"EngiNEERING? I'm a diplomat, for fu**'s sake! I demand to speak with the Bolian Ambassador, immediately!" Desperation laced his tone.

"A diplomat? Using language like that? I don't think so." The Lieutenant paused for an agonizing moment. "You sound like someone who passed out in the transporter bay of the gambling cruiser last night."

Ajax realized the cadence of the lieutenant's tone had changed to ... amusing? "Who are you?" he asked again.

"I'm Lieutenant Dillon, Ajax. Welcome aboard the Enterprise." Greg Dillon's mouth finally showed a smile. Over his shoulder, three familiar faces appeared, laughing evilly. Riley, Kyle and Sulu.

Ajax moaned. Why was he not surprised? "How did I get here?" he finally asked, when the general hilarity had died down.

"Like Greg said, man," Riley offered. "You passed out right there in the transporter bay on the cruiser. Too many Vulcan Volcanoes. I told you not to drink with those Orion chicks, they're dangerous. We couldn't let you go back to your embassy in that condition. So Dr. McCoy ok'd you to be brought aboard for medical treatment, and Ambassador Sarek cleared it with your boss. You're cool, my friend, you don't have to go home till tomorrow."

"Of course, we're heading back to the cruiser tonight, to play some tongo. Kyle swears he knows how to count the cards." Sulu gave Ajax a sympathetic smile. "You up for that?"

"How come you're all in such good spirits?" They had been drinking as much as he had.

"We had antitox, but you're Bolian, so they had to come up with a different med for you." Kyle shrugged. "It took awhile longer. Them's the breaks, mate."

Nurse practitioner Jodriguez appeared just then with a hypospray. "Here you go, Ajax. This has been compounded for the Bolian metabolism. You should be feeling much better in no time."

Ajax closed his eyes. As they said, all things were indeed possible. He imagined telling this ludicrous tale at the next diplomatic poker night.

* * *

 

Back in ShiKahr (after the comic relief)

The crowd was slowly dispersing. Many were heading straight to the wall of remembrance, searching for relative's names. It was a moving sight for all present.

"Stark?" a distinguished voice asked.

Stark turned, and, when he saw who was addressing him, bowed deeply.

"T'sai T'Pau, amsetri tre," he said reverently.

"Shaya tonat," T'Pau replied easily, before switching back to Standard. "Thee has done a great thing for the Vulcan people this day. We thank thee. From darkness comes light and thy wisdom and logic has helped us see this progression. This place shall indeed be a place of honor and remembrance. I knew of thy grandparents, Stark. Thee are a credit to their memory. And I hope to be at thy bonding ceremony when the time is decided." Her stately eye held the barest twinkle in it.

"I thank thee, T'Pau, and yes, T'Lara and I shall be honored to have thee at our bonding."

"Live long and prosper, Stark of Vulcan," T'Pau said softly as she gave the traditional salute.

"And thee, T'sai T'Pau," Stark replied.

Stark let out a long breath. "Whew," he finally said.

"What troubles you, Stark?" Ambassador Sarek asked.

Stark looked at the group before him. "I was afraid she would regard me as a t'var'eth, a bad boy," he finally admitted. "But she did not."

"As she said, Stark, you have done a positive thing this day. Come, let us celebrate this at the cultural palace," Sarek replied.

* * *

 

Stonn's fingertips touched the carved name, T'Kosh. "My cousin," he said softly. "She was a geologist. Her intended, Safou, was a transporter chief."

T'Mara looked at her parents. "I am glad you brought me here today," she said with the innocence only a child could bring to a situation. "But may I still go to Paris when I am studying at university?"

T'Pring put her arm around her daughter, while giving her bondmate the traditional two-fingered sign of affection. "Yes, T'Mara. Your father and I shall take you there personally, and we shall re-read every Madeline holobook on the journey. But for now, shall we spend the afternoon at the zoo? It has been so long since we were last in ShiKahr, and it would be quite enjoyable."

"The zoo? That would be quite cosmic!" T'Mara, like every Vulcan child, had adopted Stark's favorite phrase, and no one seemed to mind in the least.

"Let us be off, then, family," Stonn said pleasantly.

* * *

 

"So, what do you think?" Christine showed the PADD screen to her friends.

Ade M'Benga let out a whistle, matched by McCoy. "Sweet," he breathed. McCoy nodded in agreement.

Nyota sighed. "I want one like that," she said after a moment. "But what would I do with it?"

"That's the point, exactly why Amanda told me to do something we would not ordinarily do. So I thought and thought, and this was the perfect solution." Christine gave a grin of satisfaction. "Spock will so be surprised. And he can't do anything about it, it's my decision. Woo hoo!"

"Cherry?" M'Benga asked.

"Yep. Damn, what a treat this will be."

"Psst!" Nyota hissed quietly.

"So, we missed you at the gambling cruiser last night," Christine said as Spock joined them. "What did you get up to?"

"We did the 'King Solomon's Mines' triple play," M'Benga offered.

"Triple play?" McCoy answered, rising to the distracting bait thrown his way.

"The original, the first remake, and then 'Congo' in all its scenery chewing splendor," Nyota added. "We hadn't laughed like that in months."

"Scenery chewing?" Spock asked. When no one said anything, he simply stated, "I believe that is your department, Dr. McCoy, Now if you will excuse me, I must check in with Mr. Pauulu."

"That was a close one," Christine said as she watched her husband depart.

"Speaking of close ones, the cheetah cub is out of the cave," M'Benga said with a smile. "We're now officially a couple." He put his arm around Nyota and gave her a kiss.

"Yeah, I want details," McCoy said. "Now."

* * *

 

"So did you have any problems understanding what I was saying?" Stark asked, between endless meetings with the media.

Kala shook her head. "I was watching in Klingonese, and K'a'tya was watching in Standard. We kept sneaking looks at each other's handhelds, though, when we were confused. The guys thought that was very funny."

Stark threw her a grin. "At any rate, the speech was published in 76 languages, so I don't think there will be any problems. See you tomorrow, right?"

"Affirmative," Greg Dillon replied. When Stark had moved on, he turned to Kala. "Some ice cream, perhaps, my lady? We have a busy day and night ahead of us."

Kala gave him her special little smile. "I'd be honored, Greg."

* * *

 

"Dr. Chapel?" Christine turned to see T'Lara at her side.

"Hello, T'Lara. What's up? And it's Christine, you know." She gave T'Lara a smile, which she knew the young woman would accept.

"May I speak to you in private, of something?" It was clear that T'Lara had difficulty expressing even this simplest of requests.

"Sure, why don't we go for a walk down the mall and see the monument, now that the crowds have thinned out a bit?"

"That would be agreeable, Doc er -- Christine," T'Lara replied.

* * *

 

T'Mara studied the informational plaque, practicing her Standard. "The swan is found throughout much of Terra, and is either black or white in its overall color. Baby swans are called cygnets. The cygnet stays with its parents until it is time to find a mate. Swans are said to mate for life. They are devoted and protective mates and parents."

She looked over the enclosure's wall at the pond filled with the large, stately birds and the gangly, fluffy babies who paddled behind them. "I am certain Madeline would have fed swans in the parks of Paris."

"Indeed, it seems logical that on one of the class excursions, they would chance upon swans somewhere," T'Pring agreed. "They are beautiful, are they not, Stonn?" Since discovering the joys of the Madeline series, still going strong hundreds of years after its first publication, T'Mara was totally enamored of Paris and dreamed of studying sculpture there. She was already producing some quite artistic pieces in the small backyard workshop Stonn and she had built together.

"Yes, quite elegant in their demeanor. I can see why the Terrans wrote ballets and musical compositions about the species."

"But how do they choose a mate for their lifetime? Do their parents arrange this somehow?" T'Mara's face was a mask of concentration. "Otherwise, the match might not be logical."

Her parents exchanged a long look. T'Mara was approaching seven, the age at which many Vulcans, especially those in the outlying provinces, sought a bonding match for their children. It was obviously the subject of discussion among her classmates. Stonn and T'Pring had long ago decided that T'Mara would not be bonded so young, and that she would have the opportunity not only to visit offworld, but to meet potential bondmates at school and other socially acceptable activities. When the time was right, they would guide her in selecting a logical mate. It was, T'Pring had concluded, the least she could do after the scandalous events of her own recent past. She thanked the ancestors they had not run into Spock and his wife, who she knew to be in ShiKahr as they had just been bonded themselves. Best to let the past stay firmly in the past.

T'Pring waited a moment before she replied, thinking over the last years. It had not been an easy transition from the city to the provincial existence in Go'an they now had, but their current life was a good one. The gossip and speculation which greeted them had eventually died out as new subjects of conversation were found. She and Stonn had made friends and still kept in contact with family members in ShiKahr. In fact, they were staying with his aunt and uncle, the ones whose daughter had been among those lost. The visit had been quite pleasant so far, and T'Pring was relieved to see that it was no longer considered a breach of social etiquette for them to be seen in the capital. This was their first visit back since that time. Of course, things would never be as they once had been, but the mere fact they had been able to bring T'Mara here for a visit was a sign that things were slowly returning to some semblance of normalcy. T'Pring and Stonn both wished the best for their daughter, that she would not have to bear the blame for what had not even been her doing.

"Why all this talk of bondmates, my daughter?" she asked T'Mara as she ran a hand affectionately over her daughter's smooth dark tresses. "And no, I should think swans make their own decisions about their mates. Though one never knows, swans may have their own version of marriage brokers." She tried for levity. Bonding was such a heavy topic of discussion for a child, as she recalled.

T'Mara looked up at her parents. "I am soon seven, and T'Cass says that I must be bonded, as she shall be, in the autumn. She told me that is the reason you brought me to ShiKahr, that you had selected my bondmate for me and the families would meet. And she also stated that she herself was to be bonded to the most prestigious clan in our province, but because of shame on your houses, my bondmate had to be found elsewhere, that he would not be of a good clan because I am unworthy." She looked almost fearful. "Is this so? Have you done this, my parents?" Her gaze moved down to the ground in acquiescence. "I understand if you have."

"Why would T'Cass say such an illogical thing? It is not mandatory that all children of age be bonded this autumn," Stonn replied. "And there is no shame attached to you, my daughter, do not trouble yourself. Leave that to your mother and me to take care of. You are a worthy, fine Vulcan young woman, never doubt that."

Stonn had a very good idea who had been telling T'Cass such nonsense. The child's mother, T'Kris, the self-proclaimed social scion of their neighborhood, was likely the source. Stonn was annoyed, a very un-Vulcan, but totally understandable, emotion. He worked with the woman's husband, Sthom, who had long ago proclaimed his bondmate a duhik su'lak. Prestigious clan? Which one would that be? The one in T'Kris' mind, perhaps? She had been the reigning persona of import, or so she fancied herself, until his wife had moved to the area. Even with T'Pring's quiet attempts to go about her own business, the difference between the two women's breeding and demeanor, quite apparent, had been the cause of much discontent for T'Kris over the years. Coupled with the scandalous subject matter of what had happened before their arrival, she had decided that T'Pring's intrusion, unintentional though it was, on the attention normally paid to her had been unacceptable, and had been most illogical in her venomous gossip, speculation and rumor. Had that not at last been finished? It had occurred at a difficult time on Vulcan to begin with, and they had been foolish youngsters, back then anyway, so to speak. Time had matured all parties involved. Could they not get on with their lives at long last? He and Sthom would have a long discussion next week, that was certain. Fortunately, Sthom shared his opinions on the matter.

Stonn bent down and spoke to his daughter, while T'Pring took the child's hand in her own. "No, T'Mara, that is not why we brought you to ShiKahr. We have seen Stark dedicate the Wall of Remembrance for the Intrepid crew, and you know that my own cousin was one of those lost. Tomorrow, we shall attend the official opening of the new facility, which all of Vulcan has been anticipating. Then Stark's engineering staff shall show the visiting engineers and scientists how they have harnessed our sun's power to make snow indoors, which will be quite fascinating."

T'Mara looked skeptical. Scientific lectures sounded boring, as they would to any child in the galaxy. Still, her father was himself a solar engineer, so it was logical they should attend.

"But you and I shall instead see the ice dancing exhibition put on by Selek and T'Lea in the new ice arena, which opens with the facility tomorrow," T'Pring added. "It is a beautiful sport, graceful as the swan's flight. And perhaps we might be able to try our hand at ice skating?"

"Ice skating?" T'Mara's eyes shown with unspoken glee. "Oh, yes, that would be so..."

"Cosmic?" Stonn finished with a look of affection at his daughter. "Yes, most assuredly, it should be that. Now let us go to the new food mall in the diplomatic compound, and see what culinary wonders are to be found there. And no more talk of bondings yet, T'Mara. You may tell T'Cass that if she has questions about your bondmate, to speak to your mother or myself."

"Yes, when the time is right, we shall help you make the logical choice, but the mate you choose shall be your own decision." T'Pring looked at her husband, glad at last that the long ago wrong might now be made right.

"Even if I choose an artist from Paris?" T'Mara could not resist asking. The artists she had already begun to read of all seemed to be passionate about their work, something she admired greatly.

"If he is a logical and sound mate, yes, why not?" T'Pring replied firmly.

* * *

 

"So tell me, T'Lara," Christine asked as they sat down on a shaded bench at the mall's edge. "How did a young woman from a desert planet become so proficient at ice sailing?"

"Sand sailing has been practiced on Vulcan's deserts for centuries," T'Lara replied. "I grew up in the interior provinces, where it is a very popular pastime, requiring great precision and skill. In fact, when Stark takes the group on the excursion to Kwil'tor on Tuesday, I shall be giving a demonstration of sandsailing to them. It is too bad you and Spock cannot join us, the day should prove most fascinating. Many of the children, and some of the adults, have never seen the seashore."

"We'll be thinking of you, T'Lara, and I'll be sure to send you and Stark a vidcard from our travels. They do something called kite sailing near Pismo Beach, have you ever tried that?"

"Yes, I went on a trip to Santa Barbara once, with some of my university friends, and I gave it a try. Very different but somehow still the same idea. As for ice sailing, UC Davis is close to Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Lakes and Yosemite, so the opportunities to try the winter version of my sport were plentiful. The coaches tell me I was a natural."

"Well, you certainly did well for Vulcan at Polaris. A bronze medal in Vulcan's first ever ice sailing venture. I'm sure there will be more interest by the times the SportsFest returns to Lake Tahoe in a few years." Christine smiled, remembering how she and Spock had watched much of the Polaris competitions in his cabin, during the early days of their courtship. Spock had soon learned the woman he was falling in love with was a formidable force to be reckoned with when it came to viewing sporting competitions.

"But I did not bring you here to talk about sports, really," T'Lara continued. She looked across the mall at the Wall of Remembrance, where interested crowds still gathered. "I would speak to you of something, but it is a most difficult thing for me to discuss."

"T'Lara, if you are not comfortable speaking to me, perhaps you should try someone else. Your mother, perhaps? Or do you have a sister? I'm an offworlder, remember."

The young woman hesitated a moment, as though coming to terms with herself. With a final glance at the Wall, she turned back to Christine. "No. I would speak to you, if you would permit it? As a physician?"

Christine understood instantly. "Our conversation is protected by the healer and patient bond, T'Lara. I know this. Please speak freely if you wish."

"As you must know, the loss of the Intrepid touched most of Vulcan's society, in many unusual ways. Stark has done a wonderful thing by his memorial, so that all may know the cost of the loss and realize what it did for our culture, in a roundabout way."

"Did your family lose someone, T'Lara?" Christine asked gently.

She shook her head. "Not exactly, but the loss affected my family in a terrible way. And now I am behaving in a most illogical way because of it."

Christine took the young woman's hand. "Tell me, T'Lara, if you wish. What is troubling you?" She remembered a similar conversation, had it only been days ago, with another Vulcan, only she had been the one with a heavy heart.

"I have a sister. Her name is T'Raea. She was bonded to a young man who served at Vulcanis, repairing starships of various kinds. His name was Sklif. It was he who suffered the loss. His parents, engineering technicians both, perished aboard the Intrepid leaving him head of the immediate family -- just him and two siblings."

She paused for a moment, as if remembering a different time. Then she went on, slowly and deliberately. "The grief that overcame all of Vulcan did many illogical things to our people. That is now finally spoken of by the healers at the Science Academy, and even in families to some extent. Sklif was apparently affected very greatly. He entered pon farr a year later, only he was at one of the orbiting space stations which surround our planet. A severe ion storm delayed his return several days. By the time he reached the ancestral place of bonding, he was deep in plak-tow and could not even speak."

Christine shivered, remembering what she had heard, and seen, of Spock during his first pon farr. The distance in time seemed centuries, not years, ago. She had always wondered what happened during this time. Now she was going to find out.

"The bonding ceremony went as planned. I was my sister's attendant. She and I had been very close, sharing confidences and the things sisters do, so we had no reason to worry, it was a joyous occasion of bonding. But as the chaperons were escorting the couple to the place of shan'ha'lak, Sklif lost control. He...could not help what he did, but he was so disoriented, he ... hurt my sister. My family, who were still at the ancestral temple, managed to subdue him before more injuries could be sustained, but by then it was very bad for my sister." T'Lara closed her eyes and took a calming breath. "I and my mother were holding her, waiting for the emergency healers to arrive, and I watched her blood stain the ground, the life force that would help her bear children someday, leave her body."

"T'Lara -- I am so sorry for what happened," Christine said softly. She could barely fathom what had been described. It was -- so un Vulcan a thing.

But the young woman was not finished. "It was said that the delayed reaction to Sklif's loss, and the added delay of his bonding once he entered pon farr caused a chemical imbalance in his body which precipitated his actions. As unforgiving an event as it may have been, there was no way to have predicted its occurrence or ... its savagery.

"My sister recovered after much time in the hospital. It was found she could not have children due to her injuries. In time, she and Sklif divorced, and he rebonded. My sister instead went to the monastery at P'Jem, where a form of Kolinahr is practiced. She is there still. I have not seen her in many years, and I miss her presence greatly."

"And your mother?" Christine asked, remembering the pleasant woman she had met at her own bonding.

"We did not speak of the incident for many months. After I finished school at 16, my mother took me for a nine month trip to Terra. You see, her side of the family have the business acumen for running our family's winery, while my father and his brothers have the viticultural knowledge. A logical match. Anyway, we went to many of the wine growing regions: Southern Europe, California, Chile, Australia, learning what new things and ways we could of the business. It was her way of spending time with me, of healing the terrible blow to our psyche that had happened. On this trip, I decided to study viticulture at UC Davis once I turned 18. When we returned to Vulcan, I worked for a time in ShiKahr at the marketing headquarters of the winery and lived with my cousins, who you met. Then I left for Terra." She paused to take another deep breath. "But I cannot speak to my mother as I speak to you, She still blames herself for what happened, and I know she, too, misses my sister.

"I had been bonded to a young man from our province, but out of respect of what had happened to our family, they released the bond, for which I was very grateful. I was ... frightened of bonding, as illogical as it is to acknowledge fear." T'Lara gave Christine an almost sad look.

"Don't think that, T'Lara," Christine replied as she squeezed her hand. "You had every right to feel that way, after what happened."

"But it is our people's way, something that happens. This time it went very wrong, but for me, I had to face the fact that a new bondmate would need to be found for me eventually. I meditated on this, even thought about joining my sister at P'Jem instead of bonding at all. And then I met Stark."

T'Lara's demeanor changed instantly and she relaxed. "He is so different, and so good a companion, I cherish him greatly. I hope that we can have the same type of relationship I see that you and Spock have."

"Spock and I have?" Christine was surprised. Their relationship was unconventional to say the least, how could it be admired by a Vulcan?

"You and he are comfortable with each other. I saw it at your celebration. It's clear you cherish each other very much, and he watches your every move with a look of ... contentment, I guess. I feel this way with Stark and look forward to our marriage when we graduate from university. I know our bond will be logical ... and comfortable."

"But you are still troubled?" Christine asked.

T'Lara nodded. "I am. Stark is half Deltan, and as we know Deltans are sexual beings. I worry that his pon farr, if it comes, may make him even more uncontrollable than ... my sister's intended. What if he is competing far away when it happens, if he is delayed in returning? And I want to see him through his time safely, but I am...apprehensive, and fear I may not be able to fulfill my wifely duties, though I am quite keen to do so. The idea of ... being with Stark is not at all unpleasant, but I do not wish for this to be spoiled by my ... fears."

She looked at Christine seriously. "I wish to speak to one of our own healers, if possible, as I have done to you, but I do not know how to look for one. Stark knows all that has happened and supports my decision to obtain some ... closure, as he calls it. Perhaps you could make a discreet inquiry for me? As a physician?"

"I can do better than that, T'Lara. I know just the person to whom you would speak, and she is not only a healer, she is Vulcan as well. In fact, I can probably contact her back at the reception, she's there with some of her family, I believe. I can introduce her to you, but you must make the effort to ask for her guidance and healing. Does that sound agreeable?"

"It does, Christine. My family and I ... and Stark ... are in your debt. Thank you for listening to my illogical babbling."

Christine took T'Lara's shoulders firmly. "You were not babbling, T'Lara. That's what girlfriends are for. To listen and to give advice. You've met two of my closest friends, and believe me, without their friendship, you would not have been at my wedding ... was it only yesterday?"

"It was." T'Lara also realized how much had transpired in so short a time.

"T'Lara, I presume you have friends too. Spend them time with them and let their energy help you heal, too. It may be un-Vulcan, but I somehow think female bonding transcends all cultural differences. Now, let's get back to the reception before Stark, Spock and Sierra come looking for us."

* * *

 

"T'sai T'Ser," Christine said in relief. "I am so glad to have seen you. May we speak in private for a moment?"

T'Ser turned to her companion. "I'll be gone for a bit, General, but I am certain there are many people here with whom thee might have a fascinating conversation."

"Indeed, but I shall await thy return nonetheless," he replied.

She indicated that Christine should follow her to a terraced patio, which she did. The warm breezes bathed her face. The stress of the week was beginning to take its toll, and the last conversation she'd had was very taxing.

"T'sai TSer, forgive me, but I must speak to you. I -- fear I cannot find the proper words, but there is someone in need of your assistance."

"Christine, calm yourself. I can see what the issue is. I shall await T'sai T'Lara's contact." T'Ser regarded Christine calmly. "But you, this is time for your honeymoon, not for anxiety. Has this week also brought you memories of your father?"

Christine nodded, tears filling her eyes. She could no longer keep them back. "I can't let Spock see me like this, he must not see me cry."

"Do you not remember what I told you? He worries about you far more than he would show. Your emotion will not drive him away, he seeks to protect you from pain. Now, give me your hands, child. We shall bring you closure."

Christine took the woman's hands in her own and closed her eyes. She felt a soothing energy envelop her, while a quiet voice whispered in her ear.

"All shall be well. All shall be well. All manner of things shall be well."

Some moments later, Christine opened her eyes and looked at the woman before her.

"Thank you, T'sai T'Ser," she said, from the bottom of her heart."

"Thanks are unnecessary, Christine, you are more of a healer than you recognize. Now here is your husband. Do not keep him waiting."

A moment later, the patio door to the terrace opened. "Christine? Good afternoon, T'sai T'Ser. Christine, Worf and K'a'tya are leaving for the reception at the Klingon Embassy, and we will not see them again, so we should say our goodbyes now." He raised an eyebrow. "Are you all right, my wife?"

"I'm fine, Spock. T'sai T'Ser were just talking shop, one healer to another."

"Indeed," Spock said as he offered his wife his arm.

* * *

 

"And Greg had convinced Ajax he'd enlisted in Starfleet," Kala laughed. I was hiding in the next room, but trust me, the guy was scared out of his blue blood!"

"We must tell K'e'flex this story at the reception tonight. Ajax shall never live it down," Worf said. "Perhaps someone in the Klingon Defense Corps should try this as well ... at a celebration..."

"Worf! That is not nice!" K'a'tya gave her husband an amused, though scathing, look.

"Worf, K'a'tya, we are here to take our farewells of you, for we know you are off to other events, and our starcruiser departs just after midnight," Spock said.

"We thank you and your family for your hospitality, and for welcoming us to Vulcan. My family, and my clan, shall not soon forget this kindness. And may your joining be prosperous and fulfilling." Worf and K'a'tya gave each other a special look of satisfaction. It had been a wonderful trip and it was far from over yet.

"Thank you, Worf, son of Worf," Spock replied. "Live long and prosper."

"And keep in touch," Christine added, just before she gave K'a'tya a very human hug. "So where's Mogh?"

"He is already at the Klingon Embassy, where we are heading. It would seem he is the darling of the intergalactic media at the moment. Have a wonderful ... honeymoon is it?" K'a'tya replied. "Thank you for your friendship, Christine. I hope someday our peoples will truly be friends as well."

"We thank you as well, K'a'tya, Worf," Christine said. Then she turned to Kala and Greg Dillon. "I hear there's going to be quite a celebration over at the Deltan embassy this evening," she said with a wink.

"There sure is, and we're headed there after the Klingon Ambassador's reception," Kala said with a knowing grin. "We'll have a drink for you, don't worry."

"A lemon drop martini at the least," Christine told her. "That's an order!"

"Aye, ma'am!"

* * *

 

Spock keyed the entry code into their cabin, They had just finished a quiet dinner of farewell with his parents, the Captain and Dr. McCoy. All of them were headed back to ShiKahr for the first night of celebratory parties. Both Spock and Christine had informed Kirk that they had been asked to attend at Stark and T'Lara's joining on Vulcan in approximately two year's time, and had been surprised to learn that Kirk not only agreed to it, he immediately notified Starfleet to put it in the official calendar of record. Apparently, it would once again be a week of celebrations.

But there was plenty of time to recover from the lat week of celebrations. The starcruiser was built for speed, rather like the old Terran Concorde, so there would be little entertainment apart from what they provided themselves, an inviting prospect. It was not a star cruiseliner, though the service was beyond first class in excellence. The clientele of a starcruiser usually reveled in the privacy, and speed, such transport afforded. Christine had been firm on treating them to a roundtrip fare. "The discretionary fund has seen to my family's well-being," she said. "I insist."

"You seem fatigued, my wife, are you well?" Spock asked with some concern.

"Too much fun and not enough sleep. Sorry, Spock, I'm wiped out. I think I'll do some yoga, have a shower, and then crash, if that's ok?"

He kissed her. "Indeed, that seems fine. I shall meditate and then join you in bed later. I, too, am feeling the effects of the week catch up with me."

Christine did her stretches then reveled in the warmth of a sonic shower. She put on her one of her favorite pj's, with the tap dancing frogs, and crawled into the narrow bed. Starcruisers were speedy but not exactly super luxe in their furnishings.

She looked out the window of their observation deck and saw the stars begin to move. The ship was starting to warp out of orbit. Their honeymoon was about to begin.

She was asleep well before Spock entered the sleeping chambers.

* * *

 

"Payback's a bi**h," Christine said venomously as she advanced on him, holding an icy snowball in each hand.

Spock tried to run, but the planet's surface texture was purest glaze, and his bare feet were no match for smooth glass. He shivered. How had he been dragged here, and without his clothes? The evil glare in his wife's eyes turned his own blood to frost. She had never said a thing. Now this? He opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out except a rasping sound.

She lobbed the snowballs at the most tender part of his anatomy and did not miss the target. The sensation was horrible. It was cold. More than cold.

In fact, he really was very cold.

Spock struggled out of the uncharacteristic dream and realized he had somehow ended up on top of the blankets. The starcruiser's air conditioned environment was quite different to the week spent on Vulcan, where no amount of cooling took the edge out of the heat.

He glanced around him. Through the window of their individual observation deck, he could see the stars passing quickly by through the darkness of space. He had been dead asleep for four hours straight. Obviously, the week's activities and festive occasions had indeed caught up with both of them. His wife was curled up next to him under the covers.

Thirsty. Yes, the dry conditioned air was what had caused the sensations of a desert terrain in his throat. He slid out of bed and went to the stasis container, withdrew a pitcher of water filled with some fresh lime slices, and poured some out. Christine's deep, even breathing told him she was still sleeping, but he nonetheless took the glass back to their bed. He sat down and had a long, satisfying sip.

"Spock?" Christine's voice was soft in the darkness. Wordlessly, he handed her the container and she, too, took a drink of the refreshing liquid. "Thanks, how did you know I was parched?"

He smiled as he got back beneath the covers and drew her into his arms. His fingers carefully brushed the hair out of her eyes, an affectionate gesture he did on a regular basis. They lay there, touching, conveying their love through the bond they now fully shared.

"Have I told you again how sorry I am that I threw the soup at you, Christine?" he finally asked.

She did not answer flippantly, which was her usual tactic. "Yes, Spock," she replied, snuggling against his shoulder. "You tell me every day, at least once, if not twice, and yes, my beloved. I forgive you. It was something...beyond your control. Now sleep, my love, because I intend to wake you up happy."

"I am always happy when you are sleeping in my arms, my wife."

* * *

 

Mogh was asleep, his new autographed snowboard on the pillow next to him. His dreams were filled with an ocean he had never seen, swirling sand dunes to conquer, and the wonder of the new friends he had made so far.

"If only he could stay innocent a little while longer, my mate," K'a'tya sighed. "But soon he shall be a grown man..."

"Perhaps not quite that quickly, but yes, soon he will discover the joys of the female species and his life will never again be the same."

"WORF!" she hissed, even though she was smiling. They walked through the adjoining door of their suite, but instead of heading to the large bed, K'a'tya went into the bathroom. "I believe my back needs to be bathed," she sighed seductively as she turned on the bathtub's water taps.

* * *

 

Sarek finished his meditation and was surprised to see the kitchen light still on. He wandered in to find Amanda seated at the table having what appeared to be an ice cream soda.

"Hello Sarek," she said pleasantly. "Would you care for a root beer float?"

"Root beer?" Sarek was incredulous. "How did you obtain this, my wife? It is scarce even in the diplomatic compound." He considered the offer. "Yes, I should desire one, it would be a fine end to a fine week."

Amanda swiftly made another glass and joined him once more. "It was sent over from the Bolian mission. Compliments of an aide named Ajax?"

"Ah." Sarek recalled the comatose young man on the gambling cruiser. Luckily for him, the Bolian Ambassador had not been in much better shape so it was an easy task to get the aide over to the relative safety of the Enterprise to recover, and no one was the wiser. Though apparently some very amusing goings on had occurred afterwards. Spock and Christine had filled them in at dinner. "But how did he know you favored root beer, Aduna?"

"I met him at the bar and had ordered one. The Ferengi had just about everything available, so I was indulging in a float. Ajax mentioned they had also received a supply at his embassy from the Ferengi. The Ambassador apparently likes the drink. Can you imagine?"

"After this week, my wife, there is very little I would not believe," her husband replied as he took another discreet slurp. An image of a bright pink condom wrapper would not leave his mind. "Speaking of believing, I wonder what illogical conclusions T'Glad has drawn from the past few days? No doubt Skrav shall be over in the morning to fill me in."

"I saw her briefly this afternoon, with her mother. She was blathering on about an impossible tale of having seen Stonn and T'Pring at the ceremony. What nonsense!"

"And if they were? It is done and gone. They have their life in Go'an, and have a child, from what we know. And now our son and his wife have also started their life together. So it is finished. To dwell on the past accomplishes nothing, my beloved." He finished the last of the ice cream at the bottom of the glass. "Shall we attempt to get at least some sleep? Morning shall be upon us very soon, and we have another busy day ahead."

Amanda looked around the now empty kitchen and a slight look of sadness passed over her features. Sarek came up and enfolded her in his arms.

"You miss them, do you not, my wife? As do I. But two years shall pass quickly and soon they shall return for Stark and T'Lara's bonding. I should imagine you and T'sai T'Joan have already begun planning the event?" His mouth turned up in its characteristic special smile like movement.

Amanda said nothing, just enjoyed the intimacy of the moment.

* * *

 

Stark's father looked around the door of his son's private office at the sports complex. Sure enough. Stark and Sierra were asleep on the bed, snoring mightily, the both of them.

"He's in here," Da'av said to T'Joan. "The rest of you head back home and get some sleep. It'll be time to be back again before we know it. I'll stay with him. Just bring a change of clothes for us when you do come back, OK?"

The week had really only begun for Stark.

* * *

 

T'Mara was asleep, holding her new stuffed toy swan. She dreamed.

It had been a wonderful evening. Her father had attended a scientific reception, but she, her mother and her aunt had made something called popcorn and had watched two holovids. The first was of an old Terran ballet called "Swan Lake" and T'Mara had been entranced by the beautiful ballerinas and the enchanting storyline. Her aunt had said that there might be a visiting ballet company in ShiKahr in a few months, so she and her mother would have to come for a visit then and all of them could have a ladies' day out, as she called it. And perhaps T'Mara might begin taking dance lessons now that she was becoming young lady?

T'Mara had been pleased, because for once, the faraway detached look her mother usually wore had softened, as it had at the zoo when they looked at the strange creature called a giraffe. It was so seldom she saw her mother look that way, and T'Mara wondered what she had done wrong, that her parents were always so preoccupied. She had vowed to herself that someday they would all be together in Paris, far from such worries.

The next vid had been called "The Accidental Parisians." It told the amusing tale of two modern Andorians who somehow ended up transporting back to 21st century Paris, well before the Terrans had even met an Andorian. The series of misadventures they had gone through before those from their time finally effected rescue had been a most diverting and entertaining story. Her aunt had picked out the vid specially because of where it took place, and T'Mara liked that.

So she dreamed of something called ice dancing, which her mother said was ballet done on ice, and of baby cygnets growing up into sleek, beautiful swans, and Paris, and of a time when T'Cass and her friends would not ridicule her for something called 'bad blood'. T'Mara knew she was not ill, so how could her blood be bad?

Perhaps she, too, would become a swan.

* * *

 

Leonard McCoy had just gotten to bed when the call came. "Dr. McCoy to sickbay, on the double!"

Swearing lustily, McCoy threw on his clothes and rushed down the hall, wondering what the emergency was. The doors whooshed open and his heart nearly stopped.

His sickbay was staffed entirely with Vulcan males and Orion females. The Vulcans all wore dour, Spock-like expressions, while the women were suitably attired for barmaid duty on the Vegas planet.

"It is time for your checkup, Doctor," the head Vulcan physician said tonelessly. Please lie on the table. I am Stikit, your proctologist."

"NO!" McCoy woke up and looked wildly around him. Satisfied he was safely in his own quarters and not passed out in some embassy back room (lord knows he and Jim had visited enough of them that night, with more festivities planned for the next day), he rolled over and went back to sleep. "Don't tell me I've grown accustomed to that face," he muttered.

* * *

 

The dawn was just beginning to break over ShiKahr when the champion ice dancers Selek and T'Lea entered the new arena. They were giving a special exhibition this morning after the official opening, and they were anxious to test the new ice. And later that year, they would be working with some of the more promising young scholarship recipients from Stark's intergalactic program. The notion was pleasing.

The ice called to them, a song they knew well, and they bent to begin their stretches. It was going to be a very fine day.

* * *

 

Over on Qo'nos, it was mid-day. The Defense Corps hockey team, the reigning InterGalactic SportsFest gold medalists, had just finished their workout. Their coach, Kluth, had been adamant for them not to rest on their laurels, as news of a lithe, quick Andorian team was being talked of throughout the galaxy.

Kluth watched the ancient Zamboni chug to life and begin its slow, methodical resurfacing of the ice. In another two hours, there would be ice maneuvers on the rink, and, in the evening, the youth hockey leagues would play.

"Hello, my grandfather," a soft young voice said. A young woman of 7 stood next to the coach.

"PuqnI'be Kanou, it is good to see you looking so ready for your routines. Are you well?" Kluth gave her head an affectionate pat.

"I am, but while we watch the Zamboni, will you not tell me again of how hockey came to our world?" She took out a pair of battered old figure skates and began unlacing them.

"It was many decades ago," Kluth began, sitting down comfortably next to his granddaughter. "A spacer called at one of our outposts, in need of repairs. The captain struck a deal, but it would take some weeks before the parts could be manufactured. The crew was a most motley bunch of scoundrels, from all parts of the quadrant, and even some Terrans. From places like Russia, Canada and a place called Lapland. Well, imagine my surprise, as a young fitness specialist, when they came to our gymnasium that night and asked if they might use it. And then they put on those land skates, what do you call them?"

"Rollerblades, grandfather," Kanou replied, knowing full well she was expected to say this.

"Yes, rollerblades. Well, then they started to skate about with these sticks and a funny shaped round object. We were just astounded at their quickness, and the obvious way they enjoyed the game. I spoke to one of them later."

Kanou tied her skates and listened intently. She never tired of the story.

"He told us of a version played on ice, which he had played in his home town of Moscow. When he learned we had a crude indoor ice rink, but that it was used only for military training, he insisted he be taken there. It turned out he had been a technician at his local hockey arena for years and knew how to effect some design changes. And we spoke more, and he taught me the game. But we had no equipment for playing on the ice."

"Naturally," Kanou sighed, knowing what would happen next.

"It came time for the crew to depart on its way. The captain asked how we should like to be paid. By now, word of this hockey game had reached high up in the defense corps, and those who would make decisions thought this might be a fine way to teach the warriors how to deal with icy worlds, as there are many in the galaxy. So a general came to see the spacer's captain and said we should like payment in ... hockey equipment."

Kanou threw her hands over her mouth to stifle a giggle.

"They agreed, but no one really believed it would transpire. Imagine our surprise when a passing Ferengi cruiser delivered some special containers to our world a few months later. It was the promised equipment, as well as some training vids. And Valeri, for that was the young spacer I became friends with, came back several times over the course of the next years and helped us establish our team. I became the coach eventually, and here we now are, the champions of the galaxy, on which your own brother plays. But you, Kanou, I see better things for you, if only there was a way...you have such a talent, my granddaughter..."

"Grandfather, Kanou, a most important holomail has arrived for you. I have brought it here that you might read it immediately." Kanou's brother stood there with a handheld PADD.

Kluth took the monitor and began to read. His expression changed to one of astonishment. "I do not believe it!" he finally said.

"What is it, grandfather? Is it bad news?" Kanou asked, concerned.

"No, it is very good news, my child. Do you remember, we sent the vid of your skating with the application to attend the winter sports camp that young Stark will have? This is a letter stating that you have been accepted and that you have been awarded a full scholarship, including your travel. You shall be there for two weeks. Do you know what this means?"

Kanou shook her head, too stunned to speak.

"It is the chance we have dreamed of, Kanou. You will meet young sportspeople from all over the galaxy and learn more than I could ever teach you. This will be a wonderful thing for you." Kluth's eyes had a faraway gleam to them, as he speculated on his granddaughter's future.

"Oh grandfather!" Kanou flung her arms around the old man's neck in pure joy.

"Oh, gods," her brother muttered. Then he had an idea. "Perhaps my sister shall need a chaperon on her journey?"

* * *

 

It was the ship's morning on board the starcruiser, but Spock and Christine were still deep in slumber, enjoying the simple pleasure of sleeping together as husband and wife.

The sleek ship slid quietly through the stars.

* * *

 

END OF "Good Morning Starshine" ... with a PS. It happens 20 years in the future and, as we say, it's my universe. If you do NOT like the idea that I spoke about T'Pring's life after all these years, do not read further. If you are intrigued, do read on. But it's really more about her daughter.

 

Paris Opera House 20 years in the future

The velvet drape came down after the last act, and onstage, there was a flurry of activity as the cast of Swan Lake prepared for curtain calls. It was a stunning new version, by the Vulcan choreographer T'Ann, daughter of the award winning filmmaking team, S'omm and T'Annu. The premiere had been this evening and the house was more than full.

The curtain raised slowly once more and a male and female moved to the center of the stage. In her traditional white costume, Prima Ballerina Assoluta of the ShiKahr Ballet Company, the T'sai T'Mara, took her prince's hand and dipped into a low, elegant curtsy as the crowd applauded wildly. Flowers rained down from everywhere.

T'Mara stood once more and graciously accepted a bouquet of red roses. Her eyes scanned the audience until she found the box she sought. There she acknowledged the pleased gaze of her parents, and the happy grin of her good friend Kanou, the just retired, but still reigning, InterGalactic Ladies' Figure Skating Champion.

They had met the first day of sports camp, which T'Mara had been surprised to find herself attending, but she had taken so naturally to ballet that a chance to ice skate had seemed logical too. T'Mara had found the slight Klingon girl sitting on the bed in their shared room, looking inconsolably miserable. It had transpired the young woman was terribly homesick and was afraid that she might be laughed at, as Qo'noS had no figure skaters besides her, and some of the other participants looked so...professional. No stranger to teasing, T'Mara had looked after her roommate well and they had become friends, and had remained so through the years. Years that were filled with discipline, hard work, and, eventually, much reward.

T'Mara raised a hand in salute to the figures in the box, her way of thanking them for helping her realize that she always had been a swan.

FIN for real this time.