Disclaimer:  Copyright 2006 Mistress V, permission to archive at TrekTales, all others just ask.  I do not own anything resembling the copyright, so no infringement intended.  There will be some NC-17 sex between Spock and Christine here and there, it being their honeymoon and all, but I will mark those segments.  However, if you don't like that notion or are under age, please visit the appropriate website of your choice.

 

JOURNEYS

Mistress V

 

Endings and Beginnings

 

Wednesday Evening, Vulcan

 

It had been a day of farewells as the Enterprise prepared to leave Vulcan.  Stark and his friend Sean had paid a surprise visit to the ship that morning and tried the holodeck halfpipe, pronouncing it cosmic and offering ideas for various skill level enhancements.  They'd also test run a new surfing program that Ensign Pauulu was working on, with considerably less successful, but thoroughly enjoyable results.  Kirk had privately assured the champion that the ship would be back for his bonding in two year's time.

That afternoon, Worf and his family also bid goodbye to their new friends as they headed to the star liner which would take them to their Ferengi transport headed for Qo'noS.  Mogh and Loki had been invited to attend the inaugural winter sports camp, both as participants and as ambassadors of goodwill, since several other youngsters would be coming from the homeworld as well.  Until then, Mogh promised Stark that he would study hard and practice his sport on the local sandhills.  In the meantime, Stark's staff was looking at the landboard design ideas Selok and Mogh had given them.

Kala and K'a'tya had promised to keep in touch via her father's New York nightclub and both secretly hoped for the day when Worf's family would be freely able to visit that city.

In his sleeping chamber aboard the star liner, Mogh carefully placed his new snowboard on his pillow.  Then he opened his rucksack and withdrew a small bag which held a glass mobile of abstract shapes, in varying shades of deep glowing red.  The color of Vulcan's earth.  He'd been at the old town market in Shi-Kahr right after they arrived, shopping with the group, when an old Vulcan merchant had addressed him in Klingonese.  The friendly artisan told a story of his younger years as a trader, in the early days of the Federation, and the interesting people he'd met on his journeys.  Some of who were from Qo'noS.  The mobile, he told Mogh, was originally made of Vulcan sand, blown into glass by his own family members, and would make a most pleasing sound when the wind blew.  Perhaps it might make a good souvenir of his very special trip?  K'a'tya had agreed that such a splendid item would be a fine addition to their home, and Mogh now held the shimmering creation in his hands.  It seemed to sparkle with the magic of the week he had spent, and Mogh knew it would always remind of him of the special adventures and friendships he had experienced.  He slowly stood up and hung the mobile from the air vent above his bed.  His sleep was filled with crystal whispers and pleasant dreams.

The Enterprise and the star liner both warped smoothly out of orbit, bound for far off destinations.

* * *

 

The Nebula Queen, That morning (remember, there's a time difference)

 

"So this is why you insisted on packing already," Spock said with a laugh.

He and Christine were collapsed in a heap on the floor just outside the bathroom, where she had boldly attacked her quarry as he came out from a sonic shower.  The cruiser's bathrooms were minuscule to say the least.  It was physically impossible to share the shower, and it was only sonic.  There would be two weeks plus of time to rectify that situation on Terra, however.

Spock had not even anticipated she would be waiting for him, which pleased his wife all the more.  As much as he enjoyed the sensual pleasure their relationship offered, he was still hesitant at times to ask for what pleased him.  Being a giver by nature made this difficult, but Christine had figured that out some time ago.  And she knew what he liked.  So his towel got unexpectedly yanked off of him and he'd found himself with his back pressed against the cabin wall, riding through his own nova of intense oral pleasure.  Until his knees buckled from the intensity of it all and they found themselves on the floor, where little time was lost in resuming the activity.

"Yes, I had it all planned out," Christine admitted with a happy sigh.  She looked up at him and gave her lips a seductive lick of satisfaction.

Spock's eyebrow raised.  "You are dangerous, my wife.  And I must admit to liking your particular type of danger.  It ... pleases me."  He slid the robe off her shoulders.  "And now I believe the phrase goes something like 'turnabout is fair play' as you say?"  He continued to undress her, discarding the garment until she was sitting in his lap as equally unclothed as he was.  Spock let one hand slide down her hip and start a slow search for very erogenous zones he knew to be in the area.  "I want to watch the pleasure sweep over your face, T'hyla," he whispered.  "Give me that joy, my wife, please?"

* * *

 

Southwestern United States Spaceport, Terra, Wednesday Afternoon

 

"Everything's in order here," the Starfleet passport control officer said as he checked their data on his terminal.  He gave them a smile.  "Commander Spock, welcome to Terra.  And Dr. Chapel, welcome home!  Enjoy your stay!"

They made their way to the domestic shuttle lounge and their connecting flight to the greater Phoenix shuttleport.  The short hop was quick and smooth, giving Spock a fascinating view of the area's desert terrain, something he had not seen during previous Terra visits.  In short order he and Christine picked up their rental vehicle and headed into the roads above Scottsdale.

"Here we are, Camelback View Lodge."  She parked the jeep in the drive of a gated estate set on a private road, not unlike the neighborhood where Spock's parents resided in Shi-Kahr.  The road, and homes, afforded a splendid view of the valley floor from the heights of Camelback Mountain.  Saguaro, barrel and beavertail cactus grew across the land in profusion, along with yucca, desert sage and ocotillo.  A wonderfully pungent, herby scent permeated the warm desert air.

They were staying the night in a guesthouse of an obviously Frank Lloyd Wright inspired desert home, which gave magnificent vistas of both the valley's depths and the hillside behind.  The property had elaborately terraced gardens of local plants, a slate tiled pool and several sheltered fountain areas.  The similarities to Spock's own home were quite uncanny.

"How did you find this place?" Spock asked as they stowed their gear and prepared to head out for some sightseeing.  "It is quite beautiful, I must admit."  Then he rolled his eyes good naturedly as his wife gave him the requisite anti warp-lag hypo.

"I did my homework, my love," Christine answered.  "I like to please you too, you know.  My mother grew up in the Phoenix area, so we spent alot of time here when I was growing up.  I know the area well, even though the family has scattered to other places now."

"Then I would be pleased if you showed me the finer points of the locale.  " Spock held out his hand.  "Please lead the way, my wife."

* * *

 

"A most remarkable place, Taliesin West" Spock remarked as they sat later in the Rusty Spur Saloon's authentically Western environs.  "Mr. Lloyd Wright was almost Vulcan in his precision.  His architecture was indeed groundbreaking in its design.  A very enjoyable tour, I must admit."

He and Christine had taken a sunset tour of the legendary estate, still well preserved after over 300 years, and Spock had marveled at the architect's use of natural stone in the design.  "Such wonderfully aligned angles," Spock declared as he viewed the buildings and gardens.  "His works are required study at the Science Academy, even today."

From there, they had meandered down to Old Town Scottsdale, which still retained its original Wild West flavor, even if that Old West was now largely the stuff of archaic holovids.  Christine remembered T'sai T'Ren's humorous description of her young son, who fully believed that cowboys and Indians lived in the towns of Terra's West to this day.

To Christine's utter amazement, the Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Parlor, almost as old as Taliesin, was still in operation, so she and Spock had stopped in for dinner and then shared a tin roof sundae.  Afterwards, they'd wandered up the street and decided to have a drink at the rickety old cowpoke saloon which was playing twangy country/western classics on its sound system.

"They used to re-enact the old Pony Express route here, centuries after the Express stopped running," Christine said.  "This saloon was part of the historic ride, a stop on the way so to speak."

"Fascinating," Spock replied, being bold and adventurous by putting his arm around his wife, not in the safety of the Enterprise, nor in private on Vulcan, but right in public, and on Terra.  To his slight disappointment, no one even bothered to notice.  But it was still a major milestone, something neither of them could ever have imagined when they first spent time together.  He then told Christine of how the mail had been delivered in the old days of Vulcan, before the advent of their equivalent of the telegraph.  Apart from the lack of horses, it had been quite similar to Terra's own experiences.

It was nearly midnight when they got back to the estate.  The air was still balmy, carrying the scents of the local plant life.  As they walked to the guest house, Spock stopped for moment and looked up at the skies.  "Look," he said as he pointed upwards.  "Shooting stars.  Should we watch them for a time, my wife?  Perhaps you could tell me the constellations here in this part of America."

Christine smothered a laugh.  Spock knew the constellations backwards and forwards, but he clearly did not want to have an astronomy lesson.  Neither did she, for that matter.  Smiling, she took his hand and pulled him down beside her on the slate border of the pool, still amazingly warm from the day's heat.  He drew her into his arms, sighing contentedly.

And then Spock was at last able to do what he had wanted to at his parent's home, but propriety had deemed it inappropriate, although his father had fully expected an amorous display by starlight.  This was a perfect setting for love by moonlight, and the only witnesses were the shooting stars, a desert owl and a prowling javelina.*

*(pron. hav-a-LEE-na.  A type of wild pig native to the Southwestern US and Northern Mexico.)

 

* * *

 

Thursday

 

"The difference in the atmosphere here on Terra does make the sunsets and sunrises much more colorful," Spock remarked.  From their patio at the guesthouse, he and Christine were watching the desert sky take on its vivid, uniquely dawn hues.  "And I must say, the coolness of the evenings on Vulcan is something you do not seem to have here."

"It's August, Spock," Christine replied.  She had another bite of corn bread and some more coffee.  "Nights are as stifling as days right now.  The constant heat just doesn't dissipate in this part of the region until about November.  Then it can get very cold, especially at night.  We're headed into altitude today.  You'll feel the difference in the air, believe me."

"I did not find the heat last night that uncomfortable," he answered, reaching over to let his hand trail across her lips.  "In fact, I found it quite ... delightful."  He allowed a suggestive smile to fall across his face, much as the early morning light was casting its shadows on the valley basin beyond them.

Christine shivered involuntarily.  She and Spock had remained outdoors until just before dawn, then had decided to watch the sunrise over breakfast.  The hedonistic delights they'd partaken of beside the tranquil pool still burst across her memory like fireworks.  And still she wanted him again.  It was about as illogical a situation as there could be.  Who would have thought a pair of over-30 Starfleet officers could be so ... insatiable when sex was involved?  It made no sense, and Christine did not even pretend to care.

"It is early, Christine, and you appear to be ... chilled.  Since we do not have to depart on our journey to Sedona for a few hours, shall we try to raise your body's mean temperature a bit?"  He took her hand and pulled her up and into an embrace.  His hips pressed against her own through the robe he wore, full of erotic promise.  "Let us retire, my wife, shall we?"

* * *

 

"I don't like the look of that," Christine said rather pointedly.  Her gaze scanned the fat black clouds to the north of Phoenix.  Then she looked at the jeep's chronometer.  "But it's only 09:00 and the afternoon storms don't hit till about 15:00 or later.  I think we'll be across the mountains by then."

"The jeep has a protective covering, so I believe we shall be safe from any inclement weather," Spock replied as they headed onto the expressway out of town.  "Are you proficient in driving during adverse road conditions?"

"I'd much rather avoid that prospect," she grimaced.  "Hail, lightning, sleet, maybe snow.  It's all possible, even in August, once you get out of the valley.  You'll be glad we packed for cooler climate, believe me.  But the scenery on this particular drive is worth the effort."

The suburbs of Phoenix, which had reached well beyond the city's official limits, finally fell somewhat away to the desert landscape most people associated with Arizona.  Saguaros began to appear, large groups of them.

"Here we are, Route 74," Christine announced as she turned onto a spur road.  "Now you're going to see the real Arizona, or what's left of it."

"Carefree Highway?  That is an unusual name for a road, is it not?"  Spock read the sign with interest.

"Not really, because the town of Carefree is at the eastern end of this road, but we're heading west.  Have a good look at the saguaro cactus, we won't really be seeing them once we leave Wickenberg."

The scenery sped past them and the temperature climbed with the sun.  Here and there a jackrabbit bounded across the desert terrain.  Hawks made slow, deliberate circles across the cerulean sky.  But sadly, it appeared that more and more development had crept even into this quiet part of the state.  Christine wondered how long it would take to become one huge metropolis, from Tucson to Flagstaff.

At Wickenberg, they stopped for snacks and to make sure the jeep was ready for the climb across three sets of mountain ranges.  Spock was quite curious about the realistic western feel to the burg, even though it was also a major transport hub.

"This used to be one of the guest ranch capitals of the world, or so it was claimed," Christine explained.  "A popular vacation destination, where folks could come and play cowboy for a week or two, then head back to the city.  Only this wasn't a shore leave planet kind of situation.  You can bet they got saddle sore."  She gave Spock a skeptical look.  He was still insisting that they ride at Monument Valley.  Together.

The town quickly gave way to scrub, but with much greenery.  "If it is a desert, why is it not dry?" Spock asked logically.  He, like his wife, had finally decided that xtreme style sunglasses were a useful addition to his activewear wardrobe.  He gazed out at the terrain, looking for all the planet like an older version of Stark, just minus the equally xtreme hairstyle.

"Because of that." Christine pointed to the anvil-topped thunderheads, which still hovered just to the north of their route.  "At this time of the year, it rains almost every day, usually in the afternoon or evening, when air is at its most unstable.  So despite the heat of the summer, this season can be one of the wettest.  And this has been a banner year for storms here, or so I read."

"It would appear that those mountains will be a detriment to our journey, I presume we must go around them," Spock said, indicating the peak which loomed off the desert floor ahead of them.  "Which direction does the highway go from here, left or right?"

Christine laughed.  "Are you kidding?  Only one way.  Straight up.  Hang on, Commander."  And with that she proficiently shifted gears and started to climb.

* * *

 

From Yarnell they crossed a high plateau of farmland and ranches, also green with the summer rains.  Spock was further amazed to see another set of mountains loom ahead, and these appeared to be higher than the last set.  Christine had been right.  The air had dropped in warmth a good 20 degrees Fahrenheit since they left the desert, and a cool breeze was now blowing.

The journey into Prescott, their next stop, was quite eye opening for Spock.  Despite studying about the geography of the region, he was surprised to see vast mountainous forests of evergreen in what he thought was essentially a desert state.  Christine had quickly informed him that Arizona was less than 25% desert in total, and then further added to the mystery by saying he'd soon be seeing what the other 75% consisted of.

At Prescott they parked the jeep and explored the well-preserved main street, which dated back to the late 19th century and the time when the town was as wild as it was now sedate.  The next stop was the venerable flight college, Embry Riddle.  Still going strong, it now trained commercial spacer pilots, navigators, and space station traffic controllers, instead of only the airline and helicopter variety.  The school's director, a retired Starfleet helmsman himself, let them test fly a flitter which had won first place in the recent graduating class' final project.  The winning model had been built up and was now being looked at for commercial viability.  Spock assured the director it had quite good possibilities for short term flights.

Another high plateau emerged once they left Prescott, and the clouds, which had appeared as fat black cotton puffs in the distance, now edged ominously closer.  "One more range to go, and then we hit the Red Rocks area.  Better put on a cap, it might get really cold on this climb."  She pulled her own knit hat down over her ears, looking up at the sky, where the patches of blue were now getting smaller.  She gunned the jeep's engine and started the last leg of the mountain odyssey.  What had she been thinking, crossing three mountain ranges in a day?  Thankfully, Spock appeared to be enjoying the trip as much as she did.

The first view of the red sandstone, monolith covered plateau below from the pine-clad mountain summit was always a shock to one who had not seen it before.  Christine, who had done this drive many times, still found the difference in terrain breathtaking.  She looked over at her husband, whose eyebrows were predictably raised in surprise.

"Fascinating."

She smiled.  "Just wait." Then she shifted into second and they began their descent.  The way Jerome just appeared, hanging off the side of the mountain was always a show stopper.

* * *

 

"This was a copper mining region, then?" Spock asked as they took a brief stroll through the town.  The air was now decidedly warmer, but very humid.  A storm was definitely on its way.  "It appears to have been built into the side of that cliff.  Quite unusual.  But what happened to the population?"

"The mine closed when the ore vein ran out.  A common story around these parts, I'm afraid.  Now it's a tourist destination, a getaway from the heat that's around Sedona.  Lots of motorcycle tour groups come through here, the drive is pretty amazing as you saw."

Her description was cut short when a low rumble of thunder was heard on the horizon.  "Come on, let's make a run for it.  Sedona's just down the road."  She put the top up on the jeep and they headed towards the highway.

* * *

 

"Damn," Christine muttered as the first fat raindrops hit the windshield.  "I thought we'd outrun it."  She pulled off the highway into a scenic overlook parking lot, Sedona's limits still a few miles up Hwy 89A.  The skies opened just as she cut the engine.  "We're stuck here until it passes.  But it shouldn't be long, maybe an hour at most."  She stretched.  "Maybe it's a good thing.  I could use a nap, come to think of it."  She leaned back and closed her eyes.  Spock, who was always fascinated by weather, decided to look out the window at the passing show of fast moving, inky cloud formations.

A blinding flash of light seemed to come from right overhead.  Christine woke up immediately.  Almost to herself, she started to count.  "One ... two ... th--"

KA-BOOM!

"What are you doing?" Spock asked.

"Seeing how close the storm's center is.  My grandmother taught me.  Every second after a clap of thunder means a it's a certain number of miles away.  Or so she said."

Another flash of lightning, this one less bright.  "One, two, three, four, five..."  BOOM!  Christine let out a deep breath of relief.  "Look, it's moving east of us, towards Sedona.  The worst of the lightning's passed.  I only hope the system doesn't get stuck over near Coffee Pot Rock."  She shivered for real.  "I hate to admit this, but thunderstorms still can do a number on me."

"You are frightened?" Spock asked, trying to embrace her.  Due to the gearshift, this proved to be impossible.  He had to settle for stroking her shoulder.

"A little.  You'd think with all I'd seen in space by now, a little summer storm wouldn't scare me like this.  But it does."  She sighed.  "Yep, look."  She pointed out the windshield.  "It's sitting over the rocks in town.  The rain won't let up for awhile.  Happens when there's too much cold air."

Spock opened the window and stuck his hand into the downpour.  After a moment, he turned back to his wife, a smile playing at his lips.

"Christine," he whispered.

She'd been intently watching the storm's progress, wondering about the possibilities of hail or even a flash flood ... eh?  A vivid image, which had nothing to do with meteorology, but everything to do with rain, filled her mind.

"Spock?"  What on earth was he up to?

She turned to face him.  His side of the jeep was empty.  "SPOCK?"

The next second, her door opened and she was pulled out into the cascade of surprisingly warm water.  Before she knew what was happening, her husband was kissing the residual fright out of her quite efficiently, with a very specific agenda in mind.

"We cant!" she finally managed to gasp.  "Not here, it's--it's..."

Spock viewed their surroundings critically.  "It appears to be a quite deserted public parking lot."  Sure enough, they were the only vehicle in the immediate area.

"Why do you always protest what you actually enjoy, Christine?" he asked as his hands started tracing the outline of her breasts under a sodden t shirt.  "It is most illogical.  Instead of wasting our energy arguing over a moot point, I think we would be better served indulging in one of our favored fantasies, do you not agree?  It is actually raining quite pleasantly, we are alone, we are outdoors, not in the arboretum, so let us partake of the situation that presents itself."  He started nibbling a line down a particularly sensitive cord in her neck.

She gave in to the sensations that were pouring over her faster than the rain.  "You win, Commander," she said weakly.  "But I'm not rolling on the asphalt with you.  Now that you've got me in the mood, where are we going to take care of the matter?"  She started to laugh at the inanity of the situation.

Spock picked her up and carried her over to a landscaped picnic area behind a stone wall, glancing back over his shoulder to ensure they were truly alone.  They were.  "I assure you, I can hear anyone approaching long before you can, my beloved...." he began, but she kissed him instead.

It didn't take long for them to lose their clothes as well their inhibitions.

* * *

 

"Dear Mom,

I took Spock over the three range route to Sedona, the one you and I used to do when we visited.  There was a weather front following us the whole way but the drive was spectacular.  Here we are in downtown Prescott.  Remember the old Birdcage Saloon?  It's still going strong.  Looks like this will be a great trip.  Love you, miss you.  Chris (and Spock)."

* * *

 

Arizona Highways

 

The brunt of the storm's fury had moved east to drench the Sedona area.  To the west of town, the warm summer rain fell steadily for another hour or so, then gradually tapered off to a drizzle.  But fury of quite a different, though no less intense, type was still in evidence.

"A significant improvement to the sensations of the arboretum's rain day, I believe," Spock remarked as he sat down on the picnic table's smooth bench, pulling his wife with him for another erotic tour de force.  Unfazed by their recent activities, he then locked his wife's hips against his pelvis and began to move with her.

"Spock."  Christine opened her eyes, barely able to focus.  "Shut up already!" she ordered.  The rain was still falling on them both but neither one of them noticed, let alone cared.  She lost herself in the sensation of her husband's extremely hard cock making her crazy with desire yet again.  He'd already licked her senseless twice, now he was obviously going for a pleasure hat trick.

As you wish, doctor."  His actions then took over the conversation.  From their hidden vantage point, all was well with the planet.

* * *

 

"Looks like the weather's clearing up," Christine managed to say a bit later.  She rolled onto her back, still loosely in her husband's embrace, and looked up at the sky.  Patches of blue were starting to appear once more.  The grass beneath them was soft and damp.

"In that case, it would be logical to surmise that others will be returning to the area soon," Spock replied.  He stroked the familiar place where leg met rear and gave her that slow, lazy smile of contentment she knew so well.  "I do believe we have now lived out most of our rain-themed fantasy scenarios.  In actual rain."

"You can say that again," she said as she snuggled back onto his chest, relishing the warmth flowing between them despite the moisture which still covered their bodies.  "But I'm surprised, Spock.  You, a scientist, allowing us to venture out into a desert thunderstorm?  Shame on you!"  She smacked his hard quadriceps, giggling as she did so.

"Christine." Spock caught her and pulled her close.  "While you were resting, I viewed the storm and was able to determine both its intensity and its direction.  It was clearly moving east of where our vehicle was parked, leaving the immediate area subject only to residual rainshowers.  Since this overlook is at the summit of a hill, with the picnic area here at the very top of that, it was logical to deduce that a flash flood scenario, if it took place, would have little effect here.  Had the weather turned very inclement, the shelter next to us would have provided safety.  And so, my beautiful wife..."  He raised his eyebrow, then pulled her closer still and whispered something in her ear.

"SPOCK!"  Even Christine had not known her husband could say anything that ... sexually graphic, at least in Standard.  And that ... arousing?  After a scientific tutorial about why it had been safe to ... do it during a desert storm?

He only smiled.  *I did, did I not?*

Her cheeks suddenly flamed as she reached across his prone body for her waterlogged clothes.  In a quick moment she'd wrung most of the water out and had thrown them on.  "Wait here, rain man," she instructed as she headed down to the jeep.  In a few moments she returned with some dry gear for both of them and led him into the restroom to change.  The sun was heading into its downward arc, and while a romp in a deluge was fun, there were better and drier places to get warm again.

* * *

 

"Hell!" Christine muttered as the jeep fishtailed.  She was only doing 25 mph.  How much hail had fallen here in town?  The wheels spun when she pulled into the parking lot of the Circle K market.  "I won't be a moment," she said as she darted inside.

Spock was examining a handful of the marble sized, bright white hailstones when she came back out.  She deftly hung the Red Rocks parking permit from the rearview mirror, then went to join him.

"From the size and composition of these spheres, I would speculate that the weather here has been most unpredictable of late," he stated in his best Chief Science Officer's voice.

She took a few in her hand, frowning at the unusual size and uniformity of the icy objects.  "The clerk says there's been a hailstorm every day this week.  It's been getting cold at night, too, down past freezing in some places.  I think we'd better head off to our hotel before the sun gets too much lower."

* * *

 

Christine had pulled the jeep's top down once more and the rain clean air blew across them.  She turned down the highway towards Oak Creek Village and their lodgings.

"The terrain is quite similar to Vulcan in many ways, though without the plethroa of vegetation," Spock said after he had studied the passing scene with great interest.  He gave Christine a glance.  "My grandmother had said this after her visit, but I must admit I was skeptical.  I am not so any longer."

"I remember her discussion with me the night of the symphony," she agreed.  "She was quite pleased to learn we would be spending time here."

She recalled the interesting story T'Pau had told.  In the founding days of the Federation, the young Vulcan woman and her Ambassador husband had attended an important series of meetings at the San Francisco headquarters.  After the conference's conclusion, the Vulcan consulate had arranged a special tour of some interesting local sights, and Sedona had been on the list, as well as the Grand Canyon.  T'Pau had enjoyed the trip very much and told Christine of her travels in great detail.

Christine braked for a red light and scanned the vista ahead.  The glowing redness of the rocks had only intensified with the rain.  Beautiful, she thought.

"Chapel Road?" Spock asked, genuinely curious.  "What is that?"  He pointed to the roadsign.

"There's a real chapel at the summit.  Look, you can just see it up there, carved in the local red stone?  It's quite a unique piece of architecture, and the view is great because you don't have too walk much.  You can drive almost to the top."

Spock raised his eyebrow.  "Indeed.  Do we have sufficient time to make a side trip and see this?  I would enjoy having a closer look."

"Sure," Christine replied, turning the jeep onto the spur road.  In a few moments, the vehicle switchbacked to the end of the drive and she parked it just below the structure's entryway.  Hand in hand, they walked to the observation area which overlooked the vista below them.

"Magnificent," Spock said after a moment.  "I was not aware the view was quite so spectacular."  He pointed to a monolith in the distance.  "That appears to resemble a bell.  Would this be Bell Rock, where we are staying tonight?"

"Yes, our hotel is right near that.  If the weather's not too cold or sleety in the morning, I'd love to take you for a hike.  It's a relatively easy climb and there are plenty of viewpoints.  In fact, we could do yoga up there, lots of people do."

"That would be agreeable," Spock told her.  They went on to tour the building, which was rich with mosaic artwork and locally carved stone.  Christine remembered the family shrine on Vulcan she had visited, with the bright red stones and local mosaics she'd also seen there.  Somehow, there seemed to be a connection between the two places, and that was pleasing to her

* * *

 

"You're in the Lodge Adobe," the clerk said as she led them down a path made of local slate.  "The views of Cathedral Rock are just great.  If you need anything, please don't hesitate to call the desk."  She opened the door to their private hacienda and nodded at Christine.  "Serenity will see you for a massage in 15 minutes, Dr. Chapel."

She and Spock stepped inside and, for a moment, wondered if they'd somehow been transported to Montana.  The exterior of the private adobe, like all 6 those on the property, was done in southwestern style, but each interior was said to be luxuriously unique.  Theirs certainly was.  It resembled a comfortable woodland cabin, far from the desert, except for the staggering red rock views out the windows.

"I must admit, my wife, you certainly selected accommodations which have been more than adequate thus far," Spock said as he put his arms around her.  "I am pleased with your choices."  His kiss added further evidence of his approval.

When the discussion of their honeymoon had first come up, Spock had merely stated that it would be logical to spend it on Terra, since they would already be on Vulcan for a full week.  Besides, he wanted to visit his wife's home planet, he said.  And that was a further more logical reason for her to plan the trip, apart from the last few days in San Francisco, which Spock had insisted on taking care of.  Christine, whose own mother told her she'd missed her calling as a travel agent, planned the entire journey in meticulous detail, choosing the Southwest and California as destinations.  The Southwest because Spock had expressed a desire to see it one day, and she knew it well already.  California because it was her home turf.  She had promised to show him the central coast the next time they were on Terra, and that time was right about now.

But right now, all Christine wanted was a massage.  She wasn't used to driving that much, especially not a vintage jeep.  Her muscles were knotted into large lumps, so when she'd seen there was an onsite spa, she quickly booked a treatment.  Spock told her he would meditate while she was gone, then they might think about dinner when she returned.

* * *

 

Spock finished his meditation and had a quick shower, delighted there was water once more, and in such a unique setting.  Christine would enjoy this very much.  He dressed in some casual clothing and came out to have a better look at their accommodations.  It might do to have their meal here, he decided, as he picked up a menu guide and flipped through the choices.  One particular establishment caught his eye, and it transpired that the location was just across the road.  Very good.  He entered a quick selection on the computer, then set about making preparations.

Christine slowly let herself wander back to their adobe, totally relaxed from a massage on par with the best that Kala's spa had to offer.  Overhead, the desert sky was black, and this far from uptown Sedona, the stars were glittering like so many diamonds.  For a moment she thought about the Enterprise and all that had happened in the past year.  It almost seemed to be a crazy romance holonovel.  But no, her husband was waiting inside for her, and their honeymoon had very much begun.

She opened the door and took in her surroundings.  A fire was burning in the fireplace, a real one that scented the air with the tanginess of pinon and juniper wood.  The lights were dim.

"You have returned," Spock said as he handed her a glass of Vulcan champagne, which they still had a few bottles of.  "I have taken the liberty of ordering dinner for us, that we may have an early, restful evening.  After all, it has been quite an adventurous two days so far, has it not?"  His eyes were both mirthful and affectionate as he led her to the sofa.

"Sushi!  I was just in the mood for some!"  Christine took in the appetizing-looking array of offerings.  She was definitely liking being married to Spock.

Spock held out a vid.  "Perhaps you are also in the mood for this?" he asked suggestively.  It was a title familiar to both of them.  Vulcan Love Master.

"That sounds like a nice...appetizer," she replied.

* * *

 

Some hours later, Christine turned over and opened her eyes.  The stars were the only thing she could ascertain through the darkened window.  Even through glass, they were still beautiful.  For a moment, her thoughts drifted into space, to their friends back on the ship and what might be happening there.

The fire had burned to embers in the fireplace, but the room was comfortably warm regardless.  They watched the video and then re-enacted some of the more steamy scenes on the rug in front of the fire.  It was way past midnight when Spock finally carried her to bed, and contented sleep had quickly enveloped them both.

Her eyes heavy, she leaned back against her husband and drifted into slumber once more.

* * *

 

Flagstaff

 

"A most enjoyable way to begin the day, I must admit," Spock finally said.

"Mmmmm, just what the doctor ordered," Christine agreed.  "And you are certainly improving with practice."

From their vantage point high on Bell Rock, they sat and enjoyed the sun's slow ascent.  The air was crisp and cool, but not overly so, and the early morning yoga workout had been very satisfying.

Despite the earliness of the hour, many like-minded hikers and even some other yoga practitioners were enjoying the rock's trails before the day's heat began.  More interesting, however, were the large numbers of offworlders in evidence.  Some Andorians, some Rigellians, even a Bollian or two.  Spock had, of course, been fascinated by this.

"This entire area was an important center for what was called 'New Age' study in the late 20th century." Christine told him.  "This rock, and other parts of Sedona, were thought to contain vortexes."

"Indeed."  Spock regarded the scene before him thoughtfully.  "A vortex of energy which originated within the Earth's surface, but was neither magnetic nor electric in its entirety.  Yes, I recall studying this phenomenon.  It does exist, both on Terra and on other planets.  We now understand the power generated much more thoroughly, so it would be logical for it to be of interest, both scientific and otherwise."  He put his arms around his wife and drew her against him as they contemplated the view.  "I would imagine, however, that back then, those who put forth this theory were viewed somewhat skeptically?"

"It was an interesting era in Terra's development, definitely.  Imagine hearing that an unseen force of subtle earth energy was able to interact with a person's inner being and make them feel more uplifted, more positive?  Visitors came from all over to experience this.  They still do, by the looks of things, but now the idea's more completely understood and accepted.  The first advocates had it hard, though.  I remember the term, 'New Ager,' a kind of insult of the time."

"But now the area is an important center for galactic-wide scientific study as well as for travelers.  Interesting, how perceptions change over time."

* * *

 

As they were leaving the trail area, Christine noticed the Dine' traders setting out their goods for a day's business.  Her eyes were drawn to a particularly beautiful pair of silver and turquoise earrings.  Just the thing to compliment Nyota's exotic looks.

"The layout of this area is quite pleasing to view," Spock remarked from the coffee house across from the hotel, where they were enjoying some down time before setting out on their travels.  He pointed to the rocks in the immediate distance, which appeared to have merely been placed here and there in the landscape, behind homes and businesses.  "The fact that the developers planned around the natural beauty of the region is very logical."

"I know, almost Vulcan, correct?" Christine gave him a smirk.

"You are learning, my wife."

* * *

 

"Welcome to Arcosanti III.  I'm Roberto Soleri and we're pleased you could visit."  The suntanned young man shook both their hands in greeting.

"Soleri?  Then you are--" Spock began.

"Yes, Paolo Soleri was my great grandfather several times over.  He and his family built the original settlement, just south of us, starting in the 20th century.  After the Tuscon complex was completed, this phase was begun.  It's attracting much attention due to the advanced arcology and engineering we're using.  In fact, the Federation sends staff here on a regular basis.  Our concepts are used on many colony planets, you know.  We just had some visitors from the Vulcan Science Academy interning with us for a few months."

"How interesting," Spock replied.  Christine, however, felt the sensation of deep relief flow between them.

*What's wrong?*

*We are on our honeymoon, my wife, though we may be doing a bit more sightseeing than might be expected.  I simply was pleased that you and I would not need to partake of cultural formalities during our travels.*

*You mean you're glad there are no other Vulcans in the immediate vicinity?*

*I believe that is what I just said?*

She tried not to laugh.  Spock would certainly have made quite a conversation topic back home had the visitors seen him.  He was attired, as she was, in hiking shorts, a t-shirt and boots, standard clothing for the terrain and the local weather, which was scorching (for Terra) during the day.  But on Vulcan? The native garments did accomplish the same means, but not quite with so much exposed male skin.  She imagined T'sai T'Glad's reaction.

Her amusing train of thought was pleasantly interrupted by the distant sound of bells.  "Is the Foundation still making its famous bells?" she asked.

"Absolutely.  They still fund a great deal of the organization's works, believe it or not.  Even now, folks from all over the galaxy want one of our bells.  You'll see them all over the settlement, and they're for sale as well.  Do you want one?"

"Very much," Christine replied, thinking it would be a pleasant reminder of their journeys.

They followed their guide on the tour of the complex, which despite being built to house 5000+ residents, would occupy but 25 acres of a 4500 acre preserve.  The concept of arcology (architecture and ecology combined) was viewed almost as skeptically as Sedona's vortexes when it was put forth by the groundbreaking architect Paolo Soleri.  But despite a slow start, the first settlement, Arcosanti, had met with such positive reception that a second was begun soon after.  The third, near Sedona, was presently about 75% completed.

At the gift shop, Christine and Spock selected a copper bell windchime for their quarters, and then one for his parents.  It would make a pleasant addition to his mother's garden, Spock told her, and she agreed, remembering the warm, breezy afternoons spent there.

* * *

 

Christine threw Spock the keys.  "Let's go, Commander," she said as she plonked into the passenger's seat.

"You are certain that my driving is up to the standard of the area?  After all, this is a hydrogen powered motor vehicle, not a flitter."

She raised her eyebrow, a gesture they now both employed on a regular basis when amused.  "It's a very straight shot from here to Flagstaff, although we'll be gaining several thousand meters in altitude.  The highway is four lane, so yes, I think you'll be fine."  Her hand touched his uncovered thigh as he sat down.  "After all, your driving lesson back in Scottsdale was quite satisfactory, if you remember."

Spock's eartips flushed, a sure sign he did.  Christine taught him the rudiments of vehicular driving, Terran style, on the backroads of Camelback Mountain, and he'd learned quickly.  Then he'd insisted in conducting an experiment which contrasted the seat space of a flitter compared to that of the jeep's.  The study went very well.  They barely made the tour of Taliesin in time, however, and only did because Christine had broken just about every land speed record known.

* * *

 

"This exit," Christine instructed.  Spock proficiently maneuvered the jeep onto a rural road just outside of Flagstaff, then followed his wife's directions.  In a few minutes they had pulled up to a large ranch house set in what could only be termed an alpine meadow, except for the fact Spock still was under the popular misconception that this was a desert state.  His eyebrows raised, right on cue.

"Yes, Spock, we're staying here.  Turn down this gravel path.  Past the llama farm."

He complied, slowing to gaze at the curious beasts who were regarding them from behind the neighboring fence.  A look of puzzlement crossed his features momentarily.  "Are we still in Arizona?" he asked as he parked their vehicle.

"I said you'd be seeing what the rest of it looked like soon enough.  And here we are."  She smiled affectionately.

"It is a forested state, then, similar to parts of Washington?"  Despite reading about the area extensively, the sight was still unexpected.

"Yes.  Well, sort of.  Like Washington, it has forests and mountains, just no oceans.  But we'll be heading towards Utah and you'll be seeing a different kind of desert altogether.  After we pass through some other interesting geological areas."  She paused to give his eartip a soft tweak.  "Here, though, we're at altitude.  Almost 7,000 feet.  It snows in the winter, you know."

"Fascinating."

Spock was further surprised by the framed holo gracing the inn's reception area.  "That was taken last winter," the innkeeper said.  "We had over 12 feet of snow here, more up on the San Francisco Peaks.  Didn't dig out until almost June.  My family used to raise sled dogs, that's how we got our name.  Now, though, it's just a popular destination for folks like yourselves who want to be outside of Flagstaff."

"What did he mean, outside of Flagstaff?" Spock asked as they were unpacking.  Their second story room overlooked the meadows to the mountain peaks beyond, a very nice view.

"It used to be a huge railway hub for the Western U.S.  Scores of trains, both freight and passenger, passed through town all day.  And all night.  Even though the town grew beyond being just a stop on the line, it got a bad rap.  Then it became very artistic, almost overly so.  The surrounding areas didn't grow quite so rapidly, I guess.  So they're still popular with travelers.  Though nowadays, with auto traffic being banned into the parklands, who knows?"

"Bad rap?" Spock was still trying to decipher his wife's vocabulary.  Every time he congratulated himself at success, she threw another peculiar phrase in his direction.

"A bad reputation.  You know, like Vulcans have." She snickered.

"Bad reputation?  Vulcans?  What reputation would that be, precisely?"  He captured her in a firm embrace, his eyes dancing.

"Oh, that they are a cold, passionless race with no sense of humor whatsoever."  She slid her hands up his shoulders and allowed herself to be pulled closer against him.

"Is that so?  Well, as a representative of my father's race, I must do my utmost to dispel that rumor with you, my wife.  At least in our more ... intimate moments."  He looked over to the large wooden bed.  "I find myself a bit fatigued from our travels.  Shall we take a brief ... nap?"

* * *

 

Spock had arranged a private tour of Lowell Observatory and they arrived just before sunset.  "It's always a pleasure to meet someone from Starfleet," the chief astronomer enthused.  He led the way to the main telescope, which was set up for twilight viewing.

Along the way, they'd passed a sort of astronomer hall of fame and Spock had been very pleased to see a holopic of the famous Vulcan astrophysicist T'Pol, who had served as a science observer above the very first starship Enterprise.  She had come from a long line of science officers, according to the informational plaque.

The temperature was dropping noticeably as they left the building later.  "It'll be cold tonight," Christine noted, looking up at the skies.  Their observations had been unobscured by clouds, but now some cover was appearing.  "Unless it rains?  The weather report was kind of uncertain.  Where to, Commander?"  He was still driving, and quite well, in Christine's opinion.

"I've read of a place called the Museum Club.  I thought we might go there after we've eaten?  We have an easy travel day tomorrow, so a night out would be enjoyable."

"The Museum Club?  That dump?  It's still in operation?  After that fight last year?"

The famous old Route 66 roadhouse, a popular country western dancebar for centuries now, had been the scene of a huge scandal recently.  Some visiting Ferengi had been convinced by a few of their own countrymen that they'd purchased the deed to the establishment.  When the deed was proved to be false, an altercation ensued worthy of the one on Space Station K-7 all those years ago.  The Department of Historical Monuments had debated long and hard about allowing the facility to re-open.  Obviously, the club's reputation (and profitability) helped influence them.

"Affirmative, it will open in an hour.  Shall we have some dinner first?"  The starter made a strange noise and Christine could have sworn her husband looked positively annoyed for a moment.  He'd muttered something incomprehensible in Vulcan.

"Let's go, I'd love to!"  Spock's suggesting the place still was permeating Christine's rather surprised brain.  This would be very enjoyable evening.

* * *

 

She was cold.  Her nose was freezing.  Christine opened an eye and saw the greyness of dawn lighting their room.  Of course.  The window was open.  She could see the white filmy curtains blowing across the pane with the breeze.

Christine sat bolt upright and blinked hard.  The window was closed.  There were no filmy white curtains, only heavy drapes, which were tied at the side of the frame.  It couldn't be possible.

"Spock!"

Her husband, who had practically worn a hole in the dance floor with her the night before, was reluctant to answer.

"SPOCK!"

"Yes?"  He did not bother to open his eyes.

"Please get up.  You have to see this!  Look."

She felt, rather than saw, his surprise.

"It appears to be ... snowing."

By now, she'd sprung out of bed and run to the window, astonished.  She started throwing on cold weather gear at warp speed.

"What are you doing?" he asked as he came up behind her.  His eyebrows jumped.  The entire meadow was covered in about a foot of snow and more of the large wet flakes were steadily falling.

"Are you kidding Spock?  Snow in August?  Real snow?  I'll see you later, dear, if you don't care to join me outside!"  His wife was down the stairs like a phaser blast, her husband following as quickly as he could get his own clothes on.

* * *

 

The snow did not last long.  By the time breakfast was ready, it was melting rapidly with the sun's upward arc in the cloudy blue skies.  The conversation at the table was entirely about the weather, and for once, none of the guests minded in the least.

Spock enthusiastically began the impromptu snowball fight, and Christine's shriek (he'd finally gotten payback for that little incident at Stark's) had awakened most of the inn.  To their delight.  It rapidly became a huge party out in the meadow, a most amusing one.  Even the llamas seemed to enjoy the falling flakes.

* * *

 

"This was quite an introduction to Arizona, doctor," Spock remarked as they started into town.  They would be dropping the jeep off and picking up a flitter for the next phase of their trip.

"Just wait."

* * *

 

"Greetings, Father and Mother.  Christine and I are traveling through the state of Arizona, a quite fascinating place.  We toured Arcosanti III, near Sedona, and here we are in front of its new cultural and music center.  Most interesting architecture.  We selected one of the Cosanti Foundation's bells to be sent on to you, so be watchful for its arrival.  From here, we head due north.  Please give our regards to Grandmother T'Pau and the rest of the family.  Spock and Christine."

* * *

 

"Hey Kala and Greg, have a look at this.  It was taken at 05:45 this morning where we were staying, just outside Flagstaff.  Yep, that's real snow.  Didn't last long, but we managed to build a snowman.  Spock SAYS it doesn't look like anyone, but I think Len was the model.  Having way too much fun.  Say hi to everyone and don't do anything we wouldn't! Love, Chris and Spock."

* * *

 

Grand Canyon and Beyond

 

The rental agent gave the flitter's hood a slap.  "You're good to go, folks.  Have a great drive.  They'll be expecting you to return her at the Moab office as arranged."

A century and a half ago, the US Parks Service and the Native American Nation had come to an ecologically sound agreement about limiting traffic into protected parkland.  In recent years, the detrimental effects of too many vehicles, coupled with the effects of pollution, had caused grave concern about the future of a region which covered parts of four states.  A compromise was reached where access to the area would be limited to flitters, or to shuttle tours only, except for local residents, whose vehicles had to comply with strict standards.  Local, non polluting transport would provide tourists access within parkland.  Drivers of non-compliant vehicles faced stiff penalties, as did those who drove under the influence, much worse than in the not so distant past.  Flitters, which had recently become more readily affordable, now came in many different sizes and styles.

At first, the idea had been roundly booed by many diverse groups, but soon the wisdom of the agreement had been seen.  Road accidents dropped dramatically, as drivers no longer had to speed to their destinations.  Affordable and excellent shuttle tours from many gateway departure points to destinations such as the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Arches Park, among others, meant that less traffic, even flitter traffic, clogged the ecologically fragile byroads into the regions.  Gradually, the need to travel in one's auto, which had evolved into sitting in endless queues of vehicles, had become unpopular.  Family vacations to these areas still topped the list of popular destinations, except getting there was no longer the chore it had once been.

Spock was pleased with the rental flitter.  While his father's had been built mostly for show, with a little bit of speed now and then, this model, a brilliant azure blue in color, was all about swiftness.  It was designed to traverse vast distances quickly and efficiently, and did not disappoint.

They headed out of Flagstaff towards the Grand Canyon, though did not take the usual route up Hwy. 180.  Instead, Spock aimed the sleek little craft due north, towards the park's east entrance, which Christine said was not only less traveled, it was a much more scenic route in.  Everything was green from the recent rains, and large meadows filled with late summer wildflowers provided splashes of vibrant color against the high plateau terrain.

Along the way, they made stops at some other local points of interest.  The extinct volcano at Sunset Crater was first on the list, where the moonlike landscape of an ancient cinder cone provided a startling contrast of vistas.  At Wupatki National Monument, they'd explored ancient ruins dating back to the 12th century.  The original inhabitants, whose society was agricultural in nature, were thought to be the ancestors of the present day Hopi tribe.  Spock had studied the old buildings with great interest, comparing them to ones found on Vulcan from a similar time period.

Spock veered left at Hwy 64 towards Grand Canyon Village.  As they climbed the highway, the breathtaking spectacle of Little Colorado Gorge suddenly appeared, necessitating another stop.  Even though the Grand Canyon was the main attraction on any given day, this wasn't a bad geological sight, either.

"Fascinating." Spock, from a world where the rivers had long ago receded, was quite curious about the phenomenon.  "I presume this is a very fine example of how the Grand Canyon itself was formed?" he asked as they surveyed the deep chasm from the top of the butte like bluffs common to the area.  Far below, the Little Colorado River, cousin to its mightier namesake, wended its murky way serenely through the gullies it was carving.

"Supposedly.  There's a ranger-led talk on park geology later this afternoon, maybe we can go to that?" Christine replied as they headed back to the flitter, past more Dine' traders selling beautiful creations of turquoise, silver and clay.

"That sounds quite agreeable."

* * *

 

At the park's congested, more well-known south entrance, Leila turned around.  "Are you kids okay back there?" Jarod and his cousins nodded assent, then returned to their vidgames.

She spoke to her sister.  "I can't thank you enough for suggesting this.  With Elias off on Mars debriefing the Rigellian colonists, it was just too lonely around the station for Jarod and me, especially now that school's broken for a month."

"Not a problem, Sis.  Jack's in New York for another week, lecturing at NYU's summer program, so I'm glad for the company."  She gave her younger sister a critical eye.  "You okay, hon?"

Leila laughed off her sibling's concern.  A vacation was just the thing to clear her head.

* * *

 

"I'll just run back to the hotel and confirm some things at the business center," Christine said as the geology lecture was breaking up.  "And I'll grab some sweatshirts for the sunset, it gets cold around here fast.  Will you be okay for about an hour?"

Spock nodded as he pulled out his PADD.  "I shall wait here for you, Christine," he replied pleasantly.  "Do not tarry long, however.  Or else I may admit to finding the absence of your company a bit distressing."  She still teased him about the fact that he genuinely missed her presence when she wasn't with him.  Just as she did with him.  Not logical, but very much part of the fibers that wove their relationship's fabric.  With a quick wave of her hand, she turned towards the El Tovar's stately silhouette.

He intended to summarize the day's activities for his personal journal and perhaps take a few more vidscans of the splendid panorama that now lay before him at every turn, it seemed.  Even he, with his strict Vulcan upbringing, had been quite stunned at the beauty of the Canyon in its full glory.  Pictures certainly did not do it justice.  Christine has promised even more spectacular views at sunset and sunrise, and they planned to take in both.

Actually, he was glad for a bit of recharging time.  He'd asked for an adventurous honeymoon trip and he certainly was getting it.  From the Little Colorado, they'd entered the park proper and then visited the splendidly preserved Desert Watchtower, followed by the equally fascinating museum and native ruins at Tusayan.  At the first scenic overlook, he and Christine had walked a bit while she pointed out the various sights that were spread out on the horizon.  After checking into the El Tovar Hotel, she took him on another walk that included the famous mule stables and the railway depot, just as the vintage steam powered engine, still a popular attraction, puffed its way into the station.  From there, they'd grabbed lunch on the run and gone straight to the geology lecture, which had been well worth attending.

Spock allowed himself a private inner smile.  Most of his shipmates had very specific ideas of what a honeymoon consisted of and how it should be spent.  He idly wondered what Jim, or the Doctor, for that matter, would make of their adventure travels.  Not that there was not plenty of erotic downtime.  Speaking of which, he began to speculate as to whether he and Christine might find an opportunity to experience some sensual pleasure outdoors here.  The thought was very pleasing.

"Spock."

He would know that voice anywhere, although it had been almost 7 years since he last heard it.  His stomach threatened to turn over but he called his Vulcan upbringing into play and turned smoothly, a neutral expression on his face.  She was standing behind the bench where he sat.

"Leila?"  His own voice sounded as calm as ever.

"I saw you during the lecture.  I'm here with my sister and her kids, and my son, for a little vacation.  They've gone for an ice cream."  Her expression was sad, despite the somewhat forced smile she had pasted on.  "And you?"

Spock did not even hesitate one microsecond.  "My wife and I are on our honeymoon.  We are making an extended trip through the southwest and then going on to California."

"Your honeymoon?  How wonderful."  Leila's timbre went up a pitch.  "Who's the lucky woman?"

"Dr. Chapel, perhaps you remember her from the ship?"  He raised his eyebrow.

Leila would most certainly remember his wife.  While the Enterprise had been transporting the remaining colonists back to a nearby starbase, he and the agriscience department were working on some experiments, which they invited Dr. Sandoval's staff to view.  Leila sniffed that a "mere" nurse seemed highly unqualified to be leading a team, until Christine bristled and pulled rank on her.  Spock, who was in the lab at the time, had been quite pleased, though he had no idea why, at the way she'd handled the situation.  Leila took every opportunity after that to visit the lab in search of him, all day, every day, with the hopes of "talking it out," as she put it.  Spock politely refused, with a simple but honest explanation, and fled to the relative safety of the bridge, unwilling to rehash what was already over and done, now for the second time.  After the colonists departed, he'd lost touch with Leila and had not even cared to seek her out when he returned from Gol.  By then, he knew in his katra that his future lay elsewhere.

Her cheeks colored.  "I thought she was the ship's nurse?"

Spock tilted his head a fraction.  Was it possible she already knew about their marriage?  What was she doing?  He was well acquainted with her somewhat manipulative ways and put his guard up even higher.  "She was, but then she attended Starfleet Medical and is now the ACMO on board the ship where we serve together."  He paused.  "Your son, you said?  Then congratulations must be in order for you as well."  He was trying to change the subject, suddenly not liking where the conversation was headed.

"Elias and I married not long after I saw you last.  Jarod just turned 5, he starts first grade in the fall."  A ghost of a smile touched her lips.  Then it disappeared just as quickly.  "You married a human woman, Spock?  After all you said about not being able to love me, that it wasn't the Vulcan way?  Why?"

He let out a long breath, then started to answer.  Before he could protest, she was sitting beside him, a pleading expression on her soft features.  "Leila, yes, I married a human woman that I did fall in love with, but it was long after we left Omicron Ceti III.  Much happened since the last time I saw you, and my life situation changed quite dramatically over a period of some years.  It was then I met Christine again.  Things progressed quite logically for us, so we chose to marry.  I would presume the same is true of you and Dr. Sandoval?"

Leila shook her head, tears gathering in her eyes.  "I didn't love Elias, we married for a partnership, nothing more."  She swallowed hard.  "Spock, I only married him because you said you couldn't love me, because I couldn't have you.  If you meant that, why did you turn around and marry her?  Why didn't you find me instead?  It could have worked for us."  She looked out at the canyon's vista for a moment.

Christine, who was at that moment wrapping up the multitude of reservation confirmations she's just waded through, suddenly felt a cold chill wash over her.  She almost got nauseous.  Then, with a start, she realized it was Spock's discomfort that she was experiencing.  With that, she finished her transactions and hurried out to where she'd left him sitting, fearful he might be feeling ill from the altitude.

"Leila."  Spock sought to choose his words carefully, thinking back to their first meeting, when both of them had been teenaged students.  He softened his tone and looked at her, feeling almost sad that he had to explain yet again something she should have figured out long ago.  "When we first met, both of us were infatuated, you more so than I.  How long did we know each other?  Three weeks?  That is hardly enough time to fall in love, which I tried to tell you back then, plus you know of my other obligations, my need to maintain family honor.  And I knew that while my future was with Starfleet, you wanted to settle on a colony, to put down roots.  Our paths were contradictory to each other, and we both saw that.  Had I been free to love you, the situation was not conducive to success.  And the incident on the planet was not real, Leila.  Surely you must realize this?"

She said nothing for a moment, then looked back at him.  "I never stopped loving you, Spock.  Even when you told me that you could not love, I knew you could, and I saw that on Omicron.  Why aren't we together?  We belong with each other, don't you see that?"

Spock felt sharply sick.  It was now obvious that she had not moved on, even though he had.  Suddenly, the meditation vision he'd had of T'Pring became crystal clear.  He was finally free of his past, so he needed to stop feeling guilty about it.  He was not responsible for how others lived their lives.  The future lay before him and his wife, so it was time to step ahead.  Leila had to move on in her own way, but only if she chose to.  If she did not, that was, logically, her own choosing, but he could not alter his life because of it.  He wanted Christine to be with him right now almost more than the air he was breathing.

"I said that even if I could love you, which I truly did not, Leila, my destiny lay in another place.  That was not meant as anything other than what it was.  We were young, it was fascinating, but nothing really happened between us that would cause us to be drawn back together so much later.  You have made what appears to be a pleasing life for yourself, as have I."  He sighed.  "Can you not accept that?  If you love me as you say, can you not be pleased for my happiness, as I am for yours?"

Leila hesitated.  "I will always love you, Spock.  Maybe now is not the time for us.  But I will love you until I don't have any breath left.  And perhaps, some day ... should you change your mind..."

"I can assure you, I will not Leila.  Please, re-think your own situation.  We are not meant to be together, not now, nor in the future, we are just too different.  I trust you can finally accept this, once and for all."  He felt drained.  It had been a difficult conversation.

Christine saw her even before she saw Spock.  Nausea washed over her again.  Leila Kalomi?  Here in the Grand Canyon?  For months she'd been afraid of not being worthy of Spock's Vulcan heritage, that his ex-wife T'Pring might somehow resurface and challenge her, but she'd never dreamed Leila could still be a threat.  Spock himself had told her about the brief relationship, stating it was "long ago, and finished".  But from where she was standing, Christine could see the woman's painful emotions on her features.  Oh, God.  Leila was still in love with her husband.  And Spock?  The thought made her feel even more sick.  What if he now decided that he'd not explored all his opportunities adequately?

Their full bonded link was still new to her.  Most of the time, Spock initiated the contact.  Now she knew she had to do so, but subtly, gently, just a test of the waters.

*Spock?*  Her tone was soft, almost fearful.  *Shall I leave for awhile?*

She was staggered by the response, so much that it necessitated her sitting down on a bench.  If she had ever doubted the depth of her husband's love for her, she could no longer do so.

*No, my beloved.  Come to me now, I need you very much.  Please do not be fearful, my love for you is as strong as it always has been.*

Christine took a very deep breath, stood to her full height, and marched ahead into the fray.  She saw them both now.  Leila had a somber expression on her face, one of unhappy resignation.  Spock was scanning the vicinity and when he saw her approach, he gave her a rare public smile, the full version.

"Christine."  His voice was smooth, but she sensed the joy it held.

She accepted the traditional Vulcan two fingered embrace, smiling back at him, then turned a cool, somewhat amused glance at the woman seated there.

"Christine, surely you remember Leila Kalomi-Sandoval?"

She nodded.  "I do.  Sandoval?  Then congratulations on your marriage.  Doctor."  The inference was not lost on Spock, who realized that his wife truly was a most formidable persona, period.

Leila looked from Spock to his wife, uncertain of what to say.  Fortunately, she was spared further embarrassment.

"MOM!  C'mon already, your ice cream's melting!" A n urgent voice, belonging to a towheaded young boy, cut through the air.

She gazed up the path to the group awaiting her and sighed.  "I should be going.  We have to get to the campsite and set up."  She paused.  "It was ... nice ... to see both of you.  Best wishes, for a long and happy ... marriage."

And with those forced words, Leila Kalomi walked out of Spock and Christine's life and back into her own, however reluctantly.  For good this time.

Christine didn't know what to do, so she simply asked her husband, "Are you all right?"

Spock took her in his arms, right there in the middle of the busiest part of Grand Canyon Village Path.  He then gave his wife a soft but public kiss.

"Now I am."

* * *

 

The first shuttle for Hopi Point left well before dawn.  Spock was holding his wife close against him when it arrived, protecting her from the chill that permeated the early morning air.  Both were dressed in layers, anticipating a slow, enjoyable hike along the west rim back to the main part of the Village.  They joined the other passengers, yawning sleepily, and settled back for the short ride to one of the best sunrise vantage points in the Canyon.

The previous night's sunset, all magnificent lavender and maroon hues, had been an intensely intimate experience for the both of then, despite the fact that they were part of a large group observing the spectacle's grandeur at Mather Point.  They'd walked there along the east rim trail with a view to taking the shuttle back, quietly enjoying each other's company and the wonderful scenes.

On the ride back to their hotel, the bus was in total darkness, and Spock had further surprised his wife by engaging in what the old Terran term referred to as 'necking' for the entire, though brief, journey.  He reasoned that only another Vulcan would have the requisite night vision to ascertain their actions and besides, they were at the rear of the vehicle anyway.  As there were no other Vulcans on the shuttle, or any other offworlders for that matter, they'd freely indulged in another of his fantasies, the schoolbus kiss.  To their chagrin, no one had even noticed.  Most of the other passengers were asleep, or nearly so, tired from a long day of adventures.

Spock knew Christine had questions about his encounter with Leila, and they'd talked until well after midnight.  He had done his best to reassure her that there was a very big difference between choosing not to return someone's professed love, and not being able to love someone.  Leila had been in the former category, Christine was most assuredly in the latter.  She had wept and asked him to forgive her jealousy and fear, which by now she thought had been conquered.  Spock told her that he fully understood, because he, too, had experienced the very same emotion during their courtship and knew how uncomfortable it could be.  There was no need for physical intimacy.  Through their bond, they realized that everything was going to be fine, and both had fallen exhaustedly asleep, each feeling safe in the other's embrace.

"Here we are, folks.  Enjoy the sunrise!"

They disembarked and made their way to the canyon's rim where the dawn's greyness was becoming lighter by the second.  Christine could just make out the dim, snakelike outline of the Colorado's silty blue waters far below, and pointed this out to her husband.

"It appears to be so calm," he said.

"Don't underestimate the power," she replied, with a knowing look.

"I never do."  He drew her back against him once more and they waited for the sun's appearance.

The first rays topped the east rim and sent a sliver of brilliant light to paint Battleship Rock a glowing red orange.  The western rim, in its glorious palette of earth tones, began to emerge from the predawn shadows.  Christine glanced down over the barrier, far below to the canyon's floor, searching for something.  She pointed at movement.

Look," she whispered.

From the depths of the chasm, a flock of turkey vultures took flight, one by one, on the thermals which lifted them up, in lazy, increasing circles.  There was no need for any wing movement, the large, gangly birds were riding the warm air generated when the sun's heat first made contact with the rocks.  Higher and higher they drifted, more than 50 in all, then they turned and flew off towards the sun-splashed western reaches.

Spock touched the back of her neck with his lips and drew her closer still.  "You have seen this before?" he asked.

"When I was last here, yes.  But it's very unpredictable , so I didn't say anything, in case there were no birds at this spot today."  She looked out at where flock was heading.  "Sometimes you get really lucky and it's condors or eagles."

"Thank you for sharing this with me, Christine.  Your knowledge has made this a most enjoyable journey so far."  He stroked her jawline softly.  "And I am looking forward to the rest of our travels."

Another shuttle appeared and most of the passengers got back on, eager to return to the Village for breakfast or more sleep, it being just past 05:30.  Except for an artist, who was busily setting up an easel, they were alone.  The majority of tourists would not return again for several hours.  So they turned onto the trail and began walking through absolute silence, broken only by the sounds of birdsong.

The rim trail led around past a deserted old mine to the splendid overlook at Maricopa Point.  By now, the sun was making its presence known and both hikers had begun shedding layers.  The concrete viewing area was an excellent spot for a combined workout; in addition to yoga, Christine had recently asked her husband to begin teaching her some of the Kolinahr disciplines he practiced.  And still they were virtually by themselves, as most park visitors preferred to shuttle between vistas, or to remain near the center of things.

As they further walked towards the Bright Angel Trailhead, still some miles ahead, Christine stopped for a moment and cocked her head.

"I hear it as well.  What is it?"

She scanned the canyon walls until movement caught her eye.  "There.  See?  The first mule trip of the day, the overnight one to Phantom Ranch.  It's headed down that switchback."

Spock followed her gaze.  "Indeed.  And I see hikers as well.  Is this the overnight journey you spoke of at the stables?"

"The mules have been going in and out of the Canyon for centuries, and so have the tourists.  The Bright Angel Trail is the most famous one down the south rim, but it's very deceptive.  Look at those inclines.  A lot of people don't remember that what goes down..."

"Must come back up.  Yes, the climb back appears to be quite strenuous, especially to someone who is unconditioned for such a journey," Spock agreed.

"And the temp can climb 30 degrees as you head down.  I'm glad we're sticking to the rim.  Much less strain, if you ask me."  Christine was surprised when her husband put his arm around her as they began walking once more.  They were alone, true, but still, this wasn't the ship.  She liked it.

A mockingbird's song stopped them a little while later.  It was still so early, and so quiet, that the melody could be heard from some distance off the trail.  The bird was somewhere in a clump of trees to their right.  They stood listening, transfixed, for a few moments, the sun warm on their backs.

"Most enjoyable," Spock finally said after the bird had flown away.  He gazed down at his wife for a moment, then took her hand and led her off the trail, towards the same spot where the bird had been singing.  In a moment, they were completely hidden from view, yet they could clearly see the canyon's vista stretching across the horizon.  He stopped finally, threw off his daypack and sunglasses, then pulled her into a plainly sexual embrace.  "I trust you will not protest, my wife, as you are wont to do, that we are in an outdoor setting and such behavior is ... inappropriate?" His eyes were dark, promising sensual delight.

"Uh -- no."  A second later, her hands had found their way beneath the waistband of his hiking shorts and were seeking contact with something.  They tumbled to the forest floor.

* * *

 

Christine opened her eyes and looked down at her husband beneath her.  She gave another slow, deliberate thrust of her hips downward and watched the desire wash across his face.  Both of them were on the brink of thermonuclear meltdown, yet they sought to prolong the delightful agony as long as they could.

"Want you," he finally managed to say.  "So much, want you ... aaahhh..."  His words trailed off as she drew her internal muscles around him.  "Uhhhhh," he finished ungraciously, then matched her earlier thrust.

But it was time to stop delaying things.  Christine locked eyes with Spock for a moment, then pulled one hand free of his grasp.  She slid it down her stomach, knowing how much this would inflame him further.  As her fingers reached the place she was seeking, his own hand closed over hers and that contact pushed her up and over the summit.  She threw her head back and allowed the release to explode like so many fireworks, feeling Spock follow her easily up and over that same peak.  Their fulfillment went on and on, until she finally collapsed onto him, spent.  For long moments, neither of them spoke.

"Exhibitionist," Christine mumbled into his shoulder after awhile.

Spock stroked the top of her head.  "Exhibitionist?"

She drew herself up further and nodded behind him.  "We have an audience."

His eartips started to flush before he turned and saw what she meant.  Three of the park's famous deer, adolescents by the look of it, were watching them from a safe distance.  He looked back at his wife with a mischievous smile.  "I should hope they learned something, then."  He lost himself in laughter.  For one terrible moment, he'd honestly expected to see his father standing there and the idea now was quite amusing.

Christine smacked him, clearly aware of his thoughts, but she was laughing as well.  "Spock, you are soooooo BAD sometimes!"

"Only sometimes, my wife?  Perhaps I should convince you otherwise."  Then he kissed her once more, their desire flaming anew, and the visiting deer soon got another eyeful of human mating practices.

* * *

 

By the time they finally reached the old Kolb Photography Studio, it was almost time for the morning lecture on the park's resident condors, something both of them wanted to see.  The audience was in luck.  Four of the huge, impossibly ugly redheaded creatures were sunning themselves on a nearby rock and the ranger quickly launched into her talk.  Since the effort to re-introduce the condor the wild had begun at the park in the late 20th century, the program had succeeded even beyond the earliest expectations.  Condors were now in evidence over much of the park and well into the neighboring states, from a population so endangered at one time that the species was close to becoming extinct.

Spock's eyebrows raised when the ranger spoke about the bird's massive, nine foot wingspan.  She then told of how one of the juvenile birds had flown towards the lecture one day.  It had obviously recognized the speaker and was curious.  Unfortunately, even the 6 foot wingspan of a teenaged condor was quite a sight to behold.

"A very good beginning to the day, I must say," Spock said contentedly as they walked back up the trail to the hotel.

Christine, who was still looking out at the canyon view, gave a noncommittal, "Mmm hmmm."  A moment later, she stopped short and looked over at her husband, who was walking along nonchalantly beside her.

*Did you just....*

*Yes, I believe I did.*

*SPOCK!*

*No one saw anything, did they?  And how could I resist so tempting a view?*

This was going to be a VERY interesting marriage.

* * *

 

"Dear Ny, Here's a shot of us at the Grand Canyon, a place called Hopi Point.  The sun's just rising and that's a flock of turkey vultures in the background.  Having an amazing trip.  Hope you aren't getting up to any mischief.

Seriously, remember way back when you told me that the time just had to be right, and I'd know that I'd made the right decision?  Trust me, I know now.  Don't ask me how, but I'm 100% sure I did the right thing by marrying Spock.  Thanks for being there for me, Ny.  You're the best.  Love, Chris (and Spock) PS.  Say hi to Geoff.  Or is it Ade?"

* * *

 

Amanda opened the private vidmail her son had sent, marked "personal".  She was concerned.  What could be wrong?  Sarek was, thankfully, at the Council Chambers, so she had a moment to herself.

An image of her son and his wife filled the viewscreen.  The Grand Canyon stretched behind them, filling the horizon.  Whoever had taken the photo certainly was skilled, it almost looked like a portrait.  But the portrait was of two people very much in love, and it showed.  Spock was facing his wife, holding both her hands in his, his eyes looking right down at hers.  Their heads were close, their foreheads almost touching.  A look of peacefulness was on both of their faces.  Either he had just kissed her or was about to, of that Amanda was sure.

"Greetings Mother.  Christine and I are now at the Grand Canyon, quite a beautiful spot.

"I recall a long time ago you asked if I was certain I was doing the right thing, that I was content with my decisions.  I can tell you that yes, I am.  Thank you for your guidance, Mother.  Live long and prosper.  We hope to see you and Father soon again, but until then, I hope this photo will bring you pleasure.  Spock."

* * *

 

"Do you remember I said you'd be seeing what the rest of Arizona looked like soon?" Christine asked.

"Indeed." Spock turned the flitter back out onto Hwy 89, headed north.  It was high noon and they were leaving the Grand Canyon for Utah.

"Well, you're about to find out.  Be prepared to make a lot of stops."  She smiled mysteriously.

"Why?"

"You'll see," she told him.

The high plateau desert and its curiously round, fat juniper trees soon gave way to sparser vegetation.  In the distance, large sand colored, flat topped buttes appeared, as if from nowhere, to disappear again a few miles later.  Rolling hills came and went, colored every shade of green and yellow.  They sped across the Moenkopi Plateau, past the historic old trading post at Cameron.  Because it was Sunday, most of the traffic was headed back into Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon areas, not in their direction.

It was not long before Spock pulled the flitter over to the roadside.  Christine glanced out the window where he was looking.  A much smaller version of the Grand Canyon had appeared, with the correct coloring and rock composition.  Only this incarnation was above the ground, not in it.

"Fascinating," he said, for at least the 35th time that day.

"Mmmm," Christine agreed, knowing full well what lay ahead.  This was going to be a wonderful trip.  "You'll see a great deal of things which indicate unusual tectonic and oceanographic action all through here.  Sometimes, it almost defies an explanation."

Spock raised an eyebrow as he took the flitter back out onto the highway.  At the intersection of Hwy160, where he was turning right, his eyebrows raised again.  The flitter stopped and Spock got out.  Christine followed him as he crossed the road.

"Mima mounds," he said as he surveyed the land before them.

"Uh huh.  Also known as hog wallows."

The ground was covered in small mounds of earth, ranging in height from one foot to nearly eight, with a diameter between ten and fifty feet.  They were neatly spaced as if some giant prehistoric landscaper had been preparing to plant a garden.

"There has never been a sound geological explanation for these."  He held out a hand.  Christine took it and they began to scale one of the smaller hillocks.  "They existed all over the US and were quite a hindrance to agriculture, if I recall from my studies."

"Now they're fairly rare, but this is a great example," she replied.  "And what makes these so unusual is the striped effect."  She pointed to a neighboring mound which consisted of three separate types of sediment, ranging from dark taupe to off white, like a gigantic layered confection.

"What is even more interesting is how quickly and vastly the terrain has changed.  We have covered a short amount of mileage, yet the differences in the land are quite astounding in their diversity."  With that, Spock took his wife's hand once more and began their descent.  Christine was expecting science tutorials, but at least she knew what he was talking about.

As they neared Red Lake, Spock turned to her once more as he stopped the vehicle.  "Are we already here?" he asked, confused.

She laughed, delighted at the effect the strange landscape was having on him.  He looked perplexed, so she gave him a kiss.  "Come on," she instructed.  "Let's have a look at mini-Monument Valley."

They walked out across a floor of red earth.  In the distance, long buttes, similar to those in the Grand Canyon, stretched for miles.  But before them were hundreds of bright red rock formations, quite similar to the larger monoliths found in Monument Valley proper.  Only these were a fraction of the height.

"This would indicate that an ocean was here at one time," Spock noted as he picked up some of the rocks and looked them over.  "But because the formations are so small, it would not have been several oceans, as other parts of the area experienced."

"The first time I saw it, I had exactly the same reaction," Christine recalled.  "I asked my mom, 'Is this it?  It looks so tiny!' and she just laughed."  She looked at the landscape a last time before they went back to the vehicle.  "Consider it your first preview."

"First?" Spock asked, knowing she loved to drop hints.

"First."  She also loved not telling the whole story up front.

They sped further up the highway, watching an ever changing landscape pass by.  Sandstone rocks appeared, just a few miles from the red rock formations, then the green plants of the Shonto Plateau.  Even Spock, who had seen many unusual geological situations during his Starfleet career, could not have imagined the wide range of vistas which presented themselves.

"Is there a speed limit?" he asked suddenly.

He'd been doing a moderate rate, nothing too outrageous, so Christine was curious.  "Not really, this is open country.  Why do you ask?"

"I believe the sheriff's flitter just passed us, and he was doing quite a bit more speed than I was."  He shook his head.  "Fascinating."

After climbing Black Mesa and Marsh Pass, they were once more at elevation and the landscape changed yet again.  Beyond that came the town of Kayenta, where they stopped to have a look at the National Codetalker Museum.  There was also an exhibit dedicated to the four Dine' who were serving, or who had served, in Starfleet.

"Are you ready?" Christine asked as they started up again.  Spock was turning onto Hwy 163, which led to the Valley itself.

"I presume there must be something I should be prepared for, correct?"

"Exactly."

Predictably, the flitter came to another stop in a few minutes.  Spock's eyebrows were now well into his hairline.  "I do not understand.  How can two such vastly differing rock formations be precisely on either side of the road?"

"The tourist board put them there?" she suggested with a laugh.

They got out and contemplated the unique phenomenon.  On one side of the highway stood a giant monolith, charcoal grey in color, looking as though some oozing black mud had bubbled to a great height and then dried.  Its base consisted of scree and rocks.  Less than a quarter of a mile away stood a greyish red sandstone rock formation, similar to what they'd seen in Sedona, but the polar extreme of its neighbor.  Further beyond, red mesa buttes stretched on the horizon.  It was quite obvious that the ancient seas which had advanced and receded several times over the area left behind some fairly unusual geological oddities.

Spock was busily taking holopics, clearly enjoying the adventure.  He turned to his wife after a moment and gave her a kiss.  "Thank you," he told her.

"For what?"

"It is obvious to me that you've spent a great deal of time planning this trip, and I am grateful."  Pleasure laced his voice.

"Well, it's my honeymoon too, remember."  Her fingers found the tip of an ear and gave it a tweak.  "C'mon, there's much more to see."

A few miles down the road, the first familiar looking rock formations started to appear, albeit clearly in the wrong place.

"Not yet?" Spock was now truly confounded.  These looked correct, but where were the others?

"Not yet.  But this is your second preview.  Ah, there's the turn.  Better slow it down," she instructed.

"Is this what I am to be prepared for?" he asked as he maneuvered down the bend in the highway.  "Oh."

A moment later the flitter stopped at the roadside yet again and Christine realized that even Vulcans could be stunned into silence.

At the end of the road, like a child's set of playthings, stood the familiar landscape of towering red buttes known for centuries as Tse' Bii Ndzisgaii.

Monument Valley.

* * *

 

"Computer.  Time zone adjustment, Mountain Standard Daylight," Christine said as the flitter passed a colorfully painted sign.  She turned to her husband with a smile.

"Welcome to Utah, Spock."

* * *

 

"Truly, Christine, this was quite an amazing vista when I first viewed it."  Spock looked ahead at the now huge rock formations which studded the valley floor, impressed with their size and grandeur.  They had parked the flitter and were wandering through the visitor's center.

"That's a better reaction than I had the first time I saw it.  I cried." Christine recalled the moment exactly.

He raised a familiar eyebrow, though not in amusement.  "You did?  Why?"

"I have no idea.  It just happened.  I must have been about 17, right before I left for college.  Seems I'd waited my whole life to see the place, from all those old cowboy holovids, and then it just suddenly appeared."  She sighed.  "And I guess it was a bit much.  But I've been back many times since, and the only reaction I have now is one of awe.  It really does take your breath away."

"Indeed, no amount of advertising photographs can convey this adequately," he agreed.  "Now, shall we inquire as to a horseback trip for tomorrow?"

"Are you sure?" she asked, as she had done many times before.  "It would be at least six hours round trip in the saddle, Spock.  Please don't think you have to do this.  We can take a jeep shuttle trip just as easily."

"I am certain," her husband replied.  "Let us look for the vendor."

A few yards away, in the midst of various merchant booths, Christine came upon a sign which read "Brown Family Stables."  Even before she could ask a question, a young man sprang to his feet.

"Dr. Chris?  Is that you?"  The voice belonged to a native youth of about 18, tall and lanky, with a wide grin.

Christine stared at him.  After a moment, she returned the smile.  "Billy?  Billy Brown?"

"The same!  How are you, Doc?  It's been what, three years?"

"Yes, about that," she replied.  Then she turned to Spock.  "Billy came along on my last ride here.  His brother Tommy was our guide."  She turned back to Billy.  "You must have been about 15, right?  So where's your brother, out on a ride?"

The youth shook his head.  "He's back at college up in Shiprock.  He graduates this year and wants to work with the Dine' Government after that.  And I start school in a month at the University of New Mexico, to study Veterinary Science."  He smiled back at Christine.  "You gave us good advice, Dr. Chris.  Did you know my cousin Mary passed the preliminary Starfleet exam?  She wants to be a stellar cartographer.  But enough of my clan.  What brings you here again?"

"This is my husband, Spock.  We're on our honeymoon."

"Ya'at'eeh, Spock," Billy said as they shook hands.  "Welcome to our Valley."  Then he gave Christine a wink.  "Awesome!  Grandma was right!  Remember the sand painting?"

"We were wondering if there might be a ride available tomorrow?"  Christine was anxious to change the subject, as Spock was now curious about what had just been said.  "Could you take us somewhere interesting for the day?  Not too difficult, because neither of us has had much practice in space lately."

Billy spoke to another relative at the table for a moment, then turned back with another grin.  "I can take you out to Dr. Black's archaeological dig.  About three hours either way, nice and level, and we'd stay out there a few hours more so you can see the dig and the caves.  How's that sound?"

"That would be fine," Spock replied placidly.  "I presume it is a Native American archaeological site?"

"Yep, she and her husband have been making some really interesting finds.  It'll be great, and I can check out the animals while I'm there.  So where you staying?  Can you meet us at the hooghan tomorrow, say, 8 am?"

"We're out at Inn the Valley," Christine said.  "And I remember how to get to your farm, so that shouldn't be a problem.  Spock's a little less experienced than I am on a horse, though, make sure you give him one that's not too feisty."

"Sure thing.  And can you have dinner at the farm after?  Grandma would be so happy to see you again, and to meet your husband."

Spock nodded his assent.  "We would be honored to join your family, Billy.  Thank you for the invitation."

"Then we'll see you in the morning."

* * *

 

They sat on the stone wall of the visitor's center, in companionable silence, enjoying the splendor of the view.  The familiar twin Mitten Buttes were before them, looking exactly as their name suggested.  The rocks glowed a deep brick red as the sun started to head towards the horizon, although there was still plenty of daylight left.

Spock let his hand cover hers in an affectionate gesture.  "Now I understand why you wished to bring me to this part of your home.  Until I saw the beauty of this place, it was just an interesting image in a holobook.  But seeing it with you here now has made it a most special experience for me." Then put his arm around his wife's shoulders and drew her closer, enjoying the moment they shared.

To the rest of the tourists, they were just another couple gazing out at the scenery.

* * *

 

"Gooseneck State Park?  Are geese native to this region?" Spock asked as he turned the flitter up the rural road.

"No, but you'll understand when we get to the overlook.  No geese here."

He shrugged as the vehicle maneuvered the twisting curves.  They had already discussed the reason why Mexican Hat had been called as it was, with Spock clearly not quite understanding the somewhat whimsical place names of the area.  Christine was glad they weren't going to Goblin Valley.

The flitter made swift work of what would have taken an ordinary vehicle three times as long and they were soon at the summit, which looked down onto the San Juan River's' many twisting curves, called goosenecks, for that was what they resembled.  Far below, past cliffs of solid rock, rafters could be seen floating down the river towards Lake Powell.

"One of the finest examples of entrenched meanders in this part of the country," Spock remarked as he viewed the silt laden water which had carved the odd shaped canyons.  "But why does hardly anyone seem to be here?"

Christine glanced around and saw one or two families enjoying the scenery but the parking lot was otherwise empty.  "I guess with other big tourist draws in the vicinity, small gems like this one can get overlooked."

Spock put his arm around he once more as they returned to the vehicle.  "But I am glad we did not overlook such a splendid vista.  I look forward to viewing more of your home nation with you, Christine."

* * *

 

"Spectacular."  Spock indicated the sweeping panorama visible to them from the overlook at Muley Point.  "And that must be Monument Valley which is on the horizon?"

"It is.  This region was the home of the Anasazi people centuries ago.  Now it's known as Cedar Mesa, but despite the wonderful vantage points, most tourists are busy visiting the more known areas.  Too bad for them.  I prefer the solitude."

"That is unfortunate for them, yes.  But again, I am pleased we came here."  He had parked the flitter offroad, right near the edge of some cliffs which afforded a splendid view of the canyons and valleys beyond.  A Vulcan hand slid delicately down her shoulder and across her waist.  "I believe we are alone, Doctor.  And I find myself in need of a physician.  A most alarming malady has presented itself."  He raised an eyebrow as he placed her hand on the front of his shorts.

"I'll need to conduct a thorough physical examination, then," she answered.

* * *

 

"I don't know why I bothered to get dressed at all today," Christine sighed.  "You've managed to get me out of my shorts three times now."

"Perhaps you should consider wearing one of the old styled uniforms, then," Spock replied.  "I would surmise that you would have much less of a problem in situations such as these."  He gave her a downright humorous look as his hands gripped her hips more tightly.

"Not a chance, Commander," she countered.  "Ohhhhhh."  She moaned as he thrust again.

He was seated on a shaded rock ledge, which overlooked a sweeping overlook, and she was in his lap, her legs twisted around his back.  Her voluminous cambric overshirt covered a multitude of rear view sins, but only this time.  A half hour ago, anyone happening across the vista would have had quite an interesting panorama to view, she thought, recalling how she had been seated on her husband's mouth, losing herself in the waves of pleasure only he could give her.

"You approve of these maneuvers, then, my wife?" he growled.  "Here, let me demonstrate how efficiently the equipment functions."

Christine was about to lose the ability of coherent speech, but she managed to lean forward and whisper something into her husband's ear.

He thrust again, harder.  Again.  And again.  "As you wish, my wife," he assured her.  "Come for me, Christine.  Now.  I cannot wait any longer, you make me burn so."  He looked her straight in the eye and repeated what he had said in the bluffs above Sedona, only this time, he punctuated the words with some well-aimed movements.

Fireworks occurred above the Muley Point area, but nothing that the news media reported on.

* * *

 

"You're my only guests for two nights," the innkeeper said.  "Most folks come out here at the weekends.  So you have the place to yourselves.  My husband and I live up the bluff from here."

The sunset was beginning to paint its magic across the Cedar Mesa, which was the Inn's backdrop.

"There's a hot tub on the patio, and the views from the porch are just wonderful, day or night.  The fridge is fully stocked for breakfast and if you need anything, just hit the comm unit."

"This place seems to have quite a history," Spock remarked, glancing at the adobe's long porch and solar panels.  "How long has it been in existence?"

The innkeeper laughed.  "The first owners set this place up in the late 20th century.  At the time, it was quite a phenomenon, what with its wind and solar power.  But each successive owner has kept it much the same.  A quiet place to escape the craziness out there."  She smiled.  "We get some Vulcans visiting now and then in the summer.  They seem to like the solitude we offer."

"Indeed," Spock replied, pondering a bit.

"See you then," the innkeeper said as she headed back up the path.

"I need a shower," Christine announced.  "I'm covered in red dust."

"So do I," Spock replied, sliding his arm comfortably around his wife's waist.  "A quick one, for I would enjoy sitting on the porch and viewing the sunset with you, Christine."

* * *

 

"You know, in about two weeks, we have to go back to the Enterprise," Christine sighed.  She was wrapped around her husband, watching the nighttime panorama of the desert skies from a couch on the inn's long, well-designed porch.

"I was thinking about that as well," Spock replied.  "But now is not the time to worry over such things, my wife."  He pointed to the black velvet desert sky, filled with brilliant stars.  "Shall I instruct you of the constellations in this part of the U.S.A.?" he asked, with a gaze that could reduce Polaris to steam in a heartbeat.

"Yes, please."

* * *

 

"And what potion have you concocted for me, doctor?" Spock asked.

Christine looked over at him across the breakfast table.  "Oh, the usual.  Eye of desert toad.  Feather of a roadrunner.  Two leaves of purple sage.  One lizard toe."  She finished the mixing process and got up.  "Arm please."

"Your superior has taught you well, then," he replied.  "But where are your rattles and beads?"

"Spock, you really do slay me at times."  She injected him proficiently.  "If you must know, it's your last antiwarp-lag dose, something to compensate for the difference in Terran altitude and oxygen, something to combat possible muscle strain ... and something to help you deal with a possible overdose of cheese."

"Cheese, Doctor?"  Spock raised an eyebrow.

"Yes, cheese.  The local cuisine uses it extensively and if Grandma Brown makes her special green corn tamales, which I think she may, I'd rather be safe." She frowned as her husband's spoon clattered to the tiled floor of the porch.  "Let me get that."

No sooner had she bent to retrieve the silverware when she felt his hands grab familiar territory.

"I might have known," she muttered as she allowed herself to be pulled onto his lap.  "You've seen me in much less, Commander.  Why can't you keep your paws off of my glutes this morning?"

Her husband was busily running his hands up and down her black cotton Lycra clad posterior and legs.  "The absence of color emphasizes the silhouette," he stated.  "And I do enjoy this particular silhouette."

"Honestly, Spock.  They're just schooling tights for riding."  But she sighed contentedly and leaned back against him to look at the view.

It was still early morning, but the sun had already started brushing strokes of fiery brilliance against the mesa wall that was the inn's backdrop.  They'd gone to bed early, tired from a long few days of adventures.  Apparently the desert air was quite a restorative, because Christine's personal chronometer, the Vulcan variety, had woken her even before the first bird's song.

"Such an interesting landscape.  I can see why this is called the other Monument Valley," Spock commented.  "Perhaps its isolation is a good thing.  The peacefulness here is a most welcome change from the more populated areas we have visited recently.  Though I wonder which deities it is named after."

Christine craned her neck around and found an ear to nuzzle.  "Enjoy it.  Moab is a very popular center for adventure tours, and the Grand Canyon's North Rim finally got discovered once the new hotel was finished.  And then there's Vegas..."

"But once we reach your home in California, it will be quiet again, will it not?"  He closed his eyes for a moment, enjoying the sensations flowing outward from his ear.  His arm stroked the back of her head, encouraging more contact.  "When we return this evening, I hope you plan to continue what you are starting?"

"This evening?" Christine laughed.  "Spock, I still wonder why you insisted on doing this ride.  Six hours in the saddle?  We'll be lucky if we stay awake long enough to get back here after dinner!"

"I beg to differ, Doctor."  He gave her what could only be called a smirk.  "I plan on a most enjoyable end to our evening."

"With what?  Your hand?"  She laughed even harder.  "No way you'll be up for anything, Commander.  I can almost guarantee that.  Neither will I, probably."

"Would you be willing to wager on that outcome?"  His expression was now bordering on dangerous.

"What has gotten into you, Spock?"  Christine was incredulous.  "Must be the water.  Well, OK, I'll play along.  Let's see.  If we're able to do anything besides kiss goodnight, I'll..."  She leaned back and whispered an outrageous proposition.

"Indeed."  Spock let his fingers rest somewhere for a moment.  "On the shuttle tour?"

"In the shuttle, during the tour."

"I believe you Terrans say, 'You're on'?"  Spock got to his feet and pulled her along with him for a kiss, then handed her the flitter keys.

"Me?  Drive?"  She unconsciously put a hand to his forehead.

"I assure you, I am feeling quite well.  But you indicated you have been to the farm on a previous occasion, so you would be best able to get us there." He gave her rear end one last caress.  "Shall we go, then?"

* * *

 

"It's a matriarchal society, so I will likely be introducing us, and from your mother's clan and her mother's clan.  It's the way things have been done for centuries, how to tell where a person is from."

"Not unlike the Vulcan society, which is matriarchal as well," Spock said.  "Although we use the father's lineage in address.  But tell me, my wife.  What is this about a sand painting?"

Christine maneuvered the flitter down a dusty rural route into the park's back country.  "I visited the farm last time I was here, remember?  They took me riding, and I had a late lunch with the family before I caught the shuttle back to Sedona.  Grandmother Brown was doing a kind of sand painting, something to help her gather her thoughts before she began to weave a rug, she said.  She showed it to me, that's all."

"Is it?"  Spock raised a familiar eyebrow.

"Maybe I'll let her explain," she replied.  "You'd never believe me if I told you."

"Fascinating."

* * *

 

Spock looked down at his wife from astride the mare's back.  His horse, a grey Appaloosa, appropriately named "Spots," was obviously enjoying the carrots that Christine had brought along to feed the animals.  He shifted his center of gravity to adjust for the position and stretched his legs out fully into the stirrups.  Not bad, not at all.  Memories of the many rides his mother had taken him on during numerous childhood visits to family began to work themselves into his muscles.

"Need a leg, Doc?" Billy asked as he prepared to mount his own steed.

"Nope, I'm fine.  C'mon, Diablo, let me up," Christine told the splendid Mustang stallion.  A moment later, Spock was amazed to watch her swing herself almost effortlessly into the saddle.  She patted the horse's strong neck with affection.  "Good boy."

"OK, let's go.  Freddie, lead the way."  Billy's young cousin Freddie was accompanying them, ostensibly for experience, but Billy had casually mentioned that he was in the same class as Dr. Black's daughter, Miranda.  Christine suspected an ulterior motive.

They started out at a brisk walk, with a warm breeze following.  Billy pointed out the local sights, names that sounded odd to Spock, but which obviously matched the visuals presented by the many rocks in the area.  The Ear of the Wind.  The Eye of God.  Totem Pole Rock.  The Sisters.  The monoliths were a deep brick red and appeared to have been dropped from an unseen hand to sit just as they did, millenia ago.  Then the elements had taken over, producing images of astonishing variety over the centuries.

"Are you holding up okay?" Christine asked after about an hour had passed.  The pace had progressed to a brisk, comfortable trot.

Spock gave her a reassuring nod.  "Affirmative, Doctor.  I am, in fact, quite enjoying the experience thus far."

"You up for a gallop, Doc?" Billy asked as he pulled up beside Christine.  He indicated a dirt road they were about to come out onto.

"Absolutely."  She glanced at her husband.  "Don't worry, I'll be fine."

"Yeah, Diablo's a good one.  Freddy'll keep you company till we're back."

Spock watched them take off in a cloud of red dust at a fast clip.  Christine had not forgotten her riding skills, that was obvious.  He then saw a hydro powered jeep tour come around a bend, at a safe distance, paralleling their race.  Several tourists leaned over the vehicle's barrier with vidcams, filming the spectacle.  Perhaps they thought his Th'yla lived here as well?  She certainly looked the part at the moment.

* * *

 

After another hour and a half, having crossed more beautiful scenic countryside and seeing nothing but the occasional flock of sheep being tended by a native shepherd, a settlement of sorts came into view.  A corral held horses, and there were other domestic animals in evidence.  The area was dominated by a modern geodesic type of living structure, surrounded by several outbuildings.  Several heavy duty flitters were parked nearby.

"Dr. Black!" Billy called out, which started a few dogs barking.  "We're here!"

The dogs barked louder.  After a moment, a young boy of about five years of age came out from behind a building.  "Mom!" he shouted.

Christine blinked, thinking she was seeing things.  Then she looked over at Spock, whose eyebrows had raised thoughtfully.

The boy looked like any youth of his age, with sun-bleached blonde hair and dark brown eyes.  His skin, however was ... green.  Not dark green, but green nonetheless.  He waved at the visitors.

"Sasha!  Masha!  Quiet!"  A woman's commanding voice was heard over the chorus of baying hounds.  A moment later, the woman herself appeared, dressed as any archaeologist would be, in dust covered work clothes, her long blonde hair tied back in a ponytail.  A baseball cap was pushed back on her forehead.  Her blue eyes were very friendly.

Her skin was green.  Darker than her son's, not the full green known so well throughout the galaxy, but still the green tone and the exotic features of an Orion woman.

Christine had already dismounted proficiently.  She moved over to give Spock a hand, then turned the reins over to the capable Freddie.

"Hi Dr. Black, good to see you.  These are the folks I told you about.  Both of 'em are officers in Starfleet."

"Billy, the animals will be very glad you're here for their checkup."  The woman smiled again and moved over to the visitors.  "I'm Dr. Oxana Black and this is my son, Jeff."  She shook hands with Spock and Christine.  "Welcome to our home, it's a pleasure to have you visit.  Shall we get some drinks and lunch before I give you the grand tour?  My husband and daughter should be back from the caves any minute.  We'll head there after we've eaten, if that's OK?"

* * *

 

"So."  Dr. Black gave them a wink as she set out some dishes.  "I'll bet you're just dying of curiosity.  How did a nice girl like me end up here?"

"The thought had crossed my mind, yes," Spock replied.  He had seen Orion women in many capacities, from the traditional image still associated with them, to the more modern variety who were appearing, free, in many parts of the galaxy.  But an archaeologist?  This was certainly quite a step forward.

"Mine too," Christine added, debating whether or not a kick under the table might be a good idea.  She decided to be benevolent.  This once.

At that moment, the door slammed and two more family members joined the lunch group.  "This is my husband Mark, and my daughter Miranda," Dr. Black continued.  "He's also a PhD, another archaeologist, of course, so we're the Doctors Black."  She smiled as the group made introductions.

"Back to our original conversation topic," Oxana continued as they ate.  "My grandmother was one of the slave women you've obviously heard so much about.  She belonged to a Russian spacer, who ran a repair business at a station on Polaris, of all places.  Grandpa Ivan fell in love with Deera, my granny.  He married her and gave her her freedom, then decided he'd been cold long enough so he retired to Flagstaff.  Hot in the summer, snow if he wanted in the winter.  They started a family and both of them encouraged their daughter to study whatever she wanted, that education was important.

"My mom, Tanya, met my dad at the University of Northern Arizona.  She was studying hospitality management, so was my dad.  He was from Minnesota.  They got married right after graduation and worked at the new hotel out at the North Rim of the Canyon, where I was born and grew up.  One summer, when I was about 16, Mark here came on a dig near our home with some elders of the Dine' nation, and the rest was history.  We ended up going to UNA as well, and here we are.  My parents are in Florida now, in Key West, running a bed and breakfast."

Miranda, an eight year old who had inherited her mother's eyes and father's looks but not much green skintone, piped up.  "I want to be an astronomer," she said, looking somewhat disdainfully at her brother.  "But Jeff wants to be in the navy."  She paused dramatically.  "The merchant navy.  On a ship in an ocean!"

Jeff predictably stuck his tongue out at his sister.  "I'd rather be on a ship than have some girl make googoo eyes at me like Freddy's making at you!"

"Is not!"

"Is so!"

The unfortunate Freddy just gave his cousin a somewhat bemused look and shrugged.

"KIDS!" Oxana's voice thundered like a gunshot.  "Let's cool it!  Come on, we have guests to take to the caves.  Best behavior while we're gone, OK?  Or..."  She too paused for effect.  "No trip to Florida for Christmas."

As they headed outside to the flitters, Christine was aware of Spock through their link.

*That, my wife, may well be us in a few years.*  He sounded amused.

*Shall we discuss your definition of A FEW later?*

* * *

 

"We only just discovered these caves a few months ago," Mark Black said as he led them through the cavern's rooms.  "Judging by the petroglyphs, they date from Anasazi times, but earlier than most, tenth century we think."  He indicated some rock carvings.  "What do you make of this?" he asked Spock.

"It appears to be a depiction of a supernova.  Fascinating.  I was not aware there were any of these occurring in this part of the galaxy at that time."  He took some vidscans.  "What do the astronomers at Lowell have to say?"

"They've been here a couple of times already," Oxana replied.  "And they think this might have been a place for the actual study of the stars.  An early observatory, maybe.  The Dine' have their own unique names for constellations that we don't use, so it's likely their ancestors did the same.  Both peoples watched the skies, that's for absolute certain.  And these drawings help paint a more definite picture of the era."

"Obviously.  I shall also make a report to the Vulcan Science Academy on your findings, if that is permissible?"

"Are you kidding?  We'd be so honored if you did!" Mark Black put an arm around his wife's shoulders.  "This is going to be our life's work, we'd love to share it with the galaxy."

Christine was suddenly very happy her husband had decided to make the trip on horseback.  She could feel his pleasure radiating through their bond, and it was a comfortable sensation.  "Would you consider having an intern from offworld at some point?" she said.  "Perhaps a college student, taking a year elsewhere to study archeology?"

"Sure.  Know anyone?" Oxana asked.

"I might, but she wouldn't be ready to join you for a few years," Christine mused, thinking of T'sai T'Ren's daughter and her dreams of studying native cultures.  "I'll mention it to her, though."

* * *

 

The ride back to the farm was progressing uneventfully until they climbed a summit and came face to face with a group of re-enactors, dressed as 19th century western explorers.  They had set up camp near the base of one of the huge rocks and were busily exercising their horses through the surrounding area.

"If it isn't one thing, it's another," Billy sighed.  "This group's from the Martian Colonies.  Last month we had the re-make of 'Stagecoach' being shot here.  It's called 'Starcoach' and it's about a shuttle that crash-lands in the Valley.  Can you believe it?"

Christine could, but she was not too happy at the prospect.  Some things were best left as they were.

* * *

 

When they returned to the farm, Grandmother Brown, resplendent in native dress, moved forward to welcome them.  Various family members were in attendance, obviously curious about the event, not to mention the couple.

"Christine, daughter of Beverly, daughter of Theresa, welcome again to our clan's home."

"Ah'ee, Nascha," Christine replied.  "This is my husband, Spock, from Vulcan, son of Amanda Grayson, daughter of Margaret Thomas Grayson."

"May fortune be with you always.  Spock, welcome to you as well."  She held up an unusual piece of pottery with two spouts.  "Would you care to have the traditional Dine' marriage blessing as well?"

Spock looked at his wife, who promptly answered.  "We would be honored."

The woman handed the vase to Christine.  "This is a marriage vase, and it shall be yours to keep as a reminder of your joining.  It is filled with sacred water.  Christine, take a drink, please."  Christine did so.  "Now turn the vase as the sun goes across the earth," (which Christine knew to mean clockwise) "and let your husband drink from the other side."

Spock did so, then held the vase, waiting.

Grandmother Brown then took the vessel back and turned it clockwise once more, then poured the rest of the water onto the ground.  "An offering to the earth," she announced.  "May your marriage be blessed with much happiness."

They started to make their way with the rest of the group towards the large adobe ranch house, but the older woman stopped them.  She looked at Spock, a smile playing on her wise features.

"Yes, it is the one I saw in the sand," she said mysteriously.  Then she turned to Christine.  "It is as I told you, my child.  You would return again to this land with your mate, one who belonged to a clan far from here.  And the both of you would have crossed the stars to do so."

"Grandmother, my husband would wish to know how you saw this?  He is unfamiliar with what you have just told us."

The old woman indicated they should join her on a bench.  Then she explained that while traditional sand paintings were done to very specific guidelines, as part of a healing ceremony in many cases, she herself used the art to help choose the design for the rugs she wove.  She was a weaver, not a medicine woman, though her Dine' name meant owl, and that showed wisdom.  The day Christine had visited last, she had just started working with the sands, and by the time the ride had returned, a startling picture had been drawn.  It showed the traditional Yeis, the celestial guardians, guiding a healing woman from the land of the Abalone Shell Mountain to the West, and a warrior from the land of the Coal Mountain, to the North, across a sea of the stars.  Though this was in no way how a traditional sand painting was done, for her, it had been used as the necessary inspiration for her task.  But she had told the young stranger what she saw in the painting, for she often glimpsed the future.

"And now it is as I saw."  She disappeared into the traditional hooghan behind them for a moment, then returned with a handwoven rug.  "This is the piece that I wove after I saw the sands.  I never sold it, instead kept it here with me.  Somehow, I knew I would be giving it to you and your husband some day."  She handed the beautiful woolen tapestry to Christine.  "Please accept this and the joy I hope it will bring the both of you."

"Ah'ee," Spock replied.

"We cannot thank you enough, Grandmother," Christine added.

The woman brushed their thanks aside.  "But enough of ceremony.  It is now time to eat.  After your journey, you must be hungry."  She paused.  "Or as we say in our language, 'My hunger is hurting me!' "

"Have you made your special green corn tamales, Grandmother?" Christine asked.

"Yes, as well as cheese and green chili soup and some blue cornbread."  She looked at Spock.  "This is your first time eating our traditional food, Spock?"

"Yes, but I hope it shall not be my last."

* * *

 

It was dusk when Christine finished toweling off her hair.  Dinner had been a very enjoyable event, with the clan's history, which included two of the original code-talkers, being told in various stories.  Spock had liked the meal very much, and thanks to the preventative injection, helped himself to an extra portion of everything.  Both of them were a little stiff from the day's ride, but not overly so.

Spock had driven back to the Inn, and they'd paused to admire the smaller monoliths that dotted the valley floor, cousins to those just down the road.  When they got back, they washed off the day's dirt, dust and horse.

She pulled on a robe and wandered out to the patio.  Spock was already in the hot tub, looking up at the starry skies above him.  His smile increased as he watched her drop the garment, revealing nothing more than her own smile, and climb in beside him.

The water felt delightful.  He handed her a glass of champagne and they sat, watching the panorama unfold in the sky above.  After awhile, she put down her glass and settled into his embrace.

"How many times have we gotten married now?" she asked dreamily.

"Four."

"Only four?  I thought it was more than that."  She turned to face him.  "So tell me, rain man.  You told me how you got the oral fixation, and it wasn't too difficult to make the connection between someone from a world with hardly any precipitation to love in a deluge.  But why the outdoors?  I don't mind, of course.  But somehow, I just can't picture Vulcans having romantic liaisons outside.  So ... 'splain."

"Quite simple, beloved.  We serve aboard a starship.  We shall continue to do so when we return from our honeymoon.  As you know, our chances to be alone together off ship have been next to none, so it is logical to make use of the opportunities we now have to enjoy the ... outdoors as you put it."  His hand had been exploring during his tutorial and it found its mark unerringly.

"Mmmm, logical," she agreed, starting to nibble on his shoulder.  "More than logical, in fact.  A downright good idea, if you ask me."  She nodded towards the patio.  "That sofa looks very inviting, don't you think?  How about another lesson in astronomy?"

"I find myself still a bit hungry, my wife, and in need of a serving of something delicious."  In a quick moment he had set her on the hot tub's edge, not unlike he had done at the springs that afternoon on Vulcan.  "And I am certain you might be in need of a kiss to make something better, after all those hours in the saddle?"

"Uh huh.  And yes, I know.  You win."  She have him a mischievous grin.  "But I really don't care right now."  She knew she might care later.  Just not now.

WHAT had possessed her to bet her husband a hand job?

* * *

 

"Greetings, Jim,

Christine and I spent the day riding horseback at a fascinating place called Monument Valley, where we met a most extraordinary couple.  We are with them here in front of some caves that may hold a quite important discovery about the ancient study of astronomy in the region.  I trust all is well on the ship, since we have not heard anything to the contrary on the news.  Spock and Christine."

* * *

 

"Hey Len,

Yes, that's Spock on a horse, and no, I didn't force him, he asked if he could go riding.  Spent the day at Monument Valley and met the Black family -- Dr. and Dr. and their wonderful kids, who you see in this shot of the area.  Check out the rocks.  Amazing, huh?  Hope all's going fine and you don't have any outbreaks of anything other than boredom.  Chris (and the Vulcan).  PS.  Yes.  She is.  I'll tell you all about it when we get back."

* * *

 

Physician and Captain met in the corridor.

"Did you see--"

"Did you get--"

They stopped for a moment.  Kirk eyed his CMO.  "Well Bones, your bar ... or mine?"

* * *

 

"I have heard of this monument," Spock noted as he continued making a vidscam of the petroglyphs.  "And now I see that Newspaper Rock clearly was one of the finest examples of human rock carvings of its time."

"It covered two thousand years of human activity in this area: Fremont, Anasazi, Dine' and Anglo," Christine said, looking at the diverse images.

"And offworld activity as well," Spock replied.  "It has been found that several ancient space exploring cultures also left their mark here.  This place has been well documented at the Science Academy and elsewhere in the Galaxy." He turned to his wife, the corner of his mouth lifted.  "Thank you, Th'yla, for bringing me here."

"You're welcome." She gave him a mirthful smile as they walked back to the flitter.  "Any residual physical ailments today, Commander?"

"Some twinges in my quads, which is to be expected.  Third degree burns on my mouth and ... elsewhere.  A compound fracture of two of my fingers ... and a similar one ... elsewhere."

"You don't say," Christine replied, remembering a night of bliss under the desert's unending skies.

From the Inn, they had headed north on Hwy 261 with a stop at Natural Bridges National Monument.  Spock wanted to see the well preserved example of an early photovoltaic array, which generated solar energy to the area back in the late 20th century.  Now they were proceeding to Moab, and on to Arches National Park.  Tomorrow was set aside for an all day shuttle tour, with only six passengers guaranteed, of three national parks: Canyonlands, Zion and Bryce, plus Rainbow Bridge National Monument, before ending at the Grand Canyon's North Rim where they would spend the night.  To be honest, the prospect of letting someone else do the driving for a day was appealing.  Christine wondered when and how Spock was planning to collect on their bet.

* * *

 

"Fascinating."  Spock never tired of saying the phrase, and Christine never tired of hearing it.  They'd driven past the famous Courthouse Towers, known from the film "Thelma and Louise," at Arches National Park, and then on to Balanced Rock, which had lived up to its name for millenia.  From there they headed on to The Windows and had a leisurely stroll through the area, admiring the preponderance of the geological phenomenon that gave the park its name.  Then on to Delicate Arch, perhaps the most famous view of all.

After the horseback excursion the day before, neither wanted to overdo things, so the well-marked simple paths had been all they'd attempted.  But those were quite enough.  The park boasted over two thousand natural arches and the slow walks had afforded glimpses of many.  An afternoon thunderstorm was brewing far away on the horizon.

"Should we head back to Moab?" Spock asked after they had been sitting for awhile, enjoying the magnificent, unusual views the park offered.

"Sure.  I don't want to get caught in that," Christine replied, pointing to the cumulonimbus clouds gathering ominously.

* * *

 

"This isn't the Moab Highway.  Didn't you check the map?"

"It is called a 'Scenic Byway' and leads to some quite splendid petroglyphs," Spock told her.  He allowed a free hand to find its way onto her thigh.  "And a rainstorm is due, so it would be illogical to attempt to outrun it, do you not think?  With that, he expertly maneuvered the flitter onto a secluded pullout and popped the doors, leading her outside.

"What are we doing?  Or should I even ask, rain man?"  Christine laughed as the drops began to fall around them.  They were safe from the brunt of the storm; rock outcroppings afforded some shelter, and the overlook was at elevation, as in Sedona.

"Petroglyphs."  Spock indicated the carvings on the wall beyond them, but his hands were taking a journey of their own choosing.

"Cock," she replied, grasping what was straining against the fabric of his hiking shorts.  In a moment, she was on her knees and Spock succumbed to the thing he enjoyed but still could not easily bring himself to ask for.

* * *

 

"Shall it rain in California as well?" Spock asked.  He was licking raindrops off his wife's stomach, headed lower.

"Maybe.  Definitely not like this, at least not on the coast where we'll be."  She sighed.  "It's mistier and cooler there.  Better for cuddling on the porch, in the old swing."

"I do look forward to that, my wife."  He looked up at her, his eyes onyx.  "As I look forward to each time we are together."  Then he put his mouth to another use, very efficiently.

The stars soon appeared, in broad daylight.

* * *

 

"This is exquisite," Christine remarked as she held the beaded wall hanging up to the sunlight.  "Are these prairie roses?"

"Yes, and mountain lupine," the merchant answered.  "The patterns are centuries old, from the days my people lived all over this part of the country."

"Northern Ute?" Spock asked, touching the delicate handiwork.  It would look very nice indeed on their cabin wall.

"Part of the Ute Nation, yes.  My grandmother taught me our art of beadwork, and I will be teaching my daughter and my grandchildren.  It tells the circle of our life, from the days we moved from hunting ground to hunting ground."  She nodded at the piece Christine held.  "Do you like that?"

"I do, and I'll take it."  She made arrangements for the artwork to be shipped ahead to the Starfleet Mail Depot in San Francisco.  Then her eye was caught by some smaller beaded hair ornaments.  For a moment she wondered if one would look nice in her own tresses, but dismissed the idea as silly.  She just didn't do froufrou very well.

They continued wandering through the weekly craft and farmer's market in the well preserved Moab old town.  The clerk at their bed and breakfast had recommended the event and so far, it was living up to his description.  Christine bought a selection of desert and mountain scented, locally made candles for Kala and her spa: juniper, cedar, pinon, sandflowers, mountain snow.  And she'd also got a few for herself, one in particular she was anxious to use in California, desert rainstorm.  A local fashionista was selling loose comfortable t-shirt style dresses painted with swirling patterns of color.  Christine succumbed, getting a black sleeveless version for the dinner Spock had mysteriously announced he was taking her to that evening, and a turquoise blue t-shirt style for the shuttle trip tomorrow.

The streets were crowded with adventure holidaymakers and tourists, Terran and offworld alike.  Moab touted itself the gateway to the Utah Parklands due to its proximity to four national parks.  Winter and summer pursuits were equally popular, it seemed.  Several sport shops had posters of Stark prominently displayed, and his snowboards and Vulcan Heat activewear appeared to be popular sellers.

"Okay, I'm headed to the salon," she told Spock.  "Shall I meet you back at the hotel?"  After a week of hiking, she wanted a manicure and pedicure before being taken for a night on the town, even a town as small as Moab.

"Affirmative, but I shall first peruse the used holobook stall.  I saw a title on the plants of the southwestern region which I think Mr. Pauulu would quite enjoy."  Spock touched his wife's shoulder and embraced her lightly, just as other couples were doing.  "I shall see you soon, T'hyla."

He watched her disappear into the beauty establishment then walked back to the stall he had seen earlier.  Several titles caught his eye and he considered them all before making a selection for Mr. Pauulu.  After that, he returned to the bead merchant.

"Thought you might be back," she said pleasantly, indicating the hair ornament Christine was looking at earlier.  "It would look very nice on your wife's hair coloring.  My sister made these.  The design is traditional Ute, and a turquoise background is considered very lucky to the wearer.  It symbolizes the stone and the sky both."

Spock held the object in his hands, looking intently at the angled design done in rich, traditional earth tones.  This contrasted startlingly with the blue background, much the same way his wife's eyes would gaze out at him under an early morning curtain of her tousled dark hair.

"Yes, I believe I shall take this one," he replied.

"Shall I include it in the shipment to San Francisco?" the vendor asked as she wrapped the item and completed the transaction.

"No, I will take it with me."  Spock imagined his wife's surprise when he gave her the gift.  He thoroughly enjoyed this very human practice and the pleasure it gave him.

* * *

 

Christine surveyed the view of the nearby La Sal Mountains from the deck of their second floor room at the Casa de Suenos Inn.  The sun's descent was firing up the deep red color so common to the rock formations in this part of the world.  A warm zephyr caressed her face.  She smiled.  This trip was turning out to be even more wonderful than she had dared to hope, and there was still a week and a half to go.

"Hi, feet," she happily told her newly polished toes, comfortable in her favorite Bernardo leather thong sandals.

Then she paused and thought a bit.  They were getting spoiled, even though this was their honeymoon.  Christine idly wondered what things would be like once they returned to the Enterprise.  Opportunities for outdoor trysts outside shoreleave would be nil, unless they made use of the holodeck, but what fun was that compared to the real thing?

Then there was the fact that Spock was becoming increasingly affectionate in public with her.  Not overly so, and nothing outrageous, but he definitely was giving her hugs and the occasional chaste kiss in full view of others.  Christine almost had a vague sense of unease.  How could she convey this to her husband?  That his actions ... concerned her?  Not for her sake, but for his.  Despite what he had told her, and what she'd seen on Vulcan, she had a sneaking suspicion that any transgressions of what was construed to be non-Vulcan behavior would get back to Shi-Kahr faster than a starship at warp nine.  Spock had a future to consider, one that included Vulcan.  And she, as his wife, would have to behave accordingly.  No matter what she had heard or seen, in her heart, Christine worried that her being Terran brought further scandal to the House of Sarek.  True, he had said on many occasions that he now embraced both halves of his whole, but...

"Christine."  Her husband came up behind her and put an arm around her waist.  His mouth traversed her neckline.  "You look stunning," he said.

She turned in his arms and froze for a microsecond.

"What is amiss?" he asked.

He was clothed appropriately for an evening out at a nice restaurant.  For a Terran.  Good jeans, a white cotton shirt, his fine cowboy boots and a black ultrasuede jacket.

"You look so..." she began, not sure what to say.  He looked good, hot, fabulous ... but ... almost human!  Did he want to, or was this solely for her benefit?

"So ... splendidly attired?"  His special smile was very much in evidence as he pulled her closer against him.  "This bothers you?"

"No.  Yes.  No.  Sorry.  Why are you dressed like this?" she asked.

"This is our first opportunity in some days to dine in a fine establishment, so why should I not dress as I have?"  His eyebrow raised.

"You don't look very Vulcan, Commander..."

"But I am not among Vulcans, nor am I on my home planet.  And as you recall, I did not dress in traditional attire at all times even then.  Shall we say, I am airing my human side this evening?  Something I have not done enough of over the years."  He gave her backside a squeeze.  "But enough of a fashion critique, my wife.  I have something for you." He handed her a prettily wrapped package.

"What on earth?" she began.  Her eyes widened as she beheld the very hair ornament she had so admired earlier.

"It would become you," Spock said.  "May I?"

She nodded.  Her husband turned her away from him and combed her somewhat unruly locks with his fingers.  The feeling was beyond erotic.  He then twisted her tresses up into a knot and secured the hair ornament across them with its pine stick.

"There."  He turned her back and gave her a slow, sensual kiss.  "I shall have a great deal of pleasure removing it later."  His hands traveled the curve of her shoulders, bare in the new dress she wore.  "And other things."  Then he ran a fingertip across the bridge of her nose, smiling as he did so.  "You are getting a suntan, Doctor."

"You too," she replied, noticing the deeper shade his skin had taken on lately, a light cinnamon toast.  "So where are you taking me, Commander?"

"The restaurant is called The River Grill, I believe."

"The River Grill?"  Christine was taken somewhat aback.  That was one of the finest eateries in the area.

"It has the requisite stars in the Vulcan guidebooks," Spock replied, taking his wife's arm.  "So let us be going.  I find myself hungry for food."

"Vulcans have travel guidebooks?"  This was news.

"Why ever not?  How else would Vulcans know where to travel and what the locale had to offer?"  Spock gave he an amused eyebrow raise.

"Hold on a second.  You said Vulcans didn't take vacations, remember?  That it was illogical.  You -- meditated instead?"  She recalled Len's story after the incident with the Kelvans.

"Christine."  Spock turned and gave her another hug, with another grab of his favorite part of her anatomy thrown in for good measure.  "I uttered those words to irritate your superior.  It was during the height of, let's see, you referred to it as my 'swineheaded youth' phase.  True, not many Vulcans took vacations in the past, but such journeys have become quite common now.  Kwil'nor, where Stark took the youngsters surfing, is a very popular holiday resort on the Sea of Voroth.  For Vulcans -- and offworlders too.  Now shall we depart for our dinner, before I am forced to find other things to eat?"  He gave her a last suggestive caress, his thoughts clearly readable.  It was going to be a very nice night.

"Touche," she replied, sending back some very clear thoughts of her own.

* * *

 

"Yuga.  My name is George Littlebear, and I will be your waiter this evening."  The young native male smiled in welcome as he seated them at a nice outdoor table overlooking the Colorado River and the sunset bluffs beyond.

"Thank you, George," Spock replied.  " I am Spock and this is my wife, Christine.  We look forward to your service.  You are Northern Ute, then?  Those who worshiped the bear in the bear dance?"

The youth was pleased at the recognition of his clan by an offworlder.  "I am.  But I study law at the University of Utah currently.  I hope to help our people maintain the path they have chosen."  He paused.  "V'tosh?" he asked.  When Spock nodded, the waiter addressed them both in passable Vulcan, which Christine knew to be a casual evening greeting.

"Most impressive," Spock replied, switching back to Standard as the waiter took their orders.  "How do you know the language?"

"We get many Vulcans here in the summer.  This area is a popular tour destination.  In fact, our chef does make Vulcan dishes with advance notice.  Stark and his mother and his best friend ate here a few times last summer.  They did a rockclimbing trip in Canyonlands."  The waiter paused, then decided to add his opinion.  "He's a cosmic one, that's for sure.

"Indeed he is," Spock replied.

* * *

 

"OK, folks.  The shuttle departs in fifteen minutes from the lounge through those doors."  The reservations clerk pointed to his left.  "Your luggage has gone ahead already on the mini shuttle and will be waiting at the New North Rim Lodge when we get there.  Have a great trip and thanks for flying with Ute Country Tours."

The mountain sky was already a brilliant blue.  Both Spock and Christine were looking forward to the excursion and the opportunity to view several natural wonder areas in the course of a day, rather than having to drive between each.

Spock was talking to one of the company's pilots, a Saurian, who had done a stint in Starfleet as a helmsman aboard an Antares class ship.  Christine knew he'd be a few moments so she decided to go find a seat for them both.

The doors whooshed open and then closed again, but she did not move.  The bottom slowly fell out of her stomach.  The tour had guaranteed only six participants and the other four members of the group were already inside, waiting.  No.  It couldn't be.  This was a disaster in the making.

She turned quickly and ran smack into her husband.  He caught her by the shoulders, sensing her distress.  "Th'yla?  What is it, why are you so pale?"

"Come with me," she said tonelessly, heading back outside into the parking lot.  A few deep cleansing breaths later, she said one word.

"Vulcans."

"Vulcans?  What about Vulcans?"  Spock was confused.

"There!  On our tour!  A Vulcan family!"  She was doing everything possible not to gesture wildly or make an emotional face, but her heart was pounding so hard she wondered if the entire street heard it.

Spock looked thoughtful for a moment, then raised an eyebrow.  "I do not see a problem, my wife.  Vulcans travel, as I have said.  Why does this concern you?"

"Concern me?  Look at how I'm dressed!"

Her husband glanced her over.  Sandals, a knee length cotton knit dress she had just bought, sunglasses and the native hair ornament.  He raised his other eyebrow.

"Look at how you’re dressed!"  He was attired for a day outdoors, but not necessarily strenuous hiking.  Jeans, Vulcan Heat T-shirt (a wedding present from Stark), hiking boots and a daypack.

"I appear to be attired for a day's sightseeing excursion in the high deserts of Utah.  As do you?"  He still could not comprehend why she was so worried about this.

"Damn!" she muttered.  "It's too late for us to change."

"Change?"  Spock's eyebrows rose.  "Why should we need to do so?"  He tried to put his arm around her shoulders but she jumped free from the contact as though he were a blowtorch.

"What kind of impression will we give these Vulcans?  Spock, I've been enjoying our honeymoon, but you're just getting too ... human.  What happens when we get back to the ship?”  Her voice dropped.  "Or to Vulcan, once the mission ends?  We said we'd split our time between San Francisco and Shi-Kahr.  How will you fit back into society there?  I'm just thinking of your career, your place in Vulcan society.  If you're ... trying to do this just for my benefit, please don't.  I would never forgive myself if it caused you any doubt.  Don't pretend on my behalf."

Spock pulled her into an embrace despite her protests.  His eyes grew dark with love for his wife.  "Christine, be assured that scenario will never happen.  I am quite capable of enjoying either side of the half that makes my whole, surely you know that?  Please do not trouble yourself with such worries.  They are ... illogical."

"But what will these Vulcans think of how you're dressed? "

"Do you honestly think we must all be cookie cutters of a pre-determined image?  That we must dress and think alike, as by some decree?  Did your time on Vulcan not show you otherwise?"  He smoothed back the wisps of hair that had fallen across his wife's face, but she tried to pull free of his actions.

"We were with your parent's friends, Vulcans from the circles in which they move.  They probably made concessions for my being Terran and your being half human.  Who knows where these Vulcans are from?  They might form an opinion of us, of you, which could hurt your family.  I ... don't want you to be ashamed of me, Spock.  Or of the influence I've obviously had on you."  She looked down at her feet, so prettily and humanly painted with a frosted chocolate polish, suddenly hating herself.

"I would never be ashamed of you, Christine."  Spock tightened his arms around her, trying to convey how he was feeling.  Bur his wife had put up her psi-barriers as high as he had known during their courtship and marriage.  She just wasn't going to listen to his logical explanation.

He sighed.  "Come, my wife.  Let us meet these Vulcan holidaymakers who shall be our tourmates, shall we?"

"I'm putting on my best Vulcan face, then." Christine replied resignedly.

"But, my wife, you are not Vulcan."

"I'm married to one."

* * *

 

"I am Sloat, and this is my wife T'iba.  Our children, T'Kol and Sollu."  A Vulcan male about Spock's age was introducing his family pleasantly.  "We reside on the Martian Colonies.  My wife is a preschool teacher for the Vulcan community, which is small but growing.  And I am employed at Utopia."

"As an engineer?" Spock asked.

"No, as but an ordinary bureaucrat.  Starships cannot build themselves, they require a workforce, and that workforce requires a management staff to ensure that all runs smoothly.  I have met your parents when they visited some years ago.  It is now a pleasure to meet the son they spoke so highly of, and his wife."

Christine stood next to her husband with a pleasant but emotionless expression on her face.  She was trying to figure out the family group as unobtrusively as possible.  For one thing, they used the familiar form of Standard, no thees and thous.  That was likely due to where they lived, she reasoned.  The husband was dressed in the tunic suit she knew from her stay on Vulcan, the type Spock wore on occasion.  Except he did not wear the soft boots favored by Vulcans.  Instead, he had on a pair of Terran styled boat shoes.  Sperry Top Siders to be precise and brand new, by the looks of them.  The contrast was ... fascinating.

His wife wore the loose trouser and tunic ensemble Christine had seen across the galaxy, gauzy and comfortable, with the almost required Ferengi slippers.  A daughter of about ten was indistinguishable from most girls her age in Vulcan Heat active wear and sneakers.  She was busy reading a personal PADD and Christine glimpsed the pages of Hairstyle InterGalactic scrolling past.

Some movement caught Christine's eye.  A small face, dominated by enormous dark eyes, was peering at her from behind the safety of his mother's tunic.  Then it disappeared, to reappear again a moment later.  This was a familiar sight across the galaxy and somehow endeared the boy, who seemed about two or so, to Christine.  Vulcan children obviously were the same as their counterparts anywhere, it seemed, at least at this age.  She remembered seeing a toddler eating an ice cream back in Shi-Kahr, a look of rapt enjoyment on her face.

But she didn't want to cause a cultural faux pas.  Instead of playing along with the game of peekyboo, she merely returned the gaze for a moment, as impassively as possible, though it made her heart ache.

"Have you just arrived on Terra?"  Christine tried to make polite conversation, though she had read somewhere most Vulcans did not favor this habit.

"No, we were first in Salt Lake City for two days," T'iba replied.  "Quite a fascinating settlement.  The Great Salt Lake was a most interesting place to sail.  The salt content of the water increased the buoyancy of the vessel quite markedly."

Sailing?  Christine thought she was hearing things.  Spock turned up a corner of his mouth and looked at Sloat, who picked up the hint.

"Perhaps I should explain," Sloat offered.  "My wife and I come from Kwil'nor originally.  We still enjoy the sailing we did so much in our youth, though this is rather difficult to do on Mars except in holo simulation.  Therefore we do try to engage in this pursuit on one our annual leave trips.  That is the one logical thing about being a 'padd pusher' as we bureaucrats are referred to at Utopia.  Six solar week's annual leave -- time enough for a visit home, and also time for a separate excursion later in the year.  In fact, had this not been such a last-minute trip, we may have instead gone to Orlando and then on to the Caribbean."

Further discussion was interrupted by the call to board the shuttlecraft.  The party headed onto the tarmac.

"We arrived here yesterday afternoon," Sloat was telling Spock.  "And spent quite a while at the store 'Best Buy'.  It seems Stark's new snowboard action vidgame has sold out all over Mars, so I was charged to bring back several for friend's children."  He held out a fancy looking holovid camera.  "I also purchased this, but have found that I am not understanding its complexities.  Perhaps you might assist me with learning its operation?"

"I should be pleased to do so," Spock replied.

* * *

 

As the group entered the Bryce Lodge Restaurant for lunch, Christine was surprised to see a few other Vulcans dining there.  Tourists, obviously, along with some younger, adventure-looking travelers as well.  They were obviously planning to take in the park's unusual geological formations, the hoodoos, those curiously eroded spires of sandstone unique to the area.  The amount of Vulcan Heat activewear on these young people, as well as other diners, was astonishing.  No wonder Stark had been able to build such a wonderful facility at Shi-Kahr.  He was clearly raking in the credits, but using his gain for the good of the galaxy.

So far the tour had been going quite normally.  The shuttle was constructed in a round design, affording each passenger a seat by the window to themselves.  The guide gave informative and interesting commentary from the center area.  They'd first gone to Canyonlands and stopped at the aptly named Island in the Sky whose plateau afforded a vista that went on for miles, then on to the overlook for the jagged multicolored rock formations called The Needles.

Their fellow passengers had been curious, asking many questions and engaging the guide in discussion.  Christine did so as well, in her best physician's detached demeanor, noticing her husband's familiar raised eyebrow.  He was not attempting to use their link, for which she was grateful.  She felt miserable and for the first time in months, she began to doubt the wisdom of the relationship she had pursued.  What had she been thinking?  Spock was a Vulcan, no matter how much he was experiencing his human side.  Surely the pendulum would once again swing the other way before settling to the center.  And what would that bring?  The thought of not being able to express her love to her husband, of him withholding the joys they were now regularly experiencing as illogical or unnecessary made her stomach hurt.  When the mission was over, how could he live half the time in San Francisco and then easily assimilate back into polite Vulcan society?  It didn't seem possible.  Suddenly, the prospect of the rest of their honeymoon seemed bleak and way too long.  Maybe they should cut short and head to San Francisco.  There were plenty of Starfleet transports leaving regularly.  Yes, that was it.  The sooner they got back to the Enterprise, the better the chance their marriage would survive intact.

Spock was watching his wife across the table from him with some concern.  Though she had masked most of her expression, her eyes were, as they had always been, the window to her soul.  He recognized what they were saying all too well and had seen the expression many times, though mostly in the early days of their relationship.  The first morning they'd woken up together, and the next day, when she told him in the arboretum that she wanted to pursue a relationship.  The first time she'd seen him in jeans.  The first time he'd taken her skating.  When she'd first seen him really smile for no reason other than the fact he was enjoying her presence.  The time he'd surprised her in the lab one afternoon and pulled her down onto the floor for a tryst.  All of these incidents had one thing in common.  Her initial expression had been one of disbelief, of doubt.  Then quickly followed by fear, as though she wondered if he would regret his actions -- and his feelings for her.  That pain now shone out through her usually animated blue eyes, its message clear.  She was frightened because they had been having such an enjoyable honeymoon, and the chance encounter with this family made her uncertain of his future actions.  Illogical, most assuredly.  Well, he would do his best to dispel this notion later.

The waitress arrived with appetizers.  "This is fire roasted red chili salsa with corn, chili verde salsa with tomatillo, black bean dip, and blue corn chips.  I'll be back with your vegetarian tostadas in a bit."

If Christine's stomach had hurt before, it was now tying itself into agonizing knots.  She'd also read most Vulcans never touched their food.  Of course, Sarek's being a diplomat meant that it wasn't always the case during their visit there, and Spock certainly had no qualms about eating that way.  This was different.  She felt as though the eyes of all Vulcan were upon her, despite the fact the Terran guide was also dining with them.

"Ah, real salsa."  T'iba picked up a chip and dug into a dish.  "On Mars, we are forced to suffer the replicator version, or, at best, Taco Rojo.  The food stores do not stock the requisite ingredients very often, and when we do get a supply, it just as quickly sells out."

"Indeed," Sloat added, helping himself as well.  "However, a Vulcan Starfleet officer and her Mexican husband visited Mars recently so we enjoyed the fresh variety such as this.  Lieutenant de la Sierra made some for the welcome gathering and it was quite good, though different from this as he is from Mexico City."

A Vulcan married to a Mexican?  Ai yai, Christine thought, that's some spicy salsa indeed.  Then she remembered.  She'd met that officer's sister at her own welcoming function.  Wasn't she married to a stellar cartographer?

"The cuisine on Mars is varied, but largely replicator or the food malls.  Though I understand Shi-Kahr now has quite a food mall of its own, does it not?" T'iba asked Christine.

"Yes, I recall seeing it on my visit," she replied, then quickly took a drink of water.

At that moment, a uniformed Park Service ranger joined the group in time for the main meal.  "Hello, folks, I'm Ranger Wilson, and I'll be having lunch with you and answering any questions you might have about the park."  He smiled pleasantly, then gave an informal Vulcan greeting.  It was obvious Vulcans frequented this park regularly.  And it was obvious those Vulcans did not necessarily observe the strict rule of silence at meals, another thing she'd heard of, though she saw nothing like that during her visit.  Probably due to Sarek's influence, and as for Spock, well, sometimes he wouldn't shut up during a meal at all.  But she never minded.

Sollu, who had been munching on corn chips quite contentedly, suddenly leaned over and whispered to his sister, whose eartips flushed a bit.

"T'Kol, what is it?  What did your brother say?" T'iba asked her daughter.

"Forgive the illogic, Ranger Wilson, but my brother was asking where ... Yogi and Boo Boo might be?"

"Ster Ragr!" Sollu said loudly.  Mister Ranger.

"The preschools get together regularly," T'iba offered by way of explanation.  "And classic cartoon holovids are as much a part of activities as sports, computer learning and cultural studies.  Yogi Bear is but one of many the vids the children enjoy viewing.  And it does help them start learning Standard at an early age quite easily."

The ranger's eyes were dancing with humor.  He'd been asked this question before, likely many times and by children of many races.  He addressed T'Kol, aware that her brother was watching him intently.  "They live north of here up at Yellowstone Park in Wyoming.  Maybe you can visit them on another vacation someday?"

Sollu promptly hid in his mother's lap, then peeked out again in a moment.  "He is shy," his mother almost sighed.

As lunch was finishing up, Christine realized someone was speaking to her.  She'd been brooding a bit, pretending to listen to the conversation.  "Sorry, I was looking at the view," she apologized.  "What was the question?"

"We were wondering where in California you were from?" Sloat asked.  "We will go there next, after we stay in Las Vegas tonight."

"Avila, which is on the central coast, near Pismo Beach," Christine replied, equally curious about where these rather atypical Vulcans were headed next.

"There are excellent waves for surfing there, both board and wind," T'Kol stated, "although the water can be cold."

"Our daughter is an avid windsurfer," Sloat said.  "In fact, she hopes to study in Florida or Hawaii in her year offworld, as her interest is in meteorology."

"And you, where are you going in California?"

"San Diego, for its attractions and sailing," T'iba began, then stopped, looking down at her son.  "And then 'A-n-a-h-e-i-m' afterwards."

Before Christine could ask why the woman had spelled the city's name, a look of understanding passed between brother and sister.

"Micka Mousa!" Sollu shouted, then clapped his hands.

"I fear he is taken with the famous Mickey Mouse," Sloat said.  "So we shall be forced to visit the Magic Kingdom for a few days."

He did not sound like a person being forced to do anything.  Christine had a fleeting vision of him in Mousketeer ears on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, one of her particular favorites.  Then she felt ashamed for such an illogical thought.

* * *

 

From Bryce, the tour progressed on to Zion National Park, with its wide array of geological formations, and then on to Rainbow Bridge National Monument, the largest free standing stone arch in the country.  This was an exceptional treat, because the only way other than by shuttle tour to get to the site was on boat, horseback or foot, and many hours were needed for those options.  The local Dine' guide there had told them the history of the pink and red sandstone bridge and the legends that surrounded it, still a sacred spot to his people, to the present day.  Stone arches such as this were deemed to be rainbows, a guardian of the universe to his people.  The unusual combination of Kayenta and Navajo sandstone, ranging in color from purplish brown through pink, was the result of layers of mud being covered in more layers of sand dunes, which had eventually petrified into rock.  As for the arch, the wind had done the rest.

The sun was in its last hour before beginning to set when the group finally arrived at the Grand Canyon's New North Rim Lodge.  After years of being a relatively unvisited attraction compared to its more famous cousin across the way, the beauty of the canyon's different and unusual views had at last been discovered.  A splendid new hotel had at last been built, replacing the aging motel rooms and rickety old cabins.  Each room had a canyon view with a private balcony.  The entire facility had been designed with help from the nearby Cosanti Foundation, the pioneering force behind arcology, and the final result was quite amazing.

Spock went to check them in, for they were staying the night there before picking up a jeep and driving into Las Vegas the next day.  Christine got a soda from the lobby shop and stood quietly for a moment, gathering her thoughts.  Sloat and his family would be leaving after a brief time here.  She and Spock would be alone, and it was fairly clear he would want an explanation for her almost android like behavior.  But even if the family had been not quite typically Vulcan, Christine was pleased that she herself had not done anything which could be construed as improper.  Spock, naturally, has been as implacable in public as he always was, though he had tried on a few occasions to take her arm.  She'd refused, thinking it would be best to start weaning herself.

She became aware of a small hand tugging at hers.  Sollu was standing next to her, doing his best to get her to follow him.

"My brother has a question, Dr. Chapel," his sister said.  "And he thinks you might be able to answer it.  Could you do so?"

"Will you be able to translate for him?"

"Of course, I am fluent in Standard for my school level."

Sollu marched the three of them over to a bronze statue of a little burro, which had stood in the lobby of the hotel, in its various incarnations, for centuries.  He pointed to the shaggy creature then turned back to Christine and asked something in Vulcan.  She did not need a translation to understand his query so she motioned for the two of them to sit with her on a nearby sofa.

"His name was Brighty," she began slowly.  "He lived in the canyon a long time ago.  He's a burro, which is related to a mule."  Her audience was rapt.  Christine felt that T'Kol was doing much more than just translating and it was clear she was just as interested as her brother.  "He was named for the Bright Angel Creek here in the Canyon, but everyone called him Brighty ... he was very smart and very adventurous..."

As she ended her story, one of her own childhood favorites, she noticed that the audience had grown.  Sloat, his wife, and Spock were all standing there, listening as closely as her charges had been.  Christine started to blush.  She realized how animated she'd been during the tale, how she'd laughed and imitated the burro's bray.  This brought a squeal from the youngster and a raised eyebrow from his sister.  But not a disapproving one.  The girl's eyes were as bright as her brother's.

"A most fascinating story," Sloat remarked.  "And you say that the book is available still?"

Christine nodded.  "Marguerite Henry's books are recognized as classics, so I would imagine a Vulcan version might even be for sale in the gift shop here.  This was one of my favorites when I was small.  Brighty was a special creature, and it is said his spirit is in the canyon still."  Then she turned to T'Kol.  "Do you enjoy reading?" she asked.  "If so, there is an equally interesting book about the native peoples of the California coast just north of where you will be.  'Island of the Blue Dolphins.'  The main characters are just a little older than you and your brother.  I think you might like it."

"We will look for the books," T'iba replied.  "It will be good for our children to read of the cultures where we visit.  That gives a person a more complete picture, does it not?"

"Shall we view the rim before you leave, then?" Spock said.  "Christine has been here before so she is able to point out some of the sights.  He held out his hand to his wife, his expression speaking more completely than a word of affection ever could.

She took it.

* * *

 

"Spock, would you assist me in filming for a moment?"  Sloat was fiddling with his new camera, just beginning to get the hang of it.  "I would like to speak of the view in the shot."

Spock followed him up the path, marveling at the rarefied atmosphere.  The North Rim was at over 8,000 feet in some places, meaning a less cooler temperature than elsewhere, as well as slightly thinner air.  Pines surrounded the area.  They were enjoying the view at Bright Angel Point.  He looked over his shoulder and saw Christine busily pointing out the canyon below at Roaring Springs and the creek which gave Brighty his name.

After a few moments of filming, Sloat came back and took the camera from Spock, but did not move.  "Thank you Spock.  This has been a most fascinating day for my family, and it was a very pleasant meeting you and your wife.  You are on your honeymoon, are you not?"

Spock nodded.  "We go to Las Vegas tomorrow and then on to California for another week."

"I do ... apologize if we intruded upon your special time.  Your wife is a bit nervous of our presence, it seems.  Has she not had many dealings with your father's people?"  His reference to the fact Spock was half human did not go unnoticed, but it was not meant to be an insult.

"She has, but only on Vulcan and only in Shi-Kahr.  Those who knew my family, and then we are acquainted with Stark as well.  So her experiences with everyday Vulcan citizens as your family have been rather limited.  She was ... not certain how to act, I suppose, and erred on the side of caution rather than risk insulting you."

"Insulting us?" Sloat quirked an eyebrow.  "Why would she insult us?  This is her home planet.  We are the visitors here.  No, nothing either of you has done could possibly be construed as an insult.  I do hope you manage to explain this to her?"

Spock nodded, wondering why the other male was being so open with a virtual stranger.

As if reading his thoughts, Sloat continued.  "I said that I am employed at the shipyards at Utopia."  He gave Spock a sidelong glance.  "Do you know in which department?"

"You stated you were an administrator, so it is logical to presume somewhere in the central offices."

"Affirmative.  I am the facility's representative for our Vulcan community, to ensure they assimilate into the somewhat...different culture, that their work does not suffer unduly.  A ... counselor of sorts.  Someone they can speak freely to about any job related issues, or personal ones if they decide to do so.  Starfleet requires this, and after events over the years, we have found this so be somewhat logical."

Realization was slowly beginning to dawn on Spock.

Sloat looked back at the horizon for a moment, watching his son play peekyboo with Christine.  "I am assigned to the Human Resources Division at Utopia.  Last week, I was due for a regular meeting with the Commander.  As it transpired, I was a few moments early, so was speaking to her superior, the Operations Chief, when a commotion was heard inside her office, which we investigated..."  His voice trailed off.

Spock cocked an eyebrow.  Of course.  The protest.  Or was it an alleged protest?  Rumors were flying around in the media which painted a very different, scandalous picture.

"After the general mayhem died down, what do you suppose I did?"

All Spock could do was shrug.  As a rule, Vulcans did not gossip, but it was obvious this Vulcan was not abiding by all the rules.

"The first thing I did was to authorize two week's leave for myself.  Then I booked passage for us on the first shuttle to Terra and managed to come up a suitable itinerary.  And here we are.  I decided it would be more logical to take myself and my family away from there while memories were still fresh, so by the time we return, people will be less likely to keep peppering me for information ... or asking my family.  A most logical compromise.  The Federation gets my silence, and we get a vacation."  The corner of his mouth was firmly twisted up into the Vulcan version of a smile.  "Shall we go?  I fear we must leave you now, so we will view the sunset from the shuttle, not here."

"Tell me, Sloat," Spock could not resist asking.  "Was it ... as reported by the media?  Or was it ... otherwise?"

Sloat was silent for a moment, then made a noise very similar to one his own father made on occasion.  "Otherwise, Spock.  Most assuredly ... otherwise."

No wonder nothing had fazed this group.

* * *

 

At the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the sunset was painting the walls and canyons a spectacular combination of violet and orange.  A husband gave his wife another kiss.  They were just down the trail from a large group of observers.

"You were afraid, were you not?" Spock asked as he enjoyed the pleasure of holding his wife close while they viewed the sunset's glory.

"Very.  But no longer."  She stepped back closer into his embrace.

They had been speaking frankly for some time with very positive results.  The honeymoon was not about to be prematurely canceled, nor were any activities going to be curtailed.  This had been largely due to a story he had told his wife.

When Spock returned to Shi-Kahr from Gol, he had visited T'Pau.  His grandmother saw visions of what was to come at times, and he was hoping for guidance.  Spock apologized for all the past events and admitted that he now knew his Vulcan blood ran thin, as she had told him that day on the sands.  To his surprise, T'Pau had stated that so long as he realized that two kinds of blood made him who he uniquely was, he would do well with his life.  Even she had come to learn it was impossible, no, illogical, to think otherwise.

And then she had further surprised Spock by telling him of a vision she had about him.  He was with his wife, and they were at a great canyon on Terra, with forests at its rim.  But the astonishing part of the puzzle was that the woman was Terran, with dark hair and fair skin.  One who served with him.  And with a hint of a twinkle in her eye, the old woman leaned forward and told him that he, Spock of Vulcan, had given his wife a very public shok at this place, during a time when the sun was at its most magical.  This was surely a sign that his bond had sweetness, T'Pau finished.

Spock protested that he did not know such a Terran woman and how could he not marry someone from his world?  And how could he do so un-Vulcan a thing as show emotion, in public yet?  T'Pau had told him that his Vah'ren waited for him across the stars and that all things would be revealed in time.  She did not disapprove of that which was inevitable.  And that was that.

"I had planned to tell you this evening anyway, when the sun was setting, my beloved," he said.  "Because that is the time she saw, I presume.  I am sorry if events of the day may have affected things between us.  I hope you now understand that all is as it is meant to be."  And with that he kissed her again.  She had ceased resisting some time ago.  Thoughts of the night ahead were soon filling both of their minds.

"You've already kissed me just as your grandmother saw," she said playfully.  "What was that for?"

"Practice makes perfect, I believe."

* * *

 

Vegas! Then California

 

In the grey predawn light of Thursday morning, a group of StarScouts was making its way down the North Kaibib Trail.  They would descend more than 6,000 feet before reaching Phantom Ranch on the Canyon's floor later that afternoon for an overnight stay at the campsite there.  The next day they'd cross the Colorado River on one of its famous suspension bridges, then traverse the wide Tonto Plateau and eventually switchback slowly and carefully up the Bright Angel Trail to arrive at the South Rim.  Untold thousands of hikers had made the Rim to Rim journey over the centuries.  This particular group was based in San Francisco and had several offworld members in its troop.  A cloud of youthful testosterone surrounded the entourage.

"Man oh MAN, did you see those two?  I didn't think folks their age even remembered how to kiss!"  The group leader laughed, the sound echoing off the canyon's walls.

"Aw, Tim, they weren't THAT old.  My parents are older then that."

"Easy for you to say, you're Andorian, you moron," a third voice joined the fray good-naturedly.  "You're seventy five years old in Terran terms."

"So?  I'm still a teenager.  Read your science holo, black hole brain."

"Yeah, but he was a VULCAN!  I didn't think Vulcans ... did it!  But he sure knew how to suck the face off her.  You think they're married?"

"Naah, never.  Way too hot.  You only get action like that when it's an affair.  Hey, speaking of Vulcans, you're being awfully quiet over there, Mister Slikk.  C'mon, you grew up with Stark.  Sure, he's half Deltan, but come on, dude, spill!  I never knew Vulcans tongue tangoed!  Don't you guys have some weird kind of mind sex, but only once every seven years or so?"

Slikk gave them the enigmatic look of serenity so common to those of his people, the same look that made women of every race find him incredibly attractive.  "It could be said that the term 'Vulcan Heat' is not entirely ... a misnomer..."

"No wonder he pulls all the chicks."

"Ahhh, what can we do?"

* * *

 

From their secluded (but obviously not secluded enough) vantage point on the rim trail, Spock peered down the path after the group of youths.

"It is a very good thing they did not happen upon us last night," he remarked, pulling his wife closer against him on the bench.

"But the moon was new, that's why we came here, to see the Milky Way.  Or so you said, Mr. Vulcan night vision."  Christine, who'd never been known to welsh on a bet, paid back in full the night before under the midnight black, starry canopy of the desert sky.

"True.  And the evening temperature drop is quite substantial here, otherwise I would have most happily returned the favor."  He pulled his wife to her feet and they moved towards the rail.  "The sun is beginning to make an appearance.  That is most welcome, for I find it quite cold."  He blew his breath out in a frosty puff.

"You took care of that later, my love, if you recall?"  Spock's ears were covered by his knit cap, but she knew they flushed.  Oh my, had he taken care of things.  "It can be below freezing any time of year, especially at this hour.  That's why I insisted we pack for a wide range of weather conditions.  Once we hit the Arizona strip and head into Nevada, it'll get very hot, very fast."  She snuggled back against him, sharing body warmth.

They watched the sunrise in companionable silence, then Spock turned her in his arms and gave her another mindblowing kiss.

"I thought we took care of fulfilling your grandmother's vision last night, remember?"  Christine traced the outline of his lips, warming them anew.

"Not precisely.  She stated that the sun was at its most magical.  That could be construed as sunset, or sunrise.  So I thought it best to cover both categories ... adequately."

"Mmm.  Very adequate indeed.  Now come along, we need to hit the road if we want to be at Hoover Dam by the appointed time."  Spock had arranged a sunset tour of the facility, something they were both looking forward to seeing.

* * *

 

"This has been the most sparsely populated area of the state for centuries," Christine stated as she pulled into the trading post at Moccasin.  "We're traveling down some byroads that have been untouched since the 20th century, it seems.  And until the bridges were built across the Colorado River, the only safe way across the Canyon was via Marble Canyon, up by Lees Ferry, and then back down again.  Unless you wanted to be pulled across the river in an overhead cage.  Of course, there's still no easy way around the distance today if you're not on a mule's back.  But the scenery's worth the trip, I think.

"I agree, quite beautiful land.  And the history of how the Canyon was developed is quite an engineering feat.  Are we now in Paiute territory, then?" Spock asked as they entered the old building.

"Welcome.  Yes, you are now in the land of the Kaibib Paiute Nuwuvi and we are pleased to have you visit."  A native woman greeted them from behind the counter.  "My people once lived from here to the California border and beyond.  The Paiute's various bands still have reservations in the area."

"Are these prickly pears?" Christine asked as she sniffed a bright orange elongated fruit.

"Yes, my auntie was visiting relatives down south and brought them.  They're fresh from the Tohono Reservation, near Tuscon."

"Wonderful.  I'll take a pound."  What an unexpected treat, she thought.

The woman wrapped the odd shaped fruits in a paper bag.  "Are you traveling far?" she asked.

"We're headed to Las Vegas then flying on to California," Christine replied.  "We've been all over Arizona and Utah as well."

"Such a wonderful adventure," the clerk sighed.  "I hope you have enjoyed it."

"We have," Spock replied.  "It is our honeymoon and the journey has been quite spectacular so far."

"Your honeymoon?  Then you must have a wedding basket!"  She hurried off and soon returned with a small, delicately made example woven of local grasses.  "This is a Paiute wedding basket, meant to stay in the living space of the bride and groom for the length of their marriage.  Please, you must take this as my gift to you."

"Are you sure?" Christine replied, looking over the beautifully woven patterns of the vessel.  "Really, you do not have to."

"I insist," the woman said with a smile.  "It shall bring goodness to your union.  I can tell you are from far beyond here.  Maybe when you are among the stars again, you shall remember my people, who told stories of the North Star and the Dog Star thousands of years ago to our children."

Spock looked down at his t-shirt, which was the humorous Starfleet version Leonard had given both of them as a wedding gift.  That would explain her statement.  He remembered something he had read.  "I have heard of your people's tale of how Na-gah, the mountain sheep, climbed the highest peak to please his father Shinnoh and could not return from his journey, so was made the North Star, that which does not move to this day."

"The star by which travelers here still can find their way."  She smiled broadly as she handed over the wrapped basket.  "Have a safe journey.  May your marriage bring you much happiness."

"Where do you learn all this trivia?" Christine asked in amazement a she stowed their purchase in the trunk.  She tossed the bag of prickly pears in the back seat.  "Even I didn't know that one."

"Vulcan travel guides, the ones you doubted even existed, are exceptionally well-researched."

"Why am I not surprised?" she laughed.

* * *

 

Once they crossed the border at Mesquite, the temperature began to skyrocket.  The layers of clothing needed at altitude were soon dispensed with.  A hot breeze was gusting across the road to greet them, stirring up dust devils in its wake.

"I gather there is not much silver being mined these days," Spock commented after he had read the welcome sign.

"Except in Las Vegas, no."

"Ah yes, mankind's monument to excess."

"Watch it, or you'll be walking there."

* * *

 

"Yes, definitely a peregrine," Christine said as she looked through the binoculars.  "The feather stippling is more delicate than the hawk's, and the wingspan is about right."  She shook her head in amazement.  "They were once almost extinct in this part of the world."

She and Spock were standing on a slickrock overlook above Lake Mead's northern arm near Overton Beach on Hwy.169.  The bird was making soaring ascents and then freefalling at a remarkable speed in its attempts to hunt.

"The Mediterranean falcon, commonly known as the Maltese of Mr. Bogart's fame, was the rent Charles V required of the Knights Hospitalier in 1530 for the possession of Malta," Spock noted as he watched the majestic creature take flight once more.  "One Maltese falcon per year."

"I am well and truly impressed, Spock.  That can't have come from a Vulcan guidebook.  Where do you get all this information?" Christine was astounded at the unending series of facts her husband seemed to pull from thin air.

"I had ... much free time in years past, in which I studied the history of various cultures," he said as he pulled her into an embrace.  His lips found her own in a pleasant diversion.  "Perhaps we might make use of the beach here?" he asked after a moment.

"No, I'd rather go on to Echo Bay.  The water's not always safe, and this is Lake Mead, not your family's land.  The Park Service makes regular patrols.  Sorry, rain man, no naked swim."

"Yes, one of the largest man made lakes in the country," Spock replied as he pressed himself closer against her, rock hard with need.  "The Park Service would not necessarily find us if we were at that inlet below.  There is ample time for a ... swim.  I want you, Christine.  And it is plain you want me also."  He let a finger trail down the front of her abdomen.  "Shall we indulge?"

She kissed him back with equal ardor, about to be convinced of a delightfully naughty interlude, when a sudden noise startled them.  A combination of a laugh and a sob, it cut through the hot morning air.

"SONSABITCHES!" Christine yelped as she broke free from Spock's arms.  "Scat!  Goway!  GETOUTTAHERE!"

Her husband stood for a moment, bewildered, as he watched his wife take off running for the jeep, where a group of perhaps a half dozen wild burros were perusing the interior.  He was further amazed to see one of them neatly lift the bag of prickly pears and move off at a fine trot.  Then he remembered his own legs and sprinted towards the commotion.

The sight of the burros surrounding his wife was almost comical.  They certainly were not vicious, in fact, they were nudging her as if wanting to be petted.  The beasts obviously did not fear people, unlike the groups of bighorn sheep and wild mustangs seen observing their vehicle warily from a distance earlier Spock remembered reading about the packs of wild equiades, apparently descended from the original ones brought by the region's numerous miners over the centuries.

"Go 'way," she was saying miserably, but the burros, used to centuries of human contact, continued to plaster her with licks and kisses.  "Shoo?" she finally asked.

A gunshot was heard close by.  What the hell?  Christine did what any Terran would, despite the fact violent crime had been all but obliterated.  She launched herself onto the dusty ground just away from the seething pace, who began moving away in the opposite direction rather hurriedly.

"Christine?  Are you all right?"  Spock was pulling her to her feet a moment later.  "You are not injured, T'hyla?" he asked as he embraced her.

"Spock, someone's shooting at us and you're asking if I'm fine?  We have to get out of here!"  She thought somehow they had intruded on a mining claim; local legends were filed with this scenario, and the crotchety old miners were reputedly quick with a gun even today.

"I believe things are quite as normal, " he said mysteriously.

"Howdy folks! You all right?" a friendly, weathered voice asked.

Christine spun around to see an elderly gentleman, the very picture of a desert denizen, seated astride a fine white mule with a pack burro following.  He held an air rifle across one arm, which he holstered before he spoke again.

"I'm Sparks Sam," he said pleasantly as he shook their hands, "and this here's Whitey and Pete.  I keep an eye on them wild burros for the government, been doin' that since I can remember.  Each year there's a big ol' roundup, where most get caught and sent off to farms and homes and such, but the orneriest, smartest 'uns allus manage to slip away.  And then they breed more smart'uns like those you met.  I tranquilize 'em and tag' em so them buurry-crats and science types can watch their wanderin's.  That p'ticular band o' varmints likes to bushwack unsuspectin' tourists like yourselves, lookin' for snacks."

"Oh," Christine said, thinking of her prickly pears.

"They're right harmless, but they can get a might too lovable for most folk's taste.  You headed to Vegas?"

"Yes, via Echo Bay."

"Well, pack all your stuff in the trunk.  I've never met a burro can open one yet!  Safe journey!"  And with a wave of his hand, the colorful old man was off in a cloud of dust after the group of Brighty's descendants.

"Why do I feel like we’ve hit a time continuum?" she grumbled as they got back into the jeep.  The amorous mood had evaporated into the stifling desert air.

"Perhaps we have, my love.  I, for one, am enjoying it, though."  Spock gave his wife a kiss, a promise for later, and they headed down the highway once more.

* * *

 

"Really, Christine, I must insist you stop believing everything your superior has told you about Vulcans.  He is clearly misinformed."  Spock grabbed his wife's lycra-clad posterior, admiring the curves the bathing suit revealed, and pulled her so close even a minnow could not pass between them.

"But Len says the medical texts state Vulcans cannot swim due to some type of center of gravity issues.  You know, inner ear and balance."  She didn't even bother struggling, it felt too good.

The cool waters of Lake Mead were a welcome respite from the increasing heat of the Nevada desert.  The resort of Echo Bay had grown considerably from its somewhat shady beginnings as a getaway for the rather colorful characters who ran the Las Vegas gambling business in the 1950's.  They were swimming at a well-maintained public beach near a good-sized marina, though at its more deserted end.  The area hummed with activity, even for a Thursday.

"I believe I have just shown you otherwise," he insisted, giving a gentle thrust of his hips to indicate he was looking forward to something else.  "As you can now see, I am knowledgeable in the sport of swimming.  My parents took me to Kwil'nor when I was young, and both instructed me quite well."

"But you're only--"

"Christine, if Vulcans cannot swim, how do you suppose they are able to sail?  If the ear malady was so severe, chances are we could not fly, either, or go into space.  There is such an affliction, true.  It is genetic and affects a small portion of the populace, much the same as with humans."  His eyes were full of merriment.  He loved to tease his wife.  "Now what other myths must I dispel?  We have already dispensed with those concerning meals, conversations and aquatic activities."

But Christine was not about to give up so easily.  "You claim Vulcans don't snore.  Well, I can tell you, they most certainly do."

"May I remind you, I am also--"

"Nope, I've heard a full blooded Vulcan sawing logs, and not quietly either.  As a matter of fact, he and his son sent up quite of crescendo in my sick bay a few years back."  She grabbed his own rear, delighting in the reaction she got.

"It must have been due to the crude drugs your superior insisted we be given," Spock countered, in defense of his family's honor.

"Uh-huh.  Right." Her hand slid below the waistband of his swimming trunks and found something waiting for her.  "Well, here's another myth gone out the proverbial window, but a human one.  I can see the cold isn't necessarily a ... deterrent.  Hold that thought for later, will you?"

"How about right now?"  His eyebrow raised seductively.

"Spock, we are in a public place.  Do you have some kind of death wish?" She hrrmphed but did not stop what she was doing.  "What is it with you Vulcans and water?  All I have to is pour myself a glassful and we shut off the comm unit for the rest of the day."

"Why would I wish to cease living at this particular moment?"  His hand had also found a way to occupy itself.  "You are quite correct, I find the combination of the water's texture and wetness combined with certain physical activity very erotic.  It would please me to continue as we are doing.  Our actions are well below the waterline, so we simply appear to be enjoying the lake and ... conversing."  He drew his breath in sharply as her caresses increased.

"Yeah, conversing," she laughed as his other hand subtly found the contact points on her face and drew her down on his shoulder.  How more unVulcan could things get?  Was her husband really going to do this?  Was she really going to let him?

Some time later, she realized the answer was yes.

* * *

 

"And you say Terrans visit this city for a vacation?" Spock asked as he continued to scroll through his PADD.

"It's been the most popular destination for several centuries now and has even spawned its own resort planet, so yes, I think so," Christine replied.  "Why wouldn't they?"

"From the plethora of activities available, it would seem a restful break is not the goal of its visitors," he said with a frown.  "How can a logical choice be made from so many offerings?"

Christine looked out at the lake and felt a cool breeze wash over their outdoor table.  The resort's restaurant was a very nice spot for a lunchbreak, and she was grateful for a some downtime before they continued their journey.  She sighed to herself.  Had they really just had a romantic interlude underwater?  Yes, she realized, feeling some last vestiges of pleasure whisper to her, they had.  Thankfully, no one was in the immediate vicinity, even if the activity had been manually done under the lake's cool waves.  So much for her fears.

"Have you any suggestions, then?"  Spock's voice brought her back to reality.  She took the proffered PADD and began to look through the list of events for the next twenty four hours.

"Hoover dam this evening, dinner somewhere, and then I'll show you the 'Strip'.  As for tomorrow, what do you feel like doing?  We fly out at 14:00 for the Vandenberg Shuttleport."

"I noticed a chocolate factory near the airport, quite a renowned one, apparently, so I presume we shall have time to visit before our flight? I should like to send some home to my parents."

"Ethel M, ooh, yes!" One of their common likes ... and delights.  Come to think of it, were there any of Amanda's brownies left in that luggage shipment she'd sent ahead to San Francisco?  "There are a couple of interesting things to see at the UNLV campus, so maybe we can go there early tomorrow morning when it's still cool.  I don't suppose the Liberace Museum or Elvis-o-Rama are quite what you'd like?"

He raised an eyebrow as he continued eating his vegetarian wrap.

"OK, scratch that, I can't stand either place myself.  Hmmm.  Cirque du Antares, Celine Dion in holo, Follies a la Wrigleys, The All Galaxy Male Review, Ice Fantasia.  I'd rather just hit some casinos this evening for baccarat.  Ah!  What about this for tomorrow?  It leaves at 09:00."  She handed the PADD back.

"Indeed.  That seems to be quite a fascinating choice, and only three hours in length.  I propose we take in that activity.  It should prove enjoyable, I believe."

"Great.  I'll book it once we get to our hotel.  Shall we head off then, lake man?"  She gave him a wicked smile and watched his eartips turn that delightful shade of chartreuse.

* * *

 

"Here we are, Hwy 147.  I'll take you in the back way."  Christine turned the now dust covered jeep down a secondary spur.  "Hoover Dam's just further down the road we were on.  This evening we'll go down the Boulder Highway."

She and Spock were likewise covered in a fine patina of desert grit.  The wind had kicked up, bringing more dust devils with it.  After the coolness of the mountains, the staggering heat was akin to entering a blast furnace.

As the Strip began to appear, Spock's eyebrows raised, right on cue.  Christine suspected even the well-written Vulcan guides had not adequately described such a totally illogical destination, though Vulcans were known to enjoy their gambling, in a logical way, of course.

Christine pulled the jeep into the New York, New York's parking lot and handed the keys to a valet who unloaded their luggage without turning a hair.  Evidently, the sight of desert rats emerging into civilization was a common one in these parts.

"Is this a hotel?" Spock finally asked.  “It would appear to be a small city."

"It's a resort hotel, and there are others bigger.  I thought this would be a nice introduction to New York for you.  You've never been, have you?"

Spock shook his head, looking at the replica of the Brooklyn Bridge they were crossing to enter the lobby.  "Fascinating."

* * *

 

From their room high above the Strip, Spock, clad only in a towel, was contemplating the vista before him.  The sun was still out but the lights were on regardless.  Their twinkling intensity was quite a staggering sight.

"Interesting view, huh?" Christine asked as she joined him, running her fingers through her damp tresses.  The process of washing off layers of desert dust and lake mineral deposits had never been more pleasant given the huge double bath tub their room contained.  "Hard to believe it was once an inland sea, let alone a swamp."

"Indeed, but not as beautiful as the view before me."  He kissed her bare shoulder above the towel she wore.  "It is a pity we must depart so soon," he sighed.

"After that little swimming lesson in the bath?  You've got to be joking.  Oh, scratch that, Vulcans do not joke."  She yelped as a hand found contact with her posterior, under the terrycloth.

"Not now, lake man," she said firmly.  "I can tell you, with this heat, I'm going Vulcan this evening.  Those cool layers are smart, because we'll be going from stifling to chilled all evening.  I'd suggest you do the same?"

"I had thought so as well.  This climate is similar to that in Shi-Kahr, though cooler."

"Let's see, what about dinner.  There's supposed to be every kind of food available here, so...  Computer?  Eating establishment list for Las Vegas area."  She walked over to the monitor.

"Working.  Type of food?"

Christine threw Spock a whimsical look.  "I don't know.  How about...  Vulcan?"

"Selaya View Cafe, specializing in Vulcan Southwest fusion cuisine."

They exchanged a surprised look.  "Computer, location?" Christine asked.

"Boulder City, Nevada."

"That is where we are headed next, I believe," Spock remarked with a raised eyebrow.

"Do you wish to make reservations?" the computer asked.

"Affirmative," Christine replied with no hesitation.

"Time?"

"21:00" Spock stated.  "Party of two.  Chapel."

* * *

 

Christine finished putting on her Vulcan made gold necklace and earrings.  They contrasted nicely with her pale blue trouser tunic ensemble, and the Ute hair ornament picked up the azure tone nicely.

"You look beautiful, my wife," Spock told her, well pleased with what he saw.

She turned.  He was resplendent in a darker blue casual Vulcan suit, embroidered with golden designs at its border.  He held out his arm.  "Shall we go, then?"

They entered the mirrored elevator for the almost sublight journey to the lobby.  Their fellow passengers were an elderly Rigellian couple and some giggling young Japanese women.

*Take your hand off my butt!*

*My hand is nowhere near your gluteus maximus, my wife.*

*The heck it isn't!*

*That remains a matter of perception.  Yours.  And mine.*

* * *

 

"A most remarkable piece of construction," Spock said.

"Yes, it was deemed one of the wonders of its time," Christine replied.

They were parked at a vista point above Hoover Dam after their tour.  The last remnants of the sunset were painting the western horizon a vivid red orange, while the sky above them was darkening to blue violet.  Far below, the lights from Hoover Dam were dancing across the placid waters of Lake Mead.

"I am glad we could be here together."  He drew her closer against him and they enjoyed the silent splendor of the view.

Christine heard a song in her head, one she knew well but could not recognize.  The words came to her unbidden.

"I was a dam builder ... across the river deep and wide...  Where steel and water did collide...  A place called Boulder, on the wild Colorado..."

With a start, she realized this was Boulder on the wild Colorado, and the dam sung about was the one she was seeing.  She shivered.  Spock drew her instinctively closer against him.

As if from nowhere, a squadron of starfighters screamed overhead, breaking the sound barrier as they returned to Nellis Star Base, which was nearby.  The sight was somehow comforting, somehow acknowledging something?

"I fly a starship ... across the universe divide..."

She drew a deep breath of recognition.  At that same moment, Spock turned her in his arms and held her close.  It felt as though the final pieces of an ages old puzzle were clicking together, at last.  One begun not that long ago, on a night aboard the Enterprise as they listened to the haunting song, "Highwayman," which outlined both of these scenarios.

"Vah'ren," she whispered.

"Soulmate," Spock replied, just as he had before.  "What is it?"

"I felt ... something like that night on the Enterprise.  Something familiar."  Her lip trembled.

"As did I.  But what troubles you, my Vah'ren?  This is not something to fear."  He held her closer, allowing his love for her flow through their link.

She took a deep breath.  "Spock, I have never asked you this, but now, I somehow feel the need to know.  Why ... why did you look at me the way you did when you came back to the Enterprise?  What had I done to make you hate me so?"  To her horror, tears spilled over her lashes and began to course their way down her face.

His fingers wiped the salty rivulets from her cheeks.  "Oh my beloved, I wondered why you had not spoken of this.  Well, I shall tell you."  He drew her even closer, if that was possible, so they were face to face, breath to breath, katra to katra.

"I had visited my grandmother, as you know, and I had also spoken to my father about possibly courting you.  But I presumed you were far from the Enterprise and we might make contact somehow.  Then I came on board and glimpsed you.

"Your smile unnerved me.  There I was, trying to comprehend what lay ahead after the strictness of Gol, and I viewed you, there on board, and with your dark tresses.  Suddenly it all made sense, and I was filled with joy.  A terrible joy that threatened to overwhelm me, because I was frightened at how pleased I was to see you again.  And there was the possibility that my grandmother's vision was coming true.  It was all too much for me.  And of course, my stubborn Vulcan side kicked in and I reacted in the only way I knew how.  I closed down.  Hence, the look I gave you."

He paused to wipe the last vestiges of tears from her skin.  Then, as an afterthought, he followed their trail with his lips.

"It all happened so quickly, beloved.  Before I knew what happened after V'Ger, you had left the ship.  I was lost, for I had planned to speak to you of things, but there was no opportunity.  I meditated on this loss for some time and made my decision to find you.  Then, as if by a miracle, Jim said you were returning, as McCoy's ACMO.  And the joy I felt before came back a thousandfold.  Only this time, I did not run from it.  I decided to face what I did not know and see what challenges ... and delights ... it might hold.

"And now I have you."

He kissed her then, and his lips were not made of ice, as she had first wondered, but of a pure blue flame that threatened to ignite everything in its wake.

"I love you, Christine, as un-Vulcan a thing it may seem to hear, but know in my heart that I simply do, unquestioningly."

"And I love you as well, Spock, as much of a contradiction in terms as it may be."

He gave her another kiss, then turned to lead her back to the jeep.

"Now, my wife, let us go and sample what is masquerading as Vulcan cuisine in this city, shall we?"

And the last puzzle pieces slid together with a soft click.

* * *

 

"Greetings, be'hai'la!  I am the T'sai T'Pree and my family and I welcome you to our restaurant."

"Thank you, kasu T'Pree," Spock replied.  "We are honored to be here."

The middle aged Vulcan matron led them to a corner table that afforded a pleasant view of the far wall, which bore a fine hand-painted mural of the cafe's namesake, Mt. Seleya.  They also passed some framed photos of Stark, one the obligatory champion's shot of him biting his gold medal, and another of him with his parents and the restaurant's staff.

"May your yhet-avon be satisfied.  Where are you from?" she asked as she handed them menus with both Vulcan and English listings.

"I am Spock, son of Sarek, and this is my wife, Christine."

The woman raised an eyebrow slightly.  "Of course.  Your parents dined with us some years ago, when our locale was in Las Vegas proper.  They spoke of you quite highly."  She looked at Christine now.  "I believe we have a common acquaintance.  It was she who told me you might be traveling in this area on your honeymoon.  In fact I only recently had a communication from her.  The T'sai T'Ser?"

"Yes, a fine person," Christine said.  "How do you know her?"

"It is a familial connection of sorts.  You know her niece, T'sai T'Jen, I gather?  Her husband, the manager of the Tav'Sal'Naya Hotel, is my own husband's nephew, the son of his brother."

"Yes, she helped plan our bonding ceremony, something she's quite capable at, it seems.  Let me see," Christine paused and thought a moment.  "Then is your husband a chef also?  As his brother is at the Vulcan Consulate in New York City?  T'Ser mentioned that."

"He is, but these past weeks he has been assisting on Vulcan with the festivities for Stark's homecoming.  If all goes well, he shall return in five more days.  But surely you are hungry, so I shall let you select your meal.  Later, if it is amenable, perhaps we might speak more?"

"That would be fine, T'sai," Spock replied, somewhat amazed at the connections his wife had obviously made during their stay on Vulcan.

* * *

 

"Good evening," the young Vulcan waitress said as she took their menus.  "What may we prepare for your endmeal?"

"To begin, for me, the Yarmok Sierra Nevada," Spock said, then looked at his wife.

Christine kept a straight face, though she felt she was blushing to the roots of her hair.  "Plomeek soup with red corn and Monterey Jack cheese," she managed to get out without stuttering.  She could feel Spock's initial shock, then his relaxation.  He was well aware she enjoyed the dish, but still apologized at least once a day for hurling it at her all those years ago.

"Then the mixed mesquite grilled vegetable balk'ra for us both.  And the savas masu of the day to drink, with some mineral water for mixing."

"Very good," the young woman said as she finished making notes on her PADD.  She was as proficient as the best of T'Jen's catering staff, Christine thought.

"Don't, Spock."  Christine smiled at her husband as she covered his hand with hers.  "You already apologized today.  I really do like plomeek soup, and this version sounds quite unusual."

Spock stroked her fingers affectionately.  "Yes, my beloved, though it was still a surprise.  Perhaps you might share some with me?"

"I'll think about it."

* * *

 

"This juice is delicious," Christine remarked as she finished her drink after their meal.  The mineral water made the taste even more potable.  The yellow-orange pulp was sweet and strong, not unlike a papaya.  "What fruit is it from?"

Spock hesitated.

"It is Vulcan, isn't it?  But it's not the one your mother served most mornings, that was almost like orange juice.  This is different.  I really like it.  What's the name?"  She had another sip and looked at Spock over the rim of the glass.

He cleared his throat.  "It, em, er, comes from the fruit of the yon savas."

If Christine thought she was blushing before, the flames she felt in her face now confirmed she was turning the color of a beet, contrasted only by the green bean like color her husband was sporting.  They might have made an interesting side dish.

"The--"she began, then choked, swigging more of the very juice they were speaking of.

Spock nodded.  "Yes, my wife.  The juice of the fire fruit I mentioned on Vulcan.  The selection here varies daily, and yon savas was obviously today's choice.  However, I believe I have a preference for the ... Terran variety."

"SPOCK!"

He just gave her the Vulcan version of a smile.

* * *

 

T'sai T'Pree soon appeared with a plate of delicate looking cookies and some glasses of iced Vulcan tea.  "May I join you for some moments?" she asked.  "For I know you must have questions."  Spock pulled out a chair for her.

"We have been here at Boulder City for three years," she explained as they had dessert.  "Before that the restaurant was just off The Strip.  But it became known that many Vulcans were visiting the dam towards the end of the day, to view the sunset, so we thought it logical to move here.  A nice destination for endmeal, and just far enough out of town to be a peaceful place to dine."

"How did you decide on Las Vegas?" Christine asked as she selected another cookie.  It reminded her of the ones T'sai T'Ser had served that afternoon they met.

"We originally were attached to the San Francisco Consulate, in the kitchen, of course.  This would be just after your father returned to Vulcan, Spock.  Word came to us that many Vulcans were now traveling to this area and a cafe might be a logical business to open.  We did so and it has been quite successful."

"I should imagine your business has increased after Stark's victory," Spock commented.

"It has almost trebled, yes.  So much interest has been generated in Vulcan cuisine that my husband has offered some cooking workshops here for fellow opilsus from establishments Vulcan holidaymakers frequent.  It would seem he cannot offer enough of them.  Terrans also are beginning to enjoy our cuisine as well.  And my son and daughter both are quite capable in the kitchen.  They prepared your meal this evening."

"Indeed, it was most delicious," Spock replied.  "Your family obviously has a bright future here."

"These cookies, they're very unique.  T'Ser served me some that were quite similar.  What are they made of?" Christine asked, indicating the powdered sugar covered small biscuits.

"They are from my family's recipe," T'Pree told her.  "From my own mother.  The nuts are a Vulcan version of a cashew.  These are our most popular dessert here."

"And T'Ser, how is she?  Would you send her my regards, please T'sai?"

"She is doing very well.  In fact, she stated that things are going exceptionally smoothly with all of the festivities in Shi-Kahr of late.  She has been attending many festive events herself."

Christine secretly hoped that the reason for T'Ser's increased social life was that distinguished older Vulcan gentleman she had seen escorting her about Shi-Kahr.

* * *

 

"Coup," the ladderman announced.

"Carte."  Christine took the shoe and drew her two cards.  Try as she might, she could not take her mind off the couple seated next to her.  Where had she seen them before?

"Le Grande," the ladderman said when he saw her nine.  "Madame?"

"Oui," Christine decided to play another hand.  Spock, on the other side of her, was quite proficiently minding her growing pile of chips.  By the looks of things, their trip to California would now allow for some extra special treats.

After dinner, she had given Spock a nighttime introduction to the daylight that was The Strip.  The neon lights now stretched for many miles as hotel after hotel had taken over the desert floor.  Tourists jammed the resort from every corner of the quadrant.  It was nice for a brief visit, Christine decided, but she definitely would not live there, even if Spock enjoyed the climate more than she did.

"Carte," she said again and drew her cards.  The player next to her, dressed in an odd combination of athletic styled gear, was clearly displeased with the way his evening was going.  But she couldn't tell much more, since his Vulcan Heat cap was pulled down almost to his sunglasses.  His chip minder was dressed as a typical Vegas Bimba a la Bombe in a skintight faux tiger skin jumpsuit and matching shades.  Platinum tresses spilled from under a black headscarf.

"Banco," her opponent rasped.  He was betting the store, it seemed.

She turned her cards up.  Eight this time but still the highest hand.  Her win again.

Who is he? Christine thought to herself as she waited for her chips.  I know I've seen him.

*I believe that is Romo, the pop star.  His companion is named Ahh-Mor.  A Deltan film actress.*

Of course.  Christine glanced back over towards the unusual couple and gave a wan little grin.  "I'm folding.  Maybe your luck will get better again soon."

"But why did you leave?  You were winning!"  Spock was confused.  Christine was usually a piranha when it came to baccarat.

"Trust me, in about five minutes the galaxy's paparazzi will be swarming all over those velvet ropes.  That's not my scene."  As she was finishing her explanation, several journalist types pressed by them.

Spock raised his eyebrow.  "I see."

* * *

 

"Now what would you like to do?" Christine asked as she finished counting her credits.  She punched a code into a nearby bank machine and made a deposit.

"I propose we go to our room and divest ourselves of these garments," Spock said, extending his hand.  "For what I have in mind, these are not at all appropriate."

What the heck was in that fruit juice, she wondered.

"Come along, my wife."

* * *

 

"OK, folks, arms legs inside the car at all times.  Mind the safety bar!"

The roller coaster started climbing to the top of its track.  From the summit, the lights of Las Vegas stretched on for miles.  A hot breeze was stirring up the desert night.  Christine slid her bare leg over her husband's, grateful he had logically insisted they change to shorts and t shirts.  She kissed his ear in the dark.

"Are you feeling all right?" she asked.

"Yes, Doctor, although I do not know why you insisted on injecting me with the anti-motion sickness hypo."  He pretended to be stern, but she could feel his amusement.  He slid an arm around her shoulders as the coaster reached the track's highest point.

Just a moment later, the galaxy turned delightfully upside down and inside out.  If only she could be sure Spock was not calculating g forces as they went whooshing around the track.  A Vulcan hand found its way onto a familiar part of her anatomy, dispelling that notion very quickly.

A great end to a great evening, Christine thought.

*The evening has not ended yet, my beloved.*

* * *

 

"It would appear to be a large flashlight standing 11.7 meters in height," Spock said thoughtfully as he surveyed the unusual sculpture.

"That's because it is a large flashlight," his wife replied.  "I think it's called the 'Beacon of Knowledge' or similar."

The famous, though highly unusual landmark at the UNLV campus still stood gracing the top of the mall, where it had held court for some centuries now.

"Fascinating."

The early morning desert air was cool, well, relatively cool, and there was a great deal of bird and wildlife activity all over the campus.  During their earlier walk through the University Arboretum's Xeric Garden, one of the pioneering examples of xeriscaping, they had seen roadrunners, squirrels, desert jays and an entire host of other small creatures.  Spock had been impressed with the almost Vulcan-style landscaping of the drought-tolerant plants.

"But why a flashlight?  And why is it mounted lens down?" he persisted.

Christine yawned, damning his logical brain for a second.  They'd finally gotten to sleep at 04:00, just in time to get up for this harebrained dawn excursion, although it was proving most enjoyable.

"How the heck should I know?  The artist, Claes Oldenburg, was a bit of an envelope pusher back then.  The benefactor wanted his work commissioned and gave an endowment.  Actually, this is quite tame for Claes' style.  He also did a giant lipstick sculpture for someone.  He collaborated on this particular work with another artist, Coosje van Bruggen.  Who knows what they were thinking back in 1978?  Come on, let's head out of here, they'll be by for us before we know it."

They wandered back the jeep across the surprisingly dew-laden campus, enjoying the last of the desert's coolest time under the shade of numerous trees.  In an hour, it would already be quite toasty.  Spock contentedly draped an arm around his wife's waist.

"What a pity we could not also do a side trip past Yucca Flat on your highway 375.  It is supposedly quite an amazing landscape." His tone was droll.

Christine raised an eyebrow.  Had all those roller coaster rides affected his brain?  They'd finally been kicked off the thing at 03:45, and that was after they rode several times with the staff once it was officially closed.  Their mutual shared fantasy, one she never mentioned to him until then, the roller coaster kiss, had well and truly been experienced.  Hwy. 375?  What was he playing at?

"Spock, I find it difficult to believe that a logical Vulcan such as yourself would want to take a ride down the ... Extraterrestrial Highway past the old Area 51.  Really now!"

"But would it not be logical to glimpse the birthplace of sublight speed?" he countered, a naughty twinkle dancing in his eyes.  "I have only seen it from the holos at the Science Academy."

"Don't tell me the Vulcans were there before Cochrane's initial flight?"  Before first contact had been made?

"Let us say that the fledgling Terran spaceflight program was ... carefully observed from a discreet distance for many generations prior to Dr. Cochrane's earliest experiments," he replied, thinking back to that mysterious encounter on the planet.  Before the landing party departed, he and the scientist discussed many things, including Cochrane's feeling that there had been 'watchers' around long before he'd even built his first model rocket as a youth.  "The attempts out at Peenemunde, for example.  Although the only observation of Terrans was from old styled radio and television broadcasts that were intercepted and studied."

"What did they think of humans back then?" she asked as they stopped under a pindo palm tree's whispering fronds.

"That they appeared to be an emotional, passionate race."  He kissed his wife quite thoroughly there on the secluded path.  "And I agree with their initial impression."

* * *

 

"They promised only six on the tour, which should be great," Christine said from where they waited in front of the New York, New York's monolithic skyline.  She gave Spock a delighted smirk.  "I am so looking forward to this."

Soon the rest of their party joined them.  Two other couples, humanoid definitely, but not necessarily Terran.  This would be interesting.  Christine wondered what their perceptions would be.  They seemed quite animated as well.

A few moments later, a Las Vegas Coroner's Office shuttlevan pulled up in the hotel's driveway.  Two figures got out, both dressed in the familiar clothing associated with their line of work, emblazoned satchels over their shoulders.

"Hey folks.  Welcome aboard the CSI tour.  We'll be your guides for the next three hours, so let's get started!"

She turned to her husband with a raised eyebrow, feeling his obvious delight.  He mirrored her look and extended his hand to help her get into the van.

"Catherine," he said solicitously.

"Gil," she harrumphed, with an expression her namesake most certainly would have given Griss.

* * *

 

"Greetings, Mother and Father.  Christine and I have now reached Nevada.  As this is an area where three of the four main desert ecosystems of this country converge, we have seen a fascinating array of animal and plant life, quite close up on some occasions.  We are seated here at Hoover Dam, one of the architectural marvels of its time.  The Seleya View Cafe, which is nearby, was a pleasant spot for an enjoyable endmeal.  We have selected some chocolates from the Ethel M. factory to be sent to you, so be watchful for their arrival.  From here, we are headed to California for a week.  I trust all is well in Shi-Kahr.  Live long and prosper, Spock and Christine."

* * *

 

"Hello T'Jen, we hope this finds you and your family well.  Spock and I dined at your relative's cafe here in Nevada and it was a wonderful meal.  We are enjoying Las Vegas very much.  Spock and I are here at an overlook above Hoover Dam, which is a beautiful spot to watch the sun set.  Please do give my special regards to your Ezyet T'Ser.  Christine and Spock."

* * *

 

This Is My Town

 

Sarek glanced over the vidgram's contents a final time then closed the message.

"I would gather they are having an enjoyable honeymoon, my wife," he remarked.  "Do you recall the fine meal we had at the Seleya View Cafe?  And I look forward to trying those chocolates, which I believe are quite renowned in the western United American States."  He indicated the object she held.  "So what have we received today, then?"

Amanda finished untangling the windchime's strands, pleased it had arrived perfectly intact.  The Cosanti Foundation bell, a beautifully patinaed shade of greenish grey, had an abstract design of the word "Arizona" at its top.

"This will sound quite pleasant in the garden's afternoon breezes, " she said with a smile.

Sarek came over to admire its austere beauty with her.  "Indeed it shall.  Perhaps I could assist you in hanging this properly, Aduna?" he asked.

* * *

 

Spock regarded his wife's sleeping form.  She was dozing against the shuttle's window, oblivious to the world around her.

He pulled out his PADD and checked their itinerary.  They would spend two nights at her family home, unoccupied at present, in Avila Beach before moving on to two nights at a small inn Christine had chosen nearby at Big Sur.  After that, it was three nights in San Francisco, although the planning for this last part of the honeymoon had been his entirely.  He glanced over the message from the Vulcan consulate.  An informal reception was planned their second night in the city, but if Christine thought it would be a stuffy diplomatic affair, he knew otherwise.  He actually looked forward to seeing her reaction to the evening's planned festivities.

Christine stirred in her sleep and slid further down the window she rested on.  Spock pulled her back against her shoulder and wrapped an arm around her, relishing the simple physical contact of her sleeping next to him.  It was something he enjoyed very much.

He was a bit tired as well.  After the roller coaster marathon, they'd only had about an hour's nap before they left to see the UNLV campus at dawn.  From there they went straight on the excursion.  The CSI tour was a very interesting morning, covering the sights shown in the original series as well as visiting the new studios built to accommodate its growth once production space in California became expensively scarce.  The series had eventually spawned more spinoffs in Honolulu, Buenos Aires, Moscow, Shanghai, the Martian Colonies, the Rigellian system, and a fictional starbase before it finally bit the dust, two and a half centuries in the running.  The group also visited the Las Vegas coroner's office for a tour, the highlight of which had been the placing of a volunteer member in a body bag.  He, of course, volunteered, with his wife being the attendant coroner.  It was an unfamiliar experience, though he sensed the strength of their link as she zipped him closed for those seconds.  A sobering few seconds.

After the tour, they'd gone on to the Ethel M. chocolate factory.  Spock sent some chocolates off to his parents and his wife likewise sent some to her mother, and they bought some to take on to California.  The grounds held a splendid cactus garden, which Christine insisted he see.  She took great pains to point out the dozen or more examples of the prickly pear cactus, and indicated the variety from which the fruits, which the curious burros had made off with, were from.  The garden was also the original site of an early ecosystem experiment, 'The Living Machine,' an acre of waste-consuming ecologies in tanks, marshes and reed beds which transformed wastewater into water clean enough to be used for landscape irrigation, now a very common phenomenon across the galaxy.

He pulled a small piece of dark chocolate out of his pocket and slowly unwrapped it, glimpsing the view below the shuttle.  It appeared to be raining here, he surmised.  Just as well.  Christine had stated that apart from a visit to the local bar and grill where she worked during her college summers, she hoped they would have an early, restful night.  Spock wasn't sure about restful, but early sounded fine to him.  He chewed on the candy, savoring its bitterness, and silently thanked his mother for some of her genes.  Although most Vulcans could not tolerate chocolate, Spock not only tolerated it, he positively enjoyed the stuff.  The darker the better for his taste, a preference he'd discovered his wife also shared.

She opened her eyes and looked around.  Obviously, the shuttle's descent had woken her.  "Where are we?" she asked with a small yawn.

Before Spock could answer, the captain's voice came over the PA.  "We're about five minutes out of Vandenberg, folks, and the weather's that misty foggy rain they get around here in the summer.  Sorry about that.  I should have you on the ground before you know it.  Thanks for flying with us, and for those of you from the greater Central California Coast, welcome home."

The shuttleport, part of the much larger starbase whose storied history included the early U.S. space shuttle program, was glistening in the rain as they crossed the landing pad to the terminal.

"Bother," Christine grumbled, sidestepping a puddle.  Drizzle?  Who said drizzle?  This was rain, period.  Cold rain, not the kind to go romping in romantically.

"Is something wrong?" Spock asked his wife.

"I hadn't counted on this.  Oh well," she shrugged and headed off to the car rental agency desk.  The clerk took her details and processed the agreement, then handed her the keys.

"Too bad," he said.  "But the front will be out of here by noon tomorrow.  Where you headed?'

"Avila, then Big Sur, then San Francisco."

"Nice.  You sure picked the appropriate model, even if it is raining, but the roof's as good as it always was.  It'll keep you dry."

Spock followed his wife out to the parking lot.  "Which one is ours?" he asked, expecting another sturdy jeep.

"Take a guess, Commander."

His gaze wandered over the vehicles then came to rest on a rather unusual vintage model.  He raised an eyebrow.

"That's the one.  I just wish it wasn't raining.  Never mind, the top's up for now.  Let's get going."

They made their way over to a perfectly restored 1966 Mustang convertible, fire engine red in color, complete with all the necessary accessories including sporty whitewall tires.

Spock ran his hand along the hood, the corner of his mouth firmly lifted.  "Such autos cost a small fortune to rent, my wife.  Surely you did not have to do this, although I do admit it shall be quite an adventure riding in it."

"Actually, my love, a good friend gave me some mad money for our honeymoon as a present and insisted I use it on a treat for the both of us, something we wouldn't ordinarily do."  Christine remembered Amanda's unexpected gift to her on the gambling cruiser.  "And I couldn't think of a better way to spend it.  Hop in!"

"Mad money?" Spock asked as he adjusted the old fashioned seat belt.  Another phrase to decipher.  He thought he was almost proficient in Terran slang, but then his wife would throw new curve balls at him faster than the great Vulcan pitcher Shott.

"Means credits to spend in a totally illogical way, darling, with no worry about the cost," she laughed.  "But don't worry, that's not what I normally do."

* * *

 

"Is that a giant clam?" Spock said, looking out the window at the sculpture.

"It's the namesake of this town, the Pismo clam, to be precise.  Though it was very endangered a few centuries ago."  Christine turned the car down a side lane and found a parking place, then they set off on foot down the town's well-preserved main street, still filled with souvenir shops and action sporting good vendors.

"Tivela stultorum.  And pismo itself derives from the native word for 'tar', does it not?  I gather this is still Chumash land."

"You and your trivia.  I am still amazed every time you open your mouth," Christine laughed.  "And yes, you are quite correct, they did live this far north, the Obispeno band.  But they shared the territory with the Salinans, whose lands we'll pass through on the way up to Monterey.  The tar, asphaltum, was used by both tribes to waterproof the insides of their baskets, which they used to carry water.  The Chumash had villages up and down this part of the coast."

"And is there not a Monarch Butterfly grove just south of here?"  Spock had obviously done his homework, very thoroughly by the sounds of it.

"Who writes these Vulcan guides?  Do they actually travel everywhere?"  Christine imagined groups of serious though adventuresome Vulcan researchers scouring the area, taking detailed notes.  But how was the area described in the guide?  "The grove you mention is the largest monarch habitat in the region.  The butterflies spend their winters here every year, like clockwork and have done for centuries."

"Fascinating."

"Well, here it is the world famous Pismo Beach.  Where poor Bugs was headed every time he got lost."  She led Spock onto the pier through the soft rain.

"Yes, he took numerous wrong turns at Albuquerque, if I recall from my childhood."  His mouth tugged upward again.  "My mother made certain I had a proper Terran upbringing in addition to my Vulcan one."  He looked out at the town's vista behind them.  "Did you live here at all?"

"Only for about a month when my mom first arrived with me.  We stayed with friends of hers on that hill behind us, until she found our own place out at Avila.  Mom was already working at the hospital in San Luis, though.  I went to elementary and high school in the district right here.  And I hung out on this boardwalk most weekends when I was growing up."  She pointed across the bay to another pier north of the one on which they stood.  "That's Avila Beach over there.  If you think Pismo is a small town, Avila's got that beat.  It's minuscule, just the way we like it."

Some curious pelicans waddled towards them, then seeing there were no snacks to be had, took flight in their loping, clumsy way and circled towards some fishermen further down who obviously did not mind the weather either.  The Pacific churned beneath the pier, foamy with the winds the storm generated.

"This will stir up the sand dollars," Christine said.  "Tomorrow there'll be hundreds of them on the beach.  Storms bring them up on shore."  She eyed Spock.  "Otherwise known as clypeasteroida.  I always remembered the name because of the asteroid.  Guess I was thinking about the stars even then."

* * *

 

Moondoggies' Beach Club, now in its fifth or sixth incarnation, was still wedged between a large souvenir store and a tattoo parlor, unchanged, it seemed, for centuries.  Except the window now held the obligatory posters of Stark and a good selection of his snowboards and, of course, Vulcan Heat activewear.

"Hey Scoob," Christine said to the suntanned, surferesque clerk behind the counter who was busily perusing Galactic Boardsports on his computer.

"Chris?  That you?  I heard you were headed this way for a few days!"  He then leaped over the counter and gave her a bear hug.  "Welcome home, kiddo.  Is this your husband?"

Christine extricated herself from his grip with a giggle.  "Spock, this is John, otherwise known as Scoob.  We went to school from kindergarten through senior high.  Scoob, my husband, Spock."

"Cool, welcome.  You're Vulcan, right?" he asked.  "Man, I wish I could thank that cosmic dude Stark personally.  My business has gone through the roof thanks to him.  Suddenly everyone's into boarding and the mountains really aren't that far away, so it's a good thing.  Plus there was a special on the other day.  He's now into water surfing and something called sand sailing too, as a hobby.  I'd love to take him kitesurfing around here, that's our big thing right now."

"Where's Imelda?" Christine looked over the home brand sweatshirts, unchanged for years, just like the one she had.

"School starts in a few weeks so she's at a teacher's meeting."  John's wife taught fifth grade locally.  "But will you be at Curls tonight?  We're headed there."

"Definitely, and if I know Pops, I'll be tending bar."  She laughed.  "Just like the old days."

Spock was looking over the sweatshirts as well, remembering how he had found hers a comfort when she was ill from the betan lizard snake bite.  How she had told him one day she'd show him this coast, and he'd vowed if only she got better, he would make that trip with her gladly.  And now they were here.  He selected a faded dark blue variety with the logo on the back.

"I should like to purchase this one," he told the clerk.

"Are you kidding?  Consider it a wedding gift, my man.  Hey, tonight maybe you can tell me about some of the places you've been.  I always wanted to get into space, just couldn't get past the physics."  He bagged the shirt and gave Christine a grin.  "Later, folks."

* * *

 

"Now you're on my turf," Christine remarked as they passed the town limit for Avila Beach.  She pulled onto a side street and went a short distance then turned into a driveway.  "Here we are.  Welcome to my home.  Well, my home when I'm not in space, that is."

Spock followed her through a well-tended front garden, rich with flowers and greens, and up the steps to the porch of a 1950's era styled beach house.  The ocean itself was perhaps three blocks away down the slope, with the pier out further around the bay.  The setting was very pleasant.

"Hey Princess.  Hi Missy."  His wife had stopped to greet two friendly, lazy cats that were snoozing on a porch swing.  "Guess your mama must be home, huh?" she walked over to the rail and stuck two fingers in her mouth for a piercing whistle, something Spock had long since gotten used to.  "Beck-EEEEEE!" she yelled, "your gatas are here!"

A door slammed and an auburn haired woman slightly older than Christine came out of the house next door, carrying a basket.  "Mija?  Is that you?" she shouted back.

Spock's eyebrow raised as the women exchanged a hug and began speaking in Spanish, a language he was not familiar with.  They obviously knew each other very well.

"Spock, this is our neighbor, Becky Ruiz.  She and her husband Lou have lived here for twenty years and before that it was her family home."  She looked into the basket.  "What's this?"

"Avocado bread for your breakfast, corn muffins, and some veggies from the garden.  The kids and grandkids did your mom's garden in flowers and plants while she's away and it looks great, but we've got plenty of vegetables.  I cut some flowers this morning for the house."  She offered a hand to Spock, which he took.  "I'm Rebecca Ruiz, but it's Becky to everyone.  I'm so glad to meet you at long last, Spock."  Then she turned to the dozing felines.  "Gatas!" she admonished, but they merely opened an eye each and yawned, then resumed their more important task, the nap.

"I hate to run but I'm just off to get Lou, his car's in the shop.  I stocked you with the usual provisions so you should be set.  See you at Curls later tonight?" she asked over her shoulder as she made a quick retreat.

"Absolutely."

Christine punched another entry code for the front door and they went inside the house.  "Becky looks after the place now that Mom's away," Christine explained.  "Her kids and grandkids use it as a base when the visit, and the cats kind of come and go between the houses, depending on who's in town.  They'll be wandering around here, is that OK?  Or else I can lock them out."

"Not at all, I enjoy Terran felines," Spock replied, glancing down at a plump brown tabby who was circling his legs in a purring figure of eight.  "But may I ask, what 'Curls' might be?"

She pointed out the window down the hill to a dilapidated old wooden bar with its own dock.  "Curls Surf Bar.  Where we'll be this evening.  I worked there three summers straight and vacations too.  They make the best wood fired pizza in the state, I think."

Spock took in his surroundings.  There was a large stone fireplace dominating the living room, which had an entertainment center, an overstuffed sofa and armchairs, a large colorful ethnic rug and polished wooden floors.  Beyond that was a modern looking kitchen with traditional appliances.  Clearly, his wife had honed her culinary skills here.  A sliding glass door led to a brick patio surrounded by a very Terran garden.  Becky had filled vases with fresh flowers from the backyard and their fragrances scented the house.

"We'll stay here, in my old room," Christine said as she took some bags inside a bedroom which had a splendid ocean vista.  "But it's more grown up in its decor these days."  She walked over to where her husband stood observing the rainy scene.  The cats, now back in their familiar spot, gazed placidly back at him through the glass.  "I'm starved.  How 'bout some late lunch?  I'll throw together a salad.  We can eat out on the porch."

He knew by now that "throw together" meant to cook, though he still recalled his first reaction to the phrase.  With a smile, he followed his wife into the kitchen.

* * *

 

"I am trying to picture the Chumash fishing in their tomols," Spock remarked as they sat and watched the rainy ocean out below the hill on which the house stood.  "I would think the land was much the same as now.  Why is this locale not as developed as the rest of the area?"

"Thanks to an early nuclear power plant which stood just on that outcrop there for centuries, no one wanted to live here."  Christine pointed to the end of the bay.  "And then right around the bend is Montana de Oro State Park, so a main road around this part of the coast just never got built, it cuts through San Luis instead.  I, for one, am glad.  So it really looks like it did when the Chumash were hauling their canoes onto the beach.  There was a settlement here --permanent village life was their trademark.  If it's nice tomorrow I'll show you an old acorn grinding site, where the women ground their meal.  It's just up the hill behind us a little way, which is another reason we don't have many neighbors.  It's state land starting at our garden's boundary."

They sat and watched the waves and circling seagulls, whose obnoxiously raucous cries drifted up the hill.  Christine sighed happily.  "How I've missed that sound."

"You spent time here during medical school, then?" he asked, drawing her closer against him, further displacing the cats who stubbornly refused to budge from the swing.  They eyed the couple territorially from its other end.

"Whenever I could.  It's not that far a drive, or I could hop a shuttle to San Luis.  I came here after the five year mission ended too, before med school started, and it was a good restful time.  This place can recharge the batteries."

"Then once we are settled in San Francisco, I hope we might visit regularly as well," he replied.  "If your mother does not mind?"  He wondered what conversations mother and daughter might have had here after the missions' end, and after Christine left the second briefly.  Somehow he surmised he was the topic of many of those.

"Mind? She'd be delighted!  But I'm warning you now, you'll be pressed into manual labor as soon as we arrive.  Mom loves home improvements.  Who do you think did most of the decorating here?  The two of us.  But I think we did an OK job."  She found an eartip to tweak.

"I, too, enjoy working with my hands and would be happy to assist on any projects your mother might give me." He began exploring her cheek with his lips.  "And I would especially like to do some manual work right now, my wife.  But only with you."

"Come along, Commander, I thought you'd never ask," his wife said with a seductive laugh.  "You're not the only one with fantasies to live out, you know."  She raised her eyebrow.  "This is, after all, my childhood home."

* * *

 

"Is this establishment similar to the Rusty Spur Saloon in Scottsdale?" Spock asked as they made their way down the road in the twilight drizzle.

"No, that's been touristified."  Christine shook her head emphatically.  "Curls is what it's always been, a local bar where the surfers and the locals hang out.  The name is an surfing term."  She smirked at her husband knowingly.  "This is the real thing, full of atmosphere, characters and good drinks."

"Then I presume we shall have an enjoyable evening?"  He stopped her for a moment, letting hand make contact with posterior.  "But not too late, I trust?  Did you not say you wanted an early night?"

"I said early and restful, dearest.  You are so insatiable I'm beginning to wonder if you run on batteries that you recharge when you're sleeping."  She wrapped her arms around his neck, reveling in the fact she was here, right now, with him and it was no dream.  And this was following a dreamy late afternoon session back at the house...in the kitchen (when had Spock seen that old film 'Fatal Attraction,' she wondered), the shower, and finally in her own bed.  Talk about good.

"Such batteries would not have had much opportunity to recharge lately, would they?  So that presumption is quite illogical.  I am simply, as you tell me..."

Christine decided a brief public kiss was better than a passerby hearing her husband describe himself as a ... well ... never mind.

"Here goes," she said as she pushed open the door.

"CHRIS!"  An older grey bearded gentleman shouted her name so loud half the patrons turned around.  "How the HELL are you?" he bellowed.

She made her way over to the bar, with Spock firmly in tow.  "Hey Pops," she said.  "I'm fine.  And this is--"

"The old man!  Spock, welcome to my establishment.  I'm Pops.  Just Pops.  Glad you made an honest woman of our favorite doctor, but you did steal my best vacation bartender, you know!"  He pumped Spock's hand vigorously, then gave Christine a crushing hug, her second of the day.  Her husband was beginning to wonder if this was some uniquely local custom

"So, Chris, get behind this bar and pour some drinks, will you?"  Pops handed her a barmaid's apron which she tied on with a practiced hand, then she positioned herself to take orders.

"What'll it be?" she asked her husband.

"Whatever you are having," he replied smoothly.

Damn him, she thought, he wants me to call the shots.  OK, buster.  Good thing she'd injected them both with three times the antitox needed for an evening's imbibing.  Since they had arrived on Vulcan and then come to Terra, they'd not had a chance to have more than one drink, if that even, during the course of an evening.  Not that they were drinkers at all, to be honest, but wasn't there some tradition somewhere that the bride and groom were allowed to get just a little toasted once?  It was a short walk home and no plans for tomorrow, so tonight might be the night.  Of course Spock claimed Vulcans didn't get drunk but she had a sneaking suspicion he was more human in that department than he wanted to admit in the past.

"Comet's tails ... to start."  She reached for the bottle of Aldebaran whiskey.

* * *

 

The bar rapidly filled up, it being a Friday night.  The mood was casual and friendly.  Spock was soon introduced to several dozen of his wife's friends, most of whom seemed to know something about him.  In short order, he was involved in a darts match.

"How are you, mija?" Becky asked her friend as she poured out a cadillac margarita for the both of them.

"I'm fine, but remember my last trip home?  Who'd have thought this would be happening on my next one?"  They clinked glasses and had a luxurious swig.

"I did," the woman replied a little mysteriously.  "You know I get those feelings from my abuelita, may she rest in peace."

"Oh Becky, stop with all that Santeria mumbo jumbo."  Christine now realized this was the third prediction she'd heard about her and Spock.  Well, maybe the fourth, given the dreams she'd been having before she returned to the Enterprise the second time.  Then she relented.  "OK," she sighed.  "What did you see in the cards?"

"Just a tall handsome stranger, the dark king, in your future."  Becky gave her a wink.  "And there he is, honey.  That's some kind of Vulcan royalty!  I am so happy for you, after everything, you deserve it.  When does your mission end?"

"Three and a half years, most likely, then we head for San Francisco.  But we'll be on Vulcan from time to time as well."  Somehow this did not seem so terrifying a concept as it had been just a few days before.

"And that means you'll be down here to visit.  That's good.  The gatas miss you something awful, sweetie."  She clinked glasses with Christine again.  "And so do I."

* * *

 

Christine scanned the room for her husband.  Pops was not kidding, she had been tending bar while he watched the Giants game with the usual suspects.  Where was Spock?  She saw him by the pool table, playing a game with Scoob and having a discussion about lord knows what.  He'd been matching her for drinks and the score was tied at three apiece.  She figured that was enough, but did he?

The vegetarian pizza she ordered arrived just as the pool game ended.  Spock made his way over to the bar, plonked himself rather ungraciously onto a stool and helped himself to a slice.  So much for this Vulcan never touching his food, he was even chasing the stray strands of mozzarella.  She gave him a smile as she joined in.  Man, the pizza was just as good as she remembered.

"Another neither black nor white waterfowl martini, dirty," he stated after he'd finished his first piece.  "Shaken, not stirred."

Was he showing the effects or was he just playing with her?  Christine decided she didn't want to find out what a plastered Vulcan was really like, at least not tonight.  "No."  She placed both hands on the bar in front of her and looked him in the eye.  "Your tab's closed for the night, mister."  Come to think of it, so was hers.  Whew.  She was tired.

"Why?  I am certainly not inebriated, Doctor."  Sober Spock was back in a microsecond.

"Because..."  She leaned forward and whispered a familiar phrase in his pointed ear.

His eyebrows shot up and a Vulcan hand grasped the back of her neck so they were only centimeters apart.  "I see.  A most attractive ... proposition.  Very well, bartender.  Mineral water then."

She poured them both a glass then hurried off to tend to another customer.

* * *

 

Coffee.  She smelled coffee.  And it wasn't that replicator crud, this was her favorite brand of Bay Area style caffeine.  Strong, dark, rich, with real cream, and made in the ancient Mr. Coffee machine which had pride of place in her mother's kitchen.  But how was that possible?

She felt a weight next to her on the bed.  Her eyes opened to reveal Spock sitting there with a tray of coffee and some other delights.

"Good morning, my wife," he said.  "Or should I say, afternoon?"

"What time is it?" she asked as she had a sip of the steaming brew.  Oh yes, it was good.

"Twelve oh three."  He took a drink from his own mug, his eyebrow predictably raised.

"Noon?"  She almost choked.  "Then we've been asleep for--"

"Eleven point thirty seven hours to be precise."  He gave her a his special smile as a fingertip began to make a lazy traversal of her collarbone.  "We were both, it appears, quite fatigued."

And not a hangover in sight, either.  Christine blessed her triple dose of the both of them, although they'd been only mildly buzzed at evening's end.  "I guess," she replied.  The planned bedroom frolics had turned into bedroom activities of a more mundane nature.  Sleeping.  "What's that?" she asked, looking at the plate of food.

"Your neighbor made this, I believe she called it avocado bread?  If it is of the quality of her corn muffins, this should be a quite delicious breakfast.  I have provided a selection of the appropriate toppings."

"Cream cheese, please."  She took a slice and spread it liberally.  "But how did you figure out the coffee?"

"Logically, of course.  Although the feline named 'Missy' seemed to be more than willing to assist me in my endeavors."

"Those cats, they may as well be running the place."  A pleased sigh escaped as she tried her neighbor's county fair award-winning bread.  "There's an old saying, love me, love my cat."

"I have no problem with that." Spock pointed to the sunny view now visible through the sheer drapes.  "It would appear the rain has moved out of the area.  So, Christine, what do you plan to show me of your 'turf' today?  I can think of a few things I would enjoy seeing right now, however."  The fingertip traveled lower, unerringly finding the most sensitive of nerve endings.

Christine pulled back the top sheet with an inviting smile.  The tour could wait a bit longer.

* * *

 

"There would appear to be at least two dozen of these indentations," Spock said as he studied one example.  "This indicates a large population."

"This was a very notable settlement of the Stishni, or Obispeno, Chumash here," Christine said as she, too, felt the hollowed out stone which was centuries old.  She looked down the vista to where San Luis Creek emptied into Avila Bay.  "It was called 'Sepxatu'.  The women ground, or pounded, acorns into meal on these rocks, which was a large part of their main diet.  The process was a long one, so they told stories, or sang songs, or instructed the children in the ways of the people, while they worked."

"I have read that these peoples were well versed in the study of the heavens as well."

"Yes, there are rocks in this area which were used in ritual solstice celebrations.  The Chumash were all but died out by the 20th century, but a few surviving members re-established the culture into what it is today."  She took his hand and led him back to the car.  "Enough of the past, Commander.  Let me show you my home's hidden treasures."

* * *

 

"Apple orchards?  Here?"  Spock pointed to the trees as they traversed the sedate, meandering curves of See Canyon Road in the hills behind Avila Beach.

"This is a famous small microclimate that supports apple trees quite nicely.  It's one of the area's well-kept secrets, like this road we're on."  She parked the car on a shoulder just above a footpath that led into the hilly terrain.  "There's a great view just a little way from here with some more surprises."

They headed down the path past green fields sprinkled with late summer wildflowers and soon an old fashioned water-pumping windmill came into view.  Just beyond that, the Pacific began to make its appearance in the distance, almost as blue as the rain washed skies above.  Sitting in the middle of the ocean just offshore was the odd shaped round rock that was the landmark of the town of Morro Bay.

"Our eventual destination," Christine said as she pointed it out.  "California's Rock of Gibraltar."

"Part of a chain of seven extinct volcanoes in this area, I believe, " Spock replied.

"Yes, it was rocking and rolling around here for millions of years.  She sat down with him on a large flat rock just across the way from a paddock where some horses were cropping the rain soaked grass.  "This is one of my favorite places to just sit and do nothing.  Only the ocean, the sky and all this scenery."  She happily leaned into Spock's shoulder, feeling his pleasure at the serenity of the surroundings.

"I hope we may visit regularly once we are stationed back in San Francisco," he said.  "I would like that very much."

"Agreed."  A kiss sealed the deal, intended to be a brief one.

Spock had other ideas.

"Why do you insist on wearing that short skirt when you know it drives me mad?"  He had her astride him in a second, kissing her hungrily.  "It incites my curiosity as to what might be beneath."  His hand was already making the familiar journey up her inner thigh.

"Because it's a warm summer day and it's a summer skirt?  And you know what underwear I have on, Commander.  You saw me get dressed!"  Christine knew it was hopeless to argue but did so anyway.  It was part of the fun.

Spock withdrew his fingers from somewhere he'd been exploring and gave then a sensual lick.  "I find myself desiring some Terran yon savas," he whispered.  "Do you know where I might be able to obtain this?"

"You can't be serious," she sighed, knowing full well he was.  "Here?  Now?  Humor me.  Why?  You already ... ate, remember?"  But she wriggled her pelvis desirably against his hand, which was busily perusing her heated depths once more.

"I have sampled it in the states we have already traversed.  Now we are in California so I would enjoy having this in its natural environment.  Outdoors."  Suddenly she was prone on the lush, though damp grass, her underpants were off, and her skirt had hiked itself beyond her waist.  The sun felt delicious on her bare skin.  A moment later the world went into pleasure overdrive as her husband's tongue worked its usual magic.  Several times.

* * *

 

"If you didn't plan this little seduction, why weren't you wearing your briefs under those jeans?" Christine asked lazily, letting her tongue run down the line of fur on his abdomen.  She slowly fastened the waistband and pulled herself back up into his embrace.  The sight of him without his shirt in outdoors in broad daylight was always a a turnon.  Once he'd taken it off, she was a goner.  A little oral fun had soon morphed into full scale carnal knowledge.  Thankfully, no one had wandered by.

"Vulcans do not, as a matter of course, wear such illogical garments."  He caressed the back of her head, smiling like a cat who had just finished a saucer of extra rich cream.

"But you do," she replied, sliding her hand beneath the denim to feel his bare skin beneath a sharply defined hip bone.  He was ticklish there.

"I wear briefs because the temperature aboard the Enterprise is too cool for my liking.  And I might add that I have recently learned how delightful it is to have them removed by a certain physician.  As for today, I surmised it would logically save time to dispense with them altogether."

"Spock, what are we going to do once we get back to the Enterprise?" she asked, almost rhetorically.

His eyebrow raised.  "I can think of numerous locations where a clandestine encounter is more than possible."

* * *

 

"What is this place?" Spock asked as he pulled his eyebrows off the back of his head, where they had risen.  Obviously, the Madonna Inn had not made it into the Vulcan guides.

"A little monument to the Terran habit of whimsy," she replied, holding out his sunglasses.  "You might need these."

The pink and stone fantasy establishment had grown with the centuries but still remained true to its fanciful roots.  Everything was preserved to the original designers' specifications, with more carefully planned additions happening over time.

This would be a fitting end to a great afternoon's adventure, Christine thought.  After their little tryst on the sunny hilltop, they'd driven lazily into Morro Bay, pausing to get some local apple cider and a loaf of unusually made acorn apple bread at a roadside stand.  Morro Bay itself had been a fairly normal excursion, with an exploration of the rock's massive base and a late lunch.  But this place was going to be something really out of the ordinary for her husband.

"There is quite a preponderance for ... pink."  Spock was surveying the main restaurant's colorfully fuchsia palette.  Cupid still reigned supreme over the splash of gilded trim, while the are itself paid homage to the color pink in all of its not so subtle hues.  "Is this establishment meant to be a satiric type of place?"

"Kind of, but not really." She led him over to the Copper Cafe, which was as burnished as ever.  "It's the original owner's decorating tastes, and the family has kept to that.  It's just a landmark of sorts.  Guests love to stay in the themed rooms, and believe me, they range from the sublime to the ridiculous.  One of my friends summered here as a maid and I saw all of them.  Unbelievable.  There's even an Antarean Fantasy Suite, where you're looking at the stars in a fatalistically furnished room."  She snickered.  "The same view we all see every night on the Enterprise.

"Fascinating."

Christine ordered a piece of the pink champagne Black Forest cake, with its suitably fuchsia trim, and soon she and her husband were sharing its delights.

* * *

 

"Had I seen you when you were but eighteen, believe me, I would have done everything in my power to possess you," Spock said as he watched the holovid.  "You were, my wife, a knockout as you Terrans say."

"Maybe to you, but the local guys wanted blonde bouncy cheerleaders," she sighed.

"And not mysteriously beautiful, statuesque brunettes with eyes the color of the sea?"  Spock now sighed.  "Quite illogical."

"It all worked out fine, though."

"Indeed."  He continued eating the homemade pasta primavera, rich with the neighbor's fresh veggies, that he and his wife were enjoying in her living room.  They had been watching her life in holos from birth through university graduation.  "And may I please have another helping of those artichoke hearts?  They are quite delicious."

"Sure."  She handed him the serving dish.  "Castroville, near Monterey, is the artichoke capital of the region.  These are the early crop, easy to eat whole."

"I am honored you chose to make endmeal for me here, my wife."

She raised an eyebrow.  "Why wouldn't I?  This is my home and I want to share its delights with you, my love."

He pulled at the tie of her silk wrap, the same one he'd given her as a Valentine's Day gift all those months ago, to announce his intentions as a serious contender for her heart.  "You have done already, Th'yla.  And I hope tonight you shall share more of them with me."

She let the robe loosen, knowing the fact she had decided not to wear the matching gown beneath it would rapidly send him into spontaneous combustion.  "Maybe you'd like to get started on that?" she purred.

 

* * *

 

Pacific Coast Highway

Spock put the towel to his face and inhaled deeply before he started drying his hair.

"You've been sniffing everything here," Christine remarked as she twisted her damp locks up into a knot then stabbed them with chopsticks.  "Is something wrong?  Don't you like the detergent I use?  It's natural with a touch of lavender oil."

"On the contrary, I enjoy the scent.  But it is not the detergent which is so pleasing.  It is ... something else.  I even noticed it on the t-shirt I selected to wear today as well as my jeans."  Having said this, he rapidly clothed himself in said garments.

"Fresh air."

"I beg your pardon?"

Christine indicated the clothesline out in the back garden.  "Mom and I don't use the sonic dryer unless we absolutely have to.  Everything here gets washed in a washing machine and line-dried in the fresh air, and I did the laundry yesterday just that way.  That's what you probably smell.  I almost forgot how good it was until we got back here."

"Perhaps that is why it brought back memories of childhood visits to my mother's relatives, ones who lived on a farm.  They, too, had a clothesline as you call it.  I recall the bedsheets were fresh scented as here."  He drew his wife into an embrace and unconsciously brushed a stray curl off her forehead, something he did often to show his affection for her.  "I sense you miss this place, T'hyla.  I can promise you we shall visit regularly once we are back on Terra permanently.  I enjoy it here as well, and look forward to many mornings waking up with you in the splendid view your bedroom affords."

"Cats and all?" she asked, for the felines had been an audience to many of their more romantic encounters.  A rather bored audience however, both being fixed long ago.

"Yes, cats and all.  So long as I am with you here, it will be enough."  He raised an eyebrow.  "Of course, eventually..."

"We'll bring our children here too," she finished with a contented sigh.

"Have I ever told you I wished for a large family?  Eight, perhaps ten children?"

Had she not felt the amusement washing over her through their link she would have strangled him on the spot.  Without missing a beat, she replied, "I hope you plan to grow them in the hydroponic bays, dear."  Then she smacked him.  "You earned that one, Commander."

He walked with her over to the living room and they once again looked at an ornate silver framed wedding portrait, of a beautiful dark haired bride with Christine's startling blue eyes, and a handsome, tall blonde officer in a Starfleet dress uniform.

"You do favor him," Spock told her as he held her even tighter.  "And I am certain he would be very proud of you."

"Thank you, my beloved."  She let her fingers trace the outline of her father.  "Your grandmother told me she'd met my father, and that I had his eyes and his height.  Now I can see it."

She reached into her duffel bag, took out a box and opened it.  A more modern frame, deep red Vulcan glass, which she bought at the Shi-Kahr bazaar from an interesting old trader, held a wedding portrait of her and Spock taken on board the Enterprise just after their Federation ceremony.  After rubbing it over lightly with the hem of her shirt, she carefully placed it next to the one of her parents.  It just seemed the logical thing to do.

* * *

 

"And this enormous bumble bee flew into the kitchen.  It must have been the size of a crow!"  Becky poured out some grapefruit juice as she continued the story.

Lou gave Spock a knowing glance and raised his thumb, then measured its length with two fingers from his other hand, indicating the insect's actual length.  He smirked.  This was an old tale.

"Anyway, there was this buzzing monster chasing everyone and we were screaming because it had a stinger about a foot long.  Then it landed on the window."

Christine started to smile as she remembered the scene.  "So I did the only thing I could do.  I caught it with a glass, put some cardboard over the opening and took it outside to let the thing go."  She took a sip of her juice.  "Honestly, six grownups all afraid of a teeny weeny bee."

"Our hero, that's Chris," Becky replied.  "Don't keep her away too long, Spock.  Avila Beach needs her!"

"I assure you we shall visit regularly," Spock said.  "And may we thank you again for this delightful early breakfast."

"We have to be at work over at the hospital by eight," Louis explained.  "So this is our regular breakfast time on Sundays.  When Chris said you were headed off early for Big Sur, we thought it'd be a good chance to see you two."

"Becky's huevos a la Pismo are famous."  Christine took a large bite.  "Even if they are made with artificial eggs."

"She gonna let you drive up PCH?" Louis asked Spock, who only shrugged.  "Nothing but road past Cambria, till you hit Ragged Point.

"I'm thinking about it," Christine laughed.

* * *

 

"Mirounga Angustirostris.  The Northern Elephant Seal," Spock remarked "I was not aware there would still be so many males on the beach in August."

The Piedras Blancas vista point overlooked the beach where a sizable colony of the mammals had been established for centuries.  At this time of the year, the remaining males, some extremely large, spent their days lolling on the sand, or covering themselves with it when the heat became too much.  The sight was comical, resembling a group of hungover men after a drunken night out.

"It depends on the weather.  It's been warmer later, so they're not leaving yet."  Christine made a face as she heard one of the blubbery behemoths snort loudly.  "Sounds like you, when you've had too much Vulcan champagne, Commander."

"Christine, really.  I have already informed you that Vulcans do not snore."

"Uh huh."  She leaned comfortably against his shoulder as they sat watching the spectacle.

"And if we did, it would certainly not sound like that."  He was cut off by the sound of two large males beginning the curious rite of challenge for dominance.  Eyebrow raised, he turned to Christine, who had been here many times before.

"They do that for the right to be dominant male in their particular turf.  Then they have first pick of the seal cows.  And--"  Suddenly she stopped, almost ashamed.  It sounded very similar to another mating rite she hoped she'd never have to witness.  Try as she might, the vision of Spock and Jim on the sands still came to her now and then.

Spock obviously sensed her distress.  He slid his arm more tightly around her waist and strengthened the bond between them, letting the balm of his love cover the old scars on her soul, scars she did not even have to bear.

*I love you, my wife.*

*And I love you too, husband.*

* * *

 

"So what did you think of Hearst Castle?" she asked awhile later, when the seals were quiet again.

"It was quite fascinating, but for some reason, I kept recalling that other establishment, the Madonna Inn.  Both of them share the same ... rather hodgepodge style of architecture and furnishings."

"You mean nothing really matched, right?"

"I believe that is what I was trying to convey, in a diplomatic manner, of course."  He lifted the corner of his mouth, his eyes awash with amusement.  "I did especially enjoy the gardens and the outdoor pool, as did my own parents.  They visited the castle years ago."

"So that's why we got the VIP tour.  I guess it helps being married to Spock of Vulcan sometimes."

"Indeed."  Then his voice dropped a pitch.  "T'hyla, I was wondering..." and a thought entered her mind.

She harrumphed as loud as one of the seals.  "You're just insatiable, Commander.  I never should have let you the first time, I've created a monster."  She got to her feet, pulling him along.  "Haven't you had enough for today?"

"Please?" he asked, with his best sehlat eyes.

"Oh all right, else I'd never hear the end of it."  She reached in the pocket of her shorts, fished out the keys and tossed them across the car.  Spock caught them neatly.

"But only, and I mean only until we reach the Ragged Point Inn.  Do you hear me, speed racer?  When you saw those zebras, you left half a tire on the road in skid marks!  You're just lucky no one was behind us."  She recalled the moment.  Even Vulcans were not immune.

"I can assure you I was merely surprised, my wife."  Spock was determined to defend his driving abilities, which actually were quite good.  "It is not every day one sees zebras trotting through a roadside California pasture."

"Except at Hearst Castle.  Eighty to zero in..." she said crossly, remembering the contact between her knees and the dash.  Then she rolled her eyes good-naturedly.  "Never mind, I had the same reaction the first time I saw them when I was driving.  I should have warned you, they just came from nowhere!  But seriously ... once the road starts curving up the hill to Big Sur it's 40 and not a mile over."  She gave him a wicked grin.  "And then maybe we can park for a few minutes.  I know a nice overlook..."

Spock started the engine even before she'd closed the passenger door.

* * *

 

"It is logical that this would be known as the place where Big Sur begins and ends," Spock said as they stood looking down at the ocean far below.  "Ragged Point obviously would be that spot, depending on whether you traveled north or south."

"Pretty impressive, huh?' Christine asked as he studied the geological array of the unusual coastline, with its jagged bluffs and dark pine forests.  "It's like this for the next eighty miles or so.  Did you never get down this way when you were at the Academy?  My mom and I went camping here every summer."

"No, I fear the Marin Headlands and Berkeley were as far afield as I traveled."  Spock pointed to the gazebo near the restaurant.  "Is this a popular wedding venue?"  A bride and groom were joining hands as he spoke.

"Yes, all the major places along Highway 1 are great wedding locations.  The view is spectacular, as you can see."  She sighed, almost sadly.  "When I was a teenager, everyone wanted a Big Sur wedding.  It's been a popular thing as long as Big Sur has even settled, probably before that, when Salinan Indians were joining couples."

They continued to look out at the foaming ocean far below, whose waves crashed with such thunder that the sound reverberated up to where they stood.  It was a truly magnificent sight, Spock thought.  And he was very grateful to his T'hyla for bringing him here.  Yet something was askew, just a bit.  He felt it through their link, like a shadow across the sun.  In a moment, it had vanished.  He knew better than to press the issue, whatever it might be, but somehow knew that an amorous sidetirp was not the best thing on this journey.  Time enough for that later.

"C'mon, Commander, we have a lot of road to travel before we're at our destination."

He took her hand and they set off for the car.

* * *

 

"Ah!  Here it is.  Gee, a new sign and everything.  The brothers must be doing well."  Christine pulled the car into a gravel parking lot, in front of a hand painted which read simply, "The Franciscan Friary of Big Sur."

Spock followed her out of the car and towards a wooden building marked "Gift Shop."

"Friars?  Are these monks?" he asked, thinking of his time at Gol.  He knew of Terran monks, but they were as varied as the religions they represented, and while they shared many of the same practices as the Masters, there were many unique differences.

"They sure are.  This monastery has been here for centuries.  My mom and I know the brothers, she came here for retreats for many years.  They're famous for fruitcake and candles."

Spock raised an eyebrow.  Obviously, fruitcake jokes had made it to Vulcan.

"And something else," she added mysteriously as she opened the creaking door.  "If you know."

A pleasant shop greeted them, with a suitably cheerful friar behind the counter.  He was just putting his glasses on as they entered.

"Welcome, pilgrims."  He stopped and blinked.  Recognition lit his face.  "Christine? Christine Louise Maria Chapel?"

Spock glanced at his wife, who was grinning and flushing at the same time.  He had never heard her full name before and surmised this was part of her Catholic upbringing.

"Brother Giles!  How are you?"  The customary bear hug was soon exchanged.

"How long has it been?  And how is your mother?"  The friar was continuing pleasantries when he looked over Christine's shoulder.  "But forgive my rudeness, Christine!  Who might this be?"

She took Spock's hand.  "This is my husband, Spock.  We're on our honeymoon."

To their surprise, the Friar gave the traditional Vulcan hand salute and greeting in passable Vulcan language, which Spock quickly answered.

"Vulcans visit us on occasion," Brother Giles explained.  "They often come here for contemplative retreat, our facilities are non-denominational and quite renowned."

"Indeed," Spock replied, fascinated with the concept.  "Your facility looks to be a most unique one."

"Brother Giles," Christine purred with her most charming smile, "might there be any special grape juice available?"

A short second later, the friar produced a bottle and some glasses.  "There is," he beamed.  "Why not try some and see how you like it?  Are you thinking of some for gifts, perhaps?"

"Perhaps."  Christine handed a glass to Spock and they both sampled the grape brandy.  She exhaled after a moment.  "Excellent, Brother Giles.  What a wonderful vintage!"

"I tend to agree," Spock replied.  "A most smooth flavor, very easy to enjoy."

Christine tapped her cheek with a forefinger.  "A bottle for Jim, for Len, and for Scotty," she began.

"And one for my parents, and one as a thank you gift for the ambassador in San Francisco," Spock added.  "And one for us, of course."  He addressed the friar pleasantly.  "Six bottles then, of the best your vintage has, your grace," and handed over his Federation Express card, waving off his wife's protests.

"So where were you married?" Brother Giles asked as he prepared the box for them.

"On Vulcan and on board the Enterprise," Christine replied, picking up a candle sample from a display.

"Not at home too?"

She shook her head.  "Mom's off on an extended vacation, so having any kind of celebration here would have been pretty pointless."  She sighed again.  "Does one of your friars still make these?' she asked as she held up a delicately layered blue and violet candle.

"They certainly do, and this will be your wedding present from me to the both of you."  He gave Christine another hug, speaking closely with her for a moment.

Spock did not mean to intrude, but he sensed that flicker of sadness once more.  He heard snippets of the conversation.  The friar was offering them some sort of blessing but Christine refused politely, saying it was all right.  She then took the packages and headed over to where he stood with a friendly last wave at the monk.

As they returned to the car, Spock began to think about things.

* * *

 

At the Lucia Lodge, where they stopped to admire the view, another wedding was in progress.  Christine dismissed this as the usual Sunday happenings, but Spock still felt a twinge of something unfamiliar.  He wisely did not pursue the matter, knowing his wife would tell him in her own time.  Or not.

The landmarks sped slowly past.  Big Creek.  The old Esalen Institute, still pioneering in relationship and personal therapies, now an accepted mainstream practice.  Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, where they drove down a dirt side road to a nearly deserted beach and watched the waves for awhile as the fog began to close in.  And then, at last, the borders of Big Sur Village.  Christine had been silent for most of the drive, but that was only logical.  The highway's twists and turns were not conducive to much conversation.  The views, however, had been breathtaking.

The sun was setting as she pulled into the Post Ranch Inn.  "At last," she sighed, rubbing her neck.  "I'm gonna need a major massage.  I'm all knotted up from the drive, I'm afraid."

"We have two nights here, my beloved," Spock replied.  "Let us simply relax, then.  This seems to be a wonderful place to do so."

As they made their way to the lobby, another wedding was just ending.  The bride and groom were heading off on a motorcycle, of all things, but in this part of the world, anything was possible.

Spock heard Christine sigh again and realized what the issue was.  But she was not forthcoming, so he did not ask.

Thanks to his wife's recent winning at baccarat, they found themselves upgraded to one of the Inn's three private guesthouses, and this was her treat, she insisted.  Their particular property was two storied, having two bedrooms, two baths, a wooden floored living room with fireplace, a deck and a hot tub.  And a magnificent view down the cliffs to the churning Pacific below, completely private, completely theirs.

"This is a fine place for us to spend the next time together," he said as they stood out on the deck, listening to the pounding surf's echoes.  "Thank you for sharing this beautiful part of your world with me, Christine."  He kissed her then, as if sealing a long ago promise.  "I am very pleased to be here with you."

"I'm glad you like it.  I wasn't certain what to expect, but this is amazing."  She frowned a bit, rubbing her temple with her hand.  "I'm just not used to such detailed driving.  My head is hurting me and I'm all tensed up so I'm going to go have a massage, if that's OK?  You can meditate, and then we can order something in when I get back.  But I'm afraid I'm wanting an early night.  I'm beat."

"As you wish, my love."  Spock gave his wife another kiss and watched her set off on the paths towards the inn' well-appointed spa.

Instead of meditating right away, he stood and contemplated the view and thought back on all the past events since their bonding on Vulcan.  After a long while, he moved back into the living room and turned on the computer monitor.

He knew what he had to do.

* * *

 

Pacific Coast Highway

Mornings along the Big Sur road, commonly known as California Highway 1, or the Pacific Coast Highway (or PCH), are especially magical.  The early mist can produce rainbows of astonishing intensity as the sun climbs over the mountains that tumble jaggedly to the ocean's depths below.

"Quite delightful," Spock remarked as they sat on the deck of the Phoenix Rising cafe.  "We have had meals in the most amazing locations, my wife."  He speared a strawberry from the dish of fruit salad they were sharing and fed it to her.  "I cannot thank you enough for sharing the beauty of your land with me, T'hyla."

She caressed his cheekbone with her fingers.  "You are most welcome, my love.  It's been my pleasure."

"A pleasure I hope to experience more of.  Now, and in our future."

Christine had returned from her massage the previous evening in much more relaxed spirits, the sadness about her all but vanished.  They spent time in the hot tub on the deck, where she'd massaged the knots out of his own neck and shoulders, until the fog drove them indoors.  Then they ordered in a large Caesar salad and watched an old favorite holo, "Key Largo".  The lull of the Pacific had sent them to sleep early, a restful and healing one.  After morning yoga, they'd opted for breakfast at the venerable old metaphysical cafe, Phoenix Rising.

"Too bad they sliced the bananas," Christine snickered, knowing his eartips would flush.  They did.

"Perhaps we might obtain some when we arrive in San Francisco?" quirking an eyebrow.

"And just what do you have planned for our three days in the City By the Bay?"  She looked out over the ocean, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere it generated.

Spock continued eating.

She sighed, tweaking a nearby ear.  "You really want it to be a surprise, don't you?  Well, how much of a surprise?  Formal dress uniforms for the reception at the Vulcan embassy?"

"Not precisely," he finally offered, with his mysterious little smile.  But he didn't say anything else, so Christine did not press the issue.  The sehlats couldn't drag it out of him.

* * *

 

The Phoenix Rising's gift shop held a wide variety of things metaphysical, as well as an assortment of local arts and crafts.

"Fascinating," Spock commented as he looked over a holo.  Its title read "Gol: The Enigma" and was by a Terran mystic named Brianna.  "I was not aware that there was such an interest in the way of Kolinhar outside of Vulcan."

"Like I said, Vulcan is the next flavor of the month."  She pointed at some IDIC jewelery in a display case.  "See?"

"The guidebook was quite correct in its assessment of this area then," he replied as he took in the odd sight.  "It stated there was a place of...studying spiritual paths, as well as enjoying the magnificence of nature."

"That about sums it up," she agreed.

* * *

 

"So what would you like to do today?" Spock asked.  They were seated on a rough-hewn log bench on a deserted beach, reached only by a lengthy climb down a well-worn path.  The seagulls were circling far overhead, filling the air with their raucous cacophony.

"Nothing much.  Just spend it with you."  She sighed happily and burrowed more deeply into his embrace.

Spock stroked the top of her head and wondered how to proceed with what he had to say.  It was not a new topic, naturally.  But he was a bit unsure of the semantics.  And much more frightened of her reaction.  What was the best way to phrase so unorthodox an idea?  What if she said no? Or ... laughed out loud, choosing not to believe him?  He struggled with both his emotional halves in an effort to proceed logically.

"Christine."  He turned her face toward his so she could see his gaze.  "This has been a most enjoyable journey thus far.  We have shared some wondrous adventures here on Terra.  And I wish you to believe from the depth of my katra that I have enjoyed every day thus far and wish to continue to do so.  But something is missing."

Her eyes registered surprise, nothing more.  Good.  He decided to continue.

"I realize you might feel that this is a holiday of sorts for my human half.  That perhaps once we return to the Enterprise, the ambiance surrounding our relationship might dissipate.  I believe the old term was called 'A Summer Romance.'  Let me assure you, this is not the case.

"We have been joined in the eyes of the Federation, of Vulcan, and even of the Dine' Nation, but there is still something that needs to be done."

And with that he rose to his feet, took his wife's hand and dropped again to one knee, just as he had done all those months ago.  He looked up at her eyes, which were still confused, and spoke from his heart.

"Christine, will you marry me?  Here, in your home world, in the land of your ancestors?  And know that I seek to join with you in this manner, because I love you, my Vah'ren.  I wish the circle to be complete.  You have bonded with me in the ways of my people, without question.  May I now wed you in the tradition of yours?"

A silence, so absolute that he could hear some barking sea lions on an offshore rock, passed interminably.  Then she spoke.

"But my love," she finally said.  "We're already married.  Three times, four if you count the vow we made at the place of your ancestors.  Why would you want to do this again?"  Her eyes were dancing, but he sensed she wanted further reassurance.

"Because, my wife, I want you to know that I am not ashamed of your Terran heritage, or of who you are.  I fell in love with that person and accept her unconditionally.  As I know she does me.  My home is with you, Christine, be it here, Vulcan, the Enterprise or some hitherto undiscovered colony.  This is my way of 'sealing the deal'?"  And with that, he quirked a half smile at her and the final barrier was broken.

She dropped to her own knees next to him on the damp sand and threw her arms around his neck.

"Yes, Spock, gladly.  Name the day."

"I have already researched some preliminary information.  Would this evening at sundown be enough time to prepare adequately?"  Before she could answer, he placed a finger over her lips.  "Hush.  I shall buy you whatever you wish to wear, my beloved, be it new jeans or a Terran styled designer wedding gown.  I only want this day to be as complete for you as you dreamed of when you were still a maid."

His kiss told her he meant everything, and more.

Then he pulled her up to her feet beside him.  "I suggest we visit the village, my wife.  It would seem there are things to be done."

* * *

 

The sun was making its final downward arc into the Pacific.  Christine gave her image one last check in the mirror.  The dress Spock had bought her, a simple, sleeveless knee length sheath of watered pale blue silk, fit like the proverbial dream.  She draped the shawl her mother had sent as a wedding present over her hair and down across her neck, noting the colors complemented the gown perfectly, as did the earrings she'd gotten from her husband on their wedding day.  True to her self, she wore her best white leather Bernardo thong sandals, and carried a bouquet of delicate Speedwell spikes complemented with local ferns.  The effect was simply elegant.

She turned to Brother Matthew, one of the monks from the priory who knew the family well.  "I wish my mother was here," she said simply.  And her father, she added silently, knowing that was not possible.

"She is in spirit, from far across the heavens.  Christine," he replied.  "I sense she is thinking about you, even though she is absent from here.  Are you ready?"

"It's not as though I've not done this before, Brother Matthew.  But I still have butterflies in my stomach."  She took his arm and they began walking down the stairs of the guest house as the familiar strains of Pachabel's 'Canon' began.

On the deck, Spock awaited her, attended by Brother James, another friar from the priory.  He was attired in his Vulcan tunic suit, the one of midnight blue that made him look even more regal than normal

They approached the spot where the celebrant stood, then she was handed over with the customary kiss of farewell.

"My children."  Brother Giles began.  "You have come here this day to have your union blessed, and I am pleased to be the one to do so.  I must ask, though, if there be anyone who opposes this?  May they speak now or forever be silent."

After a moment of hearing nothing but the pounding waves below, he continued.

"And so, Christine.  Will you take Spock unto yourself?  Will you love him, honor him and keep him, forsaking all others, in good times and in bad, as long as you both shall live?"

"I shall," she replied clearly.

"And you, Spock.  Will you take Christine unto yourself?  Will you love her, honor her and keep her, forsaking all others, in good times and in bad, as long as you both shall live?"

"I will," he answered just as clearly.

Brother James handed over the rings, Christine's marriage ring and the simple platinum band Spock had insisted he now wear.  It was, he stated, his way of showing his love for his wife and all that she was to him.  Brother Giles gave a brief blessing over them, then spoke once more.

"Spock, repeat after me.  'Christine, my wife, take this ring as a pledge of my love for you and know I honor our union with all my heart.' "

He slid the ring on her finger, repeating the vow firmly, holding her hand even more firmly.

"Christine, repeat after me.  'Spock, my husband, take this ring as a pledge of my love for you and know I honor our union with all of my heart.' "

She did so, and as she slid the band onto her husband's finger, she felt his love for her through their bond.  It was truly what he wanted to do.  A pledge, just as the vows said.

Brother Giles beamed at them, in his jovial way.  "And now, by the powers vested in me by the authorities of this state, I pronounce you are husband and wife."  He looked over at Spock.  "And you may kiss your bride."

Spock did not need a second invitation to do so.

* * *

 

It was late twilight, that midnight velvet blue color of the sky when the Pacific Ocean has a delicate silver blue cast to its waves.  Spock and his wife looked out at the horizon from where they sat on the deck.  They'd changed back into casual wear and were feeding each other some decadent chocolate mousse the restaurant had concocted as a wedding cake of sorts.  The breeze was cool but not too cold and the fog had not yet made an appearance.  From far above, the stars twinkled brightly.

"By week's end, we shall be with the Enterprise" he said softly.

"Back to work," she sighed.

"Indeed, my wife.  But not as before, I promise you."

"What's that supposed to mean?"  Their romantic life had been quite good aboard the ship, though it had skyrocketed once they reached Vulcan, and increased exponentially on Terra.

"It means, my wife, that what we shared on our honeymoon will not be a fleeting incident.  I intend to make you happy every day of our married life ... as I know you will do for me."  He kissed her as he drew her up to the deck's smooth wood surface.

"Now, seeing as we have just been married, we should now dance our first dance."  He put his arms around her.  "Computer?  Cue Song 1."

And there, under the brilliant half moon shining off the Pacific, Christine melted into her husband's arms, safe in the knowledge that the love they shared was not about to go anywhere other than right here.

The music swelled.

"At last ... my love has come along..."

* * *

 

Down Cannery Row

Hurricane Point, at the far northern end of Big Sur, is aptly named.  No matter what the season or time of day, blustery gales seem to envelop the unprotected, windswept beauty spot.  From the southern approach, its pullouts offer unparalleled views of the famous Bixby Bridge and Rocky Point beyond, with the unyielding Pacific always making its presence known just below.

To those familiar with the area and its backroads, more sheltered lay-bys may be found, which offer just as breathtaking views without the 'hurricane' effect.

"A perfect parabolic arch," Spock noted.

"Yes, the bridge is known for that," Christine replied as she threw a cambric shirt over herself.  She'd long ago pilfered it from his closet and it changed hands on a regular basis.

He gave a lazy, cursory glance over his shoulder at the bridge's span in the distance.  "Ah, yes, my wife.  The bridge.  You are correct in that regard."  His fingers continued idly stroking her breast, paying special attention to the nipple which the cool air made even more pronounced.

"SPOCK!  I will not have you compare my anatomy to a ... mathematical equation!"  She moved to give him a smack but he was too quick.  In a heartbeat, he'd caught her wrist and pulled her back down onto his prone form.  Apart from the blue shirt loosely covering his wife, neither of them wore anything but a satisfied smirk.

"Very well.  What then would you have me do to pass the time?"  His mouth was quick to silence any suggestion and she responded in kind, moving desirably against his muscled thigh.  They rolled back and forth on the blanket covering the damp ground.

"The grass is not the only thing which appears to be wet, Doctor," he whispered as a hand traversed her slippery warmth.  "I wonder what could be the cause of this condition?"

"Maybe your mouth, Commander?"  She put her thumb on his lower teeth and made a cursory inspection.  "That tongue looks fractured.  I'd better splint it.  And I see some evidence of burns."  She tsked.  "You really need to stop sticking it in things that have scalding temps, you know."

"But I enjoy the pleasure it gives us both," he growled as she reacted to his fingers.  "And right now I find a part of my own anatomy chilled from the breeze.  Perhaps you can warm it for me?"  He pulled her hips into position then guided her down onto his erection in one single, delightful motion.  "Yessssss."  His arms tightened around her as he began to thrust upward.  "Oh yesssss."

* * *

 

"You won't even give me a hint, will you?" she asked for the fiftieth time as she maneuvered the car into a parking space.  "That's not logical."

Spock raised an eyebrow as they got out.  "You might be correct.  You should have some knowledge so you may select the proper attire.  Let us say that we shall attend an informal reception at the Vulcan Embassy at 16:00 hours tomorrow and from there proceed to a...cultural function.  Of a sort."

"Cultural function?  With Vulcans?  That could be anything from a white tie opening at the Opera House to experimental theater.  Great.  Don't tell me I have to go shopping again," she grumbled as they continued down Cannery Row.

"I can assure you, my wife, there will be no need to acquire new garments for the occasion, unless you feel like doing so anyway.  It is a far from formal event."  He paused to point out the unusual architecture.  "Did they really can sardines here nearly four centuries ago?  Fascinating that the area has retained its original character."

It was very clear this was all the information she'd get.  "So what else do you have planned?" she asked, trying a different tactic.

"Apart from tomorrow afternoon and evening, I have not given much thought to other activities, although I presume we will be visiting Starfleet at some point."

"Yes, to pick up the things shipped here in advance.  Ah, here it is.  One of my favorite places to spend a rainy afternoon."  Then she realized what she had just said.  "Er, let me clarify that.  When I was at Starfleet Medical School."

"It is clearly not raining today, my wife," he remarked as they entered the Monterey Aquarium.

"I think you know by now where I'd rather be when it rains," she replied, thankful for the recessed lighting which hid the bright green flush spreading down her husband's neck.

* * *

 

"Magical."

"Sure is, isn't it?"

"Indeed."

"Please, no biology lesson, Commander."

"That is the furthest thing from my mind at this particular moment, although I will say that the fluorescent lighting effect enhances things nicely."

"Mmmmmmmm.  I could stay here for hours.  It's soooo seductive."

They continued to lie on their backs in the exhibit area, as many others were doing, and watched the different types jellyfish swim idly by in the overhead tank.  Each particular species had its own area within the structure, but the effect was seamlessly done and was a unique spectacle.  From the most minuscule to the mammoth Portuguese Man o'War, all drifted aimlessly by in an almost ethereal way.  Best viewed on one's back, it was found.  Funnily enough, when the exhibit first opened, the visiting children had been the first to discover this, so the staff had quickly carpeted the floor with a thick, comfortable covering.

"Chris?  Is that you?"

Christine turned her focus towards a familiar sounding voice but it took a moment to adjust her eyes.  She stared up at an upside down male Andorian face.

"T'eloa?" She leaped to her feet, nearly giving her husband a concussion as she jerked her head up.  "It is you, you old sea slug!"  The gave each other the customary bear hug, which Spock had now concluded was the standard greeting in California, period.

"I sent you an evid that we'd be in town, but this is even better!"  Christine was grinning from ear to ear.  "Spock, this is my old floormate from med school, T'eloa.  Remember you always wondered who put the bad in bad film for me?  This is the culprit.  T'eloa, my husband, Spock.  We've been on our honeymoon this past few weeks, and the city's the last stop."

"It's T'elo to everyone," the Andorian replied, shaking the hand Spock extended.  "Pleased to meet you, Spock.  We have a few Vulcan doctors at Starfleet Emergency."

"Indeed.  I have heard about your cinematic adventures.  Christine has also introduced me to that peculiar genre, the truly awful film, as I have learned it is called."

"There's no film as good as a bad one, I always say.  When we were doing residency, sometimes those films kept us going during our three days on.  Specializing in emergency medical is the worst, let me tell you."  He looked back at Christine with a sly grin.  "How long you in town for?  We're having an ER versus admin baseball game the day after tomorrow over in the park at noon.  I sure could use a relief pitcher.  Will you think about it?"

"Is that pesky Zaldan supply officer still your umpire?" Christine asked, not noticing her husband's peculiarly pleased, though surprised, expression.  "The one I love to be blunt with because he likes it so much?"

"The same.  Does this mean you'll start your warmup?"

"I'll clear it with my social secretary here and let you know," she replied.

"And then maybe you can sing 'St. James Infirmary' for us, kiddo."  He glanced at his chronometer.  "I'd better go find my stepson, he's somewhere over by the otters.  We have to get to the shuttleport to pick up my wife, she's been at a pediatric seminar in Washington, D.C."

"Only if you do 'Masochism Tango', T'elo.  I insist."  She smirked as he beat a hasty retreat.

"I suppose there is a logical definition of the last part of that conversation?" Spock asked after a moment.

"We were in the talent show one year.  T'elo's second generation living on Terra, so his slang's as bad as mine if not worse.  That's all.  'Masochism--"

"I am well aware of that particular song, my wife.  It has been done at Starfleet talent extravaganzas, usually poorly, since before I was a cadet.  No, I was more curious about the other title.  Why would you be singing about a medical facility?"  He raised an eyebrow provocatively.

"Because ... I was a medical student?"  She laughed and dragged him over to the touch tanks.  They contentedly spent some downtime being tactile with various marine creatures, especially a little ray who insisted on bumping Spock's hand regularly, as if asking to be petted.

* * *

 

Christine threw her husband the keys without being asked, for a very logical reason.

"Where are we staying?" she asked as he turned past the zoo onto Sunset Avenue, heading towards the Golden Gate Bridge and Starfleet Academy.

"I thought we might reside at the Vulcan Embassy Guest House," he began.  Christine's heart sank a tad.  "But then it occurred to me that this might not be a logical destination for a honeymoon.  So I then considered Starfleet married officer's quarters, a more logical choice." Her heart sank further.  Vidcams, surveillance and a front desk monitor, just like a dorm, and plenty of gossips lurking.  Oh brother.

He smoothly turned the car down a side street after crossing Golden Gate Park and pulled up in front of a period vintage Victorian.  "After realizing I did not wish us to spend the final days of our honeymoon essentially back on board the Enterprise, I did the only logical thing I could."

"Which was?"  She knew she had to ask.

"I consulted with my parents.  They highly recommend this establishment, the Maison des Artistes.  It has but two rooms, both essentially guesthouses, which face a large courtyard.  Starfleet is a short distance away, as are the park and the Vulcan embassy.  But we are by ourselves for the duration."  He let his mouth turn up as he slid his arm around her shoulders.  "Are you pleased, my wife?"

"I am pleased."

* * *

 

The late afternoon's shadows cast interesting patterns across the large square.  Christine hesitated for a moment, feeling a shiver creep down her spine, although her husband's arm rested around her waist with a firm supportive grip.  She adjusted her wedding bouquet a moment then they continued past a large cascading wall fountain of water.  Summer flowers were blooming in profusion on the borders of large grassy area where people ate lunch, read, snoozed in the sun, or just sat and thought.

They approached a wall of granite squares, like a large patchwork quilt.  The same wall Stark had used as his inspiration.  For this was Hope Square, the living memorial to the USS Hope.  Each square held the name and likeness of a crewmember, to which the families had added what decorations they wished.

*You don't--*

*I do, T'hyla.  You are my wife and our marriage is about sharing things.  Do not trouble yourself.*

She walked along the wall until she came to a spot she knew well.  Carefully, she touched the carved image of the father she had never known.  Dr. Kristoff Chapel, Chief Medical Officer.  Then she placed the bouquet in the flower holder.

Spock read the single line of inscription, from an old Terran rock and roll classic.  "All we are is dust in the wind."  What a waste of a life, of all the lives.  He recalled his reaction to Stark's memorial being unveiled, and hoped that it, too, would one day have the positive energy this place seemed to radiate.

"His mother was Austrian, you know," Christine said after a few moments.  "That's where he got his blonde hair, blue eyes and height.  Apparently, she was a real beauty."

"I am glad you brought me here, my beloved."  Spock drew her close against him for a moment, and she felt the strength of his love for her supporting her through any crisis that might happen.  "And I know your father is very proud of you.  As am I."

* * *

 

"Now where are you taking me, Commander?" Christine peered down the side alley just up from the Italian trattoria where they'd had dinner.  She was holding a bag of chocolate fortune cookies they'd picked up at the local bakery in Chinatown, for midnight snacking.

"You stated you often wondered if I went anywhere other than Starfleet Academy Library during my time here."  He led her along Jack Kerouac Alley to Columbus Street, the paused before a colorfully designed door.  "This establishment is where I would 'hang out' as you Terrans call it, on occasion.  I presume you are familiar with it?"

Christine now realized where she was.  "Vesuvio?  The original beat bar?  You?"  Her own eyebrows were leaping into her hairline.

"It still holds poetry readings," he replied as he held the door open.  "And you know Vulcans enjoy poetry.  There is also excellent jazz as well."

They found a seat at the wooden bar.  The entire place had been kept true to the original, artsy watering hole frequented by Kerouac and his contemporaries, with every successive generation making its pilgrimage there as new heroes were found.

"And the martinis are not bad, either."

* * *

 

"Here I thought you were going to get me drunk and seduce me.  I am sooo disappointed in you, Commander.  One drink and we ran out of there like the place was under Orion attack."  Christine looked through the containers they'd picked up from the Starfleet mail depot earlier that afternoon.

"Might this be what you are searching for?" Spock asked, but in that voice reserved for sensual delights.

She turned around and her heart nearly stopped.  He was standing there, just in jeans, with the top button undone, the zip partly lowered.  The damn things were resting on his hipbones and ... something else.  He was holding a bottle of Vulcan champagne, one of the last few they had left, and the plate of his mother's brownies.  His gaze was positively smoldering.

In a quick stride, she crossed the room.  Her hand found the denim covered bulge and gave it a stroke, enjoying the reaction it always brought.  She leaned up and whispered into a pointed ear.

"It's exactly what I was looking for."

* * *

 

Wish You Were Here?

Amanda looked at the vidscreen, thankful once again Sarek was off at Council Chambers for another tedious debate on the Federation Trade Tax Increase.  Another priority message, marked personal, for her?  What was Spock up to?  The chocolates, a five kilo box, had arrived the day before and she and Sarek were going to savor them one by one.  Now what?

Her eyes registered surprise when she noted the sender.  Christine?  She frowned.  Could there be a problem?

The vid image opened.  Her eyes grew wider.  She knew the scene, she and Sarek had driven down the Big Sur Highway many times for a meal or a day out during their times in San Francisco.  There was the Bixby Bridge in the distance, where Sarek enjoyed stopping for a study of its design.  It traversed the wide canyons above the brilliant blue Pacific.  Everything was green, as that area always seemed to be.

In the foreground of the vid was a vintage auto.  She gasped.  A 1966 red Mustang convertible, bright red, top down.  But that was not why she gasped.  Lounging idly against the vehicle, long, denim clad legs stretched out in a positively relaxed stance, was her son.  He wore one of Stark's Vulcan Heat t-shirts, as did much of Vulcan's youth, and the galaxy, it seemed.  Seated next to him on the hood, leaning against his shoulder, was Christine, similarly casually attired.  Both of them had sedate, pleased expressions on their faces.  In fact, Spock had that same heavy-lidded gaze Sarek would get just after ... her cheeks flushed.  She knew where the overlook was.  There was nothing in either direction for miles.  Miles.  Oh my, he was his father's son.  She shook her head and listened to the greeting.

"Hello Amanda.  You made me promise I'd send you a vidgram of how I spent your mad money.  Well, have a look!  We've been driving this up Highway 1 and it's been just wonderful.  Spock's quite an adept driver, as long as there aren't any zebras in the immediate vicinity.  Hope you and Sarek are well.  There's some brandy on its way from the Friary here in Big Sur.  We're headed back to the ship soon.  It's been the most amazing trip we could have imagined.  Thanks for helping make it extra special.  Love to you, Christine."

Zebras?  They must have been past Hearst Castle.  Amanda smiled again as she recalled her husband's reaction to the seemingly illogical spectacle.

It sounded as though they'd been having a very enjoyable honeymoon.  She blessed the fact that her sometimes stubborn, pigheaded son had finally allowed his eyes to open and see what was standing in front of him all along.

* * *

 

Take Me Out to the Vulcan Embassy

"Look, you can see the old bell tower."  Christine pointed across San Francisco Bay at the familiar landmark, now in its fifth or sixth incarnation.  The wind was brisk, stirring up whitecaps in the steely blue water.  The Golden Gate Bridge stood guard over the breezy vista point as it had since the very first drivers had crossed to just look back across the bay.

"Yes, I recall the day's clarity was often determined by the visibility of the Berkeley bell tower."  He raised an eyebrow.  "As illogical as that concept may be."

It was still very early.  Spock insisted he take her to his favorite vista point in the Marin Headlands for breakfast, and the Inn provided a picnic meal to take with them.  Christine willingly handed over the keys, curious about the places he used to explore in his student days.  The previous evening at Vesuvio had been quite an eye opener despite the fact they only stayed for one drink.  She somehow pictured Spock as a shy, reclusive student with no friends or social life.  Apparently, this was not 100% accurate.  Perhaps 99% accurate, but the missing 1% was very ... fascinating.

"I often took the shuttlebus across the bridge to the Visitor's Center and then hiked into the hills, or down to the ocean.  This is one of my favored places in the area."  He slid an arm around his wife's shoulder as they walked back to the car.  "Now it is my turn to share it with you."

He turned the car down Bunker Road into the park, heading past the historical Nike missile base from the mid 20th century, to the end of the pavement.  At the end of a peninsula stood the venerable old lighthouse of Point Bonita.

"Our destination," Spock said as they started down the trail.  "It is not far, and the views are well worth the journey."

They negotiated the path's twists and turns.  The fog was creeping in here and there through the sunshine, so the Bay's famous foghorns were sounding in basso profundo harmony.  Far below, shipping lanes were full of a normal day's activity.  Space travel may have been the major mode of transport, but merchant ships still carried a good deal of the world's everyday cargo, albeit in a much more efficient manner.  Seagulls circled and shrieked, as they did near every shore.

As the lighthouse grew closer, they turned down a small side path to a bluff below.  "This is the spot."  Spock put down the container he carried and took his wife in his arms, indicating the incredible view of the bay and beyond.  "It is quite pleasing, is it not?"

“It is."  She leaned back against him, savoring the closeness the shared.  "And I have never been here.  Black Sands, Muir Beach, Horseshoe Bay, yes.  But never here."

"Then I am pleased I could show it to you."

* * *

 

"If you never came to this spot with anyone before, how did you know it would be a nice spot for a romantic picnic?"  Christine fed her husband another piece of banana bread.  He enjoyed being fed as much as she enjoyed feeding him.  His tongue darted out, ostensibly to get the last crumbs off her fingers.  She knew better.

"Logic, my wife.  The lighthouse has specified days of opening.  This is not one of them.  Plus, it is 07:30, so the most adventuresome of hikers are likely still on the trail.  And I happen to know this alcove well.  I used to meditate here.  It is off the main path and well away from foot traffic.  So I surmised it might be a good spot to enjoy the view ... and you, my beloved."  He sensually slid a grape between her lips, long fingers still attached to the fruit, then shivered as his wife closed her mouth around them.

Somehow, the sharing of food, very much a stilted, formal courting ritual on Vulcan at times, had morphed into full blown foreplay for them.  She remembered the brownies from the night before and felt heat pulse somewhere.

"And it's sheltered from the winds.  I commend you, Spock.  You've done your homework, as always."  She slid a hand across his cheekbone, drawing him down closer to her mouth, until just millimeters separated their lips.

Spock closed the distance.

* * *

 

"You are not wearing a brassiere, Doctor!"  Despite his terse tone, she knew from their link he was delighted to find her naked beneath the zippered sweatshirt top.  His hands quickly began exploring the smooth planes of her skin.

"You got me up so early for this little jaunt, I forgot."

"Forgot?"  Spock's voice attempted incredulity.  "Did you also forget..."  His hand slid down beneath her leggings.  "Yes, you did.  I shall have to issue a corrective for conduct unbecoming a Starfleet Officer."  Having discovered the absence of a lower undergarment as well, his fingers quickly sought their desired location.

"Please, Commander.  Please don't.  Can't we consider...an agreement?  I cannot afford to be on report again.  The First Officer would be most ... displeased."

Christine was loving this little roleplaying game.  She sank both hands between the waistband of his own sweats, finding him hot, hard and pulsing with need.  Her head dropped to his stomach, bare as she pushed away his sweatshirt.  "Please?"

She heard his gasp as she started licking down that line of fur on his lower abdomen, another shared sensual delight.  "Do you like this, Commander?" she purred.

"Please ... continue ... I feel ... we ... might ... be able to ... negotiate...  UhhhHH!"  He lost his train of thought as she freed his erection from the confines that were strangling it.  Her tongue started at the bottom and worked its way to the top with agonizingly delightful slowness, licking the moisture already waiting there.

"Have we reached a compromise then, Commander?"  She locked eyes with him and suddenly, they were no longer playacting.  In a quick movement she closed her lips over the thing that pulsed so rigidly in her hand and soon afterward, she was thrilled when her husband lost total control, as he often did in this situation.

"I really would enjoy knowing what you just shouted," Christine asked awhile later.  "I can understand some of the words, but not the context."

She could feel his amusement as he pulled her closer.  He whispered the Terran equivalent in her ear.  Her eyes grew wide.

"Spock!  I had no idea Vulcans talked dirty!  Those words are..."  They were nothing like the ones he'd painstakingly explained to her that day on Vulcan.

"Crude, perhaps, but I believe they convey the issue quite adequately.  And I am only giving a general translation, Th'yla.  Trust me when I say there are many ... words ... which do not translate into Standard quite so easily."

"Such as?"  How could this not invite discussion, she wondered.  She already knew her husband had acquired quite a vocabulary of, well, erotic Standard.  The thought of his proper Vulcan mouth uttering some words made the heat below ratchet up a few hundred degrees.

He pulled her back against him, his hand sliding further into the sensually warm pool of lubrication waiting for him.  "I believe your ez'ker is in need of polishing," he whispered in that maddeningly seductive tone that surfaced at times like these.

With some difficulty, she managed to open her eyes and look back into his.

An eyebrow raised.  "It means gem, my beloved."  His finger began massaging something.  "And I intend to make it gleam."

The feeling was so overwhelming she could do nothing except melt against him, eyes again closed.  She was aware of him speaking softly in her ear, but in his native tongue, which only increased the lava flowing through her veins.  Some words were familiar.  The context, the phraseology was not.  But it did not matter.  Her own sounds began pouring from her mouth, primal, sensual, older than any language.  She heard him urging her to completion, as lovers across the galaxy did, with each culture finding its own way of conveying the message.  It just sounded much more erotic in Vulcan.  As she neared her peak, she felt his other hand caress the contact points on her face.  They melded together into her ecstasy.

"Christine?"  She became aware of his voice after a few minutes of silence.  "Are you quite all right?"

It was still too much effort to open her eyes.  She slid a hand up against his cheek and drew him closer with a contented sigh.  This had to be one for the record books.  How were so many...never mind.  "Yes, my love," she finally managed to say.  "I'm fine.  More than fine."

A pair of hot Vulcan lips found hers, the kiss filled with promises for later.  His tongue slid across hers, mimicking a favored pastime of his.  Mutual heat began to surface once more, almost immediately.

"Spock, we can't."  She was trying to be sensible but reason was fast losing the battle with passion.

"We can, my wife.  But you are quite correct.  Not here."  They disentangled themselves.  "I have no desire for us to end up in the local jail for ... public indecency."

She pointed at the front of his sweatpants with a snicker.  "Then you'd better do something about that, Commander."  The soft knit of the garment was decidedly stretched to its limit at the moment.  She grabbed a bottle of mineral water and opened the top slowly, her eyes gleaming.  "Or should I?"

Spock closed his eyes and sat completely still for some moments, willing his body to comply.  It was not an easy discussion.  He desperately wanted to take her right there, to taste the delightful changes in her juices as he slowly licked her to fulfillment.  But no.  It could not be done in this place.

"Let us be off then, my wife," he finally said as he began gathering up their supplies.

His voice was as emotionless as if he was standing back on the Enterprise bridge.  Christine shrugged.  That was his Vulcan upbringing.  She, on the other hand, had to take several deep yogic breaths to get her pulse and thoughts back to normal.  With a sigh, she started back up the trail, her husband following.  The panorama of the city beyond, slowly shrouding in fog, was so wonderfully engrossing she was not aware of Spock's own perusal of a slightly different view.

* * *

 

"I did not realize you played baseball."  Spock watched as his wife viewed some children tossing a softball back and forth across the grassy area of Ghirardelli Square.

"Remember when I said I grew too tall for ice skating?  I had to find a sport to occupy me, and somehow, baseball and I fell for each other.  I still have a mean throwing arm, which you'll see tomorrow."  She smiled at the memory.  "Mom loves baseball too, we'd take the shuttle up here for Giants games during the summer.  Opening day was always our special mother daughter day out."  A small sigh escaped her.  "I wish we had a chance to take in a game, but tonight's the last home one for a week.  They're playing New York, too.  Should be good."

Spock realized it was illogical to intentionally cause his wife any more pain.  True, until he'd seen her bedroom at her home, he had no idea she was an aficionado, but given her enthusiasm for other sports, he now berated the fact he'd not made this logical conclusion earlier.

"Christine?"  He took her hand and sat down with her on a bench, looking back at the other side of the bay, where they'd been just a few hours before.  "I feel I must tell you something.  I had planned for a surprise, but see the logic of telling you now.  Please do not think it a preposterous notion but..."  He stopped and cleared his throat a little uncomfortably.  She could see the tips of his ears flush, a sign he was embarrassed.

"But what?"  She stroked the top of his hand with her finger, letting her own love for him permeate their link.

"After the reception at the embassy, I said we would be attending a cultural function.  This is not entirely true, but I did not wish to give away the surprise."  He raised his eyes and allowed the humor he was feeling to shine through.  "We ... shall accompany a small group from the Embassy to ... the sporting event this evening which you mentioned."

Silence.

"Christine?"  He sat there, perplexed.  His wife was not reacting at all.

Then after a moment her shoulders started shaking.  Followed by her laughter.  She was, how did she say it?  Guffawing?  He could actually see tears streaming down her face as she did her best to cover her mouth.

"This amuses you, my wife?"  His tone was stern.  Their link said completely the opposite.

She gave him a perfectly raised eyebrow.  "Yes, my husband.  It amuses me."  Then she squared her shoulders.  "You got a problem with that?"

The corner of his mouth twisted upwards as he slid an arm around her shoulders.  "No Christine.  I do not have issue with your amusement.  As a matter of fact, the concept amuses me too."  He now sighed.  This would be quite an evening.  Given how the rest of the honeymoon had progressed, he was not surprised.

"But why would Vulcans want to go to a baseball game?"  She persisted, curious as ever.  "I know about Shott, the pitcher, but he retired.  I saw his holopic at Stark's.  Doesn't he work at the Science Academy now as a PFT instructor?"

"Vulcans enjoy sporting competitions, especially ones which involve mathematical precision, such as baseball.  The real reason we are attending is that the renowned Vulcan umpire Strikt will be head referee this evening.  His judgment is very logical and quite sought after, so much that he travels across the nation for his position."

"That makes sense.  You were a hockey ref at the Academy, and I saw plenty of them on the ice during the Polaris games.  So why not baseball?"

"Indeed.  Why not?  Now shall we enjoy the view here a little longer before we return to our lodging to prepare for this evening?"

"That's fine with me."  She leaned back against her husband's shoulder and they looked out at the panorama which was uniquely San Francisco.

* * *

 

Take Me Out to the Vulcan Embassy

"How do I look?" Christine asked as she finished fastening her necklace.  "Is this appropriate for an evening out with the Vulcan embassy staff ... at a baseball game?"  The inanity of the sentence resonated through the room.  She was dressed as she had been in Las Vegas, modified Vulcan style.

"You look exceptionally fine, my beloved."  Spock looked his wife over from top to bottom and thoroughly approved.  "However you might find these ... accessories useful this evening.  I ... did not know that you played the game as well."  He handed over his daypack.

Christine stared at the contents.  "Where did you get these?" she finally asked, letting a delighted smile grace her features.

"From your bedroom, T'hyla.  When you and Becky were talking on the porch the morning we departed.  I surmised that you would enjoy having these with you tonight"

She drew out a well-worn pitcher's glove, letting her hands caress the familiar curves.  And then an equally ancient, battle scarred San Francisco baseball cap.  Finally a beat up old baseball.  Her happiness fairly hummed across their link.

"I have been to a few games during my time at the Academy," Spock explained as he put his arms around his wife.  "Many of my classmates took just these items with them.  And when we visited Terra, my parents and I would sometimes attend and once again, these were very much in evidence amongst the spectators.  My father, however, prefers basketball, as the trajectories of the ball are much more pronounced."  He paused in his sporting tutorial to give her a kiss.  "And you need not worry about what the embassy staff might think, my wife.  Several youths will be in attendance and I am quite certain they are 'fans' as you call them."

Christine pictured watching a game with a group who not only calculated batting averages in their heads but projected the ball's path as soon as contact with the bat was made.  This was going to be ... fascinating.

But she was still unsure of herself.  Her eyes must have told Spock the message, because he held her more tightly and stroked her forehead in his special way, conveying his love for her.

"Christine, do not trouble yourself.  You are my wife, and I am very proud of you, though you might still think I cannot express my emotions fully." His eyes glowed with affection.  "I would never be ashamed of you, remember that.  I trust you fully in any situation, no matter how apprehensive you might feel.  You are extraordinarily capable and I love you.  All of you.  So please, do not leave the very reasons I fell in love with you back here this evening.  Take your personality, your emotions, your essence with you and be yourself.  I think you shall find this a most enlightening group to spend time with."

"Thank you Spock," she sighed, comfortable against his shoulder, still amazed that he loved her so much.  She hadn't thought it possible, but he was determined to show her every day, as he'd promised.

Spock picked up the container of gifts, offered his arm to his wife and they set out.  The embassy was only a short walk away in the afternoon sunshine, yet seemed miles from their own cocoon of sensual privacy.  The inn had been a very logical choice and Christine reminded herself to thank Amanda when she saw her next.  And for that batch of brownies.

It was one of those rare, truly summer like days in the City by the Bay.  The morning fog had dissipated early with warm, breezy sunshine following.  Summer gardens were a riot of vivid colors from recent rains and in the distance, the clang of the restored, historic old cable cars sang through the balmy air.  Christine remembered why she liked the city so much.  How wonderful it would be to live here with Spock after the mission's conclusion.

* * *

 

It was like being back in Shi-Kahr.  From the moment they entered the traditional restored Victorian, which held court high on a hill overlooking the bay, San Francisco disappeared entirely.

The heavy wooden doors opened to reveal a youngish Vulcan male who greeted them with the ta'al.  She and Spock responded in kind.

"Commander Spock, Doctor Chapel, welcome," the staff member said as he ushered them into the hallway.  Incense subtly permeated the air.  "I am Sannt, the Ambassador's personal assistant.  You honor us with your presence this evening."

"We are honored to be the guests of this embassy tonight.  Please accept these gifts from us on behalf of His Excellency," Spock said as he handed over the brandy and the Vulcan champagne.

Sannt's eyebrow raised as he viewed the labels.  "This is a most pleasant surprise.  The vintage is known well to us here, though it seldom gets offworld.  His Excellency shall be delighted, no doubt.  A most ... appropriate selection."

He led them down the hall, which was dominated by a splendid, colorfully painted mural depicting some ancient Vulcan scene.  There were deities, fantastic desert palaces, strange mythical creatures and almost fairytale like characters adorning it.  Christine hoped she was not being overly rude, but continued to look, intrigued, as they turned into another room and out into the embassy gardens.

The scene was as impressive as Amanda's own garden back in Shi-Kahr, although the plantlife was that which thrived in the more temperate coastal regions of California, with a few hardy Vulcan specimens showing a fine effort here and there.  Several fountains splashed merrily in the afternoon air.  The local birdlife had obviously decided this was the perfect spot for a last song before retiring.

"Spock, Dr. Chapel, welcome."  A distinguished older gentleman about Sarek's age greeted them warmly.  "It honors us to have you with us this evening.  I am Ambassador Sloan and may I present my wife, T'sai T'Riva."

After formalities were exchanged, the ambassador signaled a passing waiter who bore a tray of colorful drinks.  "Do have some, we only received a shipment this week.  Apparently the yon-savas harvest was quite a good one due to the unusually rainy spring Vulcan experienced.  I do admit, it is my most favored of our native fruits.  Christine, have you sampled this delicacy before?"

It took every ounce of will for Christine to force herself not to choke on the juice she was sipping.  Her face flushed, but she hoped the Ambassador might just think she'd been in the sun today.

"Not the fruit, Your Excellency, but I have had this juice before.  At the Selaya View Cafe in Las Vegas.  We were there recently."  She hoped this might change the subject rapidly.  It did, and soon a discussion of the cafe, and the city, ensued.  She felt Spock's amusement.

*Very well done, my wife.  But still I must teach you to control your blood flow.  Though I must say the coloring suits you ... at times and in ... certain...places.*  A very specific thought followed.

*Spock, stop it, the Ambassador can hear you.  Shame on you.*

*He most assuredly cannot, my wife, and I am merely indicating I look forward to a leisurely dessert al fresco later this evening.*

"I fear my wife and I cannot join you for the game," the ambassador continued.  "We must attend a special function at the Deltan embassy, at the Ambassador's request."  His eyebrow raised.  "I am certain tomorrow will be a day of quite fascinating news."

Christine and Spock exchanged a glance.  "Regarding Stark and the T'sai T'Lara, perhaps?  We spent time with them on Vulcan.  A most exceptional couple," Spock replied.

"Indeed."  The Ambassador's eye now held a twinkle, just for a microsecond.  "Then I trust we shall all be meeting again on Vulcan in two year's time."

* * *

 

"I understand you have tried the famous Klingon pizza?" Sannt asked Christine.

How did he know about Mogh's pizza?  For a moment, her mouth watered, recalling the taste.  "Yes, Mogh and Stark made some for a dinner party one evening.  It's quite good.  You've heard of this here?"  Her curiosity was piqued.

"My cousin Selak works for the embassy in Shi-Kahr.  Ambassador Sarek graciously brought some in for his staff, apparently.  It was quite the talk of culinary circles.  Something about a special herb giving the sauce a unique flavor."

"The klin-ta," Spock replied as he joined them.  "A plant which apparently cannot be grown from seed off Qo'noS, as it requires a particular ph balance in the soil.  We were fortunate to receive several of these as wedding gifts from the Klingon agriscientist  Worf and his family.  His son Mogh grew the plants himself.  We are attempting to keep them thriving."

"Yes, I have heard of young Mogh.  A diplomat in the making, perhaps?  He shall attend the first winter sports camp, I hear, at Stark's special invitation." Sannt said.

The conversation then turned to Stark, naturally.  Christine relaxed visibly.  The evening was starting off very well.

* * *

 

The ambassadorial box at the baseball park was well-appointed, with a splendid view looking down at home plate.  Spock was correct, several young Vulcans were among the party of perhaps a dozen attendees.  Both had mitts, but not a baseball.  One sported a San Francisco cap, the other was showing allegiance to Stark with a trendy Vulcan Heat model.  Apart from that, the group looked entirely Vulcan in its attire and its demeanor, although an undercurrent of excitement was clearly discernible.  Vulcan excitement, as oxymoroninc a concept as there ever was.

Sannt and a pretty young Vulcan woman named T'Reen, who he introduced as his intended, were seated next to Christine.  The aide had a working knowledge of the many rules of the game, it appeared, and held his PADD ready to keep score.  On her other side, Spock calmly regarded the playing field.  She could feel his reassurance through their link.  Below them, the aptly named Strikt stood impeccably perfect at home plate.

"And starting for New York is the famous southpaw knuckleball bad boy, Rich Cummings."  The announcer seemed to have a liking for slang.  Christine winced.  This was going to be interesting.

Sure enough.  One of the young men, Sarin, predictably asked, "Excuse me, Sannt, but could you explain?  What means 'southpaw'?  He is clearly a Terran human, is he not?  He does not have paws, but hands?"

Sannt turned to her, his eyes questioning.  "Perhaps you might elaborate, Dr. Chapel?  It is my understanding you are yourself a pitcher?"

At this, the group leaned forward almost as one, but in the Vulcan way, unobtrusively.  She forced herself to be calm, aware her face was once again sporting a nice crimson hue.  Her husband mentally let his arm rest across her shoulders.  *You are fine.  Be yourself, my wife.*

"He's a what's called a leftie, and that's the minority.  He pitches with his left hand, rather than his right, which is much more common.  Southpaw is an old term describing this.

"Just as pitchers favor one hand or another, you'll see this with batters too.  Then there's the small percentage who can use either hand.  They're called switch hitters."  She pointed at the mound, where the pitcher was warming up.  "Watch how he holds the ball."  A moment later the erratic-looking pitch, a real knuckler, landed with a resounding smack in the catcher's mitt.

"It would be appear to be an extremely difficult ball to hit," Sannt remarked.  The others agreed.  Christine felt she was being asked to comment again.

"A knuckleball is thrown like this."  She demonstrated, holding the ball with her fingertips, nails in its surface.  "It reduces the spin and makes the batter have to guess where it will come across the plate.  It's slow and unpredictable.  But it's also more likely to be a ball, rather than a strike, if it's not thrown just right."

A ripple of satisfied curiosity seemed to pass among the Vulcan rank.  Then the game began.

In the second inning, the announcer started the proverbial ball going again.  "Now on the mound for San Francisco is the sinker king, Greg Larkin.  Look out, folks."  Christine was called upon to explain what a sinker was.  She directed her audience at the plate.  "Just watch," she replied.

The sinker, which was really a sinking fastball, but Christine didn't want to discuss semantics here, raced toward the plate and dropped as if on cue.  The batter swung too late and a ground ball quickly edged the foul line.  "It's dead!" came the official pronouncement.

Christine sent up a silent prayer that the announcer would suddenly get laryngitis.

*But why, my beloved?  You are doing so well.*

*I wasn't prepared to give a baseball slang vocabulary lecture.*

*I shall make it up to you, I promise.*

*How 'bout another Vulcan dirty talk lesson?*

*CHRISTINE!*  But she felt his affection.  And his pride for her.

The game progressed.  During the seventh inning, the knuckleball was replaced by the relief pitcher's use of a changeup.  This heated things predictably.  The warmup was similar to that for a fastball, but the ball's velocity was much slower, causing batters to swing too soon as if expecting a fastball.  Christine snickered to herself when she recalled the other name for this.  The Vulcan change, due to the fact some pitchers used a grip similar to the ta'al for holding the ball.

Suddenly she noticed something and looked through her binoculars, amazed.  "He's throwing spits," she said, almost to herself.

"Dr. Chapel?  What is a 'spit'?"  This from the other Vulcan boy, Sloke.

"A spitball?"  Sannt raised an eyebrow.  "Are those not illegal?"  This caused a ripple to pass through the group once more.  Christine swore to herself silently, wishing she could be watching this somewhere else, like in the next quadrant, where she could lustily cuss out whoever needed cussing out.

"It's not a spitball per se.  He keeps wiping his, er, nose..."  At that moment, the pitcher did exactly that and completed the necessary transfer in his mitt.  Christine suspected he had Vicks Vapor Rub up his nostrils.

Her audience looked suitably aghast.  For Vulcans.

"But why would he do that?" Sloke asked again, as only a six year old could.

"The moisture affects the speed of the ball," Spock said, then launched into a succinct scientific explanation of the phenomenon.

"Uh oh, folks, look out!  We may have a brawl on our hands."  The announcer directed the spectator's attention to the mound, where the visibly steamed pitcher decided he did not like Strikt's call and marched towards home plate.

Not tonight, Christine thought to herself.  Please no tasteless emotions tonight.

*Christine, this is your home planet, may I remind you.  And Strikt can diffuse this.  I have seen it.*

A one-sided heated argument ensued for a few moments.  The incensed pitcher predictably kicked dirt all over home plate, but the umpire was not moved.  After another minute or so, he'd run out of steam and trudged back to the mound.  The game continued after Strikt took out his broom and neatly swept the plate.

Another ripple of approval passed through the group.  Christine did all she could not to laugh out loud.  But at least the evening was not a total disaster.

* * *

 

Christine finished oiling her mitt and wrapped it in the protective bag she'd bought at the stadium sports shop.  Tomorrow she'd be pitching for real.  How would Spock react to that, she wondered?  When it came to emotional pitchers, she was right near the top of the list.

He was still meditating, so she rinsed the excess oil off her hands and then wandered out onto the ground floor patio their accommodation had.  Completely secluded by fragrant, flowering hedges, it offered a wide expanse of sky to view in complete privacy.  She sat down on the overstuffed patio sofa and idly twisted her shower damp tresses into a loose topknot.  A breeze, still surprisingly balmy, blew across the city.

The game had finished with San Francisco the victor.  No more arguments, either.  Strikt was true to his name.  But fair as well.  Afterwards they'd all gone back to the embassy for dinner.  To Christine's surprise, the food was delicate Tibetan vegetarian, something the Vulcans confessed to having developed a fondness for.  This was an unexpected boon.  Everyone used chopsticks very adeptly, much to Christine's relief.  There was ample conversation during the meal, mostly about Stark's upcoming sports camp.  He was apparently a popular visitor to the embassy when he was in town.  After dinner, Sannt and T'Reen gave them a tour of the stately building, and explained the ancient Vulcan myths depicted in the gorgeously painted mural.

She stretched and looked up at the starry skies.  Not as starry as the deserts, but with modern lighting technology, more could be seen than in the past.  Soon they would be back on board the Enterprise and life would return to normal, whatever that might be.  Despite the joys the past three weeks had brought, both of them were anxious to be back in the stars.  But not just yet, she thought.

A shooting star streaked across the midnight blue sky.  Christine crossed fingers and arms in the way her grandmother had taught her, then made a wish.  For just a few days more together as husband and wife, far from the mundanity of everyday.  To make up for the days on Vulcan where she'd stubbornly refused to let Spock share her bed.  After their bonding, she realized how this had hurt him, though he understood the logic behind it.  Maybe somewhere totally unlike where they'd just been.  A tropical beach, quiet and serene, filled her mind.

"Did you make a wish?"  Spock's soft voice filled her ear as he joined her.  He slid his arms around her.  The scent of the soap he used was as arousing as the kisses he was trailing down her neck.

"Mmmmhmm," she replied, leaning back into his embrace further.  "I sure did."

"As did I."

"So, spitball man, did I pass muster?" she asked flippantly.

"Indeed, my wife, I should think you did.  You were a most adept teacher, you know.  The party now knows the difference between a knuckleball, a sinker, a slider, a changeup, a cutter, and all the variations of the fastball.  Why the umpire carries a broom.  The seventh inning stretch.  Cracker jack.  Not to mention why spitballs are illegal and how pitchers have ... circumvented this over the centuries."  He laughed in the dark, his arms protectively around her.  "But I do have a question."

"Which is?" she asked, her eyebrow rising.

"Are you conventional?  Or a southpaw?"

She tweaked an eartip.  "You'll find out tomorrow.  Not before."

His lips returned to a casual perusal of her neck, knowing this would inflame her.  In a short moment, she was astride his lap, returning his kisses with ardor.

"I believe I am wanting some dessert," Spock said huskily, his brandy and cigar voice low with desire.  "In particular, some Terran yon savas, my beloved.  A thorough helping of all of its ... unique tastes."

Christine's breath was short, her eyes closed.  "I want you," she whispered against her husband's lips.  "Now.  I've wanted you since this morning.  Lick me, Spock.  I need to come all over your face."  She gasped as a hand found its mark unerringly.  "All day you've been sending me thoughts about that.  Now's the right time."  She paused to kiss his eartip, savoring the effect it had.  "I'm on fire.  I could come right now.  Don't you want ... to taste that?"

Spock needed no more urging.  With a swift movement he was kneeling before her, tasting the delights she offered.  A mixed symphony, sounds of pure desire, soon coursed through the air.  But the prolonged arousal of the day was having an effect on his wife.  In a very short time, she was poised at the brink and the first tides of pleasure began to build.

He pulled her down onto his lap, entering her in a thrust.  His hand slid between them, offering additional stimulation, while the other sought her contact points.  The first convulsions around his erect member sent him falling over the precipice with his wife.  "With me.  Now.  Christine, with me.  YeSSSSSS!"  She fell against him, her lips seeking the hardness of his shoulder in a searing kiss.

And, as always, the stars kept their silent vigil over the lovers below, as they had for others, over untold eons.  They knew more delights were yet to be experienced.

* * *

 

Kill the Umpire!

"Well, this is certainly not the Enterprise arboretum," Spock noted as he braked to a stop beside his wife.

"Nope, but I sure like it better," she replied, taking a deep breath of misty air.  Then she shivered.  "Except for the cold.  I forgot about the fog here."  The sunny warmth of the previous day had disappeared overnight, a quite normal summer happening.

He maneuvered his wife closer, careful not disturb their balance, then wrapped himself comfortably around her.  They'd taken a shuttlebus to the ocean end of Golden Gate Park early that morning and had slowly been making their way back on rollerblades, along with, it seemed, a good percentage of the city.  The weekend obviously began on Thursday here.  Early.

Stow Lake, still shrouded in creeping tendrils of murkiness, lay before them.  A large number of fishermen were busily practicing their casting.

"So this is where your father learned to swim," she giggled affectionately, then grimaced as a Vulcan hand smacked her posterior, none too gently, either.

"While I agree he had an unfortunate accident here, I assure you he knew how to swim well before then, or so my mother tells me."  He laughed softly into his wife's ear.  "I do wish we could have been here to witness this, however.  It must have been very ... amusing."

"Not now, Commander.  You don't want a visit from the boys in Temporal Investigations, do you?"  She snickered.  "Too bad that bar your parents mentioned has become another Blockbuster."

Her husband nodded.  "Yes.  I had hoped to watch the sunset there this evening with you, my beloved.  Although I doubt much of a sunset could be seen in this," he added.

"Naah, it'll burn off by ten.  Let's go over to the 19th Avenue Cafe and eat.  I'm starving.  And then," she paused to give him a look he knew well, "you can help me warm up for the game.  I think I'll need a long hot sho..."  Her words were cut off as Spock all but dragged her after him onto the skate path once more.

* * *

 

"Oh no.  I'd better take care of that," Christine said with a frown.

"What?" Spock asked as he continued to undress, already anticipating some semi aquatic fun and games.

She let her fingers caress his collarbone.  "This," she replied as she turned him to the mirror.

His eyebrow raised as he regarded a vivid dark greenish blue passion mark, instantly recognizable for what it was.  Very noticeable, the size of a human thumb.  Spock indicated early on in their relationship he enjoyed such contact, especially on his neck.  And in true Vulcan fashion, he had pointed out the zone in which this could be accomplished so that nothing would show above his uniform.  "It appears I have married a vampire."

"You don't say?  Well maybe I have too."  She threw off her athletic top and indicated a similar mark, though it was a little lower down, placed in a most unusual spot.  "Explain yourself, lovebite man."

"It is clear to me you should have matched set.  I can remedy this," her husband said as he swung her up into his arms and started towards the waiting shower.  "So let us not tarry."

* * *

 

"Mmmmmm.  Harder."

"Are you certain?  I do not want to injure you, Christine."

"HARDER."

"As you wish." Spock continued massaging the area between her shoulder blades then moved to the tops of her arms for a few minutes, gradually sliding down towards her hands.

"Now."

He took a hand in both of his and gave a quick, easy snap to her arm.  She sighed as she felt her muscles relax and the residual tension dissipate.  He repeated the action on her other hand.

"Is that better?" he asked as she shook both arms out then shrugged hard.

"Yep.  Hand me my mitt, will you?"

Spock turned to the bureau and sought out the cloth bag which held his wife's glove and handed it to her, his heart starting to pound faster than normal.  She was dressed for a day's sporting activities and the garments she wore sent a rush of heat south of his waist.  Her black sport pants, very similar to her riding tights, fit like the proverbial second skin, something he never allowed himself to notice in the old days.  His wife not only possessed an exceptionally sexy rear end, in his opinion, her legs were very fine as well.  The tight black cotton lycra sheathing them was nearly his undoing.  Suddenly, illogically, he wanted here right there, despite the fact he'd enjoyed her various delights only an hour before in the shower.  Instead, he took a deep breath and willed his body to behave, thankful Starfleet uniforms did not offer such erotic vistas else he'd have a predicament awaiting on their return to the Enterprise.

To help himself calm down, he watched her slide her hand into her now pliant mitt and grasp the beat up old baseball firmly.  His eyebrow rose thoughtfully.  Why had he not made the connection before?  But how was this possible?

"You are a southpaw?" he asked.  "Yet you write and eat with your right hand, so you must favor it?"

She gave him a devious grin and put the mitt back on the bureau next to them.  "Uh huh." Her arms slid around his neck.

"You are ambidextrous?"  Despite his best efforts, his body had other ideas.  So did hers, apparently.

"No," she replied.  "I broke my left arm when I was five, falling out of the treehouse in Scoob's back yard.  Don't even ask, it's a wonder either of us are still alive.  Our folks were livid.  Anyway, the doctor suggested I do strength exercises once it healed and recommended pitching with that hand.  And I found I had a better ability on the left than the right."  She slid her palm up her husband's thigh.  "My left hand is stronger, too," she whispered.  "Haven't you noticed that?"

Spock could only shake his head, his eyes closed, as her hand continued exploring the hard planes of his quads, seeking something even harder which was filling out his jeans, as it always did.  First contact was swiftly made and he let out a sensual growl before he seized her in a blazing hot kiss.  "There is no time," he muttered between nibbles on her already swollen mouth.

"There is," she purred.

* * *

 

Despite Spock's misgivings, they were one of the first to arrive at the softball field.  Christine's weather prediction had also proved correct.  The morning fog had dissipated, leaving behind it another sunnily perfect San Francisco afternoon.

"Hey guys," T'elo greeted them.  He gave Christine's lycra clad backside an appreciative glance as she went to begin her warmup.  Spock wondered if there had been anything between them, feeling the unfamiliar stab of jealousy in the pit of his stomach.

*No, Commander.  But he was my friend and confidante for three years.  There was nothing, nada.  He'd already met his wife before he started med school and was a goner.*

*A goner?  He was dead?*

For the first time in their current relationship, Spock was almost certain he felt a mental thwack on his gluteus maximus.

* * *

 

"We're only playing five innings,"  T'elo explained as he and Spock sat in the benches, watching the others warm up.  "Most of us have to get back to work this afternoon.  It's just kind of a tradition.  This was our graduation day way back when and as many of us as possible try to get together and play a game.  We did that after the ceremony.  But we played regularly all through med school.  Every Saturday afternoon, right here."

Spock experienced a deep momentary sense of shame and regret.  Christine had graduated medical school and he was not there to share the day with her.  Then, instead of chastising himself for feeling an illogical series of emotions, he realized that now he was with her and there would be many future joys to celebrate together.

"What position do you play?" Spock asked the Andorian, who was busy pounding a fist into his mitt.

"Shortstop," T'elo replied.  "Chris and I were quite a team when it came to fast double plays back then.  And she had eyes in the back of her head as far as stealing was concerned.  I hope she still does.  Of course, we're all a few years older now..."

Spock looked at his wife on the pitcher's mound.  She was tossing the ball back and forth into her mitt, preparing herself mentally.  He could see the emotions play on her face.  Then her arm began its windup and a second later, a blazingly accurate fastball zoomed across the plate into the catcher's mitt.  His eyebrow raised.  This was an entirely new side to his wife.  A pleasant one, assuredly.

A tall, burly looking older gentleman appeared and took his place behind home plate.  This must be the Zaldan, Spock thought, noting the man's webbed fingers as he dusted off his hands after he had traditionally swept the plate.  The two captains approached and a brief conference ensued.  A moment later, the administration's first batter approached home and the familiar cry rang out.

"PLAY BALL!"

* * *

 

After three innings, the score was still tied at 0-0.  Not for lack of experience.  For too much.  Both pitchers were picking off the batters one by one.  The few who could get a hit off either were quickly outed when ball met glove.  Spock was impressed at the group's obviously physical fitness.  A few holodeck games might not be such a bad idea, he thought.  Now what position would he play?  Logically, umpire, but he wanted to be on the field, not passing judgment.  He'd had enough of that at the Academy.  He was ashamed to admit it, but baseball was not a strong point in his youth.  Perhaps Christine could be persuaded to help him write a self-coaching program for private use.  He let his mouth turn up as he imagined some surprised looks amongst senior staff members at the sight of her in action.

"Old Ironsides hasn't changed," Christine said to her friend as she watched the administration's pitcher fume over a ball that was called.

"No, he's the same old stodge that he always was.  You should see him go over those supply requisitions.  And if the person with the req doesn't know he's Zaldan and tries to be polite, well, the hell with their order for the day."  T'elo gave a wink to indicate he was exaggerating.  "By the way," he reached into his backpack and then handed a holodisc to Christine.  "Some entertainment for your trip back to the Enterprise.  Happy viewing."

"Batter UP!"

"That would be me," Christine muttered and scampered off to the plate.  Spock picked up the holo with a raised eyebrow.

"The best of three years worth of Med School talent nights," T'elo explained with a grin.  "You may want to have some ... liquid refreshment when you watch.  It's pretty awful in some places.  But Chris is brilliant, a real entertainer."  He paused, then gave Spock a very thoughtful look.  "You're one hell of a lucky guy, Spock.  I'm really glad you two finally got together.  Take good care of Chris.  We need her back here in ER someday."

"Thank you," Spock replied.  "And believe me, I shall endeavor to do so."

"BALL TWO!"

The pitcher was getting more and more angry.  His composure rattled at what he clearly believed was an insult to his pitching abilities, he let loose with an erratic looking ball that flew right at the plate.

But Christine knew how to hit a knuckler and the bat contacted the ball with a resounding crack.  Unfortunately, the fielders knew how to catch one too.

"THREE OUTS!  CHANGE SIDES!"

* * *

 

"BALL FOUR!"

Spock watched his wife throw her shoulders back.  Clearly, she, too, was having issues with the umpire.  His eyebrows both raised as he saw her tuck her mitt under her arm and begin striding towards home plate.  He felt sorry for the umpire, as illogical as it was, for he had been on the receiving end of his wife's wrath on more than one occasion.

"That was a STRIKE!" she fairly spat at the Zaldan.  "You need laser eye surgery, sir."

The umpire crossed his arms sternly across his chest.  "I stand by my call," he replied stoutly.  "You are mistaken, Doctor."

"You are unfit for your duty," she countered.  Spock was certain he could see steam beginning to come out of his wife's ears.  The thought amused him.  "Be glad my arm hasn't slipped yet, sir.  You make an extremely wide target."  And with those stinging words, she marched back to the plate.

To someone not familiar with the cultural ways of the Zaldans, whose society preferred brutal honesty rather than the typical courteous human way of sugar coating things, the previous dialog would have been incomprehensible.  And why the pitcher was not ejected from the game would have been a further mystery.  Not here, however.

"Batter UP!" the umpire said placidly as the game continued.

* * *

 

Spock could almost sense his wife's unease.  She was beginning her windup, the score still at 0-0, with one out so far.  Two more would be the game.  But instead of pitching, he saw her pivot and throw the ball to her first baseman, who just missed tagging the runner that suddenly thought better of stealing second base.  Fascinating.

The second batter struck twice in a row and then, with a mighty effort, hit a high pop fly.  Spock watched as his wife called the ball, backed up carefully and neatly caught the projectile.  Then his eyebrows raised as she tossed the ball to T'elo, who was now playing second base.  The unfortunate other runner, who was caught between two basemen, was deciding which way to run.  The ball sailed back and forth between second and third basemen before the runner finally tried sliding into third.  He was not successful this time.

"OUT!  GAME!"

The group said its goodbyes to Christine, and Spock realized his wife had obviously come out of her shell at Med School.  This was a good thing, he decided.

* * *

 

Christine left the spa feeling completely rejuvenated.  It would be some time before she could have this amount of free time to spend, so this was her last treat to herself.  Of course, Spock was meeting her over near the end of the Wharf cable car line so they could head to a special last night dinner, and he'd certainly like the results too.  He'd gone off to ensure their passages were in order and to send the brandy on to his parents in the next Vulcan diplomatic transit.

She sighed a little sadly as she crossed Ghirardelli Square, with a look over at the Golden Gate Bridge.  Tomorrow at noon they boarded a starcruiser for transit to a mid quadrant spaceport and from there, they would get to the Enterprise by Federation transport.  The journey was shorter than the one from Vulcan, less than two days.  Then the ship would be heading off to the inaugural ceremonies for the Temorian world, which had just been admitted to the Federation.  Five starships would be in attendance, a traditionally big show that happened at such events.  More diplomatic functions and official protocol to follow.  The thought of a dress uniform ... ugh.  At least it would be a relatively peaceful re-assimilation into everyday life.

The street vendors were setting up for the evening's flow of tourists.  One particular artist drew her attention.  His watercolor prints all had a distinctly Starfleet theme.  She browsed through the offerings, wondering how the artist chose his subjects.  Her eyes registered surprise as she drew one out to study more closely.  It was a view of the Golden Gate Bridge on a sunny afternoon, looking back at the city.  A Starfleet cadet was glimpsed from behind as he gazed across the Bay to the studies which were plainly calling him, but for now, they would have to wait.  The print was entitled, "Study Break."  It reminded Christine so much of her husband's stories of his hiking excursions that she decided to buy it as a surprise gift.  Then another item caught her interest.  It was a twilight scene of a group of youngsters seated around a beach campfire, raptly listening to a Starfleet Cadet as he told a story and pointed to the sky.  What was unusual is that the children were of many different planetary races ... including what looked like a Klingon.  The offering was aptly named "Star Dreams."

"I have dreams, too," the artist said as he wrapped her packages.  "My grandfather was a spacer on a trading freighter.  He spent alot of time with different people all over the quadrant and beyond, and he always told me we were not so very different, after all."  He smiled.  "Maybe someday."

"Maybe," Christine replied.

* * *

 

Spock's eyes registered pleasure as his wife approached their meeting point.  He was amused to see her reaction, as he was dressed just as he had been in Moab.  Terran dress casual style.  He gave her a brief, though possessive, embrace and kissed her chastely.

"Is everything OK for tomorrow?" she asked as they waited in line for the next car.

"All is going as planned, and I have sent a message to the Enterprise as to when and where we shall dock.  I presume our orders will be awaiting us then."  He leaned closed to her and dropped his voice.  "You look quite splendid, my beloved.  So much that I am contemplating going back to our accommodations immediately."

"I'm flattered, Commander.  But I still want my evening out.  You'll just have to wait."  And with that, she took his hand and they entered the car.

Christine made her way to its very back, on the rear deck where the driver often stood.  As it was breezy, no one wanted to join them.

"Why are you doing this?" Spock asked.  "Will you not be cold?"

"No, and just ... wait.  Please don't tell me you've never ridden the cable car like this?"

He shook his head.  "I seldom rode one at all, to be honest.  I preferred to walk."  He drew her close as the car lurched to a start.

The old routes had been painstakingly restored.  San Francisco knew a good thing when it saw it, obviously.  The car began to climb steeply as it headed up towards California street, the driver clanging the old fashioned bell with gusto.

"Look," Christine whispered as she pointed.  Below them, bathed in the last rays of the setting sun, was the perfect splendor of San Francisco Bay, with Alcatraz's lighthouse blinking as it had for centuries.  The water was a brilliant steel blue, contrasting with the red orange of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Spock said nothing, just drew her closer and let his love for her pass along their link, feeling hers pulse back in a heartbeat.  It was more than enough.

The bell clanged.  "NOB HILL!  MARK HOPKINS!  CALIFORNIA STREET LINE!"

She and Spock jumped off.  The night was just beginning.

* * *

 

Twin Peaks, the highest point in San Francisco, offers unbelievable views of the entire city's varied panorama, both day and night.  The road there is even crookeder than the more famous Lombard Street, though fewer people know this.  As a result, only lovers tend to frequent the area at night.  The local police force had long since stopped citing amorous visitors, instead choosing to make inconspicuous patrols just in case there was trouble.  But there never really was.

"Look at that one, Bill," one officer remarked, pointing to the vintage Mustang.  "That musta cost a pretty penny."

"Yeah, no kids in that one.  Probably some fat old Starfleet admiral type and a bimbo, trying to recapture his lost youth.  Good luck finding that."  The other officer sighed a little enviously as he sipped his coffee.  "Though the way it's rocking, I wonder.  Well, let's get going for another sweep.  Breaktime soon."

Sure enough, the car was far from still.

* * *

 

"I thought we came up here for the view," Christine sighed as her husband succeeded in divesting her of a newly bought pair of scanty lace underthings.

"We did.  And I am quite enjoying the view that is being presented to me," Spock replied matter of factly.  A moment later, he was making certain she could fulfill the promise made the night before, the one he'd interrupted with a sudden change of erotic strategy.

There were some arguments with a Vulcan you just couldn't win, she decided happily.

* * *

 

"Dear Mom,

Spock and I renewed our vows with Brother Giles here in Big Sur.  We stayed at the Post Ranch and it was worth every penny of my hard won baccarat money for this view.  The whole trip up the coast was just wonderful.  Hope you are doing well, miss you.  Everyone at home misses you too, especially the gatas.  Becky and Lou send their love.  Take care.  Love you, Chris and Spock."

* * *

 

"To: Klub Klin New York Spaceport c/o Mr. Mrs. Koth

Greetings.  I am a friend of Kala's.  We serve aboard the starship Enterprise and she told me if I ever needed to get something to the homeworld, you might be able to arrange this.  I would be most grateful if you could send this on to the agriscientist Worf, his wife K'a'tya and son Mogh, who reside at an agristation near the capital city.

Your daughter is a fine young woman and a credit to you both.  I am proud to call her my friend.

Yours faithfully, Dr. Christine Chapel."

* * *

 

"Dr. Christine Chapel Starship Enterprise

Dear Dr. Chapel,

Kala speaks of you regularly.  She sent us vidgrams from your marriage ceremony and I understand she designed your dress.  It was very becoming.  My husband has made certain the parcel was specially placed on the next transport passing by the homeworld, to be delivered personally, on the pilot's oath.  Your friends should have it within a week.  Do come and visit the Klub if you and your husband ever get to New York City.  We make quite a smooth Klingon martini here, though I hear you are a fairly good bartender yourself.  All the best, Mrs.  Lorrie Koth."

* * *

 

Worf opened the package which had been delivered personally by the captain of a freighter that had just docked at the homeworld's main spaceport.  It was most urgent, he stated.

He read the note.  "Hi Worf, K'a'tya and Mogh.  Spock and I have been on our honeymoon these weeks, quite a nice journey.  This painting seems to speak of the same things we discussed in the time we've known each other.  We hope you will all look on it and remember the good times we shared on Vulcan.  Be well and take care.  Christine and Spock."

The print stared up at him, full of optimism and hopes for a future that might yet happen.

He smiled.  "K'a'tya, Mogh," he called.  "We have a special gift! Come and see!"

* * *

 

Reflections

"I am soooooooo tired," Christine sighed.  She put the stasis container of fresh tangerine flavored water near their bed.  The holonews was on, giving minute by minute updates on Stark and T'Lara, who'd officially announced their engagement the day before.  "Thank goodness we have almost two days to sleep."  She looked over at Spock, who was stowing the rest of their gear in the living alcove, half expecting him to make some snide correction with decimal points.  He did not.  Her eyes followed him as he walked back into the minuscule sleeping section of their cabin.

"I am also quite fatigued, Doctor."  He embraced her with a sigh.  "And I do look forward to sleeping with you."

She raised an eyebrow.  "Only sleeping?"

"For now."  A smile slowly spread across his mouth.

She traced it with her fingers, smiling back.  "Good," she whispered, feeling his promises for later course through their bond.

* * *

 

Spock came back into the sleeping alcove from his meditation and could not fight a yawn.  He was well and truly exhausted, in a most pleasant way.  Not since he'd gone off on adventures to the mountains as a youth with I-Chaya had he felt this way.  It was not unpleasant.  The honeymoon had been a mix of experiences sensual and visual, a most logical combination.

He put his meditation robe away and changed into a sweatshirt and briefs.  The cabin's air was cool.  As he turned back the bedcovers, he was rewarded with a splendid view of his wife's sleeping form.  She was stretched across the mattress, her own sweatshirt pulled up far enough so he could glimpse her deliciously naked posterior.  He lifted an eyebrow.  This would facilitate things later.  He crawled in beside her and drew her back against him, cocooning her in his warmth.  His lips found a shoulder to kiss, and then he drifted into a dreamless, contented slumber.

* * *

 

"Roll over, Sierra," T'Lara instructed.  The Alsatian obliged and was rewarded with a belly rub.  "Very good girl.  Are you looking forward to our journey back to Terra?"

"I sure am," Stark sighed.  He looked up from the monitor he was perusing and gave his fiancee a smile.  "It's been great, but I'm ready to be off.  The first storms should hit Tahoe pretty soon.  And university starts in a few weeks."

T'Lara smiled back, something she did in private with her fiancee.  Her mother assured her bondmates expressed affections between each other, so T'Lara was starting to learn how, slowly.  Stark was quite a good teacher, she had to admit.

They were on the patio of his aunt and uncle's estate outside Shi-Kahr.  Both relatives were at their Science Academy jobs, so the house was theirs, which, after dealing with the press for the last few days, was a welcome escape.  The desert afternoon air was hot and dry, with an occasional breeze stirring the plants and reflecting pool.

Stark, who had been making final decisions on a new line of women's active wear specifically for sale on Vulcan with his fiance's assistance, viewed the scene happily.  If only it could always be like this.  But once they were back on Terra, the circus would start up all over again.  Thank goodness T'Lara's mother, a formidable woman in her own right, was accompanying them on the return journey.

The vid monitor beeped.  Stark gave a glance, thinking it was another business issue.  His eyebrow popped up in the Vulcan way.  "It's from Chris and Spock, priority, to both of us," he said.  "C'mere, let's read it.

T'Lara came over to where he sat and looked down at his face, so open with his obvious love for her.  It felt good, like a soothing balm, like the way she felt after she and the T'sai T'Ser had a healing session.  Hesitating just a moment, she dropped to sit onto her fiance's knees, as she had recently begun doing when they were alone together.  His arm supported her comfortably as she leaned on his shoulder.

They looked at the image.  Spock and Christine stood in front of the coastline that could only be Big Sur.  Both were dressed semi formally.  A religious looking man was standing with them, beaming.  Christine held a bouquet of delicate purple blooms and dark green ferns in one hand.  The other was firmly in her husband's grasp.

"Hi Stark and T'Lara.  Congratulations to you both on your engagement.  We're just delighted for you.  Spock and I have been enjoying our honeymoon.  We're here at Big Sur, a spectacular spot called the Post Ranch Inn, where we were married Terran fashion by a local justice of the peace who's also a friar at the nearby friary.  This is a wonderful destination for a drive if you're looking to go somewhere special for lunch or maybe dinner.  Hope you are both well.  Good luck for the coming school and competition years, and of course the sports camp.  Love, Christine and Spock.  PS, if you're ever down Pismo Beach way and want to try the local kite surfing, check Moondoggie's.  Ask for Scoob, tell him I sent you.  Chris."

"Spock is wearing a Terran wedding ring," T'Lara said after a moment, as she pointed to the viewscreen.

"I see," Stark replied.  "And you and I will be exchanging pledge bracelets when we join in the Deltan ceremony after our bonding here."

"Perhaps I should also like a Terran wedding ring," T'Lara sighed.

Stark looked over at her face, trying to judge her mood.  She seemed serious, not playful.  He thought a moment.  "Why, T'Lara?  Neither of us is from Terra, you know.  Isn't that kind of illogical?"  He smiled to let her know he was being light on purpose.

She put her arms carefully around his neck, something she was still learning to do without shame.  "But we reside there, Stark.  And will do for the next two years, until our graduation from university.  Only then will we bond here and join on your world." Her eyes were dark and he could sense the importance of her words, though she was choosing them carefully.  "Stark, I find myself not wishing to wait two years to know you as your wife.  I would like us to marry when we return to Terra.  Let us elope? As your own parents did, I believe."  She smiled.  "Perhaps to that place at Big Sur.  It appears to be a beautiful, secluded spot to begin married life."

"B-but, T'Lara," Stark was choking on his words.  "That's not the Vulcan way, you know that.  We shouldn't have thought of bonding until I reach pon farr ... if I ever do ... you know that’s another issue.  Remember what the doctor said?  I got my mother's looks, but the rest of me is all Deltan, so I may not have a pon farr at all."  The fact the couple had announced their bonding date, two years ahead, rather than waiting for pon farr to begin, had raised eyebrows, so to speak, among the more conservative Vulcan circles.

"Stark, my fiancee, my lovemate, what are you saying?  That to know me outside of pon farr is not to your liking?  What do you know of pon farr?"

Stark swallowed hard.  "That the male's need drives the bonding and that is when the marriage is consummated.  Not before.  It's ... not spoken of much.  Trust me."  He recalled his uncle's stilted, furtive attempts at explaining the concept, which left a very bad taste in Stark's mouth.  Nothing was written about it, Stark found out, and his Vulcan contemporaries were as in the dark as he was.  Many were not bonded yet, either.

"That is how our people choose to deal with a natural need which is suppressed, Stark." T'Lara's voice was calm and matter of fact.  "I dare to think otherwise.  I want to know you before the fires come, or if they never come.  I know there is sexual pleasure to be had outside this time and I want to experience it.  And most of all, Stark, I want to sleep beside you every night.  I miss you when we are apart and sense that resting in your embrace might be ... pleasing."

"T'Lara ... I know that is not your people's way.  My parents may share a bedroom, but my father is Deltan.  I can't let scandal touch you or your family, as much as I love you."  Stark was familiar enough with Vulcan tradition to know most of his friend's parents here maintained separate sleeping quarters.  This puzzled him at an early age and his mother explained the custom, but not the logic behind it.  She did not see any logic in it, obviously.

Stark tightened his embrace on his fiancee, in despair of his thoughts.  For despite all the positive reception to his efforts, there was a small, vocal, isolationist movement who viewed him as an anomaly, a freakish mistake, an insult to Vulcan.  The fact he had chosen a full blooded Vulcan woman from a distinguished clan, was a scandal.  T'Lara had been called upon to denounce him as a Vulcan Without Logic.  As illogical as that was.

"My parents share a bedroom, Stark," T'Lara whispered, as she brushed his eartip with her hand.  "And I know Spock and Christine do.  As do Spock's parents.  My necklace broke just before the bonding ceremony and the T'sai Amanda took me to their resting chamber to repair it.  She and her husband have but one bed."

"But T'Lara, she's not Vulcan."  Stark tried to grasp at the straws of what he'd heard, but it no longer made sense.

"Nor are you fully Vulcan, my intended.  Yet I desire to share your bed every night.  Even if ... you ... snore."

"But it's not...." Stark began, wondering how she knew he snored.  He did.  Loudly.

T'Lara swiftly laid her finger over his lips.  "Stark, do not speak to me of my people's way.  Is force our way?  I remember holding my sister's hand as she lay bleeding on the sands as we awaited the medical team.  My mother was likewise distressed.  I was weeping, for what would a girl of seven know?  And all I recall is the parents of my sister's intended, arguing with my father that ... my mother, my sister and I dared to show emotion.  That we questioned the fires, when all behavior was accepted.  That his brutality was perfectly excusable, logical even.  While ours was not.  Pon farr is all about the male.  The female is just the ... receptacle."

She paused, her voice a whisper.  "Would you rape me, Stark, when the fires come?  Then not touch me again for seven years?  Because that is my people's outmoded, stupid way of dealing with a natural occurrence?"  Tears threatened to spill over her lashes.

Stark folded her closer against him for a long moment.  Suddenly, he realized that his love for this woman transcended any cultural expectations.

"I'll ask your father this evening," he declared.  "And we'll bond as planned, on both our homeworlds.  But our wedding at home will be a secret.  It has to be.  And we can't even think about a family yet, T'Lara, but know I want one.  That's a problem.  Deltans are ... potent."  His face flushed a delicate crimson, thanks to his father's genes.

"Stark."  T'Lara's voice was a whisper of seduction.  "You are still being illogical.  I know the Science Academy has ways of being ... logical about starting a family in some circumstances."  She licked his ear to emphasize her statement.

"Oh?"  Stark was fast losing control of himself, which was natural with his Deltan makeup.  "T'Lara, what are you talking about?  Vulcans only mate to procreate."  His uncle had been quite adamant about that, but Stark wondered.  After all, his grandparents sure didn't look like the type who had sex once ever seven years.  They were ... cosmic, from what he'd been learning of them.

"Not this Vulcan, " T'Lara fairly hummed into his pointed ear.  "Stark, I want you outside the fires.  To please me as I would please you.  I have lived among Terrans for over a year now, and will complete my degree soon.  Do you not think I have learned of ... sexual pleasure?  The song we danced to at Polaris, 'Relax.'  Even I know what it means."  She smiled a decidedly naughty smirk.  "You may have thought I was clueless, as you say, that I was caught up in the thrill of your victory.  No, my intended.  I knew exactly what I was doing.  And I put it to you.  I want to 'relax' in your arms when I wish to ... come..."

Stark jumped up so quickly T'Lara landed in a heap on the floor next to Sierra.  He pulled her back up with an apology, but did not move closer.  He started thinking of the new vid game design he was working on with Sean.  Anything to calm the protuberance that was tenting his traditional Vulcan style trousers.  This had to be another dream.  Was his fiancee, the prim and proper T'Lara, asking him to go to bed?  He shook his head.  No, no, no, he shouted to himself.

"Yes, yes, yes."  He'd forgotten their fledgling link.  She pressed her body against his back, her hands wandering where they wanted to.  "Perhaps I should model the bathing costume that Kala, from the Enterprise, gave me.  She would like to design a series with Vulcan inspired styles and did one for me.  You could give your ... opinion.  And then we could ... swim?"  She nodded at the reflecting pool, which was deep as a regular swimming pool and used as such from time to time.

"Swim?"  The idea of cool water suddenly was very good to Stark.  But the vision of T'Lara in a bathing suit was producing more heat where it mattered.

"Stark, you are being sooooooo illogical."  T'Lara giggled into his ear, then let her tongue run over its pointed tip.  "Your relatives shall not be home for some time.  And I am being logical.  I know we cannot ... join.  Yet.  I shall visit my healer tomorrow for instructions about certain things.  But there are many other ways we could ... enjoy each other this afternoon.  Teach me, Stark.  I want to learn."

"W-wwwhere did you find out about that?" Stark was stuttering.  He'd been with women before, that was part of his makeup, but once he met T'Lara, his wild days were through.  Yet he felt like the virgin here.  What did she know?

T'Lara sighed.  "Stark.  We reside on Terra, and are students at universities in California.  My female friends and I have had many...discussions about things.  That is part of the college experience, I am told." S he dropped her voice.  "We have viewed 'Vulcan Love Master' many times.  Among other titles.  It is still my favorite."

Stark gave up.  He turned around and embraced T'Lara, then covered her mouth in a hot kiss.  He nearly fainted when he felt her tongue slide across his, with a definite agenda of its own.

When Stark's aunt and uncle returned in the early evening, they were puzzled at the large amount of water which had somehow displaced itself from the reflecting pool.  Stark quickly apologized, saying Sierra had opted for an afternoon swim.  But what further puzzled the couple was that the canine's fur was completely dry.  Stark and T'Lara's hair, however, was damp.

* * *

 

Spock looked down at his wife as she slept, a feeling of deep contentment coursing through him.  All the years of his stubbornness melted away as he realized he would now know this joy instead.  True, when duty and culture demanded it, he was impeccably Vulcan in demeanor and action.  But when he was alone with his Vah'ren, away from the ship, even with close friends, he could finally let down the barrier he'd so carefully constructed around himself in his youth.  This was not his Vulcan childhood, where his classmates had teased and ostracized him.  Finally, there were those, even on his home planet, who accepted who he was and allowed him to be himself.  It was still a relatively new experience.  But not an unpleasant one.

He smiled, remembering his parent's surprised expression when they walked into the kitchen to find him kissing Christine as they were searching for a snack after their day at the springs.  His mother showed her pleasure at the sight openly.  His father more guardedly, but he'd seen it.  The shy, bookish son they'd despaired over at times was gone forever.  He hoped they approved of the one that took his place.

The springs.  The memories washed over him, causing a familiar reaction.  He sensed his wife was in that space between sleeping and waking.  Her desire for him was coursing through their link, even as she pressed her hips more firmly against his own.  He slid a hand under her sweatshirt, seeking a breast to caress.  She moaned softly.  Moisture was beginning to make its presence known further south.  His mouth began a sensually slow trail of kisses, starting at her ear.  A moment later, he entered her warmth easily in a languid, gradual thrust.

"Spock," she whispered.

"Yes, my love."

Times like these were most special of all.

* * *

 

"Sure is quiet around here Bones, isn't?" Kirk asked as they started their lunch.  "You haven't had anyone to argue with since Spock and Chris took off.  Admit it, you miss that Vulcan, don't you?"

McCoy snorted.  "I miss his wife.  There must be at least a dozen female patients who flat out refused to see anyone but her for their gyne checkup.  Every day they ask, 'When will Dr. Chapel be back?'  M'Benga's been laughing so hard I want to pop him one.  But then Uhura would probably come down and pop me one right back."

"I still can't figure out how those two got together without my hearing about it," Kirk replied.  His pride was hurting.  He, the all knowing, almighty Kirk, had not found out about this latest gossip item until, it seemed, most of the crew already knew.

"CAPTAIN TO THE BRIDGE ON THE DOUBLE!"  Sulu's voice came over the comm unit.  "RED ALERT! RED ALERT!"

"What the ^*(&_*+?" Kirk muttered as they jumped up.  Now what?

* * *

 

"You promise?" Christine asked again.

Spock sighed.  "I promise, my wife.  Now may we proceed?"

Christine drew her arms around her knees.  "I'm having doubts.  How are you going to react?  This is my secret, you know."

A Vulcan hand began sneaking between her arms, seeking a place to tickle.  "Please?" he whispered.  "For me?"  The sehlat look returned again, in force.

"Computer, play."  She turned to her husband.  "This was years ago, remember."

The stage at the Academy auditorium appeared, with a suitably attired emcee holding court.  "Thanks, folks.  And now here's our T'elo and ... companion, with a little dance number."

"Are you the companion?" Spock asked.

Christine shook her head.  "Her identity was, and still is, a closely guarded secret.  I did the ... props and special effects.  This was in our first year.  T'elo was trying to get me out of my room, where I was living since I'd arrived."  She crinkled her nose up in a grin.  "You'll see as the years progress.  He succeeded.

"I must thank him, then."

The lights came up to show T'elo standing next to a statuesque, black haired woman who towered over him by a good foot, thanks to her high heeled boots.  They were attired entirely in black leather looking garments.  The woman wore a black leather mask.

~I ache for the touch of your lips, dear... but much more for the touch of your whips, dear...  You can raise welts like nobody else, As we dance to the masochism tango....~

The couple glided effortlessly across the stage, passing a small table filled with unusual items.  The Andorian dipped his partner expertly.

~...At your command, before you here I stand...  My heart is in my hand...~

At this T'elo reached into his jacket and removed a red, oozing heart.  It was beating.  He glanced down at it and mouthed the next line before he threw it aside.

~Yeech!~

Spock's eyebrow raised.

"It's artificial.  I powered it by remote control.  The gore is a plasticine type covering, not fake blood.  It was inside his jacket in a velcro pouch."

"Fascinating."

~So go put on your cleats and come and trample me.~

The woman stomped T'elo's foot obligingly and he hopped around in obvious pain.  Christine guffawed.

~And I envy the rose that you held in your teeth, love...~

T'elo reached for the flower on the table and put it between his partner's purple painted lips.

~With the thorns underneath, love, Sticking in your gums...~

"I had to put those huge fake thorns on, one by one," Christine said, trying to regain her composure.  She gave Spock a sidelong glance.  He was laughing silently.

~The last time I needed twenty stitches...~ T'elo's partner tore open his jacket, exposing a massive scar that crossed his chest in vivid, gory agony.

"Impressive work, Doctor.  Your superior has obviously taught you quite well."  He dodged a smack aimed at his head.

~Fracture my spine, and say that you're mine...  As we dance to the masochism tango.~

The song ended and the couple was joined on stage by a familiar figure, dressed in black surgical scrubs and equally high heeled boots.  They bowed several times as the audience cheered.  Spock was still thinking about his wife's boots when the next segment came on.

"Katie, my floormate, was hot for the captain of the chess club," Christine said as the scene opened onto a chess match.  She grimaced.  "This was in our second year.  She called in a favor and got me into this little travesty."

"One Night in Bangkok" began, with dancing chess pieces moving around the players, who ignored them.  During the Oriental-inspired instrumental, two women, scantily clad in gold, appeared on either side of the players and began a sexy solo.  Their skin and hair were painted gold and each sported a huge Thai headpiece.  Spock nearly choked.  One of the dancers was his wife.  The temperature of the dance heated up considerably.  Yet the players paid no notice, which was the theme of the piece, obviously.  Spock grimaced now.  Chess still was decidedly unsexy.

He looked over at his wife who had covered her face with her hands.  Suddenly her counterpart on the screen jerked her head around and stumbled.  She fell onto the floor, a murderous expression on her face.  The number ended just then, thankfully.

"He grabbed me," she said into her hands.

"Who grabbed you?  And where?"  Spock felt jealousy rear its head for the second time that week.

"That dweeby chess club captain, the player there.  He thought I had the hots for him, not Katie."

"And what happened?" Spock pulled her to him protectively.

"Watch."

The scene on the stage was ending, the curtain coming down, when he saw Christine haul off and give the offending culprit a left handed hook to the jaw.  His look was one of confusion.  The lights went out.

"We both got our sorry asses hauled in for a lecture, but no reprimand.  Apparently this kind of hijinx happens once every year or so at the show.  But you can rest assured he never got ideas again.  As a matter of fact, no one did, I think."  She sighed and snuggled closer into Spock's arms.

"That is good," he replied as he stroked her forehead.

She craned her neck around to look at him.  "Why?"

"Because I now have you all to myself, my wife."

Jealousy became her husband, she decided.

The next scene came up.  Christine groaned again.  "Our third year."

There she was, seated on top of a grand piano in a seductive black evening dress.  A slit afforded a spectacular view of her legs, leaving no doubt they were encased in sheer thigh high stockings and black stilettos.  Spock's breath caught.

"It gets worse," she sighed.

T'elo then appeared.  Spock's eyebrow raised.  "Computer, halt."  He gave his wife a puzzled frown.  "What is he wearing?"

Christine pointed to the image.  "That's an old fashioned nurse's uniform, circa 1940.  The rest of the band ... they're dressed as female nurses, from different eras.

"I see.  Might I ask...why?"

She shrugged.  "It's a famous old number done on a 20th century show called 'Saturday Night Live.'  An actress named Lily Tomlin originally played my role.  And the band was dressed as nurses.  All of them.  And all of them were males.  There were alot of reasons given, but to this day, no one really knows why it was done like this.  T'elo liked old Terran comedy shows and we were watching this one night to cheer me up.  He got the idea to do it for the talent extravaganza, and asked me to play the lead."

"Cheer you up?  T'hyla, what was the matter?  Was your coursework suffering?"  Spock kissed her brow, aware there was more to the statement than his wife said.

A sad little sigh escaped her.  "I was feeling sorry for myself.  I'd been interviewing for the CMO position on the Enterprise and got to walking down the old paths."  She touched her husband's cheekbone.  "And I heard you weren't going to be with the next mission.  You'd gone to Gol.  Even I knew what that meant.  The thought of never seeing you again just made me sad.  As stupid as that was.  I realized I was still in love with you.  And that made me furious as well as depressed."

"My Vah'ren." Spock kissed her, that special kiss that was like the sealing of a promise.  "Do not dwell on those times, when I am here with you now.  Though now I understand you more, perhaps why you were so stubborn to believe I was actually in love with you."  He pushed a lock of hair off her forehead, his special sign of his love for her.  "Now let us view this spectacle."

T'elo approached the piano and sat down on the bench.  The curtain drew back to reveal an all male band.  Sure enough, they were dressed in nurse's uniforms, from the era of Florence Nightingale right through the present day.  The effect was comical to say the least.

"St. James Infirmary?" he asked.

"What did you say?"

"St. James Infirmary?"

"Suits me."

Christine slid onto her stomach on top of the piano, one leg provocatively bent behind her as T'elo started to play.  She sang.

"When will I ever stop moaning, When will I ever smile?  My baby went and left me, He'll be gone a long, long while.  I felt so blue and heartbroken, What am I living for?  My baby went and left me Never to come back no more..."

She jumped down as the band began singing the chorus, moving among the members in a semi provocative, though humorous way.  Eventually she sat down next to T'elo and crossed her legs in front of her and took up the song once more.

"I went down to St. James Infirmary, I heard my baby groan, I felt so broken hearted, He used to be my own..."

The Andorian now joined in, looking intently at Christine.

"Let him go, let him go, God bless him, Whatever he may do, He can look this wide world over, And he won't ever find a sweet gal like you..."

As the number finished up, the nurse band singing a second chorus with gusto, Spock realized just how miserable his wife had been back then.  And he was ashamed to admit it, his stubbornness was the cause of her sorrow.  He vowed even more that he would make this up to her every day of their marriage, and then some, if that was possible.

The holo ended after a stand up comic brought levity back to the audience and the viewers both.

"So, my wife.  Perhaps you could reprise your little solo for me?"  Spock's hands tickled her ribs, keeping the mood light.

"If you think I'm going to prance around this cabin doing a hoochy coochy dance of the seven veils, Commander, you're sadly mistaken.  That was in my wasted youth.  I'm married to a very unyielding Vulcan Starfleet officer, I'll have you know.  He'd never allow it."

"Hoochy coochy, Doctor?"  The tickles increased.  "Has your superior been teaching you those archaic old phrases?  I am familiar with the story of Salome, however, and the notion of you dropping sheer squares of cloth, one by one, as you dance, is ... intriguing."  The tickles turned into a sensual caress.  His hand unerringly began a journey to the place he'd fondly nicknamed her ruby.  Heat started coursing through them both.

"I don't have any veils packed," she whispered.

"That, my wife, is not necessary for what I have in mind."  His mouth said the rest as it covered her own.

* * *

 

Waiting for a Star to Fall

Christine came out of the minuscule sonic shower in the cabin's bathroom.  She missed canoodling in the shower with her husband, but two people could not fit into the matchbox sized model, and what fun was a sonic shower?

Spock was seated at the computer monitor, a puzzled frown on his face.  "Our orders have changed, it appears."

"Oh?"  She shook her hair into place and came over to sit by him.  "Now what?"

"We are to proceed immediately to Starbase 74 upon arrival at the spaceport."

"Starbase 74?"  Christine's voice raised a pitch.  "We passed Starbase 74!  Two hours ago!  You pointed it out, remember?  We have to backtrack?"

Spock pulled her into his arms.  "It is worse than that, my wife.  I am sorry.  There is not a Federation shuttle for another day.  We must take a commercial shuttle to the starbase.  I have booked us passage and notified the ship of our arrival time.  It is ... not one of the larger models."

"Terrific."  She buried her head in his shoulder.  "Let me guess.  Seven hours?"  Christine hated small shuttles most of all as a general rule, with a few special exceptions.

"Seven point three, yes."  He kissed her.  "But you and I shall be on it together for that time."

"Why do we have to go backwards?" she grumbled.  "Can't we just head on to the next stop on her route?  We're on route for Temoria, anyway.  The celebration takes place in two weeks, plenty of time to get there."

"I do not know.  I cannot raise the ship's communications from here so I presume there is a logical reason we must return there."  He traced the line of her nose affectionately.  "Perhaps we can find some time on Temoria for shore leave together.  The planet is in the height of its winter, and has several excellent resorts.  We might be able to snowboard on real snow, at last?"

"Mmmmm.  That's a possibility.  But for now, just shoot me.  With a tranquilizer."

Spock laughed and smacked her derriere.

* * *

 

When the shuttle docked at Starbase 74, Christine staggered off followed by her equally flustered (for a Vulcan) husband.  A large group of revelers was on its way to Risa and had begun drinking at the spaceport, then continued the party on board.  Unfortunately, the shuttle hit the tail end of an ion disturbance and the bucking bronco flight caused panic among the partiers, who were from a small colony in the back of beyond.  Several were convinced imminent death was upon them all.  Tensions flared almost out of control.  Christine ended up tranquilizing the passengers, not herself, and administered first aid for most of the trip.  And as for Spock, she heard him swear quietly that he wanted to neck pinch the entire batch of them.

The previously happily relaxed mood between the newlyweds had become as tight as a violin string about to pop.  Neither had any idea where they had to go next, or how long it would take.  Christine just wanted a hot shower, her bed, and a warm Vulcan to hold her and make the bogeyman go away.

"Spock.  Chris.  Welcome home."  Jim Kirk and Leonard McCoy stood in the reception area in civilian attire.  McCoy gave his ACMO a sound hug and kiss.  Kirk and Spock shook hands.

"Gentlemen.  I am pleased to see you, although somewhat puzzled.  May I presume that the Enterprise is also here?"

Kirk pointed out the window.  "She's right there in spacedock.  But it's a long story.  Come on, let's buy you both a drink."

* * *

 

"We happened upon two fifth-rate smugglers shooting it out about a day's journey from here," Kirk began as he sipped his Finagle's Folly.  "As soon as they saw the ship, they turned on us."

McCoy laughed.  "Their combined weapons wouldn't have been able to kill a spacefly, but no, they had to unite against the perceived enemy."

"A spacefly?  I was not aware there was such an insect, Doctor."  Spock was back on track as though no time apart had been spent.  He regarded the physician unemotionally over the rim of his glass, but Christine felt his amusement envelop her.

"Yes, well, they caught us off guard.  The damage was all cosmetic, but there was plenty of it.  We got them on board with tractor beams and locked them in the brig.  Turns out they had been up to no good with the Romulans lately and were wanted by the Federation, so we decided to take them here and hand them over.  After all, it was on the way to Temoria.  And we're due for an overhaul after that, so we were making ready to leave."

"You obviously did not, Jim.  May I inquire as to what happened?" Spock asked.

"What do you think happened, Spock?" McCoy this time.  "The admiral showed up."

"Admiral?" Christine said.  There were so many, and most of them had a beef with Kirk over something or other.  "Which admiral?"

"Mendez."  Kirk took another swallow and shook his head to clear the cobwebs.  "His pompous ass arrived for a press opportunity, you know, smugglers caught, the galaxy's a safer place, and to plug the Temorians joining the Federation since he's headed there.  Anyway, he took one look at the outside of the ship and popped his collar studs."

"I am aware he is rather a perfectionist," Spock remarked thoughtfully.  Then he glanced over at Kirk's chair, as if inspecting something.

"Spock?" Christine asked her husband.

"I was merely ascertaining if the captain's gluteus maximus muscles were still intact.  As the good doctor is so fond of saying, Admiral Mendez has a proclivity for chewing this particular area of the anatomy."  He raised an eyebrow, but that was all.  Through their link, though, the amusement had turned to downright hysteria.

"I never said that, Spock!" McCoy sputtered.

"Gentlemen.  Please.  The admiral hauled myself into the nearest briefing room for a private discussion.  Unfortunately, the room was a mess.  This just made him angrier.  " Kirk sighed.  "He ordered us to stay.  The next morning he was back for a full inspection, and he brought that picayune little clerk of his, the Zakdorn computer.  Bydebok."

"That little bastard wrote Jim up for sixty three separate 'aesthetic' violations," McCoy fumed.  "In other words, the admiral didn't want a dirty ship heading of to Zemoria.  He even got me for that acid spill in sickbay, and that's years old."

"And that Zakdorn nailed me for not submitting a 1765-34 on myself last year.  How the hell was I know the personnel officer told Starfleet I would do it myself?  So he decided to dig a little more.  I've spent the day here with Bones, doing all the missing paperwork he found.  Four hour's worth.  We're just about to beam down to the hotel, but wanted to meet you first.  It's been a long day."

"The hotel?" Spock asked.  "Is the crew off the ship, then?"

"We're here for five more days, so yes, everyone got shore leave.  Work starts tomorrow morning at 0800, mostly internal cleaning and exterior painting.  Pointless to have anyone on board, they'd just get in the way.  I'll do a walkthrough tomorrow morning, but otherwise, it's hands off the whole time.  You know how these starbase maintenance crews are.  We'll have a nice clean ship at the end of it all."

"Wonder how long that will last," McCoy snorted.

"So I guess you two will need to head down and get a room.  Most of the crew went to the gambling resorts out on the tropical peninsula, you know, Majoricia?  I'm sure there's plenty of spots to stay.  Want us to help you find one?  Looks like you've got an extra few days of honeymoon, and no, Spock, I won't hear otherwise."

"Jim, if I may, I would like to request that Christine and I spend the night on board tonight.  It is late, and the shuttle ride here was most unpleasant.  As you can see, a container of cola made its way down the front of my wife's uniform.  We are in need of different clothing and supplies if we are to travel again.  And then I could run a final diagnostic tomorrow morning and accompany you on the walkthrough, before we head off for shore leave.  Is that amenable?"

Kirk and McCoy traded a glance.  "I don't see why not, Spock.  Life support's still on.  But are you sure?  Chris?  That OK with you?"

Christine, who had almost been dozing on her elbow, did not open her eyes.  "I'll sleep right here if someone would just get me a blanket."

"Looks like you two get to mind the store tonight.  Don't let the bedbugs bite."  McCoy smirked.

"Bedbugs, Doctor?"

Before another verbal sparring match could take place, Kirk called for the check and they escorted the returning couple to the bay where the Enterprise was docked.

* * *

 

The shower was lukewarm (but at least they shared it), their new quarters were floor to ceiling in cartons, and the bed was free from encumbrances.  Christine was asleep in a second, before Spock had a chance to kiss her goodnight.  He went off to see about accommodations on the planet for them and to run a computer diagnostic, smiling to himself.

* * *

 

Warp-lag woke her a few minutes before her comm unit buzzed.  "Dr. Chapel, to the bridge.  On the double."

Still finding her bearings, Christine groped for something to wear.  What now?  And why wasn't Len calling her?  Then she caught her breath, a slow, naughty smile beginning to slide across her face as she remembered where she was.  Trust her Vulcan to do this, and knowing him, there would be nothing to worry about.  He was the computer expert on board.  No wonder he'd insisted.  She reached for a pair of scrubs and her leather thongs, finger combed her hair into place and went off to the turbolift, her heart pounding.

The lift door whooshed open and she leaned idly against the doorjamb for a moment.  The observation window's metal covering was already in place in anticipation of the paint job that would begin the next morning.  She could see her husband seated in the captain's chair.

"Dr. Chapel reporting as ordered, Commander."  Her voice was a throaty whisper.

The chair slowly swiveled around and Spock faced her.  He was wearing jeans and his regulation black t shirt.  "Doctor," he purred seductively.

"Is there a problem, Commander?"  She dropped her hands to her sides, aware that her scrubs left very little to the imagination.  When he did not immediately reply, she took a step forward.  "Maybe you need a physical examination."  With that she untied her trouser drawstring and the garment slid down to pool at her feet.  She kicked free of it and her shoes.

An eyebrow raised.  So did something else.

In a single fluid movement, she drew her top over her head and dropped it behind her, still walking.  When she was just a foot away from him, she put her hands on her hips and thrust them forward invitingly.  "What seems to be the illness, Commander?"  She was so aroused, even she could smell it.

Still no answer, but his eyes were black with passion, his hands gripping the armrests as though he somehow did not believe she was really there.

"Oh, I'm here Spock," she whispered as she straddled him.  He seized her in his arms and gave her a kiss so strong she was sure her tonsils went missing.  "There are ... several prescriptions for your complaint, Commander.  Which of them would you like to try first?"  She drew his t-shirt off.  Then her hand reached for the waistband of his jeans, drawing the zipper down tooth by tooth, freeing the erection that now lay flush against his abdomen.  An image crossed her mind.

She smiled as she slid to her knees before him.

* * *

 

"So what do you suppose that Vulcan's up to, Jim?  He had a funny look on his face.  Maybe he's worried the admiral will run a check on his precious computer system and find it not up to par after his absence."  He shook his head as he finished the nightcap they were having at their hotel.  "Poor Chris, has to spend the night alone on board.  You know he'll be with his computer."

"Now, Bones, we don't know that.  They just looked mighty beat to me.  I don't think they'll be doing anything but sleeping, the both of them," Kirk replied.  But he could not help thinking... or each other then dismissed the idea.  His First Officer was still a Vulcan, after all.

Had Kirk been a spacefly on the wall of the bridge at that moment, he would have been stunned to see his ACMO sitting in his chair, her legs splayed over either armrest, while his First Officer gave her a thorough oral examination.  Naked as eggs, the both of them.

* * *

 

"We won't get much sleep tonight," Christine remarked.  She was catching her breath on the floor of the bridge.  Spock was wrapped around her, a blanket covering them both.  She tweaked his eartip.  "And, Commander, I am not complaining.  But are you sure you overrode the computer circuits?  I really don't want this showing up on the Ferengi gossip network, you know."

"Affirmative, my wife.  No one shall see our activities except us."  He let his hand fall between her thighs, seeking the warmth there, ascertaining if she was up for another round of fun.

They'd taken care of things in Jim's chair several interesting ways, at his station (he was careful to polish off the imprint his wife's rear made on the counter's surface) and now on the floor.  Obviously, they'd never view the bridge the same way again.  He kissed her suggestively, then brought her to her feet beside him.  His eyebrow raised.

"You're kidding?" Christine asked halfheartedly as the image crossed her mind.  But she knew he wasn't.  Where did he dream these things up?

Her husband pulled her astride his erection then wrapped her legs around his waist.  The made a slow, erotic traversal of the bridge before ending up in the captain's chair once more.

"All ahead full," Spock growled.

* * *

 

"So where are you off to, then?" Kirk asked as he set the transporter coordinates.

The walkthrough had been uneventful and the three of them were now anxious to get off the ship and let the work crews do their job.

"My father was able to secure us some accommodation at a seaside resort," Spock replied as he helped his wife onto the transporter pad.  "It should be quite nice, I think.  But we both have our communicators should an emergency arise."

"I sincerely hope not," Kirk sighed.  He glanced over at his First Officer, who was casually attired and very relaxed.  So was his wife.  In fact, they were more then relaxed, they were almost asleep.  What on earth had they been up to last night?  Obviously, the rumors about Vulcan stamina were no rumor.  He smiled.

"Energize," he told the crewmember.

And so Christine's wish, made on a falling star in San Francisco, started to come true.

* * *

 

Thunder Road

Sarek could hardly believe it when the brandy arrived with the diplomatic shuttle that morning.  He uncorked it and took a whiff.  This would be a pleasant after dinner drink to share with his wife, he decided, silently thanking Spock and Christine for their generosity, even on their honeymoon.  The chocolates and the wind chime were also much appreciated.

He closed the bottle and sat at his desk, steepling his fingers before him as he contemplated the vista beyond his office window.  Spock had transmitted to him earlier that day, Vulcan time, from the Enterprise.  The ship was docked at Starbase 74, and it was relatively quick to send messages due to the large antenna there.  After exchanging greetings and a quick recap of their travels, Spock asked for his advice on where to secure accommodation on the planet.  They'd been frequent guests there in his youth but he'd not returned in many years.  Ever watchful of the new relationship between them, Sarek was diplomatically able to glean from his son what was troubling him, for Spock was a good friend to his captain.  They discussed the repercussions from Admiral Mendez's surprise visit.  Spock expressed his displeasure but agreed not much could be done at his level.  But Kirk was bound to suffer for this and that bothered Spock.  They spoke a bit more, then Sarek signed off with a promise to send accommodation details on to his son for the morning.

Spock stated he wished to take his wife somewhere special, as his treat to her.  She'd been most generous on their honeymoon, showing him much of her native land.  Now he wanted to spend these unexpected days with her in a secluded place where they could simply enjoy their marriage.  He gave a brief list of the necessary requests and asked Sarek to do what he could.

Sarek thought about things.  About the fact that his son finally found the bondmate he so desperately wanted to find, a very logical choice, actually, given the holovids Amanda showed him.  And about the fact that Kirk had been Spock's trusted friend and confidante during the courtship and engagement, encouraging his son to pursue Christine, never judging or criticizing.  And lastly about the fact that Mendez was not the Federation's favorite of admirals.  Sarek pondered some more.  Perhaps, he decided, there was a way of hitting two birds with one snowball, or whatever that archaic phrase Amanda was always using.

He glanced at the chronometer.  The Terran day would just be beginning in San Francisco.  Yes, that was what he should do.  Selecting the priority frequency only a trusted few were permitted to use, he sent a message.  His monitor beeped with a return transmission just a few hours later.  Sarek opened the screen and saw a familiar figure.

"Jarod, greetings.  How are you today?" he asked the distinguished Terran, who looked about to start a morning game of tennis, given his attire.

"Sarek my friend!  This is a surprise.  Marnie and I are looking forward to seeing you and Lady Amanda over on Temoria in a few weeks.  Though all that diplomatic fol de rol does get a bit old after a time.  By the way, my best to your son and his wife on their marriage.  We were out of town, else we'd have gone to the reception for them over at your embassy when they were here."  He paused.  "So, Sarek, what can I do for you? I know this isn't a social call, much as I like chewing the fat with you."

"It is not so much what you can do for me, my friend, as how we might be able to assist each other.  My son and his wife are in need of a ... small favor.  And I am in a position to allow you to take one of the least favored ... thorns in both our sides ... down a few notches."  Sarek used the appropriate Terran idioms very well when he had to.

Jarod's eyebrows raised in almost a Vulcan expression of surprise.  "You don't say?" he replied.

* * *

 

"Where are we going?" Christine asked after they beamed over to the main space station.

"My father should be contacting the Vulcan emissary's office soon.  Why do we not have some breakfast in the meantime?"  The replicators had not been working on board.

"Sounds good to me," she replied, yawning.  "Excuse me."  She gave her husband a low laugh.  "Really, Commander, you kept me up all night.  Shame on you!"

"I am somewhat fatigued myself," he remarked as he steered her over to the nearby Starchild's Coffee Cafe and swiftly ordered them two extra strong Vulcan mochas.

"Well, we might have gotten some sleep if you didn't pull that little 'Me Tarzan' routine on the way back to our cabin."  She smiled and licked the foam off her drink.  "Why the briefing room, of all places?"

After numerous ... romantic ... encounters all over the bridge, Spock had decided it was time to change venues.  They dressed and took the lift down a few decks, whereupon he hoisted his wife over his shoulders like the legendary King of the Jungle and carried her down the hall to the main briefing room, where the fun and games began all over again.  Christine would be hard pressed to keep a straight face at a briefing from now on.  Suddenly the term "tabling" took on a whole new meaning.

"Why not?  It seemed a perfectly logic place, did it not?"  He raised an eyebrow and took a drink of his mocha but his thoughts zapped across their link like static electricity.

Christine flushed.  *SPOCK!*

*It might be fascinating, do you not agree?*

She looked out the space station window, trying to cool down, and was presented with a view of the Enterprise at its spacedock.  Her face became even redder.

"Are you running a fever, Doctor?" he asked innocently.

Christine's psi abilities had become much stronger as their bonding link deepened.  Two could play this game, she thought, sending him an extremely vivid image of where she was fevered and what could be done to take care of the malady.

She'd never seen his ears turn quite that shade of green before.

* * *

 

"Good evening, Aduna.  The brandy our children sent to us arrived this morning, so I look forward to sharing it with you after dinner."  Sarek came into the kitchen and presented the ornate bottle to his wife.

"Have you ever had a stinger?" she asked, uncorking the bottle and sniffing the liquor's heady aroma.

Sarek raised an eyebrow.  "A what?"

"It's a cocktail made with brandy.  To be drunk before dinner.  Perhaps you'd care to join me in one on the patio?"

He gave his wife an embrace.  "That would be most agreeable.  I look forward to thanking them in person for their gifts on Temoria."

"I do hope they can spend an evening with us," Amanda agreed as she began mixing the drinks.  "After that, we won't see them for almost two years, for Stark and T'Lara's bonding."

"Perhaps not," Sarek replied mysteriously.

Amanda took the tray of stingers and led her husband out onto the patio.  She knew he was up to something.  "And what is that supposed to mean?"

"We shall know ... soon," was all he said.

* * *

 

At the Vulcan Affairs office, Spock keyed the information his father sent into his PADD.  A diplomatic staffer approached the couple.

"If you will follow me, Commander, Doctor," he said, indicating a door.  "The monorail will take you to the shuttle bay where your pilot awaits."  He gave the ta'al and they responded in kind.

Christine suddenly had a vision of staying in a dreadfully boring Vulcan official guest house, the one Spock teased her about in San Francisco.  Where was he taking her?

*Patience, my wife.*

A Vulcan diplomatic corps shuttle awaited them.  Spock led her up the stairs and greeted the pilot.  In a few short moments they'd been cleared for departure and were on their way to the planet below, a relatively short journey.

Spock pulled out his PADD and called up a map of the Majoricia peninsula.  "We are headed to this location," he said.

"To one of the Playa resorts?" Christine asked, thinking of a group of thriving beach towns clustered near the center of the island.  Maybe a little too touristy for her liking, but what the heck?

He indicated a spot at the island's furthest point.  "This region, actually.  It is locally called 'World's End,' I believe.  We shall be staying at a private vacation residence.  I hope that is to your liking? I thought such a setting might be enjoyable.  The rest of the island is easily accessible."

"World's End?  Who the heck does your father know?" Christine laughed.  No Vulcan guest house, then.  "It's just perfect, honestly."  She sighed happily, thinking of five days of doing absolutely nothing but enjoying her husband.

"I have been here before several times," he admitted, leaning over her to gaze out the window at the terrain that was becoming larger.  "When I was perhaps ten, twelve, fourteen.  The station had opened recently and my father was called to diplomatic duties here on a regular basis."  He turned to his wife and gave her a smile.  The shuttle may have been Vulcan, but the pilot was a trusty Saurian, the flyboys of Starfleet, it seemed.  "I look forward to sharing this place with you."

His hand closed over hers as the shuttle prepared to land.

* * *

 

Spock picked up a rental flitter at the shuttleport and headed east up the flyway, away from the main resort area.  The further east they went, the more spectacular the scenery became.  Folded cliffs, lush with tropical vegetation, were punctuated with sugar white sandy beaches.  The ocean was a clear shade of aquamarine near the shore, deepening to a cyan color out to the horizon.  It reminded Christine of the beaches around Manzanillo in Mexico, which were tropical but relatively undiscovered, a popular spring break destination for Starfleet med students.

A few small villages appeared here and there but these were not trendy resorts.  True fishing communities, founded by Terrans from similar places all over their home planet, places like Rockport and Bimini and Cape Flattery and Key West.  Gradually, the wealthy had begun to build getaways along this stretch of coast, but the local zoning laws were strict.  The residences had to espouse arcology concepts and the number of homes built was limited.  World's End was the last settlement before the peninsula literally ended.

Spock turned the flitter down a side road and came to a gate.  A guard greeted them.  "Commander, Doctor, welcome."  He handed Spock a small communication device.  "Enjoy your stay.  If you need anything, just contact the main desk."

The road twisted for about a half mile then split in two.  One half led up the steep hill behind them.  The other headed down towards the beach.  A tiny sign was the only indication anything was there.  It read, simply, "Thunder Road."  Spock took the beach route.

In a few minutes they were nearly at the ocean.  The air was warm and just a little humid with a nice breeze blowing.  The vegetation cleared to show a sandy beach, closed off on either side by high cliffs, and a simple looking residence.  Christine had a sneaking suspicion it was anything but.  Sock parked the flitter and took their gear out of the trunk, then walked with his wife to the entrance and opened the heavy wooden door.

Christine's eyes saucered, despite her fatigue.  This surely was no Vulcan guest house, although it was almost Vulcan in its minimal styling, which blended harmoniously with the setting.  The floor was a polished hardwood similar to mahogany, buffed to a high shine.  Furniture was understated and elegant, with a few art pieces from across the galaxy adorning the cream colored walls.  She set down her bag and walked through the open veranda onto a shaded porch and took in the scene.

It was incredible.  Just below the patio, a lawn led down to the beach.  The cliffs that surrounded it jutted far out into the ocean, making a private cove.  A dock floated on the water with a small sailboat and some windsurfboards attached.  The patio had its own rock pool and a large daybed lounger, making for the perfect spot to simply do nothing at all.  There was only the sound of birds and the surf, a thing she'd missed more than anything in space, and what she'd wished for on that falling star.  Now, impossibly, it was here before her.

"Quite pleasing, is it not?" Spock asked.  He slid an arm around her waist and they just stood there, enjoying the view and each other.

"Have you been to this place before?" she asked after a few moments.

Her husband turned and took her in his arms, smiling down at her.  "I have.  In fact, I spent a weekend with perhaps six other youths my age, whose diplomat parents were all here for an important summit.  It was a .. campout of sorts.  But a very sedate one."

"Diplomats?  Summit?"  Christine's natural curiosity had piqued.  "Is this a Vulcan diplomatic guest residence?"

Spock shook his head but said nothing, his eyes mirthful.  He did enjoy prolonging his wife's agony.

"Not Starfleet?"

Another maddening shake of the head.

"Who then?"  The house was as impressive as any embassy Christine had ever seen, even though it was small in comparison.

A Vulcan hand slid down her jaw, caressing her lips.  "Council Member Jarod."

Jarod?  Christine's eyes, which had saucered earlier, now threatened to pop right out of her head.  "Federation President Jarod?" she finally asked in a whisper, fearful someone might hear.  "Is this the FEDERATION PRESIDENT'S guest house?" she hissed.

Spock only smiled, then gave her a slow, sensual kiss.  "Yes, T'hyla.  His main residence is up on the hill."  He pointed upwards to where a small portion of a much greater dwelling could just be seen.  "But he is not here.  In fact, you shall meet him on Temoria.  My own parents will be there as well, so I am certain my father will arrange the introduction."  He brushed the hair off his wife's forehead and pulled her closer against him.

"How did your father manage this one?" Christine asked.  Sarek had gotten a Klingon family to Vulcan for their wedding, which was pretty darned impressive, but this really took the proverbial biscuit.

"I honestly do not know.  It is his secret, shall we say.  And I am just as surprised as you are, my beloved.  The Vulcan diplomatic mission does have a guest house here, but it is not nearly as fine as this." He slid his hands lower down her body, seeking a familiar resting place.  "We are both fatigued, my wife.  I suggest we take a brief...swim, and then retire.  There are three bedrooms here.  I am certain we can make use of all of them during our stay?"  His eyebrow raised provocatively.

Christine extricated herself from his embrace and walked over to her bag.

"What are you doing?" Spock asked, not following her actions.

"You said you wanted to swim.  I'm getting my bathing suit."  She rifled through her belongings for a moment, then stopped as she was pulled back into her husband's arms.

"I do not believe you shall require a swimming costume," he replied as he slid her top from her shoulders.  His hips thrust gently against hers.

Swimming?  That was a new name for it.  Oh this was going to be some honeymoon, Christine thought to herself.

* * *

 

Admiral Mendez stared at his clerk, not believing what he heard.

"What do you mean we're called to Temoria immediately?  The inauguration ceremonies don't happen for twelve more days!"

Lt. Bydebok shrugged.  "Admiral, I am sorry, but the orders came thorough this afternoon.  Apparently they need you on the Protocol Committee."

"Protocol committee?" Mendez was turning scarlet with rage.  "I have to sit around with a bunch of idiots drafting protocol?  How we need to act with each other?"  He began to pace back and forth, muttering to himself.

"Admiral Jackson will be arriving this evening, so you can brief each other.  Our transport leaves in the morning for Temoria."  He handed his superior some dockets.  "These need your signature, sir."

Mendez took them and scrawled furiously.  He was livid at the fact he could not roast Kirk's sorry ass several more times after the ship had been refitted.  The man was a menace and he'd come this close to having his goose cooked once and for all.  Now he was going to escape.  Again.  The admiral wondered if Kirk had nine lives ... or a powerful godfather somewhere.

As he watched his staff member leave, Admiral Mendez shook his head.  He'd been booked into the Federation Guest House over at World's End, too.  Just down the beach from the President's own properties, it was rumored.  His one chance to hobnob with the privileged was going up in smoke.  Temoria was in the middle of winter and its people were not the most brilliant of socializers.  He looked out the window at the Enterprise in her spacedock and scowled.

* * *

 

"It was here that I first seriously thought of joining Starfleet," Spock said as he pointed out another constellation.

"Here?  How old were you?"  Christine cocooned herself more closely into his embrace and adjusted the sheet around them.  They were lying on the patio's daybed, looking at the skies which were so dark the orbiting space station was clearly visible.  The tropical night was warm with just a hint of a sensual breeze that promised a shower before morning.  Since their arrival, they'd done little but enjoy each other's company, hardly moving from the deck.  There was simply no need to do otherwise.

"Perhaps fifteen.  The station was welcoming the first of a new class of starships, the Constellation, on its maiden voyage.  My father was here, of course, as were most federation dignitaries and their families.  We were given a tour of the ship and the facility, and I met the captain.  Perhaps you have heard of him?  Robert T. April."

"The U.S.S. Enterprise," she replied.  "Of course."  She pictured her husband, a tall, intelligent adolescent, looking over the famous ship and getting inspiration.

"I then applied to the Academy soon after."  He kissed her in the dark.  "And you know the rest."

She held him close, letting her love course through their bond.  Yes, she knew.  Knowing everything also meant his estrangement with Sarek, the years of doubt and struggle.  But all of that was behind them both now.

They slept, curled up together, as the sea's rushing waves lulled them into dreamless slumber.

Towards morning, it began to storm.  Gentle rain started falling, while thunder rumbled off towards the horizon.  Spock drew his wife closer against him and entered her warmth effortlessly.  She opened her eyes to find his own looking down at her, full of love.  There was no need for any words as they moved together in the ancient rite.

*I love you.*

*I love you too, Spock.*

* * *

 

"Now this is what's properly termed a honeymoon," Christine sighed.

Spock joined her in the rock pool, pausing only to removed the colorful pareo he'd taken to draping low across his hips.  Ensign Pauulu had given them both the traditional Tahitian sarong style garments as a wedding gift and they were becoming quite useful.

"Indeed, my wife?"  He handed her a glass of champagne and then slid an arm around her, letting his hand idly wander.  "And why would that be?"

Beyond them the sunset was painting the fat white clouds in hues as vivid as what they'd seen in the Grand Canyon.

She laughed as the bubbles tickled her nose.  "For the past two days we have done nothing but sleep and ... enjoy each other.  That's what a traditional honeymoon is supposed to be about.  Carnal knowledge."

"I see."  An eyebrow raised as his hand decided to explore further depths.  "Am I to understand that what we experienced on Terra was not a honeymoon?"  His voice was amused.

"Well, maybe not as most people would have thought.  Are you saying you didn't enjoy it?"  Distress washed across her.  What kind of idiot had she been, giving him an adventure tour of the American Southwest instead of a honeymoon?

"On the contrary, my wife," he replied, pulling her onto his lap.  "I enjoyed it immensely.  The perfect combination of experiences sensual ... and visual.  Do not trouble yourself.  I would also hope to show you much of my homeworld when we have the opportunity."  His tongue trailed a shiver-producing line across her collarbone.

"I promise to behave when you do," she whispered, knowing what that meant.  "Separate bedrooms and all."  She'd learned about this on her time during Vulcan from her discussions with Amanda.  Of course, she and Sarek didn't pay any heed to that tradition, obviously.

Spock looked up at her troubled face.  "Then I would be most disappointed in you, my wife.  Let me assure you, we would have ample time to indulge ... outdoors, as we did at my family's land.  There are many fascinating places for ... nature study."

The memories of that amazing day coursed across their link, blazing paths unerringly to where it mattered most.

"And your place is beside me at night, in my arms, my love.  Every night.  As you are right now." He smiled mischievously at his wife.  "Now let us make use our marriage license, shall we?"

Her kiss said the rest.

* * *

 

"So, Doctor.  Shall we venture forth and explore this place further today?"  It was the next morning and Spock was feeding her fruit slowly, sensually.  By hand.  One of his favorite pastimes.

She swallowed just as sensually and gave a exaggerated lick of her lips.  "Where were you planning on taking me?  You're the one who's been here before."

So far, they'd seen the beach, the deck, and the house's interior, but neither was complaining.  They still had two more nights and almost a full day ahead of them.  Spock had not mentioned the ship even once.

"A local beauty spot.  Not a very long journey.  But as you Terrans say, getting there is half the fun."

Flitter fun?  That sounded nice.  "Are you going to have your way with me in the flitter?  A little early for that, isn't it Commander?"

"The flitter?  That had not occurred to me.  Perhaps ... later.  No, I have something else in mind."  He wiped some fruit juice off his wife's lips and sucked his thumb suggestively.

"What should I wear, Dr. Livingston?"

"As little ... as possible."

She stared back at him, wondering if she'd heard correctly.

"It is quite warm, my wife."

* * *

 

Christine figured they'd be hiking so she dressed in shorts, a tank top and trainers.  She was pleased to see her husband similarly casually dressed in jeans and a t shirt.

Spock slid an arm around her as they walked towards a garage.  He hit the control button and the door slid open to reveal a vehicle.

Christine's eyebrows now mimicked her husband's as they rose high on her forehead.

"A motorcycle?  That looks like a Harley!"

Her husband regarded her calmly, amusement awash on his face.  "A 2203 special commemorative model of the 1993 1200R XL Roadster, to be exact.  The company issued special versions of its most popular models for its 400th anniversary." He stroked the fuselage almost affectionately.  "This one is called 'Chopper Blue.' "

"You know how to drive a motorcycle?"  Christine was almost aghast.

"Why ever not?  I learned to do so right here.  So I made certain a bike would be here for our visit."  He pulled his wife into an embrace, mirth even more apparent in his expression.  "The Federation Council President at the time of my last visit was also a Terran, with a fondness for nostalgia.  And he was quite a fan of the old Terran rock singer Bruce Springsteen.  The property still bears his somewhat whimsical place names.  'Thunder Road' is here.  The estate itself is named 'Galveston Bay.'  And I plan to take you to 'The River' although there is not a river there per se."

"Don't we need helmets and leathers?" she managed to ask, still stunned at the thought of a motorcycle riding Vulcan.

"For an excursion off the property, a helmet is required.  But for our journey now, no." He took his wife's hand and positioned her on the motorcycle's ample leather seat, then swiftly positioned himself in the driver's posit on.  The familiar startup throb of the engine followed.

Christine wrapped her arms around her husband and leaned forward, eager to enjoy the ride.

* * *

 

"Do you think Chris and Spock are back yet?" Nyota asked of no one in particular.

"Maybe.  Maybe not."  Ade M'Benega regarded the poolside scene before him.  "In any case, they're certainly not at this establishment."

"But they might be close by," Kala replied as she batted a volleyball with Greg Dillon.  "Maybe they don't know we're even here.  C'mon, Ny.  Why not give Chris a call?"

* * *

 

"Do Vulcan woman not have body hair, then?" Christine asked.

"I cannot answer that, never having seen an unclothed Vulcan female.  Why do you ask?"

She regarded her husband, who was idly running his fingers through her nether curls, clearly enjoying the sensation.  From time to time he rubbed his face on them, as if stroking a cat which was asking to be allowed to purr.

They'd ridden the motorbike up a side road to a natural waterfall which overlooked the ocean cove far below.  It was further up than the main house, and its vista was stunning.  The rock pool at the base of the falls was just the right temperature for a sexy swim, which they'd been partaking of for some time.  This was only the start of the after swim festivities.

"Surely some Vulcan women have made it into Playboy Intergalactic?" she asked, stroking her husband's hair as he continued his explorations.

"Perhaps they have.  I, however, have not seen those issues."  He maneuvered himself up and rolled over onto his back, pulling his wife with him until she sat astride his chest.  His eyes were dark and playful as he kept on stroking and searching.  "And I prefer your anatomy as it is, doctor.  It ... intrigues me."  His arms dragged her up towards his waiting mouth.

"Are you sure I'm not squashing you?" she asked honestly.  "I don't understand why you like it this particular way so much."

For an answer, he merely stuck out his long Vulcan tongue and rolled it sensually, mimicking an action she knew well.  Moisture started pooling along her channel quickly and she sighed in anticipation of what was about to happen.

Her communicator beeped.

Stunned, she fell back, sitting once more astride her husband as she scrambled for the device, praying it was not some horrendous medical disaster.

"Chapel here?" she asked fearfully.

"Chris?  Is that you?  It's Ny!  I'm here with everyone!"

"Ny!  How are you!  Where are you?"

Spock looked a bit dismayed as his wife launched into what he commonly referred to as a "gab session" but given the fact she'd not heard from her friends for a month, he exercised patience.  His fingers, however, did not, and sought to explore what he'd been about to lave with his tongue.

"Maybe tomorro-AAAAAAH" she gasped as an electric shock coursed through her.  "We're still a bit warp-UHHHHHHH! lagged."

"That's fine," Nyota replied.  "You sound kind of odd, anyway."

Two strong Vulcan arms were lifting her into position for an oral exploration and she was helpless to do anything.  "I'll call you ERRRRRHHHHH tomorrow.  Is that OK?"

"Sure, Chris.  Come on down to the resort for dinner then.  It's great fun here."

A long Vulcan finger decided to explore somewhere, adding to the sensations she was already experiencing.  "'Kay, Ny.  Talk to you then AAAAAAH." The communication ended abruptly.

* * *

 

"She's not feeling too well.  I bet she has a tummy upset," Nyota said to her companions.  "She sounded awful.  Warp lag's a bitch."

"Spock's probably off checking the computer," M'Benga added.

Kala and Greg looked at each other.  They knew exactly what they'd heard.

"Whatever," Greg declared.  "Who's up for volleyball doubles in the pool?"

* * *

 

The erotic activity which had been disrupted by the comm call quickly re-established itself.  Christine was losing herself in wave after wave of heat when she became aware of her husband through their link, asking permission to do something.  She assented wordlessly and a moment later, she felt his teeth gently close around the most sensitive part of her anatomy, while his tongue began an earnest assault of her.

The sensation was like a lightning bolt of pure bliss.  It was all she could do to grasp his contact points with her hand before the flames of sweet agony washed over her.  She threw her head back and screamed her climax into the blue tropical sky, feeling her husband's shared pleasure at the occurrence.

It was exquisite.

* * *

 

"I was not aware you enjoyed being ... nibbled," Spock said as he held his wife in his arms.  The combined sensation through their link had been extremely intense.

"Neither was I," she replied as she lay across his chest, spent.  "Something extra special to file away for future use."  She gave him a languid, contended glance while her hand started to explore a part of him she was very familiar with.  "Oh my, Commander.  What shall we do with this?"

"I believe I have the answer," he replied as he rolled her onto her back and positioned himself above her.  He smiled that lazy, sexy smile of his she loved so much.  "You need to be... ******," he whispered seductively as he entered her.  "Long, slow and hard."  He thrust himself exactly as he'd described.

Christine closed her eyes, still feeling the arousal that she always got when that logical, proper mouth said those naughty words to her.

"Your internal temperature has risen, Doctor," he murmured in her rear.  "And I detect some extra moisture as well.  Might this be a result of my ... phraseology?"

She gripped the back of his head and looked back up at him, desire painting her features.  "Talk to me," she hissed.  "Dirty."

His eyebrow raised.

"In Standard ... or Vulcan?"

* * *

 

In Your Eyes

"Spock?"

"Yes, my love?"

"Where do you dream up these fantasies?"

"I believe from my 'over-productive imagination,' as my primary school teachers called it."

Spock looked up at his wife's face as she moved seductively up and down his erect member.  He steadied her, increasing the contact between them, as he leaned further back against the motorcycle's fuselage.  He was seated on the bike's comfortable seat with her astride, a favorite position of them both.

Of course, he had not intended for this interesting variation to occur, but as he'd just finished pulling on his jeans, the sight of his wife's rear view as she bent to retrieve her lower garments quickly changed his perspective.

He pulled up her tank top and found a breast with his mouth, relishing the moan the contact elicited.  She was close and so was he.  One of his hands slid down to stroke her protrusion while the other brushed against her contact points.  Oh yes, it was so goood.  He felt his wife spiral off into release and joined her as they traversed what felt like a comet's tail of pleasure.

"Your jeans are wet," she said as they sat holding each other while the afterglow of their union drifted over them.

He glanced down at where they were still joined, then tweaked one of her still erect nipples.  "Then it is extremely good fortune I thought to pack two pairs, Doctor."  His face had that maddeningly seductive, heavy lidded look of sexual satisfaction which only made his wife want him all over again.

"Oh yes, my love.  Later I shall once more enjoy you ... and enjoy you."  His voice was a low whisper of contentment.  "But let us head back to our accommodation.  I plan to take you somewhere quite entertaining this evening."

"And where's that?" she asked as she finally managed to get dressed.

"The local version of your establishment 'Curls'.  The views of the sunset are quite spectacular there."

"I like this view, too," she replied as she ran her hand through the hair on his chest.

* * *

 

"I tell you, Bones, this is the perfect end to a perfect day, don't you think?" Kirk asked as their drinks arrived.

"Yeah, Jim.  I always said a little bit of fishing was good for the soul."  He held up his mint julep and clinked glasses with his friend.

They'd been out on a half day fishing charter from the docks at World's End.  No one caught much, but it had been a very good day, nonetheless.

"I got so tired of tripping over the crew back at that resort.  Everywhere I went it was 'Hello, sir' and "How are you, sir' and 'Good day, sir.' I haven't seen so much ass kissing since I don't know when."

"I'll say.  The look Riley and his group gave when we walked into that casino was priceless.  I'm surprised they're not up there at spacedock right now scrubbing the hull down for bonus points."  McCoy had a long, satisfying sip of his drink.  "Are you sure Mendez is gone?" he asked finally.

"I'm sure.  I got word almost as soon as he'd left."

"Do we know why?"

Kirk shrugged.  "He got called to Temoria, that's all I heard.  And lucky for us, Tom Jackson will do the final inspection when we leave.  I know Tom.  He's a good man, not so sidetracked by ... aesthetics."

"Amen to that," McCoy agreed, still smarting from the five 'aesthetic' violations his sickbay had received.  "Say, wonder where Spock and Chris have been these few days, eh? Have you heard from him at all?'

"Bones, they're still on their honeymoon.  C'mon, don't you remember what it was like when you were first married?"

"Did you have to remind me?"  McCoy took another swig.  "If I know Spock, they're probably off at some Vulcan type establishment.  Poor Chris."

"Dunno about that, Bones," Kirk replied.  "Spock's definitely letting his human side out to play more and more.  I think he enjoys it.  And Chris has been a good teacher to him." He looked out at the sun dancing on the water.  "I like it.  I think she's good for him."

"For how long, Jim?  He's spent most his life trying to be Vulcan.  You can't believe this isn't just some kind of passing phase?  Like when Joanna decided to shave half her head and dye the other half turquoise.  A year later she was back to her old self like that experiment never happened."  He signaled for another round of drinks.  Neither of them planned to do anything but enjoy the local color.  "I'm more worried about Chris.  What will happen when Spock decides being human is illogical?"

"Bones," Kirk said seriously, "Spock talked with me at length all though his courtship, engagement and wedding preparations.  Believe me when I say, he is dead serious about this.  He worships Chris, though he'd never admit it.  And I know he has the capabilities of feeling emotions.  I knew it that day he told me he felt badly for Gary.  He's always had it in him.  It just took the right woman to help him realize it.  Now let's stop philosophizing and enjoy the scenery."  He gave an appreciative eye to a passing bikini clad beauty.

* * *

 

"Will you hold still, Commander?" Christine eyed her husband with just the right amount of annoyance.  He instantly stopped what he was doing and obediently submitted to his hypospray.  "There, you're on your way to no more warp lag."

She glanced down to where his hand was sliding beneath her sheer lace thong.  His fingers once again burrowed through the curls he found there, still damp from their shower together.  Her eyebrow raised.

"Like I said earlier, dear, what's the fascination?  Have you never seen a woman who doesn't have an Orion?"  Her eyes were smiling even as her voice was acerbic.

"An Orion?"

"A full depilitation.  As in Orion women?  Or so I heard.  Used to be called a Brazilian centuries ago, or a Playboy."  She shivered as his fingers started heading somewhere else.

"I have said that I find this unique part of your anatomy quite fascinating.  If you do not wish me to explore, why do you call attention to this with such scandalously see through underclothes?"  He pulled her closer, enjoying the banter they shared.

"Because I know you like it, Commander.  And I enjoy giving you pleasure, my love."  She extricated his hand.  "Now please let me finish getting dressed, will you?"  Her eyes promised more fun later.

He did not let her go immediately.  Instead he held out his arm again.

"Now what?" she asked.

"I require antitox.  I intend to consume alcohol this evening and I hope you will join me."

"Oh?  Who's going to drive the flitter back, then?"  She raised an eyebrow as she went off to prepare the injection.  They'd had some champagne while here, but usually only a glass or two.  But drinking?

"We shall take the motorcycle."

"Are you nuts?  You can't drive a motorcycle if you've been drinking!"  She had a terrible vision of a skid.

He stroked her cheek.  "I plan to leave it at the establishment and take the official transport at our disposal back here.  We can then pick the motorcycle up tomorrow when we leave for the resorts down island.  Then I can return it to the rental agency and we may take the transport home once more.  This is logical as we leave for the ship the following afternoon."

She gave him another hypo then one to herself.  "I've given us three times the normal amount.  No hangovers.  But are you really sure you want to spend tomorrow afternoon and evening with my friends?  We don't have to."

"T'hyla," Spock replied as he pulled her close once again.  "Our marriage will not be lived in a vacuum.  You and I must interact socially with our peers, you know.  I am actually looking forward to having some time together with your friends.  They logically know we are a couple and will accept us as such.  This might be a good thing.  I do know my reputation on board in the past has not been very flattering."

"You mean the crack about the broomstick up you--"

A hot Vulcan mouth silenced that comment, full of sexual promise for later.

* * *

 

"Ahh, Bones, I don't think I want to go back," Kirk replied as they started on their third round and their fifth basket of chips.

The bar, called the End of the World, was known locally as Margaritaville meets the Last Chance Saloon.  An open sided tropical affair usually seen in Mexico, Hawaii or Jamaica, it was built right onto the beach with its very dock attached, and was filled with locals and a few adventurous tourists.  The atmosphere was so laid back everyone might have been having a siesta.  An old fashioned jukebox stood in the corner next to a wooden dance floor.  Couples would dance from time to time but nothing was planned.  The music was mostly c/w though not exclusively so.  A local tropical bird held court on its perch, screeching from time to time as it flapped its clipped wings and peppered the air with colorful Terran phrases.  This was manana at its finest, millions of miles from Earth.

McCoy eyed the large stuffed local version of a game fish that hung over the bar.  "Yeah you do, Jim.  Just not yet.  By tomorrow night you'll be climbing the walls."

The quiet pre-sunset atmosphere was shattered by the sound of a vintage motorcycle thundering up the road towards the bar.

"Would you look at that?" McCoy asked, indicating the bike as it pulled into the lot.  "That's really living.  What I wouldn't give to be that lucky son of a bitch."

Kirk eyed the couple sitting on the vehicle.  They were both dressed like typical bike aficionados:  jeans, cowboy boots, leather jackets, helmets and sunglasses.  He saw the woman slide her hands down past the driver's hips as she prepared to dismount.  For a split second, he possessively covered them with his own.  It was very clear what their agenda was.  The bike ride was just foreplay.  Kirk shook his head sadly.  If only.

The couple was now standing, about to remove their helmets.  Before that happened, the male leaned over and gave the female a kiss.  It was brief, but a scorcher.  McCoy snorted.  "Look at her.  All long legs and great ass.  They used to say the right bike was a magnet to women.  Now I believe it."

"There but for the grace of Starfleet goes any of us.  Still, it's nice to dream."

The male removed his helmet first.  McCoy choked.

"Jim!  That's Spock!"

"Bones, you've had too much ... sun?"  Kirk meant to shoot his friend down in flames but was instead was rendered speechless by the sight of his ACMO removing her own helmet and shaking her hair out luxuriously.  His stolid Vulcan First Officer then gave it a sensual comb with his fingers, took his wife's hand and walked with her towards the entrance.

"Holy ^*&(#_&+!"

"Can they see us Bones?" Kirk asked, not sure of what to do.

"Naah.  We're around the corner from their vision.  What now?"

"Let's just see what happens.  Wouldn't want to intrude on their evening now, would we?"

"But we don't want to look like we're spying on them, Jim!"

Kirk signaled the waitress.  This would require fortitude.

From their vantage point, the two accidental interlopers watched, fascinated, as the couple entered the bar.  Both took off their sunglasses and leather jackets.  It was difficult to decide what was more astonishing, the sight of the First Officer in an earth colored t shirt that read "Monument Valley: Older than Dirt", or his wife in a plain white one, tied up under her midriff, exposing a suntanned washboard of abs above her jeans.

They further observed as the couple sat down at the bar.  Spock talked to the bartender for a moment, then appeared to hand over his keys.  A moment later their drinks arrived.

"I never knew Chris was that fit," Kirk said, surreptitiously eying what was obvious.

"Never mind that, Jim! Spock's drinking a beer!"

"Bones, he's drunk stronger stuff than that," Kirk sighed.  No wonder Spock married Chris, he thought.  The woman was hot.

"Out of a bottle?"

Sure enough, the Vulcan was swigging the brew right out of the longneck, as was his wife.  The couple was seated side by side, their knees touching, obviously lost in each other's presence.  Spock's normally impassive expression was much softer, though he was not showing much outward emotion except with his eyes.  They were devouring his companion.  To those who knew him well, it was quite a revelation.

"It is their honeymoon, Bones," Kirk said a little wanly.  He shook his head against his speculation.  His First Officer had that waiting for him every night?  No wonder he'd become so ... mellow once they became a couple.

"Yeah sure, Jim.  I don't remember his father ever acting that way in public with his mother.  What's gotten into him?"

"I don't know, but I'm not sure it's such a bad thing."

The couple got up after awhile and wandered over to the jukebox.  As they passed the bird, it flapped its wings and gave an appreciative wolf whistle.  "Hot tamale!  Hot tamale!" it croaked.  Christine laughed.  Spock, however, leaned over to the feathered creature and said something to it.

"Did you see the look Spock gave?  He was about to laugh, Jim, I swear it."

"Bones, take it easy on the hooch, huh?"  Kirk rolled his eyes.  But even he knew the CMO had seen the same thing he did.

"You don't think that Vulcan knows how to dance, do you, Jim?"  The couple was now scrolling through the jukebox selections.  McCoy was still thinking this was some kind of alcohol induced nightmare.  So he ordered another drink.  He'd injected himself and Jim with the necessary antidote, and both knew they had many more rounds ahead of them.  Besides, this was way too much fun.  Dangerous, but fun.

"He does, you know that.  We've seen them dance before.  What's so special about this?'

"It just seems so ... weird."

Over at the jukebox, Christine leaned back into her husband and spoke softly.

"We have company," she said.

"If you are indicating Jim and your superior, I am well aware of that."

"Now what do we do? Should we leave?"

"Why would we leave?"  She could feel his genuine surprise through their link.

"Because they've seen us acting ... out of character."

"As husband and wife out for an evening?  This occurs countless times each day across the galaxy.  T'hyla, you are worrying overmuch."  He selected a song and punched in the numbers.  "Now let us dance to this.  Then we shall go and be social to our shipmates."

"This?"

"It is one of our favorites, is it not?"  Spock eyed the empty dance floor as he led his wife onto it.  They waited for the song to cue, side by side, his hands holding hers at the shoulder in the classic country western cape style position.

"I don't believe it, Jim.  They are going to dance."

Kirk had given up on his friend's logic some time ago and merely took another gulp of the pause that refreshed.  Of course they were going to dance and it certainly wasn't the first time they'd done so in public.

The song began, an ancient old c/w tune which had been resurrected every half century or so as a part of a film soundtrack.  It was called "Let Your Love Flow" by the Terran duo the Bellamy Brothers and had a catchy, fast tempo.  The couple began moving in tandem just as fast.

"Damn!"  Mc Coy shook his head in grudging admiration.

"What are they doing?" Kirk asked.  His friend, having been raised in the South, was more informed in these things.

"It's called a cowboy cha cha.  But usually done a little slower.  Look at that.  They really can move."

The dance required five different step sequences, all done to a specific beat.  Kirk was beginning to see the couple in an entirely new light.  Not just First Officer and ACMO, but a couple just as in step with each other as they were with the music.  The song changed cadence for a moment.  So did the couple.  If anything, their footwork became more quick and intricate.

"What's that?" Kirk was about to continue when two sets of boot heels came down hard on the wooden dance floor in a loud tandem stomp.

"A ten step.  A damn fast one, too."

They settled back to watch.  The song changed one last time and so did the dancers, segueing into a sexy looking version of a merengue.  The movements were not what made the dance look so hot, however.  It was the fluid energy of the couple and their visual contact.

"He's making love to her with his eyes."

"What did you say, Jim?"

Kirk swallowed the last of his drink.  "I said, er, look at that tropical sky."  He nodded out at the sunset.

"We'd better get out of here," McCoy said.

Too late.

"Gentlemen.  May we join you?"

"Spock!  Chris!  We had no idea you were here.  Sure, sure."  Kirk smiled his best liar's smile and indicated some chairs at their table.  He signaled for the waitress yet again.  His CMO was going to need another drink, if only to keep his jaw from resting on the table.

* * *

 

"And you say the admiral simply left for Temoria?" Spock asked thoughtfully.

He took a very human swig of his beer, his fourth, Kirk noted.  But he wasn't showing any signs of inebriation.  As a matter of fact, none of them were.  Thank god for antitox, he thought.

"Yes, Spock.  He was just gone.  I called over to set up an appointment for the final inspection and got Tom Jackson instead.  The inspection will be a breeze.  Tom's an old friend." Kirk dug into their second plate of nachos of the evening.

"That's a relief," Christine sighed, thankful for the odd happening.  Kirk had been very upset with the previous turn of events and she knew her husband was concerned as well.  Now they could all relax and enjoy their shore leave.

"An' he took that jackassed little sh** of a clerk with him, too!" McCoy crowed.  "Outta here like bats out of hell."

"Len!" Christine narrowed her eyes in one of her classic postures of amused displeasure.

The physician had neglected to heal himself.  Kirk eyed his CMO amusedly.  Or maybe he'd just been drinking more.

Spock raised an eyebrow, contemplating the possibilities that the conversation with his father had somehow led to the abrupt departure of Admiral Mendez.  He allowed himself the most un Vulcan feeling of smug satisfaction.

* * *

 

"Hey folks, I hate to interrupt your little party but it's way past closing time."  The bartender stood before them, his feathered companion now perched on his shoulder.

"Nitey nite, nitey nite," it said obligingly.

Christine turned to the very amusing bird.  It cocked its head at her.  "Gimmie a kiss, baby."  She shook her finger at the colorful little character.  "Naughty, naughty," she admonished.

The group got up, somewhat reluctantly and realized it was nearly 0400.  Spock took out his communication device and spoke into it as Kirk settled the tab, at his insistence.  They walked outside into the tropical night, lit only by the stars and a slender new moon, one of two the planet had.

"I forgot to call a shuttlecab," Kirk suddenly said.

"That is no problem, Jim.  Christine and I have transportation at our disposal.  After we are dropped at our accommodation, the driver will gladly take you back to your resort.  And we shall see you back on board the day after tomorrow, then."  Spock was still showing no signs of the evening's imbibing.  Neither was his wife.  Kirk envied his First Officer, for he knew the couple's own evening was far from over.

A moment later, several meters worth of gleaming black flitter pulled up in the rapidly lightening dawn.  Spock opened the doors.  "Shall we depart, then?"

Kirk and McCoy took in the vehicle's interior.  Dove grey leather, darker carpeting, recessed lighting and what looked like a well appointed minibar.  They looked at each other, then at their companions.  Spock had his arm around his wife, as any couple might be behaving.  Nothing outrageous, it just seemed ... logical.  The conversation was easy and light, mostly anecdotes about crew doings at the resorts down island.

"Ah, here we are," Spock said as the flitter pulled up to the gated entrance and was admitted by the uniformed guard.  It swiftly traversed the winding roads before stopping once again at the beach house.

"Well, gentlemen, good evening then.  Or is it morning?"  Spock gave their shipmates a coolly amused raised eyebrow.  "Enjoy the rest of your shore leave."  Then he tapped the flitter twice and watched with his wife as it drove off.

Inside the limo, for that it was it was, two sets of stunned eyes looked at each other.

"Bones ... do you know where we are?"

McCoy only nodded, still unable to find his voice.

Suddenly it all fell into place for Kirk.  The strange disappearance of Admiral Mendez.  Spock had mentioned his father arranged...accommodation for himself and Chris on the island.  Some accommodation.  He'd only seen pictures of the estate from official photos but he knew who it belonged to.  The light began to dawn, just as the sunrise was starting to paint pink streaks on the horizon.

He opened the bar, wondering if he could--

"Do help yourself, Captain."  The driver's voice came over the intercom.

Kirk poured two neat Aldebaran whiskeys and handed one to McCoy.

"To Sarek, Bones."

"To Sarek.  And that son of his, too."

* * *

 

The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

"Were you really jealous of a bird, Commander?"  Christine snickered as she splashed away from her husband.

Spock overcame his wife swiftly, pulling her back into his embrace in the warm ocean waters.  Vulcans not being able to swim indeed, he thought.

"I was not jealous, Doctor."  He cocked an eyebrow at her, his eyes sparkling with the sunrise that was painting the skies beyond them.

"Then what did you tell it?"  Her hand slid down his chest under the tideline, looking for something.  She was being deliberately naughty and loving it.

"I merely informed the creature that although I shared its ... opinion of my wife, I would prefer he keep it between ourselves and not broadcast it to the entire establishment."

She laughed against his chest, recalling the comical sight of her husband sternly addressing the feathered instigator.  "So you think I'm a hot tamale, then?  Have you ever had a tamale?"

"No," he growled, resuming his own tactile exploration, "but I intend to right now."  He paused, a feigned look of amazement crossing his features.  "You are wet, Doctor."

"So are you, Commander," she whispered as he leaned them back against the dock.  "We're in the ocean, remember?"  Her legs wrapped purposefully around his back and she succumbed to the sexual tension that had been flaring between them the entire previous night.

Had they really stayed up all evening with Jim and Len?  That was a first.  But as soon as they got back to the house, though, their clothes swiftly disappeared at the thought of a sexy early morning ... swim.  Of course it started on the dock with ... appetizers, but then they slid into the azure tropical sea, as sensual as any caress on naked skin.

She opened her eyes and looked at her husband's face, its features straining with the release that was about to overtake them both.  "I love you," she whispered, just before she wrapped her arms around his shoulders and gave herself over to the familiar explosion of warmth.

* * *

 

"I still can't believe your father taught you how to ride a motorcycle," Christine said drowsily.  They'd finally crawled out of the ocean and made it up to the deck's comfortable daybed for some much needed rest.

"He did, my love.  And right here, when I was a teenager.  He thought it might be a useful skill to have someday, should I follow in his footsteps as a diplomat.  Apparently he had been called upon to participate in that activity himself during his duties."  He yawned, his eyelids heavy too.

Spock drew his arm more firmly around his wife, enjoying the peace that was settling over them.  There would be so little time for this on board the ship, so he was determined to store up treasures for the long weeks ahead.

A sunbeam found its way over the sleeping lovers, lulling them further into their dreams.

* * *

 

Spock turned the motorbike from the highway onto a side road and down onto a bluff.  An ancient diner, pure 1930's Terra, stood there, its parking lot half full.  It was a popular spot for meals as well as the view, still a good fifteen miles from the main center of the resorts and part of a local fishing community called Serenity.

The riders dismounted and stowed their helmets then swiftly converted their trousers into hiking shorts.  They walked over to a nearby coffee cart and got two iced Vulcan mochas and then wandered down a marked trail leading to some spectacular overlooks just below the summit.

"This is so beautiful," Christine sighed as they sat, contemplating the waves breaking on the rocky shore far below.  "It's like Big Sur, but tropical.  Different, yet the same."  She turned and gave a nearby pointed ear a nuzzle.  "I'm glad I wished on that falling star."

"I am also extremely pleased you did so, my wife," Spock agreed.  "Although I might add I, too made my own wish.  My mother taught me that custom long ago, though she stated that the star must be seen far from one's home in order for the wish to truly come true."  His tongue slowly traced a line down the back of his wife's neck as he pulled her more tightly into his lap.

"What did you wish for?" she asked, realizing something had come between them.  A shiver ran through her but she was far from cold.

"For some more times like this," he replied, his voice low with desire, "and, somehow, for what happened on the Enterprise.  As illogical as that may have been."

The Enterprise.  The shiver became a flame as she recalled the unbelievably decadent romp they'd had on the ship's bridge, just the two of them, before they left for shore leave.  Could she ever look at her husband there again and not see him naked, thrusting into her a final time as they both gave over to release? Or hear his voice trailing off into a moan of pleasure as he came, mingling with her own cries of release....?

"Christine."

His voice was a whisper of sensuality in her ear.  Obviously, he'd been reading her thoughts, because she suddenly had a vision of herself being ... stimulated in Jim's chair.  Her cheeks flamed.  Thank goodness the maintenance crew promised to give the bridge a thorough going over, as it alone had received fifteen individual aesthetics demerits during inspection.

"Yes, my love?"  But she already knew what he would say next.  He did.

"I want you."

"Spock."  She gave a halfhearted attempt at a sigh.  "You just had me before we left, in the shower, remember?  And then there was our little dawn ocean excursion.  What's gotten into you?"  Despite the past month, the concept of a horny Vulcan was still delightfully alien to her.  It was as though they were back in the first, heady days of their new relationship, when he'd wanted to experience all of its more physical attributes, as often as possible, it seemed.

"So far as I am concerned, we are still on our honeymoon, my wife."  He let his hands traverse her waist, slowly wandering away in opposite directions.  "And I was doing some research on this custom before we departed for this shore leave."  She could feel his amusement, punctuated with pulses of desire.

"And what did you learn?"  She leaned back against his neck and gave herself over to the pleasure coursing through their link.

"That we are acting exactly as any honeymoon couple should be acting."  His hands grew bolder.  "Th'yla, we shall not have many opportunities as this once we return to active duty.  Should we not make use of what time we have left accordingly?"  An eyebrow raised as if punctuating the statement.

Christine turned in his lap and hungrily claimed the kiss waiting on his lips.  But she stopped his outward exploration of her own body, instead concentrating on his.  She felt his surprised pleasure a moment later when her hand undid the waistband of his shorts.

"This is for you, my husband."  Her voice purred in his ear like a throb.  "Let yourself go for me.  You know I like it."  She stroked him from base to tip, slowly at first, then increased her movements.  "Do you like it as well?"

But she already knew the answer.  In situations like this, his human side was the winner every time.  He was speeding towards his end, oblivious to anything but her touch and her words.  With a groan, fell against her shoulder as he shuddered into release, his harsh cry lost among the waves' crashes below.

Christine let him doze in her lap for a few moments, savoring the innocence in his features when he slept.  Yes, it was true.  Times like these would be few and far between for a long time to come.  She traced one of his upswept brows with her finger and then leaned down to give it a feather light kiss.

A pair of arms held her fast as a hot Vulcan mouth sought her own.  There was no doubt as to her husband's intentions, given the movement of his tongue against hers.  She felt heat pulse like a bolt of electricity from her lips to her center.

But voices could be heard on the trail above them so the lovers jumped apart and rearranged things.  By the time the hikers made their way down the trail, she and Spock were finishing their somewhat watered down iced mochas and watching the seabirds.

"Not now, not here," she whispered once they were alone again.  She could sense his disappointment mingling with her own.  "Tonight.  You can have me that way all night if you want, my love."  And then, feeling incredibly wanton, she slid a hand beneath her own shorts and drew a moist finger across his mouth, her thoughts brazen.  "A preview."

Spock took the digit with a sensual pursing of his lips.  "Tonight, then, wife," he whispered back.

There was still a very long day left ahead of them.  The delightful resonance of sexual promise began to pulse back and forth across their link.

* * *

 

"Nothing like biscuits and sausage gravy after an all nighter, Jim," McCoy said as they tucked into their very late breakfast.

"You're right there Bones." Kirk yawned as he brought a forkful of huevos rancheros to his lips.  The salsa burned the last cobwebs out of his sleep fuddled brain.  "But I'm planning to have a long siesta on the beach after this back at our hotel.  Duty calls tomorrow, you know."

"What time is callback for the senior staff?"

"20:00.  The crew are due back at 22:00, and full inspection is at 12:00 the next day.  We leave orbit soon afterwards, if all goes well."  Kirk was still wondering if Spock had said something that precipitated Mendez's departure.  But how?  He never know.  But he did know that Sarek was a pretty strong ally, he decided, glad that the old rift between father and son seemed to be healed at last.

He was stunned when the object of his musings suddenly appeared, with his wife, at the edge of the parking lot.  They'd obviously been hiking on the trails below, which Kirk himself knew to be very scenic.  But he did not want to call attention to them so, his eyes hidden behind his sunshades, he merely watched as they deposited their drinks containers in a nearby bin and then headed over to the parked bike.  They looked like any ordinary couple.  The Vulcan was holding his wife's hand in a loose grasp but besides that, it seemed to be business as usual.  Though behind those sunglasses, Kirk wondered, who really knew?

"Look, Jim!"

Kirk decided to play dumb.  "What Bones?  That waitress?  I saw her first."  He stabbed a forkful of hashbrowns.

"No, look!  Over there! It's Sp--"

The CMO was pointing so obviously that Kirk reached out his own arm and stopped his actions.

"Bones, c'mon.  They're still on their honeymoon.  Not much time left, right?  Let's leave them be.  It's a small island, you know.  We're bound to run into them."

The pair watched the Vulcan and his wife swiftly re-convert their hiking shorts and gear up in helmets.  A moment later the cycle's engine throbbed to life and they were gone in a spray of dust and gravel, down the road in a loud vroooom.

"Vulcan on a Motorcycle," McCoy cackled, referring tongue in cheek to the late 20th century film with a similar title.  "Who'd believe it?"

Kirk watched the bike make its way down the coast road towards the resort area.  He was pleased that his friend finally decided to follow his heart, and was even more pleased to have been his confidante during the decision process.

* * *

 

"CHRIS!"

A shrill feminine greeting cry cut through the humid tropical afternoon.  Christine was then engulfed by her two best Enterprise friends in a flurry of female hugs and kisses.

Spock observed the meeting ritual with a raised eyebrow.  This was going to be the true test of their acceptance as a couple, he realized.  He wiggled his toes in his new boat shoes, bought in San Francisco on Sloat's recommendation of the footwear.  His legs were bare in his shorts, something most of his shipmates never saw unless they chanced upon him in the gym.  He and Christine had changed to resort wear after they dropped the motorcycle off at the rental agency.  The sensation was still new, although he'd been attired this way for nearly their entire time on Terra.  But this was not Terra, and these were shipmates.  Fascinating.

"Good to see you, sir," Greg Dillon said at his elbow.

Spock turned to regard the two males standing next to him.  He was extremely relieved to see they were clad as he was, tropical casual.  In fact, Dillon sported a Vulcan Heat t-shirt.

"Yes, sir, good to have you back, commander," Ade M'Benga added.

"Gentlemen, I am pleased to be back as well, and I surmise the ladies are likewise happy to see my wife."  He indicated the group of women, who were chattering like the brightly plumed birds native to the island.  Spock could hear snippets of phrases he was now extremely well acquainted with.

"And we should go ROLLERBLADING!" Kala declared.  "The skate path is AWESOME!"

"And then SHOPPING!  The mall's so AMAZING..." Nyota enthused.

A look of long suffering, amused resignation passed from male to male.  They prepared to accept their fate, and the depletion of credits which accompanied these excursions.

A moment later, the females had made their pronouncement.  Christine was going to be held hostage by them for the next four hours or so, so the boys were left to their own devices.  They'd all meet up at the bar later.  And then they were gone at warp speed before anyone could get the proverbial word in edgewise.

"I had a feeling that might happen," Greg Dillon said with a laugh.  "If you sirs would care to accompany me?"

* * *

 

"Now this is much more like it," Dillon drawled.

"You have that right," M'Benga agreed.  "Sometimes a man's got to do what a man's got to do."  He prepared to cast his line back off the dock where the three of them were sitting in the late afternoon's sunlight.

"Indeed, I agree."  Spock regarded the lure in his hand.  "These are exceptionally well made flies, gentlemen.  Were they purchased locally?"  With a practiced arm he, too, cast his line into the turquoise waters.

"Ade, er, Dr. M'Benga and I made them ourselves, sir," Dillon replied, indicating the tackle box of colorful lures.  "The fish here seem to prefer these rather than conventional bait.  Kind of odd, that.  I'm used to the Gulf of Mexico and it's sure not like here when it comes to fishing."  He took a swig of his beer.

"We chanced upon this unusual place just down the beach from here," M'Benga continued, pointing at a building resembling the beach bar at World's End.  "It's called the Bait and Tackle Inn.  At night it's a regular bar with live music, where we're headed later.  But during the day, it serves as a gathering place for ... like minded souls."

"He means guys who've been dumped, sir," Dillon explained, a trifle sheepishly.  "We found it on day one.  The girls headed straight for the spa as soon as we arrived.  Field research, Kala calls it."  He jiggled the line.  "And so we had nothing to do but tie lures and fish.  It's been a good few days, if you ask me, sir."

"We also did some fishing in Kwil'nor, Commander," M'Benga said.  "On the day trip that Stark organized.  The ladies ... went off to something called the sand baths in the late afternoon?"  He gave Spock a questioning glance.

"Yes, those are a very popular attraction," Spock agreed.  "And the fishing at the Sea of Voroth is much the same as here.  Catch and release, done largely for the soothing character of the activity."  He looked over at Dillon.  "Could you hand me a beverage, please?"

"Certainly sir," Dillon passed the bottle over.  "It's non alcoholic, though.  I figured that was best for now, though the bar has some great microbrewed varieties, the real thing...er..."  He faltered into silence.

The silence grew, and became a bit uncomfortable.  Spock decided to take the initiative.

"It appears, gentlemen, we have what is commonly known as a quandary," he said thoughtfully, taking a drink from the longneck.  He could feel two sets of somewhat amazed eyes on him.

"Is something wrong, sir?  Would you like a glass for your beer?" Dillon appeared flustered.

"Is this activity not to your liking, Commander?" M'Benga chimed in.  "There is chess available back at the hotel, if you prefer that."

He raised an amused eyebrow.  "I enjoy fishing and I prefer to drink beer from the bottle at times like this, so no, your concerns are not of any merit.  I was thinking instead of a social question."  He paused for another luxurious swig, then turned to his companions.  "It is clear our partners are very close friends.  Thus, it appears logical to surmise we shall spend time with each other in the future, which is fine with me.  The issue, however remains.  How do we address each other off duty, in a situation such as this one?"

"Sir, you are a Commander and Dr. M'Benga is a Lt. Commander," Dillon sputtered, obviously taken aback by the frank talking Vulcan.  "I'm just a Lieutenant.  So we should address each other as on duty, correct?"

Spock looked thoughtful.  "But my wife does not address her friends by their rank.  In fact, your companion is not even a Starfleet member, but a private contractor.  Yet Christine calls them all by their names, as they do with her.  So, I ask again, how would you prefer I address you?"

"Sir?" Dillon asked again.

"I am not a peer of the realm, Mr. Dillon.  I may be a Commander, as my wife is, but off duty, we go by our given names."  And a few others, he thought, fighting to keep an eartip from flushing.

"You may call me Ade, or Geoff," M'Benga finally said, then took a large gulp of his own beer to keep from adding the usual 'Mr. Spock, sir.'

"Very well, Ade.  And you?"  The Vulcan's gaze returned to the junior officer.

"Greg's fine," he mumbled, remembering the jam sessions on board when Spock had joined in.  The music was great but the players were mortified of setting a foot wrong.  Maybe things would be different now.  Of course, it would still be sir then, Greg realized.

"Good.  Now I shall leave it to you.  You may refer to me as you've heard other senior officers do, simply 'Spock', or you may continue to call me as you do on duty, though to be honest, I find that somewhat illogical." Memories of their honeymoon trip came back.  No one called him Mr. Spock, he realized, but then, these were shipmates, not strangers.  "I trust your judgment to discern when it will be appropriate to do so."

"Do you have a first name?" Dillon dared to ask.

M'Benga snickered.  "You probably couldn't pronounce it, Greg.  Trust me, I learned that during my time on Vulcan."  Then he looked to his left, somewhat embarrassed at having spoken for the Vulcan.

"Ade is quite correct, Greg.  Only a Vulcan could pronounce it correctly, and it is quite long, anyway.  Now that the issues is settled, shall we continue with this most pleasant activity before the females claim us once again?  I surmise it is nearly time to join them." Spock cast his line out once more and the atmosphere settled back to its original calm.  A surprised calm, but calm.

"Speaking of the girls," Greg finally said.  "I reckon Ade and I have you to thank for our present situation."

"Indeed?"  Spock raised another curious eyebrow.  "In what way?"

"Greg means that your own relationship with Christine allowed us to interact with her friends.  It led to very pleasant consequences.  And to us becoming friends as well ... Spock."  He held up his beer.  "So I propose a toast.  To more afternoons like this one."

Three bottles clinked in the gathering sunset.

* * *

 

"Oooh, we have to go in here, Chris.  It's just outrageous!"  Christine's friends steered her through the door of an improbably named shop called "The Mistress' Lair."

Inside the store it was like a medieval chamber of pleasure ... and pain.  An astonishing range of clothing, accessories and furnishing covered every inch of the space and their use was quite obvious.

Kala and Nyota quickly moved off to look at a wide assortment of sexual accessories such as edible undies, flavored massage oil and other, less subtle items.  Christine browsed through the aisles, her cheeks flaming deep red.  What would Spock say if he knew she was here?

An item of clothing caught her attention.  It was so wildly sensual she just had to touch the smooth leather.  A shiver ran through her as she imagined Spock's pleasure at seeing her in it.  Somehow she knew he would enjoy it.  Then her eyes wandered up to a slinky cotton top with a subtle message printed above the left breast.  She blushed again, knowing she had to try the combination on.  To cover her embarrassment, she grabbed an all purpose silk wrap robe and headed over to her friends, saying she wanted to try some things on.

A few minutes later, a wantonly sexual woman looked back at her from the mirror.  It was obvious from the brief garments that her recently acquired suntan went all the way down ... and all the way up.  Heady memories of their idle lovemaking in the warm tropical sunshine flowed, causing familiar heat to pool between her thighs.  An idea formed.

She slid a hand under the garment, seeking the warmth of her body for the second time that day.  After a moment's exploration she drew a finger to her mouth and sucked it suggestively, pulsing her need through the link she shared with her husband.

At that moment, Spock was indulged in a leisurely discussion of the merits of live bait versus lures with his companions when a feeling of intense desire washed through his being.  He immediately realized it was his wife.  Her need for him was so great he could taste her sweetness on his tongue.

Fortunately for him, Dillon's line jiggled just then with an actual fish caught and in the ensuing melee, Spock was able to will his body back to normal.  He did think ahead to the evening, however.

Back in the dressing room, Christine was divesting herself of the garments she intended to buy.  A startling sensation hit her.  A gentle bite in precisely the correct part of her anatomy.  She smiled.  So he had been paying attention.  With a happy little shiver of delight, she gathered the items together and headed off to the checkout counter.

* * *

 

"So, Bones, looks like this is a nice place to escape the crew for our last night," Kirk remarked as they entered the atmospheric old bar.  The colony had obviously been settled by Jimmy Buffet wannabees, he decided.  And tonight, he planned to waste away in margaritaville one last time.

"Oh for the love of--" McCoy swore.

Kirk turned to his CMO.  "What's up?" he asked honestly.

McCoy pointed to the far corner of the bar where three familiar figures were seated at a table.  Their animated conversation was apparent, as well as the colorful drinks they were consuming.  And just behind them, three equally familiar figures were seen.

"Bones, what's wrong?" Kirk repeated, concerned at his friend's annoyance.

"That damned Vulcan!  We can't escape him.  I've had enough!"  McCoy turned to leave.

"Now Bones, c'mon.  Let's go upstairs.  They'll never see us and we can still have an enjoyable evening."  Kirk silently cursed his CMO's undue fascination with the first Officer's marital status.  It was a done deal so far as he was concerned.  They quickly found a table which afforded a secluded view of the bar below and settled down to some drinking.

"Look, Jim.  They're playing darts!"  McCoy was determined to give a running commentary of the evening.

Kirk gave a glance downstairs and confirmed the three males were indeed partaking of a darts match.  What of it, he wondered?  He wandered his gaze over to their female companions, who seemed enraptured with the guitarists' rendition of "The First Cut is the Deepest."  It was just another shore leave night, Kirk decided.

"I bet that Vulcan is giving an aerodynamic tutorial," McCoy said as he had a sip of his drink.

From his vantage point, Kirk noticed his friend merely ascertained the scores and marked them on the traditional chalkboard, then took his place at the line for his own round.  Maybe this would take some getting used to, he decided, but the Vulcan was beginning to look like one half of an ordinary married couple.  Kirk shrugged and concentrated on his Finagle's Folly.  His last night on shoreleave was not going to be spent speculating on the sex life of the First Officer and the ACMO.  It was fairly obvious to him they were adults and fully aware of their actions.

* * *

 

Spock and Christine bade an early goodnight to their companions.  It was obvious they were wanting to use their last night of shore leave the best way possible.  There was no doubt what was on the departing couple's minds.  They watched them go, realizing their evening would end in the same way.

"The driver of the limo states he will be here in approximately twenty minutes," Spock informed his wife.  "Apparently we shall have a passenger with us on the journey back to our accommodation.

"Who?" Christine asked as she finished her drink, grateful she'd injected the both of them with antitox as a precaution.  The drinks here were good, strong...and deadly.  She knew, because she'd been talking shop with the bartender for awhile.

"Obviously, a friend of President Jarod," Spock replied.  "But I do not know who, or where this person is headed." He indicated the musician at her podium who'd just announced a song.  "Shall we dance, my wife?"

"Mmmm," she replied, allowing herself to be led onto the dance floor.

* * *

 

"I don't believe it!  They're gonna dance again, Jim!"  McCoy swigged his drink with a vengeance, hardly able to contain his glee.

Kirk sighed and decided he was hungry.  He envied them.  It was very clear they were going to have a much more enjoyable evening then he was.

"Bones ... Bones..."  He shook his head.  It would be pointless to argue with his friend.

* * *

 

The singer began an acoustic version of an old Terran classic.  Spock pulled his wife close against him, his face next to hers, and began to sway with her to the music.

"When I'm feeling blue, all I have to do is take a look at you And then I'm no so blue When you're close to me, I can feel your heartbeat, I can feel you breathing in my ear Wouldn't you agree, baby you and me Got a groovy kind of love...."

* * *

 

Kirk watched the couple below, amazed at the picture presented to the galaxy at large.  Neither dancer was expressing any obvious emotion, yet their closed eyes and quietly romantic demeanor was more erotic than if they'd been dancing naked.  He could not fault the First Officer or the ACMO.  No suggestive dance movements, just the simple pleasure of a husband and wife, who were obviously very much in love with each other, dancing.  Kirk did see the smoldering depth of their relationship, though.  It was there, just below the surface.  But you had to look for it.

"Any time you want to, you can turn me on to, Any time at all...  When I kiss your lips, ooh I start to shiver, Can't control the quivering inside Wouldn't you agree, baby you and me, Got a groovy kind of love..."

Kirk ordered some bar snacks to soak up the hooch they were slugging, determined to keep his CMO's speculations on the success of the couple's marriage at the minimum.

* * *

 

The driver held the door open for the couple, who climbed inside the limo forthwith.

"Ahh, good evening, Commander, Doctor."  Admiral Tom Jackson greeted them with a warm smile.

Spock and his wife gave each other the slightest glance of surprise.  But not at who their companion was, rather at his attire.  He wore a tropical style shirt, khaki trousers and boat shoes.

"And here I thought I'd be riding to the Starfleet Guest House by myself.  This is an unexpected treat."  He opened the minibar.  "And since I happen to know you two have just recently been married, there's no excuse for your not joining me in a glass of champagne."  He proficiently popped the cork off a bottle and poured out drinks.

Despite the man's rank, conversation flowed smoothly among them.  He had about a day and a night's worth of leave, he said, and planned to go on a deep sea fishing trip off World's End before the Enterprise inspection and everyone's subsequent departure for Temoria.  A native of Gallup, New Mexico, he was also interested in the details of the couple's recent travels.  It was quite clear he was well acquainted with Council President Jarod, Ambassador Sarek, and the odious Admiral Mendez.  Before long, the flitter drew up at his destination and he was gone, with goodbyes and promises of a fair inspection.

"That was a surprise," Christine admitted as she settled back into her husband's arm.  They had been sitting on opposite ends of the seat during the half hour drive, fearful of giving the wrong impression, but it was clear the older man paid little notice.  If only all Starfleet brass were as accommodating, she thought, recalling irritating Mendez.

"Indeed."  Spock let his hand wander down to caress his wife's waist, then drop onto her leg.  Subtly, his fingers began to thrum a pattern on her thigh.

*We CAN'T.  You KNOW who this limo belongs to!"

*I am aware of that, my wife, else I would at this moment be on my knees in front of you.*

Christine felt her face flush, as well as something else.  Her husband's long, warm fingers soon began investigating the wisp of lacy underpants which were beneath her short skirt.  In short order, he negotiated that barrier.

*Spock, NO!  What if the driver sees us?*

*He cannot discern anything other than the fact your head is upon my shoulder.  Now will you please relax and allow events to progress naturally?*

*If you don't stop, I'm going ... to come.*  Pent up sexual desire was throbbing along their link.

*I have no plans to cease what I am doing.*

* * *

 

The driver, who'd been discreetly in the service of Federation President Jarod since before he was on the Council, wondered about the couple.  It was clear they were hot for each other, yet they were behaving in a very subdued manner.  Even his slowing to just over minimum speed did nothing.  He'd fully expected them to start acting on their desire, but had no qualms or cares about the matter.  After all, the President's son and some friends had been here recently for his university spring break.  Oh, the goings on.  Compared to that, this was about as exciting as watching paint dry.  Maybe it was true about Vulcans being devoid of any emotion whatsoever, he decided as he pulled into the guest house drive.  He was somewhat gratified to see the male place his hand firmly on his companion's shapely posterior as they walked up the stairs.

* * *

 

Spock finished lighting some candles on the patio and then settled onto the daybed, looking out onto the ocean with its dancing phosphorescent waves.  He'd just finished meditating and had taken a brief plunge in the rock pool to refresh himself.  He stretched out his frame and let a relaxed sigh escape him.  The balmy winds played over his naked skin with an almost erotic caress.

Christine had firmly ordered him off to his meditation as soon as they arrived, stating he'd missed it the previous night, and she was not about to take responsibility for leading a Vulcan astray.  Her voice was full of good natured humor, however, and she gave him a kiss, then went off to indulge herself in a bubble bath.  She was correct, he did need the meditation, but now, his thoughts wandered to sharing the tub with his wife.  They'd done this a few times on their Terran journey, and the concept of playing hide and seek with her now suntanned flesh and the frothy bubbles was a very pleasant one indeed.  Oh well, there was still tomorrow morning to indulge in that activity, he decided.

Tomorrow.  Back to reality, duty and everyday mundanity.  Except now his wife was there as his partner to share everything.  Oh, she'd been living with him for some months before their wedding, but as far as he was concerned, it wasn't quite the same.  Now things would be complete.  And tonight ... yes, tonight.  He smiled.  He would make good on the promise she'd given.  He'd felt her fulfillment in the limo but knew it was only the start of a breaking dam.  A shiver coursed through his body as he imagined her on the bed here, open and exposed to him.  How much he'd learned to enjoy this simple act of foreplay, as Terrans called it.  To him, though, it was more.  The subtle changes in her essence as she approached her peak, the warmth that became volcanic just as she would begin to writhe, the little gasp that always tore from her throat before her fulfillment washed through them both, her nectar flowing over his tongue.  The sound of her cries always aroused him close to his limit because at times he almost didn't believe she could be experiencing such rapture because of him.

And then, when she was spent and languorous in his embrace, he would take her, slowly, deliberately, completely until the waves engulfed them both.  He planned to draw out the pleasure as long as possible, grateful that here there would be no red alerts, raiding marauders, equipment malfunctions or early shifts to interrupt their lovemaking.  This was the final night of their honeymoon and he intended to put it to very good use.  It was only logical.

"Spock."

Her voice whispered to him even as he felt her presence through their link.  He looked up to see her standing before him.  His eyes widened and he was aware of a sudden throbbing rush in his groin.  He'd never seen such an erotic sight in his life.  It was some moments before he trusted his voice.

"Christine ... where did you...acquire your garments?"  He let his hand stroke her waist then drop down to caress the smooth leather covering her center.

"I saw this in a little shop," she purred as she gazed down at him.  "Do you like what you see?"

Spock allowed himself to take in what was being presented.  A short knit top was tied seductively under his wife's suntanned breasts, with the phrase "Lick Me" delicately lettered in a tiny, flowing script under her left shoulder.  He swallowed hard as his gaze wandered lower.  Her shapely hips barely held up a leather looking undergarment which had silverish buckles resting on her sharply defined hipbones.  He could not tear his eyes away from the center, though.  Directly under her navel, a large silver zipper traversed the garment from top to bottom, eventually disappearing from view.  And at the top of the zipper was ... a minute, gleaming ... padlock.

With trembling fingers he touched the object, wondering at its purpose yet feeling more desire flame through him at warp speed.  "Christine?"  His voice was hoarse with wanting her.

"Spock, my love."  She took his hand and stretched it out palm up, then placed a small shiny key on its surface and closed his fingers around it.  It gleamed in the candlelight and he could see it was a mixture of titanium and platinum.

Her smile grew as she sat herself astride him, hot and pulsing with sexual energy.  "I am yours, Spock.  Always.  Know that.  This is ... my way ... of ... showing you."  Her tongue found his nearest ear.  "Am I pleasing to you, my husband?"

With a strangled moan, his mouth claimed hers and they fell backwards onto the bed, eager to explore whatever delights the evening ahead might hold.

* * *

 

"So, Commander ... the honeymoon's over," Christine sighed as they watched the sunrise bring the island to light once more.  Just up the peninsula, the lighthouse blinked sedately as it always had.  "It's time to get married."

"Yes, my love, our duty awaits us as does our married life on board."  His eyes gazed down at the woman in his arms, still bearing remnants of the passion shared under the stars.  A passion that was still very much in evidence, and really always would be, just below the surface.  "But not quite yet," he whispered.

* * *

 

On the planet's surface, it was time for a last beer with lunch before the tedious duty of returning to the ship.

"I dunno, Ade.  I don't think I can ever call him anything but Commander ... or Sir ... it just doesn't feel right."  Greg Dillon looked at his lager thoughtfully.  "Kala feels that way too, I guess, and she's a civilian."

"Relax, Greg.  It just takes some getting used to.  And besides, it's not like we'll be doing it every day.  You'll know when, trust me." He sipped his own beer with a refreshing sigh.  "It was his suggestion, remember.  That means something."

"Yeah, I guess you're right."  He set his glass down.  "You ready?  Where do you think they'll be?"

M'Benga followed his friend back into the mall's cool interior.  "I believe we should check the nearest shoe salon," he suggested with a knowing grin.

"You suppose he ever has problems like this?" Dillon asked evilly.

"Of course.  Did you see the look he gave us when he heard that dreaded word ... shopping?"  The physician shook his head.  "We're brothers together, my friend."

* * *

 

Kirk beamed back aboard at 16:00, eager to be back and to get out of shore leave mode.  He'd left McCoy back at the hotel nursing a monumental hangover.  Scotty greeted him.

"Good to see ye back, sorr," the engineer replied.

"You too, Scotty.  Looks like you got some sun, eh?"  The Scot's face was suntanned and relaxed.

Aye.  I did a little fishin' down there.  Mighty fine pastime, if ye ask me."

"Yeah, Scotty, I agree." Kirk smiled.  "But now it's time to get back to work.  How is she looking so far?"

"Excellent, sorr.  I'll be makin' some inspections later, though.  Just in case."

* * *

 

He knew they were back, the computer gave him a list of the crewmembers already on board.  And it was 17:00, still a few hours before senior staff had its callback.  Yet Kirk had second thoughts about ringing the doorchime.  What if he ... interrupted something?

His fears vanished as the doors whooshed open and his First Officer appeared, his arms full of empty packing cartons.

"Jim!  Hello!"  Spock set the items down next to the door.  "Please, come in.  Christine and I are just finishing the last of the unpacking."

"I was just passing by..." Kirk began, noting his friend wore standard regulation PFT gear, shorts and a tank top.  And he was barefoot.  Life support was just starting to regulate the ship's temperature, so the cabin was still a bit stuffy.

"Hi, Jim!"  Christine appeared and gave Kirk a hug as her husband disappeared into the sleeping alcove.  She was similarly attired, though in a t-shirt, and just as barefoot.  "Excuse our appearance, we've been kind of busy in here.  So much to sort through."

The Vulcan reappeared, a loose cambric shirt now covering his shoulders and sweats replacing the shorts.  "Did you enjoy your shore leave?  Please, have a seat.  We were about to have some fruit slushes.  Would you join us?"

Kirk sat down in the living alcove and took in his surroundings.  The stark Vulcanness of his First Officer's old cabin was now much softer, more lived in.  His traditional decor was still in evidence, but contrasted nicely with new acquisitions.  A fine looking handwoven rug was on the floor, it looked to be Native American.  And on the bookshelf was a collection of interesting items.  He got up and wandered over for a closer look.

"Some things we picked up in our recent travels," Spock said at his shoulder.

Kirk was surprised at the tone of his friend's voice.  In the old days it might have held a touch of disdain.  Not now.  Maybe Chris was having an effect on him.  He did a triple take at a cluster of framed holos.  Pride of place went to a heavy red glass framed shot of his First Officer and wife seated astride the vintage motorbike.

"Here we go," Christine said as she came in with refreshments.  She also handed Kirk a bottle of liquor.  "Special delivery.  Don't drink it all in one place now."

Kirk held up his glass of smoothie.  "To homecomings," he said, meaning every word.

It was good to be back.

* * *

 

As Kirk headed back to his cabin, he had a puzzled smile on his face.  Though his friend had moved quickly, he'd still noticed a mighty fine looking lovebite on the Vulcan's shoulder, regulation PFT tank tops being cut minimally.  But what really piqued Kirk's curiosity was the silver chain around the First Officer's neck.  On it was a small shining key.

* * *

 

"You are wearing my shirt, Commander."  Christine advanced on her prey with a venomously mirthful look in her eyes.

"Your shirt?  This is my shirt, may I remind you, Doctor."  Spock remained as unflappable as ever and continued sorting through the last of the cartons.  "It was you who borrowed it, without permission, I might add."

"Oh yeah, mister?  I can still see the grass stains from the last time I wore it."

At that phrase, he stopped what he was doing.  He, too, recalled the splendid sight of the shirt uncovering more of what it was supposed to be covering that day they'd made love in Big Sur.  In a quick two strides, he was in front of his wife and took the offending garment off and dropped it on the floor.  His tank top followed.

"What are you doing?" she asked, amused.

"We have not yet consummated our union in our marriage bed, my wife."  His arms enfolded her, his hands running down her spine.  It was true.  They'd romped all over the ship, including their shower, but had never made it to the bed.

"Shall we take care of that, then?" she asked, already knowing the answer.

* * *

 

Kirk rang the doorchime and a moment later, his perfectly turned out First Officer stepped into the hall.  It was 20:00 and they were going to do a first walkthrough.  The old Spock was back, that was for sure, Kirk thought.

"Spock.  Ready?  Where's Chris?"

"Christine has been called to the transporter room.  She and her staff will have a triage area of sorts there to assist any crewmembers needing medical attention when they beam aboard."  He raised an amused eyebrow.  "I am sure you know shore leave can produce some ... peculiar maladies."

Kirk nodded with a laugh.  Oh he sure did.  And his CMO might be the first patient.  "So, Spock, shall we go test the nuts and bolts on the old girl?"

"Affirmative, Captain," the Vulcan replied, his hands clasped behind his back.

They headed toward the turbolift in companionable silence.

* * *

 

All Good Things

With just over six hours to go before final inspection, the Enterprise seethed with activity.  Crews had been double and triple checking the ship over all night, working out the bugs that happened every time she called into spacedock.  The aesthetic violations looked to be gone, but a final spit and polish was happening anyway, for good luck.  It was to be full dress uniforms for all crew.  After the inspection, the ship would leave the star base and begin heading to Temoria for the Federation inauguration ceremonies to be held there.

Christine covered a yawn in the turbolift.  Of course, she'd not gotten much sleep.  The little "sickbay triage" in the transporter room had morphed into a full scale clinic in sickbay itself as suffering crewmembers found their way inside.  Sunstroke, sunburn, food poisoning, tummy upsets, sore muscles, abrasions, hangovers, viruses, excessive sexual activity, allergies.  The list of shore leave consequences went on and on.  It was 04:30 before she finally crept back down the corridor to her quarters, only to run into her equally fatigued husband, who'd also been up most of the night fixing errant computer glitches from stem to stern.  They both collapsed for an hour's sleep and then it was right into the fray again.

The doors to sickbay wooshed open and she saw her superior, sitting numbly at his desk, trying to drink a cup of coffee that was so strong the spoon was sticking up in it.  Ade M'Benga was giving him another anti-hangover injection, but by the look of things, the first few hadn't helped much.  What on earth had possessed Len to tie one on the night before an inspection, she wondered?  Jim was most likely fuming.

Christine walked over to her boss, a stern expression on her face.  "I probably shouldn't give you this, Len," she said, indicating the bottle of brandy she held.  "So I'll keep it locked in my office for now until you decide to behave.  Shame on you!"  She handed another bottle of the California vintage to M'Benga.  "A little souvenir, drink it in good health," she instructed.

He smiled broadly.  "And in good company."

"Are you two going to stand there jawboning all day?  There're reports to be written despite this little official disruption to our workday.  Get to work!"  McCoy's good natured grumble was a song to her ears.  A badly sung one, but a song nonetheless.

The morning raced by and it seemed only minutes passed before the entire sickbay staff, dress uniforms on exhibit, awaited the admiral's arrival.  At about 12:30, the doors opened.

"Attention on deck!" Leonard said smartly as they all snapped to.

"Stand down," the Admiral replied as he walked by, greeting each staffer pleasantly.

He was accompanied by a clerk, the Captain and the First Officer.  Christine noticed his suntan.  Fishing must have been good.  The inspection was practically a moot point.  No demerits this time.  As the entourage left, everyone breathed out a collective sigh of relief.

About an hour late, the official announcement came from Kirk.  The Enterprise had passed inspection with the proverbial flying colors and was now on its way.  The entire crew was to be commended for their hard work through the previous night, but there was much to be caught up on after a week's diversion.  And with that, the ship warped out of orbit and headed for its next adventure.

The news brief had barely finished when the stampede of females to sickbay began.  Christine sneaked away to change out of her dress uniform and was greeted on her return by a waiting room full of patients, all for her.  She motioned McCoy and M'Benga to her office.  As soon as the door closed, she practically exploded.

"What's this?  Didn't you run a gyne clinic while I was gone?  My god, I'll be here till next Sunday by the looks of things."  She narrowed her eyes, a sure sign she was livid.  "Come on you two, fess up!"

"Honest Chris, we had one.  But hardly anyone came.  They all wanted to be seen by you."  McCoy looked genuinely apologetic at the turn of events.

"He's right, Chris.  Everyone's been asking when you'd be back, so now they all decided to show up at once.  We'll help you with the preliminary screenings, but looks like you'll be busy the next few days."  M'Benga felt sorry for the ACMO.  Her first day back and now this?

Christine gave them both her best martyr's look and stomped out towards the waiting room, where the afternoon soon melted into the evening.  She did not even notice her husband stop by at one point.  Spock, however, knew her overdrive mode well and recalled the first time he'd encountered it, when the group of Doctor Sevrin's followers had taken over sickbay.  He beat a hasty retreat, not wanting to add to her already full plate.

Spock too was having a busy day.  After inspection, he and Mr. Scott spent several hours on the computer circuits, which seemed to be shorting out periodically down in engineering.  Then Kirk needed him to help submit inspection follow up reports to Starfleet.  The both of them, fearful of any possible repercussions, spent another few hours doing so in minute detail.  Last but not least Uhura's console blew a fuse.  By the time he made his way to his cabin, it was past 21:00 and he was exhausted.  The prospect of a shared hot shower (with perhaps a massage therein as his neck was killing him), some dinner with his wife, and bed seemed very pleasant.  Alpha shift would be upon them again all too soon.

He opened the door to their quarters, but it was dark, save for the firepot.  "Christine?" he asked softly, wondering if she might be asleep already.  But he did not sense her presence.

"Computer, lights," he ordered.  A good look around told him his wife was nowhere in the vicinity.  She must have been there earlier because he could see her dress uniform hanging in the closet, probably just after he'd been back to change as well.  He frowned.  Had she mentioned yoga?  She'd just seen her two best shipboard friends the day before so it was unlikely they'd be with her now.  It was late, 21:30, and concern began to etch its way onto his brow.  He called down to sickbay.

"Sickbay, M'Benga here," came the response.

"Spock here, doctor.  Is Dr. Chapel still there by any chance?"

"I wouldn't know, sir.  I've been dealing with a virus outbreak for the past few hours, so there have been a lot of people through here.  Do you want me to check?"  M'Benga sounded tired.

"Negative, Doctor, I shall be down shortly.  Spock out."

A few minutes later he entered sickbay, where the last few patients were still being seen.  M'Benga automatically injected the Vulcan with an antiviral compound lest he get the head cold virus that was already trying to run through the ship.  Hopefully, the doctor said, it had been contained early.

Spock now stood before his wife's office.  He buzzed.  When there was no reply, he pushed the entry button and went in.  His heart grew soft at the sight that he beheld.  His wife was asleep on her desk, her head pillowed in her arms, on a pile of reports and PADDS.  He walked quietly over to where she slumbered and knelt down next to her, his hand gently stroking the tousled hair off her forehead.

Her eyes fluttered open, then snapped wide at the sight of him only inches from her own face.  "What time is it?" she asked automatically.

Her husband drew her carefully into his arms and kissed her.  "It is time to come home, my love," he replied.

* * *

 

After a week of catchup, the Enterprise arrived at Temoria and a new flurry of official events.  The planet was in the midst of its winter, so the scenery was the exact opposite of the previous stop.  The planet boasted several fine winter sports resorts, and the crew looked forward to at least a day of experiencing some snowy fun, seeing as the ship was there for six days.  Of course, after almost a week's unexpected shore leave, to think of any further time off was ludicrous, but a few dreamed otherwise.

"Greg's taking me away at the weekend to a ski resort," Kala said at lunch one day.  "He says if I'm determined to go to New York, I'd better see real snow first, otherwise I might not be prepared.  I think he's hoping I change my mind."  She sighed.  During Christine's absence, the pair had ratcheted up their relationship considerably.

"He could always transfer to the Starfleet maintenance yards in New York," Christine offered with a sly glance, and was pleased at her friend's reaction.  Obviously, Kala and Greg had discussed this possibility.

"Ade and I are going to stay a night in the capital city to see the opera," Nyota added, "and do the cultural thing.  The Temorians are very sophisticated artists and musicians from what I read.  But what about you and Spock?"

"We'll to see his parents, then, who knows?  We might stay on board and catch up on our paperwork." She smiled again.  "It's not like we haven't been traveling a bit."

"I'll say," Nyota laughed.  "Is there anywhere you two didn't go on your trip through the US?"

"Yes," Christine said wryly.  "New York."

"So now you have an excuse to visit me!" Kala declared.

* * *

 

Christine entered her quarters after yoga, relaxed and beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.  Tomorrow the senior medical staff of all the starships in port would tour the capital's extensive medical center as the guests of the director of its large teaching hospital.

The Federation was anxious that Starfleet medical personnel begin to learn Temorian medical procedures as quickly as possible, as several applicants to the Academy were already under consideration.  They had toured the ship that day.  Temorians balanced their artistic bent with a phenomenal ability at math and physics.  The would be cadets seemed eager to please and hoped to excel at stellar cartography, one of the most strict disciplines within the service.

And then Thursday evening would be the ultra formal celebration.  All senior staff were requested to attend and she was relieved to learn that female officers had the option of wearing the appropriate evening attire rather than a dress uniform.  That was a relief.  After that the weekend.  They'd decided to stay on board to recuperate and catch up on work.  Besides, they'd seen snow in Flagstaff.

She saw her husband seated at his computer terminal.  Both of them had their own workspace in their new quarters.  Spock learned early on this was vitally necessary where his wife's 'lived in' tendencies were concerned, but he never complained.  He almost seemed to enjoy the evidence of her presence.  Besides, she wasn't a slob, just ... overworked.

He gave her that special smile of his and motioned her over to where he was working.  She leaned over to peck him on the brow but instead was surprised to find herself pulled onto his lap and being kissed soundly.

"I have missed you," he said when he at last broke free from investigating her tonsils.

"You too," she sighed, content to sit there and do absolutely nothing.  When they were alone together, they were free to act as ... illogically as the situation warranted, which suited them both fine.  Especially her husband.

Christine glanced over at the framed print she'd bought him in San Francisco, the one the artist called "Study Break" which now hung prominently on the wall next to his station.  And on the desk itself, of all the holos they'd taken on their trip, was a framed view of them at the Grand Canyon, the shot the professional photographer took.  The one where, just a second after the camera snapped, he'd given her their first real public kiss.

"We have a vidgram, my wife.  It came addressed to me, but I believe it is for the both of us.  From your acquaintance Brother Giles, who married us?"

"For the fourth, no fifth time?" she giggled, remembering the wonderful ceremony high above the coast of Big Sur.  "I wonder what it is?"

"Shall we find out?  I waited for you so we could view it together."  He pressed the play button.

A view of the Big Sur panorama came up, taken from a little way up a hill, it seemed.  The sun was setting in the west.  A small group of people was in the foreground, their backs to the camera for the most part, a kind of silhouette shot that was quite beautiful.

Christine frowned.  "That's at the friary's retreat grounds," she finally said, pointing at the hewn redwood cupola framing the group.  "And there's Brother Giles..."  Her eyes looked at the scene.  It was a wedding, but not theirs.

"Greetings, my children," Brother Giles' jovial voice came over the monitor.  "I hope you are safe and well after the journey back to your ship.  You're in my thoughts, of course.  I recently had the honor of performing a civil ceremony here at our facility.  The bride and groom requested my services especially and I am happy to say they have begun married life together.  They both wish you very well too.  Brother Giles."

"Holy smoke!" Christine gasped, pointing in the bride's general direction.  A large Alsatian sat next to her, a colorful bow at its neck.  The bride herself wore a fluid knit dress of silvery blue, with a wispy scarf covering her head.  She was attended by a familiar looking woman whose features were also enhanced by a beautiful sheer scarf, along with another Terran about her own age.  And the dog?

"It's Stark and T'Lara," Spock stated matter of factly.  "I would surmise they eloped.  This must be their way of informing us without the interstellar press getting hold of the news."

The champion had on a Terran style suit.  His best friend Sean stood at his side, his ordinarily flaming orange wild hair tamed into a neat ponytail.  And the couple were holding hands as the celebrant was pronouncing the final words of blessing on their union.

"Awwwwww," Christine sighed.  "So romantic.  But my lord, what possessed them to do that?"  She gasped.  "You don't suppose..."  A vision of a tiny Stark like toddler crossed her mind.

"I sincerely doubt that, T'hyla.  Both of them are practical young Vulcans.  Perhaps they are merely following this modern, unconventional trend of marrying before pon farr.  Logical, do you not think?  Especially in this case.  They may now begin to know each other as husband and wife, long before the need to do so arises."  His brow was amusedly high into his hairline as he let his hand trail down his wife's spine, enjoying her shiver.  "We may well have inspired them, my wife."

"More than you realized," she agreed, recalling the many conversations she and T'Lara had back in Shi-Kahr.  She silently hoped all would be well between the couple.  Then she turned back to him.  "Now let's talk semantics a bit, Mr. Dictionary.  Do you mean 'to know' as in getting to know you, or ... in another other sense?"  Her eyebrow raised as well.

"I do not have sufficient data to give a logical reply at this time, doctor.  Perhaps we should study the phrase's definitions in detail?"  His lips had somehow found their way to a millimeter from hers.

"My sentiments exactly," she whispered.

* * *

 

Down in Lake Tahoe, the first winter snows had arrived.  A full blown blizzard, actually.  The view outside the condo window was purest white as fat glops of flakes continued blanketing the area.

Stark was deciding if he should think about getting up.  It was 11:00 and he was vaguely hungry, but exhaustion still had a hold on him.  He smirked.  Who the hell said Vulcan women were cold fish?  Since he and T'Lara eloped it'd been a nonstop passionfest, unless they were at class or at workout.  Their nights were ... incredible.

A hot hand delicately began perusing his chest, with a definite journey in mind.  And not long after that, Stark opened his eyes to find his wife astride him, brazen in her actions.  She wanted it, and so did he.

"Again?" he asked innocently, teasing her even as his hands reached for her amazingly full breasts.

She cocked her eyebrow and smiled down at her husband.  "Again."

* * *

 

"Do I look alright?" Christine asked.

"Exquisite."  He twirled her around slowly, admiring the Vulcan formal gown she had on, which he'd only seen once before, in Shi-Kahr.  He was resplendent in his dress uniform.

"No cracks tonight about acting like a proper Vulcan wife, please, Commander," she said with a semi-stern look.  "And no way am I walking three steps behind you, either."

"Christine."  Spock grabbed her firmly by the waist and held her close.  "Have you been listening to your superior's misguided ideas about Vulcan society?  Must I lecture you yet again about how Vulcans truly behave?"  His eyes fairly danced with laughter as his hand traversed her posterior.  "In particular, this Vulcan?"

"You're planning to behave?" she laughed.  "I hoped you had other ideas ... for later."

"Later, my wife, I plan on misbehaving with you most thoroughly.  But now let us not be late for the Grand Inaugural Ball.  My parents have just arrived this afternoon so we shall see them at the festivities."  And with that he offered his wife his arm and they went off to the transporter room.

Kyle was speechless at his first real sight of the newlyweds since their return.  Bloody hell, he thought.  Doc Chapel's hot!

* * *

 

"OK, Bones, spill.  What's got you so riled up about them?"  Kirk addressed his CMO in a quiet corner of the hotel bar.  Both of them were having doubles of mineral water.  The lime slices almost matched the physician's pale complexion.

McCoy looked at his hands.  "I ... don't know, Jim.  But I'll admit it, I am riled up."

"Why?"  Kirk was genuinely concerned.  Ever since their shore leave, his friend had been acting moody and disconsolate.  Unless he was being angry and sarcastic.  He probed further.  "You're not ... jealous of Spock, are you?"

"Of course not!"  McCoy's eyes blazed like blue diamonds.  "I'm just worried."

"For Chris."  It was a statement, not a question.

The CMO sighed.  "Like a father, I guess.  Look, Jim, she's a damned fine doctor, the best ACMO I could ask for.  Going off to Starfleet Medical really brought her into her own.  Then she hooked up with Spock and it was like watching some exotic flower bloom.  I mean, all you have to do is look at her.  She just shines.  The whole ship's talking about her.  And him"

"Is that such a bad thing?"  Kirk contemplated the statement.  It made no sense.

"They think she's flavor of the month.  They think her husband's on spores again.  It will be bad the day he leaves her.  I had to patch her up every time he shot her down before, you know.  And I care for her too much to see her fall again.  She'll break into a million pieces and then what?"  He snorted derisively.  "And don't tell me he won't go.  He will.  It's just a question of when."

"Bones, do you know what your saying?"  Kirk was aghast.

"Damned straight I know what I'm saying!  Every time that Vulcan let his human side out he'd stop and run right back into himself and hide even further.  Emotions are poison to him.  A pretty poison, though.  He wants to see how much he can take.  Then he'll finally feel sick and stop.  And where does that leave Chris?"

Kirk took a deep breath, realizing his friend was being protective of the woman, much as a father would be.  This was normal.  Chris had no father so looked to Len for advice and guidance.  And his own daughter, Joanna, didn't have such a hot track record in the relationship department.  Come to think of it, neither did her father.

"Look, Bones.  The only times you saw Spock do a runner like that is when he was under the influence of something.  He's not now, no matter what you may think of V'Ger's effects.  He just came to a...logical conclusion to accept his human side.  About time, too.  Look, he married her in California, even wears a ring, and it was his idea.  You can't tell me that's not a man who's dead serious about his relationship.  Now think hard.  In the entire time we've known them as a couple, has he ever acted out of character improperly?  Even if he didn't know we were there?"

"He kissed her in the elevator, remember?  A real scorcher too."

"That was Valentine's Day and they'd been together about a month.  Of course he'd kiss her.  And no one was in the elevator but them.  Have you seen him kiss her in public since then?  Apart from the day at the bar or their wedding day?"

McCoy would not be moved.  "He fell asleep on the table with his arms around that tray of cheese enchiladas and got mad when Sulu asked for some."

"Sure he did, Bones.  He was tired.  Considering the state of the rest of the bar, that was pretty tame, even for a Vulcan."  Kirk still grimaced at the memory of that painful night.

"He sang karaoke."

"Once.  Vulcan has opera, don't you remember?  We went.  Some fine Vulcan performers."

"He almost laughed at that parrot.  You saw it Jim!"

"Come on, it called his wife a hot tamale.  Even a Vulcan can almost crack a smile once in a awhile.  You've seen Sarek look amused, haven't you?"

McCoy had run out of ammunition.  "I just think the more he acts out of character, the faster he'll put up his Vulcan shields again."

"Bones, we don't know what character is for him.  Amanda told me he'd had a terrible time because he let his human side out when he was a boy.  But he did that because he wanted to, don't you think?  Just didn't know the consequences.  That's what made him hide.  Who knows what might have happened if he and Sarek hadn't done that standoff for all those years?  We've never really been with him off duty in any depth, you know that.  And speaking of character, we spent the whole night with them at that bar.  Did he act overly emotional even once?  He held his wife's hand and put an arm around her but so what?  Sarek shows affection to his wife too, just a little differently."

Kirk took a drink and had a look at the crowds beginning to arrive.  "Now I'm giving you an order, Bones, as your friend.  Lay off the microscopic examination of their relationship.  They're both adults.  And so far as I'm concerned, what goes on in private between them is entirely their business, even if Spock is doing a stand up comedy routine.  Understood?"

McCoy shrugged.  "OK, Jim, you win.  Just don't say I didn't warn you."

"Bones, you're too hard on yourself.  Now let's go do the official thing.  And promise me when you see them you won't start giving me a running commentary of the fact he almost held her hand, OK?  Spock knows how to act in the appropriate setting and so does Chris.  Leave it."

* * *

 

"Captain, Doctor, what a pleasure to see you both."  Ambassador Sarek greeted the duo warmly.  "I do hope you are enjoying Temoria thus far.  A fascinating new member to the Federation."

"Ambassador, Lady Amanda, hello."  Kirk gave his best official smile, then nodded to his First Officer and ACMO.  McCoy followed suit pleasantly.  Well, almost pleasantly, given the state of his head.  The group chatted amicably for some moments.

A passing couple stopped to pay their respects.  "May I present His Excellency, Federation President Jarod and his wife Marnie," Sarek said smoothly, making formal introductions.  It might have been Saturday cocktail hour at the local country club.

Further pleasantries were exchanged before the esteemed guests moved on.  Christine nearly choked when the man's wife asked if they'd enjoyed their time at the beach house, but she answered calmly, feeling Spock's amusement.

A few minutes later Tom Jackson wandered over to join the group briefly.  Everyone was extremely relieved the inspection had been so successful and told him so.  "Think nothing of it," the Admiral replied, but Kirk saw a knowing, amused look pass between him and the Ambassador.  He knew there was much more to it than nothing.

"Captain," Ambassador Sarek began, "my wife and I are spending the weekend at one of the winter sports resorts at the guest of the local governor.  Spock tells me he and Christine planned to spend the time aboard ship, but I was wondering if we might not borrow them instead?  They are off duty anyway and the opportunity to visit with us is a very rare one.  Would you be amenable to this?"

"Absolutely," Kirk replied without a moment's hesitation.  He owed Sarek, and Spock, big time.

And so an extra two day's honeymoon, sort of, presented itself.

* * *

 

The next morning, Kyle did another double take.  Spock and his wife appeared in the transporter room with overnight bags and winter sports equipment.  And Doctor Chapel looked even hotter in her sports gear.  But what caught his attention wasn't anything blatantly obvious.

It was their eyes.

This couple was hot for each other.

* * *

 

"So, Christine, tell me.  You must have gotten married somewhere.  Where?"  Amanda asked as she guided her companion down the village street.

Christine flushed.  "Oh?"

Amanda positively giggled.  "We're delighted!  Both of us!"  She gave the woman a sly wink.  "Sarek noticed the ring immediately."

"It was Spock's idea, actually."  Christine relaxed and smiled back at the woman.  "We got married in Big Sur.  A Terran ceremony."  Then fear hit her.  "Is this a problem?"

Amanda gave her daughter in law a quick reassuring hug.  "Sarek and I were married in San Francisco as well, so don't you worry.  And I think the fact Spock wants to wear a ring is wonderful.  I always knew it.  He really is besotted with you."

A sigh escaped Christine's lips.  "I sure hope so, because I'm nuts for him, and damn the logic in that statement."

"I can see you're still learning very well," her mother in law replied.  "Now let's get some coffee before I have to go make myself beautiful for the governor's dinner.  Where are the boys?"

"They're curling at the ice rink.  I'm headed there myself to do some skating."

Amanda gave a special smile to her daughter in law.  "And I suppose you two can entertain yourselves until dinner tomorrow then?"

Christine felt her cheeks flame again, but nodded with an answering smile.  They were going snowboarding, after all.

* * *

 

"And things are progressing well, then, my son?" Sarek asked as he watched the heavy stone slide down the curling lane.

"Extremely well, Father.  And Christine and I thank you not only for the wonderful accommodation you arranged for us in World's End, but for this unexpected addition to our honeymoon."

"Think nothing of it.  It is the least your mother and I can do for you.  We are pleased you are both so content."  Sarek's mouth turned up a microsecond.  Then his gaze was attracted by a familiar figure entering the nearby ice rink.  "I believe your wife has arrived.  Would you join her?"

Spock shook his head.  "I do not wish to disturb her routine.  It gives me pleasure to watch her actions.  She is a most adept skater, you know."

Sarek knew this very well and settled back to watch his daughter in law glide across the ice.  After a few moments of observing her movements, he turned back to his son.

"Emotional, isn't she?" Sarek asked innocently.

The inference was not lost on his son.  "Yes, delightfully so," he replied.

* * *

 

"Spock, would you indulge me in a fantasy?" Christine asked as they exited the local pizzeria.

An eyebrow raised, followed by a thought zapping her.

"No, you silly oaf.  I don't want to do a snow love scene.  I was wondering if you'd like to play Dr. Zhivago with me?"  She pointed to the gathered troikas, piloted by imported horses.

A few moments later they were on a nighttime sleigh ride through the village's parameters, necking like teenagers.  Another sleigh passed them, headed in the opposite direction, having just negotiated the road down from the Governor's local residence.

Neither couple noticed the other.  They were far too busy indulging in kissing.

* * *

 

"I cannot wait to hit that halfpipe!" Christine crowed as she threw the curtains back from their chalet's bedroom.

She stared at the blinding white vista that greeted her.  "Oh no!" she moaned.

"Is there a problem?" Spock asked as he joined her.

She only pointed to the snowstorm blanketing the resort.  "Aww, hell," she muttered.

Just a moment later she was hoisted into her husband's arms and carried back to bed.  "I do not see a problem, Doctor, " he said succinctly.

* * *

 

"We really should get up."

"Agreed, my wife.  We should get up."

"Am I to understand we will not?"

"Affirmative."

"And why might this be, husband?"

"Because I do not wish to get up at this particular moment."  A kiss followed the logical statement.

"But they'll be waiting for us."

"Not for at least another 2.37 hours.  And how often do situations such as this occur?  It is logical to make use of them to their fullest advantage."

"And how do you propose we pass the time?" Amanda asked her husband.

"I can think of ... several ways," he replied.

"Have you ... told them?"

"No.  That is a pleasure reserved for another."

* * *

 

"Do you intend to hold me hostage in this bed all day?"

"Yes, I think I do.  There is access to all the necessary facilities and needs so you are not exactly a hostage."

"But they'll be expecting us!"

"Not for some time, my wife."

"And what are your plans for this time, My Vulcan Love Master?"

"I believe a ... bubble bath might be a pleasant start to the events I have planned."

"You're insatiable!"

"You are merely stating the obvious."

* * *

 

"So, my son, did you have a pleasant day, despite the snowstorm?" Sarek looked beyond his son's shoulder to the curtain of snowflakes falling outside.

"Indeed, we did.  Days such as this allow one to catch up on things, so to speak." Spock's face was emotionless, but his wife knew otherwise.

"Most logical.  Yes, sometimes a day of inclement weather turns out to be a blessing in disguise, my son."

"Indeed."

*He knows.*

*Of course, Christine.  And what, do you think, my own parents might have been doing this day?*

*SPOCK!!!!*

* * *

 

A few weeks later, Kirk called the couple to his quarters for cocktails.  Both of them were fearful he'd somehow discovered their tryst on the bridge, but this was not the case.

"Starfleet wants to start winter sports training at the Academy, on a modified snowboard model.  After all, if the Klingons are doing it, we should too.  So many planets are icy.  Anyway, I've been asked to submit any names of crew who might want to participate in a training video shoot.  On Vulcan.  Stark's going to oversee this during his winter sports camp and the Iggy winner S'omm and his wife agreed to do the holo."

The couple before him said not a word.

Kirk continued.  "Interestingly enough, my own choice was the same as that which was personally requested by Stark.  Along with his wife, who's a specialist in emergency medicine and has recently started treating snowboard related injuries from our own holodeck."  He paused.  "The sports camp is a big thing as well, in the Federation's eyes.  The Enterprise will be there for the closing ceremony gala, part of a flotilla of several vessels."

Still no response.

"So, are you both up for two weeks or so secondment on Vulcan at Terran Christmas?"

A moment later the reply came in unison.

"Affirmative."

* * *

 

An Epilogue

 

It was one of coastal California's spectacular early October Wednesday mornings.  While many summer visitors were disappointed because the "June Gloom" fog and drizzle often extended through Labor Day, those more knowledgeable bided their time.  The best was yet to come.  Today, the temps would be in the 70's with the warm breezes known further south as the Santa Anas would start stirring up the waves.  No wildfires in sight.  A weekend full of boardsporters would be descending on the town beginning tomorrow afternoon.  But today it was as dozy a spot as it had been centuries ago.

Scoob opened the shop door and set the interior lighting.  He gave a cursory glance to the stock, noting the Vulcan Heat winter gear was already moving briskly.  In a few moments he was busily filling the window display with colorful Halloween decorations.  One of his pet peeves was retailers who insisted on decorating for holidays three months in advance.

At the counter once more, he started painting an elaborate face on a fat white pumpkin they'd gotten at Half Moon Bay the weekend before.  His wife would transform the squash into delectables after Halloween was over, so carving was out of the question.  Scoob was already tasting her chili and lemon roasted pumpkin seeds.

The buzzer sounded and he looked up briefly.  "Hey folks, welcome.  Have a look around and let me know if you need anything," he said to the two couples who had wandered in.  Then he went back to his creation, deciding between bloodshot or cat's eyes.

He noticed them looking at just about everything.  Maybe they were from a non-coastal area, or maybe they were just curious.  Hmm.  The women were dressed for a sunny day, but the guys had on hooded sweatshirts with the hoods up, from a famous surf shop down in Laguna, the granddaddy of them all.  Hobie.

After a few minutes, they approached the counter.  "Can I help you with something?" Scoob asked, setting down his brush.  Why was everyone wearing sunglasses, he wondered?  Surely the store wasn't that bright?

"Hey, dude.  We heard there might be some good kite surfing around here?" one of the males said with a grin.  "We'd need to get some decent equipment, though.  And we don't know the are that well.  Do you know a guide?"

"On a Wednesday?  The beach'll be yours.  Everyone heads here tomorrow, for the weekend.  It'll be you and the pelicans this afternoon, and the waves should be great.  A guide?  Well..." he paused to think a moment.

"A friend of mine recommended someone named Scoob.  He around anywhere?” the second male said.

"Really?  Who's that?  I could take you, sure, but it'd just be us, you understand?  I specialize in off the beaten track places.  Small groups."

The second male pointed to a framed holo that sat on the countertop.  One taken at Curl's a few months ago, a view of the bar.  "Her."

"You know Chris?  She's in space right now, won't be back for a long time.  How'd you meet her?”  Scoob was curious.  Who was this?  He sounded familiar but he was quite a bit younger than their age group.

At this everyone seemed to exchange a look.  A moment later, the sunglasses, headbands and sweatshirt hoods came off.  Anyone in the galaxy would have recognized the foursome.

"I don't supposed we could keep our daytrip today under wraps, could we?” Stark asked with a grin.  "We'd like to do a personal appearance here next month, before we all leave for Vulcan and the sports camp.  One of your local area kids just was awarded a scholarship.  A boarder named Jimmy Sanchez?  You know him?"

"He's in my wife's class at school!  This is so cosmic!  Sure.  No one'll know you were even here, trust me.  There's a beach around the bend from Avila so deserted even the clams won't hang there."  He took a deep breath.  "But why are you all here today?"

"I believe the term is 'playing hooky'?" T'Lara answered.  "With midterm examinations just completed, we felt an excursion here might be a pleasant day out.  I have tried this sport before and convinced everyone to join me."

"And Jennifer and I couldn't turn down an opportunity to see the waves," Sean Pomodoro added.  "We're from Mojave City originally.  No ocean there."

"I'll just closed up shop," Scoob replied, looking over at the framed photo once more.  It was of Chris, Spock, himself and Imelda, sitting at the bar with Pops holding court in the middle.  Just another happy snappy.  Never, in a million years, would he have suspected Chris would have done this for him.  He realized what a good friend she really was.

FIN