Disclaimer:  Paramount owns, I borrow with no infringement intended.  This is a romance about Commander Spock and Dr. Christine Chapel.  It is rated R for Adult discussion.  Copyright 2006 Mistress V.  Permission to archive at TrekTales, all others need only ask.

 

Winterludes: A Vulcan Christmas Prelude

Mistress V

 

It had, to put it mildly, been the most hellacious three weeks anyone on the Enterprise could recall in recent memory, and that was saying alot.  No marauders, no ion storms, no interplanetary temper tantrums, not even an errant tribble.

Flu.

Godawful, gut wrenching gastrointestinal flu that took over ten days to run its course and was stubbornly resistant to any medication known.  It was picked up in the water on a planet visit.  Some fool took a drink without a medical bioscan first and the rest was very painful history.  To make matter worse, the virus seemed to adore young healthy fit people, much as a more horrific illness, Spanish Influenza, had done centuries before.  Thankfully it didn't kill, but it easily could have from complications.  Everyone had to be monitored.  The bug systematically worked its way through the entire crew like dominoes and no one was immune.

Not even physicians.

It took all Christine's stamina to make sure crewmembers were checked on regularly and not left to die of dehydration.  Len had gotten a more mild dose, maybe due to all that alcohol he consumed, and it was all he could do to look after his own staff so they were fit to care for others.  Christine was very, very ill and slept on a cot in the sickbay bathroom for three days, practically delirious.  Her husband was doing the same thing in their own cabin.  And the ship was forced to remain in auto orbit around an uninhabited, barren planet at the far end of the sector.  It silently circled, oblivious to the suffering on board.  Other vessels could not offer assistance due to the risk of spreading the contaminant.  A miserable pall hung over the starship.

At last, though, the virus ran its course, going back to whatever hell it had come from, and the Enterprise began limping towards the nearest starbase.  Medical supplies would need to be replenished, and a thorough precautionary decontamination was on order.  Cleanup too, unfortunately.  Kirk wondered what Admiral Mendez might have said had he chanced upon the ship right about now.

On top of this, the first winter sports camp was slated to begin in less than two weeks on ShiKahr and Spock and Christine were expected to be there for the opening.

"We can't divert to Vulcan to drop you off, much as we'd like to," Kirk said a little sadly at the first senior staff meeting in almost a month.  "Not in this condition.  At least you've both got a clean bill of health for now.  A Vulcan science ship will be rendezvousing with us in a day and it's set to get you to ShiKahr on time.  But we'll be there for the closing festivities and firing on all circuits by then."

No one bothered to voice any kind of comment.  Everyone was still too exhausted from the nightmare they'd just been through.

"What ship will we be on?" Christine asked her husband that night as they both managed to eat some homemade plomeek soup, their first solid nourishment since either could remember.  Both of them were so ravenous, having lived on IV's for weeks, that neither made the usual cracks about the dish.

"The V.S.S Xir'Tan," Spock replied.  "A research vessel which has been on a three month mission in the immediate sector.  It is due to return to the planet so was most fortunate our orbits crossed."  He paused.  "We shall be on board for one night and one point two days, arriving on Vulcan in the very early evening."  A ghost of a virus weakened smile touched his lips as he found his wife's hand.  "Will this bother you, spending the night on a Vulcan vessel?  Among ordinary Vulcans, as you always point out to me?"

She felt reassurance wash over her and mirrored his smile.  "As long as you're on the same ship, I'll be fine.  But I promise to behave."

"You always behave most appropriately, and besides, we shall have the night to spend with each other, even if we only sleep."  They'd not had anything even remotely resembling sex since before the virus outbreak.  Both had been overworked with quarterly reports and staff physicals.  The prospect of downtime together, even on a Vulcan ship, was suddenly becoming very appealing.

* * *

 

"Welcome on board," a male Vulcan said dispassionately.

He was about Spock's age, but seemed to have a more stoic kind of expression than most Vulcans Christine had met recently.  His eyes gave a cursory look at the couple.  Was it her imagination, or did his gaze harden almost imperceptibly at the sight of their snowboards?

"I am Sturn, second officer and chief of protocol.  Here on board it is 16:00 and we shall dock in ShiKahr in just over one solar day's time.  I only wish we had more advance notice of your arrival.  We have no joined guest quarters on board so I have assigned you to single cabins on the appropriate decks."  He indicated his companion.  "This is Science Ensign T'Ang.  She shall escort Dr. Chapel to her room.  Commander, your things will be taken ahead of you, but for now, if you would follow me?  Your presence has been requested in our bio labs for a tour."

Christine's still weak stomach felt vaguely uneasy but she couldn't pinpoint why.  Actually, she'd been making a slow recovery, still suffering from bouts of dizziness and nausea which she attributed to the added stress of the job.  Wordlessly, she picked up her bags and followed the Vulcan woman towards a turbolift as she glimpsed her husband being hurried off in the opposite direction.  In short order they arrived on a living deck and she was shown to her accommodation.  What was bothersome is that the only crewmembers they passed did not even meet her gaze.  Christine got the distinct feeling that had she turned around suddenly, the corridor would have been full of curious stares.  Curious, but decidedly unfriendly.  That caused the pain in her stomach to increase.  She really was feeling lousy and wondered if she'd strained a ligament during the flu bout.  Her pelvis was killing her.

"I am afraid your ... husband ... has been asked to dine with the Captain and the other senior officers.  You will be able to procure nourishment from the replicators here.  However, this not your Starfleet so you shall have to make do with Vulcan cuisine."

The woman's eyes grew positively icy for a second.  "Since your ... husband chose to bond with you, it would do you well to learn assimilate into his society.  This deck is female only and males are not permitted to enter for any reason.  The same is true for the male living quarters.  Please make use of the computer if you need to.  Someone will call for you in the morning.  Unfortunately, we are conducting crew physicals so you cannot visit sickbay, but perhaps a tour of the biolabs might be arranged.  This is a very busy time for us.  We cannot babysit."

Christine felt as though she'd been stabbed in her already weak stomach.  Why on earth was this woman being so deliberately short with her?  She decided to ask.

"I beg your pardon, Science Ensign, but have I somehow offended you?  If so, please accept my apology.  I was not aware I had transgressed.  You certainly need not think I must be babysat; I have ample reports to occupy me."  Her face was impassive, her voice cool as any Vulcan's might be.  Spock would have been proud of her.

The woman crossed her arms across her chest, something rarely seen in Vulcans.  Her gaze became like granite and for a few moments, it looked as though she was deciding if she should continue.  Then she walked over to where Christine was standing.

"Very well, Dr. Chapel.  Since you asked, I shall be frank with you.  Your presence is a scandal on board our ship.  The fact that Spock of Vulcan sought to choose a Terran bondmate is beyond the comprehension of most of our people.  Our race, our culture, our very essence has become almost irreparably soiled in these past years, ever since we were forced to man the Intrepid.  Too many offworlders now know about Vulcan secrets.  And there are those of us, a very large majority, I might add, who seek to put a stop to this."

She indicated Christine's ice skate carrier.  "Stark is a disgrace to Vulcan and is leading our young people further astray.  The fact your husband will assist at this event of his is quite unacceptable.  The idea of mixing children from all races to partake of sport is alien to us and should be stopped.  I cannot understand how the High Council was swayed, but perhaps they, too, have become influenced.  Or perhaps they are no longer true Vulcans."

Christine could not say a word.  She was completely stunned at what was being said to her.  Yes, she'd heard rumors of dissension among some more conservative circles but Spock assured her they were a very small minority and, so long as they merely voiced their opinions and did not force them on others, the concept of IDIC was being upheld.

"It is my sincere hope, Doctor, that your ... husband will see the error of his ways before you further dilute our race by producing offspring.  Such a thing must not be allowed lest it give an example to others.  Did you know there is a resolution being put forth banning all offworlders from bonding with Vulcans?  There is a good likelihood it will be passed, and when this happens, there is a strong possibility that any existing bondings will be dissolved.  For the good of our race, of course."

She gave a hard, terrible look at Christine.  "And we live for the day when Vulcan leaves the Federation that we may at last return to the roots of Father Surak's teachings.  So, Doctor.  Have I answered your question?  Do you now understand that your very sight turns the stomach of most Vulcans?  We were obligated to deliver you to ShiKahr and that shall be done.  But there was no guarantee the journey had to be a pleasant one.  And now I bid you good evening.  Please do not try to leave your accommodation.  You shall be seen to in the morning."  She started to leave then looked casually over her shoulder.  "And do not be so illogical as to communicate this to anyone, least of all your husband.  After all, what is the word of a Terran or a half breed against that of a full blooded Vulcan?  No one would believe you."

Christine stood rooted to the spot, her stomach churning.  Part of her wanted to open their link and convey her distress to her husband, but they had agreed not to do so except in each other's presence.  There was so much psi ability aboard it was possible the wrong receptor might pick up an errant thought.  Agony was coursing through her.

Suddenly she clamped her hands over her mouth and raced to the bathroom to lose what little she'd consumed that day.  She fell to her knees and burst into silent tears, the reality of her situation finally beginning to hit her.

She was pregnant.

* * *

 

Spock's unease was growing as was a most un Vulcan feeling of annoyance.  Since his arrival on board, he'd been carted hither, tither and yon to the most obscure, out of the way parts of the ship.  Sturn was practically glued to his side and took every opportunity to introduce him to the "fine, upstanding Vulcans" who populated various departments.  What absolutely puzzled Spock is that the officer took great pains to point out several females.  All, according to him, were from prestigious, ancient clans.  Spock frowned.  Did the man not know he was bonded?  It was quite inappropriate among Vulcans to introduce unbonded females in anything other than a professional way unless it was done by a family member.

As the hour grew late, Sturn turned to the visitor.  "I am afraid your ... wife will not be joining us to dine, Commander.  She was feeling ... ill and our ship's physician has recommended she rest.  I understand your vessel had a quite unfortunate illness on board recently?  Perhaps your wife, being Terran, simply was not strong enough to make a normal recovery.  A pity.  Vulcan women are so much more ... hardy."

"Ill?  Why was I not informed of this?"  The hackles on the back of Spock's neck began to rise.  If Christine was sick he wanted to check on her at the very least.

Sturn gave him a cool glance.  "It would be most illogical to inform you of that which is unimportant.  Your wife is resting.  There is nothing you can do to remedy the situation and besides, her presence is not required at an endmeal for senior staff."

An eyebrow raised high, and not amusedly either.  "Unimportant?  My wife is ill, that is important to me."

A sound like a clucking escaped the other Vulcan.  "Really, Commander ... Spock.  You have become much too Terran in your years away from your homeworld.  To concern yourself with simple illness is most illogical.  Perhaps after dinner you might meet with us in...discussion about how things are on Vulcan these days?"  He pressed the door buzzer.  "Now do join us.  You are an honored guest aboard."

The door opened to reveal a dining area furnished in the typically Vulcan austere style.  A simple endmeal had been laid out for perhaps ten guests.  Sturn began to make introductions to members of staff and was just about finished when the door opened again.

"Commander Spock, please forgive our tardiness.  I am Captain T'Ria."  A middle aged Vulcan woman stood before him and gave the ta'al.  "And this is our ship's physician, my bondmate, Dr. Strayt."

"Captain, Doctor," Sturn's voice was emotionless yet...apprehensive.  "I was not aware you would be able to join us for endmeal."

"Nonsense, paddwork may wait for an hour's respite with guests."  The captain looked over at Spock.  "You must understand, we have been busily compiling our mission's final report before we arrive at Space Central.  This is the first time we have been out of the briefing room all day."

All day?  Something was very wrong.  Spock could feel the tension rise almost palpably in the second officer.  He took a controlled breath and opened the link with his wife, sensing the need for input here.

The staggering intensity of emotion almost took his breath away.  His Christine was weeping inconsolably, alone and afraid.  He closed off and tried again with the same results.

"Doctor," he said calmly.  "May I ask what is ailing my wife?  It is my understanding you declared her too ill to join us this evening."

The silence in the room was almost painful.

"Your wife?  I have not had the honor of meeting her, Commander."

* * *

 

When she had run out of tears, Christine slowly got to her feet and rinsed her red eyes in cold water.  At least the ship had water, she thought.

She made her way over to the bed on shaking legs, wondering what to do.  Was what she'd heard the truth or just the rantings of a fringe group?  Would the resolution pass?  If so what of the marriage she shared with her husband...and their unborn child she was certain she carried?  For the first time in many months she felt cold, nauseous terror wash through her as she realized she was absolutely alone.

Perhaps yoga would calm her aching heart, she finally decided and swiftly moved to dress herself accordingly.  Now was not the time to speculate.  She needed to talk to her husband but when?  They had not planned to begin a family yet and she'd been resolute in her contraceptive injections, so how was this possible?  What would his reaction be?  They'd have to leave the ship, as pregnancy in deep space was still dangerous to mother and child both.  Would he hate her for disrupting their planned life with her own carelessness?

Still troubled, she sat down on the floor of the cabin and pulled herself into a full lotus position and began to regulate her breathing.  The ancient asanas flowed easily, sending her to a place of relative safety, at least for now.

The comm unit in her cabin buzzed after awhile and she got up to answer, wondering what the problem could be.

"Dr. Chapel?  This is Captain T'Ria.  Forgive the intrusion, but could you join me in my ready room at your earliest convenience?  I have sent an aide to escort you."

Christine sighed.  "I am on my way, Captain, but I must first change my attire.  I was engaged in yoga."  What now?  Spock was supposed to be having dinner with the senior staff.  How embarrassing would it be if she had to join them late at his insistence?

"Very well, Doctor.  I shall await you."

She threw on her uniform and ran a brush through her hair then opened the door.  The Vulcan guard to her quarters seemed to be engaged in quite an animated discussion with the Captain's aide.  After a few moments passed, the aide turned to her and motioned that she follow.  Not a word was spoken during the entire journey to the ready room.  The aide pressed the entry button and then melted into the shadows.

Christine entered the room and looked around.  The Captain was standing, her back to her, gazing out the large window.  It was dark inside with just starlight shining through.  "You wanted to see me, Captain?" she asked hesitantly.

"Such behavior is inexcusable," the woman fairly muttered.  "It is a degradation to the mission of this ship and the people of Vulcan..."

"KROYKAH!"  Christine's quiet voice cut through the air like a hot knife through butter.  Before the stunned woman could answer, she rounded on her in calm, glacial fury.

"May I ask, Captain, just what behavior is so inexcusable?  The fact I am Terran, or the fact I am married to a Vulcan?  Does this give you and your staff the right to chastise me for the choice my husband and I made?"  She noticed the woman holding out her hands, palms up, trying to interrupt; she would have none of it.

"Since I came on board I have been subjected to humiliation, degradation and scorn at the hands of your officers and crew and have been forcibly separated from my bondmate.  I plan to file a formal complaint to the Vulcan High Council and the Federation and trust me, my voice will be heard."  She was still calm, but her thoughts were swirling almost out of control and she wondered how much longer she could hold up the Vulcan facade.

"Dr. Chapel--" the Captain tried but her words were ignored.

"I cannot understand why, if it was such a degradation to your society, that you even offered to pick up my husband and myself.  We could have easily made other arrangements.  How dare your staff tell me my husband and I cannot have a child!"

At this, the dam broke and Christine's head began to swim.  Dizziness swirled up from her feet at warp speed and she was vaguely aware of black wings beating at her range of vision.  Tears coursed down her cheeks unchecked as she fell to the floor in a dead faint.

* * *

 

"Commander?"

Spock looked up at the Vulcan physician, his hand never loosening its protective grasp of his wife's.  "Yes?" he asked tiredly.

"The shuttle will arrive in seventeen point thirty four minutes.  His Excellency has asked to convey that all is safely under control and there should be no more untoward surprises."  He shifted his weight slightly as his hand crept to his side and felt the unfamiliar weight of a weapon resting there.  "And my wife assures me all is under control on the bridge, despite having but a skeleton crew."

"Thank you, Doctor," Spock replied, stroking his wife's fingers gently.  "I shall be pleased when this night is at last through."  He shook his head as if trying to determine whether this was some illness induced fantastic nightmare, or the cold hard truth.  Unfortunately, it was the latter.

"Once the shuttle reaches Vulcan your wife will be transported to the Science Academy hospital and there she may be safely removed from stasis.  Then her condition may be ascertained as I had no time to make a diagnosis.  I am glad you understood why it was necessary to do this.  I ... could not do any sort of medical procedure here, given the ... circumstances.  And seeing your wife's reaction to being brought to my sickbay, I can say I truly understand her illogical behavior."  He sighed.  "One can only speculate what had been said to her."  His eyes met Spock's.  "I am sorry, Commander.  We truly had no idea."

"I surmise most of Vulcan would find this hard to comprehend.  Attempted mutiny aboard a science vessel?  It not only illogical, it is totally preposterous."  He too allowed his free hand to touch the phaser at his waist.

"We owe you our lives, sir," the doctor replied.  "And that shall never be forgotten, long after this event's memory is but a mote of dust in space."

* * *

 

No sooner had the vessel's medical officer uttered his puzzling reply to Spock's question than all hell, Vulcan style, broke loose.  Sturn attempted to reach a comm unit, shouting that it was time "to raise up in the name of Surak."  Most of the other members of senior staff had moved to join him.  Had Spock not thought to neck pinch the obviously irrational officer, the night may have ended quite differently.

And then the security officer drew a weapon out of his uniform.  The chief of communications and navigator did so as well.  For a long moment, no one even blinked, wondering what was about to happen.  Then the Security Chief turned to the captain.

"I had suspected something was amiss here for some time, Captain," he apologized as he rounded on the rest of the guests.  "But I had only speculation and conjecture, nothing concrete.  So I was forced to play along.  Now I can safely tell you, I believe most of the crew shares Sturn's illogical precept and is prepared to mutiny.  We must move quickly."

He directed Spock towards the door.  "You and the doctor must leave.  Pretend you are going to see your wife as she is ill.  Since no one knows what is occurring here, she is safe for the moment.  Do not draw suspicion by attempting to rescue her.  You must make your way to the armory.  Yes, there is one.  Arm yourselves at all costs and return here.  My colleagues shall go to the bridge at once and secure it.  After that, we must find out who is loyal to the captain and who is ... a terrorist."

It was over in a few terrible moments, though to Spock it seemed to take days.  Once they'd returned with weapons and secured the bridge, the captain insisted she be the one to call down to Christine, in order not to give anything away.  She sent a trusted aide, armed, to escort the doctor to the safety of the ready room.  Subterfuge was necessary lest the hand be tipped.  The dissidents in the group had already been secured, but others were everywhere.

Spock, meanwhile, rounded on the now conscious Sturn with barely controlled rage and established a mind meld in the hopes of ascertaining who among the crew was not under his sway.  It had not been easy.  By the time he emerged from the searing experience, Christine had made it safely to the ready room.

Only she had fainted.

The captain was confused.  She admitted she'd been allowing her emotions to take precedence, for such an event had unsettled her greatly.  She'd spoken her opinions of the attempted takeover to herself.  Unfortunately, Christine heard them and had simply exploded before any explanation could be given.

"I do not blame her," she said softly as they watched her husband place Christine into stasis.  "She had been spoken to in a most distressing manner, though we were not aware of this.  Something about not being allowed to have a child?  I have no idea what was said although I surmise it was extremely painful to her."

Spock's voice was hoarse with disbelief.  "Are such notions being held by Vulcans?  I cannot believe they would take hold in light of recent events.  Our society and culture are finally beginning to come out of the shadow cast by the Intrepid's loss."

T'Ria looked thoughtful.  "Perhaps we are seeing a backlash of sorts.  Terrans say 'too little, too late.'  I myself lost a brother that day.  My husband, his favorite aunt.  I know Sturn was made an orphan.  He ended up being raised by an uncle and aunt who had lost all three of their children."  She sighed.  "What can be done when grief needs to be expressed in a society that does not permit it?  There are cases of mental disturbance finally taking hold years later.  I suspect this was the case with Sturn."

"Perhaps.  I feel there is much that shall come to light soon and it may be very unpleasant."

"Sometimes, the tumor must be exposed to the sun before it can finally wither and die," the captain sighed.  "Let us leave it in the hands of the authorities.  You and you wife are safe.  May your bonding ... your obvious love for each other ... remain safe, Commander Spock."

* * *

 

The door burst open suddenly and several Vulcans, clad in commando style black uniforms and carrying an assortment of weapons, entered.  In a moment they were obviously certain the room was secure and allowed the door to open once again.

"Spock!" Leonard McCoy shouted as he hurried in, Ambassador Sarek at his heels.  "What in blue blazes is going on?"

"You would not believe me if I told you, doctor.  May I simply state I am extremely happy to see you."  He motioned to the bed where his wife lay in stasis.  "Doctor Strayt here will update you."

Sarek now stood in front of his son, his face tired and drawn in obvious worry.  "You are safe, my son?  And your wife?" he finally asked in a quiet voice.

"We are now, my father," Spock replied.

The ambassador exhaled a breath that may have been held by much of Vulcan.  "Then I am pleased.  Shall we discuss what has happened?"  He motioned to a bench.  "Although it is almost too fantastic to be true."

* * *

 

"Stark and his wife are also safe?" Spock asked, remembering what he'd read in Sturn's mind.

Sarek's eyebrow raised.  "I was not aware you knew they had married.  Yes, their families are safe and under protection.  Stark offered to cancel the sports camp but the High Council refused his request.  We cannot let home grown ... terrorists disrupt the ways of our planet.  There will be heightened security, of course, as unobtrusive as possible.  Two starships will be in attendance, as well as yours once it leaves its present location."

"Which reminds me, Father.  How did Dr. McCoy manage to get here?  I only expressed a wish that he might be able to treat Christine, but knew the Enterprise was at a starbase being resupplied.  A shuttle was able to make the journey so quickly?"  He raised an eyebrow in speculation.

"No, son.  The Internal Security Forces dispatched a starcruiser.  As you know, such a ship is built for speed, maneuverability ... and defense.  Three of them are now off the port side here.  The lead vessel had no problems diverting to pick up Dr. McCoy."  He pointed to where a group of medical personnel were monitoring his daughter in law.  "And the best trauma team the Science Academy Hospital has made the journey with us.  Hopefully, their services will not be needed."

"You should not have put yourself in danger, father.  What if the ship was under control of the dissidents?"  Spock still could not comprehend the sudden turn of events.

"The concern of my children took precedence over that of my own safety," Sarek replied, meeting his son's gaze firmly.  "Now shall we attempt to contact your mother, as the ship has been secured?  She is worried and I do not wish to distress her further."

Father and son made their way slowly towards the bridge.  The sight greeting them was almost unknown in recent Vulcan memory.  The ship swarmed with Internal Security Forces who were still rounding up the last of the would be mutineers for transport aboard one of the cruisers.  When they reached the bridge, apart from the captain and her trusted navigator and communications officer, the controls were being handled by the somber, black uniformed elite militia.  General Stoick himself was speaking to the captain in hushed, almost disbelieving tones.

"I never thought I would see this day," Spock murmured.

"Nor I," his father replied.  "It is a dark one in our history, my son.  But it is now over."

* * *

 

"How is she?" Spock asked the Enterprise CMO.

"The stasis is stablizing her for now.  But she's dehydrated and running a mighty high fever.  So this could be a secondary infection from that flu.  Or something else, I can't quite put my finger on it.  Did she say anything to you?"

The Vulcan shook his head.  "I knew she was still not completely recovered.  We were unable to communicate yesterday, so I have no idea what the problem might be.  Suffice it to say, I am very glad you are here."

"Well, you gave me a helluva surprise, Spock.  One minute I'm doing a supply inventory in spacedock and the next two fleet marine types and your father are standing in my sickbay."  He raised an eyebrow, much as he'd seen the first officer do over the years.  "I had no idea Vulcan had a special ops unit, Spock!  That ship was making warp nine the whole way without even a whisper of complaint from the engines.  But why am I here?"

"I would not have anyone else care for my wife," came the simple, startling reply.

* * *

 

As soon as the ship docked, its most precious of cargo was whisked to the Science Academy Hospital, attended by its own personal physician.  Christine was carefully brought out of stasis with an eye to reducing the fever she was experiencing.  It was obvious she was in great pain as well.

For a moment she was conscious.  Her glazed eyes seemed to recognize the man standing next to her, for she grabbed his hand and pulled him down to her.  She whispered something in his ear and then fell back on the gurney, unconscious once again.

Leonard McCoy looked thoughtful for a moment, then returned to his scan of her life signs.  He did so twice, paying special care look for specific symptoms.  His expression changed to one of surprise as the patient was prepped for emergency surgery.

* * *

 

"I cannot believe such a thing could have happened, Father.  Had Internal Security no warning of this?" Spock asked, amazed.

Sarek looked out the window of the hospital waiting room where he, his wife, and son were sitting, trying not to think of what was happening just a few short meters away.

"Sturn was known to be a bit ... unstable but had been making marked improvements.  He was given the posting as respect to his late uncle, a former member of the High Council.  It was his uncle who likely poisoned his mind.  Sunkk was my greatest adversary when the initial debates about Vulcan leaving the Federation took place.  It was he who blamed the fact you were such a legend in Starfleet for the loss of the Intrepid.  Had you not been such a worthy, exemplary officer, our own would not have been called upon to people the Intrepid ... and would not have been lost."  His face did not belie the fact that memory was still very painful.

"The uncle lost all his children."  Amanda shuddered.  "I can only imagine how he feLt. And his nephew made an orphan.  A terrible loss."

"But the prefect seeding ground for this isolationist terror movement," Sarek retorted.  "Sturn grew up to hate Starfleet and all it stood for.  As Vulcan moved out of the darkness, it would appear this inflamed his illogical behavior.  He was assigned to a ship full of new, impressionable Science Academy graduates, and, as second officer, could make recommendations for those who would serve in authority.  He was clever.  He peopled just the right number of senior staff with his fellow believers and during the voyage, the brainwashing began.  Under the guise of studying Father Surak's teachings, of all things."

A door opened but it was only an orderly, heading off to a lab.  Three breaths exhaled as one.

"I gather, then, seeing myself and Christine was the 'last straw' for Sturn?" Spock asked.

"Indeed, a tragic coincidence.  From what we learned, he decided this would be the prefect opportunity to seize power by commandeering the vessel.  A call to arms, so to speak, with the next target the sports camp.  Fortunately, his following on Vulcan was not as great as he thought.  There are conservative isolationists, but they merely give an opinion, which is acceptable.  Forcing it upon another is not, and as we know, there will be severe repercussions for those involved.  The last cells are being rounded up as we speak, and many were armed.  The movement must be stamped out.  Vulcan needs to continue moving forward.

"But we have also learned from this tragedy.  Never again will a vessel's crew be composed entirely of new graduates, even a crew of fifty, as this ship was.  There must be a logical combination of personnel.  And, sadly, there must now be several Internal Security Services operatives on board in deep cover as well.  On all voyages."

"Logical," Spock said.  "And quite necessary.  This practice has been ongoing as long as there have been differences of opinion.  I only hope these operatives never have to be called to duty as today.  To think how close it came to gong very wrong."

"But your actions were not only logical, they were heroic, my son," Sarek said very softly, holding his fingers out to his wife.  "And your mother and I are ... very ... pleased with you."

Spock accepted his father's praise, sensing a deep paternal pride in the older man.  A shadow crossed his katra as he realized he and his wife might well have been killed.  The throes of belief induced fever were that strong among the mutineers.  He gave a silent word of thanks to the ancestors for their rescue, adding his hopes that his wife was all right inside the operating room.

* * *

 

Christine heard voices and was aware of a bright light shining through her eyelids.  The voices spoke in soft hushed tones of Standard.  One was very familiar.  Len.  Len?  Was she back on board the Enterprise and this had all been a flu induced nightmare?

Hesitantly, she opened her eyes, aware that her boss dismissed several Vulcans when she did so.

"Len?" she mumbled through a sub-Saharan throat.

"Chris.  Thank God you're okay.  The fever's down and the worst of the complications are over.  You should start feeling better soon, I've given you something to bring your metabolic rate and temp back to normal."  He took his ACMO's hand in his.  "You had me scared to death, darlin'.  Couldn't you, a doctor, know what was wrong?"

Tears spilled over her lashes.  "The baby's gone, then?  I thought I might lose it."

"Baby?  Chris ... what are you on about?  You weren't pregnant.  I scanned a dozen times.  No baby."  McCoy's voice was gentle as he smoothed her fever damp hair.

"But I had all the symptoms...?"  Her tone was confused.

He shook his head emphatically.  "Chris, as a doctor and a woman, you know the cycle can be disrupted by stress and illness.  That happened to you.  All the goings on with the flu just exacerbated the pressure you'd been under before that, and I know.  I saw it.  You just skipped a month.  I ran some tests and your contraceptive's still in good shape, but I re-injected you just as a precaution."

"What was wrong with me?"  A frown had creased her wax white features.  "I was sure I was miscarrying."

"Your appendix, my dear.  Despite all those predictions we'd evolve out of them, yours got itself ulcerated and burst.  Didn't you notice the symptoms?  Though you're right.  It can mimic pregnancy and miscarriage unless you really know what to look for.  What a mess, too.  You don't do things by halves, do you?"  He gave his ACMO a smile.

She tried to do the same, but failed.  "I never have, Len."

"I'd better get out there.  Someone's very anxious to see you."

"Len -- wait.  Did you tell him anything?"  Christine's voice was heavy with tears again.

"Of course not," McCoy answered very quietly.  "That's between you and your husband, honey.  Now let me go get that big Vulcan lug before he paces a trench in the hall floor."

* * *

 

At the sight of Leonard McCoy's jubilant expression, three heartbeats at last returned to normal.  He walked over to the waiting area obviously exhausted but still able to give a characteristic spring to his step.

"We've moved her to a private room in ICU.  She's awake, Spock, and I know she wants to see you.  Go on.  The rest of us can wait a bit."

They watched the ordinarily reserved Vulcan all but sprint down the hall.

"All of us are most grateful to you, Doctor." Amanda patted the physician's hand.  "You did not have to do this, but you did.  However, I supposed my rather stubborn son had some influence on you."

McCoy grinned.  "Absolutely.  There's nothing I wouldn't do for either of them.  And she'll make a full recovery, though it's amazing how a simple case of appendicitis can go wrong quickly if it's not treated right away."

"Then it is most fortunate you attended her, as you know, Vulcan physiology does not have such an appendage," Sarek said with just a hint of amusement.

"So I was told.  There were more observers in that operating theater than I've seen in my entire medical career.  Now we just have to worry about getting her well gradually.  If I know Christine, she's ready to return to active duty at the sports camp.  And as for me, I need to worry about getting back to the ship.  It won't be here for another week and a half or so."

Sarek cleared his throat.  "Perhaps we might convince you to stay here in ShiKahr, doctor.  As a guest of the director of the teaching hospital.  There is precious little known about Vulcan conditions among Starfleet medical personnel.  This is quite illogical, given the fact so many if our people now serve and continue to apply to the Academy.  It is now time that those who work with the ill know the proper way of treating a Vulcan malady.  As our own healers need to know about the human side.  The time for shrouded secrecy is gone.  Health concerns are health concerns no matter if it be a Vulcan, a Terran, or anyone else."  He paused.  "Does this interest you?"

McCoy took a deep breath, amazed at what he'd just heard.  "As a matter of fact, sir, it does."

"Very good," Sarek replied.  "I shall make the arrangements."

"Should we go in?" Amanda, who had been very outwardly quiet, though inside she had been saying many litanies of thanks, now asked.

"I'd say give them a little more time.  Maybe an hour?"

"Then let us adjourn to the cafe here and have some refreshing beverages," Sarek suggested.  "For it has been a very long day for all of us."

* * *

 

Spock opened the door to his wife's room quietly, still fearful of what he would see.  The hammering of his heart finally managed to slow when he regarded her quiet form in the bed before him.  Her eyes were closed, a terrible pallor coloring her normally healthy features.  Only the deep, even movement of the bedclothes indicated there was life in her.

Hesitantly, he sat down next to her and did nothing for long moments except watch the simple action of her draw regular breath.  She might have been lost to him yet here she was, still alive, still with him.  His Vah'ren.

Her eyes blinked and she opened them slowly, trying to focus on his face.  A tired, tiny smile spread across her mouth, but just as quickly vanished.  Her emotions still askew, she was unable to control the flood of tears that now poured forth from her eyes.  A horrible sob tore itself from her throat.

Spock moved swiftly and drew her against him like a tired child, rocking her quietly, saying nothing except what his link with her conveyed without words.  He was stunned at what he learned from her.  Stunned, saddened, and yet more in love with her that he had ever been.

"Do you hate me then?" she finally asked, hiccuping a little.

"Why would I hate the woman I love?" he replied softly, realizing she was still far from rational in her thoughts.

"Because it might just as easily not have been appendicitis.  I was sure..."  Her words stopped then.

"That you were pregnant?  Why would that make me despise you?  Perhaps a little earlier than we planned, but what of it?  A wise man once told me medical science often pays little heed to logic."

"We can't start a family now," she said stubbornly against him.  "We have to be more careful.  All that rampant sex we used to have -- it's got to stop."

"Why must we do something so totally against both of our natures?  If an unexpected occurrence happens, we must deal with it then."  His hand stroked her forehead in its familiar pattern.  "And accept whatever curve balls life throws us, as you are so fond of reminding me, my wife."  He tried for levity.  "Of course, these might also be rising fast balls or perhaps the odd sinker."

A hand weakly smacked his shoulder.  He'd never felt anything so wonderful in his life.  But his joy doubled a moment later when a tired but well loved voice said a familiar phrase.

"Shut UP, Spock."

* * *

 

Night was quietly settling over the hospital.  The Ambassador and his wife had finally headed off, taking an exhausted McCoy with them.  Christine was out of danger and being seen to in ICU by a specially trained group of medical staff.  Each of them was well experienced in treatment of Terrans ... and in discretion.  All had served at various embassy postings across the galaxy.  Their loyalty was absolute.

The night nurse let herself into Dr. Chapel's private room and allowed her eyes to adjust to the light.  She was no more fazed at the sight of the woman's husband wrapped protectively around her sleeping form than if she'd seen a tabby cat on the pillow next to her.  For she was engaged to a Terran physician she'd met during her years in New York and such things did not trouble her.  She and her fiance shared a bedroom from the day they moved in together, long before their engagement.  The intensity of the emotion she saw before her did not disgust.  In fact, the young woman could only hope that her fiance would love her just half as much as the man on the bed obviously loved his wife.  With a quick check of the monitors, she made notes in her PADD and was gone.

* * *

 

Sometime later in the night came a test of sorts.  Christine stirred in her rest and turned into her husband's embrace, sighing contentedly.  He automatically moved closer against her, feeling arousal course through them both.  His mouth blazed a hungry trail towards her own and a thrill washed over him as he felt her respond just as needfully.  They kissed, a long-dammed tide of wanting suddenly breaking loose.

She pulled away with a cry, her eyes wide with fright as though she did not know where she was.

"Hush, my love," he whispered, changing his embrace to one of a lover comforting another.  "I am sorry.  We shall be able to be together soon enough."

But through their link he could feel something disconcerting.  Terror.  Her terror.  At becoming pregnant accidentally and him blaming her for a disruption in his career.  Or miscarrying in deep space, far from medical assistance, dying alone and afraid, away from him.  Of succumbing to the pleasure they had been sharing with astonishing regularity since the day they first made love and suddenly worrying that somehow, her precautions would not be effective.  And most hurtful to her of all, the cold hard reality she was forcing herself to accept now.  That two Starfleet officers should behave accordingly and not as two love besotted teenagers.  The days of endless, uninhibited lovemaking disappearing in the puff of smoke of her fears.  Of her not seeing herself as desirable any longer and wishing to keep her husband away for the sake of duty.  Of seeking separate quarters in the old Vulcan tradition.  And of submitting to his need only in the hopes of having a child, when the time was right.

He caught his breath.  Still the images continued.  They changed.  Pon farr.  Somehow she had heard of some unfortunate consequences of the madness and it was now manifesting itself.  He saw himself through her eyes, crazed in plak tow, raping her again and again in his frenzied need.  The child conceived just as quickly miscarrying.  And him leaving her, looking for solace in the Reldai until he could find another bondmate, a Vulcan who would not be so weak.  He knew this was not her perception exactly but felt it had been told to her by someone close and that the fear of this happening to them was now becoming very real.

"Christine.  My love.  I would never hurt you," he whispered as he held her even more gently against his very katra.  Her weakened state did not permit a meld so he spoke in a hushed, soothing tone.

"We don't know that."  Her voice was muffled, cold, and scared.  "What if I'm somehow pregnant when your time comes?  I can't keep a tab on our lovemaking for the next seven years.  Spock, I'm ... afraid.  For the first time since that day you kissed me, I'm terrified about getting pregnant when I shouldn't.  Maybe this was a monumental wake up call.  We're not Romeo and Juliet.  We're two officers in Starfleet who have sworn an oath to our position and its various requirements.   I ... let myself go until now, because I'll admit.  I was selfish.  I wanted you as much as you wanted me.  But that kind of behavior has no place in the life of married officers.  In fact, it degrades us."

He could feel her shame at the unbelievably wonderful interlude they'd shared on the bridge, a thought so potent that, next to their day at the springs on Vulcan, he could achieve full arousal just at the memory.  A shame that should not be attached to the sharing of their love.  But yet it was there.  And it was hers.  Not his.

"I said it way back at World's End," she whispered.  "The honeymoon's over, Commander.  Time to get married."

"Christine, what are you saying?"  His voice was ragged with his own fears.  "Why would you turn your back on what we have?  I see no change in that.  We shall continue being ... logical.  I still want you.  Very much, as I always have."  He cupped her chin.  "Is this such an illogical thing, a man desiring his wife simply because he desires her?"

"I don't want you to end up hating me.  It's always the woman's fault if there's a pregnancy.  Because it's her body."  She was almost bitter in her pronouncement.  "Someday we'll start a family and raise our children accordingly.  But until then, we need to act like a husband and a wife, not fifteen year olds.  Isn't that the Vulcan way?  Once every seven years, separate bedrooms otherwise?"

"Is this what you want, my wife?"  His voice was quiet, but the timbre was unmistakable.

She bowed her head, tears coursing down her cheeks.  "Of course not.  But I know in my heart it's what you want.  How we should be acting."

He said nothing, just gathered her more closely against him.  The fears were based on her illness, he knew, and at what had been said to her on the Vulcan ship.  He was about to address this when she spoke again, her words chilling him.

"What if the resolution the dissidents spoke of actually is passed?  Then what of our marriage, Spock?  It would be illegal for us to be husband and wife."  She dropped her voice to a barely perceptible whisper.  "Remember the nightmares I had when the Betan lizardsnake bit me?  What if they come true and our child is taken from me for the good of your race?"

Horror, full scaled horror, washed over him in a nauseatingly painful torrent.  "I promise you, my beloved.  That shall never happen.  Never.  Believe me."  He let his emotions course through their link full at full strength, denying none of his feelings.  He felt her resist at first, then open to the wave of emotion.  After a long while, he spoke again.

"May I now ask you once more, my love.  Is this what you want?"

She wept anew, but the tears were healing.  A new vision washed over him.  Pure, unadulterated sexual need.  Fantasy.  Desire.  And uninhibited pleasure, everywhere it was possible.  Even in zero G?  His eyebrow raised.  That was his fantasy.  She wanted him so much it hurt.

After a long moment of silence, he dared to speak again.  He pulled his wife against him carefully but let his need for her course through their link nonetheless.

"I want you my wife.  I know we cannot yet be joined, but I want you nonetheless.  And I sense your need for me is even greater.  What would you propose we do?"

She chuckled halfheartedly, trying to be seductive.  "I need a shower, then," she sighed.

He relaxed visibly at her comment.  "As do I.  Shall we indulge and see ... what might develop?"

And with those words he carried his wife towards the bathroom.

* * *

 

It was the morning before the official opening of the first ever winter sports camp at Stark's facility.  ShiKahr resembled a large, humming beehive as excited children (many with equally as excited parents in tow) began arriving for the next day's ceremony.  The Hotel Tav 'Sal' Naya was prepared for a juvenile onslaught of varying cultures, from Terra to Fuega to Qo'noS to Go'An and its chefs were ready to please a wide variety of tastes with intergalactic comfort food.  The press of the quadrant, and beyond, were also setting up shop.  The profusion of overwhite capped teeth, exaggerated hairstyles and heavy pancake makeup made for interesting viewing, especially in the hotel's three bars and down in the diplomatic compound.  Vendors at the old town bazaar rejoiced in the fact that not only would there be many curious new customers, the coinciding of the various winter Terran holidays, especially Christmas, meant brisk business.  And above it all, silently, two Federation starships, the Potemkin and the Eagle stood watch, with the Enterprise due in at the start of the second week.  A Ferengi gambling cruiser was also expected for the festive closing ceremony.

Vulcan appeared outwardly calm, but underneath the surface, shock waves were still being felt in the aftermath of the Xir'Tan incident.  The event had been kept out of the press, thankfully, but Internal Security Services stood ever watchful of the large number of guests to the planet.  All of Vulcan knew.  Not directly, but the bush telegraph had spread faster than reproducing tribbles.  So severe were the pronouncements Ambassador Sarek made informally that many dissidents gave themselves up voluntarily, choosing to be sent to Gol for re-training.  Gol was going to be filled to the ceiling by the looks of things.  After the camp was concluded, an open, honest discussion of both sides of the issue was to be held in Council Chambers.  If the Ferengi knew, they could have made a fortune in latinum selling tickets, so hot (Vulcan style) did this promise to be.  The xenophobes and the progressives were set to air their views in a logical manner, whatever that was.

Christine was now well on the road to recovery.  She'd been moved back to Spock's family home and the two of them were firmly ensconced in the guest room.  Things between them were very nearly back to normal.  The night at the hospital had been almost innocent in its sexuality, but the sheer pleasure of having a shower together was as erotic an experience as they'd ever had.  Simply toweling each other dry led to a state of arousal well past warp eleven, and they'd retreated quickly to the bed.

Once there, it had been a gentle exploration of each other, a reestablishment of a passion that had been neglected of late, and the end result was mutually satisfying to both parties concerned.  Although Spock was rather embarrassed when the night nurse made a final check up and found him asleep, obviously unclothed, in his wife's bed.  She merely raised an eyebrow and caught Christine's eye in a very un-Vulcan wink.  Since then things had been progressing logically, though they waited for McCoy's final pronouncement of fitness before daring to think about...other things.

In the meantime, they rediscovered the fun of kissing and necking.  Discussion flowed easily between the two as problems were worked out.  Christine's fears about acting inappropriately had been soundly discounted by her extremely logical husband's statement that he wanted her and she wanted him and that was that.  So long as they were not indulging publicly on the bridge (which caused his eartips to flush), on official duty or otherwise inappropriately, he intended to exercise his marital right of ravishing his wife as often as possible in as many different places as possible.  She agreed wholeheartedly and the last sliver of concern melted away like an icicle in early spring.

* * *

 

"Fine, everything's fine, Chris," McCoy said as he ran the medscanner over her a last time.  "I'm giving my official blessing to you getting out of that bed and starting limited duty over at the camp tomorrow.  I'll be dropping in, and there are three other doctors on call.  I think the activity will be good for you."

"Can I start skating too?"

"Slowly.  But yes, you need the exercise.  Don't want adhesions to form."

His smile was broad as he took in a sight he'd never expected to see.  The usually rigid, dour First Officer sitting next to his wife on the bed, his long legs tucked under him in a relaxed crosslegged posture, and in sweats, no less.  There was no embarrassment in the scene, McCoy realized, knowing full well it was a common phenomenon wherever lovers were together.  Just maybe not as common on Vulcan, but who knew what really went on in private?  He'd already been surprised to learn that not a few pregnancies happened out of wedlock.

"Oh, you two, I think it's safe to resume your usual hanky panky.  Just start out gradually, OK?"  He wondered a bit that he said such a thing, but decided after their pirates in high space adventure that things might be a tad more informal in certain situations.

A Vulcan eyebrow raised.  "Affirmative, Doctor, though I am somewhat surprised that you would know the meaning of such an archaic, blatantly sexual reference."  The corner of his mouth lifted ever so slightly, a sign McCoy now knew was the race's version of a smile.  He'd always suspected Spock had a sense of humor.  Now he was sure of it.  Good for him.

Christine picked up a glass and began eating something out of it with a long spoon, clearly enjoying the experience.  "So how's the medical exchange going, Len?" she asked.

"Amazing.  Fascinating, actually." He watched the corner of a mouth lift microminutely higher.  "But you're the topic of conversation, Chris.  They'd never seen an appendix before and yours was a prime example of just how bad things could get.  I've been asked about appendixes and tonsils so many times I lost count.  Ruptured spleens, gall bladder attacks, you name it, they want to know.  And the doctors really put their back into learning.  A surgical training android is already being programmed with human characteristics, right down to the adenoids.  I get to test it out this afternoon."  His eyes glowed like a child at Christmas.

"And what have you learned of Vulcan physiology, then?" Spock asked casually.

"Enough to know how to perform emergency surgery and synthesize Vulcan plasma for now.  There's plenty more in the next two weeks, though.  This is a priceless opportunity, Spock.  I'm in debt to your father many times over for this."

"No more than I am to you for saving my wife's life," the Vulcan replied placidly, but his eyes said much more to the CMO.

"Well, I'll leave you two and go visit with your mother for awhile, Spock.  I'm looking forward to a ride in that flitter back into ShiKahr with you.  Chris, I'll see you tomorrow, then."  He paused and pointed to the glass she was still systematically emptying.  Anything that could keep her so occupied had to be something special.  "What's that, by the way?"

"Chocolate malt, Len."  She smacked her lips and then drank some more.  "Amanda made it for me."

At this, a look passed over Spock's face that was astonishingly similar to the one he gave the CMO after he'd admitted he never should have re-connected his mouth back on Sigma Draconis VI.  McCoy knew he'd better get out of there fast, even though he wanted to stay to see the fun.

As he was heading out, he clearly heard an incredulous Vulcan voice ask, much as spoiled six year old would, "Chocolate malt?  My mother never made me such a thing!"

McCoy was still laughing when he entered the kitchen.

* * *

 

A Vulcan hand reached for the glass, only to be soundly swatted away.

"I said NO.  If you want one, go ask you mother to make you one of your own."  A mirthful gaze, pretending to be angry, accompanied the order.

Spock uttered a phrase in his native tongue as he tried once again for the prize.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"Gimmie."

"I beg your pardon, Commander?"

"That is what I just said.  It translates into your slang as the phrase 'gimmie'."  Vulcan children were much the same as their counterparts everywhere, it seemed.

"Oh.  Well, the answer's still the same, no."  She slurped at the malt again, knowing he was getting more and more infuriated.  Tough.  He'd eaten three helpings of blueberry pancakes that morning before she could even ask for seconds.  This was her revenge.

He changed tactics.  "Please?  For me?" His sehlat look bloomed.

A sigh.  "I said No.  Nyet, Nein, Nadamante, Nu, and a thousand other variations.  I'm the one supposed to be getting my strength back, you Vulcan glutton."

"Glutton?  Surely you wish to rephrase that, my wife?"

"Let's talk blueberry pancakes, then, shall we?"

Silence.  But Spock was turning handsprings inside at the resumption of their usual banter.  She was back to stay and he'd never let her go again.

The sulking grew so painfully loud she finally relented.  "All RIGHT.  Here."  She handed him the malt with her trademark martyr's expression.

An eyebrow raised thoughtfully as he set the glass down.  His hands reached for the robe she wore after they'd had a post-breakfast shower.  Slowly, he pushed it open until one breast was revealed.  Then he reached back for the glass and took a spoonful of the liquid and proceeded to drip it seductively on her skin.  His gaze was amused.  Sexually amused.  Heat coursed through their link so quickly they were both overcome with its intensity.

"When did you see 'Exit to Eden', Commander?" she asked, then gasped as his mouth began enjoying the double treat of malt on mammary gland.  She was just amazed at the ideas he managed to come up with.  It was one thing to eat brownies a la Lady and the Tramp, but this ... this was truly decadent.

"I saw many holovids during my Academy days, Doctor."  His voice was a sensual purr, like a contented cat who finally had been fed after weeks of starvation.  He continued his oral exploration of where the malt may have spread, although finding any more was unlikely.  A hand began traversing familiar territory along her inner leg.

Suddenly he jerked away, his palm soundly thwacking the mattress in frustration, and uttered a phrase she knew to be a Vulcan oath.  In a quick movement he'd flipped onto his stomach beside her and grabbed a PADD off the bedside table.  Christine sensed something was up so adjusted things and picked up the malt glass, pretending to finish the drink.

The door opened after a gentle tap and Amanda came in.

"I hate to interrupt, but there's a houseful of visitors out there, Christine, including Spock's grandmother.  Are you up for receiving guests?"  She looked over at her son's supine form.  "Hadn't you better get up, lazybones?  You're taking Dr. McCoy back into town and then there's the meeting over at the sports center about the filming schedule.  Get a move on, sluggo."

Spock sighed.  "Yes, Mother."  He reluctantly got up and wandered over to the closet, grumbling to himself in Vulcan.

Amanda and Christine traded a silent laugh.  "Just like his father," Amanda mouthed as he left the room with a scowl.

"So who's waiting to see me?" Christine asked as she started hunting for something appropriate to wear.

"T'Pau is here, of all people, but she knew everything that happened, so that's understandable.  Stark, T'Lara, Sierra and their mothers.  And T'sai T'Ser, with a special delivery of chocolate chip cookies from her niece T'Jen over at the hotel."

She smiled.  "You're more well loved than you could possibly realize, Christine.  Just accept it for what it is.  Sarek was beside himself when the news came in.  For the both of you.  He took a huge risk going on the battle cruiser but no one could talk him out of it."  Her gaze had a faraway look to it, like a shadow crossing a sun.  "But enough of that.  Let's get you beautiful for your public."

* * *

 

Spock made his way out onto the patio and sat down next to McCoy.  Both of them had iced mochas.  The CMO was beginning to have a very good idea of what the Vulcan's marriage was really like and he was happy with his observations.

"Any time you're ready," Spock said pleasantly.

"In a minute, Spock.  It's nice to just sit once in awhile."

"Indeed."  He took a draught of the beverage.

"How's Chris?" McCoy asked honestly.

The first officer glanced down at the ground for a moment, his eartips flushed.  Then he began to speak, his words slow and measured, but with a trace of emotion underneath.

"She is fine physically, Doctor, thanks to you.  But otherwise, she is still ... fearful.  I am hoping this will pass with time."  His shoulders sagged a millimeter.

"Spock...that's normal, even if she didn't miscarry.  She thought she did and that's what matters to her.  Some kind of natural reaction of the female psyche, self preservation maybe, from the old days."  He paused and looked over at the Vulcan, surprised the man's gaze was meeting his firmly.  "You're right, it'll pass with time.  My wife and I ... we lost two before Joanna.  It was hard to try again.  Something gets taken out of you, you're afraid of hurting the other.  But we kept on and eventually things worked out."

"Thank you for your honesty, Doctor.  I realize things have not always been so open between us, but I am hoping that, too, shall change, as much of the old ways here are becoming a bit more open, in a logical way."

McCoy exhaled and turned to the first officer.  "You know, Spock, I'll admit it.  I had a lot of doubts about the two of you.  Remember, I was the one there every time Chris fell, and the one who'd see you clam up into yourself like a shellmouth after you had anything like an emotional experience.  But after these past few days, I realize that maybe I was being too harsh.  I ... was wrong.  I can see you love Chris and I'm beginning to see how deep that goes.  But to be the good surrogate father, I have to ask.  You're not planning to go back to your old ways, are you mister?"  He gave a good natured frown to the Vulcan.  "Cause if you do, you know I'll break your neck.  In several places." Then he got serious again.  "Whatever you do, don't hurt her.  You have no idea how much you mean to her."

Spock's answer further surprised the CMO.  "I understand your concern, as her superior and as her friend.  And it would surprise you if you knew how much she means to me.  Suffice it to say, no, I shall not become the swinehead, as Christine calls it, I was in my younger days.  Sometimes to be ... illogical on occasion is actually quite logical."  He raised an eyebrow.  "Now shall I deliver you to the Science Academy so that you might learn how Vulcan healers use their beads and rattles?  Though I do hope you finally learn the accurate facts about Vulcan culture and society.  It is extremely tedious for me to keep having to re-educate my wife, you know."

"Spock, you slay me," McCoy replied with a laugh as they got up.  "And yes, Chris learned that one from me."  He extended his hand.  "C'mon Spock, put'er there."

The Vulcan took the physician's handshake firmly, the corner of his mouth turned up equally as firmly.  It just seemed the logical thing to do.

* * *

 

Christine squared her shoulders and gave her image a final once over.  It was now winter on Vulcan, which meant cooler windy days and very cold nights.  Her cashmere sweater, wool trousers and loafers certainly looked appropriate, she thought, wishing she had winter Vulcan style wear.  But she'd been unable to go shopping for obvious reasons.

Obvious reasons.  She'd very nearly died on the science vessel, according to what Spock and Len had told her.  The stasis was a temporary measure from a ship generally unused to this type of emergency.  Just another hour or so and it would have been too late.  She shuddered again at the memory of what she'd been told by the isolationists and feared somehow this would affect the marriage she shared with her husband.

A deep breath drew itself from her lungs and she sought to calm the painful thud of her heart.  There were visitors to greet, no matter what else was troubling her.  She put a neutrally Vulcan expression of contentment on her face and opened the door from the guestroom she and Spock shared.

* * *

 

The first to meet with her were Stark and T'Lara's own mothers, T'sai T'Joan and T'sai T'Ron.  The meeting was private, in the living room; through the patio doors Christine glimpsed Sierra the dog entertaining Amanda, T'sai T'Ser and T'sai T'Pau with her newly learned bow as her master and mistress urged her on.

The ladies brought gifts.  T'Joan, a consignment of special Deltan chocolate truffles which were so expensively rare even the Ferengi did not regularly stock them on their gambling cruisers.  T'Ron, fine champagne from the now joined families' own vineyards.  Both indicated that much more had been shipped to the Enterprise, both for Leonard McCoy's personal use, as well as their own.

"But why?" Christine asked, as she carefully placed the precious items on the coffee table.

"Were it not for the actions of you and your husband, our children and our families might have been lost," T'Joan replied.  Christine, who knew how to look for emotion in Vulcan eyes, saw the gratitude ... and more.

"May the ancestors bless you and Spock, and keep you safe," T'Ron added.  "We owe you both that the lives of all those we cherish are still with us now."

Christine was overwhelmed by such a show of Vulcan gratitude, but realized maternal love transcended just about everything else.  "You are welcome," she said simply.  "And I hope when next we meet the occasion shall be a pleasant one."  Her reference was to Stark and T'Lara's bonding, in 1.5 solar years, although the couple had already secretly married on Terra.

The newlyweds were next, bringing the official staff sportscamp uniforms for Christine and her husband.  Cut in the Vulcan style, but sleeker and more conducive to active use, the attire looked to be the new hot item in the Vulcan fashion parade.  Sierra performed some tricks for Christine for the reward of a belly rub.  The couple's newly married state shone out from them like sunlight and Christine looked forward to the next two weeks at the hotel with the rest of the staff.  There was much the young couple wanted to share with her and Spock, it seemed.

T'sai T'Pau met with her privately on the patio.  The woman was clearly still moved by the events of the past few days, though her face belied nothing.  Christine, however, felt the woman's thoughts in her own mind.  T'Pau expressed her gratitude that she and her grandson were unharmed, and offered an ancient blessing, millenia old, that the ancestors would hold the bond the couple shared safe.  For Christine, it was a most precious honor bestowed and she said so to the woman.  And for a moment, T'Pau's gaze met hers directly, making her realize that the woman indeed held their union on very high regard.

By the time she met with T'sai T'Ser in the privacy of her room, Christine could no longer pretend she was feeling wonderful.  "Please forgive my emotion, T'sai, but I am still not completely recovered," she offered by way of apology.

"And that is why I am here, my child.  Do you think I do not know what terrible tragedy almost befell our people?  General Stoick informed me of some things, but the rest I felt from your katra.  It called to me."

Christine flushed.  "I apologize, that my shields were not high enough to prevent such an embarrassment."

The older woman simply held her hands out.  "I know you better, Christine.  Would you not tell me of your troubles?  We must heal you.  This has been a terrible thing."

"It would not be proper ... or logical."  Stubbornness was still one of her stronger points.

"You have known me long enough, Christine, to realize that logic is not possible 100% of the time.  I sense a loss and sadness in your energy.  Will you not tell me?"

Christine was hesitant, then gave in and recounted the incident on board the almost mutineered vessel, including her certainty she was pregnant and the terrible things she had been told by the would be mutineers.

"But surely you must know this would never happen here, let alone wherever you and Spock would reside?"

A hard look crossed Christine's face.  "My own culture suffered through the Eugenics Wars.  Women had their children forcibly torn from their womb at that time.  Spock and I are very visible figures to Vulcan society, no matter what their belief.  So it's possible someone might ... decide to take matters into their own hands and make an example of us."

Her voice hoarse, she pressed on.  "I was bitten by a Betan lilzardsnake some months ago and suffered terrible nightmares, from my own psyche, at the time.  The first was that Spock turned his back on our marriage for Vulcan, stating such a union was illogical.  The second had him leave me for T'Pring at his next pon farr as I was not Vulcan."  She paused and drew a deep breath, dropping her tone to a whisper.  "And the third had him renounce our unborn child and have the Vulcan healers take it me because he did not wish to shame his clan with a mutant halfbreed."

Christine now looked the woman straight in the eyes.  "How can I not fear this might happen, given what I was told?  Oh and wait, there's more.  I spoke with T'Lara as you know, about her sister's terrible experience at her bonding.  We have no way of truly predicting when Spock's mating cycle next comes, and it may be the polar opposite of the last occurrence.  What if ... I am pregnant, and his frenzy, his brutality, causes the child to be lost?  Perhaps damaging me irreparably, just because Vulcans cannot come to terms with the fact that sexual need is a normal and good thing in a bonding?  Shall I end up as some of the women I have seen, apart from their husbands for propriety, but living in fear of the next time the fires burn, when their mate rapes them again?  Because my husband has decided what we shared was also ... illogical and chooses this ludicrous way?"

At this her emotions got the best of her and she burst helplessly into tears, hiding her face from the woman as she sobbed.  "I cannot bear to have my own husband make love to me!  I am too afraid!  But you would never understand such a thing.  It is too ... illogical.  I'm Terran after all."

The Vulcan healer simply drew the woman against her, whispering soothingly as she would to an injured child.  "Hush, Christine, do not weep.  All shall be well.  All shall be well.  All manner of things shall be well."

And after a time, she cupped Christine's face in her gentle hands and spoke.  "It shall never be that way with you, my child.  You are Vah'ren.  The soulbonded.  Your mate would not harm you, not as attuned with you as he is.  Do you not understand?  The ways of pon farr are an ancient millstone at times around the neck of our people.  Strangers wed to each other at the time it is most inappropriate for two unknown souls to come together in this terrible fever.  I have seen the aftermath once too often of this madness to say it is simply our way.  And there are those healers who also follow this kind of thinking.  Perhaps, someday, such a travesty of illogic will be but a distant memory, as more suitable ways are found for Vulcans to marry and have offspring."

Christine tried to listen, but the tears still fell, shaming her even more.  Such a discussion was totally inappropriate, she knew that.

"Do you think I know nothing of the human way of love?" the healer asked softly.  "I was not alone during my time in New York.  There was someone ... very special to me for some years, though we both agreed it was for the best we did not bond.  He was a Starfleet officer, much the same as you own Spock.  I cherish the memory still.  And I hope that now, perhaps, I might know companionship in my later years as well."

"T'Ser, I am so ... stunned at your revelations.  Why are you telling me this?"  Christine was just able to keep the tremor out of her voice.  "I do not understand."

"I am saying that when, or even if, Spock's time is upon you, you two shall endure it together.  There shall be no violence, no insanity.  I know because I have used my gift to look ahead, something I seldom do.  Do not trouble yourself.  In time, children shall come.  Two, perhaps three.  At the logical place for them to arrive in your union.  But until that day comes, do not deny what you feel for your mate.  He is fearful of hurting you, even as you fear what you have told me.  Such a shadow is not needed on a bonding as joyous as yours.  So I tell you.  This night you must relax, my child.  Let your husband be your husband again.  There is truly nothing to fear."

Christine closed her eyes and allowed the woman to touch her contact points, feeling the healing energy flow between them.  Somehow, she finally realized it was going to be all right.

* * *

 

Spock and his father sat across the desk from General Stoick, in a state of utter disbelief.

"You are certain this was the plan?" Sarek asked hoarsely.

The older man nodded.  "This list contained the target of those the movement thought the most visible threats to their beliefs.  As you can see, your families were included, as well as those of Stark and his wife.  And the plan for bomb at the sports camp ... such illogic defies even the strongest of Vulcan belief."

"Using the old ways of violence to go back to what was perceived as the most basic time of our beliefs, just after violence was renounced."  Spock shook his head slowly.  "But it makes no sense.  Many movements over the centuries, across the galaxy, started out with this tenet only to fail miserably over time.  Why would our people do this?"

"I do not know," General Stoick replied.  "But I can promise you, it will not happen.  And rest assured, the things you were both told aboard the Xir'Tan are no more possible than a Le Matya suddenly spouting pre-reform opera."  He now looked at Spock.  "Do not trouble yourself, Spock.  You and your wife may have a family without the fear your children will be taken from you.  Such notions are preposterous and have no place in our society."

"Will all be safe?" Sarek now asked.

"Absolutely.  There are discreet guards protecting you even now.  Nothing shall harm you.  Go forth and enjoy this festive time for our planet.  My forces shall do their job adequately."

* * *

 

Amanda glanced out the window at where her daughter in law was finishing her yoga workout.  A frown creased her face as she stirred the hearty minestrone she was making for their dinner.  Both of them were skinny as slat cats, Christine especially, due to the flu and the incidents of the past week.  Amanda was determined to fatten them up.

She smiled as she recalled her son's feigned annoyance at her intrusion that morning.  Seeing him get up like a spoiled, sleepy child from the bed he shared with his wife brought true joy to her heart.  For only she knew that was a sure sign that things were all right in her son's world.

Such a change from two days ago, when Christine was brought home from the hospital.  She'd been sedated so she could rest, but Spock stayed by her side throughout the day, determined not to leave her even for a moment.  Towards late afternoon, Amanda came in and sat beside him.  His hands were steepled in front of his face, which wore a terrible expression of grief that she, as his mother, could recognize.

"What is it Spock?" she asked.  "Does something trouble you?"

"This is my fault," he replied.  "I should have seen the warning signs right away but I was too busy being a proper Vulcan Starfleet officer to realize my own wife's life was in danger."

"You could not have possibly known, my son.  Come and let us sit in the garden.  Christine will sleep for some time, and you could use the fresh air."

Amanda knew what was troubling her son.  He'd recounted that Christine was certain she'd been pregnant and miscarried in telling about the statements made on board the Xir'Tan.  And as a woman, Amanda knew the pain of thinking perhaps yes, she was pregnant only to find out this was not the case at all.  She and Sarek also suffered three miscarriages before Spock was conceived.

And so they sat and watched the fountains splash merrily, though the breezes were cool now.  The gardens were rich with imported poinsettias Amanda ordered as soon as she'd heard her son and his wife would be there for the holiday season.  She said nothing, knowing her son would speak when the time was right.

"She is afraid of my touch," he said.  "I can see it in her eyes, feel it in our bond.  She is terrified that should she conceive, this will cause problems.  I do not understand.  She and I are still as husband and wife should be, Mother.  Why should this cause her fear?"

Amanda let out a sigh, all but thunderstruck that her son would be so honest with her after all this time.  Perhaps, she reasoned, he truly did cherish his wife as much as she suspected he did.

"I have felt the fear, my son.  Your father and I also suffered loss.  Although yours was not the same, the fact that Christine felt she might carry your child played on her emotions.  And to be told what she was, and then think that child was lost ... it was as real as if she truly had miscarried.  It takes ... time, but she will be fine again.  Perhaps you might ask Dr. McCoy for his medical advice on the matter?"

"Yes, perhaps.  But for now I cannot truly hold my own wife close.  This is illogical, What am I to do?"  Spock's voice was even, but Amanda saw the pain in his eyes, the same pain she'd seen when he was a little boy being teased by his classmates.  Only this time, perhaps, he was not about to deny his feelings.

Tentatively, she took his hand in both of hers.  "It will be all right, son.  Trust me.  Just don't stop loving her, whatever you do, or she'll think you're punishing her.  And as for when the time is right ... you will know."

And she watched as a hurting six year old boy looked back at her.  "Thank you, Mother.  For always being there for me."

Amanda knew it would never be the same again between them.  And that was a very good thing.

* * *

 

Christine had finished her workout and was now meditating quietly on the patio.  Amanda noticed the color slowly creeping back into her waxen cheeks.  Hopefully, she and her son might use the evening wisely, for Sarek had yet another diplomatic dinner which demanded his wife's presence, all for the good of the sports camp.  Amanda didn't mind, it was another reason to show the rest of the planet that things were business as usual.

The door chime sounded.  The security services guards announced the guest and Amanda went over to the patio door and called out.

"Christine, a visitor, are you up for it?"

"Sure," came the reply.  In a moment, her daughter in law threw a long caftan over her yoga clothes and came inside, shaking her hair into place.

"You remember T'sai T'Glad, Christine?" Amanda asked pleasantly.

"Of course."  Of course she did.  The neighborhood's own personal private detective.

"Our tree is just filled with these right now," the woman said, handing over a basket of fruits.  "They're similar to your Terran apples.  I thought you and your husband might enjoy having some?"

Christine took one of the purple fruits and inhaled its unusual, sweet scent.  "Thank you, T'sai.  I am sure these will be quite a treat."

"I cannot stay, Skrav and I are visiting our daughter and her family this evening, but ... I did want to come by and express our gratitude.  Christine, you and your husband performed a great service to our people, and I know this to be a fact.  Thank you.  From all of us."

"You're welcome, T'sai," was all she could think to say, but the woman was already gone.

"She would know," Amanda said softly, indicating the fact she knew what line of work Skrav was in.

"I guess."  Christine took a bite of the fruit and a delighted smile crossed her features.  "These really are like apples!  Amanda, what time is it?  Can we make some pies before you and Sarek have to leave this evening?"

"I'm sure we can.  And do you happen to have a recipe?  If not, I have my grandmother's."

"That'd be fine.  Let's get to work!"  Christine set the basket down on the kitchen counter and pushed up her sleeves.

Amanda smiled.  It was heartening to see things back to some semblance of normalcy.

* * *

 

"So what do you think of it?" Stark asked as Spock as they braked after the run.

Spock took the sleek little board off and held it up for closer inspection.  "Very aerodynamic, and quite easy to maneuver.  Lightweight, easily portable."  He looked at the champion with a raised eyebrow.  "As they say on Terra, I believe you have what is termed 'a winner'."

"Cosmic!  The strap makes it easy to sling across your pack, and with your crampons and gaiters, you can climb up what you just boarded down...if you need to, that is.  So we'll film after the Enterprise arrives, and get some other crewmembers from the ships.  Potemkin and Eagle have a couple of hotdoggers.  Do you?"

"Yes, perhaps Lt. Dillon.  He has become quite adept at the sport, though hockey is his forte."

"Like you, huh?"  Stark gave the older Vulcan a sly grin as they entered his private office.  "Now, I have a couple of things to run past you.  First of all, I'll need your help in refereeing some hockey matches.  Seems most of the fledgling boarders are hockey wannabees."

Spock deciphered the slang, grateful for his wife's hours of tutelage.  "That would be agreeable," he replied.  "And?"

"Uh, this one's a little more ... undefined.  I'd kind of like any of the Vulcan participants to be able to talk with you if they have questions or issues.  Kind of a diplomacy position?  If that's okay?"

"I would be honored to do so," Spock said, thinking how pleased his father would be to hear about this.  At the same time he wondered what Kirk would think of his first officer pulling babysitting duty.

"And then..." Stark began, "there's someone kind of ... special that'll be attending.  You might recall the mother, you've never met the kid, though."

"Is this about T'Mara?  My father notified me some time ago when he was assisting you in choose the Vulcan participants.  Christine and I discussed the matter and have no problems with the young woman's presence."

"Cosmic.  I hear she's a real turner and a great dancer.  Her teacher, T'sai T'Pas recommended her highly, wants to see where her true interest is.  She might end up a skating champion, who knows?  No ... it's something else.  Someone else, actually." Stark pushed a PADD across the desk and poured out some soft drinks.

"You are not attempting a late April Fool's Day joke, Stark?" Spock finally asked after yanking his eyebrows back from where they had risen.  He reached for a beverage and gulped it down.

"Wish I was.  No, he applied like anyone else.  Hockey.  Under an assumed name, though.  Sent a vid and everything.  Very talented, but no real facilities on his homeworld.  When I chose him, well, that's when all hell, so to speak, broke loose."

Spock was silent for a moment.  "Yes, given the mother's ... emotional nature, I am not surprised.  She has consented to let him attend?"

"Not exactly.  Your father contacted the Troyan ambassador as soon as we found out who Ellat, or Elias, really was.  He thought it was a wonderful idea.  I guess they managed to put a muzzle on his mother.  He'll arrive tomorrow, with an entourage of bodyguards and other hangers on." Stark now raised his own eyebrow.  "I ... kind of know what that's like."

"Is he anything at all like his mother Elaan?"

"That's the funny thing.  Not even close.  Really quiet, ordinary.  Maybe a little like that eggheaded son of Foghorn Leghorn's girlfriend.  A real Lionel Poindexter -- glasses and all."

For once Spock was glad his mother had force fed him all those Terran cartoons when he was young.  "And I am to presume you would like me to keep a ... special eye on him?"

Stark exhaled.  "Would you?  The last thing I need is for some interstellar incident because Junior doesn't have the crusts trimmed off his bread the way he likes it.  Look, I'm sorry I'm yakking all this slang, Spock.  When I'm overwhelmed, my Terran upbringing shows.  Forgive me."

"Think nothing of it," Spock replied, letting his eyes show the younger man a glimmer of amusement.  He knew very well what that was about, though the overwhelming in his case was of another nature.  Then again, he thought, given Stark's newly married status, perhaps not.  "We shall be here tomorrow at the appointed time and take our place in the staff accommodation.  Am I also to presume we will have ... joined quarters?"

The champion flushed a delicate salmon color.  "You and Chris are on the penthouse level with T'Lara and myself.  There's only two suites, plus rooms for the security services people."

"But where will His Highness reside?" Spock couldn't resist asking.

"In a shared room, just like every other participant.  He requested it.  I've put him in with that dude from Chris's home town?  Jimmy Sanchez."

* * *

 

"These look delicious," Amanda said as Christine finished crimping the last of the four pies shut with a delicate movement of her fingers.  "And I particularly like the closure.  Give a nice bit of crust which is the best part, if you ask me."

"My mom taught me that early on.  I'm also a killer at closing pirogi or wontons.  I ... like to cook," she said with a sigh.

"And my son and his father both like to eat.  Trust me.  But cardamom?  That's different.  Many Vulcans can't tolerate cinnamon, but no problems with cardamom.  In fact, Indian food is quite popular here."

Christine allowed a tiny smile of satisfaction to cross her still pale face.  "Cardamom just gives a little zing that's different and can bring out the flavor of a fruit.  Let's get these into the oven."

Amanda watched her daughter in law set the timer, then crossed over to stand near her.  "Are you okay now, Christine?" she asked, still concerned she might be suffering emotional side effects.

"I'm -- getting there."  For a second, her blue eyes darkened and she seemed to sag just a fraction.  "But I'm still a little shaky.  T'Ser really helped me."

"She's a wonderful healer," her mother in law agreed.  Then she gave the younger woman a caring hug.  "You'll be fine, but it takes time.  You know what I went through.  Sarek was very supportive, and, I suspect, Spock will be even more so.  He's besotted with you, as I always said.  Logic be damned."

"I couldn't agree with you more," Christine laughed.

* * *

 

"Is Christine feeling better, then, my son?" Sarek asked as they started for home.

"Physically, yes.  Mentally, she has not yet fully recovered."

"And emotionally?"

Spock dared a semi-shocked gaze in his father's direction.  "Father?"

"My son, you, and I, have chosen to marry Terran women we cherish.  They are emotional beings.  Given what Christine went through, which would test even a Vulcan's inner beliefs, I am not surprised she is still not completely well.  This shall pass, my son.  She will recover.  You must support her, however, lest she think you reject her.  Illogical, perhaps, but often very true in this type of situation."

Before Spock could answer, the ambassador's vidphone beeped and he was soon involved in a discussion with the Tellarite embassy.

Spock looked out the window at the passing scenery so familiar to him, yet as though he was viewing it for the first time.  But his thoughts were far from there.  He recalled Christine, coming to in the Vulcan vessel's sickbay, screaming, fighting, and trying to rise from the bed, even as the physician was about to put her into stasis.  Of course, she thought ... he shook his head.  Her maternal instinct was strong.  The idea of that happening on Vulcan made him uncharacteristically fearful.

He would be alone with her this evening and he was more terrified than the first night they ended up together.  Although they had been expressing physical affection, quite intensely lately, he sensed a hesitancy on her part.  This morning, had his mother not decided to come into their room, he suspected Christine would have pulled away.  He felt her fear and doubt in their bond.  For some reason, she seemed to feel that he would not desire her any longer, although they had spoken of this otherwise.  The words and the thoughts were not matching.  The prospect of trying to convey his desire to her seemed a nearly impossible task.

But he would try.

* * *

 

"Elias, D. of Troyus?"  Christine stared at the PADD almost disbelievingly.  She turned to Spock, who was sitting next to her at the kitchen table as they waited for their dinner to heat.  "The Dauphin of Troyus?  You've got to be kidding!"

"Given the experience we both had with his mother, I am not surprised at your reaction.  However, I am assured the youth is not at all like his ... emotional parent.  And Elaan is now the widowed empress of Troyus; the progeny of her husband's first wife, a daughter, rules until Elias is of age to do so."

"That woman came down to sickbay and forcibly removed Jim from an exam table at one point.  Len and I thought they were going to..."  She stopped suddenly, then changed the subject.  "What next, Leonard James Akaar?"  Then she asked, a little mischievously.  "Does Jim know about this?"

Ordinarily, Spock would have risen to the bait thrown his way and made a snide remark about keeping the Dolman all to himself, but the thought of doing that now sent fear coursing through him.  So instead he merely said, "I do not believe so," and watched her continue her perusal of the list of participants.

He knew why she went so quiet.  He and his wife had ... indulged in sickbay several times and in several different places before they married.  But instead of being a happy memory for them both, he now sensed it caused her shame.

"Jimmy Sanchez ... Mogh ... Loki ... Silok ... Benny Childress of Fuega?  Could that be Evie and Ben's oldest?  I met him when I was there."  A peripheral motion caught her eye, and in a micosecond she swatted back a hand reaching surreptitiously for some piecrust.

Spock looked back at her, remembering being caught with his hand in the cookie jar many years ago.

"Dessert comes after dinner, mister.  Oh and for 'Vulcans do not partake of dessert,' you certainly break that mold."  She moved the pie in front of her and continued reading.

His stomach turned over as, under normal circumstances, he would have easily segued into a discussion about dessert ... he recalled the romp they'd had through the kitchen at her family home, based on that old Terran film 'Fatal Attraction'.  But the words stuck in his throat like sand from a winter storm.  He kept his shields in place, not willing to let her know he feared even touching her now, lest she reject him out of her own fears.

* * *

 

"Truly, a prime example of the depths to which 20th century Terran filmmakers would go to frighten the populace about the evil space aliens."  Spock's tone was amused.

They'd just finished watching a true classic in the bad film genre, "The Brain from Planet Arous."  Christine had been laughing almost nonstop.  He'd allowed himself a few snickers at the sight of brains with glowing green eyes chase each other around the requisite evil scientist's lab in the old battle of good versus evil.  Wires clearly visible, of course.  But their demeanor was as chaste as two twelve year olds on their first date.  Mom and dad weren't home ... except each was too terrified to do anything about it.

"You ate the whole pie?"  Christine's voice was censorious.  "I can't believe this!"  She held out the empty plate which was as clean as though it had been washed in a dishwasher.

"Not precisely, seven eights, my wife," Spock called out to her retreating form as she marched off to the kitchen.  He followed her, now even more afraid of what to do.  Ordinarily, they would have bantered as they did this morning, but now, he sensed this was not an avenue open to him.  Her shields were up as though she was...deciding something.

He came into the kitchen to see her vigorously scrubbing the offending plate.  "I shall go meditate, then."  That was all he could think of saying, though he wanted to forego his usual meditation and take her straight to bed for a long night of loving.

"Fine."  She did not even turn around.

* * *

 

Christine wandered into the den and looked at the cartons of Christmas decorations she and Amanda had gotten out of storage earlier.  Amanda promised the house would look like "Christmas in Connecticut" for the day and a half they had off from sports camp duties.  That Sarek would permit this showed the depth of feeling he had for his wife.  Amanda said it was a long standing tradition Sarek was now pleased they could share with their children.

What would it be like, she wondered?  Spock would not expect a gift.  Should she get him one anyway, or risk disapproval?  Then she allowed her thoughts to wander to her husband, meditating in silence just down the hall.  She wanted him so much it hurt, but she sensed he was being cool.  Perhaps the pregnancy scare had indeed given him second thoughts.  Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.  All talk, no action?  This morning had almost been like old times but now she sensed fear.

Her healing session with T'sai T'Ser had been very productive but it unleashed other issues she hadn't known she possessed.  Despite her need for Spock, she was also terrified of what might happen if she expressed this need.

She went to the hall closet and pulled on an old winter cloak and some boots then went out onto the patio, despite the evening chill.  Just a few months ago, they had been out here watching the stars, enjoying the unique humor their relationship shared.  And now?  Was that part of their relationship gone forever?

For a moment she looked up at the skies and saw a falling star.  But she did not wish on it as she ordinarily would do.  Instead, she wrapped her arms around her knees and sat there, under the cold Vulcan sky, and wept.

* * *

 

T'Mara opened the door to her room and looked inside.  It was nice, she thought.  Big and bright with a balcony looking out on the mall below.  She'd just said good bye to her aunt and uncle and then T'Lara escorted her here.  When the camp was over, her parents would be journeying from Go'An for the final festivities, including an exhibition by all the participants.

She put her constant companion, a large white stuffed swan, on the pillow of her bed and was about to unpack when a slight noise startled her.  Hesitantly, she turned around and saw a girl about her own age sitting up against the wall on her own bed, clutching a pillow to her stomach, a look of misery painted across her unusual, exotic features.  Their eyes met and T'Mara sensed the other girl's fear.

No stranger to this kind of reception, T'Mara walked over to where the girl was sitting.  "Hello," she said.

"He-llo," her roommate replied warily.

"I am named T'Mara.  You are not of Vulcan? "

A sound like a hiccup echoed in T'Mara's ears.  At last she heard a heavily accented voice responded.  "I am called Kanou.  I am from the Klingon homeworld.  Qo'noS."

"A very long journey then.  I am from Go'An, a city in the central deserts.  I shall be skating.  And you?"

"Skating."  Her companion obviously didn't want to talk, though she understood what was being said.

"Very well, Kanou.  I shall unpack then."  T'Mara strolled back to her suitcase, opened it and began to put her belongings away.

"What's that?" Kanou finally said after some moments had passed.  T'Mara felt she was being watched very closely, another feeling she was not unfamiliar with.

"This?  It is my toy swan.  A bird of Terra.  Do you have many kinds of birds on your homeworld?"  T'Mara picked up the animal and brought it over for closer inspection.

The Klingon girl said nothing, just looked at the unfamiliar object.  Finally she started to speak.  "None as ... nice as this, though we have birds."

"Her name is Madeline," T'Mara offered, stroking the downy toy's sleek white head.  Then she held it out.  "Would you like to pet her too?"

A moment later a small brown hand began patting the toy's fluffy wing.  "She is pretty.  Have you seen ... a real one?"

"I have, at the zoo here in ShiKahr.  Do you have a zoo where you live?"

"A -- zoo?"

"A place where you may see animals from many places.  Like a park?"

A smile, or the beginnings of one, crossed the Klingon's face.  "Yes, there is such a place, but not very large."  Then the look of sadness returned.  "My mother and grandfather took me there."

Silence.  But the two girls regarded each other carefully.

"You are home-sick, perhaps?" T'Mara finally asked.

The hiccup sounded again.  "I am.  But my grandfather says it will be such an honor for me to be here.  I feel the others ... look at me.  I do not like this."

"In my school, I, too am 'looked at'.  " T'Mara decided to be honest.  "It is not pleasant, I agree."

"I wish my mother was here," Kanou said, her lip trembling.

"I would also like my mother to be here," T'Mara sighed, then she sat down on the girl's bed next to her.  "But since they cannot be, let us find something logical which may make us feel better.  Are you hungry?"

Kanou shook her head.  "Not really."

"Nor am I, but perhaps I should like some pop-corn.  Have you ever tasted this?" T'Mara moved to the room's replicator, which was programmed for everything from picus claw snacks to plomeek soup to burgers and fries.  A moment later, a hot fresh bowl of the Terran snack appeared.

Kanou cautiously put a kernel in her mouth, then smiled for real.  "It is good!" she said.

"My mother makes it as a special treat for me.  So now I do not miss her so much."

"I do not feel mine is so far away, either," Kanou replied, taking another handful.  Then she turned to the Vulcan girl.  "Why do you have such a toy swan?  Is it a special talisman?"

"I study ballet," T'Mara began.

* * *

 

A few hours later, T'Lara knocked on the door of the roommates she was most curious about.  She was admitted and came right in.

"Bedtime in thirty minutes, young ladies," she said in a pleasant voice.  "We all have a busy day tomorrow!" Then she looked at the sight before her.  "My goodness, what are you girls doing, you have already been busy!"

"T'Mara is teaching me about ba-lay," Kanou replied, even before the Vulcan girl could answer.

"T'sai T'Lara, on the day we have free, could we perhaps visit the zoo here?  I would like to show Kanou the swans."

T'Lara spoke with the girls a few moments more, interested in the drawings that were now scattered on the floor and the colorful book, a real one, of ballets open to "Swan Lake." Then she bade the roommates good night and carefully walked down the hall to the next room.  Thirty young ladies were under her watchful eye, from all parts of the galaxy.

Yet T'Lara felt in her katra she's just witnessed the beginning of a very special friendship.

Good, she thought.

* * *

 

Spock paced back and forth in the guest room.  He'd finished his meditation but was not sure what to do.  Somehow, the evening had not turned out the way he'd planned.  His attempt at humor failed miserably, which sacred him.  And then Christine had disappeared into herself so far he was not able to recognize her.  Considering the morning's fine inroads, this was a polar extreme he did not expect.  What now?

The words of the wedding ceremonies rang in his ears.  "For better, for worse.  In sickness and health."  This was a day he knew would happen that first time he'd decided to pursue her and then kissed her, so long ago.  It was time to face down the lematya blocking the way to his Vah'ren.  He sensed she was out on the patio and headed there.  As he opened the door, he looked skyward, as he always did, and saw one of a number of falling stars.  And he made a wish.

Christine suddenly became aware of her husband sitting next to her on the bench.  He slid an arm around her shoulders, drawing her close against his warmth.

"What are you doing out here, my love?  It is extremely cold.  You must not become chilled."  His voice was soft.

"I know," she sighed.  "But I was just remembering how lovely the night sky is on Vulcan, and the last time you and I were watching the stars out on this patio." Spock could sense the unspoken question.  Will we ever share such moments again?  Or have we lost our way?

He turned to look at his wife and saw her eyes searching his own, wondering what lay ahead.  It was up to him to lead them back.

"Come, beloved.  Let us go inside where it is warm, shall we?"

She sniffled from the chill air.  "That sounds logical."

And with those words their journey began.

* * *

 

Spock led his wife into their bedroom, which was lit only with candlelight.  But he pulled her down beside her on some cushions on the floor, not on the bed.  For some time they did nothing except hold each other, saying nothing.  He felt her link opening to him a bit but did not press for more than she was willing to give.

"What troubles you, my wife?" he finally asked, when he sensed she'd relaxed enough to talk.

"I ... don't know.  Forgive me.  My emotions, they're just in a turmoil.  So much has happened in the last few days.  One minute I think I'm my old self, the next, I'm shaking inside with some unknown fear."

"Your emotions are part of who you are, my beloved.  Please do not apologize for this.  But this fear you speak of, what does it concern?  Will you not tell me?"

At the soft insistence of his voice, she wordlessly assented to opening the link more.  Emotions barreled across the connection full speed, with no holding back.  Fear.  Shame.  Loss.  Regret.  Anger.  Confusion.  Denial.  Protection.  Rejection.  Longing.  Want.  And above all, love.

Spock recalled an old Terran saying he'd heard in his Academy days.  "May the love between your souls be so great that when one of you weeps, the other tastes the salt." And now he finally knew what that meant.  At last he understood why his wife was behaving the way she had.  Carefully, he let his own emotions course back to her, trying to convey his own sense of understanding and support for the turmoil in her heart.

"I'm afraid of what others may do to us," she finally admitted much later.  "Not of the fact we love each other.  There was a famous old Terran film, 'Not Without My Daughter,' where the husband reverted to the ways of his culture at the expense of his wife and child.  That....that's what scares me, Spock.  What if the day comes when you must choose between your heritage and your life?"

"My life is with you, my Vah'ren," he whispered fiercely.  "I will protect you and our children with my very katra.  Know that.  I will not make that choice, and that is my solemn promise to you on our marriage vow." He began to stroke the hair off her forehead, knowing she was aware this was his special sign of love for him.  "You, and the children we shall someday have, are what matters most.  We shall face the future together, as we promised on our wedding day, remember?  Wherever our duties may take us, you are still my wife, and my love."

She sighed, a long shuddering release, then looked up at his eyes, her own now full of the love they shared.  "But I'm still confused, Spock.  I don't know what to think anymore."

"Hush.  You must not think.  Just feel at this moment." And he cued the computer, and a lilting sweet song began to play.  "Listen to the words," he whispered, as he did long ago, "and feel.  Trust me, T'hyla."  His hand gently found her contact points.

The lyrics began, an old Terran song that had been through several incarnations in films.  But this was the original.

"I hear your name whispered on the wind, it's a sound that makes me cry

I hear a song again and again through my mind, and I don't know why

I wish I didn't feel so strong about you

Like happiness and love revolve around you

Trying to catch your heart is like trying to catch a star

So many people love you, baby, that must be what you are...

 

"Waiting for a star to fall and carry you heart into my arms

That's where you belong, in my arms baby....

 

"I've learned to feel what I cannot see, but with you, I lose that vision

I don't know how to dream your dream, so I'm all caught up in superstition,

I want to reach out and pull you to me

Who says I should let a wild one go free?

Trying to catch you heart is like trying to catch a star....

 

"Waiting...however long I don't like waiting...I'll wait for you

It's so hard waiting...don't be too long

Seems like waiting makes me love you even more...."

 

Spock felt the dam of emotional pain finally give way in his wife.  He said nothing as she wept against his shoulder, for he knew this was making her whole again.  And after her real tears had finally stopped, she spoke.  "Did you make a wish tonight, my husband?"

"I did, my love."

"And?"

"I think it may be about to be realized.  I wished that we might be husband and wife again, as we have been.  Do not be afraid of my love for you, Christine.  It is a safe place for you to be.  I am here with you, no matter what."

She sighed and snuggled closer against him, the last vestiges of terror snapping their hold on her soul, replaced by a shining, gentle light that seemed to engulf them as they lay on the cushions.  As T'sai T'Ser told her, she realized, things were finally going to be all right.  Maybe a little shaky now and then, but all right.

"Are we sleeping on the floor tonight?" she asked after awhile.

"If you wish to, we shall.  I did not want to have the added pressure of attempting serious conversation in our marriage bed."  His arms held her protectively against him.

"I'm not into floors."  She looked up at her husband, a glimmer of the old spirit shining in her eyes at last, to stay this time.  "I just hate rug burn."

"Rug burn?"  His eyebrow raised a fraction as he dared to let his hand drift down her lower back.

"Rug burn.  Happens when you have intense sex on a carpet."  Her tone began to be a little mischievous.  Her fingers slid beneath his shirt and toyed with the tiny key he still wore around his neck.

Spock held his breath, afraid of the bucket of cold water which had followed previous encounters that week.  But none came.  He felt sexual energy began to tentatively throb along their link.  Weak, hesitant, but it was determined.

"In that case, can you think of a more logical place for such...intense sex?" he ventured, still waiting for the dream to end.

"I can.  Would you not take me to bed and make love to me, Spock?" Her fingers brushed his lips, seeking entry.  "I ... need to feel you.  Inside me."  And then she kissed him, full of hunger and need and love.

It was just about three meters from the floor to the bed, but it was the most long, wonderfully erotic journey of their relationship.

Spock thanked his ancestors for the star they'd thrown his way to wish on.

* * *

 

"That gluttonous son of ours has consumed the entire pie!"  Sarek was looking at the dish with a faintly astonished expression on his face.

"Our son?  No, dear, he gets his appetite from your side of the family."  Amanda snickered as she opened a cupboard and drew out another of the desserts.  "That's why I taught Christine to make at least two of anything she baked, if not more."  She set the pie on the kitchen table and went off for utensils and plates.  "Will you have a midnight snack with me, my husband?"

"Indeed, Aduna, I should be delighted."  Sarek joined his wife and watched as she proficiently cut two slices.  He took a bite.  "This is delicious!  The fruit from Skrav's tree?  Quite delightful."

"Christine wanted to see how it would cook up in a pie.  I gather her husband also decided it was palatable, wouldn't you say?"

Sarek reached across and took his wife's hand in his, allowing his feelings to flow to her.  "It is ... very good to see they have an appetite once more.  Both of them were so thin.  Christine in particular looked so fragile it was worrying."  He sighed.  "Perhaps they are healing together, at last."

Amanda thought about the times her husband had been with her during the recovery from her own loss, always caring, never judging.  "Perhaps," she finally said.  "And I know our son has had a good teacher." She let her pleasure for the newly reestablished father and son relationship creep into her tone.

"Teachers," Sarek replied softly.

* * *

 

"Is it time to get up?" Christine mumbled against her husband's shoulder.

"No, it is still early."  Spock let his hands traverse the familiar, wonderful softness of his wife's unclothed skin.  "But it is morning, however."

"Did we get any sleep at all?"  She began doing her own tactile exploration of things.

"A bit, I would think.  Perhaps ... an hour?"  He raised an eyebrow, amusement clearly playing across his face.

"Shame on you, Commander, keeping a sick woman up all night to have your wicked way with her."  She tweaked an eartip and slid herself higher up his body.

He pulled her on top of him, smiling that special smile of contentment that came after hours of loving.  "I had it on the recommendation of the woman's personal physician that she was adequately recovered for such ... activities."  His hands settled comfortably on her backside, where he loved to touch her most.

"We're going to be mighty tired today, you realize that?"  She traced his eyebrow, then the bridge of his nose.

"I would think so."

"Spock?"

"Yes, Doctor?"

"For once in my life, I've never been so happy that I'm tired."

"I find myself agreeing with your somewhat illogical statement.  Now since it would be pointless for us to attempt to sleep at this time, what would you suggest we do?"  His fingers traced the delicate cleft where rear met upper thigh, enjoying the shiver that coursed through her.

"Some yoga, when it gets a little lighter?"  Her thigh slid across his groin with an agonizingly slow movement.

"That would be ... agreeable."

"Until then," she purred in his ear, "are you ... hungry?"

"For you, my love, I am always ... starved."

* * *

 

T'sai T'Glad opened her front door with a slightly puzzled look on her face.  She never expected to see the couple on her doorstep but here they were, and in those fine looking uniforms that Stark designed for his sportscamp staff.

"Good morning, T'sai," Spock said easily.  His wife nodded along with him.

"Good morning to you both.  What brings you here, is something amiss?"

Christine held out one of the pies she and Amanda made.  "T'sai Amanda and I made your fruit into some Terran styled pies and Spock and I thought you and your husband Skrav might enjoy one of them."

"A pie?  Yes, we have partaken of this dessert.  For us?  I am ... pleased that you have thought to do this kindness."

"Think nothing of it, T'sai," Spock replied.  "We shall be back for the Terran holiday break, so we may see you and Skrav then.  For now, we must get to the opening of the sportscamp, so Christine and I shall take our leave of you, then?"

T'sai T'Glad watched the couple head back across the cul de sac to the waiting staff car.  As it pulled away, she was astonished to see the Terran woman wave good-bye.

She hurried into the kitchen to put away the unexpected treat, wondering how Skrav would react when he came home.  They were a fine, logically matched couple after all, she decided.

FIN