He had expected to dislike their Long Leave.
Back in his Academy days, the prospect of being planet-bound for an entire year between missions was almost abhorrent. The fact that he would have the luxury of choosing between Earth and Vulcan (with Earth as the painfully obvious choice, of course), was no matter - he could barely stomach the idea of giving up space for so long, after having spent so much time and effort getting into space in the first place.
His first five-year mission had barely put a dent in this opinion, even considering the fact that his wife, two children, and numerous close friends and shipmates did not share it. They all looked forward to the "Fleet mandated vacation" every ten years with a great deal of anticipation.
After two five year missions. . . he admitted he could see the point. Ten years of regimented chaos - needing to be continually prepared for the wildly unexpected, but also learning to deal with crushing boredom 97% of the time. . . well, a long rest was certainly welcome.
Two months of drizzly, wintry weather in Northern California, however, manifestly was not.
It was not until three weeks ago that he had finally admitted that he was enjoying their stay at his Human grandmother's home. Frances Cornelia Grayson operated a popular, and very pretty, bed and breakfast, in a quaint - and very pretty - small town. But even the most picturesque hotel in the quaintest of seaside villages does not show itself to great advantage in mid-January.
Three weeks ago, everything had finally stopped being a uniform grey, and the air and streets were no longer so ceaselessly damp and cold. Nyota could finally take the children to the rock shore without fear of them being pummeled to pieces, or, far more likely, catching a cold. Spock shook his head. Centuries later, and the "War Of The Worlds Phenomenon" still prevailed. His children had been born in space, and despite McCoy's most rigorous efforts, there was still an unknown hoard of Earth-bound pathogens that they were vulnerable to.
Yet another justification for a Long Leave, he supposed. . .
But today, at last, things felt somewhat normal. The majority of the bridge crew were expected for dinner, in celebration of his and Nyota's wedding anniversary. His grandmother had insisted upon preparing an enormous feast in honor of the event. Cakes and pies and breads and salads and roasted vegetables, snacks and drinks and dozens more things he hadn't bothered to observe were crammed into cupboards, stasis units, and ovens. Plates, napkins, flatware, streamers, balloons, and who knew what else were scattered all over tables, floors, and even chairs all over the house.
Things felt only "somewhat" normal, after all. . .
He made for the outdoor table that had become his refuge. Grandmother Grayson's hotel had a very large deck that was lined with tables and chairs for the guests. Off to one side, there was a smaller, slightly damaged table. It was behind a corner, next to the barbecue grill, and consequently was almost invisible from the majority of the deck. Its attached umbrella was broken, and so, he was guaranteed nearly all of the day's sunshine, and as much privacy as was available, as well.
He had just pulled up the book he was currently reading on his PADD, when Nyota's head appeared around the corner of the house.
"Oh, there you are!" she exclaimed, "Been looking for you. It's arrived!" She skipped towards him, carrying a very long and slender cardboard box. She sat down across from him, grinning as she opened it.
He knew what it was. Sulu had been teaching her to fence, and when Spock had asked if there was anything in particular she wanted for their anniversary this year, she had mentioned an épée. Given that fencing was rising in popularity as a sport, almost as much as parrises squares, it hadn't been difficult to find an excellent sword of the exact weight Nyota used. This one specifically had been shipped directly from the Wellington manufacturers.
"Oooh, it's lovely," she murmured as she lifted it into the light, "Just look at that!"
The bright spring sunshine glinted and glittered all down the length of the narrow blade.
"Very pretty," he replied, "While everyone is here, you can show Hikaru."
She grinned at the thought, "Oh, it's been a lovely three months, but I must admit to missing them all," she sighed a little, "and being in space too. . ." She drew herself up, and put back on a smile, "But that's neither here nor there, right now!" Then, with a flick of her wrist, she threw him a small cloth bag, "There you are! Open it!" She laughed, watching him eagerly.
He undid the drawstring, searched briefly inside the tiny pocket, and pulled out. . . a ring. Closer inspection showed it to be a white gold ring, deeply engraved, and set with a small star sapphire. The engraving encircled the stone's setting, and said "Ex astris, scientia" followed by the date of his graduation from Starfleet Academy.
The graduation ring he had never seen the need to buy.
"We are going to the ten-year reunion in a couple of months, aren't we?" asked Nyota, when he didn't say anything.
He nodded slowly. "I had not intended to until now, but yes, adun'a. I think we should." He put the ring on the third finger of his right hand. It fitted excellently. "We owe Starfleet a very great deal, you and I."
She came over to him, and kissed the top of his head. "We do. But, right now I think we owe your grandmother! That dinner table of hers is positively groaning!"
He quirked his lips, "Jim will appreciate it."
She laughed, "So will Scotty! And Len, and Pavel, and Jeff, and Jan and Chris and Carol!"
He raised an eyebrow. "Indeed."
Then he took her arm, and they went inside.