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Diamonds Aren't Forever - But They Get Close

Chapter Text

"We are gathered here together to reaffirm and celebrate the marriage of S'chn T'gai Spock and Nyota Uhura. Seventy-five years is a notable length of time, and therefore praiseworthy. Marriage is an admirable estate, and therefore it is fitting and right that we. . ."

Slowly, Nyota stood from her place, and took hold of Spock's hand. It was only the second time in their lives they had ever held hands in public. He held back a smile, and she did smile, lovingly, at the officiant. Seventy-five years ago it had been T'Pau, standing before the altar, in formal robes, and pronouncing a Christian wedding ceremony in very Vulcan tones. But this time, it was their daughter, T'Ashal. The dear girl was nearly seventy herself - older, in fact, than Sarek had been when he married Amanda all those years ago.

How proud Amanda would have been today, do you not agree, Adun?

To see her son's marriage being celebrated by her Vulcan priestess granddaughter? Yes, Adun'a, she would. . .

Chapter Text

"It's been quite a year, my dear, hasn't it?" said Lady Amanda, as she welcomed Nyota into her personal rooms at the Embassy, "Full of first things - and this is another first, isn't it?"

"Yes," Ny grinned, "My first time visiting the Vulcan Embassy." She shrugged lightly, "Spock doesn't like it here much. . ."

"Well, he has his reasons, of course," Amanda's voice was just as light, "He'll be dropping by later, though, I assume?"

"Yes," said Nyota with a sigh, "He's taking me out for a special dinner, and then a show, and then one of those "Dessert Cruises" across the bay, and apparently we're spending the night in a planetarium, and tomorrow we're taking the Breakfast Train to Calistoga. . ."

Amanda laughed, "He certainly has piled it on, hasn't he?"

"Yeah, we've never done so many things on a date - even our honeymoon was just those lovely six weeks in the Garden Quarter of Shi'Kahr, and even then we only went out three or four times. . ."

Amanda waved her concern away, "Oh, he'll do just about anything to avoid spending time here at the Embassy with his father. It's ancient history. They'll get over it in due time. But until then. . ."

Her mother-in-law glided over to one of the enormous carved wooden cupboards the room displayed, rummaged around for a moment, and lifted out a small but heavy-looking package. Coming back over to Nyota, she handed it to her, with her usual contented smile. "This is for you both."

Ny took it. The outside of the package looked strange, and felt even stranger. It was wrapped in something - something she had only heard about, but never actually seen before. . .

"Paper?" she gasped, "Where did you find real wrapping paper?"

"Oh, a lady has her sources," Amanda said, slyly.

Ny grinned, and pulled delicately on the silken ribbon that was holding the paper closed, careful not to damage the precious stuff. A second later, the wrapping fell open gracefully, and revealed a small but intricately worked chronometer. It was painted red-gold, and had side panels of etched transparent aluminum, leaving the entire interior of gilded movements open to view. The face and several other points glowed with a coppery light - indicating a dilithium battery.

It was classic and modern and functional and beautiful and just exactly what she had come to expect from Amanda.

But for some reason it still brought tears up in her eyes. . .

"Clocks and paper are traditional gifts for Humans on the one-year anniversary." She looked slightly pensive. "We may have married Vulcans, my dear, but then, we mustn't lose pride in where we come from."

Nyota very carefully put the clock and paper on a nearby table, then turned and hugged Amanda tight.

"You don't marry a man - you marry his family. And I am so glad that means you. . ."

Chapter Text

There were quite a few perks to being married to the First Officer of Starfleet's flagship.

One was that your quarters contained a private water shower. It was too small to share, alas, but then, there were also perks to watching your husband while he was using a private water shower. . .

Ny leaned against their tiny linen closet and enjoyed the view.

When Spock emerged from the steam, he immediately wrapped himself in her anniversary gift - a huge, plush-cotton bathrobe. Then, quickly and deliberately, he shaved, cleaned his teeth, and was halfway through sonic-drying his hair when he finally noticed her constant gazing at him.

His eyes narrowed, but he said nothing.

He took unconscionably long over his hair.

When he was finally done, he walked achingly slowly into their bedroom, and began meticulously laying out his clothes for the day.

After ten painfully tense minutes of this, Ny couldn't stand it any more.

"What are you doing?" she whined, plopping herself down onto the bed in front of him, and petulantly crossing her arms, "You're taking forever!"

A sly look hovered around the corners of his eyes, " I am preparing for our day together, Nyota, nothing else."

"My foot nothing else!" she laughed sardonically, "HA! You, pointy-eared, provoking. . . . . . liar!"

"You have been talking to Doctor McCoy again, I see."

"Oh no, we are NOT talking about him - we're talking about you, Mister!"

She half-rose, unsure whether to launch herself at him, or bolt away and make him chase her. Suddenly, he moved inhumanly fast, pulled her up, spun her, imprisoned her in his arms, and flung them on the bed with a huff, rendering any such choice utterly moot.

"You were enjoying watching me. I was letting you," he whispered into her ear, making her shiver.

"I was, yes," she ran her hands across the fluffy cotton robe, "But now I want to enjoy my anniversary present, not just yours." She looked down at him, and nuzzled his chin, "Fair?"

He raised one eyebrow. "Fair."

He got up, which was exactly what she didn't want. She was about to protest when he pulled out the flat wooden box from his undershirt drawer that she had been wondering about for the last two months.

"Is that for me?" She grinned and sat up. "Is that why you would never tell me what. . ."

"Open it and see."

She threw him a slightly incredulous look, then focused on the box.

It was honey colored and light-grained - quite plain, really - but obviously handmade, and exquisitely finished. With a pull, the raw-wool yarn that tied it closed was undone, and the lid was off, and. . .

"You got them. . ." she whispered. "How. . . ?"

Set into the middle of the box, there was a small oval saucer, made of charcoal-black pottery, and burnished to a rich satiny glow. Atop it sat a tiny teapot and an infinitesimal teacup, made of the same black clay, and polished to the same luxurious finish. Both were so small that the cup could not possibly hold more than a teaspoon at a time, and the teapot could not have held even twice that. All three pieces were adorned with tiny dots of white glaze and stripes of gold leaf, so elegantly that they almost stopped being cute. Almost.

Ranged around these dishes, there were twenty-eight hand-wrapped packages of different kinds of Vulcan tea. Smoky hla'meth, spicy ch'aal, tangy trihl'a, sultry k'rhth'a, and several more, with blends of some, versions of others flavored with flower or fruit extracts, and each one labeled with hand-inked dun-yar paper.

It was the tasting set she had seen and coveted on their most recent trip to Vulcan. Such sets were that particular tea-master's specialty - but he was out of stock on the day they had visited his shop, and he had been unwilling to sell them the display model. But that had been their last day - there was no time to wait on his craftsmanship, no matter how excellent it was.

"How did you. . . ?"

Spock smiled in his Vulcan way, "You would be surprised, I think, at exactly how much the Heir of Surak can achieve when he is both determined and highly motivated."

She smiled softly at him, "Surprised, huh?"

"Yes."

"How about in love with?"

"That is also acceptable."

She laughed, and rose to put the tea set safely in a cupboard. "It's lovely, Spock, but you know that's not what I had in mind when I said "present", right?"

He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her down atop him again, "Was it not?"

Slowly, deliberately, she kissed him. His mouth softened beneath hers quite deliciously.

"Aggravating man. You know it wasn't."

"Enchanting woman." He ran a fingertip delicately down the side of her face, "The way you were staring at me, I simply thought you were. . . thirsty."

She shouted with laughter and declared that whoever had said Vulcans had no sense of humor must have either been drunk or stupid.

"Now now, ashayam," he chided, as she fumbled with the knot on his bathrobe sash, "It might have been both. . ."

They did not use either one of their presents again that day.

Chapter Text

"Now, it isn't much, of course," said Bones, in his particular half-shy, half-gruff manner, "But three years married isn't nothing, as I am well aware, and. . . well. . ." He shoved a gift bag across the mess table in Spock's direction, "Best I can do for you, ya' goblin."

Spock suppressed the impulse to grin and snort at McCoy's snarky blustering empathy, and wordlessly emptied the contents of the bag onto the table next to his empty plate. The bag was full of several sheets of iridescent filmy plastic, and a handful of foil confetti stamped into the shape of horseshoes, but he paid these fripperies no heed, instead focusing on the remarkable object they concealed.

"A book," he said, with his usual bland tone, knowing it would provoke Bones into further carping.

"A book?," Bones growled, as predicted, "That's a genuine paper, hardback-bound, twenty-first century-edition, interlinear translated printing of the Canterbury Tales! It's a hundred and fifty years old if it's a day - likely the first printing made with the Headley preserving process, and worth a pretty penny, if I do say so myself. A book, indeed."

The rest of the table held back laughter at this tirade - their colleagues were also well used to Bones' hard-edged generosity by now. Doubtless, the entire lunchtime crowd in the officer's mess was highly enjoying their banter.

"I felt the fact warranted stating, Doctor," he said, paying just as little heed to McCoy's manner as he had the gift's wrapping, "Given that the title of the book is not immediately clear, considering its. . . unusual covering."

The book was encased in an intricately carved leather-work book jacket, and was held closed with a shiny brass snap. The entire piece was covered in delicate scroll work, leaves, flowers, and birds - and on the front was a large "N" and "S" elaborately intertwined.

"One would think," Spock continued, allowing a slight modicum of a teasing tone to enter his voice, "That the title of the work was "NS" or some such vague nonsense. . ." He ran his thumb across the heavily patterned spine. It was an interesting texture, and quite obviously excellently well done.

"Yeah, well. . . you're welcome, by the way." Bones groused.

"I was not aware that you were capable of fine leather-work, Doctor.

Surprise, annoyance, pride, embarrassment, relief, and a little smirk that seemed to say "touché, my friend" all passed swiftly across the doctor's features, before he settled back into his usual scowl.

"Yeah. . . well. . ." he said again, "It keeps up my surgical reflexes without me having to cut into anything living. It's replicated leather, just in case that matters. . ." he finished hastily.

"I assumed so."

Bones smirked, "How'd you figure that I made it, though? Thought I'd kept that part pretty well to myself."

"You did," Spock said, flatly, refusing to elaborate.

"Aw, come on, now," McCoy leaned forward coaxingly, "What did I say?"

"It is what you did not say, Doctor. You mentioned interlinear translation, but you did not say a word about the hand-carved leather book jacket? There could be only one of two reasons for this. Either your faulty Human brain managed to forget the fact, or else, you deliberately did not mention it out of a personal belief that stating a high worth for your own accomplishments would have been unmannerly. I assumed the latter, and, as you see, I was right."

"You smug Vulcan bastard," McCoy said, admiringly.

"Logical, not smug, doctor, and, as I have often informed you, my parents were married at the time of my conception."

The rest of the table had been silent for most of the exchange, but this final riposte was too much, and they all laughed aloud.

"And here I thought watching you spar with Kirk was fun!" Sulu drawled as he stood to clear is plate, "This is much better."

Spock nodded in Sulu's direction, then leaned forward and said quietly, "I fear that in all this I have not thanked you properly, Doctor. You may expect a handwritten note at some point within the next three days."

What Bones' response to this would have been he never knew, for at that moment, Nyota entered the mess hall, followed by two engineers carrying large trays of highly festive looking glassware.

She surveyed the room with some relief, "Oh good, I'm not too late. Champagne for everybody!" she called out loud. There was an answering cheer and a general rush for the trays. Nyota managed to rescue three glasses from the melee, and brought them over to the table which was now empty except for him and Bones.

"Real glass!" she said, cheerfully, as she sat down and slid a drink to each of them, "I've spent the last three days down in Engineering programming the replicator especially. What do you think?"

Spock held up his glass flute, the foot and stem of which was made of pale blue and metallic silver glass ribbons twisting about each other. They made an artistic tangle at the point where it supported the base of the cup, and the cup itself was a clear cranberry red. It was full of a pale pink sparkling liquid that smelt pleasantly of strawberries. He took a sip.

"Excellent," he said. "And the use of our wedding colors was inspired."

"And pink-hirat sparkling wine, don't forget that part!"

"Indeed not. After all - "Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote, The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote, And bathed every veyne in swich licour, Of which vertu engendred is the flour-"

"Spock, why are you speaking in Middle English?"

"Because your present tastes of spring, Nyota. And this," he held up the doctor's gift, "has reminded me exactly how nuanced and expressive English can be."

Nyota smiled, but said nothing more, sitting back to enjoy her drink, and watch everyone else enjoy theirs.

Chapter Text

Spock nodded calmly to a cluster of partying ensigns as he came away from the main shore-leave group to join her. They had finally gotten Kirk to personally approve their request to walk to a little secluded valley a few miles away, and to camp there for the remainder of their leave.

Kirk had grumbled that Faeron had nothing dangerous living on it, and why had they interrupted his nap to get such specific permission when Bones could have told them as much. . .

He went on like that for a while. Ny didn't really mind. It had been a particularly trying past six months, and this was Jim's first real break in ages. She didn't tell him that she had only called him up specifically because it was an excellent excuse to check in on him. He had eventually given permission, and that was all that mattered.

Spock too, looked eager to have a real break from everything. He sighed softly as he came up beside her.

"A remarkable location," he said, and only someone who knew him well could have told you just how delighted and impressed he actually was - but she could hear it - he loved this place.

She couldn't blame him. The large equatorial continent on the planet Faeron seemed to exist in a state of perpetual springtime. The trees were always green, and they bore sweet, nutritious fruit that was constantly ripe; the wind was always soft and fresh; the water always clean and cool; and the gently rolling fields were always full of one or another type of gleaming bright flowers. Great swathes of white, red, yellow, pink, blue, and purple stretched out before them, as striking and as bold as their perfume was delicate.

"It's funny, isn't it?" she said, as she directed them towards the sheltered valley she had noticed on one of their many exploratory scans of the planet.

"What is funny?"

"That we should be here, of all places, just now. I mean, back when we said we were going to exchange all the traditional Human anniversary gifts, we both agreed that flowers were overdone and we would skip that one. . . remember?"

"Of course."

"And here we are, our anniversary is tomorrow, and we can't get away from the things!"

His eyes glinted. "Speaking of which. . ."

He handed her an info-card. The label said "Nyota's Favorite Music".

She laughed, and handed him an info-card labeled "Spock's Favorite Music".

His eyes crinkled at their corners, and his nostrils flared. His Vulcan approximation of laughter.

Her heart warmed, just like it had the first time she realized what this particular expression from him meant.

He pocketed his gift. "Despite that, I think we will both of us be grateful to get away from most of our technology for a few days."

"In a sense. . . yeah," she agreed, even as she pulled out her mini-PADD to snap a holo of a particularly gorgeous flight of scarlet songbirds. "Although. . . I'm very thankful for technology."

"As am I," he said, contentedly taking her hand, and threading his fingers through hers. He kept them there all the way to their camping site.


They were even more thankful for technology three days later, when the region's breed of otherwise harmless winged insects suddenly formed into a great vegetation-consuming cloud, rolled though their little valley like a tidal wave, and they had to call for an emergency beam out.

Chapter Text

"I can't believe you've never had pickles or olives or deviled eggs before!"

"I have, Nyota, but only when they were incorporated into other dishes. I have not had any one of these things alone before."

"But that's what I mean, Spock - how can someone who grew up going to an unbelievable number of Human-hosted social functions have avoided such basic staples for so long?"

"Very few of those social functions was a picnic, ashayam," he said, delicately selecting another cornichon from the remarkable variety of picnic-worthy foods Nyota had somehow procured, "And none of them provided such acceptable utensils as these." He gestured with one of the two dozen tiny silver hors d'oeuvre forks that had come with the impressively upscale picnic set she had purchased.

"Really? Never? Why not?" she laughed before eating an entire minute tomato and cheese sandwich in one bite, "It just makes sense to provide utensils."

"When the dishes in question are culturally accepted to be "finger foods", inquiring why a portion of the invited guests do not use their fingers to eat them, or if they do or do not tend to bother much with the proffered clumsy and inefficient tiny plastic spikes - are not questions most Humans bother to ask."

"Clearly." Nyota laughed again before cutting into a miniature quiche. "But you've enjoyed everything I chose for us today?"

He softly slid his fingers across hers, "I would not have asked for a picnic lunch if anyone else was going to prepare it, adun'a. I trust your taste and judgement implicitly."

He felt her mischievous smirk through the bond a mere moment before a crumpled-up napkin bounced off his cheekbone. He blinked, and struggled to maintain his dignity.

"I. . ."

Whatever he was going to say was lost in the torrent of her giggles. She stuck her tongue playfully out of the corner of her mouth, and another wadded napkin hit his face - this one bouncing off his nose and landing in the remnants of their fruit salad.

She laughed even harder at his subsequent expression, the delightful sound filling the walls of the arboretum with, he was certain, more life than even this room had ever experienced before.

Life.

Yes. I did not live until I met you, Beloved.

And now. . .

As her laughter calmed, he reached into his pocket, and drew out his gift to her on this day. She took the shiny palm-sized lump, turning it over and over in her hands, curiously.

"What is it, though?"

There was still a smile in her voice.

"It is a Vulcan "touch-stone"."

"But. . ." her confusion showed in two little creases between her eyes, "It's. . . driftwood! Polished driftwood. . ."

"Yes," he said solemnly, "it is a misnomer, or course, but such items are common on Vulcan as meditation aids. The smooth texture is considered calming to a Vulcan's nerve receptors."

She nodded, "For Humans too."

These so-called "touch-stones", then, are made of many materials - some are mother-of-pearl, some are indeed stone, some are metal. . . and some are wood." He gestured at the one in her hand, "This kind in particular is usually given to. . . young children." He looked at his hands a moment before looking at her significantly, "And also to expectant mothers."

She gave a sharp intake of breath, and she clutched the touch-stone tightly.

"You mean. . ." her voice broke, and she whispered, ". . . you're ready? To. . . to try?"

For an agonizing few moments, he felt a thorough pig for ever asking her to wait in the first place, no matter how logical his request had been.

Slowly, he nodded.

Then, her cry of utter joy completely overwhelmed him, and her arms were about his neck, and her mouth was on his, and his hands were in her hair, and everything else, everyone else, was, for a time, forgotten.

Chapter Text

Jim snapped the last cupboard clasp into place right as his door chime sounded.

"Come in!" he grinned as he looked up, "Ah, there you are, all three. Lovely." He gestured around, "Just finished baby-proofing the place-" He held out his hands for the devastatingly cute, and surprisingly alert baby she was holding.

Uhura looked around, with a mother's skeptic eye, and put a protective hand out in front of Bee, "She's only just two months old, Jim - you need to be baby-proofed more than your room does!"

Bee gurgled and coughed charmingly.

Jim laughed, "Aw, who said I didn't love kids? C'mon, let me hold her a minute. . ."

"Wash your hands," said Uhura peremptorily.

Grinning, he went to do so. Spock followed him and stood at the washroom door.

"I implore you, Captain, do not make this any more difficult for Nyota than it needs to be," he said, with a voice so low Jim had to strain to hear it, "It is the first time she will have been separated from T'Ashal for more than an hour at a time - she is understandably anxious."

Jim smirked a little as he dried his hands, "And I bet you want your wife to yourself tonight, eh?"

"That is part of it, certainly. . ."

Jim laughed out loud, "You two worry-warts! Would I have volunteered to watch her if I didn't think it would go smoothly?"

"Your service record suggests you would, yes."

Jim sobered instantly. Whenever Spock brought up his service record, he knew he was in deadly earnest.

"She's my niece, Spock. Or as good as." He looked his first officer straight in the eyes, "Right?"

Spock nodded, "In essence. Yes."

"Then trust me. I've got M'Benga on speed-comm, and Bones as automatic back-up; Chapel's already offered to come help me feed her three times since yesterday; Rand is blatantly jealous; Scotty's been moping all day - and I highly doubt it's because neither you nor I will be at the poker table tonight - and Sulu warned me about diaper-changes and such things eight times on the bridge this morning." He wagged his finger in Spock's direction, "Your little girl is the most adored person on this ship."

"T'Ashal does mean, "beloved", Jim, we intended her to know how much we cared for. . ."

"Well, I've got it just as bad as the rest of them, believe me."

He elbowed his way back into his main living room, "Okay, all clean, Mama. Can Uncle Jim hold Bee-bee, now?"

Uhura relented with a half smirk, "Your couch is probably the best place. . ."

"Ooh, sitting up already, are you? What a precocious girl you are!" he bounced her on his hip once and "flew" her over to the couch, murmuring endearments the whole way. She crowed in response, and wiggled into a stable sitting position on the middle cushion.

"Vulcan infancies are truncated given their prolonged ges-"

"Gestation period, yes, I know, Spock, I know." He handed her a bucket full of wooden blocks, which she immediately began to pile up and push around while she made drooly humming noises, "Go have fun you two - we're perfectly happy over here."

Spock held up a replicator card, "If she fusses and will not respond to calming, there is a Vulcan fig-taffy that- "

"Put it on the table there, Spock," Jim sighed, "Thanks."

Uhura still looked slightly unsure, and came over and kissed her on the top of her neat little cap of silky hair, "See you soon, Baby Bee. . ."

With a supportive arm, and a cautious backwards glance, Spock ushered Uhura out.


For the first two hours, Jim was the happiest of uncles. Bee played, and gurgled, and looked solemnly at him while he told ridiculous stories - some made up, some true, and some he hadn't told anyone before.

It hadn't occurred to him until then just how satisfying a listener a baby could be. . .

He'd even gotten a little work done on his logs and reports, when his stomach growled. He hadn't eaten much that day, and he suddenly remembered that the baby needed to eat too.

He went over to the bag Spock and Uhura had left on his bed. A ludicrous selection of baby food filled the top half. Uhura had said it was "just in case". Just in case what, Jim was unsure. Bee was only going to eat once while in his care anyway, why did she need eighteen different types of specialty food in self-heating containers? He removed the top two containers and read the labels. Soft-boiled broccoli chunks, and pureed sweet potato. He shrugged. It was as good as anything else.

He tapped the heating button on each container, and shifted Bee to the high chair he had borrowed from the nursery in Sickbay. He retrieved two more things from the bag, then set the rubbery baby spoon and sippy cup full of warming breast milk on the tray in front of her. Then he replicated a steak, fries, and a glass of wine for himself. By then, her food was warm. He removed the lids, and served her the bowls with a flourish.

"Your dinner, madaaame," he drawled, and got a kick out of hearing her coo and chuckle in response.

He sat down across from her, and raised his glass in salute.

"Here's to. . . this baby thing. Maybe it's not so bad. . ."

He changed his mind in ten seconds flat.

The first cube of broccoli had landed squarely on his steak - the second slid mushily across the table and stopped in front of his wineglass. The first spoonful of sweet potato, though, got him right in the eye.

After that, there were several minutes Jim didn't remember very well. In later years, he would rank being pelted with baby food as the third most harrowing experience of his life - right after Tarsus IV and Rura Penthe. "And much, MUCH more terrifying," he would say, with a convincing shudder.

At last, Jim dived for the replicator card Spock had left, jammed it into the machine, grabbed the resultant twist of dark, sticky candy, and shoved it at Bee almost without thinking about it.

Bee, unused to receiving this treat unless she was upset or in pain, dropped her other food, and began to suck greedily on the stuff, her toothless gums smacking together happily.

Jim panted, leaning on the now disaster area of his dinner table, "Oh, we are soooo getting back at your dad. . ."

His door chimed.

"C-come in?"

He was unsure whether he had managed to hit the panic button or not, but no matter. Bones, Chapel, even Rand or Scotty - he'd be glad for the company while he cleaned all th-

His mind stuttered to a halt when he saw who it actually was. . .


"That plomeek stew was excellent, darling." Ny sat back and sighed. Her first dinner without T'Ashal in their quarters had turned out much better than she had feared. She missed her baby, of course, but it was nice to be able to eat without strategic force fields everywhere.

"It was made all the better by your sweet-potato bread."

"I just can't seem to master Vulcan cooking as well as you though. . ."

"But your fried plantains were quite a revelation. I never did develop a taste for bananas."

"Plantains are a different kettle of fish entirely, Spock."

"Well then, even your mixed metaphors are acceptable."

Ny smiled at Spock's signature counter-compliments. They could sit here for another ten minutes, doing nothing but pointing out how wonderful the other was. Pleasant as that normally was, she had other plans for tonight.

"Really, I have to thank the set of cast-iron pots and pans you got us. Pre-seasoned and everything! They're just like what my mother used to cook in," she tapped the stew pot with the wooden ladle that had come with it, "Are you sure the Science department didn't mind using up five Special Replicator credits? Cast iron takes twice as much energy to replicate as your basic teflonimide heating-pan."

"The labs will barely miss them, I assure you. Our energy allotment is prioritized such that I, as department head, have a personal Special Replicator credit ration. Five is not quite an entire week's worth."

"Oh? I never knew that."

"It is meant for emergencies. Usually I donate my personal portion to Engineering, as they are much more likely to have need of them."

Ny lip twisted, "And apparently, Communications has no need for them at all. . ."

Spock's eyebrow raised in confusion, "I was unaware your department was overlooked in this matter."

She shrugged, "Not entirely overlooked - we have an energy ration just like everyone, and enough Special Replicator credits to make replacement parts if anything breaks - but I'd like a few to use for my own projects now and then."

"I will speak to the Captain tomorrow."

"Speaking of the captain. . . how do you think he's doing?" She looked askance at her husband.

Spock tilted his head a little, and his face took on the look it usually did when he was accessing the familial bond.

"Our daughter is. . . very happy."

Ny smiled grimly, "Oh dear. We better go rescue him."

Spock shook his head firmly. "No."

Nyota laughed incredulously, "But. . . but he's probably. . . "

"Yes. . ." he took a deep breath before saying, "I spoke to Carol Marcus yesterday."

Nyota was brought up short by this non sequitur.

"W-wh. . . what?"

"I spoke to Carol Marcus yesterday."

"Uhm. Okaaaay? How is she?"

"Very. . ." he pressed his fingertips together contemplatively, "Angry."

"But. . . why?

"In the course of our conversation, I mentioned our anniversary plans. And she was quite surprised. You see, apparently she and Jim have been arguing over whether or not it would be a good idea for them to have a baby. He has been staunchly against it for some time, I understand"

Ny relaxed, "Ohhhh. I see. Or rather - I think I see. . ."

"When I explained in more detail what tonight would entail, she made me promise her something. And I have honored this promise."

Light was dawning, and she slipped out a gift box from one of their little side-cupboards.

"And that promise was. . . . . .?

"We are going to let her rescue Jim."

"Oh, you are evil!" Nyota chuckled. She made him push back his chair and then sat in his lap. "But, what's done is done, and maybe, this way, we have time for these. . ." She held up the box of orange chocolate truffles.

Spock blinked at them, then glanced at the chronometer. "I should think we very much have time for those, Nyota. . ."


It took well over an hour, most of which was filled with a lot of very loud and angry whispering that they didn't know was disturbing her sleep cycle, but eventually, S'chn T'gai T'Ashal "Bee-bee" Nyah Elizabeth Grayson-Uhura, Heir of Surak, fell asleep that night, cradled safely between a newly engaged pair of very happy people, who loved her almost as much as her parents did.

Chapter Text

It had been quite a while since they had been on an away mission that had gone this badly.

"Brrrr," she shivered, and huddled closer to Spock as he tinkered with their one communicator. "I wish I had thought to get one of these ith'du cloaks for me. . ."

Spock paused, "Did you not know? I was trying to set up a distress signal first - because if we can contact them we will not need it - but an ith'du cloak is called such because it is also a tent."

He slipped out of the heavy garment - a seemingly simple thing made of several thin layers of felted sha'amii wool, with simple slits for arm holes - and began to unfold it. It expanded into a sturdy piece of weatherproof cloth of surprising size. With a cunning fold and a twist, the cloak became a small shelter that would just fit the both of them if they sat very close together. Nyota crawled in, and Spock fitted himself in next to her. His body heat was intensely welcome, and the dense wool surrounding them thankfully trapped it efficiently. He resumed tinkering with the communicator.

The "door" flap of their tiny shelter opened facing the small fire - which had been the first thing they did upon finding this cave. The mountainside was abandoned, but at least fuel was abundant. A thick carpet of something like pine needles made the floor of the cave quite comfortable, and the smell was at least pleasant. She had cleared a substantial area at the mouth of the cave for the fire, though, and had made a border of large rocks. She had finished just as Spock had managed to use one of the communicator's batteries to strike a spark. The fire was soon burning steadily. But it was winter on this hemisphere of Da'crEaon, and the sun was rapidly setting - there was no getting away from the cold.


Things hadn't started out nearly so dire. The Crear were a benevolent people, though fiercely independent, for even though they had achieved warp flight three generations ago, they had yet to participate in the galactic community beyond more than the barest of superficial gestures. The Enterprise had been sent to participate in some local customs that denoted friendship, in an effort to progress things to a more. . . negotiable level. And things had gone well, at first. The leading clan of Crear had welcomed them quite happily, and almost immediately invited them to participate in the then upcoming three week long winter festival. The chieftain was a proud but generous woman who was ravenously curious about other cultures and races. She was swiftly enamored of Jim, and he reciprocated heartily, much to Carol's bemusement. She had made only one request of the entire party, and Kirk had willingly complied. Civilian clothes only, and no phasers at all, for the duration of their stay. It turned out that the Crear in general, and this clan in particular, were extreme pacifists. Even defensive weaponry was frowned upon, and Starfleet's uniform was far too reminiscent of a military one for their liking. Spock and Nyota had returned briefly to their Enterprise quarters, to change clothes and pack a few essentials.

"I didn't expect my anniversary present to you to be so useful so soon," she had said then, "But I'm glad it's being put to use, all the same."

He had made a gesture of agreement, but also raised his eyebrows in a teasing expression. "Yes. Though, since we have not been anywhere near a source of traditional Vulcan items for over two years, I have to wonder - where did you acquire such a thing?"

She had smirked in response. "Oh. . . a lady has her sources." And then, just to tease him further, she had put his gift to her in her pocket.

He had touched her fingers in a gentle kiss, and then they both beamed back down to the planet.


And even then, things had not gone so very badly. Yes, they had suddenly discovered the Crear tradition of choosing a Festival "champion", whose sole purpose was to be temporarily possessed by creatures they called "spirits of insight and wisdom". And, yes, the chieftain had naturally declared this honor to be Jim's, and there had been a loud disagreement and a good long bout of misunderstanding. And, yes, the neutrino-based lifeforms then tried to take over Jim's body anyway, and yes, this had caused a feedback loop and a transporter malfunction. . . but. . .

Spock shifted a few pieces around inside the dismantled communicator, made a frustrated sound, and shifted them back again.

No, she finally conceded, things were pretty bad.

At least the two of them had only transported to another spot on the planet's surface - not into deep space, or inside out, or merged with one another, or something equally gruesome.

She hoped the same was true of Jim, and the rest of their landing party.

She snuggled up to Spock, glad for the first time in weeks that Chapel was looking after Bee-bee, and that their daughter wasn't down here with them.

Missing out was one thing. Staying safe was quite another.

"You want me to try?" she asked, holding out her hand for the comm. It was one place where their expertises overlapped - he might be far better with engineering generally, but when it came to communication technology. . .

He handed the device to her, "It would not be such an issue if a fire had not been first priority. Removal of the primary power source means the interior construct must be shifted in order to complete this vital circuit." He pointed, dolefully, "And the wires are just too short. They cannot reach the secondary contact point without bending the signal board - which I strongly advise against."

"Urhm," she hummed in response, already back in Communications Engineering 101, taking the comm. apart in her mind, piece by piece. "Was it necessary to damage the prime battery so severely?" she asked, more sharply than she intended.

As usual, he ignored her emotional outburst, "When we return to Earth, I will contact Voxtek to complain of the inflexibility of their proprietary design, if you wish."

"I just wonder how they got a contract with Starfleet at all, with such an easily broken power backup system."

"Perhaps you should contact them, instead of me."

She chuckled, "Oh, I'm considering it, believe me. . ."

She fiddled with things for a few minutes more, then put the device aside. "They'll scan for Vulcan lifesigns - Scotty knows what he's about. They'll find us."

"A planet is a big place", he said, his cold Vulcan logic sounding all the colder in the clammy air of the cave.

"They'll find us," she repeated, trying to convince herself as well as him. "In the meantime though, your anniversary present is coming in far more handy than I ever expected." She shivered a little, and pulled the door flap almost closed.

He inhaled slowly, and put a comforting arm around her. "Far more useful than your present, I assume you mean?"

She laughed, "Spock, you gave me a lucky penny! A penny! I mean, it's pretty, but what in space can I do with it?"

She felt his shoulders shift in his version of a teasing smile, "Do with the penny, or the luck?"

"Luck!" she barked a laugh, "What luck? Even if I believed in that kind of thing, all our luck has been bad this trip, you must admit."

"Indeed, I do not. Most of the happenstance on this mission has turned out a good deal better than it might have done, all things considered."

"Maybe so, but really, Spock, why anyone on Earth ever thought a little sliver of copper was in any way a symbol of luck is beyon-"

She stopped, and blinked in the near dark of their tent.

"Spock! Copper!"

She dug in her pocket and drew out the shiny little disc. He reached over her and grabbed the comm., as excited as she had ever seen him.

"Can you make it work?" she asked eagerly, pushing the tent flap open to give him some light.

He was too busy to answer, but an hour later, when they were warming up with tea in their quarters, with everyone safe and sound, and the Crear apologizing profusely, Nyota conceded that maybe, perhaps, there was something useful about a lucky penny after all.

Chapter Text

Surprising each other is not necessary. . .

Their anniversary gift exchange was a settled, reassuring thing between them, Spock reflected. It was a good, cheerful family tradition he was proud they had started, and he meant to continue it for as long as physically possible. But while their personal tradition of adhering to the prescribed Human traditional gifts gave their annual buying schedule some structure, it did often remove most of any anticipatory uncertainty regarding said gifts. When you knew you were going to receive candy, it did not take a giant in deductive reasoning to assume that your wife would give you chocolate; and when you were expected to give your wife china, it was only logical for her to assume you would choose something she had already shown an interest in. Even when they kept specifics from each other - which they nearly always did - the surprise factor was usually limited.

This year, their anniversary fell right at the end of Nyota's sixth month of pregnancy. Two days from now. Their son was giving her much more difficulty than their daughter had - sleeping was a challenge for her, and eating was even more so. Bones and M'Benga had tried nearly everything, but Nyota had been subsisting mostly on saltine crackers, peanut butter, and ginger ale for nearly five weeks by now. At this rate, with at least four months to go, they had decided it would be impractical to try and surprise each other at all. They had each informed the other exactly what gift they intended to give this year, and saved the energy that hiding things always took.

When her brightly enameled bronze necklace had arrived three weeks ago, he had not bothered to conceal it from her. And though she mostly pretended not to notice the velvet box on his bookshelf, she had recently acquired a beautiful magenta dress, and a pantsuit of jade green - both of which would go perfectly with the necklace.

For his part, he had been aware of the vacuum-wrapped package residing at the base of their closet for more than a week. It contained a full set of hand-woven linen sheets and pillowcases, from a Terran brand they both highly preferred. If good natural linen was hard to come by on Earth, it was nearly impossible in space - the replicated version always had something off about the texture to it. Too coarse - as if it never could be cleaned well enough.

Which made what he was seeing here on Deep Space 4 all the more remarkable.

The promenade's lingerie shop had all of the usual lurid offerings, of course, and he would have disregarded the place entirely if it had not been for the floor length, wide-sleeved, softly draped, delicately gathered, exquisitely functional natural linen nightgown glowing under the spotlight that illuminated the center of the shop's display. The proprietor had given it rightful pride-of-place, in the middle of the window. It stood there, brilliant and obvious and completely oblivious to the fact that all the other mannequins were wearing things like studded leather dog collars, thigh-high spike-heeled boots, chainmaille brassieres, and extremely skimpy black and scarlet lace panties. Things whose purpose was about as far from being comfortable sleeping attire as it was possible to be. But this. . . it was a fresh, cool-white, stunningly logical oasis, right smack in the middle of the most illogical territory within several lightyears.

It was as perfect as it was entirely out of place.

Unblushing, he walked directly up to the proprietor, and bluntly asked to see "the white nightdress from the window". The poor woman was unused to Vulcans, he supposed, for she stammered the entire time she showed it to him, rendering her salesman's patter completely ineffectual. It was unnecessary, however, because one touch of the fabric had told him the garment was exactly what was advertised. Truly a small miracle. . .

And who was he to quibble with miracles?

A few minutes and the fully expected illogically steep subtraction from his credit balance later, Spock rejoined his shipmates returning to the Enterprise. There were a great many teasing remarks at the name of the establishment printed on the gift bag he carried, every one of which he endured with complete stoic equanimity. Nyota would sleep comfortably tonight - that was all that mattered.

Sometimes surprising each other is not necessary. . .

And sometimes it is essential. . .

Chapter Text

Chekhov nearly tripped entering Ten Forward. It was probably the lowered lighting, the unexpected newly installed carpeting, and the shock of entering a room filled with the decidedly un-businesslike sounds of music and laughter.

That, and his face was almost entirely blocked by the branches of the small shrub he was carrying, of course. . .

He was saved just in time by Scotty - who managed somehow to snag the potted plant and put out an elbow for Pavel to steady himself against.

"Shorry, Meestar Scott!" he exclaimed, as he got his feet under him again, "I dhon't know what hap. . ."

"Aye, well I do, laddie!" said Scotty, chuckling, "Ye nearly planted yer faice in this here bush!" He handed the plant back to the wide-eyed Chekov, "One would think yer hardly old enough, but, there it is."

The youngest bridge officer was not listening, and did not see the twinkle in Scotty's eyes. He looked about the transformed room with some awe. "A strhange theme for a party, I tought, Meestar Scott - plants in potts, plants in baskets, willow baskets! - but now I see! It is very beutiful."

Scotty looked around them, and agreed. A small plethora of potted and basketed plants seemed to fill up the room. A row of palms along the back wall obscured the main light-panels almost entirely, and tinted what remained an enchanting soft gold. The rest of the walls were lined with the thorn-less sweet berry vines from the arboretum. Every table was flanked by miniature jungles, as well as sporting delightfully bright flowery centerpieces. A line of impressive blue and green glazed pots (containing, as he later told Chekhov, miniature boxwood trees) walled off one corner of the room for the mothers to sit, and the children to play. He could hear Uhura, Rand, Chapel, Carol, and his own dear Charlene talking and laughing, and then, peeking through the branches, there was little Bee-bee - not quite so little anymore. She did not smile and giggle at him, as she would have last year, but her eye contact and solemn nod were just as sweet in their own way.

"Aye lad," Scotty said, turning his attention back to Pavel, "It surely is that." He gestured deeper into the room, "Come on then, put yer blessed bush down and come and have a drop of punch with the rest of us."

A few moments later, and Pavel's white and blue glazed pot was sitting proudly on the one table in the room that had any room left for it, and he was off to drink and party with his shipmates.

"Starting a bit young, aren't you?" Bones cheerfully growled at Pavel, without spilling the other drink he was pouring for Sulu.

"Dhrinking was inventhead in Russia, Meestar McCoy!" said Pavel, teasingly. He took up a glass of the fruit punch - which was usually the least boozy thing on offer, he knew. "I shall start slow, as you see!" He raised the cup in salute, and turned away.

"Not with me making the punch, you're not. . ." Bones mumbled, too low for Chekhov to hear.

"You are not what, Doctor?" said Spock, coming up with three empty beer mugs in one hand, and a tall tumbler cloudy with the remnants of a lassi in the other.

"Oh, nothing Spock," the doctor snarled gently, "What'll you have this time?"

"Janice, Charlene, and Carol all appreciated the shandy you made them," he set down the beer mugs, "and they would like the same again. Nyota enjoyed the lassi, but suggested that a small spoonful of honey would not be out of place."

The doctor harrumphed, but said nothing.

"She would like some cool water this time. And now that she has finished nursing Benjamin, Christine said she would like "that lemonade drink with the other fruit cut up in it" - she said you would know what she meant."

Bones harrumphed again, tenderly remembering the last time he had made Chris her favorite fruit salad drink. Ben was finally sleeping through the night, and he'd intended on making them dinner, until she'd suggested drinks first. . .

Ironically, neither of them had drunk much that night. . .

Much alcohol, that is. . .

"You gonna have anything to drink at your own party, Spock?" Bones said, sharply cutting off his reminiscing before he embarrassed himself. "You haven't had anything yet."

Spock smiled, or as close as the green-blooded goblin ever got to it, "An Aldebaran whiskey, I think. . ."

"Ah! Now you're talkin'!" Bones pulled out the special bottle he had bought just for today, and two shot glasses. He gestured Kirk over, and gave him all he needed to know to make the girls' refills, then followed Spock to the nearest table. The flowering plants and tall baskets and colorful pots made far more effective barriers than were usually available, so he felt safe asking his friend the one thing that had mystified him since he and Uhura had announced they were throwing this party.

"Pottery and willow baskets, Spock?" he scoffed, with a twinkle he knew Spock would notice, "Whatever made you theme an anniversary party around that?"

Spock broke the seal on the whiskey bottle, fancily encased as it was in woven strips of Aldebaran Willow bark, and poured them both a shot. "They are the traditional Human gifts given for the ninth wedding anniversary, Doctor."

"Oh?"

They both drank. Bones bit back the sting of the fiery green liquid - Spock remained unaffected.

"Yes." He poured again. "I must admit to some surprise that you did not know this already."

"Oh?" Bones smirked "And just what made you think I knew anything about traditional anniversary gifts?"

Spock's eyebrow lifted, "On our third anniversary, you gave us a leather gift, Doctor. That was one of the traditional gifts for that year. I assumed such was deliberate."

Bones chuckled a hard little laugh, "Ah, Spock. Too smart for your own good!" He drank his shot and pushed the glass over for a refill. "I hadn't a clue. So. . . I suppose that means you gave Uhura a leather gift that year too?"

"Yes." Spock lifted the bottle, and paused as Bones gave a. . . significant. . . gesture.

"Well?" The doctor gestured again.

He was unsure what these things meant, exactly. He puzzled for a few microseconds.

Ah. Yes.

Innuendo.

"That is private, Doctor."

McCoy laughed out loud at this. It was a pleasant sound. And all the more pleasant for knowing he had induced it.

He had spent a decade with these shipmates. It was a relief to feel they were all family at last.

"However," he said, finally pouring the next shot as soon as the doctor had stopped laughing, "I do wish to make an appointment to see you professionally about. . . a very private matter."

McCoy took the shot and sat back, swallowing comfortably. "So, let me get this straight. You won't tell me what gift you gave your wife six years ago because it's too private, but you will make a medical appointment with me during your own anniversary party?"

Spock raised an eyebrow, mildly confused, "Yes, doctor."

McCoy leaned forward, confidentially. "Just tell me this, Spock. Does it have anything to do with the fact that you, logical and regimented as you are, chose to throw this big party for your ninth anniversary - and not your tenth? I mean, the tenth would be more logical, wouldn't it?"

Spock sat back, both appalled and relieved, "Yes, doctor, it would be. . . And yes, it does."

"Ha!" Bones laughed, and grabbing the whiskey bottle, he quickly poured for each of them. "So. . . something's gonna happen next year, is it?"

Spock took the shot glass, hesitantly this time, "According to. . . myself in another life. . . yes." He drank the shot, noncommittally.

Bones blinked, and slowly drank. He too had been quite affected by their several encounters with Older Spock From Another Reality - as he always privately referred to him. Just what each encounter meant exactly was anybody's guess, of course. . .

Or maybe they all meant a different thing to each individual - who knew, really?

He poured them both another shot.

Spock opened his mouth to speak, but just then Uhura appeared.

"There you are!" She grinned, and kissed Spock on the top of his head. "Drinking, I see!"

"It is a special occasion, Nyota," said Spock, picking up the full shot glass and handing it to her, "A celebration."

Uhura raised the shot glass, first to her husband, then to him, "So it is. Cheers, boys!" She drank, as quickly and as easily as Spock had. She put the glass down sharply, and gestured for more. "Solkar is finally asleep, and I want to party!" She plunked herself next to Spock on the bench, and cuddled up to him.

Bones was then witness to one of the very rare times Spock showed his wife affection in public. He put his arm around her.

He smiled, for once without bitterness.

Then he stood, and went to tell Scotty to start bringing out the food, and Kirk to start up the dance music.

Chapter Text

She only very seldom got to watch Spock wake up. Nearly always, his Vulcan genetics called for drastically fewer hours of sleep than her Human ones did. Even when they went to bed at exactly the same time, which wasn't very often, he was far more likely to be up and about first.

Normally, she didn't mind. She was spared ever seeing him scruffy or out of sorts in any way. In her sight he was always clean and well groomed. But then, occasionally she wondered what it would be like to be married to someone who was vulnerable sometimes. He wore hygiene like a shield, and his Vulcan composure like armor. Their marriage bond rendered him vulnerable to her in ways far beyond observing him sleep did, of course, but still. . . sometimes she just wanted to see behind the mask, not merely know it was a mask.

And so seeing him, blear-eyed, disheveled, in that halfway state between unconsciousness and fully alert - it was almost. . . nice. And it would have been cute if not for the entirety of the past week. . .

A week entirely devoid of Vulcan composure.

Hell, it had been a week almost without hygiene.

He made a halfhearted motion to sit up, but, if his expression was anything to go by, he hadn't the strength or the will just yet. His mouth worked, and he raised a hand to his head.

She smiled grimly, and handed him a warm washcloth to wipe his face.

Absently, he did so. Then, finally, he looked at her, forcing his eyes to focus and his expression to clear.

"Wh-. . . what is?" he croaked, slowly getting used to words again. He swallowed thickly. "Wha-at is. . . the time?"

She half smiled. "Fourteen-hundred, Thursday." She paused briefly, before breaking it to him. "The nineteenth."

"The. . ." with a heave, he shoved himself upright, but immediately fell back against the headboard, "The nineteenth? But. . . it is the twelfth."

She leaned forward and patted his knee. "Amanda warned us you might not remember. Remember?"

"Remember?" He sighed, and looked heart-wrenchingly disoriented for a few minutes. "I. . . cannot remember."

"You will. Len says you're perfectly all right now - neither of us took any irreparable damage."

"Len? Bones?. . . Damage?" His voice expressed far more emotion with these three words than he usually allowed.

All at once, he sat upright, looked her straight in the eyes, and asked desperately, "The children?"

She smiled indulgently, "They spent the week with Jim and Carol. They're fine. David apparently loves to listen to Bee-bee's singing."

Spock relaxed a little, but his eyes did not quite lose their desperate look. "And. . . you are. . . all right?"

"Well. . ." she shifted her position on the edge of the bed, and opened her bathrobe enough to show him the remnants of the bruising on some of the more. . . delicate. . . portions of her anatomy, "All right" is a relative term, but yes. . . a few more sessions with a dermal regenerator and I should be back to normal."

He had been stricken dumb at the sight of the ugly purple splotches. ". . . I. . . am sorry, Nyota. . ."

His voice registered disgust - and one look at his face showed it was at himself, not her.

She half smiled again, "Well, I didn't exactly complain at the time, you know."

"You. . . did not?"

"Nope. Turns out that mind-melding with an uncontrolled Vulcan in the throes of unhinged passion is kinda, sorta, just a bit overwhelming."

"It is?" A tiny twinkle of his old dry humor showed in the corners of his eyes.

"Yep. Who would've guessed, huh?"

He blinked. Then, deliberately closing his eyes, he leaned back on the headboard.

She let him be. Getting up, she shuffled around the room, tidying some of the shocking mess their quarters had accumulated in the past seven days.

Forgivable, she thought, when you have to snatch meals in between seemingly endless hours of wild, desperate lovemaking, and have to wait for rare moments when your husband is entirely asleep to even go to the restroom. . .

She picked up the pile of nine-day-old dirty clothes that had, for some reason, been scattered all over the room.

Entirely forgivable to let the laundry schedule slide when any clothes you had managed to wear for the past week had been angrily torn off you. . .

At least - at least - he had warned Len last year, and there had been a plan. It had still come on unexpectedly. And it had still been a far more arduous ordeal than she had imagined it would be.

His first Blood Fever had been much, much worse than even he had feared.

But, then again, not everything about it had been bad. . .

She looked over at him serenely leaning on the headboard. There had been moments during the past seven days when she had utterly despaired of seeing his calm face ever again. But there had been times too, of joy, and sweetness, and completely unexpected laughter.

She grinned to herself, remembering. Uncontrolled Spock had been, by turns, gentle, rough, tender, harsh, domineering, meek, capricious, humble, deadly serious, and. . . funny. Uproariously, hilariously funny. Not to mention several dozen other emotions besides.

His eyes opened halfway, and he looked at her.

"I have remembered," he announced, suddenly back to his usual steady baritone.

"Have you?" she almost laughed, half hopeful, half unconvinced.

He shrugged a little, "Perhaps not all - not yet. But I have remembered this, at least."

Slowly, carefully, he stood, and walked unsteadily to the cupboard next to their closet. With very deliberate motions, he removed a small velvet bag, closed the cupboard door, then turned to her, staggering. She rushed over to him, and helped him back to the bed.

"Don't get up yet, adun, you haven't eaten for a week. . ."

He made a rueful face, "I'll be all right. . . now." He settled back on the bed before handing her the bag. "For you, adun'a. Five days late. But no less meaningful for all that. . ."

She upended the bag onto her palm. A long string of bright, polished, hand-shaped, antique Kenyan aluminum beads spilled out. Her hand trembled, almost unbelieving. These were beyond rare, they were historic, important. . . priceless. She inhaled sharply, and looked at him, speechless.

"It is, traditional," he said, slowly, clearly making a great effort to stay awake, "For, a Vulcan husband, to, give his wife, a gift, after, his Blood Fever."

She smiled, sad and happy all at once. "And what does the wife give her Vulcan husband?"

A shadow of a smile crossed his face, "His life, Nyota. She gives him. . . his life."

She took his hand, and kissed it, dropping a few silent tears on the way. "With all my heart, my love." She met his deeply sunken eyes, "And not for the last time."

A dozen or more emotions crossed his features.

"Indeed," he murmured.

Then, finally, he fell into a deep and peaceful sleep.

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

"Ko'mekh! Ko'mekh! Papa said I could give your present to you! I have been keeping it, and now I must go and get it!" Bee-bee chattered blithely, and could hardly keep herself from running across their quarters to the little cupboard reserved just for her.

Nyota smiled from her place on the couch. For as Vulcan as her upbringing had been, Bee-bee was still an intrinsically Human child, at times.

A few seconds of rummaging later, and a slightly disheveled canvas cloth bundle tied with bright blue yarn was placed on her knee. Bee-bee stood back, in anticipation, trying vainly to keep a grin from her mouth.

With a valiant effort, Nyota kept herself from laughing. Bee-bee did NOT like being laughed at. A quick pull, and the yarn was undone. Folded inside the rough canvas, there was a softly shining handful of pale blue silk. She ran it through her fingers as she held it up - by the feel, it was Vulcan silk. At first, it appeared formless, but as she turned it about, it resolved itself into an extremely pretty Vulcan hoodscarf. The hems had all been worked with tiny silver discs, alternated with little soft tufts of bright crimson silken thread. She ran her hand down the length of the scarf portion, enjoying how smooth and soft Vulcan silk was, and how sweet a blue this one in particular was colored. Like most Vulcan things, however, it was not merely decorative. Down the center of each scarf trail ran thicker, firmer panels which, when wrapped around your nose or mouth, would admit air and light, but not sand.

"Oooh, how nice, thank you!" She hugged and kissed her daughter, who ran back to her bedroom door, almost colliding with Spock before she could stop herself.

"She likes it, Sa'mekh!"

Spock gave his Vulcan smile down at her, while holding the already sleeping Solkar. "Of course she does," he said to his daughter, "She is Human. Liking things is an especial talent of many Humans." He threw a teasing look across the room to Nyota, who caught it, and winked back at him.

"Not Doctor McCoy!" exclaimed Bee-bee. She was exclaiming a lot tonight. Perhaps she was over-excited from her class tour of Engineering that day, or perhaps it was the party Scotty and Charlene had given for their son this afternoon. There had been balloons, and cake, and fruit drinks, and happy, colorful music. All the little ones had been invited. Spending time with Alfie Scott, Ben McCoy, and David Kirk always wound Bee-bee up, and two doses of their company in one day, not to mention the special treats involved, was a great deal more than she was used to.

"No, not Doctor McCoy." Spock agreed solemnly, "Now, it is time for your sleep period. Come back to your room and I will tell you the myth of A'lazb the Spider Goddess."

Bee-bee bounced up and down in anticipation of her favorite bedtime story, before suddenly remembering herself. She took a deep breath, settled her arms and legs, stood up straight, and said, very calmly, "Yes papa." A moment later and they were all back in the kids' bedroom.

Spock had not ceased to smile the entire time, Nyota noted. He was neither hard upon, nor set against his daughter's Human nature, and not his son's either - for which she was immensely grateful. He did insist that both children also be taught how to manage their Vulcan natures, but no more than that. This Ny could hardly object to, even if she had wanted to do so.

Besides, Bee was only six. Emotional leniency could do little harm at this stage, even if she had been fully Vulcan.

Twenty minutes later, Spock re-entered the living area.

"They are both asleep at last. . ."

Ny chuckled. "Are you tired of that Vulcan legend yet?"

"Immensely!" he said, almost vehemently. "I never thought I would see the day when I did not wish to tell a traditional Vulcan story to a willing child listener. . ."

"Well," she smiled indulgently at him, "Here is your reward for being so patient." She got up and kissed him, slow and long, on the lips. He made to draw her closer to him, but she pulled away. "Just a moment," she turned and rummaged in a cupboard too high for Bee-bee to reach. Finally she pulled out what she wanted - a small satin-lined metal box, without a lid. She handed it to him.

After taking it, he stared at it for many minutes, wordlessly. He knew what it was - none better. The close-grained, dark coffee-colored Vulcan wood was unmistakable, the straight, precise rectangle representative of official Clan workmanship was readily apparent, and the soft gleaming of minute blue-grey Vulcan pearls, bright against their dark setting, was all too clear. The precious tiny things spelled out Spock's full official name, in the beautiful loops and swirls of traditional Vulcan script.

It was his clan's official badge of office. An honor and a privilege - which he had given up in order to marry her.

"I may take it," he said, slowly, "That T'Pau has forgiven us, then?"

Ny smiled, slyly, "Oh, she forgave us the minute she heard about T'Ashal."

He looked up, unbelieving. "And she has waited almost seven years to act?"

"She's been looking for an excuse to do something ever since - or so Amanda told me."

"When?"

"When we visited the Embassy last year. She gave me that to give to you, and told me some very interesting things about the much vaunted T'Pau besides. Apparently, reinstating you as Clan Chief is part of some ridiculously convoluted plan to get us to spend our next Long Leave on Vulcan. . . or conceive our next child there, it's unclear which one she's going for. . ."

Spock's lip twitched in amusement, "I did wonder what my mother and you could have been talking about so covertly."

Ny's sly smile became much more devious. "Oh, that wasn't all we talked about. . ." She took the i'vish ahm-glat back, and put it carefully away. Then she sidled up to him, and ran a fingertip down the curve of his ear. He shuddered, and put a hand on her hip, gripping hard. She bent down, whispering huskily, "That isn't all we talked about, by far."


Three weeks later, T'Ashal and Solkar were delighted to learn that in ten months or so, they would be getting sisters - twins.

Chapter Text

Spock stepped off the transporter pad in a somewhat pensive state of mind. Ordinarily, he wouldn't have been ordered to go on an away mission so soon after Nyota had given birth, but the mission was a diplomatic one, and the First Officer of the Enterprise was expected to be present. She had waved off the inconvenience at the time, even though she was only just able to get out of bed, and T'Nasha and T'Nara were not yet sleeping through the night.

"Chris or Jan can come and help me - they'll understand," she had said. And indeed, the Other Dr. McCoy, and Mrs. Janice M'benga were both excellent women and mothers he would, could, and did trust with his own offspring already. . .

But. . .

Nyota had sensed his hesitation, and had waved it off as his own "special brand of jitters", as she often termed it. And, in part, it was.

But it was in far greater part a sudden and visceral sense of loss. He had been there for nearly every moment of the first two months for both T'Ashal and Solkar. He was loath to miss at least two whole weeks of moments with the twins. Already they were so different from each other, and yet still so radically the same. They were fascinating to observe.

Nevertheless, duty was duty. And even last week, their anniversary had come and gone without them being in the same room with each other. A critical negotiation was in progress on the planet, and he had not been given leave to do more than talk to her over the comm. He had told her where in their quarters was hidden a book and set of supplies necessary to begin learning how to crochet lace - his gift to her. She had sent down a small and gloriously impractical lace-hemmed handkerchief, sprigged all over, and inscribed with his initials in one corner. Her gift to him. It was payback, he supposed, for the penny he had given her six years ago - or perhaps it was simply for every impractical gift he had ever given her.

He sighed a little as he came up to the door of their quarters, hefting the small crate he carried with a reluctant shrug. Speaking of impractical gifts. . .

A moment later, the light in her eyes and the kiss she gave him made up amply for the days they had spent apart.

"The treaty's sighed, then?" she asked, eagerly.

"Yes. And delivered. The Federation is now trading partners with Fao'mel Three."

She grinned, then turned swiftly to deal with her suddenly whistling pot of tea. Clearly, the children were either at school, or asleep.

It was just as well.

"Nyota?" he said, slowly setting down the little crate she had yet to notice.

"Yes?"

"Do you remember our conversation regarding the anniversary gifts we would give this year?"

She laughed her remembering laugh, "Of course. I wanted to give you something ridiculous, you wanted to give me something practical - neither of us wanted anything to do with fur. Even replicated, we both decided it would be. . well. . . creepy." She came back over to the couch, and handed him one of the mugs of tea she held. "Why? What. . ."

Her eyes fell on the crate. Her face clouded with suspicion. "Spock? What. . .?"

He flipped open the crate with a sigh. Out leaped two small balls of fluff, purring and gurgling as they landed on his knees.

"No!" said Nyota with intense vehemence. "NO more tribbles. Mm-MM!" She reached out to sweep them back into the box.

He sighed again, even as he stopped her arm. "No, Nyota, they are not tribbles. They are Melool Gennets."

"Meloo. . . what?"

"Gennets. From the continent of Melool."

Nyota's face took on the look it did when Solkar would not eat his rice. "Gennets, then. Are they different from tribbles in ANY way?"

"Indeed." He held one out to her for her to examine more closely, "Tribbles reproduce asexually, and have a cellular structure of the sort that is particularly difficult to neuter effectively."

Nyota scowled at the gennet he was holding. "Oh really? I hadn't noticed."

Once again, he sighed. "Neither of these things are true of gennets, Nyota."

She blinked a few times. Her look softened, but did not relent. "Oookaaay. And just WHY do you have two of them in a crate?"

"The Premiere of Fao'mel found out I was the father of newly born twins. Apparently gennets are traditional gifts to very young children. He insisted I take this pair."

Now Nyota sighed. "The twins are much too young for pets, Spock!"

"I agree."

"And yet, here are two tribble-looking things in our quarters!"

"Nyota. . ." he paused before giving her the excuse she knew she really wanted, "We do have two other children. . ."

She looked at the ball of fluff purring on his knee. The one in his hand had gone to sleep.

"Fine," she said, glibly, scooping up the purring one with a grab so fast he barely had time to react, "But they get to share that one. This one is mine." She leaned back into the couch cushions, holding the fuzzy gennet to her cheek and cooing softly at it. It purred in response, and cuddled up into her neck.

Holding the other gennet gently, he went to the replicator to dial up an appropriate holding tank for the two creatures. He let his lips make a small smile. He knew his Nyota.

But it was strange. Despite their resolution, they had both been given fur gifts anyway.

"What will you name yours, Nyota?"

"Hmm?" she murmured happily from the couch, "Oh, I haven't even thought about it yet. . ."

"Because I am naming mine I-Chaya."

Her shout of laughter nearly woke the twins.

Chapter Text

Spock and Nyota had brought their own Tri-D chess set to the rec room that night.

Ordinarily, of course, Jim didn't mind such things. It was what the rec room was for, after all. But, he had been practicing a new strategy recently, and had been planning on challenging Spock with it tonight. With the two of them over there, huddled so close, talking so quietly, with so many intimate looks and little gestures, playing what was so obviously a private game, with what was so clearly a personal chess set, well. . .

He glanced over at Carol. She had taught him the joys of married flirting long ago - he could recognize it when he saw it, now. If he knew Spock or Ny at all, which he was pretty sure he did, then any interruption wouldn't just be rude - it would be quite, quite pointless.

He had just gotten over the very illogical feeling of being let down, when Ny suddenly sood up, and left the rec room, leaving Spock quite alone at his table.

Jim, thinking that of course he would follow her, left him alone for several minutes. But he did not. He merely sat there, immobile. If Jim hadn't known better, he might have suspected some sort of tiff between them, with this as Spock's manner of sulking. But Nyota hadn't left hurriedly, or forcefully - hadn't been stomping, or stalking, or huffy in any way - she had just left, with no indication as to why. And besides, when Spock was sulky, he generally sat forward, not back as he was now, and was usually somewhat inattentive with his hands, tapping his knuckles, or twining and un-twining his fingers together, neither of which he was doing now.

Slowly, Jim made his way over to his friend's table, and sat down. Spock, uncharacteristically, did not greet him, or notice him in the slightest. A far-away, abstracted look was on his face, his eyes half closed, hands slack on the armrests.

Something was up, but dammed if Jim knew what. Spock sometimes had that look while he was mind-melding with someone, but there was no one else near enough to touch him at the moment. . .

Ah well. Now he was over here, it was the chess set that grabbed his curiosity. It was slightly taller than a standard Tri-D set, and much fancier. Clearly, a custom made item. The red pieces had been turned out of the distinctive red Vulcan granite, and the red squares were redwood - genuine California Redwood, if he knew anything about Terran luxury goods. The white pieces had been carved out of a heavy, rich-looking opaque white stone he thought he probably knew, but couldn't quite recognize. Their squares were a clear off-white he was almost certain was real ivory. The seven grids sat on smooth pillars of the same redwood as the squares.

He took all this in within five seconds - swiftly, he was more interested in the position of the pieces. Their endgame could still be deduced, and it was quite surprising. Spock looked as though he had used his usual hak mar'd strategy for most of the game, castling his kingside rook, attacking mostly with knights and the queen, defending with bishops and pawns. Uhura had used a much more disjointed and spread-out strategy, sacrificing her queen, attacking with rooks and bishops along the Z-axis, muddling up the center level with pawns, and, in the end, beating Spock handily.

It had been a real game - he could see that. But there was something so. . . off. . . about the pieces. . . about the game. . . about Spock.

Spock almost never lost a game of Tri-D chess, as he well knew - even against the more unfocused and flexible strategies of the kind that Uhura had used - and Jim had never seen him lose six pawns, a rook, both knights, a bishop and his queen. . .

Conversely, and almost unbelievably, the only piece Spock had taken from Uhura had been her queen. His king had been knocked over, and had rolled over next to it. . .

Oh. . .

Jim smirked a little, finally understanding Spock's loss.

Or rather, his substantial gain. . .

Suddenly, Spock's eyes blinked fully open.

"I am sorry, Jim," he said, perfectly respectfully, but not coming across at all sorrowful, "But I am afraid you must excuse me."

He looked up, slyly, "Must I?"

Spock raised an eyebrow. "Yes, Captain."

"Why?"

He knew Spock could hear the teasing in his voice, but he did not react to it as he normally would. Instead, he rose, picked up a white stone bishop, and placed it upright in the center of the middle board. "Our anniversary was two days ago, Jim, as I am sure you recall."

"Yes."

"We give each other gifts - as I am also certain you know. This year it was ivory and white nephrite jade." He made a small Vulcan gesture towards the bishop.

"And?"

"And. . . Nyota's gift is. . . now ready. Good evening."

He threw a perfunctory salute over his shoulder at him, nodded briefly to Sulu at the neighboring table, and strode out of the room, almost like he didn't care.

With a half grin and a sigh, Jim carefully replaced all the chess pieces. Then he murmured softly -

"Check. Mate."

Chapter Text

The starlight shimmered across the Shi'Kahr salt flats. The absence of a moon, and the distance from the city, brought out all the reds, golds, blues and purples from the long track of the Milky Way that was flung across the Vulcan sky. Ny shivered, and shifted closer to Spock as the paradoxically chilly breeze kicked up from the south. There might be a dust storm before morning. Soon, they would go inside the tent Spock's clan had designated for the two of them especially, and sleep uneasily - or at least she would - as they waited out the eighth day of T'Ashal's kahs'wan. Bee-bee no longer!

Soon, soon Spock would touch the newly formed parent-bond they had with her - she had consented to the formal mind-meld ceremony as well as the coming-of-age ritual, Nyota thought, agonizingly, but proudly - and so Spock could far more easily tell if she was alive, and how well she was.

So far, there was very little news, though none of it was bad. Soon, she would know if her baby had eaten that day. . .

My baby. . .

Ny shivered again. She was nine. And soon, in the eyes of every Vulcan, she would be an adult.

Soon. Too soon. And not soon enough. . .

Did she find water? Does she know where she is? If there is a dust storm, can she find shelter? Has she encountered any more snakes?

Ny made a fist. Soon. That was soon enough to turn back into a fretting, restless, very Human mother.

Now, she sat next to her husband - who had himself survived the same ordeal under far worse conditions - and looked up at the sky, waiting for the one tiny speck he had pointed out to her eleven orbits ago.

"There." He pointed. "Twelve."

"Twelve," she repeated, dully.

Counting the orbits of the Enterprise was helping a little, but not much.

She had been so happy, ten years ago, when Spock had said he was ready to have kids. She had been ready, years before that.

Or so she'd thought.

"She is well, Nyota," Spock said, with the soft voice that meant he was accessing the bond, "And easily within one day's journey of us. She is nearly home."

Ny let out a breath she didn't know she had been holding. The tension from her lungs leaped up into her throat, making her eyes water. "Did she find food again?" she asked hoarsely, but refusing to cry, "Did she find water?"

Spock shifted in the dark, his profile clear against the starry background, "No, and yes."

"Spock! She hasn't eaten in three days. . ." She gulped, and frantically held back violent tears.

His hand gripped her elbow, steadying her, "Her journey is nearly over, Nyota - all she needs is water, now."

She flung herself back onto the blanket they had spread across the sand. "I don't know if I can do this three more times, Spock. . ."

"The twins have the option of going together - " he began.

"No, Spock, stop!" she cried out, "I can't think of them out there! They just turned two! And Solkar. . . he's only six and a half!"

He hooked two fingers around hers in the comforting kiss he had found it necessary to use a great deal during the past week. This time, thankfully, he didn't bother reminding her that only children older than seven were allowed to attempt the kahs'wan. "I know, Nyota. Perhaps we should go inside. . ."

He lifted her up, and guided her into the small but comfortable tent the S'chn T'gai clan had provided. It stood alone, removed several meters from the rest of the clan's tents, placed at the very edge of the salt-plain. She sat down on the cot bed. It was quiet inside here. Too quiet.

"I miss our children, Spock."

He stood by the small camp stove, and began heating a pot of tea.

"I feel their absence, as well."

"Would T'Pau mind if I visited the twins in the morning?"

Their three younger children had been staying in T'Pau's tent ever since the camp was pitched. Ny saw them at mealtimes, but very seldom otherwise. She highly suspected that T'Pau - severe, logical, Vulcan-of-all-Vulcans T'Pau - was spoiling them. She would have complained, but they were so obviously having the time of their lives.

"She has no reason to mind, Nyota. You are the Mother of the Heir. You may do as you wish in the camp."

Ny sighed, "Oh, I know - it's just that there are so many Vulcan traditions, and I feel like I'm breaking one almost every hour or so."

"And so what if you do?" He handed her a mug of warm tea, "A tradition broken unknowingly is not like a broken bone - it does not hurt anyone, and is far easier to mend."

She sighed again, slumping over onto her pillow. "I just wish Amanda was here."

"She and Sarek will return from Andoria in five point three da-"

"I wish she was here now, Spock!" She groaned miserably, "I need another Human woman," she lowered her voice to the faintest of whispers, to make sure only Spock could hear her when she said, "This is worse than the pon-farr, Spock, it really is."

He stood, tense and speechless for a minute or two, not knowing how to comfort her more than he already had.

At last, she took pity on him.

"Oh, I probably just need to go to sleep. . ." She toed off her shoes, and twisted under the covers.

"A very good idea," he said, doing the same. He stooped a moment before getting in next to her, turned off the camping lantern, and turned on the white quartz "night light" she'd got him for their anniversary last month. He said the soft glow improved his sleep, and she had to admit it didn't hurt hers either.

"Oh, yeah," she murmured, "Just a minute. . ." Thinking of their anniversary had reminded her. He'd given her an antique gold pocket watch that needed to be wound every evening. She reached into the small box that served as a nightstand, and drew out the heavy, softly gleaming circle. She twisted the little knob atop it twenty times. As she did so, the tick-tick-tick of the movements sped up a fraction. Then, the even seconds resumed, ticking and clicking away, the same as always. How many times in the past week had she devoutly wished that time could be sped up? Too many times to count, probably. . .

She snuggled into Spock's side, and let the slow, even sound of his gift lull her into sleep.

When she woke early the next morning, T'Ashal was curled up asleep next to her, and Spock had gone to T'Pau's tent, to make ready the celebratory feast.