AN: Lamb's Ear and I are *pretty* sure we got all the typos, but I've rewritten this chapter a lot so I've probably missed some.


Spock

The door to his quarters chimed.

Spock rose from his desk where to answer it. He had been reviewing the preliminary tricorder scan readings of the Omicron Pod Plants prepared by the biology lab. They were undoubtedly one of the more fascinating forms of plantlife he'd ever encountered.

He triggered the door mechanism, expecting to find either Jim Kirk or Gaila U'Aidat behind it. When Leila Kalomi was revealed he felt a disconcerting mix of mild panic and embarrassment, neither of which he showed on his face of course.

Ms Kalomi was no longer dressed in her overalls, but simple terran clothing similar to the style of those she had habitually worn when she had lived on Earth. Replicated undoubtedly. Spock blinked.

'Ms Kalomi.' he offered in greeting.

'Spock.' she returned.

There was silence for a period of 4.7 seconds.

'May I be of assistance?' Spock inquired.

The woman licked her lips in a nervous gesture. 'Can I come in? I'd like to speak to you if that's okay.'

Spock did not particularly wish to play host to Ms Kalomi, but a conversation in the middle of the corridor was not a viable option.

'Very well.' he replied, stepping back and to the side so she could enter.

She offered him a small smile and made her way into the centre of the living area of his quarters, looking around with apparent interest at the decor of the room. 'Your Vulcan Harp.' she remarked pointing to his ka'athyra where it was hung on the wall. 'Do you still play?'

Spock raised an eyebrow at the illogical question. If he did not play, he would not have retained the instrument. 'Yes.' he replied diplomatically.

Ms Kalomi smiled at him again before continuing her perusal of his belongings. She paused in front of the shelves which lined one of the walls and inspected the various books and other items stored within. She picked up a carved Chinese incense holder shaped like dragon, adjusted a set of Bajoran figurines in the style of Topek and moved a rook on his three dimensional chess board. As he was in the midst of a game with Jim Kirk Spock crossed to stand beside her and returned the piece to its original position. Ms Kalomi then triggered a small holo display unit containing images of his mother. Her curiosity was mildly irritating. She had said she wished to speak to him, not inspect his quarters and rummage through his belongings.

'She's very beautiful.' she remarked in a tight voice.

Spock glanced at the holo. It was a picture of his mother at a diplomatic function of some sort. She was wearing an attractive terran evening gown and did, indeed, look very beautiful. The date indicated it had been taken before her marriage to his father, most likely when she had been tutoring him in conversational English.

'Yes she is.' he agreed blandly.

'Where is she?' Ms Kalomi inquired oddly.

Spock raised an eyebrow. 'She is on New Vulcan.'

Leila Kalomi's eyebrows furrowed towards her nose. 'But she's human.'

'There are many non-Vulcans living upon the Confederacy's new home planet. The terra-forming and construction has provided much work for skilled individuals.' he indicated his mother once more, 'She is on New Vulcan because her husband is Vulcan however.'

Her eyebrows smoothed and raised as her eyes widened in apparent shock.

'Husband?!'

Spock suspected she was making assumptions that were highly inaccurate.

'I fail to see how the fact that my parents are married is shocking to you Ms Kalomi.'

She exhaled sharply through her nostrils. 'Oh. Your parents.' She looked back at the holo. 'So that's your mother? She's very beautiful.' She delivered the sentiment far more sincerely than she had 58 seconds previously.

'Of what did you wish to speak Ms Kalomi?' he inquired.

She sighed and turned the holo display off before turning to face him with her lips pursed. 'I wished to apologise.' she said vaguely.

'I can think of no behaviour which warrants an apology.' he returned uncertainly.

She raised an eyebrow. 'I tricked you into the influence of the spores.' she offered by way of clarification.

'You yourself were under their hold. Your cognitive functions were impaired. Your apology is unnecessary.'

She smiled. 'I knew you'd say that. You haven't changed at all Spock.'

Spock blinked. He had hoped her familiarity had been a result of the spores. It appeared that was not entirely the case.

Ms Kalomi bit her lip and glanced about the room in what Spock interpreted as nervousness. 'Who was she?' she asked continuing her theme of vague conversation. 'Was it just the spores?'

'I am uncertain as to your meaning.' Spock replied.

She met his eyes with an expression of irritation or perhaps anger. 'The woman you were... with.' she swallowed. 'The Lieutenant that beamed down to you.'

'She is Lieutenant Nyota Uhura.' Spock offered. He was uncertain where her line of inquiry was going, but had a premonition that it would be decidedly uncomfortable.

Ms Kalomi sniffed. 'You love her?'

Whilst he had been perfectly happy to answer the same question when under the sway of the spores, he now found such a personal inquiry impossible to reply to. 'Ms Kalomi, I have no desire to discuss my personal life in such a manner.' If she was truly as familiar with him as she seemed to believe, she would be well aware of that fact.

She made another sniffing noise. 'She's the Chief Communications Officer.' she observed.

'That is correct.' Spock replied warily.

'And she was your teaching aide.' she added in an accusatory tone. 'Your student.'

Spock restrained the urge to purse his lips in annoyance. 'Yes.'

Leila Kalomi nodded. 'I asked around about her, but there are only rumours about you two. Hardly anyone seems to give them any credence.'

'Ms Kalomi, if the sole purpose of your visit is to make unwelcome inquires into my personal life I must ask you to leave.' Spock stated evenly.

'There was a time when I was your personal life!' she said, her voice increasing markedly in volume and rising in pitch.

Spock regarded her in confusion. 'I do not understand your meaning.'

She crossed to stand too close to him. Spock stepped backwards to alleviate his discomfort. She was looking up at him with a highly emotional expression on her face. He was concerned she might try to touch him and clasped his hands behind his back accordingly. 'I waited Spock. I waited all this time for you to come! I waited and waited and when you finally came, you brought her!'

Spock was aware that his face was most likely displaying indicators of his surprise and discomfort and made an effort to smooth it. He was entirely at a loss as to how to handle the position he found himself in. 'Your behaviour is highly illogical Ms Kalomi.' he said.

She laughed shortly. 'Of course it is! Human women are highly illogical. You should know that very well Mr Spock!'

Perhaps a clear statement reflecting his interpretation of the situation would prove sufficient to calm her. 'Ms Kalomi, if I have caused you emotional distress in some manner, I assure you I was unaware of this fact and it was certainly not my intention.'

She sobbed loudly.

Spock's eyes widened slightly. It appeared she was on the verge of crying. He had no idea how to resolve the situation. If she were his mother or his wife he would attempt to offer comfort, with a hug or similar human gesture despite his own discomfort, but Leila Kalomi was an acquaintance, not a close family member. To his immense relief he did not have to attempt to come to any sort of compromise. The door to the bedroom slid open and Nyota stepped into the living room.

Leila Kalomi spun to look at her and made a loud gasping noise, evidently one of shock or perhaps dismay. Certainly not a vocalisation indicative of happiness.

Nyota was wearing a neatly fastened robe but was barefoot and her hair hung in a wild tangle. It was exceedingly apparent that she had only just arisen from rest. In Spock's bed. It was cowardly, but Spock hoped that fact would prove sufficient to inspire Leila Kalomi to calm herself and leave. Nyota looked between them in confusion. 'Miss Kalomi?' Nyota greeted her uncertainly. Observing the other woman's obvious distress she frowned and added 'Are you alright?'

Ms Kalomi wiped her eyes and waved a hand dismissively. 'I'm fine.'

Nyota gave Spock a confused look, pulling at him through their bond to emphasis her point. He twitched his left eyebrow to indicate his shared mystification.

'I'm just an idiot.' Ms Kalomi continued. The woman gave Spock one last look he did not understand and turned and ran from the room.

Spock stared at the door after it had closed behind her in confusion. He had not been so confused by the actions of a human since his days as a cadet.

Nyota tilted her head. 'Poor woman.' she observed with less compassion than was her norm.

'I am confused as to the source of her distress.' Spock said. 'Her behaviour was entirely irrational.'

Nyota crossed her arms and Spock felt amusement and another emotion from her. It was something like irritation. 'Really.' she said sarcastically. 'You have no idea why she was so upset?

'She... did appear to have an unexpectedly... deep emotional attachment to me given the perfunctory nature of our previous acquaintance.' Spock admitted.

Nyota was silent for a long moment before responding. 'For future reference Spock, the only woman with a deep emotional attachment to you that you should let into your personal quarters is me.'

Spock pondered her words, tone and what he felt through their bond. He crossed to stand beside her and took her hand in his. She pouted slightly and looked up at him from under her eyelashes. A novel thought occurred to him. 'You are experiencing jealousy.' He felt something like excitement at the thought.

She huffed and frowned. 'No I am not!' she insisted, but Spock found himself sceptical as to the accuracy of her claim.

He twisted his fingers against hers, letting his thoughts slip against hers. He plucked at the unfamiliar annoyed feeling she was experiencing. 'Perhaps you could then explain this emotion to me? I have not felt it from you previously.' He probed the feeling curiously. He had not felt human jealousy before. He was quite familiar with his own Vulcan equivalent however. Nyota managed to inspire it within him with some regularity.

She pouted again and inexplicably the feeling faded. 'Maybe I'm a little jealous.' she admitted. 'It's not unreasonable.' she continued defensively. 'She is very beautiful.'

For some reason he could not quantify, her reaction pleased him.

She smiled and shook her head, pulling at the odd prideful pleasure he was attempting to suppress through the connection of their fingers. 'There's no need to be so smug Spock.' she told him and he felt her amusement.

They remained in orbit of Omicron Ceti III for a further 37.3 hours. The colonists, once freed of the influence of the spores, chose to return to the ship, and sanity, over the 'Paradise' offered on the planet below. The Enterprise was no passenger ship but it was able to accommodate the 150 colonists with minimal impact to the crew. Two days later they disembarked at Starbase 27, their stated intention to found a new colony somewhere else. Spock was pleased that Leila Kalomi made no further effort to seek him out. The thought of additional interaction with her was… mortifying.

As for his time on Omicron Ceti III, he found he had mixed feelings with regards to the experience. Whilst he did not on any level wish to consider a return to the planet and the influence of the spores, he admitted to himself that the novel experience, the 'euphoria' and the total contentment he had experienced had been… intriguing. It was disconcerting to recall his highly illogical behaviour, but at the time it had certainly not been unpleasant, it had in fact, been quite entertaining.

He had experienced several things that it was highly unlikely he would have undertaken under any other circumstances. Surak taught that Eik-veshtaya to'ovau kau - lu veshtaya ri glazhau goh na'kastorilaya t'kashan (Wide experience increases wisdom - provided the experience is not sought purely for the stimulation of sensation), and since Spock had not sought out the influence of the spores, his bizarre experiences under its effects were not things he felt he should feel any particular regret about, no matter how illogical.

He had climbed a tree for no particular reason save that Nyota had suggested it. Mapping out suitable routes between the limbs had been oddly satisfying.

He had dived off a cliff at no small risk of injury 16 times purely because the sensation of free-fall and the shock of the cool water below was 'fun'.

He and Nyota had played children's games. Chasing and hiding from one another with immature abandon.

He had laughed. Many times. He had not kept count.

He had been… happy in a way a Vulcan could never be. Even the oppressive fog of Va'pak had seemed very far away.

Of course the experience, no matter how fascinating, had obvious downsides. He'd been observed behaving in a decidedly undignified manner. Captain Kirk, Ensign DeSalle and Ensign Hendorff had seen he and Nyota running through the forest in their undergarments. This was hardly appropriate behaviour for two of the Enterprise's most senior bridge crew.

And naturally the fact that Kirk and Hendorff had been privy to a decidedly intimate interaction between Nyota and himself was highly distressing. They'd seen them kissing. Embracing.

Nyota was equally embarrassed. She was also highly annoyed that James Kirk had seen her in her underwear. Again. Spock himself was certainly not pleased by that fact. He was well aware of his Captain's attraction to his wife. Kirk's eyes often lingered on the more shapely features of Nyota's anatomy and he sometimes 'flirted' with her, though his wife was gratifyingly blunt in her dismissal of his attentions.

No comments were made by either of the Ensigns or the Captain over the weeks that followed however, and Spock was hopefully that the entire incident would never be spoken of. There had been much amused gossip amidst the crew after the events that occurred on Omicron Ceti III - it seemed that most of those affected had done something amusing or embarrassing – and as such there was plenty to entertain the crew and prevent any curiosity with regards to what he and Nyota had been doing.

The most talked about incident involved Dr McCoy and Ensign U'Aidat. They'd apparently spent several hours in some sort of Orion dancing ritual then gotten themselves married in the Terran tradition. Lieutenant Commander Scott, who had been left in command of the Enterprise when the Captain and the original landing party had beamed down, had officiated the ceremony. The general consensus was that the wedding was therefore legal.

Although the Captain and Nyota seemed to find the situation exceedingly amusing, it was plain that both Doctor McCoy and Ensign U'Aidat did not share their enthusiasm. They had appeared on the bridge together 6 days out of Omicron Ceti III and demanded Kirk divorce them, if in fact they were married. The Captain had, quite correctly, informed them that whilst it was in his power to marry couples, divorces had to be lodged with a Federation Registry Office, and they were legally married.

The matter settled for the time being, it verified that Gaila U'Aidat and Leonard McCoy were actually married, Spock had only thought it only proper and logical to address her as such. However her reaction to his polite reference to her as 'Ensign McCoy' when next conversation had warranted it had not been as he expected.

She had voiced her extreme dislike for the name and had stopped speaking to him. Nyota informed him that she had gotten so upset because many had followed his example and started referring to her by her married name to antagonise her.

It was therefore something of a shock when the aforementioned Ensign took a seat opposite him in the deck D refectory 35.3 days since she had last engaged in any sort of social interaction with him. Spock looked up at her from his bowl of replicated balkra in query.

'Well I hope you're happy with yourself Commander.' she remarked in what seemed to be a quite unfriendly tone.

Spock raised an eyebrow and waited for her to elaborate.

'Someone updated all my personnel files. My routing address, my commission, my meal card. They are all under 'Gaila McCoy' now.' she glared across her bowl of spiced Kolari stew at him. 'They even officially reassigned us both to shared quarters. With 'Leonard & Gaila McCoy – Newlyweds' on the door's nameplate.' She sounded decidedly displeased by this turn of events.

'I take it this was all done without you or Dr McCoy's knowledge Ensign?' Spock inquired.

'Of course!' she replied.

'I must apologise if you believe my reference to you as 'Ensign McCoy' instigated these… pranks. I assure you, I was not attempting to 'tease' you, merely address you correctly.' Spock replied. He did not feel that he should have to offer apologies, he had not done anything save call her by her legal name, but he could appreciate that doing so had perhaps resulted in interferences into the Cadet's personal life.

Ensign McC-U'Aidat huffed. 'I suppose I believe you.' she replied. 'Nyota says you weren't trying to be funny, that you're just clueless, but I'm just so angry! Everyone thinks it's a big joke but it's not funny! Leonard and I weren't even really dating and now we're apparently married?!'

Spock tilted his head. It appeared the Ensign wished for advice, or perhaps commiseration? He tried to think what Nyota might have said in such a situation. 'I am certain the Doctor will not attempt to hold you to your marriage. We are scheduled to stop at Starbase 12 in 2 months' time. You will be able to annul or divorce the Doctor then.' He paused. 'Perhaps given time this unlikely series of events will provide both you and Doctor McCoy with a 'humorous anecdote' to reminisce upon.'

'It's so embarrassing though! The whole crew knows!' she replied.

'I am sure a new piece of gossip will soon eclipse that of your marriage Ensign.' Spock assured her.

She nodded and fell silent, turning her attention to her stew.

Spock continued to consume his meal, pleased the uncomfortable topic of conversation appeared to be exhausted.

'Leonard would want never marry someone like me, not really.' the Ensign added after a period of 2.3 minutes of silence. 'He doesn't want some 'Orion floozy'.'

Spock frowned at her. It was most unlike the Ensign to speak in such a manner. She was usually exceedingly… confident in her self-worth and of her personal appeal. He was uncertain of the correct response to such a statement. She had made plain her dissatisfaction with her marriage to Doctor McCoy and yet her last statement implied this dissatisfaction was perhaps more to do with her perceived belief that the Doctor did not wish her for a mate. Spock felt decidedly ill-equipped to be having such a discussion.

Before he could devise a satisfactory response the ship's intercom interrupted their conversation.

'This is the Captain Speaking. Commander Spock report to the bridge.'

Spock restrained the urge to sigh in relief and instead rose to his feet, taking his half-finished meal tray with him. He offered Ensign U'Aidat a nod in parting. 'If you will excuse me Ensign.'

She lifted her chin in a casual gesture. 'Commander.' she replied in farewell.

It was the middle of the Beta shift - the early morning hours of the artificial day/night cycle of the ship. As was his usual custom, Spock had left Nyota asleep in his quarters to partake of a small meal and spend a few hours in the Science Laboratories working upon his personal projects. In just 7 months they had already encountered many fascinating lifeforms. He was currently studying several of the more intriguing specimens he had bought aboard. It was therefore not unusual for him to be awake at such an hour. For the Captain to be on the bridge however would mean he had been awoken especially. Something unusual must have occurred.

Jim Kirk was sitting in the command chair, the beta shift crew at their stations around him. He met Spock's face as soon as he exited the turbolift.

'Knew you'd be up and about Commander.' he remarked pointlessly.

'Indeed.' Spock replied. 'What may I assist you with Captain?'

Kirk gestured at the communications console. 'Take a listen to the distress call we just received would you Spock?'

'Certainly Captain.' Spock replied making his way to the indicated console. The Beta shift Communications Officer, Lieutenant Hawkins, handed him an earpiece and cued the recording.

It was in Vuhlkansu. A native speaker without doubt and from the tone and words, a refugee of Old Vulcan rather than a colonist or V'tosh ka'tur (Vulcan without logic). The message was short. Their vessel had been damaged, they were stranded without warp capabilities and with dwindling power. They requested aid.

'It would appear to be a rather straight forward distress call Captain.' he remarked out loud. 'The accent implied a Vulcan native to Kwil'Inor.'

'So definitely a Vulcan then Mr Spock? Not a Romulan?' the Captain inquired.

'The probability of a Romulan choosing to impersonate an accent particular to a very small region of Han'Shir rather than one of the more common accents of Na'nam such as those of Kir or Raal, and being able to do so successfully, would indeed be very small Captain.' he replied.

The Captain nodded. 'Helmsman, plot an intercept course to the Vulcan ship.' He spun his chair. 'Hawkins, let them know we're on our way.'

'Yes sir.'

'Course plotted Captain.'

'Warp factor 7, let's not leave them hanging.'

'Aye Captain. Arrival at co-ordinates in 12 minutes at warp 7.' replied the Helmsman, overlaying a timer in the corner of the viewscreen.

'Ensign inform the crew.' Kirk directed Chekov's beta shift counterpart.

'Aye sir.' the young Andorian in the navigator's chair replied

'Spock get Scotty and arrange a maintenance crew to beam over and see to the ship. Include some security and take McCoy in case anyone was injured when their ship was damaged.' Kirk ordered returning his attention back to him.

'Very well sir.' Spock replied.

He spent the intervening period making those arrangements. He felt Nyota awaken when the Andorian Ensign made her address over the ship's intercom. She reached to him, her thoughts drowsy but curious. She had been feeling ill earlier in the evening but appeared recovered. Her speedy recovery did not surprise Spock. She had claimed a stomach virus was circulating amidst the crew, but Spock thought the fact that she'd eaten a large serving of Deltan Fudge cake and a disturbing terran beverage called a 'lime float' that consisting of a near fluorescent green carbonated drink and ice-cream as her evening meal was perhaps the more likely cause.

He sent her back his own muted interest and gratification that her 'illness' had been fleeting. She appeared on the bridge eight minutes later, in uniform and neatly presented as if she had not been deeply asleep minutes earlier and certainly not as if she had been regurgitating the disturbingly green contents of her stomach six hours before that.

'Captain, can I be of any assistance?' she inquired.

Kirk nodded. 'Help Hawkins out Lieutenant. Your Vulcan might come in handy.'

'Yes sir.' she replied. Save a small glance in his direction her behaviour was as admirably professional as always.

Doctor McCoy appeared on the bridge 38 seconds later. In contrast to Nyota, the Doctor did indeed look like he had just awoken.

'Dammit Jim! Can't a man get any sleep around here!' he demanded of the Captain with his usual disregard for protocol.

'Did I drag you from the arms of your loving wife Bones? I gotta say, marriage certainly hasn't mellowed you any.' the Captain replied with equal disrespect.

The Doctor glared, his face reddening in a blush. 'It was you wasn't it?! You approved that damned requisition order for new quarters!'

'Of course I did Bones!' the Captain replied with a smile. 'Who am I to stand in the way of true love? I thought the request for the personalised doorplate was a nice touch by the way.' He leant back in his chair raised his hands to sketch the line of a sign between them. 'Leonard and Gaila McCoy – Newlyweds.' he said. 'I bet that got you some brownie points with the Missus.'

The Doctor spluttered, words evidently failing him due to the level of his irritation. Spock commiserated with him to a certain extent. James Kirk could be a uniquely antagonising individual. He could feel Nyota's amusement at the exchange. He shot her a glance and she smiled and bit her lip.

'The next time you end up on my Biobed shot full of holes, I might just forget the anaesthetic hypo Jim.' the doctor threatened darkly.

'Aw, come on Bones! I'm only kidding.' he replied. 'Since that request for new quarters came from your personal computer, naturally I assumed it was from you.'

Doctor McCoy regarded him suspiciously. 'Really? Someone sent it from my quarters?'

'Yep. You might want to check your security settings there Bones, because I know a senior officer such as yourself wouldn't do anything so silly as say, leave his computer logged in and forget to lock his door…'

From Kirk's tone of voice, Spock gathered that this was precisely what the Captain thought had occurred. By acting on the submitted request form, (or perhaps submitting it himself? Spock could not put such an action past the Captain), he had perhaps taught the Doctor a valuable lesson in security. No doubt McCoy would be more careful in future.

Doctor McCoy coughed. 'Of course not!'

Even Spock could tell he was lying.

'Arriving at co-ordinates in 10 seconds Captain.' the helmsman called across the bridge.

Spock walked to an empty tactical console and observed the viewscreen in interest as they exited warp. The ship which was visible nearby was indeed of Vulcan manufacture. A commercial transport and passenger vessel. He ran scanners on it by habit.

'Scanners indicate emergency life support function only on the Vulcan ship sir.' he informed the Captain. 'No sign of obvious damage. A mechanical fault would be the likely cause.'

'Picking up lifeforms?' the Captain inquired.

'Yes Captain, there appears to be a full crew and a complement of passengers aboard.' Spock replied.

'They aren't responding to our hails Captain, I think their communications are out.' Lieutenant Hawkins informed Kirk.

'They might still be receiving even if they can't respond. Inform them we're beaming a team over Hawkins.' he replied before glancing back towards Spock. 'Take your team and report back on the situation over there Mr Spock.' he ordered.

'Affirmative Captain.' Spock said. He turned to face the Doctor. 'Doctor, our team awaits us in Transporter Room 2.'

McCoy sighed. 'Fine let's get this over with.'

Spock spared Nyota a long look as the doors of the turbolift cycled closed in front of them. As always when he departed the ship she sent him a wave of affection through their bond and a small smile. He found it to be a satisfactory farewell.

The doctor was clearly agitated. Spock was uncertain what motivated him to speak, but he found himself doing so, despite his distaste at involving himself in personal matters. 'Doctor, earlier this evening Ensign U'Aidat expressed agitation in keeping with your own with regards to the situation you find yourselves in.'

'You don't say Commander.' Doctor McCoy replied in apparent irritation.

'Since it is evident that you are both in agreement on the matter of your marriage, I am at a loss as to the source of your continuing difficulties.' Spock remarked.

Doctor McCoy glared at him. 'She hates the idea of marriage Spock. The situation itself makes her angry. This latest joke has made her furious. I bet it was Jim. Sneaky bastard.' The man sighed. 'The last thing I wanted was another ex-wife.' He sounded… displeased. Not only angry and irritated, but perhaps, disappointed.

Spock suddenly got the impression that perhaps the situation between U'Aidat and McCoy was more complicated then it appeared. He recalled the Ensign's words earlier that evening.

'Have you discussed this with the Ensign?' Spock inquired as they exited the turbolift and began towards the transporter room. Owing to it being in the midst of the ship's night cycle, the halls were for the most part deserted.

'Spock, I am not taking relationship advice from you of all people.' McCoy replied.

'Seeing as how 18.9 months ago I was in a markedly similar situation to that which you currently find yourself in, that is perhaps, unwise.' he responded.

McCoy shot him a sharp glance. 'What?'

'You are aware that I am married.' Spock remarked.

'Yes.' McCoy agreed warily.

'That came to be though a series of events as unlikely as those that resulted in your own marriage.' Spock said. 'I was not actually aware I was betrothed until months after the fact. I made assumptions that proved to be highly inaccurate with regards to my wife's opinion on our unexpected association. I suspect you have done the same.'

'What are you talking about?' the Doctor demanded.

'The Ensign made a comment to the effect that you would never desire her for a wife, and appeared quite displeased with that fact. From your tone I wonder if she was incorrect in her assessment.' he replied.

The Doctor was wearing one of his more severe frowns. 'Just what are you trying to say Mr Spock?' he asked.

'During my, admittedly brief, conversations with both of you, it appears to me that you and the Ensign would perhaps prefer not to annul your marriage.'

'Orions don't get married!' Doctor McCoy exclaimed. Spock noted he did not say he did not wish to be married. He raised an eyebrow.

'Whatever gave you that idea Doctor?' he asked. 'Lodubyaln (slave girls) don't marry until they retire or their contracts are bought, but the rest of the Orion population follow the usual humanoid social conventions.'

The Doctor paused mid-step before catching up to Spock. 'So, what, you think she'd want to stay married?' he asked sceptically.

'I can only state that she appeared 'upset' by the thought that you did not.' Spock replied as they crossed the threshold to Transporter Room 2.

Chief Engineer Scott, one of his senior Lieutenants and two Security Ensigns awaited in the transport room. Spock stopped at the rack near the door and selected a tricoder. He briefly checked its charge and function then made his way to the transporter pad. As the rest of the team assembled around him he checked his phaser and communicator.

Satisfied, he met the gaze of the ensign manning the console. 'Energise.'

Electrostatic tingled against his skin and white blurred his vision and then he was on the Vulcan ship.

They had beamed into a transport room dimly lit by only reddish emergency lighting. It was comfortably warm and the artificial gravity was set to Vulcan standard. Spock wondered at that. It was unusual for emergency life support systems to include unnecessary power drains like maintaining temperatures at anything above minimums.

Three Vulcans stood near the controls.

Spock gave them the ta'al. 'Greetings. I am Commander Spock of the USS Enterprise.' he said. 'We have come in response to your distress call.'

The middle Vulcan returned the ta'al and responded in lightly accented standard. 'Honourable Lord Spock. I am Staal.' He inclined his head respectfully. 'We are most grateful for your assistance.'

Spock noted Doctor McCoy's raised eyebrow at the unexpected honorific. He managed to restrain a similar reaction from showing upon his own face. He was not a S'haile or Pidsu, 'Lord' was not a correct form of address for him. Since the destruction of their home-world, Vulcan opinion of Spock had split into two. Those who saw him as something approaching a 'hero' or as close to that ideal as a Vulcan would ever deem logical, and those that believed he should have been able to stop Nero before their planet was destroyed and who despised him, again, as much as they were logically capable of.

This Vulcan, Staal, appeared to be one of the former. Whilst awkward, this was still preferable to encountered one of his species who hated him. Pushing the thought from his mind he focused on the situation at hand.

'What is the nature of the damage to your vessel?' he inquired.

'A simple enough thing Osu'Zhel-lan (honourable commander), a malfunction in our energy converter. We lack the necessary part to effect repairs however.'

'I am certain we can be of assistance. Lieutenant Commander Scott will be able to replicate a replacement fitting.' he stepped off the pad. 'If you will show us?'

'Of course Osu'Zhel-lan.' Staal replied.

The problem was indeed, simple. The Vulcans required no aid in making the repairs, merely in procuring a part. The damaged part simply needed to be removed and beamed back the Enterprise for Chief Engineer Scott to replicate a replacement. Spock made a mental note to request the engineer demonstrate his methods with regards to the process. It had proven a most useful skill and one Spock would be interesting in mastering.

Staal pulled Spock aside whilst the Engineers and two of the Vulcan crew were disassembling the power converter assembly to gain access to the faulty part. Doctor McCoy, seeing that there were no injured persons aboard, had already beamed back to the ship. 'To get some damned shut-eye.' as he had eloquently put it.

'Osu'Zhel-lan Spohkh. We have an Elder aboard who wished to speak with you before you return to the Enterprise. Is this acceptable?' he asked in Vuhlkansu.

An odd request, but not one Spock saw any particular reason to deny. 'That is acceptable.'

They left the engineers to their work and Spock followed Staal through the ship towards the passenger quarters several decks above him.

Staal led him to a large room lit only by emergency lighting and an asenoi. There was indeed an elder sat before it in apparent meditation. Staal bowed to the seated figure. 'Okosu T'Prak, Osasu Spohkh is here as you requested.' He glanced at Spock then left the room.

'Live long and prosper Spohkh son of Sarek son of Skon.' the ancient woman greeted him.

Spock stared at her in mild surprise. They had not met before, but he was familiar with her name. She was matriarch of T'Pring's Clan.

'Peace and long life Okosu T'Prak.' he replied in kind.

'I would speak with you of a matter of some delicacy Spohkh.' She said.

Spock stepped closer and nodded slightly in acceptance.

'My granddaughter T'Pring claims your bond to her was never severed completely.' the elder continued. 'I have not been able to ascertain the accuracy of her claims via her and wonder if you would permit me to meld with you and confirm that she is, in fact, mistaken?'

Spock raised an eyebrow. One did not ask to meld with a person they had just met. He was certainly not comfortable with letting a stranger, T'Pring's grandmother at that, share his thoughts. 'I can confirm the same. The bond was removed completely. I have sensed nothing of her in over a decade.'

'Yes. This is as I have observed in her, I could find no trace. However she insists.' The old woman paused, pursed her lips slightly. 'She suffers with the death of her bondmate. She is not as she was.'

Spock was aware that T'Pring had bonded to Stonn, a cousin of hers, some 3 years after he had departed Vulcan. At the time it had evoked neither negative or positive feelings within him, and it did not do so now.

'If you would permit me to meld with you, I believe she will have to accept the certainty of my findings and this may be of aid to her.'

'There is no bond to T'Pring.' Spock insisted. 'I am bonded to another as she was bonded to another. This would not have been possible if any bond between us had remained. T'Pring knows this. If her logic is so clouded that she cannot accept this, I do not think you will convince her otherwise.' he replied.

'I accept the logic of your words. She is… ill however. I intend to show her that there is no bond, share my memories with her. It is my hope it will help her recover. This is why I ask this of you.'

Spock considered her request. 'T'Pring suffers from tel-has-mar?'

'Yes. Also lost with T'Khasi were her sa'fu, oko'mekh and osa'mekh.' T'Prak replied referring to the demise of her own son and grandson with typical Vulcan detachment.

Spock had not been aware T'Pring and Stonn had had a child. 'I grieve with thee.' he said.

He thought on his own brief experience of p'pil'lay. Of Nyota's. T'Pring most likely suffered a great deal with the loss of Stonn and their child. It explained her odd behaviour in contacting him repeatedly since Va'Pak. Although he did not hold any particular regard for his former betrothed, she was of Vulcan. To deny her such a small thing due to bitterness when she had always behaved logically and rationally would be petty. He made his decision. 'Very well.'

He crossed to stand beside the elder and sunk to his knees. 'You may proceed.'

She nodded and recited the ritual phrase as she pressed her fingers against his psi points. Like all elders, her touch was deft. Spock quickly pulled her down to the place in the bottom of his mind where his familial bonds, those to his parents and Nyota, were rooted. He felt her dispassionately note the bond to his father, the bond to his mother and finally the bond to Nyota.

/your bond to your human is surprisingly strong/ she remarked as she plucked at it experimentally.

Spock did not bother to reply, he knew she would sense his irritation at her comment and interest. Spock heard the beep of his communicator as if from a great distance. He spoke of T'Pring to speed the elder.

/You see no trace of the bond to T'Pring remains./

/Yes. I see./

Spock inhaled, preparing to pull himself from the meld, the engineers would most likely be already on the Enterprise replicating the replacement part.

Okosu T'Prak lingered. He let her feel his wordless query at her hesitation. He felt Nyota reaching towards him curiously. He recalled the unanswered communicator. He wordlessly reassured her, felt the disconcerting sensation of T'Prak observing the exchange. Nyota retreated. Spock began to pull himself from the meld.

T'Prak did something. Reached towards his familial bonds.

He realised her intent and tried to pull away. He could not, she was holding him in her grip.

/NO!/ he screamed both aloud and in his mind.

His arm shot up to push her fingers from him but it was too late and then she was pushing at him, a great force inside his mind and he fell into darkness.