Disclaimer: See Chapter 1. Thank you so much to Fameanon and Ahlysha for reviewing.

Strom fetched himself a mug of Vulcan spice tea and took a seat in the corner of the mess hall, sighing as he turned on his PADD and reviewed his new post for the fifteenth time. This job would be a new challenge, a refreshing start, and he would be close to Lucy...

He shook his head of the thought and concentrated on reviewing his duties. With this position came a modest apartment near headquarters, though Strom doubted he would be spending much time there. Lucy needed his help, just as Oratt had said...

Memories of the violent dreams he sometimes had about his former superior surfaced in his mind, but he shoved them away and took another sip of tea.

In place of contemplating his dreams, he found himself analyzing his behavior in regards to Lucy. Oratt had explicitly stated that she needed his help, that she was waiting for him to return...but he was still plagued with doubt. She had grown now, had spent a year on her own, working independently towards her dreams. Did she really need him?

When he wasn't haunted by thoughts of what he might have done to Lucy, had Koss not stolen her, Strom often dwelled on the way her traumatized mind had focused on him. He remembered clearly the day he had gone for a walk in the woods with her, and then was suddenly kissing her in the autumn leaves. He remembered staring blatantly at her rear end as she bent to retrieve something for him...what that something was, he could not recall. The bite mark she had given him still tingled on his chest...

How she must secretly loathe him.

And yet, the desire to be with her had not left him, even after the fever dissipated. He longed to find her, but he was ashamed of himself, unsure of her affections...what if she did not want him in return?

He was brought sharply out of his self-deprecating reverie by a conversation at the next table, where two Vulcan men were discussing a recent joint venture between Vulcans and humans, a science mission to a nebula in between Vulcan and Earth.

"I, for one, am astounded they have survived so long with their rampant emotions," one said, a tall man with dark eyes and light brown hair. His robes designated him as from a high house. "My father always votes to delay their expansion into space. They are dangerous, and if they taint the interstellar community with their violence and barbarism, how will Vulcan last?"

"We are stronger than they," his companion assured him. "Vulcan will survive, as we have survived thousands of years."

"Indeed," the first said. "They are no more threat than a wild sehlat. Barbaric, animalistic even, but if contained and controlled, it is manageable."

"An apt analogy," the second agreed, sipping his tea.

Strom realized he had snapped the handle of his cup, and stared at the broken metal band in surprise.

"Shall I get you a new cup, doctor?" the first Vulcan asked, and he looked up at the younger man, scowling at him.

"No, but your service is appreciated," he said coldly, picking up the broken handle to dispose of it in the waste chute across the room.

"You have a differing opinion about humans?" the second Vulcan asked as he returned, blinking up at him with a slightly smug gaze.

"I do," he said firmly. "But I will not share that opinion with you, because you will not hear it. My words would fall on deaf ears."

"There is nothing more healthy in our society than debate," the first said, moving over a chair to make room for him to sit down. "Come, join us...and tell us your opinion."

"You believe the humans to be no better than wild sehlats, am I correct?"

The first Vulcan shrugged. "Yes, I believe I stated that opinion."

"Then tell me," Strom growled, "why it was a Vulcan who was recently responsible for ten deaths. Eight women, violated, their minds ravaged, a maintenance worker, and a doctor in the IME...all dead, because of a Vulcan."

The second man began to respond, but Strom slammed his fist down on the table, making their tea shake. "Do not forget that underneath an extremely thin veneer of logic lies a beast within each of you worse than any human could imagine. Are you so arrogant to believe that you are the most superior beings in the galaxy?"

Both of them were speechless, staring at him with cautious eyes as he straightened. "I ought to break both your arms for your insolence," he growled at the first Vulcan, and as he turned away, he noted that every eye in the mess hall was on him. He glared back at them, then stormed from the room.

The walk to his quarters seemed to take much longer than usual, and he still felt eyes on him when he locked the door to his room. Mousse strolled up to him and wrapped its furry form around his ankles, and he picked the feline up and cradled it in his arms.

"Mousse, do you think she will forgive me?"

The cat only purred and rubbed its head against his chin, and he stroked it, scratching his nails lightly down the feline's back.

"You truly are not very helpful in these matters, but I thank you for being a constant companion for me. No doubt she will want you back..."

He sighed and laid down, closing his eyes against the violence and hatred boiling in his brain. Mousse settled into a neat little ball on Strom's chest and promptly fell asleep, and the Vulcan stroked it until sleep found him again.

"So basically you need to add a few more descriptive passages about the surroundings, fix that run-on sentence on the second page, and you're good to go," Lucy said, flipping back to the cover page of Vester's story. She handed him the PADD.

"You are a life-saver, Ms. Lucy," he said in his best Southern accent, and she giggled.

"Do you feel confident about this midterm?"

"I'll do just fine, sweetie. Now Star, on the other hand..."

"What about her?"

Vester sighed. "I think she went out on a date with your Vulcan language hunk, and it didn't turn out so hot."

Lucy frowned. "What went wrong?"

"I don't think anything went wrong, she just doesn't know where to go from here. I was hoping you, Ms. Vulcan Expert, could sort baby girl out."

"Tell her to come over and talk tonight, and I will do just that."

"Awesome."

He packed up his things, and Lucy handed him his textbooks and PADDs until the doorbell rang. She ran to get it, traversing her small living room in five easy steps.

Oratt was standing on the doorstep, dressed in Vulcan robes, and he bowed his head ever so slightly as she stepped aside, allowing him to come in. He was carrying a large box and set it on her couch as Vester cleared the rest of his things away.

"Ms. Hardister, I am here to ask a favor."

"Is Desiree ok?"

"Desiree is well, I assure you. I would be...pleased if you would assist me with something."

Vester hung around in the background, putting away their dirty dishes and clearing up the trash from her coffee table.

"Are you otherwise engaged this evening? And may I ask who this young man is?"

"This is Sylvester. He's a friend. And no, I am not otherwise engaged this evening, doctor."

Oratt nodded in satisfaction and pulled a full set of Vulcan robes from the box. "If you would please dress yourself in these and accompany me, I would be grateful. I am greeting my new staff at the transport station, and I understand you speak nearly fluent Vulcan."

"What does that have to do with this?"

"I wish my staff to become acclimated to humans, and seeing a human who can speak their language and is very familiar with their customs will be...less disconcerting than being submersed in human culture too quickly."

"Am I supposed to continue chatting with your new staff? I was hoping to get some studying in tonight."

"Girl, all you do is study," Vester protested, tossing some crumpled papers into the trash. "Get out of this apartment and get some fresh air, child, or I swear..."

"Midterms are next week. I need to study."

"You need some sunshine and fresh air, Lucy. Mr. Vulcan over here needs your help, so go help the man out."

Lucy sighed and turned back to the elder doctor. "How long is this going to take?"

"No more than two hours. I will even provide you with dinner at my home afterwards, if you wish."

She considered it, then took the robes from him with narrowed eyes. "I smell a conspiracy here, Oratt. I'm watching you."

He simply raised an eyebrow, and she backed away a few steps before turning and walking to her room.

The ride to the transport was silent, although they had exchanged a short conversation about their current situation and to make sure that all was well with the other. After that, silence reigned in the aircar, but after several minutes, Lucy felt compelled to speak again.

"So these new staff members...may I know their names?"

Oratt nodded. "There are three of them, two males and one female. The males are Merivik and Rojel, and the female is T'Chet. Rojel and T'Chet have recently earned their medical degrees, but Merivik is older, and has spent several years in the IME, on Denobula, in fact."

"And they know English?"

"Of course."

"That wouldn't have been a problem if they didn't. I was simply curious."

They fell into silence again, and Lucy felt her eyes begin to droop. However, Oratt began their descent before she could fall asleep, and she sat up, forcing herself to wake up.

"The shuttle should arrive ahead of schedule. It should land in approximately three minutes. Come."

She obeyed his request and followed him into the station, but she paused when she saw Desiree sitting on one of the benches, next to Sorak and Mina.

"Oratt, what on Earth?"

He glanced sidelong at her. "All will explained in time. For now, let us greet our guests."

Lucy took up a post between Oratt and Sorak, but she leaned forward and glared at her mother. "What are you planning, mother?" she hissed in Spanish, but Mina shrugged and kept her eyes on the door where the new arrivals would come through.

Vulcans filed through the door and broke off to go to their respective destinations, and she waited for the three assistants to come through. Three doctors did enter and walk up to Oratt, and Lucy raised the ta'al to them.

"Welcome to Earth. Your service honors us," she said clearly, and they all bowed their heads. Oratt took them aside and gave them a chip, and they continued on. Lucy frowned.

"Doctor, if those were the three doctors you wanted me to greet, then why am I here?"

The elder physician simply gestured to the door, where a lone Vulcan was standing, apparently the last one off the shuttle. He held a black bag in one hand and an animal carrier in the other, and when Lucy clapped eyes on him, he set both things down and slowly advanced towards her.

His usually prim and pressed suit was slightly wrinkled, and his hair was not as neat as the last time she had seen him. It almost looked as if he had run his hands through it several times, then tried to flatten it without much success. He reached up and combed his nails through it, and she admitted privately that it was a small improvement.

"Lucy," he croaked, holding his arms open wide for her. She was frozen in place, until her brain finally told her legs to start moving, and she set off towards him at a sprint.

She collided with him, making them collapse onto the floor, but she was too busy kissing him to really think too hard about that. He groaned into her mouth and wrapped his arms tight around her, and she mussed up his not-quite-perfect hair, ruining his previous efforts with a few strokes of her fingers.

"Strom," she breathed, pushing herself up so she could get a good look at him. He looked exhausted, drained, but a spark of pleasure twinkled in his blue eyes as he stroked two fingers down her face.

"I missed you," was all she could think to say, and he slowly sat up and drew her body to his lithe frame, and he rocked her back and forth as tears streamed down her face.

"Please don't leave me again," she begged him in hardly audible Vulcan. "I can't lose you again."

"I am here, Lucy. I am here, and I promise I will not leave."

She nodded and held him tighter, oblivious to her mother and Desiree applauding the scene. All that mattered was that he was home, and she was reunited with her k'diwa, never to part again.