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As both a member of Starfleet and a Vulcan citizen, Spock was much in demand in the first weeks after the Enterprise limped back to Earth. "You resigned your commission?" Admiral Komack said, incredulously, and he closed his eyes and said, "No, of course not. Captain Kirk was imprecise with his words."

He opened his eyes in time to see Komack roll his own. "Kirk is going to be the death of me, one of these days," he said.

"Respectfully, sir, at this moment, Captain Kirk is the proximate cause of your continued life."

"Don't I know it," Komack replied. He tapped a comm button on his desk. "Yeoman Singh, tell Jose to get his ass in here for the rest of this debriefing. He's had long enough to get six coffees by now."

"Commodore Mendez asked me to inform you, sir, that he's been pulled into a discussion with some of the Vulcan refugees, and --"

Komack swore and cut the comm. "With me, Commander," he said, pushing back from his desk. "Since you haven't resigned your commission, I am right here, right now, putting you on Vulcan-wrangling duty. And by God, you will use your connection with Ambassador Sarek to its fullest extent, or I'll court-martial your ass so fast your head will spin."

"The extra incentive is wholly unnecessary, I assure you, sir."

The empty Starfleet dorms had been put to use housing the refugees; no one wanted to think very hard about why those dorms were empty, and the Admiralty had merely said, blandly, that 'Fleet dorms were designed to adjust to a wide range of comfort requirements and could easily be set for Vulcan norms. The hot, dry blast of air inside was shocking, after the cool damp of San Francisco. Commodore Mendez and a wide-eyed Andorian in lieutenant's stripes were talking to three Vulcan men, one of whom appeared to be sedated; he kept slumping and nearly falling, his shoulders bumping against the other two. They made no effort to help him, and the Andorian lieutenant kept half-reaching out, then pulling her hands back.

"Commodore," said Komack. "Honored guests. Lieutenant Thiss. May Commander Spock and I be of assistance?"

"Admiral," said Mendez. "This gentleman--" he indicated the unsteady Vulcan "fell. Lieutenant Thiss came to his aid; she was taking him to Medical when these other gentlemen intervened."

"I am Suval," said one of the Vulcans. "Stonn is not in need of assistance."

Komack eyed Stonn, who had started to shiver. "He looks unwell," he said. "Perhaps, if it is simply that he does not wish to be touched by Lieutenant Thiss--"

"He is not in need of assistance," repeated Suval. "It is not a matter for outworlders."

Komack's lips tightened and he turned to Spock. "Commander?"


"They're Vulcan. I'm making them your problem. Solve it in five minutes, or Mr. Stonn here goes to Medical with a security escort."

"As you wish, sir."

"Jose, with me. Lieutenant, good work. Five minutes, Commander." Komack turned on his heel and strode off, tailed by Mendez and Thiss. As the doors hissed shut behind the three 'Fleet officers, Spock turned to the three Vulcans.

"I trust," he said in Vulcan, "that I shall not need to deliver any beatings today?"

Suval raised his chin slightly and did not answer.

"So few survived," Spock mused. "I would not see the unworthiest of us injured unnecessarily." He sharpened his tone and indicated Stonn. "He burns?"

"She who was to be his wife died with Vulcan," said the third Vulcan. "I am Telek. She was my sister. Our families seek another, so that he might not be lost as well, but there are so few--"

"Do not speak of this to outworlders!" Suval said.

"He is Vulcan," said Telek, a faint crease between his brows.

"He is not," returned Suval.

"I am certainly Vulcan enough to recognize pon farr," Spock said, allowing sarcasm to touch his voice. "Vulcan enough to have a bondmate, with whom Stonn is certainly already acquainted, and whom I should be glad to release from me, if she is willing to have Stonn instead."

Stonn hissed between his teeth and straightened, with an effort. Telek edged a step back from him, nervously.

Spock pressed the wall comm and switched back to Standard. "Lieutenant Thiss. Locate Vulcan refugees T'Pring and T'Pau, and bring them here. Ask them in my name: Spock cha' Sarek cha' Skon."

"Sir!" her voice came back, crisp and professional.

Suval blinked rapidly a few times. "I--you are bonded to T'Pring?"

Spock raised an eyebrow and said nothing.

"Her family are Adepts! I cannot believe they would bond her to one of inferior mind--"

"Suval," Stonn rasped out, steadying himself with a hand on Suval's shoulder. "Be silent. This is--we are none of us children any longer." He focused his eyes on Spock. "My clan shall owe you a great debt, son of Sarek, son of Earth, should T'Pring accept me."

"Son of Amanda," Spock said, blandly. "I shall hold you to that, Stonn, son of Stevk."

Suval retreated into a silence nearly as satisfactory to Spock as the silence he had been forced to maintain during the week of regen he'd had to go through after Spock had broken four of his teeth when they were children.

The efficient Lieutenant Thiss (Spock made a note to recommend her for whatever duty she wished), clearly mindful of Komack's time limit, had somehow managed to roust both Vulcan women and deliver them to Spock in two minutes flat. She had the delicacy to depart again immediately, asking permission only with attentive antennae; Spock acknowledged them with an eyebrow.

T'Pring -- Spock had not seen her since they were both fourteen -- had grown into a woman of startling and rare beauty. She had been accounted quick of mind by Vulcan standards, and took in Stonn's situation with one flicker of her eyes. "He who will be my husband. Is there a matter in which I may assist?"

Spock indicated Stonn with a jerk of his chin. "He burns. If it is agreeable, I would release you to join with him."

Her dark eyes flashed, and she raised her chin. He could feel her anger, in the back of his mind, and dared, then, to touch the back of her hand. "I would release thee," he said, formally, "yet keep thee in my clan, with all the honor due thee; I would call thee sister, and not wife. For we are few, and I do not burn." She frowned, faintly, and studied Stonn; Spock studied her.

"It has been a comfort to me," she said, "that my bond with thee survived the death of our world. And yet, you have become a legend, and I do not wish to be the consort of a legend." She shaped her hand into the ta'al and touched her palm to his. "Perhaps, Spock, I could be the sister of a legend. Perhaps, I could be the daughter of Sarek. For we have all lost much." She glanced, over her shoulder, at T'Pau. "T'sai? May it be done, that Stonn not part from us in his burning? That he who would have been my husband become, instead, my brother?"

T'Pau closed her eyes for a long moment. "So it shall be," she said, at last. "And thee--" she pointed at Suval "--shall go, and hold thy tongue! Thee--" she pointed at Telek "--shall witness for he who would have been thy kinsman. Take him, and come. We shall remake the bonds."

Suval narrowed his eyes, but departed. The remaining Vulcans trailed down the hallway of the dorm, after T'Pau. Spock stopped briefly and pressed the wall comm again. "Admiral Komack. The situation has been resolved satisfactorily. Appropriate treatment--" (he saw T'Pring turn and raise her eyebrow at him) "--has been secured for the indisposed individual. I am required to assist, but I trust all may be completed without further disruption to anyone uninvolved."

"Four minutes, forty-seven seconds, Commander," Komack answered. "I'm going to put you on Vulcan-wrangling duty forever. Get the hell out of here."

"Yes, sir." He clicked the comm off, met T'Pring's eyes -- he thought she might be laughing at him, but could not be certain -- and raised his own eyebrow back at her. "She who will be my sister?" he asked, politely.

"It is pleasant," she said, "to see you in an environment so suited to your talents." She tilted her head in the direction T'Pau and the others had gone. "Come," she said. "There is work to be done, he who will be my brother."