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Two days later Christine dropped into a chair in McCoy's office, and sighed. Her back was aching again. "Lt. Palmer's fever is up. I ordered a change to 300 mg. of mirinodol every three hours, okay?"

"Fine." McCoy grinned. "It's good to have you back."

"It's good to be back."

"Really?" His eyes probed her.

She nodded. "Really. In almost every way." She tugged at her white tunic. "Except for this damn uniform. There hasn't been an decent maternity uniform made in history. Something about the idea of a pregnant woman boggles the military mind. This thing pinches and rides up." She gave up the struggle. "I look like the great white whale. I expect people to greet me with shouts of 'Thar she blows!'"

"And how do they greet you?" He was still probing.

She sighed. "You don't want flippant answers, huh? Warm, friendly, happy - but a little awkward, a little cautious, too. The same way I feel."

"I've got the results of the tests I did on all of you. Spock and Bri are in good shape generally. They both need some minor surgery, Bri on his foot, and Spock to fix that tendon damage. As for you, you're anemic, and you've got a serious calcium deficiency. Not surprising, when you kept nursing while you were pregnant. I'm giving you some mineral supplements, and you'd better wean Bri."

"I will. I didn't have much choice before. The diet was so limited. The women have to...." She swallowed. "I miss them."

"I thought you did. Chris, it's natural."

"I couldn't have stayed, wouldn't have wanted to have stayed, but all the same... I hated the culture at first." He nodded. She had told him about it. "But then I got used to it... And the people - I made friends who I'll never see again. Life there is so hard sometimes. I feel like I've abandoned them."

"That's natural too. But don't punish yourself. You didn't belong there."

"That's what Spock says."

"How's he managing? Tell me if it's none of my business, but he doesn't seem to want to talk about it. Are things..."

"He's handling it in his own Vulcan way. That means a lot of meditation. And he's spending a lot of time with Jim. That seems to help. He needs Jim's kind of reassurance right now, though he wouldn't put it that way. Reacquainting himself with the operations of the ship is how he describes it. And we've both sent messages to our parents." She hesitated. "Look, Leonard, on top of the ordinary readjustment shock, it's not easy for him having me walking around like this. Grateful as we both are that this baby will have a better chance than T'Shana did. But he knows that people are gossiping. Everyone is staring a little or more than a little..."

"And no one quite dares to say anything."

"Or if they do, all he says is 'We are bonded' and changes the subject. All I can say is don't push him, and he'll work it out. He's more adaptable than people give him credit for..." Her voice trailed off.

McCoy nodded. "And you should know."

"Yes, I should," agreed Christine softly. "We both changed a lot down there. We had to. And now, all at once,

we're back here, and I'm adjusting Lt. Palmer's medication. Leonard, the things we learned to do - that we had to learn... I can make a burn salve out of pounded boiled roots. I can skin an ingbaa and tan the hide, I can weave a fish net out of bark - and catch a fish in it. I can make a stone bowl, or a knife, or a spearpoint..." Her voice trailed off again. "The skills are so different."

"But you were still a doctor."

"That's another thing that Spock said."

"Sounds like he was practicing psychology without a license."

"He was. He's not bad at it either."

McCoy smiled. "Do you know yet what you're going to do with yourselves?"

Christine shook her head. "Not what I'm going to do. But I know what Spock wants to do. I saw his face when Jim said that the Enterprise doesn't have a first officer." She stopped, not looking at McCoy. "But me... and the children. .. I don't know if I'm that unselfish. I want us all to be together. I just don't know." They sat in silence for a minute.

A message flashed briefly on McCoy's computer screen. He punched a button to acknowledge, and looked at Christine. "That was from the bridge. We've just left orbit."

She studied her folded hands. "Thanks for telling me. And thanks for your chair and your ear." She stood. "I have to go get Bri up, and later I have another interview with that damn anthropologist. I'm glad they stayed to do the survey; the planet is perfect for a no contact ruling. But he irritates the hell out of me all the same. Those people were my friends, not just some Level III culture to be condescended to. How well does he think he'd manage under their conditions? And he treats Bri like a living artifact."

McCoy laughed as she went out the door. She and Spock had been temporarily given a VIP cabin on Deck 5. As she headed for the turbolift she was conscious of the glances following her. The ship had changed very little, and yet it felt strange. It wasn't home yet.

* * *

To her surprise, Spock was in the cabin, and Bri was already up and playing. "I thought you'd be on the bridge."

"Lt. Chanofsky..."

"The mad anthropologist."

"Indeed. He asked me to go over his preliminary report." Christine flopped on her back on the bed, and after a moment he sat on the edge and took her hand. //And I must confess, my wife, that I did not wish to watch as the ship left orbit. An emotional reaction.//

//Me too.// She lifted her hand to his face, rubbing his smooth cheek. "I can't get used to it. I'd almost forgotten what you look like without a beard." She reached up and tugged his head down to kiss him. //It even feels strange.//

//I trust that you do not disapprove? I felt most untidy.//

She laughed, and he sat up again. "It's good to be clean. And to have lots of food easily available, and a real bed to sleep in. But Spock..." The uneasiness she had felt in McCoy's office had returned. "What are we going to do?"

He didn't pretend not to understand her. "I do not know, Christine. We have not had time to investigate all the possibilities."

"I don't like any of them."

"That may simply mean that we have not adequately explored them. We have time, Christine. Starfleet will expect a debriefing."

"And we should visit our parents."

"And we will both get leave when the child is born." He put a hand lightly on her stomach, and studied her. "Come here." He pulled her over to the mirror in the dressing area. "What do you see?"

Christine looked at their reflection. "I see a tolerable looking Vulcan standing next to Moby Dick."

"Be serious, my wife."

She met his eyes in the mirror. She knew what he meant. "All right, then. I see a couple of people who have been through a lot. Enough so that it's... illogical to think that they can't handle this."

"Precisely. You once told me that we are both stubborn. That was at a time when we were in disagreement. I agree with your assessment, and I suggest that if we are stubborn... in unison, so to speak... that there are few problems to which we cannot find a solution."

"Logical."

"Most logical, my wife."

They continued to look at each other, blue eyes against brown, until Bri, bored with his new toys, toddled over and hung onto their legs. "Up," he demanded.

Spock lifted him, and Christine said, "I have another appointment with Chanofsky."

"I will accompany you. There are several major errors in his report." He retrieved the tape.

Christine gave her uniform another tug, and they headed for the door. "We're going to be all right," she said with sudden conviction.

"Indeed." The door swished open, and they stepped out into the corridor, back into the world where they belonged.

 

The End