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Jim Ausfahl

November 16th 2297

"Hyperion to T’Soral, please come in, Lieutenant T’Soral!" Captain Uhura’s voice only thinly concealed her annoyance and surprise. "There’s an incoming signal, woman. Put it on the mainviewer. And when we’re done with it, I’d like to talk to you in the Ready Room." T’Soral’s performance had been slipping for some time, but it had never reached this low of a level; the matter was one that concerned Uhura personally, as well as professionally. T’Soral was a good friend, and the captain was becoming worried about her.

The Vulcan communications officer shook her head, as if she was coming out of a deep sleep or had been severely lost in thought. "Of course, Captain. I am sorry. I do not know what came over me." T’Soral tapped the control surface in front of her.

On the mainviewer appeared the visage of another Vulcan.

Uhura stepped forward. "Admiral Sevral! My apologies for the length of time it took to respond to your signal; we were suffering a brief malfunction at the communications console." There was no need, she decided, to tell the flag officer that the problem had been between the chair and the control surface, especially since it was his sister. "To what do I owe the honor of your call?" An unheralded call from Starfleet brass usually was not good news.

"It appears that the communications issue was easily fixed. As odd as it may sound, Captain Uhura, I come on what Humans would call a social visit with one of your crew. Would you have two cabins available for guests, myself and my companions?"

Hiding her surprise as best she could, Uhura nodded. "Of course. How soon will you be docking?"

"Approximately one point three four hours, Captain. If I have the correct information, your shuttle bay should hold this private vessel quite comfortably."

"Excellent, Admiral. We will look forward to your arrival. Hyperion out." The connection broke. To the astonishment of all on the bridge, T’Soral abandoned her post, all but running to the Ready Room. Uhura shook her head, utterly dumbfounded by T’Soral’s uncharacteristic action. She was unsure, but the captain almost thought she saw tears on T’Soral’s face as she ran. "What in space?"

Drevan looked over at Ingram. "So much for the theory that all females are in cahoots." He turned to the captain. "I’d have thought you’d have been the first to guess, Captain. Admittedly, in the female, it’s much less violent than in the male—that’s more or less the way it is with most sentient lifeforms, although there are a few, very interesting, exceptions—but still fairly obvious, and I’d have expected it’d be more so to another female than to a male like me. Well, anyway, I thought so, and..."

Uhura turned to her chief science officer, interrupting. "Drevan, you’re spouting drivel, did you know it? Make some sense. Preferably, concisely; I plan to talk to her when you’re done."

"Okay, two words: pon farr."

As soon as the Andorian said it, Uhura realized that he was right, and that she’d been a Tiberian bat for not seeing it. Memories of Spock and his difficulties, long years ago, bubbled up, only to be put aside. She got up, moving to the ready room. "Marsden, take the conn. Drevan, get O’Doul up here; I don’t think T’Soral’s going to be much use for now." Quickly, she stepped into the ready room.


Looking out the window of Uhura’s ready room down on the arboretum below, T’Soral stood, her back to the captain. Before Uhura could speak, the Vulcan did. "I apologize for my inattentiveness at the communications console, Captain. I honestly do not know what is happening to me. I am having increasing trouble concentrating, and even the simplest of tasks are becoming difficult to do. As far as Sickbay is concerned, I show no signs of ill health or derangement of my brain—yet I am not even able to meditate in my quarters. And I didn’t call my brother, honestly, and I have no idea who did, or why, and I’m not sure I can face him in my present disorganized state."

Reaching back to her own past, Uhura tried to remember how her mother had acted when Uhura had her first serious crush on someone. She wondered if there was as much as a single point of similarity between what an adolescent Human female experienced, under the circumstances, and what an adult Vulcan female would. On the whole, she decided, it probably didn’t matter all that much; what T’Soral needed was a friendly, understanding ear. The Bantu moved to her friend’s side. "T’Soral, I know it’s hard, but you’ll get through it. If being a woman is at all similar between Humans and Vulcans, I don’t suppose any of us understand it, when it happens."

T’Soral turned to face the captain. Uhura saw that the woman’s face was wet with tears. The Vulcan stamped her foot, in what looked like anger, much as a petulant Human adolescent might. "How can anyone understand anything about this, when even I don’t know what’s happening to me? I can’t even control my emotions anymore. It’s just so, so..." Clearly the woman was at a total loss for words. "See? I can’t even talk. I’m scared, Captain. What’s happening to me?"

Without warning, T’Soral threw herself on Uhura, burying her face in the woman’s shoulder, sobbing. Astonished by the act, Uhura reacted without thinking: she put her arms around the Vulcan, stroking her long, dark hair. "It’s okay, honey. I get that way around Doctor M’Benga a lot, especially when we’re alone together, which doesn’t happen nearly as much as I’d like." She hugged the Vulcan gently, still not sure what to make of the Vulcan’s utterly atypical behavior. "Sometimes a girl just needs a good cry, T’Soral. Well at least we Human girls do, and I suppose that might cross species lines a little bit. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t worry about it; I’ll take care of you, somehow. M’Benga and Eletto will think of something to help you, I’m confident of it. Come on; let’s sit down."

Only half willingly, the Vulcan allowed herself to be led to a chair, sniffling. Uhura took the chair next to her, leaving an arm on the Vulcan’s shoulders. Uncharacteristically, T’Soral didn’t object. That clinches it, I guess, Uhura thought to herself. If the crying wasn’t enough to prove it, the physical contact is. There’s no way she’d tolerate this kind of physical contact if she wasn’t pushing her way into pon farr. She gave her communications officer a moment or two to compose herself before speaking. "T’Soral, can we speak woman-to-woman for a minute?"

"Of course, Captain."

"We’re off the bridge, honey. It’s Nyota, at least until we’re out of this room, okay?"

"As you wish, Nyota." There was no question that she wasn’t exactly comfortable with the lack of formality.

"I think I know what’s wrong with you. I’ve seen this before in Vulcan males. You’re entering pon farr, and if that’s anything like falling in love is for a Human female, well, it’s an interesting process, to say the least."

"That is not possible, Ca... Nyota. I am quite sure of that. I have no husband, you understand."

"I didn’t think a spouse was necessary for pon farr."

The Vulcan shrugged. "It is not necessary to have a spouse for that to happen. It is because it cannot happen that I will never have a spouse. There is an ovarian problem, related to my visual disturbance; it is genetic. It also renders me sterile. I have shared this with Doctor Eletto, but no one else. Please do not tell others of this."

"Let it be our secret, then. Listen, why don’t you let me take you to Sickbay? Maybe they can help."

"That will not be needed. They have already pronounced me free of disease, other than the ones they already know about. Doctor Eletto was very thorough. They could offer no help."

"That’s right; you mentioned that a couple of moments ago, didn’t you? Then let me take you to your cabin. You need to try to ready yourself for your brother’s arrival." Uhura stood, offering T’Soral her hand. The Vulcan woman stood, taking it. "Best we not let the folks on the bridge catch us like this. Think of the rumors they’d start!"



T’Soral squeezed the captain’s hand, then released it. "You’d have been a great help. Thank you for being a surrogate mother to me. I think you’d have made a very good mother." The Vulcan was clearly regaining a semblance of control; Uhura was sure, however, that it was only a semblance.

The Bantu smiled, somewhat half heartedly. "Thanks. I never had the chance to be a real mother, you know, but for other reasons; I was sort of married to Starfleet."

One of the Vulcan’s eyebrows raised slightly. "Me, too, I suppose. But being married to Starfleet certainly would not trigger pon farr, Captain."

Before the Human could reply, the Vulcan was close enough to the door that it had opened. Uhura followed her. "I will be escorting T’Soral to her quarters. Until I return, Marsden, you have the conn." She disappeared into the turbolift behind T’Soral.


Doctor M’Benga was hunched over a readout, wading through a morass of administrative details, thinking to himself that he was spending far too much time with administrative activities and far too little with hands-on medicine. When Eletto came around the corner, the chief medical officer looked up hopefully. "Ah, a break from the administrative garbage! Unless you’re bringing me more, in which case, you can just get lost."

"Not administrative problems, just diagnostic issues. I think I know what this means, but I want to be sure. You’ve got a lot more experience with Vulcan medicine than I do. Here, look."

M’Benga took the offered mediscanner and studied it briefly, then snorted. "Run for the galactic rim, man. That’s incipient pon farr, no question about it. Seen it too many times. Just give thanks that it’s a female, Giac; on the whole, it’s a megaparsec less wretched. You don’t even want to know what the males get like."

"I’ve read Sorel’s Tractate on Vulcan Medicine, Keme." Eletto shrugged. "I guess that’s what they get for over-controlling their emotions for that many years. When it breaks loose, it breaks everything in its path. Based on what I’ve got on file from the medical record, however, this is going to be an unusually severe ponn farr for a female. How do we handle it?"

"Don’t pretend to be any bigger of an idiot than you need to be, man. We need to get the poor woman to her husband, as quickly as possible. After the two are together a while, they’ll settle back down. Seen it before, a hundred times." The Masai turned back to his readout. "Once the admiral gets on board, maybe you can see if someone will take the new warp shuttle to Vulcan, or wherever her husband is. Heard any scuttlebutt about who is coming with Admiral Sevral?"

"Oh, I already know, or at least I think I do. T’Hira and Sorel."

M’Benga turned to face Eletto, his usually calm appearance showing near panic. "Who?"

"T’Soral’s parents, Sorel and T’Hira. I asked Sevral to bring them when I asked him to come. I’m willing to bet he did."

The chief medical officer pretended to clean one ear with a finger. "I must be having hearing trouble. I could swear you just said you asked an admiral to drop by on a social call, bringing his and T’Soral’s parents, which includes her father, who is one of the most prestigious Vulcan physicians of all time, without even warning me. Please tell me I’m not hearing you correctly."

"Wish I could, Keme, but I can’t. T’Soral’s going to need them all, badly, I think, especially her mother."

"What’s with her that her family needs to come running?" There was no mistaking the doctor’s consternation. "You’d think she was the one going into pon farr."

"A logical deduction, and an accurate one, Keme. And for an unmarried, unbetrothed Vulcan female, that’s no trivial issue. I’ve read and reread that section in the Tractate several times." Eletto sighed. "With all due respect, I thought we might need the help."

The two physicians locked eyes for a moment, then M’Benga leapt out of his chair. "Marie! We’ve got major dignitaries incoming, including Starfleet brass. Get Hardav’s grubby carcass out of bed. I want him showered and shaved in five minutes. We’ve got about an hour to get Sickbay into top form!" He looked at Eletto as he moved. "Ooooooh, am I going to get you for this. And I’m going to get Uhura and Hardav to help. When this is over, you are going to suffer. Get to work, you crumb! We’d better be ready, or we’re all dead. Especially you."


Indri, somewhat uncomfortable in his dress uniform, guided the admiral’s personal Tai/A’Tai warp shuttle and sled to a gentle landing. Uhura, Drevan and M’Benga walked out into the shuttle bay, Indri at their heels. The entrance to the Vulcan craft opened, a ramp extending to the deck. Sevral and his two guests exited. Drevan triggered the communicator to play the bosun’s whistle.

Nodding to acknowledge the appropriate greeting, Sevral turned to Uhura. "Captain, allow me to extend my gratitude, and that of my parents, for your willingness to accommodate us on what was extremely short notice, particularly since we are here on personal business." There was no mistaking the fact that the admiral was well aware of T’Soral’s absence.

Thankful that the admiral had made no comment on his sister’s absence, Uhura smiled back. "In all honesty, Admiral, it is a pleasure to be able to entertain a little. I hope you’ll all be with us at least a couple of days; there will be a gala reception for you all, and Dietary is going to be terribly disappointed if you can’t make it."

Sorel nodded sagely, taking control of the situation. "We will be more than pleased to remain long enough to join you in the reception. It would be illogical, as well as discourteous, to disappoint your staff." He turned to M’Benga. "Baraka Keme M’Benga. I remember you from your internship at ShiKahr. Your record with Starfleet has been quite acceptable, from your service aboard the Enterprise to serving as the Starfleet surgeon general to this posting aboard the Hyperion."

The Zulu-Masai half-breed bowed deeply. "Coming from one of your esteemed stature, such words are indeed great praise, Doctor. I am honored by your presence. I welcome you, your wife and son."

"Doctor, I desire deeply to speak with one of your staff, one Doctor Eletto. It was he who requested our arrival. Given that his request was most urgent, I would like to know why." The admiral turned to face the ship’s captain. "You will, I trust, forgive the implicit discourtesy, but under the circumstances, it appears to be my only logical course of action. I deduce that my daughter’s health and welfare may be at issue, a matter that must logically loom greatly in its importance."

"I quite understand, Admiral." Uhura turned, waving her hand toward the nearest turbolift. "I have some inkling of why you might have been summoned, but I believe it would be more logical for Doctors Eletto and Sorel to discuss it. Doctor M’Benga?"

Silently, the chief medical officer led the threesome to the turbolift, escorting them to Sickbay.


In full dress uniform, Eletto stood, mediscanner in hand, obviously expecting them.

Sevral looked like he was about to speak, but was silenced by a gesture from his father. The Vulcan physician stared at Eletto for a moment before speaking. "Logic dictates that you have summoned us over a medical issue with T’Soral. Since your request was urgent, I deduce that the issue is a dire one. I do not doubt your skills as a physician, Doctor, but I request the privilege of seeing the scans involved."

Eletto bowed slightly. "I would be honored to have you provide your opinion on the case, Doctor. I have read your Tractate, and I have the utmost respect for your remarkable skills in our field." He extended the mediscanner. "What I believe may be the most pertinent information is already displayed."

Taking the scanner, Sorel looked at it briefly. He turned to M’Benga. "Doctor, if you would be kind enough to escort my wife to our daughter’s quarters?" He turned to T’Hira. "Our daughter has need of a mother’s wisdom, T’Hira. Go to her."

The Vulcan woman nodded. It was clear that something had passed between the two, unknown to all others. "It is the most logical deduction." She disappeared with M’Benga.

"My son, you must do due courtesy to the captain of this ship. If you would please see to that duty? There is need for me to speak with this physician in private. You need not fear for the long term welfare of your sister."

Sevral bowed. "Yes, my father." He made his way to the turbolift, disappearing into the door when it opened.

Sorel looked Eletto squarely in the face for a prolonged period of time. The Human returned the gaze without flinching. The Vulcan spoke first. "I have need of speaking with you in private, Doctor."

"Of course. Would you prefer an office here, or would you rather come to my quarters?"

The Vulcan physician showed a minor expression of surprise, quickly suppressed. "Since you offered your quarters, Doctor, I conjecture that you believe they might be the better place to proceed. If you will lead me to them?"

"Of course." Eletto led the Vulcan to the turbolift. He continued once they were inside. "As I am sure you have deduced, my quarters will afford us better privacy for this discussion. It is my belief that the privacy will be for your daughter’s benefit."

"I am grateful for your concern. Have you drawn a conclusion concerning her condition?"

Nodding, the Human led his companion out of the now opened turbolift door. "Of course I have, Sorel; otherwise, I would not have bothered you, T’Hira and the admiral."

"I see." Sorel followed the Human through another door, waiting until the door closed before he continued. "I presume that you have reached the same conclusion that I have?

"Pon farr, of unusual severity, by now in medium development." The Human sat down, gesturing to the Vulcan to do likewise.

"I concur. It should be impossible, based on my knowledge of her personal status, her medical condition and Vulcan medicine." An uncomfortable quiet reigned, the Vulcan pointedly choosing to continue standing. "She has a rare disorder that renders her sterile, Doctor; under most circumstances, it should also render pon farr impossible."

"She made me aware of that. That’s why I wanted your confirmation on the diagnosis." Eletto felt like he was dancing in a minefield. He knew where Sorel had to be leading the conversation.

"Is there something new that you could share with me concerning my daughter’s status that might illuminate this situation?"

"As far as I know, your daughter’s honor remains intact, Doctor." Eletto let that sink in before continuing. "As does mine. I am aware that her being sterile renders her essentially unmarriageable in Vulcan culture, and of the significance of the problem where pon farr is concerned."

There was an almost imperceptible relaxing of Sorel’s posture; seeing it, Eletto allowed himself to relax as well. "I am glad to hear it. You understand that one of the commonest triggers of pon farr in women with her condition is an illicit sexual liaison, most often forcible or unwilling. Since the scan showed none of the endocrine tumors that occasionally trigger it, you must understand why I reached the tentative conclusion that I did. Since her letters home have been full of your being her student in Vulcan culture and language, it was most logical to think you were the most likely one. Unfortunately, this leaves her status unexplained."

Sorel walked across the cabin to Eletto’s desk, picking up the photograph of a woman. He turned it to Eletto. "Your wife, Doctor?"

"Yes, that’s my Louise." Somehow, seeing the picture in the Vulcan’s hand and being asked about her caused him to be stricken by the reality of his wife’s death more intensely than he had felt in long time. The Human averted his face from the Vulcan’s. "She died in an accident, years ago. The other pictures are my two sons, their wives and Dave’s son. Both women were pregnant, last I saw them."

"I perceive that the memory is a painful one for you. Forgive me. I did not know. How long has it been since you last saw them? Perhaps my son could arrange leave for you, when the children are due." Sorel made a point of sitting where it was obvious that he had seen the tears on the Human’s face.

"That won’t be possible, Sorel. Matt, my younger son, outlived Dave by a couple of years; Matt died a little more than a hundred and sixty years ago. As of last account, through their progeny, I have over ten thousand descendants." Eletto looked Sorel squarely in the face. "I was born in the year 2006, by Human reckoning, Sorel. I spent 235 years in suspended animation. The children Lynn and Adael carried are long since born, grown old and dead."

The Human shook his head. "That’s an irrelevancy. I beg your forgiveness for my emotional outburst, Sorel. It is not proper behavior in a Vulcan’s presence, especially not a being of your august stature."

"Your behavior was quite forgivable, Doctor, at least for a Human, especially in light of my implied accusation concerning your behavior, and I find the information quite relevant. It is precisely what I sought when I lifted the photograph. We still have no explanation for my daughter’s medical status. Can you offer any?"

"I can, Doctor." He closed his eyes for a moment, before continuing. "Talal-woo-hayan."

"Tahlal wu ha’an?"

"Yes. My Vulcan pronunciation remains poor, I’m afraid."

"Few off Vulcan know of this, and even on Vulcan, not many know of it. How came you to know this thing, Doctor?"

"Some time back, one of our crew was kidnapped. We staged a clandestine operation to retrieve him; your daughter devised the whole thing, actually. It was a brilliant scheme, and successful to boot. To cut a long story short, she had to provide me with protection against a forced Vulcan mindmeld forcing me to reveal information that we needed to keep hidden. There was no other way to do it, and no one other than T’Soral to do it."

Eletto looked briefly back at the picture of his deceased wife, then back at the Vulcan. "What she did was no more than was logically necessary, Sorel, believe me. Once the operation was concluded, the meld was terminated. Nothing else other than her teaching me the ways of your people has happened, other than duty on her part and on mine. My belief is that something she was exposed to in my mind may have triggered this present problem. Because of that, I feel intensely responsible for her continued welfare. As a fellow physician, you surely understand."

Sorel’s eyes strayed to the picture of Eletto’s long dead wife, then returned to the Human’s face. "She would have had to seek deeply into the caverns of your katra to perform tahlal wu ha’an. There is no question that she would have touched and been touched by the memories of your relationship with your late wife. From your reaction when I picked up her picture, it is obvious that you had a very deep, very good relationship with your lifemate." The Vulcan concentrated briefly. "You are aware that I have some passing familiarity with the intricacies of the Human mind?"

"I understand that you spent very nearly two years in continuous meld with a Human physician to produce the translation of your Tractate. I would be deeply surprised if you didn’t have a thorough understanding of a great deal of the Human psyche. If you’re thinking that you want to meld with me to try to learn something that might help your daughter, I’m willing. Frankly, I expected it. That’s why I thought that my quarters might be a better place to discuss this. Just let me get comfortable first." Eletto shifted himself slightly in his chair.

"Your Human colleague was of profound assistance when T’Hira and I faced pon farr at an inconvenient time. Perhaps between what I learn and your assistance, T’Soral’s pon farr can be minimized and perhaps delayed, if not satisfactorily resolved." Eletto said nothing. He relaxed, allowing his head to loll backward against the chair. Sorel’s hand touched the side of Eletto’s face. "My mind, Doctor Eletto, to your mind, and my thoughts to yours."

Unlike his first contact with the meld, Eletto found the tendrils of Sorel’s awareness to be less timid than his daughter’s had been; they were confident as they sought his center of awareness, almost as if they were on paths they had seen many times before, and had mapped out well. Within instants, he could sense Sorel’s consciousness.

My daughter performed well in tahlal wu ha’an. The barrier is powerful and well constructed.

The Human was somewhat surprised at how powerful Sorel’s presence was. Your daughter is a conscientious worker, Sorel.

I need past this. I will need your help. You must carry me through these walls, if you will.

You’re going to have to tell me what to do because I’ve got no idea how to get you there, but I’ll do whatever it takes.

Very few do. There are no words. I must show you.

Following Sorel’s instructions, Eletto helped the Vulcan bypass the barriers T’Soral had set up. If it would be easier for you, you can send me to sleep now, Sorel. When you have learned what you need, awaken me. I wish to commune further, before the meld breaks. I have a thought about how to resolve this problem permanently, but it will need agreement from all four of you, particularly T’Soral.

I see your thoughts. I will awaken you. Sleep, now.


M’Benga led T’Hira to her daughter’s quarters, pointing to the door. "Your daughter is in here, T’Hira. Will you need me further?"

"Only if she will not allow me in, Doctor." The Vulcan moved to the door, triggering the annunciator.

The voice was almost unrecognizable. "Who is it?"

"It is I, my daughter, T’Hira. May I come in?"

"Please, Mother. Please come in." M’Benga took his cue and hurried off to the turbolift, leaving the two alone.

The door slid shut behind T’Hira. Mother and daughter looked at each other. It was clear that T’Soral had been in tears. She was holding her knees to her chest, rocking slightly, sitting on her bed. The elder woman sat near her daughter. "Tell me about it, my child."

"I don’t know how to tell you, Mother. Nothing like this has ever happened to me in my whole life. It feels like my mind is disintegrating, and like my insides are all tied up in knots. Father said this couldn’t happen to me, he was so sure it couldn’t. What am I going to do, Mother? It’s not like I have a husband to turn to, to relieve this."

"You’ll do what you must, darling. Even for women, pon farr is not easy. I doubt that the equivalent in the females of other sentient species is much easier." As mothers have done to daughters across the millennia and across the lines of countless sentient species, T’Hira gently stroked her daughter’s hair, but being a Vulcan, carefully avoided contact with her skin. "Sorel will find a way for you. Do not worry."

"Captain Uhura said almost the same thing to me, Mother." With her mother’s presence, the younger woman relaxed a little. "Except that she didn’t mention Father. She talked about Doctor Eletto and Doctor M’Benga, but she said the same about them. She is a wise woman. When I was starting to find it hard to manage, she took me aside and talked to me like a mother, too. Mothers must be very much alike in Vulcans and Humans."

"Perhaps so, child, perhaps so. I have not known any Human mothers well enough to find out; it might be a very interesting study. I suspect there are aspects of motherhood that transcend time, space and most species. It is logical that it should be so." T’Hira tilted her head to one side. "You are exhausted, my daughter. You must rest. Regulation Starfleet uniforms are hardly suitable for sleep. Let me help you prepare for bed, then tuck you in, as I used to do when you were a child."

Oddly, T’Soral found the offer pleasing, indeed comforting. "I would like that, Mother." She retrieved her nightwear from a drawer, letting T’Hira help her change, then slipping between the sheets on her bed. Tenderly, T’Hira smoothed the coverings over her daughter. "Tell me of this Human, Eletto. What do you think he believes about your status?"

"I am sure he is very concerned, Mother. He is a very good doctor, almost as good as Father. He is also interested in Vulcan—the language, the history, Surak, everything." T’Soral pulled her coverings tightly against her chin. "For a Human, he is remarkably controlled, and very intelligent."

Gently caressing her daughter’s hair, T’Hira looked her daughter in the eyes. "Your father seemed to agree when he sent me to you, my child. Is there something I need to know about your relationship with him?"

"Not really, Mother, not that I haven’t already told you, anyway. He is very nice, but he is Human: somewhat excessive emotionally." It was clear that T’Soral was becoming drowsy. "We haven’t done anything unchaste, if that’s what you’re thinking. Don’t worry; he’s a good man, very virtuous. For a Human, I mean. And there isn’t any other to worry about."

"I was not worried, my child, at least about that." The elder Vulcan allowed herself a smile. "But it is good to know. Sleep, T’Soral." She began to softly croon a Vulcan lullaby, her voice lulling her child into a peaceful, sound sleep. Before long, T’Soral’s breathing became regular, and her mental signature clearly indicated she was deeply and peacefully asleep. T’Hira touched her first two fingers against her daughter’s forehead, then silently left her to such dreams as might come.


There were days, Uhura concluded, when sanity was certainly not an asset, and she was completely certain that this was one of them. A valued crewmember incapacitated because she had gone into the Vulcan version of estrus, with the impromptu visit by her brother, who just happened to be an admiral, to say nothing of getting rooms ready for him and the parents that came along. Then she had had to play nursemaid to Admiral Sevral, showing him around the Hyperion as if he was a civilian, trying to find something useful to say to a being who probably had memorized the engineering diagrams of the ship.

When Sorel summoned his son to meet with him, she felt like someone had taken a small planet off her shoulders. She had returned to her quarters, her duty shift long since over, and tried to relax. That had been a total waste of time. Not even a long, hot bath had helped. She sighed. Worse yet, she had a real, hull-banging headache. For an instant, she toyed with putting her uniform back on and seeing who was in Sickbay, but before she could make up her mind, the annunciator chimed.

"Who is it?"

"It’s me. Keme. May I come in?"

She didn’t need told the name; she recognized the voice. "Gimme a sec, will you?" She threw a robe over herself, belting it loosely around her waist. "Come on in."

The chief medical officer entered the door, carrying a tray full of food. "And how’s my favorite patient? Is our head hurting us, Captain?"

"Oh, man, you must read minds, Keme. There’s a little Klingon in there, trying to beat his way out of my skull with a really mean set of brass knuckles. You timed it perfectly. Where’s that medikit of yours?"

"You don’t need drugs, woman; you need food. I checked the ship’s records. You barely ate breakfast, and you never got lunch or supper while you were playing the hostess with the mostest for that admiral." M’Benga put the tray down, uncovering one plate. "Smell the aroma. Taste the flavor. Goodbye hunger headache."

Feeling sheepish, Uhura realized he was right; somehow, she’d never gotten around to eating. The aroma of the plate full of food made her mouth water and her belly growl. She attacked the food with a vengeance. The doctor uncovered his own plate, joining her at a much more modest rate. "Oh, man, Keme, you are a genius." Between forks full, she leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "You’re absolutely wonderful."

He shrugged. "Just doing my job." He loaded his fork again, stopping while it was only halfway to his mouth, then putting it down again. For a moment, he watched the captain eating. "Nyota, there’s something I need to say." He paused, briefly. "I love you. I mean it. I’ve loved you from a distance for years, and never been able to say it."

The Bantu leaned over, kissing him. "I’d sort of guessed that, the way you’ve been acting on the Hyperion, you know, but it’s wonderful to hear it. Have you any idea how long I’ve wanted to hear that from you? And I love you, too. Honest."

"Probably almost as long as I’ve wished to say it and hear it." Out of a pocket in his uniform, M’Benga produced a thin golden band with two modest-sized diamonds. "Marry me, Nyota. We’ve both been fools long enough, thinking the other one wasn’t interested. I almost lost you in that ion storm, and that made me realize how important you really are to me. Please. We could retire, buy that bungalow on the beach and be happy for the rest of our lives. All you need to do is say yes."

One hand went to her mouth, and her eyes opened wide, staring at the ring M’Benga held. "Keme, it’s beautiful. Where on Earth did you find it?"

"It was my mother’s, and her mother’s as well. I’ve been carrying it with me for I can’t remember how long, waiting for this moment. Will you marry me? Do I have to get on my knee before you’ll answer? If you want, I’ll beg."

"Yes, yes, yes, yes. I’ll marry you, Keme!" She leaned over, holding M’Benga tightly, kissing him over and over. Uhura straightened up. M’Benga slid the ring onto her finger, Uhura watching, savoring the moment. She held it up, admiring it. "It even fits. How on Earth did you do it?"

"Running Bear’s done a lot of jewelry over the years, or so he said. He just had to stretch it a little. He’s got all the tools; he even keeps a handful of plain rings of different sizes and metals all made up in advance, and mountings for stones and the like, so he can provide what people want quickly. The man’s actually got a nice side business going; he’s good."

The captain’s eyes locked with her man’s, then dropped to the floor. "I guess it’s a matter of setting a date, isn’t it."

"Why looking so sad, darling? I’d have thought you’d be as elated as I am."

"I just wish that Starfleet wasn’t as negative as it is about officers marrying each other." She gently stroked his cheek. "If I thought I could find a way of managing it, I’d marry you tomorrow, Keme, but Starfleet would have a fit. Neither of us really wants to retire. Well, I don’t. Do you?"

Gently, M’Benga caressed Uhura’s cheek in return. "No, I don’t really want to retire, but if that’s what it takes for us to marry, I’d do it in a heartbeat. It’s going to be years before this mission is over, and I just can’t bear to wait that long. Didn’t you ever dream about this?"

Smiling contentedly, Uhura snuggled up against M’Benga, letting him wrap his arm around her. "Oh, yes, Keme. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve dreamed about marrying some big, handsome lummox like you. When I was about twelve, I even drew a picture of me in my wedding dress; it was ivory colored, with puffy shoulders, and nearly skintight sleeves. Up on top, on the bodice, it had lots and lots of fancy stitching, kind of like lace, then it fell to the floor, almost. I thought it was just the most beautiful thing I’d ever drawn, even though it was really sort of childishly done." She giggled at herself. "I never did get around to drawing in the groom, you know, but I’ve treasured the picture for years and years. It’s in my scrapbook, in the drawer. For years, I’ve been tempted to draw you next to me, but I’ve never quite had the nerve. I never told anyone else about that picture." She looked up. "Did you ever dream like that?"

"Well, I never dreamed of wearing a wedding dress, no." Uhura playfully punched him in the ribs. "Okay, okay, don’t get mean on me yet." The Masai smiled tenderly, looking down at his fiancée. "I never really thought of what I’d wear at the wedding or anything like that; I don’t think most males do. All I ever dreamed about was looking at that special someone, and hearing her say she’d marry me, in front of all the witnesses and everyone, then spending the rest of my life being her knight in shining armor." Uhura snuggled tighter, closing her eyes happily. "I guess that’s silly, isn’t it?"

"No, Keme, not to me." The captain looked up at her man. "It sounds beautiful, and very romantic." She paused for a moment. "We need to tell the crew, Doctor."

"I want to tell everyone, everywhere, Captain. It’s a pity T’Soral’s in such a state, or I’d have her broadcast it on subspace."

Suddenly, Uhura sat up. "T’Soral! How is she, Keme? Here I am, thinking just of myself, forgetting my crew."

Surprisingly, M’Benga didn’t find himself annoyed by her sudden, almost maternal interest in T’Soral. More than anything, it was pleasing to him. "I talked to T’Hira after she’d been to see T’Soral. T’Hira is pretty impressed with you, woman, almost as impressed as I am. Dunno what you two women were doing in that ready room, but it did T’Soral a load of good. Sorel thinks he may have her back at her usual station tomorrow, but he wasn’t promising anything. They both made some very complimentary remarks about your having been, how did they put it? An excellent surrogate parent for their distressed daughter, something like that. That’s where I part company with the Vulcans—I’m thinking of you more as a wife."

"Mmm... Wife. I like the sound of that." Uhura sighed. "Especially your wife. I just wish we could find a way to be married soon, and still stay on the Hyperion together." She shook her head. "If we could solve that, Keme, I really would marry you tomorrow, you know. I’d even be willing to forgo that fancy ivory satin dress I’ve always dreamed of." She lifted her hand, looking at the ring adorning her finger. She looked back at her beau. "And that’s giving up a lot, buster."

Clearing her lap she stood up. "It’s late, Keme. I don’t want this moment to end, but we both have to be up and moving tomorrow, and with T’Soral’s family on board, we have to be in top form. I don’t know about you, but I need some sleep."

"Headache gone, my beloved, very practical, soon-to-be-my-wife, Captain?"

"Almost, soon-to-be-my-husband. Now scoot, or they’ll cook up all sorts of gossip about us, and then we’ll both really have headaches." The Bantu pulled her man to his feet, kissing him passionately. "I’ve waited this long. I’ll give you a month or two more to think up a way around this. If we can’t, then maybe we will have to retire to marry." She looked at her hand again. "I think I’ll see how long it takes the bridge crew to notice the ring before I tell everyone."

Hungrily, M’Benga held her against himself, then reluctantly let her go. "Tell ‘em however you like. As for me, finding a way to marry you as soon as I can will consume every moment I have. Once it gets around, it’ll probably consume a lot of the crew, for that matter. When he caught the man resizing your ring, Indri already started plotting with Running Bear on ways to circumvent the brass on this. Toss in a few others—like Giac and Hardav—along with you and me, and it’s just a matter of time."

"I’ll be ready, handsome. Now shoo—until tomorrow." She looked at the ring again. "I’ll be dreaming of you, as always."

Leaving demanded every scrap of professionalism and willpower M’Benga had.


The alarm at T’Soral’s bedside began chirping. Turning it off, T’Soral toyed with going back to sleep. It had been a month or more since she had slept soundly, and the captain had implicitly given her permission to withdraw from her duties for a day or two. The sensual focus of pon farr, she decided, had minor, if illogical, points. The Vulcan rolled over, intent on sleeping a little longer.

Up and at it, Lieutenant T’Soral. Captain Uhura will, I think, want you on the bridge very badly today. Pon farr is under control, for now—at least until Sorel and I find a more permanent solution that is acceptable to you.

The Vulcan shot upright in her bed. Doctor Eletto! What are you doing in my mind?

At the moment, I’m handling your rather rampant sexuality, to be blunt. You no doubt recall the episode with your parents entering pon farr during the translation of the Tractate. I’m doing the same thing, more or less. Your father put me into a meld with you, while you slept.

But you’re male. I am female.

I had noticed. Last I heard, so is T’Hira, unless there is some deep dark family secret among Vulcans that the rest of us don’t know about. Eletto allowed himself the mental version of a chuckle. Your brother, your parents and I discussed this at some length, last night. I volunteered to do this for you, for the time being, anyway. We have discussed a possible long-term solution, but I need to talk to you about it face to face, tonight after duty shift. Please come to Sickbay when you’re done on the bridge. I will await your arrival.

Suddenly, T’Soral felt exposed—and then, as swiftly, the embarrassment disappeared. How can you handle this? Why are you doing it? And what makes you think the captain would need me today, more than any other day?

To answer your questions in order: I’m not sure how I’m handling it myself. This isn’t a piece of cake, believe me; there are profound differences between rampant sexuality in men and women, it seems. As to why, well, among other, far more significant reasons, because your being in pon farr is probably a result of your activities in tahlal wu ha’an with me. As for your last question, well, if you can be on the bridge five minutes without figuring it out why Uhura is dying to have you there, you’re just not trying. Now shower and get to the bridge, or you’re going to miss out on all the fun. Move it.

The confusion and emotional difficulty of pon farr was gone, T’Soral realized, or very nearly so. Unsure what to make of Eletto’s cryptic remarks, the Vulcan hurriedly prepared herself for her day’s tasks, choosing to save time by skipping breakfast. Curiosity about why Uhura might need her was eating her up. In moments, she stepped out of the turbolift onto the bridge.

Uhura was facing away from the turbolift, talking to Drevan at Science Two, when T’Soral arrived. Hearing the turbolift open, the captain turned to see who was arriving. "T’Soral! It’s good to see you back! How are you feel...I mean, how are you?"

"I am considerably better, Captain. Doctor Eletto and my father have managed to temporize the situation, at least. I believe I am able to resume my duties." As she moved to the communications console, she noticed the captain’s left hand, and the ring on her finger. "The ring is beautiful, Captain. I do not recall seeing it before."

The Bantu’s face lit up when the Vulcan mentioned the ring. It was obvious she had been waiting, hoping someone would notice it without her having to mention it herself. "You haven’t. I received it last night." She held her hand up, displaying the engagement ring to the Vulcan woman. "Apparently, it’s a family heirloom."

O’Doul looked up from communications, then scuttled over as quickly as she could. "It’s beautiful. Does it mean what I think it does?"

"It does. We haven’t figured out when yet."

"Doctor M’Benga, Captain?" T’Soral had no doubts, but she knew it was proper to ask.

"Yes, T’Soral. Keme proposed last night, and I said yes." Even the men on the bridge were coming over to look at Uhura’s hand and admire the ring. "Okay, folks, I appreciate the attention, but we’ve got a starship to maintain, and I’m sure that the admiral won’t be amused if we let the ship fall apart around us. Let’s at least keep some of the posts manned while you look at my ring!"

The crew obeyed, but there was an undertone of excitement that remained. As T’Soral moved to her console, she heard Eletto’s mental voice. Now you know! Wasn’t it worth waiting for that revelation?


M’Benga was busily reviewing Davids’ records from the night before when T’Hira arrived. He looked up, and when he saw who had arrived, he stood. "Lady T’Hira, welcome. I trust that I find you in good health. Your presence honors me."

"You are too kind, Doctor." The Vulcan woman’s composed presence seemed to dominate the room. "I come asking for information."

"What I know is yours for the asking, T’Hira. I still remember your kindness to a certain intern many years ago, and still feel my debt to you deeply. I am eager to return your kindness as best I can." M’Benga gestured toward a chair in a nearby consultation area. She sat, and the physician sat across from her. "How may I be of assistance?"

"Your captain spoke at length with my daughter yesterday. Her words were greatly appreciated by my daughter, and the wisdom they contained was most helpful to her. Her father and I wish to give her some token of our gratitude, something very significant that she would treasure as much as we treasure what she has done for T’Soral. It was suggested to us by Doctor Eletto that you would be able to assist us."

"I believe that I know just the thing, Lady T’Hira, although you might need to enlist the help of Nurse Webb in refining the details. There is, I believe, a scrapbook in her quarters with a picture she drew in it. It is a picture of her in a dress, made out of an ivory colored satin..."


As exhilarating as the day had been for her, with almost every being on the Hyperion making an excuse to arrive on the bridge to ogle the ring on her finger and to congratulate her on her engagement to M’Benga, Uhura was glad to be off the bridge and heading toward her cabin. Seeing T’Soral back on the bridge had been good, especially since she’d been the first one to notice the ring. Given what the Vulcan had been enduring made her discovering the engagement ring even more special.

To Uhura’s amazement, despite enjoying the limelight, she was exhausted. When M’Benga had confessed that he was stuck in Sickbay for a few more hours, and unable to join her for dinner, the Bantu woman was actually relieved. Her agenda was simple: a light supper, a long, lazy bath and then rummaging in her limited wardrobe to find something other than her formal dress uniform to wear to the gala reception planned for the admiral and his parents. She stepped through the door to her cabin, trying to remember what there was in her small closet that M’Benga hadn’t seen her wearing a dozen times or more. There was that red leather thing from Bacchus; she hadn’t had a chance to wear that, but she wasn’t sure it would be suitable. There had been a couple of other things she’d picked up there, but none seemed like they would do for a reception for an admiral and his parents. She turned to the closet the moment she entered the room.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a moderately large box on her bed, wrapped and sporting a large bow. Curiosity piqued, she shifted her attention to it, wondering who had managed to get into her cabin to leave it. There was a small envelope attached under the bow, with Uhura’s name written on it in what looked like a feminine, but strong, hand. She opened it. The note inside was in the same hand:

"Thank you for being a surrogate mother to my child. Please accept this token of our gratitude. We would appreciate it if you would honor us by wearing it at the reception tomorrow. T’Hira."

Relieved to be freed of the task of deciding what to wear, she opened the box, gasping in astonishment as she did. Snatching it out of the box and holding it against herself, she turned to the mirror. It was almost as if someone had seen the picture of herself in a wedding dress. Gently, almost reverently, she lay the dress on her bed. It even looked like it would be a perfect fit. Feeling almost like a school girl preparing for her first prom, she hurried into the shower, eager to see herself in the gift.


When T’Soral stepped out of the turbolift into Sickbay, Eletto was standing in front of her, holding a basket. "C’mon. Let’s do a picnic supper." The physician moved to keep the turbolift from disappearing. "No one’s going to be in the Arboretum this evening, T’Soral; we’ll have it all to ourselves. I’ll bet you’ve never been on a picnic before, have you?"

We are in mindmeld, Doctor, remember? There is no need to speak.

I know, T’Soral. "There are some things I just need to say out loud, Lieutenant. It’s a Human thing, I guess. Are you game?" Eletto stepped halfway into the door. "Dinner’s on me."

Somewhat confused, but willing to oblige, T’Soral stepped into the turbolift. Moments later, Eletto was spreading out the cloth for the picnic, and laying out the food he had brought. When the Human finally sat down, the Vulcan joined him, not at all clear what to do next. "Help yourself, T’Soral. It’s all vegetables, fruits and such; no meat." Eletto took his own advice. Tentatively, at first, then enthusiastically, she joined him. "It is an unusual custom, this picnic, but a pleasing one. Is it something that Humans do often?"

"I guess it depends on the Human. Some people love picnics; others hate them. I used to do them a lot with Louise." He helped himself to more salad. "My kids hated them."

T’Soral nodded, mildly surprised to hear Eletto speak his late wife’s name without her perceiving a strong overtone of sorrow. "A matter of taste, I am sure. I find it strange, but very pleasant." She concentrated on her food for a moment. "Do you not find it strange, carrying the emotional surges of my pon farr?"

"Definitely strange." I am seeing maleness in a really different way, and it’s not wholly complimentary. What seems so natural and commonplace to me is so exotic and fascinating to you, and perhaps a little frightening. You certainly satisfied a lot of your curiosity during tahlal wu ha’an.

T’Soral’s ears tinted a light shade of green. It seemed logical, at the time. The preparation for the procedure, you understand...

"I understand, T’Soral. I’m not upset over it. You were most professional, I’m sure." Seeing that they were both done eating, the Human began putting things back in the hamper. "T’Soral, you realize that what I’m doing right now to help you cope isn’t something I can do forever. This can only delay the inevitable, not prevent it. We need to discuss a long term solution."

"You spoke of it this morning, Doctor, and refused to provide further information. I am curious to know how Father felt this could be handled." The Vulcan averted her eyes from Eletto for a moment, then returned them to his face. There is only one solution of which I am aware, Doctor, and without a husband, it is not an honorable one.

"Sorel, T’Hira, Sevral and I discussed this at some length, before your father put us into this meld. We feel there is a potentially acceptable solution that will resolve this without tarnishing your honor. However, it is a solution that you must be willing to accept." It almost seemed that the Human was unsure of himself, almost afraid to go on; he was fumbling in a pocket, nervously fingering its contents. "Being an admiral, your brother could do the ceremony. He even said he’d do it tomorrow, if it was suitable to you. Your parents have given their permission. It’s all up to you."

Despite her Vulcan training, T’Soral’s face clearly registered puzzlement. "Naturally, Doctor. Since I would be the one undergoing the procedure, and I am a competent adult, the final decision must be mine. You have not yet told me what it is that you propose."

"I never was any good at this sort of thing. Louise always teased me about how ineptly I did it, and I know even less about how this is done among Vulcans. I’m botching it up again."

"At least you are consistent; consistency is a virtue. I am surprised that you performed medical procedures on your wife, Doctor." One of T’Soral’s eyebrows arched. "You still have not explained what you propose."

Flustered, Eletto produced a ring out of his pocket, blurting, "Marriage."

Do not be absurd. I am sterile, remember? No Vulcan male would accept a sterile mate.

I’m not talking about you marrying some Vulcan male; I’m talking about you marrying me. I have grandchildren and great grandchildren that were born, lived long lives and died before you were born. I do not need to worry about offspring. Realizing he had shifted to communicating in the mindmeld, Eletto shifted back to audible speech. He held the ring, between thumb and forefinger. "I’ve carried this ring with me ever since I took it off Louise’s cold, dead hand, long before you were born, T’Soral. I even had it on me in the hibernaculum, as I waited to be rescued, and I’ve worn it almost continuously since. It was the ring I gave her when she agreed to marry me. I know I’m probably not the kind of man a Vulcan woman would prefer; I’m probably much too emotional, but, well, I..." His voice petered out. I’m making a mess of this.

Then this is the more important reason for you to aid me? To be a good physician, giving his all to help a patient in need? The words carried a negative overtone.

No. We are in meld. Look for yourself, T’Soral. Ever since Bacchus, I’ve realized how empty I’ve felt, how much I’ve wanted someone to share my life with, like I did with my Louise. I’ll never quit loving her, but I realized then that there’s room in my heart to love again. To love you, aduna. Patiently, Eletto gave the Vulcan time to grasp what he was saying, then he continued. "Again, will you be my wife?"

T’Soral held up her left hand, two fingers extended. "Yes, Mister Omo."

The Human touched his fingers to hers, in the traditional Vulcan sign of affection, smiling at T’Soral using the nickname his Louise had once used. Then, he gently lowered her hand, slipping the ring on her finger. T’Hira said you would wish to spend tonight and tomorrow in meditation with her, if you accepted. I have put you on medical leave for that period of time. Tomorrow, beloved.

Tomorrow. T’Soral rose. For now, I must meditate. Swiftly, she moved to the turbolift.

Eletto sat in the Arboretum for a moment or two more, then did the same.


Uhura had to admit that the crew had done a magnificent job turning the dining area into a festive place. All but the barest minimum of personnel were away from their posts, reveling in the chance to enjoy each other’s company on the Federation’s tab. She also had to admit that she enjoyed M’Benga’s reaction when he picked her up at her cabin and saw her in the new dress. With a little prodding, he confessed to having told T’Hira and having scrounged in her scrapbook, but she forgave him easily. There was no mistaking the fact that she and M’Benga were more the topic of discussion that the admiral and his parents.

For what must have been the tenth time, Uhura looked over the throng of people present, trying to find T’Hira or Sorel, again unsuccessfully. She turned to M’Benga. "Keme, either you need to check my eyes, or T’Hira and Sorel aren’t here. Do you see them?"

"Nope, and that rather surprises me. T’Soral’s conspicuous by her absence, too. I wonder if there has been a minor crisis with T’Soral and her pon farr. Looks like Eletto’s missing, too; that almost clinches it." The Masai’s eye landed on Sevral. "Hey, there’s the admiral. Why don’t we ask him?"

Dragging Uhura along with him, M’Benga made his way to the admiral. Sevral turned to them. "Captain, you are magnificent. My mother will be very pleased to see that the dress fits so well."

"Thank you, Admiral. Actually, I was looking for your parents, hoping to thank them for it. It was really far too extravagant, and it is really appreciated."

The Vulcan bowed slightly. "Sorel and T’Hira will be here shortly, Captain. There was a minor issue to handle for my sister. When T’Hira arrives, you can tell her yourself. From what I overhear, you and Doctor M’Benga have some grand news of your own. I congratulate you both, and wish you well with your betrothal. Do you have a date chosen to be wed?"

"Not yet, Admiral." Uhura tried to keep her face unemotional. "There is an issue or two that we must resolve before we decide to set a date."

"Ah, of course." Sevral nodded sagely. "I deduce that you are agonizing over whether or not to retire then marry, to marry and announce your retirement immediately thereafter, or to wait the many long years until you have finished your time on the Hyperion, then marry."

"Well put, Admiral." It was M’Benga’s voice. "Frankly, if I could find a way around Starfleet’s unwillingness to have officers married to each other, I’d marry her on the spot." He looked over at his fiancée and captain. "You’re certainly looking beautiful enough to be the bride."

Uhura smiled demurely. "Flattery will get you nowhere, no matter how much it’s appreciated." She turned to the admiral. "But I have to admit, I agree with Doctor M’Benga. If I could have found a way, I’d have married him last night."

"I see. It seems to me that Starfleet’s stance discouraging marriages between crewmembers is illogical; we deny those who are protecting the freedoms of the citizens of the Federation one of the most pleasant benefits of the freedom they are there to protect. Starfleet Command has been struggling with this issue since Spock went into pon farr many years ago. The resolution of that issue, though perhaps disappointing to my cousin, spared Starfleet Command the necessity of addressing the marriage issue urgently."

To Uhura’s surprise, she thought she saw a twinkle of merriment in the Vulcan’s eyes. "I believe I sense my parents and sister coming. Unquestionably, Doctor Eletto will be with them. I need to have a word with them before they enter the room. If you will excuse me?" Without waiting for permission, he made his way toward the other end of the room.

"At least he’s on our side, Keme." The captain turned to watch Sevral. After a few moments of discussion with Sorel, the admiral called a crewman over, dispatching him with some instruction or other. As expected, Eletto turned up with T’Soral and her parents. There was a quick interchange between the Human physician and the admiral, culminating in Eletto disappearing into the Arboretum for a moment or two, dragging a crewman with him.

Uhura shook her head. "Looks like there may be more trouble with T’Soral and pon farr. Look at her, Keme. I’ve never seen a Vulcan come that close to looking nervous." Eletto stepped out of the Arboretum, moving back to the Vulcans, staring at Uhura and M’Benga, talking rapidly to Sevral.

"Weren’t you on the ship when Spock went into pon farr?"

"The whole time, Keme. Spock wasn’t scared, remember? He was scary, almost vicious. We were all running scared, not Spock." As she spoke, the crewman returned to the room, slipping the admiral a small package. Uhura tried to steer M’Benga over to a table full of refreshments, but the Masai stood his ground. "Hey, you. I’m thirsty, and we’re engaged. Shouldn’t you offer me some punch or something?"

Obligingly, but still watching the admiral, M’Benga moved toward the punch table. "Nyota, something is afoot, and I’m not sure what. I’m beginning to think that I may be needed for medical reasons. Eletto, Sorel and Sevral keep looking at us and talking."

"If Sorel can’t handle it, Baraka Keme M’Benga, we’re sunk anyway. Come on." Before Uhura could get to the punch bowl, the Vulcan admiral suddenly moved to the entrance to the Arboretum. Out of the door, Indri and Running Bear came, both in Vulcan garb, Indri holding an almost coffin-shaped gong, a hammer hanging from its frame, and Running Bear carrying a frame of the same shape, in which rows of bells were suspended from thin metal bars around which Running Bear was managing to rotate them, making them ring. "What on Earth?"

M’Benga’s eyes widened. "Nothing on Earth, sweet one. This is from Vulcan. The only time I’ve ever seen what Indri and Running Bear are toting is during the culmination of pon farr. I think we’re in for something unusual."

Sevral stood next to the two engineers, calling loudly. "Gentlebeings, if I may have your attention, please!"

The room went silent, every eye turning to the Sevral. Sorel and T’Hira moved, standing just behind their son. The admiral continued. "T’Soral, come. Eletto, come." They obeyed. T’Soral stood near Indri and the gong. Sorel unhooked the hammer, drawing it back, striking the gong a powerful blow, as Sevral continued. "Sister, it is time." She nodded. Sevral looked at Eletto, who walked over to Sorel, taking the hammer from him. Eletto drew back to strike the gong, watching T’Soral.

"This is where T’Pring interrupted things, and jilted Spock," M’Benga hissed. Uhura shushed him, watching.

Uninterrupted, Eletto struck the gong. M’Benga, and the other Vulcans present, shouted in Vulcan. Confused, Uhura leaned over. "Would you mind explaining this to me? None of this makes sense at all. What on Earth is Sevral doing?"

The chief medical officer was spared explanations by the admiral. "By the customs and laws of the Vulcan people, these two are now wed. However, there are two races involved. Out of courtesy to the Humans present..."

The captain leaned to her beau, somewhat incredulous. "What did he just say?"

"That they’re married by Vulcan custom and law, Nyota. Now, hush."

"M’Benga, Uhura. Come, stand beside your friends."

M’Benga almost had to shake Uhura to get her to move. Swiftly, they obeyed, M’Benga standing next to Eletto, Uhura next to T’Soral.

"Doctor Eletto, what token do you offer T’Soral as your pledge in matrimony?"

He fished a golden wedding band out of a pocket. "This ring." Eletto took T’Soral’s left hand in his own, sliding the ring onto her finger, against the engagement ring.

"T’Soral, what token do you offer to Doctor Eletto as your pledge in matrimony?"

"I offer this ring."

Uhura realized that the wedding band that Eletto had worn as long as she had known him was in T’Soral’s hand, being placed on his temporarily bare finger.

Sevral nodded. "Gentlebeings, by the power vested in me by Starfleet Command, I now declare T’Soral of Vulcan and Eletto of Earth to be husband and wife."

All present erupted in cheers as Eletto extended his index and great fingers, to be touched by T’Soral’s in the Vulcan equivalent of a kiss. M’Benga grabbed Eletto’s hand. "Giac, congratulations and best wishes."

Deciding to ignore Vulcan custom, Uhura hugged T’Soral. "I’m so happy for you, T’Soral. Congratulations, best wishes, long life and prosperity." She moved toward T’Hira, to thank her for the dress. Before she could say or do anything, she was interrupted.

"Gentlebeings!" Sevral almost had to shout to be heard. "If I may have your attention for just a little while longer?"

Eletto and T’Soral separated, moving to either side of M’Benga and Uhura. The admiral turned to face the two Humans. "You are both suspended from duty. I will assume responsibility for this ship, and my father will act as the chief medical officer in your sickbay."

M’Benga opened his mouth, but was silenced by the Vulcan admiral holding up one hand.

"Doctor M’Benga, did you mean what you said about Captain Uhura when you spoke to me a moment ago?"

Comprehension replaced anger on the Human’s face. "Yes." The single word carried surprisingly deep meaning.

"Captain Uhura, do you stand by your remarks in that same conversation?"

She smiled. "I certainly do." She moved next to M’Benga, turning to face the admiral. "Are you offering?"

Sevral’s eyebrow lifted. "Turn around, Captain, and see what you think."

She turned. Behind her, on a serving table, two of the staff from Dietary were putting the finishing touches on a wedding cake, Ghassi fluttering around them supervising. There were two brides and two grooms standing on top of it: one of the brides was Vulcan, standing next to a light-skinned Human. The other bride and groom were dark skinned, the groom in Starfleet dress uniform, the bride in an ivory dress. She turned back to Sevral, to see a pair of gold wedding bands in his hand. "Your engineer, Running Bear, was kind enough to provide these, as his gift, if you wish to proceed. Sorel and I can give you three days before we have to leave and return you to duty. Lieutenant Commander Ghassi says you’ll have room service, so you can have some semblance of a honeymoon."

"Looks like you’ve thought of everything, Sevral. Keme, if you’re still willing, let’s do it."

M’Benga took her hand, his grin showing his brilliantly white teeth. "Time’s wasting, Admiral."

Handing the appropriate rings to the two attendants, Sevral led Uhura and M’Benga through the Human wedding vows. As the last ring was put in place, Sevral had all four beings turn to face the crew. "I now pronounce them husband and wife. You may now kiss your bride." M’Benga turned to Uhura, holding her close. Sevral turned to Eletto. "Both of you."

T’Soral met Eletto half way.


The captain snuggled against her chief medical officer’s side. "Worth the wait, Keme?"

"Mmm. I’d hardly want to judge a pie on the first bite, but yes, beloved. Well worth the wait." He wrapped one arm around her, hugging her against himself. "How’s my brand-new bride?"

"Convinced you’re a greedy boy." She giggled softly. "I’m a little sore, but I’m not surprised at that. More important, I’m happy, Keme, very happy. I’ve dreamed about this for a long, long time. And I even got the wedding gown I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl, on top of getting the man of my dreams. What more could I ask?"

"Someone to find a way for us to stay on the Hyperion together." M’Benga rolled to face Uhura, gently rubbing his nose against hers. "But Sevral said he’d take the helm for a few days. We’ve got more important things to think about until then."

"Yes. Much more important, Husband." She pulled M’Benga to her, kissing him intensely. "I intend to make up for a lot of lost time."


The cabin was almost totally dark; only the wan light of the lights on the devices in the room provided anything to see by. Human and Vulcan lay, arms wrapped around each other, both bodies and minds in contact.

I love you, Doctor Omo.

Coming from a Vulcan, that is beautiful to hear. In the meld, Eletto shared the physical sensations that his Vulcan bride did; it had been a strange experience, but one that was surprisingly pleasant. T’Soral’s little play on the old nickname was almost as pleasant. I love you too, Mrs. Omo. I wish I could have spared you some of the grief you had, wrestling with pon farr and not knowing what you were enduring.

T’Soral ran a finger around the top of Eletto’s ear. I wish I had known how you felt, Giac. You weren’t really interested in learning Vulcan, were you?

Not true! I was hoping I could learn enough to propose in Vulcan, to tell you how I felt in your native language. And think how much more time you’ll have to teach me now! He nuzzled her neck gently, not only enjoying performing the deed, but enjoying the fact that he shared her perception of it, and her enjoyment of his doing it. Among Humans, we say that the language of your childhood is your language of love.

For Vulcans, it is the meld, aduna. If you had asked, I could have saved you a lot of trouble.

Eletto sighed. If I had known you would consider it, I could have proposed a long time ago and saved us both a lot of trouble. Louise always said I was terrible about expressing my heart’s contents.

You will have no trouble now. I can see directly. There was a brief pause before she continued. Is it different with a Vulcan?

Yes and no, my love, aduna. From the strictly physical side, not really; other than your ovaries being at the inguinal ring, the female anatomy is essentially identical; the male Human anatomy is nearly the same as the Vulcan, other than our testes being carried externally. But being in a meld, I felt what you felt, physically—that was new. And very pleasant, I might add. I wonder if Louise, um... He was unable to finish the thought. Even in a mindmeld, there were limits, he realized, about what he could express. He hoped that his new wife could understand what he found he couldn’t express in words.

I understand what you cannot say, my love. I’m sure she did, Doctor Omo, very much. To a woman, it is more the heart behind it than the physical act, or so it seems to me. She surely saw what I see in your heart, Doctor Omo. It would make it a joy for her.

How goes it with pon farr, love?

It’s going to take more than a single night to deal with that, Husband. Mentally, she allowed herself the equivalent of a gentle laugh. And don’t worry. Vulcans may only go into pon farr about once in seven years, but that doesn’t mean we’re disinterested the rest of the time. I promise that I will be interested often: your pleasure in our union was a most delightful thing to share. If Vulcan women knew about sharing the pleasure with Human men, I think they might never marry any other species.

Eletto gently caressed her hair. If I thought Vulcans could do it, I’d accuse you of flattery; as it is, I appreciate the thought. If Human males knew about what I experienced tonight, we would clamor to marry Vulcan women, and not want our own kind. The physician’s mind was quiet for a short time. That reinforces the point that we’re from different cultures and different species, aduna. There will be times when it’s not going to be easy. Even Louise and I had some tough times, over the years, despite the fact that we were devoted to each other. You have to expect we’ll have some too.

We are very different people, Doctor Omo; it is logical to expect difficulties. I am a logical being, most of the time. You are, for a Human, most logical and emotionally controlled. We will weather our troubles, just as you and your first bride did, only better.

Just don’t be offended if I call you Louise, especially when I’m half awake or something, okay?

I will not be offended. Coming from you, knowing what I know about how deeply you loved her that would be great praise. Of course, you have already called me by that name, back when the seeds were inadvertently sown that grew into this night. She snuggled more tightly against her new husband. For now, let us not borrow trouble from tomorrow. Let us focus on tonight’s pleasure; after all, I am still in pon farr. Satisfy my raging hunger, Husband!

Eletto said nothing; there was no need for words.


The turbolift door opened onto the bridge. T’Soral and Uhura exited together, T’Soral’s face back to its usual, unreadable, emotionally controlled state. Uhura, however, was almost glowing. Reichard stood, allowing the captain to take the center seat, once again. "Welcome back, Captain. I trust your brief leave of absence has been to your tastes."

If anything, Uhura’s smile widened. "You have no idea, young man, absolutely no idea how much it has been to my tastes. As good as it was, though, and it was very good, it’s definitely good to be back on the bridge with you all. Believe it or not, I’ve missed you guys."

Drevan snorted. "I want M’Benga’s opinion on that, Captain. With all due respect, I mean."

O’Doul looked back from the helm. "Oh, knock it off, Drevan. I’m sure she was thinking of us, last night. If nothing else, she would have been worrying about how much needling we’d deliver."

"Good point." Marsden turned to Communications. "And it looks like our good Vulcan is back to her usual self. How’s T’Soral this morning?"

"Yeah, Mole. Good t’see ya back, kid." Drevan grinned.

"It is good to be back, Snowdome. We are receiving an incoming message from Starfleet Command. It is in text. Captain?"

"Mainviewer, T’Soral."

The starfield was replaced by the Starfleet official logo, which was followed by text:

After careful consideration, Starfleet Command has concluded that some of its regulations have inadvertantly discouraged Starfleet personnel from formal stable marital relationships. The following regulations are now promulgated to reverse this unfortunate situation, with the intent of allowing those members of Starfleet who desire to enjoy one of the basic freedoms that their ceaseless, selfless labors guarantee to others...

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