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"Well damn," McCoy muttered as he studied the fresh circle of scars above Spock's knee. "We didn't turn you over to that grim-eyed Vulcan healer to be sliced up by a sandclaw!"

"I am healed in every way," Spock said less than patiently, for he disliked hearing T'Sora belittled. "As for the accident, she cannot be held responsible for the careless behavior of my replicate."

"Says who? And I bet the bill she's sent Starfleet could choke a horse."

Ignoring the seemingly inane remark, Spock came off the examination table and pulled on his slacks. "Enough poking and probing, doctor. It is time that I return to my duties."

McCoy stubbornly placed himself in front of the exit. "In one hell of a hurry, aren't you? Just because you put on a uniform, it doesn't mean that you're fit for duty. I'd be a lousy medical officer if I turned you loose on the basis of a preliminary exam. Not after everything you've been through."

Spock briefly entertained the idea of knocking the frail-looking doctor across the room. He calmed himself with the realization that McCoy could not possibly know "everything he had been through". Since there was no way to escape a CMO's scrutiny, the best course was to simply comply.

Grudgingly he said, "I see you are determined to have your way. Shall we get on with it?"

Looking very self-satisfied, McCoy directed him to another examination area, where Doctor Chapel was already at work on a patient. She glanced up. Her eyes fleetingly met Spock's before she turned aside in embarrassment. It was a relief when she left the room.

After the day's testing, Spock met Jim Kirk for dinner in the admiral's quarters. There had been no way to gracefully decline the invitation, no logical reason to delay the inevitable private conversation. Awkward greetings were exchanged, then Spock took his place across the small table from his longtime friend. Jim gazed at him, seemed about to say something, then took a bite of his steak instead. The meat looked scandalously good to Spock. He could remember-as Tobias-eating animal flesh at Dorian Wren's home, and later when he overindulged to the point of sickness here aboard the Enterprise.

Picking up his fork, he tasted the vegetarian entrée Kirk had thoughtfully provided.

"Spock."

He looked up.  

"Spock, it's really good having you back with us. Why, the last time I saw you..."

"It is good to be back," Spock agreed. Lowering his eyes, he took another bite of food. More memories crowded in, more than properly belonged in a single lifetime. It was a peculiar sensation.

Kirk spoke again. "I talked to Bones. So far the test results look fine. I don't think you have anything to worry about."

"I am not unduly concerned," Spock replied. He took a drink of his Altair water. Across the table, Kirk lifted a glass of wine the same pleasing color as T'Sora's eyes.  

Kirk put down the wine and gazed at him intently. Impressions of curiosity penetrated Spock's mental shields, and he suspected what was coming.

"Spock. I don't suppose you want to talk about what happened on Vulcan."

Indeed, he could never disclose such deeply personal matters. But toying with the stem of his glass, he considered divulging the news of his marriage.

"Of course, I understand if you'd prefer to keep it to yourself," Kirk said in the subdued way that meant he did not understand at all. He resumed eating, and for a time the only sound was that of his fork and knife against the plate.

Spock wavered between maintaining strict Vulcan privacy and opening himself to a friend.

And then Kirk muttered, "I never trusted that quack."

Somehow Spock's water overturned and spilled across the table. As the admiral stared at him, Spock pushed his chair back, and rising in a tautly restrained state of anger declared, "I am not at liberty to discuss the manner of my healing. It will have to be enough for you just to know that I am healed...thanks to T'Sora. Let me never hear another word spoken against her." Abruptly he turned and walked out the door.

***

Kirk hesitated outside Spock's quarters, not at all sure if he should disturb the Vulcan. He could not stop thinking about the unpleasant scene at dinner and feeling that it was his own stupid fault. He should have realized that Spock would be touchy when it came to his healer. Well, once McCoy gave the go-ahead, he would officially recommend that Spock be promoted to captain of the Enterprise. What better way of showing full confidence in his friend?

He pressed the door chime once, then waited, but there was no response. Working up his courage, he triggered the door, and finding it unlocked as always, peeked in. A single light shone from the living area.

"Spock?" he called softly.

From his position, Kirk saw a black robe lying on the floor near Spock's meditation alcove. He had never known the Vulcan to leave clothes strewn about, at least not in his right mind. Concerned, he stepped fully into the cabin and found Spock slumped in front of his computer, head resting on his arms. Now Kirk was truly alarmed. Slowly he walked over and found an image of the healer T'Sora displayed on the screen.

Don't tell me that creature still has a hold on him.

Kirk was about to speak when Spock suddenly awoke and looked him straight in the eye. Kirk smiled in relief as the Vulcan sat up in his chair, one slanted brow rising in the old, familiar way.

"I...didn't mean to disturb you," Kirk explained. "When you didn't answer the buzzer, I..."

Spock switched off his computer. Though it had made no sound running, the room seemed quieter now. Too quiet. The Vulcan's gaze did not waver as he admitted, "The day tired me more than I had realized."

Kirk felt foolish enough without mentioning anything about dinner. Starting to back away, he said, "I'll let you rest, then."

"No, Jim," Spock said decisively. "I would rather you stay. There is something more I want to tell you...in regard to my healer."

Kirk warily sank into a nearby chair and awaited what was sure to be an unpleasant revelation about the woman he so disliked. Or would this be yet another defense of her arrogant ways? "Alright, I'm listening," he said.

"I truly hope you are," Spock began, as serious as Kirk had ever seen him, "for I have taken T'Sora to be my wife."



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