(Standard Year 2251)

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The Chief of Science of the U.S.S Enterprise had little use for and absolutely no patience with historians. Lieutenant Commander Ruth Valley wasn't intolerant, just bored by the very idea of studying the past, even when she recognized its value. That was a lesson she had learned the hard way; through a madman with a psychotricorder, followed by an extensive reading course supervised by a Vulcan who wasn't yet her husband - which had made it difficult for her to tell him what she thought of his nearly-deadly-dull history books. However, Starfleet didn't care how bored she was. The ship's present assignment was to convey a half dozen of the Federation's most noted historians to the world whose only entity referred to Itself as the Guardian of Forever.

In Ruth's opinion, the Guardian had caused quite enough trouble lately, thank you, and she didn't want to have anything more to do with It. Of course, that was the reason the Enterprise had been given this mission: it had been the Enterprise which had discovered the time entity back when Jim Kirk had been Captain. It had been the Enterprise which had been assigned to several other historical research missions. And most recently, it was the Enterprise's former Captain who had been forced through the Guardian portal to spend a year of his life insane in primitive 20th century conditions. The Federation didn't want any more people than necessary in contact with a device that could be used to change everything. The Guardian was top secret, highest priority -

- and the Klingons know about It already and It's a pain in the ass besides, Ruth thought acidly. She had stoically accepted her duty after complaining for only five minutes to the First Officer. Sulu had given her an unsympathetic look. Sulu loved history. But she was the one who had to deal with getting the civilians on board.

Ruth materialized just outside the anteroom that held the scientists and their gear. It was her duty to see that they had all they needed, and to escort them back to the Enterprise. An aide was waiting with a statboard full of official authorization papers and a checklist. She nodded to him, carefully ignoring his wide-eyed stare.

"Uh, Miss - Mrs. - " the young man stammered. Ruth smiled.

"Lieutenant Commander," she offered. He flushed but returned the grin.

"Yes, ma'am. Uh, there's one missing from your party."

"We can wait a while," she replied. She stepped into the anteroom. Three Humans, an Andorian, and a being she had been told was a Metring stood politely as she entered. She stared at the Metring for a brief, panicked second, then gulped and said, "Ladles, gentlemen, beings..." She forgot whatever else she was going to say as the Metring slithered forward.

I am Colar, he thought at her. The touch of his mind was pleasant, cool and delighted. Ruth blinked and forced herself to stand her ground. The Metring was about four feet tall, an ethereally thin leaf-shaped being, a shimmering green in color, the only visible features two slits at the uppermost edges and a pair of canted, lidless, pure white eyes. A telepath, gentle and sentient. Not an overgrown sauvrn, she told herself firmly. She made herself smile at Colar and said, "Lieutenant Commander Ruth Maxwell Valley." You don't have any tiny cousins on you, do you?

We've all heard of you, of course, and are delighted to meet you. Colar, it seemed, was the group's spokesbeing, despite the fact that he only communicated telepathically. Ruth wondered how the others knew when he was speaking or what he was saying.

My telepathy is multiply directed, unlike your own, Colar answered. Also, I am capable of calming potentially - unpleasant - confrontations. I am a sympath; that is, one able to transmit emotions to others. Almost the reverse of your empathy or Indiian sensitivity. While Ruth pondered that unusual fact, he went on. These are my colleagues, Doctors Terrence, Lester, Ramirez and Lan'an. Unfortunately, Dr. Sorrm is late.

"Again," Dr. Ramirez muttered.

Ruth looked around Colar to the person who had spoken. Ramirez was a tall, graying woman. She looked as if she were normally gentle and maternal. From the way her green eyes were flashing now, apparently Dr. Sorrm was a constant irritant. Ruth hid a smile. Vulcans could do that to you when you weren't used to them.

"We have enough time to wait," Ruth soothed her pleasantly.

"Of course, Mrs. Spock," Ramirez answered, "but he's been making a habit of it."

Ruth was nearly as frustrated at the incorrect appellation as she was shocked at the thought of an habitually late Vulcan. In her experience she had found many reasons to be exasperated with Vulcans; even their punctuality could be irritating. But late? Never.

But he is. Always. Colar had, of course, picked up her thoughts.

Well, I'm sure he has good reasons, she thought back, then remembered to repeat herself out loud.

"None we have been able to discern," Lan'an, the Andorian said.

Ruth smiled politely and decided that it might be best to change the subject. She started to ask them about their various special interests. From her dealings with other historians, she knew that was a surefire winner. To her relief, the door opened before she'd finished her sentence, and a tall, handsome Vulcan came striding briskly through it. He was not only handsome as Vulcans went, he was simply plain gorgeous. His hair color was redder than Spock's, almost chestnut. It was parted on the side, sweeping rakishly across his forehead, and reached nearly to his shoulders at the back of his neck. Languid yet laughing black eyes sparkled beneath elegantly arched eyebrows. His nose was straight, classic; his mouth a sensual, curving bow beneath it. While he was slender, his muscles were more developed than Ruth had ever seen on a Vulcan; not offensively so, but hardly the wiriness she had come to associate with the race.

"About time," Ramirez growled. The Vulcan turned a devastatingly charming smile on the woman.

Ruth blinked, too surprised to speak. You sure he's Vulcan?!

Quite, Colar replied to the unvoiced question.

She'd regained a little of her composure when Dr. Sorrm turned to her.

"Lieutenant Commander," he said in a voice as warm as Sulu's at its most appealing. "I've been very anxious to meet you. You're as beautiful as I was led to believe." And to Ruth's surprise, he took her hand and kissed it.

Ruth stared at her hand, then at Sorrm, then back, utterly speechless. He smiled, and winked at her, murmuring, "It's all right, I'm an old friend of the family."

She didn't come out of the stupor all this behavior caused until, after several seconds, Dr. Sorrm slid a finger under her chin and gently closed her mouth. "Much prettier," he whispered with a conspiratorial smile.

Ruth bit her tongue, cleared her throat sternly and said, "Let's begin beam-up procedure, ladies, gentlemen, Dr. Sorrm."

He laughed.

She glared accusingly at him and began checking final details with the aide.

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Commander Sulu turned the Helm over to David Kelly and headed for the transporter room. Ruth had just signaled she was ready to beam up, and it was policy for both the Captain and First Officer to greet guests as they came aboard. Sulu didn't particularly relish the idea of going to the Guardian again. The last time the Enterprise had been there had been very painful. Pictures of Jim Kirk's madness flooded his memory, and he pushed them away. The reports from Jude were good, hopeful. There was no reason to dwell on it. He shrugged off the sudden, bitter melancholy and got off the turbolift, striding quickly to the transporter room.

He stepped through the door just as gold shimmer was filling the chamber. Captain Spock nodded to him.

Seven figures materialized, and before he or Spock could take a step forward, one of the historians had. More than a step. Sulu stared, too shocked to cover his reaction with officer's discipline as a tall, handsome Vulcan grabbed the Captain's shoulders in a bear hug and with a delighted, totally open smile, shouted, "Spock!"

A Vulcan?! No, impossible. Close your eyes, get your head on straight. Sulu did, but when he opened them again, the Vulcan was still there, still grinning, still holding Spock's shoulders. Spock stood unmoving, but acknowledging with abruptly rising eyebrows his own shock. His voice, of course, was as calm as always.

"Sorrm," he said.

"My dear friend it has been too long," Sorrm enthused. Sulu caught Ruth's glance, as relieved as she was for reassurance that someone else was seeing this. Spock regained some composure and took a step away from Sorrm, raising his right hand.

"Live long and prosper," he began.

Sorrm impatiently waved it away. "Yes, yes, survive and succeed." He took a deep breath. "How have you been since I left our jail of a homeworld?"

Ruth's statboard clattered to the deck, while behind the console a muffled, hesitant chuckle came from Kyle. Sulu's jaw dropped lower than it had been, the expression on his face a picture of disconcerted bewilderment. From the rest of the historians, however, there were only exasperated, disgruntled sighs.

Spock's answer was stiff, his eyebrows now in a frowning position. "Much the same. Vulcan does not change in three decades."

It was Sorrm's turn to step back. "Sarek still disapproves, does he?" he questioned bitterly.

"Sorrm, this is not the time or place for such..." Spock began.

"No, of course not," Sorrm interrupted. "Forgive me. I am delighted to see you." The Vulcan's smile was the tiniest bit sour as he turned, shrugging apologies at Ruth and Sulu, and went to pick up his gear.

"Must you make a spectacle everywhere?" one of the historians, a mature woman, muttered. Sorrm grinned at her, a charming, gentle, chagrined acknowledgement, and she sighed in relenting annoyance.

Sulu closed his eyes momentarily, getting the shock under control. Spock's voice was unruffled.

"Welcome aboard the Enterprise, Doctors. I am Captain Spock. This is my First Officer, Mr. Sulu. Our estimated transit time to the Guardian is 3.2 standard days. Feel free to use our library and recreational facilities during your stay as our guests. Mr. Sulu will escort you to your quarters on Deck Five. Are there any questions?"

There were none, and Sulu tried to smile. "This way, please," he said. Then he noticed that Sorrm had retrieved Ruth's fallen statboard and was handing it to her with an elegant bow. It was too much. He turned to Spock. "Captain..." he began.

Spock sighed. "Yes, I know, Mr. Sulu. Try and bear with him; he is, as far as can be determined, quite harmless."

Spock strode to the door and Sorrm came up behind him. Clapping a hand on his fellow Vulcan's shoulder, he inclined his head back at Ruth. "I approve, my friend," he said. "And I think you're finally beginning to see the light. An Antari wife is a very good start."

Spock said nothing. Sorrm chuckled. Sulu shook his head, trying to clear it, and followed them out of the transporter room.

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Lieutenant Jilla Majiir had just finished a routine maintenance check prior to the arrival of the civilian historians. She was heading toward the turbolift when it opened, discharging seven people, one of whom was Sulu. She intended to simply pass by, but as she came near, she became aware that there was a Vulcan in the group. And that the Vulcan was staring quite avidly at her.

Somewhat disconcerted and at a loss for anything else to do, she raised her hand in salute. "Alb p’salk sp’ra’l."

At her words, his eyebrows rose in a very un-Vulcan gesture. He stood abruptly straighter, his avid gaze becoming searching. Then his eyes lit with sudden understanding and - incredulously - a smile broke over his features.

"Lady Vtkrghdantm, this is indeed a honor!" he exclaimed.

Jilla blinked in surprise. "You know me?"

"Oh, we've never met, but I know of you." His gaze traveled appraisingly over her. "Indeed, I know of you."

Sulu cleared his throat. Jilla flushed slightly at the possessiveness that emanated from him. "Jilla, this is Dr. Sorrm," he said tightly. "Dr. Sorrm, Lieutenant Majiir. My wife."

Sorrm's eyebrows again took too-exuberant-for-a-Vulcan flight. "Your wife?! Lady, I don't know whether to be delighted or appalled," he admonished.

"Why should it be your concern?" Sulu challenged. "And it's 'lieutenant'."

"Her late husband's work, of course," was the bland reply. "You are still married, are you not, Lady Jilla?"

"Yes," Jilla said, ignoring the slight twinge in her left palm. "I am bonded to Sulu."

"Bonded?" Sorrm seemed genuinely dismayed. "A pity, Lady. I had hoped..."

Jilla's skin flared brightly. Sulu's eyes took on a decidedly dangerous gleam.

"For god's sake, behave yourself!" one of the other civilians, a tall Terran woman, broke in. Sorrm gave her only a brief, scowling glance.

"I had hoped," he continued, "that Selar's elegant solution would not be lost to Vulcan." He made a disapproving face. "Terran preoccupation with the physical," he added, "had your lord husband taking offense where none was intended."

Jilla lowered her gaze in acknowledgement, deciding to ignore Sorrm's tia, which evidenced precisely the offense he had just sidestepped. She had long known that Vulcan males often found her attractive; indeed, since joining Starfleet, she had come to accept that many humanoid males appreciated her physical appearance. She had also learned that most males did not act on that attraction. It was unusual that Sorrm, as a Vulcan, would display it so obviously, but she was beginning to see that Sorrm could not be considered usual.

"I'd never make a pass at a bonded woman," Sorrm went on with a sudden beaming smile.

The Terran woman threw up her hands in disgust. "I give up," she said.

"She never does," Sorrm confided, then bowed to Sulu. "Shall we go on, Commander?" He rose and winked at Jilla. "No offense," he added to Sulu.

Sulu's anger had been replaced with confused caution. He said, "This way, ladies, gentlemen - Dr. Sorrm," and shook his head as the group passed Jilla.

For a moment, Jilla reflected on the possibility that Dr. Sorrm was not really a Vulcan. His behavior was certainly not in keeping with Vulcan disciplines. Yet, she could not deny that his tia was Vulcan: not only each individual had a distinct feel, each species did also. Sorrm was Vulcan, despite his conduct.

And does your conduct suit an Indiian? she questioned herself, and duly accepted the negative reply.

She pushed the thought away, deliberately sorting her jumbled emotions, then continued on into the turbolift.

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"Quarters are a little cramped, aren't they?" was Sorrm's comment as he strolled casually around the guest cabin.

"Space is at a premium on a starship," Sulu replied politely. "You're lucky. Your colleagues are sharing cabins."

"Except Colar," Sorrm returned. "But then his living requirements are a trifle unusual. Wouldn't mix well with us bipeds." He walked to a chair, throwing himself into it. "And what did I do to deserve such magnanimity?"

"It was assumed that as a Vulcan you would require privacy," Sulu answered.

Sorrm grinned. "As long as it gets me special treatment, I don't care who assumes what." He put his feet up on the desk, eyeing Sulu carefully. Sulu determinedly ignored the discomfort and stared back. "You don't like me," Sorrm said at last.

"I don't know you, Doctor," was the quick response.

"Sorrm please." A grin. "I'm a very informal person." He tilted his head to one side. "Is it just because I'm Vulcan?"



"Doctor, I just met you. I don't form opinions..."

"Bull. Of course you do. All Terrans do. All feeling races do."

Sulu sighed. "If you'll excuse me, I'm on duty."

"Just like Spock to turn his officers into clones," Sorrm muttered.

Sulu left the room, closing his eyes and shaking his head. He'd done that a lot in the last fifteen minutes. He had the feeling he was going to be doing it a lot more.

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Sorrm stayed where he was for some time after Sulu had gone. He didn't indulge in the Vulcan waste of time known as meditation, but he did do some thinking. At length he rose and went to his briefcase, taking out Professor Seann's report on the work of Dr. Selar. He sat at the desk to go over it again. Lady Vtkrghdantm's claim of bonding had to be a concession to her Human paramour. Despite her artificial hybrid nature, she was no telepath. And Sulu was Human. It wasn't possible... and even if it were, it would hardly be recognized on Vulcan. He chuckled grimly. Despite what the Council thought, he was concerned with being Vulcan - far more than any of them. It was only that he believed in the glory of Vulcan, not in its shadow. And Lady Jilla was definitely part of the glory.

"Or at least an attempt to recapture a spark," Sorrm said out loud. Then he smiled. "Still, Selar, my way is much, much better."

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"Captain's log. The Enterprise is on her way to the Guardian after receiving aboard the party of Federation historians authorized for this expedition. It is noted that the inclusion of Dr. Sorrm was unexpected as well as potentially disrupting. I have sent an inquiry regarding that concern to Starfleet Command to alert them to the possibility of some unorthodoxy in the completion of this mission. I, however, take full responsibility for any such unorthodoxy."

Spock switched off the log recorder as Sulu approached the con.

"All members of the research party are safely ensconced in their quarters, sir," Sulu said. "They were all familiar with the restrictions concerning the use of the Guardian." He paused uneasily. "Captain, is Dr. Sorrm's - condition - hereditary or environmental?"

For the second time that morning, Spock sighed. "I do not know, Mr. Sulu."

"Then you know he's nuts."

For a moment, Spock considered debating the accuracy of the word, or the semantics of psychological terminology. Yet, where was the logic in denying the truth, however unvarnished? "Yes, he said. "Why he was allowed on an expedition of this sort, I cannot fathom."

"Vulcan certainly wouldn't've approved. Would they?"

"I cannot at this time discern how, Mr. Sulu." Spock looked intently at him. "He may need special attention if he begins to behave irrationally. More irrationally," he corrected himself.

Sulu grimaced pleasantly. "Can't I get promoted the hell out from under you instead, sir?"

"While I will concede that it would be preferable for you, Commander, you have a duty to your shipmates," Spock deadpanned.

Sulu grinned. "Yes, sir. It was just a thought."

Spock nodded. "Carry on, Mr. Sulu." He regarded his First Officer warmly as the young man took his place at the Helm, then returned to the latest intelligence from the Guardian.

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Ruth was more than happy to turn her post over to Lieutenant Bergmann at the end of the watch. She was due in Engineering with Jilla, but first she wanted to talk to her husband, who was presently at home, resting between duty periods.

She found Spock sitting back in a chair, fingers laced together, eyes staring at nothing. Meditating. She sighed, but didn't disturb him. Instead, she rotated the dresser and began to re-pin her hair.

"You are early," Spock said softly, the words taking her completely by surprise.

She turned. "Just stopped in for a chat," she said casually.

"Sorrm," Spock concluded. "He is disturbing."

"You've known each other for a long time?" she asked, not really sure she wanted to bring up what she suspected was a very touchy subject.

"I knew him as a youth. He is three years my senior," Spock told her. "I admired him greatly - once, with the eyes of a child. He has always been as he was this afternoon," he added, forestalling the question.

"On Vulcan?" Ruth asked in shock.

Spock nodded. "Perhaps not quite as boisterous, but always very out of place, always contemptuous of Vulcan ways. He was often censured for his outlandish behavior. My father did not approve," he added almost to himself.

"Oh," Ruth said, understanding. Always out of place. Often censured. Daddy not approving. No wonder you were drawn to someone contemptuous of the things that caused you so much pain. I'm sorry, my love.

It was very long ago. Still, I had not thought to ever see him again. "He is most disturbing," Spock repeated out loud.

Ruth found herself suddenly thinking of Sorrm’s blatant attractiveness. His features were every bit as angular as was common for Vulcans, but somehow the proportions, the relationships made for an aura of sensual confidence that was all the more – there’s that word again - disturbing for being attached to a Vulcan. "Oh, yes," she sighed in agreement before she was really aware of doing it.

Spock frowned at her. "That was not what I meant."

And he was just feeling insecure. Honestly, Valley, control your hormones! "I know, beloved,” she tried to explain as well as soothe, “but I don't think you can understand a non-Vulcan's first reaction to an emotional one of your people." He raised an eyebrow at her and she chuckled at her own choice of words. "So coming from me that sounds weird. It's just that one expects certain behavior from certain races. Remember when Jilla first came on board?" she asked. He inclined his head, his other eyebrow joining the first. "Alright, dumb question. What I mean is, there was an Indiian acting unemotional. Surprised the hell out of everybody, you included. And Sorrm… well, I can see how he could be really exasperating; you expect 'indeed, logical and fascinating' and get charm, grins and laughter. Not that certain Vulcans aren't charming," she added quickly.

"I am hardly offended," Spock said. "But I assume you have a point."

"Remind me never to be concerned for your ego again," she told him, but smiled just the same. "My point is that Jilla was very - attractive - precisely because she wasn't what you expected. It's the same thing with Sorrm. Because he's Vulcan, his attractiveness is very disturbing." Spock nodded his understanding and Ruth gave a mental sigh of relief.

Which is not what your 'oh yes' meant, my wife.

No, she conceded ruefully. Sorry.

I believe the appropriate Human response is 'you are not yet dead'. I do live with your hormones.

And quite well, I might add.

"Thank you," Spock said aloud. Ruth grinned at him.

"How did he get the way he is?" she asked.

"I am not certain. He told me once that he repudiated Vulcan after his kahs-wan. I do not really know if he found our philosophy so repugnant even at the age of seven, but I suspect he thinks he is telling the truth. How? He was an avid historian when I knew him, already specializing in Pre-Surakian culture. Perhaps a book he read as a child set him on this illogical path."

"It's not necessarily illogical, is it?" Ruth asked hesitantly. Spock stared at her and she blushed. "Second stupid question," she agreed.

"Would you prefer me charming, grinning, and laughing?" he asked.

"I'd divorce you," she stated. "At least I'd be embarrassed to be seen in public with you." She paused. "What do we do about him?"

"There is nothing to be done. He is an honored guest and our duty is to treat him as any other such person on board this ship."

Ruth gazed at him sympathetically for a long moment, then said softly, "Will he cause - problems?"

"I am Vulcan," Spock returned, knowing what she'd meant. She knew also what his answer meant but smiled anyway.

"I've got to discuss Fleet's Guardian project with Jilla," she said.

Spock nodded. "Very well." He unclasped his fingers long enough to extend two toward her. She joined hers to them, then bent down and kissed him lightly. As she was heading out the door, Spock’s voice floated after her. "You will, I trust, inform me if I become too Vulcan."

Ruth smiled all the way to Engineering.

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Jilla was already there when Ruth entered, holding a statboard and entering data into the computer.

"I have worked out another set of parameters," the Indiian began with no preliminary, "and if I am correct, we will be able to construct..."

"Did you take into account the factors Starfleet says we..."

"Yes, and also the fluctuations you described for..."

"We've only got three days so this had better..."

"If you would confirm the data.."

Ruth bent over the computer, studying the screen. Several minutes later, she became aware of Jilla speaking. "What did you..." she began, then realized the Indiian was talking to Scotty.

"The problem is," Ruth summarized when Jilla finished with her technical dissertation, "we need to hide a whole planet."

The Chief Engineer, who had just dropped by to say hello, gave both Ruth and Jilla dubious looks. "If you'll pardon my askin’," he said, "what will that accomplish? The Klingons already know where it is."

"Orbital manipulation," Ruth answered. "The Klingons will lose track of it. There's no life except the Guardian, and it doesn't require a class M habitat. The gate itself will be domed."

"Aye," Scott sighed. "Sounds like an interesting project."

"That is what Ruth said," Jilla told him.

"If it can be done."

"That is what I said."

Scotty chuckled. "Well, I've a civilian tour to conduct." He turned to leave.

"Lucky you," Ruth said. "Keep 'em away from us, okay?"

"Valjiir's in a restricted area," he agreed and went off to greet whichever of the historians were interested in the workings of a starship. Ruth and Jilla again turned to their computer setup and soon lost track of the goings on in the rest of the large room. They were surrounded by activity on the catwalks above and by people manning the machinery around them but Valjiir at work would have been oblivious to the detonation of a photon torpedo.

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Dr. Leonard McCoy heard the voices chuckling from his office and scowled. Doctors Colar, Terrence, Ramirez, Lan'an, Lester and Sorrm had been on a tour of the medical department for nearly an hour. Dr. Sorrm and Nurse Chapel had been behaving like schoolchildren for most of that time.

Even McCoy had to admit that there was something creepy about the Vulcan. For all the times he'd bullied Spock about being so rigid, dealing with a "more Human" Vulcan was downright twitchy. Sorrm's smiles, charm and ready laughter set his nerves on edge in a way Spock’s formality never had. He realized that his reaction made no sense, except that Sorrm’s behavior went against the grain of expectation. But reason for it or no, McCoy still didn't like the way it made him feel - or Christine act.

After a brief introduction, McCoy had let Christine carry out the tour while he checked on some laboratory work. By the time he caught up with them, Sorrm had his arm around Christine's shoulder and was murmuring comments in her ear. She had the sense to look embarrassed, but her eyes were shining. At regular intervals, Sorrm would stroke her neck, or toy with a loose strand of hair, or pull her just a little closer to him and Christine would redden and protest feebly. Then he'd make a joke and they'd both laugh. Or he’d leer so obviously she had to break into at least a smile. The rest of the historians seemed bored or exasperated by his behavior. Only the Metring's cool thought emanations held any real sense of distress, but McCoy couldn't discern whether that was due to Sorrm or sexual innuendo in general. The Metring were an asexual species.

Still, McCoy didn't like the idea. He liked it even less when he realized that the rest of the group had moved on and that Sorrm and Nurse Chapel were still in his office.

He stepped through the door, ready to conspicuously clear his throat. The pair stood at the computer terminal.

"Contrary to popular opinion, not every Vulcan is a computer whiz," Sorrm was saying. He was standing behind Christine, very close behind, his arms around her waist, his voice an intimate murmur. "Show me again."

Christine was flushed. "Journals are function A-2, lab results are T, 1 through 7, files are C plus the file number, current exams are..."

"Miss Chapel, what are you doing?" McCoy interrupted loudly. She jumped away from the terminal and Sorrm's embrace.

"Oh, Doctor! I - I didn't hear you come in!"

"Obviously," McCoy drawled.

"I was just..."

"You're lovely assistant was only showing me how your data systems function," Sorrm broke in. He grinned at Christine, "Vulcans are all terminally curious."

Chapel giggled at the pun and Sorrm’s laughter soon joined hers. McCoy frowned.

"If you'll rejoin the tour," he said sternly, "Nurse Chapel and I have work to do."

Sorrm raised an eyebrow, then inclined his head in capitulation. "Until later, fair lady," he said to Christine, and kissed her hand. "Doctor," he acknowledged and strolled out of the office. Whistling.

"I'm sorry, Dr. McCoy," Chapel said. "It's just that he's so..."

"I know, Christine," McCoy agreed, shaking his head. "Just remember he is Vulcan. No matter how hard he tries not to be."

Chapel nodded and McCoy tried to ignore the feeling that he'd missed something very important.

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Sorrm quickly assimilated the information in Lady Jilla's medical file. It had been absurdly easy to get the Human female to show him how to call up the medical records and while not every Vulcan was a computer whiz, he was. The brief glance was all he'd needed. The revelations were, to coin a phrase, fascinating. And upsetting. He simply had to talk to Lady Jilla. Surely she would change her mind when confronted by the conclusions of her late husband.

His thoughts remained occupied as the tour group made its way through the decks down to Engineering. He was singularly uninterested in the wonders of warp drive and the Human Chief Engineer's explanations, but stayed with the tour in hopes of seeing Lady Jilla. As the group began an ascent of yet another gangway, he spotted her. She sat at a computer terminal, next to another at which Spock's Antari wife was seated.

Except, of course, he now knew the lovely alien could not be Spock's wife.

He broke quietly away from the tail end of the group as the Human led them deliberately away from the area where the two women worked.

They were sitting with gold and burgundy-haired heads nearly touching, talking quietly and continuously. Each worked at her set of computer controls and a triple screen was showing three different sets of schematics. It was very intriguing to watch, but Sorrm wanted attention.

"Lady Jilla, Ruth," he said. He got no response. Two more tries, each slightly louder than the last brought the same result. With mild annoyance, he made the tone of his thought masculine and commanding. Lady Jilla! Ruth!

Ruth turned around glaring violet fire at him; he wondered if Spock had much trouble with that. Jilla also turned, her skin glowing bright silver. Sorrm liked it and found the dual effect quite satisfying.

"The things a man has to do for attention," he tsked at them.

Ruth's thoughts were automatically graphic and momentarily unshielded. Sorrm grinned at her, wagging a finger. She got her shielding back in place, reinforced, he could feel, to guard herself against him, which suited his purposes nicely. She said in a Starfleet Commander tone of voice, "This area is off-limits to anyone with less than a grade six clearance."

"You're lying, but I'll let it pass for now," he answered with an airy wave. He turned all his attention to Jilla and gave the lady his best smile. "We need to talk. Can we go somewhere private?"

"Dr. Sorrm, I am..." she began. Her voice was delightfully cool and properly respectful. Sorrm let his thoughts warm with approval and noted her immediate reaction: the glow which she had successfully muted flared briefly.

"You want to get out of here?" Ruth's voice interrupted.

"You see?" he said to Jilla, and held out a hand. "You're not needed."

"I didn't mean her," Ruth persisted.

Needing nothing from the Antari at the moment, Sorrm continued to ignore her. "Lady?" he requested gently, aiming his most persuasive emotions at the Indiian.

"I really must..." she hesitated, and Sorrm strengthened his emotions, adding a hint of telepathic command.

"We really do need to talk," he murmured, "about Selar's work. Come, Lady."

Jilla rose from her seat, obediently resting her hand on his outstretched fingers. Again Sorrm was filled with approval.

"Jilla...!?" Ruth exclaimed. Jilla began to turn.

Kah'en! Sorrm demanded. Jilla silvered. Too soon, Sorrm chided himself. "Your pardon, Lady," he said aloud, then smiled self-deprecatingly. "Vulcan habit."

"Did he do what I think..." Ruth asked suspiciously.

The smile had obviously done the trick. Jilla's expression softened and she moved toward him, completely unaware of Ruth's question. "I will be but a few moments, Ruth," she said instead. "Apparently Dr. Sorrm’s concerns are quite urgent."

With a courtly bow, Sorrm allowed Jilla to lead the way, grinning triumphantly at the trail of muttered obscenities that followed them.

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