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"Had this thing on for two minutes and it's already riding up my armpits. I swear to you, Jim, the quartermaster does this on purpose."

The captain of the starship Enterprise, the aforementioned Jim, only smiled leniently and graced the doctor with a "Hmm."

First Officer Spock, however, made his opinion known: "If Yeoman Celik has had a taste of your bedside manner, Doctor, then I would judge the probability of that scenario being true to be at least 16.7%."

Far from being insulted by this pronouncement, the cantankerous doctor rounded on Spock. There was an evil gleam in his eye and his eyebrows were twitching in a highly suspicious manner. "You know what, Spock?" he opened, innocently. "These statistics of yours--I just have a funny feeling that you get them from the same place you come up with those hyperbolic 'Vulcans do--Vulcans don't' pronouncements of yours."

"Indeed, Doctor?" Spock challenged, his own eyebrows now in motion, one elegantly raised above the level of the other at an angle that conveyed the polite humoring of the rhetorically challenged.

Doctor McCoy stepped closer to Spock (to Kirk's momentary alarm), forcing him to look up into the eyes of the taller man. (Er, Vulcan.) His voice dropped ten decibels. "That's right, Spock. Right out of your hairy, Vulcan--"

"GENTLEMEN, PLEASE," the captain hastily interrupted, pushing McCoy away from Spock at least half a meter under the guise of giving him a hearty clap on the shoulder. "We've got to greet our guests," Kirk added pointedly to the doctor, with sarcastic little smile, in between shooting highly effective but short duration Death Glares at his clearly-no-longer-casually-sparring First Officer.

For the Vulcan was now in as close to a fit of pique as he usually got, although it was probably less the fact of the doctor calling him a liar as his captain denying him (once again) the final word. But Starfleet had not spent thousands of credits on training him for nothing, so Spock closed his eyes a moment, modulated his breathing, and distracted himself with creating a list of suitable comebacks. For Later.

Kirk was doing what he always did when his friends' sparring made him uncomfortable: acting super-chummy with one of them, or making himself the center of attention, or both. This time his victim was McCoy, and although it was a fact that the standard dress uniforms severely restricted arm movement, Kirk had still managed to drape an arm around McCoy's shoulders and was chatting him up about the mission at hand. "It's like deja vu all over again," Kirk was saying as he shepherded McCoy in the direction of the shuttle bay, Spock following quietly behind at a pointed distance from the two of them.

"How exactly do you mean that, Jim?" McCoy was asking, and Kirk, pleased at being prompted as planned, rewarded the good doctor with one of his smarmiest grins. "It's almost like a family reunion, really."

"Don't tell me," McCoy groaned.

"Oh yes," Kirk said, sparing a smile over his shoulder to Spock before turning his attention back to McCoy.

"Oh, brother. The last time we had Vulcan diplomats on this ship, my sickbay stayed busy for days. Wait a minute." McCoy suddenly halted in the corridor, forcing Kirk to stop short. "I thought Sarek retired."

"He did," Kirk helpfully supplied, "but due to your surgical skill, he's regained his health and returned to diplomatic service."

"Indeed," Spock said, without a hint of sarcasm for once, having at length rejoined them.

"It's a miracle," McCoy said.

"I believe the term you are looking for, Doctor, is mitzvah." Spock finished his delivery by looking to the captain for a reaction. Kirk obligingly laughed.

"How long have you two known this, anyway?"

Kirk tilted his head. "The order packet didn't say which FEDERATION AMBASSADOR we would be rendezvousing with, but Spock and I managed to put two and two together."

"Well," McCoy rallied and pulled the edge of his tunic down to straighten it, "Ambassador Sarek, then. Just keep him out of trouble and out my surgery, Jim, and I don't think I'll mind this little trip at all."

"Does it not trouble you, Doctor," Spock intoned from somewhere over McCoy's left shoulder, "that we are about to invite aboard the ship several more practitioners of logic? Their ordered, harmonious, deliberate lives are in stark contrast to your illogic, rampant emotionalism, and distraction. Do you not risk cognitive dissonance?"

"Nope, doesn't worry me at all," McCoy grinned. "After all, it could be worse. We could be meeting Ambassador Spock!"

---

There were times when shuttles landed in the Enterprise shuttlebay and the occupants disembarked with little notice or fanfare, save for the techs and security detail. This was not one of those times.

Kirk, Spock and McCoy joined Commander Scott, the chief engineer, at attention, boots toeing a conspicuous line painted on the bay deck. A line of red-shirted security personnel extended from the airlock of the Vulcan shuttle to the Enterprise's highest ranking officer, and, at the opening of the airlock, Chief Giotto gave a minute signal for the bosun's whistle to sound.

In the face of this stiff-backed, humorless pageantry, the Vulcans did not disappoint. The first being out of the airlock was a decidedly over-armored Vulcan security guard bearing more than light firearms. Once he had loudly clattered down the ramp onto the deck he was followed by the Ambassador.

"Regal bearing," hardly describes how Sarek carried himself. It would be more accurate to say that kings wished to carry themselves like Sarek. He wore a charcoal-colored hooded robe with elaborate front paneling and walked with the deliberate gait of one who not only knows he is the subject of attention but commands it. Sarek did not push back his hood upon pulling up a respectful distance from Captain Kirk but waited for his aides.

Unfortunately, Sarek was not followed out by his better, and more approachable, half, Amanda, but by his most senior and most junior aides. The elder Vulcan descended at a measured pace, having mastered the impassivity that Vulcans so prized, and with nothing of the presence of his employer, while the junior followed somewhat hastily and uncertainly, seeming to shrink under his robes as if he did not wish to be seen.

It must be said that his attempt to be invisible were a wretched failure, as he not only got Giotto's attention, the security chief thoroughly looking him over while appearing to all purposes to still be blandly staring forward at attention, but earned a quite open stare from the captain. Kirk had quite frankly never seen a (sober) Vulcan wobble. But then Sarek drew his hood back and gained Kirk's full attention once again.

The humans awkwardly offered their Vulcan salutes and entirely unreturned smiles. Sarek briefly saluted in return. Spock, it must be said, also, dutifully saluted, but if the meeting had been a stone-face competition, he would have won. Kirk attempted to engage the ambassador in pleasantries, only to be abruptly shut down. Sarek wanted to meet immediately with Kirk's senior staff and may have used the phrase, "There is no time to waste." Spock wasn't quite clear on this point later because the aides had removed their hoods and Spock was trying--Vulcanly--not to panic.

The elder of the two was Sirvas, someone Spock knew well, a long-time colleague of his father. But the younger--the younger was the male for whom Spock's bondmate and intended wife had thrown him over and demanded the right of challenge for: Stonn.

Chapter End Notes:

I spent way to much time fussing about Starfleet non-commissioned officers' ranks. Ugh.

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