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Aware that he would be noticed in the venue to which he was going, he stopped and took a last look at his appearance, determined to represent the Federation well. His once black hair had faded over the years to a combination of black, gray, and snow white, and his once seamless face was well-lined from years of service yet his posture was erect, his robes clean and presentable, and his hair perfectly in place as usual. He was prepared to serve.

“You know the old man will be here any moment. Get with it!”

Ambassador Spock, once First Officer of the starship Enterprise and more recently Vulcan's ambassador to the Federation, listened from his place before the mirror next to the door of his suite and turned his gaze from where he had paused. The security team was organizing outside his suite, he noted, realizing that the humans had forgotten about his keen Vulcan hearing. Giving them a moment to finish preparing, he indulged in a rare slight smile of recognition. In his decades of service, how many times had he lined up to greet some official to the Enterprise outside the shuttle bay? This was such a familiar ritual. Then, hearing them still, he opened the door and stepped into the hall. “Gentlemen,” he said simply, acknowledging their presence with a slight nod.

“Ambassador, if you will accompany us, sir.” Stokes, a young human security officer, nodded briskly and a formation of security personnel formed about the Vulcan. It was needless in his opinion, but the situation which he had been sent to resolve was heated and potentially dangerous. To soothe the concerns of the current Federation president, he had not objected too much to this detail to protect his person.

They went to the lift where security personnel both preceded and followed him in after checking for any risk. At the designated floor, the lift opened and the process reversed itself. He turned to the young officer when they reached the breakfast area. “Will you be joining me, Lieutenant?” he questioned casually.

“If you wish, sir, we will stand guard within the restaurant,” the young human offered, not declining his invitation while making his position clear. This was a work detail and nothing more to him. “However, I know that you value your privacy. If you prefer, we will wait here.”

Spock nodded, surprised that he felt regret that he would eat yet another meal alone yet understanding the young officer's need for distance. “I see no need for a bodyguard during my breakfast, Lieutenant. I shall return briefly.”

Spock stepped into the restaurant where a buffet of various breakfast items had been set up for the conference attendees. Among the other diners he could see representatives of the talks he had been sent to moderate, but other than acknowledging his presence there was no invitation to join them either. That was not unexpected. Until the negotiations were over, he must be as neutral as possible although he was finding the solitude oppressive after weeks of being alone.

Stepping to the buffet, he suddenly caught the scent of something he had not smelled for many years. Surprised, Spock realized that someone was preparing blueberry pancakes here. Suddenly, he was far away in time and place as the memories flooded in.

Captain Spock, late of the starship Enterprise, came awake as quickly and effortlessly as was his custom. For a moment, he simply opened his eyes while he oriented himself. He was in their apartment, Jim at his side, in San Francisco. This morning, Jim would be leaving on a short trip, and Spock had planned to surprise him with his favorite breakfast, blueberry pancakes with blueberry syrup. Remembering the last time he had prepared that meal for Jim made him blush. His spouse had been so effusive in his thanks that they had both been late for work.

Carefully, the long, lean Vulcan body slid from the bed, replacing the bedding carefully so that Jim would not become cold. Silently, Spock padded to the bathroom where he turned on the sonic shower to cleanse his body. Minutes later as he cleaned his teeth, he looked at himself. He was still in young adulthood for a Vulcan although what his lifespan might be due to his hybrid physique was uncertain, and age had not yet touched him as it had his beloved Jim. Spock's hair was still dark and sleek while Jim's was showing touches of gray here and there. But appearances had never been significant to him. After he combed his black hair into place, he returned to the bedroom. Putting on his uniform trousers but a casual shirt to avoid soiling the uniform tunic he intended to wear to work, he quickly slipped out of the bedroom and shut the door behind him.

In the kitchen, he began to make breakfast for the two of them. Usually, due to their differences in breakfast foods, he and Jim usually prepared their meals themselves, but on special occasions one or the other cooked for both. Given that Jim would be gone for a few days, Spock wanted to treat him on their last morning together for a while.

Slowly the scent of the cooking food began to permeate the room. Although he usually preferred Vulcan breakfast foods, Spock made enough pancakes for them both. An infrequent splurge in unnecessary calories was not a problem for him, and McCoy always encouraged him to gain a few pounds. Additionally, blueberry pancakes had the benefit of smelling wonderful.

“You made my favorite!”

He looked around, not surprised that the smell of the pancakes had awakened Jim, and gave his bondmate one of his rare half-smiles. “I thought you would enjoy fresh food. You will have only replicated for the next few days.”

“Yes,” Jim agreed, “that is one of the downsides to space living. Replicated foods. But you didn't have to get up and make them just for me.”

“The pancakes are not just for you,” Spock corrected gently. “I shall indulge as well.”

Jim smiled broadly in recognition of the gift of his time and came to stand behind him, sliding his arms around to clasp his hands across Spock's flat stomach. “Well, Bones was fussing last week about your weight again. He says you're too thin. Gaining has never been a problem for me. It's always been losing. You're lucky.”

Spock looked over his shoulder at his mate. “My metabolism is not of my own making. What is is,” he reminded the human carefully, aware that his statement sounded a tad smug. It was an exchange of many years now – Jim complaining about his own need to lose weight or his mate's scrupulous weight maintenance and Spock's bland, teasing responses. After all this time, it had become a part of the pattern of their lives.

“Would you pour the milk, Jim?” he asked nonetheless. “The pancakes are almost ready.”

“Sure,” Jim answered, going to the cooler where he removed the butter and milk both. Turning, he said, “Do you have some blueberry syrup?”

“Already heating,” Spock indicated with a nod.

Jim tested the container for heat, decided on a pot lifter to avoid getting burned, and moved the container to the table where a heatproof tile had already been placed. As he turned back to check Spock's progress, the Vulcan moved from the stove with a plate of hot pancakes.

“I am really glad that you did this,” Jim said. He was as enthusiastic as a child. “I love pancakes, but blueberry pancakes are the best.”

“Making you happy pleases me,” Spock said simply as he sat down at the table. “It also makes the apartment smell pleasant.”

“You're too good to me,” Jim enthused.

Spock paused to look at the vibrant human male across the table who had been his constant companion since Jim had taken command of the Enterprise all those years ago. Before that, he had been an outsider at the Academy and in Starfleet. Excluded simply because most humans believed him incapable of understanding human society, he had only come to have a home when Jim had accepted him as his friend and partner in command. Everything he had in his life since then he attributed to James T. Kirk.

“No, Jim,” he said softly as he considered all he had gained, “I am not.”

Picking up on his partner's mood, Jim looked at him closely. “Are you all right?” he questioned, his face concerned.

Spock considered the question before he responded. He did not wish to send Jim off in less than a perfect mood so he said, “Yes, Jim, I am only disappointed that we will be parted for a few days. I have become spoiled during our time here on Earth. Having you to myself, without the strain of command or conflicting interests, has been a unique experience.”

Jim's smiled introspectively. “I understand. I loved commanding the Enterprise and having all those wonderful experiences, but it was hard on our personal life. Being here where we can have most evenings and weekends to ourselves if we want has been special to me as well. I will miss you, too.”

Ever practical, Spock nodded at the cooling stack of pancakes. “Our breakfast will become cold if we do not eat now.”

Ruefully, Jim grinned and reached for them. He understood that Spock even now would avoid the more emotion-laden situations when there was need. Given that he had a flight to Luna Base in ninety minutes, Jim knew that his ride would arrive in the next fifteen minutes. That barely gave him time to eat, much less communicate needlessly with his spouse. He knew how they both felt and didn't feel the need to express it aloud.

They ate in silence following Vulcan tradition, but it did not take long to consume the pancakes Spock had prepared. When they finished, Spock rose without comment to put the dishes in the fresher while Jim darted back upstairs to bring down his bag. As he was coming back down the stairs, the door chimed.

“That's my ride,” he said, stating the obvious. Putting his bag down next to the door, he turned to embrace and kiss the Vulcan. Spock stilled for a moment beneath his hands, and as they kissed each could taste the blueberry pancakes in the other's mouth. Then Jim broke away, focused on his trip, and put his hand on the bony Vulcan shoulder. “Don't worry,” he said. “I'll be back in three or four days. This is just a little PR trip for the fleet. No big deal.”

“Give Scott and Chekov my greetings,” Spock called as the front door closed, uncertain that he had been heard.

Returning to their bedroom, Spock completed dressing for the day, straightened the bed, and gathered his wits. His parting with Jim had created emotions he wished he had the time to deal with, but he was at risk of being late. He, too, had work to do today, and he looked forward to his meeting much less than Jim had looked forward to returning to the Enterprise. When his few tasks left had been accomplished, the Vulcan closed the door behind him and strode toward the tram that would take him to work.

Admiral Sinclair was the most irritating officer that Spock had dealt with in recent memory, and he clasped his hands tightly behind his back in frustration as the human continued his rant, wishing that he was dealing with Montgomery Scott instead. Admiral Sinclair had illusions that he was following in the steps of his Scottish ancestors who were engineering geniuses like Mister Scott had been. The admiral was in error.

“This model is simply incorrect, Captain Spock,” the senior officer insisted. “An error must have been made by your people. This is your department's error, not mine, and it'll be your head if it has to be corrected. The part must be re-made before the project is further delayed.”

Sinclair was well known within the division as being an individual who never admitted to any error regarding anything in his purview, always insisting that any problem that arose had been someone else's error. This discussion had been going on for fifty two point seven minutes, and Spock was reaching the end of his tolerance.

“Admiral,” he said, his tone not entirely cool, “if there was an issue, it should have been brought to my attention four point seven months ago. As it is, the part has been fashioned and is now at Luna Base awaiting installation.”

“It will not fit.”

Spock marshaled his patience and repeated yet again, “Sir, the specifications for this ship have been repeatedly reviewed and approved as per procedure. For you to bring this matter to my attention at this late date is inappropriate given that you had previously signed off on this design on...”

“Don't get smart with me, Vulcan,” the older man snapped. “I know what you've done. You've ridden Kirk's shirt tails for decades, but now the truth will be out. No one is as good as your reputation says you are.”

Stunned by this unexpected pronouncement, Spock took a deep, steadying breath before he responded, “What I have or do not have is a result of my own strengths and weaknesses. Admiral Kirk has never requested any consideration based strictly on our marriage, and neither he nor I would ever consider doing so.”

“Well, that's what you say,” he responded. “I have caught you in an error, Vulcan, and I'm going to make sure that you pay for it.” The human wheeled and strode angrily away while Spock worked on his composure.

For a moment, he was glad that Jim would not be home this evening. Xenophobia had raised its ugly head before during the course of their relationship, but there had never been a question about their honesty until now. This accusation would take many hours of meditation to reconcile, and he would prefer that Jim never knew this had occurred. Yes, given the situation, he was pleased that he would not have to hide this from Jim or work to pretend that everything was all right at home tonight. He would be alone, and he would return to a state of calm before Jim's return.

Yet he wanted to make certain that there had been no error despite his surety in the process. The section was due to be installed within days, and if there was an error it would take time to fabricate another and replace it. The new science vessel he had guided through the process of approval was already three months late due to manufacturing issues. In the interest of time, he needed to check it. Calculating how long it would take him to get transporter time to the shipyards and return, Spock decided that it was an acceptable use of the time he would otherwise spend alone in their apartment this evening.

Walking to his office, he closed the door and dialed a frequently used comm number on his terminal. If he had to spend time without Jim, he reflected, he could do worse than to spend some of it with T'Pokal, his ex-student who was currently in charge of the yard and was a distant cousin as well. He rarely had the opportunity to commune with other Vulcans so seeing T'Pokal would serve several purposes at once.

“Captain Spock,” T'Pokal responded briskly when the connection was made, “greetings. May I inquire as to the reason for your call? It seems that I never hear from you unless there is a problem. What can I do for you, sir?”

“Admiral Sinclair has come to me today insistent that there is an error on the starboard hull panel size for the new class four science vessel. My inclination is to stay with the specifications on the part, but given the delay we have already experienced with this craft I thought it wise to double check,” he intoned.

T'Pokal nodded. “You are not given to uncertainty, Captain. Is there a reason for your doubt?”

“The admiral was most insistent,” Spock responded calmly, his tone not reflecting the echo of emotion he experienced from Sinclair's accusation. “I can be at the yard in approximately ninety four point three minutes. Is that convenient for you?”

“You are coming yourself?” she questioned, a hint of surprise in her voice.

“It is not a waste of my time to assure that there is no further delay.”

“Very well,” she agreed. “I am currently about to convene a disciplinary hearing and may not be free at that time. I shall instruct my office to cooperate with you fully, sir.”

Spock nodded, his disappointment unexpressed. “Thank you, T'Pokal. Upon my arrival, I shall request their assistance.”

They broke the connection. It appeared that he would spend the evening alone after all, he mused. Spock quickly reviewed what he needed to do in the morning before he strode out of the office. He could just make the next available transporter time.

As he finally transported onto the last pad at the shipyard half an hour later, Spock was surprised to find T'Pokal awaiting him. An eyebrow rose in question as he stepped off the pad.

“The meeting ended more quickly than anticipated,” she said by way of explanation. “We have not had the opportunity to converse in some time so I thought I would assist you in your endeavor myself. Being with one of my own kind on occasion is an acceptable way to pass time.”

“I am honored by your presence,” Spock responded formally. There had never been anything other than a professional relationship between them, but on occasion being with another being who had been educated to think and behave as he did was refreshing. He noted in passing that the Vulcan woman had brought the instruments they needed to the pad. Nodding to her, he continued, “We should begin.”

There was no conversation between them despite T'Pokal's initial declaration of her purpose for being there, but the silence was not unpleasant. In his years on Earth, Spock had found that humans sometimes seemed to fear silence and spoke simply to avoid it. That had never been an issue for him despite his mixed heritage, and the sound of their boots on the decks as they walked toward the construction site was not offensive to his senses.

It took fifteen minutes to traverse the distance from the transporter pad to the vessel in question. As they approached, the new ship gleamed in the late afternoon sun. The primary hull looked skeletal without the plates that would soon be installed. Spock did a visual inspection of the construction trying to match the schematic with the actual plate in question. Measuring the plate for accuracy would require climbing through the partially constructed research ship in order to reach the section of the hull in question. The climb would be strenuous but not overly difficult given his physical condition and that of T'Pokal.

“If you wish, I can do this unaided,” he offered.

“If I had not intended to assist you,” she pointed out archly, “I could have stayed at my office.”

“Very well.” Spock reached for a handhold and began the ascent.

An observer would have wondered at the synchronicity of their movements as Spock and T'Pokal checked the skeleton of the ship for any flaws. Together in easy unison, they worked to measure the area where the hull section in question would be installed. It was mind numbing work made more agreeable only by their mutual presences.

After an hour, T'Pokal stopped to catch a breath and pushed some loose hair from her eyes. “I did not recall how tedious this work is,” she commented flatly, “when I decided to join you.”

Spock stood and stretched. “It is exacting work,” he commented drily, “which is one reason I thought to check after my discussion with the admiral.”

T'Pokal regarded him carefully before she said, “You seem disquieted about the discussion with the admiral. Was there a problem beyond what you have stated?”

Spock considered her question carefully, concerned that his mood was showing. It seemed impolitic to talk about Sinclair's accusations with T'Pokal given that she also dealt directly with the man. Instead, he said simply, “Admiral Sinclair was unnecessarily unpleasant. I regret that I may have caused you distress.”

T'Pokal nodded. “All is silence within the family,” How many times had he heard his father utter that same phrase when Spock had done something that his father had disapproved of. But this time he simply nodded and wordlessly went back to work.

After a period of silence, he broke the silence by saying, “I believe that we should be able to complete this task in approximately fifteen point nine minutes. Would you join me for dinner if you do not have prior arrangements?”

As T'Pokal turned to respond, Spock was suddenly overwhelmed by the smell of blueberry pancakes and, startled, paused in his work to determine the source of the smell. Strange that he and Jim had just had them this morning.

Suddenly the bond with his beloved disappeared as though it had evaporated. Spock cried out with surprise and distress that was beyond his customary iron control. Where was Jim? What had happened to Jim?

“Jim!” he screamed, grasping at his head, suddenly overcome with agonizing pain. He could see T'Pokal turn to him, her eyes wide, as spasms began to wrack his body. Out of control, he lost his balance, and when he did he felt himself begin to fall. He was beyond alarm, beyond caring. Jim was gone, and he didn't not know why. Slowly, Spock began to topple from the perch they had found within the skeleton of the new ship. As he fell, the pain from the severed bond made him scream and he did not care about anything else.

“Spock!” he could hear T'Pokal call as he tumbled from her sight.

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