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Vincent stared vacantly at the crowd as people milled around and were generally having a good time.
"You did that." Joe whispered as he hugged Vincent from behind.
"So did you." Vincent said as he craned his neck to look up at Joe.
"And so did everyone else on the Yorktown. This is why we're out here." Joe said with a smile.
Vincent nodded and turned his attention back to the crowd.
"Congratulations Vincent. I've never met anyone who scored two promotions at once like that." Brock said as he approached the pair on the stage.
"I didn't have any idea that I was going to get promoted at all. I've only been on board for one day." Vincent said with a smile.
Brock chuckled and said, "You keep this up and you'll be commanding the ship by the time we get to the new colony."
Vincent laughed at the idea and said, "I don't think I'll be ready for another promotion for a while. This one kind of wore me out."
"Well, if you're not too tired, some of us guys are going to have a poker game later tonight in the supply room. You guys would be welcomed to join us if you like." Brock said as he glanced at Joe.
"That sounds like fun, but I don't think so. I still have to go to sickbay and get checked out so I can work in the morning." Vincent said in a quieter voice.
"That's fine. We'll probably be having a poker game every night and you'll always be welcomed." Brock said happily.
"Would you mind if I bring some friends with me?" Vincent asked cautiously.
"No problem. If they're your friends, I'm sure they'll fit in." Brock said with a smile.
"Okay, it sounds like fun. Maybe later this week." Vincent said happily.
"Like I said, you'll always be welcomed." Brock said, then noticed that Randy and Gary were trying to get his attention.
"Gotta go. The guys need me for something." Brock said quickly.
"Have fun." Vincent said with a warm smile and watched him go.
"I was afraid you would have problems making friends because of the age difference." Joe said seriously.
"I've already got more friends here than I ever had back on Earth." Vincent said honestly.
* * * * *
"Vincent, there's someone I'd like you to meet, you too Joe." Chip said with a grand smile and motioned for them to follow.
Vincent and Joe shared a glance at each other, then followed Chip off the stage and down into the crowd.
"He's right over here." Chip said loudly to be heard over the happily chattering people.
A moment later, they emerged from the crowd, about half-way down the length of the rec-hall.
"Vincent and Joe, I'd like you to meet a good friend of mine, this is Ellery." Chip said with a grand smile.
"Uncle Chip, please don't call me that. Everyone here calls me Channing." He said in a pained voice.
Joe and Vincent chuckled at Channing's embarrassed expression.
"Sorry Peanut, I wasn't trying to embarrass you." Chip said quietly.
"Oh God! Go ahead and call me Ellery if you want. Just don't get everyone started calling me... that." Channing said quickly.
"Don't worry, no one gets to call you 'that' but me." Chip said quietly, then turned to face Joe and Vincent again and said, "Vincent and Joe, I'd like for you to meet Channing."
"We met yesterday." Vincent said, trying to restrain his laughter.
"Yeah, when Vincent saved my life." Channing said hesitantly.
"He did? This is the first I'm hearing of it. And just what were you doing to cause your life to need saving?" Chip asked in a fatherly tone.
"I... um, I was testing a control circuit to see if it was good...." Channing said quietly.
Chip raised an eyebrow and waited for Channing to continue.
"And I guess I forgot to test to see that everything was powered down before I started digging around in there." Channing said in almost a whisper.
Chip shook his head in disappointment, then pulled Channing into a hug and said, "You've got to be more careful Peanut. You're very special to me and I don't want to see you hurt."
"I'll be careful. Everything was just so crazy yesterday with everyone from all shifts called to duty that I kind of got caught up in it." Channing said in a small voice.
"Do you remember what you're supposed to do when things get crazy like that?" Chip asked in a leading tone.
"Stop. Breathe. Center." Channing said quietly.
"Good. Then that's all I'm going to say about it... I won't even mention it to your grandmother. I'm glad you came through it safely." Chip said as he hugged Channing again.
"Only because Vincent was there. Dr. Perry said that if Vincent hadn't called for the med-team right away and told them what was wrong with me, I probably would have died. In fact, she said that I was technically dead for almost two minutes before they got to me and that if they'd been a few seconds later, they wouldn't have been able to bring me back." Channing said seriously.
"Are you sure you wouldn't be happier on the Enterprise where I can keep an eye on you?" Chip asked with concern.
"No thanks Uncle Chip. I just made a stupid mistake and I won't let it happen again." Channing said firmly.
"Besides, I'll be here to take care of him." Vincent said with an impish grin.
"Then I know he'll be safe." Chip said with a big smile.
Vincent noticed something in Channing's expression and quietly asked, "Are you feeling okay? You look like you're getting tired."
"I'm alright. But I should probably find a place to sit down." Channing said seriously at Vincent's concern.
"Why don't you come to sickbay with me? I'm going to see if Dr. Perry will release me for duty tomorrow, I think maybe she should look at you too. You shouldn't be getting tired so fast." Vincent said in a worried tone.
"I'll be fine. I just need to sit down for a while." Channing said insistently.
"Crewman Channing, report to sickbay. That's an order." Chip said firmly.
Channing looked into Chip's eyes, looking for something to tell him that Chip wasn't serious, finally Channing reluctantly said, "Yes sir."
"Daddy Joe, will you tell Benny and JonJon where I went?" Vincent asked quickly.
"I'll tell them." Joe said with a smile, then watched as Vincent walked away with Channing at his side.
"I worry about him." Chip said as he watched the pair walk away.
"Which one?" Joe asked quietly.
Chip looked at Joe consideringly for a moment, then said, "Good question. I suppose I have enough worry for two."
Joe smiled and nodded his agreement.
* * * * *
"Sickbay." Vincent said to the ceiling of the lift, then turned to Channing and said, "It sounds like you've known Commander Dodds for a long time."
"Yeah. Since I was a kid. He's friends with my family." Channing said quietly.
"He's really nice. I just met him Wednesday, but he's helped me a lot." Vincent said cheerfully.
"I just don't want him to be disappointed in me, I kind of look at him like a father." Channing said quietly.
The doors of the turbo lift opened and Vincent led the way out.
"He *is* proud of you. If he wasn't, he wouldn't have wanted me and Daddy Joe to meet you." Vincent said simply.
Channing thought about the words as they walked into the sickbay.
"Oh, I see you came back. Five minutes later and you would have missed me." Dr. Perry said as she walked around the room checking on her patients.
"You're black." Vincent said in astonishment.
Dr. Perry looked at Vincent with surprise.
"I'm sorry Dr. Perry. I shouldn't have said that." Vincent stammered, then quickly said, "Channing and I just came to get checked out and see if we're fit for duty."
Dr. Perry walked to Vincent's side and said, "That's okay Vincent." Then she leaned in to whisper, "Black isn't a bad word."
Vincent giggled and said, "Okay. I was just surprised because I was blind when I met you. I guess I thought you looked... um... different."
Dr. Perry smiled and said, "Come over here and lay down, then tell me what you thought I looked like. You too, come on."
Vincent and Channing went to the beds and laid down.
"Well, I kind of imagined that you looked like Dr. Chapel from the Enterprise, except with red hair like my Grandma Mona's." Vincent said as she scanned him with the tricorder.
"Oh, well Christine is a very beautiful woman, so I'm not at all bothered if you thought I looked like her." Dr. Perry said as she looked at the readings.
"Yeah, and she's really nice too. She's one of the doctors that helped get rid of the scabby skin." Vincent said as he watched her expression carefully.
"You know, when I found out that they were bringing a nine year old boy on the ship as a crewman, I thought it had to be a joke." Dr. Perry said as she scanned Vincent again.
"No joke. Here I am." Vincent said simply.
Dr. Perry shook her head and said, "I don't like what I'm seeing here."
"What is it? Is something wrong?" Vincent asked with concern.
"Maybe. It might just be a side effect of your transporter incident and all the other excitement you've had today. I'm going to declare you fit for duty on the provision that you come back next week so I can check you again." Dr. Perry said seriously.
"Is there something wrong with me?" Vincent asked slowly.
Dr. Perry smiled and said, "Ask me again next week and I'll have an answer for you."
Vincent sat up and nodded.
"And now for you Crewman Channing..." Dr. Perry said and started to scan him.
She made a few 'tsk tsk' sounds as she shook her head.
"You've pushed yourself too hard and now you're paying the price. Have you been assigned quarters?" Dr. Perry asked quietly.
"Some of us are going to be bunking in the observation lounge on Deck J in the Dorsal section." Channing said hesitantly.
"As lovely as that sounds, I'm afraid that at least for the next three days you are going to be confined to bed rest, and for that you will need a bed, not a sleeping bag." Dr. Perry said firmly.
"But..." Channing began to say.
"The other choice is for you to stay here for the next three days." Dr. Perry said firmly.
"Yes Doctor." Channing said reluctantly.
"Good, give me a second." Dr. Perry said, then walked into her office.
"I'm sorry you're not going to get to go with everyone else. I didn't mean to cause you trouble. I was just afraid if you stayed up too long you might make yourself sicker." Vincent said with concern.
Channing saw the remorse in Vincent's eyes and gave him a gentle smile.
"Thanks for looking out for me Vincent. I'm a little disappointed because I won't be able to go with the guys, but you're right, I've got to do what's best so I can get well." Channing said reluctantly.
"Me and JonJon and Benny will make sure you don't get too bored while you're stuck in bed." Vincent said seriously.
Channing smiled and said, "It sounds like it's going to be an interesting three days."
"Well Crewman Channing, it appears you will be able to sleep in your observation lounge after all." Dr. Perry said as she walked back into the room.
Channing smiled at the statement.
"I contacted security, since they have been assigning quarters, and have been informed that there are no more quarters available. So it seems that your choices are to stay here or for us to set up a cot in your observation lounge." Dr. Perry said frankly.
"I'll take the lounge." Channing said with a smile.
"I thought you might. I've already asked that a cot be delivered to the observation lounge for you." Dr. Perry said with a wisp of a grin.
"Now here are my instructions for you for the next three days. Rest. Relax. Stay in bed. I can make arrangements to have your meals delivered to you if you would like." Dr. Perry finished carefully.
"Benny and JonJon could take care of that if you want. I bet they'd like to be able to do something to help out." Vincent said quickly.
"Very well. Someone will stop in to check on you from time to time, and if I find out that you're not following my instructions, I'll confine you to sickbay and order complete bed rest. And let me warn you, I have the coldest bedpans in all of Starfleet." Dr. Perry said firmly.
"I'll follow your instructions, I promise." Channing said quietly.
Dr. Perry nodded and said, "Good. Then I'll see you again in three days."
Channing nodded, then got up to leave.
"Crewman Winters." Ensign T'Lani said as Vincent stood at Channing's side.
"Yes?" Vincent said as he turned.
"You must contact Ambassador Sarek before the Enterprise departs." Ensign T'Lani said seriously.
"Oh, okay. Thank you Ensign T'Lani." Vincent said with a smile.
Ensign T'Lani gave a single nod, then returned to her duties.
"I can call him from the observation lounge." Vincent said as he walked with Channing out of Sickbay.
"You don't have to bother with me, I can get there by myself." Channing said seriously.
"I don't mind, besides, I want to see where you'll be staying." Vincent said with a smile.
"It's nice. It's one of my favorite places on the ship because most people forget it's there." Channing said as they entered the lift, then he said, "Deck J, Dorsal."
"Yeah, I guess most people think of Deck J being one of the lower decks of the saucer and they forget that there's another Deck J that's part of the dorsal that connects the saucer to the drive section." Vincent said seriously.
"Wow, you really know the layout." Channing said with a smile.
"I've been studying the deck plans for years, but this is the first time I'm actually going to see it." Vincent said with excitement.
The turbo lift doors opened to reveal a small room.
"It's over here." Channing said and led Vincent into the Observation Lounge.
"Hi Neil. How are you doing?" Channing asked happily when he saw the security officer setting up a cot.
"I'm doing great. I'm going off shift just as soon as I get this thing set up." Neil said as he unfolded the cot.
"How do you like my place?" Channing asked as he made a sweeping gesture to indicate the whole room.
"Nice. Great view. I'm going to be bunking in a cargo hold... at least it's not the one with the farm animals." Neil quickly added.
Channing chuckled and said, "I'm glad to hear it. Well, if you have trouble sleeping in your cargo hold, just come up here. As far as I know there are only three of us assigned to this observation lounge."
"Thanks, I'll keep that in mind. But I'm so tired right now that I think I could fall asleep standing up." Neil said honestly.
"I thought we were all going to have to do that from the way it was looking on the pool deck." Channing said frankly.
"You and me both. I'm glad it all worked out... Hey, aren't you Crewman Winters?" Neil asked suddenly.
"Yeah. We met down on the pool deck." Vincent said shyly.
"Congratulations on the promotion. I heard about the stuff you did today. Way to go." Neil said with a friendly smile.
"Thanks." Vincent said shyly.
"Well, I've got to get going. Have a good night Channing. You look like you could use some rest." Neil said casually.
"Yeah, you too. And remember what I said, we've got an open spot here if you need a place." Channing said with a smile.
"I'll remember." Neil said, then left the room.
A moment of silence fell over the room as Channing and Vincent looked out at the stars.
"It's really pretty." Vincent whispered.
"Yeah. Just wait till you see it while we're moving." Channing said distantly.
Vincent shook himself out of his wandering thoughts and said, "I need to call Grandfather Sarek."
"The comm's right over there." Channing said and pointed.
Vincent walked to the comm panel and pressed the main communications button.
"Communications." The voice answered professionally.
"Can you open a diplomatic channel to Ambassador Sarek on the Enterprise?" Vincent asked cautiously.
"Just a moment." The communications worker said quickly.
Vincent looked over and saw that Channing was laying out his sleeping bag on the cot.
"This is Ambassador Sarek."
"Grandfather Sarek, I was told that you needed me to call you before the Enterprise left." Vincent said seriously.
There was a moment of silence, then Ambassador Sarek said, "I made no such request."
"Ensign T'Lani said that I needed to contact you." Vincent said in confusion.
"T'Lani of the house of Sukaan?" Ambassador Sarek asked cautiously.
"Yes, the daughter of Sufaal." Vincent said quickly.
"I see. I was not going to discuss this matter with you until I had time to consider all the implications." Ambassador Sarek said carefully.
"Is something wrong?" Vincent asked with concern.
"It is simply a Vulcan tradition that the people of Earth tend to think of as... unrealistic." Ambassador Sarek said in a measured tone.
"Will you tell me?" Vincent asked quietly.
"Within one hour of officially recording your successful completion of the kahs'wan, I was contacted by T'Seela, the matriarch of the house of Sukaan about the possibility of arranging a marriage." Ambassador Sarek said simply.
"A marriage... to me?" Vincent finished with a squeak.
"Correct." Ambassador Sarek said calmly.
"Wait. I think I remember this... you and T'Seela would figure out if this marriage was a logical pairing and if you both agree that it is, then... I'm married... I mean, just like that... but then later, like when I'm something like twenty one, we would have the official ceremony and that's when we would start living together... right?" Vincent asked cautiously.
"Correct. That is the tradition. But Humans use criteria other than logic to determine the suitability of a prospective mate. Therefore, it would be illogical to arrange a marriage in the traditional manner." Sarek said thoughtfully.
Vincent thought about it for a moment, then asked, "What if the Human really liked the Vulcan, then would it be logical?"
There was a long moment of silence, then Ambassador Sarek said, "Possibly."
"Is it okay if I know who T'Seela wants me to marry?" Vincent asked carefully.
"It is permitted." Ambassador Sarek said slowly.
"Is it Ensign T'Lani?" Vincent asked, even more quietly.
"That is correct." Ambassador Sarek said calmly.
Vincent thought about it for a moment, then said, "Grandfather. I like Ensign T'Lani, she's smart and pretty and she's been really nice to me. If you figure out that our pairing is logical, I would really like to do this."
"You must understand that Vulcans do not have divorce. Our marriages continue until death." Ambassador Sarek said slowly.
"Grandfather, I saw how my parents lived in a Human marriage. At dinner tonight I saw how you and Grandma Amanda live in a Vulcan marriage. If that's what a logical pairing of a Vulcan and Human is like, then I want what you have." Vincent said seriously.
"Vincent, you honor the house of Surak and the traditions of Vulcan by doing this. I will contact T'Seela and begin the discussion of the logic of the proposed union. I will contact you when we have reached consensus." Ambassador Sarek said peacefully.
"I'll be waiting for the call. Live long and prosper, Grandfather." Vincent said with a smile.
"Peace and long life, Grandson." Sarek responded calmly.
Vincent turned off the comm, then turned to find Channing fast asleep.
Quietly, Vincent left the observation lounge deep in thought.
* * * * *
"Where's Vincent?" Benny asked as he and JonJon ran to Joe's side.
"He went to the Sickbay to see if he's allowed to return to duty." Joe said with a smile at the boys.
"Is he coming back here when he's done?" Benny asked seriously.
"I don't know, he didn't say." Joe said frankly.
"Maybe you can help us. Fizgig is starting to squirm around a lot and JonJon thinks that maybe he needs to... um... you know... use the bathroom." Benny said reluctantly.
"Oh, I guess we'd better find a way to deal with that. Is Fizgig paper trained?" Joe asked carefully.
"Yeah. We were just starting to try and get him to go outside when the storms started up. Dad decided to wait until after the storms stopped before we tried again." JonJon said and a note of sadness crept into his voice.
"Then why don't we go to the quartermaster's office for a few supplies? Then we can take Fizgig down to Deflector Control and fix a place for him to do his business." Joe said with a smile.
"Thank you Daddy Joe... Um, I mean Lieutenant Bowers." JonJon corrected shyly.
"You had it right the first time." Joe said with a smile and gestured toward the nearest turbo lift.
* * * * *
Vincent was still lost in thought when he walked into Deflector Control.
"Congratulations Vincent. We saw the whole thing on the monitor." Lou said with a big smile and pointed at the screen which was still showing the celebration in the rec-hall.
"Thanks." Vincent said happily and walked over to her to show off his new rank insignia‡.
"Come over here and look at this Judy." Lou said with delight.
"Oh, look at that, now we're a matched set." Judy said as she held out her forearm to display her identical rank insignia.
"Cool!" Vincent said with a smile.
"What are you doing here? I thought you'd be enjoying the party." Lou asked curiously.
"I'm waiting on a call from my Grandfather, and besides, I'm really tired and I'd like to sit somewhere quiet for a little bit." Vincent said shyly.
"I can certainly understand that. If you'll log in on one of the auxiliary stations, your message will be routed to you automatically." Lou said casually.
"Oh, thanks Lou. I didn't know that." Vincent said happily and hurried to auxiliary station two.
Lou and Judy went back to their work, both wearing smiles at Vincent's obvious happiness.
After a long silence in the room, Vincent curiously asked, "What's a bar mitzvah?"
Lou and Judy looked at each other with surprise at the unusual question, but Judy finally answered, "It's a Jewish ceremony that celebrates a boy becoming a man. I don't really know too much about it."
Vincent nodded and said, "Thanks, that's what I needed to know... what does 'Mazal Tov' mean?"
"I think it's Yiddish or Hebrew. It means congratulations... what are you reading?" Lou asked curiously.
Vincent smiled and said, "There's this place back on Earth that my Clan set up called 'Camp Little Eagle'. The whole place is filled with other guys like me who've been adopted by the Clan. A guy named Uri sent me an electronic Bar Mizvah card and I didn't know what those words meant. Now I understand."
"A whole camp of kids like you?" Lou asked hesitantly.
Vincent nodded and said, "Yeah. They're all my brothers."
Lou looked at Judy and absently said, "They could change the universe."
Judy nodded her agreement.
As Vincent opened the next message, another window opened to signal an incoming video transmission.
Vincent accepted the transmission and smiled when he saw who it was.
"Hi Grandma Amanda." Vincent said happily.
"Hello Vincent. Sarek tells me that you've decided to accept a traditional Vulcan arranged marriage." Amanda said seriously.
"Yeah, I did." Vincent said shyly.
"Vincent, this is a very serious step that will effect the rest of your life. You should consider it carefully." Amanda said with concern.
"I know it is Grandma, but I think I really need to do this." Vincent said in a considering tone.
"How do you mean?" Amanda asked carefully.
"I don't want to grow up to be like my momma and my dad were. I'm afraid that when I get old enough to want to start dating and stuff that, I'll make a big mess like they did and end up married to someone I don't really like. I'd probably be really unhappy and maybe even end up hurting my kids. If Grandfather Sarek says that it would be logical for me and T'Lani to be married, then maybe we can be happy. She's really smart and nice and pretty and she's already helped me a lot by helping me to look at stuff logically. I think I need someone to help me do that because I don't always remember to." Vincent said in deep thought.
"And what would you do for her?" Amanda asked carefully.
Vincent thought for a moment, then said, "I'd try to do the stuff to make her proud of me so she'd be proud to be my wife. I'd try to help her do the stuff she wants to do so she can be proud of herself and I can be proud to be her husband. And I think that I would love her... I think maybe I do a little bit already."
There was a long minute of silence as Amanda considered the statement.
"Do you think I'm making a mistake?" Vincent asked quietly.
Amanda smiled gently and shook her head.
"No Vincent, I think you've made one of the most important decisions that anyone can make. I know that Sarek is pleased that one of his grandchildren is following the traditional ways and allowing him to perform one of the most sacred duties the leader of a Vulcan family can perform." Amanda said peacefully.
"It's kinda scary, but it feels good too... It's like, I feel like I'll never have to be alone again. Daddy Joe and the Clan and my friends will be there too, but... I don't know, T'Lani and I will be... beside each other, walking on the same path, going the same place. I won't be just me, I'll be part of us too... I'm sorry if I'm messing this all up. I'm not good at talking about feelings and junk like that." Vincent finished in frustration.
"No, my grandson, you're doing just fine. I think your vision of the future is beautiful. I've known peace and fulfillment for many years walking the path beside your grandfather and it is my wish for you to enjoy the same with your wife." Amanda said gently.
"Thank you Grandma Amanda." Vincent said quietly.
"I'm going to go now. I need to talk to your Grandfather to give him my 'Human' perspective about your marriage." Amanda said with a warm smile.
"Bye Grandma. I love you." Vincent said gently.
"I love you too, my grandson. Peace and long life." Amanda said peacefully, then ended the transmission.
* * * * *
"Let's hurry up guys, I think he's about to blow." Joe said as he rushed into Deflector Control with an armload of supplies.
Benny and JonJon came in next and quickly followed Joe into the supply room.
Vincent noticed movement and saw Lou silently summoning him to come to her.
Quickly, Vincent crossed the room and waited expectantly.
In a whisper, Lou asked, "Did I just hear you right? Are you getting married?"
Vincent looked from Lou to Judy, then nodded cautiously.
"You haven't told Joe about this yet, have you?" Lou asked carefully.
Vincent shook his head slowly.
"Tell him. Now." Lou said firmly.
"But he's probably going to say that I'm too young or something like that and I don't want to fight with him." Vincent said in a small voice.
"If you tell him now, he may be a little bit upset. But if you tell him after it's all over and you left him completely out of it, he'll be hurt forever. Tell him." Lou said seriously.
Vincent nodded and hurried toward the storage area.
As he reached the edge of the partition, Vincent turned and said, "Thanks Lou."
Lou smiled and nodded, then made a quick shooing motion.
* * * * *
"Daddy Joe, I need to talk to you." Vincent said as he walked around the partition.
"Oh, um, yeah. JonJon, will you make sure Fizgig doesn't... miss it, or overflow it or anything." Joe said as he watched the dog inspecting the improvised litter box.
JonJon nodded at Joe, then turned his full attention back to Fizgig.
"Come on." Vincent said urgently.
"I'm coming." Joe said hesitantly, becoming concerned.
Vincent led him out the door into the hallway outside Deflector Control.
Joe's concern turned to full worry when he saw the tension in Vincent's expression.
"Um, Daddy Joe, I need to tell you something and I, um, don't know what you're going to think about it." Vincent said reluctantly.
Joe took a step forward and pulled Vincent into a firm hug.
"Whatever it is, I'm sure it will be just fine. Go ahead and tell me." Joe said soothingly.
"I... um. Okay, I don't know if you know this, but I kind of asked Grandfather Sarek if he could count the stuff I did down on the planet today as my kahs'wan." Vincent said carefully.
"I don't know what that is." Joe said hesitantly.
"It just means that because I did something really scary and didn't run away like a little kid, that by Vulcan law I am considered an adult." Vincent said seriously.
"Oh, I remember reading about that at the academy. So did he accept it?" Joe asked curiously.
"Oh Vincent, that's nothing to be worried about. That's great!" Joe said as he hugged Vincent happily.
"That's not it." Vincent said slowly.
"Oh... Go ahead." Joe said and released Vincent from the hug.
"Well, when Grandfather recorded that I was an adult, the head of another family asked him if they could arrange a marriage for me." Vincent said quietly.
"You've got to be kidding. You're nine!" Joe said abruptly.
"Vulcan families usually arrange marriages for their kids. Some of them younger than me." Vincent said quietly.
"Ambassador Sarek didn't do it did he? I mean, I'm sure he's realized that you're Human and that you wouldn't want a marriage arranged for you like that... You should call Cory and tell him. He can explain it..." Joe said quickly.
"I told Grandfather that I want to do it." Vincent said, and a small tremble of fear could be heard in his voice.
Joe froze for an instant and stared at Vincent in disbelief.
"Daddy Joe, this is like the kahs'wan. It's something I needed to do by myself. If I asked you or anyone else about it you might have talked me out of it and then I'd blame you. Or if you tried to talk me out of it and then I did it anyway, then you'd be mad and maybe even yell at me and stuff... I'm sorry if this makes you mad at me. I really didn't want that." Vincent said as tears welled up in his eyes.
Joe looked into Vincent's worried eyes and said, "When I married your mother, I did it without my parents' approval. When I finally told them what I'd done, they were very angry with me and said things that made me feel like an irresponsible child. I love you Vincent and I think I understand why you felt that you had to do this on your own."
"Even though I passed my kahs'wan, you're still my Daddy Joe and I still need you." Vincent said seriously.
Joe gave an ironic chuckle and pulled Vincent into a gentle hug as he said, "Oh Vincent, what am I going to do with you?"
"Love me and hug me a lot?" Vincent asked hopefully.
"It was a rhetorical question, but... yeah. That's what I'm going to do with you." Joe said with contentment.
"I need to get back inside, Grandfather will be calling me soon to let me know if I'm married or not." Vincent said quietly.
"Do you really want to do this?" Joe asked with concern.
"Yeah Daddy Joe. I really do." Vincent said seriously.
"Then I'm happy for you." Joe said peacefully.
Vincent leapt on Joe and hugged him as tight as possible as he said, "Thank you Daddy Joe. I was so scared that you'd be mad at me for doing something grown up without talking to you about it first."
"Will you try to do something for me?" Joe asked quietly.
"Sure, anything you want." Vincent said, bubbling over with enthusiasm.
"So far today you've gotten two promotions, saved hundreds of lives, been declared an adult and now you're waiting to find out if you're married. Do you think you could tone it down a notch or two? I don't think I could handle every day being like this." Joe said with a hint of desperation in his voice.
Vincent chuckled and said, "Okay Daddy Joe, I promise that I won't do anything else for a while... if I can help it."
"Close enough." Joe said, then put a casual arm around Vincent's shoulder and guided him back to the Deflector Control room door.
* * * * *
As the pair walked into Deflector Control, Vincent abruptly stopped.
"Is something wrong?" Joe asked with concern.
"I just thought of something that I need to do right now." Vincent said seriously.
"Then I guess you'd better go and do it. I have a feeling that time is running out." Joe said quietly.
Vincent nodded and rushed out the door.
Judy walked to Joe's side and said, "I think he knows what he's doing."
"How can he? He's only nine." Joe said as he turned slowly to look at her.
"I have the feeling that Vincent can see things more clearly than a lot of adults. His perception of the world isn't clouded by hormones and obligations and all the other things that cause the rest of us to make stupid mistakes. I think he has a decent chance of making it work." Judy said speculatively.
Joe thought about the words for a moment, then said, "I suppose you're right. I just want to protect him from what's going to happen if it doesn't turn out the way he expects."
"You and every other parent in the universe since the beginning of time." Judy said frankly.
"Thanks for putting it into perspective for me Judy. I guess I'll have to trust him and hope for the best." Joe said quietly.
"We'll all be hoping right along with you." Judy said gently, then walked to station one to do a status check.
* * * * *
Vincent walked into Sickbay and spotted T'Lani immediately.
"Can I talk to you for a minute?" Vincent asked as he rushed to her side.
"Proceed." T'Lani said calmly.
"How old are you?" Vincent asked seriously.
"Twenty two. But Vulcans age differently from Humans, when you achieve the age of twenty one, I will appear to be of a comparable age." Ensign T'Lani said very precisely.
"I figured that part out for myself, the reason I'm asking is because I want to know why your family hasn't arranged a marriage for you before now. I mean, are you marrying me because there isn't anyone else?" Vincent asked seriously.
T'Lani considered the question for a moment, then responded, "You are the first prospective mate who exhibits the personality traits that would be a compliment to my own. I believe we are uniquely suited to each other. From a Human perspective, the pairing may seem unconventional. However, given the circumstance of our differing life cycles, I believe that this course of action is quite logical."
Vincent nodded and said, "Thank you Ensign T'Lani. I just needed to be sure that you were doing this because you wanted to and not because you didn't have any other choice."
"I am gratified by your concern. Be assured that it is my desire to become your wife and enjoy a mutually fulfilling future together." T'Lani said seriously.
"Okay. That's all I wanted to know. I'd better get back to deflector control and wait for Grandfather Sarek's call." Vincent said happily.
"May I also ask a question?" T'Lani asked calmly.
"Sure. Anything you want." Vincent said quickly.
"I have concerns about the differences between Vulcans and Humans. These things could become a source of conflict in our future relationship. I would be interested to know your thoughts on the matter." T'Lani said slowly.
Vincent thought about it for a minute before answering, "As long as you don't try to make me act like a Vulcan, I won't try to make you act like a Human. I think as long as we don't try to change each other, everything will be fine."
T'Lani considered the words, then carefully said, "I concur."
"I've got to go now. I'll talk to you later." Vincent said, immediately back to his full excitement.
T'Lani gave a single nod, then watched as Vincent rushed out of the room.
* * * * *
"Did Grandfather Sarek call yet?" Vincent asked as he ran into Deflector Control.
"Not yet. I would have paged you if he had." Joe said gently.
"Thanks. I just had to talk to... Um, someone..." Vincent trailed off uncertainly.
"It's okay Vincent. You don't have to tell me who it is if you don't want to." Joe said quietly.
Vincent looked at Joe with a flash of panic and said, "It's not that I don't want to, it's just that I don't want to tell you right now in case it doesn't happen because then you might act funny around her."
"Her? Well that narrows it down some." Joe said with a smile.
Vincent looked at Joe curiously, then chuckled.
"Um... Daddy Joe, could you... um... help?" Benny called from beside the partition.
"Uh oh. That doesn't sound good." Joe said as he gave Vincent one more quick hug before leaving.
"How are you holding up?" Lou asked gently.
"I'm kinda scared." Vincent said honestly.
"You'd be nuts if you weren't." Judy said gently.
"Either nuts or Vulcan." Lou added with a grin.
"Hey, no Vulcan jokes." Vincent said in mock offense.
The door to Deflector Control opened to reveal Connie, Susan, Jimmy and Darin.
"It's about time!" Lou groused.
"Hey. There's still plenty of party left, it's just getting warmed up. Besides, it's not my fault that someone needs to stay at the station." Connie said as he took Lou's place at the console.
"Yeah. See? They've just started dancing." Jimmy said and pointed at the monitor still displaying the events in the rec-hall.
"What do you say Judy? Do you feel like dancing?" Lou asked with a smile.
Judy glanced at Vincent, then said, "I'd really like to be here when Vincent gets his call."
Lou thought about it for a moment, then said, "Yeah. Me too."
"What's going on little brother?" Darin asked curiously.
Vincent's only response was to walk to Darin and give him a firm hug.
Darin looked around, then quietly asked, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing. I just really need a hug." Vincent said quietly.
Darin returned the hug and looked around at the other people in the room with concern.
Lou and Judy exchanged a look, but remained silent.
"Make sure you let Fizgig know that he did a good thing. He needs to know that that's the place for him to do his business." Joe said over his shoulder as he walked around the partition.
"He's a good dog. I think he understands now. He was just confused at first." JonJon said as he followed Joe into the room with Fizgig in his arms.
Benny walked into the room next, then looked around the room with confusion at the serious mood.
"Still waiting?" Joe asked as he walked to Darin and Vincent's sides.
"Yeah." Vincent said in a small voice.
"Do you want to tell everyone?" Joe asked quietly.
"The answer might still be no, so I don't want everyone to get excited about it." Vincent said carefully.
"But if you tell them and the answer is 'no' then they'll be able to help you deal with it." Joe said quietly.
Vincent thought about it for a moment, then said, "Yeah, I guess so."
Before Vincent could go any further, the beep of an incoming message came from auxiliary station two.
"I think that's probably for you." Joe said in nearly a whisper.
Vincent nodded and reluctantly released Darin to answer the call.
"What's going on?" Benny asked with concern.
"Just watch." Joe said in a whisper.
Vincent reluctantly accepted the transmission and waited.
"Greetings Grandson." Sarek said without inflection.
"Greetings Grandfather." Vincent said apprehensively.
"It has been determined that the marriage of Vincent Winters of the House of Surak and T'Lani of the House of Sukaan is a logical pairing. The union is to be consummated when Vincent Winters has attained his twenty first year." Ambassador Sarek said calmly.
"Thank you Grandfather." Vincent said past his shock at the declaration.
"It is my hope your union will be productive and fruitful. Live long and prosper, Grandson."
"Live long and prosper, Grandfather." Vincent said, still feeling nothing but shock.
Joe reached around Vincent to disconnect the transmission.
"That sounded like Vincent just got married." Benny said cautiously.
"He did." Lou said frankly.
"What? I mean, how? I mean, you're nine." Darin said in confusion.
"Vulcans do it a little differently." Joe said quietly as he watched Vincent with concern.
"He said yes." Vincent said in wonder.
"That's right Champ. You are now a married man." Joe said gently.
"No way. I mean, out of all of us, the nine year old is the only one that's married? That's just not right." Jimmy said disbelievingly.
"For once I agree with you." Lou said in a firm voice.
Jimmy stopped, stunned by the fact that Lou agreed with him about anything.
Lou turned to Judy and said, "I've loved you for years, but I've never felt like it was time for us to take that final step. Now I think it is. So while we're here with all our friends I want to ask you, Judy, will you marry me?"
Judy's eyes went wide with surprise, but as soon as the words fully registered, she nodded vigorously.
Everyone gathered around Lou and Judy to offer their congratulations.
After the excitement had calmed down, Joe looked around the room and asked, "Anyone else?"
Jimmy looked at Susan with question.
"No." Susan said firmly.
Jimmy looked down to the floor and nodded.
"But I wouldn't be against a date or two... If that's something you'd be interested in." Susan said gently.
Jimmy looked up suddenly and said, "Yeah. Let's do that."
"Jimmy, you have a way with words." Susan said with a tender smile.
"Well, if that's everyone..." Joe began to say.
"Not quite." Connie said to the group.
Everyone turned their attention to Connie.
"You know I've been seeing a girl on Earth from my home village for a couple years now, right?" Connie said reluctantly.
A few of the people around the room nodded.
"Well, right before we left Earth I asked Melina if she would marry me. She said yes." Connie said shyly.
"Really?" Joe asked in shock.
"Yeah. Debbie is the only one who knows. I told her on the shuttle." Connie said quietly.
"Why did you wait so long to tell us. This is wonderful news." Joe said and pulled Connie into a firm hug.
"I waited because... I'm going to request a transfer to a planetary posting." Connie said reluctantly.
"Oh." Joe said quietly as he carefully released Connie.
"You're leaving us?" Susan asked with disbelief.
"Yeah Suze, I am. I know some people can make a long distance marriage work, but I don't think Melina and I could... and I don't want to. I want to go back to Greece and live a normal life and raise a family." Connie said with a hint of desperation in his voice.
After a long moment of silence, Joe said, "Good for you. I'm glad you understand what's most important."
"Yeah. Judy and I will probably be roaming the universe for a few more years, but it won't be too long before I think we'll be doing the same thing... well, except for going to Greece... I'm thinking of something more tropical." Lou said peacefully.
"When are you going to transfer?" Jimmy asked quietly.
"Not for a while. It might be as long as a year. Melina has four sisters and a ton of aunts who will want to help plan the wedding. We've decided not to set a date until we can get them all to agree that we have enough time to get everything done so we can do it right." Connie said carefully.
"Then you probably won't be leaving anytime soon." Susan said with a smirk.
"That's what I thought. I wouldn't be surprised if they try to get the Pope himself to officiate." Connie said with a chuckle.
"It's too early for me to make any marriage plans, but I've met a special woman that I'm really serious about. So don't be surprised if I have an announcement of my own sometime soon." Joe said with a smile.
"Are you going to marry Grandma Mona?" Vincent asked suddenly.
"Like I said, it's too soon to be talking marriage, but... I haven't felt like this about anyone since your mother. It could happen." Joe said with a smile.
"Hey Vincent, when do we get to meet your fiancée?" Jimmy asked with a smile.
"Wife. They're married now." Joe said seriously.
Jimmy shrugged and said, "Okay, when do we get to meet your wife?"
"Right now... well, if she can leave sickbay and if she wants to." Vincent added quickly.
"Go on. I'd really like to meet her." Joe said with a smile.
"I'll be right back." Vincent said happily and dashed out of the room.
* * * * *
"Ensign T'Lani, do you have time to talk?" Vincent asked as he rushed into Sickbay.
"Of course husband." T'Lani said as she looked over a data padd.
"I just wondered if you have time to come down to Deflector Control and meet the people I work with. They'd all like to meet you." Vincent said happily.
"Yes. My shift reports will be completed momentarily, then I will be available to accompany you." T'Lani said seriously.
"Is there anyone here you want me to meet?" Vincent asked hopefully.
"Not at this time. My coworkers have gone to enjoy the festivities on the recreation deck. I have had little interaction with those on duty at this time." T'Lani said as she focused on her reports.
"Oh. I guess we can do it later. I just want to be sure to meet all your friends." Vincent said with cheer.
"I will introduce you at the first opportunity... My reports are complete." T'Lani said and turned off her data padd.
"Cool. I know everyone is going to like you. They're all really great." Vincent bubbled.
T'Lani gestured toward the Sickbay door to indicate that she was ready to go.
Vincent fell into step beside her as they left the Sickbay.
"What will your reaction be if your friends do not find me to be acceptable?" T'Lani asked curiously.
Vincent thought about the question for a moment as they entered the turbo lift, then muttered, "Deflector Control" to the ceiling of the lift.
Once the lift started moving, Vincent said, "If they don't like you, then I guess I won't want to be around them as much."
"Please do not allow the circumstance of our marriage to disrupt your other relationships. It would be illogical to isolate yourself from others for the fact of our union." T'Lani said carefully.
Vincent shook his head and said, "You are my wife. That means you come first. If someone want's to mess with that, then I don't need them around me. My real friends will accept you *because* you're my wife. Then when they get to know you, they'll like you because of who you are."
"You honor me husband. What you say is logical." T'Lani said as the lift doors opened.
* * * * *
"Everyone, I'd like you to meet my wife, Ensign T'Lani daughter of Sufaal of the House of Sukaan of Vulcan." Vincent said proudly.
"It's nice to meet you Ensign T'Lani, I'm Joe Bowers, Vincent's surrogate father and mentor. Welcome to the family." Joe said happily.
"A pleasure." T'Lani said as she gave a respectful bow of her head.
"And this is my big brother Darin." Vincent said with excitement as he ran to Darin's side.
"It's um... nice... how old are you?" Darin finished abruptly.
"Twenty two. However, when my husband reaches the age of twenty one, my appearance will be virtually the same." T'Lani said frankly.
"Yeah, and by the time I'm sixty, I'll probably look a lot older than her." Vincent added with a smile.
"Let's all relax and let Vincent introduce Ensign T'Lani around. This is starting to feel way too formal for my liking." Joe said seriously.
"The friends and family of my husband are welcomed to forego my title and simply address me as T'Lani." She said calmly.
"T'Lani it is." Joe said happily, then said, "I see that you're in medical. Are you a nurse?"
"I have the requisite studies and certifications to function as a nurse. However, when I have completed my tour of duty on the Yorktown, it is my intention to complete my final year of medical training and become licensed as a doctor, then serve my residency on board a Starfleet vessel." T'Lani said seriously.
"That's impressive. From what I understand, there's quite a bit of competition to be a doctor on a starship." Joe said in thought.
"Yes, that is why I accepted the posting on the Yorktown when it came available. Previous experience on a Starfleet vessel should prove advantageous when my medical training is complete." T'Lani said frankly.
"I see what you mean. The rank and experience you've already achieved should make your career path in Starfleet a lot easier." Joe said speculatively.
"It seems the logical course." T'Lani said in agreement.
"So are you planning to be the Chief Medical Officer on a Starship someday?" Darin asked curiously.
"That is one possibility, though I believe a position at Starfleet Medical would be equally satisfying." T'Lani said calmly.
"That would be quite an achievement too. Only the best of the best get appointed to Starfleet Medical." Joe said with a considering nod.
"I know that T'Lani will make it if that's what she wants to do." Vincent said firmly.
"I think you're right. Her decisions so far have proven that she knows how to get things done." Joe said with a smile.
Darin looked from Vincent to T'Lani and nodded his agreement.
"I want to introduce T'Lani to everyone before people start leaving." Vincent said quickly.
Joe nodded and smiled as Vincent hurried away with T'Lani at his side.
"As weird as it sounds, I think they're perfect for each other." Darin said distantly.
"I know what you mean. A few hours ago I couldn't have imagined Vincent with a wife. Within a few minutes of seeing them together, I can't imagine him without her." Joe said frankly.
* * * * *
Vincent guided T'Lani to the main Deflector Control console and said, "T'Lani, this is Connie."
"It's nice to meet you T'Lani. Vincent's done a lot of things that impressed me today, but finding a woman as beautiful as you to marry beats everything else by a long shot." Connie said with a grin.
T'Lani considered the statement for a moment, then said, "Our union is based on our psychological and behavioral compatibility. My physical appearance was not a determining factor in the decision of our family elders to arrange our marriage."
"Really? You mean that they still would have married you two if you'd been as ugly as a Tarkalian wildebeest?" Connie asked hesitantly.
"That is correct." T'Lani said frankly.
"Then Vincent, that means you have *got* to be one of the luckiest people I've ever met." Connie said seriously.
Vincent looked up at T'Lani and smiled as he said, "Yeah, I think so too."
* * * * *
"T'Lani, I'd like you to meet Lou and Judy. They're going to get married." Vincent said happily.
"It is a pleasure to meet you and may I offer my congratulations on your impending nuptials." T'Lani said formally.
"Thank you. It's nice to meet you too. When I heard Vincent talking to his grandmother about how he felt about marrying you, it made me stop and think about what I wanted for my own future." Lou said, then smiled at Judy warmly.
"It is gratifying to know that my husband's thoughts on the matter were favorable to the point of being inspirational." T'Lani said carefully.
"He helped put things in perspective for me." Judy said timidly.
"I believe that is a natural talent that he possesses." T'Lani said simply.
* * * * *
"Hey Jimmy, come over here." Vincent called as he walked with T'Lani toward Susan.
Jimmy hurried away from station two to be introduced.
"Jimmy and Susan, this is my wife T'Lani." Vincent said proudly.
"It's wonderful to meet you. I think you have quite a husband." Susan said with a warm glance at Vincent.
"I concur." T'Lani said calmly.
"I couldn't believe it when Ambassador Sarek said that you two were married. I mean, wow. Just like that." Jimmy said with excitement.
"Once it was established that we, as a prospective couple were compatible, there was no logical reason for delay." T'Lani said simply.
"How do they decide if two people are compatible?" Susan asked curiously.
"The family elders review the psychological profiles of the persons in question, then review the achievements of each to establish behavioral patterns. If the resulting composite profiles compliment each other, then the union is seen to be logical and the marriage is confirmed." T'Lani said in an instructive tone.
"Where did they get a psychological profile of Vincent?" Jimmy asked curiously.
"I had to do a whole bunch of tests and stuff before I left Earth. I guess that was part of it." Vincent said seriously.
"The psychological profile is a prerequisite for Starfleet service." T'Lani stated impassively.
"I guess without emotions to muck everything up, using the psychological profiles would be the best way to do it." Susan said carefully.
"Yeah, but what if the two people don't like each other?" Jimmy asked hesitantly.
"If the individuals in question trust in the judgment of their family elders, then they will attempt to look past any preconceived notions they might have adopted toward their prospective mate and accept a bonding that will ensure their union. The biological imperative of pon'farr makes it something of a necessity." T'Lani said frankly.
"But I've heard about challenges to an arranged marriage... how does that work?" Jimmy asked curiously.
"Such a thing is a disgrace to the family elders and to both houses involved. It is a flagrant display of emotionalism over logic." T'Lani said firmly with a trace of disgust.
"Yeah. It would be like me saying to Grandfather Sarek that his decision wasn't logical and that I don't trust him." Vincent said seriously.
"Also, a marriage in defiance of logic would most likely result in a disharmonious and nonproductive union." T'Lani added carefully.
"Wow. You two really think alike. That's so cool." Jimmy said with a smile.
"A perfect match." Susan said with a chuckle.
T'Lani looked down at Vincent and said, "Our union is logical."
* * * * *
"T'Lani, I'd like you to meet my friends Benny and JonJon. Oh yeah, and Fizgig, JonJon's dog." Vincent added quickly.
"A pleasure to meet you." T'Lani said carefully, then added, "JonJon, you are an artificial life form are you not?"
JonJon was surprised by the blunt question and hesitantly nodded.
"There was a time when I considered the creation of artificial life forms to be illogical. But I have since come to realize that androids add to the diversity that defines humanity. It is good for my husband to have such a friend." T'Lani said seriously.
"Thank you." JonJon said shyly.
"Um, how did you know that he was an android?" Benny asked cautiously.
"As part of my medical training I have become familiar with the physical characteristics of all commercially produced androids. It is necessary to be able to identify an android by sight so proper care can be given in an emergency situation. JonJon is a M.A.R.C. model android with the optional upgrade characteristics." T'Lani said professionally.
"Optional upgrade? What's that?" Benny asked curiously.
"No. Please don't... Um, I mean, I'll tell you later." JonJon said quickly as he flushed with embarrassment.
T'Lani gave JonJon a single nod to confirm that she would not explain further.
* * * * *
"All hands, prepare for departure in fifteen minutes." Sounded over the comm.
"I guess it's about that time." Joe said as he looked around the room.
"Are you guys going to be okay tonight? You didn't get any sleep." Connie asked Lou with concern.
"We slept earlier in the day. We'll be fine." Lou said seriously.
"That's good, but if you start having trouble, just call me. Remember, I owe you one." Connie said with a smile.
"You owe me more than one, but I'm sure we'll be fine." Lou said with a grin.
"I must return to Sickbay to ensure that everything is secured before departure." T'Lani said seriously.
"Thank you for coming down to meet my friends. It was really great getting to spend time with you." Vincent said gently.
"Tomorrow when your duties permit, perhaps you could come to Sickbay and meet my coworkers." T'Lani said more quietly.
"Yeah. I'd like that." Vincent said with a smile.
T'Lani brought her hand to the side of Vincent's face and gently stroked his cheek with her thumb as she said, "I will see you tomorrow my husband."
Vincent looked up at T'Lani with love shining in his eyes and said, "Until tomorrow my wife."
Silence filled the room as T'Lani walked out the door.
"Damn! That's some powerful stuff." Connie said, breaking the introspective mood that had fallen over the room.
"Connie, you're one class act." Lou said with a chuckle.
"Well everyone, as soon as we're underway, what do you say we call it a night? I don't think I'm up to any more surprises." Joe said with a smile as he walked to the main console.
"Sounds good to me. It's been some kind of day." Darin said with a smile.
"Tomorrow will be too. We'll all be writing our reports about everything that happened today." Joe said with a smile.
A collective groan filled the room.
"There goes the Enterprise." Connie said as he watched his console carefully.
"At warp five. I wonder what the rush is?" Joe said curiously.
Everyone turned as the door to Deflector Control opened to admit an Andorian wearing a Starfleet uniform† .
Silence fell over the room as the Andorian looked around for a moment, then walked to face Joe by the main control panel.
Finally, in a firm voice the Andorian said, "Ensign Thaelan reporting for duty sir."