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The figure stiffened, shrinking back against the wall in dismay. Someone was coming... Where to go? Must not be caught out in the open like this... Not dealing with incompetents, but with highly-trained men and women who would be instantly suspicious. The footsteps passed by the end of the passageway and went on. The figure let out a long breath. It was stupid to be so unnecessarily foolhardy as to move around in daytime; although there were always people awake and about there were fewer of them at night. Now the open space could be crossed, there was no-one coming... Swiftly as a scopolomander and into the safety of the cabin!
Ensign Foggarty gave an exclamation of disgust. "Pam, have you seen my crimson wrap?"
Her cabin-mate looked up from her delicate manouever with her nail-polish brush. "No. Isn't it in your drawer?"
"I'd hardly ask you if it was," Foggarty said crossly, pulling the contents of the drawer out in an untidy heap. "No, it isn't here. That's distinctly odd. I know it was there yesterday, because I put it on after I had a shower."
"Perhaps someone's borrowed it."
"Without asking?" It was one of those unwritten rules that was meticulously observed on board the Enterprise.
"No, I suppose not. Better look in all your drawers."
Foggarty heaved a patient sigh and resumed her search.
The late shift clattered into the rec room with their usual noisy abandon. Collecting trays from the dispensers they sorted themselves out into groups round the tables.
Kevin Riley looked at the abandoned plate on his table and frowned. "Who came in to eat early?"
"No-one did tonight," someone else said.
"Someone has." Riley pointed. He picked the plate up. "It's still warm."
"Well, whoever they are they'll be back, then, won't they; they can't have eaten more than two or three mouthfuls."
They sat down, not really curious. When they were finished the uneaten food was still waiting for its owner.
"It'll be cold now. Put it in the disposal chute."
Riley picked it up and eyed it closely. He grinned. "This is shabash. You don't think it's Commander Spock's, do you?"
"Not unless he's taken to midnight feasts. He went off watch as I came on. He'll be fast asleep by now. Plenty of people like shabash - I quite like it myself."
Riley wrinkled his nose in distaste and threw the food away.
"Another pillow?" The quartermaster eyed Chekov with twinkling suspicion. "How do you lose a pillow, Ensign?"
Chekov shrugged embarrassedly. "I don't know, sir. It just wasn't there last night."
The quartermaster grunted. "That's a pretty lame excuse, Mr. Chekov. I'm sure you'll learn to do better in time. I'll issue you with another one on one condition... that you remember an officer serving on a Starship, no matter how junior he is, is too old to engage in pillowfights." Chuckling at his own wit he reached into the cupboard and produced a pillow.
Chekov glared at his broad back indignantly. "I never engage in such childish behaviour. I told you, the other one just disappeared. I don't know where it is."
The older man grinned widely and dug a knowing elbow into Chekov's ribs. "Can't remember where you spent the night, eh? Now that's bad!"
Chekov grabbed the new pillow and fled while his dignity was still intact.
"I tell you there's a whole box of candy bars gone," Tonia Barrows insisted. "There were twelve boxes here last time I broke any out, now there are only eleven."
"You don't usually miscount," Appleyard agreed, "but who'd take a whole boxful of candy bars? There are a hundred in a box."
"Who steals around here anyway?" Tonia replied.
"Cilia Foggarty lost her red wrap the other day," Appleyard said absently, checking off the contents of the upper shelf. "She practically accused me of walking off with it."
"Accused you...? Pam, she didn't!"
"Well, not in so many words, but you could see what she was thinking." Appleyard came down the steps. "What's a box of candy bars? Log them as issued."
Tonia Barrows pulled a face. "I don't like telling fibs. I'll mention it. It's quite possible I did miscount last time."
"A box of candy bars? Really, this is getting too much," Tom Nellis complained. "Last week we lost two kilos of kroyberries just after we'd got them in specially for this dinner the Captain's giving when we get to the Vulcan Colony. How I'm going to tell him about it I don't know. He ordered them specifically."
Tonia Barrows frowned. "How do you mean, you lost them?"
"One day they were here, next day they weren't." Nellis spread his hands expressively. "Gone. Disappeared. None left."
Barrows frowned. "Did someone take them?"
"Well, they didn't walk away."
"No. I mean did someone steal them?"
"It looks like it, doesn't it?" Nellis said grimly. "Some light-fingered so-and-so who doesn't know what's his and what isn't."
"Hers," Barrows said slowly.
"Hers? Why do you think it's one of the women?"
"Men don't use frilly crimson wraps," Barrows said meaningly. "Cilia Foggarty's lost hers."
"A frilly crimson wrap, eh?" Nellis's eyes gleamed. "I'd like to see Foggarty in that."
"Well, you won't get the chance now," Barrows said acidly.
Tomini Tamura emerged from her bathroom towelling her dripping hair vigorously. At last she dropped the towel on the end of her bunk and groped on the shelf for her hairbrush. Not encountering it, she held up the tangled mass of black hair with one hand and peered at the place under the mirror where it always lay. Neither brush nor comb was to be seen. Crossly she began to open drawers, lift ornaments in a vain search, but the missing objects were not to be found. Annoyed and puzzled, she sat down on the end of her bed with a flounce of anger and tried to think what she could have done with them. She couldn't recall having put them down anywhere else, but they clearly weren't where they should be. Eventually she shrugged her shoulders, wrapped the towel round her head, and went off to find someone to borrow from until she could get a new set from stores.
Spock's hand reached out to the precise spot on his bathroom shelf where his toothpaste lay. It was not there. Eyebrows flaring at its unexpected disappearance, he did not feel compelled to begin a search for it. If it was not in its usual place it had been removed by some outside agency, and not by his own forgetful hand. He turned his attention to the box which held the new toothbrush he had requested. It was empty. His brows drew together in a silent frown. The illogicality of Humans was something he had grown almost accustomed to, but there was no reason he could think of to account for the removal of a new toothbrush, when they were readily available from ship's stores; and even less could he think why anyone else on board should be attracted to a tube of his particular brand of toothpaste, a brand especially laid in for stores by a thoughtful yeoman on their recent stop-over on Vulcan.
He finished dressing, made a mental note to obtain replacements during the day, and walked out into his living area. It would be interesting to see if anything else was missing. Being a tidy, methodical and unacquisitive person his possessions were quickly checked. Nothing else had gone.
Christine Chapel opened the door of her shower and stepped in. Almost immediately she drew back in surprise. The floor was wet. She hadn't used the shower since yesterday; the floor shouldn't be wet. What was more, the water was still faintly warm. Now who would have the infernal cheek to creep in and use her shower? Faintly annoyed, she switched the shower on, let out a yelp of pained surprise, and as hurriedly switched it off again. She looked at the thermostat with unbelieving eyes. No-one had a shower that hot! Well, she could only think of one person, and he was the very last she would suspect of creeping in and using her bathroom without asking!
"Now this isnae funny." Scott said indignantly. He closed the cupboard door with a snap.
"What's the matter?" McCoy asked in surprise. "Someone pinched that bottle of scotch you promised me a glass of?"
"Nay, the scotch is there all richt, but that teddy bear I bought on Starbase 12 a month back has gone."
"Teddy bear?" McCoy said in disbelieving tones. "Teddy bear? Scotty, I never knew you had a passion for teddy bears!"
Scott grinned. "Aye, and it hasnae got six-inch fangs either, ye ken. Don't be a fool, Leonard. I bought it for ma godson's new babe. I put it in yon cupboard where I keep my scotch, and it's gone."
"Are you sure you put it there?"
"Aye. Ye don't think I'd have a daft thing like that up on ma shelf in full view, do ye? There are too many folk around here wi' an odd sense of humour."
"Well, it didn't walk out of the cupboard by itself," McCoy said reasonably, "any more than that scotch will."
"0ch, I'm sorry." Scott reached for the bottle and glasses. Pouring out a couple of generous slugs he added, "All the same, I dinna' think I care for the idea that someone's been walking intae ma quarters wi'out a by-your-leave and helping themselves to ma belongings."
"That's odd," McCoy reflected. "Christine was complaining the other day that someone had been in her quarters and used her shower without asking."
It had been a long day. Too long. And he still had not thought of a suitable reply to that move Spock had made last night. A good, relaxing shower was what he needed, slip into that new dressing-gown he'd acquired on Beta Aurigae. His lips curved into the faintest of smiles. Playing chess against Spock was always challenging; he'd learned very early on that it wasn't only a matter of playing as well as you could, there was also the matter of throwing the superb logician off the scent, confusing him as to one's intentions. Illogicality, Spock called it. Tactics was the term Kirk preferred, and was prepared to use not only tactics directly concerned with the game as a distraction.
His new robe was guaranteed to distract. Full length, warmly hooded, superbly coloured in shot pinks and reds and purples, the various poses it depicted shifted and altered as the wearer moved. Why Deannah had purchased it for him galaxy only knew, but there it hung in his cupboard and he might as well make use of it as a distraction. He could see the disapproving eyebrows rising already. Grinning in anticipation, Kirk sauntered out of his bathroom clad only in a towel and opened his wardrobe. The robe was not there.
Kirk leaned back in his chair, unsmiling. McCoy seemed faintly surprised. "I thought you'd see the funny side of it, Jim," he said, grinning. "It isn't every day your Chief Engineer loses his teddy bear."
"It isn't only Scotty," Kirk said grimly. "From all the reports I've had recently, we have an outbreak of thieving."
McCoy was shocked. "People on Starships don't steal. They don't get to serve in space at all if anything like that shows up in their psychological profiles. You simply can't have thieves in confined communities, it's too potentially explosive. I should think it's someone's idea of a practical joke."
"Practical jokers are nearly as dangerous," Kirk said. "But there has been a spate of petty thieving throughout the ship, and it's got to be stopped."
McCoy looked distressed. "Are you sure, Jim? It's a serious accusation to make. It'll cost someone their career."
"They should have thought of that before they started," Kirk said.
"It may just be friends borrowing things..." McCoy began.
"Bones, how many friends do I have who borrow things without asking? Or Spock?"
"Both of you have lost things?"
"Yes, both of us. And things have gone from stores as well."
"Have you a list of things that've gone? I'd like to see it, it might be helpful."
He read down it slowly, raising his eyebrows over one or two items and pulling a face over the last. "Vulcan toothpaste. Who'n hell'd want to steal Vulcan toothpaste?"
"Another Vulcan," Kirk suggested, grinning.
"If we had another Vulcan on board he'd be chief suspect," McCoy nodded. "Whoever it was 'borrowed' Christine's shower had the thermostat turned up far too high for a Human."
"Two kilos of kroyberries have gone too," Kirk said, suddenly sitting up straight.
"And Kevin Riley found that plate of shabash left on a rec room table one night," McCoy was also sitting up excitedly.
Kirk slumped again. "We don't have another Vulcan on board, and besides that, what would a Vulcan want with a teddy bear? Come to that..." he grinned a little self-consciously, "I doubt if many of them would care to be seen in an Aurigan pleasure-robe either."
McCoy eyed him knowingly. "Is that what you lost, Jim?" He gave a chuckle of amusement. "I've only seen one once, but I can't picture a Vulcan in one, no. We'll have to be on the alert all the time, that's all." He didn't relish the idea at all.
"We already are," Kirk told him grimly. "I don't like thieves, and this one is going to find he's played his little game once too often."
"Who's there?" The shout rang loudly over the hum of the engines.
Chief Engineer Scott swung his head. "Who is it, Dailey?"
"I saw someone moving down there, sir," Dailey pointed. "Since this is a restricted area..."
"It could be the ship's not-so-funny joker," Scott finished grimly. "Aye, laddie. We'll split up. You go round that way, I'll go this. There's no other way out and we'll have him cornered."
Moving on stealthy feet they set off. Three minutes later they met face to face round the final corner. Dailey's face wore an expression of puzzled amazement.
"You can't have let him slip past you, Mr. Scott."
The Engineer eyed him grimly. "I most certainly did not, laddie. Are you sure you saw someone?"
"Positive," Dailey said firmly. "I didn't see whether it was male or female, just a flash of movement."
"Well then, where have they gone?" Scott demanded, not unreasonably. "Unless we've been invaded by some alien that can walk through walls... "
He absorbed that idea slowly. Anyone who had encountered the myriad life forms seen by the crew of the Enterprise didn't dismiss such an idea lightly. He pressed the intercom.
Spock shook his head. "I have processed all the relevant data, Captain, and I can find no abnormal energy readings such as there must be if an alien with such a capability were to have boarded the ship."
Kirk let out an impatient breath. "Well how did whoever it was get away, then? Young Dailey's not the impressionable sort. If he says he saw someone the likelihood is that he did."
"Affirmative," Spock agreed.
"Then how did they get away?" Kirk demanded. "There's no way out at all. I've checked out the area with Scotty."
"I have no suggestion at this time, Captain. The only means of egress are the ventilation ducts, and it is hardly logical to suggest that any crew member is small enough to crawl into one of them."
"And you're sure you would be able to detect an energy reading if it was some being capable of molecular change?"
"Quite sure. All the creatures we have encountered that are capable of such an activity provide high energy level readings which peak during the moments of change when considerable energy is lost. There is no such creature aboard the Enterprise."
McCoy yawned tiredly as he approached his cabin. "I'll be glad to get to bed," he said apologetically. "It's been a long day."
"The day has been of exactly the same duration as any other," Spock told him. "We maintain an arbitrary twenty-four hour day on board the Enterprise..."
"I don't need a lecture on time," McCoy interrupted in exasperation. "Really, Spock, sometimes your literal-mindedness..."
Spock suddenly grabbed at his arm, putting a finger to his own lips.
"Wha...?" McCoy began in surprise.
Spock pulled him back several paces and eyed him oddly. "Doctor, do you have a rendezvous arranged for tonight?"
"Rend..." McCoy broke off. "Who with and where? Spock, what are you on about?"
"With a woman, in your quarters, now," Spock said with precision.
McCoy gaped at him. "No, I certainly do not," he said crossly, "but even if I had it wouldn't be any concern of yours."
"I am not attempting to pry into your personal affairs, Doctor," Spock said with dignity. "I am merely attempting to establish whether or not you are expecting a visitor this evening."
"You mean there's someone in there now?" McCoy hissed excitedly.
Spock just managed not to sigh. "I thought I had already made that plain, Doctor."
"If you'd just said, 'Who is that waiting for you?'... " McCoy began heatedly.
"Vulcans do not ask such direct, personal questions," Spock said stiffly.
"I'll have their hide for a bedspread," McCoy said intemperately. He opened his cabin door. The room was empty. He turned back to eye Spock, waiting politely in the doorway. The Vulcan made a gesture calling for silence, and pointed to the bathroom interrogatively. McCoy strode in.
"There's no-one here," he called out.
"No-one?" Spock was sufficiently intrigued to follow McCoy in without courteously waiting for an invitation.
"No-one. What made you think there was?" McCoy demanded.
"I heard them."
"But these rooms are sound-proofed... Oh, curse all super-sensitive Vulcan ears!" McCoy said. "Just how much can you hear through these walls?"
"More than I would wish to, occasionally," Spock admitted.
"And you heard someone in here?"
"Yes. She was singing."
"Singing?" McCoy grinned. "I don't usually ask 'em in to sing to me, Spock."
"A Vulcan song," Spock added.
"Vulcan?" McCoy repeated thoughtfully. "It's odd how the Vulcan theme keeps cropping up, isn't it? You don't think we've got a stowaway, do you?"
"No Vulcan would behave so illogically."
"No," McCoy conceded. "I suppose you're right. Anyhow, it's a crazy idea. No mere humanoid can get aboard this ship except by shuttle or transporter and you soon notice any illegal entry attempt made that way."
Spock was not listening to him. "We did stop over at Vulcan recently," he pointed out.
McCoy stared at him blankly. "Well, I know we did, but you said yourself no Vulcan is going to behave so illogically."
"I may have been wrong." Spock was steepling his hands, bending his face to them.
McCoy hated to see Spock expose himself so carelessly to the possible dangers of an alien mind.
It was useless. The dark eyes were blankly unseeing.
McCoy watched helplessly for a moment, then catching movement in his peripheral vision, swung round to see who it was.
"0h, it's you, Jim. Come in."
"Your door was wide open," Kirk said, coming into the room, "and I heard you yelling at Spock from down the corridor. What's going on?"
"Spock heard someone in here. When we arrived they'd gone."
"And he's trying a mind-touch? Whatever for?"
"Because she was singing in Vulcan, I guess."
"Spock only said she was singing a Vulcan song," McCoy explained. He grinned. "It could have been Uhura."
"You should be so lucky," Kirk grinned back. "Isn't it time he snapped out of it?"
McCoy nodded tightly. "I do wish he wouldn't do this."
Kirk smiled affectionately. "Hate to see him expose himself emotionally, don't you?" he said softly.
McCoy looked a little shame-faced. "It is a very personal thing; it isn't easy for him."
"No," Kirk agreed. The dark eyes were beginning to come alive again. He walked up and held the thin shoulders tightly. "Find anything?"
"Yes." Spock nodded. "You were right, Doctor. We do have a stowaway."
"A Vulcan stowaway?" McCoy asked in disbelief.
"Well, where is she?" McCoy demanded.
"Please follow me."
Spock led them down to the cargo bays and opening a door, pointed inside. Kirk and McCoy peered over his arm.
"Why," McCoy said in an accusatory whisper, "she's little more than a baby, Spock."
"Quite old enough to be responsible for her actions," Spock said firmly. "She must have some logical reason for such inexcusable behaviour."
"You cold-hearted, unfeeling..."
The angry tone brought the child awake. She sat up, clutching at the missing teddy bear defensively, looking at the three unexpected faces in turn.
Kirk and McCoy smiled reassuringly and stepped forward, only to find that the child shrank away from them.
"It's all right, my dear," McCoy said soothingly. "No-one's going to get cross with you."
"That's right." Kirk crouched down beside her. "You're quite safe now. What's your name?"
The black eyes stared back silently.
"Tell the Captain your name," Spock said firmly.
"T'Liza," the child said, flashing him a swift look.
"It's all right," McCoy said again. "He's not going to be cross with you, are you?"
The eyebrows flared. "I am a Vulcan, Doctor. Naturally I am not going to be 'cross' with her, as you so quaintly put it. However, I do expect an explanation of her highly illogical and improper behaviour."
"Not now," McCoy said angrily. "At least let's make her feel at home first."
Spock's eyes flicked swiftly round the tiny room, taking in the purloined items, the makeshift bed of Kirk's Aurigan robe and Chekov's pillow. He averted his eyes just as swiftly. At least the child was too young to have made much of the robe's shifting patterns - he could be grateful for that.
"It seems to me that she has made herself too much at home," he said coldly. "Is stealing the way of a Vulcan, T'Liza?"
She looked down, her bottom lip quivering a little.
"Don't," Kirk begged softly. "Don't cry, love."
Her head came slowly round towards him, her eyes widening in shock. "A Vulcan does not cry," she said firmly. She looked back at Spock. "It is not stealing to take what one needs for survival," she said uncertainly.
"You cannot alter facts by circumstances," Spock said severely. "To appropriate what is not yours, for whatever reason, is stealing. Sometimes it can be justified. Can you justify this?"
Slowly, very slowly, she shook her head.
"Leave her alone," McCoy said sharply. "There's plenty of time later to go into the rights and wrongs of it all. For now we need to see she is all right, and to find out why she's here."
"I have been endeavouring to find out why she is here." Spock spoke with extreme patience. "Your interference is well meant, Doctor, but it is ill timed. You would do well to let me handle this in a way the child understands."
Kirk had been watching the child closely, and came to a decision. She was Vulcan, after all, and it must make sense to let Spock deal with her in the way she was used to. He and McCoy were only frightening her, although she was trying hard not to show it.
"He's right, Bones," he said quietly. "You know him too well to think he'll upset her."
McCoy looked at T'Liza, caught her eye, and smiled again. She drew back, clinging tightly to the bear in her arms.
The Doctor sighed. "I still think a little loving and reassurance are what she needs," he mumbled over his shoulder as he straightened up. "If you do upset her, I'll not let you forget it in a hurry." He stepped back to let the Vulcan past.
As Spock approached the child got to her feet and laid the bear down on the tumbled gown. The picture it made was so incongruous that Kirk had to bite the inside of his cheek hard to keep from laughing aloud.
Spock stood facing the child, looking down. She put her shoulders back, clasping her hands behind her back in unconscious imitation of his stance. "Why are you here, T'Liza?"
"I wish to join my father on Colony 12."
"Since you have resorted to unauthorised travel on board a Starship I am to assume that this is contrary to your father's wishes in the matter."
The small chin went up. "My father does not know the full facts of the situation. If he did he would doubtless have sent for me."
"Please inform me of the full facts."
"My mother is dead. My aunt, T'Filar, cared for me." The child hung her head. "T'Filar does not understand."
Kirk saw a sudden stillness in Spock's always calm demeanour. "Your father's name?" The words were almost spoken sharply.
"I see." It seemed that he did, for the child nodded, looking up at him.
"You knew my mother?" she asked.
Spock shook his head. "No, t'ky'ta, I did not. But I have heard of her."
The chin went up even more defiantly. "Father says she was a most gracious lady."
"The word of a father is to be accepted," Spock nodded. "How did you get on board, T'Liza? In the cargo we transported up from Vulcan?"
"Yes. I hid in a small box, too small to hold a grown person. No-one suspected."
"A logical method," Spock agreed. "But it was wrong to do so, you understand."
She hung her head. "I understand, but it was... necessary."
"I understand also. I will speak to Satur myself when we get to Colony 12."
"You will?" She gazed up, and expression compounded of hope and disbelief on her tiny face. "Why should he listen to you?"
"Because I have some specialised knowledge of your problems, T'Liza. I am Sarek's son."
"Thee are... Spock?" The words were tinged with awe. Almost immediately the tiny face was blank again. "I apologise, Spock. I showed emotion."
"Doubtless the reason was sufficient," Spock replied calmly. "You will come with us now. Dr. McCoy must examine you and make sure you are physically well, and tomorrow Captain Kirk will decide what must be done with you."
As T'Liza obediently went to McCoy he looked across at Kirk. "May I go with the child to Sickbay, Captain?"
"Of course, Spock. I'll see to tidying up in here." He grinned, slightly embarrassed. "That's... uh.... my robe she's been using as a blanket. I think I'll put it away myself."
"Very understandable," Spock acknowledged blandly.
"You'd better take this for her." Kirk got his revenge by dumping the teddy bear into Spock's arms and waving him out of the small room after McCoy and T'Liza.
McCoy conducted the examination in near-silence, gave the child a gentle pat, told her she was fit and healthy, and handed her over to the care of Christine Chapel for the night. She left Spock a little reluctantly, but the Vulcan was firm with her and she made no audible protest as she went.
McCoy dragged Spock into his office to find Kirk had arrived and was waiting for them.
"Well?" Kirk said impatiently.
Spock raised an interrogative eyebrow.
"Look, that conversation may have cleared it all up for you," Kirk told him, "but it left me in just as much of a fog as I was before. Why did she stow away?"
"I believe I might be able to guess," McCoy said slowly. "At least, now that I've examined her. She's half-Human, isn't she, Spock?"
"Yes. Her mother was Elizabeth Keston."
"Oh. Yes. She died when the child was born," McCoy recalled.
"But why is she running away from Vulcan?" Kirk demanded. "And why isn't she with her father in the first place?"
"Because an orphaned female child is traditionally brought up by a female relative, in this case her father's sister. But I believe T'Liza would be better off in the care of her father, who may be more... understanding of her particular needs and problems."
Understanding flooded Kirk. He'd often thought privately that the little he'd heard of Spock's childhood sounded unbearably hard and unnecessarily confusing. Small wonder the maturing Spock had found it essential to get away and seek his own identity in the anonymity of Starfleet. He viewed his First Officer with compassion.
"Childhood is never easy for those who are different," he said softly. "Make sure her father understands, Spock."
His friend's eyes slid uncomfortably away from the look, but he nodded. "I will do my best for her, Captain. We should send a message to Vulcan concerning her safety."
"Lord, yes," Kirk said guiltily. "We should have done so at once. Her aunt must be going crazy with worry."
"A somewhat picturesque description," Spock murmured, "but I believe it may be a valid one."
"You can come and help me word it," Kirk told him.
"I have also promised to speak to Lieutenant-Commander Scott for T'Liza," Spock said.
"To Scotty? Whatever for?"
"It is his bear that she has taken to bed with her," Spock explained.
Kirk laughed. "Don't let any of the crew hear you say that, Mister. They might get the wrong idea. And I didn't think Vulcan children were permitted such things as cuddly toys."
"They are not. I believe I said that T'Liza experiences needs that a full Vulcan child does not. However, her recognition of her own needs for food, warmth and companionship shows that the general tenor of her mind is Vulcan in outlook. She has cared for herself excellently well."
"I'd go along with that," Kirk smiled. "A Human child would probably have eaten enough of those candy bars in the first day to have made themselves thoroughly sick. I suppose she's been using the ventilation ducts as a crawlway."
"A logical deduction," Spock said soberly. "One can only be grateful that the system has required no flushing over the last few weeks."
Kirk paled. "Don't, Spock," he shuddered. "It doesn't bear thinking about."
Over the remaining week of their journey to Colony 12, the Enterprise crew grew accustomed to the sight of their imperturbable First Officer being accompanied everywhere by his faithful shadow and her precious bear, formally presented to her by a self-conscious Chief Engineer and duly named Montgomery in his honour. It was Scott's private opinion that it would be at least another month before some of his junior technicians wiped the smiles completely off their faces, but he was not unduly worried. The wee lassie's obvious pleasure, albeit well-covered by her Vulcan manners, was well worth a little temporary loss of dignity on his part.
Many of the more sentimentally-minded crewwomen attempted to mother the child, but T'Liza clearly did not care for such open displays of emotion and resisted all such blandishments, staying firmly close to the man who had become her hero.
Watching him say a formal goodnight to her in the rec room on their last evening, Kirk even felt a little choky himself.
"That's quite a girl," he said softly. He noted the tiny flicker of response in Spock's eyes and added accusingly, "And don't try to kid me you haven't become fond of her."
Spock shot him a swiftly enigmatic look. "Dr. McCoy is of the opinion that I demonstrate more affection towards the library computer."
"Bones was only trying to get a rise, as usual," Kirk grinned, "and you very well know it. He was only saying to me this afternoon that you'd make some child a lovely father."
Spock could not quite cover his unease, and Kirk relented at once. "Seriously, you have coped wonderfully well with her. We'd have been lost without you. She doesn't respond to any of us the way she does to you."
Spock studied the toes of his boots, well aware of the revealing nature of his reply.
"It is simply because she has been brought up in the Vulcan way, Captain, and that is what she understands. I suspect that she reacts inwardly to Human smiles and gestures of affection in a way that she finds worrying, and that is why she turns to me."
"You know," Kirk said suddenly, leaning forward confidentially, "if you could bring yourself to do it, you could be a great help to kids like T'Liza. They must have special needs which haven't been properly recognised up to now. If you could be quite open with her father about your own childhood, he may see to it that a proper study is made of the problem and old mistakes are avoided."
He paused, wondering if perhaps he had said too much. The silence lengthened, and at last Spock said, "I shall consider your suggestion, Captain."
Relieved and satisfied, Kirk nodded and changed the subject.