"When I requested you bring something from your mission on Balsh'e, I was referring to an inanimate object. A data crystal of linguistic studies. A length of cultural weaving. A geological sample. This is a child."

Which certainly told Spock what Saavik thought about all this. Not that he expected differently. His thoughts were quite close to hers. "Believe me, my wife, I noticed. And I assure you, this was not my original intent."

"Nor was acquiring a feral child on Thieurrull."

He couldn't quite interpret her expression. He lifted an eyebrow. "Would you prefer I send her back?"

"Which one?"

His eyebrow rose higher. "It is not logical to tempt."

Saavik folded her arms over her chest. "Very humorous."

He gestured for her to sit, but she remained standing. He considered sitting himself and rejected the idea, preferring they stay eye level. In his most patient tones, he explained: "My wife, as you are well aware, the Balsh'e are new members of the Federation. My mission during these last months has been negotiating the contract. However, unknown to me, my position in that situation is regarded as sacred in their culture, that of the peacekeeper, the harbinger of a new life. Their society demands their leader give one of his children to me. It not only recognizes my status, but holds the promise that when the child returns at adulthood, her being raised in a different culture will give her strengthened leadership abilities."

This approach seemed to work for Saavik merely stated, "You are saying to refuse the child was impossible."

"Without starting a war, yes. Although I did try."

"And how did the First Contact team and your aides miss this detail?"

"They did not. We believed the ritual to be symbolic, not a reality. Our understanding of their language and its meanings has been proven inaccurate. That fault is being corrected."

His success and patient tones were ruined by a high pitched, irritating squeal issued by his... Balsh'e gift.

Saavik frowned at the new problem. "What is that noise?"

As if he knew everything about the child. "I believe she is hungry."

"How unsurprising. And what are the nutritional requirements of a Balsh'e mewling?"

"I have the replicator formula here."

"That is for a liquid."

He was well aware of that. "She is an infant, Saavik."

"The infant has teeth, Spock."

He lifted an eyebrow, curious. "Indeed? I did not know you were familiar with her species physiology."

Saavik gave him a dark look. "I am not. She bit me."

Maybe if he returned to patient suggestions. "Perhaps if you were less antagonistic towards her presence--"

It didn't work. "Program the replicator before I begin becoming antagonistic towards your presence."

Or may Saavik possibly be... more flexible if he had not sent her an urgent message to come to their home on Vulcan immediately. "And where would you recommend I set her?"

She held out the furred mewling out for him to take. He had known Saavik for many years. The only time he had seen her hold something with such disapproval, it had been diseased, quite dead, and rotting. "Back on her home world."

"Saavik."

She took a breath. "Not on the furniture."

"Saavik."

"She has claws, Spock."

"They are sheathed," he pointed out.

"Now they are."

He started to understand. "Ah... they are sharp?"

She lifted scratched, bleeding fingers for him to view. "According to the epidermal damage on my hand, very. Put her on the floor."

"Saavik!"

"Yes?"

"She is a sentient being."

"And?"

He stared into her eyes, trying very hard to find the woman he married. "I cannot believe you would lay an infant on the floor."

"The floor is Starfleet inspection standard."

"I am not referring to the sanitation level, I am referring to the propriety level."

And the last time he had seen her give someone this particular look, it had been an ensign mishandling an explosive device. "And where exactly do you think a minimally mobile infant is going to be increasing her coordination? Would you prefer the table?"

"She could fall and injure... You were being sarcastic."

Her look wasn't getting any better. "Your swift intellectual deductions have always amazed me. Put her on the floor."

He was losing patience. "It is a substantially lower temperature. She could become ill."

"Then I will place a blanket on the floor and you may place her on the blanket."

"Is it of a sufficiently soft construct in its textiles?"

"Spock!"

He took a moment to re-gather his calm. This was not how a proper Vulcan couple should act. It wasn't how any couple should act, and even if it was, it was not how he wanted them to act.

Truth be told, he had wanted Saavik to show him how to take charge of the situation since he had been at a loss since Balsh'e. "I would prefer you hold her while I program the replicator."

But Saavik wasn't helping. "I would prefer to keep the remaining sanctity of my epidermis intact."

"For a Starfleet officer," he lectured sternly, "you are exhibiting a remarkable lack of interest in a new species."

She gave him his lecture right back. "Self-preservation takes precedence over curiosity."

He decided it was time to lay the facts bare. "Do you or do you not intend to assist me in raising this child?"

Saavik hesitated, sensing his mood, and then started to answer. But the words never got uttered since the mewling's cry rose even higher, sending painful vibrations through his ears. "Do you actually intend to feed her or are you simply encouraging her developing lungs?"

He gave up... for the moment. "Where is the blanket?"

She grabbed one. "Here."

The mewling immediately snarled her claws and limbs into the blanket's open weave. As Saavik closed her eyes, perhaps wondering what in her marriage vows insisted she go along with this, he struggled to extract their - well, new child.

"She is rather... difficult to untangle," he said.

"So I learned when removing her from my hand." She watched him tussle with blanket and mewling for a bit more, and then reached for the tangled burden. "Here. I will attempt to unravel her so you may program the replicator."

He debated this silently. "Perhaps you should program it."

She glanced up, and interpreted his reluctance with a warning frown. "I would never harm an infant."

"I was recalling the child watching tactics of your youth."

She had to pause while she tried to decipher what he meant. He saw the memory come back of a Dantrian child that she had found, tied up, and lectured until its family arrived - when she returned it upside down. "There is no rope in the house."

"You," he said as if it was a good thing, "have a remarkable ability to improvise."

The compliment didn't work to improve her mood either. "If you do not go and program the replicator, I will begin improvising on you."

He decided to give in again... for the moment. "I will only be gone a few minutes."

"I will breathlessly await your return."

Dealing with Saavik was much easier before she learned humor. "Perhaps--"

"Out."

He was gone only thirty seconds when something made him freeze. "The mewing stopped."

"Spock," she reprimanded, "it is improper to 'yell' down the hall."

He fought the impulse to rush back to the sitting room. "What has happened to the child?"

"Nothing."

"Saavik," he insisted.

"Spock."

"Saavik."

He could almost here her pause again for a deliberate breath. "She is attempting to embed her upper teeth into my boot. I suggest you increase your programming speed. It appears that she is very hungry."

He turned back again at a sudden, stifled noise. "What was that?"

"That was I."

"What happened?"

"Your child attempted to claw her way up the length of my trousers."

"Is she alright?" He came back to better find out for himself. It helped that the Balsh'e came around from Saavik's back to hang from her claws on Saavik's hip.

"Your concern for my personal well-being is gratifying."

"Saavik."

"She is..." The mewling suddenly disappeared again behind Saavik who craned her head over shoulder to find her. "...well."

"Why do I detect an undertone of uncertainty?"

She didn't bother looking at him. "Have you finished programming?"

"No."

"Then should you not be devoting your attention to doing so?"

He stood firm. "My productivity is directly related to my environment. Why are you uncertain?"

She wouldn't take her eyes off the child. "I am unfamiliar with her species'... mannerisms."

"What is she doing?"

"Her tail is... curling."

Interesting. "You jest."

As if doubting his sanity, she answered, "I do not."

He folded his arms behind him, the scientist coming to the fore. "What are her ears doing?"

"They are forward."

"Something has piqued her interest," he explained. "What is she staring at?"

Saavik's scientific nature, however, was notably lacking. "My eyes."

He walked rapidly back towards the kitchen. "I will finish programming and bring sustenance."

"Bring a medical tricorder as well. She is making a noise that sounds vaguely alarming."

Baby's meal in hand, he hastened his pace back to Saavik. "Here is the... " He stopped at the sight waiting for him. "It would appear, my wife, that she has taken a... fondness to you."

Saavik clearly didn't see this in the same favorable light. "She is attempting to impale my fingers with her rather large incisors."

"She finds you relaxing."

"Spock, she just relaxed down the front of my uniform."

"I will retrieve a towel."

She had had enough. "You are enjoying this."

Not knowing what else to do, he held out the bottle. "Here, feed her."

She refused to take it. "That is an animal nurser, Spock."

"It was the closest construction to the specifications of her mouth structure," he explained. "And sentient or not, both we and the Balsh'e are animal species."

She plucked the mewling from her jacket, ignoring the small paws and claws scurrying in the air. "Find some version of either a diaper or a, ah, litter box."

Knowing Saavik really wouldn't harm the infant, even with such a precarious looking hold on the small body, Spock could eye the mess his bondmate had become in sympathy. "An excellent suggestion."

Perhaps thinking him on her side, she spoke more normally. "Where are you planning on placing her tonight?"

"Ah... I admit I have not yet contemplated it. Perhaps I should replicate a crib?"

"She climbs, Spock. Unless you plan on also replicating a lid... Where do Vulcans normally place their children to sleep?"

"Saavik, I do not have the same ability to remember my infancy as you do. Besides a crib, I fail to know what to suggest. ...Except... I do have early memories of residing in my parents' bed."

This was immediately rejected. "Vulcan children do not have claws, overly sharp teeth, and a desire to maim their parents."

He tried to reason with her as he accepted the scrambling infant from her hand. "She does not desire to maim you."

That was the wrong thing to say. He knew it before he finished saying the words. Fascinating, really, that this small bundle of fur had made both he and Saavik totally lose their logic.

She emphasized, "I have physical evidence to the contrary," and eyed him juggling the wisp of fur, teeth, and claws. "Did the child arrive with a name or are you to provide one?"

"Mher."

"Meaning?"

He hesitated. "Ah... Little Cat."

She glanced at him from the corner of her eyes. "I am listening, Spock."

He saw the misunderstanding. "No. That is the meaning of the name."

"You... She has... my name?"

"Yes."

The affect was miraculous. Saavik began giving them both orders like they were two green cadets standing nonplussed in front of their commanding officer. "I will take that nurser. You will contact the Balsh'e immediately and ask for all pertinent information relating to the proper raising of Mher. Include all dietary needs, socialization data, educational requirements, medical records, and developmental structures. I also want a full cultural breakdown of her species. We must acquire all local and planetary records capable of release. Also, you will contact Captain Uhura immediately and request a complete linguistic instruction of Mher's majority populace native language. I suspect she will also have data crystals on all minor and sub dialects also present, be certain to obtain copies of these as well. And I will search for as much information as is available officially and unofficially on Mher's family - both immediate and extended. Did your ship's healer perform a full physical?"

He was still trying to absorb this barrage. "... Yes."

"Then I will download that record as well while you contact the Science Academy healers and locate one who is versed in the Balsh'e. I want an appointment set for Mher immediately. Why are you still standing there? Now, Spock."

Quietly amused, he said, "Yes, my wife."

"And do not disturb me while I am feeding her, it may upset her digestion."

He nodded calmly. This was all very interesting. "As you wish."

"And place clean blanketing on our bed, she will be sleeping with us tonight."

He turned away to begin working on his... orders, when another small sound came from behind him. This one much more pleasant than when Mher had clawed her new mother. "Yes?"

Mher perched along Saavik's neck and shoulder, nestling in the long dark hair and ducking under Saavik's chin to take the bottle. Anything, he thought, as long as she kept quiet.

His wife, owner of this last noise, again glanced at him."She is very soft."