This has got to be the first Vulcan ceremony I actually liked, Leonard McCoy thought. More than liked; he was excited. He promised himself he'd never admit it to Spock. No one's going to mention battles to the death, and no one's trying to pull a soul out of my head like a magician with a rabbit and a hat.

And he hadn't had to climb one step of Mount Seleya or bake at Spock's family site for Koon-ut Kal-if-fee. In fact, looking around the grounds of Sarek's family estate, with all the cousins and everyone milling about, the only thing missing from a family party back home is the potato salad.

He was even comfortable -- well, more comfortable than he normally was on Vulcan. Part of that was his remaining near the fountain in the garden, but really it was due to the Vulcans inventing a cooling harness -- about damn time someone thought of it -- that fit under a human's shirt helping them to deal with the temperature, still hot even if it was Vulcan's winter.

And the remaining heat actually feels good in these old bones.

Old... he wished he hadn't thought that. What little anxiety he had now came back in a rush. Why couldn't Spock just name his kid like any other Vulcan? Why does he always drag me into these things? And why do I feel my age so much? I haven't done that in a long time.

Uhura slid next to his side like a whisper. They'd be the only humans in the ceremony. "Leonard, you're not going to act like you did last year, are you?"

He snorted. "Easy for you to laugh. If you had been at Spock's first wedding, you wouldn't be so smug."

She chuckled. "Yes, but Len... Saavik? Challenge? Please. And you stood there holding your breath for so long, I'd thought you'd black out before we got through that part in the ceremony."

"Ha ha. Wait, I underestimated how funny you are, I have another laugh in me. Ha."

She gazed at him affectionately and some of her teasing was replaced with concern. "You really are nervous, aren't you?"

He shifted from one foot to another, not bothering to hide it. "You should be too. I've had one of them in my head, you know. It's no picnic."

"I don't care. I'm so happy, I'm shining brighter than the sun. Even this sun." And in her elegant robes of orange and golds, she was. "Besides, I've always said this is the best way to be around children. I get to spoil the baby rotten, and when he's a problem, I give him back to his parents."

McCoy was still chuckling as Spock came up. Even though the Vulcan walked unerringly to them, he looked back to his home... where Saavik was now... and the baby. McCoy's chuckles turned into a broad grin. "You big mushball."

Spock's attention snapped to him. "Doctor, for once in your life, behave yourself."

"Uh uh, Spock. No way. You're not fooling me or Nyota. Is he?" he asked her. Teeth gleaming in a wide smile, she shook her head, happy in this conspiracy. "Got a wife, got a kid, and you don't know whether to pop from happiness or faint from being overwhelmed."

"I would hardly describe it in such terms," Spock said dryly. But he had sat with McCoy that first night while holding his infant son, Setik, in a combined air of wonderment and alarm over his ignorance. McCoy, a father himself, knew exactly how that felt.

"Of course, what was I thinking? You know, despite cooling harnesses and fountains, it'd be nice to get this show under way. Some of us need to get out of the heat, you know."

"Soon, Doctor, soon."

McCoy watched Spock looking back at the house again and eased his tormenting on the Vulcan. After all, this ceremony was a month overdue while the baby stayed in the hospital. Genetic science was far advanced on Vulcan; it had to be to enable hybrids to have children. But the first child who combined three worlds was a huge step forward, and the baby had some small problems that required his staying for observation.

"It's okay, Spock. I checked the boy myself before coming out here." Ever since Setik's birth, McCoy fondly called him 'the boy'. "And who knows him better than me? I almost delivered him. Figures a sandstorm kicked up just as Saavik went into labor. But the boy's fine. Didn't I say so?"

"Yes," Spock said. Then softly, "This is overwhelming."

McCoy actually felt a lump in his throat. He almost checked his first response to put a hand on Spock's shoulder, then decided to do it. "Yeah, it is. I've been where you are now. But you, you lucky bastard, you'll make it work better than I did."

Uhura had taken a few steps away, giving them some privacy, but McCoy still lowered his voice knowing Spock would easily hear him. "Um... Spock, listen, if you want... if you want to choose someone else for this, you know I'll understand."

The brown eyes rested so intently on him, Spock's calm words seemed odd in contrast. "I do not."

"But--" McCoy finally mumbled, "you should have someone younger."

"Speak for yourself!" Uhura yelled back.

"I was!" he growled. "And you're not supposed to be listening!"

Spock watched him, then turned to Uhura, saying nothing but raising an eyebrow. "Nope," she said cheerfully. "I haven't changed my mind."

"I didn't say I changed my mind!" McCoy argued. "I just... I just want what's best for the boy."

Both Spock's eyebrows raised now. "Doctor, you asked for this."

"Yeah, yeah."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

It was over a year ago when he and the others were headed back to Earth aboard Saavik's ship, the Armstrong. He and Uhura had stuck around after the Vulcans' wedding, talking to the people like Sulu who hadn't gotten there on time, and getting in touch with Captain Howes and the rest of the Armstrong, letting them know their first officer was just fine.

Spock and Saavik both were wanted for debriefing following their mission behind the Romulan Neutral Zone; that mission had resulted in Spock being a part of the Romulan civil war and Saavik bringing a warning about the attack on Narendra III. Since they also had been in pon farr, this was the first time Starfleet could ask them any questions.

Saavik was onboard only a second before Howes' angry summons whisked her away. She had mislead her captain in order to leave the ship and cross the Neutral Zone. She did it in order to save him if the mission backfired, but she knew it wouldn't seem that way to him. And had their positions been reversed, she would have wanted Howes to tell her.

That left McCoy, Spock, and Uhura in the hands of some brash, young lieutenant named Nachshon. McCoy saw the eager pup get his orders from the transporter chief and almost groaned.

"Here we go," McCoy drawled to Spock and Uhura. "Another kid oozing pleasure over meeting 'living history'."

Nachshon walked over. "Welcome to the Armstrong. The Chief's asked me to get you settled. Lessee--" He glanced down at the names on his padd and then back up at Spock in recognition. McCoy braced himself. "Oh, yeah, you're Commander Saavik's husband."

Uhura sputtered with surprise laughter while McCoy looked totally taken aback. "Well I'll be humbled."

The transporter chief hurried over, appalled at what she took as a lack of respect. "Lieutenant!"

Spock held up a hand. "The lieutenant is quite correct. I am Commander Saavik's husband."

Nachshon shot the chief a 'you see?' look. "You probably know you're in her quarters. We've put in a double sized bunk." He winked. The chief's eyes bulged, McCoy choked back a laugh, and Spock merely nodded.

On the bridge, they saw Saavik calmly at her science station, facing her captain with her arms and legs crossed in a relaxed pose. Howes still fumed a bit. Spock glanced questioningly at her, and she minutely shook her head. She wasn't in serious trouble; she had worked it out with Howes.

But she obviously still needed to weather a last bit of bad temper. Howes announced crossly, "We're ready to get under way. Unless my first officer has some other secrets she needs to make known?"

Saavik looked to Spock, a question in her eyes. McCoy didn't know what it asked. She and Spock had a physical shorthand for communicating long before they were married. Marriage only added to its depth.

Spock nodded once in response, and they shared some indescribable something before she returned to Howes.

"Only one thing, Captain. I'm pregnant," she announced.

McCoy whooped with joy, so utterly ecstatic that he missed Uhura running over to Saavik. He actually grabbed Spock in a hug, squeezing with every bit of strength he had. Spock stood stoically, arms hanging down, and when McCoy stepped back, he inevitably raised an eyebrow.

"She's pregnant!" the doctor screamed at him happily, pounding on the Vulcan's chest. "She's pregnant!"

"Yes, Doctor. I am well aware of it."

McCoy didn't care; he only stopped shouting when he heard Uhura say to Saavik, "I claim godmother."

"I got godfather!" he yelled, as if someone on the stunned bridge was arguing it. "The rest of you can get the hell to the end of the line! We've been waiting years for this!"

But he never thought Spock and Saavik took him seriously. After all, whoever heard any Vulcan talk about having godparents? So he was knocked over when they, after all the hullabulloo settled, came to him late one night. At least he hadn't the debriefings they went through. He just got to sit back and laugh at Dr. Rhys, the Armstrong's CMO, as he bemoaned that things had been bad enough with the Vulcan Science Academy on his back about how to care for the unborn child of three worlds. Now Saavik had apparently inherited the Romulan woman's ability to give off pheromones while pregnant, making all males around her protective. Truman Howes had thrown himself in front of a turbolift door when he thought it might close on her.

"Saavik and I have been speaking." Spock waited while McCoy commented that talking was always nice between spouses. "As you know, Doctor, my mother was very important to me. So much so, I see how my own child is bereft of her influence."

Those few, simple words belied how deep an ache losing Amanda caused. She would have been overjoyed by her son's marriage and upcoming fatherhood, especially because it was with Saavik. And Amanda was still sorely missed. McCoy fell respectfully quiet.

Saavik spoke. "During PreReform Vulcan, parents feared wars between Houses would cause a child to be orphaned and then raised by the enemy. They therefore made pacts with allied Houses, choosing people to raise their children if something were to happen to all the adults in their own family. Shortly after Surak's time, this pact included a mental bonding, similar to what parents share with their child. The practice died out as Vulcan settled into peace, but it is not unheard of."

"We have agreed," Spock continued. "that our child needs human role models, someone to show the strengths of his inherited nature as my mother did with me."

And what about his inherited Romulan nature, McCoy almost said when he realized what they were really saying. "Now, wait you two. I was joking when I said I had to be godfather."

"Perhaps you were. We are not," Saavik answered.

First their wedding, then the announcement about the baby, and now they wanted him to be... well, not godfather. They told him the real term. McCoy felt better than he had in a very long time, but even he could be logical. "I'm honored. You don't know how much. But I'm too old! Get someone younger than a century so he'll be around when the kid's growing up. If something happened to you, I probably won't be around to raise him."

Of course, they had an answer to that. "Raising him will be unnecessary," said Spock. "My family will take him if the need arises. And the child will greatly benefit from the experience your age brings you. It is something a younger man cannot give."

After a long moment, McCoy bowed his head. "Then I can only repeat what I already said. I shall be honored, sir..." He looked up michievously and gave a half-bow. "Lady Saavik." He knew he was the first to call her it when her eyebrows disappeared into her hair.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

So here he stood with Uhura, about to be Setik's Sa-mekh-rá as she had agreed to be his Ko-mekh-rá. He had even agreed to the mental bonding that would let him know if anything went wrong with the boy. Spock had said he had nothing to fear from it, knowing how painful carrying his katra had been, and even now, he eyed the doctor with a measuring stare. Sure enough, he leaned in closer.

"Doctor, if you prefer, the bond is not required."

McCoy resolutely shook his head. "I'm fine, Spock."

The Vulcan dipped his head and then asked to be excused. Despite the ceremony, his diplomatic duties as Ambassador demanded much of his time, especially plans for a mission next month. If all went to plan, he'd be back before Saavik's return to the Armstrong, but either way, Setik's network of caregivers was already in place, just like it was for every Vulcan child.

Uhura came back next to him. "Are you really fine, Leonard?"

He said he was, unsure of what caused his nervousness. Yes, it was about being there for the kid when he himself was old. Yes, it was about letting Vulcans play around in his head again. But that wasn't the big part of it.

He covered by whispering to her, "Of course I'm fine with this. Haven't I already started spoiling the kid? Didn't I go out and get the boy one of those bears from both of us? I mean, if Spock had one growing up, dammit, my godson had to have one!"

"Not godson," she corrected. "Sa-fu-tél."

"I know, I know."

Buying Setik 'a Vulcan teddy bear' on behalf of he and Uhura had backfired when he saw how large the animal was. On advice of the breeder, he had bought a young adult instead of a cub, so the sehlat was already trained. But when the pet first loomed over the baby, his heart almost stopped.

Scowling, he said, "I still say they're laughing at me over the name."

She chided him, but her eyes twinkled. "Vulcans don't laugh. You know that, Leonard."

"Ha. And how was I supposed to know about the name anyway?" He'd made a mistake when the breeder had brought out the sehlat and said 'Ko-kan' meaning girl. He had thought it was the pet's name and had told Spock and Saavik so. They had kept it.

And, eventually, he had recognized that Ko-kan was very good around the baby. Even now she was laying down in the house, out of the way but within a protective distance of her young charge.

He caught Uhura grinning at him. "What?"

"Just thinking. Our present is going over better than Spock's to Saavik."

"The camera?" McCoy got a devilish smile. "Yeah, we probably are getting annoying with it."

She sighed. "And it was a sweet gift."

Saavik obviously had no holopics of her childhood nor would she want them. But Spock had caught her mood as she had went through the portraits of him with Amanda and Sarek. So when their son was born, he had made a present to her of a camera so she'd have plenty of holos of their child. Many of the shots were beautiful: one of Spock holding his son in the wooden rocker where Grayson children had been rocked since Earth's 19th century, and one he had taken of Saavik and Setik that mirrored one Sarek had taken of Amanda holding a baby Spock. But McCoy, staying with them since the baby's birth, had commandeered the camera, and when he had happened to get one of Saavik looking like she was nuzzling her husband's ear as they had held the child between them, he was banished. It didn't help that he had declared he didn't 'buy the story that she was whispering something to Spock so they didn't wake the baby'.

McCoy had then passed the camera to Uhura, who somehow made time from being head of Starfleet Intelligence to arrive for the ceremony a couple days early.

Something now changed in the air, some sense of expectation wafted through. McCoy followed everyone else's eyes and saw Saavik come out of the house. Spock was immediately at her side and stayed solicitously there. He opened a bit of the blanket surrounding the bundle she carried and the two of them glanced down inside. What they said to each other, McCoy couldn't hear, but he could guess.

Soon after this, T'Leq, matriarch of the family with T'Pau gone, arrived and he was once more struck with the difference between this and other Vulcan ceremonies. She didn't come on a divan chair but walked in slowly, still unbowed by age, to greet her nephew, Sarek. With her came the last of the immediate family and McCoy again felt the privilege of being here amongst them while friends such as Sulu, Howes, and Ruanek waited in the house. His daughter, Joanna, was in there too.

Saavik took Setik to a waist high pedestal where a secured cradle waited for him. She oh so carefully placed him in it and then stepped back to Spock.

As much as McCoy loved seeing how newfound fatherhood affected Spock, he enjoyed even more the changes in Saavik. She looked as if someone had asked her what her greatest wish was and then gave her something a hundred times better. Not only was she successful in her career, in a place where she belonged and was accepted, but she finally had a family. She had said as much to him when he had mentioned her best dreams had come true. "Doctor, you give me too much credit. Never did I think I would be so fortunate as to have the life I have now."

Sarek was watching his son and daughter, almost amused at their first fumbling steps as parents. Spock looked up, catching his father's gaze, and McCoy wondered if he imagined the deference that passed between them.


* * * * * * * * * * * *

Sarek had been offworld at the time of the birth, and McCoy had stumbled inadvertently on Spock sitting on the bed beside Saavik, telling her he hesitated to deliver the announcement. The doctor hastily backpedaled out, but not before he was stunned by Saavik silencing her husband's description of how Sarek had held him as a newborn and proclaimed him 'So human'.

With a tenderness that telegraphed itself to McCoy, Saavik lay her two fingers to Spock's lips. "Husband, do you remember telling me what Sarek once told you? 'One day, Spock, when you choose your own life's mate and you are a father, you will understand how difficult it is to decide what is right for your children. You will make mistakes. Perhaps then you will be able to forgive mine.'"

Spock nodded that he remembered, but said nothing as she hadn't removed her touch.

"The past is the past, husband. Do not let it cause your first mistake as a father, not when Sarek has already asked forgiveness for his mistakes. Take your son and introduce him to his grandfather."

Spock softened. "You are quite correct, my wife. I have already made, by my count, eight mistakes as our child's father. I will not make this one."

Saavik looked past him to McCoy and he was struck by the fact she had addressed Spock in English so he would hear. Go with him she was silently commanding, unable to go herself as she recovered from the birth.

So McCoy was lucky enough to be there when it happened. Spock had said nothing to Sarek, only sent word that his father should beam immediately to the hospital on his arrival. Sarek must have guessed what it was about, but thinking was much different from knowing; that was very apparent when Spock placed Setik into his grandfather's arms.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

T'Leq's gesture brought the family into a rough circle surrounding the infant in his cradle. Uhura threaded her one hand in McCoy's and patted it with her other.

No bells for this ceremony. Instead, T'Leq lifted her face to the sun, spread her arms wide as if to take all of those present into her, and called out in a voice raised to the sky. The melodious words in Vulcan heralded the welcome news of a birth in the family. Much in the way as their ancestors had made this same cry from high turrets in their House enclave, Sarek as the elder male of the immediate bloodline repeated the call. McCoy saw someone traveling past the estate stop at the sound and gesture ritually as if asking for blessings for the new life.

The rest of the family now chorused in normal tones while T'Leq crossed to the newborn. The chant celebrated the birth, the continuation of the family, and most of all, for the simple beauty of a new life itself. McCoy heard Uhura's dulcet tones as she easily joined the others, but he kept his voice low lest he messed up the words.

T'Leq picked up Setik, cradled him. As always, the doctor was amazed at how Vulcans could convey so much even with their emotional control. Sarek's aunt radiated peace and satisfaction. Her words were both traditional and her own. "From the moment of your birth, you began the greatest journey of discovering both who you are and what your life is to be. We help you on this first step through telling you: You are of Us and We are of You. We tell you this by giving you your names."

She took him to his parents. Saavik accepted him and held him along her forearms so he faced both her and Spock. Tradition had no demand on their words; their message was meant to be their own. Saavik spoke first and her words were so personal, McCoy felt he was intruding. "I look in your eyes, Setik, and cannot understand how you already study the world or how you can so inherently trust me."

If anyone in Sarek's family thought badly about someone of Romulan blood being a part of them, those words kept them silent. For Saavik, at her own birth, might have looked out with a newborn's trust herself and it was betrayed. The reminder was poignant both for itself and for what it must mean to her to see her son look at her so.

"When you are old enough, I will show you Vulcan, a world that permits someone of my birth to build a life with your father, a life that permits you."

"And from there, I will show you the universe. It has much to teach you, and in learning, you will teach in return. As you gain knowledge of the infinite wonders you will behold, so you will give knowledge of the infinite worth of diversity."

Spock reached out and laid his hand under Saavik's, supporting their son. "The universe is ever changing. You will live to see freedom and respect for the being you are. This freedom will enable you to travel secure in the knowledge of self and with your soul at peace. Your path is unlimited to whatever you want to make it. It is more than promises, my son. It is the truth. You may go wherever you are inclined should you have the strength to do so. If you do, what you accomplish and what you are will travel beyond your lifetime."

He bent down and spoke in his son's ear with a volume that was no more than a breath. Saavik repeated the ritual, handing the baby to Sarek who then did the same. Each member of the family held the newborn and whispered the same three words. Soon it would be Uhura's turn and then McCoy's. He silently went over the tongue twisting syllables.

When it came time, he took the boy carefully from Uhura's arms. She kissed the baby gently on the forehead as she let him go. Amazingly, the Vulcans accepted this with no hesitation, and McCoy wondered what Amanda had done when holding the infant Spock.

Setik was not so surprisingly awake, although his being quiet was a bit astonishing after being passed around. His eyes were a dark blue-gray and McCoy wondered if Spock was right, that they would change into Amanda's sapphire color. He knew from experience that the color a newborn had meant nothing about what color he'd end up having.

The baby's inner eyelids slid down and reflected a tiny glimmer of light. The muscles controlling them weren't the same as other Vulcans. McCoy hated calling it a birth defect, but that's what it appeared to be. Still, it was interesting that, instead of being an automated response, Setik could control the clear, protective eyelids. Physicians only hoped his eyes wouldn't be damaged before the child learned when he should close them.

McCoy took his turn in whispering to the baby. First, the family name, then his common name, and last, his self-name, his áhtia name, or what Vulcans referred to when someone asked for a first name. This would only be given to the people closest to him, people he would choose to know it.

As the last person in the circle, McCoy kept him and waited for the next part with a rapidly beating heart. When T'Leq motioned him back into the center for the Mekh-rá ceremony, he finally knew what was bothering him.

This wasn't his place. It was Jim Kirk's. Jim should be here and McCoy felt very much the intruder, taking his late best friend's place because death deprived him of this.

Something of this ache communicated itself to Spock as he and Saavik joined them in the center. And somehow Spock managed to convey he very much wanted McCoy here for himself, not as a second choice.

He took a deep, steadying breath. Okay, Jim, okay. Someone's got the last laugh. Me, of all people, is the role model for a baby Vulcan. Spock's son, Jim! I hope you see how happy he is, not that he'd ever tell anyone. But you'd see it, I know.

You gotta stay with me, Jim, help me to do right by this kid. Don't let me screw this up.

Oh, and if you or Lady Amanda could somehow work it out that the boy gets her eyes, well... it'd be much appreciated by some Vulcans down here.

He watched Setik watch him and his next thoughts were for the child. Not to mention, if you end up with blue eyes, it means the recessive gene is in your mother as well as your father. You'll make your mom finally accept some of the things she inherited from the wrong side of the Neutral Zone. Good for you if you do, boy.

T'Leq took Uhura's hand first and cupped it around the baby's cheek. With one hand on Uhura's temple and one on the other woman's hand, T'Leq closed her eyes for a moment. Uhura's grew wide and astonished, and as T'Leq released her, she stared at Saavik and Spock as if they knew the secret to life and had just let her in on it.

Well, if she can do it. McCoy felt T'Leq's touch and the boy's warm cheek and then -- nothing could explain it. It was so different from Spock's katra and its tormented struggle to survive in his own mind. This was... wondrous... remarkable... astounding. He could feel Setik, not as the physical body in his arms, but a light of beauty and colorful splendor with unending depth. It was the difference of seeing an image of a warm fire, and feeling its heat sink into the soul. It was the difference of hearing about love and knowing its full strength.

He lost himself into experiencing the child's presence, forever linked to his. He watched as it danced and swirled, and he tasted its unique pattern. As he felt all this in a sweet second, he thought he could, just barely, sense other presences also linked to the boy. When he strained, he seemed to see them on the other side of Setik and some miracle told him which of them was which: Uhura's bliss at this new experience a mirror to his; Spock's familiar sense; and Saavik's, like Spock's, twice joined here through bondmate and offspring. They were the brightest lights, brighter and more marvelous than any sun McCoy had ever seen.

He became protectively aware of how delicate Setik's presence was and instinctively drew back, allowing the bond to become a second heartbeat, something he could be aware of both consciously and unconsciously.

He reluctantly let T'Leq take the baby away from him. She held the child aloft to the circle and spoke his common name in the familiar litany. "Behold Setik, son of Spock, son of Sarek."

McCoy watched as Setik was returned to his parents. They gathered the baby to them, and he reached up for his mother's hair dangling teasingly near.

"Do you remember," McCoy said to Uhura, his voice hushed, "at the wedding when I told you we finally had our happy ending?" She nodded. "I was wrong. It was a beginning."