DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Beth Meenaghan and is copyright (c) 1999 by Beth Meenaghan. This story is rated R.



TWELFTH NIGHT

Beth Meenaghan



The door signal startles me. A glance at the clock tells me I've been dozing in my chair, another at the wine bottle tells me why. The newscast is still murmuring in the background, though there's been nothing new added to the report for hours.

Opening the door without an identity check, I'm startled again.

"Nyota!"

My surprise must be evident to her. She looks uncertain. I'm not sure why I'd assumed it would be McCoy, alone, to deliver such bad news. Nyota has always been my confidant, but Leonard -- well, he was always my shoulder to cry on.

"Christine? Is this a bad time ...?"

"No, I -- just expected Leonard, for some reason."

"He's not well, Chris."

More news I don't need. "What's wrong? Is he in the hospital?"

"No, he's resting at home. I don't know what's wrong -- they say exhaustion, but..." She seems doubtful.

"Come in."

I understand her doubts. Exhaustion bring down Leonard McCoy? As he would say, Poppycock! I'll have to go see him -- tomorrow.

She's looking about my apartment -- taking in the newscast, volume low, the scene in the reactor chamber replaying once more. (How the hell did they get that tape?) Picking up the empty bottle of wine, she turns to me. "You've known for a while."

"The news got here before Enterprise docked."

"The press must have intercepted our messages."

"Maybe, but if they did Starfleet anticipated it. They've held a press conference already."

That bit of information earns me a scowl. "Admiral Kirk will be angry."

I suppose he will be, and I even understand why, but the world doesn't care who delivers the bad news. And it sure doesn't matter to Spock.

I last saw Nyota only two weeks ago, when we had dinner together to celebrate her birthday. She looked nowhere near her years, and I had told her so. Today, she looks every bit and then some.

The bottle of bourbon that was waiting for Leonard is in her hand. She considers it, puts it down. "Do you have any more wine?"

We each settle down with a glass to nurse, the bottle between us on the coffee table. She drinks her wine and stares into her glass, not meeting my eyes. There's that what-can-you-say silence between us. I already know he's dead, and that's the news she thought she was bringing. "Had you seen him recently?" She's trying to draw me out. I know that I want her to. There's plenty to tell, plenty she doesn't know, but -- how to begin?

"Here and there." The news is suddenly intrusive, irritating. I turn off the audio.

Nyota looks up at me sharply. She knows there's something. I can't tell if she's always known, but she knows now. Maybe Hikaru tipped her off and that's why she's here, tired as she is. Well...

If I close my eyes, I remember everything so clearly. No. I'm there...

* * *

"Doctor Chapel."

I looked up to see Sulu approaching from the tent he shared with Spock. I couldn't help but smile when I saw him. Bare-chested, obviously enjoying the chill fresh air and sunshine, he was probably not as oblivious as he seemed to the younger crew women who were equally enjoying the sight of him. But his expression caused my smile to fade. He ushered me into my own tent before speaking again, quietly so that no one else would hear.

"Have you seen Spock this morning?"

"Not yet. I just got back from scouting the area. Actually, I've barely seen him since we arrived at this site yesterday." It was my habit to take a long solitary walk first thing in the morning, clearing my head of cobwebs and planning the day. Afterwards, I would meet briefly with Spock to assure that the day's efforts were coordinated.

We were planetside with two long range shuttles. Spock had piloted one and was the commanding officer of the mission by default, but it was my mission -- an intensive search for plants of particular medicinal value. I had a team of fifteen, plus myself and Spock. Sulu had piloted the second shuttle and generally seemed happy to be the only non-scientist to escape Enterprise's current diplomatic mission, no matter what tasks fell his way. He had proved himself an able cook, working wonders with both standard rations and native fruits and vegetables.

It occurred to me now that Spock had never showed up for dinner last night. I had not, in fact, seen him at all since we had finalized our site survey plans late yesterday morning.

"I saw him briefly this morning, " Sulu was saying. "He spent the entire night out--"

That seemed doubtful; the nights were cold. "Are you sure? Maybe he just didn't wake you when he came in."

Sulu shook his head. "No way. Spock is the best tent mate you could hope for, but no one sneaks up on me on an away mission. He came in this morning, looking a little worse for the wear. I jokingly asked if he'd gotten lost, and he made it clear he wasn't amused. Then he left again, without changing clothes or anything. I don't even know why he'd come in, now that I think of it."

Spock behaving irrationally? I didn't like where this was leading, and tried to shrug off his concerns. "Maybe he has a girlfriend."

"Christine, I'm serious. I think something's wrong."

"Damn. I know, Hikaru. I'm sorry. We just don't need this."

"I know. I started thinking about it, and I realized he hasn't eaten for several days, even though he commented about appreciating my vegetarian fare. He's been sleeping a lot, too, even during the day --"

"During the day? How long has this been going on? Why didn't you mention it before now?"

"It started at our last site. I just thought it was his way of coping with the climate."

Before moving to our current equatorial location, we had spent five days in a region near the arctic circle. Though it was summer, the temperature hovered near freezing. Spock had spent most of his time indoors analyzing data.

"Damn. I haven't been paying attention. Has anyone else mentioned anything?"

Sulu shook his head. "I think he's been avoiding everybody. He's delegated most of the command tasks to me."

"Where is he now?" I put down my field tricorder and started gathering my medikit.

"He was headed up the ridge when I last saw him."

"How long ago?"

"About twenty minutes. What are you doing?"

"I'm going after him."

"You shouldn't go alone. I'll go with you."

"No. You'll just antagonize him. Tell everybody to continue the survey along the usual pattern. They know what they're supposed to be doing."

"What makes you think you can find him? He's got a good head start."

"I doubt he's feeling well enough to go far. He probably just wanted to be alone. Any chance of reaching Enterprise?" I asked as I stepped through the tent flaps, though I already knew the answer. Enterprise was not expected to be in range of our transmitter for another three weeks, and we were far from the shipping lanes.

"No. I already tried, just in case."

"I'll be back in a couple of hours, Sulu. Don't worry about it."

* * *

I found Spock on top of the ridge that sheltered our camp. I had followed a long winding path to the top, the same one we had taken yesterday when we first surveyed our demesne. Spock was there, pacing slowly, hands laced through his hair. I could see he was at the breaking point. He must have been under iron control for several days. I wondered how I'd missed it.

"Spock," I called out to him. I didn't want to startle him, and I couldn't count on his hearing my approach.

He stopped his pacing to look up at me, hands dropping to his sides. "Go away, Doctor. I do not want you here." His voice was hoarse, as if he'd been screaming.

"You know I can't do that, Spock," I said, closing the distance between us. He was unarmed; there were no bowls of soup in sight. I tossed him his outer tunic that I'd found on the way up. "You left a trail a cadet could follow, you know."

He sat down on a rock, looking at his tunic and kneading it between his hands.

"I'd like to examine you," I said, removing my scanner from my kit. I'd already calibrated it for him.

He turned on me viciously, tossing the tunic aside and grabbing my wrist so that I dropped my scanner. "So that you can satisfy your curiosity, Doctor? What would you like to know that you can't already see? How sick I feel? How aroused I am? How quickly the condition is accelerating?"

I held my ground, but only just. His face was mere centimeters from my own, his eyes burned with fever. "Yes, no, and yes." I was outwardly calm, but couldn't quite get the tremor out of my voice. He let go of my wrist and stepped away a little. "I can alleviate some of your symptoms, temporarily anyway. Make you more comfortable."

"I don't want any of your drugs."

He turned away, resumed his pacing. I was losing my patience. Is there anything worse than an irrational Vulcan?

"How about a cold shower, then? What exactly do you intend to do, Spock? Jump off the cliff?"

Surprised at my anger, he stopped to look at me. Our eyes held for a long time, and finally he looked away. "No." I could barely hear him. "No, I do not wish to die at all."

He sat wearily on a rock, elbows resting on his thighs, hands dangling loosely between his knees. I retrieved my scanner and sat down opposite, practically knee-to-knee.

"May I?"

He waved a hand in weary capitulation, looking away while I ran the scanner over him.

"Why don't I give you something for the fever, at least? That might help relieve some of the headache pain, and will help with dehydration. Are you taking in fluids at all?"

"No."

That explained his voice.

"I'll give you something to rehydrate you as well, but there's only so much I can do if you're not drinking."

He sat still while I administered the hypospray. Our location had me at a disadvantage; I couldn't sneak in a sedative. The only way he was coming down this hill was to walk.

We sat silently for a time, he with his arms held to himself as if he were cold, one foot tapping nervously on the ground. I tried to think of how to talk to him without setting him off again.

"What do you plan to do, Spock?" He didn't answer right away. Growing impatient, I prompted again. "Enterprise is weeks away."

"I know that!" he snapped. Running a hand through his hair, he said quietly, "I know."

He finally met my eyes. It took everything I had to hold that gaze, and do nothing else. I'd never seen him look so unguarded.

"I thought I could overcome it, this time. It is not unknown among the Kolinahru."

"That must take complete mastery of the body."

"And of the mind. We are a telepathic species; our needs are different than yours. The physical condition is complicated by the psychic need to bond. Through total mastery of their emotions, the Kolinahru have overcome this need. Many are able to survive the pon farr on their own."

"But some don't."

Spock looked away and didn't answer.

"You strive so hard to be totally Vulcan -- you pride yourself on it. But in this, you want to be different, to avoid what is simply the nature of your species."

"How would you like it, Christine, if you were compelled to marry; if your very life depended on it, whether you wanted it or not. Freedom of choice is taken from me not by the customs of my people, but rather by my own biology."

"You once told me, 'It would be illogical to protest against our natures.' And yet you do so yourself. You knew this would happen. You've had the time to find a bondmate, this time one of your own choosing."

"I chose mastery instead. The ability to live independent of reliance on another. I failed."

"No man is an island, Spock. No Vulcan is, either. I don't know why you think you have to be."

We were silent a long time. I couldn't figure out what to say next. Everything I came up with sounded like a pass. And besides, it wasn't as if I was his only option. There were six other women in the landing party. He surprised me by speaking first.

"Are you still in love with me?"

Now it was my turn to be embarrassed. I looked away, thinking of how I'd felt when I saw him again for the first time. Be still, my heart. "Yes. But it's different now. I know you're not perfect..." I stopped abruptly, realizing it was worse than ever. I knew he wasn't perfect, but I loved him anyway? That was more mature than loving him blindly, I guess, but probably more hopeless as well.

I turned on him, angry with myself, and him, and the universe in general. "I can't let you die, Spock. I'm a doctor, and I'm not going to let that happen if I can help it. But I'm not the only woman in this landing party. I'm sure you can have your pick--"

"I do not want anyone else--"

"You don't want me, either. Don't you understand? I don't want you any way I can get you. I want it to be your choice, too."

He closed his eyes. "Under the present circumstances, you are my choice. That is the best I can do." He took a deep breath and let it out slowly before continuing, this time meeting my eyes. "We have known one another several years. And we have shared consciousness before. That, at least, is not an unknown."

"So you're saying I'm a logical choice," I said, calmer now.

He raised an eyebrow, almost a shrug. "Yes. Is that so bad?"

"It's better than nothing. In your mind, it's the best reason for anything, so I suppose I should be flattered."

We fell silent again, until he cleared his throat. "I ... it will be necessary ... you must bond with me, Christine."

Now I was speechless. When I found my voice again, I said, "Spock, you don't have to--"

"It is necessary to resolve the pon farr."

"No, it's not. A meld is necessary. A bond is the usual result, but it's not necessary." Vulcan had reluctantly made more information available to Starfleet Medical. I knew a lot more than McCoy had known years before.

Spock was silent a long time. "Perhaps ... I mean that it is necessary for me. I cannot imagine the experience with anything less than a bondmate. It is too personal."

"Spock, you don't have to bond with me to have my assurance that it remains between you and me. It's personal to me, too."

I felt a little sorry for him, but not enough to bind myself to him for life; not under these circumstances. If it had meant so much to him, he should have done something about it long ago, when he still had some choices.

"I do not understand. You said you loved me."

"That's not enough. I've given up everything for a man before, I'm not doing it again. You're feeling vulnerable now, and your desire to bond is innate, but I'm not bonding with you just because I happen to be in the right place at the right time. Why don't you ask me sometime when you're in your right mind?"

He was quiet for a long time and wouldn't look at me. When he finally spoke, I could barely hear him. "It may be difficult for me to maintain enough control to prevent a bond. I have no experience ... I don't know if I can do it." He closed his eyes tightly. "The desire to establish a bond is as strong as the desire to mate."

I felt awful. I was asking him to maintain control, even in this. "I'm willing to take the chance. I know you'll do your best, Spock."

He just nodded in reply, wouldn't look at me. Oh, god, what was I getting myself into?

* * *

We left Sulu in command of the team and took one of the shuttles, supposedly to survey an isolated island in a large inland sea that we'd observed on the way in. We left while most of the team was scattered over the area working, leaving Sulu to field questions about why we'd gone alone. We would not be very far away, but would be totally isolated.

The island was actually the exposed portion of a large mountain rising from the bottom of the sea. Lush vegetation began at water's edge, covering steep slopes. We flew over twice before Spock found a rare break in the treetops, revealing a reasonably level area on which to land the shuttle. As we descended, we left bright sunlight and entered eternal twilight.

Spock secured the shuttlecraft, and we proceeded as if we really were on a survey mission. Actually, from the moment we'd decided on our course of action, neither one of us had spoken of our real reason for coming here.

As we exited the shuttle, we immediately saw that the forest canopy concealed the island's true topography. The mist-shrouded terrain was more varied than it appeared from the air. We could hear running water and started towards it with our field tricorders. Little sunlight reached the forest floor, and vegetation at ground level was practically non-existent; foot travel was much easier than in the brush-choked terrain at our base camp.

Fifty or so meters into the forest, a jagged facade blocked our way, its top concealed by the treetops. At the wall's base was the source of the mists: a large pool of water, warmed by hot springs, with icy cold water cascading into it over the cliff face, snow melt from the mountain's peak.

"Well, that's convenient," I said, noting the readout on my 'corder. The water was suitable for drinking and bathing. I realized it was too good a coincidence. "You knew this was here."

Spock raised an eyebrow and flashed one of his non-smiles. "You were complaining the other day about the lack of bathing facilities."

"It wasn't a complaint. It was just a comment." I smiled to myself. Maybe Spock had a romantic bent after all. Or maybe he just wanted a partner who didn't stink. Sponge bathing could only be so effective.

We scouted the immediate area and carried a few liters of drinking water to the shuttle. Spock contacted Sulu and reported our position, verifying we had a good comm link with the base camp. He had almost seemed himself since we'd made our decision. Having a plan on which to act had calmed him, I guess. But when he ended the transmission with Sulu, an unease settled over both of us. The shuttle seemed too small; neither of us knew what to do, or even where to look. Before I could think of anything to say, he stood suddenly and walked out. I moved to follow him, but he was disappearing rapidly into the forest. I started to call out to him, then thought better of it. He couldn't go very far, and if necessary I'd track him later with the tricorder. If he needed some time alone, so be it.

I prepared a small dinner from standard rations and tried to enjoy it, reminding myself I should eat while I had the opportunity. My mind kept wandering to Spock, and what was about to happen. What was about to happen? I had a serious case of the jitters, and finally admitted my own fear.

He startled me then by appearing at the forest's edge. He stood watching me silently, then fixed his eyes on the shuttle behind me, walking deliberately towards it. He was wearing only his trousers, clinging damply to his body. Honestly, I don't know why he bothered. Water streamed from his hair down his face and neck, slicking the hair on his chest and arms.

My food stuck in my throat, preventing me from making some inane comment about forgetting our towels. I sat frozen in place for moments after he entered the shuttle behind me. What now? Forcing myself to focus on a task, I cleaned up the remains of my meal, then turned, almost without thought, into the forest.

At water's edge I began shedding my clothes. Stepping into water that was almost too hot, I made my way quickly to the icy cascade. The cold water brought all of my senses to heightened awareness, not affecting the fire he had ignited inside me. Nipples, already tight with arousal, hardened even more at the water's touch. Warming myself in the pool affected them not at all. My entire body felt as if it had been plugged into some electrical current. I was tingling with anticipation, a feeling that started between my thighs and spread outward throughout my limbs. Was this simple arousal, caused by the mere sight of him? Or was there something more at work; a Vulcan pheromone effective on humans, or some telepathic current reaching between us?

Whatever the cause, I couldn't stand to stay away from him any longer. Stepping from the pool, I brushed as much excess water from my skin as I could, wrung my hair between my hands, tying it loosely at the nape of my neck. I pulled on my own pants and the sleeveless undershirt I wore under my tunic. Leaving the rest of my things by the pool, as he had, I made my way back to the shuttle.

He appeared to be asleep, but somehow I knew better. I sat next to him on the shuttle's floor, so that I was level with him on the low bunk. After a time, he opened his eyes to look at me. When he reached out to me, I expected him to reach for the meld points, but instead his hands reached behind my head to unfasten my hair, spreading it across my shoulders when it fell free.

"You are not on duty here, Christine. I prefer it down."

That got to me; I never expected him to prefer anything at all.

I tried to still my trembling, but couldn't. This close to him, this intimate, pon farr or not, I couldn't control my natural reaction to him any longer. I wanted to reach out to him so badly, but waited, determined that he make the first move. When he did reach for me again, he settled his hands gently on my face in the meld position. Such a feeling of relief washed over him at the mental contact, but it was still no match for the desire raging within him. I moved to join him on his bunk, but he pushed me to the floor without warning. My head struck the floor, hard. Fighting a wave of nausea, I opened my mouth to protest. Instead, my breath escaped in a wordless gasp when he fell across me, pinning me to the floor. Needless to say, my initial arousal and desire for him faded quickly.

That was how it began, and it only got worse from there. Pon farr has nothing to do with making love. It's sex at its most basic, instinctive level. The mind meld adds a component of intimacy, but even that is driven by instinct. The experience was none of the things I'd ever fantasized. Day after day, he clung to me desperately. Even when he slept, it was difficult to get away from him for a few minutes of privacy. In a fair amount of pain and tired beyond belief, I reminded myself again and again that I had consented; reminded myself, that without me, he would die. But I grew to hate his touch, the sound of him, the feel of him waking next to me so that we could begin again.

On the seventh day I finally woke up alone, without even the whisper of his mind in mine. Solitude had never felt so good. I stretched sore muscles, left the shuttle, thinking only of a long, hot bath. Spock was nowhere in sight; I was too relieved to worry about him.

I soaked in the pool until darkness forced me out, reluctant to leave the hot water that soothed bruises and abrasions, the icy cascade that cleared the fogginess from my head. I dressed reluctantly and walked back to the shuttle, found Spock there preparing a meal. Stopping at the edge of the clearing, we regarded one another warily. Without a doubt, he was seeing right through me, as he always had; knew what I was feeling, despite my best efforts to conceal. I tried to push aside the distaste at the sight of him, the anger, and forced a smile.

"Hi."

My voice sounded strange to my own ears. We'd hardly spoken in days. I forced myself to step closer, though I really wanted to be alone.

"Would you like something to eat?" he asked uncertainly. "I have prepared enough for two."

At this point, even standard rations looked and smelled delicious. He had added some native fruit, duplicating one of Sulu's tastier concoctions.

"Sure," I said, trying to push aside my anger, telling myself it was inappropriate.

We were quiet over our meal. When I finished, I set aside my plate, opened my mouth to ask about leaving the next day, but he spoke before me.

"I have started an extensive survey of the island, beginning with the immediate area. With the aid of the shuttle, we should be able to complete our survey in five days."

"Five days?" I had expected -- counted on -- leaving immediately, if not sooner.

"We have supposedly been conducting a survey. It would not do to return without data."

"Oh. I guess you're right." I drew a deep, not quiet steady breath. "I don't suppose I can show up in this condition, anyway."

He looked away, stung by my words. My bruised arms and swollen lip were evidence enough of what the last several days had been like for me, without my pointing it out.

"I am sorry." He was barely whispering, not looking at me. "If I could have prevented it--"

"Don't worry about it," I said, feeling sorry for him, while, perversely, enjoying his pain. Feeling anything else was beyond me.

I went into the shuttle and fell immediately to sleep, too tired to stew over it. When I woke at daybreak, he wasn't there, and I suspected he'd spent the night outside, perhaps working throughout. Over the next several days, we spoke enough to coordinate our survey efforts, but other than that we worked apart, each preferring to be alone with our particular pain and anger. Each night, I had the shuttle to myself. It was cold out after dark, and I should've insisted he come inside. I knew in my heart that I was at least partly responsible; by rejecting the bond, I'd set us up for a bad time. Not establishing a bond during pon farr was completely against his Vulcan nature, and I had been aware throughout that it caused him a considerable amount of pain. I had saved his life, but had not satisfied his real need. The thing is, even bonded, I'm not convinced I would have. It was never me he wanted.

I noticed, in our logs, we were both referring to our island as Purgatory. I honestly could never figure out who used it first.

* * *

We had been on the island twelve days when we finally completed our survey efforts, arriving back at our camp site late in the afternoon. I don't know why we didn't return to the base immediately; instead, we sat down together over dinner for the first time in days, our enthusiasm for our work having got the better of both of us.

"Our efforts here have been worthwhile," Spock said in conclusion, noting that much of the flora here appeared useful for medicinal purposes. Isolated as it was, the island was home to several species of plants not found elsewhere on the planet. "At least the trip was not a complete waste of time."

"Spock," I said, suddenly exasperated with him, "it wasn't a waste of time in any case. Do you really believe I could think it was?"

"I believe that you regret what has happened."

"I don't -- how can I regret saving your life?" The conversation was deteriorating rapidly; I should have left well enough alone.

"Perhaps 'regret' is the wrong term. Your resentment is palpable."

I was growing angrier by the minute. "How do you expect me to feel about it? Happy to have whatever crumbs you're willing to give? The fact is, you're able to live your life unbonded, without fear of death, because you know you've got a fallback. You know I'd never let you die, and you don't even have to make a commitment--"

Now he was angry, not bothering to suppress it. "I offered you a commitment. You rejected it. I will not bear sole responsibility if the experience was more difficult than it might otherwise have been."

I was close to tears. I couldn't believe that after what I'd been through for him, he would say these things to me -- blame me for all the pain we'd both experienced. I aimed to cut deep, to hurt him as much as he was hurting me.

"Actually, it was the worst experience of my life."

His features went to ice, evidence of how strongly my words stung.

"I am not to blame if your fantasies left you with unreasonable expectations."

I slapped him.

The moment it happened, I was horrified; but it also felt good. Shock replaced his anger, and my own. I realized I was about to cry, and turned away into the forest before he could see. I ran as fast as I could, hoped he wasn't following.

I stopped at the pool and found myself quite alone. Stripping numbly, I stepped carefully into the warm water, hoping to wash away a day's worth of grime and a weeks worth of hurt, though my earlier attempts at the latter had been unsuccessful. Immersed in the pool, surrounded by its warmth, the splash of the falls, the obscuring mists, I could remain unaware of the world beyond the pool's boundaries. When darkness fell, I stayed, not caring what nocturnal creatures might appear.

When I was too hot to tolerate the water any longer, I went to stand under the cold cascade, turning my face up into it so that it stole my breath. I remained there until goose bumps rose on my flesh, thinking of making myself as cold as possible before settling into the heated water again.

I was startled into outer awareness when warm hands fell on my hips. My gasp was lost in the fall's cacophony; he steadied my body against his until my surprise had passed. When I turned to face him, he pulled me tightly against him again, pinning his erection between us. How long had he been watching?

Opening my mouth to speak, my lips were covered with his before I could say anything. He kissed me ... the way I'd always dreamed he would kiss me. My mind had been an open book to him during pon farr, and now he used his knowledge of what I wanted and made love to me the way I'd always imagined he would. We spent the entire night by the water, dozing off and on, slipping into the pool's warmth whenever we were cold. He played the scene so close to my dreams that I wondered if I was dreaming -- except the part at the end, where he was supposed to tell me he loved me. We didn't speak a word of conversation the entire night.

When I finally awoke to early morning light, he was dressing by the pool. I was covered with a blanket that he must have brought from the shuttle. He turned to look at me when he was dressed. Wrapping the blanket tightly about myself, I sat up and met his gaze. I opened my mouth to speak, but something in his eyes gave me pause.

I watched his back as he walked away from me, and thought I understood. He needed to prove he was more than an animal in rut -- not so much to me, I think, but to himself. And for myself -- well, I guess it was my consolation prize, my reward for what I'd been through with him.

I sat alone by the pool for a long time, reluctant to wash away the scent and the feel of our love-making. I stayed there until I thought it was imprinted in my mind, wanting to be certain the reality of it replaced what had always been fantasy. When I finally stepped into the water to bathe, I spent a long time under the icy cascade, letting the cold water shock my body back into the real world.

We didn't speak at all during the short flight back to our base camp, though there was no tension between us. Somewhere along the way, it was as if we passed an invisible barrier between one universe and another; when we stepped off the shuttle, we were once again Doctor Chapel and Commander Spock.

* * *

Nyota is looking at me in stunned silence, her untouched wine forgotten in her hand. This wasn't what she had expected to hear. A one night stand perhaps, or a secret long term relationship, but not quite this experience.

"Christine ... what happened next? When you got back to Enterprise?"

"We went on with our lives. This was just two or three months before I left Enterprise to join Scorpion as CMO." Scorpion was a deep-space vessel. I'd only recently returned from that posting to take the CMO spot at Starfleet Headquarters.

"Had you seen Spock since you got back to Earth?"

"A few times. Since he was posted at the Academy, our paths sometimes crossed lately."

"So, do you know ... did he ever find a bondmate before he died, I wonder?" She's speaking to herself as much as to me.

The silent newscast has caught my attention, the scene in the reactor room replaying yet again. I watch Spock sink to the floor, the Admiral following; reaching out to one another. Unable to touch. Her gaze follows mine.

"Did he?" she asks, fighting back tears.

"I don't know," I whisper, eyes fixed on the screen. "He never told me."

The End

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