DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Rhyane and is copyright (c) 2004 by Rhyane. Rated R.



ARISTOTELIAN SOLUTIONS

Rhyane



Of all the wounds James T. Kirk ever caused, Uhura's bothered him the most. Nothing tangible, nothing so easy as blood. The beauty of Kironide: all those scars carefully hidden, everything returned to normal.

Simple. Painless.

Except, there she sat.

Hair pulled back in an unnaturally tight bun, back pressed firmly against the metal chair. Around the vocorder dials, fingers clenched; unsheathed knives of tension rising and falling to her carefully controlled breath.

Kirk looked away. Uhura was ... complicated. This briefing ... complicated. The mission ...didn't bear thinking about.

A rush of cold air and Spock's arrival made the atmosphere seem even heavier; the silence just that much more oppressive.

But now, at least, they could begin.

Jim pulled out a chair with an uncharacteristic sigh. What to say? Where were the words? The protocol? Nothing but cold walls, colder floor, too-reflective surface of the briefing room table. When had he gotten so tired? His duty-- blank vocorder screen, thin silver chair at the head of the table. A location, perhaps only coincidentally, farthest from the communications officer and closest to the door.

Duty. He would do his duty. Now that they were all here. He would do his duty and not watch his hands tremble, like those of an old man.

They would do the watching for him. The inevitable judging that must, must follow, the knowledge that would come in time; it was all his fault. Let Starfleet tell them, let the midnight vid, let their own haunted memories.

For now, he would begin.

A flicker of science blue; Spock shifted in the chair beside him. A comfort, and yet the Vulcan was focused completely on the tricorder he held, studying black plasteel with impressive concentration.

Briefing, women, captain - all beneath notice. Or perhaps, the risk was simply too high.

"Lieutenant Uhura..."

Christine Chapel started at the sound, her face so pale under the harsh light Kirk had half a mind to call McCoy. No, he decided again, he has Alexander to look after. And besides, better to keep things personal, private.

Better to keep things between us.

Kirk's concerned glance toward the nurse was the first time anyone had dared to make eye contact since the briefing began. Impossible even to call it contact, for Christine still sat with eyes shut tightly against the sight of Spock's wooden face. Uhura, on the other hand, had fixed a steady gaze on her captain, a dare - or just an offering of silent support.

It seemed to Nyota that Kirk aged ten years in the walk from briefing room door to table. She watched him run his fingers through his hair, restless, so restless, as if testing each momentary freedom. See - I touch my hair without fighting Parmen. I sit down without fighting Parmen.

He would never admit that Parmen had won.

And so she smiled at him, just a flicker of her old warm grin.

Kirk ignored it. Too much, too soon, better to begin.

His voice was harsh, but he forced the words out anyway.

"Mission debriefing, Stardate 5784.9, following events on the planet Platonius. Commander Spock and I established contact with a small civilization on the northernmost continent, technological development registered a 10.4 on the Kernsey scale. Prime directive deemed inapplicable considering the technology level of the native society, a small community based upon the Republic of Plato. In retrospect, the Platonians were far more advanced than they appeared, possessing considerable psionic power due to the ingestion of a native substance known as Kironide. Commander Spock, Dr. McCoy and I were initially welcomed. McCoy opened a dialogue by administering some basic medical care. Negotiations proceeded, but the Platonians quickly resorted to demands, among them that Dr. McCoy join their community against his will. McCoy refused, and the Platonians began coercive tactics, eventually leading to the use of torture on the landing party. Nurse Chapel and Lieutenant Uhura were beamed down at the instigation of Parmen, head of the collective. Once there, they were used as additional leverage in order to compel obedience from Dr. McCoy. Eventually, the landing party was able to overwhelm the Platonians using Kironide in the form of an injection. I am pleased to say that these officers responded with the highest degree of professionalism throughout the mission. Request for commendation: Chapel, McCoy, Spock, Uhura. Additional statements concerning use of coercive tactics required under Federation Council Resolution 114 section D attached to this document. Kirk, Captain, USS Enterprise, out."

Kirk looked over to Spock who nodded once. Correct. It was done. Kirk heard, rather than saw Uhura switch off the vocorder.

It was impossible even to look in her direction.

"I will leave the rest of you to make your statements in privacy."

Better that way. Better not to hear them, better not to listen. Shoulders stiff, head high, Kirk crossed to the opening door. The bustle of E deck swallowed him completely. Kirk did not look back.

"How he hates to fail," murmured Uhura.

"Fail? The mission was successful. McCoy has been recovered. The citizen Alexander liberated. There is no failure."

"He didn't protect us, Mr. Spock," Christine's voice was hollow, her nails white. "Not completely. Not from all that happened. To someone like the captain, that's failure."

She didn't notice Spock's microscopic flinch, the lines of pressure that appeared, suddenly, between his eyes. Uhura could see it echo - the failure to protect.

"Irrelevant. Nurse, you will begin. Make your statement and return to duty."

Cruelty to ask Christine to go first... and from Spock who was usually almost tender with her. But Chapel rallied and her voice, pulled from some hidden wellspring of strength, didn't shake at all.

"Lieutenant Christine Chapel, RN, PhD, supplementary report. I was pulled from my quarters at 0849 by an irresistible force. Despite my intention to alert ship security, I was prevented from speaking or initiating an intruder alert. I was propelled to Transporter Room Three where I encountered Lieutenant Uhura. On the planet we had time for a brief consultation with the captain and first officer before we were once again seized and taken to a different part of the building. My uniform was removed, my personal appearance altered. I was led to an amphitheater. It was clear that I was under observation by a good portion of the native population. I witnessed the attempted coercion of McCoy and his resistance. Captain Kirk and Commander Spock were forced to perform for the audience. Both officers maintained their dignity in the face of almost unbearable cruelty..."

"Please confine your remarks to your own experience, Nurse."

Spock's voice was like ice. Chapel met his eyes; her look a plea -- an invocation.

He turned from her white face to the computer monitor. She stared blindly at the space he used to fill.

Uhura paused the recording and reached for a glass from the center of the table. Christine took it blindly, fingers clenched around the silver rim, almost denting the metal.

"It's water, Chris," Uhura spoke slowly, softly. Still Chapel started.

"Just some cold water. Drink it."

She only paused for a moment, but it was long enough for a shadow of color to return to her cheeks; long enough to postpone, once again, the inevitable tears.

Spock's eyes were haunted; he said only, "Please continue."

"Yes sir. My involvement was limited. It was clear I was there to participate in acts of a romantic nature. Commander Spock was forced to - was forced to-"

She could say no more. Throat clenched, eyes closed tightly.

Spock was as relentless as the desert. He forced another calm, "Continue," the slight rasp almost unnoticeable.

Again, rushing now, as if she could disassociate herself from the words; deny their truth with the speed of her delivery.

"Commander Spock was forced to embrace me..."

Warm memory of his mouth on hers. Fractured apology, the love she cannot hide, that she so desperately needs him to recognize. Less a violation that way. To know she would choose it if she could.

"...We continued to resist the control of the Platonians..."

Spock's unmistakable arousal meeting her own sudden intense need. The way that kiss became for a moment, uniquely their own.

"...Eventually they resorted to torture..."

Anguished eyes. Red embers. That terrible helplessness advancing step by step toward her. Tears she tries so hard to stop. So silly, really, she already forgave him.

"... but the Kironide took effect before I experienced physical damage. The landing party liberated Dr. McCoy and granted asylum to a citizen named Alexander."

Christine breathed out, still focused on her clenched hands. Easier now, the dangerous information already past.

"Dr. McCoy and I analyzed the Kironide. We had found the effects to be temporary and harmless. End report. Chapel, Lieutenant JG."

"Satisfactory, Mr. Spock?" Her eyes as they looked up at him were fever bright, but her voice held a core of steel, a challenge.

It was Spock that backed away, focusing on the vocorder, glass of water abandoned in the center of the table, warm outline of her mouth still impressed on the metal tumbler.

"Satisfactory, Nurse. You are dismissed."

The doors shut too quickly, taking all the warmth of the room with her as she left. He fought the impulse to follow, some very human part of him craving comfort, longing to find her in the dark quiet of her quarters and murmur what? Another apology?

Forgiveness could not undo the fault. His fault. He had not protected her. From the time before Surak: ve kaltha ne van, ve cava ne femor. The female to shelter, the male to protect.

And when did he start phrasing his failures in terms of the traditional bonding oath?

When did he start considering her safety or lack thereof a personal concern?

Yet he found himself holding the glass she left behind, cradling his fingers around the cool metal until it warmed, erasing her echo.

5.85 minutes later, Uhura finished recording her statement. Spock replaced the glass, carefully adjusted the pitcher.

Silence returned to the briefing room.

Nyota shrugged narrow shoulders and nodded once- Affirmation? Decision? Impossible to tell. She rose with none of her usual grace, fatigue evident in each slow and deliberate step.

Still she paused, fixing him with dark eyes, full of pain and something else. Something Spock refused to identify as empathy.

"She didn't mean you, you know. She doesn't blame you. It's not in her. Trust me, I know."

The room was very quiet as Spock made his statement. He chose not to refer to Chapel or Uhura by name. That much protection he could, at least, provide.

* * *

"He won't even talk to me."

A double scoop hot fudge sundae hit the table with a solid clunk. Uhura watched whip cream and cherry begin to slide down the side of the glass - a missed opportunity if there ever was one. Turning her eyes from melting ice cream, latest in series of attempts to coax Christine Chapel into eating, she forced herself to meet the pained gaze of her best friend.

"Eat your ice-cream. All those calories just going to waste... should be illegal under the Federation charter."

Christine scooped an obligatory spoonful and promptly began to stare off into space again, ice cream dripping sadly off the spoon and down into the shallow Fleet-issue bowl.

"We started working on the Hypoxian flu vaccine last week and he still won't talk to me. We just come and go, like ghosts."

Uhura didn't have to ask who she meant. If there was one crewmember dealing with the events of Platonius worse than Christine Chapel - it was Commander Spock. Withdrawn into a Vulcan shell, Spock was his most impossible, driving even Chekov into fits of complaint.

Christine wasn't nearly so easy to pin down. On the surface she maintained her typical efficiency, never missing a shift in Sickbay, volunteering in the labs. If her patients noticed a distinct lack of bedside manner, it didn't impact the quality of their care.

It was the more subtle changes that screamed trouble. Looking at her now, Nyota barely recognized the troubled woman running her ice-cream spoon mechanically around the edges of the bowl.

At first it was just makeup. After Platonius, Chapel emerged from her quarters carefully regulation, her unframed eyes still tinged by red. Even Leonard noticed she looked five years younger, but they all figured the change was temporary. It was only when she opened Chris's bathroom drawer in search of eyeliner that Uhura discovered a tidy collection of cosmetics had been reduced to one hairbrush and two plain hair clips. Perhaps it was at that moment, remembering a laughing Christine on Movast trying on lip-gloss, Uhura became conscious something was seriously wrong.

The other changes took longer. First the hair, rinsed to a brown so dull only an occasional strand of gold broke through. She had begun to grow it out again and after four months it pooled below her shoulders. Thick, and if Chapel would ever look in a mirror, even more beautiful than it had been. But the mirrors were gone too, and Chapel deliberately avoided the one in the bathroom they shared.

And then there was the uniform. Somehow she had convinced McCoy to let her wear a man's standard issue. Perhaps she has the right idea there. Certainly the long black pants seemed much more comfortable than the micro-mini from hell. And the overall effect was still beautiful, not even Christine could change the elegant planes of her face or those deep and sympathetic blue eyes.

But looking into the thin face of Christine Chapel four months after Platonius, Nyota wondered where her best friend had gone.

"Chris, he'll never talk to you if you're confined to Sickbay for malnutrition. Eat something."

"Oh."

But the sundae still sat untouched, melting into a soupy mess. And then the spoon slipped, bounced, clattered, as all the color drained from Chapel's face leaving her wan and pale in the shadow of the observation window.

Uhura didn't have to look up to know what had just happened.

Spock and the Captain had entered the mess hall.

It was like watching some kind of tragic gravitational anomaly. Spock crossed the room and all smiles dimmed. Conversation halted. Christine stared fixedly at the dripping spoon, the will not to look up manifesting itself her white knuckles.

As for Spock, he moved forward like some Vulcanoid automaton. Sixteen equivalent steps to the replicator. Pause, dial Tarkelian tea, push the entry button, wait another 10.5 seconds, twelve steps over to the corner table, left-hand chair facing the deep darkness of space. Conversation began again in a low murmur.

And then, as if there had been some silent communication even Uhura hadn't noticed, Christine Chapel looked up - straight into Spock's dark eyes.

Whoa, thought Uhura, there's an awful lot of something going on there.

Spock had turned from the star-field to fix the nurse with his stare. Not even Vulcan reserve could hide that much intensity. Chapel, for her part, seemed totally immobilized. What did it mean? Did he hate her? Need her? Forgive her?

Uhura coughed quietly. Nothing. Chapel was oblivious, unconscious of the rec room, people laughing and talking just meters away. People who, any second now, were going to look up straight into a web of pain, longing and heat obvious enough to set the scuttlebutt buzzing for weeks on end.

Maybe I can't help, can't bust her out of this. Perhaps no one can. But if there's one thing I do know it's communications - and that's a distress signal if I ever saw one. This thing between Chris and Spock was getting ready to explode and Nyota Uhura decided suddenly that she was in no mood to spend her day off picking up the pieces.

It was like cutting a lifeline. Uhura stood up, blocking Chapel's line of sight, and the energy that had been holding Christine captive evaporated as if it had never been. Out of the corner of her eye, Nyota caught Christine's quick blush, her sudden but steady exit - but by then she was in motion, gliding toward the captain's table, her focus on Spock.

If you didn't know him, you would have fallen for it. Typical stony expression, white teacup steady in his easy grasp. But the eyes - something lived in those eyes. Something not totally under control, still following the nurse out the door. And there was Ensign Bradley, that little sneak, turning her head to see just what had captured the first officer's attention...

A head that snapped back to Uhura's musical greeting, drawing all eyes as she brought her hand down gently on Jim's shoulder.

Kirk looked up and gave her an easy and open smile.

"Lieutenant Uhura, a pleasure as always."

Uhura beamed, Jimmy Kirk was, is, and will forever be - a charmer.

"What brings such beauty to grace our lonely bachelor's table?"

"Well, Captain," Uhura slid into a chair with her usual fluid grace, "the whole ship is buzzing with stories of your mission to Arkmen V. I figured in the interests of proper communication I would just have to sit down here and get the story straight from the captain's mouth."

Jim grinned up into Uhura's dancing eyes. "Since this is a communications matter, it seems I have an obligation to set the record straight. It all started when we beamed down to this series of caves on Arkmen. The planetary survey had listed them as unoccupied and as you know Lt. Sulu has a pathological fear of spiders..."

It was a conundrum Spock could not unravel. Watching the Captain and Miss Uhura, he found himself fascinated by the unknowable intricacies of human behavior. Clearly things were not so easy between himself and Nurse Chapel after the events of Platonius. Events which seemed to have brought the Captain and his Communications Officer closer together.

Could this rapport have originated -- then? No, shameful.

And yet…

Memory returned, shaped now for all the months he had failed to reflect upon it.

The silence of his quarters, third watch. His meditation had been uneasy. Sufficient cause, considering the circumstance, and yet the memories of degradation had been easy to purge. He bore no responsibility for the illogic of others and damage to the body cannot harm the purity of a katra secure in itself.

It was the more, not emotional, never emotional - more personal aspects of the mission that Spock found required continued contemplation. The look in Christine's eyes when he almost harmed her, the cool feeling of her mouth against his, the desire that Parmen must have, must have stimulated. For clearly there was no other possible reason for a male not bonded, not in pon farr to become aroused.

Clearly it had all been Parmen's doing.

Except for the voice in his mind, so cultured, so cruel: "Look, my darling, look at what comes so easily to our emotionless friend - what depths the surface hides. We did well in pulling her from his mind."

Even now, the implications of that were impossible to consider.

Better to focus on the more essential question. Better to meditate on desire than her face. Better to remember the beast within the body: the Vulcan heart, the Vulcan soul. Certainly desire is just manifestation of a biological imperative. Distasteful but natural. Irrelevant what was lacking in his interaction with T'Pring, even Zarabeth, even the Romulan had not brought this sudden, deep...

Those were all issues of necessity. This was something other, something that currently defies classification. To treat Christine Chapel as he did the Romulan Commander is clearly not permissible. She is 'in love' with me, whatever those words convey. She should not simply be an issue of necessity.

Like a flash, impossible to ignore, the gentle moisture of her tears, so alien, so forbidden, like the ocean-blue of her eyes.

The flame flickered, stilled in the fire-pot. Spock looked down at his own hands, shaking ever so slightly, as they lay against the thin carpet.

What was responsible? Mechanically Spock's mind searched for potential factors, found it in the swish of the captain's door opening. Footsteps as they entered the cabin were light and graceful - clearly female.

Spock focused on the darkness. Those cinders still flashing with embers of hidden light.

Metaphor is illogical. There is no connection between mind and coals. A quick gesture and the flames rose again, spicy scent of incense beginning to cover the tantalizing hint of perfume.

He recognized the scent - exotic, out of place. It was midnight, far too late for a yeoman, but still familiar.

Irrelevant. Better to regain focus. The captain is entitled to his privacy. Spock began the abnegation mantra, first level of the disciplines taking his mind away from the physical world. Rough fabric of his mediation robe fading, hiss of air through the vents fading, Uhura's soft voice whispering:

"I think we need to do this. I think it is the only way to heal."

And Jim's deep in-drawn breath. The creak of the bed in the corner.

No... impossible.

Impossible that Jim would do such a thing. It was fraternization. It was against the rules. Certainly, the captain had acted on impulse before. But always carefully. Never with a member of the command crew.

But the evidence was irrefutable. Her low laugh, "We should have done this years ago."

His murmured reply.

Illogical. Simply illogical.

And yet - for a moment in the darkness Spock entertained the thought. Christine coming to him, her form silhouetted in the light of his cabin door. Taking her in his arms. Feeling the cool pressure of her touch, the deep and unending sea of love and acceptance in her mind.

A sea that has no place in Vulcan. Replace it by desert - familiar warm sand, blushing sky. The Place of Becoming, fire-pit, name-stone, a piece of which flamed even here, in the deepest space. His father's face, T'Pau's face -- as they looked when McCoy came, when Jim came. The way her step would shorten, her skin burn. The way his planet would poison her - one breath at a time.

His human mate.

Desire is impossible when it cannot survive duty, family, culture.

The Vulcan way is logical. To desire Christine Chapel would be to reject the Vulcan way. Therefore desire is illogical.

Eased somewhat, Spock refocused on the flame.

It took 10.5 seconds to realize it had gone out again, leaving him all alone in the darkness.

* * *

Christine stood before the doors of Biolab 16 and took a deep breath. Quickly she checked over the padd in her hand, every step of the procedure they were going to try today detailed, correct. A quick glance in the silver bulkhead: regulation tunic under industry approved lab coat, boots polished, brown and gold hair pulled rigidly back. Her eyes met their reflection and glanced quickly away. No time to stare into her face. Her very human, not at all Vulcan, face.

The doors slid open to reveal Christine Chapel's least favorite experiment on Enterprise: the Hypoxian Dream-flu vaccine. Twenty carefully labeled cultures waiting on the sample tray, two scopes, a spectrometer, lab stools placed uncomfortably close together at the high table.

Christine's extra duty. The much requested, desperately needed extra duty - if only she had known it was Spock's project.

Get a grip Chapel. Professional. It doesn't matter if it's Zephream Cochrane or Kahless the Unmerciful. Do your job. Get out. If you're very, very careful you won't have to talk to him at all.

The empty room echoed as she moved inside. Tossing the padd on the counter, Chapel snagged the smallest pair of goggles with brutal efficiency. It had taken some juggling with Michalson's physical to arrive twenty minutes ahead of their scheduled lab-time. But it was all worth it. Beat that, Spock. I'll be face-deep in a microscope before you even get through the door.

Even though Spock was usually only a minute or so behind her. The earlier she arrived the earlier he arrived, as if she had entered into some unvoiced contest to see who could be the most eager anal-retentive over-achiever. Last shift had come too close for comfort. Still facing the door when he entered, she had been forced to offer a quiet "Commander." Damn Starfleet protocol and its regulations for addressing a superior officer to the seven hells of Delos; he still couldn't bring himself to talk to her. A patented nod of polite dismissal, a perfectly straight back, a scrupulously maintained three inches of space between lab-stools.

She still didn't want to admit how much that hurt. How much everything hurt: her face, his silence, this stupid assignment that forced her into proximity with him.

Come on, Chris - concentrate. Vaccine. Flu. Cure. It certainly was elegant. McCoy's solution had a little of his personal panache, a brutal ironic approach to the virus. McCoy even manages to make his medical treatments obnoxious, thought Chapel, almost missing the sharp rush of the opening door.

Spock took in the sights of Biolab 16: Nurse Chapel was early.

Frustration was illogical; the actions of others cannot effect personal efficiency.

But there she was, early - again.

Spock was unused to being the last to arrive. What to say? Especially when Chapel refused to look up from the scope. 100.21 days since Platonius and she still wouldn't meet his eyes, still wouldn't greet him with her former smile, only sat, shoulders hunched, over the scope until it was time to file her results in the database. An efficient procedure, prototyped by Spock himself, which just so happened to result in no need for verbal communication at all.

She looked tired.

Spock told himself it was his duty to inspect all personnel under his command - even though Chapel had scrupulously conformed to regulation lab dress ever since the experiment commenced. Furthermore, there was no real reason to keep her on the project. Technician Bates could be transferred onto secondary analysis now that his latest experiment had concluded. Chapel's expertise was wasted here - expect for the fact she had volunteered for extra duty and Spock could see no logical reason to deny her. Perhaps he should have considered her emotions. While not acceptable for a Vulcan, she was clearly human - allowances should be made. He should....protect her. Even if she had never admitted her discomfort. Even if she maintained her professionalism with Vulcan reserve. Even if she wouldn't talk to him.

And still his eyes lingered.

Too thin, a human part of him whispered. Uhura has not been effective in convincing her to eat.

Too beautiful, a hidden Vulcan voice replied. Exit the situation. Remove yourself from temptation. It is not logical to persist in causing or experiencing discomfort. Seek serenity; transfer her from the project.

It was Spock who responded with the mantra of duty. The knowledge that his hybrid soul would resist both human tenderness and Vulcan wisdom.

She had not looked up from the scope. Spock fought the desire to speak, offer - what? Comfort? Illogical. Impossible. Better to remain silent.

He reached for a culture and moved to the other lab stool. He positioned it carefully: three and half inches from left edge of her lab coat - the maximum distance allowable by the small laboratory.

Distracted by adjusting the stool, he missed her automatic flinch.

And then the stool shuddered, seemed to acquire a life of its own - swaying away from his hand to clatter sharply on the floor.

Even Spock took a moment to react, to realize the problem was the ship, turning in a slow sudden roll that meant only one thing...

A crack, as if all of space shuddered into one explosion of sound. Photon torpedo, class 2 - not Starfleet then, the technology was out-of-date - Aliens? Pirates? Enterprise was under attack.

Another impact, the ship shuddered, Spock had almost reached the door.

And then the lab table tore away from the wall with an agonized metallic shriek.

Chapel lost her balance with a low cry. Were it not for Spock's lightening reflexes, her head would have smashed against the metal decking. As it was, she hung awkwardly in his arms, casting a puzzled glance his way.

It was the last thing he registered before the lights went out.

"Oh, shit!" said Chapel.

"Most descriptive," replied Spock; placing her gently on the floor before moving on some unerring radar to a communications panel on the far right-hand wall.

"Spock to bridge. Come in bridge. Commander Spock requesting status update."

Static.

The little room was almost totally silent. Faintly, Chapel could hear the echo of a red-alert klaxon from out in the hallway.

"Commander Spock to bridge, status update."

More static.

On impulse, Chapel located the red glow of the manual release switch by the door and began to grope her way towards the light. One swift pull confirmed what the sickening lurch in her stomach had already told her-- there was no getting out of Biolab 16.

Of course, Chapel thought, this is my worst nightmare. Why shouldn't we be trapped here in the middle of a battle, with no hope of immediate rescue. After all, we have so very much to talk about.

Trapped with Spock. If it hadn't been so beautifully clichéd she would have cried. If she hadn't been so eager to avoid him, she would have laughed. At least the sample cases weren't breached. No one would be coming down with Harpoxian dream-flu in the near future.

Spock had found the emergency kit, activated the locator signal, and snapped one of the light-rods into a sickly white-green glow.

"Nurse Chapel, it appears we are trapped."

"Most astute, Mr. Spock. It figures the first words you said to me all week would restate the obvious."

Spock continued as if she hadn't spoken. "I have checked the air vents and we are still on life-support. The emergency beacon has been set to notify the bridge. We have sufficient food and water reserves. Have the sample cases been breached?

Chapel remembered her manners, "No, sir. We seem to be safe from the flu at this time."

"Indeed."

Silence settled over Biolab 16.

Christine began to count the blasts of the klaxon. One-one-thousand. Two-one-thousand. Bored, she flexed her toes in time to the beat. Twenty-seven-one-thousand, twenty-eight-one-thousand. She tried not to drum her fingers on the decking. She tried not to show any evidence of her discomfort. She tried to resist the impulse to look at his face.

Now his hands were another story all together. His hands were safe.

Deftly manipulating the manual override control panel, Spock's attention was focused on hotwiring the mechanism. She passed him another pipette before he asked. Covering under the guise of eager assistant her inability to ignore him.

Spock was using the pipette-tip, sharpest and smallest instrument at hand unbroken by the crashing table, to manipulate the circuitry. But even Chapel could tell by looking at the fried wires that his task was basically hopeless.

Another rumble -- unmistakable sound of phasers firing as the ship pitched starboard in a defensive roll.

Christine watched, horrified, as their maneuver shook the massive spectrometer free of its safety bolt, flinging it toward the door. Chapel, directly in the object's path, threw herself to one side. Spock, instinctively sensing danger, jumped forward and turned his shoulder - deflecting the crushed spectrometer into the remains of the lab table.

They both stood there for a moment, shaken.

Illogical. The nurse had already taken steps to remove herself. There was no danger, and now I am injured. Illogical.

Chapel stared at Spock's expressionless face.

"You're hurt."

It was the first thing she had said to him in the 6.28 minutes since he had begun to work on the emergency override.

"Irrelevant, Nurse. I can still function."

Chapel stepped forward, noticing how he favored the interior deltoid, his reduced range of motion, those two small lines between his eyes. Even Vulcans had a few tells and Chapel had nursed those two small lines often enough to know what they signified - Spock was not a happy camper.

"We're trapped and in no immediate danger. I'm a trained nurse. Where's the logic in not asking for help?"

"The priority is returning to the bridge. It is imperative for command crew to be present in a combat situation."

Naturally, the klaxon took that precise moment to cut out, leaving cold silence. A moment later they both heard an echo of the all-clear.

"Well, it looks like we won." Chapel almost smiled, but Spock turned abruptly back to the hatch.

"The mechanism is fused and cannot be repaired. I will attempt to reestablish communications."

Spock nudged the heavy panel with his foot and then stooped to raise it back into position. Even Vulcan control couldn't prevent the sharp quick breath as weight settled onto his damaged shoulder.

A weight, easing now, as Chapel took hold of the panel and lifted it into place. Spock tried to catch his breath as the nurse attached the clamps, finally turning back to laser him with an icy blue glare. Fascinating, his mother had that exact look when he once...

"Hold still."

Her fingers gently probed the wounded shoulder.

"Muscle strain only. You didn't dislocate it, no thanks to your latest brilliant maneuver. I can reduce your time in rehabilitation by two weeks if you'll let me massage the muscles now."

"I can see your bedside manner owes much to Dr. McCoy's inspired tutelage."

"You're stubborn. Some find that frustrating."

"A trait completely foreign to your nature."

Chapel huffed, affronted. "I am not stubborn."

"Indeed. Neither are you excessively early for duty. Nor do you insist on sending me your results through ship's comm when a simple verbal report would improve laboratory efficiency by 10.6 percent. "

"Verbal reports are error laden and inefficient. I thought you would consider the written report a more attractive alternative."

She was correct, Spock did prefer the written report. He had absolutely no intention of confessing that fact at this time.

And then she touched him.

He suddenly found it inadvisable to speak.

Her cool hands settled on his shoulder taking the minor pain with them. She began the appropriate deep-tissue massage, and Spock found himself running through the entire new revised periodic table, element by element. It still didn't quiet some primitive Vulcan corner of his mind-- To minister to a man without a martial bond, to touch in such a manner, to play servant...

His Vulcan forefathers would have taken her. His human forefathers would have kissed her.

Spock simply reached up and placed his warm hand over her cool one.

Christine froze. His shoulder tensed under the blue fabric.

"Christine."

Some brutal wounded part of her healed right there. He must not hate her too much to speak in such a way. Even if all she would ever rate was this bizarre unhallowed tenderness, even if it could never be love.

"Christine - I have a question."

"Yes, Mr. Spock." Her effort to control was so fierce, his name came out a whisper.

"This question concerns the events of Platonius."

"Platonius."

Just like that, her smile faded. The joy in her blue eyes replaced by a harsh defensiveness. She was not going to talk. about Platonius.

"Were you aware of how the Captain and Lt. Uhura resolved their uneasiness after that mission?"

"The captain? Uhura? No. I don't know what they did."

A wave of shame passed over her then. Uhura, ice-cream buddy and midnight conspirator. She must have felt as angry - must have had as much rage, as much embarrassment and shame...

...but Uhura seemed fine. Better than fine, actually, positively glowing. She had met a guy on Pacifica last shore-leave and since that terrible debriefing, neither of them had mentioned Platonius. It had hung there, in Uhura's attempts to get her to eat, in the way she would complain about Spock, the absence of mirrors.

"But you know, I think you're right. Something must have happened. Uhura and the Captain seem fine, even more friendly, actually. It seems clear they did resolve it, somehow."

Christine wished she didn't sound so wistful. She and Spock clearly hadn't resolved it. Not at all.

"Do you think they talked with Leonard?"

"No."

Spock seemed almost startled by the mention of McCoy.

"No, I do not think they made use of the doctor's psychiatric skills. I suspect they engaged in behavior inappropriate for officers on a Federation starship."

"You think they did what?"

"Fraternized."

"Oh. OH. Well then." Chapel hoped the glow of the light-rod hid her blush.

"Do you think it possible that mere physical intimacy could resolve such issues?"

"Well, it all depends on how good..." Catching Spock's reaction Christine swallowed her mischievous grin.

"Umm… possibly?"

Spock barreled on. If he didn't address this now, the time might never again present itself.

"Would such a solution be equally applicable for our difficulties?"

"Our difficulties?"

Was Spock saying what she just thought she heard him say?

"Correct. Our effectiveness as shipmates has been compromised ever since the events of that mission. I suspect you no longer trust in my ability to protect you. A logical deduction considering the extent of my failure on Platonius."

"Your failure? Let's clarify this, Spock once and for all -- I failed you. It was my inability to control my emotions that led Parmen to me. He tried to exploit you, thinking that if I loved you, you would be vulnerable to me. Stupid really, there was no way you would let him manipulate you..."

Spock swallowed, thinking of just how close he had come to losing all semblance of control, begging McCoy to end it before he hurt her.

"...what almost happened was really nothing more than I deserved. Proper punishment for my emotional excess."

Her voice cracked and she looked away. He had seen her cry too often, far too often. This time she would retain control. Icy, Vulcan…

"Christine."

His other hand left the darkness of the deck to turn her face back to him.

"It is you who does not understand. Parmen pulled you from my mind."

The all-clear had faded. Various footsteps rushed by. Under the door, a light flickered: once, twice.

Christine's hand began to tremble in his warm grasp.

"Spock..."

Lab 16 swum around her, he was bending down and there was no Parmen, no need to resist just her heartbeat knocking....

...was that knocking?

"Finally! Are you two all right?" Spock turned so easily it seemed impossible that he had just tried to kiss her. Did he just try to kiss her?

McCoy bustled into the small space, medkit at the ready. His eyes took in spectrometer, shoulder and cracked communications panel in one professional glare.

"Sickbay. Now."

As usual, he wasn't obeyed.

"Unnecessary, Doctor. I am more than capable of reporting for duty in my current condition."

"In your current condition -- over my dead body..."

"...a scenario increasingly desired..." mumbled Spock.

"…your wounded ass is gonna be marched to my Sickbay immediately if not sooner and not a word to the contrary."

"The injury is not to my posterior and I am reporting to the bridge as stipulated in Starfleet combat regulation number one, section 89."

McCoy didn't deign to respond, continuing his tirade down the corridor.

"And you, missy -- don't think that because you have some limited knowledge of medical care I'm letting you off the hook. Don't trust any of those damn devices farther than I can throw them, and don't tell me an overgrown salt-shaker is any substitute for a good old fashioned triage. Twenty-four hour observation, do you hear me? Twenty four hours and not a peep out of either one of you."

"Yes, Doctor."

Christine knew better than to argue. Placate and then attack. Besides if she had her timing right… Yup.

A flicker of blue -- and there was Spock at the other end of the corridor; taking advantage of Leonard's gap in concentration to make a break for the turbolift.

McCoy turned just in time to catch the doors close over Spock's smug eyebrow.

"Damn."

"Come on Leonard. I'll let you poke and prod me for at least ten minutes and I won't even correct your technique."

McCoy scowled in Spock's general direction. "Fifteen. Fifteen at the very least and a full report on that stubborn Vulcan's condition."

"Agreed."

And McCoy was startled to see Chapel break out in an ear-to-ear grin.

* * *

"So, for a man with no emotions and a woman who has fallen out of love, you and Spock seem to be spending an awful lot of time together." Leonard hit buttons on the autoclave with a superior gesture. Just watch her try and weasel out of this one. Four days since the Biolab incident and not a word out of her.

"Vulcans have emotions, they just repress them."

"Oh, really Missy, and how would you know that?"

"Endocrine systems in Vulcaniod physiology: a revised prospectus -- Dr. Segra's lecture on Pacifica, you know, the one you 'slept' through."

"Believe me, darlin, I wasn't sleeping."

"Hungover then."

"I never get hungover."

"One word, Leonard, Movast."

"Okay, I hardly ever get hungover, and certainly not on Bartok rum runners. Those things are like mother's milk to me."

"Sure, if mother's milk was 180 proof."

"Indeed it was, 180 proof Kentucky bourbon -- popular girl, my momma."

"Funny, Leonard, really funny." Christine finished autoclaving the scanners and placed them back on the tray.

"Which brings me back to you and Spock."

"There is no Spock and I."

"Oh, and you spent your time locked in the lab talking about Hypoxian dream-flu vaccine."

"No."

McCoy grinned. It was not an innocent expression.

"Leonard, really, we barely spoke at all. This is Spock remember -- hardly a candidate for the small talk award."

"So nothing happened."

"That's right," Christine stopped by the mirror on her way out of the office, and rewound a strand of hair into her French braid, "Nothing happened."

McCoy looked at his healthy and smiling head nurse.

"Sure, sure -- after all, it's not like that walking machine was gonna to take advantage of a dark room and a pretty girl, now is he?"

Chapel turned her head away, but not before he caught the faintest hint of a blush.

"Bye, Leonard."

"Bye, darlin…"

He waited until he was sure she was out of earshot.

"Nothing happened. Hrumpf. In a pig's eye, little girl. Nobody fools Leonard McCoy. Nobody."



FIN

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