DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Karen Bates and is copyright (c) by Karen Bates. This story is Rated PG.


Karen Bates

"Christine Chapel, Personal Log:

"Here it is, the end of another five-year mission. Tomorrow we dock at Starbase 7 for six weeks while the ship is made ready to go out again. I guess that includes getting the people ready, too. Last time it was a simple choice; after all, I didn't have anywhere else to go at the time. Now, I'm not so sure. I have my M.D. added to my Ph.D., which opens up the job market should I leave the service, and if I don't, I have the experience and qualifications to be Chief Surgeon on another starship. Not sure what I want right now, though I've certainly done enough thinking about it the last several months. Even now, on the eve of turning in my request, I can't decide. I'll be thirty-nine next month; where has all the time gone?"

* * *

"Leonard, do you have a minute?"

"Sure, Christine. Yeoman, take this batch down to the dispatcher and make sure they send it to the right place this time." McCoy led the way through the clutter and into his office, which was just as disreputable.

"I entered the request officially this morning, but wanted to tell you personally." She fiddled nervously with the board and stylus in her hands. Now that the time had come, it was proving worse to do than anticipated. "I've requested a transfer off the Enterprise, effective end of this mission."

McCoy removed a stack of boxes from a chair and motioned her to sit, seating himself on the edge of his desk. "I'm sorry to see you go, Chris. We've been together a long time. May I ask why you're leaving?"

Christine remained silent a moment, weighing her thoughts and words with care. "I've remained on the Enterprise for nearly ten years as a nurse, then later as a physician. It's time to move on to somewhere else, that's all."

"I have a feeling there's more to it than that, but I won't pry."

"I went into space originally to look for Roger. After I found him and adjusted to his death, I stayed, because I had nowhere else to go."

"And you wanted to stay near Spock," McCoy added.

She came to her feet in a single motion. "That's *another* reason I want off this floating hot-house! Everywhere I turn, there's no respite from the remarks, the snide comments. I accepted the situation years ago that I was no more than a piece of sickbay furniture to him, but do people grant me the dignity and privacy I've earned by conducting myself with the utmost professionalism and propriety? Heaven forbid! I swear, Spock goes out of his way to prove how inferior I am every chance he gets. Well, I'm tired of it. I deserve better, but there's no way I'm ever going to get it on this ship, so I'm leaving."

"Have you tried talking to him about it?"

"Have I tried...?" Christine paced angrily in the limited space. "How can you talk to someone who either leaves the room when you enter it or conveniently finds an excuse to be elsewhere when you do manage to catch up with him? There comes a point where you just don't care any more. I've reached that point. I know he's had dealings with other women, so it's not that he doesn't like the gender; it's *me*, Christine Chapel, that turns him off. That was a pretty hard fact to accept, Leonard, but I've done it."

"I can't change your mind?"

"I'm going to miss you, but if I don't break away now, I may never," she answered firmly.

* * *


McCoy steeled himself in anticipation of the raised cabin temperature of Spock's quarters and entered. "Figured you'd still be on the ship, so I stopped by on my way down."

"The Captain requested that I monitor the change-over personally in his absence. There are a few remaining details concerning the memory banks that I am completing now before going ashore," Spock elaborated. "Is there something you wished to see me about?"

"Yes and no." A raised eyebrow met his contradictory statement. McCoy fumbled for the right words. "I assume you'll be returning to the Enterprise...?"

"Affirmative. Why do you ask?"

"Just curious."

"I see. If that is all you wish to know, I have work to do."

The doctor stopped the outburst on the tip of his tongue and instead, casually dropped into the chair opposite Spock's console. "I understand there's going to be several changes in personnel."

Spock leaned back in his chair and studied the other man from beneath hooded lids. McCoy obviously had a reason for being here, and was going to take his time in getting to it. "Something else on your mind, Doctor?"

"Christine dropped by my office earlier today." Dead silence met his comment. "She's transferring off the Enterprise." More silence. "Your enthusiasm is overwhelming, Spock."

"What do you wish me to say?"

"You really don't care, do you?"

"I do not see that it concerns you, Doctor. Now if you'll excuse me, I have other matters to which I must attend."

"Well, she was right about one thing," McCoy remarked as he rose from his seat.

"And what was that?"

"She *does* deserve better than you. Good night, Spock." The doors whisked shut behind him before Spock could reply.

* * *

Blinking once to acclimate his eyes to the glaring Vulcan sun after many years of absence, Spock lifted his baggage from the servo-mechanism and walked toward his destination. Thirty minutes later, he stood before an inauspicious gateway leading to the inner sanctum of the Vulcan High Council. A brief hint of recognition touched the woman's face as Spock gave his name and requested an audience with T'Pau, but it was immediately replaced by a neutral expression of professional disinterest.

"She is still in council. Do you wish to wait or return at another time?"

"I will remain."

Several hours later he became conscious of the same woman standing politely before him waiting for his return from a deep meditative state.

"You may now enter."

T'Pau's sanctuary was deep within the confines of the complex and was a pleasant respite from the blazing heat of the surface office.

"Thee has returned?" The voice of the tiny woman was as powerful and vibrant as ever in its stern questioning.

"As was ordered and agreed, T'Pau."

"The Time of Mating is upon thee?"

"Soon. Within days."

"I have chosen thee a wife."

"As was agreed." There was a hint of anger beneath the words which didn't escape her notice.

"Thee chafes at the bargain? There is yet time to change it."

"An exchange was agreed and will be made. I have returned to take a Vulcan wife according to custom, in return for the sentence of death to be dropped against McCoy. The time has come upon me; I have returned. Hence my part has been kept."

"Thee disagrees with the Council's decision to enforce the law? His interference in the *kal-if-fee* earned him that death sentence. Thee should be thankful for the Council's leniency in agreeing to this 'exchange'."

"His crime will be stricken from the books?"

"At the completion of the ceremony," T'Pau acknowledged. "Does thee wish to set a day and time?"

"It is of no relevance; today will suffice."

"Very well. Will thee be remaining on Vulcan?"

"Negative. When the fever has passed, I will return to the Enterprise."

"And thy wife?"

"Will remain here on Vulcan, or wherever she chooses. It does not matter. She will have my name and property, that is the law."

* * *

T'Mira studied the man to whom her parents had given her in marriage by agreement with the Council. Her own bondmate had died at an early age of an accidental death, and options were few for single women in her state. She had heard of the legendary Spock while growing up, but had never seen him until now, at her own wedding. The words of ritual were spoken and exchanged, transference of name and properties was completed and the small group dispersed as quietly as it had assembled. There had been no bell banners for her, just a gathering of necessary people to make it legal.

Spock carefully folded the official document freeing McCoy and tucked it safely away into his pouch. It was done. The long years of waiting for the return of the fever, and this day, was over. He was married. T'Pau had given him a brief resume to skim before T'Mira arrived; that was all he knew of her. She was T'Mira, daughter of highly respected parents, young by planetary standards. Having no bondmate for so many years, she had been trained and educated to assist in her father's shipping business on the chance she would never marry.

They had both been puppets in T'Pau's scheme to force Spock into a marriage which would ensure the continuation of the line and remove the chances of having it further contaminated by non-Vulcan blood. It had been blackmail, pure and simple, but effective. Had T'Pau pushed the issue, Starfleet would have had to turn McCoy over to the Council rather than risk the loss of Vulcan from its numbers.

"You understand that I will not be staying after the fever has passed," Spock said to her when the last of the 'guests' had left and they were alone together for the first time.

"I was not aware of your plans until now." Her chin came up as she looked him in the eyes. "You have given me what the law demands in material goods; my body is now legally yours to use, after which you will be returning to space until such time as you need me again. Have I stated the facts correctly?"

Typical Vulcan bluntness. He had grown accustomed to the gentler ways of Humans in approaching a situation; her answer was like a cold slap in the face.

"You object?"

"Would it matter?" she countered, undaunted.

"My life is on the Enterprise, just as yours is here. Should you wish to leave Vulcan and journey elsewhere, I will have no objections."

"And if I bear you a child, what then?"

"I will assist in his or her upbringing, though not necessarily on Vulcan. The decision will be dependent on factors which are indeterminable at this time. Is this agreeable?" Children. It was a factor Spock didn't like to consider.

"I am your wife. I will follow your dictates as befits my station." Spock was unsure whether the sarcasm he heard was real or imagined.

* * *

The violence of the *pon farr* was abating, and Spock felt complete control of his body and mind again for the first time in days. His memory could still feel the hot flames of desire licking his body and burning it to ashes, only to rise again like the legendary Terran phoenix, to be consumed again and again. T'Mira lay next to him, sleeping in an exhausted stupor, spent by his constant demands. He rose from the bed on shaky legs and left the room, donning his clothes on the way. She murmured something unintelligible at his muffled sounds of movement, then dropped off once more.

The mountain air was cool, crisp and refreshing to him as he stepped out of the small cabin. Miles of desert valley stretched out below him, unblemished by Vulcan's inhabitants. Behind him rose the craggy black peaks of one of the planet's greatest ranges. Spock had spent a lot of time at this tiny retreat, nestled away from civilization, as a young man before leaving Vulcan for Starfleet. It had always afforded the necessary calm in his life unobtainable in ShiKahr surrounded by his peers. Now, many years later as an older man, he had returned to the peaks seeking respite, sitting on a rock which overlooked the valley.

Spock was certain T'Pau had notified his parents of the impending wedding, but was relieved that neither had chosen to appear at the ceremony. Sarek would have deemed his presence non-essential; Amanda would not have approved of the circumstances surrounding the choice of bride. It had been her hope that Spock would follow in his father's footsteps and marry the woman of his choice, rather than bow to the dictates of tradition twice in a row. Life with his new wife was not going to be easy, he could see that already.

She was young and naive, even by Vulcan standards. T'Mira's knowledge of the shipping business was great and her expertise would increase even further with time should she decide to continue that line of work in his absence, but beyond that she was basically ignorant. Her life on Vulcan had been a sheltered one, with only superficial encounters with people beyond the planet's influence through business dealings. At least his time with her would be short. His life was on the Enterprise and no matter how much meddling T'Pau did, that was not going to change.

She had forced a Vulcan wife on him, but there was nothing in the contract which said he had to stay on Vulcan the rest of his life. Her plan had been to continue the bloodlines as pure as possible, but that didn't mean he had to raise his children under the auspices of his home planet. T'Pau had counted on his reactions being that of a typical Vulcan. She was in for a big surprise.

Spock turned his mind from the situation at hand and allowed himself the luxury of wondering what his life might have been like had T'Pau not blackmailed him so soon after T'Pring's divorce of him at the *kali-if-fee*. There had been several women floating in and out of his life at various times. The most tempting had been Zarabeth. He could still picture her in his mind as she lay on the furs, shadows from the fire playing over her body. McCoy had been the price that time, too.

In order to save him, Spock had been forced to sacrifice Zarabeth and return to the present, knowing that she would be dust by the time his foot hit the Library floor. This time McCoy's life had forced him into a marriage he didn't want and would have to endure for a very long time. McCoy was an anathema in his life. Spock genuinely liked the physician and enjoyed his company, although he would never have admitted it publicly. Yet somehow, McCoy always seemed to bring Spock bad luck and reminders of things that might have been. The last night on the Enterprise was a perfect example.

McCoy had brought up the subject of Christine Chapel. Not one of Spock's favorite topics of conversation. Not, as people thought, because he disliked her, but rather a necessity to keep himself apart from her so as not to bring her pain. There was no future for the two of them because of T'Pau, and it would have been unfair to start something that would have led nowhere. McCoy's announcement of her leaving had been the first Spock had heard about it, but there was no way he was going to admit any feelings to the Doctor.

"What would you have me say?"

The one statement which always covered the painful moments of his life -- when Jim was declared dead in Tholian space, when McCoy had questioned him about Zarabeth after their return to the Enterprise, and most recently, when told of Christine's departure from the ship and his life. Perhaps it was better this way, with Christine gone from the ship. There would no longer be a constant reminder of what might have been. Apart from him, she would have a chance for a new start in life.

Sitting alone up in the mountains, Spock could understand the passions which had driven his ancestors to the point of extinction. Logic was the cooling factor, but it didn't fully erase what lay beneath it.

* * *


"It's hard to believe six months have gone by so quickly for me here at the Base. I enjoyed spending that last evening with you before the Enterprise left dock, although I must admit it was pretty funny when the waitress mistook you for someone else. Wish you could have seen the look on your face!

"Work here in the Base infirmary isn't quite as challenging as I would like, unfortunately. You were right when you said it wasn't for me. I've been considering various possibilities and have found one that sounds interesting and quite challenging. There's a small group of colonists leaving for a planet in the Sigma 12 system and in desperate need of a physician. I've never pictured myself as being the colonizing type, but somehow it seems the right thing to do at this juncture.

"We're leaving from Starbase 9 in two weeks and I wanted to let you know what was happening in my life before I left. It's set up, too, that I have the option of leaving the colony in two years' time when the Federation sends a ship around to check up on us. Who knows, maybe the Enterprise will get the assignment since we're so far out in the fringes. Still a dreamer, aren't I?

"Leaving the Enterprise was the best thing I could have done for myself; I made the right choice. I miss all of you and wish it could have turned out differently, but I'm sure it will be best eventually. Tell everyone hello for me, please. I'll probably be gone by the time this arrives, but wish me a good life and safe journey anyway.


* * *

McCoy switched the tape off and reached for his glass, sipping slowly as he contemplated the empty screen. The tape had arrived today, but his duties had kept him in Sickbay until all hours of the night. Christine joining a colonizing team. It was something he'd never imagined her doing. McCoy had thought she'd putter around the Base hospital a while, then sign up as a physician on another starship.

Life certainly took strange twists occasionally. He wondered briefly what her motivation might have been to make such a drastic decision. Probably never know.

Sickbay wasn't the same without her. He kept turning around expecting to see her there, ready to help him take on anything, but finding only empty space. She'd been his right arm for nearly ten years; it was not easy adjusting to her absence, the last six months had proven it.

* * *

Spock shut his viewer down and headed for the bridge. T'Mira's tape had brought the news he dreaded most and he felt the need to keep occupied so his mind wouldn't dwell on it. Their time in the mountains had proven fertile and she was now expecting their child. There would be another five months of gestation beyond the six already past, but he would need to make a decision concerning their future soon. The normal bridge activities helped him put the matter in the back of his mind and the shift passed smoothly. When he returned to his quarters, the tape and the problem were still waiting for him.

* * *

The planet was an untouched wilderness, sitting in the far reaches of charted space. Initial surveys had indicated land well-suited for raising a variety of crops and able to support any number of colonies. Christine's group was the first to settle on CALL-135, or "Calico" as it was soon named.

Mountains lay to the east of them, offering unlimited timber and wide meadows dotted with wooded copes surrounding them on the other three sides. A few pre-fab buildings were erected for temporary shelter while more permanent dwellings were built over the next several months.

There was little in the way of full-time medical duties to perform, other than setting up what equipment and supplies she had in the small quonset hut set aside for the clinic ... so Christine made herself available for whatever chore needed doing. Days were long and the work unceasing, but it gave her a chance to be alone with her thoughts while her hands were busy.

Calico was a beautiful place and she had no regrets for coming. Several species of wildlife had proven dangerous and the full cataloguing of edible and non-edible plant life wasn't completed, but the risks seemed to enhance the place and make their efforts even more gratifying. The only thing Christine found lacking was peace of mind.

Her letter to McCoy had been honest, but incomplete. The work at the base infirmary was unchallenging, but it was more than that. After thirty-nine years of life and hard work, Christine had taken a long, hard look at herself and was unable to feel that she had accomplished anything with those years. When she saw the notice asking for interested persons to colonize an 'unbroken' planet, it didn't take her long to contract.

It may not have been the right choice for someone else, or even for her ten years ago, but when she stood outside after dark and watched the huge orange moon, Christine was reminded of what had been and was thankful for being where she was. It would take a lot to make her leave Calico and this group of people behind when the ship came back in two years. Time would put recalcitrant memories to rest and the past would fade away, replaced by new things on Calico.

* * *

"Captain's Log, Stardate 5531.2:

"We are in orbit around planet six of the Orcadis system. Records indicate there was a colony established here some fifty years ago ... but sensors can discern no sign of habitation. We are going down to investigate."

* * *

It was a primitive and wild planet, untainted by civilization. Kirk questioned Spock in surprise. "Are you sure your coordinates were right? There doesn't appear to have been anyone near here in the last century."

"They are the coordinates left by the charting survey of forty years ago. Perhaps the records were in error." Spock flicked his tricorder on and scanned the area. "I pick up various wildlife readings, no ... wait, bearing 37 mark 6, faint readings of Humans."

"Let's go." Kirk set the pace, followed by Spock, McCoy and the two Security team members. They stopped short of the clearing, crouching down behind dense grass and tree trunks. "Spock, what do you make of it? Why didn't our sensors pick them up on the ship?"

"Unknown, Captain. It is possible the planet has a natural shielding effect prohibiting accurate readings from outside its atmosphere. As for the ... inhabitants, it would appear that they have reverted to a basic and most primitive state."

"That's an understatement," McCoy put in. "Jim, my readings even from this distance show unusual patterns of brain waves. I can't be certain without using more direct methods and running it through the computer, but these people have degenerated so far, it's doubtful advanced speech patterns exist any longer."

"That's impossible," Kirk argued. "This colony has only been here for fifty years. It would take generations to achieve what you're saying, if it's possible at all. These were intelligent beings establishing a colony destined for a state of simple living, not illiterate savages like these people are. Spock, what did the charting survey show?"

"Nothing beyond the existence of the original colony. No details or specifics. The survey was purely superficial. No contact was made with the colony at that time."


"I recommend we leave them alone, Jim. They're so far removed from us now that it would be too great a culture shock to confront them. It could very well be something indigenous to the planet which has altered their brain patterns and created this kind of culture."

"And if it is," Kirk asked, "can it be reversed?"

"I don't know." McCoy took a quick look at Spock, silently asking for support. He could tell Kirk had a bug up his sleeve for some reason about this colony, and it was going to take a lot of persuasion to get him to leave it alone.

"It's doubtful the process is reversible. If brain damage of any kind has occurred, the next generation, which this most likely is after fifty years, have had the degeneration far too long and too inbred to alter. My recommendation is to find out what caused the damage and quarantine this planet from further colonization. If the damage is not caused by something on the planet and is within the group itself, it would be better not to disrupt their life cycle and let nature run its course."

"I am forced to agree with the Doctor, Captain. Our tampering with this society would be a direct violation of the Prime Directive and would most likely prove harmful to them."

"Our responsibility is to protect life." Kirk stood up, preparing to leave despite his desire to stay. "If we can find the cause of this, we may be able to correct it." His gold-clad figure gleamed against the dark-colored vegetation, attracting the attention of the camp. "Let's get..." Kirk's order was never completed as he felt the tiny sting of a blow dart in his shoulder. Spock's face grew fuzzy, then he knew nothing.

"Spock to Enterprise, emergency beam-up." The beams caught them and the next moment they were on board.

* * *

"Christine Chapel, Personal Log:

"Weekly meeting was held tonight. It was decided to build the first house for Tom and Maggie, so their children wouldn't have to be separated any longer, under the present sleeping arrangements. There are only four families with children, but Maggie's are the youngest and in most need of being with their mother. She reminds me of what I was like at her age, so full of energy and exuberance, ready to go out and tackle anything or anyone. I seem to have lost that ability.

"Sometimes when I hold her little boy, I wonder what it would have been like to have one of my own, but there's no point in dwelling on it. It's enough that I'm happy and accepted here. Most of the crops have been planted, which is why the housing project is underway. It'll be nice to have fresh food to eat besides the edible berries and fruits we've found, instead of the supplies we brought with us.

"Don't know why I'm keeping this log; there's really not much to say. In fact, knowing me, I'll probably come back to listen to this in a month or so and erase the entire mess as a worthless waste of tape. Wish it could be that easy to go back and erase portions of my life and 'tape' them over again. Next time, I would leave the Enterprise after my first tour of duty, instead of signing on again and go someplace else, maybe a different ship, perhaps try for a teaching or research position.

"Staying in one place, especially such an isolated place, for ten years was the wrong thing to do. Oh, well, can't change the past, just have to do better in the future. I've made a promise to myself, might as well put it on tape, to stop thinking about the past and concentrate on the present. There's no reason to spend my time daydreaming about Spock or anything else that has no bearing on reality, so I'm not. Period.

"For having nothing to say, I've certainly been carrying on. Next time I'll try to have something to say, then when I replay this tape, I'll only have to erase part of it."

* * *

Spock answered the buzzer and found McCoy in the corridor. "Can I come in, Spock? I'd like to discuss something with you."

Spock stood aside and allowed McCoy to enter the recently acquired quarters. He hadn't seen McCoy much in the month since Jim's death. The dart's poison had been swift, stealing the Captain's life before the transporter beams had touched him. Spock had been given captaincy by Starfleet almost immediately and Sulu promoted to First Officer.

It had been a hard month for everyone on the ship. Kirk's death had taken away the very heartbeat of the Enterprise. Spock was highly respected and made a fine Captain, but it just wasn't the same chemical combination that had made the Enterprise the finest ship in the Fleet. The loss laid heavy on Spock, and it was proving impossible to function in the same capacity on the same ship as Kirk had.

McCoy had thought long and hard in the last four weeks, dealing with his grief and giving Spock time to do the same. He was feeling his way carefully in approaching Spock. The lesson learned in Tholian space had been well taken; he wasn't about to make the same mistake twice.

"I understand you've resigned your commission, Spock."

The angular brow rose at the statement. "I did not realize it was public knowledge already."

"When a captain of one month's duration suddenly resigns, word travels pretty fast." McCoy spoke gently, trying not to push the issue. "Have you decided where you'll go, what you'll do? I suppose you'll be returning to Vulcan."


McCoy was caught off-guard by the vehemence surrounding the single word. "I'm sorry, Spock. I didn't mean to offend you in any way..."

"I understand, Doctor. You said you had something to discuss with me?" Vulcan. The very thought of returning to the planet of his birth was too much to consider. It had brought him very little of late. With Kirk gone and his life on the Enterprise shattered, the prospect of placing himself under the strangling jurisdiction and auspices of Vulcan was even less inviting.

"I didn't know if you had any specific plans, or if you'd even be interested ... but there's another small group of people leaving for a new settlement in the Sigma 12 system in three weeks' time from Starbase 9. They could really use a couple people like us, especially in the first few years. If it turned out you didn't like it or wanted to leave, Federation ships are required to check up on the colony every two years until they're fully established, as you know, and you could just leave if you chose."

"I was unaware you were planning to leave the Enterprise." A colony planet ... a new start, totally free of everyone and everything. He could raise their child as he wanted, a balanced combination of Vulcan and Human ideals. T'Mira would be in good hands with McCoy there to deliver the child. Plus, two years would be sufficient time to know if he had made the correct decision or not.

"I decided I was getting too old to knock around space any longer. There doesn't seem much point to it any more. With Jim gone," the Doctor hesitated, searching for a way to express his thoughts. "And you leaving, I can't find any reason to stay. I can be useful to a colony. All I'm doing here lately is collecting dust."

"I will take your suggestion under advisement." Spock had already made his decision, but it would take time to make arrangements.

"Should I decide to join you, I will meet you on Starbase 9 in twenty days."

* * *

T'Mira felt the baby move within her and was immediately reminded of the future that lay before her. Spock's orders to meet him here at Starbase 9 had left no room for disagreement or non-obedience. She had married him under Vulcan law and had promised to obey his wishes. Colonization. She had no knowledge of any Vulcan that had ever joined a colonizing team. It was not imagined. Here she was, nearly eight months pregnant, going to a new settlement in one of the furthest-flung reaches of the galaxy. Why was Spock doing this?

She hadn't been sitting long before she saw her husband approach with another man. Spock had aged in the time he had been gone. What had happened to create the additional lines on his face? Did it have anything to do with his sudden decision to leave Starfleet and migrate?

"Dr. McCoy, may I present my wife, T'Mira?"

She could read the shock on the Human's face before it was replaced by a wide grin. So Spock had not told anyone of his marriage. It was not unexpected. T'Pau was not one with whom to argue, but that did not mean one had to approve of the situation, either. Who was this man to her husband? A physician, by his title. Was he to deliver her baby on some strange and backward planet? This situation was going from bad to worse. A Human doctor who couldn't possibly know anything about Vulcans was all she would have, and T'Mira could find no suitable logic to settle the uncertainty in her mind.

Leonard was busy fitting the varied pieces of puzzle into place mentally as they joined the rest of the team. By T'Mira's appearance, she must be about seven or eight months along, which would put the conception date around the six-week layover between tours. He knew Spock had left the docking base for a couple of weeks, but didn't know where he had gone. Now he did. As they received room assignments, McCoy had the feeling that this trip was going to be even more interesting than originally anticipated.

* * *

T'Mira kept her distance from everyone during the entire voyage. This group of Humans held no interest for her, other than something to observe and study. How her husband had managed to live among them for so long was quite beyond her. Stranger still was the interaction between Spock and McCoy. It was as though Spock genuinely liked and trusted the Human, though she could find no logical reason for it. He was far too emotional and illogical for her taste, although he was proving knowledgeable and competent as a physician.

They were sitting together scant hours before arrival at the planet when McCoy mentioned the presence of someone named Christine Chapel among the original group that had colonized CALL-135. T'Mira caught a glimpse of something pass through Spock's eyes at the name, but it was quickly covered. The reaction had been very subtle, but it was sufficient to give her pause. Both men apparently knew this woman, whoever she was, and McCoy had felt telling Spock in advance about her being there was warranted.

* * *

Christine went with everyone else to the landing site to greet the new batch of colonists and to help with the supplies that would need moving to the settlement. With the thirty-six people coming today, the total number would be close to eighty. Maggie was telling her something when she caught sight of someone she knew.

"Leonard! I can't believe it!" Christine ran to him and was gathered into a warm hug.

"Stand back and let me look at you." He took in the lean, trim figure toned into shape by physical labor and the glow in her eyes from the sight of him. Her hair had grown in the eight months since he'd last seen her and was pulled back neatly from her face. "Prettier than ever."

He maneuvered her away from the beam down point, plying her with questions. Spock and T'Mira would be beaming down with the last group and he wanted to prepare Christine ahead of time.

"Come on," she was saying. "I'll show you around and help you get settled in. It's not much since we've only been here a couple of months, but I think you'll like it. The group has been planning this colony for a long time and prepared well for it. We have everything needed for a good, solid start."

"Chris." His tone stopped her flow of words. "I have something to tell you. It's important."

"What is it? Nothing bad, I hope."

"I brought someone with me."

"Who? Did they beam down already?"

"No, they're not down yet."

He fumbled for the right words to break the news to her. This wasn't the way he'd wanted it to be when he'd first told Spock of the colony. Why hadn't the Vulcan told him he was married then, instead of springing it on him at the Starbase?

"Chris, there was an accident about two months ago on the Enterprise. Jim was killed."

"I'm sorry to hear that. He was a good man."

"They made Spock captain, but after a month, he decided to resign. I don't think he was happy being on the Enterprise any more after Jim was gone. He's with me."

"Spock ... is ... here?" She couldn't believe her ears. Spock was right here, on Calico?

"Wait." McCoy paused. "He's not alone. I don't like being the one to tell you this, but would rather have you hear it from me than anyone else."

"What?" Who could be with Spock?

"He's married. I wanted you to be prepared before meeting them."

"Thank you, Leonard. I appreciate that."

Christine felt the tiny spark that had lit inside of her at the mention of Spock's arrival snuff itself out. She missed whatever else McCoy was saying as she fortified herself to meet this woman with every ounce of dignity she could muster. Just because she had lost a non-existent war didn't mean she had to sacrifice her pride and confidence in herself as a woman.

She felt a brief pang as she saw the woman with Spock for the first time. T'Mira was beautiful, in the bloom of youth, untarnished by the ravages of time. Christine felt ancient next to her. Even when encumbered with child, T'Mira moved with grace, making Christine conscious of her tendency toward being a klutz occasionally.

So this was the woman Spock had chosen to be his wife. If this was the way of his taste -- beautiful, young dark-haired Vulcans -- it was no wonder that he had never paid any attention to her in the ten years on the Enterprise. Donning her best professional mask, Christine greeted Spock and T'Mira, doing her best to make the awkward situation as comfortable as possible.

Being occupied with making arrangements for their housing in the temporary hall, she missed the studied looks T'Mira was giving her and the expression that had touched Spock's eyes when he'd first seen her standing there with McCoy. As soon as it was politely feasible, Christine made her exit and headed for the community kitchen, joining in the work of preparing the next meal, making what her hands were doing take precedence over what her mind was.

* * *

There was always work to be done on Calico. Every advancement took effort; nothing came easy. Spock and McCoy fit in easily with their knowledge and skill. It was a difficult adjustment to make socially, especially for Spock, but the dislike he earned for his non-emotional attitude was gradually replaced with respect for his abilities.

McCoy finally had the reality of being an "old country doctor," but sometimes found himself wishing for the technology he no longer had available. Christine found herself doing the exact thing she had accused Spock of doing on the Enterprise -- avoiding him. The colony didn't have tthat many people, but she somehow managed to be where he wasn't whenever possible.

T'Mira puzzled her. Unable to do heavy work, T'Mira was put in charge of the necessary paperwork and other light chores. Christine found herself watching her, studying this woman who was Spock's wife. The Vulcan woman was quiet and unassuming, obedient to her husband's wishes, making little or no effort to assert herself in any given situation. It was as if T'Mira had disassociated herself from every thing and everyone around her, maintaining a distance that was increasing daily.

* * *

Spock rose from the bed, leaving T'Mira sound asleep, and left the room. The colony was quiet in the wee hours of the morning and no one disturbed his passage from the Great Hall, as it was called. He had no particular destination in mind, but simply felt the need to be apart from T'Mira and the Hall for a time. Overhead, the scarlet scythe cast a pall over the buildings as he trod the safe areas patrolled and protected at night from nocturnal prowlers.

McCoy had not told him Christine was at the settlement until shortly before they'd beamed down. He'd gone ahead to tell her about T'Mira, but Spock was unsure of how to handle the awkward moment. Once again, McCoy had managed to turn Spock's life inside out.

Spock and T'Mira had adjusted to their relationship, but neither was satisfied with it. She was Vulcan through and through; he was a combination of factors, most of which she couldn't begin to comprehend. T'Mira had been reared with the rules and guidelines of being the perfect Vulcan wife as prescribed by tradition, but was at a loss as to how to apply all her training to this man who was her new husband.

Spock had been out of touch with Vulcan's rigid society for so long that he had difficulty relating to her attitudes. He was beginning to discover that there was more Human in his expectations than he first realized.

Spock noticed a light at the clinic and walked to it, hoping to find McCoy inside. The door opened freely to his touch and he found Christine poring over some papers at her desk/table.

"Spock." Her voice registered surprise.

"I am sorry to have disturbed you. I was seeking McCoy."

"He retired a few hours ago. I think he was talking about getting up early for that short expedition tomorrow morning to the caves down river." She pushed the hair back out of her eyes and Spock could read the exhaustion in her face.

"It would appear that you should do the same. The hour is late."

"I ran some blood tests on T'Mira earlier today and wanted to double-check everything before I hit the sack."

"Is there some difficulty?" She was due in three more weeks, and McCoy and Christine had been monitoring her closely ever since their arrival on Calico.

"Oh, no," she assured him quickly. "Your wife is doing just fine, as far as I can tell. McCoy is the real expert, but according to my findings, aside from the usual genetic engineering to compensate for the Human factors, everything's going as expected."

A small but necessary lie. She needed to get her figures compiled for McCoy before he left in the morning, to get his opinion. T'Mira was showing signs of toxic particles in her bloodstream which could prove fatal to both mother and child if left too long.

Spock hesitated at the door long enough to make her ask if there was anything else he wanted. The question he'd wanted to ask for the longest time found its way to the surface. "Why did you choose to leave the Enterprise?"

The question caught her unprepared. It seemed out of character for Spock to ask it, especially so long after the fact. "I felt it was time to move on, do something different with my life."

"Was that your reason for joining the colony?"

"My reasons for coming here are my own, just as yours belong to you."

"I apologize for the intrusion." He turned to leave.

"I'm sorry, Spock." Her voice softened from the harsh note it had taken in answering him. "It's late, and I'm tired. Perhaps we could discuss it at a later date." Why had he asked her that particular question? What could it possibly mean to him?

"Are you returning to the Hall?" She was so withdrawn and apart from him now, just as she had been on the Enterprise.

"May as well. Just need to turn out the light."

"I will wait."

They walked back in silence, each uncomfortably aware of the other, Spock to his wife and Christine to a bed in the single women's section.

* * *

T'Mira felt ungainly as she made her way to the clinic for her daily checkup. Spock might not feel anything toward her, but appeared to be attached to the unborn child inside her. A strange man. Given to him by her parents through T'Pau, she had been with him those few days of *pon farr*, only to be left when it was over and hurtled back into his life months later in time to deliver his child.

She wasn't his wife, she was a stranger giving birth to his baby. T'Mira knew she was intelligent and beautiful, but Spock looked right through her, never seeing her. The feeling was somewhat mutual on her part. He was intellectual and decent-looking despite the Human blood in him, but far too removed from Vulcan ways for her.

Christine helped her up onto the table, then efficiently began gathering the necessary items for the day's tests. "How is it you know my husband?" If T'Mira expected to see a reaction from the other woman, she was disappointed. Christine smoothly piled the items on the tray, answering the question as if describing the weather.

"We both served on the Enterprise for many years, as did Dr. McCoy."

"He remembers you well."

"Spock remembers everything well. I was Head Nurse, then later a physician, during my ten years on board. Dr. McCoy and I treated him for various injuries and ailments."

"You left?"

"The Enterprise? Sure. My hitch was up, and I decided to move on. Why?"

"I know little of my husband's past. It is merely curiosity, nothing more." T'Mira kept her expression unchanged as she bent the facts slightly. It was true she knew little of Spock, either present or past, but her curiosity was more concerning Christine than her husband.

"Don't know what I can tell you. I didn't know him well. Rarely saw him, in fact, unless he was in sickbay. If you want to know anything, Leonard would be the one to ask. They've been friends a long time."

Christine couldn't believe how cool, calm and collected she was being through this whole conversation. Why on earth was T'Mira asking about Spock? They were *married*, for Heaven's sake, not strangers meeting on the street for the first time. Christine looked up from her tasks and found T'Mira staring at her intently.

"Something wrong, T'Mira? Are you in pain?"

"Did you once have pale-colored hair, much shorter in length?"

Christine straightened up, shaken by the question. "Yes, I used to have blonde hair before I let it go back to its original shade. How did you know?"

"I have been studying your face, trying to place where I had seen it before."

T'Mira had seen her before? Christine racked her brain trying to make a connection and came up empty-handed. "What are you talking about?"

"When I touched Spock's mind for the first and only time, I saw images and people I didn't know or understand. Your face was one I remember well." For the first time, T'Mira blatantly broke tradition and made reference to the *pon farr*. At least the frustration of not knowing one of the faces blending in his mind was over. Chances were she would never know the identity of the rest, but one now had a name.

"I'm sure you're mistaken, T'Mira. You must have me confused with someone else. Well, that does it for today. Stay off your feet as much as possible, and I'll see you tonight at dinner."

T'Mira had seen her face in Spock's mind? Impossible.

* * *

"Leonard, I don't like the look of this last set of blood tests."

McCoy shuffled through the stack of results, noting the discrepancies that were worsening daily. T'Mira wasn't due for another week, but the poisoning was progressing rapidly and would be out of control soon. Their efforts to counteract the toxic effects had been useless.

"Let's run these through again and see if anything comes up differently. The only thing I can discern is that it's something to do with the native vegetation of the planet. There are traces of bacteria in her system which match up with the local plant life. Whether it only affects Vulcans or if it's something we'll have to face every time a woman becomes pregnant on this planet, I don't know."

"I still think we should try and take the baby early. The toxin is getting worse, and if something isn't done soon, she's going to lose it anyway," Christine sighed. "T'Mira knows the problem and is willing to try it."

"I wish there was another way, but I haven't been able to find it."

The door to the clinic suddenly opened, and Spock stood framed in the doorway, T'Mira in his arms. "She has begun labor and is having difficulties."

* * *

Clouds began rolling in that afternoon as the long process of pain and waiting took its toll on the four people in the clinic. McCoy, Christine and Spock took turns monitoring what little equipment was available into the night as the hours mounted. Rain beat mercilessly on the roof and came in under the door as the deluge continued.

T'Mira was exhausted, spent from battling the constant pain induced by the foreign toxins in her system combined with contractions. The child in her was struggling to break free of its world and enter a new one, but couldn't make the transition on its own. A tiny head was just appearing when the lights went out and all power was lost.

"Grab that portable lantern, Spock," McCoy ordered as he helped the tiny newborn along. Christine felt for a pulse, anything, in T'Mira, but couldn't locate one.

"Leonard, we're losing her."

"Come on, T'Mira, hang in there. It's almost over," he pleaded between clenched teeth. "Just a little more..."

T'Mira heard the first cry of her child, then slipped away.

* * *

"Christine Chapel, Personal Log:

"I don't know if I've ever felt more worn out and drained than I do now. When the power went out and the backup generator wouldn't kick in, what few life support capabilities we do have ceased functioning and T'Mira lost what chance she did have to live. All because of a lousy, miserable storm. Spock had offered to meld with her, to help bear the pain and ease the delivery, but T'Mira had refused. I don't know why, and now that she's gone, we never will.

"All I can remember is how young she was, with so much ahead of her to learn and experience. I don't know if she would have ever really adjusted to life in a colony, but there was a chance. I wonder what it was that prompted her to ask me those questions yesterday morning. It was so unlike her to do something like that.

"Everyone turned out for a memorial service this afternoon, and the day was declared a time of rest and reflection. It was a grim reminder of our mortality and the odds we face trying to establish something in this wilderness. The baby, which Spock has named "Beth" for some private reason of his own, is healthy and doing just fine. Her features are pure Vulcan and our tests show few Human factors present in her system. She's a beautiful child. T'Mira would have been proud of her.

"I don't know what Spock is feeling about all this. He's withdrawn into his most solid Vulcan shell where no one can reach him, not even McCoy. I want to go to him and let him know that someone cares and grieves with him, but I dare not. Now is the time when I must stay as far away as possible, give him the space and time he needs. He didn't need me on those ten years on the Enterprise, I doubt he needs me now. Sometimes I wonder if he needs anybody."

* * *

Spock laid his heavy pack on the ground and watched as the four men with him did the same, taking this break to relax from hauling salt for the colony. It was a two-day journey each way to the closest natural salt lick and was made every three months without fail. He always volunteered to make the trip because it was a chance to be out in the wilderness, alone and apart. Beth was safe in the care of Christine during his absences, so he was free to concentrate on whatever he chose. His daughter had grown and developed so much in the last two years.

It was becoming hard to remember her as the tiny baby she'd been not long ago. Many had questioned him on the choice of name, thinking he would choose a Vulcan name, but Spock had remained silent on the subject, allowing people to think what they wished. McCoy had figured out the probable source of "Beth," but kept his counsel and silence. The salt trip was a necessary one for him.

He needed time to get away and consider what he should do considering Christine Chapel. Ever since T'Mira's death, she'd pulled away from him even further than before and nothing he did seemed to alter anything.

She loved Beth as if she were her own child, but to Spock, Christine was nothing but distantly respectful. It didn't make any sense to him. Why was she being so obstinate? He'd even asked her to marry him, but she had refused ... politely, of course, but still refused. Had her love for him of long ago grown cold with the passage of time? McCoy had counseled him to take it slowly, giving her time to adjust to things. She'd spent a lot of years being rebuffed and then subjected to his marriage to T'Mira. Her response to him was not going to be instantaneous, by any means. It had been a year since his proposal; how long was it going to take?

Picking up his pack, Spock signaled the other men to do the same and led the way back to the colony, determined to settle this one way or the other soon.

* * *

McCoy walked into the clinic where Christine was working on some reports and nonchalantly perched himself on the corner of her desk.

"Hi, Leonard. Has Maggie brought Beth back yet?"

"Said she'd bring her over in an hour or so. Wasn't quite up from her nap yet."

"Figures. Hand me those files, would you please?"

"Saw your name on the master list this morning to leave next week when the ship comes," he mentioned casually, handing her the stack of files. "It was rather conspicuous, considering that there's only five names on it," McCoy continued after a brief pause. Silence met his comment. "Why are you leaving, Chris? I thought you loved it here."

"Can't find any good reason to stay, Leonard," she answered bitterly, jamming the files into place. "Besides, I only planned on staying the first two years anyway, unless things really turned out well for me." *Good lie, Christine,* she told herself. "Since you're here, there's no pressing need for me to stay on as physician."

"What about Beth?"

"Maggie said she'll take care of her until Spock finds someone else."

"What about Spock?"

"What about him?"

"He does care for you, you know."

"Sure he does, because I've taken care of Beth since she was born. She is everything to him, which is the way it should be, and he needs to find the right woman to help him raise her. I don't want to stick around and watch him replace me with someone else. I don't think I could handle that on top of everything else that's happened the last few years."

"He told me you refused to marry him. I doubt Spock would ask you to marry him if he didn't mean it."

"Spock isn't looking for a wife. He's looking for someone to take care of Beth, give her a solid mother figure she can respect while growing up. I need more than that. I want someone to love and care for me, not because of Beth, but because of *me*. I could never be the kind of wife T'Mira was to him, obedient to his wishes and willing to be apart from him. He liked her and took care of her, but I don't believe he ever truly loved her."

McCoy wanted to take her by the shoulders and shake her until some sense came to her. "Have you given him a chance?"

"Give *him* a chance?" She laughed bitterly. "What chance did he ever give *me*? How many opportunities was I allowed on the Enterprise? I'll tell you how many. Zero. I spent ten years of my life pursuing a dream that never came true. I came here hoping to escape from it, make a new start, and what happens? The same damn dream follows me here, haunting me every night and kicking me in the teeth every day when I would see T'Mira and know just how stupid I'd been, how many years I wasted." Her voice rose in anger. "Look at me, Leonard. Do you really think for one minute that Spock wants to spend the next forty years with someone as old as I am?"

"Quit shortchanging yourself, Christine. The only person who thinks you're old is you. You have another sixty, eighty years in front of you."

"I know what you're trying to do, what you're saying, but it won't work. My decision is made and that's final. I'm going to miss you and I don't want to leave Beth, but that's the way it is. I have to go somewhere else and start over, somewhere I won't be running into Spock every day and being reminded of all the wrong things."

"Spock will be back tomorrow with the salt. You can explain to *him* why you're leaving."

McCoy mentally promised himself to make sure Spock saw the master list soon after his arrival. How he'd managed to be put in the position of matchmaker, McCoy didn't know, but it was certainly proving to be hard work. Christine was being the immovable object and Spock the irresistible force.

* * *

Spock delivered the salt, then went to check on Beth, who was still asleep, before hunting up Christine. His daughter preferred to stay with Christine all the time, but had accepted spending part of the time with Maggie's children and napping under the same jurisdiction. She definitely had her parents' stubborn streaks in her, Spock observed for the umpteenth time.

Christine wasn't in the clinic as he expected, so he looked for McCoy. After several moments, he located him loitering near the Notice Board outside the hall.

"I see you made it back in one piece again, Spock," McCoy observed wryly.

"Have you seen Christine anywhere, Doctor?"

"Can't say that I have too recently, but you better find her soon 'cause she's leaving next week." McCoy jabbed a thumb over his shoulder at the list. "She might have gone down to the river with Peter."

"For what purpose?"

"Haven't the foggiest. Well, I'd better go check on Hartley." Without another word, McCoy sauntered off, leaving Spock speechless for once.

Spock moved closer to the board and saw Christine's name heading the list of people wanting to leave Calico. Why was she going? She'd seemed happy enough to him during the two years she'd been here. Why the sudden change of heart? The colony had prospered, providing a good life for all members. Christine had thrown herself into the effort wholeheartedly, putting in long hours day after day, trying to make things work. What could have forced her into a decision to leave the one place she'd created a home?

There were no answers written on the list; only Christine could provide that kind of information. The path to the river was well worn down, although few took the time to linger on its banks this late in the afternoon. He found her downstream a ways, perched on a rock beneath a shade tree.

"May I join you?"

"If you wish."

Neither invitation nor refusal, just another one of the neutral answers Spock had grown accustomed to hearing in the last two years. "I observed your name among those departing next week."

At this moment, Spock longed for Kirk's smooth manner with women instead of his own blunt approaches. Either Jim or McCoy would have had this dilemma solved months ago, and here he was still stuck at square one.


"Why are you leaving?"

"Why does everyone keep asking me that? One would think me incapable of making up my own mind, the way people are acting." She turned back to face the river once more. "I'm leaving by choice."

Spock had to admit she was becoming quite proficient at turning each question into a dead-end situation. It was obvious the Calico Christine was a different woman than the Enterprise Christine. He approved of the change, but couldn't get past her defenses as he once could. Perhaps a more direct route would be appropriate.

"Have I offended you?"

"No; I just haven't felt like discussing it with you."

"You have not 'felt' like discussing anything with me in the last two years. You have avoided me assiduously; I fail to see what I have done to deserve such treatment."

"I used to ask myself that same question day after day for ten years, Spock. What had I done that was so terrible, for you to ignore and avoid me for so long. I finally decided that I'd never know the answer, so I left. I came to Calico to start over, have my own home and perhaps a family one day, then you came along. All the men see that I'm taking care of Beth and figure there must be some relationship, so rather than risk crossing you, they go out of their way to make sure that I know their intentions are strictly 'friends only' and quite honorable."

"I offered you marriage," Spock reminded her. McCoy had been right in his estimation of her feelings. The necessary ostracism of the Enterprise days was returning to haunt him.

"I'm not T'Mira. I'm a Human woman with Human needs. Beth means a great deal to me, I love her dearly, but I won't give up me to stay near her. It's lucky I was able to see what kind of wife you want. It's made it easier to pull away from you and think about starting over somewhere else."

"Are you sure you know what kind of wife I want?"

"I know what I've seen, and know I can't be like that. T'Mira and I are two different people. I'm sorry you lost her, but there's no way I can step in and take her place. It wouldn't work."

"My marriage to T'Mira was not of my own choosing." Even after two years, it was hard to say the words aloud. It was a thing Humans couldn't comprehend fully. To have your life governed by tradition and the ruling elders of the Council. "It was arranged many years ago by the Council, and I was given no choice in the matter."

Not quite the full explanation, but close enough for the moment. McCoy would never know the role he'd played in the marriage and there was no reason for Christine to be burdened with such knowledge, either.

"I can only apologize for my treatment of you on the Enterprise. It would have been unfair to both of us at the time, since I knew my upcoming marriage to T'Mira was unavoidable."

What would life be like on Calico without Christine?

"I need time to think, Spock. To weigh what you've said against how I feel right now. I'm not making any promises."

"I await your decision."

* * *

The days slid by faster than usual for Christine, as the time for the ship's arrival drew closer. Her bags were all packed, with the exception of last-minute things which could be thrown into a shoulder pack and waiting in the corner of the small bungalow where she lived alone. When she wasn't working, Christine would go to the riverbank and sit on the rock, watching the sun glint off the water's surface.

There was still something about Spock which drew her to him. A magnetism which had faded little in twelve years. Her eyes picked him out of a crowd immediately, and she could always identify his voice at any distance. It was uncanny how attuned she was to him. What made it difficult was the resemblance Beth bore to her father -- the same brown eyes, the shape of the mouth...

Yet Christine knew she couldn't stay. A marriage with no deep emotional attachment was not what she wanted for the rest of her life, even with Spock. Ten years ago she would probably have jumped at the chance, but no longer. Her values had matured and her expectations for a relationship were greater now than before.

Life with Spock as her husband would be different than it was now; the only difference would be that they slept in the same house. Beth would become her daughter legally, but Christine still wanted children of her own. Soon it would be too late, even with the advancements of medicine enabling women to bear children much later in life than previously thought possible.

She picked up a small rock and threw it into the water, hearing its gentle splash as it struck the water and quickly sank to the bottom. How nice it would be to have no more worries than the pebble did.

* * *

"I'm going to miss you, Maggie. We've been through a lot together."

"I'm going to miss you too, Chris. Wish you weren't going."

The two women clung together a moment, then parted, each wiping away telltale tears.

"Take good care of Beth. Tell her about me when she's old enough to understand." Christine was fighting to keep from breaking down completely. In a few minutes she would be safely sequestered away on board where no one could see her cry.

"I will," Maggie promised.

"Chris," came McCoy's voice from behind her. "Seems like all I do is say goodbye to you."

"Seems that way, doesn't it?"

"You have everything?"

"My bags are at the loading point. I'm just waiting to beam up."

"Christine, may I speak to you a moment?" Spock appeared suddenly and placed a firm hand under her elbow, maneuvering her away from McCoy. Beth was quickly shifted from his other arm into Maggie's waiting hands.

"Beaming will commence in five minutes," came a disembodied voice. "Please be ready. Beaming will commence..."

"There isn't much time, Spock. What is it?"

"I had hoped you would stay."

"I never made any promises that day. I thought about what you said and decided accordingly. It wouldn't work. I can't live my life without emotional attachments. If I thought I could survive an existence like that I'd stay in a minute, but I can't. I'm sorry, Spock. I should have told you before now, but couldn't seem to find the right time or words."

"What makes you think your life would be emotionally sterile if you were my wife?" Time to change her mind was running out fast. Beamup would begin any minute.


"Why do you insist on judging yourself by T'Mira?"

"We've been all over this before, Spock. My mind is made up. Why can't you just leave me in peace? I stayed away from you those many years on the Enterprise to give you the space and dignity you deserved; please do the same for me now. Whether you married T'Mira by choice or not is not the issue any more. What is, is how you interacted with a woman who was your wife and carrying your child."

"Why do you have this ability to hear only the things you want to hear and shut out everything else I have told you?"

"That's not true..."

"It is." He grasped her firmly by the arms, forcing her to look at him. "You have convinced yourself of how you think a life with me would be like, never admitting that you could be wrong. You were right that I never gave you a chance while we were on the Enterprise, but I have apologized and explained the reason. I see now that you did not hear me that day, either. Why is it so difficult for you to believe me?

"How can a woman who once told me that she knew I had feelings no one else could see but her blind herself so completely to what has been shown to her the last two years? Have the feelings you had for me grown so cold and barren that nothing I do can touch them? When did you stop being Christine Chapel and start being T'Mira of Vulcan?"

"Stop it!" She tore herself away from him. The tears held on edge were on the verge of spilling.

He hadn't quite finished. "Despite any other changes you have made in your life, your penchant for illogic does not seem altered in any way from when we were on the Enterprise. I have given you time to consider my words of that day by the river, but you have managed to convolute them into something entirely different than the original context."

"They've started beaming up," Christine whispered in shock. Never had she heard Spock make such incredible statements. What was happening? Could she have been wrong? Had she allowed her bitterness to unknowingly consume her to the point that she could no longer see what was happening?

The eight months without Spock had been one of the hardest times in her life to bear. She'd lied to McCoy when telling him the decision to leave had been the right thing to do. The time she'd come alive since leaving the Enterprise was the day Spock had come to Calico. He had filled her thoughts and dreams despite her efforts to block him out of her mind. T'Mira's last conversation with her, telling of seeing her in Spock's mind, had given her sleepless nights of guilt when T'Mira had died hours later.

The guilt had been a long time leaving. Every time she'd seen Spock or Beth, the memory of that last conversation would return to haunt her. Christine had shut Spock away physically, but holding Beth in her arms brought him close to her emotionally. The effort of pushing him away brought him constantly to her thoughts. Spock and life on Calico had intertwined and become one. To leave one, she would have to leave both.

Spock could see the vacillation of her thoughts, but knew his time had run out. "Stay, Christine."

If she left this time, it would be forever. No more second chances. "Are you saying that you will love me and be a husband in more than just name? I couldn't bear to be simply a surrogate mother for Beth the rest of my life." She held her breath waiting for his answer. Christine could feel her resolve to escape Calico slipping away with every passing moment. If he couldn't give those things to her, she would leave.

He leaned over and gently kissed her. "Dr. Chapel, I assure you that I am quite capable of holding up my end of a marriage agreement. Beth should be sufficient proof of that." He repeated the gesture. Such a stubborn woman this was, but then he could never be satisfied with anything less.

"As for your other question, I will endeavor to see that you are never emotionally wanting." How strange it felt to be able to say those words. It was something T'Mira had never requested and he had never offered her, yet it was the only thing Christine had asked. He was a Vulcan, but he was also a man.

McCoy wandered up about this time, Beth in tow. "By the way, Christine, you might be interested to know that the ship left a couple of minutes ago."

"Oh, no! All my baggage!"

"I believe you will find your belongings still at the loading site," Spock mentioned casually. "I took the liberty of removing them from the items being shipped before coming to see you."

"What if I'd turned you down and beamed up anyway? I'd have been completely destitute of all my possessions."

"She has a point, Spock," McCoy agreed, pleased with the entire proceedings. He wasn't sure how Spock had done it, but Christine was still here on Calico.

"It was all carefully thought out and derived in a logical manner," Spock began. "Knowing Christine's stubborn nature, I knew she would try to leave today. I simply applied some persuasive arguments to reverse her decision."

"Since when did kissing me become a logical argument?" She wasn't yet certain whether to be happy or angry over the Vulcan's backhanded methods.

"Spock kissed you in public?" McCoy felt a grin spread over his face. This was getting better and better. Of all times to be tied up and unable to watch.

"When dealing with emotional Human beings, women in particular, it occasionally becomes necessary to act in a manner which may seem contradictory on the surface, yet can be explained quite logically."

"I see," Chris observed pedantically. "So am I to assume that this behavior will cease now that I have been grounded on Calico for another two years?" If that token of affection was given strictly to convince her to stay, he was in for a big surprise. Emotional women, indeed!

"Dr. McCoy, would you please watch Beth for a few hours? Dr. Chapel and I have a few things to discuss in private."

"Be happy to, Spock."

The next moment, Christine found herself slung over Spock's shoulder, held tightly in his grip. "I think I understand my father for the first time in my life, Doctor. If he had half the trouble with Mother as I have with Christine, it is a wonder he did not retire earlier."

Christine just smiled as the implications of his words sunk in. He would probably never again speak so freely, but this one time, it made all the difference in the world to her. Her first impressions of Calico had been right after all. It was a nice planet on which to be.