DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Jacqueline Bielowicz and Cherpring and is copyright (c) 1981 by Jacqueline Bielowicz and Cherpring. This story is Rated NC-17 for sexual situations. Originally printed in "R&R #15".


Jacqueline Bielowicz and Cherpring

"Medical Log, Stardate 2809.5; M'Benga reporting: We are now in our 16th day on the planet Kaphos 11. The plague seems to be slowing in its progress, though we aren't sure why since we still have not isolated any single causal agent. Medical personnel from the Enterprise are working full time with planet personnel in patient care while Mr. Spock and Nurse Chapel continue in their research. Special commendation should be given Ms. Chapel, who not only works long hours on research but still manages to maintain strict supervision on all nursing care.

"The Enterprise has been called away on another emergency in this sector, but the planet's computers have proved sufficient for our needs. All reports on lab findings are addended to this report under separate title. So far, population death is at 7% with recovery rate of 38%. Our biggest need now is time ... and sleep."

Dr. Thau M'Benga clicked off the recorder and laid his head on his crossed arms on the desk in front of him. Damn, what I wouldn't give for eight hours uninterrupted sleep. Hell. I'd be happy with just four. He heard the sound of tapes clattering down on the desk top and a body dropping into the chair across the desk. He was too weary to look up, but he knew who it was. He could smell the soap she used for bathing. No one else had quite the same odor as Christine, even after 16 hours straight at work.

"Anything new?" he mumbled.

"Nothing definite, but some promising leads. Spock sent me to bed while he works on the math."

At the exhaustion in her voice, M'Benga raised his head and looked her over carefully. She was one tired lady, but then they were all tired. "I second his diagnosis. Go to bed, Christine."

She rubbed her hand across her burning eyes, then reached down to massage her right calf. "I will. As soon as I've heard the reports from my nurses."

He glanced at the chronometer, "I'll give you twenty minutes, then I'll meet you in your quarters and give you one of my world famous massages. Guaranteed to make a new woman out of you." She looked skeptical and he laughed. "Well, at least it will loosen some of those tight muscles so you can sleep."

She smiled warmly. "Have you got yourself a deal!" Then groaning theatrically, she pulled herself up out of the chair and left.

He watched her through the glass partition that separated the office from the critically ill ward as she stopped and talked briefly with each nurse and medtech on duty. Even after her long day, she looked good. The scrub uniform she was wearing didn't hide her terrific figure and her face showed her concern for the patients and her interest in her nurses' problems. His eyes moved down her body. And the best damn legs in the 'Fleet.

As Chapel left the ward to continue her rounds on the other areas, M'Bengaleft his office and started back to the quarters set aside for the Enterprise people in the hospital. Patients were lined up on porta-beds in the corridors and hospital staff were working up and down the lines. Everyone moved slowly, worn almost to endurance's end. M'Benga's eyes skimmed over the patients along his path, automatically watching for problems. God help them, he thought. A small agricultural colony with a limited medical staff and they had to be hit with something like this. God help them... and us.

He had reached his cabin and popped in to pick up a bottle of local wine he had on hand, then continued on to Chapel's quarters. She was just arriving when he got there and invited him in with a flourish.

He headed straight for the washbasin, scrounging for glasses. "Get out of that uniform and lie down on the bed while I pour you some of this."

As he rinsed out the glasses, he heard the rustle of her clothing, and when he turned around, she was lying on her stomach on the bed. He put one of the glasses of deep ruby liquid in her right hand and placed his on the bedside table. Reaching with one hand, he pulled the blanket at the foot of the bed up to her waist while with the other hand, he pushed her nightgown up around her shoulders, leaving her naked back exposed. She propped herself on her elbows, sipping her wine while he lubricated his hands with body lotion.

"Thau, if I didn't know better, I would say you were setting me up for seduction."

"I don't think you would recognize a seduction from me, Christine." His voice was very matter-of-fact.

Christine felt a jolt of surprise and half turned to look into his face. "What?!"

His face had a wry smile, half amused and half impatient. He pushed her back to a prone position and began the massage. She obeyed, closing her eyes and rocking slightly on the bed to the rhythm of motion. The warmth and strength of his hands were hypnotic. She could feel the tension melting out of her tired muscles as she lay there, mulling over his words. "Thau, are you saying you want to make love to me?"

"Of course not, Christine. What normal, alert male would want to make love to a warm, sensitive, intelligent, not to mention beautiful woman like you?" He felt her tense up and shook her gently. Rearranging the blanket, he began working on her legs, kneading out the knots in the muscles. "Christine, we have known each other for about a year and a half; we've worked together, shared a lot of things in common. Though we may not have called it such, I think the number of times we've had dinner or attended social functions, or even shared liberty together could be called 'dating'."

He stood up, tucking the blanket under her and seated himself on the chair, propping his feet on the edge of the bed. He picked up his glass ad watched her through the ruby wine as she sat up in bed, drawing her knees up to her chest and circling them with her arms. She had a stony expression on her face and refused to meet his eyes.

"Ah, yes, Spock," he continued, watching her lips thin tightly. "We are, at least, friends, Christine. Can we not talk about anything without threatening each other?"

She finally looked at him, searching his face. There was no censure, no mockery, and even more blessedly, no pity. Just a look of interest and concern. "It is very simple, Thau. I love Spock. I have for a long time and I probably always will." She watched for the effect of her words.

He nodded. "I agree. Now the question is how long you are going to nourish that love with false hopes and dreams? Is your love for Spock always going to be enough to fulfill all your needs? Or is it now time for you to start looking for another love, maybe not as driving but just as satisfying?"

"You mean I should start looking for someone who is willing to settle for second best?" she asked intently.

"Not second best, Christine; different. All of us love more than one person at a time. The love is just different for each person. Any man who thinks, quote his woman unquote, loves him to the exclusion of any other man is either a fool, or totally incapable to dealing with reality. We love someone who is made up of many different elements and that includes different loves, even the unresolved ones. There probably isn't a married person in life whose spouse doesn't have an old love somewhere in their background. And if you love someone, really love them, you accept this as part of the whole that you love."

"And could you love me, Thau, knowing I think of Spock with love?"

"Yes, as long as you are honest with yourself about the value of that love." He glanced at the chronometer. "Oh, God," he groaned. "Look at the time. I never meant to get into a deep discussion at this hour."

He stood up, finishing the wine in one swift gulp, then placed the glass on the table. "Think about what I've said, Christine. And add this to the facts."

He bent over, grasped her chin in his hands, and kissed her long, deep and sweet. Then he left.

Christine snuggled down into the bed and tried to think. But her tired body rebelled and she stored it in the back of her mind for later consideration. Her last thought was the taste of Than's lips on her own.

Christine had little time for her personal life for the next two days because one of those promising leads worked. She and Spock worked feverishly purifying a vaccine for the plague. She only saw Thau for brief moments, but his face filled her dreams during her short, restless sleeps.

Within a week, the work load had dropped to where the Enterprise crew were just waiting for the ship's return and the planet medical staff was handling the last of the plague victims. Most of the crew used this time to catch up on sleep and enjoy the unexpected R & R. Once the Enterprise's equipment was ready for beam-up, Spock was content to allow the humans their fun while he restored himself in meditation.

Chapel finished her report and placed the tape in the box of tapes ready to go into the ship's files. She stretched and sighed in relief. For the first time in weeks, she was rested and ready for anything, as long as it wasn't medical. The only trouble was, she didn't know what to do with herself. After a short knock, Thau stuck his head into, her room.

"Done?" At her assenting nod, he grinned and brought out a box from behind his back. "Good. How about a picnic? Might as well see more of this place than its hospital."

She hesitated and he understood. "Come on, Christine. I promise, no commitments to anything but relaxation."

No one could resist that smile. She nodded again and so found herself in one of the local skimmers, far out into the beautiful countryside.

Kaphos 11 was a Class M planet with rich soil, temperate weather, and a golden orange sun. Christine leaned back and enjoyed the soft, gentle breeze pouring in the open roof of the skimmer. They were soon outside the sphere of influence of the colonists and into the natural countryside. An hour from town, Thau pulled over to a clearing set in the midst of giant hardwoods with feathery purple leaves and shaggy gray bark. Christine marveled at their majesty and the pale green sky with drifting, puffy yellow clouds as they unloaded their stuff.

Thau and Christine chatted all through their lunch, sharing what they had seen on the planet since the plague had allowed them more free time. After lunch, Christine waded in the nearby creek while Thau lazed under a tree watching her. Finally, she came and sat beside him. For a long time, neither spoke. At last, Thau broke the silence. "Well, we could discuss F'bal'kr's new cardioùvascular procedures on Andorians, or maybe samdign dancing from Porter's planet."

She remained silent and motionless except for one hand that was restlessly pulling grass blades out of the ground.

"Or," he continued intently, "We can continue our discussion from the last time we talked."

Her head jerked up, her eyes frightened. "No... yes... Oh, I don't know what I mean!"

He reached over and covered her hand with his big warm one. "Come on, Christine. I haven't changed. I'm still your old friend, Thau. Talk to me."

"I don't want to talk to my 'old friend Thau'," she said, suddenly very shy. "I want the new Thau to kiss me again. Please?"

Thau chuckled briefly, then rising to his knees and firmly grasping her face with both hands, he kissed her.

With a soft little sigh, Christine arched her body forward and wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him tightly into the embrace. God, it had been so long. And, she suddenly decided, she had so very much she wanted to give.

At last! Thau thought triumphantly. At last she was going to allow him to love her the way she should be loved. Her every move indicated it.

Encouraged, Thau slipped one hand to her waist, the other around to brace her back, and leaned his body into hers, gently pressing her down onto the bed of grasses. A surge of excitement coursed through him as he lowered himself full length on top of her, savoring the feel of her body -- firm, yet softly yielding beneath him. Groaning low in his throat, he brought his mouth down with more force, tasting her, exploring, revelling in the sensuality he had always known was there.

Christine moaned in response, then shifted to press her pelvis into his groin, too caught up in the moment to think about turning back now, or even wanting to.

A mixture of joy and intense desire forced Thau to break the kiss and bury his face against the hollow of her neck. "Christine, I've... I've wanted this for so very long," he murmured huskily, trailing his lips up her neck to her earlobe. Acting on some perverse instinct, he nipped sharply with his teeth and heard her catch her breath, then let it out slowly.

"Thau," she whispered, "I want you to make love to me... now."

With that, she pushed him back slightly so she could reach the front of his tunic, her fingers trembling as they fumbled to release the unfamiliar clasps of his civilian attire.

Surprised and somewhat amused by her sudden aggression, Thau raised to one elbow obligingly and grinned down at her. "Are you sure? I wouldn't want it said later that I took unfair advantage."

Christine made a small sound of disgust, then reached up and pulled him down into a fierce kiss, leaving no doubt what she wanted from him.

All pretense of amusement vanished as Thau felt himself becoming quickly aroused. He dropped his hands to caress the sleek lines of her body under the thin material of her summer dress and soon discovered its hidden front opening which ran the entire length of the dress. Almost reluctantly, he ended the kiss and pulled back to look down at her as he slit open the garment and flipped back either side to expose the body underneath. A low sigh of appreciation escaped his lips as he reached to trail his hand across the firm, pale expanse of her abdomen.

"You are so incredibly beautiful, Christine," he said softly. Then he hooked a finger under the front clasp of her bra and gave it a little tug. It gave easily, releasing her breasts from their confinement, "Damn!" was all he could think to say as he caressed first one, then the other, his breath increasing rapidly as he watched the pale pink nipples come fully erect. Christine stirred restlessly with desire and a moment later began tugging almost frantically at the top of his trousers as she ground her hips beneath him in an erratic rhythm. It was too much. Suddenly, Thau was an adolescent again, consumed with uncontrollable passion and the need to be inside her. Scrambling to his knees, he hooked his fingers over the top of her panties and jerked down hard. With her assistance, he finally got them down her long, slim legs, then tossed them aside. Christine smiled up at him, her eyes warm and brilliant, reflecting her passion. The mingled scent of soap and her own body secretions drifted up to tantilize him and he furiously began stripping off his clothing. Within moments he was totally nude and positioning himself between her thighs as they opened eagerly to his touch.

"Please... love me," she uttered in a voice made low and hoarse with desire. Then she reached down between their bodies said wrapped her fingers around his hardened penis, guiding him to her. Thau groaned loudly and thrust his hips forward, sheathing himself deep within her flesh.

Christine worked furiously, rolling her hips in rhythm to his as he increased the speed of his thrusting. Soon, their lovemaking became frantic, almost delirious in its intensity and need. Thau reached underneath to grasp her buttocks in both hands, then lifted her hips up off the ground, lunging urgently, powerfully. Christine wrapped her long legs around the small of his back and undulated obliviously beneath him, no longer coherent enough to match his strides as she abandoned herself completely to the exquisite hot/cold sensations exploding along her nerve endings, sweeping her higher, then higher still, until... Christine cried out, thrashing wildly, almost savagely against her lover as a powerful orgasm ripped through her, releasing pinwheels of light behind her tightly shut eyelids as it shuddered down her spine.

Blind with passion and goaded by Christine's release, Thau increased his grip on her writhing hips, then gave ones final, tremendous lunge-- and went rigid in a convulsive, searing climax.

Spent, Thau collapsed heavily onto Christine's heaving breasts and gasped for breath. A moment later, he became aware of her fingertips playing lightly over his buttocks, then up his back to his shoulders where they circled for a moment, before dropping back down and repeating the whole process. After a while, they both quieted, then Christine stopped her light caress and heaved a sigh of profound relief and contentment.

"Thank you, Thau," she whispered softly.

Exhausted, and a little more than contented himself, Thau relaxed against her, experiencing a surge of love and tenderness he had never known for any other woman. As he rolled off her, he gently gathered her in his arms and brushed away a stray wisp of light brown hair from her cheek. "I love you, Christine," he said simply, quietly. Then he reached æover and kissed her again -- a soft, unhurried kiss filled with warmth and appreciation. When it was over he leaned back comfortably, closed his eyes and sighed.

Smiling, Christine snuggled close to his warmth, feeling as if she were truly a woman again for the first time in years. Closing her eyes to join Thau in sleep, she was confident in the knowledge that, for her and Thau at least, there would be many more times like these.

* * *

Three days after the picnic, the Enterprise arrived at Kaphos 11. The landing party quickly settled back into shipboard routine, but somehow it was all different for Chapel. Once again there was excitement in her work, just as there had been when she first came aboard the Enterprise. She felt more alive, more feminine, and more vital than she had in years. More important, she felt needed as a woman, and delighted the new facets of herself ... and Thau.

Thau was no longer just friend and co-worker. Now, he was lover, confidant, and a new focus for her frustrated womanhood. He was serious and humorous, warm and cranky, tender and virile. They talked, worked, loved ... and shared. And as they shared, those around them shared, too. McCoy beamed every time he saw them together, but never cracked a joke. Uhura was openly planning a trousseau. Christine was happier than she had been since the death of Roger Corby, but she wasn't ready to make a commitment yet. And Thau made no demands for one.

One night, as Christine stood before her mirror brushing her hair and waiting for Thau, she marveled at her changed appearance. Her face was glowing, her body seemed more voluptuous, and even her hair seemed fuller, more vibrant. Her smile became softer as she thought of Thau and tonight. But her eyes grew more thoughtful. Thau had seemed pre-occupied the last couple of days. She felt uneasy. Don't borrow trouble, she told herself firmly and whirled around as the door chimes rang. "Come in."

Thau stood the open door, admiring her for a minute, then stepped inside and drew her into his arms. "You get more beautiful every day," he whispered, brushing the hair away from her face

and kissing her. When the kiss ended, he moved back, still holding her by the arms and looked straight into her eyes. "I have something to tell you."

Christine felt her uneasiness return. "What is it?"

"I've been offered the directorship of a new research project at the Academy." She broke away from his hands and turned her back on him, her arms crossed in front of her defensively. He made no move to touch her, but continued, "And I'm going to accept, Christine. It is a project I have long

been interested in and I don't want to miss out on it."

Her eyes blurred with tears and she felt her throat constrict. "Congratulations. When will you leave?"

"In three weeks, Christine. I am allowed to pick my own staff. I would like you to take over the bio-research section. The project will be on Forbin's theory and I know you've been doing some work here on the ship in that area. This would give you a chance to go back to your own field and work on the theory. And, if it is important to you, we would still be together."

"My life is here," she choked. "Everything I want is here."

He stepped around.her, face to face, and lifted her chin with one forefinger, "Is it? Is it really?" They stared at each other angrily. "Do you see yourself spending the rest of your life aboard this ship? Do you really think life stays unending, locked into one mode, never changing? Christine, be honest with me and yourself. It's Spock, isn't it?"

"You knew I loved Spock when you and I became... became..." Tears were trickling down her face.

Thau eased his bruising grip on her arms and gently wiped away one tear. "Yes, I knew," he replied quietly. "And I know you still love him. And I accept that. But I won't accept you going back to the half-life you were living two months ago. If you won't come with me, then at least leave this ship. It has become a womb for you, a place of unending security. Christine, don't give up living, really living."

"Thau, I'm so confused. Please don't leave. Haven't we been happy together?" Her body was racked with sobs. He seated them both on her bed, then put his arms around her and leaned her head against his chest.

"Yes, Christine, I've been happy her, but this ship isn't everything I want in my life. For most of us, starships are just a temporary part of life. Even the Captain will eventually leave this ship, as much as he will hate to. Are you really staying because you love Starfleet so much or even because you love Spock that much? Or are you just used to the rut you're in? Is the dream of love so much more exciting than the reality?"

"You are tearing me in two, Thau! I hurt inside."

He could hardly hear her words. He held her and rocked her until she was calm. Then he answered.

"I don't mean to hurt you, love. But eventually you would have had this pain anyway. In some form you would hurt. But if you don't make the break now, it'll be that much harder when you have to."

She sat silent for a moment. "Couldn't you go, then transfer back when you have finished the research?"

His grip tightened momentarily, then loosened. His voice was patient. "Do you understand what you're asking me to do? You want me to satisfy your physical needs while your dreams of Spock do the rest. Is that really the best you hope for yourself, for the rest of your life?"

"You make it sound disgusting!" she exclaimed.

"Only you can decide that, Christine. Loving two men is reasonable. Living, such as it is, with two men, isn't."

There seemed to be nothing more to say. Christine wasn't ready to face the pain of leaving the Enterprise. Equally painful was the thought of Thau's leaving. She raised her face to him.

"Please, Thau, don't say any more now. Just love me."

Thau hesitated, caught between conflicting emotions. On one hand, he was angrier with her than he had ever been. Why couldn't she see what she was doing to herself? The very fact that she possessed such incredible emotional tenacity would make any kind of union with Spock impossible. As a Vulcan, he simply would be unable, or unwilling, to cope with it on a long term basis, couldn't she see this? Yet he also loved her, more than he wanted to admit.

Suddenly, he caught her up in a fierce kiss. She might not choose to go with him, but he'd make damn sure she never forgot him either.

As always, Christine responded eagerly to his kiss, but as Thau reached to caress her, she sensed something different -- a new aggression -- and an intangible fear tightened around her heart. He was leaving and she was going to lose him; really lose him. Unless ... she pushed this thought from her mind, unwilling to dwell on it just now. At least they had tonight and a few more afterwards, and that's what she would concentrate on.

Thau broke the kiss, then stood up beside the bed and slowly, very deliberately began to undress. Christine watched him in silence, her eyes first roaming across his wide chest, then farther down as he stepped out of his pants and casually tossed them over a chair. The black regulation briefs quickly followed and she felt a stir of excitement, as she always did when she viewed him nude, especially when his body seemed to cry out its arousal as it was doing now.

Thau caught her hands and pulled her to her feet. "Your turn," he said huskily. Christine started to release the ornate clasps at the front of her robe, but Thau stopped her, firmly placing her hand back down at her side. "I want you to be completely still, and let me."

A little unsure, Christine nodded. "If you like."

Thau grinned. "I like very much ... and so will you."

One by one, Thau began opening the clasps. Christine stood very still, feeling a little awkward, yet strangely stimulated. When he stopped at her waist and slipped his hands inside her robe, she nearly jumped at his touch.

Thau caressed her breasts with maddening lightness, teasing them with him fingertips until the nipples stood hard and erect when he brushed against them with his thumbs. Knowing her breasts were one of her most sensitive areas, he continued for a long time, gradually increasing pressure until Christine was breathing heavily and her hands began to flutter at his waist in short, agitated caresses, But he would not be hurried -- not tonight. Tonight he was going to use his body as a sexual tool, as a means to insure that her body would need him, even if her mind wasn't sure. It was an old trick, used primarily by women on men. But desperate situations call for desperate solutions, he told himself resolutely. And continued.

By the time Thau finally removed his hands and resumed unfastening the remaining clasps, Christine was almost panting, her skin suddenly so sensitive that a chill swept over her, raising her flesh in goosebumps. She wondered briefly just how much longer she could take this and remain reasonably sane. It was excruciatingly erotic -- wanting him so badly, but having to keep her distance as he'd asked.

To reach the last few clasps, Thau had to kneel down in front of her. But instead of rising when they were opened, he remained on one knee, pushed back the robe, then slid his strong arms around her waist and pulled her tightly to him, burying his face against her lower abdomen, Christine caught her breath sharply, then moaned and reached down to entwine her fingers in his hair as he covered the area with warm kisses and an occasional flick of him tongue. Gradually, he worked his way back up her body, teasing her with his lips as he went, his hands busy caressing her buttocks, the small of her back, and finally her shoulders as he paused to take each breast in his mouth, gently nipping the nipples with his teeth. When he finally reached her mouth again, Christine was shaking visibly, her breath so rapid that she could barely kiss him without suffocating.

With his fingertips, Thau pushed the robe off her shoulders and down her arms, letting it fail to a heap around their feet. Then, pulling her tightly against him, he molded their two bodies together and pressed his hardened flesh into her lower abdomen.

"Oh, God, Thau. Now?" she breathed against his lips.

"No, not yet, Christine," he whispered. Kissing her again, he reached down and scooped her up in his arms, then turned for the bed. Without breaking the kiss, he lowered her onto it, then lay down beside her. Christine's hands urged him to roll on top of her, but he resisted.

"No, just lie back and relax. There's no hurry. Neither of us has duty until the morning."

Despite a growing feeling of frustration, Christine smiled and did as she was told. "You're the doctor," she teased.

Her patience was soon rewarded as Thau propped himself up on one elbow and began playing his free hand over the entire length of her body, before finally coming to rest on her pubic mound. Christine parted her thighs eagerly to his probing fingers, wave after wave of exquisite pleasure washing over her as he stroked her with deft precision. Within moments, she was moaning low in her throat and arching her hips up to meet him. With a half-smile, Thau got to his knees and positioned himself between her thighs, still stroking her as he did so. Christine wriggled further down the bed in anticipation, her eyes fixed on Thau's face. Then she saw Than's smile widen and a strange look came into his eyes.

"Thau, what...?"

Without warning, Thau suddenly grabbed her hips and flipped her over onto her stomach, then pulled her up onto her knees and pushed her legs farther apart. Christine had little time to do anything more than cry out in startled protest.

Completely ignoring her, Than gripped her hips almost painfully and dragged her to him, at the same time slamming his pelvis forward, penetrating her with one, swift, powerful lunge.

Under the impact, all the air rushed out of Christine's lungs and she found herself fighting for breath, not only because of the act itself, but also because of the intense arousal it brought with it as his penis filed her vagina to capacity.

For a long moment after entering her, Thau remained completely still. Then, very slowly, he began to move, falling into an easy, sensuous rhythm which allowed him to lean across her back and nibble on the nape of her neck. Releasing a long sigh, Christine raised herself to all fours and arched her back, presenting herself to him more fully while giving his hands access to her breasts.

"You see, I told you you would like it," Thau murmured against her ear, his breath coming in small gusts as he moved within her.

"Ummm," Christine responded as she swayed with him, her lips curled in a sensuous smile.

Thau continued to make love to her with long, lazy strokes, driving deep every time he thrust his hips forward. Simultaneously, he planted small kisses along her neck and shoulder, punctuating them with occasional lovebites.

After awhile, a thin layer of perspiration gather on their bodies, making their skin that much more sensitive to the friction of their movements. As much as he wanted to prolong it, Christine's increased speed as she rocked against him told Thau she would seen be reaching climax. And the more aroused she became, the more aroused he became.

Soon, Christine was pushing back against him frantically, her movements wild and erratic as soft cries of pleasure escaped her lips to send shockwaves of delight tingling throughout Thau's body. Suddenly, she threw her head back, emitting a loud, almost angry growl as she slammed back against him ... and tensed. A split second later she began to shake violently as her vaginal muscles clamped down hard, rippling along the shaft of his penis in an explosive climax.

Thau's cries mingled with Christine's and he began to pump furiously, his movements totally out of control as he tried to bury himself within her. Then, his eyes squeezed shut in an almost painful scowl, he lunged a last time, his body jerking spasmodically as semen erupted from his groin in a powerful orgasm.

Later, Thau cradled Christine gently, stroking her hair as her shuddering breath slowed. After a moment, she softly nibbled her way down the strong column of his throat until her brow rested in the pulsing hollow at the base of his neck. She sighed aid closed her eyes.

Thau continued to lightly caress her until her rhythmic breathing told him she was asleep. Moving quietly and carefully, so as not to wake her, Thau slipped from the warm bed and shrugged into the robe she kept for him. He ambled around the room, recording it on his memory, then dropped into the desk chair and stared at the sleeping woman half a room ... half a world from him. The massive ship enfolded the brooding man. Damnit. if I only had more time!

* * *

For the next week, Christine was in a storm of indecision. The entire ship knew about M'Benga's transfer. McCoy wanted to talk to Chapel about it, but she never brought it up. Christine and Thau still met, but their lovemaking took on a bittersweet flavor. Thau didn't ask her again to come with him, nor did he change his mind about leaving. He asked her to summarize the work she had done on Forbin's theory so he could take it with him, and she agreed.

She was in the lab, finishing up her summary when Spock walked in.

"Ms. Chapel, are the lab reports on the crew physicals ready?" he asked.

"Yes, sir. Here they are." She handed him a stack of tapes.

As he took the tapes, Spock noticed her report on the viewscreen. "Isn't that your research on Forbin's theory?"

"Yes, Dr. M'Benga is taking it with him to the project." She hasitated as he nodded, then quickly added, "He has asked me to head the bio-reserch department."

Spock's eyes widened slightly. "That is an honor. The Forbin project is the most fascinating research now available. You will be most efficient."

"I haven't made up my mind to go," she stated flatly. "I'm needed on this ship, too. And I enjoy the work."

Spock looked thoughtful. "But you could be replaced as a nurse here. Your competency in this research would be most beneficial."

For a frozen moment in time, Christine had a horrifying image of her future. She saw herself at the end of the five year mission transferring to whatever ship Spock was assigned. Even worse, being on a ship that he wasn't on. Did she really want to spend the rest of her active life following Spock around, hoping? On the other hand, there is Thau. The images changed to Thau, smiling, talking, even yelling when things went wrong. He responded to her, fed back love. And that love would even intensify through the years. Christine felt a tight chain break within her chest and smiled up at Spock without even seeing him.

"Ms. Chapel?" Spock was frowning slightly and Chapel realized that he had asked her a question.

"Excuse me, Mr. Spock. What did you say?"

"Is there some problem that prevents you from accepting Dr. M'Benga's request?" he repeated patiently.

"There was," she responded with a light laugh. "But you just solved it for me, Mr. Spock. Thank you. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a transfer request to tape."

Christine never noticed as Spock left the lab.