DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Cheree Cargill and is copyright (c) 2001 by Cheree Cargill. This story is Rated PG.


Cheree Cargill

Stardate: 2712.9. First Officer Spock recording.

Exo III falls behind us and, with it, the dreams of a crewmember who had traveled parsecs on a quest of personal import. Now her dreams lie as cold and sterile as the endless snows that whip across the planet's surface. It has been seventeen months since Lt. Chapel came aboard. Although assigned under Dr. McCoy's supervision in the medical department, she is also part of Life Sciences and therefore under my command. I have found her to be calm under pressure, highly trained and intelligent, and totally professional. I dismiss the Psi 2000 incident as a general loss of control from the virus that spread throughout the ship, infecting me as well. However, I am quite aware that she has affectionate, even sexual, feelings toward me. It is, of course, highly inappropriate as her superior officer to return or even acknowledge those feelings, completely separate from the fact that, as a Vulcan, I could never do so in any case.

And yet ... I do find myself feeling something for her. It is sympathy for her loss. When the security guards and I finally located Captain Kirk and Miss Chapel in the depths of the Exo caverns, it was obvious that we had burst in on the closing moments of a dramatic scene.

"Captain, are you alright?" I asked of him, then turning to the distraught woman, "Nurse?"

She could not answer me, but only bowed her head to hide her tears. Confused, I glanced around and then asked the Captain, "Where is Dr. Korby?"

I did not understand for the moment why Kirk looked so distressed and simply answered, "Dr. Korby was never here."

"That is not logical," I protested. "You spoke with him from the ship. Nurse Chapel, did you not confirm that it was indeed Roger Korby?"

Chapel sobbed out loud and rose shakily to her feet, starting forward. For a bare instant, I was panicked to think she intended to reach for me, but then she went into the Captain's arms and he held her while she wept. Over her shoulder, he looked at me and said bleakly, "It's a very long story, Mr. Spock, and we're very tired. We'll beam up and I'll make a full report there." Chapel straightened and pulled back from him slightly, wiping her face with her hand. "Christine ... are you okay now?"

"Okay?" she answered softly. "No. It will take me a long time to be 'okay' again, Captain, but I can hold together until we get back to the ship and I'm back in my quarters."

"Good girl," he replied, his brows lowered grimly over eyes that were startlingly green in this light. He laid his hand protectively at the small of her back and gently urged her toward the odd-shaped door. "Let's get out of here, Spock."

We all turned and started the long climb back up the cavern ramps toward the surface. Kirk led the way, Christine behind him, myself following and then the guards bringing up the rear. Several times, the way became steep or slippery and each time I reached a hand toward Chapel to steady her. As I touched her, I was jolted repeatedly by the intense grief that radiated from her psyche. It was almost a palpable thing and left me considerably shaken. Never had I experienced such a tangible sensation of loss.

The feeling stayed with me all through the debriefing, through the directing of the teams that were sent back down to make a brief survey of the caverns and alien civilization, through the filing of our reports to Starfleet and recommendations that archaeological teams be dispatched to study the civilization that Korby had found, and finally through the Remembrance of the Honored Dead. In dress uniform, I stood silently with the other senior officers in the front row of the small ship's chapel, while the Captain led the military service. We stood in reverence and memory of Rayburn and Matthews, the two guards killed on the surface, and then for Dr. Roger Korby, Dr. Amos Brown, and the rest of his team that had died on Exo III.

Across the aisle from me, Christine stood between Lt. Uhura and Lt. Angela Martine, who had lost her own fiancé less than a year ago in the battle with the Romulans. Chapel bore up well through most of it, but could not contain her tears when Korby's name was read. Uhura and Martine put their arms around her waist and supported her for the rest of the short service.

Later, after my duty shift was over and I was on my way to my quarters, I decided that human protocol and courtesy dictated that I pay a short call on Lt. Chapel to express my condolences. It was something I was expected to do as First Officer and her department commander. I altered my path and soon found myself standing before her door.

For a moment I hesitated, then pressed the buzzer. It took her a few minutes to answer it and, when the door slid back, I saw that she was in her robe, her hair mussed and her eyes red and swollen.

"Oh, Mr. Spock," she said, her hands fluttering almost unbidden to her hair and then pulling the top of her robe closer together.

"I regret disturbing you, Miss Chapel," I said quietly. "I did not know that you would be asleep."

"I wasn't asleep," she answered. "Won't you come in, sir? I apologize for my appearance..."

I held up a hand to halt her words as I stepped just inside her door. It slid closed behind me. "There is no need to apologize, Nurse. It is I who must apologize for rousing you from your bed. I simply wanted to express my sincerest condolences to you. I can understand how you must be feeling."

She stared at me for a long moment, her deep blue eyes boring into me as if to read my soul. Finally she answered in a barely audible voice, "Do you, Mr. Spock? Have you ever been engaged? Have you ever been so in love with someone that you would literally follow them to the ends of the galaxy? And then have that someone ripped away from you in the cruelest manner?"

She did not say it in an accusing tone, but merely stated the truth. Nevertheless, I was struck dumb and could not answer. She could not know how her words tore into my heart. I wanted to tell her yes, I have been engaged. I am at this moment betrothed to a beautiful and clever woman who is my aristocratic match. I will go home to her someday soon and we will engender beautiful, clever, aristocratic children. We will continue to do so every seven years for the next hundred years or so. But love her? Vulcans do not love or need or want. I would not follow T'Pring nor would she follow me, unless it was the Time and there was no other choice. It is different with us. We do not feel as humans do.

Still, I did not tell Miss Chapel anything of the sort. She was still standing before me with her intense gaze locked onto mine and there was something I cannot define passing between us. A tear trickled down her face and, without thinking, I reached to wipe it away. The touch of my fingertips on her skin brought an instant contact between us and I felt to the depths of my soul her sorrow and longing.

If I were a human male, I would at this point have pulled her into my embrace and held her, offering her the physical comfort that she so desperately sought. But I could not. There were too many factors that prevent me ... my upbringing, my position as her superior officer, the wife who waits for me on Vulcan...

Instead, I pulled back my hand and pointedly clasped my hands behind my back. But my eyes were still locked onto hers as I whispered hoarsely, "S'ti ht'laktra ... I grieve for thee."

"T'amtar'am kro'el. Kaiidth," she answered.

My brows went up. "I had no idea you spoke Vulcan, Miss Chapel," I responded.

A little smile lifted the corners of her mouth. "Just a little ... and my accent is horrible. I hope I didn't just say something to insult you."

"Not at all. You speak quite well. Although the glottal clicks could be more distinct," I finished awkwardly.

She laughed at that. "I know. But I nearly swallow my tongue when I try it." I nodded and turned to go but she caught me with a light, fleeting touch on my arm. "Thank you for stopping by, Mr. Spock. I appreciate it. I really do."

"Not at all, Miss Chapel," I said. "And if you would like to work on your language skills sometime, please feel free to ask. I would be most pleased to assist you."

I stepped back through into the corridor and marched away purposefully. There is a bit more ease between us now and I feel that her mourning is not so intense. But it has set me to thinking about my own relationship with my betrothed and I feel certain that it will figure heavily in my meditation tonight.