DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Catherine Kay and is copyright (c) 2000 by Catherine Kay. This story is Rated PG-13.

You Said You Would Wait For Me

Catherine Kay

I am asphyxiating. Darkness swirls around me. I try to breath. Can't. Straining with everything I have. Darkness presses in on all sides. It has stolen my breath. I fight it. My fists flailing against dark vapor, useless. Suddenly it lets go and I take a deep breath as I finally lunge upright out of the abyss and into my own bed. I am wet. Drenched in sweat. My heart pounding in my ears, shaking with terror over something I can't name.

After a few deep breaths, I am able to look at the time. 0200. Interesting how my time sense always fails me when this occurs. I try to stop the panicked feeling. I know this dream well, even though I can never remember it. Bones calls it night terrors. I know it as a harbinger of repressed memory rising to the surface. I have had them since the fal-tor-pan. I suspect that Dr. McCoy has too.

They have been less frequent of late. At first they occurred on an almost nightly basis. Then weekly, then monthly and lately even less than that. As they came farther apart, they had also become less intense. I thought that it was becoming part of my past. Part of what had been my recovery.

I look at the time again. 0205. I can't seem to calm down. The bed feels like a trap. I get out of it. I kneel in front of the fire pot and try to relax. The shadows it's casting on the walls unnerve me. I shut my eyes and focus on my center to find the dark leviathan leaping out of my center to consume me. I gasp, shaking. My eyes fly open as I leap to my feet. Defeating temporarily the thing of my nightmare.

I curl up on a chair I use to read. I look at the chronometer. 0220. This is a bad one. I know I won't be able to sleep. And suddenly I can't stand the dark any more. "Lights." They blaze on to full intensity, keeping the darkness away.

I stay sitting in the chair. I realize at this point that I am afraid to leave it. Afraid that whatever is inside me will consume my sanity utterly. "I have to get out of this chair." I mumble to myself with the part of me that refuses to be held hostage to this unreasonable fear.

Gathering all my mental discipline, I push myself out of the chair and head for the bathroom. I have decided to take a shower. I have decided to do something normal. I have decided to put this firmly behind me. As I go to the bathroom, I can't shake the perception that my nightmare is a living thing just one step behind me and that if I stop, even for a moment, it will consume me utterly.

I strip hurriedly in the bathroom, purposefully not looking at myself in the mirror. I don't want to see the terror in my own eyes. I will not even acknowledge it in even that slight regard. The spray hits me warm and soothing and my body, still shaking, is starting to relax despite itself. I don't usually go in for water showers, but I had found it the only way to sooth these terrors in the past when all else failed.

The noise of the pounding water drowns out the awful silence of the darkness in my mind. The heat of the water negates the cold chill of fear inside me. I feel almost normal. The terror that had seized me is almost fading into nothingness.

A cold hand grabs my shoulder. REAL! TERRIFYINGLY REAL!

"SPOCK!" Jim's voice calls over the shower and my scream, which I hadn't realized I had uttered until he pulled me out of the shower with both hands and looked at me with deep concern. I catch my face in the mirror. It is pasty white. My eyes are huge with fear. I am shaking again. There is going to be no denying this, I realize with a sinking feeling. I might as well be human with the amount of emotion I am displaying. I meet his concerned eyes with mine. I am dreadfully embarrassed and that battles some of the fright away. "Jim," I say. Though it comes out weakly.

"Are you okay?" Jim asks, very concerned. I nod my head but then my knees give me away as they give out and my legs start to fold under me. Jim, who had never taken his hands off my upper arms, feels me start to go and quickly slips a supportive arm around my waist and steers me back into my quarters. Back to my bed, "Where this all started." I can't help but think hysterically.

"I'll be right back," he says and disappears into the bathroom. He comes back with a big towel and one of his robes. I am cold and I gratefully accept both and wrap them both around me.

Jim sits next to me on the bed. He places a hand on my back and gently rubs. I look at him not knowing what to say, embarrassed to say anything.

"Another terror?" It isn't quite a question.

"Yes," I answer softly. I can't quite meet his eyes. "How did you know?" I asked finally forcing myself to look at him.

"The shower. And the time," he said matter of factly. I realize that if I had just stopped to think about it. I would have come to that conclusion before I had asked the question. I make a self depreciating noise. Jim smiles in sympathetic recognition of the sentiment. "It was a pretty bad one?" This time it was a question from Jim.

"Yes," I answered, finally admitting it out loud. Somehow it made the last of the terror flee.

"Want to talk about it?" Jim asked hoping, I could tell, to help.

"I would, if there was anything to talk about," I said with some repressed frustration.

Jim seems to hear the frustration anyway. "Are you okay now?" he asks, leaving the door open for me to ask him to stay as I had a few times before.

I consider for a minute my state of mind and body. It all seems fine. "Yes, I am fine now." I respond. Jim reaches and turns my face toward the wall with my lytherette mounted on it. I am confused as to the reason for his actions. "Tell me what time it is." Realization dawns. He has turned my face away from the chronometer on the desk.

A ghost of a smile plays around my eyes if not my lips. Jim was being his usual thorough self. "0301.368...." I say not without some delight that I can.

"Oh! All right already!" he says with a relieved smile and a playful shove. "I hope you are planning to go back to bed and get some sleep. I don't want you slowing the whole shift down!" Jim teased but with a trace of concern still. I am not overly anxious to return to sleep. But it has been my experience that these terrors only occur once a night. I realize that it would be illogical for me to skip 3 hours of sleep for no reason.

I put on my Vulcan indignant face and say, "Sir, Vulcans can always preform efficiently even with minimal sleep." I soften my delivery with an upswept eyebrow.

Jim chuckles and says, "Of course, Mr. Spock. How could I have forgotten?"

I do not answer but let the gratitude show in my eyes for the comfort he has given me this night. He squeezes my shoulder in silent response. "I'll see you in the morning then," he says as he turns to walk to our joint bathroom.

"Good night, Jim," I say feeling secure that he is right next door.

"Good night, Spock and pleasant dreams." He pauses right before he disappears into the bathroom. "And that's an order."

"Yes, sir," I answer and because he can't see me, I indulge in a slight smile as I snuggle down into the covers. I realize that I still have Jim's robe on. I decide not to take it off just yet. I can smell his scent on it. It is soothing and lulls me into sleep with the knowledge that I am not alone. "I'll return it in the morning," I mumble to myself through a yawn right before I fall into restful sleep.

* * *

I had half teased and half seriously ordered him to have "sweet dreams." Bones was right to express concern about Spock not "operating on all thrusters" six months ago. Spock's encyclopedic memory for facts seems mostly intact. But the Vulcan healers had said that that was the most easy information to restore for him. Life experience and perceptions were not. They would have to be remembered if they ever were.

It had been such a shock to see him alive when he had been dead. Then a series of even bigger shocks followed when we discovered that he was alive but not the same Spock who had died. He couldn't remember. I was scared. We all were. None of us were prepared to lose him a second time. And certainly not like a person with a brain injury.

But we had had plenty of help on Vulcan. McCoy didn't quite get away from all this unscathed either. He had had these night terrors. But they had lasted only a few weeks. They had occurred when some fragment of Spock's memories or personality traits warred with Bones' psyche. The doctors there were fully prepared to handle this situation and after treatment with every episode and training for subsequent crisis, they were able to declare the Doctor healed. McCoy, once he understood what was going on, had greatly helped in his own recovery by actively embracing the subconscious indicators that things were unsettled.

But Spock was a different matter. Retrained as a pure Vulcan, he fought the natural human aspect of recovery from mental trauma. The healers tried to help him there too. But they themselves were not schooled in how the human subconscious works in emotional trauma. They were of the opinion that eventually everything would integrate together. But I noticed a big unvoiced, "We think" in that prognosis.

I look at myself in the mirror of the bathroom. The man that stares back at me is grim. Listening for any sounds to come from Spock's quarters. There are none. I believe he is asleep. I want to go check, but I don't want to risk waking him. His hearing is so sharp. So I keep staring at myself in the bathroom mirror. Remembering all the trauma of Spock's death and then rebirth.

The eyes that look back at me are haunted. There is fear and guilt in them. The fear is for Spock. I fear that this is the night terror that will bring a memory back that I wish would stay forever repressed. The guilt is all mine. For in the middle of helping bring about the miracle of resurrection for one best friend and cheating death or derangement for the other, I failed someone. Ultimately I failed not only her, but the people closest to her, the very people I was trying to save. Spock and McCoy.

Bones was devastated at first. He blamed himself. He said that he should have seen it coming. I don't blame him. He had his hands full with monitoring Spock's recovery and getting the Enterprise sickbay updated and fully staffed as well as watching his own mental health for signs of relapse as he was instructed to do by the Healers.

Everyone was just so upbeat about being on the Enterprise with the same winning command team at the helm. At least I had thought so. The honest truth is ... I just never considered anyone else's feelings at the time. Certainly not hers. I was flying high and really didn't take the time to think of anyone but myself.

One of the life experiences that Spock hadn't remembered was Christine Chapel. He just didn't remember her at all. Not even when McCoy reintroduced them after we had saved the Earth from the probe. I had tried to reassure her at the time. But I honestly had not talked to her after that. I figured Uhura would or Bones would. I guess none of us did. We were all so busy. She was too, taking refuge in a mask of professional distance. We never knew that something was up.

Now Bones, Nyota and I live with a terrible secret. A secret so huge that I have sealed Christine's records against Spock casually finding out. I have cautioned the rest of the bridge crew against discussing Christine's death on the ship. I told them that I didn't want to start a superstitious rumor about ghosts on the Enterprise. I told them that the highest honor we could pay her is to remember her accomplishments, not the way she died. Fortunately they accepted those reasons. I didn't want to tell them that I was keeping the knowledge from the first officer.

Pain shoots through my temples. I feel a stress headache coming on. I rub them. I realize that I am going to have to inform McCoy about this night terror. I toy with the idea of waiting until morning. Then I remember how bad this one was.

I leave the bathroom and go into my quarters to get into my uniform.

Something big is rising from the depths of his mind. And I have a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that it is the memory of Christine. What this is going to do to him, I can't imagine. I wonder if our relationship will survive it. I am thinking of myself again.

I walk back into the bathroom to quickly comb my hair. I look in the mirror one last time. I still see fear and guilt in the face of the mirror. But this time I also see a sadness there. I walk into my quarters and look at the time. 0340. I've decided that I can't wait. I have to see McCoy now. We have to figure out how to deal with Spock's surfacing memory. We need a plan. Spock went to Gol over a fight we had at the end of the first five year mission. The fight had been over a career choice. Mine. What will happen to him when he not only remembers her fully, but learns of why and how she died? I don't know. But damned if I am going to lose him again!

* * *

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An incescent mechanical sound is intruding into my dreams. I try to ignore it and catch hold of the remaining tendrils of sleep and drift back down into velvety slumber.

BBBzzzzzzzST

"Ohhhh, shit!" I take a deep breath of irritation and role over to look at the chronometer. 0345. "Oh, my God. What could anyone want at this hour?" I mumble irritably as I stiffly roll out bed. 'I'm getting too old for this crap.' I think as I steal myself to stand up. I know that once I do, the chance of going back to bed is remote.

BBBzzzzzzzST

I sigh and heave myself out of bed. Grabbing a robe from my closet, I go to the door. I realize on the way there that this couldn't be a medical emergency. Sickbay or the bridge would have called directly on the comm. "Probably some ensign got lost and thinks his roommate has locked him out," I huff and then hit the door key.

The door opens to reveal the Captain. The last of sleep's fuzzy tendrils clear from my mind. "Jim! What can I do for you?" I blurt out surprised. The Captain rarely interrupts my sleep unless there is some real emergency or need.

"I need to step in a moment, Bones," he says as he furtively glances down the hall. The glance causes me to look that way, too. Nothing there. Frowning at his behavior, I gesture him in.

"My God, you're hard to awaken," Jim exclaimed. "I must of leaned on your buzzer a dozen times." I notice Jim is tense. Not unusual, really, considering his job. But there is a desperation and a hurriedness about him, almost a panic that is very out of place. My shingle comes out almost immediately.

"Sorry, Jim. But I hit my deepest sleep around 4 am. Which is what you should be doing right about now, too," I say to try to see how serious this is. If he apologizes, then he just forgot about the time working on one of the many problems that he must handle day in and day out. If he doesn't...?

"Bones, it's Spock," He starts with no preamble.

I frown in response. "What about him?" I ask concerned, but uncertain what could be sending Jim to my door in a panic at 4 in the morning.

"He had a night terror tonight," Jim said tensely.

"He's had them before, Jim. In fact he is due for one. It's been awhile." I try to sooth him. 'What is going on?' I worry silently in my head. Jim should be used to these nightmares of Spock's by now.

"Not like this, Bones. He actually screamed in fear when I touched him. He almost passed out," Jim said, his own eyes wide with fear himself.

I am already moving. Grabbing my emergency kit I keep in my quarters to save time when one of the senior officers is ill in the middle of the night, I start for the door. Jim grabs my arm and shakes his head. "He's alright now. He's asleep." Stopping me in my tracks. Anger boils up inside me at this ridiculous roller coaster ride the man has me on.

"Then why the HELL have you gotten me up in the middle of the night!" I blaze. Another perfectly good night's sleep wasted. "This could have waited till morning.!" I snap at him. I feel entitled. Sometimes Jim can be a little over the top with his worrying over Spock.

"No. It couldn't." The intensity of that response makes me feel like a landed fish.

I gape at him in response. I stare into his eyes a minute. Something has shaken the hell out of him. "Why not?" I ask in a voice tinged with a little fear. Fear put there by Jim's strange behavior and attitude.

"We need a plan," Jim said with determination.

"A plan," I echo back. I feel completely out of my depth. For a wild second, I wonder who the patient really is -- Jim, Spock or maybe me. This is just so odd.

"He's starting to remember, I am sure of it," Jim answers surging ahead, not bothering to take time to clear up my confusion.

Feeling like I a going to regret this but plunging into his fray anyway, I reply, "Of course, he is starting to remember something. That is what the night terrors are all about. Or have you forgotten?" I couldn't help that last irritated dig. I was running out of patience with this.

Jim shoots me with a withering glare himself. "Christine! He is starting to remember Christine!"

I feel like I just swallowed a tennis ball. "Are you sure? Has he said anything to you about anything even remotely connected to her?" I ask in almost a whisper. Jim's panic suddenly makes sense. Jim shakes his head. I relaxed a little. Right after Chris's suicide, we were constantly living in fear that he would remember. As time passed though, it seemed less and less likely that he ever would. "Jim, I hardly think there is anything to panic about," I say with relief and personal shame that I feel that relief. What was it that Shakespeare had said, "Better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all". We were treading on thin ice ethically and morally on this one.

"It was so bad, Bones. What other memory could it be?" Jim asks with a kind of desolation. "Something big is surfacing in his psyche. I just know it! The only really big thing that he doesn't remember is Chris. It's got to be it."

I pause and really listen to his words. Jim has good instincts about people. He wouldn't be half the Captain he is if he didn't. With Spock, usually he was dead on. I feel a sinking feeling. I see in front of me a lot of sleepless nights and not just for me. The road ahead looks desolate. I wordlessly nod my agreement about Jim's assessment.

"Well. It wouldn't hurt us to come up with a plan even if this isn't the time he remembers. It's better to be prepared." I turn and start making some coffee. "Have a seat." I say to him. He goes to my comm unit instead. He orders bagels and fixins. He glances at me as he tells the yeoman where to bring it. I nod in approval. Glancing at the chronometer beside my bed, I see that we have a little under two hours to plan for anything that might come up over the next 24 hours.

* * *

I awakened relatively refreshed. At least I am not shaking in fear like I was at 0220. But I notice that my head feels odd. I don't have a headache. No, I wouldn't say that. It feels like I had a headache though. Now there is just the memory of pain.like a bubble that burst inside my head. I haven't felt like this after one of my night terrors in more than six months. No sense dwelling on this. I have to be on the bridge in 30.24 minutes.

Now that is odd. I slept 59.26 minutes longer than I normally would. Maybe my body is trying to account for the nearly 50 minutes I lost in the middle of the night. Yes, that must be it.

I walk into the bathroom and catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Jim's robe. I start to take it off to get into the shower and stop as I see myself fully in the mirror with Jim's robe on. A white robe with black hair. Something's not right. It should be the other way around. White hair with a black robe.

I grab the counter quickly as a wave of vertigo passes over me. Gasping, I lean heavily on it. The room slowly slides to a halt and I congratulate myself that I am still standing. What on Selaya is wrong with me? I look into the mirror again, more intently this time.

The image flashes through my head again. White hair with a black robe. "This is crazy!" I mutter to myself. I have a black robe, but I don't have white hair. The robe is a meditation robe, not a bath robe. I don't own a bath robe. I try to concentrate on the image this time. Again the flash of a person with blond hair ... wait! Not white hair, blond hair that is almost white! Black bathrobe draping over the curves of her body. It's a woman I am remembering!? Puzzled, I try to bring up the image one more time. She is standing in this bathroom!

I shake my head. "I must be remembering one of Jim's ladies." I sigh out loud. I can't place her and I know everyone on board. Well, it was a new memory, I guess. I am relieved that it was nothing of consequence. I almost smile at my foolishness. What was I expecting?

I step into the shower and choose sonics. I am going to be late if I don't hurry and I don't want to worry Jim over a recaptured memory of one of his women. That does bring a slight smile to my lips as I picture myself trying to explain myself on that one. Yes, I am sure that Jim would be very interested in what I am doing by the shower looking at one of his "Guests" in her bathrobe in the bathroom. The smile slowly slips off my face. WHAT would I have been doing standing by the shower while one of Jim's many women was in here in nothing but a robe?

I feel a little chill run up my spine. Something is not right about this. I push it behind me suddenly as my time sense tells me I only have 19.86 minutes to report to duty. I decide that I will meditate on this later. I hurry my shower and step out. I quickly get dressed and smooth my hair, brush my teeth and put on beard repressor. I grab Jim's robe and shoot through his door and hang it on the hook inside his closet where he keeps it.

I turn around and rush back through the bathroom and come to a halt in front of my own door to the corridor. I adjust my uniform, take a deep breath and slip my Vulcan mask in place. I step through my door in perfect Vulcan decorum and walk with efficient measured strides to the turbo-lift. I nod solemnly to the crewmen on the lift. I exit and step onto the bridge to find that I am 2.56 minutes early. Perfect. A yeoman is coming around with coffee. Uncharacteristically, I take one. I skipped breakfast and I feel oddly tired. This should get me through until I can take a break and quickly get something to eat.

Uhura is just coming on duty. She smiles at me and I return her greeting with a nod. I glance at the first of the reports that need my attention. I settle in for the day.

I hear the turbo-lift doors open and look up to see the Captain and Doctor McCoy coming onto the bridge together. I do a double take. They look more fatigued than I feel. I had not meant to seriously interupt Jim's sleep. But obviously I had. That wouldn't explain McCoy's demeanor though. The two of them head for the command chair and make it a point not to look in my direction. I raise an eyebrow. Something is up. Something concerning me, I am pretty sure. I slowly turn back to my station. I consider my feelings and their actions this morning. I am suddenly worried. Jim obviously had a problem with what happened last night and consulted McCoy. The fact the Good Doctor stayed up with him meant that the concern was warranted. Add that to my strange vertigo and only a partial memory that didn't fall into place and warning bells started going off in my head. I gave a quick look over my shoulder to catch them both looking at me. I decided not to do that again. I was unnerved. Oohh yeah. Suddenly I realize that the caffeine wasn't helping the situation.

I am going to steadfastly ignore this whole situation and tend to my duties. I am not going to think about me or them or any blondes in black robes for the next 8.52 hours. Definitely.

* * *

Several hours later, I've gone through all the reports and only one doesn't quite make sense. Ironically, it's the crewman roster. There is a transfer order for a new crewman who is coming on board from the Lexington. That is so odd. I thought that we had a full crew at 418. But now I remember that it is suppose to be 419 and this crewperson will make the 419th. I check again. Thomas Johnston is taking the postition of head nurse. I stop for a minute. I thought Nurse Ryan was the head nurse, but apparently not. Was she being demoted? I went back and checked Lt. Ryan's records and sat there stunned. She was an EMT. I started going back through the personnel files to find who had been the head nurse. I was back six months worth of transfers and still no one was listed as head nurse. There wasn't even an order for one! Not until three weeks ago.

'Dr. McCoy and his lack of discipline about starfleet paper work!' I fumed to myself. I have had this lecture with him before and it seems I am going to have it with him again! In fact, I am considering putting him on report for seriously undermining the safetly and functioning of sickbay when I come across a file from 9.8 months ago. Head Nurse was all it said and when I went to open it, I found it sealed! I looked who had sealed the file. "On the orders of James T. Kirk and confirmed by Dr. Leonard McCoy." My eyebrows shot up. At the time, I had been newly aboard after my death. I thought back to that time. Yes, Dr. McCoy had introduced me to the head nurse ... what was her name? I can just picture her and...

A cold goes through me like ice and yet a certain excitement. The Blonde! She was the head nurse! What was her name?! It was a building ... um ... a temple or a church or ... "CHAPEL" I spoke it aloud in triumph and felt everyone freeze around me on the bridge.

McCoy materialized out of thin air practically next to me. "Problem Spock?" he said.

I raised my eyebrow at him and said, "Yes, there is a problem, but I do not wish to discuss it with you on the bridge," I said a little tartly.

Jim who had heard me came up to the both of us and said, "Let's discuss this in private. My quarters."

I stood up and followed them out passing Uhura on the way. What I saw on her face made me mistep and trip slightly. McCoy grabbed my arm quickly and I felt a rush of grief from him. I tore my eyes from the tragic look on Uhura's face to look at McCoy's. I never knew that he had it in him. His face revealed nothing of what I was feeling radiating from his hand. His eyes met mine and he snatched his hand back as though I burned him. I feel a little zing of fear. I didn't know why. Which made this all seem worse.

We entered Jim's cabin and the Captain went and sat behind his desk gesturing us to the seats in front of it. McCoy and I sat down. "Spock, what is the problem?" he asked me.

I looked at Dr. McCoy searching his face. Evidently he had learned something from me when my Katra was in his care. I looked back at Jim. "Dr. McCoy failed to do the necessary paper work to procure another Head Nurse in a timely fashion after the other one left," I said deciding to fall back on the facts. "This is in blatant disreguard of Star Fleet operating proceedures for replacing key personnel on board the ship."

Jim nodded his head in confirmation "I was aware of it."

My eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Forgive me sir. I hadn't realized that this had already been taken care of." I glanced at McCoy, "On a related note then, I am respectfully enquiring as to why the previous files on the person who was Head Nurse is sealed without my knowledge?"

The Captain responded, "Dr. McCoy, who was her immediate superior, thought it best under the circumstances and I concurred."

My curiosity was just about killing me. I looked at McCoy again. I realized at that moment that he hadn't said a word during this entire exchange. Most unusual. "Do you have anything to add, Doctor?" I asked him.

He frowned slightly and said, "What do you remember about the previous head nurse?"

"I remember her name. Nurse Chapel. I remember that she had blonde hair and was asthetically pleasant looking. She had a black bathrobe. And she used Jim and my bathroom once. Although that seems odd to me." McCoy nodded slowly and said nothing more. "Is there something that I should remember about her Doctor?"

A look passes between McCoy and Kirk. McCoy spoke, "Her first name was Christine." He lapsed into silence again.

I was finding this to be infuriating. I couldn't believe I was thinking this, but I wish he would say something no matter how illogical! "Well, since the two of you are not going to discuss the head nurse and since the Captain took care of your remiss, I'll excuse myself to lunch." Jim nodded his permission. There was a secret here, between the two, and it had to do with a repressed memory of mine and I decided right then and there I was going to get to the bottom of this if it took the rest of my tour of duty! I nodded and said, "Good day gentlemen" and left.

First things first. I am going to get something to eat. I am starved as Christine use to put it. I slow my steps a bit. Yes. I can remember her smiling and saying, "I'm starved!" and me teasing her with "You do not look like you are lacking in nutrition to me. In fact you look beautiful." I feel startled by this. That is an extremely personal comment to make to a colleague. Why would I say such a thing? That statement went beyond teasing, there was a real warmth in the memory of it." I shake my head a little to pull it back to the present. I enter the officer's mess. Lt. Uhura is there eating by herself. She looks disquieted. She has not seen me. I quickly get my lunch and ask if I may join her. She smiles a sad smile at me and says, "Sure."

"I noticed you seem upset by something," I venture.

"No." She hesitates. "Not really upset, just a little sad."

"May I inquire as to why you are sad? Maybe I can help," I ask determined not to let Lt Uhura lapse into silence as Dr. McCoy had done.

"There is really nothing you can do. I just miss a friend that use to be assigned to this ship." she replied.

"Nurse Chapel," I said and was rewarded with a startled look.

"Yes," Uhura said watching me carefully. I was starting to get use to being watched carefully and it was not fazing me any more. I glanced at her lunch and saw a single bowl in front of her with something white and gloppy in it. "Oatmeal?" I hazzard a guess at her.

She glanced down and said, "Rice pudding with cinnamon."

"Comfort food," I say and then frown at myself. Why would I say that.

I start searching my memory but come to attention quickly when Uhura said softly in a strained voice, "That's right, comfort food. I eat this when I am missing Chrissy."

"It was her comfort food too," I say feeling my way. It sounded right. Uhura looks at me and I am uncomfortable that her eyes are swimming in tears. But I do not look away. I sense that somehow it is important that I remember this woman.

"That's right," she says through her tears.

"I am sorry. I seem to have made the situation worse. That was not my intention," I say because I really am having a hard time adding to the sadness of my friend.

"It's okay," she sniffs. I get up to leave and she put a hand briefly on my arm and said, "If you need to talk to someone, later. You can always talk to me, any time."

I nod to her and said, "Thank you for your offer. That is most kind of you." She sniffed in response and I left her feeling slightly ashamed that I was ducking out on her.

I went back to the bridge for the rest of my shift. Jim came in a little later, without McCoy, I noticed with relief. Uhura followed closely after that, totally composed. I would have never known that she had ever been upset. I was beginning to wonder a little who was the expert on Vulcan composure. Fortunately, or unfortunately, nothing else arose up the rest of the shift to jog my memory and so it passed relatively uneventfully.

* * *

The three of us sat in a dispirited silence. Captain Kirk had snagged me before I left my station for the day and told me to come to Dr. McCoy's cabin for a conference. I hadn't needed to ask what about. Christine's presence almost seemed palpable.

We all sat there with drinks in our hands. I don't normally drink, but I was quick enough to snatch the whiskey offered me. Anything to help offset the pain that was starting to well as if fresh from the memory of Christine's death.

The Captain stirred and finally spoke in an almost leadened voice. "Did you get a chance to talk with him today, Ny?" I nodded my head.

McCoy asked, "What did he say?" I repeated as much as I could accurately remember. I had been pretty upset at the time with Spock just blurting out her name like that after 9 months of silence. I gave them pretty much all of it.

Dr. McCoy frowned. "This is sure taking its own sweet time in surfacing."

Kirk answered, "Maybe it's better this way. It won't be so much of a shock."

McCoy shook his head and said, "It's going to be a shock fast or slow."

I piped up with the question that had been in my mind since her funeral. "Are we going to tell him how she died?" McCoy and Kirk both looked at me with haunted eyes. They looked at each other.

McCoy said finally, "I think if he asks we should tell him how she died. He probably is going to ask since she died in his quarters. Security had put that in logs because of the clean-up team that had gone in."

I shut my eyes as I remembered how Christine had looked, in a puddle of blood on Spock's bed. I had received the frantic, panicked call from Ensign Justin McCarthy. He had freaked out and had called the bridge instead of sickbay. After rerouting the call, I had told the Captain. I had been afraid that is was Spock. We weren't really certain of his mental state at the time. He was obviously impaired. The Captain had rushed down to Spock's quarters. After 20 minutes, I had got a call from him to tell me to call security for their clean-up squad. I had heard McCoy wailing in the background, "Christine, don't you die on me, goddamnit!" And the general weeping in the background of the other EMTs.

I abandoned my post. It was the only time I had ever done it. I ran so fast through the halls, but it felt like one of those nightmares where you are going in slow motion and can't go any faster to fight off or get away from your enemies. I ran right into the room and into the Captain's arms. So much blood. It had dripped off the sheets onto the floor. My knees had gone out from under me as I screamed my anguish "WHY! WHY! WHY!" Finally falling and being held by the Captain who was sobbing himself.

I shuddered and took a deep drink of the whiskey. Thank God a Yeoman had found her and not Spock as she obviously intended. I remembered that Spock had been in a two day conference at the time for office training. He had been trying to recoup as much of his management skills as possible before starting a third five-year mission. The conference had run over a day because one of the guest speakers had had shuttle connection problems. That is what had saved Spock. A computer mix-up and a hard working ensign that had thought to save Spock a step and drop off a report to his quarters.

When I had gotten back to my quarters that day, a letter lay on my bed. A chill gripped me as I had picked it up. Then anger tore through me as I saw that it was from Christine. "A suicide note! A stinking suicide note! " I screamed to the air at her. "You didn't want to talk to me before. You want to talk to me NOW! Like it makes any difference to me NOW! You BITCH!" I fell sobbing to the bed, the note crumbled in my hand mostly unread. After I had stopped crying, I had discovered it in my hand again. I almost ripped it apart. But something stopped me. I obviously couldn't read it now. I put it carefully in the family Bible to decide what to do with it later. I still haven't read it.

A hand touched my arm pulling me sharply back into the present. I looked into the concerned eyes of Dr. McCoy. "I'm ok," I said thickly. "Just remembering." He nodded his understanding.

Kirk gave me a sympathetic look and then said to the two of us, "What do you think he will do when he finds out?" I had no answer and so I remained quiet turning it over in my mind.

McCoy said, "If we're lucky, he'll cry. If we're not, he'll run."

Kirk sat back and said to him, "You don't think he'll try to kill himself too?"

McCoy shrugged and said, "Spocks not the suicidal type. Of course, that is what I had thought about Christine. If he runs, and he gets off by himself, maybe he might try it."

I asked the next question, "How long do you think it will take for the memory to be fully recovered?"

McCoy sat and thought about it, pulling on his lower lip in the process. "I think we have less than twenty-four hours. Hopefully he will come to us for the answers and not go off and try to find them for himself."

The Captain said, "We are going to have to watch him like a hawk so that we are there to supply those answers when he does remember. I will not let him slip past us. Frankly, I don't think I could live with the consequences."

Dr. McCoy and I nodded our agreement. "I can call him in for a routine, 'How did you sleep last night?' question and answer session tomorrow." McCoy volunteered.

"I think I will ask him to lunch." I added.

"And I will grab him in the morning for a quick breakfast," Kirk said. He looked at the time. "On that note, people, I will need to get to bed. It's already 2310."

Captain Kirk and I went to the door together. McCoy said to the Captain "Try to get some sleep, Jim. We need to be rested for this."

I touched the Captain's shoulder and said, "Good night, sir." He nodded and walked out the door.

McCoy looked at me and managed a smile somehow, "Good night, Ny. We'll get through this" he said to me.

I gave him a quick hug and dashed out before I started to cry again. My "I hope so" floated down the hall to him. As I walked to my quarters I determined that there was one thing I had better do before I went to bed. It was time that I read Chrissy's letter.

I walked into my quarters and grabbed the family Bible. I opened it and quickly found Chrissy's note. I sat down on the bed as I began to read.

"My dearest friend Ny. You are probably wondering how I could do this.

"The truth is I just can't go on. I can't go through waiting for Spock to get to know me and fall in love all over again.

"And that point of view for me is optimistic. He's not going to remember me. And the circumstances that brought us together are not going to happen again. There are other Vulcans who serve in Star Fleet now. There are other Vulcan females on the ship.

"I don't stand a chance even if the pon farr were to hit him tomorrow. We aren't bonded anymore. His death took care of that. It did not survive the fal-tor-pan. Which really was the terms of the contract, 'Till death do we part.'

"If it were just myself, I could say alright but it isn't just me. Sarek and T'Pau were always dead set against us. In his present mental state he needs them too much to rebel against them.

"And there is the child to consider. Yes, I am pregnant. I am four months now. I must have conceived on the morning of the day he died. I don't want to give the child up to the House of Sarek. I don't want the baby raised not knowing who its father is. I don't want to trap Spock into a relationship he doesn't want to be in because of the baby. I can't picture myself with anyone else. I am not strong enough to force Spock into paternity. I am not strong enough to raise this child alone. So I am taking it with me. I was a fluke, an aberration in his life.

"He seemed to remember everyone but me.

"I know you are going to be mad at me for not talking this out with you yet again. But you listened to me whine and moan about Spock for the 13 years it took to get our relationship started. I really don't want to drag you through another 21 years of my whining and moaning what was and what could have been as I raise this child. I love you too much to do that to you again and I don't think our friendship could take the strain. I want to go out while I still have friends.

"I love you. Take care of Spock and Dr. McCoy for me.

"Your sister in arms,

"Christine"

I flop on my bed like I have been shot dead. I can't cry. I am in shock. I wonder if anyone but me knows that she was carrying Spock's child. I wonder if McCoy knows. He supposedly did the autopsy but I have never heard him say to the Captain that she was pregnant. He had told the Captain that she had taken a blood thinner and an anti-clotting agent. But not that she was pregnant. Maybe all he did was run a tox screen since the cause of death was blatantly obvious. We were all in such a hurry that day to clean up the mess before Spock came on board. Maybe I am the only one who knows the reason she is dead.

* * *

As I am preparing for bed, a golden flash catches my peripheral vision. I turn towards it. It seems not to be there now. Odd. I cross the room to put my mug of tea on the night stand next to my bed and look down around the bed. I don't seem to see it. I had rearranged the furniture in my sleeping alcove earlier this evening. It seemed more right to me this way. Although how the furniture could be placed in a more right arrangement escaped my logic. When I had moved the bed, I had seen that the carpet had been patched. That was strange. It seemed illogical to just put new carpeting in the sleeping alcove and not the entire quarters. The flash had seemed to come from under the bed. I looked under the bed. Nothing. Oh well, another irregularity in this already irregular day wouldn't change anything. I was tired but the book that I left by my chair had been good. I went back to retrieve it and as I turned around I caught that flash again. Only this time I saw where it had come from. I went to the wall next to the bed and there barely concealed in the fold of my wall draperies was a delicate golden cross on a fine gold chain near the floor. I stooped to pick it up and rocked back on my heals as I examined it. It was something that a Christian would wear. That covered half the crew on this ship. But how did it get in here? And when? From how the furniture was previously arranged, it would have been out of sight behind the bed. I shook my head as no answers seemed forthcoming. I set the beautiful thing on my night table. I crawled into bed and propped myself up and continued reading the book that Christine had recommended to me.

* * *

I gazed out at the lake at sunset. The waves were picking up the sun and formed white and blue cross patterns across its surface. I turned and headed towards the cabin. The air was soft and sweet. A gentle breeze pushed like a caress against my back as I walked, like a gentle urging of a small child. I could hear the wind chimes as I drew near. The brass pieces flashing golden crosses at my feet and on the walls of the front porch as I climbed the stairs to the cabin. On a huge chaise lounge a woman with blond hair and blue eyes sat reading a book. The golden crosses of reflected light danced around her. The came together to form a pure gold cross and delicate chain around her creamy, graceful neck. I approached her and she paid me no heed. I stood in front of her for a minute and then reached and gently pulled the book away with one hand and with the other turned her face to me.

She gave me a welcoming smile. Her eyes deep like the lake. Her hair frozen sunlight. I brought my mouth to her lips. Love and passion flowed between our joined mouths. The book fell to the floor. The thump as it hit the floor a peripheral sound. I put my arms around her and pressed her down into the soft cushions. I felt like I was diving into love. Her arms wrapped around me and everything ceased to be but us.

I pulled back from the kiss. My face only inches from hers. I gazed at her and my heart sang. "Christine, beloved. I have missed you," I said to her in a whisper filled with passion unending. "Where have you been?" I asked her with painful puzzlement in my voice.

"I have been right here." she answered me. "You just didn't look for me before now," she said with a teasing, loving smile. "What took YOU so long?" she said laughing.

I found myself bemused and smiling said, "I don't know."

"No matter," she said in a husky whisper. "We are here now."

I slowly unbuttoned her lacy creamy cotton top. I laid open her shirt and looked at the snowy breasts that I had laid bare. I leaned forward and kissed them. Hearing her intake of breath at my action. I looked up to her face and saw that it was filled with loving passion for me. I gently took the pink, erect nipples into her mouth and heard her gasp and felt her run her hands through my hair. She lovingly brushed by one of the meld points and it was my turn to gasp. She placed both of her hands on each ear and gently massaged as she pulled my face up to hers for a passionate kiss. I was writhing with pleasure. My breath was ragged and uneven. My control was quickly unraveling as our passion was filling every corner of my being. I felt I was drowning in her. I caressed her smooth neck and felt the golden cross around her neck. I unclasped the chain and took it into my palm. I pulled back from her mouth and deeply planted kisses down her fragrant neck. She smelled of woodland flowers, honeysuckle and cedar. At the juncture of her neck I gently bit and sucked. Her passionate moans only feeding my desire. I was lost in the feel and smell of her.

"Christine," I whispered sending everything I was feeling to her.

"Spock," she moaned.

I took off her blouse. It disappeared as soon as I let go. She removed my shirt. I brought her into a passionate embrace. The shock of skin on skin caused us both to gasp. She rocked against me and I was on fire. I couldn't bear any clothing barriers between us. I pushed her down into the cushions and as slowly as I could stand with shaking fingers I undid her jeans and pulled them down and off her. I took her panties in my teeth and moaned at the smell of her as I pulled them off with my mouth. I took the second I needed to drop my pants and underwear to the floor in one fell swoop. She was looking at me. Her eyes half closed breathing heavily. She reached up to me with her arms and nothing in this universe could keep me from going to her. I slowly ran my hands up both of her legs, stopping at the hips. She shivered in anticipation. With my tongue I tasted her belly button, swirling around it with my tongue. Her moan melted anything solid left inside of me. I ran my tongue in a straight line down to her femaleness. I slid my hands down her hips and gently parted her thighs. She moaned and clasped my head between my hands and my mind shorted out. Working on pure instinct and lust, I pleasured her clit. She cried out my name and wrapped her legs around my chest. I looked at her. Her chest was heaving and her eyes were glazed. I bent my head and sucked her. She tried to buck but I held her fast. Unable to respond that way, she turned her head to and fro and her legs tighten around me spasmodically, moaning out her pleasure continuously. With an arching of her back that even I couldn't hold down, she cried out and came in powerful waves. I broke off what I was doing and quickly shot up between my legs and buried my penis in her in the middle of her orgasmic throws. My surprised cry at the intensity of the pleasure joined hers. I slowly pumped into her as my own tension gradually rose. We gazed deeply into each other's eyes as I moved over her. Her own orgasm never truly had subsided totally and she would spasm from time to time crying out her pleasure. Soon I could feel the pressure building inside of me. She sensed this and tried to make me go faster by speeding up her own rhythm. I grabbed her hips and slowed her back to mine, groaning with the effort it took not to give in. I wanted this to last. I wanted to feel every millimeter of her with every stroke. She seemed to comprehend what I was trying to do and slowed willingly, but by this time I couldn't remove my hands from her hips. She seemed to sense my problem and took them in her own hands and clasped them with her own down to the sheet on either side of us.

Soon my own goal seemed impossible. I couldn't control my breathing and I wanted to speed up so bad. I was on fire. Every nerve in ecstatic agony. "I can't. I can't," I panted out.

Her sweet whisper came back encouragingly, "Yes, you can. Yes, you can." I was crying out my pleasure with every withdrawal and every thrust. Suddenly it felt like my groin exploded. I let out a scream I wouldn't have believed possible. I couldn't drag in enough air and I collapsed on top of her still pumping into her. It went on and on and I passed out.

I half awoke and reached for her. She wasn't there. The knowledge that I was alone in the bed brought me wide awake. Two sensations hit me right away. First, I was wet from shoulders to buttocks and secondly, I felt an object in one of my hands. I brought my hand in view. It was the cross on the gold chain. I sat up. I had come all over myself and the bed. I was surprised by the shear quantity of it. I surmised that I had come several times during the night. I sat a moment longer dangling the golden cross from its chain in front of my face. That dream had felt so real. Was she thinking of me last night?

I sighed. I would have to talk to McCoy about working her so hard that she had to pull an all-nighter. I smiled at the memory of the dream. We could both use some time in a cabin by a lake.

I looked at the golden cross in my hands. I frowned. Christine always wore this except in the shower. She must have come in while I was sleeping to shower and change. She probably lost the cross amongst the bed covers next to me and didn't want to wake me. I'll drop it off to her in sickbay today, I decided. I better hurry or I was going to have forego breakfast again. I scramble out of bed and quickly strip the sheets from the bed and put them in the laundry disposal. I hurry to the shower. Then quickly get dressed and remake the bed.

Good. I still had 30 minutes to catch a quick breakfast. I had just slipped the cross into one of my pockets in my uniform when Jim came striding in from our joint bathroom.

"Ready for a little breakfast?" he said energetically.

"That sounds acceptable," I said. "Is there something we need to discuss?" I asked him.

He didn't usually pop in to ask me to breakfast without arranging it the night before. Well not since Christine, I amended.

"No. I have been up for while and I just don't feel like eating breakfast by myself is all," Jim said. First, Christine is pulling and all nighter and now Jim is admitting to being up at all hours. I feel like I have missed something.

"Are you sure there isn't some problem that I should be aware of?" I asked.

Jim yawned and waived me to the door. "No, no, no. I'm just catching up on a backlog of paperwork." Shrugging slightly I precede him to the door and he follows me out.

* * *

As we walked along the corridor, I would take surreptitious glances at my first officer. Nothing seemed different and yet there was something there.

He looked rested. He seemed relaxed. But there was something else. I had seen it before. It frustrated me because I couldn't figure it out. I have to be careful to keep my inspection glances extremely brief. No sense upsetting the apple cart sooner than it needed to be.

* * *

I glanced at Jim from time to time as we went down the corridor. Something was not right. He seemed his usual irrepressible self, but there was a tension in him. I had seen him tired from catching up on paperwork before. It had never caused this kind of nervous tension. He keeps giving me these strange looks. He is troubled by something.

"Jim. There is something troubling you." I make it a statement of fact so that it will be harder for him to shrug off. Jim slows his pace a little as he seems to turn over in his mind what to say.

"I am just worried about you. That is all."

"Why?" I ask.

Jim stops in the hall just before we get to the officer's mess and searches my face. "How did you sleep last night?" he asks instead of answering my question. I raise an eyebrow at him for ducking my question, but also I fight to keep the smile off my lips as I recall my dream about Christine.

"I slept satisfactorily." A big understatement, even for me. "And did you get any sleep at all? Maybe it is I that should be worried about you?" I couldn't help teasing him.

* * *

And there it is, finally. The something that I couldn't pin down. I realize with sudden certainty what was bothering me about my first officer's demeanor. He was positively glowing. I hadn't seen him look like that since the day he had died. Christine had always looked radiant and Spock had always glowed when they were together. I swallowed the thick lump in my throat that was forming there before it could start to choke me. I manage a weak smile.

"Point taken. I was just wondering if you had had any more night terrors?" I turned to go into the mess hall so that he could not see the half lie of that reply written on my face as I struggled for control.

"No," he answered me. " I truly slept very well."

* * *

I can't help but be amused and a little annoyed. Jim can get so worked up over me at times. He is heading into the mess hall and I can not see the impact my attempt at reassurance had. Jim grabs a tray and I follow suit. He is not giving me those odd looks anymore so I assume that I have allayed his fears. I make a mental note to myself to talk to Dr. McCoy about the Captain's stress level while I am there to give Christine her cross sometime today.

* * *

I place an order for waffles, orange juice and coffee. I can't bear to look at him. I know what is coming and I wish I was anywhere else but ground zero. My faith is shaken in the idea of a benevolent God. How could a Benevolent Supreme Being allow a tragedy like this to happen? Why couldn't he have remembered her sooner or not at all!? Why couldn't she have had the strength to wait for him? I am near tears.

Spock was nudging me in the arm. "What?" I startle. Blinking my eyes several times.

"Your food is ready," Spock said giving me a slight frown.

"Oh," I said sheepishly and quickly put the plate and glassware on my tray.

"Apparently my assurances as you would say are 'falling on deaf ears'," Spock said with some concern in his voice. *This will never do. Pull yourself together James T. ... Spock needs you whether he knows it yet or not. You can wallow after this is all played out later!* I thought to myself angrily.

"No, Spock, I heard you. I just was thinking that a good night's sleep is probably what I could use right now," I said with a forced small laugh.

* * *

He is not fooling anyone. I thought back to yesterday. I remembered his and Dr. McCoy's odd behavior on the bridge. I had had a night terror, a severe one. But it had all fizzled out to what the ship's compliment number was, 419 instead of 418. Nothing to get this upset about. Unless I hadn't remembered something else?

He sat down at a near table. I sat across from him. Jim gave me a smile that didn't quite touch his eyes and fell on his food. I waited a beat and said, "Jim, I know the healers said to you that I had to remember life events in my own time. But if there is some piece of information that I lack that is effecting my duty as first officer or science officer, after all this time, couldn't you just tell me?"

Jim froze in mid bite. His eyes went wide. He put his fork slowly down and his eyes never left my face.

"What?"

I drew a deep breath, controlled my frustration, and said, "Wouldn't it just be more expedient to tell me if I have forgotten something about my duties that is slowing the efficiency of the ship? It has been 9.83 months after all since I began performing as first officer on this mission and I don't think telling me something that I am missing at this time will largely effect my psyche. Surely by now it is a matter of detail?"

* * *

This was one of the possible scenarios that McCoy and I had talked about thank goodness, because I couldn't have come up with a fast enough response on my own to save my life.

"Well, I guess maybe you are right. Although, maybe I should ask Bones," I hedged to make it not look too rehearsed. Spock fried me with a thin lipped glower. Okay! A glower for a Vulcan that is. "Ok, maybe not. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you are overdue for your physical."

Spock sat there with eyebrows climbing. "My physical?" he said skeptically. I took my annual physical when I came aboard."

"Yes, yes you did. But you now have to take a physical every six months." I quickly stuffed a piece of my waffle into my mouth and concentrated on the taste of it so as to not to give myself away.

"Why?" came the flat response. Spock hated physicals even more than I did.

"New Star Fleet policy," I replied. The eyebrows went even higher. "Ok, Bones and I were going to let it roll, but since you asked, it's because of your age."

Spock seemed a little flustered. "What about my age?"

I shut my eyes to quote regulations and to keep from laughing in his face. It was nice to know that Spock could succumb to a few vanities like the rest of us. "All officers of the rank of commander or above must take a complete physical every six months after the age of 50 if they are on active duty to insure fitness for said duty. Such middle aged officers--"

"Middle aged. I am NOT middle aged," snapped Spock.

I opened my eyes a crack and then quickly shut them as a giggle over his expression threatened to make itself known. "--if found unfit for said duty, have two choices, they can either take an off-ship position or take early retirement as covered in Section 5, Paragraph 4 of the..."

I continued as if he hadn't interrupted. Spock waited until I had finished.

You could have cut the silence with a knife. Spock leaned forward. "You're kidding. Right? This is one of those times when your errant human sense of humor has decided to make itself known?" He practically glared.

My own eyebrows rose in mock innocence. "No," I wickedly assured him. "Those are the new regulations. You can read them for yourself if you want. They came out about the time I got demoted in rank and the Enterprise got sent out for another five year mission. I can't help but suspect that Nogura aimed them directly at me."

At the mention of Nogura, Spock leaned back and nodded his head. "Very likely." He sighed. "I will contact Dr. McCoy today and arrange for my 'BI-Annual' physical." He said bi-annual with some distaste.

"Okay," I said agreeably feeling relief flood to my toes that the crisis hadn't hit here and now in front of everyone.

Spock started to eat his own breakfast. "I can see why you didn't tell me. But how long were you going to let me remain in violation of regulations?" he asked.

"Oh, not for much longer." I said neutrally.

* * *

The atmosphere on the bridge today was a lot more relaxed. Whether it was from me having a good night's sleep or because Dr. McCoy was not lurking on the bridge, I couldn't say. Uhura had acted oddly in the late morning when I had asked her to contact Christine in sickbay. She seemed to have a sneezing fit which made her hunch over her board as she keyed in my request, although I didn't see how she could have known if she hit the right sequence of buttons.

I said as much to her and she froze me with a look and said, "Mr. Spock, I'll have you know that I can key any request on this board you might have in total darkness. I am just that good, Sugar!" I did not doubt it. I apologized to her of course and she said, "No problem, honey. Christine isn't available right now. Do you want to leave a message?"

I thought about the intimate nature of the message and decline, "No, Thank you. I think it can wait."

A strange expression crossed her face and she said, "Sure. I am sure it can."

I thought that was an odd response, but the Captain came up to me to ask me about the survey maps right at that moment and I didn't get a chance to inquire about what she had meant.

* * *

My reverie is broken by a soft hand touches my shoulder and I look up into a beautiful Bantu face. Uhura smiles at me and says, "Would you care to accompany me to lunch?" I check my internal time sense. 1300.

I look over at the Captain. He is busy with a Yeoman who has brought the midday reports. "Captain, I am going to take a break for lunch with Lt. Uhura. Are you going to join us?" I ask, hoping he will take a badly needed break.

He waives me off and says, "No, I need to finish with these. I don't want to get behind right after I just got caught up!" He grinned. "You go ahead. I'll catch a break later."

I turn and gesture to the turbolift doors. "Shall we?" She leads the way.

As I walk to the officer's mess for the second time that day, I ask Nyota what she had meant by her reply when I told her that my message for Christine could wait.

"What do you mean?" Nyota asked uncertainly.

"You said that you were sure it could wait. What did you mean by that?"

"Oh! That! I didn't mean anything by it. I was just repeating myself, I guess," she replied. "I get kind of tired sometimes with," Yes sir" or "No sir." Since most of the questions that are asked of me are of a yes or no nature, I just add a little extra here and there."

"Humans do seem to need to talk more than Vulcans," I reflected out loud.

"Yes, we sure do. That is why I asked you to lunch. You usually are on top of things and I just wanted some company. Besides, I wanted you to know that I wasn't going to hold a grudge against you for questioning my abilities," she teased.

"I am honored that you chose me, Miss Uhura, and that I am forgiven for my inexcusable lapse." I gave her a small bow. She laughed in response, seeing it for the teasing that it was.

We walked into the officer's mess and into a wall of noise. It was crowded today. I said as much to her.

"I tell you what. You go get the food and I'll find us a place to sit down," she said.

"Logical," I said.

"Get me a Bombay Chicken and an ice tea, okay?" she said over her shoulder as she started looking for two open spots next to each other.

I nodded and went to place the order at the food synthesizer. There was a line at each one, but after a few minutes, I managed to order Vegetarian Chowder and oyster crackers, two iced teas and a Bombay Chicken, whatever that was. The machine filled the request and I was relieved to find the chicken dish most innocuous. I looked for Ms. Uhura and spotted her in the far corner at a table for two. How she had managed that, I had no idea. I was certain that all the smaller tables had been filled when we had first walked in. I started over to her with the food.

* * *

"Great! Just Great!" I think to myself, frustrated. "It would have to be shoulder to shoulder in here today of all days. I need a smaller table out of the way in case he loses it during lunch. They are all taken. Damnit! Wait. That is Lieutenant Lucas over there with Ensign Sheila Parker. Looks like they are done. He owes me a favor for covering for him on his date last week. Come to think of it, that means she owes me a favor too. Rank doth hath it's privileges."

Smiling, I approached them. "Hi Jerry!" I coo. "How are you two doing?"

"Commander Uhura! We are doing fine." Lt. Lucas answered.

"Great. It looks like you guys are done and I really need a table for two. Could you be a dear and loan me yours?" I purr.

"Sure," said Sheila Parker nudging Jerry. "Common Jerry, I want to go for a walk. It's too crowded in here."

"Who's the lucky guy?" Jerry couldn't help but leer.

"Come on, Jerry!" Sheila was dragging him by the arm. I give a grateful smile to Sheila Parker. She is a smart cookie. I think their relationship will last 6 weeks, tops. Sheila can do much better.

I sit down hurriedly and see Spock wending his way through the crowded mess hall with the food. He has spotted me.

"Your Chicken Bombay and Ice Tea, Lieutenant."

"Thank you," I say. He nods and sits down across from me and puts his crackers in his soup. I find that I am suddenly tongue tied. Panicked, I quickly think through all the things I could possibly say. Nothing sounds normal. My eyes fall on his soup. "That looks good," I say. I cringe. Could it get more inane than that!

He stops the spoon half way to his mouth and says, "Yes, it is very good. They are earth vegetables but they have an agreeable flavor." He continues eating his soup.

I fall on my own food so that I won't have to say anything right off the bat. "You must find your own food agreeable as well," he observed.

"Umhmm," I say around a mouthful of Chicken Bombay.

"I have been thinking," Spock continued, "that it has been awhile since we did anything together."

My eyebrows went up in surprise. "Yes, yes, it has been awhile," I say slowly.

"In fact," he went on. "It has been almost 10 months." I stop eating as I try to recall what we had done 10 months ago. My mind is a complete blank. Spock seems to sense my lack of memory, "We went shopping."

"We did?" I say in disbelief. I can't think of a single time that I had gone shopping with Spock.

"I can not believe that you have forgotten something that I remember," he says with a ghost of a smile. "You and Christine made a big deal out of it. Christmas shopping at a huge mega-mall?" he prodded.

I take a long sip of ice tea. I did remember it now. Christine, Sulu and I had dragged Spock to a mall during the Holidays on Earth. We had teased him mercilessly about the tradition of sitting on Santa's lap.

"Oh, right," I say. I think frantically for a way to change the subject.

He beats me by half a heart beat. "I think we should go out and do something again," he says.

"We?" I squeak.

His turn to raise an eyebrow. "You, Christine and Sulu and myself. I was thinking of maybe the theatre. Rahan III is noted for their performing arts. Lt. Uhura, are you all right?"

I manage an almost whisper. "Yes, just fine. Why do you ask."

"You have gone very pale," he said concern in his voice and gaze.

I give a slight cough, "Something just went down the wrong way," I said.

"Oh," he says. I give him a weak smile and take another bite of food.

The silence drags out. Finally not meeting his eyes as I push my food around my plate, I say, "Um, it sounds just about perfect, but Mr. Sulu and I had a falling out a few weeks ago and I just don't think I would be comfortable doing something with him yet"

"Ah. I see. My apologies. I didn't realize." He back peddles a little.

"No problem," I say giving him a weak smile. "It isn't exactly common knowledge." If this gets back to Sulu, he is going to kill me for this.

* * *

I frown at this new information. I can understand that it isn't common knowledge, but Christine knows that I am not good at gossip and am usually out of the "Loop" so to speak. It was one of the things that she helped me to understand was important in running a ship. Knowing who was getting along with who and vice versa made it easier to produce smoothly running landing parties. The fact that I didn't know that Sulu and Lt. Uhura weren't "together" anymore bothered me. Nyota was Christine's closest friend and I was sure that anything like this, Christine would have known about and passed along to me on the QT. That fact that she hadn't, I found disturbing, needless to say awkward.

"Well, how about if I talk with Christine today and get her imput on something maybe the three of us would enjoy?"

Lt. Uhura stares at me for a beat. I get an uncomfortable feeling. "Well. That certainly is ..." she pauses. She looks lost for words. I have never seen her lost for words. Not like this.

"Certainly is what?" I prompt hoping to help.

"Mr. Spock, sugar, something is definitely not sitting well. Would you excuse me for a minute?" she said rapidly.

"Maybe I should escort you to sickbay?" I say concerned.

She definitely looks sick. "Count on it. But just let me go to the restroom real quick first or I am not going to make it to sickbay." I nod and start to get up to follow her when she holds up a hand and says, "Don't move, I'll be right back."

"Whatever makes you feel more comfortable," I say and sit back down again.

"Thanks," she says and she practically runs for the exit. It occurs to me belatedly that the closest restrooms are in the opposite direction. Odd.

* * *

I am moving as quickly as decently possible through the throng. I get out of the mess hall and run full steam for the intercom. I connect directly to sickbay.

"Sickbay here, Nurse Johnston," came the reply.

"I need to speak to Dr. McCoy right NOW!" I said in a panic.

"May I ask what this is concerning?" the new nurse replied.

I shut my eyes to gain a moment of control so I wouldn't scream at him. "This is Lt. Uhura. I need to speak to Dr. McCoy right now. It concerns Commander Spock."

"Just a moment." A muffled sound of two people talking and then. "I am sorry Lt. Dr. McCoy is out of the office. Is this an emergency?"

I can't believe this is happening. I am running out of time. "No, but it is imperative that I speak to him right away or it could be an emergency."

"Dr. McCoy went down to lunch. Maybe you can try the mess hall? Otherwise I can have him paged."

"No! No, don't do that." I said hastily as I could see Spock's reaction to having Dr. McCoy paged after I had just told him I was sick. "I'll find him," I replied with an assurance I did not feel. If he was in the Officer's Mess and I had run past him, I was dead meat. I couldn't talk to him in front of Spock. I heard foot steps and a warbling whistle come down the hall. "THANK YOU GOD!" I prayed silently and ran towards it. I practically collided with Dr. McCoy as I turned the corner.

* * *

"Whoa now! Where are you going in such an all fire hurry?" I said as I grabbed Uhura so she wouldn't fall down.

"Dr. McCoy! Thank God! It's Spock. He's in the Officer's Mess. He's going to try to go see Christine!" she babbled at me.

"Wait, wait, wait! Calm down a little. I don't think I am following you!"

She took several deep breaths and then more calmly said. "Spock remembers Christine, but he thinks she is on board! He is going to try to see her and I don't know what to do!"

"He told you that?" I asked making sure.

"Yes!" she said emphatically.

"What did you say?" trying to get the whole picture.

"I said that I felt ill and that I needed to get to the bathroom. He is going to escort me to sickbay when I go back into the mess hall." She said shaking.

"Actually that was really quick thinking on your part. Let him do just that. How long have you been gone?" Hoping we would not be arousing any suspicion.

She looked at her watch. "About 5 minutes."

I marshaled my thoughts. "Ok. Give me a one minute head start. Go back in there and have him help you up to sickbay SLOWLY. I need some time to prepare and get Jim there too." I stopped and studied her wan face. I took a deep breath and touched her on the shoulder, "This is it Ny. Think your up to it." She gulped and nodded. "Good girl." I spun and dashed up to sickbay in record time leaving her standing in the hall counting to 60.

I storm into sickbay on a dead run. I figure I got about 4 minutes. I order everyone out except Johnston. "Johnston I want you in my office NOW!" I yell at him. He can move fast. I'll give him that! I run in after him and slam the door shut. I call the bridge and Jim answers. "Jimmy boy, it's D-day. Have someone take the con and get down here!" I said using the code we had worked out. He doesn't even reply. There is just a soft click.

I glance at Johnston's confused face. "I want you to find the Versed. Fill a hypo with about 5 mg and get back into my office and hurry!" I order. He disappears with alacrity. I unlock the controlled medicines cabinet and fill a hypo with 10 mg of atavan. About that time Johnston comes back in with the hypo and asks, "What is going on, sir?"

"The first officer, Commander Spock, is coming in here with a repressed memory that isn't quite resurfacing properly. He is about to get some bad new. Really bad. Do you understand?" I give him an eagle eyed look.

"Uh, sort of sir. What memory is it?" he asked in a confused tone, shifting foot to foot nervously.

I take some pity on him. After all he is going to be what I use to force Spock's memory of Christine all the way to the surface and it was going to get ugly. "His fiancée died." I tell him.

"Oh!" was all he said.

"This is what I want you to do. You stay in here with the door open until I call for you. Then you come in to sickbay. You will see Lt. Uhura on a bio-bed, but there is nothing wrong with her. It is just a ruse to get Commander Spock down here ok?" Johnston nodded. "You may see Captain Kirk slip in quietly, but don't acknowledge him until I do or Spock does. Got it?" I ask him.

"Yes sir, I do." Good boy.

Just at that moment I see Uhura come in leaning on Spock. I hurry out to meet them. "Uhura, what is wrong?" I say to her as I indicate a bio-bed. I am stalling for Jim.

She doesn't hesitate a second as she hops up on it. "I don't know Doctor. I feel nauseous," she responds as I start to run the scanner over her. At that point I notice Jim slip in quietly and start to come up to the three of us.

"Nurse, can you come in here for a minute?" I yell. Johnston true to his word comes in.

Spock, who had his back to my office door, turned around: the greeting on his lips died as he saw that it wasn't Christine. "Mr. Spock, I want to introduce you to our new Head Nurse. This is Thomas Johnston. Mr. Johnston, Commander Spock." The look on Spock's face would have been funny if it had been any other circumstance. I grasped the hypo of atavan that was in my pocket and Jim came up beside Spock.

"Where is Christine? You aren't the head nurse, Christine is the head nurse," he babbled. He shook his head to clear it as the memories collided, "Wait. You were the new transfer." He turned to me and I could already see the shock start. "What happened to Christine?!"

Jim took one arm and I took the other. Uhura jumped off the bio-bed and put her hands on his shoulders. The three of us tried to steer him to the bio-bed and suddenly he resisted us.

"WHERE IS CHRISTINE!" he demanded of the three of us, not quite yelling but close.

I talked to him like I would a frightened child, trying to prepare him as much as possible for the shock. "Spock I have some bad news. It's going to hurt a lot and I want you to sit down first."

"No!" was all that came out of him. It was said in fear and denial. He was easy to read. His Vulcan control had fled. I manage to lean him against the bed. Uhura scooted out of the way. Jim still had a grip on him.

"Just remember that we are here for you, honey," she said her voice dripping with sympathy and compassion. The look that Spock gave us all then just about broke my heart. He knew that I wasn't kidding when I said this was going to hurt.

"Spock, Christine is dead."

Spock's face went very pale. "Dead?" he whispered.

"You went to her funeral, remember?" I silently willed him to remember.

"Her funeral." His voice was flat. He was definitely going into shock.

Jim piped up. "That was the funeral we had on earth, right after your rectification in Star Fleet Officers Training, before we shipped out."

"Christine's funeral?" he whispered weakly and his face went gray and he went slack between us, unconscious.

"Johnston! Quick! Grab his legs. Help us get him on this bio-bed!" I snapped already afraid of what I would find. I could feel his brachial pulse from the hold I had on him and it was weak and thready. Between the three of us, we quickly got Spock on the bio-bed. I glanced at the vital indicators. Shock. "Great, McCoy," I muttered angrily to myself. "You didn't even see this one coming!"

"Johnston," I yelled angrily, knowing I was taking my self-anger and frustration out on him. "Get 5cc's of cortisone, 1 glucose drip and 2cc's of stokamine. MOVE!"

Jim said anxiously, "What's going on, Bones?"

"Shock," I answered him as I elevated his feet and set the bio-bed temperature to 100F. "Uhura, hand me that blanket on the shelf there," I ordered her managing not to make it a snap. She looked shocky herself and I didn't need two patients on my hands. "Thanks," I said when she handed it to me and I quickly spread it over Spock, leaving one arm exposed for the I.V.

Johnston came with the supplies. I gave him a grunt of appreciation. Most of my attention is fixed on Spock's vital signs. "Here insert the I.V" I told him. Johnston quickly did it on the first stick. I was gratified that Johnston was every bit as good as his record said he was. I really didn't relish breaking him in on one of the command team and a dear friend. I looked at the indicators as the I.V. began to flow into him. They were better. I was about to tell Johnston to tie Spock's arm down when I found him doing just that. Not a moment too soon.

Spock's head began lolling from side to side and a moan escaped him. His breathing increased. I placed both of my hands on his shoulders and spoke gently to him. "Spock. Try to relax. Don't fight the fact that Christine is dead. Just roll with it."

Spock's eyes were glazed with pain and he couldn't seem to focus on me. "Noooooo," he wailed.

I tried again hoping I could get through. I placed my hands on either side of his face, careful to avoid the meld points and brought my face close to his so that he could see me easily and said. "Spock, I want you to concentrate on my voice. I've got you. We're here for you. Hold on to us and let the pain wash through you."

"CHRISTINE!" Spock screamed. He seemed more agitated and his pulse rate and blood pressure were all over the place.

"Johnston, give him the cortisone," I ordered.

"How much sir?" Johnston said.

"All of it." I said grimly. I watched, as the breathing seemed to even a bit. The blood pressure didn't seem to fluctuate as much. The heart rate wasn't following suit, though. The rhythm was all over the board. Just as I was about to try to attempt to talk to Spock again, he went limp. At first, I thought that he had passed out. Then all the indicators took a steep dive. "SHIT!" I swore certain that he was going to die right in front of me. I was just about to order 1cc of stokamine when the indicators leveled out. I held up my hand at Johnston to stave off any action on his part and just watched the indicators for a minute. They were low, but they were steady. We were all holding our breaths. Deep trance. I have never seen a Vulcan dive into this deep a trance so fast. From the indicators, it was as deep as a healing trance. I had never heard of a Vulcan slip into a healing trance from emotional shock. First time for everything I guess.

We were all exhaling our relief when the indicators zoomed up to the top of the scale! Spock practically levitated off the table with a scream that would have made any primal scream therapist proud.

"Johnston!" I yelled over it as I struggled to hold Spock down. He had ripped out his I.V.

Blood was flying everywhere. "Shoot him with the Versed! All of it," I yelled. Spock's screaming was raising the hair on the back of my neck. He was close to a complete psychotic break, if he wasn't there already! Johnston complied without hesitation.

The silence was almost deafening. After a second as the sound of my heart pounding in my ears receded, I could hear the ragged breathing of everyone in the room except Uhura. She was bawling. Jim held her tightly in his arms 15 feet away. He looked like he was going to break down any minute himself. I knew exactly how he felt. My own knees were shaking. Johnston's face was white. I looked at the indicators over Spock's head again. They indicated that he was unconscious. All were steady at low normal.

"Get a proto-sealer and some swabs and let's take care of his arm," I said to Johnston. He nodded and quickly got the tray. I grabbed the proto-sealer and started closing the wound Spock had created when he ripped out the I.V.

"Uhh. I can do that, sir," Johnston said not unkindly.

I gave him a look and smiled to take the sting out of it and said, "I know you can son." I finished sealing the wound myself and then gently swabbed the blood off of his arm. Johnston got another blanket and we replaced the blood spattered one. Not until I tucked Spock in, did I turn my attention to Jim and Uhura.

Jim had managed to calm Nyota down. He still had one arm around her but she had more or less stopped crying. "Let's go into my office," I said with nod of my head in that direction. To Johnston, I said, "If there is any change, and I mean ANY, you come get me."

"Yes, sir," he replied as he got a chair and put it next to Spock's bed to sit on. I nodded and followed Jim and Nyota into my office.

I indicated a couch for them to sit on and gave them a glass of water to sip. I poured a glass of water for myself and flopped into my chair. Jim was the first to speak. "What happened Bones?"

I couldn't look at him the guilt was starting to grip me so hard. "Shock. He went into shock."

Nyota observed, "You were acting like it was some kind of life threatening trauma. Why not just let him scream it out?"

"In a Vulcan, severe emotional shock is deadly if not treated immediately," I said quietly.

Jim studied me for a moment. "You don't look very happy about getting him stabilized."

I shook my head. "I am worried about his mental state."

Jim gave me a sharp glance and said, "What do you mean?"

"You heard him. Did that sound totally sane to you?" I replied, too tired to make it sound like I was annoyed. Jim gave a little shudder and took another sip of water.

Uhura asked, "Do you think he went crazy?"

"I don't know," I said softly, sipping my own water.

"When will you know?" Jim asked, suddenly sounding angry. I knew he wasn't angry with me. It was just that the situation was starting to catch up with him. We had run out of action and we were down to waiting. Jim hated waiting.

"When the Versed begins to wear off, we'll see where he is at. Hopefully, the shock component of the trauma is over and I will be able to determine how much emotional and psychological damage there is. If not, and he keeps going into shock ... well I might need some help," I said.

"What kind of help?" Jim asked.

"Help from Vulcan," I said, hating to admit it but knowing that Spock's very sanity if not his life warranted it.

"We are ten days from Vulcan at maximum warp," Jim informed me.

I sucked in my breath between my teeth, "Damnit! Damnit to Hell!"

"Can't you just knock him out again until we get there?" Jim asked surprised at my reaction.

"No, I can't. Vulcans aren't like humans. When they are drugged unconscious their organs don't keep working as well as ours do. Basically, their bodies can't detoxify some of the broken down components to the drug and they die of poisoning. It's almost like a drug overdose."

"How long can you keep him out?" Jim asked hoping against hope that I would say something like 8 days.

"Three days," I said morosely as I watched his face fall. Nyota piped up.

"We can contact Vulcan and get a reply in two days using subspace frequencies."

I nodded my head. Real hope was dawning on me for the first time in an hour. "Okay. This is what I need you to do. I am not sure of everything that happened to Spock. But a Vulcan might recognize some of the symptoms, especially that crazy trance part," I reflected out loud. I said more energetically. "I want you to send all the medical recordings of what transpired from the minute Spock got on that bio-bed, including the video components. Send it A.S.A.P and advise how to treat. Oh and make sure they understand where the ship is now and that there are no other Vulcans or other telepathic species on board. They are big with the telepathic approach to medicine."

Jim looked at Nyota and said, "How long will it take you to get all that together and send it?"

"About three hours," she replied.

"Give it your top priority, Lieutenant," Kirk said relishing being able to take some action in this crisis.

"Aye, sir," she said crisply. She seemed happy to be able to do something. She set the glass down on the coffee table in front of the couch and hurried out of the room.

"What time is it?" Jim said stretching.

I looked at the chronometer. "1420" I said. It felt at least three hours later.

Jim stood up and said. "I better get back to the bridge and work out a relief schedule for Spock for the next few days."

"I would make that a week," I said. Jim nodded solemnly and left. I watched him through my open door as he went to Spock and touched his hair and whispered something into his ear before leaving sickbay altogether for the bridge.

I got up and walked over to Spock's bed after he had left. I smiled at Johnston and said, "Take a break, son, while you can. I'll take over until 1700."

"Yes sir," Johnston said as he got up to leave. "Sir, I didn't realize it was going to be this bad. I thought earlier that you were a little off your rocker with asking me to grab the Versed before you told him the bad news. You saved his life!"

I gave him a weak smile. "Did I? I wonder," I whispered as my eyes went back to Spock's deceptively calm face.

"Yes, sir. You gave him a chance," Johnston said determined.

My eyes teared over in gratitude. "Thanks, son." He nodded and left. We were going to be a great team, I realized.

Alone now with my patient, I grabbed hold of Spock's hands and just held them. I had done all I could for now. All that I knew how. "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. In green pastures he gives me rest; He leads me by still waters: He restoreth my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness. Even though I walk through the valley of death; I fear no evil; For You are at my side. With Your rod and Your staff that give me courage." I began to pray, softly, aloud.

* * *

Nyota came back from the restroom just as I had determined that I needed to go check on her. She looks really ill. She is pale and shaking. I become increasingly concerned as she asks me if I would walk her to sickbay in an unsteady voice. As we leave the mess hall, I have to pause to wait for her to catch up. I make sure that I check my pace.

"How long have you been feeling ill?" I ask her.

"Not long. It came on rather suddenly," she says.

"After I take you to sickbay, I will report this to Mr. Scott. There must be a problem with the replicator," I reply.

We walk a little farther when Nyota leans against the wall and moans. I reached out to steady her, but she waives my hand away and says, "No. I just need to rest for a minute."

I look at her pale face. There is anxiety in her eyes. "I think alacrity is called for, Lieutenant. I shall carry you," I say as I prepare my shields for the closeness I will need to pick her up.

"No!" she almost yells uncharacteristically. She actually blanches further. It stuns me into immobility. I am at a loss as to the cause of her panic. She seems to sense my disquiet. "I mean that I don't want to be a spectacle over a little stomach ache," she quickly reassures me. "Maybe, if I just lean on you for support."

I can understand that. I would not want to be carried to sickbay either. I nod and slip an arm around her and pull her easily to her feet. "Is this acceptable?" I ask her. She nods and we start toward sickbay again. I am surprised to feel her dread on the way there. Maybe I am not the only person who objects to sickbay.

The trip should have taken 1.3 minutes. It took us 3.97. By the time we arrive, I am very concerned. What ever this pathogen is, it obviously hits very fast. I wonder how many of the crew will be affected.

The doors whoosh open and we enter sickbay. McCoy comes out of his office and says in surprise, "Uhura! What is wrong?" He indicates the bio-bed and I steer Nyota to it.

"I don't know," she responds, "I feel nauseous." She manages to get on the bed and lies down. Dr. McCoy starts scanning her abdomen. I hear the sickbay doors whoosh open and close, but I do not look. I am too intent on finding out what is wrong with the Lieutenant. McCoy yells for Christine to come assist. I wince at the volume. How it is that Christine can stand it all day without losing her hearing? I think of the gold cross in my pocket and turn to greet her.

" ?"

...It isn't her. I feel a moment of confusion. She must be down in the labs ... but no...

What is McCoy saying? Head Nurse? I feel the floor fall from beneath my feet. Reality seems to fade for a second. I feel a tiny jolt of fear run up from my belly and loosen my tongue.

I am babbling, "Where is Christine? You aren't the head nurse. Christine is the head nurse!" Suddenly a fragment of memory flashes before my eyes from yesterday. I see the transfer request on my data pad. "Wait!" I say as I desperately try to reconcile the contradictory facts. Everything is moving too fast. The two realities will not mesh. "You were the new transfer!" I turn to McCoy and demand that he make sense of it all. I am obviously lacking in data. "What has happened to Christine?" I demand of him.

A hand grasps my arm. It's Jim's. What is he doing here? I left him working on reports on the Bridge. McCoy grasps my other arm. Suddenly I feel Uhura's hands on my shoulder and I know that something is really not right. They are steering me to the bio-bed. I am not sick and I want an answer to my question, SHADDISH! Using my Vulcan strength, I stop their efforts to get me on the bio-bed. I put a great deal of steely Vulcan strength into my voice. "WHERE IS CHRISTINE!" I don't quite yell.

None of them let go. McCoy answers, "Spock, I have some bad news. It's going to hurt a lot and I want you to sit down first." His voice is gentle and his eyes are full of sorrow.

I can feel chills on the back of my neck. "NO!" I blurt out in protest. Something awful is about to be said and I suddenly, illogically don't want to hear the answer to my question. My groaning panic saps my strength and they succeed in pushing me against the bio-bed.

Uhura's voice is full of grieving sympathy and she says, "Just remember that we are here for you, honey."

I look at all of them. The nightmare has come back to get me. There is nothing I can do to hold it back .. I am awake and my eyes are wide open.

McCoy says, "Spock, Christine is dead."

That simple statement has gutted me. I can't even draw breath. Surely my organs are pouring onto the floor. I will die in a moment. "Dead?" I say in a voice as bloodless as I feel.

He continues as if I am not bleeding to death. "You went to her funeral, remember?" he looks at me intensely. His sad blue eyes fill my field of vision as the walls of a dark tunnel form on the periphery.

I try to make sense of his words. But my mind is slowing down under the awful weight of the agonizing truth. All I can do is repeat stupidly what he has said, "Her funeral."

Jim's voice comes from far away. "That was the funeral we had on Earth ... right after your rectification in Star Fleet Officers Training ... before we shipped out."

I dimly remember attending a funeral.. The casket had been closed. It had been black. "Christine's funeral?" I whisper aloud, no longer able to even think silently. Everyone, everything has winked out. There is nothing but a yawning blackness. I fall into it.

* * *

I am being dragged against my will from the depths of blessed unknowing. I see a light. At first I go toward it. Then I stop and remember that in the light there is terrible pain. I shake my head, no. The light is relentless. It dumps me out into a bright sea of pain. Hands are gripping my shoulders. A voice.

"Spock! Try to relax. Don't fight the fact that Christine is dead. Just roll with it."

"Nooooo!" I scream.

I will NOT "roll with it"! How can she be dead? Hands touch the sides of my face. I try to shake them off. A face looms in front of me. The voice comes from it. "Spock, I want you to concentrate on my voice. I've got you."

No! Let me go! Go AWAY!

The face and voice of pain will not be denied. "We're here for you. Hold on to us and let the pain wash through you."

I will not! I will not submit to this! Christine is not dead! It's a cruel, evil lie! I hear the voice again but it makes no sense and I am relieved that it is not focused on me. I hear a hiss and a heavy coldness fills my shoulder. My mind starts to clear. Christine is not dead! I can find her! I can sense her through our bond. I reach for my bond center to find it strangely silent and dark. I rummage through all that I am, all that I was looking for "US".

I call, "CHRISTINE!" But there is no answer. Finally, I find a long burnt-out cinder lying in a far closed off part of my mind. I brush my soul against it. Grief overwhelms me. Our bond once so alive, filled with love, is this dead thing. I reach for it, curl around it, try to hold it one last time. As it falls into ashes from the gentlest of touches, I am back at the funeral. I remember how I was then. How I didn't remember her. How I just stood there, unmoved, while the woman I loved was being put into the ground. I shy from this horror. How can this be?

I remember our last moments together as husband and wife. She was lying on my bed in my quarters. She was beautiful. Flushed from our love making. I was having a hard time leaving her, but the bridge had called. Some kind of serious situation was brewing. I was needed.

"Can't you tell them you are sick?" she pouted. "They should be able to get through one crisis without you." She smiled her most seductively and said "I'll back you up."

I scooped her into my arms and kissed her and said, "You are a temptress. I'll try to be brief."

She laughed and said, "I'll wait for you ."

But I hadn't been brief. We were in for the fight of our lives. And in the end I lost mine. That is what happened to the bond. And as I remember, even this ashen cinder crumbles to dust and is no more. My entire self rises in a scream as I feel the finality of this ultimate loss. CHRISTINE! I can not live without her. She was a part of me. I fly towards death as I had tried to fall towards love. The pain and emptiness is too much to bear. I hear myself scream and scream in pain unending.

* * *

I hear a voice call my name. "Spock? Can you hear me? I shake my head trying to clear it. I'm in a room. There are lights and noises. I feel like I have been thrown off a mountain. I can't seem to pull my thoughts together.

The voice again and a man approaches. "Spock. Do you know who I am?" I try to fix my eyes on him. I know that he is a doctor. I look at his pale face and dark hair. I manage at last to look into his eyes. Blue eyes, blue eyes ... BLUE EYES!

The knowledge and horrible pain hits again as if anew. Christine is dead. NO! I can't stand it! I struggle to get up. He holds me down. "NO!" I scream. "NO! CHRISTINE! I WANT CHRISTINE!"

"SPOCK!" the man yells at me. He shakes me as I continue to struggle. "Stop it! I am going to have to drug you again if you don't!"

I don't care. Drug me! Kill me! I want to be with my beloved! Not alone! I slam him back as I break through my bonds and I reach for the first instrument I can get hold of. It's a small scissors. I stab myself with it. I feel the pain of losing Christine less. I stab myself again. Soon I'll be with her. I hear a sudden hiss.

* * *

"Damnit to Hell! Johnston!" I yell. "Why can't I ever be fully prepared just once! Let's get him on the table." Spock was lying face down. When we rolled him over, that is when I see the blood.

"Aww Shit!" I curse as I spot the bloody scissors next to him in a small puddle of green. We quickly get him back on the table. I run the scanner over him. He has perforated his small intestine and narrowly missed his heart. He is bleeding into his abdomen, but the damage will be easy to repair. Thank God I had that hypo ready and the blades were small on the scissors.

"Tom, get a surgical tray. Let's get this taken care of." He didn't reply. He went and got the tray.

"Doctor?" he queries.

"Hmm?" I respond, intent on the repair work.

"He must have loved her a lot," he said.

I glance briefly at him and then back to the bowel I was repairing. "Yes. He loves her a lot," I correct him. I quickly finish with the bowel and then start on the stab wound next to the heart.

"Well ... uh ... I have heard some things," Tom continues a little uncomfortably.

"Really? About what?" I say with a little irritation. Working around a Vulcan heart can be a little tricky and I really didn't want to have this conversation right now. But, Tom has been a crackerjack nurse. Mostly he has kept silent during the last 8 hour ordeal. I feel he is entitled to a few answers.

"About how Christine Chapel died," he almost whispers it.

"Been asking around, have you?" I say a little tightly.

Tom bows his head a little and colors in shame. "Well ... I was curious, sir."

Remorse pricks my soul. "I'm sorry, son. I should have brought you up to speed on the circumstances of all this. I don't know what I was thinking," I apologize. "I am sorry that you felt you had to ask around. Next time if I don't tell you what you want to know, just ask. If it's none of your business, I'll tell you. Deal?"

"Yes, sir," he replied with relief.

"I'll get you brought up to speed on everything, but let's get Spock back into one piece, physically anyway," I order.

"Yes, sir." he replied.

* * *

Six hours later. I'm on my on my third cup of coffee. I rub my tired eyes. I have spent the last four hours reading everything I can on emotional trauma in Vulcans. Basically it's depressing. According to the material, Vulcans die if not treated with a mind meld. I went over all the information I can on the effects various sedatives and anesthetics have on Vulcanoids. That wasn't much better. Most of them are fatal after 48 to 80 hours. I am dictating into the medical logs.

"It's 0600. Spock is still out. His wounds are sealed. Healing is slower than it normally would be because of his drugged condition. They would be almost completely healed by now. They are half that. Still he is stable and in another 12 hours he should be completely recovered from his physical injuries. I am keeping him on the Versed to prevent any further psychological damage or suicide attempts. I have contacted Vulcan Medical and should be receiving a reply tomorrow. McCoy . Chief Medical Officer."

I click the off button. Jim walks in. "How is it going" he asks me.

"Rough," I say.

"Has he come to?" Jim says as he sits on the edge of my desk.

"Yes, he came to." I am tired and defeated. I really don't want to talk about this now. All I want is 7 hours of good sleep. But I know I won't get it.

"Well?" Jim said anxiously.

"He tried to kill himself," I reply heedless of how this was affecting Jim at the moment, so lost am I in my own despair. There is a tight silence.

Then a sigh from Jim. "I take it he wasn't successful," he said finally.

"No. Lucky for me he was still half drugged and not thinking clearly," I reply tiredly. Jim and I sat in silence. There really wasn't more to say. It was all up to Vulcan Medical now.

* * *

Uhura says, "Incoming message captain." I turn my head in anticipation. I see her face light up for the first time in two days. "Sir, it's from Vulcan Medical!"

A little cheer goes up from the helm and navigation consul. I am smiling myself. "Pipe it down to sickbay, Lieutenant!" I say as I leap off my chair to chase the message all the way down to sickbay. "Mr. Sulu, You have the con!" I order almost through the doors of the turbo-lift. The doors snap shut and the lift drops away before I can hear Mr. Sulu's confirmation.

I hustle into sickbay and take a minute to touch Spock's shoulder and say, "You're not alone! Hang in there. We have help for you now." My first officer, had he been able, would have lectured me on how illogical it was talking to a sedated patient.

Bones had already told me that I had Spock's condition mixed up with coma patients. "He can't hear anything, Jim. He's out colder than a mackerel," he had said when he had caught me up at 2 a.m. talking to my first officer and friend. It was the second night of Spock's drug induced sleep. I don't care. It makes me feel like I am doing something to help him. And doctors don't know everything.

I give Spock's shoulder a squeeze and hurry into McCoy's office. He is listening to the message from Vulcan Medical already. I notice he is taking notes as a nearly monotonal voice drones on in near perfect medical gibberish. He gives me the briefest of acknowledging glances and I take a seat in the overstuffed chair next to the couch to wait for the translation.

Soon the message ends and Dr. McCoy pauses a moment to review his notes and make a few additional ones. He is worrying his lower lip with his fingers.

"What did they say?" I ask, not liking the pensive look on his face. "Well basically, I need to bring him out of it, but keep him comfortably numb for awhile," McCoy says raising a pessimistic eyebrow at his own words.

"I don't understand," I say flatly. This doesn't sound too good.

"It's like this," McCoy says as he settles himself into his chair. I could tell that this was going to be a long explanation. "When a Vulcan's mate dies, there is a real danger of the partner dying also. Some do, no matter what is done for them. But for most of them, the family comforts and supports them during their time of grief. I guess they need a counter meld by a close relative to keep them on this side of life, so to speak."

"What does this have to do with Spock? Christine and he were never married," I ask in confusion. "We used to tease them about living in sin, remember?"

"Evidently they were," McCoy snaps. "It is right there on the bio-table vid. That crazy trance I thought he went into was him checking out his bonding status."

"Bones, why are you angry all of a sudden?" I am now completely at sea. Spock and Christine, married?

"BECAUSE!" McCoy pauses taking a deep breath to reign in his anger, "Because, Spock never told me or his family that they were bonded. Damn the man. Probably thought he was living a charmed life! I am sure that is your influence on him!" McCoy's digs could be so annoying. I make an impatient face at him. He gets the hint and moves on with his explanation. "Christine didn't die, but she went into a deep clinical depression. No question about it. She was withdrawn. She didn't socialize. She was secretive and there was evidence of her work suffering near the end. From what little data there is, that reaction when one of the partners is not a telepath is fairly typical. It kills them. Just more slowly. The suicide rate has been listed at 80 percent." McCoy unhappily tosses his stylus on the desk.

"My God!" I am stunned. "Why didn't Spock tell us?"

"I don't know Jim. But you can be sure that it was Spock's idea. It's too much in character." McCoy seethes. Things just weren't adding up.

"Bones that is unfair. We don't know the whole picture. And Spock knows how dangerous his job is. Do you think he would put Christine in that kind of jeopardy?" I defend.

"Humph! Like when he informed us about his Vulcan marriage ritual?" McCoy tosses back. He has a point.

I puzzle over everything a bit more and then ask, "Why didn't Spock die when Christine committed suicide?"

"Because they weren't bonded any more," McCoy says tiredly, his flash of rage leaving him spent. "That may have been why he had trouble remembering her," McCoy muses.

"How could they not be bonded anymore?" This was getting ridiculous. "They were both alive."

"Right, but Christine wasn't a telepath. She was the only one that knew that a bond had existed and obviously for some reason that I can't understand right now, she never told anyone either. She couldn't reinitiate the bond. She couldn't mind meld, Jim!" McCoy was starting to rant. I held up a hand to stave off the rest of it. McCoy stops himself, "Sorry Jim. It's just such a bloody waste! His or, okay, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, THEIR decision to keep it a secret killed Christine. Plain and simple and it may kill Spock as well."

"But if there was no bond, then why is Spock on the point of death?" I ask the question that had been the real point all along.

"Cultural conditioning," McCoy says sourly.

"Huh?" I grunt in surprise.

"Cultural conditioning. Spock grew up in a telepathic culture of bonded adults. When one of the mates died, this was the response he saw. No one cried or became hysterical. They just quietly collapsed and tried to follow their partner into death until a meld was established by a close family member. It's a fast track through the worst of the grief, I'm guessing. So that when they come out of the meld, it is mostly healed. What takes a year of struggling for us, takes them a day that way," McCoy says grimly.

"What do we do? You told them that we don't have a telepath on board!" I say in a panic.

"Yep. I did. And they gave me an answer too. Spock will have to go through the grieving process like a human does. With one exception. I have to suppress his mental disciplines with a drug called dioxigene until he has settled with his grief," McCoy says unhappily.

"Dioxigene? Where have I heard of that? It sounds familiar." I ponder out loud.

"It should." replies McCoy. "It's in all the Romulan-Vulcan interaction files. It's what the Romulans give captured Vulcans so that they can't stop their hearts, block pain or suppress their emotions. Makes them more entertaining to torture and rape that way."

"My God! Spock is going to flip when he finds out you're giving it to him. Are you sure that is the only way?" I ask, sadness welling up for what Spock was going to go through.

"Yes. Until I can break passed that cultural conditioning, it's the only way to keep him alive long enough to give him a chance," McCoy replies somberly.

"How long do you think it's going to take?" I say as I shake my head in disbelief. My God! What a mess!

"Considering how stubborn he is, a while. My best guess is a week before he can return to duty," McCoy guesses.

"A week's not bad, Bones," I exclaim feeling a little relief.

"No. You misunderstand. I week on tranquilizers in addition to the dioxigene. So that he doesn't try to commit suicide the old fashioned way. Then he can go back on light duty status for 8 weeks with intensive counseling and maybe by that time I can get him off the dioxigene," McCoy spells it out for me.

I blow a long puff of air between my lips, more a sigh than a whistle. "Do what you can for him, Bones," I say as I slowly get out of the chair. I feel suddenly 10 years older.

"You can count on it," he replies getting up like an old man himself.

I walk out of McCoy's office. Bones trails behind me. I drift over to Spock and briefly take his hand in mine. Tears prick my eyes but I won't let them fall. "I am so sorry, my friend, for what we are about to do to you," I say softly to him. I look at his face, so composed in his deep coma. Someday I hope to see that face composed when he is awake again. But my instincts tell me that it might be a long time coming, if I ever do. "Survive!" I will to him.

I let go and head out of sickbay as McCoy instructs Mr. Johnston to administer the antidote for the Versed.

* * *

"Tom? Run those liver enzyme numbers past me again," I ask, my eyes focused on Spock's urology numbers.

"77, 99 and 107," he replies quickly.

"Mmm. The last one is a little high, but a few days away from the Versed should bring it back down. No discernable liver damage." I breath a sigh of relief. I grimace at some of the concentrations of toxins in Spock's urine. "All right, the kidneys are showing signs of stress. I want you to run saline into him for the next 12 hours. Do 1 mg of clonopine, I.V. push, every 4 hours. When he starts regaining consciousness, call me. I am going to finish my rounds on the other patients," I order. I turn to leave.

"Uh, Doctor?" I stop and look at him, my eyebrows raised. "Umm ... These restraints, will they hold him?" Johnston asks nervously.

"Oh, yeah. Those are designed specifically for him. I had Scotty make me a set after I got sick and tired of having to requisition a new bunch of restraints every year." I gave a quick smile as I remembered the first time our feisty first officer hadn't been able to just take off on me. That had been quite a show. He had sulked for three days afterwards. I am still not sure he has ever truly forgiven me for that. But he did see the "logic" of the situation eventually.

"Okay, sir," Johnston said looking visibly relieved.

* * *

I am in the middle of lecturing Ensign Barthold about using safety ropes the next time he decides to do wall climbing when I hear Nurse Johnston call me. I hand Barthold off to my med tech, Lisa Kelloway, and hurry to Spock's semi-private room. Spock's breathing is more rapid and his eyes are half open. He is trembling. A natural reaction to coming out of long term general anesthesia.

"Tom, get me a warming blanket," I order. He hurries to get it. Once he comes back we spread the heated blanket over Spock. Spock's color improves as the result of the warmth. His eyes open all the way, but they are glassy. This is also normal. I decide not to speak to him sooner than necessary. I don't want him coming out of it too quickly. I motion to Johnston to step aside for a quiet conference. "I want you to run another kidney series on him. Go down to the lab yourself and make sure these are processed immediately," I order.

"Yes, sir." Johnston says crisply and draws a blood and urine sample from Spock. Spock gives a little hum, "mmm" as the needle goes in for the blood sample. I hold my breath. Johnston gets the sample and Spock drifts back into semi-consciousness again. Johnston quickly labels everything. Spock makes a little sound. He is definitely coming to. Tom freezes. I walk over to him and clap him on the back and steer him towards the door to get him moving.

"I need this A.S.A.P, Tom, so let's hurry!" I say with some asperity. He has the grace to look slightly embarrassed and quickly leaves sickbay. I walk back to Spock. I quickly do a scan of his kidneys and liver. There is no inflammation. I get the dioxigene ready.

Spock stirs. "Bad dream," he mumbles. I say nothing. I rethink everything through and get 5 mg of atavan as well. I set the dose to 2.5. "No." A little cry from Spock. "No." More softly this time and his eyes seem to glaze over a little again.

The drug is reluctant to loose its grip on him. For once I am thankful for that. "At least I don't have Jim down here demanding that I get him up on the bridge," I mutter to myself. That has always been a point of conflict between Jim and me. Spock stirs. It's like a slow motion writhe. A moan. I can't wait for Johnston to get all the way up here from the lab. I walk to the comm and call down to the lab.

"Med Lab, Deutch here," comes the ready reply.

"This is McCoy. Is Johnston still there?" I say maybe a little too tersely.

I hear a "Christine" and something that sounds like a struggle coming from Spock.

"Ah... He is just leaving, sir." Deutch tries to placate.

"No! Jack! Grab him and let me talk to him now," I yell desperately.

"Tom here, doctor. I am on my way up." He sounds breathless.

"No, Tom. Spock doesn't have that kind of time. Just give me the results from where you are," I order. Tom complies and recites the numerical values. I just about crow in delight! The kidney function numbers are just about perfect. I acknowledge and hustle over to Spock and give him the dose of dioxigene. Spock grunts as the hypo connects with his arm. Spock tries to strain against the restraints again. He shakes his head with the effort to clear the last of the Versed from his mind. "Spock. Try to take it easy," I say gently.

"Christine's dead," he slurs at me.

"I know," I say quietly trying to calm him.

He closes his eyes. He seems to be struggling. He is as tense as a bowstring. He opens his eyes with a gasp. "I can't ," he says with some panic.

"You can't what?" I ask trying to play innocent. I got a good idea what he "can't" do.

Spock doesn't answer right away. He shuts his eyes again and goes rigid. When he opens this time, there is panic on his face as he looks at me. I have to keep reminding myself to look at his reactions as if he were human and not a Vulcan. It's the dioxigene. It's going to make him *very* emotional. "I can't ..." He seems to change his mind about what he was going to say. I definitely will be putting him on suicide watch. "I can't seem to use my mind rules," he says tensely.

"You have been unconscious for a long time. It's probably a temporary side effect of the Versed," I lie smoothly. No need to add any more fuel to his emotional overload. I'll tell him about the dioxigene later once I get him more stable. "Try not to worry about it. Just relax," I soothe.

His breathing has picked up. He struggles slightly against the restraints. A shudder runs through him and then another one. "Spock. I know you're hurting right now but you have to try to accept this." He is shivering.

"It hurts. I can't. I can't do it," he says through chattering teeth.

I look at the monitors. Damn it! The first stages of shock. Here we go again! But this time I know how bad it is going to get and I take out the hypo and inject him with the atavan. I watch the monitors anxiously. For the longest 10 seconds nothing happens and then there is a small but perceptible change in the indicators towards normal. Spock's shivering lessons. Then becomes intermittent. I wait for five minutes to make sure the drug has taken total hold. "Spock, how are you feeling?" I ask softly.

A shivering spasm hits. "I ... I want to ... I'm cold," Spock says at the end of it.

I give another dose of atavan. The shivering subsides and Spock's body relaxes. His face takes on a dreamy expression. "How about now?" I ask after a minute.

"I feel better." He replies like a person who is falling asleep.

I know that he won't fall asleep. He might doze on and off but that is about it. "Do you know who I am?" I ask him.

He looks at me steadily and says, "Dr. Leonard McCoy, service number 5628-473."

"Good. Do you know where you are?" I question him further.

"I am in the sickbay of the starship Enterprise," he answers.

"Do you know what the date is?" I continue.

He opens his mouth ... pauses and a puzzled frown goes across his face followed by a flicker of worry. "No." But it is said with relative equanimity. The atavan is doing its job and so is the dioxigene.

"Never mind. That isn't unusual," I reassure him. I tell him the date and time. He seems a little surprised. "I told you that you have been out awhile." I say lightly with a slight smile. "Do you know why you are in sickbay?" A dangerous question but one that is necessary. Either the drugs will hold him or they won't and I want to find out on my time table, not his.

"Christine is dead." This is said very softly.

The pain in his eyes, face and voice out there for everyone to see, courtesy of dioxigene. I give a quick look at the monitors. Everything is still looking good. I tighten my mouth in consternation. I hate doing it this way. When I write up my report to Starfleet, I am going to recommend that there always be two telepaths on board a starship at all times if there are any at all. "That is right. You aren't taking it so well," I reply.

"No," he agrees with me.

"I am guessing that Christine was more than a lover. I am guessing from your reaction that she was your bondmate," I say holding his brown eyes with my slightly accusing blue ones.

The brown eyes lower in sadness and guilt. Spock averts his face. "Yes," he whispers.

"Why didn't you tell us, Spock? I should have known at least. You can see that, can't you?" I say relentlessly

Tears are standing in Spock's eyes. "I thought it would be safer for her," he says hoarsely.

"I don't understand," I say surprised. This was certainly not the response I was expecting.

"T'Pau and my Father were not pleased that we were involved." This was said with surprising bitterness.

"It wouldn't be the first time that parents didn't approve of a marriage choice," I reply.

Spock turns and just looks at me. "You don't understand," he said shortly. He falls silent.

Lost in his grief, bitterness and anger. I know that if I don't keep drawing him out, he might stay clammed up forever. So I swallow my own angry response from that dismissive statement and say. "You're right. I don't understand. Explain it to me. Explain why risking two deaths if one of you was killed was safer."

Spock stares back at me a long time. With that much dioxigene and atavan in him, I wonder how long he is going to be to maintain it. I know this is one stare down that I can't lose. Just about when I think he might win the contest of wills between us, his face crumples in grief and something else. It looks like shame. That doesn't quite make sense.

"Here, let's sit you up." I raise the head of the bed. I don't want to free him from the restraints quite yet. With him in a sitting position, I sit next to him on the bed. "Come on, Spock. You're going to have to talk this out. And I guarantee you that you are not leaving this bed until you do," I promise him with all of my medical authority.

"On Vulcan, marriages of prominent families for the most part do not involve the feelings of the couple," he begins softly. "They are political and economic mergers. My family, Dr. McCoy, is very powerful. More than you know." He stops and looks at me hesitating. I can see concern on his face. He seems to reach a decision and goes on. "Vulcan is not as benevolent as it seems on the surface. If I dared to go against Sarek and T'Pau on my choice of mate openly, they could have decided to take matters into their own hands, for the sake of power for the family." He stops and stares at me ... willing me it seems to get it.

I decide to try to get it. "You mean force you into a divorce?"

"Divorce?" He smiles a sick brief smile. "No. Vulcan marriages are not so easily annulled." He swallows obviously girding himself for what he is about to say. "An assassin is sent to annul the marriage and free up the heir to marry the partner of the family's choice."

I am stunned. "You're putting me on! That's ... That's ... positively BARBARIC!" I wince at my own tone and am about to apologize.

"That's Vulcan, Doctor," Spock says softly, grieving. "I had tried not to fall for Christine for years. I had fought against it with everything I had, because I knew this. But it became clear to me that my life was empty without her. So I told her everything. She decided to take the risk. We bonded in secret and we decided it was safer not declaring the bond. If we told no one, chances are Sarek would not find out in time to prevent offspring. Once children are born ... the bond is honored, no matter what," Spock says quietly, exhausted.

I shake my head. This was like some cloak and dagger vid. "How were the two of you going to successfully conceive and carry a child without medical intervention?" I ask amazed.

"I too had my doubts. Christine thought we could. She is ... was an expert in bio-medicine. But we had been together for three years without result. Maybe she was wrong. It doesn't matter now." He finished and gave me an appraising look. I am suddenly uneasy.

"Now that I have answered your questions, I want you to answer mine. What were the circumstances surrounding Christine's death and how did she die?"

Because of his explanation, I knew what he was thinking about Christine's death. How easy it would have been for him and for me to tell him that she had been murdered by an unknown assailant. I look into that intense gaze, fury just underneath the surface of the brown eyes. He is so certain that his family is the cause of his pain. I shut my eyes briefly to gather what courage I could to shatter my patient completely.

"She committed suicide, Spock," I begin.

* * *

I am nervous. I can't ever remember being nervous about Mr. Spock before. I check myself over in the mirror one last time. I have chosen to put on a simple African dress. I think that being out of uniform will make my visit more personal. Dr. McCoy told me earlier that he needs to be around friends. I pick up the lytherette that he gave me 5 years ago as a Christmas present. He was my Secret Santa. I was stunned not only with the gift, but with his further offer to teach me how to play it. If Christine and I hadn't been such good friends, I would have pursued him at that point then and there. As it was, Spock and I became good friends. We still are.

As I walk with the lytherette tucked under my arm to sickbay, I turn over in my mind whether to reveal Chris's pregnancy or not. I really don't know what to do. If I tell him, he has lost two people. If I don't, he will never know why Christine killed herself. Truly a double edged sword. Which is kinder in the long run? I find myself at the sickbay doors. I haven't reached a decision. Better to wait, I decide. I'll let Spock set the pace and tone of the discussion. Chances are he won't know the right questions to ask. This is suppose to be a comfort mission. Spock doesn't need more pain right now. But ... .I have made a personal decision too. I will not lie to him. I can't do it anymore.

I walk into sickbay and see Tom sitting at the front desk. He waves me through as he is talking to a crewman. I go deeper into sickbay and McCoy pops his head out of his office. "Nyota. You're here. He is this way." I follow him silently. Dr. McCoy stops short of Spock's private room and looks at me concerned. "Are you up to this?"

I nod my head and say, "Yes. Just a little nervous, I guess. I don't want to say anything that will upset him."

McCoy nods in sympathy. "Don't worry. You'll do fine. If you're concerned at anytime just push the call button on the wall and I'll come running. But really he is better than he was yesterday." Dr. McCoy gives me a reassuring smile.

I step into the room. The lights are at half illumination. Spock cloaked in a soft light is sitting on an upholstered chair. He isn't doing anything but looking at the bed. I doubt he sees it. His face is so sad. I say softly, "Spock?" He gradually focuses his eyes into the here and now and slowly looks up at me. I walk further into the room and sit at the end of the bed where he was previously looking. "How are you doing?" I say gently.

"Fine," he says flatly but his face betrays his pain.

I don't argue with him. I just smile encouragingly. "I have brought my lytherette. Do you want to play it or do you want me to play it? I warn you, I haven't gotten any better since you stopped giving me lessons. It would probably sound a lot better if you played something."

Spock seems to consider for a moment. "You." He clears his throat. "You go ahead. I just want to listen." He bowed his head slightly and looked at his hands resting in his lap. I touch him on the knee. I just feel so bad. What I really want to do is hold him tight and take some of the hurt away. But I know that would not be appropriate. In fact with the knowledge I have, it could do more harm than good. I'll just have to comfort him with music.

"Ok. How about this ... " and I started off on a lively little tune of Irish origin. I am not going to play any sad music.

Eventually though my fingers begin to ache and cramp. Finally I sigh and say, "Please take a turn. I can't play anymore." He seems a little lighter in spirit then when I had first walked in. Spock takes the lytherette gingerly and carefully positions it on his lap. He strums the instrument gently. He starts to play but after a minute he stops. He takes a deep breath.

"What is it?" I ask. He looks at me and bites his lower lip. "You have played so beautifully. I appreciate the effort you have made. I don't know if I can make music right now." He pauses and struggles to fight the depression that is gripping him.

"It's okay." I assure him.

An awkward silence grows between us. I feel Christine's presence is filling the room. Spock seems to be watching me intently. He hands the lytherette back to me. I gently place it beside me on the bed.

"You were there when Christine died?" he says suddenly without preamble.

"Yesss," I say slowly. This question was a little unexpected.

"Did you notice anything unusual?" he presses.

"Unusual? I don't know what you mean." I say perplexed. There was nothing usual about that entire horrible day.

"Was there anything odd about the manner in which she died? Anything that didn't seem to fit the facts," he insists.

"No," I say sadly. What was he driving at?

"You don't remember seeing anyone you didn't recognize?" Spock asks hopefully.

"Are you implying that you think Christine was murdered?" I ask him in shock.

"It is a possibility that no one seems to have considered," he says.

"Do you think one of the crew would do that?" I say. I am totally amazed at this line of 'reasoning'?

"No. But I am finding it hard to believe that Christine would kill herself. I know she was suffering from the effects of a severed bond. But I was alive again. Though I didn't remember her at the time, I did eventually. She wouldn't have lost hope. She was surrounded by friends. She was doing work that she enjoyed. I heard that depression in a human is difficult, but she, of all people, would not have given up." Spock pauses and his expression darkens "And there are those on Vulcan who are happy that she is 'out of the way'."

I sit there stunned. "Who on Vulcan would want her dead?" I ask him. This is surreal.

"My family was not pleased we were involve and the House of Sepal would not have been pleased if they had known that a bond was between us," Spock explains.

"Your closest friends didn't know that the two of you were bonded," I argue. "How do you think your family or the other Vulcans found out?"

"Perhaps through the Fal-Tor-Pan," he says with a shrug.

"Oh, I doubt that Mr. Spock. Dr. McCoy didn't even know and he carried you Katra, remember?" I say feeling a little more sure of my side of the argument.

Spock rolls his eyes and says, "How could I forget. However, Dr. McCoy isn't Vulcan and he may not have understood some of the information he carried."

Well, there was no arguing with that. "But don't Vulcan priestess have a code of ethics?" I say as I consider further. "Do you think that she would blab all over Vulcan what was in your mind?" I ask in a skeptical tone.

"No," he admits after a silence. "That is unlikely also."

I pause a minute and struggle with myself. We had looked into the possibility at first that Christine was murdered. But it just hadn't panned out. No one was on board that entire day except crew. No one had suddenly transferred. There had been no transporter activity. The drugs found in Christine's system were missing from sickbay. And of course there was the forensic evidence. She had taken a scalpel to her vagina and womb. She basically did an abortion on herself and then bled out. And there was the note. Looking at it logically, the only murderer had been Christine. There was just too much information that had been unknown to even those closest to her. Christine had done a bang up job on the abortion. I had seen the autopsy report. Pregnancy or abortion was not listed. I doubted she had left any evidence of the baby for anyone to find. Just my note.

I looked at Spock. I knew, just knew, that he was not going to accept that Christine was dead by her own hand without evidence. He would go off searching for a murderer for the remainder of his days and I as his friend couldn't let him do it. Suddenly the decision about the letter was made.

"Spock," I say slowly. "Christine committed suicide."

He makes a scoffing sound.

"I know that isn't what you want to hear or believe. But you have to believe it because it's true," I say not without the sting of tears in my eyes.

"You don't know Vulcan," Spock begins firmly.

"And you don't have all the facts," I state quietly.

"Dr. McCoy and Captain Kirk showed me everything in the sealed files," he says defiantly. "I find it hard to believe that a woman would mutilate herself in that fashion," he finishes hotly.

"Other women have done that," I reply calmly. Two upraised eyebrows. "Other women have preformed abortions on themselves and died," I say holding his gaze with my own.

"Abortions?" It comes out as a shocked whisper. "No!" his eyes blaze in anger. "Dr. McCoy's autopsy would have discovered..."

"Christine was a doctor too!" I interrupt angrily. "A damned good one if you hadn't noticed before! She was more than capable of covering up an abortion. She made it look like self-mutilation aimed at you. Which I think some of it was and then wrote me a letter after the fact." I was sobbing, angry at myself for reacting to his anger. "Spock, I am so sorry. I didn't mean to yell. It's just so painful to have this stirred up again." I try to apologize.

The silence is deafening. Spock's face is chalk white. "What do you mean, letter after the fact?" he asks in a strained voice.

"Christine left me a note explaining why she killed herself," I say wishing this weren't happening.

He closes his eyes and slumps back into the chair. "Do you still have it?" he murmurs.

"Yes," I say wishing that I didn't have it.

"Can I read it?" Spock looks at me with such pain and longing.

"Of course." I am wildly thinking that I don't want to leave him alone to go get it and I don't really want Dr. McCoy to know what I have done. I am in a big mess of my own making because I didn't tell anyone about that note until now. "Come with me," I say to him. He looks puzzled. I grasp him by the hands and say, "Come with me. I don't want to leave you alone by yourself." He rises to his feet and follows me out.

McCoy sees us start to leave sickbay and says, "Whoa, kids, where do you think the two of you are going?"

I freeze but Spock says, "I just wish for a change of scenery. Ms. Uhura has graciously offered to accompany me on a walk."

McCoy looks at the two of us like a mother who suspects her kids are into something they shouldn't be but can't prove it. "Okay. But you bring him back here, alright?" he orders me. I nod and manage a fake smile. Inside I am just stunned that Spock is such a smooth liar. I am going to have to alert Len and the Captain of that fact afterwards.

We get to my quarters. He follows me in and I motion him to a chair. I go and get the letter from the Bible and give it to him. I say nothing. There is nothing to say. Spock takes the suicide note with shaking fingers. He looks at it a long time without reading it. Then he reads it. Then he reads it again. As he reads the last line, he slowly closes his eyes and presses the paper to his chest and slowly starts to rock back and forth. I don't know what to say. I don't know what to do. I realize that I have put him in jeopardy by taking him out of sickbay.

"Spock," I say in a whisper as I kneel beside him. "Spock, I am so sorry. I just didn't want you chasing all your life after a phantom that doesn't exist." He doesn't open his eyes and he doesn't stop rocking. A small moan escapes him. I can't stand it. Taboo or no taboo, I put my arms around him and hold him as he breaks down and cries.

* * *

Uhura sits with me in ten forward. She is looking a lot better than when I had found her two hours ago down in the bowels of engineering crying her eyes out. Whether it is because of my comforting or the stiff drink she has already downed, I didn't know. I hope it is some of both.

I had heard the strange keening wail blending with the sound of the machinery. I knew that sound shouldn't have been there and I went to investigate. Thank the Highland Ancestors that I had. Someone else less attuned to the sound of the ship would have missed it and then what would have happen to her, I don't know. She was at the end of her rope.

I had pulled her out and she fought me some saying, "No! Scotty! I just can't!" I began murmuring soft encouragement's to her. She had finally yielded to my embrace and I had taken her to my quarters. She had been cold with grief and shock and I gave her my big wool cardigan and a stiff drink of whiskey. She gratefully gulped it down and I held her until the alcohol made her start to relax.

"Now, lassie," I said, "What has ye thinking the world is coming to an end?"

"It's Spock," she said. "It's so damned awful, Scotty," She said through a tear streaked face.

"Lass, ye know that I am somewhat out of the loop but I have heard some things," I said. "I have heard that Spock had a big shake up over Christine's death. How because he is Vulcan and how intensely they care for their lovers, he isn't taking it too well. But ye know, lass, Spock is a strong man and he will get over it soon."

"It's not as simple as that," Nyota said to me, "and I think that I have made things worse. Ooohhh," she whimpered and the tears started again. "I just don't know how I can face Dr. McCoy or the Captain."

"Well, why don't ye practice on me, love, and maybe I can help ye in the process?" I said, not realizing what the full facts of the situation were going to do to my equilibrium.

Now we are sitting together in silence. She is right. It is so damned awful. We had moved up here to ten forward when I noted that alpha shift was going to begin in an hour. Since we were up and going to have a long day ahead of us, I suggested that we catch some breakfast. Neither of us felt much like eating.

We are lingering over coffee. The room is mostly empty. It is too early for the real crush to start. I guess that is why I notice the Captain and the Doctor coming in. I almost wave out of reflex but Uhura grabs my hand before I can get their attention. "Scotty! What are you doing? I can't deal with this yet!" she says as the grip on my wrist tightens.

I look at her with sympathy. "Lassie, you have to tell Dr. McCoy sooner or later and sooner would be best I am a thinkin." She lets go of my arm and grips her now almost cold coffee and shakes her head. "What is the worst they can say?" I argue gently. "The Doctor is a kind man and I think ye are as much of a victim in Christine's death as Spock is. You should level with him."

She reluctantly meets my eyes and says timidly, "Will you come with me?"

I give her a warm smile and say, "Aye, lass. Let's do it now before ye lose your nerve." She nods and we get up from our table and start to leisurely drift over to where the Captain and Dr. McCoy are seated having a heated discussion.

"I am not convinced he should be let out of sickbay, Jim!" McCoy says firmly.

"Bones, he is going to go nuts doing nothing. It's been 4 days," Jim insists.

"Fine. Better a little nuts from inactivity than a lot dead from stress he isn't ready to handle yet."

I grab Uhura and motion her forward. "May we join ye gentlemen?" McCoy heaves a sigh and crosses his arms and jerks his head toward the seats next to them. I sit next to Dr. McCoy and Uhura sits across from him.

"Nyota, you were with him a long time last night. What do think?" McCoy asks her.

She blanches a little. "Actually I am here to confess something about what went on last night," she starts, bravely looking to me for support. I just nod my head for her to continue. "Umm... Spock ... er ... I have this letter," she finishes awkwardly. Everyone except me looks at her in confusion.

"Letter?" Kirk asks.

"A letter from Christine," Uhura says almost inaudibly not being able to meet anyone's eyes.

McCoy leans forward, "A suicide letter?"

"Why didn't you tell us?" Kirk blurts out.

She looks up at him hoping for his understanding. "Well, at first, I was really upset and I was going to destroy it without even reading it. But then I realized that I was too upset to make a rational decision about it and I put it away. It really didn't matter at the time. It wasn't going to bring Christine back and Spock didn't remember her."

Kirk prods gently, "But Spock's recalled memory changed things."

Uhura nods and goes on. "So I read it the night before his collapse in Sickbay." She stops and looks anxiously at all of us.

"Well, what did it say!" blusters McCoy.

Uhura scrunches herself smaller in her chair in reaction to his acerbic tone and says in a small voice. "That she was pregnant."

"Oh, my God!" Kirk exclaims as suddenly everything gels in his mind about what he had seen at the scene of death.

McCoy turns deathly pale and his eyes crackle in intensity, "You showed him the letter." It wasn't a question but an accusation.

Tears are starting to form in her eyes again, "I'm sorry. I didn't know what to do. He was convinced that someone had murdered her. I couldn't let him chase after something that didn't exist. He needs to get on with his grief."

She is sobbing. Kirk puts a comforting arm around her heaving shoulders. "Ny, believe me we understand the predicament you were in, but you should of come to us with the letter after you read it." He turns her face to his so that he could see that he wasn't angry with her.

McCoy starts in on a rave, " Well!..."

I lay a restraining hand on his forearm. He shoots me a glance and looks away and heaves a sigh. He clears his throat. "Ny, What was Spock's response to the letter?"

She has mostly stopped crying at this point and says to McCoy, "He cried. Hard."

McCoy mulls that over a bit and then says to her, "Did he seem to accept that her death was a suicide then?"

Uhura shakes her head, "I don't know. He never said anything. He just cried. I asked him questions but he didn't answer and so I brought him back to sickbay when he was calmer."

McCoy's expression is very grave. "Okay, Lieutenant. Is that all of the surprises you have for us?"

She looks abashed, "I'm sorry," she whispers with head bowed.

McCoy looks back at Jim. "That settles that as far as I am concerned. He stays in sickbay a few more days." The Captain nods his head in agreement. McCoy looks back at Lt. Uhura. "I am sorry I snapped at you. But this case has been one step forward and 1/2 a step back and I feel almost like I am getting nowhere. You at least returned him to sickbay alive and uninjured. That's pretty impressive, considering the bomb shell you dropped on him, in itself."

"Uh...About that bombshell. I actually told him about the baby in sickbay before you spotted us leaving," Uhura confesses. She is a brave Lass.

McCoy's eyebrows shoots off his head in astonishment. "Let me get this straight. You dropped a bomb on him like that and then tried to sneak him out of sickbay!" he thunders at her.

"He was insisting on seeing the letter. I was afraid that you would drug him, afraid of what you would say to me, afraid of what he would do if left him alone even for a second. I was the one who tried to sneak him out of sickbay to show him the letter but *he* was the one who lied to you." She finishes with some asperity.

Kirk says in a shocked tone of voice, "He lied? He flat out lied?"

Uhura nods her head frantically, "It floored me too at the time."

McCoy is chewing on his lip replaying that entire scene in his head. "He lied," he confirms in awe. "I never knew that anything was amiss either." McCoy stares at all of us. "That's scary as hell, folks."

This whole conversation was amazing to me too. Uhura had not told me what the letter had held when it had been just the two of us. And Spock lying? The universe must have just inverted itself. "What does this mean?" I ask the group.

"We're in trouble," Kirk half answers.

McCoy nods his head in agreement. "Spock presented himself as hunky-dory and took the news of being on dioxigene like a little trooper. I'll bet you he didn't! Shit! I was so concerned with his Vulcan half in this that I forgot about his human side."

"But he is okay as long as he is in sickbay under supervision, right?" I ask a little concerned.

"Hopefully," Kirk says.

"But it's not like it's the brig," McCoy says firmly.

"Ye can't be serious. Ye can't put him in the brig!" I say in shock.

Kirk and McCoy exchange a look. "I'll give him another 24 hours and see if I can get a rapport that involves the truth. If I can't......" McCoy trails off leaving the rest unsaid.

Uhura moans, "What have I done, what have I done."

McCoy grabs her hand and squeezes it tightly and says to her, "You may have just unwittingly saved his life."

We get up to leave. We are a somber group. McCoy heads off to sickbay with alacrity. Kirk takes Uhura's arm and they head up to the bridge. I start to walk down to engineering.

As I walk, I think over all that had been said in ten forward. I think about all the landing parties I had ever been on with Spock. I think about Spock's technical expertise. I think about how hard he is taking this. I find myself stopped dead in the corridor. People bump into me and give me funny looks with their apologetic "Excuse me, sirs". But I feel like I have just been struck by lightening. I turn and hurry towards the shuttle bays and hangers. I pop into the Electronics division on my way there and gather six homing beacons. I race towards the shuttles, hoping that I am not already too late.

"Thank God!" I gasp to myself in relief. All three beauties are still there and no one appears to be around. I begin to place the homing devices in the shuttles. Two for each craft. One that is out of the way and sort of inconspicuous but easy to find. A second one, I hide where the only way to disable it would mean disabling the shuttle once it is in flight. Half-way through, I call down to maintenance and have them pull all the transporters off line. We are out of range of transport at the moment of Star base 15. But that is not going to stay that way for long.

"Uh, sir?" comes back the confused reply. "We just put all the transporters back together yesterday."

I am in no mood for an argument "Take 'em off line, Stuart! And that's an order. Pull every single power coupling you can find and take em apart, NOW!"

A pause and a swallow, "Every single one?"

"Aye, that's right and I want them all down in two minutes," I order tersely.

"Aye, sir," comes the weak reply.

I finish placing the last of the beacons. Then and only then do I start to relax. I have done all that I can do for him. I pray that it's enough.



* * *

I find myself pacing once again. It is the 20th time in the last three hours. I stop myself and sit back down on the bed. I have been unable to meditate despite over 53 attempts to do so in the last three days. There are 1213 brush strokes in the ceiling. There is a stack of self help tapes on the small table next to the viewer. I had flipped through the titles of them and put them aside in disgust. I stare at the lieutenant who is staring at me. I find myself up on my feet pacing again. Gods this is intolerable.

The door to the security section opens. Dr. McCoy steps through it. I turn my back to him. I have never come as close to hating someone as I have come to hating him now. How could he do this to me?

The hum of the force field discontinues. I close my eyes and steal myself against the dioxigene injection that I know is coming. I shake with the effort to control myself as the hypo hits home. I want to strike him dead. He is forcing me to continue to live. Each unnecessary minute a horror. Before, in sickbay, I had hope of death. Shut up in this cell, with my mind rules denied me, I have none.

I hear the whir of the medical scanner. I feel my sanity sifting down my body and out onto the floor like grains of sand through an hour glass. I am starting to breathe more rapidly. The urge to kill him is almost overpowering. The only thing that is keeping me from lashing out is that I simply cannot bear to go to my death with his blood on my hands. I know that he doesn't mean to cause me this agony. He is trying to keep me alive. But I am dead already. I have decided that I can't live with the knowledge that she and my unborn child are gone. My fury at him is because he stands in my way of ending my pain.

I hear the hum of the force field again. "Why don't you take a hike, son?" McCoy says not unkindly to the guard.

"Sir?" the lieutenant responds.

"Shoo. Go get a cup of coffee for an hour, go get laid, whatever, but I need to talk with him and in private," McCoy orders, but softening it with a smile that I can see in the corner of my narrowed eyes. As the lieutenant walks away, I turn my back all the way so that I can't see McCoy no matter where he stands just outside of the force field.

"Spock?" McCoy calls to me. I ignore him. "I know you're angry," he says in a matter of fact tone. "What are you maddest at: me, the dioxigen, being put in the brig or Christine?" McCoy asks. I shut my eyes against the rise in tears. Does this man know how much pain he is causing? My only solace is that my back is to him and he can not see my face. I won't give him the satisfaction. The silence stretches out between us as I refuse to answer or look at him.

"Well, let's take them one at a time, then," McCoy says at last. "Let's talk about your anger towards me. I bet you would love to beat me to a bloody pulp about now. I don't blame you. You're used to making decisions about your own life and carrying them out. I'll bet it's been a long time since someone has told you 'No' and made it stick. I am a little too young to be your father and not quite strong enough to put you over my knee." I shoot him a dark look at that. "So this is the best I can come up with," McCoy finishes as if I haven't reacted at all. "Unless you have a better idea, like actually trying to work through the grief inside you instead of damning it up behind a wall of anger and despair." A zing of fear goes through me at that last statement. I turn my anger up a notch.

I hear a sigh and then a chair being dragged across the floor. The cushions puff as he sits in it. "The dioxigene," McCoy says heavily. "You have a point with that one. I don't like it either. Not one bit and it was not my idea." I turn my head to study his face to see the truth of that statement. He catches my eyes and holds them with his own. I lift an eyebrow in slow surprise. "You didn't know that, did you?" he softly accuses me. I shake my head, shame staining my cheeks at being caught thinking the worst of him.

"Who...?" My throat shuts off my voice before I can get the entire question out.

"Would you believe Vulcan Medical?" he says wryly. I stare at him, astounded. It's the ultimate betrayal in a lifetime full of them. I look at my feet, biting my lower lip. "We are on our way to Vulcan," he says softly. My head snaps up, my eyes widening. "We are planning to hand you off to Vulcan Medical in seven days, Spock ... unless you can give me a reason not to." McCoy is searching my face now. Just when I think that I can't be devastated further, some new pain arises. To be handed off to Vulcan in this condition is ... unthinkable. This would confirm to them what an "Earther" I really am. I sit heavily on the bunk.

"You can't," I whisper weakly, no longer caring what my voice and face are betraying in light of this new threat.

"Yes, I can," McCoy says relentlessly,"and I will too, unless you start fighting for your life. The way out of this cell, Spock, is to let yourself feel the pain and accept the loss. It's going to be tough. I won't kid you and you are going to need help getting through it because you haven't been taught how to deal with powerful, negative emotions like this. But that is where I and your friends come in. You have to trust us. I know this is alien and frightening. But believe me just this once. You are stronger than your Vulcan heritage."

I say nothing. I don't believe him. I am Vulcan. Vulcan is stronger than Terran. Vulcan's way is better. My own mother had said that many times. She should know having been immersed in both cultures.

"Then of course there is Christine," McCoy says. I sit stock still. I am frozen in fear of what McCoy will say next. I take the fear and use it to shield myself from the pain that his next words will bring. "You must be feeling a lot of things about Christine," McCoy asserts. I do not. I don't feel anything but fear and anger towards him. "Grief, confusion, guilt and profound anger." McCoy watches my face as he says this.

I slip whatever mask I can into place and say, "Guesses." But my voice is shaking.

"Well, if it was me and my wife not only killed herself but Joanna, I would be mad as Hell," McCoy states.

"You are not me," I reply flatly. Silence as we stare each other down.

"You aren't going to give an inch, are you?" McCoy observes after a few minutes have passed.

"My grief is not for public consumption. It is a private thing," I hiss at him.

"I never said it was. AND, Mr. Private Emotion, they will certainly be reviewed by God and whatever Vulcan doctors decide to meld with you. You will not be able to stop it. I am your friend as well as you doctor, damnit! I would think that that would be far easier for you than a total stranger. But maybe not. You love doing everything the hard way," McCoy snaps, his patience with me finally gone. " Shut me out. Shut Jim out and everyone else that ever gave a crap about you. You certainly have before! But BY GOD I am delivering you to Vulcan in one piece! So if I were you, I would start deciding how I want to work out my grief while I still had a choice!"

And with that he leaps to his feet and strides out of the brig with not a backward glance. My tremulous whisper, "Doctor?" never reaching his ears.

Bones' anger has deflated my own. Left me defenseless against the overwhelming grief. I feel cold and empty. I am shivering to the point of my teeth chattering and I go find a blanket and wrap it around me as I curl up on the bunk trying to get warm. Exhaustion and loneliness press in on me like never before. I regret driving Bones away. I start to cry as I fall into an exhausted sleep.

I wake up a few hours later. Dinner has been placed on a small table inside my cell. I am hungry but not hungry enough to have the energy to abandon my cocoon. I lie there and think of everything that Doctor McCoy had said. Desperation, born of cold fear, is gripping me. The humiliation I will suffer on Vulcan before they allow me to commit suicide is more than I can stand. Doubtless as 7th in line to the throne, they will consult my family on the issue. The overwhelming shame I will feel at having my father know that I had chosen a woman who could murder an heir to the house of Surak I can't even contemplate. *I have to get out of here,* I whisper to myself.

The problem is the force field and the guard beyond it. I sit up and rake my eyes over my cell. My vision falls on the tapes and my dinner on the small table. A mad plan starts taking shape. I walk over to the small table and lift the cover off of the dinner tray. The smell of food almost makes me slam the lid back down. Almost. With a glance at the guard, I ease myself into the chair and begin to eat.

As I eat, I finger the tapes in front of me. I pop one into the viewer. "THE SEVEN STAGES OF GRIEF." I take it out and pop in another one. "COMMUNICATING WITH OUR INNER CHILD." I grit my teeth but I am determined. The only way out of here is through Dr. McCoy, and the only way through Dr. McCoy is to convince him that I am cooperating. I am going to be the best therapy patient he has ever had. I only have six days to do it in.

* * *

I can not believe that Dr. McCoy is not falling for my performance. It is the best of my life. I finished all those tapes in three days. I have taken everything in them and everything implied and am using it to a limited extent in our "Talks." I do not want to go overboard. I do not want him to catch on to what I am attempting. But for some reason, he won't let me out of the brig. I even cried for him and he still won't let me out.

I am desperate now. This is my life. My choice. I will make a last appeal to him today. Perhaps if he knew, that on Vulcan, if I wish to end my life that it will not be stopped. I will even be aided. If it were only that, I would not hesitate to be turned over. But first they will go through my mind. They will live all my moments with her. What was private will not be private. What was cherished will be coldly analyzed. Everything concerning her will be dissected most horribly and in the end tossed aside as irrelevant and illogical. As a prominent heir, I might be force to live to my next pon farr where I will be induced to impregnate a consort of the family's choosing. I will be allowed to kill myself after the successful delivery of my child, if I choose it. I am not strong enough to face this alone.

I turn as Dr. McCoy comes once more into the brig. This is the last "Talk" we will have. Tomorrow morning at 0600 the Enterprise will enter orbit around Vulcan. I will be transferred by 0900.

"Mr. Spock." McCoy greets me.

"Doctor," I say feeling like we are entering a fencing match instead of a conversation. "Tomorrow you will be transferred to Vulcan Medical," he starts.

"Yes." I answer.

"I hope you get the help you need there," McCoy says sadly.

I raise an eyebrow. "You are not even going to ask me how I *feel* about it," I say a little sarcastically.

"Should I?" McCoy counters. I am silent. "All you have been trying to do for the last week is get out of that cell to go kill yourself," McCoy says.

My hope falters a little as I realize that he has found me out. Still I try to play the one card I have left. "You realize that by turning me over to Vulcan Medical, I will be allowed to commit suicide should I choose it," I argue.

His voice is soft and his eyes show the pain I have inflicted. "Spock. Sometimes I lose patients. They die on me no matter what I do." I swallow at this. I don't know why this admission that he is losing me hurts. It is the truth. "All I can do is do my best for them. As you have pointed out so often in the past, my knowledge of Vulcan medical techniques is necessarily limited. The best I can do for you is Vulcan Medical."

He looks at his hands as he is speaking. I find that I wish he were looking at me. This discussion isn't going at all like I planned. "I understand, Doctor," I say even though I don't. I find that I want to cry for real now, but I'm afraid to. What if he thinks that I am faking and turns from me. I just stand there, aching to let go, afraid that I will.

McCoy looks at my wooden face. "Good-Bye, Spock. Peace and long life," McCoy says to me as he raises his hand in the Vulcan salute.

I am struck dumb by it. *This is good-bye?* I think as a big lump forms in my throat. We stare at each other for a minute and he turns and leaves. When the door shuts behind him I still stand rooted to the spot. *He gave up on me,* whirls through my mind. I feel devastated. I realize that something is broken inside. The small hope of life and love was gone. Somehow through all that pain, I had known that he was pulling for me against myself. Somewhere deep inside was the assumption that he was going to win. He had let go and left me with a murderer. Myself. I sat down. I didn't cry. There was no point.

* * *

Sometime during the long hours of the night, I must have slept because I awake when a yeoman brings in breakfast. Always Dr. McCoy had brought me breakfast. The knowledge that he wasn't this morning and why, lights a rage in me. Faster than anyone ever thought possible, I drop the yeoman on his way out and then the guard before he has a chance to react to the fact that I am out of my cell. I grab his phaser and set it on stun. I reset the computer cameras for a 30 minute loop. I check on our position. We are initiating orbit around Vulcan.

I get into the corridor without being seen. It is late gamma shift. Alpha shift is just getting up. I dive into a Jeffries tube and start to head to one of the central grids. I have to take a few systems off line if I am to make good an escape. I quickly arrive. 23 minutes to go before my absence will be detected in security. I quickly take weapons, warp and tractor off line and then I fuse several of the junctions.

"Sorry, Scotty," I whisper aloud. I continue to scuttle through the tubes and get to the shuttle bay with 10 minutes to spare. There is just a maintenance crew around one of the shuttles, but not around the one I want. I quickly scurry to it, ducking when I need to. This one is a proto-type that Mr. Scott and I have worked on. It has warp capability and limited cloak. I should be able to make my escape before they know what is happening. I quickly power up systems quietly. I will turn the engines on last. Two more minutes to go. I send a command to the shuttle bay doors and they slowly start to open. The maintenance crew quickly runs out of the bay and I cold start the engines. I take off towards the increasingly widening opening.

An override from the bridge must have been sent. They are starting to close again. I fire phasers and blast them out of my way just as I come over the threshold. I am free.

* * *

The longest 24 hours of my life started with Mr. Sulu's announcement, "Captain, shuttle bay doors are opening."

"Oh, my God! Close them, Mr. Sulu!" I order as I come fully upright in my chair.

"Aye, sir," he replies, his fingers dancing over the control panel. "Shuttle bay doors closing," reports Sulu a scant 3 seconds later.

I just had time to breathe a half sigh of relief when the Red Alert sounded.

"Phaser fire, sir!" Mr. Chekov announces. "We've taken some damage to the hull. Shuttle bay doors have been destroyed."

Lt. Uhura says loudly over the incoming reports from the shuttle bay, "Captain! Security reports that Mr. Spock is no longer in the brig. Two crewman are down."

"No shit, Sherlock" I mutter under my breath. "Mr. Sulu put a tractor on the shuttle and hold her," I order trying to hang onto Spock somehow. Mr. Sulu's fingers once again fly over the key board. A red light erupts.

"Sir. Tractor is off line."

"Damnit to hell! How long was he loose on my ship!" I swear. It's bad form, but I can't help it. I am in a battle of wits with my first officer and he has a head start. "Mr. Chekov! Fire phasers," I order next. "Aim for the engines." Mr. Chekov turns to face me in shock. "NOW Mr. Chekov!" I say leaving no room for arguing. It's risky. A shuttle is a small craft. Hard to shoot at without killing everyone on board. But Chekov is one of the best.

"Arming phasers ... sir! Phasers are off-line," Chekov says with a tinge of surprise warring with relief.

"Chekov. Man the sensors. Track where that ship goes. Lt. Uhura, contact Vulcan. Tell them that Mr. Spock is fleeing in one of our shuttles. Tell them our phasers and tractors have been sabotaged We need assistance," I order.

"Aye, sir," she replies already making the connection to the planet.

I leap out of my chair and up the steps to Spock's station. "Mr. Chekov? Have you got him on sensors?" I ask desperate for some good news.

"No, sir. I saw him for a second and then he disappeared. I think he took the proto-type, sir. It's cloaked."

I run for my chair. I hit the com switch. "Scotty! Get up here!" I practically scream.

"Sir! All hell is breaking loose down here. We are tracin' the source of the failure."

"Scotty, right now! Spock has the proto-type shuttle and I need to know how you upgraded it."

"Aye, sir. I'm on my way," Mr. Scott said without hesitation.

Lt. Uhura pipes in with more "good" news. "Sir. Vulcan says that it does not see any shuttle matching our description but they have registered a fire in our shuttle bay. They wish to know if possibly the shuttle could have come to harm and still be in the bay."

"Lieutenant. Tell them that the shuttle cleared the bay but has cloak. Tell them that the fire is from a phaser hit to us by the shuttle," I reply. There is a brief pause.

"Sir. Vulcan says that it still can not pick up the shuttle. Its sensors are not designed to pick up cloaked vessels that small unless in time of war. To reprogram the sensors would take 2 hours sir. Do we wish other assistance?" she relates the message to me.

I think about it and say, "Tell them to stand by," as I go once more to Mr. Chekov.

"Mr. Chekov. Did you have Spock on the sensors long enough to establish a possible course?"

Mr. Chekov shook his head. "No sir. Even if I did, we are too close to the planet to know if that was his true course."

Mr. Scott comes on the bridge at that instant. I practically leap at him.

"Scotty?" I say in a half pleading tone.

"The shuttle he took has a state of the art cloaking device. It only has partial phasers when cloaked. We are ... er ... were working on that. It has warp drive," he reports. My eyes widen in horror at that last. Cloaked and warp speed.

"Is there any unusual signature to the engine output ... .anything we could track?" I ask figuring there wasn't but just trying to be thorough.

"Oh, aye. I put beacons on it," Scotty says as if this was the norm.

"Scotty, I love you!" I whoop.

"You're going to get quite a reputation if you say things like that, sir," Mr. Scott says beaming.

"Give Lt. Uhura the frequency and have Mr. Chekov tie it through navigation. I want to know where he is going."

"Yes, sir!" Mr. Chekov says smartly. "I have it," says Mr. Chekov a minute later. "His course is 0100.01. Speed Warp 2 ... " Mr. Chekov pauses frowning. He turns and faces me. "He's headed for Earth, sir."

I chew on my lip in puzzlement. Now I am totally confused as to his motives. He could kill himself anywhere. He could do it now. An overloaded warp drive would do it. Yet that wasn't what was happening. What was he doing?

"Mr. Sulu, plot an intercept course. Warp 3," I order. I don't know what he is up to but I want him to explain it to me face to face. Mr. Sulu once again tries to carry out my order.

"Sir. The warp engines are off line."

Scotty starts swearing and runs for the turbo-lift. I slump back in defeat and say, "Of course. Lt. Uhura contact Vulcan and ask them if they have any ships that are capable of better than warp two with transporters. "

She replies after a few minutes. "Sir. Vulcan reports that all of its heavy cruisers are out on a training exercise near Antares 3. They can be recalled and available in 14.23 hours."

I roll my eyes. Spock would easily beat them to earth even if they went at Warp 8. "Give them our thanks, Lieutenant. But tell them that it isn't necessary to recall the fleet."

"Aye, sir," she replies.

Before she can carry out my last order, I say to her, "When you are through with that, tell Bones that I want to see him in my quarters."

"Yes, sir." she replies.

"Mr. Sulu you have the con." I get up and walk like an old man off the bridge.

* * *

I swing into my quarters and am gratified to see that McCoy is already there. He looks worse than I feel. A whole lot worse.

"You wanted to see me Jim?" he says softly in a preoccupied sort of way. I bring him up to speed on everything that had happened as well as I knew it.

"I need a recommendation from you as to why he would be going to Earth," I finally end.

McCoy doesn't say anything for a few minutes. He doesn't look at me. He studies his hands. "What are you planning to do?" he asks me finally.

"Go after him, Bones," I say puzzled and a little miffed.

"Let him go, Jim," McCoy says as he locks his eyes with mine. I am taken aback by the intensity of the gaze. "Just let him go," he repeats and looks at his hands again.

Rage wells up within me sudden and hot. "NO!" I yell as I slam my hand on my desk. Bones jumps startled. "It's not an option doctor." I say angrily.

McCoy meets my fiery gaze head on. "You want to what? Catch him. Stick him back in the brig. Drug him so that he isn't even himself then take him to Vulcan to be violated six ways from Sunday and then he can take his life? Because if you are successful that is what will happen, Jim. That is what was happening. At least this way he will die with some dignity," McCoy fires back.

A coldness is settling in my stomach. I feel betrayed. I stare at McCoy like I have never seen him before. "He might have had a chance with some of the treatment on Vulcan."

McCoy kept looking at me, never backing down an inch. "The chance of his recovery on Vulcan was about 3 percent."

I blanched white. "Why the hell were you recommending it?!" I scream at him.

"The best chance he had was us. But I needed a lever against that stiff Vulcan hide of his. The lever broke. He wouldn't face what Christine did. He wouldn't grieve. I figured three percent was better than none. I figured it was better than being locked up in a mental rehabilitation colony for the rest of his life. I lost him. If it was some physical malady ... I would say he's terminal and continuing life support would be cruel." McCoy drove each word in like driving a nail with a hammer.

I drop into my chair. "I can't just let him go." Tears start to well in my own eyes.

McCoy leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. "You asked for my opinion as to why he is going to Earth." I nod my head. "He is going to see her. That is what I think," McCoy replies.

"I don't follow," I say.

"Spock is looking for some kind of closure. I think that he is carrying a lot of anger as well as grief. I think that he is going to be with Christine. I think that he has things that he wants to say to her. I think he is going to France to her grave," McCoy says.

The com whistle beeps. I answer it. "Scotty here, sir. I found the cause of the trouble and a right mess it is, too," Mr. Scott says.

"How long to make the repairs?" I ask, glad that I have the miracle worker on board.

"If Vulcan's shipyard has all the parts I need in stock, about 8 hours. He reduced a lot of parts to slag, sir."

I shut my eyes. Ninety minutes had already gone by. "Do what you can, Scotty," I say. I turn off the com unit. I stare at nothing.

"Are we going to be able to catch him?" McCoy asks softly.

"No," I say totally defeated. "Even if Scotty shaved an hour off it, Spock would make planet fall 2 hours before we could possibly be there at maximum warp."

McCoy got up and squeezed my shoulder. "I'm sorry, Jim," he whispered as he walked unsteadily to the door.

I just sat there. I couldn't say a word.

* * *

I sit in my office with the lights off. A drink of Kentucky Bourbon in one hand, flipping through the pictures I have stored on my personal data base of Spock. Scrap booking had always been a hobby of mine. It helped me grieve over patients I had lost and it helped me through some dark times in my life too. Nothing like a scrap book to remind me that I am not alone. That I have friends, family. I probably should have showed it to Spock. I know I am grasping at straws here. Must be the bourbon.

Click. Click.

There's one of him hanging upside down from a tree on Omicron Ceti III. I had always been fond of that one. Good blackmail stock. I sob suddenly as I realize that I will never need it.

Click. Click.

Here's one of him with a smile. A real honest to goodness smile. Not one from spores or alien entities.

There are camera's throughout all of sickbay for diagnostic purposes. This was the day that Spock found out that Jim was alive after he thought he had killed him. I had been reviewing the tapes to double check my notes when I had caught this frame and saved it.

Click. Click.

And here's the one of Spock and his parents. Parents.

What had Vulcan Medical said? The person of the bonded pair is helped with a mind meld through close friends and family.

"Jesus Christ!" I say aloud. Afraid to hope too much, I contact the bridge.

"Bridge. Lt. Uhura." Her usual warm tones tinged with sadness.

"Lieutenant. Patch me through to the Terran Consulate." I didn't have to wait long.

"You have reached the Terran Consulate. How may I direct your call?" comes a crisp reply.

"I need to speak to Ambassador Patrick Conner. This is Dr. McCoy, chief surgeon of the Enterprise."

"May I inform him on what it is regarding?" comes back the pleasant reply. *So they screen their calls here too.* I think. This was bureaucracy I can deal with.

"Tell him it is in regard to the heir of the ruling house of Surak." I say with a slight smile.

"Ambassador Patrick Conner. How can I be of service?" was the prompt reply.

I grin. Finally something that may be of real use.

"Ambassador Conner. My name is Dr. Leonard McCoy and we have a crisis situation with one of the royals," I begin.

"There are no royal families on Vulcan," Ambassador Conner replies with the party line.

"Right. You know what I mean," I say in a conspiratorial tone.

"Hmmmm. Actually, yes," Ambassador Conner admits.

"Spock cha'Sarek is in real trouble. His mate has died," I start to explain.

"Spock has never been mated," the Ambassador interrupts.

"Spock went against the wishes of his family and bonded privately," I reply.

"That kid is always the center of controversy!" moans the Ambassador. "You should see how much paper work crosses my desk on him alone," he groans.

"I can believe it," I sympathize. "Spock is headed for Earth and he is in a very bad state as you can imagine. Are Ambassador Sarek and his wife at the Vulcan consulate in Paris perchance?" I hold my breath.

"Yes. I believe they are." Ambassador Conner replies.

I am hopping up and down. "I need you to pass on a message to Ambassador Sarek for me right away," I request. "Tell the Ambassador that Spock has recovered his memory of Christine Chapel and that Spock was bonded. He is in a bad state. In need of care. He should be due on Earth in 10 hours. I believe he is planning to go to Christine's grave." I stop.

The Ambassador doesn't say anything for a minute and then responds,

"That's it?"

"Yes, that is all." I assure him. "Ambassador Sarek will know what to do."

"I will send this immediately, doctor. And thank you for helping the family of Surak avoid another disaster with this youngster."

The Ambassador ended the transmission. I knew he would be as good as his word. I had to smile at his term "youngster" for Spock. I look up and pray, "It's up to you, God. Please make this turn out."

* * *

I quickly program the navigational computer for the course I need to take me to Christine. But my hand hesitates over the engage button. This is good-bye to everyone and everything I have ever known and I find that I can't just warp away without a backward glance. It is risky. If I tarry too long, there is a possibility that they could beam me out. But I find that I have to take that last look. I turn my ship so that its nose is pointed at the Enterprise and I open the view port. What I see takes my breath away.

The graceful silver ship flies angelically through space, framed by the soft orange-brown planet of Vulcan. Large moons hover like cherubs. It is my whole life in a single view. The only two homes I have ever known, weaving a masterpiece. Tears sting my eyes at the sight. "Why couldn't my life have been thus? Where is the beauty and balance in my life now?" I wonder sadly.

I can't look anymore it is too painful. And it's time to go. I will be caught if I don't. I shut the port windows. As they shut, I feel as if all that was bright and beautiful and full of promise is being closed from me forever. The shuttle lighting is dim in comparison. The shuttle has become my death row cell where I await the final journey.

I engage the cloak and then the navigational computers. I set speed at Warp 2 and start out for Earth. I sit for a time lost in thought. I feel cold. "Computer. Set cabin temperature to 95 F."

"Affirmative."

I hear the small thrum of the warp core as it powers my escape. If it wasn't for that ... the silence would be deafening. I feel a strange apathetic depression come over me. "Computer, play T'klan's 'Ode To The Wind Watchers'."

"Affirmative."

Ethereal music floats through the air. It reminds me of Christine. I played it the night we bonded. The music revives me a little. I take the cross out from one of my inside pockets.

I had discovered that I still had it with me after I had come out of the Versed induced sleep. I had been careful to keep it with me at all times after that. Sometimes when the pain had gotten really bad, I would put my hand in my pocket and touch it. I always felt the darkness fade a little. It was as if a part of Christine was in this shining golden thing. I had never let anyone see that I had it. I had had an illogical fear that somehow it would have been taken from me or that I would lose it.. There is no need for secrecy now. I take the cross out and look at it. Still brilliant, still beautiful even after being in my dark pocket without light or air. I hold onto it as if it could somehow connect me to her.

"I'm coming Christine," I whisper to it. "Please wait for me."

* * *

I am in my study going over the latest treaties the Federation has proposed to the Ferengi when there is a soft knock on my door. I glance up with a slight but well masked irritation.

"I am sorry to disturb you, sir," My aide Galen Winters says softly. "There is an urgent communiqué from the Terran Consulate on Vulcan."

I raise one eyebrow in surprise. Most unusual. I nod my head once in acceptance of this interruption. My aide leaves and a moment later my com shows the face of Ambassador Patrick Conner.

"Ambassador," I say.

"Ambassador Sarek," he replies. I have always been slightly envious of my counterpart's lilting voice. I find the Irish accent of Earth most pleasing as do most Vulcans. That and his almost eerie ability in knowing what to pay attention to and what to ignore is why he is posted there.

"Ambassador, I have some bad news I'm afraid. It concerns you son Spock," he says with a grave expression.

I find that I am sitting very straight in my chair. *No! Not again! This can't be happening again!*

"I was contacted by a ..." He looks down at his pad. "Dr. Leonard McCoy, chief surgeon of the starship Enterprise." I am sure my face has lost all its color. "His message is and I quote, Spock has recovered his memory of Christine Chapel. He had been bonded to her."

I gasp in surprise at this. Ambassador Conner glances up from his pad at the sound to see if I am all right. "I regret my lapse in control, please continue," I say, astounded by this news and wondering where it is going to end up.

"He's in a bad state and is in need of care. He is due to arrive on Earth in 9.53 hours..." Patrick pauses with a pained expression on his face.

"There was nothing more?" I ask. Earth is a big planet. Where would I start looking?

"No ... This last bit. Well, this sounds odd but, according to Dr. McCoy, your son is going to Christine's grave," Ambassador Conner says with an apologetic "Oh well" expression on his face.

I am very concerned. I know exactly what it means and how to find him. "I understand your discomfort. But you have just passed a key point of information to me. My thanks once again for your watchful eye," I reply all Vulcan formality although what I really want to do is rend my clothes and scream in grief and frustration.

"Always glad to help a colleague," Ambassador Connor says with obvious relief. I don't blame him. That decidedly would be an odd message to get and give if one did not understand its import. I get up and pace my office. So Spock had married Christine secretly. I had lost a daughter that I didn't even know I had. Suddenly the family politics didn't seem important. I was about to lose my son if I couldn't think of a way to heal him. I doubt that he would let me meld with him. In his mind I am the enemy after all and it would not be a good idea right now anyway. I stare out the window contemplating various strategies. After a time I come to realize that it was time to consult the expert on emotional verbal communication.

I leave the study and go to our living quarters at the embassy. I walk in and check in the kitchen where Amanda's nurse, Lily, is likely to be if Amanda doesn't need her. "Ah, Sarek," she says to me with a smile.

"Lily, how is my wife today?" I ask.

"She is having a good day," Lily replies.

"Good. Is there anything that she wants that I can bring to her?" I ask.

Lily smiles and says, "She needs nothing but you." I give her a brief nod and go to our bedroom.

I find Amanda up and dressed. She is sitting on a chaise lounge on the balcony overlooking the embassy gardens. Her shoulder length hair, completely silver against her slightly tanned skin from years on Vulcan, set off her crystal blue eyes. She is beautiful. My heart constricts at the thought that I am gradually losing my beautiful beloved. Several months ago, she began to feel unusually tired and began to cough intermittently. The doctors on Vulcan could not find anything wrong at first. Then they said that she had a viral infection of the lungs. Then they believed that she had a virus that had spread to her heart. Finally fed up, I took her to the doctors on Earth. The doctors here sent her home two days ago after a thorough examination.

She is terminal. Her heart from years of added strain of living on a higher G world is worn out. Nothing can be done. It is heart failure from old age. Even for a human she has lived a long life. Amanda is 96. The doctors give her another 6 months to a year. I hope they are wrong. I jealously want her to be able to beat her great aunt Patsy who lived to be 99. I have told no one. The treaties with the Ferengi are going poorly and if Vulcan knew of the situation, I would be pulled off the assignment. Amanda and I have not told Spock. We wanted to hold off as long as possible since my son is still recovering from death and rebirth. I bend down and lightly kiss her on the cheek. She smiles at me and gently pulls me down on the chaise lounge beside her as she scoots over to make room. Her coloring is excellent today I notice as if there is nothing amiss. I stroke the side of her face, besotted even after all these years. My wife takes hold of my hand and squeezes gently.

"Sarek. What is it?" she says with a slightly worried look on her face.

I almost smile, "Nothing except that you are obviously feeling well and I don't want to change it."

"Something is wrong," she states and pulls my hand from her face into her lap. I look down at our clasped hands.

"It's Spock. Amanda, what I have to tell you is very upsetting," I say and then I take a deep breath. "You were right about Christine. Spock did love her as a soul mate. I was told today that she and Spock were bonded secretly."

I can see the anger in Amanda's eyes at being cheated out of her daughter-in-law. But she says nothing.

"When Spock died, the bond must have been severed. T'Lar would have told me if she had detected one. From what Dr. Leonard McCoy said, I gather that Spock didn't remember Christine until just recently and he is following training and tradition as well as his own heart. He has fled the Enterprise and is on his way here to Christine's grave. I think we both know how that is going to end up if we do not intervene. Logic and tradition says that he is a man and to let him make his choice. But I find, my wife, that I can not. I can not meld with him at this point. The knowledge of your impending demise would kill him outright. How do you think this should be handled?"

Amanda sat stunned for a moment. She got up and walked to the balcony wall. I am saddened and ashamed to see her color has gone ashy. I walk up behind her and see that she is panting slightly for breath. "My wife please sit down," I beg.

She glares at me and then complies with my request. "Assuming that we can save our son's life, Sarek, I want you to promise me one thing," she says breathlessly but with intensity.

"What is that my wife?" I ask ready to promise her anything for causing her this pain.

"That you will never, ever interfere again in Spock's choice of a bondmate," she says vehemently.

I look at her and touch her hand and send her all the sincerity that I am able, "I promise, Amanda." I wait for her answer. She says nothing for a long time. Finally I prompt, "Amanda?"

"I am trying to gather my strength to go to him," Amanda says to me.

"Go? You are not going anywhere!" I say firmly.

"I have to Sarek. You said that you are not going to meld with him. And I agree with that. The only logical choice then is for me to go to him," Amanda argues.

"I am the one who is going if anyone does," I declare.

"And then what?" Amanda says skeptically. "Would you even know what to do? Your son needs someone to be there *emotionally*, Sarek. Another lesson in logic and Vulcan ideology is what he doesn't need."

"I know that!" I say irritably.

My wife relents a little. "Sarek, you are good in many things, but connecting emotionally to your son is not one of them. And by now he has gotten so wary I think even I will have a hard time of it."

I sit down next to her. "Amanda, if you go, the trip could kill you. There is a good chance that we will lose Spock. His actions are that of someone who has made his final decision. You know how strong willed our son is. I don't want to lose you both. I don't think I could survive that myself. So unless you want this branch of the house of Surak to end in one fell swoop, *please* let me go to him," I beg.

"Are you sure that you could do what it takes? In public?" she demands. I look at her helplessly. I do not know. "Anything less, Sarek, and we lose him," she states flatly.

And she is right. I am at an impasse. If she goes, the strain will kill her and Spock dies drowning in grief and guilt as would I. If I go, the probability of saving Spock is less, but I would have Amanda longer. Amanda's death would probably be hastened by her grief, but she wouldn't die this week. Would our love survive my utter failure to reach my son? Suddenly I am not so sure of my course of action.

* * *

I watch him come through the cemetery, a shadow in the moonlight. I see him approach the foot of the grave and stop. I scarcely breath. He is so thin and haggard. The grief on his face is matching my own for his pain and my pain. My heart beats dully in my chest. I want to go to him. But I can not. Not yet. I need to approach him when he is deep in the throws of his grief when it will be far too late to flee me. So I watch and wait under the darkness of the pines, virtually invisible, a silent sentinel to his grief.

* * *

I walk through the shadowy graveyard. I am glad there is a full moon tonight. It lights up the stones and makes it easier to find my way. I see her marker finally. A white angel with a plaque beneath. Dr. Christine Chapel : born 2238 - died 2279 : A dedicated healer and friennd. That is it. There is no mention of being a lover, wife or mother as I had seen on the other stones as I had passed them. The words scream the void I am feeling. What should have been, but is not. I struggle for control even in the face of this black void.

"I brought you your cross, Christine," I say in an almost shockingly normal voice. "You dropped it. Or you took it off. Or it fell off when ..."

Suddenly my grief can be silent no longer. "Why?" I sob. "You said you would wait for me. Why didn't you wait for me, Christine?" The strength goes out of my legs and I fall to my knees on the ground. "We had everything! I was alive! You were pregnant. Our bond, when we established another, would have been honored. WHY?"

I sob and scream on hands and knees knowing it was only a matter of time before I collapse on top of the grave. I will never get up again. "What happened to your faith? Is that why you took off the cross?" I have finally lain down sobbing into my arms. "How can you expect me to go on in the face of this loss, when you couldn't with everything right in front of you."

That is when I feel hands on my shoulders lifting me up. I am confused for a minute. I think I am being lifted by angels only to be confronted by the devil.

I lash out with my fists screaming his name as if it is a curse, "SAREK! SAREK! NO! DON"T TOUCH ME!"

My blows are wild and do nothing to free myself from him. He is strong, my father. Eventually I am tightly wrapped in his embrace and I know I can't get free. I stop struggling and wait for the onslaught of a forced meld. There is still dioxigene in my system even though I missed a dose. I can do nothing to stop him.

After awhile I realize that nothing is happening except that I am being rocked and someone else is crying. It takes me a moment to realize it is my father. This stuns me and scares me at the same time. I have never known my father to cry before. I am afraid that maybe I hurt him physically after all. I start to pull away and I catch a glimpse of his face. His eyes are closed and his face is wet but there is no blood. He feels my pull and tightens his grip so that my head is pulled to his shoulder.

"Did I hurt you?" I whisper deeply ashamed.

"No, my son. A few bruises, nothing else," he says softly.

"Why are you crying?" I ask softly my breath still catching.

"I feel your pain and, added to my own of losing a daughter, a grandchild and possibly you, I find my control inadequate," he says calmly though his tears.

"I am sorry Sarek. I ... I ..." I start to break down again at what has happened to me, "It's the dioxigene. I can't maintain my shields," I finally get out.

"What dioxigene!" Sarek says holding me away from him so that he can see my face. I feel exposed and turn my head to the side trying to hide my face from him. "What dioxigene!" he demands, the tears stopped by his anger. It rolls through me like thunder and I shake from the force of it. He seems to realize this and reinforces his own shields. "Who gave it to you?" he tries a different question.

"Dr. McCoy," I stammer. I feel like I am six years old and caught in a transgression. "Vulcan Medical told him to use it so that I couldn't use the mind rules and take my life," I hurriedly explain trying to defend my friend.

My father's wrath is a terrible thing. My father crushes me to him again and whispers softly, "I am so sorry." I fight hard not to cry again and shame myself and him but in that warm, secure embrace, I can tell that I am going to lose the battle. "Go ahead and cry. It is alright. The cause is sufficient. More than sufficient," he soothes. Still I fight them. I am suddenly afraid that if I start I will never, ever stop. "Just relax. Let it come," he gently guides.

I do and suddenly they do. And I am scared and hurt and angry and I throw my arms around my father lest even his strength not be sufficient to keep me from being swept away.

* * *

It scares me how hard he cries and for how long. I can feel his intense grief lapping at my mind in waves. Sometimes I lower my shields and send him comfort and sometimes I just ride with him, crying as well. We don't let go of each other. Eventually he starts to slow down as he tires. He still doesn't let go and I don't either. Soon his tears stop enough where I think I can talk to him. It is almost dawn and the grounds keepers will be here soon. I know Spock would feel better not having an audience of strangers.

I pull back a little so that I can see his face. The world is getting brighter around us and the first sound of bird song is in the air. I see a flash of gold across his hand. I brush my hand against it and I can feel that it is a gold chain. "What is this, Spockam?" I ask.

Spock looks down at his hand and says dully, "It is Christine's. It is a gold cross. She always wore it in life. I think she took it off when she decided ..." His eyes close and his lips tremble. A sob escapes him but it doesn't turn into the weeping it was before.

"Can I see?" I ask, watching him carefully to make sure that it is okay with him. The is no hesitation. He gives it to me. I hold it up in the first rays of the morning sun. It is a beautiful thing. It catches the light and reflects the golden rays on everything around us. "I think she left this behind for you," I tell him. "She wasn't strong enough. But maybe she knew you would be."

I take a fine chain from around my neck and gently slip the cross off its chain. I slip the cross on my longer gold chain and then fasten it around Spock's neck. He watches me do all this in silence and when it is lying on his chest, he picks up the cross and gently fingers it and then looks at it. He looks at me.

"Spock, I am sorry. I made your life more difficult than it had to be. And I know that I am partly responsible for this. All I can say to you is that, if you choose to marry in the future, I don't care if it's an Orion slave girl. You will get nothing but support from me."

"What about T'Pau?" he asks me.

"T'Pau is very old. How long can she last?"

Suddenly a smile breaks over his face and I know I am smiling too. "Forever," we say at the same time.

I shake my head at the silliness of the two of us. Suddenly I turn serious again. "Spockam. Will you carry on the faith that Christine has in you?"

A spasm of pain crosses my son's face, "You mean had."

"Let me tell you something as an Ambassador to Earth. Where humans are concerned, I wouldn't be too sure about that past tense. I have experienced some strange things," I admit for the first time out loud.

Spock seems to mull it over. "I wish I knew if it had been a boy or a girl," he says at last sadly. There is silence again. We are sitting close to each other on the ground. "I honestly don't know how I am going to live through my pain. There is so much of it," he finally admits in a small voice.

I wrap my arms around him as the sun comes fully over the horizon. "Your soul is tired. Your heart is weak. And you think that love is a one way street. Well, it runs both ways. Can't you see me here? Open up your eyes. It takes a lot to laugh as the tears go down. But you can find me here until your tears run dry." I quote from a song Amanda played for me once.

"What are you quoting?" Spock asks frowning.

"A song Amanda played for me when I wasn't handling my grief very well either," I answer.

"Did it help?" he asks me.

"Yes. It reminded me that I wasn't alone in my grief. That those touched by the tragedy were hurting as well. It helped me to stop shutting others out, especially Amanda, and it lessened my own grief in return."

He says nothing for a time. He looks at Christine's grave marker, then at me. "Ta-Ta, I want to go home. Take me home," he says softly. We stand up and I slowly lead him to my ground car. On the way there he says, "Can I listen to that song?"

"We'll ask Amanda where it is," I reply.

* * *

I have not heard anything. I have asked Lt. Uhura to monitor all the major news groups. We pulled into Earth's orbit 10 hours after Spock must have made planet fall. I can't imagine that he is still alive. I have stayed in my quarters since McCoy left me 20 hours ago. I had fought my instincts earlier to call Star Fleet and intercept his craft. I want him to have whatever shreds of dignity he can find. Chances are, if confronted by other ships, he would have self-destructed anyway.

My com beeps. "Kirk here," I answer dispiritedly.

"Sir. The Vulcan Consulate wants you and Dr. McCoy to beam down immediately to these coordinates," Uhura says tensely.

I swallow hard. My mouth has gone dry. That would be Sarek and I don't know how I am going to face him. "Tell them I will be there in five minutes," I order.

"Aye, sir. I will inform Dr. McCoy." And she broke the connection.

I quickly shower and pull on a clean uniform. I go to the transporter room. McCoy is there. I am surprised. He is sober and doesn't look as bad as he usually does when he loses a patient. He is tense. That I can understand. "Ready?" I ask him. He nods and gets on the transporter pad without one grouse about the dangers of transporter technology. I wonder if it is because death by transporter is better than what awaits us down below. "Energize," I order.

We materialize in a living area. It takes a second for McCoy and I to get our bearings. It doesn't help. Our mouths drop open at the sight of Spock standing before us. Looking tired and bedraggled but alive.

"O, my God!" is all I can say and suddenly I am running the few steps toward him and so is Bones and we all meet in one big hug. Everyone is crying.

"I am sorry," Spock is saying.

"Spock, you're alive!" I say sobbing.

"Thank God! Thank God!" is all Bones says.

"What happened?" I ask when we take a step apart.

"My father intercepted me at the grave. Eerie how he knew where to look for me. We had a ... heart-to-heart ... as you would say," Spock says looking at McCoy.

"Well, I am just glad that I am getting better at guessing," McCoy says demurely.

"Guess nothing. You knew. I am sorry for what I put you through. And I would like very much to talk things out," Spock says his whole being an apology.

McCoy's eyes tear up and he says, "Okay. But no brig and no dioxigene."

Spock's eyes shine as he says quietly, "Maybe a box of Kleenex would be good idea. The embassy has run out."

McCoy starts to laugh. "I am sorry, Spock," he say as he tries to stop abruptly. I too for some reason find this outrageously funny. Finally Spock starts choking on laughter as well and then we all break down giggling.

When I get some control I say, "I think there is someone else who really needs to be here." Spock nods. I get out my communicator and say, "Lt. Uhura."

"Yes, sir," comes the quick reply. I know she has been sitting there waiting in dread. "I need you to beam down with 4 boxes of Kleenex."

"Sir?"

"Four boxes, and hurry." I grin as I put the communicator away. A few minutes later I see her materialize in front of us. I see her gape and then being pulled into a hug by Spock and know that that is exactly how we all looked just 20 minutes earlier. Tears are streaming down her face and I open one of the dropped boxes of Kleenex and hand her one. I look at Spock and hand him one too. I look at McCoy and hand him one too. Aw, hell, I need one too.

THE END