DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Cherpring and is copyright (c) 2002 by Cherpring. Rated PG.

Sweet Mystery of Love

Cherpring

Christine Chapel slipped out of her uniform, tossed it onto a chair then sank down onto the edge of her cot with a tired sigh. She pulled off her boots, letting each hit the deck with a careless thump. It had been a hell of a busy day: First the accident in Engineering, then the fiasco in Hydroponics. Trouble was, people didn't have their minds on their jobs. They were too preoccupied with the upcoming festivities tonight to pay close attention. It had cost a few of them a night or two in Sickbay and put her a few hours into overtime. Chapel shook her head. Was she ever like that? God, I hope not, she thought derisively.

Today was February fourteenth -- Valentine's Day: The Human celebration of romantic love and a time when lovers expressed their feelings for one another, often very publicly. Her charge nurse, Anne Ames, had received two dozen red roses, a box of expensive Deltan chocolates, a diamond heart pendant, and of course, the inevitable card with its flashy red hearts and flowery prose declaring her lover's undying affection. Gag me! Chapel thought. She liked Ames and was happy for her, but even as a schoolgirl, she had disliked this holiday. There was always somebody left out, some kid in her class who didn't get many cards. And one or two of those years that kid had been her.

As she got older and the hormones hit in adolescence, the holiday became an even more hated event. Without fail, when this holiday rolled around she found herself alone. Somehow, the few short romances she did manage back then never coincided with Valentine's Day. She could only recall one Sweetheart dance she ever attended in high school, and that had been only because she had let one of her girlfriends talk her into going with her 'solo', as it were. It had been disastrous. Her girlfriend had met up with an old boyfriend and dumped her there and she'd ended up having to take an airbus home.

And here I am, letting someone else talk me into it again, she thought ruefully.

Uhura had been wheedling and cajoling her for weeks to attend. It would be the last Valentine's Dance before the end of the current Enterprise mission, Uhura pointed out, and Chapel had never attended a single one. Uhura went on to say she owed it to her staff to at least put in an appearance at this last one and so, reluctantly, Chapel had agreed. Now she wished like hell she hadn't. She was tired, hungry, and didn't feel up to the pretense.

Chapel didn't fool herself. There was no romance in her life and probably never would be. It was nobody's fault, really. Not even her own. You couldn't always choose whom you fell in love with, and her capricious heart couldn't have chosen a more aloof and unattainable man than the one she was in love with now. A man she knew deep down inside she would always be in love with, but who would never love her. It was a cruel twist of fate, but she had learned to live with it. The ache had become a part of her, both tenderly familiar and hated at the same time. Yet she couldn't change how she felt, and she had given up trying. The best she could do was call a truce with her inner demons and try to get on with life. With another deep sigh, Chapel glanced at the chronometer beside her bed. Nineteen hundred hours and twenty-five minutes. She had just over a half-hour to shower, dress, and plaster on 'the face'. With a groan, she pushed up and headed for the bathroom, wondering what there would be to eat at the dance since she didn't have time now for supper.

* * *

Spock stepped into the darkened rec room, his gaze sweeping over its occupants. He spotted her almost immediately next to one of the refreshment tables and his breath momentarily caught in his throat. As he watched, she picked over the offerings, occasionally adding a tidbit to the growing pile on her plate, but even performing such a mundane task seemed only to add to her beauty. And she was beautiful. She was wearing a short black strapless gown in a heavy satin material that clung to every curve of her long body and her hair hung in soft golden waves to her shoulders. The single strand of pearls at her neck swung forward as he saw her lean over the table, accentuating its graceful curve, and not for the first time in the past few months, Spock questioned his logic. The decision had been obvious, almost from the beginning, yet he had waited. Where was the logic? he mused. Waiting had only delayed the inevitable and possibly had caused her some emotional distress. But the wait was over now. He had carefully planned his strategy, choosing this Human holiday to launch his campaign. It was a most appropriate occasion he decided as he moved toward her.

* * *

The door to her quarters hissed shut behind her, but for a few long moments, Chapel could only stand there just beyond the threshold, totally bemused. What the hell is happening? she thought almost angrily. Spock had insisted on escorting her back to her cabin when she decided to leave the dance early. But what was even more puzzling, every time she turned around tonight he seemed to be in her immediate vicinity. She had accepted a few invitations to dance from Leonard, M'Benga, and even the Captain, and each time he was there afterwards, hovering close by. Spock actively engaged her in conversation and they had talked more tonight on more subjects than they had in two years. It just didn't make sense.

Shaking her head, Chapel finally moved further into her cabin. At her desk, she leaned against it and toed out of her heels, then picking them up, made her way warily into her sleeping alcove. God, she was tired. Too tired to try to figure out what was going on with Spock tonight, if anything. She no longer let her imagination spin fantasies out of the Vulcan's slightest glance. It wasn't healthy, and it led to nothing but heartache. It wasn't until she'd tossed her heels into her closet then straightened to reach around and unfasten her dress that she saw it. She froze in mid motion.

There on her pillow was a single red rosebud, and underneath that a folded piece of paper. Stunned, she stood there staring at it for a long time, her arms slowly falling back to her sides. Is this someone's idea of a joke? she immediately thought. Finally, she moved to the bed and picked up both the rose and the note. Unconsciously, she raised the flower to her nose and inhaled deeply as she unfolded the thick linen paper. The handwriting was bold, concise ... and painfully familiar. Immediately her heart started to race and her chest became tight, making it suddenly hard to breathe. As she read, her fingers became numb, almost losing the feel of the paper in her hands as they began to tremble. She hurried through the text, then went back and read it again, then a third time, still disbelieving.

Abruptly, her head snapped up, eyes riveting on the door. If she hurried...

Still in her stocking feet, Chapel ran for the door of her quarters ... and almost slammed into the object of her search as it hissed open. Spock stood there on the other side in the corridor, hands behind his back in a characteristic pose, his dark eyes meeting hers instantly in a steady gaze.

"Spock?" she breathed incredulously. Spock said nothing, just moved past her into her quarters, leaving her stunned in his wake.

As the door hissed shut again, Chapel turned to stare dumbfounded at him where he stood in the middle of her living area. She still held the rose and the note in one hand and slowly raised it toward him. "From ... from you?" Her voice was barely above a whisper.

Spock's gaze wavered as he shifted under her scrutiny. He glanced away for a moment, then his dark gaze found hers once again. It was calm, assured ... almost hypnotic. She felt herself sway slightly towards him. "Yes. I have been searching for a way to approach you and when I came across this sentiment in the ship's library, it seemed most fitting. Today seemed an appropriate time to deliver it." He raised one eyebrow at her. "Was I unclear as to my intentions?"

Heart pounding, Chapel swallowed against the sudden dryness in her throat. "No, you have made yourself very clear, Spock."

With that, Chapel tossed the note with the rose on her desk and started walking towards him. Spock felt both eyebrows climb to his forehead as she approached, suddenly unsure of her reaction. Her expression told him very little. Had he angered her? He almost gave in to the impulse to back away as she stalked steadily closer, but held his ground. When she was within a few inches from him, she stopped. In her stocking feet she was shorter than him and tilted her back to gaze unflinchingly in his eyes, the clear blue of hers startling him for a second as they always did. She brought one hand up to his arm, then slid it up to the back of his neck. A brilliant smile suddenly graced her beautiful face and he felt relief such as he had never known. The warmth of that smile encompassed all that he was and he knew he had found a safe haven at last.

"About damned time," Chapel murmured. She pulled his face to hers and just before their lips touched, he knew the sweetness of her breath upon his and realized he was looking forward to a lifetime of that sweetness.

As Spock's arms came around her and his lips moved warm and insistent over hers, Chapel could only think one thing: Thank God for Valentine's Day!

On Chapel's desk, the note eased open as if by some unseen hand. Inside it read:

"Christine,

"These words by the poet Sara Teasdale say what I cannot. Take close heed.

"Spock"

I am not yours, not lost in you,

Not lost, though I long to be

Lost as a candle lit at noon,

Lost as a snowflake in the sea

You love me, and I find you still

A spirit beautiful and bright,

Yet I am I, who long to be

Lost as a light lost in light

Oh plunge me deep in love-put out

My senses, leave me deaf and blind,

Swept by tempest of your love,

A taper in a rushing wind

Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

FIN