DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. This story was written for the enjoyment of the author and no infringement of any existing copyright is intended nor is any profit realized or expected. The story contents are the creation and property of Cherpring and copyright 2001 by Cherpring. This story is rated NC-17 for adult language and sexual content. You must be 18 years of age to read this.



The oppressive heat roused Chapel from a deep and dreamless sleep. Sleep? She felt more like she was climbing up out of a year-long coma. And what had happened to the environmental controls? It was hotter than Vulcan on a hot summer day in here, she thought irritably.

Carefully, she cracked open one eye, but closed it again almost immediately, too exhausted to make even that effort. Good God, she was tired! She lay on her side in bed a few minutes more, sweat trickling down between her breasts, over her ribs and between her thighs, anywhere her skin touched skin. When it started to crawl and itch across her scalp and make a pathway down her forehead she could stand it no longer and roused herself enough to groggily push up and sit on the side of the bed.

OUCH! What the..? Chapel's face twisted into a grimace as her hands went immediately to her temples and pressed. Her head pounded unmercifully with a deep, painful ache throbbing with every heartbeat. A quick wave of nausea washed over her and she tried to swallow, but couldn't muster enough spit. Her mouth and throat were parchment dry and felt as if something had crawled inside and died there. Her tongue felt sticky and swollen, too, her teeth unpleasantly fuzzy. Jesus, what kind of bender had she gone on? She felt absolutely lousy!

Hunching over, Chapel lowered her head to her hands and gingerly held it there for a time, waiting for the nausea to pass. Whatever had happened, she sincerely hoped she had had a good time, cause she sure as hell couldn't remember any of it. The last thing she remembered was being in Sickbay and Spock walking in, saying something about needing to speak to her ... in private. Yeah, right! You must have been bombed out of your ever lovin' mind, Chapel, if you think that actually happened.

The nausea subsided. Chapel pushed up off the bed and blearily staggered for the head, her over distended bladder practically screaming in her ear. Once inside, she quickly relieved herself then hung over the sink and turned on the cold water full blast. She bent her mouth to the stream and sucked in several long swallows before splashing her face with the cool liquid, sighing with relief. With eyes squeezed shut, she groped for the hand towel she always kept hanging close by, but her hand encountered nothing but air. Figures, she thought grumpily. Face still dripping, she squinted around the small bathroom in search of a towel. She spotted one neatly folded on the edge of the counter and snatched it up. She was vigorously drying her face when it hit her.

Chapel dropped the towel and her head snapped up, eyes staring blindly at her reflection in the mirror. Something was peculiar ... very peculiar. She glanced around, heart starting to speed up in her chest. It looked pretty much the same, but ... this wasn't her bathroom! With trembling hand, she reached up and depressed the switch next to the mirror and it slid back, revealing a neatly arranged and decidedly masculine medicine cabinet. Her stomach did a flip-flop and she reflexively hit the button again. The mirror slid back into place and she was once again staring at her reflection.

"Oh ... my ... God..." she breathed, actually seeing herself for the first time.

The woman staring back at her was not only sans clothing of any kind, but looked as if she had been rode hard and put up wet, to coin one of Leonard's more colorful phrases. Her hair was a tangled blonde mop sticking out wildly from head to shoulders, plastered with persperation in places to her forehead and neck, and her eyes were not only bloodshot and staring back at her in patriotic red, white, and blue, but rimmed in twin circles of smeared mascara. You'd think in this day and age someone could invent a mascara that didn't smudge, she thought derisively. And there was something else ... something dark. Chapel leaned in closer to the mirror and peered at the usually flawless, pale skin of her neck. Carefully, she lifted away sweaty strands of hair from one side. It took a few seconds for what she saw to sink in. She blanched.

"Hickeys?" she groaned in a whisper. "Please, God, tell me those aren't hickeys." But the evidence was indisputable, and God was absolutely mute on the subject as she discovered more of the same on the other side. She averted her gaze as she leaned stiff-armed against the counter, hung her head, and took several shaky breaths.

Chapel, you have done some incredibly stupid things in your lifetime, but this will probably top them all, she thought forlornly. The worst of it was, she didn't even remember what happened. But maybe that was a blessing in disguise. Taking one more deep breath, she exhaled slowly and steeled herself to look back in the mirror. The wild woman glared back. Definitely not a pretty sight.

"Okay, Chapel. So you're stark naked in an unknown man's bathroom, you have more hickeys than an adolescent after a hot session on her parents' couch, and you look like the proverbial whore after a hard Saturday night," she spoke to the mirror in a clipped tone. "So what's to be so upset about?"

There were a few beats of silence.

"Plenty," she answered back.

Sighing in miserable resignation, Chapel did a quick physical assessment of the rest of her body. Although sore all over, she didn't really have any pain anywhere specific except her head, and that was easing up quickly. She turned and glanced back into the mirror over her shoulder to inspect her back. That looked okay, at least what she could see of it. She turned back around and continued the exam.

Shoulders? Check. Arms? Check. Breasts? Check ... and still defying gravity quite nicely, thank you. Ribs and abdomen? Check.

Her gaze moved lower.

There were what looked to be a few telling bruises on her inner thighs, but on closer scrutiny, the dark areas seemed to be something else. Chapel swiped a fingertip across one of them, expecting to feel a little pain. It smudged. It was also sticky. Tentatively, she brought her finger to her nose and inhaled. The scent was at once sweet and familiar. Chocolate?! Sweet Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, she had chocolate on the inside of her thighs?! Now she was really starting to regret not being able to remember. She must have had one helluva good time. You'd think a girl would at least remember something like that, no matter how bombed out of her skull.

"Chocolate," she mused softly outloud, and in spite of herself, her reflection gave her a small, sardonic grin in return.

There were other signs of just how good a time she'd had, and it didn't take a medical professional to deduce exactly what had taken place. She also had no doubt it had been consensual as there were no signs of any violence on her body, and no sense of lingering fear. In short, she and some lucky mystery man had screwed their brains out. The nagging question now, of course, was... Who?

Chapel sat down on the john, crossed her legs and propped her chin in her hand. Her head was clearing as the headache eased away, but she had been too groggy and in too much pain when she first woke up to take note of her surroundings. She couldn't remember much about the cabin outside the bathroom door except it had been uncomfortably warm and she had been sleeping in a bed. Period. She didn't remember a body lying next to her either, but that was small comfort. Considering her state of mind at the time, an elephant could have been cuddled to her backside and she probably wouldn't have noticed.

Chapel sat for several long minutes, staring at the closed door, deliberating what to do next. Maybe there was nobody out there. Maybe whoever he was had awakened earlier and left, leaving her to shower and dress, then leave his cabin discreetly and with a little dignity still intact. Yeah, and maybe he's awake and waiting for you in bed wearing nothing but a smile and a hard-on, and anticipating an encore performance, she thought miserably. And how will you deal with that, Missy? Hmmm?

Chapel sighed heavily. One thing for sure, she couldn't hole up in the head forever. Sooner or later, Mystery Man was bound to come through that door in search of relief, and then where would she be? Finally, she shrugged. Well, if she had to face him, at least she would face him clean. She smelled of sweat and sex -- and maybe just a hint of chocolate -- and needed a shower in the worst way. And she definitely had to do something about the raccoon eyes and mop of hair. If she were about to die of mortal embarrassment, then Christine Chapel would meet that death looking her best, or, at least as good as she could under present circumstances.

With one last sigh, she got up and went back to the medicine cabinet and started rummaging around for toothpaste.

* * *

Spock awoke with a start. His eyes snapped open and he realized immediately something was amiss. For one thing, he was not in his bed, but was on his stomach on the deck, wedged between his bunk and the bulkhead. His nose was halfway buried in a pillow and a bedsheet was tangled around his legs. On the deck? And he never slept on his stomach. Almost simultaneously he noted he was also nude. He never slept nude. And to awaken nude and on his stomach on the deck of his quarters did not bode well. Did not bode well at all.

Cautiously, Spock pushed up on his elbows and peered over the edge of the bed. Yes, it was his cabin. The firepot was in its usual spot, flame still burning, and the antique Vulcan weapons were hanging where they always did. None were missing, thank the Gods of his Fathers, and even more importantly, the bed was empty. He felt a most illogical and profound sense of relief upon this discovery, although he wasn't quite sure why he should feel such relief. What he mostly felt was confused.

None too gracefully, he disentangled his legs from the sheet and climbed up onto the bed. He sat there a few moments, surveying the scene around him. Yes, these were his quarters, but in notable disarray. There were articles of clothing strewn across the floor from the outer cabin and leading into the sleeping alcove. From his current point of view, Spock could see his uniform and boots, and some sort of long stemmed flowers. Red roses? His brows knitted together and, just as he began to ponder the unlikely presence of the roses, his eyes caught on something else and an immediate lump formed in his throat. He swallowed past it as he continued to stare.

It was another uniform. A female uniform in life science blue. And there were other pieces of clothing next to it -- regulation hose, a bra, and a pair of matching black panties. He sighed and closed his eyes, fighting a sudden wave of panic.

Calm, he told himself. He must remain calm. It would be totally illogical to jump to conclusions with so few facts, in spite of what the circumstantial evidence implied. What bothered him more than the state of his person or his quarters, however, was the fact that he couldn't remember anything past the first few minutes he and Adams had beamed back to the Enterprise from the abandoned research station they had been investigating. He remembered checking in with the Captain in the transporter room, then both he and Adams heading for Sickbay for the required medical exam. They both had entered the turbolift and he had ordered its ascent. Then ... nothing. What had happened? And was he the only one affected?

Obviously not, he thought dryly, as he opened his eyes and his gaze fell once again on the female uniform. Its mere presence in his quarters was testament enough. At least he would be spared facing that individual at present, he thought gratefully, as he appeared to be completely alone in his cabin now. There would be time enough later to discover the owner of the discarded garments.

Spock rolled and swung his legs over the far side of the bunk, taking a moment to do a quick physical assessment. There was a faint trace of a headache, but other than that he 'felt' fine. In fact, physically, he felt quite good: well rested, even relaxed, in spite of his present circumstances. Fascinating. Whatever had incapacitated him had not harmed his body, only his mind. Which, for a Vulcan, was by far the greater of two evils. He must call McCoy. Maybe the doctor would be able to explain what had happened. Then he would speak with the Captain. Yes, that's what he needed to do.

Feeling somewhat reassured now that he had made a decision on a course of action, Spock stood up and started for the intercom in the outer part of his cabin just as his bare foot came down on something hard on the deck. Curious, he bent to retrieve the object from the deck and held up it in the light. Both eyebrows shot up in surprise. The object, or rather objects, was a pair of antique style Terran handcuffs, joined together by a short length of chain and lined with some kind of soft animal pelt or facsimile. He stared at them, confused. What could possibly...? Suddenly, his entire body flushed with unnatural heat and he sat back down on the edge of the bed hard. No, this couldn't possibly be! He had read such erotica in his younger days at the Academy, but this ... this...Well, it didn't bear thinking about.

As if the object in his hand had suddenly turned red hot, Spock tossed the handcuffs onto his bedside table where they clanked into and knocked over a small glass tumbler. A thick, dark, viscous goo started to slowly ooze out of the tumbler onto the table's surface and spread into a puddle, crawling toward the edge.

Spock reacted instinctively. He grabbed the tumbler and set it upright, unable to avoid getting some of the substance on his fingertips in the process. He stared at them a moment, then brought his fingers to his nose and sniffed. It smelled sweet and vaguely familiar. Experimentally, he lightly touched one fingertip to his tongue and again his eyebrows shot up.

Chocolate: The substance was definitely some kind of chocolate sauce. And chocolate had a most unusual effect on Vulcans. It wasn't illegal on his home planet -- precisely -- but its consumption was unquestionably frowned upon and considered socially unacceptable. His mother had it imported from Earth and always kept a stash of it in their kitchen at home, stating she had given up many things to live on Vulcan, but no Human being should have to suffer through life without chocolate. Sarek seemed to turn a blind eye to Amanda's weakness, but Spock occasionally wondered if his mother sometimes slipped some of the substance to Sarek in his food, just to make life a little more interesting. Even more heretical, he wondered if Sarek knew.

Spock shook himself from these ruminations and hastily retrieved the rumpled bed sheet. He wiped his hand clean then did the same to the tabletop, before wadding the sheet up and stuffing it into the laundry chute. He would not think about the chocolate now. As with the handcuffs, it didn't bear thinking about. But his fingers were still sticky with it and, for just an instant, he was tempted to pop them into his mouth. Instead, he pushed up from the bed and strode toward the head. The call to McCoy could wait the few minutes it would take for him to shower and dress. Aside from the stickiness of the chocolate, he felt unclean, as if his entire body was covered in dried sweat. That did bear thinking about either.

* * *

For the second time that morning, Kirk walked into Sickbay in search of McCoy. He found the doctor in his office sitting at his desk, studying a report. "Well, Bones, is it safe to assume the crisis is over?"

McCoy looked up, his expression nearly blank with fatigue. "Yeah, the crisis is over, but we're starting to get calls from all over the ship as people gradually come around. So far, no one seems to have been injured. Not physically, anyway. But there's going to be a lot of red faces around here for the next couple of days. And I've got a feeling I'm going to have to hang out my psychiatry shingle for a while."

He paused and sighed, then a tired grin twitched at the corners of his mouth. "But if there was any legal way I could distill this little bug in a bottle, I'd be rich beyond my wildest dreams overnight. In fact, I'm pretty sure that's what its creators had in mind. There's never been a so-called aphrodisiac anywhere near this potent. At least, none I can find on record. This little baby was deliberately engineered to do precisely what it did. It's a designer virus, Jim. Totally illegal in the civilian sector, of course, unless the proper permits have been granted. But it must have been what they were working on at the research station before it got away from them. No wonder it was abandoned. Whichever pharmaceutical corporation or genetics firm sponsored this project is going to be in some pretty hot water if we can track them down. That's probably why there was no warning beacon. And I doubt we'll find much left in the way of evidence, either."

"Oh, we'll track them down all right, Bones. You have my word on that," Kirk responded vehemently. "As soon as everyone recovers and you think it's safe, I intend to send over a second team to do a more in-depth investigation."

"That could be a while," McCoy warned, then changed the subject. "I hated having to dispense treatment through the ventilation system, but I didn't have much of a choice. This virus is totally air born and it worked out to be the best method of attacking it as well." He paused and shook his head. "The minute Spock and Adams stepped foot back onboard the Enterprise, it was all over. All they had to do was breath. Once in the air supply, it spread faster than anything I've ever seen. On top of that, the damned thing kept mutating on us and was resistant as hell. It was pure dumb luck we happened on a treatment when we did."

"I'm just glad you did." Kirk reached up and rubbed one temple. "Although, I wish the cure hadn't packed such a wallop," he grinned feebly. "Beside the mother of all headaches, my memory is shot full of gaping holes."

"Sorry about that, Jim. A few unavoidable side effects we didn't have time to iron out, from both the virus and the treatment. Fortunately, they're only temporary. It's just damned lucky there were enough of us immune to this thing to hold down the fort, especially up on the bridge, since both you and Spock were, uh ... unavailable. Otherwise..." McCoy let his words trail off. No sense in stating the obvious. That they might all still be humping away, oblivious to all other concerns for God knew how long before the virus either ran its course, or they literally fucked themselves to death.

Kirk flushed a little at McCoy's words. "Yes, we were lucky. But I don't like depending on luck, Bones. Not when it comes to my ship and crew."

Both men fell silent a moment. Finally, Kirk cleared his throat. "Have you heard from our first officer yet?"

"Nope," McCoy answered shortly. "I figure he'll call us soon enough when he wakes up. As it stands, he's going to have enough to keep him in heavy meditation for at least a month."

"Then some of the rumors I've been hearing this morning are true?"

"Yep. Saw it for myself. They were acting like a couple of lovesick teenagers."

Kirk sighed heavily. "I was afraid of that. I don't remember much about the past fifteen hours, but one memory seems to stand out. Until now, I thought it was my imagination or some sort of hallucination, but I could have sworn I saw Spock kiss Christine last night. Right in the corridor next to his quarters. And it wasn't just a little peck on the cheek, either. He had her pinned up against the bulkhead and was ... well, let's just say it was intense. By then I wasn't in any shape to intervene. I had my own problems," Kirk added, his complexion flushing pink as a flash of another memory suddenly came to mind.

McCoy shook his head. "Yeah, well, there's going to be a lot of people on this ship with a lot of regrets before this day is over. Spock and Christine among them."

"You really think so? About Chapel, I mean," Kirk clarified. "Think she'll really regret it? Seems to me she may have gotten what she always wanted."

McCoy glared at Kirk, his lips drawing into a thin line. "I'm going to pretend like I didn't hear that asinine statement, Jim. And just for the record, it was Spock who made a beeline for Christine, not the other way around. I know. I was here when it happened."

Kirk had the good grace to look contrite and held his hands up in front of him defensively. "Whoa, Bones! I didn't mean to hit a raw nerve, or any disrespect for Chapel."

"Well, it was disrespectful! That kind of statement really pisses me off! Christine Chapel is a damned fine nurse and Human being. She works hard ... not only here in Sickbay, but in the labs, too. She doesn't really have to, you know. It's not even in her job description. But she does it. And you know why? Because it's needed, because she's good at it, and because that's just the kind of person she is. But do you think anybody on this ship sees any of that? No! All they can remember is a bowl of plomeek soup smashed against the bulkhead, and the Vulcan First Officer dressing her down in public. That's all they know of Christine Chapel ... until they come in here -- hurt, sick, or dying. I wish I had a credit for every time Chris had to assist me put your ungrateful hide back together! Spock's too, for that matter."

"I'm sorry, Bones," Kirk replied quietly, genuinely ashamed. McCoy was right. How many times had he awakened on a medibed to find Chapel's calm presence at his side and felt immediately reassured, cared for, watched over? Too many to remember.

"You ought to be," McCoy grumbled, somewhat mollified, but also a little chagrined by his tirade. He was achingly tired.

Kirk studied his CMO's face. "You're really worried about her, aren't you?"

"Of course, I am," McCoy answered irritably. "Why shouldn't I be? I've looked for her everywhere on the ship I can think of. Everywhere, that is, except one place."

"Spock's quarters," Kirk guessed.

McCoy sighed, then nodded confirmation. "I've reached for the intercom a dozen times, but I just can't seem to make myself go through with it. I don't want to cause her any more pain and embarrassment. Spock either, for that matter. They'll both have to face it soon enough, if they haven't already."

Kirk propped one hip on McCoy's desk and folded his arms across his chest. "Look, we don't know what actually happened between them." At McCoy's look, Kirk amended his statement. "Okay, suppose they did do what we suspect. Practically everyone on this ship was doing it. We can't change it. Can't turn back the clock and make it all go away. All we can do is try and be here for them ... as their friends."

McCoy shook his head. "I don't think you realize just how much Christine loves Spock, Jim. I know I didn't. Not for a long time, anyway. I mean, that woman really loves him, heart and soul. She puts up a good front most of the time, but something like this could be devastating for her. And I can just hear what Spock would have to say on the subject," he added sarcastically.

"Love is not logical," Kirk offered.

"Something along those lines," McCoy agreed. He was thoughtful a moment. "Still, there may be hope for that green-blooded, walking computer yet. I never saw such a look of raw naked desire on a man's face as when Spock came charging in here looking for Christine. Not even that time on Vulcan. I should have known something was up then. I mean, he just breezed right past me and marched straight over to her, insisting he needed to talk to her 'privately'. And then ... well, they moved off to a corner and I really couldn't hear clearly what he was saying, but I could hear the tone of his voice, could see the way he was looking at her..." McCoy paused and shook his head. "Poor Chris didn't stand a chance. She just sort of ... melted. I'm sure the virus hit her about the same time. Spock was standing so close. Then Spock whisked her out the door before I knew which end was up. Shortly afterwards all hell broke loose, and I haven't seen or heard from either of them since."

"How long you going to give them?"

McCoy glanced at the chronometer on his desk. "I don't know. As of 0700 hours this morning, they're both technically AWOL," he responded. "Then again, so is more than three quarters of the crew. But to tell you the truth, I need my nurse back. I have a feeling things are going to hit the fan, and I'm going to need Chris here at full capacity. And I'm sure you could use Spock on the bridge."

Kirk nodded and straightened up. "Yes, I could use him. Scotty and Uhura have been on duty over twenty-four hours and need to be relieved. In fact, I'm going to the bridge now to see if I can send at least one of them to bed. As far as Spock and Chapel are concerned, I'll leave that up to your discretion, Doctor. Just keep me posted."

"Of course, Captain."

After Kirk's departure McCoy sat and stared at nothing in particular, his thoughts still troubled. He reached for the intercom, snatched his hand back, then sighed in self-disgust. Embarrassment be damned! This time he pressed the button without hesitation.

"Sickbay to Commander Spock. Please acknowledge."

* * *

Spock had just taken a few steps in the direction of the bathroom when his intercom signaled. Suppressing a sigh, he crossed to his desk and hit the audio only button. "Spock here, Doctor."

He was met with an uncharacteristic moment of silence, then heard McCoy clear his throat. "Spock, it's good to hear your voice. Look, uh, we need to talk," he began uncomfortably. "I know you probably don't remember much about yesterday or last night, but there was a problem when you and Adams beamed back from that research station, and--"

"I had already surmised as much, Doctor," Spock interrupted dryly. "In fact, it is most fortunate you have called, as I was about to contact you. It seems I have awakened to find myself in rather ... peculiar circumstances. I was hoping you could provide some explanation. And you are correct. I find I have no recall of the past fifteen point eight hours. I find this most ... disturbing."

Another silence, then, "I'll give you the full rundown in a minute, Spock. But first I need to know one thing."

At this cryptic reply, Spock rose one eyebrow. "Yes, Doctor?"

"Uh ... well ... uh ... I've been worried, and... Oh hell! Is Chris there by any chance?"

For just a moment, Spock stood stunned as the full implication of McCoy's question hit home. His eyes went immediately to the female clothing still lying on the deck. In particular the bra. His mind did some quick calculations.

"Spock, you still there?"

Spock closed his eyes and took a deep breath, before opening them again to stare at the incriminating evidence. There was no longer any doubt about the wearer's identity. "Yes, Doctor, I am still here. The answer to your question is, no, Miss Chapel is not currently..."

At that very moment the bathroom door hissed open and Christine Chapel started to step out, clad only in a very short towel held with one arm across her breasts. She froze in the doorway as her gaze met Spock's in shocked recognition. Their eyes locked for an eternal moment, then Chapel's gaze dropped involuntarily to sweep over his body before hastily looking away. "Oh, shit!"

"What was that, Spock?" McCoy asked, his voice concerned. "I didn't quite hear you."

Spock stood rooted to the spot, unable to tear his gaze from Chapel as she dropped hers. She remained absolutely still in the bathroom doorway, the brighter light from behind outlining her form and catching on her hair, creating a soft golden halo where it fell tousled and damp to her shoulders. The towel did little to hide the none-too-subtle curves of her body and suggested even more. He felt an involuntary pulse in his groin and, suddenly remembering his own nudity, hastily pulled his desk chair in front of him. I am Vulcan. I am in control. I am Vulcan. I am...

"Blast it, Spock! Answer me!" McCoy's agitation was now obvious and growing by the second. "So help me, Mister, if I have to come down there--"

"That won't be necessarry, Doctor," Spock interrupted, his voice patently calmer than the rest of him at that moment. "I was mistaken. Miss Chapel is indeed here. I can also attest she appears to be unharmed. We will speak later."

"Just a minute, Spock! Put Chris on the--"

Spock cut the transmission.

A long, uncomfortable silence settled between the two people in the quiet room, each not daring to make a move. Finally, the Vulcan cleared his throat.

"Miss Chapel, it appears we find ourselves in a somewhat ... unfortunate and compromising situation," he began uneasily. "As I have no recall as to how this situation came about, I can offer you little more than my apologies."

Chapel didn't comment right away. Finally, she looked at him, her face shaded a deep pink as she peered up through damp bangs and tried to pull the inadequate terrycloth tighter around her. "A bigger towel would be nice. You really should have the quartermaster issue you some."

It was obvious Chapel found their circumstances as painfully embarrassing as he did and Spock suddenly appreciated her attempt to inject a little levity into the situation. He allowed his facial features to relax in the Vulcan equivalent of a smile. "Indeed, until now, I had not thought them necessary. I shall give your suggestion consideration."

Chapel let out a breath she wasn't even aware she had been holding, grateful and a little surprised by Spock's reaction. She had expected cold Vulcan indignation, but instead had to grin the tiniest bit at his dry wit. It was one of the things she loved most about him. But they weren't out of the woods: not yet. Her grin faded and she licked her lips, mind floundering for something to say that would extricate them both without further damage to their dignity. Nothing adequate presented itself, so she finally just plunged ahead.

"I don't remember anything either, Mister Spock. I'm at a loss as to what happened to cause ... uh ... whatever happened," she stammered lamely. "If it helps any, I'm sorry, too."

"Exactly what happened does not appear to be in question, Miss Chapel," Spock responded dryly. "Merely why. Until such time as we have an answer, perhaps apologies are premature. Doctor McCoy has indicated such an explanation will be forthcoming. It would therefor be illogical at this point to either place or assume blame for actions neither of us may be responsible for. Don't you agree?"

Chapel quickly averted her gaze as she realized it was starting to wander from Spock's face down to his bare chest ... and lower. The desk chair managed to hide that part of his anatomy, but her mind stubbornly filled in the blanks. The room suddenly seemed terribly warm and she felt perspiration gathering above her lip. She really needed to get out of there!

"Agreed, Mister Spock. But speaking of McCoy, if I know Leonard, he just might make good on his threat and come here looking for me." She sighed tiredly. "And I don't think I have the energy to deal with an irate Southerner right now. If you'll excuse me, I think I'll get dressed and report to Sickbay. I'm fairly certain I'm late for duty," she added sarcastically.

"We both are, Lieutenant. Two point seven hours to be exact," Spock supplied automatically.

At the irritated glance Chapel shot him, Spock shifted uncomfortably, suddenly feeling even more awkward and at a loss as how to proceed. He was still quite naked and there was considerable distance between him and the robe hanging in his closet. He couldn't just roll the chair along in front of him. That would be too absurd.

He watched as Chapel's gaze went to the deck of his sleeping alcove, obviously searching for her discarded clothing. She didn't make a move from the doorway, however, and he quite understood. The towel was inadequate. One false move and she would reveal much more than what was presently showing. Not that he hadn't seen it before, he reminded himself, he just couldn't remember it.

"Perhaps it would be best if you were to simply retreat back into the bathroom, Miss Chapel," Spock suggested. "I will then be at liberty to acquire more adequate covering, and will retrieve your clothing and hand it to you through the door."

For the first time since this disastrous encounter started, Chapel seemed to relax and gave him a shy, tentative smile. With her hair down in damp, unruly waves, her face devoid of any make-up, and her complexion still slightly pink with discomfort, Chapel suddenly appeared very young and vulnerable to Spock. And disturbingly attractive.

"Thank you, Mister Spock. I think that's a stellar idea."

Without further comment, Chapel ducked back inside the bathroom and the door hissed shut, leaving a thoroughly disconcerted Vulcan in her wake.

* * *

Chapel sat back with a tired sigh and turned off the recorder, grateful to have the day's tasks behind her. She was alone in the outer offices of Sickbay, free to bide her time until her relief showed up. It seemed too quiet after the chaos of the past several days and, in spite of her efforts to the contrary, her mind returned to the events that had caused the unusual activity.

After a very awkward and hasty retreat from Spock's cabin, Chapel had stopped by her own quarters just long enough to change into a fresh uniform, then all but ran to Sickbay. The scene that greeted her there was total confusion. Fifteen to twenty of the crew crowded the small foyer and, as McCoy and Nurse Ames moved among them, it was obvious both medics were practically dead on their feet. McCoy looked up as she walked in and scowled.

"About damned time!" he snapped, then his face fell and he shook his head. "Sorry, Chris. I didn't mean that," he said tiredly. "After what you've been through, I had no right. Come on, follow me into the exam room. I need to give you a quick once over."

Chapel shook her head. "I'm okay, Leonard. Really."

"In a pig's eye! Now come on. You know the regs. Besides, I'm gonna need you back at work and need to know you're fit for duty."

Chapel reluctantly followed McCoy into an empty exam room and lay down on the medibed he indicated. As McCoy ran his scanner over her and consulted the bio-readings overhead, he explained the virus and its symptoms, everything that had occurred in her absence. Chapel said very little in response, just a few ' uh huhs' and a nod now and then. After a few minutes, McCoy turned both machines off.

"See? I told you I was fine."

McCoy stood back a bit and folded his arms across his chest, his physician's eyes searching her face. She pushed up to sit on the edge of the bed and stared back at him defiantly.

"Physically, you're as healthy as the proverbial horse. With the possible exception of those ... um ... marks on your neck, I can't find a thing wrong with you. The virus is completely gone from your system. But what about mentally, Chris? Emotionally? How do you feel?"

Chapel blushed, no longer able to hold his probing gaze. "I don't want to talk about it right now. All I want to do is get back to work and put the last twenty-four hours behind me. Truth is, I don't remember anything past yesterday when ... when Spock came into Sickbay."

"That's just a side effect of the virus," McCoy informed her. "Eventually, your memory will come back. What then?"

Chapel looked up and forced a small smile to her lips. "Then I'll do what everyone else affected by this virus will have to do, Doctor. I'll deal with it." She hopped down off the medibed and straightened her uniform. Uncharacteristically, she had donned a scrub wrap over it and left her hair down to hide what McCoy had already found on his scanner. An hour or so with a skin regenerator would take care of the marks, but there wasn't any time just now.

McCoy's concerned gaze held hers and a wave of affection suddenly washed over her for her sometimes cranky boss and friend. Leonard truly cared about her. Sighing, she gave him a genuine grin. "Come on, Doc. We have a ship load of patients to be seen, and unless the universe has come to a screeching halt, I'm sure the flood tide has just begun."

McCoy couldn't help but return her grin as he followed her to the door. "This isn't over, Chris."

"Yeah? Well, it is for today," she tossed over her shoulder. "You don't get to play Freud just yet."

McCoy grumbled something about smart-ass nurses as they returned to the chaos out front.

That had been four days ago. Between then and now the medical staff had been pushed to their limits. Every member of the crew had to be examined and cleared for active duty. The Command crew came first, of course, and that meant facing Spock much sooner that she was prepared to do. The First Officer caught her eye as he later walked in to Sickbay and she felt herself blush under that dark gaze. Fortunately, Ames stepped in to assist McCoy and Chapel gratefully excused herself to pick up the workload elsewhere.

It wasn't hard. The tasks facing Sickbay personnel were almost monumental and she immersed herself in them over the next few days. When she wasn't on duty in Sickbay, Chapel was in the labs, pushing herself to exhaustion. Kirk had made good on his promise and sent a second team to the research station. They brought back more specimens of the virus which had plagued the Enterprise, plus others they discovered in the works, all safely contained this time. Research teams worked around the clock, searching for that tell-tale tag that would lead to the identity of the viruses manufacturers. So far, they hadn't found it, but they were closing in. And exhaustion was good. Exhaustion meant she didn't have to think as she fell into bed each night and a deep and dreamless sleep. Dreamless, that is, until last night.

Last night Chapel had dreamed: of heat, of raw sexual excitement and large hands caressing her body as a deep, sensuous laugh she had never thought to hear floated above her. She awakened too early, bathed in sweat and near orgasm, her breath coming in pants. With a groan, she stumbled out of bed to the shower, but as she stood trembling under the warm flow of water, the sexual tension stubbornly refused to go away, leaving her irritable and frustrated. She knew it wasn't a return of the virus. She had been scanned and decontaminated before she left the lab as required. No, this was something within her, and she knew it was going to be a long day.

Chapel squirmed in her seat and tapped her stylus against the desktop impatiently. Where the hell was her relief? Shouldn't Sanders and M'Benga be here by now? Even though there were no patients at present, she couldn't just leave Sickbay. Regulations required a physician and nurse be on duty at all times. McCoy was sacked out in the call room, still trying to catch up on much needed sleep. Although he had not approached her since that first day, Chapel knew it was coming and she wanted to make her escape fast, before he had a chance to corner her. Once McCoy started his probing, she knew she just might cave in, might allow the memories to take hold and solidify. And she wasn't ready for that. Not yet. Right now she was in a state of denial, and she liked it that way.

The sound of the Sickbay doors hissing open brought Chapel out of her preoccupation as Sanders walked in, right on time. "Thank God you're here, Anne," she stood up with a welcoming smile. "I was about to commit hara-kiri from sheer boredom."

Sanders returned Chapel's smile and glanced around the quiet Sickbay foyer. "That dead, huh? Where's the CMO?"

"Still sacked out in the call room," Chapel informed her. "But I'm going to let M'Benga wake Sleeping Beauty when he gets here. Len's been a real grump today."

Sanders quiet laugh filled the room. "Have a heart, Chris. He's got to be exhausted."

Chapel shrugged, giving in a little. "I know, but that still doesn't make it any easier to live with him." She handed the shift padd to Sanders. "Nothing of any great consequence to report. Yeoman Delaney has a mild case of gastroenteritis -- probably all those spicy Andorian foods she has a penchant for -- but she'll be fine. I placed her on partial bedrest in her quarters, increased fluids, and a bland diet for the next few days, plus an electrolyte supplement every twelve hours. Her next hypo is due at twenty hundred hours. Ensign Martin pulled yet another muscle -- a hamstring this time -- and is currently iced down in his cabin. We'll be using alternate heat and cold therapy, plus an analgesic and mild muscle relaxant to make life a little more bearable for him. The therapy and drug schedules are on his chart. And don't let him talk you into a massage," Chapel added with a grin. "He's tried that on me twice already this shift."

Sanders laughed. "You have to hand it to him, Chris. The guy is relentless."

"Well I, for one, will be glad when he finally gets himself a girlfriend. All that macho physical exertion in the gym has got to be wearing him down, and I'm getting a little tired of seeing his face here in Sickbay."

"Amen," Sanders agreed. "Ironic, though, that he was one of the few crew not affected by the virus. It might have actually done him some good," she chuckled.

"Chalk it up to the capriciousness of Fate," Chapel shrugged, anxious to change the subject. "Well, that's it," she added with a note of finality. "Hope things stay quiet for you. Starfleet has granted a few more days here to wrap up our investigation and finish decontaminating that station and shutting it down, so nothing too out of the ordinary should happen."

"You heading for the labs?"

"Not tonight," Chapel answered tiredly. "Sanchez and Williams have it covered. Tonight, I'm just going to kick back, enjoy an old holo-vid movie, and pig out on popcorn. You know, the kind covered in hot butter and salt? Calories and swollen ankles be damned," she added with a grin. "I need a break. John is on back-up call, but you can reach me in my quarters if you need me."

"Thanks, Boss, but I think we can handle it," Sanders responded sarcastically. She patted Chapel on the shoulder and gave her a gentle push toward the door. "Now get on out of here. You deserve a little R&R. Everyone else is certainly taking advantage of the lull."

Chapel nodded gratefully. "Good night, Anne. See you in the morning."

"Goodnight, Chris."

As Chapel made her way to the turbolift, she breathed a sigh of relief. Another day without McCoy's probing. With any luck, she might even pull it off a few more.

* * *

The flame in the ancient firepot danced and flickered in the near darkness, but gave no comfort to the man staring into its depths ... or answers. Spock shifted, attempting to find a more comfortable position in which to continue his meditations. He was seated cross-legged on the end of his bed. The same bed he and Christine Chapel had...

In a rare peak of frustration, Spock shoved off the bed and let his momentum carry him to the outer cabin where he pulled out the desk chair and sat down. Out of habit, he reached to activate the computer terminal, then stopped himself and let his hand drop to the desktop. It was no use. Diversions had proved inadequate. The images he sought to dispel stubbornly clung to his consciousness in lurid, vivid detail, and for one of the few times in his life, Spock cursed his Vulcan heritage.

McCoy's prediction had proved correct, of course. Spock's memory of the events that had taken place in those missing fifteen point eight hours had returned ... in perfect, photographic clarity. But in spite of all his efforts to relegate them to an orderly niche outside his consciousness, he had so far been unable to do so.

Illogical! He was a Vulcan. He should be able to accomplish that simple task with ease. A child could do it. Yet, even his sleep had begun to be disturbed by the images in the form of explicit, erotic dreams. This morning he had awakened sexually aroused and on the verge of ejaculation, and it had taken considerable effort to control his body's reaction. Only on the bridge did he find some respite, as his mind became totally immersed in his duties. But even there, the memories would occasionally break through in unguarded moments, and by the end of his shift he found himself genuinely mentally and physically fatigued.

Spock stood up, annoyed with his body's reaction yet again, and took a moment to adjust his heart rate and blood pressure. Within seconds, they returned to more normal levels and the uncomfortable tightness in his groin subsided. He began to pace.

Perhaps he was still suffering from the effects of the virus in some way that had so far gone undetected by the bioscans. He could go to McCoy and seek the doctor's counsel in hopes the Human would be able to help him find a solution. It was possible McCoy would have insights he himself obviously lacked. But even as he contemplated this, somewhere within him Spock knew that was not the answer. His scans had repeatedly been negative for any trace of the tenacious bug, all his physical and mental findings within standard norm. No, it had to be something else.

Spock continued pacing, his mind in unaccustomed turmoil as he grappled for explanations. After a few minutes, as he again examined the problem, and inadvertently specific memories, a suspicion began to take hold. The suspicion quickly grew and he abruptly stopped and stood perfectly still. Yes, it was possible. Not only possible, but entirely probable. Suddenly, Spock knew what his conscious mind had refused to acknowledge until now. It had been there in his subconscious all along, even before the memories had returned to him, had caused the dreams he experienced. In retrospect, it was the only plausible answer.

Slowly, Spock returned to his desk and sat down, steepling his fingers before him. He closed his eyes and took several calming breaths before opening them again and staring into nothingness. He would have to tell her, of course. There was really no other alternative. Without her cooperation, the issue could not be resolved. Even then, it might be too late. And if it could not be resolved? What then?

At one time, Spock knew Christine Chapel had had feelings for him. She had told him so on more than one occasion, the latest when they had been on Platonius and forced into an intimacy neither had sought. It had been a humiliating experience for both of them and best forgotten. Spock had shut it away inside himself, as he had done so many times in the past when confronted with the discomfort of unwanted emotion. As he had attempted to do this time. But that had been seven point six standard months ago, and since then he had rarely seen Chapel outside her duties as Head Nurse or working in the labs. In hindsight, it seemed to him that she had been purposely avoiding him, although until now he had not taken notice. Did she have feelings for him still? And what of his feelings for her?

Although he had occasionally allowed himself to acknowledge the warm, pleasing effect her presence sometimes had on him when she attended him in Sickbay, he had thought those times inconsequential and harmless enough. It seemed to please her to care for him, and in return, he was pleased. Illogical, of course, as she was basically only doing her duty, but true nonetheless. Yet it seemed now those brief exchanges of emotional warmth had not been so harmless after all.

When the virus hit him in the turbolift, Christine Chapel was suddenly all he could think about. His mind had been filled with images of her singularly startling blue eyes, her full lips pulled in a smile, the pleasing curves and angles of her body. A heat had risen within him, almost taking him to his knees, followed by an overwhelming sense of urgency. He had to get to Sickbay. She was in Sickbay. He had passed several other crew women in the corridors on the way, but none of them had even warranted a glance. He had burned for her...for Christine!

Spock sighed and again closed his eyes. As he did, another memory flashed into his mind. Of Christine, standing in his bathroom doorway in a towel, face flushed a pretty pink, her expression shocked ... openly vulnerable. Then another look had come into her eyes ... but was hastily swept away as she averted her gaze. That look had been desire. He recognized it and -- for a brief moment -- had felt it echoed within himself. Felt it now.

Spock opened his eyes and reached for the intercom. He had come to a decision. He would go to Chapel and make an attempt to resolve this issue one way or the other. She was an intelligent woman and would no doubt see the logic behind such a need. But as he started to depress the switch to signal her, he stopped. There was a possibility she would refuse to see him, that she may not wish to discuss or be confronted with what had taken place between them. Humans were unpredictable beings, and in his experience, Human females especially so. Yet, until such time as they confronted this together, he knew there could be no rest ... for either of them.

Spock stood up and straightened his tunic. He would not give her the option.

* * *

Chapel settled in against the pillows propped behind her back and hit the play button on the holo-vid remote. Placing a huge bowl of warm, buttery popcorn in her lap, she sighed contentedly as the opening credits began to play. It was an old movie -- really old -- but it was one of her favorites and never failed to ease the tension and let her lose herself in the story. And she needed that tonight; needed not to think, not to feel, not to do anything outside the realm of fantasy the movie would provide for her, even if it were for just a few short hours. As the names of the stars began to scroll across the screen in big letters she reached into the bowl without looking, took a big handful of warm, salty popcorn, and began stuffing it into her mouth one and two pieces at a time. The crunch and flavor rolled upon her tongue and she hummed with the decadent pleasure of it. Better than sex, she thought dreamily, then put a halt to that line of thinking. No, she wasn't going to go there. She focused her attention on the holo-vid. The music subsided and the last credit faded as the first scene of dialogue began.

Her door buzzer sounded.


Annoyed, Chapel set the bowl to one side and hit the off button on the remote as she climbed out of bed. She smoothed the surgical scrub robe she wore back into place and cinched the tie a little tighter than was necessary in her irritation.

"Leonard, if that's you, so help me God I'm going to strangle you!" she muttered as she made her way to the door. After all, she had the privacy code on. Couldn't he see that? But it would be just like him. Since he didn't get a chance to corner her in Sickbay, he would think nothing of barging in on her when she was off-duty. Well, if that was his intention, then he was about to get an earful. The buzzer sounded again.

"Coming!" she called out irritably. She reached the door in a few strides and disengaged the privacy lock. The door hissed open and she took a deep breath to begin her tirade ... and let it out in a flat, "Oh, it's you."

Spock stood patiently in the corridor, hands behind his back and one brow raised at her less than enthusiastic greeting. "I trust I'm not disturbing you, Miss Chapel?"

Disturbing her? Hell, he always disturbed her! But she didn't say this out loud as she shook her head, feeling both deflated from her earlier pique of anger and uneasy at his presence. "Not really, Mister Spock. I was just about to watch a favorite holo-vid."

There was a moment of awkward silence, then Spock cleared his throat. "Then may I come in? There is a matter of some importance I wish to discuss with you -- privately -- and I prefer not to do so from the corridor."

Chapel realized she was just standing there and quickly moved to one side. "Of course, Mister Spock. Come in."

As Spock nodded and walked past her into the living area, Chapel glanced down at her bare legs and feet, suddenly acutely aware she had nothing on beneath the robe but a pair of panties. And not even her best panties. Not that that was of any real consequence, it just made her feel very uncomfortable, sort of embarrassed and plain at the same time. The Vulcan certainly had a gift for timing, she mused irreverently.

Spock turned to face her.

"You'll have to forgive my appearance, Mister Spock," she began, one hand going to the top of the robe where she self-consciously pulled the two sides closer together. "I wasn't expecting company. When you buzzed, I thought you were Len ... uh ... Doctor McCoy," she finished hurriedly.

Spock graced her with an upraised eyebrow as his dark gaze swept over her. "Indeed."

Chapel felt herself blush, something she had somehow managed to avoid until that moment. "That's ... that's not what I meant. All I meant was..." Chapel stopped, suddenly annoyed. What the hell was she doing, standing here explaining herself to Spock? It was none of his business who she spent her off-duty hours with, as if he cared one way or the other anyway. And she resented the implied nature of that smug 'indeed'. She crossed her arms in front of her. "You said you wanted to talk to me?"

"Yes, Lieutenant. However, it may take some time. May I be seated?" Spock knew Chapel was uncomfortable, but then she always seemed to be uncomfortable around him of late. He didn't blame her. And he had obviously intruded on her solitude. She appeared to have been 'relaxing', if he understood the Human reference correctly. But as much as he regretted disturbing her, the issue couldn't wait.

"Forgive my bad manners, Mister Spock. Please, have a seat." Chapel gestured to a sitting arrangement of two upholstered chairs and a side table between. "But if this is going to take a while, I'd like to change first before we get started. As I said, I wasn't expecting company."

Spock inclined his head slowly. "As you wish. It is not my desire that you should be uncomfortable."

And just what is your desire, Spock? she thought uneasily. She knew there could be only one reason he would seek her out this way. He obviously felt some kind of need to talk to her about what had happened between them. Ironic. The one time she just wanted to forget the damed whole thing, he was going to force her into discussing it. But she had to admit, this time was different. Unlike previous incidents between them -- the Psi 2000 debacle -- the detour to Vulcan -- Platonius -- this time had resulted in very real and physical consequences. She had tried to block the memories, keep her mind busy, but they were there, just waiting to spring themselves on her.

She shook herself mentally and went to her wardrobe. "It'll only take me a few minutes. There's some tea in the thermos on my desk and a couple of mugs beside it. Help yourself if you want."

"I require no refreshment at this time, Lieutenant. Thank you."

Chapel pulled out a long black caftan, one that would cover her completely, and turned to face him. Spock had not moved from his spot in the middle of her living area, just stood there looking at her impassively. This was going to be tough. She could already tell. She forced a smile past the butterflies beginning to take flight in her stomach. "Suit yourself. I'll be with you shortly."

Spock watched Chapel disappear into her bathroom, then slowly walked to one of the chairs and sat down. He rested his elbows against the smooth wood of the armrests and leaned back, letting his gaze roam the nurse's quarters. He had never been here before, he realized, not in the entire time they had served together. Although identical in layout to his own, on the surface Chapel's cabin appeared vastly different. For one thing, he had no casual sitting area in which to visit with friends. If he wished to socialize with other crewmembers, he simply went to the rec area. Occasionally, he went to Jim's quarters where he engaged the Captain in a game of chess, and where they were sometimes joined by McCoy or, rarely, Mister Scott. But never had he made a place to welcome others in his own quarters. Another difference between them, he mused.

His eyes continued to wonder. Not surprisingly, he noted Chapel's quarters were neat and oderly, but not obsessively so. She had a stack of medical journals and other tapes next to the viewer on her desk, along with the thermos and mugs she had mentioned earlier. There were two holographs sitting beside them, the larger one of an older couple. The man was silver haired with rugged, tanned features and piercing blue eyes. The woman next to him was pale, dark-haired, and extremely slender, almost gaunt. Her smile was an echo of Chapel's, although there was a tightness at its edges, as if it were forced. He assumed these were her parents. His gaze moved to the next holograph and, for an instant, his breath caught in his throat.

Spock pushed up and walked over to the desk and picked it up, studying it more carefully. It was Number One, smiling at something off camera. She looked different than when he had known her -- happier, less austere, younger -- but her identity was indisputable. One brow crept up. Inconceivable he had not seen the strong resemblence until now. Nor that it was not in Chapel's personnel file.

"She had that made right before she entered the Academy."

At Chapel's soft comment, Spock turned, disconcerted he had not heard her re-enter the room. Chapel moved up beside him and took the holograph from his hands. She looked at it a moment, then set it back down on the desk, her expression softening a little. "She was my older sister. Didn't you know?"

Spock clasped his hands behind his back. "I confess, Lieutenant, I did not ... until now." He paused and bowed his head slightly. "I grieve with thee."

"Thank you, Mister Spock, but I was a child when she entered the service. I don't really remember much about her, except she was larger than life to me. And a total enigma. But my mother never got over her disappearance. She died never knowing what really happened to her. And my Dad..." She shrugged and walked a few paces away, turning her back to him. "He got on with his life."

Spock's eyes followed her figure, attired entirely in black now, down to the slippers on her feet. The mood had shifted. Earlier it had been uneasy, as it usually was between them in private, but now it had grown more somber ... tense. He wanted to remain, to get to the matter which had brought him there, yet he was unsure. "Perhaps I should return another time."

He heard Chapel sigh heavily, then she turned to face him again. "Why can't we just forget it, Spock? Like everything else that has ever happened between us? Why do we have to discuss it at all? I'm willing to live with that."

Spock studied her face, saw the distress in her eyes and felt a pang of guilt that he was in part responsible for that distress. "Because I cannot 'forget it', as you say. If it were within my power, rest assured, I would have done so already."

Chapel almost winced and, too late, Spock realized how harsh his words must have sounded to her. His own anger had begun to simmer just below the surface. The anger was not for her -- she was as much a victim as he -- but for the circumstances which had ultimately brought them here, to this moment. He took a deep breath and gestured toward the chairs. "Please ... we really must talk, Christine," he said quietly, attempting to soften his earlier words.

She stared at him, then finally walked to a chair and sat down. "Okay, Spock. You win. We'll talk."

Spock hesitated a moment, then took the chair next to her and turned slightly in the seat to face her. "I realize this may be awkward for you, and I must confess, I find I am also ... uncomfortable." He paused to look down at his hands, held tightly in front of him. He willed them to relax. "I take it your memories have returned?" he asked as he looked up at her again.

Chapel's gaze didn't waver. She'd be damned if she was going to squirm in front of him. "Yes, Mister Spock, my memories have returned ... in bits and pieces at first, but I think they're mostly all there now. I haven't exactly wanted to dwell on them. I wouldn't think you would either," she added dryly.

Spock nodded. "This is true, but I find I can do little else. My remembrances of the time we spent together during the ... infection ... have begun to invade my dreams. That is why I deemed it imperative to speak with you." He watched Chapel's face closely for a reaction. At the mention of the dreams, her eyes had widened briefly, looked startled. So, it was true. "You have dreamed as well." It wasn't a question.

Chapel swallowed hard against the lump in her throat. They were both dreaming? She couldn't hold Spock's gaze any longer and looked away, focusing on the monitor on her desk. "Yes, Spock. I had a dream ... this morning. It was..." She searched for a word that would convey her meaning without revealing too much. "Vivid," she finished.

"And sexually quite stimulating."

At Spock's words, Chapel's eyes were riveted back to his. His voice had dropped to an incredibly low timbre, one she recognized in the foggy recesses of her memory. A scene flashed in her mind -- skin gliding against skin, lubricated by the sweat from their bodies -- and she felt herself flush over her entire body. His dark gaze seemed to engulf her and she felt as if she were frozen within its intensity. "Yes," she admitted in a hoarse whisper.

Spock didn't know what had possessed him to say that just now. Memories crowded his consciousness and, combined with her closeness and scent, he felt himself become suddenly and acutely aroused. His eyes were drawn to Chapel's lips -- he remembered their cool softness pressed to his -- the small cries of satisfaction that had issued from them when he-- Kroykah!

Spock clamped down hard on the sensations that threatened to overwhelm him. He had not anticipated this, but he should have, he berated himself. Until this matter was resolved, he would continue to be drawn to her, and she to him. He must take control.

"Forgive me. I should not have spoken so ... frankly." He got up and paced a few steps away, putting some distance between them, exerting control over the physiological response of his body. When he deemed it safe, he turned to look at her once again. "When we were together, something happened between us. Something for which I must apologize to you, Christine. I realize that it was the illness that precipitated the event, and perhaps it could not have been avoided. Still, I feel a responsibility."

Chapel sensed a change in Spock, could see he was struggling. The emotional and, yes, sexual tension between them had become an almost tangible thing. She could almost feel sorry for him if she were not so caught up in it herself. "This 'something', Spock ... what is it?"

Spock didn't answer right away, instead just stared at her, as if he were steeling himself against her reaction. The butterflies in her stomach banded together in a tight ball and pushed up into her diaphragm. It was difficult to breath.

"When we ... coupled ... I..." Spock paused and swallowed hard, then glanced away from her a moment, before returning his gaze. "I mind-melded with you, Christine. It is a natural instinct for a Vulcan under such circumstances, and my memories suggest you aquiesced willingly at the time. I would like to believe I would never force a meld on you, even under the influence of the virus."

Chapel felt the tension drain from her body. "No, you didn't force me," she replied quietly, giving Spock the reassurance he seemed to need from her. Was that what this was all about? He wanted her absolution? "As I recall, I was more than happy to comply with just about any request you happened to make of me," she added dryly. "I know you don't think Humans are capable of being very logical, Spock, but it would be totally unreasonable of me to hold you responsible for something beyond your control. Anything that happened between us was certainly consensual, even if we were both out of our minds." She forced herself to smile, then felt it soften, become genuine. "So you see? You're off the hook."

"Perhaps not just yet."

Chapel's smile abruptly faded and she tensed, not liking the ominous tone of Spock's voice. She held herself rigid, fearful of what he would say next. On top of it, all she really wanted to do was get up, march over to him, and plant a long, sweet wet one on those incredible lips. She remembered what those lips were capable of, and it made her want him with an ache that threatened to take her breath away. Just being in the same room with him made her sweat as she imagined she could almost feel the heat radiating off him in waves and washing over her. It wasn't fair, damn it! Dear God, would this night never be over?

"I take it there's more." Her voice came out sounding flat with her effort to keep it from shaking.

Spock shifted uncomfortably and crossed his arms in front of him, then bowed his head. His face was rigid as a stone mask, his eyes deliberately avoiding hers. He seemed to be looking intently at something on the deck. "Yes."

Chapel looked at him, bewildered. She had never seen him like this before, as if he were guilty of being an axe murderer or something. But what could possibly have happened to make Spock react in this way?

He remained silent a long time. Suddenly, she wanted to tell him she understood, knew his pain and embarrassment and that they would both come away from this unscathed. But she knew it would be a lie. It was already too late for that. Finally, Chapel took a breath. Okay, so he was going to make her drag it out of him. Typical. "What else, Spock?"

Guilt tore at Spock. How could he explain? She was Human. She didn't understand what he was ineptly trying to imply. Had she been Vulcan, she would know already and no explanations would be necessary. But she was not. He would have to be more direct.

Taking a deep breath, he looked up to find her watching him warily. Yet her expression was not totally devoid of compassion and this gave him some encouragement. "As I said, I melded with you and had the experience only happened once, perhaps this conversation would not be necessary. However, that is not the case. I melded with you repeatedly. Every time our bodies joined, our minds were joined as well."

"Yes," Chapel replied quietly. "I remember." During the melds their sexual excitement had fed off one another, had reflected back the sensations each had to the other in an endless cycle of pleasure and need. Now that she allowed herself to examine it, she knew it was the most incredible, sexually satisfying experience of her life. An expression among other crew women came to mind, one she had always thought a bit crude, but funny. 'Once you go green, there's no in between.' It wasn't so funny now, as it might prove to be painfully true.

"As a consequence of these repeated melds, I regret to inform you that a bond has formed between us," Spock continued solemnly. "It is my hope it can be severed, but I am uncertain of success. In any event, it will require us to enter into another meld to determine that possibility."

"A bond?" Chapel frowned, confused. "I've read about mental links between Vulcan couples, between Vulcan children and their parents. And it makes sense that close family ties among a telepathic race would lead to some kind of mental connection. But I don't understand how such a connection could have formed between us, Spock. I am totally psi blind."

Spock nodded, then sighed. "A bond is as you say ... a telepathic link, one that joins our minds together on a deeper level without the need to touch. But the fact that you are psi blind has little bearing on the matter, as I am not. My mother is also psi blind, yet she and my father share a complete marital bond. However, she was prepared for it. I am uncertain if a Human would be aware of a bond on a conscious level unless such preparations have taken place. Indeed, until today, I had not known a bond existed between us. It is the only logical explanation as to why I have been unable to control my reactions to the memories of our time together, nor place those memories in logical perspective in my conscious mind." Spock hesitated, then took a deep breath. "Because your memories of what took place between us have caused you to experience rather intense sexual arousal, through the bond, I have experienced that arousal as well. It would explain the nature of our dreams, the fact that they occurred approximately simultaneously."

Spock grew silent, still watching Chapel's face carefully. Her expression had not changed, but there was something in her eyes he couldn't quite read. In that moment, he longed to touch her mind, to know what effect his words had on her. But the bond was new, untested. He felt very little from her beyond uncertainty. Psi blind she might be, but he was discovering she could be quite adept at shielding her emotions when need be. "I find this to be totally unacceptable, Christine," he added quietly. "We must attempt to sever the bond immediately. For both our sakes."

At first, Chapel could only sit there, not believing what she was hearing. Her mouth went dry and her pulse began to race. She felt herself flush. And all at once, it was too much.

Almost from the beginning, she had tried to kill her love for Spock. She had dated other men, had had several short-lived affairs, but always it came back to the same thing. Spock. She had even tried self-hypnosis, then subspace psychotherapy -- too embarrassed to go to McCoy or one of the other physicians on staff -- in the hopes that it would 'cure' her of her obsession for the Vulcan. In the end, her credit account was smaller ... and nothing had worked. Finally, she had just resigned herself to her feelings, called a mental truce, and tried to get on with her life. Then had come the events on Platonius.

Platonius ... just the name of that vile place had to power to bring it all back again. She had come away hurt, confused ... humiliated, and so deeply ashamed that she could barely stand to look at herself in the mirror. She made a desperate and concerted effort to avoid Spock after that and, with few exceptions, had been fairly successful. For all she could tell, Spock hadn't even noticed. But it didn't matter. Now, in just four months, the mission would be over and she would finally be able to put some real physical distance between them. With McCoy's help, she had made concrete plans to get her MD and had been accepted by Starfleet Medical. At long last, she was going to have a life -- a future -- without finding herself tiied to a man. Just four more lousy months! Now ... this! And Spock had the gall to stand there and tell her she was to blame for their current predicament? Why you arrogant son of a...

With sudden, uncontrollable anger, Chapel shot up out of her chair and went directly to Spock, stopping less than a foot in front of him. In the flat slippers, she had to look up at him, and for some strange reason, this just added to her ire. She wasn't used to looking up at anybody. "Are you telling me this is my fault?" she asked incredulously. "That you're horny because I can't control my emotions? Well, I'm not the one who put this ... this thing in my head!" she gestured angrily to her temple. "You did that, Mister! All on your own. I didn't ask for it." She paused, trembling with rage and tried to rein it in. Why, oh, why was she letting him get to her like this? But she couldn't let go of it. Not yet.

"As I recall, you came into Sickbay looking for me. Not the other way around. The virus took away your inhibitions, stimulated your sex drive certainly, but it didn't lead you by the hand to my doorstep. There were plenty of other women on this ship you could have gone to. But you didn't, did you, Spock? So, don't stand there and give me some Vulcan bullshit about how you're turned on by what happened between us only because of this bond thing between us and my illogical Human emotions contaminating your precious Vulcan psyche!" Her voice caught as her throat constricted. She took a breath and tried to swallow past it. "Why, Spock? For the love of God, why did it have to be me?"

Spock took a step back, caught completely off-guard by Chapel's sudden outpouring of anger. He felt it battering at his shields, but also resonating within him from a different source; through the bond. Until that moment, the bond had lain mostly dormant, but now it was as if a switch had been thrown and he was bombarded with the mass of her conflicting emotions. Pain ... anger ... humiliation. Love? But above all this, there was a deep and aching exhaustion; an exhaustion born of years of struggling with her feelings for him and her own self loathing because of them. He never knew, never realized... "Christine, I ... I am sorry," he began haltingly. "I didn't mean to imply--"

Chapel cut him off, impatient with his response. "You keep saying that to me, Spock. You might even mean it. Hell, I don't know! But that doesn't answer my question." She fixed him with an icy blue glare. "So I'll answer it for you. Because you like having me make myself crazy over you! It makes you feel less alone, feeds your Vulcan male ego to know there is at least one woman who is yours ... just for the asking. Never mind that you never had any intentions of acting on it, it was enough to know I was there, in case you ever got desperate enough to actually need me. Especially after T'Pring divorced you."

At Spock's startled expression, Chapel felt a grim satisfaction that she had managed to hit home, maybe inflict a little pain in return. It wasn't very compassionate, but she wasn't feeling compassionate just now. What she was feeling was used, hurt, and pissed as hell. "Did you think I didn't know? Really, Spock. I'm not a complete airhead. After all, research is my specialty."

"You are wrong," Spock stated flatly, feeling his own anger surfacing and trying to control it. "I never encouraged your feelings for me."

"Didn't you?" Chapel came back hotly. "Funny, I don't think I it realized myself until just this moment, but now that I really look at it, examine the interactions between us these past few years, the more I believe I'm right. You've been stringing me along, Spock. Oh, you may have not been consciously aware of it, I'll grant you that much. And it was certainly subtle. But in the end, that's the reality of the situation." She paused, blew out a sigh. "Not very pretty, is it?"

Chapel took several steps closer to him, her anger keeping her unnaturally calm. Once again she could feel the heat of his body, could almost feel his breath against her skin. For a brief instant, her arousal warred with her rage, then her rage won out. She tilted her head back and stared into his eyes, challenging him with her own. "Sever the bond," she said deadly quiet. "I don't want it. And if it's within your abilities to do so, kill my love for you as well. It's brought me nothing but grief ... and I've had enough of grief. If you have any regard for me at all, you'll do this for me, Spock." Still looking up at him, Chapel slowly and deliberately closed her eyes, offering herself to his touch ... daring him to touch her.

Spock stared down at her upturned face, struck dumb by her words. Could she be right? Had he unknowingly encouraged her feelings for him as a means of his own survival? He didn't want to believe he could be so coldly calculating and insensitive as to cultivate her love for him on one level, only to reject it outright on another. Yet, he knew there was a part of him, a part of his Vulcan psyche that was completely capable of doing just that ... if it meant he would be assured of a mate when his time came.

Since his rejection by T'Pring and the consequent severing of their bond, there had been an empty place within him that would not heal ... not completely. Had he used Chapel to partially soothe that wound? And why had he not made arrangements with his family to secure another bondmate? He had told himself he had more than adequate time, that it would be imprudent to bond with another until after this mission was complete. True, but not the entire truth, he realized.

Spock noted the subtle curves of Chapel's cheekbones, the soft shadows playing across her face in the half light of the cabin. There was a sudden tightness in his chest. She was right. He had used her, had unmercifully taken comfort in the fact that she would always be there for him if no Vulcan woman would have him. It was the same reason he had gone to her when struck with the virus. She would not reject him. No, not Christine. Somewhere deep within him he had known, had depended on it.

Spock flushed with a sudden rush of shame. His actions in the past, though unintentional and unwittingly committed, had certainly had the desired effect. He could feel, even through her overwhelming anger and pain, that Chapel loved him deeply, if he understood that Human emotion to its fullest depths. And he believed he did, perhaps for the first time.

Slowly, Spock brought his hand up to her face, carefully placing his fingers over the meld points. There was a warmth of familiarity in the gesture. Chapel flinched slightly at his touch and her reaction pierced through him like a sharp blade. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He would end his part in this pain -- this emotional torture -- if it were within his power to do so. He owed her at least that much. And if possible, he would try to convey to her the depth of his sorrow and regret for having subjected her to is for so long. It was essential now that the bond be severed. He must free her to go on with her life, as he would go on with his. Such as it was.

Chapel felt the familiar warmth of Spock's mind slip into her consciousness and had to steel against the sudden rush of longing and arousal that threatened to overwhelm her. Even now, with all that had been said and not said, for all her hurt and anger, she couldn't quite control or hide the sense of joy she felt at having him there. She knew Spock would feel it, too, and prayed he would just ignore it, would go past it to wherever it was he needed to find this bond and destroy it. The hope that she might actually be free of him, of the torturous love that had been a part of her for so long, was also there. She clung to it, refusing to think about what would happen if Spock were unsuccessful.

Spock moved swiftly along neural pathways, shielding his mind tightly against the onslaught of Chapel's powerful and chaotic emotions. He didn't dare stop, nor let himself pause even the slightest moment. To pause would be to be tempted. And to be tempted would be to succumb. If he succumbed, then they would both be lost and he couldn't allow Christine to bear the brunt of his failure or its possible consequences. So he rushed forward, his mind seeking, hunting for that elusive place where the bond had formed within Christine's mind. It seemed an eternity before he found it, an eternity in which he had to fight repeatedly to keep his shields intact, exerting more mental energy than he would have ever thought necessary. Christine was much stronger than he suspected. Perhaps this was why the bond had formed in the first place?

Under the influence of the virus, Spock remembered how he had welcomed her feelings for him during the melds, had greedily feasted upon the warmth and security she offered openly and without reservation. Just as his body had been sated, so, too, had his mind as he wallowed in the emotions he dared not allow himself to feel or respond to. There had been no control, no barriers to stop the inevitable from happening. Christine had responded completely within her nature, her passion inundating him and releasing his own, pulling him deep into the heart of her being without the slightest hesitation. Could a bond such as this truly be without merit? He had known the other kind -- cool, emotionless, sterile -- and had been betrayed, shaken to his very core by the cold, unfeeling treachery of she who was to be his wife. Perhaps...

Enough! He must sever it.

Spock cast his mind's eye to where the bond lay. Yes, there! A brilliant, slender thread intertwined tightly among tendrils of synaptic fibers. It seemed impossibly tangled. Mentally, Spock took a deep breath and patiently undertook the task of trying to loosen its grasp. But with every tug, every twist, the thread slipped away from him. In the real world, time rushed by, thirty minutes, then an hour, their two bodies standing motionless, frozen in place. He began to grow weary, impatient. Finally, Spock lunged deeper, directly into the heart of the bond, lashing out at it in near desperation, tearing it in places, only to watch it mend itself as quickly as it was torn. He struggled until he began to feel the stress of mental fatigue wear at his defenses. On the periphery of his consciousness, he could feel Christine's distress, read her mental observation that he was taking too long, that something was wrong. Outside their minds, her body trembled and her knees gave slightly. She leaned against him.

Immediately, everything Chapel was feeling washed over him, sucking him under a tidal wave of emotion so strong it threatened to drown his consciousness. Too late, Spock realized what was happening. He couldn't concentrate on severing the bond and keep his shields at maximum strength at the same time. When her body pressed against his for support, he had been distracted, had allowed his shields to falter. And in that moment it was as if a small fissure in a dam suddenly gave way. Pain, love, anger, lust ... it all came crashing down on him. Spock tried to escape, but was caught in the maelstrom. All that she was, all that she felt took possession of him in that moment.

In the physical world, he heard himself moan as his free arm reached to pull Chapel to him. Here, within their joined minds, Spock turned to her, his shields obliterated and lying in ruins all about them. //Christine...// He moved forward, reaching for her, possessing her even as he was himself possessed. The bond was still there: solid, permanent. Nothing short of death would sever it now. Nor did he wish for it to be severed. Not anymore. It seemed as if it had always been a part of him. //Parted from me and never parted...// he began softly. His deep, silken voice filled their minds and he heard Chapel gasp. He pressed his lips to hers in the Human custom to quiet her, to soothe and reassure her, then continued. //Never and always touching and touched...//

Spock's words flowed over her like a hot summer breeze, filling every part of her, every crevice of thought and being. There was no single place that was her which was not also him. At first, Chapel rebelled, panicking, as she felt herself being enveloped within him. But the panic soon eased, replaced by a wave of tenderness so poignant she ached with it. This was Spock? Oh, God, she had never known... This was Spock. She felt a pressure, then a tiny rupture, as if a bubble had burst. A rush of warmth and longing flooded through her. She couldn't tell from which one of them it originated, but it didn't matter. An incredible sense of joy seized her and she threw herself headlong into it, abandoning any fear she may have had. All that she was, all that he was, came together and at last ... at long last, they were one.

Chapel slowly opened her eyes. Spock was there, holding her, his face scant inches from her own. He lifted his hand from her temple and brought his arms around her, pulling her more tightly against him. His eyes stared into hers, but there was no questioning in their dark depths, no furtive look of discomfort or indecision. Instead, he seemed to be simply looking at her, as if he were truly seeing her for the first time. "Hold me, Christine," he said quietly.

Chapel slid her hands from where they rested on his upper arms and encircled his neck. Rising up, she cradled the back of his head in one hand, her fingers tenderly caressing through his soft, dark hair as she laid her cheek next to his. He sighed and pressed his cheek more firmly against her. Neither spoke, and for a long time they just stood there, holding on to each other as the impact of what had just happened between them settled into reality. Finally, Spock took a deep breath. "Forgive me, Christine. It is done ... and I cannot undo it."

His breath stirred against her ear and tears stung her eyes. "I know, Spock." Her fingers continued to caress him soothingly, attempting to assuage the guilt she could feel emanating from him, her own mind still in chaos. Her earlier anger was gone, replaced by a new sense of wonder and a deep feeling of fulfillment she didn't have the words to describe, even unto herself. She tried to project this to Spock, but wasn't sure she was capable, didn't know the boundaries of the bond they shared or how to use it. And she also felt a certain trepidation, a wariness she couldn't quite dispel. She pulled back to look up at him. "Are you sorry?"

Spock reached up to trace one long, slender finger down the side of her face. "No." His finger then traced the outline of her lips, his eyes drawn to them. The memory of their sweet coolness made his breath catch in his throat. "And you? Do you have regrets, Christine?"

The way his voice caressed her name sent a shiver down her spine. She briefly closed her eyes and sighed, before opening them again to stare into the dark intensity of his gaze. "Only that it happened the way it did. Now I'll never know, will I?" she whispered softly.

Spock frowned slightly, sensing that even through her joy, there was a sadness. "I don't understand."

"I'll never know if you could have loved me for me, for who I am, Spock," she said quietly. "It isn't logical, I know, but I can't help wondering if there could have been a relationship between us if this virus had never taken place. Somehow, I don't think so."

"Do not be so quick to assume," Spock responded, his voice suddenly going rough with emotion. "You were quite correct that I could have sought out another woman when struck with the virus, but you were the only woman my mind would accept, the only woman my body burned to have. To my shame, you were also right about me using you, cultivating your feelings for me to insure I would never again have to face the challenge. It was deceitful and unworthy of a Human, but completely within the nature of a Vulcan male bent on survival. I can make no excuse. But you are wrong to believe I have never been affected by you, Christine." He paused and again caressed her lips with his fingertip. "I have come to know I have always been affected by you," he confessed in a low whisper.

Chapel held very still, her gaze never wavering from his. Through the bond, she knew he spoke the truth, knew there had always been an attraction to her, though he had hidden it deeply, even from himself. In his own Vulcan way, Spock loved her. It wasn't the hearts and flowers version of holo-vid movies, but it was real, solid as the man now in her arms. And there was no need to hide it anymore, nor would he attempt to. She reached up and stroked the side of his face, letting her thumb slip across his lips in an imitation of his gesture. Slowly, a small smile tugged at her lips. "Prove it to me."

Her voice was husky, seductive, leaving no doubt as to what she wanted from him, even if he had not felt it through the bond. The sexual tension which had been between them all evening came roaring back to the surface, only this time there was no need to fight it, to control it. An incredible heat suffused Spock's entire body as he allowed it to claim him unimpeded. In her eyes, he saw that heat reflected back to him. Chapel moved her body against him, and the resulting friction caused by her action brought him to immediate and full arousal. He moaned and bent toward her.

Spock's mouth crushed down over hers, bruising her lips as he forced his tongue past their soft barriers to taste her deeply, sucking the very breath from her lungs. This was no tender lover's kiss, but a powerful declaration of possession, of the instinctual male need to own, to conquer and hold. His arms wound more tightly around her and, for an instant, Chapel felt a terrifying suffocation under the impact of such an elemental display of his dominance. But something inside her gave -- surrendered -- and a small sound half way between a groan and a sigh emerged, only to be swallowed by his insistent mouth upon hers.

Suddenly, all she wanted to do was crawl inside his skin, to know every inch of him from the inside out. He grew hard against her belly and she pushed into him, eliciting another deep moan from Spock. The sound erupted inside her, accelerating her pulse and sending an adrenaline laced jolt of sexual heat pumping through her. Her hands desperately caressed down the lean, hard firmness of Spock's back, then up again and around his shoulders to his chest. Beneath the smooth material of his tunic she could feel his pectoral muscles sharply defined and laid her palms flat against them. With her thumbs she brushed across his nipples and felt him shudder. Spock's hands flexed against her back, his fingers digging into her, then he slid his hands further down, past her waist to her buttocks. He caressed her for a moment, then cupped her buttocks firmly in his hands and pulled her hard against him. The move made her break away from his kiss and gasp for air. "Spock!"

But there was no respite. Spock was fully aroused now and his lips captured hers again almost immediately. His tongue pushed and danced against hers and almost instantly she was in a near frenzy, felt as if she were on fire! Her hands trembled as she slid them down over the flat surface of his stomach and grasped the waistband of his uniform pants. Her fingers fumbled, then found the release and opened the fly. Still confined within his briefs, Spock's erection strained forward and she grasped him firmly in her hand and stroked the length of him through the fabric. He jerked and groaned and she grasped him tighter. God, he felt so good! Hot ... hard ... pulsing against her palm. She moaned and again ground her pelvis forward.

With an inarticulate growl, Spock abruptly boke the kiss. His head fell back as he closed his eyes and struggled to catch his breath. Instinctively, he thrust against her hand, riding the friction of exquisite, almost painful impulses. It was as before, but this time he was consciously aware, not simply succumbing to the physical urges as a result of a sexual delirium brought about by the virus. Nor was it like the Pon Farr. This was simply desire -- need -- intensified by years of want and denial and the open bond now singing between them. He felt an incredible ache deep in his groin and his gut suddenly twisted. Almost before he knew what was happening, he was on the verge of orgasm. He inhaled sharply, grasping Chapel by her upper arms and almost roughly shoved her away.

Chapel stumbled back a few steps, her startled gaze riveting to his, face flushed, expression dazed. "Spock?" Her pulse roared in her ears, her lips drying instantly with her rapid breath and the heat of arousal. Unconsciously, her tongue darted out to wet them. Spock's gaze was immediately caught by the gesture and she saw him tense, his dark eyes glittering in the low light. He wanted her. She felt it with every fiber of her being. Why had he stopped?

Spock stood there panting, watching as Chapel, too, tried to catch her breath, her eyes large and questioning. She licked her lips and he felt himself losing the battle. No! Reaching deep inside, he struggled to control and became lost in the clear, blue depths of Chapel's eyes, feeling the near climax battering against him. He shuddered the full length of his body, struggling, fighting. He would not spill his seed before he had the chance to be inside her! Finally, he regained a small measure of control. But he couldn't wait long; knew she couldn't either. It was time ... past time, and abruptly he stripped off his tunic and undershirt over his head as one and tossed them aside. "Bed," was all he was able to manage as he grabbed her wrist and pulled her after him toward her sleeping alcove.

Still dazed, Chapel let herself be pulled behind him, her eyes watching the play of muscles across his back. Beautiful, she thought as they reached her bed. Spock turned and pulled her into his embrace once more. His hand shook as he brought his fingers to her face and gently brushed away several errant wisps of hair. "Beautiful," he whispered huskily, echoing her thought. He tangled his fingers in her hair and kissed her again, his free hand going to the seam of her caftan. He pulled it open and slipped his hand inside, his fingers grazing past her ribs beneath her breasts. The heat of his touch made her jump as it came into contact with her cool skin. Spock's reaction was immediate.

He groaned, and with both hands now, roughly pushed the caftan from her shoulders to expose the creamy white skin underneath. Suddenly, those same hands were everywhere, tugging at her clothing between caresses, until she stood within his arms completely nude except for her panties. Her head fell back with a deep sigh as he trailed his lips from her mouth to her neck, then further down to her breasts. She clung to his waist as he captured one taut nipple in his mouth and flicked his tongue across it. She cried out and reached to press his head more tightly against her. "Oh, God... Yes, Spock!"

At her words, an explosion of heat and excitement coursed through his veins in liquid fire. Now! He must have her now! He rose up, and clutching her to him tightly, half twisted and fell back onto the bed, taking her with him. Chapel had little time to do more than gasp in surprise as he quickly rolled to place her beneath him, one hand going frantically to his clothing to free himself. With one knee, he pushed open her thighs and positioned himself between them. His hand moved to touch her, felt the fabric of her panties. A soft growl escaped his lips as he twisted the waistband in his fingers and jerked hard. The flimsy material tore easily and he tossed the offending bit of a garment aside. Chapel arched up slightly and moaned, the moist scent of her arousal drifting up between them. For a second, Spock's mind totally blanked to all conscious thought as raw, sexual excitement siezed him. He grabbed her hips and dragged her closer to him, his fingers digging into her soft flesh. Chapel moaned again and raised her knees higher, then suddenly reached down between their bodies and grasped him in her hand, guiding him to her. Sock gasped and froze, once again on the brink of losing control. //T'hy'la!// he pleaded.

"Now, Spock!" she returned his plea.

He hesitated for an instant longer, then with a low, deep and drawn out groan, jammed himself into her and started thrusting uncontrollably. He felt her clench, then ripple around him as she wrapped her long legs around the small of his back and arched up to meet him. Her fingernails dug into the skin of his back as she clutched him to her and called out his name, her climax flooding through her body and mind and crossing over into his. Instantly, his orgasm exploded within him and their minds joined in the searing white heat of culmination, seeming to hang together for an eternity on that blissful precipice between near painful pleasure and final, shuddering release. At last, the moment passed and they began to drift down, their bodies weak and trembling in its wake.

Spock collapsed on top her, breathing hard, as Chapel stroked his back in long, soothing caresses. After a few minutes, when he had regained enough breath and strength, he lifted up on his arms and looked down at her. She returned his gaze steadily, her eyes half-lidded and a soft, dark blue, her lips parted and slightly swollen from his kisses. She smiled at him. It struck him then how very beautiful she truly was, and all he wanted to do in that moment was kiss her again. He did, very tenderly this time, almost reverently. She was his life now, all that he would ever be. As his lips moved softly over hers, she caressed the side of his face with her fingertips, then moved to trace one ear from lobe to tip and back again. He sighed into her mouth and pulsed deep inside her, still hard. He couldn't resist a lazy thrust, then another. A soft laugh bubbled from Chapel's lips and he pulled back, one brow rising as he looked down on her. "And what do you find so amusing, T'hy'la?" he asked somewhat indignantly. But the corners of his mouth twitched, giving him away.

Chapel smiled and affectionately patted his chest. "You, Spock. Now that I've found the 'on' switch, I'm wondering if there's an 'off'. Or is this another one of those Vulcan things? Not that I'm complaining, mind you."

Spock gave her a peculiar look, then suddenly rolled onto his back, pulling her with him. She straddled his hips as his hands settled her against him. She sighed, reveling in the feel of him still buried deep inside her. He pulled her head down and kissed her as he hiked his hips, encouraging her to move against him. She didn't need much encouragement. She rolled her pelvis and soon fell into an easy rhythm, felt her own excitement starting to build again. Spock broke the kiss and looked up at her, his lips curling ever so faintly in a small smile.

"It is a well known fact Vulcans possess a superior stamina, Christine. Therefore, I believe the question should be... Can you 'keep up'?"

Chapel stared at him, for a moment dumbfound, then with a sudden move, grabbed his wrists and pinned them over his head. She stretched her torso taut over his, then rubbed her breasts across his chest, creating a delicious friction. He caught his breath and she smiled wickedly as she bent forward and flicked her tongue over his lips. "You're about to find out, Mister."

* * *

Spock awoke to find himself alone in Chapel's bed. Somewhat puzzled, he raised up on his elbows and looked around the empty cabin. Where had she gone? It was the middle of ship's night. He had only been asleep fifty-three point two six minutes and his last memory was of Chapel curled up in bed beside him, one long, slender arm draped loosely over his midsection, deeply asleep. His gaze went to the bathroom door, but there was no sliver of light underneath to indicate she was inside. Where, then?

As if in answer to his unspoken question, the door to her quarters slid back and Chapel entered, once again clad in the long black caftan and slippers and carrying a tray of food in front of her. The scene had a distinctly déjà vu quality, and not for the first time Spock wondered what presence of mind had prevented him from taking her back then. He had certainly wanted her, he could now admit to himself. Instead, he had chased her from his cabin and thrown the bowl of soup after her in a pique of irrational anger, precisely because he could not have her. There had been other obligations, other commitments. Later, he had tried to tell her, but never knew if she understood. There was so much for him to explain...

"Hungry?" Chapel smiled over at him as she placed the tray on her desk. "I brought enough for both of us."

"Christine, it is oh one hundred hours and twenty-six minutes. Within five hours I shall be eating my breakfast. If I eat now, I shall not be hungry then and my meal schedule will be disrupted. You are hungry?"

Chapel shrugged. "I was just starting to eat my dinner -- such as it was -- when this tall, handsome Vulcan showed up at my door." She grinned at him, then the grin turned lascivious. "Besides, sex always makes me ravenous. Expending all those calories, I guess." For emphasis, she dipped a piece of raw carrot into some kind of white stuff and popped it into her mouth.

This was a side of Chapel Spock had rarely witnessed ... lighthearted, playful. He felt her contentment through the bond and was pleased. The impending fallout on Vulcan would not be easy on either of them and he suspected their remaining time on the Enterprise might prove to be their most carefree for some time to come, including a run in with the Klingons.

Spock rolled to sit at the edge of the bed. He retrieved his uniform pants from the deck and slipped them on. Chapel watched as he stood up and pulled up his trousers, then reached down to deftly arrange his genitals before sealing the fly. It was a small, common gesture among males, but it sent a shiver of excitement down her spine. Mine, she thought gleefully. All mine. She was still crunching the carrot and grinning idiotically as he approached the desk.

Spock perused the items on the tray. She had selected several raw Terran and Vulcan vegetables along with a variety of dips and sauces from both cultures, plus there were two covered dishes, one large and one small. He chose one of his favorite vegetables, drug it through the fiery red sauce next to it and bit off a piece.

"I thought you weren't hungry," Chapel observed, dipping another carrot in the creamy white sauce and munching down on it happily.

"I am not," Spock answered. He chewed a moment and swallowed, then reached up with one fingertip and wiped away a small drop of the white sauce from her bottom lip. "However, upon further consideration, I find your observation that we have expended an unusual number of calories to be quite correct. Since breakfast is eaten in anticipation of energy I will expend in calories, not energy I have already expended, logically, it would behoove me to replace those calories." He held up his finger and cocked his head slightly, one brow going up automatically. "Are you always such a messy eater?"

Chapel laughed and immediately captured his finger in her mouth, sucking on it suggestively. Spock took a sharp breath, then swallowed convulsively. "Christine ... we should eat." His voice dropped to a low, quiet rumble. "It would be illogical to allow this food to go to waste."


"And we both have duty later this morning," he continued as her tongue caressed his finger and she sucked a little harder.


"In approximately five point four five hours."

Chapel released his finger and let it slip from her mouth. She took a step closer. "Your point, Spock?" Her pupils dilated and her eyes became a dark, smoky blue as they fixed upon his lips.

Spock shifted restlessly, his pulse rate starting to rise; among other things. Illogical. They had engaged in sexual intercourse several times already that night, Chapel proving her Human stamina more than an adequate match for his own. To feel arousal now was simply ... illogical. Yet, he did feel aroused. "My point is, no matter how pleasant I would undoubtedly find another sexual encounter with you to be, I need to be rested in anticipation of my duty. As should you."

Chapel inched closer. Her hands went to the top of her caftan and pulled the seam open. She was wearing nothing underneath. At the sight of her full, rounded breasts and slender waist Spock felt an appreciative twitch in his groin. Had she gone to the mess hall naked underneath? For some strange reason, this thought excited him and the twitch became a definite pulse. He slipped his hands inside the open folds of the garment and pulled her to him.

Chapel laughed seductively and moved her body against him. She was enjoying this, felt a certain headiness and power in her femininity. "Duty, Spock?" she reminded him in a husky whisper. She slid her hands up his bare chest, letting her fingernails rake through the crisp dark hair.

Spock bent to lightly kiss one corner of her mouth, then the other. One hand caught hers and he guided it down to his groin and pressed it to him. "Perhaps another hour will make little difference," he conceded.

He let go of her hand and Chapel smiled, caressing him lightly with the tips of her fingernails, teasing him as he grew even harder beneath her touch. Spock sighed and bent forward to kiss her more fully, but just as his lips were about to make contact with hers, she slipped from his grasp and spun away from him. She circled the desk, putting it squarely between them.

Spock's face mirrored his surprise, then annoyance. "Christine..."

Chapel leaned slightly over the desk and lifted the lid off the larger of the two covered dishes. She hadn't bothered to close the caftan, fully aware of the picture she presented. She wanted that picture firmly imbedded in his mind. "Sorry, Spock, but food has to come first. I'm absolutely famished. If I don't eat now, I won't be able to concentrate on ... other things, and I won't get a wink of sleep the rest of the night."

"Food did not seem to be your priority a moment ago," Spock observed dryly. He wasn't at all pleased with this change of course.

Chapel shrugged. "That was before I smelled it."

A pungent, familiar aroma filled the space between them and, in spite of his earlier statement he was not hungry, Spock felt a small grumbling in his stomach. Steam rose from a large mound of spicy fried rice and vegetables. Indeed, Christine did seem to know his preferences. His gaze went from the rice, to her bared breasts, back to the rice again. It was a close call, however, he'd already had sex -- numerous times -- therefore, food seemed the logical choice.

Chapel watched Spock's face and saw a moment's indecision as he glanced at her, then back to the food. She knew the instant food won out and had to smile inwardly. No matter the species, men were men. Once satisfied in bed, at least temporarily, food went to the top of the agenda. Not that she blamed him. She wasn't kidding when she'd told him she was famished. The few kernels of popcorn she'd eaten just before Spock arrived hadn't cut it. Hunger had awakened her from a deep, satiated sleep, and it was all she could do to keep from nibbling off the tray on her way back from the mess to her cabin. Besides, under that small covered dish she had a surprise for Spock: A surprise that would keep them both busy for at least the next couple of hours. Sleep be damned. As a nurse, she'd done without it plenty of times during a crisis. Spock was here now. She had waited too long for this night and she was damn sure going to make the most of it. One never knew what tomorrow would bring.

She spooned a large, heaping portion of the rice onto a plate, added a fork beside it and offered it to Spock. "I believe this is one of your favorites?" she smiled innocently.

* * *

They had eaten quickly and in companionable silence. For a man who wasn't hungry, Chapel noticed Spock had left little on his plate as she gathered the dishes and used utensils and put them on the tray. She set everything aside to be returned to the mess hall later. All except the one small covered dish. Odd, but Spock had either not noticed it, or had not been curious enough to peek under the lid, which was really odd. No matter, when he rejoined her she intended to offer the dessert quite innocently. It remained to be seen if she could actually persuade him to eat it.

Chapel smiled wickedly. She felt a little like Eve offering Adam the forbidden apple, but she really didn't care. Because of his higher metabolism, she knew the effects would be quickly dissipated from Spock's system and were really quite harmless. He had told her as much during the virus. She wondered if he remembered that little episode in as much detail as she did and chuckled softly under her breath. It was a memory she felt sure she would take to her grave.

The bathroom door hissed open behind her, but she didn't turn around as she busied herself brushing off imaginary crumbs from the desktop. Her smile grew wider. Oh, yeah. Time for a little 'Me Tarzan, you Jane', she thought evilly. She felt Spock come up behind her and started to turn. "Spock, I brought us a little dessert..."

Spock wrapped his arms around her waist before she could turn and nuzzled her neck just below her ear, effectively halting her words in mid-sentence. Chapel sighed and tilted her head to one side to give him easier access and swayed back against him. He smelled clean, yet she knew hadn't showered. But he had shaved, his cheek newly soft against her skin.

"You were saying?"

"Uh ... oh, yes, uh ... dessert," she stammered as Spock nibbled her neck, his teeth grazing lightly here and there. The heat of his body warmed her back and buttocks and she could feel his erection pressing against her. She was finding it difficult to concentrate on what she wanted to say.

"Ah, yes ... Dessert." He brought his mouth up to her earlobe and grasp it lightly in his teeth, then flicked his tongue out to taste her. "I believe that is what I am doing now," he responded huskily.

"Doing?" Chapel murmured absently, the feel of his very warm breath against her ear and the deep velvet of his voice adding to her distraction. Not to mention what his tongue was doing.

"Having dessert," Spock answered, as if it were obvious. His hands slid underneath the parted folds of her caftan and cupped her breasts. "And I find this dessert quite tempting, indeed."

Chapel sucked in a quiet gasp as his hands gently massaged the generous flesh beneath them. The pads of his thumbs brushed across her nipples and she closed her eyes and leaned more heavily against him. "I'll give you just thirty minutes to stop that, Mister."

She could feel his smile as he pressed his lips close to her ear again. "Only thirty minutes? I believe you underestimate me, Christine. Thirty minutes is hardly time enough to do what I want to do to you, T'hy'la."

His words sent a shiver of arousal and anticipation down her spine. That's it , she thought. Playtime's over. She turned suddenly in his arms, a little shocked to discover he had been totally naked behind her the entire time and another thrill of excitement jolted through her. She pressed her length against his and reached to encircle his neck. She drew his face down to hers and kissed him hard. His lips parted readily beneath the assault of her tongue and he sucked it into his mouth, taking her breath with it.

They embraced for a long time, their kisses growing increasingly hungry as the hands moved restlessly over each other's bodies, exploring ... teasing ... testing which caresses brought the most pleasure to the other. At last Spock broke their latest kiss and pulled her more tightly against him as he buried his nose in the fine strands of her hair and inhaled deeply. The shampoo she used had a fresh, clean fragrance and filled him with an ache his mind didn't know exactly how to describe. Longing ... desire ... but more than that. Much more.

"Perhaps we should consider sleeping," he teased. "We now have only five point zero three hours before duty." But his actions contradicted his words as his hands continued to roam her body in increasingly intimate caresses. He gently eased the caftan from her shoulders and she let go of him just long enough to let it slide to the floor.

"I'm not ... in the least ... sleepy," Chapel responded breathlessly between the small kisses she planted across his jaw. When his fingers found a particularly sensitive spot, she moaned low in her throat and pushed against him.

"Nor am I," Spock murmured, continuing to caress her with a light touch, his own arousal taking a jump as he realized how ready she was for him. A warm, silky wetness seeped onto his fingertips and quickened his pulse.

Spock's lips came down on hers and he began to lead them both toward her bed. Chapel followed, pulled along by his lips as they breathlessly exchanged one kiss after another. When they reached their destination, Spock took her down onto the bed with him, then rolled so that she was pinned underneath. He grabbed her wrists and pulled them taut over her head, mimicking her earlier action. She laughed softly and squirmed under his weight, her breath coming quick and shallow as her gaze locked with his. His eyes were so dark with just a hint of amusement shining through. She parted her thighs and rocked her hips from side to side until he was fitted snug between them. He didn't make an attempt to enter her, although his erection strained hot and hard between them. She bucked her hips in encouragement, but he didn't move. In the half-light, she saw his mouth twitch into a small smile as one eyebrow rose.

"You are too eager, T'hy'la. Unless, of course, you are anxious for this to be over so you may sleep after all."

She matched his smile. "And you talk too much, Spock." She bucked up against him again, more insistently, and was satisfied with the expression that suddenly came into his eyes as their lids drooped almost imperceptibly and his smile faded. "Fewer words and more action, if you please. Or don't I have your full attention?"

He bent to kiss her, his lips barely brushing hers. "Oh, yes. You definitely have my full attention." As he spoke, his lips moved over hers and the deep rumble of his voice reverberated against her sensitized skin. "And you are correct. More action is called for."

He imprisoned both her wrists in his left hand and raised up on his knees over her. His mouth captured hers once again and he kissed her long and deep, his free hand roaming her body at will ... caressing ... massaging ... teasing. Smothered by his mouth, her small gasps and moans of pleasure punctuated his exploration and egged on his own growing arousal. At last his hand hesitated on the soft mound between her thighs. She moaned again and gave a little hitch of her hips. He needed no further encouragement. His fingers followed the natural cleft of her sex and he slid one inside her, then two, the way made easier by the wetness there. Chapel groaned deep in her throat and arched her back, tilting her pelvis slightly, welcoming his invasion. She raised her knees and let them fall wider apart, inviting him to explore more fully as she thrust slightly against his hand. A thrill of sexual excitement raced through him, quickening his breath. Her flesh here was incredibly soft and pliant and coated with the silken evidence of her deep arousal. And she was hot. Almost as hot as a Vulcan as she thrust against him again.

Spock responded with a small groan of his own as he pulled his lips from her mouth and moved lower. He released her wrists, his lips trailing down her neck to her breasts as he slipped his hand under her shoulders and held her steady. He kissed one full, erect nipple then the other, pausing briefly to rub his cheek between the valley of her breasts before pulling the closest nipple into his mouth. She moaned her pleasure out loud and writhed beneath him as he worked her taut flesh against the roof of his mouth. With fascination, he watched her other nipple grow tighter and the aureola around it swell minutely and become a darker rose in hue. As his fingers slid in and out of her in imitation of their earlier copulation, he could sense in her the building tension of an impending climax. Through the bond, her pleasure washed over him in waves and set his heart to pounding in his ears. But he wasn't ready. Not yet. He wanted to know her intimately, every nuance of every curve, every line of her body. Sensations he'd never known before inundated his senses; the pink flush of her skin, the heady scent of her arousal, the sounds of her excitement in the quiet room as his fingers and mouth pushed her toward orgasm. And suddenly, he wanted more, had to have more. He released her nipple, quickly nipped the other one with a rake of his teeth, then moved lower.

The muscles of her abdomen jerked beneath his lips and tongue and Chapel gasped. God, he was driving her crazy! Didn't he know that? But he didn't seem to be in any hurry as he continued to explore her pale skin with his tongue, leaving behind trails of moisture cooled instantly in the air from the overhead vent, sending more shivers down her spine. She tangled her fingers in his hair and caressed the tips of his ears with her thumbs. He moaned softly and slid his hand from her shoulders to the small of her back, following the curve of her spine. And what his fingers were doing to her! Those long, talented fingers. She remembered watching his hands and those beautifully tailored fingers at work in the past, her gaze drawn to them as they manipulated controls and buttons on his computer console on the bridge or in the lab. Thinking how graceful they were and wondering, in a weak moment, what it would be like to feel their sensuous play on her skin. Now she knew, and was nearly dying from the ecstasy of it.

Spock shifted lower and moved down on the bed as his fingers slid more rapidly in and out of her. She could feel his breath touch her sex as he pulled back slightly and knew he was watching, gauging her reactions, perhaps satisfying his own curiosity. An incredible heat suffused her entire body and she began to thrust in rhythm against his hand in earnest. An almost animal-like sexual heat seized her in its grip and she felt totally unashamed, abandoning any inhibitions she might have had to the overwhelming passion that was suddenly crashing down on her. Something told her part of what she was feeling was coming from Spock through the mental link they now shared, but she didn't care about the why or the how, only that he not stop.

Spock stared, captivated by the movements of her body as she rocked her pelvis in cadence to his manipulation. The delicate lips of her sex glistened in the soft light, wet with the sheen of her intense arousal. Here, too, her flesh had swollen slightly and flushed a deeper color. A heady euphoria settled over him as he realized he was responsible, that it was his touch and his touch alone which brought her to such a frenzy of passion. She was his! No other male would ever touch her like this, would ever know the sweet fragrance of the flower before him or the soft cries he pulled from her throat even as he pulled his fingers from her before plunging them in again. A louder cry escaped her this time and his gut tightened. His erection grew rock hard against the cool smoothness of the bedspread and he groaned and thrust against the silken surface instinctively. Suddenly, he knew what he would do next, what she needed from him, what he himself wanted. He pulled his fingers from her and abruptly covered with his mouth, his tongue already snaking forward to glide against that velvet soft flesh and reach inside her.

Instantly, orgasm exploded within her. She bucked against his hot tongue as both hands clutched his head tightly to her. For a long moment, she couldn't breathe, the air suspended in her lungs as the exquisite, near painful release shuddered through her for what seemed an eternity. She cried out and squeezed her eyes shut as pinpricks of flashing lights danced behind her eyelids. And still, he didn't release her. His arms wound more tightly around her hips and he hugged her to him as his tongue continued to push against her, insistently probing her folds and swirling across the hard nub between repeatedly. Before she realized what was happening, she came again, then a third and a fourth time in a chain of miniature orgasms that left her panting and trembling in their wake. "Spock!" she cried out breathlessly. "Stop! You're killing me!"

Immediately, Spock released her and looked up, his expression an odd mixture of concern and passion. "Christine..?"

His lips were parted with his own heavy breathing and the lower half of his face shone with her wetness. His eyes were dark and intense as they riveted on hers and, unbelievably, she felt an answering heat rise up in her again. Her fingers tenderly brushed through his hair and she smiled.

"Come here," she said huskily.

Spock obeyed, rising on all fours as he crawled up over her. She encircled his neck and brought his mouth down to hers, kissing him softly, tasting herself on his lips and tongue. When she released him, Spock pulled back, still kneeling over her, and brought his hand to her face. He traced the side of her cheek with two trembling fingertips.

"I want you," he whispered hoarsely. His thumb brushed across her lips as his gaze fell to follow its movement, then rose to capture hers again. He swallowed convulsively. "I want you in the manner of my ancestors ... and in the custom of my people. Do you understand?"

Chapel smiled and returned his caress, her finger lightly stroking the line of one silky upswept eyebrow. "Not really, as Vulcans don't make a habit of publishing their sexual preferences in a 'how-to' manual," she teased. But she could see he was completely serious and her playfulness faded away. "I want to please you, Spock. I trust you. I've always known you would never hurt me. Not intentionally."

Spock took a deep breath and leaned down to briefly kiss her again before pressing his lips to her ear. "Then trust me now," he whispered huskily. As he spoke, his strong hands went to her waist and neatly flipped her over onto her stomach. Before she could react, one arm went around her waist and he was lifting her onto all fours. He placed her hands on the ledge that ran the length of the small alcove and over the head of the bed, the heat of his body permeating her back and buttocks, his erection hot and hard where it nudged against her. She heard his sharp intake of breath at the contact, then his hands closed on either side of her head and tilted it back. He combed his fingers through her hair before his hands slid down to her buttocks and lower, urging her to spread her thighs wider apart. Heart pounding in anticipation and perhaps a little fear, she positioned herself as he seemed to want her to ... and waited.

Spock rested back on his heels, his breath coming in short, shallow pants as his eyes drank in the sight of her and he fought for control. The picture she presented was shockingly erotic and stirred something dark and ancient deep within him. With her head tilted back, her hair cascaded down her back in soft waves, the light hitting it in glints of shimmering gold. The creamy whiteness of her skin seemed to glow almost luminescent in its paleness. He gripped his erection in one hand and exerted pressure just below the head, trying to calm his physical reaction. With the other, he reached out and caressed one soft, firm buttock, noting how dark his hand looked in contrast, the coolness of her skin beneath his hot touch. He let his fingers slip between her thighs. Yes, she was still hot, ready, awaiting him. She sighed heavily at his touch and arched her back more deeply, then moved her hips in a slow arc. His eyes flew open wide and he gasped for air. She moved again ... and it was his undoing.

Suddenly at his touch, arousal such as she had never known shot through her and she felt she was fire inside. She could stand it no longer. She had to provoke him into taking her ... now! Before her heart stopped its pounding and she blew away in ashes. Instinctively, she swayed slightly, moving her pelvis in a deliberate, lazy circle. She heard Spock gasp, then groan loudly behind her as his hands suddenly grabbed her hips and his fingers dug into her almost painfully. She craned her neck around, looking back, wanting to see his face, but in one swift and powerful lunge, he entered her. The impact knocked the breath from her lungs and she nearly went crashing headfirst into the bulkhead if not for his grip on her hips. She clung to the ledge tightly and pushed back, grinding her hips savagely against him. She was beside herself with sudden, uncontrollable lust and eased her thighs farther apart. Immediately, he was thrusting into her, hard and fast and deep, driving small cries of pleasure from her, his breath exploding from him in shallow grunts with each impact, the sound of flesh hitting flesh echoing in the room.

It was like nothing he had ever experienced. Volcanic heat erupted inside him and all conscious and logical thought abandoned him as he battered into her, sheathing himself in her over and over again, wanting nothing less than to bury himself in her tight, clutching wetness. With a strangled shout of exultation, Christine threw her head back and met him stroke for stroke, her entire body rocking back and forth in perfect synchronicity. Blindly, he brought one hand to her temple and groped for position even as he continued to pound into her. At last, he found it and his mind sank into hers.

Lust! Mindless, rutting lust! It permeated her, permeated him in a savage joy so alien to both their natures it threatened to send them tumbling into darkness. Spock held on and held her mind tightly to his, riding the wild, sweet waves of pleasure buffeting then in the hot winds of their passion. Sweat formed on their bodies and their cries grew more strident, their coupling more demanding, as in their minds each became the other, yet remained autonomous unto themselves. Sensations blended and twisted, pushed and pulled, building ... building, towering over them in a blinding white heat. Then there was nothing, nothing but the white heat ... and they were falling, tumbling, fragmenting into a thousand pieces and coming back together again as physical and mental orgasm ripped through them simultaneously. And the end of what was shimmered and was gone, replaced by something newly borne ... clean and untarnished.

* * *

When Spock came back to his senses, he found Christine wrapped tightly in his arms as he leaned heavily over her back, both of them huddled on the bed. He was still buried deep within her but was softening quickly, his seed spent. They were both sweating and breathing heavily and he could feel her heart pounding against her ribs. Slowly, he disengaged from her and lay down, pulling her onto the bed beside him. She rolled over and snuggled into his embrace, still breathing too hard to speak. He gently brushed the sweaty strands of hair from her face and noticed for the first time that she was crying. His hand faltered and fear tightened in his chest. If he had hurt her...

"T'hy'la, what troubles you?" he whispered hoarsely, his throat dry and constricted.

For several moments she didn't answer and his fear grew steadily with each passing second. Suddenly, she erupted in his arms and he found himself flat on his back, her arms hugging him so fiercely he could scarcely breathe as her mouth descended on his in a deep and soulful kiss. When she at last pulled back, she covered his face in kisses, her tears and lips leaving him thoroughly wet.

"Oh, Spock! I love you! I love you! I love you!" she exclaimed between kisses.

Spock reached up and held her face in his hands to stop her and gazed into her eyes, totally confused. She gave him a watery smile. "I don't understand," he said quietly. "You are crying, yet you are happy."

She turned her head and kissed the palm of his hand. "Yes, deliriously happy," she whispered. Her eyes met his again, clear and deep blue and he knew she spoke the truth. "That was the most ... incredible experience of my life," she breathed.

With his thumbs, Spock gently wiped away some of her tears. "For me as well," he conceded. He kissed her lightly, then pulled her back down and turned them on their sides, facing each other.

Chapel grinned. "When you said you wanted me in the manner of your ancestors, I have to admit I was almost afraid you meant something a little ... well ... kinky."

Spock quirked an eyebrow at her. "Kinky?"

"You know ... uh ... out of the ordinary. Maybe a little perverse."

Spock's other eyebrow flew up to join the first. "Christine, I would never..."

She placed a finger against his lips to stop him and gave him a soft chuckle. "Not that that wasn't out of the ordinary. It almost blew my mind."

Spock frowned. He prided himself on understanding most Human colloquialisms, but this was another one that eluded him in the space of a few sentences. "I cherish your mind, T'hy'la. I would never knowingly do anything to harm either your physical or mental well being."

She replaced her finger with her lips and kissed him tenderly. "It's slang, Spock. It means it was a most extraordinary experience."

Spock gathered her close and settled her against him. "Yes, extraordinary." He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He couldn't remember a time when he felt so satisfied, so warm and comfortable. "Sleep now," he said drowsily. "We have duty in..."

"Little under four hours, I know," Chapel finished for him.

Spock regarded her curiously, saw the glint of amusement in her eyes and simply said, "Computer, dim lights for night cycle."

"Acknowledged," the feminine voice intoned and promptly the lights went from half illumination to near darkness.

In the dark, Chapel lifted herself on one elbow. "You're going to sleep here ?" she asked, surprised.

"You object?"

"No, of course not. I just thought you might not want to be seen leaving here in the morning. The corridor gets pretty busy about then."

Once again, Spock pulled her back down. "I will awaken in ample time to elude any passersby," he assured her. "And if I should happen to be seen, then it is of little consequence."

"Don't you want to keep our relationship a secret?" she ventured cautiously.

He looked at her, puzzled once again. In the dim shadows, he could just make out her guarded expression. "Why should I?"

She was silent a long time, then he felt her shrug.

"Because ... well, because it's bound to cause a lot of gossip. And people aren't always kind. Believe me," she added with a trace of bitterness as her experience after the 'plomeek soup incident', as it had been dubbed, came to mind. It had taken months for the running jokes and acerbic remarks to die down. It was a time when she discovered who her true friends really were. "As the second highest ranking officer on this ship, there's going to be speculation about us. About preferential treatment, about fraternization..."

"We have broken no regulations, Christine. You are an officer, the same as I," he interrupted. "And as for the gossip and speculation, it will eventually cease as the novelty of our relationship wears off and it is apparent we still conduct our duties as before." Spock paused and peered at her more closely. "Do you wish to keep it secret?"

"Yes," she answered quietly.


She didn't answer for a long time. Finally, she sighed. "For one thing, it's still so new. I don't think I want to share it with anyone just yet, not even our closest friends. And for another..." She faltered, then cleared her throat. "Spock, I'm ... I'm not entirely sure it'll work out between us. As much as I love you and as much as I want it to, there's always that possibility that we're just too different."

This statement took Spock totally by surprise. Just moments before they had been locked in the most incredible meld he had ever experienced and he had been totally certain of her feelings and commitment to him. Now, he felt stunned and his first instinct was to mentally scramble to touch the bond that linked them together. It was there, real and solid between them. Of course it is there, he chided himself. Illogical that he had feared, even for an instant, that it had disappeared within the space of a few heartbeats. It would always be there for as long as either of them still lived.

He almost sighed his relief out loud as he reached to touch her face in the dark. It was obvious Christine was still feeling insecure and needed reassurances. He couldn't blame her. His actions toward her in the past had sent her mixed messages at best. At worst, had caused her unforgivable pain. That pain that was also now his. He stroked her cheek tenderly as his other arm brought her still closer in his embrace.

"You are everything to me, Christine," he said softly, his deep baritone like velvet in the night. "Thee are T'hy'la ... heart of my heart ... beloved until the end of time. Thee are the suns that warm my days and the cool waters that sustain my life. Thee are the breath that fills my lungs and the fire that kindles my loins," he quoted from an ancient Vulcan love poem, his fingers never still as they traced every line of her face. "Thee are all this and more to me, through all that is or will ever be. Never and always touching and touched. These are not mere words, Christine. They are who I am. They are who we are ... together."

As he spoke, Spock's breath caressed her face even as his words caressed her heart and mind. In the still shadows of her silent cabin, he spoke with a depth of such earnest and quiet passion that she could scarcely breathe. Tears once again tracked down her face and, once again, he brushed them away, then moved to kiss them away from the corner of her eyes. Too moved to speak, Christine buried her head against his shoulder and a moment later started to shake with the violent sobs that tore from her throat.

Spock held her, his hands soothing her as he pressed his lips to her hair, the salty taste of her tears still on his tongue. Through the bond, he understood her need for this release, a need to wash away with her Human tears the years of hurt and despair and longing that had been a part of her for so long. And, in truth, a part of him. After a while her sobs eased to be replaced by involuntary shudders, then, finally, to an occasional trembling. When these, too, eventually went away, she sighed heavily and seemed to melt against him.

Spock gently pulled the bedcovers over the two of them against the chill air from the overhead vent. Before they had even settled completely over them, Christine was asleep, her quiet, rhythmic respiration filling him with a sense of unfamiliar, yet total peace. His own eyelids grew heavy and he allowed himself a deep, contented sigh. Love, he thought drowsily. For the first time in his life, he thought he understood the true meaning of that word.

* * *

Damn! If she didn't get her butt in gear, she was going to be late! Leonard would pounce on her in nothing flat and she would be backpedaling trying to explain. She hastily pulled up her tights then stepped into her uniform and slipped it up over her shoulders. As she sealed the seam, she hurried to the dresser and began brushing out her hair in quick, efficient strokes. She was just about to secure it into the French twist she favored while on duty when her hand froze. She found herself staring at the woman in the mirror as if she were a stranger. Is that really me?

For several long moments she stood there, contemplating her reflection. The woman who stared back certainly looked like her, but there were subtle differences. The minute lines at the corners of her mouth and between her brows were softer somehow, almost nonexistent. There was a gentle calmness in the deep blue of her eyes and a fullness of her lips that weren't there before. When she took a breath, she was acutely aware of the slight friction of fabric across her breasts, of her uniform clinging to her ribs and abdomen. All this and more, intangible proofs that the Christine Chapel who had stood in front of the mirror just the morning before was not the same Christine Chapel who stood here now.

Her mind began to wander to last night and what had happened between her and Spock. The words he had spoken so hushed and reverent in the dark, and the rush of feeling that had engulfed her through the bond. Then there was the physical joining of their two bodies, the unbelievable intensity of his passion reaching out to her even now from the recesses of her memory. It had been so very different from before. This was Spock, not some manifestation of the virus. He had claimed her so completely -- body, heart, and soul -- that she could no longer envision her life as it had been before. There could be no life, no future without him. It was impossible for her mind to even fathom that possibility now.

An adrenaline laced flush went through her body. Her pulse and breath quickened with the memory and she inhaled quickly in a soft gasp. She saw her pupils dilate slightly and a blush of color rise into her cheeks and lips, and suddenly she felt almost weak, but strangely invigorated at the same time. My God! Was she that obvious? Leonard would surely know the moment he set eyes on her. She was fairly broadcasting her sexuality. If she were a Deltan, the pheromones would have had any male within a fifteen feet radius standing at attention. Fortunately, Humans didn't exude anywhere near that magnitude of pheromones. But still, she had 'that look' about her and she had a distinctly uncomfortable feeling that any one who knew her well would pick up on it. How was she going to function? Dear God, how would she be able to keep her calm around Spock? Spock--

True to his word, Spock had awakened early. He had already showered and dressed when he woke her with a soft kiss to her brow. "Christine, it is time to get up."

Chapel rolled to her back and stretched, looking up into his face as he sat on the edge of the bed next to her. She smiled warmly at him and raised her arms. "Come here," she said softly, her voice still husky with sleep.

Spock came willingly into her arms, his own wrapping around her as he pulled her up into his embrace. Their lips met in a long, lingering kiss.

"I must go now," Spock said quietly when their kiss ended. "Or our 'secret' will not be secret any longer. Unless, of course, you no longer care to keep it."

"No, Spock. I don't want to share this. Not yet, okay? I want time with you without having to deal with any good-natured ribbing from our friends -- AKA Leonard McCoy -- or the inevitable gossip that's bound to circulate when we make our relationship public. In fact, I've been thinking-- It's so close to the end of the mission, why don't we wait until then to let people know?"

Spock raised an eyebrow at her. "That long, T'hy'la?" His lips twitched into an almost smile. "I am uncertain if I will have the patience required to endure the 'sneaking around' that will be necessary to maintain our relationship at such a clandestine level."

"Sure you can, Spock," she grinned. "You're the most patient man I know. And a Vulcan. It should be a piece of cake for you. Besides, there's always abstinence."

Spock brushed his lips across hers, playfully nipping her bottom lip. "Indeed," he rumbled quietly. "A logical alternative. However, not one I am willing to consider at this time. Even a Vulcan has limitations, Christine."

With that, he suddenly kissed her again: a deep and hungry kiss that took her breath away. His hands wandered across her bare back to her hips then back up again before coming around to briefly cup her breasts. He ended the kiss as abruptly as it had begun and stood up beside the bed.

"Now I really must leave," his voice a little rough as he straightened his tunic. "I will contact you later this evening after duty hours. Will you be here in your quarters?"

Chapel smiled seductively. "Oh, yes. I'll be here."

He reached down and caressed her cheek with two fingers, then nodded. "Until then."

When he reached the door, he paused, listening, then a moment later hit the switch and was gone--

With a start, Chapel came out of her daydreaming and glanced at the chronometer on her dresser. She groaned. Now she really would be late. As she hurried for the door, her eye fell on the small covered dish still perched on the edge of her desk. On impulse, she lifted the lid. They were all still there, of course, undisturbed. She picked up one of the Frango mints and popped it into her mouth, savoring the dark, rich sweetness upon her tongue and decided chocolate for breakfast was better than no breakfast at all.

* * *

Kirk picked up his breakfast tray and turned to scan the Mess. Not many of the crew was present, as it was early yet, but he spotted McCoy sitting alone towards the back and headed toward him.

As he got closer, he could see McCoy was pensively stirring his cup of coffee and most of his breakfast was still on his plate. That wasn't like him. McCoy usually had a voracious appetite and was the kind of individual who could eat anything and everything and still not gain an ounce. 'All in the genes, Jim,' McCoy was fond of telling him. Seeing the doctor just sitting there, his usual pile of eggs, beacon, grits and a small stack of biscuits virtually untouched set off alarm bells in his head.

"Morning, Bones," he greeted him as he set his tray down and slid into the opposite seat. "What, no appetite?"

"Morning Jim. And don't worry, I'll get around to it," McCoy assured him with a half smile.

On closer inspection, Kirk decided McCoy didn't particularly appear upset, or even tired, just thoughtful. "Spill it, Bones. What's on your mind?" He took a bite of dry, whole-grain toast and started to wash it down with black coffee.

McCoy looked up at Kirk, his blue eyes not exactly troubled, but puzzled. "It's Spock. Have you noticed anything strange about him lately?"

Kirk almost choked on his coffee, remembering the last time McCoy had asked him that particular question. He grabbed for his napkin and held it to his mouth.

McCoy grinned. "Relax. That's not why I'm asking."

Kirk regained his composure quickly and eyed the man across from him with a wary expression on his face. "What do you mean?"

"Well, it's nothing I can put my finger on. Just a feeling I have."

"A feeling about what?"

"About him and Christine." McCoy paused, looking a little sheepish. "I think they have -- well, a thing going on."

Kirk almost burst out laughing, as much in response to McCoy's attitude as to the statement itself, but kept it to a soft chuckle in the quiet Mess. "A 'thing', Doctor? And what makes you think that? Has either of them said anything to make you suspicious?"

"No. But there's all these little -- oh, I don't know -- indications. Like I'm seeing something on the periphery of my vision, but when I turn to look, there's nothing there."

"Such as?" Kirk asked pointedly.

"Such as Spock showing up twice this week in Sickbay with reports I requested. Oh, they were legitimate, all right. I had requested them, but he could have sent any one of a dozen of his lab people to deliver them. Instead, he delivers them in person. And Christine, of course, just happened to be on duty both times. You know Spock, Jim. He usually avoids Sickbay like a long tailed cat avoids a room full of rockers. And then later, Christine just happened to have some errands to run right after he left."

"Is that all? Bones, I think you need a little R&R if you have to go looking for things to worry about."

"No, that's not all. Jim, when was the last time you and Spock spent any off duty time together?"

Kirk paused thoughtfully. "I don't really know. About two weeks ago, I guess. We played chess."

"And that would be about the time just before the virus hit. Am I right?"

"Yes," Kirk answered slowly. "But we've all been busy. First cleaning up after that damned virus, then the skirmish with the Orions and dealing with the ship's repairs."

"Well, I haven't seen much of Chris off duty, either. Usually, we have dinner together a couple of times a week, then play cards or something. But I haven't seen her at all this week away from Sickbay. She's always got some lame excuse."

Kirk raised his brows innocently at McCoy and grinned. "Something you're not telling me about your relationship with Christine, Bones? Maybe it's just jealousy we're talking about here."

McCoy frowned. "Don't be ridiculous, Jim!" he growled irritably, knowing he was being baited, but unable to curb his response. "It's nothing like that and you know it."

Kirk laughed again. Score one for the Captain. He picked up his toast and resumed eating. It tasted like lukewarm compressed sawdust. "Bones, sometimes a monkey is just a monkey, and a banana is just a banana."

McCoy scowled at him. "What the hell's that supposed to mean?"

"It means, quit looking for something that probably isn't there," Kirk answered. "Spock has been the absolute model of Vulcaness since the virus, and if we haven't played chess in a while it's because we've both been too busy. As for Chapel--" he shrugged. "Maybe she's just avoiding you because she knows what a royal pain in the ass you can be when you think someone needs to 'talk'. Give her a little credit, Bones. If what happened during the virus is really upsetting her that much, she'll let you know in her own good time. But if -- and I repeat if by some astronomically wild chance there really is something going on between her and Spock, then that's between the two of them and it's none of our damned business." Kirk ended this last with a smile to soften his words.

McCoy sat quietly with his arms crossed in front of him and one hand worrying his bottom lip. Kirk waited for a reply, but when one wasn't immediately forthcoming, he proceeded to eat his sparse breakfast and let McCoy stew.

Maybe Jim had a point, McCoy mused. So what if Christine and Spock were having a secret affair? If anything, he should be happy for her. She loved that damned Vulcan like only a woman like Christine could love. Totally. Her devotion to Roger Korby and what she had gone through to find him was proof enough of that. His biggest concern was what could be motivating Spock. Oh, he knew the Vulcan had feelings, all right, regardless of the very cool, very logical exterior he presented to the world at large. He'd spent the last four and half years cheerfully chiseling away at that exterior and enjoying every minute of it. But what about love? That was the really big question. Could the Vulcan find it within himself to actually love Christine? If what he suspected was true, then Spock must feel something for her. If not love, then sex would be the only other reasonable explanation. If Spock were Human, that is.

A mental image of Spock as a Vulcan Don Juan came to mind and McCoy almost snorted out loud. Spock motivated by love -- or sex -- or both? Yeah, right! It just wouldn't be -- logical. Maybe Jim was right. In his concern for Chapel's emotional well being, maybe he was seeing things that weren't there. And it really wasn't any of his business, one way or the other, as long as both of them functioned in their jobs as they were supposed to. Chris had shown no signs of undue emotional stress. In fact, she had been as cool as a cucumber this past week, even mellow, considering her tendency toward sarcasm. Maybe he was making a huge mountain out of a little molehill. McCoy sighed. Best to leave matters alone, he decided.

His stomach grumbled, pulling him back to the present. He eyed Kirk, watching the Captain morosely chewing away at that piss-poor excuse of a breakfast, and a little spark of wickedness leap into his soul. With a flourish, he picked up his fork and dove into the pile of grits on his plate.

"When you're right, Jim-boy, you're right," he conceded happily. He shoveled the forkful of grits into his mouth then picked up a large, fluffy biscuit, his eyes twinkling as he regarded the captain. "You like butter, jam, or both?"

Kirk scowled and shook his head. "I just remembered why I don't have breakfast with you, Doctor." Then a slow smile curled his lips as he plucked the offered biscuit from McCoy's hand. "Pass the butter, please."

* * *

Chapel let out a small, startled yelp as she walked through the doors of lab four and a strong hand grasped her upper arm. She was swung around into even stronger arms and looked up into two very dark, intense brown eyes, and laughed throatily. "We've got to stop meeting like this," she teased.

"You have only to say the word," Spock replied just before his mouth descended on hers.

He was standing in front of the bulkhead just inside the door and Chapel molded herself against him, pushing him into the unyielding surface behind him. Her arms wound tightly around his neck and she deepened the kiss. He responded eagerly and crushed her to him, savoring the feel of her in his arms. After a few moments his hands began to wander across her back, then hips. She gasped into his mouth when they found their ultimate goal and pulled her hard against him, the evidence of his growing arousal trapped between them. She made a move and he moaned. When the kiss ended, they were both slightly out of breath and he pulled her head down onto his shoulder, lovingly combing his fingers through her hair over and over again.

"You feel so good," he whispered next to her ear. Between one small crisis and another, it had been almost a week since they had been able to find a few hours alone together. The fact that he had been lying in wait for her here, unwilling to wait until after their shifts ended sent a heady feeling of power through her and piqued her own arousal. Which didn't take much these days, she mused dryly. It was as if she was walking around in a perpetual state of thinly disguised sexual heat. At least, that was the way it felt to her and she was amazed others around her didn't sense it, too. She just couldn't seem to get enough of him. And she was discovering a whole new side of this man she had loved for so long, one he was no doubt discovering for himself as well.

As a Vulcan, she knew Spock could have easily controlled his more amorous tendencies of late, but he didn't seem to want to. While on duty, of course, he continued to be the cool, polite and unemotional commanding officer around her he had always been, but in private... In private, it was another matter entirely. When alone, Spock had no such compunctions about showing his desire for her, both physically and emotionally. This had surprised her, as did the demands his body made on hers whenever they did manage to find some time to be together. He was the most sensuous and insatiable lover she had ever known. She was beginning to have a new respect for the logic of control Vulcans employed. Without it, the intensity of their emotions would make life almost intolerable for them. But as he began to nibble on her ear, she was thankful at least one Vulcan saw fit to relinquish that control from time to time.

She pulled back slightly and grinned at him. "Why, Mister Spock, I do believe you're horny."

"A rather crude descriptive term, but accurate," Spock conceded with a small twitch of a smile. Suddenly, he turned them both, and it was she who was pinned up against the bulkhead, his long, lean body hard and warm where it pressed against hers. "I am beginning to regret I ever agreed to this arrangement. Today on the bridge, I found myself alarmingly distracted by thoughts of being with you tonight and felt compelled to take action to correct such blatant disregard for my duty."

His voice was husky as he tangled his fingers in her hair and caressed her cheeks with the pads of his thumbs. She had begun to wear it down, knowing he preferred it that way. Strange, how such a small gesture could warm him inside and feed the fire he allowed himself to feel when alone in her presence.

"Uh-huh," she said knowingly. "But you have to admit, this arrangement does have certain advantages. It adds a little spice to things," she teased.

Spock flicked up an eyebrow. "Perhaps, but would it not be preferable and infinitely more logical to simply announce our bonding and be done with it?" His lips brushed across hers and he pushed his pelvis into her. "We would be able to spend much more time together."

His meaning was clear, and under the circumstances, Chapel was finding it difficult to argue with him. "We're only talking about three more months, Spock."

"Three months, two days, and eleven hours to be more exact," he answered, his hands starting to move over her body again.

"What, not down to the minutes and seconds?" She was smiling at him, her eyes dancing with amusement.

"I did not wish to sound too ... analytical," Spock returned in the same spirit of playfulness.

She gave him that wonderful throaty laugh she had and the sound sent an ache to his groin and brought his eyes to her lips. He felt his own expression change, become softer. She sensed the change in him, too, and her smile faded, leaving her mouth relaxed, full and soft. In the space of a few heartbeats he gave in to the temptation.

Chapel sagged a little, but Spock's arms held her firmly, bracing her against the bulkhead as he deepened the kiss, losing himself in the cool sweetness there. Something shifted inside him and, quite suddenly, he was almost desperate to have her. Here ... now ... and a mental image formed in his mind. It both shocked and excited him in its erotic detail. No, not possible. They were both on duty and he was due back on the bridge in little more than thirty minutes.

Chapel half sighed, half moaned deep in her throat as her mouth moved under his. She slid one leg up, her thigh caressing him. An answering groan escaped Spock and he pushed into her, part of him warning against it. But the mental image wouldn't go away, and far from being moved by the logic against it, he instead found himself more and more aroused by the very thought of it. It would be unwise. It would be potentially disastrous. It would be... No, it was illogical to even consider it! There was no lock on the door, as a need for such a device here had never been imagined by the ship's designers. The risk they would be taking...

Chapel tore her mouth away from his and pressed it close to his ear. "Oh, God, Spock! I've missed you so much!" she whispered.

Her hands glided over the smooth hard muscles of his shoulders and back, then further down to his backside. She kneaded the firm flesh beneath her palms, pulling him against her and at the same time grinding her pelvis forward. It was enough to elicit another soft moan from his throat. By now, he was totally aroused. Even through the fabric of both their uniforms, she could feel him throb against her and a jolt of sexual excitement ran through her like a pulse of electricity. She could sense the bond opening between them and knew he felt the same thrill of excitement she did. And she knew she shouldn't do it---they were both on duty--- but she couldn't help herself. She had to touch him! She slid one hand to the waistband of his pants and deftly unsealed the fly. Spock grunted a small protest.

"Christine, there isn't time..." he breathed.

But she ignored him, silencing him with her mouth as she flipped up the hem of his tunic and quickly slipped her fingers underneath the elastic of his briefs. Immediately, her fingertips encountered the head of his erection and she slid her hand farther down, marveling at the heat burning against her palm.

At her cool touch, Spock groaned and felt control of the situation fast slipping from his grasp. Her aggression and the intensity of her passion surprised him, crossed over into him in erotic waves. Twenty-eight minutes. Not enough...

"Christine..." he pleaded again into her mouth.

"Shut up," she breathed, and clasped his bottom lip in her teeth as her hand worked its miracles against his flesh.

The image crowded his mind, and with a quick hiss of breath he gave into it. His hands slid up under the abbreviated skirt of her uniform to the shorts underneath. He pulled open the seam and they started to slide down her hips. He pulled back slightly and a few seconds later she stepped out of them. They struggled with her clothing for a few precious minutes more, Chapel cursing the designers of the female uniform in a salty litany interspersed with hot, open mouthed kisses with her lover. Had their situation not been so desperate, it might have been amusing. But all Spock's attention was focused on one goal, as was hers. At last, all the barriers were removed and she was naked from the waist down. Twenty-five minutes.

Spock wasted no further time. After reaching down to quickly rearrange his own clothing, he grasped Chapel's thighs just below her buttocks and lifted her up and back. Immediately, she wound her arms tightly around his neck and hung on as she straddled his hips. She could feel him there, just at the threshold and cried out in frustration as she wriggled against him, trying to capture him and bring him inside her. Spock silenced her cry with his lips and braced her more firmly against the bulkhead. Then with a quick twist and hitch, he thrust his hips forward.

The initial shock of their union stilled their lips and breath and they momentarily froze, inundated with the dual sensations singing back and forth between them. It was a feeling Spock knew he would never grow accustomed to, her cool, clasping depths surrounding him, holding him so tight in an agony of sweet pleasure. The feel of himself within her, hot, hard and unyielding. He groaned and began to move. Twenty-two minutes.

Chapel writhed against him as he began to thrust hard and fast, wrapping her legs around his tight working hips and reveling in the feel of being pressed between the hard lean body of her lover and the surface of the bulkhead. His strength was impressive, his hands sure as he held her fast. Already, she could feel the tingling ache, a precursor of orgasm, and knew it would not be long for him either. They were both panting now, breathing too heavily to even kiss. Spock buried his head in her shoulder and his pounding took on a new urgency. She felt him grow as hard as steel within her and knew it was only a matter of moments. This spurred her own excitement and she felt her muscles clench, then jump. She leaned her head back against the bulkhead as a long, soft low moan escaped her lips.

Spock lost his rhythm, found it, then lost it again as the fast growing ache in his groin suddenly tightened unbearably. Small grunts issued from his throat as he thrust twice, paused, then three more times, finally burying himself as deep within her as he could go. Within seconds, release found him in a quick, explosive orgasm that momentarily blanked his mind in a blinding white haze. He felt her muscles clench, then ripple along his hard shaft almost at the same moment and it was a pleasure that almost doubled as pain forcing him to cry out under the impact.

When it was over, Chapel released her legs from around his hips and he helped her stand once again. He slid out from her, but for a few moments neither of them moved or spoke, only rested their foreheads together and tried to still their ragged breathing. After a time Chapel pulled back and she smiled at him and reached up to tenderly caress the tip of one elegantly pointed ear. "I'll give your suggestion further consideration, Commander."

He turned his head to kiss the palm of her hand. "I shall hold you to that, Lieutenant."

He had thirteen minutes.

* * *

Leonard McCoy was strolling down the empty corridor, a stack of tapes in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. It was quiet here in this section. These labs didn't get much use and the doctor was looking forward to a couple of hours of peace to peruse the latest results on the virus. They had finally been able to narrow it down to just two possible culprits, and he felt sure they would have the true guilty party identified within days. Suddenly, he stopped mid-stride. Was that a woman moaning? And what was that strange almost inaudible thumping sound?

He paused in the corridor, listening, looking from one closed door to another, trying to determine from which of the labs the sound came from. Finally, he sighed and was just about to start on his way again, when he heard something else: A deep, muffled groan. A masculine groan. He turned toward the sound. The plaque on the wall identified it as lab four. Now who...?

Irritated, McCoy started for the door. If a couple of young crew members thought they were going to use his labs for a trysting place, they had another think coming. That's not what they were designed for. But just before he got within a few inches of triggering the door he stopped. Voices again. And this time he recognized them. After a shocked moment, a smile of unholy glee spread across the good doctor's face. Aha! His instincts never failed him. Leonard McCoy turned on his heel and resumed his way down the corridor. He'd whistle, but he was grinning too hard to try.

The couple on the other side of the door had no way of knowing the jig was about to be up.