DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of JM Lane and is copyright (c) 2002 by JM Lane. This story is Rated PG-13. An alternate/AU telling of the ending of "All Our Yesterdays."



CONFRONTATION

JM Lane



Head Nurse Christine Chapel was waiting in the Transporter Room for the landing party (Kirk, Spock, and McCoy) to return from the planet Sarpeidon, whose sun was due to nova any minute. She was unaware of the fact at this point, but would soon learn of something she liked even less than having had to wait so long for Spock to notice her and finally decide to bond with her: though at the moment, she couldn't have imagined what it could be.

"Chris!" The CMO's gravelly yet pleasantly Southern-accented voice brought her back to reality. "Good to see you."

"Good to see you too, Leonard," she answered, lifting her head and smiling at her superior and friend.

Kirk smiled and nodded in her direction, then said, "Bones, I want to see your report on my desk within 24 hours," over his shoulder as he headed for the doors of the Transporter Room, having already ordered Sulu and Chekov to warp out as soon as the landing party was aboard.

"Right, Jim," the Doctor returned, getting ready to follow Kirk out--- and he would have done so, had it not been for Christine calling to him.

"Leonard." The tone of her voice was a mixture of question and bewilderment, but at the same time, somehow ominous. McCoy froze in his tracks, not sure what to expect.

Christine had been looking around for a certain someone for the past several minutes and hadn't found him. "Where's Spock?" she wondered. "Why didn't he return with you? Did something happen to him?"

*You might say that,* McCoy thought, but couldn't voice it. The silence dragged out so long that she became angry.

"Leonard, I'm talking to you! Where's Spock?" she demanded.

"Not here," the Doctor finally bit out. "Come with me to somewhere where we won't be overheard."

The Head Nurse eyed the CMO warily for a moment, then followed him out and into a turbolift; the pair went up to Deck Five, where their respective quarters were located…and the Doctor stopped in front of Christine's own quarters.

"Why did we come here?" she asked suspiciously. "Is it that serious?"

McCoy nodded. "I thought it best if you were somewhere you felt comfortable since what I have to say you're not going to find easy to hear…and that's putting it mildly." The two then stepped into Christine's quarters and the doors closed behind them.

"Okay, no one's going to hear us now. Now will you tell me what in Heaven's name happened to Spock?"

McCoy sighed. "You better sit down." He gestured to her bed; she sat down there as McCoy seated himself in the chair next to the bed. "All right, I'm sitting down," she returned impatiently. "Now answer my question."

The Doctor sighed again and gave her a concerned look. "If you say so ---but don't say I didn't at least try to warn you."

Christine was fast losing what little patience she had left. "Damn it, Leonard, stop stalling and spit it out!"

The Doctor fervently wished that he didn't have to be the one to break such bad news to her. Rather, Spock should have been the one to do this; unfortunately, that green-blooded, yellow-bellied coward had tendered his resignation from Starfleet to Kirk and stayed behind in Sarpeidon's past with the woman they had met there named Zarabeth, who had been exiled because her relatives had plotted against her planet's dictator, ZorKhan, in her original timeline. However, she had told them that she'd been there so long that she considered this time her time now.

She had been living alone in an ice cave warmed by a hot spring running beneath it when he and the Vulcan had happened along. Not too much later, it was discovered that Spock had reverted to the emotionalism of his ancestors five millennia past and had seemingly fallen in love with her. Because of this, McCoy had decided to leave by himself and return to the 23rd century, but it wasn't known whether or not that was possible. All Zarabeth knew for sure was that she couldn't return. It wasn't until they had found the portal they had originally come through and learned that Jim was on the other side that they found out that it was.

This was when Spock had explained that he didn't want to leave and was officially resigning from Starfleet to remain with Zarabeth. McCoy could imagine how stunned Kirk had been, but all he could do was accept since there was no time to argue. Both of them hated to leave their friend behind, but the nova was practically upon them and they had to leave quickly.

It was obvious that he had not considered how Christine would feel about his decision, which had seemed strange since they had so recently bonded. But as had been said before, there was no time for arguments; all the two Humans could do was wish their Vulcan friend well and allow him to live his life in the time he chose, with the woman he had chosen, whatever their personal feelings in the matter. And now the time of reckoning had come.

Damn you, Spock, you callous, unfeeling bastard! McCoy swore silently. Chris doesn't deserve this! If only to give that lily- livered coward a piece of mind, the Doctor wished Spock had been here; he did not appreciate being put in the position of having to hurt someone he cared so much for as he did Christine.

McCoy reached to take her hands in his. "Chris, honey, Spock has resigned…and not only from the Enterprise but Starfleet itself, and decided to remain in Sarpeidon's past."

Christine frowned. "Why? What could possibly be there which would prompt him to do such a thing? Especially since we're bonded and he knows I'd be here waiting for him."

"Another woman," he blurted out quickly. "We met her while in Sarpeidon's past--and while we were there, she and Spock---fell in love. She asked him to stay with her, and since I was able to come through the atavachron alone, I did so."

This time the silence was on her end…so long that the Doctor was unsure if Chris ever intended to speak again. When she didn't speak after five minutes, he continued, "The time we got stranded in corresponded roughly to Pre-Reform Vulcan, about five thousand years ago. Spock became an emotional being, the kind his people were at that time, and this woman was not only beautiful and attracted to him…she was close by. It was inevitable, I'm afraid."

"Then I---assume he intends to stay there with her," Christine finally made herself say, her voice almost too quiet for the Doctor to hear… but not quiet enough to cover the sound of her breaking heart, even if she was the only one to hear it.

"Yes. We'll more than likely never see him again. He plans to live out his life with her."

This was when Christine actually managed to find her tongue. "What about you and the Captain? His career? His parents?" And me? she thought, the magnitude of what had happened not having fully sunk in yet. "How could he just throw everything he's ever worked for away, all the friends he's ever made?"

"I wanted to ask, but there was no time---and besides, he didn't seem inclined to discuss it, so I saw no point in bringing up the subject."

"So where does that leave us?" she wondered.

"We'll need a new First and Science Officer, for one thing," McCoy replied. "As for what you mentioned…well, at this point they just don't matter any more. They no longer exist for him. His life on Sarpeidon with his new love is all he's thinking about now."

"Doesn't sound to me like he's thinking straight, not when he can so easily throw away everything he ever worked for, not to mention everyone who ever loved him…" Her voice trailed off. Including me, she finished silently, tears beginning to burn her eyelids. Did our bonding---did I--really matter so little to him that he could so easily walk away, simply dismiss me and our involvement as if it had never existed?

Christine didn't like the answer forming in her mind but sensed it was true, however much she wished it wasn't. She then made a split- second decision; she intended to travel to Sarpeidon's past and confront Spock directly. However, she needed to speak to the Captain first about possibly getting permission to use the Guardian.

There were just too many unanswered questions, too many loose ends--- questions only Spock could answer---and she would find out what she wanted to know, whatever it took. Even if she had to take him apart to do it! But before she could start, it was necessary for her to get rid of Leonard.

"I'm…glad you told me, Leonard. May I be alone now? I have a lot to think about."

McCoy gave her a look of mixed concern and affection. "Of course, honey." The Doctor got up and headed for the door, then turned around to face her after reaching it. "Chris, I want you to know that there are still other people here who love you and appreciate you--*unlike certain others*." He made special emphasis on the last three words, and Christine knew why.

"Thank you, Leonard. I'll remember that." Christine forced a smile. "Please leave me now."

"Of course." McCoy nodded in her direction, then stepped toward the door and out once it had opened to permit him to leave.

Make no mistake, Christine was deeply hurt…and angry as all hell over Spock's actions--too deeply hurt for words to express---but she had too much else to think about to dwell on her personal pain at the moment. She reached for her desk intercom upon sitting down there. "Chapel to Kirk."

"Yes, Miss Chapel?" his voice came back.

"May I come see you? I have something very important to discuss with you."

"I'm kind of tired, but I suppose you can. How about meeting me for dinner in the Officers' Lounge?"

"Fine. When?"

"An hour. That should give us each time to shower and change."

"I'll be there."

"See you then. Kirk out." The intercom was then closed; Christine sat back in her chair for a moment, her mind working swiftly as she prepared her campaign to track down Spock and tell him just what she thought of him for doing what he did…and then some. That selfish, cowardly, unfeeling bastard! she raged through her tears. No one uses me for an emotional punching bag and gets away with it!

* * *

Christine and Kirk were sitting in the Officers' Lounge in a secluded booth within the next half hour. Kirk, ever the thoughtful host, seated her first. "Make yourself comfortable, Christine, and I'll be back with our food in a little while. What would you like?" After she told him, he said, "Coming up. We'll have our talk when I return."

She nodded in acceptance and the Captain disappeared for a time, returning with a large tray, on which were their two meals, including drinks. Once the meals had been served and the Captain had seated himself facing her, he smiled and asked, "Now what did you want to ask me?"

"Would it be possible for me to use the Guardian?" she blurted out while she still had the nerve.

Kirk gave her a funny look. "Why would you want to do that?…Oh, I think I can guess," he said before she could answer. "I'm afraid it wouldn't do any good. You know how Spock is when his mind's made up."

"I know---but I'm just as stubborn," she retorted determinedly. "Besides, there are too many loose ends, too many unanswered questions, for me to simply let it ride…questions that only Spock can answer. Will you help me?"

Kirk sighed, knowing that nothing he could say would dissuade her. "I think I could pull a few strings, but you'd still need to get an OK from Admiral Nogura, which includes a psychological work-up and a thorough background check, even if I put in a good word for you. We can't be too careful where the Guardian is concerned, you know."

"When can we start?" was all she asked.

"I can contact Nogura in the morning and see what we need to do to get you permission to use the Guardian. It may take some time, so don't be surprised," he warned.

"How long?" she asked, by this time about halfway through her meal.

"Anywhere from ten days to two weeks---and while I'm talking with him, I'll apply for a permit to enter the sector where the Time Planet is. With luck, we should have it by the time the psychological work-up and background check is finished. Meanwhile, I suggest you prepare yourself as best you can. Bones tells me that where he and Spock were is in snow and blizzard conditions."

"How could Spock ever live in a place like that? You know that even the regular temperature of the ship is usually cold to him."

Kirk considered saying, "Maybe he expects Zarabeth to keep him warm," but knew that this woman would not appreciate that, so he tactfully refrained. "I also recall Bones saying that they were told that a hot spring ran beneath the cave, so that must be what warms it."

"Even that wouldn't be enough, I wouldn't think," Christine opined. "But I suppose he intends to wear extra clothing to compensate, as he usually did here."

"Probably," Kirk conceded. After a time, he sighed and said, "One more thing. When you find him, don't be too hard on him, Christine. I doubt he intentionally meant to hurt you---or any of us. Because of the atavachron, Spock is far more emotional than he used to be, so he's not really thinking straight at the moment. Because of the time period he's in, it's bound to make him do things he wouldn't ordinarily do."

"Tell me about it," she rejoined dryly. "Don't worry, Captain; I've never been able to stay angry at him, even when he deserves it." Privately, of course, the Head Nurse had her doubts as to whether or not this situation would end up the same way, but she didn't mention this to Kirk. She would have to bide her time and see how things turned out.

* * *

It took a little longer than they expected, closer to three weeks, but finally all the necessary checks, permits and such had been obtained, and the Enterprise was finally on the way to the Time Planet. By this time, Uhura had also found out what her friend intended to do, but after their own talk, realized that no one and nothing was going to sway Chris from her sworn mission. The dark woman could only hope that Spock would survive this classic case of "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned"…

* * *

Uhura had also been the one chosen to see Christine off and was waiting when her friend arrived in the Transporter Room. "Good luck, Chris. Let us know how things turn out," she told her friend after giving her a goodbye hug.

"It's Spock who's going to need the luck, but thanks anyway," the other woman replied, taking her place on the transporter platform. "Energize."

* * *

Christine was bundled up like an Eskimo for the trip to Sarpeidon's Ice Age, but it was quite cold on the Time Planet too, so she was glad she was dressed appropriately either way. Upon reaching the large, rough-hewn stone doughnut, she spoke to it. "Guardian…"

The baritone voice which answered her said, "What is your wish, Traveler?"

"I wish to travel to the planet Sarpeidon's last Ice Age, approximately five thousand years ago. I am also searching for two people, a Humanoid woman and a Vulcan-Human male. Would it be possible for you to set me down in their vicinity?"

"All things are possible," the voice replied. A short time later, the normally clear center of the stone doughnut began clouding over; not long after that, the voice spoke to her again. "The time and place are ready to receive you."

After a brief instant of blackness and disorientation, Christine was greeted by a bright red sun---Beta Niobe---but it was bitterly cold; she estimated at least thirty degrees below zero, even without the wind chill. She had no idea how Spock ever expected to live in a place like this, with his desert-bred physiology, but she had no time to dwell on that now. What mattered was finding Zarabeth's cave and her quarry.

* * *

It took her several hours to reach the cave, and it was nearly dark before Christine managed to locate it. She had to force herself to keep moving; the cold wind cut through her like a knife and every part of her body, particularly her feet, was beginning to go numb. She considered herself lucky that she'd had survival training, but it would be tough living here even with it, much less without it. She wouldn't give a plug nickel for the chances of anyone landing here without any knowledge of how to survive in below-zero cold and blizzard conditions.

She estimated that it was almost 1800 hours, ship's time, when she finally reached the mouth of the cave. The temperature was consider- ably warmer once she had stepped inside, although it was still quite cold, maybe in the single digits. It definitely helped being out of the wind, though, that was for sure! She moved somewhat further into the cave, and not too long afterward began to thaw out.

The next thing she heard stunned her---Spock's voice! He was a lot closer than she had expected. He seemed to be asking when dinner would be ready…and she heard a melodic female voice answer, "In about half an hour," which must belong to Zarabeth, the one he had chosen over her. It was all she could do not to rush in and confront them right off, but there was a method and order to these things. She needed time to figure out her battle plan.

Christine got a thick blanket out of her backpack and folded it so she could sit on it, then rested and thought about what to do next while eating her emergency rations. Not as good as whatever Zarabeth was cooking; it smelled like top sirloin or something similar, but it would keep her alive and that's what mattered. It was roughly an hour later before the former was fully rested; shortly thereafter she stood up and prepared herself as best she could. It was showtime.

* * *

Before she got too much further into the cave, however, she heard footsteps coming toward her---and prepared herself as best she could. When she turned the next corner, just a few steps away, she came face-to-face with Zarabeth. The other woman was just as stunned as Christine to see a third person when as far as she knew, there were only herself and Spock in the cave.

"Who are you?" she asked warily. "What are you doing here?"

"That's not important right now. I just want to know where Spock is. I am…was…a close friend of his. I was told he was here--and I must speak privately with him. You can stick around if you like, but it's not going to be pleasant, because he left without informing me or telling me why he was leaving. I came to get some answers …so if you've got something else to do, I suggest you do it."

"I'm cooking dinner right now," Zarabeth said. "But I don't think there's enough for three people." Inwardly, she was even more mystified by the sudden appearance of the mysterious woman, but didn't argue with her, since she seemed strangely determined.

"That's all right," Christine dismissed. "I've already eaten. All I want now is to see Spock."

"This way," Zarabeth answered, turning on her heel and heading further into the cave; the women entered what served as the kitchen and Zarabeth checked the progress of the cooking meat before replacing it in what resembled a large, deep pan. "Remain here. I will bring Spock to you."

"Thank you." It was warm enough in the room for Christine to remove most of her thick clothes, but she fully intended to keep on her hooded parka for the time being…or at least until Spock arrived. He deserved this nasty surprise after what he'd done---or more accuraterately, hadn't done!

* * *

Spock was reading one of Zarabeth's science books when she found him in their bedroom. "Spock, could you accompany me back to the kitchen? I have a problem and I need your help."

He looked up and smiled warmly at her. "Of course." He set the book aside after marking his place and followed her out, mercifully unaware of their visitor's presence or of her intentions…a blissful ignorance which he would later come to regret---and not just for a short time, either.

When they reached the kitchen, his sharp eyes immediately noticed the third person in the room. "Is this your…problem?" He looked pointedly in Christine's direction, although he didn't know who she was yet. "May I ask who our visitor is, or do you intend to keep that secret?"

"I don't know who she is. All I know is that I found her not far from the entrance to the cave on my way back from the kitchen. She only said that she had been told you were here and needed to speak with you."

"Did she state any particular reason?"

"Something about your not having told her you intended to remain here, if I remember correctly," was the reply.

It was at this point that the Vulcan began to feel uneasy, although he managed to conceal it. He turned in Christine's direction. "Who- ever you are, it would be appreciated if you would reveal yourself and tell me what business you have with me that is so important that you would feel it necessary to follow me here." His tone was stern.

"I'll be glad to, Spock," the newcomer purred. "Very glad, indeed." With that, Christine reached up and pushed back her hood, revealing her face and head, before she removed her thick jacket and placed it with her other winter clothing.

All the blood left Spock's face upon recognizing her; he was liter- ally stunned speechless for an interminable time. Once it sunk in, however, he knew why he had been uneasy---he had frankly been hoping this moment of confrontation would never come. But he had obviously seriously underestimated Christine and her determination where he was concerned. "I did not expect to see you here," he returned coolly, although that coolness came hard.

"I might say the same thing for you, Spock," Christine returned, her tone poisonously sweet, and Spock sensed her displeasure at what he had done---or rather, had not done--beneath her exaggerated courtesy. Because of this, he wanted to get Zarabeth "out of the line of fire," as it were…so he asked Christine to accompany him back to the main room so they could speak privately as she wished while Zarabeth finished the meal.

With a part of her, Christine would have liked her to stay with them; another part, however, wanted to have privacy to take him apart, if only verbally and figuratively. "All right, Spock, explain yourself," she demanded. "Why did you feel it necessary to leave the Enterprise and Starfleet and decide to live out your life here? Wasn't there a compelling enough reason for you to stay in the 23rd century? Wasn't our bonding a compelling enough reason?"

He was unable to speak, which drove her anger higher. "What right did you have to sneak away with your tail between your legs like a coward, instead of being man enough to face me? It's bad enough that you're running out on the Captain and Leonard, not to mention Starfleet, but what did I ever do to deserve you running out on me so soon after our bonding? I never thought of you as the `love 'em and leave 'em' type. And since when is Zarabeth worth throwing away everything you ever worked for, every friend you ever made?… Well?! What do you have to say for yourself?"

"My decision had nothing to do with you, Christine," he finally managed to answer quietly.

"Oh, really," she threw back sarcastically. "Then what else am I to assume?" He could detect a mixture of anger and pain in her voice and was sorry to have been the cause of it in a woman who deserved so much better than himself. He wanted to tell her that he had never meant to hurt her, but doubted she would believe him---and unfortunately, with good reason.

"You kept me at both a physical and emotional distance for years, as if I had a communicable disease--then turn around and pull a boneheaded stunt like this after you finally make up your mind to bond with me! Why in God's name did you do such a thing in the first place if you were going to dump me right afterward? And then I'm supposed to believe your actions had nothing to do with me?

"You know another thing that's obvious?" she continued after taking a breath. "You obviously didn't believe me to be an important enough factor to take into account, despite the fact of our bonding. In fact, you never bothered to think of me at all, as if I had never existed, much less that we'd ever been emotionally involved! If I, the Captain or Leonard had truly mattered even one iota to you, you'd have thought twice before arbitrarily deciding to remain here after having made a commitment on this end."

Spock sighed, wanting to deny her allegations but unable to. "I am sorry if my actions have caused any of you pain, but can assure you that I did not plan for this to happen."

"That's not the point, Spock. Even if there had been no commitment between us, there is still such a thing as common decency," Christine reminded him. "The least you could have done was to explain to at least one of us why you felt it so necessary to stay here. Is that so much to ask, after all we and our shipmates have been through together? Or are you too blinded by your hormones to think straight?"

His head jerked up, his eyes staring cold black daggers through her-- but she didn't flinch. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"You're smart, Spock…or at least you're supposed to be. Figure it out for yourself," Christine snapped back. "Obviously all it ever was to you was a big ego trip to have every woman aboard ship, with the possible exception of Janice Rand, panting after you---with me the biggest idiot of all!" Her voice was laced with self-recrimination. "At least the others had sense enough to back off eventually, but not me. And then you make this sudden change of heart, ask me to bond with you and get my hopes up that we're actually going to have a future together.

"Instead, you make the Captain pull strings and put me through the wringer getting permission from Admiral Nogura to come here and use the Guardian to seek you out and demand an explanation. I didn't even rate a written one you could have sent with Dr. McCoy, much less a verbal one. Everyone tried to talk me out of coming here, but I was determined to find you, determined to find out why you'd left me. Answer me this, Spock---what does Zarabeth have that I don't? Don't I even rate that much?" She continued before he had the chance to draw breath for a reply. "No, you'd rather leave me without a word, let me think there's something wrong with me, something that prevented you from loving me until recently, something which prompted you to walk away from me even after bonding with me."

Spock had kept his head hung the entire time Christine was speaking, unable to meet her eyes, his cheeks burning with shame. How could he possibly have been so callous, so unthinking? He couldn't even claim that the atavachron had affected him; no, it was simply the Vulcan way. The philosophy he had lived by his entire life, but a philosophy he was now throwing away like a dirty shirt---and for what? The love of a woman he truly barely knew, however much physical and emotional pleasure she had given him. Was that enough to build a lifetime relationship on? Honesty soon forced him to admit that it wasn't.

"Christine, I…wish with every fiber of my being that I could explain my actions, but I--cannot. Nor can I expect you to forgive me after the way I have…led you on. But I have---committed myself to life here. I cannot leave. Zarabeth would be devastated."

"And the Captain, Leonard and I wouldn't be, I suppose," she retort- ed, her tone a mixture of anger and pain. "Oh, well…I suppose I can't blame you for not wanting to leave. Since I have my answers now, I won't badger you any more---and in fact, wish you both every happiness. I only wish that I could have been the one to make you happy."

In spite of himself, Spock reached to touch Christine's cheek. "There was very little that you did that did not make me `happy', Christine," he assured her. "I needed, appreciated and treasured your devotion to me more than I could ever express…and never meant to raise your hopes, then let you down--but it is now time for me to move on with my life. Besides, I am certain that you will find someone worthy of you one day---perhaps even another Vulcan. He will be a very lucky man---and will please you in every way that I could not."

"You mean would not," she corrected, "but that's immaterial now. So let me express my hope that you and Zarabeth have many happy, pleasant times together. At least I have my memories…memories of the time I kissed your hands above Psi 2000 and first told you I loved you; the time we shared consciousness together; the kiss we shared on Platonius, even if it was forced; what happened in your quarters during your first pon farr and the dream you said you had about me… then the night of our bonding when I first felt the touch of your mind, your voice in my head …" Her voice trailed off, a mixture of sadness and bitterness. "Even if the memories mean nothing to you, they are memories I will always cherish."

Christine took a breath, then continued. "If Zarabeth makes you happy, if you can truthfully say I mean nothing to you, that nothing we've shared together means anything to you, then I'll leave you here with her and let you get on with your life, while I get on with mine." She had to fight off a painful lump in her throat and the tears which burned her eyelids; even now they threatened to overflow down her cheeks.

She then gathered up her clothing and went into the living room to put it on again. She heard footsteps behind her but wasn't sure who it was and told herself she didn't care…but God help her, she did--- and always would. Of all the things I've screwed up in my life, she thought, finally allowing the tears to fall, it will be losing you that I regret the most, my darling…but I pray that you will be happy. May Zarabeth give you all the love that you would never allow me to give you. All I ask is that you think of me once in a while; think of what might have been, if you'd ever given me a real chance.

It took roughly half an hour for Christine to put on her winter clothing again; when she least expected it, she felt a gentle touch on her shoulder. She turned to find Zarabeth standing behind her. Christine wiped her tears away angrily, but others replaced them. A moment later, when she was reaching to wipe them away again, Zarabeth's hand stopped her. "Don't. I had no idea that Spock had left anyone behind who loved him as you do. I would never have asked him to stay with me had I known that he had bonded with you and promised to marry you. I also find it hard to believe that he would knowingly treat you this way."

"I… suppose I deserved it, the way I was always chasing him, constantly making a nuisance of myself. Once he even had to almost physically throw me out of his quarters. Besides, he's already told me that he wants to stay here, so I'm not about to stand in his way," Christine told her. "All I ask is that you love him as he deserves… love him as he never allowed me to do. I had better get back to my ship now." She reached to fasten her parka, but again, Zarabeth's hand stopped her.

"You cannot leave like this, not with this situation unresolved."

"It's not your fault, Zarabeth. You couldn't have known," Christine assured her companion as she handed her the communicator. "But I don't want Spock back unless he can come back willingly. I couldn't live with him knowing that you were constantly in his thoughts. I'm going back to the ship now; we'll be in orbit for another day, so I'll leave the communicator here if he changes his mind. He knows what to do in that event, so if we don't hear from him by this time tomorrow, we'll ask for the communicator back and leave the two of you to your life here." Her voice threatened to break on the last word.

"I could not be happy with him, knowing that he has left behind so many who love him," Zarabeth insisted. "He belongs back with you, your Captain and Dr. McCoy on your ship."

"Neither do I want to see you hurt," Christine replied. "After all, you've lived here alone for so long. You deserve someone special to share your life with."

"As do you," Zarabeth countered. "I've managed to live alone this long; I can do it again."

"Listen to us, both trying out for the post of `Great Martyr of the Galaxy'," Christine managed to laugh shakily. "Truly, is any man… even Spock…worth what we women go through for them? I can't help wondering."

Christine looked up at Zarabeth, then met her eyes, full of empathy and understanding of the agony she must be going through at sacrificing her own happiness in order to spare another the same pain. "Give Spock my love, Zarabeth. The best of luck and every happiness to you both. I was very glad to have met you."

"I was glad to meet you, too," the other woman agreed. "May your God ---or Gods--bless you for your unselfishness. Farewell." Christine nodded in Zarabeth's direction, then left the room. Once outside, she called for the Guardian, then leaped through the opening, back onto the Time Planet, five thousand years in the future… then got out her own communicator and called for Scotty to beam her back up to the ship. A few moments later, Spock came in, breathless; Zarabeth surmised that he had been running for some reason.

"Zarabeth, where is Christine?"

"You just missed her," was the reply.

"No!" he exclaimed, obviously upset.

"Spock, it's all right. She told me to tell you that the ship would remain for another day and left one of your communicators behind in case you wish to contact them before they leave." Zarabeth handed him the aforementioned device. "Now let's have dinner; it's no doubt cold by now." She turned in the direction of the kitchen, expecting him to follow her. He sighed heavily, then thrust the communicator into his pocket and did just that.

* * *

But it didn't take a day---barely half that, in fact. Even at that, it was not easy for him to part with Zarabeth…and it took them at least six hours to make their final goodbyes. As difficult as it was to do that, Spock knew that it would be even more difficult to remain with Zarabeth and think of all Christine had said and consider all he had shared with his friends---and her---now that he had been reminded so forcefully.

He called Jim and explained what he intended to do, swearing him to secrecy; he was not to tell even McCoy that Spock was going to come back. As for Christine, he admonished them not to say anything to her, either, since he wanted to surprise her. Only after this did Spock change back to his normal mode of dress---his blue and black science uniform---then he took steps to hopefully induce Christine to forgive him. He also made sure to send a communique to Starfleet Command rescinding his original resignation.

* * *

The First Officer spent half the remaining time until his planned rendezvous with Chrisine (well, sort of planned--he had left a message on Christine's computer when he planned to come see her) but had not signed it, so she wouldn't know who to expect.

In the meantime, Spock interviewed prospective replacements for him with Zarabeth, allowing half an hour for each (he had narrowed it down to six), finally narrowing it down to three---then one, a young science tech who nonetheless strongly resembled him, even though he was a full-blooded Human. The man also seemed willing to stay with a beautiful woman, despite the fact that it would be in another time; the Vulcan had been pleased to see that one of the tech's hobbies was ancient civilizations. Not to mention the fact that he had grown up in Alaska and was thus used to cold climates.

Once he had chosen, the young man had beamed down and jumped through the Guardian and into Zarabeth's frozen world, where she would be waiting for him. He had also made certain that the crewman had made all the necessary arrangements to resign from the ship and Starfleet, so once his matchmaking was taken care of, Spock then made the arrangements to surprise Christine with his decision to stay…among other things.

* * *

The word had gotten around about Spock's resignation from the ship and Starfleet like the proverbial house afire, but it was nothing compared to how fast the word spread once it had become known that the Vulcan had returned to his old position and rank. He had even heard rumblings about the crew possibly throwing a "welcome back" party for him, but he requested that Jim squelch that---at least temporarily, until he'd gotten settled back in and his plans were all put into motion.

Yet at the same time, he would not be surprised if both of his friends would co-host that very same party. He supposed he would have to endure it, if only to please them, but would do so willingly if he could manage to have Christine on his arm…but not only as his date. The Vulcan could not be sure how she would react to his emotional reversal; he could only hope it would be a positive one. He would not allow himself to think otherwise; otherwise he would never be able to complete all he had planned for her.

* * *

Spock became more and more nervous as the appointed time approached, although he would not have admitted it publicly---and he barely admitted it to himself. He showered and dressed in his nicest casual outfit, making sure he looked as perfect as possible. He then made his way to her quarters, carrying a bottle of Vulcan wine and if all were going to plan, the mixed bouquet he had arranged for…the Vulcan t'lerya flower and Terran white roses in a crystal vase and tied with a big white bow, would have been delivered at the time and in the arrangement the First Officer had requested.

Not to mention her favorite meal, as he had discreetly inquired about, then arranged for as well. It should have been delivered to her quarters by now. All that was necessary at this juncture was for him to climax the occurrences which were sure to be surprises to her at the very least with his arrival, wine bottle in hand, rekindled love in his heart and an abject apology in his mind.

As for Christine, she couldn't have been more stunned and surprised, albeit pleasantly so, at the things which had begun arriving almost from the time she had awakened. One would have thought it was her birthday or something! At 1500 a beautiful mixed bouquet of t'lerya and white roses had arrived in a crystal vase, then just a few minutes ago (at 1745) her favorite dinner had arrived. The card which accompanied the meal had read:

**It is my hope that you find both the bouquet and the meal to your liking, Christine…not to mention the proposition I have for you. It would be appreciated if you would get `dressed up', as I will. And as I indicated in my earlier message, I will be arriving at 1800 hours to share it with you.

Your Secret Admirer**

Christine had dressed in her favorite dress, a floor-length glittery, sky-blue number with long, fitted sleeves which tapered to points on her hands and clung to her slender waist and hips; there was also a V-neck deep enough to show some cleavage, but not too much.

She even wore a diamond heart on an almost invisible chain around her slender neck and blue-and-gold high-heeled sandals; her golden hair was piled on top of her head, tendrils strategically placed at the back of her head and at the sides of her face---then to top it off, a musky-rose type perfume, both romantic and sensual, which was just how she wanted to appear. By this time it was nearly 1800; in spite of herself her heart had begun to pound in both nervousness and anticipation. Only a few more minutes and she would find out who her "Secret Admirer" was…

She was not only brought back to reality by her buzzer sounding at precisely 1800, but she jumped nearly a foot. Once she had calmed down sufficiently, Christine stood up, took a deep breath and marched toward the door to admit her caller. It was a good thing she had hold of the doorjamb; otherwise her stunned shock upon seeing who it was might have prompted her to collapse at his feet and that would never have done. "Spock! You're the secret admirer?" she exclaimed, both pleased and surprised. "This is the last thing I expected, that's for sure."

"But you are pleased?" he asked in an almost apprehensive tone.

"Pleased? I'm ecstatic!" she assured him, barely restraining herself from throwing herself into his arms to hug and kiss the stuffing out of him. She had no idea what she had done or said to prompt Spock's abrupt turnaround, but it didn't really matter. What mattered was that it had worked. "But what about Zarabeth? I thought you intended to stay with her."

"You…changed my mind," he returned quietly. "I---got to thinking about all you had said and found that I…could not face the prospect of a life without my friends---and most importantly…you. I am---most profoundly sorry for my treatment of you and hope you will find it in your heart to forgive me and renew our bond." He stepped inside; she moved to allow him to enter and the door closed (and locked!) behind them.

"Renew our bond?" Both her penciled eyebrows raised.

"Yes. It would… please me greatly if you were to---once again accept me as your bondmate and husband. Vulcan knows that I do…not deserve you, but I very much wish for the opportunity to demonstrate to you that I have `learned my lesson'. I will never leave you again. In fact, all I have done today has been leading up to this, so if you will still have me…" His voice trailed off, unsure if he should say anything further.

"Spock, my beloved, you really need to ask?" she chided affectionately. And that was all that was necessary for the distance to close between them, then end in a tenderly passionate, lingering kiss which sealed their respective fates not only now, but for all time.



THE END (or only the beginning??)

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