DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Pierrette Therene and is copyright (c) 1999 by Pierrette Therene. This story is Rated PG.


Pierrette Therene

Dr. Christine Chapel was dead. Not in the physical sense of the word; if you had put her on one of the sickbay biobeds, all life signs would have registered normal. No, she was dead inside, heart and spirit broken beyond repair ... numbed with pain and sorrow. This day she had seen her most cherished dream crushed beyond hope.

An English poem from the latter part of the 20th century came to mind:

Hold fast to dreams,

For when dreams go

Life is a barren field

Frozen with snow.

*Frozen and barren*, she thought. *Those adjectives apply very well to you, stupid, naive Christine. Oh, God, I wish I was dead!*

* * *

The nightmare had begun three weeks earlier. During a routine patrol in the Neutral Zone, the Enterprise had picked up a distress signal from a small Vulcan cruiser. They had arrived just in time to beam up the only passenger, astrophysicist T'Sarn of Vulcan. The medics carried her into sickbay and Christine started to examine her patient. T'Sarn had obviously gone into the Vulcan trance to lower her body functions and make her depleted oxygen supply last longer when she had seen that there was no possibility of a quick rescue.

Dr. Chapel was an eager student of Vulcan physiology, so she did not get worried. Four heartbeats a minute for a Human spelled brain damage and death, but a Vulcan could maintain this low level for many days without danger. Christine also understood that only a Vulcan Healer or fellow Vulcan could bring T'Sarn out of her trance state. A mind-meld was necessary to make the astrophysicist understand that she was out of danger and on friendly ground, so the trance was not required any more.

As far as Vulcans went, Spock was it on the Enterprise, so she contacted him. While he was on his way to sickbay, wistful thoughts were going through the female Doctor's mind. *If only it could be me lying in that bed, requiring a touch and meld from Spock.* The hunger had been in her for so long. She craved his touch, his love. The raw need even sent her out of her quarters some late nights, on her way to his cabin to beg for some crumb of attention.

*I wonder what kept me from pressing his buzzer some nights,* she mused. *Maybe a shred of dignity and the certainty that I would have been bodily thrown out with the advice to stop shaming myself and him with such behavior.*

Countless times she had stood outside his cabin with tears running down her face, silent sobs racking her body as she guiltily looked right and left while raising her hand. Then she turned and made a mad dash to her quarters, scared to death that, strong telepath that Spock was -- his mental shields down while resting -- would have picked up her distress, guessed at its cause and been annoyed with her.

Instead, she had prayed, dreamed and hoped ... day after day, month after month, year after year. She had worked on mind and body relentlessly to make herself worthy, learning the Vulcan language and customs as well as philosophy and physiology. She even worked out at the gym daily to keep herself trim and build up her resistance, running and swimming, thinking of Vulcan gravity and the physical exhaustion brought on by the long days of the Vulcan mating drive.

All of this she had done and kept hidden from her family and close friends -- but she would have done ten times as much if only one day all her work would bring the long-awaited reward: Spock would notice her and tell her he had chosen her for his bondmate. Then she would surprise him with her knowledge and several diplomas received from the Vulcan Science Academy. And he would say...

"Dr. Chapel, I believe you require my assistance."

She looked up at the sound of his voice; the subject of her devotion was looking at her with a puzzled frown on his face. Christine quickly doctored her face back to her professional mask and began to explain what was required of the First Officer.

"The meld requires privacy. You will leave us alone," the Vulcan told her.

"Yes, Mr. Spock. T'Sarn is in the isolation cubicle; you will have privacy. Call me if you require my help," she said to his retreating back.

She fought to ignore the green demon of jealousy rearing its ugly head. She could vividly imagine Spock's long fingers touching the meld points on T'Sarn's face. How incredibly beautiful his face was! All of Vulcan's pride in the upswept eyebrows, magnificent ebony hair and perfectly formed pointed ears. Even worse, she recalled the file from Vulcan showing T'Sarn's marital status: UNBONDED FEMALE. The only unbonded children on Vulcan were from open-minded families ... true citizens of the Federation who thought each individual had a right to make his or her own choice of mate. After all, in an average case, it meant two centuries of lifetime commitment.

Christine, always insecure in the face of Spock's rejection or indifference, jumped in leaps and bounds to conclusions where once more she would be the loser in the pitiful game of unrequited love she had been playing for ten years. This started a whirlwind of tormented thoughts:

*If the family is not traditional, they will not be bigots and not mind a half-Vulcan husband-to-be for their daughter. If T'Sarn feels the same way, and she probably does, she will welcome Spock's interest. After all, he is a legend among his people, from Vulcan's most respected and wealthy Clan, and a scientist well-known across several solar systems.

And Spock would be interested; she is so much the epitome of what he most reveres in his father's culture ... Vulcan virtues of great intellect and a crystal-clear, logical mind. The Human part of him would appreciate so much loveliness and T'Sarn's own Clan ranking, third in the archives of Vulcan ancestry.

Face it, Christine. You don't stand a chance. Talk about a logical choice! On one hand, one aging Human female with a few credits to her name, a very ordinary family, an average IQ and looks -- and on the other, all of Vulcan in a package that spells wealth, prestige, intelligence and beauty.*

A few feet away, the man she worshiped was merging souls with another woman. Christine had avidly read anything that was available on mind-melding. The Vulcan Healers, discreet in their clinical descriptions, had written about the process in cold medical terms. But there were the Pre-Reform poets -- the "naughty" Vulcans of before Surak's time who had described mind-meld with poetry and feelings, as a marvelous symphony of music, colors and beauty.

She had little to go by except her own brief experience during the Sargon incident. Spock's mind had been heavily shielded at the time; she had not dared to explore. Her only tentative touch had been met with a *Nurse, you will leave me alone,* so chilling that she had felt like crawling under a rock and dying.

But she knew with an intuition born of instinct of the warm friendship between the Captain and the Vulcan, as well as the way Amanda's eyes lit up each time Sarek was in the room. A mind-meld -- the mating of two souls, the blending of two personalities -- must be the most meaningful and wondrous experience that could happen between two beings.

That was part of her dreams, although she naturally wanted a physical relationship. In her erotic fantasies, Spock was a willing partner, returning each kiss, each touch. Dreams where he used his Vulcan strength and body control to cherish and satisfy, the love-making perfect beyond words.

The thirst, the hunger for more and the promise of oneness with a bondmate, soulmate and T'hy'la, was almost more than she could bear, but she would willingly have given her life for a glimpse of Heaven. She felt like screaming her pain as tears came to her eyes. She blinked them back. *Control. You must control.* A lack of control would make him compare the two women to her disadvantage.

She probably appeared old, ugly and stupid next to T'Sarn, but "emotional" was anathema to Spock, so at all costs, she had to keep a serene face and a detached calm, then try with all her might to make him realize that she was valuable, too -- that he could consider her as a candidate for bonding. What she lacked in some ways she could compensate for, adapt and live as a native-born Vulcan. No sacrifice would be too great if only he would give her the chance to prove herself!

Yes, that was when the nightmare had begun. T'Sarn had been right next to Spock when he had stepped out of the isolation cubicle, looking as fit as a fiddle -- as though she had just been taking a refreshing nap instead of two weeks of forced sleep in a tiny cruiser.

From that day on, both Vulcans could be seen in all parts of the ship, day and night, deep in conversation about this or that experiment, Surak's philosophy or any discovery of galactic interest.

The rumors had started soon enough -- how Cupid had finally touched the cold Vulcan's heart ... and more than one pitying look had been sent in Christine's direction. She had tried hard not to wear her heart on her sleeve, not showing the raging battle taking place in her body and soul.

Every night she had gone back to her cabin as she would have to a sanctuary where she could let herself go -- wipe the frozen smile from her face, the hypocritically cheerful attitude. And some nights when the despair was unbearable, she had engaged the privacy lock, put her sonic shower on full blast and screamed out her pain like a wounded animal.

At first she had thought she would fight for her happiness. Feverishly she thought up mad schemes geared toward tipping the scale in her favor. What if she spoke to Amanda? The older woman had always been nice and understanding and had a great influence on her son. What about Leonard? After a rough beginning, Spock and McCoy had developed an enduring friendship and she had no doubt that the good doctor's opinion mattered a lot to the Vulcan.

And what if she tried to seduce him -- sneak into his cabin in the gorgeous Vulcan dress that had cost her a king's ransom on Starbase 10? The Ferengi merchant had told her that this particular style was worn only by Vulcan women of the highest lineage, but then everybody knew that to trust a Ferengi was asking for trouble. What if the dress was cheap and gaudy, and Spock found her appearance repulsive instead of enticing?

Or should she appeal to his mind ... engage him in a discussion about the finer points of grammar in the High Vulcan language? He would probably look at her as if she was demented and ask why she needed to know. In which case, she would say: "Well, Mr. Spock, it's because I worship the ground you walk on. How's that for a logical reason?"

In the end, however, she had done nothing because deep down she knew that no matter what, Spock was going to reach a decision shortly and no one (and nothing) would budge him one inch.

* * *

Christine could see that the outcome did not seem favorable for her. She was still a piece of sickbay furniture, but T'Sarn was sharing meals and conversation with Spock. She had even taken away Christine's most cherished job -- the weekly lab experiments she had been conducting with the Vulcan.

Hours of hard work and deep concentration, but for her the rewards were great: stolen glances to feed the hunger for the sight of him, long and aridly scientific discussions -- although the baritone voice was a soothing balm for her bleeding heart ... and most rare but so precious, the accidental contacts where a hand or shoulder touch had sent her pulse skyrocketing. Memories she could replay again and again to keep her loneliness at bay when the cross was too hard to bear.

Uhura, her best friend, had indicated that messages were being exchanged between planet Vulcan and the Enterprise. The First Officer received the secret messages on his private line, but the Communications Officer had let Christine know of their existence because she wanted her to be prepared for the worst so the shock would not be so awful. If only T'Sarn had not been so likeable!

She had none of the judgmental attitude and cold superiority some of her people showed. Oh, she was Vulcan through and through -- make no mistake about that -- but with an underlying warmth, twinkling humorous eyes and the seldom-seen half smile that told the crew that deep down under layers of logic, there was an individual worth knowing, understanding and respecting.

After years of acquaintance with the taciturn First Officer, crewmembers naturally felt that warmth, opening to her like sunflowers turning to the light. Scotty had started calling her "lassie," Sulu was enthusiastic about her botanical knowledge, and even McCoy had declared that it was a nice change to talk to a being with pointed ears who didn't sound like a computer.

Whatever happened, Christine would not hold a grudge against T'Sarn, innocent of any wrongdoing -- or Spock, who had never indicated in the smallest manner that she could hope to have her affection reciprocated.

Because what mattered to her more than anything, first and foremost, was Spock's happiness. It was the way she loved, to the point of selfless sacrifice where the joy of the loved one would come before anything else. She had decided that when the time came and all hopes and dreams had turned to ashes, she would leave the ship without complaint and go to the remotest part of the Galaxy where no one could ever track her down and quietly end her life.

She would cover all her steps thoroughly, so nobody could ever guess what had become of her. This way neither McCoy or Spock could feel guilty about her decision. It was hers to make; there was no point in living in this empty shell of a body when everything that would make her life worth living was gone, with room only for the darkest despair.

* * *

In the meantime, Spock was getting (if such could be said about a Vulcan) quite frustrated. The entire situation with T'Sarn was unsettling. His orders, given by both the Vulcan High Command and his father, Ambassador Sarek, had been quite clear. Fake a rescue of a Vulcan cruiser in the Neutral Zone and pretend an interest in its passenger, she who was named T'Sarn. The astrophysicist had in fact been secretly betrothed to Simak, one of Vulcan's promising young leaders. He was very outspoken and in full favor of a deeper alliance with Earth.

There had been discontent on both sides, and acts of terrorism had followed. Spies, part of a wider plot, had tried to intimidate Simak into relinquishing his position, but he had refused. In which case, the secret of his bonding had to be maintained at all costs. He could be blackmailed through T'Sarn. His bondmate's well-being was of the utmost priority in Simak's mind and any attempt to harm her might have set back a treaty for a considerable amount of time. Time enough, perhaps, for ambitious Romulans to attempt an assault on the Federation borders and get a strong hold on non-allied planets.

Spock understood the mission's intricacies and the need for secrecy, his captain and McCoy being the only other authorized personnel taken into confidence ... but that didn't make it any easier for him to endure what it was doing to Dr. Chapel. For instance, the way her eyes had filled with tears when she thought herself unobserved after seeing himself and T'Sarn together.

The mind resonance left between them after the Sargon incident had made him sensitive to her emotional distress, and she was broadcasting strongly. The Vulcan had never wished to hurt any sentient being. In Christine's case, it was especially distasteful. If only he could have told her of the mission and his orders! He was aware of her feelings for him; had been since the Psi 2000 virus had made her confide her innermost thoughts. He had only recently discovered, after years of denial, that this "emotion" was not unilateral.

She was a most interesting being, indeed! Always calm under pressure, trustworthy and bright. He admired in her all the qualities that made her species great. Her gentle ministrations in sickbay were a welcome change from the dry wit of the older physician. Her discretion and respect at all times, her readiness to help and give without asking, understand and not judge, the way she faced adversity, head held high without complaint. All this had made Spock pause and think. She was true IDIC, his world a better place because she lived in it.

Her soul would be a living flame where he knew he would be welcomed wholly, warmed by unconditional love. From the crying boy taunted by the other students to the lonely man rejected by his betrothed because of his "tainted" blood, all of him wanted -- *needed* -- this warmth and her sweet essence. However, he also wanted her golden body ... the siren-like apparition emerging from the ship's pool one night, droplets of water like diamonds glittering on the silky skin. Rounded hips, high, firm breasts and a waist which was slender, feminine perfection. After seeing the female physician in her daily swim practice, Spock had spent many restless nights deep in unVulcan thoughts, tantalizing images filling his mind.

She was his destiny, and he had been about to let her know this -- ask if she would become his wife as Jim and McCoy were his friends. He knew his choice to be right and logical for him and what had transpired on planet Berylia some months before had only reinforced his certainty. The Vulcan First Officer thirty years in the future was his son. The spitting image of him, but the eyes had been Christine's -- eyes of the nicest blue, as McCoy had so poetically phrased it.

Spock wanted this future so much ... an heir for Sarek's clan, one of the greatest scientists of all time. His heart pounded at the thought. How much Human pride he would take in his child's achievements! How much fierce but never openly revealed love he would bestow on this yet unborn son! But he was forbidden to tell she who was his life how enriched he felt in her presence because of bureaucracy, diplomats and far-fetched ploys. Two more days to play this charade, to keep company with a living encyclopedia. Did he really sound this way? No wonder Bones got annoyed with him. On the receiving side, all the scientific jargon seemed quite pompous.

* * *

So the time had crept by; the Enterprise was re-routed to Vulcan where the wedding ceremony was to take place. When the morning came, Spock and T'Sarn were waiting in his cabin until it was time to beam down for the koon-ut-kal-if-fee. This day would also be Christine's last on board. She had secretly sealed and sent her letter of resignation. Her Starfleet commission would terminate today, and she would then transfer to a passenger vessel and start the sad trek that would bring her to the planet she had chosen for her disappearance from the living world.

It had underground caverns washed out by the sea at every tide; there she would turn a phaser on full power and wait for the overload explosion which would erase even the smallest trace of her from existence, end her pain once and for all. She had left three holovids -- for McCoy, Uhura and the Captain -- telling them she was on her way to a new life, expressing regrets at not saying a friendlier goodbye, but hoping under the circumstances that they would understand.

But her parents were her main concern. She did not see them often, but loved them dearly and they would worry without news. Several letters, releasable at different dates, would satisfy their curiosity. They would be hurt that she never visited, but hopefully would never guess the truth and die blissfully ignorant of their daughter's decision. Now all she need do was wait until she could safely leave. The ensign in Transporter Room Three was new, but since her papers were in order and signed by Starfleet Command, he would not ask questions or be suspicious about her abrupt departure.

Could she see Spock one more time before she left? Just to wish him the best. She was on her way to his quarters, eager to talk to him and see for herself that he was content. Maybe he would have a few minutes and let her stay for a while. In which case, she would add some priceless memories to her storehouse of treasures.

But when she reached the First Officer's cabin, she saw the privacy lock engaged. Totally unheard of in her ten years on the Enterprise, including the time long ago when he had thrown her plomeek soup offering in her face. A quick scan confirmed her worst fears: two Vulcanoid life-forms. They were together.

A knife-like pain shot through her. They must be completing their bonding in a private ceremony before the official one. Her body trembled with shock and sorrow as a cry came unbidden to her lips: "No! Please, God, no!" She then clasped a hand to her mouth; otherwise they would hear her. She was making a spectacle of herself.

"Hide! You must hide, or else you will shame him in front of his bondmate and spoil his wedding day." But she felt rooted to the spot. "Move, move! Don't just stand here. Look at you, acting like a lunatic. You don't want him to remember you in this frantic, disheveled state."

Shoulders slumping, she turned toward the turbolift even as she heard the privacy lock disengage. No time to get to the 'lift and she could not trust her strength to face them without breaking down. Instead, she rushed inside an empty conference room and leaned against the wall, watching them walking down the corridor. Spock was wearing ruby-red formal Vulcan dress and T'Sarn was in the bride's traditional attire.

He was the Prince of her little girl's dreams -- the nights on Earth when "wishing on a star" meant something. What a pale imitation of the real thing Roger had been! But there would be no "happily ever after" for her. Her Prince had chosen another. It was T'Sarn who would enter *her* Paradise, *her* Promised Land ... she who would know the power of Spock's embrace and the joy of his mind, bear his children and grow old with him. Fate had played a dirty trick on her, filling her mind with hopes and dreams and then crushing her spirit beyond repair.

Christine crumpled like a rag doll onto the floor, mercifully not seen by the couple passing by her hiding place. She lost all track of time, a numbness spreading through every part of her body. How long the seconds of suffering -- the eternity of waiting before she could rest in peace. After an interminable amount of time, she was finally able to get up and walk blindly to her cabin to finish packing.

* * *

Spock was restless; Christine's pain had intensified to the point that this morning it had felt like palpable anguish. Their bond, partial at best, must be extremely resilient and finely attuned if she had the power to reach him without physical contact. She would have to learn the mind rules. Such distress on a full bond would overwhelm all considerations and the necessity of comforting and returning serenity to the distraught one would take precedence at all costs, seriously incapacitating him and rendering him unable to perform his duties.

He debated whether or not to send her calming thoughts, but decided against it. She would think she was hallucinating. He berated himself for having waited this long to reveal his feelings because of Vulcan reserve and being unable to find the proper time to tell her. He cursed every moment of the forced secrecy because of the awful sorrow it was causing Christine. Never again!

The minute he was back on the starship, he would go to her and let her know how much she had come to mean to him, appease her fears and bring back her smile ... the one who was the light of his being. He would beg forgiveness for making her wait so long and endure such pain, although she would understand that "love" was difficult for him to acknowledge, much less comprehend.

Spock and T'Sarn were joined by McCoy and Jim at the ancestral place and the age-old ritual took place. After she and Simak had disappeared, a banquet got underway. Amanda and Sarek, honored guests and family friends of the couple, were sitting at their table. The older woman's demeanor was satisfied under the necessary Vulcan decorum. She always rejoiced in Spock's visits, and he decided to make an effort to reach out to her, show his appreciation of her discreet motherly attention.

How like Christine she was, so unselfish and giving -- yet he had been ashamed of her as a boy. How blind he had been! It had taken his patient and true Human friends, the traumatic Voyager experience and the better part of his existence to make him realize his luck. Amanda was the epitome of motherhood, her image enshrined in the sanctuary of her son's soul.

And Sarek, the formidable father -- the one whose standards Spock believed he could never live up to ... yet this same man had declared himself pleased with his son's performance after the Probe episode. Spock also recalled awakening one night shortly after the "fal-tor-pan" to see the older Vulcan with his head bowed near his bed, whispering a prayer of thanksgiving to the Vulcan gods for returning his only child safe to him.

Spock's introspection was suddenly interrupted as a vivid image of Christine standing alone and forlorn on a transporter platform invaded his mind. *Adieu, mon amour,* she thought, the mind-voice desolate and the use of her native French language perplexing. He dropped his fork, startled -- an action which brought Kirk and McCoy to his side at once.

"What is it, Spock? Are you in pain?" the healer asked.

"Shields up, Captain. Now," the Vulcan said hoarsely even as he shook his head in response to the doctor's question.

Trusting his First Officer implicitly, Kirk flipped open his communicator and ordered Sulu, acting captain, to raise the ship's shields.

"I must return to the ship now, Father, Mother," he apologized to his surprised parents. "I will explain later. Captain, Doctor, please accompany me. It is a matter of the utmost importance and I might need your help."

On the way to the pre-arranged beam down site, Spock took a few moments to explain himself; McCoy looked positively delighted. "Spock, you have seen the light. I am so happy for you, my dear colleague, that I could burst."

Kirk smiled affectionately at his closest friend. "I am overjoyed too, Spock. You must go to her at once and explain everything. We will be outside if you need help. Please call us, my friend. We are here for you always."

* * *

The Transporter Room Three doors opened in front of Spock a short time later. He dismissed the young crewman, who was bewildered by the strange turn of events. Chapel looked up to see a blurry image of a very concerned, if not frantic, Vulcan standing an arm's length away from her. No, it couldn't be. She was hallucinating. Spock couldn't possibly be here.

Spock then reached into himself to touch the part of him that was Amanda's legacy. He had to explain why Christine had misjudged the situation. "Christine, I am not romantically involved with T'Sarn. She is bonded to another. She always has been." His voice was quiet, barely above a whisper. He sighed, hardly knowing where to begin -- but had to. He had to explain the situation and his actions of the last three weeks in detail.

"My involvement with T'Sarn was an elaborate charade for political reasons. There are spies who seek to harm her and her family as well as the Federation. It was necessary for you to believe that I was very interested in her in order to protect their interests.

"In reality, she is now married to a powerful Vulcan official who will help advance the Federation cause. You are aware of how I abhor deception. I can only do it under orders, and even then it is difficult for me. I am deeply sorry for all the pain you have endured, and hope you will forgive me. I am not rejecting your love, Christine; in fact, you are all I want. Now and for every hour of the rest of my life. You are part of me, my heart, my very being."

He could see that the female physician did not fully grasp the meaning behind his passionate words. Her slender frame (she had lost weight she could ill afford to lose) was trembling and the dark shadows under her eyes gave her a fragile appearance. He *had* to convince her!

Then Spock of Vulcan did something he had never done of his own free will before now. Any past gesture of affection with others had been brought on by foreign substances, time regression or a duty bond. He stepped forward to gently, tentatively pull her off the transporter platform and into his arms. He lifted her chin and brushed her tears away before kissing her moist eyes, wet cheeks and finally her lips. The kiss was deep, lingering and tenderly passionate.

Christine was swept into a web of passion so fast and furious she couldn't think. Despite all her dreams, nothing could have prepared her for the reality. The warm sweetness of Spock's lips, his gentle embrace, fragrance and strength intoxicated her to the core of her being. She felt his body gently press close to her own as he tore his lips from hers to find the pounding pulse in her throat, trace a path down her neck, then up to her right ear. Little tendrils of his thoughts soon touched her mind and she joyfully opened herself to them, projecting a welcome of such intensity that he felt dizzy under the onslaught.

She felt his reaction, immediately contrite at her lack of control. "I'm sorry to be such an emotional Human, Spock. Forgive me."

"Christine." His voice was a husky purr against her ear as he continued to hold her close, unwilling to release her. "I want this as much as you do. For a Vulcan, a physical bond is as necessary as a mental one. I am pleased to feel the incredible power of your love and desire. It will permit us to reach out to and pleasure each other in a most satisfying manner." His face flushed green even as he spoke ... but he had meant every word he had said -- and always would.

Christine, thrilled by his tone and willingness to accept her for what she was, buried her face in his warm neck, breathing in his musky scent. Happiness swelled sure and deep within her. She had received love, the greatest gift of all. A long-awaited gift but one nearly lost beyond salvation. Now her wish had come true. That day, a beautiful dream was transformed into a rapturous reality of shadow and light, of logic and chaos, so opposite yet totally compatible. The sum of their parts soon blended into a perfect whole as Spock and Christine came together, body and soul.

And the stars sang...