Disclaimer: As we all know Paramount and Viacom own the universe we love to play in. The characters and Star Trek in general are theirs. Only the storyline is original. Copyright (c) 2004 Kiristeen ke Alaya. Rated PG. This is set (arbitrarily) 9 months after the events that took place in "Amok Time" and 3 months after the events in the episode "Mirror Mirror".

THE MANY CHOICES OF ONE

Kiristeen ke Alaya

Spock rose from meditation no closer to resolution than when he'd begun. Sighing lightly, he realized this issue would be long in the solving. It had already been 8.94 months since the chain of events that had led to his becoming unbonded. He still could not recall those events without a test against his emotional controls.

To be rejected in such a public, illogical and deadly manner was not easily relegated to the place reserved for past events. Add to it that he would have killed his captain and friend, if McCoy had not intervened with deception, made the issue a quagmire of mixed feelings he was not accustomed to dealing with.

As a Vulcan, he found killing in general distasteful; needless killing anathema. Yet he had been willing to kill another sentient being ... over a woman. Even telling himself it was the power of the plak tow and had nothing to do with him as an individual, did little to settle his inner turmoil.

For now, he resolutely pushed the controversy out of his mind. After all, it was not something that could be decided quickly, he had nearly seven years to make the decision regarding his need to take another bondmate and right now, he had only an hour's worth of time to spend in the lab before he was due on the Bridge.

* * *

Three months of research and he had yet to even come close to duplicating, in computer simulation, the anomalous brain wave patterns that Captain Kirk and his landing party had come back from the Mirror Universe displaying. At the time, it had been McCoy's contention that they had been caused by chemical imbalances brought about by a combination of the transporter malfunction and the odd ionic storm.

He had wondered, very privately, whether those very imbalances were what had enabled the strange transfer in the first place and he had spent nearly all of his free time since then trying to test that theory.

So far, he'd met with very little success. He'd found several combinations that did alter brain waves, but not significantly and not in the direction he needed it to go. If he allowed himself, he would be quite frustrated.

Absently noting the time, he realized he had enough for one last experiment before he had to leave for the bridge. With that in mind, he began mixing his next batch of chemicals. He heard the door swish open behind him, but paid it no mind as crew members had been in and out of the lab several times already.

Double checking his formula, he measured out precisely 15 ml of hydrochloric acid and slowly mixed it in with those he'd already mixed. It fizzed slightly, then began a slow color change to green. Just what he'd been expecting, he thought with some satisfaction.

He reached out to place the beaker in the analyzer and felt a hard nudge from behind. He managed to rescue the beaker just before it crashed to the lab table and set it down gently. As he turned to remonstrate the careless crewman, the stack of containment units the man had been carrying came cascading down on Spock, pushing him back against the table. He caught himself with one hand against the table while attempting to prevent the young ensign from falling with the other.

Just as it looked as if the situation were settled a resounding crash sounded behind Spock and he felt the cold splash of liquid against his back. He turned quickly, dismayed to see the beaker he'd saved in pieces on the floor. He dove forward. And just missed the bottle of ammonia as in rocked of the edge of the table. It too hit the floor and shattered.

Grabbing the Ensign's arm, he started for the door and didn't slow until it closed behind them. "Computer, recycle air in lab 3c. Seal the entrances until the process is complete, then notify me in Sickbay."

"Acknowledged."

Spock turned his head to the ensign as he began walking toward the turbo lift. "Ensign, you will consider yourself on report for negligence and utter carelessness," he said mildly. He paused, frowning ever so slightly. "What possessed you to carry a load that was clearly more than you could handle?"

He watched the young man closely. It seemed his whole body was stiff, as if he were trying to walk at attention.

"I believed I could handle it, sir."

Spock suppressed a sigh. "I understand, Ensign, that it is human nature to constantly attempt to reach beyond your limits. However, in the future, you will exercise restraint and your intelligence and limit your loads to that which can be safely maneuvered. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir."

As the turbolift doors closed after the two of them, Spock began to feel an uncomfortable warmth along the dampness seeping through his uniform. He irrationally wished the turbolift would arrive at their destination. He shifted slightly, hoping he would not have to remove his uniform shirt before arriving at Sickbay. It would not be dignified to walk the corridors half dressed.

"Commander!" Ensign Parnev cried out.

Spock pushed his discomfort aside. The mixture of chemicals used would not cause physical damage despite what he was experiencing. "What is it, Ensign?"

"Your shirt," he said, pointing behind Spock. "Whatever that was that spilled is eating holes in it."

Spock reacted quickly, pulling his uniform shirt off in one swift move. The ensign was correct. He dropped it and removed his black under tunic as well. He examined the back closely. It was just beginning to show signs of deterioration. He did not understand why it was happening however, the chemicals he had used were quite safe in the proper combination.

* * *

"Well, Spock, you're cleared for duty. The burns weren't bad." McCoy paused, focusing all his attention on Spock. "But whatever possessed you to mix ammonia with these other chemicals? The fumes alone are enough to make you sick!"

It all connected suddenly. "Doctor, I did not purposely mix in ammonia. An accident occurred after I had mixed my chemicals. Both my beaker and an ammonia bottle broke. The only conclusion I can come to, was that enough of the ammonia fumes interacted with the other chemicals on my shirt to produce this reaction." He noted the ensign's relieved sigh when his name was not mentioned.

"Did you clear out the lab?"

Spock's drew himself up straight, but the computer answered for him.

"The atmosphere in lab 3c is currently at Earth Normal."

"I see," McCoy answered drily. "Of course you did."

Spock rose.

"I want you in here tomorrow for a second check and if you experience any, and I do mean any unusual burning on your back or any symptoms of lung damage, you will report back here sooner."

"Yes, Doctor," he replied heading for the door.

"Oh, and I would suggest stopping by your quarters before appearing on the Bridge."

Spock managed not to sigh, but he was sorely tempted to roll his eyes. "I did intend to, Doctor," he said and made his escape.

McCoy turned to the hapless ensign. "So, you were there. Tell me exactly what happened."

* * *

Returning to his quarters later than night, he was satisfied that he was none the worse for the minor mishap in his lab. Other than the minor chemical burns that McCoy had taken care of, the potentially harmful addition of the ammonia seemed to have no effect. Leaving as quickly as they had, had evidently limited any potential damage.

Earlier, as he'd left the bridge, he had considered heading directly to his lab and begin this sequence again, but the idea had not interested him. Tomorrow, before his duty shift, would be soon enough to retrace the wasted steps. Tonight, he had decided, he would, 'take a break'. Since the captain had returned from the Mirror Universe, Spock had been thoroughly absorbed in his research and they had not played.

With that in mind, he had engaged the captain in three games of chess and the night had ended predictably. Each of them had won a game and the third had ended in a draw. To this day Kirk's playing style still had the ability to amaze him. Chess was a game of logic, and his illogical moves should not lead to as many victories as they did.

But in all fairness he had to admit, despite his inability to understand it, it was effective.

Reaching his quarters uninterrupted, he crossed to his desk, intending on finishing up the last of his daily paperwork and noticed the message light flashing. He activated it.

"Spock, knowing you as well as I do, I'm just double checking to make sure you've experienced no further difficulties."

Wondering why the doctor had not paged him directly, Spock activated the unit and informed him that he was not adversely affected.

"Good," McCoy replied.

"Doctor, was Ensign Parnev injured in any way?"

McCoy chuckled. "Just his pride, Spock."

"Indeed, that is gratifying to hear."

"What? That his pride was wounded?"

Spock stopped the sigh before it started. "No, Doctor," he replied drily, not intending to begin a debate with the doctor. "I was merely indicating that I was--"

McCoy laughed, interrupting him. "I know, Spock."

"Then why--" Spock interrupted himself this time. "If that is all you wanted, Doctor, I have activities that need attended to."

"Yes, Spock, that was all."

He frowned briefly as he shut off the connection. As irrational as it seemed, there were times when he wished that McCoy were ... someone else.

Putting that aside as unimportant, he quickly set to work on the last of the reports.

* * *

Spock woke suddenly as the ship shuddered. He sat up quickly, then brought his hand to his head as a wave of dizziness followed. An electrical shiver shot down his spine and then danced across his skin feeling like the tiny feet of hundreds of insects.

The effect passed quickly, but left him feeling ... odd. He ignored the sensation a strode to the comunit. "Spock to Bridge."

"Kelvane here."

"Report."

A brief silence followed his order and a the touch of a frown curved his lips.

"Yes, Sir. All systems normal, Sir. It's been a quiet night."

An eyebrow rose. "Then why did the ship just shudder, Lieutenant?"

"Shudder, sir?"

"Yes, shudder."

"Uh ... it didn't," Lt. Kelvane replied. "Sir," he added belatedly.

"Run a level 2 diagnostic. Spock out." He sat as he closed the connection and activated his own computer console.

It took him only moments to discover that all his checks agreed with Lt. Kelvin's assessment. Puzzled and intrigued he quickly dressed and headed for the Bridge. His station there would be able to detect discrepancies with greater accuracy.

Striding onto the Bridge, he almost stopped mid-stride halfway to his station.

"Mr. Spock!" Uhura said, in surprise. Rising from the command chair she met him at his station. "We did not expect to see you tonight. Are you relieving me of the conn?"

"No," Spock replied with an evenness he was far from experiencing. "That will not be necessary. I am merely here to double check my findings."

"Lt. Kelvane completed the level 2 diagnostic. Everything is running appropriately."

"Thank you, Lieutenant," he replied and turned to his station. He heard Uhura move quietly back to the command chair and wonder just when the Captain had changed the duty roster, and why he had not informed his First Officer.

This was, apparently, a day of firsts. Uhura's first conn watch; the first time the captain overrode his duty roster and not telling him. As soon as he was finished here, he would have to speak with him about it. It was not like the captain to do this.

Spock leaned back, unconsciously worrying his lower lip. The checks all came out the same here too. It was a mystery. He had felt the ship shudder. Even if it had been a localized event, not likely, there would have been some indication of it.

He had 4.32 hours before his shift began to figure it out. He was sure that would be enough time. He rose, nodded once to Uhura and strode quietly off the Bridge. He was sure, however, that as the turbolift doors closed behind him he heard the night shift break out in excited whispers.

* * *

Spock stepped into his quarters no closer to the reasons behind the unexplained oddities. He crossed toward his sleeping alcove, but stopped half way there. Despite the fact that he had 2.36 hours before his normal rising time, he knew it would be useless to try and sleep. The shudder that, apparently, only he felt, combined with Kirk's odd behavior was a mystery he was determined to solve.

"Lights," he said softly, working his way to the food replicator. If he was going to stay awake, he should begin... He froze, then turned slowly, his eyes narrowing as he focused on one item; an item that had no place in his life. He started forward, moving in what seemed like slow motion. One step, two, then three.

His hand trembled as he reached out and lightly trailed his fingers along its edges. An eyebrow cocked up as he noted the reaction and he filed it away for future study. Suddenly he grasped it tightly and picked it up. That was the only way to discover its origins. He rotated it slowly, taking in its ancient intricately carved designs and gasped before he could prevent it.

His name, written in High, ancient Vulcan, flowed along one side. He'd seen his name written similarly only once before, when he'd first been bonded to T'Pring. To the casual observer it would appear to be nothing more than a spidery design, even if they knew the old language, purposely so, he knew. The Vulcan who had created the design so long ago, had put his or her own unique touches into it, creating more than a mere replication of letters and words. His ancestors may have been warlike and barbaric, but he had to admit, they also had artisans of unsurpassed skill.

He turned it over in his hands and studied the script on the opposing side. It took him a moment to decipher the unfamiliar name, as the modern artisan had taken his or her own liberties with original design. Gasping a second time, he nearly dropped the talisman as who the other name belonged to became clear.

He knew without doubt, there was no way he was bonded to T'Pring. That distasteful day was still burned into his memory.

He set it down, carefully controlling a surprising anger. It was time to speak with the Captain. Something very odd was going on here and he intended to get to the bottom of it.

"Spock to Captain Kirk."

A moment later Kirk's sleep-filled voice responded. "Kirk here. What is it, Spock?"

"Captain," Spock said and began filling him in on the first of many odd occurrences.

"In the morning briefing, we'll have Scotty perform a diagnostic on his end. Better to be safe than sorry," Kirk answered. "Was that everything?"

After a moment of indecision Spock continued. "No," he said. "May I ask why you changed the duty roster without informing me?"

"Changed the duty roster?" Kirk asked suddenly sounding very alert. "Who's duty was changed?"

"Lt. Uhura has gamma shift conn."

"I know," Kirk said. "but who's duty was changed?"

Spock's eyebrow shot up. "I was unaware that Lt. Uhura had been assigned to that duty."

"Spock, you made out the roster. She's been on Gamma Conn once a schedule for the last 5 months." Silence followed for a moment. "Spock, are you all right? I've never known you to forget anything, let alone something like this."

"Yes, Captain. I am quite well. However, I am ... concerned about these unexplained occurrences." Spock paused, internally debating whether to bring up the third, rather personal, oddity. "There is one other incident I need to report. Someone on board manufactured a Vulcan bonding talisman and placed it in my..."

"You mean one like the one you got on Vulcan?"

Like the one you got on Vulcan, rang through Spock's mind. This was very disconcerting. Why did his memory of events differ from everyone else's? "Captain, I did not," he paused, then began again. "Captain, would you please tell me what you remember of our last visit to Vulcan?"

As Spock listened to Kirk summarize his memory of the events, he could hear the worry increase in his tone.

"Captain, that is not even close to the event, as I remember it."

"Spock, I want you to report to Sickbay for a check up."

"Captain, I assure you that is unnecessary."

"A shudder, no one else feels. You don't remember assigning Uhura to Gamma Conn. You don't remember your own bonding ceremony. I'd say something is very wrong and that a checkup is very necessary."

Spock pursed his lips, he was not accustomed to the Captain, or anyone for that matter, not believing his statements. He sighed. At least it would prove there was nothing wrong with him. "Very well. I will report to you afterward."

"No, I'll be down there to join you shortly. Kirk out."

Spock closed the connection, wearing a slight frown. He did not look forward to McCoy's scrutiny in this matter. It was highly probably that he would not believe him either. He hesitated a moment, considering whether to eat his morning meal before obeying the Captain's order. Deciding that he'd simply rather have the exam over with he strode out of his cabin and toward Sickbay.

* * *

He slowed as he neared Sickbay's entrance and braced himself for the inevitable surprise of his sudden appearance. McCoy would already be on duty.

Spock crossed into sickbay and immediately slowed. Another surprise. Christine was standing by one of the med consoles, in a pants uniform, not the usually miniskirt. From what he knew of the medical staff schedule she did not usually come on duty until later. Just as he was about to announce his presence, she turned.

"Spock!" she said, her eyes widening. "We don't usually see you in here unless you're on death's doorstep. To what do I owe this pleasure?" Her eyes narrowed, suspiciously. "What's wrong?"

Spock recovered from his own surprise quickly. "Nothing is actually wrong. Due to certain ... odd occurrences, the captain felt it advisable if I were to be given a physical examination."

"Really?" she asked, setting down the tricorder she had been using. "All right. Why don't you just hop up on that bio bed over there and tell me about these 'odd occurrences', so I know what I am looking for." She moved over to it, herself as she spoke, tipping the bed up for him to lean back against.

Spock crossed as well, but stopped short of getting on. "I would prefer to wait for the doctor."

Christine laughed. "And just what is that supposed to mean?"

Spock's eyebrow shot up. "I do not understand."

"I think that's my line, Spock," she answered with a sardonic grin. "Considering that, right now, I'm the only doctor on board."

Christine reached forward to pull Spock over to the biobed, a twinkle in her eyes. "I realize you don't like exams, and you've never particularly cared for admitting to weakness of any kind, but that's no reason to malign my status as CMO. Now quit stalling and get up on this bed, then it will be over before you can say Mount Seleya."

He instinctively pulled back out of her grasp.

She stopped, her eyes widening in surprise. "What is the matter with you today? You're acting like you've never met me before."

"Miss Chapel--"

"MISS Chapel???" Christine echoed. "My, aren't we being formal today?" Then she dropped her hands to her sides and stared intensely at Spock. "This is part of what's wrong, isn't it?"

Spock swayed and closed his eyes. Reaching out to grab hold of the bed for support he found himself leaning on 'DOCTOR' Chapel, instead. She helped him the rest of the way to the bed and eased him down onto it. Just as the dizziness passed, he heard the whirring of a med-scanner.

He opened his eyes warily and regarded the anachronism in front of him. This woman whom he remembered as head nurse, was now a doctor and wearing a pants uniform instead of the miniskirt. McCoy was some unknown. And he seemed to be the only one to realize that things weren't as they were supposed to be.

"M-- Doctor, when did you change your uniform from the standard miniskirt?" he asked, knowing he was probably setting himself up for another, mismatched memory.

She looked at him over the top of the scanner, her eyes plainly showing her concern. "Miniskirt? Spock, I've refused to wear that thing since day one. I can't be bending over, repairing broken bodies with my behind hanging in the wind. I'm a doctor, not a playboy bunny."

Spock's eyebrow cocked up, sharply reminded of the times McCoy had made similar I'm a doctor, not a ... statements. "Indeed," he replied. "However, as you are not a 'bunny' or a 'boy', real or otherwise, I do not understand the comparison.

Christine laughed. Now that sounded like the old Spock. Then, she proceeded to explain 'playboy bunny'. She firmly resisted the urge to giggle as that eyebrow climbed higher throughout her explanation.

"You know, I've never understood your ... reluctance to undergo an exam. The other Vulcans on board seem to understand the necessity."

"Other Vulcans?" Spock asked before he could prevent the words.

"All right! That's it! The physical part of the exam is over, Spock. I've found all I'm going to from the scans. Just what is going on with you? There have been six other Vulcans on board for just over a year." She held up a hand. "I know that's not very accurate, before you try to side track me. They've been on board for 1 year, 2 months, 3 weeks, 9 days." She stopped and looked at the chronometer. "14 hours ... Is that specific enough for you or do you want me to calculate the minutes too?"

Spock shook his head numbly. "That will not be necessary, Doctor."

"Good. Now, start explaining, Mister."

Just like McCoy, Spock thought ... bossy.

"Well, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with you physically, Spock. Are you still dizzy?"

"No, Doctor. I am quite functional again."

"Good, If you'll follow me, I've got a couple of other tests I want to do," she said, standing right next to him, obviously ready to help.

Spock sat up slowly, waiting to see if the dizziness would return. "I thought you said there wasn't anything wrong with me," he protested as he stood.

"What I said was there didn't seem to be anything wrong, physically."

Spock stopped mid-step. "You think there is something wrong ... mentally," he said, the accusation in his tone quite clear.

Christine stopped, turned and folded her arms across her chest. "Are you saying that despite the fact that, apparently, you're the only one to notice these 'wrong' things, you're willing to rule it out completely? When did you get your psychology degree?"

Spock stopped the sigh, almost before it started. "You are correct. It is best to take the tests. Then perhaps my statements will be believed. However, I find even the idea ... distasteful."

Christine softened. "Of course you do. Anyone would."

* * *

"Well, you can rest assured, Spock. Everything checks out normal here too. You're stress levels are a little high, but that's to be expected."

"Stress levels?" Spock asked, disbelievingly.

"Relax, I meant for the Vulcan norm."

This was ... odd. Everything was so similar, yet so different. This must have been what the captain ... His thought stopped, as revelation shot through him. "But how?" he murmured aloud.

Christine chuckled. "How what, Spock? Considering no one you've told has believed you, a little extra stress is quite normal. I assure you."

"Not that, Miss Chapel," Spock answered distractedly. "I was referring to how I ended up in this ... reality."

"What?" Christine gasped in shock, too surprised to correct his address. "What do you mean, 'this reality'?"

"Do you remember when the Captain and party ended up in what he called 'the mirror universe'?"

"Remember it? I still have nightmares about it sometimes."

Surprised again. Although he shouldn't have been. McCoy had been on that landing party. Since Miss Chapel was CMO here, it was only logical that she had been in his place.

"I was conducting some experiments in regard to exactly how that transfer was possible."

"Yes," Christine nodded. "I know about those. You were concentrating on the odd brain wave patterns."

"Indeed. I do not know how it could be connected, because I was far from a solution, but it is the only possible explanation I can come up with."

Christine chewed her bottom lip thoughtfully. Perhaps ...

"Doctor, do you require assistance?"

Christine turned to the Vulcan female. "No, this is fairly routine. Would you please check on Serat. He should be coming out of his trance any time now."

"Yes, Doctor," she said as she turned to go.

Christine turned back to find Spock staring thoughtfully at the retreating Vulcan. "She's the head nurse, in case you don't recognize her."

"That's what ... " His voice trailed off, uncertain what, exactly he should reveal.

"That's what, what?"

"Assuming my theory is correct, that's what you were in my ... correct reality."

"Head nurse?"

Spock nodded.

"Odd. Why would I be only a head nurse? Did I sign on a long time ago?"

"No, It is my understanding that you signed onboard as head nurse because the Enterprise was headed to the sector where your fiancé was last heard from."

"Roger Korby?"

"Yes."

Christine shook her head. "When he disappeared, we assumed he'd been killed." She frowned and what he could only describe as ... fear, entered her eyes. "Did she ... find him?"

"No, apparently he had been dead for sometime, when we arrived at Exo III." He saw no reason to enlighten her as to the details involved in that incident. Then it hit him. "You believe me," he said.

She looked at him in surprise. "Yes, of course I do."

"Why?"

She smiled. "Well, since the scans prove there isn't anything wrong with you physically or mentally, there are only two possibilities left, that I can see. One, either you really are from another reality, or perhaps timeline, or two, there is something very wrong with everyone else. Which seems more likely to you?"

Spock nodded. "Agreed."

"I have an idea. Maybe your, I mean Spock's ... I--"

"I get the idea," Spock said, and almost smiled.

Christine sighed. "It's a little confusing. But anyway, Perhaps the lab here might hold some answers." She reached out to help him up and he pulled back again, refusing her assistance.

She shook her head. "You sure are more jumpy than my Spock," she said musingly and almost laughed at the look on Spock's face that actually thought about being horrified suspicion.

"I didn't mean it literally, Spock. Besides, I don't think my husband would approve, even if I did."

"You're married?"

"Yes," she answered, then frowned again. "I'm not, in your reality?"

"No, you ... "

"I what?"

"Nothing, Doctor. It is completely unimportant."

"Well," she said, trying to decide whether or not to be insulted. "That either means it really isn't important, or it's embarrassing to you."

"A little of both, actually," Spock answered, surprising himself with the honest answer.

"Chris?"

Both looked up as the Captain entered the bay.

"Okay, you two, fill me in."

"Well, Captain, it's an interesting tale," Christine said.

* * *

Spock woke to pounding pain and no way to control it. His mind burned with an ache so deep it radiated through his entire body. Where? What happened? His eyes shot open and he looked around wildly.

How did he get to Sickbay? The last thing he remembered ... He groaned, it hurt to think.

"Spock?"

He heard the hiss of a hypospray and the pain receded to tolerable levels. Unfortunately it did nothing for the void in his mind, the aching emptiness that only time could heal. He reached out and grabbed the Doctor's hand. "Christine, what--"

Shock ... Worry ... Fear ... Love ...

Gasping in shock he jerked his hand back and he struggled to control the sudden onslaught of her emotions on top of his own. Moments passed. He heard her call his name. Someone else also. A man's voice he didn't recognize.

As the pain subsided, he managed to wrestle the rest under tenuous control and opened his eyes again. He took a deep, slow breath and began again. "What happened to her, Christine?" he asked his voice a ragged shadow of its normal baritone.

"Who, Mr. Spock?" Christine asked. "What happened to who?"

"T'Pring!" Spock answered hoarsely. "She's dead. How?"

"That b-- ... Spock," the man on his right asked. "How would you know?"

"The bond," he whispered, turning to face the strange human. Who was he? "The bond has been severed."

"What bond, Spock? You're not making any sense." The human shook his head. "Never mind, Spock. I'll check it out." He turned to Christine. "Nurse, keep an eye on him. I'm going to check the Vulcan database. Lord knows I probably won't find what I need, but it's our only shot at this point. If he says anything that actually makes sense. Let me know immediately."

"Yes, Doctor."

Nurse? Doctor? He's a doctor? When did he come on board? Spock tried to order his thoughts, to think logically. It was impossible. The room around him was barely coherent and it took every Vulcan control technique in his power to remain conscious and thinking even remotely straight.

"Nurse?"

"Yes, Mr. Spock?"

Spock shook his head. "No," he stopped drew a deep breath and began again carefully enunciating each word. "Why ... did ... he ... call ... you ... nurse?"

"I don't understand, Mr. Spock. He always calls me that while we're actively working."

Since when, Spock thought. "Why? You ... are ... a ... competent ... doctor."

He watched Christine's eyes widen in surprise. "I didn't know you knew that. Never mind, it's not important how you knew, but that's not what I do here. My doctorate in bio-research, isn't what got me on board. You know that."

Spock stayed silent, though he was sure his confusion had to be evident. He was having such difficulty suppressing it. What about her MD? In the depths of his bond fever, rationality began to slowly reassert itself. Something was very wrong here. He heard the male doctor return, muttering fiercely.

"Damn closed-mouthed, green-blooded ... secret-keepers!"

Spock watched warily as he keyed the computer console next to him.

"Doctor?" Christine asked.

"Huh? Oh. I found a very vague reference to a 'broken bond' and 'bond fever'. It told what to give him, but not a damn thing else, like what caused it, how long it'll last, what it'll do to him." He turned to look down at Spock. "It'll take the computer a few minutes to synthesize the medication. We don't have any on board." He leaned closer. "But how in heaven's name did you end up with this. I thought, with all that debacle on Vulcan that..." His voice trailed off and he looked over at Christine guiltily.

"Speak ... Doctor. To what are you referring?"

"Doctor," Christine said, softly. "Whatever else I am, I am a medical professional. What is said here, goes no further. You know that. Besides, I may be able to help."

He nodded to her, then looked back down at Spock. "Are you sure?"

Spock nodded, completely confused as to what this doctor could possibly be referring to, but needing to know.

"I was under the impression that after T'Pring issued the challenge--"

"What?!" Spock nearly shouted, sitting bolt upright in bed. He regretted the action immediately. The room spun, and his stomach rebelled. It took several deep breaths to avoid an even more distasteful display.

"Damn it!" and the sound of a hypo was the last thing he heard before darkness descended.

"Nurse, keep an eye on him. I've got a captain who needs me to explain what I don't understand."

"Yes, Doctor."

"Oh, and Christine, we'll figure this out."

Christine smiled. "Thank you. I know we will."

* * *

"Damned if I know what's going on, Jim. From what little I can discover he seems to be suffering from what the Vulcans call bond fever. I don't even know what causes it. The database doesn't say." He stopped pacing and rounded on Kirk. "I told them after that pon farr fiasco that I wanted an accurate database to work from! Oh, they gave me more information all right, but not enough to do me any real good! I'm still operating in the dark here and I don't like it one bit!"

"Bones, is there anything you can do for him?"

The worry in Jim's voice took the fire out from under him. "Yes, I can treat the symptoms. They told me that much at least."

Kirk looked at him warily. "But there's more."

McCoy sighed and he felt the world settle on his shoulders. "Yes, Jim. There is. It may just be a side affect of this bond fever," he began.

"But?"

"But I think his mind has been affected."

"How?"

McCoy shook his head. "His memory is ... faulty. Jim, I don't think he remembers the same events we do about what happened with T'Pring."

Kirk looked at him skeptically. "What would make you think that?"

McCoy glanced across Sickbay, where Spock and Christine were. It appeared she was ... comforting him. He frowned. Another oddity. Why was Spock allowing her to ... hover? He turned back and explained exactly what had happened since Spock awoke.

* * *

Spock slowly climbed up through the haze of drug induced sleep, fighting the nausea that inevitably followed Christine's application of ... No, this time it had been the male doctor that had sedated him. He opened his eyes and the first thing he saw was James Kirk standing at the foot of his bed. "Captain," he said, struggling to sit up." The doctor helped him.

"Are you feeling any better, Spock?"

Spock paused, assessing his physical well-being. "It appears, Captain, that I am ... somewhat recovered. I am, however, still unsure of several ... facts."

Kirk stepped around the end of the bed and came up beside him. "What facts would those be?"

"I know that something ... odd is happening. I am unsure as to whether it directly relates to the bond fever or whether it is something else entirely, but my memory disagrees with several key facts since I woke up here in Sickbay." He frowned slightly. "I'm not even entirely sure how I arrived here."

Kirk smiled. "Well, that last one is easy to solve. When you did not show up for your shift and then didn't answer hails, I sent an emergency medical team to your quarters. They found you unconscious on your bed. The rest, as they say, is history."

"Ye-es," Spock said slowly. "I remember being waking up to extreme pain I could not control, but nothing else. Until I woke up here, that is."

Christine entered carrying a tray. "Lunch time," she said lightly. "Time enough to solve the problems of the world, after you eat."

"I am not--"

Christine narrowed her eyes at him.

"However, I will eat."

She grinned as she set the tray on the bedside swing table and then swung it over the bed. She pointed to the tray firmly, mock glaring at Spock. "I expect at least half of it eaten," she said sternly.

"Yes, Christine," Spock answered mockingly.

She hid the grin that threatened and headed out of the room, wishing she could attribute his calling her by her first name to something other than his illness.

"And that's another thing," the doctor said suddenly. "Just when did you start calling her Christine?"

"I've called her--" Spock sighed, looking from one man to the other. Evidently this was another of the discrepancies. "Perhaps we should begin at the beginning. Considering I am recovering and the discrepancies still exist, I must assume that there is another cause."

"Not so fast. First you're going to eat, then I'm going to perform a couple of tests."

"As to that, forgive me, Doctor, but who are you?" He watched as the captain and doctor exchanged astonished looks.

"Spock, I'm Dr. Leonard McCoy, Chief Medical Officer, and your friend."

"Has there been anyone else you don't recognize?" Kirk asked after a long silence.

"No, Captain."

"I'll be right back," McCoy said shortly and left without further explanation.

* * *

"Well, Spock, that's that. Other than abnormally high stress levels, there is not a thing wrong with your mental fitness that cannot be directly attributed to your broken bond." McCoy looked over at the captain, who'd been watching worriedly. "Captain, I found direct evidence, with Spock's knowledge of what to look for, of an abruptly several, complete bond. Despite the fact that we know the bonding did not take place, Spock has been bonded."

"How is that possible. We were both there. In fact..." Kirk's voice trailed off.

"In fact, what, Captain," Spock asked.

Kirk took a deep breath and plunged ahead. "I just got off of a subspace communication with your father. T'Pring is alive, and completed her bonding to Stonn last month."

Kirk's voiced faded to the background. T'Pring, his T'Pring, bonded to someone else? That ... hurt, deep low in his chest. What? Challenge? Thought he'd killed the captain? "Captain," Spock interrupted. "Could you please repeat what you just said? I'm afraid I was not listening closely."

As a surprised Kirk re-explained what he remembered, Spock tried to envision his life as his captain described it. He couldn't. "Captain, the challenge is not logical. It is an outdated custom from pre-Reform times. Do you seriously expect me to believe that a Vulcan female would actually invoke it?"

"She did, Spock," McCoy said flatly, anger flaring briefly in his eyes. "In fact when you confronted her afterward and demanded an explanation, you ended up complementing her on her logic. 'Flawlessly logical', I believe was what you said."

Spock stared at the stranger who claimed him as friend. It was as if he were caught in a nightmare, or the old Earth fairy tale, Alice in Wonderland, where nothing made sense. Alice in Wonderland! He blinked in surprise. Could it be that simple?

"Captain, do you remember your ... excursion aboard the IFF Enterprise?"

"Yes..." Kirk answered.

"Remember it? I still have nightmares about it," McCoy said at the same time.

"Indeed, Doctor. Dr. Chapel has made the same comment, but she will not enlighten me as to the reason for her ... vehemence. Perhaps you will do so."

"Not, now, Spock. Why did you bring that up?"

* * *

Spock and McCoy worked side by side long after the captain had left. They had recreated the accident that had occurred in Spock's lab, under slightly more control circumstances but they had yet to reproduce the exact same effects.

McCoy blew out an exasperated breath. "Something is missing."

"Obviously, Doctor," Spock responded drily, an almost smile hovering. "The problem is we do not know what that is."

Ignoring the sarcasm for the moment, McCoy stood, stretching. "I don't know about you, Spock, but I'm ready for a break."

"That would be acceptable, Doctor."

"It would?" McCoy asked in surprise.

"Yes, there is something I wish to ask you. You are, of course, free to decline to answer."

"Okay," McCoy answered warily, sitting back down. "Just what is it you want to know?"

"What specifically, in regard to the 'mirror universe', causes you nightmares?"

McCoy frowned and closed his eyes, a short shudder shook him.

Spock watched his reaction carefully. He reacted nearly identically to the way Christine did. "Christine does the same thing when asked."

McCoy's eyes shot open. "Spock, I don't know if she went through what I did, but go easy with her, just in case."

Spock steepled his fingers, staring at them instead of Dr. McCoy. "Doctor, it appears you are going to take me up on the offer of declining to answer, however, before you do, let me remind you of one thing. When I get back where I belong and your Spock returns, I will take what you say with me. He will still not know."

McCoy sighed deeply. "Spock, I just don't know. I haven't told anyone what happened. I didn't even put it in my personal logs, because I didn't know what would happen if the wrong person were to find out."

"Understood, Doctor," Spock said quietly. "It must have been something quite traumatic for you."

"It goes beyond that, Spock. As illogical as it will seem, it felt like a betrayal."

He wisely remained silent, merely waiting for the doctor to continue.

"The Spock over there was, out of the loop. He wanted information, badly. Just before we got out of there, he cornered me in Sickbay. When I wouldn't tell him what he wanted to know, he took the quickest route to get to the information."

Spock sat unmoving in horrified fascination as the horror rose in McCoy's eyes. He knew what this doctor was going to tell him now and he wanted to tell him he did not need to speak further, but he could not form the words.

"He grabbed hold of my arm and pushed me up against a wall." McCoy's voice took on a droning, far off quality, obviously reliving the incident, but Spock could not make a move to stop it. "He raised his hand to my face, forced his way into my mind and ripped the knowledge he wanted out. He didn't care what he did to me, or how much it hurt. He took no care not to lay open memories better left buried. And when he was done, he just ... broke it off. No gentle withdrawal. No, I don't know. None of the usual, niceties." McCoy shuddered once more, then his eyes cleared. He looked directly at him now. "It felt like ... Spock, I don't know how to explain it; how I felt."

"You felt like you'd been raped."

McCoy's eyes widened in shock. "Yes," he answered his voice colored by inner discovery. "That's it exactly."

"You were," Spock said numbly.

"What?"

"It was rape; mental rape. It is a heinous crime on Vulcan." He was silent a moment then continued. "For what it is worth, I believe your Spock should know." He held up a hand to stop the doctor's protests. "But, that is your choice."

"Thank you, Spock."

"For what?" he asked in surprise.

"Damn it, Spock, just tell me you don't thank logic and be done with it."

"Very well, Doctor, 'you do not thank logic'."

McCoy snorted. "Don't take this the wrong way, Spock, but you are ... different from our Spock."

He turned to regard the doctor thoughtfully. "How so?"

"I can't pinpoint it really. More ... relaxed, I guess."

"Relaxed? It would be ... interesting to hear you tell Dr. Chapel your assessment. She seems to be under the impression that I 'work too hard'."

McCoy wanted to ask Spock about all the little things he said, how did Christine end up a doctor, and why didn't this Spock know him? And why did he call Christine, Christine. That last, was really what he wanted to know the most. "I guess none of us really appreciate what we have until it's gone," he said instead.

"You, prefer 'your' Spock."

McCoy opened his mouth in automatic denial, but closed it with an audible snap. "Yeah, I guess I do, No offense intended."

"None taken," Spock responded with an acknowledging nod. "We all have our personal preferences."

"Yeah," he replied, then gave Spock a hard look. "But I'll deny it to my last breath if you tell anyone I admitted it."

Spock's eyebrow shot up. "An interesting friendship you and your Spock must have," he said thoughtfully after a moment.

McCoy laughed. "You could say that."

* * *

Captain's Personal Log.

"Spock related to me the most incredible series of events. If I didn't know him better and have Dr. Chapel on record as saying he is fit for duty, I would suspect him of being off his rocker. Of course having actually been to another reality myself, does make it easier to swallow.

"At least Spock has ended up in a universe that is more closely related to his own. He and Dr. Chapel have been down in his lab all morning trying to sort out how it happened.

"One thing does concern me though, Spock, well, my Spock, explained the bond he shared with T'Pring and I can't help but wonder if that bond can survive through the ... walls of reality, but when I tried to bring that up with this Spock, he clammed up like a Denebian shellfish. Something tells me things did not go as well in his universe as they did here, but I am hesitant to force the issue.

"I don't know him as well as I know the one who belongs here. There are subtle differences in him that I can't really explain. I suppose my curiosity will never be completely satisfied as so many of the 'differences' seem on a personal level.

"For example, Chris is a very tactile person. She has been ever since I've known her. She taken great pains to learn enough mental control and emotional shielding from her husband and from the healer we have on board, to make sure her natural instincts don't make the Vulcans in her care uncomfortable.

"I have it on good authority that when she doesn't want her emotions or stray thoughts to leak through, they don't, so that can't explain why this Spock seems to practically jump out of his skin each time she touches him. I have the feeling that there is a very long and very interesting story hidden there. I also have the feeling I'm never gonna know what it is."

Kirk sighed and blew out a hard frustrated breath. Unfortunately it didn't look like this case was going to be as easy to solve as the previous incident had been. There was no convenient "storm" or transporter malfunction to explain it all away.

There was only both Spocks' experiments, which according to him, this him, had not yet reached the stage where they should have been able to cause this.

"End Log"

"Acknowledged."

Kirk rose, no closer to figuring out he could help both this Spock and the one who was, presumably, stuck in the universe this one had come from.

Glancing at the chronometer, he realized he was late for lunch. Ordering the lights off, he strode out into the corridor. He was supposed to have met Chris 20 minutes ago.

* * *

Kirk strode into the officer's mess and quickly scanned the room as he headed for the food replicators. Yep, there she was. It looked like she was already half way through her meal.

After collecting his lunch and he was making his way towards her table, he noticed she was awfully focused on her plate. She seemed ... out of sorts. He sat down, wearing his best charming smile. "So, Chris, Sorry I'm late."

"Oh, that's alright," she replied absently.

"OK, what's wrong?"

She looked up, startled. "Nothing's wrong," she replied, smiling brightly. "Why do you ask?"

Kirk chuckled. "Don't even try to kid the kidder. Something's really bothering you."

Christine shook her head and laughed in spite of herself. She never had been able to hide anything from this man. He knew her almost as well as her Vulcan husband and that one had the benefit of the telepathic bonding.

Kirk watched his CMO and friend as she worked through what were obviously a variety of thoughts and emotions. He waited patiently, knowing that eventually she would speak.

"You know, it's kind of odd. This Spock is Spock in so many ways, but in others he's very different."

Kirk nodded. "Yes, it's easy to look at him, and think everything is as it should be, then he does something 'our' Spock wouldn't do, or says something he wouldn't and you're forcefully reminded that things just aren't 'right'."

Christine frowned. "That's part of it," she said softly, then fell silent.

"What's the other part," Kirk urged gently.

She sighed deeply. "He seems so ... alone," she replied finally. "I keep wondering what it is about where he comes from that makes him so."

"I noticed that," Kirk replied thoughtfully.

"Did you also know, that 'I' am a nurse there, and not married?"

"No," Kirk answered in quick surprise. "I didn't. I am surprised that Spock mentioned that aspect of his reality, though."

Christine shrugged. "It was relevant to the conversation," she responded, as if that explained everything.

Which, in Spock's case, no matter his universe of origin, Kirk thought, it probably did.

"It doesn't make any sense, and Semar would say it was completely illogical, but I miss him."

"I do too," Kirk said, reaching out and laying his hand on one of hers. "There's nothing wrong with that. No matter how much he resembles Spock, he's ... different. He's not the Vulcan we've come to know, and that is just as it should be."

Christine laughed then, more at ease with her worries. "I know. I guess it comes from 2 years married to a Vulcan. I'm starting to second guess the logic of feeling what I'm feeling."

Kirk responded in kind, laughing hard enough to make his sides hurt. "The day I see you forgoing emotion for logic, is the day I'll start to worry about the universe. For now, I think we're safe," he said teasingly, then squeezed her hand once before releasing it.

Christine grinned at him. "I think you're right. I think it's more likely that Semar will embrace public displays of deep affection, than I decide to end my bouts of 'extreme irrationality'."

The image of the straight-laced Semar, swooping into the room and scooping his wife up into his arms, flashed through Kirk's mind; the likelihood of which was just about equal to the universe coming to a sudden end. "You may have a point there," he said, chuckling quietly.

* * *

Spock entered the Officer's Mess and headed directly for the food replicator. There was still something missing, something they hadn't been able to connect. Whatever that was, had to be the trigger. All the variables that they had been able to isolate and recreate had either, not affected the outcome at all, affected it not enough, or adversely.

While it was only the first day and could not accurately reflect the length of time that would be required to discover how to get back, but he couldn't help but reflect on the months of work that had already gone into his research with no results, before some random event brought together the precise ingredients and series of events to cause, all unknowingly, that which he'd been trying so hard to accomplish by more logical means.

Pulling his tray from the slot, he turned and scanned the room. If the Captain Kirk from this universe ran on the same schedule as the one from his universe, he should still be present. He took two steps forward, then the captain's dining companion came into view.

Spock sighed, but hesitated only half a heartbeat before continuing forward. Working with Dr. Chapel was ... disconcerting. There was no logical reason for that, but it was so nonetheless. She was efficient and intelligent, capable of intuitive leaps of logic that left him wondering how she'd reached them. And, most importantly, this Chapel had no inappropriate feelings toward him. Point in fact, she was married. He wondered to whom and whether he knew them, the shook his mind free of such extraneous thoughts. They were irrelevant.

All these things combined should make her ... safe, but he couldn't quite get passed the sense that being comfortable around her was not 'fair' to the Miss Chapel of his Universe. It wasn't logical he knew, in fact, if he were completely honest with himself, it was just a shade irrational.

He took a seat next to the Captain and sat, none of his previous thoughts visible. "Captain," he said, nodding. "Dr. Chapel."

"I--" both the captain and Christine began.

Christine grinned and waved for the captain to go ahead.

He chuckled, then turned back to face Spock. "I was wondering if you would drag yourself away from the lab to join us."

"I seem to be at something of an impasse in my work. It seemed logical to break away briefly and lunch seemed the best opportunity to do so."

"Besides which," Christine added with a grin. "You were hungry."

He nodded in acknowledgment. "True," he responded after a moment.

Christine and the captain laughed and his eyebrow cocked up in response, which only made them laugh harder.

He shifted in his chair slightly and turned his attention to his meal.

The three continued their meal silently for some moments, until Christine looked up, a smile appearing on her face. She looked over at the door, drawing the two men's attention there also.

Not two seconds later the door slid open reveal a tall slender Vulcan. Spock's eyebrow rose once again, this time in surprise. He shifted his gaze to Dr. Chapel, a small measure of sympathy radiating in his eyes. It seemed that Christine Chapel was destined for a doomed love in more than one universe.

Many was the time that he had noted her, well, the other Chapel's eyes on him as he entered a room. He had to admit, it was a little uncanny how she always seemed to know when he was about to enter.

He frowned in slight puzzlement. If she was married, why was she so interested in this Vulcan? He would never have thought it of her, but he supposed most humans did not take marriage as seriously as Vulcans did. For all he knew she may be involved in a term contract marriage.

A movement directly behind the doctor startled him slightly, but he managed to limit his reaction to no more than lifting his head a touch too quickly. This universe suddenly took on a whole different meaning as Spock's perceptions changed suddenly. The Vulcan male reached out with two fingers as the smiling doctor did the same, laying hers atop his.

"Welcome, husband. Do you have time to actually eat lunch with us today?" she asked with mock surprise in her voice.

Christine Chapel was married to a Vulcan, Spock thought incredulously. That was decidedly ... odd.

"No, my wife. I do not. I merely came here to inform you that I need to spend some extra time in Engineering after my shift is over."

"Lt. Ackerman needs help on that project of hers again?"

He nodded. "Yes, she seems to be having trouble with some of the more complex routines and cannot find the error in her computations."

Christine shook her head, smiling. "Should I wait up for you?"

"I do not believe that would be logical. I do not know how late I will be."

Spock watched the exchange with something akin to shock. It wasn't until the Vulcan walked away that he returned his attention to his meal and began to wonder at his reaction.

* * *

As Kirk rose from the mess hall table, he looked down at Spock a moment. He twinged as he realized just how ... haggard he looked. It had never been fully explained exactly what was involved in a Vulcan marriage, but from the looks of it, the bond he and Bones had told him about, went very deep.

It was obviously affecting this Spock greatly, though he knew the casual observer probably wouldn't notice a thing. "Spock, if you're up to it, you're scheduled to meet three new crew members today. If you want, I can meet them instead; to give you the chance to concentrate on your ... problem."

"No, Captain. That will not be necessary. As much as I wish to return to my own universe, I will not shirk my duties to do so."

Kirk nodded. That's what he'd thought the response would be, but he had to offer. "Very well, Mr. Spock. They are due to arrive at 1400 hours. That's in--"

"5.47 minutes, Captain," Spock supplied, rising. "I will attend to that directly." With a final nod to them both, he excused himself, taking his tray with him.

* * *

Spock strode into the transporter room, having just finished reviewing the proper protocols for this Enterprise. He had not been surprised to find they were virtually identical. "Are they ready for beamover yet?"

"Yes, sir," Lt. Kyle answered. "The bridge just passed along notification that the USS Farrago has arrived and three officers are awaiting transport."

"Very well, Lieutenant. You may begin transport."

Kyle nodded and began working the console. Moments later, three beings began materializing on the pads. As they took solid form, Spock was once again forcefully reminded that he was not where he belonged. A very familiar face formed, one that had been on board his Enterprise for 1.25 years. Lt. Semar, his mind automatically supplied and he stepped forward to greet the three newcomers.

The Vulcan stepped off the pad first. "Commander; Lt. Semar, reporting for duty."

The other two quickly followed suit. "Lt. Ashland, sir," the young woman said smartly.

"Ensign Markum, sir."

Spock acknowledged each of them with a nod, then handed them their individual data pads. "Contained on these you will find your quartering assignments, stations, and duty schedule for the next two weeks. After you have located your quarters, you must report to sickbay for your assessment physical."

"Assessment physical, sir?" Lt. Semar asked. "We just had our reassignment physicals, the data from said examinations are contained on this pad." He held out a pad identical to the ones Spock had given them.

Spock declined to take the pad. "Be that as it may, the Chief Medical Officer of the Enterprise requires all new crew members to report to Sickbay upon arrival." He paused before he continued, realizing he could be making an erroneous assumption. However, considering the redundancy of the initial exam and the conversations they had, had to date, he was 99.8 percent certain of his analysis. "He prefers the ... hands on approach. Take that pad with you when you report in."

"Yes, sir," Semar said, with only the smallest reluctance showing.

"If, after reading your indoctrination profiles, you have any questions regarding your responsibilities or privileges, you may ask your immediate superior, or department head." He nodded a dismissal and turned to leave, halting midway. "And, welcome aboard."

That earned him two smiles and a polite nod.

"Thank you, sir," Lt. Ashland and Ensign Markum responded brightly.

* * *

Spock strode to his lab, wrestling with a slight case of irritation. It did not sit well, having been 'excused' from Bridge duty. When he'd protested the need, the captain had actually asked him if he would prefer 'relieved' to 'excused'.

With a curt, "Very well, Captain," he'd left the bridge, not giving Kirk time to respond further.

It was not logical, he was still 'Spock'. He still had the same training; the same number of years experience. He'd checked. It felt ... wrong for the captain to do this. Perhaps not wrong, Spock admitted to himself, just ... not right.

He sat at his lab console, determined to push aside any doubts. It was in everyone's best interests that he find the solution to returning him to his own universe. He could only hope that T'Pring was not suffering more than was necessary.

If he returned quickly enough, he might even manage to get back before she, or a family member, contacted the Enterprise to discover what had happened. Unfortunately, without knowing exactly how the transfer had occurred, he had no way of knowing whether the Spock of this universe was in his place, or whether no one was there at all.

He felt a slight, illogical twinge about what that Spock might be doing in his place. Although he did not know all that had happened in this universe, he had gotten several hints as to this Spock's everyday behavior, and it differed from his in small but ultimately significant ways.

That was only logical, considering the differing experiences that their Spock had experienced. He knew, as well as the next person, that life's experience affected the way any individual reacted to life. Not even a Vulcan was completely immune to environmental factors which affected behavior.

* * *

Kirk paced the corridors of the Enterprise. It had become a nearly nightly habit with him, but tonight there was an extra edge to his mood. Tonight was more than 'surveying his domain'. It was reaffirming that some things were still right with his world. It was a need he could not deny.

Before he fully realized where he was going, he found himself standing in front of science lab 3. That was Spock's lab. He shook his head. What was he doing here? He knew why. Even if Spock would never admit it, Kirk knew he'd hurt his friend. It had been obvious to him, as Spock strode of the Bridge, straight backed and silent, that he hadn't understand his decision. He stepped forward, activating the door sensors. The lab was dark and silent. He frowned. Spock not being here was surprising, to say the least. He'd expected to have to drag him out, practically by force, just to get him to eat and rest for the evening.

Maybe he'd gone back to his quarters, he knew Spock often conducted the more academic of his research in his quarters, where he had his computer console set up exactly the way he wanted it.

He pivoted and headed for Deck 5.

* * *

Spock closed the connection with a sense of satisfaction. While what he'd told Semar was true, it was difficult to integrate into a nearly fully human crew, it was not his primary reason for inviting the young Vulcan to the officer's Rec. He allowed the corners of his mouth to turn up as his eyebrow cocked upward. He'd never before pictured himself as 'matchmaker'.

It was, however, logical that they would at least have something in common, even if he did not know what it was, after all, the two of them were bonded in his reality. For a fraction of a second, as he passed into the corridor, he allowed himself to wonder, what the Spock of this reality would think of his actions. The other Vulcan may not approve of his actions, but since Spock did not see how it could impact him significantly, he did not consider it overly relevant. Then he pushed it out of his mind.

* * *

Kirk strode away from Officer's country, at a complete loss. Short of a shipwide page, or prowling in search of him, he wasn't going to be able to find him. He gave up and headed for the rec room. What he found there, when he arrived made him stop in shock, and rub his eyes to make sure he wasn't seeing things.

Spock watched Semar go from the typical first reaction of a Vulcan among humans he did not know, aloof and withdrawn; an attitude that was often mistaken for disdain, to relaxed at apparently comfortable. The ease and speed with which he did so sparked the merest touch of ... envy? It had taken him years to cultivate that ability.

"Lieutenant," he said finally, when he saw Nurse Chapel enter the room. "There is someone I believe you should meet."

Lt. Semar turned to face him and nodded easily. "May I inquire as to this person's identity?"

"You may. Her name is Christine Chapel. She is the head nurse."

"Indeed. What particular reason is there that I should meet her?"

Spock mentally stopped. What reason indeed? He could not simply come out and say; 'Lieutenant, in another universe you are bonded to her. I believe the two of you will have enough in common in this universe to warrant such an introduction.' "It is ... prudent to 'get to know' those who will be responsible for your physical well being for the time you serve on board," Spock answered truthfully, if less than completely.

Semar nodded, apparently accepting his statement at face value. "I have already met Dr. McCoy."

"Indeed," Spock said, then paused. "And what is your first impression of him?"

"He is," Semar said, then hesitated, not sure just how to phrase his assessment of the rather caustic human Doctor. "Very, forthright." One corner of Spock's mouth quirked upward. That had been his first impression also.

"He also appears to be a man of deeply held convictions, who cares a great deal for those in his care."

Spock nodded thoughtfully. He was as perceptive of humans as the Lieutenant he knew and he suspected he would do just as well.

"Christine," Spock called as they approached her. She appeared to be startled by his address, as with the last time he had. She turned to face them, her eyes wide with a look he didn't quite understand. This Christine was so similar in many ways to the one in his universe, and different in many others, most of them readily identifiable. However one 'difference', eluded him. It was this difference, that seemed to be coming to the fore now, but it did not help him identify it.

"Yes, Mr. Spock?"

"I wanted to introduce Lt. Semar to you." Spock noted with increasing confusion Christine's expressions subtlely change as he introduced the two of them. When he heard quiet, quickly stifled giggles from several of the younger crew members nearby, he ignored them. That is, until he noted Christine's reaction to them. She stiffened her back, and what he could only describe as a 'mask' settled into place on her face.

He recognized it as the one Doctor Chapel wore when she was with a patient she couldn't save. He did not understand it anymore than he understood her earlier reaction. However, despite his inability to decipher her turmoil, she was already deep in conversation with the Lieutenant.

Apparently his 'assumption' had been correct and in that, he learned something he hadn't known about either of them previously. Well, that was assuming that it held true in his reality. Both had a parent who specialized in xenoherbal medicine. That such a familial commonality had been discovered in such a short time amazed him, but he'd given up on trying to understand the inner workings of the minds of humans, during social situations.

Noting his presence was superfluous, he turned and nearly ran into Dr. McCoy; a very angry Dr. McCoy. He opened his mouth to ask Dr. McCoy if there was a problem when the good doctor surprised him by grabbing hold of his arm and practically dragging him out of the room.

Rather than create a scene he allowed it, pulling his arm away only, after the door closed behind them. Before he could utter a word, McCoy rounded on him.

"How could you do that to her?!" McCoy demanded hotly.

Spock brought himself up in surprise. "I do not understand Doctor. How could I do what?"

"What?" McCoy exclaimed in exasperation. "You've done some hard hearted things in the past, but this one tops the cake!"

"Doctor," Spock said quickly, raising his hand to cut off the doctor when it looked as though he was going to continue his rant. "It would be much easier for me to understand what I did that was so incorrect, if you would simply tell me what it was, instead of 'ranting' that it was wrong."

McCoy gaped at him a number of seconds before answering. "Are you trying to tell me you really don't understand why I'm so angry?" he finally asked in disbelief.

Spock stifled a sigh of impatience. "I believe that is what I said, Doctor."

"Oh," McCoy replied sarcastically. "You've just managed to make Chris a laughing stock; that's all."

Spock frowned, knowing it was tied in with the 'giggles' he'd heard earlier and Christine's reaction to them, but still not sure how. "That explains some of what just happened, but frankly, Doctor, it does not explain the why of it."

A crewman walked by at just that moment and McCoy motioned for him to follow, then led him into a deserted briefing room. It took only a few minutes for both to realize the missing piece of the current puzzle.

"So you're telling me the Christine Chapel of your universe is married to this chap?"

"Yes, Doctor, she is married to 'this chap'."

McCoy looked down a moment before returning to meet Spock's gaze. "I'm sorry I lost my cool, Spock. It's just that ... " His voice trailed off.

"You felt the need to protect your friend," Spock finished for him.

"Yeah," McCoy answered.

"That is ... understandable, Doctor, and quite laudable. I might have done something similar if our positions had been reversed." At McCoy's astonished expression he continued. "However, I believe I would have been less, voluble while doing so."

McCoy laughed. "Indeed," he deadpanned, purposely raising an eyebrow.

"I do have one further question, Doctor."

"What?"

"Do you believe that I have truly wounded Christine?"

McCoy sighed. "Yes, I do. However, I'm sure she'll survive it. It'll just take time for the latest round of gossip to die down."

Spock frowned slightly at that. "Perhaps I should ... do something to correct the ... incorrect ... impression that was given today."

McCoy shook his head violently. "No, I don't think that would be a good idea."

"You believe I should allow Christine to believe that I would intentionally do something to cause her such public humiliation?"

"I still can't get used to that," McCoy said. "And to answer your question, no, of course not, but if you talk to her about it, make sure it is private. No need to give the gossipers something more to talk about."

"I don't think I have ever agreed with an assessment so completely, Doctor," Spock replied. "You cannot get used to what?" he continued after a moment.

"You, calling Christine, Christine."

"What else should I call her, Doctor? It is her name. It is not as if she usually falls under my usual direct chain of command."

"Good point."

Spock did not believe that was all there was to it and said so. "What does ... " It was quite odd, referring to himself in the third person. "Your Spock call her."

"Well, when he cannot avoid her, he calls her Miss Chapel, or Nurse Chapel."

The conversation flowed between the two of them well into the evening and by the time Spock returned to his quarters, he was left with the oddest sensation that he might have made a mistake in introducing Christine and Semar. He might have done better to leave well enough alone.

He knew only one thing for certain. Tomorrow, he would make the time, to apologize to this Christine privately.

* * *

Spock made his way back to his quarters, after having sought out Christine in her quarters. He'd made sure, something he was not used to doing, that there was no one around to see him first. He had no desire to further complicate her life. It had been evident to him as soon as she allowed him entrance that she had been crying. It cut him that he was the cause, regardless of it being done unknowingly.

He was grateful that she had quickly assured him that she realized it had not been done with malicious intent, or even with the one most of the others present had assumed. She had even smiled at him, though he'd recognized the effort it cost her to do so. He had not stayed long. It seemed to him it would not have been fair to her, to impose his presence when it would only give her a vision of what could be, despite the fact that he actually wanted to stay and speak with her.

He was accustomed to spending long hours discussing various research projects with her and he found that now that it was missing, he missed it. He sighed thoughtfully as he crossed into his quarters. The best thing he could do about that was find a way home.

He glanced around the room, as had become his habit since being here. Temporary though they were, and with such minor yet disturbing differences, they were nonetheless as much his quarters, as the ones on board his own Enterprise. So much of it was exactly the same, it was almost ... disturbing. It made the differences stand out; seem wrong.

As he prepared himself for bed, he was still considering the ramifications of both his earlier actions and of his conversation with Dr. McCoy.

He could find no logical reason why this other Spock should so diligently avoid Christine. The doctor's assertion that it was because he was uncomfortable with her revelations to him, did not quite 'wash'. He had been through that scenario many times and was sure the other Spock had as well. He had always simply made it clear he was not interested and went about his duties, neither seeking the person out nor avoiding them. That was the logical thing to do.

That the Spock of this universe seemed to be actively avoiding this Christine, made him curious what was really going on. Unfortunately the answer to that was something he would likely never know. He doubted that he would ever meet this other Spock.

Pulling the covers over himself, he gave thought to T'Pring and wondered if she had been informed yet as to what had happened. He could only hope that she had been near help when the crossing had occurred. With that disturbing thought in mind, he drifted off to sleep.

* * *

Spock sat at his desk, his fingers steepled in front of him. He had tried meditating, but each time he'd descended below a very light trance, strange images kept flashing behind his closed eyelids. Images of situations he'd never been in and could not imagine happening; involving people he could not, or did not want to, imagine them happening with.

It was highly disturbing. Each scenario was improbable to impossible ... for him, he added mentally. This 'journey' had forced home a point he thought he had already believed; there are always possibilities. But he had never had it demonstrated in quite this way before. Before this eye opening trip that he was sure McCoy would label, 'to wonderland', he would not have thought it even a remote possibility that the life experiences that had led up to his ill-fated koon ut kalifee could have occurred differently enough to permit a bonding with T'Pring.

He shuddered at the thought, before he could master his reaction and steered his thoughts elsewhere. It was still not pleasant reflecting on that betrayal. Added to that, it wasn't even those images that had bothered him so, during his attempt to meditate. It was the other people in each 'vision', the ones that did not include her.

Some only made him wonder. When he'd seen himself in what was obviously a 'private' moment with Uhura, it had been surprising. The one that had included Christine Chapel had been startling. But neither, if he were completely honest with himself, was outside the realm of realism.

It was the others that had appeared that had shaken him. Was that even a remote possibility? He stood suddenly, blocking the disturbing images. He needed sleep. That is what he would concentrate on now.

Tomorrow would take care of itself as would ... the possibilities. Tomorrow he would renew his efforts to return home; home to the people he actually knew and who knew him. With that in mind he efficiently readied himself for bed, crawled under the covers and allowed sleep to claim him. Just as he drifted off an errant thought filtered through the haze; he wondered if he would wake up here, tomorrow.

THE END

[NOTE: This was the first story of what would have been a trilogy. It is unknown if Kiristeen ever wrote the other two.]