DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Kiristeen ke Alaya and is copyright (c) 2002 by Kiristeen ke Alaya. Rated PG13.



Graduation

Kiristeen ke Alaya



Christine stared down at the message padd in her hands. She was numb. It was one thing to know she'd done well in her heart. It was another completely to have confirmation in her hot little hands. This was it!! She was finished with med school. She dropped back in her chair and simply let her mind wander.

It was too much to take in all at once. She had begun this journey so many years ago -- before Roger, before Spock, and now she was finally coming to the end. She still had a one-year internship to go, of course, and her residency, but that was different. That was the next stage of this long awaited path.

She raised herself up and looked down at the padd again. She couldn't help the silly grin that grew when she looked at it.

San Francisco University of Medicine graduating class of '72:

Valedictorian: Michael Hannover

Salutatorian: Christine Chapel

She couldn't see past her name, to read the rest of the rankings. She giggled in reaction, her grin growing wider. As second in her class, she pretty much had her pick of the available internships. There was only one person who could oust her from her choice, but he wanted a planet side post, so she wasn't worried about him. Everything was going her way. Nothing could stand in her way now. She would have it all.

The beeping of her comm panel interrupted her thoughts and she rose with a sigh. Back to reality, she thought as she crossed to see who was calling. As soon as she clicked the identify button, she dropped bonelessly into the chair next to the console. She should have realized, there was still one thing that could derail her plans.

The Starfleet insignia, medical division, flashed on the screen. She closed her eyes briefly, before reaching out to accept the message. Banishing her paranoia, she squared her shoulders and thumbed the connection open. It was a prerecorded message.

"Lieutenant Commander Christine Chapel, greetings."

Oh, no, she thought, that's awfully formal. Her hope sank.

"First, let me congratulate you on earning the position of second in your graduating class. You are to be commended for your efforts."

Okay, now let's get to the part where you mess everything up, Christine thought sourly.

"I'm sorry to inform you that, due to your expertise in bio-research, we will be unable to allow you your traditional choice of posts. A deadly epidemic has broken out on Serva Notelle Prime. The two intern slots available for that posting have been assigned to those two interns who have the greatest ability to assist in the efforts to find a cure quickly. Transportation is being arranged. Be ready to leave at a moment's notice. Time is of the essence."

Christine felt for the souls caught in such a disaster, but beneath that, she felt resentment well up. Why did it have to happen now? "Again, I'm sorry if this is not the posting you would have chosen. Commander Linden out."

It wasn't fair. She officially graduated in a week and she'd sent the invites out over two months ago. Now, she wasn't even going to be able to attend her own graduation. Feeling sorry for herself, she got herself a cup of hot cocoa. It usually made her feel better. She didn't drink it very often, but it was the best thing when she was depressed.

She was halfway through the cup when she started kicking herself. She was a medical professional and a Starfleet Officer and here she was feeling sorry for herself just because everything wasn't 'roses and sunshine'. People were dying and they needed her help. That had to take precedence over any personal plans.

As soon as she had finished packing, a thoroughly chastised Christine began recording messages to those she had invited. She hoped they would reach everyone in time and that no one made the trip for nothing. Lastly she began the ones to her friends on board the Enterprise. She hadn't seen any of them in almost 8 months and she began to feel herself sliding back. Sighing deeply, she finished the letters as quickly as possible, trying not to think about how much she missed them all, one of them in particular.

* * *

Christine waited with the rest of the team assigned to Notelle Prime, willing herself not to pace impatiently. They had arrived at medical headquarters nearly an hour ago, ordered here by Commander Linden. No one here knew what ship was going to transport them. It seemed none of the big brass was talking.

It had taken three days to get their notification, but their ship was supposed to be here 'anytime'. It had been three days of waiting restlessly, hoping to receive replies from the letters she'd sent out. None of the important ones had arrived.

An excited stirring in her companions drew her attention away from her thoughts and she turned to see what was causing it. After a moment's searching, she saw Cmdr. Linden striding towards them.

"The Enterprise is entering orbit and beam up will commence shortly," he said with a quick nod to each team member. "Your belongings are being transported to your assigned quarters and will be waiting for you. Good luck on this assignment."

* * *

"Establish geosynchronous orbit, helmsman," Kirk said with a grin. It always felt good to come home.

"Aye, sir."

"Kirk to Sickbay."

"Sickbay, McCoy here."

"We've arrived Bones. I assume you'll want to meet us in the transporter room."

"You're darn right I do. McCoy out."

Kirk grinned at Bones' enthusiastic response and swivelled his chair to face the science station. Spock was already turned in his direction. He looked to Uhura at her comm station. "Uhura, you have the bridge." Heading for the lift, he looked back to Spock, who was already walking toward him. "Spock, you're with me. Let's greet the medical team." Spock nodded, falling into step beside him. A curious excitement warmed his belly as the door closed behind the two of them. He allowed himself to experience it, anticipating the imminent arrival of Christine. Beside him Kirk chuckled softly.

His eyebrow rose and he looked questioningly at him. "May I ask what you find humorous, Captain?"

Kirk grinned lopsidedly. "Nothing in particular, Spock. At least nothing you would find as funny."

Spock watched him thoughtfully a moment before nodding. "No doubt of that, Captain."

Kirk's grin grew larger and he shook his head slightly, returning his gaze to the lift doors. Both men remained quiet for the rest of the short trip.

Striding through the doors to Transporter Room 1, Spock noticed McCoy had beaten them here. He must have been walking out of Sickbay as he cut the connection to the Bridge, Spock thought.

"Well, Jim, let's get this show on the road."

Sighing good naturedly, Kirk turned to the transporter operator. "Are they ready for beam up?"

"Yes, sir. They are ready and in position."

"Good. Energize."

Spock stood nearly at attention, watching as the 7 people materialized on the padds. The anticipation he'd felt earlier grew, although he was sure he did not let any of it show. McCoy's knowing grin in his direction did give him pause, but an instant later he was sure it was simply another of the doctor's attempts to 'make him react'.

The forms solidified and as he laid eyes on Christine Chapel for the first time in 7.94 months, he was surprised at the strength of the urge to smile. He was positive, enough of it could briefly be seen in his eyes, that she would have seen it, but trusted that no one else could.

Yes, it was definitely ... pleasing to see her again. He watched her fight her own grin. He noted that she was less successful at it, but it was ... invigorating to know that he was at least part of the reason for it.

Their eyes met briefly and she nodded at him once before turning her attention back to the captain.

"Welcome aboard," Kirk said. "Please, while you are here, make yourselves at home." Everyone stepped off the padd. "It will take us approximately 95 hours to reach Notelle Prime. During that time, Dr. McCoy, will be acquainting you all with the most updated information we have." He singled out Bones with a wave of his hand.

McCoy nodded and smiled at them. "After you're all settled, I'll be holding a briefing in Sickbay conference room one. It's scheduled for 1400 hours."

"In the meantime, Ensigns Gregor and McDavish will show you to your quarters," Kirk said, indicating they should follow the two women.

The medical team filed out, led by the ensigns. Christine hung back.

When the doors closed behind the rest of the team, McCoy broke out into toothy smile. "Welcome back, li'l lady," he said with a pronounced drawl. Stepping forward he pulled her into a tight bear hug. "Congratulations ... Doctor."

Christine hugged back, trying to breathe as the doctor tightened his hold. "Thank you Leonard."

McCoy chuckled. It was odd hearing her use his first name. Almost no one did anymore. "It's good to see you again."

"Obviously, Doctor," Spock said dryly.

"Yeah, Bones, give us a chance to say hi."

Sheepishly, McCoy pulled back.

Kirk pulled her into a quick hug. "Welcome aboard, Chris."

As always, Spock found the captain's use of the diminutive jarring, and he suppressed a frown. It was not logical to be ... bothered, by the 'nicknames' his friends chose to call each other. Then she turned to him. He was taken aback by the desire to pull her into the same embrace the two men had. He struggled a moment with a lifetime worth of reserve and finally held out his hand, two fingers straight.

Her eyes widened. This time his smile touched the corners of his mouth. He'd managed to surprise her. He caught a startled glance between McCoy and Kirk out of the corner of his eye. Evidently he'd surprised them as well. It shouldn't have, he thought. If he was willing to kiss her in front of what seemed to be half the crew, why should it be such a surprise that he would cross fingers with her around them?

His attention was brought forcefully back to Christine as her fingers touched his. The expected, yet somehow startling touch, filled him with a sense of ... possession, so much more so than the kiss they'd shared Christmas night. He forced it down. She was not Vulcan. She was his, but she was not his possession. The strange, unsettling feeling subsided as he struggled to master it.

"Well, Bones, back to duty," Kirk said grabbing McCoy's arm and heading for the door. Half way there, he looked back over his shoulder. Spock was already right behind him. "I see no need for your presence on the Bridge at this time, Spock."

Spock twitched an eyebrow. "Captain, I have 2.35 hours left of my duty shift."

"And?" Kirk asked.

"It would not be ... appropriate."

Kirk shook his head. Personally, he'd have jumped at the chance. "Have it your way Spock," he answered, not in the mood to push.

"Yes, sir."

"Gentlemen, I do need to know which quarters are mine."

"We'll drop you off on the way to the Bridge," Kirk said.

"Don't bother," McCoy replied laughter lacing his voice. "I'll show the lady to her cabin." Linking his arm through hers, he drew Christine out of the transporter room, leaving Kirk and Spock behind.

* * *

"You know, Leonard," Christine said, shaking her head. "You could have just told me, I ended up with the same quarters I had while I was stationed here. You didn't have to escort me."

"I know," he answered flopping down on a chair. "But I wanted to talk to you."

Christine eyed him warily. "About?"

"I'm sure you realize how much I care about you."

Christine's eyes widened.

McCoy chuckled and dismissed her surprise with a wave of his hand. "Not that way. You should know better."

"Well, I thought I did." She laughed lightly and sat down opposite him. "Thought for a minute you were going to throw me a loop, though."

"I worry about you. After my divorce and Joanna's growing resentment of my never being there, not that I blame her for that. Anyway, I guess all of my frustrated paternal instincts got poured out on you."

Christine reached out, resting her hand atop his, her eyes dancing merrily. "So what's worrying you, Pop?" Christine grinned at his hmpph!

"I just want to be sure you know what you're doing."

"What do you mean? I've wanted to be a doctor since I was little. If going do there, is the way to do and to help those people, I don't have any other choice. Besides, I don't see you, refusing to go."

"That's not what I meant, Christine," McCoy snapped, standing abruptly and pacing.

"Well, what do you mean," she asked, beginning to get an idea, and not liking it at all.

"Are you sure about Spock?" Christine's jaw dropped, she'd known she wasn't going to like where this was headed. "How can you even ask that? You know how long I've waited, how long I tried to keep everything I felt to myself."

"I know that. God knows, I like him a lot more than either he or I are comfortable admitting, but... What I mean is..."

"Oh, I get what you mean, but I don't believe it, not from you. He's good enough to be your friend, but he's not good enough for 'your daughter'," she said, miming quotes.

"Of course not! That isn't what I meant either," McCoy frowned, his inability to get his point across frustrating him.

"Well what then, cuz that's just what it sounds like to me." Christine sat stiffly. She couldn't believe this conversation was happening.

"Christine, he's already hurt you once. He ran, when he couldn't handle it. What makes you so sure he won't again?"

Oh, so that was it. That she could understand. "I don't," she said softly. "But isn't that the risk we all take?"

McCoy looked at her closely then, finally seeing the maturity she'd gained in the last couple of years that hadn't been present when she'd first signed on. He smiled warmly for the first time since entering her temporary quarters. "I guess I just wanted to make sure you weren't being 'starry eyed'."

Christine laughed out loud at that. "Leonard, I haven't been 'starry eyed', as you put it, for a very long time. A lot has happened to me over the last several years, some of which would probably shock you." As a matter of fact I'm sure it would, Christine thought privately, laughing as she imagined just what his reaction would be if he learned about how she and Jim had begun their friendship.

* * *

Spock stepped off the Bridge at precisely 1400 hours, wondering just which of his current projects he would spend the next two hours working on. The medical team briefing would last at least that long.

Kirk slipped through the doors just before they closed. "Deck Five," he said crisply. He glanced at Spock. "Long day."

"Indeed," Spock replied unhelpful.

"I'll bet you have plans for tonight."

Spock raised an eyebrow, amused by his attempt.

"I'm not fishing," he said hurriedly, raising his hands.

"Yes, you were, Jim."

* * *

Christine stood outside Spock's cabin, anticipating this private meeting. When she'd reached her own quarters she'd been wiped out, both physically and mentally by the plight of those caught on Notelle Prime, wanting nothing more than a hot shower and sleep. However, the first thing she'd seen after entering, had been her message light blinking. She'd activated it, hoping it wasn't anything too important and could be held off until tomorrow.

Seeing who it was from lifted the fog from her mind and body. No longer tired, in the least, she'd read it quickly. Changing out of her uniform, she'd taken the time for a quick shower, before dressing in civvies. The message he'd left her hinted at a lot, but answered nothing specific, so she had no idea what he had planned for the evening and her curiosity was a tight tingle in her chest. The door slid open, abruptly ending her musing.

He stood framed in the soft light behind him. "Christine," he said softly, his low baritone voice sending shivers down her spine. "Come in." Moving to the side he waved her in.

She stepped forward, only to stop only half way through the door. The room was lit solely by candles. He'd placed dozens of them around the room. A lace white tablecloth covered the normally barren table and it was centered with a silver candelabra, holding six lit candles. She couldn't move, the site before her was more romantic than anything she could have imagined.

She'd had candlelight dinners before, by men attempting many things, but this was Spock. Never would she have guessed, he would do this.

"Do you intend to stand in the doorway all evening, or would you like to come in?"

She jumped at the sound of his voice and could hear just a trace of amusement. She stepped forward far enough to allow the doors to close behind her. "It's wonderful, Spock," she said breathlessly. This had totally swept her off her feet.

"I reasoned you would appreciate a ... special effort for your first evening back aboard."

Christine eyes danced merrily. "Well, you 'reasoned' correctly," she said. "It's just what I need to relax me."

"Indeed," Spock answered, ushering her further into his quarters. "From that, I take it the meeting did not go well."

"No, it didn't," she answered with a sigh. Dropping down into the offered seat, she leaned back and closed her eyes.

"You are tired, perhaps--"

Her eyes popped open immediately. "Actually, I'm not. I'm just frustrated." Spock crossed to the replicator, the device being a privilege of rank, and turned back to her. "Anything in particular you would like?"

"Nope. It's your evening, you pick something."

Spock nodded and quickly programmed his choices. When he set her plate down in front of her, she was so lost in thought she didn't even notice it. "Would you care to discuss what is on your mind?"

Christine glanced up, startled. "I'm sorry Spock, what did you say?" Perhaps this had not been a good idea, he thought. Obviously her mind was thoroughly occupied with her mission. Which was as it should be, considering the magnitude of lives at stake, he told the irrational part of him that was just a touch upset at her inattentiveness. "I asked if you wished to 'talk about it'."

She eyed him thoughtfully. "Are you sure you want to hear it?"

His eyebrow popped up and restrained amusement lit his eyes. "I would not have asked otherwise."

"No, I guess you wouldn't have." She stared at her plate a moment, aimlessly moving the food around with her fork. "What is it? It looks good."

Recognizing her delaying tactic, he obliged her. "It does not have a name, per se. It is a dish my mother created, combining both Vulcan and Terran foods. I programmed the replicator with it two months ago, but it ... does not taste quite the same."

Christine grinned crookedly. "Replicated food never does," she said, taking a bite. Her eyes widened as she savored the unique flavor. "It's very good."

"It is one of my favorites," Spock admitted. The meal progressed in companionable silence, until about half way through when Christine spoke. "We, nor they, can even identify what's causing it, let alone how it's transmitted!"

Spock listened quietly while she quickly reviewed what they knew, or rather didn't know about the cause of the epidemic. Each time she lapsed into silence he commented appropriately, or asked a question to clarify a certain point. When it appeared she had finished, he frowned in thought.

"It sounds vaguely reminiscent of the problems old Earth had when the Ebola virus was 'discovered'."

Christine blinked twice before answering. "Now why didn't we think of that."

"Too focused on one path, I would assume."

"No natural virus or bacteria, yet discovered, is 100% fatal. There have been appalling death rates, but it's never been 100%." She grinned suddenly, for the first time since she began speaking of the disaster. "That gives us a new avenue to research. Nothing in the reports indicated they have even thought about it being a 'created' disease. I just assumed... Well," she interrupted herself. "I guess that was a pretty stupid assumption to make, wasn't it?"

Spock did not answer. He saw if for the rhetorical statement it was. Besides, he figured answering it honestly just might get him 'in trouble'. Instead he diverted her attention away from it. "Did you wish to begin studies in that area?"

"Now, Spock?"

He nodded and watched a sly secretive grin slowly spread across her features. He wasn't sure he trusted that smile. "No, Spock, I don't think I do. We start work on the project first thing in the morning. That's time enough for that."

"Indeed," Spock answered eyeing her warily. "Why do I get the suspicion you've got something else planned?"

"Perhaps because," she said rising slowly from her chair and deliberately choosing her next words with care. "You're a reasonably intelligent man, who has a ... credible grasp on reality."

Spock's eyebrow shot up to his hairline. "Indeed," he said, rising to meet her half way. "And just what ... devious thing did you have in mind?"

Wondering just what it would take to make you lose control, she thought very privately. "I thought perhaps we could spend some more quality time together," she said, running a single finger up his arm.

"I believe that could be ... arranged," Spock answered softly, caressing two fingers along her jaw line. For long moments neither spoke, simply touched fingertips to fingertips, and tracing lightening trails along necks and faces, and finally Christine reached up and lightly touched his ears.

Spock gasped and grabbed her hands in his, surprise registering on his face. To Christine, considering who he was, it seemed as if he was thoroughly shocked. She smiled seductively. "Did I just find a Vulcan erogenous zone?" she asked, playfully trying to get her hands free of his.

Spock swallowed visibly, before answering. "It ... would seem so."

"You make it seem like it's a bad thing," she said, finally freeing her hand to slowly trail it up his chest.

"I would recommend you not do that," he said, recapturing her hand.

Completely surprised, Christine pulled back and caught his eye. "Why ever not?" Spock remained silent for long moments and she began to wonder if he was going to. Then he finally swallowed once again and whispered so softly she had to strain to hear.

"Because I do not believe I could retain ... control of my ... actions, if you did."

She smiled seductively and leaned close, whispering back. "Who wants you to?"

Spock's eyes closed as if in pain. He cut off a groan he couldn't quite prevent completely and cupped her chin in his hands. Opening his eyes, he stared deeply into hers. "Do you have any idea what you do to me?" he asked hoarsely. "Any idea how much, what you make me ... feel, makes me want to throw everything I believe in, away?" he continued, his voice tightly controlled.

Spock's words rendered her speechless for a moment and she just stared up at him, both her utter shock and all consuming love shining in her eyes. "If..." she began and had to start again. "If it's anything like what you make me feel, I do have an idea." She smiled wistfully. "But I have faith in you Spock. I have faith, that you'll find a balance." She reached up a hand and caressed his cheek. "I believe in your strength."

Spock moaned softly, her words his undoing. "Oh, Christine, I am lost in you," he said, breathing the words against her lips. "And I cannot find it in myself to protest."

Christine moaned softly as he crushed her to him, insistently parting her lips with his. His tongue slowly, erotically danced with hers. Long moments, eternities, passed, then he pulled inches away from her to meet her eyes again. "Do you wish to leave?"

She blinked a few times, trying to clear her mind. Why would she want to leave? The light slowly dawned in her desire fogged brain, and a sunny, silly smile lit her face. She shook her head and pulled Spock back down into a soul deep kiss, putting everything she felt and everything she was into it.

She was barely aware of shifting position when Spock swept her up into his arms and carried her the few feet to the bed.

* * *

Spock sat on the edge of the bed, his fingers steepled in front of his face. He wanted more than anything to simply leave, but he couldn't, not in his current condition. Why hadn't she told him. The anger he was attempting to control, left him trembling with the effort. She was his! No one else could have her!

Christine reached out and touched his shoulder. He shot to his feet as if he'd been shot. "What is the matter, Spock?" she asked, worried. As far as she knew everything was fine. Well, better than fine, if the truth be told. The reality of Spock had far surpassed anything she'd ever dreamed of. But as they lay in bed afterward, their minds still partially intertwined, he'd suddenly pulled away from her. He hadn't done it soon enough for her not to sense his sudden burst of anger, however. Something else was there too, but she couldn't quite identify that.

"Spock!" Christine jumped up and circled the bed. "Please. Tell me what's wrong."

He raised his eyes slowly to look at her and it tore him apart inside. None of it showed on his face this time though, he'd retreated behind Vulcan control. He should never have let himself relax it like that in the first place. It had left the door wide open for the white hot anger that had followed his unexpected discovery.

He had no right to be ... jealous of what she'd done after he'd abandoned her, but she should have told him of it. Jim certainly couldn't have. It would not have been appropriate. In this moment, he learned all over again, just why his people controlled their emotions. What he wanted to do right now was not ... civilized and it was long, silent, painful moments before he was sure enough of his control to speak to her.

"Why?" he managed to say in a fairly normal voice, before his throat closed off.

"Why what?" Christine asked. "I don't understand."

"Why ... Jim, and why did you not tell me?" Spock swayed as dizziness passed over him and he felt a strong wave of deja vu. Another set of words from another time came hurtling back and he had to fight against another wave of rage.

//Explain.//

"Christine, you must leave."

Christine's jaw dropped in astonishment. "I've done nothing wrong here. You've got no right to--"

//Specify.//

"Christine, leave now," Spock snapped, knowing the two situations were not even remotely the same, but with his tenuous control over instincts as old as Vulcans themselves, his logic was not separating the two very well. Why Jim? Both times it had been Jim.

//Why you chose the challenge and why you chose my captain as your champion.//

"Fine!" Christine snapped back, grabbing her clothes, only just then realizing the two of them had been arguing in the nude. She must have been angrier than she thought, not to have noticed that. She threw them on hurriedly as she continued ranting. "But I'll have you know right here and now Spock, what I did after you left is none of your damn business. We needed to hold someone and if you want to hold that over my head..."

//I wanted Stonn and Stonn wanted me.//

//I see no logic in preferring Stonn over me.//

She paused at the door's threshold. "Well ... you can just go to hell!" she said as she swept out of his quarters, so angry she was trembling.

I'm already there, Christine, Spock thought as the doors closed behind her.

* * *

Christine fumed as she strode down the Enterprise corridors toward her own quarters. This was all she needed right now. She needed her attention on her mission and her internship, not on that ... that ... self-centered son-of-a ... She took a deep breath. She had to calm down. She groaned before she could prevent it. Going from one emotional extreme to the other had given her a monster headache.

She wanted to stop by sickbay and get something for it, but didn't. She knew that Leonard would probably be there and she didn't feel up to answering any of the questions he would certainly ask. Instead she practically dove into the sanctuary of her quarters and threw herself on her bed.

She wanted to cry. She wanted to scream. She ... wanted to stop thinking. However, she couldn't seem to accomplish even one of them. She lay on her bed, dry-eyed and silent, her mind whirling with things she wished she'd said and wished she'd done. The scene played over and over again, each time a little differently, but two things remained constant. She couldn't understand why it had all blown up in the first place and with each run through she got angrier.

* * *

Spock sat staring at the broken table before him. He had difficulty accepting that he had been the cause of the destruction. It lay on the floor, in pieces, in mute condemnation of his outburst. He closed his eyes against it, and took a deep calming breath.

Growing up he'd been told over and over again, that Vulcans followed the path he was learning, for a very good reason. He'd been told that without it the savagery that was inherent in their species would destroy them all. Of course by the time he'd been old enough to be affected by the 'so-called' savagery, he was well trained in the way of modern Vulcans. So he'd never before experienced it.

Oh, he'd been angry before, but all three times had been under such extreme circumstances that he'd never really given it much thought before. He'd simply controlled it, then suppressed it. To think that something so ... trivial, could raise such intense ... feelings in him, both astounded and to a certain extent scared him.

The seething within him abated slowly, but not without a struggle against the steel will of the Vulcan attempting to exorcize it from himself. Maintaining his meditation, he brought his thoughts and his logic to bear on the cause of it all. He immediately felt the anger try once again to gain a foothold, but he did not allow it. He was in control now. It would not happen again.

He began slowly picking apart what he'd inadvertently seen in her mind, what he'd felt, and the words from so long ago that suddenly seemed to haunt him now. Without the blind rage fueling back on itself, he could see more clearly what his logic had tried to tell him earlier. The two incidents had nothing to do with each other. No matter what his instincts told him, she, Christine, had not betrayed him.

He, the one who was his shield brother, had not betrayed him. Another deep breath. Calmness descended as slowly as the rage had abated, but come it did and with it the realization that Christine would not understand why he'd sent her away; would, in fact, probably misunderstand the reason.

He rose slowly. Frowning one last time at the table, he strode out of his quarters. He had some explaining to do. He just hoped she would listen.

* * *

Christine startled up off the bed at the sound of her door chime. Her heart in her throat, and her hand pressed to her chest, she lay back down. She really didn't want to talk to anyone right now. She wouldn't be able to hide her agitation from whoever was at the door and she still didn't feel like answering any of the questions it would raise.

She gasped and sat abruptly back up as she heard her door open. Her anger rising swiftly back to the surface. Whoever it was, had better have a damn good reason for barging in here. She practically flew out of bed ready to flay the hide off the person unlucky enough to have interrupted her snit.

She froze in the doorway leading to the main room. "Spock?" she said, managing little better than a croak. "What are you doing here?" she asked sarcastically, her anger and her awareness that she probably looked a mess made her peevish.

Spock's eyebrow shot up at her tone, evidently she was still angry. "I wanted to..."

"On second thought," she said, cutting off his answer. "I don't really care. It's your turn to leave." She turned abruptly and went back into her bedroom.

"I already did that once, Christine, as you are well aware. It will not happen again. I intend to stay right here, until you listen to me." Christine stopped dead, and slowly turned back around to face. She simply stared at him her mouth open slightly at his audacity. He was sending her such contradictory signals. First he orders her to leave, acting like she'd done something horrendous. Now he was standing in her quarters, telling her he was in this 'for the long haul'. Well maybe she'd had enough.

Pacing three measured steps forward, bringing her fully into the same room with him, she then stopped. "I ... said ... leave ... now."

"No," he answered calmly, trying to diffuse a second scene by infusing it with his own rationality. Unfortunately it seemed to be having the opposite affect. He watched as her face suffused with excess blood, and as she began trembling, much as he had earlier. He was momentarily frozen in shock, however as her next action took him completely by surprise. He barely ducked to the side in time to dodge the vase she'd thrown at him.

Judging by her expression she was just as surprised by it as he had been. "Feel better?" he asked, not altogether certain it was a safe question. A sudden, completely irrelevant thought filtered through his mind, and he wondered if his mother had ever thrown anything at his father. He supposed he would never know. It wasn't something he could just walk up to either of them and ask.

"Yes," she said, surprise deeply coloring her voice. "I guess I do." She laughed nervously, raising slightly trembling fingers to her mouth. "I'm sorry I threw it at you, Spock."

The corners of Spock's mouth twitched up just slightly. "Understandable, given the circumstances. But I will admit to a certain amount of ... mild surprise. I didn't realize you were capable of that kind of anger."

Christine laughed, although it still had an edge of hysteria to it. This all seemed like 'small talk' to her. "It's the other side of the coin."

"I do not understand."

"Passion, Spock. It's all the same, just from different angles."

"Ah, I see," he said in that special way that actually said he didn't but wasn't sure if he should delve further into the subject.

"Love, hate. Happiness, sadness. Passion, anger. They're all opposite sides of the same scale, or in the case of my original comment, the same coin."

"Speaking of two of those specifically," Spock said. "I need to explain what happened."

"It seems pretty obvious to me what happened, Spock."

"That's just the problem. You are looking at it from a human perspective--"

Christine laughed a short, surprised, humorless laugh. "How else am I supposed to look at it. I am human, after all."

"I assure you, I realize that, Christine. What I am trying to say is that, what happened, happened, because I am Vulcan. It isn't something that most humans would have to deal with."

Christine's eyes widened and her knees threatened to give out under her. She'd simply been through to many ups and downs today. She held up her hand. "Wait, this sounds like it's going to be a long involved explanation."

"It is."

"Okay, then," she said as she crossed to her replicator. "Do you want something to drink?" I know I do, she thought.

After receiving his yes, and what he wanted, she replicated it for him, and then reached into a recess and pulled out a small bottle and poured herself a drink. While his had been nonalcoholic in nature, hers was definitely not. Six months ago, her sister had sent her some of their father's rare brandy. She'd never opened it until now. She had not intended on opening for some time, however, tonight she felt a serious need for its fake courage.

Spock did not comment on her choice of beverage and waited for her to seat herself before beginning.

Christine deliberately made herself comfortable. Then turned to him with a questioning gaze. She really wanted to hear him 'explain' his way out of this one.

He opened his mouth to begin, but closed it without saying anything. This was going to be even more difficult than he had thought. Suddenly he looked up. "Do you know why Vulcans chose the way of logic and of emotional control?"

"I've read a little about it," Christine said in surprise. "But I can't say I really know why."
Spock stood abruptly and crossed to the chair across the small room. Holding a rational discussion with her, when all he wanted to do was reach out and ... He stopped that line of thought immediately. It was nonconducive to what he was trying to achieve. Perhaps a touch of distance would help.

"Ages ago, before Surak," Spock began and continued to speak of what it was to be Vulcan. It was imperative she understand that beneath the layers of civilization, logic and control, were the locked away intense emotions of Vulcan savagery.

"Of course the emotions of my ancestors did not simply disappear," Spock said softly. Although most nonVulcans assume so, he thought privately, allowing that Vulcans did prefer them to think that.

One corner of Christine's mouth twitched up traitorously, despite her best efforts not to. "Obviously," she said drily.

Spock's eyebrow shot up and he stared at her in slight exasperation a moment before the corners of his own mouth curved upward, acknowledging the irony of her statement. "Indeed," he replied soberly. Taking a deep breath, he plunged ahead with the real reason he was here. "My reaction earlier was not ... rational."

Christine resisted, valiantly, the urge to chortle. That had to be the biggest understatement she'd heard in a very long time. "I kind of figured that out, Spock," she said deadpan.

He resisted the automatic sigh. She was not making this easy. "What I meant was, that it did not directly relate to the 'reality' of the situation."

Christine sat forward, now listening intently. She hadn't expected this. Where exactly was this headed?

"Vulcans are ... possessive, of their mates," Spock continued. "It isn't a rational thing. It is ... instinctive." He paused, a brief look of frustration crossed his face. "I am not explaining this well. I do not have the right words."

Christine rose slowly and crossed to his chair. Kneeling silently between his knees, she reached out and took his hand. Placing it gently against her cheek, she smiled at him. "Tell me this way," she said quietly.

"You would allow that, even after...?" His voice trailed away.

"Yes, Spock," she answered him. "I'm not afraid of you. I've been lonely because of you. I'm in love because of you. I've been angry and resentful because of you, but I've never been afraid of you. I trust you with all that I am."

Spock ran two fingers across her cheekbone, smiling slightly. This woman awed him in her loyalty. The beast that had nearly been unleashed in him, scared him, but she was sitting there ready to face anything, even the unknown depths of Vulcan jealousy: all for him. If he believed in luck, he would say he was the luckiest Vulcan anywhere.

He positioned his fingers properly and began the ritual words. They almost weren't needed as his mind slipped into her willing one as easily as wind through the leaves of a tree. For an easy moment he lost himself in the cool waters of her shifting thoughts and emotions, once again feeling inadequate for the depths she felt for him.

He felt Christine's delighted mental laughter ripple across his mind. *I fell in love with who you are, as you are, then and now. How can you be less than that? You are what you are.*

His own amusement drifted across the lowered barriers of both their minds. *Logical,* he thought to her. Then he moved further in, allowing her to see more of him. They sighed as one, as the scene from earlier in the day began to replay in their mind.

Christine saw his 'betrayal', wait no, not his, hers. She felt the rage rise. She wanted to strike out, to end the sharp pain in her chest. Word for word it replayed only this time she watched from a different perspective. She felt and heard the words that had woven themselves irretrievable among the ones that they had actually spoken to each other.

She gasped and felt him breath it out, as raw, unadulterated agony and anger raged through her. She continued to watch, both of them caught up in the flow of emotions that both had been feeling. Finally she heard her parting words, flung at him in hurt and anger, her heart breaking into a thousand pieces as his closing thoughts filtered to her, despite his sudden attempt to keep them from her.

*I already am, Christine.*

*I am so sorry, Spock.* She felt his complete acceptance of her wash over her, as well, as a tentative emotion, he allowed to slip over and tenderly caress her mind. Christine closed her eyes and savored the feeling of being loved.

*As am I, Christine.*

Slowly they became two again, but Spock remained touching her. "I cannot ... share. I am incapable of it."

A glint grew in her eyes and she smiled at him. "Neither can I," she said softly. Her meaning intense despite the quietness with which it was said. She rose to her knees and her hand snaked behind his head. Forcefully pulling his head down, she crushed her lips to his in a passionate dance of mouths and tongues.

The two settled against one another, finally both of them secure in what the felt and in the other.

* * *

The next several days passed in something of a blur for Christine. Her days were spent either in the lab with the medical team, trying to find something those on the planet had missed, or helping out in Sickbay. Each of the interns took their turn there.

Even realizing it had been artificially generated, didn't seem to help them make much progress. They had isolated what it was, but still had not found an effective counteragent. The virus was virulent in the extreme, but what was baffling, was the fact that it simply was not nearly as contagious as it seemed to be from the reports. The only way the med team found that it could be transferred was by direct contact with the victims blood. So how it was being contracted in such vast numbers was still a complete mystery.

When they arrived they planned on testing all possible sources of contagion again, just in case the original testing had missed something. It was the only answer they could come up with. In the meantime they continued the frantic search for something, anything, that would at least slow the process of the disease.

Combining the twelve to sixteen hour days in pure research with their stints in Sickbay, neither the interns nor the rest of the team, ate or slept much. Usually eating when some kind soul noticed and brought a meal to them all.

Christine looked up as the last set of stats finished scrolling past. Resisting the conflicting urges to yawn and to yell in frustration, she took a look around at her colleagues and decided that this time she would retrieve a meal for everyone.

Taking a quick look at the next set of cultures, verifying they were not yet ready for testing, she notified Dr. Secorna of both her lack of progress and her intentions.

He looked up at her with tired, reddened eyes. "Very well," he said in a voice raspy from lack of sleep. "I could use something to eat. We all could." He immediately bent back down to inspecting the samples laid out before him.

Christine watched him concernedly for only a moment longer before striding out of Sickbay as quickly as bone-tired legs would carry her. That wasn't very quickly, she had to admit, but it would have to do.

* * *

After leaving the Bridge, Spock had joined Kirk in a chess game. At present, Kirk was winning. Spock stared at the board trying to anticipate just how Kirk was going to play the next few moves, so he could plan a counter. A slight sigh escaped his lips as he came to the conclusion, not for the first time, that he didn't think he'd be able to predict the unpredictable. He made the only logical move.

Kirk pounced on it. "Check," he said with a grin.

Spock's eyebrow shot up, he hadn't suspected that. It placed four of the captain's major pieces in jeopardy. He carefully examined the new layout. He could see several moves which on the surface seemed quite logical. However, after jumping ahead he could see each of them led to checkmate within six more moves. This would take some time.

"Spock, you seem ... distracted. What's on your mind?"

"Nothing of significance, Captain." Spock answered immediately, not looking up from the game. After only a moment he made a move.

Kirk frowned and made a countermove. "Check."

Spock stifled a sigh, reached out and tipped his king. "Captain, I concede," he said as he rose. "If you will excuse me, I believe I will return to my quarters."

"Spock," he said quickly, standing. "I know you ... prefer to keep things to yourself, but I'm your friend. If something's bothering you, you know you can talk to me about it. Right?"

Spock turned back to face his Captain and friend. His face impassive, he gazed at Jim Kirk a moment, unknowingly biting his lower lip. "Yes, Captain. I am ... aware of that fact," he said, turned and strode out of the Captain's quarters.

This would never do, he thought to himself. He must control these inappropriate feelings. Perhaps meditation would help. He returned to his quarters showered and changed into his meditation robes. He reflected wryly that, although he always changed into them before meditating, he still felt more comfortable in his uniform. He did wonder what that said about him.

He lit the Vulcan meditation candle and sat lotus on the bench he'd had installed shortly after becoming first officer of the Enterprise. To have a specific place he always meditated aided in the ease of achieving it.

Last night's conversation with Christine had gone a long way to resolving the issue between the two of them. At least insofar that they had both come to understand something new and unexpected about their relationship. It wasn't one either of them had expected, least of all him. He had always assumed that when he finally chose to involve himself in a relationship, logic would govern his reactions.

To find that these irrational ... feelings were interfering with that logic was ... unsettling, to say the least, but he was confident that given meditation and logical reflection he would be able to bring a conclusion to these unproductive thoughts.

He relaxed into deeper meditation and question just what it was about this that was so different from his expectations. Given her humanity and the fact that she had been previously engaged, it would not have been logical to assume she'd had no previous ... lovers and he had not come into this with that expectation. That is what made all this so confusing. What about this made it seem so much like betrayal?

Was it something so simple that she hadn't told him of the affair during his sojourn at Gol? Spock reflected on that a moment, quickly coming to the conclusion that, although that had been one of the sources of his ... anger, it was not what was causing his residual unease. What then? The only thing left was, who. A slight frown brought creases, unknowingly to Spock's forehead as he worked through the sensations that evoked. It seemed to his critical thinking that, such a response was distressingly ... petty. But there it was. What bothered him was not Christine's actions. At least not anymore, he reluctantly admitted the truth to himself. Rather it was those Of Captain Kirk.

Why? Kirk had never once in they're entire acquaintance and subsequent friendship, hidden his innate sexuality. Why did this surprise him? Why did it still ... anger him?

It was not logical to hold one of them responsible and not the other. Or in this case to hold one blameless while blaming the other. He sighed mentally. Blame, in and of itself, was not logical.

Spock, tried to sift through what seemed a quagmire of conflicting and confusing thoughts and emotions. None of them made any sense and his logic could not make them any more sensible.

In a nutshell, he had been left with the task of dealing with the idea that his closest friend had slept with the woman he planned on bonding with. It was not a pleasant thing to wrestle with. In fact he found the strange sensations that coursed through him at odd intervals highly distasteful. He ... hoped this session of deep meditation would help him suppress the misplaced feelings.

Considering the circumstances under which it occurred, it was not logical to feel as he did. If anyone held any 'blame' of wrong doing, it was him. They had merely sought solace from each other. Why? Spock thought, his anger growing once again. He fought to stay in his meditation, but this time let himself feel it. Perhaps that was the way to analyze it, to figure out just how to control it. To control something one must understand it first.

Why her? That single question almost brought him out of meditation. His anger cooled almost immediately in the wake of puzzlement. Why her, he repeated slowly in his mind.

That was it! That was what was bothering him. Jim Kirk, the 'ladies man', who could have just about any female he chose to, human or not, had 'chosen' her. Kirk had taken the woman he ... yes, think it; admit it to yourself ... loved. He ... loved Christine Chapel.

And why not? he asked himself silently, feeling the sudden and odd need to defend himself. She is an intelligent, caring, usually soft spoken woman who loved him and who, for a human, could be eminently logical.

Neither of them had done anything wrong. They had been true to their natures, seeking solace in a very physical way. In that brief joining they had found in each other a knowledge they were not alone in their sorrow, their grief. It had been a one time event, that had cemented their friendship. This he knew from Christine's mind. The meld they'd shared last night had revealed that to him.

Christine had shared it openly and honestly without trying to hide any of it. There was no lingering 'attraction' on her part and she did not believe there was one on his. That was not an issue. So what was left?

The word poaching flashed through his mind and his right eyebrow shot up of its own accord. "That was an illogical thought," he said, murmuring to himself, in his surprise.

He sighed once again, this time in exasperation. This whole thing was illogical, not just one portion of it. What had happened between the two of them had happened after he had broken off his prior relationship with her. There was no blame to assign. There had been no 'wrong doing'. It was done. Kai'idth. This had no place in their lives in the here and now. It should simply be put to rest and forgotten. This was a logical conclusion, he knew. Why then was it so difficult to accept and move forward, relegating the incident to the past where it belonged?

* * *

Christine dropped onto her bed, totally exhausted. They were only one day away from Notelle Prime and still hadn't found a cure or even something that would slow the process. With the best facilities available, they had been able to come up with nothing! That did not bode well, for the people there, or her internship. At the moment what she saw in her near future, was easing the pain of dying people she could do nothing else for.

That was not in her nature. To sit back and just watch people die, was any doctor's worst nightmare. In fact she'd had several that ran along that theme, most of them in the last 2 weeks. She rolled over, flopping onto her back. Briefly, she considered getting up to shower and eat dinner. Her need for sleep won out. Before she'd even finished deciding, her eyes drifted shut and she was out cold.

* * *

In complete disregard for her bone deep weariness, the computer sounded her wake up call at precisely 0600. She ignored it the first time, rolling over and falling back asleep. Three insistent wake up reminders later, she was stumbling her way to the shower, wishing she'd taken one last night. She hated waking up feeling this way.

Before she knew it, her morning flew by and she found herself in the transporter room. It was time to beam down. The entire team was assembled there, waiting for the Captain's signal. Low-key, nervous chatter was thrown back and forth. All of them knew they were going into a dangerous situation. One that they would have little to no control over at first.

She double checked her supplies making sure she had everything she was supposed to have, instead. She really didn't want to dwell on the consequences of what they were doing. It was a little morbid for her tastes. She maintained her innate confidence that they would find a cure and they would all come back from this experience with another mission under their belts and she would be one step closer to her MD.

The transporter room doors swished open and the captain strode in, surprising almost everyone. They'd expected him to call down from the bridge. All except Chapel and McCoy, they knew better. To them, the real surprise would have been if he had stayed to call from there. He was too hands on for that.

What surprised Christine was that Spock was right behind him. What surprised her even more was when he stepped onto the transporter pad. She frowned. He wasn't part of the medical team. What did he think he was doing?

She had to laugh when McCoy voiced her thoughts almost word for word. "What in the galaxy do you think you're doing, Spock?"

"I am preparing to beam down to the planet surface with the medical team, Doctor," Spock answered blandly, then lifted a questioning eyebrow. "What does it look like I'm doing?"

Christine stifled a completely inappropriate giggle. This was not the place for laughing at or with ones superior officers. Well, not for mere Lieutenants anyway.

McCoy groused and grumbled about stubborn Vulcans a moment, before returning to the subject at hand. "It looks like you're sticking your ever curious Vulcan nose where it doesn't belong, Spock. That's what it looks like you're doing. There's no reason whatsoever for you to transport down with us, so you just get your ski... The answer is no. Only qualified medical personnel are beaming down. Which you are not; qualified that is."

"Bones," Kirk said, trying to halt the debate. "I asked him to go down. And you know as well as I do, that he's one of the best researchers we have on board."

McCoy rounded on Jim. "Yes, I do know that, Captain. However, research can take place up here."

"Doctor, all the first hand evidence is on the planet below. If we are to find a cure for this, the most logical recourse is to collect new samples, from the source."

Knowing he'd lost this round and couldn't continue to protest without seeming the overprotective jerk, he grumbled his way up onto the transport pad, glaring alternately at the captain and at Spock.

Everyone else kept their mouths shut. No one wanted to get involved in one of their famous quarrels. Christine was tempted to put in her two cents worth, but decided discretion was the best course here and kept her deliberately provocative responses to herself. They ought to pin a medal on me, just for knowing when to keep my trap shut, she thought with a completely internal laugh. Although, she couldn't quite keep a knowing grin off her face.

* * *

As soon as the materialized on the planet surface they were all besieged with one thing; the noise. The medical area into which they'd transported was barely controlled chaos, or so it seemed at first. Closer inspection, as each of them got pulled into ordered mess, revealed the chaotic, nearly frenetic activity was actually quite under control. Every person moving with deliberate speed knew exactly what they were doing and where they were going.

Spock watched a moment before striding out of the building to complete his own duties. As he exited the building and left the pandemonium behind, he was gratified that his own path led him away to continue in solitude. The noise inside had been a touch painful to sensitive ears.

* * *

Only once or twice in her career, both as a nurse and a Starfleet Officer, had she seen such devastation. It was horrifying to the caregiver in her to know that half of these people would be dead by evening, unless they could come up with a miracle.

For about the millionth time today, she grabbed a hand towel and wiped the sweat from her face. It wasn't getting any easier. More and more people were coming into the aid station needing immediate medical assistance. They all said the same thing. They'd been fine two hours ago. They had not done anything different from what they normally had and they had no idea how they could have gotten the illness. They were glad they'd managed to avoid getting this thing until the Federation had shown up.

Christine's heart shattered, every time she heard that last. Every single person who'd come in today had assumed the Federation had brought a cure with them, along with the personnel and supplies. She leaned against the counter and took several deep breaths. This was one of those few times she wished she chosen just about any career other than medical.

The last patient that had been brought to her was a four year old little girl. She'd gasped when she'd seen her. She hadn't known there were Vulcans settled here. She'd looked up from the child to see the mother standing right beside the tiny girl's bed.

Having had years of experience, she could see the tell tale signs of worry and fear behind the carefully controlled expression.

She quickly examined the little girl, hoping beyond reason that this child had simply come down with the normal childhood ailments that all children had to go through. After all, she reasoned, until now, there had only been adult victims. She frowned as a strange thought began cycling through the back of her mind, causing her to pause momentarily.

"What is it, Doctor?" the child's mother asked.

"Hmm?" Christine murmured, looking up from the sick child. "Oh, I am simply considering the best options," she lied smoothly. She continued her efforts on the little girl, who was amazingly calm, though she was obviously a very frightened little girl.

"What's your name?" she asked, trying to focus the child's thoughts away from what might be wrong with her.

"T'Sarah."

Christine's eyes widened in surprise. "That's a very beautiful name. Were you named after your mother?" she asked, while continuing her efforts. She quickly labeled the blood samples she'd drawn and administered several injections to help ease the symptoms. The fear in the little girls eyes faded as her pain diminished.

"No, Sarah was my grandmother's name," she said proudly, then glanced quickly at her mother, who nodded slightly. The little girl leaned toward Christine and whispered confidentially. "She was human, like you."

"Really?" Christine didn't have to pretend her surprise. "Well, I guess that makes you pretty special."

A confused look passed over the T'Sarah's face and she cocked her head to the side. "Why would my Grandmother being human make me special," she asked solemnly, sounding so like another Vulcan of her acquaintance that she almost laughed.

Struggling to contain the mirth she knew the little girl would not understand, she answered the question as seriously as it had been asked.

"Because there are not many people who are both Vulcan and human. As a matter of fact," she said leaning much closer, as if confiding the biggest secret ever. "I've only met two."

"You've met Sai Spock?" T'Sarah asked eyes widening as she struggle to contain her obviously growing excitement.

Christine politely ignored the signs and went on. "Yes, in fact he's here today." Christine paused as if considering a very serious matter. "Would you like to meet him too?" Christine watched joy radiate out from T'Sarah's eyes, and was impressed at the emotional control in such a young child. She hadn't realized before just how young they began that training.

While it had been obvious, from the moment she'd laid eyes on her, what T'Sarah had been feeling, it was equally obvious Christine had only seen the tip of it. Her control nowhere near that of an adult, she was still the calmest, frightened child Christine had ever seen.

She watched the little girl take a deep breath and struggle not to show just how excited she was at the prospect of meeting the only other person in the galaxy that was like her.

T'Sarah nodded once, obviously imitating the earlier action of her mother. "Yes, Doctor, I would be ... "

Christine waited patiently as the charming child tried to find an appropriate word to express her thoughts, without giving away too much.

"Yes, I would," she said finally, giving up on finding something that would both satisfy her training and her inner child glee.

One corner of Christine's mouth twitched. "I will see what I can do to arrange it then," she said. Turning to the mother, she indicated with a nod of her head that she wished to speak privately with her, then strode out of the room, before her own control could desert her. Taking several deep gulps of air before turning to face the Vulcan female, she fixed her face into a mask of emotionless professionalism. When she turned around and saw the subtle signs of concern, fear and hope all mingled in the eyes and expression, where most would have seen nothing almost did her in. She fought back the tears that threatened to overcome her professionalism. The little girl had gotten to her that quickly.

Before she could say anything the mother spoke. "How long will it take for the medications to take effect?" she asked quietly.

Christine started in surprise. "The meds to control the symptoms have already taken affect," hating that she had to, she continued to destroy the fragile hope of a mother. "We have isolated what's causing this, but we have yet to find a cure."

She struggled to keep her own face impassive as she watched the Vulcan woman digest that information and saw a variety of emotions flicker through her dark eyes, some of which were unidentifiable to Christine. This was obviously in direct opposition to what she had heard. Christine knew from long experience her expressions of sympathy and support would most likely not be welcome, so she kept them to herself, but they did show in her eyes and in the softening lines of her face.

"Did you mean what you said about Sai Spock cha' Sarek?"

Trying not to be offended, knowing the woman did not intend the question as an insult, she answered calmly. "I would not have offered otherwise. It would have been cruel."

The woman nodded once, accepting the logic of her statement. She turned to return to her daughter, then suddenly turned back and gazed at Christine a moment. "Thank you," she said quietly, leaving before Christine could respond.

Another shuddering breath brought her back to the present. She had been unable to find Spock, in the short time she'd had available to try. She supposed it would have to wait until this evening. She just hoped T'Sarah had that time. She had been in to check on the little girl several times throughout the day and her prognosis was not good.

* * *

Christine sat forlornly at the table, staring at her dinner. She pushed it around the plate absently, knowing she had to eat, but not having the will to make herself do so. It had been a long harrowing day. They'd lost 27 patients today, seven of them hers. She closed her eyes tightly trying to block out her thoughts and the tears that threatened. She just didn't want to accept those deaths, any more than she wanted to accept the fact that there were several more she would lose.

"Christine."

Her eyes snapped open and she glanced up to see Spock standing above her, holding his own tray.

He slid into the seat beside her. "It will do neither you nor your patients any good for you to neglect your health, Christine."

She sighed deeply. "I know, Spock. I'm just having trouble making myself eat." She looked over at him. "I have a patient I'd like you to meet."

Spock's eyebrow went up. "I do not think that would be advisable. It seems to me, I would better serve this patient by continuing my efforts toward finding a cure."

The tears that had threatened earlier now slipped unnoticed, by her, silently down her cheeks. "Even if we found a cure within the hour, Spock, it would be too late for this patient. The damage is already too extensive," she said hoarsely, her voice barely above a whisper.

The last time she'd been in to check on her, T'Sarah's bravery had nearly broken her heart. She steadfastly refused to give in to any of the fears that Christine could see lurking behind her expressive eyes; eyes that in her growing fatigue appeared larger and larger in that small face.

Spock paused in his movements, fighting a sense of hopelessness. "Who is this patient of yours?" he asked.

"Her name is T'Sarah."

"I was unaware there were Vulcans settled here," he said softly, fully aware that for some reason this particular patient meant something to Christine.

"Neither was I."

Spock carefully considered his possible responses, not sure if his next statement would be appropriate or not. He knew humor was often a way to relieve stress, so decided to see if it would help her now. "Since when have you been eager to introduce me to other women?" he asked a humorous glint in his eyes. He was satisfied to see the corner of her mouth quirk up.

She gazed over at him. Temporarily distracted, laughter danced merrily in her eyes. "Oh, I think I'm safe on this one occasion."

"Indeed. And why is that?" Spock responded, enjoying the exchange.

She leaned across the table, and lowered her voice teasingly. "Because she's only four years old."

A sudden silence fell as reality came crashing back in on both of them, the reality that a four year old little girl was going to die and there was nothing either of them could do to prevent it. After several moments, when the silence between them became to heavy for even Spock, he looked back over at her. "Why is it important that I meet this child?" he asked, uncomfortable with the idea. He had never spent any time around children, since he'd grown out of his own childhood.

Christine considered several answers that could be construed as logical and abandoned them all. "Because she's half human. Because when I told her that made her special because of the fact that I'd only met two, she was excited about the fact that I'd met you. Because she knows you're here and wants to meet you. Because she's my friend." She considered stopping there, but something inside her made her continue, made her say the words out loud that her heart was screaming for her to deny. "Because she's going to die and meeting you would bring her some happiness."

That threw him. He didn't know quite what to say. He'd never been told someone wanted to meet him because of his human heritage. "Very well, Christine. I will meet this ... friend of yours."

"Great!" she said, pushing her plate away from her and rising.

Spock sat back, surprised by her abrupt rise. "Now?" he asked.

Christine worried her lower lip sadly. "She doesn't have much time, Spock," she said and felt an itch at the back of her eyes. She fought against the tears. This time she won. Perhaps it was knowing she would need them later. She didn't know, but was grateful to be able to remain dry eyed at this moment.

"Now it is, then," Spock said, releasing his fork and rising to follow Christine, who had walked off the instant he had acquiesced. His long strides caught up with her easily and he fell into step beside her. "What stage is she in?"

"Toward the end of stage three," Christine answered solemnly. They both knew what that meant. Stage four began with coma and ended in death. Both unconsciously quickened their pace. It might already be too late.

Spock stopped at the door, while Christine moved ahead to announce his arrival. She spoke quietly to the mother who glanced over and nodded to him, while Christine continued on to the child lying helplessly on the cot.

He crossed the room slowly, aware he should not let this affect him, but very much aware of the fact that he did not want to see the visible evidence that this child who had not had the chance to truly live, was dying; would die. Despite inner turmoil, he did not slow, nor did he allow any of it to show in his expression. He even made sure the eyes his human friends had told him, occasionally revealed more than he would like, were as devoid of the conflicting emotions as was Vulcanly possible.

When he stepped up to the side of the bed, he could instantly see how weak she was, how close to the end. As soon as she saw him her eyes lit up, though the rest of her face remained tired and still. For the moment her eyes shown with the life and vitality that he knew she must have had before she had contracted this tragic disease.

"I am Spock," he said. "I have been told you are T'Sarah."

T'Sarah's eyes widened and her awe was reflected in the tone of her words. "You've heard of me?"

He allowed an eyebrow to lift slightly. "Indeed I have, T'Sarah. As only the second Vulcan/human hybrid, you are ... famous." Not quite a lie. She was both Vulcan and human. He had heard of her, albeit from Christine and less than ten minutes ago. And if she was not famous now, she would be. Whether she or her family wanted her to be.

"I've heard of you too," T'Sarah said in a rush. "You're a First Officer, a Commander," she continued struggling with both her own weakness and the unfamiliar word.

"Yes, a Commander," he said, correcting her gently."

"Comm ... ander," she repeated carefully, a yawn interrupting. She looked up at him with large dark eyes, she could barely keep open and he could see questions lurking there. He wasn't sure he wanted to know what those questions were.

"Are you here to help me get better?" she asked innocently, hope burning in her fever bright eyes.

Spock swallowed past the sudden lump in his throat, unsure as to its cause. "Yes, I am here to help find a way to make everyone here better," he answered without his usual qualifications.

She smiled weakly and no one remarked on it. "Then I'm not afraid anymore. I know we will get better," she said as her eyes drifted closed.

Christine leapt forward and ran a scanner over T'Sarah. Closing the scanner moments later, she looked across to the Vulcan mother who had reached the child's side as quickly as had Christine. "I'm sorry," she said, forcing the words through a throat closed off with unshed tears. "She has slipped into coma."

Spock turned abruptly and left the room. He knew he should have observed the Vulcan niceties before leaving, but simply could not remain a moment longer. There was too much work to do. He would not let another child die from this disease if there was any way to prevent it; any way at all.

* * *

Christine sank down in utter exhaustion. T'Sarah had died 2 hours ago and since then she had been going on sheer willpower alone. It was the only thing that kept her going, when all she wanted to do was crawl into a hole and forget this place existed. She wanted to cry. She had for the last long two hours, but still they would not come. It was like they were locked deep inside her and she was unable to free them. She felt as dead on the inside as that bright, charming little girl, who even now lay in the cold of stasis.

She let herself sag down onto the cot. She needed just a few minutes sleep. Something stirred at the back of her mind. She'd thought of something earlier. What was it? Something about T'Sarah, she knew, but at the moment it completely escaped her tired brain's grasp.

Sleep was hovering like an elusive shadow. Too exhausted to get up, but too tired to sleep, her thoughts chased themselves in chaotic circles, never landing long enough on one subject for her to make sense of them. Suddenly through the increasing fog of nearing sleep, she gasped and sat bolt upright. She grabbed a regulation jacket on her way out the door of the dorm. She had to find Spock. He would have a clear enough head right now to help her make sense of this. What she couldn't figure out is why she hadn't noticed it a lot earlier.

Now that it had occurred to her, it was so glaringly obvious as to be ridiculously plain. She just knew it could be the beginning of the answers they all needed so badly. Damn it! Where was he! She had already searched the three other dorms, both labs and the dining hall. She had even taken the time to double check the statistics in order to make sure her memory was correct.

Suddenly, she pulled out her communicator and hailed Spock's frequency. She berated herself six ways to Sunday for not trying this earlier, instead of running around like an idiot. The comm frequency squealed open followed not a second later by Spock's calm baritone voice.

"Spock here."

"Spock," Christine said, trying and failing to keep the exasperation out of her voice. "Where are you?"

She could clearly hear the slight irritation in his voice as he responded. "I am out collecting more samples. What was it you needed?"

"I figured something out. I don't know if it's significant or not. I'm too tired to think straight."

"You should get some sleep."

"I know. I tried but I can't. About what I've figured out."

"I'm on my way. Where should I meet you?"

Christine thought a moment, realizing she still hadn't eaten anything and that now was as good a time as any to try. "Meet me in the dining hall."

"Very well. I will be there shortly. Spock out."

* * *

Once again Christine sat staring at food. This time, however, she forced herself to take at least small bites. It settled like rocks in her stomach and she knew she wouldn't be able to eat much. After about four tries, she pushed it away and drank her tea instead.

Just a she was beginning to wonder if Spock was going to show up, he appeared in the doorway. She stood immediately but Spock gestured with his hand for her to remain where she was. She sat back down and watched him as he efficiently gathered some of the raw fruits and vegetables that had been left out for those who, for one reason or another, hadn't eaten during the day.

She began as soon as he sat down. "I've noticed something unusual about our patient load."

"Indeed," Spock said, intrigued by any possible clue. "Yes, T'Sarah was the only child."

"Was?" Spock asked, forcing down an immediate assumption. He did not want to think about more children being stricken.

Christine gasped. She hadn't realized he hadn't known. "Yes, she ... died approximately 2 -1/2 hours ago."

Spock absorbed this information slowly realizing he was once again, unique. He forced his thoughts away from a life unfulfilled and back to Christine's realization. "There have been no other children affected by this outbreak?"

"Not a one that's been reported or brought in," Christine said firmly. "I haven't seen a single one, and I double checked the statistic reports. It's always been rare for a child to come up with it, about 1 case in 200. But even with the incredible increase in cases, there has not been a corresponding increase in child cases. Over the past 4 months there have been 10,589 reported cases. At those numbers, there should have been at least 53 children affected."

"There's nothing in the profile that suggests children would have any kind of special immunity," Spock said absently, his food now forgotten.

"No," Christine answered, shaking her head. "In fact, according to the studies, children should be more susceptible to it, not less."

Spock's brow furled in thought. That contradiction was simply not logical. What piece to this growing mystery were they missing? There had to be something they were not seeing that would account for the seeming contradictions.

"It just doesn't make sense," Christine burst out suddenly, startling Spock out of his thoughts.
"Agreed."

"Well, maybe if we review what we know for sure," Christine suggested. "Then maybe we can figure out what's 'out of place'."

"Logical," Spock responded thoughtfully and the spent the next while going over and over what they knew. It was far too virulent to be a natural occurrence and they'd finally found evidence to support that in its genetic structure. It was hard to contract, yet these people were contracting it by the hundreds. Today alone, 497 new cases had come in. And the strangest contradiction was the seeming near immunity of children.

Spock and Christine stared across the table at each other for long minutes, sorting through the information privately.

"It still doesn't make any sense!" Christine said, standing so quickly she tipped her chair backward onto the floor. It landed with a resounding crash and she stared at it mutely, glaring her anger onto the inanimate object. "It's as if ..." Her voice trailed off and her jaw fell open in horror. "You don't think ... " She simply couldn't say it out loud. It was too much to contemplate.

Spock blinked twice before he caught up with her convoluted thinking. "I do think it is a very real possibility." He rose quickly, abandoning his forgotten food. "Come, we need to contact someone in authority to find out if there is anything to confirm our suspicions."

Christine stared blankly at Spock's retreating back, then just before he disappeared through the door, raced to catch up to him. She wasn't going to miss this meeting!

* * *

Christine stormed out of the Governor's office furious, more furious than she could ever remember being. How could any government who claimed to care about its people keep this kind of information from those who could help them? She hurried to catch up to Spock. She cast a glance at him from the corner of her eye. If he'd been human she'd have said he was just as angry as she was. As it was, she could only describe him as, she searched her mind for an accurate description but could only come up with one, 'out of sorts'.

"What are we going to do now, Spock?"

Spock turned his head toward her, his expression saying he'd forgotten she was there. Not slowing his pace he returned his attention forward. "I intend to inform both the Captain and Dr. McCoy of our new findings."

She nodded. It was a good step. "I'm going back to the lab. I need to check those statistics again and see if I can either disprove or validate our working theory."

Spock nodded once and watched her turn the adjoining corridor toward the lab. As soon as he was out the door, he flipped open his communicator. "Spock to McCoy." He waited several seconds without response, then tried again.

Several seconds later McCoy's gruff, irritated voice sounded from the small device. "McCoy here!" he snapped. "What is it?"

Spock's eyebrow shot up, but he said nothing about the abrupt greeting. This situation was a difficult one, and he was sure McCoy was, among other things, tired and frustrated by the lack of progress. "I have new information that bears directly on the crisis here, and may help us resolve it. Meet me on board the Enterprise. I will relate it to you there. Spock out," he said and closed the circuit, cutting off McCoy's demands to know what was going on.

"Spock to Enterprise."

"Enterprise, Sulu here. What can we do for you Mr. Spock?"

"Inform the Captain I need to speak with him and transfer my coordinates to the transporter room. One to beam up."

"Aye, sir."

Moments later Spock felt the transport beam begin and the planet surface faded from view.

* * *

"All right, Spock, this had better be important!" McCoy said, blustering his way into the briefing room. "I'm in the middle of trying to find a cure, in case you've forgotten."

A small Vulcan child falling into a coma before his very eyes, flashed through Spock's mind. "No, Doctor, I most certainly have not forgotten," he said, apparently unperturbed. "Now, if you will sit down, I will begin."

McCoy moved quickly to take a seat beside the Captain. "Hey, Jim. You look like hell."

Kirk snorted shortly. "Have you taken a look in a mirror lately?" he asked before turning his attention to Spock. "Go ahead."

"Lt. Chapel came to me with something she found rather surprising," he said, quickly outlining the conversation he had with her.

McCoy stared at Spock with widening eyes as his story unfolded. "Well, I'll be ... It never occurred to me that no children had been affected recently."

Spock flinched imperceptibly. "Wrong. One child died approximately 3 hours ago." McCoy slouched and frowned. "That breaks the pattern then."

"Apparently. I intend to speak with the mother tomorrow and see if anything unusual occurred that might account for the child contracting the virus."

"Spock, I'm sure this is important to figuring out this mess, but I haven't heard anything yet that requires my presence in the middle of the night."

"I was just getting to that Captain," Spock answered, turning his attention toward him. "Lt. Chapel and I took our theories of an outside source to the governor. It took some persuading on our parts, but he finally revealed that approximately one lunar month before the increase in the appearance of this disease, these people discovered a new power source."

That got the Captain's attention. He sat up straighter and no longer appeared so tired. "By 'new', do you mean a new source of dilithium, or something completely new?"

"Completely new, Captain. After we ... convinced him to reveal the reason an outside power might have to attack them, he brought in the head of the team researching the find. According to her, they are still in the experimental stage with the workability of these new crystals. Apparently, the function similarly to dilithium, with a potential yield three point four times that of the dilithium we use. It will require a completely redesigned holding chamber, but the potential gains are astronomical."

"But is that enough to justify the theory that some 'unknown power or government' is behind this virus?" McCoy protested. "It seems an awfully large assumption to me."

"By itself," Spock answered, turning back to McCoy. "No. But, taken with the other evidence, it is a plausible theory. Why else would a disease that shows every indication of being more dangerous to children be affecting only adults? With one rather glaring exception."

"Spock," McCoy said, shaking his head. "How have they introduced it? Have you figured that into your equation?"

"As a matter of fact, Doctor. We did have one theory, although it does seem rather labor intensive. At this moment Lt. Chapel is collecting the data we need to either confirm or refute it."

McCoy rolled his eyes. "Just tell us the damn theory, Spock!"

Spock sat back and raised an eyebrow in mock surprise. "Doctor, I would rather not do that until there is at least some physical validation."

Kirk held up a tired hand, forestalling the debate he could see starting. "Spock, going with the assumption the we realize this is an 'unsupported theory', please tell us what you and Christine came up with."

Spock frowned, then pushed the thoughts to the back of his mind. Now was not the time. "Very well. It is our belief that they have agents on the surface who are deliberately infecting people. It is ... "

"Spock," McCoy said, disbelief dripping from his voice. "That's the most preposterous thing I've ever heard! How?"

A long suffering sigh escaped his control before he answered the doctor's accusations. "It would not be difficult, Doctor. Although the disease itself is not easily contracted normally, if one were to simply scratch someone with a sharp object that was coated with the virus, that person would die. Not quickly, but they would die."

"But you're talking about 1,000's of manhours, here. Not to mention the high risk of getting caught or accidentally infecting themselves. What power source could be worth that much?"

"Doctor, I did acknowledge that it would be labor intensive. And to answer your question, a find that has the potential to fully power over a thousand starships twice the size of the Enterprise for the next one hundred years."

Both the doctor and captain, remained silent, trying to take in the astronomical amount of energy that implied. Neither could do it.

"This recent outbreak started a month after this discovery was made?"

Spock nodded. "Yes, Captain. According to the governor, it was almost 'to the day'."

"That does sound suspicious alright," Kirk admitted. "What kind of evidence is Christine looking for?"

The intercom beeped before Spock could answer.

"Kirk here."

"Captain," Sulu said. "Lt. Chapel asked me to inform you she is beaming up and would like to meet with the three of you."

"Thank you, Lieutenant," he answered crisply. "Please tell her where we are. Kirk out," he finished, thumbing closed the connection.

* * *

Christine Chapel took the empty chair at the end of the conference table, never more aware that all attention was on her.

"What did you discover?" Spock asked as soon as she had seated herself.

"I haven't finished going through all the files of course," Christine said, addressing her comments to all three men. "There are far too many of them to research in just an hour, but I believe I've searched enough of them to get a good sampling of data." Christine plunged ahead, she didn't want to think anyone would be capable of this kind of atrocity, but the more they dug, the more the signs pointed to exactly that.

"Of the 2,000 cases I scanned, all of the victims were highly educated and highly intelligent, all of them highly regarded in his or her chosen specialty and not a one of them with an IQ of less than 150. Also, all of them were in one branch or another of the sciences. The split was actually fairly even," she said, consulting the notes in front of her. "400 were in various jobs relating to mechanical engineering, 500 relating to Warp technology, 800 from various medical fields including but not limited to genetics, general research, neurology and," Christine paused significantly. "The top five pharmacology research minds, specializing in the sub-field of epidemiology."

Kirk who had remained silent up until now, raised his hand to stop Christine's narrative. By Spock and McCoy visible reaction to her last statement, it was obvious he'd missed something. "Excuse a laymen, here, but just what is so significant about epidemiology?"

Spock turned toward him. "It is the field of study that centers on the incidence, distribution, and control of disease."

Kirk's hand fell to the table as the obvious importance of that discovery sank in. "That does lend rather heavy credence to yours and her theory, doesn't it," he said quietly. "Please continue, Lieutenant."

"I only found one other significant fact in my digging. Every single one of them had young children who survived them." She glanced at each of them then continued. "The records of the autopsies did not include any information about minor scratches or small wounds, of course. They would not have been thought significant at the time. We will need to re-perform them on the bodies we still have access to."

"Agreed." Spock and McCoy said simultaneously. They glanced at each other quickly, both amused to find they actually agreed on something. It was a rare occurrence.

Kirk rose, leaning forward onto his hands. "While the three of you continue trying to piece together this mystery, I have a report to file with Starfleet." The other three officers rose and true to the obvious dismissal, they filed out together, conversing lowly among themselves.

"I'll get right on those autopsies," McCoy said.

"I'll assist you," Christine answered.

"No," Spock said. "You won't."

"What?" both Christine and McCoy asked, turning to him in astonishment.

He raised a brow at their surprise. "It has been at least twenty-four hours since you got any sleep at all. Exhaustion will make you prone to errors. Those bodies are in stasis and are not going anywhere. Your getting the sleep your body requires will not significantly delay our progress and may enable you to find the clues we need to solve this," Spock answered as they waited for the lift to arrive.

While Christine was bridling up with independent indignation, McCoy answered first. "He's right Chris," he said." I can get someone else to help me."

Christine rounded on him. "And how long has it been since you got any sleep, Leonard," she asked, directly challenging him.

"Actually," he drawled, a hint of a smug smile showing. "I just woke up about ten hours ago."

"Yea," she countered knowingly. "How much?"

His smile faltered a little under Christine's intense gaze and Spock's raised eyebrow and amused stare. "Only about three hours," he admitted sheepishly.

"That is not enough sleep, Doctor," Spock replied drily, purposely baiting him.

"It is for now," McCoy shot back. "Vulcans aren't the only ones who can go without sleep when the need arises."

"I am fully cognizant of that fact, Doc--" Spock began, only to cut himself off in response to Christine's gasp.

"What's wrong?" both men asked.

She turned horror-filled eyes to Spock and without thinking about it grabbed his arm. He tightened his jaw and his mental shields against the sudden onslaught of her emotions, but did not flinch or pull away. "They were trying for one of her parents!" she said. "T'Sarah must have gotten in the way."

"Who--" McCoy began.

"We've got to get down there. They will probably try again," Christine said, interrupting the doctor.

"Computer," Spock said crisply. "Emergency override on turbo lift seven."

"Acknowledged."

As the three of them waited impatiently for the lift to arrive, Spock laid a hand over Christine's which still gripped his arm tightly. "We will get there," he said then turned to McCoy. "T'Sarah is the one child to have been infected. She died," he said shortly, effectively saying he did not wish to speak of it further.

McCoy watched him thoughtfully a moment, but before he could respond, the lift arrived effectively breaking the moment. Christine dropped her hands from Spock's arms subconsciously as two ensigns hurried out of the lift, blushing. She clamped her lips together resolutely to avoid laughing at Spock's perplexed expression. They filed onto the lift and as the doors closed behind them, Spock ordered it to the stop closest to the transporter room.

* * *

The three of them materialized in the main lab. As soon as the transport was complete, McCoy nodded to them once. "Good luck," he said and immediately headed off toward the morgue.

Christine crossed to one of the computer consoles and began manually entering their request. That had been one of the minor inconveniences of this assignment. The Notellans did not use vocal interfaces with their computers.

Moments later, she sighed in relief. There was only one Vulcan, with a family, residing here. After ascertaining that, and she mentally kicked herself for not bothering to find out T'Sarah's mother's name, the computer came up with her name and address. "Got it," she said, quickly recording the information in her tricorder, then heading for the door.

"We should bring security along."

"No time," Christine said, the door closing behind her as she responded.

Spock held back a sigh. He just knew he was going to regret their going alone, but since none of the victims had been overtly attacked, he lacked a logical reason for his objection. He remained silent and strode after his very impulsive human.

He caught up with her outside. He could see her clearly in the dawning light. She was already climbing into the driver's seat of one of the vehicles the planet officials had made available for their using during their stay. He felt his spine sag in weary resignation. He still remembered the last time Christine Chapel had driven. It took only an instant for him to realize how much he was revealing and to straighten back up. Refusing to give in to the very strong desire to go to the driver side and request that she 'scoot over', he strode to the passenger side and slipped in, without voicing his reservations. He made sure to securely fasten his lap restraint. The trip was short and made in silence. Spock for his part was concentrating on making sure he gave no indications of his ... discomfort. As they pulled to a stop in front of T'Sarah's home and Christine turned off the power, she chuckled and looked over at her 'reluctant' passenger.

He tilted his head and looked at her questioningly. "You find something humorous?"

She grinned at him crookedly. "You don't like being in the passenger seat, do you?"

"It would be illogical to have a preference," he said stiffly, returning his gaze forward, already unfastening his restraint.

"Mm-hmm," Christine responded disbelievingly, noticing he had not answered her question. She pocketed the codekey as she got out and allowed the door to swing shut behind her, waiting only long enough for Spock to circle the vehicle before going up to the door.

It took only moments for T'Sparra to answer the door and Christine found herself admiring the stoic face she presented to them at a time she had to be hurting deeply. Spock raised his hand in the Vulcan salute, but instead of the greeting Christine expected, he said, "I grieve with Thee."

T'Sparra returned the salute and nodded slowly. Dropping her hand to her side, she turned her attention to Christine. "Is there something I can do for you, Doctor?"

"Yes," Christine answered. "I apologize for intruding, but there are some questions we need to ask you."

T'Sparra stepped back from the open doorway and waved them inside.

* * *

T'Sparra carefully considered the question the Federation officials had put to her. She could recall nothing specific that had aroused any suspicion in her over the days preceding her daughter's illness. Just as she was about to inform them of that fact, a scene from their time outside the library came to mind. Surely that could not be what they were looking for. She related it anyway.

"Twenty-three point four hours before I first noticed signs that my daughter was ill, we were outside the library. A man engaged me in conversation. He reached out, as if he were going to touch me. I was about to inform him of my preference not to be touched when my daughter," and here, T'Sparra gained the long-suffering look that all mothers sometimes wear, regardless of species, "fell off the ledge she was attempting to traverse." She paused, lowering her eyes. It took a couple of moments before she raised her head and continued. "She would have fallen to the ground between us and most likely injured herself, but he managed to grab her first. I remember thinking at the time, that his reaction time was rather impressive." She looked from one to the other. "Is that what you were looking for?"

"Yes, it is," Spock replied. "It helps confirm our suspicions. I believe you were meant to fall ill and your daughter ... 'got in the way', accidentally receiving the viral dose intended for you." Spock paused, considering how to phrase his request, then remembered he was dealing with a Vulcan here, not a 'stubborn' human. She would see the logic in his request. "I believe it would be best if you allowed us to transport you aboard the Enterprise. It is obvious that whoever is behind this, believes you or your skills are a threat to their plans. You would be safe there."

T'Sparra, who had waited patiently for him to finish, rather than interrupt him, said simply, "No."

Spock did not allow his surprise to show and instead tried again to persuade her. "You do understand that you are in danger here?"

She nodded. "Yes, I do, but I will not desert these people while they are in need of my services."

Spock was about to try again, when Christine began first. "If I may ask, what is your profession?"

"I am a healer."

"And your specialty?" Spock asked, fairly certain she would have one.

"Genetic engineering."

Again Christine responded first. "Would you be willing to come and stay at the medical compound? That way you would be safer and you could still be directly involved in the assistance project."

T'Sparra met Christine's gaze and Christine could swear she could see gratitude flash briefly in the Vulcan woman's eyes. "That would be acceptable," she said, rising. "I will gather some necessary items and accompany you back."

Christine rose at the same time, only barely stopping herself from reaching out to lay a hand on her arm. "I don't know if it will help you, I know it would help me if I were in your place, but it was your daughter's illness that alerted us to the true cause of this epidemic. If it wasn't for her falling sick, it would have been much longer before we discovered the espionage at work here."

T'Sparra stood frozen for so long that Christine became concerned that maybe she shouldn't have said anything at all. She was about to apologize, when T'Sparra turned back to face her.

"It does help," she said and Christine could hear the surprise in her voice. "It gives her premature death, at least some meaning." With that, she swept out of the room.

* * *

Fifteen point six-seven minutes later all three were walking out the front door. T'Sparra had left a message for her husband and packed a few necessities. She headed straight for the waiting vehicle and tossed her small travel bag into the back seat and settled in beside it. Halfway to the aircar, Christine fished into her pocket for the codekey. Managing to mostly hide her grin, she wordlessly handed it over to Spock. He took it equally quiet and watched her round the vehicle and climb into the passenger side. He raised an eyebrow at her actions and proceeded to take his place in the driver seat.

The engine purred to life and he pulled out and up, smoothly transitioning from one direction to the next as he circled the vehicle to the proper heading. The three settled back for a quiet ride, either lost in thought, or admiring the scenery as it sped past. The countryside on this world was wonderful.

Everyone was jarred out of their private thoughts when the collision alarms sounded. Another flyer, careening out of control was headed straight for them. Spock twisted the controls deftly, maneuvering the small craft into a nearly 90 degree turn. All three of them slammed against their restraints, thankful they'd been securely fastened.

Everyone's breathing froze as they waited the outcome of Spock's evasive actions. Time slowed to a crawl. Every second seeming an eternity, as the flyer holding three lives, banked sharply. Time abruptly resumed it's normal speed as the other vehicle collided against their rear bumper with a resounding crash, sending them spinning off.

Spock tried vainly to regain control, but the time between the collision with their bumper and their impacting the ground was simply too short. Two point three seven seconds, his mind automatically supplied, as they were snapped violently forward at the moment of impact, then just as quickly rammed back against their seats. It was long moments of a silence broken only by the sizzling of shorting circuits, before anyone moved.

Slowly, making sure he was uninjured, Spock tested each muscle gently. "Christine, T'Sparra, are either of you injured?"

"No," they both answered, one after the other.

"At least not badly," Christine continued.

"Where are you injured," Spock asked immediately.

"It's just bruises, Spock."

Spock nodded once, then fought a moment with his lap restraint before it released. He climbed out and headed toward the other vehicle. The driver was already out and headed toward them. "Is everyone all right?" he asked.

"We are uninjured. Was there anyone else in your vehicle with you?"

"No," he answered shaking his head. "Are you sure they're all right? They haven't moved much." He rounded the back end of the downed flyer to the back passenger door. Leaning down he opened it, looking inside. "Are you alright?"

T'Sparra, who had heard the conversation between the two men, raised an eyebrow at the repeated question, resisting the urge to throw a look to Spock, wondering if humans ever listened the first time. "As has already been indicated we are uninjured."

"Here," the human said, reaching toward her. "Let me help you out. It is best to make sure."

"I assure you I am perfectly capable of exiting this vehicle under my own power," she said with just a touch of exasperation. She noticed the commander standing close by in case she did have need of assistance. He, however remained a discreet distance, allowing her the dignity of trying on her own.

The driver backed up, allowing T'Sparra to climb out. As he did so, he bumped into Christine, who was just then climbing out of the front passenger side. He automatically turned and grabbed hold, to prevent her from falling.

"Thank you. I guess I'm a little shook up after all," she said, closing her eyes against a wave of dizziness. She swallowed carefully, fighting a sense of nausea. "I don't remember hitting my head, but I think I've..."

Spock was at her side, before the human finished setting her on the ground. He knelt down and carefully felt across her skull. Sure enough a bump the size of a robin's egg, was swelling just behind her right ear.

"Will she be all right?" T'Sparra asked.

"I am not a doctor, but I believe so. However, we should get her medical attention as quickly as possible."

T'Sparra nodded and reached into her jacket pocket.

Spock returned his attention to Christine, though he half listened to the conversation also. As soon as he'd been assured that both Christine's breathing and heart rate seemed normal, he turned to address the other driver.

He frowned and stood, scanning the immediate area. The human was nowhere to be seen. He did not like the implications of the man's disappearance, but returned his attention to the unconscious Christine. He could give a detailed description to the local security force later, if necessary.

* * *

She could hear someone speaking in fierce whispers. She groaned as she opened her eyes and immediately wished she hadn't. Her eyes hurt terribly. Must have been some concussion, she thought abstractly. Carefully shielding her eyes, she opened them once again, to find Captain Kirk gazing down at her.

She struggled to sit up, but he laid a hand on her shoulder, preventing her from rising. "No, you don't," he said. "Bones made me promise to keep you lying down."

"Concussion?" she asked, giving into the inevitable and relaxing back against the pillow. She didn't really want to get up anyway.

He nodded. "From what he said, a rather nasty one."

"Where is he, anyway?"

"He's in the lab."

She carefully looked around the room, hoping. "And Spock?"

Kirk grinned, he couldn't help it. He should have known it wouldn't take her long to ask. "He's out specimen gathering again."

Christine pushed aside the completely selfish thought that he obviously didn't seem very worried about her. Finding a cure was more important than a stupid concussion.

"Actually I tried to get him to go to sleep, but he refused. He wouldn't even leave here, until I promised you wouldn't be left alone." Christine smiled, then frowned. "How long have I been out?" she asked, concern evident in her quiet voice.

The captain looked up then back down at her again. "A little over 24 hours."

"What?" she asked, startled, automatically trying to sit up again, but stopping the motion before it really started. Her head pounded abominably.

Kirk, who had been feeling rather like a useless third appendage during this purely medical crisis, until this had happened and he'd been needed, if only to 'be there', once again, lay a hand on her shoulder. "Don't try and get up," he said, using his command voice. "Believe me, you'll regret it."

Christine winced and managed another wan smile. "Don't I know it. I suppose you're enjoying having the shoe on the other foot?" she retorted. "I'd be willing to bet the only thing that would be more to your taste is if Le--... " Her voice trailed off at the wince he tried to hide. She felt her stomach drop out of her. Someone was sick. Her eyes widened. "Is Leonard sick?" she asked point blank, sitting up despite his and her bodies warnings. If he was, there was no way, she was going to lay here like a bump on a log. She was going to--

"No," Kirk shook his head hastily. "He's not. Nor is Spock," he continued quickly as Christine opened her mouth again.

She frowned. "Well, then, what is wrong?"

"I was supposed to get Bones the instant you woke up," he said. "I'll just do that now. You stay put."

* * *

Christine rolled onto her side restlessly. She knew there was something the Jim had not told her; something important. The only thing she could think of was that while she'd slept because of a stupid knock to her hard head, someone she knew had taken ill. That was it! She'd had enough. She
was not going to lay around, when she could be helping put the final pieces of this mystery together.

She sat up slowly, gripping the edge of the bed tightly as the room spun around her. She swallowed repeatedly and took quick shallow breaths to fight down the nausea that her movements had caused. She didn't know how long she sat there trying to regain control of her body, but finally a sort of calm returned and she dared reopen her eyes.

She slid off the bed onto her feet, never releasing it. The room spun again, undoing all her efforts of earlier. It took every ounce of her will power not to sink to her knees and heave. There was nothing in her stomach to lose, but she knew if she started she wouldn't stop. Must have been some concussion, she thought. She shouldn't be this bad off a full day later. She took two steps and reached the end of the bed. She let go and took a tentative step forward, hoping she could hold onto her half lopsided sense of balance.

"Christine Chapel! What do you think you're doing!" McCoy's voice boomed from the doorway before he rushed forward.

Her jumped guiltily and her arms flailed out to her sides in a futile attempt to stay upright. She collapsed just as he reached her side and grabbed hold of her, preventing her from striking the floor.

She looked up at him weakly and smiled wanly. "Hello, Leonard."

"Don't 'hello Leonard', me. You were ordered to stay in bed," he said gruffly as he assisted her back to the bed she had just painstakingly vacated.

"I can't. There's too much work to do. You know that."

"Not for you."

"Indeed," said a second voice from across the room.

Christine and McCoy glanced over to see Spock advancing toward them, his expression nearly as expressionless as ever, but somehow it had taken on a forbidding air. McCoy was just as happy it was not directed at him.

"You could have seriously endangered yourself by getting up too soon."

"It's just a concussion, Spock. It's not like--"

Spock cast a quick glance at McCoy.

Christine felt a hot flush of horror, wave through her. No. It couldn't be. How? How could she help anyone, if she was sick in bed with this damn thing?

Spock and McCoy both knew the instant the realization hit her.

"I'm sorry, Chris," McCoy said. He knew it was not anywhere near enough, but, at the moment, it was all he could offer.

She stared at him, mute, for what seemed forever to her. Then she turned to Spock and asked a single word. "How?"

Spock fought for control. "We surmise it was the driver of the vehicle that collided with us. We have a security alert out for him. I see no reason he should not be in custody in a very short time."

"I've got to get back to the lab. I'll just ... leave the two of you alone." McCoy looked pointedly at Christine before turning away. "You stay in bed."

"Yes, Doctor," she said meekly, but he wasn't fooled for a second by her seeming acceptance.

"I mean it, Chris!"

"I will see to it, Doctor, of that you may be assured."

McCoy nodded once then marched determinedly toward the door. "Good."

* * *

Jim Kirk had felt powerless before, but now it was even worse. One of his own people was down with this abomination and, as yet, there was nothing he could do about it. Except catch the bastard who'd given it to her, he thought, vengeance burning in his eyes as he strode to the beam down coordinates. The search parties had been working for some time and a new rotation should be beaming down in a couple of minutes. He was going to join them.

He reached the site just as the first team materialized. Commander Aldison was at the ready, handing out sector assignments. He strode over to him. "Alright, Commander, I'm going with the next search team," he said just as the next team began their appearance. "What's the sector?"

"Sector 245, Captain, but--"

"No buts, Mister. I'm going and that's an end to it."

"Yes, sir."

* * *

The next 24 hours were long and tense. Spock alternated between assisting the search teams, helping in the labs, and making sure Christine followed doctor's orders and stayed in bed, despite her protests that she needed to help. Of course his own concern over her safety played no part in his decision regarding his thrice daily checks on her. Each time he visited it seemed that her health was visibly deteriorating. And each time he left, it was with renewed determination to find a cure, in time. She had just fallen asleep and he'd spent the last 9.5 minutes simply watching her. He resisted the urge to reach out and brush back a lock of her hair that had fallen across her cheek. She slept restlessly and the slightest touch tended to wake her up.

He rose with one last glance and strode out. This time he was going to join one of the search teams.

His communicator beeped just as he cleared the door.

He flipped it open. "Spock here."

"We found him, Spock," Kirk said, and he could hear the glee in his captain's voice.

"Where?"

"We've beamed him up to the Enterprise. I didn't want to take any chances on him escaping."

"Acknowledged. I'm on my way. Spock, out."

* * *

McCoy leaned back in his chair and rubbed his tired aching eyes. He'd been staring at infected blood samples for God knows how long and he almost couldn't see straight, but he was damned if he was going to let this thing beat him. If it was the last thing he did, he was going to find the answer, and it was going to be in time.

In time, he thought and laughed a completely humorless laugh. It was already too late. So many lives had been lost to this and it ate at his soul. In the last 24 hours he'd been apprized of 14 more deaths. How many was it going to take, he thought, before enough was enough. He didn't know and with a sigh born of weary frustration he bent back over the samples to see if even a single one of them had negative viral growth.

"Doctor McCoy?"

"Yes," McCoy said after a moment, looking up and blinking a couple of times, trying to focus on the source of the female voice.

"It has come to my attention, that you have not slept in over 36 hours. I will take over here. You need to sleep."

"Now wait just a damn minute!" McCoy said hotly, jumping to his feet. Two more blinks and he managed to bring the shape before him into focus. "Oh, hello T'Sparra. But I'm still not going anywhere."

"Yes, Doctor, you are. While I would not normally interfere in the way others run their lives, I feel, in this instance I must. Your exhaustion may cause you to miss a significant find. I will relieve you and you will get some sleep."

McCoy eyed her critically. "And when was the last time you slept?"

Faint amusement lit her eyes a moment before she responded. "As I am sure you are aware, having served with a Vulcan, we require far less sleep than the average human. I am still functioning within tolerable limits. She paused, and McCoy would have been willing to swear that she glared at him. "You are not."

"Yes, ma'am," he answered, in his best southern gentleman's manner, his accent purposely exaggerated. "May I offer you a seat?" he offered, with an expansive wave, toward the lab chair he had so recently vacated.

She raised an ironic eyebrow, but took the offered seat. "You will seek a bed, correct?"

"I will indeed," he said with a wink. As he walked away, he marveled at his behavior. He was sure she thought him quite over emotional, and crazy to boot.

* * *

T'Sparra shook her head minutely, she had been bonded to a human for 6.8 years and she still could not understand their mercurial moods. Turning back to the growth specimens before her, she focused her attention on them to the exclusion of all else. Methodically checking one after another of the augers, she efficiently worked her way through all of them.

No help there, she thought and went immediately to the computer to access the next batch of protocols. She arched an eyebrow at the number of new ones. There were significantly more available this time. As she began preparing the growth mediums, she wondered if more people had been found to assist with the research. If this was the average number of test formulas that came through each time, no wonder the human had not gotten any sleep. It was encouraging, however, as the number of attempts grew, so did the likelihood of finding the cure.

* * *

McCoy tossed and turned in an exhausted attempt to sleep, but his mind refused to shut off. He kept going over and over everything that had happened so far. There had to be something they missed. He rolled onto his back and flung his arm over his eyes. This just didn't make sense. There had to be an answer.

So many people had already died here. The back of his eyes itched suspiciously. Now, Christine was running out of time. Many times he'd been unable to save lives and ever time it hurt. It hurt bad, but this time it was Christine and that made it worse. She had, at the outside, 8 hours
before she fell into a coma, less than another 24 after that and here he was lying in his cot, not doing anyone any good.

He threw back the blanket angrily and crawled determinedly out of bed. Quickly grabbing his medkit he reached unerringly for the hypo containing the stimulant he wanted. He could rest when this was over. The hypo hissed as he activated it against his shoulder and seconds later he felt a renewed sense of energy. He threw on his uniform shirt and stuffed his feet into his boots.

It took him longer to reach the ward than he would have liked, wishing for the umpteenth time that the medical staff's sleeping quarters had been placed closer. He went first to Christine and frowned when he saw her sitting up in bed with a datapadd on her lap.

"Christine Chapel!" he said in his firmest 'doctor voice'. "What do you think you're doing?"

Christine glanced up guiltily, startled. "I couldn't sleep," she said defensively, her voice a merest whisper.

Even from this distance he could see it took all of her will power to stay awake and he snorted disbelievingly. "More like you wouldn't let yourself. With all the meds in you right now, I'm surprised you could prevent yourself from being asleep." Suddenly he could see the quiet despair in her eyes.

"I didn't ... want to sleep, Leonard. I can't just lie here quietly waiting to die."

His shoulders slumped and he felt the chemically fortified energy drain out of him. "Dammit, Chris, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have snapped at you." Silence reigned for several awkward moments, then with a forced cheerfulness he knew she could probably see right through, he smiled. "So, what exactly are you working on there?"

"Nothing," she whispered quickly and punched the screen off.

McCoy frowned yet again. "Chris, talk to me. Don't bottle it all up inside."

Christine slumped back against the pillows propping her up. "What do you want me to say, Leonard?"

"Whatever you want, just don't shut us out," he answered crossing to the side of her bed. "You're not alone."

"Anything I want," she said, but the hoarse chuckle that forced it's way past her lips was humorless. "Okay, I've got nothing to say."

McCoy didn't respond. He just took the chair placed next to her bed and sat there watching her. He almost couldn't hear her when she finally answered.

"Yes, I am."

"You are what?"

"Alone."

"Never," McCoy answered her fiercely. "We're here for you. You know that!"

"To the bitter end?" she asked, the bitterness obvious in her voice despite its weakness.

"It won't come to that, Chris," he said and laid a hand on hers. "I--"

"DON'T!" she cried, jerking her hand from beneath his, then continuing more quietly. "Don't make any promises you can't keep."

"That's just it. I intend on keeping it." He watched her barely shake her head.

"Not enough time left, you know that as well as I do."

"I know no such thing, Christine Chapel!" McCoy said, jumping up. Christine winced and McCoy immediately calmed and sat back down. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to yell."

She lay against the pillows with her eyes closed and shrugged. "Alright."

The sensors monitoring her dipped and McCoy was up instantly. He grabbed a hand held scanner and waved it over her. He sighed, it was progressing exactly the same as every other case. He couldn't help but hope that maybe, just maybe, she would be different. He gripped the now inactive scanner so tightly it nearly cut into his skin. He hadn't felt this helpless in a very long time.

"There is something you can promise me, though."

"Anything."

She held out the padd, then held it there, trembling until he took it.

He looked at it as if it were a poisonous snake. "What is it?" he asked, hoping this time she'd answer him.

"Just promise me Spock will get this."

"Now you look here!" he said angrily. "You will not give up!"

"No, Leonard, of course not," she said placatingly. "Just promise me. I want you to give it too him after I go into the coma."

"No! I won't promise. If I ... "

"Promise me Leonard, or I'll get up and go give it to him now!" She repeated forcefully, though her breath wheezed with the effort.

"You will not! You're so tired you can't even keep your eyes open."

Her eyes popped open. "Then promise," she said, struggling to sit the rest of the way up.

"Chris ... This is tantamount to--"

"Promise me!" she said swinging her legs over the edge.

"Oh, no, you don't," he responded, grabbing her ankles and preventing her further efforts. As she fell back against the pillows again and she squeezed her eyes shut, he could not help but notice the tears that escaped despite her best efforts.

"Why is this so important to you? You're going to make it, Christine!"

Christine did not answer for a long time and he began to wonder if she would. He knew he'd give it to Spock, but wasn't sure he should let her know that. It smacked of closure to him. She just might give up the fight, if she knew it was 'taken care of'.

"I guess it doesn't matter, I'm too tired to argue with you any more."

McCoy chewed on his lower lip, his duty as a friend and as a doctor warring within him. "I know it does. What I don't know is why? If you're not giving up, why do this?"

"I'm scared Leonard," she whispered almost too quietly for him to hear.

"Of course you are," he answered nearly as softly and pulled her into his arms, rocking her gently as she buried her head against his chest sobbing quietly.

"I don't want to die."

McCoy's throat closed off and he couldn't answer her immediately. He tilted his head back in a vain effort to keep the tears in his eyes. "Shh..." he murmured quietly. "Shh ... We'll beat this, Christine."

* * *

It didn't take long for Spock to ascertain that the man responsible for Christine's illness, and in all probability the illness of many others, was being held in the brig. As the turbolift sped to his destination, he closed his eyes and centered his thoughts. His thoughts were in turmoil and what he was experiencing was ... inappropriate. What he wanted to do was even more inappropriate, the modern Vulcan and ancient instincts warring within him for the need to protect.

He must control this before he reached the brig. He took a deep and what seemed to him a rather ragged breath, trying to allow his usual calm to flow through him. To a certain extend he did. Aborting a half made sigh, he realized it would have to be enough. The turbolift had stopped and he was a mere 47.34 meters from the were the human was being held. He strode out into the corridor, with those passing by him none the wiser to his inner struggle to master the Vulcan emotions within him.

"Lieutenant," Spock said with a slight nod when he approached the security officer.

"Commander," she responded, then turned to deactivate the forcefield to allow him to enter the brig where the questioning had already begun. Just as she reached for the controls a communicator chirped behind her and she paused, anticipating the command.

"Just a moment, Lieutenant," Spock said from behind her and flipped open the communicator he had not taken the time to turn in. "Spock here."

"McCoy here, Spock," McCoy's hoarse voice came over the frequency, cracking on the words.

"Doctor, you should be asleep, you are obviously overtired."

"There's no way to say this but straight out," McCoy said, continuing as if Spock had not spoken. "Christine just slipped into coma."

A wave of nearly physical pain shot through Spock, but it was not evident on his face or in his words to the Lieutenant that gasped and turned to face him. "Very well, Doctor. Spock, ou--"

"I'm on my way up there."

Spock's eyebrow shot up in surprise. "Why, Doctor. Surely your patients," Christine, "would be better served by either you getting some sleep or by remaining there."

"There's something I have to give you first."

"You have found something pertinent, Doctor?"

"Not the way you mean it, Spock."

"I do not understand." But deep inside, where he never went, he did know and now was not the time for that. At McCoy's silence he knew McCoy knew it too. With just the barest of sighs he acknowledged him. "Very well, Doctor. I will meet you in the transporter room."

"No, your quarters. I'm just about to be beamed up."

"Very well, Doctor," Spock answered, resigned to the doctor's insistence. Spock snapped closed and stepped toward the forcefield and once he had the captain's attention quietly explained. As soon as the captain gave his permission, Spock turned on his heel and strode off, determined to get this over with. Then, he could get back to his duty.

* * *

As Spock approached his quarters, he found Dr. McCoy already there waiting. He came to a stop directly in front of him. "Okay, Doctor, what was it you needed to give me?"

"Could we go inside first?"

"Doctor, I do not have time for this. Surely you realize time is of the essence."

"Yes, I realize that, Spock," McCoy snapped angrily. "And, yes, you do have time."

Spock suppressed an irritated sigh. This was obviously important to the Doctor, he would humor him. He palmed open the door to his quarters and led the way inside. As soon as the door closed behind Dr. McCoy, Spock turned. "All right, Doctor. We are now inside, as you requested."

McCoy held out the datapadd.

With a raised eyebrow Spock took it. "What is it?"

"I'm not absolutely positive," McCoy said, hedging. He had a good idea, but he wasn't going to say it out loud.

Spock frowned minutely and activated the padd.

"I'm going to give this to--"

Spock instantly deactivated the padd. "I'm not going to listen to this now, Doctor," he said firmly. "I have work to do."

"Spock! Where do you think you're going?"

"Back to work, Doctor, as I just told you," he said starting for the door.

"She wanted--"

"She's not dead!" Spock answered too loudly, then stopped and took a deep breath. The yet hung unspoken in the air. "This is vastly premature, Doctor."

"I don't think so Spock. Sh--"

"I do!"

McCoy stayed firmly in front of the door, blocking Spock's exit. Lowering his own voice, he placed a hand on Spock's chest stopping his forward motion. "She specifically asked you to get it right after she went into coma. I don't think it's what you're thinking, at least not completely."

Spock sighed and resisted the temptation to close his eyes. "Very well, Doctor." He turned back into the room and picked up the padd from where he'd tossed it. He activated it without turning back around.

"I'm going to give this to Leonard to give to you. I don't think you would take it from me directly. I don't know why, but I just know that." Christine looked down a moment, before continuing. "I want you to know something, just in case you don't already know it. I'm a fighter. If there's a way to beat this, you can be sure I'll find it."

A smile lit her mouth and eyes. "Or Dr. McCoy will," she acknowledged ruefully. "But either way, I intend on waking up. I also need to tell you that I love you. Nothing will ever change that, not adversity, not time, and certainly not death. I know. That's not logical, but it's what I believe. If..." She raised a single finger. "If I don't make it, I firmly believe that someway, somehow we will find one another again, whether it be in your lifetime or when we're both in the next, love endures.

"I won't pretend to understand what you're experiencing right now. We may have gotten to know each other pretty well over the last several months, but I'm still not always sure how much of your emotions you can truly suppress so well, it's as if they're not there. I do know that whatever it is you're experiencing, you won't let it show. So, I'm asking you now, let Leonard and Jim help. Regardless of whatever else may be going on, they do understand and will help as little or as much as you let them."

Christine reached out and touched the screen with her fingertips. "I'll see you soon." She looked up suddenly then the screen went black.

Spock stood motionless and silent for long moments, his fingertips laying gently on the small black screen. The door to his quarters whooshed open behind him. Only then did he speak. "Stay?"

* * *

McCoy strode through the hospital corridors. If it was the last thing he'd do, he was gonna beat this damn thing! They hadn't stayed in Spock's quarters long and his expression hadn't changed the whole time they were there, not really, but McCoy couldn't help but see a sense of defeat in Spock that he had never, ever thought to see there.

It angered him beyond belief, that something so puny; something so insignificant in the grand scheme of things as a tiny microscopic virus could bring that about. And then, when Spock had told him they had caught the man who'd injected Christine with it and that he needed to assist in the interrogation, he'd wanted more than anything else to help.

For the first time since becoming a doctor, he'd wanted, no, needed to do physical harm to another person. He'd almost asked, but decided discretion was the better idea. But he had asked that he be notified immediately of any news regarding the interrogation.

He slowed as he passed the ward that Christine was on, then shook his head and picked his pace back up. He had work to do.

T'Sparra was hard at work when he entered the lab. "What have you got so far?"

She looked up as he approached. "You did not sleep."

McCoy chuckled. "You get right to the point, don't you?"

She raised an eyebrow. "It would be illogical to, as you humans say, 'beat around the bush'."

He laughed. "You've got a point there, T'Sparra. So, I ask again, what have you got so far?"

She noted he had not answered her question, but allowed that she probably wouldn't so there was no logic in pursuing the matter. "I've worked through three different batches of protocols. None have been effective."

"Well," he said clapping his hands together once. "We better get back to work then. We've got a cure to find."

"Indeed," she said, watching him hustle about the room. She shook her head. She would never understand humans.

The two worked side by side for the next 2 hours.

McCoy's communicator chirped, startling him out of his focus. "Damn thing!" he muttered. "Always interrupting when you're least expectin' it to." He flipped it open. "McCoy here."

"Doctor," Spock's unruffled voice came over the line. "Do you have a sample of the actual virus?"

"Yes," McCoy responded dubiously. "Why?"

"No time for questions, Doctor, just bring it up here to the brig."

"To the brig??" McCoy asked his voice cracking on the last word.

"Spock out."

"Of all the... That green blooded son of a ... " McCoy muttered, sputtering incoherently. "How dare he?"

"He is the First Officer of the Enterprise and one of your commanding officers."

"Wha...?" McCoy looked up at her in a moments confusion. "Oh, I wasn't referring to the order, T'Sparra."

"To what were you referring then?"

"Long story," McCoy hedged, will carefully gathering what he needed. "I'll be right back," he said when he was finished.

She nodded as he opened his communicator once more.

* * *

"Alright, Spock. I'm here and I brought the sample. What on earth do you want with it?"

"Doctor, as I'm sure you are aware," Spock said from the other side of the force field. "Not only are we not on Earth, we are no where near it."

McCoy rolled his eyes and ignored his comment.

"Please prepare a hypo containing the viral sample."

"What?" McCoy asked incredulously.

"Just do as you are told, Doctor," Spock said, using a tone McCoy had never heard from him before. He figured now probably wasn't the time to argue with him. He would prepare the hypo, but he'd be damned if it was ever going to be put to use. But that was an argument he'd save in case he actually needed it.

He could hear the prisoner protesting in the background. He listened a little closer while he finished up. More like gibbering in panic, he amended silently. He wondered exactly what Spock had threatened him with ... as if he didn't know.

He straightened. "I'm finished, Spock."

Spock nodded once. "Lieutenant, drop the force field long enough to allow Dr. McCoy to enter the cell."

"Aye, sir," Lt. Amerson replied dubiously. She didn't like what was going on here and wasn't sure if she should report it or not. She respected these people. She had always thought they were the epitome of all that the Federation stood for, but they were talking about injecting a prisoner with a deadly virus that didn't have a cure.

That was torture, plain and simple. The question she had to ask herself, before she acted was, did she believe they would really do it? She decided to hold off. If worse came to worse, she always had her phaser. She shook her head as she reached for the field controls. What was she thinking of?

She turned it back on immediately after the doctor stepped through.

"Hand it here, Doctor."

McCoy eyed him nervously.

"You can't do this!" shrieked a voice behind Spock, McCoy could only assume it was the prisoner.

"Doctor, the hypo?" Spock pointedly reminded him.

McCoy hesitated. He trusted Spock. Why was he hesitating?

"Now, Doctor," Spock said, holding out his hand. He was shocked into stillness to see a hypo already in the outstretched hand.

"No, Doctor! Don't! You're a doctor, you can't go along with this!" the man wailed. "You swore an oath!"

McCoy's head snapped up to meet Spock's steady gaze. Spock's eyebrow twitched up and it was all McCoy could do to contain his sudden urge to grin that the prisoner would be able to see. When he couldn't contain it completely, he decided to turn it to their favor. He grinned alright, but it was a malicious grin.

He heard a strangled squeak from the man behind Spock and turned his head to stare menacingly at him. He reached out to Spock's hand, which McCoy just noticed was nicely concealed by Spock's body. He let his hand drop back to his side, carefully concealing that he still held the hypo he'd just prepared.

"Spock, you have your fun here," he said, ignoring the fact that Spock's eyebrow shot up again, only this time it practically disappeared into his bangs. "I've got work to do."

"Certainly, Doctor," Spock answered, shifting his gaze to just behind the doctor. "Lieutenant, release the doctor."

"Aye, sir."

McCoy strode out and continued past the lieutenant until he was out of view of those in the cell. "Lieutenant," he said sharply.

"Yes, sir," Lt. Amerson said, turning only after she'd reinstated the field.

"You keep a close eye on them," McCoy said sternly. "While Spock's in there, he's your responsibility."

"Yes, sir!" Amerson said promptly, snapping to attention. Only then did she notice McCoy's open hand. Her eyes traveled down, widening in surprise and her head snapped back up to meet McCoy's smiling gaze. She almost laughed, but managed to restrain herself. "Yes, sir!" she repeated, this time meaning it.

McCoy leaned against the wall, waiting. He really wanted to be in that cell, but having left, he couldn't very well return. So, he listened instead.

"Well, Mr. Ackers, have you come to a decision?"

McCoy shivered at the sound of Spock's voice. He couldn't quite put his finger on why. It wasn't as if he was yelling, or even that there was any emotional content to the question. It was blandly phrased, as if he were asking the man if he'd decided what he wanted for dinner.

"Y...You w...won't do it!" The voice went up an octave. "I know you're bluffing!"

"Am I?" Spock asked. "I'm sure you are aware of the fact that Vulcans do not lie."

McCoy shivered and suddenly he knew why. The voice making the threats was too soft; too quiet. The threats sounded very real to him. He could just imagine the Vulcan standing over the man, patiently waiting as if he had all the time in the world; as if the outcome didn't matter to him on way or the other. Standing there, for all the world as if what he was proposing to do was not completely anathema to him as both a Vulcan and a Starfleet Officer.

McCoy knew it would be that matter of factness, more than anything else, that would convince the prisoner that it was real.

"Very well, but remember, this was your decision."

McCoy's breath caught in his throat and he was suddenly cast back in time to another Spock. Spock stalking forward, pressing him against a wall. Shit! He shook himself out of his flashback, concentrating once again on what was happening just beyond his sight.

"NO!"

A moment passed with no sound.

"Nooo!"

He heard the distinctive hiss of a hypospray and it only occurred to him then, to wonder what Spock had actually put in the hypo.

* * *

McCoy spun on his heel and followed Spock down the hallway. "Uh ... Spock," he asked, as soon as they were out of hearing range of the brig. Not that it would have mattered much, the poor man was making enough noise to cover the sound of Warp Core breach. "What was in that hypo?" Spock turned his head to look at him. "It was merely a strong muscle relaxant coupled with a very mild sedative. I had Doctor M'Benga prepare it for me."

McCoy chuckled, liking the Irony. "The first symptoms of the illness are muscle fatigue and lack of energy."

"Indeed, Doctor. I deduced that would be enough to convince our 'guest' that we had injected him with the virus."

"Depends," McCoy answered.

"On what Doctor?"

"On which ones were used."

Spock rattled off the names of the two drugs easily.

McCoy nodded thoughtfully. "Those ought to do it. Both are slow acting and long lasting. They're aren't much use in the normal everyday treatment, but they ought to be particularly effective now."

"My thoughts exactly."

"You know, Spock. You had me worried for a moment there."

"Indeed, Doctor." Spock replied with just a hint of indignation showing through. "I would have thought you knew me better than that."

"Ordinarily, I'd say yes." McCoy voice trailed off, not wanting to mention the extenuating circumstances. "I don't think I could have done what you did in there," he said finally, switching the subject away from painful ones.

"I would not have expected you to, Doctor. I knew you would not want to."

"Oh," McCoy said, contradicting him. "I didn't say I didn't want to."

"Indeed, Doctor. You surprise me."

"Why?" McCoy demanded angrily. "Don't you think I care about Chri ... " He stopped abruptly. "I'm sorry, Spock. That was uncalled for."

"No apologies are necessary Doctor. You have always been ruled by your passions. I could not expect otherwise this time. It would be asking to much of you."

McCoy's jaw dropped at the implied insult. Implied hell! "Why you pointy eared ... " He suddenly lost steam, realizing exactly what Spock had done. He had to admit, it had effectively distracted him. Before he spoke again, he wondered just how much refuge Spock had been able to take from their long standing squabble. "Well, I've got work to do. I need to return to the planet." He almost reached out to touch Spock's shoulder, but thought better of it at the last second. "Be sure and let me know about the progress."

Spock nodded, and McCoy could swear he saw a momentary twinkle in those dark eyes. "You will be the first person I contact should he reveal anything useful."

McCoy turned thoughtful back to Spock, just before disappearing through the transporter room doors. "You do realize there will end up being an inquiry into the treatment of our 'guest'."

"Yes, Doctor. I did anticipate that." Spock paused a moment then continued. "I ask forgiveness for pulling you into this, without consideration as to ... "

McCoy held up a hand forestalling the rest of Spock's apology. "Time was of the essence, was it not?"

"Yes, Doctor, it was."

"Well, then, That's all that needs be said. Let's just hope the results are worth it," he said as he disappeared through the door.

"Agreed, Doctor," Spock answered quietly to the closed door, before turning and heading toward the Bridge.

* * *

McCoy took time to make rounds before returning to the lab he and T'Sparra were working in. His last stop on them was at Christine's bedside.

"Well, Chris," he said quietly. "We got the guy. At least we've been able to do that much." He sighed softly the recounted the scene in the brig, complete with his own emotional slant on it. One way or another it might encourage her. Either she'd be happy they'd caught him and know a cure was forthcoming or her medical sensibilities would be so outraged she'd fight her way to recovery simply so she could blister his ears with her reprimands. Either way, he'd enjoy every minute of it.

"I've got to go now, Chris. Just remember, you are not alone," McCoy said softly, before walking slowly out.

He strode into the lab, determined to concentrate on work and not on either Christine or on whether or not Spock's ruse was going to work. "T'Sparra, any news from the lab about isolating the individual components to this virus?"

"They said they 'think' they are close to isolating one of them. They estimate that this was formed from at least 4 different viruses. The further estimate that it will take them 2 weeks to isolate all of them."

"That's not soon enough!" McCoy shouted, then was immediately contrite. It wasn't her fault. "Sorry."

"Understandable, given the circumstances," T'Sparra allowed.

"That means it's up to us," McCoy said, then set to work, refusing to get his hopes up on the only other front available.

The two worked side by side as time slipped by. McCoy couldn't help but worry as it grew nearer and nearer to the time when it would be too late for Christine. He forced himself away from those thoughts and continued working. Though, he couldn't quite force the hard knot out of the pit of his stomach.

* * *

Spock and his security team beamed down into the middle of a vacant room. Each one ready to fire, if the sensors had proved inaccurate, or the situation had changed in the time it had taken them to beam down after the last reading had been taken.

It hadn't. It was barren of all life forms. In fact, Spock thought, as he inspected the room, turning slowly on the spot he'd materialized on, It was completely barren. There were no windows, doors, or furnishings of any kind. It did pass through his mind that perhaps his 'informant' had lied, despite the fact that he believed he needed the cure as much as Spock wanted it. But, no, that would not be logical. Even their prisoner was sure to see that. As far as he knew, he would die if the cure was not located.

"Spread out," Spock told the security contingent. "If our information is accurate and we are at the right coordinates, there will have to be some type of hidden door or mechanism."

They spread out searching the empty room. He methodically, minutely, inspected every square inch of his search area, all the while Spock's internal time clock kept careful track of the seconds; minutes, that slid passed irretrievably.

"Commander!"

Spock whirled and strode quickly to the officer who had made the exclamation. "What have you found?"

"This room is eight inches shorter than the exterior dimensions would indicate," she said. "While most of this wall seems solid, this portion here," she pointed, outlining the area she was referring to, "sounds hollow. They've laced or perhaps 'painted' it with a metallic substance that interferes with proper scanning, so I cannot be absolutely certain."

"Stand back," Spock responded and pulled out his phaser, fine tuning it a moment before pointing it. Using both hands to steady his aim, he began cutting a fine line near the center of the area Lieutenant Baker had indicated.

As soon as his last phaser line met his first initial cut, he deactivated the phaser and stepped forward. Without warning he struck out, solidly punching the small square. The security officers around him jumped at the unexpected blow, casting quick covert glances at one another.

Still facing away from them, Spock raised an eyebrow at the unexpected rush of satisfaction striking out had precipitated. He paid no heed to the small amount of blood that trickled down his hand as he stepped forward peering into the newly made hole.

"It appears you were correct, Lieutenant," he said drily. "There is an open space behind this wall, approximately 8.13 inches deep."

Approximately? she mouthed to her team mates.

They shrugged back.

Spock stepped back from the wall and raised his phaser once again. He began cutting just inside the area previously pointed out by Lieutenant Baker. An eternity later, or so it seemed to those watching and waiting, Spock had cut a section four feet by four feet.

* * *

Jim Kirk could not remember a time when he'd felt so utterly useless. Of course being on the team that had apprehended Christine's attacker had helped, as had venting some of his frustrated anger on the man. He'd wanted to do so much more than yell at him and try to intimidate him, but common sense and his own set of standards had prevented him from doing so.

He sighed in resignation as his gaze fell once again to her virtually lifeless face and he shook his head against the urge to jump back into the middle of all the efforts. McCoy had shooed him out of the labs three times in as many hours.

And when Spock had informed him of the prisoner's confession, he'd immediately started ordering appropriate personnel to join him in the hunt. However, he had ended up reluctantly agreeing with Spock's assessment that should it be a trap, it would not be wise for both of them to get caught in it.

He'd been on the verge of telling Spock, "Fine, then I'll go and you can stay here." But he hadn't. So now he was here again, waiting; talking to a woman who probably couldn't hear him, about the progress they'd made. He purposely held in his worries about whether it would all be in vain, but he did worry that it would all come together to late to save his friend.

The communicator on his wrist chirped.

"I'll be right back, Christine," he said, laying a hand on her shoulder before moving a discreet distance away. "Kirk here."

"Captain, we have located the rebels' hidden lab," Spock said, the weariness in his voice apparent even over communicator."

"Great!" Kirk replied. "Is everyone all right?"

"Yes, Captain," Spock answered. "A couple of minor injuries when we had to apprehend three of the rebels, but they have been sent to Sickbay and are already receiving treatment."

"What about the cure?"

"Dr. McCoy already has what we believe is the formula."

"What you believe?"

"Yes, sir. It was written in a language I am unfamiliar with. However, it had all the necessary 'earmarks' of a chemical formula and it is my considered opinion that it is indeed either the cure or the make up of the altered virus itself. We are continuing the search in case I am in error."

Kirk chuckled briefly, his relief heartfelt. "When are you ever?" There was a long silence over the communication band width.

"There have been ... occasions, Captain."

Kirk turned and went back to the unconscious woman, his constant worry now edge with a sliver of hope. "Spock found where they were holed up, Chris," he said softly. "Hang in there."

She didn't move. He didn't, quite, know why he'd expected her to. Perhaps he'd thought the news was important enough that it should have gotten through to her. But that was ridiculous, he thought. That's what a coma meant. It meant she couldn't respond. He continued to stare down at her, wondering if what they said was true.

Could she really hear him when he talked to her? He'd probably never know, he thought morosely. Even if ... if? When she recovered, she wouldn't remember. Kirk sat back down and reached out, laying his hand on hers. If there was even the remotest chance she could tell someone was there, he was going to make sure she realized she was not alone.

* * *

"Alright!" McCoy yelled. "About damn time!"

"There is no need for obscenities, Doctor," Spock said drily. "I will be there shortly."

"We'll be waiting," McCoy answered, a little less excitedly this time, then added mischievously, "With bells on." He heard the slightest sigh on the other end of the communicator before Spock replied.

"Spock out."

McCoy turned to T'Sparra, with grin plastered on his weary face. "Well, it's the beginning of the end now," he said.

She turned slowly to face him. "Not necessarily, Doctor. There is the possibility that what Commander Spock found is not what we need. He did say that although it appeared to be a formula, it might not be the correct one."

"Party pooper," McCoy muttered. "Well, that, whether it's the formula for the cure or the virus itself, combined with the vial he found, should give us what we need." He pursed his lips a moment before continuing. "Of course, if it is the formula for the cure, or miracles be, the vial contains the serum, it would be much quicker. It might even be in time."

"You are worried about your friend," T'Sparra said quietly.

McCoy glanced over at her, startled. He had not expected her to notice, or if she did, to comment on it. "Yes," he said. "I am."

"I suppose it would be useless to point out the worrying is illogical, that it will not affect the outcome."

McCoy actually laughed, then shook his head. "Yes, it would be. So many people will be hurt if ... " His voice trailed off. He didn't want to voice even the possibility. He took a deep breath, releasing it slowly. "You're right of course, but it won't stop me from worrying."

"I didn't think so," she answered quietly.

He chuckled again. "Then why did you mention it?"

She cocked her head at him, before answering. "It was, as you humans say, 'worth a try'."

McCoy's jaw dropped and he began to wonder just how much he knew about Vulcans that he could be so surprised by her easy banter. Quickly following on that thought was another. Her manner could be a direct result of being married to a human. He supposed he'd never know. It wasn't exactly something you could just up and ask a Vulcan.

* * *

Spock snapped his wrist communicator closed and waited for the familiar tingle of transport to begin. He held in his hands what could very likely save Christine's and many other's lives. Somehow, it seemed an inordinately long time before he felt the beginnings of dematerialization.

He stepped forward as soon as the transport beam released him next to the lab door. It opened automatically and he strode through. Quickly scanning the room, he found Dr. McCoy just as McCoy started towards him. "Are they it?" he asked, pointing to the objects in Spock's hands.

Spock resisted the most obviously reply, and answered blandly. "Yes, Doctor."

"Give the document to T'Sparra and I'll get started analyzing the contents of this vial." McCoy took the vial from Spock, treating it as if it were the priceless container they all hoped it was.

Spock crossed toward T'Sparra, who was already accessing the needed translation files on her console. He watched her work a moment before following the path taken by Dr. McCoy. It took him only moments to locate him. He was already intent on pouring out precious drops of the liquid to analyze. He waited until the doctor had restoppered the vial before speaking. He, in no way, wanted this to be one of the times that he startled the good doctor, by his quiet approach.

"Doctor?"

"What is it, Spock?" McCoy asked, without even pausing in his efforts.

"Would my assistance be helpful?"

McCoy stopped long enough to take a long hard look at the Vulcan. "Actually, no, Spock. Right now, T'Sparra and I have it covered. A third person working on this would simply be a duplication of effort. We will let you know if that changes, however."

"Very well, Doctor. I will take my leave of you, then."

"Spock," McCoy said, stopping his exit.

"Yes, Doctor?"

"It might be a good idea to go see Christine."

Spock stood silently a long moment before answering, painfully aware of the reasons McCoy had made that comment. "That was my intended destination, Doctor," he said finally and started for the door again.

"Spock?" McCoy said, once again stopping Spock.

He stifled a sigh of impatience as he stopped. "Yes, Doctor?"

"A coma in a human has something in common with the Vulcan healing trance."

"Indeed?" Spock asked. "And what would that be?"

"She can hear you when you talk to her, Spock. It's been proven, as much as is possible, that talking to coma patients increases the likelihood of their recovery."

His eyebrow went up, he could feel it, but couldn't quite stop it. He didn't answer, just looked at the doctor a moment, then turned and left the lab.

* * *

He paused outside the door to Christine's ward a moment to focus his thoughts. He was not usually given to this much turmoil and the fact that he was experiencing it now ... concerned him. This was what had driven him to Gol. What awaited him on the other side of this door, represented both extremes he had sought to avoid. He settled his breathing into an even meditative pattern. His ... regard for Christine ... No, Spock thought. At least within the privacy of your mind, be honest. There may not be much more time for it. His ... feelings for Christine were far greater than he had ever thought he was capable of.

There had been a time, long ago, that he'd told her he was sorry for her, for loving him. He'd told her that, because, at the time, he'd truly believed he would never be able to return those feelings. Little had he known then, what the future had held in store. Now, not only did he return them, he
was ... concerned that they may overwhelm him.

No, he thought to himself. He was still Vulcan. He would control them. He could not banish them and wasn't sure he would even if he could, but he could make sure they didn't control him. One more deep breath and he managed to bury the thoughts that said she would likely die, leaving him to deal with the aftermath.

Spock paused a mere second, causing a nearly unnoticeable hitch in his step. Seeing the Captain leaning over Christine, his hand resting on hers caused a quick flutter deep in his lower ribcage. He suppressed the reaction quickly, but as he slowly crossed the room he attempted to analyze it.

Why was it so significant? He stopped before Kirk saw him and simply watched. What did he ... fear about their easy friendship? It did not come immediately to mind so he began asking himself questions, questions that he already knew the answers to, but asked anyway, for the sake of completeness.

Did he trust Jim? Short answer; yes. Long answer, he trusted him with everything that he was and would be.

Did he trust Christine? Short answer, the same, yes. Long answer; he trusted her with his life. He trusted her to be her and that meant what? His gaze narrowed as he thought about what that really meant. She would never betray a trust and she would never willingly hurt anyone.

It suddenly dawned on him exactly what bothered him. Could it be that illogically simple? He frowned, slightly. He had never pictured himself to be subject to those kinds of uncertainties. As a Vulcan he should be above them. Certainly she had proven that her ... feelings for him were constant and that time was unlikely to change them. Why then, did he have this ... feeling of ... insecurity? Why did he seem to believe that it couldn't last?

He looked deep inside himself to find the cause. Unbeknownst to him, an eyebrow lifted as he continued his internal analysis and a somewhat startling suggestion came to him. Unworthy? Did he truly believe he was unworthy of her? That would not be logical. The other eyebrow joined the first one. This whole debate was illogical. What was one more illogical premise thrown in?

You avoided her for years, then abandoned her once, a little nagging thought said. She deserves better than someone who would treat her that way. Someone like ... NO, he thought emphatically, surprising himself with the strength of his denial. Finally deciding he was not going to resolve this issue now, he shoved all his doubts back, ignoring them and stepped forward.

Kirk's head snapped up as he approached.

"Spock!" he said. "I didn't hear you come in."

He would have allowed a smile at the obvious statement, but he could not take his gaze from the woman lying unconscious in her bed. She seemed so frail, so ... lifeless. None of her usual cheer and empathy showed through the depths of her coma.

From the corner of his vision he noticed Kirk look from him back to Christine, but did not acknowledge the movement and after long moments of silence Kirk looked back to him.

"She doesn't have much time left," Kirk said in a near whisper, that still sounded loud in the oddly quiet room.

Spock drew in a deep slow breath. "Dr. McCoy and Dr. T'Sparra have the sample vial and the probable formula," Spock said equally quietly, trying to will as much confidence into his voice as was possible. If Dr. McCoy was correct and Christine could hear them, he did not want her to believe all hope was lost. If he'd learned nothing else from serving among humans these many years, which was far from accurate, he had learned that, however illogical it may seem, attitude was one of the most important factors in their recovery from illness.

"I am certain they will devise the solution shortly."

"I'm sure you're right, Spock." Kirk took one last look at Christine, then rose. "I think I'll go mind the store, since you're here to keep her company."

Spock's glanced at the Captain in surprise. "'Mind the store', Captain? I have not heard you use that particular phrase in a number of years."

Kirk chuckled. "Somehow it just seemed appropriate today," he said.

Spock eyed him skeptically.

"I know, that wasn't logical. Was it?"

"Indeed, Captain," Spock answered, relieved to find comfort in the usual banter. "I would not, however, remind you of that which you already know."

Kirk just grinned and shook his head knowingly. "Sure you would, Spock. You've done it many times," he replied as he walked out the door.

Spock stood a moment watching the closed door, then turned toward the bed.

Spock took the chair so recently vacated by Captain Kirk, and sat quietly, watching Christine for long moments. It was still startling to him just how much she had come to mean to him. She had taken her place, quite firmly, among those whose ... absence, he knew, without any uncertainty, would disrupt his orderly life.

Following swiftly on the heels of that thought, he could hear McCoy's voice floating through his mind, nearly as clearly as if he had actually spoken. Why you ... unfeeling ... green-blooded... Spock could hear him spluttering to get the words out. Disrupt your orderly life??? My God, man, at least be honest with yourself!!

Spock's eyebrow went up at the thought, wondering vaguely when McCoy's voice had become the sound of his conscience, but he once again focused on the woman who meant so much to him. He wondered if she truly knew how much; wondered if she would be allowed the chance to know. Of course, he'd never told her. It wasn't his way. It wasn't the Vulcan way.

This was usually understood via a meld or through the bonding, but they had done neither, barring the information gathering meld during her bout with amnesia, which had not exactly been a 'sharing' meld. There hadn't seemed a need to rush into anything. Now it looked as if there would not be the time; that perhaps 'rushing' would have been the better approach.

He shook his thoughts back to the present, and bearing in mind the good doctor's advice, began speaking in low tones. He told her of all that had happened since she had succumbed to her coma. He spoke of McCoy bring him her tape. He spoke of his trickery with their prisoner. All the while slightly uncomfortable with seemingly talking to himself.

By the time his voice trailed off and he had nothing left to report, he realized his discomfort had all but disappeared. But something was missing, something he had not done, something he had not said. It felt like he was forgetting something very important. It was not a feeling he was accustomed to. He did not forget things.

He sat a moment merely watching her, at a loss as to what to say. He was not exactly an expert at 'idle chit chat'. It was then that his new 'little voice' spoke up. Tell her.

Spock shook his head, knowing what it meant and resisting the idea. The voice fell curiously silent. He leaned forward and tentatively rested his hand on Christine's. It odd and quite disturbing to touch her and receive ... .nothing. Even in sleep humans were ... there. It was as if she was not in her body; as if she were already dead. Spock's head snapped up to eye the silent monitor above her bed. It was still registering her distressingly low lifesigns. He did not dare put a name to the very physical sensation that shot through him, leaving weakness in its wake, when he realized his moment's concern that she was not still alive, was unfounded.

Knowing it was the most illogical thing he'd ever done, Spock began speaking to her once again. "Dr. McCoy informed me that there is the possibility you can hear those around you, even if you cannot respond." A corner of his mouth twitched upward before he brought it firmly under his control. "To be completely honest with you, I am not sure whether I would prefer it if he were correct or incorrect."

Spock took a deep measured breath. "If he is incorrect, then I have made a complete fool of myself. However, no one outside of myself will ever know. If he is correct, then you will hear what I am going to say to you. At this stage, the length of time we have spent together, it is something of which you should already be aware." Spock paused, gathering his thoughts. It was with a touch of wry amusement that he realized he was, as the human saying went, 'beating around the bush'.

"Normally, the meld would tell you all you needed to know, but since that is not an option, It has become necessary for me to verbalize certain aspects that would ordinarily never be said." A sound drew Spock's attention. He stopped and listened, but heard nothing further, so returned his attention. "I ... You are ... very important to me. For many years I believed that I did not ... need anyone close to me to live a rich and fulfilling life. Then I met a very young, very brash and headstrong captain.

"He and a certain irritating and stubborn Chief Medical Officer, proceeded to teach me, despite my protests and determination not to learn, that close friends are important and can come to mean more to you than yourself. They taught me there is a place I can belong just as I am. That was a powerful lesson, Christine, and just as I was beginning to accept it; to believe that it would 'last' and was not just a fleeting thing, along came one blonde, blue-eyed head nurse with some very startling revelations.

"Revelations that created havoc where peace of mind usually reigned. This head nurse was not someone who could be a part of my life, whether I willed it or no. The fact that I was ... intrigued by her should not have played any part in my behavior, but it did. I avoided her. I did not wish to presented with what could not be. But this woman was ... persistent; not by 'pushing herself' at me. I have dealt with that before, easily. But rather, she was consistently kind and supportive. She made no further ... advances, but rather showed in other ways that I was important to her.

"It left an impression I could not be rid of. Many times since S'ana'sasia, I have begun to approach a new awareness, but each time I have drawn back from it. As you are well aware, one time it sent me clear back to the planet of my birth. However, this current crisis has again brought on that elusive awareness and this time I have not backed away from it. Who you are has become part of my," Spock paused in his narrative, searching for the correct phrase. "World view. I can no longer see clearly what the future would hold without you in it.

"I do not, and probably never will, understand the human concept of love. It seems to vary widely from one individual to the next and to have so many different meanings to even one individual. But, if it means realizing that I am better off for having you in my life; if it means that I want to spend the rest of the time we both live, together; if it means that I want to share myself with you, then you know where I stand. Because I do know this, and I do want these things. I want, very much, for you to survive this disease. I want you to be my bondmate and I, yours. I want to share the essence of who I am with you, in a way I have with no other individual."

!

Spock stood suddenly, looking up at the monitors. No change there. He looked back down at her, never once removing his hand from atop hers and focused solely on her. It was no use. It was the same as before, but he could have sworn, he'd sensed something from her. It had lasted a mere fraction of a second, but he was, nonetheless, positive.

Another sound behind him, snapped his head around. McCoy was striding forward. "What's wrong, Spock?"

Spock, realizing he must have seen his startled rise, wondered just how long he'd been here. "She is the same."

"But--"

"Doctor, how long have you been here?"

"Not long, Spock," McCoy shook his head innocently. "I just came to tell you we translated and decoded the writing you brought us."

McCoy now had Spock's full attention. He looked at him questioning.

"It was a formula. However it was the one for the virus, not the cure. However with that, we believe we've been able to synthesis one."

"Where is it?"

"It's being tested on the sample of the virus you found."

Spock resisted a look down at Christine. "How long will that take?"

"I'm estimating less than 15 more minutes before we know if it is effective." He moved forward to check the monitors keeping track of Christine's condition.

"Does she have that much time, Doctor?"

McCoy sighed and frowned. "Yes, she has that much time," he said quietly, then returned to his scans.

Spock watched him in silence, not wanting to further interrupt his concentration, but couldn't help but wonder at the odd little smile hovering at the corners of his lips. Just how long had he been there?"

"Just what did you hear, Doctor?" he asked finally.

McCoy looked up at him in surprise, but Spock had the suspicion it was entirely feigned.
"Hear where, Spock?" McCoy paused a heartbeat then continued. "Were you talking to her when I came in?" he asked.

Spock continued to gaze at him suspiciously, but allowed that it was possible he was telling the truth. He nodded once. "I ... took your advice."

McCoy grinned then. "Great! Anyway, I told you what I came to tell you, and I really should be getting back to the lab. I'll page you as soon as we know anything; one way or the other," he said as he walked out of the room, with a smile hovering on his lips and a slight bounce to his steps.

* * *

Spock stepped back from Christine's biobed as McCoy moved in to administer the newly made anti-viral.

"It worked in the lab, Spock. As I'm sure you are aware, that does not guarantee that it will work in a live host and right now we're only giving it to the patients who are out of time, because we don't really know just what effect it's going to have."

"Understood, Doctor. How long before we know whether or not it is effective?"

"Well, Spock, we'll know in just a few minutes whether it's going to help at all or whether it's going to do more damage. Other than that, sorry, but your guess is as good as mine."

Spock shifted his gaze to McCoy with the slightest of disapproving frowns. "Doctor, guessing is not logical. Surely, as a medical professional, you realize that. Aside from that, since I lack access to the appropriate medical data, my 'guess', could not possibly be 'as good as yours'."

McCoy, still closely watching the monitors, just shook his head. "Spock, as you well know, it's just a phrase. What I meant was, even with 'appropriate data', I'm just not sure what kind of a recovery, if any, she or any of the others will make." He fell silent a moment before continuing. "It destroyed the virus 9 out of 10 times in the lab, with no indications, that we could find, why it didn't work that tenth time. T'Sparra is still working on that.

"Now, there's nothing in the antivirus that is inherently harmful to humans, and only one thing that's mildly intoxicating for our Andorian patients, but whenever you introduce any new substance to living tissue you run the risk of an allergic reaction. If that happens in any of these people, it's sure to be deadly. They're just too weak to withstand that kind of shock."

"In other words, Doctor, there are simply too many variables to accurately predict the results."

McCoy chuckled humorlessly. "Something like that, Spock." He finally looked up. "If you want the honest truth ... ?" McCoy let his voice trail off, questioningly.

"The truth is usually more valuable," Spock answered.

McCoy noticed he did not say preferable. "If it were for the fact that the people we're trying this on were 99.9 ad infinitum percent likely to die if we didn't do this now, I simply would not take the risk of giving them this untried serum."

Silence followed McCoy's admission, both men uncomfortably aware that the crisis was far from over.

Precious minutes passed while neither man was willing to remove their eyes from the monitors. Three minutes passed, then four. Finally one blip rose minutely. McCoy leapt forward, grinning from ear to ear. Spock took one involuntary step forward, his eyes glued to the monitor for any further sign.

"You know what to look for to detect shock or an allergic reaction right?"

"Spock?" McCoy repeated, this time a little louder.

Spock blinked and turned to face him. "Forgive me, Doctor. What did you say?"

McCoy shook his head in disbelief. He couldn't remember a single other time anyone had, had to repeat a question to Spock. "I asked if you knew what the signs for shock or an allergic reaction were."

Spock nodded. "Yes, Doctor. I am familiar with the conditions, as is any graduate of the Academy."

"Well, not everyone bothers to remember them."

Spock didn't answer, merely lifted an eyebrow.

"I suppose I should have realized you would," he responded with a chuckle.

"Indeed, Doctor. You should have."

He handed Spock two hypos. "Call me immediately if she displays any signs of either condition. At the same time, inject this one for shock, this one for an allergic reaction. Here's the med scanner, so you can be sure."

Spock took the instruments, but looked at him questioningly. "Should you not assign a nurse or other medical professional, Doctor?"

"I'd love to Spock, but there just aren't enough to go around. I trust you to get it right. Barring a call from you, I'll be back as soon as I can. I need to check on other patients."

Spock nodded acceptance of the facts, but could not help but experience some measure of concern. He watched silently as McCoy left. It was obvious by his demeanor he did not want to leave.

* * *

Three hours, twenty-three minutes, and fifteen seconds. That's how long his internal time sense told him had passed since Doctor McCoy had left and not once had he left Christine Chapel's side. She hadn't shown any signs of worsening but she hadn't improved any either. Mastery of the unavoidable told him that he must accept the fact that the serum might have been administered too late. However, some rebellious part of him, refused to accept that.

He knew it was not logical to rebel against what was. Logic dictated that however much he may want things to be different, that would not effect the outcome. NO! he thought. Standing suddenly, he strode to the small cooling unit. There weren't any Vulcan drinks, of course, but he pulled out a sealed bottle of mineral water. He paced back and sat down, drinking half the bottle in one long swallow.

For one irrational moment, he wished it was as easy to wash away this unpleasant situation as it was to wash away his dry mouth. He took a deep, centering breath, releasing it slowly and then began trying to reconcile himself. All the evidence pointed in one direction. It should be simple matter of ... No, the thought again. Humans had a way of defying logic and beating the odds. She was a member of the Enterprise crew. That meant she had something special. It wasn't just anyone who got assign to that ship. It was only the best.

Her fighting spirit had been proven time and time again, during their missions. He had to admit, her steadfast feelings for him in the face of such adversity was also ample proof of her ability to endure. It was at that moment he decided he would not stop believing in her ability to survive until all possible hope was gone.

Hope. He shook his head. Hope was not logical, but he was surprised to find that, right now, he didn't particularly care. He reached out and touched her once again. "Christine," he said softly, leaning close to her ear. "You must survive. You are not allowed to die." Spock paused, wondering whether he should continue in this illogical vein. "I do not give you permission."

He leaned back then, knowing that if she had truly heard him, she would resent the implication that she needed his permission for anything. Well, he thought to himself, allowing himself a momentary sense of satisfaction, if she wanted to 'take issue' with him about it, she'd have to wake up first.

Her hand twitched under his and it took all of his self control to do no more than gasp softly. "Christine?" he whispered, eyes back on the monitors above her. Sure enough, just as if they hadn't been stubbornly still for nearly four hours, there was a barely detectable, yet steady climb in all the stats. He knew at that moment that he would always wonder whether his 'ultimatum' had, had any effect.

With his free hand he flipped open his wrist communicator, signaling the doctor's frequency.

"McCoy here."

"Doctor--"

"I'm on my way. What's wrong?"

"Nothing, Doctor. I thought you should know, that Christine has just started showing slight but steady improvement."

Spock winced at the loud shout that followed his announcement. "Yes! Spock. She's the first to start showing it." McCoy's voice gave away the grin he had to be wearing. "I'll be there shortly."

* * *

Christine's eyes fluttered open and first thoughts were unnerving.

Both Spock and McCoy hovered over her, Spock looking his usual impeccable self, no, wait, did he look a little tired? She wasn't sure. She couldn't focus well enough to be sure.

McCoy was grinning like the proverbial cat that swallowed the canary. "How are you doing?"

She managed a weak, halfhearted smile. "Like I got spaced without the suit."

McCoy chuckled warmly. "That's good."

Christine's mouth fell open and she glared at him without comprehension.

"Well, you've got to admit, it's better than not feeling anything at all."

He had a point, she thought and her glare softened. All in all she was very happy to be able to feel bad. She frowned. That hadn't made any sense. Oh well, it didn't really matter, she was just glad to be here. She turned to Spock and frowned again. "I'm mad at you," she mumbled.

Spock's eyebrow shot up. "Indeed."

McCoy froze and looked down at her in shock. "Why?" he asked incredulously.

She was quiet a moment, obviously thinking about her strange statement. "I ... don't know." Both she and McCoy looked over at Spock.

He didn't answer, but both of them noticed an odd expression of satisfaction on his face.

* * *

"Get back in that bed!"

"Leonard, I'm well enough to get up now."

"You're not well enough, until I say you're well enough."

"You're being ridiculous!"

"And you're being impatient."

"You're overworked and you need my help."

"Christine, you've been awake for less than 48 hours. You are in no condition to be out of bed, let alone working." When she looked like she was going to protest again, he continued. "And I won't hear another word about it."

"Arguing with a patient, Bones? Isn't that against regulations?"

"It seems to be a necessity with the Enterprise officers."

Kirk laughed. "Don't let it get you down, Bones. It isn't personal."

McCoy muttered to himself. Something about impossible patients, but Kirk couldn't be sure. "So, Chris, were you following in ... inappropriate footsteps and arguing with your Doctor's prognosis?"

Christine smiled in spite of herself. "He's just being crotchety."

"Sounds normal to me. You must be getting better then."

* * *

Spock approached the room thoughtfully, setting himself against the feeling of relief he seemed to experience every time he entered this room now.

"Right on time."

"I usually endeavor to be on time, Doctor," Spock responded drily.

Christine laughed as McCoy's mouth snapped shut. "So, now that my 'baby-sitter' is here, can I go?"

McCoy started to answer, but Spock answered first. "I am not your 'baby-sitter'. The Doctor was merely concerned for your well-being and cannot spare the time to see you to your quarters."

"Thank goodness," Christine responded with an odd tone to her voice that Spock could not 'quite' identify, but it caused a tightening low in his chest. Illogical, he thought, to be affected by mere words.

"To answer your question Christine, yes you can go now. But," and McCoy pointed a finger at her. "You are to do absolutely no work. You are to go straight to your quarters and stay there."

She smiled at him sweetly. "Can I at least get something to eat?"

McCoy frowned at her. "You know what I mean," he answered staring at her intently.

She relented. "Yes, I do, Leonard. I promise, I won't try to work. Satisfied?"

"Yes, now get out of here."

* * *

By the time they were half way to her quarters, Christine was leaning on Spock's arm for support. Although she didn't want to admit it, Leonard was right. She wasn't up to returning to work yet. This whole thing had taken more out of her than she would have liked to admit.

However, there was something she wanted to do. She wondered, as the tip of her tongue darted out to lick her lips, whether Spock would want to also. She lost herself in thoughts of what she was going to do to him, once they reached her quarters and was surprised when they were suddenly there.

Spock ushered her through the doors and helped her to her bed. It was obvious the short walk from the transporter room had worn her out. "I will check on you later, Christine." He turned to leave but was stopped by her sudden grasp of his hand.

He turned back, his eyebrow up.

"And just where do you think you're going?" she asked in her best authoritative voice.

"I was planning on--"

She pulled and with the unexpected maneuver lost his balance. He tumbled on top of her. He made to roll off of her, hoping he had not hurt her, but she wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his backside.

"You aren't going anywhere," she whispered in his ear, gently tugging on his earlobe with her teeth.

"I'm ... not?" he asked. "And ... um ... just what did you have in mind?"

She laughed lightly. "I think you can figure that out," she said and reached down between them, lightly running her fingernails over the growing bulge in his pants.

The End