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) 1999 by Kiristeen ke Alaya. This story is Rated PG.



New Discoveries

Kiristeen ke Alaya



Christine had been excited about returning to the Enterprise after her unexpected need for time off, but she hadn't been sure about being able to return this soon. She really didn't want to take the chance, she would break down outside the comfort of her own quarters. Her mother's death three weeks ago had hit her hard, despite the fact that it had followed a lengthy illness and had undoubtedly been a release from pain.

She sighed and took a steadying breath, struggling against the rising pain within her as memories of the last 3 months came rushing to the fore. Days on end when nothing the doctors could give her would do more than barely scratch the surface of her beloved mother's unending pain.

Then came that last night. The night her mother had woken from her sleep to look at her daughter one last time.

"Good-bye, Christine," she'd whispered. "It's time for me to go."

How she'd known, Christine never questioned. Some people just knew. She had simply reached out and tenderly grabbed hold of her hand, wishing fervently for it not to be so. She wasn't ready to let go. At the same time, she hoped her mother was right. Hoped that finally her mom could rest.

"I love you, Mama," she'd cried. "I will miss you," she'd said. It hadn't seemed enough to Christine. She'd wanted to say so much more, but her mother had smiled. and managed to squeeze her hand once, a final reassurance before drifting off into a sleep from which she'd never wake.

Now, after three very long weeks, funeral services, receptions honoring the incredible woman she'd been in life and her accomplishments, the worst of her sorrow usually only hit her when she was alone and had too much time on her hands. Too much time to think about how much she would miss her and her comforting messages from home.

Although the very nature of her career had prevented Christine from seeing her as often as she would have liked, they had kept in regular contact via subspace. She would miss those communiques greatly. They grounded her. They let her know that no matter where she was, what she did, or who she became, someone would always love her, and care how she was feeling.

Many times after a long day of treating injuries, escaping from total destruction once again, or simply being a sounding board for her friends about their love lives, she would retreat to her room to find a waiting message from her mother. It never failed to lift her spirits and let her deal better with her own long suppressed love. She never openly discussed it with anyone, although Uhura occasionally twitted her about it. It was a promise she'd made to herself and, although he would never know it, to him too.

Long ago, she'd given up her childish dreams of reciprocation, realizing it was never going to happen. Whether because he was Vulcan, or (deeply in her own mind) because he wasn't fully, his father had married a human after all, ultimately didn't matter. To her dismay, that didn't make the feelings fade or go away. The rational reasoning of fully adult, professional woman, that for whatever reason, he would never 'get together' with her didn't help. If anything, her feelings grew deeper, more intense.

She'd learned to cope with that too. She'd even tried to 'move on', as Uhura had urged her to do many times. The problem was, every time she met someone who just might mean something to her and her to them, she found she measured them against the one man she'd loved for so long, that she almost couldn't remember a time she didn't. Unfortunately, each and every time they came up wanting. No one seemed to be able to live up to all the things that made Spock the exceptional person he was.

She sighed. A couple of years ago, she'd told herself in no uncertain terms that she should stop doing that or she was going to end up alone. Back then, that had scared her, and for a while she'd followed her own sage advice. It didn't take long, just two failed relationships, for her to understand that she could never settle for less than the best. If she couldn't have that, then she had to forget the rest. She grinned at her remembered shock when that realization had struck and at the fact that she no longer feared being alone. It didn't matter. She no longer needed just 'anyone' to fill some empty void in her life. She was finally content with herself and grew to accept that no matter what she felt, it was simply a part of who she was.

She shook her head to clear the cobwebs and wistful thoughts she so seldom allowed herself, as she approached the Rec Room door. It would not do for anyone to see where her thoughts had been. Now was the time to move forward and recapture some of the joy of being alive and working with the best people and friends anyone could have.

Taking another carefully measured breath and letting it out with equal care, Christine stepped forward, activating the door sensors. She passed through them, looking as though she had not a care in the world. She quickly scanned the occupants of the room, not sure if after three months anyone's routine would have changed. Nope. All the usuals were there.

In the far corner was the person she sought. Uhura sat at a table waiting for her and Nyota saw her almost as soon as she entered. Smiling Christine eagerly cut across the middle of the room to join her. She had missed her friend's teasing support these past months.

"Christine," Uhura exclaimed when she was close enough. "I thought you'd never get here." Her friend rose as she reached the table and pulled her into a quick hug. "Glad to have you back." She drew back and looked closely at Christine, as if searching for some truth. "How are you holding up?"

The concerned question nearly undid her. Tears formed in her eyes, but she refused to let them fall. Not here, especially not here. She blinked rapidly, dissipating them before she lost it completely, then smiled gamely. "Actually Nyota, I'm doing remarkably well, all things considered."

"When you asked me to meet you here instead of the transporter room, I have to admit I was a little concerned." Uhura eyed her compassionately as they took their seats.

"I'm sorry. I'm just not up to private meetings. I'm just now beginning to get my legs under me and being with lots of people helps me to ... oh, I don't know. It helps me balance, I suppose."

"Tell you what," Uhura said brightly. "I'll go get our dinner. What would you like to drink?"

Christine laughed quietly. She knew she could count on Nyota to cheer her up. "Surprise me."

Uhura grinned and sauntered over to the food replicators, more determined than ever to help Christine through this time. Not many people on board even knew the reason for her absence. Only three that she knew of for sure, herself, Dr. McCoy, and Captain Kirk. Christine had never asked anyone not to mention it, but to Nyota, it never seemed quite the right time to bring it up.

She continued musing throughout the meal. At the same time she kept up amusing anecdotes of what they'd all been through while Christine had been gone. Some of which actually made her smile. When she related her and Spock's experience at inadvertently walking in on a couple sharing an passionate kiss in the arboretum, Christine's jaw dropped.

Uhura leaned forward. "As we left as unobtrusively as we'd come. I would be willing to swear those ears of his were just a touch greener than they are normally." She failed in her attempt to dampen her smile. "Not that you could see any other reaction, of course. If you didn't know him well, you'd have thought he walked into that kind of thing everyday."

Christine smothered a laugh as she couldn't help but picture the stoic first officer turning tail and leaving without saying a word. She could also see Uhura just bursting to tease him about it, but holding her peace nonetheless. She was proud of herself, when she resisted a quick look at the object of their conversation.

* * *

Spock noticed her entrance. He noted everything around him. He was about to turn his attention back to the chess game, when he noticed something else, something odd. For some reason he could not quite fathom, she seemed different. It disturbed him that he couldn't immediately identify what it was. Narrowing his eyes, he studied her as she crossed the room to join Uhura. When she stood and hugged Miss Chapel, he immediately turned his full attention back to the game at hand.

The captain was just finishing his move. He studied the board only a moment before reaching out and making his own move. The one Kirk had made had been expected, so his was already planned. Playing against Captain Kirk was a privilege. Not many people could surprise him with moves. Not ones that resulted in success as often as not anyway. He watched as Kirk frowned in thought and found his thoughts returning to the mystery Miss Chapel suddenly represented. Usually when human crew members returned from leave they were refreshed and appeared rested. She appeared neither. Briefly, very briefly, he considered asking his captain why she'd left so abruptly.

However, his well-trained Vulcan sense of privacy overrode his natural inclination to know about everything around him. That and the fact that his human companion would probably make much more of the simple question than was warranted, kept him from voicing any such curiosity.

With a strictly internal sigh, he reached out took his turn. Keeping his expression neutral as was his wont, he revealed nothing of the fact that his thoughts refused to stay focused on their game. He didn't often have that problem. In point of fact, it was very rare.

He had not really thought about how Nurse Chapel's return from her 3 month leave of absence would affect him, truthfully he hadn't thought about it at all, as he had been unaware that it would have any affect on him. In the years following the Psi 2000 virus and her unexpected revelation, he had been uncomfortable with knowing about her emotional response to him, but the years and her own restraint when in his presence had allowed him to shuffle that awareness to the back of his mind.

Now, he watched her across the rec room, while he waited for Captain Kirk to decide his next move. What was it about her that was different? It surprised him, swiftly suppressed, of course, to find that he had missed their occasional conversations and a raised eyebrow marked the occasion.

Unbeknownst to him, Kirk noticed the movement and was unusually quiet about it. He would never let his friend know this, but he'd known the moment Spock's full attention was no longer on their game and the reason for it. Or rather the person behind it. What he couldn't figure out was why. As far as he knew, in all the years he'd known Spock, he'd never given Christine Chapel much thought. He made his move.

Spock noted it. It wasn't the expected move. He would have to study before making his response. Quickly moving ahead about 15 moves he redirected his own attack and moved his bishop. That accomplished, his plan set, his thoughts again wandered of their own accord.

This was getting to be a habit, he chastised himself, but admitted that solving a mystery had always been his biggest weakness. Logically, he should figure out just what was at the bottom of this mystery, then his thoughts would be his own again. That settled to his Vulcan satisfaction, he purposely returned to what he knew of Miss Chapel. She had a quiet presence and quick intelligence that he had come to respect during the rare times they had to work on a problem together. With others, he had seen her ready wit and occasionally had left Dr. McCoy without a comeback. She always carried herself with pride and confidence.

Kirk had made his move. Spock reached out and countered it. He raised a brow at the bitten back groan Kirk had let out. He had, of course, realized as soon as Spock's hand left the piece that he'd dug himself into a hole from which there was no escape. However, Spock knew from long experience that his friend would not give up so easily. He would struggle to the very end, trying to outwit his opponent, to the point of occasionally surprising him by finding a way out and winning a game that Spock had thought he couldn't possibly.

While determining not to let Spock realize that his own position wasn't as weak as it seemed, he pretended to study the board carefully. He had the cool Vulcan cornered, even if he didn't know it yet.

He looked up as Christine Chapel and Nyota Uhura passed them on their way out. He almost smiled. Now he could start the conversation that was eating him up inside, without letting on that he knew. Spock was studiously watching the game layout.

"Sad story that," he said, apparently absently, as he reached out to advance his plan of attack.

"Pardon?" Spock looked up suddenly.

"Christine," Kirk maddeningly replied.

Spock allowed a short glance at the two women just before they disappeared through the door. Returning his gaze to Kirk, he made yet another move. "I do not understand, Captain."

"Oh, you didn't know?" Kirk responded innocently. "Her mother had been very ill for sometime. I understand from the media that she died 3 weeks ago. I understand they were quite close."

So that was what was odd. She was grieving. Spock glanced pensively, for a Vulcan, at the door and murmured, "She bears it well."

"What was that, Spock?"

"Nothing important, Captain."

Kirk knew when to quit while he was ahead, so remained silent for the rest of the game.

Spock raised a brow at Kirk's final stroke. He allowed a brief nonsmile as he glanced across the game. "Captain, it seems that once again, your illogical moves have coalesced into a logical form that escapes me."

"Just admit I've won and then we can start a second game," Kirk grinned.

"Very well, Captain," Spock replied and began methodically replacing the pieces to their starting position.

* * *

Christine welcomed the doors closing behind her and as soon as they did, her thoughts ran away, taking her, their unwilling passenger along for the ride. Was she going out of her mind? She must be. When Nyota and she had left the rec room, she would have been willing to swear she felt Spock's eyes follow her. But that wasn't possible was it, she thought, angry at herself for allowing old hopes to surface in even this tiny way.

She berated herself for such silliness. It was just because she was emotionally raw right now. It had absolutely nothing to do with reality. She had to keep that in mind, or she wouldn't be able to make everyone believe she was back to her old self. That was important. But, as much as she was glad to be back on board, maintaining her facade of well-being was exhausting. Her primary reason for not allowing herself to show any of her grief publicly would remain unacknowledged, consciously at least. But the other reason, equal in importance, was pity. That detestable emotion shoved onto the unwary by people who didn't know how to help someone else through this kind of loss.

She'd been subjected to enough of it, right along side true sympathy, when she was still on Earth. She'd always known that her mother was well known and well respected, as well as well liked, but during the aftermath of the funeral it seemed that everyone and their brother had crawled out of the woodwork. As soon as they found out she was her daughter, they all just had to talk to her. That followed quickly with looks of pity when tears she couldn't yet hold back fell.

Then they'd mumble something nearly unintelligible, obviously not knowing her well enough to offer any true sympathy or comfort. Then something would come up, so they couldn't stay to help her through the memories they'd thoughtlessly brought to the surface.

Occasionally that exceptional person came along, and accepted the tears. Instead of becoming uncomfortable, they allowed her to talk through the memories they'd evoked. That helped. It helped a lot to be able to voice her own memories, in response to the ones they shared with her.

Unfortunately those people were few and far between, and she found herself longing to be back aboard the Enterprise, despite the fact that her wound was not nearly healed. When the day came for her to board the Enterprise once again, she found she couldn't bear it if the same scenario developed on board. That was when she'd decided that all of her remaining grief would be spent in private. No one would know just how deeply she was hurt. To share it was to risk more rejection.

Christine did have to smile just a little. McCoy of course, wasn't fooled. He knew just how badly she was hurting. He'd known all along how close they'd been and now knew how much Christine would miss her mother's solid comfort. At the end of every shift he took the opportunity to poke, prod, and cajole Christine into at least acknowledging her deeply held pain. She could see in his eyes that he knew she wasn't grieving properly. That she wasn't letting in the impact it would have on every aspect of her life. She loved him for it, and she hated him for it.

She loved him for it, because he was the only one with the guts to push her. She hated him for it because he threatened her hard won professional detachment. She was a nurse. She couldn't afford to have these debilitating emotions surface at work. I mean how would a patient react if the nurse treating him or her came into the room with eyes red-rimmed from crying? It simply wasn't done. That's not the real reason, taunted a little voice inside her. She ignored it.

Curling up on her bed, Christine finally allowed the day's stored up tears to fall, fervently wishing she could allow herself to be comforted. Fall they did. They fell unmercifully until there were no tears left to fall. Hours later, she lay there waiting. For what, she didn't quite know, but when the tears did not resume, she reluctantly got up. She had to get something to eat. She didn't want to eat, but if she didn't, it would just give McCoy something else to nag her about.

If she didn't eat, she would have to admit that something was wrong. If she ate, if she did her work, if she didn't break down in front of him, McCoy could do nothing but push. If she failed to keep things 'normal', he'd be all over her, and she'd lose her battle of emotional control. That also was to be avoided at all costs. Why? the same voice taunted.

She didn't answer.

The days and the nights that followed fell into a predictable pattern. A daily pattern of quiet unobtrusive competence and a nightly pattern of emotional upheaval. In her head she knew Leonard McCoy was right. Soon, if she didn't find a way accept and incorporate her loss, it was going to burst open, and she was going to lose it big time, in public, possibly while on shift. But her heart denied it. Her heart was saying that she just needed to hold on a while longer and pain would ease, that her nightly flood of crying would be enough.

Luckily they were on a routine mapping mission and the worst case to come through Sickbay was a sprained ankle. Dr. McCoy was taking this time to catch up on the crew's physicals. There wasn't always time to get them all done, when more serious cases called them away from the routine. Nothing there taxed her mental reserves, it just kept her busy.

Occasionally she couldn't help but again feel as if Spock were watching her. Deny it as much as she wanted to, there was only one reason that could be so. It hit her hard that she had to be showing more of her sadness than she wanted to. It must pain him so, to be forced to associate with someone so inept! After that thought made it's way from subconscious to conscious, she began spending more and more of her off time alone in her cabin.

* * *

"Dammit, Jim!" McCoy sputtered. "I just can't seem to get through to her."

"Maybe you should just let her deal with it her own way," Jim replied softly. That this was tearing apart his CMO was evident. He wanted to help Christine and she wasn't letting him.

"That's just it, she isn't dealing with it!"

"Doctor," Spock broke in quietly. Why McCoy had chosen this moment to speak to Captain Kirk about this personal matter escaped him, but since he had, he had to defend Miss Chapel's choice. "Your penchant for trying to draw an emotional response from those around you has never ceased to amaze me, but have you considered that she is in fact, as you put it, 'dealing' with it in private? I have seen no evidence of this extreme inner turmoil. Of late, she has seemed somewhat subdued, which is understandable given the circumstances, but it appears to me she is far from the 'emotional breakdown' you mentioned moments ago."

McCoy rounded on Spock and vented all the frustration his inability to help the daughter of his heart had created. "No, Spock," he spat scathingly. "Precisely because she's not 'dealing' with it. I see it lurking everytime I look at her. As soon as she knows I'm watching, Poof, it's gone. She's suppressing it!"

Looking at the two men he was admittedly ranting at, one face compassionate but without answers, the other bland, he threw up his hands in temporary defeat.

"Bones. There's nothing you can do for her until she asks for help," Jim Kirk consoled. "If nothing else, just make sure you're available when that time comes."

McCoy's shoulders slumped. "I'm beginning to think that won't happen until it's too late," he whispered as he turned to leave.

Half way across the room he muttered something that Kirk couldn't make out. Evidently Spock had because he immediately stood.

"Pardon me, Doctor. Would you care to elaborate on that?"

McCoy paused as if considering it. "No Mr. Spock I would not." Kirk watched as McCoy all but ran from the room, and Spock frowned. He had to do a double take. Yes, he'd actually frowned. Not that most people would have been able to distinguish it. It was a 'not frown' of a type with his 'not smile'.

* * *

McCoy charged down the corridor, lost inside his own memories of the time his father had died, and all his skills as a physician had not been enough to save him. Of how he'd not dealt with his pain either, when he suddenly stopped all thought and all movement. Spock's exact words came rolling back through his mind. 'I have seen no evidence of this extreme inner turmoil...' Since when had Spock noticed much of anything about Christine Chapel? And just when had he started.

In a much lighter mood, he continued on his trek back to Sickbay. This was going to be 'fascinating', to steal a phrase.

* * *

Spock silently contemplated the closed door through which McCoy had escaped after that odd and very cryptic remark.

"Spock," Kirk pulled his attention. "Just what did he say?"

Spock turned slowly, thoughtfully to face his friend and captain. "It was of a personal nature, Captain." He hesitated briefly, ill at ease with the nature of this continuing discussion. "As I am uncertain whether Dr. McCoy's comment was inadvertent or purposeful, I do not think it appropriate to share it."

"Must have been some comment," Kirk hrumphed. He wondered what Bones could possibly have said to ... agitate ... Spock so. Usually McCoy's acerbic rejoinders more or less bounced off him. An old game between them that backfired on the human as often as not. Narrowing his eyes, he took in the little nuances of Spock's still thoughtful expression, and wondered ... wondered, hell! ... the curiosity was eating him alive about what, apparently accidental, quip of the good doctor's could possibly have hit so close to home.

"Captain, if you will excuse me," Spock requested, though it was more a statement than a true question.

"Of course, Spock," Kirk instantly replied. "Are we still on for our game tonight?"

Spock focused on him momentarily. "I am uncertain whether I will be available."

"Okay," Kirk allowed. "Just let me know if you decide you want to."

"Very well, Captain," Spock responded and turned, following the same path taken by Dr. McCoy, albeit at a more sedate pace.

Captain Kirk continued watching until Spock absently disappeared from view. Absently? Spock? Now that was a first!

Alright, Kirk thought, I'm going to get to the bottom of this. He stood and picked up his half-eaten meal. It was going to go to waste, as he suddenly wasn't very hungry. That's when he noticed that Spock had forgotten his meal entirely. His half-eaten pasta sat abandoned, undeniable proof of the Vulcan's distraction.

Kirk shot a startled glance back at the closed door. What in the...? He couldn't remember a single time he had left his place setting behind for someone else to clean up. The man was fastidious in his neatness. Quickly picking up both plates, he shoved them hurriedly into the recycler before nearly racing down to Sickbay.

That's where Bones would be. He always retreated to his office when he needed to think.

* * *

"Bones!" Kirk roared, when he crossed the threshold into the doctor's private sanctum. It surprised him when McCoy jumped and turned to look at him, guilt and anguish etched in his eyes. Shock taking his breath away, he stepped further into the room, and long moments later whispered. "What did you say to him?"

McCoy turned away from him. "Something I shouldn't have."

"Bones."

"Jim, please," he begged.

"I..."

"I crossed the line." McCoy hissed. "Let's just leave it at that."

Kirk blew out a frustrated breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Now three of his crew, all of whom he cared about, were troubled, and it seemed he couldn't help any of them. An ache filled him and weighed down his steps as he slowly turned, and left the doctor to his private recriminations.

* * *

Spock found his way back to his quarters by rote, his thoughts completely turned inward. One phrase kept repeating itself over and over again. He brought all of his logic and Vulcan control into the internal battle to stop the words from replaying. It was not enough. The fact that the statement uttered with such sincere hopelessness didn't make any sense to him was part of the problem.

How could all his logic resolve that which was not logical? Upon reaching his quarters his first action was to light the Vulcan meditation incense. Still struggling to silence McCoy's words, McCoy's voice, he deftly changed out of his uniform and into the robes of his homeworld. Projecting an air of calm serenity he had yet to attain, Spock sat quietly, bending his limbs into the normal forms for his meditation. Thus situated, he steepled his fingers in front of him and began the techniques that would send him deeply inside himself to sort through this unexpected upheaval.

A few breaths later and the outside world faded to a bare flicker upon his conscious. McCoy's words drummed louder now that other distractions were put away from him. Now, instead of attempting to ignore them, he focused on them. What did they truly mean? Could they possibly be true?

Despite their many arguments and the doctor's irascible, often caustic, nature, Spock knew him to be an incredibly perceptive man. Over the years Spock had been victim to that knowing, several times, to his unwilling dismay. So in spite of the fact that he, himself could not yet understand how it was possible, he could not simply pass off McCoy's accusation as 'human emotionalism'.

Almost in defiance of his logic that said otherwise and the words still taunted him in his mind, Spock irrationally, and, yes, desperately, wanted to deny any such possibility. If those words were true, it would lead Spock down a path he wasn't sure he would survive. He never had been. That was why, for so many years... Spock ruthlessly squelched that line of thought, but those words were not nearly as cooperative.

...and it's all your fault ... it's all your fault ... all your fault ... your fault ... your fault. The words twisted inside him like a knife set to splice open his rib cage, giving him no rest, no peace, no solace.

"Why?" Spock unknowingly spoke aloud. "How could it be?" Reaching further inside himself, Spock sought peace and calm. It didn't come. The turmoil within him would not allow him to reach a full meditative state.

Finally after two hours of trying and failing to achieve that illusive state, he allowed his hands to drop into his lap. There was only one thing he could do.

Decision made, he quickly change back into his uniform and strode out into the corridor before he could change his mind. It needed done and that was that.

* * *

Spock got half-way to the turbo-lift, when he realized he didn't know where she would be. He did know she was not on duty, so probably wouldn't be in Sickbay. He abruptly changed directions and headed to her quarters. If she wasn't there, it would have to wait. He wasn't about to use the very public intercom to page her.

About 10 paces from her door, he still wasn't sure if the greater part of him wanted her to be home or not. He still wasn't even sure exactly what he was going to say. That was a new experience for him and he wasn't comfortable with it.

Nothing resolved, he reached out to activate the door bell ... and the door opened. "Sorry, Mr. Spock," Christine Chapel said as she ducked under his outstretched arm. "I don't have time to talk now. I'm needed."

Spock opened his mouth to speak, but Christine was already 10 ft down the corridor and rapidly increasing the distance. His mouth snapped shut and his brow rose. That certainly hadn't been what he had expected from their encounter. She had rounded the corner before he thought to follow her. As he did so, it occurred to him that she hadn't been surprised to see him. Fascinating, he thought and began to review all the times they'd run across each other and came to the startling conclusion that they'd never done so 'accidently'. They'd only been in the same room when required by duty, or when they'd both attended the same function.

Spock's mind automatically figured the odds against that happening on a ship this size and found to his momentary astonishment that they were astronomical. Now he was left with another mystery to solve.

Then the yellow alert sounded and he needed to put aside a nearly overpowering urge to research Christine's history very closely. A never before used epitaph ran through his mind, followed quickly by an appropriate human expression. 'When it rains it pours'. Not allowing any of the fleeting sense of consternation to show, or fully surface for that matter, he locked off all but logic and duty, and headed for the nearest turbolift.

He reached it just as it opened for Miss Chapel and he quickly slipped in after her. She granted him the quickest of glances before grabbing hold of the lift control.

"Bridge," she said, staring straight ahead.

He almost frowned, immediately connecting her 'being needed', on the bridge of all places, and the yellow alert. "What do you know of our current situation?"

"I..." She paused and looked at him fully, for the first time. "I don't know anything except that something is wrong."

That was unusual. In most cases, the medical staff had at least some information about why they'd been called. Spock, however didn't mention that. It would be illogical to state the obvious. He returned his gaze forward, more confused and curious than ever about the suddenly mysterious human called Christine Chapel.

* * *

"This is Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation Starship Enterprise. Do you require assistance?"

<<Yes! -===--cert-++--==do.>> Came the immediate but static filled response. <<Permi+_-=-__=board+=--+-ship.>>

Hoping he'd heard the being right, Kirk responded immediately. That ship wouldn't last long. "Granted. We can..."

Kirk stopped, as suddenly before him was, he could only assume, the person to whom he'd just been speaking. Self-same person collapsed just as he was about to continue. He automatically reached out and grabbed him before he hit the deck.

"Medical tea..."

The turbolift doors swished open and out stepped Dr. Chapel. She looked quickly around the Bridge and landed on the stranger being laid on the deck by Captain Kirk. She immediately joined them, pulling the medical kit she'd brought from her quarters off her shoulder as she knelt down.

The stranger looked up at her, smiling suddenly. The smile was followed by a grimace of pain.

She smiled down at him, but continued scanning him, trying to figure out what was wrong. Nothing the scanner read back to her made any sense. As far as she could tell, he was in extreme pain. Her own senses, as well as the med-scanner, told her that much. However she could find absolutely no cause for it. Frowning, she ran another test. The bridge crew waited in silent anticipation.

"McCoy to Kirk."

Captain Kirk reached out and pressed the com switch on his chair. "Kirk here."

"Did I hear you start to call for a medical team?" McCoy grouched.

"Yes. Bones. Dr. Chapel arrived. Looks like we'll need a stretcher."

"On my way."

Kirk turned his attention back to Dr. Chapel's activities. She was obviously not happy with what her med-scanner was telling her.

She leaned down. "I'm sorry," she whispered.

"Can't you do anything for him?" Kirk demanded.

She gasped at his tone and looked up quickly. "No, sir," she replied stiffly. "I can't even ease his pain. Everything we have on board would kill him." A single tear escaped her control and made its way silently down her cheek. Looking back down at the being trusting her to help him, she knew he was dying and knew there was nothing she could do but watch. Again.

"I'm so sorry. I can't help you. Anything I could give you wouldn't help."

He managed a wan smile. "That's...al..right." He gasped as another surge of pain hit him. "At least ... I got ... to ... meet ... a .. .blue-eyed..."

"What?" Christine leaned closer, desperate to at least hear his final words. It was the least she could do for him.

"In ... my ... hand."

Christine looked at his hand. It was clenched tightly shut. Looking back to his face, she whispered. "What about your hand?"

"Take ... it."

Confused, she looked back to his fist, only to see it curl open and reveal a pendant. She quickly looked back up at him ready to deny his gift.

"It's ... yours. Sent ... to give ... you."

Christine reached down and reverently pulled the golden cup-shaped necklace from his palm and in the shocked silence that followed, he gasped one last time, shuddered, and closed his eyes.

Slipping the necklace over her wrist, Christine activated her scanner once again, as his vital signs slowed markedly then ceased altogether.

Then he faded from sight as a shocked speechless Dr. McCoy stormed on to the bridge.

Christine Chapel gasped in both astonishment and anguish. Yet another life she could do nothing for. The air on the bridge became stifling. She couldn't breath. The weight of all their gazes pushed her down, suffocating her. She had to get away, she had to run. But she couldn't move from that spot. Her trembling hand reached out and touch air, touched air where once was a living breathing sentient being, she could do nothing to help.

She had to sit helplessly by and watch the light of his life until only darkness remained, then nothing. Nothing was left at all. But that wasn't true, was it? The cold metal fluttered against the bare skin of her arm, swinging back and forth in a subtle counterpoint to her trembling. She looked down. She saw it, without seeing.

"What happened?" McCoy's voice harsh and loud in the unnatural silence. The normal sounds of the Bridge equipment slowly filtered back into Christine's consciousness and she lifted startled eyes from the ornate jewelry to McCoy's confused features.

Christine's own crushing guilt missed the sympathy in her mentor's eyes, missed the concern for her well-being, she saw only condemnation for doing nothing. She felt the tears long before they surfaced and an unreasoning panic filled her. Oh God. She was going to lose it! That certainty beat at her and gave her the strength to rise off the deck and take two steps toward McCoy.

She faltered, saw McCoy reach out to steady her. Knew deep down that if he actually touched her, she truly would be lost. She longed to allow him to hold her like her mother used to. She longed to cry until she was no longer capable of it. But she couldn't. Not here, not now. She longed ... she longed ... for what? Something was missing. Something she hadn't quite realized before. Something buried deeply inside her, hidden long ago. NO! her mind shouted at her.

She looked beseechingly at Dr. McCoy. "Excuse me," she whispered and all but ran from the bridge into the sanctuary of the waiting lift.

* * *

The emotional tension cascaded throughout the Bridge, making each breath agony. Even he, a touch telepath could feel its nearly palpable presence, without being in contact with anyone. It threatened him in some undefinable way he couldn't hope to understand. He drew a ragged breath and watched as everyone on the bridge did the same.

At some level fascinated by that rare event and at the fact that time seemed to have nearly stopped, it was at once intriguing and disconcerting. He was not in control, but at the same time felt like he was on the edge of some incredible epiphany.

"Permission to leave the Bridge," Spock managed through a throat suddenly gone dry.

Captain Kirk looked up startled by the request that was more than a request. He nodded to Spock's back, not yet willing to trust his own voice.

That garnered a soft chuckle as the lift doors closed behind the two officers. As suddenly as it had sprung up, the tension was gone. One laugh. That had been all that was needed. Now small sighs of relief and a couple of nervous giggles, covered quickly by discreet coughs spread across the Bridge like a rampant out of control fire.

"What the hell was that?" McCoy croaked.

Kirk laughed another small humorless laugh. Leave it to his CMO to ask the question they all wanted to, but were afraid to ask. "Got me, Bones." Kirk paused, his eyes taking in everyone around him. "But whatever it was, it was..." He trailed off, unable to find the words to effectively describe what had just happened.

Yes, sitting idly by, watching someone die was horrific, but it wasn't the first time he'd had to endure that. It wasn't the first time for any of them. What had happened went beyond that. It went way beyond that.

Finally he gave up trying to describe it, gave up trying to even understand it. Some things transcended human understanding and he'd come to the inescapable conclusion that this just happened to be one of them.

McCoy watched him work through a variety of emotions then settle into acceptance. A weary smile graced his lips in acknowledgment. "Yeah," was all he said.

Then everyone on the Bridge returned to their stations. Everything seemingly back to normal.

* * *

Christine heard Spock's words coming from somewhere very far away, but their meaning did not penetrate until after the lift doors closed and she found herself alone with him. Panic again threatened to overwhelm her, as hers flickered of their own accord to the one other person present. Then suddenly, easily it receded, leaving a deadened calm in its place.

* * *

Spock watched her closely as the doors closed behind him, the anguish so plain on her face that he almost felt it himself. Only his years of control kept a gasp from passing his lips.

Her eyelids flickered towards him. She knew he was there. Then in the blink of an eye her expression smoothed, not a trace of her earlier crushing agony could be seen or felt. No trace of any emotion remained. And that more than anything shook the Vulcan to the very core of his being.

He was right. She was suppressing her grief. And if he was right about that...

"Doctor.." Spock began.

Instantly her face was alight with anger. "DON"T call me that!"

Brow raised, he involuntarily took a half step back. Anger was something he hadn't expected. "Why? You earned the title," he questioned.

"It doesn't matter, Spock."

So, they were back to suppression again.

"D...Christine."


Her clear blue eyes met his blandly.

He couldn't believe he, of all people, was going to say this. "For you to suppress your grief is not logical."

Startlement.

Silence. Waiting. He was used to waiting.

"Why not, Spock? You do it."

He sucked in much needed air. So, he was right about that too. Just what else did the good doctor know? "As a Vulcan, it is necessary for me to do so. As a human it is harmful for you to do so."

Her eyes narrowed. "You think so?"

"I know so."

Now Christine took a step forward. "You are trapped by your own logic."

A brief flutter of concern deep inside him tightened his lips before he could suppress it. "I do not understand."

"Don't you?"

A moment of hesitation, then she sighed. "Forget it, Spock."

"I can not, Christine." Spock took an unwilling step forward. "It has become ... painfully ... obvious to me that, somehow, I am responsible for the fact you have not dealt with the death of your mother."

"Don't be ridiculous, Spock," she responded flippantly, but Spock saw the beginning of real fear in her face. He pushed a little more, suddenly, illogically, grateful to Dr. McCoy for all his ill-veiled barbs over the years.

He stepped forward once more, backing her into the corner.

Oh, no! Christine thought desperately. Why hadn't the lift reached their destination yet? She had to get out of here. Didn't he realize what he was doing to her?

He saw it and almost backed off. How can I do this to another living being? To her?

Because you have to, responded another part of him. Christine reached out to grab the lift control, but Spock was quicker. He grabbed her wrist, pulling it away from her only avenue of escape. Relaxing his grip, he pulled her hand toward him and held it against his chest. He reached out with his other hand and gently cupped her chin.

Startled, striking, clear blue eyes met his once again. No, they pleaded.

"You must let go, Christine," he whispered gently. "You need to feel your grief."

"I ... can't... Please!" she pleaded. Then staring into those dark bottomless eyes, meeting her gaze fearlessly, eyes that held not one hint of being uncomfortable with the storm he had to know was raging inside her, that in fact he was trying to provoke, she could no longer hold back. Tears one by one began slowly making their way down her cheeks.

Okay, she'd started. Now what did he do? He almost smiled as he heard the words McCoy would say if given the opportunity. He released her chin and pulled her to him. She allowed it and he held her as he vaguely remembered his mother had held him, once or twice when he was very little, very young.

He held her as the storm inside burst out and she sobbed helplessly. He accepted her grief, let it pass through him. He was shocked at its intensity. Never, in all his days, had he known such all encompassing raw grief was possible. Even more, it astounded him that this seemingly fragile woman had managed to hide all of it inside. It spoke to him of layers upon layers beneath the surface of the usually cheerful person.

Eventually her sobbing stopped, the tears slowed. She wasn't over losing her mother, her lifeline, not by a long shot, but she was finally on the road to healing. And something else, something older, something barricaded and buried, healed and grew strong. It was something she hadn't realized was broken. She hadn't even known it existed. She couldn't have.

A strange sense of calm and peace flowed through her.

Spock tensed.

She blinked suddenly and pulled away from him.

"What did you just do?" she whispered softly. Terrified of breaking her own sense of peace, a deep and abiding sense of peace she had never felt before.

Spock could not answer at first. He had no answer for what had just happened. It was completely outside his realm of experience. "I do not know what happened, Christine. I only know that I was not the source." He hesitated, fighting against a swift and powerful feeling of wonder, couple with a touch of fear. "You were."

In the aftermath of that rather startling sensation following Christine's release, Spock found he had to retreat back, to control. He had prepared himself for an emotional storm from her and had accepted it, far more easily than he had thought possible when it came, but the sudden sense of peace that had followed immediately after, had felt ... there was no other word for it. It felt wonderful and if he were truly honest with himself, it hadn't all been emanating from her. And as much as he disliked admitting to any emotion, it scared him too. Struggling to regain his customary dignity, he realized that it could all to easily draw him in and consume him utterly.

Breathing a little faster than was normal, it took all of his control to not demand answers she obviously didn't have, and to simply activate the turbolift and subsequently follow her down the corridor as he escorted her back to her quarters.

He paused with her as her door opened. "Are you going to be alright, for now?" As much as his Vulcan sensibilities were screaming at him to run, and the scientist in him was itching to begin a thorough investigation of her background, he would stay if she needed him to. She was a friend that he had unknowingly allowed to damage her own psyche, because she was too busy making sure his remained untouched.

Christine smiled tremulously. "I'll be alright, Spock. I'm not as fragile as I may seem right now."

"Indeed," Spock replied. "After today, if I were asked to describe you using only one adjective, fragile would be as far from the word I would use as is grammatically possible." He turned to leave and hesitated. "In fact, I do not know how you managed to contain that....that..."

"Hysteria?" Christine supplied.

Spock allowed the briefest of smiles. "No. I disagree with that assessment, but however it is described, I am ... impressed. I do not think I could have done so." With that admission he strode off, leaving a gaping Christine behind. She couldn't have heard him right.

Impressed? Spock impressed with her? It boggled the mind. And on that note, she all but crawled into her quarters. Less than five minutes after her head hit the pillow, she was sound asleep. For the first time in forever, it was deep and restful sleep. Spock on the other hand was just beginning down the road of new revelations and self discovery.

* * *

Two hours later, still sitting in front of the computer screen in his quarters, Spock had discovered little he didn't already know. Nothing in her service record, except minor inconsequentials, was new to him, so he gleaned little information there. While he gained some knowledge by moving on to her parents' bios, nothing that helped explain what happened in the Turbolift.

He had known for some time that her parents were high caliber scientists that specialized in desert ecosystems and had taken their only child with them to every posting. Christine herself had told him that, during one of their few conversations. He knew also of their relative renown. Their research had led to several significant discoveries leading to easier colonization of Worlds with very little water. The savings, directly related to their research, in straight material cost and time was phenomenal.

He hadn't known that as a child she had traveled with them to Vulcan. What fascinated him most was that, although most children of Federation citizens stationed or living on Vulcan for whatever reason, usually attended the Federation supported school, Christine had been one of the few exceptions. She had in fact, attended the same private primary school he had. His last year there.

Of course since she had been 5 years younger than him, they wouldn't have met. Despite that logic, something tickled at the edge of his memory. Completely unused to not being able to recall any memory instantly to mind, Spock sat back and delved into childhood memories he would ordinarily avoid.

It came to him moments later. No? A small half smile formed at a rather incredible memory. A tiny human child rushing into the fray to protect a Vulcan boy being taunted by full-blooded Vulcan boys.

While the others had backed off at that time, the little girl's interference hadn't helped in the long run, it had actually had the reverse affect. Spock remembered feeling shock, honor, and fear all rolled into one, when that tiny, fragile, human girl child had stepped between them, demanding in a very hauty tone that if they didn't leave him alone she would make them regret it.

That young Vulcan-Human child hadn't blamed her, however. For a long time afterward, Spock had admired the combination of courage and tenacity that had prompted her to defend someone at great risk to herself. What had that girl said her name was? It couldn't have been her, could it? Ah! There it was, crystal clear the short conversation played in his mind as if it had been yesterday.

"Are you okay?" she asked, holding out her hand to help him up. She pulled it back suddenly and it flew to her mouth. She giggled. "I forgot. You don't like touching, do you?"

Young Spock lifted himself up slowly, straightening in the most dignified manner he could manage. His father was an ambassador, he wouldn't embarrass him in front of a human.

"That is correct," he responded in his best Standard.

"Okay, well, how does that hello go?" Christine held up her hand in a close approximation to the Vulcan salute.

Young Spock's mouth twitched every so slightly. He wanted to laugh. Instead, he held up his own hand in the traditional salute. "Live long and prosper."

"Oh, yes," she said smiling, then her face lost its smile and she adopted a serious expression long enough to respond. "Peace and long life." Then she giggled again.

Young Spock nearly groaned, stopping himself in time, but couldn't help a small rolling of his eyes. Did all human children giggle this much?

"Everybody calls me Chris. What's your name?"

"I am called Spock." Looking at her a moment, searching his short memory. "Isn't that a boy's name?" he asked innocently.

"No! It's not!" She'd stamped her foot. "It is a wonderful girl's name. It just happens to be short for Christine." Turning quickly she'd stomped off, leaving a young Spock wondering what he'd said to offend her. He didn't think he would ever understand his mother's people.

Having managed to recall that semi-pleasant if somewhat embarrassing, childhood memory, he told himself he would have to share it with her. He wondered if she remembered it at all, and for some reason was vaguely ill at ease with the thought that she probably didn't.

Spock dove back into his research with the single minded focus for which he was well known. There had to be something to account for that... He stopped reading. What had it been anyway? He had no description for it. He analyzed and catalogued the sensations and came to the inescapable conclusion that it most resembled the after affects of a mind meld. A strange flutter in the pit of his stomach during that thought made itself known, before he suppressed it too quickly to truly identify.

There was only one person he'd mild melded with often enough for a lingering resonance to develop and that was Captain Kirk. Now, whenever duty required them to meld, a slight awareness of the other often remained for many hours afterward. Fascinating, he thought. What could the two have in common?

Since he'd already ascertained that he was not the source of the unique experience, he easily put aside the fact that he'd never mind melded with her. He would have been able to recognize that in all its forms in any case. The flutter returned, causing a brow to raise. It was suppressed a second time.

He reviewed the entire experience in the lift. When he had held her and she had released her grief, he had fully expected to share it. It had been inevitable given the physical contact between them. Looking back on it though, he realized he should have seen earlier that something had been different.

Even as a touch telepath, he was actually only a mild conduit, unless he used the psi points. So the experiencing so completely of her emotional storm, should have... No use telling himself what he should have known, Spock thought. Still trying to fully process the experience, he tried to sort out what little he did understand. It was similar enough to indicate some type of mind touch and that still had him completely confused. It was far less precise than a mind meld. It was more ... intangible. Refusing to sigh, he finally put aside what he could not define, and went back to the discovery of how.

"Computer access biographical records of James and Cassandra Owens."

"Accessing."

The new set of records spread over the monitor and the images of a man and woman topped the first page. Even three generations back, there was still a strong familial resemblance between the woman on the screen and Christine Chapel. It was immediately noticeable.

There was something indefinably different in the woman's face however he couldn't place exactly what. Scanning the text, one word caught his attention. His glance flicked back up to the image of the woman. It was the eyes, the eyes were different.

Reading further, a tale unknown to him, unfolded before his eyes. A highly romanticized account of a foolish child, Spock thought. But it could possibly explain a great deal.

"Computer, open a comm link to..." The door chime sounded.

* * *

Christine left Sickbay in a lighter frame of mind. Leonard had been grumbling to himself when she'd walked in and she'd actually been able to laugh.

"What's so funny?" McCoy turned, then realized who'd laughed. "Well, well." He drawled. "You seem in a good mood."

She stepped forward and pulled him into a tight bear hug. "I am, Leonard. I am." She released him. "Thank you for caring so much."

"It's nothin'," McCoy mumbled and turned back to work.

She smiled. Leonard tried to hide it behind a gruff exterior, but he truly cared about those around him and he couldn't hide it from her. "Don't ever change."

"What?" He turned toward her, startled.

"I said, if you ever changed I think I just might have a heart attack."

He mock frowned at her. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing at all, Leonard. Nothing at all." She laughed again. Was that really her? Just earlier today she'd felt like her world was falling apart at the seams and now she was really laughing. That couldn't be just because she'd cried in Spock's arms. She'd have to ask her mot.... Unprepared for the sudden burst of grief, she gasped.

McCoy shot over to her. "Hey, you okay?"

She raised wet eyes to McCoy's. "Yeah. Believe it or not I am."

He narrowed his eyes suspiciously at her.

She managed a weak smile. "I just thought of something to ask my mom."

McCoy nodded and this time he pulled her into a tight hug. "Been there. Just don't shut us all out this time. Okay?"

"I promise," she responded softly, pulling away from him. "Mr. Spock kinda forced me to see what I was doing." An embarrassed flush spread over her cheeks as she changed the subject. "So, what's new here?"

McCoy opened his mouth for a classic comeback, then snapped it shut. He wasn't going to do that again. He had to watch his tongue, just for a while. "Nothin' here. In fact. I want you to take the day off." He grinned. "That's what that green-blooded..."

Christine's mock glared would have melted ice.

McCoy coughed. "Yeah, well. He's closeted himself in his room all afternoon."

It teetered on her lips to confide in McCoy exactly what had happened, but at the last second, decided it might not be such a good idea until she knew what had happened. She had a sneaking suspicion that's what Spock was doing. Well, if so, she was going to help.

She didn't have a doctorate in research for nothing. If there was anything she was good at, it was digging up information. "Thanks," she smiled innocently. "I think I'll take you up on your offer." Turning to leave, she waved.

"You're not going back to your quarters, are you?" McCoy demanded.

"No, actually, I thought I'd help a friend with some light research."

"Oh, okay, I guess. As long as you don't work too hard."

"Oh, I won't," she promised on her way through the doors, waiting for the doors to close behind her before continuing sotto voce, "I have the feeling this research could be interesting."

Before long she found herself outside Spock's quarters, a place she hadn't visited in several years. Reaching out she palmed the entry chime.

* * *

"Come in." Christine, his mind supplied. Now why would he think that? She hadn't stopped by his quarters since... Well he didn't particularly want to think about that time in his life.

Then Christine stepped into view and his brow raised as the only sign of his shock. Which shock was greater, he would have been hard pressed to say; the fact that she was here at all, or that he'd known it was her.

"Hello, Mr. Spock." She smiled. "I heard, in a roundabout way, that you've spent all afternoon researching." She dared a step toward his computer. "Are you trying to find what I think you're trying to find?"

Spock stood. "That would be difficult to say, as I do not know what you are thinking."

She laughed.

The brow went up again.

"Sorry, just that some things never change." She stopped laughing by dint of biting the inside of her lower lip.

"I have told no one I am doing research," Spock protested.

"Well, it wasn't said that way. I stopped by Sickbay. Dr. McCoy said you hadn't come out all day." She hesitated. "Having information he lacked, I figured out the rest."

"Indeed," Spock mused. Then an unpleasant thought reared its head. "Did you..."

"Tell him?" She shook her head. "No. It didn't seem appropriate."

He nodded once and almost thanked her. Almost. Instead he sat back down in front of the computer screen and offered her the only other chair.

She sat. "So, is that what you're trying to find answers to?"

"Yes." He swivelled his chair to face her. "Have you heard of a race called Betazoids?"

She leaned forward. "Of course. They joined the Federation about 2 years ago. They are telepathic, aren't they?"

"Yes," he replied, stifling the instinct to correct her 2 years to the more precise 1.87 years he had already figured. "There has been contact between them and the Federation for quite a bit longer."

"Yes." She smiled. "I can remember my grandfather talking about them. They fascinated him. He used to make up some pretty tall tales to tell me as bedtime stories."

"Indeed." Spock straightened in his seat. "Do you remember any story in particular?"

"Yes, actually." Why would Spock be interested in fairy tales told to her by her grandfather?

"Would you mind telling it to me?"

Her mouth fell open. Spock was asking her to tell him an old fairy tale?

Spock understood her shock, so ignored it. "Please," he insisted.

"Very well." She drew a deep breath and started the story that had been her favorite one throughout her childhood. She remembered asking her Grandfather to tell it to her at least once, everytime they visited him.

"I feel I should warn you, it doesn't read like a complete account of anything," Christine winced. She couldn't believe she was considering this. "It's just something he made up to get a very stubborn little girl to stay in bed."

"I will keep that in mind, Miss Chapel," he nodded. "Please begin."

* * *

"Once very long ago, a princess of the highest rank was unhappy with her life. She wanted more than the surface glitter of high Betazoid Society. Like all young girls, she dreamed of meeting her Imzadi, the other half of her soul. She despaired of this ever happening for her, because her parents had already arranged her marriage with a Prince of another house.

"Just two weeks before the day she would be tied to him forever, a stranger came to town. Their eyes met across the gate to her home. In that instant she knew, she could never marry the prince. For she had just met the other half of herself.

"It took her parents 3 days to find them after they had run off together. When it was discovered that he was an offworlder, he was not imprisoned for his trespass, but was banished forever from the side of the woman he loved more than life itself.

"The young princess protested mightily. How could they send her Imzadi away from her? But it was to no avail. They told her it was her destiny to unite the two houses. It had been foreseen.

"The night before she was to be wed, she heard a tapping at her window. Afraid of what she would find, she still went to see what could be out there. To her surprise and her delight, her Imzadi waited there.

" 'Hurry,' he said to her. 'If you will let me, I can take you far away from here. I can take you somewhere where we will never be separated again.' He looked at her through love filled eyes and she could deny him nothing.

"'Yes, my Imzadi,' she whispered back to him. 'I will follow you to the end and beyond.' With that vow of love and devotion, she climbed out her window into her waiting arms, leaving behind everything she'd ever known.

"Together they flew off into space and she and the human she'd fallen in love with lived happily ever after." Christine finished in a rush, a fierce blush staining her cheeks at having shared such a silly and hopelessly romantic story with Spock, of all people. "I told you it was silly story."

"Well," Spock clarified. "A ridiculously romanticized version certainly, but I am of the opinion that the base story is quite real."

"What!?" Christine jumped up. "It's just a silly tale my grandfather used to tell me. Besides, what has that got to do with your research?"

Spock didn't answer immediately. Rather he turned the computer screen, so that Christine could read the account for herself. "Read this."

Intrigued, despite her scepticism, she leaned forward reading quickly. There, unfolding before her eyes, in a very dry factual account, was the true version of the story her grandfather had told her so many times. Not only was it true, but the woman he'd woven the story about was her great-grandmother.

Appended at the bottom of the article was a statement that this incident alone had delayed Betazed's entry into the Federation by at least 50 years. The blatant disregard for their customs by a Federation member had been viewed by those ruling Betazed at that time with great distrust, causing a rift that took a lot of time to heal.

Christine slowly raised wide eyes to face Spock. "I never knew. I thought it was just a story."

"I figured as much," Spock replied. "This article makes no mention of the word you used in your story. Imzadi. What does it mean?"

"I don't know." She shrugged. "As a child I assumed it was an endearment. Perhaps it's origin is from the Betazoid language. Computer, access Betazoid cultural and language database."

"Accessing. Ready."

"Translate word Imzadi," Christine requested.

"Literal translation is beloved. It is used to refer to a unique relationship between two individuals, with many hidden layers of meaning."

"Exactly what kind of unique relationship?" Spock interjected.

"Exact relationship is unknown."

"What is known?" Christine asked, exasperated.

"The term is steeped in Betazoid tradition and rituals and is considered very rare. When a person of Betazoid heritage finds their Imzadi, they are highly honored."

"Well, that didn't help much."

"You are incorrect," Spock contradicted her.

She just looked at him, her scepticism plain.

"We learned that you are not fully human."

Christine laughed, outright. "Spock. My great-grandmother may have been Betazoid, but if any of that had actually been passed down to me, don't you think it would have shown up in my medical exams?"

Spock pulled back in response to her laughter. "That would depend a great deal on which theoretical characteristics you inherited."

For the second time in as many minutes, Christine's eyes widened in disbelief. "You're serious!"

"Always." Spock hesitated before continuing. "Perhaps we should enlist Dr. McCoy's help in ascertaining the possibility that you might have inherited some type of esper ability from your great grandmother."

Christine stood immediately. "Definitely not!" she burst out. Then calmed "I would never hear the end of that.

Spock fully appreciated her dilemma.

"I'll do the tests myself."

"An acceptable suggestion. You will allow me to help?"

"Yes."

"Shall we?" Spock indicated she should go first.

"No."

"What?" Spock queried.

"I said no."

"Why?"

"Because neither of us has eaten in some time. Dinner first."

* * *

Spock stopped when Christine took her tray and headed for the door instead of a table. He had assumed she would eat here. "Where are you going?"

Christine half turned around. "To the lab."

"I thought you wanted to eat first."

"Actually I just wanted to get the food first." She hesitated then turned the rest of the way around to face him. "In a couple of hours, you've discovered something about my heritage that I haven't known for an entire lifetime." She wanted to tell him she couldn't wait another minute to find out if anything other than human had been handed down to her. She wanted to tell him that the prospect excited and frightened her at the same time. She wanted to tell him she couldn't believe her family had never once even hinted that her great grandmother was a Betazoid. She didn't. "I see no reason to delay finding out the truth. After all, we still need to find out what to look for, before we can begin looking." With that she turned around and walked toward the door.

"Logical," Spock responded, following behind.

Christine's heart swelled, glad she hadn't given in to her emotional outburst. He had called her reasoning logical. Now that was a complement.

Twenty minutes later found them in one of the currently unused research labs, eating and comparing two different anatomy displays. One human, one Betazoid.

"Not a lot of outward difference between the two species," Christine commented.

"No, there isn't," Spock responded. "Fascinating."

"What is?"

"It says here, they don't have pupils."

Christine started. "But how do they see?"

"Unknown. At some point, that would make an interesting study."

"Yes," she murmured distractedly. "Here, it also says their eyes are also uniformly black. No deviation."

Spock turned at looked closely at her a moment. "That could be what our visitor meant when he said he'd finally met a blue eyed...?"

Christine felt a stab of pain at the mention of the person she'd been unable to do anything for, felt it, accepted it, but didn't let it grow. "Quite probable, Mr. Spock."

Spock reached out and switched the displays to internal anatomy. The next hour was pleasantly spent listing the difference of human versus Betazoid physiology.

"I believe that is everything we need, Doctor." Spock rose, hoping her earlier remorse about her perceived failures had been resolved.

"Yes," Christine responded oddly quiet. She too rose and walked over to the scanning equipment.

Spock followed, wondering suddenly just which idea she'd responded to. But that was illogical, so he ignored it.

"There!" Christine exclaimed and jumped off the bed, to move over to the display screen.

Spock, still running the scanner over her, had to stifle a jump at her sudden activity. Patiently setting down the med-scanner, he joined her at the display. "Doctor, I have not finished the scan."

"Doesn't matter." She pointed to the information already displayed. "See, right there at the base of the pons area of the brain?"

Spock peered intently at the scan of Doctor Chapel's brain. Not as intimately familiar with this type of scan as was Christine, he could not detect anything significant. However, instead of openly admitting this lack, he called up a generic scan of a human brain, and began comparing the two.

Christine waited patiently until he too saw it. It didn't take long. Seconds after he had a template to compare it to, it became glaringly obvious. "Interesting."

"Yes," Christine breathed. "It's insignificant enough, that if you aren't looking for that specific difference, you wouldn't find it."

"Indeed." Spock said, pulling up another template, this time of a Betazoid brain. "In a full Betazoid the area to which you refer, is called the Paracortex. It is the telepathic lobe. While it is present in your scan, Doctor, it is indeed small enough to be easily overlooked."

Christine bowed her head to hide her smile at the lecturing tone that had developed in Spock's voice. It often did that, when he was presented with new information he found intriguing.

"Well, that tells us the story is at least in part, correct. I do have some Betazoid heritage." Christine shrugged. "But how does that solve the other question?"

"It doesn't, quite," Spock noted. "But, it does give you the right to ask for more specific information about your own heritage."

Christine smiled brilliantly. "Of course! I'm going to send a subspace message right away."

Spock watched as she walked away. "Doctor, will you..." He hesitated, uncharacteristically reticent. He wouldn't usually ask something that so invaded someone else's privacy.

Christine took a step back in his direction. "Will I what?"

Setting himself for the rejection he knew he should get, "May I be present when you receive your answer?" His own curiosity finally greater than even his own sense of privacy. He would have been willing to go to Dr. McCoy to get this settled.

She smiled. "Of course Mr. Spock."

* * *

Christine found the best person to ask her questions of, and sent off her message. Despite her misgivings about how much personal information to reveal, she decided the quickest way to what she wanted was to be completely open about what had happened. Hoping Spock would agree with her, she not only included her background, the scans proving her heritage, but also a breveted account of her trauma, and ended with their encounter in the turbolift.

Then the waiting began. Realistically Christine knew she should not expect a response for nearly a month. They were always on the move and rarely did they find themselves within easy communication range of most Federation planets. Still the waiting got to her. Every time she returned to her quarters she irrationally hoped to find her message light blinking, and every time she was disappointed. All the while her mind a tangle of unanswered questions.

One week turned into two. Each day her sadness lessened and she was able to remember the things she loved most about her mother without completely dissolving. Precisely 16 days after she sent her message, Spock showed up in Sickbay at the end of her shift.

"Mr. Spock, is something wrong?"

"No, Doctor. Quite the contrary." Spock approached her.

"Then to what do we owe the honor of your visit?" Christine quipped.

Spock glanced over at the office. McCoy was absorbed in work. He turned his attention back to Christine.

"You're not usually a fan of Sickbay."

Her humor was not lost on Spock. "Indeed," he replied. In fact he usually avoided Sickbay if at all possible. "I came to request that you join me for dinner."

Christine's eyebrow raised in a conscious imitation of Spock. She needed time to recover from the shock of his question. "I would like that."

He nodded once. "Are you finished here?"

"Yes."

* * *

Finishing his meal, Spock looked over at Christine. "I've been thinking."

Christine couldn't stop a choked laugh. "I'm sorry, Mr. Spock," she immediately apologized. "My mind has been running in circles ever since I sent that subspace message to Betazed. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it, even when I'm trying to go to sleep." She hoped he could understand why his comment had been so funny.

Spock gazed at her for a moment. "Given that the answer may have a significant impact on your life, that is not unexpected."

"Good." Christine sighed. "So, I assume you were thinking about something in particular."

"Yes, I have been thinking about that day in the lift."

"Oh."

"It would be useless to deny that something different from what either of us expected happened, after I ... forced that confrontation."

Christine managed to prevent all but a small twitch of her lips. "Illogical even."

Spock's eyebrow shot up. She noticed he'd been doing that a lot lately and wondered if he was in as much turmoil over this, relatively speaking, as she was.

"Indeed." Spock couldn't quite believe he was going to say this. The woman sitting on the other side of the table represented just about everything he had ever run from. She represented emotionalism. He knew he was about to lose his nerve, and since that was not logical, he plunged ahead. "I would like to spend some time with you." There, he said it.

To say that she was surprised, didn't quite measure how she felt. She could see that he had done a lot of thinking (probably closer to soul searching, if she were to give her very private opinion.) She could also see he expected her to over react to his statement, but she had spent more than a decade controlling her reactions around him, without learning a thing or two. She toyed with several responses before discarding all but one.

Without even the merest smile, though her eyes twinkled with merriment, she answered him outward serenity. "I would be delighted with that, Mr. Spock..."

Spock shifted under her steady gaze. "I sense an unspoken 'but' at the end of that sentence."

"Yes, actually there is. I want you to call me Christine when we're both off duty."

"That is acceptable," Spock responded. "Christine."

Now Christine smiled. That was only the second time in their acquaintance that he had used her given name and she shivered at the sound of it on his lips. "Thank you, Spock."

And the waiting continued. This time with a twist. Spock took to meeting her in Sickbay, to take her to dinner each evening.

* * *

McCoy noticed it all, but for once kept his mouth shut. He sensed there was something very precarious going on and really didn't want to put his foot in and mess things up. But he smiled a lot. Sickbay had never seen such a consistently happy CMO.

* * *

Christine was dragging her feet by the end of her shift. Two minor skirmishes along the neutral zone with border pirates had kept Sickbay supplied with several moderate injuries and too many to count minor ones. Luckily no fatalities had occurred today. Thanks, in large part, to the Enterprise's phenomenal medical staff.

The door to Sickbay swished open and Christine turned immediately toward them. What now?

Spock stood framed in front of the doors.

Christine did a quick survey. Everything appeared as it should.

Spock noticed it with just the faintest twitch to his lips. "I am uninjured, Doctor."

"Good." Christine sighed. "Because I'm dead on my feet."

"Christine!" McCoy shouted from his office.

She moved in that direction. "Yes, Leonard?"

"I want you to go home. Put your feet up and relax."

Christine laughed. "Yes, Doctor." She peered into his office. "What about you? When are you going to relax?"

He grinned tiredly up at her. "I promise, as soon as I'm done with these reports, I'm going to pass out."

Christine tilted her head and eyed him skeptically.

He grinned. "Well, I'll probably have a couple of drinks first."

Christine's tired laughter rang out again. "Now that I just might believe. Good night, Leonard."

"Good night, Christine." He chuckled, then mumbled supposedly under his breath. "Brat."

"I'll ignore that," she retorted and walked back out to the main bay area. "I'm done here, Spock."

Spock completed his own survey as she walked passed him out of Sickbay. "Are you too tired for dinner, Christine?"

She stopped and turned to face him, thoughtful. "I am too tired for the rec room. Can we dine in my quarters tonight?" As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Christine realized how they could have been construed and hoped he realized she was not making a pass at him, that she was simply too tired to eat in a room full of people.

"That would be acceptable," he replied.

His expression gave Christine no clue to what he was thinking. There was no help for it, though she truly hoped he took it at face value. The time they'd spent together in the last week becoming friends meant a lot to her, and she didn't want him to go back to being uncomfortable around her. She sighed quietly. At least he had agreed.

Spock walked quietly beside her. Seeing the dark circles under her eyes, the extra paleness to her skin and her unsteady slowing pace, he almost reached out to support her. She had obviously not been getting enough sleep. Noting that the last three weeks hadn't been easy for him, he suspected they had been much worse on Christine, especially today.

As first officer, he had read today's casualty reports and although only one of the injuries had come even close to being life threatening, the sheer number of them would have kept all three doctors very busy, as well as the rest of the Med staff. He wondered if she'd even had time to eat lunch.

He briefly thought about backing out of dinner. Christine needed rest, not company. Then rejected the idea when he realized that she probably wouldn't eat at all tonight if he left her alone. She would undoubtedly go straight to bed.

As tired as she was, it still didn't take long for them to reach her quarters. She was, however, dragging her feet by the time they got there. Even that short trip had taken much of her remaining energy. She stepped through the door when it opened automatically at her approach. Turning, she looked up at Spock. She couldn't decipher the look in his eyes, she only knew she'd never seen it there before.

"Is something wrong, Spock?"

"No. You go relax. I will procure our repast." He started to leave, not sure if he should choose, or ask what she wanted. "Do you trust me?" He watched the corners of her lips twitch up, and wondered what was funny about dinner.

"Implicitly," she replied.

"Good." Spock turned abruptly and left. He definitely did not want to analyze the odd shiver caused by her response.

* * *

Christine reached up and rubbed her tired aching neck muscles, but never took her eyes off the door Spock had just exited. Was it her imagination, or was he actually seeing her, the person? A tiny spark of hope flickered to life despite her best intentions. Would he finally stop running from her in blind panic? She had to laugh at that thought. No doubt he would deny her assessment with every fiber of his being. Undoubtedly he would not admit to fear of any kind, in regard to her or any other facet of his life.

Then she sighed and worried her lip. Nervous about the direction her thoughts were going, she couldn't help but wonder if she was only projecting what she wanted to see. It wasn't exactly a difficult thing to do. Even so, that little bit of hope refused to be denied. What was she going to do? She couldn't exactly ask him.

Well, she supposed, she would just have to follow his lead. That way, if she was wrong, nobody got embarrassed. If she was right, she wouldn't mess it up by scaring him off. That bit of round-about reasoning done, she finally relaxed. What will be will be, she thought, paraphrasing one of her mother's favorite songs. Sitting, she reached down to remove her boots, wondering once again why the powers that be decided high heels would be a sensible thing for those peons who had to stand all day.

It was then she noticed the orange flashing light on her computer console. She gasped. A trembling that started in her hands and swiftly spread to the rest of her, refused all her attempts to stop it. She reached out and thumbed the switch. Was this the message she had been waiting for?

"Oh, my!" It was. The source line indicated it was from Betazed. She looked hard at her door. What was taking him so long? She stood suddenly, nervous energy flaring and washing away her previous exhaustion. Pacing the small confines of her living space, she counted the seconds as they ticked by much too slowly for her unmitigated curiosity. It was eating her up inside. She stopped and glared once again at the door.

The reasonable part of her mind knew there hadn't been time for him to get their food and get back yet, but the thoroughly unreasonable part of her that wanted to tear into the long awaited message immediately, was not letting the other part dominate. She took a deep breath and forced herself to calm down. Sitting down in the chair she had so recently vacated, she finished the task of removing her boots.

Sighing in the instant relief that brought her sore feet, she reached down and began rubbing them, just as she did each day. She worked them until the tight arch muscles succumbed to her treatment. It always felt so good to let her feet breathe.

She took her boots to her bedroom, then returned after a quick trip to toss her tights in the recycler. As she did so, the door chime sounded.

"Come in." She met him at the door, retrieving one of the trays before moving out of his way.

She set the tray on the table. Spock set the other one there as well.

"The message is here," she said, excitement lighting her eyes and face. She reached out for Spock's elbow to propel him over to the computer and they both gasped from the resulting flush. She snatched her hand back, all set to apologize. She'd never been quite that bold before. She knew better. But it died on her lips. The look on his face was unadulterated sunrise.

"Wow!" she finally managed. She cleared her throat, knowing she had to be blushing. She had never felt that kind of electricity before.

Spock attempted to simply raise his brow. It was usually all that he allowed people to see when something surprised him, but he knew he was failing. He knew beyond the proverbial shadow of a doubt that he was revealing far more about his reaction to her touch than he wanted to admit even to himself. In the face of the lack of apology he knew she had almost uttered, he could not deny it.

In a voice he was gratified to find steady and calm, he responded to her breathy exclamation. "Indeed. An accurate description of the sensation."

She saw his hand move in her direction, but he stopped.

"Perhaps we should view that message now," he said instead and indicated with a wave that she should precede him.

A beautiful dark haired, dark eyed woman came to life when Christine activated the message.

"My dear Miss Chapel, I am so utterly delighted that you chose to call me, when you discovered your lost heritage. I would be happy to help you. And, you need not be concerned, despite the open society in which I live, I can be, when the need arises, the soul of discretion."

"Computer, halt message." Spock turned to Christine. "What did she mean?"

"I felt the best way to get the information we wanted was to be completely honest with her." Christine raised uncertain blue eyes, to look into his dark ones. "I wasn't sure what cultural taboos I might be prying into."

Spock gazed at her a moment, uneasy with the idea that a stranger knew more about what was going on here than he did. However, he fully understood how 'cultural taboo's' could hinder their progress. His own culture was replete with them. "Your decision, if ... uncomfortable, was the logical one. Computer, resume message."

"Now, you needn't worry about stepping out of line with your questions. Imzadi isn't a secret, it's just very difficult to explain to those who didn't grow up with the concept, or haven't experienced it. Those we've tried to explain it to just assume it's a myth, or as the humans would say 'the golden ring'. Imzadi is more than an idea or a concept, it's a very real bond that happens only rarely.

"The humans even have a term that means something similar, soul-mate, although they do not truly believe it to be real. The word itself has many layers of meaning. The simplest is beloved, and even that has many layers. As I'm sure you're aware, love can take many forms. Beyond that, it means the first. For some, it is the first in a sexual sense, but that is not its full meaning, rather it means the first to touch your soul. To find one's Imzadi, is to be complete.

"From what you told me, the only conclusion I can come to, is that you have found your Imzadi, the other half of your soul. If this is true, there is more you need to know. Being Imzadi is not love in and of itself, although that naturally follows, in one of its many glorious forms. You are each the balance to the other. When one of you is 'unbalanced' or 'out of control', the other steps in and brings you back into balance within yourself. It seems to me, the other has already done so once for you, without even realizing its significance. Once reaching the state you described yourself as being in, you would not have easily recovered had he not done so.

"As for whether you inadvertently 'did something wrong', the answer is no. The initial stage of the bond is completely involuntary. It happens the very first time you meet. You needn't even have spoken at the time. There is no controlling that part of it.

"Unless of course, you, all by yourself, arranged for your first meeting, knowing in advance, all the possible outcomes to that first meeting." The woman laughed heartily. "Sorry. If you show this to the Vulcan, please warn him in advance, that I am too set in my ways not to find the humor in almost any situation."

Christine stole a glance at 'the Vulcan'. Yep, the brow was up, into his hairline in fact.

"That being said, not all Imzadi couples progress to the next level. Sometimes it is inappropriate, or simply impossible, for one reason or another. For example...

"...Given that, obviously an Imzadi pair can and have on occasion lived separate lives, even to the point of choosing other life mates. It is a most difficult path to follow for many reasons. Only one of which is knowing this completeness, then allowing it to slip away. Some do choose that. And yes, some who can not be together choose to have this initial bond broken.

"I feel I have to warn you, however, if you choose to have it broken, it is painful both physically and mentally, although less so in the long run, if the two of you are unable to resolve this. Your Vulcan will probably understand the significance of this step. It is my understanding that they have something similar, although more cerebral in nature. Ask him to tell you what he knows of the, oh drat, I don't know what it's called. There's a bonding of some sort when they arrange a marriage between the children of different houses. This is similar in effect if not in nature. Be sure to approach this ... gently. If I understand anything about Vulcans (which isn't a lot, I'll be the first to admit), he won't be ... comfortable, talking about it.

"As the Imzadi bond is a rare and wondrous thing, it is my devout hope that you will not need to take that step. Just think of the odds against the two of you meeting at all, considering you were born on separate worlds, with such opposing views of life.

"Now, lost daughter, if you need my assistance in any way, please feel free to contact me again. This puzzle has been an absolute delight. Good luck to you both."

The screen went black and the computer broke into the ensuing silence. "Message complete."

Neither spoke for several eternal moments. Christine unable to bear the silence stood abruptly. "I'd be willing to bet dinner's cold."

"Christine." Spock's voice froze her. "I knew there was a reason I selected cold dishes."

Was that humor she heard in his voice? She turned slowly. "What did you say?"

Spock stepped forward, ignoring her question. She had obviously heard him. "Now we know."

"Yes," she managed to say, before turning abruptly away from him.

"What is wrong Christine?"

"What's wrong?!?!" she croaked out. "Let me count the ways."

"You're crying."

Shit! She whirled around before she could stop herself. She'd planned on denying it. She hadn't wanted him to know. Now, it was plain for him to see. The silent tears obvious.

"Why? I do not understand."

"Why?!" She turned away from him again. She wouldn't be able to get this out if she was looking at him. What she wanted more than anything was to forget words, forget common sense, forget he was Vulcan, and seduce him the only way she knew how. "I never wanted..." She stopped the words getting caught in a throat closed with the effort not to cry. "I have loved you for so long." There, she'd said it. She couldn't believe she actually said the words out loud. "But I never wanted... Now you're tied to me, just like..."

Spock strode the last step forward, reached out and whirled her around. And both their words died unspoken. His instinct was to snatch his hands back and lock them behind his back. This incredible sensation was ... disturbing. He denied instinct.

When he could, he spoke. His voice nearly normal. "Never compare yourself to ... her." Spock paused. The idea that Christine could be anything like her was anathema. "You are nothing like her." The rest of what she'd said slowly made its way to the surface. "And I am not 'tied', as you put it. You heard the message, same as I did. This is not something we have to abide by." A smile touched the barest corners of his mouth. "Perhaps we should eat, then we can discuss the next logical step."

Christine nodded, too caught up in the feelings and sensations coursing through her to speak, but neither moved.

Spock bent down ever so slowly, the logical part of him screaming at him to run, to leave now, before it was too late. None of this was logical, it said. Still he continued.

Christine turned her face up to meet him. Their lips met. The connection made complete. What followed threatened to swallow them both and silenced the panic. There was no room left for panic. Only incredible sensations of peace, swiftly followed by flame. The heat began deep inside and arced between them and through them. Storms of fire raged making it impossible to think at all.

Christine was the first to pull away. Breathless and flushed she forced herself to step back. Swallowing desperately at what she saw answering her in his eyes, she made herself take another step toward the table. "I think it's a good idea to eat," she said between deep breaths of sweet air.

"Yes," he said roughly, moving to the other side of the table, as logic and calm reasserted its hold. Though he knew, with a certain amount of unease, that for now, it was just a facade. She had discovered a part of him he hadn't known existed, and even now, it fought to be released. She was just an arm's reach away, and so were those overwhelming sensations. Only using a lifetime's worth of control was he able to pick up his fork and begin eating.

Watching her, his respect grew. She didn't seem to be having any trouble at all.

The end (for now)