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) 2001 by Kiristeen ke Alaya. Rated PG13.



That Which Was Lost

Kiristeen ke Alaya



Spock sat in the pilot's chair of the shuttle, not really seeing the star field in front of him. The tiny craft was on auto pilot, so he did not need to concentrate on it. Instead, he was thinking. S'ana'sasia or S'ana, as she was called by those close to her had given him much to think about. Her memories and life experiences were so different from his own. It was quite intriguing to see her version of Vulcan through her eyes.

Historical philosophers often debated about whether any one person is truly that significant to the flow of history. It had been theorized that even if one pivotal person was removed, that history would still unfold in many of the same ways. Spock could see that some parts of that were true. Vulcan had still achieved space flight, were still respected scientists, and had become members of the Federation. The difference lay in Vulcan itself, and its basic precepts, and that was a big one. It made an astonishing change in its people.

S'ana, like himself, was half human. In her case her mother had been Vulcan, the major difference between them being that she had lived her short life with a much greater freedom to choose her own path. In her world the differences between her two heritages were not nearly so great as in his own, but from what he could see, she had taken a road that traveled the middle, neither denying nor fully embracing either culture.

She'd come from a culture that, like his own, was rich in contrasts, steeped in ritual and privately held convictions. One important aspect of Surak's reformation attempt had survived his failure, and that was IDIC. It seemed that instead of logic and emotional suppression had helped them pass beyond war. They rejoiced in the diversity of all life.

The path his own life had taken had led him to be the kind of person he could respect, so he could not regret any of the trials that had brought him to this point in time. It was a point that he respected what he'd accomplished, and those he called friend and worked with.

Through those friends and now through having the unique opportunity to see a lifetime through another's eyes, he was beginning to more fully appreciate the fact that he had the ability to take the best qualities from both sides of his heritage. He was seeing, for the first time, the true gift his father had given to him in having chosen a human mate.

He refocused his attention to the outside world and double checked their heading and speed before rising. He would get his dinner first, then he would engage in some reading. With that in mind he headed for the replicator.

He disagreed with Dr. McCoy's insistence that someone accompany him during this trip. It did not seem necessary. Now that the nature of the problem had been established, there was no reason why it would not progress as it should. Vulcans had been carrying the katra of deceased friends, relatives, and coworkers back to Mt. Seleya since before the time of his great-grandfather.

Since the issue was no longer critical, it had taken 2 weeks to authorize the leave he needed to return to Vulcan, and at the end of that time, McCoy had still insisted. He had maintained his opinion that someone had to be along in case he was in error in his 'supposition' that he would no longer be bothered with 'visitations'. They had not occurred in the two weeks following the mind meld in Sickbay, and it was highly unlikely they would resume, but McCoy had closed the subject, and had not been willing to discuss it further.

The day previous to his departure, the landing party rotation list had been consulted and the person with the right qualifications, who was next on the list, had been notified. As chance would have it, Nurse Chapel was that person. While he hadn't been uncomfortable around her for some time, he didn't think it was such a good idea to put the two of them into the close confines of a shuttle for the week long journey to Vulcan.

While he had no difficulties with this, he didn't want to be the source of more pain for her, and being alone together on that shuttle would probably do just that. He knew that rejection was not an easy thing to live with. He himself had grown up living with one form or another. She was not to blame for what she felt, it simply was. She had always maintained a dignified and professional manner, regardless of how she felt. Only one glaring exception stood out, for which no censure could be attached. None of them had been fully rational at the time.

He had been surprised at Nurse Chapel's response. She had suggested Nurse Onara, who was on the list right after her, might be the better choice. When McCoy had questioned her as to why she believed that, she'd responded that Nurse Onara was a specialist in exobiology, with a subspecialization in Vulcans.

Logical reasoning. At first he had assumed it had been for the same reasons he had thought about. Perhaps he had rejected what she silently offered for long enough that her 'crush' had died for lack of sustenance. It would be gratifying to work with her now that she had 'come to her senses'.

McCoy had waved off her reasons, stating he didn't think such specialized skills would be needed. This was for 'just in case', and her familiarity with the ongoing case would be what was needed. She had not objected further, and had been ready to go at the proper time.

* * *

Christine lay in her bunk, unable to sleep. She still couldn't believe that Dr. McCoy had assigned this mission to her, of all people. He knew what she felt toward Spock, and too he knew what Spock thought of it. She turned over once again, trying in vain to get comfortable enough to sleep. She really should.

She got up and paced around the tiny cabin trying to work off her nervous energy. Finally she sat and pulled out the hardcopy of "The World Forgotten", and her translation notes. She tried to concentrate on it enough to understand what she was reading, but after only a few minutes gave up trying. Getting back into bed, she once again closed her eyes and tried to simply stop thinking.

This trip was going to be particularly trying on her nerves, being so close and yet so far from the calm rational Vulcan. She was just as sure that as much as she wanted to be the one who helped Spock through this, he had to be uncomfortable with this forced time alone together. He always had been uncomfortable around her.

She agreed with McCoy, there needed to be someone medically qualified along on this trip to supervise him. There was always the off chance that this still would not proceed along the normal path for -- whatever this was called. However, he really should have passed by her turn at landing party duty this time. It had been done before, when the circumstances called for it.

If she'd been on board the Enterprise, she would simply have gone to the gym and worked herself into a good sweat. That usually worked to burn off just about any kind of restlessness she felt, and if that didn't, that hot shower that followed would have. Unfortunately, that option was not available here. Maybe a shower would work though, a nice hot one. She thought about it a minute, thought about the hot water flowing freely over her tense body. Nope, that wouldn't work tonight. It would just raise other problems.

She glanced at the chronometer next to her bunk. She'd been trying to sleep for an hour and a half. What was done, was done, she thought with a sigh. She'd just have to make the best of it. They'd had launched from the Enterprise nearly 6 hours ago.

All she could say at this point was, as much as she was fascinated by this incredible chance to delve more deeply into Vulcan mysticism and ritual, it was still going to be a long trip. She did hope that Spock would be once again forthcoming on some of the finer points of what was happening. She hadn't really talked to him since that last time in Sickbay, and was still very eager to learn more about a process she hadn't even known existed two weeks ago.

There was no way she was going to be able to sleep now, maybe she would be able to when she was more tired. For now, what sounded perfect was something to munch on. She rose from the bunk and debated with herself about getting redressed. Deciding Spock was probably still at the helm anyway, she quickly threw on a robe, tying it tightly around her waist as she went out her door.

Since it was her fault he was uncomfortable around her, she decided she was going to do everything possible to make sure that nothing she said or did would make a potentially bad situation realize. She would be professional, cool, and distant, more Vulcan than Vulcan as the saying went. It shouldn't be too difficult, after all she'd had a prime example of that for several years.

This shuttle, while bigger than its predecessors was still quite small, so it was only a short walk to the dining area. It was a brand new design, and when it had been sent to the Enterprise a month ago, she'd done some reading. If it went over well and pending design and functionality reports, they were planning on designing an even larger one.

According to the same report, they intended to call the larger shuttle a runabout. Appropriate, she thought. It would be much more comfortable for those journeys which necessitated being on a shuttle for more than a couple of hours. Of course, it would be years before the larger model would be available even for testing, as it was still in the initial planning stages.

She strolled through the dining room doors as they slid open at her approach, and was surprised to find the lights already on.

"Nurse Chapel." Spock greeted her, without so much as the smallest visible reaction. He'd obviously just ordered his own meal, and was now carrying his tray to the table.

"Spock." Christine jumped in surprise. "I didn't think you'd be in here." She had to fight the urge to cross her arms over her chest. While her clothing wasn't particularly revealing, and did in fact reveal far less than had the uniform she'd worn the first few years she'd been posted to the Enterprise, it was still just a nightgown and robe. It just felt so ... revealing.

"I suspected as much," he said with a slight rise to his eyebrow.

Christine colored slightly at the veiled reference to her attire, but she refused to admit her embarrassment. What she wanted most was to turn around and either change back into her uniform or hide in her cabin. To do either however, would be to acknowledge that being seen by him, like this, bothered her.

She reminded herself firmly of her promise to act like he had no affect on her at all. To make this trip bearable for both of them she had shove aside the fact that just being in the same room made her heart beat faster and her breathing roughen. Right now her heart pounded hard enough that she just knew it had to be visible from the outside.

"I couldn't sleep, so I decided to get something to eat," she said as she casually walked over and ordered herself a large slice of strawberry cheesecake. Her mouth watered as she took it back to the table. She couldn't help it, it had always been her favorite dessert. Seating herself without saying another word, she set to enjoying her heavenly confection. She had definitely been glad when replicator technology had improved to the point where the food it produced actually tasted and looked like the real thing.

The first bite melted on her tongue and she closed her eyes, sighing in delight. It was strange, but it always affected her this way. As she swallowed, she suddenly remembered exactly who she was sitting across from, and she finished eating it without further displays. Mentally she castigated herself. Five minutes in the same room with him and already she'd broken her promise to herself to act as if made of stone.

As soon as she was finished, she rose and placed her dish in the recycler. When she turned to leave, Spock looked up from his own food.

"I thought I might do some reading before I turn in," she said, feeling the need to explain why she was leaving so quickly, and cursed herself mentally. That was too personal of information, Chris.

"Indeed, that is an excellent idea Nurse Chapel. Reading often relaxes the body as the mind takes in the words," Spock said quietly. "I often read before I retire for the evening." Now why had he added that? "If I may inquire, what did you plan on reading?"

Surprised by his show of interest, but determined not to let it show, she responded without thinking. "I'd planned on continuing my translation of 'The World Forgotten'."

Spock's eyebrow rose. He hadn't expected her to be working on that as something to relax her, but he surprised himself more by his offer. "If you have any questions, I would be willing to answer them for you." At Christine's surprised expression he felt the need to explain further. "I would be honored to assist in your efforts to the learn the history of another culture. As it will take seven days, four hours, and sixteen minutes to reach Vulcan, it would serve well, to replace duties I usually attend to."

Now Christine smiled, she couldn't help it. "Thank you. I have to admit that translating it has been difficult since I only understand part of the references. I'm sure at least part of it is mistranslated, because some of it makes absolutely no sense. I'll just go get them now."

Spock watched her as she left, wondering how it was that she continued to surprise him.

* * *

Christine continued to smile as she gathered the materials she'd brought with her, very satisfied with her late night raid of the kitchen. She'd come to the conclusion years ago that nothing romantic would ever come of her love for Spock, but now through a mutual love for learning, they might manage to become friends. That is if she could keep from showing how she felt about him.

Yes, she had definitely taken the right track. If she backed off, as it were, he would stay relaxed. Approaching the dining room door she took a deep breath and steadied her expression. Stepping through, she noticed Spock had finished his meal and was waiting patiently, the chairs already appropriately situated for the lesson. She set the books and paper down on the table and took her seat.

"I'm still puzzled why you do not have the computer do the translation for you."

"I've been using the manual translation to help with my understanding of the language. I use the computer as little as possible. I've found that the particular combination of seeing it, thinking about it, and then actually writing it, increases what I retain."

"Logical approach."

"Thank you. I have to say that once I do get it translated enough to be understandable I find it absolutely fascinating."

"May I?" he asked, indicating her work.

"Certainly."

He reached out and opened the book to the place she had marked, and scanned it quickly. Then turning to her written words, he nodded. "Yes, you were correct in that you mistranslated some of it, but the error you made is a common one. Take for instance this word here." He then launched into an explanation of the word's various meanings depending on the context in which they were used, which in turn led to a rather spirited discussion of the passage in general. Each of them took a side and debated the merits of the author's views of, what was to him, modern Vulcan.

Christine was surprised to discover, when she looked at the chronometer, that 3 hours had passed. "Oh, my. I didn't realize it was so late. I really should go to sleep," she said rising.

"Indeed. We have discussed a significant part of the current translation. We can continue this tomorrow."

Spock's last statement was almost a question. "That would be acceptable," she replied, trying not to smile. "I enjoyed our discussion, Mr. Spock."

Spock paused a moment before replying. "As did I, Miss Chapel."

She nearly asked him to call her Christine yet again, but decided against it. It had not taken in all the years she'd known him, and it probably wouldn't now. In fact it would probably simply be a reminder to him, that she wanted more from him than he could give. That was the last thing she wanted. She gathered all her materials before turning to leave.

"Good night Mr. Spock."

"Good night, Miss Chapel."

* * *

The trip was becoming far shorter than either of them expected. They spent the better part of each deep in discussions based on minute portions of translated information. It seemed that every sentence had more than one meaning. She was very surprised to find that. She'd expected the Vulcan language to be rather straight forward considering the logical nature of its people, but rather it had layers upon layers of hidden depth.

Very privately she compared it to the hidden depths of the Vulcans themselves. It had taken her a very long time to realize just how much was hidden. Unfortunately that new knowledge did nothing to ease the fire within her, if anything it made it worse. She just worked a little harder at keeping it to herself, and hopefully one day she'd be able to move beyond it.

She kept a log of the twice daily scans she did of Spock. She knew he wanted to protest that they were unnecessary, but he refrained. He probably realized that she wouldn't stop them even if he did, so had given it up as a hopeless cause to argue.

She noticed that sometimes he got a kind of far away look on his face, like now. She wondered, each time if she should ask if he wanted to talk about it, but each time decided against it. He would probably consider it a breach of his valued privacy.

She finished her translation of the current passage. Closing the Vulcan dictionary, she slid her work to Spock. "Here it is."

He blinked once, as if bringing his attention outward, and began reading what she'd written.

Christine knew that as a rule, Vulcans did not converse while eating, so for the first two days she'd remained quiet during their meal times. Lord knew she'd read everything she could get her hands on when she'd first fallen in love with him. While she watched him read, his expression relaxed, she shook her head mentally at how eager she'd been then, to find anything she could learn to do, and all of it simply to please him.

And how is that different from learning to speak his language now? She almost laughed out loud at that chiding observation, but managed to only grin. This was different she told herself, but that little chiding voice wouldn't remain silent. Yeah, and just who are you trying to convince?

She rose and walked to the replicator. It was convenient that they chose to meet here, in the dining room. It was the only place on the shuttle with a replicator. With all the debating, her mouth tended to dry out frequently. She was sure she talked more in the last three days than she had in the last three weeks. It was definitely the most conversation she'd had with Spock in all the time she'd known him.

Her stomach growled as she crossed the room and she had to laugh at the timing. Now was as good a time as any to break for lunch, she thought. It was certainly better than after they began talking about the newest passage. Who knew when they'd stop after that.

Deciding not to interrupt Spock -- he was busy writing notes in her margins -- she simply programmed an order for both of them. When she set his on the table next to him, she noticed he was just about at the end of her work. She cringed to note that he'd written an awful lot this time.

He glanced up at her when she moved her chair to give them both more space to eat. He started to rise, then noticed the plate next to him. He started to say something, then very obviously changed his mind. "Thank you," he said instead and pulled the plate to him.

Christine wondered what he'd been going to say, but once again didn't question him. Undoubtedly she'd crossed some invisible boundary. She sighed and continued eating. She'd solve that one easily. She wouldn't do it again. It was then her mind clicked and she remembered. My, she had been presumptuous, hadn't she? She blushed and hoped Spock wouldn't notice. He'd let it pass, so far be it for her to make it known she'd realized what she'd done. How could she have forgotten that? That scene was forever emblazoned in her memory!

"While there were a few minor mistranslations this time, none of them significantly altered the meaning of the overall text. I've written the changes in the margins, as well as several comments of my own."

"Thank you."

"What do you think of the author's contention that for a civilization to advance, they must dispose of all ritual?"

She shot him a startled glance, but was able to switch mental gears and answer him without to much of a pause. "I'm not sure I agree with it at all, Mr. Spock."

"Why?"

"I think ritual is a necessary thing for any culture. While the rituals for each culture vary in number and complexity, every single culture has them, from the Brindledo who have a different ritual for speaking to a sibling and speaking to a parent, and just about every other daily activity, to the Aspheron, who have rituals only in the loosest sense of the term. Rituals maintain a sense of history as well as continuity. They bring a sense to individuals of belonging to a whole society, as opposed to simply being alone and divided."

"So, disagreeing with the need to dispense with all ritual, what about..." And they were once more off onto the pros and cons of another of the now well known author's ideas. She enjoyed the atmosphere the lunch created and had to remind herself not to make too much of it. Although she was beginning to suspect that while the author may have been accurate about the society in which he lived, Spock had confirmed he was, the man had to have been a little around the bend if he seriously believed some of what he proposed.

* * *

Christine toweled dry her hair as she sat down on the only chair in her cabin. She was so glad the shuttle was equipped with water replication in the shower. She really didn't like sonic showers. They didn't leave her feeling like she'd bathed. She quickly ran a brush through her hair. Putting it back in its place, she hummed quietly to herself as she tidied up.

She'd be the first one to admit that she'd let it slide the last couple of days. She'd been too engrossed in their joint venture. It was amazing how open he could be when he was comfortable, and talking about something that had him ... well she couldn't think of a better word ... enthusiastic.

She liked seeing this side of him and was very glad she'd come to her senses and started hiding her feelings better. It certainly seemed to help him, 'be himself' around her. It didn't take her long to get the room up to her standard, it was a very tiny room after all.

She slipped into bed and closed her eyes, falling asleep only minutes after she laid down her head.

* * *

Just after Spock roused from his meditation, he heard the water shut off. He should have realized she would prefer water to sonics. Having been raised to treat water as a precious resource, he tended to take sonics. While he knew that water was basically an unlimited resource on board ships with water replicators, it was an ingrained habit not to waste.

This had been a trip of introspection for him. He was seeing so many new things. S'ana had an amazing amount of insight for one so young. Part of him grieved that such a brilliant mind had been lost before it could fully develop. Another part of him was honored that he was the one enabled to see fully into her insights and beliefs.

He would have to speak to the designers about possibly designing a little more sound proofing into the bulkheads, he thought, as he heard Christine begin to hum lightly to herself. He noticed the low quality of her voice, and thought perhaps it might combine well with the...

He shook himself off that train of thought and walked over to his bunk, and he'd been worried about her being affected by the long trip alone together. Whether her voice would sound good with his lyre, was completely irrelevant, but he did wonder what had even made him think about it.

* * *

Spock rose from his morning meditation and easily fell into the routine that had been established in the last week. He showered, dressed, and double checked his appearance before heading out of his cabin again. It took him only moments to travel to the helm and once again check their heading and speed. While not strictly necessary as the autopilot was a sophisticated one, he always did so at least twice a day. Computers were useful tools, but he'd learned over the years not take for granted that everything would go smoothly.

After satisfying himself that they were still exactly where they were supposed to be, he headed for the small dinette. He crossed directly to the replicator and programmed his breakfast. He usually had an hour or so alone there, it varied too much to be more accurate, before Christine joined him.

He stopped half way back to the table. When had he started thinking of her as Christine? Most peculiar, he thought, then resumed his path to the table. He could recall only twice in their acquaintance that, at her request, he'd actually called her by her given name. It did not make sense to him that he would reference her that way in his thoughts.

For that matter, what was he doing thinking of her at all? Must be due to them working closely together on the translations, and being the only two people on board, he rationalized. He must simply be aware of this and make sure not to inadvertently do or say anything that might be misconstrued. Of course, since she seemed to have moved on quite adequately, he probably need not worry about that.

Getting up to recycle his breakfast dishes he mused on the power of habit. He'd been aware of and uncomfortable with her feelings for him, for so long, that now it was ... odd, to know that constant was no longer there.

The door opened behind him, and he turned to greet her.

* * *

The computer alarm shrilled, jerking Christine from sleep. "I'm awake!" She grumbled quickly, anything to stop it. It obediently shut off. She rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, regretting having stayed up until the wee hours. She'd brought an extremely frustrating portion of the book back with her and had tried to get it sorted out last night before going to sleep.

They would reach Vulcan today, and she was going to step foot into that heavier gravity and that heat, with not enough sleep. She'd done dumber things before, she knew, but right now she couldn't think of any. Well, there was no help for it now. All she could do was put her best foot forward and hope.

She dressed with special care, less because she'd be among other people again, and more because she didn't want to be sweltering in the heat. Thankfully it wasn't full summer, so it shouldn't be too bad. She liked temperatures slightly warmer than most anyway. It's just that the planet Vulcan tended to be too much even for her.

Finally satisfied with how she looked, and her manner of dress, she grabbed her small medkit, letting it hang from her shoulder. Then she grabbed the bag she'd taken to carrying her books and such in, and headed for the dining area. She knew Spock would already be there. He always was.

Looking forward to the now familiar routine they'd established, she quickened her step and was soon walking through the door. Spock was standing with his back to her, but as soon as the doors started to close behind her, he turned.

"I trust you slept well," Spock commented in Vulcan.

"Yes, I did, after I forced myself to put down my reading," Christine responded in kind, trying not to wince at her own pronunciation. They'd fallen into this habit, to help her with her pronunciation, and although she enjoyed it, she didn't think her ability to speak the language had improved significantly. As far as she could tell, she still pretty much mangled the language. The exact script varied each day, but was essentially similar in content. She crossed to him and pulled out her scanner. "Let's just get this out of the way first."

He patiently ignored her actions, but did wonder how much her actions were of a kind with his checking on the autopilot. "Your pronunciation has improved somewhat."

"Thank you, but it wouldn't have taken much."

He did not mention that he agreed with her assessment. While it was true, he did not think it would be conducive to the ... enthusiasm she brought to her efforts, and she was improving. It hadn't taken him long to discover that with the written word. Her method of study was quite effective for her. And if her vocalization wasn't as proficient, that was understandable. "Vulcan is a difficult language for those not born to it, or who do not learn it as children."

"I would agree with that." Christine smiled as she put up the scanner.

"After your repast, do you wish to continue with your studies?"

"Yes, I was up late last night with a particularly frustrating set of passages. They just don't make sense."

"In what way?"

"While some of the words seem to be very straight forward, others cannot possibly have any of the meanings we've previously applied to them, otherwise it comes out..." Lacking a Vulcan equivalent Christine resorted to standard for the word she needed. "...gibberish."

"Gibberish?"

"Yes, Mr. Spock, gibberish, as in nonsense." Sitting down with the food she'd just retrieved, she continued. "Other words used are not even in the dictionary."

"Fascinating. While you eat, I will read."

"Good idea," Christine replied and pulled the book out of her bag, sliding it across the table.

Spock opened to the first page she had marked and within three sentences nearly groaned. Not having read this particular text previous to this occasion, hadn't realized that it covered that subject. Continuing to read in morbid fascination, he had to conclude it had been covered with surprising depth and accuracy. However, he now had a problem. Not only was it a subject he was uncomfortable discussing at all, the fact that it was Christine who would be shortly asking what it was referring to, somehow made the situation worse.

Christine frowned in puzzlement when she noted Spock's immediate reaction to what he was reading. It wasn't obvious, but to someone who'd made a concerted effort to know him, it was there. Obviously the subject matter bothered him in some way. She had to admit, at least to herself, that it made her all that much more curious. However, perhaps it would be best if that particular information waited.

Switching to standard, she took the subject away from what he had just finished reading. "What's going to happen when we arrive at Vulcan?"

"First, we will find you lodging, then I will go to Mt. Seleya to see what they can do," Spock answered, thankfully setting aside his dilemma.

"I was hoping to attend."

"That is not possible." Spock shook his head. "Outworlders are not allowed within Mt. Seleya."

"I'm sure I can find something to keep myself occupied," she said, disappointed but willing to make the best of it.

"You may find the Museum of Ancient Culture of interest."

Her eyes lit up. "Yes, I've heard a lot about it, and I've always wanted to go."

"Ten minutes until the shuttle enters the Vulcan system," the computer announced.

* * *

Both Christine and Spock settled into the chairs at helm. It wasn't always advisable to use auto pilot in-system. Precisely one minute before passing the influence of the outermost planet, Spock took control manually and dropped out of warp. With a few minute course corrections to compensate for traffic and planetary bodies, they were set on the most efficient heading to reach Vulcan. They spent what remained of the trip in easy silence.

"Shuttle Aurora to Vulcan Control," Spock broke the silence, addressing the control center in his native tongue.

"Vulcan Control, how may we help you?"

"We request permission land."

"Granted. Proceed to space 47 Alpha. We are sending the coordinates now, and from all of Vulcan, welcome."

Christine found herself very grateful for the last 7 days of tutoring in the Vulcan language. She followed the exchange with ease, and it filled her with a kind of giddy accomplishment. Previous to this trip, most of her studies had concentrated on the written word, lacking someone with the appropriate skills to help her.

As soon as Spock received the coordinates, he maneuvered the shuttle to the appropriate landing site, and easily settled the ship down, precisely centered in the slip. Each had already gathered what they needed for what they hoped would be a short stay, so they disembarked within moments of landing.

Neither were here in any official capacity, so they had to endure the short but bothersome necessity of customs. Shortly thereafter, they were on their way in an air car rented by Spock.

"First we will book you into a hostel. I do not know how long I will be required to stay in Mt. Seleya."

Christine nodded. She still didn't like it. Aside from her own personal curiosity, she also felt she was abrogating her duty by simply letting him go on his own. It didn't matter that he was going into the hands of those best suited to help him, but she would survive it. The Vulcan healers, or whatever their title was, Spock had not specified, weren't going to set aside an age old, rigidly held custom for one human female, medical professional or not.

An hour later, they had secured her a room and she had left her belongings there.

"I will now depart," he said crisply and turned to leave.

"Wait, Mr. Spock."

With lifted brow, he turned.

"I know I can't go in, but I would feel better if you allowed me to escort you as far as is permitted."

"Miss Chapel, I assure you I am quite capable of..."

"I know," She said with a laugh. "If for no other reason, please let me do this for my own sense of duty. Dr. McCoy entrusted me with your care. I wouldn't feel right if I didn't see this through to the end."

"Very well, Miss Chapel." Spock turned with a barely concealed sigh. He fully understood the demands of duty. "I would like to leave now. If you are ready to go."

Christine hurriedly grabbed a small bag and followed Spock who was obviously not going to waste any time. She reached the vehicle just as he was buckling in and was grateful that he had chosen to continue driving. She hadn't driven an air car in quite sometime and didn't want her first time to be in front of him. She was going to be nervous enough as it was.

The 2 hour drive to Seleya was spent mostly in silence as Spock concentrated on his driving and Christine concentrated on learning the route. The last thing she needed was to get lost on the trip back. She could just see the consequences of that, and they were ones she'd rather avoid. Embarrassing herself on her first day on Vulcan was not exactly how she planned on spending the day.

When Spock eased the vehicle to the ground, Christine could see that Seleya was still a good 5 miles away. She turned to him in confusion. "Why are we stopping here?"

"I must journey the rest of the way on foot."

"Oh," Christine answered. She wanted to question him more about it, but knowing he wanted to get moving, she held her tongue. As she moved around the front of the car, Spock was ready to leave.

"I will contact you after I have left Seleya and am ready to be picked up."

"Very well, Mr. Spock," Christine replied to his back. He was already 10 yards away. She sighed. She should have expected as much. She knew this had not been easy on him. From the few things he'd admitted to her, she had to gather that S'ana'sasia had rocked some of the foundations of his beliefs. It would be probably be some time before he was back on an even keel, so to speak.

For a moment Christine simply sat in the driver seat, studying the controls. She mentally recited each one, then with a nervous breath, started the car up. Grinning she pulled forward and then circled the vehicle around. Not bad, she thought. Kinda like riding a bicycle, you never really forgot how.

Musing to herself as she guided the car back the way they'd just come, she tried to envision some scenario that might help her understand what he was going through. It wasn't easy, not having anything solid to base her feelings on. It took nearly the entire trip back to latch onto a possible idea. What if she were to find sudden facts, of the undeniable kind, that in some other timeline, Hitler had won his conquest of the world. Then add to that finding out that life was just as good in that universe. She shuddered in revulsion at the thought.

Considering the tactics he had used and the atrocities he had committed, she could not imagine it. But then she had to admit that Spock probably hadn't been able to envision Vulcan thriving without Surak's influence either. As improbable as her own scenario was, she thought it brought her just a little closer to what Spock might be experiencing right now. She hoped that he'd find someone to talk to about it, because he sure hadn't been talking to her.

Moments later she was entering the outskirts of Shikarr. She thought about returning to the hostel, but didn't want to sit alone right now. She wasn't hungry yet, the heat didn't leave her feeling much like eating. Although the air car was equipped with an excellent cooling system, she hadn't turned it on too high. She knew better than that. To step from a wonderfully cool interior straight into the heat of the day was inviting trouble. She'd compromised with a temperature which, still too warm to be truly comfortable, was not stifling.

Rounding a corner in her aimless driving, she spied exactly the right activity. She'd stumbled onto the street where the Museum of Cultural History was located. She grinned as she tried to find a parking spot. This visit was a long time coming.

* * *

Spock set a steady ground devouring pace. He found he was of mixed opinion about what he wanted to happen when he reached his destination. He owed it to S'ana to try and get her home, if it was at all possible. Unfortunately he didn't see how that was possible. He'd spent the better part of 3 weeks studying the anomaly, and his current situation, and had yet to come to any reasonable solution.

The anomaly had appeared in reasonably well traveled space which meant that its appearance was either a completely new phenomenon, which to his reasoning was unlikely, or it occurred with extreme rarity. As such, he knew that would not be a logical choice for trying to get S'ana home. It would not be healthy for either of them to remain as they were for long enough to await its reappearance.

He also had to consider the fact that since a one time appearance was certainly not enough to judge when or even if it would appear again, he would have to remain at the site to ensure being there if it did. That was not a viable option. So, unless the healers at Mt. Seleya could see a possibility
he did not, he was afraid getting her home would not be an option. That was only half of the division in his thoughts though.

It was surprising, but his talks with C-- Miss Chapel, had helped him to focus on the problem. He wondered if the fact that they had been translating text regarding the times before Surak had anything to do with that, but could not be sure. He also wondered if she knew how much she'd helped him, if for no other reason than simply ignoring his distraction.

He also had been considering how S'ana's Katra, placed in the Hall of Souls would affect Vulcan as a whole. The affect of that just might create some upheaval. Some? He thought. It would likely create a major upheaval, but in Spock's opinion, a good one. He fully believed in the Vulcan way of life, but until now, it hadn't truly been a choice. He, as had most Vulcans, believed that to choose any other way was simply too destructive.

Now he knew differently, now he was as he was with full conscious choice. It wasn't because his father wanted it that way. It wasn't because it had to be that way. It was because it was his way, his path. That was the gift he wanted to give all of Vulcan, because a choice made because none other is perceived, is no choice at all. All of that would be lost, if he succeeded in his first duty, his duty to the Katra he carried within him. If he was able to return her to her universe, Vulcan would miss out on an incredible opportunity.

He stood in the shadow of the mountain, before the entrance, for long moments ordering his thoughts. As soon as he had them as ordered as was possible on such a confusing issue, he walked into Mt. Seleya. An acolyte approached him almost immediately.

* * *

Christine strolled through the relatively cool, dimly lit interior of the museum. It was everything she'd expected and then some. It was strategically filled with 100's of items of great antiquity. They were all placed within sterile stasis fields to ensure the air and passage of time did not cause further deterioration. Each of them was accompanied by a plaque explaining its origin, purpose, and when necessary a brief description of contents.

In the case of many of the tomes, there was computer access to more lengthy discussions of that which was contained in them. It was at these sites that Christine spent the majority of her time, although some of the wondrous artwork came a close second. She spent several hours simply absorbing and studying the incredible amount of history stored in this one place.

One room was dedicated to wall murals depicting scenes from pre-Reformation Vulcan all the way to modern times. It was an amazing flow of gradually shifting scenes, from depictions of ancient barbarism to the trials of Surak and his followers, to the cool tones of modern logic and suppression of emotion.

She could almost know all there was to know about Vulcan, its people and its history, by simply studying the detailed paintings. When it had been originally claimed a picture painted a thousands words, they could easily have been referring to this set of pictures. As she exited the mural room, deeply affected by what she'd seen, three light tones sounded throughout the museum, signally only moments until closing time.

She made her way to the main exit, knowing she would have to come back here again. Too much had been left unexplored. What she had managed to see was blurring together in her mind. As she walked outside, she hoped she'd have the chance to come back tomorrow. If not, it would probably be far too long before she got another chance.

The air had cooled somewhat outside, and now that she didn't have the artifacts to distract her, she realized she was very hungry, a fact that her stomach rather loudly reminded her of. It probably hadn't been a good idea to skip lunch, but between the heat and worrying about Spock, she just hadn't been up to it. Ah well, she thought, no sense worrying about that now. It wouldn't take her long to get back to the hostel, and she could eat near there.

She was right. The traffic was light and her skill in maneuvering the air car was improving. It took her less than 10 minutes to reach the hostel. The Guest's Sanctuary was the literal translation of the Vulcan name, although she suspected that wasn't completely accurate.

She strode into the main lobby and was glad to see and attendant at the front desk. Gathering her nerve to test her slowly growing Vulcan vocabulary, she approached him.

"Excuse me. Could you help me?" If she didn't know better she could have sworn she'd seen the corner of his mouth twitch up. So much for her skill at communicating, she thought with an internal shrug.

"How may I help you?" he asked in Standard.

"Thank you. Your Standard is much better than my Vulcan."

The man raised an eyebrow in response, very reminiscent of Spock.

"I was wondering if you could direct me to the best eating establishment that is close by."

"Yes, there are several good locations. Were you looking for local or offworld cuisine?"

"Local is fine."

"We have adequate facilities right here in the hostel, right through those doors," he said pointing to her right. "If you prefer, there is an eating establishment 426 meters west of here that serves quality food."

"Thank you," Christine said as she turned towards the in-house café.

* * *

Christine paced the confines of her room in nervous agitation. Much as she tried, she couldn't relax enough to read or sleep. She had left Spock for his walk to Mt. Seleya nearly twelve hours ago, and the suspense was wearing on her. Finally deciding enough was enough, she grabbed a shawl and headed outside. Maybe a long walk would wear her out enough to sleep.

After her hectic pacing and her dash down the stairs, the cool air outside was refreshing. Stopping just outside the exit, she closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath, then set off at an easy pace. She enjoyed the illusion of solitude that night brought with it, for all of an hour, before the swiftly cooling desert air began to raise goosebumps on her arms. With a sigh she turned around and headed back toward her room. By the time she reached the front door, she was shivering.

Going directly up to her room, she chastised herself. How could she have forgotten how quickly the temperature dropped in a desert climate? Upon reaching her room, she was glad to find it was still warm. She undressed quickly and climbed under the covers. Curling herself into a ball, she fell asleep as soon as she warmed back up.

* * *

Spock was not ... satisfied with the healers' response to S'ana'sasia's situation. They had not even tried to find a manner to get her back to her universe. They had simply deemed it an illogical waste of time and effort when the simplest solution was to place her Katra in the Hall of Souls. They
hadn't listened to anything he'd tried to say about her or her circumstances.

Looking back, he couldn't believe he'd actually argued with them about it. He knew full well he'd overstepped, because he'd raised a number of brows with his stubborn refusal to simply bow to their wishes. He had to try, however. In fact he'd tried for 4.32 hours, debating their decision with conviction; a little too much conviction he was sure.

The deciding factor had been, he did not have a viable alternative. They would have had to help him come up with one, and it was obvious that they were not going to bother. He had silently apologized to her for his lack of progress, illogical though that was, and then submitted to what had needed done.

The sun was beginning to shine into the room he'd been given following the removal, and he could hear increasing activity in the halls. It was a greater amount than he'd heard on previous visits to Seleya, and he almost smiled. So, he thought, it has already begun. He wondered just where it would end.

Rising, he decided to forgo his normal morning meditation and dressed quickly. He found in himself no desire to remain here a moment longer than necessary. Undoubtedly there would be objections to his leaving this soon, especially if what he suspected, was true. He also found no need to stay and help them.

It would be best for this to be dealt with by each individual, as he had. What he had experienced had been a private time of quiet contemplation. It would be unique to each individual, so even if he did forgo his innate sense of privacy to tell them of what he had learned, it would simply be a waste of their and his time. They would not agree, he was sure, however, due to long acquaintance with certain stubborn humans, he had learned just how stubborn he could be.

He was right, of course. He hadn't gotten more than fifty paces from his door, when he was stopped by an acolyte. "Spock cha' Sarek, thee should be resting. The removal is a tiring process, and I am certain the healers would not agree with your leaving just yet, as your attire suggests you intend. I will go now and let them know of your intention."

"I am adequately rested. I will begin my journey back to ShiKahr now," Spock replied and moved past the young acolyte, who in turn hurried down a side passage. Just as he was turning into the final passage, two elder healers stepped into his path.

"It is not yet time for thee to leave, Spock. It takes time to fully recover from the removal."

"Indeed," Spock conceded. "I am not fully recovered. However, I am adequately so, for the journey back to ShiKahr," he said, then took a step to move around them.

"Surely thee intends to stay and assist in our efforts to integrate the new Katra into the Hall."

Finally they came to the crux of the matter. They did not know how to deal with her revelations and assumed since he'd already experienced it, he would have answers for them. He'd suspected as much and had merely wondered how long it would take them to bring it up. As logical as Vulcans were, at times they could be strangely long winded when broaching a subject they were ... uncomfortable with. With a feeling of looking at himself from the outside, he suddenly wondered if he shouldn't look a little more closely into that very same habit in himself.

"Perhaps a better approach might be to understand, then integration can occur from both sides."

"Still trying to change us to your way of thinking, young one?"

Spock stifled a sigh before it could begin. "No, Healer T'Peth, the time for that has past. What I seek to do now, I accomplish by returning to ShiKahr."

He could see her surprise in the eloquent lifting of a single brow. "And what does thee seek to accomplish, Spock?"

"I give to Vulcan the gift that was given to me, the gift of changes after S'ana'sasia." In the stunned silence that followed, he slipped around the two healers, leaving the cool sanctuary behind shortly thereafter.

* * *

Spock reached the invisible line, five miles from the base of Mt. Seleya, that marked the traditional barrier beyond which nothing relating to outworlders was supposed to breach, feeling freer than he could ever remember. He was fascinated by how much knowing exactly who he was and what he wanted, eased a tension he hadn't even known was present.

He was on the path his life was meant to take. Until now, until he'd been able to see that, several things in his life had gone unnoticed or rather ignored. He had seen it as his responsibility as the Vulcan son of an ambassador, to be the epitome of all that Vulcan represented. Now he intended to rectify those things, in his own reserved Vulcan way. He just ... hoped, despite signs to the contrary, it was not too late for one of those ... things.

He flipped open the frequency on his wrist communicator. "Spock to Christine." When she did not respond a full minute later, Spock closed the frequency and reopened it, trying again. No response. She must have left her communicator, he thought, and closed it. Debating on his next course of action, he decided to start toward ShiKahr, before trying again.

* * *

Christine turned off the sonic shower and stepped out of the stall. She really did prefer water, but wasn't going to go against custom while she was here. As she reached for her brush, she laughed. There was one definite advantage to sonics, you didn't have to dry off afterward. Running the brush quickly through her hair, she then turned her attention to her make up.

She jumped when her communicator beeped from the adjacent room. Stepping into the main room, she glanced hastily around. Where had she put the blasted thing? She zeroed in on it the next time it beeped, and keyed the frequency open.

"Spock to Christine."

"Christine here. Are you ready to be picked up?" Suddenly very glad Spock was Vulcan, she cringed at the loaded question.

"...Yes, I am presently 8.3 miles away from Mt. Seleya, on the road to ShiKahr."

"Why didn't you... Never mind. I just got out of the shower. It'll take me a couple of minutes to get dressed then I'll be there as soon as I can."

"Acceptable, Spock out."

Christine closed her wrist communicator and hurriedly began dressing. She was half way into the dress she'd already chosen for today, when she froze. He'd used her first name! The only other times he'd done that had been filled with extenuating circumstances and had followed a direct prompting. "Now, don't let your imagination run away with you," she muttered to herself and resumed dressing. All it meant was that he'd gotten relaxed enough around her to finally take her up on the standing offer to use it, nothing more.

Still chiding herself about the stupidity of reopening old wounds, she pushed the feelings back down where they belonged, then made her way out of the hostel and to the air car. Moments later, she was on the road to Seleya.

* * *

Spock closed the connection and resumed walking. He did wish he'd been able to spend more time studying S'ana's culture. He would make time to come back, when the environment would be more conducive to study; perhaps on his next leave. So many things about it were oddly similar to his with only the faintest of hints of other, making them the same and yet different. It was a paradox that had intrigued him from the beginning, and still did.

What mystified and ... troubled him the most of all these similar differences, was the Kunat Kalifee. Her people, without the nonemotional logic of his, had done away with the Kalifee completely. They didn't simply 'not practice it', it wasn't part of their culture at all. S'ana had been aware of at least three cases where couples bonded at seven, in the age old tradition, had been able to dissolve it via alternative methods offered through their law. Unable at the moment to resolve the logic in the dichotomy he moved on to a different subject.

Her parents had been (or would be) scientists of apparent high caliber. He had seen flashes from her mind of them in various poses; pictures her mind had taken to remember specific occasions with them. It didn't seem strange to see her father laughing, he was human. But the rare memories she had of her mother doing the same thing were ... unsettling. She hadn't done it very often, as even in S'ana's world Vulcans tended toward reserve, but she did smile with some regularity.

They had taken her with them wherever they went, both feeling free to show the affection and love they felt for her and each other. The most recent 'picture' from her mind was from their last posting aboard a Starfleet vessel. It was of both parents smiling down at her as she blew out candles on a cake. They were celebrating the anniversary of her birth. What surprised him most about it was that she had been allowed to live on board with her parents. The ship had been filled with families.

It was an intriguing notion, but with space travel so dangerous, especially aboard a Starfleet exploration vessel, he didn't see it working very well. He would have to wait and see if that outcome occurred eventually in this universe as well. Her timeline was only 100 years ahead of his, and from the impression he'd received, the practice of families on Starfleet vessels was not a new concept. If this time line paralleled that one, it wouldn't be more than 80 years or so before the idea was born.

A sound in the distance pulled him from his contemplation. Watching the approaching air car, he soon realized it was Christine. He stepped off to the side and waited for her arrival.

* * *

"Hello, Mr. Spock."

He nodded.

"I'm sorry it took so long."

"I do not believe you could have arrived any more quickly without exceeding the speed limit," he said while strapping himself into the passenger seat.

She didn't mention that she had, in fact, done just that to make up for wasting time arguing with herself. She didn't think he'd appreciate the irony.

He had almost asked her to allow him to drive, but realized it was illogical for him to want to be the one doing the driving. She was already at the wheel, to switch would be an unnecessary use of time. "Did you get a chance to visit the museum we discussed?" he asked as she turned the vehicle back toward ShiKahr.

* * *

As Christine pulled the car into the proper slot and let it ease down to the ground, she hid her amusement. She'd gotten a new glimpse into Spock's personality on the trip back. He'd hidden it well, but she knew he'd been uncomfortable in the passenger seat. It was both surprising and comforting to know he had the same problem as most males did, letting someone else drive.

She made sure none of it showed in her manner or her voice when she turned. "Have you eaten?"

"No, Miss Chapel. I have not," he replied easing out of the car. Despite his best intentions he'd tensed during the ride. It hadn't helped when she'd mentioned that yesterday was the first time she'd driven an air car in over 7 years. Admittedly, she hadn't driven badly. Considering the length of time since she'd driven last she done quite adequately, but if he had any say in the matter, he would be doing the driving for the rest of their stay. He made a mental note to himself, that if anyone he knew needed driving lessons, it wouldn't be him that gave them. He'd just discovered an area where he didn't have as much patience as he should.

So, they were back to Miss Chapel again. "Good, then you won't mind if we get something to eat. I left before eating as well. Last night I ate here at the hostel. The food's good." She turned on her heel quickly before she could give in to the laughter that threatened to bubble up.

Spock raised an eyebrow at her abrupt departure and followed behind. They'd spent the majority of the trip engaged in ... small talk. It wasn't something he was terribly adroit at, as he'd rarely engaged in it, but she hadn't seemed to notice, and it did serve to distract him. She had talked of the mural in the antiquities room. Apparently she'd spent a significant amount of time there. She'd admitted that she had not had time to view the entire museum, which wasn't surprising given its size.

He caught up with her when she stopped outside the entrance.

"Are we leaving today, or will you need to book a room?"

"That depends on you, Miss Chapel."

"Excuse me?" She gaped, at a loss for a more eloquent response. She knew he didn't mean it the way it sounded, but that didn't lessen the shock value.

"I was thinking you might like to return to the museum this afternoon. Since less time was allotted for this trip than was actually needed, we have plenty of time."

She smiled then. "That would be delightful, Mr. Spock. I was hoping for that chance. I'll just get us a table, while you get another room."

He opened the door as she reached for it. She passed through and headed for an exit to the left of the lobby. He watched her a moment wondering at her momentary shock. Figuring he'd probably never understand unless he asked her point blank, something he did not intend to do, he headed for the registration desk.

He was half way there when he lost half a step. He'd suddenly realized exactly how his comment could have been construed. That, however, wasn't what had triggered his slight loss of poise. What had, was the fact that he wasn't entirely certain if he was gratified or disappointed that she'd automatically assumed he hadn't meant that.

This trip, he decided, was one of revelations, some rather unsettling ones. He wasn't sure if he should be pleased or displeased that McCoy had thrust them together like this. Overall, it was probably better discovering these things here, than on board the Enterprise. While he hadn't been much affected by it, he knew full well that living with the tight knit crew was rather like, as the human saying had it, living in a fish bowl. Nothing new escaped the attention of a crew alert for gossip for very long.

Only a few minutes later he scanned the cafe for Christine. She had chosen a corner booth and she sat toward the outer edge of one side. He slipped into the other and sat across from her. Her head jerked up as he did so, and he wondered what had occupied her thoughts so thoroughly. "I did not mean to startle you."

"That's all right, Mr. Spock. I was just thinking."

"About?" he asked, surprising himself in the process. He watched as humor danced in her eyes a moment before she answered slowly.

"About the murals. They are quite fascinating."

Both looked up when the waitress brought the menus, but it didn't distract him for long. He looked back to her, then heard her thank the waitress, who left immediately after. She'd told him a falsehood. He was sure of it, although, to his knowledge she never had before. Of course he'd never asked her what she was thinking before either. It was a day for firsts.

"What about them could have you so deep in thought?" He watched a flash of anger light her eyes, and he wondered what, exactly, he'd said wrong.

"I'm not as hungry as I thought I was," she said quietly, rising to her feet quickly. "I'm going to go to my room and read."

"Wait," he said, still uncertain quite what was wrong, and reached out to clasp her wrist. At her gasp, he pulled his hand back instantly. "I do not know what you heard in my words, but I assure you, it is not what I meant."

She smiled wanly. "Thank you, but I think I will go to my room now. I need to do some thinking." She turned and walked away.

He would have been willing to place a wager he'd seen the beginning of tears just before she'd turned away. Now more puzzled than ever at what had gone wrong, he reviewed the conversation in his mind. He continued trying to figure out just what he'd said wrong all the way through ordering and eating his meal. By the time he'd pushed his empty plate away, he was no closer to a solution, but he was sure he'd thought of a way to find out.

Spock strode up the walk way of his family's home just outside of ShiKahr. If memory served, and their schedule had not changed since the last time he'd been home, his mother should be home at this time. The door opened, before he could touch it.

"Spock!" Amanda said, smiling. "I was just coming to find you."

"Indeed," he replied as his eyebrow shot to his hairline. "And just how--"

"When a mother has a son that often returns to his hometown and thinks it completely logical not to visit his family, she develops ... methods of discovering when he returns," she said cryptically.

He thought it prudent not to inquire further. He probably wouldn't get a clearer answer even if he did.

"Please, come in."

"Thank you, Mother."

Once they were ensconced in the living room, Spock came quickly to the point. "Mother, I find myself in need of your advice."

Amanda hid her surprise admirably. "About what, Spock?"

It didn't take long for Spock to relate the problem. Although he was uncomfortable being this ... open about the whole thing, she needed to know the whole problem before she could reliably help him. By the time he'd finished he'd seen a variety of nearly concealed emotions cross her face. In the end, it seemed she couldn't decide between humor or exasperation. They both fought for dominance in her features.

"By your expression, may I assume that you understand what it is that I missed?"

"Yes, Spock, you may.

Spock listened intently as his mother told him exactly what he'd done.

* * *

Spock entered the hostel, a plan not quite forming. He hadn't intended to insult Christine, far from it, but why he'd expected her to reveal anything of a personal nature, considering their history, was beyond him. He crossed to the cafe and scanned it. She was not there. Barring that, he looked for the human waitress that had served them.

When he saw her, he signaled for her attention. After he received her acknowledgment, he waited patiently for her to get a moment free. It didn't take long.

"What may I help you with?"

"The female I was with earlier, has she come back to dine?"

"No, but she may have had a tray taken up to her room. I could find out, if you want me to."

"Please," he said, ignoring her obvious curiosity.

He only had to wait a few moments after she disappeared through a set of double doors, for her to return. "She didn't order anything," she said and debated whether he'd want to know all she'd found out, then decided it was possible and volunteered the rest of her information. "According to the lobby attendant, she hasn't left to eat out, either."

"Thank you." He turned to leave, then stopped. "Could you please have a tray prepared with ktarin salad, sevts, lightly sauteed, and 2 kreyla. Do you stock Terran honey?"

"Yes."

"Then, add some for the kreyla."

"Will that be everything?"

"Yes."

"Okay, I'll have it sent right up."

"No ... I'll take it up."

"Very well. I'll bring it to you then."

He sat to wait at the nearest table, appreciating the fact that she had tried not to let her curiosity be too obvious.

* * *

On the way up to Christine's room, Spock reviewed exactly what he was going to say. It really shouldn't be difficult, for a human she was quite logical. He was sure that by now, she would have realized it was a simple miscommunication. He knocked.

"Who is it?"

"It is I," Spock answered, then he heard the sound of movement on the other side of the door.

"Come in."

He did as he was bid, but when he stopped in the middle of the room, he saw no sign of her. For a moment he stood awkwardly. He had expected her to answer the door. Already this was differing from his mental rehearsal. He heard water start in the bathroom, as he set the tray on the small table.

"I'll be right out, Mr. Spock," Christine called out.

Five minutes later, she emerged. Spock's carefully rehearsed speech went by the wayside, as he recognized the remaining evidence of her tears. She'd tried to erase it, but it was obvious she'd been crying. "I'm sorry, Christine."

"Oh," she said airily. "Don't think a thing about it, I've already forgotten it. I was just being silly." Christine moved to one of the chairs and sat.

This time he understood her reasons for not being honest. The first, her desire not to let him, a Vulcan, know that she'd been crying was understandable, and before recently he would have been gratified by it. He only knew the second because of his mother's sage advice regarding human emotions. He couldn't have insulted her with what he'd said if she didn't still love him.

"I brought a peace offering," he said, indicating the covered tray.

"Oh, good!" She stood. "I'm--" She froze.

He suddenly understood the human expression about 'seeing the wheels turning'. He watched as a variety of thoughts showed clearly in her eyes. Only then did he begin to be concerned that she might not understand that he hadn't done this because she was human, but had instead, done it because he was Vulcan.

He waited patiently, wondering if she would come to the correct conclusion, or would she once again brush it off as 'wishful' thinking. Lifting one brow, he allowed a touch of humor to enter his own eyes. A Vulcan would understand what he was offering. Would she?

Christine sat back down, before her knees could give out under her. She knew it wasn't the most graceful move she'd ever made. She looked down at her hands, clasped in her lap, before speaking. She couldn't look at him when she asked this, but she was confused enough that she had to ask. "Um ... Spock?" She hesitated, unable to force out the rest of her potentially embarrassing question.

"Yes," he said.

Christine's head snapped up, seemingly of its own accord. His yes, hadn't been a question! It had been an answer to what she hadn't been able to ask. She almost couldn't breathe, but neither could she have stopped the smile that spread across her face, even if her life had depended on it. It was a good thing it didn't.

Spock stood awed by the joy radiating from Christine caused by his gesture. Unable to completely absorb the fact that he was the cause of such happiness, he moved the few steps to the table. He needed a moment to collect his thoughts. He lifted the cover from atop the food.

"Perhaps you should eat something. I ... have it on good authority that you haven't eaten at all today."

He'd asked? Christine thought in shock. She couldn't quite picture that. "Yes, I think I will. I'm starved."

"Indeed," he replied with the slightest upward twitch to his lips. He picked up the fork and handed it to her as she sat on the straight backed chair by the table.

"Thank you," Christine said softly. His fingers lightly brushed against hers as he pulled his hand away. Such a casual touch took on a while new meaning and she delighted in the secret thrill that shot through her. Well, possibly not so secret, she thought. He was a touch telepath after all.

Spock sat in the chair across from her, pleased by her reaction to his touch. He refused to think of it as illogical. Of course, his own unexpected reaction did surprise him. He'd never reacted that way to such a brief, casual touch before. While she ate he tried to sort through this new turn.

* * *

Spock stood after Christine finished eating and rose from the table. He held his left hand out palm up, toward her left side. Not sure exactly what he wanted, she tentatively placed her hand on his. He pulled her closer to him, then reached out with his right hand and lightly, slowly, caressed the back of her hand with just the tips of two fingers. Starting at the top of hers, he caressed downward to the base of her index and middle finger, and circled back up to the tips.

Christine gasped. Her hand tingled where he touched, sending warm shivers up her arm. Her hands had never been particularly sensitive, but, oh my, his touch was electrifying! She was almost afraid to move, for fear her knees would buckle out from under her.

Spock's left hand fell away from hers, as the fingers of his right hand continued over her tips and trailed down toward her palm. A soft moan escaped past her lips. More than willing to experiment, she copied his earlier actions. Curling her pinkie and ring finger into her palm, she caressed the back of his hand.

Spock's hand trembled in response to her touch. He hadn't expected such an ... intense physical reaction. His breathing and heart rate quickened as her fingers gently explored his. Both their gazes locked, unable to look away from the darkening desire mirrored in the other's eyes.

Her arousal making her bold, Christine kept the two fingered position of her hand then reaching that hand up, she traced his often dreamed of lips. Spock gasped lightly and she thrilled at his reaction. Her ability to affect him that much, shot to the core of her and tightened her belly. If this simple touching did this much she craved to find out what kissing him would be like.

He had forgotten how sensitive his lips could be and found himself amazed by it, and nearly overwhelmed. His fingers found their way to her lips and ever so lightly, almost reverently, traced their parted outline. She swayed forward, leaning into his touch, and darted the tip of her tongue out to touch one slender finger. Part of him, deep inside, was fast becoming aroused by their actions, and her incredible reactions.

From somewhere came the urge to press his lips to hers, and before he realized it, he was bending forward. His first taste of her cool lips was sweet, flavored with the touch of honey that still remained. Her lips moved softly beneath his, and he parted his in response.

It was everything Christine could have hoped for and more. His lips were flame against hers, and she melted into the tender, sensual kiss. Responding to the answering fire deep within her she stepped forward and allowed her hands, fingers spread, to touch his chest, and never losing contact, caress their way up to his neck. Then she clasped her hands behind the nape of his neck and deepened the kiss.

Hours, or maybe it was only minutes later, Christine's heart was pounding so hard she felt it was going to pound itself right out of her chest. She suddenly felt very overwhelmed. This was going way too fast! She pulled back, flushed and breathing raggedly. "...Maybe ... we should think about ... going to the museum," she said as soon as she was able.

Spock took a deep breath before answering. "Perhaps, you're right." Without another word, he crossed to the bathroom, closing the door behind him.

Christine was glad she'd been able to see evidence of the affect their encounter had on him when she'd pulled back. If she hadn't, she might have suspected it hadn't affected him at all. She could use just a touch of that control herself right now. She wasn't having such an easy time calming down. She wouldn't have been so sure, if she had been able to see him at that moment.

* * *

When the door closed behind him, Spock leaned back against it. He closed his eyes and steepled his fingers in front of him. It took several deep, slow breaths to slow his racing heart and calm the physical arousal. Everything was happening so fast. Spock had not expected to ... 'get carried away', during their first encounter. She had such deep passion within her and it drew him like a moth to a flame.

He would have to remember that, in the future. If prepared for it, perhaps he would be better able to respond less ... strongly to it. After 2.5 minutes he felt satisfied that his control had been regained and he emerged from Christine's bathroom.

She was sitting quietly at the table, looking peaceful and calm. He admired her ability to calm herself so quickly. He may look it, but he did not ... feel so calm.

"Are you ready to depart, Christine."

She smiled. She liked it when he used her given name. It made her feel warm inside. "Yes, Spock, I am."

Spock crossed to the door and opened it, allowing her to precede him into the hallway. He closed it behind them, and then side by side the wandered down the stairs.

* * *

The shuttle was right where they'd left it and appeared untouched, though why she thought it wouldn't have been, was beyond her. She couldn't figure out why she was feeling uneasy. This was Vulcan, one of the most civilized planets in the Federation. If any place was completely safe, it was this planet.

Spock keyed open the entrance and preceded her up the ramp.

"I'll put the bags up, if you want to start on the preflight preparations," Christine offered.

Spock hesitated. He'd always taken care of his own personal items. Christine was beginning to wonder if she shouldn't have made the offer when he nodded once and slipped his overnight bag off his shoulder. She took it and headed back to the living area. She could see she was going to have to be careful. She didn't want to scare him off, just when they were getting started.

She went to her cabin first and began putting away her things.

* * *

The preflight check finished, and their flight path received from Central Control, Spock engaged the engines and maneuvered the small craft into space. He would remain at the helm until they were safely out of the system. Traffic was lighter than when they arrived, so a more direct path outsystem was possible. It took all of twenty minutes, then Spock laid in a course to the rendevous point and set the shuttle's speed at Warp 3.

* * *

Finally satisfied with her quarters, Christine picked up Spock's bag and made her way to his quarters. As with those on the Enterprise, he didn't keep these locked either. She walked right in and set the bag on his bed. She turned to leave, then stopped. What was that strange smell? It was vaguely familiar, but she couldn't quite place it. She took another stepped and the room spun around her. One more step. Her knees buckled. She grabbed for the dresser next to the door, grabbing the air beside it instead. Blackness touched the edges of her vision.

* * *

Spock entered the dining room. Surprised she wasn't there yet, he turned around and headed for the living area. He heard a muffled thud, followed quickly by another, and quickened his pace. He pushed the entry chime on her door.

"Christine?"

Palming open the door, he saw immediately that the room was empty. Where? He moved down the hall to the next cabin. Palming it open, he nearly gasped. The odor that rushed out at him, made him step back momentarily. He recognized it immediately.

He'd encountered the gas only once before and had found he was severely allergic to it. Focusing his vision with difficulty, it was then he saw Christine laying haphazardly on the floor of his cabin. Rushing into the room, he knelt beside her. He had to get her out of the sedative filled room. It was already starting to affect him, and if he lost consciousness, they were both in trouble.

"Christine?" he said, pulling her over onto her back. Seeing the still oozing blood coming from a wound on her temple, propelled him into quick action. He jerked her up into his arms and headed for the miniature Sickbay as quickly as his fading abilities would allow. He stumbled twice in the short distance, falling against the wall both times.

Passing through the door into Sickbay with nearly the last of his energy, he dumped Christine onto the single biobed and fumbled for a hypo. He needed to get the antidote before he could help her.

He held the hypo in his hand, but couldn't focus properly. He couldn't remember what he needed. Oh yes, 3 cc's of Epinephrine, he thought, programming the hypo with trembling fingers. He injected it quickly. Followed by ... followed by? He had to think, he had to remember before he passed out. Chlorphenamine! He needed 15cc's of Chlorphenamine.

Moments after injecting the second drug, his vision began to clear, and he could feel his heart pumping more strongly. Taking a deep stabilizing breath, he stood and shakily made his way to Christine's side. The bleeding has stopped. Coagulated, he automatically thought.

Grabbing a scanner, he ran it quickly over her. He grabbed another hypo and programmed a stimulant to counteract the overdose of sedative she'd received. His stomach twisted once, before he suppressed his reaction. Judging by the readings he was getting, if she'd been in there only moments longer, the overdose alone could have easily killed her.

Finishing his scan, he clinically noted the hairline fraction in her cheekbone and the mild concussion. She had obviously been trying to get out of the room when she'd succumbed to the powerful sedative and when she'd fallen had struck her head. Most likely it had been on the corner of the dresser that sat next to his door.

He'd just finished using the bone knitter, when she moaned. He quickly reached for the dermal regenerator. He wanted to finish sealing the wound before she woke. She moaned again, just as he finished, and he injected her with a mild analgesic. She was bound to have something of a headache when she awoke.

* * *

She awoke with a start and immediately regretted the gasp that escaped. The sudden movement shot pain through her temple. She breathed slowly, trying to relax the intense pain away. It faded slowly. She dared open her eyes and immediately winced, closing her eyes back to mere slits. What had happened? The last thing she remembered... She desperately searched for something, anything. There wasn't anything there to remember. Where was she? Who was she?

Terrified beyond reason, she bolt upright. Across the room a man sat staring at his hands. He held them pressed together in front of him. She eased off the bed as quietly as she could. She swayed dizzily and she closed her eyes until the spinning stopped. She opened them again and began edging her way to the exit. She had to get out of here. There had to be a reason she was so afraid. If she could just find a place to be alone and think, maybe she could remember why.

She was about half way to the door when the man's head jerked up. "You are awake," he said, rising to his feet. "Are you all right?"

He didn't seem so bad. He spoke nicely. "I don't think so," she whispered.

"You shouldn't be out of bed yet. You hit your head when you fell."

He moved towards her and she was frozen in place. He reached out and lightly clasped her upper arm, guiding her back to the bed. She went.

"I counteracted the dose of sedative you got, repaired a fracture of your cheekbone, and did what I could for your concussion."

"That would explain why my head hurts."

"Indeed. I gave you a mild analgesic. The pain should diminish shortly."

"Thank you." Her fear was diminishing. Obviously this man wasn't the cause of her fear. She felt he was ... safe.

"You need further medical attention. Now that you are awake, I will turn us back around and we will return to Vulcan."

"No!" she yelled. Her hand snapped to her mouth, covering it. Astonished by her outburst, she would have backed up if she'd been able.

His eyebrow shot up to an incredible angle. "Why?"

She quickly lowered her eyes, unable to look him in the face. "I ... don't know."

"Christine, why--"

"Christine," she whispered, once again staring into his dark eyes. "Is that my name?"

He froze, for a moment unable to speak as a wave of...dread washed over him. "What do you mean, is that your name?"

"I mean, is that my name? Is that who I am?" she begged as tears filled her eyes.

Amnesia, he thought. It was a frequent side affect of a trauma to the head. "Yes, that is your name. But is it who you are? No, you are so much more than your name."

Through her tears and her uncertainty, she smiled. It was just a little smile, but the way he said that, made her feel absolutely sure that everything would be all right, as long as he was there.

"Why do you not wish to return to Vulcan? There is nothing there to fear." He was unsure exactly how to proceed. She had absolutely no logical reason to fear the planet of his birth. Was it simply a manifestation of the amnesia? He watched as she searched her mind vainly for some clue. For a moment he thought she wasn't going to answer, and he started to turn away.

"I ... don't know why, but when you suggested going there, I ... panicked."

"Christine, I believe you are very uncertain right now, but I am not a doctor. You need one. Vulcan is only 1.3 hours away. We are 6.52 days away from the Enterprise. What?"

"The ... Enterprise, I want to go there."

He stepped forward. "You remember the Enterprise?"

"No," she shook her head. "It's just that when you said the name, I felt like if I could just get there, I would be safe."

He reached out and laid his hand over hers. "I assure you, you are safe. Whether we are here, on Vulcan, or on board the Enterprise."

"The Enterprise is a ship?"

"Yes, it is."

"Hmmm... Sounds more like home."

"Indeed, the Enterprise has, most recently, been your home for 3.2 years."

"I want to go home."

"I will not debate this with you. You need medical attention that I cannot give. We are going back to Vulcan."

"No, please! Wait!" She searched frantically for some reason he would accept for not going back. She latched onto one piece of information. "Didn't you say something about a concussion?"

"Yes."

"Is that the reason you're concerned?"

"Yes," he confirmed, wondering exactly where she was headed with this.

"Isn't it the first 24 hours that you need to be concerned about? How long has it been since I hit my head?"

"Yes, and it's been 4.65 hours, why?"

"How are my eyes?"

"What do you mean?"

"Are they ... are they..." She blew out a harsh breath in frustration. She couldn't find the right words. "...both the same?"

He stepped forward and looked closely into one eye then the other. "They are not equal. However, they are reacting more appropriately than before."

"See!" she cried triumphantly. "I'm getting better already!"

He sighed before answering. "You are ... improved from earlier. It is far to soon to say you are, 'getting better'."

"Yes," she replied sadly, hanging her head. "I can't remember. What can't I remember?"

"Almost everything, it would seem."

She jerked her head up, glaring. "Tell me something I don't know!" she snapped. "I'm sorry. It's just that I'm scared ... and thirsty."

"That is ... understandable. Losing who and what you are would be ... disturbing. I will retrieve you something to drink."

"Wait, that stuff about the concussion earlier. I'm a nurse or a doctor, aren't I?"

A corner of his mouth twitched upward. "Both actually."

"Both? How could I be both?"

"That is a long story."

"I believe you said something about it being 6.5 some odd days until we reach the Enterprise?"

"6.52, is what I said."

"Well, it sounds like we have time for a 'long story'."

"Indeed, it does seem that way. I will be right back." As he left her in Sickbay, he wondered exactly when, in the course of their conversation, she had persuaded him not to return to Vulcan.

* * *

Spock thumbed off the comunit. His subspace message was on its way to the Enterprise. After taking a moment to review what little the computer's database contained on amnesia, he'd decided it was necessary. Her fear had been very real. While some confusion and fear was, understandably,
associated with amnesia, to Spock, hers seemed magnified. Like she was afraid of something specific, only she couldn't remember what it was.

The question of how the ancient Terran anesthetic had made its way to his cabin, and how it had been triggered, was a mystery, one he intended to resolve as soon as possible. He did wonder if she'd seen something while in his cabin that might be the source of her fear, but he couldn't imagine anything there might cause it. When he got the chance to clear the remaining traces of ether, he planned on searching for clues. No matter how well the perpetrator covered his or her tracks, they were bound to have left something behind.

Whatever else happened, Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy would be warned of Christine's condition well in advance of their arrival, and at the moment that was the most important thing. That taken care of, he headed for the dining room replicator.

He quickly programed orange juice for Christine and sokren juice for himself, then headed back to Sickbay. According to what he'd read, the treatment for amnesia was nearly as individual as the person suffering from it. That put him in something of a difficult position, as he was uncertain just how much of her past he should reveal to her. Apparently it was handled on a case by case basis, and it necessitated a close study of the person's reactions to the information being given to them.

He didn't think he was the best person to judge Christine's emotional stability, but at the moment he was all she had. Part of him still believed they would be better off returning to Vulcan, but familiar surroundings had been stressed as important in recovering lost memories. So, despite concerns about the length of time without expert medical care, they would continue toward the Enterprise.

He would start slowly, telling her about things farther in her past first. He was hampered somewhat in that endeavor by his limited knowledge of her life, before coming on board the Enterprise. However, he knew just enough to begin the process. After that, she would have to be his guide in exactly what, and how much to reveal about her present life.

Walking through the Sickbay doors, he froze. She was no longer on the biobed. He didn't see her anywhere. He listened intently for a moment, but could hear nothing. He strode across to the computer terminal, setting down the drinks. "Computer, where are human life signs registering?"

"Human life signs are registering in cabin 3."

What was she doing there? Neither one of them was using that cabin. Why would she go there? It took him only 7 strides outside of sickbay to realize the most probable reason she had chosen this room. It was the first door outside of Sickbay. Four more quick strides and he was passing through the fast opening door of cabin 3. He heard a gasp as he did so, and he turned toward the source. She was huddled on the floor, in the corner of the small cabin. "Christine?"

Suddenly she launched herself from the corner and latched onto him. Absolute shock held him motionless for two breaths, then he awkwardly wrapped both arms around her, and he patted her back reassuringly.

"Why were you gone so long? When ... you didn't come back, I thought ... something might have happened. I had to ... hide."

"We are the only two people on board, Christine," he pointed out logically. "What could have happened to me?"

"I... Please, don't leave me alone again."

Spock was astounded at the fear he could feel pumping through her and it raised questions about what her subconscious could possibly be telling her. "I won't," he promised, all the while wondering just how he intended to keep that promise. It was a long trip back to the Enterprise.

"I brought your orange juice to Sickbay. Perhaps it would be best if we returned there."

"No, I don't ... like it there."

Spock's eyebrow rose sharply at her nearly undetectable admission. "Very well. We will go to the dining lounge."

Spock pulled back just enough to look down at the woman in his arms. "Do you still want something to drink?"

Christine nodded without looking up, then stepped back out of the protective circle of his arms. Reaching up, she dashed away her remaining tears with quick irritated movements. "I'm sorry. I know I'm probably just being silly."

Spock wasn't quite sure how to respond to that. While he could see no logical reason for her fears, he also knew that saying anything that might confirm her self-depreciation was not what was needed. "While I do not yet know the source of your fear, that does not invalidate it. I have not had time, since your accident, to inspect ... the site. You may have seen something that worried, or frightened you, and your subconscious, freed from the restraints normally placed on it by your conscious mind, would be controlling your reaction to it."

A sharp stab of fear coursed through her, but strangely, she wasn't afraid for herself. Now what could that possibly mean? "Can we go check it out now?" She had to find out why she was so afraid. Something deep inside told her she wasn't normally this teary eyed and clingy. Maybe if she knew more about what was happening, she could control herself better.

"Just a moment." Spock crossed to the computer console and activated it. "Computer, scan the chemical makeup of the air in cabin 1. Is there any ether left in it?"

"Working. There is 1 part per 1,000 ether contaminants in requested scan."

"Recycle and cleanse the air in previous scan area."

"Working."

Spock turned to Christine. "The computer should finish the process by the time we arrive."

"Then let's get it over with. Maybe we can get to the bottom of this."

Spock agreed with her, and indicated she should precede him out of the empty cabin. Before she moved she looked at him oddly a moment. "I forgot to ask earlier. What is your name?"

Spock almost frowned at that oversight on his part as well. It should have been glaringly obvious to him. If she didn't remember who she was, of course she would not remember who he was. "I am Spock."

"Spock," she repeated. "I like it. I like you. Thank you for helping me."

Spock's eyebrow rose. Very direct, this Christine with no memory. He would have to remember that. "...You're welcome, Christine."

She smiled widely at him, turned and left the cabin. He had to slip around her when she stopped in the middle of the corridor. He made no comment, knowing she didn't know which way to go. He simply took the lead. They stopped and waited when they reached his cabin.

"Recycling of air in cabin 1 is complete. It now scans within Earth normal standards."

Spock stepped forward activating the door sensor, crossing through as soon as the door slid open.

Christine hesitated as a wave of ... no, it wasn't fear ... anxiety washed over her. She took hold of it. She refused to allow it to control her any longer, and followed ... Spock into the room. She stopped dead center and looked around the spartan sleeping room. She turned, eyes wide, to Spock, who was standing next to an open bag on the bed. "This is your room, isn't it?"

Spock looked up surprised, but gratified, by her assessment. "Yes." She looked at him thoughtfully a moment.

"Do you know why I was in here?"

"You had offered to return my belongings, while I piloted the shuttle off Vulcan."

"Oh." Christine nodded, glad she didn't have to worry about hurting his feelings because of not remembering him. He certainly did not seem to be acting like they were anything more than acquaintances, or perhaps friends. Maybe she could ask him later. She wanted all her answers now, but right now he seemed absorbed in his search.

He returned his attention back to the open bag. "Apparently you started to put some of the items away."

A strange note in his voice drew her attention and she wondered if perhaps her earlier self had done something odd. "Should I not have done that?" she asked, worry evident in her voice. She was still trying to piece together exactly what her role was.

Spock stopped and looked at her. "It was ... unexpected, but not ... wrong." Spock started to turn back to the bed, when something on the dresser caught his attention. His eyes widened slightly and he crossed the room in three quick strides.

Christine followed his movements with his eyes, and saw the old fashioned piece of paper just as he reached for it, and gasped. She was able to read the first four words before his movements took it out of her sight.

Consider this a warning!

"It's you!" she exclaimed. "Someone's after you!"

Spock turned slowly to regard her. "Indeed, it would appear that way." He handed her the note. He would have preferred to keep it from her, in her present condition, but realized having seen it, she wasn't about to let it go.

Consider this a warning! I will make thee pay for the problems you have brought to Vulcan. You were the first, now there are many like you. You and all like you poison us. Now you have the gall to bring that abomination among us to pollute us further. You will never know when or where, but you will pay.

She raised wide eyes back up to meet Spock's. "What are they talking about?"

"That, too, is a long story. Perhaps our time would be better spent concentrating on you. First however, I intend on initiating a computer search."

"For what?"

Spock hesitated before answering. "For anything that might interfere with the shuttle's operation. I will drop you off in the dining lounge."

"No, I'm going with you."

* * *

"So, we're just gonna sit here until the computer finishes checking out the shuttle?"

"Yes, I don't want to chance that whoever has this ... grudge against me has done something to tamper with either the impulse engines, or the warp core."

"Wouldn't something have already happened, if they'd done that? It seems to me like this person wants you to suffer first, so would wait until later to continue the harassment."

"Logical deduction. However, I am not willing to risk either of our lives on the assumption that this person will be consistent." Spock rose and headed away from the helm. Christine forced herself not to overreact to the implied danger and instead followed quietly behind.

They walked in silence back to the dining lounge, each lost in their own thoughts. Spock searched his memory of the last few days for any clue that might reveal the perpetrator. Unfortunately, no single person or incident stood out in his memory. A certainty was growing, however, that Christine Chapel's lost memories held a key of some sort. He did not know whether she'd seen something or heard something. Hopefully they could find the answer to recovering her memory before whoever started this vendetta struck again.

Spock slowed his pace upon nearing the lounge, allowing Christine to enter first. She had programed this replicator many times during their discussions, he hoped that the sheer repetition would remain with her.

"I believe I promised you a ...long story?"

"Yes, you did." Christine smiled and crossed to the replicator. "You promised two actually." Her fingers danced over the controls as she spoke, her mind on what Spock was going to tell her.

Spock forced himself not to react outwardly to her actions, but allowed a half smile at her correction. "Indeed."

Half way back to the table Christine stopped and stared down at the drinks in her hands, shock freezing her in place. "What did I just do?" She glanced up at Spock, an ear to ear smile transforming her features. "I remembered how to work that... that..."

"Replicator."

"Yes, replicator." She handed one of the drinks to Spock. "Sokren, right?"

"Yes," he replied, taking the drink from her hand. "People suffering from amnesia often remember ... 'the little stuff', if the do not concentrate to hard on what they are doing."

"That makes sense, kinda work on automatic, and the subconscious takes over," Christine said absently, staring at her orange juice. "Now, how am I both a doctor and a nurse?"

* * *

Christine turned and watched as the door to her quarters shut behind her. Spock had walked with her and reintroduced her to them. She frowned as she continued to inspect everything. It was as if she were standing among a stranger's things. She fought back tears of frustration. He had said she shouldn't be worried if she none of this seemed familiar. She'd only spent a week here. Well, that was easy for him to say. He wasn't the one with a gaping hole where his memory used to be.

After the computer had confirmed that everything was in perfect working order, he'd set them back on course for the Enterprise. The Enterprise, that was the only thing in all this that had even the smallest ring of familiarity to it. She was eager to get back to that ship, where possibly her memories might begin to resurface.

Spock had told her how she came to be aboard her, and for the life of her, she couldn't understand why someone would give up everything they'd worked for just on the off chance that the ship she'd signed aboard might actually find him. She must have really loved him, but if that were true, why couldn't she remember him?

Evidently she'd remained on board after discovering what had happened to him. Spock had gotten a little vague there, on her reasons. It was obvious he was holding something back, and she wondered what it was.

Her third circuit of the room nearly complete, she reached the computer table and stopped. A book was peeking out from the edge of a cloth bag. It called to her.

* * *

Spock sat on his bed, cross legged. He had finished his nightly meditation and was now pondering their current situation. When he'd told Christine about herself, he hadn't seen a single spark of recognition. Obviously, none of it had seemed familiar to her. However, he had noticed her skepticism when he had not been completely truthful about her reasons for remaining on board after Exo III.

It had surprised him that despite her memory loss, she knew how to read him so well. He hadn't realized that she was just as good at it, as Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy. Several times during their discussion, he'd considered the possibility of a mind meld to help her remember, but until such time as Dr. McCoy could examine her, and discover the true extent of her injuries, he didn't think it wise to risk it.

Mind melds, while completely safe under ordinary circumstances, did alter brain chemistry to allow for the mental connection. It was because of his actions that she had been injured in the first place. He would not risk further injury to Christine by being ... impatient. Spock redirected his thoughts, feeling guilty for something he could not have prevented was illogical.

Returning her to the Enterprise and to Dr. McCoy who surely knew her better than he did would have her and her memory back to normal quickly. Spock was pulled from his contemplations by the sounding of his door chime. He rose quickly and palmed open the door. Christine stood there looking extremely satisfied with herself.

"You were helping with this weren't you?" She held out the Vulcan text they'd spent the better part of a week studying together.

* * *

They fell into an easy routine for the next three days. Spock talked of life on board the Enterprise, missions they'd been on together, and everything else he could think of. She asked question after question, and to his surprise, Spock found he knew more about her than he'd realized.

Several times a day, when she became frustrated with her lack of progress, Spock would gently steer the conversation to other topics. He even began teaching her to play chess. However he was beginning to suspect chess was a lost cause as far as she was concerned. She was a highly intelligent woman, but tactics were not her strong suit.

Other than her revelation that first night in regard to "A Forgotten World", she'd made no new associations, and was steadily growing more and more frustrated. "What will I do if my memory never comes back?"

"Christine, it will return in time. Dr. McCoy is far more knowledgeable in this area than I. He will be able to help you regain your memory."

Christine jumped up, knocking over her chair in the process. "I read the same information you did. There's a chance it won't ever come back! Don't try to mollycoddle me!"

Christine stood just before the door, with her back to him. "I am not ... mollycoddling you. The odds of your memory not returning are--"

"Please don't quote the odds."

Spock stifled a sigh. He could hear she was near tears this time, and he wasn't sure how to help her. Perhaps he should have been spending the time keeping her mind off her lack of memory, instead of focusing her mind on it by filling her in on what she couldn't remember. He rose.

Christine sighed. "I'm sorry. It just gets to me sometimes." He started to cross to her.

"Incoming subspace message."

"We finished the trade negotiations early and we've set course for new rendevous coordinates. We'll be meeting you in two days. The coordinates are included. Kirk out."

Relief that help was on the way showed briefly in Spock's eyes. Soon after they arrived McCoy would be able to tell him whether or not a mind meld would be medically appropriate. Since the accident he'd had to suppress the urge to suggest it several times.

"I'm sure you'll be glad to hand me over to someone else in two days. Then you'll be able to get back to doing whatever it is you normally do," Christine said quietly as she turned and left.

Spock's brow shot up. Where had that come from? It was the most illogical statement he'd ever heard her utter. He quickly entered the new heading before following her.

* * *

It was bad enough she couldn't remember a damn thing about her life. Now she knew he was only putting up with her until he could make her someone else's problem. He'd been humoring her this whole time! Actually she couldn't blame him. He was obviously an intelligent man. It must be dreadfully boring to continually be forced into conversation with someone who doesn't remember that her name is really hers.

While she understood, something about it made her want to cry. Seeing absolutely no further reason to hold back tears she'd successfully fought since waking up, she buried her head in her pillow and allowed them free reign. She just wanted this over with. She wanted to be normal again. She wanted to go back to the life she didn't remember.

* * *

Spock stepped into the dining lounge, wondering what had come over Christine. Jim Kirk had once told him that Vulcan was the only planet that could boast of logical women, but up until recently he'd found that Christine was usually quite logical. He was completely out of his depth in how to handle her now.

She wasn't there. Spock turned on his heel and headed to her quarters. Logically, that was the next place to look. His hand froze a mere inch from the entry chime. He could hear her crying. He remembered the one time he'd seen his mother cry. He'd wanted to comfort her too. He didn't have much better ideas on how to help Christine than he had his mother so long ago.

He hesitated only a moment longer, quelled the instincts that told him to wait until the storm had passed and touched the chime.

* * *

Christine jumped off her bunk, wiping her tears as she rushed to the vanity mirror above her small dresser. There was no way she wanted him to know she'd been crying, but there was nothing she could do about her red puffy eyes. Taking a deep calming breath, she palmed open the door and quickly turned away.

"Christine, I don't know what gave you the idea I would be ... eager to 'hand you over', but it is far from true."

"Oh, come on. I saw your relief when that Kirk fellow said the Enterprise would meet us early." Christine was surprised, yet relieved at how steady her voice sounded. She'd even spoke calmly.

"The ... relief you saw was because I was gratified that true medical help would be available, not for any other reason."

Christine wanted to believe him. He was the only person she knew at the moment, and stepping into the care of what amounted to total strangers, scared her senseless. "Were we friends, before?"

"Yes, it was a long time coming, but we had become friends before you lost your memory."

"Why?"

"Why were we friends?"

"No, why was it a long time coming?"

Spock hesitated, not quite sure exactly how much to reveal about the strange twists the path to their friendship had taken. "Our personal introduction was less than optimal, and after that we encountered more than our share of ... embarrassing episodes. It made for a ... rocky path to actually getting to know one another."

Christine turned to face him. She tried to hide the grin that twitched her lips, but couldn't quite manage it. That acknowledgment spoke volumes about untold stories. "That, uh, sounds like another 'long story'," she said finally, when she could trust herself not to laugh.

Spock shifted uncomfortably. "It is my hope that you will regain your memory long before any of those details need be explained. As I said, most of it is embarrassing and the rest is not very flattering, to me."

Christine's eyebrow rose in unconscious imitation of Spock. "I have to admit that, since I can't imagine you acting with anything except propriety, what you just said makes me all the more curious."

"Be that as it may, you'll just have to wait for that information," Spock said. "Do you now better understand my ... reaction?"

"Yes, I think so. Just promise me one thing."

"What is that?"

"Do not feel obligated to stick by me. If at anytime you'd rather be doing something else, do it."

"I can safely promise that, Christine. There will be times I have to be doing other activities, but it will not be because I want to distance myself from you. You're recovery is ... important to me."

With his words, Christine felt relief and a warm sense of joy flood her. For the first time since she woke, she was sure everything would actually be all right.

"I believe we were about to eat, before the hail interrupted us. Would you like to get lunch now?"

"That would be delightful, Spock."

* * *

Spock released control of the shuttle over to the Enterprise tractor beam. At the moment, he couldn't remember a time when he'd been more relieved to be back on board. Out the front view port, he could see both Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy waiting for them. McCoy was, as usual, rocking on his toes, obviously anxious to check on Christine.

"So," Christine said nervously. "We're here."

"Indeed."

She was waiting by the exit by the time the shuttle set down without a bump. Spock, right behind her, keyed open the exit.

Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy met them at the exit and McCoy had his medical scanner out and ready before they'd even climbed out.

"Doctor, Captain," Spock said, nodding to each in turn.

"Looks like you sure got yourself into something of a mess this time, Chris," McCoy said gruffly, as he performed a quick preliminary scan.

Christine cast a nervous glance to Spock. The doctor's abrupt mannerisms and her odd sense of deja vu, prompted her to move closer to him. She wanted to grab hold and not let go until she felt safe again. However, something told her that would be the wrong thing to do. He had changed subtly since stepping off the shuttle. She couldn't quite put her finger on what was different, but he seemed ... less approachable.

"Well, I've got good news. There's no permanent damage," McCoy said with a smile. "Now, young lady, we need to get you to Sickbay for a more detailed examination." He clasped her elbow and began pulling her forward.

She clamped down on most of her fear, but turned pleading eyes to Spock. "You'll be coming too, right?" She didn't understand the shocked expressions on either the doctor or the man Spock had called Captain.

"Yes, I will accompany you and the doctor to Sickbay."

"Well, I'll be," McCoy said wonderingly.

Stepping over to Christine, Spock ignored McCoy's comment and Kirk's questioning gaze. Raising an eyebrow he looked questioningly at the motionless human. "Doctor, do you intend on remaining frozen there, or are you going to Sickbay?"

McCoy opened his mouth, then evidently thinking better of it, closed it without saying a thing. He turned and headed for Sickbay, this time allowing Christine to follow behind.

Spock suspected the doctor, as well as Captain Kirk, would have plenty of questions as soon as Christine was settled.

* * *

Spock stood off to the side, watching. Gradually, McCoy's concern and caring filtered past his gruff exterior, and Christine warmed to him. Soon she was smiling in response to his caustic quips, and was checking to make sure he was still there, less and less. It was then he felt able to leave her in McCoy's capable hands. He had a report to give the captain.

"All the tests confirm what I said earlier, Christine. There is absolutely no permanent brain damage. From what I can see it was actually a very minor concussion, despite the fractured cheekbone that went with it."

"Then why can't I remember anything?"

McCoy sighed, his forehead creasing in frustration. "I don't know. There are a couple of readings here, I don't fully understand. I'm going to keep you overnight, so I can keep an eye on you."

"Doctor, it's been days since I was injured. I really don't think that's necessary."

McCoy waggled an admonishing finger at her. "No arguments from you, young lady. I need to check on a couple of things. In the meantime, I want you to lay back and try to get some sleep."

Christine sighed. She didn't remember anything specific, but she had the strangest feeling that many a patient had argued with and lost to this man. She didn't even try. Instead she lay down and closed her eyes. She was very tired anyway. Going to sleep sounded like a good idea.

* * *

"...That's when we discovered the note the perpetrator had left behind, threatening me," Spock said, handing the note to Captain Kirk.

Kirk took it and read it quickly. "Sounds like a nutcase to me," he said. A few quick steps took him behind McCoy's desk and he plopped down into the chair. He was suddenly very tired and he could feel a headache forming behind his eyes. This intrigue was all they needed.

"An apt, if somewhat colorful description."

Kirk chuckled and shook his head. "Have you made any progress toward discovering who this madman is?"

"No, sir. I intend--"

"Spock?"

Spock turned to see McCoy entering the office. "Yes, Doctor?"

"I need you to take a look at something."

* * *

Spock studied the images McCoy brought up on the viewer in his office. He knew what they were, but there was definitely something ... different about them. "These are brain scans right?"

McCoy nodded. "Yes."

"These odd heat and chemical signatures here and here are not normal for humans, are they?"

"No, they're what I wanted you to look at."

"Are they a result of her amnesia?"

"I believe they are the cause of her amnesia, or rather, I believe what caused them caused her amnesia."

"Doctor, riddles will not help Christine. Would you please speak plainly?"

"Sorry Spock, but I have an idea about what's going on here, and I need an unbiased confirmation. I do not want to prejudice what you see."

Spock's eyes narrowed as he turned back to the images, trying to figure out what McCoy wanted him to see. "Computer, display image of normal human brain scan, along side the two already displayed."

"Working."

Moments later the images resized to accommodate the third image. "The changes in both heat and biochemical composition are subtle and appear to be very specific to portions of the brain that regulate and contain memory," Spock said, looking to McCoy for confirmation of his analysis.

McCoy nodded. "Yes, go on."

Spock looked back to the scans, something seemed very familiar about the patterns. "It is evocative of the changes that would take place during..."

Spock turned on McCoy suddenly, astonishment plainly written on his face.

McCoy nodded once.

"You think that someone, a Vulcan, made her forget."

"Yes, I do. I've only seen this pattern once before."

"Where?"

"On Captain Kirk shortly after we came back from the Guardian of Forever."

Spock spun on his heel and headed for the door.

"Where are you going?" McCoy asked in surprise.

Spock stopped and looked over his shoulder at the doctor. "To help Miss Chapel remember."

"With a mind meld?"

Spock's eyebrow rose. "Of course, Doctor."

"Do you think that's wise?"

"Doctor, if your supposition is correct, which all the evidence does suggest, then a mind meld is the only way she will remember."

"I see."

Spock resumed his walk to the door. He almost made it.

"Spock?"

"What Doctor?" Spock asked, irritation tinging his voice.

"Just when did you start calling her Christine?"

He should have known that one slip would not have gotten past McCoy. He froze, remaining silent for almost a full minute. "Before she lost her memory, we ... came to an agreement." Spock said, then continued out the door without a further sound.

Well I'll be damned, McCoy thought, suddenly grinning like a Cheshire cat. And it's about time too. Shaking his head, he followed the Vulcan into main Sickbay and wondered just what the future held. All he could say was that it was going to be 'fascinating'.

When he caught up with Spock, he was already speaking with Christine. McCoy braced himself, because it was obvious she was furious.

"You mean someone deliberately did this to me? Someone reached into MY mind and wiped out everything I am!"

Christine had spoken quietly, but in a deadly calm that ... disquieted him. It made him think of several human sayings of a type with 'the calm before the storm', and 'beware the quiet rage'. He felt McCoy approach from behind, but ignored him for the moment. All of his attention was focused on Christine. "That is what we believe. We will not know for sure until--"

"Who?" Christine asked, cutting off his explanation.

"We will not know that until your memory is returned."

"Is returned? Not when it returns?"

"The only way to bring back your memory, assuming we are correct, is by another mind meld."

Christine jumped off the biobed and glared at him in astonishment. "You've got to be kidding!"

"No, Vulcans do not 'kid'."

Christine almost laughed. This was beyond belief. First he tells her that someone messed around inside her head and made her forget, and then he tells her that someone else has to go inside to make her remember. It was just too much. "You expect me to let some ... stranger poke around inside my mind."

Spock pulled back slightly. "It would not be a stranger. It would be me. I am the only one on board capable of performing a mind meld."

"Oh, that's different. Go ahead."

They both ignored the cut off snort from McCoy.

Spock blinked in surprise at her sudden capitulation. He was accustomed to more resistance from humans once their minds were made up. "What made you change your mind?"

Christine shrugged. "I trust you."

Spock threw a perplexed look at McCoy.

McCoy wasn't sure if the expression had been caused by humans in general or whether Spock was suffering from the age old complaint of men from every species, in regard to women. Wearing a lopsided grin, he shook his head. "Trust is a powerful motivator."

"Indeed," Spock answered, turning back to face Christine. "I will be required to touch your face."

Christine narrowed her eyes at his warning and glanced over to McCoy. "Is that something I should be worried about?"

McCoy couldn't hold it back any longer. He collapsed in a fit of laughter. It took him a couple of moments, while Spock and Christine stared at him in surprise, to regain some semblance of control. "No," he said and bit his lip to keep any acerbic remarks to himself.

After a moment of staring at McCoy suspiciously, Christine returned her attention to Spock. "What do you need to do to get ready?"

"I am ready. All you need to do is relax and let me in."

Christine nodded and tried not to show her nervousness as Spock reached up and gently placed the fingers of his right hand on the contact points of her face. He leaned in closely as the meld began to form, the outside world sloughing away. Their awareness dimming to just the two of them.

"My mind to your mind. My thoughts to your thoughts," Spock said quietly, slowly.

Relax Christine, you must allow me in, Spock thought through the meld.

Yes, she thought back. This felt right. Why, she couldn't have said, but it did and she finally relaxed enough to allow Spock to reach for that which was lost to her.

Here in the meld Spock could sense where her memories had been buried. He could feel her calm acceptance and nervous excitement flow around and through him, her thoughts blending with his own. He'd never really thought about it before, but here and now he realized that as an adult, he'd never previously melded with a woman. It was decidedly different from any of his previous melds.

I'm your first, she thought to him, her mind voice light with ironic amusement.

He ignored the flurry of chaotic thoughts her words brought forth in the place he kept hidden behind layers of shielding and control. He merely locked them away to be dealt with later and reached for the trigger point of Christine's lost memories, diverting the electrical flow here, and changing the chemical balance there.

Spock was not prepared for the sudden flood of memories released when he removed the block that held them in. They rushed over him, through him, and back into Christine's conscious mind. Her childhood, followed by her teenage years, rushed by at a dizzying speed. Then suddenly he found himself experiencing their association from her perspective. It was overwhelming and both gasped as one with the raw power of it.

They relived her revelation to him in Sickbay, her embarrassment later when the effects of the virus faded. Together they relived that moment in his cabin, when she came to deliver the news that they had once again diverted to Vulcan. For the first time he realized that she knew then, he was lost to her. He felt, down to his soul the rending ache she'd felt then, but also the joy that no matter the cost to her, he would survive.

Then, quickly after, came the humiliating time on Platonius. Where everything else had sped by nearly too fast to fully comprehend, this seemed to slow to an agonizing crawl. Each moment painful in its clarity. But, it too passed, continuing on to the unsettled and awkward moments that followed.

A brief eternity later, they emerged in the present and both slowly withdrew into their own minds, untangling themselves back into the individual selves of reality. Both drew a simultaneous, shaky breath as Spock lowered his hand and all but collapsed into the chair beside the biobed.

"That was ... indescribable," Christine said breathlessly.

Spock raised his eyes to hers in weary amusement, one side of his mouth twitching upward. "Indeed, and apt ... description."

Both Spock and Christine jumped when McCoy stepped forward.

"Are you both all right? Did it work?"

Christine smiled widely. "Yes, I remember everything. And I do mean everything."

Christine gasped suddenly, raising her hand to her mouth. Her horror was evident to both men and they were at her side instantly. "There was someone there," she said in a near whisper.

"Where?" both men asked.

She turned to Spock. "In your cabin. I went in and set your bag on the bunk. I started to open it, but there was this odd odor. I tried to leave, but I fell. I ... remember trying to catch myself. I ... I missed and hit my head."

Spock nodded. "Yes, on the corner of the dresser."

"I was lying on the deck. I couldn't stay awake, but something kept me from giving in to it completely." Christine stopped, searching her chaotically arranged memories. She was remembering so many things at once, that it was difficult to sort them all out. "I..." She looked up suddenly. "Hatred! That's it! I remember feeling hatred beating at me. I couldn't see where it was coming from, but I knew it was behind me. I remember being terrified that whatever it was, was going to devour me, soul and all." Christine shuddered in remembered terror. She had felt so helpless, unable to move, unable to even wake up fully.

"It's all right, Chris. You're here now."

Christine glanced over gratefully to McCoy. She took a deep breath and continued. "I managed to roll over and I saw him. I couldn't hear him, but he was speaking into a wrist communicator. That's when he saw me watching him." She turned to Spock then. He locked gazes with her.

"I've only seen a Vulcan angry once before, and that time paled in comparison to this. He came toward me with a look that said I was the source of everything that had ever gone wrong in his life. I was absolutely convinced that my life was over. I panicked. I couldn't think, couldn't move, couldn't ... anything."

Spock's eyes hadn't wavered once, silently supporting her and encouraging her to continue. She took a deep breath and did just that. "When he reached for me, I tried to scream, but could barely even whimper. After that, everything went black. The next thing I remember is waking up in the shuttle's Sickbay."

"That would explain the residual fear you felt after you woke up." Spock reached out and touched her hand lightly. "Would you be able to describe him, or recognize him if you saw him again?"

Christine nodded slowly. "Most certainly. I will remember that face for as long as I live."

* * *

The face took shape on the computer screen in front of them as Christine added details and made corrections. It took them ten minutes, then Christine cried out. "That's him!"

Spock stared pensively at the face for several long moments.

"Did you hear me?"

"Yes, he is an acolyte at Mt. Seleya. I met him as I was leaving my room."

"You hadn't seen him before that?"

Spock shook his head. "No. To my knowledge, he has not had any other contact with me or my family."

"Who is he? Other than an acolyte."

"I do not know. I will send a subspace message to Vulcan about him. We will know when they respond."

"How long should it take to get a response?"

"We're close enough that we could receive a response in less than 16 hours. The exact time will depend on how long they take to decide on how they will respond."

"Spock, Bones just brought me up to date," Kirk said from the doorway. He stopped between the two of them, before continuing. "Good to have you back, Lieutenant."

"Thank you, Captain. It's good to be back."

Kirk turned to the screen that still displayed the face of a Vulcan male. "Is that him?"

Spock nodded. "Yes."

Christine watched as the two of the conversed about security precautions. He was in his element as First Officer of the Enterprise. The question is, was she? What was her 'element'. Was nursing what she wanted to do? When they paused in their conversation, she stepped forward. "Spock, if you would please let me know what the Vulcan authorities decide to do, I'll just leave the two of you to discuss business. It's late, and I would like to get some sleep."

"I will. We should receive a response before midday tomorrow. I could brief you during the midday meal."

"That would be fine, Spock."

Spock watched her leave a moment before turning his attention back to the Captain. He wondered what had caused her precipitous departure. She had shown no signs of being tired previous to her assertion.

* * *

Christine wandered into her quarters and collapsed onto her bed without bothering to undress. Today's revelations had left her spent, and she wasn't up to dealing with the mundane things of everyday life. She closed her eyes and tried to stop her swirling thoughts. After 20 minutes of trying, and failing, she gave up trying to sleep and tried to bring order to her thoughts.

She'd signed on board the Enterprise as a nurse, ignoring her Ph.D. in order to search for Roger. Finding him the way they had, had been devastating, but it hadn't been as bad as it could have been. Despite her mind's desire to cling to what they had, her heart had already moved on. She'd stayed on board after that out of wishful thinking.

It had been a stupid childish dream, but she wasn't so confused she couldn't see the irony of the current situation. It seemed she was finally getting that dream, but only long after she'd actually given up on it. So why wasn't she happy? She should be delirious with the fact that Spock had finally noticed her as something more than a 'competent' nurse.

Of course, the fact that someone was trying to kill him didn't help, but she knew it was more than that. She wasn't really afraid per se. It was more a restlessness she couldn't quite define. She was still trying to figure out why she was so unsettled when sleep stole over her.

* * *

Christine sat, nervously picking at her food. Before she'd gotten it, it had sounded good, but every bite she'd taken sat in her stomach like a solid lump. When she'd woke up this morning, it had been with a new perspective. She knew what she had to do. Now all she had to do was let Spock in on it. Surely he would see it as a logical progression for her. He wasn't a human to be reading more into her decision than exactly what it was. Then why wouldn't her stomach settle down? With a disgusted sigh, she pushed away her food as a lost cause. She wasn't going to be able to eat until later.

She'd mostly had nothing to do all morning. She had tried to go in to Sickbay, but McCoy had vetoed that. In rather fervent terms actually. He had ordered her out of Sickbay and hadn't listened to a word she had tried to say. Consequently she'd spent all that free time dwelling on her decision and going back and forth with herself about whether it was really the best thing for her.

The five year mission was almost up. There was no telling where they'd all be sent. It was a sure thing they wouldn't be sent right back out with the Enterprise. Rumor had it, research had come up with all sorts of new improvements and that the Enterprise was slated to receive them when she returned home. That was only 3 months away.

She looked over at the door as it opened. She had to laugh. She seemed to have a kind of radar where he was concerned. He was just entering the officer's lounge. She watched him make his way to the replicator and was enjoying the chance to be able to watch him, knowing it wouldn't make him uncomfortable. Well, not enough to avoid her or leave anyway. He would probably never be completely comfortable with open appreciation of him.

It didn't take him long to order his lunch and make his way over to her. "Good day, Christine."

"Hello," she said as he took a seat across from her.

"I received that subspace message from Vulcan."

Christine frowned. She didn't like the way he'd said that. "What's wrong?"

"He is no longer on Vulcan. No one seems to know where he went."

Christine's eyes widened and the normal sounds of chatter around them faded. "That means he could be just about anywhere."

"Well not anywhere. He is limited by the speed to which space travel is limited," Spock said, attempting to lighten the situation. She was obviously upset by the news.

Christine rolled her eyes, but didn't comment on his correction. "How could they know he's not on Vulcan if they don't know where he went?"

"He was seen boarding a space bound ship, but by the time the authorities caught up with that ship, he was no longer on board. No one there saw where he debarked."

"That means he's free to come and go, that he's still a danger to you."

"From what we've seen, he is mentally unstable. He won't get far without giving himself away to someone. Vulcans are a well known group. His behavior will alert someone. If nothing else they may assume he is Romulan."

Christine shook her head. "I'm not an expert on Vulcan mental disorders, but from what I've seen, and what you said, he sounds like he fits the profile of a sociopath."

"I fail to see what that--"

"Spock, a sociopath can act as normal as you or I. Unless something triggers his anger, there won't be anything to give him away. When something does, there's no telling how he will react. Without the ethical guidelines that society places in most of us, he could do anything. It won't matter who are what stands in his way. I think the only thing that kept him from killing me was time. Most likely he didn't have enough of it."

Spock looked down at his plate a moment, then picked it up. "If you will excuse me, I need to speak with the Captain."

"Certainly." Christine watched him leave before picking up her own uneaten lunch and deposited it in the recycler. So much for telling him of her plans. Now was not the right time.

* * *

The next two months fairly flew by. The last three missions the Enterprise had been on had been both interesting and time consuming for the medical staff. There had been several outbreaks of Solean Flu on outlying colony worlds. And by the time she was off duty she was too tired to do much other than eat and sleep.

She hadn't seen much of Spock, but when they'd been together it had never seemed quite the right time, but she was running out of that precious commodity. There was only one month left before the Enterprise returned home for refit. They had heard nothing further from the Acolyte Samok and she was beginning to wonder if he'd gone on to other victims. Of course everyday still brought with it that touch of fear that this was the day he would make his move, but early on she had decided not to let that interfere. She had done her best to go on as if he didn't even exist.

Spock was coming by her quarters for dinner tonight. It would be the first time they'd dined privately since Vulcan and she'd offered to actually make dinner. She was just now putting the final touches on it.

She would tell him tonight. It was past time to do so. No matter what else came up, she couldn't shy away from it again. She jumped when her door chime rang.

Christine crossed to the door and palmed it open wanting to meet him at the door. Frowning, she peered out into the corridor. No one was present. She started to retreat back into her room, when she noticed a package sitting on the deck beside her door.

Grinning, she bent and picked it up and shook it lightly. Whatever it was, it slid back and forth inside. She hadn't thought Spock would have it in him. She eagerly opened the wrapped box. Inside was a hinged, shiny black box. She gingerly took it out and set it on the desk, her anticipation growing.

The door chimed again. This time she didn't rise. "Come in," she said as she reached for the box.

The door slid open as she released the catch.

"DON'T open that!"

"What?" Christine said startled, jerking her hand to her chest. The lid freed from her touch sprang open. She screamed.

Spock watched in horror as everything began moving in slow motion. He lunged forward just as something long, slender and black sprang out of the box toward Christine. He tried to reach her in time, knowing he wasn't, quite, going to make it.

Just as he reached her, time began moving normally again, and he snatched the snake in midair, neatly twisting right behind its head until it went limp in his grasp. He threw it across the room. It made a satisfactory thud as it hit the opposite wall.

He turned to Christine in time to catch her as she collapsed, falling toward the deck. Lowering her gently to the ground. It was then he noticed four neat puncture wounds in her neck. He punched open the comunit on her desk. "Spock to McCoy. Meet me in Sickbay, Medical Emergency!" He was taking no chances that Dr. McCoy might not be there when they arrived.

He scooped Christine up into his arms and strode out of her quarters, barely registering McCoy's response. She hung limply, her head lolled back and her pupils rolled up under her half open eyelids. Her outer arm bobbed with his every move.

The trip to Sickbay had never once seemed so long. Before he reached the turbolift he ordered an emergency override on the lifts controls. It was waiting when he got there. He'd been in many dangerous and life threatening situations before, but he'd never experienced the gut level fear that tried to consume him now. Concentrating on getting her to Sickbay he shoved it away, ruthlessly refusing to acknowledge it.

McCoy met him at the door to Sickbay. He cringed when he saw who Spock was carrying. "What happened?"

"Snake bite, black adder, I believe," Spock said as he set her down on the nearest biobed. He was now regretting his earlier outburst, when he threw the snake at the wall. He should have brought it along.

McCoy sprang into action and began scanning her instantly. "NURSE!" he yelled.

Spock stepped back out of the way, but stayed to watch the medical team work. Nothing short of a red alert would have removed him from this spot.

As McCoy worked frantically to cleanse Christine's system of the poisonous venom, Spock watched as her bioreadings slipped lower and lower.

"Antivenin 245."

"Aye, Doctor," the nurse answered as she handed him the appropriately filled hypo.

McCoy injected it, pausing to watch her readings briefly.

Spock stood by helplessly as McCoy continued to work over Christine. Part of him wanted to urge McCoy to a quicker pace, but he firmly controlled that need. Logically, any interference on his part would only slow the doctor down. Fight Christine, fight, he urged silently.

A loud continuous tone sounded, and Spock's eyes jerked up to the monitors. Her heart had stopped.

"Adrenaline!"

"Adrenaline, Doctor," Nurse Havers said as she handed him another hypo.

McCoy quickly set the appropriate dosage and injected it directly into her heart.

"Spock, get me that snake," he said sharply, still diligently working to save Christine.

Spock raced out of Sickbay, sick with the fact that he hadn't brought it along in the first place.

Spock made it back to sickbay in record time. He passed through the doors and McCoy was again waiting for him. He froze in the act of handing him the dead snake.

"Where is she?"

McCoy sighed as he took the black snake from Spock's hand. "I had to put her in stasis. I couldn't keep up with the system failures."

Spock absorbed the information and went numb.

"It sure looks like a black adder, doesn't it?" he said, examining the source of their problem. "But the venom doesn't act like it. I'll be right back."

Spock nodded and mechanically made his way into McCoy's office. He sat down in the nearest chair to await McCoy's return. It didn't take him long and he sank wearily into the chair behind his desk.

"Spock, are you okay?"

Spock looked up, one eyebrow rising swiftly. "Of course, Doctor. Why would you think otherwise?" The look on his face dared the doctor to contradict him.

McCoy took the hint. "Nothing, Spock. I should have known better."

"Indeed, you should have."

"I sent the snake down to the lab for analysis. We should get the results soon. Why don't you go back to your quarters and wait there? I will contact you as soon as I know anything. I already informed the Captain."

"No, Doctor. I will remain here."

McCoy was tempted to raise his own eyebrow, but wisely refrained. "Have it your way Spock."

"I will, unless the captain requested my presence."

"No, he didn't," McCoy said softly. "How did that thing get on board anyway?"

"It was transported on board. We only detected the transport because of the added security precautions. After the Captain contacted me, I got to her quarters just as she was opening it. I couldn't get to her quickly enough."

McCoy shot up out of his chair. "You mean the son of bitch that is after you, is doing it through her again?"

Spock raised haunted eyes to McCoy's angry ones. "Yes, Doctor. It seems he doesn't want to kill me, he wants to ... hurt me."

McCoy bit his lip pensively. He could see how much this troubled his Vulcan friend. The fact that it showed at all was quite telling. He'd often laid into Spock for not seeming to care when someone was severely injured or dying, but right now he would give an awful lot to be able to do that now. He'd never before realized just how much those angry outbursts kept him from dwelling on his own feelings.

Dropping back into his seat, McCoy angrily punched open a comlink to the lab. He was angry at himself for needing it and he was angry at Spock for not giving him that outlet. Somehow it all seemed so much worse because Spock wasn't his normal impassive, unaffected self. "McCoy to Lt. Morag."

"Morag here."

"How are those test results coming?"

"Its origin is definitely black adder, Doctor, but there's some evidence of genetic manipulation. Someone engineered this ... thing."

McCoy's blood pressure rose another notch. "To make its venom more powerful I bet."

"You'd win that bet, sir. We're trying to track down the exact changes now. We won't be able to come up with an antivenin until then."

McCoy kept his voice civil with only his utmost effort. It wasn't the lab tech's fault. "Keep at it. Miss Chapel's life depends on your efforts."

"Yes, sir."

"McCoy out."

"Spock," McCoy said, but his voice trailed off as he realized the First Officer was no longer present.

"Where the devil..." McCoy said softly, muttering under his breath. Maybe he went back to his quarters after all. Shaking his head, he headed out to check on Christine. He hated seeing her in stasis. Anyone in stasis looked so lifeless, but he couldn't stay away and it was better than pacing his office, waiting for the test results.

As he neared the entrance to the isolation ward where they'd placed her in stasis, he slowed. He could hear the soft murmur of a voice. He approached the open entrance quietly, not wishing to disturb the visitor. What he saw made him stop altogether. He turned to leave, but what he heard stopped him.

"I am sorry, Christine. I have failed you again. It is my hope that Dr. McCoy will not fail as well."

Spock started to turn and McCoy left quickly. He wanted no part of embarrassing Spock by letting him no he'd heard any of it. After cursing himself for not having left immediately, and trying to sort through conflicting this whole mess, he found himself in the lab. He grumbled irritably. There was no use trying to deny it. He was a hands-on physician. He couldn't leave this to anyone else.

"How is it progressing, Lieutenant?"

Lt. Morag jumped.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you."

"Quite all right, Doctor McCoy," he said, catching his breath. "I assume you're here to help."

McCoy grinned ruefully. "You know me, can't stay away."

* * *

"Kirk to Spock."

Spock crossed to the intercom just outside the isolation ward. "Spock here."

"We've got a small craft in a tractor beam and we've transported the captain to our brig."

"I'm on my way," he said switching the connection closed as he started moving.

* * *

Kirk sat staring across the briefing room table at his First Officer, and he had no idea what to say. They'd just finished interrogating the captain of the small one man vessel. It had been unsatisfactory all the way around. Not only was he not the man they had been originally looking for, he was as tight lipped as only a Vulcan could be.

Through the entire interrogation he had maintained he didn't know who they were talking about.

"I was hired to deliver a gift to the human Christine Chapel. I was told where to find her, and that it was to be delivered in this manner."

"Didn't you even think it odd?"

"I do not judge the ... oddities of my employers, Captain. My ship and services are for hire. I do what they request."

"Even if those activities are illegal?"

"As I stated before, I was unaware of the contents of my cargo."

This was getting them nowhere! Kirk decided on a different tactic. "Who hired you?"

"I never saw him."

"But it was a him?"

Kirk saw the briefest flash of startlement in the Vulcan's eyes before the emotionless expression returned.

"It seemed so."

And on it had continued. They'd been unable to get any other information out of him. Kirk's eyes narrowed. Even reviewing the interrogation hadn't brought up anything he could think of to use.

"We're due to stand down for refit in less than a month. If this guy isn't caught before then..." Kirk's voice trailed off. There was no need to say it. They both knew, off ship it would be far more difficult to protect either of them.

"Understood, Captain," Spock said softly. "Originally, we thought it was a lone person who had some sort of ... obsession with me. It seems we were mistaken."

"Were you? I mean, he could simply have hired this Solen."

"Captain, the odds that he could have found another Vulcan that is as ... disturbed as he, without prior association and similar outlook, are approximately 5432.64 to 1. I do not believe he is being truthful about his knowledge."

"Neither do I, but those are some odds, Spock."

"Indeed. The evidence does point to collusion on their part, however it remains to be seen if they are the only two involved."

"A conspiracy, Spock? Isn't that a little far fetched?"

"Before today I would have given astronomical odds against the idea. Now I do not know. I do not have enough facts. I do believe this group, of necessity, is small. Vulcan, as a whole, does not lend itself to large scale conspiracy. Nor do I think I am ... important enough to warrant such an event in the unlikelihood it should ever occur. However, whether this group has a membership of more than two remains to be seen."

Kirk nodded. Relieved that this wasn't getting to Spock as badly as it had seemed for a moment. "I've contacted Starfleet about both instances. They've assured me Security is looking for him." Kirk watched him a moment longer. "There's something else about this that concerns you."

"Yes, it has been established that it is me they wish to harm. That the first attack caught Miss Chapel was purely coincidental, but this second attack was aimed directly at her. While the fact that she accompanied me to Vulcan, could explain why they might assume injuring her would ... wound me, the timing of this second attack suggests greater knowledge."

Kirk's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean by that?"

Spock shifted in his seat before speaking. "According to the sensor logs, the package was beamed aboard 3.45 minutes before I was due to join her for dinner. Logically that suggests..."

"Inside information."

"Yes, of course, there is still the possibility of simple coincidence."

Kirk snorted. "Awfully convenient if it was, besides I don't believe in that kind of coincidence. Who knew about your dinner date?"

"As far as I was aware, no one."

Both men were painfully aware that unless something else happened, there would be no way to determine who, if anyone, had abetted in this attack.

"McCoy to Spock"

Spock reached forward. "Spock here."

"We've found it! We're administering it now and should know in about 30 minutes."

"I'm on my way." Again, he thought.

* * *

Spock and Kirk strode into Sickbay less then five minutes after Dr. McCoy's notification. McCoy, M'Benga, and three nurses were frantically working over Christine. They watched as M'Benga used hypo after hypo in an attempt to keep her stable while McCoy operated.

Kirk snagged an unoccupied nurse as she passed them. "What's up?" he asked, nodding to the surgery in progress.

"They've neutralized the venom, and now they're trying to correct the damage."

Kirk nodded and allowed her to continue with her duties. "Thank you." He drew a deep breath and pulled Spock toward Dr. McCoy's office. He resisted at first, then allowed Kirk to lead him away from the scene in main Sickbay.

Spock stood waiting quietly and Kirk watched him, not sure quite what to say. If he'd been human, he would have handed him a drink. As it was, he didn't feel even words of comfort would be appropriate. He poured himself one. He downed the drink in one swift swallow. He hated it when the life of someone under his command was threatened like this. It wasn't something he could defend against.

He started to pour himself another drink. Spock reached out and stayed his hand. He hadn't even heard him approach.

"No," Spock said softly, shaking his head.

Kirk sighed. "You're right." He dropped into the chair behind the desk and leaned back. "Spock, why don't you sit down? We're bound to be in here a while."

Spock sat and watched his captain a moment. "How do you do it?"

"What?" Kirk asked, sitting forward. "How do I do what?"

"You obviously ... feel deeply about each injury to a member of your crew. How do you do that and still function?"

Kirk blew out a nearly explosive breath of air. "That's a hard one Spock. I really don't know how I do it. I just do. I think I mostly push it aside until I'm alone. That's when it hits me the hardest, when I don't have duties to attend to, or people to save."

"When one of them dies--"

"She's not going to die!" Kirk said angrily, launching himself out of the chair. He paced the small room.

"You cannot know that for certain."

Kirk's steam suddenly died and he looked at his First Officer wearily. "Spock, that's part of it. I don't think about death, until it is a certainty. If I worried about that every time someone was seriously injured, I would cripple myself." He chuckled humorlessly. "That's probably why it hits me as hard as it does when it does happen."

"You seem to take each one personally, like it was your fault."

"In a way it is. I'm responsible for each and every life on board this ship. It's part of being Captain. You know that."

"Yes, I do. So, how do you do it?"

Kirk paused, really thinking about it this time. It was obviously important to Spock that he explain. "I get angry, angry at the person or thing that caused it."

Spock watched him thoughtfully a moment. "That is not a logical response."

Kirk shook his head. "Perhaps not, but it keeps me going." He turned away from Spock and after a moment of thoughtful silence he continued. "Then when I'm alone, it keeps coming back. I go over it and over it, trying to figure out if there was a way I could have prevented it. I tell myself that I should have been able to prevent it. It was my responsibility to prevent it. Eventually I usually manage to come to the conclusion that there wasn't anything I could have done to prevent it. When I can't someone usually comes and helps me get there." He turned back to face Spock. "Usually it's you or Bones. Of course, I rely a little too heavily on this from time to time." Kirk said, pouring himself that second drink and downing it just as quickly. He stared down at the empty glass in his hands. "You couldn't have known they'd go after her," he said softly.

"I should have," Spock answered, standing suddenly.

"Why? There wasn't any logical reason to believe that she would be the next target." Kirk walked over to Spock, standing nearly toe to toe with him. "In other words, it wasn't your fault. You ... could ... not ... have ... prevented..it."

"I should have gotten to her sooner."

"How? Did you go as soon as you were paged?"

"Yes."

"Did you stop along the way?"

Spock raised an eyebrow. Of course not, he thought. "No."

"Well then, there you have it."

"That logic does not stop the sense of responsibility, the sense of being the cause."

Kirk grinned ruefully. "You're right. It doesn't. Nothing will do that, but it does make the guilt quit."

Spock opened his mouth to protest, but closed it again without speaking. The captain was right, protesting against the fact that he had indeed felt guilt over her injury would not change it. "Thank you," he said instead.

"Don't let me interrupt anything," McCoy said grinning.

The two men took one step back from each other.

"Doctor--"

"Bones--"

McCoy chuckled. "She's going to be fine."

* * *

Christine grumbled quietly to herself. She was still stuck in Sickbay, in bed. She had tried to talk Leonard into letting her go back to her quarters last night, but he wasn't having anything to do with it. He told her in no uncertain terms, she wasn't going anywhere yet. He wanted the chance to 'monitor' her overnight. "Just in case," he said.

Spock had also stopped by briefly last night. After a few questions about her recovery, he'd obviously grown uncomfortable visiting her here, so she'd feigned exhaustion to let him off the hook. After that, it hadn't taken him long to leave. She did have to smile about it though. It was clear he was trying to be solicitous of her feelings.

She sighed and slipped out of bed. If she had to be here, the least she could do was work on some paperwork. Carefully checking both ways, before crossing the open room, she tiptoed to McCoy's office to see just how far behind he'd gotten. She was the one who usually prepped most of the paperwork for him, so when she wasn't around, the routine stuff tended not to get done. There was always something more urgent that needed his attention.

It took her nearly half an hour to organize the mess of data chips, but having accomplished that she set to preparing the first one. It didn't take her long, then she slipped in the next one, gratefully losing herself in the work.

"Well, well. What have we here?"

Christine jumped up from the chair, startled out of her concentration. "Doctor! You scared me."

"And deservedly so. You are supposed to be in bed."

"You didn't say anything about staying in bed." Christine said defensively. "You just told me I couldn't leave Sickbay."

McCoy shook his head at his stubborn head nurse. How he got so lucky to have such irritatingly stubborn patients, he'd never know. "You knew exactly what I meant, Christine, and you should have obeyed."

Christine managed to restrain her desire to snort and changed the subject. Now was not the time to get his stubborns up. If she protested to much, he might decide to keep her here longer. She slipped past him, back into main Sickbay.

"Where are you going now?" McCoy said, following her.

She turned to him, as much of an innocently surprised expression on her face as she could manage. "Back to bed. Isn't that where you told me to go?"

McCoy sighed and shook his head disgustedly. "Don't even try that innocent routine with me. I know exactly what you're trying to do, and it won't work."

Christine slumped and sighed. He was going to keep her here another night. One more night of being bored out of her mind was one more than she could take.

"I had already decided to send you back to your quarters. If I hadn't, I might have been tempted to make you stay, just for being impertinent!"

Christine grinned broadly. "Great! I'll just get out of these," Christine said with disgust, lifting an edge of the Sickbay gown she was still wearing. "And get back into some decent clothes."

McCoy held his peace through her statement, and waited until she started walking back to her bed before continuing. "With the stipulation that you take it easy."

Christine groaned and turned back soulful eyes to him. "Just what do you mean by 'take it easy'?"

McCoy chuckled at her reaction. "I mean, you're not allowed out of your quarters doing anything more stressful than eating a meal, or taking a slow walk. You're still not fully recovered and I won't have you relapse just because you try to do too much." He eyed her intently a moment, judging her capitulation. "Is that understood?"

"Yes, Doctor!" she muttered as she turned away to get dressed.

* * *

Christine stared at the memo on her computer screen. When she'd gotten back to her quarters, it had been waiting for her. She'd been accepted! She took a deep breath and leaned back in her chair. Of course she hadn't really doubted she would be. She had an excellent record and education history.

However, there was a rather large difference between knowing you'd make it and actually making it. Now she really had little time left to inform Spock of her decision. She had to be there in less than two weeks. That was almost two weeks before the mission was technically over.

She stood up angrily. She was being an idiot. Spock wasn't a human male to feel rejected by her decision, so why was she tearing herself apart about it. It was all so ridiculous! She was acting like some school girl, not the self assured, confident woman she knew she was.

Finally wrestling her stubborn emotions back firmly under her control, she glanced once at the chronometer, then marched out of her quarters. This talk was long overdue, and it was going to happen now, before anything else happened to prevent it.

* * *

Spock watched her silently and Christine would have given just about anything to be able to know what he was thinking right that moment. She'd told him of her plans and all he did was sit there and think! What could he possibly be mulling over in that Vulcan brain of his? Christine was just about to the point of fidgeting when he finally spoke.

"Do you plan on returning to the Enterprise after you earn your degree?"

"Yes, I had planned on that. Assuming, of course, that there is a position available."

Spock allowed the corners of his mouth to tweak up just the slightest. "Given your length and caliber of your prior service aboard, I believe you are virtually guaranteed a position. However, on the off chance you do not get reposted to the Enterprise, what do you plan on doing?"

Christine cast him a startled glance. "I hadn't really thought about that possibility. I suppose I shall cross that bridge if I come to it."

"Logical. It is difficult to plan for a contingency that may not even occur."

Spock took a deep breath. To Christine it looked as though he was steeling himself for something. It worried her.

"You are in possession of certain ... privileged information regarding Vulcans," Spock said carefully. "In asking this, I am making certain assumptions, please correct me if they have been made in error. Have you thought about what will happen if I ... cannot wait for you to finish your degree?"

Christine managed to control her blush, barely. Although she was sure she did color a little. "Actually," she said perfectly calmly. "I have given it quite a bit of thought." You don't know HOW much thought. That Spock was surprised by her answer was obvious. His eyebrow shot nearly to his hairline.

"And?"

"Well, in thinking about it at all, I too had to make certain ... assumptions. Given those assumptions, if it came to that, I could always take a leave of absence."

"That would be ... agreeable," Spock said, relieved. He had wondered just what she had been telling him. Considering the recent events he would not have been surprised if she had decided that he was too high risk.

Christine smiled. For the first time in nearly 4 years, she was very glad she'd had the good sense to fall for a Vulcan. She had the sneaking suspicion that if he'd been human, this meeting wouldn't have gone nearly as well.

"When does the first semester begin?"

"In two weeks."

Two weeks? He had supposed it would begin sometime after this mission had ended. His reaction to that news startled him. He took a deep breath and stilled the reaction. She was not yet gone. "Have you informed the Captain?"

"Yes, according to the message I received, he was informed of my departure at the same time I was."

Spock nodded. "I assume that since you have already received a Ph.D., it will not take you the 'normal' length of time to attain your MD."

"I believe that if I attend classes year round I could graduate med school in as little as 2 years. Of course after that there is the 2 year internship and a 2 year residency. I'm hoping they'll let me do the residency on board the Enterprise. Dr. McCoy is one of the best multi-fielded doctors in the Federation."

"Indeed," Spock answered. "His expertise has solved many problems over the last 5 years."

Having said that, Spock suddenly looked uncomfortable. She wondered if he regretted having said it. She laughed lightly. "I won't tell him you said that."

"That would save me from his gloating."

She laughed again, then her stomach growled. "Well, I'm under strict doctor's orders not to be out of my quarters for anything more strenuous than eating or walking slowly. Would you care to join me for dinner, since my stomach has so rudely pointed out that I'm hungry?"

"I would," Spock answered, rising.

* * *

Christine looked around her quarters one last time. From the looks of it, she hadn't forgotten anything, but she couldn't help but feel that she had. It looked so bare and it felt so odd, knowing she was leaving the only home she'd known for nearly 5 years.

She hadn't thought it would be this hard when she'd made the decision. Only the knowledge that it was the right thing for her, kept her from trying to back out of it. Her bags had already been beamed over to the transport ship Aries. It was headed back for Earth and the Captain had managed to finagle a ride for her. She took a deep breath, resisting one more tour of her very empty quarters and headed for the door.

The door slid open and Christine's heart jumped into her throat, not to mention the fact that she jumped about 3 inches off the floor. Spock stood framed in the doorway, hand raised to press the entry chime.

"I'm sorry, Christine. I did not mean to startle you."

"Quite all right, Spock. I just didn't expect to see anyone standing there when I opened the door."

"Obviously," Spock said drily. "May I come in?"

"Certainly." Christine backed up, allowing him access.

Spock glanced once around the bare room before turning to face her. "I have noticed that Humans tend to need ... encouragement in their endeavors."

Christine smiled warily. "Yes, that's true."

Spock stepped forward in one swift move and pulled Christine into his arms. One hand tilted her chin and he lowered his head until his lips met hers.

Christine's knees melted out from under her. She was certain the only reason she was still standing was the fact that he was holding so tightly against him. Her lips parted of their own accord and their kiss deepened.

They pulled back and Spock was surprised to find himself somewhat short of breath. When he'd planned this, he hadn't known quite what to expect, as he'd never kissed Christine before. He'd kissed before, of course, but it had never before affected him quite this way. "That was meant to encourage your swift return," he said.

"It succeeded," she managed to say after a few breathless moments.

Spock watched silently as Christine disappeared from sight. For a moment he felt rooted to the spot, and felt the illogical desire to follow her. Instead he turned and left the transporter room. He had 5 minutes before he was due on the Bridge.

The End