DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of J. M. Lane and is copyright (c) 1999 by J. M. Lane. This story is Rated PG.
Looking up from his paperwork, James Kirk automatically said the word which would admit his latest visitor after his door buzzer sounded. The doors parted and Nurse Christine Chapel stepped in. The Captain's brows lifted in a manner reminiscent of his Vulcan friend Spock. What could she possibly want?
He knew leaves were starting as of 0900 today, but she generally remained on board, as Spock did. Not this time, apparently. He laid down the latest report he had received from his Chief Engineer, Montgomery Scott (he had already looked through Uhura's, Spock's and Bones' reports) and lifted his head to smile at the tall, slender and attractive woman now standing before him.
She was wearing her regulation Starfleet uniform, and her blonde hair was up, a cascade of ringlets falling from a back-combed front. A gold and pearl headband held the arrangement in place. Her makeup was flawless, accenting her blue eyes and high cheekbones as well as her lips. He could find no fault with her lithe figure, either. Too bad she was in love with Spock. Being a connoisseur of women, he wouldn't have minded trying his luck... He pushed that out of his mind and greeted her in his most professional voice.
"Well, Miss Chapel. This is a surprise. What can I do for you?" He gestured to a nearby chair; she nodded, smiled, and seated herself.
"I have kind of an -- unusual request, Captain." She shifted uncomfortably in her chair.
"Unusual in what way?"
"Well..." she began. "I planned to spend my leave researching my family background--"
"Yes, go on," Kirk prompted.
"I was ... wondering if it would be -- possible for me to ... use the Guardian of Forever. You know, the time portal."
The Captain forced a smile even as a sharp pain pierced his heart, making him feel as though he'd just been hit there by a phaser on heavy stun. It had been several months, but the sight of Edith Keeler, one of the few women he had ever truly loved, lying in a crumpled heap on a l930 New York street after being struck down by a moving van was still fresh in his mind.
Worst of all, he'd had to let her die -- prevent McCoy from saving her. If she had lived, there would have been a delay in the United States' entrance into World War II, resulting in Germany developing the atom bomb first and thereby taking over the world. That would have destroyed their future, doomed millions and prevented space flight from ever developing. It had taken every ounce of strength he had not to go to her himself, much less to throw himself in McCoy's path.
The time-line was so fragile; anything and everything could go wrong ... yet the woman before him was asking permission to go through it. How could he let her do it, or ever face that place again? However, he forced back all his pain and apprehension, knowing that his visitor needed an answer. He couldn't keep her waiting forever.
"It is very difficult to get permission to use the Guardian, Miss Chapel," he finally said. "Its powers can be so easily abused and the future destroyed, as well as millions of innocent lives."
Even so, there had only been one innocent life that had concerned him. *Oh, Edith...*
"I am aware of the danger, sir. I would take all the necessary precautions. Believe me, I wouldn't ask this of you if I could do my research in any other way."
"I understand that, but just the paperwork and red tape alone could take two weeks -- and even then you'd probably need permission from Admiral Nogura himself to smooth the way. I can put in a good word for you if you're truly intent on going, but even at that can make no promises or guarantees. In addition, your record, particularly your psychological profile, would be gone over with a microscope before they'd even allow you on the planet, much less to use the Guardian. They'll also want to know why you want to go, where, what time, and for how long."
"I would appreciate anything you could do, Captain. Let me know what you come up with." Chapel stood up and turned toward the door. "I'll be in my quarters packing."
Kirk assured her he would do everything possible for her. She smiled and thanked him before stepping out the doors. The Captain sighed deeply and reached for his desk intercom. "Uhura, get me Admiral Nogura at Starfleet Command."
* * *
Christine had no idea how the Captain had ever managed to convince Nogura to use his influence in order to allow her to travel to the Time Planet and use the Guardian, but the next thing she knew, she was on a shuttle going in that direction. She would probably end up owing both Kirk and Nogura favors for the rest of her life, but it would be worth it.
She made sure to have everything she needed to live in the time she was going to, including currency indistinguishable from the genuine article. She would be changed into period clothing well in advance of beaming down. At present, only authorized people, such as the personnel who studied and cared for the Guardian, were allowed on the planet. Even a ship needed a permit simply to be allowed in the same sector as the Time Planet.
Uhura had been disappointed at being unable to accompany Christine, but it had been tough enough getting permission for one person, much less two ... not to mention the danger involved in time-travel and living in that past time. Christine *did* promise to tell her friend all about it when she got back, though. That pacified the Bantu somewhat, though she was still disappointed.
Whatever the case, the Enterprise would be there to pick Christine up upon her return, having already obtained the necessary permit to be allowed in the sector and assume orbit around the Time Planet. The ship was presently docked at a Starbase noted for its many and varied recreational spots; the nurse was given many strange looks when she said she wanted to leave, but she paid them no mind. She finally managed to obtain passage on a long-range shuttle.
At this point, the shuttle's Captain contacted her and told her to prepare for beamdown on a moment's notice, since the permit only allowed sufficient time for dropping her off, then getting out of the sector. She thanked him and said she was all set to go, checking to be sure all her equipment was ready: her medikit, medical tricorder (miniature version), phaser one weapon and extra powerpacks as a precaution -- as well as extra medication to be on the safe side.
She also had a communicator to contact the ship. Of course, while in the past she would need to be careful to keep it all well hidden, particularly when (or if) she was using it. Only Heaven knew what the repercussions would be otherwise.
The shuttle's Transporter Room was little more than a cubbyhole next to the small Engine Room (which was about the size of her shipboard quarters), but it did have two transporter pads and a small console with one young officer manning it. He smiled as she entered, eyes widening at her unusual attire, but remaining silent as she took her place on the platform and maneuvered her luggage ... an old leather bag packed with extra period clothing, toiletries and her equipment. She placed it on the second transporter pad.
"Ready, ma'am?" the transporter operator's pleasant voice asked.
She took a deep breath, then lifted her head and smiled as she faced him. "Ready."
"Have a good trip."
With that, he energized, and she soon felt the tingly sensation of dematerialization.
* * *
Christine materialized only yards from the small quonset hut which served as housing for the archaeological team studying the Guardian and the ruins surrounding it. Adjusting the strap of the leather bag comfortably on her shoulder, she made her way to the building and entered. As luck would have it, the first person she ran into was the very one she was looking for -- Dr. Margareta Vargas, a middle-aged Mexican woman and the head of the archaeological team.
"You're Christine Chapel from the Enterprise, I assume."
The archaeologist didn't even bat an eye at Christine's old-fashioned mode of dress.
"That's right," the nurse confirmed.
The older woman sighed.
"I hope you realize what you're getting into by asking to use the Guardian. Time-travel is risky at best, and the time-line extremely fragile. It is only because of Captain Kirk and Admiral Nogura vouching for you that I would even allow you near the Guardian, much less to use it. Please, for God's sake, be *extremely* careful while you're in the past. Even one thing that you might consider insignificant could have a disastrous effect on future events."
Christine had heard it all before, but was patient, well understanding the archaeologist's concern.
"The Captain has briefed me thoroughly, Dr. Vargas. May I go now?"
"I suppose so. The Guardian is a kilometer in that direction." She pointed to her left.
Christine thanked her and set out for her destination, using her tricorder to pinpoint the waves of time displacement which would lead her to the massive stone doughnut the Captain had described.
* * *
She was there in minutes, looking at the dusty ruins surrounding her for a moment before becoming enthralled at the unusual formation in front of her.
"Guardian?" she asked timidly.
"What is your wish, Traveler?" came the deep, resonant voice in reply.
"I wish to visit Cleveland, Ohio, North America, on old Earth in the year l863, old calendar."
"For what purpose?"
"Researching family history. I was told my early ancestors settled there."
"Did you wish a particular month and day?"
"After the battle of Gettysburg, in July l863. Hopefully near a military hospital. I am a healer, and wish to help others as I conduct my research."
A short interval of silence ensued, then the Guardian spoke again. "The time and place are ready to receive you."
The normally clear opening of the stone doughnut clouded over after the scenes from the past disappeared, indicating that she was free to leap through and into the past whenever she wished. After a brief period of blackness and disorientation, Christine found herself in a side street near what seemed to be a hotel.
She looked around, noting that the buildings she stood between were wooden and the streets unpaved. The air was filled with the sounds of horses whinnying, wagon wheels squeaking and scraping as they rolled along the dirt and men shouting to each other. She wrinkled her nose at the pungent smell of horse manure as she headed for the front of the hotel.
Christine wore a long-sleeved, ankle-length calico dress covered by an apron with deep pockets, almost as long as the dress. Her hair was braided and pinned up under a starched white mobcap, a bonnet-like head covering. Underneath the dress were several petticoats and period undergarments, along with stout brogans (shoes) and serviceable cotton stockings.
Moments later, she found the door of the hotel and entered. A young woman in period clothing looked up and sighed impatiently even as a polite smile crossed her lips and she stepped up to the desk as Christine approached. The desk clerk wore a plain blue linen dress with white collar and cuffs; her hair was also in dark braids wound around her small head.
Her hazel eyes were protected by thick, dark eyelashes; her patrician nose and lips were perfectly formed, with the nose having a slight upturn. Christine smiled as she noted a wide gold band on the woman's wedding finger. She couldn't be more than eighteen years old, if that -- but women married young in the l860s. She would have to keep that in mind. Otherwise there might be questions which she could not answer.
"Excuse me," Christine said politely. "I'm newly arrived in town, and would like to know if you have a room available."
The woman looked at her warily. "Have you money?"
"Of course," Christine assured her.
The clerk's expression softened. "Forgive me. It's just that people who look like you are usually broke. Of course, with the war on and all, that could easily change."
"Which reminds me. Would you know where the nearest hospital is? I'd like to apply for a job there."
"Two blocks down. Once out the door, turn right and keep going until you see a sign that says 'Army Hospital.' Go in there and ask for a Dr. Bedford. He's Chief Surgeon and does all the hiring. I know because I work there twice a week when my husband doesn't need me to clerk for him here."
"Thank you for your help." Christine nodded and smiled.
"Not at all. Now, your room will be Number Twenty-Three on the second floor. Our rates are seventy-five cents a week, three dollars a month. Cash, in advance."
"I'm just going to be here for two weeks."
"A dollar-fifty, then ... and food is extra. Breakfast is twenty-five cents, served at seven a.m. Lunch is forty cents and served at noon. Dinner is sixty cents and served at six p.m. Of course, if you must come home late, let me know at least a day in advance and I can have something set aside for you. Also, if you want maid service--"
Christine held up a hand. "Not at the moment. I should be able to manage."
"Suit yourself ... but let me know if you change your mind. It's 75 cents for a week and so on, like the cost of the room."
"Thank you again."
Christine smiled and nodded even as she turned for the stairs after paying her room and board. Twenty dollars should be sufficient to cover necessary expenses for a two-week stay, but if it didn't, a job at the hospital should bring in more. She had carefully studied the conditions of l860s military hospitals, medicines and such; the knowledge should serve her well here. She only hoped it would be well enough.
* * *
Christine's room was cozy and comfortable, with a large feather bed, bureau, desk and chair, chamber pot and candlestick on the bedside table. The window was half open and crisp white curtains fluttered gently in the cool breeze coming from outside. She unpacked and freshened up, then locked her room and closed the window before going back downstairs. The key, her medikit, tricorder and phaser weapon were all carefully concealed on her person.
Once outdoors, Chapel walked down the wooden sidewalk, one eye watching where she was going and the other for the sign the hotel clerk had mentioned. She spotted it just when she was ready to give up. Breathing a sigh of relief, she opened the heavy oak door and went in. There was a receptionist sitting behind an antique desk, writing in what looked like an account book.
"May I help you?" The thirtyish woman laid down her pen after looking up.
"I'm a nurse," Christine explained. "I would like to apply for employment. I was told that Dr. Bedford, the Chief Surgeon here, is in charge of that."
"That is correct, but he is very busy at the moment. The war has brought us many casualties."
"I only need a few minutes. Surely he can spare five minutes."
The receptionist looked dubious. "Perhaps. Perhaps not ... but I'll see what I can do. After that, you're on your own."
Christine nodded and smiled. "I would appreciate any help you could give."
The receptionist smiled for the first time. "One moment. Please wait here."
The thirtyish woman disappeared behind a large white door. Christine sat down on a nearby hardwood chair, hoping she wouldn't have to wait too long -- and even then was thankful for her many petticoats, which acted as a pad between her rear end and the chair seat. Five minutes later a middle-aged, tired-looking man with iron-grey hair, black pants, white shirt and dusty boots, all of which were covered with blood, walked up to her. She stood up.
"Dr. Bedford?" she asked.
His voice was tinged with impatience and a Midwestern accent. "If you have business with me, woman, for God's sake, be quick about it. I have patients to tend to."
His manner reminded her of Dr. McCoy; patients always came first with him, too.
"I'm a nurse. I would like a job."
The doctor frowned. "What experience have you had?"
She told him, being as truthful as possible. The older man nodded curtly.
"I need all the help I can get, and don't have time to check on the background of every employee, so you better not be lying to me."
Christine assured him she wasn't, and was willing to start work as soon as he wanted. The doctor smiled.
"Welcome aboard, then. You'll have to see Mrs. Church, the Head Nurse, for an assignment. She's a tall, thin woman who looks something like you, though she's about twenty years older."
"Where would I find her?"
Dr. Bedford shrugged. "Just start looking." He stared at Christine intently. "Are you sure you aren't related to her in some way? The resemblance is uncanny."
"Not that I know of," the Enterprise nurse replied evasively.
"Then we'd best get down to business. Follow me."
He nodded in her direction, then jerked his head toward the door before she followed him through it.
* * *
There were roughly a dozen women dressed similarly to her caring for approximately one hundred men with wounds ranging from simple flesh wounds to amputated limbs. She felt for her fellow nurses in such a dark, oven-like place -- they must be run ragged! And the men must be even worse off. Christine searched for several minutes before spotting a woman resembling her caring for a soldier with a badly torn-up leg. She approached as quietly as possible on the uncarpeted floor.
"Excuse me," she said quietly.
The older woman looked up, steely blue eyes seeming to stab right through her. "I'm busy. What do you want?"
"Dr. Bedford sent me. I'm the new nurse he hired."
"About time," Mrs. Church groused. "Well, don't just stand there, child. Help me with this man's leg."
Christine moved to assist, amazed at the older woman's resemblance to her. Could she be one of her ancestors? Her hands shook with barely concealed excitement as she held the man's leg while the older nurse cleaned and bandaged it. Even so, Christine could see right away that he was likely to lose it. Gangrene had climbed halfway up the limb. The conditions here were downright primitive, not to mention filthy, but they would have to suffice. She didn't dare try to initiate any changes, though there was nothing wrong with attempting to be friendly, engaging her superior in conversation ... that is, as soon as the other woman was in the mood for it.
* * *
It was a week before Christine had time to herself for more than a few minutes. She did her best to help save as many of the men's limbs and lives as she could, but was hampered by not only the outdated equipment and primitive conditions, but the stipulation that she not use any of her futuristic medical equipment.
The best she could do in the way of recordings were audio versions; she dared not bring her tricorder out into the open for videos. Fortunately the tricorder's ultra-sensitive microphone picked up things clearly, if somewhat muffled, even in her thick apron pocket. She was heartsick at the amount of amputations and deaths. She could have saved so many of them ... but sternly reminded herself that the deaths were pre-ordained, the amputees meant to lose their limbs.
Who knew how the future would have gone had even one of the dead men lived, or one amputee kept his limbs? Probably as bad (or even worse) than the future Leonard had accidentally created by saving Edith Keeler, prompting the Captain and Spock to go back in time themselves to not only find him, but set right what he had changed.
The men who lived either returned to their regiments or homes if their injuries rendered them useless to the army. As for the dead, never did a day pass that she didn't see load after load of corpses piled into every available horse-drawn ambulance, both the two- and four-wheeled variety. So many died, in fact, that she heard from other nurses that the bodies were simply dumped into shallow graves without caskets (the coffin makers simply couldn't keep up with the demand) and a single wooden "headboard" would be placed at the head of the grave with the name of the deceased -- if known -- as well as their rank, company, and regiment ... not to mention their ages or dates of birth and death (again, this was in the event they were known).
She and Mrs. Church became good, if cautious, friends over the two weeks, especially after their talk while working had elicited the startling discovery that Christine's paternal grandfather had been Mrs. Church's eighteen-times great-grandson. That meant that Mrs. Church was her direct ancestor on her father's side! Christine also learned that her ancestor's husband had been killed at the first Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861, when Union forces had been soundly defeated by Confederate troops. In addition, Christine had been dumfounded at the difference in names in spite of her knowledge that it had not changed to "Chapel" until well into the mid-twentieth century.
Her husband's death had hit Mrs. Church hard, which was why she had thrown herself into her work and the raising of their two children, a daughter and a son, as well as the reason she had never re-married. It wasn't until nearly the end of Christine's leave that she learned that the daughter was the elder of the two, and also named Christine.
Her mother had told her that she had been named for one of their early ancestors; perhaps this daughter was the one Ann Chapel was referring to. The older woman explained that throwing herself into her work and children was the only way she could have survived her ordeal, the only way she could effectively deal with her grief. She was convinced that she would have simply lain down and died had she not been kept busy.
As for other nurses, some had served in hospitals nearer the fighting -- "field hospitals," if Christine remembered correctly. Two had done so in one so large that several tents had to be joined together by ripping the central seam in the ends that joined. In this way anywhere from twenty to as many as one hundred patients could be housed, all connected by a central corridor running its entire length between a double row of cots.
However, in general hospitals such as the one they presently worked in, there were l0 patients for every nurse. In field hospitals, there were six. She was also amazed (and repulsed) at the many types of vermin that infested the men and their wounds. If it wasn't lice or maggots, it was ticks... and the only way to get rid of them was put the infested garments in boiling salt water. Because of this Christine made sure to bathe and thoroughly medicate both herself and her clothing. In addition, the only way to do this was use the mess kettles.
Luckily Christine was too tired the first week to care -- and when she wasn't, she brought food with her from the hotel, usually saved from the previous night's dinner. She was also thankful that most of her patients were fastidious about their persons. Others were so filthy (both clothing and bodies) that she could hardly bear to be near them. They may have gotten used to it, but she could not abide it.
On a brighter note, it was surprising to see some of the convalescents either darning their socks or the seats of their uniform pants. She had no idea men could do such things. A few did very well, too, she had to admit ... certainly a lot better than *she* had as a beginner. Of course, she hadn't sewn in years, other than her needlework -- not with the protoplasers in use by Starfleet medical personnel for surgery and wound repairs for as long as she could remember. Nor was mending clothes usually necessary because of computerized clothing synthesizers, although sewing notions were available in ship's stores for those who wished to do so.
Christine also gained a new appreciation of all the medical advances and conveniences the Enterprise and twenty-third century had brought. She had never worked so hard in her life, never been so tired. Many times she kept going by sheer force of will since her strength had given out long before. More often than not, when she finally dragged herself back upstairs to her hotel room, she didn't even bother to undress. Instead, she simply fell onto her soft bed, its embrace as welcome as the arms of a lover.
Morning always came too quickly, and she had to force herself to bathe, dress, and breakfast -- even though she felt more like a zombie than a living, breathing person. In the end she availed herself of the maid service originally offered. There was simply no way on God's green earth that she could have done it herself. Of course, she made sure to pay the hotel manager's wife, Mrs. Devereaux, well for her and the maids' trouble ... in addition to the late meals (that is, when she felt like eating). She had ten dollars left of the twenty she originally brought with her, most of which had gone to the aforementioned services and the cost of her accommodations.
* * *
Two days into the second week, a new load of wounded soldiers arrived by train and ambulance from the Gettysburg battlefield, swelling the already crowded hospital to its limit ... but for some strange reason, Christine didn't seem as tired this time around, even though the workload was as heavy as ever. One soldier particularly intrigued her -- a tall, slender, soft-spoken man with blue eyes and golden-brown hair. His clothing and person had been inundated with blood and perspiration, not to mention lice, though Christine soon discovered that his only serious wound was some lacerations on his left arm. He looked in his mid-thirties, just a little older than her, though looks could be deceiving. She was determined that he not lose his arm, so she doctored him secretly with her own equipment, making sure no one was nearby when she ministered to him ... and she only did so when he was asleep. The infection was massive and took several days to clear up, but the anti-infective sterilite had done its job. Even so, she knew that what she was doing was wrong and dreaded the changes her actions might bring.
He awakened the third day after his arrival, smiling groggily at her as she dressed his arm. "Am I alive or in the Promised Land?" he asked.
"You're alive, I assure you," Christine smiled back. "But your arm was a mess. Thankfully I was able to fix it, so it should be fine after a week or so."
He acted surprised; she asked why.
"Because most of the fellows I know have had amputations for far less serious wounds."
"Well, you won't lose yours. I've seen to that."
"Truly an angel of mercy," was the reply.
He would have said more, but at this point Christine was called away to assist another nurse with a man who had a head wound. She assured him she would be back as soon as possible.
* * *
It got so Christine was the only one he would allow to touch him. She had to use the primitive materials after that, but didn't mind since her own were no longer necessary. There were even times she sat and talked with him, learning that he had been a teacher in his native New York before enlisting -- and that he intended to return there upon his discharge.
"Do you really think you'll live through the war?" Christine couldn't help asking.
"Absolutely. I've got to. I have a sweetheart waiting for me to come home and marry her."
"She's a lucky girl," Christine found herself saying.
He gave her a surprised look, raising an eyebrow in a most Vulcan manner. The shock of his action went straight to her heart. The only time she'd ever seen that was when Spock... Just then a thought struck her like the proverbial bolt of lightning. Could this man be an ancestor of Spock's on his mother's side?
Now that she thought about it, he looked almost like a male version of Amanda. Amanda's hair was now more silver than golden brown, but Christine deduced that it must have been the honey color this man's was when she was young. She almost wished she could have told him that he would one day have a descendant who was half extraterrestrial -- and she could just imagine what Spock's reaction would be when she told him. Even at that, she didn't even know his name, so she could be way off base. In that event, she would chalk it up to an odd coincidence. After all, not everyone with the same name or features was related.
"Excuse me," she said politely. "But I think it's time we introduced ourselves. My name is Christine Nightingale."
His eyebrow lifted again, accompanied by a smile. "Any relation to Florence Nightingale?"
Christine smiled and shook her head. "Though I am a great admirer of hers. She was why I went into nursing. What's your name?" She braced herself for anything he might say.
"Grayson. Sullivan Grayson."
"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Grayson." She held out her hand to shake his. His grip was warm and strong, yet gentle -- like Spock's. He was also quiet and well-mannered, like Spock. Spock also tended to be protective of women -- and if Sullivan Grayson was anything like his Vulcan descendant... The next thing he said was even more of a shock.
"Will you marry me?"
Christine couldn't believe her ears, but managed to sound normal when she answered. "This comes as quite a surprise. I'm honored and flattered, but I cannot marry you."
"Why not?" He sounded hurt.
Christine detected it, making her voice as gentle as possible. "It's nothing personal; it's just that I'm ... already in love. Besides, you said you already had a sweetheart. You mustn't break her heart for what could be simply a passing fancy."
Sullivan Grayson's eyes flashed blue fire. "It is *not* simply a passing fancy, Christine. I love you!"
For a long time Christine didn't know how to react. Many times male patients believed themselves in love with the nurse who cared for them -- particularly if the nurse was attractive. Of course, there had been cases of love at first sight, where the man had remained in love even after his discharge ... and this situation seemed to be heading in that direction. She had to be careful; otherwise he might never marry, and Amanda (and therefore Spock) would never be born. But how to get out of this without wrecking everything?
In the end she decided to change the subject. "Tell me about your sweetheart. What is she like?"
He raised an eyebrow, but began to describe her. "She's tall ... almost as tall as you are. She comes to my shoulder; I'm six feet one. Her hair is blonde and waist-length -- so she says -- but she always wears it up. She also has blue eyes, a small, upturned nose and beautiful lips. And can she ever kiss!"
His smile widened.
"Is she in love with you?"
"She says she is, but she's so young that I can't help wondering."
"How old is she?"
"Eighteen; barely out of the schoolroom."
"What's her name?"
"Same as yours ... Christine." He raised an eyebrow once again. "Why?"
"Just curious," she assured him, unable to help thinking that if the marriage took place, she and Spock would at the very least be distant cousins -- although she had heard that prominent l860s families sometimes intermarried with their cousins. In addition, they were just as likely to be related by marriage alone as anything else.
"It sounds as though you're attracted to me because I resemble her. That happens many times when a man is far away from his home and sweetheart."
Sullivan Grayson was silent for a time, frowning thoughtfully as he considered what Christine had said.
"In addition," she continued, "you need a wife young enough to give you the children you want. I'm quite a bit older than she is. You do want children, don't you?"
"Of course. What man doesn't?"
He was silent for a time, then said, "Are you happy with the one *you* love?"
Christine told herself that it was true -- at least in a sense. "What is he like?"
"He's ... very much like you." Well, at least that much was true.
"Do the two of you also plan to marry?"
*A tad nosey,* Christine noted to herself ... but she could overlook that as long as she was able to divert him from thoughts of marrying her.
"I -- haven't known him that long."
It was true that she had known Spock less than a year, yet had fallen in love with him in the space of three months. It was also true that she would like nothing better than to marry him, but had to remain professional in her dealings with him until and unless he gave her an opening. It was difficult, but she knew it was necessary. She wanted him to come to her willingly.
"I knew my fiancee less than a month when we became engaged," he informed her.
"Well, the man I love is ... quite conservative. He believes it best to have an engagement of at least one year."
Sullivan Grayson sighed. "I'm not going to change your mind, am I?"
Christine shook her head. "I'm afraid not."
At this point, she was again called away -- this time to see to another patient with a chest wound. Grayson said he was due to leave the next day to return home and wanted to see her one last time to say goodbye and wish her well. She said she couldn't guarantee that she would be available, but would do her best. After all, she herself was leaving in two more days.
She was also thankful that she had made certain that her tricorder was on so as to catch their conversation. Spock would surely find it "fascinating," if only due to the likelihood that Grayson was his maternal ancestor. In addition, it was another way to get his attention ... at least temporarily. In the meantime, she had to get back to work, then ensure that she left no loose ends in the past. She had been deliberately close-mouthed about her background, only volunteering information in random bits and pieces -- being as certain as anyone could be that they could not do any harm, either now or in the future.
* * *
Christine was also stunned to learn that Sullivan Grayson was a good friend of one John Beatty, a member of the Electoral College which had elected Abraham Lincoln in l860. They had many feelings in common, not the least of which was their distaste for war and all it entailed. They had met as teenagers while Beatty's family was on vacation in New York City. Beatty was originally from West Virginia, which had become the 35th state a short time before -- on June 20, 1863.
She could imagine how Spock and the others would react to that, even though Sullivan Grayson hadn't been politically outspoken other than the basic fact that he was a New York native and had fought on the Union side in the war. All the same, what she was told of Beatty and his philosophies made her understand why they had gotten along so well. It even seemed that those same philosophies had rubbed off on Grayson and consequently his children, grandchildren, and on into the twenty-third century until Amanda Grayson spoke of them to her half-Vulcan son.
Christine deduced from what she had learned here and what she already knew of Spock's background that those teachings had shaped his thinking patterns nearly as much as did his Vulcan training. In the twenty-third century, it was rare to hear of people in the Federation who were politically motivated or ambitious.
Most people (herself included) divided their loyalties between either their respective homes and/or home worlds, Starfleet and their Captains.
Sullivan also compared his memories of the war similarly with Beatty's, particularly the fact that relatively little of a soldier's time was occupied with combat. Instead, most of the war experiences took place in army camp. He also told her about how he had enlisted as a volunteer, how many battles he had been in, etc., finishing with how he and some of his comrades had been loaded onto a hospital train for a trip to the nearest army hospital not already full to overflowing -- in this case, the one in Cleveland. She was also not at all surprised to learn that many times Sullivan's C.O. had had to order him to kill. So much like Spock it was uncanny...
Christine was also pleased to note that in the course of her work at the army hospital that equal care was given to any Confederate soldier which might find his way into the hospital, although the majority of the men were Union soldiers. After all, a life was a life, and deserved saving if at all possible -- even one of the so-called "enemy."
* * *
Christine rarely had time to herself, but after having heard so much about Euclid Avenue, an opulent, glittering walkway lined with mansions and gardens where some of her fellow nurses had treated the *nouveau riche* residents, she decided she just had to see it while she was here.
It was everything she had been told it would be. That is, once she was able to get in. She had to wipe her feet before being admitted! Of course, she hardly minded since there was no charge for the privilege of walking; it was just something of a surprise. How long had it been since she had walked under the shade of trees such as this, felt cool breezes ruffling her hair and clothing, belying the heat of the shimmering golden disc in a china-blue July sky?
She still wore her nurse's apron so as to adequately conceal her tricorder, medikit, room key and phaser weapon. This was as different from the hospital environment as night was from day! It wasn't until her next-to-last day there that she was able to get off early (that is, during the day). Usually she worked until well past dark. After this experience, she vowed to never again complain that the work Leonard gave her was too hard or boring.
Compared with l860s conditions, they were a piece of cake! She shook her head to banish the thought. This was probably the only chance she had to enjoy herself in the past and she was wasting it. Work was all she'd thought of for the past twelve days. A vacation was long overdue!
The gardens were beautiful, the colors of the flowers and blooming trees so intense that it almost hurt one's eyes to look at them. The blooms were profuse, they and the grounds surrounding them tended and groomed within an inch of their lives. Christine wished she could have recorded their beauty and smells, but had to content herself with detailed descriptions ... which her trusty tricorder faithfully recorded.
Of course, the manor houses, chateaux and villas were equally beautiful. She had also described them in detail as she walked the length of the street, so engrossed that she was oblivious to those within earshot of her.
Christine had been unable to visit the Euclid Avenue of her time, but her mother had told her it was still beautiful, still filled with luxurious homes and walkways. To her delight there was even a fountain set in the center of a large square at the mid-point. She even described the grace and beauty of the cascading water and the rainbows made when the sunlight struck it. She couldn't remember whether or not the fountain and square were still there in her time, but intended to find out at the first opportunity -- if only to see what changes four centuries had wrought.
She learned other surprising things as well ... not the least of which was the fact that "Carleton" was her mother's maiden name, and that her father's family had been totally unrelated to her mother's. Certainly Sullivan Grayson never dreamed he would have a family reaching into the twenty-third century, or a twenty-times great-granddaughter named Amanda who would be the first Human to marry an extraterrestrial and have a son who was half extra-terrestrial.
* * *
The last two days passed uneventfully, at least for Christine. She couldn't tell either Sullivan (or "Sully," as he said all his friends and family called him) Grayson or Mrs. Church that she would not only leave the town but this time -- but did come up with something she thought would pass muster.
She told everyone that she had received word that her mother had died, leaving several children still too young to be on their own... and that she had gotten a hardship discharge in order to return home and care for them since she was the oldest of the brood. She had also obtained Mrs. Church's promise to inform Dr. Bedford of her sudden departure, assuring her ancestor that she would never forget any of them. How could she, when they were not only recorded in her tricorder but her memory for all time?
If she would miss anyone, it would be Danielle Devereaux, the closest thing she had had to a friend while in the past. They had worked side-by-side many times in the hospital, as well as shared each other's company through both good and bad times in the last two weeks.
Though young, Danielle had proved mature beyond her years. Too bad she couldn't have come back with her to the twenty-third century and served on the Enterprise... Of course, that was an illogical thought, so Christine dismissed it almost as soon as she thought it. What's more, she knew that it was likely to take another two weeks to get re-acclimated to shipboard routine.
After settling her bill at the hotel and bidding a tearful Danielle goodbye, Christine went back to the place from which she originally emerged into the past, in order to return to the future where she lived. She made sure she was alone before calling upon the Guardian; moments later, the image of the stone doughnut appeared before her and she leaped through to find herself on the time planet once again.
Once satisfied that she was still sane and in one piece, she flipped open her communicator after retrieving it from her apron pocket, speaking into the small speaker. "Nurse Chapel to Enterprise. I would like to beam up."
The Highland brogue of Montgomery Scott came back. "Stand by, lass. Ah'll be right wit' ye." Scott's eyes widened like saucers when Christine materialized. "Lass, ah scarcely recognized ye! Y' look so diff'rent."
"It took getting used to for me as well," she smiled. "Only now it's going to take me another two weeks to get acclimated back to *this* time." She stepped off the platform, sliding the shoulder strap of the large leather bag into place. "Where's Mr. Spock? I have learned something which I believe he will find 'fascinating'."
"Ah b'lieve 'e's off-duty right now. Prob'ly in 'is quarters meditatin' or somethin'."
"Thank you, Scotty. I'll look him up as soon as I've changed and had something to eat. See you later." With another smile and nod, she stepped through the transporter room doors and was gone.
Scott smiled after her. Christine Chapel's feelings for the Vulcan were no secret, but the Scotsman had a feeling that it was something in the past that the Head Nurse referred to. He had no idea what, but from the look on her face, it had to be big.
* * *
After a shower, change of clothes and hearty meal, Christine sat down on her bed and went through the packets of historical information she had received from both the New York City and Cleveland Historical Society's archives. She soon discovered a copy of a daguerreotype (early photograph) from the late l860s showing Sullivan Grayson in civilian clothes with his wife, also named Christine, a virtual twin of herself. No wonder he had been attracted to her!
The nurse took that, along with her recordings, and set out to find Spock. He wasn't in his quarters, so she headed for the Officers' Mess. It was around l800, the dinner hour, so there was a chance he might be having something to eat as well. Her search was rewarded a short time later. She punched up a cup of coffee and approached the table where the Vulcan was eating his evening meal.
It consisted of spinach salad, a small bowl of plomeek soup and a glass of chilled tulac, a Vulcan citrus drink. It was also surprising to actually discover him alone, with the Captain and Leonard nowhere in sight.
She had come to think of the three almost as "Siamese triplets" since you hardly ever saw one without the other two. It was an extraordinary bit of luck to find Spock alone. Of course, she fully intended to tell the Captain, Leonard and Nyota what had happened, but right now Spock was the one she most wanted to see.
"Spock," she said softly. "I'd like to talk to you. May I join you?"
The Vulcan looked up, dark eyes widening as his upswept brows nearly disappeared into his bangs, before nodding in agreement.
"You have returned, Christine. Did you find your leave -- enjoyable?" he asked as she seated herself across from him.
"It was... educational." She took a swig of coffee.
"In what way?"
The First Officer stopped eating and set his fork down to give her his undivided attention; something Christine was unaccustomed to, but pleased to get.
"I learned a lot about my background -- and yours, too."
"Indeed?" His voice was laced with surprise.
"For instance, the origin of my last name and who I was named for ... as well as the fact that an ancestor of yours married an ancestor of mine. Here's the proof."
She showed him the daguerreotype and a copy of the couple's marriage license, dated August 6, l865. Christine also told Spock all about Sullivan Grayson and how alike they were -- right down to the lifting of their right eyebrows. As she had hoped, he was "fascinated," looking up at her after studying the daguerreotype for a moment.
"She ... looks virtually identical to you -- and you say that her name was also Christine? Interesting. Your ancestor, I take it." Christine nodded. "And the man she married, Sullivan Grayson. Am I to assume that he is *my* ancestor? On Mother's side, that is?"
Christine nodded again.
"He was a teacher before enlisting in the army, and survived the battle of Gettysburg in July l863. Lucky thing he did, too. Otherwise, neither you nor your mother would be here now."
The Vulcan was stunned, but outwardly remained unruffled. "Yes. It is ... indeed fortunate." He took a breath before continuing. "Then we are related."
"Distantly," Christine said. "Probably cousins by marriage or something."
"Have you told this to anyone else?"
"No; I just got back. I haven't done anything but get changed and have something to eat. I wanted you to know as soon as possible."
"Most thoughtful of you. Did you make recordings while there?"
"Audio only. I didn't dare take the tricorder out into the open for videos."
Spock nodded and frowned thoughtfully. "Understandable. When may I listen to the recordings?"
"Whenever you like."
Christine was afraid to even suggest that she be with him, even though she was the only one who could clarify things, tell him what was going on. She wanted him to *want* her there, not simply feel obligated to ask her because she had made the recordings. To her delighted surprise, he did just that.
"Even so, I believe I will need -- your assistance. That is, if you have no other plans for this evening," he finished quietly.
Her statement provoked another raised eyebrow. "On what?"
"On whether *you* do or not."
"I would not have asked if I had," he returned stiffly.
"Touchy, touchy," she gently admonished. "I was only teasing. Okay, whenever you're ready."
"I am ready now."
He stood up and turned toward the Mess Hall door, half-eaten dinner tray in hand.
"In that case, lead on, McDuff."
She couldn't help laughing at the expression on Spock's face at her statement. He seemed almost in shock for a moment before they disposed of their trash and headed for the door.
She wasn't sure where they were going, so she was pleasantly surprised to note their arrival at his quarters. He would probably be embarrassed if anyone saw them go in together, but it would be even worse if he had been seen leaving *her* quarters, as opposed to her leaving his. Personally she wouldn't have minded that one bit, but didn't want to cause Spock any distress. After all, he hadn't asked her to fall in love with him.
Neither would ever hear the end of it if anyone heard or seen them together -- nor would they believe it was totally innocent (at least on the outside, and possibly on Spock's part). Of course, Christine didn't really care what they thought ... at least not for herself. Spock's feelings were what mattered to her -- and she was ever mindful of them. If they had nothing better to do than sneak around trying to find some juicy tidbit on the two of them (or more specifically, Spock), that was their problem. She had better things to think about.
* * *
Thankfully they were not seen by anyone, and once inside, Spock was a thoughtful host, offering his guest a chair and a drink. She sat down while he got them each a drink, then joined her at his desk in the work area. After he set his drink down, she handed him the tapes from her tricorder; he inserted one in the terminal tape deck and told it to turn on. The next thing they knew, the sound of horses, wagon wheels and men shouting filled the room -- but it was muffled, as though the recorder was on while hidden in a pocket or something. Spock gave his guest a questioning look.
"Why does it sound ... muted, as though something was lying on top of it?"
"Because something was. The tricorder was hidden in my apron pocket."
Over the next several hours, Christine told Spock what had happened to her in the past, in between listening to her recordings. It was in the middle of the first tape (they usually had seventy-two hours recording time on each one ... in addition, Christine had not recorded every day) that the sound of a conversation between her and a Human male reached their ears above the day-to-day sounds of a nineteenth-century military hospital. Spock took a drink; Christine followed suit -- then the Vulcan spoke.
"Is that the ancestor of mine to whom you referred earlier?"
"Yes; that is Sullivan Grayson."
"Fascinating. He sounds like ... a masculine version of Mother."
"He *did* resemble her quite a bit, as I recall," Christine said. "I remember wishing you could have seen him -- and vice versa. He also acted a lot like you; so much it was uncanny. Can you imagine how he'd have reacted if I'd been able to tell him that he would one day have a twenty-one times great-grandson who was half extraterrestrial? It would have really blown his mind!"
"Blown his mind?"
"Really shocked him," she explained.
It was at this point that the part where she had had to turn down Sullivan Grayson's impulsive marriage proposal came up. Spock looked up at her with both brows lifted and eyes widened.
"Am I hearing correctly? Is my ancestor actually ... proposing marriage to you?"
"I'm afraid so -- but listen to how I talked him out of it."
The pair listened in silence for a while, then the Vulcan nodded approval. "Most logical, especially the part where you convinced him that his attraction to you was merely because his 'sweetheart' resembled you."
Christine stared at her host in amazement. She would have sworn he sounded pleased!
"I can't say I wasn't tempted to take him up on it," she confessed, "but it would have been impossible, even if I'd wanted to. Heaven only knows how history would have gone otherwise -- perhaps disastrously! That's the last thing I wanted to be responsible for." She almost missed the look in her companion's dark eyes when they met hers again. "Spock, is something wrong? You don't look well."
He shook his head, but she reached out her hands to tentatively touch his. He stiffened at the initial contact, then relaxed, simply allowing her to hold his hands.
"Spock, something's wrong. Please tell me. Let me help." Her voice was tender and gentle.
"Christine..." His voice trailed off, laced with embarrassment and pain, so quiet it was barely audible. "Please believe me. I would -- *like* to tell you, but I ... cannot."
"Why? Would it go against your Vulcan sensibilities?"
"You -- could put it that way, yes."
"Are you trying to say that you ... have feelings for me?" she ventured hesitantly, tightening her hold on his hands. Spock bowed his head, not answering her, but didn't deny it. If he hadn't looked so downcast, she would have laughed. "For Heaven's sake, that's no crime. You're an attractive man, I'm an attractive woman. It's only natural."
"Not when the man and woman are -- related." Christine was stunned for a moment before realizing what he was getting at.
"What are you...? Oh, you mean about our -- family connection. Oh, it's there, I grant you, but it's so distant, so many generations removed, that it would hardly be a factor now. After all, our Human families are totally unrelated except by marriage. That doesn't necessarily make us related by blood. After all, there are instances where even first cousins have gotten married and turned out just fine ... so as the old saying goes, you're 'making a mountain out of a molehill'."
His voice rose an octave. "'Mountain out of a molehill'?"
"Making a problem seem worse than it is."
Spock remained silent for a time, but his facial expression relaxed and he looked ... well, relieved. "Then it would be -- all right -- should we ... choose to -- become involved?"
It was said rather hastily, as if the Vulcan was forcing himself to speak.
"Do you ... want to?"
Christine found it equally hard to express herself. His cheeks and eartips flushed green; she smiled understandingly.
"I'm -- sorry if you're embarrassed, Spock, but I ... hope you know that you can trust me. I would -- never betray someone I ... care deeply for."
The green deepened to emerald, but he managed to speak. "Thank you, Christine. Perhaps we may -- work on it ... after we have finished discussing your recordings."
She laughed; he asked why.
"Not to change the subject, but can you imagine what the Captain or Dr. McCoy will think of the recordings?"
The Vulcan surprised her with a smile, gently squeezing her hands. "I believe I can. Now let us return to your recordings."
He told the machine to resume playing the tape, as he had told it to turn off once at the beginning of their personal conversation so they wouldn't miss anything. The discussions continued on a casual level after this, until the recordings had all been heard -- which took several hours each day over the following two days. By then, Christine had discussed some of them with both Nyota and Leonard. As for the Captain, she would give the tapes to him and let him listen at his leisure -- but make herself available to explain whatever he didn't understand. Once that was behind them, Spock and Christine would be able to get down to more pleasant business.
* * *
Three days after her return, Christine found herself quite the celebrity, but managed to fend off most inquiries to a later date. In the meantime, she had decided to meet with Uhura again. Something else she'd wanted to know, but that Christine hadn't had a chance to tell her yet ... like what had happened between her and Spock's ancestor. She punched up some drinks and snacks on the auto-chef, setting her small table and placing a bouquet of silk roses as a centerpiece.
She had already showered and changed into a hostess gown the color of her eyes and wore gold slippers, her hair in a casual upsweep with only light makeup and a touch of perfume behind her ears. No need to go all out; it was only Nyota coming. Of course, it would have been different if Spock intended to drop by. She smiled wickedly. The sound of the buzzer brought her back to reality.
"Come," she said automatically, assuming it was Uhura.
The door swished open, but it was not Uhura. Instead, she heard Spock's deep, rich baritone addressing her.
"Christine," he said quietly.
She visibly jumped. "Spock, you startled me. I was expecting Uhura."
The Vulcan's gaze swept over the table, then back to her.
"In that case, I will not keep you but a moment. I merely wished to ask you--"
At this point their eyes met; the look in his surprised Christine. He had never looked at her like that before. Almost ... hungry. But he was no doubt embarrassed, so she wouldn't question him about it. He always was if anyone happened to catch him in an "emotional display" of any kind, invariably trying to explain it away. In addition, if it was what she thought it was and not her imagination or a lot of wishful thinking, she would know without having to ask.
"Ask me what?"
"Would you -- be available to ... well ... have dinner with me tomorrow evening at 2100 hours in the Officers' Lounge?"
His cheeks and ears had a greenish tinge. He was actually blushing! Christine almost laughed at the thought, but tactfully refrained.
"I -- think so," she forced out, hoping she sounded normal. "But I'd have to check to make sure before I could give you a definite answer."
A flicker of disappointment crossed his face for a moment, then was gone. "I will be in my quarters. Please let me know as soon as possible whether or not you will be available."
"Then I will be on my way."
He nodded in her direction and disappeared out the doors just before they swished shut behind him. The door buzzer sounded again five minutes later.
"Come," she said again.
This time it was Uhura. The Bantu found her friend standing beside the table looking dazed, holding a hand to one flushed cheek. It was as though she'd just been... Uhura dismissed the thought almost as soon as she thought it. Spock would never do such a thing. All the same, Uhura decided not to ask -- at least not at this point. She would find out eventually. Even so, she was unable to keep a note of concern from her voice.
"Chris, you all right?"
"Huh? Oh, Nyota. Yes, I'm fine. Let's sit down now and I'll tell you what happened. With me and Sullivan Grayson, that is," she finished upon seeing the other woman's expectant face.
Christine then tried to sit down, but in so doing, caught her right foot on the leg of the chair and nearly fell before sitting down ... an action that Uhura's sharp eyes didn't miss. Something must have happened -- fairly recently, too -- but her main concern at the moment was learning of Christine's brief relationship with Spock's ancestor, Sullivan Grayson.
"What could possibly have made him propose to you?" the dark woman wondered incredulously after taking a swallow of her drink.
"I couldn't say for sure, but I think it was because I resembled my ancestor, also named Christine ... and because I took care of him. Many times male patients believe themselves in love with their nurses."
"Is that what you told him?"
"Part of it. The rest of the reason I refused was because I'm already in love, as you know." Christine sighed and took a swallow of her own drink.
"Even so, I had to be careful. Otherwise he might never have married, and Spock and his mother would never have been born. The last thing I wanted was to be responsible for that."
"It must have worked. They're both here." Uhura opened a bag of snacks and put a handful in her mouth.
"Thank Heaven for small favors." Christine set her drink down and stretched.
"One other thing," the other woman said, deciding to throw caution to the winds and ask her friend what had happened shortly before she, Uhura, arrived.
"What happened just before I got here? You looked like you'd just been hit with the proverbial ton of bricks."
Christine laughed shakily as she reached for the bag of snacks and took a handful.
"I think I was. Spock came by," she told her friend before popping the contents of her hand into her mouth.
"What did he want?"
"He invited me to dinner at 2100 hours tomorrow evening," the nurse said after swallowing.
Uhura's eyes widened.
"I told him I had to check to see if I was free before I could give him an answer."
"What?" Uhura's voice rose an octave.
"Why would he do that?"
"I don't know, but I can't say that I'm not glad it happened. My only complaint is that he didn't do it a long time ago."
"Did you tell him I was coming?"
"That was probably why. He didn't want anyone to walk in on him doing it."
Uhura frowned thoughtfully.
"I suppose that's possible. After all, that isn't exactly a logical thing to do. Which reminds me -- do you intend to accept his invitation?"
Christine smiled slyly. "You need to ask? After all, it isn't every day that Spock asks me for a date. Besides, he might not ask again if I turned him down. He's quite sensitive, you know -- especially where that is concerned."
Uhura reached for the nearby plate which contained celery and carrot sticks with ranch dressing for dip, putting a dollop of dip on a long slender celery stalk and biting off the dipped end before beginning to chew, then swallow.
"Women," Christine explained. "That former bondmate of his really did a number on him. Thanks to her, he's scared of women now."
"She was crazy," the dark woman opined.
"Tell me about it." Christine finished her drink.
At this point Uhura reluctantly stood up and turned toward the door.
"I'd better go. I've got to be on-shift at 0530."
Christine looked up in surprise, seeing that her friend was right. "In that case, sleep well. I'll see you later."
Uhura took the celery and half-eaten bag of snacks with her as the door wooshed closed behind her. Christine then called Sickbay to find out whether or not she was free the following evening.
"Let me check," McCoy said. A minute or so later he spoke again. "I have you down for duty from 0800 to l600 tomorrow, but 2100 looks clear for you. Why do you ask? Is there something you wanted to do around that time?"
"You could say that." She fought to keep relief out of her voice.
"Well, have fun, whatever you're doing." McCoy's voice was laced with surprise and bewilderment.
"Thanks, Leonard. I'm sure I will. Chapel out."
It was all she could do not to whoop with joy. She then looked at the chrono on her bedside table. 2200. Spock would still be awake. She opened the intercom.
"Chapel to Spock."
"I checked with Dr. McCoy. I'm free tomorrow night."
"In that case, I will meet you in the Officers' Lounge at 2100 hours tomorrow evening. What is your favorite type of meal and beverage?"
She told him.
"It will be waiting for you when you arrive. Until tomorrow."
"Tomorrow," she said, knowing who she would be dreaming of tonight -- and every night for a long time to come.
* * *
The next morning in Sickbay, Christine knew that crew physicals were to start today simply by McCoy's manner. They usually went alphabetically, so none of the bridge crew would be in -- with the possible exception of navigator Pavel Chekov. It would all depend on how fast and well the initial examinations went.
Sometimes they went overtime, so Christine hoped she wouldn't have to cancel her date with Spock, even though she was fairly certain he would understand if she did. Even so, she had waited a long time for him to ask her, and wanted nothing to screw it up if it could be avoided. Physicals (or at least the kind that would satisfy McCoy) took roughly 20 minutes per patient, which figured out to twenty-four patients in an eight-hour shift ... without overtime, that is.
If there was, they would be out of luck for at least the next seventeen and a half days, roughly two and a half weeks. By then he could be involved in some project or something and forget all about her. She was frankly terrified that it would take another six months for Spock to ask her out again if something came up to prevent this date -- which would be their first (and hopefully only the first of many).
As Nyota had said, T'Pring had really done a number on Spock by openly challenging him at what was to have been their wedding, casting him aside in favor of the lower-class and somewhat immature, but full-blooded Vulcan Stonn. She had even brazenly informed Spock that she would have kept Stonn as a lover even if they had married since he would be gone, leaving her with only his name and property.
Because of this, he was extremely wary of women, even the ones he felt attracted to. *Especially* those he felt attracted to ... even though he was well aware that the majority of female crewmembers found him extremely attractive, and would have taken him on any terms had he approached them. Yet it was obvious that he believed her to be the one from which he stood the best chance of receiving an affirmative answer, since she had made no secret of her feelings in the six months she had been aboard. If things worked out, she intended to see that she was the only one Spock would even *consider* bonding with.
Christine was not really vain, but *did* believe that she had sufficient qualities to please him -- make Spock forget other women except in a professional capacity. Of course, she was getting ahead of herself at this point, but at the same time it didn't hurt to plan ahead.
* * *
At 1230 hours she and McCoy sat down for a short (fifteen minutes) break, each having a steaming cup of coffee in front of them. Both sank gratefully into their chairs, their legs and feet feeling like lead weights attached to their bodies.
"Lord, I'm tired," McCoy declared with a deep yawn. "I think I'm getting too old for this."
"I feel as though I've been hit with a shuttlecraft ... or that my legs have been run over." Christine yawned as well and stretched in her chair in an attempt to get the kinks out of her back -- something at which she was only partially successful. "What I wouldn't give for a good masseuse right now!"
Before McCoy could reply, she sighed and continued.
"I hope I'm not too tired for my dinner date tonight. It wouldn't do much for his ego to have me fall asleep over my food."
"Which reminds me ... who are you seeing tonight anyway?" McCoy wondered after taking a generous swig of coffee.
Christine shook her head. "Sorry, I can't tell you that."
"Why not? You should know by now that you can trust me." The Doctor sounded disappointed.
"Trust isn't the issue, Leonard. I simply don't want to talk about it right now. Tell you what -- if you don't pressure me for the rest of the shift, I'll consider telling you how the date went on tomorrow's break."
"Now that's a challenge I can't turn down," the Chief Surgeon smiled with a sly wink. At that moment the sickbay doors opened and closed, signaling the arrival of more patients. McCoy sighed deeply and finished his now lukewarm coffee in one gulp before standing up and stretching.
"Well, duty calls, Chris. Back to work, lady."
Christine echoed his sigh and finished her own coffee in three leisurely swallows before reluctantly getting to her feet again, groaning as she put her weight on them.
"Hopefully a hot shower and nap will revive me enough to stay awake for my date. Otherwise..." Her voice trailed off, laced with disappointment.
"Do you think a shot of cortropine would help?" McCoy reached for a hypo on his desk.
"Maybe later." Christine held up a hand. "We'll hold off on it for now. I've handled tougher days than this. Well, we'd better get moving; we have patients waiting."
With that, she walked into the adjoining examination room, McCoy on her heels as the two left the Chief Surgeon's office.
* * *
The rest of the shift passed much like the first half; for a time, Christine was too busy to think of her weariness. Besides, just the thought of being with Spock revived her -- at least at the last. It was 1600 almost before she knew it. McCoy had to tell her. She had been engrossed in telling him what all she had done for Sullivan Grayson's arm, as well as the others she had treated -- or attempted to treat.
McCoy nodded understandingly at her when she related how heartsick she had been at her inability to do anything to help them because she didn't dare use her futuristic equipment or tell her temporary associates who she really was or where she was from.
"I know how you feel, but it was necessary," he told her gently. He shot one eye at the wall chrono, then back to her. "Send another nurse in here. Your shift is over."
Christine looked surprised but pleased once the news sunk in. "Already?"
"You're sure you don't want me to work another couple of hours overtime?"
"That's up to you. I admit I could use you, but if you want to be ready for your date in time..." The doctor's voice trailed off.
"Oh, yes, my date! I almost forgot. Thanks, Leonard. I appreciate it -- and will make it up to you later. See you tomorrow."
"Tomorrow," the surgeon echoed with a weary smile. Christine returned it, then sent one of her junior nurses in to help McCoy before leaving Sickbay to shower, then nap and get ready for her date.
Upon arrival at her quarters, she undressed and stepped into her sonic shower, luxuriating in the gentle pulsing which not only cleansed but refreshed her. She then stepped out onto her bathroom carpet and dried herself before slipping into her favorite fluffy robe, her hair wrapped turban-style in a rose-print towel. She padded barefoot into her bedroom after brushing her teeth and perfuming strategic places, lying down on her bed and falling asleep almost instantly after making a slight upward adjustment in her cabin temperature.
* * *
Christine awakened to the room chrono softly announcing that it was twenty-hundred hours (eight p.m.) That would give her about forty-five minutes to prepare for her date. She would have preferred Spock to call for her, but beggars couldn't be choosers. Surely it had been difficult enough for him to have simply asked her to meet him for dinner without expecting him to come for her as well. Of course, now that she thought about it, she preferred to keep their meeting secret -- for the time being, at least. Perhaps it would be late enough for him to escort her back to her quarters once the date ended. That would have to suffice.
Thankfully she had already chosen what she would wear... a lacey bodysuit and well-fitting blue pants, with white slippers and gold hoop earrings with IDICs inside, which she had purchased during her last leave. Spock would surely notice them, even if he didn't notice anything else. The bodysuit had long, fitted sleeves and delicate lace around the modest scoop neckline and cuffs.
The pants' hems just brushed the tops of her slippers, the legs full enough to flow rhythmically as she walked. There was no time, nor was she so inclined, to fix her hair elaborately, so she simply put it up in a casual but flattering braided chignon. The earrings dressed it up enough. Her makeup was light, but enhanced her best features -- her eyes, lips and cheekbones.
It was 2045 when the nurse put the finishing touches on herself, debating for a time on whether or not to wear a necklace, but finally decided it would be overdone. It was best to look simple but elegant. The Officers' Lounge was two decks above, on C Deck... and the turbolift down the corridor from her quarters would deposit her just a corridor away.
She left her quarters at 2050, walking briskly, forcing herself not to hurry even as her heart pounded with eagerness. Moments later, she stepped onto the 'lift and said "C Deck," to the 'lift computer. Barely a minute later, she stepped out onto C Deck, taking a deep breath before beginning the short walk to the doors of the Lounge.
She did the same upon reaching the doors, breathing deeply several times before stepping so they would sense her presence and open to admit her. The Lounge was dimly lit and all but deserted at this hour, which suited her perfectly. It was probably also why Spock chose this time for their date. She looked around for her date, but didn't see him anywhere upon stepping inside, tentatively calling to him as she stood in the entry foyer.
"Spock, I'm here."
"Over here, Christine."
His deep, rich voice came from the starboard side of the room, flowing into her ears like sweet music. He stood up to indicate his position, saluting her as she approached, waiting patiently until she was comfortably seated before reseating himself. Her nostrils twitched with pleasure at the savory smell of boeuf bourguignonne and her favorite drink in a large slender goblet, a tangy conglomeration of orange, grapefruit and passion fruit juices with a touch of white wine ... what twentieth-century diners had called a "wine cooler."
"It looks wonderful, Spock -- and smells even better."
He returned her smile with a half-smile of his own, nodding modestly. Being a vegetarian, it wasn't easy for him to endure the smell of meat, but he put up with it for Christine's sake. She noted that he had a generous serving of *tirqueen mi*, a Vulcan dish which was a mixture of vegetables in a sauce similar to sour cream served over rice. A steaming bowl of plomeek soup accompanied it, along with a tall goblet of tulac. It was similar to her own drink but non-alcoholic. They ate silently for a time, Spock not doing so until she did. About fifteen minutes into the meal, she told him how her shift went.
He listened politely, frowning when she said she had felt so tired that she had been sure she would have to break their date. There was another half-smile from him when she said that McCoy had even offered to give her a shot of cortropine to keep her alert. About halfway through the meal, he asked if she would like to have some "dinner music." At her nod and smile, he said, "Computer tape #136." Soon instrumental music began to flow softly through the room. She marveled at how beautiful it was.
Some was contemporary, but other pieces were centuries old and almost exclusively Terran in origin: Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata", Tchaikovsky's "Piano Concerto #1", Debussy's "Clair de Lune" and "Le Cygne (The Swan)" by Camille Saint-Saens. Her eyes seemed to glow as she finished her meal and looked up at her companion, patting her lips lightly with her napkin.
"That was delicious, Spock. Really hit the spot."
He frowned again. "Hit the spot?"
"Really satisfied me," she explained.
Spock was thankful that Christine had no idea how beautiful she looked to him or how she was making her escort feel. It took all his control not to tell her. A moment later he stood up.
"Would you care to share the view of the forward observation lounge with me?"
She hesitated only a moment before standing up and holding out her hand to him. The couple disposed of their meal's remains before walking through the entry foyer and down the hall to the forward viewport. He assisted her down the two steps to the observation area, walking over to the transparent aluminum window through which they could see the star-studded blackness of deep space flowing past them. They stood in silence for a time, then Christine touched a hand to the cool surface of the window.
"Lord, that's cold. Gives me the shivers just thinking of how close we are to that black, infinitely cold vacuum."
"Do not concern yourself, Christine. I will not allow you to come to any harm."
Her companion reached for her nearest hand, enfolding it in the warmth and gentle strength of his own. Their fingers intricately entwined as the pair stood close together, just a hand's-breadth apart. They were again silent for a time, then Christine spoke again.
"It was a lovely evening, Spock. Thank you for asking me."
It was hard to tell for sure, but she was sure he had blushed again. "I ... am glad it pleased you, Christine. I am -- not experienced with women, so I was ... unsure of how you would react to it."
His voice was a mixture of embarrassment and pleasure. After that they were silent once again, simply standing hand-in-hand listening to the music playing softly in the background. When one piece ended and another began, Christine looked up at her escort in surprise. It was Ravel's "Bolero", one of the most sensuous pieces of music ever written, ranking right up there with Nightingale Woman. How could Spock have chosen such music?
"Do you ... like the music, Christine? It was the -- last piece I chose."
Christine finally managed to find her voice, with some effort. "It's lovely, Spock. I -- was just ... surprised, that's all. I didn't think you would ... ever choose anything like that. I mean, it's -- not exactly something one would expect a Vulcan to choose."
"You do not sound pleased. Are you sure you liked it?"
She smiled, nodded and gently squeezed his hand; he sighed and relaxed.
"It is 2230 hours. Would you like to return to your quarters or remain here a while longer?"
Christine had cherished every moment alone with Spock and hated to see it end -- but knew it had to. "I ... don't want to leave, but I've got to be on duty at 0530 -- so we'd better go."
"As you wish."
There was a touch of disappointment in his voice even as he turned toward the exit, still holding her hand. She followed silently in his wake out of the Lounge and into the nearest turbolift.
"E Deck," he said.
The Vulcan spoke no further as they stepped out of the 'lift and onto E Deck a couple of minutes later. They reached her door shortly thereafter. He took her hands in his and raised them to his lips.
"Thank you for coming tonight, Christine. I ... found it most -- enjoyable."
After that, their eyes met and their gazes locked; he still held her hands. A moment later, their lips met. The kiss was long and delicious, even intoxicating, the pressure tender but firm as he gently pressed her against the bulkhead. Then, and only then, did she dare to respond ... gently, tentatively ... but he continued to kiss her. Only reluctantly did he drew back.
"Good night, Christine."
"Good night, Spock."
She hoped she sounded normal, because her head still spun and her lips still tingled from the pressure of his. He released her hands and turned on his heel to go to his own quarters. She was trying to hide her disappointment at his not asking her out again when he stopped in his tracks, keeping his back to her for some reason.
"May I -- see you again?" His voice was scarcely audible, and he kept his head bowed.
"If that's what you want."
"I do," came the reply. "I will ... contact you again soon."
"All right, Spock."
With that, he walked away; she watched until he disappeared around the corner. Only then did she unlock and enter her own quarters, gratefully falling into bed after changing into her favorite lacy nightgown. She fell asleep with a smile and her arms wrapped around her pillow.
* * *
Spock "contacted" her three days later; they agreed to have dinner in the Lounge again, but this time he would bring his Vulcan harp and put on a private concert for her. He had made sure to figure it so they would both be off-duty the next day so they could be out late if they so wished. Even as much as Christine was looking forward to their second date, the first was still very much on her mind -- particularly their warm, lingering goodnight kiss. His lips were so sweet, his hands so strong yet gentle as they held hers, that if she hadn't had to breathe, it wouldn't have mattered to her if it had never ended.
Her long wait had been worth it ... but even so, she knew she mustn't rush things. Otherwise she could lose Spock before ever having him -- and had no intention of allowing that to happen. She also told herself not to expect a goodnight kiss every time. It would be wonderful if he did, of course, but even his simply holding her or kissing her hands was more than she had ever had from him before. Her preference would be for them to eventually share physical love, but that was getting ahead of herself. If it was meant to happen, it would.
In the meantime, she would be thankful for what time they could spend alone. Even a smile or the touch of his hand meant more to her than words could express. Her love for him transcended the physical aspect, though he had lost none of his attraction for her. It was not only physical, it was mental and spiritual ... a part of her, just as much as her right arm was a part of her.
Now if she could only figure out what she wanted to wear this time...
The beeping of the intercom brought the nurse back to reality.
"Chapel here," she said, not really surprised but a tad disappointed to find Kirk on the other end.
"This is the Captain. I've been listening to your recordings and have questions I'd like to ask you."
"I expected that. I'm free right now. Would you like me to come to your quarters or what?"
"That would be fine. Come ahead. I'll see you in a few minutes."
Christine thought over the conversation with Kirk as she freshened up. She was all too aware of his reputation as a ladies' man, but despite his attractiveness she found it easy to remain professional with him. Whatever else he was, though, James Kirk was no dummy. You didn't rise to command a starship by being stupid, nor did you become a legend by always going "by the book." *Life* didn't go "by the book"!
* * *
She pressed the buzzer at the Captain's quarters a short time later. After she stepped in, Kirk smiled and ushered her over to his desk, asking if she would like a drink once she was seated in the extra chair.
"No, thank you."
He nodded understandingly and seated himself, staring at his hands for a time before she spoke again.
"I understand you have questions about my recordings from the past."
"Indeed." His voice was a credible imitation of Spock's.
"Simply listening has proved quite 'fascinating,' as our favorite Vulcan would say -- but there are a few things that need to be explained, things I have to know in order to better understand what is being said or going on."
"That's what I'm here for. Fire away."
* * *
The next thing they knew, over two hours had passed and they were laughing and joking over what she had told Sullivan Grayson after his impulsive proposal.
"I can just imagine the expression on his face," Kirk chuckled. "Particularly when you told him he was only attracted to you because his sweetheart resembled you. It's also interesting that she not only shared your name, but was an ancestor of yours -- as well as the fact that Spock's ancestor married her.
"Which reminds me. I would also have enjoyed seeing the look on *Spock's* face when you told him that Sullivan Grayson was his ancestor ... not to mention once he learned that the two of you were distantly related because of your ancestors' marriage. Even so, you had a much better time of it than I did. I don't think I'll ever forget how difficult it was for me to return from the past after using the Guardian."
Christine couldn't help but note a sad, faraway look in the Captain's hazel eyes at the reference to the incident which had ended with his sacrificing the only woman he had ever truly loved in order to preserve their history.
"I'm sorry if I dredged up painful memories for you," Christine apologized when Kirk's eyes closed in pain and his head bowed.
"It's all right. I forgive you ... just as long as you don't do it again." He smiled slightly, even though his eyes still held unfathomable sorrow.
"Is there anything else you wanted to know?"
"No, I think we've covered it. Thank you for your time. I'll contact you if I think of anything else."
"Then I'll be on my way. Good night, Captain." She stood up and turned toward the door.
"Good night, Miss Chapel."
Kirk smiled and nodded in her direction as he rose to his feet and headed for the cubbyhole which was his sleeping alcove. Of course, there was no guarantee he'd be able to get to sleep after all that he and Christine talked about, not to mention the memories of his own sojourn and its tragic ending -- but that was part of the many risks involved in being a starship commander. Risks he had gladly taken umpteen times before, and risks he would continue to take as long as he commanded the Enterprise and served in Starfleet.
* * *
Christine had almost made it to her quarters, thinking of the sonic shower and soft bed which awaited her ... in which she would lie thinking of Spock (and perhaps dreaming of him) when she heard a familiar voice.
"Chris, wait up."
Leonard McCoy approached from his own quarters down the hall from hers. "Can we talk?"
"I'm tired and it's quite late, Leonard." She tried to politely dismiss him.
"I won't keep you but a few minutes. I just want to ask you something."
His voice was laced with hurt; Christine felt slightly guilty even as she smiled wryly to herself and sighed inwardly, knowing Leonard cared for her as he would a member of his family. She also had to admit that he had been very patient and considerate regarding her privacy and his curiosity concerning her date of three days before -- what she had done and who she had done it with.
In addition, she was sure he already had a pretty good idea ... but *had* more or less promised him an explanation ... and Christine believed in keeping her promises.
"About my date, I assume." She stepped to her door and unlocked it, then walked through.
"Yes." McCoy followed her in, the doors swishing shut behind them.
"I went to the Lounge for dinner," she explained as she gathered her toiletries and nightgown. "That much you know. As for the rest, the date was with Spock, as you've probably already guessed."
"Can't say I'm surprised to hear that." The doctor's Southern accent thickened slightly. "What else happened besides dinner?"
"He played some music for me. Taped, that is," Christine explained. "Mostly Terran classical from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, though there were a few from our time."
"We finished dinner and walked down to the forward observation room, just standing there looking out at space going by. I said how scary it felt having only two inches of transparent aluminum between us and that vacuum. Spock said there was no need to worry; he would not let any harm come to me. Not long afterward he reached for my hand and held it."
Christine's voice lowered and she smiled softly at the memory.
"After about half an hour the chrono announced what time it was, and I said I had to get to bed since you had me scheduled for duty at 0530. He seemed disappointed, but didn't argue, simply nodded understandingly, and we left. Once we reached my quarters he raised my hands to his lips and thanked me for a pleasant evening. Then we..."
Her voice trailed off; McCoy could tell she was reluctant to continue.
"It really surprised me. I hadn't been expecting it at all -- but that made it all the nicer."
"What did he do?" McCoy almost snapped.
"He ... kissed me." Christine was unable to control a blush.
"And you naturally responded." The Doctor smiled knowingly.
"Of course I did. I couldn't help it. You know how long I've loved him."
McCoy nodded and frowned thoughtfully.
"Which reminds me -- you say one word to him about it even remotely resembling teasing, and I'll never forgive you."
"Who, me?" Her companion was the picture of innocence.
"Yes, you," she threw back. "Just simply be happy for us and let it go at that. I've waited too long for this happiness I feel to allow you or anyone else to frighten him away."
McCoy looked ... and sounded ... both angry and hurt. "My God, Christine, what do you think I am? I *care* about you and Spock. I would never intentionally hurt either of you!" He sounded so sincere that she had to believe him.
"Okay, I'm sorry. I believe you. Now if you would leave, I'd like to go to bed."
"Say no more. I'm gone. See you tomorrow, Chris."
McCoy disappeared through the doors. She nodded in response before picking up her things and heading for her bathroom. Christine climbed into bed twenty minutes later, wrapping her arms around her pillow as she drifted off. Her last waking thought involved the fact that Uhura couldn't be far behind if Leonard had approached her. She soon dropped off and into a dream of tender love and fiery passion -- a dream which she would remember not only tomorrow morning, but for the rest of her life. A dream she would not only tell Spock, but live with him, God willing ... provided it prompted him to deepen their relationship -- at the proper time, that is.
* * *
Christine didn't see Uhura until 1600 hours the following day in the Officers' Mess; they met for lunch. It was as she figured: her friend was eager to hear all the details of her date with Spock. Even their polite small talk upon first sitting down could not conceal it. Finally she couldn't stand the suspense any longer.
"For Heaven's sake, Nyota, say something before I climb the wall!" The Bantu looked both apologetic and sheepish.
"Sorry, Chris, but you have to admit I've been very patient and considerate, considering the potential magnitude of this situation. In fact, I've nearly bitten my tongue off trying to keep from bombarding you with questions."
Christine reached to squeeze her friend's hand.
"I appreciate that -- and am glad to say that you don't have to wait any longer. I'll tell you what happened."
"Everything?" Uhura asked hopefully.
Christine's eyes widened, and her brows lifted before she laughed.
"Very inquisitive, aren't we? Yes, everything."
* * *
Both were thankful to have chosen a secluded booth after Christine finished her tale -- particularly when she related what the last piece of music Spock had chosen was. The dark woman smiled knowingly.
"Doesn't sound like a casual dinner to me ... not when he chooses music like that to close out the evening."
"Is it a good sign, Nyota? I mean, I've waited so long for this -- but at the same time, I don't want to put my heart on the line and get my hopes dashed again. It was painful enough losing Roger; I don't think I could live through that with Spock."
"As Spock would say, there are always possibilities ... but the best thing to do is play it cool, bide your time and see what turns up."
Christine frowned. "Easier said than done. When he kissed me, I found myself wishing he would just sweep me off my feet and carry me to bed."
Uhura smiled wickedly. "Naturally -- but you've got to take it slow, however difficult it may be. Spock doesn't seem like the kind of man who would allow himself to be rushed where a romance is concerned before he's ready for it ... even if he really wants it. It may be hard on you, but it's the only way to go if you want to land him for keeps -- and I know you do."
"In that case, I don't have much choice, do I?" The nurse's lips twisted wryly. "Spock holds the trump card. If I want him, I have to play his game ... and by his rules." She sighed. "The things one must do for love. Sometimes I wonder if it's worth all the trouble."
"Of course it is," Uhura assured her. After a long silence, the other woman looked up to see Christine's skeptical face. "Isn't it?"
"Only if it works."
* * *
That evening at 1930 hours the Captain and First Officer were playing their regular weekly chess game in the latter's quarters. For the first hour or so, the game was going predictably -- Spock was winning -- then things changed. So subtly, however, that it took several minutes for Kirk to notice and comment on it.
"Your game is off, Spock."
He moved his rook to block Spock's queen on the third level.
"Your queen's in check, and you didn't even notice. Is something wrong?"
The Vulcan's sleek head lifted, dark eyes stabbing right through his Human friend, but not denying the charge.
"Does it have anything to do with Christine?"
Spock did not answer. As his head bowed, Kirk noted that his friend's ears were suffused with green. He couldn't see his face but was sure it was as well. It was a long time before the Vulcan could bring himself to speak.
"Yes, Jim. I have ... been seeing her."
"Seeing her? You mean socially, like dating?"
"You would call it that, yes."
"That's great! How are things going?"
"You mean, how are we 'getting along'?"
Spock lifted his head and made a half-hearted attempt to continue the game by reaching for another of his chessmen, but Kirk's hand stopped him.
"Forget it, Spock. Your mind's not really on the game. Yes, I mean how are you two getting along."
One of the Vulcan's hands returned to his lap as his head lifted. "Quite well..." His voice trailed off. "Too well, perhaps." The tone of his voice prompted a look of concern from Kirk as his head bowed once again.
"What do you mean by that?"
Kirk reached to cover his friend's hand with one of his own. Spock looked up, giving him a half-smile.
"Jim, I -- have kissed her." The color in the Vulcan's ears and face deepened.
"Did she ask you to?"
Spock shook his head. "It was ... my idea. What is more, I found it -- extremely pleasurable, and..."
He abruptly broke off.
Kirk took a swig from his drink of Saurian brandy. Spock followed suit with his drink of Altair water.
"I ... found myself wanting to -- share physical love with her. But it -- is highly illogical. My Time of Mating ... will not be for another seven point-three months."
The Captain could sense how difficult it was for Spock to tell him these things, even as close as they were. Finally he thought of something he hoped would make Spock feel better -- or at least less embarrassed.
"Perhaps your Human half prompted those feelings. Christine *is* quite attractive, you know ... and in love with you to boot."
"It -- is possible," the Vulcan reluctantly admitted. "But at the same time, still most unusual. Or should I say unVulcan?"
"No more unusual than it is for any other Humanoid."
The Vulcan shook his head, but Kirk went on.
"Yes, it's quite possible, even for you, with your Vulcan blood. Your father is a full-blooded Vulcan, yet fell in love with your mother, a full-blooded Human."
Spock looked like he wanted to argue, but knew Kirk was right. "If he can do it, you certainly can. As far as I can tell, it hasn't made him any less Vulcan, so it would behoove you to emulate him. You always have before ... at least as much as you could, anyway. If he thought marrying your mother was logical, how can you not consider such a relationship with Christine?"
Spock's face took on a look of stark fear. "Because I am not -- ready for ... such a relationship with her. It is -- not the right ... time."
Kirk's grip on his Vulcan friend's hand gently tightened.
"Spock, I'm not trying to push you into anything you aren't ready for. No one is. It's your life, your decision. Christine and I both know how you feel about being pressured. You made the decision to start seeing her on your own, of your own free will. In other words, you started the relationship, and you can end it."
Spock looked troubled. "But I have -- no wish to hurt her ... and my -- company, my presence, seems to make her happy."
"Then go on seeing her."
Kirk was startled at his friend's reply.
"I ... am afraid to, Jim. The feelings she -- our kiss -- has brought out in me, coupled with... the thoughts I have had -- about us..."
The First Officer's voice once again trailed off until it was barely audible. It was some time before the Vulcan spoke again.
"Jim, I -- fear that I am ... slowly but surely -- falling in ... love -- with her."
"After one date?" Kirk marveled. "That's some revelation. Of course, since you've always held yourself so aloof from relationships with women, and then the one time you allow yourself to develop feelings for a woman of your own free will... Of course, when that happens, there's always the -- danger, if you will -- of falling in love. It would seem that that has happened to you, if what you've told me is any barometer."
"But I cannot..." Spock began.
Kirk shook his head, knowing what his friend had been about to say before he said it. "You wouldn't want to continue seeing her otherwise." Again, there was a long, awkward interval before the Vulcan even moved. "You *do*, don't you?"
Spock couldn't bring himself to speak, merely nodding.
"When are you seeing her again?"
"Tomorrow evening, at 2030 hours."
"What are your plans, if I may ask?" Kirk finished off his drink.
"We will -- share the evening meal, then I will ... play my Vulcan harp for her."
"In the -- Officers' Lounge. I ... consider it the most -- logical place. After all, I would have to ... control myself there. In either of our quarters, we would -- be alone, and therefore I would be ... more likely to -- allow matters to ... get out of hand."
Kirk nodded and smiled, finally releasing Spock's hand.
"Impeccable logic, as usual, Spock."
Then he remembered their 3-D chess game.
"Do you feel up to finishing the game, or would you rather finish it another time?"
The Vulcan bowed his head, then shook it. "I -- find myself ... unable to concentrate as I should."
"I've got an idea. Would you feel better if I came -- say, about an hour after the date begins? You should be done with dinner by then. Unless you prefer that I join the two of you for dinner."
"That ... might be wise. Your coming after dinner, that is. Otherwise, Christine might become -- suspicious, and believe you are merely there to ... shall I say ... 'chaperone' us." The Vulcan finished off his own drink.
"Does she know how you feel about her?"
"Only that I find her -- attractive and ... enjoy her company. I have -- admitted nothing further, and *shall* not ... until the proper time."
"Your -- pon farr?"
The Vulcan nodded.
"But that's months away. I don't think either of you could possibly wait that long."
"I must. It is the Vulcan way," Spock insisted.
"But you are not entirely Vulcan ... and Christine is Human. It would be even harder on her than it would be for you. She's waited months as it is."
"It cannot be helped. I must be true to my Vulcan heritage."
Spock's voice was quiet but emphatic.
"Can't you be true to your heritage sooner? Why make things tougher than they have to be?"
"Jim..." The tone of Spock's voice effectively silenced his Human friend -- at least momentarily. It was a mixture of annoyance and pain. Kirk sighed.
"All right, Spock, I suppose you know what you're doing, though I still think you're making things unnecessarily difficult for both yourself and Christine. However, I suggest that you bear in mind the fact that your Human blood gives you somewhat different emotional needs than a full-blooded Vulcan. It's no disgrace to marry in pon farr ... or *after* it, for that matter. No one would need to know except us -- Bones, myself, and Christine -- and you would be safely bonded, so there would be no need to rush to Vulcan next time around."
Of course, outwardly Spock was no more affected by this than a wooden Indian ... so Kirk gave up, at least for the time being, and took leave of his Vulcan friend. However, what the Captain said had indeed sunk in, but Spock could not (and would not) consider it until his relationship with Christine was further advanced. In addition, he had too much else to think about at the moment.
* * *
2030 hours neared almost before either Spock or Christine realized it. There had been no concept of time passage whatsoever, and Spock couldn't believe how his emotions were warring inside of him even as he prepared for his upcoming "date" with Christine. He could only vaguely imagine what she must be feeling, but as for himself, he had had no idea that one kiss could make him feel like this -- bringing out longings and desires that he never imagined himself capable of feeling. Even now he remembered the sweetness of the kiss, felt the warm softness of her lips as they yielded to his. As a result, he was unable to control the rush of blood into his cheeks at the thought.
What was happening that any woman could make him feel like this? It was illogical, unVulcan ... but undeniable, at least to himself. For that reason, he was sorely tempted to cancel the whole thing, but didn't want to hurt Christine, who was surely looking forward to their spending time together. So he pushed his fear aside (with considerable difficulty, mind you) and put the finishing touches on himself, then picked up his Vulcan harp and left his quarters at 2025 hours.
* * *
This time Christine was waiting for him when he arrived. Spock couldn't help but raise one upswept brow in a gesture of surprise and pleasure -- though he sternly schooled himself to conceal the latter. "Christine, you are early," he observed as he approached the table where she waited in a secluded corner of the room, half surrounded by plants from various Federation planets.
He felt a touch of claustrophobia as he joined her, but sensed how much *she* liked the spot, so he willed himself to ignore it as best he could. Christine looked up at his addressing her, smiling and unable to control a blush.
"I ... decided to come early so I could do -- as the saying goes -- 'the honors' by having our meals ready and waiting when you arrived."
She indicated the table, set with both meals. His was a pasta salad, a bowl of vegetable soup and glass of iced Altair water. Hers was sweet and sour chicken, along with a small green salad garnished with sliced eggs, bacon bits and croutons. Champagne was the beverage of choice this time, and there was baked Alaska for dessert.
He took in all the sights, smells and sounds as he sat down and prepared to eat. The savory smell of the vegetable soup ... Christine's hair up, pearls wrapped around it ... her old rose-colored dress with lace around the throat, sleeves and bosom, and the roses it brought out in her cheeks ... and the perfume she wore, reminiscent of the aforementioned flower which he had learned was her favorite. She had even called up much of the same music as he had on their first date, but in a different order.
Camille Saint-Saens' "Le Cygne (The Swan)" was playing as the meal began. His heartbeat quickened in spite of all he could do; it took all his control not to get up and leave. Her nearness was almost more than he could handle. In the next moment, he felt a warm, soft hand touching his.
"Spock, is anything wrong? Have I displeased you?"
He detected both concern and fear in her voice, meeting her apprehensive blue eyes with reassuring brown ones, yet unprepared for the impact they had on him. He strove to hide it, but couldn't -- not completely. Her grip gently tightened.
"Please answer me, Spock. Let me help if I can."
The concern and affection in her voice touched him and he gave her a half-smile.
"I am ... fine, Christine. There is no cause for concern. I was simply -- surprised. It is rare that someone goes to such lengths to please me."
Christine bit back what she longed to say: "I'd do anything for you," and said instead, "I ... hoped it would please you."
"It has." The corners of his mouth curved upward slightly in what was, for him, a reassuring smile. "Now let us finish our meals before they grow cold."
He squeezed her hand momentarily, then withdrew his own and they once again dug in.
* * *
It was a silent meal, at least verbally, though their eyes met and lingered many times. Sooner than either had figured on, the meal was over, and its remains duly disposed of. The couple moved from the dining area to where various strategically placed padded benches and chairs stood for those who wished a modicum of privacy. Christine situated herself in a corner, leaning on one chair's padded back as Spock seated himself on an adjoining bench and played his Vulcan harp, slender expert fingers stroking the strings.
The melody of "Where is Love?" filled the room as 2059 hours became 2100 hours. Again, their eyes met and they smiled at each other, unaware even as they did so that there two others in the room with them -- that is, until Spock's playing ceased and there was a smattering of applause.
The couple looked up to find James Kirk sitting nearby, a smile on his face. Leonard McCoy sat next to him, a glass of Antarean brandy in his hand and an identical smile on his lips.
Spock looked surprised at first, but was inwardly pleased and relieved. He had all but forgotten that Jim was coming, but hadn't known that the doctor would accompany him. All the better, he decided. Christine was less likely to be suspicious this way -- or so he believed.
But Christine was already suspicious. She had been sure that she and Spock would once again be alone together. They were so seldom alone that she treasured what little time was granted them ... but now the Captain and Dr. McCoy had shown up. Had Spock put them up to it? If so, why? Then she dismissed the thought -- at least as far as McCoy was concerned.
Spock might have some influence over Kirk, but not McCoy so much, even though she knew Leonard cared for the Vulcan, unwilling though he was to admit it openly. Spock was also reluctant to acknowledge his own feelings of friendship for the doctor due to their recurring verbal jousts. Usually they were good-natured, but sometimes it was hard to tell.
Spock and McCoy weren't as close as Kirk and Spock, but were friends nonetheless. Even so, what the Captain and Leonard were doing here at this particular time was beyond her. Did Spock actually feel he needed protection? From *her*? She loved him! He had nothing to fear from her, he should know that. That is, unless he was afraid of becoming too involved with her and consequently ... possibly ... falling in love.
Then a new thought struck her. Could Leonard and the Captain be here merely to offer moral support, ensure that nothing improper happened? She frowned inwardly at that, but had to concede the possibility, though she certainly wouldn't have minded -- especially if Spock kissed her as he had last time. Of course, it was just as likely that they were here for her benefit as Spock's. Perhaps he couldn't trust himself alone with her now ... She smiled wickedly. That was another possibility -- and a far more palatable one.
"Oh ... Captain, Leonard. I had no idea you were here." Her tone was pleasant, though her smile was a little forced.
"I just thought we'd drop by since we were off duty. It isn't every day that Spock gives a private concert."
Kirk smiled; McCoy followed suit. The Captain sounded sincere enough, but Christine knew his reputation -- the original silver tongue. He could probably charm the proverbial birds out of the trees. Whatever the case, it was still too convenient a time for them to show up here. Spock wouldn't make a move on her at all now. For that reason, she intended to have some choice words with him at the first opportunity.
* * *
The rest of the evening passed pleasantly enough, though Christine naturally had her own ideas as to how it could have been far more pleasant... Oh, well, at least she was with Spock, albeit chaperoned by the Captain and Leonard. The four ended up singing together, each suggesting a favorite song of theirs.
Spock did one from Vulcan, one that Sarek had taught him as a child. "Where is Love?" Spock did for both himself and Christine after she stopped the other music. It seemed appropriate, given his growing feelings for the gentle, loving woman beside him: so much like his mother it was uncanny. Regrettable that they couldn't have met sooner...
Kirk suggested one of his favorites, "Red Sails in the Sunset", then McCoy suggested "Dixie" in keeping with his Georgia background. Christine herself suggested "Beyond Antares", a popular contemporary ballad. Two hours later, around 2300, the small gathering broke up and the four left the Lounge.
First McCoy, then Kirk, left to go into their own quarters after bidding the others goodnight. Christine was frankly glad to see them go. Spock reached for her hand once Kirk had gone, holding it as he escorted her back to her own. Even so, they weren't that far away. Damn!
Spock looked apologetic as they reached her door, having sensed her anger and pain. The same anger and pain was in her eyes as she looked up at him.
"I am -- sorry, Christine. I ... had no idea that both the Captain and Dr. McCoy would join us."
"It's all right, Spock." She forced herself to sound reassuring. "If you felt better having them there, who am I to object?"
He frowned. "But it displeased you."
"I wasn't -- displeased, exactly. A little disappointed is more like it. I figured we were going to be alone. After all, we don't often get the chance to be alone because our duties keep us so busy." Her voice was quiet, and her head bowed.
"Besides, until recently, you never seemed to have time for me. You spent most of your off-duty time either with the Captain or doing research ... and after what happened tonight, what am I supposed to think but that you're afraid to be alone with me -- especially after the goodnight kiss we shared last time? Spock, you should know me well enough by now to know that I would *never* try to force you into anything. After all, I know how much I dislike being pressured myself."
Her voice had become so soft that even Spock had trouble hearing her. He reached a hand up to lift her chin and look into her eyes after releasing her hand. They were closed.
"Christine, please look at me."
She made no move.
"Look at me," he repeated, gently but firmly.
She reluctantly opened her eyes.
"I am sorry if you did not have a -- pleasant evening. All the same, I must confess that I did. Being with Jim, the Doctor ... and you." His voice became as quiet as hers.
"Third choice again," she muttered. "Will I ever be first with you, Spock? Or is that an impossible dream?"
Tears formed in her eyes, and she closed them, pleased but surprised to feel warm, gentle lips kiss them away. She opened her eyes again.
"Please do not cry, Christine. It -- distresses me. And one more thing ... you are *not* third choice. You are my *only* choice -- at least as far as the female gender is concerned."
He placed a gentle hand on her cheek; her left hand reached up to cover his and hold it for a moment.
Those two words held all the love in her heart. *I love you,* she finished in her mind, somehow unable to say the words aloud, even as much as she wanted to.
*You are very special to me as well, Christine. More than you will ever know.*
She was somewhat startled upon realizing that she had spoken in her mind -- then smiled at his sincere, if covert, sentiments.
"Christine, I wish to see you again. I can also assure you that we will be alone after this, since that seems to be your preference. I am not ... used to such an -- intimate relationship with a woman, particularly a Human woman, but..."
Her hand released his to put a finger on his lips. "No need to explain, Spock. I understand now. You needed them there."
"But not because of anything you have done. It was ... to protect you in the event matters -- got out of hand between us."
Christine looked shocked for a moment, then pleased. "Spock, you mean you actually...?"
He inclined his head; she raised one of his hands to her lips and kissed it. His eyebrow shot up at her action, but he made no objection until some time had passed.
"Are you quite finished, Christine?"
"Oh -- yes. Sorry." She dropped his hand abruptly, embarrassed.
"No apology is necessary. I merely wished to bid you good night."
She was surprised at the tone of his voice. It was full of hunger, even desire. He wanted her, she was sure ... why couldn't he admit it?
"In that case, good night, Spock. Sleep well."
His answer was another kiss -- not quite as long as the first, but his lips were every bit as sweet.
"I shall try. Good night, Christine."
He smiled slightly and touched her cheek before departing. She watched him go until he disappeared around the corner, then raised a hand to her lips and smiled before unlocking her quarters and going to bed.
* * *
And so was the way of their lives for the next six months. Naturally it was tough to have to wait, but well worth it in the end. It was also a real revelation for Christine to learn that Spock's change of heart had begun when she had discovered the link between their Human families while in the past. But it didn't really matter how or why they were together ... what mattered was that they were together.
Spock was everything Christine ever thought he would be, both privately and in public. T'Pring would never know what she had missed. Christine had long ago surmised that Spock had a lot of love to give the proper person -- and she was proud and honored to be that proper person.
Not to mention immensely pleased that he felt the same about her. Now all they needed was at least one child to be completely happy, either inside Starfleet or out ... as happy as Sullivan Grayson and *his* Christine had been. Not only today, but tomorrow and every day of the rest of their lives.