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.





A DREAM SHATTERED, A DREAM FULFILLED

J. M. Lane



BUZZ! BUZZ! BUZZ!

Christine Chapel moved restlessly in her bed, mumbling sleepy oaths as she tried to ignore the noise assaulting her ears. Finally she couldn't take it any more and got up to investigate. Someone was at her door, and by the sound of it wasn't going away ... not without seeing her.

She sat up, stretched and yawned as she slipped into her robe and slippers. She answered the door after washing her face and brushing her teeth. Her eyes widened when she looked at her bedroom chrono. 0830! And she had just gotten to bed at 0400 after a long day at Starfleet Medical Central! Whoever it was better have a damn good reason for disturbing her or else she would strangle first and ask questions later.

She pressed a button; the door opened to reveal Commander Nyota Uhura, now Chief of Communications at Starfleet HQ. She was in civilian garb since it was her day off. The other woman apologized upon seeing that Christine wasn't dressed and her hair tousled from sleep.

"Oh, did I wake you, Chris? I'm sorry, but I had to see you about something important and thought I'd better do it while I had the chance."

"What is it?" Christine became alert at the tone of her friend's voice.

"We'd better sit down first," the dark woman suggested.

Christine jerked her head toward the kitchen. "As long as I'm up, I might as well fix us some breakfast. Let's go to the kitchen. We can talk over breakfast."

Uhura had a sneaking suspicion that Chris would lose her appetite after learning her news, but said nothing as she followed the other woman into her immaculate kitchen. She sat down at the small table with two chairs in one corner, nursing a cup of Christine's specially brewed coffee.

Christine fixed an old standby, ham and eggs with toast and jam. The female physician made small talk with her Bantu friend as she cooked, all the while sensing an urgency behind Uhura's casual banter. At last Christine sat down across from her friend, taking a swig of coffee before setting her cup down and giving her breakfast companion a level look.

"Okay, Ny, I know that look. You're hiding something. Out with it." Uhura moved restlessly under the penetrating gaze.

"All right, so you can read me like the proverbial book -- but don't say I didn't warn you."

"Dammit, Nyota, tell me before I shake it out of you!" Christine looked ready to chew neutronium.

"It's ... about Spock," Uhura forced out over the dryness of her throat. Christine's face hardened further.

"I gathered that from your evasiveness earlier. What about Spock?"

"He's ... married." Uhura spoke so softly that Christine barely heard her.

"He's what?" she demanded, a piece of egg halfway to her mouth.

"Married," Uhura repeated, dreading Christine's reaction. Instead, the other woman's face became expressionless and unreadable. Evidently the years of observing Spock's poker face had paid off. For a long time the silence was thick enough to cut, then Uhura spoke again. "Chris? Chris, are you all right?"

"What?" The female physician lifted her head, seeming to look right through Uhura.

"Oh, Ny. Yes, I'm fine." She continued to eat.

Despite Christine's denial, however, the Bantu was sure that her friend had to be hiding untold agony behind her stony exterior. She had seen that look all too often on Spock's face not to know what was behind it. "I can imagine what a shock this must be to you, Chris -- and I'm here if you need me." Uhura's hands reached to hold Christine's; they felt hard and rigid, like wood instead of flesh and bone.

Christine seemed not to hear her or feel the comforting hands. "I'm ... glad he's found someone. He's -- been alone too long." Her hands clamped around Uhura's, knuckles white and bloodless. "Tell me, Ny. Is she -- his wife -- is she ... a Vulcan?"

"Half, like Spock," Uhura explained. "But this time it's her father who is Human -- a Starfleet Admiral, Lenardo D'Amaro. Her mother's name is T'Ayana, a female Vulcan serving as his administrative assistant. As for T'Christa, his wife, she is -- or rather, was -- a friend of the Lieutenant Valeris who was one of the conspirators behind the assassination of Klingon Chancellor Gorkon."

Christine nodded impatiently. "Yes, go on."

"The conspirators were either put on trial or court-martialed, losing rank, position and credibility. Lt. Valeris's friend came to Earth for it, hoping to find out why she would be party to such a thing. Spock thought it logical that he be the one to go meet her shuttle. The proceedings lasted several weeks, during which Spock and T'Christa began ... keeping company.

"After a month or so, I heard that he had -- bonded with her. At first I thought it was only a rumor, but at one point I saw him ... cross fingers with her. That was when I knew it was serious." Christine remained stony-faced and silent. Uhura sighed and continued, well able to imagine what her long-time friend was feeling.

"Not long afterward they set out for Vulcan and were married there. The last I heard is that she's pregnant. It's hard to picture Spock as a father, but something tells me that he'd be a good one." Uhura sighed and took a breath. "They also had a ... Federation ceremony. Spock even asked me to sing there and play the Vulcan harp. He doesn't get married every day, so I told him I'd be honored."

There was another long silence before Christine found her voice again. "In that case, I ... wish them every happiness. I'm -- too old to have children anyway. He needs someone young for that purpose. Not that he would bother with me even if I *wasn't* too old." Her voice was a mixture of regret and bitterness.

"I've always been a thorn in his side, always made him uncomfortable with the depth of my feelings. I imagine he was even glad to see me go. After all, I wouldn't be underfoot or around to bother him any more. The day I transferred off the ship was probably the happiest day of his life."

"Now, Chris, I'm sure you're exaggerating," Uhura admonished.

Christine shook her head. "Don't try to sugarcoat, Nyota. I was well aware of what Spock thought of me. My love never meant a thing to him. It was just an affront to him, the bane of his well-ordered existence, as I was." She moved their plates to the counter next to the sink. Their coffee grew cold as they talked.

"That was why I didn't want to tell you," Uhura said. "The very reaction you're displaying now. Dammit, Chris, if you hurt, tell me! If you want to cry, go ahead. I know how much you loved him -- probably still do. You've got to let that pain out or it will destroy you."

"Believe me, Nyota, I'm far beyond tears -- and even if I *could* cry, what good would tears do me? I've cried a river over him, and it never mattered one iota. I finally decided to Hell with him once and for all. He's not worth my tears or broken heart." She sounded angry as well as hurt, and Uhura couldn't blame her. She would have felt the same way had their roles been reversed.

"Especially if he was so blind that he couldn't see the good thing he had within reach. If he'd only been decent to me, given me any encouragement whatsoever... If there'd been any chance for me at all, I'd have waited forever -- but there's been nothing for me in this affair but heartbreak.

"Even so, I was a fool and hung in there because I thought he would change. Hah! I've got better things to do than cry for a love that was doomed from the start, for a man who treated me like a piece of sickbay furniture from day one, never caring how much his constant rejection hurt me.

"Then to add insult to injury, I heard about Leila and Zarabeth. How do you think I felt, knowing he couldn't be bothered with me, but thought nothing of getting involved with them? What did they have that I didn't?

"I knew other men were attracted to me, but I hardly gave them the time of day. I couldn't see any further than Spock, you see. You know how single-minded I am when I'm in love. They finally gravitated to others and I don't blame them. They deserved someone who could love them completely and fully.

"I knew there was little or no chance of winning Spock, but that didn't matter. All that mattered was being in proximity to him, even if I was never to know his arms around me, feel his body close to mine or taste his kiss.

"As for being hurt... Okay, I admit it. I hurt like hell -- but there's nothing I can do about it, especially now. I'll just have to learn to deal with it. Also, have you any idea how many times I've relived that time on Platonius when Spock kissed me? The only time we were ever close, and then it has to be in a place like that... Even so, his lips were every bit as sweet as I had always imagined they were."

Her face softened at the memory. "How I wished it could have come about naturally ... then it would have been everything I ever dreamed of. No chance of that now, though, since he's a married man." Christine sighed. "Thank you for letting me know, Ny. At least you had the decency to tell me.

"Everybody else is probably keeping it to themselves, thinking to spare me pain. I would rather know, even as much as it hurts, instead of being left in ignorance. At least now I can put that part of my life behind me, since there is no longer any chance for me. Not that there ever was to begin with. It was all a lot of wishful thinking."

Christine took a deep breath and looked at the wall chrono, which now read 1030 hours. "Well, Ny, I've bent your ear long enough. It was good to see you again. Which reminds me -- is this your day off?"

Uhura nodded. "I have an apartment on the sixth floor of this complex, number 1228. If you need anything, don't hesitate to call."

Christine smiled. "Thanks; I'll keep that in mind. Now I've got to go shower and dress. I've got a class to teach on exobiology at 1300 hours."

The women stood up and left the kitchen, embracing at the door. "Take care, Chris. Good luck with your class."

Christine smiled again and nodded, then the other woman left. She relocked the door and returned to the kitchen to dispose of the uneaten food and dirty dishes. After that she intended to have a sonic shower and get ready for her class. It wasn't until she'd stepped into the shower and turned it on that the full brunt of the news Nyota had brought struck her.

The pain was so intense that she could hardly breathe. Dammit, why did it still have to hurt so much? That pigheaded Vulcan wasn't worth a moment of her pain, much less 25 years. Perhaps the reason he had never noticed her was because he was looking for someone like himself instead of a fully Human woman such as his mother or herself.

It didn't make her hurt any less, but at least she could understand his actions -- as far as that was concerned, anyway. As she had told Nyota, if Spock chose not to see what a gem he had within his reach, that was his loss, not hers.

"Yeah, sure, Christine," she scolded herself. "Tell yourself that often enough and you might even begin to believe it!" Tears began to well up in her eyes, then overflowed down her cheeks to mingle with the sonics as they cleansed and refreshed her ... at least outwardly.

The only way to rid herself of the pain in her heart -- no, her very being -- was to open the floodgates and let herself cry until there were no more tears left to cry.

"Oh, Spock, all I ever wanted was to love you," she sobbed. "If that's a crime, I'm guilty as all Hell ... and proud of it! How could you do this to me? I loved you so. Why couldn't you have loved me ... or even cared, just a little?"

Christine leaned against the shower wall, soon finding herself sinking to her knees. She never felt the sonics striking her as she sat in the shower stall, her body shaking with sobs. She was unaware of the passage of time until the bathroom chrono softly announced that it was 1215 hours. Fortunately her tears had subsided by this time.

Christine finished the shower and prepared for her 1300 hours class, thankful that the instruction would occupy her mind and keep her from dwelling on her sorrow. She left at 1245 hours, showing no signs of emotional trauma.

No one would ever know of the almost two hours she had spent in her shower stall, tears coming so thick and fast that there had been no way to hold them back -- even if she had had the strength or will to do so. Christine had never felt such gut-wrenching pain in her life. She prayed that she would never hurt like that again, because she doubted she could live through it a second time.

If only she hadn't accepted that assignment as part of the medical contingent on Xelara Three, the only Class M planet in a newly discovered system in the Sagittarius Arm of the Galaxy. It had gone through a long conflict, which had been resolved with Federation help.

The Xelarans were now considering joining the Federation and things would be touchy until the membership and cease-fire details were worked out. Six months she'd been there ... six months that Spock must have been looking for her. What's more, no one could have told him where she was, everything was so hush-hush.

Only Admiral Nogura knew the details, and he was on a long vacation in his native Japan, leaving word that he was not to be disturbed for any reason. The ache in her heart was such that every breath was painful. Spock no doubt believed she had either died or married someone else ... so he had abandoned the search and found another once he realized his Mating Time was approaching.

Christine cursed inwardly, her guts churning with anger and misery. Spock was married; she had lost him forever. Worst of all, Vulcans married for life -- and lived twice as long as Humans. Why hadn't she thought to calculate the time factor and turned down the Xelara Three assignment so she could have been available when he needed her? And now, because she hadn't been, he was lost to her for all time. Unfortunately, it was too late for regrets. He belonged to someone else.

She had no idea where he was, so there was no way for her to let him know that she was still alive and unattached ... and it wouldn't have done any good if she *had* known. She would simply have to put him out of her mind, though she didn't see how she could ever do it.

* * *

The only way Christine was able to live through the next several months was by totally blocking Spock out of her heart and mind. An almost impossible task, mind you, but she had developed a surprisingly effective technique. She did not read anything in which his face or name appeared, skipped over headlines containing it and switched off her holoviewer should his name be mentioned or face be shown.

Of course, there were times she couldn't avoid seeing his picture or hearing his voice. It hurt like blazes whenever she did. Otherwise she practiced emotional control and discipline worthy of a Vulcan. She refused to allow herself to think of him or picture him in her mind.

Daydreaming, particularly about a married man, was unproductive. It also interfered with her work and rational thought processes. Medical work required two skilled hands and one quick, uncluttered mind. In addition, her work was all she had left other than friends like Nyota.

Uhura kept in close touch, either calling or dropping by to keep Christine up to date on what she was doing, as well as what the others they had served with on the *Enterprise* were up to --Spock in particular. Christine tuned out any mention of the Vulcan when she could. It seemed like Nyota was always talking about him any more.

Maybe it was her fault. After all, she herself had said that she would rather know the latest on him, however much it hurt. Even as Human as she was, Christine considered herself as Vulcan as one could get without being one. She was in strict control of her emotions and thoughts, sternly disciplining herself not to think of anything not of immediate concern -- the only *logical* thing to do!

* * *

It was late when Christine returned home. All she wanted was a quick meal and equally quick shower before falling into bed. The 'lift deposited her on her floor moments later; she stepped off and began fumbling in her skirt pocket for the door-code disk therein. She had changed her door code because of a robbery in the apartment next door to hers a week ago.

Security was tight, but a determined thief could always find a way to break in. She had no intention of becoming another statistic, not with any of the things she had worked so hard for. At last her search bore fruit. She studied the small blue duraplastic square in her hand, the new door code taped on it until she memorized it.

She was about to insert the disk into the slot next to her door when she looked up. Someone was standing nearby, but all she could see was part of a dark cloak and a pair of black pants. There was no way of knowing whether the mysterious visitor was man or woman, Human or extraterrestrial.

Whoever it was seemed to be waiting for someone. Waiting for her? If so, she couldn't imagine why. She wasn't expecting anyone ... and certainly not this late. What was this person doing loitering around her door at this hour?

Only when a familiar voice spoke in her mind did she know who it was. That velvety baritone stabbed into her like a knife. Spock! He was here ... but *why* was he here, and what did he want with her? Talk about re-opening old wounds! Just 'hearing' his voice and feeling his presence threw her back in time.

The re-opened wounds in her heart and soul were tender and raw, throbbing with sharp pain. Oh God, why couldn't he have stayed away instead of showing up like this to torture her? Wasn't his shabby treatment of her on the *Enterprise* hurtful enough?

"Christine," he said out loud, for once using her first name without prompting. "Christine, may I speak with you?"

She turned her head as she bit back her initial response, which was to ask him what the hell he was doing here tormenting her when he had a wife and child. "Go ahead, Spock," she said instead. "I'm not stopping you ... though I can't imagine what you would want to speak to me about so long after the fact."

The coolly dignified tone of her voice alerted him. "So you know." It was unnecessary to elaborate because he sensed that she knew what he meant.

"Yes, I know. Nyota told me."

"Christine, I have come to explain."

"What is there to explain? You're a grown man. You don't have to justify your actions to anyone, especially not me. If you found someone to marry and have children with, fine. I wish you every happiness. There is no need for you to feel obligated to me in any way."

*Perfect, Christine,* she congratulated herself. *Keep up the good work. Give this infuriatingly logical Vulcan a taste of his own medicine!*

"Christine, could we go inside your apartment to continue this conversation? I have no wish for the other tenants to know of our private business." His voice was low, almost anxious, as he moved to her door and waited.

"Private business? Since when did we ever have any 'private business'?" Her voice was acid. "As I recall, you wouldn't give me the time of day if you could avoid it -- nor did you care to be alone with me for any length of time. It's as if you expected me to attack you or something. For Heaven's sake, Spock, give me credit for at least *some* self-control! No matter how attracted I am to a man, I don't make a move on him unless he shows interest in me. I didn't with Roger, and *certainly* didn't with you ... though Heaven knows I wanted to!

"Which reminds me -- what are you doing here, anyway? What would your wife say if she knew you were here late at night with another woman when you have a child to consider?"

The Vulcan moved restlessly as doors down the hall began to open.

"Christine, I must insist that we--"

She cut him off. "You have no more power over me than I ever had over you. This is *my* home, so *I* hold sway here, not you. I am my own woman; I do as I see fit. If you have anything to say to me, personal or otherwise, you'll say it here and now ... or get the hell out."

"Christine..." His voice trailed off, sounding almost angry.

Spock was not easily angered, but her attitude was exasperating beyond belief. He had thought she would be pleased to see him. After all, he had come light-years to see her, to her apartment, willing to be alone with her. Unusual, particularly since he was in the midst of mourning for his wife and child.

How could he tell her what he wanted to tell her or ask what he wanted to ask if she continued this unfathomable behavior? What did she expect him to do? What did she expect him to say? Not that he could blame her for her attitude, but how could he make amends if she wouldn't give him the chance?

To be fair, she had no way of knowing his true feelings; his Vulcan training required him to conceal them. There were many occasions when he wished he had been able to tell her, but the restraints had been too long ingrained. Because of this, she probably still considered him callous and unfeeling to have rejected her love, then walking over her already lacerated heart by marrying someone else.

What would he have to say and/or do to get her to listen to him? After what he had done to her, he couldn't very well play the injured party, acting surprised and hurt at the way she was treating him... Perhaps she thought he deserved it, that she was giving him 'a taste of his own medicine,' as it were. In which case, he didn't see anything he could do to change her mind.

Her brows raised in a Vulcan manner. "You actually sound angry! I thought Vulcans never *got* angry -- and certainly never raised their voices."

Spock remained silent, unable to trust himself to speak calmly.

Christine couldn't help chuckling to herself. *A real turnaround from the days when he would lecture me on how illogical I was to feel as I did when he gave me absolutely no encouragement. Doesn't he realize that some people don't need encouragement, that the very act of *discouragement* is enough? Maybe now he has some idea how he's made me feel, now that I'm lecturing HIM.*

Even so, Christine's cool facade was becoming difficult to maintain in spite of her new-found emotional discipline. She had underestimated what this man could do to her with his slightest, most casual look or word. She hated his ability to rouse her without laying a hand on her, for being who and what he was.

His Vulcan demeanor and animal magnetism addled a woman's brain and tied up her heart, leaving her unfit for any other man while he didn't even remember her, much less care about her or have any awareness of the effect he had on her. What right did he have to make her feel like this when it was like pulling teeth to get *him* to admit to having feelings?

How different things might have been if she could have taken him up on his offer during that first *pon farr* instead of turning him down, albeit unknowingly. For Heaven's sake, how could she have known that he was propositioning her? Vulcans were such a tight-lipped, secretive bunch -- and exasperating as hell. Spock in particular! How had she ever retained her sanity around him? He could drive anyone, particularly a woman, to utter distraction!

"Why are you doing this?" His voice was tightly controlled.

"If you don't already know, it wouldn't do any good for me to tell you."

"Christine, if you persist in your inexplicable and illogical behavior, I cannot tell you what I came to tell you." His voice was laced with annoyance.

"And what was it you came to tell me?" Her eyes stabbed through him.

"Would it be too much to ask to be behind closed doors first?" Again, his voice was tightly controlled.

"No, Spock, we can go in." Her voice was apologetic as she yawned deeply. "I'm too tired to argue any more." With that, she inserted the disk into the slot beside the door. It slid open, and the pair stepped through.

Christine could only marvel at the irony of her present situation. For years she had dreamed of this very thing -- to be alone with Spock in a romantic setting with no one and nothing to disturb them. Only her knowledge of his marriage and fatherhood spoiled an otherwise perfect scenario.

He was looking around her living room, taking in everything. He started slightly when she asked, "Would you mind waiting while I shower and change?" Spock shook his head with a half-smile. "I haven't had any dinner," she continued. "So if you'd care to join me..."

She held her breath, expecting him to refuse. Instead, he said, "It has been a long time since I experienced your cooking."

Christine shook her head in wonder as she headed for her bathroom. Spock was acting totally out of character. Maybe it was the fact of his marriage and fatherhood which accounted for his unusual (to put it mildly!) behavior. Allowing her to wait on him ... willingly coming to her apartment and being alone with her ... coming all this way to see her...

Something strange was going on here, and she intended to find out what.



* * *

She returned twenty minutes later in a silky blue jumpsuit with a halter top, a draped yet deep "v" in front and a plunging back. The pants legs were full, flowing gracefully whenever Christine moved. She wore flat white slippers and had styled her hair into a modified pageboy. She wore IDIC earrings in her pierced ears and a gold bracelet on her left wrist, along with her favorite perfume. Her makeup was light, highlighting her best features -- her eyes, cheekbones and lips. This was one of the few chances she had had to entertain Spock as she had always wanted to, so she had no intention of screwing it up because it was unlikely that she would get another chance.

Spock was going through a three-month-old issue of her doctors' holovid magazine, *Physicians' Companion, 2292,* when Christine returned. She stood and watched him for a time, scarcely able to believe that he was actually here with her.

"Spock? I'm going to start dinner now. You can sit at the table if you like. We can talk over dinner."

He looked up at her and blinked -- once, twice -- as though unable to believe she were real ... but got up and joined her in the kitchen, sitting at the table as she suggested.

"Help yourself to some *tulac* in the fridge while you're waiting."

Spock did so, feeling relaxed and refreshed even as he allowed himself to enjoy the sight Christine presented in the silky jumpsuit. Her still-slender body filled it out perfectly, with curves in all the right places. His hands itched to stroke and caress the bare skin and curves she presented to him. He was unsure of whether or not she was wearing undergarments, considering how the jumpsuit clung to her body and left her back uncovered.

It was then that he detected the presence of a minute pair of bikini panties. Had she dressed like this in an attempt to excite him? He could not let her know this yet, but he was very excited, indeed...

Spock was astonished to find his thoughts taking such a turn. Was it a result of his having been married, even if only for a short time? He also wondered how Christine would react to the news of his wife and seven-month unborn child's unexpected and premature demise in a shuttle accident en route to Vulcan.

It had been difficult for him to learn to trust a woman again after T'Pring's deception. His mother, Christine and Uhura were the only women he trusted even a little. In the case of the latter two, it had been professional trust ... and even that trust had been a long time coming. As for Valeris, a one-time friend of T'Christa's, she had turned out to be one of the conspirators keeping hostilities alive between the Federation and Klingon Empire.

T'Christa was as different from Valeris as night was from day, as she was from T'Pring. He had learned to trust T'Christa implicitly ... and not long after that had come love. He had been dumfounded at this realization, even considering the way her loving reassurances had been balm to his injured spirit. She was unlike any woman he had ever known, particularly any Vulcan woman. He understood why when he learned she was half-Vulcan and half-Human, like himself.

They had grown closer with every passing day as the conspirators' trials and courts-martial had progressed. But there was something else about her that he couldn't quite define, although she was reminiscent of Christine in many ways. Regrettable that he had been unable to find her.

It was hard to believe that T'Christa could ever have been friends with the one-time *Enterprise* helmsman who had turned out to be so traitorous and double-dealing -- and all too clever. She had certainly fooled him... Not long after their marriage, T'Christa had told him that Valeris' family had disowned her; she was as dead to them as though she had never existed. She was not only a disgrace to Starfleet, but the whole planet Vulcan.

Looking back, Spock found little sympathy inside himself for her. Valeris had brought on her misfortune by her own actions. His attraction to T'Christa could be explained by the fact that his Mating Time was approaching. She was the only logical choice, since Christine was unavailable. He was convinced that Christine had either been killed in the line of duty or married someone else.

Not that he blamed her if that was the case, but the thought of her marriage was even more painful than the thought of her death. He told himself that his treatment of her had been due to the fact that he had never known how to deal with or accept the love she offered him. Until Christine, Spock had never known love from any woman other than his mother, except for brief interludes with Leila and Zarabeth.

Logically, why *should* she have waited for him? He had caused her nothing but pain. He regretted it profoundly, even knowing that regret was counterproductive and illogical. He wouldn't blame her if she had grown to hate him. Perhaps it would be better if she did. He had never been worthy of her to begin with.

Even so, he couldn't help wishing that he had had a chance to make it up to her, give her something in exchange for the love and support she had given him over the years. Unfortunately, there was every indication that that chance would be forever denied him ... and by his own actions.

Which brought him back to the present, a month after his wife's death. He had resumed the search for Christine on the off-chance that she was still alive and unattached -- and his efforts had been rewarded when Uhura told him of Christine's whereabouts only yesterday. Of course, there were still two months before he could even consider another bonding, much less re-marriage ... and who better than Christine?

That is, if she would still have him. In view of the way he had treated her, it was logical to assume that she would not take him seriously or believe in his sincerity. For that reason, Spock would not be surprised if she refused him -- but it would be illogical not to at least make the attempt

She fixed plomeek soup, garlic bread and a pasta salad with assorted vegetables and spices thrown in. He got himself another glass of *tulac* and she asked for Altair water. About halfway through the meal, Christine set down her fork and gave her companion a penetrating look. "Okay, what did you want to tell me?"

Spock was caught off-guard, but quickly recovered. "I -- realize that 'I'm sorry' does not begin to compensate for the pain I have caused you over the years. Even so, I hope you will accept my most abject apologies as well as my word that I will do everything in my power to set things right between us."

Christine was silent as she listened to his incredible confession, scarcely able to believe her ears. Spock was actually admitting that he had been wrong to treat her so shabbily and would do all he could to make amends to her. He found himself reaching across the table to squeeze her hand. She looked up at him and smiled.

"As far as my being married is concerned, that is no longer true."

Christine's eyes widened. "What happened?"

"T'Christa -- my wife -- was killed in a shuttle accident en route to Vulcan to stay with my parents due to her advanced pregnancy."

"Why send her on a shuttle? Why not on the *Enterprise*?"

"The ship has been decommissioned."

"Oh, that's right. I forgot. How far along was she?"

"Seven months."

Christine covered the hand which clasped hers with her other hand as he bowed his head in pain. "I ... am sorry you lost T'Christa, Spock. It must have been very painful to lose both your wife and child in one fell swoop. But that doesn't explain why you're here now. Surely you couldn't have come simply to apologize for the way you once treated me and inform me of your wife's death. There must be more."

He raised his head and looked into her eyes. "There is ... and I will get to it soon. Meanwhile, I thank you for your sympathy. Yes, it was indeed painful, but it is illogical to mourn overlong. In addition, I still need a wife -- and children, if possible."

"What does that have to do with me?"

"I have come to ask you to marry me," was the matter-of-fact reply.

Christine's eyes became even larger. "Are you serious?"

"I do not lie. I ... know I have treated you badly, but you are my only other choice. If you refuse me, I will remain unmarried and likely die in my next Time of Mating, which is coming up within four months." The Vulcan took a deep breath before continuing, putting his other hand over hers.

"Christine, I must explain -- about T'Christa. When I realized I was -- nearing my Time, I knew I ... needed to marry in order to survive -- so I began to make ... discreet inquiries as to your whereabouts because I wished to -- reward you for your devotion to me. But I was told that your location was classified, that Admiral Nogura knew the details but was unavailable."

Christine nodded. "There had been a conflict on a newly discovered planet, Xelara Three, which the Federation helped end. I was asked to go as one of the medical contingent. It seemed that you had rejected me for the umpteenth -- and final -- time, so I thought I might as well go. Perhaps ... I would meet someone new while I was there. At least that's what I told myself..." Her voice trailed off. "But all I thought about was you.

"I was there for six months, until the details of Federation membership and cease-fire had been ironed out. It was a delicate situation, so Admiral Nogura felt it best that only a handful of people knew the situation besides him -- the Captains of the ships taking us to Xelara Three. We were not to be told why we were needed, or where, until our arrival.

"I had been back only a few days when Nyota came by and told me you'd gotten married." Her voice was quiet and laced with pain.

The Vulcan hung his head. "That news must have been painful for you. I am sorry."

Christine squeezed his hands. "You couldn't have known."

"Even so, I never meant to cause you pain. As you know, I -- had no idea where you were or what might have happened to you. I needed ... to find a wife soon, and could spare no more time to search for you. It was then that I met T'Christa..." His voice trailed off. "But I deduced that the reason I was attracted to her was because she reminded me so much of you." This time his hands squeezed hers.

"Even so, I should have figured the time factor and turned down the Xelara Three assignment so I could have been here for you." Her voice was filled with remorse.

His grip tightened sufficiently to bring her head up so she faced him. Sad blue eyes met gentle brown ones. "Self-recrimination will serve no purpose now. What matters is that we have found one another again." He sighed, then directed a half-smile at her while still holding her hands. "You could still bear a child, could you not?"

"Yes, I ... think so," Christine replied. "But I could -- only give you one. I'm too old to bear more than that."

"One is better than nothing. In addition, I have no desire to die when there is an alternative. Please find it in your heart to forgive me and become my wife. I need you, Christine. Your love, your companionship ... but most importantly, your child. *Our* child."

She raised his hands to her lips. "Do you really think I could do anything else? To have your apology, then the knowledge that you care for me and wish to marry me is worth every moment of pain I've endured."

"I hope I will prove worthy of such a wife as you." There was a new tenderness in the Vulcan's rich baritone as he raised her hands to his lips. "You have made me very happy, Christine."

"Not half as happy as you've made me. I was sure I'd lost you forever." Her heart was in her eyes when they met his again. "I love you, Spock. I have always loved you, and I always will."

"I will cherish thee always, Christine."

"One more thing, Spock. I must be married before I bear a child. I will not have a child out of wedlock. It may be all right for some people, but it doesn't wash with me."

"I would not ask that of you, Christine. Vulcans do not have ... illegitimate children either, so I can understand your desire for us to be husband and wife before we become parents. And one last thing. It will be necessary for me to go through a period of mourning before it would be possible for us to marry."

"How long?"

"Anywhere from three to twelve months, depending on the length of the marriage. Mine was short, so three months should be sufficient. In the meantime, we may -- see one another socially, spend time together ... as long as we are discreet. However, there can be no physical joining until after the formal ceremony, though we may join minds, or bond, if you so wish."

"You know I do." Then she asked, "Does that mean I couldn't hold your hand, kiss you or hug you?"

"Occasionally," he admitted upon seeing the disappointment in her eyes. "But only when we are alone."

"I wouldn't do it otherwise."

"Christine..." Spock's voice trailed off, sounding husky as he moved to get up, bringing her with him. He still held her hands in his. The couple moved away from the table and into each other's arms upon releasing the other's hands. "May I kiss you?" His eyes lingered on her lips.

Her right index finger stroked his lips. "Need you ask?"

"That is all I wanted to know." With that, the couple came together in a lingering kiss, not coming up for air for at least a minute. Christine had waited so long for this that she never wanted it to end. To feel Spock close to her, the gentle strength of his embrace, the sweetness of his lips...

Her hands stroked his back as the kiss deepened; he shivered and moaned against her lips. Not long afterward, his lips moved to her neck as his embrace tightened and he gently pressed her body close to his. "Christine, what you are doing to me..."

"Spock..." Her head was spinning and heart pounding at his nearness. It was as though all her dreams were coming true at once. She didn't think she would ever get enough of him -- and would rather have been beaten than have to release his lips. She also sensed that he didn't want to stop any more than she did.

He reluctantly released her. "Christine, we must stop -- or else we will be unable to stop."

"Do you really want to?" She stroked the back of his neck; he stiffened and looked as though he were in pain as he moved away.

"Christine, we cannot ... *must* not ... go on. Please do not tempt me further. Even Vulcans are only flesh and blood."

Christine sighed but heard the urgency in his words. "If you say so -- but it's not going to be easy to wait."

"It will ... be difficult for me as well," he admitted. "But it is necessary."

"In that case, would you like to watch a holovid?" She gestured toward the living room.

He nodded. "Excellent suggestion." She turned and headed for the living room; Spock followed and made himself comfortable on the couch while Christine pressed a button to open her holovid cabinet. After selecting one, she inserted it into the playback slot on the viewer.

"Viewer, turn on," she said as she turned to the couch and joined Spock there, settling down to enjoy the film. Five minutes later she looked up at him. "Would it be too much of a temptation for me to put my head on your shoulder while you put your arms around me?"

He looked dubious but consented. "I suppose not ... as long as we do nothing else."

She settled herself next to him and snuggled close to rest her head on his shoulder as his arms slid around her, holding her closely but gently. "Nothing else?" she asked.

"Nothing else," he confirmed. She sighed and settled down again, covering his hand with hers. He sighed and tightened his embrace. "We are taking a chance, as it is."

Christine twisted her lips and remained silent, vowing to content herself with what they had now and what they would have in the future. Even this was more than she ever dreamed she would have. After all she had endured to get this far, she told herself not to question her good fortune further or else she could lose it as soon as she had gained it.

Christine smiled as she felt a gentle kiss on her hair. Who would ever have imagined that her dreams would both be shattered and fulfilled in the space of a year? Life could take strange twists, that was for sure ... but as long as it gave her the man she loved and his child, that was all she could ask -- for now and all time.

* * *

Over the remainder of the time left in Spock's mourning period, Christine was there to help him deal with the grief and guilt he had harbored since his wife's death. Sometimes he ended up crying in her arms after discussing the matter.

"I should have ... kept her with me," he lamented. "She did not -- need to go to Vulcan. In addition, the child she carried was male ... a son." He bowed his head, eyes closing in pain.

Christine sensed his pain and stroked the bowed head which rested on her shoulder. "Spock, there was no way you could have foreseen what was going to happen. It was -- meant to be. After all, if she hadn't been killed, we wouldn't be together now." He jerked his head up and gave her a frigid look.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like it sounded. I ... only meant that there was no way for you to have prevented it. Brow-beating yourself over what you should or could have done won't bring her or your child back."

The Vulcan's head bowed once again to rest on her shoulder. "I am ... sorry, Christine. Your colloquialisms are still -- difficult for me. I am sure you could not have meant to ... hurt me."

Her embrace tightened. "As I told you earlier, I'm -- sorry you lost T'Christa and your child, but they're gone. She wouldn't want you to make yourself miserable over something you had no control over ... and keep in mind that you have me now. I am very much alive, and I love you." She kissed the top of his head, then rested her cheek on it as his arms tentatively slid around her. "I will ... also do my utmost to give you a child, even if it's only one. It wouldn't replace the one you lost, but at least you would have one."

"Christine," he said softly, raising his head to face her. "I am ... not worthy of you, but shall do everything in my power to make you happy and never again cause you pain. And please -- allow me to thank you for all your ... caring and support. I could -- not have lived through this difficult period without it."

Her eyes closed and her head tilted modestly. "That's what friends are for, Spock."

"No," he said. "You are more than that. Much more than that ... and you will be my bondmate, my wife -- as I originally intended." Gentle fingers brushed her unbidden tears away. "Please do not cry. I did not mean to hurt you again."

Christine shook her head with a watery smile. "I'm not hurt, Spock. I'm happy. So very happy. One can cry from happiness as well as hurt."

"I ... will try to remember that, though it is -- distressing to me to see you cry."

"In that case, perhaps your holding me tighter would help." Christine lifted her head so her misty blue eyes could gaze into Spock's concerned brown ones -- then a finger of her left hand stroked his lips. "But before that, a kiss." He seemed hesitant but she did not force the issue, simply leaned close and brushed his lips with hers. She wanted him to be the one to initiate further contact.

Which he did ... for a moment. His lips pressed warmly on hers as the kiss deepened, his arms gently tightening as he drew her close. The feel of his lips and strong but tender embrace was intoxicating, and she was hard-pressed to break off the immensely pleasurable interlude. It was Spock who gave her a strange, almost hurt, look when they separated.

"Christine, why did you break off the kiss? I -- wished to continue."

She touched his cheek before kissing his nose. "So did I. Too much. That's why we had to stop. In addition, you said we could not ... join physically until the three months' mourning period had passed."

"What if I told you that I would like -- very much to join physically with you right now?" His voice was quiet, laced with barely suppressed desire.

Her head snuggled onto his shoulder as she cleverly changed the subject. "Don't you think it's time we ... bonded? We've been -- together for a month, but have never ... done so."

He looked surprised but nodded. "Then we must do so."

She lifted a hand to his face; he guided her fingers to the proper nerve points and pressed on them before raising his own hand to her face and doing the same. After a few moments he felt Christine's mind open to him, the warmth and love she projected embracing his consciousness.

*I'm ready, Spock.*

*As am I, Christine,* he replied. *Now let us begin. Never and always touching and touched. Our minds are one, our hearts are one...* Her mind-voice echoed his. *Will you be -- my wife, my bond-mate ... share your life, your love, with me -- and bear me a child?*

*Yes, Spock.* He sensed both disbelief and happiness in her mind-voice, a happiness so deep and profound as to be unfathomable.

*Just as I will cherish thee from this day forward, share all my life and love with you ... be the best husband and bondmate I can possibly be -- in an attempt to make up for all the pain I have caused you.*

*I'll be content as long as we're together.*

*In which case, may the feelings that I, Spock of Vulcan, and you, Christine of Terra, bear for each other remain as perpetual as the Vulcan sun -- and may only death sever the strong bond we now share.*

He brought them out of the link slowly and carefully; even so, the couple found themselves weakened and disoriented from the intense emotion that had flowed between them for the several minutes they had been mentally joined.

"Christine, are you all right? Perhaps you were not ready for the bonding yet. The intensity of emotion experienced in the bonding ritual can be draining on both the couple's minds and bodies ... particularly if one of them is Human."

"It's all right, Spock. I just need a couple of minutes to compose myself. In addition, I don't think I've ever felt closer toyou than I do right now." She raised a hand to his cheek. "Most importantly, are *you* all right? I know that you aren't used to expressing such deep emotion."

"Occasional ... expressions of emotion are -- acceptable, at times even desirable ... as long as they are expressed -- in private, with one's family, friends or life-mate." He held Christine as he spoke and she held him. She could sense that even that admission had been difficult for him and loved him all the more for doing so.

Time passed -- neither was sure how much -- before the two released each other and moved a discreet distance apart. "Would it be ... too soon to discuss -- our wedding?" Christine was unsure of how Spock would react.

"Somewhat," he told her. "But the time difference is small," he finished when a cloud came over her eyes.

"Then we *can* ... discuss it?" She brightened.

"I see no reason why not."

"In that case, I suggest that I have Nyota attend me at the shipboard wedding -- and perhaps you could have the Captain attend you ... or Dr. McCoy, should the Captain be unavailable."

Spock was quiet for a moment before raising an approving eyebrow."A logical suggestion, Christine. I shall contact them at the proper time." He paused for breath. "Which reminds me. Would you like to have a Federation ceremony before the official Vulcan ceremony? It cannot take place until I am within at least a week of my Time. In addition, the Captain could marry us at the shipboard ceremony and I could have the Doctor attend me. The Vulcan ceremony, on the other hand--"

He stopped speaking in mid-sentence, prompting Christine to look questioningly at him. "--has a limit as to how many friends and relatives the bridal pair may bring to witness the ceremony. In which case, I plan for Jim and the Doctor to attend if possible ... not to mention my parents." Christine was silent for so long that Spock became concerned. "Christine, is anything wrong?"

"I suppose that means Nyota cannot attend." She masked her disappointment.

"There will already be three Humans there besides you -- Jim, the Doctor and Mother," he reminded her. "It would be necessary to obtain special permission if there were to be more." He hesitated. "And that is very difficult to do."

"In that case, I suppose we'll have to make do." Christine forced herself to sound cheerful, but at the same time was depressed that her dearest friend would not be there to share the happiest day of her life.

"After all, Dr. McCoy will be there -- and he is my friend as well as yours. Besides, Nyota will attend the Federation ceremony."

Spock did not reply, having felt her sadness, and made a mental note to do everything he could so Uhura could attend the Vulcan ceremony ... if only to please Christine, see her smile and feel her happiness once again.

* * *

The ceremony took about fifteen minutes from beginning to end. Despite Spock's reassurance, Christine still felt as though she was living a dream -- particularly when he slipped the ring on her finger that McCoy handed him. She slipped one on his finger that Uhura gave her, then he gave her a brief but tender kiss.

Once Spock released her, Christine was enveloped in first McCoy's, then Uhura's embraces and kisses of congratulations. Kirk and McCoy shook hands with Spock and the Captain kissed Christine on the cheek. "This is a day I never thought I'd ever see," the doctor remarked as everyone prepared to toast the newlyweds.

"Me, neither." Uhura cast a sidelong glance at her friend, who was standing with her new husband, her face radiant as she smiled at him as they prepared to share a nuptial drink. "I was afraid that Chris would always be a spinster. After all, she once told me that after she fell in love with Spock, he was the only man she ever wanted to marry."

"So it's a lucky thing for her that Spock finally woke up and did right," the doctor observed.

Kirk gave him a pained look. "Belay that, Bones. It's not necessary ... especially not today, of all days."

McCoy gave his friend an injured look but said nothing. A moment later the friends of the bridal couple raised their glasses in a toast.

"Every happiness to you both always," Uhura said.

"All the best to you and Christine, Spock. May your love and marriage last forever." Kirk smiled at his friend and the latter's new wife.

"Yeah, what he said," McCoy agreed.

Both the faces and ears of the couple became suffused with color -- Spock's pale green and Christine's pink. There was silence for a long time before the Vulcan spoke. "Thank you, my friends. Thank you all very much."

Christine could only smile as she raised two fingers to cross with those of her husband, as overcome with emotion as he was.

* * *

Their wedding night was to stand out in Christine's mind and heart for as long as she lived. After an early dinner with their friends, they had made their way to his quarters in the Starfleet complex -- *their* quarters now. The pair stepped into each other's arms and kissed once behind the door.

"I love you, my husband." Christine was incredulous at the words, so new on her lips, after the couple separated. "'My husband.' Such beautiful words. How long I've waited to say them." She put a hand on his cheek. "For a long time I didn't think I'd ever get the chance."

"Christine, my wife ... how I cherish thee." The Vulcan's voice was full of tenderness and sincerity.

The next thing she knew, he reached up to remove a hairpin, by coincidence the very one which Christine had calculated so that her hair would all fall down at once. Spock seemed surprised at first, then allowed himself a smile as he reached for her jacket to slip it off; it fell to the floor. He then pulled her close to bury his face in her fragrant her, then his lips nuzzled her neck. He smiled again as he felt her heart pound under his lips -- then raised an eyebrow as she reached to undo his uniform jacket before pushing it back and letting it fall to the floor to join hers.

Her eyes widened when she felt his hand at the back of her neck as he prepared to unzip her dress. In spite of herself, she tensed up.

"Am I being ... too bold, Christine? Would you prefer to undress yourself?"

She heard the mixture of apprehension and regret in his voice and reached up to stroke his hair. "It's all right, love. I was just ... surprised, that's all." She brought his free hand to her lips. "Go ahead, undo it."

He was hesitant for a moment, then began to lower the zipper. A short time later, he slipped the top of the dress off her shoulders, then down to let it fall around her feet. All she wore beneath was a brief, lacy bra and even briefer panties. He reached for the bra clasp, but she stopped him with one hand as she stepped out of the dress -- now in a heap on the carpeted floor -- then slipped out of her shoes.

"Hold on, tiger. It's my turn now." She reached for the waistband of his undershirt and began to pull it up. He raised an eyebrow, but otherwise made no protest as she continued. He only helped by pulling his arms out of the sleeves. She then pulled it over his head and dropped it on the floor as well.

He stopped her when she reached for the waistband of his pants. "It is best to remove my boots first," he pointed out. She dropped her hand and followed him to the bed. He sat down; she knelt at his feet and pulled off his boots, then his socks. He shivered when she stroked his ankle and foot, fighting to control the sensations elsewhere in his body.

Christine looked up expectantly upon finishing her task, but Spock shook his head and stood up. She forced a smile and followed suit. He then turned his back and removed his pants. She lay down on the bed and watched him, mesmerized by his movements. The feelings and desires he brought out in her were such that she was unable to meet his eyes for more than a few seconds, and even then her cheeks flamed.

Within moments he was beside her on the bed, lying on his right side facing her. "Come closer, my wife. I will not hurt you."

Christine was unable to keep from blushing again even as her heart pounded with a mixture of fear and desire as she moved closer to him. He drew her close and kissed her deeply, hands stroking her bare back when his lips moved to caress her throat and neck, then down to the hollow between her breasts. She moaned at the touch of his lips and the feel of his hands playing over her body.

"Spock, my husband..." she whispered against his lips when he returned to kiss her again, gasping in astonished pleasure when he pressed her lower body close to his to feel his arousal.

"Christine, my wife..." His voice was husky as one hand parted her legs, then her hand stroked the back of his neck. He moaned at her touch before turning her beneath him. She had no idea where their undergarments had gone and didn't care.

After that, her world dissolved in a haze of pain and pleasure, conquest and surrender -- and lastly, tenderness coupled with fevered passion. The night Christine had dreamed of ever since falling in love with Spock, but never thought she would ever have ... and best of all, a night which marked the beginning of a love and passion which would last for the rest of their lives.

* * *

The trip to Vulcan was uneventful, though the five naturally kept company ... and spent time with Commodore Wesley when he could spare time away from his duties. He was pleased to hear that Spock had married, but didn't know about the Vulcan's first marriage -- few did -- and Spock saw no need to enlighten him.

Wesley had known Christine even before her Roger Korby days; many times in the course of the trip, Spock found them 'chewing the fat' about the times when they had first known each other. If it hadn't been for his knowing Christine so well, Spock might have had cause for concern, particularly at one point just before he entered the *Lexington*'s Rec Room in search of his wife.

"Spock's a lucky man, Christine. A shame I was never able to get you to go out with me even once. When we met, you'd just broken up with some med student and wanted nothing to do with men. By the time you got over that, and I thought I might have a chance, you were thick as thieves with Roger Korby and planning to marry him.

"We lost touch after that; I was assigned to the *Yorktown* and you to the *Enterprise*, where you must have met Spock. Whoever thought you'd end up marrying a Vulcan?" It was at this point that Wesley noted Christine's wedding ring. "Nice. Is it custom-made?"

Christine nodded. "It's a stylized IDIC symbol. Spock has one, too."

Wesley looked shocked. "How'd you manage that?"

"Oh, he did it to please me. He wears it whenever we're around our friends, but is not wearing it now -- and won't until after the *koon-ut-kal-if-fee*. Right now, he's carrying it in his jacket pocket."

"What about you? As far as I know, Vulcan women don't wear wedding rings."

"I'll be keeping it on a chain around my neck," she explained.

"Definitely not something an ordinary Vulcan would do," Wesley observed, referring to Spock's wearing a wedding ring.

"Spock is no ordinary Vulcan," Christine remarked with a smile."He's *extra*ordinary. The best husband a woman could ask for. Even so, he won't consider us truly married until we've gone through the *koon-ut-kal-if-fee*."

"A most flattering sentiment, my wife." Spock's voice came from directly behind Christine, making her jump as she realized he had rested his hands on her shoulders. She hadn't felt his touch until now. It was almost frightening that he could be so quiet or that she could be so engrossed in conversation.

"I swear, Spock, one of these days you're going to give me a heart attack if you keep coming up behind me so quietly," Christine gently scolded her husband wven as she reached up a hand to clasp one of his.

"Christine tells me that the two of you are going to Vulcan for an official Vulcan wedding, Mr. Spock," Wesley said.

The Vulcan inclined his head. "Indeed, Commodore -- although we had a ... Federation ceremony 3.5 weeks ago. Captain Kirk married us; Dr. McCoy and Miss Uhura attended us. But we must now go to Vulcan so our marriage can be formalized in the eyes of my people -- and so Christine can officially meet my parents."

"Which reminds me, Spock," Christine said, crossing fingers with her husband after he sat down next to her. "Did you tell your parents that we're coming?"

"I have written Mother, and she has no doubt informed my father by now."

Wesley had been about to say something when the intercom beeped. "Wesley here."

"Lt. Erickson," came a female voice. "We have reached planet Vulcan, sir."

"On my way. Wesley out." He stood up and nodded in Spock and Christine's direction. "If you'll excuse me. Congratulations, you two. All the best."

The couple smiled and nodded in return. Wesley looked startled as the doors slid closed between them. The Vulcan stood up, prompting his wife to do the same. "We must prepare to beam down, my wife. My parents will be expecting us." The pair crossed fingers again and left the room for their quarters, then joined their friends in the Transporter Room.

* * *

Lt. Janelle Erickson, Wesley's Science Officer, an attractive woman in her late twenties with smoky blue eyes and short-cropped brown hair, was there to see the five off. "Please thank the Commodore for his hospitality," Kirk told her with a smile. "We had a very pleasant trip."

"I will. Thank you, Captain." She nodded to the young Ensign at the transporter console. "Energize."

Seconds later the five found themselves at the door of Spock's family home. He punched in the door code and everyone stepped inside. He told the others to wait in the foyer while he located his parents, but they walked in even as he did so, crossing fingers as they entered.

"Spock, you're here," Amanda observed with a smile. She broke away from her husband and went to greet her son. "It's so good to see you again."

"You too, Mother."

"Where are your friends and bondmate, Spock?" Sarek interjected, his first contribution to the conversation as he stepped up to stand beside his wife.

"Jim, Doctor, Christine, Miss Uhura." The younger Vulcan beckoned the others to come forward.

Christine was the first to appear, raising two fingers to cross with Spock's as she stepped up to join him. Kirk was next, followed by McCoy and Uhura. Amanda looked surprised to see Uhura, but greeted her warmly. However, it was the Vulcan Ambassador who spoke. "You have brought *three* friends, my son," he observed. "Surely you realize that the limit is two."

"I do," Spock replied. "But Christine wished for Miss Uhura to attend the ceremony, so I obtained special permission from T'Lar to bring her so that Christine did not feel badly."

Sarek raised an eyebrow. "Your persuasive powers must be quite formidable, Spock. T'Lar is not easily convinced." The older Vulcan's voice was cool and unemotional, but the younger Vulcan could sense that he had impressed his strict, exacting father for one of the few times in his life and was illogically pleased at the knowledge.

There were a couple of hours before they were due at *koon-ut-kal-if-fee*, so the group sat around the living room talking. Christine and Uhura had their heads together while Kirk, Spock and McCoy talked with the First Officer's parents.

"Ny, I had no idea you were coming with us," Christine remarked. "It really shocked me when you walked into the Transporter Room. Spock never said--" She stopped when Uhura put a finger on her friend's lips.

"He obtained special permission for me to attend in order to please you. He said he'd sensed your disappointment. He also asked the Captain to give me a week off ... and swore us all to secrecy. I guess he wanted to surprise you."

"He sure did -- and I must think of some way to show my appreciation."

At this point, McCoy called to Christine. "Chris, Uhura, it's time to go." He was standing at the door with the others. Spock stood apart, waiting for Christine with two fingers held up.

"Coming, Leonard." She joined Spock and crossed fingers with him as the younger couple followed his parents out. Kirk, McCoy and Uhura brought up the rear. A short time later they all got into Sarek's air-car and took off.

* * *

Upon arrival Spock left first; as the others headed for the ancient arena, the sound of the gong being struck reached them. "That's our cue," Amanda said, taking Christine's arm with Uhura following in their wake. The women joined the wedding procession a few paces behind the elderly priestess T'Lar, who was being carried in a throne-like chair by two attendants.

Two large men in warrior dress and carrying weapons followed them. It made Christine nervous, especially when she recalled what Spock had told her about the weapons used in the traditional ceremony -- the *lirpa* and *ahn-woon*. The former had both a blunt end and a sharp end. The blunt end could be used for butting an opponent; the sharp end was curved in a 180-degree arc, capable of cutting an opponent in two. The *ahn-woon* could be used like a sling or rope to catch an opponent around the waist, ankles or knees. It could also be used to strangle an opponent if the user was so inclined. Christine was thankful that there was no chance of their being used.

Moments later she and Spock stood before the priestess. T'Lar gave the bridal couple penetrating looks with her dark, deep-set eyes under upswept brows. Spock saluted her, mentally instructing Christine to do the same. After that, T'Lar's fingers went into the mind-meld position on both faces, her head lowered as she concentrated. The onlookers breathed a collective sigh of relief when the priestess again lifted her head and faced them.

"Most gratifying, Spock. I have not felt such a strong bond since your parents were first married." The couple bowed their heads. After the gong was struck again, a white-clad woman appeared. She carried a small drum, sitting down with it in her lap near the gong, proceeding to beat softly and rhythmically.

In keeping with tradition, Spock was asked to recite the marriage vows first. "Spock of Vulcan, will thee cherish Christine of Terra, thy chosen wife and bondmate? Will thee build a secure home for her as well as a family, so that thy name is perpetuated ... and care for them all in sickness and health?"

"I will." The marriage bells jingled, then T'Lar fixed her gaze on Christine.

"Christine Chapel of Terra, will thee cherish Spock of Vulcan, thy chosen husband and bondmate? Will thee run his home efficiently, bear him children to perpetuate his name and care for them all in sickness and in health?"

"I will," Christine said; the bells jingled again.

The elderly priestess then turned to Kirk and Uhura. "Are thee both prepared to swear before myself and this company that all thy friends Spock and Christine have said is true?"

"We are," Kirk said.

"Very well," said the priestess. "Spock and Christine, face me."

T'Lar placed her hands over the couple's joined ones to seal the marriage bond, then removed them. The drumming ceased, and everyone waited for the ceremony to end.

"Well, that's it," Kirk announced as he and Uhura rejoined the small group of Spock's parents and McCoy.

"You mean that's all? They're married now?" Uhura was incredulous.

"Once T'Lar and the others leave, it's officially over," Amanda explained -- but congratulations were withheld until after the priestess's departure. After that, hugs, kisses and handshakes were exchanged; the small gathering once again headed for the aircar.

This time, Spock, Christine, Sarek and Amanda got in front as befitted married couples. Kirk, Uhura and McCoy got in back. Seat belts locked around them and the seats conformed to their bodies for maximum comfort. Spock was behind the wheel; Christine was beside him.

It took about 45 minutes to arrive back at Spock's family home. Once there, Amanda asked if anyone was hungry. McCoy, Uhura and Kirk nodded, but Spock and Christine shook their heads. One look at them told Amanda why, so she didn't argue -- simply smiled and jerked her head toward the kitchen, prompting the others to follow her.

Spock and Christine headed to his room (McCoy and Kirk shared the guest room and Uhura was on the sofa bed in the living room); upon arrival, Christine gave her husband a questioning look. Spock reached into his inner pocket and withdrew his wedding ring.

Christine removed her necklace and retrieved her own ring. He took it from her and slipped it on her finger again, then raised her hand to his lips and kissed it. "My wife."

She followed suit with his, also raising his hand to her lips and kissing it. "My husband." They said nothing more out loud; no further words were necessary. She looked up at him. *Is it time, Spock?*

He nodded, unable to help a tinge of green in his cheeks as she smiled and turned toward their bedroom door. *Let's get to it, then,* she said through the bond before planting a kiss on his right ear. Still holding his hand, she led him to the door and opened it, pressing the button on the outside wall.

After that, the two disappeared behind the door to lock out the world and make passionate love until the mating fever was quenched. Of course, no matter how many hours they spent alone together, reality inevitably intruded. Eventually both had to acknowledge the fact that it was time to get back to the necessary business of every-day living.

* * *

The day after that, the *Lexington* returned to pick them up. Two weeks from Vulcan, Christine was ecstatic to learn that she was pregnant. As if being married to Spock wasn't enough of a dream... Once Spock learned of Christine's pregnancy, he vowed that she would not leave his side unless absolutely necessary.

He was determined not to lose this wife and unborn child (McCoy had determined that it was a daughter) as he had lost T'Christa and their unborn son. Christine chided him for being a mother hen, but loved every minute of Spock babying her. What mattered most, however, was the fact that they were together at last -- and would remain so for as long as they lived!



THE END

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