NOTE: Star Trek is the property of the Paramount Corporation. No copyright infringement is intended from this story. This story itself is copyright 2000 by Jade Nocturnias and may not be posted, copied, reproduced or distributed in any manner without my express written consent. WARNING: This story is rated NC-17 for violence, language and sexual situations, including a homosexual rape scene. If you cannot handle this, or you are under 18 years of age, STOP NOW!!



Bittersweet Mercy

Jade Nocturnias



"I SAID MOVE!!"

Christine stumbled as she was shoved through the door of the Romulan shuttlecraft. In front of her Spock turned to see if she was all right but was given the same treatment. "I don't have all day to spend tending to Federation trash!" the guard snarled. "Go!"

They quickly entered the shuttle and were herded down a passageway towards the back. They could feel the craft rise as they did. Christine wondered if Dr. McCoy had seen their capture and fled. She certainly hoped so. Bad enough they had Spock. She wanted to check on him but was afraid to turn around again. When they had been found, the guards had looked at him in amazement. One had pointed to him and said to another: "K'ril' Spock, dan Enterpri!" No sooner than the words had left his mouth than the other guard punched Spock in the stomach, causing him to double over for several seconds. Then they had been rushed to the shuttle that had been hidden, cloaked, not far from their beam down site. The Enterprise had left them to do some scientific and medical research while rendezvousing with the U.S.S. Constellation. The Enterprise would not even be back to look for them for two days. The guard had wanted to slit Spock's throat, saying something about a death sentence. Another one stopped him. "We must contact the Praetor and see what his wishes are."

So now they had both been brought on board. Christine prayed that Spock would not be killed. They were led to what appeared to be a small storage room. Someone had placed several sleeping pads and a blanket down on a clear space on the floor. They were made to kneel down in front of the pile, facing each other. A guard came with metal restraints. "Put your arms around each other," he ordered.

After only a second's hesitation, they complied. Christine's arms were snapped into cuffs, as were Spock's. They were now bound into an embrace. The guard pushed them roughly, causing Spock and Christine to fall onto the makeshift bed. Their boots were removed and their feet shackled. The guards then left. Before the door closed one of them said: "Stand guard. I will contact the fleet. If they get up, stun them both." The other guard saluted him. Then the door snapped shut.

'Not that we CAN get up,' Christine thought to herself. She looked at Spock. He appeared to have recovered from the earlier blow. "Are you all right now, Mr. Spock?" She asked.

"Perfectly, Miss Chapel. Are you injured?"

"No."

They looked at each other for a long moment before Christine said softly: "They'll take us to the Empire, won't they?"

"That would seem probable, I'm afraid."

"I hope Dr. McCoy got away."

"As do I."

They set about trying to shift their weight to make themselves as comfortable as they could. Christine could feel that Spock's muscles were somewhat stiff, doubtless because he was in physical contact with her body. Well, she couldn't help that any more than he could. He seemed to decide his reaction was not logical, because after a few minutes he allowed himself to relax against her. His body heat warmed her, which was good because the room was slightly chilly. She knew he must feel it as well, but that complaint would be illogical. She said nothing either, concentrating on the feel of the shuttlecraft. "I didn't know the Romulans had made a new cloaking device-one that would work on shuttles," she commented.

"Neither did I, Miss Chapel."

She was startled. If Spock didn't know about it, then this was probably something Starfleet had no idea of. That was not good.

The door opened and several guards came in, including the one who had first recognized Spock. He held what looked like a hypo. "Well, Commander Spock, congratulations are in order! The Praetor has decided to suspend your sentence of death. Since we now know exactly how highly regarded you are in Starfleet, he has decided that you are much more valuable as a live hostage."

"Starfleet will not barter with you for my life," Spock replied coolly.

"Perhaps not," the officer grinned. "But I'm sure that the captain of the Enterprise will... if we decide to tell him we have you." He laughed. "And what about you, my lovely? Who are you?" he asked, looking at Christine.

She glanced at Spock before answering. "Lieutenant Commander Chapel, head nurse."

"Ah. A healer. Like the other one."

Their surprise was not lost on him. "Oh, I'm sorry! I forgot to tell you our other landing party found your friend! How careless of me. He is on the other shuttle. I'm sure you'll get to see each other eventually."

"What do you intend to do with us?" Spock asked him.

"What a wonderful question, Commander. By the way, my name is Commander Menik. And the answer is -- we are taking you to R'istha'shan. One of the planets that revolves around Romulus."

"For what purpose?"

"R'istha shan is home to our prison camps."

Christine gasped. Menik laughed. "As much as I love this conversation, I have duties to attend." He knelt beside Christine, administering the hypo to her even as she shrank back from him. "Kilaz, Nurse Chapel. A sedative. Quite safe for both of you." As he spoke he reloaded the hypo and injected Spock, then covered them with the blanket. He rose and walked to the door, looking back at them. "You two might as well get cozy," he smirked. "We have several hours before we dock with the Nighthawk."

After he left Christine felt her heart sink. They found Leonard. Damn. Spock, too, seemed somewhat distressed by the news. With McCoy captured, there would be no one to tell Captain Kirk what had happened. or where they were. They were alone and being taken to the heart of the Romulan empire. Christine was afraid, but didn't want Spock to know. Little did she realize that he did -- the physical contact with her allowed him to feel her strong projection of fear. He knew she did not mean to do it; emotions were human nature, after all. He would simply have to accept it.

The Kilaz was beginning to take effect. Both of them grew increasingly sleepy. Christine sighed and laid her head on a rolled up blanket that served as their pillow. "Mr. Spock?" She said softly.

"Yes, Miss Chapel?"

"I'm... glad that you won't be put to death."

He raised one eyebrow as he rested his head near hers on the blanket. "As am I."

Christine now felt too drowsy to be afraid anymore. At least Spock was with her, she thought. She wouldn't be going to the camp alone. And maybe they were taking Leonard there as well.

Holding on to that small shred of hope, she gave herself to the darkness of sleep.

* * *

Spock came back to consciousness slowly. His innate time sense told him that 3.9 hours had passed since he and Miss Chapel had fallen asleep from the sedative. His sensitive ears told him there was a flurry of activity going on in the shuttle -- it must have reached the mother ship.

Christine stretched beside him, arching against him, still half asleep. He ignored the sensation of her body pressing tightly against his and said, "Miss Chapel."

She opened her eyes. He'd never noticed before what an unusual shade of blue they were. Dark around the outside, lighter near the pupil. He realized that he was staring and cleared his throat. "I believe that we are preparing to dock aboard the Nighthawk."

The door opened. "How perceptive of you, Commander Spock, " Menik said as he and several guards walked in. "But then, I don't suppose you made it to command rank by being stupid."

He waved his hand in their direction, and they were released from their bonds and pulled to their feet. "We will be docking in three minutes. Then you the of you will be taken to the detention center until we reach R'istha'shan. That will take two of your days."

After briefly stretching their arms, Spock and Christine's hands were manacled behind their backs. They were led to the shuttle entrance, where they stood while docking commenced. Once finished, Menik opened the door and they stepped into the flagship.

The air was warm, as warm as Spock's cabin on the Enterprise. Christine stopped shivering, only then realizing that she had been to begin with. Menik laughed. "Enjoy the warmth while you can. R'istha'shan is a cooler climate world than Romulus, and there are no heaters in the prison camp." He looked at her appraisingly. "Perhaps one of the officers there can warm you up."

"I'd rather freeze," she retorted without thinking.

He smiled, standing close to her. "Oh, you ARE a brazen little thing!" He caught her chin in his hand, forcing her to look at him. "Maybe you humans are not quite as cold as we have thought."

He pulled her closer. Christine shut her eyes as his tongue flicked across her lips. "Yes, quite a bit warmer!"

He said something to the guards in a dialect that did not translate, but which provoked a steady round of laughter. Christine kept her eyes straight ahead when she opened them, her expression one of stone though inside she was nearly weeping. Spock had watched all this helplessly, and felt a surge of anger. But there was nothing he could do at the moment. They were shoved down

and led through the ship.

Spock studied their surroundings as they walked. This ship was not unlike the other one he had been on. He moved quickly as he looked around, lest the guards start pushing him again. Finally they reached the detention area. "Shall we split them up, commander?" a guard asked Menik.

"No, let them stay together. They make such an adorable pair," he said with a sarcastic smile. "The cold Vulcan, and the hot Human. They'll be the main attraction at the prison, along with their friend. And we will be richly rewarded for bringing them into the Empire."

Cheers went up for Menik. He pasted a look of modesty on his face before removing their restraints and forcing Spock to enter a cell. He grabbed Christine's arm as she started past him. "I'll see you later, my beauty," he whispered loudly as he swiped his tongue across her cheek. Then he gave her a push, almost knocking her into Spock as he activated the force field. His taunting laughter floated behind him as he left.

Christine straightened, looking around their cell with vacant eyes. There were two bunks, each on an opposite wall. There was a sink and a toilet with a curtain going around them. There was a switch on the wall to dim the cell lights. She hit the switch without even looking at Spock, then curled up in a fetal position on one of the bunks with her back to him.

Spock watched all this with growing concern. He was her commanding officer at the moment; it was his responsibility to try and help her no matter how uncomfortable it made him. He came to stand a few feet away from her. "Miss Chapel..."

"Mr. Spock -- don't. Please, don't. I'm not in the mood for conversation."

"I can surmise that. However, you must not suppress your feelings regarding what has happened."

"Why not?" she asked angrily. "Who are you to give a lecture on emotional suppression?"

He lifted an eyebrow in acknowledgment, but turned from him as she was she could not see it. "Perhaps not the best person. But there is currently no one else available. Doctor McCoy says the release of emotions is what keeps humans healthy. It is important for you to remain healthy in all respects."

"Thank you for the holistic lecture, Mr. Spock. Now can I please go back to trying to sleep?"

"As you wish," he replied stiffly. He was slightly irritated that she was not responding to his efforts, considering how difficult it was for him. He was about to turn away from her when he heard her muffled sobs. In a sudden flash of what humans called insight, he knew that she had been trying to get him to go away from her before she started crying so she would not expose him to her emotional display. Now it was too late: he could not be so cruel as to pretend he didn't hear her cries. Vulcan and Human warred within as to what to do. He sat on the floor beside her, pondering what the captain would do. He would probably hold her. I am a Vulcan. I cannot do that. But even the Vulcan in him knew he had to do something. He tentatively rested one hand on her arm. She didn't turn, but neither did she pull away. They stayed that way for what seemed like forever, until her tears subsided and she rolled over to look at him.

Her eyes were puffy, her eyelashes matted and her face tear-streaked, but she smiled. "Thank you, Mr. Spock."

He gently wiped her cheeks with one finger. "No thanks are necessary. I wished only to ease your distress."

"You did a good job," she said in a strained voice.

"I am... pleased to know that."

They gazed at each other for a moment. Christine cleared her throat. She didn't want to make Spock too uneasy. Better change the topic fast before he withdraws, she thought. "Do you know anything about this place they're taking us to, Mr. Spock?" She asked.

He folded his arms across his chest, but made no motion to get up. "Only what little Starfleet has been able to learn. If memory serves, it is a class M planet, with temperatures ranging from 30 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, old Earth measurement."

"Not too nice."

"Indeed. Given who we are, I would imagine our lives will not be favorable."

"No," she replied softly. "No... I'd say not."

They both fell silent. After a few minutes, Spock rose gracefully to his feet. "I am going to meditate, Miss Chapel. Then I believe some rest would be advisable for both of us."

"Yes, sir."

"Are you sufficiently recovered now?"

She almost laughed. "Yes, I am. " She turned back towards the wall, looking over her shoulder at him. "Sleep well, Mr. Spock."

"I shall endeavor to do so. I hope the same will be possible for you."

She heard him settling onto the other bunk, and then she knew nothing more.

* * *

"Chrissy? Hey, Chrissy, tag!" Jessie spun around from her hiding place behind a giant oak tree, dark brown hair swinging around her face. She grinned at her younger sibling before taking off towards the woods.

Christine laughed and began to chase her. "I'm gonna get you, Jessie!"

"Ha-ha, na-na!" Her sister called over her shoulder as she continued running.

Christine ran after her, entering a circle of trees. Suddenly everything changed. The sun was gone; dark clouds cast shadows around her. The trees were no longer a soft green color, but an angry black. Their branches ripped at her clothes as she tried to push her way through. She called her sister's name, but got no answer. She kept pushing into the trees, ignoring her torn shirt and bleeding arms, as she once again screamed: "Jessie!!"

She made her way to the center, a circle of dead grass surrounded by trees. And there in the middle of it lay her sister, dead; eyes and mouth wide open in a final silent scream...

"Jessie!" Christine screamed. She sank to her knees beside the body, trying to resuscitate her, and from somewhere far away heard a voice call sharply: "Miss Chapel! Wake up!"

"Got to save Jessie..."

"Miss Chapel, wake up!" This time she felt an unseen hand pulling on her.

Christine's eyes snapped open, and she found Spock sitting beside her on her bunk, shaking her arm. She gasped, taking in several gulps of air before she could get out the words: "I'm fine."

Spock didn't move, continuing to rest his hand on her arm. She could feel her heart racing as though it was trying to come up her chest and burst through her throat. She knew he could feel it as well, because his brows came together in an arched slash. "You were having a... nightmare, I believe."

"That's an understatement." Christine sat up shakily, leaning against the wall. The guard who had been watching since her scream now shrugged, seeing that she was fine, and departed back down the hall. She forced her tone of voice back to normal as she said: "I'm all right now, Mr. Spock. Thank you."

He withdrew his hand, but continued to sit beside her. After a moment he asked softly: "Might I inquire as to who Jessie is?"

She sighed. "Jessie was my older sister."

Spock's eyebrows lowered thoughtfully. "She is..."

"Dead? Yes. Three years ago."

"I am.. sorry, Miss Chapel." And he looked as though he honestly meant it.

She glanced away. "Not your fault. Not anyone's, really, except Jessie's."

At his look of questioning she explained: "Jessie was an excellent swimmer, and she used to love to push her luck against the tide a little. One day she was swimming alone in the river near our parent's house and went out too far. She slipped on some rocks and went over a waterfall..."

Christine felt the tears threatening to come, and she pushed them back. "By the time I found her, she was already dead.... She'd fractured her skull going down."

She bowed her head. "I used to have those kinds of dreams a lot right after she died. They finally stopped, after time had passed. I hadn't had one in over a year before now." She couldn't meet his gaze. "I'm sorry you had to deal with this," she said.

It was strange... Spock hadn't moved, but she felt him closer to her somehow. He touched her arm again, and she looked up in surprise. His eyes were soft and gentle. "I grieve with thee."

She couldn't speak, only nodded and closed her eyes until the storm within her had passed. When she spoke again, she was impressed with how calm her voice sounded. "Now much longer do you think until we reach R'istha'shan?"

"Using the information we were given, I estimate another 22.3 hours."

Christine groaned. He studied her. "I hate waiting," she explained.

"I do not find it pleasant, either. But we have little choice."

"Yes." She looked at him timidly. "Perhaps we could have some conversation," she suggested. "To help pass the time."

"I do not normally engage in what Humans refer to as 'shooting the breeze.' However, in our current situation that would seem to be a good idea." She could almost have sworn he was teasing-if it was anyone other than Spock. As it was she was grateful that he was willing to talk. "Okay, what should we talk about?" she asked.

"I am open to suggestion."

"Well, there are a couple of places I visited the last time I was on Vulcan that I don't really know that much about. Like the Academy of Arts? Maybe you could give me some background on them?"

"Indeed. And perhaps you can tell me of your visit."

She nodded, and they began talking... and did not stop for seven hours.

* * *

Christine glanced at Spock from the corner of her eye. If his calculations were correct (and, really, when were they not?), it was now only an hour or so before their arrival. After eating a meal that was brought to them and talking until both their throats were dry, they had slept, waking only minutes before when a guard brought them more food. Christine was astounded at how long they had been asleep and decided that the food they had eaten late the previous day had been drugged. She hoped that wouldn't prove true of their current meal: even though part of her would like something to ease her nerves about arriving planet side.

They ate quickly, then sat near the force field, watching and waiting. It seemed an eternity before Menik and his entourage returned. This time he was in full dress uniform. "Time to go, my pets," he said as he deactivated the field. They were jerked out of their cell, hands bound behind their backs. The guards pushed them through the halls into a transporter room. Menik walked beside Christine the entire time. When she looked over at him, he blew her a kiss. She turned her head. "I'll miss you, my dear," he said with a chuckle. "Perhaps I'll come visit you during the winter." He cast Spock a contemptuous glance. "You certainly won't stay warm living with a Vulcan. They only have ice water in their veins."

Ignoring him, both Christine and Spock stood on the transporter pad. Menik and several guards joined them. He turned to the transporter operator. "Energize."

* * *

Spock's world dissolved and reformed around him. When he opened his eyes they were standing on the surface of R'istha'shan. All around them were small gray buildings made of some kind of stone. The sky was a harsh red, not unlike that of Vulcan. The dirt beneath his bare feet was a dark brown, the color of Terran soil. It felt cool against his skin. Indeed, he estimated the planets temperature to be around fifty degrees. That would be somewhat warm for Christine, but he could already feel himself shivering slightly. On the Enterprise, his quarters were always around 100 degrees. He would have to adjust his biorhythms to compensate as much as possible.

His chill had not been lost on Menik. "What's wrong, Commander? Not warm enough for you?" the Romulan taunted. "Maybe you'll decide to let the healer here heat you up, when the temperature drops another 20 degrees." The guards roared with laughter. Menik started walking in the direction of one of several large buildings in the compound, and Christine and Spock were pushed after him.

They entered what appeared to be a prisoner-processing center. The officer in charge rose and saluted Menik as he entered. "Commander!! Or should I call you Excellency?"

"No, Sekam. Not yet. Although I AM on my way to see the Praetor after dropping off this care package." He indicated Christine and Spock.

"Ah, yes. The ashan. The other one is already here. He is being implanted now."

"Implanted? For what purpose?" Spock asked.

Menik cuffed him. "Did anyone here tell you that you could speak?!" he shouted.

"No," Spock replied. "But no one here told me that I could NOT."

Sekam chuckled. "Thinks he's clever, doesn't he?" he asked Menik.

"Oh, quite. We'll see how clever he is after he's been here for about a month." His gaze flicked to Spock for a moment before turning to Sekam again. "Take them to be prepared."

Neither Spock nor Christine had time to say a word before they were being directed to follow Sekam down a long gray corridor. He opened a door at the end of the hall and ushered them inside. He removed their bonds and handed each of them a black tunic and pair of slacks, as well as a pair of low-heel black shoes. Stitched in white letters on the back of each shirt were a series of letters and numbers. "Put these on," he ordered. "You have three minutes." Then he departed, closing and locking the door after him.

Christine and Spock looked at one another uneasily before obeying his orders. Christine forced herself not to so much as glance Spock's way as they changed. When they were finished Sekam returned and led them into a different room. This one had several metal tables surrounded by machines. Christine's heart seized with apprehension. They looked like medical exam tables.

Both she and Spock were strapped onto a table face down while Sekam worked at the machines. When he walked over to them he was holding two small pieces of metal, each about the size of a thumbnail. As Spock watched, the Romulan injected Christine with what he took to be an anesthetic, then made a small, quick incision in the back of her neck near the spinal cord. He implanted one of the devices in her skin, then closed the wound and gave her another injection. He then began the same procedure with Spock.

"To answer your earlier question, Vulcan, these are implants tuned to a certain frequency. If you try to go beyond the force field, the frequency will change and create an electric shock strong enough to kill. A simple and effective means of discouraging escape attempts. And if for some reason you made it through the force field alive, you can be tracked by computer through a homing signal inside each implant."

"A most effective system indeed," Spock commented as Sekam finished with his implant.

"Yes. To date no one has made it through the force field and lived." Sekam had the guards release them. "Now I will take you into the heart of this camp to your dwelling. You will be allowed to live together. Can't have ashan running around in too many separate buildings, after all."

"What does that word mean?" Christine asked.

"It means, more or less, any being who is not Rihansu. The literal translation is 'the unworthy.' Eighty percent of the prisoners here are Rihansu. The other twenty percent are a mix of other races, political prisoners and captured vessels, mainly. There is another human here, actually, besides you and the other healer. She lives in the dwelling next to yours. I do not want you contaminating my prison, even if the Rihansu here are criminals. They do not want you here either, but you are important hostages. I would advise you to keep to yourselves."

"If we're so important, why didn't they take us to Romulus?" Christine demanded.

"Because all prisoners, regardless of who they are, are brought here. That is the system. And you are expendable if need be."

"And where is the other healer?" Asked Spock.

"As much as it pains me, I have made him a member of the prison medical staff. He will live with the other human, who is also a healer. If anyone is sick or injured, he will treat them. He will also make rounds to the other camps to check on prisoners. You will not see him often after today, so spend what time you can with him."

Sekam pointed at the door. "No more questions. Come with me."

Christine sighed as she walked out. She was tired of being shuffled around and wanted nothing more than for her and Spock to be in their dwelling and alone. Her thought hit her like a ton of bricks. She was going to be living with Spock. Alone, just them. Something that, under different circumstances, she would have been overjoyed about. As it stood, she was not even prepared to fully comprehend it. She just kept walking out of the building and into the camp. Hopefully her exhausted brain would function later, after some sleep.

As they walked Spock asked Sekam, "How many of these camps are there on R'istha'shan?"

"In all? Seventeen thousand."

"That many?" Christine blurted in surprise. Sekam looked at her in amusement.

"Almost every criminal in the Empire is on this planet, healer. That covers quite a large territory."

"Apparently so, " Spock replied.

Sekam grunted. "Your place of living is number forty-two. Your healer friend is in forty-three. You are not allowed outside your abode from sunset until sunrise. A new duty roster will be created within the next two days, and you will be assigned work to do for 6 hours each day. You will work for six days and then have a day of rest. Remember my advice. The guards will not allow you to be killed or seriously injured, but for anything minor they will not come to your aid. Food is brought twice a day and placed outside your door. I must go now. Continue for another 60 yards and you will see where you belong."

He turned on his heel and left them, guards following. Spock and Christine looked at each other, then continued walking. They had only gone about ten yards when Spock heard a faint rustling from somewhere close behind them. But before he even had a chance to turn around, a metal canister about the size of a computer monitor came flying through the air and hit Christine square in the back. She cried out, stumbled and dropped to the ground. Spock did not waste time attempting to locate their unseen adversary. He lifted her into his arms and quickly continued walking. No more objects were thrown, and his acute sense of hearing detected laughter as the unknown perpetrator retreated.

Christine gasped in pain. Her back was on fire. But she didn't want to burden Spock with carrying her. "Mr. Spock--"

"Be silent, Miss Chapel. You are already injured. I will not put you at further risk."

Christine said no more, trying to take her mind off the injury by closing her eyes and enjoying the feeling of Spock cradling her in his arms. She rested her head against his shoulder and allowed him to carry her without protest. When they were about 10 yards from their destination, the door to the adjacent building opened and Spock saw Dr. McCoy peering out. His face brightened at the sight of them, then darkened when he realized that Christine must be injured. Heedless of his own safety, he rushed out to them. "What the hell happened to her?!"

"She was hit by some type of metal container."

"I CAN talk, gentlemen," Christine said dryly.

"You just hush up, Christine. Spock, get her inside so I can check her."

"That is my plan, Doctor."

"Well, blast it, man, hurry up!"

"Doctor..."

"WILL BOTH OF YOU PLEASE SHUT UP!!!"

The two men looked at her in astonishment. She grimaced and lowered her voice. "I am tired and in pain. Can we please call a truce on the sparring for now?"

"Sorry, Chris" McCoy said.

"Indeed. Now is not the time for it," Spock added.

By now they had reached their domicile. "I'll be right back. I'm gonna go get some stuff," McCoy said. Spock nodded and opened the door, stepping inside and looking around at the place where he and Christine could be spending the rest of their lives.

There were only two rooms in the building. One was a bathroom, which had a shower and toilet, both using water. Spock was surprised at this, and surmised there must be an ample supply of fresh water nearby. The main room contained two beds with metal frames, a wooden table and two chairs, and a fireplace. So... Menik had been truthful. They would have to build fires for heat. There was a small window near the fireplace covered with metal bars. The floor was made of the same stone was the walls. In actuality, for a prison camp, it was very luxurious compared to many Spock had seen. The Rihansu were apparently not without some sense of decency.

He absorbed all this in a matter of seconds, then went to one of the beds and gently deposited Christine on her stomach. He then sat beside her on the floor, waiting for Dr. McCoy to return.

Christine moaned. Spock lightly touched her wrist. "Try to refrain from moving, Miss Chapel."

She nodded, eyes closed tightly. Spock hesitated, then placed one hand on her forehead. His mind brushed against hers, feeling her startled intake of breath, her agony from her back. It was this he focused on, drawing her pain into himself. He felt her sigh as the hurting slowly eased. He remained in this position until McCoy returned with a small black bag.

"Okay, Spock, move over," McCoy said as he plunked down. Spock withdrew his hand and moved a slight distance away to give him room, never taking his eyes off of Christine as he did.

McCoy gently raised her tunic, prompting Spock to decide to turn. But he listened as the doctor scanned the injury. "Well, there's no major damage, thank the Lord. You're only bruised pretty badly, Christine. I'll give you something for pain and treat the damaged areas."

She nodded, relaxing as the painkiller took effect. McCoy carefully ran a healing accelerator over the skin, which was already turning various shades of purple. "There. Tomorrow you'll be almost as good as new."

"Thank you, Leonard," she murmured.

"Glad to help." He straightened, still sitting beside her, and looked up at the Vulcan who stood with his hands clasped behind his back a few feet away. "I was hoping they hadn't got you two," McCoy said finally.

Spock raised an eyebrow. "We were captured shortly before you. WE had hoped you had seen it happen and escaped."

"I saw the ship, but not you. Even so, I wasn't taking any chances. Some of the ones from the other ship, the one I was on, saw me running and stunned me. They brought me here and put some kinda metal thing in my back."

"That 'thing' is an implant designed to track our location and prevent escaping from the camp."

McCoy sighed. "I figured that. It doesn't matter much now, I guess. We're here."

Christine had been listening to the conversation in silence. Now she propped her chin up onto her fists and looked at him. "Sekam mentioned that there's another human here, a doctor that you're going to be living with."

"Oh, yeah. I haven't seen her yet; I think she's been making rounds around the camp."

As if on cue, someone knocked on the door with quick, firm knocks. Spock rose, going to the door and opening it slightly to look out.

"Would you mind letting me in?" a woman's voice snapped.

As Spock opened the door a bit further, an obviously human female pushed him gently aside and strode into the room. She appeared to be about 40 years of age, with long light red hair pulled back into a ponytail. She was dressed the same way they were, and carried a bag similar to McCoy's. Green eyes went from him to the doctor to Christine, who had turned onto her other side facing away

from the door.

She appraised them all silently before speaking again. "Sorry. I tend to forget my manners around here." She started to say more, but suddenly Christine inhaled sharply and flipped over.

The two women stared at each other in shock before the red-haired one whispered: "Christine? Is it you?"

"Rebecca? Oh, my God..."

McCoy and Spock were perplexed. "Do you two... KNOW each other?!" McCoy asked in shock.

The woman that Christine had addressed as "Rebecca" looked at him with a mixture of irony and amusement. "I suppose you might say that, doctor."

She took a deep breath. "My name is Rebecca Korby."

As McCoy gave a startled sound she added softly: "I'm Roger Korby's sister."

* * *

As both the men stared in shock and amazement, Rebecca continued. "Chris, what the hell are you doing here? Where's Roger? Has he been found yet? Who are these people, and why are you wearing a damned Starfleet uniform?"

"May I ask what YOU are doing here, madam?" Spock inquired. "I was unaware that the Romulans made a habit of invading Federation planets simply to take one hostage."

Rebecca shot him an irritated glance. "Obviously, Vulcan. I was on board a ship near the neutral zone, a charter I hired to go and look for my brother. We were captured by a tractor beam and dragged over. I've been here ever since." She looked at him, then McCoy, then finally back to Christine. "So, Chris, are you gonna talk to me or what?"

Christine bowed her head. Rebecca's gaze sharpened. "Something you're not telling me, isn't there?"

"Doctor McCoy, Mr. Spock, would you mind excusing us for a while?" Christine asked quietly.

"Of course," they replied as one. McCoy jerked his shoulder in the direction of his abode. "Come on, Spock. We can go to my place and talk."Spock nodded, and the two men left.

Christine slowly sat up, gazing at Roger's sister. "Everyone thought you were doing deep-space research," she said at last.

"I was. For Roger. Now where is he, Chris?"

There was no easy way to handle the situation, so Christine simply took the direct approach. "Becky... Roger is dead. He died almost three years ago."

All the blood drained from the woman's already-pale face. "What...." She whispered in agony.

"After he'd been missing a while, I sighed onto a Starfleet ship that I knew would be going to Exo III so I could try and find out something...anything. We found him, but he was...changed. Insane. He was killed by an android that he had created." Christine decided to leave out the remainder of the details. They wouldn't matter to Rebecca anyway.

Rebecca fell to the floor in a daze. "Oh, God. Oh, Roger. And I never knew... had no way to know... and now we're all stuck here until we die..." She covered her face with her hands.

Christine moved to the edge of the bed and held her. "Maybe not. Mr. Spock is very important to Starfleet. Our captain will try and find us."

Rebecca raised her head. "Spock... is that the Vulcan?"

Christine nodded. "Half-Vulcan, actually. His mother is Human."

"That explains the slight difference in his skin tone." The scientist and doctor in Rebecca seemed to be trying to take over and distract her from her pain. "And the other man? Who's he?"

"That is Doctor Leonard McCoy, Chief Medical Officer. He's my supervisor.. and my friend."

"Friend? Not lovers?"

"No!" Christine gasped, shocked. "He's more like my father than anything, though he's not old enough to be. Sekam said he'll be... living with you, that he wants to keep all the ashan together."

"I'm not surprised. Sekam is very anti-anything not Romulan. You do know what the word 'R'istha'shan' means, don't you?"

Christine shook her head.

"It means 'the home of the unworthy.' After 3 years, I've picked up a lot of the Romulan language. So Dr. McCoy will be staying with me, eh? Interesting. And I suppose you'll be staying here with the Vulcan, Mr. Spock?"

"Yes."

Rebecca laughed. "Have fun being bored."

Christine started to retort, but changed her mind. No need to tell Rebecca how she felt about Spock. She'd probably figure it out later anyway.

She was more concerned with the doctor's apparent lack of grief over the news of her brother. "Becky... I'm so sorry about Roger." The other woman's face abruptly clouded over, as though she'd been suppressing her pain and being reminded of it brought it back.

"Yes..." Rebecca said softly. A single tear dripped down her cheek. She wiped it away. "I think I need to be alone, Christine. I'll visit you later." She clasped the nurse in a brief hug.

Christine squeezed back. "I'm here if you need me."

Rebecca nodded, fumbling with the door for a moment before slipping away.

McCoy, in the meantime, was talking with Spock, and was not very pleased with the way the conversation was going. "Spock, are you tellin' me that we're DOOMED?"

"Please, Doctor. That term has emotional implications I am not using. I simply stated that there is a rather high degree of probability that even if the captain learns of our whereabouts, there may be nothing he can do to extradite our release."

"Why the hell not?"

"In case you have forgotten, Doctor, we are now within the Romulan Empire. He has no legal jurisdiction."

"But they shanghaied us! WE were mindin' our own business!"

"Be that as it may, the Romulans could claim that we invaded their space and they were merely protecting their interests. And since there was a death sentence passed on me by them, they are within their right to keep me here under interstellar law. As my shipmates, you and Miss Chapel could be considered accomplices despite your lack of involvement."

McCoy sighed in exasperation. "Well, I hope you're wrong, Spock, and that Jim CAN find us and get us outta here."

"Doctor McCoy, should that occur, I will be most pleased to admit my error."

McCoy managed a feeble smile. "All right, Spock. I'm holding you to that."

At that moment Rebecca came back, her eyes red from crying. "Mr. Spock," she said without preamble, "I don't mean to be rude, but would you please leave? I'd prefer to be upset a little more privately."

Spock inclined his head, turning to McCoy. "I will see you later this evening, Doctor." He departed for his dwelling.

McCoy edged towards the door. "Guess I should go too, then..." he said, but stopped at her words.

"No, Doctor... Leonard... would you please stay?"

She sat down on a worn rug near the fireplace. McCoy hesitated. Rebecca spoke again. "I could really use it. Most of the men here aren't exactly high caliber."

He laughed faintly. "Well, far be it for me to turn down a lady's request," he said as he moved to sit beside her.

She didn't answer, only began throwing some chunks of wood into the fireplace. "It will be dark in about two hours. We need to take Chris and your Mr. Spock some wood. They won't be able to get their own until tomorrow when that part of the forest is opened for cutting."

"I'll do that in a while. Do you want to talk?" he asked gently.

"Actually, I'd really just like to be held, if I'm not asking to much."

Her green eyes, darkened with sadness, met his blue ones. He couldn't imagine the hell she must have gone through in the last few years. Living in this Godforsaken camp, probably few if any other humans to talk to, and then when she did see some they came with the news that her brother was dead. The fact that she had any sanity at all left impressed him at the same time her sorrow touched him.

"You're not asking too much," he said.

She scooted around until her back was to him, and he leaned her body into his, wrapping his arms around her. She turned her face into his shoulder and years of pain, loneliness, and fear all came rushing out in the form of great heaving sobs. He said nothing, only held her and rocked her against him. When she finally stopped he looked down at her. Her eyes were closed, and after a few minutes her breathing became soft and rhythmical. He picked her up, being careful not to disturb her sleep, and placed her on the bed that seemed to be hers. Then he took some wood from the nearby pile and went to Spock and Christine's.

He wanted to go in and talk to them, but he also didn't want to leave Rebecca. So he knocked on the door, explaining the situation to Spock when he opened it. "I understand, Doctor," Spock said gently. "Remain with her. Miss Chapel and I will be fine."

McCoy nodded. "All right, Spock. I'll see you two in the morning." And he left.

Inside, Christine had just emerged from taking a shower in time to see Spock close the door, holding several pieces of wood in his arms. "Who was that?" she asked.

"Dr. McCoy. He brought us some wood for the fire until we can get our own tomorrow."

"How's Rebecca?"

"Dr. Korby is sleeping. Dr. McCoy is watching over her. Do not worry."

"Because it's illogical?" She asked.

He inclined his head as he raised a brow. "That, and because the good doctor will take care of her."

"I know. He's got the best bedside manner in the galaxy."

"Indeed? We ARE speaking of Dr. McCoy, are we not?"

"Oh, Mr. Spock! Honestly! Just because YOU hate sickbay and exams doesn't mean that Leonard's not good at his job!"

"I do not, as you put it, 'hate' sickbay or medical exams. Nor would I suggest otherwise about the doctor. He is quite competent in his duties."

Christine smiled. "I won't tell him you said that."

"As I would, as you Humans say, 'never hear the end of it,' I appreciate that."

Christine looked down, suddenly shy. Spock turned his attention to the fireplace. A small device attached to the wall produced a small flame when tightly squeezed. The temperature had already begun to drop, and he decided to light a fire. Soon he had a steady blaze going. He had noticed earlier that there was no artificial light in the dwellings. He would be fine, of course, but it would be more difficult to Miss Chapel to see only by firelight.

He heard her getting into one of the beds and decided to follow suit. He looked at her as he settled in. Her face showed mental as well as physical fatigue. "Are you all right?" he asked her.

"I'm fine." There was no point in telling him that she, too, needed comfort. That would have to wait until she saw Leonard. "Good night, Mr. Spock."

He sensed that she was leaving something unspoken, but decided it would be a breach of privacy to ask. Instead he only replied: "Good night, Miss Chapel" and began to do his meditations. He was in the middle of his mantras when he heard her fall asleep.



* * *

Christine awakened early, memories of the past few days rushing into her consciousness with startling force. Spock was still asleep, or in deep meditation. She decided to go and see Leonard. As much as she loved Spock, there were some things that he just could not help her with. Especially if they had anything to do with emotion.

She softly crept to the door. Just as she reached out a hand to open it he spoke.

"Where are you going, Miss Chapel?"

Christine's hand jerked back as she turned. Spock was sitting up, one brow arched slightly, his manner more curious and concerned than anything else. But she still felt a stab of guilt. After all, even if they were in a prison camp, he was still her commanding officer. "I was...just going to see Dr. McCoy," she stammered.

The other eyebrow went up to meet the first one. There was definitely something she wasn't telling him, although she was not being deceitful in her answers. "Is something troubling you, Miss Chapel?" he asked.

She sighed. "I'm just... on edge a bit. May I go see him?"

He tilted his head. "It does not appear that you need my permission, since you were quite prepared to leave while I slept."

Christine blushed. "I'm sorry, Mr. Spock-"

He stopped her. "Miss Chapel, there is no need to apologize. You do not need my permission to go see Dr. McCoy." He paused, voice getting slightly rough. "I was merely...concerned as to whether you were going far, given yesterday's events."

She almost smiled. Spock, being concerned. Even though it had nothing to do with her personally, it made her warm inside. But she made sure it didn't show in her face. "Thank you. I won't go far without you or Dr. McCoy, I promise."

He nodded. "I shall attempt to procure wood for us while you are speaking with the good doctor. I will stop by afterwards."

"Yes, sir." With that she slipped out the door, sighing as it closed behind her.

Eyes wide and wary, she crossed the short distance to where Leonard and Rebecca were. Not many people seemed to be awake yet, since this was the day of rest. She knocked quietly on the door. McCoy stepped out, blue eyes dark with fatigue, but he smiled broadly when he saw her. His arms enclosed her in a fierce hug. "You're a sight for sore eyes," he chuckled.

Christine smiled, returning the hug. "Same to you." Her expression became worried. "How's Rebecca?"

He sighed. "Not bad, under the circumstances. She's still asleep." He gazed to the right for a moment. "She told me there's a lake that way about 30 yards that we're allowed to go to. Wanna take a stroll with an old country doctor?"

She laughed for the first time in days and took the arm he offered her. "Now, THAT is the best offer I've had all week!"

He smiled again and they set off, unaware that Spock had been watching them. His eyes widened and narrowed thoughtfully. Now he realized that she had needed attention and reassurance last night... things he could not have expressed in the way she wanted. No wonder she had not wanted to talk to him. He shook his head. He suspected their imprisonment would bring about many more such difficulties before it was over. They would simply have to get through it all the best they could. They were all each other had there. He brushed the thoughts away as being too close to what humans called "moodiness" and set off towards the designated area for gathering wood.

* * *

Arm in arm McCoy and Christine walked, keeping a watchful eye out for trouble as they headed for the lake. The harsh orange sun was already out in full force, and the planet had warmed up just as quickly as it had cooled down last night. It felt like it was around sixty degrees, perfect weather for a stroll. Christine hoped that during the winter they would be given coats. Spock might not make it otherwise.

The lake was very large and surrounded by trees. The water was a silver-blue color that reminded Christine of the Atlantic Ocean on Earth on a hot summer day. They sat near the water's edge, staring out into the distance. Neither of them had spoken since they left the camp. McCoy's voice broke the silence.

"How's your back?"

She smiled. "Feels almost as good as new today. The bruises are healing. Should be gone by tomorrow."

"Good." He looked over at her. "How's the rest of you?"

She hesitated for a few seconds before replying: "I'm all right."

He snorted, but decided to let the subject drop; switching it to one that had been on his mind since the previous night. "Tell me about Rebecca."

Her blue eyes grew pensive. "I've known Rebecca for as long as I knew Roger -- he introduced us when we first started dating. She's been a doctor for about as long as you have. She was assistant chief medical officer to Starfleet operations on Earth for a few years. Right before Roger left for Exo III she had been working on Vulcan, studying what little is known about Romulan technology, actually. When Roger disappeared she chartered a ship and went into space. She told everyone she was doing research, but I knew she was looking for him same as I wanted to. I decided to use my nursing background to sign up on the Enterprise to look for him so I wouldn't be so alone in my search and I could put my skills to good use while I did. But she's always been a bit of a loner anyway."

She smiled faintly. "She reminds me of you a lot, actually."

"Oh?" McCoy asked, curious. "How so?"

Her mouth twitched. "She's headstrong, stubborn, doesn't like the Vulcan way and makes sarcastic comments all the time."

"I KNEW there was some reason I liked her."

Christine laughed faintly. "I'm sure the two of you will get along great... if you don't kill each other in the process."

He snorted again. "Speaking of Vulcan, how's living with Spock going so far?" The question was casual, but she knew there was a great deal of meaning behind it.

She shrugged. "Fine. I'm sure it will be 'fascinating,' to use his word."

He said no more, only slid an arm around her loosely. They sat that way for what seemed like forever, staring into the cool silver waters of an alien world.

* * *

Spock crossed his arms over his chest. "I do not understand what bearing the length of time we have been here has to do with our being eligible to procure wood."

The guard scowled. "Rules are rules."

Spock allowed a small sigh to escape his lips. He had arrived at the designated area of the forest where the wood for prisoner's fires was given out, only to be told that because they were new arrivals they could not have any wood for 3 days. He suspected this "rule" had been made recently -- say, as soon as the guard saw him coming. But he did not want to aggravate the situation too much.

Instead he asked, "And what are we supposed to do for three days?"

The Romulan smiled. "You're living with a woman, aren't you? I'm sure you'll think of something," he jeered.

"That attitude is unacceptable."

"OH?" The guard stood dangerously close to Spock. He extended his index finger and poked him in the chest. Spock took a step backward. The guard leaned close again. "Well, Mr. Arrogant, it will HAVE to be acceptable, because YOU have no other choice." With that he shoved Spock away. Spock's reflexes enabled him to keep his feet, but not without stumbling slightly. The guard only laughed.

"You'll change your mind when gets too cold for your hide. And hers. Or you can send her to me and I'll take care of her. Menik says she's a beauty even if she IS a human."

"She stays with me," Spock said flatly.

"And what if I decide to take her?" He moved towards Spock again.

Spock stood his ground. "I cannot stop you from taking her." His eyes locked with the guard's as he spoke. His voice was deadly soft. "But I will do everything I can to make you regret that you did."

The guard pushed him again. "Get out of my sight. I want nothing to do with a thiran who has lived with a Vulcan, anyway."

Spock suspected the word was demeaning towards Miss Chapel, but did not want to continue an argument. His face set, he turned and walked back towards their dwelling.

Christine and McCoy had just walked back from the lake to the buildings when they saw Spock, his expression grim and his arms empty. When he reached them Christine asked, "What happened? I thought you went to get wood."

"Indeed. I have been informed that we cannot have any for three days due to... regulations."

"What? That's ridiculous," McCoy scoffed.

"Perhaps, Doctor. Be that as it may we will receive no wood."

"Well, you can share ours--"

Spock shook his head. "No, Doctor, although I appreciate the gesture. If they see us burning a fire they will know we disobeyed an order. I am certain there would be repercussions."

Rebecca opened the door to her and McCoy's abode, stepping out into the sun and stretching like a cat. McCoy couldn't help but notice how well she filled out the prison uniform, then mentally slapped himself for thinking it. She walked over to them. "Morning, all," she said as she gave Christine a quick hug.

"Mornin', Rebecca," McCoy said.

"Doctor," Spock greeted.

Rebecca looked at McCoy. "Would you like me to show you the medical center here? Kind of start getting you orientated a bit? I'm sure tomorrow we'll start making rounds here and then go to a neighboring camp after a day or two."

"Sounds good to me." He swept out an arm. "Lead the way, madam."

She snorted, but couldn't help a small smile as they walked off towards the large buildings. "See you two later," McCoy called back.

"Bye, Leonard," Christine said. Was I imagining it, or was he checking Rebecca out? She didn't know. She turned her attention back to Spock. "Mr. Spock... what are we going to do tonight when it's barely above freezing?"

He cast his eyes downward. "I do not know."

Christine sighed. She hated that he was going to make her be the one to put it into words. But this was no time for delicacy. "It would be... logical for us to put our beds together and sleep closer to each other to draw on each other's body heat," she said almost casually.

"So it would," he replied. "However I would prefer another solution."

"Do you have one?" she asked, irritated.

Reluctantly he shook his head. "No. I do not."

"Well, then, let's do the logical thing, Mr. Spock."

He disliked the fact that she was correct, but she was. For him to protest too much would make it seem that he was being emotional about the situation. He did not want to admit that this was the case, to himself and certainly not to her. Whether he liked it or not he would have to accept it. "Agreed."

They stood in silence for a long moment. When she couldn't stand it anymore Christine spoke. "Would you like to walk around the camp, Mr. Spock?"

An eyebrow raised. "A logical suggestion, Miss Chapel. It would be wise to familiarize ourselves with our surroundings."

"Good," She said decisively. "Then let's go."

* * *

McCoy stood at the entrance to the medical building, warily gazing inside. Rebecca glanced back with a touch of impatience. "It's not going to bite you," she said.

He heard the irritation in her husky voice and slowly walked in. The building was located between the processing center and the food distribution center. It was a one story square building about 25 meters long. His footsteps echoed across the cold gray stone as he followed her down a wide passage into the main room. She hit a switch, and light flooded down. He blinked for a moment, adjusting from the transition of natural light to artificial. At least they were not expected to tend to patients by firelight, he thought sourly.

There were four exam tables in the room, along with some diagnostic equipment that he was unfamiliar with. "Their version of our stuff, basically," Rebecca told him. "Not quite as advanced, but it'll tell us just about anything we might need to know."

"I'm surprised they have all this stuff here in a prison camp," he commented.

"Why? WE don't just throw people in jail and let them die from disease, do we?"

"Well, no, but..."

"But these are Romulans? These are our enemies?" She shook her head. "This isn't Auschwitz from old Earth, Leonard. These people are just like us in a lot of ways. They respect their elders, care for the sick, and love their children just like we do."

"Fine and dandy, but we don't BELONG here."

"Maybe not," she replied. "but we ARE here... probably for good. So you'd better start accepting it."

"I'm not accepting anything, dammit! Jim will find a way to get us out!" McCoy realized he was shouting and stopped.

Rebecca looked sad. "I know how you must feel. But understand this -- I've been here for several years. I've adapted. Not gladly, not willingly, but I have. I'm not getting my hopes up." She looked away, voice getting even huskier. "I couldn't stand it."

He nodded. "I know." Hesitantly he reached out a hand, brushed her arm. "I won't insult either one of us by pretending I know what you've been through. But I'm sorry."

She turned to face him. Her eyes were calm but he could see the effort it cost her. She smiled for a moment. "Thanks."

They spent the next few hours with her showing him how to work the equipment, explaining the system to him and telling him a few of her adventures as a prison doctor. McCoy listened closely, not only because he needed to know the information, but because he loved to hear her speak. He liked the soft, throaty quality of her voice; the way her eyes blazed when she was telling him about something that had made her angry. She was something, all right. Not that he dared tell her that.

After they were finished, they went back to their place to eat. McCoy looked for Christine and Spock, but didn't see them. "They must have went walking around," he said to Rebecca.

"Probably. Chris may end up working with us since she's a doctor and a nurse. Mr. Spock... I don't know what they'll assign him to do. But I'm sure he'll be efficient at whatever it is."

He caught the faint hint of sarcasm in her voice. "You don't like Vulcans, do you?" He asked.

She shrugged. "I don't HATE them... I just can't understand their way of living. All that emotional suppression... it's not right. It's a wonder they don't all crack."

"Maybe they do... in a logical way."

His tactic worked: She snorted, then laughed. "Oh, logic. It's a good tool, I suppose. But I prefer instinct and intuition."

"Madam," McCoy grinned, "You and I are gonna get along JUST fine."

About 20 meters away, Christine watched Leonard and Rebecca enter their abode. She could hear them laughing. Yep. He's definitely interested in her. She could hardly tell Spock this, though; and it wasn't like he'd ever notice. She merely said, "I think it's time to eat."

Spock nodded. "I believe you are correct. We will do so."

They returned slowly, neither of them wanting to go back. They had spent the last four hours exploring and talking. Christine was pleased to be learning more about Spock, just not under the circumstances. At least no one had tried to attack them again. Yet.

The four of them ate together in Rebecca and McCoy's place, occasionally talking about their circumstances. As they were finishing up two guards came in. One of them handed each of them a piece of paper. "New work assignments. You three--" He indicated McCoy, Christine and Rebecca. "--will be at the medical center. You two doctors will rotate around; you'll spend 2 weeks here each month, 2 weeks at other camps. The nurse will stay here and work in this center all the time. You, Vulcan, will stock supplies. The less everyone has to look at you, the better."

With that they departed, laughing loudly. Spock was impassive, as usual, but Christine felt anger on his behalf. Rebecca alone seemed undisturbed. "That's how they are," she told the others. "You get used to it."

There was an uneasy silence for a time. McCoy finally broke it by asking: "Well, Spock? Have you in all your infinite Vulcan wisdom come up with a plan yet?"

"Not yet, doctor. But be assured I am working on the situation."

"I don't understand why the prisoners don't riot and take over," Christine commented.

Rebecca smiled grimly. "You want to know why? Because each guard has a device that runs to the central computer relay and will cause a paralyzing shock to not just one or two prisoners, but every single one of us. And the entire camp is monitored."

"If we could find where they keep the weapons--" McCoy began, only to be cut off with a laugh.

"They don't use weapons here. Not phasers, anyway. They use the neural paralyzers. It was easy to predict that if there were phasers here there could be deadly riots."

"How do they punish transgressions?" Spock asked.

"Good old fashioned torture, Mr. Spock. Isolation, beatings, cut off from food and wood... depends on the severity of the offense." Her eyes were filled with anger. "I've had to work on many a patient whose illness was being 'punished' for something. So you three watch it. Don't do anything stupid that'll get you hurt."

"We shall endeavor not to, Doctor," Spock replied solemnly.

"So, Rebecca, what is there to do in our free time besides not get into trouble?" Christine asked.

"Not much, unless you like walking around. We aren't exactly given access to a lot of things, as I'm sure you've noticed. Me, I have a very nice plant collection."

McCoy laughed. "Maybe I can start a flower collection and we'll have a nice botany center."

"Sure. Complete with Romulan fly traps," Rebecca quipped.

As Christine and Spock looked at them in puzzlement, Rebecca yawned. "Chris, Mr. Spock, if you two don't mind I'd like to sleep for a bit. Tomorrow will be a busy day and I want to be as rested as possible."

"How long do we have before sunset?" Spock asked as he and Christine stood to leave.

"About four hours. This planet only has 20 hours in a day instead of 24. During the winter, there's eight hours of light, twelve of dark. In another two months it will be winter, so the days are getting shorter a bit."

"We will keep that in mind, Doctor."

Christine reached out and hugged her friend. "I guess I'll see you in the morning, then. Good night, Becky."

The other woman mock-glowered. "You know I hate being called Becky."

"I know. That's why I do it sparingly."

Christine grinned and scooted out the door before Rebecca could retort. Spock followed her, his expression thoughtful as they returned to their quarters.

Four hours until dark. And however much longer after that until time to go to sleep.

Christine's mind was racing from the knowledge that soon she would be sleeping beside Spock. She didn't want to think about it, really; it made her nervous. She knew he was agreeing to it out of necessity for both their sakes only. That hurt her somehow, but she'd be damned if she'd let him know it. She was capable of acting like it didn't bother her just as much as he was.

"Miss Chapel?"

Christine jerked her eyes to Spock's. Apparently he'd been speaking to her and she had been so wrapped up in her thoughts she hadn't hear him. "I'm sorry, what did you say, Mr. Spock?"

The eyebrow climbed again. "I was inquiring as to whether you wished to use the bath now. Since we have no wood to make a fire, it would be logical to bathe now while it is still somewhat warm outside."

"Oh. Yes, that's true. I'll do that."

He said no more, only continued to study her with that dark, curious gaze. She got up and walked into the bathroom quickly, anxious to escape his scrutiny. She certainly couldn't tell him why she'd not been listening!

The shower made her feel much better. When they had returned to their building a stack of clean outfits were sitting beside their door, and she dressed in one of them. The guards had also left a bag containing brushes, dental supplies, and cleansers for them. She dried her hair with a towel as much as possible before carefully brushing it out. She placed their supplies beside the sink and went back into the other room.

As she entered Spock rose gracefully to his feet from the table. "I am going to bathe now as well."

She nodded as he entered the bathroom. The reality of being alone with him with nothing to do set in once more. They would simply have to find things in the next few days to occupy their free time. She shivered slightly; the temperature was already beginning to drop. She decided to wait for Spock before moving the beds; she didn't want to seem eager about it. She thought of the times she'd fantasized about sleeping with him. None of them included being in a prison camp when it occurred. She'd always heard you should be careful what you wish for...

Her thoughts broke off abruptly as he emerged. She'd never seen him with wet hair before and she found the sight more arousing than she'd thought it would be. But she stayed calm on the outside, keeping her voice casual again as she asked, "Where do you want to put the beds?"

He looked as though he was about to sigh, but he caught himself. "There is adequate space here to push them together," he said finally, indicating the left wall.

She moved to the right bed, with Spock slowly joining her. They moved the bed with relative ease, bringing it even with the other one. They then turned the mattresses horizontally instead of vertically. The result was the equivalent of a queen-sized bed. Both of them stared at it silently before

returning to the table to sit.

They passed the next several hours largely in silence, each of them wrapped up in separate thoughts. They occasionally spoke, or looked out the window. Eventually the shadows of night took over and darkness fell. They still sat for a while longer, listening to the sounds of the camp at night that they had not paid attention to the evening before. Finally Spock cleared his throat.

"Miss Chapel, since we do not know how long we will be permitted to sleep, it might be wise for us to do so now."

"Yes. That's a good idea, Mr. Spock."

Spock tilted his head, as if to suggest that he had never had a bad one. But he said nothing. He merely rose and went to the bed, with Christine beside him. He turned back the covers and slid in on the right side, and she did the same on the left.

Their bodies were not touching, but Christine could feel Spock's heat radiating to her like being in the sun on a summer day. That was to be expected, considering his normal temperature was seven degrees warmer than hers. Even though her body was naturally cooler than his, their combined warmth would benefit them both.

Spock lay on his back, studiously trying to ignore the softness of Christine's body so close to his. She was cool, like one of Earth's springtime breezes. But their physical proximity would bounce their body heat back and forth to keep them both warm. He had never slept in the same bed with another person before and he was forced to admit to himself that he was... disquieted by it. Especially considering that it was Miss Chapel. True, she had conducted herself with complete professionalism and dignity, for which he was grateful. But knowing of her feelings for him and being beside her was still going to prove difficult.

'It does not matter. It is the logical solution,' he reminded himself. He would simply have to accept it.

As each of them continued to be caught up in their thoughts, their bodies gradually began to relax from tiredness and warmth. Christine stole a glance at Spock. The only light came through the window from the outside lights, but she could see well enough to know that he looked calm. She was glad. If he'd looked uncomfortable she would have felt very guilty. As if aware of her gaze his eyes opened and looked straight at hers.

'Damn.' Oh, well. To save face she quietly said: "Good night, Mr. Spock."

"Good night, Miss Chapel."

He continued looking at her, as though she was an equation he couldn't quite solve. She closed her eyes. He closed his as well, setting his mind for a light sleep state in case anything happened during the night. After a few minutes both of them were asleep.

* * *

The shrill wail of a siren awakened Christine from her fog of sleep. Spock was already sitting up beside her, calmly listening. She blinked her eyes several times to help clear her head then sat up as well. "How long have we been asleep?" She asked.

"You have slept for approximately 7.9 hours. I have slept for approximately 6.7," he answered, still listening. The siren stopped abruptly and he went to the window to look out. "It would appear that it is time to go to our respective duties."

Christine rose, quickly changing clothes in the bathroom. When she finished Spock took his turn. While he was dressing a guard came and brought their breakfast. "You have ten minutes to eat. You will then go to the medical center. The Vulcan will report to Sekam in the administration center. If you are not at your work posts in 15 minutes from now, your implants will be activated." She stared at Christine for a moment, out of curiosity or contempt Christine wasn't certain. Then the guard left.

When Spock came out a moment later she told him what the guard had said. He merely nodded, both of them eating quickly before leaving. Christine saw McCoy and Rebecca going into the medical building, and was glad she would at least know someone where she would be, have a friend and ally. But Spock... Spock would be on his own. She knew he would never admit to being disturbed by that fact, even if he was. She felt strange, knowing that in 6 hours they would be together again; nothing would seem real were it not for the chill in the air and her own eyes and ears telling her that truly was in the Romulan Empire.

When they reached a point where their paths would diverge, Spock turned to look at her. "Learn everything you can," he told her. "We never know what might be essential to an escape attempt."

"Yes, sir." Her eyes searched his face. "Be careful, Mr. Spock."

"I shall endeavor to do so, Miss Chapel. I trust you will do the same."

She inclined her head, watching him walk away for a moment before she hurried to the medical center.

Once inside she walked to the main room where McCoy, Rebecca, and two others stood beside two guards. One turned to the other when she came in. "She is the nurse. She is the last one."

The second guard nodded, then turned to address the group. "Those three of you who have been here will show the two new ones what they must do. They will begin sending patients in an hour."

Christine glanced over at a somewhat heavyset female standing beside her. She looked to be Lidakian, having the light purple skin and small flat nose characteristic to that race. The woman looked back at her with a slight smile. Christine felt better. The guards stood on either side of the door, watching the proceedings.

Christine decided to introduce herself. "My name is Christine."

The smile widened, showing off her small but razor sharp teeth.

"Mine is Sioa."

"That's beautiful," Christine said.

"It means dried flowers," Sioa said proudly.

"Oh..." Christine said. Then she decided that the other woman seemed to think her name an honor, so she smiled again. "You are lucky to have such a pretty name."

Sioa grinned, exposing more teeth. "You are nice. I help show you how to work machines. Come."

She waved a delicate looking hand towards the center of the room as she walked. Christine followed her, hoping that she might have just made a new friend.

* * *

Spock stood between rows of supplies, an electronic padd and writer in one hand. It was ridiculous for him to be there; this information could be stored in a computer rather than on a data file. But the Rihansu obviously had no need to go to that much trouble for prisoners. Plus it gave them something to give the prisoners to do. Realizing there was no logic in dwelling on what could not be changed, he resumed his inventory.

He quickly became preoccupied with his task. Not so much, however, that he failed to hear the footsteps behind him. He whirled about, pushing aside an Andorian who was charging at him while sidestepping a Rihansu. The Rihansu held a knife, which swiped Spock's cheek as he moved away. Spock swiftly turned and used the Vulcan nerve pinch to render him unconscious then did the same to the Andorian. With a sigh, he left the supply building to tell the guards what had happened, blood falling from his face like emerald tears.

The guards were, of course, not highly concerned. "Go to the medical complex," one barked. "We don't want your blood dripping all over the compound."

Spock raised an eyebrow and departed. When he reached the medical center he told the guards there what had happened. They nodded for him to go in.

Christine was the first to see him enter, dark green blood sliding down the right side of his face although he was as composed as ever. She left Sioa and crossed the room to him. "Mr. Spock! What happened?"

"I had a slight altercation with two other prisoners," he answered dryly.

"So I see." No one could say that Christine wasn't as capable of sarcasm as the next person. "Let me get you fixed up."

She went to McCoy, who peered over to check Spock then nodded at Christine. She came back a moment later with a skin accelerator and a hypo. She gave him a shot for infection and pain, then began cleaning the cut so she could close it. Her hands were sure and gentle as they touched him, cool as the rest of her skin was. Through her touch he felt an echo of her concern mixed with the primary desire to heal his injury. And something else, something very faint... he narrowed his eyes as he reached out slightly to it. Just as he was about to fully grasp it with his mind, she withdrew her hands and it was gone.

Christine was thankful to have the skin accelerator to hold; she didn't want Spock to see how her hands were shaking. Touching him, even under medical conditions, always made her heart race. Hopefully he didn't pick up on it. He was studying her, lips slightly parted, and she had the sudden urge to touch those lips, lips that because of their forced kiss last year she knew to be soft and warm...

'Christine Elizabeth Chapel! Stop these crazy thoughts this instant!' She yelled at herself. She clutched the accelerator so hard she thought she would bend it if it wasn't made out of metal. Keeping her expression cool, she closed the wound made by the knife and inspected her handiwork, being careful not to touch him. "Good as new, Mr. Spock," she announced.

"Thank you, Miss Chapel." He touched the place lightly with one finger, feeling only a faint indentation that would disappear by the next day. He straightened. "I must return to my duties."

"Please be careful," she said softly.

"You need not be concerned about that. I assure you I will."

She nodded. "Then I guess I'll see you tonight, Mr. Spock."

"Indeed, Miss Chapel." He turned and walked to the door, pausing for a split second as he opened it. Did he really look back at her, just for a moment? And why? But before Christine could decide whether or not she was only imagining it, he was gone. 'Gone but not forgotten,' she thought wistfully. Then she shook her head. 'You're too old to be this stupid,' she told herself, and went back to her own tasks, hoping Sioa or Leonard wouldn't notice the unshed tears that had darkened her blue eyes.

* * *

Christine stood looking out the window of their dwelling. They had now been on R'istha'shan for a month and two days and were no closer to getting out than they were when they arrived. Because of his altercation with the prisoners, both Spock and the other two had been punished by not being allowed to have wood for a month. Very harsh discipline, but she could see now why there were few fights in the camp. She and Spock had been forced to continue sleeping together as a result, a situation that disquieted and embarrassed them both. But they had gotten used to it, more or less. They spent their free time taking walks, studying plant and animal life, and talking with McCoy and Rebecca. Or they had until about ten days ago. Then McCoy and Rebecca had been taken for a duty rotation. It would be about another five days before they came back.

She was so wrapped up in thought she didn't even notice Spock standing behind her until she backed into him. As she gasped in surprise, he steadied her with one hand resting lightly on her arm. "Sorry, Mr. Spock," she apologized.

He inclined his head, blue-black hair gleaming softly in the light of the orange sun. "Quite all right, Miss Chapel. It was not my intent to disturb you. I merely wished to see what you were staring at so intensely."

She laughed. "I was staring into my own mind."

He titled his head. "I am not certain I understand."

Now a warm smile brightened her features. "I was thinking, Mr. Spock. Contemplating."

"Indeed. It would seem that I should be the one to apologize for intruding."

"No need. You gave no offense." She smiled again.

She turned back to look outside again, her blue eyes on fire with the glare of the sky reflected in them. After a few minutes she thought to ask Spock if he wanted to go for a walk before breakfast, since it was their day of rest. "Mr. Spock--" she called as she turned. She didn't realize that Spock had never moved from behind her. She turned so quickly that he did not have time to move, and since he was so close and she was only a few inches shorter than him, she found her forehead brushing Spock's and her lips only an inch away from his.

They both jumped back simultaneously, Christine blushing furiously and Spock looking a bit green-tinged around the ears. "Excuse me, Mr. Spock," she mumbled and walked as quickly and gracefully as dignity would allow to the bathroom. Once inside with the door closed she leaned against a wall, forehead raging with heat against the cool stone.

'Please don't let him have seen how bad I wanted to kiss him,' she prayed to any deity she thought would listen.

Spock, meanwhile, was shaken to the near-core of his Vulcan being. He'd picked up Christine's reaction to his nearness, her desire to kiss him; she had not meant to project it, would not have done so on purpose. He did not fault her for that. But equally as disturbing was that in that split second he felt the automatic aversion to this he expected... coupled with a violent outpouring of reciprocal longing!!

"This is not possible," he whispered aloud in the softest of voices. It was illogical, emotional, insane, and yet... part of him trembled at the thought of her mouth crushed to his.

'I must be ill,' he thought. Yes, that was it. He was undoubtedly falling prey to a fever of some sort. He would have McCoy check him...

Only then did he remember that McCoy was gone. He did not want to see the stand-in doctor; it would be hard enough to submit to McCoy's attentions. Which only left Christine to check him. And what could he tell her? 'Miss Chapel, would you please examine me for illness and fever, I had the mad impulse to kiss you?' No. That would never, never do. Which meant he was stuck wondering... and confused.

Christine came out of the bathroom, as composed and cool as Spock had ever seen her. "They should be bringing breakfast soon. Perhaps a walk afterwards would be restful," she said casually.

Spock inwardly sighed with relief. She was not going to press the issue. He replied, "Indeed. An excellent idea."

Their door suddenly opened to reveal Sekam and another Rihansu they had not seen before. "Here they are, Akil," Sekam said to the other man. "The ashan."

The man named Akil strolled in, looking Spock then Christine up and down. He was tall and muscular, and so handsome that Christine couldn't help but notice his beauty.

He gazed back at her. "Yes, very pale. Like a ghost nearly. And lovely, to be the enemy. Pity."

"They've been sleeping together since this one lost fire rights for a month," Sekam told him.

"How did that come to be?"

Sekam told him the story. "And when do they get wood again?" Akil asked.

"Tomorrow, or they are supposed to."

"Well, let them have their wood back." His gaze was not one of kindness, however. His black eyes shone as he added: "But they will continue to sleep together."

Spock gazed at him coolly, the only outward sign of his displeasure the pursing of his lips. "I fail to see why that is necessary."

Akil did not answer, only walked slowly towards Spock. As Christine watched, Akil backed Spock up until he was pressed against a wall. Akil lowered his hand to Spock's chin, forcing Spock to look at him.

"Because the idea bothers you and your discomfort amuses me," Akil hissed so fiercely that Spock jerked out of his grasp. Akil only laughed. "And I do so like to be amused at the expense of the Federation."

Sekam and Akil walked to the door. Akil turned. "By the way, I am Sekam's new sub-commander. You will have your wood tomorrow. But if I learn that you are not sharing the same bed, I will take it back. For all of winter. And you can have all you want in the spring!"

He closed the door, leaving Spock and Christine alone again.

They stood looking at each other numbly. Not only did they have to accept what had happened just minutes before, they were going to have to continue being physically close to each other at night...

'This isn't a prison camp,' Christine thought miserably. 'This is hell.'

* * *

"Will you stop making all that damn racket and come in for the night already?!" McCoy yelled irritably out the door.

Rebecca's titian hair swung around her face as she entered their temporary home. "What's wrong, Len? Don't you like playing croquet?" She teased.

"Not at night, maybe not at all," He scowled.

Rebecca laughed, stuck her tongue out at him, and opened the door to say good night to Sreel and Thelar. The two were her best friends at this camp and she often had spent many hours with them in the past playing a game similar to croquet. This trip she had spent a lot of time with Leonard. She enjoyed his company, and he helped keep her mind off of Roger's death. The fact that she found him attractive didn't hurt either, although she'd not let him know about it. She'd figured out that Christine was in love with their Mr. Spock, and although she thought her friend was out of her mind she didn't say so. Not telling Len had nothing to do with who he was, but had everything to do with who she was.

In a way, she had a lot in common with Mr. Spock, although she would never admit to it. She didn't want to get close to anyone; didn't want to risk being hurt. She had spent the last 3 years, and much of her whole life, actually, avoiding people because of those fears. Now Leonard was getting under her skin, making her have feelings she didn't know she was capable of. And she was afraid.

He gave her his now-familiar lopsided grin as she sat down at the table with him. The firelight accented her hair as they discussed the next days workload. After about an hour she got up and was headed for the bathroom when her leg hit the table hard enough to make her sit on the floor with a thud.

McCoy was instantly beside her. "Are you okay?"

"Of course," she snapped. "I hit the table, I didn't break a leg."

He raised his eyebrows. "Well, I'm glad to see that your TEMPER wasn't affected." His fingers gently touched her leg.

She flushed at his tone, leaning forward to face him. Her green eyes met his blue ones. Before she knew what he was going to do, he moved closer and kissed her softly on the lips.

Her breath caught in a startled gasp; he deepened the kiss, sliding his tongue between her open mouth. Her body and her brain instantly became involved in a fierce battle as to whether or not to allow this to continue. When he slid his arms around her and molded her body to his, she exploded into an inferno of aching want that silenced her mind and left her with nothing but an urgent need to quench the blaze. She responded to his lips and hands with an intensity that more than matched his own.

When it was over, when she knew reality again, they were both on one bed with a blanket pulled over them. The fire in the fireplace had settled down into a steady burn. Leonard's arms were around her, and she was nestled against his chest with her head on his shoulder. She sighed. 'What have I done?' she asked herself silently.

'Something you've needed for a long, long time,' her mind replied.

'I just hope it doesn't get screwed up.'

'It might. But it might not. No sure bets here, Miss Korby. You know that.'

'Yeah, I know.' Tired of dwelling on it, she moved closer to Leonard and felt his hand smooth her hair back from her face. Then she only knew sleep.

* * *

Miles away and hours later, Christine was waking up beside Spock. During the night their bodies had moved closer to each other in their sleep and he was no more than a few inches away from her. She quickly moved so that they were further apart, turning away from that calm face that she would have gazed at all day if she could. So far she had stayed composed and casual about their sleeping side by side, but it wasn't without strain. She was tripping over herself to make sure that Spock felt as little discomfort as possible with the situation. 'What about me? What about my discomfort?' she asked herself.

She knew the answer even as she asked the question. It was easier for her to deal with emotion, unpleasant though it may be. She respected Spock, as her commanding officer and a person. It was her nature to give, to soothe. It wasn't just her job; it was a deep part of her very being.

'And look where it's gotten you,' she rebuked herself harshly. 'He probably doesn't even grasp what an effort it costs you, and even if did who knows if he would care.'

Whether he did or not, she knew she would continue it for as long as she could. He had been there for her in the Rihansu brig, in his own Vulcan way, but he had done it. And when they had brushed so close to each other... for a second she thought she had sensed something in him. But it was gone as quick as it came and she had retreated to save face for both of them.

Shaking her head to dispel the musings of her brain, she decided to go outside and get some air since it was daylight. Her inner time sense told her it was probably only about half an hour until time to report to their workstations.

When she stepped into the compound the sight of Akil poking an obviously injured Lidakian towards the medical center greeted her. He shoved the poor creature so hard that she fell and mewed piteously. He kicked at her, not connecting, but making his intention clear. "Get up," he demanded.

Before she realized what she was doing, Christine had run to her side. "Can't you see that she's in no condition to walk by herself?" she snapped.

Akil shoved Christine down, then hauled her roughly to her feet. "What do I have here? A thiran telling me what to do?" He curled his fingers in Christine's hair, pulling her head back until she was forced to look at him. "Maybe I should be putting you in line and not her."

Christine gazed at him. She knew he could hit her, maybe even beat her with no remorse or provocation. It was that knowledge, along with knowing that no one could prevent it, which gave her a calm strength. At that moment some part of her did not honestly give a damn if he decked her or not. She just wanted him to leave the Lidakian alone. She met his eyes without flinching, waiting.

He seemed to sense her attitude, for he threw her down again in a gesture of disgust. "I have better things to do than deal with you. You aren't worth the time," He sneered. He gestured at the woman beside her on the ground. "Since you are so concerned with her well-being, you can take her to the medical center and treat her."

With that he stalked off, leaving Christine sitting in the dirt with her charge. The next thing she knew, Spock was bending over her, hands around her waist to pull her to her feet. "Are you all right?" He asked.

"I'm fine, Mr. Spock."

He released her, eyebrows raised up his forehead. "May I ask what you were doing?"

"Helping to keep her from getting kicked around by his majesty," Christine retorted.

"I see." He fell silent. He couldn't explain to her the moment of concern he had felt seeing her in Akil's grip. She gently reached down to help the Likadian stand up. The woman looked at Christine as though she was an oasis in a desert. "What's your name?" Christine asked her gently.

"Nilia," she whispered.

"I'm Christine. Let's go get you taken care of."

She put an arm around Nilia and began leading her away. As she did Spock's voice stopped her.

"Miss Chapel..."

She turned.

"I would ask that you... take care today. I do not wish to see you injured."

She stared at him hard for a long moment before slowly nodding. "I will. I'll see you this evening."

He turned away before she could see the relief in his eyes.

* * *

"Breathe, damn you! Breathe!"

Rebecca looked at McCoy with a mixture of sorrow and sympathy. "It's too late, Len." Her voice was ragged.

"No it's not! I won't let it be!"

They were bent over the body of a prisoner who had tried to escape and received a shock from the implant device. He was a Rihansu male, about 50, quite young for them. The guards had only watched as McCoy picked his body up and carried him into the medical center of the camp. Rebecca had opened her mouth, seen the look on his face, closed it again and started cardio-stimulation and oscaline shots. Nothing had worked.

She put a hand on his arm. Her jerked away from her. "Give him another shot."

"Leonard--"

"Dammit, Rebecca--"

"Dammit, Leonard, he is GONE! Don't you think I've tried all this a hundred times in the past three years? When they told you it was a lethal shock, they weren't kidding! I've never been able to bring anyone back no matter WHAT I did or how long I did it! Now let him go in peace and dignity!"

He stopped at last, resting trembling hands on the exam table. She reached over in a gesture that was unfamiliar to her and stroked his hair. "Believe me, I know how this feels. I hate it as much as you do. But no matter how good we are as doctors, we're still not gods. We can't bring all the dead back to life."

He sighed deeply. "I know," He said at length. "But knowing it never makes it any easier."

She nodded, watching as he drew a sheet over the body and summoned a guard. As the body was removed Rebecca spoke. "Come on. Our shift is over. Let's go."

"Yeah..." He followed her in an almost dreamlike state, not looking at anything or anyone except straight in front of him as he walked.

Once inside their quarters she started a very warm shower, undressing him and gently pushing him under the water. As he stood watching her, she slowly removed her clothes and got in with him.

He started to speak, but she put a finger to his lips. He closed his eyes as she began to lather him, enjoying the touch of her slim, strong hands on his body. When she was done she washed his hair, then stood still as he did the same for her. By the time he had finished both of them were aching with desire. His hands found her breasts, then his lips did, as she moaned and arched against him. Her fingers stroked his hair, his chest, then moved lower as he gasped. He turned off the water, tracing patterns in the drops on her skin as he dried her, then himself. They fell onto the bed as one body, all hands and mouths and skin. When he touched her center she moaned and moved against his mouth. He kissed and licked her with gentle patience, not stopping until he felt her shudder against him in rapture.

He moved back up the bed, and she wrapped her legs around him and pulled him into her. He breathed her scent, the soap and the scent that was pure her. She ran her hands down his back, matching his rhythm, urging him to move faster. He did so with a gasp, burying himself completely inside her welcoming warmth. When he came it triggered another, fainter echo of her previous orgasm, causing her to cry out softly as he moaned her name.

When their passion was spent he lay beside her, head resting on her shoulder. He heard her chuckle and raised up to peer into her eyes. "What's so funny?" He demanded.

"I was just thinking... now we need another shower."

He shook his head. "You are something else, Rebecca."

"I know." She grinned at him impishly, then kissed him hard but quick. "Now tell me a story, Leonard."

"About what?"

"About my friend and yours, Christine, and a certain Vulcan that she is in love with."

"You know?" McCoy asked in astonishment.

She rolled her eyes. "Of course I know. It's pretty obvious to anyone who has known her for as long as I have. Even thought I hadn't seen her in three years, I can still read the signs."

So he told her. When he finished she said: "I'm just afraid she's going to get hurt."

He nodded. "I know. I'm hoping their living together will resolve her feelings somehow."

"It will -- or it will tear them both apart."

"You sound pretty sure of that."

"Just common sense," she replied with a yawn. "Now how about we use some of that and go to sleep?"

"Yes, Madame Soothsayer," he said with a smile.

"I predict you are going to get smacked if you don't lay off the wisecracks." With that and a final kiss she turned over, snuggling against him, hearing him laugh softly before closing his eyes to sleep.

* * *

Dusk was rapidly approaching. Spock leaned his head wearily against a wall in the supply room he was taking inventory in. He was still attempting to analyze his illogical reactions of the past few days. So far all his efforts had been useless. The simplest explanation, that he was experiencing feelings for Christine, was not acceptable to him. But it was the only answer he had that truly explained it.

He realized with a start that his thoughts were wandering and even more disquieting was the fact that he had just mentally referred to Miss Chapel as "Christine." 'I must not allow this to continue.'

He was so wrapped up in his musings that he was startled by the sound of footsteps in the room. Akil came in, smiling when he saw Spock. "Ah, I thought I'd find you here."

"This IS my work duty for today," Spock replied mildly.

Akil chuckled. "Oh, you are a witty one." His hand reached out and brushed against Spock's cheek. Spock pulled away. "I'm going to enjoy breaking you down."

As Spock stared at him in apprehension and confusion Akil casually asked, "Tell me, Spock, do you happen to remember the incident with you and your captain and one of our flagships?"

"My memory of that event is intact," Spock answered.

"I'm sure it is. Perhaps you'll recall the commander who thought so highly of you? Who you made a fool of and betrayed? Do you remember her?"

Spock swallowed. The room suddenly seemed very small and quiet. "Yes."

"Do you remember her name, Commander?"

Spock stared at the other man. Comprehension dawned on him sickeningly.

"Yes, I see you do. Her name is Akila Ris'Kimai. But now almost all Rihansu call her ashan, just as you are called. Because after what you did to her, she was exiled into one of the prison camps like this one."

His gaze was soft... and blazing with calm hatred. "You destroyed my mother, Vulcan."

Spock continued to stare at him wordlessly in shock.

Akil began to pace, his eyes never leaving Spock's face. "Oh, you have NO IDEA of the lengths I went through to get assigned here once I learned of your arrival. I called in every last favor I had with the Praetor. Despite Mother's unfortunate incident, I made sure I stayed in high regard so I could some day avenge her honor."

He smiled again. "And now that day has come."

He walked towards Spock until he was backed against the side of the room. Akil continued talking casually. "I have spent the past few days thinking of what I could do to make you suffer. I could beat you, but that would be next to meaningless. I thought of hurting your nurse, but that would be without honor since she played no role in your actions. And I'm sure you care as little for her as you did my mother anyway. Your healer friend will have to suffer a bit when he returns as well; he had a small role in all this. But you? How could I make you suffer? And then it came to me."

He leaned against Spock, staring into his eyes so closely Spock could see the pupils, dilated and erratic. His breath swept across Spock's cheek.

"I am going to take your dignity, Vulcan. I am going to violate you as you did my mother's trust. I am going to make you feel shame and horror and humiliation."

He moved his mouth to Spock's ear and whispered: "Right now."

He shoved Spock down onto the floor. Spock moved to defend himself, but Akil grasped his wrists and pinned them above his head, applying pressure to the nerves until Spock was still.

"What are you going to do? This isn't the Federation. There is no one to help you here, Vulcan. I can have you restrained, sedated, anything I want. As long as I don't kill you, no one really cares what happens to you." His gaze became openly sadistic. "But perhaps you'd rather I go and see your pretty bedtime companion, hmm? Perhaps you'd even like to watch as I make her beg me to stop as tears run down her face, while you are helpless to do anything. Perhaps THAT would affect you. Would you like that?"

Spock twisted against him. Akil released one hand, slapped Spock hard in the face. Spock's vision swam as a thin trickle of blood ran down the corner of his mouth. His head cleared as he tried desperately to think of something to do. But he knew Akil was right. He was alone and without mercy. And no matter what happened to him, he could never agree to Christine being harmed. He stopped struggling and closed his eyes in resignation.

"That's better," Akil said. "Be a good little Vulcan and take your punishment passively."

Akil flicked his tongue across Spock's lips in a gesture that brought to mind what Menek had done to Christine. He brought his lips hard against Spock's, forcing Spock's mouth open to his ravaging tongue. When he was satisfied that Spock was going to offer no resistance, he lifted his mouth and sat up beside Spock.

Spock sent his mind into itself as he began one of the Vulcan mental discipline mantras. 'I am a Vulcan. I am in control.'

He heard the sound of fabric ripping and realized that Akil was tearing off his clothes. 'I am a Vulcan. I am in control.'

Hard, angry hands ran over his body, their intent not to give pleasure but to violate. Spock could feel himself starting to tremble. Akil removed his own clothes. 'I am a Vulcan. I am in control.'

Akil turned Spock onto his stomach and roughly pushed his legs apart. 'I am a Vulcan,' Spock thought desperately. 'I am in control.'

Akil brought his weight down on Spock's back. Spock felt his member pressing against his body. His shaking increased.

'I am in control...'

Then a horrible pain shot through his body and he knew control or consciousness no longer.

* * *

Christine paced the quarters she shared with Spock. It was dusk and there was no sign of him anywhere. She was worried. Never mind that Spock would say that was illogical. On this planet, she'd be stupid not to worry about ALL of them. She sighed.

Sekam entered the room, glancing at her curiously. "Where is the Vulcan?" He asked.

"I don't know. He never came here from work duty this afternoon."

Sekam frowned. "There have been no escape attempts reported. And I'm certain he would not have tried and left you behind. Perhaps something has happened to delay him. I will investigate."

Christine's gaze followed him fearfully as he left.

* * *

Spock came back to consciousness slowly. At first he was only aware of a few physical sensations; being cold, nude, shivering. Then came the pain, the soreness. Seconds later the mental and emotional impact hit him full force and it took all the strength he had left not to scream. He tried to stop his shivering, block the pain, but he was so weak and traumatized he had no strength to do it with. He bit his lip but was unable to suppress a small moan.

He heard the sound of laughter. Opening his eyes he saw Akil putting his shirt back on. "Aren't you a sight," the Rihansu crowed. "Pity we can't let your doctor or your captain see."

He bent down and caught Spock's hair in his hand, raising the Vulcan's head. Spock's lashes fluttered downwards, not wanting to meet his gaze. "I think you know better than to discuss or report this. Unless you want me to take it out on your friends."

"That will not be necessary, Akil," a deep voice called softly from the doorway. Sekam entered the room, phaser drawn. His eyes went to Spock's prone body before returning to Akil. "I have already seen and heard enough."

Akil looked uneasy. "Sekam--"

"Do not 'Sekam' me, Akil! THIS was your true purpose in coming here? For vengeance?!"

"It is my right! He destroyed my mother!" Akil shouted.

"Your mother CHOSE to do what she did!"

"Because she did not expect betrayal from our cousins! He acted dishonorably and cowardly!"

"And he is being punished for that by his imprisonment here! You have soiled yourself and all we are supposed to stand for with this action! You have tainted yourself with an ashan! Your mother was treated with respect and dignity on their ship!"

"She was banished because of it!"

"But none of them stooped to raping her!"

"He must be punished! He must PAY!"

"Not like this! Not while I am in command!"

"I can change that!" Akil reached for his phaser.

Sekam fired. Akil crumpled to the floor near Spock.

Spock recoiled from his body as if struck. Sekam sighed. This would not be easy to explain. His first order of business was to get the Vulcan back to his dwelling without too much attention. Then he would have to deal with Akil's corpse.

He covered Spock with a blanket from the shelf and called in two guards. They stared in shocked horror at the sight of Akil dead and Spock dazed and wrapped in a blanket. "You're not here to gawk," Sekam snapped. "Get him to his quarters, quickly! Speak to no one on the way! Then get back here at once!"

They obeyed, lifting Spock and taking him out of the room. Sekam bowed his head over Akil's form. "So it came to this," he whispered sadly. The only reply from the lifeless body was silence.

* * *

Christine was still pacing when the door opened and Spock was brought in, wrapped in a blanket and carried by guards. "What happened?!" She cried.

"WE don't know," one replied gruffly. "We must go back to Sekam now. You can tend to your precious Vulcan. No one will disturb you."

They departed, leaving Christine staring in shock and horror at Spock's still form on the bed.

Immediately she sat by his side, taking his pulse. It was erratic but not slow or faster than normal. A quick glance revealed that he was naked under the blanket. His teeth began to chatter. "Spock? What happened? Are you all right?" She asked.

"Cold," he gasped. "So cold."

"Do you want some clothes..." She trailed off as he shook his head violently.

"Christine... please... lie beside me. So cold... I beg you, ask me no questions. Please just lie with me," he pleaded brokenly.

"Of course I will," She answered, not knowing if she should be more shocked at his words or his condition. She worked the covers around him until he was beneath them, taking the extra blanket and putting it over them. She lay still, wanting to move closer to him but afraid of being rebuked.

Spock saved her the worry. "Christine?" His voice was small, strained.

"Yes, Spock?" It was only then that she realized he'd been calling her by name, and she him.

"Would you..." He swallowed hard. He had never asked a woman what he was about to ask her, save his mother when he was small. "Would you hold me?"

Tears stung her eyes, and she hoped he could not see them. "Yes."

She moved close to him, wrapping him in her arms and resting his head on her chest. Spock closed his eyes and allowed himself to be comforted by her warmth and love. Needs he rarely allowed to surface were demanding fulfillment, and he gladly yielded to them; still trembling from shock and shame and cold but slowly relaxing against her.

Suddenly their door opened and Sekam entered. He kept his gaze on Christine as he said: "You are both relieved of duty for two days. Do not leave this building until then."

"Why? What's happened?" Christine asked.

Spock began shaking hard again. Christine held him tighter as she glared at Sekam in the darkness.

"That is for him to tell you, if he chooses. I must go."

When he left Christine glanced at the fire. She decided it was built up enough for the night. She was glad; she didn't want to let go of Spock. She rocked him slightly, stroking his hair, murmuring nonsense words to him until he quieted again. Her thoughts were chaos. 'What the hell happened? Where is Akil? And what did he or Sekam do to Spock?'

But she could not ask Spock; in his present condition he might go into shock or lose control. Whatever it was, it had obviously scarred him mentally and emotionally. He would tell her in time. In the morning she would run her scanner over him and make sure he would be fine. For now she would hold and comfort him.

They were both warm, now, but she knew it would still be hours before either of them could sleep.

* * *

Rebecca sat up in bed. It was almost time for them to get up for work. She cast a quick glance at Leonard. He was still fast asleep. She decided to let him stay that way. Her mind was in a state of total discord since she had met him. She was so happy... and so afraid. Afraid of caring about him only to lose him. She hated the thought. This planet, this life they were living... how could she be taking a risk like this? She needed to close herself off from him before it was too late.

"What are you thinking about so hard?"

The sound of his voice made her almost jump out of her skin. She turned to see him propped up on one elbow, watching her.

"Nothing," she said with a smile. "I'm just hungry. Aren't you?"

"Well," McCoy drawled, "Now that you mention it, I seem to be. Must've used up all my spare energy last night." His smile turned to a frown at her pensiveness. "Rebecca, what is it?"

"I'm just... I'm confused right now, Leonard. So much has happened so fast with us, it frightens me. There, I admitted it, are you happy now?" She quipped, trying to distract him with humor.

"Well, no, I'm not." He sat up beside her, giving her a long hard look. "You're thinking about running scared, aren't you?"

"Leonard--"

"Come on, Rebecca! I've managed to do what no one else has for years, which is get under that thick hide of yours. And it makes you afraid, makes you want to back off. Well I hate to break it to you, but I'm not going anywhere!"

"What if you don't have a choice? Don't you understand that you could be killed here, sent away, that anything could happen? What the hell would I do then!?"

"You want to throw away what we feel for each other because of what MIGHT happen? You call Vulcans cold, but no Vulcan I ever knew turned their back on someone!"

"Please! Stop! I don't want to lose you..." Her voice trailed off and she stared at him in agony. "Dammit, I'm not used to this."

"Neither am I," he told her quietly. "But I'm not gonna let that stop me."

Time stopped for the endless moment that they stared at each other. Then she nodded, slowly. He held out his arms, and she moved against him. They stayed that way for what seemed like an eternity before she pulled back. "I hope you don't end up regretting this, you old crank," she said huskily.

He smoothed her hair from her face. "I won't. And neither will you. You'll be too busy doing other things."

"Like what?" She asked as he moved closer.

"Oh--" was the last thing she said before he kissed her.

* * *

Christine woke to feel Spock thrashing beside her in his sleep, making a small sound almost like a moan. She'd never heard it before and it frightened her. She gently shook his shoulder. "Spock!"

He awoke immediately, jerking away from her with a strangled cry before he seemed to realize who she was. His entire body shook. She slowly moved closer to him. "It's all right. You're back here with me now."

He looked exhausted. She knew he hadn't slept more than a few hours. He stared down at his bare chest for a moment before pulling the blankets up. She gently touched his arm. "Why don't you go back to sleep?"

"No!" He said in a voice filled with pain. "I must... take a shower now."

"What? Why?" She asked in confusion.

"Do not ask me questions!" He was nearly screaming.

"All right, Spock, you go take a shower," she told him. She deliberately turned her back on him. She hated her actions, but if he wouldn't calm down and talk to her she couldn't help him.

She felt him rise, heard him take three steps towards the bathroom before he seemed to stumble. "Christine?" He said.

She quickly turned. He was clutching a blanket over himself with one hand; the other was braced against the wall. Both hands were shaking. His eyes were sunken in, and she knew it was from exhaustion as well as stress. "Christine I... I am sorry. I am--" He searched for words. "Very tired. I need your help."

As she considered his words he added softly: "Please..."

She nodded, getting up and going to him, and slowly walked with him into the bathroom. It seemed to take tremendous effort for him even with him leaning on her for support. Once there she hesitated; there was no way he could get a shower by himself. He was obviously very weak, possibly in the aftereffects of shock; she could feel that he was still shaking. She would have to help him with this, too. She sat him down on the floor, making sure he was covered up, and turned on the water. When it was as hot as it was going to get she removed her clothes and pulled Spock gently to his feet.

As she went to remove the blanket he jumped back, eyes wide in a moment of reflexive panic. She waited. "Spock, I can't help you if you don't trust me," she said.

He looked down. She thought for all the world he looked ashamed. "I do trust you, Christine," he said.

"Then let me help you."

When he continued to hesitate she added: "Spock you know I would never hurt you for anything in the universe. But I'll let you decide."

With that she moved back and leaned against a wall. He looked up, then down, then up again. When he spoke his voice was a whisper. "I.. I want your help."

She moved beside him then, keeping her eyes on his forehead as she pulled the blanket off. He leaned against her as she got him safely in the stall. She started to lean him back against her when he cried out and pulled away as though her touch burned him.

"What? What did I do?" She exclaimed.

He shuddered. "Please.. stand in front of me," he breathed. His chest heaved for a moment before he established some vestige of control. She was growing more confused and worried by the minute, but she did as he asked, slipping one arm loosely around his waist as she began to wash him.

He kept his eyes shut for a few moments, then opened them and watched her silently. She did not allow herself to think about how they were both nude, did not stop for even a second to consider the situation. Spock needed her help and that was what she was doing.

She kept her touch as quick and light as possible as she cleaned his chest, arms, legs. When she moved to his face he winced as she touched his mouth, as though it hurt him. 'What the hell IS this?' She thought. 'He acts like his mouth is bruised.' She quickly finished the task, shutting off the water and drying him as fast as she could before wrapping him in a dry towel. She did the same to herself, carefully guiding him back out of the bathroom.

Christine eased him onto the bed, debating on whether she could help him dress or not. She decided to try. He seemed determined to accomplish the task and soon he was dressed. She went to the door and got their tray of food. As she did she slipped a sleeping pill she'd palmed days ago for herself into one of the glasses of direl juice. She came back in. "I won't ask you to eat," she told him. "But I want you to drink this. Consider it a medical order from the ACMO."

He stared numbly at it before taking it from her. She knew the pill would be tasteless and compatible with his physiology. He drank it down without protest. She took the glass from him and tucked the covers around him. "You're exhausted," she told him. "Go to sleep. We're staying in here for two days."

He didn't argue, for once, but closed his eyes. In a few minutes he was deep in slumber. Once she was certain of that, she pulled out her scanner, made a few adjustments, and ran it over him, reading the findings softly out loud to herself.

"Mild shock. Slight bruising of the lips, face and wrists. Sore muscles. What the hell..." She looked closely at the med scanner. "Tearing of the anal muscles... inflammation of the prostate gland... semen... oh, my dear God..."

The scanner almost fell out of her hand as she gasped with the horror of her knowledge. "Oh, Spock. My beloved Spock. He raped you."

Anger and anguish filled her. Instinctively she knew it was Akil, knew Sekam must have found out and taken action against him. "Damn him! If Akil isn't dead I'll make him wish he were!!"

Only then did she realize she'd spoken loudly, and she quickly looked at Spock, but he slept the sleep of one that had been drugged and did not stir. She curled up beside him. Only then did she release the tears that burned painfully in her eyes, and as she cried for what had been done to him with each sob she felt a horrible matching ache in her heart.

It was some time before her tears dried. She watched Spock sleep; she didn't know when she would ever be able to rest again. 'Dammit, it's not your fault,' she told herself. 'You didn't know!'

"And what would I have done if I did?" she whispered aloud. If she had stood up to Akil, she would probably be dead now and he would still have performed his sick deed. She would have died knowing only that it happened and she had left him alone. That realization made her feel somewhat better. She was alive and with him. She would help Spock heal, even if it was in spite of himself.

'And it probably will be,' she thought wryly. But he needed her, even if he'd deny it, even if he tried to push her away. And she wouldn't go. Couldn't.

She spent most of the day just being beside him, thinking about everything that had happened between them in the past month. She had never imagined that the two of them would develop something of a friendship, but they had. And the day they'd almost brushed lips. She knew she'd seen something in his eyes. But she was at a loss as to exactly what it had been. And now whatever it was had probably been destroyed thanks to Akil.

'That doesn't matter. All that matters is getting him well,' she scolded herself. She sighed and shook her head. Psychology was not her specialty; even if it was, Spock was half-Vulcan. Vulcans did not even have a word for psychologist. This was going to be a muddled matter at best. She'd just have to take her clues from him.

Night was approaching; she'd spent all day musing about what to do. She heard a noise outside and thinking it was their dinner approached the door.

She was thrown to the floor as three Rihansu burst in. One of them grabbed her, holding her as the other two grabbed Spock and yanked him from the bed.

"What are you doing?!" she screamed.

The one holding her grabbed her hair. "You'd better shut up if you don't want him hurt REAL bad," he hissed.

Christine twisted in his grasp, but she was no match for his strength. Spock was awake, being held by one of the others. Strangely, he was making no attempt to resist. 'Must be the drugs still affecting him,' Christine thought as she looked at him.

As she stared helplessly, the other guard took Spock's left arm, holding it in an odd way. Then Christine realized what he was about to do.

"NO!" she screamed, and was slapped hard by the one holding her.

She closed her eyes in horror as she heard the sickening sound of a bone snapping. Then she was released and shoved hard towards Spock. He had slid to the floor, cradling his broken arm in his lap, his eyes vacant of everything except shock and pain.

She fell beside him. "WHY?! Damn you, why?!" she cried.

"Akil was our commander. He's dead because of this... ga'hen," one of them spat.

"If he's dead it's because Sekam killed him!" She retorted.

"We can't do anything to Sekam. Besides, Sekam is gone and won't be back for a week. So don't get any ideas. If you tell him what happened you'll regret it, thiran." They opened the door. "And don't take him to heal his arm, or I'll break the other one and a lot more bones. Let him suffer," the Rihansu sneered.

She managed to wait until they were gone for a few minutes before she lost control. She beat the walls with her fists, heedless of the pain. "HE HAS SUFFERED, YOU BASTARDS!! HE HAS!!!" she screamed.

The wall was indifferent to her anguish; she hit it only a few more times before she realized her hands hurt badly. 'Oh, my God.. Spock...' In her fury and sorrow she'd lost touch with the reality of him beside her on the floor. Her rage vanished in the face of her concern. He was still sitting, left

arm on his leg, his face eerily composed, eyes shut. "Spock?" she whispered. "Spock, please say something."

"What would you have me say to you, Christine?" he asked softly.

She was at a loss. "Why didn't you do something?" she asked at length.

"Such as? What could I have done?" he asked, voice calm but eyes still closed.

She didn't know how to respond to that, either. Spock tilted his head, eyes open now but lowered to the floor. His next words shocked her.

"You are aware of what happened, are you not."

For an instant she thought to deny it, play innocent. Then she realized from his tone that he was certain of what her answer would be.

"Yes."

He nodded minutely, then said no more. She was encouraged somewhat by the fact that he was speaking somewhat like his normal self. "How is your arm?" she asked softly.

One eyebrow shot up in a weary amusement. "I believe it is broken."

"I KNOW that, Spock. I mean, how bad is your pain?"

"I am currently managing it at a tolerable level." He paused. "However, recent events have left me somewhat... fatigued. I doubt I can maintain a complete level of control through the night."

"I can at least do something about that problem," she told him.

"As you resolved the problem of my needing sleep?" he asked silkily.

"Spock, you were in shock, suffering from stress, exhaustion... I did what any good doctor or nurse would have done. I am not asking for your forgiveness for what was a medical judgment."

"I did not mean to imply such, Christine. Indeed... I am... grateful for your presence here with me."

She wondered if being thrown to the ground several times in the past few days had affected her hearing. "You are?"

"Yes." He took a deep breath. "I find your presence... unobtrusive. You have not tried to push me as Dr. McCoy might do. I am grateful for your patience."

Christine actually blushed, looking down. "Thank you."

She was concerned about Spock's sudden switch in behavior. She greatly hoped it was a sign of him being more his normal self, but only time would tell. She knew that it could simply be the calm before the storm. "Let me see that arm," she said.

He was right, of course; even though he had only a basic medical training he knew a broken arm when he had it. And since she could not fuse the bone, or knit it, all she could do was splint it. She took a piece of wood and ripped up a towel, binding the arm then fashioning a makeshift sling he could wear. He nodded in appreciation. She could see he was showing some signs of pain, and insisted he take something for it from her stash. He hesitated. "Do I have to make it a medical order, Spock?" she asked in what she hoped was a teasing tone.

He quirked an eyebrow at her, swallowing a high-dosage painkiller without further complaint. "I presume this will make me drowsy," he said.

"Yes," she said. She looked away from him at the bed. She rose and was starting to push the beds back apart when he stopped her with his voice. "What are you doing?" he asked.

Her startled eyes met his. "I thought, since we don't have to keep them together..." Her voice trailed off.

"That could be construed as grounds for more... punishment. I, for one, do not wish that to happen."

"Well, neither do I. I just thought..." She stopped again.

"Christine."

She studied him.

"Since any discomfort we might experience is preferable to being subjected to further sadism, I suggest we continue our sleeping arrangements as they are."

"Yes, Spock. A logical suggestion."

She was rewarded for her choice of words by a slight half-smile. "Perhaps you should take something to help you sleep," he suggested. "I am aware that you have not slept in nearly two days."

She shook her head. "I'll sleep tonight. I promise."

He nodded, waiting until she had settled into bed before lying down beside her. The last impression she had was what felt like his hand brushing over hers as she drifted away.

* * *

Rebecca kneeled on the floor beside a young Romulan child. "Okay, Beirna, this won't hurt a bit," she soothed.

"Sure," the girl scoffed. But she was still while Rebecca worked to repair her leg.

McCoy, tending to an Andorian, watched her as he worked. The girl's parents were both members of the camp; they had met there and decided to marry. They would be released on their version of parole in another two years. He was appalled that a child had to grow up in a place like this, but she seemed fairly happy and well adjusted.

Beirna had refused to move from the floor when her mother brought her in; her leg had several pieces of metal in it from where she'd fallen in a pile of scrap equipment that had not been removed. So Rebecca had simply sat beside her. It had taken her about fifteen minutes to get the girl to talk to her; another ten to get her to laugh. But now she was as hooked on Rebecca as he was.

'Well, almost,' he thought with a smile, enjoying the glints of gold in her hair as she worked on the leg. When she was done Beirna stared at her. "It didn't hurt," she said, sounding accusing.

"I told you it wouldn't," Rebecca grinned. "But you thought I was lying, didn't you?"

"Well..."

"I don't blame you. Doctors are sneaky." She glanced over at McCoy. "Aren't they?"

"Sometimes," he said, returning her smile.

The girl's mother took her hand and helped her up, thanking Rebecca shyly. "Glad to help," Rebecca told her.

Beirna looked up at her, her expression as solemn as a Vulcan's. "Thank you, K'rel Rebecca," she said.

"You are welcome, Beirna. Take care of yourself."

When they had left McCoy walked over to her. "What does 'K'rel' mean?" he asked.

"It's their word for healer. Their prefix 'K' is the equivalent to the Vulcan prefix "T."

He shook his head. "For someone who purports to dislike Vulcan ways, you sure know a lot about them."

"I spent time there, remember? I learned in spite of myself."

He laughed. "Have you ever wanted kids?" he asked.

She looked as though she was about to burst with amusement. "What?" he asked.

"Leonard... I HAVE kids. I have an eighteen-year-old son and a twenty-year-old daughter."

He was too dumbstruck to reply. Her amused look turned into peals of laughter. "Well, did you think you were the only one who had a life?"

"Well, no... of course not. I just.. Hell, Rebecca, I don't know WHAT I thought. I guess I didn't think ANYTHING."

Her face retained a smirk. "Obviously," she quipped.

"So where are they right now?" He asked.

"Daniel is in his first year at Starfleet Academy. Emma is married and lives on Alpha Centari 4. She's training to be an engineer."

"Sounds like you should be proud."

"I am. Fortunately for them, they don't take after me much." She looked at him. "So what about your daughter?"

He was a little startled. "How did you know about Joanna?"

"Christine told me. I didn't make any assumptions, either. But unlike you, I asked around." She grinned again.

"Obviously," he retorted. But he was smiling as well. "She's a nurse, working towards a degree in experimental drug therapy."

"Sounds like a talented person."

"She is. Fortunately for HER, she doesn't take after ME much."

Rebecca laughed until tears slipped from her eyes. "I wonder what would have happened," she said at last, "If our children had been just like us."

"Let's not think about negative stuff, all right?" He asked.

She started laughing again, and he couldn't help but join her.

* * *

When Christine awoke for the second time it was morning. Rain was falling softly and she wondered bitterly if it was an omen of more misery. Realizing she wasn't helping matters with her thoughts she stopped. No point in making things worse than what they were.

She looked at Spock. He was turned onto his right side, left arm held against his side by the sling. His right arm was curled around her under her body. Her right arm was wrapped around his waist. She didn't want to risk waking him, so she lay still. And in all honesty she liked holding him.

The reason they were in that position to start with was because of what happened earlier that morning... or night. Spock had awakened her with hoarse cries and shuddering, caught in a nightmare. He awoke immediately when she shook him. For just a moment she saw him break. "When will it stop?" he'd asked her in a voice filled with pain. She didn't know what to tell him, and he did not really seem to want an answer. She slipped her arm around him without thinking, then realized what she'd done. But before she could remove it, he'd curled his good arm under and around her, drawing close as though it gave him comfort or strength. Then he fell back asleep.

'At least he looks more peaceful now,' she thought. She hoped her presence was playing a part in that.

When he awoke she again started to move her arm, but stopped when she realized that he was making no attempt to remove his. He looked tired, but it was not a physical exhaustion. It was mental. She could see it reflected in his dark eyes. They searched her face for an endless moment. She gazed back at him, entranced by his stare. She didn't want to be, but she couldn't stop it. "Good morning," she said, knowing it sounded lame but not able to think of anything else.

He continued to look at her. Now she was beginning to get apprehensive. This Spock was not the same one who she had known the past month. 'Of course not, you damn idiot,' she thought. But it was unsettling. He seemed...lost. And like he thought she could find him. And THAT would be one hell of a tall order.

"How are you?" she asked.

He seemed to consider the question for a moment. "Not as weak. The pain is currently manageable. I am somewhat hungry."

She was pleased. "Well, breakfast should be here shortly."

He nodded. She found it ironic that he seemed comfortable with their position while she wanted to retreat from it. She was not going to use his vulnerability to her advantage. That would be worse than low. She wanted him to want her in his right mind under normal circumstances, not out of gratitude or confusion.

She shifted to rise. He looked at her in puzzlement. "Where are you going?" he asked softly.

"To get our food..." she stammered.

"It will be another 41.7 minutes before it arrives. Why are you attempting to retreat from my presence?"

"I'm not!" she exclaimed a bit faster than she'd intended.

"Then stay with me."

"Spock... you are still not... quite your usual self."

"Indeed." He seemed more curious than angry, though there was a small edge to his voice. "How so?"

"Well... ah... it isn't like you to want to be too close to anyone, especially me," she said nervously, not wanting to put it into words but unable to lie to him.

He pondered her statement. "This is true. However, the past few days have shown me the possibility that there may have been a slight error in my judgment."

"Oh?" she asked weakly. "What error is that?"

Now he looked down for a moment. Then he returned his gaze to hers. "Your... assistance, support and... caring have been a tremendous help to me."

"Well, I am gratified to hear that, Spock..." She trailed off as she realized he was far from done.

"Please, Christine, let me finish." He took a deep breath, as though what he was about to tell her cost him great effort.

"Since we have been here, sharing this dwelling and spending time together, I have become consciously aware of certain... feelings I have."

"Feelings about what?" Her voice cracked.

"About you," he said quietly.

Now she knew she had to get up. She jerked herself free and started to sit. Spock's hand shot out and grabbed her arm, pulling her down on top of him. She pulled gently, then more forcefully, but he would not budge. "Spock, let me go," she said.

He didn't move. "Spock, let me go!" She tried to pull away again, only to have him hold her tighter against him. Finally she realized she couldn't get up and went still against him. "Please let me go," she whispered brokenly.

"I can't," he whispered.

Christine caught her breath in a strangled sob. "You have to. I'm not strong enough to be this close to you...." Her voice broke.

She could feel his cheek against her hair, smell him, almost taste his warmth. His hand went to the back of her head, pulling her mouth to his.

For an instant she tried to resist it. But she knew she couldn't, didn't want to. She moaned as her lips met his, a low moan of pain turned into the sweetest pleasure.

When he broke the kiss, he gazed deep into her eyes for a long moment.

"Spock," she gasped, "you... are not yourself. I should check you..."

"On the contrary, Christine. It is because of your assistance that I am coming back to BEING myself. And now that I am, I find that I cannot let you go. I no longer want to run away from who you are."

"Do you have a fever?" she whispered as she tried once more to rise.

"I do not have a fever." He brushed his mouth to her ear and whispered: "Except for you."

"Spock, you are NOT making this easier!" She tried to move, only to have him encircle her waist with his good arm. She stopped attempting to rise, exhaling in what was almost a sob at the feel of her body molded to his.

"Why are you protesting so strongly?" he asked her softly. "Do you no longer want me?"

"Spock, I want you more than anything in the universe, but you... you don't mean this. You MUST be ill, or something..."

"Why?" he questioned. "Because I have never done this before? How could I, when until two years ago I was pledged? And since then, I did not even fully know that I wanted to... until now."

"I STILL don't think you do. Now let me go..."

"No," he said quietly. "You are only saying what you believe is right, not what is in your heart. This is not illness, Christine. It is not logical, what I... feel... but it would also be illogical to deny that I feel it."

"Spock, you're... you've been through hell and back the past few days, and I know you think you know what you're doing, but you don't... you're confused right now... I can't do this..."

"How can you say I am confused when I know that I am not? These feelings for you are not new, Christine. It is only my ability to express them that is unfamiliar. I had them. But I have always denied them. I... do not wish to deny anything now."

"I can't... I can't let you do this," she sobbed.

"I want to do it." He pulled her up slightly so she could see his eyes. "It is illogical for you to protest against something we both want."

"One of us has to," she retorted without thinking.

To her utter astonishment, he smiled. "No. We do not."

Before she could speak again he found her lips with his, parting them with his tongue, cupping her head to keep her from pulling away.

She shuddered helplessly. He was making her entire body come to life and she didn't know how much longer she could hold out.

In the midst of her internal struggle she felt his mind brush softly against hers. She gasped from the intensity of it. She felt his desire, his newfound sense of peace, his acceptance of his feelings for her. The sensations were almost overwhelming. He pulled back mentally somewhat, and she sensed that he had wanted her to know the sincerity of his words. But she was still hesitant. After all he'd just been through... he was reaching, surely, for some solace. He was confusing it with other things...

'How can I convince you otherwise?' his voice asked mentally.

She jumped. 'You can hear me?'

'Of course. You can "hear" me too, if you wish.'

'Spock,' she thought... then gasped as he moved his body more snugly against hers. She felt his pleasure at her response. 'This is insane,' she thought. 'He's seducing me, and I'm fighting it.'

'I, too, am at a loss to explain your actions,' he said to her mentally. 'I am offering myself to you, with no hesitation or resistance. And you are rejecting me.'

'Because I'm trying to do what's right!'

'For whom?'

'For both of us. Oh...' She gasped again as he moved his hand down to caress her breast. Her body felt as though it was going to explode. She felt something snap inside her. She knew she couldn't protest any more. She sighed and gave herself over to him.

She felt his happiness at her surrender, felt his warm hand and mouth exploring, probing, and caressing. After a few minutes she began to touch him, hesitantly at first, then more boldly as she felt him encourage her. She ran her fingertips across his ears, causing him to squirm, then dropped her hand to touch his face, caressing his cheek, his neck. For a moment it brought back memories of Platonius, of her being forced to touch him and him being helpless to stop it. But that was nearly a year ago, far away... not here and now.

Her fingers ran down his chest, touching his nipples through his shirt. He shivered in response, his eyes locking with hers. He made no attempt to hide the fact that he was trembling, which touched her in a way she couldn't explain. It made her want him desperately. And now she could have him; he was hers. And she was his as she'd always been.

She tugged at his shirt and he removed his sling and raised up so that she could pull it off him. His pants soon followed, and then she removed her own clothing, wanting no barrier between their flesh. Her hands slid over his body, her lips planted gentle kisses where her hands had been. He moved her underneath him, carefully resting his broken arm on a pillow as he lay on top of her. She arched her back, crying out softly at the feel of the smooth muscles and soft hair crushing her breasts. His mouth sought hers again, and she met his kiss with the urgency of a person dying of thirst who'd been given water. He was hard against her thigh, and she burned with the thought of him being inside of her. Without thinking she ran her hands down his back to his buttocks, causing him to freeze.

Immediately she realized she'd triggered a memory and moved her hands slowly up to his shoulders. "I'm sorry," she murmured.

He was still frozen. She knew if she didn't do something quick he might get overwhelmed by memories. She kissed him again, gently, projecting all the love she felt for him towards him to soothe him. After a moment he relaxed again, responding to her as eagerly as before. He moved himself down to tease and lick her nipples. They peaked and hardened instantly under his tongue. Her hands tangled in his hair as she whispered encouragement. His ran his fingers down her stomach, circling her navel, trailing across to her right hip. He squeezed the soft skin there gently, then moved to repeat his action to her inner thigh. She moaned in desire and frustration.

With agonizing slowness he moved to the soft curls between her legs. As soon as his fingers made contact she felt as though she'd been struck by lightning. She cried out again, flushed and gasping, as he moved closer to the center of her desire. "Please," she begged.

He smiled fleetingly, kissing her, then nibbling her ear. "Do not worry. I will ease your burning," he whispered. And his fingers began a gentle probing of her soft core. Finding the secret he was seeking, he stroked gently in a rhythmic up and down motion, watching her face as he did. "You are on fire, Christine," he whispered again. "So hot here. Can you feel it?"

"Yes," she gasped, pressing her hips against his hand. "Spock, oh... it feels so good..." Her voice gave way to more gasps.

He continued his gentle caress, feeling her arousal building through her mind. When he realized she was getting close to a climax he braced himself on his left arm, heedless of the twinge of pain. Continuing to touch her, he slowly entered the inferno he had created.

She was so wet, so hot it astounded him; his maleness fit into her easily, filling her as though he'd been made for her. She held him close as he rocked with her, her arms wrapped around his upper back as though holding on for dear life. He buried his face in her hair, inhaling the fragrance of shampoo and her own scent of femininity. His own body was aching desperately for release within her, but he was determined to wait until he had given her that ultimate pleasure first.

At that moment she threw her head back, fingers clenching his skin hard, and he knew he would not have long to wait. She cried out softly again and again as she came, muscles gripping and releasing him as she peaked and rode the waves of pleasure he had given her. Her passion brought his own climax, and he moaned into her neck as his body shook with the intensity of it.

Completely spent, they lay entwined for long moments, simply basking in the warmth their joining had created. Christine rested her head on his chest, fingers resting on his side to feel the hard fast beating of his heart. "You realize, of course, our breakfast is completely cold by now," she joked.

"True," he replied. He kissed her, then added: "But I believe it was quite worth it."

* * *

McCoy's face was grave as he made his way to his domicile. Guards had been looking at him and whispering all day, and for the life of him he didn't know why. It was as if they knew something that he didn't.

'Maybe they do,' he thought as he went inside. Rebecca looked up as he came in, her beautiful features drawn taut. This seemed to confirm his suspicions. "What the blazes is going on?" he demanded.

She shook her head. "I'm not sure, Len. But I've had people staring at me all day, and just now Hotan came in and said we're going back to the main camp this afternoon instead of in 2 days."

"Did he say why?"

She shook her head. "He just said something about putting all the ashan back together. Apparently, Sekam was supposed to be gone for a week, but is coming back tomorrow and we need to be there."

McCoy grew pensive. "I wonder if it has something to do with Spock or Christine."

"Could be. But we need to get things straightened up in here. We're leaving in 3 hours."

They spent that time cleaning and re-arranging things to the way they had been when they first arrived. They didn't have long to wait afterwards before Hotan came in with 2 other guards for them. Their hands were bound behind them and they were taken on board a shuttlecraft. It would be four hours before they got back. McCoy sighed. He'd had a strange nagging sense that something was wrong for the past few days, but couldn't put his finger on it. He had the very bad feeling that when they got back he would find out what it was.

* * *

Spock lay sleepily in Christine's arms, lulled into peace by her softness and the undercurrents of love he was picking up by their physical contact. Once he might have found it distasteful, embarrassing; now it soothed him, made him feel whole. They did not have to report to work until tomorrow, and he planned on using the remains of the day to rest. Not to mention to make love with Christine again.

He gazed at her as she slept. After their breakfast, they'd taken a very pleasurable shower together. This one was completely unlike the one she'd helped him with the day before. This one was tender, passionate. Both of them had wanted each other again afterwards, but she insisted they rest first. So they had went back to bed, bodies entwined, and Spock slept easily with no nightmares.

He knew she was concerned; he himself was still a bit... apprehensive. He was aware that if he were fully human she would think he was in denial, or shock. He was very thankful that Vulcan mental disciplines had helped him block out the worst of the pain, helped him deal with the onslaught of feelings his violation had stirred within him. Disciplines... and Christine. He had not told her that, after coming to terms with what happened as much as possible, he had pushed the memory far back into his mind. So far that, without him making a considerable effort to re-live it, he would most likely never dwell on it again. Perhaps it was not logical. But for now it was all he wanted to do. He would have to examine it more fully later, when he was stronger, more able to deal with it. Not now.

Now... he almost smiled as he looked at her face. Now he wanted more of her. He was beginning to learn that now that he had sated his body's desires once, he was illogically aching to do it again. He could almost understand the human male's desire for constant sexual activity. The physical pleasure of it was nearly overwhelming. Knowing that he had given her so much pleasure had made him feel... well. It had made him feel very male. Something he hadn't realized he'd needed so badly in light of what happened. It had helped him to regain balance.

He nuzzled her neck, turning her towards him to kiss her. Her lips parted as she woke up, murmuring his name before he covered her mouth with his. Her sleepy hands roamed his body; touching him in the places she knew would arouse him. He gasped into her mouth, closing his eyes as she straddled him, sliding him carefully inside her welcoming body. He moved in time with her, their rhythm slow and gentle.

Both of them were so absorbed in their lovemaking they didn't hear the hurried sounds of footsteps approaching. Nor did they hear the worried voices until the door was thrown open. Christine jerked as a reflex, which left almost all of her body displayed before she came to her senses and pulled up the blanket. Both she and Spock stared in surprise and embarrassment.

Standing in the doorway, mouths open and wearing similar expressions of shock and disbelief, were McCoy and Rebecca.

Rebecca recovered first. "Come on, Len," she whispered, taking McCoy's arm. "We'll talk about this...some time other than now."

McCoy made no effort to move, still gaping at Spock and Christine. His expression was a combination of amazement, delight, and worry. Christine lowered her eyes, unable to look at him. Spock's eyes were closed, one eyebrow arched, his body braced. But McCoy said nothing.

"Come ON, Len!" Rebecca said firmly. She all but pulled him out the door. "Um... we'll come back later," she stammered to Christine as she quickly closed the door behind them.

Once they were gone Christine slumped against Spock. "This isn't the way I wanted them to know," she murmured.

"Nor I," Spock said. "But it is done."

"THAT'S for damn sure!" she quipped.

He looked at her, brow raised again. "You appear to be exhibiting sarcasm," he noted.

"I always knew you were smart, Spock," she said with a grin.

He shook his head. "This is a serious matter, Christine. Dr. McCoy will doubtless have many questions about... what he saw."

She couldn't resist one last joke. "Well, it's not like it's new to him."

Spock sighed and looked at her reproachfully. "Okay, okay, I'm sorry," she said. "So what do you suggest we do about it?" she asked.

Now he hesitated. "I am not certain."

She stroked his cheek. "If anything is told to him, it will be by you."

He nodded. "Thank you," he said softly.

She kissed him. When it ended he sighed again. "What?" she asked.

He gazed at her. "I was thinking that I believe I now have a firsthand reference for the phrase: 'I need a drink.'"

* * *

McCoy's silence did not last long. Once he and Rebecca stepped inside their quarters, he exploded.

"I don't BELIEVE this! We're gone for two weeks and what the hell happens? I come back to find my supposedly totally Vulcan First Officer in bed with my Head Nurse!"

Rebecca looked amused. "Yes... that was quite a sight. I figured you'd be happy for her, though."

"HAPPY for her? Where the BLAZES did you get THAT idea?!"

"Maybe because she's in love with him and it seems that she finally found a way to get to him."

McCoy shook his head. "I don't know what the devil Spock thinks he's doing, but I'm not gonna let him hurt Christine!"

"She didn't look like she was hurting to me."

McCoy stomped around and frowned at Rebecca irritably. "Would you be serious? He's taking advantage of her!"

"Oh, come on, Len!! Christine is a big girl. Besides, why would Spock do that? Do you think that little of him?"

He stopped his tirade and looked down. "No," he admitted. "No, I don't think Spock would do that."

"Well then, there's obviously more to this than meets the eye."

"Yeah," he said grudgingly. Then he added: "But I'm still gonna find out what his intentions are!"

Rebecca laughed so hard she gasped for air. "His INTENTIONS? Len, will you listen to yourself? You sound like Chris's father, for crying out loud!"

He looked mollified. "Well, she IS like a daughter to me," he muttered.

"Yes, but you have to let your children grow up," she said.

"I am!! Just as soon as I talk to Spock. And if he's not doing right by her, I'm gonna string him up by his pointy ears."

A big grin was Rebecca's only response.

It was several hours later before McCoy got up the nerve to talk to Spock. Rebecca had taken Christine for a walk, under the pretext of wanting her opinion on some of the native plants growing in the woods. In reality, Christine knew it was to prod her for details. But she went anyway. 'She doesn't have to know about what happened to Spock,' Christine reasoned as she followed Rebecca out the door.

McCoy stood bouncing on his toes for a few moments before speaking. Spock was standing at the window, gazing out into the late afternoon sun. He seemed both ill at ease and relaxed at the same time, making McCoy wonder yet again what the events were that led up to the very human display of passion he'd unintentionally witnessed earlier. Well, there was no point in just standing there wondering.

"Spock, I don't know any other way to say this than to just come right out with it."

"I expected nothing less from you, Dr. McCoy," Spock replied.

McCoy ignored the mild sarcasm and went on. "What the hell are you doing?"

"Specify," Spock answered.

"You know what I mean! Don't try and pull any of that Vulcan crap on me, especially after what I saw! You have apparently taken my Head Nurse and good friend as a lover in my absence and I would like to know why!"

"Doctor McCoy... This is really not a matter that concerns you--" Spock began, only to find that his words set McCoy off even further.

"Doesn't concern me? You're sleeping with one of the members of my department, who ALSO happens to be like a daughter to me, your arm is broken, and none of this CONCERNS me?! I'd be out of my mind NOT to be concerned, Spock!"

Spock permitted himself a sigh. McCoy went on.

"I'm not asking for graphic details here, for crying out loud! I just want to know what happened to your arm and what you think you're doing with Christine! In case it's slipped your computer-like mind, she's in love with you!!"

"I am aware of that, Doctor."

"Then what are you doing to her? Is it... are you..." His voice trailed off.

Spock quickly shook his head. "No, no."

"Well, WHAT then?"

"Dr. McCoy..."

"Dammit, Spock, I want an answer! Don't give me any of your bullshit double talk! WHY are you sleeping with Christine?!"

Spock turned from the window and looked at him. His face was almost carved from stone, a direct contrast to the words he spoke.

"Because I plan on taking her as my wife."

McCoy's jaw dropped. "You WHAT?"

Spock glanced down. "Much has happened in your absence... most of which I am not prepared to discuss with anyone, even you." While McCoy was recovering from the shock of that statement, Spock continued. "But please be assured, I have no intentions of hurting Christine. She means... a great deal to me. And I am going to ask her to bond with me. Not because it is logical, though there are logical reasons for me to do so. But because of how I... feel." For the first time he looked McCoy directly in the eye. "Are you happy now, Doctor? You have heard me admit to having feelings. Is that what you wanted to hear?"

"Well..." McCoy was totally at a loss for words.

Spock almost smiled. "Surely you can relate to that," he said softly.

"What do you mean?" McCoy asked. But even as he said it he knew.

"Please, Doctor. Even I, a Vulcan, am aware of your attachment to Dr. Korby. You have, to use a human phrase, 'made no secret of it.'"

"I'll be damned," McCoy said in amazement.

Spock only tilted his head.

"Spock I uh... I'm sorry I questioned your motives."

"Understandable, Doctor, given that before we came here Christine and I had little interaction with each other."

McCoy was about to comment that now they were having plenty of interaction, but decided not to risk ruining the bond he had just built with Spock in favor of some sexual teasing. Before he could say anything else, though, Christine and Rebecca burst in, their expressions ecstatic.

"What?!" McCoy exclaimed.

"Indeed. What has happened?" Spock asked.

The two looked at each other, ready to burst, and spoke at the same time: "We're going home!!!"

"We're WHAT?!!" McCoy shouted.

Christine nodded. "It's true, Leonard. Sekam just told us. We're all going back to the Federation!! We leave in an hour."

"How the hell did this come about?" McCoy asked.

Rebecca came to stand beside him. "Well, Sekam got tired of hearing about you being such a whiny-ass all the time. That, and we've been swapped for some Rihansu political prisoners the Federation was holding." She grinned. McCoy smacked her nose and kissed her.

"Indeed. This is most gratifying news," Spock said.

"THAT is an understatement," Christine laughed. She moved beside Spock, but made no attempt to touch him. He glanced at her, his warmth for her showing in his eyes. She smiled. He almost smiled back before he caught himself. He reached out and fleetingly brushed her hand with his before clasping them behind his back.

"Well, I guess we'd better find someone to give the plants to," Rebecca said.

"Come on, Len."

He nodded, still in a daze. All four of them were still numb. But Rebecca was euphoric. She took his hand as they walked out. He instinctively squeezed hers, then kissed it. "See you two in an hour," he called.

Christine shut the door, slowly turning to look at Spock. He appeared to be lost in thought. Well, she'd make it easy for him. "I'm not holding you to anything, Spock. Don't worry."

He looked up, startled. "What do you mean?"

"I know you've not been yourself. You needed comfort and help, and I'm glad I was able to give it to you. But you'll be fine now." She put all her effort into keeping her voice from breaking as she spoke.

He came to her, pulling her close. "Is that what you believe? That I want to... 'get rid of you' now that we are going back?"

"Don't you?"

An eyebrow raised, a sigh escaped. "Christine... I was going to ask you this today anyway. It appears that perhaps I should delay no longer."

As she waited in confusion, he tipped her head up so she was gazing into his eyes. His voice was gentle and deep. "Christine... I cherish thee. Will you become my bondmate and wife?"

"What..." Her voice cracked as she started at him in shock.

Thinking she had misunderstood somehow, he began to repeat himself. "Will you--"

"I heard you, Spock!! I'm just... oh, Spock, of course I will!" She smiled, eyes like blue fire, and he knew that he could never forget the way she looked at this moment for the rest of his life.

He returned her smile fleetingly, then bent to kiss her. It was a sweet kiss of promise and shared joy. When he moved his lips from hers he said: "After we have returned to the Enterprise and... readjusted, I will ask the captain to perform a ceremony. When we are able to return to Vulcan, we will complete the process with a marriage rite. Is this satisfactory to you?"

"It's WONDERFUL to me!!"

He nodded. At that moment Sekam entered. He brought with him their Starfleet uniforms. "Put these back on," he said. "You will be taken aboard the Sunfire in 30 minutes. You will be back in your precious Federation in three days." He glanced at them. "I hope it is the last time I ever lay eyes on you again. You were the cause of my losing what used to be an excellent officer. Stay away from our people, Commander. Healer. Should you ever be brought before us again you will not be so lucky."

He left, causing a barrage of memories to come back to them both. Christine shook her head. "It will be all right, Spock," she said. She slipped her arms around him, and after a moment he allowed himself to rest against her.

"Indeed, Christine," he murmured. "Indeed."

* * *

Spock paced the length of the room. He stopped for the third time and glanced at his reflection in the mirror. Illogical, to be so preoccupied with his appearance. But considering that he was about to be married, perhaps it was justifiable. He studied himself. Following the old Earth custom, he was wearing a tuxedo. Not what he would have chosen, but he reasoned that if she was going to go through a Vulcan ceremony, it was only fair to her that he be willing to do what McCoy termed as 'going the whole nine yards.'

He was waiting for the captain and Dr. McCoy. As he did, he reflected on what had transpired since their return. While on board the Sunfire McCoy and Christine had been allowed to heal his arm; it was as if it had never been broken. Only the mental wounds remained from their experience. On their second day on the Romulan ship he'd finally decided to tell McCoy what had happened. The doctor had listened first in amazement, then horror as Spock calmly, albeit without graphic detail, told him of the encounter with Akil. By the time Spock hesitantly got to the point of what had made him realize he wanted to acknowledge his feelings for Christine, McCoy was almost in tears for what they had been though. But he'd wiped them away quickly, not wanting to embarrass Spock further.

The two of them had been remarkably at peace with each other since then. Rebecca had commented on their lack of verbal sparring, and McCoy simply said that he was giving Spock a break before they got back to the Enterprise. She left it at that. She was an intuitive person, and one who respected other's privacy. They had learned that the captain had spent all the time of their absence searching for them, against Starfleet's orders. Had they not been found soon, Captain Kirk would surely have been court-martialed. But a chance capture of a Romulan vessel had quickly shed light on where they were, since one of the officers was afraid they would all be killed and had bartered the safety of his scout vessel's crew for the information. Kirk had then wasted no time in rallying support, calling in favors far and wide. Starfleet had then agreed to an exchange of prisoners.

They had been back on board for two weeks. It had taken, more or less, three days before he could bring himself to tell Jim what had happened. Of course the captain had known something was different when, as they stepped off the transporter into the Enterprise, Spock and Christine had parted company with the Vulcan ritual embrace. But he said nothing, waiting for Spock to come to him. He listened with much the same reaction as what McCoy had; for one of the few times in his life at a loss for words. He'd squeezed Spock's shoulder quickly, sympathy mingling with the fury he felt. He was glad this Akil was dead, or he'd have been sorely tempted to sneak back into the Empire to find him. But Spock seemed to be doing an excellent job of dealing with it, thanks in no small part to Christine.

Spock smiled to himself at the memory of Jim's reaction to being told he and Christine were betrothed. He had opened his mouth, closed it, and repeated the actions without saying a word. When he was finally able to speak he'd congratulated him. Jim was further astonished when Spock asked him to perform a ceremony. But he'd agreed, quickly and with genuine happiness. They had spent the past ten days making preparations. And now the day had arrived.

A knock on the door to the waiting room interrupted his thoughts. "Come," he called.

Jim and McCoy entered, both wearing their dress uniforms, McCoy morosely tugging at the collar of his. "My neck could be the size of a pencil and this blasted thing would STILL be too tight."

"Then get one a size bigger," Kirk advised with a grin.

"Wouldn't help."

"Then stop complaining on Spock's wedding day. Can't he have ONE day of peace?" Kirk teased.

McCoy stopped, mumbling beneath his breath before turning to Spock. "Well, Spock, I must say; you clean up good."

Spock raised his eyebrow. "Thank you, doctor. As do you."

Jim smothered a laugh. "Well, its time," he said softly.

"Indeed."

McCoy was studying Spock intently. "Spock I know we've uh... had our differences," he began.

Spock raised his other eyebrow. McCoy hurried on. "But I just want you to know... for what it's worth, you have my blessing."

Spock looked at him with something close to affection. "Believe me, Doctor, when I say that is worth a great deal."

The three men looked at each other for a long moment before going to the chapel. As Kirk took his position, and Spock his, McCoy leaned close to Jim. "You know, I never would have thought in a million years that out of the three of us, he'd be the first to marry. Hell, I wasn't sure that he ever would!"

"You know the expression, Bones. Never say never."

"That's the truth!"

Jim glanced at him slyly. "Sure you don't want to make this a double ceremony?" he asked.

McCoy shook his head with a grin. "No thanks. Christine's waited a long time for this. This is her day. Hers and Spock's. Besides... I gotta pick out just the right ring for Rebecca."

Before Jim could say more the music began.

McCoy hurried down the aisle, standing near the door. Uhura came through wearing a lilac satin dress, carrying a bouquet of roses. She made her way to the front, then four pairs of eyes were riveted to the doors.

Christine stepped through, wearing a traditional gown of flowing white silk. Her hair hung in soft waves around her face, her eyes shone beneath her veil. She, too, carried a huge bouquet of roses mixed with baby's breath. McCoy took her arm, walking slowly up the aisle with her until she came to stand beside Spock. Spock thought she had never been more beautiful, that he had never seen anything as wondrous as she was in that moment. She seemed to feel the same way about him, if her reaction to his attire was any indication. They turned as one to face the captain.

As the music faded he spoke. "It is with the greatest of pride, honor and happiness that I am here to join these two in the bonds of marriage. And it is my sincere hope that they have happiness to last them all their days together."

Uhura let out a tiny sob.

Jim turned to McCoy. "Do you have the rings?"

McCoy carefully removed the tiny black velvet box, opening it up. Inside gleamed two silver bands with the IDIC symbol engraved in them. Spock took Christine's in his hand, then took her hand in his.

"Spock, do you take Christine as your lawfully wedded wife? To have and to hold, to love, cherish, and honor as your partner and equal, in sickness and in health, til death do you part?"

"I do," he said softly, eyes locked on hers.

Christine took his ring out with her other hand, brought it up to his other hand.

"Christine, do you take Spock as your lawfully wedded husband? To have and to hold, to love, cherish, and honor as your partner and equal, in sickness and in health, til death do you part?"

"I do," she said with a smile.

Jim nodded, looking at Spock. "Place the ring on her finger and repeat after me, please."

Spock slid the slender band in place. "With this ring, I thee wed," Jim said.

Spock repeated: "With this ring, I thee wed."

"Now you, Christine."

She repeated Spock's action. "With this ring, I thee wed," she said.

Jim smiled. "Then by the power vested in me as captain of the starship Enterprise, I now pronounce you husband and wife."

As music started again, McCoy said: "You can kiss the bride now, Spock!!"

"I AM aware of the custom, Doctor," Spock said dryly. And to everyone's surprise, including his own somewhat, he lifted back her veil and gently brushed his lips against hers.

When the kiss ended pandemonium ensued. Uhura, McCoy and Kirk all rushed to shake hands and give hugs and kisses. Eventually things settled down and the friends enjoyed a dinner together, followed by the traditional wedding cake. Rebecca joined them for this, and it was clear to all those present that it would not be long before the captain performed yet another ceremony.

When everything was over, after tears and gifts and slightly drunken admonishments to Spock from McCoy, Spock and Christine made their way to their new quarters. It was in the section for married officers, and nearly twice the size of either of their old rooms. It also had a double bed. Spock once again surprised her by scooping her up and carrying her 'over the threshold.' She suspected he was doing all this only to please her. And it did and she loved him all the more for it. And as they slid onto the bed, skin on skin, soul to soul, both of them remembered how precious-and fleeting-life could be.

THE END