DISCLAIMER: Paramount/Viacom owns the characters. The story idea is mine and is copyrighted 2001 by Momthing. This is the sequel to "Crystal Blue Persuasion". The events in this story take place during the timeline of "Generations."

Crystal Clear Solution

Momthing

The party was already in full swing when Christine Chapel walked into the restaurant. Uhura was the first to see her, and then the familiar voice of Leonard McCoy filled her ears.

"Chris, honey, we're ovah heah," he called, the thickness of his Southern drawl attesting to how many mint juleps he must have already had. She lost no time in walking over to the group of tables that had been set aside for all of the former crewmembers of the legendary starship, Enterprise, once the pride of Starfleet, and long since destroyed in battle against the Klingons during the so-called Genesis incident. Most of the old familiar faces were there besides Uhura and McCoy. There was Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott, and Captain Sulu, who used to be the best helmsman in the fleet. There was Captain Chekov, who now commanded his own small scout ship, the USS Integrity, and his second-in-command, Commander Janice Rand. Almost everyone was there, with one exception, and somehow, Christine didn't think he'd show up.

She didn't know whether to be glad or sorry. But Spock of Vulcan would have considered their meeting at a public restaurant to celebrate the life of their former Captain a totally illogical thing to do. An Irish wake, Uhura had called it, to allow them to express their grief at the untimely death of James T. Kirk, the legendary Captain of the Enterprise. Christine hugged Uhura and McCoy, and sat down beside Scotty, who was weeping silently into his glass of scotch. She laid a hand gently on one of his.

"Ah, lassie, thank ye for coming," he said huskily, taking his napkin and wiping his face.

"Wild horses couldn't have kept me away," she smiled at him. "When Uhura called to tell me you all were having this wake before the official funeral, well ... I just had to come."

"All that pomp and circumstance," he shook his head in disapproval. "The Captain wouldna hae wanted that. He was a simple man and he died doing what he loved best ... savin' his beloved Enterprise from danger."

"As they say here on Earth," a familiar voice said behind her, "he died with his boots on and that is as it should be."

"Mr. Spock!" Scotty gasped in shock, and Christine's blood turned to ice. Although she had been secretly hoping that he would show up, she found herself reluctant to turn and face the man who had been the source of her unrequited passion for more years than she cared to remember.

"Well, Spock, you pointy-eared son-of-a-gun!" McCoy's familiar voice broke the spell. "You're the last person I would have expected to find at an Irish wake."

"I have only now received Commander Uhura's message on my voice mail," Spock admitted. "I could not deny myself the opportunity to see so many of my fellow crewmembers, although I regret the circumstances."

"Well, I'm glad you're here," McCoy drawled. "It just wouldn't be the same without you."

"I second that emotion, Mr. Spock," Uhura's voice chimed in. Christine stared steadily at the drink that Scotty had put before her, not trusting herself to speak, as she heard him respond, "Thank you, Miss Uhura."

Then he touched her shoulder, lightly, and she was forced to look up at him. He had changed somewhat, but then, they all had. If possible, he was handsomer than ever, leaner and with more character in his face.

"Dr. Chapel, it has been a long time," Spock said. "Do you mind if I sit next to you? We have a great deal to catch up on, as you humans say. Much has happened since last we met."

"Yes, it has, hasn't it?" Christine nodded. "By all means, Mr. Spock, pull up a chair."

He sat down next to her, pulling his chair so close to hers that she could feel his robe brushing against her pants leg. She took a small sip of her drink. It was a gin and tonic, one of her favorites. She was touched that Scotty had remembered. She stole a quick glance at Spock and was shocked to find him closely examining her. He raised an eyebrow at her slight double take.

Christine had been right about Spock's not wanting to come. He considered his grief over the loss of the man who had been closer than a brother to him to be a private thing. The only thing that had brought him there that night was the woman sitting next to him. The last thing Uhura had added to her voice message were the words, "Chris Chapel said she'd be there."

"The years have been kind," he murmured in a low voice meant only for her to hear. She blushed slightly. He felt a certain sense of satisfaction in that. Perhaps there was still a spark of feeling left in her for him. He sincerely hoped that he could rekindle that spark into a flame.

"Thank you," she replied, not quite sure how to take the compliment. He had no chance to respond as McCoy stood up somewhat unsteadily.

"Now that we're all here," he began, "I'd like to propose a toast ... to the best damn starship crew in the galaxy and the Captain we were all privileged to serve under... The Enterprise crew and Captain James T. Kirk!"

"Hear, hear!" and glasses clinked all along the table; to her surprise, Spock clinked his water glass alongside her gin and tonic. Uhura stood up, then, and said, "I know Jim Kirk would want us to remember him the way he was and to celebrate his life, not mourn his death ... and to honor that, I'd like to sing one of his favorite songs..." She walked up to the stage and picked up a microphone, nodding slightly to the leader of the band that was playing that night. They swung into the opening chords of "Beyond Antares" and there was hardly a dry eye in the house before Uhura finished the song. It brought back so many memories of evenings spent in the main rec room of the Enterprise and the sight of the Captain and Mr. Spock playing one of their infamous chess games while the crew took private bets as to who would win, and Uhura would sing her songs, sometimes accompanying herself on the Vulcan lyre, and sometimes accompanied by Spock.

Listening to Uhura, Christine felt herself reliving those days; she could see Jim Kirk, younger and handsomer, as he made the rounds of the rec room, stopping to talk to a crewman here and there. This personal touch was why all of his crew was so loyal to him. She could also see a younger version of herself trying hard not to look as if she were stealing glances at a younger version of the man sitting beside her. How foolish I was then!, she thought to herself. She turned to look at him once more and was surprised to see him staring at her again. He reached out and gently brushed a tear from her cheek with his finger.

Spock was also remembering. He remembered very well his awareness of the way Christine had looked at him in those days, and his foolishness in disregarding those affectionate glances of hers. He had found pleasure in the arms of another, and they still remained good friends, but he discovered that that was not where his heart lay, and he couldn't help but wishing that he had not wasted so much time. Had things gone differently, he mused, Christine would be sitting next to me as my wife, and I would not now be dreading what must happen in the very near future.

"Mr. Spock," Uhura's voice broke the spell of the moment. "I brought my lyre with me. Would you care to favor us with a tune?"

He looked at Uhura for a moment and then nodded. He stood up and reached for the Vulcan lyre that she held out to him, the same one that he had given her many years ago.

They exchanged a long meaningful glance, one that Christine did not see because she had turned to take another sip of her drink, trying to regain her equilibrium after his touch on her face. She thought she had gotten over him. The last time she'd had a face-to-face encounter with him had been right after the incident with the whales at the trial where Kirk was acquitted and reduced back to Captain. He had just barely recovered from his ordeal on the Genesis planet where everyone thought he'd died. McCoy told her he had temporary amnesia and that was why he did not quite remember her. She had always thought there'd been more to it than that, but she had known better than to ask.

Shortly after that meeting, she'd seen footage of him on the holonews just before the Khitomer conference with a lovely young Vulcan woman by his side; later she had learned that it had been his protégée, Valeris, who had betrayed both the Federation and Vulcan by helping in the attempts to sabotage the peace process. She couldn't help but feel sorry for him at the time, but she had been perfectly happy in her long-term relationship with Donald Murray, a local news anchor whom she'd met at a party. They had been together for three years and were about to announce their engagement, when he was killed in a freak accident. It had been almost six months now and Christine was still getting used to the idea that she would never see him again.

She watched as Spock got up on the stage and played a couple of tunes on his lyre, some of which she remembered from their days aboard the Enterprise. She couldn't help but admire the way that his long slender fingers moved across the strings and felt a thread of the old familiar longing go through her.

No, Christine, she told herself angrily, you're *not* going to do this to yourself again! She had invested too much time and too much effort getting over him to go down that road again, she reminded herself, as he broke into the opening chords of Amazing Grace. She could hear Uhura sitting next to McCoy, sobbing. She had not been aboard the Enterprise during the ill-fated training mission when Spock had sacrificed his own life for the safety of the ship, and so she didn't realize how painful the association was to those who had been there. Scotty had played that tune on his bagpipes as a salute to Spock. The party/wake started breaking up after that. Christine went up and hugged both McCoy and Uhura.

"Take care of yourself, Leonard," she murmured, as she held him close. He squeezed her tightly, as he replied, "You take care of yourself, too. It was brave of you to come, especially after your recent loss. I read Don Murray's obituary on my newsreader the other day," he said before she could ask how he had known. "I take it you were two were close."

She nodded. "We were about to announce our engagement when he was killed."

Uhura was next, holding her close. "I'm so sorry we've lost touch with each other," she murmured. "I'd have been there for you if I'd known. I hope he made you happy."

"Don was a wonderful man," Christine said. "After this is over, maybe we can get together sometime and I'll tell you about him."

"That's a date," Uhura smiled. "I'll call you."

Christine said goodbye to a few other people; she had noticed out of the corner of her eye that Spock had been talking to Sulu and Chekov. She pondered whether she should walk up and say goodbye to him, but decided against it. Despite his strange almost affectionate behavior towards her earlier that evening, she didn't want it to look as if she were chasing after him again. Better to let sleeping dogs lie, she told herself. She was not aware that he looked up just in time to see her heading for the door. Quickly, he moved to stop her.

She had almost made it to the door when she heard his voice. "Dr. Chapel!" She turned and looked at him as he walked swiftly to where she was standing. "I would like to accompany you home, if I may," he said. "We still have much to talk about."

* * *

Christine's condominium was not too far from the restaurant where the Enterprise crew had held its private memorial. Normally it was a nice brisk walk and, in fact, the restaurant had been one of Don's favorites; they had eaten there often. Now she walked slowly with the Vulcan man beside her, wondering what it was he wanted from her. Despite the fact that he had said twice that they had much to discuss, he hadn't said a word to her since they'd left the restaurant.

Walking silently beside her, Spock felt suddenly at a loss for words. How was he going to explain himself to her without sounding like he was being self-serving? Human courtship rituals were foreign to him. On Vulcan this whole matter would have been taken care of through intermediaries. His family would have contacted her family and negotiations would have begun to arrange their marriage. But this was not Vulcan and she was not a Vulcan female. She was all too human and he would have to conform to her ways, without compromising his values in the process. He wondered what he should do first and then decided that he would know when the time came.

When they got to her apartment, she keyed in her entry code and let them both in. The lights came on automatically. Spock looked around with interest. It was a small two-bedroom apartment overlooking the San Francisco Bay. They were on the fiftieth floor. It was sparsely decorated, with heavy antique brown leather furniture in the living room. The walls were neutral colors; beige and cream predominated. The only splashes of color were the deep rust-colored carpet, and some multi-patterned cushions in mauve-mint green-tan combinations with matching draperies. The apartment itself was immaculate.

"Would you like some tea?" Christine asked as she bustled into the small kitchen.

"That would be agreeable," he nodded, strolling over to a bookshelf and idly looking over the books that were in it. He was interested to note that she, too, had a fondness for real books made out of real paper, just as he had; only her books were not as esoteric as his. They were filled with such titles as: "The Bride of Killashandra" and "Love's Tender Heart", along with more familiar titles, "Jane Eyre", "Pride and Prejudice", and the whole "Redwall" series by Brian Jacques. He picked one up with a lurid cover of a beautiful young woman being held by a muscle bound hero and scanned it.

Christine smiled as she came into the little dining area from the kitchen carrying a tray with a teapot and two cups. She saw him standing by the bookcase, reading one of her books with his familiar raised eyebrow.

"I see you've found my stash of romance novels," she laughed, as she put the tray down on the dining room table. "Don used to call me an incurable romantic."

"Indeed?" Spock said, coming to the table and sitting down. "Don is a friend of yours?"

"Don is ... was my fiancé," Christine said, quietly. "He died about six months ago."

"I grieve with thee," Spock said, feeling a small nasty shock down in his soul. This was not going to be as simple as he thought it would be when he came. He had not known that she had been engaged. Neither had Uhura. Had he come six months ago as he had originally planned, it would have been too late. He wondered if it still was.

"Thank you," she nodded, pouring the tea. "I'm still in mourning, so you'll forgive me if I'm not the best company in the world right now. But enough about me; what have you been up to these past few years? I've read all about Khitomer. Do you really think this peace with the Klingons will last?"

He accepted the change of subject and they talked about the events surrounding the Khitomer conference. She almost asked him about Valeris, but decided that might be too personal; and they were getting along so well, right now that she didn't want to rock the boat. She marveled at the fact that she could sit here with this man whom she'd wanted so long to be close to, and not feel as if she had to impress him, or guard her emotions. Because apart from that one small frisson of longing when she'd seen him playing his lyre, she didn't feel any more of the old stirrings as she had been half-afraid would happen since they had set foot in the apartment. Maybe it was because the apartment had originally been Don's and he'd left it to her in his will. Some of his things were still here. The furniture and paintings were all his, as well as mementos from their past trips which were in the second bedroom that she used as her study.

In the end, he was the one who brought up the subject of Valeris.

* * *

Christine fixed a light supper of salad and pasta. She hadn't eaten since breakfast and she realized, sitting at the table talking with Spock that she was ravenous. She invited him to stay and have dinner with her, and to her amazement, he accepted. They ate without talking, as was the Vulcan custom. Christine took the time to study him covertly as he ate. He was, if anything, handsomer than ever, though the lines in his face gave mute testimony to the fact that he had known suffering. So had she. He looked up from his plate and caught her eyes with his own deep dark gaze. She found herself unable to tear her gaze away and felt herself blushing as a flush of sexual desire swept through her unexpectedly. She blinked, and found herself breaking the eye contact. She stood up abruptly, and picked up her now-empty plate. He did the same.

"Here, let me do that," she said, reaching out to take the plate from him. Her hand brushed his accidentally and he abruptly put the plate down on the table to take her hand in his.

"Christine," he said in a husky voice, as his hand closed gently around her wrist. She felt time slow down as he pulled her towards him. She did not resist. He put his other arm around her waist and pulled her into his embrace. She lifted her head up to his and their lips met in a kiss. Part of her knew she should not be doing this, but it had been so long since she had been held in a man's embrace. She closed her eyes and let it happen...

Afterwards, she lay in his arms. It had been incredible, she thought. So many years she had waited for just this very moment, to be lying here in this man's arms after a night of passion. She should be happy. It had been everything she'd ever dreamt of and more. But there was something missing. She had been surprised by his sudden passion for her. Dimly, in some more rational part of her mind, she felt as if she were being unfaithful to Don, even if he had been dead for six months. But the other part of her wanted it to happen, wanted to experience just once what it would be like to actually make love to the man for whom she'd had an unrequited love for so many years. She felt his lips brush her hair, as his hand caressed her cheek. She raised her head up slightly to look at him, only to find him looking back at her with heavy-lidded brown eyes.

"We have wasted many years," he said, smiling slightly. "I was a fool for not allowing myself to return your affection. Perhaps it is not too late..." His voice trailed off as Christine sat up abruptly. She didn't know why, but something didn't feel right about this.

"Christine?" Spock also sat up, concerned as she abruptly got out of bed and grabbed the bathrobe she had left lying on a chair when she had gotten dressed for work; the fact that it was Don's didn't register until much later, after Spock had left. Now, however, she felt that she needed some kind of protection against the Vulcan's heated gaze on her body.

"It's late," Christine said evasively, not wanting to meet his gaze. "I think you should be going. We're going to have a full day ahead of us tomorrow ... today," she corrected herself as she looked at her chronometer. It was one o'clock in the morning. "You are planning to go to the Captain's official funeral, aren't you?"

"Yes, that is why I returned from Vulcan," he said. "That, and to find you again, and see if perhaps we could establish a relationship."

"Why me?" she asked, looking out the window at the foggy night. She could hear him moving behind her getting dressed. "I would have thought I would be the last person you'd want to be with, considering our past history." She felt him come up behind her and he put his hand on her shoulder.

"You have always been loyal to me, no matter the circumstances," he said. "Lately, I find that loyalty is something to be highly prized in a woman."

She turned abruptly and looked up at him. She knew he was probably referring to Valeris, but she wasn't about to bring that subject up. Still, he could tell what she was thinking by the look on her face.

"Valeris and I..." He trailed off, unsure just how much he should tell her; but as he looked into her beautiful blue eyes, he knew he couldn't be less than honest with her. He owed her that much, especially after what had just happened between them.

"I will not deny that I was extremely attracted to her," he began again. "I had hoped that eventually she would be my wife. But, apparently, she had other plans."

"And so you decided that since you couldn't have her, you might as well find good old Christine, is that it?" Christine snapped at him, surprised by the quick flash of anger and pain she felt. She jerked herself out from under his hand and stalked into the living room.

"That is not true," Spock protested behind her. "Despite what you might think, I did not plan for us to have a sexual interlude tonight. I have always valued your good opinion of me. It is only that I have been reassessing my life's journey lately and have felt the need to put certain events into perspective. As I stated earlier, I now regret that I did not allow myself to reciprocate your feelings for me. Part of me has always desired you."

Christine shook her head wearily. This was a little bit too much for her right now, she realized. Although she still missed Don, some part deep down inside of her was shouting for joy to hear Spock finally say the words she had longed to hear. But, the more experienced part of her, the part that had experienced pain all those years ago when she had first begun to realize that Spock had been probably been having an affair with Uhura towards the end of the first five year mission, that part of her was extremely suspicious of this sudden state of affairs between her and Spock. But she suddenly felt too tired to argue with him.

"All the same," she said. "It is rather late. Perhaps you'd better go now."

Spock sighed within himself. Kissing her had seemed so logical. He had felt her desire for him. He had not intended for matters to progress as far as they had, but he found that he could not stop himself once they started ... correction, he told himself ... I did not wish to stop ... I desired her, as well. But he did not know what to say to her.

"I regret that I have imposed upon you this way," he began awkwardly, not knowing whether he should reach out and touch her. Her blue eyes flashed for a moment and he could see that she was trying to hold back tears.

She sighed. "This is all very sudden, Spock. I'm not going to lie and say I'm sorry for what happened between us tonight, but I am having mixed emotions right now. I just need some time alone to think things through. Can you accept that, for now?"

He nodded. He had no choice in the matter. He needed Christine, now more than ever. Since Valeris was out of the picture, he would be badly in need of a mate in the next year or so. Christine was his only hope. Uhura had turned him down ten years ago; he had never considered asking her again. It would have been a moot point at any rate; she still had a special relationship with Josiah Quimby, Cetara's ambassador to Earth.

"It would seem I have no choice in the matter. Good night, then," he said, stiffly, and left. Christine turned wearily and went back to bed, but sleep was a long time coming that night.

* * *

Captain Kirk's funeral was everything he would have hated, Christine mused, as she watched all the pomp and ceremony from her second row seat. All of the Enterprise crew of the original five-year mission, as well as the second five-year mission had been given most of the seats in the center section of the large auditorium where the memorial service was being held. The right and left sections of the auditorium were reserved for various delegations of the member planets of the Federation, as well as the rich-and-famous, including holovid stars from various Federation planets. Even the Klingons had sent a delegation. Christine noted that Spock chose to sit with the Vulcan delegation instead of with his shipmates. She wondered idly if their passionate interlude of the night before had played any part in his decision.

Uhura was seated right next to her and whispered softly in her ear, "Spock wanted to come sit with us, but his father, Sarek, insisted he sit with the Vulcan delegation, since he's been slated to take over his father's post as Vulcan's ambassador to the Federation."

"I see," Christine murmured and wondered briefly why Uhura had felt the need to reassure her and how she happened to know so much about Spock's affairs.

Later, watching the footage of the funeral on the holovid on the evening news that night, she would be surprised to see that her face revealed none of the inner turmoil she was feeling. It was a mixed brew of emotions: sorrow for Jim Kirk who gave his life trying to save the El-Aurians from the Nexus, joy that Spock had all but professed his love for her and desire to have him in her arms again. But her feelings for Spock were mixed with anger and suspicion. His assertion that he had thought to marry Valeris and had only come seeking her out when Valeris betrayed him still rankled. Despite his protestations to the contrary, Christine still couldn't help feeling that she was his Plan B, and she hated being second choice on anybody's list.

Spock also had been watching the rebroadcast of the funeral in his quarters at the Vulcan embassy. But he had not been watching the pomp and circumstance of the ceremony. His eyes had searched for and found one particular face; Christine, seated next to Uhura. He picked up his private comlink and dialed Uhura's number. After a brief conversation, he ended the call and dialed another number. Christine's voice answered.

"I wish to ask forgiveness for my behavior last night," he began, but she cut him off.

"I was just as much to blame for that as you were, Mr. Spock," she said. "As my mother used to say, it takes two to tango."

"Nevertheless," he said, "It would honor me greatly if you would join me for dinner tomorrow night."

"Why, Mr. Spock, I'd be happy to," she said, and they quickly agreed that he would pick her up the next night at eight o'clock; plenty of time for her to get home from work and change.

She told herself it was only one dinner and that it was unlikely that there would be a repetition of the previous night's interlude. But when she went to bed that night, she lay awake for hours mentally planning what she would wear and replaying every moment of their passionate encounter. By the time she woke up the next morning, not only was she a nervous wreck, but she also found herself eager to see him again and half-hoping for another passionate encounter.

* * *

He took her to T'Lua's, one of the city's premier restaurants. It had only been open for six months; reservations were hard to come by. It was owned by a Vulcan couple who had emigrated to Earth five years ago, had spent time training as chefs in Paris, and had finally decided to open their own establishment. They seemed to know Spock very well. Christine noticed that they got the best seat in the house. She allowed him to order their meal. He seemed to know what the best dishes were. The menu was a mixture of Earth vegetarian and Vulcan dishes.

He was being very attentive to her in a detached sort of way. His behavior towards her was impeccable, but it was as if the other evening had never happened. At least, that was the way it seemed to Christine. She couldn't deny her feelings of disappointment, even though she knew she should be relieved that he wasn't rushing things between them. Spock watched her closely. She looked beautiful. She had worn a simple chignon with some diamond clips, which stood out against her dark brown hair; and her white silk blouse and black velvet skirt were elegant and stylish. She looked very much at home in the elegance of T'Lua's.

Christine also thought Spock was very elegant and handsome. He was dressed in a dark midnight blue, almost black outfit, tunic and pants made out of some material that looked like very expensive brocade. She was not aware as she exchanged glances with him over the candlelit table that he was nervous and uncertain about how to proceed after dinner. His face betrayed no emotion. She remembered, suddenly, why she hated first dates. They were always so awkward, each person on their best behavior, trying to impress each other.

Funny, she thought to herself, it wasn't that way with Don. She knew she shouldn't make comparisons, but she found that she couldn't help herself as the memories entered unbidden into her mind's eye. She remembered how easy she'd felt with Don. It was almost as if she'd known him all of her life, they were that compatible. She hadn't felt the need to impress him at all, and later discovered that that was one of the things he loved best about her -- her ability to be herself under any circumstances without being phony. And suddenly, she didn't want to be where she was, with this man whom she'd been not-so-secretly in love with all these years.

"Would Madame care for some desert?" the human waitperson broke into her reverie, and she flinched a little in reaction, but she recovered quickly as she smiled and shook her head no. Spock signed the check and they got up to leave. Christine was trying to think of a graceful way to end the evening without offending him, as he walked her outside and offered her his arm.

"I had a wonderful time, Mr. Spock," she started and he raised an eyebrow at her formality. "This was the first time I've ever eaten at T'Lua's. I must say it's even better than my friends told me it would be. Don would have loved it..." she said wistfully, and then she broke off in mid-sentence as she felt him stiffen imperceptibly. For one fleeting moment, she found herself feeling embarrassed for having offended him. She flashed back to all those years when she'd been a lot younger and a lot more foolish than she was now, but then the moment passed, and she found herself being irrationally angry with him. After all, she wasn't the love struck young woman she'd been on the Enterprise; she'd made a new life for herself. Don't apologize, Christine, she told herself. You haven't done anything wrong. It's only natural that you should talk about Don. Don't apologize, whatever you do. She kept repeating that silently to herself as he helped her into the Vulcan embassy limousine he'd picked her up in.

If Spock was annoyed at her inadvertent reference to her late fiancé, he did not show it, other than his immediate reaction. But inwardly, he found that he disliked the idea of being compared to another man. Memories of T'Pring's rejection of him in favor of Stonn reared their ugly head. But, he had no choice, he reminded himself. He would be badly in need of a wife soon and Christine was his only hope. He murmured politely, "It is regrettable that you did not have the opportunity to dine there with your fiancé, but I am pleased that I was the first to share the experience with you."

They arrived back at her apartment without further incident. She invited him in for a cup of tea and he accepted, although he told her he could not stay very long. He needed to return the limousine back to the Vulcan embassy.

"I understand," she smiled. "I suppose even Vulcans have curfews."

He raised an eyebrow at that, but made no further comment as she hurried into the small kitchen to prepare their tea. He sat at the small dining room table where they'd shared pasta two days ago and she came bustling back in with their cups of tea. They took a few sips, neither of them speaking, until Christine decided to take the bull by the horns and find out just exactly what Spock had in mind, since he hadn't so much as tried to kiss her. After all, they had shared passion together ... surely, that must have meant something to him.

"Spock, do you mind if I ask you a question?" she asked, putting her teacup down gently. He inclined his head once, in what Christine took to be a yes to her asking the question. She took a deep breath.

"The other day you said that one of the reasons you came to Earth was to establish a relationship with me. Why now? I've been planetside for many years. Surely if you were that interested, you could have come around earlier even before I met Don."

Spock thought for a moment before he answered. He had thought to propose the idea to her gradually, after some time had passed and she had grown accustomed to being in his company, but perhaps it would be better if he made his intentions known from the start, particularly after what had already happened between them. He looked her right in the eye and said: "To answer your question: there was simply no need for me to contact you until now. However, in another one point seven years, I shall be in need of a wife."

* * *

"You did WHAT?" The woman on the other side of the vidphone looked exasperated. There were a few occasions in Nyota Uhura's life that she'd felt like shaking Spock; this was one of them.

"I told her that I wanted to marry her," Spock repeated. It was late at night. He had found a message from Uhura on his voicemail asking him to contact her the minute he came in from his date with Christine. At any other time, Spock would have been offended at Uhura's prying into his personal affairs, but now he was grateful. She was the one who had suggested he contact Christine when he had confided in her about his need for a wife.

He had long since forgiven her for refusing to marry him. In retrospect, it seemed that she had been right -- they would have been ill-suited for each other. She had not hesitated to offer her counsel as he pursued his courtship of Christine. After all, as she pointed out to him, he didn't exactly have a whole lot of experience with human females, at least, not when it came to marriage. He had to agree with her there, and now as he looked at her, he couldn't help but wonder if he hadn't made a mistake answering Christine's question literally.

"Well, what was her reaction to your marriage proposal?" Uhura asked, taking a sip of her tea in order to calm down. She had warned him that he should take it slow with Christine, especially after she found out about her relationship with Donald Murray and read the news stories about his unexpected demise.

"I did not actually propose matrimony," Spock replied. "She asked me why I had waited so long to contact her, and I replied that there had been no need until now, but that I would be in need of a wife in one point seven years."

"Oh, boy," Uhura sighed, closing her eyes briefly. She would have loved to have seen the look on Christine's face when Spock had said that. "So what did she say? How did she react?"

"She did not," Spock said, frowning. "She merely nodded and then mentioned that she was scheduled to attend a formal gathering ... a party, for one of her colleagues who was due to retire at the end of the week and asked if I would be kind enough to escort her. I said I would, and then we said our goodnights."

"Really," Uhura frowned. "That's strange ... very strange..."

"Indeed?" Spock asked. "In what way?"

Uhura shook her head, briefly. "I don't know; it's just not the way I'd have expected her to react. I mean if an old flame showed up at my doorstep and told me that the only reason he'd come around at all was because he needed to get married right away, I wouldn't exactly be calm about it ... especially if I'd just lost my fiancé..."

"She did ask if I had your vidphone number and I gave it to her," Spock added, curious as to why Uhura should be so troubled about Christine's lack of reaction to his announcement.

"Good," Uhura nodded. "That means I'll probably be hearing from her soon. Maybe then I can find out what's really going on."

"What do you mean?" Spock frowned. He had been living among humans for a long time and knew how illogical they were, but usually, if he was patient, he could find an explanation for their behavior. In this case, however, he was completely at a loss, especially after Uhura's next statement.

"Never mind," she said, smiling. "It's a bit too complicated to go into right now. Anyway, I'll let you know what I find out after I've talked to Christine."

"Very well," Spock knew he would have to be content with that for the present, as she said her good nights and they hung up the phone.

Meanwhile, across town, Christine Chapel was sitting in her apartment in her living room in front of her lit fireplace. She had a small metal chest in front of her and was busy picking the lock with a hairpin. She had long since lost the key to it. Finally, she got it open and looked in it. The first thing she took out was a book with a red leather cover. It was made with real paper and on the front it said, "My Diary." She had bought it at a specialty shop on Altair IV on one of the Enterprise's many layovers. It had been shortly after Roger's death, and the incident where she had confessed her love to Spock after she had caught the virus. At the time, she had needed a safety valve, someone she felt that she could absolutely trust to express her feelings for Spock. The diary had seemed the perfect solution. She'd had one as a little girl and had used it as therapy during a particularly trying time in her life.

Now, she scanned the pages once more and as she read each page, she tore it out and threw it on the flames, watching it burn before reading the next one and repeating the procedure. After Spock left, she had lost no time in taking off her finery and heading for the shower to scrub off all of her makeup. Then she got into her most comfortable pair of sweatpants and loose t-shirt and poured herself a scotch on the rocks. She rarely drank, but she felt the need for the alcohol tonight. She didn't notice the tears flowing down her cheeks as she read snippets of love poems she had written about Spock and the thoughts of a woman tormented by an obsession for a man whom she knew didn't love her and would never love her. She hadn't hurt this badly since the night the police came knocking at her door to tell her that Don had died. Although she hadn't shown it, Spock's statement that he had only contacted her because of his upcoming biological imperative felt like he had slapped her in the face. It was, metaphorically speaking, the straw that broke the camel's back ... because she finally realized that despite the fact that they'd had sex, no matter how good it felt, it wasn't enough. He still didn't love her, not the way that Don had loved her. And suddenly Christine knew what she must do.

* * *

Uhura blinked in the strong sunlight as she followed the waiter to the patio at Chez Pierre's, a French restaurant that was within walking distance of Star Fleet Headquarters. Christine had contacted her early that morning while Uhura was still getting ready for work and suggested that they meet for lunch.

"You did say you were going to call me," she had reminded Uhura. "I figure it's about time that we 'do lunch'."

Uhura had agreed, looking closely at Christine's face to see if there was any reaction to the previous night's events. If Christine was aware of her friend's scrutiny, she gave no sign of it as they agreed on the time and place of their meeting. And now, here she was, and there was Christine, smiling broadly as she rose to greet Uhura with a brief embrace.

"It's been ages," Uhura smiled back. "You're looking great! I'm so sorry I lost track of you, but you know how it is ... life just has a way of getting in the way of things, even friends."

"I know," Christine nodded. "It's the same here. But, to be honest with you, I probably should have tried harder to keep in touch. It's just that after Spock died, and then what happened afterwards at the trial and everything ... well, I really wanted to make a clean break with the past and move on with my life."

"I can understand that," Uhura said as the waiter came up to take their order. After he left, she continued, "I felt the same way after Khitomer. I just wanted to hang it all up and quit Star Fleet, but Josiah convinced me otherwise."

"How is he doing these days? I'm surprised he's still here. I would have thought he'd want to go home to Cetara by now."

"Oh, he's fine. He's been home several times in the last ten years, but his people keep sending him back to Earth."

"I'm surprised you two have lasted this long without getting married," Christine laughed, but Uhura frowned slightly. That was the only painful thing about her relationship with Josiah Quimby: his refusal to marry her. He had already been a three-time loser at the matrimonial game, he reminded her, and he saw no reason to make it number four. In his mind, their relationship was perfect just the way it was. Uhura felt differently, but she loved him and couldn't quite see giving him up. She said as much to Christine while the two women were eating. It wasn't until the two women were having their after-lunch coffee and dessert that the subject of Don came up.

"Tell me about Don," Uhura had said, after apologizing again for not being there for Christine when she needed her.

"He was a wonderful man," Christine smiled. "You would have loved him..." and for the next thirty minutes, she shared some of her most precious memories with Uhura; the time they first met, the day he had asked her to move in with him, and the day he had given her an engagement ring and they had started planning their wedding. Three days later, he was dead.

"I miss him terribly. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of him ... sometimes, whenever something goes on at the hospital, I'll think to myself, 'I can't wait to tell Don about this' and then I realize that I can't..." She stopped briefly and turned her head so that Uhura couldn't see the sudden tears that filled her eyes.

"God, do I feel stupid," Uhura said softly. "If I had known about Don, I would never have steered Spock your way. I'm so sorry..."

"So you're the reason he finally decided to look me up." Christine sighed. "It figures. Somehow I had the feeling it was too good to be true. He told me last night that he was going to need a wife in one point seven years. He couldn't have the one he really wanted, so he turns to good old Christine."

"It's not like that, Chris. He really does care about you. When he first called me six months ago and asked about you, I was suspicious, too, but he assured me that he had a great deal of affection for you and wondered if you still had feelings for him. He wanted to get in touch with you, but he wasn't sure how to go about it. He called me up asking for advice, and I was more than happy to help him."

Uhura silently prayed that Christine would never find out that it was only because she had reminded Spock about Christine's feelings for him that he had seriously considered her as a candidate for marriage. At the time, she'd been unaware that Christine was seriously involved with a man; the last time she'd seen Christine was at Kirk's trial before the Federation Council; it had been obvious that Christine was still hung up on Spock. So when Spock called her, it was only natural that Christine's name would come up.

"Well, he certainly seems to confide in you a great deal." Christine looked sharply at Uhura. "I guess he's forgiven you for breaking off your affair with him before we all disbanded after the first five year mission. It's always nice when old lovers can remain old friends, isn't it?"

Uhura blinked, startled. In all the years they'd known each other and kept in touch although infrequently, Christine had never once mentioned that she knew that they were lovers. She'd known that they had been in a relationship, but Uhura had never let her know the extent of it, mostly to spare her feelings, or at least that was what she'd told herself at the time.

"How long have you known?" she asked quietly.

"I didn't really ... until now." Christine laughed bitterly. "I've had my suspicions, mind you, but I guess I didn't really want to know. I saw him coming out of your quarters early one morning when I couldn't sleep and had gone to the gym to work out. At the time I remember telling myself that it wasn't what it looked like, that there was probably some logical explanation ... and then, again, I was involved with Duncan, so it wasn't like I was in a position to say anything, and really, at the time, I honestly didn't care."

Somehow, Uhura doubted that, but she said nothing. As far as she was concerned, she'd done nothing to apologize for, and the affair between her and Spock was long since over. She was right, of course. Christine had cared a great deal, but she had accepted that Spock would never be hers, and she'd had too much pride to let them see how hurt she was. Fortunately, both her work and her affair with Duncan had kept her too busy to brood over his betrayal of her, and she had reminded herself, that he owed her nothing; after all, the feelings had been one-sided.

"Well, let's let the past rest," Christine said, quietly. "There's no point in getting worked up about something that's already come and gone. But, if you should happen to talk to him, you might let him know that I'm giving his marriage proposal all the consideration it merits, and that I'll meet him at the reception Friday night."

"I doubt I'll talk to him before that," Uhura said, tartly, " but if I should happen to talk to him, I'll try to remember to relay the message."

"Fair enough," Christine said, as she punched in her credit code to cover their lunch at the table before Uhura could protest. Both women stood up and hugged each other briefly, making polite noises about seeing each other again. But as she stood outside the restaurant and watched Christine walking away, she had the sad realization that it would probably be a long time before they saw each other again, if ever. She knew Christine was still angry with her for sleeping with Spock, but more importantly than that, Christine knew that she would probably call Spock and tell him about their lunch date and what had been said about him. Josiah had warned her not to get involved, when Spock had called her, and, as usual, Josiah had been right. Uhura sighed, and, not for the first time, she regretted having turned down Spock's proposal all those years ago. As she headed back to her office, she decided that maybe it was time she gave Josiah an ultimatum and make sure she meant it this time.

* * *

"It's so good to see Christine get out and about again," the woman at Spock's elbow gushed. Spock nodded politely to her, trying to think of a graceful way to disentangle himself from the woman without being rude. His eyes scanned the crowd looking for Christine. She had met him at the front entrance of the hotel where the retirement party for Dr. James "Bucky" Rogers, a long-time colleague of hers, was being held. She had introduced him briefly to the doctor and his wife, and then they had spent some time circulating among the other guests until she had been spirited away by one of the other doctors for a brief conference. She had made her excuses to him and had promised not to be gone too long.

That had been forty-five minutes ago. He had stood around for a while trying not to look lost when his hostess had found him. Dorothy Rogers was a small sprightly woman with a lively personality. She had lost no time in linking her arm through his and, chattering a mile a minute, had introduced him to as many people as possible as "Christine's new friend." Spock started to protest that he was actually an old friend, but he found he couldn't compete with Dorothy's constant stream of conversation.

"I'm so happy to see that Chris has someone new in her life," she said now, looking up at him with bright shiny eyes. "Don't get me wrong, Donnie was a dear boy, and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about him and miss him ... he and Chris made such a lovely couple, but she's far too young to waste her life pining away for her lost love, don't you think?" she rambled on, oblivious to the suddenly cold look on Spock's face. It took all of his control not to shake her and shout at her to cease her ceaseless prattle. It was, in fact, only Christine's arrival that saved him from doing just that.

"There you are!" she exclaimed, coming up to Spock and his hostess. "Dorothy, can I steal Mr. Spock away from you now, or do you intend to keep him all to yourself?"

"Why, of course, you may, my dear!" Dorothy exclaimed, suddenly releasing Spock's arm, much to his infinite relief. "What was I thinking? I must say, he's such a dear sweet man; you're so lucky ... and handsome, too!" she added, patting him briefly on the chest. "He's been nice enough to put up with an old woman's chattering, but I'm sure he's more than happy to have you back again! Now, I really must go and find that husband of mine. You'll take good care of our Chris, won't you, sweetheart?" she asked Spock, but she was gone before he could answer.

"I'm sorry about that, Spock," Christine said, smiling at the Vulcan's somewhat stunned expression. "Don't mind Dorothy. She's really a very fine person. It's just that she's always had this lively personality. She only acts like a birdbrain, but underneath that flighty exterior is a very astute businesswoman."

"Indeed," Spock murmured. "I find it hard to believe. She does not seem to be a woman with a great deal of discretion."

"Do you remember that bottle of perfume you gave me for Christmas when we were nearing the end of the five year mission? I believe Uhura had a bottle of it, too."

"No, I cannot say that I do," Spock murmured, feeling suddenly uncomfortable. He wasn't exactly lying. He didn't remember the name of it, but he did remember the perfume and how it had affected him at the time.

"Now, what was it called?" Christine murmured, watching him closely. She knew him well enough that she could tell when he was uncomfortable, and she smiled inwardly at the thought that he was probably squirming. She reached out and grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing waiter while pretending to think aloud. "Something blue persuasion ... something like that..."

"Crystal Blue Persuasion, to be precise," Spock said, correcting her automatically before he caught himself, surprised that he even remembered the name after all this time. Christine looked at him raising an eyebrow. It was all she could do to keep from snickering. She had well and truly caught him with his pants down, figuratively speaking.

"Dorothy started the company that sells that perfume, among others. Everyone in the known galaxy has heard of Dorothy Rose perfumes. Well, she's Dorothy Rose."

"Indeed?" Spock suddenly had a different perspective on their hostess. "One wonders why she does not act like the astute business person that she is."

Christine shrugged. "It probably catches her competitors off guard. At any rate, I think I've had all the partying I can take. Would you mind terribly if we said our goodbyes and you took me home?"

"Not at all," Spock agreed, grateful that this portion of the evening was apparently over. They said their goodbyes and this time, Dorothy was much quieter, probably because her husband was standing next to her. She hugged Christine and smiled benignly at Spock as they left the reception area.

Spock hailed an air cab and they rode in silence to her apartment. They stood for a moment in awkward silence just inside the front entrance of the apartment. Christine knew he probably expected to be invited in for a cup of tea, and perhaps something more.

"Well, it's late, and I have to get an early start tomorrow," she said looking up at him. His face was, as usual, unreadable. "I'm going away for the weekend, Spock. I haven't forgotten what you told me the other night, but I need to get away for a while to think about things. I find I do my best thinking when I'm away from all the distractions of my daily life."

"That is understandable. Will you let me know when you return? Perhaps we could go out to dinner again."

"Yes, you'll hear from me when I get back," she said. "Dinner sounds lovely; but right now I can't say when I'll be free."

"Very well," he told her. "I will bid you good night then."

"Good night," she said and watched him walk out door. After he left, she went and got ready for bed, but before she went to sleep, she walked all over the apartment, picking things up and looking at them -- a picture of her and Donald on one of their weekend getaways to Mexico, the last novel he had been reading with its bookmark forever frozen at the last page he had read, his favorite sweater ... at last, she went around turning off the lights and making sure her security system was on, and went to bed.

Spock stood out on the sidewalk and tried to find Christine's apartment, but it was too high up. He turned and started the walk back to his rooms at the Vulcan Embassy. He was disappointed that Christine hadn't invited him in. He had hoped for an opportunity to make some more headway with her, but Uhura had already warned him to back off. Neither she nor Spock had any way of knowing that Christine's decision had been made the night of his marriage proposal.

* * *

Spock stood in front of his office window, staring out at the rain pouring down on the city below. The storm had come unexpectedly and had caught the local weather control office by surprise. Even with all the technological advances in meteorology, it seemed that Mother Nature still could not be entirely controlled, Spock mused. He sighed deeply and turned back to his desk. He really should be putting the finishing touches on the report he planned to present to the Vulcan Science Academy, but as he moved to his desk and sat down, all he could think about was Christine Chapel, and the way she'd looked at him earlier that day when she'd finally given him her answer.

She had called him that morning and asked if she could stop in to see him. Her smile and relaxed face was enough to give him hope that she had seen the logic of his proposal and would consider being his wife. He had never seen her look as lovely as she did when she walked into his office. She had reached up and stroked his cheek, much to his surprise. He had not drawn away, thinking surely this must be a good sign.

She sat down and they chatted idly for a few minutes about the weekend trip she had taken to Catalina Island. She'd stayed in the small city of Avalon, at the Pavilion Lodge, a hotel that was located not too far from the beach. She'd enjoyed a weekend of sun, fun, and contemplation. Spock gave her his undivided attention, although he was secretly feeling more than a little impatient to hear what she had decided about his roundabout marriage proposal.

Christine could sense that he was impatient, although he gave no outward sign of it. There was something in his eyes that told her she couldn't stall too much longer. She sighed inwardly. Well, Chris, old girl, you might as well bite the bullet. This isn't going to get any easier so better get it over with.

"I did a lot of thinking while I was there, Spock. I'm well aware of how important this is to you, and I wish with all my heart that I could say the words you want to hear. But, to be honest with you, I can't. I'm sorry. You'll always be an important part of my life, but I can never be your wife."

Spock sat unmoving, shocked at the sharp disappointment that suddenly pierced through his soul. Of all the answers she could have given him, that was the last one he expected. He should not have been surprised, he told himself, but he was.

"May I ask how you came to arrive at this decision?"

"It wasn't easy," she told him quietly. "I did a lot of soul searching. I'm still in love with you in a way, but that's not enough. There were a couple of things that helped me decide. First, there was my past relationship with Donald and his unexpected death. I'm still grieving for him. It would be unfair of me to saddle you with that and unwise for me to enter another relationship so soon after his death. Second, there was Valeris. I think you must have cared very deeply for her or she wouldn't have hurt you so badly that you turned to a human woman whom you haven't seen in years to fill your needs. We humans call that a rebound relationship. That's never a good idea."

"But surely, those are things that can be worked out," Spock protested. "I understand that you must grieve for the loss of your fiancé, but I am confident that in time we would have a stable and lasting relationship."

She got up then and went around his desk to stand in front of him. He swivelled his chair around to face her.

"Do you love me, Spock? Can you honestly, right now, at this moment tell me that you are in love with me?"

Spock cleared his throat. He was still uncomfortable with expressing emotions no matter how reconciled he'd become with his human half. "I have a great deal of affection for you," he said. "I am familiar with what humans call love, but I cannot say for certainty that I am capable of feeling that emotion. However, that should not prevent us from having a most satisfactory marriage. You would lack for nothing either materially or physically, if we were to marry."

"I know you'd be a good husband," she smiled. "Any woman would be lucky to have you. If you had asked me three years ago, even after I met Don, I would probably have said yes, in a heartbeat. But, as you said, there was no necessity for you to seek me out until now, and that was only because of Valeris' betrayal. I was never your first choice, and I find that I can't forgive that, nor forget it. Maybe it's petty of me to feel this way, but despite what happened between us the night of the Captain's wake, I just can't get over that. I'm sorry." She moved away from him and started to gather her things. Spock stood up and came to her.

"Apologies are illogical," he said, as he put his hands gently on her shoulders. "If an apology is necessary, then I should be the one to ask forgiveness. I underestimated you. I saw the young nurse on the Enterprise who once told me that she loved 'the Vulcan Spock and the human Spock.' I never realized that you would grow up to be such a remarkable woman. Your Donald was, indeed, a fortunate man. I regret that I did not know him ... and you will never know how much I regret that I did not appreciate your affection while I had the opportunity."

She leaned into him then and hugged him, holding him close to her, with her eyes closed. He slowly wrapped his arms around her and returned the embrace. He felt her lips brush his cheek, and then she stepped out of his embrace.

"Goodbye, Spock," she said as she went to the door.

"Goodbye, Christine," he replied. "May you find the happiness you so richly deserve."

"You too," she said, and walked out of the door and his life for good.

Now in the late afternoon, hours later, he could still see her vivid blue eyes in his mind and hear her voice and feel her body against his as she had embraced him.

"Kroykah!" he said to himself. "Kaiidth!" What was done was done. He turned back to his computer screen, but found he didn't have the heart to continue. He picked up the phone to call Uhura. Now he knew why humans hated Mondays.

Epilog

Spock rang the doorbell to Uhura's apartment. He had been sitting in his rooms at the Vulcan embassy watching the holonews for lack of anything better to do and had seen the news story concerning Josiah Quimby. He had reached out to dial Uhura's comlink and decided that he really needed to be there for her in case she needed a friend. She had been there for him when Christine had walked out of his life, always ready to lend a sympathetic ear and accompany him to an occasional social function, if need be. Now he was determined to return the favor.

Uhura came to the door at last. It was obvious from her disheveled appearance that she had been crying, and the nearly empty wine glass in her hand said that that wasn't all she'd been doing

"Oh, it's you," she said, and stood aside to let him enter.

"I came to see how you were," Spock told her, looking at her closely. "I saw the story a few minutes ago. It seemed logical that you would need a friend, or at least a shoulder to cry on."

"Who, me?" Uhura laughed bitterly. "What ever gave you THAT idea? Just because the man I've been living with for ten long years has been having an affair practically under my nose for the past year, and now even has the gall to marry the girl... Oh, Spock!" she wailed, and he gathered her into his arms and let her cry. Finally, after the worst was over, he helped her onto the couch and sat beside her.

"Men are dogs! Present company NOT excepted. What you did to Chris Chapel was horrible ... and to think I helped you do it..." She started sobbing afresh. Spock sighed. It was going to be a long night.

"This is not about me and Christine," he told her. "This is about you and Josiah. I am sorry that the man turned out to be a scoundrel. It is fortunate for him that he is not in this room. This time, I can truthfully say that I know how you feel. As you humans say, I have `been there, done that with Valeris... However, sitting here and feeling sorry for yourself is not the answer."

"And just what is the answer?" Uhura said, wiping her eyes and blowing her nose with his handkerchief.

"Putting on something aesthetically pleasing and agreeing to let me take you to dinner," Spock said. "Give me the opportunity to prove that not all males are of the canine variety."

Uhura had to laugh in spite of herself. Suddenly, the world didn't seem so bad after all, and she and Josiah had broken it off six months earlier after she'd given him her ultimatum and he refused to marry her. Now she knew why he was so anxious to let her go. She got up from the sofa.

"Don't go away, Mister, I'll be right back," she told him, and he leaned back, relieved that she seemed to be recovering from the initial shock.

As she dressed she pictured Josiah and his lovely young bride, the Lady Helen Windsor, a tall blond English woman with a marked resemblance to Diana, Princess of Wales. She was at least half his age if that, and Uhura couldn't help hoping that the young woman would give him a run for his money. At last she was dressed in a shimmering gold and orange gown that flowed from her shoulders and with it she wore topaz earrings with gold loops.

Spock stood up and raised an appreciative eyebrow.

"Is this better, Mr. Spock?" she asked, as he came forward to offer her a small package.

"Indeed, it is." He smiled one of his small smiles, and his eyes were warm.

"What's this?" she asked, surprised as she took the present.

"I found this the other day," he told her. "You need not wear it if you don't want to, but it brought back memories. I had intended to give it to you just before I returned to Vulcan, but I thought you could use it now."

Uhura opened the present and laughed delightedly.

"Why, Mr. Spock, you dog, you ... and I mean that in the nicest way!"

"Shall we go then?" he asked, and she nodded.

And as they walked out the door, the blue perfume bottle sat on the table, perhaps an omen of things to come.

The End