DISCLAIMER: Paramount/Viacom owns the characters. The story idea is mine and is copyrighted (c) 2001 by Momthing. Rated R.

Crystal Blue Persuasion

Momthing

Commander Spock was not a happy man. Of course, being Vulcan he would have denied it, if he had been asked. A Vulcan is incapable of being unhappy, he would have said to anyone who had accused him of it. And it would be illogical for him to be unhappy over such a trivial thing as a slip of paper with a name written on it: the name of the person to whom he had been assigned to give a Christmas present this year for the annual Command Officers Christmas party.

It was not that he was unused to such occasions. Serving on a ship populated mostly by humans and with a human captain in command had taught him to put up with almost anything. And it was not the fact that the person on the list was female ... he had given his share of presents to some of the female crewmembers of the USS Enterprise as the occasion demanded. But this particular female ... he glanced at the slip of paper again, hoping against hope that he had misread it. But, no, the name remained the same: Christine Chapel. He sighed. Lt. Uhura, the lovely Bantu communications officer happened to glance up just in time to see him. She got up from her communications panel and walked over to his science station.

"What's wrong, sugah?" she asked in a low, intimate voice that only he could hear. He handed her the slip of paper silently. She read the name on it and shook her head ruefully.

"You knew it was bound to happen sometime," she said. "What's the problem? It's just a Christmas party gift. It doesn't have to be anything fancy."

"It is not that simple, " he told her. "There is more to this than meets the eye, but the bridge is not the place to discuss this. Will you join me for dinner in my quarters this evening at 1900 hours?"

"I'd love to, Mr. Spock," Uhura smiled. "Don't worry, it'll all work itself out. I still think you're making more of it than you have to, but I'll be there."

He nodded once, in acknowledgment and then returned to his work, willing himself to shelve the problem with Miss Chapel until that evening. Uhura walked back to her workstation, wondering why he should be so nervous. Granted that Christine had feelings for him, but she'd been the soul of discretion, always treating him with professional courtesy and never letting her feelings show. Well, she'd find out more tonight, she guessed.

* * *

After dinner, in Spock's quarters later that evening, Uhura was seated on the small couch in his tiny front room, with her legs tucked under her. She'd chosen not to wear a uniform, appearing instead in a colorful loose fitting garment so that she could wear sandals. After a long day at work, the respite from regulation garments was welcome. Spock also had chosen to wear one of his dark Vulcan robes. He sat next to her on the couch; both were sipping a cup of herbal Vulcan tea. Uhura spoke first.

"Would you like to tell me what this is all about?" she asked. "Since when are you so nervous about giving a present to Christine? You don't really think she's going to see it as anything other than an office party gift, do you?"

Spock closed his eyes, briefly, trying to find the best way to describe his quandary to his friend, the only woman on the Enterprise with whom he had ever felt comfortable and completely at ease.

"Under normal circumstances, this would not disturb me," he said. "But these are not normal circumstances. We are approaching the end of the five-year mission. Soon we will all go our separate ways. And lately I have sensed a certain amount of ... desperation emanating from Nurse Chapel. It is nothing that I can attest to with certainty ... it is just ... a feeling, I have, for lack of a better term."

"And you think that she's going to try to put the moves on you?" Uhura asked, feeling sorry for poor Spock, who raised an eyebrow at her colloquialism.

"If by 'putting the moves on me', you mean am I afraid that she will try to initiate a relationship with me, then I suppose you are correct. And I am not inclined to pursue a relationship with her, or any other female for that matter."

"Well, gee, thanks, a lot, Spock!" Uhura teased him in mock anger.

"I meant no offense, Lieutenant," he protested, but she just laughed.

"I know you didn't, sugah," she smiled. "And there's a very easy solution to your problem. I don't believe for a moment that Chris would throw herself at you, but I've been known to be wrong. So, in case she does, just tell her you're honored, but you have another commitment, and leave it at that."

"But that would be a lie," Spock protested.

"Not really ... you do have another commitment; to yourself and whatever you want to do with your life. If she chooses to interpret your remark as an implication that you're in a relationship with someone, then that's her problem. I know that sounds cold, but sometimes you have to be that way ... for her sake as well as yours. If there really is no hope, then the sooner she realizes that, the better."

"Very well. I shall consider your advice. I am not sanguine about taking it, but it does seem a less painful solution to the problem," Spock admitted reluctantly. "But that still does not solve the problem of what kind of present I should give her."

"Leave that to me," Uhura smiled. "We're due for a brief layover on Starbase 6 in a couple of days. I'll pick up something suitable for her there, and even have it gift wrapped for you."

"Very well," Spock said. "Thank you, Miss Uhura."

"Anytime, sweetie, anytime," she said as she stood up to leave. And then, on a whim, she leaned down and kissed him softly on the cheek. She was gone before he could react.

* * *

Spock sat in his quarters deep in meditation. It was the evening of the Officer's Christmas Party, and he would be leaving for the Officer's Lounge shortly. He had been pondering Uhura's suggestion about telling Nurse Chapel that he had another commitment, and he believed he had the perfect solution to the problem; that is, providing that the other party involved would agree to accompany him to the party.

Despite Uhura's assurances, he wasn't entirely sure Christine wouldn't try to make some kind of effort to initiate an intimate relationship with him. He had only been in Sick Bay once since their earlier conversation in his quarters. But he had felt Christine's eyes on him the whole time he was there. The control she had maintained since the Psi 2000 incident was admirable, but apparently, it was starting to wear thin. Ah, well, he thought, there is no time like the present. He came out of his meditative trance and went straight to his comlink panel, where he beeped Uhura's quarters.

"Spock to Uhura."

"Uhura here," the lovely Bantu woman was obviously in the process of getting ready for the evening festivities. She wore an off-the-shoulder red lame dress that emphasized every curve. Spock found himself admiring the view, in spite of himself.

"You look aesthetically pleasing, Lieutenant," he said, and Uhura laughed.

"Compliments, Mr. Spock? Why, sugah, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you were up to no good."

"I merely speak the truth," he assured her. "I was merely calling to inquire if you would care to accompany me to the festivities tonight. That is, providing you have not made other arrangements."

"Why, I'd love to go to the Christmas Party with you, Mr. Spock," Uhura said, privately wondering what was going on. "It'll give me a chance to give you Christine's present. This business of me working the Beta shift while you work the Alpha shift is hell on my social life."

"I have rescheduled you for the Alpha shift starting next week," Spock assured her, "so your social life should be back to normal. In the meantime, I shall be at your door in approximately 5.4 minutes. Spock out."

True to his word, he was there precisely at the time he said he would be. Uhura had barely finished putting on her makeup, when her door chime rang. "Come," she called, and gasped when the door opened to reveal Spock in a gorgeous midnight blue tunic and pants set. She had expected him to be wearing his dress uniform.

"Why, Mr. Spock, how handsome you look!" she exclaimed as she welcomed him into her quarters. She was even more pleasantly surprised when he handed her a single white rose.

"I believe it is traditional on Earth for a man to hand a woman a small token of affection before they go out on a 'date', is it not?"

"Well, yes, sometimes," she said, murmuring over the rose. "But when did you find the time?"

"I asked Yeoman Rand where I might find some flowers in the next five minutes," Spock confessed, "and she was generous enough to give me this one from a bouquet she received from an admirer."

"Oh, I see," Uhura smiled inwardly. Poor Spock; he was just so charmingly innocent. He could seduce a woman without even trying just with that sincere disarming manner of his. She put the flower in a glass of water, and then turned to her little worktable and got a small package wrapped in attractive sky blue paper with a silver ribbon.

"Before I forget, here's the present for Christine," she said, but he shook his head as she started to give it to him.

"You carry it," he told her, as he offered her his arm. Uhura gave a mental shrug as she took his arm and they walked out the door. The party was in full swing when they got there; apparently, some of the officers had started celebrating early. The enlisted crew's party was scheduled for later that evening. Captain Kirk would put in an appearance there later on, but right then, he was busy laughing at a ribald joke that Dr. McCoy was telling. The Doctor was dress in a colorful outfit: a red sweatshirt that said HO! HO! HO! ; and he had on green plaid slacks. He was holding a mint julep in one hand and, to judge by the thickness of his southern drawl, he'd had quite a few of them already. Spock spotted Christine Chapel by the punch bowl talking to some people. She was dressed in an elegant midnight blue gown, also off the shoulder, and had a sapphire band across her head which emphasized her blonde hair; worn in an elaborate hairstyle.

McCoy was the first one to see them walk in, and his mouth dropped open as he saw the possessive way Spock was acting with Uhura, who was still holding on to his arm.

"Well, well, what have we here?" he drawled. "Commander Spock with a lovely lady on his arm ... I never thought I'd live to see the day! I gotta say this for you, Spock, you have excellent taste in women."

"Belay that, Bones!" Kirk said, as he smiled his welcome at Uhura and his first officer. "Miss Uhura, you're looking exceptionally lovely tonight."

"Thank you, Captain," Uhura smile back. "I wish I could say the same for you, but somehow, lovely doesn't describe you tonight. More like ruggedly handsome."

Kirk was wearing a lumberjack red-and-black checked shirt and some jeans and soft moccasins. He was not the only one that had decided on an eclectic wardrobe. Apparently, most of the staff had opted to go civilian in various states of dress, ranging from the casual to the formal like herself and Spock. One or two were wearing dress uniform, but Uhura had the feeling that would change before the evening was over.

Spock remained attached to her for most of the evening, fetching her drinks when she requested, and more or less hanging around her. If Uhura hadn't known better, she could have almost sworn that Spock had suddenly discovered a sudden passion for her. But somehow, she doubted that was the case. She had a feeling there was some ulterior motive behind his behavior. At last, it was time to open the presents.

Jim Kirk was the master of ceremonies and there was much laughter at some of the presents that the crewmembers received. They ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime. McCoy got a pair of boxer shorts with bright red hearts from the Captain. Lt. Sulu got a pair of leopard skin type briefs from Ensign Chekov, and the Captain got a pair of argyle socks from Uhura. Mr. Spock got a book of pre-reform Vulcan poetry from Dr. M'Benga. And Christine Chapel exclaimed in delight at her present: an exquisite bottle of deep blue perfume. The label on the bottle said "Crystal Blue Persuasion."

She managed to find Spock in the crush of people, and tried to thank him, but the noise was too great. She motioned him to follow her, and against his better judgment, he did.

* * *

There was a little room, just off the Officer's Lounge that was sometimes used for small, intimate dinners. Spock and the Captain used it for their chess games when the Lounge was too noisy and crowded to concentrate. The only furniture in there was two chairs and a table. But it had a view port where one could see the stars as they flashed by. It was this room that Christine went into and Spock found her there, leaning against the table, holding the perfume he'd given her, still in its box, in her hand.

"Nurse Chapel," he said, standing by the doorway.

"Oh, come in here, Spock," she said, gaily. "I swear I'm not gonna bite you." Her bright blue eyes and glittery smile made him uncomfortable. Although she did not appear to be drunk, he could tell she had been sampling the champagne punch rather freely, and probably some of the stronger alcoholic beverages as well.

"I am quite comfortable here, thank you," he said, unmoving. That was a mistake. She put the perfume down and came towards him, swaying provocatively as she did. She stumbled, slightly, and would have fallen if he had not had such quick reflexes. He held her arms, and she laughed softly as she swayed against him and wrapped her arms around his neck. He stiffened and tried to draw away, but she merely tightened her hold.

"Oh, don't be so shy, my pet," she crooned softly. "I just want to thank you for the lovely, lovely present ... and to let you know how much I'm gonna miss you when the mission ends..." She tried to kiss him on the mouth, but he turned his face away at the last minute and her lips grazed his cheek instead.

"Nurse Chapel, please, control yourself," he said hoarsely as she rubbed her body in a highly suggestive manner against his.

"Christine," she sighed into his ear. "My name is Christine. Why can't you ever remember that?"

"Christine, " he murmured, going along with her for the moment. "You have had too much to drink. You are not yourself. Perhaps this would be a good time for you to return to your quarters."

"Oh, yes, let's do that," she whispered. "Let's go to my quarters and I can show you how truly grateful I am, and just how much I love you. You know I still do love you, don't you? Even after all this time..."

"Yes, yes, I am aware of that, but now is not the time," he said, trying gently to disengage himself by grabbing her arms and removing them from around his neck. But Christine was stubborn, and had the strength of the alcohol working in her favor. She leaned forward again, even though Spock practically had her arms pinned behind her back, holding her wrists, and tried to lean into him again. He instinctively pulled away from her, trying to keep her from touching him. Her alcohol-induced desire was beginning to affect him. It was not a welcome sensation. Christine sensed his resistance through her drunken state and tears began to fill her eyes.

"Why won't you let me love you, Spock?" she sobbed. "I'm not going to hurt you. I only want what's best for you; can't you see that? Why won't you love me?"

"Christine, I cannot," Spock said, remembering what Uhura had told him. "I am committed to someone else..." That was not how he was supposed to say it, he realized and tried to correct his mistake. "That is, I have another commitment."

He might as well have saved his breath. All Christine heard was the "someone else" part. She stepped back from him abruptly. Her face changed from one of pathos to one of anger.

"Someone else?" she hissed. "You're committed to someone else. All these years, I've waited patiently, turning down offers and invitations from other men, and all because I was waiting for you to notice me... You wanted me on Platonius; I know you did ... and when we were en route to Vulcan, so that you could get married, and you told me it was illogical for us to protest against our natures ... tell me you didn't want me then!"

"That is all in the past," he said, firmly. "That is not now. You are a wonderful woman, Christine and have many redeeming qualities. I am sure that you will find someone worthy of your affections. But I am not that someone."

Christine had backed away from him and was leaning against the table once more, looking at him with wide blue eyes. She shivered and wrapped her arms around herself. For a moment, she felt sheer hatred against this man whom she'd given her heart to.

"Just tell me one thing," she said, her voice trembling with rage. "WHO IS SHE? And what can SHE give you that I can't? Or is it possible that it's a man instead? There are rumors, you know..."

"Nurse, please, I beg you, stop this," Spock said, truly distressed for her sake. "The one to whom I am committed is irrelevant to this discussion. Let us please just part as friends, and forget this discussion ever took place."

"Mr. Spock," Uhura's voice broke the tension for the moment, as Spock turned swiftly to face her, and Christine took a moment to regain her composure. Uhura was standing in the doorway, taking in the scene.

"Yes, Uhura, what is it?"

"The Captain wants you. He didn't say what it was about, just that he wants to talk to you."

"Very well," Spock said, grateful for an excuse to get out of there. He stopped briefly on his way out and brushed Uhura's cheek gently with his fingers. "Do not leave. I wish to escort you to your quarters."

"All right," Uhura said, puzzled once more at his uncharacteristic behavior. She turned back to look at Christine. "Chris, are you all right?"

"It's YOU," Christine whispered, looking at Uhura. "You're the one he's committed to. It's you!"

"What on earth are you talking about?" Uhura was beginning to realize that Christine was drunk. "Who's committed to whom?"

"Spock," Christine hissed. "The bastard told me he couldn't love me because he had another commitment to someone else ... and it's YOU, isn't it, you bitch?"

Christine slapped her before Uhura had a chance to react to her statement. She couldn't help herself. She slapped back.

"Get a grip, Chris!" she snapped. "Spock and I are just good friends, and so are you and I. There's been a misunderstanding. I'm sure he didn't mean to say it the way it sounded."

"Friend? Ha!" Christine snarled back. "Some friend you are! Steal the man I love right out from under my nose! How dare you call yourself my friend! HOW DARE YOU? But then, why should I be surprised? You have half the men on this ship practically wrapped around your little finger, including the Captain. I guess you won't be happy 'til you've bedded them all, will you?"

Uhura took a deep breath, trying not to react to Christine's drunken rage. She knew Christine would probably regret her behavior in the morning when she thought about it. But then, Christine said the wrong thing: "Tell me, Uhura, how does it feel to be Spock's whore ... does he fuck as good as the Captain?" That did it. Uhura lost her temper.

"Now, listen here, you self-righteous heifer," she snarled and her voice was ice. "Don't you blame me because you've wasted five years of your life mooning over someone who's made it clear he's not interested in you. And whether he does or not is none of your damn business. Now, I've considered you a friend before this, but NO one ... NO one ... calls me a whore, not even you!"

Christine broke down, then, sinking down into a chair and sobbing, "Why did it have to be you? Why couldn't he love me? Why?"

Uhura shook her head in disgust. Spock had been right about Christine's desperation all along. She had to admit she was disappointed. She'd expected Chris to be stronger. The woman sitting before her sobbing in a drunken rage was not a pretty sight. Seeing that there was nothing she could do to help, Uhura left the room and found Dr. M'Benga. She told him that Christine had had one too many drinks and needed help getting back to her quarters. She saw him heading for the little room where Christine was, and, seeing Spock in conversation with the Captain, went to stand beside him, just as the Captain was leaving to put in his appearance at the enlisted crewmembers' party.

"Spock," she tugged gently at his sleeve to get his attention. He looked down at her and frowned slightly.

"Are you all right?" he asked. "Your cheek is red."

"Christine and I got into a little discussion," Uhura replied. "It's a long story. Let's just say you were right and leave it at that. Take me back to my quarters. I'm ready to call it a night."

"Very well," he said. "I have had all of the festivities I can tolerate. I, too, am ready to retire."

He held out an arm to her, and they left, arm in arm, the same way they entered. Unseen by either of them, Christine leaned against Dr. M'Benga, clutching Spock's present in her hand, and watched them with jealous angry eyes.

* * *

When they got to Uhura's quarters, Uhura turned to Spock.

"Can you come in for just a few minutes? I think we need to talk."

"Yes," he said. "Undoubtedly, we do."

She kicked off her shoes and motioned him to sit on the couch.

"If you'll excuse me for just a moment, I'm going to get ready for bed," she told him. "Make yourself at home." It was a good fifteen minutes before she emerged from her bedroom, wearing a fluffy white robe with a nightgown underneath. She was barefoot. Again, she sat next to him on her small couch, and tucked her legs under her. He reached out and gently touched the cheek where Christine had slapped her. The redness had faded somewhat, but he could still see it if he looked closely enough.

"In case you're wondering, Christine slapped me," Uhura said, looking at Spock. He winced and closed his eyes briefly, as she continued, "She seemed to be under the impression that you and I were a couple. I wonder where she could have gotten that idea?"

Spock sighed. "I am sorry. I am not very good at this sort of thing. When Nurse Chapel expressed her love for me and invited me to her quarters so that she could express her affection, I said the only thing I could think of. I told her I was committed to someone else. Then I remembered how you told me to phrase my answer, but by the time I said it, it was already too late."

Uhura looked at Spock. "Why did you really want me to go to the party with you?"

He turned his head away, unable to look her in the eye. At the time, his plan had seemed so logical. "I thought that if Miss Chapel saw me with another woman on my arm, she would realize that I was not interested in her, and she would not be so inclined to approach me. "

He leaned back against the sofa, closed his eyes, and still refused to look at her.

"I am a fool, " he said, disgusted with his handling of the whole unpleasant business. "I ask forgiveness. If I had known that you would have been injured because of this, I would never have considered..."

Uhura leaned forward and gently took his chin in her hand, turning his face so that he was forced to look into her eyes. To his infinite relief, her gaze was compassionate. He could tell she was still angry, but somehow, he sensed that the anger was not directed at him, though it should have been.

"I ought to be very angry with you right now," she said, as if confirming his thoughts. "You had no right to involve me without discussing it with me first. If it were anybody else, you and I would be having a knock-down drag-out right about now."

She took a deep, calming breath. "Spock, we've known each other for a long time. I know what a kind, decent, caring man you are. I know you didn't mean for me to get hurt. And, I hate to tell you this, but your little plan probably wouldn't have worked if Christine had been sober. She knows what good friends we are. She wouldn't have thought anything of seeing us at that party together. It was the alcohol that did her in."

"What can I do to make amends?" Spock asked, grateful that she wasn't angry with him. "Perhaps, if I were to explain to Nurse Chapel..."

"You'll do no such thing!" Uhura's voice crackled with anger and resentment. "I used to feel sorry for Christine, and I've even been in her shoes a couple of times ... oh, not with you," she hastened to reassure him as his eyes widened slightly in astonishment. "But I've had my share of unrequited loves, so I can readily sympathize ... but that still doesn't excuse what that bitch did to me and what she called me!"

She stood up abruptly and turned to face him. She was magnificent in her anger. "Oh, no, sir, she's not getting away with calling me a whore! I'd like to teach that cow a lesson she'll never forget ... are you willing to help me do it?"

"What did you have in mind?" Spock gulped. He had never seen Uhura so angry. It frightened him. The phrase "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" crossed his mind, but it didn't seem to apply here, since he hadn't scorned her.

"Oh, nothing violent," she said, and the corners of her mouth curled up in a small smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. "Just a continuation of what you've already started. We're due to reach Earth and stand down in six months, right?" He nodded.

"Well, then, sugah, for the next six months, you've got yourself a girlfriend. Are you game?"

"I am not quite sure I understand," he stammered.

"It's really not that complicated," Uhura said. "For the next six months, you and I will be seen together off-duty as a couple, especially where Christine can see us. Don't worry; I won't embarrass you by being overly affectionate in public or anything like that. The main thing is to give her the impression that we're engaged in a meaningful relationship, even if we're not. How about it? "

Spock wondered briefly what would happen if he refused. He decided he didn't want to find out. One woman angry with him was enough. He definitely didn't want Uhura angry with him as well.

"Very well," he assented, reluctantly. "I will go along with your scenario, for the moment. But, bear in mind that I lack experience in these matters."

"Oh, don't worry, Mr. Spock, honey," Uhura smiled seductively. "I have enough experience for the both of us. You just leave everything up to me. Now get out of here so I can get some sleep. I have a feeling tomorrow's going to be a long day."

"Very well," he said, and stood up to go. "I shall see you in the morning. Sleep well."

"You too, Commander," she said as she saw him to the door. He stopped abruptly and looked down at her. "You are an extraordinary woman, Miss Uhura."

"And you are a sweet-talking devil, Mr. Spock," she laughed as she shooed him out the door.

* * *

Christine felt like hell. She cracked open an eye as the computerized alarm buzzed in her ear: "The time is zero six hundred. It is time for you to get up. The time is zero six hundred. It is time for you to get upů"

She groaned. "Computer, shut up!" she growled.

"I am unable to respond to that command," the computer calmly answered back as Christine sat up abruptly, and then wished she hadn't. The computer continued its litany.

"The time is zero six oh two. It is time for you to get up. The time is zero six oh two. It is time for you to get up..."

"Computer, terminate alarm function," Christine managed, and to her relief, the computer obeyed. Christine's head felt as if it was about ready to explode. The slightest noise or movement was an irritant to her raw nerves. She looked down to find that she was still dressed in last night's finery. She tried to remember why and couldn't. All she could remember was drinking too much champagne and wanting to thank Spock for his thoughtful present. The bottle of perfume stood by her nightstand, put there by the considerate Dr. M'Benga. Christine decided she'd probably feel better after a hot shower and a cup of coffee. She slowly undressed and jumped into the shower letting the hot water run over her, clearing her head somewhat. She wiped herself dry and put on her fluffiest bathrobe, going over to the replicator and ordering a hot cup of coffee, black, no cream, no sugar. She normally kept a few anti-intoxicant pills around for those rare occasions when she gave herself permission to drink too much. Last night had been one of those occasions. She reached into her nightstand and took one now, washing it down with a sip of coffee.

The events of last night's party were still somewhat hazy. She remembered laughing at the Captain's gift to Dr. McCoy, and raising an eyebrow at Chekov's gift to Sulu. She even remembered the dignified way that Spock had thanked Dr. M'Benga for the book of Pre-Reform Vulcan poetry ... a book that she'd given M'Benga from her private collection to give to Spock, since he hadn't had time to go shopping. And she even remembered how lovely Nyota had looked in that off-the-shoulder red lame dress that hugged her body and revealed every curve...

Her cup froze in her hand midway to her mouth. She was beginning to remember the rest ... Spock, the room, her attempt to seduce him ... and his response that he was already committed to someone else ... her assumption that it had been Uhura whom he was talking about ... and what she had said and done to Uhura.

"Oh my god," she moaned, putting her cup down and holding her head in her hands. "What have I done? What have I done?"

* * *

She was in her small office in Sick Bay when she heard Spock's voice. It was coming from the general reception area, where patients waited to be seen by the medical staff for minor emergencies and regularly scheduled appointments. It had been a grim morning. Her boss, Leonard McCoy had been in a grouchy mood ... apparently, the rest of his evening hadn't gone as planned. She had seen him leave the party on the arm of Lt. Geraldine Stevens, a beautiful woman from astrophysics. She wondered if he'd taken an anti-intoxicant pill. If he had, it hadn't seemed to affect him; he had all the symptoms of a major hangover. She was surprised he'd even made it in to work.

Not that she was in any better shape herself, she thought ruefully. It was all she could do to maintain her professional dignity as scenes from the encounter between herself and Spock and Uhura kept running through her mind with increasing clarity. She couldn't help but wish that life had an instant replay feature so that she could relive the past twenty-four hours and make it come out different. But no amount of wishing was going to change those unpleasant events.

It was time for her to pay the piper. As much as she dreaded going out there, she was going to have to apologize sometime for her behavior to the appropriate parties. She didn't look forward to it; least of all, apologizing to the Vulcan whom she'd loved all these years. God only knew how he felt about her now, especially after last night. Oh, well, she sighed, nothing ventured nothing gained. She threw her shoulders back and walked out with her head held high, trying to project a confidence that she didn't feel.

"Star Fleet Command expects a complete ship's inventory to be turned in immediately, so that they will have a better indication of what the Enterprise will need for the refit when we reach Earth," Spock was saying to McCoy, who looked thoroughly disgusted.

"Well, Star Fleet Command can kiss my butt," McCoy growled. "They'll get their report when they get their report. I'm a doctor, not a fortuneteller! Hell, anything can happen in six months' time, you know that! How in Sam Hill are they gonna be able to estimate what Enterprise needs based on what we had available six months ago? Blasted beaurocrats! They LOVE to push paper!"

"Be that as it may, Doctor," Spock replied. "The facts are that Star Fleet Command has ordered us to do this; your emotional state is completely irrelevant. It is illogical to rail against that which cannot be changed."

"Blast you and your logic," McCoy muttered. "All right, I'll put Christine on it right away. Christine!"

"I'm right here, Leonard. You don't have to yell," Nurse Christine Chapel said. Spock barely acknowledged her presence.

"Good. Spock has something he wants to tell you," McCoy said, as he got up and headed towards his office, shutting the door behind him.

"Would you care to step into my office, Mr. Spock?" she gestured towards her small office.

"Unnecessary, Nurse. What I have to say will not take long."

"I already know about the ship's inventory. I got a memo from Star Fleet Medical about it last week, and I've already started working on it. But I do have something I need to say to you, and I'd rather not do it here. I promise I won't take too much of your precious time," she added to forestall any objections he might have.

"Very well," he assented reluctantly. "But please be brief. The Captain expects me back on the bridge."

They walked into her office and Christine leaned against her desk for support. Spock stood in front of her waiting, his hands clasped behind his back in his usual fashion, and his face totally devoid of any outward expression of emotion. Christine cleared her throat.

"I want to apologize for my behavior last night," she began. "There's no excuse for my behavior. I can understand if you can't find it in yourself to forgive me, but I hope someday we can be friends again."

"Apologies are unnecessary," Spock said "I am well aware of what can happen to humans when they imbibe too much alcohol. As far as I am concerned, the incident is best forgotten. As far as any future friendship between us, let us just say that there are always possibilities. I have nothing but the highest regard for your professional qualifications. Now if that is all..."

"No, wait, there's one more thing," Christine said. "If you'll forgive my being personal, I just want to congratulate you on your newfound relationship to whoever it is you're committed too. I wish you both every happiness in the world."

Spock found himself looking at Christine with new respect. It had not been easy for her to stand there and apologize to him, and to her credit she had done it in such a way that she had managed to retain her dignity without denying responsibility for her actions. He wished he could find it in himself to return her affection; certainly it was not that she was unworthy of it. He almost found himself telling her that there was nothing between him and Uhura, but decided that he should discuss it with Uhura first, to be on the safe side. Having seen what Uhura could be like when she was angered, he did not want that anger directed towards him. So, he did what any man would have done under the circumstances: he took the coward's way out.

"Thank you,' he said. "Now I really should be going."

"Of course," Christine nodded. "I'll have a completed inventory on your desk by the end of the week."

"Very well," he replied as he left her office. Christine walked around her desk and plopped down into her chair, heaving a big sigh of relief.

"Whew," she thought. "That went rather well. Now all I have to worry about is apologizing for Uhura, but that shouldn't be too hard. Nyota and I have always been good friends, and it's not like this is the first time she's ever seen me drunk. Surely, she won't let this one incident ruin our friendship."

But it was not to be that easy as she was to discover to her sorrow later that day.

* * *

"Bridge to Captain Kirk."

"Kirk here. What is it, Lieutenant?"

"Sir, you have an incoming message from Star Fleet Command," Uhura replied. "Shall I send it down to your quarters?"

"Star Fleet? Now what do they want?" Kirk snapped, irritated at the intrusion into his precious time. He had put in a brief appearance on the bridge that morning, and then had gone to his quarters to work on the infamous inventory and report on the state of the Enterprise that Star Fleet insisted it wanted before the ship reached Earth. "See if Mr. Spock can take care of it, Uhura."

"Sir, it's marked Eyes Only," Uhura responded. She could hear Kirk's sigh of exasperation through her headphone.

"Very well, Lieutenant, send it down here. Kirk out."

Uhura sent the message to Kirk's quarters and wondered what it was all about. She watched the rest of the bridge crew as they went about their normal routine. No one had heard her discussion with the Captain, since she had muted her communication to him, so they were unaware of the mysterious message from Star Fleet. There had been surprisingly little fallout from last night's Christmas party. The various crewmembers that she observed were either visiting quietly among themselves while they worked, like Sulu and Chekov, or were intently watching their boards; except for Mr. Scott, who was seated in the Captain's chair waiting for Spock to return from Sick Bay.

Uhura reflected on how much she was going to miss the Enterprise when she left, but most especially the bridge crew. She knew that theoretically there was no elitism in Star Fleet, but the theory fell far short of the reality, especially on a star ship. Of the four hundred and thirty members who served aboard the Enterprise, the ones that comprised the Bridge crew, all three shifts, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma, were considered to be the cream of the crop. Bridge assignment was a prize that nearly every cadet strove for in Star Fleet. Few made it. Bridge personnel had to be head and shoulders above the rest, because they were the ones who were often in the thick of the action. If Security was considered dangerous duty, bridge duty was equally as dangerous, although Star Fleet didn't often acknowledge it. The Bridge crew was the first to know what was going on in any given situation, and often the first to suffer casualties in battle. This created a strong bond of loyalty among them. They might have friends in other departments of the ship, but if it came down to choices, their first loyalty was always to the people who served alongside them on the bridge.

And speaking of friends, Uhura noted that Spock had returned to the Bridge and had relieved Mr. Scott, who was anxious to relinquish the center seat so that he could go back to his "wee bairns" down in engineering. He caught her looking at him and nodded once in acknowledgment, but didn't speak to her.

"Kirk to Uhura." Kirk's voice over the Bridge intercom interrupted her reverie.

"Uhura here."

"Tell the Helm to set a course for Cetara. Best possible speed."

"Acknowledged," Uhura responded as she turned to Sulu, the helmsman on duty.

"Mr. Sulu, Captain Kirk wants us to set course for Cetara. Best possible speed."

"Captain," Spock asked. "May I ask the reason for our diversion to Cetara?"

"You may ask, Mr. Spock," Kirk replied. "And all I can tell you is that it's nothing serious. Just a favor we're doing for the president of the Federation Council. You'll know more before we reach the planet. Just be patient."

"Very well, Captain. Spock out."

"Course plotted and laid in, Mr. Spock."

"Ahead warp factor six, Mr. Sulu."

"Ahead warp factor six," Sulu echoed as he keyed in the commands to his computer.

Uhura could swear she almost felt the ship leap ahead, although she knew it was probably just her imagination. Spock came up beside her just then and leaned over, looking at her board as if he were discussing some communication problem with her.

"Nyota," he murmured and Uhura's ears pricked up instantly. Spock rarely called her by her first name. "We must talk ... when do you plan to take your lunch break?"

"In about fifteen minutes, why?"

He sighed. "I cannot leave the bridge again for some time. I had hoped we would have more privacy." He glanced quickly around the bridge, but no one was paying any special attention to them.

"As you know, I have just returned from Sick Bay. While I was there, Nurse Chapel invited me into her office for a talk. She apologized most graciously for her behavior."

"I see," Uhura nodded. "And now you feel bad about deceiving her about our so-called commitment and you want to call the whole thing off."

"Yes," Spock said, grateful that she understood. "You are not angry?"

Uhura sighed. "No, not really. I'm still angry with her, but I can't see myself forcing you to participate in something that would make you uncomfortable. I'm sorry, Spock; I guess I wasn't thinking rationally."

"I trust this will not impair our friendship in any way?" Spock asked, relieved that she was taking it so well.

"Spock, honey, you just try getting rid of me," Uhura chuckled. "I'll be dancing at your wedding!"

"And I shall dance at yours," he intoned solemnly with a twinkle in his eye. "Or at least, play the lyre."

Uhura chuckled, as Spock favored her with one of her rare smiles.

"Well, you two seem to be having fun," a familiar voice cut into their conversation. "Is this a private party, or can anyone join in?"

"Christine!"

"Nurse Chapel!"

Christine Chapel stood there, tapping her foot impatiently, but she was smiling. She would be damned if she'd let either Spock or Uhura see how much the sight of them laughing and joking together hurt her.

"I just came by to see if Nyota would like to have lunch with me."

* * *

Christine and Nyota took their lunches to a secluded corner of the mess hall. At first, they ate their meal in silence, each waiting for the other to make the first move. Or rather, Nyota was waiting for Christine's apology. She knew that was really why the nurse had come to the bridge, to make sure that Uhura would accept her lunch invitation. Otherwise, she could have contacted her via intercom on her private channel. As if reading her mind, Christine put her drink down and spoke.

"Ny, I'm sorry about what happened last night. I know I was out of line, even given the fact that I'd had one too many drinks. I don't know what possessed me to act the way I did towards you. I guess I just couldn't bear the thought of Spock with another woman, and I don't blame you if you're still mad at me."

Nyota listened as Christine stammered her apologies. She could tell that Christine was sincere. She wished that forgiveness were that easy. She didn't have to look far to figure out the real reason for her anger, and she put her fork down on her plate, as she tried to find the right words to tell it to Christine.

"Spock and I share something special," she said finally. "I like to think I'm one of the few people ... women ... on this ship who doesn't want something from him, other than his friendship. I've been privileged to have that for five years, and it wasn't easy getting close to him the way I have."

Christine nodded. "Yes, I've noticed that you two get along well together. That's why when he said he had another commitment, I just naturally assumed..."

At this point, Nyota held up her hand. "Wait, let me finish." Christine sat back and waited.

"As I was saying, Spock and I share something beautiful and special. Last night you took that relationship and basically trashed it by accusing me of being his whore and turning it into something common and tawdry. And let me tell you, that man is neither common nor tawdry ... and neither am I!"

Christine looked as if she'd been slapped. Whatever she had been hoping for, it wasn't this reaction. Nyota took another bite of food, trying to recover her composure. She couldn't help but wondering if Nyota herself didn't feel more than friendship for Spock.

"Oh, god, I am so sorry," she said, distress evident in her voice. "Surely you know that's not how I really feel about either of you. I know there's nothing going on between you and Spock other than friendship. And I've already apologized to Spock. I even wished every happiness to him and his new love, whoever she is. Please say you'll forgive me."

"Christine, can I be honest with you?" Uhura asked, and Christine nodded, eager to be on good terms with her friend once again.

"You and I have known each other since the first day we came aboard the Enterprise. And I've listened to you go on and on about Spock ever since that incident on Psi 2000. I've tried very hard to be a sympathetic and supportive listener. I've even encouraged you to find another love interest and stood beside you as you told me you could never love anyone as much as you love Spock ... but I've got to say that last night wouldn't have happened if you'd taken my advice and tried to find happiness within yourself instead of waiting for Spock to come along and hand it to you on a silver platter."

"Oh, Ny, don't you think I know that?" Christine was becoming exasperated by now. This was not turning out as well as she thought it would. "Don't you think I haven't told myself over and over again that I should stop kidding myself, that there's other men out there? Every old adage and cliché you can think of, I've used to try to talk myself out of loving and wanting Spock. But, I just can't seem to help myself ... every time I see him, I want to be close to him. You don't know how jealous I am of the way you two get along so well together. When I saw you two talking as I walked into the bridge..." But here, she stopped, not wanting to tell Uhura about the sharp stab of pain that had filled her soul when she'd seen the Vulcan leaning over Uhura and talking close to her ear so that no one would overhear their conversation. If Uhura had leaned her face up a certain way, they would have been kissing, that's how close they were. The two women stopped talking and just stared at each other for the moment. It was Uhura who broke the spell.

"Well, I tell you what," she said. "Let's just let sleeping dogs lie. I understand it was the alcohol that made you act the way you did and I think in time, I'll be able to let it go. Just don't push it, Christine. Give me some time to work things out in my own way."

"Fair enough," Christine replied, as she realized that was the best she was going to get from Uhura. "In the meantime, are you busy tonight? Engineering is having their Christmas party tonight, and I thought I might drop in for a few minutes."

"I'm sorry, I can't tonight," Uhura responded, as she gathered the remains of her lunch and prepared to go back to the bridge. "Spock and I are rehearsing for the Christmas show. We're doing a medley of old Christmas songs. Maybe some other time."

"Of course," Christine said, gathering her own things and getting ready to head back to Sick Bay. Uhura walked out without a second glance, and Christine reflected sadly that she might possibly have lost a friendship. She sincerely hoped not.

* * *

Uhura hummed quietly to herself as she stepped out of the shower. The day had been more draining than she'd thought it would be. Christine's apology left a bad taste in her mouth. She knew Christine was sincere and regretted the incident, but she couldn't seem to stop dwelling on it. She sighed and looked in her closet for something loose and comfortable. She finally settled on a wine colored muumuu with white orchids. She wore nothing underneath it save a pair of underwear and her favorite pair of gold sandals. As a final touch, she added a pair of gold hoop earrings. She looked at herself in the mirror and smiled. Spock was due to arrive any minute now. He was never late for their rehearsals.

They had been meeting in her quarters for rehearsals and private lessons for many years. He had taught her to play the Vulcan lyre that he played and had bought her one for her birthday two years ago. Uhura examined herself once more, satisfied with her appearance, and then her eyes fell on the small bottle of perfume ... the same type of dark blue perfume that she had bought Spock to give to Christine for Christmas. She picked it up and read the label ... Crystal Blue Persuasion, made from the finest Deltan flowers.

Hmmm ... she thought, looking at the bottle once more. Spock always commented on the kind of perfume she wore when they were alone together like this. She quickly opened the bottle and put a little bit on her wrists, neck, behind her ears ... and a little bit between her breasts. Not that he would ever look there, but it made her feel sexy and seductive. It was a little game they played. She would always dress in something slightly seductive and he would always ignore it, but he never failed to notice what she wore. She found that out one day when he had come over to her quarters for a lesson, and she hadn't changed out of her uniform. The lesson wasn't nearly as relaxed. In fact, it was downright formal. She decided that he preferred the more relaxed atmosphere she created when she wore her civilian outfits. As an experiment, she had worn a one piece low cut short coveralls that showed off a lot of her legs and even a little cleavage. He had been a lot more pleasant to work with that day. From then on, she made it a point to always wear something a little sexy when he came over.

The door chime rang and she called out, "Come in!" Spock came inside and she could tell from the look in his eyes that he approved of her outfit. She smiled.

"Come in, Mr. Spock. Right on time, as always."

"I endeavor always to be punctual," he told her, as he sat down on the couch. She fetched her lyre from the bedroom and came down to sit beside him.

"I trust you and Nurse Chapel had a satisfactory lunch?" he asked her as he took the lyre from her and tuned it. He had come directly from the bridge and had not stopped in his quarters to pick up his own instrument.

"It was all right," Uhura said noncommittally as she watched his long slender fingers tune her strings. He had the most beautiful hands she had ever seen. For a moment, her mind flashed on an image of them stroking something other than the lyre. She blinked. Now where had that come from? Spock was her friend, she reminded herself sternly. She had never permitted herself to think of him otherwise, and was not about to start now.

"I believe we are ready now," he said.

"OK, which song would you like to rehearse first?"

"We still have a few days before we need rehearse the songs," he said. "Instead, I thought I would teach you a new melody. It sounds simple but it is one of the more difficult pieces that a second-year student can play. I believe you are of sufficient ability to play it."

"Well, let's hear it then," Uhura encouraged him. He played it through for her once and then broke it down for her. He would play a chord and give her the lyre so that she could try it. They made fair progress until they reached one combination that gave Uhura no end of trouble.

"Wait," Spock said. "Turn around away from me. I shall show you how to play that section by holding your hands in mine and placing the fingers in the correct position."

She did as he told her, turning her back to him, and feeling his presence close to her as his arms slid around her.

"Lean back against me," he told her in a husky voice. "It will enable me to better assist you."

She leaned back against him, and felt his hands cover her own. It seemed that she had never been more aware of his maleness. This was the first time he'd ever done this. She had to keep telling herself that he was only her teacher and that she shouldn't let her emotions run away with her. It was hard work though, keeping her thoughts from wandering down dangerous paths. But it soon became clear that she wasn't the only one who was having problems. Spock found himself intoxicated by the smell of Uhura's perfume. It wasn't anything he could put his fingers on ... the smell was pleasant, strangely reminiscent of Earth's magnolia flower and the Vulcan telyra, a beautiful dark blue flower that grew only in the hill region of Vulcan. But he found himself very much aware of Uhura's femininity as she leaned back against him. He couldn't help burying his nose in her hair and breathing in the perfume that was emanating from her body. The robe she was wearing was not fastened completely, he noted. She had left just enough unfastened that he could get a glimpse of cleavage as he looked down. She was not wearing a brassiere.

"You must place your fingers so..." he said, hoarsely, as he began to position his fingers against hers in a certain way. "Then stroke downwards, thus..." and he moved her hand down. A discordant note was his reward. Uhura expected him to say something, but he made to move to correct her. Instead, she became aware that his mouth was buried in her neck and his hands tightened convulsively over hers as his lips caressed the side of her neck. She moaned and turned her head aside so that he could reach even more of her neck. His hands began to stroke her arms and she found herself putting the lyre to one side and half-turning her body in his arms to face him. His fingers found the fastening on her muumuu and lowered it the rest of the way. He pulled the muumuu down her shoulders and to her waist, exposing her breasts to his heated gaze.

She was intoxicating, he thought, dimly wondering why he did not stop himself from going any further. Uhura wondered the same thing, but she found she had no desire to stop. She finally realized why she was so mad at Christine. It was because this was what she had always wanted to happen between them; but she could never bring herself to admit it. To do so would have been too dangerous to their friendship, she knew. And she valued his friendship above all else. It gave her a sense of specialness to know that she and she alone was the only woman he would ever let into his life almost without reservation. She closed her eyes as she felt his lips enclose one of her nipples ...

Later that evening, he woke to find her wrapped around him. He lay on his back and stared at the ceiling. What had just happened? He knew, of course, that they had just engaged in some of the most heated sexual activity he had ever experienced. And he felt that he should probably be regretting it, but he could not. Still, there was much to ponder, and he could not do it here in her arms, filled with her intoxicating scent. He moved to gently disengage himself from her, and she opened her eyes.

"Leaving?" she asked huskily.

"I really should go," he murmured, looking into her warm brown gaze. She moved against him, her hand slowly caressing his chest hair.

"You're not sorry this happened, are you, Spock?" Uhura asked, a slight frown on her face. "Because I'm not. This doesn't have to change anything between us, you know. We can just pretend it didn't happen, and go back to being the way we were."

Now it was Spock's turn to frown. "I have no regrets. And no desire to have things go back the way they were between us. I merely need to meditate on tonight's events."

"I can understand that," Uhura murmured, moving her body so that she lay directly on top of him. "But one little favor? Kiss me before you leave..."

"Very well," he sighed, feigning reluctance. She bent down and kissed him hotly, running her tongue across his lips until he opened his mouth and let her plunder it with her tongue. He found himself becoming aroused again, and began to run his hands down her body, caressing her.

"Well, perhaps, I can stay a little longer," he said, as he turned her over on her back and began to move within her..

* * *

Meanwhile, blissfully unaware of the events that were taking place just a few doors down the hall from her quarters, Christine was getting ready for the evening's festivities in Engineering. She had just stepped out of her shower and was toweling herself off, and her gaze fell upon the bottle of perfume on her nightstand. It was the perfume that Spock had given her. The label on the bottle said Crystal Blue Persuasion and that it was made from the finest Deltan flowers. Hmm ... she thought. Her first impulse had been to smash the bottle against the wall when she stepped into her quarters after her shift was over. But then she decided that would be petty and unreasonable. No, she thought instead, she'd take the high road. She'd wear the perfume at least once ... and then she'd smash the bottle against the wall.

She liberally applied it to all the places in her body where she normally applied perfume and then reached for the outfit she had planned to wear that night, a plain brown jumpsuit. But instead, her hand found its way to another outfit hanging in her closet ... one she had bought on a whim but had never had the guts to wear on board ... it was a one-piece jumpsuit of supple black leather that hugged her body and accentuated every curve. It was designed in such a way that it made her breasts stand out, without being vulgar. It was low-cut exposing just a tiny bit of cleavage. With it, she wore silver sandals with six-inch stiletto heels and a silver belt made of large silver loops worn as a chain around her waist. She slicked her hair back into a severe chignon and now wrapped a faux ruby and silver pendant necklace around the top of her head like a diadem. She was very careful applying her make-up, going against type and wearing a dark ruby red lipstick, and using silver and brown eye shadow with dark brown mascara and eyeliner to bring out her blue eyes. A simple bracelet and two silver drop earrings completed her outfit.

She had never felt more alive, more confident, more sure of herself as a woman as she strolled down the corridors on her way to the turbolift. Boy, she thought, if only Spock could see me now! But somehow, he seemed unimportant in the wake of her newfound self-confidence. She even caught a few admiring glances from some of the male crew and a few female crew as she passed by. When she got to the small conference room just off the engine room where the party was being held, she discovered that the party was already in full swing. She received some admiring wolf-whistles, and even Mr. Scott was struck dumb when she walked up to greet him.

"Ah, lassie, if you're not a sight for sore eyes," he grinned as he looked her up and down approvingly. "I dinna ken what you've done wi' yursel' but it's bonny yer lookin' tonight..." Christine smiled fondly at the Chief Engineer who was obviously well lubricated with Scotch. His brogue was getting thicker and thicker ... soon, only another Scotsman would be able to understand him. She hugged him quickly and then found her way to the non-alcoholic punch. After last night's little incident, the last thing she wanted was to get drunk again. An extremely handsome man stood by the punchbowl. She racked her brains to come up with his name ... she knew she had seen him at least once. Was it McGraw, McGee ... something like that.

"Good evening, Miss Chapel," he smiled at her, and she noted that he had a dimple in his chin. Dark brown almost black hair, and the loveliest green eyes she had ever seen in a man, not to mention long thick eyelashes. He was taller than she was and very well built as his outfit attested to ... black leather pants that hugged him tightly and a black silk long sleeved shirt that clung to him and showed off his bulging muscles.

"I'm sorry," Christine apologized prettily. "I know that I should remember your name..."

"Lt. Duncan McGuire, at your service," he drawled, giving her a mock salute. "No need to apologize. I'm one of the new people that came aboard six months ago. I've been helping Mr. Scott down here in Engineering, though my specialty is really transporter technology."

"Of course," Christine remembered. "From the Lexington. Your tour of duty is almost over isn't it?"

"Yes ma'am," he confirmed. "I'll be reassigned groundside when the Enterprise reaches Earth."

"Oh, really?" she murmured, standing closer to him. She wasn't really paying attention to what he was saying; she was busy being intoxicated by the mere maleness of him. He looked at her closely wondering why he had never noticed her before. Duncan McGuire was a connoisseur of women; he was almost as legendary in his conquests as the Captain of the Enterprise. He had seen Christine in Sick Bay once or twice, but she had never made any particular impression on him. She hadn't struck him as being his type; and besides, the scuttlebutt had it that she had the hots for the Vulcan first officer.

But, now, his perceptions of her were changing. He noted the sexy outfit and caught a faint whiff of her perfume. That alone was enough to arouse him. He decided it was time that they got better acquainted. He devoted himself to her for the rest of the evening, rarely leaving her side; and when the dancing started, he monopolized her, rarely allowing anyone to cut in.

After the party, they made their way to her quarters; Christine had broken her unspoken vow of abstinence and had three glasses of champagne. But she wasn't drunk, just pleasantly tipsy. She invited Duncan in for a nightcap and he wasted no time pulling her into his arms and kissing her passionately. She didn't try to stop him. In fact, she was more than willing to cooperate ...

The next morning, she woke up alone in her bed. She stretched herself luxuriously and yawned. She should be angry that he'd gotten up and left as soon as he got what he wanted from her, but it had been too good. And besides, she smiled to herself, she didn't really care if she never saw him again. He had been good, but ... and here she frowned. She ought to be feeling guilty. After all, she had just betrayed Spock. But somehow, all she could think about was how good it had felt to be in a man's arms again, and wonder why she had denied herself for so long. Ah, well, she thought. Duty calls; and she got up to take a shower.

Later that week, she found her way to Mr. Spock's office with the inventory. For the first time, she wasn't nervous at the thought of seeing him. It had been an eventful week. Duncan had spent almost every night in her quarters; she knew it wasn't going to last much longer. They had absolutely nothing in common except sex, but it was good sex. She knocked on the door to his office.

"Come," he said, and she walked in. He was seated at his desk, his attention focused on his computer screen. Christine didn't know it, but his mind was actually far away from what he was seeing. He had, in fact, been staring at the same screen for the past fifteen minutes.

"Mr. Spock," she said, and he turned, startled to see her there.

"Miss Chapel," he said, his surprise evident in his face before he composed his features to their usual stoic expression. "Is there something I can do for you?"

"No, actually, it's what I can do for you," Christine smiled at the way his eyebrow shot upward at her flirtatious tone. "It's the completed inventory for Sick Bay, all finished and ready to send to Star Fleet. All it needs is your signature. I told you I'd have it for you by the end of the week."

"Indeed," he said, as he signed it without reviewing it. Christine was shocked.

"Mr. Spock, aren't you even going to look at it?" she demanded.

Spock shook his head. "Unnecessary," he said. "I have every confidence that you completed this task in your usual efficient and excellent manner."

"Well, thank you," she murmured. "Well, I need to get back to work. Please let me know if you need anything."

"If I need anything?" he repeated puzzled.

"For the report," she clarified.

"Ah, yes, the report." He nodded. "I shall endeavor to do so."

She left, and Spock found himself wondering what was different about her. For the first time, she seemed completely relaxed in his presence. He had felt only a curious kind of satisfaction emanating from her; no evidence of any anxiety whatsoever where he was concerned. And besides that, she had also looked more ... beautiful and desirable than at any other time he had seen her.

Faugh! He said to himself. It was his newly discovered physical relationship with Uhura that made him feel this way; he had found himself noticing the women on the Enterprise as if for the first time. And it was far too late for him to be desiring Christine ... Nurse Chapel, he mentally corrected himself. Uhura was more than enough woman for him right now. She had, in fact, turned his world upside down ... something which would have surprised Uhura if she had been aware of it.

* * *

The Captain called an officer's meeting two days before they reached Cetara. Most of the main bridge crew was there as well as Dr. McCoy from Medical.

"I'm sure you're wondering why we've been diverted to Cetara when we should be heading to Earth to stand down from our present mission," he began. "As you know, Cetara is the latest Federation colony to achieve independence and to be admitted to the Federation. As a gesture of goodwill, the Federation Council has asked us to transport their first Ambassador to the Federation to Earth, where he will begin his duties as their representative. Ambassador Josiah Quimby is uniquely qualified to be their first ambassador. He was once Governor-General of the colony and decided to make his home there, giving up his Terran citizenship in order to do so. He's a consummate politician and diplomat. You may also be aware that Cetara is close to the border of Klingon space; the Klingons would love to get their hands on the planet."

"Indeed, Captain," Spock remarked. "There have been some reports from Star Fleet intelligence that there has been a marked increase of Klingon activity in that sector. One of their best warships, the Tamar, has been sighted in that area."

"Mr. Spock is correct," Kirk confirmed. "That's why we're not taking shore leave on Cetara, as we would under normal circumstances. We're stopping only long enough to pick up the Ambassador, and then we'll be on our way. We'll go in on Yellow Alert mode with shields up, and only lower them long enough to transfer the Ambassador aboard. Any questions?" Seeing that no one had any, he dismissed the meeting, and they all returned to their duty stations.

Two days later, Uhura was on the bridge when they entered standard orbit, and she received the call from Ceteran Space Central.

"Captain," she said. "Ceteran Space Central reports that the Ambassador is waiting to beam aboard the Enterprise. They're preparing to upload the transporter coordinates to our computer."

"Very well, Lieutenant," Kirk said. "Prepare to relay the coordinates down to the main transporter chamber. Lt. Uhura, you have the con. Mr. Spock, you're with me."

Uhura moved down to take the center seat as the two men left for the transporter room. Some fifteen minutes later they returned with the Ambassador in tow. Uhura had all she could do not to gasp in admiration. Ambassador Quimby was a tall rugged man of African descent with a deep melodious voice. He reminded her a lot of the twentieth century actor James Earl Jones. Her reaction was not lost on the Ambassador. He took her hand and kissed it gallantly as Captain Kirk introduced them. Spock, heading for his workstation did not see the look that passed between Uhura and the Ambassador.

Later that evening, in Uhura's quarters, she and Spock were putting the finishing touches on their Christmas presentation. She had not worn her perfume, because the last few times they'd gotten together and she'd worn it, they'd ended up doing something other than what they should be doing, which was rehearsing. Uhura had to admit that as much as she was enjoying her physical relationship with Spock, and as fond as she was of him, she wasn't in love with him. In her mind, the affair would be over when the ship reached Earth and they would both go their separate ways. She already knew who she wanted to spend at least part of her end-of-voyage leave with, and she was almost certain that Josiah Quimby would feel the same way. But she was in no hurry to start a new relationship while in the middle of an ongoing one that was basically satisfactory, so she kept seeing Spock.

The Christmas presentation was a success. She and Spock got standing ovation after standing ovation. Even Ambassador Quimby was highly complimentary of her, especially. He had discreetly asked her to dine in his quarters, but she declined, saying that she was involved with someone at the moment, but that she expected to be free by the time she reached Earth. She and Spock kept their relationship under wraps. Both were concerned about the non-fraternization rule between two members of the same section, and Uhura also did not want any problems if Christine ever found out about it. It was in this frame of mind, that Uhura prepared what she considered their farewell dinner the night before they reached Earth. She wore a soft clingy low-cut gown of a golden hue, and of course, the perfume. Dinner was excellent, and their lovemaking was as passionate as it always was. Uhura lay in Spock's arms in a blissful state, simply enjoying the feel of him and storing the sensation up for future memories. Then, Spock surprised her.

"When can we announce our betrothal?" he asked her.

Uhura sat straight up, disentangling herself from his embrace. "What are you talking about?" she demanded. "What betrothal? No one said anything about getting married."

Spock also sat up and looked at her sternly. "Nyota, you and I have been engaged in an intimate physical relationship for five months now. It has been most enjoyable, but now it is time to think of our future. Surely you knew this day would come."

Uhura got up slowly and put on her robe. She walked into her living area without saying a word. He was right. Subliminally, she had been aware of his feelings toward her because of the light mind meld he occasionally used while they were making love, but she had brushed it off as sexual desire and lust. It never for a moment occurred to her that he might want to take their relationship to the next level, but then, he had never spoken to her of love. She already knew what her answer must be.

She turned to face him as he came into the living area fully dressed. Tears filled her eyes. How she loved him, and how she hated to hurt him!

"Spock, I'm so sorry," she began. "Please understand; it isn't that I don't have feelings for you, but I'm not ready to make that kind of commitment. I thought it was understood between us that this relationship was only temporary until we reached Earth. I didn't realize..." She let her voice trail off.

"I am not one of your human paramours, Nyota," he snapped, his anger getting the better of him. "I am a Vulcan. Surely you know that Vulcans do not engage in casual sexual relationships. I would never have allowed myself to engage in such activity if I had not been certain I wanted you for my wife."

"You didn't have any choice," Uhura said sadly. "It was the perfume I wore that made you do it. I realized that the second time we made love. You didn't start getting amorous until I put the perfume on because you asked me to."

"Nevertheless," Spock said. "What has happened between us cannot be changed. I must know if you intend to return to Vulcan with me as my wife."

Uhura shook her head. "I can't. I still have so much I want to do with my life and my career. I'm not ready to settle down on Vulcan and raise a family. Five years ago if you'd asked me, I'd probably have said yes."

"Five years ago, I was not free to ask you," Spock said, stiffly. "Is that your final answer?" She nodded, and a single tear slid down her cheek as she did so. He walked towards the door and turned just before he left. "I wish you well in your future endeavors. Live long and prosper." With that, he left and Uhura threw herself down on the sofa and cried.

* * *

Christine walked slowly down the corridor. It was late night ship's time ... zero two hundred hours. They would be reaching Earth orbit in another eight hours or so. She knew she should be asleep, but somehow, she couldn't seem to settle down. She had tried to sleep earlier, but to no avail. Finally, she decided to get dressed and take a stroll. She knew where she was going ... to the Observation Deck to look at the stars. They were moving on impulse power now. They were too close to the solar system to risk warp drive, so the stars would be visible, and maybe even some of the outlying planets.

She noticed that she wasn't the only person who couldn't sleep. She passed several people in the corridors as she walked on. One of them was Spock. She started to say hello, but then she saw the look on his face and thought better of it. He had on his super Vulcan look, the one that clearly said he didn't want to be bothered. Nevertheless she nodded to him in acknowledgement as she approached him, and to her surprise he nodded back. She didn't stop to talk to him, however, and so she missed seeing him stop abruptly and turn to look at her departing back.

As she walked along she thought about the events of the past five months, her brief affair with Duncan McGuire and her friendship with Ambassador Quimby. It was because of Ambassador Quimby, in fact, that she found herself looking forward to the future for the first time in a long time. It was a future that did not include Spock. She had Duncan to thank for that, she thought. He'd shown her that she was capable of having a relationship with someone else, if she wanted it. She didn't think she would for a long time. She reached the observation deck and noticed that someone was already there staring out at the stars. It was Uhura. "Hard to believe, isn't it?" Christine said. Uhura jumped, startled.

"What is?" she asked as Christine moved to stand beside her.

"That it's almost over. It seems like only yesterday when I first came aboard the Enterprise all excited because of my deep space assignment..."

"Yes, that's true, it does seem like only yesterday," Uhura said softly. Christine noticed that she'd been crying.

"Nyota, is something wrong?"

Uhura started to lie, but found that she couldn't. For the first time, she felt truly guilty as she looked at this woman whom she'd considered a friend. If Christine only knew ... but all she could do was nod her head.

"You know I'm here for you if you need me," Christine said.

"I know you are, Chris," she said. "And I appreciate that, but I don't think there's anything you or anyone else can do. I made the choice and now I have to live with it." She looked away again.

Suddenly, Christine had a flash of intuition. She thought earlier of how Spock had looked when she'd passed him. "It's Spock, isn't it? Something's happened between you two."

Uhura flinched visibly, but she nodded. "Let's just say we had a misunderstanding," she chose her words carefully. "We both had different expectations of our friendship."

I knew it, Christine thought to herself. It was Uhura he was committed to all along. But now that was over. She didn't know whether to be glad or sorry. Some part of herself was surprised that she was taking it so well. It meant she'd grown up. Not that she didn't love Spock ... still deep in some part of her. She simply had learned to put it into perspective. And if he could fall in love with one human woman, surely there was some hope for her. Now, however, Uhura needed her.

"Oh, Nyota, I'm so sorry. I know how much your relationship meant to you. Maybe someday, you can become friends again."

"Maybe, but I wouldn't count on it. I hurt him very badly, you see." Tears streaked down her face, and Christine put an arm around her and hugged her. Uhura finally wiped her tears, and turned to Christine. "Why aren't you mad at me? I would think you would be considering how you feel about him."

"He was very blunt with me," Christine said. "That night of the party. He said he didn't love me. You can't force love from someone, no matter how badly you want them to love you. I guess I finally realized that sometimes we don't always get what we want ... I won't pretend that some part of me isn't hurt, and more than a little jealous that it was you he turned to instead of me ... but, Nyota, don't you think it's time I started acting like a mature woman instead of a lovesick teenager?"

Nyota realized that Christine wouldn't be talking like that if she knew the full extent of her relationship with Spock. That was a secret she would keep to her dying day. She hugged Christine. "You're an extraordinary woman, Chris Chapel. I'm so glad I got to know you."

"You're not so bad yourself," Christine smiled.

"Well, I need to get to bed, "Uhura said. "Tomorrow's going to be a busy day. You going back to your quarters?"

"In a little while," Christine said. "I still have some things I need to think about."

Uhura smiled, nodded and left. Christine stood there pondering what Uhura had said, and wondering just how far the relationship with Spock had progressed. But part of her told her it was probably safer not to go there.

* * *

"It is an extraordinary sight, is it not?" the familiar voice startled her.

"Mr. Spock! I didn't hear you come in." She looked at the Vulcan. He didn't look as cold as he had earlier. He had followed her to the Observation Deck and had witnessed the encounter between the two women. He had even hidden himself in a secluded corner and shamelessly eavesdropped on their conversation. So he was aware that Christine knew of the relationship between himself and Uhura.

He was impressed with her handling of the situation. She was an extraordinary woman. And he was planning on going home to Vulcan to see his parents who would no doubt insist that he be bonded to a suitable Vulcan woman. However, after T'Pring, he found he had lost his taste for Vulcan women. That was partly the reason that he had allowed himself to be seduced by Uhura. That, and the fact that he'd always admired her.

But now he was seeing Christine as if for the first time with new eyes. Perhaps he had underestimated her. He had thought her a weak, emotional woman, but she had proven herself otherwise. He had been too caught up with the novelty and the sensations he was experiencing during his relationship with Uhura.

After their quarrel, he had gone to his quarters and meditated on this. Christine came often into his thoughts during his meditation. He realized several things: that while he had desired Uhura and had some degree of affection for her, he did not love her ... that the few times he had seen Christine in the corridors and on the few occasions that he had spoken to her she had demonstrated a new level of self-confidence and none of that self-conscious manner that had been her habit. He had seen her with a man from Engineering ... a man named McGuire if he was not mistaken. That might have been the reason she wasn't shy around him any more. He wondered if she were still involved with this man.

"I guess you'll be going home to Vulcan," she said, looking at him, and wondering what he was thinking. He was looking at her in the oddest way, almost as if ... but no, she was imagining things she was sure. He surely couldn't be interested in her now, not after his experience with Uhura.
"Yes, I shall take leave on Vulcan for a while until I decide which of several opportunities to accept," Spock said.

"I'm sure you're looking forward to it," she smiled. "I know I'm looking forward to getting back to San Francisco. I have some friends I haven't seen in years."

"Indeed?" he murmured. "Will you be spending all of your leave in San Francisco?"

"Probably not," Christine smiled. "Why do you ask?"

"I thought perhaps you might be interested in coming to Vulcan for a visit. My parents would be pleased to meet you, and it would be an agreeable experience for me as well. There are many sites of great interest on Vulcan, especially this time of the year."

"Oh, Mr. Spock, I'm so sorry, but I can't, " Christine said, and she truly was sorry. But there was no way she was going to give up the opportunity that she'd been presented with now, not even for him.

"May I ask why?" he asked her. Christine tried hard to keep the excitement from her voice as she told him.

"I'll be starting medical school about a week after we stand down. I'll only have a week to visit my friends and visit my old hangouts, and then I'm leaving for Los Angeles and Star Fleet Medical. I'm going to be a doctor!"

She had never looked more beautiful or more desirable as she stood there, her blue eyes sparkling with excitement, and her face radiant with joy. He sighed inwardly as he watched his unspoken dreams crumble into ashes. But then, he thought, perhaps there had never been a possibility. There was still the matter of Lt. McGuire. "I suppose Lt. McGuire shares your excitement," he said, and Christine blinked, surprised that he was even aware of her relationship with Duncan.

Serves you right, you selfish bastard, she thought defiantly, refusing to allow herself to feel guilty for her supposed betrayal of him.

"Who, Duncan? I wouldn't know about his feelings, nor care, especially," she said in an off-hand manner. "It was over a long time ago between us. All we ever had in common was the physical part of our relationship, but it would never have worked out. We were too different."

"I see," Spock said, although part of him was shocked that she would so openly refer to an aspect of her relationship with another man, which should best be kept private. And a part of him deep inside was jealous of that other man, although it would be many years before he would admit it to himself.

"Well," Christine yawned. "It's getting late and I still have to go to work in the morning. If I don't see you before I leave, I wish you well. Live long and prosper," and she held up her hand in the Vulcan salute. He was impressed. Few humans could do it as well as she did. He would never know how many hours of practice she'd put into learning that.

"I, too, wish you well, Miss Chapel ... Christine," he corrected himself. "I am certain that you will make an excellent doctor. Live long and prosper."

She smiled and nodded as she left. He stayed a few minutes longer, and then he, too, left the Observation Deck.

The ship arrived on schedule, and in all the last minute rush and excitement of standing down and all of the duties that still had to be carried out regardless, the three friends did not get to see each other. Uhura transported down to Star Fleet headquarters, and after the usual paperwork, found herself seated in a Cetaran Embassy limousine on her way to Josiah Quimby's house for dinner. Christine
found herself being greeting by her old friend Joanne, and going home with her to get reacquainted with her old college buds. It was going to be a great week.

And back on the Enterprise, a lone figure remained in his quarters. His bags were neatly packed and ready for transport to the Vulcan Embassy. Only one more thing remained and as he sat in front of his computer terminal, he reflected that he was one command away from altering his destiny forever.

Mr. Spock was not a happy man. Of course, being Vulcan he would have denied that. He would have said that Vulcans have no emotions, and therefore, it was illogical for any one to even consider that he might be unhappy. But he would be lying, he thought to himself, as he thought of the past five months. Vulcans did have emotions ... deep ones, and he had allowed himself to feel them and to express them to the extent that he was capable of doing. And, at least as far as he could discern, they had proven to be his undoing. And so, he gave the voice order. He stood up and picked up his bag, heading for the door. Behind him the display on the terminal showed one picture ... .the mountains of Gol.

THE END