DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Naithom and is copyright (c) 2009 by Naithom. This story is Rated PG.

 

Once Upon A Dragon

Naithom

 

"Kiss me!"

 

"Thank you. Next!"

 

Lt. Kevin Thomas Riley was seriously annoyed. Why did it have to be so hard to find a woman on this starship that could read lines without sounding like the ship's computer?

 

Two months earlier, when the Enterprise had been sent on the dullest mapping mission Starfleet could devise, Riley had entertained his friends with some of his stories to break the monotony. Soon, he had been asked to write them down and now, in an effort to boost morale, they were doing one, "Once Upon A Dragon", as a stage play. They would, that is, if they could cast the parts. The small roles had been easy and Chief Kyle was going to play the prince. Surprisingly, he had a real flair for comedy. Now if they could just cast the last two roles…

 

Kevin turned to look at the play's co-director who was in the process of getting a migraine. "How is it possible we have so few women on this ship who can act?"

 

Christine Chapel pinched the bridge of her nose and shook her head. "It's not that hard a line to read right if they understand what's going on in the scene."

 

Riley gave her a side-glance. "And have you heard anyone yet that sounded like they got it?"

 

Christine held back a smirk and patted his arm, remembering some of the more … okay, less than stellar performances. She looked at the list to see who was next to audition and smiled -- Janice Rand. Perfect, she looks like a princess and if I can just give her some hints. "Kevin, I'm going to work with the next one and see if we can get what we're looking for."

 

"Sure," Kevin said as he stretched, "if it takes spoon feeding to find the right people, I'm up for it at this point."

 

Janice Rand walked out on stage and smiled at the obviously tired duo. "So how are the Enterprise's version of 'The Producers' doing?" she kidded.

 

"Ready for something other than synthahol, thanks for asking, Janice. Christine wants to go over some aspects of the part before you read, okay?"

 

Christine rolled her eyes at Janice as she made her way up to the stage. "You know how grumpy these creative types can be," she whispered, making the Yeoman giggle. "Okay, Aleah is a princess but her attitude towards the situation she's in isn't usual for a fairy tale. She isn't naïve and isn't under the impression that being imprisoned by your countrymen, surviving a reptile attack and becoming the door prize for the first nimrod that survives makes for a healthy marriage. She realizes that she is bound by tradition and family obligation but she's not taking it lying down. She sees her duty in this scenario over once the prince or knight survives and then she plans to hightail it out as fast as possible. Her countrymen put the blindfold on her thinking that if she couldn't see the dragon coming to eat her that the situation would be less stressful. She assumes that the dragon is a prince 'come to save her' and when she gives the line, she's of a mindset not of, 'Kiss me, my love!' but 'Let's get this over with and blow this popcicle stand." She called out to her partner. "Does that about cover it, Kevin? Kevin?"

 

Christine looked out into the audience to see the 'writer in residence' gazing at her with a far off look in his eye.

 

That was when she realized she was in big trouble.

 

* * *

 

In another part of the Enterprise, a fellow shipmate was experiencing a similar emotion although he would never admit it aloud. "Mister Spock, morale is down because of the sheer monotony of our present mission and, odd as it sounds, Lt. Riley's play is a reasonable means of relieving said monotony. We just need a member of the senior staff on hand to … participate … to keep things from getting out of hand as things are wont to do when Mr. Riley is involved."

 

"I concur, Captain, but wouldn't you be better suited?" asked the Vulcan science officer.

 

Doctor McCoy could barely contain his amusement. "He would be if he could act his way out of a paper bag," he chuckled.

 

"Shut it, Bones."

 

"Mr. Riley is utilizing paper bags in his production?" Spock's question only kept McCoy's amusement building visibly.

 

"Spock, just … just go audition. And take 'Giggles' here with you!"

 

* * *

 

"Kevin, dear, now I don't want you to take this as though I don't trust you, but will you explain again, why you want me to wear the blindfold for the audition?" Christine tried not to sound suspicious but given Riley's penchant for practical jokes, it wasn't easy.

 

"We need you to have real chemistry with the actor playing the dragon and this way there won't be any preconceptions," he explained. "There will either be sparks or there won't."

 

Christine was about to tell him he'd been reading too many books on directing methods when Janice, who had been corralled to help with the scenery spoke up. "Don't worry, Christine, we won't let you walk off the stage and," she whispered, "I'll keep track of who tries out in case you want to audition them later."

 

The response to her whispered comment was an eye roll and a smirk. With a sigh of resignation she put her hair in a high ponytail to keep it out of the way of the blindfold. "Sure, why not! I haven't humiliated myself in the last ten minutes. I'm overdue."

 

* * *

 

Spock had downloaded the play's audition piece off the ship's computer and cringed when he read it. It was well written, but he dreaded certain aspects of scenes as well as the idea of acting in general. He continued dreading it as he took the turbo-lift and walked down the corridor to the rec hall.

 

While he wouldn't admit it to himself, he was grateful to see Kevin Riley standing outside the rec room with Rand and others talking about scenery as he hoped that his audition would be for as few personnel as possible. He had survived Klingon invasions, Romulan attacks, McCoy's incessant ribbing and his own father but Spock knew this was going to truly test his mettle. He took a cleansing breath, opened the door and crossed the stage.

 

There onstage was the unusual sight of a statuesque woman wearing a black turtle-neck, black Capri pants and a blindfold which covered almost like a hood, showing only her full mouth and jaw line.

 

"What was that old Earth adage, be happy for small favors"? Spock cleared his throat and proceeded.

 

* * *

 

As she sat silently waiting for the others to return, Christine had to admit that after the last four hours of try-outs she might never date again. Without a doubt she had suffered through the worst possible combination of bad actors and bad kissers, including several who qualified in both categories. She was thankful that her identity was partially hidden by the mask because she knew she would have a difficult time looking a few crewmen in the eye after this, especially one poor ensign from Security who got so nervous he missed her mouth entirely. She thought Janice was going to fall off the ladder where she was working on scenery after that one. After each try-out, Riley, from the audience, would thank the crewman for auditioning, silently make some notes and then wave the next one in.

 

I can just imagine what he's writing after Ensign Duncan. Knowing Janice she'll try to convince Uhura to make a copy of the security tapes for today as a gag reel. Knowing Uhura, she may already be planning it. Hell, knowing Kevin, he'll be selling them.

 

Her train of thought was broken as she heard the sound of heavy footsteps walking across the stage to her "prison cell" and the sound of the next contestant clearing his throat. Oh, please Lord, I'm not asking much -- just that he can act, he can find my lips on the first try and that he didn't have the garlic chicken for lunch. With a level of resignation befitting the character, Christine said, "Okay, if you're ready, let's start at the top."

 

She stood, placed her hands on the bars of her cell and spoke her lines. "So, you're my hero, then. Well, kiss me, break the spell and let's get the hell out of here."

 

"Uhh, uhhh," Spock said in character, his own confusion making it unnecessary to actually act.

 

"Come on, kiss me and let's get it over with."

 

An unfamiliar hand slowly caressed her cheek while another wrapped itself around her waist, pulling her gently to a strong chest. The kiss started tenuously, each exploring unfamiliar territory. Chaste but definitely electric.

 

Belay that, Lord, I am definitely thankful for two out or three! Who IS this?

 

Christine realized as the kiss finally, almost painfully broke that she had, without realizing it, wrapped her hands around his neck and was weaving her fingers through his hair.

 

"Alright then, let's get out of here." She was glad her voice wasn't shaking. She was afraid that her inflection might have come across not as the next line, but as a come on.

 

But maybe Aleah would think the same thing. Yeah, Kevin will buy that, won't he? Yeah, well, that's my story and I'm sticking with it.

 

Before she could say the next line, Kevin Riley interrupted. "Commander, I didn't know you were auditioning! That is … I mean...Well, you two were auditioning … weren't you?"

 

"Indeed."

 

SPOCK!?! A million things ran through Christine's mind upon hearing that one baritone word but mainly that she was grateful she was wearing the blindfold almost like a mask so no one could see her blush! Not being able to think of a clever retort to get herself out of this seriously embarrassing situation, Christine turned on her heels, pulled off her blindfold and said to anyone behind her who cared, "I've got to get dressed for my shift." With that she made her hasty retreat, not looking back nor caring in the least if anyone actually believed her or not.

 

* * *

 

Friends are sometimes amazingly overrated, Christine had decided as she sat with her best friends in a corner of the mess hall. She had truly come to the conclusion that these two highly competent, professional members of Starfleet were, in actuality, fourteen-year-old giggling girls.

 

"Honestly, you could have knocked me over with a feather when Kevin and I walked back into the rec room and saw Spock and Christine locked in an embrace!"

 

"Oh please, Janice, Mister Spock was simply auditioning for a part just like…"

 

"And will he be getting the part?" Uhura asked, making sure that Christine knew she wasn't talking about the play.

 

"Nyota!"

 

"Well, tell us this at least -- how was the kiss?"

 

Christine's eyes glazed over as she remembered the velvety feel of Spock's lips on hers and his gentle embrace.

 

"Well! I'll be damned." Uhura chuckled.

 

* * *

 

In another area of the ship, Spock was coming to a similar conclusion concerning friendship.

 

"I must say, Spock, I'm not sure I have ever known you to follow an order with such gusto!" McCoy was practically giddy to the point of losing bladder function, and while Kirk was a bit more circumspect, his amusement was just as apparent.

 

"Had I known," smiled Kirk, "that this play of ours was going to include love scenes with our lovely head nurse, perhaps I would have made myself available after all."

 

"Still can't act your way out of a paper bag." McCoy interjected. "Look Spock, I apologize for my attitude and please forgive our captain's seemingly immature attitude about the whole situation."

 

*Well, I certainly didn't expect any maturity under the circumstances, but for it to come from the good doctor is truly amazing! Maybe I misjudged him this time.*

 

"I do need to ask you about one specific concerning the situation though, Spock." Based on McCoy's tone, Spock silently assumed that the question involved some technical aspect of the play.

 

"And what would that be, Doctor?"

 

"What ARE your intentions towards my head nurse?"

 

As Kirk nearly fell off his chair, Spock exited the scene with raised eyebrow and the firm resolve that his closest compatriots needed to spend time on the wrong side of an airlock.

 

* * *

 

Several days later, the entire cast met with Riley to do an initial reading. It soon became evident that Kevin, while a fine crewman, had missed his calling. He guided each cast member through the action giving them background information and making all feel at ease. After dealing individually with several other members of the cast, Riley turned his attention to Spock.

 

"Mr. Spock, think back or imagine someone for whom family is everything. Someone who would put their loved one's needs ahead of his own. The character of Dravin is like that. He sacrificed his own future for that of his family and then went a step further to make the best of a bad situation. He's not willing to make other folks suffer for his situation. While he hopes that someone will eventually come to break the spell by seeing past his façade and be his mate, he doesn't live his life in the castle with the expectation that it will happen. Do you have anyone you can think of? If not, I researched some famous examples that might help."

 

"I appreciate your character analysis, Mr. Riley. I believe I can reference some individuals but I would appreciate any further information you have."

 

During a break, Christine took a deep breath, summoned up her courage and approached Spock while he was alone.

 

You're asking as the play's director, it's nothing personal. Treat it like a physical. Damn, wrong visual! Be a professional, be a professional. "Mr. Spock, a moment of your time?"

 

"Yes, Nurse Chapel?"

 

"I have … been considering how we would deal with certain aspects of the play which may be ... uncomfortable for you during rehearsals."

 

Eyebrow should be raising in five, four, three, two, one. Yep, right on time. Included with Spock's raised eyebrow was the briefest hint of amusement.

 

"Indeed. What do you propose, Lieutenant?"

 

Christine put several rather salacious proposals in the back of her mind for later consideration and then said in as a professional voice as she could muster, "The scenes which include physical contact will need to be rehearsed just as the other scenes are but we can limit the actual physical contact. There will need to be some contact so we can deal with the blocking but we can do that without the cast present by using the holovid."

 

"It would seem that you have given this situation quite a bit of consideration."

 

Spock, you have no idea. In spite of her thought, she stated simply with a completely professional demeanor, "We appreciate the fact that you are willing to take the time to participate and simply want to guarantee that this is as stress free as possible." Well, stress free for him at least. How I'm supposed to not feel what I feel while acting like I feel what I feel - If I pull this off, I deserve an Oscar.

 

* * *

 

Rehearsals are by their very nature chaotic, frantic and creative. Christine had adored them since she was a child in her first play. The newness of the first read-through's, the discovery of the characters, learning to make the character your own while staying true to the author's vision, the mischievousness when someone made a blooper and the joy of seeing it all come together. This play had it all and then some. The play allowed the entire crew to release their pent up energy and they reveled in it. Those who weren't acting were helping and those not involved were anticipating the performance.

 

Spock, although initially uncomfortable, was taken aback by how well received his efforts were. Spock found himself quietly enjoying the new camaraderie and the new skills he was acquiring. Ironically, by playing the dragon as a Vulcan, it gave some of the lines a broader humor and according to some of the women watching, it gave the play "a bit more heat".

 

Christine, who had been trepidacious about playing scenes with Spock, allowed herself to enjoy the chance to say things to Spock that she couldn't under normal circumstances and hear him say things she knew she'd never hear. It was easy since the words were Riley's. She could pour her feelings out and honestly claim to be concentrating on the play and the part. Heck, while the play was on, she had two men fighting over her. She knew that all this fun would end all too soon, but for now, she'd enjoy it.

 

* * *

 

Christine was normally a spiritual woman if not a religious one but the morning of the "blocking rehearsal" she had had what McCoy would call a "Come to Jesus" moment with her Maker and begged not to totally humiliate herself within the next 12 hours.

 

She would have had this conversation the night before but she, Uhura and Janice were attempting to decide what she should wear for the occasion. It was understood that she would be wearing slacks since wearing a skirt to rehearsals would be highly unusual. The consensus was to wear her black Capri's which were form-fitting yet casual. After going through just about every casual top she owned it was decided that the top for the occasion was a deep rose colored shirt which brought out the blue in her eyes and, as Janice noted, "feels wonderful against the skin."

 

And so, suitably attired both inside and out, Christine bravely made her way to the rehearsal. As she was making sure the holovid was set up and in working order, Spock arrived. In a voice far steadier than she felt, she walked up on-stage and said, "The way I see it, Mr. Spock, we have two distinct scenes to block. I figure once we get those situated today we'll only need to have one other rehearsal right before opening. Is that agreeable?"

 

"Given your expertise, do you feel this will be sufficient?"

 

Straight lines ran through her mind faster than light speed. "Well, we can start with that premise and adjust as necessary. Shall we begin by working on the first scene in the dungeon?"

 

"Agreed, but wasn't our interaction during the try-out adequate?"

 

Christine almost choked. Obviously either Spock or her Maker had a sense of humor, she decided that until she figured out who was pulling her leg, she'd continue to play it calm. "You did fine at try-outs. Really. What we do with blocking is make sure that we are positioned in such a way as to optimize what the playwrite, the director, and the actors are trying to communicate to the audience. Much as a diplomat makes sure not only of his words but also the timing and placement of the speech in order to maximize the effect."

 

Suddenly Christine was wondering if she shouldn't have gone into the Diplomatic Service. Spock nodded his understanding and made his way stage right.

 

Christine got in place and they started the scene. This time, as she spoke her lines, she saw him come to her. Just as he had before, he gently pulled her to himself, caressed her cheek and brushed her lips with his. There was no doubt that the electricity felt the first time was no fluke. As the kiss deepened, she made a concerted effort to place her hands on Spock's chest instead of around his neck so that he completely controlled the length of the kiss.  She was determined not to be accused of abusing the privilege. This is just for the play, this is just for the play, uuuuuhhhmm you feel so good, BUT THIS IS JUST FOR THE PLAY! If you heard that, I'm sorry, Spock. I'm only human.

 

When the kiss did end Christine opened her eyes and found Spock gazing down at her but still holding her. She stepped back, breaking his hold and attempted to say casually. "Let's check the holovid to make sure the blocking is correct." Her voice, even to herself, sounded breathy. She nearly ran to the back of the theatre and began replaying the vid.

 

"Spock, you'll need to stand a step or two upstage and, um, a little closer to the back wall and turn your … turn your body towards the audience a little and ... and that should be fine!" She then made her way back on stage and grabbed the masking tape on a nearby table. She placed a small X on the floor at Spock's feet.

 

"When you come to this point in the scene try to stand on this spot and you'll be okay." She knew she should look up at him but doubted she could keep her emotions off her face. Halfway done, you're almost there. Just keep it together a little while longer.

 

The other scene took place mid-stage. Christine had been impressed with Riley's writing when she read the speech that took place immediately before the second kiss, but now she was nervous. These were no longer just two characters in a play.

 

"Would you prefer I begin at the start of the paragraph?" Christine tried to take strength from Spock's nonchalant tone, hoping that she could stay the same way. She nodded. The scene called for him to take her by the wrist so she offered it to him and he grasped it. She turned as though she had been in the process of walking away. They spoke their lines and then he brought her in for the second kiss.

 

This is going to be harder, uh wrong word, bad imagery … more difficult that I thought. I have to act as though I'm falling in love with someone externally for the audience, while trying not to show my real feelings for the man I love internally TO the man I love ….while he's holding me in his arms, with him being a touch sensitive. Suuuuuure. No problem. I'm not sure whether to laugh, cry, make love to him or run screaming. Maybe all of the above…. When she came back to herself, Christine backed up but dared not look at him. She feared that he would be annoyed, disgusted or, even worse, that he would feel nothing after that kiss. She thought it better not to know so she kept her eyes down and checked the vid.

 

In a choked voice, she called up to the stage, "Everything looks okay from here, Spock. Could you use the tape to mark your space? I just remembered that I agreed to help Uhura with a project. Thanks for your time."

 

Was it a coward's retreat?

 

Damn straight.

 

But Christine felt she had done as much acting as she could deal with for one day.

 

* * *

 

The night of the play, the scenery was right, stagehands were in place, lighting and effects men knew their cues and the actors were ready. That said, Kevin Riley looked and acted like an expectant father. He paced, he sweated, and he worried. Janice was afraid he might pass out. He thought of every possible problem that could wreck the play and even a few impossible ones. When he started openly contemplating that a Klingon attack occurring during the second act would ruin everything, she almost went to get Dr. McCoy for a very large sedative or Scotty for a very strong ale.

 

Then Christine came out of the dressing room. Her hair was done up with loose, long curls falling along her shoulders. Her makeup brought out the dove gray/blue of her eyes and the soft fullness of her mouth. Her gown was a simple blue silk governess cut, but the effect was spectacular. Christine, quite simply, looked the part of a princess and with that one sight, Kevin calmed down.

 

The same could not be said for Christine. She was terrified. Oh, she'd done plays before but she questioned whether she could pull this one off. Not that she would ever let Kevin know. She had heard Riley panicking from the dressing room and knew the best way to distract him from his panic was to get him to laugh.

 

"Janice," she said as she reached the stressed writer/producer/Starfleet officer, "If he mentions Klingons again, I authorize you to use this." With that she handed her a hypo. "And if he mentions the pacing in scene one again, use this." This time she handed her a phaser. It was possible the audience heard the applause from the stagehands.

 

Rand took the hypo and the phaser with a grin and reached in her pocket. "By the way, I have a note for you."

 

Christine was expecting a good luck note from Uhura, Rand, Sulu or McCoy but instead found herself recognizing Spock's sleek handwriting.

 

"Christine -

            I have been reading the treatises that Mr. Riley suggested and they all agree that it is necessary for actors to utilize familiar memories and emotions in order to give the best performance for the audience's benefit. During our rehearsals you have attempted to protect my sensibilities and while I appreciate your consideration, the performance is for the benefit of the crew. I believe it would be more logical, since you have put this much effort into the planning and execution of the play, that you do the same with the performance.

                                                                        Spock"

 

She read it and re-read it. "Janice, do me a favor and pinch me."

 

"Why, did you win the ship's lottery?"

 

Handing her the note, she said, "In a matter of speaking."

 

Rand's face ran through shock, amazement, humor and affection in a matter of seconds. "Well, I know two things for sure. First, this is one vid you'll want a copy of."

 

"What's the other thing?"

 

"You owe Kevin a bottle of Saurian brandy."

 

And so, as the play began, Christine rolled out her emotions like Cleopatra presenting herself to Caesar in her rug. She worked hard to keep from emotionally anticipating her first on-stage encounter with Spock. It wasn't easy. When the time came she spoke her lines with the perfect level of contempt and apathy. No one in the audience would have known that her stomach was jumping like a child coming down the stairs on Christmas Day. It took everything she had not to give away all her feelings during this first kiss. It helped that she was blindfolded so the initial touch of his one hand on her waist and the other on her cheek -- which caused her to jump -- came across as a genuine surprise. The first kiss started tentatively but gradually she relaxed into his embrace and allowed herself to enjoy it. The fact that as the kiss broke she gazed at him with stunned silence only brought more laughter to the already astonished crowd. This time she allowed her voice to shake as she spoke and once again the crowd roared.

 

And they didn't stop. Spock's interpretation of the role only added to the romance and mystery and Kyle's performance as a prince who would rather fight a dragon than tell his mother he wasn't interested in girls, kept the crew rolling in the aisles. Christine played the balance between the romance and the comedy, using the sharp wit of the lines to keep it from becoming sappy but allowing the love and insecurity to show so as to keep it from becoming caustic and bitter.

 

As the climax of the play arrived, Christine's character, while having fallen in love, did not trust that she was not again merely being used. She was frustrated that she had allowed herself to be caught in this trap of her own making. Christine called on her own knowledge and emotions about having felt the same way -- falling in love with Spock after the death of her fiancé. She utilized the anger at herself, the embarrassment of feeling and being perceived as weak, the sorrow that the love was not meant to be and beneath it all, the love -- the pure, powerful, unconditional love that she felt for him.

 

When Spock, as Dravin, grabbed her wrist as she had begun to run away, he felt it all. She knew that he felt it all but when the audience saw the tears glistening in her eyes as she spoke her lines, they had no way of knowing how real they were. "How dare you hold on to me! What right do you have? I've done my part to spare the village, to spare the elders, to spare the prince! Let me go and let me finally live my own life where I'm no longer responsible to be a spoke in everyone else's wheel."

 

Spock pulled her to him gently and cupped her chin in his hand. "I have been alone for longer than I have been a prisoner of this curse and I assumed that this was just the way it was meant to be. I watched others find their heart's desires and I stayed and accepted this as my destiny. I am the dragon, after all. Who mourns for the dragon? You brought no preconceptions and just accepted me, as I was, for who I was. You came and brought with you your own fire. You talked to me of stars and poets, science and philosophy. All you have ever wanted was to be allowed the freedom to make your own choices in your own life and I want to suggest another alternative: Stay. Stay here -- with me."

 

The look in his eyes was passionate and compelling. Her heart missed a beat until she caught herself.

 

Just words in the play, just words in the play, he's reading them at me, not saying them to me. Now if I could just get my stomach to believe that. That thought focused her personal pain once more into her character. She spoke her lines and hoped he took any trembling in her tone for acting.

 

"Why, because you need company? Because I'm the only choice? Because you feel sorry for me? 'Cause I can do fine on my own. I'm no one's second best." As she spoke the lines she thought of T'Pring, Leila and Zarabeth. Heck, technically, I'm not anywhere near second. Damn, if the rumors are right, I even got beat out by a Romulan! Tears welled in her eyes but she was suddenly brought back from her thoughts when Spock guided her face up so that she would be forced to look him in the eye. Only when they were gazing directly into each other's eyes did Spock speak.

 

"No, because I need you. Because I love you. And you're right. You are no one's second best." With that Spock leaned down and pressed his lips to hers. This kiss, even more than the first, was intense. Her breath came in a sob and after a second she wrapped her arms around his neck, winding her fingers into his hair. She felt his arms cradle her and she melted into the embrace. As this kiss deepened, Christine forgot the play, the role. She forgot everything except the feel of the man in her arms, the feel of his arms like bands of fire circling her and the combination of sensuousness and love that engulfed her. She didn't memorize the experience; she absorbed it, because memory took more effort than she was willing to focus away from the feel of Spock.

 

She allowed herself to feel the joy, the exhilaration, the affection, the respect, the desire, everything that went into her love for Spock, knowing that he would feel and sense it all. And for once she wanted him to feel it all because, this once, there was no virus, no enemy coercing them. I'm not going to mourn that this will never happen again, Spock, I am thankful that for this moment I can express my love and not feel ashamed. For that I am forever grateful. Thank you, Spock.*

 

She didn't remember getting through the end of the play, although she was told it went splendidly. She had little memory of the applause, of receiving the customary bouquet of roses and the congratulatory pats on the back. There was an after play party but to Christine it was just a crowd of bodies and endless noise. She wanted ... no ... she needed somewhere quiet. While she had originally planned on going back to her own room, she found herself back on the stage. There, in the now silent theater, she closed her eyes and allowed herself to relive the feeling of being in Spock's arms, all of it, the joy and the bittersweet pain.

 

She noticed that she had left the roses on the upstage table. She picked them up, taking them with her as she sat down on the edge of the stage. She took a deep whiff of the rich bouquet and closed her eyes to imprint the memory.

 

"It is gratifying to see that you are enjoying the roses." Christine opened her eyes to the sound of that rich, oh so familiar, voice. "I'm sorry if I startled you."

 

A shy smile crept over Christine's face. "No need to apologize, Spock. I just ... I just didn't realize you were here." It took a moment to realize how Spock had phrased his statement. "Were the flowers from you?"

 

"Did you not see the card?"

 

She shook her head and stated apologetically, "I didn't see one." As she examined the bouquet more completely she discovered a card entangled in the tissue paper at the base. Opening the tiny envelope she pulled out the card and read:

 

"Christine -

            You are no one's second best.

                        Spock"

 

She read it again. In fact, she had to read it a third time before she allowed her eyes to meet his. When she did, she realized that he was standing much closer than before. So close that she could drown in not only her confusion but also in his velvet brown eyes.

 

"I have been alone for longer than I have been a prisoner of this curse and I assumed that this was just the way it was meant to be. I watched others find their heart's desires and I stayed and accepted this as my destiny. I am the dragon, after all. Who mourns for the dragon? You brought no preconceptions and just accepted me, as I was, for who I was. You came and brought with you your own fire. You talked to me of stars and poets, science and philosophy. All you have ever wanted was to be allowed the freedom to make your own choices in your life and I want to suggest another alternative: Stay. Stay here -- with me."

 

Christine could barely find her voice but finally managed to whisper, "The play's over, Mister Spock. No more rehearsals. It's ... it's back to real life." She wondered if he could hear her heart attempting to exit stage left.

 

"I borrow the words from Mr. Riley but I stand by their meaning. Whether you realized it or not, you have always confounded me. When your loved one was missing, you did not sit idly and wait for others to rescue him, you went in search for yourself. That shows strength and determination. You are extremely well educated and yet willingly set aside your own career and title as physician to take the post on the Enterprise as nurse. You have stayed working in both sick bay and the Science department as a researcher which shows dedication and self-sacrifice. You place yourself in a position that could cause you to be uncomfortable for the morale of the crew and you attempt to place your emotions in check for fear that I would be uncomfortable. This shows consideration and a sense of loyalty. You are also the only woman I have ever known who has acknowledged loving both my Vulcan and Human aspects, showing a true acceptance of the IDIC. Because of these attributes, I find I would like to discuss with you the possibility of modifying our relationship to one on a more personal level. Oh, and one other thing..."

 

"And what might that be?" Christine purred.

 

As his hands came to wrap around her and his lips came to meet hers, she heard him say, "I have discovered that I quite enjoy kissing you."

 

Unheard and unseen by the new couple, Janice Rand quietly clicked off the vid which had been recording the play and she grinned from ear to ear.

 

THE END