DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of JM Lane and is copyright (c) 2004 by JM Lane. This story is Rated PG-13.


JM Lane

Spock and Uhura were in love.

Now, ordinarily this would be a wonderful thing, especially for the Vulcan, who had for so many years denied he was even capable of falling in love…but when he did, it wasn't with the one you might expect--the woman who had loved him devotedly for so many years from a distance, one Christine Chapel.

It was for this reason that both of the individuals involved dreaded instead of anticipated telling their friends of their new-found feelings for each other. Both cared for Christine as a friend, if nothing else…and it was because of the fact of their mutual friendship for her that it was an agonizing dilemma for them, neither having any idea whatsoever how they were going to resolve it--or even if it could be resolved. This was the no-win scenario to end all no-win scenarios!

If it were just the two of them, it would be one thing, but in this case there were other people's feelings to consider…specifically, Christine's. Once she found out, she would be devastated, no matter how gently it was put to her--or who told her. One thing the pair both knew that they didn't want, however, was for her to hear it from anyone else. This was the only thing that marred the perfection of their love. However deeply their own feelings for each other ran, they would have done virtually anything to have spared Christine this heartbreak. She'd been through so much already; she didn't deserve this.

Unfortunately, both also knew that it was virtually impossible to break such news to her without shattering both her heart and her dreams. At the same time, it would be equally devastating to them both to have even attempted to deny their love, particularly since they had already admitted it to each other--if not to anyone else. Spock hadn't even confessed it to Kirk yet…and that was saying something!

Both finally agreed that it would be a good idea to confess their feelings, both for each other and Christine, then discuss it with Jim and the Doctor before even attempting to tell Christine of their romantic involvement, if only to have their advice and input on the subject. Neither Uhura nor Spock would be at all surprised if McCoy would want to be there when they did it, if only to give Christine some moral support--and in a situation such as this, she was going to need all she could get.

None of them had had any idea that anything like this would happen when they'd first come together for the original five-year mission, and neither had Spock nor Uhura realized their attraction until after the V'ger incident. Before that, they had not admitted to feeling any more than friendship for one another. They were also unsure as to whether or not Jim or the Doctor were aware of their ever-growing, yet star-crossed love for each other, but wouldn't be at all surprised if they had known from the start, being as perceptive as they were.

Considering all that Christine had done for him, surely she deserved some consideration for her dogged devotion--all her love and support, the times she had cared for him in sickness or when he was injured-- not to mention the time in Sickbay over Psi 2000 when she had first confessed her love for him; the time they had shared consciousness together during the Sargon/Henoch incident, and finally the time on Platonius when Spock had been forced to kiss and caress Christine and the Captain made to do the same with Uhura.

Even then, part of Spock had wished he had been the one to have ended up with Uhura, but at the time, none of them had had any control over their conscious actions, thanks to Parmen and Philana. Not that the Vulcan would have minded kissing Christine under different circum- stances…circumstances such as his having fallen in love with her.

It wasn't that he wasn't grateful for all she had done for him; he was--very much so--and always would be. There had been times, in fact, that Spock was certain that he would literally have died without her. Because of all this, Christine would always have a special place in his affections, but as the Vulcan had only recently discovered, Uhura was his heart.

And once she learned of his love for Uhura, both were certain that Christine would think Spock nothing less than callous and unfeeling to have thrown her love for him back in her face in favor of that of her best friend: to put it mildly!

Unfortunately, no matter what either of them did or said, the female Doctor was bound to think that very thing; perhaps she would even decide that she could no longer stay aboard and work with either of them, particularly Spock, and know he was lost to her--and to Uhura of all people.

That would be the most galling thing of all to her, almost a literal slap in the face…and a figurative kick in the heart. But in Christine's case, this figurative kick would hurt every bit as much as a literal one. In fact, a literal one would probably have hurt less. Neither of them wanted to see her go, of course, but there would be little they could do or say to stop her--nor could either of them blame her for going--if she was really determined.

It was a cinch too that neither one of them would relish the thought of having to live such a scenario had any of their roles been reversed. It would be far too painful…but now Christine would have to do just that--and because of their actions, even though both tried their utmost not to feel guilty about their feelings for each other. After all, they hadn't consciously planned or cold-bloodedly set out to fall in love and flaunt it in front of Christine!

In fact, it was quite the opposite…but both seriously doubted that any of them, not even Jim and McCoy, would be able to convince Christine of that--particularly not in the heat of the moment. Oh, well--it was illogical to dwell overmuch on something one could not change. The best thing to do was seek out their two closest friends and see what they could come up with between them, if anything. With that, Spock and Uhura left the former's quarters and headed for the Officers' Lounge. Maybe they could discuss it with Jim and McCoy over dinner.

* * *

McCoy's eyebrow rose in a most Vulcan manner as he saw Spock and Uhura approach as he and Jim were reaching the second half of their meal. That was something one didn't see every day -- but it was certainly a more frequent sight than Spock walking up to them with Christine…and what's more, openly holding hands with the lady in question. But however surprising, this time it was for a very special--yet very serious--reason. Both Kirk and the Doctor smiled at the couple as they sat down facing them.

"Well, this is a surprise," the latter remarked. "Is there some special reason that you've sought us out, Spock?"

"The best reason in the universe, Doctor," Spock replied quietly, squeezing Uhura's hand and gazing tenderly upon her before returning his gaze to his two Human friends.

Kirk and McCoy stared wide-eyed at their friend's atypical action, then at each other. "Spock, are you saying what we think you're saying?" the Captain finally said after recovering his voice.

"That depends on what you thought I said, Jim," the Vulcan replied, still openly holding Uhura's hand and occasionally squeezing it during the course of their conversation.

But Kirk, knowing his Vulcan friend as well as he did and as perceptive as he was, sensed that something about Spock had changed, knew that Spock had never looked so happy and…well…fulfilled was the first word which came to mind. And for his friend's sake, he hoped Spock never lost that look--but was he actually saying that Uhura was *responsible* for that look? "Spock, are you telling us…?" The Captain couldn't bring himself to actually voice the incredible and heretofore unheard-of scenario now playing out in his mind.

"I am," was the reply. Only two words--but two words which spoke volumes.

"Well, will wonders never cease! I didn't think you had it in you, Spock…but seriously, Jim and I wish you and Uhura every happiness. May I ask when this happened?"

"We--only recently realized it," the Vulcan confessed, his thumb now absently stroking in an up-and-down motion on Uhura's hand as he clasped it in his own. "I can only surmise that it has been…building for a long time, ever since we have known each other."

And knowing Spock, it would have taken him this long to realize it, the Doctor thought to himself with a knowing smile. Once he stopped fighting and/or denying it, that is. However, it was McCoy who also voiced the question none of the others could: "But what about Christine? How is she going to feel when she finds out about this?"

"That is something else we must discuss with you," Uhura blurted out before Spock could draw breath for a reply. "We must figure out how to break the news to her as gently as possible."

The Doctor shook his head hopelessly. "No matter how gently you tell her, it's going to hit her like the proverbial ton of bricks--and be as devastating as all hell--once it finally sinks in. It's for that reason that I think I'd better be with you when you do it, if only for Christine's moral support. At a time like that, she's going to need all she can get."

"We didn't plan to do this, Doctor," Uhura insisted. "It just happened. Certainly the last thing I ever expected, but now that I feel it, I never want to give it up."

"I know you didn't, Uhura…and no one's asking you to--but unfortunately, that's not going to make Chris feel any better," McCoy returned gently. "And whether you realize it or not, both of you are, at least figuratively, telling Christine that you expect her to give up her feelings in favor of yours. Even if she wants to, which I doubt, it's not going to be easy for her. I know that all too well...from my own bitter experience."

The Doctor's eyes became haunted and the others all knew he was referring to the breakup of his marriage and the loss of his daughter, the most painful episode of his life and something he rarely, if ever, talked about.

"I--deeply regret the pain that Christine is going to be caused by this, Doctor," the Vulcan finally returned, quietly and sincerely. "But I cannot change what has happened. None of us can."

"No one is to blame for this, Spock," Kirk assured him. "Least of all, the two of you."

"Christine will not see it that way," the Vulcan pointed out.

"That's unavoidable, unfortunately. All we can do is tell her as gently as possible and help her through the pain and trauma as best we can--but I can't say I'm looking forward to it any more than the rest of you are." Kirk looked at the hopeful yet apprehensive couple before him, seeing the love they bore for each other yet knowing how hard the third person in the equation was going to take the news of their involvement. "When did you plan on doing it? It's best to get it over with as soon as possible…before anyone else notices and decides to tell her in a *not*-so-gentle manner."

"I know, but I've got the sickening feeling that nothing we say or do is going to convince Chris that neither of us ever meant to hurt her," Uhura returned glumly.

Spock looked at the woman beside him, the look in his eyes a mixture of concern and question; this time it was she who squeezed his hand reassuringly and smiled. The Vulcan allowed himself a half-smile in return and returned his attention to his friends.

"Anyone got any ideas on how we're going to go about telling Christine? I don't think I have to remind any of you that this has got to be handled as delicately as possible," the Captain warned his three companions.

"No one knows that better than I do," Uhura declared. "And I've been trying to get that point across to Spock."

For the first time the Vulcan gave his paramour a hard look. "I am just as aware of the need for delicacy in this matter as you are," he insisted.

"That still doesn't preclude your tendency toward bluntness," Uhura retorted. "And that's the last thing Chris needs right now. She's going to feel hurt and betrayed enough as it is."

"I have never intentionally hurt Christine," the Vulcan insisted.

"Maybe not, but that isn't going to make your--our--actions any less painful for her in this situation," the dark woman pointed out. "And not even the best of intentions is going to change that fact."

"Which reminds me, Spock," Kirk suddenly broke in. "Has anybody seen the two of you together doing anything romantic at any time in the recent past?"

"Not as far as I am aware," he reported. "Even at that, Uhura and I usually make sure to be discreet in our…demonstrations of affection."

"It's the 'usually' that concerns me. After this, I think it's best if the two of you confine them to your respective quarters so as not to give the rest of the crew any ammunition to use against Christine," the Captain continued.

"That's not going to be easy," Uhura opined, looking at her Vulcan paramour; he nodded in agreement. "But we've got to try, for Chris's sake."

"Only temporarily--but even then, how long do you think she's going to want to stick around once she knows?" McCoy asked rhetorically; everyone knew the answer but none wanted to voice it. "I know I wouldn't want to stay long, if it was me."

"Come on, Bones, I think you're definitely selling her short. Christine is more professional than that," Kirk chided him.

"In most things, maybe," the CMO threw back. "This concerns Spock. How many women can be professional on command about someone they're head-over-heels for? Especially for any length of time? I admit Chris has done exceptionally well under the circumstances, but then, she's had to learn the hard way."

"Dr. McCoy has a point," Uhura was forced to admit, giving Spock an affectionate smile and her large chocolate-brown eyes soft. "I'm glad I won't have to go through that -- at least not to the extent that Chris will," she finished quietly. "And I won't blame her if she doesn't want me anywhere near her for a while. I'll understand, but it won't be easy to have to keep my distance when I want so much to help her and can so easily put myself in her place."

"I think we're all going to have a rough time of it before this is over," Kirk finally said. "But better that than Christine being scarred for life. Even so, Spock and Uhura have waited a long time to be able to share happiness together, too. They deserve this chance to show it." Kirk gave his friend an affectionate glance. "By the way, Spock, do you two intend to bond any time soon?"

"I am…seriously considering it, but have discussed it with Uhura and we have agreed to postpone it until this present situation is satisfactorily dealt with."

"As satisfactorily as it ever can be, anyway," the Doctor added.

"Lastly, if the two of you are…well…intimate, do your utmost to make sure no one sees either of you either enter or leave one another's quarters, much less come out together," the Captain warned. "I know this seems like a lot to ask of a couple newly in love, but I think it's the best thing to do, at least for the moment--and it is for a good cause."

All had to agree with his statement, and consequently spent the rest of their meal together discussing how best to break the news of Spock and Uhura's romance to Christine. That is, once the latter couple had gotten their own food and rejoined the Captain and CMO.

* * *

Unfortunately for Christine, ignorance had truly been bliss. To her, the old adage, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing" was the truest thing a Human had ever uttered. Well, maybe not a "dangerous" thing, but certainly exquisitely painful and hitting her every bit as hard as the proverbial ton of bricks McCoy had suggested--especially since she had inadvertently come upon the aforementioned couple in a passionate clinch roughly ten days ago.

After running the usual course of denial, anger, heartbreak and finally extremely reluctant acceptance, the ACMO had vowed upon recovering (as much as she could, anyway) that she would get to the bottom of this if it was the last thing she ever did…even if it meant taking both of the perpetrators apart--if only figuratively.

Intellectually, she knew that neither had meant to hurt her, and if the circumstances had been different, she would have been the first to congratulate the new couple and wish them the best of every- thing. The different circumstances being, of course, had she not been emotionally involved (if not in any other way) with Spock. She had also noted that none of her friends had been able to bring them- selves to tell her; well, she appreciated their concern for her feelings, but now was the time for her to let them know that she knew.

* * *

Christine fervently wished that she hadn't had such a phenomenal memory for detail; it would have been far easier for her to forget what she had seen, if only for a little while. But she had imagined the scene which had played out before her in her own mind far too often for that to be possible…and with herself, not her best friend, as the female romantic lead, as it were.

It was late at night and they had just gotten off-duty, each having been on the late shift. Spock had walked her back to her quarters, one strong but gentle arm around her, just as one of her arms had been locked around his slender waist. They were so close together that it was difficult to tell where one of them ended and the other began--but that was just the way the new lovers liked it.

It had been only two weeks since their romance had heated up, but it felt as though they had known each other forever, although it had in reality been about ten years…for a Vulcan, roughly equivalent to a year's waiting for a Human because of the difference in their life spans. Either way, far too long for each to wait for the fulfillment of their love, but all the same, well worth the wait once it had finally happened.

But all that mattered to the couple at the moment was the fact that they were together, they were alone, and most of all, that they were in love--and both doubted they would ever get enough of each other; it had seemed a literal eternity until Spock had decided to admit his feelings for her…both to himself and to her. He had picked her up at her station and they had entered the turbolift together; upon the doors closing behind them, he had gathered her into his arms and kissed her hungrily, seeming literally insatiable as he did so...as did she.

The lovers kissed and caressed every inch of their companion's body (at least every inch they could reach at the moment) with both lips and hands; Spock seemed especially hungry for her lips, neck, breasts and buttocks. Her heart pounded double as his hands cupped the latter while pressing her close to him; he felt deliciously hard and so large that Christine was unsure if she could accommodate him. She certainly intended to do her utmost once the time came, however--and both seemed determined that the time be right now…or at least as soon as possible after this moment.

He moaned softly against her lips when she followed suit for a time, then ran her fingernails lightly up and down his back. "Christine, Christine, m'chejan…I must have you soon…I need you so…"

"Every bit as much as I need you, I hope, beloved," she murmured into his hot, delicious mouth. Even the Vulcan's sensitive ears barely heard the doors open onto Deck Five. Extremely reluctant to end the kiss, Spock swung his paramour into his arms and carried her down the corridor toward her quarters--where he fully intended to spend a tenderly passionate night with her. He disliked the idea of having to put her down, but it was necessary in order for her to open her door so they could go inside.

After a final lingering kiss, the Vulcan put his lover down and she quickly opened her door, then they slipped inside; she locked her door and the passionate pair immediately headed for her sleeping alcove…

Of course, in her fantasy, it continued well into the imaginary night for the imaginary lovers, but in this case, it was far too painful for Christine to imagine what Spock and Uhura had most likely done behind the latter's quarters door…her closed and locked quarters door. This also happened to be the point at which her buzzer sounded and Nyota's voice came through her intercom.

"Chris, can we come in and talk to you? It's important."

"'We'?" she asked questioningly as she sat up on her bed, sliding her feet into her slippers and padding out to her living area to greet her visitors.

"Spock, Dr. McCoy and the Captain," Uhura elaborated.

Wow, this has to be really big, the CMO thought. How often do all my closest friends come to my quarters at once? Of course, Christine knew all too well why they were here, but vowed to do her best to hear them out, give each the benefit of the doubt…at least, until all was out in the open.

"Of course; just a second. I need to slip my robe on." Once she had done so, she squared her shoulders and thought, Well, here it is--the moment of truth. I pray that I'll be able to get through this without making too big a fool of myself, even as she pressed the button to unlock her door and allow her visitors entrance. "All right, come on in."

* * *

"Isn't it kind of late for you all to be here? After all, if I remember correctly, we all have early shifts in the morning," Christine pointed out once everyone had filed in and the door had slid shut behind them.

"It is necessary," Spock returned quietly.

Christine knew the quiet presaged something ominous…but she didn't care to speculate on just what. At least not about more than she already knew, and that was bad enough.

"I'm afraid it's something you're not going to find easy to hear, Chris," McCoy warned as gently as he could. "I just thought I should be here in case you needed some moral, or emotional, support."

"It's that bad, huh?" the ACMO tried to joke--but the joke fell flat.

"It's that bad," Kirk assured her, his voice very serious.

"How about somebody telling me exactly what this is all about for a change? So far all I've heard is everybody talking in riddles." She turned to Uhura. "Ny, you usually give things to me straight. What are you guys all here, now, for?"

"Before I do, Chris, please sit down. Meanwhile, try to keep in mind that we never meant for this to happen and don't mean to hurt you now."

Christine frowned. "I ask again, who's 'we'?"

"Spock and myself," Uhura returned so only Christine could hear.

"What about you and Spock?" Christine wondered, giving everyone in the room funny looks but lingering on Spock. The latter was unable to meet her eyes more than a moment, bowing his head to intently study his hands.

"We…we've…fallen in love," Uhura finally forced out, afraid of her friend's possible reaction.

Everyone, including Spock, was surprised by Christine's reaction: or lack thereof. "I see. When did this start?"

"We--realized it only two weeks ago, shortly after the V'ger mission, although I believe the attraction began much sooner," Spock made himself say, forcing himself to raise his head and meet his hostess's eyes. "I am…deeply sorry, Christine. I know how painful this must be for you to hear."

"I appreciate your concern and your apology, Spock, but I've been half expecting something like this all along. If you're happy with Uhura, who am I to stand in your way?"

McCoy scowled skeptically at her. "Who are you trying to fool, Chris? We all know how you feel about Spock."

"Fool, Leonard? I'm not trying to fool anyone, especially not regarding my feelings," Christine insisted, forcing a smile.

"Besides, what do you expect me to do anyway--bust out crying? What good would that do me? I can't say I'm fond of the idea, but I'm not going to penalize Spock for choosing another. He's a grown man; he can pursue whoever he wants." Christine was pleased to note that the stunned looks on everyone's faces were slowly changing into ones of relief. She had no idea she was that consummate an actress; if this had been a holovid motion picture, she could have won an Academy Award. The only question was, how long could she keep it up? The pain inside her was so intense as to almost cripple her; even the thought of knowing that Spock was holding, kissing and making love to her best friend every night, much less planning to marry her instead of herself was almost more than she could bear.

But it was a proven fact now, not just speculation; there was nothing she could do or say to change it. No amount of tears would move him, no amount of passionate declarations or anything else. She would simply have to accept it and live with it as best she could…though at this point she had no idea how she was ever going to do it. But if she played her cards right, they would leave her to mourn her lost love in peace, then get on with her life (or what was left of it) as best she could.

"Chris, don't you realize what this means? It means you will never have Spock; he plans to bond with and possibly marry Uhura--maybe even have children with her. I'm also assuming that they both plan to stay on the ship, too. Are you trying to convince us that all that doesn't matter to you--that he doesn't matter to you any more?" McCoy still sounded incredulous.

"I'm well aware of that, I assure you," she returned coolly, her training in observing and mimicking Spock's poker face serving her well now. "He, and it, matters plenty--but I'm trying to be realistic and not a hindrance to them, simply wish them happiness as any proper friend would do."

"So what do you intend to do?" Kirk put in. "Will I have to look for a new ACMO, or what?"

"I see no reason to leave the ship at the moment," she returned as coolly as she could muster. "If and when I do, I'll surely let you know, however."

By this time, even Spock was beginning to wonder if perhaps Christine wasn't putting on one heck of an act--perhaps she was totally devastated, covering up inestimable pain and heartbreak at his total and final rejection, but trying to be unselfish about it as she should be. Having been the object of her affections for so many years, he figured that if anyone could make her admit her true feelings, he could. He vowed to be as gentle but still as honest and direct as possible.

"Christine, I want to assure you that I have…needed and appreciated your love and support every moment of the years we have known each other. What is more, you have become a--dear friend to me… us… and we have no wish to lose your friendship, ever. I also have no wish for us to part with bad feelings between us, simply because of my illogic."

His beautiful, eloquent eyes looked deeply into hers; she was even surprised to find that he was holding her hands gently but firmly. Tears filled her eyes, threatening to overflow, and she was unsure if she would be able to reply without their showing in her voice.

"Thank you, Spock. I'm…very glad to hear that," she replied as loudly as she dared, tears held back by the barest thread--and was sure that Spock knew it. He had always had such a talent for getting under her skin…and it was obvious that even now, he still had that talent.

"However, Uhura…Nyota…is everything to me. My heart, my soul…all that I have ever searched for in a woman. A part of me, now and forever." She knew the Vulcan was baring his heart to her and for his sake-- and Nyota's--was very happy for them both. For herself, however, she doubted she would ever be truly happy again. Contentment would be the best she could possibly expect under the circumstances.

"Please--do not leave the ship, Christine. We…would all miss you very much--and it would sadden Nyota and myself most of all because we would know why you left, no matter what `official' reason you gave. I know it will be--difficult for you, but please stay, at least until the end of this tour of duty. If you leave then, we will understand and not try to stand in your way." Spock's actions right now were simply another painful reminder of why she had fallen in love with him--his caring for other people's feelings, his tenderness and unselfishness in the face of their pain. He was such a wonderful man; Nyota was so lucky to have been deemed worthy of him. How very much she wished that she could have been; that her love could have been good enough for him. She even wished that she could have blamed one of them, but found she couldn't. They had at least had consideration enough not to have flaunted their relationship before her, and what's more, been open and honest with her about it…if only that knowledge could have made her hurt less! She also couldn't be sure how long she would be able to endure staying on board ship with Spock and know he was lost to her, and especially to Nyota, of all people! She didn't know how to answer him, so she said nothing…at least for the time being. He tried further reassurance. "However, my choice of Uhura does not mean that you yourself are not an…extremely attractive woman, Christine. There is--absolutely nothing whatsoever 'wrong' with you. Please do not ever think that, not for a moment. Any man would be…lucky to have you, and it is--my hope that one day you will find the man who will…love you as you deserve--as I could not." You mean, would not, she couldn't help thinking: and because they were touching, Spock sensed her thought. I am truly sorry, Christine, the Vulcan thought back through their partial bond. But however it may have seemed, it was never my… our…intention to hurt you. I--wish with every ounce of my being that it could have been avoided. I know, she returned sadly but understandingly. Unfortunately, some things are unavoidable…and this just happens to be one of them. With that, she extricated her hands from his, and was at least partially comforted by the regret, if not apology, that she saw in Spock's beautiful sable eyes even as some errant tears escaped her now-closed lids. He gently brushed them away and gave her a small but genuine, if somewhat sad, smile before backing off. This was the point where Uhura spoke again. "I'll certainly understand if you don't want to be around me for a while, Chris, but I do hope we can remain friends despite all this." Christine gazed at her closest friend through tear-filled eyes and held out her arms. "Of course we can. Don't be silly." When the women embraced, Christine saw tears in Nyota's eyes as well, hugging her all the tighter in comfort and reassurance of her continued affections. "I know how badly you must be hurting right now, my friend, and I'm very sorry for that--but I cannot regret what has happened between Spock and myself. He is all I have ever wanted in a man, and I will love him for as long as I live. It is also my prayer that you will find someone special who will love you as you deserve…because you do deserve to be loved, despite what has happened--and don't ever tell yourself otherwise. You just haven't found the right man yet… but I'm sure you will one day, very soon." I thought I had, Christine couldn't help thinking, even as she hugged her friend tightly again and her eyes re-filled. But I guess I was wrong. If only I could have known what Nyota has that I don't, the something which made Spock fall in love with her. Of course, I should have expected something like this long before now. I mean, they have so much in common, for one thing--not the least of which is the fact that they work in the same place, on the Bridge.

She finally released Uhura and turned to face Spock again as the two women wiped tears from their eyes. "I've got a lot to think about, Spock. It's for that reason that I can't make any promises one way or the other right now. Get back to me in say, three days or so. With luck, I should have some kind of answer for you then." He seemed to relax, but Christine couldn't be sure that she would be ready to give him a definite answer even then. And Uhura knew better than anyone how much pain her friend was presently enduring. Chris had loved Spock for so long; it was so unfortunate for her that things had turned out like this…but she, Uhura, could never regret the fact that Spock had chosen her, even as much as she truly regretted hurting Chris--and worst of all, having to hurt Chris, whom she loved like the sister she had never had. Even at that, she could neither deny her love for Spock nor her happiness at his having taken her for his own. She could hardly wait for their official bonding or the shipboard wedding, which she definitely wanted Chris to share in, perhaps even be her maid of honor. It would probably seem like rubbing salt in her friend's wounds, but Uhura still prayed that Christine would be willing to attend her. However, there was still plenty of time before they had to concern themselves with such things and Chris needed time to assimilate the news as it was. Until then, Uhura vowed to keep a respectful distance, both physical and emotional, and not speak on the subject until and unless her friend brought it up first.

* * *

It wasn't until late that evening and the loving couple were snuggled close together in each other's arms on Spock's bed in his quarters that they decided to talk about their friends and their situation. Uhura's black head was cradled on her Vulcan lover's shoulder, his strong but gentle arms securely around her, holding her warm, fragrant and bare body close to his. Soft music played in the background, some of Uhura's favorite oldies from the previous three centuries. Spock couldn't make head nor tail of most of them--at least not emotionally speaking--but she enjoyed them, so he tolerated them for her sake.

"Spock?" Her soft, melodic voice brought him back to reality.

"What?" he prompted, his own voice equally soft before he lifted her chin and prepared to kiss her.

"When are we going to bond?" she asked even as he bent his head toward her, their lips just barely apart. "I want to feel your mind within mine, hear your voice in my head, be as close to you mentally and emotionally as we are physically."

"Whenever you wish," he assured her. "Now let us do something much better." Before she could draw breath for a reply, she kissed her tenderly, yet passionately and thoroughly.

Even so, it didn't stop her from wanting to talk further once the kiss ended. "Spock, we need to talk."

The Vulcan sighed in affectionate exasperation. "Very well. What do you wish to discuss?"

"A little of everything, really, but first I want to ask you something."

"Such as?" he prompted again.

"Have you told your parents about us?"

"I just sent Mother a stargram," he informed her. "I have not received a reply from her yet. What about you? Have you contacted your family?"

"Oh yes, I wrote them, but like you, I haven't heard back yet. How do you think your parents are going to react to your marrying a Human?"

"I believe Mother will be very pleased; it will take somewhat longer for my father to 'come around,' as you say, but I believe he will eventually. Which reminds me--have you any idea how your family will react to your marrying a Vulcan?"

"I don't think it will matter to them as long as I'm happy," she returned with a tender smile. "And I am happy. Very happy, indeed." This time she was the one who drew him close and kissed him lingeringly. Only reluctantly did she draw away, but there was more she needed to say. "In fact, I would even like to ask Chris to be part of our wedding…maybe even be my maid of honor."

The Vulcan's answering expression was laced with concern. "Do you think that would be wise? We should not cause her any more pain than we already have."

"I think it would cause her more pain to be left out," she returned firmly. "And in spite of everything, she is still our friend. Even at that, I'll have to approach her carefully. Which reminds me--what if your mother confronts you regarding Christine?" Uhura knew that Spock had written his mother about Christine some time back about the younger woman's feelings for him and how best to deal with them.

"I--do not know just yet," he was forced to admit. "Perhaps you could help me compose an answer when the time comes."

"Of course," she readily agreed. "I'll do all I can."

"Also, would you mind if Jim helps us complete our bond? It is… traditional on Vulcan that the person with the strongest mental bond with at least one of the betrothed couple assist them during the bonding ceremony."

"Whatever you like, as long as it happens. That's all that matters to me," she declared feelingly.

"Very well; I will contact Jim and we will make the arrangements," Spock promised, his beautiful sable eyes holding every bit as much feeling as did his paramour's voice as he gazed upon her dark loveliness. "And you can have whomever you wish in the wedding party," he declared, unable to deny Uhura anything that would make her happy-- a drastic yet refreshing change from his usual attitude toward women who loved him.

"Thank you. I'll ask Chris the first chance I get," she told him. "And who do you plan to ask to be your `best man'?"

"Since Jim is to officiate, I believe I will ask Dr. McCoy," the Vulcan replied, wanting the CMO there for not simply that reason alone but to help Christine make it through the ceremony--which the couple had already decided would be private, with just their closest friends present. Arrangements for the Vulcan wedding would be made later, once everyone got used to the idea. "Meanwhile, I wish to return to what we were doing earlier…something most pleasurable for both of us and which does not require any words."

The look in his lover's eyes answered his question, so there were no further words exchanged between the couple; instead, their actions spoke for them--and more eloquently than any words. As a result, the lovers were kept most pleasantly (and thoroughly) occupied until the following morning and time for their duty shifts.

* * *

Fortunately for Christine, however, a new crewmember came aboard shortly thereafter… specifically, a Vulcan crewmember--and a full-blooded one to boot. Since he specialized in bio-chemistry, just as Christine did, it was likely that both she and Spock would be thrown into frequent contact with him. The latter would get along very well with the newcomer…until he had noticed that his fellow Vulcan took every possible opportunity to be near Christine, both on and off- duty.

Considering the fact that Senek was a full-blooded Vulcan, his actions seemed most illogical to Spock--until he was reminded of his own behavior toward Uhura. Naturally this put him on the defensive right away, and the person who had reminded him of it (one Leonard McCoy, who had also worked with the newcomer) didn't swallow his protestation at all--not one bit!

"What does it matter to you anyway, Spock?" the CMO pointedly inquired as the two men sat together having their midday meal shortly after the Vulcan had asked him to be his best man. "If I remember correctly, you act just as silly around Uhura. Did you ever consider the fact that even if you don't want Christine, it's just conceivable that someone else would?"

"My conduct is not the issue here, Doctor. Nyota and I are engaged. This man has only been aboard 1.3 months. He and Christine scarcely know each other."

"Haven't you ever heard of `love at first sight'?" McCoy countered. "And don't tell me that Vulcans are incapable of falling in love. If that were true, you certainly wouldn't be here--nor would you be engaged to Uhura. After all, when all is said and done, despite all your logical protestations, both you and Senek are just as much men as you are Vulcans. Besides, he's not telling you how to deal with your romance, so keep your nose out of his." The CMO took a bite of his food and a drink to wash it down, then gave his Vulcan companion a wicked smile. "If I didn't know better, I'd swear you were either jealous or making noises like an overprotective big brother."

The Vulcan's eyes turned hard and cold. "I am not 'jealous,' Doctor; merely concerned for Christine's welfare."

McCoy could scarcely keep from laughing. Things could have been very different between Spock and Christine had the First Officer been even half as interested in Christine to begin with as he was now. Most any other man would have married her a long time ago; unfortunately, Spock wasn't "most men".

"Oh, no? Most any other man with your symptoms would be. I'd also be careful not to be too attentive to Christine in front of Uhura. She might get the wrong idea."

Spock's gaze became positively frigid. "She has nothing to worry about, I assure you, Doctor. I merely wish to--"

McCoy smoothly cut Spock off. "To keep her from being hurt by someone like you? Most com- mendable, Spock…but it's a little late for that." The Doctor gave his alien companion a knowing look and smile. "Besides, Senek doesn't strike me as half likely to be that kind of person--and believe me, after knowing you, that's saying something!"

This time, outer space would have been warmer than the tone of Spock's reply. "You are putting words in my mouth, Dr. McCoy. That is not what I intended to say at all."

"Oh, if only I could!" the CMO exclaimed, responding to the first statement. "Life would be so much easier!" When he saw the dark look on Spock's face become positively ominous, he knew he had pushed him to his limit, so he decided to back off while he still could. "Seriously, Spock, I'm glad you're so concerned for Christine. Still, it's hard to believe that you would actually suspect Senek--a fellow Vulcan--of having an ulterior motive where she is concerned. Wouldn't that be most uncharacteristic, particularly of a Vulcan, since your people are among the most honest and truthful in the Galaxy?"

A moment later, Spock's face softened as he realized that McCoy had simply been baiting him… and he had taken the bait--again! He had no idea how the Doctor could know just how much and when to "push his buttons" to get the desired reaction out of him…nor did he have any idea how to disarm that most disconcerting but most effective verbal weapon that McCoy rarely hesitated to employ. At least not at this moment in time--but hopefully one day he would figure a way to do so. Until then, however, he would simply have to live with it as best he could and deflect it as often as possible.

"For the most part, yes, we are," he confirmed. "However, there are occasionally those who either rebel against the dictates of logic and peace and embrace strong emotions--and not simply embracing emotions, but embracing the wrong kind of emotions, such as deception, greed, arrogance, lust and excessive pride. Individuals who do so invariably lose control of those emotions and are eventually ruled by them to the exclusion of all else, becoming most unscrupulous, even danger- ous, to deal with."

McCoy had to agree that there were indeed people like that in the Galaxy--far too many, unfortunately for the rest of them…and as much as Vulcans didn't want to admit it, they did their share to contribute toward the rampant vice and corruption. All the same, Senek did not strike him as one of these; in fact, he seemed to be one of the better examples of the breed…and that wasn't easy for one such as McCoy to admit--but fact was fact.

Christine could do a lot worse than hook up with him, unlike certain other people he could name, even if those people were his friends. As far as that went, he intended to do all he could to foster a closer relationship between Christine and Senek; it would be the perfect consolation prize. Spock had never seemed capable of truly appreciating her devotion to him, but something told McCoy that Senek would… and very much, too, given the chance.

From what the Doctor understood, Senek had lost his bondmate approximately a year prior to his joining the Enterprise crew, so Christine would be a perfect replacement. They would make an excellent couple, just like Sarek and Amanda. Perhaps it was necessary for the Vulcan partner to be full-blooded in order to truly appreciate a full-blooded Human. It might actually be that as a half-breed, Spock was incapable of appreciating the unique traits of someone like Christine.

He could understand why the Vulcan would be attracted to Uhura; she was lovely, both inside and out, no one could deny that--but Christine had a one-of-a-kind beauty that was hers alone. McCoy had known no one else quite like her and knew it would take a very special kind of man to truly love and appreciate her. Even with all Spock's good qualities, such as being brilliant, dedicated and caring, he was not the man for her…and never had been, although the Doctor was equally sure that the Vulcan would be everything to Uhura that he was incapable of being to Christine.

There might even be a double wedding! Unlikely, but stranger things had happened, although McCoy smiled inwardly at the thought. Both of his friends deserved the contentment which being happily married would give them. Contentment which had been largely denied them for the majority of their lives aboard ship, but which was now within their grasp. As their mutual friend, the CMO vowed to do all he could to see that they both had it--and kept it!

Of course, at this early stage, it was unlikely that either Christine or Senek realized that they were in love…or dangerously close to it. It would likely take a few more weeks, but he fully expected her to come to him one day soon and confess it, if not Senek himself. With a part of him, the Doctor even hoped that Senek would confess it to Spock, even before telling his paramour his feelings for her…and better yet, explain to his fellow Vulcan in detail just why he loved Christine. If nothing else, it might make Spock think a little of what might have been had circumstances been different.

"I really don't think there's anything to be concerned about, Spock. Senek and Christine are both mature adults. I'm sure they'll be fine," McCoy tried to reassure his Vulcan friend.

"I hope you are correct, Doctor," the Vulcan returned, somewhat dubiously but willing to wait and see what happened between the woman, whom even though she could not be Spock's lover or his wife, would always be a friend, and his fellow Vulcan--simply trust in the Doctor's superior knowledge of Humanoid psychology, particularly the psychology of love. Meanwhile, all they could do was hope for the best.

"Trust me, Spock, it'll happen," McCoy returned gently, picking up his fork and resuming eating. "Now, let's finish our dinner before it gets cold."

The Vulcan nodded in his Human companion's direction with a half- smile and returned to his own meal; within the next half-hour the two friends separated--Spock to return to his quarters, where his bondmate and future wife awaited, since she had eaten some time earlier, while he was on duty, and the Doctor to his duty shift in Sickbay.

* * *

Some days later, Uhura decided that she would ask her friend to be her maid of honor, but approach her as carefully and diplomatically as possible, bearing in mind her feelings for Spock and vowing to treat her as she herself would want to be treated if the situation was reversed.

They again met in the Officers' Lounge for their weekly dinner engagement…this time a late dinner, to make sure that few would be around to overhear them, particularly in the event Christine became upset with her for asking. The Communications Officer was determined not to have the situation become fodder for the gossip mill aboard ship. It was going to be difficult enough for Chris without that.

Once they were settled and began to eat, Uhura spoke carefully. "Chris, there's a favor I'd like you to do for me."

Christine smiled and reached to squeeze her friend's nearest hand. "Sure, if I can. What is it?"

"I would like very much for you to be my--maid of honor," she forced out.

Christine was silent for a long time, then said, "Does Spock know you're asking me?"

Uhura nodded. "He said I could have whomever I wished to attend me… although we were both concerned as to how you might react to my asking you--and I'll understand if you say no. I mean, I know how difficult this whole business must be for you, but my wedding wouldn't be the same without you."

That's putting it mildly, Christine thought, forcing a smile. "Nothing I can't handle. After all, this isn't the first time something like this has happened."

For a time the two women were both silent, thinking of Spock's first pon farr and his revelation that he already had a wife--sort of. But that was different from now; in the first case, there had been no wedding, and T'Pring and Christine hadn't even known each other, much less been friends. By contrast, there would be a wedding this time, and Spock would be marrying not only someone that Christine knew but someone she was very close to.

Uhura was the one to finally break the silence. "Will you do it, Chris?"

"Before I answer, will you tell me how you guys have planned for the wedding to be?" Christine didn't want to commit herself without knowing what the wedding was going to be like. She also was leery of possibly breaking down at a crucial moment, such as when Kirk pronounced Spock and Uhura husband and wife.

Uhura knew that Christine was stalling, but understood why, so she complied with her friend's request. "We both want a private ceremony, with just us and our closest friends present--those being the Captain, Dr. McCoy and you."

"Sounds like a good idea," Christine agreed, although she definitely wasn't looking forward to the time the Captain said, "Spock, you may now kiss your bride." For so long, she had hoped, dreamed and prayed that it would be her--and now, to know that it wasn't, and never would be…

She supposed she could always close her eyes, if not bury her face in Leonard's shoulder for the duration, when it happened. But no matter how you sliced it, no matter how short the ceremony was, it was going to seem an eternity until it was over. Even at that, it would hurt even more to miss it.

"I have another question," she said carefully. "Does Spock intend to kiss you at the ceremony?"

"He was considering it," Uhura tentatively confirmed. "Why? Would you rather we didn't?"

"It's not my place to say," the other woman dismissed. "Besides, I can always close my eyes or something."

"Are you saying you'll do it?"

"As long as you don't mind my not hanging around too long afterward," Christine tried to joke, although she was very serious--and suspected that Nyota knew it, even though she didn't call her on it.

"Just long enough to congratulate you. Besides, I have a report to finish for Leonard which is due the day after the wedding," she tried to beg off. "A real long and detailed one," she elaborated at her friend's skeptical look. "I need something to keep me busy."

"If you say so," Uhura returned. "I guess I can understand your not wanting to stay for the reception. I wouldn't want to either, in your place."

"I don't want to hurt you or Spock, Ny, but I have the distinct feeling that it's going to be all I can do to stand with you at the ceremony, then congratulate you. Do you think you'll be able to explain to him why I can't stay?"

"I don't think I'll need to," Uhura opined. "He'll know, just as well as I will. Which reminds me…how are things going with you and Senek?"

Christine stiffened but said, "We get along okay, even though he hangs around me a little more often than I'd like."

"Sounds to me like he likes you," Uhura gently teased.

"I'm not looking--nor am I ready for--another relationship yet, Ny," Christine returned pointedly. "Especially not with another Vulcan. I don't think I will be for some time to come."

"Isn't Senek supposed to be a full-blooded Vulcan?" Uhura wondered. "Not to mention quite attractive."

"As far as I know," Christine answered noncommittally to the first part, unwilling to respond to the other part of Nyota's statement, even though she agreed with it. But as she had said earlier, it was too early for her to even consider another romance, particularly with another Vulcan. The most she was willing to admit to was liking Senek.

"And if I remember correctly, he's also unbonded," the other woman pointed out.

"Don't push me, Nyota. I know you mean well, but for the time being, kindly back off," Christine declared quietly but firmly.

"All right, if you say so. Just one last thing, though…wouldn't it be something if you guys got together and ended up just as happy as Sarek and Amanda? Come to think of it, it might be that each partner in such a relationship has to be a full-blooded Vulcan or full- blooded Human to be able to truly appreciate each other."

Christine gave her companion a hard look but Uhura merely smiled serenely and resumed eating, cleverly deflecting a potentially explosive confrontation. The ACMO sighed and followed suit, glad that she had a little time to gather all her emotional and physical strength before she had to stand by while the man she loved married her best friend. To say it wouldn't be easy would be the proverbial understatement of the century, but she supposed she could hack it as long as Leonard was there to lean on.

* * *

Four weeks later everyone concerned was excitedly preparing for the wedding between the First and Communications Officer. Christine busied herself getting her dress ready and choosing a simple but elegant upswept hairstyle. Because of Uhura's dusky skin, she had chosen an old rose floor-length dress with a lace bodice and long fitted sleeves. In lieu of a veil, she wore deep pink roses in her jet-black hair and her bouquet was.made up of the same flowers with some lilies-of-the-valley held together with pink ribbons.

On the day of the wedding, the men and women involved separated temporarily, Kirk and McCoy helping their nervous Vulcan friend get ready…although both Humans knew that Spock would not admit to being nervous, not for a moment, even though they were both well aware that he was. Not to mention happier than he could ever remember being in his life. Uhura was a mixture of emotions on this day, happiness and nervousness being the main ones. She had never dreamed she would ever get married, particularly not while she was in Starfleet and especially not to a Vulcan…but obviously, that was before she had met and fallen in love with Spock.

She had also wanted to speculate on how she thought her marriage to Spock was going to be, but was mindful of Christine, so she kept her rhapsodizing to a minimum. "I'm so happy, Chris," she confessed to her friend as the latter fixed her hair and pinned the rose wreath in place. "I never dreamed I could feel so happy--and so lucky. Whoever thought I would ever be one of the few Human women to marry a Vulcan?"

"I'm sure Amanda would agree with you a hundred percent," Christine returned, pasting on a smile and doing her best to be happy for her friend even as her own heartbreak threatened to overwhelm her. "For that matter, why don't you discuss it with her sometime? Maybe when you guys go to Vulcan for the Vulcan wedding."

"I'll consider it," Uhura promised. "Now we'd better get going. I'm sure the guys are waiting for us."

"No doubt," Christine agreed. "Let's go." The women then gathered up their bouquets and left the ACMO's quarters after both did a quick once-over in the full-length mirror on Christine's wall next to the bathroom door.

* * *

Kirk and McCoy were in their formal uniforms, sitting on the Captain's bed while Spock was putting the finishing touches on himself, wearing his most elaborately embroidered royal blue and gold Vulcan robes--so elaborate, in fact, that the two Humans were convinced that it had to be wedding attire, even though there hadn't been anything like this when he'd come to Vulcan the last time, ostensibly for a wedding.

Perhaps he knew even then that he wasn't going to marry, despite the koon-ut-kal-if-fee ceremony. This time was different; everyone knew that there would be no challenge, so the Vulcan would feel safe in wearing true wedding attire. Underneath the robes he wore what looked like a one-piece body suit with his usual undershirt and knee-high black boots.

The Doctor was tempted to say that he hadn't thought anyone could primp so much, not even a woman (Spock had spent at least the last hour preparing himself), but decided it wasn't worth getting a lecture from Jim and likely a glare from Spock, so he kept quiet and waited for the women to arrive even as the Vulcan paced the floor back and forth countless times, literally jumping when the buzzer finally sounded, announcing their arrival.

Kirk pressed the button to open the door; it slid out of the way to reveal Christine, also with roses in her hair, a long lacy dress and a bouquet of the same color roses as those in her dark hair. If the Human males hadn't known better, they would have assumed her to be the bride…but the one who held that honor was right behind her.

"Don't you look nice, Christine!" the Captain enthused; McCoy smiled in agreement. "Where's Uhura?"

"Right here," came the latter's voice; even as Spock turned toward the sound, his friends blocked his view since it was bad luck for the groom to see the bride on the wedding day. Spock was aware of this Human tradition and considered it nothing less than illogical and irrelevant, but allowed it in order that the ceremony might proceed without too much of a delay.

All three men were stunned literally speechless at the vision who stepped up to greet them. She was so beautiful that she didn't seem real. To Spock, it hardly seemed possible that such an extraordinary woman could possibly belong to him, but she did--and his heart turned over when she stepped up beside him and smiled radiantly before they joined hands and turned to face Kirk, with McCoy on Spock's left and Christine on Uhura's right.

"Well, is everybody ready?" the Captain asked after a few minutes.

"As ready as we'll ever be," Uhura replied. Spock raised an eyebrow at his bride before allowing himself a smile in her direction as Christine and McCoy's eyes widened, then all settled down and the ceremony proceeded.

* * *

It was just as difficult for Christine as she had anticipated, but she managed to make it through by closing her eyes when Kirk said, "You may kiss your bride, Spock." She made herself wait at least a minute before opening her eyes again and giving McCoy a reassuring smile (since he was giving her a very concerned look) before turning to give her newly married friend a warm hug and kiss on the cheek.

She whispered in Nyota's ear, "Will you show me your ring soon?" before the latter's smile and nod prior to their separating--then she made herself smile and turn to Spock. "Congratulations, Spock. I wish you and Nyota every happiness…and want you to know that I'll always be your friend."

In spite of himself the Vulcan's own eyes misted over, particularly when he sensed her sincerity, even though he knew how painful this moment must be for her. "Thank you, Christine. Thank you for… everything." He was surprised but pleased when she hugged him as well and also kissed him on the cheek before withdrawing. "I will endeavor to be worthy of your friendship."

"Just as I will do my best to continue to be worthy of yours," she replied, then said, "I've got to go now. I'll see you all later. Dr. McCoy needs me to finish my long, detailed report for him on all the crewmembers we've treated since our latest five-year mission began, and it's due tomorrow, so it'll probably take me the rest of the night. Good night and congratulations again to you both."

"Good night," he returned quietly, watching her go even as Uhura stepped up to join him.

"That seemed to go well," she opined, even though she knew as well as Spock did that it had not been easy for Christine. "Even so, I know how hard it must have been for her to endure."

"We can only hope that she will find someone special eventually, someone worthy of her love," the Vulcan declared to his wife. "Perhaps even another Vulcan." Uhura detected the sadness in her new husband's beautiful sable eyes and put a loving hand on his cheek, which he held there with one of his own.

"I don't think we'll have to worry too much on that score," she reassured him. Especially not if Senek has his way, she couldn't help thinking, a wicked grin crossing her lips.

"What are you planning, my wife?" the Vulcan asked suspiciously.

"Just a little discreet matchmaking," was the deceptively innocent reply.

"We must not attempt to force the issue, Nyota," he gently admonished her. "If Senek and Christine are meant to be together, it will happen eventually--just as it did with us." This time he raised her hand to his lips and kissed it, lowering it before Kirk and McCoy turned around to claim their own kisses from Uhura and hugs from their Vulcan friend.

They would have an official honeymoon after the Vulcan wedding; that would be the earliest possible time that their duties and ship's missions would permit it. For the time being, however, they would simply enjoy the rest of this evening…and the night--their wedding night!

* * *

Christine actually did need to finish the report--but not as soon as was claimed. She had only said that so she would have a means of escape in order to be alone with her troubled thoughts and jumbled emotions. She frankly didn't think it was possible for anyone to hurt so much and still live. How could she ever keep her promise to stay for the duration of the mission (another three years) when just these next few weeks were going to seem like a century to her?

How could she go on working here, knowing that Spock was married to Uhura and forever out of her reach? The days she could handle; it was the nights that she dreaded--because of her consistently romantic yet erotic dreams. She tried to work so hard that she'd be too tired to dream, but it never seemed to work for long. She had to think of something, however; otherwise she'd never make it through this mission without going crazy.

Please, God, help me make it through this, she prayed. Divine strength is the only way I'm going to be able to stand it, even for a little while.

* * *

She had intended to go back to her quarters and call up the report, then finish it after she showered and changed into her nightgown and slippers--but things didn't turn out that way. In fact, she ended up on the Rec Deck, which was as black and desolate as she felt inside right now…and she had used up all her strength at the wedding.

There was no further reason for her to paste on a smile, so she allowed her face to simply collapse into the misery she felt inside, the pain and sorrow she doubted would ever end. Why did this have to happen to her? It was bad enough to lose Roger, but to lose Spock too, and to Nyota, of all people. Despite their claims otherwise, something had to be wrong with her. If only she could know just what, so this heartache didn't happen a third time. She didn't think she could live through it again.

* * *

As for the newlyweds' parents, both were rather surprised but very happy for their children, even if it was rather sudden--particularly for Uhura's, who had always considered her too career-oriented to ever want to get married. All they knew was that apparently she had met someone aboard the ship she worked on who turned out to be the one who had changed her mind. They wrote back, saying they were pleased and happy for her if this was what she wanted: and to bring her new husband to meet them at the first opportunity.

Sarek and Amanda reacted basically the same way, although they had assumed -- at least initially -- that Spock had married Christine, the one who had loved him for several years prior to this. But instead, they discovered that he had married the Enterprise's Communications Officer, with whom he had been friends for many years.

According to Spock's latest stargram announcing the marriage, only recently had their feelings blossomed into love…then the couple had decided to become bonded, then marry in twin ceremonies. In fact, they'd already had a shipboard ceremony--a private thing, with simply their closest friends standing up with them. All they needed now was a formal Vulcan wedding.

The Vulcan Ambassador, once the shock of his son's surprise marriage wore off, in an atypical action, promised to do all he could to ensure that they had the koon-ut-kal-if-fee ceremony as soon as he could manage it. Even at that, both the Ambassador and his wife intended to find out the full story from their son, just why he had married so quickly…and to a different woman than they'd expected.

In the end, Sarek had his wife write their son and ask him some very pointed questions about Christine and why he had decided on such a quickie marriage to the woman who had turned out to be her best friend. He was certain it would be most interesting and illuminating to read--once Spock finally managed to write it. Perhaps he would even ask this Uhura's assistance in explaining himself…but for the time being, they could only wait and see what he had to say.

* * *

Spock wasn't surprised when he received his mother's stargram full of questions regarding him and his surprise marriage. He knew that she knew how long Christine had loved him and because of this, had fully expected him to eventually marry her--and then to marry someone else entirely…

Well, he could hardly blame her for wondering what had happened to change things so drastically and so quickly. He could only hope that he would have some satisfactory answers for her--and his father, who no doubt was as curious as Amanda herself regarding his recent actions since Sarek was every bit as aware of Christine and her feelings for their son as his wife.

They were sure that Spock must have had a good reason for doing what he did; he usually did--they were simply wondering what had happened to prompt him to take such a drastic step…and with a whole different woman to boot! The First Officer decided to show the stargram to his wife once they got off duty and see what answers they could come up with. Answers which would not only have to satisfy one but both of his parents.

* * *

But even as the half-Vulcan pondered how to answer his mother's letter, not to mention her myriad questions, the woman who had loved him devotedly for so many years yet he had rejected (albeit as gently as possible) for her best friend, was slowly but surely falling apart--at least emotionally speaking. And she was alone…at least at this point, although even now, someone was searching for her. She had not heard his numerous pages for her, so he had begun a top-to-bottom, deck-by-deck search of the ship for her.

His painstaking search soon brought him to the Rec Deck. It was pitch-black when he arrived, so he said, "Lights, half-power," so the entire large room was dimly illuminated. At first glance he seemed to be the only person in the room, but a slight movement and soft sound caught his attention. His sensitive ears and sharp eyes told him what- or whoever had made the movement and sound was on the extreme starboard side of the room in order that they (or it) not be seen or heard by anyone who was not looking specifically for it (or them).

Something told Senek that his search was now over, and although he had some idea why the object of his search was here, the one thing he could not understand was how his fellow Vulcan could have treated her so. She was a lovely, extraordinary woman, almost uncannily like his lost wife in many ways, yet unlike her in just as many ways. Perhaps it was because of Spock's mixed blood that he was incapable of truly appreciating Christine as he himself would, should she accept him.

He tried not to be too obvious in his growing feelings for her, but even with his Vulcan control, it was becoming more and more difficult to conceal them--not to mention keep away from her for more than a short time. Senek was certain that it had to be making her nervous, for he knew he must seem like her shadow, but it was difficult enough for him to keep his distance as it was. He did not mean to upset her but simply could not stay away from her.

Senek was hard-pressed to believe he could be doing such things, yet she affected him as no other woman ever had, not even his beautiful, lost T'Cara. [He had heard that "cara" meant "darling" or "beloved" in Standard Earth French, and come to think of it, it was a most appropriate name for her...the warmest, most gracious and lovely woman he had ever known other than Christine.]

It might also be wishful thinking, as the Humans put it, but Senek believed that Christine at least tolerated him, if not liked him. At this early stage, he hardly dared think she might feel more…but what was most important right now was that he find out what (or who) was distressing her so much and do all he could to help her out of it--even up to and including confronting Spock about her.

Not that he couldn't understand his fellow Vulcan's attraction to the beautiful, dark-skinned Communications Officer of the ship, but Christine definitely deserved far better treatment than Spock had given her over the years--and he knew he could make her happy if given the chance.

He would not pressure her, but didn't know how much longer he could play the gentleman, he felt so strongly for her. But for the time being, he would have to. There was time enough for him to prompt a change of heart in her, particularly considering the fact Spock had treated her so abominably, whether he had meant to or not.

Given the opportunity, he intended to show her the contrast between the two of them--how much better a full-blooded Vulcan could treat a full-blooded Human, as he had heard Spock's father, the senior Vulcan Ambassador Sarek, treated his Human wife and Spock's mother, Amanda. For a moment, he even dared to envision himself and Christine in the same situation. In spite of himself, Senek was unable to think of a more pleasant prospect.

He had also not been married to T'Cara long enough to have his Time and thus have children, only about two years; his Time would not be for another two. Even without the emotional motivation, it was logical for him to begin searching for another wife, if only to see him through the pon farr. And now, after a year of mourning, he was ready to live again … ready to love again. And Christine was the one with whom Senek wished to live the rest of his life, the one with whom he wished to be bonded and experience the physical joining of husband and wife, as well as the joining of minds.

There was just one problem … even though he was sure, knew he was ready--he was just as aware that Christine wasn't … and wouldn't be for some time. It was necessary for her to learn to love and trust again and he would have to do his utmost to make it as easy as possible for her. So even as difficult as it might prove to be for him to wait, she would be worth it. He would have to be patient with her and see to it that once he gained it, he would never betray her trust or break her heart as his fellow Vulcan had done.

He was sure Spock hadn't meant to do it, at least not consciously-- but the point was, it had happened, and it was difficult to forgive him for causing his beloved pain, even unintentionally. He was also sure that it would be difficult for her to learn to love and trust again ... especially another Vulcan.

It would be literally a miracle if Spock's treatment of her hadn't scarred her for life, put her off Vulcans for all time--at least as far as romance was concerned. If that happened, that was one thing he neither could nor would ever forgive Spock for, no matter what his so-called motivations. He must somehow make her realize that not all Vulcans would treat her as the half-breed had.

Meanwhile, it was necessary for him to go to her, if only to offer help and comfort to a fellow being. That was only logical, if only to ensure that they were able to resume their normal lives again as soon as possible.

* * *

He found her huddled in the corner of the furthest part of the room, her face buried in the cushions of the seat back and sobbing her heart out. He was surprised to note that she was still in her wed- ding finery. Had she not ever returned to her quarters to change, but instead came directly here? That must be the case, and if that was true, her pain must be traumatic in its intensity and it was his duty to relieve it, if only slightly, whatever discomfort it might cause him, however strong his mental shields might need to be.

He moved in beside her and gently touched her shoulder, momentarily surprised by her sudden movement of almost literally throwing herself into his arms. For a long time he simply held her and allowed her her grief, feeling its intensity and automatically reinforcing his shields to block out the worst of it. After a time, he was moved to gently stroke her hair with one hand and tighten his hold on her with the other. He knew he should tell her who he was, but he didn't want to disturb or frighten her into crawling back inside her shell.

For a long time she seemed to be unaware of who was holding her or of how long they had held her ... nor did the passage of time matter to Senek as long as he was able to hold her, feel her fragrant warmth close to him for as long as possible. After a time Christine became at least aware enough to realize that someone was holding her--but not exactly who was holding her.

"Whoever you are," she murmured into his uniform shirt. "Forgive me, but I just couldn't stand it any more; I just had to be held by someone."

"I quite understand," he murmured softly to her. "Do not apologize. Remain where you are for as long as you like."

"I just hurt so much," she confessed. "I had no idea it was possible to hurt so much and still live."

"Grief is a normal reaction when we lose someone we are emotionally close to," he replied, his voice almost a croon. "But it can be made easier to bear if one has someone one can turn to for solace. May I ask why you are here, dressed in such a manner?"

"I…just came from my best friend's wedding," she managed to explain. "She asked me to be--her maid of honor."

"I see," he acknowledged. "Your friend, she is the Communications Officer of this ship?"

"Yes," Christine confirmed.

"And she married the First Officer of the ship. Is that not correct?"

This time Christine merely nodded, and Senek knew why.

"He is the one you are grieving for, is he not?"

Tears again filled Christine's eyes but she was able to speak, even as Senek continued to hold her. "Yes. I have … loved him for a long time."

"Was he not aware of your feelings for him? Why did he marry another instead?"

"Oh, he was aware all right," she returned, her voice laced with a mixture of pain and bitterness. "It was simply that he fell in love with her rather than me."

"I cannot understand that. You are every bit as attractive as she is," Senek declared gently but firmly.

"Looks had little to do with it. The two of them just had--more in common, such as a love of music. They even worked in the same place on the ship."

"But you work in the same field as this…Spock, is it not? Did he not take that into consideration?"

"Oh yes, I'm sure he did, although that's technically not a requirement a man generally looks for in his ideal mate. Spock generally looks for common interests as at least one prerequisite for an ideal mate as well. They have also known each other for many years--far longer than I've known either of them."

"Do you not have a love for music as well? I seem to recall you mentioning such an interest at least once."

"Yes, I love music--but Nyota can play music, make music…and most importantly, with the same instrument as Spock does. I cannot."

"Ah, yes, the lyrette … or as most people say, the Vulcan harp," Senek remarked neutrally. "Even at that, a couple does not have to share every interest in common--nor do they have to have known one another for a long time--in order to have a mutually rewarding and fulfilling relationship."

"The IDIC philosophy," Christine added.

"Exactly," Senek confirmed.

"Still, despite my…feelings for him, deep down I've always thought that they were--extremely well suited. I mean, she's so exotically beautiful and he's so exotically handsome."

"But have you not pictured yourself with him, at least occasionally? Considering your emotional attachment to him, it would be most unusual if you did not."

"Of course, many times," she confirmed, shifting slightly to a more comfortable position in her companion's arms. "But I had to be more realistic, especially after what I saw happen a month and a half ago."

"What happened a month and a half ago?" Senek inquired, even though he already had a pretty good idea.

"I…saw them together," she confessed painfully, her eyes again fill- ing with tears as she buried her face in Senek's chest. "A romantic interlude as they headed for her quarters; first they had--their arms around each other, snuggling close…then when they reached the door, he--took her into his arms and kissed her passionately, pressing her close to him. After she…opened the door, he--picked her up and carried her inside, still…holding the kiss. When I heard the privacy lock engage, I--went on to my own quarters."

Judging from her frequent hesitations, Senek could surmise how difficult it was for her to have explained what she had seen. "You do not have to explain further. The only thing I am wondering is, have you ever told them that you…saw them?"

"No," she told him. "What would have been the point? It wouldn't have changed anything. Besides, it wasn't my place to judge them."

"I am only curious about one more thing--just how did you come to love Spock? If you answer this, I will ask no more questions," her companion informed her, somewhat apologetically.

With a part of herself, Christine couldn't help wondering why her companion was so inquisitive, but at the same time, felt good that he seemed so understanding and sympathetic. "You really want to know? It could prove to be very boring."

"You could never bore me," he assured her.

"If you say so," she replied ... then began.

* * *

Christine found herself going into far more detail than she had ever intended, particularly with something so private and with someone she didn't know well--but the fact that she'd done it showed how long she'd kept it inside and how much she'd needed to talk about it. She began from the moment Spock had first greeted her when she'd first joined the crew, then went to the time she first realized she was in love with him; after that it was the time over Psi 2000--then she recalled Spock's first Time and their almost tender encounter in his quarters shortly before he was called down to Vulcan for his aborted wed- ding ceremony. The next thing she remembered was the time with Sargon and his people, not to mention her encounter with Henoch, who had appropriated Spock's body at the time. Then it was Platonius and what they had been forced to do there …

"Sounds like you have--shared quite a lot with him," Senek commented.

"Yes … but there was just as much that we didn't share," she confessed. "Not for my lack of trying, of course--it just wasn't meant to be, it seems." Her tone held a mixture of sadness and nostalgia. "Especially after he fell in love with Nyota."

"When was that, if I may ask?"

"I'm not sure just when it happened, but Nyota said...she first realized it shortly after Spock had returned from Vulcan after his Kolinahr thing. He even quit Starfleet to go into that--but re- joined after failing just short of success. I'm not sure just how; you'd have to ask him."

"I may do that," Senek told her. That is, if I can ever manage to undo the damage he has done to her, he thought silently to himself, feeling anger at his erstwhile rival because of what he had done to her which had made it so difficult for him to make his own moves with a reasonable chance of success.

He cursed Spock for that with the lowest, vilest oath in the Pre-Reform Vulcan vocabulary, even having half a mind to demand an explanation for his shabby treatment of someone who loved him so much. Even if he hadn't been in love with her, the very least she deserved was civil treatment, if only for the sake of common decency. Unfortunately, it seemed that Spock hadn't considered her worthy of even that--not until it was too late to do her any good.

He was unsure how long it would take him to manage to transfer her affections from Spock to himself…or if it was even possible. But he had to believe it, or else he could not have even begun to endure what he already had for her sake, both listening to her now and watching her over the last two months.

Only at this point did Christine feel up to sitting up on her own; Senek reluctantly released her. Her eyes widened once she realized who her companion had been. "Oh, Senek, I'm so sorry! It must have been so embarrassing and difficult for you to have endured my emotionalism."

"Not at all. I was--pleased to help you in any way I could," he informed her. "It is … most unfortunate that you have been made to endure such pain because of someone incapable of appreciating you and all that you have to offer. It is my hope that I will be able to one day erase that pain."

"I'm afraid the pain will always be with me, Senek, no matter what anybody does, but I thank you for the nice thought, anyway," Christine replied, managing a smile and hitting him right in the heart with the impact of her blue eyes.

"It would be illogical for you not to find someone new. You are-- entirely too attractive a woman to live your life alone."

"It'll be a long time before I'll feel able to love again, Senek … but in the meantime, I'll value your friendship. Perhaps one day it will be more, but at the moment, I can make no promises--simply thank you for all you have done for me and hope that I will be able to do the same for you one day."

"I thank you, Christine. You may always feel free to call on me if you should need anything…or simply a shoulder, as now." He got up and offered a hand to her. "May I walk you back to your quarters?"

Christine smiled again and pulled herself up by his hand. "Yes; I'd like that." The pair was silent until they reached her quarters door, then he brought the hand resting on his arm to his lips.

"Sleep well, Christine. I will see you in the morning."

"You too, Senek. Thank you again for all you've done. I'll never forget it."

"It was the least I could do," he dismissed. "May we share the midday meal together tomorrow?" he asked, not sure how she would react but (at least figuratively) keeping his fingers crossed that she would accept his invitation.

She was silent for a long time, then finally nodded and smiled. It had been a long time since she had known the attentions of a man, and if nothing else, it would be a refreshing change from her usual habit of eating at her station. "I'll be having my lunch hour at 1300. You may pick me up at my station then. I assume you know where it is."

"Indeed," he confirmed, inwardly rejoicing in spite of himself. "I will be there. What would you like to eat?"

"I'll decide when we reach the Officers' Mess," she told him, not relishing the possibility of running into either Spock or Uhura but if she had to choose, the latter would be the lesser of the two evils. Besides, she hadn't seen her friend's wedding ring yet, anyway, and Ny had promised to show her at the first opportunity.

This might also give her a chance to do some discreet matchmaking, if she knew her friend at all--but Christine had to discreetly let her know that she would be all right, that Senek had helped her through the difficult first night after Spock's marriage and intended to be there for (and do as much as he could for) her as often as possible after this.

* * *

True to his word, Senek picked Christine up at her station precisely at 1300 hours, and both ignored the wide-eyed stares and dropped jaws which ensued at their passing, starting with those of Dr. Leonard McCoy. All that mattered to them at the moment was getting something to eat. Senek waited patiently while Christine chose her food, then chose his own and carried their trays over to a vacant table on the starboard side of the room. He seated her after setting down the trays of food, then seated himself and they began eating.

About twenty minutes later, Uhura came in for her lunch. Spock had told her that he would not be off duty until 1900 hours, so she was to go ahead and have her midday meal; they would have dinner together instead of lunch, as planned. Uhura was about halfway through choosing her food when Scotty came up behind her.

"Good afternoon, lass," he greeted her pleasantly.

"Good afternoon, Scotty," the dark woman smiled back, reaching for her drink and setting it on the tray before moving on to the next item on her menu.

"How's marriage so far?" he asked softly.

"Wonderful," she replied, smiling at the thought of her Vulcan husband and the warm kisses they had shared that morning…among other things.

The Chief Engineer smiled at her obvious happiness. "Have you had a chance to talk to Christine today?" he asked as he took his sandwich and coffee from the food service computer before him.

"No, why?" she asked as she picked up the last item on her menu, a small cup of plomeek soup, and turned to search for a place to sit.

"Just thought ye might be interested in the goin's-on on th' starboard side o' the room," he returned cryptically with a jerk of his head in the aforementioned direction.

Uhura turned her head--and the sight which met her astonished eyes prompted her to react just as the others had…at least at first.

"How long d' ye think that's been goin' on?" the Scotsman asked his companion.

"I have no idea," she replied. "but don't worry. I intend to find out before long. See you later."

She turned to head in the direction of Christine and Senek, making a mental note to tell her husband what she had seen when she saw him again. If their being together meant what she thought it did, Spock would be just as pleased as she was when he found out…but only time would tell. For the time being, she would simply be friendly and not pressure her friend--at least not any more than she already had.

It was several moments before the pair noticed Uhura standing next to them; it was Senek who noticed first. "Commander Uhura," he acknowledged pleasantly. "Will you not join us?"

"Thank you, Dr. Senek," she returned with a smile. Out of the corner of her eye, she was pleased to note that Christine's smile was some- what forced--as if her joining them had interrupted some private conversation or something. Well, she wouldn't stay long…just enough to eat…but meanwhile, intended to find out all she could.

It was obvious to Christine that Senek recognized Uhura and had known of her presence before she herself had, and with a part of herself disliked sharing her time with Senek. They had more in common than she had ever realized--such as their both having Ph.D.'s in biochemistry. [Of course, that wasn't his only doctorate, simply the one they had in common…but still a good starting point when a man and woman were just getting to know one another.]

Even at that, just once, she'd like to be able to catch a man's eye without help from anyone, even though she knew they meant well. Oh well, she had always been taught that one generally "catches more flies with honey than with vinegar," so the least she could do was be polite when Nyota was with them. After all, she did still want to see her friend's wedding ring, despite the sharp pain that lanced through both her mind and heart at even the thought of what that ring signified.

"I assume that this is your friend you were referring to the other night, Christine," Senek remarked, as casually as a Vulcan could, before taking a swallow of his Vulcan drink of kahlin. "The one who married the First Officer." He gave Christine a half-smile which silently implored her to go along with him.

"Yes," she confirmed, somewhat stiffly, trying her best not to show her feelings. Why were Nyota and Senek doing this when they must know how uncomfortable she was? It wasn't that she minded seeing her friend, it was simply that she was also a painful reminder of what had happened the previous day…and would be for some time to come, although it would likely be easier to endure now that she had Senek to fall back on. Christine sighed. Might as well get it over with, she told herself, pasting on a smile and raising her head to meet her friend's soft but knowing brown eyes.

"May I see your ring, Ny?" she asked as pleasantly as she could muster.

Uhura smiled and nodded. "Of course, Chris." She extended her left hand to show the other woman.

Christine noted the almost impossibly small gold band with the stylized IDIC engraved into it, the center jewel glittering in the simulated light. It looked so perfect, so beautiful--as if it belonged there. She closed her eyes in pain for a moment, then made herself smile again. "It's beautiful, Nyota. Did you give Spock one like it?" She couldn't recall whether or not that had occurred; all she knew for sure was that Spock had given one to Uhura.

"Of course," she assured her companions even as she withdrew her hand and resumed eating.

"Why isn't he here with you? Is he on duty or something?" Christine asked curiously, glad that Spock was absent even as she spoke. It was all she could do to deal with Nyota at the moment.

"Yes; he won't get off until 1900 hours," Uhura explained. "We're going to meet for dinner then."

Christine merely gave her friend a half-smile and nodded in acknowledgment, immersing herself in her half-finished meal so she wouldn't have to meet her eyes.

Senek noted his companion's actions and sensed her pain mixed with pleasure at seeing her friend again, even if the latter was married to the man she herself had loved for so many years, regretting his action of inviting her to join them which seemed to have brought this on. He should have guessed that something like this would happen. He made a mental note not to do it again--at least not without Christine's permission. At the very least, he intended to make it up to her as best he could.

"Have you got anything planned for tonight, Chris?" Uhura asked gently, reaching to cover her friend's hand across the table with her own.

"I need to put the finishing touches on the report for Dr. McCoy," Christine half-lied. "After that, I was thinking to have a shower, listen to music and maybe read that new romance novel I bought last month."

Not half as romantic an evening as she and Spock were likely to have, Uhura couldn't help thinking--but with luck, Senek would soon change that. Meanwhile, she would do her best to see that Chris was caused as little pain as possible. Still, all present knew that for some weeks to come, just seeing Uhura or Spock, much less being in close proximity to them, was going to cause Christine pain.

"I was going to shower myself," Uhura informed her. "Then after that, write my parents, and send them a holo of Spock and myself after telling them all about our wedding while listening to the tape of African music he gave me for a wedding present." She hadn't finished all her food, but intimate knowledge of her friend's feelings and moods motivated her to decide to leave early. She would simply eat more at dinner with Spock to make up for it.

Christine smiled sadly at her friend as she stood up and turned to leave, blessing her for her thoughtfulness even as she noted how much food she had left on her plate. "Give Spock my best, Nyota. See you later."

"Of course, Chris. See you later."

"Commander Uhura?" Senek called after her.

Uhura turned to face him, a questioning look on her lovely dark face until she realized that Senek likely wanted to speak privately with Spock regarding Christine…and her suspicion was confirmed by his next words.

"Will you inform your husband that I wish to speak with him at his earliest convenience?"

She nodded and smiled. "Of course. Is that all?"

"Affirmative. You may go now."

With a final nod and smile, Uhura took her leave.

Once they were alone again, Senek reached to tentatively touch Christine's hand; she lifted her head in surprise, then again smiled sadly. "I am sorry to have caused you pain, Christine," he told her softly, regret and apology evident in his voice. "Please forgive me. I thought it would please you to see your friend Uhura again."

"Oh, it did, Senek, I assure you," Christine told him, having heard his question to Nyota regarding Spock but choosing to keep the knowledge to herself for the moment. It would be most interesting to learn what they discussed when the time came…provided Senek (or perhaps even Nyota) chose to tell her, that is. "And there's nothing to forgive you for. I wanted to see her anyway."

"All the same, I knew the pain it would cause you even as I did so."

"I've had to live with it for years, Senek. This would hardly be the first time such a thing has happened--and I doubt it will be the last." Christine made herself look into Senek's dark, deep-set eyes, noting for the first time that they had the same velvety softness as Spock's.

If she let herself, she could get lost in them--and even though she knew that as well as she was sitting here, at the moment she didn't care. She had also had no idea that his eyelashes were so long, dark and thick…and his hand was so strong, yet gentle. Gazing into his eyes, she could forget her pain--at least for a time.

"But I wished to make you forget your pain," he gently insisted. "Instead, I aggravated it."

"I'm not holding it against you, Senek," his companion assured him. "Please don't beat yourself up over it. Now I really do need to get back to that report for Dr. McCoy. Would you please take me back to my quarters now?"

"Of course," he told her. With that, he reluctantly released her hand and they stood up, leaving the remains of their repast on the table without looking back, knowing it would be disposed of before morning by one of the part-time wait staff.

He didn't touch her any more than absolutely necessary, even as much as he wanted to…and it was all he could do to reinforce his mental shields in order that he be able to see her to her door without incident. Even at that, he allowed himself to feel at least some of her pain; it was very much akin to his own at losing T'Cara. But at least he had actually been married to her, if only for a short time; Christine had scarcely been friends with Spock, much less anything else, despite her deep feelings for him.

Senek told himself not to try to take Spock's place in Christine's heart, simply do his utmost to make his own place there instead. It would be difficult to keep his distance, he wanted so much to be close to her, both mentally and physically, despite the illogic and unVulcan-ness of his desires.

What's more, he knew that his feelings for her would never change, no matter what happened in their lives--and that he intended to have her, whatever he had to do, and most importantly, let her know how much he valued her. She was what he needed to fill the void in his life left by T'Cara's tragic, premature death.

He had not yet had the opportunity to speak privately with Spock, but vowed that he would do so before too much more time passed, see if his conversation with his erstwhile rival could give him some ideas as to how to begin to mend Christine's shattered heart. He sensed that only then would she allow herself to relax enough to accept his love, although it would take considerably longer for her to even begin to feel anything approaching love for him because of her emotional trauma over Spock.

He was still unsure if it was even possible, yet was determined to succeed--if only because he knew she needed someone new to fill the void Spock had left, needed to be able to give the love she had always been forced to hold back because of his aloofness…and he wanted to be the one she gave that love to.

He vowed to love her as no man--Vulcan or Human--had ever loved a woman, vowed to show her that Vulcan love could not only equal but surpass any Human love Earth history had ever recorded…as soon as she indicated to him that she was willing to accept it.

It was at this point that the pair reached her door. He was hesitant to ask her if he could see her again, even as much as his heart screamed for him to do so.

"Thank you for a most pleasant lunch, Senek," she said as she un- locked her door and prepared for her solitary evening of work, music and reading.

"The pleasure was all mine," he returned, raising her hand to his lips. "May I have the honor of your company tomorrow evening in the Officers' Lounge? I wish to play my lyrette for you."

The silence was so long that Senek was sure that Christine intended to refuse, then she smiled and nodded. "That sounds nice. It's been a long time since I heard one."

"Excellent. Would twenty-hundred hours be convenient?" His happiness and relief was almost palpable, at least to himself, although he fought not to show it to Christine.

"Fine. Did you want me to meet you there, or will you come for me at my quarters?"

"If you have no objections, I wish to come for you here and escort you there."

"Of course not. Until then." She had no idea of the double impact her blue eyes and brilliant smile had on her companion. He had half- turned away when she spoke again. "Senek?"


"May we have dinner while we're at the Officers' Lounge tomorrow, too? I'm supposed to work straight through until 1900 hours and won't have a chance to eat anything until then."

"If you wish. Just tell me what you want." She did so; he nodded in acknowledgment and continued on his way.

Christine smiled after him until he disappeared around the corner. He was such a patient, caring person. She didn't deserve a man who had such obvious affection for her--not while Spock was still so much in her heart. Senek deserved so much more than she felt able to give at this point in time, but she was undeniably grateful and felt so lucky that Senek had deemed her worthy of his attention. For the time being, she would simply enjoy his affection--a warm, soothing balm to her shattered heart.

It would take time to recover from her heartbreak, but just knowing someone else cared for her made her hurt less: and if only for this reason, Christine vowed to do all she could to truly be worthy of a Vulcan's love. She had always thought it would be Spock, but fate had decreed otherwise.

Because of this, she wasn't about to throw away this new chance for love, even if she wasn't quite ready to admit anything more than friendship for the new man in her life. Even so, she sensed that when she was, Senek would be awaiting her with open arms. She could only pray that she would be able to make him happy and not disappoint him. Only time would tell.