DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Ultrapuella and is copyright (c) 2003 by Ultrapuella. This is an A/U story and is rated NC-17.



PARTED FROM ME

Ultrapuella



"You're rolling too with some new lover

Will you think of times you told me

That you knew the reason

Why we had to each be lonely"

-- "Shoot the Moon" (c)2002 Norah Jones & Capitol Records



Christine Chapel's Personal Log, Stardate ______.

<Throat clearing> It's done. It's finished. He-he-he's <sobbing and sniffling sounds> Shit! Computer, stop recording. <Clicking noise> He's married her. He really did marry her. Bonded with her, with that ice cold bitch... He's been back on board for five days and I haven't stopped crying -- my face is still wet. Still wet... Computer, stop recording <End>

I couldn't quite meet his intense stares after that -- although he began to regard me more often after his wedding on Vulcan. Internally, I found this ironic turn of events to be darkly amusing. He would fix his onyx gaze at me with a mixture of curiosity, and something else I couldn't quite fathom. Desire? Fascination? When Leonard could convince him to attend routine physical examinations (usually by threatening to put him on report), I always found a reason to be persona non grata in sickbay. It wouldn't do to touch him. Then he would feel it, damn his eyes. Know intimately that although there were other lovers -- five years in space is long enough for any woman, I was no different; I had urges, desires, dreams -- that part of me still yearned for him. My heart would have shouted to him -- I burn for thee, I burn for thee. So I spent the following years artfully avoiding him whenever possible, and ignoring him when I couldn't do the former. And our tour together ended. And my heart wasn't so broken anymore. And the years passed.

* * *

Christine Chapel, Personal Log, Stardate___.

Has it really been fifteen years? Fifteen years -- it feels like just yesterday I was a bright eyed young recruit, eager to explore strange new worlds, and find my erstwhile android of a fiance. Now I'm officially an M.D., with a doctorate in biogenetics, for crying out loud. I've just completed my residency here on Earth, specializing in human DNA research. And today I'm forty five years old, and yesterday I was married. Married! I mean ... married! To Thomas, the scientist I've worked alongside for five years -- and I can't believe he didn't just run off into deep space and become a robot! <Laughs> Happy Twenty Ninth Birthday Again, Christine! <More laughs> Computer, stop recording. <End>

* * *

Soon after my honeymoon, I was reunited with Nyota Uhura. She'd agreed to meet me for dinner and drinks at a small ristorante in Little Italy, not far from where my husband and I lived in New York City. I hadn't actually seen her in over a decade -- so we were celebrating our reunion, plenty of missed birthdays (on both sides) and my recent nuptials. Of course, she looked magnificent as she always had and was waiting for me when I arrived, with a smile and our drinks. "Chris!" Nyota yelled and hugged me fiercely. "I hope you don't mind Cabernet?"

"Sounds great," I chuckled, and sat myself down. Gingerly, I sipped at my wine. "So how are you, old friend?"

"Well ... I'm terrific ... I think I'll have a little bit more of this stuff. Pretty smooth going down, you know." Nyota gulped the rest of her wine down and nervously signaled for the waiter, all the time evading my eyes. "Yes ... uh, two more Cabernets. And a shot of tequila, please."

The waiter nodded politely and left our table, whilst I regarded Nyota, more than a bit shocked.

"Um -- Ny? You feeling okay? You seem a bit ... um ... stressed? Or something?"

Nyota leaned forward and steadily gazed at me before answering. "Actually, honey, the extra drink's for you. You might need it."

I scowled and shifted uneasily in my seat. Memories of long nights after Spock's bonding ceremony resurfaced, unbidden. Nyota had spent many a night with me after our shifts had finished, listening to me bitch and moan about my unrequited lovepangs for him. And tequila had almost always been liberally consumed, or Southern Comfort, or brandy, or whatever I could snatch from Leonard's not-so-well-concealed liquor stash ... My secret nickname for myself in those days had become "Christine Hangover, Mistress of Cottonmouth." Just because I was trained in medicine didn't mean I didn't sometimes abuse my own body or draw out my negative moods in those days, no matter how counterproductive my behavior was. I snapped back to the present and looked daggers at Nyota.

"And just why the hell would that be?" I cringed inwardly at my sharp tone and was immediately contrite when I saw Nyota's eyebrows shoot upwards and her lips pursed together. "Shit ... Nyota, I'm sorry, it's just..."

"Oh, look," Nyota interrupted, "Our drinks. And not a moment too soon."

She grabbed another glass of Cabernet, swigged more than half of it, and shoved the tequila in front my face. "Here, Chris. Happy Birthday. Happy Trails. Happy Marriage. Now chug it."

"Wha--?" I cried "Uh -- I don't really think that's--"

"Just do it, trust me."

I suddenly felt sixteen again and the peer pressure was intense. So, like a gullible teen, I obliged and swilled the tequila down in one gulp. Nyota smiled at me and said, "Alright. Let's order dinner first, and then we'll talk about me. I want to know all about Mrs. Thomas Chapel!" We both guffawed and although I was about to inquire further, Nyota's demeanor seemed immobile. So I waited.

One entire bottle of wine and four shots of tequila later, Nyota still maintained her mysterious posturing.

I slurred impatiently, "Okay. You've told me about the trial, the resurrec-- uh, the refusion of Spock, the thing with Spock's brother, Spock, Spock, Spock!" I was spitting all over the table. "Is this what all the freaking booze is for?" My voice had become shrill and other patrons were glaring. Had it suddenly become quiet? My ears were ringing and I was light headed with inebriation. The tequila had begun to rip through my veins, and Nyota was becoming very blurry.

"I know we're caught up with your sex life, my husband, your latest assignment, your various hairdos, your promotions. Would you please just tell me whatever the hell you have to say?" I was shouting now, and in my agitation, I knocked over two empty wine glasses, which crashed onto the floor.

"Oh, fuck," said Nyota, "Look, let's uh, get the waiter and get outta here, okay? Wow. I think I'm pretty trashed, Doctor Chapel." She looked around sheepishly and silently signaled for the waiter.

"Is everything alright, signorigna?"

"Yes, um ... sorry about the glasses. Just the check and a pitcher of water please, with extra lemons." She smiled sweetly. The waiter cleaned up the mess and snorted in reply, stomping off.

"I thought you wanted to leave," I said through clenched teeth. What the hell was the matter with me?

"No way, girl. I can't even sit up straight. My mistake." She grinned weakly and looked immensely relieved when the waiter returned with a large pitcher of water just then. I poured myself a glass and slurped gratefully at it. Then I looked up at Nyota and commented, "Okay. I haven't been this intoxicated in years, and I still don't know why the hell you're withholding something from me. You're my oldest friend, Nyota. What is it?"

Nyota reached over and grabbed my hand, squeezing it. Then she lowered her eyes and murmured, "Yes, it's about -- you know, him. I just -- hell, I didn't know how to tell you, I know you're happily married Chris, I know it's been years, but--"

"But what?" was my shrieking rejoinder. "I'm not some shrieking goddamned violet, Nyota. I'm not so pathetic that I'll die of grief just because you mentioned his name. I loved him once, it was years ago, a lifetime ago, in fact. I can take it, Nyota. Have a little faith in me." Tears began to prick at my eyes and my throat constricted. I harrumphed loudly and stared at her, hard. "Out with it, Nyota. Now. I promise I won't fall over. Really. Now, spill it."

Nyota bit her lower lip anxiously and began quietly, "You know that Spock divorced T'Pring years ago, way before going to Gol?"

"Yes," I replied tightly, "I'm sure she was one of the reasons he wanted to give up on all emotions. Well, Vulcan ones, at any rate."

My palms were beginning to sweat. Nyota gave me a reprimanding glance and shook her head. "Well ... you remember Saavik? The young Vulcan woman who served aboard the Enterprise on our later missions?" She hesitated.

"What?" I barked.

"Um ... I don't know how to--"

"He married her, didn't he?" I snarled. I was far beyond uncomfortable, I was beginning to cry and my heart pounded in my chest like it hadn't in years. What was wrong with me? I was happily married, wasn't I? Nyota's eyebrows knit together into a frown, and she grabbed my glass out of my trembling hands. "Here," she said softly. "Calm down and I'll tell you. Just sip this first."

My tears dripped onto my tightly clenched hands. "Nyota, I--"

"That's an order, Doctor Chapel."

I took a quick swig of the refilled drink. The tartness of the lemon soothed my burning throat, and I swiped a napkin from the table, dabbing at my eyes. "See? All better, sir."

She giggled and then covered my hands with her own. "It's not exactly what you're thinking, Chris. I mean, yes, he did marry her, but--"

"Hell's bells! I knew it! I don't want to know anymore, it's been years, I don't want to think about him, I can't--"

Nyota tersely cut off my babbling with a quick gesture of her hand, dismissing my rants. "Chris, Saavik was killed over one year ago. She was serving as a tactical officer aboard the new ship oddly named Titanic, and a fleet of Romulan warbirds unexpectedly decloaked, attacking the hell out of the ship. In other words, destroying it utterly. There was nothing left, and Spock is now widowed, which is why--"

I'd had it. I'd indulged Nyota thus far, but her prosaic narrating had left me irate and worst of all, nauseatingly plastered. My stomach began to churn and my eyes had needles stabbing them from inside. "Did you come all the way here just to-- to-- upset me? Just to chat about Spock's marital status over the years? What's that got to do with me?" I exploded. "Now I'm here with you, my oldest friend, encouraging me into premature alcoholism, and worst of all, regaling me with stories about a man who never gave a good goddamn about my heart! Nyota, I'm leaving. Thanks for the drinks and what little dinner there was to speak of."

I swiped my coat and had it half on when Nyota blurted, "He's dying, Chris!"

* * *

I woke up with a start, shot up in bed and ... Bed?! How did I ... ? I tried to ponder where the hell I was, but my stomach had other ideas. A dreadful cramp had settled right into my sternum, and I was desperately trying to navigate between my pounding head and building nausea. I stumbled onto the plush blue carpeting, grimaced as I made contact with direct sunlight blaring from the window to my left, and groped my way to what I hoped was a restroom. Then I promptly walked into the door, smacking myself on the nose. "Fuck..."

I licked my dry lips and experimentally moved my lower jaw. "Computer ... Bathroom." The sensors on the right of the door blinked in acknowledgment, and the door remained obstinately closed. Great. Try to enunciate Chris, I thought, and this time, a real sentence wouldn't hurt either. I sighed and tried again. "Computer -- open bathroom door." Nothing. "Dammit!"

My knees were starting to buckle and I felt my gag reflex kicking in. Uh-oh. Gods. Was that my diaphragm getting jumpy? "Computer!" I yelped and actually shook an accusatory finger at an inanimate object. "Open the fucking bathroom door, NOW! Please." Apparently, this computer, located in whoever's residence I happened to be queasy in, was activated solely by recognized voice print preprogrammed commands. I took a deep breath. Be calm, Chris, and think. You're a doctor; it's your own fault for partying like a Starfleet Cadet. Think! But there wasn't time. The room caroused and I dropped to my knees. Then Nyota Uhura walked in on me as I heaved the contents of the previous night's revelries all over (what turned out to be) her bedroom carpet. I finished retching and looked up at her. Her mouth was hanging open, her eyes were coming out of their sockets and she looked all kinds of repulsed. So, I attempted to handle this nonchalantly. "Good morning," I rasped, wiping the remnants of my recent episode on my sleeve. "Do you know where the bathroom is in this place?"

Nyota looked more horrified than before and began, "Uh... Christine ..."

She was becoming very blurry. "Oh ... never mind ... too tired anyway ..."

I was becoming a professional swooner.

* * *

When I regained consciousness again, I noted with some detachment that my stomach no longer churned. I tentatively blinked, and opened my eyes. The room had darkened, but the artificial light pierced my pupils. "W..." I croaked. "Water."

Another voice caught my attention. "Computer, dim lights, two levels." I squinted and my eyes readjusted. Then I winced as strong hands lifted my head up and brought a cup of water to my lips. "Hello, Dr. Sleepyhead," said the same voice. I stopped drinking and glanced at the pair of hands, then further to my right. "T-thomas!" I stammered, "What-- uh-- how did you... Gods ... my head aches."

My husband laughed good naturedly and answered, "Doctor, my prognosis is that you have an acute case of hangover. Nyota contacted me earlier this afternoon."

"Afternoon ... what time is--?" I looked at the brightly lit numerals on the wall's chronometer. "Seven o clock in the evening?! Oh, no, I was supposed to have a lunch meeting in Mid-Town with some very important scientists -- Oh, the carpet -- what?" My thoughts swirled incessantly, and I could barely articulate. "Wait ... where's Ny?"

Thomas chuckled again and replied, "One thing at a time, Chris. First, the carpet's clean. I helped Nyota with the, how shall I put it, mess." He looked at me pointedly and I had the decency to blush, averting my eyes. "Secondly, I contacted our colleagues and explained that you were indisposed." He paused, and concern sparked in his eyes. "This isn't like you at all, Chris. We've been married for a month, but I've known you for five years. Something has been bothering you for months, and I don't understand why you keep shutting me out. I love you, Chris, I only want to help you. What's the old saying -- physician, heal thyself? I want to heal you, Chris. What is it?"

What was it? I had been hiding from myself for more than months; it had been years. There was so much I wanted to confide in my spouse about, but how did I begin? The decade he didn't know me yet? My years on the Enterprise? Unbidden, tears sprang to my eyes as I became overwhelmed with all of the secrets I'd kept. Henoch, Platonius, my deepest recesses. Thomas trusted me implicitly and appeared to love me unconditionally, just as I had once loved... My husband was fifteen years older than myself, and this age difference was an extreme sore spot for him. I was convinced it was because he'd been a confirmed bachelor when we'd met. He was somewhere between a mentor and a lover, a father and an equal. Was I still searching for Roger's ghost? Is that all I deserved? Is that what I'd married? Thomas understood the caring doctor in me, the dedicated and brilliant scientist, the imaginative explorer in me. But why had I only revealed superficialities? Why had I not divulged my darker passions, my inner sentiments, to him? Did he even know me intimately as a woman?

A whisper from my heart taunted me, "You know he doesn't. He doesn't demand all of you, inside and out. He doesn't require you to join spirit to spirit, until there are no mysteries, until each consumes the other and the two become one. If you revealed yourself to him, he may not wish to know you. And you've been running from yourself all of this time. He doesn't challenge you. You don't believe in easy victories. You don't trust them." The tears leaked out faster as the enormity of what I'd done was unearthed within me. I wanted it all: The chase, the challenge. I wanted sweat, I wanted sex, I wanted fire, and I wanted blood. I longed to scratch the surface of something real, and feel it bruised, raw, and vulnerable. I wanted to ache for Thomas, in body and in mind. I wanted passion. I wanted to be inextricably linked to something deeper, I wanted to be bound -- to be bonded to a harsh conquest. Small explosions went off inside my chest.

I looked at my husband and jumped out of the bed without any warning. Numbly I staggered across the room and picked up my handbag. I rummaged through it clumsily and retrieved a small hypospray. My back was still turned to Thomas and silently I pressed it to my neck with shaking hands. Relief quickly followed and I struggled to compose myself. Squaring my shoulders, I faced my husband. He regarded me for a moment, and then spoke. "I suppose you anticipated last night's fiasco as well, Chris. More topics for discussion?"

I bristled at his paternalistic tone and bit my lip. Then I replied, "Thomas, it's ... not rational, or logical, for us to protest against our natures." His gaze was confused and startled.

He continued to glance at my eyes, then my cheeks. "Your face is wet, Christine. Let me get you a..."

I flinched as the explosions in my chest turned into crazed supernovas, and stuttered, "I don't -- no, I'm fine." Quickly I wiped my cheeks with the backs of my hands. "Where are my shoes, and my coat? And where's Ny?"

Thomas sighed and stood. "Over there." He pointed to a small chair on the right side of the room. "And Nyota departed some hours ago on the pretext of some emergency. All she would tell me is that it had to do with an old comrade of hers, and yours. Ambassador Spock of Vulcan. She mentioned that you were to contact her at this address over our comlink at home, the moment we returned."

The mention of Spock's name had my blood boiling, and my veins began to hum with unholy urgency. "Thomas, we'll have to talk later! We have to go home right away!"

I was in the middle of getting my purse when his hand snaked out and restrained my right arm. "No, we're talking now. No more secrets. No more hiding. I'm damned tired, Chris, and I've waited long enough for you to stop concealing things from me. Five years, I've waited. You owe me the truth. I've never really asked you for anything, Christine Chapel, I've loved you, no questions asked. Well, now I'm inquiring. And I need answers."

His face was stony and inscrutable, and inwardly I quaked. I'd never seen this side of him before. How much had we hidden from each other? I panicked, recalling what Nyota had said about Spock just the night before. Odd, considering at that moment I was feeling so ... alive. "Thomas, let's just..."

I tried to pull away, and he released me. For one long minute we just stood there. Then Thomas abruptly stated, "Computer, lock door with override sequence Carruthers, Alpha 1546. Reconfigure system to unlock door only upon my vocal command. Proceed."

There was a slight whirring sound and the computer responded. "Acknowledged. Reconfiguration complete."

I was utterly agog, and my mouth hung agape. Then I snapped my jaw shut and yelled, "Damn you! What the hell do you think you're doing? And what's Nyota going to think of this, hmmm?"

Thomas laughed at my ire, and said, "How do you think I was able to do that? Nyota's perfectly aware that we needed to talk. I don't think the emergency she had to deal with was anywhere near life threatening, Chris. She didn't mention anything of the sort to me, and we talked for a good hour getting acquainted before she left here today. Compelling woman, your old friend. Let's just say we -- exchanged some sentiments regarding you and agreed this was the best course of action."

"What?!" Something was rotten in the city of New York. Really rotten. "So you're telling me that my oldest and closest friend lied to me about our colleague's medical condition, and actually concurs with this lousy idea of keeping me prisoner in her bedroom?" Thomas just raised his eyebrows and shrugged nonchalantly. Why the hell would Nyota lie to me? An uneasy feeling came over me and I grimaced. "Why ... why do I feel like someone's just walked over my grave?"

Thomas returned my glare with a steady stare. "Because your life is about to become an open book, dear wife. And because I'm tired of playing the sidekick to your accursed internal dialogues. I want the truth. And you're going to give it to me, before we go anywhere."

"Gods, if you put it that way, Thomas -- I'd better sit down."

Terrifying epiphanies, an angry husband, and an old comrade who had boldly prevaricated to me. It was going to be a long night.

* * *

My husband and I talked well into the wee hours of the morning. I explained most of my adventures aboard the Enterprise, and the decade I spent pursuing my doctorate in biogenetics. The only crucial thing I'd neglected to share was Spock. And we'd been talking for hours.

I was very unnerved, and Thomas, although outwardly patient, had been dropping exceedingly obvious hints that my explanation was abbreviated somehow. And I'd been in the same clothes for more than a day now. Except for my shirt -- Nyota had laundered it for me, I noted ruefully. I decided to take a shower and stall for time.

I faked a yawn. "Thomas ... I really am quite exhausted -- I'd like to take a shower and release some of this tension." If only he'd known what I was really talking about. Gods.

"Sure, dear wife. Go right ahead. And I'll be sitting right here when you return. Then we can continue our discussion." My ruse wasn't getting me anywhere near an escape route. Feeling as jovial as a cornered animal, I nodded in response and sauntered into the bathroom. Luckily, this time I knew how to get into it.

The sonic shower revitalized me, but I decided to indulge in a bit of decadence. I switched off the sonic waves and turned on the water. I allowed the rivulets to run over my hair and back. Then I turned around and sighed as relief sank into my pores, water cascading over my breasts, torso and genitals. I must have lathered, rinsed, and repeated this actions all over from head to toe at least twice. Then, I resigned myself to my fate, and reluctantly shut off the water. I toweled myself off quickly and put on one of Nyota's spare robes. Forcing myself to confront my now-undead skeletons, I inhaled and returned to the bedroom. I assumed a subservient posture and spoke softly, inwardly crossing my proverbial fingers.

"Thomas, you're right. I haven't told you everything. It's just very difficult for me to--"

But Thomas wasn't listening to me. Instead, he was using the comm unit and I was unsurprised to discover him chatting with Nyota. "Right, Nyota, that will be fine. Thomas out." He spun around in the chair and found me glaring at him. So much for my docile posture. "What were you saying, Chris? Nyota and I were just--"

"Yes, I gathered as much. Are you going to tell me what the hell is going on here, at last?"

Thomas smirked. "Not exactly. But I am curious to know what has been so difficult for you to tell me. And you'd better hurry, since we won't have privacy much longer."

"Why? Nyota's come to her senses and has opted to free me from house arrest?"

"Something like that. And she's bringing company. Ambassador Spock is accompanying Nyota here; they'll be arriving in roughly ten minutes." The grin on Thomas' face became even wider. Why, that insolent son of a bitch! He knew!

"Hey!" I shouted. "I am at the end of my rope, mister! Just what the devil is going on?" The comm unit bleeped just then. Thomas answered the summons.

"Nyota Uhura's residence. Carruthers speaking."

A kindly old man with a shock of white hair appeared on the screen. "Greetings, Dr. Carruthers. Ms. Uhura informed us that you would be at this address. My name is Lwathor Tren. I am High Chief of the Betazed Directorate. I must speak with your wife, at once."

"Of course."

I stared first at the screen, then my husband, and abruptly doubled over, clutching my abdomen.

My mind was processing various sensations ... And I couldn't discern between my own emotions and the stimulii that were bombarding me. My brain screamed with protest and this unwelcomed invasion, and I tried desperately to assert control over myself. Well, this doctor hadn't studied Vulcan shielding techniques for nothing! Although at the moment they weren't helping at all. "Ahhhh ..." I pressed my hands to my head in agony. "Could you two maybe tone it down a bit? There's a parade in my head. Gods."

"Please!" Tren spoke up. "We haven't much time. Dr. Chapel, I have been chosen by the Directorate to tell you a most pressing intel. And it concerns you directly."

"Yes?" I groaned, oblivious to anything but my raging migraine. I was a doctor, and a competent one. Weren't other people supposed to get sick instead of me? I thought darkly. "I'm listening."

Briefly I glanced at the chronometer on the wall. Eight minutes had already passed. Uhura and Spock would be there any minute! Everything was erupting into pandemonium, and my migraine accelerated into overdrive with this revelation.

Tren continued, "I will be blunt. Two days ago, there was a bloody military coup on Betazed. A large faction of the Betazoid Anti Imperial Alliance stormed the royal grounds, overwhelmed security forces and gained access to the palace's inner sanctum." He paused dramatically.

"And?" I asked. "What happened?" The migraine had flared up and vertigo hit me. Tren's emotions were coming in loud and clear over a subspace frequency! Tren responded, "You are the last of your line, Christine Chapel, daughter of Dashanya Drey, and rightful heir to the throne of Betazed. I have assumed emergency control over the government, but these rebels cannot be allowed to succeed. They slaughtered every last servant, concubine, and child. The only one left is you -- and if you do not assume your rightful place, Christine Chapel, I fear there are dark times ahead for Betazed. The rebels wish to pull Betazed from the Federation, and ban all offworlders. They wish to rescind every treaty signed, and to return to a position of power in the cosmos. Military power. They wish to destroy progress and ensure the deaths of our planet and its people. And if they succeed in agitating a species such as the Romulans, our allies so recently thanks to Ambassador Spock, it would mean tragedy. And Betazed cannot afford to become an enemy of the entire United Federation of Planets. You understand, Highness, that you must unite our people."

I managed to gurgle, "This can't be right! I'm a doctor, not a princess."

"Highness, your late mother, although female, and out of wedlock, was the firstborn child of the Crown Prince, the Heir Apparent. You are the only child she bore during her lifetime; therefore, by blood, if nothing else, you are rightfully Ruler of All Betazed."

"She was the firstborn? Even before my grandfather's sons?"

A terrible foreboding swept over me. A shadowy death? Royal intrigues? And now a mass slaughter?

"Correct, Highness."

My ears turned red. "What -- don't call me that! I'm not a princess! Thomas -- help me out, here. I mean, I can't rule an entire planet! That's ludicrous!"

"Chris ... think of the power you'd have to change an entire world, an entire history of an entire people! Imagine the influence, the riches!"

My eyes hardened and I blinked. "This is a new you, Thomas. I'm not the only one with secrets." He flushed and looked away. "I think Nyota and I have revealed enough to you. And seeing you exposed like this? And yes, I can sense your avarice." He turned even more red. "I don't think I particularly care for the view, Dr. Carruthers. You love your own ambition more than anything else."

"That's not true, Chris. I just want what's best for us... Both of us. But to waste this opportunity ..."

"Opportunity?" I shrieked. "My natural mother's entire household has just been massacred! I never asked for this! And I don't believe this is serendipity, Thomas. It's murder. It's anything but good. How can you say such things?"

"But I lo--"

"Don't tell me that, because I know you're lying. Betazoids are talented empaths, remember?"

"Apparently I'm not the only one here who lied about loving someone. And I don't need to be an empath to know that."

High Chief Tren cleared his throat, merely stating, "Please contact me tomorrow with your reply, Highness. Although your thoughts are most promising, I must admit. Dr. Carruthers."

I rolled my eyes and severed the connection. Thomas sighed and stood up. "We don't love each other the way we should, Chris. But I couldn't risk falling in love with you, knowing that you loved someone else. I thought time would change that, and I suppose it was selfish of me to insist on marriage ... at least that way I could keep you, give us a chance... And all this stuff with Betazed? Well -- it's too much for me, except maybe the riches."

I sputtered, "In love with somebody else?"

"Yes, Nyota explained everything ... and..."

"What?!" I exploded. "Are you telling me this whole thing was staged in order to ... And how the hell did an envoy of the Betazoid government know to contact me here at Nyota's request? Isn't that classified information?"

"Federation matters are only classified if one does not possess the proper connections. Clearly, Ms. Uhura and I have had long enough tenures in Starfleet that we possess the aforementioned connections."

What the -- ? My head snapped around at this new speaker, and the voice was all too familiar! Our guests had arrived and my control burst. I waved my index finger frantically, rudely gesticulating toward the newly arrived voice standing in the doorway. "You have no right to be privy to anything concerning my life! And clearly you're not dying!" Then I pointed at the other new arrival. "You lied to me, goddamnit! There better be a good reason why you got me drunk and then kept me captive!" Then I turned to Thomas. "And you! I think we've safely established that I'm divorcing you. And don't try and stop me! And I can't believe all of this is happening, and I have barely any clothes on, and this is so humiliating, and I am not a princess, I won't be a princess, and stop flopping your feelings all over the place -- between the three of you, I'm definitellly hyperventilating, uh oh ..."

I was sobbing, babbling, and deja vu flashed before my eyes. The last thing I heard was Nyota's voice saying "Gods! Watch it, honey, you'll hit your--" A masochistic princess. Weren't princesses always prone to fainting in Terran fairy tales? I was getting good at this stuff.

* * *

I was floating. No, I was walking. Or sweeping ethereally across a field of blue grasses. I giggled at my overly sentimental description of my environs, and then stopped floating. I looked down curiously at my feet. I was barefoot? "Why am I running around here? I don't remember going to Risa?" I thought aloud.

There was a chortle behind me. "You're not on Risa, my dear. You're not even conscious."

Goosebumps broke out along my arms and I turned around sharply. "Who are you?" I squeaked. "I'm part of you," said a woman, laughing, causing me to frown in consternation.

'She' was incredibly beautiful, and I also noted, rather petite. And, I realized with a jolt, she had my laugh. And my eyes.

"M-mom?" I whispered. "But you're--"

"Yes, yes, of course I'm dead," she interrupted, smiling. "But this is your dream. And I live on in you, quite literally. You're flesh of my flesh. Dream of my dreams. What do you want?"

I blinked, "What do I want? Isn't it vice versa?"

"Perhaps," came the answer, "But you must need me or I wouldn't be here now, with you. What is your wish, daughter?"

Wish? Suddenly I felt like I'd stumbled across a genie. I decided to be upfront, before things became even more surreal.

"Okay, I do need your help, and it's very imperative that you tell me a few things."

"I'll try."

"This is a bit awkward, considering you're dead, and we've never met until now."

She nodded. "This isn't the best of introductions. But continue."

"Mom -- what do I do? I mean, I just found out that my marriage is a sham, that I'm the last in a line of royal Betazoid heirs, and well -- I'm still in love with someone I thought I'd forgotten a lifetime ago. That just about covers it."

I began to weep, to my utter horror. And once the first few tears seeped past my nose, I couldn't stop. Then I wailed, and keened, and carried on, in ways I hadn't done since childhood. I felt exposed, I felt ridiculous, I felt hopeless. I felt like one of those tragic divas from nineteenth century Terran operas: I was making my own ears ring, so great were my cries. My mother stood and watched as this unfurled, and then I composed myself.

She sighed, and commented, "You truly are my daughter. You are innately tumultuous, and passionate, but present a facade of calm to all who cross your path. I too had to hide my pains, my longings, and my fears. Accepting my precarious position in my father's court as his favorite, but a servant, since female, half-breed, and a bastard. Enduring the loss of you from my bosom, as punishment for forgetting my place, and loving an off-worlder, both highborn and married. Your father. I am sorry if this is your inheritance, my child. The women of our line choose pain where we love -- your grandmother, my own mother, was a visiting healer, the daughter of a Terran diplomat, who saw to the needs of the Betazoid Queen. But when the Betazoid King saw her, it was said that both were lost from that moment. And so my mother sacrificed her career, her freedom, and her own homeworld in order to remain with the man she loved. There was much resentment from the rest of the imperial family, since your grandfather made his preference known to all and sundry. He barely did his duty by his male heirs, and incurred the displeasure of many by holding your grandmother in higher esteem than the Queen, even thought the latter had borne him sons. Christine, you are the family's hope. You need not suffer unduly, as we before you did. You have a choice. You also possess the freedom and the knowledge to select your path wisely, and to lead your life in contentment."

I digested all of this information, and was incredibly touched by all that had been said. But I was very doubtful. "But I'm three quarters human, and I've lived as a human most of my life! Won't the Betazoids resent me? How would they ever accept me, if they spent the rest of the time killing off my relatives?! This bonding session has been very touching and everything, but my rational side, the scientist in me, says this is a dream, and I have no way of knowing if any of this is true. Besides," I added as an afterthought, "gaining wisdom this way? From a dead woman in a dream? It's simply not -- logical." Now why the devil had I said that?

And then, the maternal vision spoke once more, flaying my nerves with her parting comments.

"I believe the man you love once commented that logic is only the beginning of wisdom. You're a scientist, Christine, but you are also my daughter. Stop hiding behind one dimensional conceptions of life, and embrace your destiny. You are more than just a doctor, a princess, or a woman in love. You have passion and imagination, intuition and ingenuity. Put all of these together, and that is the reality of who you are. Accept it -- then will you have your answers. Come, my child, it is time to grow up, and take your place among our kin."

She turned and ran; I chased after her but I couldn't catch her. She ran into the arms of a man, who had my stature and hair color. He looked askance at me and waved. Although he was two feet away, the wind carried his voice to me. "Christine, we are always here for you, my daughter."

Tears threatened again. "Father."

"But you must discard these masks and defenses. You must be open and accept raw truths -- you can cower no longer. See clearly, my child; your heart must speak, and your blood must boil. This is the end of paradise. You are no longer an orphan, or an innocent. Eden is a dream; its fruit is dead. Wake up, butterfly, and feel the air on your wings."

And so I did.

* * *

My body groggily registered familiar surroundings, as I slowly awoke. I peered to my left, and to my right. I was at home, in my own bed. Someone had taken the trouble of changing my clothing, and tentatively I touched the fabric against my skin. Silk, and the color? In the dim light of the room I saw that it was baby blue -- my favorite nightgown. "Computer?" I queried.

"Please state the nature of your request."

"I'd like to know what time it is, and the whereabouts of Dr. Thomas Carruthers."

Some beeps and clicks followed my inquiry, and the computer responded, "The time is 0200 hours, and Dr. Carruthers' precise location is unknown."

Unknown? What the--? "Computer, elevate lighting by three levels."

The room's illumination improved greatly, and I attempted to get out of bed. Wearily I pushed the covers back and headed for the bathroom. Quickly I divested myself of my garment and briefly ran the sonic shower. Afterwards I went to the sink, splashed some water on my face, and proceeded to relieve myself. Impatiently I ran my fingers through my long dark curls, and looked in the mirror. "Ugh, Christine," I murmured, "You need to quit these fainting spells. Really bad for your complexion, doctor." I left the bathroom, and rummaged around for some more suitable clothing, even if it was the middle of the night! I pulled on an old cotton caftan, which I particularly liked since its dark purple and light blue batik pattern flattered my eyes. Underneath, I put on some silk panties, and a pair of black cotton harem pants. Belatedly, I noticed the light on the comm unit blinking. "Computer, access and play latest message."

"Acknowledged. One moment..."

"Well? I'm waiting."

"Processing completed. Audio only."

"Go ahead."

"Current message, stardate ..." It was only a few hours prior to my awakening. Then I heard a familiar voice.

"Christine, I don't know how to put this, but I think it's best that I leave. You can keep the apartment, and the furniture, and whatever's left of our joint assets. I've received an offer from Starfleet Academy in Los Angeles, to become the head researcher of their biogenetics department. I'm leaving right now -- I'm sorry I kept this from you, but I meant to ask you to come with me. As it stands, you can't. And I can't see myself very happy as a royal consort, can you? <Chuckles> And we both know you love someone else. I really did enjoy every minute of it, Chris. But I can't be anyone's second best choice, or play second fiddle to a woman's aspirations. My attorney will be forwarding a divorce petition via the proper channels. When you receive it, you can authorize it with your thumb print, and that, as many have said before me, is that."

There was a short pause. "Christine?" Nyota? What the hell--? "I'm going to see Dr. Carruthers off, and then I'm going home. Call me if you need anything. I'm sorry I lied to you -- but it was the only way, sugar. You'll see what I mean. You're in good hands."

Thomas' voice came on again briefly. "Good luck, Princess."

I started crying, with relief, with grief, and I don't know what else. The computer cut into my revery by stating, "End of message. Awaiting further instructions."

Weakly I sniffed, "No further instructions at the present time. Maintain current levels of vigilance."

"Acknowledged."

So, I was getting divorced. Damn him for not even consulting me, I thought. But he was right. I didn't love him the way a wife should, and my responsibilities now resided in a destiny I was barely acquainted with. Quite unexpectedly, I had a yearning for chocolate. As a doctor, I knew the value of comfort food in extenuating circumstances. I recollected that I had some fudge ice cream in the stasis unit of the kitchen area. I made my way through the foyer, and went to the kitchen hurriedly. Gratefully I reached for the ice cream from the stasis unit, opened up the synthetic container, and picked up a spoon. I shoveled two, and then three, large helpings into my elated mouth, and closed my eyes, savoring the flavor. Concentrating solely on my oral pleasures, I was stunned by the strong psychic waves emanating from ... where?

I put down the ice cream on the countertop. "What is going on here?" I said, " I mean, who else could possibly ... ?" I wandered into the living room, which was off to the right of the kitchen. My eyes had trouble adjusting to the barely lit surroundings, but I whispered, "Good hands, huh? Computer, elevate lighting, one half level." As soon as this was accomplished, my eyes were riveted towards a loveseat in the middle of the room. More importantly, I was aghast to find someone asleep in it, curled into a semi-fetal position. This sleeping individual was still hard to see clearly, so I moved closer. I was less than a few inches away from the chair, and I inched my face closer. Before I could figure out just how to wake up the slumbering one, a pair of eyes flew open. I gasped and nearly lost my balance, falling forwards. My hands grabbed either side of the top of the loveseat, and I was painfully aware that our noses were nearly touching. But only for a moment, since I got my bearings and stood up straight, glaring down beneath me. But it was with a false sense of bravado I didn't feel; my head was too busy registering all sorts of sensations -- like how good the person smelled, how beautiful those eyes were ...

I was yanked out of my woolgathering by a remark.

"I have often observed that Betazoids are not the most stealthy of species. I have been aware of your presence since you entered the room."

"I'm sure it doesn't hurt that you have exceptional hearing," I rejoined tartly, "And, I'm three quarters human."

"Nonetheless, Dr. Chapel, your ability to project your thoughts is most ... .stimulating. And you must recognize by now that my own psi rating is quite above reproach. Though my hearing is also quite sensitive, you are correct."

Dr. Chapel?! Of all the smug, self-righteous ... I counted to ten. I was not going to lose control. Since I couldn't decide between strangulation or seduction, I gritted my teeth and responded, "I'm gratified to know that both of our psi ratings are quite exceptional, and that we've both had some repose." An eyebrow went up at this pronouncement. I continued, undeterred, "Now, could you please tell me what the hell you're doing in my apartment, in the middle of the night -- Ambassador Spock?" I tapped my foot and folded my arms, in what I thought was a menacing manner. His eyes twinkled with amusement.

Before he could respond, I blew my cool and stated, "Anyway, now that you've slept with me -- um, I mean, in the same place as me -- well anyway, you should really call me Christine." Nervously I giggled and I might have batted my eyelashes unknowingly. Great, Christine, and he can sense your emotions, you moron! I thought to myself. My cheeks turned red, and I coughed to disguise my increased agitation.

Then with feline grace, Spock left the couch and stood before me. He nodded a bit and murmured, "Very well ... Christine." My breath caught in my throat and in order to counteract my panic, I did the first thing that came into my head. I yanked him by the tips of his ears and kissed him.

Just as quickly I released him, and he stared at me, wide eyed. In a daze, I asked, "Would you care for some chocolate?"

* * *

Actually, I didn't quite get to the word "chocolate" because Spock slapped one hand on my buttocks and the other on the back of my head. And before I could believe that this was happening, he slammed his lips down atop my own, his tongue seeking entry even as he nipped at my bottom lip. I moaned wantonly and dug my hands into his shoulders, panting as our tongues fenced and dueled. Gods, we're like animals in rutting mode, I thought randomly, and just as abruptly, Spock pushed me away from him. For a moment, we stood staring at each other, both breathing harshly.

I spoke first. "Are you sure you're not ... um ... dying? Because I can't think of any other logical explanation ..."

He rewarded me with a brief half smile. "I will not experience my Time for another 2.5 years, Christine. And my actions were entirely logical -- I desire you, Christine, just as you desire me."

I squirmed a bit under his intense gaze, and became very interested in studying my fingernails. "I'll admit I'm a little confused as to this turnaround of events. I mean, we haven't really seen each other in fifteen years, our lives have detoured so widely apart ... and now, it's completely logical for me to find you in my apartment in the dead of night -- I still have no idea how the hell I got here, by the way -- and you're perfectly lucid, telling me about how we desire each other? I think I need some chocolate to clear my head." At his incredulously quirked eyebrow, I remarked, "And no, there's none being offered to you. I mean, I retract my earlier offer, because I need you to operate with clarity. I know what chocolate does to Vulcans -- can't have you acting like some hormonal maniac, right?" I giggled uncontrollably after this last statement.

Christine! I thought. Pull yourself together lady! You're a princess, not an adolescent!

We still hadn't moved anywhere. Spock nonplused me by stepping closer yet again and lowered his voice to a purr when he spoke. "Chocolate has been known to arouse certain behaviors in my kind, yes. And the majority of these behaviors involve a sexual intoxication of sorts. It is a potent aphrodisiac."

He was so close to me I could feel his breath on my face.

"Aphrodisiac?" I squeaked. What the hell was wrong with me? I was receiving multiple signals from him, and they screamed unbridled lust.

I was faint and trembling with desire; I couldn't think. I was too occupied imagining what he'd look like naked, with chocolate hot syrup dripped all over him. "Christine?" came the lilting reminder of his presence. He stepped back, but not before raking his eyes roguishly over my body.

"Yeah ... heh ... the chocolate's in the kitchen," I muttered, "Um ... I only have ice cream ... but that's okay since you won't be having any..." I started to turn around, but Spock accosted my right arm; once again we were facing each other.

"Cease this illogical banter." His words were harsh, but the tone was gentle. "I shall refrain from consuming your chocolate ice cream. But the taste is pleasurable, when gathered from your mouth."

Where the devil had Spock learned this Vulcan sex talk? He had radically changed from the stiff, almost priggish First Officer I'd fallen in love with as a much younger woman. And his Standard was oddly accented nowadays. And, I reminded myself, your hair's no longer blonde. I'd morphed into a different person too. I figured I'd follow his advice and talk about something rational.

"Desist in this irrational staring contest," I told him in impeccable modern Vulcan, "And let us go into the other chamber."

He compensated me by letting go of my arm and raising his eyebrows all the way to his bangs. I simply grinned at him and led him to the kitchen. We each sat down at the small table situated next to the stasis unit, and I retrieved my spoon as well as my ice cream. "Spock, before I start eating this stuff, do you want any refreshments?"

"I do not require sustenance at this time." Grossly antiquated Vulcan verbal formalities. Some things obviously hadn't changed.

"Yes, well, I hope you don't mind if I ..."

"On the contrary, Christine. Please consume the ice cream, since I shall endeavor to lick it from your lips later."

Now it was playful teasing?! I liked this new, improved Spock.

"Spock?"

"Yes?"

"I think that refusion has really worked out for you, huh?"

"If you are referring to my comments of a sexual nature, I assure you that this is not a new aspect of my persona. I have never before possessed the opportunity to direct such innuendoes towards you." Was he smiling? My heart began to flutter unevenly.

I gulped down some spoonfuls of chocolate before responding. "That much is understood, Spock."

"Are you not curious to know how you came to be here with me? Your emotions are currently very scattered; I cannot accurately assess them."

"You can sense my ... thoughts? Even at this distance?"

"Christine ... you are incredibly open to me. You project all things strongly. It was not my intention to cause you discomfort."

I shook my head. "I'm not offended, I'm just taken aback. But that's immaterial for the present. I need you to explain your presence here."

Spock leaned back and steepled his hands. Uh oh, I knew what that gesture meant. A drawn out explanation ... I sighed, and said, "Proceed, if you please."

He nodded slightly and replied, "It is quite elementary. The Federation High Council recently appointed me as its envoy to Betazed."

I couldn't suppress the gasp that escaped my lips. "I assume you contacted Nyota concerning my whereabouts?"

"For some years, Lieutenant Uhura and I have occasionally crossed paths in diplomatic circles, this is so. But I confess that I was directed to find you from more official sources. The Federation has been aware of the political unrest on Betazed, and been monitoring it closely for some time now. There were rumors circulating that the recent tragic events which occurred would indeed come to pass. The High Directorate of Betazed as also remained in close contact with the Federation. As a dignitary of the highest rank, naturally I am privy to all types of intelligence. This includes, although it is hardly limited to, your personal connection to the royal family of Betazed."

I moved uncomfortably in my chair as I recalled my screaming fit in Nyota's apartment. "Look Spock, I didn't mean to become such a raging banshee the other night, but this really is all a shock to me. In addition, why did you not contact me yourself? Why all of the subterfuge?"

"Your outburst, although severely irrational, is understood. Human females, and Betazoid females also, tend to react illogically to such high levels of stress."

I rolled my eyes. "Well, I wouldn't wish to doubt your expertise in such matters; as a diplomat you've been exposed to all kinds of female behaviors." I snorted when he nodded in satisfaction -- I assumed he was ignoring my sarcasm. "But this still doesn't answer my question. Why Nyota?"

"Simply put, it was Lieutenant Uhura who reminded me of your previous devotions to me. And I admit, many years ago, I was not indifferent to your overtures. But my duties to Starfleet and to my bondmate prevented any pursuit. I would not attempt to insult you with attentions that would be less than you deserved."

My breath caught in my chest, and stayed there. Was the room suddenly stifling? "Um ... that explains why I caught your eyes on me for the rest of our mission together? I definitely found your behavior toward me rather odd back then. But what do you mean, 'less than I deserved'? I suppose you are referring to the other possibilities, like that of a mistress, or what the other one I've heard of, that men of your station can have under Vulcan law? Um, I think it's called a body servant, or--"

"Kroykah!" Spock barked unexpectedly. "That term is not a topic for discussion. A woman of your caliber should know better than to mention such things. I merely reiterate my prior statement, and I have no desire to qualify it any further. Enough." Spock stood up and folded his arms across his chest, glaring at me.

I was astonished by his outburst, and when I scrutinized him closely, my eyes widened. All those years ago I'd known him as a crewmate, a commanding officer, and yes, an object of affection. But now, standing tall and imposingly in my kitchen, he was every inch a product of his father's ancestry. He was regal, he was royal, he was dripping with tradition. Vulcan propriety was oozing form his pores, and it dawned on me belatedly that he was relating to me as one of his own rank. A highborn lady, a woman of equally noble status. And such ladies did not go around freely gossiping about the various types of illicit love slaves to be had by wellborn men. "Are you -- are you saying such talk is beneath me? That it does not befit a woman of my ... um ... station?"

An eyebrow raised in assent. "That is precisely what I meant."

My patience had finally reached its limit. A royal assignation, a divorce, a prearranged meeting (thanks, Nyota, I thought) with an old flame who never really was a flame at all, and now a lecture on deportment! And something slithered and coiled around my guts, squeezing them. Longing. Lust. I clenched my hands tightly in my lap and returned Spock's glare. "Dammit Spock, I'm a grown woman, and I don't need you to feed me some sexist balderdash about what good little princesses do and don't do. And your stance is tinged with hypocrisy, I'll bet. I'm sure you've had the services of all kinds of women. After all, as heir to the ruling House of Vulcan? Don't tell me you haven't indulged in all of the pleasures of the flesh your rank offers? Did you lecture either of your wives on their duties, even when you were simultaneously bending the house girls over for a bit of the old--"

My angry diatribe ceased when the table was knocked over with a crash and Spock gripped my upper arms so tightly that I cried out. "I have indulged this illogical behavior for too long! You are most infuriating!" he bellowed.

"Ow! Spock, you're hurting me, dammit! That's no way to treat a princess!"

"Perhaps you are correct. There are more effective methods of persuasion."

"Why, you arrogant son of a--" I struggled, and kicked at his right shin, taking him by surprise. He yelped in pain and lost his balance. His hands were like bands of iron around my arms, so I had no choice but to fall backwards -- and he landed right on top of me.

I wriggled ineffectually beneath him and this merely increased the friction between our bodies. I felt his arousal bulging against my stomach and nearly passed out from the sensations my mind received from him. "Your resistance is formidable, but my passions are insurmountable, Christine."

He scraped his teeth across my neck and licked my right earlobe. "Why do you fight me?" he breathed into my ear. "I know you want this." He punctuated this by planting scorching open-mouthed kisses down the side of my neck and onto my shoulder.

I writhed in response at first, but then remembered myself and muttered, "I do want this ... Spock ... but ... oh ... gods ... everything's so fast ... And I ... oh, my ... need time to ... assess ... the ... gods ... I mean ... this shouldn't be an issue of control." I'd mustered all of my reserves and poured them into this one coherent plea. "Lovemaking doesn't have to be an issue of dominance. I'm not your servant or your wife. I'm not even sure what I mean to you. This is all so sudden -- I just want you to realize that I don't need chastising like some little girl. I'm your equal. And what was that before about insulting me with attentions that were less than I deserved? What do you call treating me like this?"

By now he'd let go of my arms and stopped his ministrations. He rolled off me and stood up. He offered me his hand and I accepted it. "Let us return to your living room," he said, "There we may talk."

"Okay," I replied, still reeling from his lips on my neck, the feeling of his body on my own.

Once we were seated, he explained his actions. "Christine, you may also be royal but our differences have just manifested. I was not prepared for you to make such uncouth references to my past, nor am I accustomed to such behavior from you. You have much changed."

"As have you," I replied, smiling slightly.

"Yes, and as I have matured in years, I have accepted that one day I would take my place as the head of my clan. It is true that I have been somewhat ... unfortunate in the case of my marriages, but I have always been assured of my duties, both as a Starfleet officer and a son of Sarek. You are no doubt acquainted with the privacy my people insist upon involving a myriad of subjects. I am unused to my requests being countered or disobeyed. Your reactions were far from logical or proper. I merely demonstrated proof of my authority and reasserted my right to the respect I am entitled to in my station."

"I don't suppose intense sexual attraction to me had anything to do with it, Sai." I giggled. I was giggling a lot these days.

His eyes darkened dangerously and he said, "Christine, so far I have exercised great restraint. But it is logical to accept the reality of the situation and not to deflect it with misplaced human metaphors. I shall speak plainly: You occupy a vulnerable and perilous position as a royal of Betazed, but one of dubious birth and barely one quarter Betazoid. You risk the hostility of the Federation, the High Directorate, and the wrath of the rebels. You are surrounded by prejudices and intrigues that you cannot even begin to comprehend. You possess no experience politically, nor have you demonstrated any particular astuteness previously. You navigate your way blindly and illogically. You have not even a mate or a family member to protect your interests. A woman of your station must adhere to certain behaviors, and alter herself as she is duty bound. This is nothing less than survival; this is logical, but also true." He finished and regarded me gravely.

"So ... you were acting on your desires, but also setting an example for me. You tried to show me how susceptible I am to perils. That there are consequences for my words, my actions ... my innermost yearnings. Every move I make, every word I say affects an entire planet's fate; I am totally bound to my responsibilities, aren't I? I must control myself at all times, that's what you're saying? And I am forced to conform to the expectations of tradition, of ancestry, of birth? And if I demand the privileges due to me by birthright, I must protect them by being both a credit to my lineage, and never forgetting to whom I owe my allegiance? The Betazoid people, and my mother's kin?"

The dream I'd had the night before finally began to sink into my skull. "A ruler must be an exemplar. A paragon. A bastion of all things traditional -- a credit to her bestowed place. I must prove myself, despite my trappings -- female, illegitimate, and of mixed blood. I must become a quintessential queen."

Spock sat in silence as I spoke. Then he inclined his head and simply responded, "You must do all of this, yes. And as a woman, your difficulties only increase, and the danger to your person magnifies. I am offering you my guidance and protection."

I blew air from between my lips in exasperation. I felt oppressed by these revelations, and yet to refuse Spock's offer -- although I barely knew him as he was now -- would be foolish. And it would alienate the Federation from Betazoid interests, since he was their representative, with free reign to dictate things as he saw fit. How had my deepest longings become translated into political negotiations? It was no longer a matter of my woman's heart, it was now an affair of state! Would he order me to his bed simply to secure relations between our two worlds, could he do that? More importantly, I would be hard pressed to legitimize my claim to the throne in the midst of a military coup. Betazed hadn't the necessary funds or military might to sustain the peace, which is why the Federation had been assisting in the first place. I had not one iota of political experience, but I was a woman of intelligence. And cunning, should I need to use it. You're a survivor, Christine. I had to keep saying this in my head, like a mantra. If that mean submitting to the whims of desire, I would survive and retain my claim to the throne of Betazed. But how would I play this dangerous game without becoming a pawn, of the Betazoid government or the Federation? I needed protection -- but at what price?

I looked at Spock steadily. "Where does that leave our mutual -- desires?"

Spock inhaled sharply. Then he responded, "I have desired you for some years, as you know, Christine. And your desire for me is all too plain. If you were to consent to enjoy the benefits of my patronage--"

"Patronage?" I repeated. Were my suspicions correct then?

"Christine, your claim to the throne may be desired by the High Directorate for any number of reasons, but you have affirmed that it is a precarious one at best. You can easily be manipulated, or murdered, depending upon the ruthlessness and savvy of your foes. And there are many who oppose you. This I know firsthand, and not least of all because you are a woman."

I was painfully reminded that women did not normally rule or inherit. "Yes, but you still need to elaborate on your earlier point. I'm still not clear on what you're indicating."

"Very well. You are less than a half-breed, an off-worlder, and a bastard. You are only in-line because all others are dead. Despite your prior comments about your lineage, and tradition, they do not apply. This situation is highly irregular, and you must adapt accordingly. Accept that you may spend the rest of your life shunned and ostracized, granted the minimum of respect from your peers, and this only because of sheer bloodlines. You would benefit greatly from the protection of one who has--"

I cut him off. "A legitimate birth to his credit, respectable experience in matters of state, and a claim to a royal house more ancient than Betazed's. It doesn't hurt that you also have the entire Federation at your fingertips, having been an envoy to a veritable multitude -- the Klingons, the Romulans, to name but a few. And you are a military hero."

Spock seemed pleased by this interruption. "I am gratified that you see the logic inherent in my suggestion. I wield incomparable power, I possess unlimited wealth, and I am unchallenged in my authority. If I were to offer you my patronage, and protection, you would not be so foolish as to refuse me. A refusal could prompt ... unforeseen ramifications."

"Spock, is that a very unsubtle threat? A gift with a sting? A poisoned apple?"

"Your illogical and melodramatic euphemisms are superfluous, Christine. By now you comprehend that I control your future, and you require my assistance, my protection as a matter of survival. If I desired it so, I could easily claim you officially for myself -- and your throne along with it."

"What?!" I screeched, jumping out of my seat. "What do you mean? You can't do anything without my consent!" Was this where my desire had led me? Into a chamber of horrors?

Somewhere desperation unraveled within me, as my empathic sense told me that Spock wasn't embellishing the extent of his powers.

Again, he grabbed my upper arms and jolted me against him. His voice thundered, "Your status is contingent upon the wishes of the High Directorate and the Federation alone! I am the Federation's special envoy. It has granted autonomy to me in this matter, and bows to all of my recommendations. If I were to claim you as my consort, my chattel, or my bondmate, none would oppose me. There are many even in the Federation who do not want you to occupy the throne you currently covet, and many more still who would be pleased to be rid of your presence on Betazed entirely. I reiterate, none would oppose me. If you desire to rule, you would do well to remember that I alone control the outcome of your future." He tightened his grip until I winced.

I looked straight into his eyes and said, "Do you really desire me so much that you have to treat me so viciously? So much for your Vulcan stoicism. This isn't just about political advantage, or annexing my throne. You want no one else to have me, and I'll even wager you arranged for Thomas' departure." The narrowing of his eyes, and the flaring of his nostrils told me I was right. Giddy with my own boldness, I pushed it further. "So finally it's revealed. You've always wanted me, haven't you? But duty prevented it. Duty to your peers, the Federation, your clan; all these took precedence. You hunger for me just as I hunger for you ... You can't deny that's why you're truly here. I can feel it, damn you."

His fingers dug into my flesh for a long minute and he said nothing. "What's the matter, Spock?" I whispered. "Afraid to take on a princess?"

Immediately I had my answer. He snarled and threw me down on the floor and ripped off my undergarments and pants in one fluid movement. Eagerly I took off my top, baring myself entirely to him. His own trousers followed, and he opened his long tunic, shrugging it onto the floor with the other discarded vestments. It was barely dawn, but his rugged, slender physique was resplendent and glorious, illuminated as it was by the first few rays of sunlight. His green skin was immaculate, his sinews perfect in their ripe bulges, and his body hair generous and dark, covering him in all the right places.

My eyes strayed lower and I held my breath, awed. His proud cock jutted straight up, the ridges at full attention. He was huge, and I thought, that's got to be more than nine inches ... right? A mixture of anticipation pulsed within me, as I was riveted back to his gaze. He had paused to thoroughly caress my body with his eyes, and his glare when I met it with my own was positively feral.

He broke our trance by reaching down with his right hand and grasping his manhood at the root, his eyes never leaving mine. He was huffing harshly, tense with sex fever. "Christine," he rasped, "Bind yourself to me now utterly, or be forever silent. Tell me to stop or to continue. Once you have decided, it cannot be undone."

The heat between us was so tangible I could taste it. I wanted more and I sealed my fate. "I want you, Spock," I cried, "Take me now. Please."

He fell on top of me with a roar. There was no preamble as he lifted my hips up and embedded himself inside me with a merciless shove. I shrieked at the impact, and his hands groped the psi points on either side of my face. "You are mine," he growled. "I shall take you however and whenever I want, whether or not you beg."

Our thoughts joined as he forced his way inside my head. I was momentarily stunned by the meld, but the pressure eased slightly and he removed his hands. "I'm an empath, I can already feel you within me," I panted as he began to thrust in and out of me.

"I shall consume you, I shall have every fibre of your being," he groaned into my ear, speeding his lunges into my body with urgency.

My mind spiraled as every shield I'd constructed was demolished by him with effortless precision. My body became enslaved to the primal rhythm of his thrusts, my legs wrapped around the small of his back, my heels were locked against his buttocks, and my nails dug into his upper arms. His arms were underneath my back, trapping me against him, and hips ground against mine in frenzied abandon, even as he sunk his teeth into my shoulder, grunting with the fervor of it all.

The tingling I felt in my mind uncoiled through my innards, and the smell of his sweat, the hardness of his cock pushing and stretching me to the hilt, and the feel of his groans as they vibrated against my skin culminated into a torrential storm that whipped me into its core. Spock responded as I squealed in ecstasy, my body thrashing and twisting beneath his, by pinioning my arms underneath my back with one hand, and with the other, again locking onto my psi points. Pain and pleasure merged into indistinguishable concepts; the pain of my joints, the pleasure in my psyche. Gush after gush of moisture rushed from between my legs, and my mind throbbed with the intensity of our coupling. Another tsunami washed over me, and I drowned in its depths. I dug my nails into my own palms, singing my siren's song of release. "Spock! Spock!" I cried.

Spock drove himself deeply into me with a few quick thrusts, and continued to flex in and out of me, even as he raggedly purred into my ear, his cock jerking and quivering, filling me with his stream of hot seed. Our sex fluids seeped decadently out of our connected bodies and onto my floor. Spock trembled against me in the afterglow, both of us still heady with euphoric satiation. He pulled himself out of me and laid his head on my breasts. "We leave for Betazed in the morning," he whispered. "Rest is of the utmost importance."

He removed himself from my body, and pulled himself up. Looking down at me, he also said, "Christine, I am going to cleanse myself. Please see to the mess and then attend me." He walked away, heedless of his nudity. I sat up wearily, and realized I was seated in a pool of our juices. His demeanor had shifted; he was terse, even cold. What had I agreed to?

* * *

It was only the next day, as we shared breakfast together, I remembered that during the course of our amorous activities, he hadn't even kissed me. A cold feeling settled in the pit of my stomach, and dread overtook me when I sensed something far worse: I could no longer read his emotions, or his thoughts. He had barricaded himself from me, and I was a complete loss as to why. Hadn't he wanted my surrender? Didn't he owe me the same?

Yet I had never really demanded it, not when pressed into a corner of no return. I had pleaded with him to take me, and he had made it clear that I was his. I stole a glance at him across the breakfast table. "Is something amiss, Spock?" I blurted.

"I fail to comprehend your meaning. I am quite well, I assure you."

"Well ... alright ... it's just that ... you're somehow ... shut off."

"Specify."

"I have been unable to sense your intentions ... your ... emotions ever since last night's ... um ... encounter. I was wondering why that might be."

"I do not find sufficient cause for revealing myself to you. That is all."

The rest of the repast was eaten in silence; his tone was icy enough. I didn't have the heart to press it further. Breakfast was soon finished. "The shuttle departs for Betazed in 3.6 hours. I suggest you prepare yourself, and bring whatever you require. I shall meet you at the departure terminal. Please be punctual."

"You're not going with me?"

"I shall rendezvous with you at the location I just indicated. I have some affairs which need my immediate attention. If I may take my leave of you ..."

It wasn't a question. I chose not to belabor the point, and responded, "Very well, then, Spock. I will meet you there."

When he left my apartment, I recollected that I had never contacted the High Chief on Betazed. I walked over to the comm unit and placed a call to him. A young woman appeared on the screen.

"Betazoid Central. How may I direct your call?"

"Yes ... um ... .High Chief Tren please. This is Christine Chapel calling."

The girl's face turned ashen and she stuttered, "H-Highness?"

"Errr ... yes, this is she." What else could I say?

"Right away, Highness. And my condolences on the loss of your family."

"Thank you." I inclined my head slightly in what I hoped was I queenly gesture.

Tren appeared a moment later. "Highness, I see you are well. We are expecting you. Ambassador Spock informed us of your decision early yesterday evening."

I was seeing red. No, I was seeing fuschia. The bastard! Of all the presumptuous -- I collected myself and then replied, "Yes, of course. I shall you see you soon. I'm looking forward to it."

Was he trying not to laugh? "Yes, Highness, we have much to discuss."

I severed the connection. Quickly I packed my belongings and had them transferred ahead of me to the shuttle. I arrived with my bare necessities in tow, right on time. Spock greeted me with a nod and we boarded the shuttle together.

I noticed the attendants, and the entire crew for that matter, were Vulcans. I also realized when I encountered them, they conspicuously bowed their heads to me. They were even more subservient in their posture towards Spock -- it seemed as though they were practically crouching!

Spock spoke in clipped tones to what appeared to be his valet.

"Selak."

The attendant snapped to attention, his eyes never once leaving the floor. "Yes, sai."

"This is her Royal Highness, Christine Chapel, Heir to the Throne of Betazed. You will obey all of her commands just as you obey mine."

"Yes, sai, " he parroted again. He acknowledged me as well. "My life at your command, T'sai."

"Errr ... thanks, that's most kind." I was still a bit uneasy with all of this pomp and grandeur.

"Your room is prepared, Sai." Room? Just one?

When we were settled into the sumptuous bedroom, I sat on the edge of the bed whilst the servants brought all manner of food and drink at Spock's request. They quietly finished their tasks and deferentially departed without a word. Spock reclined on the bed and regarded me quizzically. "It appears you desire to converse. Very well. Bring the meal here and we shall talk."

"Sorry?" I was still fuming from my earlier discovery. "I didn't quite hear you."

"Christine," he warned, "The food."

"What about the food? It looks delicious by the way." I smirked.

Big mistake.

"I see I shall have to refresh you as per our arrangement." He grabbed me from behind and threw me on my back. He fell on top of me and settled one of his legs between mine. I squirmed and tried to pound my fists against his chest, which he caught with little skill and clasped to his chest with one hand.

"Spock--" I began unevenly, aware of the tension.

"Silence, woman," he replied, and crushed his lips against mine. "Did you forget that you are mine?" he breathed into my mouth, "I did warn you ... and you consented."

His only answer was a moan from me and he lifted up the skirt I was wearing. He crumpled my panties in his hands and pulled them off. He smiled slightly and slipped two fingers inside me. I bit my lip and let out a muffled squeak. He retrieved his fingers and wiped the wetness against my lips. "Only you and I shall taste of these delights. You will know this at all times, and I will have my satisfaction. But perhaps this is not adequate empirical data. Perhaps this necessitates a further demonstration." I turned red, speculating exactly what that meant.

I was not expecting his next maneuver. He freed his cock, already hardened, from the confines of his pants, and straddled my chest. "Take it," he groaned, and forced my lips apart with his hands, sliding his maleness all the way to the back of my throat. "You will pleasure me as I see fit. Disobedience will not be tolerated. I am your lord, and you would do well to remember this ... princess."

This last word was sneered, and I burned with humiliation. I could barely breathe and my nose was pressed up against his pubic bone. His long fingers brushed lightly against my temples and he started to shove his cock in and out of my mouth with puffing pants. "Do not think to cross me, even now," he uttered through clenched teeth. He yanked on my hair for extra emphasis and tears sprang into my eyes. "I assure you, no offense goes unpunished. However, it would be illogical for me to permanently damage a royal Betazoid, the last of her line." His efforts in my mouth picked up speed even as my head started to pound with his last comment. Permanently damage? What the hell did that mean?

"It ... means ..." Each word was in tandem with a thrust into my throat, "that ... you ... shall ... obey ... me ... in ... all ... things ... woman!" The last word was garbled and his hand splayed across the back of my head, holding it rigidly upwards, as his cock erupted in my mouth, semen spilling down my throat. He groaned with each spurt, both hands steadying my head in place, and shoved repeatedly into my mouth, ensuring that every last drop was swallowed.

He pulled himself out from between my lips and released his grip on me, removing his weight from my body. My tears came freely, my head ached, and I felt broken. Numbly I walked over to the table and procured a tray of food, laying it before him on the bed, where he had now resumed his original posture. He took a small fork and speared a piece of fruit. Before popping the morsel into his mouth, he looked into my eyes and said, "Now then. You wished to talk?"

Silently I shook my head. "I'd rather just eat, if you don't mind."

An eyebrow quirked upwards. "I do not. Very well, then we shall eat in silence."

Miserably I picked at the tempting foods on the tray, but I had no appetite.

* * *

Spock didn't seem to notice that I barely consumed any nourishment as we completed the simple meal. I'd had quite enough of his attention for the time being, anyway. Internally I sorted and buried all of the thoughts nagging at me. I was all too aware of the inadvertent penchant I'd acquired, for blurting my emotions and thoughts directly to Spock. If I upset the balance of his authority, then he obstructed my psi shields. I was also rapidly wearying of this checkmate, this impasse, this cat and mouse bullshit. I knew fully that he wanted me now, had wanted me years ago, and that I had promised myself to him, whatever the hell that meant. Certainly I inspired tremendous reactions in him. He'd reprimanded me for things I'd said and done, telling me it was beneath me ... And hadn't he then just treated me like one of those body slaves? One of those pleasure possessions? Maybe I wasn't kneeling with my eyes downcast; maybe I hadn't been whipped. But the implicit promises he'd vowed to keep should I prove rebellious, angered and scared me. But I would discover Spock's true motivations -- I would!

This thought comforted me and I smiled to myself as I cleared away our dishes. So then I could be at ease in the blackness of space, nestled in this man's arms, as his skills coaxed rasping cries and shivering surrender from me. The journey to Betazed, after that first night's confrontation, was uneventful. But Spock discerned a subtle transformation of my demeanor, although I was leery enough to not appear as an automaton. But here in the tightness of the small shuttle, in the vastness of unmarked experience, I pledged to myself, and to my dead kin, that all things I coveted would be mine. Spock was the key to my success, and I believed, the missing piece of my colossal puzzle. I smirked -- yes, a woman did have to alter herself for duty's sake. I was bound to Spock by my heart and mind, and my throne by blood, and I vowed they would be just as tied to me. Was I losing my soul in the process? Most likely, but it would be a worthy trade, if I could but control my lover and my birthright. My eyes met Spock's as we arrived in orbit around Betazed. As Cleopatra lured Caesar, so I would entice Spock, and I already was doing so quite successfully. Slaves have their arts, and my mother, and her mother before her, knew this. I looked out of the shuttle's window and saw Betazed for the first time. I was bursting. From caterpillar to butterfly. From pawn to queen. Mother, mother, my heart cried, I have come home.

The End ... For Now

(c)2003 ultrapuella.

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