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



PLOMEEK SOUP

Rhyane



I should march back in there and throw it right in his face- His smug, pointy-eared, completely vulnerable face. Which is how I got myself into this-- Instead of just leaving him to his logic, his cold may-he-choke-on-it rations, his dreams and what was that about anyway...

Concentrate, Chris. The seeds of the malthya plant has to go in just so, as the mixture begins to boil.

Cooking and chemistry were both soothing pastimes. You had a formula, you had a procedure, you did the right thing at the right moment, combined the appropriate elements for appropriate effect, and things worked out the way you expected them to. Easy, predictable. And it wasn't hard to bribe Sulu into ignoring a corner of the hydroponics bay. Combine real, unreplicated, plants with the latest Starfleet issue bacteria incubation unit and it makes for a smart little kitchen.

After all, I am a nurse. Healing people is what I do: that strange mixture of professional and emotional care. McCoy might fix what's ailing you, but it's my duty to get you back on your feet. And don't let anyone fool you, soup was still the cure for half of nature's illnesses, even ones evolving light years from Earth.

As for the rest, I told myself that the plomeek plants made for good variety -- not every species craves tomatoes or my carefully hoarded stock of chicken bullion (Biomedical culture # 2472-3). And of course Mr. Spock wasn't the only Vulcan to come aboard Enterprise, the only Vulcan in Starfleet -- sure, but his father and at least six other...

Oh, who am I trying to kid? They were for Spock. A taste of home, a sentimental gesture. See me not be ashamed of my stupid, uncontrollable, adolescent, unrequited love.

Which was why I was using my doctorate in Xenobiology and two years deep space triage experience to hand dice ten-inch long green amorphous blobs which resemble slimy potatoes into a sort of gelatinous puree. Simmer over Bunsen burner: 10 minutes. Stare at wall trying to gather dignity before invading Spock's privacy for the third time that day: 1 hour. Re-heat soup: 10 minutes. Longest cook time for plomeek soup on record and I still wasn't ready to go back in there.

I knew what was going on. Vulcans were cagey, but alien physiology was my specialty and I admit to spending a few more hours than necessary with the Vulcan anatomy files after coming aboard. Besides which, there were only so many ways you could add up elevated sperm count and "Spock has to get to Vulcan or die," before the great unspoken mystery went flying out the door like a bowl of plomeek soup.

And well, yeah, I deserved it. How was I supposed to know good nursing was Vulcan foreplay? And contrary to what you hear in the crew mess, I monitor the eating habits of every crewmember on board. Anorexia is a primary symptom in over two hundred physical and six hundred and fifty emotional maladies. I'm sure in a hundred years they'll have psychiatrists, nutritionists and plastic surgeons floating around on starships but for right now file it under the "supplementary duties" of the ship's head nurse. So my responsibility, sure. Would I have made a home visit to every crewmember on board? Honesty, Chris. Probably not. But seducing Spock wasn't really on my mind.

I had figured out that whoever Spock was speeding to Vulcan to mate with wasn't going to be me. And so, I decided to face up to it, save his stupid life and exit with dignity from this sham of a relationship. The soup was supposed to be my final gesture of goodwill-- See no hard feelings that you would rather face death than consider me as an alternative, fuck you, good luck, good bye. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Granted, I expected a comment on the illogic of making something by hand with replicators on board, or even a lecture on unauthorized use of the ship's facilities, I was not expecting plomeek soup to come flying by at warp five and any last shreds of dignity I had left after Psi 2000 joining it on the bulkhead. Christine Chapel finally drives Vulcan to insanity with her immature crush, vid at eleven. Which still doesn't explain why he did it, why he reacted like a, human -- don't think it, like a male pushed right to the limit, finding it impossible to resist -- what, temptation?

Give it up Chris, temptation implies he wants you.

It also doesn't explain why he didn't throw you into the brig for using medical override to sneak back into his quarters. Nope, all he did was look at you with those eyes, like flame...

And then he did more than look. If I close my eyes I can still feel it. I keep expecting it to show, the memory of those burning fingers against my face becoming overt, physical, branded. And his words, a code I could almost unlock -- our natures...

What the hell did he mean by that? Wasn't that the problem, my illogical human nature to adore him? And why love him anyway? Uninterested, uninvolved, unemotional -- except for the sadness, so poorly concealed within that patented Vulcan reserve; and in that sadness I saw my own.

Resonance. I suppose we are all looking for it, the reason why some proteins come together, why the strange mechanics of the body join and recombine -- something missing, something seeking. Which doesn't explain why I didn't give up. Though I suppose that was my nature as well, to persist in faith even in the absence of all evidence, encouragement, logic. After all, I was right, Roger was waiting to be found, even when I had lost all reason for wanting to find him.

Leaving me with a broken heart, a rapidly cooling bowl of plomeek soup and a sense of unease, of lost chances.

And what of him, anyway? More Vulcan than pure Vulcans, more vulnerable than anyone I had ever known, unable to choose a human woman as his father had done, because his father had done so -- perhaps regretting that, perhaps burning...

Right now it is in his nature to mate.

True, correct, logical even, but not with me. The other shoe was going to drop any second now and I was sure she had pointy ears. Which is why this was the best plomeek soup in the quadrant, if I could ever work up the nerve to get it to him.

My reflection stared back at me from the biocomp: terrified blue eyes, blond hair gathered into a simple braid, white lips. I looked like crap -- not that it would, or should matter. Not that anyone would get the wrong idea, me in my off-duty sweats, bowl of soup on regulation tray, skulking to Spock's quarters in the dead of night like a whore. And see, yeah, I admit it. But it didn't stop me. Last check at all the equipment safely shut down, and I was off.

"Beware lovesick nurses bearing soup" -- I meant it sarcastically but it came out sounding like an invocation.

And then the door slid open.

He was back in the corner again.

It's sudden, the way he uncoils and slides toward the door. Perhaps it was the illness, but he was more fluid, more dangerous, the word escapes me before I can recall it -- but it's true nevertheless-- Dangerous, like the air before a storm.

He takes the tray from my hands and I feel the slightest gentle sweep of his fingers across mine. Usually Spock was scrupulous about avoiding contact -- touch telepathy, Vulcan reserve and human emotions never mix, but today he seemed careless, almost eager to initiate. It was almost, seductive...

Don't even think it Chris.

"I hope the soup is satisfactory, I'll be going then."

About face, march to the door. I'm not going to break down. That was professional, that was dignified, that was almost unspeakably...

"...cold."

"What?" It was only after I turned that I realized I had spoken aloud.

"...cold. I burn, but it is cold."

Damn. Damn. Damn. I had almost made it out the door without giving in to the desire to comfort him. Even now I couldn't help it -- this rising tide of almost unbearable joy that he had allowed me close enough to help him.

And yes, I am aware of just how pathetic that makes me.

"The temperature control for your cabin is set to maximum."

I'm clinging to facts, hoping my language will downplay his helplessness, distract him from the fact I am walking over to the bed. But his eyes follow me, and I am suddenly conscious of every step I take. I feel like prey. I feel completely naked. I realize I am totally, inexplicably, more turned on than I have ever been in my life. I hand him the blanket. It trembles and I have no idea whose hands are shaking.

My brain is giving me extremely specific instructions -- something about making it to the door and getting the hell out of here before I throw myself at him, worse than Psi 2000 because I have nothing to blame it on but the heaviness of the air and his eyes like two dark endless holes in space burning with swallowed light and I am going to make it because there is nothing he can say to stop me except...

"Christine."

I freeze, totally and completely.

His hand is on my arm and I spin around -- not sure what I fear more, his touch or its imminent withdrawal.

"...Christine, you have ascertained the nature of my condition."

It's not a question, but I nod anyway. God knows he's spared my dignity a time or two.

He lets out a sigh. It's the most human gesture I have ever seen him make -- his hands unclench and sweep like magnets across the air to my face.

I literally feel time pause, all I can see are his hands slowly approaching -- and I know what's coming, dreamed about it, fantasized about it, imagined it enough times that I shouldn't even question it. And it wasn't fear of being seen, he knew all my secrets anyway -- it was the fear of what I would find. That underneath it all I had been wrong: there was no pain, no heart, and I was wearing another woman's face to him. Which would make me a whore in fact, rather than ship's gossip.

His hands pause only the barest distance from my skin.

"With your permission..." he whispers. I can't speak. It's all I can do to place my hands over his and guide him home.

Once we had begun, there was only one logical conclusion. Warm, he was so warm. They call him cold, but he was all fire inside -- tenderness, passion, savage, sweet. My own chill surprised him. My distance, my walls, the way I let Roger touch me without knowing me, keeping myself secret, safe. He opened his mind to me and I saw a little boy crying over a creature in a desert burning red and brown in the sunset, and I felt it: resonance.

He had always seen the emotion in me, it was my own stillness he hadn't understood. The peace of research, the steady path to understanding each new species, each new intricate, marvelously common system for sustaining life.

//Your mind is restful.//

But he had underestimated me, again. Almost immediately he found it, passion. And intertwined, my shame -- this one thing I can't hide, can't run away from, the planes and desert angles of his face, the soft depth of his eyes.

//The loss of control is painful to me as well.//

And then it overwhelms me. Everything. Things I'd guessed, things I had never even imagined. When I looked down, it didn't surprise me that we were on the bed, bodies already striving toward the place our souls had so effortlessly reached.

I was. In that moment, I was. Totally, thoroughly, open. Any wall I'd ever imagined, any pretense I attempted to feign, evaporated. There was so much more than I had ever realized. So much more left for me to feel, and in that instant for there were no secrets and I knew how temporary it must be, I experienced the unspeakable joy of being held by a man who knew all of me and loved it anyway.

The world seemed permeated with gold-autumn sunlight, the kind that illuminates everything into radiance. I felt like one of those trees, caught in a moment of beauty so profound because it was already almost past.

You see, I knew reckoning.

I knew I was going to pay.

Getting what I always dreamed of had completely, forever and always ruined any chance I ever had of leaving him behind. I'd love Spock until the day I died, and I would spend the rest of my life trying to get back to this strange sheltered paradise we found.

//And I will spend the rest of my life, trying to forget.//

It was the truth. But what surprised me was how little it hurt. Understanding, for the first time, really understanding him, I could see there was no other choice for us. I was as forbidden as the apple and twice as tempting and I knew he would avoid me even more profoundly than before.

As I would avoid him

Not because I wasn't still in love, but because now I knew just how much pain I caused..

//Like staring into a warm space when you are freezing.//

Which is why he allowed himself to gather me close, this one last time.

Behind his eyes the room was the restful rust of the desert at dawn, a shade of old blood and healing scars.

We sank easily into the same dream. And in our dreams, morning stayed far from us and rattled its chains.

"Christine."

"CHRIStine."

"CHRISTINE!"

"Yes?"

I drop the test tube. It clatters on the floor with the force of a red-alert siren and finally rolls to a stop by the heel of McCoy's imperfectly polished boot.

He was holding a padd, eyes tired and kind.

"Just thought you should know, Spock survived the night. Seems his hormone levels are holding. Shouldn't be hard for him to hang on 'til we reach Vulcan."

A quick pause, ice blue eyes cut right through my skin.

"Whatever you did, Nurse, it worked."

I swallow hard.

"I didn't do much, Doctor. Simply stopped by crew quarters in order to inform Spock of our course change. I thought a boost to his morale might make the difference."

"Not regulation, but," and here McCoy's eyes twinkled with suppressed relief, "since when have I ever cared about regs? You put the patient first. That's what we do."

I wait for the obligatory comment. The necessary dig McCoy would have to get in about my never-stop-hoping-do-you-crush.

It never comes, and that's when I realize how exhausted he must really be.

I take the padd gently from his hands.

"Len, you need to rest."

"Plenty of time to rest when I'm dead, or retired, or even when that pointy-eared freak finally drags his green butt home to Vulcan and gets laid..."

It's out before he knows he says it. Quickly his eyes dart to my face, expecting the pain he catches rising, but misunderstanding it's source.

I think, it will always be this way. People will never know about Spock. I feel him now, an echo or a ghost, wrapping the memory of phantom arms around my shoulders -- suddenly too narrow, much too narrow to take what I know is coming.

It's the sympathy I can't stand.

"God, Chris, I'm sorry, I wasn't supposed to tell you and I didn't want you to hear it from me this way and shit, well, that's all there is to say: shit."

His arm falls around my shoulders, and I let him think he comforts me. What else can I do?

"It's fine Len. I'd figured most of it out anyway."

"Good girl, the hormone levels, eh?"

"Among other things. It explains some questions I always had about the 12th allele in Vulcanoid DNA."

"Well, then, so you know it's about..."

"Sex?"

For a dirty old man, it still amuses me just how straightlaced he can be. He actually flinches.

"Yes the green-blooded birds and the pointy-eared bees and all of this perfectly idiotic stumbling around something that should be just good old fashioned hormones. See a nice girl, settle down. Trust Spock to make it all difficult..."

McCoy pauses, adjusts something on his padd, looks anywhere but at me.

"Kinda always hoped he'd give into his human side, find someone to really love."

"You know how unlikely that is, Len. Spock is Vulcan."

"More's the pity, Christine,"

His look is so obvious, it's painful.

"More's the pity."

The test tube fragments shimmer on the floor. I spend a moment gathering each shard of glass -- place the slivers carefully, one by one, on the instrument tray. I am proud of the way my hand moves, steady, without faltering.

Even Leonard gets the hint. I watch his boots cross the smooth surface of the floor. It's not my pain I'm afraid of. He has seen me hurt before, he has seen me turn myself inside out the thousand and one times we thought Spock might die.

No, I am afraid he will see my joy. Because it is still with me, the resonance of his mind in my mind. The way his vision has changed everything I notice about sickbay, the path I almost take this morning up to the bridge before I realize it is his familiar route, not mine.

Just knowing. The name of the last scientific article he read, ochre color of walls in his childhood bedroom. I am filled with a sudden and overwhelming joy. The need to shout to the rooftops, spin madly out of control on top of the biobeds, hold that test tube for hours fascinated by the beauty of light reflected from glass.

Because Spock was still here. We had hours to Vulcan. Hours of space. Hours when I could look in the side of the biocomp and say, this is the face he has touched, the eyes that looked into him, this is the last person to have known him, the last he will know.

For each minute that passes it is enough. Even when McCoy has vanished. It is still enough.

And then we get the call to the bridge.

* * *

I still don't know why McCoy let me go. Certainly, I had no business being there. Perhaps a lingering bit of pity, perhaps just morbid curiosity: What would I do when I saw him? Would I be enough to get one last reaction, one last blink, one final chance to crack through the Vulcan resolve and reveal...

... the man I already knew. Part of me wanted to tell Leonard that he was right, that the Spock who lived inside the mask was everything we suspected -- noble, warm, decent, true. The other part of me resented the thousand and one wounds he had caused with his careless probing.

Looking at him sideways in the turbolift it was hard to tell exactly what he thinking, his blue eyes were half-lidded, breathing steady.

But McCoy must have known, must have been waiting for the moment when the doors swung open...

...and revealed her face.

She was everything I knew I would find. I stared down at my too-long arms, my thick fingers. Gawky, uneasy I felt my body expanding into the turbolift.

How can I even compete?

He was speaking, I could hear every word through clenched teeth.

"T'Pring."

Even her name is lovely.

And then he catches sight of me in the lift, and his mind slams into mine.

I'm sure I gasped, sure I took a step back, sure for all the world I looked shocked at the sight of Spock's wife. In reality, I was overwhelmed by his pain. A child's frantic don'tmakemedoit, dontletgo.

Suddenly I was on the red sands of Vulcan before a gong and my mind was echoing with word, "Kalifee."

"...the appointed place."

He was giving me the way to stop this, the way to get him, the promise of everything I had always wanted.

For a moment it hung there - the temptation to do it, raise my hand, say the archaic Vulcan that was pouring so easily into my mind, call this woman on the sham of her marriage, claim him as was my right by law.

Who would believe me if I said I let him go?

Years later I would blame it on the illness, on the fever. He wasn't in his right mind, I would tell myself, he didn't know what he was doing.

What I won't admit, not to anyone, not even to Ny, was Spock's soundness of mind wasn't enough to stop me. I wasn't that altruistic. No, I was going to do it. After all, a woman who rides into deep space searching for her lost love was never one to be defined by pragmatism. And he was calling for me, calling to me, my name...

//Christine...//

What stopped me was the moment I opened my eyes. The moment, words of challenge about to pour off my tongue, that I realized who T'Pring reminded me of.

Delicate, doll-like beauty, almost untouchable poise - Andrea.

Her voice was reaching him now, the promise of Vulcan. Perhaps I could have held tighter, perhaps I should have fought. But I had seen his mind.

I remembered, and I let him go.

He won't die. It was cold comfort, and still it warmed me. No matter what else, I had saved his life.

He's shaking now, but I was suddenly calm. The tears in my eyes were his, the tremble in my hand, his.

And when he says her name, it's as if to remind himself---

"T'Pring, my wife."

I feel the image of challenge withdraw from my mind. Leaving behind the alien sands of the pledging ground. I see T'Pring, but through his eyes, and I am shocked at how her beauty has transformed into coldness; as if it is a statue he goes to meet and not a woman at all.

I know it's stupid, he's made his choice, but I ache for him anyway. Even though he cannot understand.

Even though my mind is desert: so barren, so alone.

Even though McCoy is pulling at my elbow and we have run out of reasons to be on the bridge.

Even though I know I should look away.

But his eyes hold mine, those deep dark eyes, and I feel it.

//Affinity, Christine.//

The doors take an eternity to close. I watch him shrink, slowly narrowing -- one last warm brush of his mind....

And then there is the flat grey of the turbolift walls.

The darkness into which we were both descending.

THE END

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